Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!  Ours was really nice.  Here is how our Christmas went:

We started the day with gathering around the Christmas tree and nativity and singing a couple of carols.  Then we wrote down our gift to Jesus that year.  Gifts included things such as, "No teasing", "Be obedient", "Help others when I see they need help", "Say kind things", "Don't pull out Tico's whiskers", and others. 
(Writing down our gifts - the camping chairs were from Santa, we don't usually have them in the front room).


We then talked about the significance of the gifts that the wise men took to baby Jesus and why they chose the three gifts they chose.  Each of the children also got three gifts.  They were really happy with their presents. 


Spice's favorite gift was a watch.  She squealed with delight when I told her that she could set alarms on for reminders.  Funny girl. 

Spice pulling out her new wrap-around skirt that Little Miss made for her.  She wore it to church yesterday and she looked very pretty.
Bud told his primary teacher that his favorite gift was his pajama pants and shirt (Bazinks made the pants - with a lot of help from me).  His teacher replied, "Really?!  What kind of pants and shirt were they?"  He described them and then he told her he liked his new basketball hoop and basketball a lot too. 
Bud with his new pants.  He loves them because he says he feels like he can really move in them and do Kung Fu.
Little Miss' favorite present was a hamster cage.  We'll be picking out a hamster for it today.  Getting her a hamster was a last minute decision.  She had been asking for one, and this little girl rarely asks for anything, but we had told them that we wouldn't buy them any pets until they were 8 years old and could be responsible for them.  As I thought about it, though, I realized that Little Miss is a very responsible 6 (almost 7) year old.  She does all her jobs almost always without a complaint (unless I spring something on her that she wasn't expecting).  So I talked to Rock about it and we decided to go ahead and get her one.  She is so exited and she can't stop talking about going to the store and picking out a hamster.
Little Miss with the scripture bag that Spice made for her.  Spice is the only one that I didn't have to help at all with the project (except for answering a few measurement questions).  It turned out really cute and, even though you can't tell from the picture, Little Miss was really excited about it.  She also made her a hair flower and a bracelet.


Bazinks' favorite present was probably his binoculars.  He thinks it's pretty cool to see things closer up or further away.  All of the kids were really exited about their binoculars.  We'll have to get out soon, maybe to the duck pond, to use them.

Ray's favorite present was his Skittles.  He got Skittles and warm booties, but he did seem quite a bit more exited about the Skittles.

I got the complete Jane Austen Illustrated Classic set.  I'm very exited about it.  Rock got his present months ago (a trainer for his bike), but he also got a candy bar so that he could have something to open on Christmas :-)

After opening presents, Rock and Bud went to the garage to put the basketball hoop together.  I made Christmas dinner with the other kids helping on and off.  We got to listen to Spice on the Mormon Channel from their Temple Square performance.  That was really neat for her to hear herself on the radio.  Our family in Florida listened to her too.

In the afternoon, we went sledding with some friends.  That was really fun except our tubes from Santa did not hold the air very well and we kept having to blow more air into them.  Santa must have gotten us cheap tubes.  I'm going to try to exchange them today, or to call the company since the tubes say not to return them to the store.   The kids loved tubing down the hill though and they were a lot braver and went a lot higher than I thought they would.  Even Little Miss was jumping off ramps in her tube.  They can't wait to go again.  Several of them said it was the highlight of the day.

When we got home, my little brother and his girlfriend were here.  We ate dinner together and then Rock took them to the airport so they could head to Florida.  It was nice to have some of our extended family with us on Christmas, even if for just a little while.  The kids and I cleaned up while he was gone and played Apples to Apples, they also performed the Nativity for our family in Florida as they watched on my mom's iphone.  When Rock got home, we got some hot cocoa and went downstairs to watch The Nativity Story.  I really liked it, but the kids thought it was too scary.  I think since the producers knew that everyone already knew the story, they had to add little surprises here and there to keep people on the edge of their seats.  There were just some sad images here and there and the kids kept closing their eyes because the scary music would warn them.  The movie starts with the killing of the children so that kind of set a scary tone for them for the rest of the movie as well.  When it was over, they all agreed that they liked the version in the scriptures better.  Too cute.

We kept right on celebrating yesterday and listened to Christmas music and read Christmas stories by the fire.  Today, we shall have to spend the morning cleaning.  I think they'll do it pretty quickly though, in their anticipation for going to the store and picking out Little Miss' new hamster.

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays!  I never got around to emailing Christmas cards... maybe I'll do some New Years cards?  We'll see...  Any recommendations for a good type of hamster, by the way?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Joseph!



Taken from the Joseph Smith the Prophet CD by Rob Gardner:
Throughout the history of mankind, God has called prophets to lead His people and teach them His great Plan of Salvation. However, after the death of Christ’s apostles, due to the great wickedness upon the Earth and the perversion of many plain and simple truths of the Gospel, God took His priesthood from the Earth, and, as prophesied by Paul, the dark cloud of apostasy covered the Earth for centuries.

In the spring of 1820 there was in the area of Palmyra, New York an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. Indeed, the whole region seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created quite a division among the people. Joseph Smith, at this time, was fourteen years old.

Joseph: 'During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did, for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know…

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God' 

Today is Joseph Smith's birthday so I wanted to write a quick post in remembrance of such a great man. I have read a lot about him and have come to greatly love and respect him as a man who sincerely tried to do God's will despite the many hardships that he and his family had to endure. I know he was not perfect. In two days, we'll be celebrating the birth of the only perfect being ever to walk the earth. People often like to point out his perceived faults. The following prophesy spoken by Joseph has come to be very true:

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." Joseph Smith History 1:33

I have come to greatly admire and to dearly love the prophet Joseph Smith. I have come to know that he was truly a prophet of God. I feel the Spirit filling my heart with peace and love whenever I read of him. I know that he translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. It is a real book written by ancient prophets for their brothers and sisters in our day. I feel the love they had for God and for us in their writing. I feel a great joy as I read from it and as I read it to my children. I know, without a doubt, that it is true. I have felt this witness again and again in my life.



I'll end my thoughts with Joseph's beautiful words:
"However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation."

And in case you haven't seen it, here is a video account of Joseph's fist vision:

http://mormon.org/joseph-smith/#a-prophet-of-god

or you can read it here in Joseph's own words:

http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dulling our Children's Senses

My friend, Greg, sent me a link to this video.  I needed the reminder.  I easily start slipping into a "conveyor belt" form of education by default because it's what I grew up with.  It was nice to be reminded that each of my children has the same potential, but different talents, interests and specific missions with those gifts.



I actually went to the RSA sight and watched the entire talk.  It was good and funny, but he does go into several tangents so if you don't have an hour to watch the talk (I watched it on my Iphone as I made eggplant lasagna last night), the above video has the most important highlights anyway.

I had several thoughts as I watched it, but one thing that struck me is when he mentioned that in education (especially in the arts) we need to use our senses - to be completely aware and awake to experience the moment.  He mentions ADHD drugs and how sad it is that their overperscription is putting the senses to sleep when we ought to be waking them up in education.

I thought about the fact that there are many other things that we are doing to our children to put their senses to sleep.  They are surrounded by things that overstimulate and dull their senses. We are surrounding them with loud toys with lights and buttons, coarse music, constantly changing images on the television, movies that stimulate their feelings, busy schedules, endless information on the internet, etc.  Children need time to think, to ponder, to feel real things!

Something that has been such a concern to me lately is video games.  We had one little boy over the other day that seemed really at a loss when I told him Bud couldn't play the Wii or computer games.  He didn't know what else to do with himself and he wondered aimlessly through the house.  I remember reading Elder Bednar's talk about Things are They Really Are, and understanding how incredibly damaging this vicarious world of video gaming is.   Children spend their time in a pretend world that overstimulates and drowns out their real senses.  How are they supposed to feel the beauty of a symphony, for instance, if their ears are still ringing (figuratively) from the noise of their environment?  More importantly, how can they hear the subtle whispering of the Spirit when the instrument of their spirit is being bombarded with the exciting and sensational?

Teachers at school are trying to compete with this stimulating home environment.  This is a hard task!  They are trying to make their lessons more entertaining, their books more exciting.  Gone are the days when children could sit at their desk and memorize a passage.  One of my son's friends is required to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid for his class at school.  My daughter's friends came over the other day and started singing the Christmas songs they had learned at school.  They weren't even real Christmas songs.  They were silly songs sung to Christmas tunes to make them more funny and exciting.  It worries me, frankly, and I wonder what will come of it all.

Let's give our children a simple, real environment where they can use their imaginations, where they can sit and think, where they can dream and wonder.  Let's make our home a restful place where the Spirit can whisper to their soul.  They might think they are bored at first, but they will fill the void with real thoughts, real creativity and real sensibility.

To quote Keri Tibbets,
"I am trying to make their lives so real that they can actually recognize and appreciate things of real value when they find them.  I want refine their tastes so that they can tell just how lovely reading great books can be, instead of providing them with activities that dull the senses so that they need perpetually more sensation all the time in order to feel any thrill in their minds and hearts.  I want them to know and enjoy great art when they see it...One of the saddest things that I can imagine is to waste these enlightening opportunities ---to grow up with them all around us and not really taste them because of numbness.  The most beautiful reward that I have reaped along this journey is discovering that my own children have ears that hear and eyes that see and hearts that feel."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Changes

You may have noticed that my blog posts are coming less frequently.  The biggest reason for this is that I am tired.  I just don't get up early enough to blog.  Lately, I sleep as much as I can before my baby wakes me up (between 6:30 and 7), by the time I give him his breakfast and read my scriptures, it's time to get started on our day.

I suppose I could try blogging during my free time, but I don't seem to have much of that lately either (plus, I kind of like to model what I would like my kids to be doing during their free time).  I think I'm lacking free time because I take too long getting things done these days.  I'm dragging a little.  I stall when it's time to fold laundry or clean the kitchen and instead I sit and talk with the kids or play with the baby.  These are good things, of course, but I could always talk with the kids as we work or play with the baby after the kitchen is clean :-)

Anyway, if this keeps up and I don't find some way to get some energy soon, and some brain power to write something interesting, I'll have to keep neglecting my blog somewhat.

I've written a little about how I'm trying to make the holidays more meaningful and more simple.  I've gotten some great ideas and book recommendations from people.  I think it is a process and we'll keep figuring things out each year that will work best for our family.
Spice at Dennys after her Temple Square performance.  She did so great.
I didn't get any of it on film or any pictures because they are not allowed at the Assembly Hall.


So far, I've decided to get rid of a few things I didn't love about the holidays and I've added a few that are more meaningful.

Here's what I got rid of:

-Stockings (I never liked trying to find "stocking stuffers" at the last minute and buying things and treats that I didn't want to buy).

-Making lists of wants or "Christmas lists" (It seems rather selfish, doesn't it, to sit and make a list of wants for someone to fulfill for you?  It definitely doesn't foster a spirit of thinking of others).  I will never again ask my children what they want for Christmas.  All it does is put selfish, entitlement thoughts in their mind that were not there before.

-Mailing Christmas Cards (except to a few people who don't use computers).  This one is a hard one because I love getting Christmas cards in the mail so it seems like I ought to also send some, but I have always been AWFUL about mailing things and this one was a really big burden on me because I didn't enjoy it.  Instead, we'll print some pictures for family and e-mail Christmas cards to everyone.

-Buying toys (we don't need any more, the kids don't want any more). See this thought-provoking post for even more reasons to stop splurging on toys.

(Sorry about the crazy camera moves on the following video, I was experimenting with how I could see Spice best). This was taken at the Prove Tabernacle's performance of The Messiah. In the front row, to the right, you'll see two girls in black.  The second girl from the right is Spice.


Here's what we have added:

-We've been reading stories and singing songs every night from a Christmas Advent Book that I read about in a couple of blogs.  I think misfitcygnet.com talked about it (but I can't find where) and Chocolate on my Cranium posted a link here.

-In addition to the Advent Book stories, we read from a Christmas book.  So far in December we have read A Christmas Carol, The Mansion, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and I'm sure there was one more, but I can't think what it was right now.  I think we might try Cricket on the Hearth next.  Does anyone have other Christmas classics they love?

-We've been reading the gospels where they talk about Christ's birth and early life and some prophesies from the Old Testament about Christ's birth for our morning devotionals.  We only read a few verses and discuss them.  The love that they have a lot of those verses memorized already from their choir songs.

-We've been memorizing The Living Christ.  We won't have it done by Christmas.  We had several weeks where we were too busy to get to it and a few in which I forgot, but we do have the first 3 paragraphs down so far :-)  We should, at least, have it all memorized by Easter!

-One of my friends from Heralders Choir gave me a candle with dots going down the side.  She said one of their favorite traditions is to light a candle every night in December and sing and read stories until the candle melted to the next dot.  The kids like lighting the candle every night, but we so usually keep reading after the candle reaches the dot.  It's a fun way to set the Christmas mood for the night.

-We'll be baking one kind of cookie and giving it to our neighbors (in the past I felt I had to have several different types on their plates, but since I don't enjoy baking, I'm going to go with one type so I'll actually enjoy doing it with the kids and I won't feel stressed out.)

-I've been looking for opportunities to serve in my circle of influence.  We've found a couple, but I would still like to do something that would get the kids more involved.

-The kids are making presents for each other.  We drew names.  Little Miss is making Spice a white skirt from this pattern that I think we might be able to handle.  Spice is making Little Miss a scripture bag and some hair accessories.  Bud and Bazinks are making BYU pajama pants for each other.  Of course, all of these projects will require quite a bit of my help so I'm still trying to decide if it was such a good idea.  I wanted to find someway that they would get into the feeling of giving away something that they worked hard for.  They are exited so we'll see how it goes.

-I did decide to get the kids some presents, but they are all things we would be buying in the near future anyway.  Spice is getting a bike, Bud is getting a basketball hoop (he sold his Geotrax train set to help pay for it), Little Miss and Bazinks are getting a scooter, and Ray is getting some booties.  I also bought two books for each child that can read.  Bazinks got a little basketball. I found some snow tubes at Target for $10 and since we don't have any sleds, I thought this would be a fun present so we could all go sledding on Christmas.  This might be their Santa present (if I decide to do Santa...I still don't know what to do about him - see below).  If it hasn't snowed by Christmas time, we might have to play basketball on Christmas instead :-)

-My mom gave me some money to buy the kids a present from her since she'll be in Naples on Christmas and she doesn't know what to get them.  I bought them some binoculars with it.  It will be so fun to explore nature together in this new way!

-In the past, we've spent Christmas day mostly ignoring the children because thy are playing with their new mindless toys.  This year, I want to spend Christmas doing things together, like sledding, as I mentioned above, or playing games and drinking apple cider.

-We'll be at Rock's family's Christmas party during Christmas Eve so we won't do much else that night.  The kids want to act out the nativity and we'll have a Christmas program with singing on Christmas Day.

-I might go rent the movie The Nativity.  I've never seen it, but it might be a fun way to wrap up Christmas day.   My friend, Tricia, recommended it.  She has other great ideas in this post.



I do want to do somethings next year that I didn't get around to preparing for in time for this year.

-I like the idea of the Advent Sundays (you can read more about them on the Advent Christmas Book), but I didn't find an advent candle holder so I'll keep a look out for one for next year or make one myself.

-I love this idea from a friends blog.  I'd love to incorporate it in some way.

-Tricia also mentioned doing a manger for baby Jesus and having the kids put straw in it when they do something kind for another.  By Christmas it should be ready for baby Jesus.  I couldn't find a manger this year, but I'll keep looking for one or find some way to make one for next year.

Now, about Santa Claus, I always enjoyed Santa as a child.  I like what he represents.  I'm just not sure what to do about him for a couple of reasons.  One is that our neighbors are getting a lot of presents from "Santa".  I don't want my kids to feel bad if they just get one tube!  Also, there are little things that just kind of rub me the wrong way.  Last Sunday, for example, someone gave a talk and she mentioned the Christmas cards her kids were writing to Santa at school.  She teaches at the elementary school for Hill Airforce Base.  One child asked Santa to help his mommy be happy while their dad was gone.  One asked him to keep his dad safe.  Another asked him to help him make friends when he moves to California.  They were sweet letters and they helped you remember those sacrifices that are being made for us at Christmas.  I just didn't like that children were asking Santa for such things when there is One who really listens, and who is really there and who will really answer their pleas.  I know that they were most likely praying to Him about these things as well, but does He really need a back-up?  And if they get their heart's desire - who will they think to thank?  It's just little things like that.  Or like the saying,"You better be good because Santa is watching you!" Or even worse "...so Santa will bring you presents".

I know that if our hearts are in the right place and we are focusing on Christ, and I don't make statements like the above, that Santa could just be a nice side note to the holidays and no big deal, but that doesn't solve the expensive presents dilemma and the disappointment they might feel if they  expect something from him that I don't want to give them or that I don't know about.  He's already not a big part of our holidays.  We haven't talked at all about him, so it probably wouldn't be a big deal if we just told them the truth about what he represents and why he is a symbol.  I can't quite bring myself to tell them though, so I don't know what I'll do yet :-)

So, anyway, that's what we have going for the holidays so far.  I better get going because we have some Christmas presents to make for one another and I'm already getting a late start on the day :-)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Updates and Performances

It's been a little busy lately as we've been going back and forth to Salt Lake for choir performances.  This week is pretty filled with them as well.  Spice will be performing The Messiah (abridged) at the Provo Tabernacle tomorrow and then at the Assembly Hall in Temple Square on Saturday at 7:30pm.  They got chosen out of all of the children's choirs that have performed at Temple Square to be recorded by the Mormon Channel so they'll be on the radio as well.  Pretty exiting.

It's funny how not being home can get you out of all your good habits.  The house is pretty messy this morning and there is a pile of laundry to fold in the living room.  We're home all day today (first day in quite a while!) so we'll be doing some catch up.  My friend, Lara, once told me that if her family is out of work practice because they've been on vacation or something else, they have a family work camp and all they focus on is work until they remember how to do it again.  I think that's what we'll have to do today.  We'll have our devotional and I'll be strict about how well and fast the work goes.  Maybe we'll even have some free time if everyone can manage to stay on task.

I wanted to write a quick update about what we've been up to and I'll dot it with some videos from the choir performances (since that's mostly what we've been up to).

Spice during the "Friends and Family Concert" singing Personet Hodie
(Spice is the third from the left in the front row)

Rock's been busy working and trying to figure out what to do with our house in Texas now that our tenant has moved out.  We can't find renters (it's that time of the year) and we would really like to sell it, but the market's not great.

Everyone singing Deck the Halls at the Festival of Trees
(I used my Iphone and it doesn't zoom :-( )
(Bud is the first little boy that walks in after they start singing - furthest to the right on the second row.
Little Miss is the third from the last little girl that walks in  - third from the right on the first row.)
I've been driving back and forth to Salt Lake, and eating pretty often to keep the nausea at bay (I have felt so good, by the way. I haven't thrown up at all and I actually feel good most of the time.  Maybe it's the nursing, maybe it's the healthier way I have been eating for the last year and a half - those daily spinach smoothies and more fruits and veggies may be paying off!)  I'm still working on Les Miserables.  I keep putting it down and reading my children's books when I need a break.  Lately, I've read Wind in the Willows, Pollyanna, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, The Diary of Piper Davis, Wizard of Oz, and Eight Cousins.  Right now I'm in the part in Les Miserables when Marius is wasting away in his love for Cossette and Eponine is taking him to her.  It's rather annoying and I'm hoping Marius redeems himself soon.

Everyone singing As I Sat on a Sunny Bank at Santa's Breakfast (auditorium performance).
(It was kind of noisy at this performance because there was a long line of families waiting to get their pictures with Santa)

Besides singing, Spice has been doing a lot of journal writing, some spelling (I've just been getting words from her writing lately.  It's easier than doing a program), she's been reading Wind in the Willows and several books in between (Wind in the Willows is taking her some time, it's not really a page turner, but she says it's cute and wants to finish it).  She also practices the piano quite a bit.  She has given up on math again for a while.  She wants me to find her a different program - maybe I'll try different books from the library until I find something that appeals to her.  Math programs are kind of expensive and I don't want to keep buying them.  For now, I think I'll give her a little break from it.

Spice singing "Unto us a Boy is Born" at Santa's Breakfast - gym performance
(sorry for the shakiness, Ray was on my lap)

Bud has been devouring The Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings series.  He started the first book a while back and then put it away for a while because it got kind of boring in the middle.  Then we went to see the play The Hobbit that some of out friends were performing in and he got exited about it again so he finished the first one pretty quickly and he is zooming through the second one.  If he has a spare moment you'll see him with his book in hand.   Or you'll see him playing that he's Legolas and he's shooting people with his bow and arrow (a hair band that I let him have). 

Bud and Little Miss singing "Fum Fum Fum" at Santa's Breakfast:

Little Miss is also playing the piano a lot.  She doesn't really "practice".  She likes to figure out all of the Christmas songs that they are singing.  She does really well.  She can figure them out pretty fast and then she remembers how to play them.  She's been starting to get more curious about reading music and she's starting to work on that.  She is also reading a lot.  She started The Wizard of Oz one night and finished it the following night.  She also started Alice in Wonderland one morning and finished it that afternoon.  When she gets into a book she doesn't put it down.  She's in between books right now, but plans to start Pollyanna today (which Spice read recently and highly recommended to her).

Spice in "What shall I Give?"

Bazinks is becoming a better worker these days and is a lot more willing to help out during family work.  He also just had an episode of throwing really angry tantrums, but he seems to be getting over it.   I do take blame for it, though, because we let him watch parts of the new The Karate Kid that Rock brought home one night (first movie he has brought home in a long time).  There was a lot of anger in the movie and I think Bazinks had a hard time knowing what to do with it.  It surprised me when the next day he started kicking walls and slamming doors and throwing things when he got mad.  We've been talking about how to deal with anger appropriately and he has calmed down a lot lately, although he stills yells at me rudely when he's mad and has to go to time-out quite a bit for that.  He is doing "reading lessons" and he loves them.  He doesn't like me to forget them.  He's doing pretty well with them and I think he'll be reading soon.

Everyone in "Here We Come A' Caroling"
Ray just started nursery at church.  He seemed to really like it.  He had no problem with me leaving.  I think he's specially enthralled with the battery powered toys in there.  Since we don't own any of them anymore, he's pretty fascinated with the buttons that make noises and things.  His teachers said he was a model student and participated in everything really well.  At home, he walks around and finds things to explore.  He sings and dances a lot and gets into the Christmas tree too much.

"As I Sat on a Sunny Bank" Columbus Senior Center Performance


Spice in "Three Kings" at the Festival of Trees
(they stop glowing after a few seconds)
 

Everyone in "Up on the Housetop" at the Festival of Trees

Other things we've been up to lately:
I got to take Spice and Bud to the Conference Center to watch the Christmas devotional with my friend, Calene, and her two oldest kids.  There was such a beautiful spirit there and the talks were lovely.  I love it when the prophet walks in and everything goes quiet and everyone stands until he is seated.   I hope the kids always remember what it feels like to be in the presence of the prophet of God.  There is such a power there.  

 Yesterday, we went to the State Capital after their Senior Center performance.  I wanted to take them to a museum, but for some reason they were intent on going to the Capital again.  We got our own personal tour and we all learned a lot.



That's all I better write for now.  I have more to say, but I better wait until later because now I am really behind in getting started on our day!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books - High Quality Language AND Content?!

I am feeling rather torn about some books I have kept.  If you've listened to the presentation Stories that Build Statesmen by Marlene Peterson, you'll understand why I feel it's so important to have books in our home with quality content and with beautiful language.  If you haven't heard the presentation, you can hear it for free on the Libraries of Hope website.  Click here and scroll to the bottom left and hit play.  It will be well worth your time!  I'm going to try to listen to it again today.  Maybe it will help me with my dilemma.

I've been collecting the Dear America books when I find them at used book stores.  I now have quite a few and they look really pretty on my shelf.
Bud has been really into World War II lately and in an effort to inspire him, I recommended that he read The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: A World War II Soldier.  I hesitate to recommend books to him that I haven't read, but frankly - I haven't read enough books!  I thought Dear America would be safe.  I have read some of The Royal Diaries books in the series and I was unsure if they were the best kind of quality I wanted to have in my home, but I learned a lot of history when I read them and a lot about the customs and fashions of the era.  I really liked that.  However, the language was pretty simple and the girls were kind of superficial in their thoughts.  They weren't ideal role models in all ways, but they were real characters in history, even if the journals were just made up.  I kept them since I couldn't decide what I thought.

After Bud read the Journal of Scott Pendleton, I decided to read it and see what I thought.  I was surprised by some of the content.  There was some swearing, and some derogatory statements towards women such as this quote on pg 11:
"I wish we could go back to Darmouth.  If Mikey was right about English girls being easy, I would like to find out about it.  Wojo said that French girls were nasty.  Sounds good to me."
Why would anyone write something like that in a children's book?  I don't think Bud understood it, but I still didn't like him reading such statements.  Maybe they were trying to gear these books towards teenagers who read at a third grade level, but even so - they could do without such statements right?  Isn't World War II pretty dramatic as it is?

I skimmed through the Civil War one, since it was written by a different author and Bud wanted to read it.  I found it was more tame and I told him he could try it.  He read for a while, but then told me that there was some swearing in it and asked me if he should keep reading it.  I told him I didn't know.  I told him to put it down if the spirit left him while he read it.  He decided to stop reading it.

Still unsure if I should just get rid of them all, or if I should read each one (since they are written by different authors), I read The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis about the Japanese Camps in America during World War II. I really liked the message and I learned a lot. I think it was worth reading, but again - the language was pretty simple and there was a little bit of teenage romance (which I think is silly at the age of 14), but the romance was very tame compared to The Diary of Anne Frank which I also just finished reading.

However, at least the Diary of Anne Frank was real. There was no reason for the author of The Diary of Piper Davis to put that stuff in there. (Not that I would let my children read The Diary of Anne Frank anytime soon - at least not without some editing!) I know there has to be other great books about World War II out there that Bud could read! I just with I knew where to find them. Any suggestions?

I guess what I am struggling with is whether or not a book is worth keeping if the content is very good (like the Diary of Piper Davis), but the language is not of high quality. Little Miss just finished a book called Heroes of America: George Washington and the language, again, was very simple, but she loved the book and she learned so much about George Washington. Another example is the Work and the Glory books.  I learned church history through them and they taught good values, but the language was not high quality.  Should I keep them?  There are also the Childhood of Famous Americans books. I've collected quite a few, but they are also pretty simple in language.
The content is all good and they also teach good values.  I just wish I knew of more books - especially historical ones that were interesting for kids to read, had beautiful language, and have high quality content.  Ideally, I would like to only have books that have both high quality content and high quality language.  I know I have a lot of reading lists, but none of the children's books are about World War II.  I do want to find books about subjects that my kids are interested in and those subjects are not always on my reading lists.   In fact, most of the books on my lists are over 100 years old - it is hard to find a more modern book with beautiful language since our language has been so watered down. 

I know it may seem like no big deal to have a few books with low language and high content - especially historical ones, but it is very important to me for the children to get well-versed in the language of the classics.  That is just not going to happen if they spend their time reading simple watered-down language.  Does anyone have recommendations?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Living After the Manner of Happiness

Pictures are from a couple of hikes last month
I have decided I want to live after the manner of happiness.  I was starting to stress out again (pregnancy hormones contributed, as well as getting lazy with my personal study time).  I start to worry about things like "grade levels" and age expectations, etc.  I wonder if I am not what is best for my children - maybe they would learn more at school, etc (you get the picture).
When I went to stake conference yesterday, a theme that seemed to keep emerging was living after the manner of happiness.  It woke me up again to those things that really matter.  A big reason I wanted to keep my children home from school was time, I knew there were things that I needed to make sure that they knew before they left my home (loving and serving one another, understanding how it feels to have the Spirit with them and to learn to keep Him with them, listening to His promptings, developing good spiritual habits, loving their fellowmen, developing a relationship with their Savior, scriptural literacy, strength of character or the ability to do hard things, sober-mindedness,  and other such things). 

I just didn't feel like I had enough time with them to make sure that they really understood these things.  I know there are people who are be able to send their children  to school and they are still able to have time to teach them these things.  I've met them.  I just wasn't one of them.  I tried.  I don't know how they do it.  For us, it seemed like when they were home for several days, we'd start to get focus on what really mattered and then I'd send them off for most of the day and when they got back we all lost focus again and playing with friends and homework became the focus of our conversation and their thoughts.

I just really want them to have a sure foundation, a steady focus, an eternal perspective before I send them out into that confusion-bombarded world.

The truth is, I don't have time or energy to do everything that they would be doing at school.  I have to focus my efforts on why I brought them home in the first place.  If they have a sure foundation - they will learn, voluntarily, all they need to learn in order to succeed in this life.  They will also know what true success is.

I'm not saying that I will not teach my children anything secular or academic.  Of course they need those things to understand things as they really are.  I will just have faith that, if I do my part and stay in tune, the Spirit will guide me as to what a particular child needs at particular times and in how to inspire them.  Spice wants to learn spelling so I'll keep working with her on that for as long as she needs.  Bud wants to write better, so we'll work on that as well.  Bazinks wants to read so we'll continue working on that.  Little Miss wants to read music and to draw better so I'll make sure to plan for that as well.  Interests will change, but if I stay in tune - I can know where to go with it everyday.  I just need to stay in tune.  I can not neglect the basics.  Nothing matters more to my progression... or theirs.  That seems a like a pretty heavy burden, but I just need to remember that the Savior promised:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

That is living after the manner of happiness, I think. If I trust in Him and live His gospel the best that I can - I can have confidence that He'll make up the difference in what I lack and that my children will thrive under His direction. What a comfort that is!

The temple president at stake conference said that we learn to live the "manners" of heaven, or happiness, in this life and that a great place to learn those manners is in the temple. He also said that we need to acquire the right manners to stand in the presence of God. That is what I want for my home - a place where we learn the manners of Heaven - a refined heavenly home.

I love what Elder Hales said during the last conference:
When we follow the prophets’ counsel to hold family home evening, family prayer, and family scripture study, our homes become an incubator for our children’s spiritual growth. There we teach them the gospel, bear our testimonies, express our love, and listen as they share their feelings and experiences. By our righteous choices and actions, we liberate them from darkness by increasing their ability to walk in the light.
Why do I always forget?  No more neglecting the basics for me!

Friday, November 19, 2010

An announcement

Baby number 6 is on it's way.

He/she looks like a bean right now - I'm not very far along.  I went in earlier than I would normally go just to get a more accurate idea of how far along I was.  I couldn't rely on the usual way to estimate my due date because I'm still nursing Ray and I hadn't had the usual symptoms of not-being pregnant.

It turns out I am 8 weeks along (which is one week longer than I thought I was) and everything looks good.  Baby is due July 1st.  I know I should probably wait a little longer to tell people.  I should know better because I have had a miscarriage before, but I'm never very good at waiting.

I am feeling pretty good so far!  I am quite tired and sometimes sick, but I actually have times during the day when I feel fine.  I'm usually quite a bit more sick by now.  My friend, Joanne, once told me that she seems to get less sick if she is nursing a baby when she gets pregnant with another.  Maybe the hormones don't fluctuate as much?  I don't know, but I hope it keeps up!  I'm usually feeling pretty awful by 10 weeks so I guess we'll see.

Everyone is really exited for this new little one.  The boys want another boy "just like Ray", but the girls would love another sister.  I would be pretty exited about either one.  It would be nice to have a boy so Ray could have a little playmate that wouldn't mind playing rough with him, but if this is to be our last baby than it might be nice to have a girl - it just seems ideal to have the youngest be a girl.  I'm tempted to not find out until he/she is born!  It would be fun, but the kids think it sounds crazy and they really want to know - so they might overrule me.

I started getting suspicious that I was pregnant on Halloween.  The kids shared a Kit Kat with me (one of my favorite candy bars) and it made me feel a little sick and I didn't want any more chocolate.  I didn't want any chocolate the next day either so I knew something very fishy was going on.  I usually can't resist chocolate.  I took a test that following day just to put my mind at ease either way.  I was home alone with Bazinks whom I had brought home from church early since he was complaining of feeling sick.  So Bazinks was the first to know.  I was going to wait so Rock could be the first to know, but Bazinks noticed something was up and he said, "Mom, why do you keep smiling so much?"  So I broke down and told him and made him not tell anyone until I told his dad.  He did good.  Rock told the news to the kids and they were all very exited.

The only thing that would make all of this any better is if I could convince my family to let me have this baby at home!  I think that would be such a wonderful experience - and studies show that it's actually more safe than having a baby at the hospital (if it is not a high-risk pregnancy), but no one seems to want to budge on this for me!  Any suggestions?  I'm sure it'll be a lovely experience at the hospital as well.

I better get to my morning - it seems that there is much to do today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Follow-through and Holy-days

I haven't been feeling all that motivated to write lately. I'm not sure why. I think part of it is that I have plenty I'm trying to work on that I have already written about so I'm just working on follow-through. I'm terrible at follow-through. I do want more self-discipline, but that is something that is earned little by little and I hope someday to have a sufficient amount. In the mean time, I'll keep plugging away at my slow pace. I think I'd be a pretty awesome mom if my pace were faster and I actually implemented all of my ideas for more than a couple of weeks. Anyway, I'm working on it and hopefully the kids will see that example (of working on it) and won't notice all the things I lack quite so much.

Another reason I'm not feeling like writing is that I'm still trying to figure out how to make the holiday's more holy and I'm still trying to figure out how to go about it.  This is the first year that we won't be spending Christmas at my mom's house or with everyone at our house (all of my side of the family will be in Florida, but Rock couldn't get enough days off of work so that we could go - and it would have been very expensive even though they all offered to help us out).  So I really want to make it special and memorable with all of the right kinds of special and memorable things.  I want to do service, but we need to find some way to do so.  I don't want a focus on presents or on Santa.  The kids are okay with not doing Santa at all this year.  Should we go with it?  I want to do homemade presents for each other.  I want to spend the day being together and not on playing with mindless toys.  I want it to be a day where we turn our hearts to Christ - a birth in our hearts.  I'm struggling as I try to figure out how to make it all happen.  Does anyone have any traditions that they love that really help bring the Christmas spirit?

I have a couple of kids trying to get my attention so this is a short blog post, but here are some pictures from our weekend:

Decorating the Christmas tree on Saturday:





I took my Activity Day girls (and Bud) to Music and the Spoken Word on Sunday.
It was neat to be there!  We need to make it out there more often.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kids Performances

I just wanted to put up a quick post about when the kid's upcoming choir performances are going to be, so that any family and friends who want to come support them can know when to with enough notice :-)

Spice, Bud and Little Miss:
Monday, November 29 - Friends and Family Concert - Columbus Center, SLC - 5:30pm
Friday, December 3 - Festival of Trees - South Towne Expo, Sandy - 10:55-11:25am
Saturday, December 4 - Santa's Breakfast - Columbus Center, SLC - 8:45am & 9:30am
Monday, December 6 - Columbus Senior Center - Columbus Center, SLC - 11:30am

Spice (she is in an older choir and, in addition to the above concerts, will be performing The Messiah on the following dates:

Wednesday, December 8 - Provo Tabernacle - Downtown Provo - 7:00pm-8:00pm
Saturday, December 11 - Temple Square Assembly Hall, SLC - 7:30pm-8:10pm

We would love to see you there!

*Click here to learn more about Heralders Children's Choir

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Latest

We've had a busy week since I last wrote.  Mostly it's been busy because we've had bouts of sickness.  Bazinks got sick with the croup early last week.  Fortunately, he was better by Friday so I took the kids to choir and then we went to Temple Square.

There is such a wonderful feeling about that place.  We ate at the Joseph Smith memorial building cafe, listened to a man practice playing the organ in the old conference center (the sound was amazing, we were all mesmerized - except little Ray who wanted to play on the sloping floor - and due to the wonderful acoustics in that room, we couldn't stay very long).

We also visited the South Visitors center and saw a miniature replica of the Salt Lake temple in which you can see the inside of the temple and play videos that tell you about each room.  The kids really liked that.

 We also went to the North Visitor's center and went through a presentation about families with the sister missionaries.  I am so incredibly grateful for my eternal gift of a family.

The next day, we went south to my parent's house so they could watch the younger two children while the older 3 went with Rock and I to a The Price of Freedom concert.  It was incredible.  We already had all of the songs memorized (it's Bud's favorite CD so we listen to it often) and then when you add to it the footage from WWII, and the excerpts from letters, with the amazing talent on that stage - we'll never forget it.



Here's one song that I love (the narration comes from real letters):

And here's Bud with the singer:
They were all so amazing. 

That night, Little Miss and Ray started getting fevers and now they both have croup.  Little Miss is an angel when she is sick.  She just lays down and never complains.  I have to remember to ask her if she needs something.  Ray is not so easy.  He likes to be held, so I've had to do a lot of things one handed lately.  Babies are so pitiful when they are sick.  They just look at you with sad eyes wondering what is going on.  We stayed home from their usual club days yesterday and they made forts in the front room and played World War II.  They also found boxes to hide out in.




The kids asked me recently to teach them to spell better.  I've been looking at different programs - detailed ones like The Phonics Road (which I have, but need to sell) or just lists to memorize.  The former seemed too thorough, the latter not thorough enough.  My mom introduced me to Words their Way so I spent Saturday figuring it out and we tried it yesterday.  They liked it, so hopefully it's what we need.  It teaches children to look for spelling patterns in words and find the rules as they see them.  They do it by sorting words.  It's pretty interesting.

I'll also been trying to figure out how to take all this interest in war and soldiers and use it to help our family.  Our new devotional song is We are all Enlisted and they're pretty excited about that.  We are also going to study US history more thoroughly and give World History a little break.

I've also been thinking a lot about traditions and how to change some of the ones I don't like.  It's slow going, but we're coming to some decisions I think.  I'm sure it's a process that will take years.  We just need to start somewhere.   I talked to the kids about the irony of Jesus' teaching us to look not for the riches of this world and to seek for the things of a better and the crazy commercialism that surrounds celebrating His birth.  They agree that this ought not to be.  Now we just need to figure out what to do instead.


That's pretty much life and what's going on in my head these days.  Now I better go take care of some sick children...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wish List

A couple of family members have mentioned to me that we are very hard to shop for since we don't want any more stuff.   They asked that I give them some ideas as to what we would like so I thought I would write some ideas on here for them, and whoever else feels the same way (and don't worry, we would appreciate any gift even if it's not on the list - we are thankful when people are so sweet to get us anything at all). I was worried about writing a wish list because I didn't want it to sound like we not only expect gifts, but we expect certain ones as well. That is not the case. This is just a list of ideas for those interested.  I'll be sure to keep it updated.

I tried to make sure to only write things down that I knew the children would be exited to get, so this isn't just a list of items that I would like them to have.

Ideas for everyone and anyone in the family:

- Teach a skill you know (for example, if you know how to make jam you could give a child or the family a coupon that says "Good for one class with _____ on how to make jam".
OR
-If you know a lot about a subject taking us on a field trip and explaining what you know would be wonderful like maybe a coupon that says, "Good for one nature hike with ______ to learn more about birds" etc.

- A family membership to:
The zoo
Tracy Aviary
The Ogden Nature Center
Treehouse Museum
Discovery Gateway
National Parks Pass

-Tickets to a musical performance or a play

-Gift Certificate to JC Penney, Old Navy, or a book store

-Money to put into their savings fund (this will go to their missions or college)

Ideas for specific family members:

Spice:
-Gift certificate to Jo-Ann's, Michaels or Roberts
-Binoculars
-Book ideas:
The Princess and the Goblin by MacDonald
Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Just David by Eleanor Porter
Five Little Peppers Midway
Draw and Write through History (any in the series)
Drawing for Older Children & Teens by Mona Brookes
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll 
-Cute accessories (she likes cute hats and hair accessories)

Bud:
-A whittling book or supplies (he has a pocket knife and a sharpening stone)
-Binoculars
-A Telescope
-A "real" basketball hoop (not the little plastic kind)
-Book Ideas:
The Burgess Animal Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess
Secrets of the Woods by William J. Long
Nature Friend Magazine
G.A. Henty books
School of the Woods by William J. Long
-BYU paraphernalia (useful things like a mug, water bottle (not plastic), notebook, pen, etc)

Little Miss:
-Binoculars
Book Ideas:

Nonsense Poems by Edward Lear
Draw Write Now (any in the series)
-Cute hair accessories

Bazinks:
-Book Ideas:
Kate Greenaway's Mother Goose Coloring Book by Kate Greenaway
Holing C. Holling books
Water Babies by Charles Kingsley  
-BYU paraphernalia
-His own small-sized basketball

Me:
-Books:
The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich
The Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers
The Walking Drum by Louis L'Amour
Jane Austen Oxford Illustrated Set or any in the set
The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff
Oxford Illustrated Charles Dickens hardcover (any in the set)
Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series
-Dutch Oven
-Camping Stove

Rock:
Long Biking Pants or other biking things
Music Download Gift Cards
iTunes Gift Cards
BYU paraphernilia

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Traditions (and Halloween fun)

Playing in the backyard
"We now live in the best and worst of times for families. The worst of times because families have historically followed the guidance of their community and culture in shaping marriage, child-rearing and the countless other elements of family living; and now the community and culture are unable to provide a coherent vision or set of tools and supports. Families are left to struggle on their own. We also live in the best of times because we understand better what makes families work, and because now we have unprecedented freedom to shape the kind of family life we want, to be intentional about our families.
Sometimes with my therapy clients, I use an analogy of the Mississippi River, which flows just a couple of miles from my office. I say that family life is like putting a canoe into that great body of water. If you enter the water at St. Paul and don't do anything, you will head south toward New Orleans. If you want to go north, or even stay at St. Paul, you have to work hard and have a plan. In the same way, if you get married or have a child without a working plan for you family's journey, you will likely head "south" toward less closeness , less meaning, and less joy over time. A family, like a canoe, must be steered or paddled, or it won't take you where you want to go." - William Doherty. Ph.D The Intentional Family
In a culture where selfishness prevails (as Doherty put it, the question is now "ask not what you can do for your family; ask what your family can do for you) and values are being tossed aside for the sake of "pleasure" and "fun". We will end up miserable and lost if we choose to follow the cultural flow. I know for a fact (as I have seen it over and over again in my life) that focusing on me (my needs, my wants) does not bring me joy, but  focusing on others, ironically, fulfills all of my needs and wants. The cultural flow will lead us to broken or unhappy families and individual misery.

If we want to stay afloat and headed towards eternal family unity and joy - we must evaluate our daily, weekly and seasonal traditions. We must be intentional about what we participate in as a family. Doherty continues,

"At heart, the Intentional Family is a ritualizing family. It creates patterns of connecting through everyday family rituals, seasonal celebrations, special occasions, and community involvement. An Intentional Family does not let mealtimes deteriorate into television watching. It does not let adolescents "do their own thing" at the expense of family outings. It is willing to look at how it handles Christmas or bar mitzvahs in order to make them work better for everyone. It has the discipline to stick with good rituals and the flexibility to change them when they are not working anymore."

I met another mom, at my children's choir practice, that has chosen to not celebrate Halloween in a traditional way. I am meeting more and more of them these days. In the past, my first reaction to these kinds of moms was a feeling that they didn't realize the value of just having fun with their families and enjoying traditions with their community (even if they did start as pagan traditions, they have turned into community bonding traditions and good things have come of them).

Lately, though, as I have become more intentional about the things we do as a family in our daily lives, I have started to see the need for being more intentional about the things we do in our weekly, monthly and holiday traditions. I now admire these women who have had the courage to say, "This isn't working for our family, and, even though it's weird, we will do things differently".

I was reading a post that talked about holidays or "Holy Days" and the purpose behind them. I looked up her links and they also gave me some things to think about in regards to how we want to spend our holidays. I do think there is value to just having fun or "wholesome recreation" as a family. I do want to make sure that that recreation is wholesome and that it works for our particular family.

Traditions are tricky things though. One of the hardest things for a newly married couple to do is to take each others' traditions, modify them, and make them work for their newly formed family. Things as silly as how to wrap Christmas presents, what kind of food to eat for special occasions or even what way to put the toilet paper on the roll can cause conflict. We are very tied to our traditions and we can take it as a personal insult if someone does not agree with how we've always done things. We may also think that people think they are better than us if they think they have "better" traditions than we do. Traditions are emotionally volatile issues.
Ray ready to go to the Halloween party
I saw this yesterday as I proposed doing a few things differently for Halloween. Certain people were very attached to their old way of doing things.   It's funny to see that the younger children really don't care. They are happy with whatever we choose to do since the emotional ties to the tradition have not been built up yet. I even proposed (somewhat in jest, but not really) that we don't go trick-or-treating at all. I mentioned an alternative and the younger kids (8 and under) all said "Okay!", but the older people in the family were very resistant. This makes me want to make sure our traditions are in line with what we want for our family right now, before they are too ingrained and really hard to modify.
At a pumpkin patch with some friends

I don't want this to be a source of contention for our family and our marriage. What I hope to do is set some time aside with Rock and go through our traditions, figure out which ones we love and why, see which ones we just do because we're used to them, and most importantly figure out, through prayer and pondering, which ones our Heavenly Father would want us to keep, to get rid of, or to start. I think, as happened in many instances before, that if we do this we can come to a united plan that will help our family grow closer to each other and to our Heavenly Father.
A rainbow on Halloween night
I do think that this will be different for every family. For example, you've seen pictures of my house and it is obvious that decorating is not my passion (I do want to make my home beautiful, so I'm not trying to use that as an excuse, I know I need to do better), but some people love it. They get exited to get out the Halloween or Christmas decorations and the decorating becomes a very important part of their tradition. Mothers who love decorating, look forward to it, are rejuvenated by it and have more energy and cheerfulness to spread to their family members. However, if you don't love decorating, but feel like you have to decorate your house as nice as the elaborately decorated neighbor's, the decorating will drain you and you will spread the drudgery to the people around you and they won't enjoy themselves very much either. I do think, also, that if you decorate, even if you don't love it, because you think it is important for your children, than you will also be happy in the spirit of service and will feel rejuvenated as if you did love it.

Painting Pumpkins and Gourds:





The important thing is to figure out what you really think is important to your family and do just those things. Those are the things that will have meaning and will bring joy. Anything else will only drain your energy and be a burden.

Here is my list for Halloween:

Things I like:
-Talking to neighbors that I don't often talk to
-A day set apart to do something different as a family
-Harvest-type meals
-Seeing the neighborhood kids when they come to my door (I enjoy this for the first 30-60 minutes. After that, I get tired of answering the door).
-Decorating pumpkins

Things I don't like:
-Too much candy (by that I mean more than 2 or 3 pieces)
-Scary, gory or immodest costumes (I used to love haunted houses, but now I feel like the Spirit leaves me when I'm scared so I don't like them so much anymore)
-Buying candy
-Buying or making costumes that are not what I want my kids to be pretending to be (if it's something that I can put in their dress-up stuff that I would like them pretending on a regular basis, I don't mind so much).
-Answering the door every five minutes (after the initial 30-60 minutes).
-The ambiguity of what exactly it is that we are celebrating. I would like there to be some meaning, but the real meaning of Halloween is not something I would like our family to celebrate.

This year, we modified things a little, but I think we can do a lot better. Here's what we did:
-We made Halloween-type meals: creepy crepes with Spinach smoothies for breakfast, a BIG salad (to counter the candy later) for lunch with a pumpkin-shaped donut, and we had pizza and treats at the ward Halloween party for dinner.
-We dressed up as pioneers (with our pioneer trek clothes)
-We attended the ward Halloween party
-The 2 older kids went trick-or-treating with their dad just once around the block and brought home candy to share with their siblings. The younger kids stayed home with me and helped me make popcorn and hand out candy.
-We passed out candy until 7 and then left it outside with a sign that said "Please pick one"
-At 7 we turned out all the lights, got in our cozy jammies, went downstairs and watched "How to Train a Dragon" while we snacked on popcorn, pomegranates and trick-or-treating candy. A movie has become a novelty around here so that was a pretty big deal.

That's pretty much it. During the day the kids raked up leaves and jumped in them and read books. I thought it was a nice day. I just know we could make it more meaningful if we really thought about it in an intentional way.