Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Tis the Season: The Results Post

Remember my plan for the month of December? Here's how it all turned out.

1) Focus on Christ
Reading about the Savior was a wonderful end to each day, and the Gospel Art Kit provided a great visual for my young children. I think we might incorporate more GAK into our family scripture study in the future.

2) Open a pocket everyday

3) Make paper snowflakes
We tried the paper variety, but unfortunately it didn't go over so well. I think I picked a "I'm not in the mood for folding and cutting day" for the Ant Bug. But, we did try the edible snowflake variety described in The Friend magazine with much success.

4) Take a family photo
Our family, the 2008 version.

5) Read Christmas Books
Our favorite of the whole bunch was Drummer Boy, by Loren Long.

6) Watch "It's a Wonderful Life"
I have to admit, I got a little teary-eyed in the end.

We also enjoyed watching this movie as a family.

7) Take a walk at the duck pond and enjoy the holiday lights

7) Make Christmas crafts with my family
A very simple project, and a fun addition to our Christmas tree. I also made personalized versions for my piano students.

We ended up with a whole herd of these guys. The Ant Bug was in charge of shaping the antlers.9) Prepare for a piano performance
The recital was very lovely, but next year I think I'll save myself a little hassle and choose an easier song!

10) Make Sugar Cookies
We also made some yummy gingerbread boys and girls, with this recipe.
11) Ooops, sorry. I'm not sure what happened to this number on December 3rd :)

12) Sing lots of Christmas Carols
Yes, we did!

I had a lovely month, crossing off everything on my list. I'm looking forward to continuing these traditions next year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

See the wonder of a child

"There once was a commonly seen bumper sticker that asked the question, “Have you hugged your child today?” How fortunate, how blessed is the child who feels the affection of his or her parents. That warmth, that love will bear sweet fruit in the years that follow. In large measure, the harshness that characterizes so much of our society is an outgrowth of harshness imposed on children years ago.

"Do you want a spirit of love to grow in the world? Then begin within the walls of your own home. Behold your little ones, and see within them the wonders of God, from whose presence they have recently come."

Gordon B. Hinckley, “These, Our Little Ones,” Ensign, Dec 2007, 4–9

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Ant Bug!

Not only are we celebrating Christmas today, we also get to celebrate the fourth birthday of our sweet Ant Bug.
"The important thing about Four is that you are bigger than you were before.

Now at Four,
you can open the door.

You’ve grown a lot,
you’ll grow some more.

You can blink and think
as quick as a wink.

You can open your eyes
to a world of surprise.

You can run and race

You can sing and fling
your arms in the air.

But the important thing about Four is that you are bigger than you were before."

Taken from Another Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On this eve we celebrate His birth

"And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary" (Mosiah 3:8).

For Unto Us a Child is Born, Simon Dewey

“While they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:6–7).
In the Arms of Mary, Simon Dewey

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6)

Divine Redeemer, Simon Dewey

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Here am I, send me."

"Every sister who stands for truth and righteousness diminishes the influence of evil. Every sister who strengthens and protects her family is doing the work of God. Every sister who lives as a woman of God becomes a beacon for others to follow and plants seeds of righteous influence that will be harvested for decades to come. Every sister who makes and keeps sacred covenants becomes an instrument in the hands of God.

I have been drawn to an interchange between God the Father and His eldest and Only Begotten Son, who is the ultimate example of living up to one's premortal promises. When God asked who would come to earth to prepare a way for all mankind to be saved and strengthened and blessed, it was Jesus Christ who said, simply, "Here am I, send me" (Abraham 3:27).

Just as the Savior stepped forward to fulfill His divine responsibilities, we have the challenge and responsibility to do likewise. If you are wondering if you make a difference to the Lord, imagine the impact when you make commitments such as the following:

"Father, if you need a woman to rear children in righteousness, here am I, send me."

"If you need a woman who will shun vulgarity and dress modestly and speak with dignity and show the world how joyous it is to keep the commandments, here am I, send me."

"If you need a woman who can resist the alluring temptations of the world by keeping her eyes fixed on eternity, here am I, send me."

"If you need a woman of faithful steadiness, here am I, send me."

Between now and the day the Lord comes again, He needs women in every family, in every ward, in every community, in every nation who will step forward in righteousness and say by their words and their actions, "Here am I, send me."

My question today is, Will you be one of those women?"

M. Russell Ballard (2001, March 13), Here am I, send me; BYU Devotional Address.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Swaddling, Liz Lemon Swindle

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn" (Luke 2: 6-7).

She Shall Bring Forth a Son, Liz Lemon Swindle

This picture hangs in my bedroom. It is my favorite portrayal of Mary, the mortal mother of Jesus. I have often studied it and pondered about Mary. What was she like? How did she feel about her great responsibility--being mother to the Savior of the world? Was she afraid? Did she ever think "I'm not the woman for this job"?

Be It Unto Me, Liz Lemon Swindle

Even though she was only a young woman, in complete obedience she humbly accepted the opportunity of motherhood, stating to her angel visitor "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word"(Luke 1:38).

Mary's Heart, Liz Lemon Swindle

Like any mother, I imagine she treasured each moment with her son. She held her baby and sang to him and loved him. As he grew, I'm sure she had many moments on her knees, praying for guidance as she nurtured her son.

"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

Light of the World, Liz Lemon Swindle

"And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God" (Alma 7:10).

During this wonderful season, may we also honor Mary, an exemplary woman who nobly fulfilled her role as mother of the Savior of the world.

"Be there for your children."

"Mothers, you are instruments in God’s hands, with a divine responsibility to teach and nurture your children. Little ones so need your kind and loving hand. As you put them first, He will direct you how to best serve them.

"All of you with older children are needed in your homes. Yes, there are frustrations, but there are lots of joys. Look for them! Having raised four industrious sons, I learned a thing or two about being an instrument: Enjoy the energy of these years! Make your home a safe, happy, relaxed place where friends are welcome. Listen, love, share your stories of your childhood and teenage years with your children.

"Have expectations for your children. We had a curfew and told our sons that the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight. When they didn’t come home, a few times the Holy Ghost told me to go out and find them. That surprised a few of their dates! We laugh about that now—but I must admit, laughter comes easier as they have grown older.

"Be there for your children. Sit on the bed and enjoy the late-night talks—try to stay awake! Pray for the Lord to inspire you. Forgive often. Choose your battles. Testify frequently of Jesus Christ and His goodness and of the Restoration. And most of all, let them know of your trust in the Lord."

Bonnie D. Parkin, “Sweet Moments,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 107

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How do you spend your time?

An article highlighted in the recent BYU Magazine gave me something to think about:
"A recent study by Joseph P. Price (BA ’03), a BYU economics assistant professor, is waking up parents with his finding that, by and large, firstborn children get about 3,000 more hours of parental time between the ages of 4 and 13 than second-borns. In an article published in the Journal of Human Resources, he says that while parents may spend equal time with each child on any given day, they tend to spend progressively less total time with their children as their parenting years advance. As the amount of parenting time gets smaller, the second child garners less total time.

"Price explains what typically happens in families: “As your firstborn gets older, reading to him starts to drop off. You say, ‘Oh, he knows how to read now; I don’t need to read to him.’ But at the same time you stop reading to your firstborn, you read less to your second-born, who is younger. Also, as the firstborn gets older, you start to watch more television with him, which means you’re watching more television with your second-born when he’s at a younger age.

"In other words, the second-born gets sucked into whatever the firstborn is doing. And so, unfortunately, he loses out on reading and gets more TV."
I have to admit, I'm guilty as charged. From day one, I was reading books to the Ant Bug. Reading 2-3 books before sleep has always been a key element of our bedtime routine. I'm sure this has been a factor in her prolific verbal abilities. In addition, she's always been on the short end of the scale when it comes to sleep duration, so we had plenty of hours in the day to fill up with enlightening activities like story time, music time, and school time.

And now we have our Sweet Bee, just over a year old. If we're lucky to have Dad home at bedtime, then he reads books with her while I get the Ant Bug ready for bed (but this has only been a recent development). And she is a really good napper! But unfortunately, that means that her awake time usually corresponds with meal times (preparation, eating, cleaning) and errand times (shopping, etc). Which doesn't leave much quality one-on-one time. Also, the Sweet Bee is much more easily entertained. For an extended period of time she will quite happily toddle all around the house, with something in hand and mouth, thrilled to be able to walk on her own two feet.

So is all hope lost, for any children after the first born? Hardly. Happy, successful people come from all walks of life, in any birth order.

But in the meantime, I'm rethinking my time spent with my most precious responsibility. And I'll be thinking of ways to discover more quality and quantity time with both of my sweet girls.

Take this informal time-use survey and judge if the time you spend with your children is both quantity and quality.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nurturing is...

"Nurturing refers to parenting behaviors such as warmth, support, bonding, attachment, recognizing each child’s unique abilities, and attending to children’s needs. Nurturing in and of itself is more important in the development of a child than is any particular method or technique of child rearing. It hardly needs saying that nurturing is best carried out in a stable, safe, family context.

A mother’s nurturing love arouses in children, from their earliest days on earth, an awakening of the memories of love and goodness they experienced in their premortal existence. Because our mothers love us, we learn, or more accurately remember, that God also loves us."

M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, Mar 2006, 26–33

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The easiest cookies you will ever make: Pumpkin Spice Cookies

These cookies are delicious and require only two ingredients: a can of pumpkin and a box of spice cake mix. Seriously, that's it. Pretty simple, eh?

I did add chocolate chips to my batch. :)

Thanks to my friend Rachel for the great suggestion! You can check out Recipe Zaar if you are interested in the details of the recipe.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

'Tis the Season

Our tree is up and our home is looking festive for the Christmas season. Today I thought I would share with you a few of the items on our "Activities for the Month of December" list:

1) Focus on Christ
The December 2008 issue of The Friend magazine includes this great activity. Each night we're reading the suggested scriptures about Jesus Christ and posting the related picture from the Gospel Art Kit. It's a great way for us to remember the reason behind the season.

2) Open a pocket everyday
The first year that we were married, my mother-in-law presented my husband and I with this wonderful advent calendar. Each day we open one pocket and find an ornament with which to decorate the tree. It looks a little sparse right now, but we're only on day 3.

3) Make paper snowflakes
Since we live in Florida, this will be the only snow we will see this year.

4) Take a family photo
I know we should have had this done by now, but we always seem to end up a little late. Here is our photo from last year. What do you think we will look like this year??

5) Read Christmas Books
Since I'm always looking for great books and ways to promote literacy, I thought this was a great idea. Find 25 Christmas books (or as many as you can), wrap them up and put them under your tree. Then everyday until Christmas your children can choose one to unwrap and read together.

My book shelf is a little sparse when it comes to Christmas books, so I consulted this book list and this one too and found some great titles, many of which are available at my local library. I'm headed there tomorrow to pick them up and start wrapping and reading!

6) Watch "It's a Wonderful Life"
This is my favorite holiday movie, with such a great message. It gives me warm fuzzies!

7) Take a walk at the duck pond and enjoy the holiday lights.

8) Make Christmas crafts with my family
Don't these look so cute and fun?

From Skip to My Lou

From Make and Takes

9) Prepare for a Piano Performance
This fall I added "Piano Teacher" to my list of responsibilities. I have six wonderful students, and we're having our first recital this month. I decided to share in the fun with my students and prepare Silent Night/ Still, Still, Still to perform, arrangement courtesy of Sally DeFord Music.

10) Make Sugar Cookies
We love to make and decorate sugar cookies for the holidays. Here is the best recipe I've ever tried (courtesy of the Family Cookbook):

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
4-5 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream sugar, butter and eggs. Add sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Roll out in flour to 1/4 inch thick and cut. Cook in 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes. Bottoms should be brown but tops should not be brown at all. These make a soft, cake-like cookies.

Mmmmm. They are delicious!

12) Sing lots of Christmas Carols

Silent Night, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, Jingle Bells, The First Noel, O Holy Night, Silver Bells, We Three Kings, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Rudolph, Christmas is Coming, Do you hear what I Hear?, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Far Far Away on Judea's Plains, White Christmas...

Wow! I'm going to be busy, aren't I? What are you doing to celebrate the season in December?

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Never has there been a greater need for righteous mothers."

"Never has there been a greater need for righteous mothers—mothers who bless their children with a sense of safety, security, and confidence about the future, mothers who teach their children where to find peace and truth and that the power of Jesus Christ is always stronger than the power of the adversary. Every time we build the faith or reinforce the nobility of a young woman or man, every time we love or lead anyone even one small step along the path, we are true to our endowment and calling as mothers and in the process we build the kingdom of God. No woman who understands the gospel would ever think that any other work is more important or would ever say, “I am just a mother,” for mothers heal the souls of men.

"As mothers in Israel, we are the Lord’s secret weapon. Our influence comes from a divine endowment that has been in place from the beginning. In the premortal world, when our Father described our role, I wonder if we didn’t stand in wide-eyed wonder that He would bless us with a sacred trust so central to His plan and that He would endow us with gifts so vital to the loving and leading of His children. I wonder if we shouted for joy at least in part because of the ennobling stature He gave us in His kingdom. The world won’t tell you that, but the Spirit will.

"We just can’t let the Lord down. And if the day comes when we are the only women on earth who find nobility and divinity in motherhood, so be it. For mother is the word that will define a righteous woman made perfect in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, a woman who has qualified for eternal increase in posterity, wisdom, joy, and influence.

"I know, I absolutely know, that these doctrines about our divine role are true, and that when understood they bring peace and purpose to all women. My dear sisters, whom I love more than I know how to express, will you rise to the challenge of being mothers in these perilous times, though doing so may test the last ounce of your endurance and courage and faith? Will you stand steadfast and immovable as a mother in Israel and a woman of God? Our Father and His Only Begotten Son have given us a sacred stewardship and a holy crown in their kingdom. May we rejoice in it. And may we be worthy of Their trust."

Sheri L. Dew, “Are We Not All Mothers?,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 96

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best Baby Board Books: Sandra Boynton

When it comes to baby board books, the best books are written by Sandra Boynton. She has a playful writing style, and her animal illustrations are adorable. These great titles are members of our permanent family library collection:

But Not The Hippopotamus, Pajama Time!, Doggies, The Going to Bed Book, and Moo, Baa, La La La!

This book used to be on our shelf, until sadly, it was ruined by a cup of milk:

These two have been frequent checkouts on our library card:

Her books are well-loved in our home, by all ages.

Who can resist those cute singing pigs?!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Life has its seasons

"Women today are being encouraged by some to have it all--generally, all simultaneously: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world...Doing things sequentially--filling roles one at a time at different times--is not always possible, as we know, but it gives a woman the opportunity to do each thing well in its time and to fill a variety of roles in her life...A woman may fit more than one career into the various seasons of her life. She need not try to sing all the verses of her song at the same time."

James E. Faust, “A Message to My Granddaughters: Becoming ‘Great Women’,” Ensign, Sep 1986, 16

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, November 21, 2008

Write a letter. Encourage a mother.

While doing my nightly reading one of my favorite blogs, I discovered something wonderful.

The Mother Letter Project

A husband and wife who are fed up with the materialism of the Christmas season decided to forgo spending money for gifts this year and donate the money saved to a small village in Africa. They are making gifts for each other that don't cost a dime, and this husband has come up with a truly heartfelt gift. In his words:

"I am creating my wife’s Christmas present-the Mother Letter Project. Simply stated, I am collecting a series of “open letters” from mothers, to mothers. Share your stories—no matter how raw or difficult. Share you concerns—no matter how foolish they may seem. Share your wisdom—no matter how you came by it. Share your mother story."

Will you write a letter? I'll be composing one in my mind tonight as I rock my baby in the wee hours.

Visit the Mother Letter Project blog for all the details. And if you choose to submit a letter, you'll even receive your own copy of the compilation.

So...Share your story. Write a letter. Encourage a mother.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parenting 101

For today's parenting lesson, we're going back to the basics. Here are some helpful do's and don'ts when it comes to taking care of infants.

(Don't worry, I know my readers are way beyond this level when it comes to taking care of babies. I just thought these were pretty funny and worth a laugh.)

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