Friday, January 29, 2010

The Chinese bamboo tree: A parable for parents

"In everything you do in your family, keep in mind the miracle of the Chinese bamboo tree. After the seed for this amazing tree is planted, you see nothing, absolutely nothing, for four years except for a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb. During those four years, all the growth is underground in a massive, fibrous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth. But then in the the fifth year the Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet!

"Many things in family life are like the Chinese bamboo tree. You work and you invest time and effort, and you do everything you can possibly do to nurture growth, and sometimes you don't see anything for weeks, months, or even years. But if you're patient and keep working and nurturing, that "fifth year" will come, and you will be astonished at the growth and change you see taking place.

"Patience is faith in action. Patience is emotional diligence. It's the willingness to suffer inside so that others can grow. It reveals love. It gives birth to understanding."

From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey (pp. 22-23)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Fancy Party for a Five Year Old

The Ant Bug recently turned 5 years old and she had her heart set on having a party with friends. She enjoys the Fancy Nancy books, so we went with a Fancy Nancy theme. This theme works well for little girls, because at that age it is so fun to dress up and be fancy. I searched online and found a lot of good ideas, and here is how it all turned out.

The Invitation
Printed on fancy paper and tied with a fancy pink ribbon
Anwyn is 5 and FANCY !

You are invited to a soiree (that’s fancy for party)

Saturday, January 23rd at Anwyn’s house (address)

10:30 am to 12:00 noon

Please wear your fanciest ensemble.

Répondez s'il vous plaît {RSVP}
(that’s fancy for tell Anwyn’s mom if you’re coming)

phone and email

Ooh-la-la! We can't wait to see you, darling!

The decorations
Pink balloons and pink streamers.

The fancy welcome sign on the front door
The fancy creative art project
The girls decorated pink foam sheets with flower and heart foam stickers, markers and glitter gel pens.

The story time.
The girls all piled on the couch for a reading of the book that inspired the party.
The Shopping Spree
The girls were each given a gift card that enabled them to shop at Anwyn's Boutique, conveniently located upstairs in Anwyn's bedroom.
They were able to select one (or two) of the following accessories to wear and then take home: sunglasses, rings, bead necklaces, stick-on earrings, and a hair clip. This doubled as the favor bag.
After shopping we had a little lesson in proper posture for walking. We used plastic plates from our toy food collection to practice.
The game
Back downstairs for a rousing game of "pin the jewel on the tiara". Kudos to my husband for drawing an awesome tiara!
The menu
We served peanut butter sandwiches cut in squares, crescent rolls, ham and turkey roll-ups, carrots and dip, crackers, and fresh fruit. The girls used fancy toothpicks with flags as their utensil and were encouraged to eat with their pinkies in the air. After present opening, it was time for dessert--parfaits, of course! We laid out vanilla ice cream and all the best fixings: chocolate and caramel sauce, strawberry syrup, sprinkles and M&Ms.

The whole party ended up being about two hours, with a little free time here and there for the girls to play a little. The Ant Bug loved it, and I think everyone else had a good time. I was pleased with how everything turned out. Hopefully this will help any of you who need to plan your own posh party for your fancy little girl!

I got a lot of ideas from the following sources:
How to Throw a Posh Soiree for Kids
Fancy Nancy Birthday Party
Occupation Mommy: Fancy Nancy Birthday Party
And advice from my sister-in-law Becky, who had previously hosted a Fancy Nancy party of her own!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

FHE: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ Love Me

Scripture of the Week:
"11 And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.
12 So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.
21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
22 And when he had done this he wept again;
23 And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
24 And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and aencircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them."
3 Nephi 17: 11-12, 21-24

Lesson Plan
Tell each individual child that you love them. Explain that there are two others who love them more than anyone. Do this puzzle to find out who.
Read 3 Nephi 17: 11-12, 21-24 and discuss the story it tells. Show a picture of Jesus blessing the Nephite children.
Sing verse 1 of I Know that My Savior Loves Me. This is the new song that the Primary children are learning this year. You can listen to it here, or get a copy of the music on p. 28 here.

Share testimony that I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each person.

Use pictures from the Nursery manual (p. 35 and 67) to show some of the blessings that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have given us because they love us. Hide the pictures around the room and let the children find them and discuss. Color the pictures while the treat defrosts from the freezer.

Our FHE lesson was inspired by the following sources:
FHE Planner
Behold Your Little Ones lesson manual, lesson 4
Sugardoodle Sharing Time Help

Monday, January 25, 2010

Safeguard your family with weekly family home evening.

"The second safeguard is weekly family home evening. Family home evening is for all of us no matter what stage of life we are in. Sister Faust and I find that family home evening is different for us than it used to be with our children and grandchildren around us. Most of the time now we study the scriptures together. A few weeks ago in our family home evening, we read our patriarchal blessings, trying to understand what work we might yet have to accomplish. We found we still have additional work to do.

Some families have moved away from this important meeting. We should do all we can to free up Monday evenings from any other competing activities. Like glue, family home evening bonds us together as families. Lessons should be instructive and involve family members in a relaxed atmosphere which includes an expression of love.

In our family home evenings we should try to involve everyone, except infants, in some way. Small children can participate by singing songs. Older children can be assigned
to prepare and teach all or part of the lesson. Other family members can help the younger children prepare. All should be invited to ask questions arising from their own gospel study or from the lesson.

Family home evening is also a time for calendaring family activities so that everyone knows what is expected of them. It is a time when misunderstandings can be ironed out.
It is also a time to encourage family members to enhance their talents and seek new skills."

James E. Faust, “Challenges Facing the Family,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 2–3.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Snowy Fun

Even after recent record-breaking low temperatures, snow is still proving elusive in my Florida town. But never fear! Even without any snowmen and snow angels outside, we're still having fun with a few snow-based activities inside.

Marshmallows are very exciting things at my house, even if the Ant Bug sometimes gets confused and calls them mushrooms. I knew this activity was going to be a hit. I drew three circles of a snowman body for the Sweet Bee, and the Ant Bug drew her own. We outlined the circles in glue, then started counting marshmallows and sticking them in place (and eating some along the way). The girls continued filling in their snowman after the outline was done

Cotton-ball Snowman

Here is our take on the ever-popular classic cotton-ball snowman. We cut out circles of three different sizes, glued the circles to a sheet of paper, and then filled in the bodies with the fuzzy balls. We used scraps of felt for the charcoal eyes, carrot nose and stick arms.

Snowy Activities on Paper
Confessions of a Homeschooler has a wonderful page with a number of preschool worksheets and activities. We tried out the snowman pre-writing skills worksheet and played the snowflake matching game.

Snowy Books to Read
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

FHE: Jesus Christ is the Son of God

Scripture of the Week:
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
John 5:39

Our Family Home Evening lesson came from the 2010 Outline for Sharing Time. The Ant Bug was sick for week 2 and missed the Sharing Time presentation, so I pretty much just followed their suggestion exactly, except we just discussed all three pictures together as a family:
Post three pictures on the board: John Baptizing Jesus, Christ Appears to the Nephites, and The First Vision. Divide the children into three groups, and give each group one of the following scriptures: Matthew 3:16–17; 3 Nephi 11:6–8; Joseph Smith—History 1:17. Have them discuss the scripture in their groups and then report to the rest of the children (1) the event, (2) what Heavenly Father said, and (3) how they would have felt if they had been there. Invite a child to read John 5:39. Explain that we can gain a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God when we read the scriptures and pray.
We had a little bit of time at the end, so we found some coloring pages of Jesus from the clipart section at

Monday, January 18, 2010

Safeguard your family with family prayer.

"We cannot build walls of brick and stone around our families, but we must constantly put safeguards around them to protect them. These safeguards will be a protection. May
I mention three ways to protect and strengthen our families.

Family Prayer
One of these is family prayer. The Spirit of the Lord is invited into the home through prayer and harmony in the home. Parents need to teach their children that they are children
of God and that they should pray to Him daily. Praying together as a family is a bonding experience. Younger children can learn how to pray as they hear the prayers of their parents
and older siblings.

My own heart and mind were captured as a young boy by my grandfather’s prayers. His large family knelt morning and night before meals. At the time, I thought his prayers were
far too long! He had much to pray about. He was a farmer and rancher. It was during the Great Depression, and there was a terrible drought in the land. His animals were starving.
He had many mouths to feed. But his prayers were so fervent and his faith so great, I was convinced that the Lord would provide and that all would be well. It ultimately proved
to be so. Individual prayer and family prayer are indispensable to personal and family happiness."

James E. Faust, “Challenges Facing the Family,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting,
Jan. 10, 2004, 2–3.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mothers: Intentional and Professional

Today Simple Mom posted about a book that immediately caught my attention: Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood by Jamie Martin. I love that--intentional and professional. Being a mother isn't something that just happens. Successful motherhood is something to work toward everyday, something to think about, something to plan for. I aspire to be an intentional and professional mother!

I just checked out Steady Mom, the blog written Jamie Martin and the author of the book. She has some great ideas and resources available, so I'll be back for more!

If you want to enter to win a copy of the book, post a comment at Simple Mom or Steady Mom. Maybe this will be my lucky day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Potty Talk

For the last week at our house we've been talking a lot about the potty and reading books like these:
Does a Pig Flush? by Fred Ehrilich

Once Upon a Potty by Alana Frankel
(there is a boy version of this book also available)

How to Potty Train Your Monster by Kelley DiPucchio
This book is a clever step-by-step reminder of the potty training process. It seems to me that the reminders are aimed toward the parents, but kids will like the illustrations.

I've also been reviewing these two potty training guides for parents:
Toilet Training in Less Than A Day by Nathan H. Azrin
This book has been around since the 1970s and its method is pretty well proved. If you're new to potty training, this is a good handbook to start with.

On Becoming Potty Wise for Toddlers by Gary Ezzo
This book is basically the newer, shortened version of the above book by Azrin. Probably the most helpful if you just need a quick refresher when it comes to potty training.

Potty training is going well at our house, but I think the best tool has been a very excited and encouraging big sister who is happy to serve as the example!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

FHE: Remember Jesus Christ

Scripture of the Week:
"O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world."
Helaman 5:9

Our Family Home Evening lesson came from this lesson at The Family Home Evening Spot. We showed a picture of Jesus and read the sacrament prayers from the scriptures (D&C 20:77, 79) and then we talked about ways that we can remember Jesus.

Then we played the memory game. I placed 5 items on a tray (one was a picture of Jesus), had the family look at them for 25 seconds, and then they wrote down what they remembered. The Ant Bug really enjoyed this, and we played a few rounds. She even hid some items for mom and dad to remember (we only looked for 15 seconds!).

To wrap things up, we read the above scripture of the week and emphasized the importance of remembering Jesus and his atoning sacrifice for us.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Motherhood is an honored and sacred trust.

"No matter what you read or hear, no matter what the differences of circumstances you observe in the lives of women about you, it is important for you Latter-day Saint women to understand that the Lord holds motherhood and mothers sacred and in the highest esteem. He has entrusted to his daughters the great responsibility of bearing and nurturing children.

"This is the great, irreplaceable work of women. Life cannot go on if women cease to bear children. Mortal life is a privilege and a necessary step in eternal progression. Mother Eve understood that. You must also understand it.

"It was never easy to bear and rear children, but easy things do not make for growth and development...

Much is said about the drudgery and the confinement of the woman’s role in the home. In the perspective of the gospel it is not so. There is divinity in each new life. There is challenge in creating the environment in which a child can grow and develop. There is partnership between the man and woman in building a family which can last throughout the eternities.

Mothers have a sacred role. They are partners with God, as well as with their own husbands, first in giving birth to the Lord’s spirit children and then in rearing those children so they will serve the Lord and keep his commandments. Could there be a more sacred trust than to be a trustee for honorable, well-born, well-developed children?"

Spencer W. Kimball, “Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Ensign, Nov 1978, 101

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Scripture of the Week

"Scripture study as individuals and as a family is most fundamental to learning the gospel. Daily reading of the scriptures and discussing them together is a powerful tool against the temptations of Satan. This practice will produce great happiness and will help family members love the Lord and his goodness. Home is where we become experts and scholars in gospel righteousness."
(President Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 129)

Prophets through all of the ages have taught the importance of studying the scriptures, both individually and as a family. But what the prophets haven't said is specifically how that should be done. From all of my research no prophet has ever commanded "Thou shalt read 42 verses a day in your family". And nobody has ever said "Thou shalt read 5 verses per family member every morning and night".

The nice thing about family scripture study is that it can be tailored to meet the needs of each family. So today I am sharing something that is working well for our family, in case it might help you. But feel free to tailor my system to find something that meets the needs of your family!

A year ago I was pondering about ways that I could improve both the quality of our family scripture study and our Family Home Evenings. I decided that I could start by making sure to focus on the scriptures each week during Family Home Evening. Here is how it works for us:

1) Plan a family home evening lesson.
2) Chose a scripture that corresponds with the lesson.
3) Read and discuss the scripture as a family at FHE.
4) Make a poster to display the scripture. This is really simple. I just type it up large to fill a 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper and then I tape it up on the wall near our kitchen table.
5) Refer to the scripture and talk about it throughout the week.
It's a pretty simple thing, but it has made a difference in our family. We usually end up discussing it during mealtimes, and it allows me to review the key concepts from the lesson. We don't spent a lot of time on it (and we aren't required to memorize it), it just gives us a reminder or a starter for a gospel discussion with the children each day.

Focusing on one verse a week is a nice, manageable amount for my young children (ages 5 and 2). A number of times the Ant Bug has surprised me by memorizing the scripture, and in all cases she ends up reading the scripture on her own at some point--a bonus for encouraging literacy skills in early readers!

Here two other posts that I liked that share good ideas for daily family reading:
Mormon Women: A family scripture treasure chest
A Peaceable Walk: Daily scripture cards

I have previously been posting our scripture of the week on Nurture Mama's Reading List, along with notes about our Family Home Evening lesson. The good news is now it will all be here! So now you can check in each Tuesday to see what we did for Family Home Evening, as well as our scripture of the week.

I would love to hear how family scripture study works at your home! Feel free to share your stories in the comments.

"Everything in the scriptures is applicable to our lives. The scriptures answer our questions, they provide role models and heroes, and they help us understand how to handle challenges and trials. Many times the scriptures you read will be the answer to your prayers."
Elaine S. Dalton, “Believe!,” Ensign, May 2004, 110

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

FHE: Children of God and New Years Interviews

Scripture of the Week:
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"
Romans 8:16

My husband planned our Family Home Evening lesson this week. We sang "I Lived in Heaven" and read the above scripture and talked about the important doctrines that they teach.

Our activity was conducting a New Year's Interview. Using the great printable from Teach Mama, we took turns asking each other questions and recording the responses. This was a fun activity that I plan to make an annual January tradition in our family.

The question we nearly all answered the same? "What do you look forward to this year?...A baby brother joining our family!"

Monday, January 4, 2010

Heavenly guidance

"God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. Every parent knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior.

Where do parents draw the line? That is a matter for parental wisdom, guided by the inspiration of the Lord. There is no area of parental action that is more needful of heavenly guidance or more likely to receive it than the decisions of parents in raising their children and governing their families. This is the work of eternity."

Dallin H. Oaks, “Love and Law,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 26–29

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