Tag Archives: family home evening

Carving Pumpkins

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This past week, in preparation for Halloween, pumpkins were gathered and knives were sharpened for some gruesome and gross fun…

It was time to carve our jack o’ lanterns!

This is one of my favorite holiday traditions. Not because I love digging my hands into the cold, slimy guts of a pumpkin, but because it is a tradition that draws my heart to my own childhood memories and the memories of years past with my own children. Like so many of the holiday traditions that are repeated year after year, pumpkin carving serves as a connecting thread that ties us together as a family, builds shared memories, and draws us closer to each other.

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I am a huge believer in the importance of family traditions, whether speaking of holiday traditions or day to day traditions. I believe family traditions serve as a glue, connecting us to each other. I believe they are an essential element of family life, but they are even more important when trying to build connection with new family members. We have discovered through our journey of adoptions that shared family traditions can be a catalyst to bonding and building feelings of belonging.

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And they are fun!

They force us, as parents, to set aside the urgent tasks of the day for the important things…

Connecting with our children in a lighthearted, silly way.

So, on the Sunday before Halloween we carved lack o’ lanterns with the boys for our family night activity, and while we carved I used the following family home evening lesson from LDS Daily to liken the experience to a spiritual lesson.

One of the most recognized symbols of Halloween is a jack-o-lantern. People love to take pumpkins and make beautiful creations. Many years ago, people from Ireland brought the tradition of making jack-o-lanterns to America. It comes from the story of a man named Jack who roamed the earth after he died and needed a light to see.

But the Irish didn’t have pumpkins! They used turnips, potatoes, and other gourds to make their jack-o-lanterns. When Irish immigrants started coming to America, they discovered the pumpkin was easier to carve and much bigger.

Today, jack-o-lanterns are a part of the Halloween tradition. But did you know we can learn about Jesus Christ from the jack-o-lantern?

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 We are like this pumpkin. God picks us from the patch for a special purpose. He has brought us to Earth and to families where he helps us become clean. All the dirt is washed off of us.

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God can ask us to do hard things. Sometimes we are asked to go through trials or illnesses. We make mistakes and need to repent. God wants to change our hearts so we can be more like him. This is like when we cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all the yucky pumpkin goo.

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 There are seeds inside the pumpkin. Inside of us, we have seeds of doubt, fear, or anger. God removes these seeds and instead turns them into seeds of faith, hope, and charity. This is like when we clean off all the seeds and cook them so they’re yummy.

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God wants us to have joy in this life and in the life to come. He helps us have a smiling face of peace.

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With the jack-o-lantern, we carve a smile and put a light inside. We have the light of Jesus Christ inside of us that can shine bright for everyone to see.”

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Happy Halloween from our house to yours!

How are you Spending your Time?

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One of the classes I am taking as part of the Pathway program through BYU-Idaho, as I work toward my goal of obtaining my college degree, is a General Studies class. I have really enjoyed this class that focuses on strengthening study skills but also life skills. Some of the topics we have covered weekly have included goal setting, money management and time management. As part of our commitment to attend a weekly gathering with students participating in the same program, we are required to sign up to teach a class during the semester as the lead student. A few weeks ago it was my week to teach and my topic was “time management,” something I am personally passionate about.

After teaching the lesson I prepared to my Pathway peers, I decided I might as well take advantage of the time I had invested in preparing the lesson and get a “round 2” out of the lesson. On Sunday night we had  our weekly family home evening lesson on the topic of being good stewards of our time.

I began my lesson with an object lesson.

I had a large bowl of jelly beans.

I passed around the bowl of jelly beans with a stack of cups and asked each person to fill their cup with as many jelly beans as they wanted. There were only two rules…

  1. They had to take at least 1 jelly bean.
  2.  They couldn’t eat any of their jelly beans until the end of the lesson.

And then I showed this video:

As everyone shared their feeling about the video, I used a “How many days have I been alive?” calculator online to let everyone know how many of their jelly beans they have used so far.

I then asked everyone to count the jelly beans in the cup and consider what they would do if the number of jelly beans in their cups actually represented the number of days they had left on the earth…

Would that have an effect on how they spent their time?

As they pondered that question, I shared the following quote by Neal A. Maxwell:

“The time we have been given here on earth is only a very small part of our existence. We must understand our time here in the eternal context of the Plan of Salvation. The way we use our time will only change when the way we feel about our time changes. As children of God we are stewards of time and we will be held accountable for how we use it. The way we use our time will determine what we become in this life and in eternity. We can choose to spend our time or invest our time. By keeping the commandments and our covenants we invest our time in the promises God has given us. This investment will bring eternal rewards.

“Time is, for all of us, a gift from God. It is given to us as a part of our mortal stewardship”

With this quote serving as the foundation for the next part of the lesson, we had a mini financial lesson of the effects of spending vs investing. The kids reached the conclusion that money spent was money lost. It couldn’t be retrieved again. While money invested was money that kept paying dividends well into the future.

I then gave each family member an index card and asked them to count the jelly beans in their cup and write that number at the top of their index card, representing the number of days they have left here in earth. I then asked them, if that were true, how would they use the days they have left? Each family member was asked to thoughtfully create a list of how they would use their remaining days on earth.

The room fell silent as everyone began writing their thoughts on paper. It was a thought-provoking and powerful activity.

When everyone was done writing we went around the room and shared our thoughts.

Some of the items included on various lists were:

Spend time with family, travel, be easier on myself, serve others, face my fears, help people, apologize, give away my things to the needy, leave letters for loved ones, and pray.

We then analyzed our lists and weighed their value, pondering whether each item on our list was a way to “spend time” or an “investment” of our time. As we looked at the things we each wrote down, all were investments of time…activities that produced long term/ eternal dividends.

We ended our family night lesson with a game. Each player used the jellybeans in their cup, along with a stack of toothpicks, to build a tower. The rule was they had a set amount of time to build their tower, but didn’t know when their time would end. The goal was to build the tallest tower that could stand up independently…

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Then the race began.

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It was interesting to see each kid’s strategies, with some focused of making sure they had a firm foundation before trying to move upward, while others, in a panic of not knowing when the timer might “bing,” began building upward without having established a secure base…

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A decision they soon regretted.

As they built their jelly bean towers we discussed the spiritual lessons to be found within the object lesson.

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Rusty ended up the winner of the jelly bean race, but all  enjoyed the fruits of their labors. (There was a chocolate treat for those who weren’t allowed jelly beans due to braces.)

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The lesson was a powerful reminder that our time on earth is finite.

We have no idea when we will reach the last jelly bean in our cup, so it is important that we invest the gift of time that the Lord has given us into those activities that have eternal value, rather than simply spending the minutes of our day on things that have no value…

For one day we will all stand before our Maker, and we will account for the way we used the time He blessed us with. Let us all take inventory of the way we are spending our time, and as we enter this holiday season may we prioritize the “important” over what some may consider “the urgent” tasks of the holiday season,

And invest in the things that matter most.

 

Continue in Patience

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 Last week our family home evening lesson was carried over from the Sunday lesson I taught the 14/15 year old young women at church. Recently I have been using my Sunday lesson as the foundation for my  family night lesson on Sunday evenings (unless prompted to go in a different direction.) That Sunday I taught a lesson on patience, and knowing it was a lesson our family could benefit from, I retaught it on Sunday night to my own family.

We began the lesson with a game that served as an object lesson for patience. The game came in the mail as a gift for Rusty’s birthday from my sister. Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It was an awesome lead -in to my lesson.

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The game is  called “Don’t Lose your Cool.”

In this game one person dons a head piece with a lighted gauge on top, and a heart rate monitor that rests against the forehead.  This player then tries to “keep his cool” for a set amount of time while the other players try to get his heart rate to rise, thus causing the gauge to light up and an alarm to sound. If the player can keep calm enough that his heartrate doesn’t fluctuate in that set amount of time, he wins the game.

The other players then each roll a dice with suggestions printed on the side of the dice that name actions that might cause the primary player to “lose his cool.” Suggestions like close talking, animal noises and incessant chatter are some of the actions that payers might roll and have to perform. If they can get the primary player’s alarm to sound, they win the round.

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It was a fun game that led to much silliness and laughter, but we soon discovered that there was a lesson to be found within the game. 

The reality is …

We all have things or people in our lives that push our buttons and cause us to “lose our cool!” 

Sometimes it is life circumstances that test our patience.

But we know that patience is a fruit of the Spirit and a divine quality we should all be striving for, so how do we follow the counsel of the Lord and continue in patience? 

That was the topic of discussion on Sunday night at Patchwork Farm.

This was our lesson:

Let us begin by exploring what patience is. Patience is defined as,

“The capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition or suffering without being angry, frustrated, or anxious.”

How interesting. Patience isn’t just about waiting, but waiting well.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said this about the divine quality of patience:

“Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter.

Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace.

There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

Patience is a godly attribute that can heal souls, unlock treasures of knowledge and understanding, and transform ordinary men and women into saints and angels. Patience is truly a fruit of the Spirit.

Patience means staying with something until the end. It means delaying immediate gratification for future blessings. It means reining in anger and holding back the unkind word. It means resisting evil, even when it appears to be making others rich.

Patience means accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage, grace, and faith. It means being “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Ultimately, patience means being “firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord” every hour of every day, even when it is hard to do so.”

This is not to say that the purifying process of patience is easy, and certainly we were not all created equal in this virtue. Some may seem to have been blessed with a gift for patience while others struggle, but we are all capable of growing in this area and becoming more Christ-like in our ability to be patient with others, with our circumstances, and even with ourselves.

In his talk, “The Power of Patience” by Robert C Oaks, he gives the following suggestions of things we can do to grow in patience. He counseled that we try applying the following four strategies:

 “1. Read each of the scriptures in the Topical Guide listed under the topic “patience” and then ponder Christ’s patient examples.

2. Evaluate ourselves to determine where we stand on the patience continuum. How much more patience do we need to become more Christlike? This self-assessment is difficult. We might ask our spouse or another family member to help us.

3. Become sensitive to the examples of patience and of impatience that occur around us every day. We should strive to emulate those individuals we consider to be patient.

4. Recommit each day to become more patient, and be certain to keep our selected family member involved in our patience project.”

Patience may seem like an unobtainable gift.

As Robert D. Hales said, “Too often we pray to have patience, but we want it right now!”

Growing in patience is a journey.

It isn’t always easy and at times this purification process may seem daunting.

But Joseph B. Wirthlin has promised, “We will have genuine joy and happiness only as we learn patience.”

Let us all strive to continue in patience and discover the joy that accompanies that divine trait.

The Enabling Power of Prayer

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I recently stumbled across a quote that had an effect on my week and left me pondering its words for days after reading it. The quote was:

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As my children grow older and get closer to launching themselves from the nest I find myself taking inventory of what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what areas might still be lacking. This mental inventory covers everything from school concepts, to life skills, coping strategies, emotional stability,and spiritual tenacity. For their entire childhood I have had this long running list mentally laid next to a clock that is ticking down, forever calculating how much more time I have to teach all the needed life lessons that I want my children armed with before they take flight and face the world independently.

It is easy to fall victim to the sin of control, pride, or fear as I weigh what items have been crossed off the proverbial parenting checklist, while facing down the daunting number of tasks that remain.

I find this “one step forward, two step back,” “flight of the bumblebee” dance to become all the more frantic when you have adopted an older child. The list of lessons you want to teach are the same, but the time you have to teach those lessons is inevitably cut in half when a child enters your life at age 6, age 10 or age 14. Add to that the fact that so many of these lessons can’t even be addressed until there is a level of trust, connection, and stability, and you will find the hands on that already ticking clock moving at light speed.

It is easy to fall victim to the same plight as Peter in Matthew 14…

Peter was willing to put it all on the line. He and the other disciples had been straining against the waves and wind all night long when Jesus appeared to them, walking on the water. Wanting to prove his courage to Jesus, he made an amazing statement: “ Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”. These were rough seas, and Peter was willing to literally step onto them because He was looking at Jesus. That gave him confidence and courage.

It went well for awhile until Peter started to sink. And why did he sink? Because he took his eyes off Jesus and put them on other things.

When my eyes are focused on the list and not on God, I sink. I am consumed with fear and scramble frantically to regain my footing, but the more I scramble the more quickly I sink.

BUT if I turn my eyes back to the Savior I rise above the pull of the waves. I rise above the worries, the stresses, the fear, and the need for control. I am untouched by the crashing waves even as the storm rages around me.

This is the dialog that has been playing out in my head as I look at my older children perched at the edge of the nest, ready to spread their wing and soar. As I consider what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what lessons God is calling me to teach in this final season of their childhood, I am working to keep my eyes on Christ and not fall victim to the sins of control, pride, or fear, but rather allow Him to guide the parental “to do” list of lessons to be taught.

When I stumbled across the quote above I was affected. Its message left me considering how effectively we have taught our children the power of prayer, not just the habit of prayer. I have a testimony of prayer’s power and hope that my testimony has been shared sufficiently with my children through my words, but also through the way that  I live my life…

But this lesson is much too important to hang on “hope” or leave to chance.

Because, of all the lessons taught at my knee, the most important one of all is this one. If my children leave my home with no other skill, no other life tool, no other testimony, I pray it would be this one…the knowledge they are loved by a Heavenly Father, they can have a powerful and intimate relationship with a loving Savior, and by keeping their eyes trained on Jesus through a relationship built on prayer, they can rise above the pull of the waves regardless of the storm raging about them.

This is the topic I felt compelled to revisit, especially in light of a recent trend I have seen playing out around our dinner table.

I’m sure none of you can relate to this but when Toby asks who would like to offer the prayer over the meal crickets can often be heard chirping. There is a noticeable lack of eagerness to pray, and while that doesn’t directly mean anything definitive, I want to make sure that it isn’t reflective of something more…

In addition to the crickets chirping I have also noticed a routine approach to praying that I find even more concerning. All of our prayers recently seem modeled after the same manner. They lack the depth and personal nature that should be seen in a conversation with Heavenly Father.  Add to that the fact that Tyler has recently refused to pray out loud, something that is definitely fear driven, the source of that fear yet unknown, I knew it was time to revisit the topic of prayer as a family.

With all this going on under our roof I was affected in a powerful way by this quote and felt compelled to make it the theme of this week’s Family Home Evening lesson. It was time to get back to the basics and look at how we could each individually strengthen our relationship with God through our prayers to Him.

I began by searching out resources that would teach the lesson that I was feeling called to present, in an engaging and safe way for Tyler so he didn’t shut down or walk out when he heard the topic for the night’s lesson.

I decided to use a lesson I found online that compared prayer to building a sandwich. It gave a great visual that I knew Tyler would respond to. As I prepared the lesson of making a prayer sandwich my mind kept pulling up the image of the cartoon character, Dagwood Bumstead from the old Blondie cartoon strip. He had a love for sandwiches and was well known for his culinary creations…

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Huge, multi-layer sandwiches that he created with creativity and consumed with enthusiasm.

sandwich2As I thought about the iconic Dagwood sandwich I thought to myself, “Now that is what I want my family’s approach to prayer to look like. I want us to eagerly anticipate the opportunity we have to build that sandwich,  meaningfully building layer after layer, and consuming it with pure delight”.

THAT is what I want my prayer sandwich to look like!

Using this model of prayer we went back to the basics. This was primarily for Tyler’s sake but was a good refresher for all of us. I handed out 5×7 “prayer sandwiches” cards, framed in glass, and white board markers and let everyone build their own prayer sandwich. We then each took turns praying, using our sandwich as a guide to our prayer.

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We talked about how, like a sandwich, we all have the same top and bottom slice of bread. The top slice is our greeting to God and our bottom slice of bread is the closing of, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

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But the filling differs for each of us. I

explained that if we were having sandwiches for dinner and I laid out all the fixings…different meats and cheeses, mayo, mustard, lettuce, onion, tomato, etc. we would all make different sandwiches based on what we liked and what our body was craving. In the same way our prayers differ based on what our experiences were that day, what worries are on our hearts, and what we feel compelled to petition God about.

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I took it one step further and pointed out that just as Tyler’s prayer will differ from Rusty’s, our personal prayer should differ day to day. Just like you wouldn’t want to eat the same sandwich for every meal, your prayer shouldn’t be the same rote words uttered day after day. They should be thoughtful, meaningful, personal and relevant to what is going on in your life.

I compared speaking to God that way to talking to their best friend on the phone…

“What would your friend think if every day you called him or her and had the exact same conversation…

“Hi Jane, How are you? What is your favorite color? Do you have a brother?  Thank you for my Christmas gift.  Talk to you tomorrow. Goodbye.”

I am guessing you wouldn’t have a real meaningful friendship. In the same way our relationship with our Heavenly Father can’t grow deeper if our communication is limited to:

Dear God, Thank you for this day. Thank you for my family. Please bless this food. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Now granted, I think God is happy to hear from us in any form, even if it is that sort of  “text message of a prayer,” but if we are going to benefit from all that a relationship with a loving, personal God has to offer, we must really talk to him.

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 For the activity part of the evening we took this idea one step further by making prayer sticks. Using tongue depressors decorated with washi tape everyone wrote on the back of 5 sticks people or concerns we want to pray for more regularly and then we placed them in a jar in the living room.

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For family prayer time the family member that is offering the prayer will randomly pick 5 sticks and add those prayer requests to their personal prayer requests. These prayer sticks can be added to or changed over time.

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All of these activities will hopefully help us all to reevaluate our own approach to prayer and help us all to gain a stronger testimony of prayer and its power in our lives:

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We ended the night with a treat of gummy sandwiches…

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Because nothing says, “We are having a family night lesson on prayer!” like a bag of KRABBY PATTIES! 😉

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Exploring the Past

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For Family Night this week we explored our past through a lesson about family history. This lesson came as a result of a few activities that were on our “to do” list. We decided to meld them together with the connective string of “family history” and turn it into our Sunday evening’s focus.

This week we reversed our usual format with the activity taking place prior to the lesson. This came out of necessity. By the time everyone had waken from their Sunday afternoon naps the sun was falling lower in the sky. Since our Family Night activity was an outdoor activity we needed to do that first before the sun set.

Our activity for the evening came as a result of a conversation with a friend when she shared with me the project her son did for his Boy Scout Eagle Project. In explaining his project she introduced me to Billion Graves, an online resource for genealogists across the world. On the website, genealogists from across the globe can search out the graves of relatives in cemeteries worldwide. As part of their mission to document gravesites across the globe, they encourage volunteers to join in the project by documenting the tombstones in their local cemeteries and uploading it to billiongraves.com.

It seemed like an awesome service project for our family and a fun activity for Family Night.

At the end of our road we have a small, country cemetery. In looking at the website I discovered no work had been completed there so we took an evening stroll down the road to do a little family history work.

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Billion Graves makes this service project simple. We just had to download the app onto our phones and begin. The process involved taking a photo of each headstone and then  later, transcribing the information from the photos into the system.

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The kids had fun with this project. It was a gorgeous evening and they moved through the small cemetery in pairs taking photos of the various headstones, commenting often on the names or the dates.

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It is an older cemetery with many of the graves from the 1800s.

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When we arrived home we began the lesson part of the evening. I explained that the service we just did was to help other families discover and honor their ancestors in the same way that we do family history work to become familiar with our ancestors and our history.

Using Family Search and Ancestry.com we pulled up the family tree of my side of the family and Toby’s side of the family so that the kids could become familiar with the names and faces of the family that came before them.

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I printed out a blank map of the world and we began researching the different branches of the tree to see where the various family members originated, coloring in the countries our family came from, thus creating a map of our heritage.

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As we delved into where we came from and what our heritage is, it led to some questions from Tyler and Ozzie. Because they are both adopted we don’t know what nationalities run through their veins. We don’t know what their heritage is. I knew this lesson was going to spark questions for them and had already planned on helping them find those answers to their questions.

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A few months ago Tyler began showing an interest in knowing more about his biological family and where he comes from, so I gave Grace the assignment of being on the lookout for a good deal with a DNA heritage test kit for the boys. These DNA kits are pretty awesome. Using a bit of DNA scraped from the inside of a person’s cheek these companies can map out the heritage of a person’s past and see where that person’s family originated from. Unfortunately these testing kits can be costly so I knew if we were going to purchase one for both of our adopted sons we were going to have to wait until we found a good deal. A few weeks ago Grace came down the stairs with her computer in hand, excited to share with me a deal she found online. The company was running a special where the testing kits were being offered for 50% off the usual price. We ordered two and on Sunday night pulled them out.

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When we explained to the boys what they were and what they would reveal, they were excited. Although both are as much my children as the ones I gave birth to, there will always be a part of them that is connected to the parents and family that they share DNA with. I can’t give them contact with their birth families but I can give them the gift of connection to their past and to their heritage, which is exactly what we did on Sunday night.

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We opened the kits and laid out the supplies within.

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Following the instructions we pulled out the swabs and rubbed the inside of both boys’ cheeks for 60 seconds.

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Then the swabs were placed in a vial of liquid (I assume water) and sealed shut.

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The samples will now be sent off to a lab where the DNA with be analyzed and the results will be returned to us in 4-6 weeks.

(Because of the flooding in Houston, TX the results will take longer than usual as the sample will need to be mailed to Houston, TX once the postal service begins accepting packages to that zip code again.)

The boys are both excited to get the results of their testing and see where in the world they come from.

We ended our evening with the game, “Don’t eat Grandpa Pete!” which I found online. I printed out our family tree and then covered the leaves with candy corn, thus hiding each family member’s name.

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Then one child was sent out of the room while the others picked a family member for that round. The child then returned to the room and began eating the candy corn, once piece at a time, before picking up the candy corn that covered the name the other kids chose, as everyone screams, “Don’t eat Grandpa Pete!” The goal was to see who could eat the most “leaves” of the tree before choosing the wrong one and ending their turn.

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Tyler ended up being the winner with only one leaf left on the family tree.

How grateful I am for my family…

The ones who came before me,

and the ones that are blessing me today.

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What is good on your “Sundae?”

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(A personal note before I begin… In discussing Sabbath day observance: This is what the we felt the Lord was prompting us to do. Sabbath day observance is a personal thing and something each individual needs to prayerfully decide how the Lord is calling their family to honor that day. My intention is not to make anyone feel judged or corrected, simply to share how we personally feel called to spend our Sabbath day and to testify that great blessings come from setting the Sabbath day apart from the rest of your week.)

If you asked each member of our family which day of the week stands out as a favorite you would get a variety of answers. Some would say Wednesday, for with it comes co-op and church activities, thus the chance to be with friends. Others might answer Friday, the day that marks the end of the school week and our field trip day. Others would probably say Saturday because Daddy is home.(Yea!) But as for me, Sunday is probably the day I look forward to the most. It is my day of rest, of renewal, of recommitment…

It is a day set apart from the rest of the week.

When Toby and I married we made a commitment to set Sunday apart from the rest of the week as a day of worship and a day of rest. We chose to make an active effort to dedicate that day to the Lord and follow His commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

We made the decision that for our family that would mean attending church to learn about, and worship the Lord. That we would refrain from activities that would require someone else to have to work on the Sabbath and miss out on the opportunity to worship or spend time with their family; like shopping, going to the movies, or going out to eat. That we would, as much as possible, refrain from the work of the week. This meant that Toby would schedule his jobs (as much as possible) to the other six days of the week so that we as a family could be together on the Sabbath. This also meant my “work” would also be accomplished (as much as possible) in the other six days of the week so that it could be a day of rest for me as well. Other than the basic necessities like cooking and dishes, I refrain from housework, yard work, and chores on the Sabbath as well.

We also encourage our children to plan out their work week in a manner that allows them to set aside the Sabbath as a day different from their school days. This means finishing lessons for the week during the other six days so that they don’t have to do schoolwork on Sundays to stay on track.

So what do we do on Sundays? Well, first and foremost, we attend church as a family.

This Sunday was a big one for Ozzie who moved from Primary (for ages 3-11) into Young Men’s (ages 12-18.) He was presented with his Faith in God award was was able to help the other young men pass the Sacrament bread and water. I must admit I was holding back tears as my wee little man stood so tall and proud in his suit and tie.

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Then we come home around 1:30 and have spaghetti for lunch. This has become a tradition that began 12 or 13 years ago. While everyone is changing out of their church clothes Toby starts the water boiling and makes lunch for the family, giving me the day off, so I can have some time to sit in the silence of my room and have some quiet time.

After lunch we take naps. When the kids were babies we would tuck them into their cribs to nap and then climb into our own bed for Sunday naps. This is a cherished and needed tradition. I find that Sunday afternoon naps help me catch up on the sleep I may have lost during a busy week and allows me (and I’m speaking for Toby too) to start the new week more refreshed.

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Inevitably between the ages of 6 and 12 our children resist the idea of afternoon naps. The rule then became that they had to stay in their room for an hour and could read or play quietly in their beds. Sometimes they would stay awake but often we would find them asleep by the end of our naps.

My three big kids, who are now teenagers, live for Sunday naps. 🙂 Oh, how the tides have turned!

The rest of our Sabbath day varies from week to week. It is sometimes spent going on a walk as a family, writing letters, playing games as a family, etc. The goal is simply to pick activities that allow us to bond as a family, focus on the Lord, and serve others.

For example two Sundays ago, as one of our Sabbath activities, we took everyone’s yearly measurement on our growth wall. We do this every Valentine’s day at our home. It is always fun to see how much everyone has grown since last year.

Sometimes we do some therapy activities that encourage bonding or strengthening family connections. This past week Ozzie and I made a memory chain of his biological sister Zoey. It began as a memorial chain of his biological grandmother but the work was too overwhelming so we moved to less heartbreaking memories.

To make the memory chain I would say things like:

“Pick a bead that represents Zoey’s birth month.”

“Add a bead that reminds you of her favorite holiday.”

Find a bead that represents your saddest memory with Zoey.”

He would then dig through our bead container and would add the bead that matched that memory. We would talk through it, with me taking notes, so that we can work on it in therapy with Miss Tina. It was a great therapy tool!

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Sometimes, however, I find we struggle with how to best use our Sundays. Our little ones sometimes become so focused on what we don’t do on the Sabbath,

(like not being able to play video games)

that they lose sight of the heart reasons behind the directive.

I felt that it was a good time to have a refresher on Sabbath Day observance, and now that the kids are older, allow them to help set up the plan for Sabbath Day observance and get their input. I decided to do this for Family Night on Monday.

I began with an object lesson I found online.

In the center of the dining room table I placed a variety of condiments that I know my children like on their food. I also placed a bowl of ice cream on the table with sundae toppings. Then I covered everything up with a dish towel.

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Toby and I called the children in. We began with a song and prayer and then with a raise of hands I asked who liked ketchup…mayo…butter…honey…bbq sauce…vinegar…etc. Once we had established that these were all delicious toppings I asked for a volunteer. Rusty raised his hand. I lifted the dish towel, revealing the bowl of ice cream and the toppings we had discussed and told him to put all the condiments he said he likes onto his ice cream.

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It looked disgusting by the time all the condiments were added. I asked if he wanted to eat his sundae. He shook his head, “no.” Grace spoke up and said that she would try it.

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Yuck!

When I asked Rusty why he wasn’t going to finish his sundae…

after all he likes every condiment he put on it,

he replied,

“I like those things, BUT they’re NOT good on SUNDAES!”

Ahhh, YES. Exactly.

I went on to explain our lesson. There are lots of great activities we enjoy, but just because they are good doesn’t mean they are “good on Sundays.”  🙂

We read some scriptures to see what the Lord has said about keeping the Sabbath Day holy, and then we began our activity. We made a “Sunday Cans.”

As a family we talked about things we could do on the Sabbath that would draw us closer together, help us grow, renew us and prepare us for the upcoming week, help us have a more eternal perspective, and draw us closer to Christ,

and we wrote them on slips of paper to put in our “Sunday Cans” can.

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The goal was to help them focus on what can be done with our Sabbath day observance rather than focus on what we can’t do on Sundays.

Now if any of my cherubs approach us on Sunday to inform us, ” I’m bored! There is nothing we are allowed to do!”

I can sweetly point out our “Sunday cans” can and say, “Pick something.” 😉

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Then we ended family night with sundaes… of course!

We put away the ketchup and vinegar and let them top their sundae with chocolate, caramel, and sprinkles instead.

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WITCH way to spend Family Night?

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Every Monday evening is Family Night at our home. If you stopped by any Monday night you would find us together as a family. While activities and commitments pull us in many directions on other weekday nights, Monday night is the night reserved for family.

Which is not to say every Monday looks the same.

Family Night activities vary greatly depending on the season, the emotional needs observed in the past week, practical skills we have noticed need reinforced, how tired Mom and Dad are, etc. 🙂 Sometimes family night consist of a spiritual lesson or scripture story with a corresponding game or activity. Sometimes we go do something as a family like see a movie or go miniature golfing. Some Monday nights we teach practical skills like having a family fire drill or teaching first aid skills.Some family nights are spent playing a board game inside or playing a sport outside. Sometimes we just hold a family council and discuss pressing concerns. Often family night is when we take part in holiday traditions like decorating Easter eggs, carving jack-o-lanterns, or going to the Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree.

Every Monday night is a bit different but what remains consistent is our commitment to reserve that evening for family, make a memory with our children,

and we usually end the night with a yummy treat. 🙂

This past Monday night our focus was “service.”

And the lesson was, “WITCH activity will you choose.”

We spoke about the vast amount of choices we have in how we can use our time. Not only do we have to choose between good and bad activities, but as Christians we must also choose between good and better activities. It seemed like a pertinent topic as we begin the first full week of school for everyone, and the message was just as relevant for Toby and I as it was for the kids.

With the start of school the pace of life picks up,

and there are so many GOOD, really good, ways to spend the hours of our day,

but in the end we must choose those things that we value most and which bring the most value to our lives.

One of the best uses of our time, we discussed, was “service.”

And this week we had the perfect opportunity to act on that lesson.

In our church we don’t have a paid custodian. The responsibility of cleaning and caring for the building falls on the families who worship there. Families have the opportunity a few times a year to sign up to clean the church building. This involves cleaning bathrooms, wiping chalkboards, polishing furniture, emptying the trash cans in the classrooms, cleaning the glass doors, and vacuuming the carpets.

Cleaning as a family has provided us a wonderful opportunity  to teach our children to appreciate the great blessing of a building to worship in, as well as encourage them to take ownership in the care and upkeep of the church building.

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This week was our family’s turn to serve our church family and clean the church building. It was a wonderful opportunity to put our lesson in action.

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The kids are old pros at this, having been involved in cleaning the church since they were young,

so everyone arrived with their chosen job in mind.

Everyone has a favorite task. They gathered their cleaning tools and set to work.

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Molly was a good sport and volunteered to clean toilets.

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The kids worked fast and efficiently and in 90 minutes we were done.

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Next it was time for the treat and we had a special treat in store for these hard workers.

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In a nearby town there is a charming little ice cream store called “Witch Flavor?”

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We have been wanting to go for a while after hearing many rave reviews about the Penn State Creamery ice cream they serve there. We arrived at 8:00 and everyone chose their flavors. Like the choices laid before them in how they spend their time, they now faced a similar decision in choosing the BEST flavor among all the GOOD choices.

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The ice cream lived up to the reviews and we sat outside on Main Street enjoying a taste of summer as we brought our lesson home with the “WITCH choice will you make?” theme.

As they licked the dripping ice cream they also learned another valuable life lesson:

“Sweet” rewards come to those who work.

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Sweet rewards, indeed!

Wal-Mart Scavenger Hunt

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A few days ago we pulled the first activity out of our Summer Bucket List.

It was a Walmart scavenger hunt.

This idea was added to the bucket by the girls. A few years ago I planned a Walmart scavenger hunt for the young women at church. They had so much fun that they decided they wanted to try it again, as a family.

Since I have my card making class this Monday evening we decided to do “Family Night” a few days early and it was the perfect opportunity to cross an item off our summer wish list…

So off to Walmart we went!

When we arrived we split the kids into teams:

Team 1:

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and Team 2:

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We went over the rules:

(No running, no leaving the store, stay together, don’t disturb other customers)

Then we set a time limit. We agreed to meet back at the starting location in 45 minutes.

Each team was given the same list of 20 items to find.  Once they found an item they had to take a picture of their teammates with the item.

We went over the list of items together. Then we set them free.

 Some items on the list included:

1. Get a picture of your team “mascot.” (An item that describes your team)

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“You need Ice for that burn?”

2. Get a picture of a food that no one in your group has ever eaten.

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Savory Delight dog food- yum.

3. Get a picture of something that fits this description, “Most people buy this item at least once a month.”

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I would say it is fair to say we probably buy more of this than the average family. 🙂

4. Get a picture of your group staging a battle scene.

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5. Get a picture of a “defective product.”

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Anything found in the “As seen on TV” section of the store.

6. Get a picture of a book that everyone has read.

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A favorite of the big kids…

7. Get a picture that meets this description, “It used to swim in water, now it doesn’t.”

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Just our luck- a dead, floating fish. 😉

8. Get a picture of something “odd but fitting.”

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That sword is a little “Sharpie.”

9. Get a picture of everyone in the group wearing the same article of clothing.

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Well it was a close race, and both teams had a blast

but the winning team was….

*Drumroll please*

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We ended “Family Night” with a stop for ice cream for our Family Night treat.

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YUM!

What a fun night!

The Winners!

The Winners!

Dear God, please don’t let any potatoes hit our house..

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Dear God, please don’t let any potatoes hit our house..

If only the kids were this attentive during math class 🙂

Dance party!

Hurricane Sandy was on its way.. so we prepared for the worst. We filled the bathtubs, checked the batteries in the flashlights, and started the wood burning stove for the season. We were ready for a power outage and instead we got rain..lots and lots of rain. I was relieved, the children were very disappointed. They were hoping for some excitement. I think they figured that if we lost power they might get the day off of school 🙂 Instead we had a stay at home, rainy day.
It was a bad day to be cooped up inside. Tyler is off his medications due to the red tape of switching his doctors. As a result he was very high energy! For a treat we rented “Just Dance Disney” from Redbox to enjoy as a family on Monday evening. It was a hit with all the kids especially Tyler and it was a great way to burn off some extra energy before bedtime. For a snack we cut open a pomegranate. The kids had never tried one before and they thought it was very cool! Upon trying it though Grace was the only one who was still impressed with this unusual fruit.
At dinner Tyler volunteered to say the prayer. This is a first. He has come so far since the first mealtime prayer we had with him. At that first prayer we closed our eyes to pray when I opened my eyes following “Amen” I saw Molly looking horrified as she watched Tyler balancing his glass of water on his head as we prayed. So for him to ask to say the prayer is a big deal. “Dear God”..he prayed..”please don’t let any potatoes hit our house..Amen.” I was holding back laughter as I inquired about this concern for flying root vegetables. He said, “You know potatoes can blow your house right over!”
Oh..tornados 🙂
Today Tyler had a mandatory visit with his biological brother. I could tell he was anxious. When he asked who he was visiting I told him his brother. He replied, “but Rusty is my brother.” It touched my heart and broke my heart simultaneously. When he asked ,which brother, it made me realize all the changes he has had to endure in his short life. “Is it the brother from the house with the parrot or the brother that lived in the house with the slide or the brother who played football..?” He was so nervous to go and asked, “will I get to come back here?” It broke my heart to realize that he lives with the fear that this home, this family, could be taken away from him at anytime. His driver came to pick him up and he was gone for about 3 hours. I used that time to prepare for our home school co-op’s Halloween party tomorrow. When Tyler arrived home we had some snuggle time and read some books before I tucked him into bed. It was good to have him home, tucked into bed, in this house, where he is meant to be!