A Utah Thanksgiving 2018

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Happy days after Thanksgiving everyone and an early Merry Christmas to you! We had a grand Thanksgiving holiday week in Utah with snow at my parents’ cabin in the mountains. The kids got to go sledding. Not once, but twice! Once using their own kidpower on the hill by the cabin, and then again with Grandpa pulling them in a big sled using his toy, a “side-by-side” (a Yamaha off-road vehicle, ORV) on the mountain roads.

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This post contains pictures of our Thanksgiving vacation and elements of what makes a perfect Thanksgiving for me. For the record, snow on Thanksgiving is not perfect for me. It is for my kids, though, because they like to sled. I like to sled too, if properly outfitted and I don’t have snow flying into my face. These kids had snow flying all up their neck and face and laughed it off. I would not be so happy about that! I just had other things to do, like pack up what I brought to the cabin, including leftovers, and prepare for the next leg of the journey, which is another post for another day, about how moms usually end up missing out on fun because we are behind the scenes getting ready for the next round of joyous events (like a baby blessing and missionary homecoming).

 

 

Before we left for our vacation, I read this book aloud to my three youngest, ages 14, 12, and 9. It totally diffused a chaotic, argumentative morning and brought a smile to everyone’s face, even the surly 14 year old. i plan on reading it every year. It’s just such a charming story. 

I have finally decided that November is my favorite time of year and that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, although I love Christmas and it was my favorite for decades. For a long time I didn’t like that my birthday was in November. It is such a bleak, drab time of year, especially in Utah. Late spring, early summer have been my favorite times of year and Christmas my favorite holiday. Yet, the fall months have grown on me. November can be a brilliant month, even in Utah. Even if it’s gray outside, I now know how to make it warm and cozy with hygge! I knew before, LOL, but now it’s like I feel permission to be OK about being cozy.

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As for the holiday contest in my mind, now that I’m a grandma and have had a lot of Christmases under my belt as the responsible Santa’s helper who has to put it all together for 7 kids, I prefer Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is just so much simpler and yet still full of the great stuff of Christmas: food, family gathering, and praises and thanksgiving to God. It even involves presents, at least for me, this year, because my birthday and my married daughter’s birthday were within a week before Thanksgiving so we had a party. We opened presents and had pie and ice cream on one night during our holiday vacation. I hardly get to see her now that she is a wife and mom living two states away. We also had the baby blessing of her baby the same night so that was wonderful. (She got me some Pioneer Woman kitchen ware, just what I wanted. I can’t wait to bake some muffins in the ramekins! It goes with my Pioneer Woman butter dish she gave me two years ago. My adult son gave me the whole set of Lark Rise to Candleford episodes on DVD too! Then my other kids gave me more Pioneer Woman stuff and the live action Cinderella movie on DVD.) The only thing to stress about as a mom on Thanksgiving is the food, instead of all the planning and shopping and wrapping of presents and all the concerts and parties that everyone wants to have.

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Thanksgiving also has special meaning to me now that we have moved as a family two times the weekend right after Thanksgiving. Fourteen years ago and then once again three years ago. In fact, I realized this morning that it was three years ago today that we moved into our current home. We woke up at a lodge where we stayed just outside the Grand Canyon and then we drove to our new home. My husband was itching to tour the Grand Canyon on our moving voyage so I obliged.

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So, after attending church today, as I was reading these verses in Alma, I felt deep in my bones again just how good God has been to me. He brought us to this home three years ago after much fervent prayer and fasting. I feel to rejoice as the Jaredites and the Pilgrims did hundreds of years ago as he brought us over “the great deep.” (Ether 2:25) We didn’t travel literal ocean like the Pilgrims and Jaredites did, but an ocean of mystery and challenges, nevertheless. He rescued us from a sticky, complex situation that I was so desperate to get out of, including a small home and a small kitchen where I felt depressed everytime I walked into it. Now I have a huge kitchen that I don’t dread working in. I attribute it all to God’s working in my life.

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This time of year as we transition from harvest time to storm time, we all want to be “safely gathered in.” If we are safely gathered in, then there is no reason to fear the storm. Here are the verses from Alma 26:4-8 that I read today:

4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.

Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickleand did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheavesAnd they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.

Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.

But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvestand they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.

Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.

Before we got to the cabin, we had a day and a half of prep time at my parents’ home, for shopping and also to gather with my parents and brother and his wife and childhood neighborhood friends for a funeral. The father of my best friend from childhood had passed away the week before so I had the privilege of attending the funeral. It just so happened to be when I was in town. It was such a sweet time to hear testimonies of God, His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ,  the plan of salvation, and the Book of Mormon. Seeing the “harvest” or “good fruits” of this righteous man: his wife, 7 children and 29 grandchildren also brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. His wife hosted many a gathering of giggling girls decades ago (my sisters, her three daughters, other neighbor girls, and me). I heard stories from his neighbors and kids about this man I didn’t know, how he was so slow to anger and quick to forgive. I pray I can be more like that! It was so strange to sit in the congregation and realize, hey, I’m now one of the old folks who has memories of this neighborhood that go past 30 years, LOL. I can tell stories about all these old neighbors that would elicit chuckles, gasps, and admiration, just like the stories told at the funeral. The organist at the funeral was so amazing. He heard the speakers talk about the deceased man’s love for cowboy music and for playing Taps on his trumpet. After the funeral was over, as he played the postlude music for the family to file out of the chapel, he played traditional somber music and then added Ghostriders in the Sky and Taps spontaneously right in the middle of the postlude.

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The cousins played this cool game using an app on my niece’s phone. It’s Pictionary for millenials! You draw a picture on your phone using the app and then the picture appeared on the big screen TV so all the cousins could see it and guess the drawing, pictured below. Fun! I had a lot of fun with Pictionary with my sibs and friends back in my day. We got it for Christmas one year.

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That night we picked up one of my kids from the airport and reunited with some old friends and then my RM son went to a mission reunion. The the next day was for menu planning, packing (again, to get to the cabin), food shopping, and finally, going to the cabin! When we first got to the cabin, there was nary a snowflake in sight. The kids had looked at the weather report before our road trip from AZ.  They saw a forecast of snow so they packed all their gear in anticipation of sledding. That first day at the cabin, my dad looked at the forecast and saw that snow was to come early Thanksgiving morning. Sure enough, Thanksgiving Day, t snowed all day and eventually we had a foot of snow. We were prepared! Before the snow flew, my dad had us all move our cars back down the mountain to the main parking lot towards the base of the mountain.

 

That way our cars would not get stuck in the snow on the unpaved ground of the “parking lot” of the cabin. (There’s not a parking lot, just lots of dirt.) Then when it was time to leave the cabin on Saturday, while the snow was still falling, we all rode in his side-by-side down to the parking lot to go back to my parents’ regular home for another day in Utah, before we headed home. That night, I was able to attend the temple, then witness my grandbaby receive a name and a blessing. The next day was my RM son’s “Utah homecoming” where he reported on his  mission in the ward he left from to go to Argentina. It was so wonderful to see many friends that I haven’t seen in 3 years!

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The cousins having fun with Millennial Pictionary

All day Thursday and Friday we were able to relax, safe and cozy in the cabin, eating, sipping hot cocoa, playing games and puzzling with cousins, talking and bonding. (Also Black Friday shopping for me! I was not about to miss out on some great deals for Christmas! I am determined to be done shopping by the 15th! I am so done with being a slowpoke shopper! Thank goodness for Wi-fi and my iPad!) My husband got to meet his new grandbaby for the first time and my kids their nephew!

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This was an early taste of heaven. My returned missionary son got to see his sister for the first time in two years and meet her new husband. My married niece announced that she is expecting a baby in July as well. So the family is growing! More great-grandbabies for my parents! Three and counting. What rejoicing!

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It’s so great to be prepared for storms so you can enjoy them instead of being beaten down by them! Just as physical storms are coming our way, so are spiritual storms. I love knowing that as we trust in God and prepare for Christ’s coming by moving forward (which means work) on the Covenant Path, as President Russell M. Nelson has directed us, we are safely gathered into the fold of Israel and can relax and enjoy the storms. Patterns of daily righteous living, wholesome family life, and helping others are definitely all part of this preparation.

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God has rescued me and brought me through many storms. I am so grateful to Him for providing a Savior for me, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. I am so grateful to my parents for teaching me about God and taking me to church, having years of Family Home Evenings, and exposing me to the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. I am so grateful that I know that God lives and His kingdom is established on the earth today in the form of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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It also occurred to me today that hey, it was many years ago today that I got baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ. December 2 was the beginning of my new spiritual life on the Covenant Path, the day of my baptism, many years ago. December 2 is another happy day for me for another reason. It’s also the day I was blessed with the realization of a long-held dream: a new life in a bigger kitchen in a bigger home, three years ago. Yep, three years ago today we arrived in AZ, at the end of a four-day moving trip. This move was the culmination of many dreams, hopes, and prayers.

 

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I know that God loves each of us. He is watching and waiting for us to invite Him into our lives. He knows all the details of our lives and will tell us all that we need to know to be joyful, despite all of our storms. He led me to this new home and new life here and I am so grateful.  I found my answer to a puzzling problem by remembering a story from the Book of Mormon three years ago and applying it to my own life. I pondered, presented my decision to God in prayer, and got a confirmation of an answer which led us here. I know that reading the Book of Mormon brings great peace to anyone who will read it with an open heart and mind. It can bring answers to your prayers if you let it.

And now just for fun: here are more ingredients of a happy Thanksgiving for me, these three picture books that I get from the library every year to read to whoever will listen,  and pumpkin pie.

I usually bake a pumpkin pie out of honey for my mom to eat because she is allergic to white sugar. Here are two recipes. I usually bake it without a crust to make it so much easier and less time-consuming. So it’s really pumpkin custard with whipped cream on top. Tastes just as great! 

 

Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without these elements. Ahh, bliss!

I just loovve this book. It is happy and sad at the same time. The illustrations are gorgeous and I love the maps and the text next to so many details on the maps. It has helped me to get a visual map of the Thanksgiving story in my mind. This is actually family history to me since I found out a few years ago that I have Pilgrim ancestors on both of my parents’ branches of my family tree.

 

I didn’t get this one from the library until after I got back, so I just read it aloud to my youngest this past week. That still counts though! I feel like I’ve stretched Thanksgiving vacation into two weeks, LOL, by finishing off Thanksgiving picture books that I didn’t finish before our vacation. This book is just so fun and has a great lesson about hospitality and not judging based on appearance. 

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I just love this Thanksgiving picture book too! I love the story of welcoming strangers! I want to be like the old grandma in this book. 

 

 

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How to Hygge Your Homeschool and Cheap Ebook on Hygge

More Than Just Candles: How to Hygge Your Mind, Space and Life by [Janson, Emma]

In my “moms’ class” at my weekly homeschool gathering (a commonwealth school), we’ve been talking lately about seasons, winter, and “hygge.” What is hygge? Pronounced “hoo-gah,” it is the practice that allows the Danish to be the happiest people on earth, despite their stark winters with little daylight. There is no one word that it translates into in English. Here is a rough translation: the feeling of cozy contentment that comes from soaking up the simple joys of life. Joys like conversing with friends, drinking hot cocoa while reading a book, especially if it’s snowing or raining outside, eating delicious food, working among natural elements like wood, plants, dirt, and sand, and gathering around the fireplace or bonfire to talk and sing. It’s peaceful enjoyment.

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I first heard this word when I was in Idaho, playing granny nanny for my new grandbaby at my married daughter’s home. The first Friday I was there, I got to gather with my homeschool friends in AZ via video chat and discuss Little Britches. I was in Idaho, but my husband and most of the other parents were at my friend Olivia’s home in AZ. Olivia said they were practicing hygge by getting together to discuss a book and serving beverages and treats. I thought,  “Hmm…I am interested in this hygge thing, sounds like my cup of tea.” (Haha, herbal of course!)

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Where I was in Idaho it had been beautifully autumnal and sunny for days, as shown by the photo above. My daughter snapped the photo not far from where she lives. Then it suddenly got gray and drizzly. The energy outside started to depress me. Raininess only serves to remind me that snow, meaning, winter, is on its way. That means life will soon look stark and bleak like the picture below, if I’m in Utah or Idaho, at least. Gray weather makes me feel as sad as this sagging fence.

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But this mention of hygge and the idea of infusing brightness into rainy or cold days with cheery conversations, friends and food, sparked my interest. I was reminded of how it’s possible to brighten fall and wintry days with purposeful living that involves turning inward and celebrating what can be done indoors. I felt determined to go home and light more candles in the evening, along with reading more books and talking about them instead of reverting to screen time. I’m all for family movies but sometimes my family gets in a rut. We get to where we turn to screens every free night when we are all at home instead of gathering all cozy in the living room to read books and share what we are learning, or simply having a game night.

If you want to know more about hygge in general, here’s a cheap ebook about it in Kindle format. It’s the book pictured at the top of the post. I have no idea how long it will be free in Kindle. I like that it mentions that hygge is not about buying lots of stuff, like candles, mugs, and sweaters. Don’t get me wrong, I love candles, mugs, and sweaters. But hygge is so much more. It’s about being mindfully present to enjoy to the fullest what you have in the season and in the moment, with the people around you, and thoughtfully buying things to add to the comfort/coziness, instead of buying everything marketed as “hygge” that comes down the pike.

Here’s why you need hygge as a homeschool mom.

Hygge has totally resonated with me! Maybe because I have Danish ancestry so I feel it in my blood. As I’ve pondered the concept I’ve realized, “Hey, this is why I homeschool! I love hygge! This is my life!”

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It’s because I don’t like to feel rushed. I love to savor the simple things in life, not just glance at and walk by them. I love a great conversation with a new or old friend.

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I love to watch meaningful movies and talk about them. I love to enjoy the seasons. (OK, granted, too much snow is not my favorite, that is partly why I moved to AZ LOL.) I’ve always loved snuggling with my children and reading aloud a classic book, whether it’s a picture or chapter book. I love to play games with my kids, like Bananagrams or sock wrestling, and listen to great ideas on podcasts or in great books. I love to sing and make music on the piano. I love to work outside gardening, or stacking wood or clearing weeds or brush. I love to go to the beach or on a hike or look at the sunset. I love to get something clean that was dirty or craft something with my own hands. I also love the symbolic seasons that a woman’s body embody.

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When I went to high school and college, part of me was just crying to stay home, be cozy, read books, play the piano, and craft all day. I did well in school, passed lots of AP tests, and attended BYU on a full-ride scholarship. Because of all the AP credit, I finished college in three years. Yet I yearned for a slower pace of life. Maybe that’s why after marriage and having a baby, I was soooooo happy! I had quit my 9 to 5 job as a lab technician at a medical school two weeks before my first baby was due. I was giddy to settle down and enjoy simple things as a new mom and not feel the pressure of the rat race, leaving home for a job or school every day. Stay at home mothers are so blessed because we can totally embrace hygge in all its ways, especially if we homeschool.

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Here I am taking advantage of my son’s homemade hammock under a canopy to read aloud to the kids outside.

So let’s talk about how to add hygge to your homeschool! Here are my thoughts:

Honor the seasons of learning. You can read my article here about that. Thomas Jefferson Education is a philosophy that teaches that, although I do have a few qualms with the way some people interpret it. See my post about scholar phase here. It is perfectly OK to require in scholar phase!

Relax about doing a curriculum in the early years. Oh we homeschoolers love to use that word, “curriculum!” We love it, as if it is a Fancy Nancy show-off word to revel in and impress others that we know it and can say it. We love to talk about choosing it, about how this curriculum compares to that, and buying it. It’s like a badge that we are eager to buy and wear. Dare I say it, but here goes…ditch the curriculum in the early years! Use the “curriculum” that Oliver DeMille says, “Work and play at home with the love of family.”

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OK, I said it, whew. Then later on, gradually add curricula in, as you observe readiness in your child for reading and writing and math. Even then, in the “love of learning years,” (about ages 8-12) have the lessons be Charlotte Mason-ish short lessons. I use Happy Phonics by Diane Hopkins to teach reading (even before age 8 if they are ready), mathusee for math, and Handwriting Without Tears and then Italic handwriting books.

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Years ago I got rid of most curricula. I had seven kids all at home and homeschooling was so much simpler when I decided to let go of most curricula. You could have a season in your child’s life when it’s important even not to have math or handwriting curriculum. The word “curriculum” comes from the Latin root word which means to run a course a race. If you have 3 or more curricula (the plural of curriculum) for each kid that means you are running 3 or more courses multiplied by each kid you have. How long can you sustain that? If you are like me, not even a day! If you want to do more than two curricula, wait until the child is old enough to do the curricula totally on his own in scholar phase. Then you don’t have to run so many races with him, i.e. spoon-feed the material to him. He owns it and runs the race himself. I’ve seen it happen with my four oldest kids and it’s so glorious to have a self-governing scholar!

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For my children under 12, we only use Mathusee and Italic handwriting books for curricula. That’s it! (Except for the Heroic Youth curriculum which we do with our commonwealth school. Heroic Youth simply guides us with a monthly theme as to what picture books and biographies to get to read aloud to my 9 year old.) The rest of our homeschool time is spent reading aloud (we check out a ton of books at our weekly library trip) or exploring interests or reading on our own. My kids also do a lot of the household chores, including dishes, laundry, bathroom cleaning, and meal prep.

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After age 12, we do project learning through LEMI scholar projects at our commonwealth school and occasionally an online school (Williamsburg Academy) for my kids 15 and up, when they can do the work completely on their own.  I can vouch that this approach works! My two oldest children have graduated with engineering degrees from college. Neither of them had a language arts curriculum or a spelling book or a science curriculum before age 12. Neither of them got a diploma from high school. Yet they entered college on scholarship, ready and excited to study a full load of college classes.

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Practice having a morning worship hour in your home where you connect with God, or your Higher Power. My family devotional ebook talks all about that and gives you all the resources you need for that.

Encourage the reading aloud culture in your home. Read aloud a bit every day from books that kids love. Sarah Mackenzie’s blog and podcast I talk about over here will help with all of that. I’m learning a lot from her podcasts. I’ve been reading aloud for years but I’ve made all the mistakes Sarah talks about. Lately my kids have hated what I read so I’m going to change things up a bit. I read aloud while the kids do the dishes, sometimes three times a day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes even while they are fixing food. When my voice needs a break I turn on Audible. You don’t need to have an Audible subscription to use Audible. You can find some great classics for kids on Audible here and here.   If you are wondering if audio books count for school, they do. Here’s a great post about that.

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Read aloud a ton of picture books or listen to stories. This is such a fabulous, happy way to start the day (after your devotional of course). One of my homeschool mom friends, Katie,  calls it “Breakfast and Books.” This blogger here calls it “Coffee and Books.” Since I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and avoid coffee, I call it “Cocoa and Books” or “Cocoa and Stories.” This is the way we start our homeschool time everyday, after our devotional. I usually don’t want to read aloud because I’m journaling so I play stories from Gospel Library on my iPad or phone while the kids drink their cocoa and eat breakfast.

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Cocoa with homemade marshmallows. The marshmallows are an extra special treat, we don’t usually have those.

Provide time for silent sustained reading. Go to the library regularly, to get new books. Use Sarah’s  readaloudrevival.com,  or booksellers like Chinaberry or Candlewick Press to help you pick out books that you put on hold online to match your child’s interests. Do a “book commercial” over lunch to show your kids the new books and sell the books to them. Leave the books strewn about, with their faces out. Then let your kids get bored so they will want to read. This is best done by doing the next item.

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Say no to screens as much as possible. The other day we came home at 8 PM after being gone all day for our commonwealth school and then a meeting after that. One of my kids asked to watch a movie. I said, “No, let’s just talk.” We had had pizza at our friend’s home 90 minutes before leaving for home, but some were still hungry. We popped popcorn, drank cocoa,  and I ended up having a very meaningful conversation with my recently returned missionary son. The ones who weren’t hungry for food and/or conversation retreated to their rooms to read. It was a great hygge evening. My married daughter chatted with us on Google hangouts (so I got to see my new grandbaby!) which added to the joy of the night.

Have regular family dinner time where you encourage conversations and have screens put away. I’ve written about that here.

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Practice self care, which is super important as a homeschool mama, to avoid winter doldrums, isolation and boredom. If you are married, nurture your marriage. Listen to Ramona Zabriskie’s WifeSavers podcast and read her book to learn more about that. Self-care actually goes a long way to nurturing your marriage.  Get as much sunshine as you can. Take bubble baths. Listen to podcasts. Here’s one of my new favorites: Craftlit. It’s the classics on audio, with annotations, so you can actually understand the classics, done by a former high school and university English teacher and crafter, Heather Ordover. She just did Anne of Green Gables! As she says, “Craft with your hands, read with your ears.” Look for the timestamp in the shownotes to see where the reading of the  classic actually begins after all the chit chat about crafting  from the host is out of the way.

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Don’t take on too much. Keep a journal and write a bit every day. I like to write the thoughts I have after I read the Book of Mormon in the morning.

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Then at bedtime I write how I saw God’s hand in my life that day, which is a gratitude list. Pres. Eyring’s talk here inspired me to do that. Connect with friends via text, phone or email. Get out and visit people at a book club or at church.

Use the Sabbath Day for what it’s for. That means taking a break from commercial consumption and maybe even social media on Sunday. It means spending the day remembering God by attending worship services, remembering your covenants with Him, planning your week, having a meeting with your husband to assess the family’s upcoming weekly schedule and needs, and have meetings with your children to assess their needs and desires. This is a great day to see what books your kids want to read next. That way you can go to your public library’s website and put books on hold so they are ready to be picked up in a day or two, saving time at the library hunting books.

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Gather with one or more homeschool families at least once a week at a regular time. This can look different at different seasons of your life. In my early years of homeschooling, this was simply meeting at a park and letting our kids play while the moms talked. That evolved to meeting at one of our homes where we took turns teaching short lessons on science or art and then letting the kids play. When I moved to a city an hour away, I joined a group where the moms had a class discussing a great idea or book and the kids would play the whole time. Then we started having our scholars attend a commonwealth school when they were 12. Eventually the commonwealth school opened up classes for under 12s.  We were sad to leave it when we moved, but now we have one to attend here. Happy days! It gives me what I was missing from what we had in Utah: LEMI scholar projects, Heroic Youth, a monthly parent book club, moms’ retreats, homeschool mom friends, weekly discussions with other homeschool moms, and homeschooled peers for my children. Not to mention a family ball that we had just last week. Fun!

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Have a poetry teatime. I did this a few times last year in Zoom (online video classroom) with some old homeschooling friends, so my kids could see their friends from where we lived before we moved and they could connect over poetry. I plan on doing it more this upcoming school year. Blogger and homeschool mom Julie Bogart explains how to do it below. You don’t have to use real tea, you can use herbal tea, lemonade, juice or cocoa. I just love this idea! Here’s a great collection of poetry to use, by the way, full of verbal images of my favorite things.

Here’s to hygge, especially as we approach winter! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Following My Son and the Prophet, My Shoulder Angel

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This is the worn-out copy of Preach My Gospel that my son used on his mission in Argentina. It warms my mama’s heart to see it so beat up! We studied this as a family a few years before he left, although he doesn’t remember. Maybe because he was in a semi-comatose state as it was early in the morning before he left for seminary, haha.

Last week I got to take my son, who had returned from serving as a proselyting missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Argentina, just a week before, to the dentist.

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I already had appointments for three other kids so we just tacked him on to the appointment since his previous dental exam was more than two years ago, before his mission. Then two of the kids couldn’t go because of illness or work so I just took three kids. Here’s the interesting conversation that ensued in the waiting room of the dental office:

Woman Stranger (WS), to me: “Your boys all look like you.”

Me: “Oh thanks!” Then I smiled and joked, “I wear the genes in the family!” (Which is totally true. None of my children look like him much.)

Returned Missionary Son (RMS): “We have four more who didn’t come!” (This reminds me of a funny story that my mother-in-law tells about her mother which I will tell another time.)

WS: “How many do you have?”

Me: “Seven!”

WS: “Oh my! You all must be either Mormon or Catholic!”

Me: (I felt nervous to respond to this and timid, but President Russell M. Nelson’s words from General Conference just a month ago, telling us to stop using the name “Mormon” and instead use the proper name of the Church, were ringing in my mind. His voice was a “shoulder angel” in my head. For a split-second I wondered if I were bold enough to say it and I decided I was so I proceeded.) “If you mean, by “Mormon,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then yes, we are members of that church.”

RMS: “Yeah, that’s an old-fashioned name and we don’t call ourselves  by that anymore and we ask others not to as well.”

What ensued was a genuine conversation about Argentina, missionaries, and whether or not this woman had had missionaries in her home. She said that she had seen them in her daughter’s home when she lived with her daughter about 2 hours away. I could tell my son was itching to proselyte more but then the woman got called back for her exam and we never saw her again.

Just that morning as we drove to the dentist my son had been asking me who we can share the gospel with! I love to see this fire of his faith and that he is committed to sharing the gospel continually for the rest of his life. I want to be like that! My son is such a great example to me. He has made a commitment to sharing the gospel regularly and invite someone to church regularly since coming home. A lot of missionary work is planting seeds. You plant and then someone else might come along and help the person nourish the seed and someone else might reap the harvest by seeing that person become baptized. It is a wonderful, beautiful path, all iterations of the Hero’s Journey, or Covenant Path, as Pres. Nelson calls it. I love to see all the iterations, they fascinate me!

 

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Mary Poppins Magic

So I asked my returned missionary son what movie he wanted to watch first now that he’s home. He surprised me by saying Mary Poppins! When he was 2 and 3 years old, he would watch it almost every day while I homeschooled the older two. We lived in my in laws’ home while they were away on a mission. He would sit in the basement family room in Provo, with the ugly red carpet and 70s curtains and watch Mary on our VHS version, which has lasted all these years and we are using it tonight. Wow, this video has lasted a long time, and childhood habits run deep!

I remember a friend asking me how homeschooling was going. I replied with, “Fine as long as I don’t feel guilty about the fact that my 2 year old is watching Mary Poppins every day.” She said, “Oh no, just assure yourself that the worst that can happen is that he grows up to have a great singing voice!” He also had this Fisher Price Little People man figure with a straw hat that came with the roller coaster set. It had a red stripe on the hat so my son dubbed it “Bert” because of the scene where Bert wears a straw hat with a stripe, a striped jacket, and dances with the penguins. He always tried to dance with his pants pulled down low like Bert imitating the penguins and could never get it to work. Oh, the innocence of childhood! So in honor of my son and his request, we’ve all had some laughs watching May Poppins together tonight.

I’m excited to see the sequel that comes out on Christmas Day. I saw the original in a theater, before videos, when I was young, visiting my grandparents for a summer vacation. It has always been one of my favorite movie for kids for sure.

My son said that Elder Renlund scored big points with him with his recent General Conference talk that referred to Mary’s wisdom. My favorite parts from that talk are these:

Brothers and sisters, like Jane and Michael Banks, we are “good kids” who are worth bothering about. Our Heavenly Father wants to help and bless us, but we do not always let Him. Sometimes, we even act as if we already know everything. And we too need to do “the next bit” on our own. That is why we came to earth from a premortal, heavenly home. Our “bit” involves making choices.

Our Heavenly Father’s goal in parenting is not to have His children do what is right; it is to have His children choose to do what is right and ultimately become like Him. If He simply wanted us to be obedient, He would use immediate rewards and punishments to influence our behaviors.

But God is not interested in His children just becoming trained and obedient “pets” who will not chew on His slippers in the celestial living room.3 No, God wants His children to grow up spiritually and join Him in the family business.

So true! I love it! It’s so amazing! God really does want us to join Him in the family business! He gives us everything possible for us to to do so, but he won’t force us into it. We get to choose.

Nowadays I like to learn more about the “making of the movie” since I appreciate history and culture more. I found these fun clips. I think they are on the Mary Poppins 50th anniversary edition DVD set.

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All Treats no Tricks #3: My Missionary Son Came Home!

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Here’s my final  post in my series of “all treats no tricks.” (Post #1 is here, Post #2 is here.) My missionary son came home after serving an honorable two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Argentina Neuquen Mission. He got to come home on Halloween, which will forever make Halloween truly a “hallowed” day for me, forever more. (I’ve been calling it “Heroween” but now maybe I’ll just call it “Hallowed Day”  instead of the “H-word,” If anybody knows me you know I’m not a big fan of Halloween.)  It was really two weeks shy of when he entered the MTC two years ago but the transfer of the new batch of missionaries made his departure date early, lucky for us! He gets to be with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year!

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All together, except for my married daughter, at the temple.

When you send a child out on a mission, it is like sending out a piece of your heart into the world, not knowing it if will come back. I have done it twice now.  I wrote about that here, and my firstborn son’s return here. How grateful I am that this season of his life has past, and he is back home! It is such a sacrifice to send a child out into the world, not being able to talk to him or her by phone, except for Mother’s Day and Christmas, and only send emails. As a mother, I trust that people will care for him and love him and that angels will surround him. One of my friends had  a son pass away on his mission because of a car accident so I know missionaries don’t always return to their earthly home. Missionaries sometimes get injured while serving a mission. Think of Paul! He was shipwrecked, imprisoned and suffered martyrdom because of his mission. I know it is all in God’s hands and trust His plan for His children.

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I am so glad he is back home, able to create a new chapter in his life, based on the lessons of humility, commitment, and testimony he learned on his mission. Now I can talk to him whenever I want! That means I can hear Muppet quotes, Studio C sketches, and lots of inside jokes so I can laugh my guts out! I have so missed his peacemaking abilities among his younger siblings and his quirky humor! He has always been so kind and appreciative towards me and hard-working. I have so missed his loving example in our home.

We celebrated by going out to eat and then went to the temple, where he got to do proxy baptisms with most of his siblings. On the way home, we stopped so he could be released by the stake president. After we got home we had his favorite meal that he requested, taco salad. We gathered around a fire in our fire pit and heard his mission stories. My favorite was what I call his own “fourth floor, last door story.” (That’s a reference to a story told by one our church leaders, Pres. Uchtdorf, shown in the video clip below.) He said that one night, he and his companion were on the street. It was 8:59 PM. The mission rules are that you don’t come home until 9 PM. He had one more minute to work and he insisted on using it and obeying the mission rules. He told his companion, “We are going to keep working until 9 PM!” (in espanol of course.)

They looked around and saw a woman in her yard. They talked to her, saying they had a message about Jesus Christ. She said, “No, I’m not interested in your message.” So then they obeyed the rules again and asked the next question missionaries are to ask, which is to say, “Do you know someone who might be?” She said, “Yes, I do. My neighbor has parents who both recently died. She might be interested.” So they got her name and address. At this point it was past 9 PM so they went home, lol. But they next day, they went and talked to the woman whose name they got. She was interested! They gave her a Book of Mormon. She started reading it, prayed about it, and felt the Holy Ghost confirm the truthfulness of its message. So she got baptized. She has a four year old son who will hopefully be raised in the Church of Jesus Christ and have his life forever changed by the hope of the gospel.

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All five of my boys back together again!

I love this story! What would have happened if my son had gone home at 8:59 PM? We find our miracles and our treasures when we obey with exactness! I testify this is true! I have experienced it! I also testify that motherhood is worth the sacrifice, and brings so much joy to a modern woman’s life. I have experienced that giving up a son or daughter to serve a mission for Jesus Christ brings so much joy to a woman’s heart, and that family life in the gospel of Jesus Christ brings great joy. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and His Church is on the earth today. Jesus Christ and His gospel give us the answers we are searching for, whatever the question we have.

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Post #2 Treats No Tricks: Meeting My Grandbaby!

 

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My treat #2 to share in my “golden harvest” years of motherhood is that I’m a grandma! Just call me Mama C! Baby C, my daughter’s son, was born two and a half weeks early and surprised us before I could get there! I’m super bummed that I missed the birth as we all planned for me to be there for it, but I got to meet Baby C last month and spend two whole weeks spoiling him and his parents! That means I did all the housework and let my daughter sleeeeep as much as Baby C’s stomach could last in between feedings. All my years of being a nursing mama and La Leche League Leader kicked in as I encouraged her to nurse lying down in order to get more rest. Here are some pics of meeting my grandson and enjoying life in a place that has four seasons, as in, Idaho. The autumn leaves were gorgeous! I’d forgotten how much I enjoy them from when I lived in Utah. The scene below is within walking distance from their home.

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In the photo below, Baby C looks so confused, like, “Hey, wait…You’re not my mother!  Your face and voice are different and you’re not giving me milk!”

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Then below, he’s figuring it out…”Ah…you have wrinkles, so you are older…I get it…you are my mother’s mother!”

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Me, as Mama C, “That’s right! Don’t forget it! I’m your grandma! This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship kiddo! Let the spoiling begin!”

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I cherish those two weeks of a babymoon in Idaho! I’m so grateful I got to see my daughter living so happily as a young wife and new mom! This was the first time I’ve been to her home since she got married. She’s living her dream of being a college-graduated engineer, a wife, and a mother. It does a mama’s heart good to see my baby having a baby and walking in ways of truth and happiness!

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Her husband is so wonderful and they are so cute together. I felt so bittersweet the last day! I had loved living in their little nest with much fewer cares around me than what I’m used to.  I definitely miss them but it’s good to be back in AZ to ride herd on the ones still in the nest. I don’t think, however, that they missed me at all! We had a nice break from homeschooling with each other (I left my husband and 17 year old in charge of that while I was gone but I’m sure there was some sliding and playing around while the “cat’s away”…:-)) Now it’s time to crack the whip on them again.

This is such a great season of motherhood, I love it! Now if we could just live a lot closer!!! I’m working on her to move closer with the bribe of free babysitting, almost on demand, with 24 hour notice, lol. How I miss waking up and going down the hall to see Baby C and whisking him into my arms, drinking in his newborn baby-ness, cuddling him and enjoying his piglet grunts. Thank goodness for video chat!

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This is us right before we left for the airport. My daughter got the baby all tanked up on her milk so he could zone out in the car.

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Post #1 of Treats No Tricks: My Daughter’s Wedding and My Son’s College Graduation

 

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This harvest time of year matches the season of my life. I’m old enough to be enjoying the fruits of my mothering labors big time! Wa-hoo! This is so awesome! Some of my kids are mature enough to be out of the nest living on their own. I miss them A LOT! Why is it that just when kids get super helpful (i.e., they daily ask what they can do to help), tremendously conversational, superbly peacemaking with younger siblings, and no longer the slightest bit annoying, that they leave my home?!

It’s wonderful to know that they are being completely self-reliant and self-governing. They have thanked me for what I did for my sacrifices as a mother. I love getting these mama paychecks! So I thought I’d spend the next few posts sharing some of my “harvests” that I’m enjoying. I’m also calling this series of blog posts “treats without tricks” as we approach Halloween. Then on Halloween I get to enjoy one of the best treats of all! (To be announced later!)

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First, my daughter got married last year. I have been meaning to blog about this for a LOOOOONG time, like ten months! The post is in my drafts folder. Until it meets my artistic perfectionist ideals, it will stay there. My life just happens too fast to blog about it  casually! In the meantime, I will officially announce here on the blog that she did get married in the Payson Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in December of last year, and it was wonderful to witness!

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Second, I got a 2-for-1 deal last summer when both my son and son-in-law graduated from BYU-I. This was such a happy day! Both young men graduated with degrees having to do with computers: either computer science or software engineering. We drove up to Idaho and had a wonderful time celebrating at the ceremonies. I always love visiting the BYU-I campus. It was like deja vu because the year before, also in July, we had driven up for my daughter’s graduation, for her degree, also in software engineering.

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I had already been in Utah for a few weeks, for LEMI Training, when the day arrived to drive to Idaho. My husband and daughter had stayed home so she could go to Young Women Camp for our church for her first time. Then they drove up separately. When I had driven up to Utah in July I got to go thrifting with my sis-in-law as I stopped in St. George on the way. I got the cute top and skirt in these photos.

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While at BYUI we attended the beautiful Rexburg temple as a family and loved it! 

When I was in Idaho my husband’s cousin, who hosted us, kept staring at my skirt. She finally asked where I bought it and I said D.I. (Deseret Industries, I have found so many treasures there through the years. Someday I will have to blog about that!). She laughed and said that maybe it was her old skirt as she used to have one just like it that she had given away. Yep, I’m not too proud to admit that I love a skirt that belonged to someone old enough to be my mom who had cast it away. After the event, I noticed my son never mentioned on Facebook that he graduated, but he did mention that he got to meet Brandon Sanderson that same month of July

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2018 and get books autographed, in Iona Idaho. OK, so I’m wondering what is it about Iona Idaho that drew Chris Sanderson there? Also, apparently, meeting Brandon trumps college graduation any day. All my kids love his books. Eventually maybe the books will grow on me. (It doesn’t help that the Audible narrator has a total monotone, depressing voice that makes it sound like I am staring death in the face as a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp. Maybe if Chris Hogan narrated, I would like the books.)

Anyway, congrats to my daughter for getting married and to my son for graduating! They have both been living far away from me living their dream lives of engineers.  I’m happy to see them both pursuing their passions.

(Btw, did you know that Ken Jennings and Brandon Sanderson were college roommates at BYU? That explains a LOT! Oh to be a fly on the wall and hear their geeky, trivia-meets-fantasy conversations!)

 

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