5 Things to Watch or Read for the New Year and New Motivation

Every New Year, I like to watch stuff to increase my vision and my children’s vision for what’s possible. Here’s what I recommend:

I heard about Mully, the movie, from my friend/cousin KeeNan. (We were friends for years and then I discovered we are third cousins.) It is the most amazing true story of Charles Mulli. I was blown away. This man has literally lived a rags-to-riches story in Africa. He was abandoned by his parents and uncle at age 6 so he had to beg for food. Incredibly, he grew up to become a millionaire, providing well for his wife and nine children. God, however, had even bigger and better plans for him. I won’t give it away, you’ll have to watch it. Amazon Prime video has it, and your public library probably has the DVD, as mine does. After watching this, I know I have no excuse for not achieving my dreams. If you watch only one movie/documentary this year, watch this one!

This video here, is about the importance of vision boards. Tim Thomas, from BYU-Idaho, gives the presentation. I’ve watched it for three years straight now and still absolutely love it. The stories he tells of vision boards and why it’s so important to make outrageous goals are just amazing.

Then this video below of a speech by Elder Randall K. Ridd is phenomenal. I love that he uses the phrase, “real intent,” and illustrates what the real intent is with the story of two different employees buying oranges for a boss. It’s so enlightening!

What about some books to inspire?

There’s the book about Mully. It’s on my “to-read” list.

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For now, I am reading these two below.

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This first one is by a couple, Erik and Emily Orton, who are parents of five children. They describe the process of taking what seemed like an impossible dream, that of living on a sailboat for an extended vacation with five children, to amazing fruition. I read it at night, while snuggled in bed. It’s a great bedtime story just for me! Actually, my hubby is reading it too, but at different times. It’s fun to share with him what we are thinking and learning as we read.

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I’m listening to this one after hearing so much about it, like on the Trim Healthy Mama podcast.

I love that the author talks about the difference between goals and systems. Very fascinating! It reminds me of the idea of lead and lag that I heard from my friend Kelsey in my Family Foundations class last year in our homeschool group.

Here are a few great quotes from the book:

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

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Christmas 2020 Memories and Blessings

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Before my memories of Christmas 2020 drift away, I’m capturing them here. What a wonderful time! In years past, we’ve had a few awkward, cringe-worthy moments on Christmas Day where a family member’s feelings got hurt because another family member said something that was uncalled for. I prayed this year that that wouldn’t happen. Hallelujah! We had no such moments this year! Whew!

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I started reading aloud this book to the younger kiddos, a sequel to Christmas Jars, which I read aloud to them last year. We’re still reading it in January. Which I’m totally OK with. We read the first book in January last year. I’m excited to find out if my predicted ending comes true in the sequel.

One of my college-attending sons brought home a keyboard that supposedly was being given away at his aunt’s home. When we moved from AZ, we gave our piano away to save packing space. So I have been piano-less. I was rejoicing that we would have a piano substitute that I could play for Christmas songs that we always sing on Christmas Eve as we act out the Nativity story in Luke 2. Then said-son found out that the keyboard was his cousin’s and it wasn’t supposed to be given away. Oops. So it has to go back.

As is their custom, my kiddos played Settlers of Catan at some point during the Christmas break. It’s not my favorite game so I was happy they didn’t invite me to play, LOL.

The younger kiddos and I watched this new movie, The Santa Box, which was filmed in Utah. It’s a little cheesy but meaningful. It’s all about charity and forgiveness and the spirit of Christ. I want to give out Santa boxes, now, in addition to Christmas Jars! Yes, I’m dreaming big!
The Santa Box Poster

I decided to go out on Dec. 24 and shop for more stocking stuffer treats. Ugh! I hate buying stuff on Christmas Eve. I vow next year to have everything bought by Dec. 18, including all the stocking goodies, and even have these goodies portioned out in ziploc bags before Dec. 23. Actually I’m toying with the idea of having each kid stuff one of their sibling’s stocking, anonymously as Santa. Both these ideas will allow me to go to bed before 3 AM on Christmas Day, as is happened this year. I didn’t budget my time this year well, again. Double ugh. One of the results of me not budgeting time/planning well is that one of my planned gifts for my traditional three gifts for my adult children was out of stock. I’m definitely not perfect in the gift-giving and the pacing of Christmas prep. So I’m just now getting those ones out, after Christmas, since they are back in stock.

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I read the Mistletoe trilogy by Richard Paul Evans this Christmas using my scribd.com membership. They are good but predictable. I enjoyed them because reading them helped me relax at night and fall asleep.

I did make a smart decision though in realizing I wouldn’t be home until after 5:30 PM on Christmas Eve. So I asked my two youngest children to make lasagna. They’ve made it before so I had full confidence they could do it, even though they are 11 and 14. When I found out that my other college-attending son wouldn’t be home until after 9 PM on Christmas Eve, I switched out the menus. Usually we have our Bethlehem Supper on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas Day for dinner, I ditch the traditional food of turkey potatoes, and gravy. Instead, I serve a non-purist frozen lasagna, baked of course, but bought at Walmart or Costco. I started doing this when we moved to AZ and had to be on our own for Christmas. (Translation: I had to learn how to roast turkey on my own and host my own Christmas dinner in lieu of going to my parents’ home and relying on them to be the founders of the feast. I decided I wanted to relax on Christmas Day too like everyone else and have my biggest kitchen job be to pop things into the oven.) One of my boys is being gluten-free right now, so I realized I would have to make a low-carb, gluten free lasagna this year. Which was good for me too so I wouldn’t eat so many carbs over the holiday, 🙂 , to maintain my weight loss.

So the kiddos made the Lazy Lasagna from the second Trim Healthy Mama book, which uses spinach instead of lasagna noodles. They made it perfectly! I was so pleased with them! My copycat recipe is here.

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Here’s what the tree looked like when the kiddos walked in on Christmas morning. It’s not a huge tree and decorated eclectically with mostly homemade ornaments. So nothing fancy or color-coordinated, but it works. We always have a star on top of it, until Christmas Eve. On that night, at the end of our acting out the Nativity, we switch out the star for our Angel Moroni tree-topper. It’s a way of pointing to the after story story of Jesus, which involved the restoration of His gospel with his angel helper Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith.

One of my boys gave me the Pioneer Woman honey pot with a cute note relating it to Winnie-the-Pooh, hearkening back to his childhood days of hearing the Pooh stories. Here I am, above, carefully opening it, not wanting to break it. I wish I had smiled for the camera but I was so focused on checking it out without breaking it. It’s the most elegant honeypot I’ve ever owned! See the photo below to see how pretty it is. I loooove it!

Here’s one of the goodies I bought on Christmas Eve, for my own stocking, in keeping with my low-carb diet. I’ve heard a lot about Lily’s stevia-sweetened chocolate. It’s definitely yummy but expensive too so I haven’t ever bought it before. Next year, I am going to for sure have my husband stuff my stocking and I’m going to stuff my husband’s. After 29 years I’m tired of not being surprised at all. :-). I heard about this idea from my friend Mindy and thought, “Why haven’t I thought of that sooner?”

We had my mother-in-law over for Christmas Day. She’s a widow living alone. No one should be alone for Christmas Day. She already had COVID in October so there were no worries about her getting out and about.

Christmas Day we had our Bethlehem Supper by candlelight. Fish, flatbread, hummus, bitter herbs, olives, dates, and cheese. Those are all foods Jesus perhaps ate in the Holy Land. Well, maybe not the hummus. We also always have rice, even though that’s not Middle Eastern food. We eat it because years ago our next-door neighbor was from Ghana. He had a mother from Syria, which is close to Israel. She taught him how to make this rice dish. He invited us over often for dinner and always fixed his specialty, a “secret” rice dish, with cinnamon, chicken broth, and pasta. So to add more bulk to the meal we fix it, even though it’s not authentic. :-). Topping the pita bread with hummus, then fish and rice is super delicious. I abstained from the bread and rice to keep low carb.

We also did our individually-picked activities. Everyone picked out something he or she wanted to do and wrapped an object representing that activity, as explained here. Except my firstborn and and my husband, who I surmise don’t care about what we do as long as we are together.

We played football (not with Grandma or my 60-something husband, haha, they were both too old and tired to play so took naps). Our new to us home has a huge front yard with not much snow so that was easy. Then it was Reverse Charades, then Studio C, and the Muppets’ Christmas Carol. That took care of activities for four people.

My son who picked Studio C added the stipulating gift that it was “Studio C Mom Edition” where I got to pick all the sketches that we watched. My mother-in-law had never seen the Muppets’ Christmas Carol before so I was delighted to show it to her. She loved it, sighing especially at the end and putting her head on someone’s shoulder next to her. That was so sweet.

The next day was more fun and games! We played Mysterium and then Monty Python Fluxx, one of the games that appeared in a stocking.

I’ve been wanting to play Mysterium for months. My son who lives out of state brought it and I’m so glad he did. It’s a combination of Dixit and Clue. It’s a cooperative game and we all lost. At least we lost together.

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I discovered Fluxx years ago and gave it to my oldest son for Christmas years ago, after seeing it in a Chinaberry book catalog. It’s a LOT of fun. We’ve acquired a few different versions over the years. This year, one of the sons got Monty Python Fluxx in his stocking. This version didn’t disappoint. The goals were funny. I love how this game can have so many twists and turns.

Then it was The Mind card game. That one’s great too. My younger daughter got it in her stocking last year. It involves reading body language to communicate and mind-reading. It’s also a cooperative game.

My baby, age 11, had originally picked watching Robin Hood for his activity but then decided he would rather play Secret Hitler. I’m learning to like it more, every year. I was Hitler in the game the first time and fooled all the liberals, everyone but one son, causing me to laugh uproariously.

It was so terrific to have Christmas on Friday, giving my husband a three day weekend off of work. On Sunday, we went to church all together. I think our family of 8 (my married daughter was missing, more on that in a bit) took up half the congregation. Most of the congregants stayed home to sleep off the post-Christmas hangover and watch the live stream on YouTube. My husband was picked to speak at Church that day so we will attended in person to hear him. Its funny, he and I spoke last year in AZ at church the Sunday after Christmas.

After church, it was time for It’s a Wonderful Life. We’ve been watching this every year since the oldest was born. I was OK with skipping this year but it was one of the family member’s chosen activities. I saw on Facebook that one of my Veggie Gal friends saw it for the first time this year. How someone can grow up on the Wasatch Front with its mainstream pop culture and not see this movie until she’s 50 is a mystery to me.

Then it was my turn to do my activity. We watched Christmas Jars. I was so excited for my three single sons to watch this movie. I encouraged them to start their own jars, since they are all living out of the nest. They replied that they never use cash. So we talked about how to do the idea without using a jar of coins/cash.

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I discovered this delightful picture book this year. It’s by Susan Gong, wife of Elder Gerrit Gong, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. I highly recommend it.

I made the Sparkling Cran Ginger that appears in the new Trim Healthy Mama cookbook, created by Serene Allison’s and Pearl Barrett’s niece, Rashida. It’s called Trim Healthy Future. I bought the book for Christmas back in early November on pre-order to get the discounted price plus the pre-order goodies. (Do any of you other moms out there buy your own Christmas presents? It’s just easier sometimes.) Review of the book is coming soon!

For this drink recipe, I put in too much ginger. Next time I will cut way back. In quadrupling the recipe I think I made a mistake in the amount of ginger, as it was a bit overpowering. Instead of being a hot wassail with cinnamon, anise, and cloves like in the recipe here, it is a cold drink. You basically cook the cranberries until they pop in water with the ginger, then cool, then add the low-carb sweetener and sparkling water and serve cold. It was good despite the too much ginger.

Sunday night the kids broke out my world puzzle. I bought it years ago. We lost some pieces. Then I found a newer edition while thrifting for 99 cents. I like to put it together on General Conference weekends, like we did here. Fortunately, the thrift store version has no pieces missing. Two of the diehards stayed up past midnight to put both together.

Tuesday morning I woke up to the picture below, texted to me from my son-in-law. My daughter had her baby! She lives out of state with her husband. We weren’t expecting the baby until at least Jan. 4. She used Hypnobabies and had a fast, natural birth. I wish I could have been there! She woke up at 2 AM and then had the the baby at 5 AM. So a fast labor. I sure wish I could be there to cuddle the little guy and babysit while she sleeps!

Then Tuesday afternoon I drove to my parents’ home to take them their presents since we hadn’t had a big get-together on Christmas Day. They seemed very pleased with their gifts: an electric teakettle (because I so love mine), hot cocoa mixes, herbal teas, dried fruit, plus the book below. So they can sip warm beverages and feel cozy and have a devotional together. This book, along with the journals, were like the Cabbage Patch dolls of Christmas 1983. Or was it 1984? Anyway, I couldn’t find this book online or at local bookstores. But the angels were watching out for me and led me to find it at a local grocery store. Score!

Don't Miss This in the Doctrine and Covenants

Wednesday, I had a party with my Veggie Gals friends. It was a brief interruption from all the family time. One of them was in town for the holidays after moving to California. I had seven of them over for a potluck lunch. Oh how I love the conversation. I can’t drink it in fast enough. It’s so wonderful to have a group of like-minded friends where you can go deep, especially during this bizarre time.

For Thursday, New Year’s Eve, we did our “new” tradition. My daughter, the one who just had a baby, suggested it last year when she “holidayed” with us. After dinner, we played games, with each person bringing one to the table, which we played for 30 minutes. One of us picked Clue, above. I won in less than 30 minutes! It was Plum, wrench, study. I have a secret way of winning, without cheating, that allows me to win almost every single time. 🙂

I picked the above game up at a thrift store for only $2. Totally worth it. It’s like brand new. So it was my pick for New Year’s Eve. The game involves lots of eye signaling and everyone can play at once. Great game, especially for a crowd. Up to 8 can play.

The nest morning, New Year’s Day, we continued the games since we hadn’t gone through everybody’s choices the night before. I had to deliberately make an appointment at 9 AM with my firstborn to play the above game. It’s Wingspan, and it’s all about birds. He had other stuff going on later, including a date, and rock-climbing. This was a present he requested and I happily obliged as it looked beautiful and fun when I saw it online. Bugsy, the 11 year old, played it with us.

It took us a while to get into the rhythm of how the game works. We, my firstborn and I, ended up playing it again that night with my husband. I finally felt the momentum of the player action choices. It’s a great game! A wonderful mix of learning bird facts and strategic game play.

This was my first experience with a dice tower, in Wingspan. It’s a birdfeeder made of sturdy cardboard. I love it!
On every turn you choose if you play a bird card, draw a bird card, gather food for your birds, or have your birds lay eggs.
See how beautiful the cards are? On every one, you learn a bird’s habitat, what it eats, the type of nest it lays (or not), its wingspan, and some unique fact about the bird.
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On New Year’s Eve, we also did Labyrinth (above), a great visual/spatial strategy game. Then Disney Apples to Apples. Fun, fun, fun!

Second son delighted us with reading from Winnie-the-Pooh. Disney’s Apples to Apples inspired this.

My Christmas was topped off by reading this article mentioned over here, about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and also reading the two books below. I gave copies of the first book to all my siblings and parents and inlaws over 20 years years go but never read it myself. I’m rejoicing I finally read it.

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This one above is the backstory to The Christmas Box. It’s a long story as to why I never read these before. Maybe I’ll share sometime.

Oh, another thing that made my Christmas great was listening to this BYU speech again. It’s my favorite Christmas speech/talk ever.

I’m so loving that my firstborn decided to give us a flat screen TV for Christmas to replace our old chunky TV from 2005 or so. This new TV has a built in DVD player. Plus same son gave us a Fire TV stick. So I’m rejoicing. The old DVD player was always skipping DVD parts. Now I can do my Trim Healthy Mama Workins DVDs without skips. He also gifted me a fire pit. I’m so excited to have parties with this!

It really is a great to have adult children giving gifts to me. What I have put out is coming back to me!

So that’s another Christmas for the books! A sweet time with my sweet family! I feel relaxed, nourished, empowered and renewed by my gifts and the time spent with family and friends. All that makes me feel ready for a new year! I’m so grateful for this time. I’m dreaming big so that next year is even better with more giving to others outside of our family.

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2021 Come Follow Me: Insights into the Doctrine of Covenants, Week #1

I really love all three of these videos to supplement my study this past week of the Doctrine and Covenants. That’s the new topic of study for the 2021 Come, Follow Me Sunday School class of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the above video, Hank Smith, John Bytheway, and Anthony Sweat discuss Doctrine and Covenants 1. I love at the 52 minute mark, Dr. Sweat explains what it means in D&C 1:30 when it says that the Church is the only true and living church on the whole face of the earth, which the Lord is “well pleased with, speaking unto the church collectively, not individually–” Dr. Sweat explains that that doesn’t mean the leaders of the Church will never make mistakes. Dr. Sweat explains that “true” means “authorized.” Sometimes that means the leaders are authorized to make mistakes. That’s because the leaders go to Him and propose something, and He lets them do it, and it might be a mistake, so that the leader(s) learn. (Such was the case with Joseph Smith asking to let Martin Harris borrow the manuscript of 116 translated pages from the Book of Mormon.)

The video above is from my old standbys, David and Emily, from the Don’t Miss This Come Follow Me YouTube channel, discussing D&C 1. I love that they emphasize that this revelation is for all people. All people, whether they are members of the Church or not.

Finally, the above two videos are done by my husband’s cousin, Lynne Hilton Wilson. She gives a ton of backstory to the Doctrine and Covenants. Additionally, she answers some hard questions about Joseph Smith, including “Why did it take until 1831 for Joseph Smith to write down his story?” Fascinating! These videos are more for this coming week’s lesson, but are also a great foundation for the whole year’s study. I love her sweet, gentle, yet exciting nature, and all of her graphics and explanations. You can go to the website for her organization here, and get additional study helps for each week’s readings. Enjoy!

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New Story About Mary

We had a wonderful Christmas season of familial gathering. One son came from Texas, and two others who live away from home but close by, came for a few days and nights. So all my kiddos were here except for my daughter who was too close to giving birth. So the six children who were here cozied up in the bedroom loft of our new-to-us-home to sleep on Christmas Eve. We enjoyed all of our traditions with my husband’s mother being here for Christmas Day.

Then we had a fun bunch of days afterwards playing games and watching movies. That was all crowned with what happened next. What a joyful morning when I woke up this past Wednesday to a picture sent by my son-in-law, announcing the birth of his and my daughter’s second baby. I’m so happy for them! Now I have two grandsons. There’s nothing like having and/or holding a baby close to Christmas time to give a taste of what Mary must have felt as she cuddled with baby Jesus and looked into his eyes.

The above video features Donny Osmond’s nephew, David, singing the beautiful song, “Mary Did You Know?” That song captures the feelings I’m hinting at. Then in the video Amberli Nelson reads a story, entitled, “No Wonder She Wept.” This is how Amberli imagines the Nativity Story. She writes from the perspective of a young boy observing Mary. I love that she has the idea that Mary’s aunt was her midwife and used herbs to help bring Jesus into the world. It’s such a sweet story. I hope you enjoy it! You can also read it here.

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2020 Old and New Christmas Delights

With my dear husband, at a formal ball, standing next to a ballerina Christmas tree.

I’m popping in to share my Christmas joys. Here are some of my old delights, as well as a few new ones I’ve discovered to make my Christmas more fun and meaningful for 2020.

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So far the season has been wonderful. I love to stretch this magical time out as much as possible. Usually that means stretching past the New Year’s mark with Christmas-y stuff, not really introducing Christmas before Thanksgiving. I love to keep reading Christmas books in January. And I may have had more than one year where I left the tree up until after Valentine’s Day. :-).

Two Saturdays ago the hubs and I got to go to a formal ball. So he asked me out on a date! Yes! Often the default of our weekly date is a movie at home. Sometimes it’s a step up where we have a game night with friends or relatives over Zoom. So this date was extra special. We went to the grand opening formal ball of a ballet studio where my 19 year old BYU-attending-son has been taking ballet lessons.

It was amazing! The place is so elegant. I got to wear the pretty red dress I got for my older daughter’s wedding. We danced the night away, cheek to cheek. We also saw my son there with his seven friends, on a quadruple date.The tree in the lobby was decorated with ballerina ornaments. The whole night was magical.

So that was new. Sort of. When the older kids were teens, we went to a formal holiday ball every year with a lot of their homeschool ballroom dance friends. So it was kind of like old times. Except we didn’t know anyone there, except for said 19 year old son, who introduced us to his date and friends. We still had a lot of fun. I enjoyed talking to my husband, dancing, and seeing if we could figure out which couples were married and which weren’t.

Here are some old delights of Christmas that I am enjoying again this year:

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Christmas Picture Books. Here’s my list of my oldies but goodies.

We’re planning on our traditional Christmas day of everyone picking their own favorite activity to do as a family. I got the idea from my friend Kim Davis. Here’s her explanation of that.

Hot cocoa with a few drops of peppermint essential oil. I have cocoa year round but I save the peppermint oil for Christmastime.

Christmas chapter books that I read aloud to my youngest kiddos. I am reading a little bit from each of these three books.

Christmas Jars Reunion
This one is a sequel to Christmas Jars. More on that book below.
Hardcover A Christmas Thief Book
My older kids do remember me reading this to them years ago. It’s delightful! Now that I’m back in Utah I can easily find it at the public library again to read aloud to the younger ones.
My children will never pick this up on their own to read. They shall have a bit of Anne of Green Gables and her Canadian neighbors, no matter the season!

Christmas music by the Von Trapp Children, Maria Von Trapp’s descendants. I listen on either Pandora, Spotify, or YouTube. Angelic voices! Something about their crisp, clean voices makes me feel as if I’m sipping cocoa in a chalet in the Alps, surrounded by the warmth of a crackling fire and a fragrant Christmas pine tree, with freshly fallen snow sparkling on the ground.

The Von Trapp Children, Volume 1

Christmas music concerts with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. My oldest son has been in two of them as a dancer, the ones above and below. Oh how I remember being so jealous of my husband and oldest daughter and her friend, the year they went to the concert that featured Natalie Cole and David McCullough. We were too poor to hire a babysitter so I stayed home with the younger kids. How time flies and brings changes! Now my youngest is 11 and I can go to things like this. I did make up for this lost opportunity a few years later when I got to go to the concert the year the Muppets came, with two of my younger kids, while one of the older ones babysat the others.

Giving away our Christmas Jar. We started this tradition of collecting our spare change and dollar bills a few years ago after I read the book Christmas Jars, by Jason F. Wright.

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We are splitting it four ways. It always feels good to give. I read aloud Christmas Jars to my younger kids last year. The older ones don’t remember me reading it to them but I know I did. (Usually it’s my younger kids that I feel miss out on my read-aloud-book rituals, and my middle child. I think he missed out on me reading aloud all the Little House books. The older ones got it between my own reading and lisetning on CDs, and the younger ones got it thirteen years later, but not him, in a cognizant state. He was three when I did with the older ones and 16 with the younger ones so then he was gone a lot. Such is the fate of the middle child.) Anyway, it’s good to know I’m not neglecting the younger ones. We watched the movie last year with the younger ones, this year I’m making sure the older ones see it too.

Caroling/singing. I went with my church group last week. I am determined to spread the cheer of this activity with my kiddos again. I love it when we gather round the piano or keyboard to sing Christmas songs.

Light the World. I signed up to get the text reminders on my phone and printed out the calendar. I rarely feel organized enough to do what it says, but I still like getting the ideas.

So those are the old Christmas delights I am enjoying again. Now for what I’ve discovered for this year.

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I’m going to start the traditions in this book next year for our family.

Christmas With a Capital C movie. I love Brad Stine’s telling of the Nativity Story in it. It’s a cute story that emphasizes Christ’s role in Christmas, and real-life application of Christ’s teachings.

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Children old enough to make their own Christmas cookies. Yay, yay, yay! Just when i was gearing up to tackle again this “good Christmas mom obligatory project” with my kiddos, my 11 year old made them on his own one Sunday morning. He was totally OK with not frosting with them so, um, yeah, yay for that too! Then the 14 year old got cookies for her church activity and frosted hers over zoom with the girls in her class. Now today the 16 year old is making them, with the Pioneer Woman glaze frosting to boot! So if you are feeling guilty for never making sugar cookies with your kids, just wait for them to grow bigger and they will make them on their own.

The 12 Days of Christmas with Craft Lit podcast. My older daughter tuned me into Craft Lit when her first baby was born. It’s for people who love listening to classic stories while they craft. Of course you don’t have to be crafting while you listen. The page for all of the 12 Days of Christmas episodes is here.

   Artwork for 12 Days of CraftLit - Twelfth Day

New Christmas picture books, see here.

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Christmas romance novels, see below. I’ve resisted Richard Paul Evans’ romance books for years. Finally this year I decided to check them out. They are like Hallmark Christmas movies in a book, although each one has a dark element that I’ve never seen in any Hallmark movie. They are clean romances that will restore your faith in humanity, as long as you believe these fictional stories reflect humanity. The first one got turned into a Hallmark movie. I’ve yet to watch it to see if it has the dark, sad element. I wish someone would write romance books about married love, Christmas-y or not.

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This one actually does involve married love, but that’s not the focus.

Christian-themed Christmas books I got from the library. I just finished the one above today and am reading from these other two below.

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I’m not necessarily reading these books/stories in order. It’s just fun to be in a “love of learning” mode when it comes to Christmas stories. The one just above has classic Christmas stories from Christians that have been around for decades, like The Gift of the Magi and the Little Match Girl (that one’s so sad I usually avoid it), and lesser-known tales in the public domain, like this one I absolutely love, How I Spent My Million, by J. Edgar Park. Then it also has stories by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of which I recognize as being previously published in the Church’s magazines.

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Focus on the Family Christmas Podcast Stories

The Last Straw Poster

The Last Straw movie. Cheesy but cute. The acting is not the best but it will probably bring a smile to your face. I love the playfulness between the neighbors and the cozy family feeling at the end.

My friend Katie, a fellow thrifter, who has a family hand chime choir. I loved their Christmas concert given at their home! So delightful! I never knew hand chimes existed. I thought handbells were the extent of hand-held percussive instruments. These things look like hair straightening irons with bells attached. Now I know what I want for Christmas next year!

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Each year Christmas gets better for me. I have less stress because the kiddos do more work: the shopping/gifting, the decorating, the baking, and the cleaning up. More importantly, each year brings richer delights, deeper understanding of the best gift every given, my Savior Jesus Christ.

Along with that comes a stronger desire to be more like Him. Then the crowning touches are desires to be an even better giver like Him in the coming year, with a growing anticipation of the gifts that the Father and the Son have in store for me.

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Christ is the Giver of Every Good Gift, At Christmastime and Every Time

I love last week’s reading for the Come, Follow Me study guide of Moroni 10 from the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It contains so many yummy gems. The videos above and below talk about all these goodies. I love, love, love that Moroni 10 talks about gifts. It says that Christ is the giver of every good gift. How true that is! What’s even better than that, it says that if we are to come unto Christ, we are to lay hold onto every gift. Then it gives a list of spiritual gifts in Moroni 10:9-18, with an injunction for us to receive these gifts:

 For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom;

10 And to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

11 And to another, exceedingly great faith; and to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

12 And again, to another, that he may work mighty miracles;

13 And again, to another, that he may prophesy concerning all things;

14 And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits;

15 And again, to another, all kinds of tongues;

16 And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues.

17 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.

18 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.

Here’s a great talk by Elder Larry Lawrence about spiritual gifts. A clip from the talk is below. You can watch the whole thing here. I encourage you to listen to it and get hope and inspiration. How wonderful to know that we can and are supposed to receive every gift. We can and are supposed to ask God for these gifts! I like to think of Christmas as a taste and foreshadowing, because of the gifts given and received. These gifts remind us that Heavenly Father and Christ have many more gifts in store for us. That includes the day when we will be perfected in Christ.

Now here is my Veggie Gal friend Becky Edwards’ video of her favorite takeaways of Elder Lawrence’s speech. This is all so wonderful!

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Having the Spirit of Christmas: the Pure Love of Christ

I enjoyed reading Moroni 7-9 this past week. I’ve always loved the definition of charity from Moroni in Moroni 7:45-48.

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”

I’ve posted the video from the Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Evidences Podcast that relates to Moroni 7-9. It features Lori Bean Henderson, talking about her grandfather, Willard Bean. More about that in a minute.

I love finding movies to watch with my children to show this Christlike love, this charity. I was pleasantly surprised that we stumbled upon one recently. Last night as a family we watched a movie called Christmas With a Capital C. It was cute. It shows a family showing Christlike love to an enemy. See the trailer below.

It makes me think of Willard Bean, “The Fighting Preacher.” He was called by the leaders of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make friends of The Church in Palmyra, New York, where Joseph Smith lived when he got the plates that became the Book of Mormon. Some people made a movie about Willard.

The Fighting Preacher Poster

See the trailer for that below. Willard Bean definitely had Christlike love to make friends with people who were originally enemies. People were extremely rude to them at first. Willard and his wife Rebecca won the people over with a combination of boxing (from Willard), love, service, and food.

This clip below shows the bullying that happened

In the podcast episode at the very top of this post, Willard’s granddaughter says that the bullying did not happen to her Aunt Palmyra, as shown in the movie, but to her dad and his brother.

It’s just amazing to know that Christ, as the source of all that is good and glorious, gives people strength to overcome ugliness, meanness, and rudeness, because of His love. I highly encourage you to watch the video at the very top of this page to hear the back story of Willard and the true story of his charity. It’s a bit different from the movie. Then go watch the movie if you haven’t already.

Praise God for the examples of Willard Bean, Corrie ten Boom and her family, and many other Christians for showing us real life examples of charity.

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Christmas Concerts to Light Up Your Life Every Night!

I love that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church I belong to, is hosting Christmas concerts every night December 2-23. You can view the schedule here. Most of them are live stream only, but the first one below, is recorded. It’s just so wonderful that we live in an age when we can access beautiful music at almost anytime, anywhere. I’m so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and that we have a holiday every year to celebrate His birth. It’s no coincidence that it is in December, in order to light up our lives at the darkest time of the year.

The above video is an excerpt from the Christmas Concert called, “Celebrating the Light of the World.” It features the new daddy-daughter duo singing sensation of Mat and Savanna Shaw. The video of the full concert is below. It features some sister missionaries who take you on a tour of Temple Square. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

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GiveThanks Day #7: I Am Thankful for My Savior Jesus Christ and His Miracles

The past week of Thanksgiving Day buzz and after-days relaxation slightly distracted me from my series of #GiveThanks posts. So I’m getting back to it, so I can finish the prophet President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation. Today is my #GiveThanks post #7. I am formally giving thanks to God for His Only Begotten Son, my Savior Jesus Christ. I am always thankful for Him, of course. Today I am giving thanks for Him for the crowning touch of my seven days of #GiveThanks. I am just so grateful for Jesus Christ, especially as we enter the Christmas season. Without Him, I would not have anything else to give thanks for on Thanksgiving, or any other day.

We used this turkey recipe I’ve blogged about over here. Another year of having a delicious turkey that is not dry. Thanks to Heather Woods for the recipe!

We had a lovely time on Thanksgiving Day. Blessedly, my mother-in-law got to come. It was so nice for her to get out after recovering from you-know-what. She had been isolated for months before she got it, during her time with it, and afterwards, since she is a widow living in a retirement center. She got to have two Thanksgiving dinners, one at her daughter’s on Tuesday night and then one here on the Day. My husband was in a particular jocular mood. He cracked a lot of jokes during dinner and after. She can’t remember the last time she laughed so hard.

Just like last year, I assigned people to make something. My husband made the gravy. I did the turkey. 16 year old son and 11 year old son did the potatoes, Pioneer Woman style with lots of fat. The 14 year old daughter did the cranberry sauce, also using the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes turned into candy with marshmallows and sugar, so I simply steamed some after cutting them up. After dinner and cleaning up, some of my kiddos and I connected with some relatives on my side over Zoom. We chatted for a while. This was the first time that my parents ate Thanksgiving Dinner alone, in their 50+ years of marriage, because of the pandemic. Every year until now they have had either relatives and/or kids with them.

I definitely wanted to connect with them so they wouldn’t feel so alone. After we chatted, one of the cousins in Maine and some of us living here played Code Names online. That was fun. Then those of us here in person played the Game of Things. That was a lot of fun too. I highly recommend this game. It’s perfect for when you don’t want to think too hard, but you want to connect and get to know each other better, without being too silly. I love this game!

Anyway, it’s so Providential that in the past few weeks using the Book of Mormon Study Guide of Come, Follow Me, that we’ve been reading about the Jaredites being led across the “great deep,” the ocean. Whenever I read that, I think of the Thanksgiving Day Pilgrims. They too crossed an ocean, to come to their promised land. They were not seafaring people normally so that ocean must have been mighty mysterious and treacherous. Why were they so willing to cross it? Because of their faith in Jesus Christ, and their desire to practice that faith in their own way.

I am so thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I never really understood the need for him until I was an adult.

Becoming a wife and mother has brought me face to face with all my failures and imperfections. I’m so grateful for second, third, fourth, and many more chances. That only comes because Jesus Christ paid the price for those chances. It is His enabling grace that gives me strength to keep going with a full brightness of hope.

I love that last month of November, I got to talk and hear a lot about faith in Jesus Christ. We talked about faith both in our homeschool group, in all the children’s classes, ages 4 all the way up to age 17. We also talked a lot about faith at home with our Come, Follow Me Study of the Book of Mormon. In our homeschool group we kicked off the month of November in our moms’ class by sharing stories of faith. One mom told this incredible story that makes me feel the Holy Spirit everytime I think about it.

She said that awhile ago, her family had their car stolen right from their driveway. How horrible! I can’t even imagination how devastating that would feel. Her husband had left the key in its ignition and ran inside to do one last thing before he drove off. In that brief time, a thief came and stole it. Instead of panicking about their stolen car, and how they would pay to replace it, they exercised faith in Jesus Christ. First off, they didn’t talk negatively about the thief. They prayed to God and asked God to bless the thief. They decided he must have been feeling desperate if he chose to steal a car from someone’s driveway. He needed help. Then they decided to pray and ask for help in finding the car. After they prayed, they decided to start driving in their other car to go look for it. The mom said she felt the Holy Spirit guiding her to turn at a certain intersection and then go to Walmart. So they did. They entered the parking lot. Her husband decided to click on the remaining remote key fob to see if they could hear a beep. They kept driving around and beeping and guess what? They found the car! So they called the police and waited. The police came and apprehended the crook as he came to get in the car. He was only inside Walmart for 15 minutes. Isn’t that amazing? God directed them to the exact spot where their stolen car was, out of all the places it could have been on this planet, within the 15 minute window that was needed to find the crook. This story gives me chills every time I think about. They prayed in the name of Jesus Christ, our advocate, and got an answer through the Holy Spirit, the partner of Jesus which He gave to us when He left the earth, so we could have His comfort and guidance. That Spirit guided them to get their stolen car back. It was a miracle! Yes, Jesus is a god of miracles! If Jesus can speak to my friend through the Holy Spirit on where to go to find her stolen car, He can help me with any of my problems and any of yours too!

Mormon 9:11 of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ says that Jesus Christ is a God of miracles.

“But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.”

Amen! I am so thankful that the god I worship, Jesus Christ, is a God of miracles. To add to those stories from my homeschool group shared by my mom friends, I loved reviewing the stories of faith from the Pilgrims. the Pilgrims experienced a few miracles as they voyaged. Number one was that when they had trouble with a broken main beam, they happened to have the right piece of equipment to fix it, a jackscrew. Another miracle was when John Howland fell overboard. He was able to get back in the ship.

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This is how God rescued him, in the words of Governor William Bradford, an eyewitness:

“And one of them John Howland came above and, with a roll of the ship, he
was thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of a rope that was trailing in the water and held on though he was several fathoms under water till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat-hook and other means got him into the ship again and his life was saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.”

As President M. Russell Ballard says in the video here, the above event was a miracle. It was God’s hand who somehow placed that rope in the water so John Howland could reach it and be pulled out of the dangerous ocean. God provided for this so that John could survive and live to be an ancestor in the New World of Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 John Howland
The gravestone of John Howland. Photo credit: findagrave.com.

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President Ballard goes on to say in that video, “About four years after they arrived in the New World, John married fellow Mayflower passenger Elizabeth Tilley, a brave and committed daughter of God. They eventually had 10 children and nearly 90 grandchildren. But that is not where the story ends. Today, an estimated 2 million Americans trace their roots to John and Elizabeth. Their descendants include three U.S. presidents—Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush; American poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and two influential 19th-century American religious leaders—the prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. Think about it for a moment—the existence of these political leaders, poets, and prophets hinged on this one young man finding and grabbing a rope in the ocean and holding on tight to be saved. It was a miracle!”

The Pilgrim Hypothesis
This book talks about the many miracles of the Pilgrims.

Yes it was! I’m also a descendant of John Howland so I too am grateful he was preserved. I’m not a fan of FDR nor the Bushes but I’m grateful for this insight and President Ballard’s injunction to look for the Lord’s hand in each of our own lives from that talk. I am thankful for the miracles in my own life that Jesus has perfectly orchestrated. Here are some of them:

He gave me the tender mercy of being able to birth my last three babies each on a Sunday. I really wanted that to happen, for various reasons, and it did, three times in a row, after asking for it. You can’t tell me that that was random.

The Total Money Makeover

He sent angels to protect my two children, when they were both teens, to be safe and uninjured when my daughter accidentally collided with a public transportation bus while driving. This was a blessing in disguise as it allowed our car to be totaled, and we got a lot of insurance money for that totaled car. So blessedly, this money was enough to pay off the debt we owed on it, with money left over to buy a used car for cash. The previous spring I had listened to Dave Ramsey’s audiobook, The Total Money Makeover. In that book, Dave rants on about why having a car payment is so stupid. I started yearning for a way to get out of our car payment on our minivan. It felt overwhelmingly impossible as we had great money trouble at the time. There was no way to find extra income in the budget to pay off the debt. Little did I know that He would provide a way six months later. Ever since then we haven’t had a car payment. It’s been so wonderful!

He and Heavenly Father knew that I desired a beautiful portrait of Him to hang on my wall in my living room. They gifted it to me in the form of a friend. I couldn’t afford it. Jesus inspired a friend, through the Holy Spirit, to give me the very portrait off her wall to me. It was a Greg Olsen print of the Savior. It now hangs in my home, a loving reminder of the Savior’s omniscience and power to inspire and my friend’s loving willingness to respond to the Spirit. See the photo at the top of this post. It’s so beautiful!

He inspired, through the Holy Spirit, that same friend to have a yard “giveaway” instead of a yard sale. Insightfully and so generously, she invited a handful of friends to come to her giveaway an hour earlier so that her friends could have our pick of what household items she was giving away, before the general public showed up. I was able to get many items that our family was in need of, when we didn’t have money to spare. Things like blankets, towels, and dishes to replace what had worn out after many years of marriage with lots of kiddos. Amazingly, He knew that something that wasn’t a necessity of mine was broken and it would delight me to get a new one to replace it. A year or so before this incident, one of my children had broken my cake decorator set, a wedding gift, by attempting to put peanut butter in it! Ugh! God knew I would like a new one. I love to use it to decorate my pies. I hadn’t told anyone about this, but God knew. I was able to get a like new one to replace it, this Pampered Chef one pictured below, because my friend gave it to me at her yard giveaway. This was no coincidence.

Easy Accent Decorator
Photo Credit: Pampered Chef

He inspired, again through the Holy Spirit, a man who shared office space with my husband, to say something to my husband. That something was the same thing that I had been saying to my husband for over a year. I needed a second witness and this man provided it. That something was a suggestion for my husband to apply out of state for a job, specifically in AZ, during our money troubles. My husband needed to hear it from someone else. You probably have experienced this too. I too have been in the same boat. My husband will tell me a truth, but I have to hear it from someone else to take it seriously. Anyway, that second witness of looking for a job in AZ prompted our move to AZ five years ago. In fact, I am publishing this post the day after the date, December 2, which marks our five year anniversary of moving to AZ. We have since moved back to Utah. Each move deserves its own separate blog post of inspired events orchestrated by Jesus. Those are for another day! Suffice it to say He was behind both moves.

He spoke through the Holy Spirit to my then 16 year old son to ask his siblings, if everyone had their seat belts on. I was the driver of the car with my four youngest as passengers. It was around 9 PM on a drive to Utah, as we wended our way through Las Vegas. That question saved my other son’s life. He did not have his belt on at the moment but then put it on because of his brother’s prompting. Five minutes later I collided head on with another car, going at least 45 mph. I am certain if my then 13 year old had not had his seat belt on, he would have gone sailing through the windshield and been seriously injured or killed. I am so grateful for this prompting of the Spirit. God still has work for this son to do.

He has inspired people through the Holy Spirit to offer to help us move a few times. In particular I had three friends who spent hours helping me dejunk, pack, and clean during the last move. I thank God for such amazing generous friends. When we moved to AZ we had amazing family and friends who helped us move as well.

He has been my refuge and my comfort during my troubled times. I have prayed in His name to my Heavenly Father and felt tremendous peace. Especially during this past year with the pandemic and my husband’s job loss a year ago, on Thanksgiving Eve.

He spoke to me through the Holy Spirit to guide us where to live when we moved when my husband got a new job in Utah. That guidance ultimately landed me in a place where I could meet The Candy Bomber, which is a dream come true.

He surprised me with blessings of two unspoken desires. I had not told these desires to anyone, not even my husband. Years ago, actually decades, LOL, when I was in college, I thought it would be wonderful to live in a certain neighborhood. Now, 30 years later, I am blessed to live in that very neighborhood. Another unspoken desire I had developed over the past 15 years was to have a light, bright, white kitchen. I have always lived in kitchens with dark cupboards. This last move, I was delighted to finally be blessed with a light kitchen with only white cupboards, countertops, and floor. I can only chalk this up to the miraculous intervention of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

As Moroni says in Ether 12:38, copied below, I advise you to seek this Jesus. He is a God of miracles. Praise His name! Let Him show up in your life. Pray to the Father in His name, asking Him to be your advocate for your specific desires.

“I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.”

May you be surprised and delighted by the miracles of Jesus in your own life!

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Last-Minute Thanksgiving Resources

Here’s a last-minute round-up of Thanksgiving resources.

The perfect recipe for a perfect turkey, from Heather Woods.

Gluten-free recipes of holiday faves are here, courtesy of Mommypotamus blogger Heather Dessinger. She’s got stuffing without bread (amazing!), pumpkin pie, and more! They all look delicious.

A super easy way to have grain-free pumpkin pie is to just go crustless. I use the Healthy Home Economist’s pumpkin pie recipe here and just put the filling in a well-buttered pie dish. I decorate generously with whipped cream and don’t miss the crust!

Beautiful printable gratitude declarations and Thanksgiving dinner conversation starter place cards are here, from my friend Katie Hansen of houseofthebook.org and gatheringplaceforfamilies.org.

Thank-you card printables are here, courtesy of blogger Jennifer Flanders. They are beautiful, Victorian style.

Thanksgiving-themed games are here. For ready-made Thanksgiving Scattergories, go here, again courtesy of Jennifer Flanders. Her ultimate Thanksgiving printable bundle is here. I highly recommend you sign up for Heather, Katie, and Jennifer’s mailing lists on their web sites.

I also suggest listening to the prophet President Nelson’s video below with his invitation to give thanks, then complete the #GiveThanks challenge.

Did you know this year marks the 400th year anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth? Here is a great website about the Pilgrims’ Quadricentennial. It has free documents to download to read aloud with your family, full of primary sources, and videos to watch. It’s so important we teach our children the sacredness of the Mayflower Compact and the Pilgrims’ search for liberty.

I also recommend listening to William Bradford’s own words, his “History of Plimoth Plantation.”

It’s totally OK to keep reading about Thanksgiving and Pilgrims after the Feast Day. I have a bunch of Thanksgiving and Christmas picture books that I’ll be reading throughout November, December, and even into January and February. Here is my Thanksgiving list and here is my Christmas list.

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Lastly, to help preserve liberty today, I highly recommend getting Connor Boyack’s Black Friday deal, to teach yourself and your family about how to apply the principle of liberty in real life. Go here to learn more. Full disclosure: that is an affiliate link so I do get a commission if buy the deal.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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