Happy Memorial Day

To our friends and family past and present who have served and sacrificed for our country, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Happy Memorial Day, and may God bless America!


Sticking Together

I wanted to quickly share one of my favorite things that we've done as a family while I've been so absent from the internet.  Last month I read a blog series on Intentional Parenting, and when I saw the activity she suggested for day two, I couldn't wait to do it!

For Family Home Evening a few weeks ago we traced each of our hands, and took turns telling what we loved about one another.  On each person's hand I recorded what everyone else in the family loved about them, then we glued our hands together on a piece of cardstock, dated it, and put it up for display.  I love seeing it every day on the chalk board in our school room.

I wanted the date so I would remember what their little hands looked like at different ages, and now I'm glad I did, because I think this is going to become an annual family tradition.  I can't wait for the day when we have to use more pieces of cardstock because we have more little hands!!


Week In Review: The Duchess Bakes a Cake

About two weeks ago we had lots of fun "rowing" The Duchess Bakes A Cake by Virginia Kahl.  This is a cute book about a Duchess who decides to make a "lovely, light, luscious delectable cake", without a recipe or help from the cook...  Let's just say, her independence leads to some steep consequences! 

Social Studies
We talked about the feudal system, and used the manual lessons to discuss consequences and problem solving.  Throughout the week we read Castle by David Macaulay.  I was a little worried that this would be over their heads, but Bitsy begged to read it every day, and Manly was fascinated by the pictures. 

After reading A Medieval Feast by Aliki we had our own little feast for dinner with beef wellington, mashed potatoes, and peas.

Language Arts
We learned about alliteration and rhyme, which led to lots of tongue twisters, such as "She sells seashells by the seashore" and the children's favorite, "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood..."  These little alliterative rhymes were great time consumers in the car!  There were several new vocabulary words in the manual, and we practice list making by trying to recall all of the characters from the story.

We also worked on filling out our story map to help reinforce the elements of a story.  (To make a poster sized story map, you'll want to go here.  Thanks to Our Homeschool Fun for the fabulous idea and the link!)

The manual had great stick drawings that we could place over the illustrations in the book to learn about movement in illustrating.  I traced the figures from the manual onto parchment paper, and then gave the whole stack to the little ones so they could match them up.  Bitsy loves puzzles, so she thought it was great, and she was actually a lot better at it than I was!   

When daddy got home he helped with us build our other art project...  a popsicle stick catapult
Should you decide to make your own, be forewarned, that it has a pretty good range.
 Needless to say there were lots of pompoms flung all around the house!

This was one of my favorite days this week.  We started off using this great list to make our own cake.  The children choose the ingredients, mommy choose the amount of the ingredients, and together we baked their cake.
When it was all said and done we had a fairly good chocolate chip spice cake.  We talked a little  about how much nicer it might have tasted if we had followed a recipe.  :)
Daddy helped us again when he got home by playing "Storm the Castle" with Bitsy. 

We finished up our week by using natural dyes to make a "lovely, light, luscious, delectable" rainbow cake.  The little ones loved mixing the dyes into the cake batter. 
 I saw the recipe for this a few weeks ago, and had been looking for a time and reason to try it, and this row seemed perfect.  The colors weren't as bright as if we had used food coloring, but I think it was beautiful, and it was a lot of fun to see how people dyed things before running out to pick up a box of food coloring.  (The recipe calls for 5 1/2" inch pans, but since I didn't have any, we just stacked cupcakes on top of one another and secured them with bamboo skewers.  We also varied our natural dyes a little which is why it's not as bright, and only added the buttercream frosting.) 

Just For Fun
We ended our week with a wonderful trip to Medieval Times.  This was such a fun experience for all of us!!  
Bitsy loved watching the beautiful horses perform, and Manly was thrilled with the jousting and fighting.  Manly loved the whole thing, and looked like this pretty much the whole time. 
At one point as one knight knocked the other knight down I heard him shout, "Oh yeah!", and every time our knight would compete he would wave his banner as hard as he could... And momma would protect little Lettie's eyes!  :)


Summer Fun

Is your family as excited about summer as ours is?!  Bitsy has been asking me for weeks if she can swim in her little pool, but it's just been to cold... So, we decided to have a little outdoor fun that wasn't quite as wet, and made sponge bombs.  I intended to make these last year after seeing them on Counting Coconuts, and just never got around to it...  I'm glad we got to it this year!       
To make your own, get a few packages of sponges from the store, and cut each sponge in quarters length wise.  (Then if you just can't help but make it educational have your children sort all the sponges by color.)
Of course, after you've done that your baby will decide that it really wasn't that fun to have them in piles and will mix them back up for you.  :)

After all of the sponges are in quarters pick out eight strips and bundle them together.  Put a zip tie in the middle, and fasten it as tight as you can with a pear of pliers, then use the pliers to twist off the extra tie.  If you twist it instead of cutting the end of the zip tie isn't so sharp.  House of Hepworths suggests making tying them with fishing line, but we had zip ties on hand, and they were really easy.  (She has a great tutorial, with more pictures.)
Once assembled, add the sponge bombs to a bucket of water, or your bath tub, and start tossing!  Since I try to avoid my camera and water meeting, we don't have any pictures of the tossing, but maybe I'll be brave sometime this summer and get some. 


The Land of Fruit and Honey Muffin Tin Meal

Remember how I promised a post on our Book of Mormon camp food?  Well, here it is, more than a few days later...  :)

When we read Chapter 5 in the Book of Mormon Stories it mentions that "they found fruit and honey", so we had a yummy fruit and honey muffin tin snack.  (This is also a great Old Testament snack, because Numbers 13:27 says that Canaan "floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.")

To go along with our fruit and honey we also made "Fake Locust Biscuits" from "Old Testament Days: An Activity Guide". 
According to the book Abraham and his family would mix flour and honey and add in ground locusts to make biscuits.  There is a recipe included in the book, but to make your own without the book, simply add 1/4 cup of sliced almonds that you've crushed into your favorite baking powder biscuit recipe.  Despite the gross name, these were actually really yummy with a little butter and honey!!


Happy Mother's Day

I want to share this little Mother's Day gift with you!  I just love this video, and I'm so grateful for Kelly's post yesterday reminding us of all we can learn from Mother Mary.  

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks guest posts as much as I have.  These women, and so many others have touched and blessed my life, and I love them for it!!

I want to end this week with some thoughts that my wonderful father in-law shared with me on Friday.  He emailed me the following:

"I was going through your blog today and reread your super mom section.

All Moms are Super.
My mom when back to school when her youngest was 4.  (She was the mother of 10!)  She then taught school,cooked, helped with homework, cleaned house, washed, did her numerous church jobs, cared for an acre garden, and canned. 

Anyway, YOU are doing what MOMS have done since EVE.  There are rewards like when your children give you a hug or kiss.  The small flashes of brilliance; the exuberant excitement of new skills and knowledge.  The years of dirty diapers, dirty dishes, dirty house, and dirty kids will fade with time.

KNOW that you are loved and understood.  This will turn out alright."
Wherever you're at on the motherhood journey, remember, you're super, your loved, your Father understands, and it's all going to turn out alright.  Happy Mother's Day moms! 


Mother's Day Reflections

 I'm excited to have my amazing friend Kelly share her thoughts on motherhood with us today!  I was blessed to have Kelly enter my life a few years ago when I was going through a lot of transitions.  When I met her I felt like I had met a "kindred spirit".  As I try and write this "intro" I am really at a loss for words to describe this dear woman.  Since we met we have taken turns moving all across the country, but I have spent many hours on the phone receiving comfort, counsel, and peace from her.  In my darkest hour she has been there for me.  Kelly is a source of inspiration and encouragement to me, and I hope she will be to you too.       

      May is a month for the celebration of motherhood. We have on the second Sunday of this month, of course, evidence that even the secular world can and does acknowledge all that mothers do. Additionally, the Catholic Church has ordained that the entirety of the month of May be a time to reflect on and honor the exalted motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, without whom no other motherhood can have meaning. To be more clear, it is because of the obedience, sacrifice, and charity of this greatest of all mothers, that the life of any mother or child has eternal and significant meaning. I cannot reflect on my own motherhood without reflecting on hers. In and through this woman, the Theotokos, or God bearer, the Word made Flesh comes to dwell among us. As God desired Mary to be His means of coming to man, so he desires still that she be our means of coming to Him.
        Jesus saw his own mother, and the disciple standing near whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son". Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother". And from that hour, he took his mother into his family. (Jn 19: 26-27)
        “He took his mother into his family.” Let us imitate this most beloved of Apostles. My chief concern as a mother is that my children be close to their Savior. That can be an intimidating goal. Honestly, I will never be even close to a perfect mother. But I am consoled. My children already have a perfect mother. This is something that it does me much good to reflect on during the day: my children are not my own. Not only do they belong first to our Father in Heaven, but they belong to their spiritual mother. Mary gives birth to all who desire the Kingdom of her Son, as her Firstborn went before us in all things. My little ones, at every stage of their lives, belong to the Queen of Heaven. How good God is to give them such a mother!
And how tenderly and with what great dignity should these sons and daughters of the Queen be handled!  This is a lesson I have been so slow to learn. How wrong it would be not to teach them all virtue, according to their dignity! I can picture our Lady... never angry, gently correcting, generously rewarding, justly praising, kindly admonishing, watchfully protecting, wisely guiding, sharing all grief, sharing all joy, and keeping these things in her heart. She is our model in all things, but especially in “keeping these things in her heart.” It is this quiet, reflective side of motherhood we so often forget to observe. Truly, our children are a mystery to us. Their lives unfolding in our hands, we try to get to know them, to learn to interact well with their temperaments, to correct their vices, to nurture their strengths, but in the end we really have no idea of or control over God’s vocation for them. But we can ponder the mystery of their lives in our hearts and cover them in our prayers.
Motherhood requires abandonment and surrender, in imitation of our Lord, in imitation of our Lady. I am quite certain that is part of God’s plan - that we as mothers learn to surrender to Him that which is most dear to us. As Mary stood at the foot of the cross, I am sure that all appeared so bleak. Yet she is our Lady of Hope. At some point our little ones will not be so little anymore, and as hard as abandonment and surrender is, in this we will maintain our peace: trust in the Lord. Look to our Lady. With a capacity greater than we shall ever possess, she who faithfully witnessed the death of her Son and our Savior, loves our children and desires their salvation. My children belong to her. She can say to her Son, who was always obedient to her, “Poor out your grace upon this child of mine,” and He can not deny her request.  As I said, I am not a perfect mother. I can try to imitate our Lady, but will and do fail often. No woman ever raised a saint on her own merit; but by the grace of God alone is this done. In this month of May, let us have recourse to the Mother of the Most High, and pray that she will intercede for us as mothers and for our children, showering us all in the grace of her Son, and uniting us to Him in spite of ourselves.
Remember, O most compassionate Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to Thy protection, implored Thy assistance, or sought Thy intercession, was left unaided.  Inspired by  this confidence, we fly unto Thee, O Virgin of virgins, our Mother;  to thee we come;  before thee we  kneel, sinful and sorrowful.  O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in Thy clemency hear and answer them.  Amen


Children Don't Come With an Instruction Manual

Today's guest post comes from my blogging friend Jaime, from Welcome to the Madness.    She shares awesome preparedness tips, great recipes, and fun homeschool ideas among other things on her blog.  Remember the Proverbs 31 woman?  Jaime's showing us how it's done!  She loves buttons, books, seed catalogs, and most importantly her family.  I'm so excited to have Jaime share her thoughts on motherhood with us today, and I hope you feel as encouraged as I do by her.
Three years ago our family made a life altering decision to homeschool.

I considered myself a good mother before, but Woah Nellie! when my kids were all home, ALL.THE.TIME, well that was a whole nother story!  I had to change my whole life and attitude and as such learned some valuable lessons about being a mother.

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World there are a couple lines that really stand out to me.

  1. "Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. " 
  2. "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."
How was the yelling, impatient mom who I had turned out to be going to rear her children in love and righteousness?  How was I going to nurture my children when all I wanted to do was have a break?

Here are a couple things that I learned about myself and about being a mom.
  • It is OK to take a break.  I often just retreat into my bathroom and take a long (HOT) bubble bath and read a book just for me.  Sometimes it is fluffy and funny, sometimes it is a cookbook, but whatever it is, it is a book I want to read.
  • It is OK to give yourself a time out.  Sometimes when I am really frustrated I find myself snapping at my children (please tell me I am not alone...) and I need to just go to my room, pray and calm down.  I give myself a 15 min break and return a better Mom.
  • Some days just don't go according to plan.  I needed to learn how to be flexible.  I needed to learn that some things are important, and some really aren't. 
  • Some days are lazy.  It is OK to take a day off and just be lazy.  Some of our best memories are the days we have just taken a break and walked along the river throwing rocks.  Or exploring a new park.  Or checking out the new museum.  It is OK to do this.  Life will not stop if the laundry is not done that day, or if the beds are changed tomorrow. 
  • Once in a while it is fun to just be a kid.
  • Read to your kids.  Not only does this give you some time just with your children, it is such a wonderful teaching time as well.  Our favorite reads are totally interactive and the whole family can take part in them.  We especially love discussing the scriptures and the treasures we find there.
  • Music really does calm the savage beast.  Sometimes we just love to put on the music, close the curtains (important step there!) and dance around the house.  When we are otherwise unhappy it is impossible to stay that way after dancing like a silly person around the house.
  • Love your spouse.  This has been my biggest learning thing ever.  You would think after 15 years of marriage I would know this and not have to re-learn it, but I do.  When Mom and Dad are happy, kids are happy.  Trite, but oh so true.
Being a Mom has been my greatest blessing and my greatest learning experience.  Children don't come with a book, they don't have care labels and they for sure don't have an instruction manual.  We learn by doing and loving. 

I am so thankful that I have been blessed with three of the most amazing little men a mother could ask for.


Love Multiplies

Some people collect stamps, or spoons, but I collect moms.  :)  As I've grown, and as we've moved back and forth across the country I've gathered Titus 2 moms to lead and guide me along the way.  Today's guest post comes from one of my very first "extra" moms.  Betty carefully and quietly taught me in the Gospel, in addition to caring for her other children (those rowdy ones pictured above).  She and her husband always opened their home to me, and now they have opened it to my husband and children as well.  Their family was an example to me of joyous devotion to the Father, and I hope she will be an encouraging joyous example to you as well!  They also have some good wrestling tips.  :)

A new first-time mother once confessed that she could not possibly have another child.  I was surprised and gave her the opportunity to elaborate upon her feelings.  She said sadly, “My heart is so full of love for this baby, I don’t think I have any left over for another child.”

You can imagine my relief as I explained my theory: that we don’t “use up” or “run out” of love, but that as we love others, our ability to love multiplies, while our hearts expand to hold our love for each of them without diminishing the love for a single one.
I have had the love of 2 mothers on this earth: I grew up with my adopted mother, clueless that my birthmother watched from nearby.  My 2 mothers each made personal sacrifices which taught me to respect the role of motherhood and rejoice in it.

As a young mother, often overwhelmed by the responsibility of having a tiny being [or 2 or 3!] completely dependent upon ME … I wondered how Heavenly Mother handled things. WWHMD ?  She must be the epitome of charityI decided that as an eternal being, Heavenly Mother has an eternal [inexhaustible!] supply of charity. 

"And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation."

As an “immortal being having a mortal experience,” I find comfort in this counsel: 

"And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace"  Doctrine & Covenants 88:125,
and hope in this: 
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity, shall cover the multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8  [which you will notice reads: “the multitude” rather than “a multitude” … BIG difference!]

May we all discover the daily joys of our eternal motherhood!

Betty Gish, Mother of 4, Grandma to 14, (and I will add) Example to MANY.

Motherhood has its own reward … Grandchildren !!!


The Post I Wasn't Going to Post

I didn't intend to have a post today.  I didn't intend to until I opened my email this morning, and read another amazing post from Finding Joy.  I love it!  I'm encouraged by it!   

I hope you will take time to read it.  You'll be glad you did. 


The Crossroads

Image Source
My first guest post is from my dear friend and mentor Becca.  I met Becca while I was in college, and I was in awe of her knowledge of the Gospel and of scripture.  She taught me things I never imagined I could learn, and she showed me what a "sister scriptorian" looked like.  Her expectations of me were high, but gentle, and I have grown so much because of her!  She has mentored me as I have started homeschooling, and as a fellow military spouse she has encouraged me at times when I didn't feel anyone else could.  She also blessed me by raising an awesome daughter who has become one of my dear friends.  (Her other children are pretty great too.)  :)
Charles Dickens wrote, "I love these little people, and it is not a slight thing when they who are so fresh from God love us".  Our callings as mothers, and grandmothers, are not simply tasks before us.  Motherhood is not a "job".  There is no higher calling in this life than to be a wife and mother.  We do not accomplish much that is worthwhile when we try to do this on our own.  Those young, fresh faces who smile when they see us are so often the reflection of us when we are at our best.  And who hasn't had the experience of seeing themselves at their worst in their child's behavior.  Our families deserve the best we can give.  None of us is smart enough to figure this out without help!

The greatest successes I have had in my home have been a direct result of following the counsel given by the Lord.  Those words we hold as scripture are the greatest parenting manual ever written.  We learn best how to love, teach, support, and correct when we place ourselves in God's hands.  Finding other women who had amazing families, and spending time with them asking questions, and watching them with their children helped me find ways to put into practice what the Lord has asked us to do. 
One of the greatest pieces of counsel I tried hard to follow-one that had the most direct impact on all of us- came from Ezra Taft Benson.  He spoke with mothers and advised us to "be at the crossroads" of our children's lives.  Those times when they are coming home from school, activities, or time with friends-when they are preparing to leave for time away from home.  Attend church, activities, concerts, games, etc. with them.  Be there.  Be ready to listen, ask questions, and watch for opportunities to help.  Some of the best times for us was in the car when I picked my teenagers up from class at the local high school.  They were ready to talk about the happenings of the day, and I tried to make sure I was ready to listen.  When their friends needed a ride, I listened even more.  It was some of the best time I spent with them at that age!  Sharing the highs and lows, and conundrums of teenage life was a great experience. 
I am discovering the truth of the statement: mothering never ends.  It changes with the seasons of life, and then carries on into the eternities.  Our grandchildren offer us a chance to practice what we learned, and to reflect on the time when our children were young.  As I look back on the years of raising my own children, I find myself wishing we had prayed more, and lectured less.   I wish I had found more joy in the moment with those whom the Lord entrusted to my care!  I am grateful we worshiped as a family, worked together, and found ways to laugh at life.  Truly, if I could change anything we would pray together more, and follow the Spirit more exactly.  And I would look for even more ways to ensure that I was joyfully "at the crossroads" for each of my children.

(Becca doesn't blog, but you can read more from her on her website Utah Families.  I especially love her reading lists!)


It's a Bird, It's a Plane...

It's supermom!?  Over the last few months I've thought about this concept of "supermom".  Since I've started blogging several very close friends and family members have expressed their surprise at all I do in a day or week.  Several have been in awe, and one or two have even called me supermom.  I have to admit, I cringe a little anytime anyone tells me how amazing it is that I do what I do.  Not because I don't appreciate the compliment, but because I worry that somehow I have become a discouragement to them.  

I do what I do because it is what the Father has put in my heart to do.  I do it because that is what is right for our family, and what the Father has given me strength to do.  His plan for you is different, His plan for your family is different.  Don't yoke yourself to the wrong yoke.

I never want to discourage anyone with what I write or share.  I want to encourage.  I want to bless other mother's with encouragement, ideas, and strengthen.  I don't show the temper tantrums, the unmade beds, or the times when I just want to give up, and it's not because they don't happen...  It's because I want to show motherhood and family life at it's happiest.  After all, the Savior said it best when He said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."  None of us needs to give the Adversary any help by discouraging anyone!
Through the years, the Father has sent amazing women and mother's into my life.  These women have encouraged me, loved me, cried with me, been patient with me, and have set an example for me.  They have each been a part of the Father's process of molding me and improving me.  These women epitomize Titus 2 and Proverbs 31.

Just last week the Father provided me with the opportunity to spend a few DAYS with one of these amazing friends.  (Hello, DAYS, usually I'm lucky if I can get a few minutes on the phone with someone, this time the Father gave me days!!!)  Our families found joy in being together, and I left rejuvenated and encourage once again.  I also left thankful for the Lord's providence, in providing this particular friend to me.  The story of how we met is absolutely the story of answered prayer and of God's power!

I want you to have the same amazing uplifting experience I have had because of the women the Father has sent into my life, so this week, in honor of Mother's Day and my amazing, uplifting trip I have asked a few of the women who have had such a profound influence on me to share their thoughts on motherhood with YOU!  This week I will share several guest posts with you, many of them from women who don't normally blog.  I am thrilled that they have agreed to share their thoughts with all of us, and I hope you are as blessed and uplifted as I am by them!

So join me this week, and let's lift each other up.  No super capes necessary!

Here's a list of this week's posts:
The Crossroads by Becca Evenson
Love Multiplies by Betty Gish
Children Don't Come With Instruction Manuals by Jaime Roberts
Mother's Day Reflections by Kelly Rosamond


Lessons From the Tree House

Everyone loves a tree house, right?  You can play, explore, hide out, and let your imagination run wild in a tree house, but can you learn anything from a tree house?

After reading through Carol Alexander's "Lessons From the Tree House" my answer is a resounding, "Yes!"  About a week ago I came across Carol's website, Lessons from the Homestead, and I immediately fell in love.  I love using real life experiences to teach my children, but sometimes seeing just how much they can learn from those daily experiences is difficult, so I was thrilled to see that Carol's desire was to show others just how much they can learn from daily life. You can imagine then my excitement when I read that she was looking for people to review her newest booklet in the series, "Lessons From the Tree House."  I emailed her immediately, and I am so glad she gave me the opportunity to share her booklet with you!

Once I got my copy of the lesson plans I immediately printed them off, but before I had a chance to read them my husband picked them up and started....  and he wouldn't give them back until he was done.  As he read, I heard things like, "Oh yes, that's a really good idea" and, "That's really clever."  Later as I was reading the lessons and he was working on his laptop I looked over to see that he was pulling up tree house images on the internet.

Once I was finished reading through the lessons I wanted to start building a tree house too!  

So what got us so excited?  The booklet is divided into the three stages of the building project: The Design Stage, The Building Stage, and The Enjoyment Stage, and each section is full of different learning ideas that will include the entire family.  For example, in The Design Stage older children can learn to draw plans and take measurements, while younger children can help assemble materials and count mails and boards.  In The Building Stage why not take a family field trip to the hardware store and learn to identify different tools.  During The Enjoyment Stage read Luke 19 and learn about Zacchaeus.  (I LOVE using a tree house to teach about scripture, and never would have thought of that, but Carol did, several times!)  There are over 50 different learning activities included in the plans.

In addition to the lessons there are also great links to articles and books that will help with enhance your learning (I do love literature based learning), great pictures, and adorable quotes from children on the importance of tree houses.

I'm so grateful Carol gave me the opportunity to see how much our family can learn from building a tree house, and if you're like us and don't have tree in your yard, don't worry, there are plenty of ideas out there for indoor tree houses.  I know, my husband and I found them!

If you want to learn more about Carol and her lessons, drop by Lessons from the Homestead, I think you'll be glad you did!

I also received a copy of "Lessons From the Seed Catalog" and "Lessons From the Hen House."  Obviously we don't have chickens, but I will still be using many of the lessons with my little ones in the coming months, and we're going to be pulling the seed catalogs back out too.  You don't have to live on a homestead to benefit from these great lessons.

Disclaimer: I was provided all three e-books in exchange for my review of Lessons From the Tree House.  All opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own, and I truly LOVE Carol's books!


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