Happy Halloween

I'm pretty much a grinch when it comes to Halloween.  It's not my favorite.  The dressing up is kind of cute and fun.  Trick -or-Treating brings great memories to mind as a young person myself.  The candy?  I do like getting a little bit of chocolate.  :-)   So, I'm not really sure why I don't like this holiday.  I guess it's just the hassle of it all. And the endless amount of candy wrappers I find all over the house for weeks on end (okay, had to get that out for some reason). 

Still, there are a couple of very fun traditions at our house I do love on this day....

1) Dinner in a Pumpkin - - yes!  This meal is cooked inside a pumpkin.  One year I actually made small, individual-sized pumpkin bowls for the family.  Here's the recipe:

1 small pumpkin
1-4 oz. can mushrooms (or fresh, sliced)
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken
2 TBSP olive oil
1-8oz can water chestnuts (sliced)
1-2 lbs. ground beef
1 1/2 c. cooked rice
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar

Directions:  Clean out pumpkin.  Brown ground beef with onion.  Cook the rice.  Mix all ingredients together and place inside of pumpkin.  Place pumpkin on a cookie sheet and bake @ 350 for 1 hour. 

2) Family Movie Night
Every Halloween night, after the trick-or-treating has ended, we come home and watch a scary movie.  Well...scary by kids' standards anyway.  We let the kids inhale their candy all they want during the movie, too  (which somewhat minimizes the candy wrapper scenario). 

We've watched thusfar:
Jurasic Park
Harry Potter #2 (it had just come out)
The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock)
Monster House
Some random Hansel and Gretel movie that my hubby and I slept through (that was a bad year)

This year's movie:  Watcher in the Woods
Do you remember that Disney movie from childhood?  Yeah.  I hope it's as scary as I remember it being then.  Unfortunately, my oldest will not be present because of a dance (I tried to persuade him otherwise).  So, really it will just be our girls watching with us (the little boys will be watching Jurasic Park earlier in the evening). 

Do you have any movie suggestions?  Let me know...'cuz I'm always searching!

 “God gave us memories, that we might have June roses in the December of our lives.”  - - James Barrie (Scottish poet)


Ghastly Book of the Week

As promised...here is the new Halloween classic in our home.

image from akalak.nupo.ur

WARNING:  This one is NOT for the faint-hearted.  Be prepared to be appalled. 

However, if you're tougher...be prepared to laugh.  A LOT.


Cemetery School

When I was in high school and attending early morning seminary, I laughed when a non-LDS friend of mine said, "What?  You go to the cemetery every morning?" 

Well, now my kids can say, "Yes.  We go to the cemetery for school!"

One day this week we will have what I like to call "Cemetery School." 

Math:  Using subtraction, have the kids figure out how old the person was when they died.

Reading:  Find a name that starts with each letter of the alphabet (first or last).  Good luck with X!

We also like to read a story of some sort...something about cemeteries or Halloween.  Tomorrow I will share this year's book (be ready, it's becoming a classic at our house!).

Science:  Okay.  This was a fascinating science fair project I stumbled upon.  If you don't do it yourself, it's at least really cool to read and tell your kids about.

Writing:  Draw a picture of your own tombstone.  Write your own epitaph for your grave.  

History:  Find the grave of a veteran.  What war did he/she fight in?  Did he die during the war or after?  Take a minute to discuss the circumstances surrounding the time period in which he/she would have fought.

Art:   Tombstone Rubbings:  Place a sheet of paper over the grave stone.  Using the long side of a crayon (peeled), rub along the tombstone and see the picture show through.

FUN:  Have a picnic lunch with Tombstone pizza!  :-)   

Play the backyard game:  Ghosts in the Graveyard (if possible in the daylight)


Bill Cosby Tonight!

It's true!  For my birthday this year my hubby got me tickets to see Bill Cosby!

I'm sure I am not the only one out there raised on The Cosby Show.  To this day I still like to watch episodes for great parenting advice.  Like the time Vanessa got "caught" playing a game with bourbon and came home drunk.  Her older sister tried to hide it, but parents do have a way of finding these things out.  So as "punishment" instead of a lecture the parents decided to "play the game" with Vanessa  (secretly with apple juice instead of bourbon). 

Yes, I would love to be such a parent.  Maybe I would be if I had a script to follow!  :-)  It doesn't hurt to have role models, though, fake or real.  :-)

So, tonight I will hopefully be laughing and enjoying a childhood idol.

Hope your weekend is just as fun!


Book of the Week

image provided by amazon.com
 This book is fabulous for those who love comics like Calivin and Hobbes.  It's great for those who are reading independently but not ready for longer books yet.  It's just a great, fun book to get the kids an overview of American Hisotry.  My son, JL, is loving it!  There are also versions on Physics and Chemistry.  Check them out!


Weekend of Weekends

Variety Show Dancers  (yes, I'm the gangsta')

Okay!  I wish I could just share with all of you the amazing-ness (yes, I'm making up that word) of the Women's Retreat I was able to attend a couple of weeks ago.  It was so good!  It's just amazing when you can put 25 ladies from all walks of life (young, old, married, single, divorced, widowed, with children, without children, etc...) into one space for 48 hours and watch them learn to accept and love one another.  It was a weekend of great awakening for me as I truly experience the love of the Savior there.

I came home full of gratitude to my Father in Heaven for placing in my path the people I needed to get me to this spot in my journey.  Deinse sponsered the 8th Annual women's retreat this year.  She truly has a gift and I was honored to be a guest speaker at this year's retreat.  I met Denise thorugh a mutual acquaintance.  She had no clue who I was when I approached her with my own message to share, and yet she took a leap of faith and gave me this opportunity.  There is so much more that went into this experience, I can't even put it into words.  I am just truly grateful to have been there. 

The theme this year was Choose to Become.  We had a hike with challenges to overcome.  We had Zumba and a very funny variety show!  I was able to provide the devotional on "Choosing to Become Spiritually Minded" and there was another speaker/workshop on "Choosing to Nourish."  As a finale we had a team-building activity which led to tears on my part as I recognized yet another weakness of mine.  :-) 

As I said though, the weekend really wasn't about the activities so much as it was about how the women came together in love and unity.  I look forward to seeing these and other beautiful women in the future because I think I have discovered where I need to be and what I need to be doing with my own desire to strengthen and uplift women of the Church and in my community. 


Mentoring Mothers: Weaknesses

 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them. - - Ether 12:27 (Book of Mormon)

Does anyone really like to look at their weaknesses?  And yet at the same time, don't we all see our weaknesses more than our strengths?  It seems to be a Catch-22, doesn't it? 

As Mentoring Mothers we  had a great discussion a couple of weeks ago about discovering our missions in life by understanding our weaknesses.  Randall Wright mentions that in order to undestand who we are we must acknowledge our weaknesses. 

I remember sitting in a Relief Society meeting and someone made a comment about discovering our weaknesses.  The gal sitting next to me muttered, "Oh!  I already know mine."  I couldn't help thinking, "That's not what she (the commenter) means."  There's one thing to belittle ourselves over our weaknesses and another to fully acknowledge before God the characteristics that we lack to fully become one with Him. 

Recognizing our weaknesses is not saying, "She's good at that and I'm not."  Recognizing our weaknesses is an act of humility when we can go to our Father in Heaven and say, "Tell me what I can work on so I can be more like Thee." 

I had a harsh awakening at Education Week this year.  I was literally squirming in my seat, uncomfortable as I realized that the mesasge was to me and I didn't really want to hear it (though it did sink deep into my heart).  The topic was  (dare I admit it!)  on getting defenisve and being offensive.  

The funny thing is, when the Lord reveals a weakness to you (in many different ways), it's not so hard to swallow (as opposed to my husband telling me my weaknesses).  :-)  I almost found the information refreshing because I suddenly knew exactly what I needed to work on so I could be closer to true discipleship  (and I'm still working on it!). 

Another thing I appreciated from Acheiving Your Life Mission was how the author put weaknesses in a positive light.  For instance, President Hinckley was not a man of great patience and yet it was his impatience that got 100 temples dotting the earth in a short amount of time.  So, there are benefits to our weaknesses that we need to seek and learn from.


Food Day

Wednesday is Food Day
Doesn't sound too exciting, maybe.   But for me it's just what's on my mind! 

For awhile my husband has been eating low-carb.  Really low-carb.  Which also means no sugar.  For two years.  Yeah.  He's got more willpower than I can even dream of having. 

And yet, as he's talked about it and lived it for so long, I can't help but think about it myself.  With my own health issues that arose with my last baby's delivery, I got online to read about building one's immunce system.  Guess what?  You guessed it.  Low Carb, no sugar. 

So, I've been thinking about this for awhile.  And am finally reading more about it.  The book Eat to Live landed in my hands this week.  As I've read the book I've had in my mind (and in my prayers) one specific question:  What small step can I take that will help me change for good?  I really would like to just change tomorrow and never look back.  I don't like slow-process change.  But that just isn't realistic (especially when feeding six children who will not change so drastically). 

I liked a couple of thoughts from Eat to Live:  Salad is the main dish and fresh fruits & vegetables should make up 90% of your diet.  This is a very pro-vegetarian book and I don't know that I'll go quite that far (yet) but I do like the idea of just increasing my veggie intake.

Okay, so now that I got all of that out of my system...what does it have to do with Joyful Mondays?  Well, I guess we can just take a moment to evaluate our own diets and then educate our children on taking care of their own bodies.  We teach them not to say no to drugs, alcohol and smoking, so why not take it a step further and teach them the good stuff we can put into our bodies for nourishment and health? 

"Yea, and the herb, and the agood things which come of the earth, whether for food or for braiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;  Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the abenefit and the buse of man, both to please the eye and to cgladden the heart;  Yea, for afood and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to bstrengthen the body and to enliven the soul."
 - - Doctrine & Covenants 59:17-19


My Grandma

I know my posts have been sparse the week.  I have so much to share...women's retreat, Mentoring Mothers, more great books to share!  However, this week has been a bit of whirlwind as I've tried to prepare for yet another weekend away.  My grandmother, Lucille Evans Pack, passed away this last Tuesday and so I am heading to her Mermorial this weekend.  Just me.  So, I've been trying to get things done here at home so I can leave with as little chaos as I can.  :- )

Grandma with David 2011
My grandma was/is such a sweet, sweet lady.  All I remember of my grandma are sweet smiles, lots of laughter, and just a positive feeling all around.  We didn't grow up near her and so my memories consist of our few visits down to St George as a child.  I remember playing Concentration at her house many times (I think it's still there in her home!).  My sister and I were always giddy to choose which cute plate set we'd use at Grandma's;   Raggedy Ann and Andy was the one I remember.  Most of all I just remember the peace that I felt in her home.  

The great blessing for me and my family is that we were able to be there to visit her just a year ago this week.  I had kept saying year after year, "We need to go see Grandma."  Now I see that had we pushed it off one more year, we would have been too late.  The kids just remember her laughing a lot.  She went out of this life happy.  :-)

Death is always such a bittersweet experience.   This was definitely her time.  I want to say she just turned 99 this last month (but it might just be 98).  And she's been alone for nearly 20 years.  I can just imagine the sweet reunion she had with my grandpa after being separated for so long.   Her joy for life will be felt for generations. 


Cake Time!

Happy Monday!

TODAY is one of my kids' favorite days...
(October is full of favorites for us!)


(This pictures are from a few years ago...
Look how young my kids look.  Sigh)

This one is pretty simple to celebrate.

Just bake a cake for each of your kids, get some frosting...and start decorating. 

We also like to read the following:

image from genesisartandbooks.com

image from thehomeschoolmom.com


"Book" of the Week

Almost better than listening to General Conference, I LOVE the May and November Ensign.  I look forward to the opportunity to really study, simmer and chew on the teachings from our prophets and apostles.  So good! 

Wait!   Even better...I just checked the LDS website and the words are already up for printing!! 

At Education Week I had the opportunity to hear from Elder Russell T. Osguthorpe, General Sunday School President.  Incidentally, he also spoke at this session of conference!  Anyway, in his message at Education Week he shared how the Brethren teach. 

Russell T. Osguthorpe
General Sunday School President

Within each of their talks you will find three things:
* Doctrine
* An Invitation
* A Promise

In our own teaching at home, we can do the same for our children.  We can teach them the true doctrines and principles.  We can invite them to join us in following those principles and then we can honestly promise them the blessings as perscribed in the scriptures and from conference.  The same applies if you have been set apart as a teacher in any of the Church organizations. 

So, as you read the conference talks this time around, look for those three things.  I'm going to highlight each in a different color to differentiate what I've been asked to do and then vividly see the promises that will be mine if I follow the teachings.  This truly is one of my favorite times of year.  It's like, a chance for renewal and change.  Love it!


President Monson's Invitation

Did you know that saying, "Thank you" gives you a boost of serotonin?  Do you even know what serotonin is?  Serotonin is the homrone in your body that makes you feel good.  Many of those who suffer with depression or other forms of mental health have a lack of serotonin, the "happy hormone."  

Well, I just learned at education week that if you think thank you, you get a boost.  That boost increases when you write a note to say thank you.  But when you stop and meaningfully say "Thank you" the boost rises incredibly.  Try it.

So, I was thrilled to hear President Monson's invitation for us to write down our blessings, big and small. 

President Thomas S. Monson
President of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

 We live in a unique time in the world’s history. We are blessed with so very much. And yet it is sometimes difficult to view the problems and permissiveness around us and not become discouraged. I have found that, rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness.

         As I have reviewed the past 49 years, I have made some discoveries. One is that countless experiences I have had were not  necessarily those one would consider extraordinary. In fact, at the time they transpired, they often seemed unremarkable and even ordinary. And yet, in retrospect, they enriched and blessed lives—not the least of which was my own. I would recommend this same exercise to you—namely, that you take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you  have received. 

I Accept the Challenge!


My Committment

Baptism,Becoming as a child and Discipleship of Christ were the themes I picked up during General Conference this time around. Maybe it's because I've seen this same theme running throughout the Book of Mormon as I've read and studied this year.  Maybe it's because that's just the message I needed to hear.  :-)  Either way, this theme gave me something to focus on for the next six months. 

I like to ask myself after General Conference, "How am I going to change my life based on what I just heard?"  Well, Becoming Christlike is a large bite to swallow, much more easily said than done. And so I picked out two characteristics or actions on which I need to improve during my journey of discipleship. 

 One of the most frequent comments I get as a homeschooler is, "Oh, I am just not patient enough to do that."  Really?  Ask my kids how patient I really am!  :-)  I like Elder Maxwell's antonyms for patient:  "hectic, hurried or pushy."  From Elder Bednar we were reminded this conference that to fill our lamps with the oil of conversion we must add one drop at a time, persistently and patiently, line upon line.  It's too easy for me to think, "I know it so I must be able to it."  And then I mess up.  I need to be patient with myself. 

Also, as a mother I want things done now.When I say, "do that" I expect my kids to jump.  Right then.  I think this is a bit of a silly expectation.  Yes, they could learn respect and to obey quickly...but not because I am feeling "hectic" or "hurried."  So, yeah, need more patience.

 My goal:  More meaningful prayers.  This was also a recurring theme I gleaned from Education Week in August.  The idea that our prayers can and must become more meaningful.  I'm good at saying the quick prayers in the shower, in the car, while I'm cooking in the kitchen.  Yeah, carrying a prayer in my heart comes naturally to me.  And yet, looking back and recognizing the times I have honestly communicated with my Father in Heaven rather than just saying, "Yeah, I know you're there, so help me please,"  there is a difference.  A difference in how I act afterwards on what I said or asked for in my prayers.  A difference in the feelings and emotions that I express during that private moment.  Truly speaking with and expecting answers takes us to just one more level of spiritual mindedness, one more step to true discipleship.

So, yeah...that's what I think I'm going to work on for the next six months.

How about you?


Exciting Church News

It was announced at General Conference this weekend (as most of you know) that the eligible missionary age was changed for both young men and young women.  I have to tell you that tears came to my eyes with this announcement and when I asked my husband if he'd heard the news he responded, "Yes!  And I felt power at that moment."  It truly was a prophetic moment. 

Change in the way things are run within the Church is often met with anticipation, excitement as well as some doubt and opposition.  Usually, changes are not easily accepted by me.  When certain changes have occurred in the past, I have been somewhat...I won't say doubtful...but close.  :-)  I like to think, "If things are working well, why change it."  But, I have to remind myself that just because it's working for me doesn't mean it's working for everyone.  ;-) 

With this new announcmenet, however, I truly felt instantly the necessity for this change.  Coupled with the announcement of the new youth cirriculum for 2013,  I feel like it was almost a call to increase our efforts because the end is coming nigh.  I immediately thought of my own sons and where they might be on their journey to becoming missionaries.  I especially thought of my daughter, B, who has expressed sincere and passionate desire to serve a mission.  She was giddy with joy in realizing that she could go as soon as she turns 19 rather than waiting for three more years. 

And yet, really, the bar is being raised for parents as well.  Raised for us to recognize that we need to prepare our youth for earlier service, to be more committed at home in teaching our youth the things they need to be strong in the increasingly evil world around them.  Oh, the power that came with this prophetic change and the desire that was stirred in me to increase my efforts and be "more diligent at home" (see Elder Bednar 2010).  What a great responsibility and privilege it is to be the parents of this rising generation.


Celebrating Conference

General Conference Jeopary

After every General Conference our family enjoys a "supposed to be fun" game of Jeopardy.
This year a few of the kids were old enough to take notes and were eager to have all the answers.  We'll see! 

This year's topics:
News & Callings
President Monson: His Life and Teachings
General Conference Teachings

Do you know the answers (questions)?

1. The number of temples currently in operation.

2. President Monson's daughter who spoke this time.

3. President Monson's age.

4. The scripture story shared by both Elder Holland and Elder Hales.

5. The final hymn sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

6. Mormon Tabernacle Choir director.

7. The new acceptable missionary age for elders (so exciting!).

8. President Monson invited us to take inventory of these.

9. The two new temples announced in these locations.

10. He was released as church historian and gave one of the closing prayers.

Good Luck!!


Food Battles

Putting my Foot Down

Oh, man! I'm already seeing that we've been much more lenient with the younger kids than the older ones. Why does that happen? Especially when I swore it wouldn't! :-) To all you young mothers: NEVER SAY NEVER! ;-)

We just had an all out battle with our 5 year old. When my three oldest were younger we had pretty strict rules about mealtime:  you show gratitude to your mother by eating your meal and not complaining. Once we discovered if the oldest complained (or any of them, really) the others would follow suite. Not happening! So we created a rule that if you complained you had to eat all of your food. If you didn't complain, but just ate whatever you wanted on your plate and left the yucky stuff, I probably wouldn't even notice anyway! That worked.

Until recently. I swear, anything new I fix the two younger boys will not eat it. I'm not sure which one usually says “no” first, but the other one will inevitably copy...even without taking one bite!

So, my husband and I were discussing this very thing last night before dinner, thus making it the wrong night to decide you didn't like the food. After E refused multiple times to not eat his food and continued to cry about it, we enforced the old rule. “You complain, you eat it.” He was in his room for quite awhile and went on a walk with the family while his food sat on the kitchen counter.

When we got home from the walk he proceeded to open a banana. I simply looked at him and said his name when he defended himself, “But I'm hungry.” I reminded him he needed to finish dinner first.  He reluctantly allowed me to feed him. After about the third bite or so I asked, “Do you like it?” And he said, “Yeah. This is yummy!” Success!!

(Next time JL will be the one we target!)

Oh, the joys of motherhood!


I'm Homeschooled

Here's a poem my little A wrote....and had it published on the Homelink website!

I am homeschooled
That’s what I like best
With my mom as my teacher
And my own little desk
With my own level of math, reading and more
I am homeschooled
But there’s still more
I have a pencil for writing and a book to read
I am homeschooled and that’s just me!


Hiking in Seattle

Our family headed up to Seattle with another bunch of homeschooling families.  We saw the amazing King Tut exhibit at the science center there.  Unfortunately, no pictures of that...but we did take our own little family hiking the day before and got some fun family shots!

I love this picture!

Can you see the spider web...or the spider?  

Looking for skeeter bugs.  


Book of the Week: Awesome Man

 image from abc.nl

If you have a fun loving, high energy, needs-anger-management-sometimes type of boy...THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!!

We just stumbled upon this one at the library last week and I LOVE IT! 


Joyful Monday: Balloons

October 3rd, Wednesday, is Balloons Around the World Day.  This is one of my favorites!   Our tradition is each year is to get a helium balloon for each child, have them write a message on their balloon, and then send it up into the sky.  It's encouraged to write nice messages for people to find....unless you have a 7 year old boy who writes, "You will die tomorrow."  Yeah.  Fun times.

Here are some other things I'd like to do this year:

Literature Frist: 

image from wickipedia.com

One of my favorites for older readers. 
Just a quirky story about how one small island of people is saved by 21 Balloons.

image from barnesandnoble.com 

image from Goodreads.com

Hooda Math is a great webstie for math games I just stumbled upon.  The Balloon Math game is a fun way to practice your math facts.

Also you can blow up different sizes and shapes of balloons (get the mixed pack).  Measure, sort by size and color, talk about circumference, and more.

Have balloon rocket races  races.  Slide a long piece of string through a straw and tie each end of the string to two secure stakes (or trees, whatever is stable).  Tape the balloon to the straw.  Blow up the balloon, do not tie.  When ready to race, let the air go out of the balloon and watch it shoot across the yard.  Okay...maybe you'll find a better explanation here

Balloon Art: 
Remember in Princess Diaries where Mia and her mom are throwing darts and paint-filled balloons?  Well, I have always wanted to do that!  I don't know if we'll get to it this year, but I would love to put up a large sheet of paper on our back fence and make cool balloon art. 

Too messy and challengine?  Just make balloon animals instead!  All kids love these.  :-)

image from clown-ministry.com

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