Monday, December 31, 2012

Heavenly Father Loves Me

A big focus of this year's primary theme (I Am a Child of God) is on teaching the children how to learn for themselves that their Heavenly Father loves them.  Not as a whole (although he does), but individually, specifically, each one of them. 

In our primary we've decided to center our spotlights around the theme of love.  One reason is because last year I really appreciated that the previous "ladies in charge" had centered their spotlights around the annual theme because I was able to use the children's responses to personalize our annual primary program.  Good idea, right?  I thought so. 

After talking about the theme as a presidency (the four of us ladies who are currently over-seeing the primary aged children) we decided to have our spotlights focus on what we saw as the two main focuses of this years theme and then I made some spotlight sheets.   

As it says on the bottom of our spotlight sheet, after being chosen as the spotlight, the child will get to come and put a warm, fuzzy in our jar.  We're going to use little yarn balls as our warm fuzzies and we chose those because it is often how we feel the Holy Ghost showing us our Heavenly Father's love.  I also love the idea of watching the jar of warm, fuzzies grow throughout the year!

We have a fairly small primary and so we'll be done with our spotlights before the year is even half over.  This is another reason I really like this idea for the spotlights, we can continue to talk about Heavenly Father's love and fill our jar even after we've officially spotlighted everyone.  Every week we'll either ask for a volunteer or draw a name out of our jar for someone to come up and tell us how they have felt Heavenly Father's love in their lives.  The intent is to get the kids looking for the small things that happen in their daily lives.

I'm very excited about this idea and can't wait to get started using it (I'd be happy to share my sheet with anyone who'd like a copy, just shoot me an email!).  How is the theme being implemented in your primaries?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Years Eve Cookies

Every year I do a Christmas cookie plate to take around to a few friends and neighbors.  Okay, okay, I'll admit it.  The biggest reason I make them is so that I can eat all the left overs.  Yep.  And yum!

This year I was a little slow.  We did school right up until the weekend before Christmas and I just couldn't seem to find an extra second let alone the few hours I needed.  I'd actually decided to just scrap the whole thing until one of my friends asked if I had done my plates yet and proceeded to say how very much she was looking forward to it.  Darn (and sort of yay, wasn't that nice of her?). 

So I made a plate of yumminess, except this year they were New Years cookies instead of Christmas cookies. 

My main, #1 goal this year was to simplify.  That's been more of a life goal that strictly a cookie plate making goal, but it worked amazingly well for the cookies, too.  I decided to just make 3 different items and in addition to make them SIMPLE!  They all turned out amazing and, even better, amazingly easy.

What do you think?  They look good don't they?  And better yet, they are.

Every year I make peanut butter balls (some of my Utah friends call them buckeyes, but I always grew up calling them plain old peanut butter balls) and then spend WAY too much time dipping them in chocolate.  This year (after seeing the idea on pinterest) I decided to make my pb balls into bark.  Did I mention simple?  Yes?  Well, these were the simplest and so yummy.  All you do is, melt dipping chocolate and pour onto some parchment paper, freezing until hard.  Layer your favorite peanut butter ball filling recipe on top of the hardened chocolate and then pour a second layer of chocolate on top.  Once it's hard, cut it up.  I even think the messier it is, the cooler it looks. 

I also love mint and encorporate it in some form every year.  This year I tried a new recipe I found on pinterest called White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge.  Umm, yum?  And it is.  It turned out to be a Taste of Homes recipe and you can find it here.  I highly recommend it.

Last are the sugar cookies.  I usually make them with my kids, spending hours cutting out cute Christmas shapes and decorating them.  We still make cookies together, but in the numbers I need for my plates, it takes a long time.  A really long time.  A really, really long time.

This year I saw the cutest idea!  You'll never guess where.  Okay, fine, it WAS pinterest (wahoo for pinterest!).  Step one, make your favorite sugar cookie recipe.  Mine is found in my favorite-est cookbook, Our Best Bites (it also has my very favorite alfredo, pizza dough, pizza sauce, strawberry cheesecake bars and so many other recipes).  Next, seperate your dough into two equal portions and dye one of them another color.  Then lay the two color on top of each other, rolling them up to create this super cool (and quick and easy) pinwheel.  Afterwards, I rolled mine in sprinkles for a little more color and festivity before sticking the whole log in the freezer.  Once they were hard, just cut them into slices and bake. 

I am very happy with how they turned out.  What are your favorite treats to make during the holidays?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Primary theme: Armor of God guy

I finally decided which guy I wanted to use and after downloading him from the Teaching LDS Children website, I opened him up in Photoshop and decided to try my hand at drawing the extra pieces on the computer. 

My computer drawing skills aren't amazing, but I'm happy with how it turned out.
I ended up using the exact guy (except I made him bigger) that you can download from the link above with only a few of my own additions.  I added right and left gloves, a cape/cloak and the title of liberty. 
From the Teaching LDS Children website you can download a full picture and all the pieces (except the ones I made) in both an 8.5x11 size and an 11x17 size.
Mine is 24x36.  I'm never sure which size is supposed to go first...height?  width?  The one I made is 36" tall and 24" wide made to fit the center section of a tri-fold presentation board (I think I'm going to put each months theme on the fold out flaps).  To print out the individual pieces, I made pdf's the biggest I could print in color, which is 11x17.  On each pdf I fit as many parts as possible and I still ended up with several. 
I was able to fit all the pieces really well except for the title of liberty, which at the 11x17 size ended up on FOUR different sheets.  I haven't decided yet if I want to get it printed at the 24x36 size, or print the four 11x17 sheets and then tape them together.  I'm leaning towards the four because it doesn't cost anything extra and after laminating it, I don't think it'll matter.
This is what he ended up looking like.  I have to say, I think he turned out pretty good (I'm not biased or anything).  If you'd like me to send you all the pieces, leave a comment or send me an email!
Have a wonderful year!
Update 5/10/13: I ended up getting a primary bulletin board in our foyer just recently and posted a picture about it in this post if you'd like to check it out!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Through the Years

There are certain times where I try really hard to take pictures of all my kids every year.  Christmas is one of those times. 

And you'd think, easy peasy (as my kids would say), right? Yeah, okay, it is, I just haven't quite made it every year.  Almost though.

I was looking back through the pictures today.  It was so fun to see how chubby Ben was, how goofy James was (and still is) and how Makenna has always tried to take care of (aka: boss around) her younger brothers.

In fact, it was so much fun I thought I'd share a couple with you.  You know, as a sort of Merry Christmas.  I hope you enjoy them!

Our first baby's very first Christmas.  I just want to jump in the picture and squeeze Makenna's cheeks!!

Makenna's big blue eyes are my very favorite part of this pic.  And her eyelashes.

If there is a way to look at this picture and not smile, I haven't figured it out.  It's like she's sharing an inside joke with the reindeer.  Adorable!

Okay, here are my two lost years.  Darn.  I think if I ask around my mother in law probably has pictures from 2004, but 2005 was the year we moved into our new home just a few weeks before Christmas.  I can't even remember that Christmas.  I may have blocked it out.
Here's Ben!  He's been around for the previous two Christmas's, but it's his first official (that I can find) Christmas picture.  Makenna worked so hard to get him to smile, she kept tickling his legs and if you look, you can see her hand going off the bottom of the picture tickling his toes to get this laugh.  What a great big sister!

Makenna, Ben and James in front of the tree.  I love Christmas trees.  A lot.

Every year we open one present on Christmas Eve.  Every year the present we open is PJ's.  Every year my kids are surprised (how long with that last?) and super excited!

Josh's first Christmas.  With his arrival, our family was/is finally complete.  Full of three lively boys and a miny mommy.

This blinged out card was our Christmas card picture.  If you look closely, you can tell that Josh's head was pasted from another picture.  Does anyone else have luck with getting all their kids to smile at the very same time?  Oh yeah, smile and look at the camera and not be smiling because they are doing something to one of their siblings?  If you do, could you tell me your trick?

I can't believe how much they've grown.  It's crazy to think that Makenna is more than half way to moving out.  Going to college (or getting married...holy cow...I think I might need a paper bag to breathe in) and starting her own life.  They are all so precious to me.  I'm so blessed to be able to spend so much time with them.  To love them and learn and grow right along side them.  Man, my life is pretty darn great.

I hope you've had a fantastic Christmas and wish all of you a wonderful new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


I have a secret to share.  I am full of conflicting wishes and desires. 

There is a part of me that would love to try living downtown in a big city.  I think being able to walk or take some sort of light rail to museums and restaurants and shows would be amazing!  I was first drawn to downtown living when I heard about the Hancock Building in downtown Chicago.
Isn't it beautiful?  Did you know that while the first half is commercial, the top half is all residential?  Imagine being able to take an elevator to work?  To the pool?  To the grocery store?  How cool would that be?  Plus, it's relatively close to the lake which has a fantastic path for walking, jogging and just being outside (when it's not winter and freezing).
But then, there's this other side of me.  This other part that seems to be growing over the years.  I've been reading several books lately on gardening, raising animals, and backyard homesteading.  Yes, I did just say homestead.  My husband thinks I have some survivalist in me...and maybe I do.  Just a little. 
I'm intrigued by the idea of being self sufficient.  Not enough to want to do all the crazy LOT of work it would take to be entirely self sufficient, but enough to want to know how to provide for myself and my family.  And there are lots of small things I can do now while not being too survivalist-ey.
For example, I could have chickens.  I really want chickens.  I don't have chickens, but I have been reading about them lately.
My most recent read is titled Keeping Chickens.  It's also the first one I've read that focuses exclusively on chickens and it's pretty interesting.  I've learned there's an awful lot I don't know about chickens.  I do know that I don't want chickens for meat.  I think it'd be fun to have my kids help me raise them (making them pets and un-eatable) as a sort of science/life/service/responsibility project. 
I've loved the book (so far, almost done).  Of course, I don't have any actual experience trying to use the information she's providing, so I suppose I can't personally say it's accurate, but it has good reviews and seems to be pretty comprehensive. 
So comprehensive in fact that I've learned a few things I'm not sure I really wanted to know.  I mean, they are things I would need to know if I end up raising chickens, but did I really need to know that the whites of eggs are made from the mucous collected around the yolk on it's voyage through the oviduct?  Mucous is not a yummy sounding word.  Not even a little.
The book also includes some building plans.  One of them is for a cute, small coop.  I'm not sure exactly what type of coop I'd opt for, but there are so many CUTE ones out there.
Like this adorable one I found on Backyard Chickens.  Pretty great, right?  There are lots and lots of free plans and ideas online.  Even though I love the look of the permanent coops, I'm drawn to the tractor type (a coop on wheels) a little more.  Maybe because this is not our permanent home and I don't want to invest too much in something we're going to leave behind.  I also like the idea of moving the chickens around our yard and fertilizing at the very same time. 
So, what do you think?  Ever raised chickens and have some great advice for getting started?  Ever wanted to or read about it and have a great book/website/magazine to recommend?  I'm all ears!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Primary Theme: I Am a Child of God

I've been looking and thinking and I'm still not 100% sure how I'm going to display the armor.  Probably because I haven't sat down to get it done yet.  I'm not usually a procrastinator like this, but because I have been, I thought I'd share what I've found with you in case you need some good ideas and want to get going on yours.

I've found a TON of super cute armor of God pictures.  My current plan is to pick one, print it to the size I need and then draw or add the extra pieces that aren't included.  Not like "free hand because I'm such a great artist" draw.  It'll be more like I can handle "drawing a few lines to at least loosely resemble a cape" draw.  And I figured for the knee pads, I can probably cut the shoes and shin guard looking things in half and use the shin guards (does anyone know what they're actually called?) for the knee pads.  Which only leaves gloves and the title of liberty which I figure I can muddle my way through also.

1. This first set has both a boy and a girl, more realistic that I found on Pinterest.  I can't figure out where they originated.  When I click on the link it says something about the link being bad.  So click the link above to view the pictures to give yourself some ideas.

2. The next set is more cartoon-like and I found them on cute family home evening blog.  If you click on the picture (on the family home evening blog it gets much bigger and would be better for printing.  The only downside to this one is you have to draw your own cute guy/girl to go underneath it.

3. This set is meant to be a magnetic quiet book page and you can look at it here.  The guy is really pretty cute, but the dpi isn't too high so I'm not sure what it would look like if you tried to make it big enough to print out for a poster. 
4. I found these cute boy and girl Armor of God dress up dolls to purchase here.  On the plus side, because you would be downloading them (as opposed to either a copy and paste or a direct save from a blog), the dpi would be high enough that they would look better than some of the others after you'd made them big enough for a poster board.  But for me, the negative side is that they are more cartoon-ish, they sort of remind of Elmer Fudd from Bugs Bunny.

5. This blog has some cute ideas for actually dressing up the kids.  In fact, my husband had a great idea (that I can't figure out a way to actually do) to purchase a dress up outfit (like this one here).  None of the ones I've found have all of the parts, but you could probably fill in with what it doesn't come with from home (for example, we have capes, knee pads and gloves just floating around at my house).  The part I'm not certain of is displaying it...if I had some sort of mannequin or something similar, maybe.  But I don't and can't think of a way to have it up every Sunday, which I really want to do.

6. There's also this super cute armor of god girl from Melonheadz (if you've never gotten on her website before, you should, there is so much stinkin' cute clipart).  She even has a boy, too.  With both of these, you'd have to print one the size you wanted and then trace their bodies (excluding the armor) to get your pre-girl or boy.  Then cut out all the different pieces from what you originally printed (hopefully that made as much sense typed out as it did in my head).  You'd have to color it, too, but it might be fun to personalize it.  Or you could even color it in photoshop (or something similar) before printing if you have access to it.

7. Last but not least, I found another more realistic guy here.  It already has all the different pieces separated so you can just print them out.  It seems much simpler than some of the other options and it even looks pretty good.
Maybe my problem is too many options (sorry if I just passed that problem along to you), I'm sure I'll get over it soon.  Mostly because the year is just about up and I don't have any other options.  :)  I'll make sure to post about (and maybe even take a picture or two) of my guy or girl when I get it finished.
Before I go, I have one more amazing idea to share with you. It's one I got from a lovely lady who saw my previous post.  Janet said, "I had a thought, maybe you already thought of this, but I always like to give the children an action item or challenge, depending on the month's theme you can challenge them- for example with the sword of truth- challenge them to read the scriptures and gain truth.... with the gauntlets/gloves- challenge them to serve their family..... with the kneepads- to pray.... etc"  I hadn't thought of it and just in case you hadn't either, I wanted to share. 
If any of you have any other great ideas to go along with the Armor of God theme or if you already have yours done, I'd love to hear all about them!  If you're in the same boat as me, good luck on finding what will work best for you and your primary!
You can find my first post about 2013 Armor of God outline here.

Update 12/27/2012: I finally chose my Armor of God Guy and added my own pieces, you can read about it here.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I just started reading a fictional series of books called The Great and Terrible.  Today I finished the first book, Prologue: The Brothers and I really liked it. 

I like it even though it's not a super happy everything goes right sort of book, which is what I usually gravitate towards if I'm reading strictly for fun.  It talks about the forces of good and evil.  Yeah, I know, all books to some extent seem to be about the fight between good and evil, but this book had varying degrees of both and it was those degrees that I found disturbing and hard.

There were those that chose evil knowing it was evil and chose it anyway.  I can see choosing to do wrong things while thinking you are right, but to KNOWINGLY choose evil is something I don't understand. 

Then there were those that did not choose evil, but they did not choose to fight for good either.  They stayed just on this side of good, but weren't willing to do any real work.  Why?

It ended (of course) with a win for the good guys but with portents for much more hardship to come (it's a series remember).  As I already mentioned I finished the book on good note, I liked it and the ending, but it made me think about what sort of person I am today.  What do my actions say about me?

While all of this was running through my head, I called my mom and heard for the first time about the elementary school shootings in Connecticut.  Just on the heels of the mall shootings near Portland, Oregon (in the mall I grew up going to, where my family still lives) and I was reeling. 

The first few thoughts to run through my head were somewhere along the lines of, "Why?"  "How could this happen?" "What sort of world do we live in?"  Then I came across this amazing picture of a sunrise one of my friends had posted to their feed on Facebook.

Underneath it was this quote (I added the bolding):
"Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light."

- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

To me, the key seems to be faith.  Do we have enough faith, enough hope to choose good?  Enough to choose to act?  To continue moving towards our Heavenly Father with love even "when the darkness may seem unbearable?"  I know that there is good out there.  I know that we all have a loving Heavenly Father who is willing to comfort and carry us if we ask.  I am so thankful for that knowledge.  If you'd like to learn more about the restored gospel mentioned by President Uchtdorf, you can go here

Please join me in praying for the families of the victims and for the hearts of everyone touched by this tragedy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homeschooling Journey - 3

(See part 1 here and part 2 here)
Once I realized that homeschooling had moved not just to a REAL option (from the last resort, only if I have to option) but to my maybe number ONE option, things started to get interesting.  I started to tell people about my possible plans.
My husband just plain told me he thought I was crazy.  As he had already come to that conclusion years ago, I wasn't too worried.  Don't think badly of him, he also said that he'd support any decision I made and he meant it.  He's pretty amazing that way.
My best friend told also told me I was crazy.  She then looked at me for a minute, got a thoughtful sort of look on her face and then said something along the lines of, "Okay, but please, promise me you won't get crazy."  Because, we all know that homeschoolers are crazy.  Well, maybe not crazy, but we've all heard stories (even if many of them are about someones sister's, cousin's, next door neighbors, best friends acquaintance) and so I promised I'd do my very best to not get crazier than I already was.
I also read some more.  I know, I have a problem.  Research is my friend.  The more information I have the more confident I feel in my decision (it's one of the reasons why I saw more than 50 houses the first time we purchased a home). 
After reading, or at least looking through, most of the books having anything to do with homeschooling in my library, these ended up being my favorite.
The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.  I know, you're shocked.  Well, I checked it out again and this time I read through the first section to get an idea of how my first grade year with Ben might go.  Out of all the books and types of homeschooling I'd studied, classical spoke to me the most.  After reading reviews of it (and knowing my over planned and over scheduled tendencies), I did know I wanted to take it slow if I made this life altering decision. 
That would be the best advice I could give to anyone thinking about homeschooling.  Take it slow.  You do not have to (nor should you) do everything.  Start with the basics and then you can always add to them as you and your children feel the desire.  Looking back I'm so happy that's how I started.
As I am a lover of options I also really loved 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy.  In the beginning it even has a quiz you can take to discover your teaching style and your kids learning styles.  It then tells you which curriculum matches up with your family the best.  
Even though I was heavily leaning toward classical, I really enjoyed reading Lisa Whelchel's book titled, So You're Thinking About Homeschooling.  It gives a short description of many different methods of homeschooling.  There is no one "right" way and this book helped solidify my desire to homeschool classically.
You know, IF I decided to homeschool.  For months I did some pretty serious fence sitting.  I just couldn't make up my mind.  I was terrified of making the wrong choice and forever (even though I'd decided it would be a year to year decision) scarring my children.
I can pinpoint the moment I decided consciously to homeschool Ben.  It's a little silly (okay, a lot).  I'm pretty sure I'd already subconsciously decided, but hadn't been ready to come out of the closet as it were.  We were out to dinner with my in-laws who were in town visiting.  I was sitting by my sister-in-law talking about the possibility of homeschooling when my mother-in-law overheard me.  She looked over and said something to the effect of, "You don't want to do that."  I don't remember now if she said anything else, but that was enough for me. 
I'm not really the rebellious type, but I've always had this urge to do the opposite of whatever someone tells me.  I think it's a teenage thing that I haven't quite gotten out of my system yet.  After putting the kids to bed after dinner, I turned to Steve and said, "I'm doing it.  I've decided, we're homeschooling."  And we did.
I can't say that I've never looked back or had doubts that I made the right choice (or that I continue to).  I can say that Homeschooling my children is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.  Hands down.  It's a blessing that I'm thankful for everyday (even the days I want to hide in my closet and hope they can't find me). 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Yesterday, while driving home from the grocery store with Steve, we were talking about the amazing-ness of technology and what it might be like for our kids. 

Our conversation started because I had been transferring money from one account to another while walking through the parking lot on my phone.  Isn't that amazing?!  I was telling Steve how astounding I found it and mentioned that it won't be astounding to our kids, it'll just be how things have always been.  Which is crazy in and of itself.

Or maybe it'll be even crazier.  Probably crazier.  Steve said he thought they would be able to just walk straight out of the grocery store after filling their carts because there would be a scanner on the way out that automatically registered all groceries at once and took money from your account all on its own.

How nuts would that be?  Then he mentioned that our kids might never use money.  I mean dollars and coins, holding in your hand money.  If it really does become all automatic, what will their perception of money be?  For example, I've found it much easier to spend money electronically than with cash.  There's something about watching my "wad" of cash grow smaller and smaller that's a little sad.  Unfortunately, I don't have the same attachment with my debit card.

Making sure my kids learn about money isn't a new worry for me.  I want my kids to know how to earn, budget, save and spend their money.  One way I've tried to teach them this is by talking to them about our money.  Ever since the kids were small (okay, they're still small), I've tried to instill in them a sense of the relationship between work and money.  When we go to the bank I always talk about how Dad works hard to earn our money and the money he earns is put in the bank so that I can go there and get it (or use it if we're talking about a debit card) for things like groceries or gas.  I want them to understand that the bank is not a magic money house and my debit card doesn't magically pay for our groceries.

I wasn't sure if they understood until one day a couple summers ago.  James was 3 and we were walking through Sams Club doing some grocery shopping together. If you've ever been in Sams (or Costco) you know that they have big displays in the center section, sometimes even hanging from the ceiling. 

James when he was 3...I just want to squeeze his cheaks!

During the summer they almost always have one of those big, wooden play-sets up.  On the day of our shopping trip, James looked over at the really very cool play-set and said he wanted it for our house.  I smiled and told him that would be wonderful, but it wasn't in our budget.  He got thoughtful for a minute and then said, "I think Daddy needs to go to work on the weekends."  I was confused and asked him what he meant.  He very seriously explained that if Daddy worked more we would have more money and then we could buy it.

I laughed (and am laughing right now), but I was also proud and excited.  Even at 3 James understood that in order to have money, you have to work for it.  It was a pretty great mom moment for me.
Have you had any great moments where something you'd been trying to teach your kids just clicked?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Season Traditions

I'm a big believer in family traditions.  I always looked forward to them growing up and have tried really hard to make sure that my family finds our own. 

For the Christmas season we have a few of my very favorites.  The day after Thanksgiving we always set up our tree and decorate the house. 

(By the way, do you notice how most of the ornaments start a few feet from the top of the tree?)

This year, the kids were more excited than me.  A couple weeks before Thanksgiving they had three separate countdowns going on.  Each day Makenna would say "Five more days until Thanksgiving break, eleven more days until Thanksgiving, and TWELVE MORE DAYS UNTIL WE DECORATE THE HOUSE!"  I promise, I'm not making up the all-caps, it's really how she talked. 

We always go see the Christmas village in a town near us.  We usually go during the day and then once at night.  This year I'm not sure if we'll go during the day (it was always with some field trip or other and this is my first year not having any of my kids in any school outside our home), but we are planning to head over there this evening.  I'm even thinking about adding to our tradition this year. 

On Pinterest, I found this amazing looking crock pot hot chocolate recipe (You can find the recipe on a blog titled Creating Through Life).  I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it and I think I've found it.  I'll make it this afternoon and it'll be ready and waiting for us when we get back with frozen fingers and toes from the Christmas village.  It's going to be so good...I think I'm starting to salivate right now!

Every year we also visit Temple Square down in Salt Lake City.  It's beautiful.  They wrap lights around so many of the trees and have a giant nativity, plus all the tours in each building.  If you live anywhere near, or are visiting, you should really take the time to drive down and walk around.  Better yet, find a Trax or Frontrunner station near you and take that down instead.  Kids (and grownups) love it, plus you don't have to try and find parking. 

Another tradition we have is baking/making Christmas plates.  Every year I tell myself to keep it simple and for some reason (read about my overcomplication complex here) I always end up making tons of very different candies and cookies and dipping most of them in something and drizzling stuff over the rest, which all takes hours and hours.  Maybe one of these years I'll tone it down a little.  Maybe.  It could happen.  I'm still narrowing down my list of treats this year and I'll do another post about them with we get them done.  After we finish baking and decorating, we take them around to our neighbors and friends.  Always fun! 

This year I'm thinking of starting a new tradition.  We usually buy the kids an ornament every year, but this year we're going to start making them.  I've found so many cute, fun and simple ones on Pinterest.  My favorite one so far takes plain ball ornaments and with the addition of a handprint and the use of a few markers (that even my 3 year old can do) covers them in snowmen (found on Pinterest)!  I bought a few plain ornaments yesterday so we could get started tomorrow.

What are your favorite Christmas season traditions?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Homeschooling Journey - 2

Somewhere around reading The Well-Trained Mind for the first time I was having another first.  Previously, I had always LOVED Makenna's teachers.  They were easy to communicate with and I could almost daily see how much Makenna loved them and going to school. 
During her third grade year that didn't completely change, but neither of us were feeling quite as much love.  Makenna was finishing her work too quickly for the rest of the class and became a distraction.  Despite her teachers assurances that Makenna would have other things she could do, nothing seemed to happen. 
My husband and I talked about the possibility of skipping a grade and tried to figure out things we could do at home to help her.  Homeschooling still never crossed my mind.  I'm a little slow, I mentioned that last time, right?  My recalculating?  Well, the recalculations started with whether or not to skip a grade.  We decided not to for a variety of reasons and then headed into her fourth grade year optimistic that a change of teacher might be just the ticket.
Unfortunately, Makenna's fourth grade year started a lot like her third grade year.  Which brought about our next plan, the talented and gifted program offered by our school district.  It didn't start until fifth grade, but we decided we'd wait it out and if she didn't test into it, we'd talk about "other options" then. 
I don't know where, I can't remember a specific incident, but at sometime it occurred to me that I could homeschool.  You know, if there were absolutely no other options.  Even though I was very reticent, it was an option and so I started to research. 
I checked out books from the library about a few different way to homeschool and I read a few blogs.  I also went back as far as you could in Pioneer Woman's homeschooling section and read every single post.  Yeah, my husband agrees with you, that was a little nuts.  I loved every minute it though.   
I read and read and thought and thought (and prayed a heck of a lot) until one day I realized homeschooling had moved from a last resort to an actual option.  Something I might consider doing even if I had other options.  Crazy.
About that time we found out Makenna got into the talented and gifted program.  It's funny, but I was almost disappointed.  I mean, I was happy for her (she was ecstatic), but I felt like it closed a door I was just starting to want to open.
Then it occurred to me that I could still homeschool, I have other kids, just because my journey had progressed so far due to Makenna didn't mean it had to only involve her.  That was a big leap for me.  A life changing leap. 
Next week I'll tell about the rest of my leap into homeschooling story, you aren't going to want to miss it (or maybe you will...but I'll pretend you don't, you don't mind do you?).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Movies

I LOVE Christmas movies and  I have three favorites. Want to hear about them?  Oh, good...

First, for obvious reasons, White Christmas.  Well, okay, they may be obvious, but I'll tell you my reasons anyway.  It's my favorite sort of romance.  The, "I don't really like you" meets "Man you're actually pretty cool and I think maybe..."  Plus, they sing!  How could it get better than that?!

Second, Miracle on 34th Street.  I love the magic.  I love the idea of something bigger, something fantastical and by the end I find myself seeing the magic in my life.  I also want to give (or show) the magic to those around me.  This feeling is one of my very favorite things about the Christmas season.

My last favorite is Christmas Carol.  Not just Disney's new version, any version.  There are so many out there and I've loved every single one I've seen.  Who doesn't love second chance movies?  I get to relearn how the power truly does lie within me to change (or stay the same).  I can be whoever I want!  How cool is that?  Although, slightly terrifying at the very same time.

I addition to those, I also love to watch just about any Christmas romantic comedy I can get my hands on.  I get super sappy over every ABC Family, Lifetime, and Halmark movie out there.  You know what I'm talking about right, those seriously cheesy ones?  Yep, those. 

Christmas movies are so much fun.  Watching them with my kids just makes them better.  I love to think that I'm passing down my traditions, my favorites to them.  Someday maybe they'll sit down with their kids to watch White Christmas.  Tonight we're watching A Christmas Carol.

What are you watching with your family?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Faith In God

I have a tendency to think too big in pretty much all areas of my life.  I don't just want to have my cake and eat it too, I want to grow the wheat, harvest it, collect the eggs from my chickens (that I've previously hatched as chicks)...then not just make it, but make it cute and/or beautiful and finally, eat it in a beautifully decorated room.  Is anyone else laughing (or rolling their eyes)? 

I tell myself (over and over) that knowing is progress.  Actually, a lot of the time I am able to scale back if I stop and think about the big picture by asking myself what is really important.  Or what am I really trying to end up with and do I really have to "harvest my own wheat" to get there? 

Take, for example, my plans for Faith in God for next year.  In in our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), we have a program for all children ages 8-11 called Faith in God. 

Our church's website describes the program like this: "The Faith in God program is designed to help each Primary child ages 8 through 11 become all that Heavenly Father wants them to become.  As they do so, girls will be prepared to continue their spiritual growth in the Young Women program and boys will be worthy and ready to receive the Aaronic Priesthood."

When each child turns 8, we give them a booklet with the program information in it and then they can work on it in their families or in programs they participate in during the week.  And while that might seem like good enough, recently I have been feeling that we need to incorporate it more in our Sunday lessons. 

My first plan was to read through the two Sunday manuals (46, 2 to 3 page lessons in each) and match different Faith in God activities with at least one lesson a month.  Not only that, but I wanted to make little handouts to give the teachers to give their students. 

Yes, I know, sort of time demandlingly crazy.  After thinking about it for a while, I decided that what I really wanted to do was provide the teachers with a simpler way to use the Faith in God activities as they are inspired to with their individual children. 

To accomplish this, I made a topical index of all the activities.  This was simple, didn't take much time and has already been super helpful to me at home with my own kids.

The first section is what I decided was the main topic the activity is on.  The second section is which section the activity comes from in the Faith in God booklet (Learning and Living the Gospel, Serving Others, Developing Talents).  The last section is a very short description of what the activity requires. 

I plan to talk with the teachers to encourage them to use the Faith in God booklets in their lessons and how they might do that.  I'll also stick this topical index in their lesson notebooks (along with their own copies of the Faith in God booklets) to make it easier to see which activities go along with what they are already teaching.  When we incorporate all the different programs of primary together it's amazing how well everything fits and builds on each other.

What are you planning to try out (work on) in your primaries or classes next year?
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