Friday, April 20, 2018

Family Scripture Study Plan

As you know, our family has been going through a lot of changes: new job, new house, new city, new baby, new schools.

With all of those changes and with the older half of our children entering tweenhood, we noticed our spiritual needs changing.  We also noticed that despite our ok-efforts our scripture study sessions were leaving something to be desired.

We followed President Monson's counsel to read the Book of Mormon every day, but the results still seemed lack-luster.

It became clear to me that what we were doing was no longer working for us...but I wasn't sure what to do next.

I attended a Relief Society meeting the other night dedicated to personal, couples, and family scripture study.  I arrived late, but heard lots of suggestions and resources.  Some we'd done in the past, others we hadn't.  But I still felt like there were a lot of obstacles in our way, until friend of mine related a personal story of a time when she was having trouble finding time for her own personal scripture study.  She sincerely prayed about her situation and Heavenly Father helped her accomplish her goals for personal study time.  She encouraged me to do the same, to take my problem to the Lord in prayer.

So, I did.  And he quickly answered me by putting into my mind a plan that would resolve a lot of the issues we were having, which included:

1. lack of focus and attention during family scripture study
2. trying to keep the interest and meet the needs of children who are a range of ages
3. encouraging, teaching and creating a habit of individual scripture study
4. learning, internalizing, and applying gospel principles
5. having a lively gospel discussion as a family

I mentioned on social media that we were making changes to our scripture study and received questions from members and friends not of our faith alike asking me to share what we are doing, so I'm sharing that now for anyone looking to change up their regular routine.

First of all, like I said, we've got children in varying age groups ranging from baby to tween (5 months, 2, 5, 9, almost 11, and 12 years of age)

Here's what you'll need for each person:

- a simple composition notebook (or for younger a composition notebook with handwriting lines like the journal on the left in the photo above.)  
- a pen or pencil
- crayons or coloring pencils, etc. (optional)
- scriptures and/or access to the Gospel Library App

Very simple.

Here are the 10 steps that came to my mind that I've written down and glued into the front of each notebook:

(Allot 10-12 minutes each day for this study.)

1. Always start with a prayer.
2. Look up & read the scripture reference.
3. Copy the scripture into your journal. Draw a picture if you'd like. (Especially for a younger child.)
4. Write down the principles being taught. (*Define any terms that you don't understand.)
5. Write two sentences explaining how these principles apply to your life now and/or in the future.
6.  Write down any questions that come to your mind.
7.  Search for answers to your questions using: scriptures, General Conference talks, and prayer.
8.  Write down any answers that you find/thoughts that come to your mind.
9.  Close with a personal prayer.
10.  Be prepared to share your thoughts with the family before bed or during family scripture study.

We are currently taking our scripture references from Seminary's Doctrinal Mastery Lists beginning with the Book of Mormon.

The plan is to study the same scripture or set of verses for the entire week.  A personal using this plan would follow steps 1-10 during the week.  So each day you could potentially be doing different steps, therefore different things with the same scripture, so long as you get through all ten steps at some point during the week.

Additionally, one might choose to also memorize the scripture, listen to talks that are found during the researching steps, ask their questions of others in the family to consider or help with, etc.

So here's a little bit of how this looks broken down by age.  As you can see in the photo above, my two year-old is scribbling in his notebook as we talk, my 5 year-old is drawing a picture, and my almost 11 year-old is writing down principles.

Here is a page that my five year old is working on (with the addition of scribbles from her two year old brother!)  I copied part of the verse for her with lines between that she can now carefully copy in her own hand-writing.  She can also draw what she sees in her minds-eye as we discuss and add her own two-cents of testimony.  Above is a drawing of a Book of Mormon with the words "believe" written on it.

Today as we got on the topic of God creating the entire world, she drew some flowers and told me that this is what God created.  I then wrote her words for her as a "caption" to her artwork.

My 9 year-old took right to this idea as I think it mirrors some writing processes she is doing in school.  When I asked her if she understood what the word comprehend meant, she was quick to look it up on my phone and write the definition with a star at the top of the page before moving on to write down the principles in her own words and thinking of ways that the principles applied to her.  And, of course, she did a little doodling on the side.

Now these are some of my pages of study based on the same scripture. I found that writing really is helping me to focus and to make new connections and to slow down and hear the spirit teaching me as I search more proactively for answers to my questions about what is being taught.

I had only written down two questions: Will we someday comprehend what God comprehends?  And How are we to treat God's creations?

But once I got going, I found so much to enrich my understanding of this scripture.  I searched terms like "man's progression", "perfection", and "wisdom", and although I was only searching for a short period of time, I found so much great stuff!  It was way more effective than just reading has been for me for a while now.

And I was so impressed with the Gospel Library's search function.  I found it hard before but this time, it was so easy and quickly took me from scriptures in various books to quotes in General Conference talks that directly related to my questions, and back again.  

(For my friends of other faiths reading this: You can download the LDS Gospel Library App and use it on your phone.  It's a powerful tool for searching the scriptures and saving notes on, etc.  And I believe you don't have to be a member to utilize this tool. You can sign in as a "guest" and it's totally free. It includes the KJV of the Bible in addition to the talks I mentioned.)

So this is how we are implementing this in our family.  Right now we are working together on this to help us all grow in our ability to search the scriptures.  With the hope that these skills and experiences will become a life-long habit of personal scripture study, and that they will know how to find answers to their questions when they need it most!

I hope this inspires you to customize to your own family or change things up in a way that helps you meet your spiritual goals!  Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments below!
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Monday, April 2, 2018

Plaster Hand Molds

It's the last day of Spring Break for us, and it's looking more like a Snow Day!  Since the move, I haven't been able to craft with my children like we've been accustomed to doing in the past, so a while back I bought some plaster of paris and today was the day for this keepsake craft!

And it couldn't have come at a better time.  You see my little man Mr. Val is turning two years old on Friday and his hand is the perfect squishy little thing...and the perfect subject for my little project.  

We made impressions in playdough, then poured plaster of paris into the molds.  The plaster becomes hard in 30 minutes from the time you mix it.  I love how much detail the plaster picked up.  When I touch it, it really feels like Val's hand, at least for size and chubbiness! :)

Anyway, here's a link for more demonstrations on how this project works at a blog called Teacher Tom.  Also, I added white glue to the mix to add strength.  You can search for more tips on this.  I didn't remove the project from the playdough for quite a while and now I'm scrubbing playdough off of it.  But it'll work out.

Although the tattooed eggs we did this weekend were awesomely fun, this is probably my favorite craft of all time, because it immortalizes these hands that I love for me to keep for...well, as long as plaster of paris holds up!

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Tattoo Easter Eggs

We just tattooed our eggs this messy dying. We had so much fun and love how our eggs turned out.  I totally recommend it!  Thanks to It's Always Autumn for the easy to understand tutorial!  

Here are a few eggs that we made, including one egg dedicated to Pres. Nelson, our new prophet.  You can get the image free at Susan Fitch Designs!  

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Looking for an easy and fun way to discuss the events that tell the story of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection with your children?  Look no further.

We did this really fun Easter Photo Scavenger Hunt last night with family and friends during a special Easter Family Home Evening.  

I found the idea for this activity at Arabah Joy  Her photo scavenger hunt was so simple and easy!  However, in the end I decided to make my own, because I wanted to highlight different/more parts of the story with my kids.

You can download the hunt that I made up here: Easter Photo Scavenger Hunt or follow the link above for hers.

Here's how it works:  Depending on how many people are in your group or family, you can split up into teams however you decide.  Each team needs the printed clue sheet, access to the New Testament, and a phone or device that can take photos.  Each team then reads the scripture stories and is prompted to find and take pictures of an item mentioned in the stories.  These items are everyday household items.  Each clue also has a question related to it to help participants think more deeply about the stories and relate to their own lives.

If they can't find an item, they can color a picture of it.  I encouraged our kids to get creative with it and think outside of the box.  Also, if they wanted to represent a different part of the scripture clue, they were free to do that. (The picture below shows one group of girls doing just that.  They decided to depict what the disciples did when they were supposed to be staying up watching on behalf of Christ while he was in the Garden.)  For another clue we found that a close-up of a window pane made an excellent cross, etc.

When the teams were finished, they returned to the living room and we took turns sharing what we took photos of and why.  Each team bore testimony and taught the stories to one another.  This was where answering the questions earlier made this discussion even richer.

There was an incentive.  The first team to finish and return won a small prize (a package of mystery-flavored peeps!)

This was a really fun evening spent with friends and family talking about the peace we receive as we follow the Savior Jesus Christ.

And it ended with treats, of course!  Donuts and donut holes made to look like empty tombs.  You don't have to wait until FHE to do this!  Have fun with it!  And have a Happy Easter!

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Monday, March 26, 2018

The Week Before General Conference

Good Morning, friends.

It's the monday before Easter and General Conference.  So basically, for every Mom, it's Go Time.

I've already enjoyed a little Easter fun as we organized the first egg hunt in our new neighborhood. It was a very positive gathering of neighbors and it was fun to see the children making new friends and playing four-square with each other after the egg hunt.

These are good things.  These are things God would like I see fellow men and women coming together in a positive way.  It felt good.

Now I'm getting ready for the big weekend: Easter + General Conference.

I'm planning a special family home evening for tonight which I'll blog about tonight or tomorrow.  You'll be able to replicate it any night this week as a fun Easter activity.

I am meal prepping and getting ready to do my son's class party at school.  Whew!  Busy.

But I was reminded as I was making dinners this morning of something we can all do to help us prepare spiritually for this big General Conference and Easter weekend.

It's something I did a few Easters ago that really made a difference for me.  I stopped listening to popular music/the radio and started listening only to spiritual music all week long.

I am doing that right now and it makes me feel calm and peaceful eventhough I do have a lot on my plate.

I recently downloaded the LDS Youth App which gives my children  access to all of the youth music.  It's excellent.  I put it on our Family cell phone as well and my daughter is eating it up.

Another thing we did at Family Council last night, is we wrote down questions we each have for General Conference.  If you'll remember I did that pretty earnestly last Conference and received an abundance of answers.  The more sincerely and diligently we see for the answers to these questions, the more answers we will come across.

So here's a quick list of suggestions to help us prepare spiritually for General Conference and Easter:

1.  Let go of listening to popular music or media and replace it with spiritually uplifting music or hymns.

2.  Try harder to follow the Word of Wisdom to prepare your body and spirit to hear the words of the Lord.  Go to bed early and wake up earlier this week.  Find time to exercise and eat well.

3.  Read the Book of Mormon every day as President Monson asked.

4.  Read the entire Ensign.  Look for hints of what is on the minds of the Brethren and learn more about President Nelson.

5.  Write down a list of personal questions you have that you would like answered.  Then pray about them and search scriptures and the words of the prophets for answers before Conference weekend begins.

Ok, the baby is up now! Gotta go. Good luck!!

PS If you do anything fun for FHE/Easter this week, let me know!  Id like to hear about it!

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Monday, March 12, 2018

What to do about Social Media FHE

Warning: This post will be scattered and incomplete and proably won't convey all the thoughts that I have in my head about this topic, because I really don't have time to type that all up, but as the farmer says in the movie Babe "at'll do, pig."

So, let me just cut to the chase.

We let our children know this evening that we would like them to stay off of social media until they are grown...And I guess because we've been leaning in this direction for them for such a long time it must've not been a shock for them in any way, because no one cried or had a meltdown.

I mean, really?

I can only chalk this up to the gospel principles we've taught them, to personal and honest experiences we've shared with them about our own technology use, and good old-fashioned reasoning we've done together about this.

Now, being someone who has used social media for good for quite a while now, this might seem hypocritical, but really I've thought about it and read about it and considered what to do, and lately this has just felt right for us and for my kids.

So tonight as we discussed (under Guy's tutelage) the section in For the Strength of Youth that deals with Entertainment & Media, we worked our way over to the topic of social media and time spent on phones and before I even got the words out, Scarlett declared that she was ok staying off of social media, eventhough her friends tell her "you don't have a phone? I feel bad for you!"

My kids are brave.  I've got to hand them that.  And I reminded them tonight before I broke the news to them that in so many things we ask them to be different and to stand out.  This was going to be another one of those situations.

When "smartphones" came onto the scene just over ten years ago, almost no one that I know even considered that there might be negative effects.  Now a decade later, we are only just beginning to see the effects.  And there are plenty of people who are distancing themselves from social platforms who once embraced them.  

I am reading the book (ironically I'm reading it on my phone) called "How to Break Up with Your Phone" by Catherine Price.  I already had a desire and started taking steps to lesson my phone-time, but this book really drives that desire up about ten knotches as the first half of the book she hits you with fact after fact about what social media and technology does to our brains, to our memory, to our ability to focus and on and on.

We've always taken a wait and see approach with our kids and devices/media.  We've tried to anyway, because we were never quite sure what route was best.  We've dipped our toes in with the kids and media only to pull it back again when we saw how it affected their behavior and when we saw that we weren't ready as parents and didn't have all the answers we needed to navigate this new world with children.  On the other hand, my son Guy was one of the youngest kids I've ever heard of to get into indexing, again under my care and assistance.

One of the phrases from General Conference that has stuck with me in the last few months is this from Elder Stevenson: "Let us also teach and demonstrate the righteous use of technology to the rising generation and warn against the associated hazards and destructive use of it. Viewing social media through the lens of the gospel can prevent it from becoming a spiritual eclipse in our lives." 

Just in the last few days, I finally could come to terms with how I interpret this quote.  I AM modeling righteous use of technology for my children.  I am finding ways to practice good use of technology by giving them brief, supervised access to it, instead of letting them loose on phones of their own and saying "Good luck, kid! Try not to get addicted."

As much as they might have wanted that perceived freedom, I just couldn't do that to them.  I could see what too much screentime does to their happy young minds and I couldn't let them go there.  (My favorite catchphrase for when my kids ask WHY can't they go online or WHY can't they just watch TV, etc in any given moment is "because I'm raising children, not robots, now go outside and play!" Or I'll say, "Because I want you to be a ''real boy'" a la Pinnoccio. Or my favorite sarcastic phrase that stemmed from a real incident, "TV told me to, Mommy" always gets a laugh!)

This article that I read recently really helped me bridge the gap and opened my eyes to how much added unnessary pressure my children would have to face if they were to keep up a personal social identity online in addition to having to figure out their real in-person identity at the same time.

This is pressure I did not have to endure while simultaneously going through puberty.  I was free to figure myself out outside of the public eye.  I want to give my children this same gift.

I understand that in the coming years they might change their mind on this, but as of right now I think they're relieved....the same way they seemed relieved the other week when we taught them about our standards and expectations for them when they begin dating.  The pressure was off.  Now they knew how to respond to questions from their peers.

I can be their scapegoat when their friends ask why they aren't online.  "Oh my crazy parents won't let me be on social media.  Pssh, yeah, I know, crazy, right?" 

And when they are adults, with fully-formed identities, testimonies, and convictions, they will be ready to be a force for good out there in the cyberworld on their own.  Until then, we practice and do these things together.  

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