Friday, April 04, 2014

Our awesome weekend plans . .

We're so excited for General Conference this weekend. Eight to ten hours of listening to the gospel, learning how to be better people, and (at our house, anyway) gorging ourselves on chocolate and treats. Each kid got to pick their favorites so we've got everything from mint Oreos to beef jerky to coconut kisses. If you'd like to learn more about why we love this weekend so much, these videos explain it well:

Join us in watching, listening, and learning.  Sessions are at 10 and 2 Saturday and Sunday, MST.  They will be broadcast live at this link.

You can also peek at what was said at the women's meeting last Saturday.  I got to be there in Salt Lake with my three oldest and it was a very beautiful meeting.  I love the gospel, I love Jesus Christ and I'm grateful to know so many others who feel as I do about Him.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Worth a Look (Friday Favorites)

A few links worth your time:

Two amazing talks given last week; the first from Elder Dallin H. Oaks at BYU-Idaho:

Witnesses of God transcript

The whole address is excellent, but his final point, about the need to defend religious liberty, stood out to me:
"We should be alert to oppose the potential significance of the fact that some government officials and public policy advocates are describing the First Amendment guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion as merely “freedom of worship.” But the guarantee of “free exercise” protects the right to come out of our private settings, including churches, synagogues and mosques, to act upon our beliefs, subject only to the legitimate government powers necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare. Free exercise surely protects religious citizens in acting upon their beliefs in public policy debates and in votes cast as citizens or as lawmakers.
We should also use our political influence to resist current moves to banish from legislative and judicial lawmaking all actions based on religious convictions and motivations. A dangerous recent example of this was the opinion of the single federal district judge who invalidated the California Proposition 8 constitutional amendment.[12] The precedent of his decision on the inappropriateness of presumed religious or moral motivations as a basis for lawmaking was used by the lawyers who persuaded another federal district judge to invalidate the Utah constitutional provision and laws affirming the traditional limitation on marriages to one man and one woman.[13] Then, when an eminent lawyer was hired to take the appeal, he was criticized by the Human Rights Campaign for having religious motivations for his decision to defend traditional marriage.[14] Where will this illogical attack on religious motivations end?

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in his powerful address to a nationwide audience of Christian leaders, we Mormons are “eager to join hands . . . to guarantee the freedom of religion that will allow all of us to speak out [and I would add to act out] on matters of Christian conscience regarding the social issues of our time.”[15] We should all agree with the Christian writer he quoted:
“All of our nation’s religious citizens need to develop a respect for other religious people and their beliefs. We need not accept their beliefs, but we can respect the people and realize that we have more in common with each other than we ever will with the secularizers of this country.”[16]

We need to support the coalitions of religious leaders and God-fearing people who are coming together to defend our nation’s traditional culture of belief in God and the acknowledgement of His blessings. As Clayton Christensen’s impressive essay reminds us, religion is essential to our nation’s democracy and prosperity.[17]
Also last Tuesday, Albert Mohler, a prominent Southern Baptist, gave an address at BYU, the second in six months.  Both are very worth the read.

"Strengthen the Things that Remain:  Human Dignity, Human Rights, and Human Flourishing in a Dangerous Age" (address from last week)

Of note is this passage:
Human dignity can survive only if we commonly believe and commonly affirm that every single human being, at every stage of development, is a person made in God’s image and bearing the dignity that is the mark of God’s personal possession. The only adequate conception of human dignity rests upon the biblical teaching that such dignity is not a human achievement, but a gift. Human beings do not achieve the status of dignity by their abilities or performance or development. Human dignity and the worth of the human individual is predicated only upon the fact that every human being is made in the image of God, and therefore is to be respected, protected, and cherished as a member of the human community.

We are now attempting to create a new vision of human dignity that is based in a secular vision of humanity. But what is that vision? If we are not made in God’s image, and if this is not the defining fact of our human existence, then who are we? The secular answer is not reassuring. We are, this vision holds, the highly developed primate that has invented the use of language and learned to cook food. If we are not created, then we are accidents. And if we are accidents, there is no essential dignity due us.

Back in 2005 the London Zoo featured an exhibit of humans. “Warning: Humans in Their Natural Environment” read the sign over an exhibit of scantily clad human beings, placed on display among the animals in the more familiar cages and enclosures. Polly Wills, a  spokesperson for the zoo, told the press: “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals … teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate.”

Well, if we are “just another primate,” there is no essential dignity due us. Perhaps that helps to explain the twentieth century, with the horrors of the Holocaust and the specter of eugenics, the intention to enhance human breeding. The eugenic temptation, we should note, was not something far off across the sea, but something supported and endorsed by many American intellectuals.

Perhaps this reduced and secular vision of human dignity explains the killing fields of Cambodia, the forced starvation of millions in China’s Cultural Revolution, and the horrors of the Soviet gulags.

Perhaps it also explains the over 50 million American babies aborted in American wombs since the legalization of abortion on demand by Roe v. Wade in 1973. Perhaps it explains the virtual disappearance of babies now born with Down syndrome, aborted after genetic testing, and the demand for designer babies. Perhaps it explains the cult of abortion in this country and the refusal of so many in the elites to oppose even partial birth abortion. Perhaps it explains how one vocal advocate of abortion could recently declare that abortion is indeed a killing, but the killing of “a life worth sacrificing.”

Perhaps this new secular vision of human dignity explains the rise of sex-selection abortions in both the United States and Britain. Perhaps it explains the demand for euthanasia and the so-called “good death” that the government of Belgium in recent days has extended even to young children.
If we are not — if every one of us is not — made in God’s image and created for God’s glory, then why is a human infant of greater worth than a pig? Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, has gone so far as to argue that the pig might well have more substantial claim to a right to live. He has also stated that infanticide, the killing of young children after their birth, might well be justified under some circumstances.

If every one of us is not made in God’s image, how are we to reject his argument? I fear that our culture is losing the ability to answer such arguments with a candid and urgent and convincing counter-argument. The new secular vision of human dignity holds only that we are more developed than other animals, but some humans are surely more developed than others. Participation in the medal events at the recent Winter Olympic Games was not open to all, nor is admission to the universities where this new secular vision of human dignity is promulgated and promoted.
The other address given by Albert Mohler was from last October and can be found here:

A Clear and Present Danger:  Religious Liberty, Marriage and the Family in the Late Modern Age

One part:
Similarly, Pitirim Sorokin, the founder of sociology at Harvard University, pointed to the regulation of sexuality as the essential first mark of civilization. According to Sorokin, civilization is possible only when marriage is normative and sexual conduct is censured outside of the marital relationship. Furthermore, Sorokin traced the rise and fall of civilizations and concluded that the weakening of marriage was a first sign of civilizational collapse.

We should note carefully that Sorokin made these arguments long before anything like homosexual marriage had been openly discussed, much less legislated. Sorokin’s insight was the realization that civilization requires men to take responsibility for their offspring. This was possible, he was convinced, only when marriage was held to be the unconditional expectation for sexual activity and procreation. Once individuals—especially males—are freed for sexual behavior outside of marriage, civilizational collapse becomes an inevitability. The weakening of marriage—even on heterosexual terms—has already brought a harvest of disaster to mothers and children abandoned in the name of sexual liberation.

We must note with honesty and candor that this moral revolution and the disestablishment of marriage did not begin with the demand of same-sex couples to marry. The subversion of marriage began within the context of the great intellectual shift of modernity. Marriage was redefined in terms of personal fulfillment rather than covenant obligation. Duty disappeared in the fog of demands for authenticity and the romanticized ideal of personal fulfillment. Marriage became merely a choice and then a personal expression. Companionate marriage was secularized and redefined solely in terms of erotic and romantic appeal—for so long as these might last.
* * *

This article details the amazing resilience and faith of a young mother victimized by adultery and murder:

Idaho Woman Learns to Stand again after Betrayal, Adultery, and Murder

After reading the article, I started to read Ashlee's blog.  Her story is sad, difficult, tragic, unthinkable, but her faith is strong and her words are touching.

* * *
This video is excellent and is one we'll be sharing and talking about at our next Family Home Evening:

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Kitchen Hacks for Large Family Kitchens

Last week, I shared some of my favorite features of my large-family kitchen.  This week, I wanted to mention a few of the kitchen tips and tricks I've found to simplify my kitchen work.


1.  Big fruit bin  (but not big enough).  I go shopping once a week and usually bring home so much fruit that it could fill two of these bins.  One of these days I'll find something bigger.

2.  One thing I do right away is wash all the fruits before they go in the bin.  That way, the kids can have at the fruit whenever they like without me having to remind them to wash the apple first.

3.  Tupperware is standard sized and stored in one pull-out drawer.  Many years ago, we decided it made the most sense to stock up on all the same sizes so they can easily stack and store.  We love these Rubbermaid containers and keep them stacked and ready to go (the square containers on the right we use mostly for making and storing freezer jam).  One part of the pull-out holds the container, and the other part holds the lids.  This is just below my island, so it's easy to put things away.

4.  Inside the fridge, the tupperware keeps leftovers neatly stacked and stored away.

5.  As a sidenote, don't you love how you can fix anything with duct tape and bungee cords?   The lip of the bottom shelf in the door of our fridge broke a few years ago and was beyond repair.  I drilled some holes to thread the bungee cord through and that's held our milk in place ever since.

6.  Also on the island is a bank of drawers.  One of them holds this awesome plastic wrap from Costco.  We use it all the time and it fits perfectly in the drawer.

7. Meet my small appliance friends.  Marie Ricks, an organization guru I've taken classes from, says you should ask yourself about what you keep on your counter, "Is this item a friend or freeloader?”  Things that warrant staying on my counters are definitely friends I use often.

7a.  My Bosch.  We recently got the blender attachment and we now use this weekly for smoothies as well as almost daily for bread, rolls, cookies, and anything else that needs mixing.

7b.  My crockpot.  It's a little worn and the handle broke off, but this friend works for me, usually once a week or more.

7c.  Tucked back behind my bread basket is this ugly duckling -- our large grill gets pulled out two or three times a week to cook na'an bread, regular flat bread, quesadillas, pancakes, and the like.  I love it, even if it is is rather hideous.

8.  On my counter are these two nifty items that we almost daily move to our table for meals.  One holds salt and pepper and hand sanitizer, the other napkins. 

9.  We use this conch shell to call the kids in to dinner.  We live near several acres of woods and in the warmer weather, the kids can travel pretty far, catching minnows, exploring, and picking blackberries.  They also play with our neighbors.  I blow this shell and they all come home.  We bought it in Hawaii on our 15th anniversary and I love it.  It sits on the windowsill above the sink.

10.  Speaking of the windowsill above the sink, it also holds this bucket which serves no purpose whatsoever other than to hold special treasures the kids bring me.

What are some of the ways you've made your kitchen work for you?  Any suggestions on where I can get a bigger and better fruit bin?  Which kitchen appliances sit on your counters? 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Planning a Dream Kitchen for a Large Family

One of my favorite places in our house is our kitchen.  It's where we gather to eat, to play, to clean, to do homework, to create.

When we built our house, I got to design it.  We tried to consider how to create the space for a large family's needs.  Seven years later, I still love our kitchen just the way it is.  We saved money where we could.  My husband built the cabinets, and we went for just plain laminate countertops instead of granite or Corion. 

For the sake of those who might be building and wanting ideas on how to plan a kitchen for a large family, here are a few of my favorite features:

1.  I love, love, love, my large 8 x 4 foot island.  I love being able to have multiple people in my kitchen working at the same time.  I love having plenty of counter space, and there's something psychologically uplifting about facing my family and the nearby great room while I prepare meals rather than facing a wall, like I did in my old kitchen.

the view while I'm cooking:

2.  I love my little veggie sink.  In college, I took a class called "Housing the family" which talked about, among other things, how to create an efficient workflow in the kitchen.  One main point was to have an efficient work triangle, with only a few steps between your fridge, your stove, and your sink.  Our main sink, near the window, is too far away for this purpose, but this little sink fills the purpose well.  We fill up pans for cooking here, fill up pitchers for the table, and clean our fruits and vegetables.  It has a disposal in it, so we can put all the veggie trimmings in it and blast away.  I think this sink gets used as much as our larger one.

3.  Speaking of sinks, I love our large one beneath the window.  And I LOVE what they are made out of.  Unlike porcelain sinks, which stain, and stainless steel, which shows every spot of water, these granite composite ones NEVER look dirty.  They don't stain, they don't show dirt, and they're easy to clean with just a swipe of a rag. As a sidenote, I don't like the faucet.  The part at the bottom is supposed to pull out and you can push a button to change from a pouring fuction to a spray function.  Great in concept, not so great in practice.  The head doesn't click into place and often hangs down, and the button to change the spray function doesn't work very well.  I don't know if that happens with all models, but it has with this one.

4. I love, love, love having two dishwashers.  No explanation necessary.

5.  I love our fridge and freezer.  Though they look expensive, they are really just two stand-alone units placed side by side with a trim kit making them look built in.  They are a Sears brand, so they were a quarter of the cost of the fancy ones they resemble.  They are cabinet depth, so they don't have quite the capacity you might expect, but they sure come in handy.
 the inside of the freezer:

6.  I love these cute hooks to hold our aprons.  This is on the wall across from the sink, next to the pantry door.

7.  Speaking of which, I LOVE our pantry.  It's just the right size.  

Ignore the flour on the floor:

And on the side behind the door.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but that's an upright freezer on the right of the picture.  I love that we're not treking to the garage for our extra freezer goods and that I have space to stock up when I see a good deal:

8.  We went for a stand-alone two-oven range instead of a built-in stovetop and ovens.  We did it mostly to save money, but if I had to do it over again, I'd go this route again.  We love the double ovens.  The top oven is smaller, so it heats up faster and is the one we use 80% of the time.  The bottom one is standard size.  Essentially, this is the size of a regular range unit but they remove the bottom drawer and put in another oven instead.

9.  I love our table(s).  My husband built them after buying two pedastals for a steal on Ebay.  Pushed together, they seat 12 (two can fit on each end), and we can pull them apart when we have guests to seat another four.

10.  I love this wall across from the table.  Our family motto is up top.  We have room for a basic table and a few chairs that works as both a puzzle table and for homework.

11.  I love the view from the kitchen window, especially in summer and fall. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Valentine's Day (Wordless Wednesday)

I love Harmony's full-of-life personality.

Eliza's class hosted a dance party for Halloween and her embarrassed smile while dancing was awesome!  She loves her best friend Grace.

Grace's mom just happens to be one of my best friends too.
Harmony with her teacher and her best friend Kate.

Allison's class party.

A week before Valentine's Day, we took the kids in with their report cards to Krispy Kreme for a donut bonanza:


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