Thursday, October 01, 2015

Seven Secrets to Enjoying General Conference with Kids

This is an updated post; original post can be found here.

Every six months, we enjoy General Conference, which is up to ten hours of listening to talks on a variety of subjects related to the gospel of Jesus Christ given by leaders of our Church and modern day prophets and apostles.  We're excited to participate again this Saturday and Sunday.

Two of my favorite talks from last April's conference were

It must be difficult, at best, for covenant men to live in a world that not only demeans their divine roles and responsibilities but also sends false messages about what it means to be a “real man.” One false message is “It’s all about me.” On the other end of the scale is the degrading and mocking message that husbands and fathers are no longer needed. I plead with you not to listen to Satan’s lies! He has forfeited that sacred privilege of ever becoming a husband or father. Because he is jealous of those who have the sacred roles he will never fill, he is intent on making “all men … miserable like unto himself”!

Where Justice, Love and Mercy Meet
"So today we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins. That victory is available to us because of events that transpired on a weekend precisely like this nearly two millennia ago in Jerusalem."

As you might imagine, though we enjoy conference, keeping kids' attention for two hours at a time isn't always easy.  Over the years we've developed a few traditions that we love and that make our kids really look forward to "Jennifer Conference."

Super Secret #1:  Goodies

My friend Diane pointed out to me once that some families get a boatload of treats every year for the Super Bowl.  Since General Conference was way more important to her family, she wanted to make it just as much of a celebration.  I liked that idea -- and my kids were even more enthusiastic.

So each year, a week before conference, I ask each child to tell me their favorite treat.  I buy each one, plus a few extras, so that we have 15 snacks total.  This is about the only time in the year we splurge on everyone's favorites, so they look forward to it.

Last year's list

Super Secret #2:  Pictures of the Prophets and Apostles

Next, I print up photos for each of the fifteen men who will for sure speak to us.  There's plenty of places on the web to get the photos, but this year, I'm going to print them off from this month's issue of the Friend magazine.  I like the interesting biographical information.

This helps my kids to learn the names and faces of these important men, that we believe are actually Christ's Apostles on the earth today.

I then staple each photo to one of the treats.  We get to eat the treat after each man has spoken, and secret #3 has been finished.

Super Secret #3:  Notes, Notes, Notes ~ Especially Post-Its

Kids always pay more attention when they are taking notes, and we've made a habit of it.  Even the younger kids can draw pictures related to what's going on.  Each conference, I pull out small notebooks for each child to take their own notes on.  Thanks to an idea from my friend Montserrat, I also hand out a post-it note to each child during each of the talks from the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.

After the talk is over, we hand out the treats, put up the face of the speaker, and everyone adds their notes below.

 Some of the notes are just perfect:

Super Secret #4:  Quiet Activities

Our last trick is to have quiet activities prepared for the kids to work on, especially for the younger ones.  Sometimes we print up Conference packets for the kids to color.  There are plenty of activity booklets and ideas out there.

Regular coloring books work great, too, particularly if they're new.

Super Secret #5:  Puzzles

Another thing we like to do is get a new 500 or 1000 piece puzzle to do Conference Weekend.  It's a good family activity that leaves our minds free to listen, watch, and absorb.

On occasion, we've even used conference weekend as the perfect time to sort through all our kids puzzles.  We try to do all of them and then throw out ones with missing pieces.

Super Secret #6:  Make the Whole Weekend Special

We try to make conference weekend special in other ways as well.  We used to always make sticky buns for Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast, along with eggs, bacon and other yummy items we don't have often, but lately, Lillian's monkey bread has been the favorite request.

We also often take a drive up the canyon to see the fall leaves in October or hike the Y between sessions on Saturday.

Super Secret #7 Review

After conference is over, we like to use our next Family Home Evening to discuss the notes we took and take the conference quiz my parents and siblings always prepare for us.

We also make it a habit to study the talks for our Family Home Evening lessons for the next six months.


So there you have it, folks, our seven secrets to enjoying General Conference with kids.  Our kids genuinely look forward to our traditions every six months and they are engaged and learning.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One a Day, Week 38

Trying out the neighbor's zip line.  My kids inform me that we are the "only ones" without one now.

This is how ALL of Cami's coloring looks right now, and she loves it.

I don't know, do you think I take enough pictures of Benji?

Trying on his blessing day outfit

Love this!

It was Katie's turn for a Saturday lunch date (cell phone picture)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Blessing of #10

Towards the end of the pregnancy with my ninth child, I was really struggling.  I was so exhausted and despite being in great physical shape, the pregnancy was so hard.  Somehow, I thought after running a marathon at fifteen weeks, the rest of that pregnancy would be a piece of cake.  It wasn't.  I knew in my heart that there was at least one more child to come to our family, a boy, but I did not want to even think about climbing that mountain one more time.  

As it turned out, the post-partum period after Cami was born was my worst yet.  My thyroid levels went crazy and I ended up with major physical and mental health issues because of it. Though the intensity of those problems lasted only a few months, it took a long time to get my thyroid levels adjusted and to heal physically and emotionally.  I didn't write a lot during that time because it was all I could do to keep up with the very basics of running my home.  And though I love to write, I also like to wait until time passes and I see a bigger picture before writing about the hardest things.  I'm not one that writes to process emotion.

And so it was that we had quite a large-for-us gap between Cami and Benjamin.  For a time, despite my strong feelings that there was a boy to come, we wondered if it wouldn't be best to call our family complete.  I grieved, not because I especially love pregnancy or even babies (I love MY babies, but babies in general?  meh), but because I didn't know what to do with the dream I'd had years ago where I met my son and knew his name was Benjamin.

And so it is that last Sunday, when my husband blessed Benjamin in front of our church congregation, I bawled my way through the entire blessing.  It was powerful to hear the special promises made to him and to feel of his powerful spirit and the love our Heavenly Father had for him. 

This is the son we might not have had.

We blessed Benjamin wrapped in this blanket, made for my mother's baby blessing by her grandmother nearly seventy years ago.  Each of our children has been blessed in this blanket.  So I proudly put my son on a pink flowered blanket for photos!

This past year has really been a season of joy for me.  My pregnancy wasn't easy, sure, but it was a great blessing after my miscarriage last summer.  With great physical health and the absence of morning sickness for the first time ever, I'd even call my tenth pregnancy my best and easiest one ever.  That's amazing to me.  And humbling.  I've been greatly blessed.

Sweetest.  Baby.  Ever.

Perhaps it's too soon to say it, but it is so far true that my post-partum adjustment and healing has also been my best yet.  I've been able to quickly get back into running, I'm sleeping better than I have after any prior birth -- a nap every day those first six weeks because all my children were home (teenagers and old-enough-to-be-responsible 11-year-olds?  The. best. thing. ever!), short naps most days since school has started, and the best sleeper I've had yet.  The last two weeks he has slept until 3 or 5 in the morning every single night.  It's been wonderful.

Perhaps God is telling me something?

A few years ago, my husband and I took an evening class on the book of Revelations.  It was fascinating and one thing I particularly enjoyed learning about was the significance and symbolism of numbers used in the Bible.  Now, I don't know that God is superstitious about numbers, but I do know that He teaches His children according to their understanding, and because the ancients attached meaning to various numbers, He used that to teach them His ways.  As our teacher explained it, each number had a pattern and meaning -- forty days, seven trumps, etc.  

The significance of the number ten was a witness.  It also means a completed cycle.  There were ten generations listed in the bible from Adam to Noah, ten plagues in Egypt, one-tenth is a tithe, ten virgins, etc.  The number four represents the earth and it's four corners, so the number forty represents a witness or a complete overcoming of the world and mortality.  Hence, Christ fasted for forty days.
My ten favorite people.
Now I don't pretend to be an expert on this and I know there are many different interpretations and meanings we could assign to numbers, but I do think that for me personally, this tenth child represents a witness to me that God is watching over me.  It is a witness of my restoration to good health and of the promise that God really is a High Priest Of Good Things to Come

I love the words in the last chapter of Job (not that my own trials were anything like his):  "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning"  

Benjamin is a great blessing.  It's so sweet to watch the whole family adore him.  My older kids come home from school and immediately ask, "Where's my Benjamin?"

I'm loving this stage of my life, where I get to watch and enjoy the growth of all the different ages and stages of my children.  From the college prep and academic work of my junior in high school to my three-year-old enjoying her first days of preschool.  From watching the smiles of my newborn to accepting piles and piles of love notes drawn by my five-year-old.

It's a good life, and I am happy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Blood Moon & Fall Photos

My parents were in town for Benjamin's baby blessing yesterday (more on that later), so last night, we headed up the Alpine Loop to enjoy the fall colors at sunset and then watch the moon rise.  While supermoons are fairly common, and blood moons also happen regularly, last night they happened on the same night.  The best part about it is that in our neck of the woods, moon rise was about 7:15 and the eclipse peaked at 8:45, so no one had to stay up too late to enjoy it.

There was a party atmosphere happening at the overlook we chose, with dozens of people and families set up to watch.  It reminded me of watching Hailey's comet when I was a little girl.

Here's a progression of the eclipse:

This was my favorite photo of the bunch.

Just as pretty as the moon, though, was the drive through the mountains.  I love that with just a twenty minute drive from my house, I can be in the mountains and headed towards views like this:

Here a short video that explains more about the supermoon/blood moon combination.  It will be 18 years before it happens again.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Worth a Look

* One of my heroes passed away this week.  A strong and gentle man and an apostle of the Lord and a special witness of Jesus Christ, I will miss hearing the voice of Richard G. Scott.  I loved the reverence and love he always spoke of his wife with -- you can hear some of it in this interview he did with his daughter years ago on the Mormon Channel.  

Elder Scott's last address to the body of the Church was entitled Make the Exercise of Your Faith Your First Priority.  It is a classic!

We talk to God through prayer. He most often communicates back to us through His written word. To know what the voice of the Divine sounds and feels like, read His words, study the scriptures, and ponder them.5 Make them an integral part of everyday life. If you want your children to recognize, understand, and act on the promptings of the Spirit, you must study the scriptures with them.
Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!
There are many prophetic promises of the blessings of daily studying the scriptures.6
I add my voice with this promise: as you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart. It will be a gift of the Spirit. It will radiate out from you to influence others in the world around you. You will be doing something very significant to add to the cumulative peace in the world.

*  We had an amazing regional conference last week for Church.  I loved hearing this address by Elder Ballard along with several others.  I also love that the text has been posted online so I don't have to rely on my imperfect notes to tell you about it!
The Lord outlined simple, personal habits that keep us rooted, grounded, and connected to Him. Such habits, when done with full purpose of heart, real intent, and without hypocrisy and deception, allow us to be unwavering disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
These essential habits include the things that seem to easily slip away in the rush of our very busy lives, even when we are engaged in good things like pursuing an education, working to support a family, and involving ourselves in community and Church service.
They include sincere daily prayer; faithful fasting; regular study and pondering of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets; making the Sabbath day a delight; partaking of the sacrament with humility and always remembering the Savior; worshipping in the temple as often as possible; and, finally, reaching out to the needy, poor, and lonely—both those close by and across the world.
When someone stops doing these simple but essential things, they cut themselves from the “well of living water” and allow Satan to muddle their thinking. Sin and guilt cloud the mind—leading them to deny past inspiration and revelation and causing a “de-conversion” from the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 * And as long as I'm sharing inspirational messages today, This is How You Do Love

She told me that dinner would arrive at 6pm.
She didn’t ask if we wanted dinner, needed dinner, would be home for dinner, or if we all even LIKED that kind of dinner. Instead, she prepared a meal in tinfoil, walked straight into my frighteningly messy kitchen, and put dinner in the fridge for when we would eventually drag home.
This is how you do love.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

One a Day, Weeks 36-37

Another reason why "Squish" is a good nickname for Benji.

All decked out after being invited to make brownies with Lillian

Labor Day = laboring in the yard

Dunk Tank at the Neighborhood Party

11 years old and still catching bugs!

Best friends

We had a whole week of beautiful rain and cooler weather.  I love it when my honeysuckle is in bloom; it smells divine and graces the walkway to my front door.

A much-needed afternoon nap

Daddy Trip to Park City

International Talk Like a Pirate Day


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