Thursday, March 31, 2016

Worth a Look ~ Wedding, Easter, and "Jennifer" Conference

It's been an extra busy few weeks for our family, as we celebrated the wedding of our good friend and house guest for the last two months, Hailey, to her sweet new husband Nolan.

It was a beautiful wedding and the joy on the faces of the bride and groom made it all worth it. Everything in LDS temples points to Christ, especially and including a wedding ceremony, which we call a sealing.  We believe that because of the power of Christ, our marriages do not end at death but if we are faithful to the promises we make to our Heavenly Father, can and will continue into eternity.

Many of my kids were enlisted to help with the decorations, so it was a thrill when we saw the tables turn out like this:

So lovely.  At the last minute, our neighbors gave us cherry blossoms from their tree so not only did it all look amazing, it smelled divine.

And can I just say that Mormons are the best? Seriously, at 9:00, after the bride and groom left, we started taking a few things down, and it just snowballed. Dozens of people, just moments before guests at the wedding, began gathering things together, taking down lights, putting away chairs, folding up tablecloths . . . the best. It was mostly put away by 10, and a few of us stayed to tend to the last details. I locked up the building and left at 11:00. Wow. It truly feels like Zion when a huge job like that just gets done with very little need for anyone to organize or direct any of it.

He Lives!

What with the wedding and all, I didn't get the chance to share the best Easter links from last week.  I hope that like me, you are still celebrating the Easter season and Christ's glorious resurrection.

Until April 4th, you can watch last Friday's Messiah concert free at this link.  Handel was a master, and I must confess, he's been my constant companion the last week as I've folded mountains of laundry (on Sunday because we got behind, but it's not breaking the Sabbath if you're watching the Messiah while you do it, right??), cleaned my kitchen and home, and organized and put away wedding crafts.  The concert is amazing.  If it doesn't fill your home with light and love this beautiful season, I don't know that anything can.

For those wanting a shorter taste of Easter, try these videos:

And from one of my favorite talks (we Mormons are too casual to call them "sermons") of all time:

And one of my favorite arrangements of all time:

He lives, and because He lives, I Will Rise.  And so will you.

General Conference

One of my favorite weekends of the year is this weekend!  I've written about our family traditions for the weekend here.  Some of my kids couldn't pronounce it right, so they started calling it "Jennifer Conference" a while back and it stuck.  Members of my faith gather for talks (remember, we don't usually call them "sermons") and beautiful music to learn what Christ and God want us to do to serve and love them and those around us.  The conference started last Saturday with an amazing Women's Session that is already online.  It was a such a spiritual feast.  I loved it all, but these words were highlighted in my mind:

From Sister Marriott (you HAVE to hear her delightful Southern accent):
Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby—and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them—but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a “mother” before she had children.4 I believe that “to mother” means “to give life.” Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing place for the discriminated against, the rejected, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we build the kingdom of God. Sisters, all of us came to earth with these life-giving, nurturing, maternal gifts because that is God’s plan. 
Following His plan and becoming a builder of the kingdom require selfless sacrifice. Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: “All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, … purifies our hearts … and makes us more tender and charitable, … and it is through … toil and tribulation, that we gain the education … which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”5 These purifying trials bring us to Christ, who can heal us and make us useful in the work of salvation.
From Sister Burton (this story is especially meaningful, because among those stranded, frozen, starving pioneers arriving were my husband's family.):

On the day Relief Society was organized, Emma Smith declared: “We are going to do something extraordinary. … We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.”1 Those pressing calls and extraordinary occasions presented themselves frequently then—as they do now.
One came in the October 1856 general conference as President Brigham Young announced to the congregation that handcart pioneers were still on the trail and late in the season. He declared: “Your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the celestial kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains, and attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, … otherwise your faith will be in vain.”2 
We remember with grateful admiration the men who headed off to rescue those suffering Saints. But what did the sisters do? 
“Sister [Lucy Meserve] Smith recorded … that after President Young’s exhortation, those in attendance took action. … Women ‘[removed] their petticoats [large underskirts that were part of the fashion of the day and that also provided warmth], stockings, and every thing they could spare, right there in the [old] Tabernacle, and piled [them] into the wagons to send to the Saints in the mountains.’”3 
Several weeks later, President Brigham Young gathered the Saints again in the old Tabernacle as the rescuers and the handcart companies got closer to Salt Lake City. With great urgency, he pleaded with the Saints—especially the sisters—to nurse the sufferers and feed them and receive them, saying: “Some you will find with their feet frozen to their ankles; some are frozen to their knees and some have their hands frosted. … We want you to receive them as your own children, and to have the same feeling for them.”4
And from Elder Eyring:
I hope and pray that you will feel gratitude and joy as the Lord puts you together with others to serve for Him. 
As you have that experience often, and you will, you will smile with recognition, just as I do, whenever we sing, “Sweet is the work.”3
You will also smile as you remember this verse: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). 
The second thing you must do is remember the Lord as you go in service for Him. The Lord not only goes before our faces and sends angels to serve with us, but He also feels the comfort we give others as if we had given it to Him.

This video was also very touching.  I loved the story of one-on-one service:

Will you consider joining us this weekend?  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

One a Day, Weeks 9-11

We're prepping for a wedding for a friend -- this was the night of our crafting party.

This girl wears dresses every day lately.

Cleaning up her artistic toothpaste creation

No more training wheels!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Worth a Look ~ Epigenetics and the Science of Mothers Who Lick their Babies, A Bully, and Finding Your Way in a Faraway City


I've been fascinated with epigenetics the last few years.  This TED talk explains it well:

Basically, where we once thought the genes you had were the genes you were stuck with, it's now become clear that many environmental factors -- how your mother nurtured you, your diet, your mother's diet, and more can be a huge factor in which genes get expressed.  I find the whole thing fascinating.  The video above explains the Here are a few articles that explain it:

Don't blame grandma yet, but your asthma might be her fault

Epigenetics alters how our genes behave

How bees decide what to be.  This article talks about how the job a bee does determines its genetic markers, and how researchers can manipulate conditions so that a bee given one job will take on another as well as the genetic markers for that other job.  Simply fascinating.

Grandma's Experience can leave a mark on your genome.  This article explains what we know and theorize about how the whole thing applies to humans, and is probably the best one of what I've posted.

 If diet and chemicals can cause epigenetic changes, could certain experiences — child neglect, drug abuse or other severe stresses — also set off epigenetic changes to the DNA inside the neurons of a person’s brain? That question turned out to be the basis of a new field, behavioral epigenetics, now so vibrant it has spawned dozens of studies and suggested profound new treatments to heal the brain. 
According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories. 

On Politics:

I usually avoid talking politics here, but I have to say my heart is sick watching the Trump phenomena play out.  I have to agree wholeheartedly with this short speech by Mitt Romney and this analysis by Nathaniel Givens.  I just don't understand his appeal.  The only comforting thing is that while the media constantly report that he's winning evangelicals, among those who actually go to church, he does very poorly.  I'm glad some people can see through him.

Please, please, please, if you are considering that this man, an unrepentant adulterer, flatterer, liar, and fear-mongerer, is qualified to be our president, at least consider that his behavior is little more than a playground bully, as you can see in this article:  The 202 People, Places, and Things Trump has insulted on Twitter


With spring filling my days with 50 and 60 degree weather of late, and my bulbs starting to peek up from their winter slumber, I can look a bit more fondly back on these lovely winter images.


For Family Home Evening this week, we discussed this talk about how to develop a relationship with the Holy Ghost.  I always love hearing about Elder Eyring's father, who was a famous chemist who almost won the Nobel prize, but also a deeply spiritual man.  (I highly recommend his biography):
"That help came to my father years ago when his work took him to Australia. He was alone on a Sunday, and he wanted to take the sacrament. He could find no information about Latter-day Saint meetings. So he started walking. He prayed at each intersection to know which way to turn. After walking and making turns for an hour, he stopped to pray again. He felt an impression to turn down a particular street. Soon he began to hear singing coming from the ground floor of an apartment building close by. He looked in at the window and saw a few people seated near a table covered with a white cloth and sacrament trays. 
Now, that may not seem like much to you, but it was something wonderful to him. He knew the promise of the sacrament prayer had been fulfilled: “Always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them”  
That was only one example of a time when he prayed and then did what the Spirit told him God wanted him to do. He kept at it over the years, as you and I will. He never talked about his spirituality. He just kept on doing little things for the Lord that he was prompted to do.

Be the Donkey

I love Jenny's point about stillness:  In Me Ye Shall have Peace, and Other Scriptures I'm bad at

And finally,
I'm not a young single adult, but I am raising a whole bunch of kids who soon will be, so I was excited to watch this Face to Face with Elder Holland.  I highly recommend watching or listening to it.  Perhaps while deep-cleaning your kitchen cabinets?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Q&A: Large Family Economy: Work Hours

Today's question is about work hours, from my friend Liz:

Can you tell me a little bit more about how you do work hours?  We are just starting to implement something similar, and I am wondering what your kids earn for their hours?  For example, 1 hour = candy bar or small toy, 10 hours = bowling trip, etc.  Our oldest is 10 and she is way motivated to fill up her tickets with working time to earn things, but our 8 and 6 year old not so much, but I haven't put our prize box together yet so I'm hoping that will come along.  Any experience or advice?

We've done work hours for many years.  It used to be a more elaborate system, but right now it's simple and easy (that pattern has happened in a lot of areas of my life and I like it!).  Basically, we have each child's name on a white board on our kitchen and next to that is written how many work hours they currently have.  When they do something beyond the ordinary -- babysit, stack wood, extra yard work, cleaning out the pantry, etc. -- they earn work hours for the time they put in.  When they trade in the work hours, we subtract it from their total.  It works well for us because it's simple, easy to keep track of, and easy to understand.

A few more details:

Earning Work Hours.  

This happens pretty organically.  Sometimes the kids ask for work hour jobs because they want to earn enough for something or because they are bored.  Other times, I see a job that needs to be done and ask if anyone wants a work hour job.  The basic rule is that work hour jobs are extra work, not things that are normally done during our weekly house clean-up or that are assigned as part of their daily chores.  Thus, since Lillian's zone is to babysit for date night, she doesn't get work hours for that.  However, if she babysits for us at other times, she does.  Michael has a late start to school one day so he watches the kids for me while I run and doesn't get any work hours (just my gratitude and a pass on needing to do five minutes in the kitchen on other days).  When he's in charge during our weekly lunch date with one of the other kids, however, he does earn work hours.  If we are weeding the yard as assigned on a Saturday, it's not a work hour job, but if a child wants to work on trimming the rose bushes on a weekday, it's a work hour job.

Clearing sticks and branches from our wooded property is sometimes a work hour job, but other times, like during spring break or on a Monday holiday, I require a certain amount of time from each child  before they can earn work hours.
Allison tackled organizing the pantry to earn money for Hawaii

Mowing the lawn is part of our regular rotation of assigned jobs and is not eligible for work hours.
Cleaning out the cabinets in the kitchen is a work hour job
Sorting the games and puzzles is also a work hour job

Keeping Track

We have two white boards in the hallway just off the kitchen (this way, they are easily accessible, but not quite so ugly).  One lists the kids current zone assignments and dinner nights at the top, then has our grocery list at the bottom.  The kids and I just write in the items we are missing as we run out, then I take a photo of the list with my phone just before we go to the store.

The other white board is across the hall from this one and includes a calendar and place for notes. We have used the calendar area in the past to list our rotating menu, but right now, it's blank.  The notes area is where we keep track of work hours.

Trading Them In. 

At one time, we had a box of items the kids could earn with their work hours, things like Junie B. Jones books and little toys, but honestly, it got to be a pain to keep stocked, we kept forgetting to have the "work hours store," and at some point, the kids didn't really care for the items in it, so we don't use it.  Now, work hours are worth a certain amount of money depending on age. If they turn them in for approved items or experiences, they are worth more than if they are turned in for cash, and most of the time, we don't allow them to be turned into cash.  Mostly this is because it is way too easy to blow $4 on a bunch of candy when they ride their bikes to the grocery store and we'd rather have them save their work hours for when they want important things.  The trade-in value of work hours for experiences or items we order for them from Amazon is roughly $2 an hour for the youngest kids, $3 for kids ages 9-12, and $4 or 5 for the teenagers.  It's a dollar less if they want to trade it for cash.

Here are a few of the things the kids have used work hours for recently:

* Allison traded in some for $2 so she could buy junk at the dollar store.

* Sarah traded in 8 hours to order various craft supplies for a crafting party she's planning with some of her sisters.
One of Sarah's oven-baked clay projects.  She earns work hours to pay for the clay.
* Joey wanted to go to a fly fishing film festival last week, so he traded in 3 work hours to pay for the cost of the ticket.  He regularly uses work hours to pay for fly tying supplies.

* Sarah bought a glue gun and glue sticks with work hours so she could do fun projects.
One of Sarah's glue stick projects
* Allison earned 130 hours over the summer and fall, paying for half of her plane ticket to Hawaii with them.  I was so proud of her diligent effort and she learned a lot about setting goals, making sacrifices, and accomplishing something.  Other kids have done the same in the past to pay for other trips with us.

Allison filled up the trailer all by herself

She LOVED that Hawaii trip.
And that's about all there is to work hours at our house.  Pretty simple and straightforward, and much easier than trying to deal with money or tickets or some other elaborate incentive system.  The kids know that if they want something extra, they can do something extra to earn the work hours for it.  It teaches them good life lessons, helps us get some needed projects tackled, and helps the kids feel good about their contributions to the family.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Worth a Look ~ Why Dads Don't Mother, Pushing Passion on our Kids, and Mutated Genes

Lots of family, parenting, and human interest stories today.

The Distinct, Positive Influence of a Good Dad  Yes!  I am so grateful for a good husband who is dedicated to his family.  As the article notes, "Fathers don't mother." What my husband brings to our family is a unique contribution.  This brief review of what research shows is the unique contribution of fathers is excellent.

I love this advice from a family therapist.  Question:  I feel like I married the wrong person
"I believe we all marry the wrong person when we get married. None of us are who we need to be when we’re first married. Our reasons for getting married are often about us. We tell ourselves things like, “He’s just like me”, or “She likes what I like”, or “He’s attractive to me.” The list goes on with evidence of why this person works for us. We often select someone because they make us feel a certain way. In other words, most of our reasons are self-centered. At some point in the course of marriage, however, our commitment must expand beyond our own narrow self-interest.
If we stayed exactly the same as we were when we first married, most of us wouldn’t be able to stay married. It requires us to adapt and grow into someone who can be there for someone during times when we may not get much in return. Marriage is the perfect environment to rid us of selfishness. Adding children to a family presents us with more reasons to lose our self-centeredness."
I also agree with this parenting wisdom found in Our Push for Passion and Why it Harms Kids, though I would go further and say that pushing for "passion" for adults is also misguided.
For most children, childhood isn’t about passion, but rather about exploration. Our job as parents is to nurture that exploration, not put an end to it. When we create an expectation that children must find their one true interest so early in life, we cut short a process of discovery that may easily take a lifetime.

My favorite banana bread.  I've substituted yogurt for the buttermilk at times and it has been amazing. The recipe comes from my favorite cooking blog.

I've been listening to a lot of great speeches while I exercise or clean.  A few that have stood out to me:
  •  We Count our Successes in Lives: Health vs. Health Care.  This address, given in 2014, is a must-listen.  The author has an impressive health resume and gives a lot of evidence-based information about why health outcomes are not always affected well by access to health insurance, how applying simple practices made huge impacts on survival rates in the IHC system, and etc.  I wish the text were available so I could quote you some of it, but trust me, it's worth a listen.
  • God will use you, God will bless you  I love the stories told about the Philadelphia and San Salvador Temple, plus this:  "Brothers and sisters, I have been in situations where all appears lost, where it seems that nothing you can do or say will make a difference. What I have learned in these situations is that if you are on the Lord’s errand, do all that you can do with the talents and abilities God has given you and then lift up your heart and plead for God to hear your prayer and intervene on your behalf. Even though you may appear to be outnumbered, even though it appears that all may be lost, our beloved Father in Heaven will reach out and take you by the hand. He will fight your battles. He will come to your aid."

This story is awesome! I listened to the podcast about it with my older kids on our California trip a month ago and they were fascinated.  The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene


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