Joy – Week 3 of 52

Week three of my Joy Project.

January 13, 2014 – Family Home Evening

Every Monday night, we always hold family night. It is relatively formal: we meet together, we have a lesson, sing a song, have prayers, and, most importantly, a treat. There is an agenda, and we do what we can to keep it consistent. Just because this meeting in our family is formal, doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! We are goofy, the lessons vary in length (depending on who is teaching them), and mostly we look forward to spending this time together.

This week, Tiger was in charge of teaching FHE.

Tiger, Sasquatch, and Panda
Tiger, Sasquatch, and Panda

She chose “Saints” as the subject for FHE.

So, here’s one of secrets I’ve discovered regarding FHE. When you let your kids teach, you can have great one-on-one discussions about the gospel. I have better gospel-centered conversations with my children while they are preparing to teach FHE than any other time. This Monday was no exception. Tiger and I discussed the qualities of a saint. She and I studied the scripture: Mosiah 3:19 which states:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” – Mosiah 3:19

Okay…I’ve talked too much about FHE and not enough about joy.

Joy is having gospel-centered discussions with your children – no matter their ages. They can be three or nearly thirteen. Joy is knowing that my daughter, who is nearly a teenager, wants to study the gospel and has a budding testimony. Joy is knowing that because I’ve made sacrifices in my life to teach my children, they have accepted the gospel and want to cultivate their own testimonies.

January 14, 2014 – Writing

It's fun to solve a problem.
It’s fun to solve a problem.

I’ve been working on writing daily. Sometimes I do well with this challenge. Other times, not so much. I’m using prompts that I downloaded from wordpress. One prompt was especially difficult for me at first, but I tried it, and I was so happy with the results!

(Click here if you want to read it).

I’ll admit that the story I wrote wasn’t all that happy, but I’m intrigued by it, and I think that I want to flesh it out into a real short story. This year, my goal is to submit writing to be published.

Joy is being creative. For me, joy is writing. Writing is especially joyful when it seems impossible at first, but then the experience is both intriguing and cathartic.

January 15, 2014 – Beautiful Food

Prep work is the best.
Prep work is the best.

Food is pretty. That’s all there is to it. In food, you find a culmination of miracles. Food sustains life. You can find mathematical functions. (Isn’t this picture of celery pretty much a fractal?) In food, your biological curiosities can be quenched. Not only that, food is yummy and beautiful.

Joy is food. Not only food, but prep work. I love cutting up celery, onions, carrots, garlic. I love slicing, dicing, and even shredding. Joy is experiencing food with all of your senses – not only taste.

January 16, 2014 – The Phoenix Temple

The Phoenix Temple is being built. The temple is a holy place.
The Phoenix Temple is being built. The temple is a holy place.
Pretty neat, don't you think?
Pretty neat, don’t you think?
This temple is only a few miles from our house. I'm soooo excited!
This temple is only a few miles from our house. I’m soooo excited!

We are excited because the Phoenix temple is nearly finished. Soon enough it will be open, and we’ll be a hop, skip, and a jump away from the temple.

I love the temple. If you want to know more about temples, then check this out.

I love temples because when I attend the temple, I feel peace – not only during my time in the temple, but peace and joy infuses my entire life. I’m reminded of the love that Heavenly Father has for me, and I’m renewed with a sense of purpose. I feel comforted and invigorated when I attend the temple.

Joy is the temple, and knowing that soon I’ll be only a few miles from one.

January 17, 2014 – Waking in the Night

I’ll admit, three weeks ago, I never would have said this. But looking for joy in everything is changing how I see my life–including inconveniences.

Last night, the T-Rex woke up five times during the night. I got no more than 2 hours of continuous sleep. I felt so sleepy. Every 45 minutes or so, I’d hear him cry, “Mommy…I need covered!”

Thanks to my determination to find joy, I decided to be happy about the late-night request. Instead of complaining internally, I just went to his room, and covered him up. I gave him a kiss, and relished the moment. This choice helped me to see a new perspective. I remembered that this time will pass by quickly. Already the T-Rex is so big. Gone are the days when he’d snuggle on my lap for a nap. So, if I have to take a snatch of his snuggles and love at 2:27 AM, then that’s fine with me. He’ll be grown soon…And, not to be morbid, but I was reminded of my brother’s early death, of the death of Emily Parker, and so many other children. And I thought that I would snuggle my child happily for all of the moms that can’t snuggle their little ones anymore.

The neat part is this: when I’m sweet, my kids are sweet back to me. I snuggled the T-Rex back into bed, and gently warmed him up. Instead of being frustrated by the situation, I simply soaked it in. Because of this choice, the T-Rex wasn’t frustrated by my frustration. My choice to see joy calmed him, too. And he whispered, “Mom, I love to go on adventures with you.”

What a sweetie!
What a sweetie!

Joy is sharing a snuggle with your little ones – on their time, which sometimes happen to be repeatedly in the middle of the night.

January 18, 2014 – Excitement for New Moms

I went to a shower today, and I was beside myself with excitement for this new mom. I wish I would have brought my camera!!!

This is her first child, and she radiates love and excitement. As I watched my friend open her presents and rejoice in each toy, onsie, pack of diapers, and blankie, I thought back on when I was pregnant with Tiger – thirteen years ago! I thought back on the amazing journey motherhood has been. I had no idea what to expect then. There have been many surprises, many blessings, many disappointments. But in all, being a mother has brought me more joy than anything else I could have imagined.

Truly, children are an heritage of the Lord. (See Psalms 127:3.) And I am so grateful that Heavenly Father has blessed me with four of them.

Tiger

Panda

Sasquatch

(He hurt his head. I kissed it, then he insisted on a band-aid!)
(He hurt his head. I kissed it, then he insisted on a band-aid!)

Joy is motherhood. Joy is having children. Joy is sharing the joy of motherhood with the only ones who understand it–other mothers.

January 19, 2014 – The Sabbath

No picture for this one.

Today, I went to church and felt the Spirit so strongly throughout. Sacrament was a wonderful experience, and we had two really great speakers. After sacrament, I saw a friend and was able to share her happy news. I felt so much joy for her, and was reminded of how I’ve experienced this joy in my life, too.

On my way out of sacrament, the missionaries found me, and I was able to take a young girl to her class. I was happy to know that there are people who are hearing the gospel for the first time, and expressing the courage it takes to come to church.

Last year, I struggled so much – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In some ways, I was tempted to give up on God, feeling like He had given up on me. But I can see that He was, in His mysterious way, teaching me the exact lesson I wanted to learn. I learned about love, His Atonement, and discipleship. And I’m so grateful to feel His Spirit consume my life once again.

Joy is worshipping God, and feeling His Spirit.

***
What was joy to you this week?

FHE – Cookie Delivery

On Monday night, for FHE, we did another annual tradition – cookie delivery. In order to get all of this ready for Family Home Evening, the girls and I spent the better part of Sunday and Monday baking. This year, we scaled down…way down, but even with scaling down, it seems like we were a little overboard. Anyone who knows me, knows that our forays into holiday baking are always insane. (And we love it!)

I promise that this is scaled down.  Only three kinds of cookies!!!
I promise that this is scaled down. Only three kinds of cookies!!!
Tiger getting ready to start the delivering.  I hope our neighbors are ready for treats!
Tiger getting ready to start the delivering. I hope our neighbors are ready for treats!
Making Deliveries in the Double Stroller!
Making Deliveries in the Double Stroller!
A big grin from Panda.  Cookies make everyone happy - even if you're delivering instead of eating. :)
A big grin from Panda. Cookies make everyone happy – even if you’re delivering instead of eating. 🙂

We went around to our new neighbors with our creations. It was a good way to introduce ourselves. Hopefully the neighbors like the treats. In any case, we had fun – huddling in the cold (the Phoenix cold – I won’t tell you the actual temperature because you’ll probably make fun of us) and handing out cookies.

Two of my favorite parts of the night: Sasquatch saying, “Let’s make cookies for everyone else…like US.”

Tiger telling us (later on) that she felt the Spirit when she delivered cookies. She felt so happy and joyful to be doing something nice for others.

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Check out another FHE Experience over at Jocelyn’s blog.

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For fun, here’s a recipe to one of the “cookies” we made – they were actually mini-pies

Chocolate Pecan Mini-Pie Recipe

6 tablespoons butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1-2 tsp vanilla
Pecans
Pie shells (I use the pilsbury ones that you can unroll)

1. Use a circular cookie cutter to cut “pie crusts” from the pie dough. Form 12 small pies into a muffin tin. Do not bake. Sprinkle pecans on the shells. (More or less depending on how you feel about nuts). Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, or in the microwave, melt the butter and chocolate. Stir until smooth. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and salt. Whisk until well mixed. Whisk in the eggs until well combined. Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla and combine.
4. Spoon some of the batter into each pie shell. The Pecans will float to the top.
5. Bake at 400 for about 7 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 300 and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes.
6. Cool and chill. The pies will be scrumptious and fudgey!

***
Can you believe, there are only two Monday nights left in 2012???!!!

FHE – General Conference Favorites

Last night was a laid back kind of FHE. We are still basking in the general conference glow. We decided to talk about General Conference – our favorite talks and moments – as we ate dinner.

First, here a few pictures from the day before…

Panda – taking notes during General Conference

Tiger watched General Conference from a make-shift table/tent.
Sasquatch watches general conference…we had a lot of chocolate available during conference (as you can tell by the corners of her mouth!)
The T-Rex is a little young to really appreciate conference, but he loved hanging out with all of us stopping by and playing with us throughout the conference.

Here are the favorite moments we had during conference:

Homey: The priesthood session talk given by Anthony Perkins. He spoke in the Priesthood session – about overcoming temptation through scripture study and prayer. Scripture study and prayer, while simple, can really empower our lives.

Tiger: The talk given by Elder Eyring. He spoke about how there are sometimes “pavilions” we create that cover the light of the Lord from our view. She mentioned that we can uncover these by doing what we must to stay close to the Spirit.

Panda: The new policy change for missionaries: men at 18 years old and women at 19 years old. I have to admit, I’m super excited about the change, too. I always wanted to serve a mission when I was younger. It was a dream of mine, but wasn’t meant to be. This is not a problem for me because I can see the wisdom that the Lord had in directing my life in another path. However, I think that more women will be able to serve now that the age standard has been lowered. Mostly I’m excited because this will help the missionary efforts throughout the world. And it will also be a blessing to women. There are so many women who struggle to remain active during the Young Women’s / Relief Society transition. I figure this will really help that problem.

Sasquatch: She mostly told us gibberish…Her favorite part of conference was the monkey and his friend the squirrel (no idea where this came from!). We asked her about the Prophet. She knows him: President Monster. So cute! And she told us that the prophet will get the badguys!

Me: I mentioned the talk by Dallin H. Oaks. It made an impact on me. I recognize that he probably didn’t particularly enjoy giving this talk. I mean, what he spoke on was relatively obvious. Yet we need His reminders in this world – that Children truly are a gift from God – a heritage of the Lord. As I listened to his talk, I felt myself validated for my choice to be a stay-at-home mother.

I have received a Bachelor’s Degree. I once had hopes and ambitions – Worldly ones like profession, etc. Yet, I also have hopes and ambitions that are way bigger than something like a job. I want to live with God again. I want to be what He sees in me. In fulfilling this dream, I know that motherhood plays a significant role. Yet, sometimes I feel the pressure. That I’m not really doing much with my life. That I’ve wasted my education to stay at home. It was a good reminder to know that nothing I do for my children is a waste. In fact, I felt motivated to be a better parent.

I also loved Elder Holland’s talk…but more on that later.

How did you like conference? What did you do for FHE last night?

For more real-life FHE experiences, head on over to Jocelyn’s Blog.

FHE – Perception of our Bodies

I try to teach a chastity/body/modesty – centered FHE at least annually. When my children were younger, we usually were fine with this happening once a year. As I prepared this FHE, I realized that this theme will need more than one FHE lesson. My oldest is 11. Talking about modesty/chastity/body image will take more than one Family Home Evening.

A lot has changed in the last year. We have moved, the girls are a year older (duh). My oldest daughter is sweet, yet seems to be taking on some of the “typical” teenage characteristics. She isn’t as open as she used to be. There are times when she’s a little defensive. She is also beginning to get more private and quiet. I know that this is a normal part of the process of growing up, but I still worry!

As I thought about this FHE, I realized I needed to get a baseline reading – of how the girls feel about their bodies. They don’t seem to talk about it much, but I wasn’t sure if they were starting to have doubts about their bodies. I think that for a lot of young women, they are tempted to dress immodestly and break the law of chastity because they have doubts about their self-worth. They begin to buy into the image that a woman is mostly a sexual being. Many young women feel like if they want to be considered valuable by another person – boy or girl – then they need to dress more provocatively. Young women want the acceptance of their friends and the boys they like. It is hard to remember that we are worth so much more than our sexuality.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to launch into a speech like that. Instead, we drew pictures.

Here we are drawing…Everyone had fun.

We drew three abstract pictures using manila paper and oil pastels. Oh, and each of us, including me an Homey, drew. I didn’t want the girls to feel like they were on the spot.

First we drew what we liked about our bodies. Some of the things included: thin (Tiger), Creative Brain (Tiger), Silky Hair (Panda), Imagination (Panda), Fit (Homey), and Brain (Mom). I was interested to see that the girls tended to include things that were more aesthetic (thinness, pretty eyes), yet they also included functions of their body that were not visible (but just as important, if not more so!). I’m glad that they were able to recognize that they could find so many things they liked about their bodies. It is something I need to remember!

Next, we drew what we didn’t like about our bodies. This included: Chapped Lips (Tiger), Cavities (Panda), Migraines (Homey), and Appetite/Blobbiness (me). I was happy to see that the girls had a difficult time thinking up things that they didn’t like about their bodies. I thought of dozens of things I don’t like about my body. Some of them are the effects of age. Others are the effects of bad choices. And other things are simply ways I’m not being grateful for the blessings of a mortal body.

As usual, I think I learned the most from FHE.

I want my kids to have a good example in me. I want them to feel confident about their bodies. I want them to be happy.

For our third picture, we drew pictures of how we think Heavenly Father sees us. I hope that this is what my kids will remember. I know that I need to remember it. I know that Heavenly Father doesn’t see me as a lazy blob, so why do I choose to see myself that way? I recognize that by seeing myself differently than how Heavenly Father sees me means I’m listening to some other voice – not a good one. I want my children to remember they are beloved daughters of God, and that they can be (and in many ways are) the beautiful daughters he sees in them.

It was a nice family night.

What did you do for FHE? How do you keep your body image positive and healthy? How have you taught body image to your children?

For other FHE adventures, check out Jocelyn’s Blog.

FHE – The Bible

One thing that’s interesting about having different people teach Family Home Evening is the different ways that people present lessons.

Last week, Sasquatch chose the topic: The Bible. It’s a pretty broad topic. You could teach a Family Home Evening lesson based on the Bible in so many ways. When Sasquatch chose this topic, I was wondering how on earth I would help her prepare a lesson on the Bible.

I was off the hook a few minutes later because Panda begged to help Sasquatch with the lesson. As they went to prepare the lesson, I kept thinking of how I would teach the lesson. I figured that I would use the talk: The Miracle of the Holy Bible by M. Russell Ballard. I didn’t tell Panda to use this resource but figured at some point I would.

Well, that never happened. Instead, Panda decided to use the Illustrated New Testament Stories. She helped Sasquatch Read a story.

It was pretty cute. Originally, they were going to read about the ten virgins. Sasquatch decided to “read” something on her own. The story she told talked about Jesus standing on steps (that was what was pictured), then going to the doctor, the supermarket, watching Beauty and the Beast, and going potty on the toilet. We all smiled. She was so genuine. As always is the case when Sasquatch teaches a lesson, the biggest benefit of FHE isn’t necessarily learning some kind of doctrinal lesson, but rather having the spirit of love infuse our home. It was a nice FHE.

After Sasquatch read her “story” she let Panda help her read another story. They read about Mary seeing the resurrected Lord. It is one of my favorite stories. While Panda whispered in Sasquatch’s ear, and Sasquatch repeated, I found myself lost in thought. Instead of thinking about the story, I was basking in the happiness of seeing my children work together. It was so nice. 🙂

After the lesson, we played Mario Party on Wii. This is Sasquatch’s favorite thing in the whole wide world. Even though some video games don’t promote unity or happiness, we like the games where everyone can play, and we cheer for one another.

Even the T-Rex gets in on the action…he LOVES playing wii.
All the kids love to play together. Every once in a while, video games can be okay!

I am grateful for FHE. Thank you for indulging me as I share our lessons and activities. I hope that they are helpful to others, too.

What did you do for FHE? See more FHE experiences at Jocelyn’s Blog.

FHE – Family Prayer

Tonight’s FHE was interesting. First of all, let’s just say that it is summer. You would think that this would mean we would have more time to plan a decent FHE, but it seems to get forgotten after swimming, movies, wii, and just hanging out.

Last night, Panda planned an FHE on Family Prayer. I use the term planned quite loosely. But it turned out just fine.

Family Prayer (More Good Foundation, Click Image for source)

We ate dinner, discussed our “highs and lows” of the day. Then, we did a little bit of role playing. We “acted out” having a day without prayer. We ate plastic food, and had plenty of play fights. Then, we role played a day with prayer. There was peace, we listened to each other. Panda explained why family prayer helps our days go better.

The best part about FHE wasn’t the spiritual message (that was good, too), but it was fun to hang out, eat pretend food, have pretend food fights, and play. It was also nice to discuss the importance of prayer – especially to Sasquatch, the three-year-old. Lately, she has been iffy about saying prayers. She likes the attention she gets from offering a prayer. She also loves the attention she gets when she refuses to pray, and we beg her to do it. We talked about prayer helping us and bringing a warm feeling in our hearts.

It is nice to have older children teaching younger children. Tiger and Panda helped teach Sasquatch about prayer. I realized that it doesn’t matter if Sasquatch learned anything in that moment. The older girls strengthened their own testimonies by bearing theirs and encouraging their little sister to pray.

***

What did you do for FHE? Check out another fun FHE experience over at Jocelyn’s Blog.

FHE – Honesty

Tiger taught Family Home Evening tonight on honesty. She did a lot of hard work to present this all on her own.

First, we watched this Mormon Message Video:

We then discussed honesty – what it is, how it is more than simply telling the truth in what we say, but that we should be honest in all that we do. During FHE, I was reminded of something I had heard years ago – that when we live in debt we are not being honest – we aren’t being honest with ourselves, others, and even (at times) with those to whom we owe money. This talk was given before the economy was destroyed. In fact, it was given when things were going well…And we can see now that this is true, there is a day of reckoning and soon the truth comes out. I didn’t really talk about this in FHE, I just had the thought…it was a good reminder to me – as it reinforces my desire to work hard to stay out of debt and not be overly materialistic.

Tiger then gave an object lesson.

It started with a little lie...

Tiger had dad be the example for this object lesson. She asked him a question (and he was told to lie). When he lied, one little piece of yarn was wrapped around his wrist.

And then another...

He could have told the truth after the first lie with little consequence. It would have been easy to get out of the lie. However, it is tempting to continue lying – as it is quite embarrassing to admit to the first lie. So…dad kept lying, and the yarn kept wrapping around his wrists.

Bound by lies.

Finally, we saw that dad could not get free from his lies. They had completely bound him. He was no longer free – and it seemed like he wasn’t free to tell the truth. Even if he told the truth, he was wrapped up in the lies that he had said. He could be freed only by a big pair of sharp scissors…We can repent, and be freed from the lies, yet there is still damage done. People won’t believe us. The worst damage is what it does to our own spirits.

We discussed Korihor, who was an anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon. He had begun to spread lies to the people in Zarahemla. He finally comes to the point where he is contending with Alma, and has tempted Alma to ask for a sign. Korihor is stuck dumb, and the truth finally begins to come out. Korihor explains:

“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” – Alma 30:53

Korihor began telling those lies so many times that he was bound by them. He deceived himself! He eventually believed his own lies, even though he knew that they were lies from the very beginning.

I think that this is such an interesting fact. As a family, we talked a little bit about Korihor, and how if we lie, we may run the same risk: beginning to believe our own lies. It seems like a lie is something that is designed to help us avoid some kind of pain or problem, yet when we lie, over time we cause ourselves greater pain and problems than the ones that we tried so hard to avoid.

Tiger closed with her testimony – that we can be honest, when we do, then the Spirit is with us. When we don’t, our spirits dull, and we become like Korihor – tricked by our own lies. She bore her testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. And then we closed…with a song, prayer, and treats (of course!).

What did you do for FHE? For another Family Home Evening Experience, click on over to Jocelyn’s Blog.