Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Hammock

When I was about to meet Sam's family for the first time,
I was a little intimidated.
He had told me about his six siblings and the line-up of wow-worthy traits was pretty long:
-astrophysicist (who now works for Google)
-geologist saving the coastline of the Eastern United States
-Harvard graduate
-Washington, DC social worker and marriage therapist
-world traveler
-multiple graduate degrees
-fluent in several languages
-missionary in Guatemala

They were so accomplished...what would they think of me, the 19-year-old baby who was about to marry their brother??
Thankfully, they all welcomed me with open arms and it turned out that they were super-nice as well as super-accomplished!
We are excited to spend the next few days with one of his sisters and her family. 
This year for Christmas she sent us a hammock! I set it up inside with the intention of moving it outdoors when I was finished but...it was cold outside
and the hammock was so fun
and the boys were loving it
and I realized it was a great way to help with the Winter stir-craziness
and we had an open area in the house
and so we left it indoors.

The kids have had SO much fun swinging in the hammock for the past few months!
They have all kinds of tricks they can do with it,
they make Benson belly-laugh SO HARD when they swing him in it,
and on the rare occasion Sam or I get to use it we're pretty happy campers, too!
It is seriously comfy.
Plus, it all collapses down into a little carrying bag so we can take it camping or whatever and literally be happy campers. So fun!

I think my favorite thing, though, is to see boys absorbed in books in it.
It's a really frequent sight.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Easter Finale

This morning the boys made resurrection rolls.
Crescent rolls wrapped around marshmallows and rolled in cinnamon and sugar become hollow when cooked and the marshmallow melts, resulting in a gooey mound of tasty symbolism.
Yesterday we had the missionaries over for dinner and talked about how when Jesus' body was in the tomb, His spirit was instructing the righteous in the spirit world and organizing them to preach the Gospel to others there.
We have loved doing Easter activities all week!

I get to be the chorister for the children at Church,
and we are singing the most joyful song for Easter.
As I hear the children sing out with all their hearts,
"Christ has won the victory!"
My heart swells with gratitude.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Empty Tomb Cookies and Easter Symbol Dinner

Easter Symbol Dinner 2017

In order to follow correct chronology, we should have celebrated The Last Supper last night,
but Sam had a meeting and I wanted him to be here for our traditional dinner.
So we mixed things up a bit.
Last night we made Empty Tomb Cookies and the boys loved it! They loved sampling the ingredients and reading and remembering how they tied into the story of Jesus' crucifixion.
Often I feel like religiously themed Easter activities for kids I've seen lack the element of reverence I'm looking for, but each time I've made these I have felt that things were calm and instructive.

Tonight the boys were roughhousing in the backyard as I prepared our table.
When they came in for dinner, I stopped them at the door to ensure shoes were removed, signifying the sacred nature of our upcoming dinner and discussion.
We closed our eyes for a few moments to bring some calm to the atmosphere, and then we gathered around the candle-lit table which was spread with a simple array of naan, hummus, avocados, tomatoes, honey, feta cheese, fruit, and grape juice, all on white dishes.
We had a prayer and music played as we began eating.
(I played this CD, which has been such a lovely addition to our Easter season this year! And PS, it's free with Amazon Prime!)
I asked the boys to point out all the symbols they noticed in our dinner.
We then each shared one of our favorite stories of the Savior.
I loved hearing what each of the boys chose:
Talmage: Jesus' transfiguration
Wesley: Jesus visits the Nephites
Lincoln: Jesus heals the woman with an issue of blood and Jesus heals the man at the pool of Bethesda

Normally our dinner table is incredibly loud and energetic,
but tonight voices were hushed and everything was calm for a much longer time than I expected.
We ended the evening by reading about the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane in the New Testament together.
It was a beautiful time for our family.

Things got busy after dinner and we ended up putting the boys to bed without opening the picture or watching the Bible video. I didn't think they were all that into it, but as I was putting them to bed I was met with protests.
"We didn't watch the Bible video!!"
"What about the picture???"

I guess it's making more of an impact than I had thought.
I promised them we could open the picture and watch the video in the morning, though, and they were appeased.
All in all, it was a lovely night!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

30 Pieces of Silver

The Wednesday before Easter is traditionally known as "Spy Wednesday,"
and Judas' act of receiving 30 pieces of silver in exchange for his betrayal of the Savior is remembered.
I was struggling to come up with a meaningful activity for today, in part because betrayal doesn't lend itself well to a celebration.
You know?

Eventually I worked out a plan to gather 30 pieces of silver money and talk to the kids about how Judas' problem was that he loved money more than he loved God. We discussed the fact that we should not have our hearts set on money and that we should always use our resources to serve God.
We then went into the grocery store to the Coinstar machine and the kids each got to select a charity on the machine to give their handful of coins to. They enjoyed carefully feeding their coins in, and I think they liked being able to take ownership of where their donation would go.

It was a really simple activity,
but surprisingly difficult to plan.
It involved me working with many customer service representatives (a couple of them getting annoyed with me and hanging up on me!) as I tried to track down a way to change $5 to coins.
I was also trying to find a good drop box to donate the money.
I initially planned to take the kids to the Danny Thomas Pavilion and meet up with Sam. They have a dropbox there for donations, but they close at 4pm and that didn't give us enough time to get there.
Finally my friend told me I could swap her a $5 bill for coins from a big jug of change she had and I was informed that the Coinstar machines had a donation option.
(Thank you, helpful customer service person!!)

Sometimes I wonder if fun activities I plan are worth the hassle, but then today Maxwell pointed at the pictures of the Savior we've opened this week and he said, "I opened that one!" And then he pointed to Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the temple and told me Jesus was in the temple.
I was surprised because I didn't really think he had been paying attention, and that picture looks nothing like the temple he is familiar with.
I'm always amazed at how much kids pick up on even when they don't seem to care.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Parable Picnic Scavenger Hunt

Today's theme was parables. Jesus told several parables that are recorded during the last week of His life, but we discussed others as well.
I was struggling to come up with an activity that I thought would really engage the boys.
Then, this morning I took the little ones to the park and somewhere between swings and Pooh-sticks with the perfect weather filling me with the greatest sense of well-being, I realized what we should do.

So this evening, after Sam got back from work, we headed back to that park for a parable picnic and scavenger hunt.
I prepared a list of parables and a representative item for the boys to find at the park
and as we ate each of the boys chose a parable from the list to discuss.
They opened a picture of Jesus teaching and then we read the parables they chose in the scriptures and talked about what they meant.
They had a great time finding all the items on their lists and then they were off to play,
scootering around the park,
stick-sword fighting,
exploring nooks and crannies,
and improving monkey bar skills.
At the end of the evening, Sam and I sat on a porch swing on the side of the path, watching the boys play together while Benson sat on our laps mimicking their shouts and waving a stick around as a sword-wielding baby.
The sun set as we soaked in the Spring evening, smiling as a passer-by told us, "You've got a quiver-full!"

When we came home we watched the Bible video of The Lost Sheep and tucked boys into bed well beyond their bedtime.
The evening had been too lovely to cut short.

This is such a crazy life,
but on nights like tonight I am reminded of how truly wonderful it is.


Parable Picnic Scavenger Hunt

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)
Say hello or wave to someone outside our family

The Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:12-14)
An animal

The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)
A seed

The Sower (Luke 8:5-15)
Rocky ground, sunny ground, ground by the road, good ground

The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)

The Budding Fig Tree (Matthew 24:32-36)
A budding tree

The Rich Man and the Beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)

The Wise and the Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24-27)
Rock and sand

Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
Someone doing yard work

The Faithful Servant (Luke 12:35-48)
Perform an act of service

The Pearl (Matthew 13:45-46)
A cool rock

The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
A barn or shed

Monday, April 8, 2019

Resurrection Gardens and the Temple

Today we had a bunch of people over to make resurrection gardens!
We planted grass seed in the dirt around the tomb, and each day as the kids water it we will repeat John 3:16 together and talk about how the Savior gives us new life. It was such a fun project!

This evening the kids opened the picture of Christ cleansing the temple and we read John's account and then watched the Bible video. We then talked about three kinds of temples in our lives: the temple building, our homes, and our bodies. We talked about what we need to do to keep these temples pure and we discussed the Memphis temple open house that we will be able to attend next week! Then we showed the kids the temple video below.
When it was finished, Lincoln said, "That song was so beautiful it LITERALLY massaged me!"
I have to agree with his sentiments. That song always stirs the deepest feelings of reverence and yearning for Heaven within my soul. I'm so grateful to have bits of Heaven on Earth.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Palm Sunday

We have family coming into town next week (yay!), so we decided to celebrate Easter a week early. I've been wanting to do more to celebrate Holy Week for years now, and this year I am finally implementing a few ideas. I'm sure we'll work out the kinks over the next few years and it will evolve over time, but I hope the week leading up to Easter will become one of the most meaningful weeks of the year for our family.

Tonight after Conference, we gathered as a family and had a short devotional (which we will have each night this week).
We began by opening a wrapped package, which was the picture above, of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
We then read Matthew's account of that event, and then we made palm leaves out of green poster board and the boys spread clothes along the ground in a path. We stood on either side of the clothes, waving our palm leaves and singing a "Hosanna" song from "Scripture Scouts."
(Do you know about Scripture Scouts? I grew up with them and they heavily influenced my understanding of the scriptures. Our kids have loved them, too! I love them so much I told Sam about them on our first date!)

Afterward, we talked about how just as the people of Jerusalem welcomed Christ into their city, we can welcome Him into our lives. We wrote on our palm leaves one way we will invite the Savior into our lives more fully this week and we watched the Bible video of Christ's triumphal entry (see below).

Each night we will open another picture of Christ's last week on Earth and display them together in our home throughout the week.
To be honest, the boys were a bit silly throughout tonight's devotional, and they were restless and ready to be done with the day, but hopefully a little bit of the message sunk in.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Sunday Afternoons

With long Sunday afternoons this year, we have been having a lot of fun together as a family doing activities to help us grow closer to each other and to the Savior and increase in our understanding of Gospel principles.

A few activities I snapped photos of:

Sam is having the boys act out the entire Book of Mormon and making video recordings of each scene. They have done about 12-15 scenes so far and they are still in 1 Nephi! They have been so enchanted by this activity and they love putting together props and adding their own creative touches.
When they were acting out the story of Nephi's broken bow, Talmage was playing the part of Laman or Lemuel (one of the angry brothers), and when the bow broke he threw his fork and said angrily, "We're not going to need this anymore!" Haha!
(The Book of Mormon is a record of the people of Ancient American and Christ's visit to them. Like The Bible, it includes both historical narratives and those with a more spiritual focus.)

General Conference is this weekend and we are soo excited!!
After Conference in October, Sam had the boys make lego temples and we put them all over our world map in the locations new temples were announced, as well as in many places temples currently exist. The boys loooved this one!

One of their favorite activities is making scripture stories out of peanut butter play-dough. Then we try to guess what story is depicted.

I was going a bit crazy on this day so I put the boys to work making collages out of religious pictures. Then they taught us about them in Family Home Evening.

We have been loving the Come, Follow Me manual for studying the New Testament together as a family on Sunday evenings! On this night we talked about how we should let our light shine. Then each of us got to light a candle and hold it as we shared our testimony of the Gospel. When we were finished, the candles were all flickering together and we discussed how we could fill the world with light by sharing our testimony of Jesus Christ.
Candles are magical!

My sister Breanne finished the book club she was doing with the kids last year. This year they are supposed to do something to make the world more beautiful each month, in line with the cute story Miss Rumphius, and then send her a picture of what they did. Sunday afternoons are the perfect time to pull out the art supplies and let the kids send make their pictures!
(And we are behind...sorry, Breanne! They'll be coming your way soon!)

I made four goals this year--one goal for each of the four major areas of life: wife, mother, personal, and disciple. My goal for my "mother" area was to create happier Sundays.
We believe that the Sabbath is a holy day and we try to limit activities that disrupt the spirit of reverence we try to have in our home throughout the day. I'm sure you can imagine that this is a difficult thing for 5 little boys.
We're still working on it, but I feel like we're improving at becoming more focused and purposeful with the time we have together. Thanks largely to Sam and his brilliant ideas (and stamina for doing fun things with the kids), they are learning to love the Gospel.
And that makes for one happy Mama.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Lovey-Dovey-Covey Business

Sam is a big fan of Stephen Covey.
In fact, I think he's read every book Stephen Covey ever wrote.
He mostly read these books during his grad school years and would often share little bits of insight from his readings. I usually didn't think much of it because I thought a) Covey's ideas were somewhat obvious and b) he had become really wealthy simply by teaching the world Gospel principles.
Additionally, I thought the ideas had little application to motherhood because it seemed his approach to a balanced life was very "compartmentalized." It seemed to me to be a lot easier for a working father to compartmentalize a day than for a stay-at-home mom because of the unpredictable nature of life with children.
Once Sam told me a story of a man who had gotten his wife on board with Covey principles even after she had thought they were nonsense, calling them "that Lovey-Dovey-Covey business."
So it's become a running joke between us.

But a while back, I had Sam choose a "book club" book for me to read (we take turns choosing a book for the other to read that they wouldn't normally choose themselves) and he chose The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.
As I've been reading it, I have still had moments of my previous eye-rolling tendencies, but I've actually been surprised as I've been profoundly influenced by some of the principles.
My mentality has been changed for the better and I've felt less susceptible to emotional responses to situations, more grounded in my decisions, and more in control of myself.

Yesterday Talmage was really frustrated by something Lincoln was doing and I found myself teaching him about his circle of concern vs. his circle of influence and where he should put his focus.
"Look what you've created!" I thought toward Sam.

Later that night Talmage commented that he had a lot of grades of school left.
"Lots of good opportunities and experiences!" I said, trying to put a positive spin on it.
"Of course, there will be hard times too, but that's part of life," I said.
"Those parts won't be good," he said.
"Well, it depends on what you make of it--you get to choose," I replied.
"Yeah, because that's in my circle of influence," he concluded.

Looks like I'm eating my words from yesteryear.
Lovey-Dovey-Covey, indeed.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Busy Benson

Benson is now 11 months old and has suddenly taken a huge developmental stride forward!

-He finally got his first tooth at about 10 months old (his top front tooth) and now has 3 teeth through. Teething has not been his favorite and I can agree with his sentiments.
-He is starting to talk a lot and mimic sounds we make! He can say "Dada," "Mama" (or usually, "Mom," which is funny to hear from a tiny baby), "Jesus" (and recognizes pictures of Him), "Dance," and "Ball" consistently, but he often seems to say other words as well. He will say, "Ooooohhh," when he cuddles me and sometimes seems to say "Uh-oh." My favorite, though, was when we were at a doctor's appointment when he was 10 months old. He got a shot and he didn't cry, but he got the most perturbed expression on his face and angrily yelled to the nurse, "Dop!" I was so surprised to hear him tell her to stop so clearly! After the appointment I was buckling him into his carseat and he wasn't pleased and also told me, "Dop!" I haven't seen him say it again since so maybe it was coincidence, but it definitely seemed clear and was very hilarious!
-He is beginning to make animal sounds and loves mooing like a cow.
-He began taking steps around 9 1/2 months but he has taken a long time to begin walking a lot. He still mostly crawls or walks around while hanging onto something but can walk across the room independently if he wants to.
-He loves to read books, independently and with me.
-He used to love food but now is more interested in throwing it on the floor.
-He loves music and dancing.

He is incredibly busy and keeps me on my toes, but he is as sweet as can be and I couldn't love him more.

He used to make this face ALL the time when he thought something was interesting! It's pretty much my favorite.
Exhibit A:

 Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Exhibit E:


I also feel it would be prudent to take a moment to appreciate his full, squishy cheeks.
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