Traditions for Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day (February 2nd is just around the corner) is a funny little day, but it is one that we recognize in a small way in our family. My children love the cute edible groundhogs, and they request this every year.


I like this little rhyme-maybe we will sing it as we eat our groundhog???

(sung to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot)
I’m a little groundhog, furry and brown.
When winter comes, I sleep underground.
I’m curled up, as cozy as can be.
When it’s spring please wake me up!

Groundhog Day Reading List

Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft

Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather by Bruce Koscielniak

Gregory’s Shadow by Don Freeman

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Setting goals and making choices (FHE plans and quotes)

The start of a New Year is a time to evaluate our life in all areas and make changes as necessary. I have been thinking about this a lot in my own personal life, and at Family Home Evening tonight I will encourage my family to do the same. I am planning to share the following quotes (all from the October 2014 General Conference), and then spend a few minutes assisting each child to set personal goals for improvement.

“I encourage everyone, young and old, to review goals and objectives and strive to exercise greater discipline. Our daily conduct and choices should be consistent with our goals. We need to rise above rationalizations and distractions. It is especially important to make choices consistent with our covenants to serve Jesus Christ in righteousness.”(Elder Quentin L. Cook, “Choose Wisely“.)

“We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lord, is it I?”.)

“Just because things are going well does not mean that we should not from time to time consider whether there might be something better.” (Elder Carlos A. Godoy, “The Lord Has a Plan for Us!”.)

“Acknowledge and face your weaknesses, but don’t be immobilized by them.” (Elder Jorg Klebingat, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence”.)

Conclude with this loving reassurance of God’s love from President Uchtdorf:

“God loves you this very day and always. He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles. … He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed. And still He loves you. … He wants you to achieve your destiny—to return to your heavenly home in honor.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful”.)

A few more quotes from Elder Cook that I liked:

“My concern is not only about the big tipping-point decisions but also the middle ground—the workaday world and seemingly ordinary decisions where we spend most of our time. In these areas, we need to emphasize moderation, balance, and especially wisdom. It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices.

“When we rationalize wrong choices, big or small, which are inconsistent with the restored gospel, we lose the blessings and protections we need and often become ensnared in sin or simply lose our way.”

“In all things we should remember that being “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” is the great dividing test between the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms.



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5 Books for Friday: Fun Picture Books

I love to read fun picture books with my children. Here are five great recent discoveries we have added to our favorites list.

9781596439221Froodle by Antoinette Portis: a hilarious book about a bird who decides to do something out of the ordinary.

Hooray-for-Hat-150x150Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won: a nice lesson on dealing with grumpiness and bringing happiness to others.

143-85861-most-magnificent-thing-1417802548The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires: a great lesson on ambition and persistence through frustration.

IMG_7897-750x643Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light: a counting book with fantastic illustrations.

Prudence_Wants_a_petPrudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly: a resourceful child uses her imagination in creating a pet for herself, until she finally gets the perfect one.

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An excellent lesson on love and putting God first

The great test of life is obedience to God. “We will prove them herewith,” said the Lord, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25). The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it. The great commandment of life is to love the Lord.”

“To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to a love of the Lord.”

When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities. We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.”

“You mothers, who are especially charged with the righteous rearing of the youth of Zion, are you not putting God first when you honor your divine calling? … Our mothers put God first when they fill their highest mission within the walls of their own homes.

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson

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FHE: Wholesome Recreational Activities

Today we enjoyed a nice day as a family. We travelled to nearby St. Augustine and explored the Castillo De San Marcos National Monument, the oldest military fort in the United States (it was built in 1695). Then we played in the chilly water and sand at the beach. After dinner this evening we watched a short video about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our Family Home Evening lesson was short and to the point. I reminded the children about The Family:A Proclamation to the World, focusing on the following segments:

“…marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. “

We focused in on “wholesome recreational activities” and explained that was what we had been doing all day. It was enjoyable to spend the day together, learning and exploring and doing good things!1-DSC_0066

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Birthday Traditions

Celebrating a birthday is the perfect way to show a loved one that you care about them. In our family, we show love on their special day in the following ways:

  • Birthday child gets to pick the dinner menu for the evening, including dessert (which is not always a cake). They get their dinner on the special blue plate used to honor special occasions.
  • When the children are younger, we have usually planned a family outing such as a trip to the zoo. Once the children reach school age they usually prefer a party with friends. These are usually fairly simple affairs, more along the lines of a “playdate with a theme”. Sometimes the parties have been family events where we invite 2-3 families to celebrate with us (mainly so we have someone to share the cake with!) and the children just play.
  • Telling of the child’s birth story (my children love to hear birth stories and often request this at other times throughout the year).
  • A photo shoot, usually outdoors with Dad as the photographer.
  • A handprint record: paint the child’s hand and place on a sheet of cardstock. This has mostly died out by the time the child starts school, but it is fun to have a record of their itty-bitty hand sizes.
  • A few gifts from parents, one of which is always a book.

Some new traditions I would like to start:

  • “__ Things We Love About You” list. As a family write 5 things or 7 things or 35 things (depending on their year) that we love about the birthday person. Make a large poster to hang on their bedroom door, and make a small version that can be included in their memory box.
  • Take a photo of the birthday child with mom and dad on either side, kissing their cheeks. Take a photo with siblings (we have done been doing this sporadically over the years, but I want to be more consistent).
  • Conduct a birthday interview, like this or this.  I have done this some, but I need to develop a template and print it off so it is ready to go every year.

Other fun ideas:

  • Hang a balloon from the ceiling for each year with $1 bill inside (source). Maybe start this at age 10 for our family???
  • Wrap their birthday lunch in birthday gift wrap.

Birthday Themes we have done in the past:

  • 1 year old: birthday cake with immediate family (A, L, Z)
  • 2 year old: invite one other family to join us for a theme cake (snowman-A, frog-L, Cars cupcakes-Z)
  • 3 year old: Bug party with friends at the playground (A), H is for Happy preschool party (L), cupcakes with friends at the playground (Z)
  • 4 year old: Family party (A), Tangled-Princess (L), Best buddy party (Z)
  • 5 year old: Fancy Nancy theme (A), family party (L)
  • 6 year old: Pretty Pink (A), Butterfly Fest and family party (L)
  • 7 year old: Tangled-Princess (A), Horse theme (L)
  • 8 year old: Family party (A)
  • 9 year old: Favorite things–paper dolls, books, Lego (A)

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

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Project Complete: Organize piano teaching supplies and music

This week I crossed off one project on my big list: Organize piano teaching supplies and music

I teach a few piano lessons each week as a little side job. I have found many great teaching aids online (worksheets, games, flashcards, etc) and I had previously stored them in a binder and a box. Well, that binder grew to three binders and a junky box, and things were out of control.

So I transferred everything to one file box. Games and worksheets can be quickly found now that they are organized by type (beginner finger numbers, rhythm, note naming, etc), and there is room at the front of the box to hold my flashcard sets and other game supplies.3-DSC_0045

This cute little box will now sit on the piano to keep pencils/pens, stickers, and dry erase markers in easy reach without rolling around the piano.4-DSC_0046

This basket sits next to the piano to corral my children current lesson materials. With three children taking lessons, their books need to be easy to reach and put away. 2-DSC_0044

In the fall I started work on organizing our music collection. The biggest issue was organizing sheet music, so I added a few labeled binders (our collection of Christmas music grows a lot every year since my husband I both end up accompanying various ensembles every season). I finished this up over the Christmas break. Now I have two shelves dedicated to music and it is all easy to find!1-DSC_0043Phew! It feels good to cross all of that off my list!

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A Fireside with an Apostle

Last night our family had a rare treat. Our stake in Florida was able to participate in an evening fireside with Elder Neil L. Anderson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We were excited to take our children to a meeting where they would be in the same room as an apostle, and we could all hear his counsel.

Our Stake President spoke briefly first. He challenged youth and adults to do five things this year

1) daily prayer morning and night

2) daily scripture study

3) live worthy to hold a temple recommend

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the last two (in between dealing with my children). I wish I had written it down!

Elder Rulon Munns of the Seventy was also present and spoke briefly. He quoted Elder Neal A. Maxwell,  “Patience is tied very closely for faith in our Heavenly Father”.

Sister Kathy Anderson then took some time to address us. She had been born and raised in Florida and thinks Florida is the best place to live! Her ancestors were some of the first people in Florida to join the church, and she spoke about their legacy of faith. She quoted Helaman 5:12, which was especially significant to me since that is our family scripture for this year. My children all perked up at the word “foundation”.

Elder Anderson then spoke for the remainder of the meeting. He focused on and testified of Jesus Christ, declaring that having a testimony of Jesus Christ is the most important thing. He made reference to a talk he gave in General Conference in 1999 (a talk given in interesting circumstances, since President Hinckley called him the Friday before and asked him to speak and fill in for Elder Hales who was ill). In that talk he talked about mole crickets (a common threat to grass in Florida) and how they eat away at the roots and destroy the grass. Satan works the same way, by eating away at our spiritual roots. Be watchful!

It was interesting to me that he referred to that talk, since I had actually just come across it this week while preparing for our Family Home Evening Lesson on prayer. Below are the points that stood out to me from his 1999 talk.

We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform” (“Policies, Announcements, and Appointments,” Ensign, June 1999, 80).

We all know the struggle necessary to retain family home evening. There are thieves among us who would steal our Monday nights. But the promises of the Lord made to families who hold family home evening, that were spoken by the First Presidency 84 years ago and reiterated by our Prophets today, have never been revoked and are there for us:

“If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influence and temptations which beset them” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 4:339).

Who within the sound of my voice would be willing to sell these promises to those who would confiscate our Monday nights? Not one of us.

For you and me, the disciples of Christ, these moments of building faith in the lives of our children must be strengthened. We will at times fall short as parents. I know I do. But we must begin again. The Lord sees our righteous efforts and will open the blessings of heaven as we give our families our highest priority.”

Neil L. Anderson, “Prophets and Spiritual Mole Crickets”. October 1999 General Conference.

What a blessing it was to hear an apostle speak in our own stake center, and feel his powerful witness of Jesus Christ.

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Teaching our children to pray (FHE plans and quotes)

Teaching our children to pray is one of the most important responsibilities of parents. There were a number of talks in the most recent General Conference relating to prayer, so I felt it was an important topic for Family Home Evening.

Our FHE lesson tonight will be based on two lessons from A Year of FHE: here and here.

Discuss how Heavenly Father wants to hear from us, just like our earthly parents want to hear from us if we are far away.

Review the four parts of prayer.

Coloring page: Give the children a “Did you think to PRAY?” coloring page: prayer reminder page (adapted from the page available here)

They can hang this in their rooms as a reminder to say daily prayers. Especially encourage the habit of daily morning prayer. Discuss the following quotes from General Conference while they are coloring.

“As parents, we can teach our children to pray for things of eternal consequence—to pray for the strength to be morally clean in a very challenging world, to be obedient, and to have the courage to stand for the right.

No doubt most of our youth have their evening prayers, but perhaps many of them struggle with the habit of personal morning prayer. As parents, as their prime gospel teachers, we can correct this. Which parent in Book of Mormon times would have let their sons march out to the front of battle without a breastplate and shield and sword to protect them against the potentially mortal blows of the enemy? But how many of us let our children march out the front door each morning to the most dangerous of all battlefields, to face Satan and his myriad of temptations, without their spiritual breastplate and shield and sword that come from the protective power of prayer? The Lord said, “Pray always, … that you may conquer Satan” (D&C 10:5). As parents, we can help instill within our children the habit and power of morning prayer.”

Tad R. Callister, “Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children”. October 2014 General Conference.

“We need revelation from God. And we will need not just one revelation in a time of stress, but we need a constantly renewed stream. We need not just one flash of light and comfort, but we need the continuing blessing of communication with God.”

“Heavenly Father hears your prayers. He loves you. He knows your name. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and our Redeemer. He loves you beyond your ability to comprehend. God pours out revelation, through the Holy Ghost, on His children.”

President Henry B. Eyring, “Continuing Revelation”. October 2014 General Conference.

God cares about you. He will listen, and He will answer your personal questions. The answers to your prayers will come in His own way and in His own time, and therefore, you need to learn to listen to His voice. God wants you to find your way back to Him, and the Savior is the way.God wants you to learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, and experience the profound peace and joy that come from following the path of divine discipleship.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth”. October 2014 General Conference.

“Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often. Make time every day to share your thoughts and feelings with Him. Tell Him everything that concerns you. He is interested in the most important as well as the most mundane facets of your life. Share with Him your full range of feelings and experiences.”

“Family prayer should be a nonnegotiable priority in your daily life.”

Richard G. Scott, “Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority”. October 2014 General Conference.

Additional Resources

Bright Ideas posters from the Friend magazine:

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Powerful teaching comes from concerned parents

“As the world continues to watch us, let us be certain that our example will sustain and support the plan the Lord has designed for His children here in mortality. The greatest teaching of all must be done by righteous example. Our homes must be holy places in order to stand against the pressures of the world. Remember that the greatest of all the blessings of the Lord come through and are given to righteous families.

We must carefully continue to evaluate our performance as parents. The most powerful teaching a child will ever receive will come from concerned and righteous fathers and mothers.

Elder L. Tom Perry, “Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families”. October 2014 General Conference.

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