October Traditions

October is a month that starts to get a little busy with activities. This month we had a birthday and a baptism in our family, which made it extra special. Some of the annual fall activities this month included:

General Conference Weekend

The Bat Fest

A visit to the Pumpkin Patch

Ward Fall Festival/Trunk or Treat

Pumpking carving

Boo at the Zoo

Trick or Treating in the neighborhood

This year I was asked to come up with a game to play at our Ward Fall Festival. We went for ghost bowling: gather 10 soda bottles (raid your neighbors recycling bins if necessary), spray paint them white, draw a ghost face with a sharpie, then set up and bowl with a basketball with with a pumpkin face added on for fun.

Each year on Halloween we enjoy a bit of a spooky menu: wrapped mummies (hot dogs wrapped in crescent roll strips and baked) and brains (jello formed in a brain mold). This year for the school class parties I sent these cute witch brooms (string cheese and pretzels). Unfortunately, the healthy snack couldn’t compete with all the cupcakes and cookies and treats that were offered, and most of the snack made its way back home.

And as usual, we read our favorite Halloween books to put us in the mood for spooky, pumpkin fun!

More Pioneer Day Activities and Links

I found a few more resources to help our family celebrate Pioneer Day that I wanted to make note of.

Edible Pioneer Wagons: We made these for an afternoon snack on July 24th. Our version involved granola bars, life savers, frosting, jumbo marshmallows, twizzlers, animal crackers, and any other candy nabbed from our candy stash to use as decorations. It was a fun activity/snack, and I was happy to get rid of candy that has been sitting in the pantry for more than a few months.

Map of the Pioneer Trek: I showed my children this map of the pioneer trek to give them an idea of the travel involved.

Pioneer Clipart: This site has great pioneer images that can be used to design and color a pioneer scene. This will make a great Sunday morning activity for my children.

I Am a Pioneer: great video clip from Family Search.

Pioneer Ancestors: Family Search has made it possible to view your pioneer ancestors in an easy to read list. You can see which company they traveled in, view your relationship to that person, and in some cases read stories of the journey. The list is by no means all-inclusive, but it is still interesting. I found the diary of Lorenzo Dow Young (my 4th read grandfather, younger brother to the prophet Brigham Young), and thought the following was especially interesting:

Friday morning found a broken exeltree in one of the wagons put in another and started at ten oclock[.] drove 4 milds along the river and found no feed[.] th plains are lined with bufalow[.] I hav no dout but I hav seen to day at one sight more than 2 two thousand at one glance of the eye[.] Porter Rockwell with 2 others went back and found Br Bs glass[.] we camped about 4 o clock in a beautful place found some grass for our teams[.] the bufalow are so tame that we are troubled to keep them a way from ourr catle[.] we had to stop our teams once to let them pas[.] Hariet [Harriet Young] has not injoyed the day[.] she has bin verry sick with the teeth ache[.] I laid hans on her when we stoped and she got beter and the Brotherin all seem in good sperits[.] it has bin a day long to be remembered on the acount of the romantick seens [scenes] that has transpired[.] a syoung Buflow caf came in to cam[p] which seemed determined to stay with us[.]

[July 24] this day we arrived in the valley of the great Salt Lake[.] my feelings were such as I cannot describe[.] every thing looked gloomy and I felt heart sick.

Further Reading

President Thomas S. Monson, “The World Needs Pioneers Today.” July 2013 Ensign.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, “True to the Faith”. April 1997 General Conference.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Following the Pioneers”. October 1997 General Conference.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Faith of our Fathers”. April 1996 General Conference.

Traditions and plans for Pioneer Day

This coming week is July 24th, otherwise known as Pioneer Day. I grew up in a small town in southern Alberta, an area which was settled by Mormon pioneers. Growing up we would usually have some type of ward activity (often a potluck dinner and games at a park) to celebrate the occasion. My husband and I both have a lot of pioneer ancestors and it is important to us that we pass on that heritage to our children. So we traditionally do a few things each July to mark the occasion.

We always enjoy watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Pioneer Day Concert. The 2015 concert was called Music for a Summer Evening and featured special guest Laura Osnes. We watched the recorded concert on YouTube this past Sunday morning before church.

At least one Family Home Evening lesson in July has a pioneer theme. In 2010 we did Pioneers, Seagulls and Crickets, and Faith and in 2011 it was Faith of the Pioneers. We usually have homemade ice-cream for our treat.

For dinner on the 24th we serve Fried Bread. I know it isn’t an authentic pioneer meal, but that is our tradition! We like ours with powdered sugar or honey butter on top.

The church has produced a few Mormon Messages that are great to share at this time of year, and we also like watching Legacy.  This year we plan to watch 17 Miracles (directed by T.C. Christensen) as a Friday Family Movie Night on Pioneer Day.

Video Links

  • Faith of Our Fathers: President Uchtdorf discusses the phrase “Faith of Their Fathers” and talks about pioneers of the Church. (1:41)
  • Reviewing the Lessons of the Past: Are you preparing for your future? Journey with us as Elder Perry teaches us how to prepare.
  • Pioneers: Dallin H. Oaks, Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, pays tribute to modern-day pioneers who faithfully follow Jesus Christ. (2:27)

How do you celebrate Pioneer Day?

Traditions for a Fourth of July

In our family, the Fourth of July means hamburgers and fireworks. Sometimes we celebrate with friends, last year we were blessed to be in Utah and celebrate with extended family, and sometimes it is just us. No matter where we are, the dinner menu usually involves the following:

  • hamburgers/hot dogs
  • potato salad
  • watermelon
  • Red, White, and Blue Cake: angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries and blueberries on top

This year my husband surprised us with bottles of IBC Root Beer, which added a tasty treat.

Since our children are still young, we haven’t yet felt the desire to brave the crowds and stay out late for the community sponsored fireworks displays. So my husband is happy to oblige us by setting off our own fireworks show in the street in front of our home. The kids love the pop-its and sparklers, and then we settle in for our personal pyrotechnic display.IMG_1506

This year our ward hosted a pancake breakfast, complete with face painting, a children’s bike parade and stick pulling. There was a flag raising ceremony and Pledge of Allegiance to start things off, which put us all in a patriotic mood. It was a great way to start the day by socializing with our ward friends. Hopefully that event will be a tradition that continues!

In the days leading up to the holiday we also read some patriotic books.

We are thankful for this country that we live in and the freedoms that are ours.

Easter Traditions and Plans: Starting a Holy Week study

Our family just finished a low-key spring break at home, and now it is time to prepare for Easter!

This year I have decided to take another step  to make our Easter a little more focused on the Savior. Inspired by this post, we are going to hold our own “Holy Week”. Starting today we will be reading about the events that took place during the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. We are using the summaries and scriptures that were printed in The Friend in April 2011. To do this I printed off the summary for each day on spring colored cardstock, laminated for durability, and then taped the summary for each day on to one of my kitchen cupboards. As we do the readings each day, we will add a corresponding picture from our Gospel Art Kit. We will do our readings during evening dinner time.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just released a new Easter campaign on mormon.org: Because He Lives.

“Jesus Christ lived. He walked the Holy Land, working miracles and teaching truth. Then He was crucified. But His death was not the end. Because of His Resurrection, we will live again. Because of His sacrifice, we can rise above sin to experience true joy. Because He lives, we can find His help and healing every day of our lives.”

Here is a lovely new video message which I plan to share with my family today as a start to our Holy Week.

The site also contains a brief summary of each day in the last week of the Savior’s life, which I plan to incorporate in our Holy Week study.

On Easter Sunday we will conclude with this Bible Video: He Is Risen.

I have always struggled a little bit with the idea of Easter baskets and how best to incorporate that into our family. I like the idea I have seen around the web of “Secular Saturday and Sacred Sunday”. In the past I have done a family basket and included things like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, coloring books and stickers. This year I don’t feel like we are really in need of any more stuff, and with a birthday and General Conference this week, I am opting to simplify things a bit.

I found this cute Easter Jelly Bean Prayer at The Idea Room, so this small gift is what my children will wake up to on Easter Sunday.

This year I discovered a very nice picture book called In The Garden, by Caralyn Buehner. It appears that the book is out of print, but I was luckily able to snag a copy from my library. It presents the story of the Atonement in a simple way for children to understand with beautiful illustrations.

In between watching General Conference we will decorate our eggs, and do an egg hunt (some with pictures of Jesus Christ cut out of Ensign magazines, some with coins, and some with candy).

Dinner will be our traditional ham, potatoes, green beans, and rolls, with Angel Food Cake and strawberries and cream to finish things off!

We usually do this Easter FHE lesson (with eggs that are filled with items representing significant events in the atonement and resurrection). We will likely do it the day after Easter this year.

Looking for more ideas?

We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ has a great list of Christ Centered Easter Crafts and Activities. Maybe another year we will try the Easter All Week booklet.

The Chickabug Blog posted a cute bunny and chick fingerprint craft. This would make a fun activity to entertain the little ones as we listen to General Conference.

It’s been awhile since I have prepped any lunchbox notes for my kiddos, and Kiki and Company has a cute Easter Bunny laugh edition.

February traditions of love

February is a great month. Valentine’s Day provides an added incentive to show love to others, and in our family we make that our focus for the whole month. Here are the ways that we plan to show love this month.

Make valentines for classmates: we prefer simple and handmade (usually involving a printable found on Pinterest) and of the non-food variety. You can check out last years version here.

Simple decorations for our house, involving handmade hearts from the kids and love-themed printable found online.

Give the Family Heart Attack. “I love_________because__________”

Make and decorate sugar cookies (favorite recipe).

Leave love notes for each other, using our red mailbox.

Hearts on the Wall-read about our new tradition of dinner time scriptures and conversation starters here.

Family Home Evening lessons: This year we will focus on loving others, loving God (and how he loves us), loving ourselves, and loving our ancestors.

Play the Heart Healthy game.

Personal Study: Review this wonderful talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “How Do I Love Thee?”

Plan a heart menu for February 14th. Perhaps use heart cookie cutters for pancakes, cheese slices, brownies?? Heart shaped pizza??

Gift giving: I like to give my children a little gift to open on Valentine’s Day. Usually it is a book. Last year I found some heart nightgowns on clearance that were perfect for the girls.

Reading books: You can find our Love booklist here.

Favorite Scriptures about LOVE and HEART (how many can we memorize this month??)

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Matthew 22:37 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”.

2 Nephi 4:15 “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them”

Alma 45:7 “Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart”.

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

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?

Traditions and plans for January

After a wonderful holiday season, January is the month for inspiring reflection in many areas. While I firmly believe that resolutions can be made at any time, there is something about a new year that inspires me to really think about things and get moving. It is usually the month that I am the most productive on my Project List (which I talked about yesterday).

This month I am also working on some trouble areas in my home. Purging and rearranging office and craft supplies is at the top of the list. I also need to spend some time in my girls closet (the current drop space for anything that doesn’t have a home), and take stock of what we have and need for baby boy items.

Our family celebrates two birthdays in January. My birthday is usually a low-key event, which is fine with me. I am happy with dinner at a restaurant, and a cheesecake for dessert. I usually choose a no-bake jello cheesecake mix from a box, which is inexpensive and tasty.

We also celebrate Anwyn’s birthday in January. She was born on Christmas Day, and we were convinced pretty quickly that celebrating a birthday on Christmas Day is not the best idea. Who wants to eat birthday cake on Christmas Day????? So now on December 25th we will tell her Happy Birthday, but January 25th is really her special day. She gets to pick the dinner that night, and that is when we will do gifts and parties, etc.

This year she is reaching the double-digit milestone for her birthday. It seems like we should do something significant this year, but I am not sure what. Perhaps a giant list of  “10 things we love about you” posted on her bedroom door? We are contemplating a decathlon themed party–10  stations/games/along the lines of minute-to-win-it?? I suggested ice cream with 10 kinds of toppings but she didn’t like that idea. I would love to hear your ideas for celebrating a double-digit birthday.

Reading books: You can find our snowy book list here.

Family Home Evening: this month we are focusing on our family theme for 2015, found in Helaman 5:12.

What traditions and plans do you have for January?

Sibling Gifts

My children like to give gifts to each for Christmas, and we are happy to encourage them in that activity. They usually request a bit of assistance, whether it be coming up with ideas or taking them shopping.

My oldest daughter likes her gifts to be handmade. Last year she made hand stitched stuffed animals for her sister and brother. She spent a lot of time, and the gifts were all received (read my husband’s post about that exchange of gifts).

After some discussion, this year she opted to make a travel Lego kit for her 4 year old brother. She gathered Lego pieces from our collection, printed and colored and laminated and cut the pattern cards, and packaged them in a nice tin. The inspiration and pattern templates came from Fun At Home With Kids. Sometimes our large stash of Lego’s can be a little overwhelming, so having them broken down into a little set is perfect for our little guy. Zach was very excited about his gift, and now he can easily build and play with Lego’s in a way that is tailored to his ability.1-DSC_0014

My seven-year-old Lily loves to do science and creative projects. When I saw this Science Kit for Kids from I Can Teach My Child, I knew it would be perfect for her. Anwyn agreed to help me get it ready for her sister. We printed the instruction booklet, laminated for durability, and then purchased the few items we didn’t already have on hand at home. This gift is the gift that keeps on giving, since it will allow for some quality bonding time in the future as we all explore the experiments. 2-DSC_0017

Lily and Zach opted to use their allowance money to purchase gifts. Lily knew immediately that she wanted to get a book for her big sister, and toy cars for her little brother. Zach had trouble knowing what to get, so we took him shopping and he picked out a Lego set for Anwyn and a battery-powered pet for Lily.3-DSC_0027

We allow our children to open these gifts on Christmas Eve. We want to be sure that the children feel the joy of giving, and that it doesn’t get lost in the excitement and shuffle of opening the presents on Christmas morning.

How do your children give gifts to each other?