I am evolving. No one is more shocked than I am.

In the last couple years,  I’ve written a few posts that have revealed some of my personality points that seem a little . . . well, at odds …with how I perceive my role as a mother should be.

For example, I once wrote a post called “Other People’s Children,” in which I said:

When there’s a family in need, and they pass around a sign-up sheet at church, I’ll sign up to make them ten meals if I can, but please don’t make me watch their kids! . . . If funds were super tight, I think it’s more likely that I would take a job at a gas station cleaning toilets than run a day care out of my home.

I also wrote a post called “I Hate Playing With My Children,” where I admitted the following:

I hate tea parties.
I hate Stratego, and Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders, and Hungry Hungry Hippos, Lucky Ducks, and especially Don’t Break the Ice.
I hate pretending I’m an animal.
I can’t stand holding little toys and making them have conversations with each other.
I really don’t enjoy activities where all the cushions and pillows from my couches are spread haphazardly on the floor throughout my house.
I would rather clean out my closets than use a silly, high voice and make Webkinz tell jokes to each other while they bonk each other on the head. . . .

And yet here I am.
A mother of three small children. They love to play.
And they want me to play with them, which I am as excited to do as I am to train for a marathon. Sometimes it feels that hard.

So.  What I am about to say may just blow your mind.

1.  Matt was out of town last weekend, so it was just me and the kids at home.  We didn’t even go anywhere.  We played games, and painted pictures, baked cookies, read stories, and made friendship bracelets.  And I liked it.  My children are now big enough that we can play normal games and not brainless toddler garbage.  They can help me in the kitchen a little without making me develop a nervous tic.

2.  Tomorrow I am hosting a little party at my house where there could be 30 children or more in my house watching a movie and eating stuff and making all kinds of child-related noise.  And I’m looking forward to it.  *pausing to let that sink in*  I know.  It is weird.

The point of this post is not to say that it’s time for me to have more children, so don’t get cheeky and put that in the comments, nor is it to point out that I might get translated at any given moment (though I probably should be, don’t you think?), but it’s mostly to point out and relish the fact that I am growing into my children more and more.  I am becoming more comfortable with things I previously claimed to “hate,” and part of that is simply because they are growing up and have reached a stage that my personality feels more equipped to handle. (So really, when I say I’m evolving, what I really mean is my children are evolving.  They are becoming much more human and much less alien.  It’s a good thing.)

In speaking of mothers generally, I especially wish to praise and encourage young mothers. The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. . . . Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. . . .  Remember, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  — Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because She Is a Mother”, Ensign, May 1997

Countdown to General Conference: Packets and Preparation

UPDATE:  If you’ve landed here looking for stuff related to the upcoming General Conference, click here for more current resources.

I wanted to share the summary of a workshop I’ve taught a few times about preparation for General Conferences and how to get more out of it.  Also, at the end, I’ve posted several links of General Conference packets for children of all ages and a few extra resources as well.  I submitted this over at MMB as well, but I’m not sure it will make it up this week, so I wanted to pass it along to my readers.  I think most of you know how I feel about General Conference.  Love.  It is my semi-annual recharging of the spiritual batteries.  I really encourage all of you to consider joining us this next round of General Conference Book Club, too.  It helps so much to keep the words of the prophets fresh on the mind and in the heart.  Maybe those of you who have participated in the past can leave a little testimonial in the comments about your experience in studying a talk a week.

Preparing Yourself for General Conference:

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 104-7

“In my own expression of testimony and gratitude for the messages and meaning of general conference, may I suggest three things these twice-yearly gatherings declare to all the world:

1. First, they declare eagerly and unequivocally that there is again a living prophet on the earth speaking in the name of the Lord. And how we need such guidance! … We all need that word. No one is safe without it…

2. Secondly, each of these conferences marks a call to action not only in our own lives but also on behalf of others around us, those who are of our own family and faith and those who are not.

3. Lastly, a general conference of the Church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ, that He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the boy prophet Joseph Smith in fulfillment of that ancient promise that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His Church on earth and [return] again.”

Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997, 24

“There seems to be no end to the Savior’s desire to lead us to safety. And there is constancy in the way He shows us the path. … Those means always include sending the message by the mouths of His prophets whenever people have qualified to have the prophets of God among them. Those authorized servants are always charged with warning the people, telling them the way to safety….

In our own time, we have been warned with counsel of where to find safety from sin and from sorrow. One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated.

One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention…

Boyd K. Packer, “The Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, Nov 1996, 6

“We are overcome with what the Lord said of those who hold these sacred callings: ‘Whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.’ (D&C 68:4) … These men are true servants of the Lord; give heed to their counsel.”

Think about and write down questions that you would really like some insight about.  (Think about your role as a wife, mother, friend, sister, employee, calling, etc. . . . What would you ask the Lord about?)  Imagine the Savior as your “Counselor”and ask Him things with a desire to hear His advice.  Pray about those questions.  Request that He answers them as you listen to General Conference.

As you watch conference, pay careful attention and identify talk(s) that may give you some direction for your questions.

As you listen to (and later study) these talks, look for two things: (I recommend writing them down.)

1) main points: truths, principles, doctrine
2) action items: what does this speaker want me to DO? What is the “call to action”?

You can watch a highlight video from the latest general conference here at this link.

In summary,

How to make General Conference meaningful:

1. Pray and prepare before General Conference.

2. Carefully study the Conference edition of the Ensign.

3. Watch or listen to General Conference with purpose.

4. Identify action items based on their counsel.

5. Obey.

President Monson stated at the conclusion of a recent General Conference:

“My beloved brothers and sisters, my heart is full and my feelings tender as we conclude this great general conference. We have been richly blessed as we have listened to the counsel and testimonies of those who have spoken to us. I believe we are all more determined to live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we long remember that which we have heard during this conference. I remind you that the messages will be printed in next month’s Ensign… I urge you to study the messages and to ponder their teachings and then to apply them in your life.”

——————————–

Resources to help your children prepare for and be active listeners during General Conference

The Church has provided this page with some print-outs and computer games to help children prepare for General Conference.

The following are all excellent references offered from Sugardoodle.net, including General Conference Activity Packets for all ages (When you click on them, you can download the documents and print them out.):

Youth Packet

Senior Primary Packet and Sticker Pages (print on sticker/label paper from Office Supply Store)

Junior Primary Packet

Primary Packet (compact 2-page)

Nursery Packet

Check out this Sugardoodle.net page for other General Conference ideas, coloring pages, snacks, activities, etc.

Here’s another site with a lot of packets, cards, and other resources.

This is an article that I helped author:  “Preparing Our Children for General Conference” It has some specific ideas of activities/games you can do with children (even small children) before, during, and after conference.

Here are also some great articles to help you get yourself and your children in the General Conference mindset:

Neil L. Andersen, “Teaching Our Children to Love the Prophets,”

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Prophets in the Land Again,”

Henry B. Eyring, “Safety in Counsel,”

Here’s to having your best General Conference experience ever.

GCBC Week 26: The Three Rs of Choice

Last week of GCBC.  Wow.

This week we will study President Monson’s talk from the priesthood session.

“The Three Rs of Choice”
President Thomas S. Monson

“Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal journey without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him God-given guidance to assist in our safe return at the end of mortal life. . . . Each of us has come to this earth with all the tools necessary to make correct choices.”

Share in the comments some things you learned or appreciated as you studied this talk.  If this is your first time visiting the General Conference Book Club, click here for more information.

Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Lisa

I am really excited for you to meet “Lisaway.”  She is one of my first and favorite blog friends.  We haven’t met yet, because Hello! she lives in Poland, but I already know we get along.  Really.  To be honest, I think that her blog may be the very first place I ever left a blog comment.  She and her family did a video of their testimony, and I loved it because she was doing with her blog what I hoped to accomplish in my blogging infancy. (Hey, I found it.  Ooh, she’s going to kill me for that.) Looking back, she may have even given me more courage to do it.  Only click over to Lisa’s blog if you’re sure you have time for another friend because to know her is to love her.  You’ve been warned.  Meet Lisa:

Stephanie said I could only answer the following questions if I first said how much I love her. [She’s a liar.] I love her a lot.  As a matter of fact, I think that once I learn a lot more stuff and get to be a better person we will be almost exactly the same, Steph and I.  Assuming she stops learning things and getting better for a decade or two.

My name is Lisa.  I live in the medium-sized town of Mielec, Poland with my husband of 13 years, Greg (well, Grzegorz really, but he introduced himself as Greg 14 years ago and that’s all he’s ever been to me) and our 4 kids Ewelina (11), David (9), Aaron (almost 4) and Spencer (1).

Greg was baptized in Poland and served a Polish-speaking mission in Chicago, from whence he headed to BYU.

I graduated from Ricks College with a specialized associate (no GE!) in early childhood education (specifically Professional Preschool Education).  That was the end of my formal education, and I have to tell everyone when we give our “how we met each other” story that “we met at BYU, he was attending, and I was just there working”.  Can’t have anyone thinking I made it into BYU!  (seriously.  I didn’t.  And seriously.  I am that excruciatingly honest that I can’t leave it at “we met at BYU”)

We’ve lived in Poland for 10 years, the last three kids were born here (no anesthesia!)  We don’t have a branch of the church where we live but the two nearest ones are 2 hours away and each have 4-10 regularly attending members (not counting us and missionaries).  We travel to branches that are farther away regularly for Greg’s calling.

I love living in Poland.  It is beautiful, full of forests and villages and old churches.  It is a country with a rich, tragic and noble past and an amazing future.  I miss America and my family, but most everything else I love is right here where I want it.

I’m sarcastic and kind of boring.  Are you excited to get to know me?  Read on for more thrills!

1.     What’s your favorite part of motherhood?

Babies.  Baby cheeks.  Baby necks.  Baby hands.  The slap, slap, slap of chunky, bare baby feet on the floor.  Nursing.  First words.  “Words” that only I can understand.  Kids figuring stuff out.  Kids talking about Jesus and Heavenly Father.  Kids with soft, peach fuzzy faces.  Kids sacrificing for siblings.  Kids doing things that are hard and knowing they are better for having done them.  Kids.  Knowing that the kids will become adolescents and then adults and that they will still be mine.  Forever.

2.     What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could?

Hmmm.  The only thing I hate hate hate is changing sheets.  I hate hate hate it.  Over here there are only duvet covers and flat sheets.  I hate sticking blankets in the huge cases and trying to get flat sheets all tucked in around mattresses.  I should really stagger sheet changing, but after I’ve changed 5 beds in one evening I sort of feel like I’ve completed some Olympic feat.  I love putting freshly scrubbed, sweet-smelling children in freshly changed, sweet-smelling beds.  Pure gold.  (so maybe I wouldn’t subcontract it?  What’s my point here?  Even the things I hate hate hate I love?  Whatever.)

3.     Name 2 or 3 items on your “bucket list.” (Some things you’d like to do before you die.)

I don’t believe in bucket lists.  I’m highly superstitious and am sure that if I list the things I want to do before I die they will NEVER HAPPEN.  Just kidding.  I’m the least superstitious person on Earth (which makes living in extremely superstitious Poland interesting), but I don’t have a bucket list.  However, I wouldn’t mind serving a mission with Greg, going on an Alaskan cruise and… something else before I die, I’m sure.

4.     Brag for a minute.  Do it.  What are a few things that you’re pretty good at?

I’m just regular amazing.  In all ways.

When I asked David (then 6) this question for a mommy tag he said I was good at checking email (I was just getting into blogging and he didn’t really know what I was doing on the computer).  I think he’s right.  I’m rather talented in that department.  Responding to email, not so much, unfortunately.

I love to bake and cook.  I like teaching my kids.  I enjoy singing.  I am not exceptional at any of the above.

5.     What are you loving lately?

Currently I am loving traveling.  Last weekend we were in Warsaw and went to an awesome science museum (while Greg attended meetings).  This weekend we’ll be visiting my favorite castle, Pieskowa Skała, for a church graduation-type ceremony.

We have 4 great travelers, which I know for a fact (?) is because Someone loves us and really wants us to travel for the church.  I would not be overjoyed to do that if we had kids with motion sickness or travel-whininess.  None of our kids suffer from either ailment.  This cannot be a coincidence.

6.     Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?

I’ve always (since seminary) loved Ezekiel 37.  I love the whole thing because it’s exciting and kind of what it’s all about.  I love in verse 24 where it says: “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.” I especially love it after reading all the stuff that comes before it.  I love being one of the fold and knowing my shepherd, trying to listen to and trust his voice.  I love that one day the shepherd will be recognized as King by all.

7.     What do you gravitate toward during your unscheduled time?

Checking email.

8.     Tell us some of your best mom-tricks  (things you’ve figured out that work well for you).

Mom tricks…mom tricks.  Offering choices, maybe, and being firm.  For example, they can totally to choose which pajamas they will wear, but they may not run around and play games when I am ready to put them on.  They can totally choose what paper/coloring book they want to color in any time, but they can never color on the floor/walls/furniture.  They can play and have fun all day long but when it’s time for bed they stay in their beds.  Stuff like that.  (does this make me strict?  Normal?  Delusional?  I do have one more baby to raise and he’s already taken a pencil to a door before, which none of my other kids ever did…)

9.     What’s something you don’t usually want people to know about you, but that they need to know if they’re going to be your friend?

Hmmm.  I’m very Molly.  I’m extremely far from perfect (except, again, when it comes to email checking) but I believe in trying to keep ALL the commandments.  At least all the basic ones and then do your best with the others (I guess that’s a bit subjective…).  I don’t much care for people to talk about how boring church is (which it is sometimes, of course, but it’s not something I roll my eyes about) or talk about things that I feel are inappropriate.  If you do I will just change the subject.  Or skip to another blog.

10. If you were in charge of a girls’ night out, what kind of activity would you love to plan?

Oh dear.  I am a homebody.  I think everyone would bring their favorite treat and we’d eat and chat and chat and chat.  I like chatting.  Boring, maybe.  And also not really “out” as a GNO probably should be… (I don’t think I’ve answered a single question properly.  Sorry about that.)

11. Friends are great for venting.  What’s been frustrating you lately?

I never get frustrated about anything. [Ha!  She’s lying again.  Look, I found proof.]

12. What parts of your testimony are you the most sure of?

Can I say the whole thing?  I believe the gospel (and it’s partner the Church) is not just a good idea.  I think it’s real.  It doesn’t all make perfect sense, but one day it will, when we’re all 100% smart.  I know that for sure.  The plan of salvation is awesome and obviously designed by a perfect Father and made possible through his perfect Son.  I just think it’s fabulous and it makes me want to do all those little things that are sometimes so hard but always so worth it.

Tell us a little about your blog:

My blog is called Away From It All because I am.  Poland is a different world than the one I come from in many ways and I sometimes write about that.  Sometimes I write about something that happened to me a thousand years ago or something cute my baby did yesterday.  I often write about something I’ve been thinking about that nobody should really care about.  I consider my blog my journal that is open to the public.  I don’t think a lot about that public as I write (though I sometimes address it to YOU GUYS) but I absolutely love interacting with people on their blogs and mine.

 

Thank you, Lisa.  So much.  Now go add her to your blog list.  You’ll be glad you did.

Dear cool people, I like you. Love, Stephanie

Sometimes when I do dumb things like read the news or people watch too much, I start to lose my faith in humanity.  I want to create this little vacuum for me and my children to live in so that they don’t grow up and become idiots.  However, then I get the chance to interact with wonderful people and it restores my hope in mankind.  Actually, it’s usually womankind, but we all know that’s what makes the world go around anyway.  (Note to suspicious readers:  there is no secret agenda in that previous comment.  I’m just feeling a tiny bit snarky.)  That is what happened this last weekend when I got to go on my long-awaited girls night out.  I loved it.  It made me happy.  And, of course, I will tell you why.

This was such a modge-podge of good people:  some I’ve known for years, some I’ve just met since I moved here, some I’ve met through blogging, and some I had never even met before in my life.  And guess what they all had in common?  Awesomeness.  They are just straight up good women.  See, look at them:

Oh, gee.  It looks like even though I took two cameras with me, I TOTALLY FORGOT to take a single picture.  I’m not sure I can forgive myself.  Just trust me.  They are all VERY lovely.  Here’s a list of the remarkable ladies that came and I tried to make a link to their blogs (if I know it) so that they can visit each other now too.  Because, of course, we all made new friends.  If I didn’t add your blog link and you want to share it, leave it in the comments and I’ll add the link.

Cheryl , Heidi, Maria, Lisa and Madison, Kim, Amber (and a friend), Cathy, Amy, Julie, Sidnie, Ashley (and her two sisters.), Karen (private blog, right?) , Chelley, and Gentrey.   There were others slated to come who didn’t make it, and we just want to let you know we REALLY missed you and hope you can come next time.  I’m pretty sure there will be a next time because it was some much-needed fun.

We met up for dinner and had some lovely chats about stuff down in our hearts like family, adoption, goals, challenges, etc., and you’d think we’d all known each other for decades.  Let it be noted that I ordered a piece of cake that was bigger than my head.  Even with the help of several generous volunteers, I was not able to finish it.  Then we went and saw the play Persuasion at BYU, which was really, really fun to watch, despite the awkward man seated behind us who laughed way too often and way too loud.

Overall, it was a very charming night.  There are some people who I didn’t get to talk to and visit with as much as I would have liked, so I hope we can get together again and “catch up.”

Anyway, this is a big thanks for being great people and reminding me how much good there is out there in the world.  And that’s true too for those of you who did not come, but still drop in occasionally on this little ol’ blog.  I’m amazed by the extraordinary power of a collection of ordinary people out there who just do good and live life the best they can.  We rock.  What can I say?