Sunday, January 10, 2016

Scripture Bags

This last year has been ROUGH for us at church. Our kids are all at ages (two six year olds, a three year old and a two year old) where they just want to move so much and talk so loud, that any kind of reverence on our bench has been a major battle. Usually there are tears and laps around the building just to calm people down (not always just the kids) so we can make it the rest of the hour.

I realized a couple problems. One, my kids were way too loud. They have really big, active imaginations and loud voices to go with them. The things we were bringing for them to play with were getting them too excited and animated and they didn't know how to lower their volumes and actions to a church whisper. They'd get so frustrated with me shushing them the whole meeting and I'd go crazy whisper-yelling at them to whisper every three seconds (great example, mom).

Two, the things we filled our church bag with were not helping them spiritually. Sure the Cars/Toy Story magnets and little princesses were fun and engaging, but they weren't helping my kids feel closer to Jesus in any way... which is kind of the whole reason we come to church. They weren't helping make Sunday a different day from the other days, and weren't teaching my children any of the important truths I want them to learn.

Three, my kids were really hating church. They'd complain and dig their heels in and dread going and fight the whole time we were there. Isaiah says the sabbath should be a delight, but my kids were definitely not feeling that.  Their negativity was ruining what has always been my favorite day of the week.

For months I felt like we needed a change, but didn't know what. Thankfully, the church started putting an emphasis on making the Sabbath Day more holy and with that came some positive changes for us-- most importantly, our ward changing sacrament meeting to the first hour instead of the last of the three hour block (hallelujah! hallelujah!!). Kids struggle to adjust to any change, but after a few months, it was SO much better for them. That helped reverence a lot. We started working more on things at home to encourage reverent times throughout the week (we pushed it more during family prayer and family scriptures at night) and we made some changes to our Sundays that helped make it a more reverent day. But I still felt like we needed help during sacrament meeting.

So for Christmas, I made my kids some church bags. They've never had scripture bags of their own yet, so I felt like it was a good time to give them their own bag to carry and fill it with reverent, quiet, spiritual activities. (Plus, less for me to carry!)

I found mini clipboards (six inches wide, nine inches long) at the store that are perfect for a half sheet of paper. That sent my head spinning. What if I laminated a bunch of activity pages they could do over and over with dry erase markers and update them as their age and skill increases?

I debated uploading pdfs of my sheets so others could print them, but some are copyrighted and only for personal use. Plus, kids are at all different levels and interest. So hopefully you can find what fits your family on google or by making up your own. Here are some of the ideas I had for my laminated sheets:
  • connect the dots 
  • bingo (listen to the speaker and color in the square when you hear them talk about it)
  • blank head-- draw a picture of the speaker
  • blank laminated sheet (for drawing anything)
  • dotted line primary songs (trace the words)
  • word searches
  • Hidden Pictures (from "funstuff" in the Friend Magazine)
  • pictures of Jesus (I cut some out from old magazines and glued a collage on a half sheet)
  • dotted line & pictures of elements of a testimony (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, Living Prophet, Temple, etc)
  • maze
That's all I made so far, I'm sure I'll add more as time goes on. I printed on both sides of cardstock, cut them in half, laminated them, and they were ready to go! I love the clipboard giving them a hard surface on their lap and also holding their sheet from moving.

I also printed several coloring pages that I didn't laminate, since all of my kids like to just plain color. These also work well for the younger kids, who aren't ready for dry erase markers. The easiest way to print these was to select "2-on-1 Printing" in my printer dialogue box and then in automatically shrinks everything to half a page (I flipped them around and printed on the other half of the page too and on the backs before I cut them up).

I found this four-pack of bags at Hobby Lobby for $9 (and in perfect colors for my two boys and two girls! But they also have other options). They're 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches (the closest thing I can find online is this: It's the same brand, mine just came in a four pack and with different colors in the store). They were the perfect size for my project, they fit the clipboards and a small Book of Mormon as well as some other markers and crayons and erasers. They were open on top, which for my kids would lead to everything spilling all the time, so I sewed some zippers on each of them myself (don't look too close at the stitching...).

I also wanted to personalize them, so I drew a little temple outline, scanned it into photoshop, added their names in my new favorite font (BetterFly draft for the girls, BetterFly narrow for the boys. You can buy it here:, and then printed it on a dark fabric transfer sheet (like these: I cut out the circles, ironed them on, and voila! Personalized church bags!

Right next to the clipboards at the store, I found pads of blank paper that were about the same size, so I got those too. They've been nice when the kids just want to draw or color anything. I got my younger boys boxes of crayons. I got these twist-up crayons for my girls, which they like cause they don't have to be sharpened. We've experimented with lots of dry erase markers, but my favorite for kids are the Crayola washable dry erase markers. They come out of church clothes! Believe me, we know. They have a nice point that doesn't get all frayed like some dry erase markers, and they don't have any odor. I bought a big pack and split them up between the bags. I also got each kid their own square eraser for their bag, which is perfect and small. I'm sure I got everything at Target or Walmart. 

Some other things we've added to the bags are...

A few years ago I bought a bunch of small church pictures at Deseret Book and got two of each picture. I glued the same paper on the back of all of them, laminated them, and put the whole set in a ziplock. We use it to play quiet games of memory or go fish on the bench. My three-year-old especially loves playing with these, so we keep them in his bag (especially since he's not old enough for the more complex activities). 

When my kids each turned one, my sister gave them these little family flip books for their birthdays (a love of laminating runs in the family). They have individual faces of not only each of our family members, but all of our extended family members as well (each grandparent, aunt, uncle and cousin). It's been so fun for all of my kids to quietly look through so many faces they love (and learn family members better that they might not see very often). I love that she found pictures of both sides of our family, so it's complete. (This was Owen's so it's what our family looked like when he was one, missing Dallin, obviously). 

My kids got these little Article of Faith books in primary, and I've loved them. They're good to practice reading and work on memorizing the articles of faith. I'm sure there's an article of faith printable somewhere on pinterest that's similar. 

Like I said, this is by no means a complete list of everything that could go in a reverent church bag, but it's been a really good start for us. We've used it for three weeks now, and I am so impressed and grateful for the difference in my kids. It's answered my three concerns in such a wonderful way. 

1. They're quiet. The volume problem is so much less of an issue when each of them are engaged in their own activity and not talking/playing with each other (or with make believe things in their hands). 

2. They're learning things. They ask me what words mean and name things they recognize and they're even listening to the speakers and focusing more on the meeting. They'll be quietly coloring and then comment to me on something the speaker just said, and I'm so surprised they're paying attention. Sometimes busy, mindless hands open up the ears. I'm grateful that they're reading and pondering words that will help them feel the Spirit and learn more about our church and the Savior, instead of just thinking more about Disney characters. 

3. I've heard the words, "Yay! It's Sunday! I'm actually excited to go to church!" By finding reverent activities that are actually fun for them, we've tapped in to that emotion I've wanted them to feel all along. I LOVE going to church. Church makes me so happy and fills up my soul with joy. I want my children to feel that too. I love that they're starting to look forward to church more and hope that the feeling will become a habit and carry for them, long after the activities fade away. 

I share all of this only in the hopes that it can help someone else with their family. I felt blessed to receive ideas as answers to my prayers. They came from a loving Father who knows the needs of His little (and big) children, and I'm so grateful for His wisdom and mercy. The struggle is real, and I feel so strengthened by other parents of young children who take their kids to church week after week even when/especially when it's hard. I believe in the goodness of children and that all this repetitiveness and work will pay off as they grow and find these things entrenched in their hearts, despite all their wiggly efforts to fight it. At least that's my hope. 

I would love to hear any ideas you have about keeping your kids reverent and spiritually engaged during sacrament meeting. Or leave a comment about something to add to a church bag!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

sept 15

Well, hello. 

Here I am again on this blog that I can't let die. I know I've been so inconsistent with posts, pretty much since Owen was born, but I can't let go of that need to keep the history. I have the grand visions of catching up all the lost days on the blog. We'll see someday. 

So, the girls started kindergarten. I was so excited all summer for them and for the freedom it meant for me, until about August, when I realized I'm not getting freedom at all-- I still have two little boys to take care of all day (and given the ages, they're the more high maintenance duo). So, I spent a few weeks mourning that loss. 

But then school started. And it's been two weeks. And I knew it would take a little time to adjust and find our new rhythym (as we seem to need to do every new season), but after two weeks I think we have. Adam is working later this semester which has really effected my art time. So I've been patiently experimenting with that too. And then it turns out, kindergartners have homework every day (which means their mom has homework every day) so we've been trying to figure THAT out. And then dance started up again and when it did, Owen started to really get sad and kept saying, "Owen's turn for kindergarten. Owen's turn." We weren't expecting him to feel left out, but we realized he needs something too right now. We scrambled and found a t-ball league we could put him in for eight weeks and then Adam volunteered to be the coach, so now we have that on the plate too. 

Every Sunday night, Adam and I sit and calendar. This week we went over our week like usual and then I asked for his advice. I said it's been two weeks with all these new things we're juggling and I wanted his input on how I can run my days efficiently. I'm self-motivated and can completely make decisions on my own. But Adam has talents for seeing the bigger picture and giving wise analysis and I respect his input. I also sometimes need him to remind me that it's okay to let things go or neglect the children for certain periods of time (that sounds awful to type, but there are times where they can play by themselves and that's okay and healthy while I get other things done. Why do I forget that?). Anyway, as we've added children to our family, I've adjusted to the demands of mothering and keeping up a home pretty well. I've even thrown in an art business and part-time work, which I never thought I could do. It's a full and wonderful life. But there are two things missing from my life that have nagged me for the last three years since they stopped: exercise and blogging. I need exercise for my energy levels and weight and well-being. I need blogging for my soul. It's driven me crazy that I couldn't find the time for either one of these in my world the past few years. 

I'm a person who does really well with schedules and order. So as we were talking on Sunday, I sat and wrote out what I wanted to be doing during all the different hours of my day. I'm awake for 16 hours every day. If I'm efficient, I can get a lot in. So I made plans of what hours I would give to my home, to my children, to my art and to myself. I said I'd try it out this week and we'd see it how it goes. Today is only Tuesday and it has been so wonderful so far. I feel so balanced. I feel like (FINALLY!) I'm actually getting to all the things I need/want to do and it's enough. I can always invent a million projects for myself, but it's the important things that I felt were escaping me. Today, I felt so in control. And when the hours were up for the home things, I left what was undone until later (relief!). I worked really hard in my art studio, and when it was time to leave, I let the paintings be, in whatever state they were in. I did homework with kids and even had extra time to work on reading. I budgeted and got dinner in the oven before Adam got home. I had quiet time to myself after the kids went to bed to exercise and sort through photos and read. Seriously, if every day could be like this, I feel like my life would be so balanced. And I'm even getting to the blog! (now if only there were a better app to blog on my ipad. Favorites anyone?)

So, here's a glimpse of life today. 

Owen got himself completely dressed all by himself! (He also picked out a pretty awesome red-neck outfit for his little brother that I went with, cause that was pretty cute of Owen). 

My kids all beg and beg for movies and I finally got wise and started making them earn it. They have to clean some area of the house (usually a mess they made) before they can watch any show. Win win!

All of my kids love to come into my art studio while I'm working and do art at this table. Today I had the girls come do their homework here. 

There was this moment while I was helping them both write the letter F, while standing back and squinting at my paintings which a brush of paint in my hand trying to decide where to put the next stroke, while Owen was playing a toy guitar and belting, "this WOMAN is my DESTINYYYYY!!!" and I had to stop and laugh and think what is my life?? It is these moments exactly like this. All of it happening all at once, a beautiful chaos. I love my kids, I love being home with them and mothering them. I love being an artist and getting to paint things that I love. And what a gift it is to spend my days so busy in these two works.

I sat in the car with the boys while we waited for the girls to get out of dance and was mesmerized by such a beautiful rainstorm happening outside my windows. Once again, I ached for my good camera (that's in the shop for repairs right now), but grabbed my iphone out to capture it anyway. Owen asked his typical, "Mom, what you do?" (I get that all day), so I showed him my phone and he held it in his chubby three year old hand and said, "ohhh so bootiful." This kid has my heart. It's probably just a really cute age, but my gosh, the things he says and does...

We were treated with the loveliest rainbow on the way home that stretched across the entire sky. So much beauty in every moment of life!

Hooray for a post! I'm doing jazz-hands for myself over here. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Home Life

Here's a sampling of what our life looks like lately:

Dallin discovered the tupperware drawer and loves it. Me, not so much. 

I've been tackling our basement. It's amazing how long it takes to move in to a place. We bought our house last July and I feel like only now, a year later, are things really starting to feel settled upstairs and things have found the spaces they belong in. Our basement has plenty of storage space, which, unfortunately, is where a lot of things got dumped when they didn't have another place. It feels good to sort through, give away, and organize what's left. I'm also so thrilled with scanner apps on my phone!! Digitizing papers has never been easier! I'm a paper hoarder and I used to make huge piles of "things to scan later", which, as you can imagine, never happened. Now I can scan any size item on my phone and be done with it. So easy! Takes up so much less space! So much easier to find later! I love technology. 

In cleaning out the basement we found a box of play bricks. These particular toys hold so much meaning for me because they're the same set that we played with at my grandpa's house when we were kids. I somehow inherited them (probably because I was the lucky grandchild who got to help clean out his house.... SO.MUCH.STUFF. Hence I want to nip my own hoarding tendancies right in the bud now). It's so fun to watch my kids play with them and remember all the fun memories my cousins and I had building forts. 

Four months ago, out of necessity, we switched the kids' bedrooms all around. Owen had learned how to climb out of his crib and would climb into Dallin's and body-slam his baby brother in the middle of the night. It wasn't safe. Not only that, but Lucy and Jenna had no idea how to shut down at night and would stay up playing LOUDLY until all hours of the night. We switched them up! One girl and one boy in each room. It was blissful. Everyone went to bed! Everyone was safe all night! Peace and quiet returned to our abode....

But then that Owen struck again. He started waking up at all hours of the night and wandering the house. He'd come in our room and climb on top of us (the idea of your babies climbing into bed and snuggling with you is so sweet.... in our case, it has NEVER equaled sleep for any of said parties. eventually, one of us groggily gets up and returns the snuggler/kicker/hair-puller/tosser&turner/singer/talker/little dear back to their own bed). We'd find him asleep on our floor. We'd find him asleep on the floor in the hallway and the landing. We started to wonder what else he might be doing in the house when we were sound asleep (especially since he's learned how to go outside). He'd wake up at 5:00 am and come out, thinking it was morning, and then throw MAJOR temper tantrums if we wouldn't get up and get him breakfast or put on a movie for him. It was very disruptive to our sleep and not very safe for our two-year-old. We needed to lock him in his room at night. There's a lock on his door already (reversed, locks from the outside) and somehow if we lock him in, he accepts it and sleeps. He might jiggle the handle a few times or cry for a minute. But then he gives up and goes and lays back down. The only problem with locking him in, is then we have to lock his older sister in too and that creates a problem when she has to go to the bathroom. 

It was a nice four months (well, except at the end). But here we are, back again. Baby boys in one room, girls back together in the other. 

Lucy looked at the rooms and said, "It just feels right." It does. It's solved Owen's night time problems, and he seems to have outgrown climbing into Dallin's crib (not to mention, Dallin's just that much bigger and stronger now). But the girls don't go to sleep anymore. Even tonight, an hour passed bedtime, they're talking and playing loudly in the dark and Lucy just came out (for the umpteenth time) and asked if it was morning yet (waking up Owen in the process and now he's trying to get out of his door). Will our children ever all sleep at once? I get so tired by the end of the day and I'm for sure at my worst at bedtime. I turn into the grumpiest mom and every time I hear that door creak open it just makes my blood boil. Can I have just a little peace and quiet? Please? 

This is definitely feeling dramatic, since I'm writing this at bedtime, but man little kids can be hard. They're so sweet and so exhausting all at the same time. I'm sure there are much worse things they could do in life, but at bedtime when your patience is so thin, it's hard to imagine. Adam and I listened to the funniest comedian one time (Jim Gaffigan?) talk about how bedtime is the ultimate reverse-hostage situation. "I'll give you anything you want, just STAY IN THERE!!" Ha ha! Ain't that the truth. 

Anyway, toward the end of the week all my kids had colds. Poor Owen kept rubbing his nose the same direction making this rash on his cheek. I'd take colds over stomach bugs any day, but it's still hard to see them all cough and cough and to not be able to help them at all.  

There was a lot of this. Four little bodies bundled on the couch watching movies (how else do you keep little kids still and resting?). Sometimes they were all so content on the couch and it made my day kind of easy. And sometimes, like sick kids are, they were all so whiny and needy all at the same time and it made my days much harder than usual. Poor babes. Tired mom. 

The fun thing about having a new (to you) house, is that you have no idea what will come up in your yard in the springtime. I've got blossoms blooming all over the place and each one is like a new surprise gift for my senses. There are irises along our side yard and a lilac bush in the middle (which smell reminds me of my grandma). 

We've got something pretty just on the verge of blooming in the front. Peonies? 

So many rosebushes with dark pink roses all over. Spring is so fun. 

Cleaning out the basement has given my kids hours of entertainment in the empty boxes. I love when all four of them play together. It's so fun to see Dallin old enough to join in. 

(Owen is so obsessed with planes right now. He flies with his arms outstretched to every corner of our home. Boys are so fun.)

More movies. More coughing. More snuggling. 

More tupperwares. 

More bricks and towers and queens and train tracks out of the bricks. 

I'm so endeared and proud that my babies (Dallin is 17 months) know how to kneel down and fold their arms when we say family prayers.

Owen and Dallin aren't comfortable anywhere lately unless Woody and Buzz are with them. Dynamic duos have to stick together, right?

Owen came running up to me the other day, "Mom!! I drew YOU!!" I love it so much.

Jenna (and Lucy) keeps taking lots of time to make me really special drawings or cards or pictures. I love how she drew me (right) and Adam (middle, with the curly hair) in this one. I still need to ask who our buddy on the left is. Man, I love when my kids make stuff for me.

I don't know what it is, but for some reason, all of our kids have LOVED "Hop on Pop" by Dr. Seuss. We read it so much to the girls that Adam and I had it memorized and could recite the entire book on command. Lately, it's all Dallin wants. So funny (like fish in a tree.. how could that be?).

Lucy came running to me the other day and said, "Mom, come quick! I wrote a message on your bed!" I burst out laughing when I saw it. Datmome? What's a Datmome? She pronounced it, "Dat (That) Mommy sssss." 

There's the week in review for us. Over and out.