Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Utah Vacation 2017

We decided to go to Utah for Spring Break this year -- instead of our usual summer trip. I liked this idea for several reasons. #1 It's cheaper to go during the "off" season. #2 I was ready for a break. In fact, if we hadn't all gone as a family, I was going to go with just Mara for a long weekend in March. #3 Our summer (gardening, community activities for the kids, etc) won't be interrupted with a long absence.

We left at 2am (no lie) on Monday morning (April 11th). I think the kids were most excited about this. They mentioned it every day for nearly a week. They couldn't wait to be woken up in the middle of the night (or was it early in the morning?) to sneak off to O'Hare. I couldn't believe they stayed awake for most of the car ride. I can't remember if Reid ever went back to sleep.

The plane was a bit hectic. Our seats weren't together (of course). And Lou pitched enough of a fit that I was stuck with her and Mara in the back of the plane. Reid and Nell sat together in the middle with Ben in a seat right in front of them. But ... ugh -- the airline booked other people in each of our children's seats. I couldn't believe it! How do you see three small children and not put them right by a parent? And even worse, apparently give their seat to someone else?!?!? It was ridiculous, but the wonderful flight attendant sorted it all out.

On our flight back home we were all grouped together in the very last row. But ... ugh they double booked my seat on a plane with at least 8 empty seats! I am not making this up. How do you give one seat to two people when there are that many empty seats? I will never understand airline seating. For example, I pay the same for my ticket as anyone else, but no matter what --- EVERY TIME -- we get the very back. I've obviously gone off on an airline rant I didn't intend to turn this post into, but let the record show in my children's youth airlines treat kids like garbage. Garbage! Even though their seats cost the same as anyone else's.

Leaving super early in the morning had it's advantages. It was nice to have arrive in Delta mid-afternoon and have some time to settle and enjoy ourselves before bed. We had another busy day of travel planned ahead of us. When we gave my mom our dates she decided to throw together a Christmas in April. She rented a huge house down by Bryce Canyon and started planning all the details of hosting her family of 8 adult children and 16 grandchildren in the rented home two and a half hours away from her own.

It was a sweet party, I tell ya. I'll have to write a separate post about it later. I'll also write a separate post about what to do with small children in Bryce Canyon (to go with my series) later. Right now I am apparently just giving a vague overview before I bombard you with more detailed and (hopefully) better organized posts.

We spent Easter Sunday up in SLC with Ben's sisters and their cute kiddos. So the first six days of our trip required a lot of traveling and repacking. It seems we are always packing for a vacation within a vacation when we go to Utah.

During the last portion of our stay we finally had four solid days to sleep and play in one home -- my parents home. Things were nice and slow in Delta, but still filled with plenty of family time and wild cousin play. It really felt like we never stopped, but it was all so relaxing anyway.

I'm having a hard time recovering and readjusting to life back in Wisconsin, but I think we are finally settled in and back into our routine. Reid was more than ready to head back to school. And Nell has fallen back in love with our hour(s) long together time. Mara started solids yesterday and is sleeping well in her crib. Coraline, well that spunky one didn't really seem to get out of sorts and she hasn't fallen back into anything either. She's always just cranky, goofy, serious, excited, and content all in a matter of minutes no matter where we are. Poor girl though, she had a bout of throw ups the night before our return. Luckily her recovery was quick and no one else was affected. She's such a spunky and unpredictable little toddler.

Vacationing as a family always makes me love my people a little more. It strengthens our bond and reinforces our tribe power. The kids were able to branch out and explore new things (from sleepovers to rock hounding), but at the end of each new adventure they always find a safe home in my arms. And for that I am indeed grateful. Love my bunch!
Stop at the Chicago Temple on our way home, Apr 21
Much more of Utah 2017 to come soon!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Nell Update

I'm scrolling through my camera roll and realizing there are very few pictures of just Nell. For a moment I think I should feel guilty about this, but I stop. This isn't a reflection of me, this is a reflection of Nell. I can't think of a better way to capture Nell's soul than to find her always posed with a sibling. 

Whether she's playing her role as the glue that holds the oldest three together ...

Or her role as the leader and example to my pack of girls ... 

Nell's always surrounded by these siblings she loves so much. I often find myself saying "Nell doesn't know how to play by herself." And it's true. Reid can throw himself into a world of imagination and Coraline can find a toy to keep her busy -- but Nell is a social child. She needs a second person to help her occupy her time. Lucky for her, she can usually find one. 

Coraline admires her big sister so much. Maybe even a little too much. If Nell gets a little fussy it isn't too long before I have Coraline stomping her feet and crossing her arms at me as well. She loves to act just like Nell. 

Nell is my biggest helper, often taking on jobs without even being asked. She puts Mara's car seat away unprompted. She always tells me to close my eyes the moment I take off Coraline's diaper. Then she grabs it and runs to the garbage to toss it out. Earlier today when I asked her to bring me Mara's bumbo so I could clean it, she decided to just get a wipe and do it herself. This was extra thoughtful as Mara had just had blow-out.  
One morning as I was coming up the stairs from doing the laundry, Nell hollered, "Mom, we're cleaning the house so well. You're going to be so proud. We're making it clean in case anyone comes over." That last sentence kind of tipped me off and when I rounded the corner I saw them scrubbing away at Lou's little playhouse. 

Nell is definitely our spunky child. She seems to know who she is and has all the confidence in the world about it. I hope she never lets that go. She's also our sassy child. She loves to push the limits and often intentionally does things to get a rise out of me or Ben (or Reid or Lou). 

The other day she and Reid were coloring at the table. I was making something, but needed more flour. As I ran downstairs to get some I remembered the half filled cup I left on the counter. I knew right then I would walk upstairs to find Coraline playing with it. I was right, and since the mess was my own fault I decided that instead of getting mad I'd just let Lou have her fun. She was playing for about ten minutes before Reid and Nell even noticed. 

"Um, Mommy." Reid said, making sure I saw what was happening. When I turned and looked he added, "There's no way you are okay with that." I explained how it was my fault and how she was being so quite with it (honestly, I loved that she stayed out of my way while I tried to cook). I told him it was sweep up easily, and then I bent down to take a photo. Just then Nell jumped down from her seat at the table and walked right through the whole thing. That's when I lost it. Poor Nell, I didn't offer her the same patience I offered Coraline. 

I know we never truly know someone's intent, but if I know Nell as well as I think I do, her intent was to get a rise out of me. I suppose I failed because I gave her just what she wanted. Lous' mess would be easy to clean, but now I had an even bigger one. Plus, I just thought she should know better. I didn't get the carefree photo of Lour I wanted, but I feel like I captured the two of them pretty well. Lou's fun interupted by a misbehaving big sister. 


Don't tell anyone, but I think Nell prefers Reid to Coraline. She does love playing with (and disturbing) Coraline, that's for sure. But Nell lights up when Reid gets home and she always seems happier on the weekends, when he's around, than the weekdays. The two of them truly are best friends and I hope it lasts forever. 

She also loves the special time we have together each day while her little sisters nap. We've been reading The Secret Kingdom and Junie B Jones books. Sometimes we get through a whole chapter book in one day (even one sitting). They hold her attention so well. TV holds her attention well also. She loves Dinosaur Train on PBS kids. She also loves Strawberry Shortcake on Netflix. But I noticed her attitude gets kind of rotten after Strawberry Shortcake, so we are limiting Netflix to just Saturday morning. If they ask for TV on a school day it has to be whatever is on PBS kids at the moment. So Nell watches a lot of PBS kids. 

She's a really healthy eater, but she asks me about food constantly. I don't really know what to do about that, but there is no way she is as hungry as she makes herself out to be.  She is wearing size 7 clothes and has all her summer shopping done. I decided to take her with me to pick out her clothes, since she only wore the winter stuff she'd chose herself. We came home with nothing but skirts. She loooooves to twirl and dance. 

She also loves to wrestle fight and get dirty. She also has a super silly potty mouth. The girl loves to use the word butt in every situation and she burps her way through most of dinner. She's the perfect little princess tomboy. We love her so much and are so thankful to have her in our life. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Reid's Life Lately

By "Reid's Life Lately" I really mean all of 2017! The first photo/story I'm sharing is from way back in January. He's certainly made appearances on this blog already this year, you can find him in my most recent quick take posts. But I've held on to some photos of each individual child for their own special post. I'm hoping to get those all written in the next couple of days. Wish me luck!


One snowy morning I went out and shoveled the driveway before Reid was ready for school. He was upset by this because he wanted to help me. As he shouted and whined about missing out, I pointed across the street and told him he could go shovel the neighbor's driveway. He continued to shout a bit, but I sensed his new anger was actually just fear. What if they didn't want him on their property (a concept I've tried to teach my kids)? What if he couldn't do it all by himself? So many what ifs! 

After assuring him they would appreciate any help he could offer I headed to the bathroom to get ready for the day. When I came out about ten minutes later I saw him running back across the street with our snow shovel in his hand. He'd completed the whole thing and was just in time to catch his bus. I could not have been more proud. 



One day in early February he came home with a big bag of all his art projects. He'd actually told me about the Panda Bear and mentioned how excited he was to give it to Nell. He knows she loves Pandas! It is now hanging by her bed. The Fish Bowl is up by his bed. He (or maybe Nell?) even made a fish food container (out of paper) so they could feed the fish. Poor pet-less children. Gotta love their imagination tho!

To help encourage him to throw away the projects we weren't going to keep, I let him make a video to share with Grandparents. That boy would keep EVERY little thing he has ever made or been given if it were up to him. I certainly understand why he'd be proud of all his hard work in art class.   

Unprompted, he decided to update the family painting I have hanging above my nightstand. Before taking down the old one (about 1 1/2 years old) I had to do a comparison shot. He's come a long way. I love the shape of each of us (especially Mara) in the updated version. I think he did say something about accidentally making Coraline a little chubby, ha!

This is just a photo I snapped one afternoon because, dang! he's got nice hair (even as it camouflages itself into the couch).

One evening last month he snuck out of his room claiming he wasn't tired enough to fall asleep. Sensing it wasn't a trick, I offered to play a hand of Go Fish. I love these little moments where we get special one-on-one time. I can't remember where Ben was, but he was out of the home and all the girls were asleep. So it was just me and my little buddy relishing one another's company.


For school one day all the kids in his class dressed up in costumes signifying their future career. He'd actually been out sick during most of that week's unit of study so we'd missed any fliers that came home. He just walked through the door one afternoon and said "Mommy, I have to dress as an animal explorer for school tomorrow." I tried not to ask to many questions and just went with his excitement. He choose his Polar Bear shirt and our Safari play costume. I eventually started to put it all together and figured the kids must have been writing about their dream job in writer's workshop. 

I can't remember exactly what happened that morning, but I sent him out the door with some tension and hurried frustration. For a while I'd been wanting to go to school to have lunch with him (it was something I meant to do while Ben was on paternity leave, so it was a long overdue idea). It just so happened that this was also a day I planned to go to the city library for a town hall meeting with my state rep. On a whim I decided to call a babysitter (a teen in our ward who does homeschooling). I took Mara to the town hall meeting but left a little early so I could surprise Reid at lunch. It was such a tender little experience. He took so much pride in showing me how to dish up and go through the lunch line. We sat at the only vacant table, but he didn't seem to mind missing lunch time with his classmates. 

We snuck out a couple minutes early so he could walk me through his classroom. He stopped at several desks to tell me what all his closest friends had dress up as (their career costumes were folded up at their seats). He was so excited that his best friend had a vest like him and wanted to be a paleontologist. There were two other boys who wanted to be animal scientists and one little girl who wants to be a vet. He also taught me all about their Math Center (based on the work he brings home, math is his strong point). 

The hallway soon filled with children, and I said my goodbye. When I was just about out the door I saw him running to me, asking for a hug and kiss. He sure was appreciative of my simple gesture. He's been begging me to come back ever since (and was sure to tell me when his friend's mom came but she brought a happy meal instead of just eating hot lunch). I can't forget to mention what a big hit Mara was. All the little Kindergarten girls were swarming me to get a peek and I had to keep reminding them not to poke her, ha! A couple of our neighbor kids were also exited to see me. It was fun to be a part of their world for one brief moment.  


He's been very lucky to have one of his favorite friends from 4K in his class. Ben (or Ben's mom, rather) has taken him to the gymnastics center, bowling, and most recently to the school Luau (it was just last night). He really wanted to go to the Luau, but we explained that wasn't something that would work for our family right now. He handled the disappointment well, so when Jen texted me to see if Reid could come along with them I was thrilled. 

We got out his piggy bank and counted out five dollars so that he could have his own spending money to buy any trinkets or snacks. I was so grateful for our allowance system (something I'll write about later) at that moment. First, I'm glad Reid knows he needs to have his own money saved up for invites out with friends; and second, something about him spending his own money on that ridiculous Mohawk wig makes me cringe a little less at the sight of it. His money wasted, not mine. 

We sure love our Reido. All 65 pounds and 46 inches of him (no small Kindergartner). He is a caring big brother with a very sensitive heart. He works hard when asked to help out around the house. Simply put, he fills our hearts with joy. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mara's 4 Month Mark (and then some)

 It's possible that I have way more pictures of Mara than any of my other babies. But, she's likely my last so, #noregrets. We took her for her 4 month check up ten days ago and she was already 26 inches long and 14 and a half pounds. She is keeping the record as our smallest baby. Her length is (as far as percentages go) not too far behind her siblings. This makes things complicated as most 6 mos clothes are too short for her but the 9 mos stuff is too baggy. Currently, she's just wearing a mix of both sizes. She's in a size 2 diaper. At this point, Reid was already sporting a 4, ha!

She refuses a bottle (like each of her sister, but not Reid -- thus the size 4s). Having breastfed babies who refuse bottles is hard. I can hardly sneak away for an hour without her. I try repeatedly almost every Saturday, but Ben texts me to let me know when she starts howling. We've also had to tell babysitters (who we can only schedule after bedtime) not to go get her if she cries, but to instead just call me and I'll come home. Thankfully, that hasn't had to happen (yet). She's still a pretty good sleeper (barring sutffy nose and diarrhea issues).

Coraline has started to get a bit jealous, so Mara's been a little more beat up this month. They still have sweet moments though. The other day I put Mara in her swing while I made dinner and Coraline sat down in front of her and started reading books to her. I really think the two of them are going to be close buddies.

It's getting harder to leave her while I do things around the house. She rolls off her mat and gets angry, and she has to be strapped in tight to her swing. I'm sure we'll break the jumperoo out soon. She does like sitting in the bumbo, but only lasts about 7 minutes before she gets mad that she can't scoot herself out. Girl loves to kick her legs and try to move around!

She responds to tickles and showers us with giggles during diaper changes. She cries when she wakes up from naps, but the moment I open the door and say "I'm here," she calms down. I don't even have to pick her up right away (I can put away laundry, tidy up books, etc), but as long as I'm there she stops crying immediately. She mostly coos and does happy shouts when she wakes up in the morning. It's really loud though, so I have to go in right away and start feeding her or she'll wake up Coraline and have to fight for morning snuggles with mom.

I know I say it over and over, but I really can't believe how fast it goes. It seems like most people who say that have long been graduated from the baby stage, so I want to say it over and over as a mother of babies. THEY GROW SO FAST! It's a good reminder for me to calm down and savor at least a few tender moments between laundry, meal prep, clean up, and exhaustion.
The various stages of her tongue. She loves her tongue!
The perfect smile! 2/8
Her different poses for mom's attempted photo shoot. 2/13
Of course Nell snuck into the one that turned out the best!
Each time she smiled she wiggled a little and caused blur or slouching.

This was the day I decided I needed to hold her while she was sleeping, just a few more times. 

Feb 17th
Feb 22
Feb 24

What am I doing in this pot? Mar 10

Split Pea and Sweet Pea!

I hope they eat that and not me!

Can you believe my mom lost that photo contest she took photos of yesterday?
I'm a winner no matter what! Mar 11

March 14

Mom's realizing I'm growing up real fast, so she holds me all the time!!!
March 15 and 19th 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Another Quick Take: Spring Weather, Parenting Blurps, and Other Happenings


Here's a second dose of 7 mini-posts for 2017. This seems to be the year I can't keep up with my usual blogging habits. Tank goodness for jumbled quick takes (aka really long posts) that help me unload my camera roll!

1. After my first quick take of the year, I figured for sure I'd write a post about the 60 degree weather we had (for several days) that very week (mid February). But I never got around to that. So here's the pictures I took of the kids loving their time outside in the mud.

Feb 21

I totally remember "making quicksand" as a kid. I also remember loosing shoes with at least two good friends (Shellene Johnson and Haley Petersen). As the three big kids were busy creating some of my own favorite childhood memories, I held Mara as we swung on our big tree swing. It was all so dreamy.

The next day I sent the big kids out to play for just a few minutes before we were to head to a park play date (which our friend cancelled). Going to the park was a total flop, despite the nice weather. But that's all beside the point. Lou came to the door all covered in mud and I wanted to clean her up ASAP so we wouldn't be late picking up our friend. Once I had her all tidied up, she gazed up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes and I noticed I'd clearly missed a spot.

Feb 22
I couldn't believe I'd been so concerned about mud in the house and hurrying our day along that I didn't even take time to look at her face. When her sweet eyes gazed up at me I couldn't resist a picture. I didn't just take it to remember her twinkle, but to remind myself to always take the time to gaze into those loving eyes. This has quickly become one of my all time favorite pictures of Lou, possibly tied with another muddied face shot. 

 2.  My mom left some yeast in my cupboard after her Thanksgiving visit (she made her yummy dinner rolls for our leftovers). I figured I'd finally try the no-knead artisan bread I'd saved on pinterest back in 2014 (which was the same recipe a friend had given me in early 2011). I can't believe it took me so many years to work up the courage to make this bread!

Feb 28
I have made three slightly altered versions of the same recipe. Today I tried using the parts I liked best from all three recipes, and it was a flop (aka -- a sticky mess that didn't rise after it was removed from the bowl). Even so, the bread still tasted just fine and most of it has been gobbled up by now. I think this should be titled no-knead and no-fail. 

3. Let's celebrate the return of 100 Plus into my life. Also worth celebrating: my fabulous husband who went around town hunting it down for me. Not worth celebrating: the wicked stomach bug that knocked down the four oldest members of our family (the two littlest had mild symptoms, but were never miserable).  

Mar 4

4. Ben took Reid and Nell down to Illinois the second weekend in March. They went to help his parent's get their house ready for the market. They are moving to Utah, and I think I'm experiencing the stages of grief over the whole ordeal. I'm mostly just heartbroken for my kids. I was surrounded by so much extended family growing up, it's hard for me to imagine their life without that. Aunt Jamie and I are coming up with lots of ideas and making serious goals to get the kids together often after Rick and Carol leave. But wow, none of this was the reason I mentioned Ben, Reid, and Nell's weekend away. My real desire was simply to share these goofy selfies I took with Lou. Man it was hard to entertain her all on my own! I think I was missing Reid and Nell more than she was.



Here's a picture of Reid and Nell that Rick sent me while they were in Illinois. I'm not sure how much help they were, but they sure did enjoy themselves. They were in heaven when they brought home a big box of sea shells. 



5. On a Target run last week Coraline unwrapped some Easter chocolate while I was lingering over the M&Ms. I was being indecisive about which kind (mint or plain?) we should put in our Leprechaun bait. Just as I decided on the plain I looked over at Coraline, one end cap away, and heard her say "quack, quack." The head of that tiny duck was just about to enter her mouth. 
I grabbed it out of her hands but also immediately realized I was going to have to buy it. The mother walking past laughed over the whole thing, which helped me keep a positive attitude. I figured since there was nothing I could do about it, I might as well take a photo and try to remember it! That bottom left picture just cracks me up. Don't worry, after the photo shoot Nell got to enjoy one too. What a waste of money!

6. The Leprechaun bait turned out yummy. Reid decided to make a trap, so I went along with it. Our Leprechaun was definitely stuck for at least a few minutes, but he figured a way out and left a green trail out our back door. The kids were pretty excited about that. Earlier in the week Reid laid out all the ideas for his elaborate trap and Nell looked at him like he was an idiot and declared, "Leprechauns aren't real!" She was sure singing a different tune after she saw that magic dust! They were all pretty excited. 

7. They were also excited that it wasn't freezing outside and that I was taking them to the library while Daddy attended Priesthood training. It's been a battle getting Nell to wear a coat all winter long, so with the Spring like weather you'd think she'd gladly wear a jacket. Nope!

As we got out of the car at the library I hollered, "Nell, I told you to put your jacket on before you got out of the car!" (it was next to her seat on the back row). The family ahead of us (husband, wife, and young teen daughter) all looked over and gave a knowing smile. The dad caught the door for me and pointed to his daughter, "She was just like that as a kid. Still is! That's why my wife and I had to laugh when we saw your little girl and heard your comment."

So, that's twice in two days that strangers got a kick out of my half hazard parenting. It's always nice to know you're in good company!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mara Joy's Infancy

February 15, 2017
Each child's infancy goes faster and faster. I think I just might wake up one morning and find I'm sending Mara off to college. I can sense she's already transitioning to new stages. She has control of her movements, and she tries harder and harder to roll over each day. She coos as if she's really trying to communicate her thoughts and feelings. She smiles back.

She also sleeps like a champ. Coraline wakes us up more each night than Mara does, and that's been the case for a full month. She sleeps so well that I rarely get the chance to hold her slumber on my chest (which is without a doubt my favorite part of having an infant in the home). If she does fall asleep during her bedtime feeding I'm in no rush to lay her in the crib. I hoist her up on my chest and listen to her deep breaths. I want to savor every minute of those dreaming snuggles.

Here are some of the photos I've taken of her during her second and third months of life.

Dec 11 -- Just a day shy of 5 weeks and still so tiny!
Dec 13 -- Practicing to become a great sleeper.
Dec 27 -- She could sleep just about anywhere and through any noise.
Dec 31 -- Those tiny hands!!!
Jan 4 -- Just passed 8 weeks old; gorgeous!


Jan 5 -- My favorite sleep/snuggle position.
Jan 17 -- Her favorite sleep position. So peaceful!
Jan 26 -- My grocery shopping buddy.
Feb 3- - Cracking a smile as she wakes up.

Feb 3. She prefers to sleep/snuggle facing out vs snuggled up.

March 11 2017

And here we are now, several days past Mara hitting the 4 month mark and I'm just finishing edits on those pictures. Yikes. Her infancy is really gone now. However, 4 months old is my favorite baby age.

She rolled over for the first time (twice) last Sunday. Reid was doing tummy time with her and he shouted for joy when she turned from her belly to her back. It was sweet to see how excited he was. Since then, she has rolled pretty regularly each day. She can roll from her belly to her back, but also from her back to her belly. I can't believe how quick it's all going (did I say that already).

She prefers to be held out, rather than in, just like Nell. She sucks her thumb, just like Nell. She knows that when I put her in her sleepsack she is about to go to sleep, and she usually pouts a bit about that. Poor girl.

She offers serious giggles when you interact with her at the right time and in the right way. She's still sleeping like a champ (so why can I not find the time to finish this post?)! She has her four month check up on Monday, so I suppose I'll write up a new post then. I have still have so many pictures (Feb 7th on) I want to share!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Helping Pre-Readers Write Primary Talks

Our kids are blessed to attend a rather small LDS Primary. An average week yields about a dozen kids aged 3 -11.  A larger primary (like that of my own childhood) would be awesome as well. However, I've really come to love our little group and the experiences my two older children have because of its small size. They absolutely adore the older children -- who shower them with attention and kindness. Also, they are frequently called upon to say prayers, answer questions, choose songs, and give talks. Last year Nell gave two primary talks as a sunbeam (that's the youngest class). I'm willing to bet that's pretty unique. 

Neither Reid nor Nell read (or write), but they love preparing and giving talks. We've had to think outside the box as we've helped our pre-readers write their talks, so I thought I'd share some of the strategies that have worked for us. Hopefully this can help some other parents of pre-readers prepare their kids to give talks during sharing time as well. 

1. Make sure the child is using their own words, and not yours (or someone else's). 
My goal for my kids, even at age three, is that they will both write and speak the talk themselves. Of course we help them with the outline and structure of each talk, but we encourage them to use concepts and language that are familiar to them. When they each gave their first talk I stood by them to offer encouragement and help get them through any hiccups, but I do not whisper the talk into their ears. The words are theirs and they are comfortable expressing them to their peers. If a child does need the words whispered into their ears (because we all have different abilities), those words should still be comfortable and natural to them. 

2. Study the topic with them every day of the week.
The purpose of speaking in Church is mostly for our own benefit. When we are asked to prepare a talk or lesson we have to spend a great deal of time studying the topic on our own. Then we put together our thoughts and deliver them to our audience. This should be no different for our children. Most recently, Reid was given a somewhat complicated topic, his assignment was: "Jesus Christ created the Earth so I could learn to choose the right." Throughout the week we talked about the two very separate ideas in that sentence. Why did Jesus create the Earth? How can we choose the right? After some good discussions on these two points, we started putting the two concepts together. We kept having Reid flush out ideas and express what he was learning in his own words. The final draft of his talk included comments about dinosaurs and the Mariana trench -- so you can trust me when I say our kids use their own words! We always encourage them to come up with their own ideas, but they can only do this if they understand the doctrine they are asked to speak on. 

3. Create a storyboard for the child to read from the pulpit. 
This genius idea belongs to Reid. As we kept talking about the reason for the creation and the importance of choosing the right, he said something about writing his talk as a picture. That was a real light bulb moment for me. I got out some paper and made six frames; then he and Ben filled it out together. I would highly recommend this method to anyone. By the time they were finished Reid had six concrete thoughts he knew he needed to hit and his talk was built on strong organization. This gave him the confidence he needed to stand at the podium (without me by his side), make eye contact with his audience, and deliver his talk with near perfection. He occasionally made quick glances at each square and then spoke from the heart as he moved from one point to the next. 


4. Use props.
I know props for talks in sacrament are frowned upon, but I think it is okay to make an exception for children's primary talks. I imagine some church members may disagree with this approach, but it worked really well for us when Reid was 5 and asked to speak on The Creation. I created a flannel board story of the Creation and it served as the outline for his talk. This allowed him to tell the entire creation story in his own words, while also offering a visual for his peers.


Props did not work for Nell when she was asked to speak on Christ's birth. I envisioned her putting out each piece of our Little People Nativity set as she told the story, but every time we practiced it at home her retelling of the story just became more and more ridiculous. She was ad-libbing all sorts of junk that certainly would have made her story interesting, but not at all accurate. In the end we just put the nativity out on the table next to us and stuck to simple story telling from the pulpit, which leads us into number five.

5. Practice, practice, and practice some more.
I really don't have any wisdom to offer here, other than what is said: practice, practice, practice. Nell had to run through that nativity talk a couple dozen times. We'd interrupt her when she got too dramatic; we'd remind her of any parts she was missing. We did it again and again and again. Reid also runs through his talks a couple dozen times before delivery. We are sure to go over it several times the morning before church.


6. Always close with a testimony.
When our kids practice their talks we always ask them to include their own testimony at the end. We have never given them instruction for this portion of the talk. It isn't something we correct or persuade. They know they need to close with two or three comments about something they are thankful for and something they know to be true. Naturally, they stick pretty closely to their assigned topic.

I'd love to hear any other ideas that have worked for parents with young children. Feel free to leave them in the comments or pass this post around if you find it helpful.
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