House of LIGHT

Our Japanese rental home

“Mama, we’ve always lived in homes with lots of light.”

The unexpected yet earnest comment from my 13-year-old son caught me off-guard. I was folding laundry and he had just come upstairs to say goodnight. As a typical teenager, he usually was more concerned with his friends than he was with the number of windows in our house. But I was pleased with his observation.

“You’re right,” I said. “We like light in our house.”

We had just moved into a rental home in Japan, and it had been a challenge finding enough space for 8 people to comfortably exist. Families our size were not common on the tiny Asian island.

But despite our idiosyncrasies, we were lucky enough to find a home with wide, tall glass doors on each floor and spacious windows in every room. I loved looking out on the “jungle” vacant lot next to us and the ocean in the distance. Having views and light would certainly make our foreign transition smoother.

Why is light so vital to our souls? And to moms? I can think of lots of reasons. But the bottom line is, LIGHT makes us feel light.

As Pa Ingalls observed when digging his well, “Where a light can’t live, I know I can’t.”

Thinking back on our previous homes, I love remembering our wonderful windows in Kaysville, Utah; Casper, Wyoming; and Las Vegas, Nevada. Light and windows have always been a priority for us.

And my rule of thumb as a mom is, start the day by opening the blinds. Let the light in!

Get out of bed, open the windows and then get on with the to-do list.

Folding laundry, doing dishes, sweeping floors, managing little people, and all of the ups and downs of motherhood are much easier to deal with when the beauty of the earth is visible through our windows, and when the light of the world is streaming into our lives.

So when you’re feeling overwhelmed with the cares of life, open your shades, sit by a window (or out in the yard or on the deck) and soak in the sun.

And you never know, your teenage son may learn from your actions, and love LIGHT as much as you do!

Memoires of Bettye-Down-the-Street

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August 5, 2020

My dear friend, mentor, and neighbor, Bettye Jane Hodgkins, passed away a few hours ago, at 4:30am Pacific Time, August 4th. Bettye was 99 years, 5 months and 4 days old.

I was here in Japan when I received the news a few hours later, at 4:30am my time, August 5th. Something woke me up and I know now it was Bettye, letting me know she was on the other side, through an email sent by her dear daughter, Christine.

When Bettye passed in America it was actually evening in Japan. There was a full moon and my husband, Mark (whom Bettye adored), suggested we go out and look at the sky from our balcony. It was cool outside, and we stood for a long time, gazing at the moon and then looking out at the ocean from our home in Okinawa. Little did we know at the time, but Bettye was slipping quietly to heaven.

It is impossible to measure the good or influence a person can have in 99+ years of living. I only know bits and pieces of her first 78 years of life. But her final 18 years were filled with meaning for me and my family.

Bettye had four incredible children, all whom I met. She was a devoted wife and mother. She was an artist, and always had a canvas set up in her kitchen, with paints and brush at the ready, a few finished pieces displayed on her fireplace mantel. She was also a writer, like me, which is partly why we became close friends 18 years ago.

My husband and I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada with three young children in 2002. A day later, our 4th child was born, in our home, just four houses down from where Bettye had lived for over 60 years. Thomson Circle is a quiet place in the busy city. It’s an older neighborhood, with large mature trees and big yards full of grass—the perfect place to live with children.

Continue reading

Of Justice, Mercy, Equality, and Peace

IMG_1169_OriginalOur news is full of voices demanding equality and “justice for all.” With a deep love for my country, and with empathy for those who also declare injustices, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Which of all these parties is right?’

This morning during my personal study I came across the words of Elder James R. Rasband who spoke on the Doctrine of Christ during the April 2020 General Conference:

“One thought has come again and again—without the Book of Mormon and its clarity about the Doctrine of Christ and His atoning sacrifice, where would I turn for peace?”

Peace is what I long for right now. Peace from riotous voices. Peace from the demands to erase history. Peace from the clarion that we live in an oppressive nation. Peace from raging pandemics and contradicting solutions. Peace from oppressive dictators around the globe.

And at the same time I truly desire justice for all. In this tumultuous world, can I find both?

Justice through Christ

Elder J. Rasband explained that we feel true peace when we fully understand that “Christ’s merciful sacrifice fulfills all the demands of justice.” In other words, believing in Christ provides the assurance that all will eventually receive justice.

When seemingly finite efforts to ensure that “all men are created equal” fail, we can trust that justice will be served through Christ. This understanding brings peace to my soul.

President Boyd K. Packer taught, “restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ” (November 1995 Ensign). Yes, true justice comes through Christ.

But there’s more. This same Savior also provides mercy and equality. Continue reading

Approaching Zion—A Quality Quarantine

IMG_7756I hate to express unpopular opinions, but for many reasons I am LOVING this quarantine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of deadly viruses or endless school closures, but some of the resulting outcomes of a worldwide pandemic have actually benefitted our family. The mandatory quarantine is one example.

During the mush and mix of motherhood—especially on days when I feel totally overwhelmed—I have often wished for a long VACATION: a few weeks (or months) where the world stops and we can actually catch up on life. Right? Get through the family photos, organize the cupboards, finish the books, watch the movies, take the walks and DO everything on our “someday” lists.

Well, my at-home dream vacation wish has come true!

Our calendars are EMPTY! Our kids are all HOME! My husband CAN’T go to a meeting or run an errand or leave on a business trip. The soccer games are gone. The dance practices are on hold. The flute lessons have been cancelled. There is NOTHING going on.

Frankly, this absence of appointments is HEAVEN! For a few blessed weeks (err….months) the world has stopped spinning.

And I love it. Continue reading

Simple Things: Kate Middleton’s take on Motherhood

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I traveled on a plane this week and listened to a podcast I’d never tried before: Happy Mum, Happy Baby, by Giovanna Fletcher. The episode caught my eye because HRH Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was the guest.

Like most of the world, I’ve watched Kate with interest during the past decade as she married Prince William and started motherhood. I felt for her when she appeared on the steps of the hospital holding a newborn–her make-up and hair flawless–and wearing heels(!) while smiling at the enamored masses. Poor Mama, I thought.

I was stunned when she arrived a few weeks later for royal duties and I couldn’t detect any baby fat anywhere! She looked amazing!

When she quickly became pregnant again and struggled with morning sickness, my heart went out to her. I hate those long days, weeks and months when nothing stays down and you become a limp mass on the couch or floor, holding onto hope that “this, too, shall pass.”

When her daughter, Charlotte, was born, I was also in the hospital (with my 10th baby) and felt a strange kinship to Kate. But, again, I was eternally grateful that I could lounge in my nightgown while she dressed and showed up for the crowds.

And when she had her 3rd child, Louis, my interest and respect grew yet again. She appeared a committed and happy mother.

Anyway, as my plane took off, I settled in with my headphones to hear what the Duchess had to say about motherhood. And, I was pleasantly–in fact, more than thrilled–at her replies.

Here are a few of my favorite take-aways from Kate’s comments:

*families are at the CENTER of our society

*it’s the SIMPLE things that create a happy childhood

*the world is a ‘real adventure for children

*the more loving people you have around, the better

*nature takes its course during birth

*midwives can play an ‘extraordinary’ role in birth

*I totally UNDERESTIMATED the impact our first baby would have on our lives.

*once a baby is born, it’s amazing and extraordinary to see pure joy on a husband’s face

*we have to try and remember the SIMPLE THINGS through the complications of life

*the STRENGTH OF FAMILY and SIMPLE ACTS OF KINDNESS unite us as a society

*How can you physically get three children out to the car at once? You can’t!

Kate also shared two aspects of childhood which make a tremendous difference:

1.) the quality of relationships

2.) the environments children spend time in, including a happy home and the power of spending time in the out-of-doors

And my favorite quote…

“Since being a mom I have found a new enjoyment out of life.”

Like I said, I LOVED her down-to-earth answers and the respect she emanated for parenting and motherhood. I felt like Duchess Kate truly valued her role as a mother and was doing her best to raise her children in a happy, loving home.

Here’s the link to the full podcast: http://aca.st/045608

I HIGHLY recommend listening!

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Meals for the Masses: Lots of Lunches

I manage LOTS of lunches everyday… You probably do as well!

And like any meal, I get tired of food and redundancy. That’s why I try to keep lunch SIMPLE and HEALTHY. And, I streamline my efforts so that my kids pack their lunches in the morning. That’s one less thing for me to think about during the day.

Here is an overview of how I manage MEALS FOR THE MASSES…at lunchtime.

Meals for the Masses: Three Easy Breakfasts

There are a MILLION ways to be a good mom… AND, there are a MILLION MEALS to fix!

Spending time in the kitchen is (unfortunately) one of my least favorite parts of motherhood. However, cooking is a necessity! And there are lots of people who depend upon my efforts everyday.

Welcome to my next three posts: MEALS FOR THE MASSES. I like to keep food simple and healthful, with minimal cleanup during the week–especially when I have kids (and a husband) coming and going at all hours.

Here are my THREE FAVORITE BREAKFASTS that make my kids happy while keeping my kitchen life stress-free.

What do you like to fix for breakfast???

 

Sibling Solutions

Every family deals with sibling rivalry, right? Arguments, bickering, disagreements… Irritation is common among brothers and sisters. After all, living in a house with other human beings isn’t always easy!

I’m not a child expert, just a mother of 10 children. But I’m happy to share what works in our home when arguments pop up. Here are a few ideas I use to limit contention among my kids.

(Thanks to my friend, Shellie, for requesting this two-minute tip.)

Enjoy!

Christmas Collage: Three Ideas to Brighten your Holiday Season

The best part of Christmas is the TRADITIONS! Here are three simple ideas that brighten our season:

-Christmas Cards

-An old Christmas story

-Cinnamon Roll Wreaths (See the traditional roll dough recipe below.)

I hope this collage of ideas makes your season a little bit BRIGHTER and SMOOTHER.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

Traditional Roll Dough (From my mom! I usually quadruple this recipe to make two full sheets of rolls, or four wreaths.)

1 TB yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup shortening or butter

1 tsp salt

3 1/2 cups flour

1 egg

-Soften yeast in warm water.

-Combine milk, sugar, shortening and salt in a saucepan over medium heat while milk scalds. Cool to lukewarm.

-Pour into mixing bowl.

-Add 1 1/2 cups flour and beat well.

-Beat in yeast and egg.

-Gradually add remaining flour to form a soft dough, beating well.

Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise till double. Shape as desired. Cover and let rise till double on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes. Makes 2 dozen rolls.

For Cinnamon Roll Wreaths:

Roll dough to 16×8 inch rectangle. Combine 1/4 c sugar, 2 TBS melted butter, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon; spread over dough. Sprinkle with raisins or craisins.

Roll as for jelly roll.

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Place on greased baking sheet in circle/wreath shape.

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Cut rolls nearly through dough and twist out. Let rise rill double. Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes. Glaze with mixture of powdered sugar and milk.

Add a festive bow and enjoy!

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Homemade Hungarian Christmas Ornaments

My daughter is in Hungary this December, and she sent me a photo of a traditional simple ornament she found at the local Christmas market in Budapest.

I decided to make one myself…using ONLY what I had on hand. No shopping!

The ornaments turned out beautifully and they SMELL SO GOOD. Just like Christmas!