Monday, June 22, 2009

Belinda's Corner

Summer Field Trips
by Belinda Kuck

With an economy in recession and gas prices on the rise, many families are taking a “stay-cation” instead of a “vacation”. Even if you are going to go on a “real” vacation, (i.e. driving hours in a car with children asking “Are we there yet?”), there are learning opportunities everywhere this summer and why leave the field trips just for the school year.

We are going on a field trip each week of summer and I have determined these trips the following ways:

What interests your child and where could you go to answer those curious questions they ask? We have a field trip scheduled at the Water Conservation District because my daughter wanted to know where all the water went as the tub drained. We are also going to a mining operation because the kids wanted to know why a big hole was in the earth.

What things do you like to do? I love to hike and I have found several easy hikes that are short and good for children. I want do something I enjoy and see if they might enjoy it as well. If you want to increase the potential for enjoyment, be sure to take plenty of breaks, water and treats. Playing games as you hike also makes it more fun. Ask the kids to find 5 things that start with the letter “s”, and hope you don’t see a ssssssssssnake! “Geo-caching” is another way to have fun hiking and learning how to operate a GPS.

What will strengthen their testimonies? Visit local church history sites. We live by many and rarely visit them. Take a day or two or three and visit some. Visit your personal history sites.

Do some family history sleuthing by going to the cemetery. Take crayons and paper and have the kids do a rubbing of the headstones.

When was the last time you visited a local museum and learned (remembered) the history of the area? the founding fathers? local mysteries? What about a children’s museum with activities centered just on them?

How many parks are in your city? Make a plan to visit a different one each week. Create a grading rubric and have the kids rate each park. At the end of the summer, take a thank you card and your data to the city offices. They would appreciate a note of gratitude and the feedback.

Take a field trip!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Teaching Seek the Lord Early

I decided to "get a clue" teaching Seek the Lord Early to my 185 primary kids! We will be finding seven, two-part clues. The first part of the clues will loosely teach the words of the song. The second part will reveal the location of the next clue. To make sure they will read the parts individually, I will have the second part behind the first part. I will bring my magnifying glass and fun hat for better sleuthing.

We will practice a Father's Day song for teachers to look for a great singer that can help me with our next activity (the Clue Game). A child from each class will read and then search for the next clue. A child from the last class will place the prompting cards on the board.

Here are the clues that I will be hiding:

Let’s be detectives with seven mysteries to unfold
C’mon detective before the trail gets cold
The 1st Clue in our game of sleuth:
You can seek the Lord when you’re old
But it’s better while in you’re _________.

Look around to find who last left the womb
Who is the youngest person in the room?
(Ahead of time place this with the child)

2nd Clue
You are coming along in our game of sleuth.
Satan is the father of lies
The Lord helps us to know the _______.

I search in mine for comfort, lessons and cures
The Lord speaks his words to me through the ___________.
(We have a shelf of scriptures in our room)

3rd Clue
We ask for help
And our thanks we share
When we go to our Father
In fervent __________.

There is a place to pray
In our Primary room
If you used this mike stand
Your words of prayer would boom.

4th Clue
When we seek the Lord early
We know how to obey
We hear from living ________
Counsel on how to live today.

We knew the Presidency with Hinckley
For most of our lives
Now we know Frances, Kathleen & Harriet as their wives
(I will tape the 1st Pres. Picture up with the clue attached on the back)

5th Clue
He gives us commandments
On Earth and from above
When we closely obey them
We feel his abounding _______

“The Lord lives” the prophets testify
In the scriptures evidence is not shy
Moses received more than a call on the phone
When the 10 commandments were written in stone.
(GAK of Moses and the burning bush)

6th Clue
When we seek the Lord early
We build on firm ground
We’ll gain a testimony

Just like mail carriers deliver a letter
In rain, sun or snow
They’re here to deliver something better
Eternal truths to help us grow
(Place with teacher ahead of time.)

You’ve made it to the 7th Clue
I knew you’d know just what to do.
But did you know as you’ve come along
You’ve actually been learning a new song?
Seek the Lord Early is the song’s name
We will order these cards to finish our game.
You’ve been FANTASTIC smart sleuths
Of course because you know so many truths!
(Prompting cards attached in ziploc)

Prompting Cards
1. Picture of baby
2. Check boxes next to the words Truth and False
Truth box is checked
3. GAK #606 of family praying over the scripture
4. GAK #506 Latter-day Prophets
5. Simple drawing of tablets with large heart in center
6. Big "X" to mark the spot with the words Turn Over Cards in size 5 font at bottom

I will sing the song for them first. Second, together we will read the 1st part of the clues from my master copy to sort the prompting cards. I will sing prompts from the song as we are sorting. Upon placing each card, the kids will sing the phrase with me.

I will have the kids scrapbook dot the pictures on the back of a poster size picture of Jesus Christ from the Distribution Center. Upon flipping poster the Savior will be "found".

A "thanks" to the 11yr. old girls who designed and colored my clue cards as an achievement day activity. Oh, they also drew the picture of my baby to represent youth.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mom's Mexican Flan Recipe by Rebecca Cressman

My mother, Martha Porras-Brown Davis, made a wonderful Mexican Flan recipe. In honor of her, I am sharing her recipe for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Enjoy!

Mexican Flan

1 cup sugar
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned Nestle Media Crema (Mexican food aisle)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pour sugar in a small, heavy saucepan. Set it over medium-low heat until the sugar starts to liquefy and form clumps. Stir slowly and constantly as the sugar begins to liquefy and turn color.

Once the color turns to the shade of a bright shiny penny, remove from heat and quickly scrape the caramel into the bottom and sides of a deep 9 1/2 glass pie plate. The caramel will harden fast so to cover the bottom and sides of the pie plate, use oven mitts to tilt and rotate the plate while the caramel is still flexible. Set the prepared pie plate into a shallow roasting pan.

Boil 3 cups of water. While the water heats, mix the evaporated milk, condensed milk, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a blendar jar. Blend on very low, just until the eggs are blended. Add the can of Nestle Media Crema and blend again until smooth. Let stand for 1 minute, then use a spoon to skim off any foam on the surface.

Slide the oven rack out halfway and set the roasting pan with the caramel-lined pie plate on the rack. Pour the milk and egg mix into the pie plate. Pour the hot water into the bottom of the roasting pan just until it reaches halfway up the side of the plate.

Bake about one hour. Let chill for at least 2 hours and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Marvelous Gift of Choice

I came across this devotional address on agency given by Elder Harold C. Brown at Ricks College on January 30, 2001. The address may be read in its entirety here. The quote below is from the section titled Avoiding Blame.

I especially like the section where Elder Brown addresses living within the confines of a title. We must always remember our first title A Child of God.

We live in a litigious society. Often we hear of lawsuits against organizations and institutions because of the misdeeds of people affiliated with them. Such activity suggests that groups somehow govern the decisions of these individuals, and they are not free to make choices for themselves.

Many individuals blame their problems on others. Terms such as “road rage” suggest that those who manifest it have contracted some illness over which they have no control. Whatever happened to old-fashioned self-discipline? Moroni offered these soul-searching, sobering words: “Deny yourselves of all ungodliness; … then is his grace sufficient for you” (Moro. 10:32). These words suggest no shift of responsibility to someone else, no excuses, no magical way out, no blaming some biological, genetic, or addictive reason for wrong behavior. There is only the straightforward admonition to “deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness.”

We should also be careful about labeling people as homosexuals, abusers, alcoholics, or other such labels, because labels often subtly imply an identity or condition over which there is no longer personal control or responsibility and which may cause someone to lose hope that they can make choices to stop inappropriate behavior and change their lives.

Recently progress has been made to better understand some of the emotional problems with which individuals struggle. Continued research will undoubtedly help us better understand the relationship between biology and genetics and our mental and behavioral well-being. However, as we learn more about these important matters, we should be careful to assume responsibility for the decisions we make and their consequences. We should make certain that we do not attempt to transfer the responsibility for decisions we make to a biological cause when doing so is not justified and tends to erode our power to be in control of our lives.

I bear witness that people can change their sinful behavior—even those who may believe they are helpless to stop. I have seen the faithful and prayerful break the bonds of passion, habit, and addiction. I have witnessed chains of sin, dependency, and vice shattered by humble souls who open their hearts and minds to the healing influence of the Savior. Even the most sinful person can cease wrong behavior and choose the right course.

Long will I remember that warm, sunny afternoon driving into the mountains with my friends. The lesson we learned was important to remember. Yes, we have the power to choose our course in life. We must accept the consequences of what we choose. When your challenges are difficult and your burdens hard to bear, remember this: God will never forsake you nor forget you.

Alma the Younger, who knew something about overcoming serious challenges, including sin, taught us something about God’s desire and willingness to help. After describing the pains he felt for his sins, he said, “Never, until I did cry out … for mercy, … [did I] find peace to my soul” (Alma 38:8).

He also taught, “I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3), and, “As much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions” (Alma 38:5).

I bear witness that these promises are sure and that the Savior has power to deliver us if we will trust in Him.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Winds of Change

Spring is a time of change and growth. We are spring cleaning at yourLDSneighborhood. Starting Monday, March 9th, Neighborhood News will be delivered to you by a new service provider. Here are a few changes that will blossom as a result of this switch.

Most people are busy bees. During this provider transition we have decided to sweep out the Saturday’s newsletter issue. The Neighborhood News will continue to bring you a bouquet of articles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

A colorful feature of Saturday’s newsletter has been Rebecca Cressman’s Personal Touch interviews of extraordinary people. Who doesn’t need colorful inspiration? We have had the opportunity to be enriched by seventy interviews since Personal Touch budded. Starting March 11th, you may regularly enjoy the Personal Touch Interviews in your Wednesday newsletters.

Spring is wonderful for mending fences. Our past provider has not delivered the newsletter to many new subscribers. We have heard and felt the frustration this problem has caused. If you have referred friends and family who have experienced this situation, please share our good news! It’s easy! You may refer a friend by going here. A large part of our increase in Neighborhood News deliveries is due to your referrals. Thank you! We hope you continue to add more backyard neighbors to the neighborhood.

Annuals are a staple in our beautiful home gardens. We have four fabulous staff writers who consistently produce a bounty of articles for you.

The first Monday of each month, Barbara Salsbury, best selling author and one of America’s leading authorities on self-reliance, harvests and shares her knowledge with you. Barbara has over 25 years of experience. You are sure to glean from Barbara’s preparedness information which includes economical daily living tips. She is also a firm believer that there is not a crisis that chocolate won’t help.

Starting in January, the third Monday of each month, we transplanted a new author, Colleen Cole. From her stores Colleen has compiled the best of her 72 hour kit files. She’s providing you an easy and frugal twelve month 72 hour kit plan in a Family Home Evening format. By following this plan any family may complete their 72 hour kits by the end of 2009. Colleen is an accomplished artist, speaker and wonderful example of provident living.

Two Wednesdays a month, we feature articles by Marie Ricks, the queen of spring cleaning, from A House of Order. As a professional organizer and nationally recognized author and speaker, Marie knows how to air out a closet. She addresses matters of the heart and the home with clear, viable tips and strong, nurturing encouragement. Marie is truly the queen of conquering the clutter of our lives.

On the alternate Wednesdays, Belinda Kuck, an education consultant and motivational speaker, addresses teens. Belinda has a green thumb with this rapid growing, but hearty group. She delights in teenagers’ energy and does not shy away from addressing the real and tough topics that can creep into their lives. Whether you are a youth leader, parent, relative or friend to a teen, Belinda will help you cultivate the best from the youth you love.

Neighborhood News has a fabulous arrangement of guest authors sharing goods. We will continue to bring a variety of topics to you. This provider change requires no action on your part. Just enjoy the newsletter and all yourLDSneighborhood has to offer. Happy spring!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Twelve Days of Christmas by Marion Stewart

Christmas was coming and I knew I needed to find a way to get into the Christmas spirit. But how could I when we had just buried our little baby boy? We learned his fate from an ultrasound taken a week before Thanksgiving. His brain had not fully developed and -he could not live very long. I held out for my miracle, but on December 4th he was born and died four hours later. We buried him on December 8th.

So, life was just supposed to go back to normal? At a time when the rest of the world was beginning to celebrate a very significant birth, our hearts were broken. Our other children knew that the baby didn’t come home from the hospital. They knew Ken and I were very sad. We talked about death a little bit. They knew their brother went to live with his Father in Heaven. For their young years, they seemed to take that in stride much easier than their grieving parents. I knew we needed to move forward, but I didn’t really know how. For me, Christmas, traditionally the happiest time of year, was very difficult to face.

Ken and I talked and talked. That’s what got us through each day. As the month progressed, he pointed out that we owed it to our other children to bring a little Christmas spirit into the home. The best we could do was to bring the large boxes labeled “Christmas” down from the rafters of the garage. For a few days those boxes just sat in the corner of the living room unopened. With all the funeral expenses, there would be no money for a “real” tree, so the old water-stained, duct-taped box containing the artificial tree lay next to the other unopened boxes. I nearly tripped over them several times going through the living room, but never stopped to peek inside. Normally, Christmas was my favorite holiday. But I just wasn’t ready.

On December 14th, a strange thing happened. We were eating dinner and there was a knock at the front door. Our oldest son, Benjy, almost six years old, jumped up to see who was there with Ken at his heels. As the door was opened Benjy announced, “Nobody’s there” and started to close the door when his father stopped him. On the front door step was a green and gold bell with a note attached to it. Benjy responded with glee, picked up the bell, started ringing it and handed his dad the note which read, “On the first day of Christmas a friend gave to you a Christmas bell”. That was kind of odd, but fun for the kids. We put the bell on the piano and went back to dinner, not really thinking too much about it. Following dinner the children remembered the bell and took turns ringing it and then started looking at the boxes and begged to open them up and find their own Christmas decorations. At their insistence, we began the process. Within only a couple of hours, the tree and trimmings were all over the living room. The old Santa Clause was hanging on the front door. The stockings were taped to the window sill (there being no fireplace in the house) and twinkling lights were put in the living room window. The children were very happy. We were trying to be happy, too. Somehow the decorations helped.

The next day in the late afternoon there was a light knock on the front door. The children were busy watching Sesame Street on TV and not wanting to be interrupted, one of them yelled, “Mom, someone’s at the door”. I went to the door with my folded laundry in hand and found nobody there. But on the ground were two pencils and a note saying, “On the second day of Christmas a friend brought you two pencils”. I set the pencils in the painted Santa boot on the piano where eventually candy canes would go once we had purchased some. Only then did it occur to me that maybe the bell and the pencils were related. Was this going to be an every day event? No, it probably was just someone playing a joke. After all, what did pencils and bells have to do with each other?

It wasn’t until the “third day of Christmas”, December 16th, though, that the children figured out there was a pattern and that the number of gifts would be increasing with each day. On Day #3 four-year-old Ray shouted for his turn to go to the door to find three colorful marking pens on the porch with a note. Ken and I began making guesses as to who might be doing this. It was certainly a kind gesture at a time when we needed it. The gifts seemed somewhat random and the paper the words were written on was different each day, ranging from plain notebook paper to fancy, decorated stationery.

Ken thought there might be several different people taking turns to cheer us up in our time of need. We thought about family members and wondered if they were responsible. We had many friends in the neighborhood and at church and in our school community. We were involved in the children’s school. We wondered if one of the children’s school teachers had instigated this. The school had been very kind and even donated money towards our baby’s funeral. Our minds reached back to almost anyone from our past and we began to think of all the friends we had and all the caring people in our little world.

As the days went on, we considered carefully all of our friends and family and even minimal acquaintances with new eyes, wondering just who was this secret friend or friends. No smile went unnoticed. Kind words from neighbors or mail carriers had more meaning as if clues were being left.

On December 19th, Day #6 (six Hershey kisses), Ken hired a babysitter and insisted he and I get out and do some Christmas shopping. It was really what I needed, but also a little difficult to do. I was still quite weak from a difficult birth and emotionally very fragile. But he had taken care of that. He arranged for a wheelchair and we hit the malls and discount stores together. I actually found myself singing to one of the Christmas carols in the mall. Life goes on and it was good to be reminded of that. The world outside was decorated and happy and hopeful. I needed this more than I had realized. We hurried home to wrap the little gifts we had purchased which added color and festivity to our home. The pathetic tree looked a little livelier with some presents underneath.

On Day #8 (eight ounces of hand cream) I found myself rummaging through family recipes, looking for that famous Christmas fudge that Ken and the children loved. Somehow I even allowed for the children to help make Christmas cut out cookies, mess and all! There was flour and sugar and sprinkles everywhere and most especially, the delightful glees of happy children and sweet smells in the home. We even made some extras to take to a few neighbors.

Christmas was coming fast, and although our hearts still ached at the loss of one child, we were enjoying the lights in the eyes of our other children. Every day new items arrived with their little notes. Each day our family carried on with more of our own Christmas traditions. One night everything for dinner was either red or green (I had to explain to the three-year-old that the meat had been red before we cooked it). One evening we even went Christmas caroling to the grandparents’ houses and a few of the grandparents’ neighbors, too.

On Day #10 (a pack of 10 crayons) our two oldest children joined forces to try and catch the Christmas delivery person in the act! They hid behind the drapes looking out the window nearly all day long. However, to their dismay around 4:00 p.m. a heavy, heavy fog rolled in, as was sometimes the custom for the damp southern California coastal area. The fog was so thick that watching out the window was pointless. While they both stayed very close to the front door, once the knock came, even as fast as they tried to be, the heavy fog hid their delivery host, although they thought they could hear steps in the distance, so they yelled out together, “Thank you!”.

Christmas morning was filled with the joy of new toys and children’s voices and the smells of cinnamon rolls and Christmas candies. Santa had been generous—with the help of some church friends. Stockings were filled with treats. Wrapping paper littered the living room and the sound of children’s laughter was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. It took a while to get to the door with all the new toys and books and ribbons to step over. As usual, there was no one there, but there was a paper plate with 12 pieces of homemade fudge and another note. To our surprise, the note revealed the identity of our secret visitor. It was neither the rich lady down the street nor the generous school teacher or even a family member. This Christmas offering had been the sole idea of a young teenage boy who lived around the corner. He was 15 years old and he had done it all by himself. His mother later explained to me that he had purchased each of the items entirely on his own and had carried out this whole 12-day process all by himself. We were speechless. How could such a quiet almost shy young man figure out what our hearts had needed in order to heal? Where did he get such wisdom in his youth? He would never know what a difference he had made in the lives of our family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Alliance For Unity Food Drive

Congregations of all denominations will join together to donate food to the food banks throughout Utah on Saturday, December 6th. The goal this year is more than one million pounds of food.

Members of church congregations will organize the food drive in their own area, collect the donations and deliver them to designated drop off points. To find out the location of your community’s food bank and their drop off locations go to:

The food banks in Utah are thankful for the generosity of their communities. The need is greater than ever. Food banks throughout Utah are experiencing a 20% to 50% increase in those seeking help since last year.

In these tough times we can give thanks for the many things we have – family, friends, home and caring neighbors. The food banks are thankful for the community’s past support. Because the need is great, please give generously to the food drive on December 6th. If each one gives a bit more then many more can be helped.

Individual family donations are being accepted at all Jiffy Lube and Smith Food King locations throughout the holiday season.