Birthday Wheel

When I found I was sending more and more late birthday cards to family members, I decided I needed a birthday calendar. Since I didn’t want one that would take a lot of space in my kitchen, I designed my own.

I bought a twelve-inch wooden embroidery hoop, then cut a piece of muslin to fit inside—a circle about thirteen inches in diameter so there would be an edge to catch in the hoop. I finished the outside edge of the circle by sewing eyelet lace around it. (I found I had to cut the lace a couple of inches longer than the circumference of the circle or it didn’t go all the way around.) I then put the muslin inside the embroidery hoop with the seam at the back.

I divided the circle into twelve equal pie-shaped sections and used black floss to make a running embroidery stitch between sections. At the bottom of each section, in the middle of the circle, I embroidered a symbol for the month; for example, a snowflake for January, a heart for February, and a shamrock for March. At the top of each section, around the outside of the circle, I embroidered the month name. Using a black permanent liquid embroidery marker, I wrote the name and birthday of each family member under the appropriate month.

Each month when I rotate the calendar I am reminded of the coming birthdays. Now if I forget a birthday, I have no excuse.Janet Houston, Beaver, Utah

Sunday Scrapbooks

My two youngest children’s favorite Sunday activity is updating their “Sunday books.” The idea was born of my desire to find something they could do after Church that was worthwhile and in keeping with the spirit of the Sabbath Day. I also wanted to preserve the creative handouts they brought home from Primary.

The idea was simple: I provided them with two notebooks in which they could mount anything they brought home from Church. I also suggested that they write (or draw a picture, in the case of my Sunbeam) about what they had heard in Church that day.

I was pleasantly surprised at how interested they were. They mounted their handouts, talks, sacrament meeting programs, and birthday recognition badges. Twice we had to drive back to the chapel to get something meant for a Sunday book that had been accidentally left. Sometimes—even on other days—my children look back over their past treasures and play “Primary,” giving talks and lessons to each other. The children have even used their Sunday books as reference material for family home evening lessons.

The books reinforce the idea of keeping a journal, and they also help children to remember what they have learned that day in Church meetings.Linda Wood Ballard, Pueblo, Colorado

Toast, Tapes, and Scripture Study

As the mother of five active young boys, I felt overwhelmed when I thought about family scripture reading. But one day I thought of a time when all five were reasonably still and quiet—when they were eating!

The next morning I got everyone started with breakfast, then began reading to them from the Book of Mormon. With their mouths full and their ears open, I had a captive audience, and it was the most successful session we’d had. Further experiments have proved that mealtimes are one of the best settings for our family’s inconsistent but enthusiastic scripture reading and discussion.

Scripture story tapes are another effective way to involve children with the scriptures. High quality scripture story tapes are available from the Church Distribution Center at a surprisingly low cost, and they can also be borrowed from many libraries. Our children really enjoy these cassettes, and choosing a tape for “lights out time” has become a family tradition.

Tapes work equally well for waking children up. Turning on a tape just before they have to get up can ease them gently into the morning. (Playing scripture tapes the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning may be especially valuable in light of research showing these are prime learning times.) Best of all, the children can listen and learn from the tapes even when I can’t be with them.

As the world’s clamor gets louder and the challenge of directing children’s thoughts to scriptural truths seems harder, what a boon to discover teaching tools and times that work for our family!Darla L. Hanks, Salt Lake City, Utah

The Encouragement Council

Family home evening was an eventful one that night since both sets of grandparents were with the family. After an opening prayer and song, Mother said with an optimistic smile, “Please tell the person on your right what you appreciate about him.” Before everyone had had a chance to respond, tears of joy and friendship had filled the home. The family felt a spirit of love and unity.

This was only one of many “Encouragement Councils” this family has held. The Encouragement Council is a time set aside for family members to express positive feelings about one another. It can be held regularly at the beginning of family home evening or family council, or at any time parents feel it is appropriate. The council not only helps individuals feel better about themselves, it helps the family members appreciate one another’s strengths and develop mutual respect and Christian love.

Before each council, the person in charge of the Encouragement Council chooses two or three discussion questions from the following list, or makes up his own questions.

  1. 1.

    What is something you do well?

  2. 2.

    What is something you like about yourself?

  3. 3.

    What would you like our family to do to help bring us closer together?

  4. 4.

    What do you appreciate about other family members?

  5. 5.

    What is something you have done better recently?

  6. 6.

    What is something our family has improved upon recently?

  7. 7.

    What is something that you would like to do for someone in the family this week?

  8. 8.

    What is something nice a family member did for you this past week?

  9. 9.

    What is something you would like to work on improving in your life?

After opening the council, the person in charge asks a question, then lets each family member respond to it before he moves ahead.

Family members of all ages can participate in the Encouragement Council. Children too young to respond verbally can listen and still feel a part of the group. Grandparents or other extended family members can also be involved. But participation is voluntary, and if children choose not to take part of the discussion, respect their agency.

Problems sometimes arise during these sessions, but learning to solve problems is also an important function of the council. Deal with disagreements in a positive way by encouraging family members to discuss their feelings rather than attack the character of another person. If emotions are running too high, set aside another time to talk about the problem.

The Encouragement Council doesn’t always have to be a formal meeting; the questions can also be discussed at the dinner table or while traveling in the car. But no matter where or when these councils are held, they can become a treasured family time.John Nield, Spanish Fork, Utah

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch