Our Church Library on Wheels

As a mother of five active children, I found myself frustrated with the many chauffeuring duties that claimed my time. Boisterous and quarreling children, radio racket, and endless delays seemed to mark many of our trips together.

One day I remembered I had a copy of the Ensign magazine with me, so I asked my daughter Heidi, age 11, if she would like to read out loud for me from the Mormon Journal section of the magazine while I drove. I was amazed at how readily she agreed to read the short stories and at how quickly the atmosphere in the car changed from chaos to peace. I soon learned that the other children in the car pool enjoyed not only reading to me in the car but also listening to each other read as well.

We decided to set aside a pocket in our van as our “library on wheels” and keep copies of the Church magazines in it. Although chauffeuring is still not my favorite activity, reading the Church magazines and feeling the Spirit make our trips together more enjoyable.Patricia Potts, West Jordan, Utah

Ideas for a Debt-Free Holiday

The Christmas holiday poses a financial challenge for many families. One of the best gifts a family can give itself is a debt-free Christmas, which means spending within means and avoiding credit card debt. Here are a few tips to help make this gift possible.

Year-Round Buying Power

You can avoid debt during holiday shopping by spreading the costs of Christmas gift giving throughout the year.

  • Think ahead. Make Christmas lists early in the year so you have an idea of what to purchase throughout the year. Include on your list clothing sizes and special interests of those for whom you will be buying gifts. Keep the list with you so you can update it or jot down ideas as needed.

  • Budget by the month. Plan for Christmas in your monthly budgets. Either purchase gifts month by month, or, if storage space is unavailable, set aside funds each month for making purchases closer to Christmastime.

  • Shop sales. If you have the shopping list sketched out at the beginning of the year and a budget in mind, you can shop sales during the year. Some of the best are after-Christmas sales, end-of-season sales, and clearance sales. Wrapping paper, decorations, clothing, sporting goods, and larger items such as bikes or luggage can all be found on sale, but those sales are not always close to Christmas.

Made with Hands and Heart

Utilize your skills in sewing, woodworking, painting, flower arranging, and so on to create beautiful yet relatively inexpensive gifts.

  • Home-canned goods. When you are canning for the season, think ahead. Would some of your children who have left home appreciate a few quarts of Mom’s homemade preserves or Dad’s famous salsa? Decorative jars stuffed with goodies are also appropriate gifts for neighbors and those you visit as a home or visiting teacher. Throughout the year, look for unusual or specially shaped jars that will add a nice touch to the home-produced goods you give at Christmastime.

  • Coupon books. Homemade coupon books are an inexpensive way to give of your time and talents. Suitable for exchange between any member of the family, coupons can range from “good for one evening of baby-sitting” to “good for doing the dishes on your night.”

Other Ideas

Other money-saving and debt-free tips for the holidays include the following:

  • Gift exchanges. Each family member draws one or two names from a pool of family members’ names and gives a Christmas gift to that person or persons rather than exchanging gifts with everyone. (Keep in mind that the number of names to be drawn per person determines the number of times each person’s name appears in the name pool. This ensures that the name pool will not be depleted before all have a turn to draw names.) Families with married children may find it helpful to draw a family as a unit rather than drawing the names of individuals in each family.

  • Used items. Used items can often be bought in good or repairable condition. One woman bought a used toy kitchen for her children and simply repainted it and replaced missing knobs and pieces. She saved money, and the toy kitchen looked new.

  • Gift wrap. Rather than buying gift boxes, cover sturdy cardboard boxes of various sizes with Christmas fabric. These decorative boxes could be used within the family year after year. Fabric can also be used to make drawstring bags for gifts, or it can be used in place of wrapping paper. Children especially may want to decorate common paper sacks with decorative illustrations or cutouts of snowflakes, Christmas trees, hearts, or wreaths. The gaily decorated bags can be used in place of wrapping paper and boxes year after year, and the artistic effort will surely be appreciated.

With some of the commercialism and financial stress taken out of Christmas, families can give themselves an even more important gift—a month of joy in family gatherings, acts of service, and increased love for the Savior.

Twelve Days of Service

Our family has begun a special tradition based on the traditional 12 days of Christmas, which historically were celebrated after Christmas in remembrance of the visit of the Wise Men to Bethlehem. However, we celebrate for 12 days before Christmas by sharing our Christmas spirit with another family. During the first part of December, we choose someone in our ward or neighborhood who is in need of a little extra Christmas cheer.

Then, 12 days before Christmas, we begin delivering our gifts. The first day we leave a one-item gift, such as a loaf of bread, along with a poem or thought securely attached. The second day we leave a two-item gift, such as two candles. The third day we’ll leave a three-item gift, and so on through all 12 days until Christmas Eve.

Our children like to deliver the gifts. They usually drop off the gift on the front doorstep, ring the doorbell, then run and hide until the family answers the door and finds the gift. We vary our routine to avoid being caught in the act of giving. On Christmas Eve we read the Christmas story in the Bible (see Luke 2) and discuss, among other things, the sweet experiences we have had as a family.

Sharing the 12 days of Christmas secretly with another family each year has helped bring us closer together as a family. It also teaches our children the importance of giving without expecting anything in return.LaDeana Wilke, Mason, Ohio

Family Home Evening: Family Awards Night

We used various methods over the years to teach our children the value of work. None worked as well as rotating work assignments among family members yearly and marking that occasion with a special family home evening called “Family Awards Night.” Once begun, this awards ceremony soon became a family tradition that the children eagerly anticipated year after year.

For the awards night, we placed a chair of honor in a prominent place and hung above it a homemade banner announcing the special evening. During the ceremony, each child was called forward and seated in the special chair. Then the honoree was complimented for contributions to the family and other accomplishments of the past year. One might be commended for cheerfully completing a job, another for thorough work. We also pointed out unique personality traits the children possessed and how they blessed our family.

Adding to the fun, grandparents were invited to attend, and Dad would usually videotape the event. Of course, we ended the evening with special treats suited to the celebration.

The event helped infuse our children with enthusiasm for the coming year. It also helped ensure that chores would be accomplished in a timely manner and without reminders. An added benefit has been that our children, now grown, reminisce fondly of those evenings of family togetherness.Sharon Bigelow, Coppell, Texas

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Harston

[photos] Photography by John Luke