Bedtime Stories from Our Past

As a mother, I found that getting children to bed each evening could prove frustrating at times. There was always one more drink, a last trip to the bathroom, or another goodnight kiss. My husband and I tried a number of things to smooth out our bedtime ritual, including playing quiet music, reading a bedtime story, lying down briefly with the children, and even occasionally letting them stay up a little later than usual. Still, bedtimes remained a constant challenge.

One night as I was midway through our nighttime routine, I had an idea. As we met in our oldest son’s bedroom for family prayer, I explained to the children that after prayer we would all lie down on one of the beds for a few minutes, and I would tell them a story. After our prayer, I turned off the light and got comfortable on the crowded bed, then told them a story from my life—something that had happened to me when I was their age. It was a hit!

We decided to add this personal storytelling to our nightly bedtime ritual. One night I give the story; the next my husband shares something from his past. This way the children get to hear stories about each of us. By rotating, we also provide needed flexibility should one of us be gone at bedtime. Sometimes our stories are about our children, especially things they did when they were younger. We have also made up stories about problems our children were experiencing, which led to helpful discussions.

Doing this, our time together at the end of the day has become precious. We find it a wonderful way to settle the children and to spend the last few minutes of our day together as a family.Melanie Linford, Elk Ridge, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Julianne Allen

Tiny Tots and Reverence

When my first child was small and I had to take her out of sacrament meeting when she was fussy, I noticed several children roaming the halls of the meetinghouse during sacrament meeting—some as old as 10 or 11. I realized that for them being in the foyer was fun. When it came time to teach my own toddler to sit quietly during Church meetings, I looked for an alternative. Avoiding the foyer, I sought out a quiet classroom, staircase, or corner where we could be alone. I placed my daughter on my lap, and we sat in dull silence.

“This isn’t fun, Mommy,” my little wiggler complained.

“No, it isn’t,” I agreed. “There’s nothing to see, hear, or do here. I wish we were back in the chapel with Daddy where we could see all the people, listen to the talks, and sing the songs.”

“Let’s go,” my daughter said.

Eventually we both came to the conclusion that the chapel was more fun than the boring corners, and my daughter made a greater effort to sit quietly during meetings.Terrie Lynn Bittner, Tacoma, Washington

Pumpkin Pie Parties for New Members

When I was called to be the ward mission leader, I happened to visit with a fairly recent convert about his experience in joining the Church. He explained that in the year he was baptized there were 14 convert baptisms in our ward, but by the end of the year he was the only one who still attended church. This information shocked me.

I met with my counselors, and we pondered the problem. An idea came to us to begin meeting as a group once a month with our recently baptized members. Since I love pumpkin pie, we dubbed our meetings pumpkin pie parties and asked each new member to bring along a pie. We met at the home of a different convert each month.

As our newest ward members arrived at the party, they were welcomed with smiles in an informal setting. Soon they began talking to each other and making friends. After an hour or so of socializing, we called the meeting to order and offered a prayer. Then I would ask one or two of the converts to share with the group their story of conversion to the Church. These testimonies, which usually brought a strong witness of the Holy Ghost into our midst, often brought tears as well. After this sharing of testimonies, we would close our meeting, select another home for the following month, and serve pie.

That year 18 people were baptized in our ward, and to my knowledge all have remained active. And for some unknown reason, we seemed to serve just about every kind of pie except pumpkin at our pumpkin pie parties!Claude A. Hansen, Palmer, Washington

[illustration] Illustrated by Joe Flores

Long-Distance Help

In the last few years we have seen several family members fall ill with cancer. Because I live so far away, I’ve often wondered how our family could help, and over time I have found a number of ways to offer caring support.

• Organize a family fast.

• Place the names of the sick on a temple prayer roll.

• Don’t forget to pray. There is power in prayer, and the distance between you and the sick family member no longer matters when you seek help from Heavenly Father.

• Remember family members who are not ill by phoning or writing. They also need to feel love and support during difficult times.

• Enclose a prepaid phone card inside a cheerful greeting card or letter. Often family members are anxious for news, and a phone card helps lift the burden of long-distance phone bills.

• Send funny cards or books. Laughter is a wonderful healer.

• Learn about the illness. This will help you understand the struggles and obstacles loved ones are facing.

• If your friends or relatives must travel regularly to a doctor or hospital, treat them to a special day by sending money or gift certificates for a tank of gas or lunch out.

• Send a pocket-sized notebook. They can jot down questions about their illness and take it to doctor appointments.

• Paper plates also make a good gift. This can often help keep kitchen clutter to a minimum.

• If hair loss is involved, send a new hat or turban. Even those who choose to wear a wig sometimes need an alternative.

• Prepare a “celebration box” for milestones such as the end of chemotherapy or radiation treatments, physical therapy, or a hospital stay. Include fun things such as balloons, confetti, noise makers, or other items to applaud their progress.

Even though we are often far away from those we love during times of trial, we can still find ways to help them know we love and care about them.Pam McEwen, Denver, Colorado

Do-It-Yourself Music Lessons

Many parents want their children to learn to play the piano or another instrument. Because lessons can be costly and teachers may be hard to find, some parents with musical skills choose to give music lessons to their own children. As I’ve taught my two sons to play the piano, I’ve found the following ideas helpful:

  1. 1.

    Help your child commit to a period of time, such as a year, to take lessons. Agree together that quitting is not an option until that time period ends. Most children are excited to begin lessons, but their interest wanes as lesson material becomes more challenging. Knowing they are committed for a specific time period helps them progress through this stage.

  2. 2.

    Have your child sign a music lesson contract. The contract can be simple, but it should state what you expect of your child—daily practice and cooperation—and what your child can expect of you—music books and a weekly lesson. A written contract goes a long way in committing both student and parent.

  3. 3.

    Establish a regular, weekly lesson time—then stick with it. Resist the temptation to simply try to find time each week to fit a lesson into your otherwise busy schedule.

  4. 4.

    Help your child set a weekly practice goal and fill out a practice log.

  5. 5.

    Be available during practice sessions to occasionally clap rhythms or help with difficult passages. One of the advantages of teaching your own children is that you can help them practice.

  6. 6.

    Provide positive rewards for progress. They can be simple things such as stickers when a song is learned or more elaborate treats for more difficult tasks such as completing a book.

  7. 7.

    Provide children opportunities to perform, beginning at home by playing simple tunes for family home evening or for other occasions.

  8. 8.

    Make listening to good music a part of your daily life. Play music on the radio when you’re washing dishes, sing during family home evening, and enjoy musical events together as a family. This helps children discover both the beauty of music and the positive contribution it can make to their lives.

  9. 9.

    Consider using the Church’s Keyboard Course Kit (item no. 33620). It costs just $10 U.S. and helps children learn to read music and play basic hymns.

Above all, don’t give up. It is possible to teach your child to play a musical instrument if you make it a priority and remain committed.Lisa Ray Turner, Littleton, Colorado

[illustration] Illustrated by Julianne Allen