52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family

January 22, 2015 in Family Room, Mailbox

I have never been one of those moms who cries at every milestone, sad to see my babies grow up. I love my babies, but I love to see how they will conquer the next stage of life. It’s exciting to see them get older and grow in wisdom and beauty and see their personalities blossom.

There has been one HUGE exception to this general rule, however.

Junior High. Ugh.

There is just something about sending my sweet, innocent babies to junior high that knocks the wind out of me and leaves me gasping for air.

Kindergarten? Bring it on! High school? No problem! But junior high still gives me nightmares and makes me wish I could keep my family in a force field, a bubble of safety where my babies can stay young and innocent.

incredibles forcefield 1

But because school teaches much more than just reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, and Steve and I believe it is important for our kids to learn those valuable lessons, we send our little girls off to junior high, cringing and holding our breath and hoping we have prepared them well enough for those difficult years.

Since I don’t have a force field, I have to find other ways to strengthen my family, to fortify them against the dangers of the world. The most important way I know to do this is to teach them who they are, to instill in them an understanding of where they come from and what makes them great.

Ultimately, I want my daughters to know that they have another parent who loves them and knows them even better than Steve and me, a Heavenly Father from whom they have inherited divine attributes that make them great. I want them to understand that their relationship to God is the most important relationship they will ever have and that it needs to be constantly nourished. I want them to know how to talk to Him and how to hear His voice. I know that their relationship with Heavenly Father will be the greatest source of strength in their lives and can be their “force field” to keep them safe no matter what they encounter.

Instilling this knowledge in our children takes time and consistent effort, but life is so busy! Between youth activities, church meetings, orchestra concerts, play rehearsals, and team practices, not to mention homework, playing with friends, chores, and a million other demands on our time, we are lucky to spend time together on any given day. I have gone a full 24 hours without seeing Beth at all — and we live in the same house!! That’s crazy!

website header amazon bestseller2

I was so excited when I heard about this new book from Nicole Carpenter: 52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family: 5-Minute Messages. The idea behind this book is so simple but so powerful: daily 5-minute devotionals for your family. Nicole has put together 52 weeks of daily devotionals, arranged by topic so you can find exactly what your family needs in any given week.

I love that each daily message is short, but even more than that I love the extras that really turn your devotional into something meaningful. Each daily scripture discussion is right on topic, and the weekly questions start real discussions with opportunities to learn and bear testimony. I love that Nicole has included a reference to a conference address each week for more insight into that week’s theme. This could easily become your Family Home Evening lesson for the week.

52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family book cover Armor Your Children

I love that the book is small. That may sound strange, but it’s just not intimidating. At first glance it looks like something we can manage and enjoy. I have been thinking for months that I want to print a weekly quote and and display it in a frame where we will pass by it often and read it. Nicole is right there with a weekly quote, too! I can’t wait to get it printed so it is right in front of us and on our minds all week long.

I believe one of the best tools for strengthening our family is to make the gospel a part of our everyday lives. We live it, of course, but it’s also needs to be a normal topic of conversation. We talk about scriptures we have read, lessons we have learned, times that we have seen the hand of God in our lives and received answers to prayers.

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins”  (2 Nephi 25:26).

How will our children know the importance of the gospel in our lives if if’s only something they see on Sunday? We need to make sure we’re bringing the gospel into focus every day. I love that 52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family: 5-Minute Messages brings the gospel into focus for a few minutes each day. I am so excited to make it through all 52 weeks.


I am even more excited for the chance I have today as part of this blog tour to give away a copy of Nicole’s book! You can enter using the Rafflecopter below. Or you can order your own copy of 52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family: 5-Minute Messages today and get to work building that force field around your family!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Does junior high scare you, too? What do you do to fortify your family?

40 Family Home Evening Ideas

May 18, 2014 in Family Room

“Family Night is always fun. We find so many things to do.”

I remember singing those words with my family on Monday nights and thinking that song was hilarious. Family Night is ALWAYS fun? With 6 kids in the house, family night was always an adventure. Maybe that’s what the song should say.

Family night’s an adventure. We hope that we will make it through!

I have been working this year to improve our Family Home Evenings. We rotate the weekly assignments, which means every kid – even the 6-year-old – takes turns teaching the lesson. Usually they look at the chart on the way from the dinner table to the family room and say, “Oh, I have the lesson!” They whip out the closest Friend magazine they can find and read us a random story.

We’re working on putting a little more thought into our lessons. We all know it’s not easy to come up with lesson ideas week after week, and it’s even harder for a kid. So in an effort to help them prepare their lessons, I made this list of themes to choose from. It’s helpful for Mr. 4018 and me, too!

Since today is the 18th, it’s time to celebrate 4018 with 40 Things! So here is a list of 40 Family Home Evening lesson themes and resources.


40 Family Home Evening Lesson Themes and Resources

  1. Gospel Art Kit/Gospel Art Book
  2. Friend articles
  3. New Era articles
  4. Ensign articles
  5. General Conference Talks
  6. FHE manual
  7. Primary Manual
  8. Nursery Manual
  9. Gospel Principles
  10. True to the Faith
  11. Preach My Gospel
  12. For the Strength of Youth
  13. Seminary Scripture Mastery scriptures
  14. Personal Progress
  15. Duty to God
  16. Faith in God for Boys and Girls
  17. My Gospel Standards
  18. The Family: A Proclamation to the World
  19. Teaching, No Greater Call
  20. Young Women values
  21. Scout Law and Oath
  22. President Hinckley’s 10 Virtues
  23. Pres. Hinckley’s 9 “Be’s”
  24. Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching messages
  25. Scripture Stories
  26. Mormon Messages
  27. Primary Theme
  28. The Living Christ
  29. Come, Follow Me youth curriculum
  30. Priesthood/Relief Society manual
  31. Articles of Faith
  32. 10 Commandments
  33. Christlike Attributes
  34. The Savior’s Teachings/Parables/Life
  35. Prophets and Apostles
  36. Personal/Family Goals
  37. Personal/Family Challenge
  38. Holidays and Major Life Events
  39. Something you learned and want to share (life lesson, scripture study, church, seminary, etc.)
  40. Hymns/Primary Songs

Bonus: Question Box – Set aside a box where your family can leave questions. Then you can address those questions at Family Home Evening. They could be gospel related or just about life in general.

We have a bookshelf that has a few shelves dedicated to Family Home Evening resources: manuals, pictures, magazines, etc. so I printed this list, added it to a binder with some of these resources (family proclamation, Articles of Faith, list of seminary scripture mastery scriptures, YW values, Scout law and oath, My Gospel Standards, personal progress and Faith in God booklets, etc.). Now it’s easy to find and a great helpful resource for my family to use when they’re preparing a lesson.

I am so excited about my new Sunday feature. I’m teaming up with Brittany of BrittanyBullen.com to bring a little more inspiration to your Sundays with a link-up called Spiritual Sundays. “If there is anything lovely, virtuous, of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things,” so we want you to share your inspiring posts with us. The idea is have a great group of uplifting posts all in one place. Here’s a little more about it.


Hi and Welcome to Spiritual Sundays! Our goal is to get as many faith-promoting blog posts together in one place as we can so we always have something uplifting to read on Sundays. This linkup is open to people of all faiths, but we reserve the right to move your content if it is any way offensive.


If you haven’t participated in a linkup before, here’s how to do it politely:

1. Follow each host at least one of the accounts below (the more you follow, the more we want to follow back!)


Brittany at brittanybullen.com
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, You Tube, Bloglovin, Instagram


Melanie at fortyeighteen.com
Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Bloglovin, Newsletter

2. Submit as many appropriate links as you want below. (It doesn’t have to be Sunday when you submit your links.)

3. Visit at least the person before you on the list so we make sure everyone gets some love! It’s always nice to get comments that let the author know where you came from, too. Just a #SpiritualSundays after your comment would do the trick.

Thanks for stopping by and happy posting!

Family Home Evening Fix-Up

January 11, 2014 in Family Room

Every Monday night at 4018 is Family Night. We turn off the phones, ignore the doorbell, and just spend the whole evening together. Definitely my favorite night of the week.

A typical FHE looks a lot like this: We eat dinner when Mr. 4018 gets home. After cleaning it up bit (read: piling up the dishes in the sink), we gather in the family room.

Then we gather in the family room. Whoever is conducting that night gives us a warm welcome and calls on several people to choose songs for us to sing – usually our own family versions with crazy actions. My favorite is the melted snowmen dog pile on dad at the end of “Once There Was a Snowman.”

After an opening prayer, then comes the “family council” part of Family Home Evening. We pull out the family calendar and update the coming week and figure out how we’re juggling the chauffeur duties, church meetings, play rehearsals, practices, and games.

Next is the spotlight where one person tells us something awesome about themselves, shows us something awesome they can do (I make them play something on the piano), and then we all go around and say what we think is awesome about them. It’s awesome.

After a lesson, activity, closing song and prayer, we end with a tasty treat.

We’re good at getting together every Monday night, but it’s usually thrown together at the last minute and I think we could be doing more. That’s where this project comes in.


Our first FHE of the year was spent talking about changes we want to make and how we can make it better. We used this page to get the conversation going and take notes.FHE-pin

You can use this page, too. Just click on the image for the full-size version and then save it.

I learned some things I wouldn’t have guessed and had some suspicions confirmed. Joy requested that we never attend another sporting event for FHE. Ever. According to Bree, we need to laugh a lot because it’s a lot better than when we get “icy.”

We decided to focus more on scriptures for the lessons and that whoever is assigned the lesson, activity, and treat will talk to each other about ways to make them go together.

I’m calling part one of project FHE fix-up a success. What do you do for Family Night?

Happy 2014!

December 30, 2013 in Craft Room

I am a huge fan of fresh starts and new beginnings. I love the excitement of a new project… it’s keeping that excitement through to the end that is the challenge for me. Anyone else have that issue???

So it’s a new year in a few days and that means new projects! Hooray! I have all sorts of goals and lists and dreams and ideas for the year. There’s the usual eat healthy, exercise every day, lose a bunch of weight, don’t yell unless it’s to save a life, daily scripture study, do more service, more date nights with my husband…

Yes, the list is long, but I’m not the kind of person who beats myself up when I don’t do all of them perfectly. I figure any progress is good, so I make the list as long as I want and make whatever progress I can manage throughout the year.

I don’t believe there’s a magic switch that flips when the ball drops that will automagically make me perfect at something I’m not very good at, so this is really just my list of things I’m working on. Constantly. Continually. Always working on.

The projects, however, are the fun stuff. These are the ones I really focus on throughout the year. Of course they need their own cool graphic:


So without further ado, here are my top 5 projects for 2014:

40-eighteenMy number one project for the year is 40eighteen. I am so excited about this brand new blog. I have to admit I am a bit of a blogaholic… I’ve started many blogs – stuck with some longer than others – and have learned a lot along the way. So I’m taking everything I’ve learned and all the visions that are still floating around my head and focusing them right here. I am so excited for this new adventure and can’t wait to make all sorts of new friends along the way.

project-365In my dreams, I am an amazing photographer whose family snapshots are award-worthy portraits. Unfortunately, in the real world my photos rarely turn out like I want and I don’t even know how to use my fancy camera. This is the year all of that changes. I’m taking a photography class and committing to take a photo every day. Truly, my skills can only get better…

And let’s be honest here. This is going to be one heck of a challenge for me. I’m really great at having a camera with me all the time but absolutely HORRIBLE at actually taking it out and taking some photos. So this will be a bit of a miracle… Maybe that should be my motto this year: 2014 – the year for miracles!

Along with this, and while I have my camera out every day, i want to take more pictures of everyday life with my kids – and make sure to send more to grandmas who live far away and miss those cute grandkids. I have a good friend who has inspired me with her “Picture of the Week” email she sends out to friends and family every Sunday night.

It’s so simple – just a few pictures with a few great captions. At the end of the year, she prints all of them up in a book, and Voila! instant scrapbook, accounting for every week of the year. When I grow up, I want to be as cool as her. For now, I’m just going to try to start taking more pictures and hopefully sharing more, too.


2014-homeHere’s another miracle waiting to happen. This February will mark 2 years that I’ve been living in my new house, and my walls are still bare, rooms still need furniture, and some boxes are still packed.

I know, I know. I should get off the computer and work on my house. So I will, but I really hate it. I really love my house, and it seems like putting it all together should be fun, but honestly, it mostly causes me anxiety.

I have no idea how to decorate, I hate figuring out where every little thing should go, and I have a hard time sticking to one room until it’s done. That’s why I’m committing to this year’s project: 20♦1♦4 = 20 minutes of really good work at a time ♦ focusing on 1 room until it’s done ♦ using the 4-box method. I’m sure by this time next year my home will be ready for a fancy magazine shoot, right?

40-thingsNot just this year but every year we’ll be celebrating 40eighteen with a fun • 40 things • series. At first I thought I would post 40 things every month on the 18th, but then I realized just how long of a list that would be every. single. month. No one wants to read that. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So instead, I’m going to share 40 things throughout the year, posting 3 or 4 every month on the 18th and a big recap at the end of the year. You’ll have to wait until the 18th to see what this year’s theme will be… mwahahaha


FHE-fixupEvery Monday night is Family Home Evening. Our family gets together, turns off the phone, ignores the front door, and spends the whole evening together. We sing songs, have a lesson, eat a yummy treat, play games, and coordinate our calendars for the coming week so we know when everyone is coming and going.

We’re in a great habit of doing it, but I think we could do more with it to make it even better. So it’s time for a little FHE fix-up where we figure out how to make the most of this weekly time together.


That’s it! I just became the new music leader for the kiddos at church, so I’m sure that will be another big focus this year, too. What are your plans for 2014???

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