Watching General Conference is a tradition I've worked to establish in our home since we began our family. We've experienced conference in Washington State, Virginia, Utah and now Iowa. Each place has it's own set of challenges. In Washington when our two oldest were tiny I think I took just Noble with me to the church to watch a session or two. In those days I devoured the May Ensign when it arrived because I hadn't been able to watch all the sessions. Also, TopDad wasn't a member of the church so I was sensitive about not forcing him to participate. He was baptized the spring before we moved to Virginia. Now we had three children under five and it was a circus attending the broadcast at the church building; but I persevered as best I could. After a couple of years I got the brilliant idea to subscribe to cable for conference weekend and enjoy it at home. The cable company usually had a special going around conference time so it cost less than thirty dollars for the weekend and I thought that a bargain for the blessing of watching conference at home. I'd call on the Monday before conference and order the hook-up for Friday. We'd enjoy all the sessions on Saturday and Sunday, and then on Monday I'd call and ask for the disconnect. After a few times they knew me and didn't ask questions anymore.
Being able to watch conference at home was the beginning of the tradition of special foods for the weekend. I wanted it to feel like a holiday and make associations in the minds of my children: Conference = good food. It worked. The foods have varied over the years but everyone knows that it is worth it to be home for conference weekend.
In Utah we were able to enjoy conference on the regular broadcast station and found that between sessions there were wonderful special documentaries about the church, it's history and people, put together by the religion correspondent on the television station. They were fantastic and we looked forward to those as much as conference. By this time, after about eight years of conference watching in Virginia the children didn't need to be reminded or called to the family room. Conference watching, and taking notes, was a tradition. Several times we got tickets to a session and were able to attend at the Conference Center, which was a special treat. Once you've been there, watching the sessions becomes even more real. The challenge during this time was that not all the others in the ward and neighborhood watched ALL the sessions of conference and would ask for this child or that child to come out and play. We were firm, but loving, about insisting that our children stay inside and participate. We'd invite the friend in also, but few took that offer.
Here in Iowa we watch conference online at lds.org. Our little branch tried to have everyone attend the church and watch it together but few attended and so that was dropped. I prefer to be away from the distractions and noise of others and in the comfort of my own home.
What are our traditional foods? Over the years we have had Breakfast Casseroles, Citrus Scones and omelets, lots of fruit, cinnamon rolls, a variety of cookies, hogie sandwiches with deli meats and cheeses, chips and more fruits, Swiss Steak, Ziti Casserole, Lasagna, Ham and Good Potatoes. I try to make it as delicious and special as I can. Sometimes we're flush with money and other times we've been "starving students." I put on a Sunday tablecloth and napkins, use my best dishes and set things out as beautifully as I can. I have wanted our family to associate Conference weekend with both physical and spiritual feasting. My hope is that as our children move away from home, marry and establish their own families they will want to continue the tradition in their own homes.
When I struggled with little children during the early years in Virginia I would feel like giving up, thinking it would never work. Now I am glad that I didn't give in to weakness and kept working to establish our traditions for Conference. I know we are blessed for watching and listening and taking notes. Our hearts are filled with encouragement and our resolves to live the gospel are strengthened. The unity we feel as a family and the happy memories make it all worthwhile.
P.S. I managed to maintain my weight loss this weekend, in spite of all the delicious food, by taking small portions of the rich stuff and chewing very slowly to savor each bite. I loaded up on veggies and fruit to feel full.