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National mom keeps family first priority weekly family nights, library keep them close

Though she holds a doctorate in psychology and counseling, and is a widely respected counselor at the McKay Dee Hospital Institute for Behavioral Medicine in Ogden, Utah, for Nadine Thomas Matis, it is mothering that "has brought me the most joy and satisfaction."

Having recently received the national Mother of the Year title (see Church News, May 5, 1990), Sister Matis hopes to encourage more validity of motherhood in society, "because it doesn't get much now," she said."When I wasn't working outside the home and people would ask my profession, I'd say, professional mother,' " recalled Sister Matis, a former stake Primary president in the Ogden Utah Burch Creek Stake. "You're notjust a mother,' you're a Mother!"

It's something the 53-year-old mother of four knows plenty about. Born the eldest of six children to Glenn and Norma Thomas in the small Utah community of Coalville, Sister Matis has warm memories of a home where "our mother raised a close and loving family." Her parents read often to her and her siblings, thus fostering a lifelong love of books.

When Nadine Thomas married John A. Matis in 1957 in the Salt Lake Temple and they started a family of their own, she instilled this love of reading in their children. Eventually, they even did away with their television set, and built a library in its place.

"We put games in as well, and the children never begged to have the TV back," she said. Today, oldest daughter Julie is a corporate attorney, Wendy is a dermatology resident, son Greg will graduate from law school this spring, and Steve, a student at Weber State, has been accepted at several dental schools.

In addition to being an educated family, they are also a very close family. One reason this is so, said Sister Matis, is because they regularly had meals together, and had weekly family home evenings.

"I'd get up before anyone else and fix breakfast, and then we'd read scriptures and have prayer together every morning," she recalled. "And we began having family nights when the oldest children were 2 and 3 - in 25 years, I can count on one hand the times we missed having it."

Included on these Monday nights were special musical numbers, time for family business/suggestions, and short lessons - "whatever met the need of the moment."

"The children were free to say what they liked and what they didn't like, and we'd all take turns praising each other for something each had done during the week," said Sister Matis. "It wasn't terribly rigid, and we had a lot of fun. We never had a child ask if he or she could miss a family home evening, but we did have lots of their friends over."

Staying in touch "with the spirit of each child," and validating their individual potential, have been two high priorities for the national Mother of the Year.

"I'd reinforce any academic achievement with a lot of praise, and when they didn't do so well at something, I'd just try to comfort and be understanding," she explained. "I never tried to steer them in any particular area, but helped them with whatever they wanted to do."

Not until the children were in junior high and high school did Sister Matis return to school to get her Ph.D. Though she's busy with her job as a counselor, her first priority is still her family - which now includes two sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and a grandchild. And she's still a big proponent of "no quality time without quantity time."

"Children require the knowledge that I'm important enough that my parents spend time with me,' " she said. "They need to be told,You're worthwhile.' "

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