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A good book spans the generations.

A good book spans the generations.

We were finishing up dinner last night when Sarah made a comment about how someone could sleep on the mantle if we needed extra beds, a reference to Christmas on Exeter Street, a book we have loved ever since we read it first. This charming story invokes the true spirit of Christmas by welcoming in all who come seeking shelter in this loving home, where the hostess makes beds for all* in sinks, in cupboards, on windowsills, and yes, mantles.

Of course, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek. But it’s wonderfully fun, with darling illustrations, and my mom, reading it for the first time, enjoyed every page.

I just relish moments of sharing a good book! Picture books, chapter books, novels, poetry, songbooks. Such a joy in our lives!

*The most touching true story of people making “room in the inn” for others to stay is from the life of Joseph Smith, Jr., and his wife Emma, who would give up their own bed and sleep on the floor, using their coats as blankets, so that others could sleep warmly and comfortably when needing a place to stay in Nauvoo.


Elder Livi Update

Elder Livi laughing

This must have been when they were making their movie on P-day. Somebody’s having a great time…. Who says a mission has to be all work and no fun?

I have 5 minutes to post! It’s been that kind of a month. Lane and I went to Montreal for a week–heavenly!–and the prep, trip, after-trip catch-up, and now pre-Thanksgiving week all snowballs together to make for not a lot of blogging time. My goal to blog every day is certainly taking a back seat to reality!

But Elder Livingston’s time is clicking away! He will be home in about 3 months!  I had to take a few minutes to post his most recent email:

Hello! It’s been a great week! Thanks for all your emails; I love
hearing from yall!

This [week] was good, not only because of fun stuff that happened but because Elder H. came to the office. He is the new personal secretary [to the mission president], and I’m sure he will do an excellent job serving President and the mission. I’m also excited to leave the office and serve the Lord in another aspect. It will be really different, and I’m kinda worried, but I pray for the Spirit, and that’s the most important [thing]. I’d love your prayers.

This week, I heard about B—– (a contact who came to church). He is in another ward, but I went on divisions a while back and taught him a lesson. It was great, and now his baptism is planned for this Saturday!! I’m so excited, and I hope I have the privilege of attending his baptism. He is a wonderful son of God and a good guy. I love finding people and helping [them discover] the truth and come unto Christ. Well, B—- did that himself, with some help from the Spirit and an [Elder] Neil L. Andersen talk.

Also, we had a super fun P-Day, and after playing some [basketball], we decided to make a movie! I [don’t know] why, but it was pretty funny. It’s too long to send, but it was hilarious.

I hope everyone is doing well. This next week is Thanksgiving, and the
transfer, so [it will be] busy. Love y’all!





Baby smiles (Please pray for Maddi)

Baby Lane

Lane as a baby. Love that smile!

Baby photo Liz

Liz as a baby. I wonder how long that pose lasted before I fell over?

Baby smiles are the best! I was visiting with my friend Merilee, whose daughter has been in a coma for weeks now (see Pray4Mad on Facebook). We were talking about how the little things make a big difference, and how smiling babies isn’t just gas. I remember receiving a priesthood blessing from Lane before going into labor with one of our children, that she would look up at me and smile, and I would know she was happy to be in our family. When I held that baby in my arms, and she looked at me and smiled, I knew my Heavenly Father wanted me to understand something about babies and smiles, among other lessons.

I am grateful for baby smiles, for toddler smiles, for young children smiles, for elementary age smiles, for teenage smiles, for missionary smiles, for college children smiles, and for husband smiles, for friend-in-coma smiles. Smiles are just a gift all the way around!



putting the star on the Christmas tree 2014

Sarah helps Anna reach the top of the tree to put on the star. December 2014.

Lane came out in a plaid button-down shirt on Sunday afternoon after church, and someone declared it was a sign of the season. We already had Christmas music going in the kitchen–we started before Halloween this year–and the pine-scented candle has already been lit on several afternoons with the change of the weather.

How can we help it? Each year Christmas comes and goes faster than ever! It’s not the hype of shopping, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” catalogs in the mail or commercial references to fruitcake that get our wheels turning. It’s the feeling of starting to make gifts for each other, of serving others more, of anticipation of being together for Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation, the beautiful music about Christ and giving, and lights that sparkle in our homes, outside, and in our eyes. Not to mention the yummy foods that we start making!

This dish is so easy to make. Simply peel and slice Granny Smith apples and some yams. Put fresh cranberries on top. Pour a little agave syrup on top and sprinkle with freshly ground (or not) cinnamon and nutmeg. A touch of salt finishes things off. (Fresh lemon zest doesn't hurt, either.) Bake at, well, say 375℉ for I'm not sure how long. It depends on how much you made! Better check on it after 30 minutes or when you start to smell good smells from the oven (if you are in the same room!).

This dish is so easy to make. Simply peel and slice Granny Smith apples and some yams. Put fresh cranberries on top. Pour a little agave syrup on top and sprinkle with freshly ground (or not) cinnamon and nutmeg. A touch of salt finishes things off. (Fresh lemon zest doesn’t hurt, either.) Bake at, well, say 350℉ for I’m not sure how long. It depends on how much you made! Better check on it after 30 minutes or when you start to smell good smells from the oven (if you are in the same room!).

So bring on the front door wreaths! Mine is about to go up. Turn up the Christmas music! Sing out loud with your heart as you drive with your teenage driver-in-training! (OK. Actually, be calm and listen to something peaceful. We all need more peace during that experience.) Here comes Christmas!


Show a little love in the morning






What happens when a husband doesn’t kiss his wife goodbye in the morning? A grumpy wife criticizes her son for wearing a dirty shirt, then that little boy gets mad at his sister, who then says an unkind thing about her friend’s rain coat, and so on down the chain of interactions until a little boy kicks his dog.

Happily, the dog thinks the boy is playing, and so he doesn’t return the anger, and the boy responds with love to the dog. He forgives his grumpy sister, and the unhappy chain of events reverses until finally, when the husband returns home and kisses his wife hello, all is well in the world again.

The Quarreling BookThe Quarreling Book by Charlotte Zolotow is one of the books I love to give as a wedding present. It underlines the significance of small and simple ways we can show love one to another. It also reminds us of the importance of how loving interactions affect not only the “weather” in our home but also in the lives of those around us. We can “scatter sunshine all along the way” with affection, kind words, smiles, etc.

Charlotte Zolotow and Arnold Lobel gave the world a sweet gift with this book!



The Oak Inside the Acorn

The Oak Inside the Acorn


I went to Activity Days this week, where the other mom/co-teacher, Lori, had prepared the activity. She and her husband had walked across the street to our neighbor’s home to gather acorns for the girls to use in making a frame, but the acorns were all gone! So they drove to the Provo Temple and across the street there was an oak tree. It was getting dark, so with flashlights in hand, and down on their knees, they gathered enough acorns for the girls to use in their project! (I love what members of the church are willing to do for each other as volunteers!)

When we all had arrived at her home, Lori shared a summary of the book The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado. She had tried to track down a copy of the book, but none of the libraries or teachers she knew had a copy! She even had wanted to order one, but it wouldn’t arrive in time for our activity. So she summarized it. I could tell it was a lovely story, so I got online to the audible.com website. I had two credits there, and saw that there was a recording, so I downloaded it. As the girls made their frames, we listened to this beautiful tale of an acorn that drops from its mother tree and falls in the ground in a grove of orange trees. It wonders what it will be, and remembers that his mother said that a great oak is within him and not to be afraid to become what God made him to be. The orange trees make fun of him, saying that he won’t ever grow oranges like them. The farmer moves the sapling near his home, where the oak tree continues to grow until it is large enough for the farmer to make a swing from one of its branches. The farmer’s daughter comes to swing on the tree, and both the tree and the little girl grow taller and stronger. The farmer builds a treehouse in the tree, and the little girl can play there. When the little girl is finally old enough to leave home, she sits in the swing and wonders aloud what she is to be. She shares her fear of the future. The tree wishes he could share what his mother taught him. He has an idea: when the wind blows his branches, he will drop an acorn by her. She catches it, and before tossing it aside, she has a thought. Could this tree have started out as a small acorn once? Yes! And then it grew into this huge, strong oak. God will help her just as he did this tree!

This story is very touching! It brought tears to my eyes, listening both as a mother and as a child. I brought it home and our family listened to it during dinner. We loved it! I want to put this on my daughters’ iPod so they could listen to it as a bedtime story. It is a lovely, faith-encouraging, reassuring story.



The tidying FHE lesson

Screen shot tidying up pageSo I didn’t mean to, but last night I ended up teaching an FHE lesson on the 3 principles I shared the other day. We were going to have a lesson on something else, but I started to bring up the fact that we needed to revisit our tidying efforts and asked if I could share the 3 principles briefly, without elaborating. Julia just suggested that be our lesson, and Lane seconded that suggestion. So that’s what we did.

I also talked to them about the idea of how we are creating every day, and preparing to create greater things in the future. But for now, we are creating our own little universe in the space we are given, such as our bedroom, our locker, etc. As we grow older and God gives us/we choose more responsibility, such as a spouse, a child, a home, etc., our capacities can grow. “Improvement and progression are one eternal round” (from “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” a hymn our family sings…often. Peter. Nate. Lane.). We start learning from the day we are born and our capacities are enlarged. When we learn to keep one space tidy, we can expand that capacity to greater spaces.  I mentioned how we are already creating “weather” around us by our temperament: we can be sunshiny or thunderstorming. We joked about being like Eeyore sometimes: “Today was a beautiful day…for some people.”

I made this little reminder (HOME TIDYING UP 3 principles) today to stick up on the fridge for a few days. (Note: I actually don’t prefer having anything on my fridge, but when I really want my family to think about something, I stick it on the fridge for a while. If we are doing something big, like a family summer reading program that I have made a poster to promote, well, then I leave it on the fridge for a lot longer.)

Although I have yet to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is pictured on this visual, I mentioned it to my children because I want to read it (sigh! the list of books I want to read!) and to share how the Japanese have mastered the art of tidiness and exemplify the beauty of a tidy environment.

We’ll see how the family responds. I noticed this morning that one child’s side of the room was tidier than other days. Sweet.


Peru mission Halloween pumpkinsI love that Elder Livingston writes his own updates these days! I still need to catch up and post all the ones I have missed. Here is the one we received today. (Because he works in the office, and their schedule depends upon how they are needed to serve that day, he will sometimes send his weekly email on a day different from his P-day.)


Well, hope y’all had a great Halloween, I definitely did. Actually,
this whole week was just great! And we took a LOT of pictures.

To start, we went to Pozuzo to get a birth certificate so that someone
could get married and baptized. Here in our mission, we have lots
of…space. Lots of areas that people don’t go to, lots of little
tiny towns where there are no missionaries, and barely even roads to
get there. Pozuzo is a small town in the jungle famous for being
settled by German refugees back in the day. Legend tells of a colony
of all white people who live an idyllic life in the middle of the
jungle. Missionaries aren’t allowed to go there, because the long
drive is dangerous, and it’s super far away from other areas, and not
accessible easily. But the Lord needs valiant servants, and someone
wanted to keep the commandments, so we were permitted. It was
basically the coolest trip ever!! We went with the expectations of
seeing German people and having Elder White translate (he took high
school German), but there were 4 Caucasian people, (Elder W., Elder G.,
me, and some lady we saw who still only spoke Spanish) and there was
maybe one sign in German. Tourism had taken over. except that the only
tourists were Peruvians, so they all wanted to take pictures of us….

Anyways, we had some great moments on the trip, including getting a
flat tire (and an oil leak) on the way back. I couldn’t wait to change
the tire and stuff. I just love that. But it was a lot of traveling,
hence the yawn pic. Other pictures to follow.

Nate long travel day yawn

Elder Livi Pozuzo waterfall
Beyond the selva, we had a great P-Day/Halloween! Plaza Vea sold a few
small pumpkins, so we bought a couple and carved them! Mine is the one
with the mission logo. Then we had a BBQ at our house because we
discovered that under a bunch of garbage and soot there was a grill!
It was so good.

Elder Livi BBQ grill
Anyways, it’s too bad the Church didn’t put out any new videos this
week. BUT there is one video that I love, and although is a little
old, it never gets old for me. Its called On The Way Home, and it’s my
favorite church movie. We watched it this week, and man, you can feel
the Spirit so powerfully. In the few lessons taught over the past
couple weeks, we’ve had the privilege of sharing the message of the
Plan of Salvation and The Family with many. How wonderful is His plan
for us. Life is tough, people aren’t perfect, trials are often many
and blessings seem few and far between. But God has a plan for each of
us, and if we follow His commandments, we will be blessed, and we will
inherit eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded
upon the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We can be happy, in this
life and the next, if we live the principles of the Gospel as a
family, and strive to do what’s right. It may not be easy, but it IS
right. And that’s what the movie is all about. Watch it if you get the

I love y’all. Thank you for your support and love. Hope to hear from you soon!

Elder Livi also wrote an email to me. I had been able to send him a tiny loaf of pulla, or Finnish sweet bread, a few weeks earlier via a woman who was sending packages via plane the next day, so it made it to him in about 4 days. It was a little miracle and tendermercy. I asked him if it was any good by the time it got there. He replied, “So the pulla was cash!! I loved it. There was so little. And really there is almost no good bread here, so it was nice to eat.”  I’m so happy that he will be home in LESS THAN FOUR MONTHS! You can bet we will be making a great big loaf of pulla upon is return!

Go here to read previous posts about Elder Livi’s mission. If I can today, I will try to post more of his letters from the last two months. I have really gotten behind!



Cleaning up after ourselves is an eternal principle. I imagine that if we are to learn to create worlds, we have to learn what to do with all the resources we are provided. We begin learning about creation and resources when we recognize what resources we have right now and evaluate what we are doing with those resources.

For example, I have a bedroom with a bed that I sleep in. Each morning, I help make the world a lovelier place by taking a minute to make the bed. I have clothes on hangers in my closet, a laundry basket in that closet, and washing and drying machines in my home. When I change from the clothes I’m wearing to my PJs, I either hang my clothes back up or put them in the basket. Once a week, I take the basket to the mud room and do my laundry. Then I bring them back up and put them away. I have been learning how to create order in what otherwise might be my own personal chaotic universe. (Sometimes it does become chaotic!)


God gives us principles in the scriptures that teach us how to govern ourselves and learn to create order in our worlds. Just this morning I went into the children’s bathroom and saw a sign I had put there at the start of the school year. The sign lists a “bathroom tidy routine” that I wanted the children to learn to do. (The bathroom had been so messy for so long, and I needed to try something new/different to help them learn to keep it clean.) I put the sign up and invited the family to follow the routine each day after they showered.

I watched and waited. I decided I wouldn’t criticize their efforts but instead only praise the good that I saw. I also put a tally mark on the white board in the hallway for each day the bathroom was tidy after everyone had gotten ready, and each day at family prayer or each week at family council, I would go over how many consecutive days they had accomplished a tidy bathroom.

It was wonderful to see them improve! The bathroom went from messy to tidy from day 1! It wasn’t perfectly tidy every day (we are human in our family), but it was a vast improvement! I felt so happy!

Now that it has been several months, the bathroom tidiness continues to be much better than it was in the previous year. But it can be hard, in the rush of getting ready, to want to take the minute to tidy up after yourself, especially when your sibling is knocking (pounding?) on the door saying to hurry up so they can have their turn.mormonad- follow the leader-1118290-mobile

I was thinking that it might be time for some added instruction–something–to increase their knowledge, desire, capacity to clean up after themselves. I know that if I teach my children in the Savior’s way, I will be more effective in my attempts. This leads me to consider some eternal principles.

There are (at least) 3 gospel principles I can think of that I want to teach my children that can help them learn to clean up after themselves:

1. Come follow me (see 2 Nephi 31:12).

Jesus was always inviting people to follow his example. His example is the way to light, truth, love, happiness, and peace. I try to model what I hope my children will do. If I ask my children to tidy up after themselves in the morning when they get ready, I need to leave my bathroom tidy after I get ready. If I ask them to make their beds and put their clothes away, I need to do that. If I ask them not to leave piles of stuff around their rooms, I need to show them that it is possible to do it.

2. Now is the time (see Alma 34:31-33).

I learned either from Linda Eyre (A Joyful Mother of Children) or from Jeroldeen Edwards, a mother of a missionary in my mission (Things I’d Wish I’d Known Sooner and Celebration) to try not to multiply your work. For example, if I am changing my clothes, and I drop them on the floor and leave them to put away later, I have just made a job for myself for later. If I just deal with the clothes immediately, I haven’t created more work for myself. I think the easiest way to think of this is that now is the time to do the work (that you can do) that is before you. (The caveat is that you have to use good judgment: sometimes you can’t do something immediately because there is a greater, more pressing priority: the toddler fell down and hurt himself while you were changing and is bleeding. You shouldn’t, as a mom, take the extra minute hanging up clothes when your child needs your immediate attention. Or you can’t make your bed because if you do, you will miss the bus and then your mom will have to take 20 minutes from her morning of helping your siblings to get you to school. Life requires choices and judgment. You get the idea.) If you don’t procrastinate work, you keep life simpler and cleaner. It is a profound principle that I think I am learning as an adult, especially in the last few years.

3. By small and simple things (see Alma 37:6).

Wow! This is a powerful principle! I have realized that by this principle works both ways: if I do the small, simple tidy right now after I complete a task (waking up, showering, getting dressed), I create a tidy home! Tidiness actually has positive emotional and spiritual benefits to it!

On the other hand (opposition in all things!), if I don’t, I have little by little created a mess for myself that I have to clean up later. Messes can have negative emotional and spiritual consequences in my life. They aren’t tragedies, but they do detract from the peace I feel in my surroundings. Think of how beautifully clean the temple is, and the peace we feel there, and you’ll know just what I’m talking about.

It takes planning, then, to decide on when you need to get up in order to have the minute you need after waking, showering, and changing to be able to accomplish the needful follow-up (tidy) that is a part of completing that creation task. But I will say this: it doesn’t take long. I am a natural procrastinator. I like to sleep to the last possible minute. I like to get showered at the last possible minute. I want to spend time on the things I like to do much more than the things I have to do. So I have learned that you can tidy up really fast! And that makes anyone feel good. It’s part of the “leave a room as clean or cleaner than you found it” mentality that makes the world a lovelier place.

So now I have to decide how to share these principles with my children and if I just focus on one principle or teach them all together in the context of teaching tidiness. Hmmm. I’ll have to get back to you on that.*

I’m always inspired by this quote from Joseph Smith, Jr.: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” And they do.

*I taught it as a Family Home Evening lesson.


Halloween mantle decorations

Anna told me, with an air of gravity, “Mom, A. and I were judging houses on their Halloween decorations. Ours was a zero.”

I got a good laugh at that! I am officially the Halloween Grinch, but I love fall. So we have a fall wreath, uncarved pumpkins, and fall-colored decor inside. I hadn’t put out any Halloween decorations at all this year. And I wasn’t missing them!

But Anna was. So she got the fall decoration box out and pulled the festive books off the bookshelf, and went to work on the mantle.

It made me smile.

I love that girl.

Here is the best part of this year’s Halloween “observance” at our home: Anna really wanted a trench coat for her costume. I told her I wasn’t going to spend money on one this year, but that we had plenty of costumes and resources already that she could choose from. She wanted so much to dress up with her friends, so when a birthday gift card arrived from Grandpa’s family, she immediately got online and began searching. She had to find a trench coat that was affordable within the gift card amount. She found one that would only be something like $1.28 more than the gift card, but it was from China. And it wouldn’t arrive until mid-November. I checked out expedited shipping, and that was $10 more. My grinchiness subsided slightly, and I told her I would pay for it, and she could exercise faith that perhaps Heavenly Father would answer her prayers–if it were possible–and get it here early. (With expediting, it was supposed to arrive next week.)

Anna has been praying faithfully for that coat to arrive early. So how could I be surprised when it arrived yesterday from China, 4 1/2 days after she ordered it?

I was reminded once again of how Heavenly Father “delights to… bless you” whenever it is possible to do so.


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