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I think it’s cute that they are wearing red, yellow and blue: the colors of Primary. I’d guess that they are thinking of the children who may see this photo. Photo credit: https://www.lds.org/callings/primary/leader-resources/biographies?lang=eng

I just read the article about the new Primary general presidency of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These three women oversee a worldwide organization (“Primary”) that includes children in more than 30,000 congregations. The church membership is now over 15 million and growing at a rate of about 1 million every 3 years.

That includes a lot of children.

Knowing that God cherishes each one of his children, it is significant who He selects to lead them in this organization. Of course, we know that parents are the most important leaders in the world for children. They are more important than teachers or leaders on any level. They have the most influence on children than anyone else in the world. These women help coordinate efforts to lead and teach children on a church organizational level and sit on councils that make decisions that affect children and their families.

What impresses me the most is that Heavenly Father chooses women with significant life experience. They have each served children and families for decades. They are not new to parenting. They each have grandchildren. They have seen something of family life, community life, even life on an international scale. So they have some really good experiences to bring to their assignments.

My takeaways are first, gratitude that they would serve in this unpaid capacity in ways that bless my own family. Considering how much work they put into their assignments and the sacrifices their families make to support them, it is a true gift of love to mankind. Second, I want to remember that wisdom comes with righteous living over time. We can gain great insight from those who have significant life experience–especially those who have lived faithful, productive, loving lives.

I was sitting next to my in-laws at our niece’s wedding reception this week. I was sharing a concern that I had after my father–in-law asked me a question about work. My mother-in-law mentioned times when her husband’s business ventures didn’t go so well, and my father-in-law remembered aloud how President Hinckley would say to the Twelve, “Things will work out.” I was grateful for their long view that was an expression of patience, faith, and optimism.

These women in the past have taught me lessons that have helped me be a better mother. I remember reading something one general Primary president wrote to the essence of how just as rhetorical seeds planted in childhood can grow into something beautiful, symbolic fires lit in childhood can burst into flame later in life. How we act as mothers–particularly in early childhood–makes a big difference in our relationships with our children down the road. We will reap what we sow.

I loved Sister Cheryl Esplin’s talk just a few weeks ago in general conference about how the Savior wants us to be his hands.

I look up to these women. I’m grateful for these them and those in my life, men and women, those near and far, family members and friends, those I know and those I don’t, who have been down the road of life and serve as examples to me to encourage me as I travel through life. Their goodness, service, and counsel increases my ability to nurture others.

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A stone set in motion

Baby Bennett

Beautiful Bennett.

Our extended family on the Livingston side grew by 2 in two days this week: first, our niece had her second baby, and second, another niece got married.

Lauren and Tim

Married for eternity.

When Lane and I had only been married a couple of months, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive! I was positively OVERJOYED! At the same time, I felt pretty nervous: I had this sensation that I had pushed a stone over the edge of a cliff and that there was no going back. It would roll and gain momentum and there was no calling it back.

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My in-laws, married more than 55 years, more in love than ever.

I better understand that when we begin a family, we are planting a seed that can grow into something very wonderful and very large! Chances are, children will grow up and marry and have children of their own. Abraham and Sarah had one child and then millions more have followed.

I really look forward to our family growing. We always wanted more children, but seven children were the precious gift that we were given, and we feel more than satisfied! We very much look forward to our children meeting special people whom they will marry and begin their own families. And then we will get to GRANDPARENTS. I really look forward to that day! Babies are just inestimably good news.

Now I understand so much better the counsel given in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” regarding marriage and babies.  I’m so grateful my mother taught me this counsel as I grew up and that I can teach my children, so that they can wisely prepare them for all the good things to come.

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It’s OK to slow down

Family photo October 2001

Family photo right before Eliza was born (2001) and my mom and step-dad left on their mission. Those angels faces…

I just saw a fascinating video that came via a rugby coach’s email. (Pete was going to start rugby but had a foot accident in February in which he pulled a bunch of ligaments and was in a boot for a long time.) A young entrepreneur wanted to learn from a Navy SEAL after observing him at a 100-mile race in San Diego. He wanted to learn from the man, and so he invited him to come live with his family. He learned that he could do so much more by pushing himself. The SEAL told him that we accomplish about 40% of what we are capable of doing.

What a great thought to learn!

I feel inspired to do a little bit more today and move closer to my potential!

I have another thought that I’d like to share from my experience over the last 20 plus years of motherhood: it’s OK to perform at 40 percent. It’s OK to slow down sometimes.

Here’s why:

As women, our bodies are always cycling and changing. Constantly. We don’t have a day off from change. For me, that means that on some days, I am physically more on par than others. But my job never changes: I always have 9 people who I need to think about, me included. They are my most important stewardship. And that job can be overwhelming.

Now you don’t need to have 9 people to care for to feel overwhelmed. One new baby will do the trick! (Think: every time we added a new child to our family, and frequently after that!) So don’t worry about comparisons here. One single baby, young child or even teenager can be enough to take you to your limits.

While I want to be a marathon runner, I’m not there yet. Because sometimes my days feel like marathons just keeping up with my family. Here is what I have learned to do: slow down.

On the days when my body isn’t on par to run fast, (and I’m not talking about the physical exercise here–I’m talking about the speed of keeping up with my family!), then I simply slow down. I give myself permission to not do as much as I would normally try to do. I might skip something (or a number of items on the list) that I normally do. I might go to scriptures in my PJs and take a nap on the coach afterwards instead of jumping up and making breakfast and lunches. (You can do that when your children are all 10 and older!) I ask someone else to stick out cold cereal and bowls on the counter. Or after I get everyone off to school, I might do something enjoyable, such as blogging or reading or going on a walk WITHOUT the dog, or calling a friend or playing a song on my violin or whatever. Or I go to the nursery to buy a new potted flower for my table, if it’s the beginning of the month. Or write in my journal. Or whatever.

I just change the pace.

It can feel harder to change the routine with little children, but there are ways. You are in charge of the routine. There are no pajama police who are going to come write you a ticket if you didn’t get up, exercised, dressed, and showered by 9 am. So be kind to yourself.

(Which is easier said than done.)

But being kind to yourself is something that I have felt Heavenly Father invited me to do on days when I needed it. I have felt very peaceful about not running faster than I have strength. I find it easier to be kind to others when I am kind to yourself. God said the first commandment is to love him and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. When I am a slave drivers to myself, then it is easier to be harsher towards my family. On the other hand, when I practice gentleness, I feel more peace. I believe that as I have tried to be gentler with myself, then I have become gentler with others. I like my more gentle self.

I can push myself to do more on other days, and I do. “Go further. Try harder. Run faster. Be like a Navy SEAL! Go! Fight! Win!” (Oh, there’s the cheerleader in me coming out! I still can’t do a cart-wheel… Haha)

But on other days, I don’t worry about the other 60%. I slow down. And I smile.

Want to read some much more inspiring thoughts about slowing down? Go here or watch below:

You could also read my response to hearing this talk back in 2010. 

Here’s a podcast from Power of Moms about “running away” when you have preschoolers. I love the question April asked, “What did I love to do when I was little?” Write? Be outside? Cook? Do art? I love what Saren suggested: “Come up with a list of what you love to do.” A third take-away: people will open up their resources to you if you ask, such as laying in someone’s hammock in their backyard. Tell them that you need a break and wondered if you might _____. WOW! It’s so great to learn from each other as moms. Don’t be intimidated by the lie that other moms have it all together while you don’t. I’ve had that thought so much. It doesn’t help and it’s not true. We all have our challenges. Just learn from the good from those around you.

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His Hands

I watched this early this morning when trying to go back to sleep after a too-early wake time. (Often, feeling the Spirit helps relax my mind so that I can go back to sleep.) I considered how much what we do as parents, and particularly as mothers, we have the opportunity to use our hands as the Savior did. He is our model for nurturing with love.

I shared the video in family scriptures and afterwards one daughter expressed gratitude for music that inspires us. I agree!

Later in the morning I got to visit a friend and got to hold her tiny 5 month-old baby who has Down Syndrome. Talk about a treat! Such an adorable baby! Ooh, babies are a gift! Her little mouth just smiled at me and “talked” to me. 💗 My friend is raising that amazing child with such love and care. She was feeding her carefully to try to help her grow. I love watching this friend. She is a doctor and used to work one day a week, but now she chooses to be home with her 8 children. Her determination to care for them in such a careful way takes all her energy. That is not to say that those who work outside of their home don’t nurture their children carefully; it is simply an observation of how she has devoted her life to such careful nurturing of each one of her children– to their education and character training. There is so much evidence of her mother heart in each corner of her home. There is love and order and beauty in that home that comes from nurturing each other with love. She inspires me.

Soft strength

I loved this cover of a binder that she had in her family room: what a great motto! It reminds me of a saying I learned from a wallhanging in my friend’s home when I was a child: Gentleness will accomplish what force cannot.

All thy children shall be taught of the Lord

And here again is evidence of loving hands at work: her mother made this and it hung on the wall of her childhood home. Her mother passed it on to her, and now it graces her walls and reminds her of the very work she does each day. Mothers who nurture like her mother did simply cannot estimate the limit of their influence!

So many ways we can use our hands for good!

 

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Senior slideshow

Nate and Julia Here we are 3 days into vacation (the first one we spent traveling and yesterday we watched conference), and I just spent 5+ hours going through photos for the Senior Slideshow*. This is my third time, and it doesn’t get any easier to whittle down literally thousands (as in about 13,000. How crazy is that?!) to only 10 photos to represent your child’s life and personality! The children went to the pool and came back and ate lunch and watched a show and asked when we are going to go see the movie. It’s all good. In fact, I love it. I’m happy looking back at so many wonderful memories. I can swim tomorrow.

Nate and tiny Anna

You know what happens in my heart when I look at thousands of photos from our life as a family? I’m reminded how children make life happy.

Are there hard days? You bet.

Are there times you feel like pulling your hair out? Totally.

How sweet it is to see relationships grow and strengthen over time. I can’t imagine life without our children. Wow, our lives would not be the same. We wouldn’t love each other as much because we have had so much to struggle over and figure out and work together to accomplish. You love who you serve. There is a lot of service that goes into raising a family. It’s so worth it.

 

IMG_4359And now it’s time for the movie, so that means…I’d better stop blogging!

*Senior Slideshow is something our Young Men and Young Women leaders put together (OK, it’s really the YW president…) after all the parents email 10 photos to her. Then we gather with parents and families at the church and the parents narrate their 2 minutes of photos. It’s really sweet.

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What a sweet sixteen!

Reposted from July 2010. So much changes in 6 years! Two other daughters have turned “sweet sixteen” since then…

Would you like to know what turning “Sweet Sixteen” meant for Sarah? It meant celebrating her birthday for a whole week with desserts I think every day! It began on the eve of her birthday at a dessert café called “The Chocolate,” with Aunt Lori along as a special guest, to taste the rich chocolate mint brownie offering. Then the next day, which was her birthday, she had cookies and candy given to her by her Suzuki Harp Institute friends (along with her favorite–pizza with everything from The Pie). At night, we drove up to Young Women’s Camp, where the Relief Society had brought up a cake JUST FOR HER BIRTHDAY! That was only 2 days. The rest of the days were just like it. Goodies and dessert at every turn! But it wasn’t until today, Sunday, that Lane was back from Scout Camp, Julia was back from Girl’s Camp, Nate was supposed to be back from his 2 week ranch experience in Idaho (but he stayed 2 extra days at his cousins in Rexburg, boo hoo!), and Sarah and I were finished with her harp camp–AND just hours before Lane had to leave to go out of town(!)–that we finally got to celebrate in our traditional Livingston Birthday Style: the breakfast, the dinner, the dessert. Tonight’s dessert of choice was s’mores, made from these gigantic marshmallows that are about as big as 3 marshmallows! How fun!

Sarah will get her license this week, due to the craziness of our schedule last week, and so she is cramming to finish her online driver’s ed class all day tomorrow. But by week’s end, I should have another DRIVER in the family! She and I are equally jazzed about it!

P.S. While we were at Harp Institute, there was a Salt Lake Tribune reporter asking questions and others taking pictures. I just looked up the article, since I didn’t get to read it the next day. There are 6 photos, and 2 of them are of the ensemble that Sarah plays in. She is on the far right in purple in the photo where there is a teacher in front, and in pink behind the second harp on the right in pink, for those who are really interested :). http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/49928913-75/harp-institute-suzuki-utah.html.csp?page=1

Eyes agog with all of the choices…

Liza wondering whether a cupcake, cookie, or cake slice…

Anna’s choice was easy: the most whipped cream on top!

Even when you’re grown up, it’s more fun eating a delectable dessert with your sister.

Not sure she can eat the whole thing, it’s so rich–even if she is the birthday girl.

Surprise balloons at theory class (8 am) means all 80 harpists

can wish her “Happy Birthday” all day long

Her ensemble performed a Bach “Invention” right after she gulped down her birthday pizza.

There was a rainbow that literally led us to camp on her birthday night,

…all the way from Deer Creek Reservoir to Heber Valley.

The reception by friends just waiting for her to come was great,

but a hug from her sister was even better.

Camp directors think of everything, like birthday crowns!

New friends are also a great birthday gift; the final recital was very welcome

after a week of all that back-and-forth driving and long days.

Birthday breakfasts sure are sweet, too

Here come s’mores (done under the broiler) with the gargantuan marshmallows

They get 10 times this big in the microwave

Check it out!

The ultimate mustache. Ahoy, matey!

Another dessert that the birthday girl couldn’t finish.

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Building a musical legacy

Today our school orchestra and choir recorded the song “We’re Building a Musical Legacy” that I and Nathan Hoffeins wrote a couple of years ago. We recorded it so that the rest of the school can learn it to sing all together for the school Art Gala assembly. It’s always a joy to get to hear children perform together! They work and bring that work to fruition as a whole, and it’s really satisfying to do it all together. I was really proud of them and grateful for their parents and the parent and community volunteers who put so much love into helping these children learn to make music.

After we recorded it, I went to the computer lab to ask our keyboarding teacher about burning the mp3 file to CD’s for those teachers who use a CD player in their classrooms. The class that was there was supposed to do some testing online, but the internet wasn’t working. While the tech guy worked on the problem, I taught the class the first verse of the song. It was SO fun! In 15 minutes they had it learned, and that was all the time either of us had to spend on it, so they went back to their class and we performed it for their teacher. Ta dah!

One of the best things about teaching music to children is how interdisciplinary it is. You are using all different parts of the brain to talk, sing, and move all at once. If the instruction is fast-paced, children who are at times ancy are much more engaged, giving them a break from the boredom of sit-and-listen work. I love it. I love children and how eager they are to learn and try! When we performed “as a choir,” one little girl put her hands together in front of her (think Sound of Music when they Von Trapp Family singers are standing singing “So Long, Farewell” and their hands are clasped in front of them with elbows bent). Too cute! Classic choir pose! Made me smile.

I hope that people will compose more songs for their children’s schools and share it with others! That’s what my freedeliciousmusic.org website is for. Together, people who want to make a difference in the world for children and music and give a little of their time to benefit many children.

We’re building a musical legacy
Something great to share
We’ll build our skills and talents, too,
Then show the world we care
By sending out our sound and song
Because there is a need
Come join us on our journey there
We know we will succeed!

To learn more about contributing music to my music website, email me: liz[at]freedeliciousmusic[dot]org.

To download the sheet music for this song, go here. (Please note: The last note of the song should be a dotted half note. It is written as a whole note, but needs to be changed.)

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Did the Easter Bunny Come?

When my husband and I got to church and sat down in the pew behind our son, Peter, who was helping to pass the sacrament, he turned to us and said his friend wanted to know if the Easter Bunny came to our house this morning.

After an inital answer and some thought, I told Peter, “No, the Easter Bunny didn’t come.”

When our children were little, I didn’t want to tell them things that weren’t true or that seemed ridiculous to me. (In saying this, I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys our United States holiday traditions.) People dressed up in bunny suits always seemed a little frightening to me! I wanted something different for them. I wanted the focus of our holiday to be on the Savior. So when it came time for Easter, our traditions have included an egg hunt on Saturday, reviewing the events that happened around the atonement, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a new Sunday outfit for our children, which we laid out on our bed Sunday morning. We taught them that the new clothing was to remind them of the resurrection, and how

“On resurrection morning, I’ll take my body bright

And in celestial glory forever live in light.”  (“The Lord Gave Me a Temple,” Children’s Songbook, p.153)
We do have some household decorations of eggs and even some bunnies in a musical water globe that plays “Easter Parade” that we were given one year. But we tried focus our activities on why we celebrate Easter: to rejoice in what Jesus Christ did for us so we can overcome death and sin and be an eternal family. I put out children’s stories that tell about Jesus and his love and gifts for us.
This month has been so busy. We haven’t really had time to look much for Easter dresses, and as the month went along, the children had different needs besides new Sunday attire. They understand about our limited clothing budget, and so they are practical and helpful in their attitudes. There weren’t sadness when we didn’t have a new Easter dress or shirt and tie and argyle socks in spring colors. I was really touched at their flexibility and maturity.  We also didn’t boil and dye eggs or have Easter candy.  Even though these are fun traditions, the children are older and had been focusing together on other special and important activities such as a family bridal shower.
Attending church today really helped us to think about the Savior. Our church choir director had worked so hard to invite members of all ages to help with sacrament meeting. Five Primary children narrated a nearly all-music sacrament meeting. There were solos and a violin-cello trio and choir numbers all about the Savior, his atonement and the resurrection. The talk at the end about the Savior helped me to feel close to the Lord and encouraged me as I deal with my personal challenges. It was so Spirit-filled, so peace-giving. It was one of my favorite Easter Sundays ever!
When we got home, we worked together to get dinner in the oven and our special meal prepared. Then my mom came over and we visited and ate together. During dinner, everyone answered two questions: first, what is one reason the atonement and resurrection are important to you? After we had gone around the table and everyone had answered, we asked each person to share their favorite scripture about the Savior. It was such a sweet experience hearing each child and parent share, that I hope we can do this every year. We did have one Easter candy on each plate: a Reese’s peanut butter egg. We definitely enjoyed it!
And you know what? I really loved Easter this year! It was simple. It was peaceful. It was satisfying.
It was enough.
The Easter Bunny didn’t come. But Christ did. And that made all the difference. It made a difference to me, when I woke up feeling overwhelmed by some of the challenges we face personally and prayed for strength before going to church. After my meetings, I didn’t forget our troubles. I just had perspective on them again, and courage to press forward, having felt again in my heart and remembering in my mind that the Savior has been through everything and will help me through what I need to go through. I felt renewed. I felt happy. That made all the difference to me today.
Hallelujah!
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20)

(The Young Women in our ward sang this in our sacrament meeting today. They sang it beautifully, as does this darling 3 year old.)

 (Sorry that most of the paragraphs in this post are stuck together. I can’t get there to be spacing between the lines. Hmmm. I need to learn some html or something so I can fix stuff like this….)

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On braces, trust, and wheat and sugar

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagel

Reposted from October 20, 2008.

I dropped Sarah off at the orthodontist. I have the worst record at the orthodontist for a single family missing more appointments. May I explain that it doesn’t seem to matter how many notes I have made or if my cell phone is beeping at me. Sarah and Nate don’t like to go, and they must send telepathic messages that go like this: “Forget my appointment.”  One of these amazing children even erased the appointment from the calendar once! I couldn’t understand why the appointment wasn’t there when the receptionist called me…until I looked very closely. Alas.

But today we made it almost on time, and Anna was just screaming her head off. Poor child, she was starving, and I had completely lost track of time. I hadn’t brought some food with me, like she wanted–there just wasn’t time. My pride was at stake, for pity’s sake! I was NOT going to be 15 minutes late AGAIN.
So I told her we were going to go get bagels right then. Almost instantly she quieted down. Just like that! Not even a second-thought whimper!
It reminded me of how I have, in times past, felt panicked about something in my life. I have forgotten who is really in charge, and I’ve started to get really worried that things are not going to work out. Sometimes I have been so afraid in my heart that it has taken a Priesthood blessing from my husband to receive the reassurance that I am still in Heavenly Father’s care, that He has not forgotten me, that He will keep nurturing me just like He has always done. The last two years have really helped me to see that things really do have a way of working out, and I feel more peace in my heart.
And boy, those bagels were good. Thanks Einstein’s.
On the way home, as Anna was chomping on her cinnamon sugar bagel, she said, “I like sugar bagels.”

Me: “Mm hmm.”

A: “You like wheat.”

M: “Yep.”

A: “I don’t like wheat. I like sugar.”

Kinda like orthodontist appointments. Now that we’ve got things straight….
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Snapshots in time

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Sarah, 16

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Nate, 14

Julia, 12

Julia, 12

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Rebecca, 10

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Eliza, 9

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Peter, 7

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Anna, 5

The children looked so young back in 2010. Because they were! Oh my!

(They are all 2 years apart, except for the two oldest. But these were posted in the fall, after 3 of them had had birthdays. Ironically, they turn in order, like dominoes.)







 

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