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This morning after I woke up at 3:33 am and couldn’t go back to sleep–and knew I wouldn’t be going back to sleep any time fast with thoughts of Julia leaving on her mission passing through my mind–I turned on Little Women on my phone (with headphones).

I hadn’t noticed the preface to the story before. As I listened this morning, it seemed completely fitting to Julia’s departure:

‘Go then, my little Book, and show to all
That entertain, and bid thee welcome shall,
What thou dost keep close shut up in thy breast;
And wish what thou dost show them may be blest
To them for good, may make them choose to be
Pilgrims better, by far, than thee or me.
Tell them of Mercy; she is one
Who early hath her pilgrimage begun.
Yea, let young damsels learn of her to prize
The world which is to come, and so be wise;
For little tripping maids may follow God
Along the ways which saintly feet have trod.’
Adapted from JOHN BUNYAN.”

We spent the morning in last minute clean up (her bedroom and basement where she had had her things spread out over the table and couch as she packed. She got all ready and looked beautiful! I wish I had taken some pictures then. We were in a hurry, and so I didn’t. (Learn from me!) So all my photos of her are teary-eyed and face trying to hold back from crying. But that’s how it is!

I was finishing up her mission binder–printing out workout pages so she could keep exercising, printing out talks that I felt could help her when she feels like “a wedged bear in great tightness,” and printing out family history quotes and stories to remind her of her heritage. Then I dashed to the shower (I hadn’t felt well that morning and as we were companions, I hung out with her until another family member was home).

Thank goodness the children got home just in time, and Eliza had the presence of mind to make her a sandwich so she wouldn’t go into the MTC hungry! Lane and Pete carried her luggage out to Lane’s car where we crammed in a few final items–her BYU sweatshirt, a note from a sister, her bottle of face wash, her mission binder.

And then our neighbor pulled up in her car just when we needed a photographer! We snapped a few photos together (it is hard to smile when you are trying not to burst out in tears–my funny grimace in the photo above as evidence!), packed ourselves into the car like sardines (and her suitcase!) and headed to the MTC.

With the new construction there, we were surprised to be directed into a new underground parking garage. Julia’s final Facetime call to Sarah was cut short, and we pulled into a line of cars filled with parents and families dropping off their missionaries. There were also groups of missionaries there serving as hosts, welcoming each missionary and walking them into the MTC. There many people in yellow vests directing traffic. It was extremely organized and welcoming. 

We got out, gave our final hugs and goodbyes, and she walked off with her hostess and we drove away, hearts full and tears flowing.

I was surprised to get an email* from her an hour later! She wrote,

Hello family! They are having us email you to let you know that I made it to the MTC! But, you did just drop me off about an hour ago, so it hasn’t been that long. I am no longer crying, thank goodness, and I guess I am learning Croatian because that is what the teacher started saying when I walked into the classroom! I am actually having fun–so you were right, Dad. 

So far I have learned to say “thank you” (Hvala), and “how do you say….” I use the “How do you say” a lot so it’s on my mind. 
I love you all and will actually write you on whenever my email time is haha
Sestra Livingston
(I will edit her emails for spelling, punctuation and grammar, since missionaries type as fast as they can and don’t always have time to go back and proofread their emails.😉)
It was a little harder this time sending off a child on their mission. When I went to set the table and counted out 6 plates instead of 7, and when I saw the light to the basement on and went to turn it off, realizing that no one was sleeping down their anymore, I had to cry a little.
I sure miss our Julia!


In preparing for her mission, Julia wanted to take some pictures of our dog with her. Sarah texted me some photos–most of which are from when she was a puppy.


“No equipment, no excuses”

After a summer of non-routine days and lots of excuses for not exercising regularly (aside from gardening), Lane and I were trying to figure out how to exercise together in the short time we have in the mornings together.

Well, Julia helped us find an answer. She and I were talking about ways she could try to stay fit on her mission, and she pulled up this HIIT workout on her laptop. We did it together and both were SO sore the next day. It felt great to be sore, in a getting-back-to-the-exercise-routine kind of way…😂

Lane and I started doing these workouts together last week, and when Julia and I were in California, he texted me,

I wish I could have texted him back the same–that we had worked out! (We did the day before, but since we were staying at someone else’s house, I didn’t really have the space or ability to do it without waking them up.)

But I like these workouts! Quick, and boy does your heart get pounding.

I feel so happy and with my ballet workout, I hope and getting my back into shape so that I can run again soon!

Just an aside: I think that young moms have a great opportunity today that their mothers and grandmothers didn’t have: to be able to exercise in a small amount of space, pressing pause to help a child, not needing special clothing or equipment or to pay a monthly gym fee. What a blessing!


(This is the second part in a series of posts on some thoughts on learning and teaching others not to complain.)

Last night we celebrated the birthday of one of my nephews. We ate together at a wonderful restaurant, where the food was amazing! After we ate, my brother-in-law asked each of us to say 3 words that described my nephew. He gave us some time to think, and then we shared. We could tell why we chose those 3 words after saying them. After we had gone around the table and shared our 3 words, my nephew was asked to share one word describing each person.

This was a very fun birthday activity! (Kind of like TLs!)

This exercise brought my thoughts back to what I’d been pondering all day–not complaining. I considered how this nephew, who is very reserved, had just endured a major accident this summer (broken his femur in a wave running accident, only a year after enduring a brain tumor surgery and recovery) yet never complained or even talked about it. He just went about living and running his business with his brother.

I also thought about my husband, Lane, who never complains about me. To know and live so closely with someone who never complains is a great motivator to wanting to develop that attribute! We’ve been married 24 years, and I am still learning not to complain, but I think I might be learning to catch myself more often and change my behavior. I am certainly more aware and want more to not complain. This, in turn, helps me be a better teacher of not complaining to our children.

People who follow the Savior and exemplify Christlike attributes have a powerful impact in our lives, don’t they? It seems to me that they are the ones that the Holy Ghost can whisper to us to say, “That is what it means to be like Jesus and not complain.”

I was just trying to find a verse from the Book of Mormon and asked Julia, and she had just read it yesterday! Don’t you love how the Lord works? Here is the verse (This is where the prophet Abinadi is quoting Isaiah to the wicked priests of King Noah.):

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth. (Mosiah 14:7)

Christ suffered so much for us–and he didn’t “deserve” any punishment, as he was perfect. Yet he didn’t complain for one second–not in his mind or heart nor in any word–about having to bear our burdens. This is the standard he set for not murmuring, not complaining about life.

That’s such a high bar! I’d love to be able to get there someday, and someday–in eternity!–I will, if I keep trusting Him to help me get there, if I keep asking for grace to be able to learn not to complain, and as I gain strength to do so from the good examples of people around me, like my husband and nephew.


(This is the first post in a series on learning not to complain.)

I woke up this morning in the middle of a funny dream about a large family who were gathering for scriptures and one daughter and son who were arguing together. The daughter had a violin under her arm and was going to practice, and when doing her bow to begin practicing, bonked her head on the floor. In my dream, I thought that was so funny that her head could reach the floor, and so I “rewound” the dream in my head to watch that part over again!

With that image of children bickering and complaining in my head, I remembered some recent experiences I had that highlighted an important principle of family life: weeding out concerns and planting seeds of living without complaint.

My first recent experience was in our flower garden, when I went out to start some fall clean-up. Despite the sometimes dramatic changes of weather that we see in Utah in the fall–snow one day, sunshine and warm temperatures just days later–weeds had continued to grow. I have learned that if there is sunshine, there are weeds. They just grow all the time, practically year round! Our flowers might be dying, but the weeds will keep growing!

If anyone had a flower garden without weeds, it would be abnormal. Unheard of!

It appears that the same is true for family life. When family members live together, there are typically at least a few complaints (unless they have learned not to complain). Add in asking children to do work–particularly music practicing!–there is going to be some murmuring. It is normal. No need to be worried if a child complains about life. It is not the norm to have a child who doesn’t complain. (Don’t we all dream of that?)

I consider our family and how challenging it has been trying to get our children to practice their musical instruments. I wondered why it had to be something that came up for discussion sooooo much when they should have, by that point in their lives, known and remembered that in our family, we just do music. Period. They didn’t have to become professional musicians. It was just our milking cow: our way to learn discipline and work. Why did it have to be a fight?

But it was, day after day, week after week, month after month. Yet we persisted in explaining that yes, they had to practice. We weren’t always patient about it, as we were learning (as parents) these two principles: that murmuring is a normal, everyday “weed” in the family “garden,” and that when raising children, you can help to weed out complaining by:

  1. patiently listening to their concerns with love
  2. working with them to try to resolve concerns
  3. plant seeds of Christlike behavior by uncomplainingly living life and standing firm on established family policies while compassionately dealing with a child or spouse’s “junk behavior.”

“Junk behavior” is a phrase I learned in a positive parenting group I attended years ago. It describes the everyday “weed”-type behaviors that you can generally just ignore because they are just what we do as we learn more Christlike behaviors: complaining, defying, tantruming, bickering, etc.

I realized at some point in parenting that as Heavenly Father was raising me, I have to weed out work my own junk behaviors if I want to be able to teach my children to weed out their own junk behaviors. I can’t force them not to complain; I have to show them not to complain.

This reminds of me of how Heavenly Father is raising me. He gives me words in the scriptures to teach me the correct behavior, and then He gave me a brother, my Savior Jesus Christ, AND the Holy Ghost to show me how to apply those words.

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye konck; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

“For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and recieve the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3-5).



Fall soups

We had the MOST delicious butternut squash soup tonight that Eliza created–Lane said it was the best he’d ever eaten. I agreed! The secret was the leftover French onion soup that she made earlier this week. And Peter made our favorite gingerbread muffins and a green salad. It was a winning fall meal!

Recipes: French onion soup, Butternut squash soup, Gingerbread muffins

Both of these soups aren’t difficult, but the French onion soup takes time and patience. IT IS SO WORTH IT!


“Irreplacable” and “Tiny Voice”

We watched an incredible live discussion with four young musical artists tonight! Have to share. I especially loved the performances!! Each of these musicians is just shone! Such great messages for youth and anyone else who wants to listen!

Be sure to listen for the original songs “Irreplaceable” by Madilyn Paige and “TIny Voice” by Lexi Walker.


Nate & Hunter’s wedding

All photos are copyrighted and may not be removed from this site or used without expression written permission of Bailey Dalton, our wedding photographer. 

Feel the joy!

What a wonderful day.


1776 by David McCullough

I started listening to 1776 in September, but put it aside after Sarah recommended another book. This month I will pick it back up as I try to catch up to Peter.

Peter is reading this book for 1 period of homeschool that he is doing. This is our first homeschooling post pre-school that we’ve ever done. We’re trying it out as an experiment. His focus is U.S. History, and what better introduction than David McCullough? Lane is a huge fan of his, and so we have nearly all of his books.

Looking forward to listening to this!


Seasonal everyday fabric napkins

I decided I wanted to make some fabric napkins that we could use everyday–something the same size as a paper dinner napkin, but only have the size of a full napkin, so that it wouldn’t have to be pressed. Just wash, fold, and use.

I imagine that at the cost of 1/2 yard of 44″-wide fabric (which makes 6 napkins at the finished size of 6.5″ x 13″), eventually you would be saving money over using disposable paper napkins. But I’m not just doing this to save money. I’m doing it because for me, it’s fun. And easy. And fast.

Love it!

I want to sew 5 sets of 6 fabric napkins in 5 different patterns of fabric for each season, so 20 sets of 6. I love variety and change. That will allow me to put each set away while using the current season’s set. We can use paper on Saturday and the large fabric or paper napkins for Sunday dinner.

This project should be fun for a while, and then I can be done!

Cutting out the fabric (8″ x 14.5″ rectangles) goes quickly if you have a rotary cutter and mat. Pressing is the longest part, made faster with a long metal ruler (that I just got at Wal-Mart in the office supplies section). Sewing each napkin only takes me about a minute and fifteen seconds, so I can sew all 6 napkins in less than 9 minutes.

Here is a video of how to make a simple fabric napkin. (I need to remake it since I have simplified the process a little. LOL.) I will post some step-by step photos here another day. If you have any questions, email me or message me on Instagram.