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Growing a summer “mind garden”

SUMMER Brain Seeds Reading Chart Flowers darkerMy children have had their noses in books this last week, and it’s just whetting my appetite for some great summer reading!

That, and with all the rain we’ve gotten that has just made our flower garden BURST with color and variety, I couldn’t help but recall our focus for last summer.

brain poster summer reading best books
Each summer I pick a theme for something that we do or work on. Last year our focus was to choose the best books we could to read, and by so doing, we could plant beautiful ideas in our mind. I printed out and enlarged (to poster size) a big outline of a head (that I didn’t draw–I found it online) and taped it to the fridge.

brain flowers summer readingThen I drew some blackline drawings of flowers. We colored in the flowers (pictured above) and then laminated them.I asked the children to put up a flower for each great book they read, and to write the title of the book underneath the flower.

I enjoyed watching the brain fill up with flowers as our family “planted” beautiful ideas in our heads. (I thought I had taken a picture our head all filled with flowers, but apparently I didn’t!)

It was a fun summer focus. What fun ways have you encouraged your family to read great books?



Finnish Children’s Songs

Finnish Children's Songbook cover

Click on the image to go to the PDF songbook.

One of my new year’s goals is to learn some Finnish.

Why in the world would I want to do that?

I know. It’s the hardest language in the world. Seriously.

Well, Lane speaks Finnish, and so there’s a chance that we might get to serve a mission in Finland someday. Maybe. (Maybe we’ll go French-speaking, and then I’ll be teaching him!) So why not start now to learn the language? I know that I’ll never be fluent–just my first lesson alone made me almost want to cry! Some Finns say that only children and Mormon missionaries ever really learn to speak their language. But at least I can learn enough over the next 15 years to understand some of what is being said! And I love languages, so why not pick Finnish, right?

I know. I’m crazy!

So at my Suzuki teacher training last year, I overheard a young mother and her darling little children speaking Finnish. We became friends! We exchanged info with the hopes of someday having a Juhannus celebration together. When I decided to work on Finnish this year, I texted her and asked if they could sing some Primary songs for me, to help me learn how to pronounce the words. I couldn’t find any recordings anywhere on the internet, (the PDF version of the Children’s Songbook in Finnish is online, but no audio recordings) so when they said yes, I asked if I could post them online to be able to share them with others. I am going to store them here. I’ll try to update this page whenever they learn another song and send it to me. Their voices are just too adorable. I love this little family that is so willing to help me learn such a beautiful language!

All I have time for right now is to sing the songs at night right before I go to bed. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass, right?

Here they are, just in case someone else in this wide world of ours also wants to learn Finnish:

Jeesuksen Kristuksen kirkko (“I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ”- p.48 in the Lasten Laulukirja)

Mormonin Kirjan tarinoita (Book of Mormon Stories- pp.62-63 in the Lasten Laulukirja)

Lähetyssaarnaaja (I Want to Be a Missionary Now- p.90 in the Lasten Laulukirja)




How often do you get to hear a song from a record made in 1916?

My dad has a fabulous memory for old songs that he learned growing up, and over the years he has shared some of them with us. This one I hadn’t heard before, but he shared with me in an email on Mother’s Day. Pretty cute song. Even more fun to hear the old record and singing style!


“M” is for the million things she gave me,
“O” means only that she’s growing old,
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me,
“H” is for her heart of purest gold;
“E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
“R” means right, and right she’ll always be,
Put them all together, they spell “MOTHER,”
A word that means the world to me.

(Victor Records 17913 – Recorded 11/17/1915 – Release Date: 2/1916 – Music and words by Howard Johnson & Theo. Morse.
US Billboard 1 – Feb 1916)


Mom and me with my eyes closed
Whenever I or my mom are having pictures taken (of us), we get lots of pics with our eyes closed. Or we are laughing. Especially if we are together, which makes it all the more fun.

Mom laughing

I have a lot of pictures of my mom laughing, because she is so much fun, and so funny, and so quick to laugh at herself.

What an awesome quality!

I, on the other hand, can be all too serious. Thanks to my husband, and my mom, and my children, I’m learning to laugh more at life. It’s so nice to know that we can change, even if it’s just to learn personality coping skills! 😂

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I went to a day-long seminar called “Education Week” at our local church building with my mom. One of the speakers taught a principle that goes like this: Time + Crisis = Humor.

Well, I have had plenty of “crises” in motherhood to laugh about at this point in my life.

Problem is, I can’t remember them right now. I will have to go back to my journals to jog my memory! Haha

So let’s do that.

But first I just want to share some struggles from this week, just to keep things real, so that you know that I’m still really weak at many aspects of motherhood, such as getting anywhere on time, getting meals made, keeping up with my budget, getting children to bed at night…or me for that matter (like right now). When we are all so tired, we don’t do as well getting along. Last week I was so tired and feeling beyond my coping capacities that I just yelled at one of my daughters who got upset at me. I mean screamed. I was mortified! That is not my normal M.O. It was extremely late (like 11:15 pm), and we were both just utterly beyond our limits. We’d had too many late nights in a row. Lane was gone; I was just at my breaking point. After I chose to respond to her that way, I was so shocked that I felt so terrible. My other daughters stepped in to help the daughter calm down, and we both went to our rooms. My daughter and I both apologized sincerely the next morning. Sleep works wonders. We knew we had hugely overstepped the boundaries of what we’d ever want in our relationship.

Another time this week I really got upset with my son during his cello practicing. I was beyond frustrated. We both ended up in tears. Oh my! The saga! And after a lot of intervening patient discussion with my husband and my own time out, we both apologized. So life goes on! Sometimes you think you have gotten better at something (like patience) only to have your limits stretched a little more and find yourself failing. That’s when I just have to reach for my Savior–just like Peter did on the water when he started to sink–and cry for help. I am always and forever thankful for such forgiving children. I’m not a perfect mom. Not even close. They know it, but they still love me. And I will always love them for their kindness!

I don’t know if I will laugh about choosing not to be kind to my children in my moment of fatigue or frustration, but I know I can choose to be wiser!

I do remember one funny moment from years ago when one of my older children was in preschool. She was a very challenging, busy child. I found it hard sometimes to keep my voice soft when dealing with her seemingly endless string of mess-making. One morning I raised my voice at her, and then I started to cry and said, “Oh, [so and so], I am so sorry for yelling at you!” She answered quite cheerfully. “Oh that’s OK, Mom. [So and so’s] mom yells at him, and [so and so’s] mom yells at him, and [so and so’s] mom yells at her.” These were all children in her preschool carpool, and it cracked me up that this was her perception, whether accurate or not. At least she saw me as a normal mom, trying to learn to be patient along with all of my mom friends!

Here some other funny moments–not necessarily crises–from my journals and blogs:

“Listening to a song from the movie Cinderella, we had a conversation that went something like this: ‘Except for the blonde hair and extremely tiny waist, Cinderella and I are practically the same person,’ Sarah observed this morning. ‘Do you sing and dance with mice?’ I asked. ‘No, but I scream and dance with mice,’ she responded. ‘We don’t have that kind of mouse in our house,’ Julia clarified. I agreed, furthering: ‘We just have the very clever, very-scared-of-people kind of mouse.'”

Here is a post from back when about our first child’s first date:

Sarah went on her first date to Homecoming last night. Pinning on the boutonniere was a little tricky.

Getting them both to smile at the same time was even trickier.
They were smiling when they finally got to leave from the parental photo shoot.
And then we looked over to see someone who was far from smiling about the whole deal.
Good thing she wasn’t leaving for college! Then we might all have looked like that!
When Anna was little, she had a chronic runny nose. She was the child that always needed her nose wiped. I learned not to judge the mother whose children had yucky unwiped noses, because now I understood her! We tried everything to help Anna heal, to no avail. She had ear tube surgery, then a tonsillectomy and finally an adenoidectomy. We were so delighted when after years of runny noses and upper respiratory troubles, she seemed to heal and move beyond it all. Now she rarely ever has a cold!
To think that I prayed and worried and anxiously wrung my hands over how I must be doing something wrong, and how I just wasn’t good at giving her herbal tinctures 14 (exaggeration) times a day (that’s just what it always felt like when it came to non-medical routes), or give her such individualized care with my large and very young family. But she was just a very little girl and had to grow up a little. Sometimes motherhood is just like that: we simply have to walk the path until we get to the fork in the road where things will change, because a child grows, or circumstances change, or who knows what.
Here is a funny story from 2010, when she was nearly 5: “Sarah noticed that Anna’s antibiotic had a flavoring added to it: caramel-orange-raspberry (?!). She wondered what Anna thought of it. ‘Does your medicine taste good?’ Anna explained, ‘Not really. It kind of tastes like rotten wood.’ Lane reminded me of another time when Anna had told him her medicine tasted like ‘the wall.'”

From November 2000: 

As I consider our children’s lives, I’m reminded of something a grandmother once said: “Every child who makes it to adulthood is a miracle.” [That quote may not be the exact words, but that was the gist!] (Actually, Lane is our greatest testament to that fact.) Our children have been protected and watched over certainly by angels! Sarah comes to mind as she broke her collarbone this fall…We were in awe as we saw the before-and-after x-rays at the miracle of how our bodies can heal!…Sarah has also learned to read in the past year [the same child who is taking the MCAT this week]. She astounds us as we read scriptures in the early morning hours (also a miracle) at how she is able to sound out words….That Julia has made it through this year is [itself] a miracle, truly. She is so curious (Her favorite stories are in the Curious George books). Through sickness and health she is ever a bright, cheerful, BUSY child. We wonder if (hope) things will subside a bit on the innocently getting into mischief side of things…Grandma McC said she’s “the singingest child” she’s seen….Rebecca’s entrace to this world last Christmas was a miracle [dramatic emergency C-section], and she …sleeps well, eats a lot…[and is] just beginning to show some surprising feistiness and spunk that we didn’t know she had in her sinces she’s been so easy-going…[Had we only known! LOL]….

The miracles in my lie are very day-to-day. I am learning to enjoy motherhood increasingly, although I still have those days that all moms have where it’s totally overwhelming. The mere passage of time is wonderful as our children grow up and can do more for themselves….

***pig card life gives you dirt

I found this cute card from one of my sisters in my journal. It says, “When life gives you dirt…Make mud pies!” When motherhood gets hard still or when I fall short of who I wish I were, I sometimes just need to laugh. And write it down, because I will forget it, and someday I will get to remember and laugh over it–or at least smile in gratitude for what I’ve learned.

It’s so nice when your sister sends you a card that encourages you. My sisters have been like that. I wish I were better at that these days! Now it’s just a quick text here and there!

Too tired to go back and edit this. Wish I had time to find more laughing photos. I know they are in the thousands somewhere! Much love to you all.




This is good stuff.


My favorite thing

Laughing photo me, Nate, Julia @Lauren's wedding reception

My niece-in-law took this candid, and I love it, because I think it honestly portrays how fun it is to be with my children. Nate and Julia make me laugh, and year after year, my husband and each of our children make my life so happy. I love being a wife and mother.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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