My older sister has been in town helping my mom after she had an accident. What a gift this has been, not only for the fun of being together and visiting, but also because my sister is a powerhouse of accomplishing. She has worked miracles in getting my mom’s home unpacked! I could hardly believe my eyes yesterday when I walked into my mom’s new place and saw how much progress she had made. What a blessing to have her fresh eyes and energy and talent there to make that happen. She is awesome!
I walked into my mom’s room to see the beautiful work Deborah had done and found this old photo on her night stand. It shows me and Debs when we were little, feeding a goat at a petting zoo. Deborah has always been the brave one! You can see from my cheeks why one of my nicknames as a child was “marshmallow.” 😊
We have enjoyed having them over to eat, and last night we gathered for a Thai dinner (Thai coconut soup from Costco, Pad Thai, and Jasmine rice), games and dessert. Pad Thai is not difficult to make, but it takes some time. I need to find a recipe for the sauce, because it is very expensive to buy bottled. If you have a good recipe, please share it with me!
Winter can be a bit of a grey time, with the cold, dark mornings and cold, drizzly, snowy weather. I love getting to serve a meal that is flavorful and colorful. It just helps to enliven the senses.
The Lemon Drop Jar
Rebecca made the lemon drop cookies with the lemon drops Lane gave me for Christmas. These are a cookie that I love to make in January, particularly because of the book The Lemon Drop Jar–one of my favorites! The Peanut Butter blossoms also never last long, either in the making of them or after they are plated.
Playing games together makes such great memories. You just feel the joy of being a family when you gather for a lovingly prepared meal and then laugh together while playing together. Such good times!
This year I’m working on my housecleaning plan (again). As the family needs change, so does the housecleaning. We live in a big house that gets messy and dirty quickly when everyone is home, but when 3 children are away at college and the other four are in school during the day, it is possible for me to get to some deep cleaning.
So I’ve made a rotation plan.
And today I worked on preparing my weekly housecleaning plan. My goal? To not have to spend more than one day on housecleaning, with small tasks on the other days doable in the early morning.
I have found that minimizing what is in a space makes it quicker and easier to keep it clean. This is a quick clean because I only have what I absolutely need and use every day.
Under this (kitchen) sink, I have the garbage, and on the left, dishwasher soap tablets (in a Ball half-gallon jar with a lid to prevent young children who might be over from getting into them). I also have one more Ball bottle that has new sponges and scrubbers in it behind that. On the right is the bleach and some vinegar in a spray bottle. I know you were dying to know, right? 😉
I scrubbed one oven rack and decided to clean the other two next time. I wonder how clean this one will stay in four weeks’ time? If I scrub one each month, will they get totally dirty again?
Always more to do
One thing I know about housecleaning: there is always more to do than time. I did all I had time for today and still have stuff on my list I wanted to do.
When you’re feeding 30-45 people dinner, you need a lot of rolls.
96, in fact.
That’s what we made last night: 3 packages of Rhodes frozen rolls, a Costco bag of frozen corn, 2 spiral hams, 3 salads, lots of boiled new potatoes and baked sweet potatoes, 3 cakes (lemon, poppy seed, and banana), and 1 bucket of vanilla ice cream.
The best part about cousin dinners isn’t the food, it’s the preparation when we are running into and elbowing each other trying to get it all done. It’s the college students trickling in through the front door taking their coats off and offering to help. It’s needing to open a window in the kitchen as the room heats up from the heat of the oven and from all the bodies gathering around to visit. It’s the volume of conversations swelling as more friends and family arrive. It’s the laughter that carries from the family room to the kitchen and the smiles that cover the faces we see as we scan the rooms.
I love it.
I always feel anxious the 24 hours before a cousin dinner. I’m not entirely sure why, since we’ve held enough of these dinners to know that they always come off fine and that our hearts are full of happiness after the last guest leaves and we’re up to our elbows in soapy water washing pans. Even when we are behind in getting the meal ready on time (which is most days), nobody is complaining. Is it because of all the details? Is it because of the numbers? I guess I’ve gotta feel anxious… just because I do?
Either way, it’s not enough to stop me from inviting these folks over. I’m grateful we live close enough to two colleges to get to enjoy these wonderful people’s company.
I know him from this hilarious Old Spice parody that our family loved when it came out in 2010:
And that’s all I know about Stephen Jones, except that I really appreciated his question (from the first video): Will what I am doing now matter in 1,000 years?
I also appreciated his search to find what he could do to support his family that would not only provide an income and insurance but be meaningful.
A magical stage of life
I’m at that magical (middle age) stage in life when I want to be doing something meaningful.
Ta-dah! I am! Being a wife and a parent–and particularly a mother– are the most significantly influential jobs in the entire world. What I do matters every day to my husband and children. They need love, food, structure, organization, emotional support, fun, inspiration. I help provide that. It’s a hard job! Some days I do it better than others.
Like the day over Christmas break when we went skiing, and Nate saw how much I love to ski fast. He loved seeing me take a jump and how I wanted to race him down the hill. Who knew that would be so fun for me at my age? I didn’t! “Mom, you’re the funnest when you’re skiing!” he remarked. 😂
But sometimes I want to do something more. I yearn to help people, to connect with them, to love them, to make a difference in their lives. I am preparing myself now to be able to get more education, to be able to reach out more, because there are so many people who need help. And I am capable of doing that.
It can be hard to wait. I mean, some days we all get tired of the daily routine. I know I do. Cooking? Cleaning? Laundry? Going to tutor a child who needs help sounds so much more inviting. Helping in a 100 different ways sounds so much more fun.
The reality of life
The reality of life is that there is a foundation that has to be built upon which we can serve. Someone has to earn the money to provide for the food, shelter, clothing, and other resources that allow us to get out and do more. Lane works so hard to do that for our family. Someday in the not-too-distant future, our children will be gone, and I will have more opportunities to work and serve than I can handle, probably.
For now I am blogging, because writing is second nature to me. I am not Emily Dickinson or Laura Ingalls or Anne Morrow Lindbergh or Lucy Maud Montgomery. I am Elizabeth Abigail Livingston with my own story to tell and my own grandchildren who might be interested in my voice someday, and they will hear it in my writing.
And someday I hope I can speak. I love to teach and to speak. Public speaking makes me nervous, but it also makes me excited. I’m unique (read “weird”) that way, because I love it when I’m asked to speak. (You won’t find me starting out a talk saying that I tried to avoid the Bishop so he wouldn’t ask me to give a talk on Sunday!) I love being around young mothers and encouraging them. I love being around young children and reading to and singing with them. I love encouraging young adults who are in the midst of decision-making. I love empathizing with someone who feels anxious or depressed. I like to feed people (but I don’t love to cook. Haha! How does that work?). If I had millions of dollars to spend, I would plan for building libraries for children to go to, beautiful libraries like the Orem Public Library, and community centers for music recitals and art exhibits and plays to be performed. I would foster literacy programs so that people could learn to read to their children. I loved reading to my children!
Nearing the precipice
I feel like I’m nearing the precipice of a new and exciting time in my life. Someday I’ll be a grandmother. I can’t wait for that. Someday I’ll get to help others more. I can’t wait. Someday I’ll write a book. I will keep working on my bucket list. I am going to make wonderful memories with my family, with my friends, and with people I have never met before.
Once upon a time I was a little girl whose family was in turmoil. My dad left, my heart broke, and the future looked terribly frightening and bleak. But things have a way of working out. Christ can heal things that are broken, and my own life has gotten better. I have grown up, I got my undergraduate degree, I served a mission in the middle of that, I married someone who gets more wonderful each year, and we have some of the best children I could ever have asked for. Together, we are all learning and growing, making mistakes and seeing successes. I put my trust in God, and He keeps helping me along my path.
Excited for the future
I am so excited for the future! The future is as bright as our faith, and I have faith that I am going to get to love grandchildren and serve in my community in the not-too-distant future.
Action an antidote for anxiety
Some days I get anxious about the future. Some days I feel filled with anxiety. But one antidote to anxiety is action. I want to make a difference. I want to fill the world with love. I want to share the gospel. I will prepare now so that I can.
Here’s my spontaneous Saturday morning tutorial, for all of you sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to learn! 😂
So it’s a little awkward but hilarious. This is me as I look on a Saturday morning, hair pulled back and working clothes on. No need for make-up! Please pardon the filming–it would be better re-done, but who has time for that today? (I can hear my children saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”) I have work to do!
Notes on the conversation during the video: We went to Asilomar for a family reunion. That’s where I met the cleaning woman at the laundry mat who told me about her health problems related to cleaning chemicals. She had to stop cleaning for a while, which was her full-time job, and then returned with natural cleaning products.
I have used vinegar before, but decided I wanted to use it all the time. Cheaper, simpler. I know that many people just use water with their Norwex rags. I don’t. I just want to know that it is absolutely sanitized. It is the TOILET after all.
I like Norwex cleaning cloths for specific jobs, but we don’t use them exclusively. They are pricey! We use old hand towels, socks that have holes in them, cut up t-shirts, and other rags for our cleaning. I don’t use paper towels very often, except in the kitchen with cooking. Why spend lots of money on cleaning?
The steps I used in this video are different from the card I prepared for my children. But it’s essentially the same, and I don’t care which order of steps my children clean it if they get it all clean.
We often begin a new scripture memorization at the beginning of the week during our scripture study. (We do so if we finished memorizing the verse from the week before–otherwise we usually keep working on it). This week we are starting to learn James 1:5-6 in French. I decided that the font was kind of small in the bathroom to be able to see from a few feet away, so I enlarged it and am just having it out in the bathroom instead of 3 languages on the same page. I also decided to switch out the poster above it when we start memorizing the verses it its corresponding language.
Click on the image above or here for a printable PDF of the verse in French (8″ x 11″ poster).
Click here for the printable PDF of the French poster for Ask.
Here’s the audio (non-native speaker, that’s me):
Next week (or in 2 weeks) we will learn the same verses German, which means that I need to get a recording of it and find out how to pronounce it! 😁
Here were the successes: 2 of the 4 jobs got done before school.
This is our learning week, so we aren’t having natural consequences of not getting it done before school while we learn. (Should we ever? That is a good question.)
Thinking about it at 4 am
I woke up at 4 am (not on purpose, just how my body works) and considered what I still had yet to do to prepare for their success this morning: I needed to orient them to where the supplies were so they could get their jobs done quickly, as we’re asking. That meant I needed to have supplies there. .
Prepping the supplies
I went in and pulled out the mess from inside the cabinets and wiped the cupboard clean–enough for my purposes, as I didn’t have lots of time before they needed to start at 6 am. I put a basket of cleaning rags in one side of the cabinet and cleaning materials (vinegar, cleanser, toilet brush) in the plastic bin already there (a former biscotti container). I put the garbage can liners in a drawer on the other side of the cabinet.
In the other cabinet, I did the same: pulled out the mess, wiped out the cabinet, and put one extra folded bath mat in the back and the hand towels in the front. I restocked feminine hygiene supplies so the person whose job that is would know what it should look like when it is stocked. I left what mess could be easily taken care of by the children as they cleaned and took some other things out and put them away.
Orienting each child
The page pictured above wouldn’t print, so I explained to each child what the sign says and verbally walked them through their job.
They went to it.
There were a few questions and a few adjustments. I forgot something on a job (description) card, so I wrote it in after the fact and checked it off, since it got done. 😊
2 out of 4
Rebecca didn’t have time to do her shower nor Anna her garbage and floors. The others took too long and got started late. But I came downstairs to see two job cards on the counter and dirty rags in the mudroom. Everyone made it out the door for school with a bite of breakfast and minimal lunch in hand and a prayer and fast scriptures!
The other two jobs will get done later today.
On my list: find a squeegee and another bath mat and a few more hand towels.
I want to help my children learn the process of learning to do something and be able to govern themselves more. So I decided to show the progression (as I understand it, which I’m positive is not a complete understanding) of learning how to clean something.
It is going to take some decision-making on their part, which is exactly what I want them to do. Once they are trained (demonstrating the first 3 principles of cleaning to me), then they can begin working on the rest of the principles.
Need new tracking chart, more definition
On the tracking chart, they will write 4B each day that they are working on learning how to clean well and fast. I needed to define “well” and “fast” so they know which parameters they are aiming for.
If they do that for 6 days, they will earn $10, which is more than $1/day (to do what they are required to do anyway). Then they will have to decide if they want to continue and go for the next amount. On day 7, if they decide to go for the next amount, they will write “4B” on that day. (I can see I need to change the tracking chart to simplify it.)
Decision: Make less per day but more in the end?
The amount diminishes the longer they progress, but it is still more cumulatively the longer they keep working on a principle. They can earn up to $25/month just doing their job and learning to do it better.
But it will be self-driven, because that is how it seems to me that God does things. He doesn’t force us. He is so patient and waits for us to come to him to ask, to seek, to knock. In our home, we are requiring our children to work, but we cannot force the learning. We are inviting them to learn at whatever speed they want and to earn as much as they want (up to our budget allotment).
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Each child will work on this differently, I’m sure. One child might work on principle 4 the entire year. They will still be able to earn the same amount as a different child who has different desires and motivation. That is fine! (Of course, I’d love it if they all passed off every principle as fast as possible, but let’s be real. I’m not that consistent. But hey! Maybe one of them will surprise me?)
As I mentioned before, it has taken me more than 45 years to learn how to keep my own room clean, and I’m learning to keep my bathroom clean. So to expect my children to learn to keep their bathroom clean as a team in one year is a tall order. So my expectations aren’t going to be mastery. But I really have a lot of faith in my children and their abilities to do better than I did. It will be easier for me to be gentle and patient with them as they learn to keep their bathroom clean when I remember how long it has taken me to learn to do what I am asking.
Want to learn more?
If you want to learn more about what is an appropriate expectation for children at different ages, here is some good information about age characterisitics of children.
It’s Fast Sunday for us today. I hung this little reminder last night, like I have done almost every month for years. I put it up on Saturday night or early Sunday morning to help our family remember to not eat (or drink) when they get up and come to the kitchen.
What is Fast Sunday?
Fast Sunday is the first Sunday of the month when we don’t eat or drink anything for 2 meals or 24 hours. (Today isn’t the first Sunday, but it was changed in our stake for this month.) Typically, we skip breakfast and lunch. We pray and study scriptures and focus on spiritual needs. We try to fast and pray with a purpose: fasting praying for a sick neighbor or family member, to gain the spiritual strength we need to face a certain temptation or addiction, to give thanks for so many blessings. We invite our children 8 years and older to fast, but those who are younger or pregnant women or those with special health needs are advised not to fast. No one is forced to fast!
Last month I forgot Fast Sunday. I think it might have been the first time I have forgotten for as long as I can remember. Surely there have been other times, but it’s just one of those habits that we have established. So when my oldest daughter came over on Sunday and asked why we were eating instead of fasting, my jaw dropped.
It’s pretty normal to forget, especially when you are growing up. Even with me mentioning it to our family or signs going up, children forget. Just life.
It’s a gift
I can’t say how grateful I am for the habit and blessing of fasting. I believe fasting has helps me stay closer to my Heavenly Father, has helped me find answers to questions, concerns, and problems, has helped me be healthier, and has helped me maintain my weight.
I love this verse that I read this morning that tells about some of the blessings of fasting: “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).
Testimony meeting at home today
We have some very slippery conditions outside today, so our stake president canceled all meetings today to help keep the members safe. Usually on Fast Sunday, we have a “fast and testimony” meeting during sacrament meeting in which any member who feels so inspired can go to the podium and share their testimony with the congregation, from 8-year-old children to the elderly. Today we will have that meeting at home. I’m excited! It will be a great opportunity to strengthen our faith and feel the Spirit at home.
When it comes to job charts and trying to teach children to clean up after themselves, I am a “cockeyed optimist!”
In 2017, I want to teach my 4 children at home to clean their bathroom.
Is that so hard?
Yep. It is. But I’m going to do it anyways.
It has taken me about 45 years to learn how to keep my room clean on a daily basis. (That is a long time.) I was a really messy child! I really love having a clean room now! I wonder if I could have learned faster with some specific instruction as to how to keep a room clean. I hope I can help my children learn to keep their bathroom clean in one year. 😂 Then perhaps they will apply theses skills when they leave home.
“Stuck like a dope with a thing called hope”
Maybe I can learn to keep MY bathroom clean this year, too! 👍
Here’s my plan.
The back of the bathroom door has the job descriptions on it.
Each child has one job they do all month.
The toilet paper on the sign (far left) rotates down one square on the first of the month to show who is to do which job. The first person to wake up on the first of the month and remember can rotate the chart.
The training cards (above) are in a rectangular vase on the bathroom counter. There is also a wet erase pen there.
Each day the children do their job, they have to check off the steps.
They also need to check off the tracking chart (middle) on the back of the bathroom door for that day.
They bring the training card to the kitchen counter, and I review their work when I have a minute.
If the job is done correctly, I rinse off the card and put it back into the vase. If it isn’t done, I mark the card with a different color and put it back on the kitchen counter for them to re-do as soon as possible.
Their job has to be done before school in order to leave for school.
At the end of each week, if a child earns a reward, they will get paid.
They have to mark the reward that they earned on the chart on the back of the bathroom.
They mark the letter of the reward they are working on when they mark the chart each day.
There are so many hiccups in daily life that I know accomplishing this goal will be a stretch. It completely depends on the individual motivation of each child. Teamwork matters, too, obviously, and is a typical hitch to plans like this. But I hope it’s simple enough to be accomplishable. I will see as we get going!
"You may at last, when old and feeble, learn that the greatest mission of all is to strengthen your own family and the families of others, to seal the generations." Boyd K. Packer, "The Golden Years"
who am i?
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What happened to our Christmas card this year?
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our family theme for 2017
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You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me.
❧ Strickland Gillian, "The Reading Mother"
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Our Family Mission Statement
Our Livingston Legacy
is to leave the world we live in
better than we found it:
more full of love, cleaner, happier, safer, lovelier, more organized, better educated, healthier, and more peaceful. We will do this by keeping our covenants with Christ individually and as a family and by helping others to come unto Him. We will report to God and each other, strengthen and encourage one another every day,
and do it all to glorify God.
13 July 2014
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