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Courage to Be You

I haven’t ever met Gail Miller, but after listening to her read her book (on the Bookshelf app), I feel like I got to have a wonderful, long visit with a very kind and wise woman.

Gail Miller is an unpretentious, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth kind of woman who raised 5 children and supported her entrepreneur husband in developing a multi-billion dollar business and many philanthropic efforts. They collaborated to such a degree during their lives that after he passed, she assumed his role as CEO and has carried on the legacy they built together.

(I have more to write but will have to return later! If you have any comments on this book, please share them below. Thanks!)


The Boys in the Boat

When was the last time you cheered while listening to a book?

Today I did while listening to The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics (by Daniel James Brown; adapted for young readers by Gregory Mone). The best of biographies don’t get much better than this!

Brown tells the story not only of the 9 members of the 1936 USA Olympic Rowing Team but also the painful-to-triumphant personal journey of Joe Rantz. If you find yourself facing challenges and need an inspiring story to help motivate you (besides the scriptures, of course!), I recommend this story without reservation!

Here is a part that I want to remember that has so much relevance to family life. One of the coaches, George Pocock, approaches Joe at a definitive point of his rowing career. (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you are planning to read or listen to the book!) He says that he has been observing him and noticed that Joe “was a fine oarsman. He’d noted a few technical faults, but that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. He said that there were times when Joe seemed to think he was the only one in the boat. He rowed as if it was up to him to row the boat across the finish line all by himself. When a man rowed like that, Pocock said, he was bound to attack the water rather than to work with it. Worse, he would not be able to let his crew help him now.

“The Englishman suggested that Joe think of a well-rowed race as a symphony; and himself as just one player in the orchestra. If one fellow in the orchestra was playing out of tune, or playing at a different tempo, the whole piece would naturally be ruined. That’s the way it was with rowing. What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about everyone on his crew. He had to bive himself up to the rowing, but he had to do even more. He had to give himself up to his crewmates too. ‘If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him,’ Pocock said. ‘It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do.’

“Pocock paused and looked up. ‘Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys,’ Pocock said, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.’

I would recommend this book to illustrate the power of hard work, unity, team work, goal setting, perseverence, grit, poverty, unkindness, loyalty, forgiveness, patience, believing in yourself and others, human potential, overcoming obstacles, the Olympic dream, frugality, the Word of Wisdom, determination, hope, and love. And Matthew 22:39.

(Note: I diverted from my media-break-to-do-family-history because my blog is a place where I keep quotes that I refer back to, kind of like my memory! I needed to write this down for future reference before I forgot!)

I would recommend this book for anyone who is old enough to read it. There is some sad material but has been adapted for young readers. I have not read the original book written for adults, so I cannot make a recommendation for readership accordingly.

This book is part of the Raising Amazing Children Friendship Library Project (RACFLP). Please comment below to share your favorite part or quote from the book.


January 2019: Some thoughts

January is a month of fresh starts. The past two weeks, however, have felt like a month already. We got the house cleaned up from Christmas except for the piles upon piles of stuff in the office and piles that keep resurfacing in the mudroom. I really don’t like that. I like to get things clean and have them stay that way for at least a short period of time!

I’ve learned that I’m really good at making piles. This year, I want to learn how to live and accomplish without making piles. I think the key to it is to not gather stuff in the first place, to let get of stuff quickly, and to clean up as you go. In our home, I haven’t been able to get in there to clean up these residual piles because of the family schedule, seasonal flu, and all the other plans life throws at us (“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”).

Too many goals, like desk piles

Sometimes life feels like my office: too many goals just piled up on top of me. This year, I’m going to do something about that. I’m picking 5 goals, one for each finger of one hand: 1. I want to grow closer to my Savior; 2. I want to grow physically (in health and ability); 3. I want grow kinder. That includes being kind to my family (present and past–through family history work) and friends; 4. I want to continue to simplify my life/my home more, so they are quicker to clean up and so I can learn not to complicate life; 5: I want to be more private about it. So I’m going to limit my social media and focus more on nightly journaling and family history. Maybe in a year from now, I’ll check in and let you know how it’s going and what I’ve learned.

Blog: 12 books, tidied sidebar, and rest put aside

I AM going to finish up one of my goals from 2018–the 12 books for teens in 2018. I would like to keep posting about books that I would recommend for teens, but I’m not going to put a number on it this year. I just want to finish what I start reading this year. I started lots of books last year, got interrupted, and didn’t finish. So maybe this year I’ll be happy to just read Saints and a couple of other books if I can just finish them! (I did get to read The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley this week when I’ve had the flu. Loved it.)

I updated my sidebar today, but I won’t be updating it each month this year. I want to focus on other things. I’m not going to work on some of the pursuits mentioned on my sidebar, such as making any more audio recordings in French of Le Livre de Mormon because I have other things I’m focusing on, and that’s what feels peaceful to me. I might post periodically about books, music, movies, or other things that I recommend, because that is something I really love to share, and this is a good format to do it in.

A more private year

Hope your year goes well! I will say that last year I definitely felt peace in Christ lots of times, which was my goal. I’m so grateful. Our family theme for this year is “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” I’m very excited about coming to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ better this year through study, application/service, prayer, and missionary, temple, and family history work. I may not post very much about it. I’m kind of excited to have a more private year!

All the best to you in 2019!


The most wonderful time of year

It’s that wonderful time of year when gift-giving for me can start feeling a little out of control, even if I’ve planned ahead. 

To help ease that feeling of not knowing what I have accumulated, I print out my Christmas Gift Inventory page for each person. 

Some things are still simpler and faster for me on paper than on my phone or on a gift app.

We give each person in our family a stocking of 10 small items, 3 gifts (representing the Three King’s gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh), and a gift from “Santa.”

Once I get those things written down, I feel much more at ease! I know where I am in my gift plan, and what I have left to obtain. 

If you like this inventory, you can click here to go to the printable PDF.

To view more Christmas organizational ideas, go here.


Job chart revisions, again and forever

This fall we all downloaded a great app for doing jobs. “How’d that work for you?” “I didn’t.”

(BTW, I just noticed the total numbers are wrong at the bottom of the chart after I revised it. LOL. Guess I will fix those!)

It really is a great app, but it wasn’t working for us. Not with our personalities, perhaps. We needed something simpler. There is something about having a visibly posted chart that we see frequently that just seems to work better for us. Maybe it’s being able to see the whole expectation and accountability at a glance? I don’t know for sure. I just know that we’re back to time cards posted on the fridge. (Someday I’d love to create, or see created, a web-interfaced job chart that you could have on a digital device posted in the kitchen that would be simliar to this job chart–so you could post it, see it, report by tapping on it, and the data could be assimilated into user-friendly reports, useful to parents and children alike.)

Digital stockpiling mess

One thing that was annoying about the app was that when you didn’t do a job, you had to do something about each little job that wasn’t completed. Those stock piled and became an annoyance. It added to the work of tracking work.

Normal cycles

Our family goes through cycles of normal daily living: some days you do really well getting your jobs done, other days not as well. It can depend upon schedule changes such as vacation or team events or homework overload or “what have you.” It’s just life! Life changes! So when all the jobs not done piled up, no one wanted to deal with the digital upkeep of moving jobs to the next day, etc. With so many little jobs per day per child, it just added up and became a pain to deal with.

Reviewing progress

When we complete these job charts, I just stick them in a folder. The idea is to review them with the parent after a period of time, to see what progress is being made and to praise that progress. We might also discuss any patterns of incompletion to see how we can help or if there needs to be a change or a consequence or whatever. Lane and I typically just address this generally in family council. Maybe we need an incentive to help everyone refocus and try again. We could do better at reviewing on an individual basis (those personal priesthood interviews we’re supposed to have….)


And hooray for vacation: it’s so nice to have a break from the routine of daily jobs! We LOVE vacation! It is healthy and happy and so important.

Working at it (pun intended)

Just a side note: The reason I keep posting about this topic is to show that things change over time. Families and children and parents and schedules all change, and so adaptations need to be made. We all need change to progress! I want people to see that we are just a normal family, and that it requires review and adaptation and recommitment to the routine to help children learn to work and to build family unity. It isn’t something that just happens because you’re a “good family.” Just like everything else to being a happy family, you have to WORK at it. Over and over again.


The Little Red Car (NOT free)

My sister-in-law called me today asking for some book recommendations for a toddler for Christmas. I told her I wish I could find a copy of The Little Red Car by K.K. Ross, which was Sarah’s favorite when she was tiny. It was so loved that it eventually fell apart, and I think I threw it away.

We both “hopped” online and looked to see if we could find it. Oh, yes, it’s there, but it’s no longer $2.95.

It’s $1,024.99! 


I texted that info to Sarah and guess what I learned: She doesn’t remember the story! Which is an interesting piece of information. I bet if I had the text and started reading it to her in the same way (with all the sound effects that I once made for this story) if it would come right back to her mind…?

Maybe someday if I find it at a D.I. or Goodwill and snatch it up, I can test my theory! 😉

(To see a list of board book titles that we love, go here.)




BOOK (free)

If you sign up for free on familius.com–a publishing company whose mission is to help families be happy–you get a free children’s e-book, Book. Now I don’t prefer e-books to tangible books that you can smell and hold in your hands and hear the sound of turning pages, but Book is a delightful reminder of the wonderful gift that paper books are: you don’t have to charge them, they can’t get viruses, and they can magically transport us again and again to “a place that only you can imagine.”

I love that thought: no one’s imagination of what a story looks like in their heads is quite the same as any one else’s!

Familius prints some really wonderful books. I recommend taking a look! (Plus, you get a free e-book each month!)

(Note: I don’t advertise on my blog. Anything I recommend is simply because I think it will help strengthen women, children, or families.)

To learn other ways to get free books, go here. (Or visit your local library!)


Last Friday, Anna wanted homemade rootbeer, Peter wanted homemade doughnuts, and I wanted sloppy joes without ketchup in them.

We made all three, and Anna ended up going to a play and not getting to be home for the rootbeer. Peter headed out to a friends’ home, but came back with friends to eat the doughnuts. Eliza, Lane and I enjoyed all three!

I made the sloppy joes with maybe 2 pounds ground beef, 1 small can of tomato paste, maybe 2 -2 1/2 cups of garden tomatoes that had been roasted in the oven in garlic olive oil and salt and frozen, some Worchestershire sauce (3 tablespoons?), and salt and pepper to taste. Oh! And we added a little lactose-free milk at the end to cut the acidity. (It’s a little trick Liza learned from my dad…or the Italian cookbook he gave her…or both.)

(To roast the tomatoes, Eliza rinsed and peeled some of them, cut them in half, put on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or aluminum foil, drizzled them garlic olive oil and sprinkled salt over the top. She baked them at 350 ℉ for about an hour, then put them in jumbo cupcake pan cups which had Ziploc bags in them, then froze them in early-usable portions. I used two of those cups.)

I really liked the rich, savory tomato flavor. My friend said they were the best sloppy joes she’d ever had. We ate them on slider buns. Kind of a fun Friday night change of pace!

For the homemade rootbeer, I think we added 3 tablespoons of rootbeer flavoring and less than a cup of sugar to 1 gallon of water. We stirred those up so the sugar could dissolve and then added about 2 pounds of dry ice. (See video on Instagram).

The doughnut recipe came from Taste of Home, and they are about the yummiest homemade doughnut I’ve ever eaten in. my. life.

And just for fun, here’s a little Shakespeare for you (courtesy poetryfoundation.org):

Song of the Witches: “Double, double toil and trouble”

(from Macbeth)
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Macbeth: IV.i 10-19; 35-38

Today I began to fulfill one of my dreams, the Raising Amazing Children Friendship Library Project. This project involves sharing books we have loved found inspiring that we want to share with others.

I feel so happy! I feel the same kind of satisfaction I feel when I plant bulbs in the fall and know that some beautiful flowers will bloom in the spring.

I shared 3 books today: a children’s book (Over and Over), a young adult book (Just Mercy), and a mother’s book (The Birth Partner).

Just Mercy

Just Mercy is a powerful book that my family and I listened to as we drove to and from California on fall break. My friend Heidi had recommended it, and I told Sarah about it, who got it on Audible. She told Rebecca about it, who purchased the book and began reading it. They both then told me about it, so I started listening to it on Audible. Then I shared it with the family.

This is not a pleasant story that Mr. Stevenson has to tell, but it is a story that needs to be told and heard. Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer and founded of the Equal Justice Initiative and an advocate for people who have been unjustly incarcerated or sentenced and put on death row. I was astonished to hear some of his stories. They are heartbreaking! It is like learning about slavery for the first time. We could hardly believe that the stories he was recounting were happening in our lifetime.

Our family listened to the unabridged version of Just Mercy, but I decided to share the young adult version because in this version, the difficult stories are described in not such a graphic way as the original story yet still convey what happened.

An historically important book

In my mind, this is a very important book. We need to know the injustices that are happening in our country. I just voted this week, and I will say that I was much more interested in reading about the judges’ evaluations before I voted for them. I want to know what is happening in my city, in my state, in our country to provide justice and mercy as our forefathers intended. We need to ensure that those accused of crimes are presumed innocent and must be proven guilty before they are sentenced for a crime!

We also need to be aware of what is going on in our prison system. And I better understand now why the Savior said to visit those who are in prison. I would like to do that in a few more years when my children are grown and I am more at liberty to become involved in service and causes that I care about.

After listening to this book, I have noticed SO many more scriptural references in my Book of Mormon reading to equality and justice and taking care of the poor and needy–more than I ever have in the numerous times that I’ve read the Book of Mormon through. i know more than ever that the Lord wants us to learn to not judge, to be more compassionate, to help liberate the captive and to bless the lives of those in need.

I was able to attend, with four of our children, Mr. Stevenson’s forum lecture at BYU right after we finished listening to his book. I highly recommend watching it if and when it becomes available or reading the review.

If you receive this book from a friend as part of the RACFLP, we’d love to hear what you think! Please comment below. If you’d like, please tell us in which state or country you live. If the comment form below doesn’t work, you are welcome to email me: liz (at) raisingamazingchildren.com. Thank you!


Once upon a time I gave birth to Sarah. I had wanted a natural childbirth, but only attended one Lamaze class with Lane. We were young, busy college students and didn’t go back.

One class wasn’t enough preparation to deliver naturally. My water broke, and Sarah was posterior, causing discomfort with the back labor during contractions. After some time, I asked the nurse if I could have something to help with the pain that wasn’t an epidural. She said I could try “Nubain,” a narcotic that caused me to be so sleepy that I could hardly stay awake. I hated it.

Feeling drugged

I was able to deliver Sarah after nearly 8 hours of active labor (including more than 2 hours of pushing). I decided that the way I felt during this birth experience due to the medication was not one I wanted to repeat. I set out to learn more.

I went to the library and checked out whatever I could find on childbirth. I learned about something called a “doula,” or childbirth coach. Then I learned that Lane’s cousin, who was studying to become a midwife, was a doula. We contacted her, and she generously offered to be our doula for free!

Finding a doula

My second childbirth experience was so much more empowering! I had read quite a bit and was more mentally prepared. When Nathan came 9 days late, and my water broke again, I was ready to have Marianne guide me through the experience. She did a phenomenal job helping me with guided visualization and other techniques, and Baby Nate was born about 4 hours later. I left the hospital just 12 hours later, feeling so much better and so much happier!

When I was pregnant with Julia, I hired a doula who helped me through all but one of the rest of my pregnancies and childbirths. (She was out of town for Anna’s birth, but had a wonderful back-up doula that we loved as well.) I also attended natural childbirth classes. Over time, I was able to have 5 natural childbirths. The other two births (my fourth and sixth births) were an emergency C-section and another back labor, that I decided I did NOT want to do without some relief. I had epidurals for both.

Training to become a doula

When I was pregnant with Rebecca, I decided to train to become a doula. That was also a wonderful experience. During that training, I discovered this book, The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, which I have lent to multiple expectant mothers over the years. It is a wonderful resource to help a woman learn what she can to do have a better birth experience, including how, with the help of another person (husband, doula, friend, etc.) alleviate some of the pain of childbirth and deal with the stress involved in this beautiful yet intense experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not against epidurals! I just believe that if you don’t need medication, why take the risk and spend hundreds of dollars for something you don’t need?

Learn more; become empowered

Knowledge really is power. I encourage all new (or not new) expectant mothers to learn more about pregnancy and childbirth and actively plan how they can have a positive birth experience. I believe that sharing this book as part of our Friendship Library Project can help more mothers do just that.

If you receive this book from a friend as part of the RACFLP, we’d love to hear what you think! Please comment below. If you’d like, please tell us in which state or country you live. If the comment form below doesn’t work, you are welcome to email me: liz (at) raisingamazingchildren.com. Thank you!