My Non-fiction Reading List

When his adopted grandson entered college, George Washington lectured him thus: “Light reading (by this, I mean books of little importance) may amuse for the moment, but leaves nothing solid behind.”  (from Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow).

The books in this list are books that I feel are of much more than “little importance”and they leave behind lessons that are worth learning! I learned a lot from reading them and would recommend all of them to everyone!

The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler

This book is a great handbook for families who, as the author states in the introduction, “have survived the parental death march of sippy cups and diaper caddies”. A guide for families who are facing the challenge of raising children in a modern world.

Leadership and Self-deception: Getting Out of the Box and The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, both by The Arbinger Institute
These are both great books to read, with life-changing lessons if you open yourself up to it. A good reminder of how much our way of being influences the success we have in our relationships, both at home or in the workplace. Through an intriguing story we learn how and why we contribute to the divisions and problems we blame on others and the surprising way that these problems can be solved.

I Am a Mother by Jane Clayson Johnson

How do we get women to stop saying, “I’m just a mother”? Or, “I used to be such and such, but now I’m just a mother”? Jane’s fascinating personal story and unique insights will inspire women to raise their awareness and perception of this important–and often difficult–role.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

The author tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

I would recommend it for everyone to read. It is thought provoking on the subject of aging and death, and what that means in a modern medical setting. A topic that everyone is going to have to consider at some point, whether dealing with aging parents or ill loved ones or facing our own mortality.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Businss by Charles Duhigg

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism by Arthur C. Brooks

America’s Charity Divide: Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why it Matters

How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen

In this groundbreaking book, Christensen puts forth a series of questions: How can I be sure that I’ll find satisfaction in my career? How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness? How can I avoid compromising my integrity—and stay out of jail? Using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses, he provides incredible insights into these challenging questions.

In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The last lecture he gave–“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”–wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

A biography well worth reading about one of the greatest men to ever live.

The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling

Dancing electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling shares her unconventional journey in an inspiring New York Times bestselling memoir filled with the energy, persistence, and humor that have helped her successfully pursue a passion outside the box.

I am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai 

Malala’s powerful story will open your eyes to another world and will make you believe in hope, truth, miracles and the possibility that one person — one young person — can inspire change in her community and beyond.

What non-fiction books have inspired you?

The 2017 Summer Daily List

I am a list-maker at heart, so when summertime comes around I am secretly thrilled at the opportunity to make a new list to help my children organize their days. This summer our lists come in two pieces: a Household Work chart and a Daily Must Do list. Keep in mind that my children are ages 12, 9, and 7 (the 2-year old is currently exempt from the list).

The Household Work chart is simply our chore chart, and includes 5 sections. Chores are rotated weekly (I just move the names around on the chart).

  • Morning Things are the typical get ready for the day tasks: get dressed, brush teeth and hair, make your bed, make sure your clothes are put away. Each child does this everyday.
  • Each child is given one Daily Job: empty bathroom trash and wipe down the sink, empty recycling, or empty dishwasher. My kids have been doing these tasks for a while now and are comfortable with each of the tasks.
  • I am changing things up for our 5 o’clock Jobs (this used to be table jobs, and each child was in charge of one aspect of setting the table-plates, forks, or filling water cups). In our new system, one child is the dinner helper–they help me with meal preparations, and they get to give input on the menu for the week. One person is in charge of setting the table. One person is in charge of keeping the two-year-old brother Adam happy and out of trouble.
  • We have tried After Dinner Jobs in the past, but haven’t been very successful. It is often easier for me to just do the dishes, but I am finally ready to spend the time teaching my kids how to clean up after a meal. One person will clear the table and sweep the floor, one person will wash the table and load the dishwasher, and the other will rinse and wash dishes.
  • Weekly Jobs are once a week, usually on Saturdays. We have two bathrooms, and a living room, so each child gets one room. They have already been doing these jobs for a while and are fairly independent.

The other big part of our summer schedule is our Daily Must Do list. The tasks on the list are things that we believe are important to do everyday. The list includes:

  • 30 minutes of exercise (before 9 a.m.): The Florida heat and humidity keeps us mostly inside (except when we are at the pool), so it is important to get moving outside before it is too hot. The kids like ride bikes or rollerblades, or we will run/walk a few miles.
  • Scripture study: Lily and Zach each have a goal to read The Book of Mormon this year. Anwyn has her own scripture study goals.
  • Piano practice (20 minutes a day): I teach piano lessons year-round, and summertime is the perfect time to make progress.
  • Workbook pages: I ordered these Summer Brain Quest workbooks for Zach and Lily. They add stickers to a map when they complete their tasks, and the material is pretty engaging. It will keep them thinking. As a rising seventh grader, Anwyn has a school assignment to work on, or she will find other things to learn and review.
  • Memorization: we work on memorizing Articles of Faith or scriptures that we study at Family Home Evening.
  • Life Skills (choose 2 from the list): life skills are activities that we feel are worthwhile. Most activities can take 10-20 minutes each (but my hope is that they will get immersed in a task-like LEGO for example–and spend a lot more time on some). I put together a list for reference, and it includes skills that we want our kids to learn (for example-Zach needs to learn how to tie his shoes summer, and I want to focus on kitchen skills measuring, peeling, eggs, and following a recipe). You can download my list of activities here: 2017 Life Skills Suggestions

There are two other sections on the Daily List page. The Healthy Eating section gives space to keep track of the number of fruit and vegetables and sweet treats eaten each day (hopefully the fruits and veggies will far outnumber the treats!). I included this section to encourage the children to be mindful about what they are eating each day.

The last section is a Family Time Report. This is something new that I am trying. Our children need some practice speaking in front of people, so this will be their opportunity to present something that they have learned or worked on or read that day.

You may notice that I don’t have any reading time on our list. My kids are avid readers, and getting them to read is not hard (really, the effort is to get them to do something besides reading!).

By now, the question you may be asking is “how do you get your kids to actually do the list?!”. The biggest motivator for my children is getting screen time (xbox, movies, computer games, etc). The question I hear from my kids everyday is “When do we get screen time?” And the answer is “When you have finished your list.” My children will earn ten minutes for each item they complete on their Daily list, for a total of 60 minutes. If there is whining or complaining about their jobs, then they can lose screen time. Screen time if not used cannot be used another day. Screen time must be finished by 5 p.m., to prepare for dinner and allow for family time after dinner.

Completing the list should really only take 1-2 hours, and the rest of the day is open for other activities like going to the pool, playing with friends, etc.

Any questions???

Feel free to download the lists I created here: 2017 Summer List (includes the chore list and the daily must do’s).

This is what I have planned for our summer, and I’m sure I will end up tweaking it overtime. Over the years I have had a lot of different versions of the daily list. See the 2015 version, the 2014 version , the 2011 version, and the 2009 version (when my kiddos were just itty bitty!!).

Learning Principles of Peace from the PRINCE of PEACE

Have you watched this video yet?

We watched it as a family last night on Sunday, and it is powerful.

Today for Family Home Evening we will learn more about the eight Principles of Peace that are featured on I love the videos that are posted for each principle (many of them brought tears to my eyes as I viewed them), but I think some of the content would be a little over the heads of my children. So tonight we will use a good old fashioned easter egg hunt to learn about the principles. On the website you can find corresponding scriptures for each principle. I will put each scripture in an egg for the children to find. As we open them we read the scripture and discuss as a family. If you want to view the scriptures are all in one place, I have compiled them below.


He offers peace to all who follow him. He lived, died, and lived again, so we may all live again. His resurrection brings us peace, now and forever.

He is Jesus Christ. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Prince of Peace.


“As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.”

—Mark 5:36


“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

—Matthew 4:4


“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.”

—Matthew 14:14


“And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”

—John 11:41


“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

—Matthew 21:22


“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”

—Luke 6:37


“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

—Isaiah 1:18

PEACE through HOPE

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. . . . For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

—1 Corinthians 15:19, 22

Two books to read when the night seems too scary

Sometimes my children are afraid in the night time. Sometimes I am afraid in the night time! It can happen to us all. We recently came upon two books that helped to put the scary dark and night sounds into a more positive view. Definitely worth a read to any child!

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Love Monster and the Scary Something by Rachel Bright


Two new snowy books for January

January to me means snow. Unfortunately, we don’t get any snow in Florida, so instead I try to fill my need for snow by reading about it! This year I discovered two more snow books to add to our January reading list.

Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky

Snow by Uri Shulevitz

Resources for a Roadtrip

Our family is planning a major road trip this summer: 19 states plus Ontario in 15 days! To keep everyone happy, I have been collecting ideas and activities from all over the web. You can check out my Road Trip Pinterest board here. Here is what I have planned and organized so far. These are all ideas that I am using for my children ages 6, 8, and 11. My 14 month-old is a whole different story, but my plans for him will be saved for another day.

National Geographic Kids United States Atlas: I purchased this a month ago to help us get to know the states that we will be visiting. It will come in the car as a reference guide to help the children answer their state activity worksheets (see below).

Each child picked out a new coloring/activity book. These Extreme Dot-to-Dot books are a great challenge for my 11-year-old. We have been a fan of the Color Counts Color by Number books for years, and my 8-year-old picked this one. We are trying something new for my 6-year-old, the Usborne Big Maze Book. It looks really cool. I will use a clear laminate sheet to put over the mazes, then Zach can use a dry erase marker to do the mazes multiple times.

Each child gets a 1″ binder to keep all of their activities. The binder can function as a hard writing surface. Binder coversheets (to make it pretty and fun) can be found here (let’s go on an adventure) and here (travel kit with cute cars on a road).

Things to include in the binder:

  • A blank map of the USA. Children can color each state as we drive through it.
  • 100 Would You Rather Questions: I will keep this in my binder, to use as conversation starters.
  • State Activity worksheets: We will be traveling through states that we have never been to before, so we are going to spend some time learning about them. I am putting together a basic worksheet for each state. The children can log the date that we visit the state, and how many miles we travel. Each page also includes a place to fill in basic state facts (capital city, flower, tree, animal, etc), some fun facts, the state flag, and something to color from these cute state doodles.
  • Blank Looseleaf pages: I will encourage my children to keep a daily journal. They can write, or draw pictures of our adventures.
  • Hole punch a manilla envelope or use a sheet protector: it will be a place to keep attraction brochures and ticket stubs.
  • Maps: print a map (or a few) showing your route. Children can trace along it and know how far without asking “Are we there yet?”
  • A pencil pouch: keep writing and coloring supplies contained. We prefer to use twistable color pencils so we don’t have to bother with sharpening pencils.

Games and Activities: insert these pages in a sheet protector, and use with dry erase markers. Then they can be used over and over again.

Other ways to pass the time:

  • Handheld devices/Movies. Use them when you need to. Enough said.
  • Audiobooks: check them out from the library, or try Audible. First up on our list to try is The Hobbit.
  • Good music: We created a road trip playlist for our iPod. Each person in the family gets to pick 10 songs to include.
  • Ribbon mileage tracker. Pin a ribbon along the inside of the van, with mileage increments pre-marked. Use a clothespin to move along a car marker to mark your accomplishments. Another 100 miles finished!
  • Celebrate a mileage marker with a joke. Put a stash of jokes in an envelope and let each child pick one to read aloud.
  • Small toys: Shop the house or visit the dollar store. I will try to have one small item for each day. Stickers, small animals, squishy balls, silly putty, etc.
  • Pipe cleaners: string cheerios or froot loops on them for a snack. Bend them into creations.
  • Sticky note pads: draw on them, stick them on the windows, etc.
  • Squiggle drawings on index cards: add a line, circle, or loop to a white index card and let the kids come up with what it might become.
  • Reusable sticker books/Window clings: we already have these books that haven’t been used for awhile, but they are great fun.
  • Mileage tracker: keep track of how many miles we drive in each day, and how many miles we drive in each state.
  • Conduct an experiment: what is the most common vehicle color? Make a hypothesis, collect data, report results.

Souvenir ideas:

  • Find a rock in each state. Use a sharpie to write the state abbreviation and the year on it.
  • Pressed pennies: My kids have been collecting these for years, they are inexpensive and make a great souvenir. Do a google search for “pressed penny” and the name of the state you are a visiting to see a listing of locations.

Encouraging good behavior:

  • Each child will have a clothespin clip, decorated with their initial. The clips go on the front visor and stay up for good behavior. Whiny, complaining, disagreeable behavior brings the clip down, and they miss the next fun activity.  We went to the craft store and each child chose a pack of stickers. Good behavior will be rewarded with a sticker at regular increments (every hour or 60 miles or 100 miles, etc).

Other sites with great ideas:

Road trip Boredom Busters for Kids on Good Things Realized

26 of the best car games and activities from Cool Mom Picks

Whew! That is a big list. What are your best tips for road trips?

Reaching out in love and service: Highlights from the April 2016 General Women’s Session

The General Women’s Session of the 2016 April General Conference was inspiring and motivating. Each of the speakers addressed the need to reach out to others in love and service. I am prayerfully studying these messages and seeking the Lord’s help to be a better tool in his hands. Here are some of the key messages from the talks that I want to highlight and remember for myself and my family. 

Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, “He Asks Us to Be His Hands”. 
Scriptures: John 13:34, acts 10:38, Luke 9:24

Be someone who reaches out to know and serve others–throw away the mirrors and look through the window.

When children learn how to love and serve others when they are young, they set a pattern of service for the rest of their lives. Often children teach the rest of us that showing love and service doesn’t have to be big and grandiose to be meaningful and make a difference.

Sisters, some of you listening may feel stretched to capacity ministering to the needs of family members. Remember, in those routine and often mundane tasks, you are “in the service of your God.”

Others of you might be feeling an emptiness that could be filled as you look into your neighborhood or community for opportunities to help ease another’s burdens.

All of us can incorporate some service into our daily living. We live in a contentious world. We give service when we don’t criticize, when we refuse to gossip, when we don’t judge, when we smile, when we say thank you, and when we are patient and kind.

Other kinds of service take time, intentional planning, and extra energy. But they are worth our every effort. Perhaps we could start by asking ourselves these questions:

  • Who in my circle of influence could I help today?
  • What time and resources do I have?
  • In what ways can I use my talents and skills to bless others?
  • What might we do as a family?

I have come to know that it is the love of God and neighbor that give meaning to life. May we follow our Savior’s example and His admonition to reach out to others with love.

Sister  Neill F. Marriott, “What Shall We Do?”
Women and sisters, what shall we do?

We build the kingdom when we nurture others.

Love is making space in your life for someone else.

Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby–and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them–but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a “mother” before she had children. I believe that “to mother” means “to give life.”

We also build the kingdom when we speak up and testify of truth.

Sister Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society general president, taught: “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life. … It requires a conscious effort.”

I am glad to be a mother, and I promise you I will do everything in my power to nurture my children in such a way that they will make the world a better place.”

Sister Linda K. Burton, “I Was a Stranger”.
There are more than 60 million refugees, including forcibly displaced people, worldwide. Half of those are children.

The First Presidency invited individuals, families, and Church units to participate in Christlike service in local refugee relief projects and to contribute to the Church humanitarian fund, where practical.

Each member of this worldwide sisterhood has covenanted at baptism to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.

With these truths in mind, we have organized a relief effort called “I Was a Stranger.” It is our hope that you will prayerfully determine what you can do–according to your own time and circumstance–to serve the refugees living in your neighborhoods and communities. This is an opportunity to serve one on one, in families, and by organization to offer friendship, mentoring, and other Christlike service and is one of many ways sisters can serve.

And the Savior said: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me.”

As we consider the “pressing calls” of those who need our help, let’s ask ourselves, “What if their story were my story?” May we then seek inspiration, act on impressions we receive, and reach out in unity to help those in need as we are able and inspired to do so. Perhaps then it might be said of us, as the Savior said of a loving sister who ministered to Him: “She hath wrought a good work. … She hath done what she could.”

President Henry B. Eyring, ” Trust in That Spirit Which Leadeth to Do Good”. 

The feeling of greatest importance is love.

A second feeling you have had tonight was the influence of the Holy Ghost. “And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good–yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit” (D&C 11:12).

The third feeling you have had tonight is that you want to be closer to the Savior.

The first thing you must commit to do is to go and serve, knowing that you do not go alone. When you go to comfort and serve anyone for the Savior, He prepares the way before you.

The second thing you must do is remember the Lord as you go in service for Him.

The third thing I hope they will do is to be personally modest about their good works.

My prayer for the sisters in the kingdom, wherever they may be or in whatever circumstances, is that their faith in the Savior and gratitude for His Atonement will lead them to do all they can for those God asks them to serve. As they do, I promise that they will move up the path to become holy women whom the Savior and our Heavenly Father will welcome warmly and reward.

I witness that we grow closer to the Savior as we, out of pure love, serve others for Him.

General Conference Weekend Recap

I started writing this post prior to conference weekend, but after a week with a sick baby and then a birthday and other “normal” life things, I was never quite able to finish this post. So here it is, after the fact. Maybe it will help you prepare for the next semi-annual conference.

General Conference is this weekend! I am really looking forward to the opportunity to hear the word of the Lord through his authorized servants. To remind our family of the importance of General Conference, I hung up a poster with this quote from Elder Bednar from last conference:

“May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives.”


Most of my children are at an age now where they are able to occupy themselves better during and between sessions (age 11, 8, and 6). Except for the almost one year old baby. We just try to keep him happy and take him outside and for walks. I quickly realized that I would not be taking any notes this time around, but I will have plenty of opportunities to study the messages on my own in the days and months to come. This time around I am just focused on making sure we have a peaceful spirit in our home.

That being said, here are a few resources I am using this General Conference weekend.

Conference Journals: Each child has their own notebook for taking notes. My oldest daughter decorated a notebook at Activity Girls specifically for this purpose, while I just found some nicer journals for Zach and Lily that we already had at home. We encouraged them to write the name of the apostle, and any key words that they heard.

7-Up Lifting Ways to Get the Most out of Conference: I snagged this cute printable, attached to a can of 7-Up, and shared with the sisters I visit teach.

Getting to know the apostles: I printed and laminated these Special Witness cards to help my children learn and recognize the faces of the apostles.

On Sunday the children used the General Conference binder, full of activities like word searches, mazes, apostle facts and trivia. I keep all of the pages in sheet protectors, so they can be re-used with dry-erase markers. You can read more about it here.

These religious doodles are kind of fun to color!

Counting Down to Conference: I forgot to do this time around, but I am holding on to this idea for future sessions!

Check out this post from last fall which details all of our General Conference traditions.

The Monday before General Conference we traditionally have an FHE lesson focused on the importance of following the prophet and preparing for General Conference. This time around we focused on the following teachings about prophets from the October 2015 General Conference.

Elder David A. Bednar
The Savior declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.

Elder M. Russell Ballard
And make no mistake about it: the Lord directs His Church through living prophets and apostles. This is the way He has always done His work.

It has always been a challenge for the world to accept living prophets and apostles, but it is so essential to do so in order to fully understand the Atonement and the teachings of Jesus Christ and to receive a fulness of the blessings of the priesthood that are given to those He has called.

Sister Carole M. Stephens
Our Father has provided a way for us to hear His word and know His law through His prophets. The Lord declared, “My word shall … all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

There is safety in following the word of the Lord through His prophets. God called President Thomas S. Monson, the counselors in the First Presidency, and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. In this world of increasing fear, distraction, adversity, and anger, we can look to them to see how disciples of Jesus Christ—filled with charity—look, sound, and react to issues that could be divisive. They testify of Jesus Christ and respond with charity, the pure love of Jesus Christ, whose witnesses they are.

Prioritizing Our Lives to Find Joy: A Lesson for Relief Society

I had the opportunity to teach the lesson in my ward Relief Society today. The focus of my lesson was adapted from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Regrets and Resolutions” (October 2012). Here are some of the highlights.

President Uchtdorf once related the experience of a nurse who cares for the terminally ill. As her patients have prepared to depart this life, she has often asked a simple question: “Do you have any regrets?”

How would you answer that question?

I would like you to reflect for a moment, and reflect personally on your own life. If you knew that your death was imminent, how would you answer that question? Do you have any regrets? (Give a minute to ponder this).

In his conference address from October 2012, “Of Regrets and Resolutions” President Uchtdorf discussed the top three responses to that question.

I Wish I Had Spent More Time with the People I Love

When this life ends and we pass onto the next, the only thing we take with us is the knowledge that we have gained, and the meaningful relationships that have enriched our lives.

One of my favorite teachings of President Monson is this:

“what is most important almost always involves the people around us.”

How we treat others, the love and kindness we offer, is what is most important.

It isn’t always easy to focus on what is most important. Too often we get caught up in the endless tasks of day-to-day life. Now, at this stage of my life, My life feels like a series of unfinished projects. Do you ever feel the same way? To illustrate:

Monday is usually my day to recover from the weekend and get the house back in order. This week, among the usual tasks of laundry and dishes, etc, I worked on sorting through my baby boy clothes that Adam has grown out of, so that I could pass them along to a sister that has a new baby boy. I had to work quickly, since 10-month old Adam was at my side, pulling items out of the box almost as fast as I was putting them in. I got the box ready to go and planned to deliver them that day, but by then it was lunchtime for Adam and myself. After feeding Adam, I mixed up a batch of granola to go with the smoothies I had planned for after school snack. The granola was in the oven and I started to work on the lunch (and breakfast dishes), but by this time Adam wanted some attention. I sat down with him and read him a few board books. Once he happily crawled off my lap, I turned my attention to the laundry that had just finished drying. I put the sheets on the bed, but then the timer beeped for the oven-baked granola, before I could put away the rest of the clean towels and cloths. I had hoped to deliver the baby clothes that day, but it was now time to load up the baby for the walk to the bus stop and meet my big kids. Once they get home it is whirlwind of activity as I balance the needs of four children: snack, chores, homework (27 spelling words to practice!), piano practice for all three, a lesson for me to teach, trying in vain to get the baby to take his afternoon nap, prepare dinner, eat, FHE (thankfully it is Jared’s turn for the lesson, and truthfully I snag a two-minute doze on the couch while he engages the children in an activity). By the time the kids are washed and read to and in bed, I walk past the clean laundry that is still sitting half-way out of the dryer and spilling onto the floor, and the dinner dishes that aren’t finished. I focus on dishes, in between comforting my five-year-old son who is having trouble sleeping because of a knee that he fell and scraped earlier in the day. At 10 p.m. I crawl into bed with him until he is sound asleep, leaving the laundry for yet another day.

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

President Uchtdorf taught:

“Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.

Is it?”

“I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished.

I can’t see it.

Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.”

At this stage of my life, while I am busily in the throes of “young motherhood”, there is a phrase that I tell myself almost daily “this is what God gave you time for”. It comes from a talk by Elder Andersen in Oct. 2011:

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”

Eventually the laundry and dishes will get done. I may not be crossing off many things (or anything!) on my to do list, but as I hold my napping baby in my arms, as I help my eight-year-old with her math problems, as I read a book with my five-year-old, and as I teach my 11-year-old how to cook something in the kitchen, I remember that “this is what God gave you time for”. The relationships I have with my children and spouse are what is most important.

No matter what stage of life we are in, we would do well to remember this teaching from Sister Linda Reeves, in the April 2014 General Conference:

“The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.” (Linda Reeves, April 2014)

I Wish I Had Lived Up to My Potential

Another regret people expressed was that they failed to become the person they could and should have been. They realized that they never lived up to their potential.

President Uchtdorf is clear. He is not speaking of “climbing the ladder of success in our various professions”. We don’t need to be the most famous author, the most successful businessperson, or the scientist who discovers the cure for cancer.  Instead, he is “speaking of becoming the person God, our Heavenly Father, intended us to be”.

As we reflect on our lives and the way that we spend our time, consider this teaching of President Uchtdorf:

“Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is the path to our best and happiest self.”

“Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents.

The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets. The more we rely on the Savior’s grace, the more we will feel that we are on the track our Father in Heaven has intended for us.”

I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier

The last regret that we will focus on is this: “They wished they had let themselves be happier”.

“So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial.

The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness.

We do matter. We determine our happiness.

You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.”

“We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect.”

From his most recent address, in the story of the Summer with Great Aunt Rose, he reminded us that “God didn’t design us to be sad. He created us to have joy!”

I love this scripture found in the book of Psalms 118: 24 “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Each day is a gift. What do you do to find joy each day?

“To avoid some of the deepest regrets of life, it would be wise to make some resolutions today. Therefore, let us:

  • Resolve to spend more time with those we love.
  • Resolve to strive more earnestly to become the person God wants us to be.
  • Resolve to find happiness, regardless of our circumstances.

It is my testimony that many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today. If we have sinned or made mistakes—if we have made choices that we now regret—there is the precious gift of Christ’s Atonement, through which we can be forgiven. We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent. The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret and remove the burden of our sins. His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart, and a determination to do better and especially to become better.”

A Love Talk

One of my favorite General Conference talks is “Love–the Essence of the Gospel” by President Thomas S. Monson.I have studied this talk a lot, and I took the opportunity in this month of hearts and love to study it again. I had the opportunity this week to present a talk on the topic of love for our ward Relief Society meeting, and I am sharing it here. I learned a lot in studying and preparing–isn’t that the greatest thing about teaching/speaking? I learn so much in the process

The month of February always turns our minds and hearts to the theme of love. At our house we read love books, we read scriptures about love, and we write love notes. So I have been thinking a lot about the topic of love.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk in October 1997 entitled, “The Great Commandment”. He taught:

“Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship.”

“Love is the greatest of all the commandments—all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ. It is the one trait that, if developed, will most improve our lives.”

So, how do we go about developing the trait of love? We begin by understanding what love is. If we substitute charity as a synonym for love, then we can read all about it in Moroni 7:45:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

In a classic speech at BYU, titled after Elizabeth Barret Browning’s famous poem, “How Do I Love Thee?, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

“Real love is best shown in the “how”.

How do we show our love? We can begin first by saying “I love you”. We have an “I love you” tradition at our home that is centered on sneezing. When someone sneezes, the first response, as is typical, is to say “Bless you”. But sneezes tend to come in multiples, so after the second sneeze the response is “Oh, I love you.” Sneeze again and it is “Oh, I really love you!”.

This tradition started with my husband I when we were first married, and has now grown to include our children. The children usually continue the conversation with fake sneezes. I then respond: “Oh, so much love!” and “Lots of love!” and “Hugs and kisses!” and “Loving you forever!” This is just a silly little thing, but it gets us saying the words.

Elder Bednar in October 2009 taught:

“We can begin to become more diligent and concerned at home by telling the people we love that we love them. Such expressions do not need to be flowery or lengthy. We simply should sincerely and frequently express love.

… when was the last time you took your eternal companion in your arms and said, “I love you”? Parents, when was the last time you sincerely expressed love to your children? Children, when was the last time you told your parents that you love them?

Each of us already knows we should tell the people we love that we love them. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. We may feel unsure, awkward, or even perhaps a bit embarrassed.

We should remember that saying “I love you” is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need consistently to show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love.”

How else do we show our love? Elder Wirthlin taught:

“the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.”

President Thomas S. Monson gave a great address in the April 2014 General Conference. The entire talk is worth further study but I just wanted to touch on a few highlights. He taught:

Love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar…We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey.”

He shared a poem that clearly demonstrates the value of love and kindness:

I have wept in the night

For the shortness of sight

That to somebody’s need made me blind;

But I never have yet

Felt a tinge of regret

For being a little too kind.

President Monson encourages love as a daily way of being. But, it is always our choice how we will act. He said:

“As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.”

I loved that thought so much that it has been hanging in my bathroom for almost two years. I need that daily reminder of how to act!

Each of us longs to have fulfillment in loving relationships. Elder Wirthlin taught:

“True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves.”

As I close, I would like to remind you that at the end of the day, if your Valentine’s Day or week of month or lifetime isn’t quite how you expected, remember what President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:

“You are loved. You are dear to your heavenly parents. The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you! He is mindful of you. Yes, God loves you this very day and always…He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly—He knows you as you really are. And He loves you—today and always!…He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become”.

Additional by H. Burke Peterson

“Some years ago in our ward fast and testimony meeting a young father proudly gave a name and a blessing to his first child. Afterwards the father stood to bear his testimony. He expressed thanks for this, his first son. He then said in a rather perplexed way that since the little fellow didn’t seem to understand anything they said, he wished he knew just how to communicate with him. “All we can do,” said he, “is hold him, cuddle him, gently squeeze him, kiss him, and whisper thoughts of love in his ear.”

After the meeting I went up to the new father and said that in his testimony he had given us a success pattern for raising healthy children. I hoped he would never forget it; even as his children grew to maturity I hoped he would continue the practice.”

“We must make an even clearer effort to communicate real love to a questioning child. The giving of love from a parent to a son or daughter must not be dependent on his or her performance. Ofttimes those we think deserve our love the least need it the most.”

“Two weeks ago President Kimball passed me as we were rushing to a meeting. He stopped, took my hand, looked me in the eye, put away all of his other cares, and said simply, “I’m sorry we’re sometimes so busy. I guess I haven’t told you lately how much I love you and appreciate you.”

I felt his spirit; I believed him; my spirit soared to a new height.

If it comes from the heart, it will work, brothers and sisters. It will bring peace and happiness to a troubled soul. Please try again … and again … and again.”

References for Further Study

Moroni 7:45-48

David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home”. October 2009 General Conference.

Jeffrey R. Holland, “How Do I Love Thee?” BYU Speeches, February 15, 2000.

Thomas S. Monson, “Love—the Essence of the Gospel”. April 2014 General Conference.

H. Burke Peterson, “The Daily Portion of Love”. April 1997 General Conference.

Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Great Commandment”. October 1997 General Conference.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful”. October 2014 General Conference.