Service Missionary Conference in Houston

A few weeks ago Jamie, Ani, and I went to the first gathering of service missionaries in Texas. Just a couple days before that, Ani had been set apart as a full time service missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


There are currently only a handful of service missionaries spread across Texas. Only something like 16 in the entire San Antonio Mission (which stretches to the border and includes Austin).


Going to this conference gave me the chance to see Houston for the first time. Now the only major city in Texas I have never been to is El Paso.

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Keeping the House Clean

As I mentioned in my post about my morning routine, I really like to have the house clean all the time in order to make my days go smoother and for me to be a better mother. I also mentioned that keeping the house clean and organized does not come naturally to me. It is something I have worked on for years, tweaking what I do and incorporating new routines as needed.

For the last few years, I’ve used my bullet journal to help keep me on track and reach my goals for cleaning. Each month I make a page for my daily/weekly/monthly to do’s with squares for the dates to complete each task. As I complete each thing, I color it in. I love coloring in those squares. Having all the day’s boxes colored in is such a great feeling, almost better than the feeling of having a clean house.

I of course have all the things in my morning routine on that page. Then I have some things on the computer that I do every day (daily thread on a Facebook group, adding to my letter to my aunt, updating our finances, a batch of indexing, taking a picture each day, and scrapbooking that picture for Project 365). Fritz does the 7 Minute Workout each day as well.

Once a month, on the first, I clean the dishwasher, the garbage disposal, and the washing machine. I deep clean the stove using the special cleaner and razor blade. I change my sponge and switch the little picture on the welcome sign my sister made me years ago. I rearrange our Lego calendar for the new month. I rub the vinyl letters on the living room wall to make sure they don’t fall off (vinyl letters and super textured walls don’t mix super well). And I clean the couch using leather wipes. Also once a month, on the 11th, Lola gets her heartworm preventative medication. Once a month, on the third Saturday I wash our sheets (twice a year I also wash the mattress covers and twice a year I wash the blankets and quilts).

I have several things I do once a week. Sundays I send an email to my oldest niece who is serving a mission for the Church in St. George Utah, Fritz cleans Rae’s cage, and we put the Sacrament in a baggie to take to church (those of us with Celiac eat Nut Thins instead of bread; for some reason when church switched from 9 to 10:30 we kept forgetting to take our special sacrament so I added it to my to do page). Mondays and Thursday I have a box for bringing in the trash cans (we can get fined by the HOA if they are still out the next morning). On Mondays, I clean the filter in our dishwasher with a toothbrush. Wednesdays I print the letter to my aunt and also send a copy of it by email to my mother-in-law in Ireland. Thursdays I mail the letter to my aunt. Also on Thursdays I make menus for the next week, order groceries (which we usually pick up Friday evening or Saturday morning), and make a list of what I’ll need to do to prep our food for the week once the groceries have been picked up. Saturdays I refill Ani’s pill containers for the week.

Not something I put on my to do page, but that helps with keeping the house nice, I often walk around the house while I read. It kind of kills two birds with one stone. I get exercise and I get some reading done, too. Sometimes I’ll grab one thing that is out of place as I make my circuit (which goes around most of the bottom floor). I put it where it belongs (or on the stairs to go up) as I continue around the circle. It’s a really painless way of straightening up.

It’s amazing how much these things, none of which take very long, contributes to the beauty and mood of our house. I encourage everyone to come up with simple things you can do each day in your home. I guarantee you will not be sorry!

2018 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness/Light the World

Like we do every December, we counted down to Christmas doing random acts of kindness each day. Here’s a few of the things we did.

We volunteered handing out blessing (food) boxes and organizing donated clothes at a community center downtown.

We fed the birds.

We left little gifts at our neighbors’ doors.

We taped change to a vending machine.

We left happy notes in books at the library.

We made homeless packs to give out to people who need them.

We left microwave popcorn on Redbox machines.

We donated toys to be given to refugee children in our area.

We picked up trash along the road near our neighborhood.

We brought in our neighbors’ cans and left candy canes on them.

We candy cane bombed a parking lot.

We donated blood.

We cleaned our cars really well.

We paid for someone else’s meal.

We wrote our testimonies in copies of the Book of Mormon and gave them to the missionaries to give out.

10-Day Social Media Fast

At the Women’s Session of General Conference, President Nelson invited us to do four things:

1. Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other negative or impure media
2. Read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year
3. Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance
4. Participate fully in Relief Society

So, to complete number one, the evening of Sunday, October 7th, I deleted all my links on my computer to social media and deleted the apps off my phone. The exception was Instagram. I have one account for pictures of Rae and I follow lots of conure and other bird accounts and those pictures make me very happy. On my personal account, which I mainly use to post pictures of what we did in school each day, I started following a whole bunch of church-related accounts that post things like a scripture or temple picture each day (I didn’t realize just how beautiful the Tucson AZ temple is!). As for number two, I was already up to 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon so that’s totally doable. Numbers three and four I’ll have to think a bit about.

Day 1

The first day was Columbus Day so Jamie was off work and we didn’t have school. That probably made it a lot easier. I had put off sweeping and mopping most of the rooms in the house the previous week (I sweep weekly and also mop monthly) so I did all of that over the course of the day. I caught up on some blog posts I’d half done. I did some laundry from putting it in the washer to putting it away all nice and folded. But, most importantly, for the first time in weeks I didn’t feel like my insides were vibrating. I felt comfortable. I already know a few of the more contentious and/or whiny people that I will unfriend or unfollow when I return to social media. By the way, I feel way better when my house is clean. So starting out with all the sweeping and mopping, while a lot of work, definitely helped contribute to the calm, peaceful feeling I had by the middle of the day.

Day 2

The second day actually went quite easily. I don’t miss Facebook or Twitter at all which is weird since the new iOS tells me I’m on them for hours every day. And that doesn’t count the time I spend on them on my computer. That’s a lot of hours a day I’m reclaiming. Also, I am mentally present for these amazing guys and that’s the most important thing of all. Usually I mindlessly check social media throughout the day and I realized that even though I’m there, I’m not there. Today I sat and watched some episodes of Mind Field (Vsauce on YouTube) with them. They were fascinating and we all learned some stuff. This morning, Cameron made a pancake creation. It was a stack of regular size pancakes surrounded with overlapping upright small pancakes with a giant pancake on top. He wouldn’t let us eat any pancakes until he finished his creation. I commented that I didn’t take a picture before we started eating it and Fritz said isn’t that the point of making stuff like that (as my best friend said, that was the most 2018 thing ever). Cameron told him he did it just for the personal satisfaction. But I started thinking. What are my actions teaching Fritz?

Day 3

I am fascinated by how much I am getting done. I’m getting all the school stuff graded and put away soon after the boys complete it. I sweep whichever floor is supposed to be swept that day pretty early in the day rather than putting it off until late when I just don’t feel like doing it and end up not getting it done at all. I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon every morning rather than scrolling through social media and that’s been a really nice start to my day. Today I was a little concerned about what I would do when I went to pick Cameron up from instructor training. I forgot to bring my Kindle and usually I sit and scroll through Facebook or Twitter while waiting for him to come out. I ended up spending the time adding today’s video clips and editing our weekly school video. It was such a great use of my time. It was something I needed to get done and I had nothing else to do while sitting in the car. So I guess this fast is teaching me to make better choices for what I am using my time for.

Day 4

A really weird thing has happened. I love to read, but recently I’ve found myself reading a little bit at a time, more avoiding reading than actually reading. Reading a book takes a lot more focus than just scrolling through social media where things are in little, tiny bits. Since I started the social media fast, I’ve discovered that focusing on reading is easy again. Maybe it’s because I can’t use social media right now. Maybe it’s because I’m getting unused to tiny bits here and there. I don’t know. But for whatever reason I’m enjoying reading for long periods of time again.

Day 5

Last night an indie author I like sent her most recent manuscript to me to Dragon Edit. I’ve been doing this for her for a while now. She dictates her books and as anyone who has used a dictating program knows, it doesn’t always understand her totally correctly. So she sends it to me and I go through it and fix it up into proper English and then send it back to her so she can edit it into a proper book. I really enjoy doing it (especially seeing how her books go from very rough draft to finished product). So, anyway, I spent the day Dragon Editing her next book, Forbidden Knowledge. Usually, I go back and forth doing a page or two and then checking Facebook or Twitter. This time I just did the editing. And it made it way easier, actually. Because I was actually focused on the job I was doing. That was nice.

Day 6

This morning we had to get up and pretty much right away go over to the church to help clean the building. This threw off my new routine. Before this social media fast, when I woke up in the morning I’d lay in bed and scroll through Facebook and Twitter before getting up. Since I started it, I’ve been reading at least one chapter in the Book of Mormon instead. I didn’t have time to do that this morning and I really, really missed it. It’s such an amazing way to start my day. I still read my three chapters at some point during the day, but it was different from reading first thing in the morning. That’s definitely a habit I want to keep after this 10-day fast is over! (By the way, my arm hurts. We got our flu shots this afternoon. I spent the time waiting for them to call us in reading in the Book of Mormon. I always feel calm reading it, so I’d say I made a very good choice in reading it before getting a shot.)

Day 7

The new iOS tells you every week how much you’ve been using your phone. It’s pretty crazy to see all the hours added up by category at the end of the week. No surprise that my usage went down a lot over the previous week since my social media fast started on Monday. The majority of my time on my phone this week was actually reading scriptures. Kindle + Gospel Library app was almost 7 hours. I read scriptures on the Gospel Library app and the guidebook I’m using to study the Book of Mormon is in the Kindle app. The next highest app use was messages. The majority of that time was texting back and forth with my daughter. The previous seven days the majority of my phone time was on Facebook and Twitter. I’m actually considering not putting those apps back on my phone later this week at the end of the 10 day fast.

Day 8

I thought this social media fast would be hard. I really did. But it hasn’t been. In fact, it’s been fantastic. I don’t want it to end. I’ve wondered how a few people who post on Facebook regularly were doing (so I know they will definitely stay on my friends list), but I haven’t missed the contention on there at all. I really haven’t missed the contention on Twitter. Whenever I leave the Temple, I feel totally calm, almost like my insides are vibrating in harmony with… something. Anyway, it’s a wonderful, peaceful feeling that lasts a few hours. Since I started this social media fast, that’s how I’ve felt most of the time. It’s been nice and is a feeling I definitely want to hold on to. (PS I finished reading 2 Nephi this morning.)

Day 9

Last night I was thinking that I need to get to work figuring out how to implement numbers 3 and 4 on the list of things President Nelson asked us to do. I’m obviously almost done with number 1 and number 2 is going great. But I haven’t even started on the other two things yet. I’m thinking since we still have a few weeks until the temple reopens that I’ll do a search on LDS.org about the temple or read a book or something. Then after it reopens, I was thinking because we live so close to the temple, we can run up there for a little while on the Tuesdays that Adrian has Scouts after we drop the boys off at church (that’s twice a month). Participating fully in Relief Society is a little more complicated since I currently serve in Nursery. President Nelson said something about reading the Relief Society declaration, so I’ll do that. Our ward sends out an email saying what the next lesson will be, so I’ll read along. I figure I can know what they are talking about in class even if I can’t be in there with them on Sundays.

Day 10

Check it out. I finished through Jacob this morning! Today is the last day of the social media fast. Tomorrow I can go back to using social media however I want. It’s funny, but I don’t really want to. In his talk where he invited the women to go on this 10-day social media fast, President Nelson said the following:

What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little?

I’ve noticed that I am calmer. I feel better. I’m more in tune with the Spirit. I’m a better mother. I’ve read more and enjoyed that reading more. My house is cleaner. I’m happier. School even has been going better. My little boys have been asking more Gospel questions and I’ve found that easy answers for them have just popped into my head. There is a definite change in where I now want to spend my time and energy. I’m not going to bother putting the Facebook and Twitter apps back on my phone. I’m going to dramatically cut down my membership in groups on Facebook and unfollow or unfriend many people on Facebook and Twitter. I might keep right on reading three chapters in the Book of Mormon every day because I’m really enjoying it. I’ve discovered I’m happiest when my time and energy are on my family and the Lord. Have my priorities shifted? Yeah. And maybe not just a little.

All my life I have found that when I follow the Prophet, I never go wrong. These four invitations by our dear President Nelson are no exception. They were the right things for me at the right time and I am grateful for his prophetic counsel. I am thankful that I immediately made a plan to follow what he asked. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but it kind of changed my life.

A Bit of My Bullet Journal

After doing my planning digitally for a while, a few months ago I went back to my paper bullet journal. I love it. It allows me to be creative and also helps me make sure I get everything I need to get done done.

Every month I start out with a spread that gives an overview of appointments and things and also a tracker for doing my daily/weekly/monthly chores. Since Jamie and I are going to Ireland this month, I decided to do a bit of a passport stamp/Irish theme.

Each month is split into weekly spreads where I put what we are eating, places we need to go, and random stuff I need to do. I also add in quite bits of things we did that I want to remember. I kind of went Washi tape crazy with August’s weekly spreads.

I have some fun spreads to keep track of ongoing things I do. For example, I colored in pictures as I planned our next school year, giving me a visual tracker of how much more I needed to do.

I’ve got a spread to keep track of my scripture reading (currently going through the New Testament). I came up with a picture to go with each book. Some make more sense than others. When I finish a book, I color the picture in. I discovered I am not too bad at drawing if I am looking an an outline example to copy. I’ve always thought I was really bad at art, so that was a fun discovery to make.

I made a nice little bookcase to write in the book I’ve read along with the date and my rating. I filled it up just with the books I read March to July. On the next page I am keeping track of the subjects I’ve completed planning for (just have literature left for all of them – it takes a while to pre-read all the books!).

Starting with this month, I decided to do a monthly bookshelf instead of an ongoing one. I also made the books a little bit fatter to make it easier to write in the titles. I attempted to draw raindrops on the blessings/gratitude page. Maybe I’ll get better at them over time… or come up with something I can draw better next month!

This is just the stuff from one shopping trip. When I checked out the conversation went like this:

Her: Did you find everything you were looking for?
Me: Well, I only came in for the pens, so…
Her: Yeah. That happens.

I might have a bit of a Washi tape problem. I have so much of it. But it’s so pretty! And useful! I have all my bullet journaling stuff – tons of pens, stickers, a pair of scissors, tons and tons of Washi tape, stamps, and ink pads – in a nice craft basket with lots of pockets of open areas to hold everything.

Sometimes, even on a boring page like this one where I was planning meals, I decide I need to be a bit creative and add a little picture to make it more fun.

I had quite a bit of extra space on the page where I listed the last bits of school stuff I was still waiting on from what I had ordered so I drew a cute little picture to go with it. Stuff like that just makes me happy and also makes my bullet journal extra pretty.

Sometimes a little one line note about something isn’t enough. For those times, I go to my next blank page and write whatever I want about it. My parents, the little guys, and I saw Christopher Robin on Saturday and it was just so cute. We all loved it. So for this page I decided to use some stamps (I just happened to have a couple Pooh ones) and used my pretty pens to write some quotes I like from the movie.