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Happy Halloween! (May 8)

I was going through photos today for our daughter Eliza’s upcoming high school graduation, which is such a fun walk down memory lane. I remember when I was doing this for Sarah, and realized we had more than 12,000 digital photos that I would go through to find some of her. Fast forward 7 years, and you can only guess how many we have now.

But this is not a post about digital photo storage or lack thereof, comically. And it’s not just about Eliza (although she did carve that pumpkin on Halloween 2018.) What I saw while photo browsing were some really fun costumes, and for all of my Halloween grinchiness, I really have great memories of getting costumes together! So I thought I’d gather some more photos and post them all here. Today. May 8.

That don’t cost a cent? Eliza and Becca decided they were going to be skiers, and Eliza wore my snow coat from high school that I had worn 32 years before. It was in pristine shape after my mom was moving and found some snow clothing packed away. Becca wore a ski suit that one of my brothers wore back in the day! Fancy schmancy!

(I also have to laugh at certain details, like Eliza wearing her younger sister’s tennis shoes. Nothing like doubling your shoe options when you wear the same size!)

Anna’s unicorn costume. So many of our costumes were invented without patterns or precendence. Just, “Can I be a unicorn?” and then digging through our scraps and/or a trip to the thrift and fabric stores.

Nothing like improvising a pattern off of a piece of clothing. I don’t recommend this for things you want to look really good, for everyday wear. But in a pinch, when the clock is ticking and you need a costume for a party, then it’s “Here goes nothing!”

I guess unicorns wear lipstick and silver lamé skirts? Good thing there was enough left over for the horn headband…

One year Peter really wanted to be Gandalf. He carved a pipe, I got him a beard, we borrowed that amazing wig and cape from our fabulous and generous friends, he made the staff out of PVC and a doorknob handle, and Eliza sewed him the robe! It was a true collaborative effort. He was too old to trick-or-treat, so he went with his friend to take the younger siblings trick-or-treating. I gave him some candy at the end, tee hee.

Rebecca came home from college last year on Halloween night. Her “costume” was sweats…which is kind of her daily look! We had fun with roasting pumpkin seeds, drinking hot mulled cider, and eating some popcorn while watching a movie together. Loved it.

Our neighbors had a potluck dinner. We brought pulla. So many people dress up. I decided not to be a grinch and put on Liza’s real chef’s jacket. That was the extent of it. Ooh, I love warm pulla with butter melting on it.

Teenage boys can be pretty crazy. In 2013, Nate wore this parrot costume that probably first fit him when he was 6…with his rugby shorts, naturally. Julia was an 80’s aerobics girl, or something. Peter wasn’t in costume in this photo–just was wearing a cute grin.

We had a neighbor that year who was a talented photographer. He took photos on Halloween with a white backdrop for all the trick-or-treaters. He was just fabulous! He passed away not long ago of cancer. We love his family and treasure the memories and legacy that he left in his wake. He was truly a phenomenal guy. And so many people have such fun memories of Halloween because of the way he shared his talents so generously with everyone.

Sarah is really good with her hands, and she loves Cinderella. When she was too old to trick-or-treat, she still left some beautiful glowing pumpkins on our porch.

I remember getting this dress at a thrift store for Julia, and having to re-do the zipper in the back to cinch it in about 4 inches, making the back fit and modest. I LOVED the costume I sewed for Rebecca with her cute hat and apron for a 50’s hamburger place waitress. I can’t remember the name of that right now! Peter really loved Davy Crockett at the time, and I was grateful for a costume I could just buy and go with!

These were good times. They might have been a tad stressful back then, with NOT equal parts costumes to time or energy. But it worked out! Just like motherhood has a way of doing when you just do your best and trust in God. Looking back, I’m so glad I went to the effort. Happy Halloween.


Sammie’s Poem

there she was–

shattered on the ground

there she was–

trapped and bound

there she was–

new scars appearing everyday

there she was–

broken in every possible way

look at her now

she’s taking a vow

to reach up and heal somehow

she’s lighting the flame,

the one that went dark

she’s taking a thread

and mending her heart

©2019 Sammie


Librairies of Hope

I received a comment on my blog today referring me to this website, Libraries of Hope. I can hardly contain my happiness at this online resource! It is utterly incredible! You could do a whole homeschool based upon this website (not solely, but as a tremendous, foundational resource), or if you don’t homeschool, simply have wonderful books for your family to read. You could use her website to help you grow your own wonderful home library. I am SO excited to dive in to read some books! What an incredible labor of love Marlene Peterson has created for the rest of us to enjoy! I feel like she has, in one way, accomplished what I would have love to have done (but now don’t have to!). Thank you, thank you, Marlene.

Even, tragically, at this moment when Notre Dame cathedral burns, I am grateful to Marlene for preserving some wonderful history–some voices of inspiring authors and our world history and heritage that might otherwise be silenced and forgotten.


This wonderful saying, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think,” is attributed to A.A. Milne. But as far as I can tell, I can’t find actually from A.A. Milne. Does anyone have the source for this quote to show where he–if he did–said this?


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.)