Friday, December 27, 2013

Twenty Years

There's no denying it.

Twenty years ago TODAY, a sweet girl came into my life and made me a mother for the first time.

And, no, that is no typo.


In the blink of an eternal eye, she went from this:

Age 2

To this:

Age 11

To this:

Age 19


After I have a good, long cry, this lady and I are going to lunch and a movie together.

Who knew twenty years could go by so very fast? And soon, she'll leave us again to serve in the Family History Center up in the Frozen North.

All these goodbyes are hard on a mother's heart! 

But at least I have her TODAY.

Love, Mama Rachel

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

From our family to yours: We hope you had a beautiful Christmas Day!

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Love, Mama Rachel

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Still, Still, Still

After a long, noisy day running here and there, I just need to sit for a brief moment and take a deep breath.

I'd like take time to share some of my favorite, peaceful Christmas music with you. I hope you enjoy the peace it brings. (I know I will!)

In the Bleak Midwinter

I love to listen to vocalists that have a clear, bright tone. As a singer myself, (though nowhere near the class of the vocalists here!) I really appreciate angelic-like voices! The two ladies in these following videos are my FAVORITES. Oh, I can't get enough of listening to them!

The Wexford Carol

Silent Night (Oiche Chiuin)

I adore music from "the old country." I have lots of English, Welsh, and Scottish blood in me, and whenever I hear a folk tune from "across the pond," I get chills. It just sounds so familiar!

{I know I need to do something about being an "Anglophile," but I'm pretty sure than only a visit to the U.K. will ever cure me... Someday...}

O Come, Emmanuel

And last, but certainly not least, is one of my favorite Christmas Carols played by one of my favorite musical groups, accompanying one of the most beautiful reenactments of the Christmas story I've ever seen.

Hosannah!!! I wish everyone a very merry Christmas, with a lovely moment or two of quiet and peace to ponder on the true reason we celebrate this time of year.

Love, Mama Rachel

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Reasons

Me and my Davy Boy

It is no secret that I LOVE Christmas, and thus I love December!

Oh, December! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Aren't they both so handsome???

Reason #1- My Russell

My sweetheart was born on December 10th. He puts up with a LOT from me (scatter-brained-ness, an aversion to cleaning our bathroom, running homeschool groups out of our house, that kind of thing), but he loves me and treats me like a QUEEN every single day.

I'm so glad he was born! And I'm so glad he picked me to be his bride, even with all my quirkiness!

I love you, Russell!!! 

Sweet Baby Morganne-- 1993

Reason #2- Morganne Natalia

Morganne was born two days after Christmas. Hence, we gave her the middle name of Natalia, which means "born on Christmas." (The 27th is close enough, I say!)

She's our parenting guinea pig, and peacemaker extraordinaire. She is absolutely without guile, for anyone. She has taught (and keeps teaching me) so much! She brings peace wherever she goes. 

She gets to be home for December (wahooooo!!!!) before she goes back to Idaho to start a service mission in the Family History Center there. (She's been volunteering in the LDS Humanitarian center for the last 5+ months.) I'm so very grateful my parents have welcomed her into their home so that she can have this experience of being away from home, but not on her own before she's ready.

And we're all so glad she gets to be with us all for Christmas! It's our LAST Christmas all together for a long time. (Our Brennan leaves for his mission on January 1st!)

She's really five!

Reason #3- Miss Avalon

Avalon makes every day an adventure! She's my other Christmas baby, and so her middle name is Noelle. She says that whenever someone sings about "Noel," they're really singing about HER.

This year's newest Christmas album.

Reason #4- Christmas Music!!!

Hello. My name is Rachel, and I am a Christmas music junkie. I blame it on being in choirs since the age of 8. Everyone who's ever been in a choir knows that you start singing Christmas music in September.

This business about waiting to listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving is sooooo hard on me! But I try not to make my husband too crazy (See Reason #1), so I do my best to control the urge to start playing my beloved carols at least until a few days before Thanksgiving.

I think I'm doing better than I used to.

Our Christmas music collection is MONSTROUSLY huge. On iTunes, it tells me that if we played all the Christmas music we own, it would 1.6 days to play all the songs. (And I think it's actually more than that now. I need to add a couple new albums to the playlist.)

YESSS!!! I know it may be a bit pathetic to be proud of that, but I love it. I make all kinds of playlists out of the music we have: Christmas Sacred, Christmas Fun, Christmas Cleaning Music, Christmas Traditional, Christmas Celtic-- should I go on? (Probably not.)


Reason #5- THE Reason for the Season

I have a great love for my Savior, Jesus Christ. 

I love how everyone remembers Him, sings about Him, tells the story of His birth, and serves others all through December.

I know that the joy and goodness we all feel during the Christmas season is because we take the time to focus on Him, His birth, His mission, His sacrifice, and His pure love for everyone.

Merry Christmas!!!

Love, Mama Rachel

Friday, December 06, 2013

Special Days

We have had such a wonderful fall and now winter is shaping up to be a time of making new and wonderful memories, as well. My heart is so full, and yet so light and joyful.

Another Birthday

Our Avalon just turned FIVE! It's fun to think back to when I blogged about being pregnant with her, and announced her birth here, as well. Oh, how time flies!

Even though she got a few fun toys for her birthday, her favorite present by far was a pair of hot pink sunglasses, complete with flashy rhinestones. That says loads about what kind of sassy miss she is! We are so glad to have such a fun and spunky girl in our family!

Once in a Lifetime

Tomorrow our Brennan gets to go to the temple for the very first time, where he will make important promises to Heavenly Father and learn more about God's plan for His children. It is such a special, sacred occasion for him and our whole family! 

Russell's parents flew down to be a part of it and of his mission talk this weekend, and it is such a great thing to have family here!!! I can't believe how fast it's all happening. Sometimes, I still see my boy like this:

And tomorrow, he will be a man, ready, worthy, and able to serve the Lord. Oh, God is good. What a wonderful plan of happiness He has for all of us!

She's Home! (Temporarily)

Our Morgie is home for the month of December, then she goes back up to Idaho to fulfill a call to work in the Family History Center. It has been so awesome to have her back! Now things feel "right" again. I have missed her gentle, sweet spirit, her willing heart, and her beautiful singing voice. (We've been harmonizing to Christmas music all day!) 

She's even been doing all the dishes. It's going to be hard to let her go back! (Just kidding, Morgie. Sorta.)

Feeling Excited

We also get to go see and hear our Lliam perform with the Millenial Choir Organization tomorrow evening. I'm so, SO proud of him! He has found something that is uplifting and excellent that he gets to be a part of, and even though he wasn't sure he'd like being in a choir, he now loves it and wants to keep singing with them next semester, as well! 

I am so grateful that he has found something so worthwhile to be excited about. He has blossomed so much these last few weeks, just to have the chance to perform with them. All FOUR concerts are sold out to a packed house, and we are thrilled to go and hear them. Hooray for the talented and inspiring people that the Lord has put in our path! Break a leg, Lliam! 

And I wish all my readers a wonderful weekend filled with happiness, hope, and joy!


Love, Mama Rachel

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Feeling Inspired

A few of the stockings I made over Thanksgiving weekend
(I made six in all!) for the kids.
(The blue one was not yet finished when this picture was taken.)

I have an online friend that I've known for many years. We've never met in person, but she inspires me all the time!

She has a great website called "The Prudent Homemaker" (You can see her link further down in the left sidebar) and now also has a blog where she shares what she's doing every day to live life beautifully, all while being VERY prudent with her family's limited budget and resources.

Her post from yesterday has inspired me to set some goals for myself this week, especially since our family also has VERY limited funds for this year's Christmas presents and celebrating.

So here is my list of goals for this week:

  • Finish making stockings for Brennan, Lliam, Bonny, and Gavin (I finished Bonny's last night!).
  • Cut out dresses for the little girls.
  • Decide on a couple patterns for presents for my big girls.
  • Figure out what on earth I can sew for my three teenage boys!

  • Check paint supplies for little peg people. (I think I used up all my paints making a striped jacket for Touchstone in the play "As You Like It.")
  • Check my secret Pinterest Christmas Gifts board for ideas for my two little boys.

  • Finish organizing my closet to fit all my fabric, sewing supplies, and costumes. (I'm almost done! It's a good thing we have a BIG one in this house! I am sooo not a clothes horse. My clothes take up only one tiny rack in my huge closet. I'd rather have more room for the stuff I listed above!)
  • Finish cleaning my bedroom, which has yet to be fully unpacked from our move in June. (Yes, you read that right. My poor husband!) My in-laws are coming with our Morganne this weekend, and we want to give them a full tour of our new house. 
  • Check and tidy the storage room downstairs.

Home Improvement
  • Finish painting Bonny's bedroom ??? (Since Grandma and Grandpa will be sleeping in there!) *Not in the budget this week.
  • Patch wall hole.
  • Fix light in basement.
  • Find warranty for the vacuum *No luck finding it!

  • Take our Lliam for a haircut before his choir concert (per the choir handbook-- hooray for no more shagginess!) *I ended up cutting it myself, and he looks very handsome!
  • Take a couple kids to the dollar store to purchase a gift for the sibling whose name they drew in our gift exchange.
  • Get paint and primer for Bonny's bedroom (???) *Not in the budget this week.
  • Get the vacuum fixed or replaced! *Not in the budget this week.
  • Take Brennan to the church parking lot to practice driving.

  • Get the house ready for our homeschool group classes here on Thursday.
  • Mop ALL floors
  • Vacuum EVERYTHING *Still no vacuum.
  • FOLD LAUNDRY (The never-ending task at our house)

Okay. Now I'm tired just from thinking about it. I've probably set my goals too high, but I will also prioritize them, and make sure the MOST important things get done first.

Wish me luck?

Love, Mama Rachel

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Thanksgiving Birthday

Sweet Dierdre Marie at 7 months old

Twelve years ago, in a small-town hospital surrounded by a swirling blizzard, we welcomed a sweet blond angel to our family circle.

While I was sure we were expecting a baby boy (we wanted to be surprised!), Pa Williams kept telling me throughout my pregnancy that the baby that was coming was a girl. I never believed him! We had only a boy's name picked out, and I had washed only the baby boy clothes. It was so fun to call Granna and Pa on that wintry night and tell them that Pa had known it all along!

What a wonderful blessing she has always been to our family!

Now she is a beautiful twelve-year-old young lady!

Our Dierdre is so helpful and kind to all her younger siblings! She is always willing to do whatever is asked of her, and she is usually careful to include the little ones in her adventures. 

Dierdre loves to sew and has made her own pioneer bonnet, skirt, and apron in her weekly class that's part of our homeschool group. She's also started going through my mending box, which has been amazing! She is proving to be a great seamstress like many of the women that have come before her. (Too many to mention!)

In a silk gown from Granna, and a headband from Morganne.
(Thanks, you guys!)

Dierdre is great at doing her chores and keeps her room very clean. She is quiet and gentle, but can also be goofy and fun! She is thrilled to be entering the Young Women's program at church, and was tickled that the girls in her class gave our house a "Heart Attack" in honor of her birthday.

Just a few of the hearts from the "Heart Attack."

Twelve years ago, we were grateful that we were sent a new angel less than a week after Thanksgiving Day. And today, we are so thankful that she has grown into a lovely young lady that blesses us every day!

She liked getting new earrings and her own sewing supplies.
(Thanks for the earrings, Morganne!)

And now, for more Thanksgiving photos from our celebration yesterday:

Bonny setting and decorating the table

Lliam and Dad busy in the kitchen.
(Yes, we put bacon on our turkeys. YUM!)

Little girls waiting patiently for the prayer

My view at the table

Russell's view at the table (minus Davy in his chair)
I am so grateful for ALL the many blessings the Lord has given to me and to our family! We have so very much to be thankful for. I hope all my readers had a lovely Thanksgiving, too. 

Love, Mama Rachel

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MacKenna Got Baptized!

MacKenna with Brennan, who baptized her,
and Daddy, who confirmed her.

It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful experience.

MacKenna asked her big brother, Brennan, to baptize her.

Our fun friend, Ashlynn, from across the street, came to the baptism, too!

We're so proud of our MacKenna and her excitement to become a member of the Lord's kingdom on earth.

The Keppner Family 

And we're so very grateful for Heavenly Father's eternal plan for families!

(We miss you, Morganne!)

Love, Mama Rachel

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas Reviews

"Christmas From Heaven": 
The True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber


Are you ever overwhelmed with joyful emotion every time you read or hear a certain story, no matter how many times you read or hear it?

That's exactly how I feel about the true story of Lieutenant Gale Halvorsen and the work he did as the "Berlin Candy Bomber" in Germany during the aftermath of the Second World War.

In our family, we have a special Christmas tradition of reading stories. We have some favorites that we gather together to read again and again every Christmas season:  from Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol," to the fun story of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

At the beginning of the holiday season, we start looking for a new story to share with our children at this special time of year, and this year, "Christmas from Heaven" is our new favorite!

This book is a wonderful addition to our collection! The paintings inside are beautiful, but the publishers have also included photographs of the actual events, the planes flown, the children who received the gift of candy, and even images of letters that German children sent to Lt. Halverson and his fellow pilots in the program! My children and I were delighted with the images on each page.

One wonderful bonus to the book is the addition of a DVD with the story being told by famous broadcaster, Tom Brokaw, at the Christmas concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The special effects are inspiring, and it's lovely to see the book dramatized on-stage. My children loved the video, as well!

We all expressed wonder and delight at experiencing such an inspiring, TRUE story of what one man in the world can do to bring back joy, trust, hope, and goodness to a world devastated by war. And yes, I cry everytime I think about it!


Names of Christ: Biblical Heirloom Ornaments
I am also excited to have the opportunity to review a beautiful new addition to our Christmas ornament collection! 

These stars each have a different name that the Savior was known by etched on both sides. They have a metal loop on the top of each that can be threaded with anything from colorful ribbon, to rustic string, or even metal hooks for hanging on a Christmas tree or in other places where you decorate. With one dozen stars included in the package, there are plenty to cover a tree.

These metal stars are very high in quality, and I am happy to have something new that will be able endure all the "love" my kids are sure to give them over the years! 

But more importantly, the words on each star help me pause and consider the many roles the Lord fulfilled in His life on earth, and that He is still fulfilling every day.

I am looking forward to hanging these lovely new ornaments on my tree this year, as a reminder of what Christmas is really about.

Love, Mama Rachel

{Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Copy of these products for free, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions presented in this post are my very own. ~Mama Rachel}

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Day of Fasting and Prayer

Dear friends,

There are some very important issues that will be brought before the Supreme Court very soon, and they are so important to religious liberty and freedom of conscience!

I ask that my readers will please join me in a day of prayer and fasting on Sunday, November 17th to implore the Lord for His divine help in these upcoming cases-- first that the Romeike case will be heard, and then that the court will uphold parental rights and asylum for families who are persecuted by their countries of origin for their parenting choices.

There are also two more cases that are challenging the requirements that Obamacare is placing on businesses that have to do with denying the leaders of companies the right to act according to their religious beliefs and personal convictions.

Here's more about the issues and the names of the cases in question at the website:
In Romeike v. Holder, we are asking the Supreme Court to uphold America as a place of refuge for those who are persecuted for their faith. I feel good about our argument, but we must all recognize that the Supreme Court takes a very limited number of cases—so please pray that the Court will agree to hear our appeal.
This is not the only important case being examined that day. The Justices will also decide whether to hear cases involving the strength of our constitutional religious freedoms in the ObamaCare-related cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius.

Prayer and fasting are not the last resources-- they are the very BEST!!! Will you please join me and thousands of others who care about religious and family freedoms in prayer and fasting on Sunday, November 17th?

Thank you so much!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Peace in Simplicity

A kid-built tent city
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I love Pinterest. I am an idea girl, and so I love finding new ideas and inspiration!

Recently, I have been more self-disciplined and don't just go there to browse. I make sure I only go there when looking for something specific-- and that has been a huge help in reducing how much time I spend online.

One of the things I use Pinterest the most for is for my homeschool. WOW!!! There are so many great resources for teaching my kids out there! I also find inspiring articles and quotes that keep me excited and motivated.


There is a danger lurking in all those amazing homeschool boards, pins, and ideas that anyone can fall prey to if we're not careful...

"Comparison is the thief of joy"

If we were all as fabulous as our Pinterest boards make us appear to be, we would no longer need to pin, read, save, or go back to that wonderful website again and again. I'm sure there are some awesome women out there who have done everything you see on their boards, but I don't personally know of any. And I'm definitely not one of them!!!

There are days when I will start to follow someone's homeschool board that is full of all kinds of systems for organizing papers and lesson plans, and though it all looks like it's so easy and orderly, I begin to get a tiny knot in my stomach. As the panic in my throat rises, I take a deep breath and look elsewhere.

Complexity = Burnout

"I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity… but I’d give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
I don't believe that the amount of papers I have in a file cabinet or that my children have shoved in binders is a good indication of how "educated" they are. But when I ponder on that idea, I realize that philosophy is exactly what the outside world thinks! 

Of course, this doesn't mean that we don't have papers in files-- we do! And my kids each have their own school binder (as do I) that we use to store important things we are learning about.

The difference is that I know don't need a complex system in order to homeschool well. And let me tell you, I have tried MANY filing systems, planners, and organizers over the fourteen years I've been homeschooling! I've even created all kinds of spreadsheets, folders, and planner pages that in the end, just got thrown out in the midst of us getting down to the real business of learning.

Cui Bono?

If we feel that we must serve or follow a system or we're not homeschooling "right," then we are completely missing the joy and liberty that homeschooling can bring to a family! Any "system" or philosophy we use should serve US, not the other way around.

Whenever I get paralyzed by the dazzle and shine of someone else's fabulous plans, I have to ask myself: Cui Bono? Who benefits when I try and shove my square little self into someone else's round hole?

NO ONE. Not me, and especially not my kids. So while pinning uber-organizing filing systems may help me look like the amazing homeschool mom I want everyone to think I am, it does absolutely nothing for my mental health or for my efforts to teach and inspire my kids.

Ahhhh! That's better.

True Education

True education can-- and never will be-- accurately measured by the amount of paper clutter anyone stores. True education can only be seen in the character of a person's life, in their devotion to God, in their defense of truth, in their treatment of others, and in their love of learning. 

I love this quote by Albert Einstein:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."
Those who have strong imaginations and a thirst for knowledge are the truly learned. They can adapt to any situation, and are not afraid to try new things, to experiment, and even-- yes-- to FAIL. But they are the people who get back up, dust themselves off, and try again. And again. And again.

The process above is called learning. And we, as parents, have to be careful in how we tread. Again, "Cui bono?" Are we teaching our kids in a way acceptable to others so that WE will look good? Are we so caught up in the idea of "proving that homeschool works," that we forget why we're homeschooling in the first place??? (I think we all know it isn't for the Jones', folks!)

So yes, while all the organizing and filing of papers can make the world think we're doing things "right," (and might even make us moms feel like we have it all "together,") it will never-- NEVER-- result in a better education for our children.

Love, Mama Rachel

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Love and Marriage

I love what this picture, drawn by Grayse, says about our family:
  1. She knows that Mom and Dad love each other.
  2. She knows that we love the temple, were married there, and that we value our eternal marriage.
  3. She knows that marriage leads to a house full of children.

Kids are just awesome!

Love, Mama Rachel

Friday, November 01, 2013

So Glad It's November!

This year's Halloween seemed to last an entire week-- I am glad it's all over! We had so many things going on, and too many treats, and all those other things that go along with celebrating Halloween.

Does it seem to anyone else that Halloween gets bigger and busier and gory-er every year?

Just checking to see if I'm the only one that feels that way...  (I'll try not to go to far into all the negative here...)


Our kids were very cute for all the many activities we attended, which included:

  • Ward Fall Festival last Saturday night. (Our Grayse didn't get to go because she'd been puking all day. It was so sad!)
  • Cub Scout Pack Meeting Trunk or Treat
  • Homeschool Group potluck and costume parade
  • Teen Halloween/Birthday party
  • Trick or Treating in our busy, kid-friendly neighborhood
That's a lot of costume-wearing going on. Luckily, that's the part I love!

And now for the cute kid pictures, which is the most important part-- the fruit of all the busyness that went on!

Sad to be staying home, but very cute Grayse the pioneer

MacKenna, our dramatic ballerina

Avalon, the rootin', tootin' cowgirl

Davy as William Shakespeare

Ronan, the race car driver

Dierdre, the ethereal Tolkien Elf

Isn't our Eryn a little doll???

Brennan as a Civil War Union officer

Bonny as Audrey Hepburn

Unfortunately, Lliam and Gavin didn't want to dress up for the Fall Festival, so we have no pictures of them in costume! But here are some random pictures of them looking handsome:

Lliam exercising and being charming at the same time

Gavin is such a good helper with babies!
Welcome to November!

Love, Mama Rachel

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Joy and Rejoicing!!!

My Beautiful Temple
(Photo source)
In our little corner of the world, there is much happiness and excitement going on among the Saints! We just got word about our new temple that is being built and beautified just "down the road" (3-ish miles) from our house! (It is literally ten minutes from me.)


From the Church's Newsroom:
The First Presidency has announced open house and dedication dates for the Gilbert Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The public is invited to visit the temple during an open house from Saturday, 18 January 2014, through Saturday, 15 February 2014, excluding Sundays. Free reservations for the open house can be made through the website in the coming weeks.
The temple will be formally dedicated on Sunday, 2 March 2014, in three sessions. In conjunction with the dedication of the temple, there will also be a cultural celebration featuring music and dance on Saturday, 1 March 2014.
My teens get to be in the cultural celebration. YAY!!! But my missionary will be gone before the Open House even begins. (Sad.)

The excitement in our area is palpable. We are absolutely thrilled to have such a gorgeous temple so very close to us! Word on the street is that this is one of the biggest temples that has been built in many, many years. I am looking forward to going every week!!!


Yes, joy and rejoicing, indeed.

Anyone wanna come see us during the Open House??? We'd love to have you!!!

Love, Mama Rachel