Monday, December 22, 2014

December Hustle

Dear ones,

Oh, my-- what a busy week! I'm sure you all feel the same.

The first part of the week was pretty normal, but things sped up from there. TJLA classes ended last Friday, so we didn't have any classes this past week. Bonny and Gavin's seminary class ended for the semester, as did Bonny's dance classes at school. Lliam worked, and the kids made lots of messes. In other words, completely NORMAL!

Homeschool is now officially on break, though December is always slow in the academics department. What else is new?

We have been blessed to be the recipient of the 12 Days of Christmas this year, and we all work hard to NOT catch whoever our kind friends are. We've received treats, toys, yummy homemade bread, lovely decorations, and fun things like playdough for the kids. It is so sweet and makes the holiday even more fun than usual.

Bonny and some Dance class friends

Thursday evening, we ALL traipsed over to Bonny's dance recital-- the first one our WHOLE family has been able to attend, since the other ones from years past always charged mega-bucks for just Daddy and I to attend. It was awesome! Bonny did a really great job-- ballet truly IS her genius! The teacher placed her front and center on the ballet number, and it was GORGEOUS. She is such a lovely dancer!

She has made some good friends in her classes, even though she is one of the oldest students there. It's nice that the school is so small, but the majority of students there are junior high age. I'm going to look into the possibility of some science classes there for her next year. We'll see what she wants to do, and if that's even possible.

Lliam has been working hard in all the holiday rush at a cash register, and does a good job. Unfortunately he got sick, and has not been able to work as much as he would like.

Lliam, Bonny, Dierdre, Dad, and now Ronan all have killer colds, complete with sore throats and lots of coughing. Bonny completely lost her voice, and was not even able to go to church yesterday. The rest of us are taking lots of vitamin C, we all went to bed early last night, and several kids slept all afternoon after church. The house reeks of essential oils, humidifiers are humming, and herbal tea is being consumed at an alarming rate.

Almost all of Friday, I went out shopping, shopping, SHOPPING. It took a lot of time, but we FINALLY got Brennan's missionary package finished and SENT! (Whew!)

Then, that night, Bonny and I went with some homeschooling friends to see "A Christmas Carol" at the Hale Center theatre. (We've been part of a group called "The Statesmanship Club" that Sister W-- has created.) It was really good, and we all agreed that I should direct it in the next few years. We've already practically got it cast! ;-)

After the play, we took the youth to the G--'s for the Ensign Educator's yearly homeschool Christmas party. Bonny came home with me, since she was feeling pretty sickly by then. But Gavin and Didi had a good time. They had a hayride and went caroling.

McKenna and her fellow ballerinas

Saturday morning, Bonny had her recital for all her ballet students. It was cute, and they all did a good job. I think the parents were glad it was short and sweet, and so were we! The girls had a great time, and that's what's most important.

Dierdre and A-- before their dance number

Saturday afternoon, Dad and I braved the crowds and went out shopping until late at night. We are mostly done with everything for Christmas! YAY!!!

Yesterday's Christmas sacrament meeting program went really well, I think. I had more people sing with our choir than have ever sung with the choir in this ward. (So Brother H-- told me.) We sang three songs, with two speakers in between our numbers, and the songs and talks went together perfectly. Heavenly Father is so wonderful, isn't He? Everything in the program was so inspired, and I am constantly amazed at how much the Lord loves us all.

Sadly, Lliam and Bonny were sick, so I left Fiona home with Bonny. Daddy even went home after sacrament meeting, since he was beginning to come down with the ick.

In Relief Society, I sang with some ladies for a special musical number. Sister W--, Sister H--, and Sister W-- (You'll love her when you meet her!) joined me in singing "Candlelight Carol"-- one of my FAVORITES! I think it went well, but most importantly, it brought the Spirit.

I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I am so excited to have my Morgie home with us-- I can't believe her mission is over and she is coming home!!!! And I'm ecstatic to talk to my Elder Brennan on Christmas Day. WAHOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do we need more exclamation marks? Oh, yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


We love you all and wish we could have each of you with us, but we are also grateful for the promise of eternal families that we have because of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ! My heart is full of joy and hope all because of the sacrifice of our our elder brother.

More than anything else, this Christmas I want to give my family my sure witness and testimony that Jesus Christ is REAL! That He loves us, and that He did all that He did for US. HOSANNAH!!! And Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Love, love, love,
Mama Rachel

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Now We Are Six!

"When I was one, I had just begun.
When I was two, I was nearly new.
When I was three, I was hardly me.
When I was four, I was not much more. 
When I was five, I was just alive.
But, now I am six. I'm as clever as clever. I think I'll be six now, forever and ever."
~A.A. Milne

Dear ones,

Avalon turned SIX YEARS OLD last Thursday, and had a good birthday celebration, I think. She got a Tinkerbell barbie, new shoes, birthday money from Grandma, an adorable Cinderella apron from Granna, and lots of fun, little things that little girls like-- especially when it's from the movie "Frozen."

Avalon-- I mean, Cinderella

Avalon danced, and giggled, and sang all day long. Oh the joy of being SIX! She told me that she was just like Eloise-- except not naughty. Hee!

I was good and did not comment...

Bonny made her a beautiful snowflake cake ala "Elsa", and we had a nice time together as a family.

We finished reading "A Wrinkle in Time" out loud as a family. And Mom cried, of course. We just started "Howl's Moving Castle" and are reading our Christmas stories aloud every night. Daddy is looking forward to reading "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" aloud, though I am pulling for "A Christmas Carol," since we never got to that one last year.

This week will be hectic, with Christmas parties, a house inspection, Dad's birthday, and comings and goings of all kinds.

Big brothers make great airplanes.

Lliam's new job at --- is working well, and he enjoys it. It's been very busy there, because of all the Christmas shoppers. Lliam works the register and also helps unload the truck when it comes in. 

Bonny got a new REGULAR job last week! YAY! She has started working as a "mother's helper" for a lady in our ward that lives down the street. She does a bit of everything; babysitting, laundry, cleaning, helping where she's needed. She works there for 3 hours each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. She still teaches ballet on Tuesdays, and attends dance and ballroom dance classes at --- on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. (There's a new building over by us, now. It's nice!) And she studies and does all her school work beautifully!

She is a responsible, organized girl, or she never could manage everything on her plate. She has big plans for attending BYU, and she is working hard to get there. I'm starting to miss her already!

Dierdre is on fire with family history work, and does some indexing every day. And she loves Pinterest, too. ;-) She is working hard in her Key of Liberty class, and is also doing well in my English Literature class. She has some adorable little friends in Beehives with her, and is really coming into her own. She and Bonny are best buddies, and talk and giggle for hours.

Gavin is going crazy with programming-- he LOVES it! And he is catching the indexing bug, too. He is our resident math guru, and loves taking his turn on the computer so he can do math and programming. And he's GOOD. Dad is taking him under his wing, and helping him understand anything he doesn't pick up on. He is moving at a tremendous pace, and I think Daddy is glad to have another programmer in the house. :-D

Ronan is busy taking everything apart that he can get his hands on. Unfortunately, he can't always put it back together! Last night, he figured out how to make a homemade machine work with wires and batteries. But then he got shocked a bit. Luckily, Dad stopped him before he tried to open up an old computer monitor. Those are dangerous; even Dad doesn't mess with them. He is also still Lego crazy, and designs and builds new things all the time.

Sleeping Beauties

MacKenna is reading so beautifully. She reads aloud to me from the Book of Mormon every night, and I can see her improvement every day.

Grayse is becoming quite the artist. She's really good! And she LOVES baby Fiona, and carries her all around the house.

Eryn is growing up so fast. She is doing better about sucking her fingers, but when she gets sleepy, she still can't seem to help it. It's so cute; when Fiona cries, Eryn will come running with her blanket to try to soothe her. LOL!

Davy boy is so excited about EVERYTHING, especially about getting into mischief. He adores Fiona, but sometimes loves on her a bit too much-- which she does not appreciate.

He talks up a storm, and has the clearest little voice. Now, if we could get him to stop screaming: in happiness, enthusiasm, frustration, for anything! It's cute, but only for so long. And he inherited that piercing, ear-splitting scream that Gavin used to have and the little girls all have.

"Oh, the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!" ;-)

Big sisters like to dress up babies

Fiona is now CRAWLING. She is also an expert in her baby walker, and loves to talk, sing, and bang on everything. She is constantly making sounds to match the kids. She will try whatever sounds those around her are making. She will be an early talker, for sure.

We love you all!!! We wish you the peace, love and joy of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We are so grateful for Him and his beautiful example, teachings, and sacrifice.

We have so many reasons to rejoice!!! We hope you are all having a lovely Christmas season, and that you feel the Savior's love every day.

Love, Mama Rachel

Monday, December 01, 2014

December Cometh!

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Dear ones,

We had a great week, and a blessed Thanksgiving. We hope you all had the same!

The week started out slow, but then picked up steam as it went on.

Early in the week, I found out that I got a part in the Stake Relief Society musical! Wahoo! I will be playing the part of the Narrator (two solos! O.o) in a musical about the parable of the Ten Virgins. The music is beautiful, and I'm excited to get started! We perform it in February at a stake Relief Society activity.

I'm thrilled for the chance to play the Narrator!

On Wednesday, Bonny and Dierdre went to the temple with some friends that just moved from our ward. I watched the family's younger kids while they went. The girls had a great time! 

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Bonny and friend

Thursday was Thanksgiving, of course, and Daddy, Lliam, Bonny, Dierdre, and I had a good time cooking, baking, and getting ready. Dad tried a new way to cook the turkey, but we cooked another 20+ pounder, so it took longer than we had hoped. (Typical, right? LOL!)

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Thanksgiving action shot!

Bonny and Dierdre did all the pies, Lliam did the potatoes, and Dad and I did the rest. It was yummy! We hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration, too. :-)

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Happy Birthday to our Didi!

Friday was our Dierdre's birthday! Can you believe she's 13?! She and Bonny spent a good part of the morning setting up Pinterest and Gmail accounts for her. (She's decided she doesn't want a Facebook account. Which works because we're on a FB fast, anyway.)

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13 Candles
We also spent Friday putting up all the Christmas decorations. YAY!!! In fact, Daddy and I actually got a NEW TREE! I know, I know. It's a miracle! It's a 7 foot tall wonder that looks the closest to real we've ever had. (Daddy and I ventured out on Black Friday to get it half off.)

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A new tree!

Saturday was full of service for the youth, first cleaning the church, and then helping the C--- family move. Lliam also had his trek reunion on Saturday night, so he actually got to spend some time with Mark!

Mark looks great. He is so excited to leave for the MTC in the middle of this month. Hong Kong won't know what hit it! ;-) I know he's going to be a great missionary! He even took this semester off from college! I wish he and Lliam could get together more.

Sunday was lovely. Lliam had a meeting for his new job early on Sunday morning before church. He starts work at The Dollar Tree TODAY! He is excited to have a regular, non-temporary job. He was given a new bike by Brother C--- when he helped them move this weekend, so between the bike and his longboard, he's all set!

The kids and I are in full Christmas-happy-mode, listening to lots of Christmas music. (Look for something special in the mail this week, Elder Keppner!!!) They're all begging to go Christmas shopping, and some even have their shopping for siblings all done. Christmas will be here before we know it! (Yikes-- I need to get busy!)

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Happy baby!

We look forward to having Morgie home for Christmas. Her ticket is bought, and we're trying to figure out how to rearrange rooms. We're also excited to be able to Skype with our Elder on Christmas day!!!

HALLELUJAH!!!! And Happy December, y'all! We love you!!!

Mama Rachel

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Refiner's Fire

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." ~Romans 8:28

Love, Mama Rachel

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Holding on to Hope

I think most bloggers would agree with me that it is not easy to blog when we are going through tough times.

That's how I feel, anyway.

I am normally obnoxiously candid and transparent on my blog. But my candor in real life has recently really bit me. Hard. And I am still reeling from the trouble and heartache it's created.

So, even though I HATE ambiguity, I just can't be more explicit about what's going on in my life right now.

However, I DO know that Jesus loves me. And I know that joy WILL come again. And I have HOPE in happier tomorrows, all because of Christ and His all-encompassing Atonement.

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.
Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me, He was crucified.
That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled, and died.

Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me,
Enough to die for me.
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful, to me!

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me,
Enough to die for me.
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful, to me!

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me,
Enough to die for me.
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful, to me!

Love, Mama Rachel

Monday, November 03, 2014

Autumn has Come at Last

Some of Bonny's Ballerina students dressed up for Halloween

Dear ones,

We Arizona folk are ecstatic that cooler temperatures have come at last! The kids are running in and out of the house this morning with jackets on, loudly declaring "Winter is here!!!"

Yeah, mornings in the low 50's will do that to them.


In other news, we had a wonderful stake conference this past weekend. President Derrick's whole talk was about when missionaries come home, so I will be sending you guys a separate email about that.

HALLOWEEN at Keppnerhaus:
  • Trunk or Treat
  • Neighborhood trick or treating
  • Daddy bought 15 pounds of candy from WinCo and we passed it ALL out!!!
  • Traditional chili for dinner
  • Davy running around saying "Hawo-WEEN! Hawo-WEEN!" and "CANDY!!!"
Bonny as a "Candy Rapper" and Dierdre as an Native American princess

Grayse Dawn IS Snow White!

Ronan made most of his costume himself!

Davy as a Renaissance boy

Eryn the sweet mousie

Avalon the Fairy/Borrower (Don't ask...)

MacKenna as an acrobat/gymnast

The Mominator

Monday, October 27, 2014

The End of October

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A Boy and his Horse
Dear ones,

We had a good week, and the kids are all looking forward to the Halloween festivities for this weekend.

This past weekend, Daddy set the tent up in the Family room, and we had tin foil dinners and s'mores to eat, and even told stories before going to bed. (In front of a video of a fire in a fireplace. It reminded us all of the log house in Idaho! Except warmer. ;-D ) It was really nice.

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I have been meaning to tell you about our brave and courageous Bonny. You know how she was cast to play a soldier in The Nutcracker Ballet? Well, she found out that they were going to require her to dance at least one Sunday performance. She asked me what she should do, and I told her that she knew how I felt, but that it was HER decision to make, and she would have to pray about it, and get her own answer.

Right before General Conference, Bonny came to me and said that she had been praying about dancing on Sunday, and that she had decided to listen to each talk in conference to hear an answer from Heavenly Father.

Wow. I was so thankful for her faith!

So, conference came, and it was wonderful, of course. After it was over, Bonny came to me privately and told me that she had received her answer. The Spirit confirmed to her that she should uphold her standards and not dance on Sunday. She was told that she needed to be a good example to her older and younger siblings by keeping the Sabbath day Holy and standing for truth.

She went to rehearsal the following Saturday, with a prayer in her heart, and told her ballet instructor that she would not be dancing in any Sunday performance. The instructor told her to talk to the artistic director, and so Bonny went to talk to her, interrupting a lesson. She explained that it was against her personal standards to perform on Sundays. The artistic director looked at her and said, "Then, you are dismissed."

So Bonny called Daddy to come and get her early.

Before they arrived home, Daddy called me to let me know what had happened. I knew how much dancing in the Nutcracker means to Bonny, and how many years she has been wishing she could dance with Ballet Etudes in that show. I prepared to receive a very sad, distraught girl.

Instead, when Bonny walked in the door, she was walking tall, and GLOWING. Her face was filled with peace, and I was SOOO proud of her!!! I still am. :-)

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Avalon lost her first tooth!

We hope you are enjoying the beautiful Fall weather-- it is still supposed to be in the 90's here this week! But I never count on the weather cooling off until Halloween. That's just Arizona!

We wish you all a Happy Halloween this weekend! Picture of cute kids in costumes will be forthcoming next week, I am sure! ;-)

The Momster

Monday, October 20, 2014

Homeschooling Helps: Teaching Character

(Artwork by the talented Greg Olsen)

And now, for a happy, mundane post about some of the things we're using for homeschool this year! This is part one of a "Homeschooling Helps" series I will be doing about the subjects we are studying in our homeschool for the 2014-2015 school year.

Searching for the right resource

For years, I have been looking for an LDS based program for teaching Good Character. I know there are many out there for other Christians, but I have wanted one that specifically used LDS scriptures and quotes from our church leaders.

I also needed something that is fluid-- something that I can change and adjust at the last minute. Because I love to make plans, but I don't always love to follow those plans.

Tricky, I know.

And then one day, while I was trying to put together a devotional for our homeschool on Obedience, I discovered an amazing online resource that has been right in front of me for years.

The website

I went to the LDS Church's website under the "Resources" tab at the right-hand top of the page, and then...

1) I followed on the link that said "Children".  
2) Then I clicked the link in the left-hand sidebar that says "Resources for Teaching Children."
3) I next clicked on the link that said "Resources by Topic."

And voila! I suddenly had before me a long list of topics to choose from! And when I clicked on the topic I was looking for, I found an enormous amount of songs, stories, and activities I could use, all on that subject!

Quick and easy preparation, lots of topics available, and all the components needed for a short and sweet character lesson. Just the thing I was looking for!

Making a plan

After finding the list of topics above, making a plan for our character studies then became really easy to do! After some praying and pondering, I wrote down the months of the year, and assigned each month a topic that I want to focus on with my kids. 

For September, I decided to focus on the character trait of "Obedience." I found just the songs and stories I needed for our particular circumstances, and used a few of the activities available.

I decided to sing one song and read one story about obedience each day as part of our homeschool devotional. I can go right to my computer that morning, and choose the things I want to use for that day's lesson. (Which works great with my spontaneous nature!)

Choose, print out, teach, discuss.

That's it!

How is it going?

Despite October's craziness, we still have been holding our morning devotionals. (Though we did take off the week of "Fall Break" so the kids could spend some time with their public schooled friends, who were out of school for the week.)

For October, I chose the subject of Integrity. But when I looked at the list of topics on the website, they didn't have anything for that. So I decided to look at the other topics again, and see if anything else was similar. I decided to use the resources for "Honesty," but then added my own insights to look at honesty with an eye toward having integrity.

It's been great! I love that every day is different, and that I can choose a story that morning that can speak to what is going on in our family right then.

I hope this idea can help another mom who is struggling to find the right resources for teaching lesson on good character!

Love, Mama Rachel

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Trials and Tribulations

The past week has been a real "adventure"-- and definitely not one I would have asked for. Yet, at the same time, I have felt the Lord's protection and love so strongly this past week. I know He is watching over our family.

We've had money problems, MAJOR teen troubles, car issues, toddler craziness, and even bodily injury. Needless to say, I'm EXHAUSTED.

{Just as a warning, some of what has happened might not be something you want to read, and the corresponding pictures might be too much for some people to handle. So, read on at your own discretion!!!}

A Battle for the Soul

First of all, we have a child who is struggling spiritually. I am a very transparent person-- I don't like secrets, and I can't stand ambiguity. However, this child's story is not mine to tell to the general public, so I will refrain from going into details here on my blog.

I can say that it has been the most difficult year of my life, and I am learning some very challenging, though amazing, lessons from it all. I have discovered things about myself that I never wanted to know, but I have also experienced some phenomenal changes in my own heart.

I am in awe of how God can can make the painful and devastating into goodness and light. He truly IS a God of miracles!!!

An Accident

And now, on to the latest drama at our house. It involves this little sweetheart:

Our smiley MacKenna, age 8

My girls like to keep their hair long. And I mean LONG. A trim around here is a big event. With two teenage girls, and five-- yes, FIVE-- little girls at our house, it's all about the hair.

So, right before the sun began setting last evening, we were buried in the usual evening craziness. I was furiously making dinner while talking to my mom on the phone, the big kids were watching an economics video, and the other kids were all playing in the basement-- or so I thought.

As I was talking to my mom, my twelve year old daughter, Dierdre, came running up to me with strong urgency telling me that our MacKenna had her hair caught in the AC unit outside. I ran outside with her, followed by a couple of other kids. Over my shoulder, I asked Dierdre to go grab my sewing scissors, and, while still on the phone with my mom, explaining that something bad was going on (I think I was too shocked to hang up), I made my way to the north side of our house, where our AC units sit on the ground. 

MacKenna was on top of the big unit, screaming and crying. I hung up with my mom, and was greeted by an unfamiliar young lady standing next to my daughter. Apparently, she had heard MacKenna's cries and screams, and had come through our side gate to help her. She had then knocked on our back door and let Dierdre know what was going on.

I tried to assess how to best help MacKenna. She was lying on top of the unit with her head laying flat against the cage surrounding the huge fan. The fan was stopped, but as I examined more closely, I could see that her hair had stopped the fan, as it was wound around it several times.

I poked the sewing scissors that Dierdre had brought to me through the cage around the fan, and slowly turned the fan to unwind her hair. The sweet young lady that was MacKenna's hero held up MacKenna's body to help ease the pressure on her head. Finally, we got her hair unwound, and were able to release her and put her back on the ground. 

Her hair looked burned in some places, and she said that she felt like her head was burned. On closer examination, we found that she had some hairs that were now hanging down below her regular hair length. Some clumps of hair had been pulled out.


MaKenna's savior excused herself, and I thanked her profusely, telling her that she was a true hero! (Luckily, my girls know our hero by name, and so I'm planning to do something special for her in gratitude.) I took my poor girl in the house to examine her better, and see what we could do to help make her more comfortable. 

MacKenna was very upset, sobbing her heart out, and I was trying to calm her, while not panicking, myself.

As I carefully brushed her hair, more clumps came out, and I found where her hair had come out at the roots. She has a little bald spot that-- thankfully-- is easily covered by her other hair. However, her hair was damaged and broken above her shoulders, and so I knew she would need a haircut. 

This is just some of the clumps of hair that came out.
This funny girl smiled for the pictures!

The new bald patch

I also knew that she would need to give her hair a real rest, in order to prompt her bald spot to grow back, and her head to heal. (There was NO damage to her scalp-- a real tender mercy!!!) So, a short haircut it was to be!

You can see how it's now thinner on the right side of her head.

Before the haircut, we wrapped her in a blanket, to keep her from getting shock, and I laid her on the couch to rest and calm down. The other little girls were so cute, bringing her toys, tucking the blanket around her, trying to make her more comfortable.

At one point, she said, "Mom, you know how you told me that the best way to calm down is to take deep breaths? I'm trying to calm down."

So I helped her regulate her breathing, and she was able to relax considerably. 

At this point, my 18 year old son announced that my missionary had written us an email. (WHAT??? I had been told that P-day was supposed to be tomorrow!!! :-( Crud...)

So, while MacKenna rested, I tried to explain to my missionary why he had not received a letter. :-( (Sometimes we can catch each other online, and almost "chat".) I also gave a quick recap of the drama going on at home. (All this while dinner was still on the stove. I think my son had the clarity of mind to turn the burners down.)

Our missionary had to go, so I promised to send him a "" letter with more details of the craziness, and got back to finishing dinner.

Russell finally got home from work, and we had to tell the whole story to him. He immediately gave MacKenna a blessing of comfort, and she calmed down even more. (She had gotten upset again in the telling of the story. I can't blame her!!!) 

I am so VERY grateful for the Priesthood power that my husband worthily uses to bless our family. It makes even the most scary things become less traumatic. We ALL felt more peaceful after Russell's sweet blessing!

I called my mom back to let her know that MacKenna was okay, and we all sat down to eat dinner.

The Haircut

Her "Before" pose. (With a smile again!)
And "After"-- she looks so grown up!

Life Lessons

All of these "trials and tribulations" have got me thinking. My daughter was just walking by the AC units, enjoying the breeze produced by them blowing in her hair. One second, she was having a quiet, serene moment alone, and the next she was terrified and in pain.

She had not been doing anything she shouldn't be doing, really. But she was close to danger, and had no idea of what was about to happen in an instant of being too close.

Don't these things happen to us all the same way? And sometimes by our own faulty judgment? One inch too close to danger, and we can be devastated by the results.

But even when we have blindly and unintentionally strayed too close to the danger zone, God sends us heroes, and help, and love, and comfort. Our Heavenly Father NEVER leaves us alone.

If we permit ourselves to learn from these difficult times, and allow our hearts to be humbled and changed, there are smiles and good things just around the corner.

Yes, He truly IS a God of miracles, large and small.

Love, Mama Rachel

Monday, September 29, 2014

Another Week in the Kingdom of Keppner

Peek-a-boo with Fiona

Dear Awesome Missionaries and Beloved Family,

As September ends, and October begins, all is well in the Keppner Castle. The kids are super excited for Halloween, and are planning their costumes as we speak. I'm glad they're starting early this year, just in case I need to sew something. Often, we put it off until the day of, and that is no bueno.

Last week was mostly uneventful, though busy, as usual.

Gavin and Bonny attend seminary every morning from 7:30 to about 8:30. The Seminary is getting better about telling me when the time needs to change, and I sooo appreciate it! It is so sweet of them to remember us oddball homeschoolers. ;-)

Bonny is still teaching ballet and now has rehearsals for the Nutcracker, Lliam is working (YAY!!!) in the afternoons and evenings, and everybody is doing pretty well in our homeschool.

Davy, feeling quite unhappy in his footie pajamas

Davy spends most of his time in footie pajamas, in an attempt to curb his nudist habits. :-p So, now his favorite thing is to try to take a bath in our garden tub, footie pj's and all. He is soggy a LOT. We have to keep our door locked to keep him out. But, oh, man, is he CUTE! :-D

Fiona is a talker and likes to makes lots of noise. Where she gets that from, I have no idea. HA! She gets cuter every day, and we are all so in love with her.

My English lit class went well this week. We discussed "Sir Gawain," had some lessons on chivalry and manners, and then had a little potluck party where everyone dressed up in costume or church clothes, and brought a finger food to share. It was really fun! We've got a good group of kids. There a tall 18 year old I may have to kick out if his attitude doesn't improve, but other than that, it's a great group! ;-)

Daddy and I are working on getting out of debt, and really trying to complete the Dave Ramsey babysteps this time. *sigh* I think every time we try it, we get a little closer, so that's good, even though we usually have to start at step one again and again. We hope we can set a better example for you kids!

We're still not sure what to do about our landlords wanting to sell the house in January. It really IS my dream house, and I don't want to leave! We're just trying to follow the Spirit, and are talking and praying a lot about what we should do. Daddy also works at his dream job, but he really is not getting paid what he is worth, so that's hard. Whatever we do, we will do with prayer and pondering, and time in the temple, so don't worry about us. But extra prayer warriors are always welcome! ;-)

Sir Toby Hopkins, the toad
In other news, we got lots of heavy rain on Saturday, and the kids found a TOAD in one of the window wells! In true Brennan fashion, the kids have adopted him, and he now lives in the aquarium. Dierdre, who caught him and takes care of him, named him "Sir Toby." Ah, I love how Shakespeare sneaks into our lives again and again! :-D

Saturday night's women's broadcast was AWESOME!!! I bawled all throughout Elder Uchtdorf's talk, and was tickled to hear one of the ladies in the YW presidency speak from the pulpit in a Southern accent! Wonderful talks and music-- and it was so special to have MacKenna, Dierdre, and Bonny there with me. I LOVE it!!!

Miss MacKenna and Fiona

There is a wonderful article in the October Ensign that talks about how to have more effective prayers. I tried it this morning, and am feeling much more peace than I have in a while. PRAYER WORKS!!! It seems like it gets harder as I get older, which I guess is part of the test of life. I love Heavenly Father so much, and I know that He wants me to be more diligent in calling on Him, so I'm trying to do better. :-)

Oh! I got a new calling! I got released from Activity Day (after serving as a leader over many years, at 4 times in different wards)-- can you believe it??? And now I have been called as... Ward Choir Director! :-D This will be my 3rd time in that calling. But I really do enjoy it! And I get to get started on CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!! Yahoo!!! Sister B-- is the choir pianist, so we're going to have LOTS of fun! We are meeting today to pick music. :-D ♪ ♫ ♪

Daddy spoke in church yesterday, and did a wonderful job sharing some stories about Grandpa and Grandma Pike and their conversion to the Church. And he bore a beautiful testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel. He is such a good man, and I love him so much! You ought to ask him to send you a copy of a letter he read parts of. It was one Grandpa Pike had written to your Grandma Diana when she was a girl. It's really great.

Well, I have babbled on long enough. We love you and miss you!!!

I know that the Church is true, that Jesus loves us, and that we will be happy if we choose the right!!! You all continue to be in our hearts and prayers. :-)

Love, Mama Rachel

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September Rolls On...

Happy Fiona

Dear Fantastic Missionaries (and family!),

Life is busy, busy, BUSY, as always. It's always funny to review each week, because after getting through it all, it somehow becomes a big mish-mash of "What the heck did we do this week???"

I will try to remember everything that went on, just for y'all! ;-)

On Tuesday we did some science for homeschool (We still take Mondays off for cleaning and Sunday recovery.), and just stayed home learning and making messes all day. It was nice! :-)

Twinners MacKenna and Grayse

Daddy's car is out of commission, due to an expensive hybrid battery that we have to replace. ($2500 for a BATTERY. Yikes.) So he has been driving the van to work, and it's been a pain to not be able to go where I need to go, but it's kind of nice, too. The biggest problem with all of that is driving Daddy back and forth to work if I need the van that day.

It's kind of funny when I think about how Daddy now works only 5 minutes (And within biking distance) from our OLD house, as opposed to 20 minutes away from our house here in Gilbert.


Davy-boy is getting so big!

Wednesday was busy with history for homeschool, and then Activity Day, 11yo scouts, and mutual. The big kids got to go to SKATELAND for a combined activity and had a great time! They loved telling everyone about how we used to live around the corner. :-) 

Handsome Gavin

Thursday ended up being crazy, partially because Bonny and Lliam worked for the H-- in Mesa again, and partially because I got wild hair and reorganized the laundry room, which has been really bugging me of late. With Bonny and Lliam gone working, and Gavin was hiding in his room downstairs, I moved a very LARGE cabinet from the garage to the laundry room BY MYSELF. (Applause, please!) I was very proud :-) and sweaty. :-p

Bonny and Lliam brought home a box full of treasures. They were given a Polaroid camera from the 1960's, some old shoes and handbags for costumes, and even an 8-track tape. They were in awe of it all! LOL!

Ronan is the Lego Man

Friday brought our homeschool classes here to the house, with the Biology kids here in the morning, and me teaching my English lit class in the afternoon. I am LOVING it! But I hope the kids are enjoying it. It's a bit more sedate than my usual Shakespeare classes, but I'm doing all I can to make it fun.

Next week we will be discussing "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," which is an epic poem from the Medieval times. The version we're studying was translated by Tolkien. Yeah, it pretty much ROCKS! :-D (Brennan, you would LOVE it!)

Avalon loves to SMILE!

Saturday was BUSY. Bonny and I went to her first meeting for the Nutcracker ballet, followed by grocery shopping at American Discount Foods, and then transporting the Bon-bon to ballet CLASS and home again. She was cast as a toy soldier in the fight scene, and she is ECSTATIC! :) 

Ballerina Bon

Later that night, she also babysat for the W---. She came home exhausted! Between working for the H--- and babysitting like crazy, she has almost earned her payment for Europe this month. We are so proud of how responsible she is. What a girl!

Dierdre also was babysitting on Saturday. She's been babysitting a lot lately, too. She was set apart as the Beehive class secretary yesterday. She is such a sweetheart!

Dierdre, head of the breakfast team, making breakfast.

Sunday we had awesome meetings, and S--- sang while her mom played the violin. It was beautiful! Lliam came for the second and third hours, but then left and spent the day at a friend's house. He didn't get home until just before 11pm, and then he and I had a long, good heart to heart.

Wow, I LOVE that young man! He is struggling with some things, but he is still a wonderful son, and our relationship has never been better. I know the Lord is really working in his life. 

Lliam entertaining our Fiona

Well, I have oatmeal to scrape off the kitchen floor, and a fussy baby to feed, before I gather my cleaning crew to work on the kitchen.

Lovely Eryn

We all love and miss our sweet missionaries! THANK YOU for dedicating this time in your life to the Lord. I know that it is blessing us, you, and so many others.

With so much love,

Mom (a.k.a. Queen Mother of the Universe)