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)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Some Advice on Leadership

image via

I have a lovely online friend on Facebook that tagged me to give her some advice on her efforts to start a school in her area. I was flattered and surprised, but wanted to help, and so I sat down and wrote out seven of the lessons I've learned in my efforts to lead in my community.

As I read through them, I realized that I have never taken the time before now to sit down and think through the things I have learned over the past eight years. And so, I decided to record them here, as a way of reminding myself of the lessons that God has given me. 

And if they can possibly help someone else along the way, that is wonderful! 

Well, here's my advice, for what it's worth!

1) PRAY. I could never have had the strength and inspiration to wade through all the kinds of challenges and difficulties that DO happen, without it. Keep a constant connection between yourself and God. He has a much better view of things!

2) SIMPLIFY. If you are an idea person like me, you may have all kinds of grandiose, complicated plans that you're musing about, but I would advise you to scale things down to what you can realistically handle. There will be time to add more things as time goes on, and you have a better idea on what will be required. K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, sweetheart!)

3) FIND YOUR "WHY" AND STAY FOCUSED ON IT ALWAYS. If you haven't already read it, take the time to read the book "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek. Our "Why" is the most important ingredient to successful leadership. Make it the center of everything you do!

4) DO NOT TRY TO PLEASE EVERYONE! It is an impossible thing to try to do, and it can never, never, NEVER happen! So do what you can to help others, but don't own their problems, and be prepared to be criticized. Sometimes, the criticism is warranted, and you need to listen.

However, there are often people who do not wish to have the responsibility of leadership that still want to steer the boat with their strong opinions. These people will usually criticize you no matter what you do! So, don't change your direction, unless a trusted, wise friend or mentor gives you advice to do so. (And if they do, LISTEN and follow it!) Just don't change things constantly in order to please others. Follow that inner voice-- your gut, the Spirit, whatever you want to call it-- and trust that you are going in the right direction. If someone doesn't like how you are doing things, allow them to go and start their own!

5) USE THE INTERNET. Have a website, use social media, and stay in close email contact with your community. If you have a teenager in your family or among your friends that can take on the social media presence for you, do it! You probably won't have time to maintain all of these yourself, so find some good help, but always have an Internet presence that accurately represents who you are and what your vision is. That way, like-minded people can always find you.


There will be times when people will tell you how awesome you are, and you might begin to buy into it. DON'T! Just bring them back down to earth, and remind them that you are just a mama with a dream, and are doing your best to see it through. It's sad, but true, that there are some people that might even try to put you on a pedestal so that they can knock you down.

Just don't ever get up on that pedestal-- it's lonely and cold there! (And it's a LONG way back down to earth!) Stay down on the ground with everyone else, and keep your principles and ideals and your "why" up on the pedestal.

I had an amazing mentor once remind me, "Peoples are peoples, Rachel," and it's true. We are all children of God, just trying to do our best.

7) KEEP YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT. Your husband and your children and your God are the most important things in your life, so be sure to never let your dreams and goals harm those precious relationships. Be 100% willing to step away from-- or completely drop-- whatever it is you're doing if it EVER harms your family or your principles and beliefs.


Love, Mama Rachel

Monday, September 01, 2014

Welcome September!

Our Bonny is fourth from the right. (Photo courtesy of Ballet Etudes)

Hello to my sweet, precious missionaries!!!

This past week was pretty low key. Things are finally getting settled with our TJLA plans (We start classes on Sept. 12th.), and though we have yet to set up a workable schedule for our own family, it's coming. That's my goal for this week!!!

On Tuesday evening, we had a registration meeting for TJLA, and I think it went well. This whole summer I've been a basketcase about TJLA. I felt like everyone had jumped ship, and I had destroyed it all.

And yes, the majority of the families we had involved last year left. But, we had new families and some old ones, and each of our three scholar classes have more than ten students each! It really is going to happen! We will be having a Key of Liberty class, a Biology lab, and a Great English Literature class (Taught by me. YAY!). It's all coming together, and I feel a great deal of relief. Honestly, I'm so glad this is my last year in charge! I want to get back to mentoring, my real love.

Wednesday was full with all the busyness of mutual, scouts, and Activity Day, and this week will be the same. I'm still an Activity Day leader, and trying to breathe new life into it for me and these new girls. I have taken a break since Fiona was born, and we're starting up again this week.

Bonny had an audition of sorts at a new studio on Thursday. It's quite a drive for us (It's right by the Southern Estates area), but it sounds like they loved Bonny, and had a wonderful atmosphere and feeling. She is so excited! She's planning on trying out for the Nutcracker production this year-- at last!!! I am wary about the amount of rehearsals and driving, but we don't have Shakespeare this year, and I know it's her turn to do something that is just HERS.

This kids-growing-up-business is not fun for Mom, I'll tell you that!

On Friday, Lliam and Bonny went to work for a family in our old ward in the Burrow. (Though they've moved, too.)

They helped the family clean and paint in their parents home. The old folks have passed away, and the family is looking to update the house so they can rent it. They did a good job, and the H-- were pleased with what they did. Bonny and Gavin headed over there this morning to work some more.

Bonny also went babysitting that night from about 5pm to 8:30pm. She is working HARD to get to Europe! I am so, SOOO proud of her.

Saturday was my 40th Birthday.


I spent most of the day teaching people how to mentor Shakespeare. (10am to 4pm) It was fun! In fact, J--'s mom was there. Yes, SHE is mentoring Shakespeare for QuEST this Fall. LOL! I guess J-- comes home in January, and she will help direct their show this Spring.

Strange business, yes?

Saturday night, we had a lovely Italian dinner, and then yesterday we had my birthday cake. (Angel food cake with real whipped cream and raspberries. YUM!) Daddy got me the new Vocal Point album, and a costume drama movie called "Belle."

Here are the links for Morganne-- sorry Brennan! ;-) :

Vocal Point-
Preview for "Belle"-

Yesterday, Dierdre gave her FIRST talk in Sacrament meeting!!! She did an AWESOME job, and so many people stopped to tell me how impressed they were. She spoke on Repentance, and had wonderful scriptures, conference talks, and personal experiences to use. I did not help her one bit! It was all her! I was very glad that Lliam decided to come to church and support Didi.

The Spirit was sooo strong through all our meetings. It was a wonderful, wonderful Sabbath day!

And here we are on Monday morning. I have no idea whether Brennan will get this today-- Labor Day! Daddy gets to stay home from work, and everyone got to sleep in.

And I get to write my wonderful missionaries. :-)

I love you both so, so dearly. I am SOOO PROUD of you and all you are doing!!! You are setting a wonderful example for all your younger siblings. And I APPRECIATE that so much!!!!!!!!

Lots of love, hugs, kisses, and glowing proudness,