Tuesday, December 01, 2015

December 2015 Term: Week One

"The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Rembrandt van Rijn

Hello, everyone! 

I'm just peeking in here to share my latest "Lead, Guide, Walk Beside" homeschool blog post.

Merry Christmastide to all!

Love, Mama Rachel

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This Fall's Harvest

Hello, friends!

I invite you to read my latest homeschooling post here:

Law of the Harvest

Have a lovely week!

Love, Mama Rachel

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Day in our New and Improved Homeschool!

October means Table Time in costume regalia

For those following our homeschool changes, I have a new blog post up today on my "Lead, Guide, Walk Beside" blog. 

You can check it out here: http://www.mamarachel.net/2015/10/a-day-in-our-homeschool.html

Love, Mama Rachel

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: "Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention"

Dear friends,

The following review was written by my 13 year old daughter, who LOVED the book! She is an aspiring writer, herself, and I think she does a great job with her review.

Several of my other children also read this book and really enjoyed it, as well. I can't recommend this kind of family-friendly, fun, and exciting reading enough to other families. Happy reading!!! 

{Disclaimer: We received an Advance Reader Copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions presented in this post are our family's own. ~Mama Rachel}

Book Review on 
Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention
By Dierdre K--

The book "Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention" by J. Scott Savage to me is an amazing piece of work. It has adventure, discovery, teamwork, humor, family, creativity, and invention.

This book is about a thirteen year old boy named Trenton Coleman who enjoys machinery. But in Cove, (a steam-powered city inside a mountain) they consider anything new, or improved a crime and therefore “invention” is a curse word.

Trenton meets a girl named Kallista Babbage, the daughter of Leo Babbage who perished in an explosion.

They soon work together and learn that Kallista’s father was working on a secret project before he died. They follow what clues he left behind, and begin to piece together a strange machine that is unlike anything they’ve known. Discovering that what they built may be a threat to what all of Cove is founded on--and maybe even their very lives.

As part of my review, I would say this book is very well written, and very engaging. I could hardly put the book down as I read. I kept telling myself, just one more chapter.

A quote in this that stuck out to me was, “All this time, I’ve been thinking that I needed things--objects--to remember him by. Now that they’re gone, I realize I don’t need his books or tools. I have my memories of him. And he gave me the gift of flight and knowledge. No one take those things from me. Thank you for helping me realize that.”

One thing in this is I love how Trenton’s relationship with his mother grows stronger, and she comes understand his love for mechanics. Family is most important and this book shows it.

Love, Mama Rachel

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Walk Beside Me

For those that are interested in the changes in our homeschool method and philosophy, you can see the final installment in my series on how our homeschool has changed here:


Love, Mama Rachel

Monday, September 14, 2015

Guide Me

For my newest homeschooling post, follow this link:


I appreciate you following me in my journey!

Love, Mama Rachel

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Lead Me

For those who are interested in this new phase of my homeschooling journey, you can read my latest blog post here:


Please be gentle with me-- it has been a very difficult process to admit and address my many failings. All I can say is that the Atonement of Christ is REAL, and He can help us improve and get back on track.

Love, Mama Rachel

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A New Chapter

Dear friends,

After 15 years of homeschooling, I have decided to change some things in our family's approach. as part of these changes, I have started a new blog. If you'd like to follow me on my new homeschool journey, you can check it out here: http://www.mamarachel.net/2015/08/changes-in-our-homeschool.html

The new blog is not finished-- hopefully it will look better designed in the future, and it will have a new domain name-- but I wanted to get started writing, at least as the new school year begins.

Happy homeschooling!!!

Love, Mama Rachel

Friday, July 31, 2015

Homeschool Planning!

My big kids are set to start seminary NEXT WEEK, so I have been in the throes of planning our homeschool this week. (Just at a more frenzied pace than I have already been all summer.)

A friend on Facebook asked how everyone was doing with planning their homeschool this year, and I decided to share my tips here, as well as on her post.

Here they are:


2) Budget and then just buy the darn things you want to use for your homeschool. Not buying what you need, and putting up with something less than desirable is an unnecessary lesson in frustration. Have a garage sale, or babysit, if you must, but don't settle for junk.

3) Keep the end goal/the BIG picture in mind when planning, and let go of those topics your kids don't actually need this year.

4) For homeschooling High Schoolers: Create and then use your kids' high school transcripts as an OUTLINE for what you want/need them to accomplish. It's has been the greatest things EVER for keeping me organized. (See www.thehomescholar.com to learn how to make transcripts.)

5) I also use a yearly, wire-bound planner with a weekly layout for planning and recording our homeschool each week. Simple, easy, not overwhelming. Love it!

6) Don't feel like you have to customize everything. Sometimes buying already-planned out lessons are really the way to go!

7) Make a list of books you want to read loud for the semester, and then read aloud every day! You will NEVER regret it!!!

8) Go to the temple and pray some more. Then breathe. And then "do it!"

Happy planning to all my homeschooling friends out there! :-)

Love, Mama Rachel

Friday, July 17, 2015

Good to Be Alive

I really needed this video today. I truly have been given so many blessings in my life, and I am so grateful for them all!

Happy Friday, friends!

Mama Rachel

Monday, May 11, 2015

Behold, My Little Ones


 I have always LOVED the following story, and feel the same about my own children-- ALL thirteen of them!

"The story is told that in ancient Rome a group of women were, with vanity, showing their jewels one to another. Among them was Cornelia, the mother of two boys. One of the women said to her, 'And where are your jewels?' To which Cornelia responded, pointing to her sons, 'These are my jewels.' Under her tutelage, and walking after the virtues of her life, they grew to become Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus—the Gracchi, as they were called—two of the most persuasive and effective reformers in Roman history." ~Gordon B. Hinkley

Mother's Day Selfies

I have had a goal for a very long time to get a photo taken with EACH ONE of my children.

Just to put it out there, and get it off my chest, chubby moms like me don't love to have our pictures taken very much. But one day I realized that if anything ever happened to me, my children would not have many visual records of me WITH them!

And whatever I look like, my children LOVE ME. They see me in all my chubbiness every single day, and that is how they will remember me.

THIS IS MY LIFE. This is who I am. And while I may not be a "hot mom," or look like a fashion model, I am the mother that they wake up with every morning, cry on, look to, and kiss goodnight each evening. And they need to know how much I love each and every one of them.

When you have 13 kids in your family, that is not always an easy thing to get pictures taken with each individual! But, I decided that for Mother's Day, I wanted to take the time to get a photo of myself with each one of my children. It was a wonderful Mother's Day for me!

We decided to do selfies, since it's fast and easy, though I'm not the greatest selfie-taker. LOL!

Since there's a lot of photos involved, we'd better get started! Here we are, in all our glory!

Fiona, my thirteenth jewel in my motherhood crown.

Fun and energetic Avalon, our tenth baby.

Grayse (our ninth jewel) and Mama

My sweet Eryn (#11) and me

Davy-boy (#12) with his mama

My MacKenna, the eighth jewel

Lliam-lad, jewel number three

Our Ronan, lucky child number seven

Our beautiful Bonny, the fourth child in our family.

Gentle and good Dierdre (#6)

Life is fun with Gavin, our fifth child

Lovely and placid Morganne; my first-born angel.

Best Mother's Day Present

The very, VERY best part of Mother's Day, was getting to Skype with our MISSIONARY!!!! And yes, I even got a selfie with our wonderful Elder Brennan. We miss him dearly, but are so proud of him and all he is doing to love and serve the people in the Spokane Washington mission.

Our hard-working, fun missionary, Elder Brennan Keppner. He is our second child and first son.


Love, Mama Rachel

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Living a Consecrated Life- Part 1

This past Sunday, I was asked to speak in church, and learned so much from the subject I was assigned! The title of my talk was to be "Living a Consecrated Life," and I had a wonderful time learning more about consecration and what it means to consecrate our lives to God. 

Because I want to remember the lessons I learned, I thought I would share my talk here on my personal blog as a way to keep a record for myself out in the internet cloud. Maybe it will also help someone else in the great "out there".

Love, Mama Rachel

What is “consecration”?

Elder D. Todd D. Christofferson said,
“To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes. True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives—that is, our time and choices— to God’s purposes. ” 

For us, consecration means that we devote our means to do good, to give service, and to help the Lord's children. 

In order to do this, first and foremost, we must remember that everything we have comes from our Heavenly Father. In the early history of the Church, Martin Harris was told through revelation that he needed to mortgage his farm in order to fund the printing of the Book of Mormon. To us, this may seem like an overwhelming request, as I am sure it was for Brother Harris.

In Doctrine and Covenants section 19, verses 23, 24, 26 we can read exactly what it was that the Lord said to him:
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will. And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely.” 
This scripture really make me examine myself and how I use the blessings that the Lord has given me. If everything we have truly comes from God, then we DO need to use what we have been given in the way he wants us to use it. And anyone who is familiar with the Savior's teachings knows how much he emphasized caring for the poor.

Blessing Others

The Lord gives us a very specific way to keep the law of consecration that is used to bless the lives of those who need help.

In Doctrine and Covenants section 42, verses 30 and 31, the Lord tells us:
“And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken. And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me;”
If everything we have comes from the Lord, then we must not keep back anything that the Lord asks us to give. 

The latter-day prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, said: 
“It is incumbent upon us to put away selfishness in our families, our business and professional pursuits, and our Church affairs. These things should not be. Let us resolve today to overcome any such tendencies.
In our family, we have had some very personal experiences with others helping us with their means in the spirit of true consecration.

First of all, we can never forget some of our dear friends who lived in Provo at the same time as us. We both had young families, and both households were struggling to make ends meet.

Russell and I were specifically struggling with some debts and medical bills that we could never seem to catch up on. I had not told my friend everything, but she could tell that our finances were strained.

One day, the wife in this couple arrived at our home with an envelope in her hand. She expressed her love for us, and left us watching her drive away with the envelope unopened. As I carefully tore it open, I found a check for $500 with a note enclosed. All the note said was,
"Heavenly Father told us that this money is for you, not us. Love, C. & A."
We were humbled and in awe of how much the Lord loved us, and in how blessed we were to have such dear friends that listened to the Lord's promptings with such diligence.

On another occasion, a few years down the road, we now had six children and I was pregnant with our seventh. We had been driving a 1978 Chevy Suburban without air-conditioning, but we knew that we would no longer be able to safely transport all of us in the eight seat belts the Suburban had. But we just didn't have money for anything new!

One day, out of the blue, a family in our ward called us and proposed that they give us their fifteen passenger van. They apologized that it had a lot of miles on it, but that it had a new engine and should run well for some time.

I was astonished! This family had thirteen children of their, and yet they were offering us their van? The wife explained to me that they had several drivers in the family now, and that they usually used more than one vehicle when going places, so they didn't really need it any more.

Sheepishly, we offered to exchange our Suburban for their van, and they agreed. (They actually used the Suburban as a project, and drove it for several years afterwards.)

Both of our families were blessed because of the generosity and spirit of true consecration that this one family showed in helping us as fellow saints and members of the church. They lived a consecrated life.

We have been blessed by the generosity of other families several times over the years, each situation being one that was inspired by the spirit of consecration. And because of the excellent example of wonderful people in our lives, we also have been inspired to "pay it forward" and help others we come across in our lives.

And that means that ALL of us are blessed, thanks to living a "consecrated life."

Watch for Part 2 coming soon: "Building the Lord's Kingdom"

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homeschooling Teens

This post was originally published at Latter-Day Homeschooling on January 19, 1012. It has been updated and edited since that original post.

Lately it seems that I've been inundated with the desperate question, "How do you keep homeschooling through high school?!" I have some pretty strong opinions on the subject, but hopefully I can effectively articulate why I encourage homeschooling moms to "stick it out" through the teen years.

Why do so many homeschooling parents send their teens to high school?

There comes a point in the lives of most homeschooled teens when they want to do something more than spend time with their parents and siblings at home. This is not an indication that homeschooling has failed you or your family, or that parents have done anything wrong in homeschooling their children.

It is a perfectly normal process for EVERY teen-- homeschooled or not-- to take a second look at the things they have been taught and believe to be true. This is the transition to adulthood, and it's a GOOD thing! Every person needs to come to their own conclusions about truth and right in order to establish and fortify the core beliefs that will be the foundation for their adult lives.

This time of spiritual examination is also a very tender, fragile thing. The strength of many people's testimonies are greatly effected by the decisions and circumstances surrounding this time of life. In a confused and lost society such as ours is it any wonder that so many mainstream youth fall away during the important teen years?

In the midst of all the teen confusion and unrest, many youth-- and their parents, I might add-- interpret their disorientation as an empty space that can only be filled with two words: High School. In their fear, these amazing youth and their concerned parents give up the idea of homeschooling through the teen years, and turn their education back over to the world.

And it's completely unnecessary. More on this in a moment.

Another reason so many homeschooling parents end up sending their kids off to high school is very easily explained, yet it also has the same root: fear. They are afraid that they can't teach algebra or chemistry, or calculus. Or they begin to fear that their child will be deprived of the high school events (like prom) or opportunities (like choir, orchestra, drama and sports) that their peers have.

As a side note, I know some people who were sent to high school after being homeschooled as children. And even though they may have been the ones who BEGGED to go back to school, they unequivocally all tell me that they wish their parents had stuck it out, and kept them at home.

Looking toward the Future (or "What about college?!")

Okay, so we all can understand WHY youth and parents give up homeschooling during the teen years, but why should we concern ourselves with this trend in homeschooling? I mean, at least they were homeschooled when they were younger. Right?

Well, yes.

And no.

Choosing to homeschool is a HUGE decision, and not one that anyonetakes lightly. I get that; I've been there. But homeschooling is not so much about where a child sits to be educated, as it is about embracing an entire lifestyle and family culture.

Even with the acceptance of the lifestyle and confirmation we get from small homeschool victories and domestic harmony, eventually most parents start to feel the fear and pressure of their children's futures looming ever closer. *Questions starting from "How can I prepare my child to take the ACT/SAT test?", "How do I create a transcript?" and"Should my child get a diploma or take the GED?" usually escalate to questions like "Will my/their favorite college accept homeschoolers?"and "What about scholarships?".

And if a parent then also forgets the reasons they homeschooled in the first place, and dismiss seeking out inspiration from the Lord, the fear and panic of the unknown can set in and take over quickly. But if we stay in tune to the Spirit and calmly look to other experienced homeschooling parents and to our Heavenly Father for the answers to our questions, the fear subsides and peace returns.

By the way, I want to quickly answer some of the *Questions above:

  • Look at www.khanacademy.com and other websites, as well as local community classes, to easily find help and support in preparing for the ACT or SAT tests. 
  • A simple search online can give you several options for creating your child's home school transcripts. (My personal favorite is www.thehomescholar.com.)
  • Neither a diploma NOR the GED is required to attend most colleges-- especially community college, several of which do not even require an ACT or SAT score. 
  • Most colleges today go out of their way to recruit homeschooled students, and many, MANY homeschoolers go to college on full scholarships. 
  • Just do your homework for the colleges you and your child find interesting, and make your plans from there.

Beyond College

I am going to be brutally honest here: I hope my children grow up and marry other homeschoolers so that my grandchildren will also be homeschooled.

Yes, I have dared to utter this desire aloud because it's the honest-to-goodness truth for me! Yes, I may be an idealist and a hopeless dreamer, but I believe in setting goals. And if I want my family's hopes and dreams to come true, I have to think through the possibilities my children's futures hold.

So I am asking these questions: If wave after wave of homeschooled families give up and send their teens back to High School, then WHO will marry the teens who continue to homeschool through the teen years? Who do they date when they come home from their missions? Do I really want to just send my children off to college (Yes, even Church run schools) and hope that they can find someone to marry who will desire, much less understand, homeschooling?

What Youth Really Need

Going back to that idea that youth around the age of twelve begin to want something "more," I wish to share some alternatives to sending high school age kids back into the publicly-funded school system.

It's a fact that most youth begin to feel the draw of having peers near their age and maturity level once they reach the teen years. They naturally want people besides their family members with whom they can discuss their thoughts and ideas. In fact, they feel a great desire to see what their peers are doing and measure themselves in academic and spiritual comparison. As I stated above, this is perfectly normal and right. But it is also true that this adult transition period is fraught with dangers our children may not come out of spiritually unscathed. Thus it is of greatest importance that homeschooled youth have other homeschooled friends and comrades to socialize with.

If you haven't witnessed a group of homeschooled teens getting together to learn, work OR play, you have missed out! It is delightful! They don't sit and text in the presence of one another, they don't talk about frivolous things like the physical attributes of members of the opposite sex, what fashions they or their friends are wearing, the latest pop artists, or of the stupidity of their parents and teachers. Instead, they discuss books they're reading or experiments they're trying (actually, they usually just start impromptu experiments right then) or start singing and jamming on instruments, or discuss philosophy and politics.

The most effective of teen gatherings I have seen involve regular, shared learning in small-ish groups with caring, inspiring adult mentors. These teens need to be with their peers, but they also need guidance from adults they can trust that are not their parents. And their parents need to know that these mentors can be trusted to strongly reinforce truth. These mentors can be powerful second witnesses for the parents and the values they have sought to instill in their children.

When I know my children's friends' parents, I enthusiastically encourage them to spend time with one another. I am more willing to facilitate and transport my children to various events and classes. These familial relationships are the glue that holds the teen relationships together!

And when I know the beliefs, the habits, and the environments of these other families, I begin to make mental notes and secret plans about the possibilities in my children's futures. Of course, these huge decisions for their lives will ultimately be up to them! (Yes, they really WILL be!) But again; a mom can dream, right???

You Can Do It!

So how do you find a group like this for your teens? Well, first of all, there is always the wonderful, helpful Internet. There are MANY e-mail lists and homeschool support groups out there, so find one in your area that works for your family, and dive in. If these groups don't offer teen events or classes, and especially if you cannot find an LDS homeschool group in your area, START SOME.

This may seem like a daunting prospect, but when we remind ourselves that we are doing this for our children, we begin to have strength and skills we never knew we had! There are many, MANY possibilities in this arena, so don't limit yourself. Simply consider your child and their needs and interests, do a bit of homework, add in a lot of prayer and involvement, and begin. These classes don't need to be complicated, but they should be something your child-- and you-- will enjoy doing.

Some great places to start for ideas, and even for ready-made classes can be found here and here. (And if you know of others online or elsewhere, please share the links and other information in the comments!)

Start a teen book club and let your child choose the first book to discuss. Be sure to help lead the discussion, but don't take it over, and don't be afraid of long, quiet pauses in the beginning weeks or months. (They're thinking-- so don't interrupt! wink)

Or take a good look at your skills and abilities, and go from there. I've created choirs, cooking groups, sword-fighting events, and taught Shakespeare classes and drama groups. Some have been successes, and some haven't been, but they HAVE been what my children needed at the time, so I press on.

If you do have moms in your area that are teaching youth classes or leading youth groups, be brave and join in. As a parent, be sure to become involved in the group, too, as much as you can. This will help you get to know the other parents, which will in turn help your child have the best experience possible. Just dropping your child off at a weekly or monthly class does nothing to build and solidify the homeschooling community, so get involved! The friendships and support you glean from these situations will be a valuable gift you can give to your family and yourself.

Above all, remember that Heavenly Father gave you these children to raise. He loves them even more than you do, so seek his counsel in everything. He will give you the strength and confidence you need to then turn and give your children the educational and life experiences they require for a successful future.

Even when it involves homeschooling teens.

You can do it!!!

Love, Mama Rachel

Monday, March 02, 2015

"March"ing Forward!

Hello dear ones,

What a week! Ups and downs, as usual, but the Lord is mighty and He makes everything work for our good. Onward and upward-- CARRY ON!

This past week I have FINALLY been painting the coffee table and an end table from the living room with chalk paint. Yes, Mom is actually working on a project! I am wishing I could paint every bit of wood in our house WHITE, but we'll just see if I get this particular project finished before I get too ambitious.


New pi-nano!

I forgot to tell you that we got a new-to-us piano! It's a beautiful antique, and it has a lovely, though old-fashioned, tone. And best yet, ALL the keys work! YAY! I'm including a picture, so we'll need you to try it out for us someday.

Missionary News

M-- B-- is heading out to the MTC this month! I can't remember where she's going, but I think it's in South America. She'll do great! Her mom is so proud.

I think I saw on Facebook that M-- W-- just got to Hong Kong. That's about all I know, but you know M--; he'll do great work as a missionary!

B-- W-- leaves next week-- his farewell is Sunday. So Lliam and some of the other guys in the ward are going to get together this week.

Little ones on a long board

Family Stuff

Saturday, we spent real time together as a family at the park. Daddy and I brought some lunch and the kids all ate and ran and played. Eryn and Grayse both fell down and got scrapes, and the kids had fun pushing each other around on Lliam's longboard. Joy and tragedy all in one day! ;-)

Gorgeous weather! Warm AND overcast.
(With Fiona not having fun...)

I'm reading some new books on homeschool and organization-- yeah, the usual. LOL! We need to do a BIG PURGE, so that's another project I'm tackling.

Yesterday, Daddy and I fasted and prayed to know if we should put all our energy into trying to stay in this house, and we got a "Yes," so that's the new goal. Whether we are successful or not remains to be seen, but we are going to do ALL we can to stay in this house. We'd love it if you could join your prayers with our. Miracles CAN happen, right??? :)

Today it's "cold" and rainy. I mean 50-ish degrees! *tee-hee* But really, we Arizonans are enjoying the weather thoroughly.

We love you, and are so grateful for the good example you are setting for ALL of our family. We know the Church is true, and that the restored gospel is the only way we can return to our Heavenly Father.

I want you to know that your mother has a firm testimony of Jesus Christ and the reality of His life and resurrection. I want you to know that I will ALWAYS follow the living prophet. My one goal in life is to be true and faithful to the end, just as those who have come before us.

I love you, son. Keep up the hard work, the obedience, and the faith. Your faithfulness is a wonderful source of joy for me, and I appreciate you.

Much love,

Mama Rachel

Monday, February 23, 2015

This Week!

The Gilbert temple on President's Day

Hola, Elder Keppy-Face!!!


We are so, so sad we missed you last week. :-( But we hope you got our package, as a consolation for no letter. (Did you get it? Huh???)

This has been a busy week at Das Keppnerhaus. Last Sunday evening, we had Daddy's Keppner cousin and her family over for dinner. They live in San Tan Valley, and have three boys. The oldest is seventeen, the middle on is 14 (I think?), and their ten year old little guy is autistic, like Morganne and Gavin. It was crazy and fun, and it was wonderful to reconnect a bit. Who knew we had Keppner cousins in AZ?!

Early Monday morning, Avalon and I went to the dentist's office so she could get a tooth pulled, a spacer put in, and several teeth filled. After we got there, they weighed her and then gave her some special medicine to make her sleepy. She and I waited in a dark room where she laid down on a special little bed and watched a movie. When the medicine kicked in (She was so funny!), they led us in to a room where Avalon could sit in the dentist's special chair to get her work done. She was so good! She help still and hardly remembered a thing.

Avalon getting sleepy...

When we went home with her, she was so good about eating only soft things, and slept pretty much the entire rest of the day. We are so glad her owie tooth is better and that she was such a brave girl. (See the picture of her getting sleepy below.)

Tuesday afternoon, I took everyone but Gavin, Ronan, and Davy to see the E-- boys performing in "Seussical the Musical!" (Gavin and Ronan said they didn't want to see it, but they really missed out!) It was PHENOMENAL!!! Those musicals [high school] puts on are awesome, and we were so glad we got to see it. Sister E-- emailed me that their cast was performing the show at --- for FREE for some public school students, and that we could attend. There were plenty of seats available, so we got good ones and had a blast!

Morganne, Lliam, Bonny, and Dierdre were all raving as much as I did. You would have loved it, too. EVERYONE in the show was amazing-- it was just soooo good! One of the G-- boys played Jojo in the show, and did a great job.

Wednesday had the usual craziness, with mutual, scouts, and all. Ronan helped with the flag ceremony for the Blue and Gold banquet, so he was the only one who attended. Can you believe that we have NO Cub Scouts in our family right now? Weird...

Friday we had our TJLA classes. During my English Literature class in the afternoon, we had a really special experience. We are studying the early Victorian Era and were going over Tennyson's poetry specifically that day. In a flash of heavenly inspiration, I walked my class over to the basketball park, and I read them the poem "Crossing the Bar" out loud on the green rolling hills. Picture the cloudy sky above, with birds chirping in the background:

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

We then had a great, GREAT discussion on our life's callings, and what the future holds for us. I had then eat go off alone in the park, somewhere quiet, and had them write a list of FIVE things they want to do OR be before they "cross the bar." And by "crossing the bar," it could either mean before they die, or before they leave home, or...?

I did the exercise, too, and it totally made me cry and realize what is MOST important to me.

After gathering back together at the end of our debriefing discussion, I suddenly felt prompted by the Spirit to share how important Grandma Nielsen's living testimony has been to me in my life. I totally cried and bore my own testimony.

I don't know if the class helped the students that day, but I know it helped ME. Heavenly Father is so good to give what we need, right when we need it!

Saturday was full of housework and lazing about, too. Then, that evening, we went to a play done by another new homeschool group. The play was actually written and directed by D--, who also starred in the main role. It was fun and cute, though they had some itty bitty ones in their cast! (9 and 10 years old) It was a moralist story with a defined message, but also was done in Shakespearean-esque language, though not in iambic pentameter. I guess K-- and S-- helped write it, and S-- was also in it. We had a fun time, and I thought they did a great job. :-)

Yesterday was really great, with a wonderfully inspiring ward conference. (President D-- and Bishop W-- are so great!) Daddy and I both took several notes, and have some new goals. GOOD STUFF!

Just waiting...

This morning.... (drumroll please...) Lliam did something major!!!




driver's test!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He OFFICIALLY has a real Arizona driver's license.


It's so exciting!!!! :-)

We love you, we miss you, and we know the work you are doing is the Lord's. We're so proud of you for your devotion to Jesus Christ and His work. Stay True and Faithful always. We love you!!!

Carry on,

Mama Rachel

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Random February-ness

Our "Ten Virgins" cast

Dear ones,

We had a calm, good week-- my favorite part was being in the Ten Virgins musical! :-) I'm afraid I will subject you to several pictures on that subject! ;-)

Monday I took Lliam, Gavin, and Ronan to get haircuts. Yes, even Lliam was ready for a trim. I stopped in the McDonald's drive-thru for ice cream cones afterwards. It was nice to spoil them a bit. :-)

Haircuts make us happy!

On Tuesday I ran Morganne to Institute Choir at CGCC (Chandler-Gilbert Community College), and then Daddy took her back for Institute that evening. We need to get that girl driving soon!

Wednesday evening was New Beginnings for the Young Women. They had a fun "Cruise" theme and Dierdre brought home one of the decorations; a tiny goldfish she named "Goldilocks."

Our lovely "Goldilocks" (a.k.a. Dierdre)

We spent Thursday cleaning the house in preparation for feeding the missionaries that evening. Morganne made her famous chili and served it with tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream. They couldn't stay long, but it was so nice to have them join us to eat. It sure makes us think of our missionary!

Friday morning's Biology class that's usually at our house was cancelled, so I gathered some props and stage decorations for the Ten Virgins play and after almost getting in a car accident on the way, (WHEW!) I headed over to the church to help decorate the stage. Even though I had my class to plan for later that afternoon, I decided to stay and help. It was so fun! I was draping fabric, pinning trim, and arranging decorations and props. I had a BLAST!

Our stage, all dressed up

About the play: It felt soooo wonderful to be using my talents to build up the Lord's kingdom. I had been praying for an opportunity to do so for a LONG time, and the Lord answered my prayers in a wonderful way! :-)

Cast members getting direction in between performances

We had our final dress rehearsal Friday night, where we also performed for our families. It was a little rocky, but overall, it went really well.

Saturday morning we had our first performance at 9am. President D--, our stake president, came and talked to us briefly after our warm up. It was so neat! He reminded us of how much the sisters in our stake needed to hear the message to prepare spiritually. We also performed at 11am and then again at 1pm. We really felt that the Lord used us to bring His daughters closer to Him that day. It was the BEST experience I have ever had being onstage. I loved every second!!!

Our director and pianist discuss song speed with our one dancer.

Being in this presentation has been such a blessing in my everyday life, too! It has helped me feel close to the Savior every day, and taught me lesson after lesson about staying in tune with the Spirit, and being prepared to meet the Lord. I have had some very sacred, personal experiences because of my preparation for the performances. I hope I remember them all! (Yes, I am recording them in my journal...)

Me, backstage

Last night, after choir practice, Daddy and I attended the Priesthood Preview meeting with RONAN! Can you believe it?! Yes, he turns 12 this year. He and all the boys in his group are so fun. There's a LOT of them! Most of the boys sat together on the front row, but even though they invited him to come and sit with them, Ronan wanted to sit with Daddy and I. That was sweet!

At the end of the inspiring meeting, Ronan and all the boys stood up at the front and sang "Armies of Helaman." I'm pretty sure there wasn't a dry eye among the parents. (The sound cuts out in the middle when I accidently covered the mike, and you get subjected to my soprano voice at the end when the sound comes back up. I tried to sing quietly-- I really did! LOL!)

During the meeting, Brother--, who is in the stake YM presidency, said that only 35% of young men in the stake are going on missions! OUCH. Satan is really working hard to distract the young men in our area from serving. Yes, I cried.

We we miss you all, and we want you all to know how important you are to us. We pray for each of you daily, and love each one of you sooo much. May the Lord continue to bless and teach and heal us all!!!

Lots of love,
Mama Rachel

Monday, February 02, 2015

Happy Groundhog Day!

Dear sweet peoples,

Well, it has been an in-ter-est-ing week. We have had a house full of sickies, beginning with Davy puking on Monday night, and then most of the rest barfing on Tuesday, with a few stragglers (Dad and Lliam) getting sick later in the week-- just in time for Granna and Pa to come! (Granna and Pa got here on Wednesday morning and just left last night.) Poor Granna did end up sick, but was well enough to go to church with us on Sunday, and to fly home that afternoon.

Goofy me and gorgeous Granna

The laundry room has officially been declared a disaster area. YIKES.

Granna and Pa brought down a moving truck full of things from them and from Grandma Nielsen.
​Wasn't that so sweet of them? We had a great time with them! ​It was like Christmas all over again, but this time with some tears. (From me.) It still doesn't feel like she's gone, but she was such a HUGE part of my life, that I know she will be with me-- and IN me-- always. She set such a wonderful example for me, and I want to be just like her. I want to make her proud of me!

Dierdre and friend serving at the temple.

Dierdre went to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead with her sweet little friend, C---. She got over her sickness just in time to go! She has some great friends in this ward. We are doing all we can to stay!

The stake presentation of "The Ten Virgins" that I'm in runs for three performances THIS SATURDAY!!! I am super, SUPER excited! I am hoping to take lots of pictures and take a video of the show so that I can send it to loved ones, like yourselves. It has been such a huge blessing in my life-- I just don't want it to end! I hope I remember the lessons I am learning from this experience. I want to be one of the WISE!

The kids loved having Granna and Pa here-- Fiona loved them, too, though she does take a while to warm up to people at first. She is such a mama's girl! 

Fiona warmed up to Pa pretty quickly.

She is sooo cute! Her newest thing is to smack her lips after someone kisses her. She is really good at mimicking sounds. And she is standing up and holding on to anything that will stay still. She crawls and babbles-- though she also likes to whisper-- so adorable! 

The kids are running around, playing, fighting, drawing, crafting, reading, some are even studying, and after a week of illness, the house is a disaster. SIGH. Hopefully, I can get them to clean up soon enough to take them all to the library this afternoon. (After the older boys all get HAIRCUTS.)

*They DID earn their library trip last week, in case you were wondering... ;-) )

We love you all!!!
~Mama Rachel

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Fresh, New Year

Goofy selfie with baby Fiona

Dear ones,

I just love new beginnings, don't you?

We had another nice week of vacation, and some New Year's Eve fun-- no fireworks this year! (After Ronan's fireworks accident in July, and Lliam's gunpowder explosion last New Year's, we thought we'd better not tempt fate.)

Fascinating fire, without the BOOM!

So, we lit four paper lantern/balloons, and enjoyed the neighborhood fireworks displays. We also had our traditional "dinner" of appetizers with different cheeses and crackers. The kids were in heaven! (Crackers are a treat around here-- they don't get that that often.)

We spent New Year's Day taking down all the Christmas stuff and packing it up for next Christmas. I didn't even cry this time! ;-)

She's HOME!!!

It has been so nice having Morganne back home. She is so sweet with the little girls, even though they drag her from place to place, all vying for her attention. She fixes their hair and helps with dishes and cooking-- we like it!

Saturday I took some time alone to plan out the new homeschool semester for our family. It was so cool to park in the temple parking lot with the majestic Gilbert temple in front of me, listen to some quiet music, pray and be inspired for this new semester. 

Posing cuties

I'm trying to add a weekly trip to the library on Mondays this semester, but it will all hinge on whether or not the kids get their chores done each Monday. (Our "House Recovery" day.) We shall see how it goes!

Today we have a flurry of room rearranging going on, and trying to get back on our usual schedule. Bonny and Gavin started seminary again today, and so that was good for helping us get up early, and get the day started out right.

Our TJLA classes start up again this Friday, so I have all kinds of administrative stuff to get done. (Ick.) That's not my favorite thing to do, but I am looking forward to my literature class for second semester. Austen and Dickens and Tennyson! WOOT! Lots of good books to come.

Pretty big sisters

I had my first rehearsal for the "Ten Virgins" musical I'm in for the stake. I play the part of the Narrator, and got to sing one of my solos in front of all the other ladies. I was a tiny bit nervous, but also had a great time. We all sound so good together on our group numbers! I am going to try to make sure they film it when we perform. We perform it on Saturday, February 7th. Exciting!

We hope you are all doing well. I have a testimony of the Savior's influence and help in our lives, even when things are hard. I know that Jesus Christ is on my team and He gives me HOPE to make it through whatever comes, even when things are really difficult. He is not standing before me in judgment, no! He is on my side, lifting and carrying my burdens WITH me. Oh, how beautiful that image is to me! His Atonement and love are amazing-- oh, it is wonderful!!!

"I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me." I know this is TRUE. This is my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

With so much love,