I still remember the first day of my freshman year of high school.

I was incredibly shy.

My sister Saren was two years older than me and I clung onto her arm for dear life.

I remember her walking me to my first class, which was dance (before I realized I didn’t have an ounce of coordination in my body…ha!). I remember the drop in my heart when she shook of my vice grip (in a kind way, but still, I’m sure she was claustrophobic from all my clinging!) and announced that she really couldn’t stay with me all day.

I also still remember heading off to Boston University for college. I had shed much of my shyness by then, but still, it was such a huge comfort for me to know that Saren was close (at Wellesley College). I spent practically every weekend taking the bus to visit Saren in that gorgeous campus (which I later named my daughter after), the two of us always finding an oven in some dorm somewhere so we could bake cookies and have a sleep-over.

I am teary right now as I write remembering those days and thinking of the beautiful power of a sister. (I love you Sar!)

And teary again thinking of the sisterhood I got to witness yesterday as these two headed off to school together.

A senior and a freshman, both pleased as punch that they get to spend this one high school year together.

Oh man, I’m telling you, it’s good to slow down enough to cry a little bit about things as good as this (now I have tears spilling down my cheeks as I ponder this gift…a gift for them and a gift for their mama). I’m just so grateful these two have each other. And that Lucy has an army of Claire’s friends (and her own, of course), to help during this transition. It’s a big one for this last child of mine.

We had rainbow pancakes as per tradition on the first day:

We were in a scramble right about then but we had to get those puppies in.

Here’s my SENIOR:


(along with her dog who looks thrilled to be part of the photoshoot…)

So crazy to watch them drive off together, Claire’s exuberance calming Lucy’s nerves.

Claire sent this pic. to our group family text:

And this one too:

(They found Lucy’s friends right as they walked in to the band playing and the cheerleaders cheering…oh what a day to celebrate.)

Claire was so excited to be reunited with all her friends who are still amazed that they have actually reached this pinnacle year of high school:

…and that they get to be together with no masks…at least for the time being.

Claire overheard one of them telling some friends how they need to all be sure to reach out to Lucy this year.

Tears again.

On to the post-school “cookie chat”…I just found out it was National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day yesterday so these fav cookies were fitting:

Claire was out earlier than Lucy and claimed she had the best day of her whole life…back in person and they can use the inside stairs this year and gather in “Hawk Hall” and everyone was just so happy.

One of my very favorite parts of the day was listening to Claire FaceTime with Elle. Another sister bond that makes me cry. And the two of them talking through how happy Claire is that she gets to go to school with Lucy.

Then I went and got Lucy off the bus. I think her day started well, but ended pretty awfully after some tricky things happened in her last two classes 🙁 🙁

Luckily she had her sister to pick her up:

…and her dad too:

(Calling in from his classes in Los Angeles this week, he’s so sad to be missing all this.)

After a little time to process the whole day things started looking up for that girl who came to get some school supplies with her mom and helped deliver all kinds of stuff for Relief Society. That girl is resilient I tell you, and after a good night’s rest last night, I’m crossing my fingers that each day will get a little better.

So grateful for all the goodness in the world. I know there are all kinds of hard things happening every day out there, but there is still so much goodness spilling out of people and I’m here to recognize it and be grateful for it. Because kindness makes the world go around.

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  1. Oh my goodness they both look so lovely! I love their outfits!!! What a blessing it is to have a sister there for you and her friends too.. I love hearing kids being kind.

    I have a Sr too!! Has Claire thought about where she wants to apply for school and what is she thinking of going into? It’s a hard thing to decide lol

    1. Oh it sure is! She is conflicted! She’s thought about playing volleyball somewhere but there are just so many other options too and she’s trying to figure it all out. Does your senior know what she’s doing?

      1. Her whole life she’s wanted to be a NICU nurse or midwife.. until last year she realized she didn’t do good with needles or blood .. so she’s feeling a bit panicked! She’s thinking early childhood education degree. I think she’s applying to BYU, BYUI, and a few universities in Alberta.

  2. My eyes welled up with tears reading about the comment from Claire’s friend about reaching out to Lucy.
    I don’t think teens get enough credit on just how wonderful they can be!!!

  3. So sweet. Sisters are forever. What a special time this is for them, a snapshot in time they’ll remember always. I’m sad you almost only have one child left at home! Time seriously flies and life is so short! I’ve got one child left at home this year, before they’re all in (elem & high) school and it feels like they all were just young at home… Random question… how have you kept your home clean through the years and now, with a busy life, kids in all kinds of things, and things constantly going on… I feel like I never can keep up… youngest is 4 and oldest is 15, 5 total kids. Would love any tips on managing skills. How do people live such an amazing life and keep up w/ themselves and stay sane? Truly seeking. I need a manager and a chauffeur and a nanny and a driver and cook and a cleaner! ha ha!

    1. I wish I had good management skills for you! I honestly do not know how to keep up and this summer I think I have aged like five years trying to keep up with everything! Ha! This is a balance I am continually seeking to figure out. Learning and re-learning. My friend does some awesome skill training on her website learndobecome.com that I think I am going to try.
      You are in a tricky stage but OH! Such a good one! Stop and breathe every now and again and take in the moments when you can! Some posts about that here: https://71toes.com/2013/09/eye-moments/ and also here: /2011/01/crazy-moments/ and probably a bunch of other places if you type “moments” into the search bar on the upper right. Good luck, sending love on over, you’ve got this!

      1. She is not policing. Just asking how Shawni feels about it – I wonder also, since it is against the rules of their religion. Elle has them, but she has one foot out anyway.. Grace will most likely wait to get her second piercing until after she’s done with her mission… but Claire is still a minor, living with them.. did they say ok?

      2. Do you realize that the For Strength of Youth changes throughout time? I’m almost positive this will be removed. This was given so long ago that this generation don’t even remember that prophet! People can argue of the FSOY is a guideline or strict rule but in the end it’s not a saving ordinance. It’s doesn’t keep you out of the temple and every one can choose what they want to do!

        1. Well when it is removed or rescinded it won’t be a rule any more. It’s in there now, your church, your prophet, your rules. Until they remove it, you and Shawni and family, and anyone who professes to share the beliefs of this church should follow it. Of course everyone can “choose” – but your church says, about those who think it’s outdated and/or a matter of personal choice….: “Those who choose to disregard this counsel show a lack of respect for themselves and for God.” So, yeah, it’s surprising that Shawni and Dave allow it.

          1. The Strength of Youth gives awesome guidelines to help youth keep with the principles of the gospel and yes, it does change through the years. My friend sent me a version from years ago that encouraged good posture while dancing and also that girls don’t go out in public with curlers in their hair. As parents, I believe it is our duty to teach our kids all that we can and let them use their free agency to make their own decisions, especially as they get older. If we force them to do what we want them to, (or what the Strength of Youth tells us to do for that matter), I don’t believe there is any learning of changing or heart involved.

            I don’t know if it would help ease your concerns that those earrings in these pictures are clip-ons? Maybe not but just a little extra info. for you to consider. I sure don’t have the answers on all this and we are just trying to figure it out.

            We as parents are all just in this together right? I ask for grace as we figure it out in our neck of the woods just as I would like to give you grace for whatever you are doing in your own sphere. I sure hope I don’t come across on this blog like I have it all together and that we’ve figured all this out because that is so far from the truth, and I make all kinds of mistakes every single day! So do my kids. But we’re learning and growing and I think that’s what life is all about!

            And I also hope that I never make it sound like I think our church has every answer because I think we’re all still trying to figure things out. I love that we believe in continual revelation and that this life is for learning and growing.

            I’m so grateful for my church because I learn so much about Jesus Christ and how I can strive to be more like Him in relationships and how I live my life. I’m also SO GRATEFUL that because no one is perfect including and most especially myself, I have a beautiful avenue to learn humility, repentance, and grace.

            I’m grateful for blog readers who are learning along the road with me, and who realize we’re all “in the trenches” just trying to figure things out.

          2. I don’t think it matters whether they are clip on or not. It’s a loophole (no pun intended) you are using to make it ok. It is obvious that your church does not want the youth to be “worldly” or “trendy” – to stand out as an example of modesty, to be different from their non LDS peers. I know you know this. As to “figuring it out” – what is there to figure out about what is stated there? “Those who choose to disregard this counsel show a lack of respect for themselves and for God.” In what other ways could this be construed? And if it was a mistake, did you both make it? She wore them, you obviously saw it, took the pictures, gave consent.. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but I’m not bound by your church’s “suggestions”. You are. Not only that, you plaster it on the internet so people can see it, and say, “wow, Shawni approves of this, it must be ok…” In this, and other areas of “suggestions” by your church, you have a heavy responsibility to set a GOOD example for so many people. Why dance all around the line you’re not supposed to cross… just because you can?

  4. Why did you choose BU over Wellesley if your sister was there? Did you not get accepted? Strange, since you only spent your first year at BU… just curious.

      1. Not meant that way. Just strange how both Shawni’s sisters went to Wellesley, she did not, yet she named her daughter after the school….

    1. Good question…I should find the post where I talked about this, but I’ve got to run so for now, quick answer: I didn’t want to go to an all-girls school, and I wanted to be in the city. It just spoke to me more. But I did LOVE Wellesley, it is beautiful (hence my daughter being named after it…and that is also to kind of honor all those sisters who graduated from there…kind of hoping she’d have a little of all of those wonderful sisters in her). In my graduating-from-high-school-super-social mind it was just a little bit “sleepy” as opposed to Boston university that was right in the center of Boston.

  5. I have an older sister who was such a light to me in my high school years. High school can be tough. Keeping Lucy in my heart as she adjusts.

  6. Oh how I love those girls. They both are so beautiful inside and out! They are both so brave and good and haves had a remarkable year of stretching and growing! Thinking about Lucy’s challenges that she has met straight on with that cane, front and center and Claire’s strengthening and broadening summer internship moves me to tears. They are remarkable!

  7. Or is it another way of the we ( some lds) are better than the rule? The prophet stood up in conference and made the statement about the ear piercing. He then had it added to the For Strength of Youth book. So how do you choose what rules you can follow and what you don’t. I’m sure if Claire came home with a iced coffee you would be horrified. So what’s the difference? The earing was also told by a prophet not to wear it. Same as a prophet told you not to drink coffee.
    Just really interested in your thoughts.

  8. Shawni, I don’t see your comparison of wearing two earrings in each ear to coming home with an iced coffee. Please elaborate.

  9. I think your girls are lovely. Earrings or no. Clip ons or no. Good for you for allowing them their agency. Thank you for your example!

    1. Yes, thank you for allowing them, according to your church leaders, to “show a lack of respect for themselves and for God.” I wouldn’t think they’d want to do that, agency or not……

    2. Also, I would like to know, from Shawni, or from any of the LDS members…. can you use your “agency” to do pretty much anything that the church frowns on? Can you have a cup of coffee? Can you get a tattoo? Smoke? After all, agency………

        1. Sister Peg- There seems to be a lot of hostility coming from your comments. Obviously I don’t know your back story. To answer your question (which no one else has), yes we can use our “agency” to do whatever we want. That is the whole point of agency, choosing. Hopefully most of the time, we make good decisions. Sometimes we don’t. Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their vices, our favorite sins, or things they struggle with. Some might be drugs and alcohol. Others might struggle with wanting to impress people and making poor decisions because of that. The point you are missing it that everyone is trying. The church guidelines are to to help us make as good of choices as possible. The better choices someone makes in life, the better their life will be. We are not here to judge someone just because they choose to not follow a rule or guideline. That is their decision, their agency. Maybe Claire will drink an iced coffee. Maybe she will have two piercings. The point is, it doesn’t matter to you or me. And it doesn’t negate that Shawni can’t still talk about her religion and the good it brings to her life and family. I can guarantee that you have told or taught someone something in life that you don’t do yourself and should be doing.

          There are so many more important things in this life and problems in this world, I just don’t think harping on a 17 year old girl (or her mom) for having 2 piercings is at all important. Breathe and Relax, it’s all going to be ok.

        2. Hi Sister Peg. I also wanted to answer your question because I think there are parts of “agency” that you may not fully understand. The first one that came to my mind is that our agency is a gift from a loving Heavenly Father. He knew that in order for us to learn, grow, and really change it would require us being able to choose for ourselves. If He forced us to do what He wanted us to do we would never be able to become who He wants us to be because we wouldn’t learn and we wouldn’t be doing anything because we “want” to or because we have learned for ourselves why we want to do that thing. It’s a beautiful thing, for example, when you realize that the reason you don’t watch a rated R movie isn’t because someone told you not to, but because you don’t like the feeling you get or the feeling in your home when you do watch one. (You can apply this to any commandment or rule that you follow.) Which leads into the next thing I thought of, which is that all rules, commandments, etc. are given to us again from a loving Father in Heaven because He truly wants us to be happy and He knows the way to be able to find that happiness. He isn’t a harsh, mean God trying to force us to do everything His way. He is a kind, merciful God who invites us to follow His son, Jesus Christ, because He knows that is the only way that we can truly find joy. His goal for us in this life is that we “become” something different a little at a time through choosing for ourselves. This includes little choices, big choices, and everything in between. As we “choose”, we learn. As we learn, we change. Usually those changes in us are little and almost imperceptible, although there are times that those changes can happen really quickly.
          When Heavenly Father sent us here He knew absolutely that we weren’t going to always get it right. There are so many variables to the reasons we choose the way we do and there isn’t anyone on this earth that would be able to fairly judge someone else. (Luckily we don’t have to! I know I would get it all wrong.) We are asked not to judge other people but of course we do have to make judgements at times to keep us and others safe. I will let you ponder the difference between those two things. The reason He was okay with sending us here, even knowing we were going to make a lot of mistakes, is because He knew it was the only way we could learn for ourselves and progress. He wanted that more than anything and I believe we wanted it too. He also sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us, to suffer for us, and to feel our pains and sicknesses and heartaches and mistakes so that by turning to our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can have the mercy, guidance, love, help, forgiveness, and succor that would be necessary for us to overcome everything in this life. What a gift He is to us!
          I believe that Heavenly Father looks down on us with love and understanding, not with anger. I know that He wants us to choose the path that He has set in front of us because He loves us and knows it is our path to happiness. In jr. high I remember trying out some really bad swear words for awhile because I thought it would make me cool and I remember it not feeling so great. I eventually “learned” for myself that I didn’t want to swear because it actually didn’t feel good to me. I’m using this as a small example (if only that were my only sin!) to illustrate that I think Heavenly Father looked down on me at that time probably similar to how he looks down on Claire and you and Shawni and anyone else that has ever made a mistake, (which is all of us): with love and understanding and with hope that we will learn from our choices and keep turning to Him and to our Savior, Jesus Christ, so that we can let those things work in us and “change” us. After all, that is why we are here.
          There is one more thing about agency that I thought of that might help you come to peace with it. We are all given our agency and we are free to choose, but none of us can choose the consequences of how we use that agency. Those are set in place. When I tried out swearing I definitely got to choose the words I said and how often I said them. What I didn’t get to choose was the feeling of the loss of the Holy Ghost and the reaction of other people around me. You can imagine with every choice we make come consequences. Sometimes those consequences will follow us for the rest of our lives, but luckily even those consequences can be “fixed” through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It seems like you are thinking somehow that it isn’t “fair” that some people make mistakes and don’t live up to the things they believe. I promise you that it is always “fair” and that the only Person qualified to judge someone’s choices and heart is the most “fair” of all. In fact, He went through what He did so that He could make it right and fair for all of us, including every single one of us being able to be forgiven of our sins if we choose to repent (change) and turn to Him. Even if we have to do this over and over. It really is a miracle. One I am so grateful for!!
          I don’t know Shawni and Dave personally, but I’m guessing that they are trying to pattern their parenting after our Heavenly parents and allowing their children to learn and grow and choose for themselves. What would be the result if they forced their kids to do everything they wanted them to and didn’t let them choose to do things that you might perceive as “wrong”? Their kids wouldn’t learn or grow, probably the same result that would happen if we all were forced to choose as our Heavenly Father wants us to. I rejoice that His plan is so loving and that He wants us to be able to grow! I also rejoice that He provided the way for us to do that, as without Jesus Christ each one of us would not be able to be cleansed from our mistakes and sins while we are here learning. It’s such a beautiful plan! I hope this helps you in some way. Much love to you!

  10. Sister Peg, I just realized that I answered your question in a round about way and I would like to answer it very directly.

    “can you use your “agency” to do pretty much anything that the church frowns on? Can you have a cup of coffee? Can you get a tattoo? Smoke? After all, agency………”

    Yes, you certainly can use your agency to do pretty much anything that the church frowns on. There is no one out there that is going to watch you 24/7 to make sure you don’t have a cup of coffee. Or get a tattoo. Or smoke, etc. The Lord’s plan is agency, the gift to choose. These things are your choice to follow or not to follow. Our church doesn’t monitor your decisions, but they do ask you to monitor yourself and answer certain questions to be able to attend the temple or serve in some callings, etc. Our worth stays the same no matter what, but our worthiness might change depending on our choices. Also, anyone can come and worship at a church building no matter the choices you are making in life.
    Like I explained above, you won’t get to choose the consequences if you do choose to have a cup of coffee or get a tattoo or smoke. It would be silly for anyone to say that they are going to smoke their whole life but they are counting on it not affecting their lungs or skin or anything else that smoking does to a person. There are also spiritual consequences to our decisions and actions. Heavenly Father is very clear about His laws and commandments – because He loves us! There is also the gift of repentance where we all are able to change and learn to do things a better way. I hope that answers your question.
    (If anyone else wants to clarify, please add to what I said. I tried to say things clearly but I’m not sure I did. 🙂

  11. I think some of the questions in this post are not genuinely wanting an answer, so I’m not here with any answers (it is obvious that everyone has their own). I’m simply here to say that sometimes we need to back up to try to understand why we have religion in the first place. It is not to have rules, it is to help us become more Christ-like. The “rules” or “guidelines” are only there to help us do just that. Worrying about how other people are “following the rules” is just simply not part of religion in my opinion. The two great commandments are “Love God, and Love your Fellow Man.” When we worry too much about how other people are living, I think we forget these beautiful commandments and waste our time worrying about others rather than trying to work on ourselves.

    There is no doubt, we all have things to work on. I make mistakes every single day. So do my kids. Thank Heavens for repentance and second chances. We’re just all trying to figure this out together. But when we love and forgive and give each other the benefit of the doubt in the process, THAT is where the learning comes. THAT is where we come to know Christ better. THAT is where we learn to understand that everyone has their own story. Even when I really don’t understand it. I only see a tiny portion of what is going on in the lives of others. Sending lots of love on out to all blog readers! May you find happiness! And thank you for all of those who always have our backs and give us so much grace as we try to figure out life.

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