Hey, I was just wondering if you and your husband go out on dates with just the two of you regularly, and if you do, how you do it– how you decide what to do, making time for it, etc. My first baby is about 10 1/2 months old and last night we tried going out and he cried for the babysitter the entire time! Stranger anxiety. It makes me wonder if we should keep going out each week or not. Any ideas of what to do would be helpful! Thanks!

YES! Weekly dates are so, so, so important as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes the thought of making it happen each week seems tricky when you have small kids…or big kids…or a church calling…or a big project in the works, etc. but if it’s a priority it can happen. I know that when Dave and I do it consistently it makes such a difference.

We’ve gone through different stages of “post-marriage dating.” We used to have “at-home” date nights after our small children/babies were asleep and even before we had any babies at all. We would play chess late into the night or card games or we’d watch a DVD together. One time we made home-made nightstands because we couldn’t afford to buy any. I loved those simple date nights. When we moved here to the desert where we had available babysitters on every street corner we hired them more often…especially when our kids started having later bedtimes and we could afford them a little better. Now our kids babysit which makes dates SOOO much easier. But no matter what stage I think date nights are part of the glue that holds a marriage together. Having a time to just concentrate on that spouse of yours can’t be underestimated.

My theory is that yes, babies may take some training to be left at home, and may experience stranger anxiety, and sometimes good babysitters are hard to come by, but whatever training or stress you put into making a date-night work is worth it a hundred times over. After all, that relationship between you and that husband of yours is the most important relationship in the world and deserves some serious attention and prioritization.

I love Elle’s hair and shirt in those first few back-to-school photos. How did she do her hair and where did she buy that shirt? {from this post …yeah, I’m a little behind on q & a stuff πŸ™‚ }

I think her shirt is from Tilly’s and maybe I’ll have to have her do a picture tutorial on her hair here on this blog because she’s masterful at that and does it herself.

I read in your “Mothers Book of Secrets” book that you read a different Christmas story each night during the month of December. Can you recommend any good books?

This is a great time to answer this question because we just started our tradition as soon as we put up our Christmas tree two days ago. We turn off all but the Christmas lights and sit under the Christmas tree in the warm glow of it’s twinkling lights and read together each night that we can in December. Often there are times when I feel like there’s just too much going on but now that it’s a “tradition” the kids beg so we make it a priority and there’s nothing like it to bring in the Christmas spirit. (More about that tradition here.)

So far we’ve read two of my very favorites: “The Three Trees” (click here), and “On Christmas Day in the Morning” (click here for info.). Man oh man, I adore those books and cry every time we read them. My kids love it. Why do they love to see me get so teary? Seriously, read that last one FOR SURE. We had a great talk about service when we finished that one last night. “The Gift of the Magi” is another one I can’t get through without bawling (click here for more on that one). It is SO good. I’ll have to report as we go along this year and keep updating here on other favorites.

I know you love the camera so much, and you take beautiful pictures, but how do you enjoy the moment when you are always behind the camera?

I was actually thinking about this very thing the other day and quite honestly I think that there is a balance to be found on this. Often taking a picture solidifies beauty in my mind…whether it’s the vision of beauty I am photographing or the feeling that is so beautiful that a picture will later help me remember.

If you could live with your family anywhere in the world for 1+ years, what would be your top 5 places? Why these places?

Oh that’s such an easy one because I talk to Dave about it incessantly. (poor guy) I want to live in England because I lived there for three-and-a-half years growing up and although it’s a foreign country we can understand the language. I want to live in China because we did for two months five years ago and we didn’t get enough. And Max wants to learn Chinese. And it is an awesome place. I want to live in Australia because I think it would be an adventure. I want to live in Thailand so I can take Thai cooking classes πŸ™‚

I know it may seem strange or silly, but I want so much for our family to experience living in different places. Having said that, I do love where we live. I just don’t want our kids to think that this is how the rest of the world is because it is so not. And I like things that push us out of our comfort level. I like how it forces you to grow and think and prioritize. (More ramblings about this topic over here.)

Are your husband’s top 5 places different from yours? If so, what places is he interested in and why?

He would love to do China again as well. I don’t know that he’s as anxious about England πŸ™‚ He’s with me on the idea that living somewhere else for a while would be great for our family but there’s this little thing called “work” that gets in the way. Dang.

When would you seriously consider moving to a foreign country with your family?

Right now. I’d pack my bags and take off in a blink of an eye if we could work out the details and if we could know that Lucy’s services would stay in tact … and if we could figure out a way to make money wherever we end up πŸ™‚ BUT, it gets trickier to think about the older our kids get. With Max in high school and Elle starting up next year it makes me feel like our window of opportunity is closing….but we’re still working on it.

Are you kids learning foreign languages in school?

Max has taken a little bit of French and a couple years of Spanish. He signed up for Chinese this year but not enough kids signed up to make it work. We are going to put up a fight to get it next year. We had a lady come tutor us a little bit in Chinese when we lived there that summer and Max seemed to catch on really quickly. The rest of the kids haven’t had the chance to take language at school yet.

Do you still speak your mission language? Are you still in contact with the people from your mission (is it Romania?)

Yes, at one point I spoke Romanian quite well. I think I could still get around Romania if I went back. When we first got married I used to translate for visiting dignitaries at the Romanian Embassy. But unfortunately as time passed those guys started speaking better English than I could speak Romanian so I quit. It’s rough to find people to practice that language with here in the states!

Would you like to learn another language if you had the time?

Yes! I’d love to learn Spanish. I’ve always wanted to speak that language.

Where did your husband serve his mission?


How do you stay in shape? Do you workout each day? If so, what do you do and for how long?

I do P90X and Insanity with some Jillian Michaels mixed in when I don’t have time for the others. I used to always be a member of a gym but now I can’t seem to fit that into my day. Last year I exercised four or five times a week. So far this year I can only seem to muster up two or three times. I need to fix that…

Do you do a lot of home cooked meals? How often does your family eat out?

We are a home-cooked meal kind of family. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily amazing meals, it just means that we eat at home as a family as much as we possibly can. Quite honestly I think the first time we have gone to eat out as a family (aside from when we are traveling) was for Dave’s birthday this last Tuesday. It was quite a treat and spoiled me with no cooking or clean-up, and everyone actually behaved. Hmmmm…I could get used to that πŸ™‚

How do you manage your time?

Lately I don’t. I am a HORRIBLE time-manager. It just seems like I’m in one gigantic race that never, ever stops. But I’m working on that…and I’m trying to be patient and realize that time management is a continual process. I was talking to my Dad yesterday about this (he’s in town) and I told him I just wish time would slow down. He wisely stated that I’m the one who has to slow down, not time. Dave is a big schedule guy which really helps our family a lot as far as time management goes.

What instruments do your kids play?

Elle used to play the violin but quit to do choir this year. Grace plays the flute and the hand-bells at school this year. Elle, Max and Grace play piano. Max also teaches Claire piano lessons now and then (it’s supposed to be every week but it’s really “now and then”).

What’s your advice to newly weds?

See answer to question # 1 and remember to have a sense of humor. Also I love what my mom says to my dad and think it is profound marriage advice: “If it’s important to you it’s important to me.” Make that spouse of yours your first priority.

May I ask how old were you when you got married? How old were you when you had your first kid? When you had Lucy?

I was 23 years old when I got married. I had Max almost exactly two years later. I had Lucy when I was 34.

You both came from big families. Did you have a number in mind when you married. Do you take it one and at a time?

Yes, I had seven kids in my mind and was bound and determined to get there. Dave agreed with me until we actually had a child. Then he wanted two. So I feel pretty darn lucky we got five. Read more about that here.

I have noticed your family motto on the wall in your family room {see motto and explanation here}. Do you have any tips on how I might get ours put on canvas? Wouldn’t it be a great Christmas gift for the family?

Yes it sure would and I have a friend who just started selling our family motto (click here or here) for those who have asked about the possibility of doing something like ours. But this guy can do customized family mottos for others as well which it sounds like you have ready to go. He’s really good with graphic design and could probably whip up something for you from words or phrases you have chosen for your family. Click here to request more information on that…

Can you tell me some fun board games to play as a family?

Our very favorites right now are Rummikub, Boggle and Scrabble (except we use it to play “speed scrabble” not the version that comes in the box. I think the overall favorite in our family for even littler kids is “Guess Who.” We got this version of it last year for Christmas and it has probably been played more than any other game we’ve had. Love it.

Phew, that was a lot of questions!

I am trying to post the “Daughter of God” stuff this weekend…I thought maybe 15-20 people may respond but I was wrong and now I’m overwhelmed so sorry it’s taken me so long! (click here to find out what I’m talking about) I’m putting Elle to work emailing everyone the details this weekend if we possibly can get to it, but I will put up pictures of the envelope contents here as well.

Happy weekend!


  1. My husband is exactly like yours when it comes to number of kids. He always wanted five or six until we actually had one. Now we have two and he says he is good! This gives me hope that I can talk him into one or two…or three more!

  2. My Husband also served in Taiwan! We are oldies 1990-92. I was his girlfriend at the time, and I "waited" for him.We will be celebrating our 19 yr. anniversary this month. Taiwan holds a special place in both of our hearts. I understand your son's need to learn Mandarin! good luck. =)
    I love your blog! Very inspiring~ thank you~

  3. Thank you for answering the dating question! Yes, I agree that it makes a big difference when we do have weekly dates. We will probably go ahead and do mostly at-home dates like you mentioned and maybe reserve getting a babysitter for when we really need to get out for a couple hours.

  4. You must try SPEED Rummikub too. You have to have 3 tiles to start laying down and you all go at the SAME time. Crazy fun! You keep playing until nobody can play and then you draw. πŸ™‚ Speed scrabble sounds great. LOVE your blog. You are just fabulous.

  5. oh my word Shawni, if you are a horrible time manager what am I? I mean i hate to be so disagreeable but i just am not in agreement with you on that one πŸ™‚

  6. I always wondered if your husband served in Taiwan! I did too, and I was just at the Mom's Retreat in AZ and saw him there and was going to ask you then, but was too shy. Bummer, it would have been neat to talk to him and see where he served. I served in Koashung (which was part of the Taichung mission when he served). I'm surprised he'd rather live in China though. With kids I'd feel safer in Taiwan because it's much more Americanized, but maybe that's why he wouldn't want to:)

  7. Oops, in my last comment I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

    A really good Christmas book for your family:
    Christmas with the Prophets by Laura Willes

    For Max:
    If he has a DS or 3DS, there is a game for learning Chinese (just a fun way to learn the language)

    For you:
    There are lots of resources for learning Spanish. Just to name a few:

    * The library has a lot of Spanish books (Children's books as well as books/CDs/and other resources specifically for learning Spanish) Ask and ye shall receive πŸ˜‰

    * I'm sure you have heard about Rosetta Stone. I got a really good deal by purchasing an online subscription for 6 months. It was cheaper than buying the actual program for your computer. Then again, you never know, maybe the library has a copy of Rosetta Stone to use?

    * This website has access to loads of free online websites for learning languages (Spanish, Chinese, Asian languages, African languages, Middle Eastern languages, etc.)

    * This book is a fun way to learn. You can watch movies in Spanish and listen for key phrases and words (a good way to learn vocabulary and good listening practice):

    * My German professor has raised her own 6 boys bilingual (German and English). Then she adopted 3 little hispanic girls and promised the parents she would raise them speaking Spanish in addition to English and German. So in order to do this, she had a Spanish nanny in her home that teaches her and her kids Spanish.

    * One thing that helped me learn German was labeling everything in my house in German. Every time I saw the dishwasher, I saw the word "GeschirrspΓΌlmaschine" on there. So I naturally learned vocabulary over time from seeing these words every day around the house. πŸ™‚

    * You could learn a little bit of Spanish with your kids if they are taking it in school.

    There are more resources and ways to learn Spanish out there. But I'm guessing finding the time to learn a language when you are a busy mom of 5 is probably challenging? Or? πŸ˜‰

  8. Oh my goodness…(sorry this is like my 3rd comment on this blog post of yours)….I just remembered this AMAZING website! Have you seen it already?

    This website has quizzes to practice Spanish vocabulary (but also things like art, geography, chemistry, math, etc.)

    **Here is the COOL thing about the site: For every answer you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program to help end hunger! For reals!

    This could be a fun activity for your kids to do as well. Not only will it make you and your kids smart, it is a service project as well!


    *To change the subject from English vocab to a different subject, click on "change subject"

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