Just curious what your husband does for a living. I’ve read so much about your family, your activities and stuff like that, so I just wondered a little more about your husband. Thanks!

Dave prefers to stay a little more under-the-radar on this blog, but he gave me the green light to answer this question. Then he gave me the red light when I asked that he would “guest post” about it.


When we moved from lush Virginia to the desert almost ten years ago Dave started a manufacturing business with his brother and brother-in-law. It is called Maxis (click here for more info.). I am so proud of them and all the hard work they have put into it because the road hasn’t been easy. When they first started out Dave was gone the majority of the time. He was traveling across the country trying to get sales going and he was in China a LOT. One particular trip I remember well was a three-week one where I thought I may wither away and die without him. I remember breaking down on the phone when my sister-in-law was trying to talk me in to packing up all my little kids and coming to visit, reminding me that I had been doing it alone for a long time. It was no picnic for Dave either. But man alive he has sure learned a lot along the way, as have we all.

Gradually he has been able to ease himself out of the bulk of the U.S. travel but he still goes to China pretty regularly (that’s why we got to live there the summer I was pregnant with Lucy and I keep drooling to go back and actually have the kids go to school there for a little bit.). Dave still has out-of-town meetings here and there (and I must admit sometimes we get a lot done when he’s gone) but I am continually thanking my lucky stars that he’s not traveling like crazy anymore. We like having that guy around.

I’m wondering how your husband takes off so much time during the summer? or does he? When I see him in so many pictures at Bear Lake and Aspen Grove I have a twinge of jealously only because we do so many summer activities without my husband.

Although Dave has a little more flexibility these days with work, he does have to be there most of the time πŸ™‚ We are all lucky that he can do quite a bit of work over the phone and the Internet while we’re gone. Often times he is talking to people in China late into the night (since they are pretty much on an opposite schedule over there). But also, I think seeing him in a few pictures makes it seem like he was there more than he really was. For example, we were at Bear Lake for two-and-a-half weeks, but he was only there for three-and-a-half days, including the weekend.

You talk about really having great quality conversations with your family members when you’re together…it is so easy, for me, as a mother, to get busy with kids, or just let the time slip away when I’m around my dear family members. How do you make the most of that time? And for those family members that are a little tougher to talk to, what do you do there?

I am so with you on trying to find the balance between your childrens’ needs and soaking up valuable conversation time when with extended family. It is such a tough balance especially when you have really young children clinging to your legs! There was a time when I felt like I was barely treading water with my toddlers in tow at family reunions. I was up all night with crying babies and then up again at the crack of dawn with toddlers, and most of the discussions happened late into the night when I could barely keep my bleary eyes open. But my family has always been pretty good at keeping stimulating discussions going in any little snippets of time that were available, and I give all the credit to my Dad for that. He’s always got some topic he wants to discuss and get our opinion on. He’ll send out emails posing a thought-provoking question, etc. He has essentially trained us all to ask questions that get discussions going. As each of us has grown and started our own families I get anxious to get together so I can ask for their opinions. I long for those snippets of time between meals or while walking to the beach or even running in the mornings where I can ask advice or bring up a topic I’ve been thinking over. I crave that time when we are together because none of us are particularly good phone-talkers. Having my list of “blog questions” that readers have sent in helped this year as well. We had some great discussions about questions readers have sent in (which I will share as soon as I can get to them πŸ™‚

We traveled a bunch growing up which suction-cupped us together and made us best friends out of necessity. I believe that because of this we all seem to relate to each other pretty well, but of course there are family members who don’t share as many of the same interests, etc. I think we all try to just find the commonalities and build on them as much as we possibly can.

How did you do the “Coronado” with the glowsticks? {back at the end of this post} Was it the glowsticks alone or some computer imaging stuff?

I just did the same thing I did to create the effect of the sparklers in this picture:
(More sparkler pictures in this post.)

You just have to manually set your camera to a really slow shutter speed setting (meaning the camera takes a long time to click and actually take the picture). This allows the camera to capture all the light you are waving around in front of it, but it also means you have to hold the camera super still (or better yet, use a tripod) so that you can get a crisp shot. I took individual pictures of each letter (one child standing in front of me waving around their glowstick in the shape of each letter) and then made a collage of the letters in Picasa.

Do you let your children date? Do you make compromises on the whole “dating affair” with them? I have a 14-year-old boy and man, he is giving us trouble with the whole idea of dating and my husband and I could definitely do with some advice.

Oh boy, tough stuff. I can just tell you our theory about dating and I hope that it helps:) In our church youth are encouraged to wait until they are 16-years-old to date. Even at 16 it is recommended to mostly stick to group dates and not single off too fast. I’m so thankful for these guidelines because I think they are so wise. I just don’t know that too much good can come from dating and pairing off too young (it sounds like you agree). Sometimes I think it just helps to have a little outside influence to help kids make good decisions in life, especially dating ones. I love that because these standards are talked about at church or among church friends my kids are pretty readily accepting. Granted Max is only 14 right now and a little on the girl-crazy side these days…who knows if he’ll put up a fight at some point. But I think he is pretty solid in feeling great about waiting ’til he’s 16.

I think the most important thing is talking about the “big picture” and why we feel it’s important to wait to get serious with dating. I’m thinking a frank talk with your 14-year-old may help him realize why you are uneasy about him dating too early…it’s not just because you are over protective. There’s a book called “For the Strength of Youth” that all the youth in our church have for guidelines (not only about dating but about a bunch of other things as well). I’m so grateful for all the wisdom filling up that little book. (Click here for more info.) If you’d like a copy I’m sure I could round one up for you πŸ™‚

I only have two children, but really need help in the organization department. My husband is in dental school and I am teacher. He has a different schedule each week depending on his classes/tests/etc. I am having a hard time keeping up with what days we do what, who needs to be where, etc. Just last week, I forgot to take my son to his swim lesson! I am even “off” for the summer…remembering to head to the pool shouldn’t be that hard! haha! πŸ™‚ Do you have a large calendar that you use or an organizational tool that you recommend? If so, do you have pictures of it or ideas of how to make it work?

Sometimes (meaning most of the time), I think it may be best to throw a reader’s question out to the blogging world instead of answering it myself. There are so many wise mothers out there!

I think this is one of those instances.

Heaven knows I can use all the help I can get in the organization department. I did write a response to a similar question back here. I think prioritizing is so essential, but with school starting next week I am in search of a new way to organize the actual nuts and bolts of our days.

I have been deep in thought about why it makes me so sick to my stomach to have school starting so soon. My pondering has helped me realize that the real reason I am so darn sick about it is the whole schedule thing. There are too many needs pulling me in every direction. I like having my children close with no schedule to boss us around.

I can do the morning routine. I like that stuff…it makes me feel productive and empowered. It’s the after school stuff to keep track of that to me looms so ominously on the horizon. In some ways I get tempted to say no to any and all extracurricular lessons except piano. That way maybe I would have a slim chance to actually meet my dream: to sit on the piano bench with each child each day and help them plug through their music lessons. Claire is starting piano this year and I’m so nervous about that because with a new piano student you have to be on task all the time. They can’t practice on their own, or even with me reminding them which notes should be “sharp” as I make dinner from the next room.

The problem with saying no to other extracurricular things is that I just can’t. Elle is just on the brink of making some great strides in tennis. She wants to be on the high school tennis team next year which would be great for her so she needs to keep it up. Grace and Claire crave gymnastics (and in many ways unique to each of their personalities they need it), and of course Dave and I are not going to tell Max, the only boy in the family, that he can’t be involved in a sport. Then there’s Lucy who needs some good physical activity worked in and I’m already envisioning how my heart will swell at the future dance recital that will wrap up the dance class I have her signed up for this year.

So my question is the same as this reader: I’d love new, concrete ideas on how to keep track of it all. I know that I will be revamping my “Mind Organization for Moms” system and I’m sure that will help. But even as amazing as that whole program is, it can’t help me drive the volleyball carpool at the same time as I sit on the piano bench.

I want to start off on the right foot. We used to use a big calendar to keep us situated: But it fell by the wayside when I started using my computer calendar and printing it out each week. Maybe I need to start that again…

If only I could just have a clone…

Any help from mothers with organization in their bones would be much appreciated from me and from that mother who left this question.

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  1. Shawni,

    I have been reading your blog for a long time (can't event remember how I came across it) and just love the messages and words of wisdom you divulge. Aside from being beautiful, you exude kindness and are so humble. I hope to take many of your lessons along with me when I become a mother!
    Thank you!

  2. Thanks for the advice ! We live in France so it will quite a fuss to get the pamphlet sent here but I am sure going to print out the online and we will read it as a family. Thank you for your gesture, Shawni, it is most appreciated.

  3. Shawni, would love your advice or a recommendation on which of your parents books can help me. I have read a couple of their books, but they were Teaching your children Joy and I can't remember the other one. I have one child who despite being a member of the church is a huge back talker. He is super independent and wants to do most things his way. When possible I let love and logic apply, but as of late his mouth is really affecting the other children and harmony in our home. I tried your let's start over tactic and that works a little. Despite our ability to stay patient with him with the new addition of a baby we are finding that we are loosing our tempers more and more. We know he knows what he is doing because when he is at church or with others he is as sweet as pie. Can you please help. We are desperate to kick this habit out the door and have more harmony in our home. Thanks from a desperate mom in Georgia.

  4. Shawni, I love your blog and rarely comment, but silently envy your photography and mothering skills. My kids are now all teenagers(3 out of 4 can drive) but I remember trying to get everyone where they needed to be was a nightmare. One possibility is hiring a responsible teenager in the neighborhood to help taxi. What teenager would pass up a few extra bucks? Oh how I wish blogs were around when I was raising little ones. Such a strength for each other.

  5. here's what has been working for me lately with organization (it's an old school – technology hybrid): I use my computer calendar to track everything. Every appointment, soccer practice, dessert that needs to be brought someplace, goes on that calendar. Then next to the computer I have a spiral bound note book….and every night i check my calendar and jot everything down for the next day on my notebook. I also include any "to do's" around the house, or things that need to be picked up if i'm out. Everything goes on the notebook. I consult the notebook several times during the day, and even tear out the page and keep in my pocket when I'm out and about. So far it works for me (most of the time) πŸ™‚

  6. Ok….I am not the most organized mom in the world but I am getting pretty good at it.I have 5 kiddos all girls (4 were in foster care and have LOTS of appointments even after adopting 2 of them still lots of things they have to do)..People know I have one calendar (if you get too many things are missed)..every day when they come home I make sure any important dates (if it's not on the calendar it DOESN'T happen)…I have limited them to 2 main extra fun things each and youth group…With 4 out of 5 in couseling and a GREAT support group my MIL, Mom, hubby and I have split the girls that have counseling, medical checks, and each one is in charge of 1 kiddo….I am in charge of all the rest…We plan mom and dad dates, vacations, and other appointments…it took me awhile to get used to fitting it all in….after a few months it's gotten easier…My friends tease me about my calendar but are the first to book time for play dates, overnights, girls days….Hope this helps!!

  7. I use a similar system as Seriously…

    Every night I (try to) plan the next day and write down my schedule on paper. For me, it's almost like a prayer because I use this time to think about how my tasks fit in with my goals of being a mother, wife, friend, worker, etc. It makes me feel more cheerful about certain obligations… πŸ™‚ For example, I think about how I can use driving time to connect with my kids.

    Some other ideas:
    1. Routines for morning, after school and evening for both mom and kids. When my kids were younger, I printed out lists for them. (eg. Empty backpack, have mom sign papers, snack, do homework, put away shoes & coat etc.) Now that they're in middle school, they know the routine.

    We've now started to have weekly routines too. For example, my daughter and I do "projects" on Wednesdays. (Otherwise, it's too easy for me to put that off to another day because there's always something more pressing.)

    2. Carpools. For us, this is very ad hoc… I don't have a schedule. I always offer to drive other kids when I can and other parents reciprocate when they can or are very willing when I ask for help.

    3. Plan meals. Family meals are very important to us, but sometimes I'm picking up kids just before dinner and can't cook anything that needs a lot of "babysitting." I look at my schedule and plan meals around the cooking time available. Nights when I'm driving I do crock pot meals. When I have more time, I do something more ambitious. When we come from a game and can't eat until 8, I rely on deli chicken or hot sandwiches.

    4. Use dinner time to connect with everyone and talk about the schedule for the week or next few days. Talk about what you want to do together during free time. Dream together.

    5. Have rules/expectations and stick to them. (e.g. Screen time limited to 30 minutes/day. Lights out at particular times.) This saves on constant negotiating and arguing. I do let my kids "make their case" for a change in the rules, but they have to back their argument up with facts not whining.

    I don't have the challenge of 5 kids and 5 schedules — I only have two. I work almost full-time (but most hours are from home, so I can afford to be flexible.)

  8. My biggest help in remembering my kids' extracurricular activities is to set the alarm on my cell phone for a half hour before each activity. That way I am reminded in time to get them there. It is just way too easy to lose track of time when I am having a busy day!

  9. This is a little extreme and it's not really helpful advice for the lady who asked the question since she works, but…I decided to homeschool my kids next year and one of the biggest reasons is I'm sick of school, lessons, sports,etc. taking my kids away from me and taking up all their time.

    This way we will have more time together, I get to be a part of their schooling, and they have more time during the day to practice piano, do chores, just do school work with out the addition of homework, be with me, etc. I know it's going to be hard work, but I'm no longer held to the schools schedule, I get to make my own.

  10. How funny. . . after meeting you last week, I had a few questions that I wished I would have asked you and thought I might be able to figure out if I poked around on your blog. One of them was what your husband does for a living πŸ™‚

    At the moment, I can't remember my other questions. . . maybe I will have to officially "submit" them when I think of them.

    It was so nice to meet you and your wonderful family!

  11. A BIG calendar. Big, busy families need lots of space. We're making our own calendars (about 30 inches wide!) kind of like Design Mom's http://www.designmom.com/2011/02/watercolor-calendar/ I used to calendar on the computer, but then *I* was the only one who knew what was going on. Tired of the Mom Nag job, the all-on paper, on-the-wall calendar helps all the kids (we have 8) take some responsibility for their own events, and they help remind each other, too.

    We have family council every Sunday to plan out the week. The kids hate it πŸ™‚ but it helps keep us together. Good luck to you. Enjoy reading your blog!

  12. I always look forward to Friday Q & A's!

    I have a couple of questions:

    When Claire was teaching joy school you mentioned Gunny Bag. I remember your Dad talking about him in his books.

    Did you use Gunny Bag in your family?

    How many times did you live in the UK & did you attend an American school or a local infant/primary/secondary one?

  13. Could you tell us who you rent the large homes from in Bear Lake? I'd love to arrange a family reunion there & want a place or maybe several homes that would hold a lot of people. Just found your blog & love it, too! I'm a photographer, too (here's my photography blog, http://www.lindamurri.com) and enjoy your creative family photos.

  14. Hi, Shawni. I'm a mom of 2 (ages 4 and 18 months, boy and girl). I know how you like to keep it real, and I do understand that everything can't always be constant peace and happiness between all of your kids. But I really do get the feeling that in general, your kids love, respect, and are kind to one another and have genuine fun together. Growing up, my siblings and I definitely loved each other and were protective of each other, but we also had a lot of name calling, hitting, relentless teasing, and yelling. And we didn't usually particularily enjoy one another's company. (probably because of all the fighting) What do you think has helped your kids get along so well? I so wish for my kids to be best of friends as they grow up and not have all the contention that I grew up with.

    Thanks so much for any thoughts.


  15. I seem to be having the same problem with my son as (likeschocolate). I feel I have so much experience with "the young child" but my son just reached 8 (I know that still is young), but I feel I have lost all control with him. Everything I ask is a "force" in his mind and he screams at me letting me know I'm not the "boss" of him. I feel my husband is extremely patient with him, which is much needed with a child like him, but my big question is should my child have fear of us (his parents)? Fear may not be the right word, but I feel he is so young and we are already losing some control with him. I'm really wanting to go to the couples retreat in September with my husband, do you think discussions about children like this one would be discussed in detail?

  16. i just found out today that your parents are the keynote speakers at a conference i'm attending in fort wayne, indiana in october. i gasped out loud when i saw their photo in the email. i'm such a nerd πŸ™‚

    i can't wait to hear them in person!

  17. I use a white-board calendar similar to the one you have in the photo. I have 5 kids just a bit older than yours and this system has worked great for us for years…it's helped me at least look more organized and my kids to take responsibility for their activities. My husband, teenage son and I use electronic calendars but just before the beginning of each month I spend about 30 minutes combining everyone's various activities from church & school onto our large family calendar that hangs in the main area of the house. Each child has a different color of dry erase marker and activities that involve everyone have a specific color. I found years ago that it helped my kids be responsible for remembering thier own activities if they were posted on more than just my calendar. It also saves me from having to answer the "how many days until my birthday, vacation, party, etc." questions over and over. They just look at the calendar and count it down themselves. When they come home with fliers, invitations, someone calls w/ an appointment, I make sure it goes right on the calendar, and the older kids write it on themselves. Everyone but the 4-year old checks the calendar each morning to see what is going on and whether or not I'll be home after school or working. If it's not on the calendar at our house it just doesn't happen.

  18. I live by google calendar.
    I print it out monthly. Frankly, my kids don't have to know all that much.
    But it's front and center on my phone and that has made ALL the difference.
    Seriosuly, it is so hot outside. How do you live here?

  19. My kids aren't to the ages where they're all over the place yet, so I'm taking notes to see how you're all doing it! The real problem in my house is that my husband and I are never on the same page calendar-wise! Ha! We try to be good about keeping each other in the loop but our callings both require meetings, etc. Sigh. What do you and Dave do to sync up your schedules? I can only imagine that there has to be some times when one drops off while the other picks up kids?

    And let me just add that I love that your blog is such a heavenly BREAK for me. I stopped reading blogs for awhile because some are depressing! Either the people are TOO PERFECT (like, you know they're not being real), or people are SO REAL they're down in the dirt all the time. Thank you for having such a happy place for people to come online and share mothering advice. I just appreciate that your advice is always centered on the Savior.

    Thank you, thank you.


  20. I have a smart phone & use the Google calendar on it. I highly recommend because you can access the same calendar on your computer, iPad & phone.
    Another HUGE benefit is that you can't lose it because it's a web-based service, AND because it's on your phone, you always have it with you.
    I also set reminders for medicine-taking, etc, because that's something I don't remember very well. When my phone alarm/vibrate goes off, I take care of the reminder right away. Only way for me to keep it all together amidst the lovely chaos.

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