It seems like years ago when our table was adorned with these wood-carvings that made their way more fully into our hearts on Christmas Eve.  

So much has happened in the month and a half since we stashed away all the richness of Christmas and started fresh into 2016!

But on we go.

Max’s little missionary chart is getting filled in bubble by bubble ever so steadily and Elle’s graduation day is marching swiftly toward us.

Let’s record January quick while I can remember it! 🙂
We got to go to our annual party (held in the beginning of the new year now since Christmas proved to be too crazy) with some of our favorite friends from our old ward.

Every year when we leave that party my cheeks ache from laughing so hard.  Love those people so.

We went through Dave’s old missionary stuff and found this gem:

(back HERE)

Claire’s old primary teacher from church decided to do a little “reunion” devotional with these kids she taught.  They were in Heaven to be reunited and to feel that love from that awesome teacher once again.

Max and I did a lot of this:

And I ate up every minute.  I love when I can get Max talking.  Like really talking.  Telling me his biggest fears and things he’s excited about.  And that happened a few times on those dates.  Loved hearing his theories on hard work in the mission field and the goofy things he thinks about.  One day we stopped to exchange something I got for Christmas and I told him in all seriousness that I needed his “style” advice.  Without skipping a beat he folded his arms, leaned his shoulder into the wall and said, “well, you’ve come to the right source.”  Ok, you had to be there, but man I love that boy.  And I’m so glad there was so much to do to get him ready.  Oh boy.  From Visa stuff to pants tailoring to croc buying (he can wear those with his suits in Taiwan because it’s so wet over there) to where he begged to get lunch (that boy gets more excited about food than anyone I know), we got to be together.

Elle worked her tail off on her Boston University application (which was due after the others she had turned in).

Once a month I get to be one of the drivers to deliver the food for BrainFood, this awesome organization here in the desert.  

Had to capture that since it seems to come up quite often.  Love that organization so much and so grateful I get to be a tiny part of it.

Lots of bikes at our house on weekends…

…and girls…

We met this cute boy and his family in North Carolina a couple years ago and this year I was amazed when we got their Christmas card and I realized they moved to the desert…a couple miles away from us!  Neither his mom or I realized how close we were, but I happened to be volunteering for Art Masterpiece in Lucy’s classroom the very day we got the Christmas card and had just noticed this sweet most polite boy in the whole wide world right in Lucy’s class.  

It is such a small world.  So we surprised them and brought over some treats to welcome them to the desert, and we have loved hanging out with them since.  They are the best family.

Lucy also got to go to the baptism of her good friends who are twins:

She decided she had better pull out her old baptism dress to wear for the occasion.

I took this next picture one Saturday morning relatively early because Lucy is always awake hanging in her room playing with Legos on weekends.

We have to drag her out of bed on weekdays, but oh boy on weekends she is ready to roll.

I had to snap this pic. because it’s so typical of how we get ready in the morning.

The girls finish up random homework, Lucy works on her math facts while we get hair done.
We had a yoga night for Young Women:

Elle and I had a day at court to try to figure out a ticket.

Very educational and I sure love being with that girl.

Lucy and her friends are pretty into American Girl dolls right now.  I love it.

Elle and I took Max’s mission pictures at the temple (here) and then these cute girls met up with her to do baptisms:
And then it was off to the farewells.

(All four of these boys are leaving relatively close together.)

We finally finished a few things on our house.  Here’s Grace and Claire’s room:

Here’s the view from their bathroom:

It feels so good to have it almost done (still need to add a little art in those frames and do a few odds and ends), but I love hanging in there with them.

We got our barn doors painted:

…which was a pretty major deal.

I have no idea why we took this pic. but don’t you just love that Dave?

Us moms took our BYU-roommate-heading-to-the-MTC boys out to lunch at their favorite spot:

And then the cousins started arriving for the big farewell at church for Max:

Grace cheered her heart out on some of her last games:

I got to meet up with these great ladies for lunch:

Then it was actual farewell day (back HERE):

…and tons of Eyre family togetherness (also in that link for the farewell).

We had some pretty good laughs with this senior thing they do at the high school trying to eliminate teams with squirt guns.  We had this whole hold-up in our driveway for a couple hours one day:

The guys in the red truck were trying to get Elle and her friend out, but the guys who were trying to get them came and boxed them in.  Then the guys who were trying to get THEM came and boxed them in.  It was a whole stand-off and these girls could just watch because of how the ones trying to get them were so stuck.


I tell you, as much as I dread having them leave I have loved having two years of senior-hood.

It is so fun.  I adore these kids and their friends so much.

Then it was on to Claire’s birthday and dance party (here):

Lucy started filling up her “artistic creation book” that my Dad gave her for Christmas:

Max worked hard trying to earn a few extra bucks to have in the bank when he gets back from his mission:

Dave and I hung with good friends:

Then it was MORP (here)…

…and “Pies & Ties” (here):

I love how Lucy keeps track of special things coming up in her school agenda:

She keeps track of the important things like what sort of birthday treats are in store…

…and sad things like Max leaving…

(Record of all my thoughts about his departure are HERE and HERE.)

People did lots of stuff to help us ease our “missing” right after he was gone.  My sister led me on a winter-wonderland hike…

My brother-in-law took these girls out for a movie:

Grace fully engaged herself in service helping someone move with the other Young Women:

Elle worked (more) on her college applications.

Luckily life just moves on and you don’t have time to sit and bemoan the “missing” too much!

These girls came with me to a little dance concert one of the young women did…

We got back to our regular job chore routines:

HA!  Yes, sadly those empty charts were pretty “regular” in January.  None of us could get it together enough to get in gear on those except for Lucy.

Good Job Lu!!

Here she is working in a few extra math facts as one of her goals:

I tell you that girl is a go-getter when she puts her mind to it!

Dave had some pretty awesome pickle-ball tournaments:

A little date…

Our friends we met in China had us over for the most delicious gourmet dinner.

Love them so much.

And Dave’s brother and family came to start setting things in gear for their second son’s wedding coming up in April.

We had a big family gathering that evening to try to talk through some of the rehearsal dinner stuff (which will be held here).  Sad I didn’t get a picture with everyone here…

Claire and her friend got busy with a “paint war” one Saturday.

Yep, they covered pretty much every inch of their bodies.

What’s that you say?  At least they didn’t paint their hair?

Oh no, they didn’t miss the hair! 🙂

Now, in closing, a little word must be said in update about our missionary Max.  
We waited anxiously for his first letter.  We thought about him every minute (still do).  We prayed our guts out for him.  So many questions, who would his companion be?  How was he adjusting?  How would he do with the language?  How did he like his classes?  So much rolling around in our hearts and minds aching to hear from him.
So you can be sure that when Dave came in from the mailbox one afternoon that first week with a letter from him we were all whooping and hollering like the most amazing thing on the planet had just taken place.  
Because it did.  
He sounded SO happy and there’s nothing like getting a letter like that to make your mother’s heart rejoice.  
The girls talk about him constantly and doodle things like this:
And people have been kind enough to send me pictures like this:

…and this:

…which mean the whole world to me.

He has sent a letter each week.  The last one was super short but the first line was this:  “I’VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY!!!” so in that case I was ok with the short-ness.  But still, the little snippets of info. that various blog readers have sent are like pure gold.  Keep sending any pictures or info. if you have some!

Happy Monday!
(Which is only two days before Wednesday when we get to hear from that boy again!)

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  1. You have a beautiful life, thanks for sharing. So happy for your missionary!
    I love how your girls bedroom turned out. Where did you find the white nightstand with drawers? Their bedding is lovely!

    1. That is from Crate & Barrel. I had been eye-ing and and loving it and wishing it wasn't so expensive in the catalog and then I happened to go to the store and find it in their "as-is" section for a deal. It was the best serendipity moment.

    1. That is a built in bench….inspired by my cousin who had the idea to bump the wall of Lucy's bedroom in a little to make room in there. It is one of the most utilized things in our house. I love it!

  2. So….our sons are MTC mission companions and I would love to share any/all photos with you. I only have a couple pics so far but I'd love to send them to you if you'd like to tell me the best way to do that. My sons last email said he just loves his companion. Sounds like they are doing great together!

    1. NO WAY! I cannot tell you how excited I am to get this! Max thinks your son is the BEST and I have been so thankful for him since the first letter when he told me how great he is. It means so much to know that he has such a great companion. I've asked Max all kinds of more detailed questions but he's not so hot at answering so it makes my day to hear from you!! I love the internet! Ok, if you can email me at sepphotography at gmail dot com I will so love being in touch!!
      p.s. I love the internet! Oh, already said that but hallelujah for modern technology. I am so happy.

    1. My Dad rounded those up somewhere and gave one to each of the grandkids for Christmas. I'll see if I can track him down to ask where he got them 🙂

  3. What?! His companions mom commented above?!☝️ How fun…my eyes sting at the thought in 3 years with my son, but I know it will be wonderful at the same time. Your house is lively, I love it when ours is filled as well. I teach early morning seminary freshman this year, my oldest is in my class, and we have been having monthly parties at our home, and my heart overflows with joy with those kids! I've missed reading your thoughts and journaling, fun to catch up!

  4. Just curious what "word" you decided on for 2016? I always love hearing about what your focus will be for the year. After reading about your word a couple of years ago, you inspired me to choose a word as well. I so enjoy reading about your parenting ideas and just day-to-day life. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Love those super colorful bikes gathered together in the front of your house! So vibrant and fun just like the girls that ride them, I expect. As I learn about missions following this blog I'm not so sure about all this Max stocking. Isn't one of the main reasons the Morman Church does this is for young people and their parents to "cut the apron strings" after growing up in such intensely connected families? I think the missing him is only natural, not way to help that, but the searching for pictures, words, messages seems to defeat the purpose.

    1. Hi Jenny! I appreciate your concern…I think you may be a little bit confused on the purpose of a mission. Kids choose to go on missions to help spread belief in God and Jesus Christ and teach people about the plan of happiness. They want to share the happiness they have learned and lived through having the gospel in their own lives. One of the very best bi-products is that in doing so these youth are even more converted themselves and they grow and develop in ways they never could at home. But what's so cool is that, at least in my opinion and experience from serving a mission myself, the "intensely connected families" get even stronger as they write letters and pray for each other in ways they never have before. I'm so grateful for any extra input I can get on how to pray for and support Max in the best ways I can, and as his mom it sure is fun to hear snippets from other sources as to how he's doing.

    2. Oy! Such a funny mistake. I meant "stalking" not "stocking!" While converting folks may be one of the official purposes I'm confident the "bi-product" of lifelong commitment to the LDS church young people have after going on a missions is a rich reward the church reaps from the mission program. Kinda like boot camp in the military. Or initiations in fraternities.

      Especially since so many young Mormans soon get married after they return from missions (see your own love story) the huge change in the relationships with the young missionary's families is no doubt a big part of why the system and the culture work As a mother, and watching my own mother's relationship with her grown children, I'm sure we will always "pray our guts out" (as you call it) for our children. No copied Instagram images needed for that.
      I thought/hoped missions are in the process becoming more and more focused on serving people in needs and leading by example; which seems like such an amazingly worthy thing for young people to participate in.. I'm disappointed to read here that the main focus is not on good works.

      There are very compelling statistics that show conversions made out in the field are most often short lived. However, the impact on the young missionaries (and I suggest their mothers too!) lasts a lifetime. I'm confident the LDS leadership is well aware of this.

    3. You're right, the impact on the young missionaries lasts a lifetime for sure. And you're totally right on the mothers too! And you're also right on the service part of it. Service and love is the very fabric of missionary work.

    4. He isn't a kid anymore. He is an adult. He is a capable person. It's what all parents want, kids to be capable of leaving the nest.

      I sure hope the LDS think that our servicemen and women are focused on their tasks even though they are allowed to the use the phone, email and read whatever they want but for short periods of training. I think this limited contact practice is making the strings tied into a knot when they already were untied for college, because now he is inaccessible. She has four other kids to focus on and a husband and a gazillion family members and friends and church responsibilities. If he were married or just at college it would be easier and their would not even be constant contact. Just cause he isn't aware of her energy to connect with him indirectly through other mission moms all comparing snapshots doesn't mean she isn't focusing on the forbidden more than if he were just away at school or married or working and living on his own.

  6. I respectfully disagree. I feel that the "apron strings cutting" is a result of going on a mission, not the reason for going on a mission. I don't feel that she is "stalking" her son at all. Looking for positive things on how your child is doing is perfectly natural for a parent, I know that I do it. She isn't hindering him in any respect, just showing genuine love for her child.

  7. I know that as a Mom, I'd look for any and all ways to see how my son was doing, and be thankful for all reports and photos of him from anyone who had them.

    BUT – I don't think we're getting the whole story from Shawni above on the "purpose" of a mission. Max is not going to be converting anyone, teaching anyone, or spreading belief – he barely speaks the language – maybe enough to say "hello, God loves you, where's the bathroom.." etc.

    But in depth teaching of Mormon concepts while there? No. He will probably be put to work doing "service" for prospective converts. Which is not a bad thing, just not how it's portrayed to the outside world.

    If it wasn't the point (or one of the points) to "cut the apron strings" then the missionaries would be allowed to call, text whatever every day or whenever they felt like it. They are not – they have rules as to when, how many times and in what manner they can speak to their families. So, cutting the apron strings IS a big part of it.

    1. Cutting the Apron Strings is a result of the rules, not the rule. I have served a mission and the reason for not calling home, conversing all the time with home and friends is to focus on what you are doing, bringing all of God's children to Christ through sharing His Gospel. As for Max, yes he is actually going to a mission where they will preach what we believe in. He will be blessed beyond comprehension to be able to communicate in the Chinese language. He will do service, as did I and all missionaries do. He will have lots of opportunities to serve others. But the main reason for a person serving a mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and invite everyone you come in contact with to hear it.

  8. Hello,

    I absolutely love your home…so cute. I would love to see even more updates. Where did you get the cute abstract prints above the beds? I've been looking for something just like that!!


  9. The picture with all the missionaries walking together, my daughter Katie, is the sister in the back with the purple jacket. We're so excited Katie can serve in Taiwan. She studied Chinese in Jr.High, and loved it–it really helped bring her out of herself, after we moved. So good to see a group of good young people engaged in such a great cause. Good luck to you and your family. Small and simple things… 🙂

    1. My daughter is also in the group picture. The one in the front with the red skirt and black jacket. She has never been happier and loves all the mandarin speaking missionaries she has met! What a wonderful group!!!

  10. My daughter, Sister (Christina) Menzie is holding the other selfie stick in the front of the MTC group pic- I think they're on a temple walk. Christina mentioned in her email the week after Max and his group arrived that it was clear that they were all well-prepared for their mission. Mandarin immersion is so intense. Christina took 6 1/2 years of mandarin in school and she said she's learned more in the MTC than in all of her schooling. It's been so challenging, but this group of missionaries is such a great support for each other. Christina and her roomies leave for Taipei next week (visa willing). Best wishes to Max in Taichung!

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