Wednesday, August 16, 2017

parent/child relationships and how to solidify and nurture them

So many good questions coming in these days.  This one is similar to the one last week (back HERE).

Shawni, I have a question about parenting I want to ask:
How do you have and maintain such an amazing and close relationship with your daughters?
My mother and I were never close when I was a child and into teenage years. We are closer now as I have grown up and gotten married but still, we've never had the close mother-daughter bond. I now have a daughter and she is 1.5 years old. I was very nervous when we found out we were having a girl because I didn't want to repeat a negative mother-daughter relationship.
Do you have any advice on what you do daily, or monthly or randomly to make sure you have such great bonds with your children? Where they can and want to come and talk to you and tell you about their day.
Any advice or even if you can give me links to prior posts you have done would be great. 
Thank you. 

I know many blog readers have great ideas about this one I hope they will share.  I LOVE questions like this because it helps remind me what has worked and what I need to work on.

I, for one, am continually working on those relationships.  They are a work in progress.  Each child is so very different.  Some are so much like me, some are so different!  And every stage is different too.  But here are some basic things that I've noticed make us feel closer around here:

1) Put down your phone.  I swear this is the hardest one for me lately.  So dang much comes in all the time on that little device.  Who's driving which carpool, emails about everything under the sun, social media itching to be scrolled through, weather broadcasts, news, even my scriptures pull me into that thing (I've been doing a lot of listening to scriptures these days).  All good and fine things for sure, but they can sure suck you in and make you lose balance.  And make you forget to look into childrens' eyes.

Sometimes I will put Lucy to bed while distracted on my phone.  She's at an age where she's still telling me so much, and sometimes it's so easy to tune that out.  There is such a dramatic difference when my phone is no where close and I am zoned in to what that girl is doing and saying.

And, not to have this be all about Lucy, but I loved that the other night that girl of mine took my phone right out of my hands while I was checking Instagram in the back yard waiting for Bo to do her business and asked if we could read together.

So we did.

And it was the best Narnia night.
(We haven't been reading together lately because she gets fed up with waiting for me...and she is SO into reading which I love.)

But I realized once again, snuggled up in her bed with her, my phone in another bedroom, that that darn little device sure can take away from our relationship.

2) Pray intentionally and specifically for that child.  You will get nudges on what to do and how to do it.  I have noticed this as my kids have grown and the problems and issues get bigger and more complicated.  I don't necessarily get the nudges as I pray, but praying helps me get in mind more what is needed, and I want to work WITH them to get through all this and I have felt "guided" (my "one-word" for 2017) numerous times on how to relate in a different way.

3)  Have Family Home Evening and family dinners.  I mentioned this in the sibling relationship post, but these things work wonders for parent/child relationships as well!  Honestly those are game-changers in this fast-paced world of ours.  I love that our church encourages us to set aside one night each week to be family time (family home evening).  It is not easy these days to carve out that time to be together.  Last year Dave had to put his foot down on an extra class Claire was begging to take on Monday night.  But I am so grateful to have time to just be together.  And as far as dinners go, I love that when we sit down together we talk about our "happies and sads" (highs and lows) for the day.  There is nothing like having built in time to remember to talk about things.  Last night, for instance, we all discussed whether Claire should try-out for the junior high fall sports (soccer or volleyball), Lucy explained how it all worked when I came into her class to talk about BBS that afternoon (more on that soon), we talked about how we only have Elle for a little over one more week here and what we want to do to soak her in, we checked in on jobs.

4) Have monthly interviews, whether it's the first Sunday of the month or casually at a little lunch date (we've been bad with the Sunday interviews, but I still try to do lunch dates with each kid every month).  Ask questions.  Listen to answers.  I always ask what they're most worried about and what they're most excited about to get started.  I actually keep a big black book with their answers from over the years.  Kind of fun to go back and read those things as kids grow.

5)  Physical contact.  Give hugs!  They need them and so do we.  Snuggle up in bed with them to wake them up in the morning.  Make up a handshake with little kids.  Put your arm around them when you're talking to them.  There's something about physical touch that brings closeness and love in my opinion.

There are so many other ideas once I get going:  figure out how they will open up more.  I remember noticing that Max somehow opened up more when we were driving in the car, looking straight ahead rather than looking at each other.  I love cooking together because we are all in the kitchen in close proximity, and things come up.  I love late-nights, because it seems that's when kids open up the most.  I love one-on-one dates.

I wrote a lot of ideas about nurturing relationships with teenagers back HERE, and more teenager q & a HERE (much more about communication there, and also setting up consequences and rules...such a huge part of building relationships in my opinion!).

And I wrote a post on some of my favorite mothering ideas for nurturing relationships with younger kids HERE (that one has been pinned hundreds of thousands of times so it must have struck a chord with some moms :)

Relationships are a constant work in progress. In answer to this mother who asked this question: you will have a great relationship with that daughter of yours because you are intentional about it and you are seeking it. That makes all the difference. 

xoxo,
Shawni


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

and so it begins again...the world of dating

In our religion, kids are encouraged to wait until they're 16 for dating.

And I love that advice for many reasons, but I remembered one reason poignantly last week: it makes all that dating hoopla so fun to look forward to.

So one of our newly sixteen-year-old's best friends invited her out on a fun date last week.
She had the greatest time.

Then a few days later she got asked by another cute boy to Homecoming.
Her first big dance.

We are all pretty excited around here.  Even Bo was so fascinated with all the excitement in the air.

Let's get a better look at that cute way this kid asked:
(They have an inside joke with pears because Grace used to bring them every day to a class they had together last year ;)

This girl is prepared.  She's already trying on dresses and sending me pictures of earring options.

She and Elle asked Elle's friend if she had any possible dresses to borrow and she came over with a whole slew of gorgeousness, each one looked so great on Grace.
This is gonna be fun.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Grace's arrival HOME, a driver's license, teacher reveals and school prep

The couple days leading into school had some pretty exciting events.

First of all, Grace arrived home from China.

Oh boy, were we ever excited to get her home!
 It was a pretty JOYFUL reunion I tell you that!
 Let's get a closer look at that welcome home sign because that, my friends, is a masterpiece right there, don't you think?
HA!  But hey, at least we had something.
Woo Hoo!

The next day, bright and early, came the moment this girl had been waiting for since she turned sixteen the day before she left:

The DRIVER'S LICENSE TEST.
It was kind of a fiasco because I accidentally signed us up for the wrong DMV...the one where we had gone the night before to practice three-point turns with her friend and she felt READY for.  They told us no big deal, we could just head to the other place where we had the appointment.  But when we got there Grace was stressed like nobody's business because she hadn't practiced her parallel parking like she would have liked and she was so worried that was what they were testing her on there.  (Which, btw, she is really great at, and would have passed with flying colors.)

But it was still the three-point-turn after all and this girl came out with a huge smile after that little test.
 Does that look like a happy girl or what?
But I'll tell you what: her mother was more happy than she was.  And still is.

I cannot tell you how that little piece of plastic added to her wallet does to my life as a mother.  We've missed having a driver around here!  She is the BEST to run errands for me and pick up or drop off whatever, and I'm telling you, we are both loving the freedom like nobody's business.   

Meanwhile, the day before that girl of ours got home, the long-awaited class lists were posted at the elementary school.  Oh man this Lucy girl had been counting down the days.  And I had been sick to my stomach with worry.  Really, who she gets for a teacher is a pretty big deal.  I don't want to sound dramatic, but I really think it could make or break her year in a lot of ways.  She needs structure but kindness.  She needs understanding but expectations.  She needs to have someone who "gets" her and it makes such a huge impact, so much more than my other kids.  I had had some meetings the end of the last school year with a few teachers at the school because of some things that happened at the end of 4th grade that made me even more worried about the upcoming situation.  Really not big deal things to anyone else, but I just know how Lucy works, and I know having good kids in her class and having a great teacher can make such a difference in the life of this girl.  Sure, you always want great teachers for your kids.  But that desire is sure stepped up a notch with a child with special needs.  Really, all the fifth grade teachers are supposed to be great, but a lot was riding on this for Lucy and I was pretty nervous.

We kind of have a little tradition to go check out the class lists with this cute friend with the glasses shirt below in the middle, so we went and met up with this other cute friend too and found out they are all in the same class with the best teacher ever!  

This girl got SO LUCKY!  And she knew it.
 (Do you like how she has the list of what she can and cannot eat with braces clutched in her hand?  Just in case, you know, there could be some questionable food there at the school in the 110 degree weather.  Ha!  She seriously carried that thing around for almost a week after she got those new adornments on her teeth.)  All about those braces back HERE.

A couple nights later we went to meet-the-teacher night at the school.
Her teacher used to be the librarian so she knows Lucy really quite well and is darling with her.  It's going to be a great year.  This is how we felt coming out of our little date to the meet-the-teacher night:

The next day was "the-first-day-of-school-eve" and we did some last-minute errands and Grace handed out the gifts she got for her sisters in China.

Sweetness.

And she brought me my own set of beauty chopsticks too:
Sweetheart.

She also took the girls to Bahama Bucks with her fancy new driver's license...
...which promptly turned everyone's lips blue...had to scrub those puppies pretty good before the first day!

And see that lady behind her up there?  That night before school I had scheduled her to come do haircuts.  We kind of have a tradition of that and missed it last year (she was having a baby).  So we were excited to have her come and fix us all up.
(Love that Aubrie!  She's cut our hair for years.)

She came at 2:00 and didn't leave until ELEVEN O'CLOCK at night, because we had a family of neighbors join in and my sis-in-law's family who was getting ready for a wedding.

The most entertaining part of the night was watching this nephew get shorn:
 (He had sported that hair for a long time but was chopping it off for his brother's wedding.)

We were all quite entertained:
 Let's get a closer look at all those faces:
There we go.

Finished product:
(The mustache was going later:)

Claire had to try on her outfit with her new pretty hair:
 She was pretty excited with those braces blinging out her teeth.

And this rainbow was somehow mixed into that last day of summer.
Then school started (more about that back HERE), and schedules started to rule our lives once more filled with lessons and appointments and sports and all that hoopla.

But to wrap up what still goes with this post, we need to talk about Grace's "report" on China.  That first week of school we invited the kids that went to China with her and their families over to spill out all the details of their trip.
 Loved it so much.
They had so much to say about those adventures over on the other side of the world, and were all glowing with happiness about it all.

The other two girls who went with them were in Idaho, but we were to glad to get these four and see all kinds of pictures and videos of all they did.
 Hopefully it helped cement it all into their brains...and hearts too.

Grace and her sweetest-ever roommate:
 Who also happened to be one of Elle's great friends from high school.
 (and who also happened to have the exact same shirt as Elle that Grace had been wearing the day before:)

Oh, and one more important thing:  Grace got her Young Women medallion right when she got home as well.  (all about that over HERE).
It was a pre-requisite to getting that driver's license, and it was pretty cool because she learned so much from that and finished off the last stuff the last day in China.

What a summer that was!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Happy #19, Elle Belle

Today Elle turned NINETEEN YEARS OLD.

This is me saying enough is enough, quit growing up, will you?


And I can't let the day finish without writing how much I love that girl.  Here are my 19 things for August 12th:

1)  She goes with the flow.  Easy to please.

2) Low maintenance.  Her favorite store is Savers (second-hand store) and that's where she buys her clothes.  She didn't ask for a single thing for her birthday (I wish she would have, would have made my job easier, but just illustrating my low-maintenance point :)

3)  She radiates an inner beauty that people are drawn to, and as they draw close to her, she doles out light and goodness that just keeps replenishing.

4)  I love hearing her voice on FaceTime when she's away at college.  She is full of questions and love for her little sisters...and for me and Dave too.

5)  She asks good questions.

6)  She's socially so aware.  She knows when someone is sad or frustrated or conflicted and she has a knack for knowing what to do to help remedy a myriad of situations.  I know this from first-hand experience countless times when I've been the frustrated one all in a huff.

7)  She's an adventurer.  Her eyes light up when she thinks of a new one to take, just like her mother :)

8)  I love how hard she works when she has a job to do.  She knows how to focus and get the job done.

9)  She studies hard.  And works her tail off.  Which leads to good grades.  Which leads to college scholarships.  Which is good any way you look at it.

10)  She is a saver. 

11)  Her sense of style is on point.

12)  She's a great conversationalist.  I love watching her engage with those around her whether they be little kids or grandparents.

13)  When she shares her thoughts about the gospel and the Savior I can feel it deep in my heart.

14)  She has an eye for beauty.  I love how she sees the world and captures it in her photography.

15)  One of my favorite valentine's hearts (the hearts we put up in our kitchen each Valentine's Day) was one Max wrote about Elle.  He said, "she is humble even though she has a lot to brag about."  And I totally agree with that boy of mine.  

16)  She doesn't care what anyone else thinks, not afraid to stand up for what's right, or kind, or good.

17)  She is an artist!  She found that out in her drawing class this year and surprised herself with how much she loves it.

18)  She loves and respects her parents.  And is grateful for everything we do.  Which means the world to the parents.

19)  She is "going confidently the direction of her dreams" and "living the life she has imagined" as Henry David Thoreau encouraged, and I love watching where those dreams take her.

Love you forever baby girl!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

ten ideas to foster strong sibling relationships

I'm trying to get better at answering some blog questions...there have been so many lately that have really made me think which I love so much!  Thank you to those who send thoughts and inspiration and things that stretch my thinking.  Here are some thoughts on one of them:

The other day Claire came home from an activity at church with a paper outlining the steps she plans to take as she works to deal with her "annoying sister."

I guess each kid in her class had been instructed to think about a goal they wanted to work on and steps to get there.

And Claire naturally came up with this annoying sister business because, well, she is a full-blown eye-rolling teenager now and Lucy, bless her heart, gets on her nerves sometimes. 

And I know it's only natural for kids to squabble and slam doors (especially if their mother does:).  We are no strangers to sibling rivalry over here, especially with all these girls!  But come on, not these two!  For as long as I can remember this has been their relationship:

Claire is the best thing that ever happened to Lucy.  
 Always gently leading, instructing, unconditional loving.

But lately I've been wrangling together every tactic I can think of to keep that sibling love from dissolving into a giant sea of misery and frustration.

So it was fitting that I got this question from a blog reader the other day:

I have wanted to reach out to you for some time and ask for your advice on raising  daughters and encouraging sister relationships, in particular. You see, I have three daughters, ages 7 and 5 years old. (My 7 year old girls are twins!) I want to encourage my girls to always support and love each other. They are getting to the age where the fighting/teasing, etc., is becoming a daily occurrence.  I know a lot of this is age related and they will outgrow it. 

Where I need the help is that I didn't grow up with sisters. I have a half-sister and half-brother who are over 10 years older than me - so I basically grew up as an only child. I feel ill-equipped on how to foster healthy sister relationships. And not just for them - but for me as well. How do I foster  healthy mother - daughter relationships with them that will carry on through the years ahead? It is something that is always in the back of my mind. 

I could go on and on about this, but I will stop now and just ask if there is any advice you could share with me on raising daughters. It would be greatly appreciated! 

I am embarrassed to say that I can't find the email this came from now and don't know if I responded or not, so hopefully this will count as my response!

I think this is such a great deliberate parenting question to ponder because we all worry about this to some degree, right?  Sibling relationships have so much power.  And helping kids learn to love each other and have genuine respect for one another is essential in raising strong families.

One more story before I get to some concrete ideas and thoughts:

Sitting in church last Sunday I noticed my friend's family a few rows in front of us, their three teenage girls all sitting side by side.  

Something in the way they sat there struck me.  

There was so much love on that row!

I know, weird that I could recognize love from some girls just sitting there listening in sacrament meeting, and I can't even really explain why I could feel it.  It's not like they were talking or communicating.  But there was just unspoken love on that row.  Lots of it.  It reminded me that Grace had told me once how she wanted us to be like that family.  She had noticed how kindly they treat each other and craved that more in our family.  (Sure, our girls are generally pretty nice to each other, but Grace felt that this family is the "rolls royce" of "nice.")

I grabbed my friend for a minute after church and picked her brain about how she created that love.

It's tough to put a finger on something like that on the spot, but as we talked, she came up with some thoughts as well.

So, after pondering over this for a little, and discussing with my sisters and sister-in-laws, Dave, and this friend, here are some ideas to help build those sibling bonds:

1)  Build in proactive systems into family life to help kids learn to love each other (ideas below).  Don't just wait until you're in the midst of a downward spiral of squabbling (like I am :).

2)  Kids mimic what their parents do.  Build a culture of respect and love.  If we, as parents, give kids the benefit of the doubt, our kids will do the same to each other.  I think it's interesting that I have been a little impatient with Lucy lately.  I'm not really frustrated at her, I think I just get frustrated at the situation sometimes (mostly due to her not being able to see things...SO not her fault...but I struggle to know how to deal with each new version of reality and sometimes it comes out as frustration).  And when I stop to think about that I wonder if my frustration is fueling Claire's somehow?  I don't know, but I know that I need to be a better example.

3)  Figure out a plan to put phones and technology aside every now and again.  I have SO much more to say about technology soon in a post of it's own on this topic, because in some ways I think phones are ruining so much in society.  (sure they're good to a certain extent, but they are harming a bunch too...more on that later).  But for today, I'm telling you I think phones take so much away from sibling relationships!  If phones are out of the picture, at least for a little while, perhaps daily, perhaps just on Sundays, there is so much more time to communicate and just BE.  And just BEing helps kids to develop relationships so much better.

4)  Repenting Bench.  I explained what this is back HERE, but basically kids who are arguing sit here (it can be a bench or a stair or two chairs...anything set aside for the purpose of being a "repenting bench").  The two that are "tangling" sit in this spot together and think about what THEY did wrong (yes, it's easy peasy for them to think of what the other person did wrong, a little tougher to let go of their pride and admit their own wrong-doing).  Once they figure out what they did wrong (sometimes it takes a while, but there's always something), they exchange explanations of their wrong-doing, tell them they're sorry, and commit to try not to do it again (I say try for obvious reasons...promising they won't do it again would just be a lie.  Ha!).

In my opinion this bench idea, (from my wise parents), is the single most important thing to help build strong relationships because those kids are going to fight whether we like it or not.  The repenting bench is a built-in way to help build communication, knock down pride, teach repentance and forgiveness.  Things we all need for positive relationships to flourish throughout life.

5)  Family Testimony Meetings.  (talked a little bit about these back HERE)...Call them what you want, but I think my sis-in-law Kristi said it best: "I think it's so great to have a time or place where you can be vulnerable with your feelings in a safe environment and hear and share what's in each other's hearts while everyone is learning to respect and learn from those shared feelings."  Growing up we did this every Fast Sunday.  We met in our Living Room and had the opportunity to share whatever we wanted.  About the gospel, about each other, about our relationship with Christ.  And the air was thick with love.  I think that's where I learned to adore my siblings so much.  We do this with our family now and I feel that same thick love in such a beautiful way.  Often growing up siblings would actually say one thing they loved about every sibling in the room.  This took a while, but man did it ever strengthen relationships!

6) On that same note, Family Dinner and Family Home Evening work wonders on sibling relationships!  We live in a society that is so hustle and bustle, and setting aside TIME to just be together and talk makes such a huge difference.  The other night (the first day of school) when we finally sat down together, just us, for the first time in so long, there was the most beautiful feeling in our kitchen.  I had the opportunity to tell the story of how Bo, Claire and I walked to meet Lucy at the bus stop, and how when that dog saw that Lucy girl she went WILD and how Claire was able to ask all about Lucy's day and the girls had a chance to explain all that they did during that day.  There is nothing like having a time set aside each day (or at least once a week), to develop relationships and bond.

7)  This is one for bigger kids, but I have LOVED having the opportunity as these girls grow up to let one be an advisor for another.  As kids have struggled with this or that, I've asked them to ask so-and-so for advice, or I've let one girl know what their sister is going through and asked if they could give some extra love and attention to that sister.  Elle has been extra awesome at this being away at college, and has built those little sisters up a bunch from clear over in Hawaii.  Growing up my dad asked me a lot to keep an eye out for certain siblings he was worried about, and we did Tutors and Tutees (back HERE).  When you serve someone, especially a sibling, you grow love for them exponentially.

8)  Compliment kids in front of each other, and make sure to relay any kindness one kid may say about another to that child.  Tiny example: Elle and Grace were looking at a picture of Claire the other day, admiring her beauty.  Claire was not around to hear those nice words, but is in the throes of junior high and needs some encouragement from time to time.  So I made sure to let her know.  To which news of course she beamed.  Along with this I think it's so important to have zero tolerance for anyone speaking unkindly of anyone else in the family.  Ever.  We are all a team, a team of builders.  And we need to remember that.  I love that on birthdays growing up we always had the opportunity at the dinner table to go around and say what we loved specifically about the birthday person.  We still do it now in our family and it's such a great way for kids to look for the best in their siblings and let them know.

9)  Family Mission Statements (or Family Mottos)...nothing like all working together for the same cause to bond.  All about mission statements back HERE.

10)  Realize you're not a failure if there isn't peace and harmony all the time. That would be impossible.  We try to do all these built-in things and we still have the squabbling.  But that's ok.  Fighting and disagreeing in a safe environment helps train kids for future disagreements with colleagues, spouses, friends, future children, you name it.  We all just need to be trained, (I'm still being trained for crying out loud...over and over and over), and what a better place to learn than in our own homes?

I would LOVE to hear other ideas on this topic.  What do you do in your family to create strong sibling bonds?  Or what did your growing-up family do?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

a little breakfast sandwich maker I have to share

Our friends gave us the best little contraption for Christmas.  Someone brought it to Lake Powell last year and the kids loved it, so they figured it would be a great gift.

And they were right.

It's also a great way to make a really yummy macro-friendly breakfast.

So I'm sharing.

You put the bottom half of an English muffin in the bottom with whatever meat or cheese you desire.
Claire just closed that part in in this pic:

Then you close the first little flap and scramble up a little egg in there with seasoning.
Put the top of the English muffin right on top of that raw egg, close the lid, set the timer for four minutes and voila, you have a little egg breakfast sandwich packed with good protein.

Click HERE for more info.  That's an affiliate link, I think I'm supposed to mention that.  But I'm really not trying to advertise, just share this little thing that has simplified and spiffed up our breakfast ideas over here :).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

a mission release date for Max

Missionary Monday update on a Tuesday...

Max's friends started coming home from missions this summer.

Many of them left right after high school (and didn't do a college semester first like Max did), so it's been two years.  

The first two came home when we were in Utah the first time.

When we came home it was SO fun to find them at our house one night:
Same kids, just refined and wise and even more wonderful.
We got to go to their homecomings (when they spoke in church about their missions), hang with them a little... and hear so many great stories.
Which was pretty awesome...

...except that it made my heart ACHE more than ever for that boy of mine to get on home!

When we were in Utah my friend's son returned from serving in Max's mission.  (My friend and I were so excited when we found out Max was going to the same place, and she helped me so much in helping Max prepare to leave since she had recently been through that process.)  We happened to be in town the day he was going to be reporting in church.  I was so giddy in anticipation to hear what he had to say, it's so weird how that connection just made me so dang happy.  He did such a great job and it was so fun to meet him after hearing so much about him in Taiwan (he was Max's Zone leader for a while and lived in the same house as he did for a little while too).
(Can we just pause for a second to look at Lucy's face in that picture up there?  Ok, thank you, sometimes we just need to pause in life, right?  Man I love those girls!)

Not only did we get to meet this great kid and talk to him a little about Max and also talk to his mom, (who I adore and who is on the left below), Max's new companion's mom was there too! (on the right below):
How awesome is that??

(Those mom's boys were companions when they lived in the same house as Max and now he's companions with one of them...yes it's a small, small world sometimes.)  He loves this new companion as well and had barely been assigned to serve with him so it was quite a wonderful coincidence that his mom happened to be there.

Here are our boys, over in Taiwan:

It was a bright and shiny day but OH, how it made me miss my boy!!

So you can find out mission release dates pretty early and a few months ago we found that there was an option for Max to return right before Christmas or at the end of January with the rest of his group.  (He left on January 27th but we were all kind of geared up hoping to get back in time to hit winter semester in school.) He was conflicted!  He knew it would be so great for him to get home in time for school, yet he also knew that those last six weeks are probably pretty golden ones.  As much as we wanted to get him home, we also knew this had to be his decision, and we never wanted him to look back and feel like he came home early.  So we told him we'd fast and pray for him as he made that decision.

It was an interesting Fast Sunday as I prayed my heart out for that boy of mine.  Instead of getting an "answer" and any feeling of guidance, my mind was completely blank on the whole matter.  I couldn't feel that one way was more right than the other.  And there was something in me that just calmly reminded me this is not my decision.  It's his. (of course, but sometimes I sure want to control things!)

In his letter that week his first words were, "I've got to stay!"  and it was filled with enthusiasm and so much happiness about staying until the end of January.  As sad as it makes me to miss him for even longer, Dave and I knew he was right.  As alluring as it would be to have him home for Christmas, six weeks is a long time, time that is tough to give up when you know a language and a culture so well.  Time he'll never get back.

So we're excited for him.  He is hitting such a stride right now and is happier than ever.  He is serving as a Zone Leader with an awesome companion and is serving in a big city where he loves the people so much.

And he will be home the end of January.

Yes, he'll miss winter semester.  And that is sad.

But he will get to have a job and earn some money (which he will be very in need of), and will most likely do some online/night classes so it will work out great.

So we're gearing up...six more months.  People say it starts to go fast at this point...we shall see!
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