the last Sunday

Due to a riveting breakfast table conversation about the cops who showed up at the Garff’s party Saturday night, we were late to church.

Stefan, who’d arrived twenty minutes early to save us one of the large middle pews, gave up at the last moment and reliquished our seats to a hovering elderly couple. Which meant all nine of us crammed into a tiny side pew meant for five, or maybe six if some of them are tiny. Piled on laps, shoulders turned sideways, sweating profusely, we lasted until after the sacrament before dispersing into three pews.

Our last Sunday all together.


Next week, adorable Hansie will be on a graduation trip (he and seven friends will stay with my sister in San Diego for a week) and Abigail, our lovely darling Abigail, will return home to her family– then off to London and Singapore for the summer.

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It’s the beginning of a series of departures. By fall, when Ben and Stefan head to BYU, we’ll drop from a household of nine to just five. Five. At least I might be able to keep up with the grocery shopping.

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So we savor these Sundays with everyone home. Taking naps,

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learning guitar,

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snapping pretty pictures on the front porch

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and, of course, Sunday dinner.

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At least five times a week, we manage to gather everyone around the table for a wild, loud, laughter filled meal– in fact, anyone who misses dinner feels sad because they know they’ve missed out on excellent conversation, pranks and fun. They also miss out on the food, since we never seem to have enough lately. More often than not, a friend joins the party and the meal stretches to an hour, on Sundays an hour and a half. In fact, I think if you offered us tickets to the circus in exchange for one Sunday dinner, we’d all turn you down.

This week, our soon-to-be graduates told us the most important ideas they’d learned in school and each of us said what we’d learned from them.

Mary: “Hans taught me the importance of kindness– he’s so good to Xander and it’s made our home a happier place. And Abby taught me we always have time to be kind. No matter how busy her day, she always takes time for other people.”

Xander: “I used to look at some kids and just judge them as bad people. Abby taught me everyone is worth talking to; everyone has value. And some really rough kids are completely different once you get to know them. We’re all good at making excuses for our own bad behavior, but Abby makes excuses for other people– “they must be having a bad day” “maybe something sad happened at home.””

“From Hans I learned you can completely change someone’s life. I don’t know why he’s so good to me. But he’s my best friend in the world.”

Ben: “Shortly after Abby moved in, I came home and found her wrestling on the floor with Gabe and Mary. I immediately knew she was one of us. Abby does all the nice little things we don’t always think of– she went Mother’s Day shopping with Mary, she picks up things at the store just because she noticed were out of something. She’s so easy to talk to and always takes time to sit and listen.”

“Hans is the brother to Xander I think we all wish we’d been. He’s incredibly patient and kind. And I’ll never understand how Hans does so well in school and fits in so much fun. So, I guess, from Abby I learned how to be a good sister and from Hans I learned how to be a good brother.”


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It wasn’t all sweet– there were plenty of jokes. But everyone made an effort to come up with something thoughtful.

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And I won’t write up everything because the theme repeated over and over– kindness, kindness, kindness. Both possess some pretty impressive academic, musical and athletic prowess, but I’m more proud of their kindness than any plaque or certificate or medal.

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 As a transfer student, Abby arrived at Skyline knowing only a handful of people. But over the course of the year she’s made dozens of friends at three high schools and completely changed people’s lives. When someone is lost or hurting, they call Abby. And she answers every time.

Because of Utah’s elevation, Abigail chose not to pursue sports this school year and concentrated on service instead. She tutors elementary school kids, visits care centers and volunteers at the Food Bank. When Abby learned one of her friends had never read the Book of Mormon, she took the time to read with him several days a week. Extremely responsible, she runs all her own errands and constantly asks what she can do to help. In our home, Abby’s brought a spunk and cheer we all adore. She’s a sister and a friend to each one of us.

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I often hear about Hansie’s kindness from other kids and their parents, but nothing, nothing could be more dramatic than what we’ve witnessed at home. I know you’re probably weary of hearing what a good brother he’s been to Xander– but everyone I know can’t stop talking about it either. Those two never, and I mean NEVER exchange a cross word. They constantly help each other and cheer for each other. Last year at this time, Xander declined attending his ninth grade graduation party because he didn’t feel like he had any friends. This year he has more friends than he can juggle– and he’s quick to give credit to Hans. Kindness– send out a little and it spreads.

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Seminary Graduation, May 31, 2015

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As the sun sank in the west, we moved to the house to sing Abby’s two favorite songs. She’s not a singer, she doesn’t like to be forced, but if you play “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” or “If I Could Hie to Kolob” her beautiful voice rings out every note.

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The boys made up harmonies on the spot. Mary danced through the kitchen. Gabe pulled out his violin, Hans joined with his resonant tenor voice and we sang and sang and sang.

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I just counted it up– after our darling Abby leaves, we’ll still have three scattered Sundays this summer with the eight of us.

You’d better believe I’m getting to church early. I want one of those big middle pews.

June 7, 2015



  1. Annie

    June 3, 2015

    Beautiful pIctures. Beautiful sentiment.

  2. Kit

    June 10, 2015

    That last picture makes me want to cry. Glad you’re soaking up every minute 🙂

  3. Anne Marie

    June 12, 2015

    What an incredible home you have created! Wow. So much love and beauty. Thank you for sharing glimpses of it here. Congratulations to your amazing graduate! Such lovely pictures of your family. Wishing you much joy as you soak up these precious times with all of your darlings at home. And much gratitude to Erik for his Segullah post on sustaining our leaders (the one written in 2011). I reviewed it as I prepared for my RS lesson on following the prophet, and there were so many wise, humble ideas there. All my best to you, dear Michelle

  4. Anne Marie

    June 12, 2015

    One last thing. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences on maintaining balance in your home (in the kitty post). You have such an intuitive mothering heart, and you have blessed your kids so much with your commitment to following your inspired impressions. You are totally dedicated to giving your home and kids all of your heart.

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