Happy New Year, Pioneer Girls!  We hope your 2016 is off to a great start.

Have you set goals this year, made resolutions, chosen things you want to accomplish?  I have goals for the next few months — not anything I would call a “resolution” at all, but things I’m hoping for and working toward.

A couple friends in my circle have foregone the traditional resolution setting in favor of a simplified “One Word” focus for the year.  Because of their posts and discussions online, the idea has been rattling around in my head.  Then, this week, I saw this image in the Pioneer Girls Facebook feed:


“…the joys and glories of creation.”  I love it!

I’ve finally done all I can do on my own to the Emma manuscript and have sent it out to pre-readers for notes and edits.  While they’re working, I’m continuing to compile notes and different perspectives on the real events that Emma experienced on her grand adventure.  And while all that is percolating, I’m doing research for the next book I want to write.

All these things are happening in my life at the beginning of a new year, and then this lovely quote pops up in my feed.  And my #OneWord for the year distills in my mind: CREATE.

How about you, Pioneer Girls?  What is your theme for this year?

A Little Nudge and Some Inspiration

I have some great friends.

I got an email tonight from a wonderful friend who has been so supportive of me in the creation of this blog and the writing of this book.  Occasionally she drops little things here and there that let me know that she is thinking of me and that when (if!) this book is done, she’ll read it.  That’s at least one reader, right?

This exemplary friend read this quote and thought of me, you, us — all the Pioneer Girls:

A pioneer is not a woman who makes her own soap. She is one who takes up her burdens and walks toward the future. With vision and with courage she makes the desert bloom.
– Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is a historian whose focuses on women and private experience in history makes her a Pioneer Girl herself.  Dr. Ulrich is now a professor at Harvard University, and she is also known for another phrase you might have heard:

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

 So today I am thankful for friends who support me, pioneer women who walk toward the future, and all the little nudges that encourage us.

(Thanks, Pamela. ;))

“It is not a lie to say something nice to somebody.”

Have you ever just been reading along, enjoying your novel, and been confronted with a profound truth?  That’s one of my favorite things.  Here’s one I found recently that I wanted to share with you.

Precious looked at the house.   It was not very large and she wondered how everybody could fit inside.  But she did not want to say anything about that, as people are usually proud of their houses and do not like other people (and that means us) to point out that their houses are too small, or too uncomfortable, or the wrong shape.

And so she said, “That’s a nice house, Teb.”

That was not a lie.  It is not a lie to say something nice to somebody.  You have to remember that you can usually find something good to say about anything if you look hard enough.  And it’s kind too, and Precious Ramotswe was a kind girl, as everybody knew.

Alexander McCall Smith
The Mystery of Meerkat Hill, p.24

Love Notes

Today our Pioneer Boy learned how to make envelopes in Kindergarten. He came home with this envelope all folded up and glued and ready to carry a note to someone.

He got a piece of paper from me and some markers and pens from the crafting cabinet and headed for the kitchen table.  After a few minutes and a few “how do you spell…” questions, he came for a piece of tape so he could have this note ready to give to his sister when she gets home from school this afternoon.

What warms a mother’s heart more than seeing this?
2015-11-12 14.57.03

I think we’re going to have a happy Pioneer Girl on our hands this afternoon.


Pioneer Girl friends, we just had such an amazing #GrandmaDay.  There was such a connection between my kids and their great-grandma, a cherished photo was snapped, and I think (and super hope) that a lasting memory was made.

Every Wedneseday we have my beautiful 90-year-old Grandma over for lunch, also known as #GrandmaDay, my kids’ favorite day of the week.  She comes over around 10 in the morning and stays until about 1pm, and while I cook she does puzzles and coloring with the kids, tells us stories about her parents and what life was like when she was young, and occasionally shares a signature recipe with us.  Today we had all of that and more.

These days Grandma is doing a little something I call un-nesting.  We lost her husband, “Cowboy Grandpa,” four years ago this past summer, and she misses him dearly.  She loves us and everything, but if he called her home today she would gladly go to him.  In her preparations for returning home, she is slowly passing along her belongings to her descendants — and since she comes here every week, we are inheriting a lot of great things from her.  This week she brought us her cookie press.

2015-09-30 14.04.08

Grandma has made Cookie Press Cookies since the 1950s, when her neighbor brought home this new fancy machine.  Mr. and Mrs. Gardner were dear friends who lived in the house next door, and whenever Mr. Gardner found something new and interesting at the department store, he would pick up one for his wife and one for Grandma.  Grandma says if she wanted it she could pay him for it, or if she wasn’t interested he would sell it to someone else or return it to the store.  One day his find was a cookie press.

Grandma and Grandpa had built their home in downtown Chandler, Arizona in 1950, and very shortly thereafter Grandpa’s mother, Elsie, who we call Grandmother, had to move from their dairy farm and into town for health reasons.  Grandmother had been widowed young and when Cowboy Grandpa, her youngest son, married and moved “to town,” it wasn’t safe for her to be out there alone anymore.  She sold the farm and built just down the street from her son and new daughter-in-law.

Grandma was a Mormon, had been born and raised in the Church, and while Grandmother wasn’t fond of the religion, she quickly became fond of the new daughter-in-law.  Grandma’s second language is service, and she has always found many small ways to endear herself to everyone around her.  Elsie was no exception, and the day Grandma took her first batch of cookie press cookies to share, Elsie was even more impressed.

Elsie and her husband had been early and influential residents of the area, and she remained active in political and social circles in the community throughout her life, even after her husband’s passing.  She frequently hosted parties for ladies’ activist groups and luncheons for the ladies from her Methodist Church congregation.  Every time she was going to have a ladies’ group over, she would order up a few batches of cookie press cookies from her daughter-in-law.  She found them the perfect light and elegant treat to serve the ladies.

Grandma continued to make cookie press cookies as a Christmas treat for her friends and family until just a few years ago when cooking and baking became more of a struggle as she approached 90 years old.  The cookie press has sat in the pantry for the last few years, until Grandma brought it to us this week.  We cleaned it up again and tracked down a recipe and had a wonderful morning mixing up the dough, having Grandma show us how to work the press, and sampling the tasty results.  2015-09-30 11.43.20-1And after these few hours of working and talking and laughing together, I feel closer to my great-Grandmother, and my Grandma, and my kids.  I hope they’ll remember this morning spent with their great-Grandma.  I think they will.

A Labor Day Scavenger Hunt

How do you celebrate Labor Day? For so many of us, it’s a seasonal marker — the end of the long, hot days of summer, back to school for students and back to work for Congress. But is there something more to it?

Labor Day was created as a day to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers here in the U.S. For some workers, it’s a day off to remember how hard we work all the other days, a nice long weekend before we start our fall routines.

This year, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls created a 2015-09-04 09.16.19Labor Day Scavenger Hunt
to help us get the most out of this “day off” and honor those who work hard for us all year. Our family was excited to get out and mark of *most* of the activities over the course of the weekend.

Friday night we took the PioneerKids night swimming 2015-09-04 19.34.08in the backyard.  It was supposed to be bedtime, but we had an end-of-summer surprise and spent an hour splashing and laughing together under the stars.  It was the perfect start to our holiday weekend, and a great way to check off #3 on the scavenger hunt: “Get your hair wet!  Get all the way into a body of water!”

Monday morning we really went to work on the hunt.  We decided to start with #1 on the list: “Not everyone gets a day off for Labor Day.  Find someone working and give them a thank you card!”

We decided to take cards and donuts to our local firehouse2015-09-07 10.43.22 and thank the firefighters who keep us safe.  Kids got out crayons and paper and made pictures and cards for the firefighters and paramedics.  We remembered watching them come to the rescue recently when we saw the immediate aftermath of a car accident.

Last week on the way home from school, we stopped at an intersection and saw a horrible car accident a few feet up the road on the cross street. We got there right after it happened, just before the first firetruck arrived. Two sedans and a pickup truck were involved, and one of the cars somehow ended up on top of the other. We prayed that everyone would be taken care of and that any children involved would be comforted.

           2015-09-07 11.50.14  2015-09-07 11.51.40
Today when we decided to go over and thank the firefighters and paramedics, the kids remembered what they had seen and how a kid involved in that accident might have felt.
“I would have been scared when that happened, and probably hurt if I was in the bottom car. But when the firetruck pulled up, I would feel better because I know they are there to help me and I will be okay.”
It was a great experience to be able to go thank them in person and let them know that we appreciate the work they do for our community.

Next we decided to indulge and work on #2 on the list: “Support your community.  Eat at a locally owned establishment!”  We headed straight over to Joyride Taco House for tacos and quesadillas and burritos, and fun.
2015-09-07 12.39.07   2015-09-07 12.22.14

Joyride is in the Gilbert Heritage District, which is one of our favorite places to hang out.  We ride our bikes to this historical strip during the fall and winter.  We can be found at the Gilbert Farmers Market here almost every Saturday morning, and at the splashpad under the water tower during the summers.  So it was easy to choose Water Tower Plaza, a symbol of our town and this great neighborhood, as the answer to #7: “Everyone has a favorite spot in their city/town/village.  Show us yours!”
2015-09-07 12.44.12
We found ourselves with a few ideas and options for #5: “Find a statue of someone and tell us about that person.”  Since we are a bunch of PioneerGirls, we considered going to Pioneer Park in next town over and taking a photograph of the pioneers there, the people who came to settle Lehi and Mesa, Arizona.  Our own Pioneer Girl Emma Higbee is one of those pioneers!  But we decided to try to keep it local and stay in our town, so we headed to the new Gilbert Arizona Temple and chose the Angel Moroni who is on the top of the spire.

2015-09-07 13.02.58   2015-09-07 13.02.33

Moroni is found on top of many Mormon temples around the world. He represents the Angel spoken of in the book of Revelation: “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6).

On our way home we grabbed a photo for #9 on the list: 2015-09-07 13.24.52“Show us street art!”  This mural is painted across the street from a school in our community.  It was recently updated as an Eagle Scout project and we love seeing it when we pass by.

We got home for the afternoon and took another dip in the pool.  Labor Day might mark the unofficial end of summer other places in the country, but we’re still in the heart of 100-degree weather.  We’ll swim through October!

A few hours later as the sun began to set, we decided to head out to accomplish the last two items we’d be able to do this weekend.  First, #10: “Be an explorer!  Head out to a local hiking and biking trail and show us something unfamiliar to you.”  We got the bikes out, dusted them, aired up the tires, and set out to explore.  It was a little late in the day to find something new, but we did find something we love: an Arizona sunset.  We rode through our neighborhood to a little lake and watched the ducks swim for a few minutes.

2015-09-07 18.30.55  2015-09-07 18.40.35

Then we hopped back on the bikes and headed back to the Heritage District for #8: “Summer is almost over.  Womp womp. Keep it alive by showing us your favorite summer treat!”  We headed straight to Dairy Queen for a traditional family favorite, dipped cones!
2015-09-07 19.32.48

We had a great weekend remembering those in our community who help make it great, and enjoying a day off as a family.  I think we’ll make this Labor Day Scavenger Hunt a Pioneer Family tradition!




Day Three, #thirteenstates: Fancy Kansas and Missouri

We woke this morning around 9:30am in “Fancy Kansas.” We’re still rocking West Coast time, which means we travel late and wake up late, which is great for our purposes. Hotel blackout curtains are super helpful.

Once the car was packed up, we headed across state lines into Kansas City, Missouri, to Arthur Bryants Barbecue — for breakfast.


We opened the place up at 11am and beat the crowd (family motto), imageincluding getting in before the busload of Kansas City Barbecue Tourists. It’s a real thing, and the tour guide wears a shirt with a pig on the back. I love the idea, but I don’t know how much barbecue I could eat in one day. Especially after pigging out at whatever the first stop was, I’m sure. But if you can pace yourself I’m sure it’s a delight.

After barbecue breakfast we went to Independence, Missouri, where the early Saints created a community of faith for about two years beginning in 1831, until the Missourians ran them out of the county and then the state for “disturbing the peace,” “treason,” and other unlikely offenses. The LDS visitors center there is lovely, with an imagination-play children’s area that kept us busy for a full hour. The people were only lulled away by the promise of an outdoor park and ice cream.

image image


While the children were playing Pioneer in the basement of the visitors center, the dad of the family took a few quiet moments to go over to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library a few blocks away. I kept the pioneers busy for him so I can’t talk about how great it was, but we’ll just say the presidential history-buff was impressed.

On our way to the park we stopped in to the temple of the Community of Christ. They have a small museum with artifcats from the lives of Joseph and Emma Smith, and the boy especially enjoyed testing the accoustics of their seashell-shaped sanctuary.

image image

imageAfter snacks and a few minutes at the Independence park, we hit the road again bound for Liberty, Missouri. The Church has recreated Liberty Jail in a visitors center there, where Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum and three other church leaders were falsely imprisoned for four torturous winter months in 1834-1835. Revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Sections 121-123 were received there, and it was a life-altering experience for the prophet. Seeing a life-size representation of the conditions he and his followers lived in during that time was very moving.


While we were in the area I thought a lot about my own family from that era. Emma Higbee was born in 1836 near the Missouri River in Caldwell County, just to the north, and her family was forced to leave Missouri with the Saints two years later. She recounted the story of their crossing the river and going to Quincy, Illinois many times to her children and grandchildren. It was very interesting to be in these peaceful little towns, both of them with churches of every denomination on every other corner, and recall the frontier atmosphere and complete turmoil that her family lived in during those days. It would have been so very different from what we see here now, though the landscape I’m sure hasn’t changed much at all.

After Liberty we wanted to make one more stop, to see the Kansas City temple recently built by the Church. The grounds were lovely and peaceful, and it was reassuring to know that even after the history in this area, the gospel is thriving here and temple work is being done by faithful men and women.

image image

After that peaceful moment it was time to leave the KCMO area and put down some more miles. We took I-70 east out of town, passing traffic for the afternoon’s Royals game, and crossed “the wide Missouri” a few times as we headed for St. Louis.



Missouri River, Missouri

We stopped for the night in a suburb and let the kids burn some energy in the hotel pool before getting everyone to bed… at 11pm. Another busy day tomorrow!



Day One #ThirteenStates – Arizona, New Mexico, Texas

After 12 travel hours, a carsick cleanup stop and a late lunch in Albuquerque, we have made it to Texas!  Our Pioneer Boy was born in Houston five years ago, so although he’s a solid day’s travel from his birthplace, he still feels at home.  Number one priority today: Find a size-five tshirt with an outline of Texas on it for our Texas boy.  Also, we might have to buy some kids their first umbrellas.

We saw the countryside change a lot today.  We left Phoenix’s “Valley of the Sun” in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and climbed through the ponderosa pine forest of northeastern Arizona until we reached I-40 in Holbrook.  We passed the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks (which we have visited on previous trips and highly recommend if you’re in the area).

Four Peaks, northeast of Phoenix

This person is the reason they invented Dramamine.

I-40 east of Holbrook, Arizona

It took us about 4 hours to get through that part of Arizona.  We crossed into New Mexico and drove 373.51 miles on I-40, watching the landscape change from the high deserts of the Navajo Nation to the Llano Estacado, the beginning of the Great Plains.  At sunset we passed through Tucumcari, a town famous in the Route 66 days for having more hotel rooms than residents.

State Two of #thirteenstates!

“T” on the butte at Tucumcari, New Mexico

As we traveled east toward the Texas state line, the weather changed.  The puffy white clouds and blue skies of the deserts gave way to menacing clouds.  We even saw a tiny piece of rainbow

Llano Estacado near Tucumcari, NM

We’ve safely arrived in Texas.  Amarillo greeted us with a lightning show and thunderstorm.  We were a bit too late to see Cadillac Ranch, but we’re hoping to run over this morning and take a peek before we continue east into Oklahoma.

Welcome to Texas, state three of #thirteenstates

We’d love you to follow along in real-ish time as we visit sites and post photos on Facebook.  We’re posting at Facebook.com/PioneerGirls, under the hashtags #PioneerGirls and #ThirteenStates.  Drop by and comment on and share your favorite photos, or give us recommendations on things to do and see in areas you’re familiar with.  We’re always up for an adventure!

And we’re off!

Today we’re headed east on a tour of the middle of America!  We hope you’ll follow along over the next couple of weeks as we explore the history of the westward migration across the U.S.   We’ll start with a quick … Continue reading

Talent Show!

This week I attended a church group talent show featuring five girls between the ages of 8 and 11.  It was a wonderful hour celebrating their talents and hard work over the last year.  One girl performed a piano solo and then a duet with her mother, and another girl displayed a beautiful painting she had made.  We enjoyed a fun fairy tale story written and read by another girl. My Pioneer Girl and her friend sang and danced along to one of their favorite songs — with Miss Pickle rapping the good parts, too.

The girls’ teacher opened the evening with a story about talents from The Friend magazine.  You should click over and read it, but it’s about Lacy, a little girl on her way home from a talent show much like the one we were watching, and how she felt less talented than those who danced and sang and had a “family band.”  But with her mother’s encouragement, over the course of the next week Lacy realized that she had a special talent for welcoming and comforting the foster children who came to stay with her family.

Brittany knelt by her bed. It amazed Lacy how easily all her sisters and brothers learned to pray. With a little prompting, Brittany began. “Dear Hebenly Father, please bless Lacy. She loves me. Amen.”

Tears stung Lacy’s eyes. A million thoughts flashed through her mind. She knew a little about each of the children who had joined her family before they came. All of them had suffered more than Lacy could imagine. Each had brought her or his own special spirit into her family, and Lacy loved them all. She enjoyed helping to care for them. She read to them and played games with them. She helped them to dress and did their hair. Most of all, she tried to help them to be happy, to feel safe, and to know that Heavenly Father loved them.

Lacy hugged Brittany as she tucked her in. “I really do love you, Brittany. You’re a wonderful sister.”

I loved this story because Lacy took some time to find a talent that God had given her, and she really thought about what she was good at.  And I love that the talent that she found was caring for children who needed her in a tough moment.

Pioneer Girls look for ways they can bless the lives of those around them, just like Lacy did.  They search for their personal talents and develop them through dedication and practice, and use them to make the world a better place for themselves, their families, and everyone around them.