Questions and challenges (subtitle: Stuff you should do for me)

1. I’m new around here, right?  So I thought I’d be proactive about meeting new people, and I invited several neighbors to a murder mystery dinner party (like 16).  Unfortunately only 2 people even called me back.  The rest of them I had to go track down like a dork asking if they wanted to come to my party.  Luckily, once Sunday rolled around, I was able to see many of them at church and got some positive response, so I don’t think I have to worry anymore about having the lamest party ever known to mankind.  If you are my neighbor and you happen to see this post, and you think a murder mystery party would be fun, send me an email and invite yourself.  Seriously.  The more the merrier.  Has anyone else found the term RSVP to be universally ignored?

Oh, p.s. on the party stuff.  That How to Train Your Dragon DVD release party was the easiest thing I’ve ever done to get mom points.  Ten boys watched a movie and ate snacks.  That’s it, and yet, they raved about how it was the funnest party they’d ever been to.  So just know that a $25 party budget goes a long way toward making your kids and their friends think you’re some kind of miracle mom.  ??  Whatever.  I’ll take it.

2. Apparently, in Utah, family photography is a big deal.  In fact, when I drive around sometimes, I see random families all gussied up setting up benches and stuff in the middle of sagebrush fields, or wandering in the canyon with matching outfits and a dutiful photographer.  I guess it’s kind of cool and all, but maybe a tad bit overdone.  I mean does every family photo really need to look like you’re making an album cover or auditioning for a reality show called “Our Enchanted Life”?  Anyway, I need to get some family photos done that we can use in our Christmas cards this year, plus we’re just overdue.  However, whenever I try to look up local photographers, they have sitting fees of like $750.00.  !!!!  I am NOT kidding.  All I want is someone who has a camera nicer than mine (read: cell phone camera) to take photos of my family and come up with at least one good shot of all of us that we can burn on a CD and print as we please.  That’s it.  I don’t want to have to sell my van to afford these pictures.  I’ve propositioned friends and strangers, but no one wants to it hasn’t really worked out, and I’m starting to get a complex about how photo-worthy my family is.  Does anyone have any suggestions for me?  Please remember I have to be able to feed my family.

3. A reminder to anyone who participated in the General Conference Meme:  You answered a question about what you would (hypothetically) speak about in General Conference.  Write up your “talk” in 500-1000 words and email it to me by October 31 and I’ll publish them as a guest post.  I think we’d all love to hear each other’s insights about the topics we picked.

4. In the past, I’ve done a poetry contest every season, but I thought I’d shake things up a little bit and do a photography contest.  Submit a photo that best represents to you this quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard :

“Recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction.”

Choose any aspect of the quote to represent in photo.  You can find one from your photo archives or take one for the purpose.  Send it to my email by October 31 and I’ll pick my favorites for voting.  It does not have to be all beautiful or artsy, just a great representation of the quote.  For example, I might enter something like this:

I’ll probably post about the contest again to highlight it, but start thinking about what you could enter.  (“Our Enchanted Life” portraits need not apply. 🙂 )

5. I’ve been to 5 different stores looking for a plain black robe so Grant can be Harry Potter for Halloween.  No luck.  Any suggestions?  I wish I had one of our old graduation robes.

6. And just because I like to give back, have you ever made cookies from a brownie mix?  Well it’s quite easy and a nice, quick chocolate fix.  Brownie Cookies:

All you need for these cookies is one package of brownie mix, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of water, and 1/3 cup of oil.  Now, preheat the oven for 375 degrees F.  Mix the four ingredients together. Feel free to add chopped nuts or chocolate chips. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake them for 8 minutes.   (recipe source here)

p.s.  I’m pleased to know that our FHE debaucle brought joy to so many people.  Now that I wrote it, I can see the funny in it.  And I will definitely hold it against my children when they are grown and have children of their own.


40 thoughts on “Questions and challenges (subtitle: Stuff you should do for me)

  1. Hi! First of all, I am totally with you on the RSVP thing. NO ONE does this. I don’t understand it. Also, as your neighbor I murder mystery party sounds I’ll just wait for my invitation :).
    Photography: Yes! So expensive. I have a couple names I can give you of women that take nice pictures and just do it for fun-there may be a minimal charge….
    And…I have a black robe you can use for Harry Potter.
    One last son had a blast at the party. Thanks again, supermom!

  2. I agree with the picture complaint. I will confess that our family portraits are taken using the piano bench and the timer on our camera. I figure if we take enough, one will turn out decent!

  3. Try Target! (Unless you want outside pictures). I think they do a pretty good job at their portrait studio. I think you’d have to go down to the Orem Target (AF one doesn’t have portrait studio). They’re open into the evenings and all day Saturday and the session is only about 20 minutes long. And the pictures are cheap! NO sitting fee and only $3.99 per portrait page (with coupons, which you can find anywhere). Plus, you get a free 8×10 with every visit.

  4. Don’t get me started on the family pictures. The really frustrating thing is that everyone with a giant camera is now in the photography business, so then you have to figure out who is going to take your pictures without hurting other friends or family.

  5. I have grew up in Utah, and I lived in other states. In Utah, I find that people ignore it. In other states, I have known people who do up a pretty good party, and yes, they USE the RSVP, and it works! I had people respond when I did parties outside of Utah. So I’m totally with you!

    Pictures, yes, outrageously expensive, and I liked how you put it that it looked like they were doing an album cover or something.

    I have a decent digital camera. I’d do it for you if you lived close (I am in Utah).

  6. For the Robe, try the DI and see if they have anything that looks close and die it. Also, it is very high priced on the photography here. I hate that it costs so much. I usually wait until I go to my in-laws and get a picture that way, or just do my 3 kids and call it good. Good luck with everything and I hope your party goes well. If I were your neighbor, I would come. It sounds like fun.

  7. Your cousin, Lorie larsen has a really nice camera and has done our pictures the last two years. (She doesn’t photshop, though, just takes the pictures. I have a friend who does photography on the side that lives in draper. Her website is if you want to look it up.

    good luck.


  8. We don’t sit for family pictures on principle. That principle being that my SIL has a nice camera and if I feel like we need one, I tell her at a Sunday family dinner and she takes one of us in my in-laws’ sitting room or backyard. Then she emails the picture. And then I have her take pictures of the kids all the time – why do I even have a camera? My husband wants to get a nicer camera, but I refuse to, also on principle. I WILL NOT succumb to camera envy and will later tell my kids to count their blessings that I even took pictures. 🙂

  9. That RSVP thing drives me insane…is it just that people can’t make up their mind?
    I second the Target idea for family pictures. But I’m frugal like that. 🙂

  10. Holy cow, too many questions — I could write a whole post for each thought in response, but I will contain myself.

    1. I would SO come to that party, whether you invited me or not.
    2. A plane ticket costs less than that. I’ll fly to your house and bring my slightly-more-advanced-than-a-cell-phone idiot-proof camera (read: point and shoot. That’s what I can do) and we’ll take some REAL pictures.
    3. Missed the meme…I’ll catch up….
    4. I’m so on this contest….can I write a poem as the caption anyway?
    5. Send me your address, and I’ll send you a robe! I’ve got about 28 of them! (We’re doing “Goin’ Back to Hogwarts” in our Halloween revue this weekend, and I had to put 28 kids in costume — it’s a great spoof on Harry Potter– anyway, come Monday, I can send you whatever you need for the cost of shipping if you’re still desperate!)

    The end. Happy Halloween.

  11. I’m genuinely annoyed about the “buy a fancy camera and call yourself a photographer” stuff. I mean, buy a fancy camera and take pictures of your own friends and fam all you want. But there are people who go to school to be photographers. And some of them don’t even charge 750 bucks.

    What I don’t get about the family photo shoots are why people want to do them in these weird, urban settings. I saw a family picture once of five children standing on top of a water pipe, behind an old building. Really? Why not just stand in front of your fireplace?

    I had to go no a thrift store search yesterday for overalls so my youngest can be Luigi. By the time I finally found a pair that will fit, I was so stinkin tired of hauling a baby and a three year old around, I was really wishing I’d just spend twelve dollars and ordered a pair from Target. (Ordered, because I have no Target close by. I know. It’s miserable. Especially since I have finally, eternally boycotted Walmart because of what happened to me there today. But that’s a story for another post. A post on my own blog, instead of in a much too long comment that seems to be making an attempt at hijacking your post.)

    I’m sorry. What was I talking about?

  12. I’d love to take your photos. Alas… Yeah, i refuse to pay anyone to take pictures for us because it is a nightmare trying to get everyone to look halfway decent at the same time. $750 for pure torture? No thanks. I’ll take my chances taking my own. I do wish I had photoshop so I could spruce ’em up a little…

    Excuse me now. I need to go RSVP for a birthday party Jesse is invited to…

  13. Your proactiveness is totally inspiring. I’ve been in our new town for four years now and I’ve yet to do anything quite like that. Hmm…maybe I ought to…

    The photography thing is CRAZY! $750! Wow. I wish I lived nearby. I have a nice camera and a decent eye. Dang the intervening 100’s of miles. Hope you find someone!

  14. I can think of 9 photographers off the top of my head — it is SSOOO popular out here. Not sure what they all charge. The ones I’ve worked with have done it for free.

    WE are hosting a murder mystery party this weekend!!!! It was a BEAST to put together because I informally invited a few couples, who would take a week to get back to me, tell me know, then I’d have to find more couples. I like your idea of inviting many and seeing who you hear back from more. Next time you do one, invite us :o) because we are SOOO game for that!

    Good luck! Let me know if you want names of photographers. I know of a few who are cheaper.

  15. Oh yeah- You could ask Jenn-Lee about doing your pictures. She’s in Utah and I bet she’d love to do it for you. She’s talented and she’s good at editing them too.

  16. I’ve thought about the talk and how I would start it. It is a work in process.

    RSVPing….not the strong suit of some. We appreciate it when it happens around here.

    On the Harry Potter robe….dye it black. Find a white (or any other color) robe and dye it. Rite Dye works really well. Another option is to find a lab coat at D.I. or another thrift store and dye it.

  17. My sister had 2 people RSVP to her daughter’s B-day party and 15 show up. How can you plan for that? Good luck at the party. I’ve always wanted to go to a murder mystery party.

    My husband ended up working on Friday so I couldn’t copy your How To Train Your Dragon party. Not to mention Friday was the worst day of my entire year. Stupid car.

    The photography contest looks interesting. I’ll have to give it some thought.

  18. I think the photo thing is ridiculous! Where do you guys live? In Utah county? I don’t think it’s like that where I live…. it must be a Utah county thing.
    Wow, I have some great friends up here that are photographers… I have no idea what they charge. But they’re really cool and I’ve seen their work… I could “hook you up” ya know.

    Have you tried the DI for a robe? I’ve actually seen old graduation robes there. good luck 🙂

    Brownie Cookies? ok, I am definitely IN!

  19. Check craigslist or KSL classifieds to find someone to take your photos. Lots of students and people just wanting to use their camera. When we lived in Brigham there was a great gal who took pictures for $35 but now that she is more reputable she is more expensive. And I totally hear you on the RSVP thing. Good luck with your party! It should be fun!

  20. 1. Murder Mysteries are FUN! People should RSVP and come! Enough said. In fact, if I were not in VA, I’d totally be crashing. No, really. I love these things!

    2. Photography: Well my sitting fee would have to be $750 to cover my plane ticket. Ok, well, not really. I would happily come out, if you can find a way to cover the roughly $300 plane fare. (I actually have sneaky plans!) Since that’s tough, I do have a friend in American Fork that takes great photos. I could send her your way if I only knew where in Utah you are. If you are close to there, let me know and I’ll see. She’s not a professional but she takes darn good photos.

    Also, I end up with a lot of people gussying themselves all up. Personally I say come as you are. Sometimes it’s just better to be real. I have kids. I know how it is to wrestle a child out of an outfit they have work for six days straight because they love it so much. Tutu over jeans? Works for me! Of course I also like to take weird photos. My exchange student’s homecoming photo last year was done on a trampoline. Yes, she was in a dress.

    3. I’m working on it. I had two topics and I can’t choose which one. And I’ve been migrating my blog. And I’ve had two sons turning priesthood ordination needing ages. Which involves inlaws coming twice in one month. It’s been crazy. If it makes you feel better, when I was a journalist my editor always got my articles about 20 minutes before deadline. It’ll come.

    4. Oh so many photos…

    5. Wish I were local. I have two harry potter robes right here in my halloween bin. Black fabric and a sewing machine. Super easy.

    6. I have made cookies from a cake mix, but not a brownie mix. I’m hungry. Maybe I should make cookies!

  21. I have a friend that is in the Provo/Orem area that is a photographer. She does great work and her prices are SO AFFORDABLE. Oh, how I wish I knew how good a deal she offers people before my parents in law did family pics this past summer. Paid THOUSANDS of dollars for them. And I thought her pictures were better than this ultra-expensive photographer. Ugh!

    Check her out:

    • THOUSANDS??? Are you kidding me? I will never understand how people can charge so much! There’s no way I would ever pay thousands. Then again, I also wouldn’t pay the $750 mentioned in this post. Sheesh. I thought things were expensive here in DC!

  22. There was a sister in our ward who was so good and kind about her talents. She took pictures for R.S. Cub Scouts, YW . . . And because I’ve priced family photos I was afraid to even ask her to take photos of our family. Anywho, I finally got the courage to see how much she charged . . . expecting $50 for just the sitting. Well, she TRADED her talent for a home-made Mexican dinner!! You can see the small family photo I have posted on my blog.

    There are kind, wonderful, talented people out there who live the wonderful Law of Consecration! I am sure you will find one!

  23. I was going to volunteer and then the comments made me insecure. I’m just a gal with a camera, who really wants to practice and get better. I’d just charge you for the cost of developing the film and making any prints. My advice on location and dress, though, is that you take the picture somewhere you all feel comfortable and you wear whatever makes you feel awesome.

    There’s this great episode of Modern Family, where they are all wearing white for a family portrait and they end up throwing mud at each other. Anyways, the point is that their photo turns out to be very true to their family.

    Excited to enter your photo contest.

    • Amber, that’s me. I’m a girl with a camera. Then people started offering me money. You can do it. I remember the days when I’d just get the people to give me rolls of films and then I’d hand the rolls back and walk away. 🙂 DO IT!

      I agree with you. Wear what feels comfortable. I love the idea of a mudfight picture! That’s awesome. But I keep hoping a bride will let me do something wacky like throw her in a lake or set her on fire. (Seriously, google the images, they are AWESOME.)

  24. Keep in mind that family photos in UT often involve, like, 400 participants. HA! I kid, ginormous Utah families. Please don’t rent a 747 to hold you all, fly down here, and beat me up. AGAIN, more kiddage! Ha ha ho ho isn’t Sister DeNae amusing?

    People who don’t RSVP are ignorant, rude, or forgetful – and they’re everywhere. Not a Utah thing.

    I might just write that general conference talk, since I have vowed to be the first person to speak in GC and say the words, “Wow, this is SO COOL!”, mostly just to see what security does if you deviate from the teleprompter and aren’t the president of the church. Wouldn’t a flying tackle on some sassy general board member be an AWESOME diversion? Bet NO ONE would have thought to put THAT on their kids’ Bingo cards!

    • Yeah, only in Utah can you get a family big enough to make an entire choir for General Conference. Holy smokes that was a huge family! I can’t imagine!

      Oh man, I would LOVE to see flying ninja security action. Talk about waking people up! It would totally be the talk of the Church! I’m so adding “flying ninja action” to our Bingo cards.

      I think the only people that get away with going off script is the Prophet. Even President Uchtdorf got cut in the footage on the web with his rocking ablib about his voice being a foundation he needed. That was SO AWESOME and I can’t believe they cut it. Booo hooo!

      If you ever give a talk in GC, you BETTER say it’s so cool. We’re holding you to it! But this is coming from the person that put “baaa” into a talk given in Church. 🙂

  25. I love taking pics, sometimes I get paid…sometimes not. One thing I would say though is to HAVE FUN! If you can set a timer on a camera, you can take lots of pics and hopefully get one that you like.

    If you can afford a cheap photog, then get one, but check out their work first.

    Good luck.

    (BTW, I would love to go to a Murder Mystery, I would even RSVP…too bad I live in Canada!)

  26. Ok I just started looking through your blog since finding it on FB. I only knew of your other blog 😦 I have a nice camera, but don’t know how to use it 100 percent. If you want we can come visit and take lots of pictures for FREE! I’d even do a little editing in picasa which is free also!!! Don’t think you’ll find a better deal than that!!

    We would come to your murder party by the way. Even if we have to travel!!

  27. Hey there. So I’m not just a girl with a camera, I’m a girl with a fairly bad camera. But it does well enough anyway & I have typically featured some cute shots of my kids on our Christmas cards and what not. What I don’t have in camera power, I make up with mad photoshop skills. One trick I’ve learned for families is to take lots of shots in quick succession, then if none of individual photos are acceptable, pick through them and use each person’s best expression. Since nothing but a few facial muscles move between shots, you can’t tell I’ve cheated. And then, sometimes for fun I’ll take all the worst faces and compile them into one shot as well 😀 So if all else fails, holla.

    And yeah I would come to your party… I’d even bring tables & chairs if you needed them ;-D

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