“This Home Evening Has Been Prerecorded”

“Let us oft speak kind words to each other …” The familiar tenor voice filled the living room as I gathered our three small children around the tape recorder. We were having family home evening “with Daddy,” even though he was in the U.S. Air Force thousands of miles away on assignment.

When he had left us at the Phoenix airport on a hot July morning, he had hugged us and admonished us to “take care of each other” while he was gone.

“Easy for you to say,” I thought. I was the one who had to handle three preschoolers on my own for a year. But I had not counted on his devotion to us or on the support he gave me in this task with his weekly taped part for our family home evening.

By letter and transoceanic phone call, we planned together which lessons we would use, and we alternated giving them. His lessons were filled with stories from the scriptures: David and Goliath, the disobedient children of Alma and King Mosiah, Daniel in the lions’ den. Sometimes he would invite the children to listen to the stories during the week and then retell them to him on tape.

He bore his testimony often. “Heavenly Father loves you and watches over you. That story came out of the Book of Mormon; it is a true story because the Book of Mormon is true.” He invited me to bear my testimony. In spite of the miles between us, we were still a team, rearing our children together.

He reinforced the training I was giving the children at home. His messages to them often included, “Obey Mother and your grandparents; they want you to be happy. Mama tells me you are not going to bed quietly. Try to be quiet when it’s bedtime so the baby can sleep.”

Sometimes, on my night for the lesson, he conducted on tape. “Gary, it’s time for prayer. Please turn off the tape recorder and say the prayer. Don’t forget to bless our family to keep close to each other while Daddy is away.” Other times he furnished the music a cappella. We sang along with “Give Said the Little Stream” and “I Am a Child of God.” Occasionally he treated us to a solo; “O Divine Redeemer” was our favorite.

Young children forget easily, and so we wondered if ours would remember their daddy when he came back. But even the baby, by then a year and a half old, remembered him and went to him immediately. The weekly contacts, together with the picture of him that stood on the piano, made him a major part of the children’s lives.

Nearly twenty years have passed since our year-long separation. Our son who was the baby then is now on a mission and can’t remember the long-distance family home evenings. The two older children remember “Daddy talking on the tape and singing songs,” but not much of the content of his messages. Still, the effort was not wasted. The tapes gave me support when I needed it, kept the children in touch with their father, and made them aware of him as our spiritual leader. They have not lost that awareness.

I recently came across some of the lessons recorded on their original three-inch reels and stored in their mailing cartons. I had scribbled “Humility Home Evening” or “Service Makes Us Happy” between the stamps and the APO address. I couldn’t resist playing them.

As I listened, the years fell away, and once again I pictured our young husband and father sitting on his bed in a faraway country, reaching out to us from the depths of his love and faith: “Dearest children, God is near you, Watching o’er you day and night.”Sandra Skouson, Monticello, Utah

“Do I Still Need to Save This?”

Do you frequently ask yourself, “Should I keep this?” Or do you catch yourself saying, “Now, where is that? Did it get tossed out?” If so, maybe it’s time to evaluate your record-retention system. Effective record retention does not happen without careful thought and consistent follow-through. Following are several suggestions to help you get and stay organized.

What to Keep

Keep only those records that you will need later. The following categories may help you decide what you should be saving:

  • Birth and death certificates of family members

  • Marriage certificate and family keepsakes

  • Genealogy records, personal histories, patriarchal blessings, and important personal letters

  • School performance reports, transcripts, and diplomas

  • Church ordinance and priesthood advancement documents

  • Military and missionary discharge documents

  • Health, disability, and life insurance policies

  • Insurance correspondence and claims paid

  • Records of any serious family illnesses

  • Immunization records for family members and pets

  • Automobile and home owner’s insurance policies

  • Automobile registration and maintenance records

  • Real estate deeds and records of home improvements

  • Documents relating to wills, trusts, and other legal matters

  • Tax records and supporting documentation

  • Business agreements, employment contracts, and records of earnings and employment benefits

  • Investment account statements and documents

  • Social Security data and retirement documents

  • Documents dealing with your home mortgage, automobile loan, and other obligations

  • Family budgets and financial statements

  • Household bills

  • Cancelled checks and bank statements

  • List of all assets and their locations

  • Product instruction manuals, warranties, and guarantees

What to Toss

Try not to accumulate too many unneeded records; but since you can never be certain of the future, it’s better to save something you don’t need rather than to discard something you might need.

Some documents have lasting value to the family and should be kept permanently—Church documents, family history records, real estate records, checks and receipts for major purchases, business or investment documents, and papers dealing with wills and trusts.

Income tax returns and supporting data, paid loan documents, and bank and investment statements can generally be discarded after about seven years.

Most records can be discarded sooner—generally after two to three years. These include household bills, part-year financial information after annual summaries arrive, most maintenance and repair records, completed contract agreements, and expired insurance policies, warranties, and guarantees.

How to Get Organized

Your plan should be tailored to your personal organization style and circumstances. I started by sorting my stacks of papers into the categories shown above. Then I placed each set of documents in a manila folder. If one folder would not hold everything, I would further sort the contents and set up additional folders.

I labeled each file and organized the contents chronologically. If there were several folders in a category, I attached them with metal clasps and dated each folder. Now I can quickly locate important information and discard it when I no longer need it.

Staying in Control

It’s time to upgrade your system when you spend too much time searching for information, when you lose important documents, or when papers pile up throughout the house. Under the best record-retention plan, each document has its place and you need to touch it only once before you immediately file it.

All family members should understand how records are maintained, but one person should be responsible for filing documents. Keep many records tucked safely away so they will not be inadvertently discarded or disorganized. But store others—like medical information and insurance claim forms—so they are quickly available in case of emergency.

Organizing and maintaining a record-retention plan can help make an orderly and well-managed home. It is an ongoing process—but the benefits are well worth the effort.William W. Duncan, certified public accountant, Diamond Bar, California

Sunday Sundaes

The tradition began when our children were young, long before the Church began the consolidated meeting schedule. I wanted to make Sunday evenings memorable by serving a special treat after we came home from sacrament meeting. But what could I prepare quickly that would be appealing? My answer was waffles—not just plain waffles with butter and syrup, but waffle sundaes: a hot waffle with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with fresh or canned fruit.

Soon our family began inviting neighbors and friends to join in our Sunday-night fare. Part of the fun was in being creative; we made our own sundaes, using a variety of ice creams, syrups, fruit, and nuts. Some of our favorite toppings were fresh strawberries or peaches, canned pineapple, and homemade jams and preserves.

Twenty years have come and gone, but we still enjoy having friends over on Sunday evenings. We invite old acquaintances, new move-ins, prospective members, and out-of-town guests. Whether the evening is for fellowship or just for fun, we top it off with our sundae treat.Michelle Hatch Sandberg, Loveland, Colorado

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark