Making Friends:

The Richards Family of Fairbanks, Alaska

By Shannon I. Ostler and Rebecca Todd

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Are you seeing double? No, you’re just seeing the two sets of twins and three girls who make up the Richards family of Fairbanks, Alaska. Twins Bryan and Daniel (12) are the oldest, and twins Stefanie and Melissa (4) are the youngest. Crystal (10), Amanda (8), and Emily (6) are “sandwiched” in between.

Being a twin is not always fun—people often get their names mixed up—but Bryan says that he’d be lost if he didn’t have a brother in a family with five girls. Though the boys look alike, they are different in style and interests. Daniel is interested in science and electronics; Bryan likes art and geometry. Still, the boys are good friends.

Because Fairbanks is so close to the North Pole, there are only a few hours of daylight in the winter. The seven Richards children like to use that brief time to build snow forts outside and to help clear the road for cars in their neighborhood. “I like snow!” Emily says.

When it gets too cold outside, the children like to do arts and crafts inside. Bryan built a construction-paper model building that won a fourth-place ribbon at the Fairbanks Fair. He also designed and built a rocket and a tank out of construction paper. Daniel likes to draw helicopters and monsters. Sometimes he draws on paper with colored pencils; sometimes he draws on the computer.

All the children know how to use the computer. A favorite computer game centers around the prophet Nephi. In order to win the game, the player must know certain scriptures. Crystal was the first to win. There are games on the computer that even the younger girls play, though they prefer to just draw on it.

Mom taught arts and crafts at a local store, and she has taught all the children many of her favorite crafts. Crystal and Amanda like to create things out of yarn, old cans, glitter, and paper. Their creations decorate the house.

A crafted red and pink paper heart frame holds a picture of the entire family dressed in white. In April 1993, the Richards family was sealed in the St. George temple. It was Mom and Dad’s tenth wedding anniversary. “It made for a special day,” Mom said. Emily says she remembers that everything in the temple was white and that she felt nice inside. “The children didn’t want to leave,” Mom said. They loved the beautiful chandeliers and the pictures of Jesus Christ inside the temple.

The family had driven for five days to get to St. George. Why did they travel so far to be sealed? On a previous vacation they had driven into St. George, and the city was covered with a thick layer of gray fog. They couldn’t see anything except the white glow of the temple. This experience made them want to return to St. George to be sealed there.

They stopped at four other temples on that trip. “Each time we visited a temple grounds, we felt a family togetherness,” Mom said. On the way home, they stopped and ate at a hotel. The hotel employees were so impressed with the children’s polite behavior and kind manner that they gave the entire family free dessert.

The swimming pool is a common place of togetherness for the Richardses in the summer, and swimming is a favorite family-home-evening activity. Summers are mild, and the sun lights the sky most of the day.

When the snow melts, beautiful greenery and wildflowers appear. Emily and twins Stefanie and Melissa like to ramble in the woods and pick wildflowers for their mother. Crystal and Amanda love to pretend and imagine outside. They talk in accents and dress each other up in leaf and flower crowns. The girls are also growing some plants and flowers of their own. Each day they tend and water their tomato plants. Amanda wants to have her own large garden someday.

In summer, Bryan and Daniel play kickball in the yard or go camping. There are no poisonous bugs or spiders, but lots of edible berries. In addition to hiking, fishing, and basketball, both boys like to play with their dogs, Tina, Stein, and Frany. Emily, a dog lover, is a big help in caring for them. One of her chores is to feed them.

All the children help with chores; they do one personal chore and one family chore. Each must keep his or her room clean. They take turns making dinner, doing the dishes, cleaning the living room, and collecting the laundry. “Emily does the dishes better than anyone!” says Crystal, whose favorite chore is cooking. Chicken parmigiana and mashed potatoes are her specialty, with gooey chocolate brownies for dessert.

Amanda can make gelatin. She is the “little mom” of the family and helps out with the three younger girls. In stores, people often stop and stare at the seven children, and Amanda likes to lag behind and answer questions. As her eighth birthday approached, she counted down the days until she could be baptized. Due to unusual circumstances, the water in the font at the stake center was freezing, but she didn’t mind the cold. Her father did, though! “I had to do it,” she said. “I wanted to be baptized so much!” Dad just hopes the next baptism comes in the summer.

Summer and winter, there is always someone to play with in the Richards family. Whether it’s making crafts with a twin brother or playing London Bridge with sisters, there is always a friend in the house. And the large picture of the St. George Temple hanging on the wall reminds them that friends and families can be forever.

Photos by Rebecca Todd

Daniel, Bryan, Crystal, Amanda, Emily, Stefanie, Melissa

The Richards children enjoy picking wildflowers and growing their own plants and flowers.

The whole family loves arts and crafts and their three dogs.