News, random thoughts, and other things I want to share with...the world...

The Merrill Family Coronavirus Concert!

posted Apr 5, 2020, 8:30 AM by Christine Merrill

Welcome to our concert! We performed this concert LIVE on Friday, April 3rd, 2020 from our basement. Unfortunately, wrangling 8 kids and putting on a concert is hard work, and we forgot to hit "record" until halfway through the second song. But that's ok. We'll put in the parts you missed.

Here is our program for the evening:

Concert program

We'll start with Lillian on the violin, playing "When will my life begin" from Tangled. As you know, this is a song about a girl stuck in the house, and it seemed to resonate with us just now :) We decided to make a slide show of our own version of being stuck in the house. Hope you enjoy it! To anticipate your question, yes, that is an opossum in our garden. How convenient that we were all home to see it one day :) And no, we didn't REALLY wash our hands with bleach. It's a joke.

Beginning of the Concert

Following that song, we had several serious works by our serious musicians. We start about a page into Lige's Beethoven Piano Sonata, and you can follow the video from there. 

Merrill Family Concert

Thank you for coming to our concert! We had fun putting it on, and we hope you had fun watching, despite the fact that we don't have a fancy microphone. We're hoping our next concert is in person, and doesn't need one! Feel free to email my kids and tell them if you enjoyed it, they love the human interaction :)

Christine, Marriner, Lige, Ellis, Lillian, Sam, Martha and Jane

Christmas 2018

posted Dec 26, 2018, 6:37 AM by Christine Merrill

Dear Family and Friends,

We greet you again at the end of another year. Merry Christmas to all of you! Now it is our chance to tell you all the things about our lives that we would have told you if we got to sit down and talk for an hour or two.

There! We thought it would be easier to throw all the words in a big jumble than string them together into sentences...just kidding. As you recall, last year ended with our family being called to join the Washington DC ASL congregation of our church. It’s been a wonderful year of learning and forming new friendships. Our ASL is improving, and we are starting to feel comfortable conversing and worshiping with our hands. If you want to read more about that portion of our lives, I blog about it at

Despite the busy church year, Marriner has had some success at work, too! In October, a team he worked with was invited to the Pentagon to receive an award for saving the government a lot of money through an innovation they are working on. The whole family go to go with him and take a tour of the building. And eat fancy little foods. It was great!

Lige and Ellis are both in middle school now, and they were recruited for the school Science Bowl team. Lige became the team captain due to his extensive knowledge of random science trivia. (People don’t call him “Google” for nothing…) Lige also won his division in the county science fair with his experiment studying which school environments were damaging to hearing. (Answer: school dances.) He’s currently working on his Eagle project to build a Ga Ga pit for the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. 

Ellis played the piano for Primary (Children’s Sunday School) until she turned 12 in September and left Primary. She actually turned 12 a few weeks before our big Sacrament meeting program, and she kindly agreed to stay in Primary until it was over. Now I don’t have anyone to play the piano in Primary, but Ellis seems to be having a lot of fun in the young women’s program. And she’s doing great in middle school, going to an advanced 7th grade math class.

Lillian is in 5th grade and was nominated to be a school safety patrol. She played a fiddle-style violin song this year that she just loved, and her teacher is making her play in-tune now, so she sounded good, too. She was also named “The Oracle of Oxon Hill” this year for predicting almost every World Cup match correctly. Her secret: pick the country you think sounds prettier.

Sam had two big life events this year: he started Kindergarten and he learned to ride his bike. He loves Kindergarten - especially learning Spanish words from his teacher. (“Silencio” and “Fabuloso” are his favorites.) But more than anything, he loves riding his bike. When he rides his bike, he changes from a little boy trying to figure out the rules of life to a bird soaring or a horse galloping. And he rides fast - if his mom has the bike trailer behind her, she can hardly keep up!

Martha is 3, and I’ll just sum her life up with a story from a few months back:  Martha’s been reluctant to sign recently, so we've been encouraging her to pray in ASL. Today she knelt down to say her prayer and asked, "Do I have to say it in sign language?" Mom said yes. She replied, "But I have long sleeves on today! I don't know how to say it in sign language with long sleeves." Martha is the girl that keeps us smiling!

And little Jane has gone from a baby to a toddler just like that. She loves a good joke, dogs, running away from Mom, and is a fabulous sleeper.  She sings, “We will, we will ROCK YAH!” 

As for Christine, she’s just enjoying being along for the ride with this fabulous family. Or, to be honest, being the chauffeur for this wonderful ride. We have our share of hard things in life, but all-in-all, God has been very good to us. She has some creative projects she works on when she can, but mostly stays busy just taking care of everyone else.

It’s been a year full of blessings and small miracles, and we’re grateful for our Savior at this time that we remember His birth. Thank you to each of you for being one of those blessings in our lives!

Love, Marriner, Christine, Lige, Ellis, Lillian, Sam, Martha and Jane

Merrill family at the Pentagon

Christmas 2017

posted Dec 16, 2017, 1:03 PM by Christine Merrill

Dearest Friends and Family,

We are pleased to share with you

2017: The year of some big changes!

We changed from a family of 7 to a family of 8! We now fill our minivan! We did something we’ve been dreaming of doing for years - we didn’t tell anyone Christine was pregnant. It was fun to surprise our friends, and we are grateful that they remained our friends! One thing’s for sure, we’ll never do THAT again :) Jane was late, had a difficult delivery and was a gigantic 9lb 10oz. But we wouldn’t trade her for the world. She has the most beautiful smile you ever saw.

In October we changed church families! After 8 years of attending church in the Capitol ward (congregation of our church), Marriner was called to serve as the Branch President of the Washington DC ASL branch. (A branch is a smaller congregation). We have all been learning ASL on-and-off for the last 7 years, so the transition hasn’t been a complete and total shock. Actually, Marriner signs very well - he has been learning much longer than 7 years - and has dived right in. The rest of us are learning and seeing amazing blessings in our lives every week as we’ve jumped into the deep end after only having finished the tadpole class :)

What have all the kids done this year? Lige is 13 now and has been focusing a lot on advancing toward his Eagle Scout. And he gets the “Nicest and best teenager in the world” award, too. He spends his time playing piano, doing gobs of homework (ugh, middle school!) and reading Brandon Sanderson.

Ellis is 11 and became the Captain of the school Safety Patrols. This girl has leadership skills! She spends her time reading the same books as her brother, helping Mom cook, playing the trumpet, and avoiding the piano.

Lillian is 9 and is enjoying being the “brainiac” of her class. She’s matured a lot and spends a lot of time helping others in her class. She spends her time leading her younger siblings in pretend play and playing the violin.

Sam is almost 5 and is turning into a really smart, fun, and helpful boy. As always, we’re sad that kids go to school as soon as they get fun to be around! He’s a great reader. He spends his time jumping on furniture, playing outside and being excited about upcoming events.

Martha is 2 and is a big girl. She will tell you all the time. And she’s not a baby. That’s Jane. She spends her time jumping on furniture, too. And making really cute faces.

And Jane (7 months) has hair. Not very much, but waaay more than her siblings had at this age. She spends her time eating little things off the floor. Argh!

Thank you to all of you who have been such wonderful friends, mentors and family members to us. Again, we’d like to share our faith in our Savior and our love for His wonderful gift to us.

With love,

Marriner, Christine, Lige, Ellis, Lillian, Sam, Martha and Jane Merrill

Family Picture

How to raise smart kids

posted Oct 24, 2017, 11:36 AM by Christine Merrill   [ updated Oct 24, 2017, 12:30 PM ]

Some questions come up a lot in my life.

"Why do you send your kids to public school?"
"How can I get _____ (name omitted to protect the not-so-innocent) to stop talking?"
"Are you all done having kids yet?"

and the one that really makes me cringe:

"Why are your kids so smart?"

Well, I'll tell you right out - there's probably just some genetics there. Sorry, it's always awkward to say, because it feels so darn un-humble. (I know, that's not a real word.) But neither of their parents really had a hard time in school, so I guess that's just a talent they get.

But that's not what you're really asking, is it. What you really want to know is, how can I help my child be smart? And the answer is:

Turn off the TV. In fact, get rid of the TV.

TV makes you dumb. It teaches you to accept things without thinking for yourself. It steals time. People on TV act dumb, and then your kids think they should act that way.

When you turn off the TV, your kids will have nothing to do. It will be painful at first. They will drive you crazy. Then, little by little, they'll start to think for themselves and find things to do. (Tip: if they say, "I'm bored!" then help them not be bored by giving them a chore to do. They'll quit complaining quickly!)

The best thing that will happen is that they'll start reading books to fill the time. Not only will this make them more interesting, it will make school much better. Your job as a parent will be to figure out how to get enough books to keep them happy. I recommend the library. Many of my most intelligent friends and family members disagree with me on this - they're afraid of overdue fees and lost books. But you know, even if you're paying overdue fees and losing books all the time, it's still a good investment. First off, it's cheaper than your cable bill, and nobody's complaining about that. And if you really took my advice, you got rid of your cable bill, anyway. Secondly, you'll still get to read a lot of books for not very much money. So just embrace the occasional (or frequent) overdue fee and lost book as the price of raising smart kids. 

I bet that wasn't what you were expecting, was it? :)

ps - Your phone and tablet count, too. Sorry, even educational apps. Save them for special treats.

Music conducting class

posted May 25, 2017, 11:08 AM by Christine Merrill

This is primarily for my LDS friends, who might need to teach a music class for Mutual some time...

I taught music conducting to our youth a few weeks ago and tried really hard to think of a way to make it not super-boring. I decided to teach various conducting skills by rotating to different stations, and when a kid passed off a skill, he got a sticker on his "ticket". Then at the end, everyone got ice cream, and the number of toppings you got correlated to what stickers you had earned.

As it turned out, everyone had a great attitude and got all 9 stickers, so we just ate ice cream without worrying about stickers. I don't think anyone mastered their skills, but they were definitely improved, and just need some practice to really become competent!

The whole activity took us less than 1 hour, but 1hr 15 minutes would have made it a little bit less rushed. 

Jane's story

posted Apr 24, 2017, 5:26 PM by Christine Merrill

This year, we did the most funny, brave, adventurous, mischievous this we've ever done in our lives: we didn't tell anyone in our family we were expecting our 6th child until after she was born! Here's the letter we wrote everyone after we confessed our secret. Enjoy!

Easter picture

Hi, everyone,

As you have probably by now guessed, the extra baby in our Easter pictures is indeed ours! You all seem surprisingly curious about the details of her arrival, so here are some basic stats:

Name: Jane Merrill (named after Jane Foulke Hughes, an early Quaker ancestor who did many good works (and married to Ellis Hughes), and Jane Ballantyne, wife of John Taylor, on the other side of the family.)
Birthday: Sunday, April 23 2017, 6:13am. (One whole week after her due date!)
Weight: 9lb 10oz.

When we found out we were expecting back in August, we were overtaken by an overwhelming desire for mischief. We have always joked about how funny it would be to not tell anyone we were expecting, and we decided to do it this time! We contrived to get my mom out here to help by asking her to watch the kids while Marriner took me on a surprise trip with him to a conference in Los Angeles (too bad that wasn't real, it would have been fun!). We were a little nervous Marriner's dad would notice something we he came through for a day back in October or November, but fortunately, his refined upbringing prevented him from mentioning my weight gain :) Obviously, we had to tell Ashley and Nate, who were bound to figure it out eventually. Other than that, we just didn't say anything! 

So, April 11th, my mom showed up and learned that she had been brought out on false pretenses. She took it pretty well :) I think that being a little zonked out from an over-night flight helped her not have enough energy to over-react! I was pretty sure my due date of April 17th was later than the baby was actually going to come, and later that evening, I started having contractions. Then my water broke, and I was glad that Nana had made it in time! We called John and Cathy (and Joseph, who was standing nearby heard the news too) so we could tell them we were pregnant while I still was. Only, the contractions fizzled out, and the next morning when I met with my midwife, I learned that you actually have 2 layers on your amniotic sac, and you can break one but leave the other intact. Grrr...Poor John, Cathy and Joseph were sitting on a secret for a long time! And poor Rosie was left out. But she's really nice, and she'll forgive us. Right...???

To keep the "short" version of this story short, the baby played games with us for the next 2 weeks, I was pretty sure I was going to have a baby imminently every day. Psychological torture! But finally, Sunday morning, I went into real labor, had the baby 4 hours later (it would have gone faster, but the baby had a hard time getting into the right position to come down the birth canal. This was probably due to the cord being around her neck. Hooray for a wonderful medical team that really handled the complication perfectly, Jane and I both survived the somewhat adventurous labor and delivery unscathed!) She was quite purpley-blue when she came out, but it was actually mostly due to a bruised face. She looked so dark, you could have questioned her ethnicity! Today, the bruising has gone down, and she looks much more like our child. 

When she came out, everyone's first reaction was, "Woah, that kid is HUGE!" It was almost disappointing when she checked in under 10lb. But she pooped approximately 5 times in her first half hour, before she was weighed, so maybe she was 10lb when she was born...just kidding, maybe she was like 9lb 12oz. They didn't weigh her very quickly just because they were making sure she was ok and breathing well before moving on to other stuff.

Since we had the baby at a birth center, we were free to come home that morning, and we enjoyed a quiet day sleeping and recovering. When Nana got home from church with the younger kids, Sam came in very quietly and met his sister, singing her songs and smiling. Martha had fallen asleep in the car, and woke up later. As she was running to the bathroom, she saw Mom with the baby. She stopped dead in her tracks and exclaimed, "Mom! Baby! Come out! Tummy!" She just grinned and said that over and over until we told her to come in and see the baby. She was pretty happy. 

And that is the 100% TRUE life story of Jane Merrill, real 6th child of Marriner and Christine Merrill. Really, no more tricks from us, we promise! We're glad we have such a fun family that had fun with our surprise (though I promise, not NEARLY as much fun as we've had!)

Love, Christine and Marriner

ps- Aren't you all impressed with us for finding a matching Easter dress for Jane? And she was so big, she fit it perfectly even though it was 3-6mo size. What a nice baby.

AND, for those of you who want the whole birth story, here are some more of the gory details. Don't say I didn't warn you!!

The last part of this pregnancy was pretty miserable. Jane was up in my lungs and stomach, so I could hardly eat or breathe. My whole life was spent wishing she would drop! When I had my fake-out labor on April 11th, she dropped a little (that was actually my 2nd false alarm, but it was more convincing than the first one.) Then she grew back up into my lungs. I just seemed to spend every day saying, "Come on, kiddo, why don't you come out? You're just getting bigger and bigger!" And I was having so many contractions, I was certain that when she did come, it was going to go really fast, which worried me a bit.

I woke up at 2:30 on the 23rd and had 3 big contractions in 30 minutes, so I woke up Marriner and called the midwife and birth assistant (nurse). I encouraged quick arrival at the birth center :) We got there, and I thought things were getting pretty serious, but contractions were still like 10 minutes apart. After an hour, the midwife felt my tummy and the baby hadn't really engaged yet. She was turned funny. So they had me do some stretches to open up room in my pelvis, and some exercises that for some reason encourage babies to turn around. Jane was kicking and wiggling like I've never felt during labor (usually my babies seem to be very still and passive while my body does the work.) You could tell she was trying to get into position! After a while, I was pretty exhausted and laid back down, and the midwife expected things to happen pretty quickly. The contractions were still only 10 minutes apart, but they were so intense, I could hardly bear it. Finally, I lost my ability to relax completely and tried to change position in the middle of a contraction. Suddenly, I felt myself pushing (really hard!) and the baby moved (a lot). And, she was crowning! I would have been really excited, except that I was sort of stuck on my hands and knees and couldn't get into a more comfortable position because of how much I hurt. Basically, my wonderful husband and medical team took over from there, as things started to get a little crazy. If this had been Martha, I would have given 2 more good pushes and she would have been out. But Jane got her head out on the next push, then got stuck. Her cord was around her neck and seemed to be keeping her from moving down any more. The cord wasn't compressed, so Jane was ok, she was just stuck half in/half out. Hardly desirable for either of us! The midwife tried to loop the cord over her head, but it wasn't long enough and they eventually (all this took like 1 minute) decided they would have to cut the cord then push really hard to get her out immediately. So, Jane was cut off and held her breath, so to speak, for the next minute or so until I got her pushed out. After it was all over, I realized that I should have been a little scared, but the midwife was so calm that I didn't realize how serious it was! So, Jane had a rough entry into the world. Besides being stuck and holding her breath, she had descended so quickly that she'd bruised her face. In short, she looked pretty bad when I first saw her. The midwife and birth assistant spent probably 15 minutes just helping her get her breathing established - suctioning her out, massaging her back, etc. Her body pinked up nicely, though her face was still blue due to the bruising. But she was sort of wheezing, which concerned them. After listening to her breathing, testing her blood oxygen, etc, they were sure that she was breathing ok, and determined that she wasn't wheezing, she was just talking. We laughed, she proved that she really is a Merrill. Trying to talk, even when you'd think she'd have other priorities :) After that, we all relaxed a bit, knowing she was doing fine. So, that was the end of the drama, and since then, things have been pretty normal! Yahoo!

It was certainly not my favorite labor and delivery, but we really felt like things went so well given the complication that was there. We were so blessed! Looking back at all the difficult things of the last few weeks - the baby being so high, the false alarms, the bizarre labor - it all makes sense knowing that she was stuck in her umbilical cord. Jane means, "God is gracious" and that's how we feel right now! We're grateful things worked out well, and that it's all over!


A letter to Lige

posted Jan 30, 2017, 10:55 AM by Christine Merrill

Dear Lige,

I know one of your biggest struggles right now is the abundance of inappropriate, sexual, and pornographic content delivered to you daily in school and on the bus. I admit, I had no idea that the sweet kids you've gone to school with the past 5 years would change so quickly, and start making such horrible decisions so early. It is heartbreaking to me. It's heartbreaking that my son is thrust into this so young.

Today, I read about the famous Sons of Helaman, the 2060 young men who went to battle much younger than their moms probably wished. The Sons of Helaman were surrounded by something just as dangerous - violence and tyranny. Violence and pornography really have the same effect on a person's spirit. They harden you and make it difficult to feel the Holy Ghost. Violence leaves physical wounds that can hurt or kill you. Pornography does the same thing to your spirit.

I just want you to know that God will protect you, just as he did those other 2060 young men. You will be wounded, just as they were, but you will heal through the great healing power of the best Spiritual Physician imaginable. President Eyring said, "We all are aware of the fiery darts of the enemy of righteousness being sent like a terrible wind against the young priesthood holders we love so much. To us, they seem like the stripling warriors, who called themselves the sons of Helaman. They can survive, as thouse young warriors did, if they keep themselves safe, as King Benjamin urged them to do. The sons of Helaman did not doubt. They fought bravely and came off conquerors because they believed the words of their mothers." 

I know you have steadfast faith in Christ. I know that will enable you to win the battle for your freedom and happiness. Continue to put your trust in Him who protected those other young men so many years ago.

Love, your mom, who has a lot in common with some other mothers who lived a long time ago.

Merry Christmas 2015!

posted Nov 27, 2015, 1:22 PM by Christine Merrill

    Dearest Friends and Family,

2015 is almost gone. It's time for us to say hello to those we love, and give an update on our lives. One always tries to be interesting in these letters, but sometimes life seems much the same from year to year. To solve this problem, we decided to get some new writers. And so may we present “The Merrill Family 2015” as written by each member of the family about him/herself! We'll start from the bottom...

Martha Merrill can't write yet, being only 9 months old, but she CAN walk and bite your toes. What talents! She was born in February during an ice storm, but her labor and delivery was spectacular! Handel's Messiah was playing during labor, and she actually emerged during the Hallelujah Chorus. That's how good she is!

Sam can't write yet, either, but if he could, he'd tell you that he toilet trained this year, and started “helping” Mom make bread. He's getting ready to be a Sunbeam in January! He's a people person who loves to say hi, and his little sister's face lights up whenever she sees him!

Lillian says: Dear friends, romans and countrymen, On November 20th me Dad, Lige and Ellis...we left around 11:00, we went to a music store. Man! It was fun. I mainly talked. There were trumpets, trombones, and VIOLINS. I PLAY The...V...I...O...L.....IN! Anyway there were LOTS of things to talk about. Then we had lunch. Ham sandwiches. (Yum, Yum) ONE bag was labeled “No Mustard.” Yep. That's right. No mustard just for me and Ellis. Last year I won 2nd place in a spelling bee. I mis-spelled upon. My teacher said it was spelled apun. My mom said it's upon. It's time for me to go to bed now. BYE!

Ellis says: I'm helping do the morning announcements at school! I'm in 3rd grade. I got all A's on my report card. This summer, we went to Indiana to see the temple open house, then to Ohio for a camp out. The temple had a lot of tulip tree decorations.

Lige says: Another year has passed and I have still not come up with a brilliant idea to make glasses Martha-proof. In the spring, I went to the county science fair. I didn't win any awards with my solar car, but that's ok, because the awards ceremony was at the same time as my piano recital. I graduated from taking lessons from Mom, and have a new teacher now. Lastly, I have my Arrow of Light and am now a Boy Scout.

Christine has had a pretty routine year (other than having a baby!) When asked what she's doing now-a-days, her only answer is, “Well, I have 5 kids now, and it turns out that 5 is just more than 4.”

Marriner is basically living the dream. He has a job with great people at NRL that lets him do a mix of fundamental and applied work, he completed his term as neighborhood chairman, and he is still having a ton of fun with the youth & scout programs at church. Most importantly, he is part of this great family with hilariously weird but sincerely good kids. I take credit for the first part, but for the second, I blame their mother!

We've had a year of ups and downs, as most people do. Out of all of it, we've felt our conviction that God loves us strengthened, and our faith in Jesus Christ grow. We're thankful for the little, everyday miracles that remind us of the hand of God in our lives. May you see His hand in your life as well this Christmas season!

Love, Marriner, Christine, Lige, Ellis, Lillian, Sam and Martha Merrill

Easter Pictures!

posted Apr 5, 2015, 5:14 PM by Christine Merrill   [ updated Apr 5, 2015, 5:16 PM ]

We didn't have normal church this Easter, we had a church conference broadcast that we watched from home. This gave us some time to go out and take pictures in our Easter dresses and bowties (thanks, Grandma!) Some of them were good enough for the family Christmas card later this year. Some of them, well....

Lige had his collar popped up to put on his bow tie and looked JUST LIKE Joseph Smith, so we took some Joseph Smith pictures. Dad said he didn't need any shoes...yeah right...and Ellis and Sam needed to get in on the action too (PHOTO BOMB!)

It was a fun day.

Easter 2015

My Family

posted Mar 13, 2015, 2:32 PM by Christine Merrill

Guys, this is my family. Crazy. 

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