Back-to-School Feast and Family Theme: I Will Go and Do/I Can Do Hard Things

A back-to-school feast and family theme is a great way to kick off the school year for your kids. This tradition is something they look forward to every year and helps them to be excited to go back to school.

A back-to-school feast and family theme is a great way to kick off the school year for your kids. This tradition is something they look forward to every year and helps them to be excited to go back to school.

Tonight we had our annual Back to School Feast and introduced this year’s family theme.

This year our theme is focused on doing hard things. It’s for me as much as it is any of the children, but I thought of it after my oldest daughter had a little meltdown last month about going to middle school.

I thought about how many times we are all asked to do—and expected to do—difficult things. And then I thought about the scripture in 1 Nephi 3:7 which says:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

So the theme for our family this year became “I Will Go and Do.” 

Besides the scripture in 3 Nephi, we are also using one from the New Testament found in Phillipians 4:13:

For I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.

We are hoping to really help the girls understand that when they have to do the hard things in life—be it math or making new friends or getting up early—that they never have to do it without help. The Lord is always there to strengthen and prepare a way for each of us to accomplish our difficult tasks.

So why did we do a Romanian feast? One day a couple weeks ago as I was cleaning the kitchen, I put away a cookbook that my husband had found at the Goodwill called The Art of Romanian Cooking

Both he and I served LDS missions in Romania, so of course the country and its food are close to our hearts. But as I put away that cookbook I had a flash of inspiration: Missions are hard stuff.

Wouldn’t it be fun to center our feast around something hard that we had both done?

So we planned our menu of sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls), salată de boeuf (yes, that is the French word for beef, no there is no beef in the salad, it’s more like a potato salad, and no, I have no idea why!), pâine (bread), and a prăjitură (cake, not anything like American cake) for dessert. 

We also used Romanian dishes and other knick-knacks we had brought home with us from our missions to set the table.

It was a hit! 

We already make sarmale often enough that the girls love it. But they loved everything else, too—except for dessert. I think I was the only one who liked that. 

Oh well, you can’t win them all!

Each of us had a place card to remind us that we can personally do hard things.

Each of us also had a little list next to our plates to write down some of the hard things we know we’re up against this school year. 

We had a really nice discussion about them during dinner, too, and I’ll put the lists up on the bulletin board so we can remember.

The “crowns” this year were fancied up dollar store party hats

Here’s my beautiful and brand-new middle schooler:

And my adorable third-grader (who thinks she has to tilt her head drastically for pictures).

And my Kindergartner!  Would these kids please stop growing up?  It’s killing me.

Finally, a terrible picture of the three of them.  They were just so excited about everything that pictures were pretty much a bust.

After dinner, we had our traditional back-to-school Father’s Blessings. 

That’s my favorite part. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are thankful that all worthy fathers hold the Priesthood and are able to use it to bless their family members. A Father’s Blessing is a blessing of guidance and comfort, and many LDS families do as we do and make sure that the children get one at the beginning of each new school year. 

It’s a wonderful way to start something that is as potentially hard as school can be with a little extra peace in our hearts.

And that does it for the Back-to-School Feast 2011!

Now for actual school….

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I don't think that last picture is terrible at all! In fact, just before I continued reading below the picture I thought, "What a fantastic picture!" I don't know your girls, but it looks like this picture could be showing their true personalities! 🙂

And you get an A+ for your dinner theme! I think I need to make some signs saying, "I can do hard things" around my house! I need a little reminder just about every 5 minutes!

Maddy S

Bravo! Felicitari! Mi-ai facut pofta de mancarea pe care ati avut-o. What a fun idea you had to do a Romanian meal. And that was time consuming. Wow! I am impressed by all you do for your family. I want to start this tradition too but I feel so overwhelmed by doing a fancy meal when I already started back to work. I may have to adjust but I can definitely see the benefit of doing something special to get them excited for school. You have beautiful girls.
Also I love it when you talk about Romania. It makes me happy missionaries love it and have it in their hearts.


Great theme and dinner! Plus I LOVE the idea of the "hard things" list and card. They'll be able to refer to those often and be reminded of the dinner discussion and morale booster that I'm sure it was! You're such a loving, thoughtful momma! 🙂


Oh, I love it! What a perfect meal to represent the theme. And the theme is excellent.

So I just looked it up and sarmale means cabbage. Stuffed cabbage rolls in Polish are gołąbki, or "little pigeons". Mmmmmm, little pigeons.


I've got goose bumps while reading this. so beautiful, so inspiring! oh, as for the salad, there should be beef in there, boiled, and then cut in small pieces. but it goes as well with pork or chicken. no meat turns into "salata a la russe" :))). oh, and by the way, you can find me as Zazuza at my cooking blog :). lots of hugs and best wishes for the new school year :)!


ps: "O sărbătoare românească" is just perfect! <3


This is SO cool, Lara. What a cool memory you've created.


Awesome!! This is totally on my "one of these years" list, so much more inspiring than our mostly annual "first day of school lunch" at Big Boy!


I love this so much. I love the kind of mother you are. And I love that you work so hard to create such beautiful memories for your girls. I am definitely going to copy you on this one, when the time comes. Thanks for the inspiration!


You are great parents! Good luck for a great school year. I really like your theme this year.


I don't remember about the feast and theme idea until I see your post each year. Too bad we start school before you!

Chole is so cute. Love the bangs.


You inspire me!!! I come up with good ideas like this often, but it's the completion of them where I fall so short. I'm not very creative and it seems like so much work for such a short time, but I love how it looks. I need to Go & Do!
And, my third grader tilts her head dramatically for pictures as well. Apparently it's an age thing.


You ARE great parents! This is so inspiring! You are teaching the gospel and I am so thankful to you to do that for my posterity!


This is incredible — we try to have Sunday dinners in the dining room, but you've created a magical, dignified, INCREDIBLE atmosphere that would make any child feel *important*. Just inspiring!

BTW, our family motto is "We can do hard things." The best response to whining … I am now going to add "with the help of the Lord" to that phrase though.


Lara, you are amazing! I love the idea of doing hard things and helping your children realize that is what life is all about — reaching and stretching and growing WITH Heavenly Father's help.

So cool you both went to Romania… wow! 🙂

Hope your girls have a great year.


LOVE IT!!! I think it's ag reat one for Jr. High, we've certainly experienced highs and lows here….
Hope it's going good.


Wow – you are a clever one. Love the whole idea and the theme. I don't know if this kind of fanfare would have gone over with my boys, so I am going to enjoy it through you : )

Melissa Johnson

Just happened to stumble across your blog (through BlogHer) and am almost in tears–in a good way 🙂

The message you've given your girls is amazing, and one that I've been pondering a lot lately. It was a good reminder.

Also, my grandmother was from Romania and sarmale and salata de boeuf are both dishes my grandmother made religiously! My grandmother accomplished a lot of "hard things" in her life and I'm so grateful for her example. Now I'm craving sarmale with a bowl of creamy mamaliga yum! 🙂


You are an amazing mother! I love the theme and your amazingly designed accessories to go along with the theme. What great memories must have been made in your home that night.

I think ALL the pictures are darling!

Bria in middle school already? *sigh*

Relyn Lawson

I have to tell you that I am sitting here reading this post and feeling tearful. I love that you have a theme for the school year. I had never heard that idea, but it blesses me. And your theme! Oh my. I love, love, love it. That same thought has been in my mind for a while. To do my best and do hard things. Plus, Philippians 4:13 is my life verse. I needed this today. Thank you.


Oh Lara. I love this post for so many reasons.
1. Now I am craving stuffed cabbage.
2. The girls look so gorgeous!
3. For a split second, I saw a bit of myself in Chloe!
4. Your tablescapes are unreal.
5. Love the theme.
6. You guys are the best parents.
7. Love you.


I guess I batter step it up on back to School Feast nights at my house. I had no clue how amazing they should be. Wow! Looks, fun and awesome! How in the world did you do all that!?


I love this!! The food look amazing! I can't wait to do this with my kids! Better start next year!