Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A poem about how I want to be

Oliver, Silas, Eliza and I spent the holiday weekend (and longer thanks to the rain and snow that made our return journey a lot longer than planned!) visiting my sister Saydi at the farm she and her family are living on in Northern California. What a gorgeous and green and wet place full of adventure and work!

On the way home in the car, Eliza was working on homework and we discussed the "Poem of the Week" that she needed to analyze for school. The poem really resonated with me - made me think about how I handle things, how I'd like to handle things and about who I really want to be and things I need to work on. I thought others would also find it helpful so here it is:

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling


I want to be able to do all the things Kipling talks about in this poem so I can find more peace in my life and so that my kids will have a good example to follow. It's such a challenge to "keep my head" when life gets really stressful and bad things happen. It's so hard to plow forward with saying and doing what I feel is right regardless of what anyone thinks. It's so important - and difficult - to throw my whole heart and effort into the things I feel I must do and work towards my dreams but somehow keep from being too attached to things turning out the way I envision they will. And when things go wrong or turn out really differently than planned, it's so hard to move forward with hope and without the baggage of regret. But how I admire and want to be like those who are able to do these things!

Now I just need to figure out the how...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Overview of 2016


Usually I get a digital Christmas card out every year. But this year, it just felt too overwhelming to sit down and try to capture an overview of 2016. There was so much - so much beauty, so much adventure, so much learning and growth, so much heartache and exhaustion and stress.

I've recorded the highlights and some of the less-heavy lowlights pretty thoroughly on Instagram here so for a while I thought I'd just leave it to my Instagram feed to share the story of 2016. But then I decided that I really want a written overview of the year combined with some of my favorite photos of the year.

So here it is.

THE KIDS



Above is our traditional on-the-stairs Christmas photo of the kids and below is an overview of what each of them have been doing this year.

As I held my new baby niece the other day, I marveled that my babies are now so darn big. Sometimes I really miss my babies and toddlers and those sweet, funny little people that my kids used to be. Then I count my lucky stars that I now have children who can dress themselves (even if they don't choose outfits I love all the time), go to the bathroom and bathe by themselves (even if their bathrooms are always so much messier than seems necessary), drive themselves places (even if their driving can be pretty darn scary sometimes!), make their own choices (which sometimes results in stressed-out parents and kids learning from mistakes...), and teach me so many new things (about technology, music, drones, football, skateboards, cross country running, track, basketball, Minecraft - and parenting - wow, do they teach me a lot about parenting which in turn teaches me a lot about myself!).

We live in a community where there are quite a few families who are in need of help with their children for various reasons. At least once a week all year, our kids have cheerfully and excitedly taken on the challenge of caring for several small children at our house for several hours at a time. They read stories, play games and have fun teaching the kids new things. They genuinely love these little kids and have never complained or asked for compensation when asked to watch these children. I've found such joy in seeing such beautiful relationships develop between my kids and their dear little friends.

We did a ton of camping and hiking this year and Jared and I were so impressed with the way the kids handled the inevitable tiredness and discomfort. They were great about pitching in to do whatever was needed and about keeping on going when they were tired and hungry. These are some tough kids!

They've certainly had their moments (which sometimes stretch into days and weeks) when they haven't gotten along and sometimes haven't liked each other much. But for the most part, I'm so grateful for the friendship and support the kids show each other and show to me and Jared.

While there have been times over this past year when parenting has been excruciatingly hard and we've all had to learn some things the hard way, we are so grateful for each of our children and for the wonderful people they are becoming.

ASHTON:





  • Turned 17 on Jan 3 - but everyone guesses he's more like 21; so strong - can bench press more than his weight
  • Doesn't like to smile for pictures
  • Junior at Ogden High School
  • Earned his Eagle Scout Rank this year (which allowed him to get his driver's license...)
  • Worked really hard at football and got quite a bit of time on the field, made lots of friends and was a completely devoted team player
  • Honed his videography skills - created some excellent videos on his You Tube channel here, was the videographer and video editor for a self-help website (you can check out the videos he did here), and is now working on a video for each national park we visited last summer as part of the guide I'm writing (will be available in March). Is taking things to a whole new level (literally) and capturing some amazing stuff with his new drone.
  • Was a star employee at McDonalds for much of the year and sure learned a lot there (decided it's high time to move on and is looking for a new job now) 
  • Taking AP US History and AP Biology plus honors English and math as well as a business development and mobile app development class at school. Working hard and getting excellent grades.
  • Excellent snowboarder - likes to crank up his music and do his own thing on the slopes
  • Fixes my computer, helps me figure out my phone, helps Jared fix our car issues
  • Keeps me up to date on the news and has solid opinions and ideas about so many things plus he has a great sense of humor
  • Found a cliff to jump off into a river or lake in just about every national park we visited this last summer (and just about gave his mother a heart attack - again and again!)
  • Got his Eagle Scout award last spring
  • Can do absolutely anything he sets his mind to do

ISAAC:









  • 15 years old; grew about 6 inches this year
  • Sophmore; First year at Ogden High
  • Turned a corner with his academics and has become such a diligent and successful student; taking AP World History and honors math and English plus enjoying learning new skills - mobile app class with Ashton and a cool technical design class where he got to 3-D print a car design he came up with
  • Part of the swim team last season and enjoyed his first year on the high school cross country team this fall, worked hard and made lots of great friends
  • Close to getting his Eagle Scout rank
  • Just got his driver's learning permit (after months of trying!)
  • Excellent skiier - loves skiing with friends and family
  • Came in first for his age category for the Olympic distance at the RAGE Triathalon
  • Favorite fun friend to so many babies and little kids in our neighborhood and ward
  • Really funny - often without meaning to be - good at laughing at himself
  • Very social and has lots of great friends who he wants to be with a lot
  • Is hard-working and determined

ELIZA:






  • 14 years old (as of Feb 13th); as tall as her mom
  • 8th grader; second to last year at Ogden Preparatory Academy
  • Taking all the honors classes she can, great Spanish speaker, worked extra hard and got straight A's the past two terms
  • On student council at school
  • Does lots of community service through her membership in the Junior Junior League
  • On the junior high basketball team - both JV and Varsity(super fiesty player) and cross country team (super fast runner - got medal after medal) plus runs for another Junior High's track team. 
  • Placed in all her Ogden High mountain bike races this fall.
  • Great skier who loves skiing on her own or with friends and family.
  • Favorite babysitter to many families in our community and always willing and happy to babysit
  • Working hard on the Personal Progress program at church and is almost done
  • Determined and hard-working, loves to be involved in everything, such a good friend to so many 

OLIVER AND SILAS: 






Silas had to get his appendix out on Christmas Eve
(I tried to write up individual lists for each of them but the lists overlapped so much it just didn't make sense! They are such great friends and really love doing everything together but are OK to do things separately if it works out that way.)
  • 12 years old (as of January 14th)
  • 6th graders - last year of elementary school
  • Working hard in school and getting good grades (other than that C in music that they both are pretty confused about...)
  • So excited that they are now ordained deacons at church and that they can now participate in all the youth activities with their big brothers and sister
  • Always reading big fat books - mostly fantasy. They enter their own little worlds as they read and it's hard to get their attention!
  • Really into Minecraft and Geometry Dash (often found sneaking a little extra computer time...)
  • Always climbing something - trees, rocks, walls, you name it.
  • Always building something - snow forts, K'nex roller coasters, a clubhouse in the backyard
  • Mad trampoline skills
  • Have more energy that probably any other human being and are always up for any sort of adventure
  • First year running on the cross country team - got better and better throughout the season, Silas got to go to the regional meet
  • Super skiers - love the double black diamonds and powder, often making their own trails, they can not only keep up with Jared but lead the way with him these days!
  • Peacemakers - these boys are so loving and are always ready with a hug or a kind word when things get tense around here
  • Positive - they can always see the good in everything and are great at giving compliments and expressing thanks

SAREN:

Costa Rica

Rocky Mountain National Park

Red Cliffs Reserve

Yosemite National Park (at the top of the tallest falls in North America!)

I spent a lot of this past year running kids around to where they need to be, helping with homework, having important discussions with kids about all sorts of things, keeping up on housework and laundry, feeding people, all that good but often taxing "mom" stuff. I also did lots of Power of Moms work (weekly newsletter, weekly podcast episode, special webinars from time to time, overseeing our great team of volunteers) plus I co-hosted the online Mom Conference again in October and it was awesome to see over 80,000 moms attend this time. Another big project was preparing for, executing and writing the draft of a guide about our month-long camping trip to 12 National Parks (more on that below). 

I love the chance I have to help moms and families but I've felt a real need to cut back on the hours and heavy brainwork that goes into projects that help the larger world so that I can focus more on the little world right around me that matters the most and needs me the most.

For many years now, I've understood, theoretically, and have taught others that it's important to learn to say no to some things so you can say yes to the things that matter most and that moms need to prioritize self-care as you can't draw water from an empty well. For many years now, I've said I need to cut back and I've learned to simplify some things and say no to some things. But over this past year, I've more fully realized that I've been burning the candle at both ends for way too long now and that I need to be serious about cutting back and accepting that I can't do it all and that's OK. 

I'll share more about this later but that's good for now.

JARED:




Jared is still working for ARI, managing software development. His company is in Salt Lake but he works remotely here in Ogden now and is so glad he no longer spends 2+ hours in the car commuting every day (but he is a little behind on his podcasts now...). In addition, he's taken on some interesting side jobs this year and has helped many companies (including the Mom Conference I co-hosted) have the websites they need to best do their work. He is smart and quick and knows how to find a solution to any problem that arises.

Jared has now been the bishop of our ward (congregation) for 4 years. He's helped so many people and has done so much to cultivate an atmosphere of love and acceptance in our very diverse ward. He has so many crazy stories and touching stories! He's a great leader, a wise counselor, and has learned how and where to say no and how and where to say yes to people who need assistance with financial issues and personal problems. 

As far as what he does outside work and bishop stuff, Jared has a great time skiing with the kids or on his own every chance he gets and he's gotten really into crossfit this past year. He won the RAGE Triathalon for his age group this year and had so much fun competing with Isaac there. He's a very loyal Jazz fan (lots of yelling coming from the TV room when a Jazz game is on!) and we've gone to a couple live games as a family this year. Jared spends a lot of time fixing things around the house and fixing our cars, usually with one of the kids at his side, learning and helping.  He's the kids' most loyal fan and has spent a LOT of time this past year at their football games, basketball games, and cross country meets. 

Jared is amazingly selfless and hard-working and never complains. I'm constantly impressed by Jared!

BIG TRIPS:

Costa Rica




Long ago, Jared and I decided it would be great to take each of our kids on a special trip when they were about 12. Ashton got to go to Australia with me when he was 12 and it was a grand trip and great bonding. We realized last year that somehow we hadn't quite got around to taking Isaac or Eliza on their 12-year-old trips. As they're such great friends and as both Jared and I wanted to enjoy an adventure, we decided Jared and I would take both Eliza and Isaac together on a special trip. We all agreed on Costa Rica and it was a really wonderful trip - white-water rafting, zip lining, playing with monkeys, hiking through the jungle, swimming in waterfalls, enjoying the beach.

My parents were kind enough to take care of Oliver, Silas and Ashton and they sure showed them an excellent time.

More pictures are here


Park-to-Park Trip 




We spent a solid month traveling to the 12 national parks that were part of the original Park to Park Highway built a hundred years ago. We camped - in tents - the whole time and while there was certainly some discomfort and a lot of dirt to put up with, we saw incredible beauty, had excellent adventures, and enjoyed some quality family time.

More pictures are here

Podcast about why we went and what the trip did for us here - "Why Families Need Nature"

London



I got to go on a special trip to London with my sister Saydi to help our baby sister Charity (who lives in London) prepare for her first baby (and have fun together in a city we all love so much!)

More photos of the London trip here


In addition to those three big trips, we had some great little trips and loved our traditional time in Ashton, Idaho with Looslis and at Bear Lake with Eyres.




As usual, we spent the 4th of July in Ashton Idaho (Loosli family fun run, kids riding in the parade, watermelon-eating contest, water sports out at the cabin, tractor rides, etc.). This year was extra wonderful as EVERY member of the family was able to come and celebrate Jared's mom's 80th birthday as part of the 4th of July gathering.







As usual, we spent most of the rest of July at Bear Lake with all the Eyres (well, almost all, my baby sister Charity was in London with her husband, giving birth to their first baby). Our family was in charge of the reunion this year. We worked hard and every kid was in charge of a different activity and they did a beautiful job! Eliza ran the family relay race and the sand castle building contest. Isaac ran the Eyrealm Olympics as well as the dam building contest, Ashton managed the photo contest and slide show plus the bonfire and made the playlist with everyone's favorite songs for the year on it. Oliver was in charge of the talent show. Silas took care of the secret service challenge. Jared and I just helped the kids and ordered the t-shirts (oh, and I coordinated all the food which is no small feat...). Everything turned out great! But I'm glad it won't be our turn to run the reunion again for 9 years!

More pictures of Bear Lake here.

Thanks for caring enough to get to the end of this! Here's to a great 2017!



Friday, November 11, 2016

Kindness and Beauty

I'm so grateful for the kind and encouraging comments on my last post. We live in a world where there is plenty of ugliness and each of us see and experience things on a personal level that can be painful and challenging. But there are bright spots of beauty and kindness that make such a difference. Today I want to celebrate a few of the bright spots that have really helped me in the past couple months.

In response to a couple of my posts, I received a beautiful card full of such helpful and loving encouragement in the mail. It came all the way from England (at least I'm pretty sure the stamps were British stamps...) and included no return address or last name. Stephanie, if you're reading this, thank you so very much. Your wise words gave me added strength and perspective. Yes, things are not generally as bad as they seem when you're in the thick of something that seems impossibly hard. Yes, there are more things we can do about hard times and issues than we may initially realize (it is taking time and prayer and pondering and trial and error but I'm finding helpful things that I can do about some of the hard things I'm dealing with). And yes, once we get through something hard (or through a little section of something hard), the "new normal" can be really beautiful in its own right. Thank you thank you thank you for these important reminders. And thanks for the reminder that the kindness and concern of strangers is such a beautiful and inspiring thing.

Here's what I got in the mail:



In the midst of the the crazy long-days (and nights) of getting the Mom Conference together (wow, September and October were INTENSE - I spent pretty much every waking moment that the kids didn't really need attention working on all the little and big details of the conference), I was touched to have a beautiful basket of fall flowers delivered to my door courtesy of my always-thoughtful mom. Having those flowers right behind my laptop screen as I sat here hour after hour gave me a much-needed reminder of love and beauty in the midst of the tedious and consuming work that needed to be done. (By the way, things came together beautifully in the end and we had over 80,000 moms attend!)



At the close of the conference, we received so many emails thanking us for making this conference happen. This one brought tears to my eyes:

"I just wanted to thank you so very much for all the hard work and time you put into making this conference wonderful.  I am sure it was a huge thing.  I wanted you to know I saw the link on facebook about 1/2 way through the first day and thought I would just try it.  WoW! The first few videos I watched answered so many prayers and concerns I have been having.  I started crying! I stayed up til the last minute ran out to watch them all.  I cannot express how grateful I am to you all for being such a positive influence in the world for good.  I don't know how often you are going to do this but it is so very valuable! I will make sure to blast it out to everyone I know.   Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  And I hope that when you are having a hard day as a mom and wondering if you ever make a difference you will think of me because you made a difference in my life; probably forever."
-Kat Loiseau (Washington State)
Along with kindness, I'm so grateful for beauty. On the hardest days, there is a spectacular sunset or a gorgeous display of leaves or an extra-blue sky or a perfect little flower growing in an unexpected place to remind me that God loves me and He's watching out for me. Beauty is so intertwined with love for me. Whether it's the crunch of leaves underfoot and the golden shimmer of leaves above on a quick walk around the neighborhood, the sweeping grandeur of the scene at the top of a mountain, or a lovely sunrise as I drive kids to school, the beauty of nature always feeds my soul and reminds me of God's love and presence and the fact that He is there for me. It also offers me perspective and gives me a moment of "awe" - and awe helps us be kinder and happier (read this article or check out this podcast episode I did recently for more on why awe is so important).

I've been doing my regular weekly hiking with friends and the good conversations and beauty those hikes offer have got me through a lot. A couple weeks ago, I went down to Moab/Arches National Park with a couple good friends and enjoyed a day and a half of gorgeous hikes through whimsical landscapes where the red rocks contrasted perfectly with the blue, blue skies. We talked and talked about the deep and the simple and laughed and just had a perfect little get-away. I came back feeling refreshed on so many levels.

 






On Wednesday, I felt like I needed some serious soul soothing and time away from society after the craziness of the elections. So Oliver, Silas and I spent the day out on Antelope Island where practically the only living creatures we saw were bison and deer. We had such a nice time talking together as we climbed the highest peak (Frary Peak) on the island and the raw, stark beauty and 360 degree views helped me gain perspective and feel better about everything.












We left the island just as the sun was going down.
































Life can sure be hard sometimes but when we look for the kindness and the beauty, it's there for us and can offer us great hope.

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