Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sunday at the Temple and Spiral Jetty

Sunday was a really really special day.

First, we got to go to the dedication of the gorgeous newly refurbished Ogden Temple and be right on the temple grounds for that lovely event. I'm seriously so excited to have a temple in walking distance from our house! I was 8 hours from a temple when I lived in Boston for 10 years off and on (the nearest temple was DC - and then they built a temple right outside Boston after I moved away). We were one to three hours (depending on the crazy traffic) from the Oakland Temple when we lived in the Bay Area. We were 20 minutes from a temple when we lived in St George (but with 5 preschoolers, it was a bit of a challenge to get to the temple as often as we'd have liked). Then we've had a closed temple right down the street most of the time we've lived in Ogden and haven't made it to the Bountiful Temple all that much. But now - wow - we've got a temple just a few blocks away and we're excited and determined to get there very regularly!




After the dedication, we took advantage of the super rare and wonderful fact that Jared didn't have bishop's duties and we went out to visit the otherworldly splendor of the Spiral Jetty at the Great Salt Lake with some of our good friends.

Here's a little info from Wikipedia about the Spiral Jetty:
Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture constructed in April 1970 that is considered to be the central work of American sculptor Robert Smithson. Smithson documented the construction of the sculpture in a 32-minute color film also titled Spiral Jetty.
Built on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point in Utah entirely of mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks and water,Spiral Jetty forms a 1,500-foot-long (460 m), 15-foot-wide (4.6 m) counterclockwise coil jutting from the shore of the lake. The water level of the lake varies with precipitation in the mountains surrounding the area, revealing the jetty in times of drought and submerging it during times of normal precipitation.
Smithson reportedly chose the Rozel Point site based on the red color of the water and its connection with the primordial sea. The red hue of the water is due to the presence of salt-tolerant bacteria and algae that thrive in the extreme 27 percent salinity of the lake's north arm, which was isolated from fresh water sources by the building of a causeway by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1959.
Smithson was reportedly attracted to the Rozel Point site because of the stark anti-pastoral beauty and industrial remnants from nearby Golden Spike National Historic Site, as well as an old pier and a few unused oil rigs.

We went to visit the Jetty three years ago when it looked like this (you can just make out the outline). Of course, the kids had to follow the spiral to its center and everyone ended up pretty wet and cold but had a great time.


It was fun to go this time and see the whole jetty high and dry (that's just sand and salt out there around the jetty even though it looks like water - the water starts way out beyond the jetty).




Here's our afternoon in pictures (it was raining on the way there and looked threatening all day but it actually turned out to be the most perfect cloudy day and didn't rain on us one bit!)


We made a quick stop for bathrooms and a peak at the cool reproduction engines at the Golden Spike Historic Site where the train tracks joined together to connect the entire United States by rail:



Then we took a dirt road from there for about a half hour to the Great Salt Lake.

First we got to the skeletal remains of an old jetty for shrimping boats:

Then, just a bit further down the road, we arrived at our destination - Robert Smithson's famous crazy art installation - the Spiral Jetty:


The kids headed out to follow the jetty to the center:

And on the way they found an awesome snake:

What a creative mind Smithson had!

Here's what the ground looks like out there - salt crystal-crusted - so interesting:

The middle of the jetty!

Then we set out across the salt and sand beyond the jetty to get to the water and played and wondered in the white and pink of it all, bathed in a surreal light. It seriously feels like you're on another planet.

The salt crystals were so interesting:








 See how pink the water is out there?

There were some old metal spikes sticking up and the salt had stuck to them in layers for years - this is what resulted:

Jared was nice enough to give me a ride over the super-sharp salt crystals since I didn't bring the right shoes.

And Isaac was an awesome big brother and gave Liza a lift.
 

A couple final shots of the beauty:




And we found this cool old rusty thing to jump over (Thanks to my friend Emily for bringing her great camera and taking these great shots! Plus she planned the excursion. Emily is always planning fun things and we so appreciate it!)
  

And I'll close with a few more great shots by Emily:








Monday, September 22, 2014

School Year 2014-15 Resolutions

I started this post back on the first day of school. But I didn't finish it or publish it because I kept thinking there were more things I should be adding and perhaps some things I wasn't totally committed to yet - and, silly as it may be, I feel like once I put things out there on this blog, I need to be totally committed. Once I make these public, I'll feel more accountable and serious about them. That's just how I am. So I'd better be sure before I hit "publish"!

So here are my personal resolutions for this school year - at least the ones I can commit to at this point! They aren't in any particular order. They're just thrown down there in the order they happened to come to me.

1. Get to bed by 11pm every night. Don't get sucked into finishing one more thing or watching a quick TV show to relax. Everything goes better when I get enough sleep and help Jared do the same.

2. Get up by 6:45. Sleeping a few extra minutes sure feels like a great idea after the alarm goes off and while I really could get ready in 10 minutes for 7;10am family scripture time, it's better to have a little extra time and not feel so rushed and be able to help the kids get ready more.

3. Go on a date every week with Jared. We've been terrible about this. We've got so many places where the kids need to be and where each of us need to be in the evenings and somehow week after week goes by without us going out together which seems fine since we can just hang out together at home when the kids are in bed and we're out of energy to go anywhere. But actually going somewhere together is really really good for us. Even when we're tired. Even when it seems like just one more thing to cram in there. PLUS, we've realized we need a little non-screen time every day when we can connect and talk - even 10 minutes makes a huge difference. We can play a game, work on a project together, or just sit and eat a treat and talk.

4. Floss. I used to be really good about this. Lately I've been a total slacker. And my gums are receding. And I want to keep my teeth for a whole lot longer. So I'm going to spend that whole 3 minutes or so every night to get my darn teeth flossed.

5. Exercise every day for 30 minutes. I mostly did this last year but this year I'm TOTALLY doing it. I need 3-4 serious work-out sessions a week. But on the other days, I need the endorphins and energy that some brisk walking or some time on my old eliptical machine can offer. I feel SO much better on the days I exercise - especially when I do it outside! Plus I'll take more breaks from my computer to go for a little walk. And I'll keep up my weekly hikes. I hiked Maylan's Peak almost every single week last year, even in the crazy snow or rain. It made me feel tough and strong and happy. And I loved the chance to talk with good friends while doing it.

6. Go on Family Walks at least 4x/week. We've been doing a good job going for a walk as a family after dinner every evening that we possibly can. It's such a nice way to close the day. We're going to keep that up. Even in the snow. Fresh air makes us all nicer people - and helps everyone sleep better at night and digest their dinner better.

7. Take each child on a special date every month and do some quality one-on-one tuck-in-time with each child each night. These simple things make a world of difference in my relationship with my kids.

8. Do my hair more. Get haircuts every couple months. I've been seriously neglecting my hair for a long time now. Actually, I don't know if I've ever really done it very often. I'm fine with pulling it back quite a bit and I'm just not the type to ever be really into doing my hair really nicely on a daily basis. But I finally found a hairdresser I like here and I'm going to go ahead and get a good haircut regularly plus I've learned some new ways to do my hair that aren't too terribly time-consuming or frustrating. I feel better about myself and life in general when I don't neglect my hair every single day.

9. No eating after 8pm except for fruits and veggies. I have the weirdest dreams, sleep poorly, and wake up feeling sort of sick if I eat much after 8pm. When I keep this simple little "rule," I just feel SO much better mentally, emotionally and physically.

10. Read the scriptures every single day. Lately I've been having my phone "read" me the scriptures while I'm driving - after I drop the kids off at school on my way home has been the perfect time to make sure I get some "reading" in before I do anything else with the day. I got burned out on reading right before bed - I was just so tired and that was my one time to talk with Jared. So I sort of fell out of the habit of doing it much at all (other than family scripture study in the mornings which I rationalized could count as my personal scripture study). It's not the most logical thing, really, but it's just plain true that when I read the scriptures every day, my life goes better. And when I make sure to do my reading first thing in the day, my day goes better.

I'm sure I'll think of more. But these 10 will do for now!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Good Stuff and the Hard Stuff Right Now

It's been a whirlwind of a week. But then every week is sort of that way. It's just the season I'm in. And when I accept this little fact, I feel less put-upon. Keeping expectations in the realistic zone helps life feel a lot better. And right now, realistically, we're going to have action-packed mornings as we get ready for school and afternoons and evenings as we run from cross country meets to Scouts to dance to rehearsals for the cultural celebration for the Temple opening and cram homework and dinner into the little spaces around everything else. Our kids are involved in less extracurricular activities than most - but five kids and two busy parents means we're going to be busy. Relaxing quiet time isn't going to be common. And that's OK. We'll enjoy it all the more where we can get it!

Highlights:
  • Ashton made the volleyball team again this year and has been having so much fun with that. He's really improving a lot. He's lobbying to go on a special school trip to Spain in the spring and that has led him to work really hard on his grades and search out lots of ways to make money (he'll need to have straight "A's" and earn a large portion of the money if he's going to go). I love it when my kids have external motivators - makes my job so much easier!
  • Isaac is doing great with cross country this year - came in 7th overall in the first race. He's being very responsible with his homework and grades this year. I loved watching him at Ashton's volleyball game last night - there were these cute little boys playing around near where we were sitting and Isaac started entertaining them - just making them giggle a little - nothing disruptive. I love watching him with little kids - he knows just how to keep them happy and their eyes shine with adoration for him. He's also become a junior coach for a new soccer program at the park right next to us - great to see him enjoying some soccer time while really helping the coaches with the whole flock of unruly kids who've shown up for this new free program. 
  • Eliza ran for vice president of her school - and won! This is the third year she's run for office so her experience helped make this a much smoother process this year. While she did neglect to tell me that she needed to put up her campaign posters on Monday until Sunday night, we luckily had posters from previous years to flip over and re-use for her new posters. She prepped a nice speech totally on her own and did a great job. She loves being involved and having a leadership role. She had a great time volunteering with One Ogden at the Temple Open House (giving people directions, welcoming them to Ogden, etc.) and volunteering as a race monitor/crossing guard at last weekend's National Cycling Championships held here. She also just joined "Jr Junior League of Ogden" which will give her the chance to help with lots more events and service projects in Ogden. And she had a big dance performance last week and did a beautiful job. 
  • Oliver and Silas are really enjoying being in different classes at school for the first time this year. I was worried it would be a bit rocky for them at first but they've had no problems at all and seem to each have teachers that really click well with their personalities. They are loving cub scouts and the easy-going little soccer league they joined (the one Isaac is helping with). They are just happy, fun-loving, active, super loving kids and I'm so grateful for them. They are conscientious about getting their homework done on their own (Oliver especially) and they are super into reading (working on the Mysterious Benedict Society series right now). 

Hard stuff:

There are always hard things going on with people in our ward and thanks to Jared being the Bishop and me being in the Primary presidency, I wind up seeing or hearing about or helping with the hard stuff people are going through. Plus the kids are great about helping out with quite a few things. They are so good about visiting this very sweet lady who lives nearby and who is totally disabled. Her husband gets her up and dressed and gets breakfast fed to her before leaving for work in the morning and comes home at lunch to get her lunch and help her go to the bathroom. Then he's home after work to care for her in the evenings. But for the rest of the day, she's sitting there in front of the TV, immobile, unable to get herself a drink or a snack, and really really loves having us come visit for a few minutes whenever we can and see if she needs anything. But we can't get over there as much as we'd like and I just worry about her. They have too high an income to receive assistance with regular home health care or other services they really need - but way too low an income to actually affort the services that would be good for them.

And there are about 20 other really hard situations going on in our ward right now - evictions, job loss, huge mental and physical health problems, abuse, neglect, marriage issues, substance abuse, depression, you name it, we've got it going on in our ward. Plus there are always issues of trying to staff and train all the positions in the ward that need to be taken care of. Plus there are ward events to help with and new people to welcome and on and on and on. Sometimes it's just so physically and emotionally and mentally exhausting! There are days when it all feels so heavy and my heart hurts for some people while my anger flares up where others are concerned. Then there are other days when I feel so grateful that our family gets to be basically serving a mission together - that we all get to work together to "lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees" (from a favorite scripture in Isaiah) and by so doing, we strengthen ourselves.

There are plenty of hard things going on with the kids that are personal to them so I won't share them here.

But I will share that we're really struggling with our mornings still! We've been back in school for over a month but still, every morning, we're dashing out the door late and I'm getting mad at the kids for dawdling and not getting their stuff together the night before like they're supposed to. We keep talking over what needs to happen the night before to be ready on time in the mornings but somehow we're just not quite getting it right. Isaac got all mad at me yesterday morning as I was frustrated with him for making us late. He said "I don't think you understand - when you were a kid, did you have to worry about getting the right binder in your backpack (they have an "A Day" and a "B Day" binder and they have to be sure to switch them out) and get your clothes from the day before out of your backpack and put fresh cross country clothes in your backpack for that day and get all your homework in there and bring your cross country shoes and your lunch and remember to bring Ashton's guitar for him since he rode his bike to school and eat your breakfast and do your hair and clean up your breakfast?" I assured him that I did actually understand and had to do pretty similar things myself when I was his age. But it was good for me to hear how overwhelming it all felt to him so I could be more understanding and helpful. I told him I'd do better at reminding him to pack up his backpack the night before so he wouldn't feel so overwhelmed.

There are some afternoons and evenings (Tuesdays especially) when everything has to fit together and line up perfectly if we're going to get everywhere we need to be in a somewhat timely way. And sometimes we're just going to be late for some things on Tuesdays. But that's OK. We just do our best. And the rest of the afternoons and evenings are more manageable but can still be really messed up if I'm not totally paying attention to the time or if I get on the phone or on the computer at the wrong time.

I'm struggling with figuring out how to prioritize the many, many things that need to happen while the kids are gone to school each day. There are always tons of things I could do for Power of Moms, for the kids and Jared, for our ward and neighborhood, and for our house (working on re-finishing our sadly weathered exterior doors and decks right now - huge project but I couldn't find anyone to hire to do it and things were really deteriorating so we decided to do it ourselves and I'm trying to chip away at a little a day). Plus I feel like it's important to take time to learn and to read and to exercise and to be with friends. I'm trying to do this - and it really helps when I keep up on it. And it helps to remember this quote by President Julie Beck, former president of our Relief Society organization:

"A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do . . . But with personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently." (to read her whole talk, click here)

But still, it's hard.

So that's a bit of our life right now! (And if you want to see pictures of a lot of what's laid out above, check out all the photos I've posted on Instagram here.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ashton, Idaho - 2014

I thought I'd posted this a while ago - but just found this in my drafts.

We had so much fun with Jared's family this year! We got spend time at the farm twice this past summer - once for the 4th of July weekend, and once for the 24th of July weekend.

Here's the story in photos:

The lighting was so pretty across the fields when we first arrived! So fun to hop out of the car and see this gorgeous view and have cousins right there waiting for us.



The 4th of July was fabulous, as always. The kids decided to decorate their bikes and ride them in the parade this year rather than decorating a truck or a float to ride in.

There was all the usual stuff - horses, four-wheelers, tractors, a few floats - and plenty of candy being thrown out.


I was totally impressed with this couple's festive attire:


 Here are our bikers:

Isaac rode his unicycle the whole way. Seriously impressive.




Some kids wanted to be in the parade and some wanted to watch and get candy. The compromised by being in the parade on the way down the street, then watching the parade on its return journey (parades in Ashton always go both ways - you get to see everything twice!).

They got plenty of candy.


Then it was time for a picnic in the park and the watermellon eating contest. The younger kids went first. Here's Ollie and Si with cousin Logan, strategizing.

 Silas somehow got an extra thick piece.

But he went after it with gusto!

Oliver stored most of his watermelon in his cheeks.

Then it was Liza and Isaac's age group's turn:
 


 Ashton totally won for his age group:



Then the Loosli brothers took the challenge:

Jared won!

Here are the awesome prizes they awarded him:

We had tons of fun out at the Loosli cabin the weekend of the 4th and the 24th:


Eliza skiied all over the place with this stance - she's got some seriously strong legs to be able to do that!



Isaac got really good on the wakeboard:





Oliver got really good on the kneeboard.

Ashton learned to slalom and dock start - he can actually stand there on the dock and start skiing from this position. Amazing.

This is his "yeah, I'm tough, I've got this, and I don't really want you to take a photo" face.
 

Ready to go:


Lots of tubing went on (and there were only a few broken ribs - Jared's poor brother . . .)











There are always a few Uno games going on at the cabin.

It was so fun to see our kids enjoying good conversations and laughs with their older cousins.

Here are all the cousins who were able to make it this year. Such great people - love all these great examples for my kids.






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