Friday, November 30, 2007

Citizens of the world

I just got this wonderful essay that my friend Neylan wrote for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought about her growing up experiences in NYC. As the daughter of an acclaimed Metropolitan Opera star, Ariel Bybee, she grew up surrounded by the best art, music and culture and went to one of the fanciest private schools in the city. Her essay talks about how her unique upbringing helped build her testimony and addresses the issue of how her world. If anyone wants to read her essay which I highly recommend, let me know and I'll send it to you.

Anyway, her essay really got me thinking about what I want my kids to learn and where I want to raise them and I thought you might be interested in the response I wrote to Neylan after reading her essay:

I loved your essay - had to read it right when I got it this morning in the midst of the twins' usual craziness. It was so fun to learn more about your upbringing and your essay helped me solidify my fomerly somewhat softening resolve to keep the arts and the great cities I love a big part of my children's upbringing. We had so much fun on our trip to Boston and NYC and Ashton and Isaac talk about the trip constantly.

Jared and I have always been resolved to raise adventurous children who are excited about the vast array of places and pursuits and possibilities the world has to offer. We want them to be as comfortable hiking and rock climbing in gorgeous places that celebrate God's creations as they are visiting a fine art museum or attending a play to celebrate the creations of mankind. We want them to be as comfortable in the humble homes of their little Hispanic friends from their bilingual school or in the dirt huts of the communities we'll visit in Kenya or Bolivia as they are in the homes of their affluent friends from our ward here and the apartments of our friends in New York or Boston. I loved it the other day when one of Ashton's friends who has a very humble home was playing over here and said "I wish I could live at your house - it's so big and nice and you have a movie theater" and Ashton came right back with, "I wish I could live at your house because you have a dog and really cool board games." I want my kids to appreciate that there are great things about so many situations people live in.

We're trying to raise citizens of the world - and I think that can be done regardless of where you actually live - it's related to the attitudes and mind-set you pass on to your children, to the travel budget you set aside and use to go to places other than a cruise or beach resort or Disneyland (it amazes me how much money people spend on that place again and again when they could mix it up and actually see something real with less money), to the ways you use your weekends to explore your immediate world (we go so many random festivals and events around here - Native American jamborees, nature walks with Park Rangers at the neighboring State Park, an India Indian dance festival which randomly popped up here, every art show at the little St George gallery which actually does some pretty nice stuff...).

When we were in Boston and NYC doing and seeing so many things I love so dearly my heart yearned to be there more but as we watched Noah and Kristi carrying their little McKay in his stroller up and down all the subway stairs in Manhattan and saw them stuffed into their very nice but tiny apartment, I felt glad that we opted for a less urban life for now. We may live here - but my kids will KNOW cities, know and love them.

I guess everyone knows what they've grown up with. Here in St. George we're surrounded by some very good people, many of whom grew up in a typical Mormon suburban environment, some of whom built a live of luxury for themselves from a very humble upbringing (often without the benefit of much education), many of whom have Las Vegas as the one big city they've ever been to, many of whom got married right out of high school and educated themselves primarily through church callings and running "parties" to sell everything from candles to kitchen gadgets to modest clothing. What they want for their families is often a mirror of what they perceive to be good from their own upbringing and a rejection of what they thought of as bad. So many people just want a simple life of soccer on Saturday mornings and movie nights Friday night and kids riding bikes around the neighborhood and doing a good job with callings at church. They haven't seen "more" enough to want more. And I guess that's OK to some extent. But I'm doing all I can do to expose people to the larger world and give them chances to expand their world view even slightly. I have nice art and photos of trips all over the world displayed in my home and people always have questions. I'm always sharing experiences from my schooling and travels with the Young Women I work with. I'm putting together a book group that will read "real" books and a CareerMothers group that will help mothers really think about what they want to help their children learn and become. We're doing a benefit concert where our kids and their friends will perform to raise money for orphans in Bulgaria and I'll tell attendees all about the situation for orphans in Bulgaria and offer them a chance to learn and share. When I volunteer in my kids' classrooms at school, I'm always reading stories about other cultures and helping them do art, etc. So while I don't fully understand a life that is as simple and boring-seeming as the lives of most people around me - I do understand their choices - and I want to do what I can to create a home and a family that is sort of an oasis of culture and perspective and new ideas in this community. And at least for now, that seems right!

So there are some random thoughts for you. Thanks so much for stirring them up with your wonderfully well-written and insightful essay. One thing I get SO tired of here is the fact that not many people care to read or write insightful things or talk much about ideas. But I'm gradually finding some good friends who do get below the surface and that's good - just a long process in a place like this.

Hope your holidays are going well! Love, Saren

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vegas Air Show

HUGE tank and jeep carrier plane that we got to walk through

We found out last-minute an air show going on in Vegas on Saturday so we decided to check it out. It turned out to be pretty darn amazing and we all had a great time. They had planes from every era all the way back to WWI. They did air battle reenactments and aerobatic shows with amazing dizzying manoeuvres done with planes and helicopters and they toped it all off with an amazing display by the Thunderbirds (6 planes that fly in formation and do all these spectacular tricks). Here are the big kids with one of the Thunderbirds:

All airplanes that weren't performing at the moment were on display so we got to walk right up to all the different airplanes and in many cases get onboard them and learn about them. The kids especially loved seeing the helicopter that could fly upside down and that did a bow in the air at the end of its performance and the little red biplane that did dives and spirals and crazy stuff - we couldn't figure out how in the heck the pilot could keep from getting totally disoriented and crashing with all those quick spins and backflips!

Ashton chatting with a fighter pilot
With a D-Day airplane we went inside - used as an ambulance plane during WW II

We finished off the day with a trip to Jared's favorite - In and Out Burger and a trip to my favorite - Trader Joe's. Then we hurried home to hang out with Grandfather a bit and go to dinner with friends.

Then Sunday it was so fun to have Dad around. The kids can never get enough of him. What a guy! He babysat in the afternoon so Jared and I could go do a missionary prep class about the Book of Mormon - fun to present together - we've never really done that before. It was great to pull out my old B of M in Bulgarian and share some experiences from my mission that I haven't thought about for a while. I'm so grateful for the Book of Mormon.
Last night we had such a fun FHE. We made a "blessing box" and everyone wrote down things they're grateful for on slips of paper, then we read all our stuff to each other. We'll keep adding more stuff every day and hopefully fill the box to overflowing by Thanksgiving. The kids got really into it and we loved hearing all the stuff they came up with without any prompting from us. Ashton got a ton and didn't want to stop. Isaac did cute pictures to go with his things and came up with some very creative spelling to write them out. Eliza did pictures and then had us write her things. Here are some of the first things the kids put down:
Ashton: food (pizza), technology, cousins, grandparents
Isaac: cactus froots and floers (cactus fruits and flowers), montins (mountins), scul (school), cusins, Grame (grammie), Granfader (Grandfather)
Eliza: scriptures, shopping with my Mom, our beautiful names, my friends Grayce and Olivia

It was so fun to see their loves come out in what they wrote - and to see the things all the kids put - family being big on everyone's list. And interestingly enough, Ashton, Isaac, Eliza and I all independently put "colors." I do love colors so much. We had so much fun stuffing our box and feeling so grateful!

In other news, Eliza and the other Joy School kids as well as teachers are so excited that Camden is now in Joy School! We had so much fun talking about feelings and doing different facial expressions the first time he came to Joy School at our house. Here are a few of my favorites: (notice Eliza's not in the photos - she was the object lesson for the day - totally grumpy and offering a great example of how one person being grumpy can mess things up for everyone especially herself - she spent a fair amount of the lesson in time out)

Have a great week! Count your blessings!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Beauty, Family and the Gospel

We had a great time this weekend counting our blessings as Jared and I got the chance to go to the Temple Friday night, take the kids to enjoy the amazing beauty of Zion's National Park ablaze with fall leaves on Saturday, and spend the day in SLC on Sunday with a lot of Looslis for the blessing of Aaron and Michelle's new baby Parker. We did a quick surprise visit to Gramme and Grandfather on our way out of town Sunday night and got back to St George at a pretty decent hour, ready to hit the new week. This weekend gave us a chance to really think about some of the most important blessings we have back to back - the blessings of the gospel with all the sacred ordinances and and wonderful traditions it offers, the blessing of immediate and extended family, the blessing of the beauty of nature. Here are a few pictures to sum it all up.

We all love hiking, but the twins LOVE hiking. They skip and gallop along the trail with such glee. They collecting leaves and got really into noticing everything from dead crumbled pieces of leaves to really lovely brightly colored ones with pretty shapes. As we wandered around outside Aaron and Michelle's church yesterday (the twins had to be taken out from Sacrament meeting for wildly climbing over the benches to see cousins and loudly exclaiming over everything in sight - we do occasionally make it through a sacrament meeting but only by actively and constantly entertaining the twins and putting on a pretty good show for everyone around us), Silas plopped down on the church steps and said "Mommy and Olber, let's sit down here and look at all da butiful leafs." He waved his hands up to the sky as he said this - then noticed the leaves on the huge tree we were under were already gone. "Oh wew (well)," he said, "no leafs, just owie sicks!" These guys are talking more and more every day!

One of the big highlights of Zions for the kids was seeing deer - 4 of them - grazing right nearby - then they leaped through the fence and crossed the path right in front of the kids to their great delight. The twins were especially excited. Silas exclaimed "Elephants!" Close, buddy, close.

Isaac and Liza loved holding baby Parker. He's such a cute little guy! It was great to be with so many Looslis and for Jared to be there in the circle to bless Parker. We haven't been able to go to many Loosli baby blessings - and Parker is probably the last or second to last - Aaron and Michelle are the only ones still having kids. Aaron and Michelle fed scores of people at their house after the blessing and the kids had so much fun with their cousins. The weather was amazing and it was just a really nice day. We finished it off with a surprise visit to Mom and Dad and Eli who showered the kids with some quick love and attention and food and we were on our way. What a great bunch of extended family members we have!

Thursday, November 01, 2007



What a Halloween we had! The kids are all old enough to get really excited about everything so this was a very fun year. And they all picked pretty easy costumes so my life was a lot easier leading up to the big day. I feel like we totally covered the celebrating of Halloween this year - last Wednesday was the church Halloween party (my Young Women were in charge of a booth and it turned out great - we did a fun obstacle course), Thursday was the big school Fall Carnival and Reflections Open House (I somehow ended up calling to get volunteers for the event in the midst of everything else and then got stuck at the Pirates of the Carribean Slide for 2 hours or so, taking tickets and dealing with crazy kid pile ups when kids got scared at the top of the slide while Jared dealt with lost twins... the things I do!), Friday was Eliza's Joy School Halloween party, then Saturday was a fun adult Halloween party we put together for a bunch of friends, Monday was pumpkin carving, Tuesday was Liza's preschool Halloween Party (she has preschool AND Joy School this year) and our family Halloween story night, then Wednesday was the big day complete with taking treats to Jared's office, going to the Halloween Parade at the school, doing the Ivins Trunk or Treat and having a great time loading up the candy bags Trick or Treating in the Lanoue's neighborhood with them.

All the kids got really into doing pumpkins this year - nothing like
that feeling of squishy pumpkin innards between your fingers!
Great original designs - kids drew them out and Jared and I
helped them copy their designs exactly onto the pumpkins.
Order: Isaac's, Ashton's, Eliza's
Eliza with her Little Einstein's Preschool friends -
her best friend Olivia was pretty amazing Grinch!
Ashton at the Halloween Parade with Ricky, Avry and Lupe
Isaac with his class ready for the Parade
The twins were so cute in their bear and honey bee outfits. Silas was hilarious running around with this big old stinger wiggling around on his bum and his little tippy toed legs in their black tights looking very insect-like. Oliver was totally adorable in his bear costume and loved saying "grrrrr" to anyone who commented on his bear-ness. Liza skipped along from house to house and totally looked the part of a fairy. All day Tuesday, she kept saying, "Mom, I can't believe TOMORROW is really Halloween - I'm SO excited!" Ashton loved playing the part of the sneaky Ninja and Isaac was the cutest little happy pirate I've ever seen. The neighborhood where we trick or treated was a great area where they were giving out lots of candy and everyone was very pleased with their haul. Our kids and their friends Blake and Kinley were so cute running house to house, helping the twins along (and helping Si get up again and again - he could't see that well with his bee hood and kept falling over and spilling his candy everywhere - but he didn't complain a bit - just worried that all the candy made it back into his pumpkin bucket!). We've got some big kids now!

Here we are in our last-minute pretty lame
Halloween costumes - a bee and a flower - at least we tried!
Jared made almost as cute a bee as Silas. We had a great time playing games and marveling at all the great costumes our friends came up with at our party Saturday night.
To break up the Halloween events, I went to Vegas on Friday to meet up with Mom and Dad who were there for a speech and took them to the huge furniture market there to look at rugs for the new house. We found a gorgeous one that just might work! Jo drove to Vegas with me since he needed to pick up a car there and it was great to have time with him and with Mom and Dad. Plus it was nice to get a break from the kids and leave them with a babysitter for most of the day - sometimes a day away does wonders. I had a chance to have dinner with Mom and Dad in Vegas before hitting Trader Joes and heading home - such a treat to have the two of them to myself for a bit! What wonderful parents we have.

Now - to get caught up on laundry and put away Halloween stuff and clean this dirty dirty house...


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