Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009


Every year I love getting wonderful photos and letters from dear family and friends in the mail. I feel sort of like a free loader that I'm not returning the favor. But I just can't quite find the time or money to send Christmas cards out in the mail now that our list of good friends and family has topped 400 people (8 siblings each, friends from college, grad school, Boston, DC, San Jose, various jobs, etc.). So I do emailed cards.

It still takes plenty of time composing a letter and making a collages of photos that represent our year plus I have to track down a lot of missing email addresses (if you didn't get an emailed Christmas card from me and would like one, please put your email in the comments section and I'll get one right off to you!). But we really do love to connect with the people we love. I hope people don't think I'm terribly cheap and tacky for skipping out on the labor of love that I admire so many people for when it comes to Christmas cards. But I hope our dear friends and family will accept our humble attempt to reach out and share with them via email each Christmas. And my hat is off to those who still manage to get lovely cards in the mail!

Anyway, for anyone whose email I don't have, our Christmas photo collage is above and our Christmas letter is right here:
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Merry Christmas from the Loosli Family
2009 has brought the Loosli family LOTS of:
Hiking and biking: Zion Narrows was a highlight as was a 52-mile bike ride around Bear Lake, the kids and Jared got involved in mountain bike racing and loved it
Community involvement: Neighborhood Board, volunteering at the kids' school, and leading mothers' groups for Saren, entrepreneur groups and business councils for Jared, working with the youth at church for Saren and Jared
Running: Jared ran the St George Marathon and I'm always running somewhere and usually running late...
Music: Ashton's learning the guitar and violin, singing in the school choir and playing percussion, Isaac's learning piano, Eliza and the twins are constantly singing, we've learned a hymn a week
Trips to the ER: Oliver had stitches in his chin 2x and butterfly bandages on his forehead, Eliza had 14 stitches in her forehead, Silas had stitches in his chin. Three of these incidents were within a 9 day period. Really, we're not abusing our children!
New ventures: Saren launched powerofmoms.com and worked to get The Joy School Company really rolling. Jared got an exciting new invention to help trucks be more energy efficient off the ground plus came up with new software to streamline things at his trucking company. Now we've got to figure out how to get some of our new ventures to turn a profit. This year has been about hard work and no pay...
Family events:


  • Funeral: Sadly, Jared's dad passed away in February. We enjoyed celebrating his full and rich life with all the rest of his great posterity.


  • Weddings: Last fall, my brother Talmadge married Anita and our niece Mikalla married Brett


  • Baptisms: Isaac and his two cousins Grace and Aniston were all baptized in Bear Lake last summer; cousin Michael was also baptized


  • Missions: My sister, Charity got home from her mission to England and we've got a niece and a nephew serving in Poland and a niece headed to Cincinnati next month
Pioneer stories and experiences: Jared and I headed up a youth group on a Pioneer Trek last summer and we learned so much
Pets: We had a horny toad, a really cool gopher snake, and several frogs and lizards. The rule is that if you can catch it, you can have it for a pet (for a few months). Right now we're pet-less but the kids are working on catching a rabbit – there are about a million wild rabbits around here right now.
Travel: NYC for my brother Tal's wedding and our 11th anniversary, the Bay Area for Spring Break, Bear Lake and Ashton Idaho to be with family for family events and a big chunk of the summer
Art: We visited several museums and did quite a few art projects, exploring different mediums. Eliza won the Reflections Art Contest for her watercolor of a sunset at the regional level and we'll see how she does at the state level now.
Visitors: I think we're up to about 100 house guests this year – if you count all the kids and all the repeats. We love it – mostly!
Uncertainty: After a couple hard years of trying to ride out the storms that the flailing economy has thrown at Jared's trucking company, we've come to the realization that we need to move on. As of January 1st, Jared's officially done with MG Trucklines. We've got lots of ideas, contacts and projects to pursue but we're gearing up for some uncertainty for a while. Should be an adventure!
We're excited (and nervous) about all that 2010 will bring!
Thank you for your friendship and examples. We're so grateful for all our family and friends. We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Love,
The Loosli Family
Jared, Saren, Ashton (10 in January), Isaac (8), Eliza (almost 7), Oliver and Silas (5 in January)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Bike Ride

So a couple weeks ago, Silas decided to join the ranks of official bike riders in our family by putting away his training wheels. He was a natural. Check him out here:



And here's his interview with the press following his triumph:



Oliver was a little less excited about the whole no-training-wheels thing. It took him a while to warm up to the idea. Then yesterday, he decided he was ready and after spending a few minutes outside with Jared, he came bursting in the house to tell me he could do it and demanded an "Eyre Fire" on the spot (our family cheer that we got from the family I grew up in). I went out and watched him and he did great! He insisted that we all do the Eyre Fire cheer several times while watching him ride his bike. Somehow, it didn't occur to me to record his first bike ride. What kind of mom am I? But it looked pretty much exactly the same as Silas's first bike ride so if you saw that video, you're all good.

Oh these little guys are so much fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Concert Success!

After all my moaning and groaning about all the work and stress involved in the Children for Children concert and all my worries about whether I was stressing other families out asking them to participate in a fundraiser this year when they're already strapped financially, our concert on Monday night turned out to be the best ever.

Ashton started things off and did a great job explaining the purpose of the concert - that kid is good on his feet. Then we watched a beautiful music video that fit the evening perfectly - all about making room for the Savior at Christmas and doing all we can to serve others (thanks for sending me this video, Jo! Click here if you want to watch it). We had lots of cute kids share their talents (everything from singing Silent Night with sign language to doing lip synchs to playing chimes). The Nativity play at the end turned out to be quite lovely. The kids remembered their lines and did everything on cue plus our neighbor kindly allowed her newborn baby girl to star as Baby Jesus and having a real baby made it extra special for the kids and the audience.

I love how the kids are so focused on Baby Jesus in this one

While the kids went and enjoyed their refreshments at the end, we showed videos of the orphans in Bulgaria and photos of the kids in India and Africa to everyone who hadn't had a chance to see this stuff at the kids' rehearsal the night before. There weren't a lot of dry eyes. What beautiful little children who need so much!

Anyway, there was such a feeling of caring and sharing in our home. What a beautiful evening.

When everyone left, the kids were really excited to unwrap the donation box and see how much money they got for their "friends" in Bulgaria and India and Africa. I told the kids we probably wouldn't get that much this year since most of the people we know are having hard times - but even a couple hundred dollars would be good (especially since it would be matched by the Eyrealm Foundation so anything we raised would be doubled).

But as we pulled out lots of $20 bills, we started getting excited. Maybe we'd have a pretty sizeable donation after all! Then Ashton pulled out some checks - one for $50 - yeah! Then one for $150 - wow! Then wait, hold everything, no way - one for $1000! We all had to read the check several times to make sure we'd read it right. Yep. $1000. The kids' eyes were huge and round and sparkly and we just sat there in silence for a second. No way. We raised almost $1500 this year!!!

There was pure glee in the air as we talked about all the warm blankets and good food this money would buy for the orphans and all the wells we could build for the kids in Mozambique and all the great stuff my sister Charity would be able to do for the leper children in India with this money when she goes there next month. The kids had to call Charity right away and tell her how much money we got for India (and she jumped up and down and squealed with glee, much to the kids' enjoyment). They had to call Grammie and Grandfather (my parents) who made up the idea for this Children for Children concert back when I was a kid. They had to call my sister Shawni and her kids who were doing a Children for Children concert the same night and see how their concert went. (It went very well - click here if you want to check it out.)

I wish the wonderful people who put in the $1000 could have been there to see the excitement and joy they provided to my family on Monday night. And I wish all the kids and donors could see the wonderful things that this money will do for children in such destitute conditions. After our donation is doubled, we'll be able to give $1000 to each of our three causes. And I was hoping for maybe $100 per cause this year...

OK, OK, I got the message, this is worthwhile. This is the highlight of our Christmas. I'm not going to complain about doing this concert ever again. There's nothing in the world like seeing your kids genuinely rejoice about something that someone else is getting. There's nothing like really making room for the Savior at Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Concert Prep Craziness

So tonight we had our rehearsal for our 3rd annual "Children for Children" concert where the kids and their friends perform a concert for their parents and other friends to raise money to help needy children. I had 25 kids (most of them small boys) here for a practice for the Nativity play for the finale of tomorrow's Concert. I've mostly lost my voice trying to talk over them all to explain the needs of the orphans and the kids in India and Africa and somehow wrangle them into some semblance of a non-wrestling-focused Nativity scene. Why do I get myself into these things??? Hopefully tonight's crazy rehearsal will make tomorrow's concert somewhat more manageable than it would be otherwise. But wow, I'm totally drained. And I've got to get myself psyched up to pull off the concert tomorrow!

If you happen to want to know more about the causes we're supporting this year with our concert, we're trying to:
  • help provide food and care for destitute orphans in Bulgaria (click here to see the organization I work closely with in Bulgaria - all the money goes directly to helping these sweet kids that I've actually met),
  • raise money to send my sister, Charity over to India to work with the children of lepers (click here to learn more about the organization she'll be helping and see the cute kids she'll work with - she leaves in January)
  • help to build wells in villages in Mozambique in conjunction with work that my brother Talmadge and his wife Anita are doing there (click here to learn more about the organization and families they're working with).
We've raised $700 or $800 in the past with this little concert (and that money is always matched 100% by my family's foundation -the Eyrealm Foundation- so we actually get to give double the amount that the kids "earn" through their concert). This year, however, we're anticipating fairly slim contributions as everyone is struggling. Still, every little big helps and the organizations we're helping can make a little money go a long long way (they have very little overhead and work in countries where things are pretty cheap). Plus when every dollar given gets doubled, that really helps!

It's great being able to give to worthy causes, but most of all, I guess I put myself through all this stress every year because there's nothing like the look on my kids' faces as we count up the money they've "earned" through this concert. They get so excited about giving to others who they feel they've come to know a little bit through photos and stories, kids just like them who have so much less than they do, kids whose lives they can actually help to change for the better. There's nothing like seeing their eyes go round and sparkly as we add up the loose change and dollar bills and occasional checks in the donation box and talk about all the warm blankets and good food and good times their "friends" in other countries will be able to have thanks to the money they hold in their hands. Caring and sharing - THIS is what Christmas is all about.

I think my favorite moment ever as a parent was as I was tucking Ashton in bed after the first Children for Children concert we did 3 years ago. We'd just counted all the money and talked about how we had earned enough to not only pay for new windows and blankets in a horribly dilapidated orphanage I'd visited the previous year, but we even had enough to buy the orphans some simple Christmas presents. Ashton gave me a big hug (he's not usually a hugger) and said, "Mommy, this is the best day of my whole life! I can't WAIT for the orphans to get our money!"

If anyone out there in the blog world wants to give to a good cause, the ones above are really good places to put your money. And if you want to donate as part of our group, the Eyrealm Foundation will match the money you donate and your money will be doubled which is always nice.

I'll let you know how tomorrow night goes. Keep your fingers crossed and your prayers said that this thing will come together somehow and that it will be a really good experience for the kids (and maybe even for me too!).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Insecure Musings

Do you ever wonder what other people think of you? I used to be quite constantly consumed with this question back in high school and it continued to hop into my mind a fair amount in college. On my mission in Bulgaria, the question faded quite dramatically - it's quite a challenge to worry about what others think of you when you're so busy trying to help so many people with serious needs. Then, while I lived in DC and Boston after Bulgaria, I think I really came into my own and felt pretty comfortable with who I was. I felt good about myself and stopped worrying - and I think that made me a pretty cool person. And while being a pretty cool person and getting lots of good vibes from people around me, I further shed my worries about what people thought of me.

Then I got married and the identity shift involved in that threw me for a bit of a loop. Who was I now that I was intertwined with someone else? What did people think of US?

But before I could worry much about any of that, I became a mother and while working part time and having child after child, I was too busy dealing with 100 things at once to find a moment to ponder what other people thought of me. It was a busy, crazy time but being needed so much is a great cure for insecurity.

But now that I'm coming out of a very long period of functioning primarily in crisis mode, the question pops up in my mind again here and there. What do I look like to people? Do I look as frumpy as I often feel? Do people notice that a spend about 10 minutes on my hair and makeup (when I spend any time on it at all)? Do people notice my flabby post-twins tummy as much as I think they must? Do other people notice the wrinkles that seem to have quite suddenly appeared around my eyes? What do I seem like to people? What do I seem stressed out and overextended? Do I seem warm and kind or aloof and uninterested? Do people feel like they can relate to me or am the oddity that I often feel I am here in St George? (When it somehow comes out that I went to Harvard, I seem to be put quickly into the "different" or even "alien" category in many people's minds.) Do I seem like a good mother? Do people read this blog and think, "What in the world is she doing going to get a Christmas tree when she's got a sick child?" or "Why does she run websites and do all these things in the community instead of focusing more fully on her kids?" or "Why is she so selfishly focusing on her own family so much when she could be using her talents to help the larger world a lot more?"

I've always been quite introspective and I'm always taking stock of how I'm doing and what I could do better. It's helpful when there are outside influences offering feedback - performance reviews at work, friends and family who tell you what they think, etc. But in my current life as a mom, it's hard to find benchmarks or outside feedback. It's just me and the kids a lot of the time. I get called a "mean mom" sometimes and "the best mom in the world" occasionally. But how do I really look to the kids? Sometimes I get a glimpse of what they see when they look at me - and sometimes I like those glimpses, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I get a friend or neighbor thanking me for something or I feel the need to check myself based on some comment I've heard.

Does it matter what anyone else thinks? I was brought up with the quote: "See how the masses of men worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there, some great, unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality." So is the key to success in life wrapped up in willing yourself not to worry about what anyone else thinks? Or are the opinions of others helpful?

OK, rambling here, I know. Better stop thinking about thinking and go watch the "garage band show" Ashton just announced that he and the twins have put together downstairs.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas Tree Adventure

So we've got a beautiful big fresh-cut Christmas tree standing in our house. It'll take a few days to get it decorated since the lights alone are quite a production on a 12 foot tree. But it's here. And after all we went through on Saturday to get the thing, we're happy with even a naked tree right now.

It's always an adventure treking up to the mountains to cut our tree but this year turned out to be the longest, most complicated and grossest tree expedition yet!

Stop here if you're quite squeamish about throwing up...

Now, you have to know that we've had the stomach flu going on around here this week. Last Wednesday night, Jared and I woke up to Eliza crying over a barf-filled bowl. We were proud of her for using a bowl but a bit confused why she had a bowl downstairs. Oh well. After getting her cleaned up and tucked back in, just as we were getting back to sleep, we heard more strange sounds and thought it was Eliza again. Nope. It was Oliver throwing up all over his bed. Nice. Jared and had a hard time holding it down ourselves as we cleaned up that one. We got him showered up and got his bed all fresh and clean, put a bowl by his bed, explained the finer points of what to do when you get that bad feeling in your tummy (use the BOWL, not the BED) and went back to bed again, wondering who'd be next. But nothing else happened. Everyone woke up feeling fine. We did find out the mystery of the bowl Eliza used being downstairs. Isaac had thrown up earlier in the night (in the toilet, thankfully) and had brought that bowl down there to keep by his bed. He'd used it a couple more times and then left in the bathroom for Eliza to find and use. Yuck. We hadn't heard a thing from Isaac who felt he was man enough to handle his own sickness in the middle of the night. Poor guy.

So I kept Isaac, Liza, Oliver and Silas (he hadn't been sick at all but probably had some germs going on) home for the day. They all seemed perfectly well but we didn't want to spread any germs. We were grateful the sickness had passed in just a few hours for each kid. We played games and read Christmas stories and it was a very nice day. Ashton felt totally great so he went to school.

I got a mild version of this stomach bug and felt a little queasy all day Friday (so we had a nice movie afternoon since that was all I was up for) but it was over quickly. Then when he came upstairs Saturday morning, Ashton informed me he'd been up in the night throwing up. Darn. Oh well, he'll be fine in a couple hours if he's like everyone else, I thought. I had him lay down for a while. Then when Jared got back from the scout food drive, we sorted through all the snow clothes for our mountain tree trek, did a little Saturday cleaning and loaded everyone in the car (along with tons of canned food from the drive) and delivered the food to the food bank.

Then we realized we should really take the other car to the mountains even though the roads were clear. So we went back home and got Jared's car and moved all the snow clothes into that car and reloaded everyone and headed out again.

As we were headed out of town, Ashton frantically announced he was going to throw up. Jared quickly pulled over, but since Ashton had seemed totally fine when we loaded the car and since we were in a hurry, we hadn't really thought to put Ashton in a place in the car where throwing up would be convenient. Ashton was in between Silas and Liza in the back seat and as soon as we pulled over, he reached over Silas to get the door open and hop out. Well, Jared's good old car has one door that won't open from the inside and you guessed it, Ashton needed to get out that very door very quickly. While Ashton frantically tried to get the door open and I frantically tried to get my seatbelt off to get out and open the door from the outside, things just didn't work out. Silas and the window and door by Silas ended up covered in throw up before I could wrench that door open and let Ashton out. Oh yuck. Ashton got out and emptied the rest of his stomach and we mopped up Silas the best we could with random snow clothes while Silas wailed - poor guy. No wet wipes - those were in the other car. No extra clothes - we always keep extra clothes in the van. We rolled down the windows and headed back home - for the second time.

I'll spare you the details of clean up when we got home. Ashton and Silas took showers and lots of clothes went into the washing machine and everyone was grateful Ashton hadn't eaten anything that day so there were no chunks involved. Jared's car is now cleaner than it has been in a long, long time.

A while later, we set out to get our Christmas tree for the third time (this time without Ashton who said he felt great but needed a nap). Are we crazy or what? But when else were we going to get this tree? We couldn't go on a week day because of work and school and the need for daylight for this project. The kids were dying that we didn't have a tree yet and the thought of waiting until next Saturday was just too sad. We thought about a tree lot tree and I even considered the beautiful ease of a fake tree for a minute or two - but the expense of either of those options is prohibitive (especially since we already paid for a tree cutting permit) and once you've cut yourself a beautiful tree in the beautiful snowy mountains, it's hard to do anything else... So we headed to the mountains. And it was beautiful up there. And Ashton was fine. The kids loved the snow for a bit and then cried that their toes and fingers were cold since we're all such wimps living in St George. But we found a beautiful tree and it's in our living room and I guess all's well that ends well.

But Jared was sick all day yesterday - that tummy bug finally got him and it got him longer and worse than anyone else. Thankfully, he's fine today and he's on his way to SLC for meetings up there. Silas seems to be the only one who's escaped this sickness. I keep asking him if he feels OK and watching his eating but he really seems fine. Random - but nice that someone made it through!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thanksgiving

We had quite a houseful for Thanksgiving! Two great families - the Ransoms and the Tophams - joined us for almost 4 days of hiking, biking, talking, playing and eating to celebrate Thanksgiving. The weather was perfect and we fell in love with St George all over again as we showed our friends some favorite spots.

Jared went to school at MIT with Derek Ransom who was the best man at our wedding. I went to school with Kim Topham at Wellesely. Janessa Ransom went to Harvard with Dave Topham. We knew both couples, as individuals and then as couples, back in our Boston days. Then the two families ended up living in the same neighborhood in Alpine Utah and it's so nice to have our friends in easy driving distance now. Our collective 14 children thoroughly enjoy each other and match up really well age-wise. We're grateful for good friends and great Boston memories and all the new memories we're building together.

Our Thanksgiving feast was extra grand with the best recipes from three different families coming together. We were all so anxious to eat by the time dinner was ready on Thanksgiving that I didn't snap a photo of the main meal or the beautiful array of food - shoot. But above is a photo of the kids enjoying their pie. We had so much food that we were able to have a full second Thanksgiving dinner the following day. And on Sunday, after our guests left, we were able to make one more meal out of the final leftovers. The kids were delighted that we got to feast for 3 days like the pilgrims did at the original Thanksgiving.

Wii tournament - the four-year-olds were pretty darn serious about the whole thing

Here are the dads (and little Pierce)

Petroglyph hike - always a favorite

Jared, Derek and Dave got some great mountain biking in and we did a big group bike ride to the sand dunes. Kim, Janessa and I went out for a great girls night out - nothing like great food and excellent conversation with bright and interesting women.

We really couldn't have hoped for a better few days. In the midst of plenty of stress for me with getting Learning Circles up at The Power of Moms and way too much stress for Jared as he deals with near-daily crises at work while trying to keep his company afloat, it was nice to drop everything else and just enjoy family and friends and nature and good food for a few days. We're so blessed in so very many ways.




Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grateful for Cilia that Work in the Usual Way

Have you ever wondered what your cilia do? Do you even know what your cilia are? I still don't exactly get how these little hair-like things work, but my sister, Shawni and her family along with our who extended family now know way more about cilia. Shawni's sweet little Lucy has a very rare genetic disorder that was diagnosed this past year. To add some new things to your list of what you're especially grateful for this Thanksgiving (and find a really great and easy Christmas gift idea), click on the link below to read the following information my mom put together (and see photos of my cute niece Lucy):

The I Love Lucy Project

Thank You Notes

So this year we started a new Thanksgiving tradition. Last week at Family Home Evening, we talked about all the people we're grateful for - from grandparents to teachers to garbage men. Then I pulled out all these thank you notes I have over from my wedding (sometimes things you save for 11 years actually do come in handy) and we all wrote thank you notes to the people who we're grateful for. The notes were simple and the little kids drew cute pictures. We had the older kids write at least one specific thing they were thankful for about the person they were writing to so the note could be more meaningful. It was a great exercise for them to have to think through what other people do for them and what they're specifically thankful for. I wrote some thank you notes too. I do thank you emails to people quite a bit - but a real handwritten note in the mail can be a nice thing once in a while. The kids complained a bit about the writing but once they got into it, everyone seemed to realize it wasn't too hard. And when they gave those notes out to teachers at school and teachers at church and various other people they're thankful for, they were so excited.

Another thing we've been doing to really get into Thanksgiving has been working on our prayers. The kids have really been in a rut lately with saying the same things in every prayer. I challenged them to start thanking the Lord for at least 3 specific things in each prayer between now and Thanksgiving. We've had to start quite a few prayers over to break out of some ruts - but it's been great to take the time to really work on our gratitude on our prayers lately.

I know all this extra focus on gratitude has certainly made me happier and it seems there's a happier feeling in our home. To a large degree, the extent to which we are grateful determines the extent to which we are happy.

In the spirit of all this, I sat down with Silas the other day and told him all the things I'm grateful for about him. I counted them off on his fingers, telling him a great thing about him as he held up each of his 10 fingers. My dad used to do this with me when I was a little girl and it made me feel so special. When I got done, Silas was beaming. Then he said it was his turn to tell me all the things he was grateful for about me. As he held up one of my fingers at a time, he told me these 10 things: (I had to stifle a few laughs and had to go write everything down quickly before I forgot.)
From Silas:
  • You're weawy good at giving me a kiss every morning.
  • You're weawy good at drawing your name. (he's been working on writing his name and I guess he's realizing that writing your name is quite a feat)
  • You're weawy good at turning on switches for the lights because you're weawy tall.
  • You have great eye sight. (I actually have horrible eye sight. Not sure where this one came from!)
  • You give me hugs.
  • You're good at planting plants and digging holes for plants. (I did have Silas help me with a bunch of pruning and planting last year - I guess he has fond memories of my occasional feeble gardening attempts - interesting to see what leaves an impression)
  • You are weawy weawy weawy excewunt at building our house with Jonah. (interesting he'd remember that my brother Jonah and I did a bunch of touch-up projects around the house before he moved)
  • You are weawy excewunt on drawing.
  • You are weawy weawy weawy weawy excewunt at telling stories.
  • As Silas finished his cute, random list, Oliver and Eliza came in and insisted on taking a turn as well. I can't turn that down!
From Oliver:
  • You're good at looking up stuff that I want you to do
  • You take me to school
  • Sometimes mommy and me have a mommy howidate (trying to say a combo of holiday and date?)
  • You're good at reading us magazines and the Friend
  • I like when she takes me in the car wash with the car
  • You're good at helping our friends
  • You're good at making toast and pancakes
From Eliza:
  • You're really good at typing fast
  • You're good at being a really good mom
  • You're good at noticing nature and pointing it out
  • You're good at art
  • You are a really good cook and give us vegetables so we're healthy
  • You read us really good books
  • You tell us stories about when you were a kid
  • You take us to museums and help me notice every detail so I can learn to paint really good
  • You drive me to school and give me after school snacks
  • You take pictures of us
  • You take us on lots of hikes
I hope you don't think I'm sharing this to say how great I am or how great my kids think I am. I'm recording this because 1) I want to remember what my kids think is great about me so it can strengthen me on the hard days, and 2) I want to remember how good it feels to express gratitude and hear others express gratitude for me.

I'm so grateful for gratitude!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gratitude

Lately I've been going off on how grateful I am for beauty and I've put a lot of stuff on here about how grateful I am for the twins. As Thanksgiving gets nearer, I want to take a minute to list some of the other things I'm so very grateful for in my life right now (in no particular order):
  • Changing seasons. Even here in the desert, we get to see the light soften and the colors pop as the cooler weather and shorter days set in. We get to enjoy perfect hiking and biking weather most of the fall, winter and spring and then great swimming weather all summer. Plus we get snow once or twice a year - enough for a quick snowman in the morning - not enough to settle on the pavement or last more than a few hours. Perfect! And I love how the different seasons bring different traditions - Bear Lake and the Farm in the summer with all the cousins plus swim time with friends down at the pool almost every day when we're in town, pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup and pumpkin cookies all October and November, all the great stuff that comes with Thanksgiving and Christmas, bunnies everywhere in the wash behind our house to usher in the Easter season...
  • My kids. They are SO fun right now. They all have their moments but I really wish I could bottle them up and keep them right where they are for a few years or so. They're all young enough to still have that excited wonder about the world around them and that lovely belief that their parents still know pretty much everything. But they're all old enough to do all sorts of fun things. I took them all to our little art museum here the other day and all five really got into the things I was pointing out about art (and for the first time in a museum that isn't a children's museum, I wasn't on edge every second about them touching something they shouldn't touch - they're becoming quite well-behaved!) and then we spend over an hour in the kids' corner of the museum, painting and creating art - everyone old enough (and young enough) to thoroughly enjoy themselves.
  • My husband. I was shopping for the 20+ people we'll have here for Thanksgiving weekend and encountered lines that were WAY too long for the time I had to shop while the twins were at preschool. I was faced with being VERY late to pick them up or leaving everything and having to somehow squeeze in a trip later on back to the other side of town to shop all over again. Jared graciously agreed to do the preschool pick up even though he was having a very crazy day of his own. I'm so very blessed to have a husband who is always so willing to do whatever I ask him to do. He is the most helpful, patient, unselfish person I've ever known. And I get to be married to him. (and he's so handsome he still takes my breath away sometimes.)
  • The Gospel. As we go through hard things and need the truth of the Gospel and the help of the Lord so deeply and as we experience joy and love heightened by having someone to thank, I am so grateful for the truths I hold dear.
  • Income. As so many people around us loose jobs and as houses around us go through foreclosure, we're so grateful for a fairly steady income that covers our basic needs (as long as we're quite careful!).
  • Cookies. I just love love love love them. Partly because they're the best dessert and only sugary thing worth eating in my book but also because they represent 100's or maybe even 1000's of gatherings with my family. My sister or I made cookies almost every day after school when we were in high school. She took public transportation, making several connections, from Boston University out to Wellesley College to make cookies with me (among other things) at least once a week while we were both in college. My brother Jonah joined in the cookie baking and mastered the art of the perfect cookie and while he lived next door to me, he used to bring me a plate full of nice fresh ones when I needed them most. Everyone in my family makes cookies for any other family member coming to visit. I remember so many times arriving at a sibling's home late at night after a long day of travel and finding that plate of cookies waiting. Warm cookies and warm hearts go hand in hand in my family. I think cookies would be much better than pie for desert at Thanksgiving dinner but I'll bow to tradition.
  • The pilgrims. I love sharing the story of their courage and conviction with my kids every Thanksgiving and love counting my blessings that I didn't have to endure a rocky sea voyage, build my own home and grow my own food in a scary new world before enjoying a Thanksgiving feast.
  • The Indians. I love thinking of their kindness to help these strange-seeming pilgrims and save them from starvation.
  • The Power of Moms. I've been working so hard the past few weeks to get our new Learning Circles program up and running. There have been times when I have resented this work and wondered what in the world I'm doing trying to help other mothers be the mothers they want to be when I'm not 1/2 the mother that I want to be - especially when I'm so busy working on other projects. But as I work with really inspiring other moms and examine my own life as a mother while preparing materials to help other mothers do the same, I realize this is what I need. I'm a better mother when I'm working to be a good mom not just for myself and for my family but also for all the other moms out there who might benefit from the resources and ideas that have helped me
  • My parents. They are amazing. I'm so blessed to call them my greatest advisors and cheerleaders and exemplars.
  • My extended family. I'm so blessed to honestly like all my siblings and their spouses and kids as well as Jared's wonderful mother, siblings, spouses and kids. I know this is rare. I know I am so blessed. I'm so glad I married into a family so much the same as mine in some important ways (devotion to the gospel, devotion to family) and so very different from mine at the same time. I learn so much from all of them.
  • Vegetables. I just love vegetables more and more and more (and like meat less and less and less). Vegetables are so beautiful and so tasty and they just make me feel so good. I'm so grateful that so many more fresh and flavorful vegetable options exist now than did when I was growing up - we were pretty much confined to canned corn, frozen peas or frozen mixed veggies, iceburg lettuce with pink, pulpy, tasteless tomatoes and ranch or thousand island. I grew up thinking vegetables weren't that good. But then I went on a mission to Bulgaria where all they had were fresh-from-the-garden veggies and wow - vegetables took on a whole new meaning to me. There's nothing like a vine-ripened garden tomato or a baby spinach salad with pears and poppyseed dressing or those french beans they have at Costco that you can just steam and eat with a little salt. Or edamame - yum. And sauted onions and peppers with a little chili powder thrown in wrapped up in a freshly cooked tortilla. And avacados. I'll stop now.
The kids are home from school so I'll stop for today. But I'm feeling so happy and blessed after making this beginning of a list!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lunch with the Twins

I took the time today to really sit down and talk with the twins at lunchtime. Usually I'm throwing food on their plates and urging them to hurry and eat while I try to cram in a bite or two myself so we can rush off to the next appointment. But I sat down with them and let them lead the conversation and we had a lovely lunch. Here's a little snippet of our conversation (they were at preschool this morning - you can tell the theme for the preschool lesson today from this):

Silas: Did you know the pilgrims had a boat named the Mayflower?
Me: Oh, was it really a flower?
Silas: No, silly, it was a BOAT but they NAMED it the Mayflower because that's a pretty name.
Oliver: They had to go on that boat because they only had BAD churches in their world so they wanted to go to a new world.
Silas: But at that new world there were NO houses and NO grocery stores and NO churches at all (with big hand gestures).
Me: So what did they do?
Oliver: They had to build everything.
Me: Was that hard?
Silas: Well, they had no food.
Me: So what did they do?
Oliver: Their Nagift American friends had to help them.
Me: Oh, their Indian friends?
Oliver: No - their NAGIFT American friends.
Silas: And they had a big big party with their friends after they got all the food. And that's how Thanksgiving was born!

Then we jumped right into a discussion about Star Wars light sabers followed by a little information about how a girl named Ella was having problems listening in preschool today. They talked about how yummy pickles are and had a good chuckle about how silly I was to forget to take off my shoes when we came in the house after preschool.

I love how these guys put things together in their minds!

The other day, we were talking about what words are polite words (they've been learning about the magic words in Joy School). After suggesting several polite words, Oliver said, "Some words that are NOT polite are square words. Square words are BAD." I agreed wholeheartedly. No square words allowed around here.

I need to take the time to just really listen to these sweet wonderful boys of mine more often. They're growing up too fast!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beauty

This is the view from my back porch right now.

I've heard a lot of theories about what it might be like when we die and meet our Maker. Some say He'll ask us about our important roles as parents and siblings and daughters and sons. Some think He'll ask about how we fulfilled our callings or what we did with the talents and blessings He gave us. But the most interesting thought I've heard came from a friend of my dad who has an interesting outlook on a whole lot of things. He thinks God will ask us questions like "So, what did you think of those mountains outside your window all those years?" or "What did you think of those sunsets?" or "What were some of your favorite trees?" This friend went on to say that he suspects a lot of people will be sort of confused and stammer out something in response, but that the pure in heart will have great answers since appreciation of God's creations should go hand in hand with knowing and appreciating God Himself.

This response has stuck with me since I heard it years and years ago. And I guess it stuck with my parents as well since they raised us to notice and appreciate nature all the time. As I got older and noticed that many people around me didn't seem to have the same awe and excitement about nature that I did, I was sort of surprised. How could they not notice such wonderful treats for the eyes that could brighten their days and re-confirm God's love for them? How could they go about their daily business and not even seem to see the beauty around every corner? I guess we all notice what we've been taught to notice, so it makes sense that many people don't think about nature all that much.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I am SO grateful for the beauty that surrounds me here in St George. I can't get enough of the way Red Mountain glows so richly when the light first hits it each morning (I can see it from my bed - how blessed am I?). I rejoice in the rare and wonderful smell of rain in the desert, the way the rain deepens the colors, and the amazing rainbows we see so often. I marvel at the blue, blue, blue skies against the terra cotta of hills or the green green grass of the golf courses when its next to the red dirt. I can't help but point out all the golden and red leaves I see (got to treasure the signs of fall you can find here in the desert!). And the sunsets lately - wow! The vibrant pinks fading to gray-purple fading to a gentle glow. Don't even get me started on the stars - they are SO bright here with all these light-pollution ordinances - somehow they seem closer when they are so bright.

Nature helps me feel God's love so deeply and gives me such joy. I hold myself back from posting too many nature photos and nature descriptions but I just had to share this today.
This is the view out the window in my bedroom right now. I love how this window frames this tree so well.
Here are some cottonwood trees in the wash behind the house. This picture doesn't really do them justice - I wish you could see them shimmer with gold in the late afternoon sun. I had a dream the other night that some guy came through with a bulldozer and took out these trees and I was so mad I woke up shaking. I guess I really love these trees.


This was the sunset last night.

Here's another sunset - same place, totally different look.

P.S. Now it's Friday and it rained all night and we woke up to the most beautifully drenched colors outside our windows. The twins burst into our room at 7:30 this morning saying "A RAINBOW! A RAINBOW!" A rainbow is always a cause for celebration around here. We all hung out on the back porch to watch it get brighter, then dimmer, then finally fade away all together. I think we're all going to have a very good day (even though it is Friday the 13th. But then Jared and I went on our first date on a Friday the 13th so it's always a favorite with me.) Here's a glimpse of the beautiful scene God gave us as a nice little surprise this morning. It was cute to hear Silas thank God for the rainbow three times in his prayer at breakfast!

Can you see the rainbow shadow? It was a full double rainbow. Wish I could have got a shot showing the whole thing but I couldn't get back far enough.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Quick Flashback to Bear Lake and Ode to the Twins

My sister Saydi is an amazing photographer. We were hanging out at the beach late one afternoon last summer and the light was so beautiful. I asked her to snap a few shots of these beautiful boys of mine and she got some gorgeous stuff! She sent these photos to me last week and I just had to share them. They make me miss Bear Lake. They make me cherish these boys of mine all the more. Thank you Saydi!!!

Click on the photos to see them bigger - they look much better bigger but I still haven't figured out how to make photos bigger on my blog. One of these days I'll remember to ask Shawni or Saydi how to do it....

All summer, the twins and their cousins Charlie and McKay who are just a year younger than them were enamored with this tractor that my dad uses to launch the boat. They spent hours on end pretending to drive that thing.



Oh, I wish I could freeze time for a while and keep Oliver and Silas just as they are. They are SO much fun right now. They are always playing these great make-believe games (mostly about rocket ships and dogs). They love pretending that they are dogs going to a birthday party - not sure where they got that one! They spent most of the afternoon today playing with the cell phones that Eliza made for them - she just drew some buttons and a screen (complete with a space alien game drawn in - she knows what her brothers like!) on paper and cut out a "phone" for each boy. I loved hearing the conversations they had with each other. And they called me as well. At the end of his conversation with me, Oliver said, "Bye! I hope you love me!" I guess he hears me end so many phone calls with "See ya, love ya" and somehow came up with "I hope you love me" instead. I sure do love you, Ollie!

Another quick story: A couple days ago, Oliver was having a hard morning. He spilled his milk all over at breakfast and then was totally sad and mad when Silas finished putting away the silverware from the dishwasher without him. I tried to snap Oliver out of it and get the morning moving a long by suggesting they have a race to get dressed. Oliver got a head start and I was feeling relieved that maybe he could win this little race and feel a little better about his life for a while. But Silas came in and really hurried and was in the lead before long. Silas looked over and noticed Oliver's increasing distress as he couldn't get his arm through the inside-out armhole of his shirt and slowed down a little to let Ollie catch up. Silas pulled his own arm back into his shirt, waited until Ollie finally got his arm through, stuck his own arm into his sleeve simultaneously and jubilantly declared, "It's a tie!" Both boys were smiling from ear to ear. It's watching moments like that that make motherhood the best job in the world.

These guys go to kindergarten next year. What in the world will I do without them? Well, I have a pretty good idea of what I'll do - delve deeper into the 100 projects I've got going on but never really have time to finish. But I'll miss them so much!

After Two Hours of Stake Conference today...

We were enriched and uplifted and happy!

For the past 9 years or so (since Ashton was born), I haven't exactly been excited to go to Stake conference. With several babies and toddlers squirming and squealing even with vigilant entertainment from me and Jared, those twice-yearly two hour-long Stake Conference meetings just haven't been very enriching. We were there because we were being obedient and I'm sure we got some points in Heaven. I'd TRY to glean what I could from the doubtless wonderful stuff the speakers were saying. But somehow, the biggest thing I usually left Stake Conference with was gratitude that it was over for another 6 months.

Sundays have been pretty darn hard for about 9 years, Stake Conference or not. Those hour-long Sunday Sacrament meetings were never a piece of cake with several little kids. Getting to church was such a crazy scramble of getting everyone ready and getting a bag packed with quiet toys and treats and bottles and diapers and wipes and pacifiers that I was already a nervous wreck by the time we got to church. There were the Sundays when Isaac would spit up all over everything, the Sundays when we were on eggshells wondering if Eliza's colic would act up and she'd be screaming non-stop, the Sundays when the twins weren't yet old enough for nursery but weren't young enough to sit or sleep through church on a lap or in their carry-car seat and I'd spend the full 3 hours of church chasing them (with an occasional "break" to go teach a class while Jared took over the chasing).

Those were hard days. I have to admit there were plenty of Sundays when I wandered the halls with babies and toddlers wondering why we even bothered going to church. But we did. We kept going. We kept trying new ways to get through and gain something. We kept gleaning whatever tidbits of strength and learning we could from the snippets of lessons and talks that we heard and grabbing whatever whisperings of the Spirit that edged into our busy brains. We went because we needed the blessings and because we were raised to go to church every Sunday. We went because as hard as church was, the alternative of skipping church and trying to get through the next week without the strength that church still somehow offered seemed much harder.

Three years ago, when the twins turned 18 months and started being able to go to nursery, Jared and I were SO excited! Now we could actually go to Sunday School together and listen! Now I could go teach Young Womens and only be occasionally interrupted by a sweet nursery teacher asking me to come change a diaper. We were definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! At around the same time, my sister shared an idea that quite immediately and drastically helped our Sacrament meeting experience. Each kid starts off Sacrament meeting with 3 cookies (or three scoops of ice cream if we're not going to make cookies that afternoon). After one warning, they loose a cookie (or a scoop) each time they talk out loud, do something noisy, etc. To get their third cookie, the kids 6 and up need to be able to tell us about one thing they learned from a talk. Ever since implementing this little system of unabashed bribery, Sacrament meeting has usually been quite a pleasant experience for everyone.

About 2 years ago, we reached the milestone of generally being able to make it through 70-minute sacrament meetings most Sundays without having to take kids out. It felt so great to achieve this goal! And a couple months ago, we forgot the all-important church bag full of Friend magazines and coloring supplies and were quite delighted to find that not only did we make it through the meeting, but the kids actually seemed to be better behaved when they had less stuff to mess with or fight over. The older kids were forced to occupy themselves with listening to the talks (or zoning out) and the twins seemed to really enjoy being held on our laps and playing with my jewelry and Jared's watch and the buttons on their shirts. Maybe less is more! We still take a few things with us to church now but that huge bag that we used to stock and haul about is now history and we can go on a weekend trip without having to bring the church bag. Yeah!

Anyway, today with TWO hours of adult-focused meetings to sit through, we pulled out the old church bag and stocked it with some stuff the kids haven't used for a while. I had a seriously wonderful "mom moment" today as I was really able to listen to the excellent talks with my husband's arm around me and my kids quietly listening or coloring or playing with quiet toys on either side. Piece of Heaven right there. Certainly, there were little moments where someone had to be reminded to whisper or when the twins needed to be taken to the bathroom (SO nice to be able to send them with one of the older boys!). But miraculously, I thoroughly enjoyed Stake Conference. And after nine years, that felt really really good!

To help those who are still in the trenches of babies and toddlers and preschoolers at church, here are a few of the things we've hauled around in our church bag that have really worked for us in the past nine years:

8 and up:
The Friend - several issues. Our kids 8 and over can listen or look at the hymn book or read the Friend or the scriptures during sacrament meeting - no more toys for them. They generally do very well with this (although Isaac still seems a little unsure what a true "whisper" should sound like).

Toddlers:
  • wooden beads to thread or cheerios to thread on yarn with masking tape on one end for a "needle"
  • stickers - peeling stickers and putting them on paper or on their hands is always a favorite for the little ones
  • elmer's glue (this one's from my amazing grandma who always comes up with amazingly perfect but initially odd-sounding ideas for little kids). Put a couple drops on little hands, let it dry, have kids peel it off (and put the pieces on a paper or in a little bag). They LOVE doing this!
Preschoolers:
  • "sewing" boards (where you "sew" with yarn on a board with pictures on it) plus they love threading cheerios like the older toddlers
  • gospel picture binder (can make them with page protectors and ripped-out photos from the Friend or gospel art - need to change the pictures pretty often to keep the interest up - they're more interested if they help make the book...)
  • they love the glue thing or doing stickers too
6 and 7 year olds:
  • by age 6, we found the kids enjoyed finding the right hymn in the hymn book and following the words with their fingers - good for learning hymns plus helps with music and reading skills. From 6 up, all kids are expected to do their best to sing the hymns.
  • coloring books - great Bible coloring books at lots of dollar stores
  • drawing pictures of scripture stories
  • whispering stories of Jesus in their ears during the sacrament
  • gospel picture binder (like for preschoolers but they can really help make it - can include Articles of Faith, scripture stories, photos of prophets and information about them, etc. - my mom made a book like this for each family and it's been great to have!)
  • Fractiles (magnetic shapes that go on a thin metal board - can make so many fun patterns - fun at church or at home - one of my kids' very favorite toys)
Babies: food or sleep with maybe some passing interest in a book or two - that's about all that ever worked for us!

That's just off the top of my head. I wish someone would have given me a list like this 9 years ago! I'm sure I missed a lot of great stuff. What works for you???

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Meaning of Home

What does "home" mean to you?

As I sit here enjoying the late-afternoon glow on the red cliffs and shimmering golden leaves outside my window with the sound of the kids happily playing downstairs, I feel a strong sense of "home." Beauty and peace and harmony - that's home (in a good moment like this one).

I felt "home" last week as we carved pumpkins last week out on the balcony - same place, same people one year older, different pumpkin designs, gradually-increasing carving abilities in the kids, same expressions of grossness combined with glee as little hands pull out pumpkin guts, same excitement, same frustrations here and there with how long parts of the process take and how many little people need help simultaneously, same sense of awe and accomplishment when the finished jack-o-lanterns are lit and we all stand back to admire them. And when the kids all stood on the front steps in their Halloween costumes before setting out to trick-or-treat - same place they've stood for Halloween photos for 4 years now - that was "home" too. And there are so many "home" things that tie us together and to this place around Christmas - don't even get me started. Traditions that have a location attached to them, that just feel so "right" when they're reenacted year after year with the same backdrop and props - that's home.

As I turn and tuck my skewampus-sleeping kids under their covers each night and kiss their soft cheeks and admire their peaceful faces - that's home.

It's "home" when we sit around the dinner table talking about our days and enduring plenty of interruptions and frustrations along with lots of moments of real learning and connection as the kids learn to carry on a conversation and reflect on what happened that day.

When I read to the kids and we're all snuggled on the couch - that's home.

It's "home" when we hear the garage door open when Jared's getting home from work and all the kids gleefully run to greet him. Greeting and saying goodbye - "home" is a lot about these things.

I've had these thoughts on my mind because my parents just rented out the home where I've lived off and on since I was 4 years old. I remember the day we moved into that house. Mom and Dad got us the rare treat of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner and we had a picnic on the hideous pink carpet in the living room of that house. They told us kids that we could wipe greasy hands on that carpet and the matching pink drapes because they'd be ripped out as soon as possible to expose the great views from the windows and nice hardwood floors under that carpet. Little did they know how much would end up being exposed by us all as we lived in that house! 35 years later, that house is brimming with our best and hardest moments and memories. My youngest sister, Charity, wrote this great blog post about the house where we grew up - the none-too-fancy, often way-overcrowded, usually quite messy but always beloved "J.B. Mopeltel" (somehow I came up with that name for our house as a 4 year old and it stuck). To understand more about what "home" can mean, read Charity's blog post here:

http://drippingwithpassion.blogspot.com/2009/10/ode-to-house.html


All of this makes me think about what will feel like "home" to my kids as they look back on their growing-up years. It makes me value a sense of place - but also realize that "home" can and really should be memories and people and feelings more than it should be any one place.

Anyone want to share what "home" means to them???

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween

As the kids put it, "this was the BEST Halloween EVER!"

We had a great week of Halloween festivities and it was fun to see the kids so excited about everything. But I have to wonder how Halloween became such a huge deal. I thought it was fun and exciting enough back when I was a kid and Halloween just meant being in the school Halloween parade and going trick-or-treating that evening. Now there are Halloween parties and festivities galore and the kids often don their costumes many times throughout the week prior to Halloween and are handed candy at every turn day after day! It's a bit much, in my opinion. But it's so fun to see the kids' delight in being someone entirely different for a night and knocking on the doors of complete strangers, finding kind people with wonderful treats behind each door. The twins were especially delighted to find a dog behind a lot of the doors. If there was a dog, they didn't even care about the candy - just wanted to know the name of the dog and pet it for a few minutes.

Monday night we carved pumpkins (after our neighborhood fall social that I was in charge of - it went great but ended up being a pretty full evening with two big activities. I'm looking forward to this week when there won't even be one big activity a day!).

The finished products

They looked pretty awesome all lit up (see Liza inside?)

Tuesday night was our annual adult Halloween party. We had a great time playing Guesstures and Taboo and eating lots of good food and just enjoying some non-kid time.


Jared and I as 80's Prom Sweethearts
(picture a corsage on my wrist to get the full idea)
That's the dress I actually wore to Jr Prom.
It was a little baggy back in high school - not anymore!

Ready to head out trick-or-treating!

The twins were so happy to be super heroes -
insisted on wearing their costumes from last year - fine by me!
Ashton was a rock star. He wasn't going for any particular rock star but he ended up looking quite a lot like Billy Idol (and a little like Kiss with that star around his eye and his tongue out).
He had so much fun with his costume.
Trick-or-treating with some friends

Sorting out all the loot - one of the kids' favorite parts of Halloween - making trades, creating a pile in the middle of everything they don't really like that no one else wants
to trade for to give to the "Halloween Fairy" who gives them a toy in return.
Grandfather showed up at this point in the evening and they were SO excited to see him!



Kid Quotes

I've been terrible about recording the great things my kids say lately and I've resolved to be better about it. So here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the last week:

While we were on a hike yesterday, Ashton randomly said:
"I'm not really sure how much I'm worth (I'm wondering at this point if he's having some self-esteem issues and where he's going with this...) but I think it's at least 5 cents because I swallowed a nickel one time."

Today as Jared and I were just about done talking about what we have coming up this week, Silas came running in and to buy us a couple more minutes, Jared said "Hey Silas, I'll time you to see how fast you can clean up those trains downstairs - I bet you can do it SO fast!" Silas happily ran off to take care of the trains and came back triumphant. Jared said "Wow, that was FAST! Now I'll time you to see how fast you can clean up whatever other toys are out down there!" He came back all excited to share how he'd cleaned up every single thing and was just so proud of himself. As I tucked the twins in tonight, I told Oliver (in Silas's earshot) about how Silas had cleaned up really happily and really fast when Jared asked him to. I hoped to reinforce what Silas had done while getting Oliver excited about being a bit quicker with doing what he's asked to do. Oliver enthusiastically said the perfect things, "I hope that tomorrow I can be just like Silas!" Sometimes my little plans actually work! We'll see how it goes tomorrow...

There have been SO many great/cute/funny/wise things the kids have said lately that I've loved in that moment but then have promptly forgotten. So I'm going to start writing them down much better. I'm going to bump it way up on my priority list. I have all these great quotes from Ashton as a little kid that help me remember what he was like and bring a smile to my face and I've slacked off big time over the years. I need to capture these kids of mine who are growing up too fast in every way I can!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mikalla's Wedding

The kids' first cousin and our first neice was married yesterday. What a beautiful couple and lovely wedding! Jared's oldest brother Brian raised his family across the street from the home where Jared grew up so Mikalla was like a little sister to him. Jared got a little teary remembering how Mikalla used to come give him a big hug at the end of all his football basketball games in high school. And now she's home from a mission and married. Are we getting old or what?

Brian and Karen's great kids


I love the Logan temple - the rough-hewn stones, the castle-like architecture,
the fact that my grandparents on both sides and
my parents and Jared's parents were all married here.

After the wedding in Logan, we came up here to Ashton, ID for the reception and it's so fun to be here in the fall with all the leaves to jump in and the muted fall colors that are so different from what we see every summer and winter when we're here. We love Ashton. Tonight we get to go to Mikalla's brother Marks big football game that could take them to State. Jared will get to relive his glory days as a high school football star via Mark - should be fun - and COLD!
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Petroglyphs


About 10 minutes from our house, there's this beautiful little hike that leads to amazing views and some pretty amazing petroglyphs. We discovered it a while back and went back in the last couple weeks with two different sets of friends. First we went with the Kohlers (above) and they introduced us to "letterboxing" which made the hike way more exciting for the kids than it had been previously. As well as finding all these fun and interesting petroglyphs, we had a print-out that gave us landmarks to look for so that we could find a "letterbox" where we all got to sign our name and see the names of everyone else who has ever found that letter box. What a fun idea! There are lettterboxes to look for on great hikes all over the country and "letterboxing" makes a hike into more of a treasure hunt, making it infinitely more exciting for the kids. Check it out if you want - http://www.letterboxing.org/

As well as finding the letter box, the kids were so excited to find ancient petrogyphs as the scrambled around on the rocks - that was like a treasure hunt in and of itself. I'd love to know what these symbols meant to those who placed them there so many years ago - or if they were just a bunch of teenagers doing some graffiti!

The view from the ridge where the petroglyphs are - so beautiful!

With our friends the Harringtons from CA - we took them there the week after we went with the Kohlers.

Good stuff!
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Transformers have Transformed Oliver and Silas

Ollie and Si have been quite obsessed with Transformers ever since their cousin Mason brought all his Transformers to the farm last summer. Ollie and Si played with Mason for hours on end while Mason patiently explained the finer points of each Transformers personality. A couple weeks ago, Transformers were on their mind for some reason and they asked if I would take them to the store to get some. I told them they could earn some Transformers if they wanted to. I helped them make a chart where they could color in one blank box for each job they did. They decorated their Transformer goal charts with pictures and put them on the fridge and quite suddenly went through their own transformation into the best little workers in the house. They were so excited every time I had a job for them. They put laundry in the dryer, cleaned up toys they didn't leave out, cleaned floors, cleaned walls, dusted baseboards, emptied the dishwasher, straightened all the shoes in the mud room again and again as they worked towards those Transformers. Typically, Ollie and Si have not been great helpers. They take the typical younger child role of wandering off when they were asked to do something, in hopes that no one will bother to make them come back and do what they were supposed to do (and that hope is far too often realized). Given their work history, I thought after a day or so of doing extra jobs happily, the twin would tire of the whole thing - but they didn't. Filling in those boxes on their chart was so very gratifying that their eagerness to do jobs didn't go away.

After about 2 weeks, Ollie and Si had all their boxes filled in and they were SOOOOO excited! The very next day after the charts were done (which was luckily one of our few non-visitor, non-crazy schedule days), I took them to Walmart. It was like Christmas morning when we got to the toy area and saw a whole new shipment of Transformers stacked up there! They knew exactly which Transformers they wanted but I'd warned them that you never know what they'll have at the store. But to our great joy, Oliver found Optimus Prime and Silas found Bumblebee and they were these new "gravity assisted" Transformers that are great for little kids (Ashton had insisted they'd break the regular kind of Transformers the first day they got them and would be so disappointed). The looks on their faces when they had those long-awaited and hard-earned Transformers in their hands was priceless!

We checked out and opened the packages right up and the little guys were in heaven. They haven't let their Transformers out of their sight since then (except that they can't bring them to preschool so Oliver and Silas are so cute about standing their robots on the counter in the laundry room where they can "watch" the door and "see" the twins right when they get back home.

Ah, the triumph of high achievement! Ah, the joy of seeing your kids get what they want because they earned it! And even though Ollie and Si aren't actively working towards any particular toy right now, they are still great little helpers - the Transformer chart seems to have helped them get into the habit of working and I think they like all the positive reinforcement they get - even if it's just a "great job" or "you're such a great helper" instead of a Transformer that they get for doing what they're asked to do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When Things Get REALLY Busy....

I end up being late and stressed out a lot and I start forgetting things.

I'm feeling a bit frazzled (to say the least) after a month of visitors (4 sets of visitors who we thoroughly enjoyed - Jonah and Aja and family, then Jared's brother and family, then my parents, then some dear friends from California) and a couple simultaneous weeks of deadlines (an application for Education Week, the kids' Reflections projects, some Power of Moms stuff...) and big events (the St George Marathon that Jared ran, the Senior Games for my Dad - lots of great tennis matches to watch, the school carnival, parent teacher conferences, the book fair, a joint YM/YW activity I was in charge of, the first meeting of a new Moms' Group I started, the Reflections Open House at the school that I somehow ended up being in charge of and another fun trip to the Instacare to have Oliver's chin stitched up yet again - he thought he'd try walking along a ledge with his eyes closed and learned a lesson about how important eyes are!).

None of these things were huge or particularly stressful in and of themselves (well, a guess a couple things were) - but somehow they all converged on the same part of the calendar and I feel like I've been running my own marathon for weeks with hardly a minute to catch my breath or to plan the best way to tackle what needs to happen - so things just keep happening helter skelter. When I go days (or weeks) without time to do the little daily cleaning jobs and emails and kid stuff that I usually do, everything starts to pile up quite alarmingly and tensions run high. I'm tired of being late and being stressed out and forgetting things - and I think the kids are tired of it too!

Today I was late for:
  • family scripture study by 10 minutes (we were up late talking with our guests and I was so wound up I couldn't sleep well last night and getting up is always hard for me...)
  • school by 2 minutes (we're always SO close but those last few minutes always get away from us!)
  • preschool by 5 minutes
  • volunteering in Isaac's class by 8 minutes (and then the teacher didn't really need me today and that was pretty frustrating - I don't think she could really have any idea how precious my time felt today with the million things I've had going on!)
  • Eliza's Parent-Teacher conference by 5 minutes
  • Ashton's Parent-Teacher conference by 20 minutes (because the teacher was running late - this one wasn't my fault)
  • Isaac's Parent-Teacher conference by 20 minutes (because of Ashton's conference starting late)
  • Isaac's soccer practice by only 3 minutes even though we'd had to leave the school so late with the late conferences (we skipped going home to get Isaac's clothes changed and would have been right on time but drove 10 minutes out of my way to pick up a child who didn't turn out to be home - I'm sure they tried to call but...)
Today I forgot:
  • to remind Eliza to wear her glasses and to put cream on Eliza's scar.
  • to say goodbye to our houseguests as I ran out the door to take the kids to school - I just took off and realized after I went into the school to volunteer that I never said goodbye and I wouldn't be seeing them again. But I called them and said goodbye and it was OK.
  • to call a neighbor I'd told about our ward park day tell her we'd changed to a different park - she went to the wrong park and I felt so bad!
  • to check on the Joy School CDs the twins' teacher ordered a long time ago and still hasn't received.
  • that it's NEXT WEEK that we're heading up to Idaho for Jared's niece's wedding so I can't do an FHE with some friends that I thought would work or bring the twins to a neighbor's birthday party that I'd promised we'd attend. Had to make some apologies when I realized my mistake. I've got so many dates in my head that I keep doing stuff like this lately!
  • to put together a flier for the neighborhood party that I helped to plan and that is now just over a week away
  • to feed Isaac dinner before scouts - so the poor hungry guy didn't get dinner until like 8pm. When he came in from scouts complaining of a stomach ache (he's been complaining of stomach aches a lot lately), I finally put it together that his tummy aches are probably hunger pains since they do seem to coincide with when he should be hungry - should have figured that one out a while ago!
  • to carefully count the kids as I left the park where Isaac's soccer practice was. I loaded up 7 kids but I was supposed to have 8. After getting Isaac's friends home and dropping off Isaac at scouts, I dished up dinner and had one too many bowls of soup. I'd left Eliza at the park! I frantically called Jared and he hurried to get her. Knowing her tendancy towards the dramatic, I was so worried she'd be freaking out and worried whether she remembered her phone number and worried that she'd be so hurt that I'd left her or that she could be kidnapped or something. Jared found her sitting on a bench, calmly waiting for someone to come back and get her. She said she was getting a bit worried and a bit hungry but she said a prayer and she knew we'd be back soon. What a good girl! What a bad mom!
My life is generally pretty busy and crazy but in contrast to the last few weeks, my "regular" life is feeling quite manageable and pleasant! I've resolved to plan things out better and say "no" more. And to pray more. I get so busy I don't pray and that really messes things up.

This weekend I've got houseguests again but it's a whole different deal this time. Jared's taking the kids up to my parents' place at Kolob and I get to hang out with some great women who help with The Power of Moms and relax and enjoy some time together as we do some Power of Mom planning in a kid-free house. So I'll get some perspective and recharge and life will feel much better in a couple of days. Then Jared and I will take the kids off on a road trip for their cousin Mikalla's wedding and it will be nice (and stressful in different ways, of course) to get away for a while.

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