Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Saren!

Thanks to the help of clever Ashton, we have successfully hacked into Saren's blog to wish her a very, very happy birthday (it's a big one - just sayin').

Since most of us can't be with her on her big day, we are sending our birthday love blogtastically.

Saren is a remarkable woman and we are so, so blessed to have her in our family!

As the oldest of 9 kids, Saren has always set the bar high and left us an incredible example to follow. She always has good advice and is always watching out for all of us in such a loving and Christlike way.

She can whip up a delicious meal at the drop of a hat, she is the best tour guide when we visit her in any part of the world she may be living in, she is really so, so good at teaching her (and our) kids all kinds of magical things, she is absolutely beautiful inside and out, and she is undoubtedly the best two-ski waterskiier in the family.

Saren's mind is always working on how to help others and this year we have watched in awe as she has worked tirelessly to create an amazing motherhood website that is taking the world by storm: Power of Moms. We are so proud of her efforts to make the world a better place through this outstanding cause and through everything else she does (there's no way we could list it all!).

We sure love you, Saren!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Few Last Images of Bear Lake

Today's the last day here.  We've been cleaning and packing and now my dad is watching all our kids so that my sisters and I can edit a new book that he and my mom are trying to finish.

Ashton's been crying about leaving (and he doesn't cry about much).  We're all feeling a bit sad to leave this precious time and place and move on.  But we've got several more fun and exciting stops before we sleep in our own beds again (that will feed good).  I'm presenting at BYUI Education week today through Saturday so we all get to spend a little more time at the Loosli farm while I do that (and I just found out that a couple of my dear sisters are going to come to part of Education Week with me so that they can celebrate my birthday with me - it'll be so fun to have them at the Farm and enjoy some great classes with them when I'm not presenting).  Then we'll be in SLC for a couple days so that we can take the twins in for an appointment with a pediatric orthapedic specialist (their "tip toe problem" - as they call it - is getting worse and worse and it's looking like they'll need surgery to lengthen their Achilles tendons).  THEN we'll head home.

So to close this chapter on Bear Lake, here are a few last favorite photos:
Great times in the old boat
Serious fun on the new GTX (the old one split in half on a particularly crazy ride)

We bought this old jet-ski and it's so perfect for kids - it can't go very fast but they think it's awesome
Loved all the hanging out and reading and chatting on the beach

The little boys and I worked hard on a sand castle and they were so excited about it
These little 4 and 5 year old's enjoyed each other SO much this year!
The kids got really into face painting this year (this is Isaac and Shawni's daughter Grace)
Eliza had a great time doing "school" for the younger kids - this girl of mine is such a good little teacher
My mom brought back all these gorgeous costumes from India and the girls had so much fun dressing up and dancing to Indian music
We all celebrated Isaac's birthday together - he's NINE!  I celebrated my ninth birthday here as well - full circle.
The big birthday party - we could only find one candle!  Isaac basked in extra attention and extra privileges all day.  All his cousins set up a fun treasure hunt for him (headed by Ashton), Eliza had all of them make cute cards for him, and he had all his favorite foods and lots of fun games and presents.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The History of the Eyres at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is one of my favorite places in the whole world. It's synonymous with beauty and family and great memories - what could be better than that? 

I've been coming here every summer since I was eight. My dad bought my mom a tiny piece of land here as a wedding present (since she grew up nearby).  10 years later, at the tail end of our family's three-year stint in England (1976-79), my dad sent a builder $1000 and asked him to build what he could by way of a cabin on that piece of property.
That first summer after England we camped out in the resulting half-finished A-frame cabin. The only working plumbing was the bathtub so we had to do the dishes in there and used a porta potty for most of the summer (I'm not quite sure why the bathtub came before the toilet or kitchen sink...). A shower curtain was wrapped around the studs for the future bathroom to create a little privacy. We had plywood floors and an old garage-sale range that smelled awful whenever you used the oven (some mice had built a nest deep in its coils or something). Some nights, my sister and I got to sleep in the big unfinished upstairs all by ourselves while the rest of the family slept in one room downstairs. We felt very privileged and brave as we climbed up a ladder and into the upstairs window (there weren't any stairs yet).

Here are a bunch of the grandkids in front of the original A-frame cabin
Over the next 10 years, the A-frame became more comfortable – we finished the bathroom and got what seemed like the coolest spiral staircase to take us upstairs a little more safely (and cause plenty of casualties when its sharp corners met people's heads – it wasn't really positioned in the safest place...). My dad helped each of us build our own beds that folded out of the wall upstairs. All 6 kids slept on the fold-out beds in one room while my parents slept in the other room. 8 people, 2 bedrooms, one bathroom – somehow it worked fine.
The dangerously-placed spiral staircase

The fold-out beds my dad built with us - the upper ones are folded up - there were mats on the floor under the bottom bunk so we could sleep three-deep (my bunk was the upper left one)
 Each night, my dad told us wonderful made-up stories as we lay in our beds (often sweating up a storm – those July and August nights were HOT). Each morning, my mom had us all practicing violin, doing music theory flashcards and reading (often snuggled in blankets – those June mornings were COLD). We spent our days playing at the beach and catching chipmunks and putting on various little plays, and earning nickles by carrying up big rocks from the beach so we could have some semblance of landscaping. Once a week, we went to my grandma's house (about ½ hour away) and took care of the big garden there. We each had a crop to plant, weed and harvest. I always had the peas. Shawni had the beans. Josh did potatoes. Saydi did carrots. My grandma made sure we knew exactly how to do our jobs and we'd work SO hard in that garden and then enjoy the great fresh produce for the ½ half of the summer.

The cabin as it is today - with the addition
 Over time, we traded out the old stinky range and falling-apart cabinets for newer, nicer stuff, added a second bathroom, and put on an addition so there was a room for the girls there and the boys kept sleeping in the fold-out bunks upstairs. The crowning glory (for my dad) was when he was able to buy the lot next door and somehow cram a tennis court on it. There we all took tennis lessons from my dad, played basketball there and did lots of sleep-outs under the stars.
Dad's beloved tennis court - right up against the addition and the deck - but it fit!
Fast forward to today: Lots of things are the same – evening storytimes, morning reading, lots of unstructured time for imagination and fun, lots of love and learning. But everything's bigger. Now we've got 19 kids (ages 2 months to 13 years old) and 18 adults enjoying the old A-frame plus a lovely new 6-bedroom house nearby and my parents have built a writing-get-away up on the hill overlooking the lake where they stay most of the time.

For the last several years, my two married sisters and I plus some of our sisters-in-law have spent most of July here with our kids while our husbands come in and out based on their work schedules. We have 4 days during July that are protected official Eyre Reunion days and we've been lucky enough to have pretty much every family member make it pretty much every year. 

There's nothing like seeing our kids playing together, seeing my parents teach our kids some of the cherished things they taught us, watching different combinations of adults and children chat on the beach, cook and clean up together, play games and laugh late into the night, teach the next generation to water ski, build sand castles, play tennis, whatever.

My mom does “Grammie Camp” each year with kids five and up where she teaches them about their ancestors, does some art with them (she's a big art lover) and teaches them to work (they do weeding projects and that sort of thing - bringing back to the days when we used to work hard in Grandma's garden).
My dad does “Grandfather's Secrets” with the kids where they memorize great quotes and learn principles of living well in fun ways. We all help parent each others kids and love cooking together and talking about all sorts of stuff late into the night. There are certainly issues around who's doing more than their fair share of grocery shopping or clean up and the kids have their little spats (although it's pretty amazing how well everyone does get along). Sometimes there's a lot of mess and noise and tensions start to run high.

But life at the lake is good. Very very good. And we all feel so amazingly blessed to have this place full of memories and love and fun that we can come to every year and now share with our children.
Here's my dad sharing some of his "secrets" - the kids can't get enough of him

Here's my mom with the Grammie Camp kids

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bloomington Lake and Ollie's Big Jump

 Me and my baby sister Charity at Bloomington Lake

 hiking to the lake

Oliver with cousins Camden and McKay

While it's pretty dry and sage-brush focused on this side of Bear Lake, if you drive around to the other side of the lake to Bloomington (where all my mom's ancestors lived and are buried), there's this gorgeous little gem of a lake tucked into the rugged hills and lush foliage of a totally different little ecosystem over there.  It's become an annual pilgrimage for our family to make the trek to Bloomington Lake each year to enjoy the wildflowers and almost Alp-like beauty.  Plus  there's a great rope swing on a huge tree that lands you in the clear and beautiful (and freezing) water (it's glacier run-off).

This year, Ashton did a bunch of jumps of the rope swing.  Isaac in all his skinniness and propensity to freezingness opted out.  Liza thought about it - for a couple seconds.  Silas wasn't interested.  But Oliver decided he wanted to become the youngest member of the whole Eyre clan to make the jump.  After about 5 false starts (he'd swing out, everyone would yell "let go now!" and he'd swing on back into Jared's arms), Jared offered him a king size Twix to complete the jump and he went for it.  He was SO proud of himself - check out the pictures below.
Check out that little fellow and that cold water with the glacier right there!  The rope is like 30 feet long on this huge old tree

Ahhh... It feels good to accomplish hard things!

I asked Oliver what he thought when he hit that water (thinking he'd say something about how COLD it was) and he said "Wew, I went under and I opened my eyes and I thought 'I get a king size Twix!'"  Bribery.  It works.  And sure, he did it partly for the prize, but hopefully he'll remember that great feeling of accomplishment he had a lot longer than he'll remember the Twix.  He's was just so proud of himself and it was great to see all his big cousins congratulate him heartily.  He was on cloud nine.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bear Lake so Far

Miss me?

I'm here at Bear Lake with my family and to get on the Internet, I have to hike up a hill in the heat for 1/2 an hour (or happen to be able to catch a ride with someone else or brave driving my car up the rocky road that's resulted in more flat tires than I care to remember) to my parent's writing retreat (where I am right now).  I can get email on my phone but blog posting requires being up here at this lovely house overlooking the lake while my kids are hopefully being somewhat supervised by my sisters at the big lake house down the road where we're all staying. So that's why I haven't been posting much.

We've had a really wonderful couple of weeks here since leaving Ashton, Idaho.  As usual, we had a 4-day reunion with every possible member of my family in attendance (18 adults and 19 kids this year - perfect attendance).  Then it's "open house" for all of July and typically the sisters and any available sisters-in-law and their kids are around for most of the month with the dads and brothers coming in and out as their schedules permit.  But this year as been extra nice - we've had almost everyone able to hang out far beyond the reunion with some people popping in and out as they head out for various commitments.  

Last year I was one of the ones who had to pop in and out for different things and I didn't feel like I got nearly my fill of hang-out time with my family and relaxation time at the lake.  So this year I said "no" to pretty much everything in July and have been so enjoying the chance to really BE with the people I love the most and enjoy this beautiful place (while throwing in quite a bit of emailing and work on a couple upcoming Power of Moms Retreats among other things - but with an hour or so a day, I can keep up with the basics).  

My sisters and I read with the kids and do a workout video most mornings (with lots of kids joining in and/or interrupting or jumping on us - always an adventure getting our workouts in!).  Then we spend most afternoons at the lake - we read and chat while the little kids play in the sand, we go out in the boat and watch the kids bounce around on the tube behind the boat with serious glee, we swim in the deliciously cool clear blue water.  The evenings are for talking and playing speed scrabble or boggle or making podcasts (my mom, sisters and I are working on a whole podcast series to be featured on The Power of Moms).  

We do have our moments when the chaos and noise gets a little high and when the food runs a little low and the mess of so many people along with the issue of who is or isn't doing their share of clean-up gets a little frustrating. 

But life is good at the lake.  And I count my blessings daily.  After months of way more stress than is healthy, I needed this.  A lot.

Highlights of our time here so far (in pictures):

Traditional Reunion bonfire - nothing like everyone's faces in the firelight.  We all share a quick "best and worst" of the year and listen to the reunion CD (everyone submits their favorite song for the year and we all guess whose song is whose - plus this year it turned into a spontaneous dance party)

Cousins hanging out - these 4 boys have had SO much fun together!

Annual Eyrealm Olympics - everyone gets a chance to win sooner or later - lots of crazy events involved.

Annual "Mothers and Future Mothers of Eyrealm" trip to Park City - we stole away for 24 hours following the reunion while our good husbands, brothers and dad took all the kids.  
More photos and info on Shawni's blog here.

We've watched lots of amazing sunsets and seen cousins grow every closer (Eliza and Shawni's Claire)

Just being together - everyone all in one place - eating, talking, laughing, sharing, crying, you name it.

We went for a beautiful run and ended up in a refreshing downpour (me, Saydi and Charity)

 We've been doing lots of exercise videos with lots of kids "helping" us - 
here's the front row of P90X one day.  I took a video one day where we had 5 women working out
with babies and kids all over the place - funny stuff!  I'll post it when I get a chance.

We also went on a beautiful trip to Bloomington Lake (near Bear Lake) but I've got so many photos of that, I'll do a separate post on that.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Fun at the Farm

We're in Ashton, Idaho at the Loosli farm for the 4th of July.  We've done this almost every year.  You can't beat Ashton for great small-town Independence day festivities, lots of farm adventures (riding on tractors and horses and four-wheelers, swinging on the huge swings, learning about how potatoes and grain grows, all that good stuff) and great times at the Loosli farmhouse with like 40 people laughing, playing games, trading stories and eating vast quantities of food (while sharing 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms - but somehow it works out!  There are those moments when you really need a bathroom and have to wait but it's worth it...).

I'm so grateful I married into this wonderful family and this beautiful place.

I love the Loosli family.  I love that Jared's one of the youngest in his family of 9 kids so we get to observe and learn from his siblings who are further down the road of parenting and life than we are (I'm the oldest in my family of 9 kids so it's nice to have different perspectives).  I love having so many different family members that bring so many different things to the table - and I love that this family really knows how to laugh and play. I love the games and the late night conversations.  Plus it's a great bonus that I get don't have to be the big sister here - I always feel like I'm supposed to fall into my old big sister role of organizing people and helping my parents when I'm with my family.

(This is the view from the backyard of the Loosli house - got to love those Tetons - wish you could see how amazingly green it is right now)

Ashton Idaho is a truly gorgeous place - especially right now with the brilliant green of the new grain and the darker green of the baby potato plants with the blue blue sky and the Grand Tetons all majestic in the distance.  As Isaac and I went on a bike ride the other day, I taught him "America the Beautiful" - it went so perfectly with the scene "Oh beautiful for spacious skies for amber (green) waves of grain, for purple mountains majesty...."  

Most years, the kids have been in the 4th of July parade (they made a float featuring a giant potato last year in honor of their potato-farmer grandpa who passed away a few months earlier) but yesterday all the cousins opted to watch the parade and gather candy rather than throwing it out.  I grew up going to small-town parades involving candy-throwing and was pretty appalled when I went to my first big city parade and saw that no one threw candy.  Small town parades are sort of like a reverse Halloween - people dress up (themselves, their bikes, their horses, their cars) and throw candy at you.  You just stake out a good spot and wave at the people in the parade and they throw treats at you.  And at this parade, they went beyond throwing candy - they passed out chocolate milk and ice cream sandwiches and t-shirts and key chains and bouncie balls.  The kids were delighted and got quite a haul.

Quite strangely, it was downright cold - weird to watch the parade in sweatshirts, wrapped in blankets.  But it warmed up and was perfect for the 4th of July festivities at the town park - they always have 3-legged races, gunny sack races, watermelon eating contests, lots of food, live music, the fire engine sprays water for all the kids to run around in - you can't beat it.  Then we spent the afternoon visiting gorgeous Mesa Falls and hiking along the river where we saw the most gorgeous wildflowers and vistas.

(like Jared's new haircut - he did it himself - not exactly my favorite cut he's had!)

A big bonus this year was being able to be present at cousin Abbie's baptism - beautiful service.  The kids sure love their cousins.

So anyway, we're having a great time and they're calling me for a game so I'll sign off for now!  We'll head to Bear Lake on Tuesday to jump into the Eyre festivities.


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