Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Weekend Report and Random Tidbits

We held our first Power of Moms Advisory Board meeting last Saturday - wonderful people with great ideas offering so much encouragement, support and enthusiasm for all that April and I have been doing - couldn't have been better.  April and I did lots of brainstorming and re-prioritizing and now we're ready to move things forward in a more manageable - but very exciting - way.

Here's our great Advisory group - my mom (the greatest mom and cheerleader for other moms of all time - in my humble opinion), Whitney Johnson (of Rose Park Advisors and the blog, Dare to Dream), April, me, Kelly King Anderson (runs Start-Up Princess and social-media expert), Kathy Clayton (amazing mom, great writer, has helped mothers and families around the world), Allyson Reynolds (our Power of Moms Editor).  My dad and Jared were also there for the meeting and had great ideas but declined to hop in the pictures with all the moms.  Neylan McBaine (who runs the Mormon Women Project) was also there but had to leave a bit early.

So this week feels so nice and mellow in comparison to the last few weeks!  I'm "just" catching up on lots of laundry and piles of papers that have accumulated from too many crazy weeks in a row, following up great leads and ideas from the Touchpoint conference and the wonderful Power of Moms Advisory Board meeting we had in SLC last weekend, and working with the kids on their Reflections projects (art and literature contest) that are due this Friday.  Oh, and I guess I should mention that Jared and I are also putting in a lot of hours finalizing financing and an offer on a house in Ogden.

We're feeling right about the old house I blogged about before and had a chance to meet some great people in the neighborhood there (thanks to this blog and friends of friends).  Eliza found a very nice friend a block down the street who is just 20 days younger than her and all the kids got so excited about the house and neighborhood - especially they saw that we could walk downtown from the house to enjoy the fun fall festival that was going on on Saturday.

It's feeling good.  But it's also feeling scary to make this leap - and to deal with the big fat process of offers and financing and finding renters and packing that stands between here and Ogden.

I put up an add on Craig's List to rent this house last night and have already had several emails about it.  But they want the house NOW and we need a little time to close on this house plus I've got the New England Retreat at the end of the month.  The first week of November is feeling like the soonest we can really be out of here.  Weird weird weird to think this is really happening - or seeming to be happening at least.

Random questions of the day:
  • Why does the only working cordless phone I can find around here smell like maple syrup no matter how much I clean it?  I've been on the phone all morning and it's making me nauseous.
  • Why are there always about 10 pencils and 20 crayons scattered in random places on the floor of our house at any one time?
  • Why am I so bad at getting up in the mornings?  I have will power for many things but getting up just kills me (even if I go to bed at a good time).  I somehow always talk myself into the idea that I can lay in bed a few extra minutes, even though that always means that the kids get to school a few minutes late.
  • Why is it that Ashton CANNOT put his dirty underwear in the hamper?  He throws it on the floor in the vicinity of the hamper on occasion - but somehow actually getting it into the hamper is beyond his capacity.
  • Why do girls and women have to be so hormonal?  My sweet little Liza gets set off so easily sometimes - as do I.  I'd sure like to be more even and be a better example to my little girl.
  • Why does everything usually happen at the same time?  I'm always pretty busy but why is it that when I'm the most busy I've ever been with Power of Moms commitments and opportunities popping up all over (so grateful) that so many other things requiring a great deal of attention should also come to a head?  I'm prioritizing, praying, and plowing on through the best that I can!  And some days, I do a much better job of it than others.  I guess that's just life. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Report on an Amazing Weekend - and Special Offer

Since I'm working on simplifying and since April wrote up a fabulous re-cap of our California Retreat with lots of great photos, I'm just going to send you to her blog to get the full story on our wonderful time together:

Photos and full report on Power of Moms California Retreat

And another great attendee, Erin wrote this report on her blog (more great photos)

We've still got a few spots at our New Hampshire Retreat October 22-23.  Come!  Sure, it can be a challenge to find childcare for the time you're gone and arrange travel.  Sure, it's not super cheap.  But according to every attendee who's ever come to a Retreat (including me - even with all the work it involves on my end) - a Retreat is worth every effort and every penny.  You can't put a price tag on getting the ideas, support and recharging that you need to be the mom and person your heart yearns to be.  Why is it that we prioritize $400 for a kid to go to soccer camp or participate in meaningful extracurriculars - but we feel selfish spending $400 to send ourselves to a Retreat?  Going to a Retreat is actually a solid investment in your family.  Like the MasterCard commercials say:
- airline ticket - $200
- Retreat registration - $400
- A happier mom with a happier family - priceless

And hey, just to make things a bit easier on the financial side, I've set up a special "friends and family" discount for the Retreat.  Click HERE.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Precarious Balancing Act

So I'm speaking at this conference for women entrepreneurs this Friday (the conference is called Touchpoint - see that icon on the right?) on the topic of Building a Business While Raising a Family.  I need this topic so much myself!  It's been great having to really think through this topic for myself while figuring out what to say to others.

I think what it comes down to is BALANCE.  Balance is such a lovely concept, but such a hard thing to really find, don't you think?  Balance requires TIME for prioritizing and re-prioritizing and self-assessment.  It requires setting and sticking to boundaries.  And just when you think you've got things balanced quite decently, some new thing gets dropped in your lap and you're off-kilter again.

I thought if I devoted all my discretionary time to running The Power of Moms and The Joy School Company and spread out the Retreats and conference involved and devoted the hours my kids aren't in school solely to them, I could keep things pretty balanced and create lots of win-win situations.  I made decisions on committments based on my situation at the time.  And now my situation has changed.  I have to find renters.  I have to find a new house.  I have to pack up 4800 square feet of stuff, research new schools for the kids, examine the pros and cons of different neighborhoods, I need to devote 9 hours most weeks to driving up to Ogden and back.  Plus I was asked to help with the children's program at church and felt I should do that.  I didn't plan on or ask for these new huge things that got dropped in my lap.  But they're mine and while I'm delegating all I can to realtors and other people at church and everyone else who could possibly help, the buck stops with me on a few too many things these days.

So in a situation like mine, where you find yourself juggling too many balls and you've dropped all you can, what do you do?

As so often happens, I found a great article on Power of Moms that really helped me get my thoughts in order for myself and for this workshop (I think I'll have to read parts of it to the audience).  It's called Unbalance - check it out HERE.  It's short, beautifully written and I love that it points out how important it is to grab those now-or-never moments and constantly evaluate what's "good" and what's "best," setting aside the "good" for the "best" more often.

I'm thinking one thing that might help with my crazy juggling act is taking things week by week, day by day and hour by hour.  I've started making a short list of the very best things to do each week (on Sundays) and each day (the night before).  I'm only including the things that are time-sensitive to that week, the things my family needs that week, the things that really matter.  Then I have a whole list of other action items that do need to be done, but not necessarily that week or that day - and when I finish my most important things, I can go to that secondary list for other things that will wisely fill my time.  I feel like every hour of my life could be used for a dozen different "good" things.  But figuring out that "best" way to use that hour is often a challenge.  I find myself working away at things without stopping to think first about what should be my highest priority for that time.  I need to go into chunk of time in my life asking the Lord, "what's most important for me to do now?"  When I do this, it works.  But too often I forget.  I'll be better.

And here are the questions I'm using to determine whether or not certain things should stay on my to-do lists:
  • Does this really matter? To me? To others? To my overall goals?
  • Do I WANT to do this?
  • Does this really need to be done by ME? Am I really the best person to do it?
  • Would this be the BEST thing for me to devote time and effort to NOW?
  • What will I NOT do so that I can do this?
  • Can I do this in a simpler way? Is it worth doing well or just barely worth doing? Thoreau said: “Our lives are frittered away by detail, simplify, simplify.”
    Share your tips!  I can use them for sure!

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    twin to twin love transfusions?

    My sweet little Silas is the most loving little guy imaginable.  Dozens of times a day, he throws his little arms around my legs (often almost tripping me) and says "I love you SO much, Mommy" as he looks up at me with his beautiful light blue eyes so full of love.  He does have a little habit of following up some of his "I love you so much's" with something like "can I have a cookie?"  So there is a slight ulterior motive going on sometimes...

    Oliver's very loving too - and does give lots of hugs and "I love you's."  But he's more likely to show his love by asking me to come play with him and wanting to have conversations with me.

    Anyway, as we were eating dinner the other day, Isaac said, "Mommy, you know how Ollie has that little hole in his heart?  (he has a super tiny hole between two of the chambers of his heart - he has an ultrasound each year to monitor it but they say it should never give him any trouble at all)  Do you think that maybe that missing part of Ollie's heart got attached to Si's heart while they were growing in your tummy and that's why Silas is so extra loving?"

    I love how little kids put things together in their minds!

    Ashton piped up with "You know, Isaac, you don't really feel feelings with your heart - feelings are really in the brain but the Egyptians thought that the brain was for pumping blood and the heart was where you did your thinking...." (is that true?  I'll have to look it up.)

    I assured them that Oliver and Silas each have plenty of love going on and they just express it in their own ways.  And Oliver's hole in his heart can't hurt his ability to express love one bit.

    Oh, I'm so grateful for such these beautiful, loving children of mine!  I feel all the more love for them after missing them while I was in CA doing a Retreat this past weekend.  I learned lots of great new stuff there about Love Languages and I'm seeing my children and their unique needs when it comes to love - as well as my own love needs - in a whole new light.  There's nothing like a Retreat to freshen up your perspectives on lots of important things and offer you concrete ideas to help you become the mom you really want to be.  I love being so full of fresh ideas and love for my family.

    I'll leave a more full report on the Retreat for another post when I've got some photos to share and I'm not so tired but I have to say WOW - we had a wonderful weekend with an amazing group of women!  I'm exhausted after driving 13 hours round trip to CA and presenting and talking for 2 straight days while gathering in so many excellent new ideas from all my new friends - but it was SO worthwhile and I'm excited to do it all again at the Retreat in New Hampshire in a month!

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    House hunt in Ogden

    OK, I'm totally coming to terms with this Ogden thing and even getting excited about it.  But what's NOT exciting to me is the process that will be involved in renting out this house, packing, finding a new house, moving, etc.  I don't have an extra 500 hours to do all this stuff right now!!!  I've got 3 more sick kids (the twins are better, now it's the big kids' turn), I'm heading to CA to do a Power of Moms Retreat this weekend, I've got to present at a conference in SLC the following weekend (Touchpoint - click on the icon on the right and come if you want - it's going to be wonderful - you can get $50 off using the coupon code powerofmoms) and do a Power of Moms Advisory Board meeting, we've got several exciting new Power of Moms products that need polishing and marketing (podcasts, a whole program for building Family Systems, great new family night lessons...).  Oh, and the primary program is coming up (the kids at church get to present a big program once a year) and guess who's supposed to put a big chunk of the program together?  And help run an activity for the kids and their families next Sunday (after rushing back from the CA Retreat)?  And do a primary teacher training meeting the next weekend (after rushing back from the POM Board Meeting and Touchpoint)?  Yep, somehow it's me.

    I'm totally implementing April's fabulous Mind Organization for Moms program and prioritizing and delegating and all that - but some months are just plain crazy and some things just can't be delegated or postponed or anticipated (the move to Ogden, the sickness, the new calling to help in primary...when I planned all the Power of Moms stuff I've got going, I didn't anticipate any of this).  So we'll plow on through and come up for air sometime, hopefully.

    But on to the title of this post.  The kids and I headed up to be with Jared for a couple days and look at neighborhood and houses and start figuring out what the possibilities are.  We saw 10 houses in 10 different neighborhoods and liked things about each. The only house we LOVED was in a pretty sketchy neighborhood - a newly and gorgeously restored house built in 1896.  Oh, I love that house.  Just about everything about it is what I'd have picked out.  Jared said the kids could just wear bullet-proof vests while they rode their bikes around the neighborhood....The neighborhood is getting better and better and many of the homes are being restored and it seems like lots of great people are moving in - but it's a gamble.

    I love old houses.  I love the woodwork.  I love the details.  One of the things I put on my dream list back when I was in high school was to restore and live in a beautiful old house (and if someone else could restore the house first, exactly as I would like it, without me having to figure it all out and do it - all the better).  Another thing on that dream list was to live in an understated house in the desert, one that would blend with it's surroundings (been there, done that).  Actually, a lot of things on that dream list have come true - even though I forgot about most of those dreams for years....

    Anyway, here are some photos of the house we love.  Wish we could pick it up and plunk it somewhere just a tad bit more tame...

    We looked at the one on the left.  Anyone want to buy the one on the right and come be our neighbors?

    Front entry-way and main staircase
    Master bedroom - check out those restored windows and the gorgeous original parquet floor

    Master bathroom
    Liza picked this room
    the big boys picked this room.  on the third floor there are 3 bedrooms, a bathroom and a large landing area/playroom - so perfect for the kids to have their own floor of the house - and the rooms were even painted their favorite colors...
    The kitchen was a little small but so beautifully done

    One more thing on Learning Circles

    Thanks to all of you who've left great comments and earned yourself a free Learning Circle start-up kit. Today's the last day so let your friends know about this promotion if you think they might also like to start a Learning Circle with this very limited-time offer.  We'll email the link to the free materials tomorrow (the 16th).

    One Learning Circle leader just sent me this post offering her perspective on the whole thing - check it out if you want.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Start a Learning Circle for Free

    If you don't have a Learning Circle yet, let me tell you why you need one:
    • Motherhood is a vitally important and challenging profession that requires more thought and skills than pretty much any other profession out there.  But it's one of the only professions for which there is no formal training.  Have you ever thought about that disconnect before?  Sure, we can ask advice of our girlfriends and mothers and sometimes we can squeeze in a decent chat with other moms at the park or at a playgroup.  But serious moms need opportunities to talk seriously about their findings and needs in their profession as mothers.
    • Women are social creatures by nature and need the chance to laugh and talk and enjoy time with other women when there aren't cute little people interrupting every few seconds. 
    • You need more opportunities to develop friendships with other moms - friendships that offer validation, companionship, support and aid when needed.
    • You have a lot to share and you have a lot to learn and you need a forum where you can bring these two things together.
    • You deserve something fun to look forward to each month.
    I could go on and on, but you get the point. You need a Learning Circle!

    And NOW is the perfect time to start one. To thank you for reading my blog, I'm going to send everyone who puts a comment on this post a FREE Start-up Kit for Learning Circles (usually costs $50). You can receive and read over the step-by-step instructions in the Start-Up Kit for putting together a great moms' group without paying a penny. Then, once you've got your group together, you'll just need to collect $15 from each mom in your group and pass that along to us to cover everyone's yearly dues for participation. Where else could you get a full year of participation in a great program for only $15?

    Don't just take my word for how great Learning Circles can be (I came up with the thing so I might be just a tiny bit biased). Click HERE to see quotes from moms who are loving their Learning Circle experiences. And if you want to read about one of the recent meetings of my own Learning Circle, click HERE.

    So leave me a comment letting me know you want the Learning Circle Start-Up Kit by Wednesday September 15th.  Be sure to include your email address in your comment.  Then on the 16th, I'll send out a link to the Start-Up Kit to everyone who asked for one.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    A Little Hand in the Night

    It's been a long time since I've had to get up in the night for anything.  After so many years of getting up with nursing babies and sick or sad toddlers, it's been very nice getting a full night's sleep most of the time.

    But last week, Silas had croup and woke up having a hard time breathing.  I spent chunks of two nights sitting in a steamy bathroom helping ease his breathing, getting him drinks and letting him sleep by me in Jared's spot, his loud wheezing making it hard to sleep much.  Then the last few nights, it was Oliver's turn to be my night-time buddy as he went through the same horrible coughing and scary hard-to-breathe stuff.

    I've been REALLY tired and I now appreciate my generally un-interrupted nights of sleep all the more now.  But you know what?  There's something pretty precious about your own sweet little child needing you so much in the night. 

    Sure, it was frustrating to be awoken with various requests and scared cries again and again after just barely getting back to sleep.  But during this bout of illness, as I realized how seldom this happens anymore, I felt such a tenderness and love for my beautiful little boys who are growing up too fast.  I loved feeling them cling to me as the breathing problems seemed scary and having them relax in my arms as the steam soothed them.  My heart was soft and full as I heard them say in their cute little voices, "can I sweep wiff you in case I have that bweathing pwobwem again?  I'm scared."  I loved having them reach over to hold my hand as we fell back to sleep - their little hands fit so nicely within mine.  I loved holding them close when they needed it, their little cotton-top heads nestling just right beneath my chin.

    I'm so glad I don't have do these crazy tired night-time activities much any more.  But there is something so beautiful about a little hand in the night that finds its way into your hand and holds on tight.

    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    12th Anniversary

    So yesterday was our 12th wedding anniversary.  I put together a video grabbing some of my favorite moments from the past dozen years as a little present to Jared.  It turned out to be quite an ordeal putting it together (I had to take photos of old photos and that was a process).  But it felt so good to put so much good stuff together in one place and remember all the wonderful things that bind us together - especially at a time like this when we're apart and things are hard.

    The kids and I had a fun time making cookies, watching this video and talking about lots of great memories to celebrate the day.  Sadly, Jared had to be in Odgen so it was weird celebrating our anniversary apart for the first time.  But to keep things memorable, Jared spent yesterday evening in jail.  He got pulled over for having one headlight not working and they took him in because apparently when he got pulled over for having an expired registration on the car 2 years ago, they never received the check he sent in to cover the fine so there was a warrant out for his arrest.  Interesting that even though they've got our address and phone number, they put out a warrant for his arrest rather than letting us know they didn't receive the check.  Funny how things work (or don't work) sometimes!  Poor Jared!  He got things worked out quite quickly and was on his way again but it was definitely an interesting experience for him.

    Sunday, September 05, 2010

    The Story of Molly Bear

    When I was five years old, my dad brought me an extra special present when he came home from a business trip.  He always brought us something from his trips - often just some candy or the little bottles of shampoo or mini soaps from his hotel room.  But this time, he brought me a teddy bear with a music box inside.  I had a friend with a stuffed animal that played music and had been talking about how cool it would be to have something like that.  So this present was extra exciting.

    Molly looked way better when I first got her.  But here's how she looks now - after many years of love - and some abuse.

    (Molly didn't come with the dress - you'll see why she needed to start wearing this dress if you read on.  And there's a whole other story about my best friend poking her eye out - I'll save that one for another time...)

    Molly Bear became my dearest friend.  I slept with her every night, her music lulling me to sleep.  When we moved to England the next year, of course Molly came and her familiarity helped soothe the newness of my life there.

    Well, much to everyone's regret, when I was seven, our family got a dog.  This dog was named Nutch and she was one of those perpetual puppies that was always barking and jumping up on people and tearing apart everything she could get her paws on.  So we all had to be carefully to put away our shoes or toys or they'd be dissected by Nutch.

    One night, I left Molly on the floor in the living room. The next morning I found suspicious bits of stuffing in the hallways and was struck by horror when I went into the living room and found Molly disemboweled, her stuffing strewn all over the room and her music box cast aside.

    I was devastated.  But my sweet mom assured me that we could fix her and helped me put her stuffing and music box back into place.  She showed me how to "do a little operation" on Molly and get her middle stitched up.  I remember spending what seemed like hours stitching her up with the neatest stitches I could do.

     Here's what Molly's dress hides.

    I went to bed that night clutching Molly close and wound her up to sing me to sleep, as usual.  But the music didn't work.  I was so sad.  I prayed that the music would start working again soon and went to sleep.

    The next morning, I noticed a little plastic box under one of the living room chairs, picked it up, turned it over a couple times and realized that it was just the size to fit over the workings of the music box inside Molly Bear.  Darn it!  I'd sewed the music box back into the bear without putting this case on it and now the stuffing was probably messing up those little wheels and delicate cogs.  Rather than being grateful that I'd found the answer and could now fix the problem, I just felt mad that I hadn't found this thing earlier and did NOT want to cut the bear open again and do all that sewing again to fix the music box.

    Then I had what seemed like a terrific idea.

    I'd recently had a lesson in church about how Jesus really listens to our prayers and can do miracles.  I could just pray that Molly's music would start working again and everything would be fine!

    I prayed, harder than I'd ever prayed before.  I prayed every night and many times during each day for about a week.

    But Molly's music still wouldn't work.  Didn't Jesus care?

    Well, I learned a lesson from Molly.

    Jesus will help us find the answers - but he won't do all the work for us.  He helped me find that box that needed to be put back over the music box workings.  He helped me realize what it was and what needed to happen.  But then I didn't feel like doing my part.  I didn't want to do all that sewing again.  I just wanted Jesus to take care of the whole thing for me.  But that's not how He works.  He knows that it's good for us to do our part.  He's always right there, waiting to help extend our efforts. But He won't enable our laziness.

    Sadly, by the time I figured this all out, Molly's music box was already hopelessly tangled in the stuffing and I never did get the thing to work again.

    I've told this story to my kids again and again.  The twins ask for the story of Molly Bear all the time.  And last week, when we were up in Salt Lake, I went back to my house to get a few things and found Molly Bear.  My twins were so thrilled to see the actual heroine of the story and insisted that she tell them her whole story in her own words.  So of course, she obliged.  And trying not to feel too silly, I helped Molly tell the story to my audience of big-eyed, attentive listeners who each had to give Molly a long hug at the end.

    They asked if we could find her a new music box and fix her.  And I said sure.  I guess it's never too late to fix things.  And I discovered another reason why Jesus didn't fix Molly back when I prayed for it long ago.  She needed to stay un-fixed so I'd have this story to tell my kids.

    Saturday, September 04, 2010

    Good Times in God's Grandeur

    We did the Narrows in Zion again Saturday before last.  Last year it was a bit cold for the kids because we went later in the year and later in the day - the water was colder, the air was colder, and we were in the shade most of the time.  The twins had blue lips by the end and weren't exactly pleased about the whole thing (in fact, every time we went on a hike for 6 months after that, they wanted to confirm that we weren't going on "that water hike).  But mid-August turned out to be the perfect time to do the hike.

    We stopped on the way at a great apple orchard to pick some beautiful apples.  Nothing like picking your own lunch. Look at those beautiful apples.  The kids were so excited to take apples to school in their sack lunches and tell all their friends they'd picked them themselves.

    Everyone had a wonderful time.  The kids are at such perfect ages for this sort of thing.  We all bonded as we helped each other navigate the slippery rocks under the water - sort of the blind leading the blind as you couldn't see the rocks under the water - very brown water from all the recent rains.  There's nothing like looking up and seeing those amazing sandstone cliffs towering on either side.  It makes you feel so small - and some how so protected - and so full of awe and joy. 

    I love family adventures where we all end up pairing off and chatting in different groups, where everyone's helping each other, where we're out in nature drinking in beauty and grandeur.  Nature brings out the best in all of us.

    We found a beautiful waterfall - I love how little the kids look in this photo - and this wasn't nearly the tallest wall of the canyon.


    We love Zion so much!  We've been so spoiled to have it 45 minutes away.

    Thursday, September 02, 2010

    The Sweet Spot of Childhood

    My life is hard in plenty of ways and my kids having been going through a really annoying bickering stage (they are just at each other non-stop sometimes - especially in the car - we can't get through a 5 minute drive to or from school without some totally inane argument...).  I'm sure having Jared gone has brought out some of this.

    But you know what?  Overall, my kids are really in a sweet spot.  They're all old enough to do and understand tons of fun things but they're all young enough to still be taken with the wonder of the world.  They're old enough to know how to behave (at least usually) and help each other in such sweet ways (when the bickering bug doesn't bite).  Yet they're young enough to still want me to read them and to light up when I enter their classrooms to volunteer.  They're old enough that we can have great conversations together and really learn together.  We memorized a quote by Ghandi the other day (we're doing a fun new Family Home Evening program where we learn scriptures, quote and songs that go with a theme - more on that later) and decided to look up some information on him.  Before we knew it, Wikipedia had led us through Ghandi's life (did you know he was married at 14?) and all the brave and kind things he did then on to some interesting information on Hindu beliefs and Indian culture.  This is what I dreamed of when I thought of being a mother - learning together, talking together, exploring the world together with my best little friends.

    My dear friend, Neylan, wrote this great article that captures much of what I feel so beautifully.  I love that she took the time to write a letter to her future daughter about the things she treasures about her present daughter.  I'm going to do this for my kids.  When I get a minute.  Somehow. Check it out:


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