Wednesday, November 09, 2011


Gratitude Day 9:
Today I'm thankful for my sisters. I've had them on my mind and in my heart an extra-lot lately since I did a Retreat with Saydi a couple weeks ago in Boston, have a Retreat coming up with Shawni next week in Phoenix, and have been so happy for Charity that she just got a great job after a long, hard job search.

I started this post ages ago and kept thinking I'd find more old photos to fill in some spots but it's not going to happen. It's time to just get this posted!


Starting out, it was always me and Shawni. We were the only ones. We were best friends. We did everything together.

We made messes together.

We posed on top of the car together (there are quite a few photos with this pose from this era - I guess our parents figured it was a good place to put us so we'd be scared of falling off and sit still for a photo...)


We wore ourselves out together.

Apparently, we really did EVERYTHING together.  In fact, Shawni's Kindergarten teacher had to go get me from class to take her to the bathroom because she was scared to go without me.

Our dear mom sewed us coordinating outfits - I think her most ambitious and beloved creations were these Holly Hobby pioneer dresses and bonnets that we wore until they were in shreds.

We made up dances and plays together - and often dragged Josh along although he was mostly content to do his own thing. (I think I wore that purple unitard and green cheerleading skirt every day for a year - the unitard and skirt are in an amazing number of photos and I remember thinking that was such a great outfit!)

We moved to England and went to a British school together (love how the uniforms included matching pants to wear under your jumpers on cold days...).

Then along came Saydi. (Yep, there's that top-of-the-car pose again.)

Saydi was cute and all but she was always messing up our games and trying to tag along when she was too little for what we were doing. She had to go make her own best friend - Amy - a cute girl who lived down the street and who we all consider part of our family.  Saydi was always singing "Annie" songs at the top of her lungs (and forgetting 1/2 the words).

But you know what, Saydi grew on us.  She got a lot more fun as time went on. I really started to like that Saydi.

Saydi got Shawni and I into singing. The three of us sang in a children's performing group together for years plus we had a little trio that performed at every family gathering and some neighborhood and church functions as well (it's sort of telling that the photo below only shows me and Saydi singing - Shawni was never super excited about singing but she was happy to go along).

Couldn't I figure out a better way to do my hair?  Seriously?

Then when I was 16, Shawni was 15 and Saydi was 11, Charity came along.  We were over the moon to get  another sister after FOUR brothers in a row.  She was our baby, our doll, our favorite companion to run errands or even bring with us on dates.  We cherished our little sister with all our hearts.

During my first year at Wellesley College near Boston, my dad sent Saydi out on a plane to visit for a few days. My mom carefully packed all the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies in ziplock bags in Saydi's suitcase and we had quite a time whipping up our favorite family cookie recipe in the dorm kitchen. (sorry I don't have a photo!).  Every vacation home from college was packed with sister time.

When Shawni decided to join me in Boston for college (Boston University), she took the bus out to the idyllic Wellesley campus for sleepovers about twice a week. We went to church together every Sunday.  We knew each others roomates and friends well. We'd cook together to escape dorm food and laugh together and I helped her write all her papers. All was right with the world when we were together. My dad came to visit one time and we put on friends' black lipstick, black leather jackets and got our hair all teased up to go meet him at the airport as full-on Bostonians.  He walked right past us at the airport. (wish I had pictures - digital cameras weren't around yet - someday maybe I'll get around to scanning in all those albums of photos!).

During that year that Shawni and I were both in Boston for school, my parents decided to homeschool the younger kids and live in New England for a month or so.  We loved having Saydi and even little 4-year-old Charity come sleep over in our dorm rooms, meet all our friends, and wander through Boston with us. 

Shawni, Saydi and I worked hard together on my dad's campaign (he ran for governor of Utah in 1992) right after I graduated from college. We had so many bonding experiences blowing up balloons for the state convention until 4am, putting on campaign events, fielding phone calls, you name it - while Charity stuffed envelopes and did what a little 6-year-old could.

When the campaign was over, Shawni and I decided that we wanted to serve missions for our church. We got our mission calls on the same day - to the neighboring countries of Romania and Bulgaria where we'd be working in orphanages as well as helping set up programs for women and children in the brand new congregations there. We went into the Mission Training Center on the same day and wrote each other letters every week. The letters we received from each other were full of amazingly similar experiences and we found we could support each other like no one else could through this crazy and amazing experience.
As Shawni and I finished up our missions in Romania and Bulgaria, it was amazing to share some of our  experiences first-hand with Saydi and Charity who was only 7 at the time. (We're in a Bulgarian orphanage together here).

After our missions, Shawni, Saydi and I lived together in Provo for a while in a little house with some of our best friends. What fun we had! And we got to know Shawni's boyfriend Dave pretty well.  And we arranged for Saydi to get her first kiss.

Then we were there together for Shawni's wedding - seemed crazy that Dave was taking her away from us! (Charity is in the photo but you can only see her cute white dress - getting a little sparse on the photos I can find for this era!)

There's Charity on the left with some cousins at Shawni's wedding.

Then I moved to DC and and worked there for a couple years.  Shawni and Saydi came to visit several times and Saydi was my intern one summer.  Plus I went up to Wellesley (my alma mater that she'd chosen for her college) to visit her quite a bit.

When I moved back to Boston for grad school, Saydi was on a mission to Spain and she asked me to work up a list of eligible bachelors to line her up with when she returned to Boston to finish up her degree at Wellesley. The best guy I could find for her was this wonderful MIT potato farmer named Jared. I did try to set them up on a date - but turned out Jared was already interested in someone else. ME!  So we found other options for Saydi and she was our sidekick on lots of roadtrips and adventures on the East Coast.

My sisters were such an important part of my wedding.
My sisters and I along with some friends at my baby-friendly bachelorette party (Shawni had a newborn)

After Jared and I had been married almost a year, my family including Jared (and sadly excluding Shawni who had a little babies) went to Kenya.  Saydi, Charity, and I loved working with the cute kids there while Jared loved the construction projects and teaching math to the high school kids.

For a long time, like Saydi had been, Charity was too little to be part of most of the stuff Shawni, Saydi and I did. She was cute and fun and we loved doing everything with her.  But there were limitations sometimes based on her age.

But then Charity grew up and completed our sisters group so perfectly.  She's added passion and shine and fresh perspectives to our lives.  She's served as favorite aunt and occasional nanny to all our kids (who practically worship her).  She's helped us keep in touch with our pre-motherhood, pre-wife selves.  She's listened with patience - and often offered great insights - as we've talked at length about breast-feeding, child-rearing, marriage, and life in general.  

Here's Charity helping me take care of the twins and their big siblings for the first two full weeks of the twins' lives while on her winter break from Wellesley (yep, she chose Wellesley as well).  I have no idea what I would have done without her!

Me, Saydi and Charity in Great Hall at Wellesley College near Boston - the alma mater we share
Here are the four of us in NYC together - we all still feel a strong draw to the East Coast and NYC and Boston are magical places for us - we all bring our own experiences with those places but even when we're there separately from each other, the things we notice and blog about are strikingly similar.

Here's me and Char in the city we both love dearly - San Fran was my home for 6 years and now Charity calls it home. Visiting Charity there for spring break last year was magical - so many of the places she suggested we visit together were the very places I'd always loved the most.

And here's Charity with us at a Power of Moms Retreat last April.  She served as a fabulous Retreat Manager at two of our Retreats and is the go-to girl for so many things while she juggles a bunch of part-time jobs and is the favorite temporary nanny for everyone in the family who has to go somewhere without their kids (since writing this, Charity announced that she's landed a great full-time job. Yeah Charity! It's been a long, frustrating job search but I'm so proud of my little sis for handling it with grace and patience).

Shawni, Saydi, Charity and I used to scheme and plan and execute trips together all the time and were able to work out an uncanny bunch of times when we could live in the same city or the same apartment for chunks of time. We used to dream up and push for scenarios where we could all be neighbors somehow, someday.  But we've all realized that the neighbor thing is just not going to work out. So we carefully protect our month together at Bear Lake and jump at every chance to get together to present at conferences or make podcasts (check out our Deliberate Mothering Podcasts if you haven't already).

I better make sure to mention that it's NOT all sweetness and light with my dear sisters. We're all strong-willed and throughout our lives, we've had a plethora of disagreements and some pretty serious fights (Shawni likes to tell people about the time I slammed her with a mixing bowl over the head when we had a difference of opinion - it was a plastic mixing bowl - just a small goose-egg resulted...).  But thankfully our parents taught us from a young age how to resolve disagreements and to forgive and forget.

Sure, there have been times we've felt some envy for what each other was doing or had access to. Shawni was green with envy when Saydi and I went to Kenya while she was home with little babies. I was pretty jealous when Saydi got to do my dream of spending 6 months with her husband building up a non-profit in the Philippines while I was home with little babies. Shawni, Saydi and I are all a bit jealous of Charity's wonderful adventures gallivanting around the world and going on road trips every weekend while we're running car pools and cleaning up our kids' messes. I know we've all gone through hard times where we've felt sad we couldn't do or be what one of our sisters seemed so good at doing or being. But mostly, I think we're really good at being glad for each other, supporting each other, and appreciating our differences and strengths. That's another thing our parents did a great job teaching us - we were brought up believing that we were each special and unique and that someone else's greatness need never subtract from our own individual worth and ability to be great in our own way.

Just when I thought I already had way more than my fair share of amazing sisters, I got MORE stellar sisters thanks to the great women my good brothers found to marry and the excellent sisters and sisters-in-law Jared brought into my life.  I love, love, love, love these ladies!  And I so appreciate my mom for getting us together every year for our beloved "Mothers and Future Mothers of Eyrealm" gatherings.

So other than a capturing great memories and pictures with my sisters in one place, what is the point of this blog post?

Sisters are important. And while I'm so very glad I got my one little princess Eliza, there will always be a part of me that aches for her that she'll never experience what I had with my sisters. I guess she'll never know the difference and we do cherish and try to nurture the great friendships and cousin relationships she's been blessed with. Plus she'll get wonderful sisters-in-law thanks to her brothers one day. But still.  She just won't have some things I've been blessed with.  And it'll be OK. She looks pretty darn happy in these pictures with Shawni and Saydi's daughters who she adores:

If you've got a sister, make the most of your relationship with her. If you've got daughters, cherish and grow the special bonds they can have. Help them appreciate their own unique gifts and to celebrate the accomplishments and talents of each other.  Teach them to nip conflicts in the bud and fix problems between them before they fester.

And really, the main point of this post is that I love my sisters and sisters-in-law so much and I'm so grateful for all we've shared and all we've learned from each other and all we have ahead of us.

P.S. If you want to join me and my sister Shawni for the Power of Moms Phoenix Retreat next week, Shawni's doing a giveaway on her blog today - check it out HERE.


Jonah and Aja said...


Cath said...

Saren - I loved the journey of this post, seeing all of you growing up together, reading your stories, sharing your lives together. It's inspiring. Sisters really are a gift. And cute Eliza - with all her cousins - that is a pretty close second!

Allyson said...

You're a great storyteller! I felt like I grew up right alongside you guys as I read your photo journal. Maybe it was also because my three sisters and I had the same homemade Holly Hobbie dresses!

Eyrealm said...

Oh my heck Saren when in the world did you find time to do this? This is a pricelrss treasure for our family history. It made me laugh AND cry! I am so grateful for you!

Ingrid said...

A beautiful post! I also have 3 sisters and we mean the world to each other. Love this-- made me cry!

Cheryl said...

I have 4 sisters who are my best friends! I too have one daughter and 4 sons and honestly one of the main reasons I had my last baby was to try to get her a didn't work but of course we are thrilled with that bundle of joy...and she couldn't be happier to have her "buddy". But I too will always be a bit sad she doesn't have a sister.This was a beautiful post about sisterhood!

jo said...

I love this post. so interesting to hear more about your lives. I also love some of your wonderful outfits and remembered some of the things my sisters and i would wear. I am interested in the school pants; I am English and have never seen trousers like that to wear under dresses. cute x

anna said...

Saren, thank you so much for sharing this particular post. I have 3 younger sisters and have often thought about what kind of relationship we really have. What you have with your's is simply wonderful. You are so blessed. I have been taught by this post. On a less serious note, I see where the kids get their white blonde hair!

Andrea said...

Beautiful post! Wish I had a sister, and you make me really hopeful to have a sister for my little girl.

Meaghan said...

I have to de-lurk to let you know this is your absolute best post. It's a beautifully told story. Thank you! I also have sons and only one daughter who would love to have a sister. It just wasn't in the cards, but like you, we are fostering the sisterhood of girl cousins as much as we can.

Sheila said...

So awesome! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I have one sister, and my two girls are blessed to have each other and to be such good friends (their two brothers are the book-ends in the family).

Your darling daughter is and will be blessed to have "sisters" who are cousins, best friends, roommates, and inspiring ladies in RS to bond with and look up to.

Much love and blessings for the weekend.

shawni said...

Sar, I read this from my phone last week and couldn't figure out how to comment but I LOVE it! Thank you for all the memories...I'm SO lucky to have the best big sister in the world and SO excited to see you in a couple days! Love you.

Momof6 said...

Thanks for that post. We just had a baby girl and her sisters are 16 and 12 yrs older than her respectively.They love her like the baby doll she is but we have worried about her growing up alone, but thanks to your awesome post I am reassured that it will all come right in the end. Thanks
Bethany Loosli

Sonya said...

This is beautiful. I'm an only child and so while I've never had the special relationship of a sister, I've done what your daughter has done, and found a special bond with my cousins. I don't know the difference, and just get to enjoy what I do have.


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