Thursday, December 29, 2011

Can you do me a favor?


Happy New Year!

As a little New Year's gift to me, it would be really wonderful if you could do three things for me (and my "baby," The Power of Moms). It will take you about 3 minutes to do these things and you'll be helping yourself and maybe also your friends and family while you're helping me. Total win-win going on here.

1. If you do Facebook, click here to visit our Facebook page and "like" Power of Moms so you can get the little updates and links we send out.

2. Click here to become a registered member of The Power of Moms. If you register before January 3rd, you get the regular free gifts we give everyone who registers plus two special holiday gift programs including a free podcast series I recorded with my mom and sisters last summer that I bet you'd like a lot and a webinar on boundaries and margins that offers info that was pretty revolutionary to me when I first heard it. Let all your friends know about these special offers just for joining our website if you like.

3. Share what you like about Power of Moms with all your mom friends - use email, Facebook, word of mouth, whatever works for you. A really easy way to share the site is to share this link to our Welcome Page on Facebook or email. We get so many emails from moms saying that they've found something on Power of Moms that has changed their lives. Please help us reach moms who might need this stuff!

Why is it important to me that you do these three things? Mostly I just want all this hard work I do for Power of Moms to reach more moms who need it. But also, the larger our numbers, the better chance we have of getting sponsors to help support our site. We're needing some support so we can reach all the moms we need to reach and provide great programs at great prices without dipping into our own pockets so much.

So can you do those three things? Pretty please? Thanks!

Oh, and one last thing. If you buy stuff on Amazon, it would be wonderful if you could first click on our Power of Moms Amazon store. From there, you can go anywhere you like on Amazon right then or visit Amazon to make a purchase of ANYTHING (whether it's something we recommend or something else) anytime in the next month and anything you purchase will result in a small percentage going to help support our work at Power of Moms. Doesn't cost you anything but helps us out - plus you might really like some of our recommended products if you're looking for a great book for yourself or quality toys or books for your kids. If you can visit our store before buying something on Amazon, it would be very nice.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

Here's the story of our Christmas (mostly in photos):


Temple Square:
Christmas officially began once we met up with my sister Charity (beloved Aunt ChiChi) who arrived on the 23rd from San Francisco to spend Christmas with us. We met up with her at Temple Square to see the lights and delighted in beauty and wonder of all the lights and crowds and music of the place. The cold air and bundled families and sparkling lights make for such a festive evening - especially with Charity's added spark.


Christmas Eve
Then Christmas Eve morning, we had our traditional breakfast (this yummy quick quiche - will post the recipe later because man, it's good - and pretty darn easy too).

Dessert for Christmas Eve breakfast was the gingerbread house we built the day before (with much frustration mixed with glee - the thing would not hold together - wow - not my favorite Christmas tradition but the kids won't let it go...). Eating it proved to be MUCH more fun and WAY faster than building the thing! Plus we found out that Ikea's gingerbread house kit provided by far the best-tasting gingerbread we've had in a pre-made kit.



Secret Elves
After devouring the house, we guessed and then revealed who everyone's secret elves were. We drew names of people who we'd be "Secret Elves" for the week before. Everyone had so much fun all week doing nice little services for each other and leaving notes and treats for each other. Everyone did a great job but Silas was my secret elf and I think we all agreed he was the best. He left a sweet note or treat under my pillow every night. He left a dot-to-dot for me to do one day (it made a cool pattern). Another day he made me a "popskl making kit" that included instructions wrapped around a popsicle stick.  The instructions said: 1. put apl jus in a cup. 2. put this stk in the cup. 3. put the cup in the freazer for a few owers. 4. eet yr popskl! He was SO cute about the whole thing, asking me each day in a calculatingly casual way whether I'd got anything from my secret elf. When I'd excitedly tell him about the awesome stuff I got, he'd try to conceal his obviously huge happiness about how much I appreciated what he'd done. You can see some of the joy of giving on Silas's face in this photo right after he revealed he was my elf.

Wrapping and Puzzle Time
We spent a lot of Christmas Eve wrapping presents (it was my big goal that I actually achieved this year to get all the shopping done the day before and be able to relax a fair amount on Christmas Eve). Then when the last of the presents were wrapped and under the tree, we worked on a puzzle together and it was a really fun family project. I think we'll make this a regular Christmas Eve tradition.


We went over to our neighbor's house for an early dinner featuring their traditional pierogi (Polish dumplings - 100's of them, all handmade - delicious!). We enjoyed meeting some of their friends and enjoyed great food and great conversation. I didn't think to take photos. Oh well.

Nazareth Summer and Nativity
Then we came home and had our traditional Nazareth Supper - a tradition my parents started long ago. We  dress up, turn off all the lights and use only candles, and pretend to be Mary's family enjoying a farewell dinner as we send her and Joseph off on the journey to Bethlehem while we eat pita, goat cheese, pomegranates and other foods they'd have had in Jesus' day. We use simple costumes I made years ago from fabric I found on the dollar table at Walmart mixed with some real head bands and robes my parents picked up on travels in the Middle East. We also use special plates I bought in Jerusalem years ago. So fun to have Charity there to round out the conversation over supper as well as help with the traditional Nativity play we put on at the close of the supper.

For the supper, Charity was Mary's cousin Elizabeth, Isaac was her husband Zachariah and the baby is baby John (who's pretty darn small for his age - he's have been about 6 months older than Jesus I think). Ashton choose to be a cousin who was also a donkey-dealer and hooked Mary and Joseph up with a great donkey for the journey. Silas was Mary's brother. Oliver was Joseph and Liza was Mary (she gets to be Mary every year and is quite pleased about that - she's got the role down pat). Jared and I were Mary's parents - Anna and Joquime (according to some sources).

Then Ashton became the donkey and the rest of us transformed into innkeepers, shepherds, kings and angels.
Mary and Joseph head to Bethlehem with their trusty donkey
Joseph talks to an innkeeper 
The baby was born in the stable
 

The angel pointed out the star to the shepherds and sang to them
And the wise men, angel and shepherds worshiped the newborn babe
As we knelt around the baby in the soft glow of the Christmas tree, we sang Away in a Manger, Silent Night, In a Little Stable, and What Child is This. After some silliness here and there during dinner and some frustration about posing for photos and some disagreement about who should do what, it was great to feel the Spirit really rush in as we knelt there together at the end and sang.

Christmas Eve Present
Then we finished off the evening by opening one present which proved to be - as always - new pj's.



This is how we left the tree when we went to bed - with visions of sugar plumbs dancing in our heads.
And this is how it looked when we checked to see if Santa came before
we let the kids come downstairs Christmas morning

Christmas Morning

When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, they can peek into their stockings that Santa leaves on the end of their beds (Father Christmas delivers stockings to the end of the kids' beds at Christmas in England so I grew up with that tradition and it stuck).   Then at 7:30, they can wake us up by singing carols on the stairs. Here they are:

We opened up our stockings (some fun little puzzles and games plus all the regular candy - jelly orange slices that grow on trees at the North Pole, candy canes, oranges, and each kid got a favorite exotic fruit - mangos, kiwi, and Isaac got his favorite - an avacado) 

Then it was time to head downstairs and see if Santa brought anything else. Do you think they're excited???

Santa Gifts
Eliza got the Madame Alexander doll she asked for - named her Ava.
And she fit perfectly on the horse her cousins gave her a couple years ago.
Liza was excited to introduce Ava to her other dolls - Susan and Tasha. I love that Liza's still so into dolls.

Oliver got the K'nex roller coaster he'd been dreaming of and spent the rest of the day excitedly working on putting it together. We thought we'd have to help him quite a bit but he totally figured out the instructions himself. It's going to take quite some time to finish that thing but Oliver is totally undaunted.


Ashton got a pretty awesome Syma helicopter that Jared's always begging to fly.
Silas got the seemingly awesome race car set pictured above from Santa. But apparently some less-than-stellar elves built this thing. It totally didn't work. Silas was pretty sad and Jared and I felt awful since Silas was also the one who had his Christmas gift from last year fall off Santa's sleigh and arrive a few days late. Ooops!  But luckily Silas got happily sucked into helping with Oliver's roller coaster. And when he got this really super cool rocket ship from one of his cousins (pictured below), the day was thoroughly saved.

 

Kid Gifts
As usual, one of my favorite parts of the day was watching the kids open the presents they'd carefully saved up and bought for each other.  This year the older kids went beyond dollar store gifts since they've been earning more money mowing lawns and babysitting. Ashton and Isaac were SO excited about the gifts they had for the twins and Eliza. And the twins and Eliza were perfectly delighted with what their big brothers bought for them.



 The twins did tons of jobs around the house to earn up money to buy everyone something at the dollar store and were SO excited to give their gifts.


 All the kids chipped in on a megapack of cotton swab/q-tips for their dad. He was pretty excited.

Brunch
We ate our traditional eggs benedict for brunch. Yum!


Church
We rushed off to church after brunch. I have to admit I wasn't feeling much like changing out of our pj's and breaking up the day with church after we'd really spent a lot of quality time already focusing on the spiritual aspects of Christmas. But some of my favorite moments of Christmas day happened as we sat on uncomfortable folding chairs at the back of a church gym. As we listened to the choir sing and heard great talks about how angels are all around us and how the Christmas story teaches us about the beauty and importance of parenthood alongside other things, the twins were both on my lap, patting my cheeks and snuggling up to me, Eliza was snuggled up on one side, Isaac was reaching across Eliza to hold my hand and squeeze "I love you" with three hand squeezes, and Ashton was smiling at me whenever I caught his eye. It was so nice to sit there nestled together with no presents to distract and really think about the powerful messages of Christmas that the speakers were presenting. I pulled up this photo on my phone and passed it along the row so everyone could really examine it during the talk about how angels are always around us. I love how this painting makes me think and feel when I look at it carefully:
"Nativity" by Brian Kershisnik

After church, we came home for more present-opening and fun (and too much candy).
Charity and I randomly got the same slippers and they are AWESOME!
My parents picked out Charity's for her and Jared surprised me with mine.

My parents' big gift to us was a Kindle Fire. Of course I haven't exactly been able to get my hands on it yet (other than for this photo) but it sure seems great and everyone in the family is enjoying it.
Jared and I said we weren't going to do gifts for each other this year. But Jared apparently didn't really mean it. He gave me some great stuff. My favorites were a beautiful letter he wrote to me (since I know writing is NOT his thing, this meant the world to me) and a wireless speaker (ihome) that will play music right from my phone. I've been missing music and this thing is so great!

Christmas Dinner
We closed the day with a fancy turkey dinner including traditional English Christmas Crackers filled with jokes, prizes and a paper crown so we could all be kings and queens for dinner. Since Charity went on her mission to England and I grew up in England, we needed some good British stuff thrown in.



What a Christmas we had! Full of traditions and joy and giving and love and playing and worshiping the One who Christmas is really about in word and in deed.

Post-Christmas in Ashton

I'll finish my post on Christmas soon but there are still quite a few photos to edit for that one and I like to blog about the day it actually is as much as possible.

Today we're in Ashton, Idaho at the farm with a bunch of Jared's family. We got up here yesterday and have been talking, playing games (the big hit of the season has been Reverse Charades - the teenagers were begging to play it pretty much all day every day and everyone laughed harder than they have in a long time), playing in the snow, laughing, opening more presents and eating non-stop since we got here. As always, this is a very fun and relaxing place to be - no big plans, lots of unstructured time, Jared's mom making great meals with everyone else pitching in to help, kids laughing and playing, plenty to do but nothing really required.


There's not a lot of snow but enough for kind big cousin Mark to
take kids on countless sleigh rides towed by a 4-wheeler


As the sun just started to dip in the sky, I went for a nice solitary walk. I fell in love with the beauty of this place all over again and felt so full of joy and life as I walked along in that crisp air surrounded by such splendor. I love the subtle and somewhat bleak beauty of winter here at the farm. I love how the weeds along the road become such lovely shades of gold and auburn. I love the angles of the tilted fence posts and how they add dimension and focal points to the scene. I love the clean white of the snow and the changing colors of the vast clear sky.





This is some of the Loosli farm buildings from down the road.
Beauty. I'm so grateful for beauty. And relaxation. And games and laughter. And conversation. And family.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Christmas Card


(click on the photo to enlarge)
As pictures typically capture the good times and happy faces, it was a great exercise in gratitude to go through photos and create our traditional annual Christmas card collage. Sure, we've had plenty of hard times (involving far more hard work and stress than is probably healthy - a big resolution for 2012 is to slow things down...) but I'm struck by the beauty we've experienced, the great people and places we've enjoyed, how cute the kids are, and how many fun and wonderful adventures we've had.  All in all, the good stuff in 2011 has far outweighed the not-so-good stuff.

Here's an overview of the year (mostly represented in the photo collage above):
  • HOME: We've lived here for just over a year now and this is really feeling like home. The kids finally settled on a name for our beautiful old house - Ida Mimzy.  Ida is my great grandmother's name and was one of the top names in the 1880's when this house was built. And Mimzy - the kids came up with it and I think it adds a little whimsy to the whole thing. We've done plenty of projects to get Ida whipped into shape and she sure has her quirks but we love our house and neighborhood dearly.  
  • SCHOOL: We've had our scholastic challenges this year as the kids have gradually adjusted to a good school that makes them tow the line academically and encourages some stretching that is uncomfortable for some of the kids. Eliza begs for extra homework and projects, Isaac bemoans the hours he has to put into homework but faithfully plows through, Ashton has a hard time remembering that he has homework at all which presents some problems, and the twins whip through everything easily and are reading up a storm. So if you average out how everyone's doing academically, I guess we're at a nice level "fine" when it comes to school.
  • SNOW: Having spent 6 years in the Bay Area and then 6 years in St George, snow is a pretty new thing for our kids. And last winter it kept snowing through April!  The kids built countless snowmen, became fearless sledders, and impressed us with how quickly they took to the ski slopes. This year we've been low on snow and we're all crossing our fingers for at least some Christmas flurries. 
  • SPRING BREAK ROAD TRIP: Our spring break trip this year involved great adventures and loads of family bonding time in the car (so grateful for audio books and kids who are old enough to be pretty civilized during car trips). We went to visit my brother Jonah and family on the Olympic peninsula and had a great time exploring Seattle, hiking in the lush rain forests of the Olympia National Park, visiting a beautiful old lighthouse on the Canadian border, hanging out with the Eyres' many cool farm animals, and relaxing with some of our favorite people. Then we drove down the coast and spent a few days in our beloved San Francisco with my sister Charity and Jared's sister Kathryn and family. We went up and down the roller coaster hills of San Fran, basked in the diversity and excitement of the city (the kids were especially impressed with the street performers and naked bike riders we saw), enjoyed a wonderful Easter at the Pritchett house and loved visiting our old house and ward (congregation) in San Jose.
  • HIKING AND BIKING: After enjoying 6 years of beautiful red rock biking and hiking in St George, we were sad to leave that behind when we moved here. But we've loved exploring great new hikes and bike rides in the mountains five minutes from our new home and we've been back to many of our old favorite hikes in St George this past year. The beauty, fresh air, bonding and exercise involved in hiking and biking has proven to be an important part of this family's well-being.
  • ASHTON, IDAHO (a.k.a. "the farm"): We've loved living nearer to Jared's mom and brother and the farm where Jared grew up. Some highlights at the farm this year included helping out with the annual Bull Sale, feeding cows, seeing the newborn calves, snowmobiling and sledding, jumping on the trampoline, riding around on huge tractors and combines, helping with the potato harvest, riding in the 4th of July parade, and enjoying time with scores of wonderful relatives. 
  • BEAR LAKE: As usual, we spent most of July at Bear Lake with most of the Eyre family. The kids enjoyed countless hours in the sun, water and sand with beloved cousins while the adults basked in great conversation, reading, games, beautiful scenery and togetherness. My sisters and I cooked and talked up a storm (we recorded a new series of Deliberate Mothering podcasts to capture some of our best conversations) and our husbands came up on weekends when they could. Isaac and Ashton became quite good water skiers and wake boarders, Eliza overcame her fears and got up on skis a couple times, and the twins drank a fair amount of the lake in their waterski attempts without exactly finding success. They were successful, however, in somehow starting an old tractor and taking their little cousin for a joy ride that miraculously did NOT result in any damage to people or property! Jared and I did our traditional 50-mile bike ride around Bear Lake for my birthday and I tried to learn to like running up and down the hilly road by the lake as I trained for the Grand Teton Relay. 
  • GRAND TETON RELAY: Jared and I whipped ourselves into shape so that we could spend 36 hours running and resting and laughing and covering 185 miles of beautiful terrain with 10 other Loosli family members on our relay team. It was gorgeous and grueling and amazingly fun. I was slow but steady. Jared was fast and strong. We're doing it again next year.
  • WORK: After relocating here a year ago for what seemed like a wonderful job for Jared, that job quickly went south. Jared had to jump off the sinking ship in March and he's been working full time on several exciting projects since then (which is great except that none of those projects are exactly lucrative quite yet). He's been able to combine his trucking and engineering knowledge to work on a very promising trucking-related product that will hopefully go to market in the near future. And it's been a huge blessing to have his help with The Power of Moms as we went through a total website redesign and added many new programs. He's helped make the website beautiful and functional and helped us reach our current audience of over 100,000 moms. We now have 100's of moms using our Mind Organization for Moms program and running Learning Circles in their own communities plus we held seven professional development Retreats for moms across the country during 2011. I've loved working with so many devoted, selfless, bright and wonderful women (especially my amazing partner, April) and I couldn't have done any of this without Jared's very active help and support. Jared and I are also still running our little preschool curriculum company, The Joy School Company, and enjoy working with the great ladies who run preschools using my parents' Joy School curriculum. 
  • CHURCH: We love the diversity of the good people in our church congregation. Jared works with the missionaries and I'm the Bear Scout den leader. We're so grateful for the chance to gather each Sunday to think about and talk about how we can become the people we're meant to be through the example and Atonement of Jesus Christ.
We hope that 2012 will bring us all great adventures, beauty, contributions, fun, love, joy and growth (without too much pain if possible!). We wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Much love,
The Loosli Family
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