Saturday, August 31, 2013

Beautiful Wedding and Ashton and Isaac's Tryouts

We were going to be up in Idaho this weekend. Our niece's wedding was Thursday up there and then we figured we'd enjoy the holiday weekend with family, boating, hanging out on the farm and all that good stuff.

But then things got extra busy and urgent at Jared's work.

So we drove up Wednesday night, enjoyed an action-packed day on Thursday going to the beautiful wedding, a great luncheon and an excellent reception, then drove home late Thursday night so Jared could be at work on Friday. Being there for all the wedding festivities and having time with family was totally worth the trip but that was sure an action-packed 24 hours (8 of which we were driving)!

The silver lining was that Ashton and Isaac were able to be at school on Friday. That way Isaac didn't have to miss cross country tryouts (since he was on the team last year, they were going to work out way for him to try out a different day since he was going to be out of town - but it was nice they didn't have to do that). And Ashton didn't have to miss his first volleyball team meeting. He made the team! We're so so so glad and so proud of him. We had our fingers crossed since it would be so fun for him to be part of a team and so good for him to have this opportunity to get a little "grittier" (see my recent post on grit) - but we hardly dared hope since he hasn't really played much volleyball before. Turns out he's got a knack for the sport - and being tall and coordinated and pretty quick to pick things up surely helps.

Here's a glimpse of the wedding:
Waiting for the bride and groom to come out of the temple: 
All five Loosli boys (with a couple photo bombers)


The weather changed several times while we were at the temple. These photos were all taken within a few minutes of each other. It was beautiful! And luckily the rain stayed off just long enough for great photos of the wedding party.


 The reception was at this beautiful old barn - such a lovely setting!

This was the view from the patio on the side of the barn. Look at those Tetons!

Really cool how they made chandeliers out of old farm equipment:

Loved how they found cool old doors and windows to use as decorations.

 And the food was on rough planks on top of old saw horses - perfect!

Congratulations Megan and Brett!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school and the kids declared it the best first day of school yet!

(someday we'll get the house re-painted...)
(Eliza has worn pig tales every single first day of school since preschool so she wants to keep up her tradition...)

The kids' school finished some beautiful new buildings over the summer and it was very exciting to start school in brand new classrooms with great new amenities (especially after sort of limping along in not-so-great facilities the past few years). And seeing all their old friends and meeting new teachers was very exciting. Plus everyone started some new things this year. The twins started the full Spanish immersion program. Eliza started 5th grade which at our school means she gets to have her own locker and switch teachers for each subject. Isaac started middle school and has some classes and teachers he's really excited about plus it's fun to get back going with the cross country team. And Ashton has all honors classes this year and is determined (or is that me that's determined???) to overcome some issues he's had in the past and get great grades this year. Plus he's trying out for the school volleyball team and volleyball is brand new to him. We're proud of him for trying something new and difficult.

Here are our two junior high boys (who weren't overly fond of photos and Ashton forbade me from hugging him in front of the school or following him inside with my camera...But Isaac gave me a nice big hug right there in the parking lot. Way to go, Ike!)

And here are our elementary schoolers (the two schools are right next door to each other). These cute kids were more than happy to have me accompany them into the school and get them settled.

Note the backpacks - there's this store her that sells returned Pottery Barn Kids stuff for super cheap prices and the kids found their perfect backpacks there. Silas and Oliver weren't one bit concerned that their backpacks have random monograms on them - all that matters is that they are Star Wars backpacks.

The twins were so excited when their teacher said they could sit wherever they wanted. They quickly gathered some best buddies and sat down.

Eliza was pretty pleased about her locker - and about the fact that her best friend Rachel was in her first class so they could visit their lockers and head to class together.

I just had to spy on them in their first class for a minute.

Then I had to spy on the twins for a minute before leaving the school.

We got rolling on our school year schedule quite nicely, I've got to say. Scriptures were right on time. Breakfast was right on time. We had time for photos and got to school early. Yeah us! And today we did great again. Two for two! I'm determined to be better about getting myself up right on time this year so I can keep everything on track...

It was so fun to see the kids at pick-up time. I really missed them. I just plain like these kids a lot and while it's great for them to be back in school and for me to have specific hours each day to do my work so I don't feel so pulled in different directions, this transition is feeling a bit hard this time round. I got tears in my eyes as I pulled away from the school. I felt so oddly alone after so much togetherness with the kids and upteen other great people all summer long. These kids are getting so big. I'm working my way out of a job bit by bit. They don't need me as much in some ways. They're so fun to have around. The house feels so empty without them. But it's all good.

And I carved out time from the long long long list of Power of Moms tasks I've had to put off over the summer to make cookies and have them waiting for the kids when we got home after school pick up. I have to say it was an extra good batch (I made these - so moist and yummy - and sort of healthyish too...). And the kids had SO much to say as we enjoyed our cookies and milk (plenty of interrupting but somehow it all worked out OK).

Then I sat down one-on-one with each child and went over all the disclosure/curriculum information they brought home from their many teachers and talked to them individually about what they're excited about this year and what they're worried about and that sort of thing. Felt so good to do what I've meant to do every school year but haven't done as fully as I'd hoped - really spend some time getting things organized with each kid for each class. It's so tempting to put those piles of papers they bring home on the first day aside for a while. But it's so nice to just plow right in and get this done right off the bat.

Then for Family Home Evening, Jared gave each child a beautiful back-to-school blessing.

So we're off to a great start!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Building Grit in our Kids

I just watched a TED Talk that struck a major chord with me. I guess it mostly confirmed something most of us already know - but helped me name something I really want to work on with my kids.

Angela Lee Duckworth spent years studying what determines success - tried to predict who'd succeed and who'd fail in really tough situations - West Point accademy, the National Spelling Bee, rookie teachers in really tough environments, salespeople at big companies. She found that that IQ, social intelligence, good looks and many other important contributing factors are NOT the most important factors that determine success. What determined who'd succeed was GRIT.

Grit is passion and perseverance for a long period of time. Grit is keeping your eye on the big goals and working towards them steadily even when the immediate stuff is really hard and really not fun. Grit is living life like a marathon, not like a sprint.

We know so little about how to build grit in people. Talent doesn't make you gritty. Grit is unrelated or inversely related to talent. Growth mindset - an idea from Carol Dweck at Stanford University - is the idea that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. When kids lean about the brain and how it can grow and develop and recognize that failure is not a permanent position, it helps them develop grit. But Ms. Duckworth said there's no real answers yet about to how to build grit in people. She said we need to be gritty about figuring out how to build grit.

Watch the whole talk here if you want (it's just 5 minutes - and really leaves you hanging!).

When I look at my own children and the people I know well, I see quite clearly that those who find success in their endeavors are generally gritty. So I want to do all I can do to help my kids develop that grit they need. Some of them have come by some serious grit quite naturally. For others, developing grit will be a bit of an uphill battle. But I believe it's possible. And I believe it's quite necessary.

I know that when I help my kids set goals that are a bit of a stretch - but not too much of a stretch - and help them make and execute do-able plans to get to their goals, then celebrate their achievements like crazy when they reach those goals, I think it helps them build grit. As they achieve hard things, they see that they can stretch, they can accomplish, they can reach. And I think seeing that hard stuff is possible is an essential element of grit.

One of my kids got a terrible grade in PE last year because he didn't really try very hard at all. He kept forgetting to bring his PE uniform. He didn't push himself when they did the required Presidential Fitness Tests. He said his foot hurt or his back hurt or his shoes were too tight or whatever the malady of the day was. And when we saw that ridiculous PE grade (which was based purely on just bringing your PE stuff and showing real effort), we weren't pleased.

We decided that in order for this child to have the tablet he'd saved up to buy, he needed to rectify that grade. We had him look up the Presidential Fitness Test online and find out how many push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups a kid his age was supposed to be able to do plus how fast he was supposed to be able to run a mile. And he agreed to work to meet those benchmarks and pass the fitness test this summer to make up for his bad grade and earn the right to get the tablet he earnestly wanted. We helped him make a chart and a plan including a few minutes a day several days a week of working on physical stuff. And we assured him he'd have the tablet within a couple weeks if he followed the plan. He's a strong, healthy kid and the benchmarks seemed very reasonable for him.

Well, despite lots of gentle reminders and suggestions, he just didn't get going on this stuff. He sporadically worked on a few sit ups or push ups here or there and with some slight arm-twisting, he consented to running a mile on a few occasions.

Finally, as the end of the summer loomed near, we decided to place a time limit on his goal and helped him draw up a more specific timeline and schedule for getting his goals accomplished. And with the more specific plan and timeline, things started to click for him. He passed off the sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups fairly quickly by getting into the right mindset and pushing past the "I hate this" feeling just a little. But the running goal was the hardest one - not something he could just push himself to do by trying extra hard for a few minutes (like he was able to do with the sit ups and pushups and pull ups). He needed to run every day for a while to increase his speed and get to the required 8 minute 15 second mile. He really doesn't like running. We accepted that then assured him that he COULD do it and helped him see that taking 10 minutes or so to go running each morning for a while really wasn't the worst thing ever. And once he got consistent with running a mile every morning, he was able to meet the goal on his 6th time in a row. We were all SO happy for him! And he's SO excited to have that tablet in his hands - there's nothing like getting something you've really worked hard to get.

I don't think this goal turned this child into a runner. Or into a really self-motivated guy. But I do think it helped him to see some grit in himself. And he needed to see that in order to build more grit. Grit builds on grit.

How else do you think we can build grit in our children? I'd sure love some help here!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Things that are hard

Life is good. I'm blessed to have happy, healthy, cute, smart kids. We've had a wonderful summer.

That said, there are some things going on around here that are really getting old! Here are a few of them:
  • My phone disappearing. My kids pick it up to look something up on it or play a game and carry it off and somehow it's seldom where I left it when I go looking for it. This is very very frustrating - especially since we don't have a home phone and I often have a tiny little window of time to make a phone call. And it's especially annoying when my phone walks off and I need to be on a call for work at a particular time...
  • Everyone needing things at the same time. Somehow, things can be relatively quiet for hours, then quite suddenly, everyone needs something at once. Someone's at the door asking to play with someone while I'm talking on the phone while several kids are asking me for something and none of their requests really go hand-in-hand. It's not very fun - at all. And sometimes I'm not very nice during these crazy moments.
  • My nose itch problem. I think it's allergies. Randomly (I can't figure out a pattern to it), my nose will start itching like mad and it lasts for like a 1/2 hour or so. It's SO annoying that I practically want to rip my nose off my face sometimes. And it's extra hard when the nose itch pops up right when everyone's needing something at the same time. 
  • Interruptions and plans that get thwarted. This is a never-ending, must-be-accepted part of motherhood and of life, I know. But it's still hard when I have these great plans for fun and meaningful things to do with my kids and either a kid is really spoiling things with their attitude or something comes up with work or church that is sort of an emergency and everything gets messed up.
  • The fact that my darling children have to be asked from 3-10 times (or more) to do things. I think they all developed a case of selective hearing during their long period of relative freedom from too much adult supervision at Bear Lake and I'm trying hard to break them of the habit of turning off their ears when their mom opens her mouth. They seriously sometimes seem to have no recollection that I've asked them to do something repeatedly. We've had big talks about this. I've tried many different methods. I've tried making eye contact before asking them to do things. I've tried having them repeat back to me what I've asked them to do (helps even though there's lots of eye-rolling involved). I've tried having them repeat back the instructions THREE TIMES (generally does work but not always and it's pretty annoying for everyone). I've tried doing the thing WITH them (not always possible). I hate nagging and I really think it can't be fun for them (but maybe it doesn't bother them much since they don't hear me anyway...). I'm working to be more consistent with the repeating-back thing but it's hard with so many kids and so much going on!
  • One kid accuses their siblings of being annoying all the time - in a very mean way. One kid cannot take any correction from anyone without tears coming on. One kid yells out in pain whenever any of their siblings even touches them. One kid wants to read all day every day. One kid has to be begged and bribed to read most of the time. 
  • It seems that we're always out of cups and glasses. Everyone seems to be using about 10 glasses each every day and by dinner we don't have anything clean left to drink out of. We actually have a LOT of cups and glasses but they end up sitting all over the countertops and sometimes they're randomly placed around the backyard and in other parts of the house by the end of the day. I keep meaning to write people's names on some plastic cups so everyone can keep using the same cup all day. But I keep forgetting.
  • Some of the kids have quite a bit to do on their summer goals and $50 is on the line for each of them to get their stuff done but some of them are amazingly un-motivated, even with all the offers of help and gentle reminders I've given. 
  • It's hot. It's just hot, hot, hot everyday. The kids are hot and sweaty and more grumpy for it and so am I. We've got good air conditioning but my frugal self has it set to a higher temperature than is actually comfortable and I keep forgetting to ask Jared to reprogram it so that we can all be a bit more comfortable. The kids are still spending a lot of time outside (other than Ashton who has to pretty much be bribed to get outside...) but it has to be early in the morning or late at night so we're not getting quite the sleep we need.
And yesterday was just plain hard. It started off great - nice run and chat with a good friend. But then the day sort of went downhill and picked up momentum. Kids were in bad moods and so was I. I was trying to gently motivate the kids to get the rest of their summer goals done but everyone seemed awfully slow-moving and lazy. I tried to get work done while everyone else was supposedly working on their "daily must-do's" but my work was feeling overwhelming and when I went to check on the kids, a couple of them were watching TV instead of doing what they'd said they'd do. And when Eliza wanted help with her violin practice and I decided to be a good mom and put aside my work and really focus on her the first time she asked and have a nice bonding experience with her, she got offended at every little suggestion I made and ended up in tears (even though I was really being very kind and helpful and encouraging - moreso than usual!)

Then we had to get to some back-to-back orthodontist consultations (time for braces on a couple kids, it seems) at the same time we were supposed to pick up a new girl and get her and Liza to Activity Days and at the last minute I realized I had to bring the twins with me because there wouldn't be anyone at home to babysit them but they were COVERED in dirt from playing in the backyard.  I don't think I made a very strong first impression heading into that orthodontist's office LATE with one very reluctant and greasy haired 13-year-old (who promised he washed his hair that morning but that really didn't seem possible and who loudly declared he was NOT getting braces), two super-dirty little boys with crazy hair, and one happy 12-year-old who's been begging for braces. The proposed cost for the braces the orthodontist recommended was a LOT. So I had that on my mind the rest of the evening.

After the orthodontist, we came home and I had the boys try on all their school uniforms from last year so that we could see what we could take to the uniform exchange at back-to-school night last night and see what they were needing to buy. Somehow Isaac has more shirts and shorts than any kid could ever need, Oliver and Silas have a few decent shirts including some new ones I bought them but only one pair of shorts (they kept wearing their uniform shorts as play shorts this summer - oops). And Ashton has grown out of EVERYTHING (thus Isaac has tons of hand-me-downs). The kids were NOT thrilled about trying on all the clothes for me so we could do the assessing that needed to happen but we finally got it done. Then I realized I was late to pick up Eliza and the new girl at Activity Days so I flew out the door for that, leaving piles of clothes everywhere and asking the kids to PLEASE not mess up my sorted piles!

Then we had to come home, grab the boys, grab the clothes for the uniform exchange, and get to the school (throwing some carrots and bread in our mouths since there was no time for dinner). Jared had meetings so he was only able to join us for part of the time (which was enormously helpful) so it was mostly up to me to get five kids to 21 different teachers for brief orientations, supply lists, information on curriculum for the year, etc. (Ashton, Isaac and Eliza all have a different teacher for each subject this year - thus the high number of teachers.) Plus the sweet lady who'd agreed to be in charge of the uniform exchange was in desperate need of help since other helpers didn't show up. And since I was in charge of it last year and knew what to do, I felt like I had to help with that for a while. It was craziness since they'd stuck her in a tiny area in a hallway instead of in the cafeteria where we've always done the exchange.

Somehow we made it through and didn't loose anyone for more than a few minutes. And the kids seemed very excited about their teachers (other than a couple kids who have a teacher each that they struggled with last year and were sad to see they had again this year - but just for one class out of many). It was fun to see them see some good friends they haven't seen all summer. And it was good to get to know the teachers a bit.

But wow, I came away overwhelmed with stacks of papers that need to be read and processed and lists of supplies we still need to get.

Anyway, even though I was feeling frazzled, I thought it would be fun to take the kids out for dinner (we were all really hungry by now) and talk about what they were most excited for about the new school year as we ate. We went to a pizza place they've been wanting to go to and ordered and I launched into the short but fun and meaningful discussion I'd envisioned. Needless to say, it didn't turn out as planned. The twins wanted to crawl around under the table. Ashton wanted to point out every little annoying thing everyone else was doing (tapping a fork on the table, humming, playing around with a napkin, etc.). Eliza really wanted to fully answer the questions I threw out and got really offended when others tried to interject their answers or randomly brought up their own random thoughts that had nothing to do with the question I just asked. Oliver and Silas took turns interrupting what I was saying by asking me a question (they do this all the time - can't quite understand that I can't listen WHILE I'm talking). Eliza had some great advice for the twins about the teacher they'll have who she's had in the past but they were not being good listeners. Ashton had some helpful advice for Isaac about his teachers and I was so excited Ashton was actually being nice to Isaac but Isaac was messing around with Silas and not listening which offended Ashton and me.

I said some stern words to Isaac and got pretty upset with everyone. "Why do I try?! I'm really really trying here to make this a special, nice night for all of us but you guys cannot stop bugging each other and interrupting!" I ordered everyone into the car and we rode home quiet and sad. I was wasted. So were they.

But we had prayers and I tucked them in with hugs and things are better today.

I know that the hard stuff is necessary and to be expected and we're all just fine and hopefully learned something from last night (I know I learned to set my expectations of quality discussion with the kids lower - especially at the end of a long day). I guess I just want to record this because it's real and it's important to remember just like it's important to remember the happy and nice things I've been posting about a lot this summer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Southwest Pizza

I've been a bit un-motivated about cooking this summer (to say the least). After helping to cook for 30-50 people every day at Bear Lake (where we ate like kings thanks to so many great ideas from so many great cooks - read details here on my mom's blog), I just needed a break and we all felt content with pretty simple stuff - pasta and red sauce, beans and rice, tuna sandwiches, that sort of thing . . .

But I'm getting back into the swing of more tasty and imaginative food now. Especially since several of the kids set summer goals involving learning to make a meal and they've only got this week to finish their goals.

Here's a new favorite we came up with one day last week when we were trying to be creative with what we had in the fridge. It was super easy and an instant favorite and we'll be making it again and again!


This picture shows you most of what you need to know but some instructions are below.

  • Pizza dough (make some or buy some already made, can also use pre-cooked pita bread as a pizza crust and have everyone make their own little pizza)
  • Your favorite salsa
  • Queso fresca (crumbly white Mexican cheese) or whatever cheese you want
  • corn (frozen or canned, whatever you've got)
  • a can of black beans (drained)
  • chopped cilantro (as much as you want)

You could also add some canned green chile peppers (mild or hot, your choice), grilled chicken, taco meat, sliced green or red peppers, etc.

  • spray cookie sheet/baking tray generously with cooking spray
  • stretch out dough nice and thin into a circle/oval (you can roll it out but just stretching it out by hand works well for me)
  • spread on salsa
  • top with cheese, beans, corn, cilantro, whatever else you want
  • cook at 425 for about 12-15 minutes or until crust edges are golden and cheese is melted. You might need to use a paper towel to soak up extra liquid if your salsa/corn is extra liquidy (I had to).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bear Lake Photo Shoot

At Bear Lake, we were blessed to have our dear friend and almost-sister Eva and her family with us for a few days. I met Eva on my mission in Bulgaria and talked my parents into sponsoring her so she could come to the US for college. She became a wonderful addition to the family. But now she lives on the East Coast and we don't get to see her very much. So it was really great to have Eva with us for part of our reunion this year, have her kids to get to know their Eyre "cousins," and have some good time with her and her husband Adam (Adam and Eva, isn't that great?).

Adam and Eva's son got baptized in the lake while we were there - such a beautiful highlight for all of us.

And since Eva just happens to be an amazing award-winning photographer, she was kind enough to take our family photos this year. (Check out her work at

She did SUCH a great job!

Here's the full group (click to make larger - and keep in mind that it was VERY windy - miraculous that Eva was able to get some good shots!):

 And here are some great shots she captures of just our family:


Thanks Eva! Obecham te! (I love you in Bulgarian)


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