Saturday, September 28, 2013

Big Backyard Project - Part II

My back aches but our back yard is mostly done now!

After this long process, we were down to just a few more steps to getting our backyard done.

Over the past couple weeks, Jared and our neighbor have worked diligently to install sprinklers. This morning we leveled and raked for hours (that's why my back aches - hours of raking up rocks and digging around to get a large area level will do that to you!). Then we spent the afternoon installing sod (which went quite quickly since several kind relatives and friends pitched in to help).

Seeing that lovely green move across our formerly weed-infested and trashy-looking yard was extremely gratifying!

Even little kids helped - scooping up and getting rid of all the rocks we raked out of the dirt was an important job.

With everyone pitching in, the sod went down quickly - such a satisfying project with such immediate results!

And here's the mostly-finished product! (For now anyway, we'll be adding a couple fruit trees scattered about in the middle of the yard and some boulders plus a variety of different long grasses to make the hill an even more interesting place to play. Plus there will be lots more plants around the edges in the current dirt areas and and expanded vegetable garden on the left. But for now, we're really pleased and this back yard has come a LONG way!)

Here are the awesome guys who did the lion's share of the work - what an accomplishment! (see the really happy kids in the background?)

The kids have visions of sledding down the hill in the winter and building a climbing wall on the steep back side of the hill. We're going to put in some balance beams and other fun things in the back area as well. It's so fun to take all these ideas the kids have had (like wanting a trampoline and digging tunnels through the original dirt hill) and combine them with ideas from Pinterest and happenstance (like that the hill had to be there because the dirt from the trampoline hole had to go somewhere...) to create a backyard everyone is really excited about!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jonah's Awesome Granola

My brother Jonah makes such delicious, healthy stuff. Back when we used to be neighbors in St George, we traded recipes a lot and had a great time eating over at each other's houses on Sundays. Now I just get to enjoy his cooking at Bear Lake.

This year, he made some masterful granola at Bear Lake and everyone loved it. It's by far the best granola I've ever had and makes all store-bought granolas seem too oily or too sweet or just plain not that great. Here's his recipe that I now make every week:


Mix the following together in Kitchen Aid mixer (or can mix by hand in a big bowl)

4 C old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats - but quick oats will do if that's all you've got)
1 t salt
1 t vanilla
3/4 C chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts if you're Jonah and live in Hawaii, whatever you've got)
1 C wheat germ
3/4 C ground flax seed
2 C flaked dry coconut
1 C honey
1/2 C canola oil (or coconut oil - a little better that way)
1/2 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds (optional)

Then add:
4 MORE cups old fashioned rolled oats (1/2 cup at a time until you can't fit any more in w/o it flying out of the mixer - I can fit about 3 3/4 cups)

Spread out evenly over two cookie sheets.

Bake at 275 for 30 mins, checking at 20 and 25 minutes to see if it's getting brown on the edges (every oven is different!). It's done when everything's golden and the edges are a bit brown. It'll be soft when you take it out of the oven but after cooling, it'll become quite crispy. When it's totally cooled, you can put it into a container, breaking up the big clumps as you scoop it off the cookie sheets.

Mix in 1-2 cups raisins or craisins after cooking or upon serving if you like. You can add the raisins before cooking but they puff up while cooking and can end up sort of hard in the end so we like to add them after cooking to keep them softer.

Makes the equivalent of two big boxes of store-bought granola.

The Habits of Happy People

I listened to a great Ted Talk today while on my run. Then my brother forwarded me a link to an article that nicely summarized the talk. The talk and article are about happiness, something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately.

Here's the talk: (He talks about actual scientific studies they've done to "prove" what creates happiness.)

Here's the article by Kate Bratskeir that summarizes some great points from Seligman's talk:

Here are some of the 16 things Bratskeir says happy people do (pasted right from her article with lots of good links to further information):

They try to be happy. 
Yep -- it’s as simple as it sounds: just trying to be happy can boost your emotional well-being, according to two studies recently published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Those who actively tried to feel happier in the studies reported the highest level of positive moods, making a case for thinking yourself happy.

They are mindful of the good.
It’s important to celebrate great, hard-earned accomplishments, but happy people give attention to their smaller victories, too. “When we take time to notice the things that go right -- it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day,” Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. told The Huffington Post in May. “That can help with our moods.” And, as Frank Ghinassi, Ph.D. explains, being mindful of the things that do go your way (even something as simple as the barista getting your coffee order right) can make you feel a greater sense of accomplishment throughout the day.

They appreciate simple pleasures.
A meticulously swirled ice cream cone. An boundlessly waggy dog. Happy people take the time to appreciate these easy-to-come-by pleasures. Finding meaning in the little things, and practicing gratitude for all that you do have is associated with a sense of overall gladness.

They devote some of their time to giving.
Even though there are only 24 hours in a day, positive people fill some of that time doing good for others, which in return, does some good for the do-gooders themselves. A long-term research project called Americans’ Changing Lives found a bevy of benefits associated with altruism: “Volunteer work was good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteered were happier and experienced better physical health and less depression,” reported Peggy Thoits, the leader of one of the studies.
Givers also experience what researchers call “the helper’s high,” a euphoric state experienced by those engaged in charitable acts. “This is probably a literal “high,” similar to a drug-induced high,” writes Christine L. Carter, Ph.D. “The act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria.”
They let themselves lose track of time. (And sometimes they can’t help it.)
When you’re immersed in an activity that is simultaneously challenging, invigorating and meaningful, you experience a joyful state called “flow.” Happy people seek this sensation of getting “caught up” or “carried away,” which diminishes self-consciousness and promotes the feelings associated with success. As explained by, “In order for a Flow state to occur, you must see the activity as voluntary, enjoyable (intrinsically motivating), and it must require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging) with clear goals towards success.”
They nix the small talk for deeper conversation.
Nothing wrong with shootin' the you-know-what every now and then, but sitting down to talk about what makes you tick is a prime practice for feeling good about life.A study published in Psychological Science found that those who take part in more substantive conversation and less trivial chit chat experienced more feelings of satisfaction.
"I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings," is one of the top five regrets of the dying -- a sentiment that hints at the fact that people wish they'd spent less time talking about the weather and more time delving into what it is that makes their heart swell.

They make a point to listen.
"When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts," writes David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism. "You are also demonstrating confidence and respect for others. Knowledge and confidence is proof that you are secure and positive with yourself thus radiating positive energy." Good listening is a skill that strengthens relationships and leads to more satisfying experiences. A good listener may walk away from a conversation feeling as if their presence served a purpose, an experience that isclosely connected with increased well-being.
They uphold in-person connections.
It’s quick and convenient to text, FaceTime and tweet at your buddies. But spending the money on a flight to see your favorite person across the country has weight when it comes to your well-being. "There's a deep need to have a sense of belonging that comes with having personal interactions with friends," says John Cacioppo, Ph.D., the director of the Center of Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Social media, while it keeps us in touch, doesn't allow us to physically touch, which harvests the warm-and-fuzzies and even decreases feelings of anxiety.
They listen to good music.
Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages. Choosing the right tunes could be an important factor, however, as a happy or sad song can also affect the way we perceive the world. In one experiment where researchers asked subjects to identify happy or sad faces while listening to music, the participants were more likely to see the faces that matched the "mood" of the music.Click here for a few of our favorite mood-boosting jams.
They unplug.
Whether by meditating, taking a few deep breaths away from the screen ordeliberately disconnecting from electronics, unplugging from our hyper-connected world has proven advantages when it comes to happiness. Talking on your cell could increase your blood pressure and raise your stress levels, while uninterrupted screen time has been linked to depression and fatigue. Technology isn't going away, but partaking in some kind of a digital detox gives your brain the opportunity to recharge and recover, which -- bonus -- could increase your resilience.
They get spiritual.
Studies point to a link between religious and spiritual practice and mirth. For one, happiness habits like expressing gratitude, compassion and charity are generally promoted in most spiritual conventions. And, asking the big questions helps to give our lives context and meaningA 2009 study found that children who felt their lives had a purpose (which was promoted by a spiritual connection) were happier.
Spirituality offers what the 20th-century sociologist Emile Durkheim referred to as "sacred time," which is a built-in, unplugging ritual that elicits moments of reflection and calm. As Ellen L. Idler, Ph.D., writes in "The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Spiritual/Religious Practices,": 
The experience of sacred time provides a time apart from the “profane time” that we live most of our lives in. A daily period of meditation, a weekly practice of lighting Sabbath candles, or attending worship services, or an annual retreat in an isolated, quiet place of solitude all of these are examples of setting time apart from the rush of our everyday lives. Periods of rest and respite from work and the demands of daily life serve to reduce stress, a fundamental cause of chronic diseases that is still the primary causes of death in Western society. Transcendent spiritual and religious experiences have a positive, healing, restorative effect, especially if they are “built in,” so to speak, to one’s daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles of living
They make exercise a priority.
A wise, albeit fictional Harvard Law School student once said, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, thanks to the the various brain chemicals that are released that amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation. Plus, working out makes us appreciate our bodies more. One study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that exercise improved how people felt about their bodies -- even if they didn’t lose weight or achieve noticeable improvements.
They go outside.
Want to feel alive? Just a 20-minute dose of fresh air promotes a sense of vitality, according to several studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. "Nature is fuel for the soul, " says Richard Ryan, Ph.D, the lead author of the studies. "Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature." And while most of us like our coffee hot, we may prefer our serving of the great outdoors at a more lukewarm temperature: A study on weather and individual happiness unveiled 57 degrees to be the optimal temperature for optimal happiness.
They spend some time on the pillow.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed isn't just a myth. When you're running low on zzs, you're prone to experience lack of clarity, bad moods and poor judgment. "A good night's sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety," Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center told "You get more emotional stability with good sleep."
They LOL.
You've heard it before: Laughter is the best medicine. In the case of The Blues, this may hold some truth. A good, old-fashioned chuckle releases happy brain chemicalsthat, other than providing the exuberant buzz we seek, make humans better equipped to tolerate both pain and stress.
And you might be able to get away with counting a joke-swapping session as a workout (maybe). "The body's response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise," explained Dr. Lee Berk, the lead researcher of a 2010 study focused on laughter's effects on the body. The same study found that some of the benefits associated with working out, like a healthy immune system, controlled appetite and improved cholesterol can also be achieved through laughter.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Origins of Pleasure

I really enjoyed this - it really made me think:

After watching it, I wondered whether one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because my dear brother Talmadge sent me the link and said he'd really enjoyed watching it as part of the Positive Psychology Masters program he recently started.

The origin of the video - it's recommendation by someone I love and its inclusion in a top-tier university's Master's program - likely made me enjoy it more.

 And my enjoyment of the video was also likely heightened because I watched it during the precious few minutes of me-time that I allow myself every morning after I get the kids off to school. When I get home from dropping them off, I sit down and watch a TED talk or a talk from LDS General conference or something else thought-provoking and meaningful while I eat my breakfast (I realized long ago that eating breakfast with the kids just wasn't realistic - I've got to be doing hair and dealing with tons of little details while they eat breakfast so we can be on time for school...). I ate my favorite breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt and fresh sliced peaches that I got from the Farmer's Market on Saturday. I'm sure my enjoyment of this talk was heightened by watching it while enjoying my tasty breakfast and my pleasant moments of piece after a crazy morning of getting kids off to school.

It's helpful to think about what really gives us pleasure and why. I think we're meant to experience a lot more pleasure than we generally experience in life but we don't really think about making joy and pleasure a goal. Perhaps if we set ourselves up for pleasure more, we'd not only experience it more, but we'd also be nicer people. Hmmm.

There is that scripture, "Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:27). Is this scripture making a statement - that we were created to have joy and that joy is our right? Or is it more of a commandment - saying that we are supposed to seek out joy, to enjoy the beauty God created for us, to appreciate all that life brings us and gain the huge joy and pleasure that is to be had in gratitude, to prioritize pleasure sometimes, to work hard towards important things so that we can experience that uniquely wonderful joy that comes from achievement and helping others...

On another note, I realized I'm odd in some ways. If the origin of something I love is that I found it for a great deal and it's fake but I really like it, I think I actually like and cherish that thing more than if it were a really expensive original that I'd have to worry about the kids damaging.

I love this "painting" and I get tons of compliments on it when people come our house:

While it's a factory-produced piece (canvas with what looks like real paint applied thickly on top - nice texture and looks quite real) and I don't even know who the original artist was or whether he/she experienced any fame for his/her art, I love this painting. It's just really beautiful to me. But then as I think about it further, perhaps some of the reasons I love it have to do with its origin when I think of origin on a more personal level.

I've been to Sweden where my ancestors are from and when I first spied this painting at Ikea, it totally reminded me of Sweden and it's somewhat stark but sweeping beauty hit me just right. I was with Jared and the kids and we were visiting SLC from St George. I told Jared I really wanted the painting. He agreed that it was nice but brought up that we wouldn't be able to fit it in the back of our van to get it back to St George and that if we put it in the passenger area, the chances of it surviving a 4-hour drive next to the kids was pretty small. But with some tetras-style maneuvering, we fit it quite nicely in the back of the van and found it a spot in our house in St George. Then when we moved, it proved to be absolutely perfect above the fireplace in our house here - totally opens up the living room that is otherwise a bit dark and feels sort of smallish.

 So while this painting doesn't have beautiful origins of its own, it's developed meaning and history for us and therefore offers us as much or more pleasure than an original painting would...

I think that whether things in our home, the gifts we receive, the names we have and give our children, or the experiences we have come to us with history and meaning already assigned to them or whether we assign our own meaning to them, origin and meaning is important and does heighten pleasure. I know that when I tell my kids how hard I worked on dinner or even involve them in that hard work, their enjoyment of that dinner is definitely heightened. I know that when I come up with a gift or plan an activity for someone that has some history and meaning behind it and I share that history and meaning with the receiver, the pleasure involved in the gift is heightened for both the giver and the receiver.

 Just some random thoughts for the day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Map Table

There are tons of big fat projects that need to be done on this old house. I keep trying to get bids on different things as we've saved up to get a few things taken care of (getting all the trim repainted, getting the yucky old paint off the pretty old bricks, getting the decks refinished, getting the old crumbing sandstone fixed up, getting backsplash tile up in the kitchen, finishing the re-mortaring that needs to happen to the rocks in the basement, getting a rickety chimney solidified...). But these crazy contractors come out here, look at everything, then never bring me a bid! So the home-improvement front (other than the backyard that we're doing ourselves) has been a bit bleak.

But I have been able to get a few small and very satisfying things done in the past few months.

Our new map table is one of those things.

I've been wanting to do two things for ages - make our dinged up old homework table into something better and find a place where we could put a map of the word with stars on all the places anyone in our family has visited. I was excited when I came up with the idea of putting a map on the table to cover up its imperfections and top that with a piece of glass to keep the map nice and make a better surface on the table.

It took me a while to get around to this idea. But one day this summer, that table was really bugging me and I saw a school supply store while I was driving, had a few extra minutes, and figured I'd go in and see if they had any maps that might work. They had a great map that looked about the right size if I trimmed off the corners a bit. I bought it for $12. Then I came home and called this glass place I see on the way to and from the kids' school and ordered a piece of round glass to top the map and table (it was more expensive than I'd have thought, but way cheaper than a new table or a nicely framed map for the wall!).

Then one week later, I picked up the glass and the kids and I had fun marking stars on the map (lots of stars across the US thanks to our recent road trip!). Then we trimmed the map and positioned the glass on top.


I love that the kids get to think about the larger world a bit and remember fun family trips as they do their homework and I love that the table looks so much better and is now really easy to clean.

Monday, September 16, 2013

15 Years

It's been 15 years since this happened:

Since then, we've had 5 kids, 6 homes, about 10 different jobs and business start-ups between the two of us. We've enjoyed countless family hikes and trips and adventures. We've been through amazingly hard stuff and rejoiced in amazingly good stuff. 

My kind parents took the kids for the weekend and Jared and I had a delightful time in Salt Lake (easy and cheap and perfect since we got married there). We'd had so many crazy weeks in a row that we really didn't plan much. But it was heavenly to simply hang out and have no big agenda. 

We went to a beautiful, powerful temple session at the Salt Lake temple (where we were married) and did some sealings right there where we were sealed. We wandered around City Creek mall and enjoyed a perfect evening at Temple Square - cool sweet evening air, gorgeous flowers, the lights coming on on the Temple... 

(The photo above is the only photo we got of the two of us all weekend somehow...)

We ate brunch at a new favorite restaurant: The Tin Angel (the lobster omelette and panzanella and fresh heirloom tomato salad was wonderful) 

We stayed in on a rainy night and enjoyed the amazing tomatoes and other great produce we found at the downtown farmer's market:

We talked a lot and so enjoyed having full conversations without the interruptions of kids or phone calls or tiredness (often our only time to talk when is after Jared gets back from church meetings when we're both so tired that we're hardly coherent). We pulled out this Book of Questions left over from our dating years and learned lots of new little things about each other as we traded off randomly picking questions from the book to ask each other. It was so nice to talk about something beyond schedules, the back yard, work, worries about our kids, issues going on in the ward, and the like (all great topics, but sometimes it's nice to deviate from the norm!).

It was such a nice mellow weekend and so important to have time to fall in love all over again.

I'm so grateful for this amazingly kind, strong, uncomplaining, competent, handsome, helpful, faithful, good man of mine.

Marriage isn't easy. For me, it's involved a long and often painful process of getting my expectations and hopes in tune with reality and with what really matters. It's also involved learning to see beauty and importance in qualities and interests and needs that didn't seem beautiful or important right off the bat. I've gone from thinking I could help Jared become certain things that I though surely he'd want to become to accepting all the marvelous things he is and counting my many, many blessings. Marriage has helped me see flaws in myself - and work on fixing them - like nothing else could. And marriage has brought me support and help and partnership beyond what I dared to hope for.

I wrote more about my thoughts on marriage on our last anniversary (and put up a video of our lives together) here if you want to check it out.

Wonderful Women

What an evening we had Wednesday evening!

I'm so grateful for the comraderie and strength and beauty I feel when I'm with my wonderful Power of Moms friends - old and new.

Each of these wonderful women wrote a chapter in our book, Deliberate Motherhood (see Allyson holding it?) and each gave a beautiful talk Wednesday evening about the subject she wrote about in the book. Left to right, here are their names and  the powerful motherhood topics they wrote/spoke about - Shawna (Progress), Jennifer (Balance), Catherine (Patience), April (Optimism), Tiffany (Fun), Allyson (Acceptance), me (Organization), my mom, Linda Eyre (looking at the big picture of motherhood)

I was so organized about getting my notes and copies of the agenda for everyone and books and platters to serve food on and gifts for the authors together to bring with me to Salt Lake. But, as so often happens in my life, in the flurry of helping with homework and answering kids' needs as I headed out the door for this event, I left the notes for my talk, the copies of the agenda and the presents for the authors sitting there neatly in a bag by the door as I hurried off to Salt Lake for the event. So it was a little funny for me to be presenting on the topic of organization without any notes in hand thanks to a little glitch in my organization. But I remembered most of what I'd planned to say and felt like the Lord helped me say what needed to be said.

And all the other speakers did a beautiful, beautiful job. I could have listened to them all night.

We closed the evening with discussion. We all got into small groups and talked about the areas where we feel we're very deliberate and quite strong in our mothering and the areas where we want to improve. Everyone was so honest and open and the room was ringing with laughter and ideas and encouragement. There's nothing a group of deliberate mothers can't accomplish when they put their heads together!

April wrote a more full report of the evening with tons of great photos - check it out on her blog here:

Oh, how blessed I am to be working with April! We had a great slumber party after the event and a really good planning meeting the next morning, mapping out our goals and action plans for Power of Moms for this school year. Since it was a beautiful morning, we did part of our planning meeting while walking. The flowers at Temple Square were gorgeous and I've always loved this statue. As I think of it in relation to Power of Moms, I think it captures a bit of the sense of joy and love in motherhood that April and I want to feel and that we're striving to help all moms out there to feel and share.

We've sure got our work cut out for us but we're getting much better at prioritizing and at letting go of stress and putting off things that really can be put off. We're learning to work smarter rather than work more and we're seeing ever more clearly what really does matter in our work with POM and in our families. It's good to see our progress as we stand back and look at things! And it's great to have a targeted action plan for this year.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First Week of School in Eliza's Words

Eliza wrote a great journal entry about the first week of school and I invited her to type it up for the blog. She captured our crazy fun week very well and included some important things (like the Raingutter Regatta) that I haven't gotten around to blogging about.

This is what happened this week:
  • a tractor dug up our backyard
  • we got a tube through our dirt hill
  • we got a trampoline
  • we started school
  • we went to my grandma's house for my cousin's wedding
  • we had a church party
  • I had a violin lesson
  • I started dance classes
  • I had Activity Days
  • Ashton made the volleyball team
  • the twins had their Raingutter Regatta for scouts
  • and a bunch of other awesome stuff
Now here's a more detailed explanation:

Our backyard was just weeds, weeds, weeds (really bad ones with thorns) and a big hole and a dirt pile so it wasn't very exciting (well, the twins thought it was really exiting) My dad rented a tractor and put an attachment on the tractor that pulled up all the weeds. Then we just had a dirt hill and a hole. Then my dad got a big pipe that he put through the dirt hill so we could crawl through it (we got that idea because the twins and their friends kept trying to dig tunnels through the dirt hill). Then we put wood planks and mesh stuff around the edges the hole to keep the dirt from caving in, then we built the frame of the trampoline and put it in the hole, put on the springs (that part was really hard), attached the black part and then the pads and we have an awesome in-ground trampoline!!! (after wishing for one and working for one for about two years!).

The first week of school was great. I had my first class, science, on the first day with Rachel, my best friend. Then I had my second class, music, with my other best friend, Sophia. Then we went to recess. I saw a girl sitting on the playground alone. I talked to her, and found out that she is new to the school. I played with her a lot more, and found out that she is really nice. Now we're  friends. My third class was math, and my fifth class was Spanish. My Spanish teacher is really great - and funny!!! On the second day of school, I had all of the same classes, except instead of Spanish, I had social studies (every other day I have social studies). I got to start dance class again. I do Virginia Tanner Dance and it's SO fun. There are nice girls in my class and  At the end of dance, mom picked me up and we hurried to the church to watch the twins' raingutter regatta. They were SO excited about their boats - they worked really hard on them Silas got 3rd place, and Oliver got 2nd place I think.

On the third day, my new friend that I met on the playground  - Skye - switched lockers, so now, hers is close to mine!!! Plus Rachel moved her locker by mine too!  After school on Wednesday, I had Activity Days at church and then my violin lesson (I really love my teacher and I've learned a lot of songs even though I've only had lessons for 2 months. I get to play my mom's old violin and I love it - I named her Violet).  Then we packed up went to my Grandmas house. My cousin Megan's wedding was on Thursday it was at the Rexburg temple, and it was fun. Her dress was really pretty. It was kind of a rainy day but that made it really pretty. I liked how she had her reception in a really pretty old barn and I helped make sandwiches at the reception.

We had to drive back Thursday night because Dad had to go to work. We got home at like 1:00 am so my mom let us sleep in on Friday and we went to school late but that was OK.

The first week was awesome!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Night Tomorrow Night and Beautiful Blog

Yep, this is last-minute. But if any of you live in or near SLC and can get away for a couple hours tomorrow night, you won't want to miss this:

Evening of Inspiration: Peace, Purpose, Order and Joy
Across from Temple Square in downtown SLC, Wednesday, September 11th from 7-9pm

In celebration of our newly released book, several of the authors (over 60 moms helped write this book!) will be presenting some powerful ideas (speakers include my amazing mom, my wonderful Power of Moms partner, and several other top Power of Moms trainers/writers - plus I'll throw a few words in there). Plus we'll break into small groups to really learn from each other and delve into how we can move slowly but surely towards being the deliberate mothers we really want to be.

Every time I go to one of these events, I'm reminded in glorious ways why I sit here at this computer day in and day out working on Power of Moms stuff. There's just nothing like being with other earnest, deliberate moms and sharing our ideas and hopes and fears and coming away comforted and empowered. And while the online stuff is wonderful and serves so many that we just can't reach through live events, everything feels so much more real and tangible and worthwhile when I get to actually see the faces of those I serve once in a while.

One of our speakers/writers, Catherine Arveseth, just wrote this beautiful blog post where she talks a bit about the book and tomorrow night's event then goes on to offer some truly wonderful insights on deliberate motherhood. She's just an amazing writer and amazing mother (and she actually replies to all the blog comments she gets - so nice! I'm determined to start being more like her that way...). Check it out:

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Big Backyard Project - Part I

Weekend before last, we FINALLY got some major projects we've been talking about and planning for moved along in a big way. We've been dreaming up exciting stuff for our backyard with our neighbors (we share a nice big area on the back of our two lots). We put in a little garden area last year but for the most part, the back area has been a pretty darn ugly place where the kids had fun building forts out of random leftover wood back there and climbing the one good tree back there. Last summer, they got into digging a hole together out there with their neighborhood friends. The idea came up to dig a hole big enough to put in an in-ground trampoline and that idea spurred daily teamwork on digging for quite a while. But by the end of the summer, their hole in that rock-hard ground wasn't very big and we tabled the trampoline idea for a while.

Then when we had to replace our water main this past April (read about that fiasco here), we had a guy here with a mini-backhoe and realized we could get that trampoline hole dug for a decent price. So we went for it.

(The twins loved watching the whole thing from the tree - and you can see one of the kids' many varieties of "clubhouses" they built out there over the past three years.)

It would have been much more expensive to have the guy take the dirt away so we had him pile it up in an area where there was an old foundation from an old house and where nothing would grow w/o a lot more dirt on top. It turned out to be a LOT of dirt. And that dirt hill became beloved by all the kids in the neighborhood. They molded it into a hard-packed mini-mountain and played on top of it for hours and hours, running their bikes down it, sledding down it, and even making a tunnel through it with a couple day's work. One little girl came around the corner, saw the dirt hill and said, "WOW! You have a DIRT HILL! You have the most awesome backyard ever!"

So to most adult eyes, our backyard was a serious eyesore.

But to children, it was quite a wonderland.

Then this past summer, horrible puncture vines really took over, producing thousands upon thousands of really mean burrs that went right through the kids' flip flops to send them crying into the house and went through bike tires, basketballs, everything. Those darn burrs made the backyard way less fun. And along with our neighbors, we started to get to a place with everything else going on in our lives where we could actually think about the back yard and make plans and begin to carry them out.

We decided to dig up all the horrible weeds for once and for all, make the dirt hill even better, embed a tube through it since the tunnel the kids had dug was such a hit, plant grass on it, get the trampoline hole finished, get sprinklers in, get sod, improve our garden area, put in some fruit trees and bushes, create some fun non-grass areas where the kids could keep building and re-building little clubhouses and balance beams and the like with some safer building materials we'd round up (the splintery rusty-nail-infested wood they'd been using - luckily with no casualties so far - just had to go).

I researched trampolines forever (I just have to explore every aspect of every purchase - I now know WAY more than anyone really needs to know about trampolines - especially rectangular ones as I found they are much safer and longer-lasting if you have older kids and/or anticipate there will be more than one person on the trampoline at the same time). I finally found a trampoline that seemed to have all the qualifications at at a somewhat OK price (they are EXPENSIVE for the serious ones with the lifetime frame warranty and if you're going to put the thing in the ground, you'd better get a good one that'll be lasting a long long time!). I got it ordered. Then almost 2 weeks later, I got a notice saying it was out of stock. Back to researching! Darn! I finally found another one and got that ordered. This one came quickly and seemed great. The kids started to get so excited!

But then we had all these projects that hinged on other projects and most of them hinged on renting a small tractor which relied on us being able to borrow a big truck from someone so we could bring the tractor to our house. Jared decided to grab the bull by the horns. He researched renting a tractor and learned tons about sod and found a great deal on sod we could roll out ourselves. He showed up after work on Thursday with a beautiful tube he found (it had been damaged slightly so it was in the recycle area at a construction place nearby). The squeals of delight as he pulled in the driveway with that thing hanging out of his car were priceless!

The kids had SO much fun playing in the tube with all their neighborhood friends on Thursday night. They'd all get in there and Jared would gently roll it around. Here's Jared with the tube (and the beloved dirt hill and not-so-beloved weeds in the background):

But when Silas somehow stuck his finger under the tube right when another kid rocked it from the inside, Silas got his finger squashed and his fingernail didn't like that one bit. It detached. It was PAINFUL. Poor boy!  He was so brave about having that sad little fingernail removed (it was only attached by a tiny thread and everything we read online said it had to go). And he's been totally fine ever since (and really good about keeping it clean). He was sort of excited to start school with his unique finger to show off (and we taught him not to hold up just that finger to show people - it's his middle finger!).

(skip these next pictures if you're squimish! there are more gross photos but I'll spare you those...)

Here's the fingernail just hanging on by a thread:

here's the finger w/o the fingernail:

After that casualty, we decided this was the weekend to get that tube safely buried, get rid of the puncture vine and burrs and get that trampoline in, once and for all. We didn't have a truck to haul the tractor but Jared got the rental people to bring it to us and spent all day on that thing while our neighbors worked hard to build a retaining wall to hold back the dirt in the trampoline hole so we could install the trampoline.

It was a long day of serious clouds of dust. I helped shape the hill with a shovel and get compost distributed around the yard (our poor dirt needs some help before we can lay down the sod). Our kids and the neighborhood kids picked big rocks and a fair amount of garbage out of the dirt after it was churned up by the tractor plus helped with other odd jobs (and loved sitting on the tractor and pretending to drive it when it got a rest from time to time).

Everyone pitched in to clean up trash and big rocks (and someday our back fence will be completely covered with creative graffiti by the kids- they started a month ago but then we ran out of paint...)

First Jared moved the dirt hill back so we could put the tube under it:

Then he plowed all the sticker weeds underneath lots of good dirt:

We placed the tube in the right spot:

Then Jared covered it with dirt:

While our neighbor worked hard on the retaining fence thing inside the trampoline hole:

The a huge rain storm moved in during a key moment as we worked against the clock (the tractor had to be returned!) and Jared and our neighbor worked right on through.

Then the first week of school was busy, busy, busy so we just left the project for a while. Finally this weekend, we had time to actually install the trampoline in it's waiting hole.

Here's Isaac testing out the trampoline to see if it needed to be adjusted a bit before putting on the pads.It was just right!

The kids and all their neighborhood friends have been on that trampoline just about every minute since! We gave all the kids a little orientation about the trampoline rules (only 2 at a time on the tramp, no shoes or socks on it, no neighbor friends on the tramp w/o first asking permission from us or our neighbors, etc.). And in the past couple days, the kids have learned all sorts of new tricks plus had 100's of "bum wars" plus had a great time just bouncing around. They're definitely sleeping well!

We're getting so much closer to a really fun and safe backyard! Now we've got to trench for sprinkler lines, put in the sprinklers and lay sod plus plant some fruit trees and bushes and maybe make a fun climbing area with old logs on the back side of the dirt/tube hill. So there's still work to go but it's so exciting to see things really taking shape.

Hopefully before too terribly long, you'll see a "big backyard project - part II" post. That'll mean we'll have grass back there and things will be much more "done." But what I've posted about here has been a huge huge bunch of work already so it deserves its own post!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Book Launch TODAY

So last year, after doing a writing contest, lots of writing of our own, and way more editing than was really good for us, April and I (well, mostly April who worked umpteen thousand hours on this) published our first Power of Moms book. It featured over 60 voices of great moms sharing their stories and ideas about deliberate mothering. We had publishers interested but decided to self-publish so we could make the book exactly what we thought it needed to be. The book did very well and spurred ever-more Learning Circles around the world (where moms get together every month to discuss one chapter of the book). For the full story about how we published this book, check out April's post here: How We Published Our Book.

Then a great publisher called Familius (they focus entirely on books that help families) came to us and asked if they could re-publish the book and help us get it to an even wider audience. It sounded like a great idea.

So today is the official launch of this freshly updated and extra beautiful book.

If you don't have a copy already, get one while the intro pricing is going on. Everyone who buys a book and send us their receipt will get our Deliberate Mothering podcast series for free (usually $20). Details are explained at this link:

And if you live anywhere near SLC, you won't want to miss the chance on the evening of September 11th to come hear powerful stories from some of the authors of this book (including my amazing mom, Linda Eyre, and April who'll fly in from California for this). We've worked to get some sponsors for this event so it only costs $22/person to come. Please come and please spread the word!

Evening of Inspiration: Peace, Purpose, Order and Joy - September 11, 2013 in downtown Salt Lake


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