Monday, January 28, 2013

Living the Dream

I realized something really important last week. I'm living my dreams. They aren't out there in the future, floating around in my hopes. I'm living my dreams right here, right now.

What prompted this realization was a Power of Moms event we held last Wednesday called "Live Deliberately: Dare, Dream and Do." This event involved 82 wonderful mothers gathering to share their ideas and dreams. We heard powerful talks by April Perry, my wonderful Power of Moms partner whose dream came true when we recently published the book Deliberate Motherhood (all about reaching our motherhood dreams), by Whitney Johnson, one of our advisory board members who wrote the book Dare, Dream, Do and shared some powerful concepts from that book, and by my dear mom, Linda Eyre, who I think is the ultimate example of living her dreams while being an amazing mom and involving her children in her dreams while supporting them in theirs. Macy Robison (creater of the CD, Children Will Listen) sang a gorgeous song about dreams (seemed liked it was written just for this evening) and shared some of her story. We gathered in small groups for facilitated discussion on what dreams we're pursuing, what dreams we're saving for later, what dreams we've decided to let go of, and what we're doing to pursue our dreams. And we ate delicious treats.*

There was serious electricity in that room as it buzzed with smiles and hopes and ideas.

 






Here are some of the 40 fabulous women who help us run Power of Moms and who were able to attend this event. They are helping so many dreams come true for so many moms around the world.


Here are the speakers at the event: Macy, April, me, my mom, and Whitney

Here are some of the 60 moms who helped write our book, Deliberate Motherhood. Some of them we met in person for the first time on Wednesday night! What a powerful book they helped to produce.


I spent a lot of last week working on the details involved in this event - registration lists, sponsorships, agendas, discussion questions, etc. The nit-picky details involved in pulling off these events is NOT my dream. Then my mom, April and I spent Wednesday afternoon picking up plates and napkins and lovely trays of donated treats then hauling all that along with boxes of books through a crazy series of locked doors and elevators in the freezing cold to get to the beautiful room where we'd hold our event and moving furniture and setting up chairs. We laughed together that these activities were NOT our dreams.

But as we talked at the event, I realized that while so much of what I do each day, be it preparing for an event or doing the regular "mom" stuff of making dinner and getting the kids ready and picking up carpools, doesn't feel very "dreamy," it all adds up to some amazing dreams that have come true and continue to come true. I like the quote by Robert Schuller that says, "Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation." Truly, our lives as mothers are full of "unspectacular preparation" that can lead to the little and big achievements that fill our hearts and souls.

I shared this story at the end of the evening:

The night before the event, as I was tucking my kids in bed, I reminded them about how things were going to work while I'd be gone for the event the next afternoon and evening. Isaac asked me what this event was going to be about. I sat down with him and Silas (they share a room) and told them that we'd be talking about our dreams and how to make our dreams come true. Silas said "What are you going to say your dreams are?" I have tons of dreams and I feel like my kids see me doing work towards them all the time - they see me doing all the "mom" stuff like helping with homework and volunteering in their classrooms and cooking dinner that's related to my big dream of having a family and they see me working on my computer and heading off to events for Power of Moms to support my dream of helping other moms be the moms they really want to be. But I realized that perhaps I don't really explain all this action as working towards dreams.

In a moment of inspiration, I took Silas's face in my hands and said, "YOU are my dream. I always dreamed of having wonderful, beautiful, fun kids and you turned out even better than I dreamed." I went on to tell Silas and Isaac how I have tons of dreams and many of them have come true but that THEY, along with their siblings and their dad, are the most important and most precious dreams of my life.

My heart was so full of love and joy when I shared this truth with my sweet boys that when I left their room, I decided to share the same truth with each of the other kids as I tucked them in bed. I was met with beautiful smiles and hugs and experienced some of my best-ever moments in motherhood that night.

So I went into this event on Wednesday starting to really realize something I should have realized long ago: I'm living my dream. And it's harder and crazier and more complicated and deeper than I dreamed it would be. But it's also more beautiful and better than I dreamed it would be.

I'm living my dreams. I really am. I choose this. I hoped for this. I dreamed this. And now, here I am, reaping the consequences, both hard and good, of the dreams I set in motion.

And I'm going to start reminding myself of this every day.

* We're so grateful to our fabulous sponsors:

Zupas (our favorite place to go out for a meal as a family) sponsored delicious chocolate covered strawberries

 Sweet Dreams (in Spanish Fork, UT) donated gorgeous, yummy cupcakes

Paradise Bakery (downtown SLC) donated super tasty cookies



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scripture Challenge Week 27: Pretty Sparse...

I'll just go ahead and admit it. I wasn't a great scripture-reader this week. I got in a verse or two most days and I listened most days to these short and powerful scripture podcasts my dad has been making for us every day (isn't he awesome?). I've gotten a big bogged down in the war chapters of Alma so I've been skipping around more and I do recall finding some nice little nuggets of wisdom during a couple of my brief readings. But I didn't write them down. So of course, now I can't remember them.

But this morning, I had some great spiritual moments with the kids as we watched a bunch of Mormon Messages.

Here are our three favorites from today: Loved watching this one and talking about what it means to be a true man with my four boys (and felt so grateful that ironing isn't something a good mom/wife really has to do much anymore!):


Great to talk about all little, annoying and/or seemingly meaningless things that are regular parts of our lives that can actually be seen as "flecks of gold" that can add up to something great if we keep working hard. The kids brought up homework and chores around the house and sitting through church when it sometimes seems boring - they can all be "flecks of gold" that can add up to be great things over time.


And this one made us laugh and helped us talk about the many great privileges we have right under our noses that we don't use as much as we should - the scriptures, the gift of the Holy Ghost, prayer, appreciation of beauty, people who might be great friends, opportunities to learn or to serve. We don't want to find out too late that we've missed something beautiful and important so we'd better be more aware of all the privileges we've got.

  And this


This week, I'm seriously going to get back into praying for help finding what the Lord wants to tell me or teach me before opening the scriptures, reading until I get a message, then writing that message down in my scripture journal daily - just a few words. Keeping up with this brief daily process really makes a difference in my life.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemon

It takes less than 30 minutes to make this soup and it's just perfect on a cold day when you need some comfort food. You can use left-over or canned chicken or turkey and pretty much whatever veggies you've got on hand. The lemon and garlic give this soup a special zing and set it apart from "boring" chicken noodle soup.


Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemon

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast (can use leftover chicken or turkey or I often use 2 12.5 oz. cans of premium chunk chicken breast that I buy in 8-packs at Costco)
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery (I often don't have celery so I don't use it but it gives it a nice flavor)
  • 1-2 cups chopped carrots (can use freeze dried carrots from food storage - 1/4-1/2 cup dried carrot pieces adds up to plenty of carrots in the soup - see photo below)
  • 1/2 an onion, minced (can use 2 tsp dried minced onion)
  • 12 cups water
  • 9 cubes bouillon or 9 tsp "Better Than Bouillon" concentrate (or use 12 cups chicken broth and skip the water and the bouillon)
  • 8 oz egg noodles (I like to use homemade-style egg noodles - "Country Pasta" brand - see photos below. I put in more noodles since my kids like lots of noodles in their soup)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 2 crushed fresh garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram or italian seasoning or basil or oregano (any are good)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups (or one large bunch) chopped fresh broccoli (optional - but it's really good! chopped cabbage is another good option to include)
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • juice of one large lemon (2-3 tablespoons)




Directions

1. In a large stock pot, saute celery and onion in a tsp of olive oil (about 3 minutes, until limp and slightly browned).

2. Add chicken, carrots, water, bouillon, marjoram, garlic, black pepper, bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Add noodles (and broccoli plus any other fresh veggies you want) and keep at a low boil for 10 more minutes or until noodles and veggies are tender.

4. After it's been simmering for 5 of the 10 minutes, add the frozen peas, lemon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Things I love this week

Our water froze again night before last. The temperature was just too cold for our temporary above-ground pipe to bear. But this time we had water storage to draw on while Jared had to be at work and then when he came home, it was a relatively quick fix since the pipe was easy to get to.

I'm realizing that crises in our lives cease to be crises when we're prepared and know how to fix them. And when we keep in mind that things always work out in the end. In my life, most of my stress comes from lack of faith and/or lack of preparedness and/or unrealistic expectations. I can sure work on my general preparedness for the regular things in my life (which is pretty connected to my expectations - when I think things through better, I'm both better prepared and more realistic about what can be expected) as well as my faith.

Here are some things that make me happy right now:

1. RUNNING WATER. I just love love love turning on taps and having them respond with water. Running water makes me so happy.

2. SNOW. The sun sparkling on snow and how beautiful fresh snow looks as it coats and freshens everything. I've been keeping up with running at least once a week and throwing in some walking as well and being outside just fills  me up in an important way - even when it's FREEZING. It takes a while to get up my courage to venture out but once I'm out there, I love it and I feel better about life the rest of the day. And the icicles are so pretty on each house - such great jagged patterns going on.




3. BENGAL SPICE TEA. My sister Charity introduced me to this herbal tea over Christmas and I drink like two cups of it every day. It soothes me and warms me and it's just so yummy. Doesn't even need any sweetener.

4. HUGS. I've been taking more time to really enjoy the sweet hugs Oliver and Silas give me every day rather than just hurry the hug along when they tackle hug me and I'm trying to do something else. I've been making a point of hugging my big kids more. It just feels so good and right.

5. HEAT. My friend loaned me this little portable radiator to help warm up the pipes in the basement during our recent frozen pipes crisis. It didn't help the pipes but, wow, it's sure helping our kitchen which has just always been freezing in the winter. There's no good place to put it in our little kitchen and oddly, there are no outlets along the one wall where it could be sort of out of the way. So for now, it's a tripping hazard island of warmth in the kitchen.

6. THE LIBRARY AND FREEDOM. How we love having a great library less than a block from our house! We spent a pleasant afternoon there yesterday reading some great books about Martin Luther King Junior. These were our favorites:

Rosa (Caldecott Honor Book)
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards))

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

7. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS. When we got back from the library, the twins wrote papers for school. They wrote and wrote and wrote and came up with some great details about the Civil Rights Movement. I love how writing assignments give me the chance to see what has sunk in and what has impressed my kids.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Scripture Challenge Week 26: Big Things Start as Small Things

During our run on Friday, my friend and I were talking about ideas for making Martin Luther King Junior Day meaningful for our kids. It's important to know the history of the Civil Rights movement and to recognize how far things have come. But it's also important to us to help our kids see the importance of doing what we can do - however small it might be. Because really, everything big that happens starts as something small. Martin Luther King Junior didn't just jump in and do big things. He noticed. He talked to people. He listened.  He developed compassion and a felt a calling to do all that he could do. He did a long series of small things that added up to some pretty big things.

Every year, for MLK Jr day, we like to watch the "I have a dream" speech (it's all over YouTube) and talk about the Civil Rights movement a bit (the things that used to seem fine and fair to so many Americans that now seem so sad and wrong, the bus boycotts, the brave kids who helped enforce the end of school segregation, etc.). But we also read books and talk about this important concept that big things are made out of little things. One of my favorite books on this is a simple picture book called Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed. It's about a little girl who does one little kind thing and that leads to 1000's of good things going on. I want my kids to understand the exponential power that a small act of service, a compliment, or a smile can have - even when it's just in your own home or neighborhood.

So my scripture for the week is this (and we'll make this our scripture to memorize this week):

"A very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm...Therefore, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power"

- Doctrine and Covenants 123:16-17 

Plus we'll review the quote we memorized a while back:

"We can do no great things - only small things with great love." 

 - Mother Theresa


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Water Update

So after my post yesterday morning, the water guys from the City said everything was OK on their end so it was up to us to figure out why we had no water. They said to try getting the pipes warm right where they come into the house and that should fix things. I borrowed a space heater and got that pipe very warm for a couple of hours. No change.

Jared called some plumbers and explained the problem. They didn't know what to do. Jared and I spent a lot of time researching on the internet and asking friends and neighbors. Jared tried pumping warm water into the pipe and tried heating the ground by the pipe outside with various methods. No dice.

Last night was Jared's first night without hours and hours of Bishop duties and we were looking forward to a date together. But as it turned out, Jared hung out in the freezing basement trying to figure out what to do for most of the evening with me helping here and there and carting buckets of water over from the neighbor's house so we could have something to drink, flush toilets, wash our hands, that sort of thing. We finally gave up for a while and grabbed a quick dinner close by, both of us all grungy from the basement and from the lack of showers, both of us grumpy and stressed. We'll have to do a better date one of these days . . .

By late last night, we figured out that we needed a special device that some plumbers have that would send electrical currents down the pipe to heat it. After lots of calls today, Jared found a plumber with a device like that who'd charge an arm and a leg and wouldn't guarantee it would work. But we were starting to feel a bit desperate. We had the plumber come. We had to saw out one of our new basement windows to get the plumbers equipment into the basement (super sad since we just got that window installed and now it'll need to be re-installed and re-caulked and it's just one thing after another). After lots of digging and installing and working, they got the electrical currents going. But there must be some sections of our pipe that aren't good conductors because it didn't work.

We were feeling pretty sad at this point. And I wasn't exactly being super kind when the kids were asking me for things and Jared and I were trying to figure out next steps.

The plumber said he could install an above ground temporary line to connect the house to the city water line. What other choice did we have? We went for it. And a couple more hours later, there was joyous yelling and toilet flushing and faucet gushing going on around this house. WE HAVE WATER.

Jared wrapped the new pipe with heat tape stuff and we covered it with snow to try to insulate it as best we could. We'll keep a tap running slightly at all times and keep our fingers crossed and our prayers said that the water will keep flowing through this temporary pile until the real pipes can thaw (who knows when...).  And once Jared fixes the heating element that burned out in the water heater as part of this whole process of trying to heat the pipes, we'll even have hot water around here.

We'll never take running water for granted again!

Banana Cake (with Nutella or cream cheese frosting)

We found this recipe last year when the twins' wanted to try something new for their birthday. We made it with the cream cheese frosting and it was GOOD. Then this year, we tried the same cake with Nutella spread on it as frosting. Super good in a different way.




Twin's Birthday Banana Cake
2 cups bananas, mashed, very ripe (about 4 bananas)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups white granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk (or use regular or whole milk and add 2 tsp vinegar, set aside for 20 minutes to allow it to sour)

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees (not convection). 
  • Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan (or two round cake pans for a layer cake). 
  • Mix mashed banana, lemon juice, butter, eggs, vanilla, and sugar until quite smooth (you don't even have to mash bananas first if they're quite soft and ripe and if you've got a Kitchen Aid mixer or similar – you can start on slow speed and gradually increase speed until you're whipping everything together until smooth) 
  • Add flour one cup at a time, adding some of the buttermilk in between each cup and adding the salt and baking soda with the last cup of flour 
  • Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out mostly clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting (can use Nutella instead if you want)

1/4 cup butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese (½ an 8 oz brick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powered sugar
Garnish: Chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Directions:
· Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
· Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
· Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.
· Spread on cooled cake.
· Sprinkle chopped walnuts over top of the frosting, if desired.

Original recipe - slightly different: http://www.food.com/recipe/best-ever-banana-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting-67256#ixzz1jNK7AZk6

Friday, January 18, 2013

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2012

So Christmas is almost a month in the past but better late then never, right?

What a beautiful, relaxing and fun Christmas we had this year. While my youngest sister Charity really tried for a full "Epic Eyrealm Christmas" involving all 9 siblings and our families at our parents' house for Christmas, some families would have had to transport too many people too far during the most expensive season for plane tickets and my brother Eli and his wife Julie were expecting their first baby on December 26th so they needed to stay put. So the group was smaller than Charity's vision - but it actually turned out to be a nice-sized group for the number of bedrooms my parents' have and we had a lot of people and a lot of fun without any of the stress that over-crowdedness can bring. We missed everyone who wasn't there but I think it was a pretty darn perfect Christmas just the same.

It snowed ALL day on Christmas Eve and it was just gorgeous.

The tree was huge. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

We dressed up and did our traditional "Nazareth Supper" and ate figs and dates and pita and fish while pretending to be Mary's family sending her and Joseph off on their trip to Bethlehem. With the kids all old enough to really participate, my mom's great food, and my dad there to help make it extra good, this was about the best Christmas Eve dinner ever.


As we talked about the visions and hopes and worries of Mary and Joseph, we also talked about the  prophesies of Isaiah and how exciting it was that they were about to be fulfilled. My dad asked what we know from the scriptures about this special baby that would be born. I was proud when Silas piped up to recite the scripture he'd memorized recently - "unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders" then Oliver finished it off "and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Perfect.
Tal and Anita and their sweet little Annina did a great job as Zacharias, Elizabeth and baby John.

Isaac was very serious about his role as Joseph, sharing lots of details about his carpentry work and how he'd prepared for this trip to Bethlehem.

Then we headed into the living room to act out the nativity.

That's Jared under the sheepskin as the donkey and Oliver as an innkeeper.

How I love seeing my kids acting this out every Christmas Eve as we ponder on the real reason for the season!

I love my kids' rendition of the nativity scene. And I love this rendition of the scene as well - by one of my favorite painters, Brian Kershisnik. My parents have this up on their wall at Christmas time.


After dinner and quickly whipping up some cookies for Santa, Ashton pulled up this thing on the computer that says where Santa is in the world and the twins freaked out with excitement and hurried super fast to get to bed when they heard Santa was only a couple states away.

Christmas morning, as always, we awoke to kids singing carols on the stairs.
Then we opened our stockings and found lots of treats plus some awesome stuff from Bulgaria - the kids were delighted that Santa must have picked that stuff up for them when he was delivering the extra toys and money they'd asked him to take to their friends in the orphanages there.


Ready to head in and see what Santa brought!
 
I checked to see if Santa had come. Sure enough. He came!


Ashton got a bike (and a friendly reminder from Santa to PLEASE not leave it unlocked again - it was so sad that the last bike got stolen!)


Isaac got skis - SO excited!

Eliza was really sneaky about her letter to Santa this year. She wouldn't let us see it at all and wouldn't tell us what she'd asked for. She said she wasn't really trying to test out to see if Santa was real - she just wanted us to all be surprised. Santa gave her exactly what she'd asked for in her letter - and more. She got a nice note from Santa saying that he'd honored her request to help a child in need by taking some little dolls to the little girls in the orphanages in Bulgaria but that he hoped she wouldn't mind that he didn't honor her request to give her nothing as he'd had an extra little doll like the ones he gave the orphans and wanted her to have it. He also gave her some money to go towards her dance lessons. She was SOOOOOOOOOOO excited!

Oliver got this quad copter helicopter thing that he'd had his heart set on. Jared couldn't figure out how in the world to fly the thing but Ashton and Oliver had it going beautifully in no time. Oliver was SO excited!

Silas got an all-terrain remote-control vehicle. There were a couple tears when it turned out to be slightly different than the one he'd had his heart set on but when he got that thing going and saw how awesome it was, he was all smiles.


Mom and Dad loved the present Shawni and I put together for them - a nicely formatted and categorized and bound book full of all the quotes and scriptures they had us memorize growing up. I gave one to Charity as well since I drew her name this year and as Shawni and I tried to gather all the quotes all the siblings could remember learning, she said that she was sad she didn't know most of the quotes, having come along at the tail end when some of our family systems like doing weekly points and memorizing quotes to make up for missed points weren't as strongly in place...


The kids also got great presents from their very kind grandparents:







My parents gave me and Jared an awesome present - a new speaker system. They gave all the siblings the same thing. Perfect gift from them since they love music so much and have taught us to love and crave music our whole lives. Now we'll be able to enjoy music all the more right in our own homes!



The eggs benedict process (our traditional Christmas breakfast) was tricky and exactly as usual, but with my mom and Anita plus me and Charity helping, everything turned out extra great!



We spent the afternoon playing with all our new stuff. I love hanging out in our PJ's all day on Christmas, playing with the kids, working on a big puzzle, eating treats, just being together.



Isaac and Silas had fun seeing what Silas's new car could do in the snow.

Eliza created a "house" for herself and her new doll and did a lot of drawing.

All the kids gave their grandparents the books and cards that they so lovingly made for them.


There were plenty of adults to enjoy the kids' excitement.

And there was a very cute little cousin to play with - sweet Annina was SO fun!

We finished off the day by going to see Les Miserables (in our PJ's) and having a lovely Christmas dinner.


Perfect Christmas! How blessed we were to be with so many loved ones and to have so many presents and so much good food and such excellent company.

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