Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beautiful Time in Idaho

Beautiful. That's the main way I'd describe our time in Idaho for Jared's dad's funeral. Beautiful to see the love pouring in from the community in the form of cakes and soups and visits and flowers (every 1/2 hour it seemed, more food or flowers or kind comforting people showed up). Beautiful to see the whole family together (all 46 of us - 28 grandkids - one missing because he's in the MTC - 9 siblings, 8 spouses and Portia) - sharing memories, crying, laughing, enjoying a bonus family reunion while joining together in our sadness that no family reunion will ever be quite the same again without Lynn. Beautiful to see different groups of adults and kids and teenagers bonding over snowmobiling and playing in the snow and playing games and staying up until all hours chatting. Beautiful snow sparkling in the sun and gorgeous Tetons in the distance beyond the fields dotted with cattle. Beautiful funeral full of memories and love and laughter and gentle tears. Beautiful to see lines of people wrapping all around the church for the viewing, waiting to greet their beloved Portia and say goodbye to their beloved Lynn - people whose lives Lynn and Portia touched during their Utah State days, their Army days, Lynn's time in the leadership of Future Farmers of America and the Idaho State Legislature days, people they've helped along the way in random ways, people who bought great bulls from them, farming friends - Lynn touched everyone he met with friendliness and kindness and Portia and Lynn were so good at keeping in touch with people and inviting anyone and everyone to their home and cabin. What a beautiful, healing time this was!

They did a 21 gun salute, draped the casket with the flag, then folded it and gave it to Portia.

Click on this if you want to see this photo decently - this is just Lynn's kids and spouses,
grandkids, brother and sister and spouses. Quite a posterity!
The signs say things Lynn always said "I'm so proud of you," "So and So is such a good person - and he's a Democrat!" "we're all tired now..." (when he was going to bed and recommended the same to everyone else), "Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear something wonderful about our kids and grandkids."

28 Loosli Grandkids - the twins were not happy about this photo-op!
The sign says "It's never too early for a tootsie roll!"
Grandpa ALWAYS had a tootsie roll in his pocket for every kid who came along.
Mark giving Liza, Logan and Silas a ride
the four 4-year-olds - Silas, Logan, Oliver and Mason

Most people took off the day after the funeral but our family stayed a few more days along with Jared's sister Michelle (who's still there for a bit). We loved having some extra time without quite so much of a crowd to really focus on Grandma, get some little things done around the house for her and enjoy time with Michelle (who lives in DC so we don't get to see her as often as we'd like) and Jared's brother Brian and family (they live across the street from Jared's mom). We got to go to watch Mark's team win a District basketball game (Mark's Brian's son) - such a fun game to watch! And the kids and I went to watch the Ashton Dog Derby take off - a 100 mile dog sled race - while Jared had a great day of skiing with Brian. It really was such a good week away and I'm so glad we could be there and spend quality time with so many people that we love. The kids absolutely loved being with all their cousins and couldn't get enough of the snow. They built snow forts and had snowball fights and kind Mark gave snowmobile rides one after another for hours on end. I got some work done with my trusy laptop and helping with lots of little things and enjoyed chatting and talking with everyone.
Ash and Ike with their favorite basketball star- Mark
The starting line for the dog sled race
COLD! But SOOOOO fun to meet all the dogs and see the race begin
So fun to be there with Grandma and Michelle
The dogs were so beautiful and so friendly - the kids loved them so much

So now we're back in the saddle, feeling somewhat caught-up after a week away. We came home to a beautifully clean house thanks to Jonah and Aja who stayed here while we were gone so they could keep be out of their house during the Parade of Homes. Everyone here's been so nice - asking if they could do anything to help, offering condolences. A death in the family helps you see how very kind everyone around you can be. There is so much kindness in the world!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eliza's Birthday

Well, somehow in the midst of sadness and preparing to head out for Grandpa's funeral, Eliza's birthday turned out great. It was good to have a diversion to keep us all going and it was very nice to think of Grandpa watching his sweet beautiful little granddaughter do all her favorite things on her birthday as we focused on making her birthday wishes come true rather than focusing on sadness for a while.
Birthday breakfast - granola, yoghurt and berriesHere's my attempt to do Liza's hair like Pollyanna as per her wish - she was thrilled!

We kicked off the day with a special birthday breakfast and some gifts then Liza was treated to parties and treats at school since the school celebrated Valentine's Day right on her birthday. Jared and I picked her up a bit early from school and took her out to lunch. Ash, Ike, Ollie and Si, Ana, Camden, and Liza's two best friends Olivia and Gracie came in the afternoon for Liza's "Pajama princess art tea party". They all wore their PJ's as Liza had requested and had a great evening making necklaces and crowns, reading princess stories and enjoying a fancy tea party as well as decorating and eating heart cookies (Liza's birthday tradition). Liza was all smiles all day and was all sweetness and light the whole day. This girl is so thankful and fun - especially when she's getting exactly what she asked for!
Liza's favorite stories read by Ashton
Tea party complete with cucumber sandwiches and jam tarts Ana, Olivia, Liza and Gracie
Making crowns and necklacesHappy birthday to our wonderful Eliza!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sad News

Jared's dad died night before last and we're all pretty sad around here. It still doesn't seem quite real. He was walking into a basketball game and collapsed and they could never revive him. He had a big scare a year ago and got some new stents put into his heart and had some troubles a couple months ago and got a pacemaker and was feeling much better. People who saw him last week said he looked better than he'd looked in a long long time and seemed to be doing really well. But I guess it was his time. We do wish so much that we'd had a chance to spend just a little more time with him. We were planning on going up there this next weekend for the sled dog races in Ashton and were looking forward to some good times with Jared's parents. It's hard not to wish I'd taken more pictures of him with the kids (he didn't like being in pictures much so I don't have a lot) and there are so many questions I never got to ask him about his time in the army or in the Idaho State Legislature, about Jared as a little kid, about so many little things. But I'm sure he's so grateful to be rid of his tired and broken body that had given him so many troubles with diabetes and heart disease. He really hasn't felt great the whole time I've known him.

Ashton and Isaac took it pretty hard. Isaac burst into tears and said "But he can't be dead! He promised to take us fishing this summer at that new fishing place! And he has to be there to take us on Jeep rides!" Isaac and Grandpa were always very close - Isaac was always the first to run and give Grandpa a great big hug and would often wander away from the rest of the crowd at the farm to go sit by Grandpa and chat with him. Ashton just buried his face and cried quietly and asked about what Grandma was going to do now. They both talked about how sad they were that he couldn't wait until we went up there this weekend to see him at least. We had a good little comic moment when Isaac, remembering Jared had said something about a basketball game in saying what had happened with Grandpa, brightened up and asked "wait, was grandpa PLAYING basketball when he died?" I bet Lynn wishes he could have gone that way!

But we're all so grateful we had as much time with him as we did. In a different day and age, he probably wouldn't have lived long enough to see any of our kids be born. He had 5-bypass heart surgery the week of our wedding and without that, he wouldn't have been around long at all. So we're grateful these kids do know their wonderful Grandpa and I'm so grateful I got a chance to get to know and love this wonderful man who helped produce such a fabulous son and who has taught us so much through his quiet example of generosity and loyalty and dependability and work and solid goodness. He's always expressed so much pride in his children and grandchildren and has always made everyone around him feel good about themselves. We love Lynn so much!

We're heading out today to go up to Ashton and help get ready for the funeral on Tuesday. It will be bittersweet - so fun to be with family and so sad to have such an important part of the family so conspicuously absent.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Rain and Random Tidbits

We've had three straight days of rain in St George. I love the way the rain smells and how it sounds on the roof and I love the way it brings out these rich deep colors in the landscape around here. Plus we get the best rainbows.

So I love the rain. But three straight days of rain has added up to some rather stir-crazy kids - with wet weather and Jared being out of town (he's in DC on business and visiting his sister there), we haven't ventured out much. The kids did great yesterday and we played games and read together and cleaned the house and broke everything up with lots of treats. But today things were a bit wilder. Still, we've generally had a great time. These kids are getting pretty darn manageable and while we all miss Jared a lot while he's gone, I no longer feel desperately stressed out when I have the kids on my own for a while!

Isaac had his "Eight is Great" meeting tonight to start getting ready for his baptism. Jonah took him and Ana so I could be here with the rest of the kids and that worked out great. It was so fun to see Ike come home glowing with excitement as he told me all about Cub Scouts and the Faith in God program and the tour of the baptism font and dressing rooms and all that. I can't believe I'm coming up on my second kid to be baptized! Isaac and I have been having lots of good talks lately and he's just starting to seem so grown up. He's had a tooth under his pillow for almost a month now but he hasn't complained - he did say the other day that maybe the toothfairy is really busy catching up because maybe so many kids got their teeth out at Christmas so that they could sing "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth". I wonder how much the tooth fairy should give Ike for his tooth when you compound the interest and guilt?

Eliza has been counting down the days and busily planning her birthday for quite some time now. She's got several ideas for how she wants her hair done that day (mostly based on Pollyanna's hair - we watched that movie last night and she fell in love with Pollyanna - unfortunately, Eliza has nowhere near enough hair to do anything similar to Pollyanna's hair!). She's got all the meals planned. She's having her two best friends over for a pajama/princess/art/ tea party - they're supposed to wear pj's and stay until "really late" (9pm sounded nice and late to her). They'll be doing a bunch of art projects Liza's planned out and eating fancy finger sandwiches and pastries while wearing PJs - oh, and they also have to make princess crowns. She informed her brothers that they were invited to her friend party because "you can't have a princess party without some princes to dance with!" This should be interesting. But with just three little girls and some brothers who are willing to succumb to the princesses wishes of the day, it should all be pretty manageable and fun.

Oliver and Silas don't like Primary very much. They did better today I guess, but last week Silas snuck out of Primary and went back to Nursery (my friend who's the teacher in there kindly escorted him back to Primary where he sulked and got into a fight with Ollie who was trying to get him to sit on a chair instead of laying on the floor). Both twins really miss all the toys and treats in nursery a LOT but it's especially hard for Silas. But they'll get used to primary. They have the cutest teachers. I still can't believe my babies are so big.

The other day Eliza was talking about her "mirror friend" Frizzle (when the kids look in the mirror, they're looking not at themselves but at their special friend who lives in "mirrorland" - something my dad had us all going on as kids). I asked Oliver who his mirror friend was and he didn't really get it so I asked another way - "Oliver, when you look in the mirror, who is that kid you see?" Oliver's answer: "Silas." That made us all laugh. Ollie and Si are mirror image identical twins. Good stuff. So I asked Silas who he sees when he looks in the mirror. His answer: "Superman"

Ashton has a new random fact from "National Geographic Kids" magazine to share with me several times a day. He's always sneaking the light back on so he can read after lights out. I can hardly be mad when I remember that I was always doing that myself when I was his age. I've always been a sucker for a great book. By the way, I highly recommend some books I've read lately - White Tiger (about India - sort of harsh but very thought-provoking), Deafening (learn all about WW I and what it would be like to be deaf), and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (fun writing style, great characters, learn about the German occupation of the English channel islands during WW II). And some great kids read-aloud chapter books: Crispin and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (great historical fiction with lots of chances to learn morals and lessons from the characters). I love reading with the kids - and the kids love me telling them about the books I'm reading as well. I love it when they tell me "Mom - go read your book so you can tell us the next part!"

We watched Pollyanna last night. OK, old and sappy, but that is one great movie and all the kids loved it. I'm embarrassed to admit it brought tears to my eyes here and there. Watch it with your kids and see how many things you can find to be glad about in your life!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Feeling Impressive

It's really nice once in a while to feel sort of impressive. Some days I totally impress myself by figuring out an answer that just totally felt “right” to some issue between the kids or some question they've asked me. One day last week I totally impressed my kids by pulling out my violin that hasn't been touched for years and playing a couple tunes (with more scratchiness than I'd like). Every so often, I impress myself (and Jared – he's always so appreciative) with a great new dinner recipe I made up using whatever random stuff we had on hand.

But more frequently I feel pretty darn unimpressive as I loose my cool with the kids - or find that I didn't really get to much on my “to do” list for the day - or totally forget something that I needed to make happen because of everything else that just kept happening - or see that something I've been working really hard on is just not seeming to make a difference at all. And most of the things I do that feel somewhat impressive to me generally go mostly unnoticed. Jared is always complimentary and appreciative, but he's not around to see most of what I do – so I have to give myself most of the pats on the back that I'm going to get. I'm sure I'm getting my reward in Heaven and all that – but sometimes it's nice to feel appreciated in the here and now!

I've so loved working on this Power of Moms website (which is up but which will be re-launched with a whole new look and all this exciting new stuff when we can actually get it done...) with my friend April. April and I talk each Thursday about our progress with all the tasks that need to happen to get things ready to launch – and we invariably get into great conversations about other exciting ideas we'll chip away at when our families don't desperately need us. As I talk with April and our ideas build on each other, I feel impressed with April and impressed with myself and I re-capture some of my “personhood” that sometimes seems to get sucked away by motherhood. I'm so grateful for these snippets of time when I feel I'm lifting out of the gravity of everyday life as a mom to use what I know and what I can do to create something exciting in synergy with someone else. I'm so grateful for April.

And today it was nice to feel a little bit impressive in front of some other adults. I was invited to be part of this education “think-tank” sort of group for Washington County. They're trying to figure out how to improve education with dwindling budgets and came up with the idea of focusing on getting more volunteers into the schools. Somehow they heard about me and some of my background with volunteer programs and training and consulting for schools and asked me to be part of the group. I went to a meeting with the group today and it really seems like an interesting group that can do some great things. They've got a state senator, a school board member, a principal and several other people involved and some great ideas on the table that line up very well with my own ideas about what's needed in education. As they asked me questions about my areas of experience and knowledge, it felt really nice to be with people who seemed to understand and appreciate all that schooling and all the different experiences I've had – and it was nice to be with people who actually seemed hungry for some of the stuff I have to give that hasn't been utilized for a while.

Making a difference right here in my own home is what matters most during this season of my life – this precious season when my kids are young and by far my most important job is helping to raise five wonderful people who will go forth one day and make their own difference in the world fueled by many of the things they learn from me. But every once in a while, it's nice to reach out and feel like I can make a little difference in the world beyond. Sure it's complicated – juggling babysitting to go to that meeting today while Jared's out of town wasn't easy. And trying to work on Power of Moms in every snippet of time that the kids don't actively need me can be taxing. But I'm a better mom when I feel better about myself and part of feeling good about myself is feeling that I'm reaching out and using whatever skills and ideas and “impressiveness” I might possess to make an impact on a few select things beyond the walls of my own home.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Viva Las Vegas!

Yesterday we went to Vegas. It's been about a year since we've gone there other than for a quick airport drop-off or pick-up so and we wanted some family time in the midst of all the homework and Scouts and basketball and finishing the new Power of Moms website and Jared working on his CoolCab thing and keeping MGTrucklines going. Life has just seemed so busy and stressful lately - but good, very good for the most part.

Anyway, our main destination in Vegas was the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. The kids were totally mesmerized by all the amazing fish and Isaac was super good at asking good questions to the aquarium staff they had on hand while Ashton and Eliza were content to glean all the information they could from the "audio wands" we had. The twins were pretty into the audio wands as well and told me a thing or two about some of the fish. We learned a ton about all sorts of fish, especially sharks, and it was so fun to have all five kids so totally interested in the same stuff.
Kids "petting" sting rays - they feel so weird and squishy!Had to put this in - I love jelly fish - they are so amazingly beautiful to watch
and I learned that they actually are a plant for part of their life cycle - so interesting.

We also watched the dancing fountains at Bellagio, saw the beautiful flowers there, visited the M&M's and watched a great fire dancers and some hula girls in the Hawaiian plaza. One of the twins' very favorite things was riding on the little train that links up some of the hotels (you should have heard their squeals of glee as that thing started moving forward!) and riding on countless escalators and elevators. Oliver had a total meltdown when we passed an escalator (or excavator as he and Silas kept calling them) at the end of the day without going on it. We made a slight detour to do one last escalator ride so everyone could leave happy!
Bellagio flower gardens decked out for Chinese New Year -
stopping for some water from the camelback

These are some awesome kids. We walked clear up and down the strip - several miles - and had a hard time finding much to eat (not a lot of kid-friendly or somewhat cheap options on the strip!) and Jared and I realized as we were driving home that the kids did not complain ONCE about being hungry or tired. They were just thrilled to be there and it was so fun to share in their excitement. The kids loved seeing all the people and lights and impressive gaudy fake stuff all over the place - plus the lights on all the slot machines in the casinos were very enticing. Ollie and Si thought for sure those "games" were for them and were quite put out when we didn't let them play with any slot machines. The glitzy larger than life appeal of Vegas is especially attractive to little kids! For adults like me and Jared, it can be tiring and the seedy side seeps through and it's hard to ignore the glazed over sad looking people at the slot machines and the scary outfit choices of some people. But hey, it's fun - for once a year, anyway.

Ollie and Si were great about holding my hands or Jared's the whole day. Their little legs probably clocked at least double what Jared and I did - plus they were jumping and skipping half the time. Needless to say, they fell asleep about 2 minutes into the ride home.

It's more and more fun all the time now that the kids are all able to walk and talk and enjoy so many of the same things!

Phoenix for MLK Weekend

On the way to Phoenix - some gorgeous scenery to make the long ride pretty nice

A couple weeks back, we made the trek down to Phoenix to see the wonderful Pothiers and enjoy a great MLK day with them. Shawni and I took the little kids (Claire, Liza, Ollie, Si and Lucy) to this amazing children's museum in downtown Phoenix while Jared and Dave took the big kids to a new Rec center near them where they had a wonderful time doing the rock climbing wall and playing basketball. Shawni and I celebrated MLK day by randomly ending up in a downtown Phoenix park where we were the very only people without black hair. There were all these people having parties all over the park and as the kids were playing on the play structure, the twins somehow wandered off and joined somebody's party - after about 2 minutes, I started to get panicy about where they were and they came back with candy in their mouths, asking if they could go back and go on the bouncy castle one group had rented for their party. I'd love to know what the party hosts thought of these random white-haired boys deciding to join their party!
Liza and Claire selling pretend ice cream at the children's museum.
Liza and Claire had so much fun being together!Liza playing with air and tubes - this museum was so much fun!Liza and Claire playing in the super fun "Noodle Forest"

One of the big highlights of the trip was going to Josh's house to watch a movie on his wonderful new TV with great surround sound and going to Josh's school. The kids absolutely loved hanging out with the geese and chickens and horses and especially the miniature horse at the school. That mini horse was so patient with the kids and gave all of them bareback rides and they were in love.

Ashton with Max and Elle - a little large for that horse?Most of the kids (and a goat) at the barn at Josh's school

We hung out in Josh's classroom and the kids all wished they could be in Josh's class. Josh has fixed up his classroom so perfectly - painted the walls, installed a loft area for reading (with 6 computer stations underneath), put in a projector and screen, so he can do great stuff off the internet with the whole class, set up a nice couch area for group work and reading - I sure wish my kids had a classroom like that - or more importantly, a teacher like that! (And so do they.)

In Josh's classroom - wonderful reading area on top of computer stations -
ingeniously created out of loft bed frames

The Pothiers and Josh were excellent hosts and we all had so much fun being together. It was so good to see everyone in their element and learn more first-hand about their regular lives.


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