Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Alma Mater and College Decisions

This is where I went to college - Wellesley College.  It's right outside of Boston.  It has its own lake.  The dorms and classroom buildings are like castles.  I may be prejudiced but I think it's the loveliest campus.

Cambridge was my first home (my dad was attending Harvard Business School) and I was brought up on stories about the virtues of going to college in the Boston area.  It just seemed like THE place to go to school.  When it came time to apply to colleges, my dad took me to visit Harvard, Stanford and Wellesley.  Harvard seemed too run-down and urban and large and cold.  Stanford seemed perfect with the sunshine and beautiful campus- but they didn't choose me.  Wellesley seemed beautiful and safe - and they wanted me.

Wellesley was a really unique college experience - but like so many things in life, I didn't realize what a unique experience I was having at the time.  The classes were small.  There were no multiple choice tests - just lots of reading and discussing and writing papers.  The people were so interesting and diverse and extremely respectful of each other's backgrounds, opinions and beliefs.  There were no boys to think about which seemed to help us focus on our studies and develop deep friendships - plus we saved a lot of time not really getting gussied up for classes - sweats and ponytails and no make-up were the norm.

Like most students, I had a love/hate relationship with the place.  I loved the campus (but got sick of trudging across that loveliness on bitter New England winter days), loved my wonderful friends, loved so many of my classes and being able to make up my own major (Peace Studies - sociology and international relations rolled together), loved singing in a small a'cappella groups and traveling to sing at concerts on other campuses up and down the East Coast, loved being a Residence Advisor and participating in student government. But I often longed for the chance to hang out with the opposite sex more often and looked longingly at the more typical college experiences of dating and football games and co-ed events you didn't have to travel to Boston to attend (there were tons of parties to attend every weekend - but I was disappointed again and again with  the loud drunken parties that MIT and Harvard had to offer and was so grateful for the events our church offered - even if there did seem to be about 12 with-it girls for every fairly decent guy).  And there was a lot of Wellesley-bashing among Wellesley students - a very popular topic of conversation was talking about all the bad things about the place and moaning and groaning about how much reading and writing everyone had to do.  People loved comparing how many pages they had to read and write and sort of bragged about the all-nighters they pulled.  That was sort of annoying after a while.  Plus everyone seemed to take most everything a little too seriously.  And we were all supposed to call ourselves "women" rather than "girls."  I still would rather be called a "girl."

Anyway, all this is a long lead up to saying that I got a chance to spend the day on Monday at Wellesley.  Saydi (who also went to Wellesley), her kids, Eliza and I wandered the campus, showed the kids our favorite spots, enjoyed the amazing leaves and jumped in them for my dad's birthday tradition (it's his birthday today), peeked into some classrooms so the kids could see what that was like, visited the dorms we both lived in and treated the kids to lunch in my old dining hall, and just had a great day.

It was so great to be back there.  I wanted to grab some of those serious students scurrying to classes and say - "Hey, this is a great place - enjoy this!  Stop and look at these leaves!  Don't take things so seriously!  Have more fun!"  But then, I know I should say these same things to myself more often.

I saw all the same types of girls (lots of them would probably be appalled that I used "girl" to describe them) in the dining hall, sitting in the sames sorts of groups - the nerdy ones at one table, the loud, brash and sarcastic ones at another, the more well-groomed ones over here, the jocks over there...  I heard snippets of very familiar conversations about the bad food, the number of pages needing to be read, the events of the weekend, the professor who just doesn't get it and the professor who is awesome...  I wondered what they thought of me and Saydi and our kids, plunked down in their dining hall for lunch - not something you see every day at Wellesley.  I wondered if we looked old to them.  I wondered if they liked seeing our kids and if it made them think about whether they wanted kids - and if so, what they hoped their kids would be like.

Anyway, Eliza fell in love with the place and declared that she was definitely going to Wellesley.  What's not to like about living in a castle-like dorm by a gorgeous lake and enjoying all-you-can-eat meals in the dining hall?  But I told her she'll have plenty of time to look at plenty of possibilities.  As Saydi and I watched our daughters run down Severance Hill and skip along the path by the lake, we talked about how cool it would be to see them become Wellesley students one day - but how that would be such a hard choice in many ways as well (for us, financially - that place is EXPENSIVE - and for them socially and emotionally and in many ways).

So who knows what the future holds.  But Wellesley has a good place in my heart and I'm so grateful for the time I had there.  I'm not sure what parts of who I am I could trace back to Wellesley and I've often wondered whether there would be equally important things that I'd have gained if I'd chosen a different school.  Who knows if it was "right" for me.  But it was good - and it was beautiful - and it's a part of me.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back from Boston

I'm back from a week of busyness and business mixed with sight-seeing and fun in Boston. Our Power of Moms New England Retreat was GREAT (more on that later - such an excellent group of women - I learned so much!) and I loved the chance to take Eliza with me and show her many of the places that have been huge parts of my life - Wellesley, Harvard, Cambridge, Boston - 10 years of my life were spent in these places. Liza was a great travel companion and totally ate up all the sites and history and information. We stayed with my sister Saydi who lives on the outskirts of Boston and had so much fun with her and her family (plus Saydi was my co-presenter at the Retreat - such a treat to be able to work with her). The fall foliage was at its peak and the colors were breathtaking. Everything was generally really great. But wow, I'm exhausted!

Now I'm trying to catch up on mail and voice mail and email and laundry and restock the house with food while trying to give the kids lots of extra TLC since I've been gone and I missed them so much and they need it and simultaneously debrief the Retreat I conducted while in Boston and move several timely Power of Moms projects forward. Oh and Halloween - got to get that taken care of - haven't even thought about it before today and the kids need costumes and stuff for school parties tomorrow. Oh and then I need to rent this house and figure out lots of details on the new house (tons of small things the home inspector found on Monday - all the small things are starting to really add up in dollars and time and worry! We're scheduled to talk with the sellers this weekend and figure some things out). Oh and then I've got to pack up this whole house as soon as we get a move-out date pinned down.

Very sadly, we missed our flight connection yesterday (we sat on the plane for an hour in Boston for no reason that anyone cared to share) and had to wait 2 hours for the next flight which made it so we'd most likely miss the shuttle van from Vegas to St George (oh, the joys of not living near a "real" airport!). But when we did finally hit the ground in Vegas, we RAN and I called the shuttle place and begged them into waiting for us so we made it on the shuttle and were SO glad. Then we met a nice guy who was sitting next to us on the shuttle back from the Vegas airport whose father-in-law is the bishop of our new ward in Ogden and who's interested in renting this house - he'll be here in a few minutes with his wife to tour the place. I love those moments when the Lord points out that he's aware of us and is sending the right connections our way... even if it meant missing other connections and being pretty frustrated at times!

I was mostly brain-dead on the flight home and needed something pleasant and somewhat mindless to do - so I made a bunch of collages of my best photos from the trip. I'll let these collages tell the rest of the story of our trip. And I'll do a separate blog post about the Retreat when I get a chance.

OK, Boston in the fall is something everyone should see sometime in their life. The clashing of brilliant colors everywhere you turn can take your breath away.

Eliza got a crash course in American History, art and architecture history, you name it.  And she loved it all.  We must have walked 20 miles and she never complained a bit.  Plus she's by far my best photo poser - she's happy to star in any photo any time.  Nice contrast with her brothers.  Yes, she had her moody or over-tired or over-hungry moments - but really, this little girl makes an excellent friend and travel companion and was just so excited about everything.

I love Beacon Hill.  I love the doors of Boston.  I love the simple and elegant fall decorations.  I love the brick.

I got into taking photos framed by windows. Above are a few of my favorite window-views from various spots in Boston.  

Ah, Boston. What a place. What memories. What history - for me and for our country and for so many others. I want my kids to know Boston. Three down (we took the big boys a couple years ago), two to go - at least for the initial overview of the place. We'll get back there every chance we get.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Praying with the Twins

The twins' prayers are generally repetitive.  I've tried encouraging them to mix things up a little and share some things with Heavenly Father that might be sort of new or interesting for Him to hear.  But they mostly just keep to the regular stuff - thanks for the beautiful day, help us be good, please bless daddy...

But tonight when I suggested they might want to say some stuff in their prayers, it seemed to strike a chord for some reason (sometimes there's no real rhyme or reason to why some things we say sink in and others don't...).

Snippet of Oliver's prayer, "Thanks so much for that bright bright moon that looks like one of our cereal bowls cause it's just a half.  Thanks for making the moon for us so we can be happy and so it's not so dark at night.  Thanks that I got to go to school today and be with my uno dos tres teacher today." (that's what he calls his Spanish teacher)

Snippet of Silas's prayer: "Thanks that we could bike ride to school on such a BEAUTIFUL morning even though it was kind of cold - but the sun got warmer after a while.  Thanks for the sun.  And thanks that our mudder can be here with us since our fadder can't be here with us.  And thanks for loving us."

Oh, it's great to get a little peek into the hearts of these sweet boys of mine through their prayers!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Columbus and Success Lessons

Columbus was a pretty interesting fellow.  The kids and I looked up a bunch of info on him yesterday for Columbus Day and I learned a lot.

Did you know his dad ran a little cheese stand on the street?  He didn't come from a particularly well-off or educated family.  But I like to think that his parents encouraged his creativity and wanted him to follow his dreams.  His brother became a cartographer - so Christopher may have found a little inspiration there.  He was drawn to the sea and went on his first sea voyage at 10 years old.  He didn't have much formal education but devoured the books he could get his hands on.  He somehow worked himself into a great position with a major trading company and traveled all over with that job.  He somehow landed himself a marriage with a governor's daughter.  He got it in his mind that he was going to find a new sea route to the Far East and all it's sought-after riches (after the Turks made the land-route, the Silk Road, unsafe).  Most people thought he was crazy to want to take off in a direction no one had ever taken before - no known routes, no tested maps.  He went to kingdom after kingdom seeking a sponsor for his voyage of discovery and kept getting rejected.  But he finally found sponsors and followed his dream.

This is what people thought the Atlantic/Pacific Ocean looked like in the late 1400's.  That big blob to the left of the middle was supposed to be Japan and the land way on the left was China.

I love researching stuff like this with my kids.  And I love finding the lessons there are in the lives of so many people.

Silas wanted to give the Family Home Evening Lesson last night and gave a lovely and somewhat surprising lesson on Columbus.  He didn't seem to be really be listening while I did Columbus research with the big kids (he was happily spinning the world globe we were using and bugging people).  But he picked up on a lot of things and as he shared the story remarkably well, the other kids filled in more information and they came up with some great lessons we can learn from Columbus - lessons I need to remember myself:

  • Keep trying.  There are tons of failures embedded in every success story.
  • You have to step into the unknown quite often to get to where you're supposed to be.  You can't know the end from the beginning.  Success is often routed in leaps of faith.
  • It doesn't really matter whether you've had certain advantages in life.  Determination and hard work can create your path for you.
  • Sometimes what you think is true and what's been mapped out is actually not right at all.  The only way to find out is to test it for yourself.  
  • Sometimes you find something totally different from what you were going for - but it may be much better than what you were anticipating.  Keep an open mind and embrace serendipity.

Life isn't made up of sure-bets and easy paths.  It wasn't meant to be.  Great success in life (which certainly includes producing quality human beings) doesn't just happen, no matter your circumstances.  Success is grown through failures and pain and joy and work and doing things and then doing them again while taking steps into the darkness and reaching for the light.

My parents are contributors to a great online magazine called Success - check out their lastest stuff on finding the greatest success you can experience in life through building a strong and happy family here.  A lot of their stuff is going into the new "Family Systems" program that I'm working on for Power of Moms - so get a sneak peak on Success Magazine if you want for now.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Join the Messy Moments Movement

At our California Retreat a few weeks ago, one mom said that her favorite thing I've posted on this blog was a photo of my messy dining room table (here).  She said she loved seeing that other moms, even moms who seem to have it together like me ("together" isn't really how I feel most of the time - sort of surprised I could come off that way!) have messes in their homes - a lot.  Her comment led into a nice little discussion of how great it would be if all the bloggers out there published occasional photos of their not-so-beautiful moments and offered more glimpses of how their family and home really looks on a regular day.

Blogs are wonderful.  I love gathering inspiring ideas and keeping up on the events of friends' and family members' lives via blogs.

But they can also be time-suckers or worse - they can get us all caught up in the dreadful "compare snare."

Of course, whether blog-reading is time-sucking, depressing or uplifting is mostly up to the attitude and boundaries of the person reading the blog.

But wouldn't it be pretty refreshing if all of us who had blogs made a point of being "real" and sharing some of the hard and messy stuff a little more often, so we can help readers see that we're all human, that we're all learning, that we're all struggling sometimes - and that we all live in houses where messes happen?

I'm not suggesting that we all complain and "let it all hang out" or share anything that would embarrass our family members or ourselves - we all need to keep many things private and sharing our woes and messes all the time with everyone else isn't good for anyone.  But wouldn't it be nice to see more posts on more blogs that help us see that we're all dealing with lots of the same messes and hard stuff?  

Check out this great post by my dear friend April and join in our "messy moments movement" if you like!  Just put your links to your "messy moment blog posts" in the comments section on my blog or on April's if you like.  And maybe we can all help each other to see that really, motherhood is messy - physically and metaphorically - and that's OK.  You can't have a lot of the beauty without at least some of the mess.  So let's share some of our beautiful messes, shall we?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I like being me

So I got back from Vegas to find my three younger kids cuter than ever.  Nothing like getting away to make everyone appreciate each other more!

I loved hearing Oliver say in his prayers tonight, "Thanks that Grammie and Grandfadder could be with us and thanks EXTRA much that Mommy can be home."  Nice to be needed.  Very nice.

Eliza had worked with the twins on a little "show" while I was gone and they all wanted me to video it and put it up on my blog.  So here it is. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Vegas, Baby

My dear parents are around for the Senior Olympic games (this has been a standard every October - my dad plays lots of tennis and throws in a little basketball and track and field as well - my mom cheers him on - and we all enjoy some precious time with my wonderful parents).  For my birthday last summer they gave me the gift of watching the kids and sending me and Jared off to see some shows and enjoy a nice hotel in Vegas while they were here for the Senior Games and could watch the kids.  But Jared really can't get away from his new job right now and I really needed a get-away.  So I decided to surprise Ashton and Isaac with a trip to Vegas and it was SO fun!  I'm so glad I've got two such fun boys that were so delighted to accompany me.

I picked them up a little early from school yesterday and told them we were going on a special little Mommy Date.  They kept guessing different favorite restaurants we might be going to or thought maybe we were going bowling.  But as we passed each familiar landmark and then got on 1-15 going south, it dawned on them where we were going.  Ashton yelled out "Vegas, Baby!" and I revealed the rest of the plan.  We'd be seeing my very favorite Cirque du Soliel show - Ka and staying at the most special-shaped hotel in Vegas (they finally guessed the Luxor pyramid and were SO excited).

We listened to loud music and traded stories about our most embarrassing moments in the car.  Then we started off at Trader Joes to stock up on some dinner items and fancy treats to take to the show and enjoy in our hotel room - I love that store - why oh why don't we have it in Utah?  Then we checked into the hotel which felt fabulously cool to the kids (a little faded glory going on at the Luxor but still, pretty neat to be in a room with a slanted window - and we lucked out with a room on almost the top floor where we could see the strip and watch airplanes take off and land at the airport - oh, and the elevators that move diagonally up the sides of the pyramid - have to say, pretty cool).  We took a dip in the pool, ate some dinner, and walked over to the MGM Grand - enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and the excitement of all the lights coming on for the night.

The boys loved Ka even more than I imagined they would.  That show has it all - amazing acrobatics, death-defying stunts, lots of brilliantly choreographed sword-play, a stage that goes up and down and sideways, great humorous stuff, gorgeous music, wonderous special effects, and a great real fireworks show at the end.  We were all glued to the thing the whole time.  There's nothing like enjoying something with people you love whose enjoyment heightens yours to a while new level.

We hung out in the room this morning and did some more exploring - saw the amazing flower display at the Bellagio and the great dancing fountains there plus some amazing sculptures of Cirque du Soleil performers (complete with a video of the artist doing his work - Isaac was especially enthralled).  I love that there's art and culture to be found and appreciated for free in Vegas (if you can get past all the people passing out "girls, girls, girls" fliers).  We had good talks about gambling and smoking and modesty spurred by good questions from the boys.  We had a lovely lunch at a great Spanish restaurant in the brilliantly designed new Aria hotel (love the fountain outside the hotel - so cool).  Then we headed home refreshed and energized and liking each other more than ever.

Amazing Bellagio flower displays (that's a 900 lb pumpkin behind the boys)

So I'll have a lot to catch up on after ignoring most of my work for a couple days.  And we're still haggling on this house in Ogden.  And it's been so amazingly beautiful here with storms to watch in the wash and the scenery outside my windows rain-drenched and more beautiful than ever (not making the thought of leaving any easier...).

But things feel better now.  Much better.

Oh, but note to self - don't do an extra-hard work out with tons of squats if you'd like to walk all over Vegas the next day - all the stairs with thighs screaming out - not so fun.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

It's Just a House - But Still...

OK.  This is going to be hard.  I started packing today and ended up in tears pretty quickly.

We won't be moving for at least a month (could be more) but I figured I'd better start so it won't be too crazy later.  I worked on the kids' toys and books since the school is having a big yard sale/fundraiser next week so now's a great time to get rid of lots of stuff that's just been hanging around here for no good reason.

As I went through stuff, I was flooded with memories of the daily story times we've had here in this house and the umpteen times I've helped the kids pick up these toys off the stamped concrete floor downstairs that Jared and I painted ourselves.  Those thoughts led to thoughts about all the hard work that went into designing and building this house.  I spent late-night hours at our old house in California, pregnant with the twins, analyzing and re-drawing floor plans and envisioning what this house would be.  Then Jared worked with all the subcontractors while I spent huge chunks of weeks and months on the computer, researching bathroom fixtures, paint colors, countertop materials, the qualities of different types of wood for doors and trim and different types of tile for bathrooms while 2-year-old Eliza prattled away, my baby twins crawled around making mess after mess and my big boys played with each other.  Five preschoolers while designing and building a house - what were we thinking?  But somehow it made sense at the time.

Now, five years later, while all those carefully researched choices helped make this house both beautiful and affordable, I realize that what's hard to leave in this house isn't the huge walk-in pantry or the 2nd laundry room or the beautiful stone in the bathrooms or the lovely maple woodwork.  What's hard to leave is the memories.  The twins took their first steps here in this living room.  Most of the kids learned to ride their two-wheelers out front.  We've watched sunsets and storms on the back balcony together.  This house has been an integral part of so many holidays and birthdays and beautiful little basic daily moments - impromptu dance parties and Friday movie nights in the theater room and so many family dinners at our well-worn table looking out at Snow Canyon and over a thousand cozy bedtimes in each of the kids' beloved rooms.

Then as I placed an add on Craig's List to rent this house, I remembered there are some good photos on a blog post I did for our house's birthday last year and found myself reading over that blog post again.  More memories!  Check it out here if you want:

Yeah, it's just a house - just a thing.  It doesn't really matter that much in the grand scheme of things.  But it's hard to leave something you've built and cared for and enjoyed so much.

We've got several people interested in renting Krawnchie and we're finalizing an offer on a house in Ogden.  We got the kids enrolled in a great charter school there (after some finagling).  This is starting to feel very real.  And very hard.


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