Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Purpose Beyond Motherhood?

I loved this article by Tiffany Gee Lewis.  So much of what she said resonated with me.

In her article, Tiffany talks about how she struggled while trying to focus entirely on raising her children and how she finally arrived at the understanding that she truly needed a purpose beyond motherhood - something she could call her own, a chance to develop her own interests.

The article made me think back through my own years of motherhood and realize that while many of the things I've done besides motherhood may have felt more like necessary extra burdens than blessings at times, they were what I needed.

Since having my first child, I've thought of motherhood as my foremost occupation and pursuit.  But I've always had other things I'm working on simultaneously.  I worked 1/2 time from home while my first baby slept, finishing a training and consulting project I started before I got pregnant.

When that contract ended, I was due with Isaac any day and was feeling excited about being "just a mom" with two little boys.  But then I got another consulting project offer that was extremely flexible and would offer some great income during a time when we really needed it thank to a "slow down" at my husband's work (they'd cut back his pay and given him extra vacation time at work).  I said yes to the opportunity and spent several hours a week on the computer or visiting schools to do observations with a baby on my back or left the kids with their wonderful dad while I went off to do a training for a few hours.  It was stressful - but it was also rewarding.

Then, before that project ended and while I was pregnant with Eliza, the bishop showed up at my house and called me to be the Relief Society President (head of the church women's organization). We had almost 400 women in our ward, many of them with serious needs.  And I worked part time and had 2 preschoolers and a baby on the way.  I asked the bishop if he knew we were expecting.  He confidently said, "No, I didn't know that but the Lord surely knew it when He gave me a very strong feeling that you're the one for this job.  But don't take my word for it.  Please go to the Lord yourself and pray and see if you feel this is the right thing.  You have a right to your own inspiration and I'll thoroughly respect whatever you feel is right."  Jared and I prayed about it.  It was right.  I said yes and spent the next two years serving and stretching and learning in all sorts of ways.  

Then when we found out we were expecting twins and I was sick and had to go on partial bed rest, I finally became "just a mom" and found my three preschoolers and my pregnancy and later my two newborns alongside the preschoolers to be entirely and completely consuming.  I sometimes found time to shower.  I read a little sometimes.  I wrote weekly updates on our family's adventures.  But mostly, life was all about motherhood and all it's magical moments alongside all its grueling grunt work.  And all those wonderful women I'd had a chance to work with and serve in Relief Society helped me make it through.  I saw how "full circle" can work.

But after about 3 months of total motherhood focus, we moved from the Bay Area to St George, UT.  Packing and designing the new home my brother was helping us build became a serious occupation alongside motherhood.  For the better part of a year, researching possibilities, making plans, working with subcontractors and doing work ourselves on our new home became almost a full-time job - alongside the full-time job of motherhood.  It was stressful and sometimes I wished I could just give up the "extracurricular" activities and be "just a mom" again.  But I got a chance to delve into the field of design - a desire I'd always had.  And we were able to create a wonderful home for our family without spending a ton of money.

Once we finally moved into the new house, I found myself helping with way too many projects at my kids' school (hard not to when the school needed the very types of programs I knew so much about through previous jobs I'd had and anything I could do to help the school would help my own children) while still taking care of quite a few preschoolers, teaching them Joy School, getting involved in the neighborhood association - all things that totally supported my kids' and family's needs - but also all things that took lots of time.

And then I met April and The Power of Moms kicked in. The Power of Moms helps me be a better mom in so many ways - but it also takes a lot of time and thought and effort and perhaps some of that time, thought, and effort could be put towards my family if it weren't for the needs of the website...

So I guess I've almost always had a purpose (or several) besides motherhood.  I've often bemoaned how things have worked out and expressed that I wish I could "just be a mom" and enjoy motherhood more.  At these moments, my husband is always quick to say "You'd go crazy - you need other things too."  He's probably right.

But I know moms who are able to focus entirely on motherhood and derive great pleasure from this focus.

Or do I?  As I think about it further, the totally-motherhood-focused moms I was thinking of do have pursuits and purposes that aren't completely child-rearing focused.  One mom keeps an immaculate house and does a wonderful job with her calling working with the youth organization at church.  Another keeps up a beautiful blog complete with wonderful (and surely time-consuming) photography.  Another homeschools her children and spends lots of time planning lessons and mentoring other homeschooling moms.  Another is really into cooking and spends many hours each week trying new, complicated and delicious recipes.

So is there any such thing as being "just a mom"?  Don't we all have various purposes and pursuits alongside motherhood (that change and evolve as our motherhood needs change and evolve)?

Do all moms need an outlet, a chance to develop their personal interests and talents?

Is it OK for moms to admit that they want and need something besides motherhood?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sibling Connections

My amazing sister Saydi had her forth baby last week.  I loved hearing all about the birth story (you can read about it HERE if you want - she's into natural childbirth like me and she describes it so beautifully - it's just something that works really well for both of us - thanks for those fast-labor genes, mom).  And I loved seeing the beautiful photos she took of her sweet older kids meeting their new baby brothers HERE (Saydi's an amazing photographer).

Saydi's words and photos filled me with nostalgia.  What an amazing thing it is to grow a baby!  What a crazy beautiful painful thing it is to go through labor and childbirth!  What a thrilling thing it is to see and hold your own baby for the first time!

And what a gorgeous thing it is to see your older children meet a new sibling for the first time.  Some of my very fondest memories involve my older kids meeting their new baby sibling at the hospital.  A lot of the labor and delivery becomes a blur in my mind - the pain and the suspense and the uncertainty can make things almost too intense to remember fully.  But a few hours later when the older kids would come to the hospital to meet their new sibling, I was ready to really enjoy the moment - and capture bits of it on film.

I'll never forget how Ashton, my 18 month old who'd shown not a bit of interest in any of the babies we'd tried to show him to prepare him for his new brother, reached out his chubby little arms for Isaac and held him tight, instinctively rocking him back and forth with his cheek pressed to his newborn brother's downy head.

I'll never forget how Isaac was so bothered that the clunky cast on his arm prevented him from holding his baby sister Eliza the way he desperately wanted to or how Ashton smiled at her with the kindest, sweetest smile I've ever seen and held her like a pro (I'm not sure where my best photos are on this sibling meeting - but here's the one photo I had handy.)

I'll never forget Ashton and Isaac's wonder and joy upon meeting Oliver and Silas - or Eliza's uncertainty quickly giving way to interest and then delight.  They loved that their tiny brothers were doll-sized and were fascinated by their sameness.

I love those moments of connection - or what seems to surely be re-connection.  I love seeing the beginning of a relationship that will surely have its ups and downs but that is rooted in love, pure love.  I love giving my children one of the most precious gifts they'll ever get - a sibling.

Ashton and Isaac get to look at the photo of their first meeting quite a bit.  I've found that when a couple of these dear children of mine get into a tiff, it helps to sit them down to look at a photo of them together long ago and remind them that they always have been and always will be best friends.  The bad feelings just can't hang around very well when you're looking at a photo so full of love and connection.

Friday, March 25, 2011

If all else fails, just give up.

This was originally published on our Motherhood Matters blog at the Deseret News - but I thought I might as well put it here as well!

Did I really just type that title? Aren't we supposed to keep trying and never give up? The younger, more optimistic version of me would be appalled that I now view giving up as a viable strategy. It's not that I'm jaded now. It's just that I'm realizing that some things are not worth the fight and that I should save my energies for the things that really matter.

Generally, patience coupled with hard work and hope is a beautiful thing. When we go after our dreams with determination and grit, we often find satisfying success. But sometimes we may be working and waiting for the wrong things. And sometimes we patiently try to help someone else towards a dream they simply don't share which is a recipe for disaster.

Here's an example. I have a son who always leaves his stuff everywhere (I'm not using "always" and "everywhere" frivolously here). His PJs and underwear are always strewn across the bathroom after he takes a shower, and the towels never make it back on the hook. I'm pretty sure he's never made his bed without me standing over him. There are candy wrappers, books, dirty socks and components for his beloved Lego Mindstorm all over his room. His dresser drawers are always open (strangely - as he never seems to actually put anything in them). His coat and shoes can never be found when it's time to head out somewhere - and that makes us late.

I've tried charging him for each thing he leaves laying around. I've left bills on his bed: "I love you, buddy, but you owe me $5 for picking up the 10 things on the floor of your room after you left for school today." I've tried making him miss things to clean his room. I've tried "guilting" him into cleaning his room by explaining that he's really being a poor example to his little brother who seems to be picking up his messy ways. I've tried working with him to clean it up and really showing him how things should look when it's cleaned up properly. But I must admit that sometimes when I walk into his room right after I helped him clean in the day before and find a big fat mess, I do a little more yelling than I should.

I have been patient and helpful (usually) and have worked hard to help my son become the neat and tidy person I think he should be. But you know what? I'm realizing I can be patient forever and this wonderfully creative and intelligent boy of mine may never be entirely neat and tidy. It just might not be in the cards for him. Sure, he can and should improve. But perhaps my standards of cleanliness and neatness may not ever really work for him. I need to give up on what I think he should be and learn to more fully accept who he really is and who he's really meant to be. I need to decide what really matters and pare the list of neatness expectations down quite a bit for this beloved boy of mine. I can give up on some things, and, in this case, giving up isn't wimping out. It's being deliberate and realistic and loving.

Here's another example. My mom had a vision of a family orchestra. She had us all going on musical instruments at a young age. I took to the violin naturally, and my sister just younger than me worked at her violin as well. But my brother wasn't interested. He hated the violin. My mom thought maybe he'd like something more "manly," and he tried the trumpet, which seemed exciting at first, but after a few weeks of horrible blasting sounds and no lasting interest in the trumpet from my brother, we were all happy when my mom let him quit trumpet lessons. She tried to teach him a little piano herself – she'd been a music teacher before she had kids. No dice. I remember my mom sitting by my brother at the piano day after day, trying to patiently explain things and correct his mistakes. Each session started out nice, but piano bench battles between my mom and brother became a daily ordeal.

So my mom gave up. Her son wasn't going to be a musician, and while I'm sure that really pained her at first, she says she realized that her relationship with her son was way more important than realizing her dream of a family of accomplished musicians.

Sometimes patience and hard work is the right thing. Sometimes giving up is the right thing. Some things are worth the work and time and patience. Other things just aren't.

But figuring out which is which isn't so easy! Often it takes quite a bit of working and trying before we realize that something just isn't going to work out. And sometimes things end up working out on their own after we give them up.

Interestingly, today my brother is a musician in his own right. He bought himself a high-end keyboard a couple years ago and has taught himself to play - quite well.

Maybe someday my son will be a neat person. Who knows. I'm still going to remind him to clean up and ensure his room gets straightened every few days. But I'm not going to expect that he'll think of cleaning up on his own - at least not right now. I'm not going to let my desire for him to be neat get in the way of our relationship.

I guess I'm realizing that when we give up, we put our hopes and ideas and visions away and stop looking for them to happen. And sometimes, when we take the pressure off, things just happen by themselves. So perhaps giving up is really an ultimate form of patience!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Excellent Book (and a give-away)

Last summer at Bear Lake, my parents watched our kids while my sisters and I spent a full day working on a book our parents were trying to finish - a great book about how the unique beliefs of the faith we grew up with (Mormon) can and should influence our parenting.

Our parents wanted our help looking at what they'd put together through the eyes of our generation and they were excited for us to add in the extra ideas and examples we could offer thanks to our own families and the things we've observed in other families we know. We had a great time discussing the beautiful truths we were raised with and examining how those truths affected how our parents raised us and how we're now choosing to raise our own children.  What an enriching and fun day we had!  (And our parents had a great day with all the kids, bless their hearts - win-win for everyone.)

Anyway, our good parents took our piles of notes and ideas as well as all their solid, wonderful material and created a masterpiece of a book called 5 Spiritual Solutions for Everyday Parenting Challenges.  It offers unique parenting insights especially for Mormon families and it's now available online and in bookstores (Amazon, Deseret Book, etc.).  But there's a chance you can get it for free right here since I get to give away two books.  So if you'd like to have this book shipped right to your door free of charge, please make a comment and include your email so I can contact you if you're one of the winners.  I'll announce the winners next week!  Don't you just love free stuff?  Especially if it's something that could actually change your life a little bit?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Now that the website is launched, we're dealing with plenty of little glitches and fixes but in general, life seems SO much less stressful!  I've had a few melt-downs in the past couple weeks when all I did was work on the computer and quickly meet my kids needs in a fairly basic way while finishing so so so many things on the website.  But the hard work seems to be paying off and life feels so much better now. My new goal each day is to enjoy.  To do what I can do in some specified hours each day and just enjoy the rest.  And with dance and scouts cancelled this week for reasons I don't even know and basketball season over for the boys, life really seems slower and nicer on all fronts!

Jared, the twins and I went to the school to see Eliza and Isaac receive awards this morning.  I loved seeing their proud grins as they stood up there with their certificates and felt so happy to hear the nice things their teachers said about them (especially since we've experienced some real struggles with school here and there).  We've got good kids.  The assembly was long, long, long - and not exactly thrilling other than the parts my kids were in. Sitting there for so long with the website waiting would have driven me crazy in the last few weeks.  But today I just sat back and enjoyed (and replied to just a couple emails on my phone...).

I made bread yesterday.  And it was really good bread.  We had bread and milk for dinner with a few carrots on the side - bread hot thick with honey and butter.  Everyone was so happy.  My mom used to make bread sometimes and when we'd come home to a house full of that fresh-bread smell, we were in heaven.  So I've tried to do the same for my kids over the years and have valiantly failed - brick bread is what we all affectionately called my attempts.  But then my sister taught me to make bread at Bear Lake last summer and I've made some pretty darn good batches this year.  Still, it's a process - a messy, longish process.  It felt so good yesterday to just take the time to make bread and let the twins knead it and not stress about the time it took to clean up.  It felt good to go the extra mile and clean behind the canisters and wipe down the backsplash and just do those little things you notice and can do something about when you're not feeling stressed and rushed.

I took a somewhat leisurely trip to the grocery store today with Oliver and Silas (it's been a mad dash for bare essentials for quite some time now) and had them help me think of some good meals for this week (the meals haven't been stellar lately).  As the boys were helping me pick out fruits and veggies.  I asked Silas if he thought we should get some squash and he said "noooooo - really no squash!"  (They love just about every kind of vegetable - Oliver requested broccoli and green beans for his birthday dinner - but somehow squash, the favorite baby food for all my kids, has ended up on the gag list for most of them!)  After turning down the squash so vehemently, Silas went over to Oliver who was a little further down the aisle and said "Oliver, guess what.  We almost had a squash situation.  But I told mommy no."

These boys crack me up and I need to remember more of what they say!  They use a lot of big words lately - and use them correctly.  It sounds so cute with their little voices.

Tonight we went to a really cool hands-on science exhibit at the old train station downtown.  The kids were so excited to learn about sound waves and static electricity (some of those shocks really hurt!) and optical illusions and all sorts of interesting stuff.  Some of it was a little over the twins' heads so we wandered out into the big old train station waiting room - cavernous place with beautiful murals commemorating the completion of the railroad.  The place feels so empty now that its purpose is long gone.  I wish the new double decker trains that connect Salt Lake and Ogden pulled right up to this old station so it could bustle and be used as it was meant to be used.  Oh well.

Anyway, they had those machines where you can turn a penny into a souvenir there in the old waiting room and Oliver and Silas begged to create their own special pennies.  I always say no about this sort of stuff.  With 5 kids and usually some friends along for good measure, I never have enough quarters or time or patience it seems.  But when I found the right number of quarters in my wallet for my two boys to make their smashed pennies, they got the hugest smiles of glee and amazement on their faces!  We made awesome souvenir pennies and they were soooooo happy.

When I had tucked Oliver in bed last night, he started crying and said "I hate Ogden!"  I hugged him and asked why and after a while he came up with "because I don't get to do fun things here."   After a weekend of skiing and a trip to the children's museum last week with cousins, that hardly seemed fair.  I told him I know there are lots of fun things we used to do in St George and that I miss it too but that there are different really fun things to do here.  We talked about the fun things we've done lately and the fun things we have coming up and he went to sleep happier - he was just overtired I think.

So tonight when I tucked him in (after he'd carefully stashed his special penny in the bottom of his jammie drawer in the special wallet Ashton made for him out of duct tape, Oliver said, "you know that thing I said last night about Odgen?  Well now that I have my penny that says Ogden, Utah on the back I feel much better."  I'm so glad.

Sure there were bad moments today - like when one child brought home a report card with some stuff on it that does not reflect his abilities and we had to have a big talk.  Or when all the kids were being super loud and talking to me at once and I was so tired since I didn't sleep well last night.  Or when Jared and I went out for a lunch date to celebrate getting the website done and it wasn't very fun because we weren't used to talking about anything other than the website.  Or when Oliver and Silas disappeared in the grocery store for a couple minutes - I swear I've lost a few years from my life thanks to worry over wandering kids.

But I choose not to focus on the bad parts of today.  I have melt-downs and stressed-out moments more than I should.  I worry too much.  I work too much.  I do too much.  I think too much.  I enjoy too little.  And I mean to change that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Up!

After about 2 million hours of work (or so it seemed), lots of it way too late at night, the new version of The Power of Moms is live.  I'm so grateful to have a husband who is not only very good at building websites, but also willing to work so hard to support me - and all the other moms of the world.   The new back end is so much easier to work, has way more capabilities to do cool things, and we're excited about the new look.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

First Timers

Liza's first ride on the chair lift

We've planned to go skiing several times this winter but something kept coming up and Jared has SO wanted to get all the kids on skis since that was such a big part of his upbringing.  Plus we live in Northern Utah now - skiing is sort of obligatory.  

So yesterday (Friday) the kids were off school and we made it happen.  We went to this great little resort called Wolf Mountain where we practically had the place to ourselves and the gentle slopes were perfect for beginners.  It was warm and beautiful and everyone had a truly wonderful time.  

Isaac was a natural and Ashton picked up right where he left off last time he went skiing a couple years ago.  Liza and Oliver shed some tears and declared that they were DONE after some uncomfortable and frustrating falls at the beginning.  Silas didn't get that frustrated but also didn't get the concepts we were trying to teach him for quite a while (so we were the frustrated ones).  But in the end, Jared and I were so pleased to see that these plucky little kids were bound and determined to figure this out and that they actually seem to have some natural aptitude for skiing (thanks to Jared's genes - I'm all stamina with no talent or courage when it comes to athletic stuff...). 

It was amazing to see their progress by the end of the day.  The twins were riding up the chair lift and skiing down the mountain on their own with very few falls (and a cute stance where they'd hold their arms out behind them and keep their knees quite bent).  Liza was skiing with great control and was actually going off jumps on the bunny hill - she was so pleased with herself and we were so proud of her for her determination in the face of frustration.  And Ashton and Isaac were doing great on the intermediate hills - and doing some pretty impressive falls that didn't seem to bother them a bit.   

I didn't ski - just helped a bunch with getting everyone going and teaching them a bit on the bunny hill - reaching way way back to a few skiing tips I remembered from my childhood and towing the twins around between my legs repeating "tips together" again and again.  I sat with those who were frustrated and we watched others coming down the hill, looking for ideas on technique and talking about what seemed to be working for others. I drew zig zags in the snow to help the twins get the idea of going back and forth to keep their speed under control.  I gave pep talks and hugs and offered some stern words here and there about how nothing is ever easy until you've worked on it a lot.  I absolutely loved being there to see the triumphs. And at the end of the day, when I congratulated Oliver on what a good skied he'd become, he sweetly turned the praise to me: "Well, that's just because you taught me about that zig zag thing - that totally helped me." So glad I seemed useful!

Then I sat in the lodge and worked all afternoon - found a window where I could see the kids coming down the hill when I glanced up from my laptop.  I think next year will be my year to learn to ski.  I skied one time when Ashton was a baby.  And before that, I think the last time I skied was when I was about 12.  All the kids are probably better than me now.  Oh well, they can be my teachers next year.  

On the way home, Jared and I smiled when we heard Silas announce -without being prompted, "Hey, don't you think the lesson for today is that we can do really hard things if we keep trying really hard?"  I'm so glad the lesson sank in and that Silas has internalized that there often is a lesson for the day embedded in what we do.  Maybe all the times I've asked the kids "what can we learn from this?" have actually sunk in a little bit!

Jared ended up taking the kids skiing again today since, as it turns out, 3 of his brothers and 1 sister all ended up deciding to ski together today and he wanted to solidify the kids' new-found ski skills before the season was over.  He met up with his family at Park City for the day and while it was colder and a little snowy, they had a great day and the kids all progressed further and came home full of stories and excitement.

I stayed here and took Liza to a birthday party she didn't want to miss and did some much-needed shopping with her.  It was so nice to have a special girls' day - and it's so nice to have some pants and shoes w/o holes in them that actually fit the kids now.  I don't get how they can wear holes in their pants and shoes and grow out of their clothes so fast!  They've been looking very scraggly lately.  I really really don't like shopping but it was fun to do it with Eliza as my shopping partner.  She even helped me pick out a couple things for myself.  

Oh, a break from website work for several hours on Friday and today was so very nice!!!  It's almost 1am now and we've been working so hard on finalizing things so we can launch the new website tomorrow night.  Better get myself and my dear husband to bed!  But had to capture this big "first" for our family before the memories loose their freshness.

My camera ran out of batteries pretty quickly but I managed to get a few good shots before it died.  And I got some great video footage on my phone that I have no idea how to get off my phone and up on my blog.  I'll figure that out sometime.

The magic carpet seemed really fun and exciting

After finding out that skis can be hard to control and falling can hurt, Oliver said he was done and laid down with a huge frown.  But he got over the frustrations and became an awesome little skier after going up and down the bunny hill on his own about 25 times, getting a little better each time. 
By the end, we had a bunch of great skiers on our hands!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Faith vs. Stress

So Jared quit his job last Wednesday.  He couldn't do it anymore.  He was brought on with promises that unraveled in the last couple months and a series of events and lack of events led him to the very clear conclusion that things were not as they should be - nothing illegal exactly, but plenty of stuff that couldn't be called ethical.  As he saw more of what was going on and tried to fix things, he was increasingly marginalized to the point that it was miserable.  He had to leave.

So we left our beautiful home and all our good friends and so many things we loved in St George and moved to a city we never would have thought of moving to if it weren't for a job that promised to be fabulous (the job had proved to be quite wonderful for several months before we committed to the move so it really seemed like it would be the right thing for Jared...).  And now that job is gone.

We've got 5 kids.  Our savings aren't in stellar shape after some unemployment last year then making the move to Ogden and putting a chunk of money into a new house that we felt so strongly we were meant to buy.  We could be confused and sad and frustrated and scared.  But you know what?  We're feeling really peaceful and good about things for the most part.  It's going to be OK.  We can see the beginnings of new paths opening up and we're choosing to look for the good in this situation - and there's plenty of good to find.

Ogden feels right - totally right for us right now in our lives.  We're both seeing many reasons why we needed to move here - the job was just the bait to get us where we needed to be, I guess. Jared has quite a few connections and prospects here - way more than in St George where the business climate is pretty dead right now.  And he's currently working like crazy on our new Power of Moms website which should launch in a few days here (he was working on it several hours a day before he quit his job but now he's working on it like 12 hours a day and the timing to have more help from him couldn't be better).

As someone once wisely said, "change and surprises are the only things you can really plan on in life."  And as someone very wisely said in Sunday School last week, "stress can be defined a lack of faith."  I can't change the unfortunate circumstances that other people's choices create in my life.  I can't control what tomorrow may bring.  But I can choose to find the good in the hard stuff and I can choose faith over stress - at least on good days!

And the recent disaster in Japan has made me realize once again that our own little upheavals over the last year are nothing compared to what tons of people go through.

The Loosli Cattle Sale

We took a quick little weekend trip to the Loosli farm for their annual cattle sale.  We've done this for a few years now and when we asked the kids if they wanted to go this year, they were appalled that we thought it was even a question. Of COURSE they wanted to go. Seeing all the new baby cows with their moms (the kids were hoping to see a calf get born like they did last year, but it didn't happen to work out this year), watching the exciting action of the auction and listening to the talented auctioneer sing-song his way through bull after bull, enjoying the big feast the Looslis put on for everyone who comes to the sale - it's all so fun for the kids - and for me and Jared.  Plus Jared and the big boys loved helping Jared's brother Brian (who runs the ranch) and his son Mark (the kids' beloved college-age cousin who's so good to them) in every way they could as they prepared the bulls and set up tables.

At the sale, Isaac got to be in charge of replenishing all the ice and drinks on the buffet and Ashton got to enter in all the purchaser names and sale prices of the animals on the computer as buyers checked out - he did a great job.  The twins wanted to get in there and help with the cattle but had to be content with watching until they get a little bigger.  Eliza and I helped with the food and pitched in wherever we could - but mostly Jared's mom and sister-in-law had everything well under control. Jared got to be in the ring with the bulls this year, keeping them moving around during the bidding and sending them on out when they'd been sold.  He only got kicked a couple times - lightly.  They're really very calm and beautiful animals.

I love that we get to be connected to a farm and a ranch.  I think it's so great for kids to be exposed to the kinds of work and lessons that farms can offer.  And I'm most grateful for the wonderful, hard-working and kind relatives they get to spend time with at the farm.  I couldn't have married into a better family with better examples for me and for my kids.

Here's a little glimpse of the auction - and I'll put up more photos if and when I get a chance.  It was SO beautiful up there with the Tetons in the distance and the sparkling fields of white snow under blue skies.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Few Spots Left...

So our Park City Retreat is full. Super full. We've got 100 attendees for Saturday (plus we've got a sizeable waiting list). We've got just a few spots left for our Mind Organization for Moms session on Friday (click HERE to see the full info on the Retreat plus a sneak peak at our new website design). I'm so excited that so many people want to come and this is going to be a fabulous event. But I feel bad that we can't fit everyone in that wants to be there. The emails people have sent in about why they want to come to the Retreat tug at my heart and I wish so much that we could squeeze them in – but my parents' house can only hold so many people!

Anyway, we're trying to figure out how to accommodate all the people who want to come to a Retreat by getting some more Retreats set up. But in the mean time, Jennifer Knight, one of our top trainers who helped me run our fabulous New Hampshire Retreat last fall, is putting on a Retreat in Ventura, California April 8-9 and there's still some space at her Retreat. It's at a nice Marriott right on the beach. Doesn't sunshine and a beach sound nice right now? Jennifer will be joined by some exciting special guests including the California Young Mother of the Year and they'll be offering the full Power of Moms core curriculum - the same subjects we're doing at the Park City Retreat. But while the Park City Retreat just includes day-time activities, the Ventura Retreat will be the “full meal deal” of Retreats where you get to enjoy a full weekend get-away – it includes overnight accommodations. And Jennifer's offering excellent prices for the Retreat.

Check out the Ventura Retreat HERE.  

And please join our Power of Moms Newsletters if you want to be sure you hear about all Retreats as soon as registration opens.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Used to Be....

a "Wellesley Widow."  I sang in this 14-member a'cappella women's singing group at Wellesley College and my weekends were full of concerts at other colleges up and down the East Coast - plus we went on a tour to Mexico and California.  I was cool.  Here's a link to the current Wellesley Widows site:

I write about this because I just got the link above in an email for alums of the group and memories flooded back as I heard snippets of the group singing - same style, some of the same songs and arrangements, same types of girls in the photos, totally took me back.  Plus I'm doing a podcast tomorrow with The Roundtable on identity and have been reading some great online stuff on the subject- and I just edited an article yesterday for Learning Circles about identity - funny how things converge. So I've been thinking a lot about who I am and who I used to be and who I want to be and this Widows link showing up in my email inbox just fit in...

So the Widows is the oldest women's a'cappella group in the country and after going to one of their concerts and seeing how talented and funny and cool they were, I wanted IN.  I was SO nervous to audition as this little clueless freshman - especially since I had to get special permission to show up late for auditions so I could finish church and then take the bus back to Wellesley in time to catch the end of auditions.  And I had to wear my church clothes to the audition since there wasn't time to change and I wasn't sure how all this church stuff would affect my "coolness" in the eyes of these super-cool super-talented girls.  I made it through first cuts and second cuts and then they said they'd post a list the next day of who made it.  I went to sleep that night with my fingers crossed - only to be awoken after midnight by far-away singing on campus.  The singing got closer and closer and it was obviously the Widows.  Were they coming to sing to me because I got in?  I hardly dared hope!  But sure enough, they sang right into my dorm and down my hall into my room.  No way!  I made it!  They finished their song, told me I was the newest "Widow" and presented me with a huge "challis" of champagne and said "drink from the challis and you'll officially be one of us!"

Problem.  I don't drink.  Never have - not a sip.  What do to?  Here were all these super cool girls standing there welcoming me into their awesome group that promised the adventure, fun and music I wanted so much.  Would a sip really matter?  Awkward pause as I held that huge glass and they all looked at me expectantly.  I somehow managed to squeak out something like,"I'm so excited to be in your group but I just really don't drink alcohol at all."  Another awkward pause.  I'm sure some of them thought it was pretty silly to decline just one sip, but the group leader saved the day, stepped forward to take the challis from me, set the bottle of champagne they had for me with my name on it in gold in my desk and said "you can just give this to some friends - grab a coat and let's go sing to the other girl who got in."  It was OK.  I was in.  And I was in as a church-going teetotaling Mormon - no secrets - they knew exactly what they were getting!

Throughout college, I sang with these wonderful girls.  We traveled all over together and went to tons of  post-concert parties together.  They always made sure there were non-alcoholic drinks for me, sipped any available punch before letting me try it, and made sure I stayed clear of any men that they thought were questionable.  We shared our ideas and thoughts and beliefs on road trips and developed beautiful bonds.  And we sang some really great stuff.  I miss singing.  I miss making music. That used to be such a big part of my life and identity.  Now I just sing lullabies to my kids and we sing in the car on road trips.  I'm not even a really good singer - I'm a good "blender" but certainly not a soloist.  I still wonder how I made it into the Widows.  I guess it was meant to be.

Yes, I was a Wellesley Widow.  That was a big part of my college identity.  That and being a Mormon.  Two identities many would have said couldn't go well together.  But I've always had conflicting identities and somehow it all works out.

I think I'm going to do a flash-back post like this more often. I want to record these memories for posterity.  And I want to remember who I was and how that affects who I am.  I want to remember what I like and what is fun - sometimes moms don't even know what they like and what's fun for them because they don't get a chance to think about these things very much.  I like music and I can infuse a lot more of it into my life.  And I like friendships - deep, interesting ones with diverse people - and I can cultivate more of that too.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Eliza's Baptism

Eliza's baptism was beautiful.  We're so proud of our lovely little girl and so grateful to be her parents.

I love that dads get to baptize their children in our church.  There's something truly beautiful about seeing your husband do something so important for your child - something you can't do - something that's special just for him.  Moms get to do the beautiful and enormous acts of pregnancy and childbirth and nursing - special things that only they can do for their children.  It's great that dads have their exclusive roles as well through the priesthood - they get to give their children priesthood blessings, baptize them, confirm them members of the church and give them the gift of the Holy Ghost through a priesthood blessing.  I love the symmetry involved in mothers' and fathers' roles thanks to the exclusive physical roles that moms get to do and the exclusive spiritual roles that belong to dads.

I loved being the one to stand there with a towel at the edge of the baptismal font, ready to receive Eliza out of the waters of baptism.  I loved hugging her to me, all warm and wet, and feeling something of the joy I felt when I first held this warm wet little girl in the delivery room.  Baptism is such a beautiful symbol of rebirth and starting a new life - a life where there is now understanding and accountability.

We took a minute in the dressing room to savor the moment and take a photo before getting her dry and dressed for her confirmation.  She was positively glowing.  I'm so proud of her for all she's learned about the gospel and for her decision to make a serious covenant with the Lord to always remember Him and to keep His commandments.

I love the linking of generations, the building of relationships with family and friends, and the chance to focus on each child individually that is built into rites of passage like baptism.  I loved seeing Eliza's delight at seeing her dear grandma, her many cousins and aunts and uncles and lots of good friends sitting there in that chapel as we walked in for the baptism.  We're so blessed to have such occasions to bring us all together and so blessed to have so many dear people who love us and love our children. 

Here are all the family members, friends and ward members who came to support Eliza for her baptism.  She was so excited to have several great people from our new neighborhood, ward and primary there plus some dear friends from St George and some good family friends who came up from Alpine.

Here are all the family members plus some of Eliza's best friends (Shai, Lucy, Rachel and Hattie).  We were so glad to have Jared's mom, Jared's brothers Aaron, Joel and Brian come with their families (Eliza loves them and their kids SO much!) plus my aunt and uncle, Karen and Rawlin were there to hold up the Eyre side of things.  My parents had to be in Canada for a speech, sadly, and would be gone for the baptism dates the next couple months so we had to go ahead without them.  But they visited a couple days ago and Liza put on her baptism dress for them and she had a special time with them in honor of her baptism.

We fed about 50 people a soup buffet at our house after the baptism - quite a party!
Liza was thrilled with the cute "baptism girl" cookies Grandma and Aunt Michelle brought and was so excited about all the kind gifts and cards from so many good people who love her so much.
We're so grateful for all these great cousins and friends!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

About that last post...

So I've been worrying about the last post I wrote.  I think I sounded like the students who always bugged me in college - the ones who were always going on and on about how many pages they had to read and how many papers they had to write and how many finals they had to take.  Maybe it was just a Wellesley College thing - but the complaining/comparing/bragging that went on as each semester wrapped up was pretty annoying.  And I don't want to be part of the one-ups-manship that can sometimes feel like it's going on in the world of moms.

I do a lot of stuff.  All moms do a lot of stuff.  But we all do different things based on needs - our needs, our kids needs, our situational needs, the needs of our stage of motherhood.  Some moms do a lot more in some areas and a lot less in other areas.  I used to have more mom-related demands in some areas (diaper changing, mess-clean-up, bathing and feeding kids...) and a lot less in others (getting kids to where they need to be, helping with homework, dealing with my kids' moods and emotions and friend drama...).   As my mom always says, life doesn't get easier - it just gets different.

When we look at other moms and see what they're doing or not doing, it's so important to recognize that  everyone has a different bandwidth based on their talents, needs, family situations, upbringing, personally-imposed and otherwise-imposed boundaries, etc.  What seems super-ambitious and overly-busy to one person may seem a little lazy to someone else.  What seems half-baked to one mom probably seems over-the-top to someone else.  And what works during one period of our own lives may not work at all during a different period of our lives.

When I had 5 little preschoolers, I did a ton of stuff.  But I didn't run a website.  I couldn't have.  It felt like a great day when I'd been able to get one load of wash done or go to bed with a clean kitchen on top of meeting my kids's basic needs.

Several years ago, I remember one time sitting behind another family in church.  Their kids were well-behaved, sang all the songs, and looked at church books quietly throughout the meeting.  As I struggled with all my preschoolers, pulling out every trick imaginable to keep the kids somewhat quiet and corralled in our pew, I envied that mother in front of me.  I wondered if I'd EVER be able to actually listen to anything going on in church and if my kids would EVER be well-behaved in public.

But you know what?  My kids are really good in church now for the most part.  We make it through every meeting without anyone having to be taken out crying at the top of their lungs and without anyone punching their brother or crawling away under the benches.  Yes, the kids are good in church now partly because we've worked on it for a lot of years but mostly, they're good in church because they're older.

A few months ago, I had a mom sitting in front of me with a baby and 2 preschoolers, struggling as her baby fussed and her other kids bickered over toys and books from the bag their mom had obviously carefully prepared with every possible thing that might keep them happily busy at church.  I wished I could help in some way - but the kids didn't know me and I didn't have a bag of toys that might help.  After the meeting, the mom apologized to me for her kids' disruptive behavior, saying "I sure wish my kids could sit quietly like yours!  I feel like we're a three-ring circus every Sunday and it's so hard to feel like anyone's getting anything out of church!"  I had to laugh.  She was ME a few years ago and I told her so.

I love this quote: "That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed but that our ability to do it has increased."  I'd add a bit more to this quote:  "That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed but that our ability to do it has increased and/or the people we're working with have matured!"

So anyway, I guess this is a long way of saying that I didn't mean to boast or complain with that last post.  And I don't want anyone to feel down or frustrated that they're not doing more or different things in their lives.   I'm doing my own level best to do what I feel I should be doing in this stage of my life I hope you're doing the same. And sometimes it just feels good to record what I'm doing so I can feel like I'm actually accomplishing something.  But I don't want my recording of my life to be something other moms compare themselves against.  It's apples and oranges.  It's different situations and stages.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

What a week!

Like I said in this post a while back, I've accepted that my life is going to be crazy busy quite a bit.  I'm really OK with that.  And I'm so grateful for a full life.  But wow, some weeks really wear me out!

This week we had Ashton's school talent show (he did great on the guitar), three book reports to help kids complete (they turned out pretty decent in the end but our kids could really work on letting us know about assignments a little further in advance!), a high school reunion luncheon for me in SLC, a great surprise visit from an old mission companion, a visit from my parents (they wanted to spend time with Liza since sadly, they'll have to miss her baptism tomorrow), physical therapy for the twins (Silas is doing great but Oliver needs a lot more therapy to get his right foot functioning properly), basketball practices and the exciting project of putting up a new basketball hoop in the backyard that Jared and the kids have been working on quite a bit this week, me rounding up and teaching the cub scouts (my new calling), getting Ashton to scouts and Liza to dance class and Activity Days at church...

All of these things wouldn't feel like that much - but when you combine that stuff with the fact that both Jared and I have been working like crazy on the new Power of Moms website during every free daytime moment and late into the nights - plus the fact that I've had lots to do on the upcoming Power of Moms Retreat in April - it adds up to a LOT.

The new website is going to be awesome and we're so anxious to get it up - we're so close!  But wow, websites eat up 100's of hours and there are plenty of dumb bugs that pop up and tedious stuff that you just have to plow through.  I'm SO grateful for a web-savvy and willing husband who has done wonders for us and for my amazing parter April who has also put in 100's of hours on all this. Plus we've got some great volunteers who've helped a ton. If I didn't love the cause I'm working for and love the people I'm working with so much, this really wouldn't work out - it would just be too much.

The laundry's piled up.  The meals have been very basic.  The house is not very clean (to say the least).  But we're getting close on the website, our Retreat in April is officially full (and we've had reporters and big bloggers and even the Utah Young Mother of the Year register - so fun to see the momentum with this!).  And most importantly, the kids are happy and we're mostly ready for Eliza's big baptism day tomorrow (or we will be after a couple hours of cooking and cleaning tomorrow morning - we've got about 50 friends and family members who'll be joining us for this very special event and for a dinner at our house afterwards).

Why am I even taking the time to write this?  I should be sleeping and I will be in a couple minutes.  But writing stuff like this down makes me realize I have a very good life and I AM accomplishing things - even though I often feel like I'm just spinning my wheels when I'm in the midst of it all.  Plus some day, I'll want to remember what life was like during this fleeting stage...

On another note, my mom just did a post with photos of the Rising Star event Jared and I got to go to a couple weeks ago with my parents and some other fun stuff we've done with them lately - so check out her post HERE for details (seriously, Sean Bradley is TALL - see how he makes the rest of us look like shrimps...)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Capturing the Moment - on film

Lately I've been feeling the fleeting-ness of my kids' childhood and I've been taking lots of little videos of them doing things they do a lot - things that may seem pretty common-place now but that I'll forget about if I don't record them. My tiny little basic camera takes pretty decent video and I've realized I should really take more little clips of every-day life.

I've videoed the twins telling me about their favorite stuffed dogs that they play with so much and I was able to catch some good footage of them playing one of their wonderfully imaginative games together when they didn't know I was there.  I've videoed Eliza telling me all her favorite things about life right now and speaking some Spanish for me (she's missing the chance to speak Spanish that she had every day at her old school and I'm missing the cute little Spanish songs she always used to sing and want to capture some of that before it fades...).  I've videoed Isaac on his rip stick (he's GOOD).  I've videoed Ashton with his latest MindStorm inventions.  But maybe my favorite video clip I've got lately is this one of my sweet little boys singing to me.  They sing me various renditions of this song several times a day - sometimes individually, sometimes together.  How sweet is this?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A trip back to St George

The renters at our St George house reported that the dishwasher was leaking and one of the window blinds was malfunctioning and the kids were all begging to go see their old friends.  So we drove down to St George for a couple days.  The weather was forecast to be rainy and cold down there (and the forecast was true but thankfully we did get a little sun our last day).  Ashton had his first boy scout campout on Friday night so we couldn't leave until Saturday and it would be a long drive for a short time down there.  And I  have SO much Power of Moms work to do right now.  But there wouldn't be another weekend when we could make the trek for quite some time so we bit the bullet and made the trip.

And I'm so glad we did.

I needed to see that our house was well cared-for.  The renters are keeping it up beautifully and the issues they were having were quite easily remedied.  It was so weird to see our house full of other people's stuff though.  We built that house.  It's always been our house full of our stuff and our family.  But we couldn't have found nicer, more tidy and conscientious renters and it was great to see it looking good.

We all needed to see friends we've been missing a lot.  We love love love so many people in St George.  We cram-packed Sunday with visits and re-connections and had a great time seeing people at church.  Then today, the kids were delighted to go to school for a while at their old school and see their dear friends.  And I have to admit, visiting the school was pretty fun for me as well.  I got about 100 hugs from all the little friends I cultivated over the 5 years that I was a pretty constant volunteer at that school.
Isaac with one of his best friends, Micheal.  This is an older photo - not sure how I didn't capture any shots of Isaac with friends this trip.
Liza with her best friend Olivia on the school play ground.  These two girls played together almost every day from the time they were 2 until we moved.  Olivia felt like part of the family.  We all miss her!  Olivia's family treated Liza to a sleep-over and Olivia's mom did cute matching hair-styles for them and Liza got to go to school with Olivia and all her old classmates.  It was perfect.
Ashton with best buddies Wesley and Dallin in the cafeteria
Silas with his best friend Jason and Oliver with his best friend Kaylee.  It was so cute seeing them all fling their arms around each other when they saw each other!  Kaylee always calls Oliver "Best Friend."  Kaylee was excited to show Oliver the brace she wears to correct her tip toe problem on one foot (cerebral palsy) and Oliver was totally excited to tell her that he has braces to wear on his feet too and that he can now walk on "flat feet."  Quite a reunion.
I loved spending time with my dear friend Becky and going on a little walk with her in memory of all the great walks we went on together early in the mornings and late at night as great walking and talking partners.
It was so great to see those red mountains and that blue, blue, blue sky again.  I don't know if there will ever be anything quite as pretty to me as the deep red-orange of those mountains against the brilliant blue of the sky in St George.  We did a quick hike at Dixie Rock and another quick hike at Castle Rock - and even though it was kind of muddy and quite cold, it felt so good to drink in some of that scenery again and enjoy some favorite places for a bit.

We hiked up on top of Dixie Rock - an old favorite - can you tell it was freezing by looking at Silas and Isaac?  But seriously, those rocks and that sky - could it get any prettier?
We also hiked Castle Rock and the kids found all their favorite little caves and cubby holes.  

St George will always be home in many ways.  But a great side-effect of our trip was that when we arrived back in Ogden last night, I had a true feeling of "coming home."  This is really feeling like home now.  Even though Jared's job isn't turning out to be what we'd expected and there's a lot to miss about St George, we're seeing unexpected reasons unfold about why we needed to be in Ogden at this point in our lives.  For reasons we know and reasons we're sure we'll be discovering, we need to be here and it just feels right.  I'm so grateful for that.

This is home now.  And it's a good home.

Oh, and on a totally different note, there are like 5 spots left at our April Retreat (out of 100) in the Park City area and I wanted to make sure anyone bothering to read this blog gets a last chance to get one!  If you're interested, click here to snag a spot before they're gone.  This is going to be one POWERFUL Retreat and it's been exciting to see how quickly it's filled up!


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