Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Should we do it?

We've always had this family dream of traveling across the country together. Jared and I want to share our favorite places in Boston and NYC with our kids. We want to experience new places together. We're pretty good at road trips and love the adventure and together-time they offer - and the kids are really good in the car.

I've got to be out in New Hampshire to conduct a Power of Moms Retreat Oct 21-22.  Jared has a flexible schedule as he looks for the right new job. We both can do our work just about anywhere as long as we have our laptops and the internet. So I got this idea that maybe we should ALL head out to New England in October and Jared agreed that if he didn't have a job by the time I would need to buy a plane ticket for the Retreat to get a good fare, we should hop in the car and make the trek across the country.

Well, I'd need to buy a ticket in the next few days if I'm going to fly out for the Retreat so now's the time to make the decision.  Should we drive that 35 hours each way?  

The kids would have to miss some school but they have a few days off for fall break during the time we'd be gone and I've always embraced my parents' philosophy - "never let schooling get in the way of your education."  And we'd have plenty of car time to do the kids' school work that their teachers could give us.

We don't really have extra money right now but when we do have money, Jared's generally working at a pretty non-flexible job and wouldn't be available to go with us. Plus this would be a business trip so we could expense a lot of things and we're very good at keeping things cheap on road trips - we eat from a cooler in the car and just need a basic motel room or a corner of someone's living room where we can roll out our sleeping bags for the night. Plus we've had requests to do a Retreat in Chicago so we could do that on the way or on the way back and that would generate more revenue.  Maybe we could even do a mini-Retreat in NYC...

We might have to miss some basketball games for Eliza and the twins - we just signed them up to play starting in mid October.

It might be hard sometimes trying to get work done on the road while helping kids with homework and keeping everyone happy in the car. I do have quite a few big projects I'm in the middle of for Power of Moms.  But I got tons of work done during our last road trip all over the Pacific Northwest (love that you can create a "hot spot" with your phone and use the internet almost anywhere now) and Jared and I could trade off driving and working and doing stuff with the kids (plus they like time to read or watch a movie and don't need attention from one of us all the time).

The kids are at great ages for a road trip. They are all old enough to be good in the car and really get and remember what we'd be visiting. They are young enough to think trips like this are super cool - they don't yet worry about missing friends and they still think family time is a treat.

So, what do you think?  What would you do if you were us?

Another First for Me

I spoke in an ARENA yesterday. Never done that before. They have this full day "Just for Her" conference here in Ogden and they invited me to speak.

The whole huge-group/arena set-up was a little nerve-wracking and definitely out of my comfort zone. Plus I had a really hard morning with one of my kids and came away pretty convinced I had no business teaching other moms about discipline ideas and the like when I was so obviously messing things up myself.  But I pulled myself together (with Jared's help - I was a bit of a mess) and I did my presentation (and taught myself a few things while teaching others - interesting how it always works that way). I met a whole lot of really nice moms who were excited to learn more about The Power of Moms. It was a good thing. And I think I did a pretty good job. But wow, I'm glad that's over. Firsts are always hard for me. But I'm learning that things generally work out and I really shouldn't stress so much. But knowing you shouldn't stress and actually keeping yourself from stressing are two different things!

I bet some of you Ogden residents are a bit annoyed that I didn't let you know about this speech and the whole "Just for Her" event. Sorry. I meant to. But then I got wrapped up in the stress of the thing and forgot.

I've had a lot of people tell me that they really really wish they could make it to a Retreat but their location, family situation and budget just won't allow it. I wish I could wave a magic wand and get all the great deliberate mothers out there to a Retreat. They really are magical and life-changing - even for someone like me who's been again and again. I always learn something new and meet moms that I wish I could spend a lot more time with.

Anyway, we do have a miniature version of a Retreat experience for everyone who wants it - click below for links to the webinars that April and I did on "How to Help Your Kids WANT to Behave" and "Five Steps to Less Stress."  Nope, it's not the same as enjoying a day away, tasty treats, a nice lunch and good laughs with a bunch of other great moms as you would at a Retreat.  But you can experience your own mini-retreat while your kids are napping or after bedtime with the help of these free webinars (we can't keep them free forever so enjoy them soon!).  We've had over 800 people watch these webinars.  April and I are so happy we've found a way to get some of our Retreat curriculum to moms who can't make it to a Retreat!

Two Free Webinars (scroll down a bit to see the free links)

Finally, in case you can make it, I want to make sure you know about our upcoming New Hampshire Retreat.  It's just 3 weeks away and our early bird prices end Friday, September 30th (this Friday). It's at the beautiful lakeside mansion of Nolan and Margaret Archibald and it's going to be amazing. Please come if you can and please please please please please help spread the word to moms who might really be happy to know about this opportunity! We don't want to leave anyone out.

New England Retreat at Lake Winnepesaukee October 21-22

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies - Happy Fall!

Today is the first day of fall.  I love fall.  I love love love love love it. As summer falls away, the sun gets softer and the temperatures are perfect 70's. The light is somehow more beautiful.  The evenings and mornings are crisp. Hints of red and gold appear in the trees. And we've settled into a nice routine with school and lessons by the time autumn comes along.

To celebrate the first day of fall today, I kept Eliza and Ashton out of school an hour longer after we finished their eye appointments (Liza's eyesight is a bit better but she still needs glasses, Ashton's 20/20 - headaches he's been having must be from something else, focusing problems I talked to his math teacher about must be because he's got a kid next to him who's a talker, not because he can't see the board).  We've got the school carnival to help with all afternoon and evening so the only time we could do our first-day-of-fall tradition of making pumpkin cookies would be while they were out of school for the eye appointments.

Liza and Ashton were very happy to skip just a bit more school so we could make the cookies together.  And wow, are they ever good!  I've eaten 3 (plus way too much cookie dough).  But hey, they have lots of healthy pumpkin in them - plus way less fat than most cookies - and some whole wheat flour...
Here are the cookies - plus a leaf we found on the first brilliant fall tree we've seen -
it was right by our car at the doctor's parking lot.
Here's the recipe in case you want your own delicious fall treat:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ cups canned pumpkin (one 15 oz can, however many cups that is!)
2 ½ cups sugar
½ cup canola oil
½ cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour (I like to do 3 cups white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 1/2 - 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (depends on how chocolatey you want them to be)

Mix together all the wet ingredients and sugar.  Then add the flour one cup at a time, mixing between each cup. Add the baking soda and spices with the last cup of flour.  Then fold in the chocolate chips.  Add a cup of chopped walnuts or pecans if you like (I usually do).

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes – be sure not to overbake! Take cookies out when they’re still a bit doughy looking. Makes about 32 cookies.


Now I'm off to help set up for the school carnival.  How do I always end up helping with these things?  At least I don't have 2 wandering toddlers to worry about while helping at the school as was always the case a few years ago...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm sad

My bike was stolen last night. Isaac's bike got stolen too. It seems like they tried to take Ashton's bike but it had a flat tire so they left it a ways from where it had been parked.  The twins and Eliza were so relieved their bikes were still here (I didn't bother telling them that it would be a desperate robber indeed who would take their bikes...).  Jared was glad his very nice bike was tucked away in the basement.  Isaac and I kicked ourselves that we've been so careless to leave our bikes out.  We just got lazy.  I saw them there 3 days ago and thought "I really ought to take those bikes down to the basement" but I was busy with something else and hey, they really aren't very fancy or nice bikes.  Mine is a pretty basic bike Jared got me for Mother's Day at Costco 6 years old and Isaac's is a pretty cheap used one we found on Craigslist.

So all things considered, we didn't loose all that much and we got a good reminder that we should be a bit more careful.

But you know what?  I love my bike.  I really really love that thing. It has a nice cushy seat.  It has good shocks.  I know just how to manage the gears.  I like how it looks - a little retro.  And most importantly, it represents so many rich, dear memories. So, as silly as it is, I've been on the verge of tears several times today over that dumb bike.

I went through photos trying to find a photo that showed the make and model of my bike for a police report and realized that while I have tons of great memories with that bike, I sadly don't have that many photos with my good old Versato Riviera (I knew it was something that started with a V but needed to find a photo to remember the name - brand names always elude me...).

I wish I had a photo of me heading out to the park on my bike with the twins and Eliza in tow. I used to go meet up with friends every week at the park and it became a weekly bike pilgrimage for me and the kids.  I had one twin in the bike seat behind me and Eliza and the other twin in the trailer I pulled behind.  I got a serious workout pulling those three up and down hills for several miles to the park and back!  As we'd head up a hill, the kids would urge me along with songs and sometimes they'd chant "I think I can, I think I can!" like The Little Engine that Could.  I always had people tell me they'd seen me huffing and puffing along Snow Canyon Parkway with all those kids. I felt pretty tough. I loved the chance to enjoy beautiful scenery and weather and get great exercise while enjoying some good times with my three cute preschoolers.

I luckily have a photo of the day my sisters, sisters-in-law and mom set out with a plethora of babies for a big bike ride up Snow Canyon.  That was such a fun day.

Picture that red trailer on the back of my bike with the baby seat and you can see how I  used to bike all over with my 3 preschoolers by myself.

And I do have photos of me and Jared heading out on our yearly bike ride around Bear Lake.  That's my birthday tradition - to bike the 50 miles around the lake.  My bike has been around that lake 4 times now.  And while Jared has laughed at my bike's nice cushy "granny seat," he's become quite envious of that seat after about 20 miles on his hard little bike seat!

I wish I had more and better photos of our whole family out on bike rides. But mostly, we got off the bikes and left them behind to take photos - and I guess you can't really take photos while riding a bike... Bike rides were a major part of our life in St George. The twins were in that red trailer for a few years but finally graduated to their own bikes.  We spent so many Saturdays biking up beautiful Snow Canyon or biking along the Parkway to go get lunch at Bajio a few miles down the road.  The kids still talk about how much they loved "biking to Bajio."  In fact, when we went back to visit St George last June, we stopped for lunch at that Bajio and the guy behind the counter said, "Hey, where are your bikes?  Don't you guys always ride your bikes here?"  The kids sadly replied that we'd moved and that biking to Bajio was now just a memory.

This is the best photo of my bike that I was able to find for the police.  Love that thing.
I wish I'd taken photos of our family bike rides up the new trails we've discovered here in Ogden.  It may be a while before we can do another family bike ride.  We're not really in the financial position to buy two new bikes just now!  I went on a run this morning on the trail along the river and thought mournfully of how much we've loved biking along there...

OK, yes, it's just a bike. But if anyone sees it around Ogden, please let the police know. And if anyone knows where I can get another one just like it for cheap, please let me know.  That thing represents some really dear stuff to me and I wish so much I could go back in time and not leave it in the backyard! Or I wish I could find whoever took it and explain how much it's worth to me and how little it's probably worth to anyone else in the world...

Enough.  I've done my grieving.  Time to move on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I just don't feel like it

Some days I just don't feel like doing things.

This morning, I didn't want to get up (nothing remotely new there).  I didn't want to face my to-do list for the day or the worries I've got hanging over me about various things. I didn't want to do 5 heads of hair and deal with the inevitable chaos of getting 5 kids off to school. But I plowed through. I got up and got the kids to school.

Now I'm sitting at my computer having dealt with the most urgent emails that popped up overnight and I need to go running.  I really need to. I've got my running clothes on. It'll make me feel so much better about my life. But it's sort of cold out there and I'm bored with my route and my music. So here I am blogging instead.

I was talking to a friend the other day about how decisions often cause stress and that when we narrow our decisions, we often lessen our stress.  We live in a world of SO many decisions - many of them liberating and wonderful - but many of them taking up precious time and space in our brains.  Which of the 100 different kinds of toothpaste should I buy at Walmart? (dealt with this one yesterday - they keep coming out with new stuff and then I don't know whether to go with what I always buy or get something new or on sale and I spend way too much time trying to figure it out while the kids are going a bit crazy...) What should I make for dinner?  What should I wear?  What lessons should my kids be taking? When should I go running - should I do my computer work before or after?

As we talked, I realized that I need to limit decisions for myself just like I often limit them for my children ("you can have a lot or a little of what we're having for dinner but you have to eat it...").  I need to have "shopping rules" to keep from wasting time in the toothpaste aisle - I should get what I always get or look at the toothpaste for 2 minutes and then get the one that seems best rather than looking so carefully at prices and the qualities of different options.  I need to plan out my dinner menus once a week - plan the work and work the plan - this way I'm not trying to make decisions about what to make during homework crunch time.  I need to sit down with my kids and lay out the possibilities and limitations and pros and cons of a limited number of different lessons and activities for the school year and make some decisions rather than having these decisions hang over my head.

And I need to have a set times and days that I go running so I don't have to keep making decisions about how and when to fit it in.  It's not a decision whether I go running.  I know I need that and I go 3 times a week - but exactly when I go has become a silly repetitive decision process. Now that my kids are all in school and I can go at different times, I've been too flexible.

Enough!  I'm going running.  Right now.  And I'm going to go the minute the kids leave for school from now on. No more decisions about running every day.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wonderful Wildness

I was checking out some videos I asked Ashton to upload to YouTube for me and found this old video of the twins. When they were about two, I found them out in the garage rocking out together.  I cranked up the music and filmed them.

These twins of mine are wild in all the best ways. Sure, they've made more than their share of crazy creative messes (read about some of the most memorable here) and they've nearly given me about 1000 heart attacks showing off abilities I didn't know they had. But they've got that beautiful boldness and sparkling spunk and creative curiosity that are such wonderful parts of wild kids.

Sometimes the wildness around here drives me crazy - my kids all have a wild streak. They love to try crazy stunts on their bikes, to leap off play structures, make elaborate messes with all their building toys and crafts,  do flips across the grass. I've learned while making the mess often involves a couple of hours of creativity and fun, helping them clean it up usually just takes a few minutes.  And when it comes to their physical exploits,  while they often seem to scare other people watching, they don't scare me anymore. Thanks largely to their dad's insistence, they've been able to test limits a lot in their lives and that's led them to expand their abilities and limits. I watch them scamper across rocks on a hike or land a little jump on their bikes and wish I had even a fraction of their kinesthetic abilities and well-founded confidence in what their bodies can do.

I love that we've done a lot of hard and sort of scary things together. We conquered Angel's Landing and the Narrows in Zion together a couple years ago. We hike and bike up just about any mountain we can find. Plus we've done a lot of wild and scary non-physical things together. We've worked together to build The Power of Moms and we're getting going on a new companion website, The Power of Families (Jared is our webmaster and does so much to support and build the website and the kids have loved helping with data entry and making and editing videos as well as helping with extra chores around the house when I have a crunch time - I explain what I've got on my plate and they're so good to help pick up the slack). We've moved to new places and started at new schools and jobs where there were countless unknowns. We've tried all sorts of interesting foods and learned to like almost everything. We've stretched and grown and learned so much together. And sometimes it took a little "wildness" to get us to where we needed to be.

Can you have real learning and stretching and fun and memories without some monitored messes and watchful wildness?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Goodbye Bird

There you have it.  Problem solved.  No more bird.

Yesterday morning, Ashton tearfully broke the news to me and Jared that the bird had passed away in the night.  All the kids were pretty sad.  We reassured them that they had given that little bird the gift of a very happy last few days of life and that he surely would have died sooner and sadder without their tender loving care.

Ashton and Jared gave the bird a proper burial in his toilet-paper-tube coffin in the backyard.

Then this morning, the kids announced that the snake had escaped. More tears. They went from 2 exciting pets to none in just two days.

Luckily the snake escape was a false alarm.  That little guy was just hiding in the cage while he shed his skin.

So we're back to one nice easy pet.  Well, sort of easy.  Ashton, Eliza and I plus a little neighbor we were taking care of spent way too long last night at the pet store while the employees looked for some feeder fish we could buy for the snake.  They were totally out of the small goldfish and really unsure whether the cheapest tropical fish we were looking at could poison the snake. So we went home empty handed and have to head to the pet store again soon.  Not exactly convenient. Oh well.

On another note, Ashton and Isaac had their first flag football game last night.  Jared found out the day before that he needed to be their coach (no one is quite sure why he was only given one day to gather his team and be ready to play their first game...).  Given that very few of the boys had ever played before, they somehoe managed to muddle through with some impressive moments here and there. Or at least that's what Jared said. I was there but I couldn't tell you a thing about how the game went.

One of my goals for this fall: learn the rules of football so I can watch these guys play with some tiny measure of intelligence.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grocery Store Adventures

So the kids and I have been having fun making these little Deliberate Mothering Tip videos. It's been a good way to get us going on routines that got pretty slack over the summer.

Week before last, the twins, Liza and I made this video about what we do (usually) before heading into the grocery store:

Doesn't that look like a nice, organized way to get ready to head into the store?

Well, let me tell you about yesterday's grocery store run. The twins and I had our little "grocery store rules" review before heading in. We were going to have a lovely little "mommy date" together and they were going to pick out a nice treat at the end.

Here's what actually happened.  The twins begged to push the shopping cart and I agreed, provided that they could trade off pushing it nicely and stay right by me.  That lasted for about 10 minutes. Then they started fighting over whose turn it was to push the cart - verbally fighting and then pushing and shoving. I took over pushing the cart. They cried. I got them interested in finding the peaches. They wanted to help put the peaches in the bag which seemed like a fine idea but they kept trying to put unripe or overripe peaches in the bag and were having a hard time with the concept of putting them gently in the bag.

We moved on. As I contemplated how much of certain things I should buy, they thought it would be fun for one of them to push the cart while the other one dragged along behind - sort of like water skiing behind the cart.  They were staying close to me so that was sort of OK. But then they got going a bit too fast and ran into another cart.  The lady pushing that cart wasn't amused.  Neither was I.

We headed to the bulk foods where they were excited to put on disposable plastic gloves and help me grab spaghetti from the bulk bin. Then as I thought about which cereal to buy, they started crab walking, delighting in the idea that their hands would stay clean thanks to the gloves but finding, much to my dismay, that backwards crab-walking results in more collisions.

We had a few more mishaps.  A milk jug got tossed in the cart on top of the bananas.  We had a near tip-over of the cart when both twins decided to hop on one side at the same time - but they profusely apologized for breaking the rule they well know about not hanging on the side of the cart.  I quickly got the most necessary items and we somehow made it out of the store without causing too much damage to ourselves, our food or anyone or anything else.

I was proud of myself for being pretty patient through the whole thing. I did declare a time out where the boys had to sit on the floor on their hands and count to 20 while I looked for the shampoo I needed. That calmed them down for a while. And I did get pretty stern with them.  They're usually pretty good in the store - especially when we remember to go over the rules before we head in.  But sometimes, even the best laid plans don't quite work out.

So I guess I'm just saying organization, routines and planning are not guarantees (as evidenced by this post). But they sure do help.  I hate to think how bad our grocery store trip would have been without setting up some rules at the beginning!

P.S.  We're trying to get a bunch more Deliberate Mothering Video tips turned in by THIS FRIDAY, Sept 16th.  I bet you've got some great little methods you've developed that would work well for other families as well. Try making a video with your kids and send it in!  It really is a fun activity to do with your kids and seriously takes about 10 minutes.  Plus, the kids seem to be pretty good at practicing what they've preached after making a video.  Instructions for submitting videos are HERE.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Couples Retreat

What a wonderful weekend we had!  It was incredible to gather with so many deliberate parents.  I wish we could bottle up the energy and ideas that filled my parents' house and share them with every single parent in the world. 

Here's the left side of the audience (my little point-and-shoot couldn't take in the whole group)
And here's the right side of the audience
Here are some friends from Ogden who we were so glad to have there
Here I am with some of my all-time favorite women - my mom, my amazing partner April, and Tiffany, our excellent Retreat Organizer who I first met when we were both teenagers in England. I love how life brought us back together.

I'm always so stressed out about these Retreats.  But despite my worries that some of the 1000's of details involved will get messed up or that I'll get up there and forget everything I meant to say, each Retreat has proven to be a wonderful experience for me and for everyone else involved.

I was especially worried about our first Couples Retreat that was held on Saturday at my parents' place in Park City.  We haven't done a Retreat for moms and dads before.  We know what to say to moms.  But we weren't sure whether dads would want to come and if they did, whether they'd really enjoy being there and find it valuable.  Turns out that while it did take longer than usual to fill this Retreat (BOTH parents coming to a Retreat is obviously harder for a family both economically and logistically), we were able to fill up my parents' home with wonderful couples.  And I have to say, the dads seemed to enjoy it and participate every bit as much if not more than the moms.  What wonderful couples we had!  As I got to know them, I realized that really, our job was just to provide a place and some good topics and questions for them.  When you get that many stellar couples in a room together, there will be learning and growth and and great times, even if April and I just stood back and watched!

My parents did a great job presenting and sharing their rich experiences from having raised 9 children and having spoken to groups all over the world.  April and her husband Eric did a fabulous job presenting on building a strong marriage foundation upon which to build your family systems - fun to see them in action together. they always surpass my greatest hopes.  My parents and I, with help from April, Eric, Tiffany (our Retreat Manager) and Tiffany's husband, Mike, all shared our ideas and experiences with building a strong family discipline system, a family economy that teaches kids about work and money and prepares them for the real world, and a family culture that is stronger than peer culture. We did lots of small-group discussion as well and I loved hearing the great ideas that every couple brought into the mix.Jared was there most of the time but declined presenting. He's content to be our web guy and marketing guru - plus he somehow managed to keep the kids really happy and quiet downstairs or out on some short hikes while still listening in on most of the Retreat.

It was so wonderful to have the moms and the dads there together to learn and share simultaneously.  While I love love love presenting to groups of moms, it makes more sense to me to present stuff about family systems to both parents rather than sharing great ideas with moms and then they go home and share what they learned with their husbands. They can do a great job sharing all that they learned and husbands and wives can work together to figure out what they want to apply to their own family. But ultimately, what the wife brings home from Retreats still feels like "her" ideas - whereas, if they hear the ideas together, both parents can develop their own ideas from what they hear and move on to create great shared action plans to take their family where they want it to go.

I felt sad to say goodbye at the end of the day.  I wish Jared and I as well as all the other couples there could head out on a big vacation together and keep talking and having fun together.  And I'd love my kids to be able to meet all their kids.  April and I are seriously thinking a Power of Families cruise or resort weekend may have to be part of our future!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New pet?

I took Ashton and Isaac for a consultation with an orthadontist on Thursday.  Luckily for us on the financial front, they likely won't need braces for another year or so.  But the orthodontist assured me that yes, they were prime candidates and that Isaac has what he calls the "triple whammy" - too much space between teeth, a big overbite and his jaw is set in such a way that when he closes those chompers, the top teeth completely cover the bottom teeth.

Anyway, after the appointment, I took the boys to Great Harvest for a little treat - we got the hugest gooey cinnamon roll fresh from the oven plus free slices of bread.  We were in heaven.  As we enjoyed our food at an ourdoor table, Ashton fell in love with this cute little bird that kept begging for crumbs.  He got it in his head that he NEEDED a pet bird  I also reminded him of how we don't really buy pets, we just enjoy the animals we find for a while.

The next day, he kept talking about his dream of having a pet bird and begged to go to Petco and buy one.  I explained how expensive it would be for him to buy a bird, a cage and everything else he'd need and that he's still paying off his trip to DC this past summer. I told him birds were noisy and smelly and got birdseed everywhere. Plus we've generally had the rule that we just do "found" pets - if you can find it, and it's quiet and low-maintenance, we'll keep it for a while, then send it back to join its own kind when we head out on vacation or when the time otherwise seems right.

I really think we're good on pets. We've got a pretty cool pet snake named Stripe that the kids found in Ashton, Idaho. It gulps down whole goldfish and sort of "stands up" to do this cool swaying dance sort of thing. Stripe has been a great replacement for Fang - the 4-foot-long gopher snake we found sitting in the driveway of our old St George home when we went down to visit in June.  Fang was a very cool snake the kids could carry around their necks and brag about to their friends. Jared would get cute little white mice from the pet store every week or so to sacrifice to the usually docile snake who'd transform into a sort of scary predator as soon as he got a whiff of a mouse. All the neighborhood kids would come over to watch when it was feeding time.

But eventually Fang escaped - someone left the cage partially open.  A couple neighbors reported seeing him in the back yard. But we never found him. I hope he's off in the mountains enjoying a good life and not feeling too terribly cold in this colder climate.  We meant to let him go back in St George one day...

Anyway, back to Ashton's wish for a bird.

On Friday, as we were setting up for the Couples Retreat (more on that tomorrow - it was WONDERFUL!), a little bird flew into one of the windows of my parents' house (where we were holding the Retreat).  Ashton and the kids heard the thud and found the little guy.  He was pretty out of it. They put him in a box and fed him rice crispies and water. After a few hours, he perked up a little and they were all thrilled they'd been such great nurses.

Ashton decided God had granted his heartfelt wish for a bird and started trying to teach the bird tricks - how to hop up on his finger, how to jump over objects...

The bird came home with us last night after the Retreat. But we warned the kids that birds need to fly around and be with their own kind - so once he seemed fully healthy again, he'd need to be released. That idea brought some serious tears. I explained that birds are meant to fly and that it seems cruel to keep a bird in a cage.

The kids spent the whole afternoon today building a new cardboard home for the snake and outfitting the old terrarium the snake had been in with lots of fun "toys" and "perches" and swings for the bird made from cardboard tubes and k'nex pieces. They found out that a neighbor had birdseed and got some food for the bird. They carefully blocked off areas in their bedroom where the bird could become entrapped (under a bed, under a dresser) with bedding and turned off the fan so that the bird could safely half-fly around the room.  They attempted to prove to me that the bird could have a really great life right here in our house. And Ashton insisted that Jared and I hold the bird for a bit when we went up to his room to tuck him in, pointing out all the cute things about him.  And he is a cute bird - prettier and more interesting than most birds you see around here, and very fluffy and sweet and helpless.  Plus he hasn't made any messes or noises so far.

So what would you do????  What should we do about this bird?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

13 Years

Thirteen years ago today, Jared married me.  I look at this handsome, helpful, capable, strong, wonderful man and marvel that he really did choose me.  And then I count my blessings that he continues to stick by me and be the most supportive husband and helper imaginable - even when I'm an emotional wreck, even when I take on way too much and he has to pick up the slack, even when I don't appreciate him nearly as much as I should, even when I'm critical and demanding, even when I'm just plain un-fun.

Jared is everything I'm not.  He's even and stable when I'm volatile and emotional.  He's smart in ways I'm pretty clueless.  He's accepting and non-judgmental and balances my tendency to be a critic all the time.  He's tough when I'm wimpy and inspires me to be less of a complainer.  He counts blessings when I count problems.  He's accommodating and bending when I'm demanding and particular. He's practical to offset my idealism.  I dream things up.  He makes things happen.

Jared's everything I never knew I needed and is pretty far from what I thought I'd find.  I imagined an intellectual, a romantic, a lover of books, a dreamer, an idea-guy.  I got a no-nonsense adventure-sports-loving MIT-trained mechanical engineer who says he mostly just likes books if they have good pictures in them - or good information on how to do stuff on the computer or fix the car.

I loved who Jared was when I married him.  But I thought maybe he could be even better.  I thought he would surely become more romantic and more intellectual as he spent time with me.  I wished for a souped up version of this great guy - so much so that I messed things up quite a bit.  I could see how he could change and how that could help him stretch and grow in meaningful ways - and refused to admit that what I really wanted was for him to change so that things would be easier for me.

I've learned a lot in thirteen years. I'm a slow learner in a lot of ways - I think most people like me who think they're right all the time can be pretty stubborn, slow learners.  I'm still learning every day - and working to change myself rather than change Jared.

I've learned that unconditional love is necessary and that giving 100%, not 50%, is vital.  I've learned that I don't know nearly as much as I generally think I know.  I've learned to make the things that are important to Jared important to me as well - or at least accept their importance to Jared. I've learned that the golden rule often doesn't work - if I do unto Jared what I would like him to do unto me, I often do things that actually aren't in his love language at all and that he doesn't naturally appreciate. I've learned to let go - let go of expectations, let go of preconceived notions, let go of some things I thought were "needs" but that I realized were really "wants" or romantic ideas of how things should be.  And I've learned to count my blessings instead of my worries and challenges.  Let go and be grateful.  That has become my mantra.

I am so grateful for all the adventures Jared has made possible in my life - from having five kids in five years to traveling all over the place to running crazy 36-hour relay races to building websites.  I'm so grateful to have a partner to share the work and play and joy of life with.  I'm so grateful Jared keeps sticking with me.

Here's the little video I made last year for our anniversary - it captures the highlights of our life together. We're watching it with the kids in a few minutes before Jared and I head out to dinner.  We had a wonderful day together with all the kids being at school.  We got our work done and enjoyed a wonderful brunch together and talked about lots of our favorite memories of our wedding day and anniversaries (not Jared's favorite thing - but he's learned that a big way to speak my love language is to indulge me in some trading of memories - and I've learned not to expect him to reminisce without prompting).

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

An Unplanned Labor Day Weekend

We spent quite a fair amount of Labor Day driving and searching and worrying.

Labor Day weekend just sort of popped up this year and we didn't really think about planning much until it was upon us. We did our Saturday cleaning quickly and wandered downtown to the Farmer's Market to enjoy some wonderful samples, buy lots of delicious fresh veggies, and listen to great music (SUCH a nice farmer's market here - just 3 blocks down the street...).  Then my parents decided to come take the kids to a movie in the afternoon (the kids were over the moon about it) and took Jared and I out for a nice dinner at our favorite restaurant (Sonora Grill).

Sunday morning, my dad headed up to spend time with his dear mother in Logan (more about her below) and my mom went with us to church on Sunday (she just had to experience our  congregation of truly diverse, interesting and faithful people). I haven't seen my parents since we left Bear Lake so it was great to have some time with them - even if we did need to talk about the hard subject of how to help my grandma (her memory is dwindling daily) a fair amount of the time.

Sunday afternoon, we heard that Jared's brother Aaron and family were camping out up Logan Canyon and they invited us to join them. We decided to go up on Monday morning and enjoy some time in the cool of the canyon with some of the kids' favorite cousins.

Armed with a pretty basic but seemingly sufficient text with directions to Aaron and Michelle's camp site, we got up early Monday morning, packed a lunch, and headed out.  But after going a lot further than we realized we'd need to go up the canyon and driving up an increasingly bad rutty road/trail with no turn-around options (ours may be the only mini van to ever travel that road), we couldn't find them anywhere. And there was no mobile phone coverage (makes me realize how much cell phones have changed our lives). Then we realized we were totally out of gas and our priority changed from finding our relatives for a day of fun to finding gas and praying that our van could make it back down the rutty road we'd miraculously managed to drive up.

We stopped and said a prayer.

We found a very nice group of campers who had extra gas for their four wheelers. I'm sure they planned to use all the gas they brought to enjoy a full day of four-wheeling, but they readily handed over a gas can and we thankfully poured a couple gallons into the car. Our new friends refused to accept any payment. It almost made me cry. I love that there are such nice people in the world.

We were all sad that we hadn't been able to find our relatives but as we slowly maneouvered our way back down that crazy road and the good old van stepped up to the task, we counted our blessings.

There was the prettiest stream running by that rutty road!
It was a gorgeous area to be lost and run out of gas.
Down the canyon a ways, we found some hiking trails and spent the afternoon climbing up to some pretty impressive "wind caves" with sweeping views of the whole canyon.  It was a hard steep hike but the kids did beautifully and it was great to conquer that mountain together.  I love hiking with my family and we haven't gone on a serious hike together in way too long.  I love enjoying great little chats with different combinations of kids as we hike. I love how the kids help me notice the little details - the texture of a leaf, the way a rock looks like a face, an animal foot print.  I love being up high where there's always a breeze and always grandeur.  I love seeing God's love for us displayed in all His creations.

In a wind cave - amazing what water and wind can do!
Wish you could see how pretty it really was - only had Jared's phone to take photos.
Here we are at the top.
View from the the biggest wind cave - they call that rock strip across the canyon the "Great Wall of China"
We capped off the day by visiting my grandma on our way home (she lives in Logan and we visit her every chance we get).

As usual, she loved seeing the kids play with all the wooden jigsaw puzzles she made for her children 60 years ago - and as always, she reminded them that all of them still have all their pieces because of the rule of finishing and putting away one puzzle before taking out something else.  She smiled and sang along as the kids sang her the theme song from Joy School - "Oh Boy, I've got Joy" (she wrote most of the Joy School lesson plans as she tried out methods at the little preschool she ran for many many years). She didn't remember that we visited her for her birthday a couple weeks ago. She didn't remember that my dad went to visit her the day before.  She couldn't quite remember our names.  But she did remember that she loves us.

She held my hand in her cool, papery hand and told me that she loves me and that she was so very glad we came to visit. I looked into her watery, near-sightless eyes and told her that I love and admire her so much. I told her that I think of her every day when I remind my kids of the rule she always had - "You have to put away one toy before you take out another."  I told her that 1000's of kids and families around the world are still using the great preschool lesson plans that she wrote. Her eyes got big and she said, "Really?  People still use that stuff?"  I assured her that they do and that she has made a difference for SO many people in her long, beautiful life.  She smiled and said, "I hope I've done more good things than bad things in my life and I really hope my Dean comes to get me soon." (Dean is her beloved husband who passed away over 50 years ago when my dad and his siblings were very young.) Oh, how I love my sweet grandma and wish there was more I could do for her! My sister Saydi wrote a beautiful post about Grandma HERE.

So it turned out to be a great weekend - a little down time, a little adventure, a lot of connections to family and to nature and to God.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


So even though my big relay race is over, I'm still running. I actually quite like it now. When I first started running in June (after about a 12 year "rest" from running thanks to the challenging logistics of running with so many little kids for so many years), I pretty much hated it. As I ran, the Emerson quote my dad had us memorize as kids came to mind frequently and helped me keep going: "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 had faith that it would get easier if I kept doing it. And sure enough, it did. I can now whip out 3 or 4 miles without even having "I hate this" enter my mind once. I'm not fast  But I'm pretty decent. And I love the time to think and be out in nature. Plus it can be quite inspiring.

Every time I run, I find new heroes. Here are a few of the people I've seen who help me keep going, make me think, and deserve a little praise:
  • a larger mom speed walking while diligently swinging her hand-weights and urging her 3 small children along - two of them pushing the baby in a flimsy little stroller - everyone laughing and smiling.  It would be so easy not to bother even trying to exercise - the kids, the stroller, the heat - plenty of pretty good excuses.  But I see her out there all the time.
  • a woman who looks like she's well into her 70's, jogging along at a steady, slow pace.  She's always ready with a smile.
  • an older couple walking.  She's out front with her cane and a little limp.  He's a few paces behind with serious bowlegs and a gait that looks painful. She pauses to let him catch up every so often and asks if he's doing OK.  What courage to even get out the door let alone walk a few miles!
  • a young mom pushing her 4 or 5 year old son in a stroller as she runs pretty darn fast. Takes me back to when I used to pull both twins in a bike trailer up and down hills to get to playdates at the park.  Maybe some passer-by thought I was a hero back in those days. 
  • a large man jogging along, drenched in sweat, red-faced.  But he keeps going.  I saw him again after not seeing him for a few weeks.  He's now less large and less red-faced.  His keeping on keeping on seems to be working!
There are heroes all around us every day.  I love noticing them.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


We had our Learning Circle meeting last week. I'm loving my new group here in Ogden.  I so look forward to our meetings and the chance to laugh hard and learn new ideas as we discuss the monthly article. I seriously wish for a monthly gathering like this for every mom in the world (there's a link to the program in the column on the right if you want to learn more).

This month we talked about priorities and wow, I sure needed this one. We talked about that demonstration you've probably seen before where you have a bunch of rocks of different sizes and some sand and water and you're supposed to fit it all into a jar.  You've got to put the big rocks in first or there's no way they'll fit later on.  We talked about how that image is helpful but in real life, you end up throwing in small rocks first because sometimes you just feel like dealing with those small rocks at the time.  It's hard to be disciplined enough to get those big rocks in there first.

Since our meeting, I've been working hard to focus on the "big rocks" in my life and keep my priorities straight. I've totally closed up my computer once the kids get home from school and have focused entirely on helping them with homework, making good dinners, helping them get better at their after dinner jobs, and giving enough time to do some reading with them at bedtime.  I know that when I do these things, I feel so much better about myself as a mom and my family functions much better. It's been hard to resist the temptation to sit down and check email when the kids are humming along with their homework.  But I've learned from experience that that never works out.  I get sucked into something and get annoyed when the kids want something and it's a downward spiral.  And I've been protecting time each evening to really spend time with my husband.  We even went on TWO dates in the past week - after not making time for dates for months.  We went to an amazing regional dinner event at our friend's fabulous restaurant, The Sonora Grill, and went to a fun a'cappella concert at the amphitheater downtown - great food and great music - two priorities that are important to me that I've been neglecting quite a bit.

And you know what?  My most urgent Power of Moms work is still getting done.  As I'm really disciplined and do the most important tasks while the kids are gone at school, I don't need to squeeze things in during the afternoons and evenings.

I've got fingernail clipping at the top of my list of priorities for this afternoon - it's a small rock that is becoming a bigger rock each day.  I'm realizing I can hardly type with these nails and my toenails were cutting into my feet when I went running plus the kids' nails are getting scary.  Somehow the dumb little task of fingernail clipping doesn't become a priority as often as it should!


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