Friday, January 28, 2011

Flash Backs and Acceptance

I love babies.  I love toddlers.  But last weekend, when I went away with my mom and sisters and got a chance to spend time with my siblings' cute kids, I remembered how much you just have to accept when you've got babies and toddlers to care for!

My sister-in-law Aja brought her beautiful little 1-month-old daughter along for MFME and we all passed her around and got our "baby fix."  She's so smiley and such a mellow, sweet baby.  She's a dream of a newborn and probably gave the pre-moms in our group the wrong idea about how easy newborns are.  But even so, spending the weekend with a mom and newborn reminded me of some things you just have to accept about newborns.  They need to eat right when the mom's dinner arrives at the restaurant.  They have unexpected diaper leaks when you've already used all the extra diapers and clothing you brought along just in case.  They can't come to the ballet so you have to figure out elaborate schemes to have them cared for while you're gone - and then when you get back, you're about to burst with milk but they're not hungry because they ate formula while you were gone.  There are SO many wonderful things about newborns.  But there are a lot of things you cannot control with newborns and you have to keep your expectations in check.

Then, at the close of our weekend, my brother Noah and his wife headed off to India (they're helping install the great educational software Noah's company provides at a school for Leper children there), leaving their 3 preschoolers with me and my sisters and mom for the day (then my sister Charity was taking over as the stand-in mom for the rest of the week).  When we took these three little sweethearts to church, I realized I'd forgotten a little too much about how it goes with babies and toddlers at church.  We forgot the diaper bag.  We forgot toys and snacks.  We forgot a binkie and bottle for the baby.  We quickly realized that church wasn't going to go very well.  I forgot how much work church is with babies and toddlers - especially if you haven't come fully armed!

Ten minutes into church, I headed out to the car with a very fussy baby to try to find a diaper, some wipes and something for him to eat.  I did find some wipes.  With spit up and snot all over him - and me (the wipes could only do so much), I walked the halls for a while until my mom rescued me and took the little guy home for a nap.  Then the 2-year-old did NOT want to go into nursery and ended up on my lap through Sunday School (thankfully, she snuggled up to me and fell asleep - cutest little thing!  But she wasn't so cute earlier when she was having a tantrum over what shoes to wear to church or when she wouldn't go to nursery...).

As I spent time with some truly darling nieces and nephews this past weekend, I had flashbacks to the many years I spent getting up with babies in the night, dealing with diaper blow-outs and major spit up at inopportune moments, struggling to keep kids quiet in public places when even a carefully stocked diaper and toy bag wasn't cutting it, and trying to cajole 2-year-olds into doing what they don't want to do.  I also had flashbacks to my own children's beautiful first smiles, cute voices, funny remarks, and sweet snuggles and missed my own babies big time.

I came away so grateful that I have these wonderful nieces and nephews that I get to hang out with and who keep me connected to the earlier stages of my mothering life.  I also came away so grateful for the stage I'm in right now where I'm pretty much done dealing with my kids' bodily fluids.  Diaper bags, binkies and most tantrums are a thing of the past.  But in my current stage of life as a mom, there are other hard things I need to accept.

Every stage of motherhood offers different facts that we need to accept.  When we have newborns, we have to accept interrupted sleep.  When we have babies who spit up a lot, we can't expect to have pristine clothes.  When we have stubborn 2-year-olds, we must accept that there will be tantrums as they learn to accept that they can't always have their way.  We need to accept that grocery shopping with our kids will likely be quite chaotic.  When we have grade-schoolers, we need to accept that homework time will be crazy when everyone needs help at once.

As we accept the facts of our own stage of motherhood and our own individual children, we don't have to add surprise and frustration to the already difficult situations we encounter each day.  We can go into situations prepared.  When we wake up to a newborn's wails, we can think "yep, time for her to eat - a little early, but hey, newborns are unpredictable."  When we pick out clothes for ourselves and our kids, we can keep the spit-up in mind and buy things with patterns that will hide some of that.  When we head into the grocery store, we can have our route mapped out in our mind (hitting the most important things first), remind our kids of the rules before we get out the car to go inside, and be fully prepared to leave if things get bad, even if we only got to a few things on our list - the rest can wait.  And each day, we can expect that there will be a time when everyone needs something at once and tensions escalate.  When that time arrives, we can think "yep, here it is, I knew we'd have a crisis sometime today but things will die down in a few minutes - they always do."

Every stage of motherhood has its ups and downs.  Accept it.  Expect the hard stuff.  Plan for it.  Move on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Weekend in Heaven

I spent last weekend in heaven.  I was with eight of my very favorite women enjoying great conversation, warm sunshine, beautiful scenery, art, music, dance, relaxation, great food and lots of laughter.  Does it get any better than that?

Every year, my wonderful mom gathers all her daughters and daughters-in-law for a weekend of what we call MFME (Mothers and Future Mothers of Eyrealm).  We meet in a different place each year (we've done San Francisco, St George, Park City, Virginia, NYC, and even Italy).  Mom plans great discussion sessions on topics that help us explore how we can be the best mothers, wives and people that we can be.  We eat great food (and always have some chocolate chip cookies - Eyres are huge cookie fans).  We talk about the best things and hardest things about our past year.  We often discuss a book we all read before coming (this year it was The Good Earth by Pearl Buck).  We usually have a nursing baby along (and that baby gets lots of extra attention!) and someone is usually pregnant.  We visit art galleries and usually go to a cultural event (I love how my mom shared her passion for art and culture with us and now we all enjoy these things so much together - gladly all our sisters in law seem to enjoy this stuff also - probably at least partly because my mom's love for art and music and culture was passed on to all her children so her sons naturally picked women to marry who also appreciate these things...).

So past weekend we met up in southern California for three and a half wonderful days of MFME.  We visited the Getty Museum (I've been longing to go there with my mom and sisters ever since I first went there many years ago - I LOVE how that place combines amazing architecture, beautiful gardens that showcase God's best art, and lovely smallish excellent collections of just about every sort of art.)  We went to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform lovely and thought-provoking pieces with amazing talent.  We went running on the beach and did yoga overlooking the ocean.  We talked about creating more margins in our lives and take better care of ourselves that way (thanks, Saydi), how to take great care of our husbands, what books and movies everyone ought to read and see, our patriarchal blessings and how they've affected our lives, the beautiful diversity of our church and how we can help foster more understanding on small and larger scales, and each of our biggest disasters and greatest joys from this past year (plus lots more).  We ate leisurely meals with no kid interruptions.  We sat by the pool and drank in the sun.

We even somehow found ourselves driving down Rodeo Drive late one night with "Party in the USA" cranked up and all of us hanging out the sun roof and windows of Kristi's brand spanking new minivan dancing around and laughing so hard we were crying.  I'm sure we were quite a sight - a bunch of moms, one of them totally pregnant (Saydi), showing a distinct lack of dancing ability, singing loud but forgetting most of the words, and hanging out of a minivan.  Wow.  We are awesome.

Anyway, it was a truly wonderful weekend.  I'm so grateful to my mom for starting this tradition and somehow plowing through the complications of  9 different schedules and needs of women who live in 9 different parts of the country and have 20 young children and 100's of different opinions and needs (lots of chiefs and very few Indians in this group...).

Here are some photos of the weekend.  Other people took lots of other pictures but we haven't all shared photos yet so there are lots of things that I don't have in photos yet - but I'm sure my mom and Shawni and Saydi will post more photos on their blogs if you want more.


Look familiar to anyone?  We held our Power of Moms September retreat at this same location.  Randomly, when my mom was looking for a good deal on a nice place to stay, Aja found a special at this hotel and they got it booked.  When they announced the location I was so excited to go back to such a great place - and not to have to be in charge of training and creating a great experience for 30 other women this time - so great to go back and just enjoy the place.

Power of Moms Retreats pretty much grew out of MFME.  As we saw the rejuvenation and power that resulted from us getting together for MFME each year, we wished all moms could have an opportunity like this.  So my mom and sisters and I plus some friends started running Retreats for friends and friends of friends back in 2005 and the concept has taken off.  Now Power of Moms runs Retreats and we've got 4 Retreats set up for this spring (so far - I'm sure more will be planned). We've got twenty-two certified Power of Moms trainers setting up workshops and Retreats across the country (and around the world - we're working on training some trainers in Japan and Australia...).  I wish for wonderfully fun and meaningful weekends like I just had for all the moms out there - and I'm doing all I can to help make that wish come true!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Trains and Discoveries

Last week it was warm.  Well, warmish I should say. It was like 40 degrees and that felt great.  So when I picked up the kids from school one day, we decided to stop by the Union Station downtown where they have all these old trains on display.  As we drove around Ogden for the first time several months ago, we saw the old trains and the twins declared that they really wanted to move to Ogden so they could live near these trains.  Isaac wanted to move here for the snow.  Ashton wanted to move here for iFLY (the indoor sky diving he did for his birthday).  Eliza said she was going to hide and not move here no matter what until she met and immediately clicked with some little girls down the street.  I wanted to move here solely to get my husband back - and then we found this house and my heart went out to it.  The twins wanted to move here for the trains.  So it was about time to visit them.

Turns out there's lots of great stuff there at that old train station.  We checked out all the trains and the kids were delighted that they could climb right up on lots of them.  We learned about the different sorts of engines and train cars.  We went in and they had this park service place with tons of great information on great outdoor stuff to do around here - the lady there got us all excited about visiting Antelope Island where there's a heard of buffalo and lots of bike trails and beaches where you can go floating in the Great Salt Lake - when it gets warm (I grew up in Salt Lake most of the time and somehow have never been in it) plus she told us about tons of great hiking trails all over this area.  We checked out the beautiful murals and listened to the echoes as we talked in the big old waiting room of the station - so empty now but you can easily imagine the place swarming with people coming and going long ago.  We found that there's a nice art gallery and a great train museum in there too that we'll visit soon.

I love discovering new places with these great kids of mine.  And I'm so excited that we keep finding out more great things about Odgen.  When you move to a place you know very little about and have very few expectations, there are great surprises around every corner!

In general, limited expectations lead to a lot more happy surprises and a lot less disappointment.  I'm working on this.  And Ogden is helping me out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let Go and Be Grateful

This month at The Power of Moms, we're focusing on the Power of Acceptance (we'll be focusing on one specific "power of motherhood" each month this year).  So I've been thinking a lot about how I can more fully embrace acceptance in my own life as I've been reading the wonderful stuff that's been posted on the topic (Check out articles on accepting your home, your physical self, your situation, etc on our Deseret News blog HERE and check out tons more on our home page HERE).

A couple years ago,  I was in the middle of a horrible down time when I was desperately wanting and wishing  for my life and some of the people in it to be different, to line up more with my ideals.  I was working hard to make things better for myself and for everyone around me and my desires seemed righteous.  But nothing seemed to be working out and I was miserable.

Anyway, as I struggled with one particularly hard situation and poured out my heart in prayer, the words came into my mind - "Let Go and Be Grateful."  I realized I needed to let go of some of my ideas of how things needed to be.  I needed to trade control for contentment, to trade wishing for what could be for gratitude for what is.  As my mom always says, "you can always change your mind - that's the one thing you can and should control."  I needed to change my attitude and adopt this new mantra - let go and be grateful.

So I knew the answer.  But just like it works with my kids, knowing what you're supposed to do and actually doing it are two separate things.

Since adopting this "mantra," I've sometimes been really good about letting go and being grateful.  Other times, I've struggled with letting go of things that seem so important but just aren't working and I've let frustrations, tiredness, and dumb little annoying things get in the way of seeking out and celebrating the good.

But as I look at my life today, I do think I've progressed.  I have learned to accept and appreciate a lot more readily.  I've let go of some ideas and practices that used to seem important but now seem pretty silly in the grand scheme of things.  I've learned to be a lot more grateful as I've processed my thoughts and actions more through this blog and other means.  I've become somewhat better at looking at the big picture and while I'm still a "recovering control freak," I am learning to mellow out more, to enjoy more, to relax, and to find the peace that comes from accepting and being grateful.

Caring so much about so many things just isn't good for me.  I'm learning to do a much better job with picking my battles. Here are a few examples of things I've let go of - and as I've let go, I've found new freedom.
  • Making sack lunches for all the kids.  I'm pretty into nutrition and the school lunches were pretty woeful in St George (stuff like 5 limp french fries and a floppy fried chicken patty on a roll with the option of a "salad bar" that only had canned fruit cocktail and a some limp iceburg lettuce plus some chocolate milk and a cupcake just didn't seem like a nutritious lunch for my kids). When we moved here and I was feeling TOTALLY overwhelmed, I decided to let go of the bag lunch packing project for a while and maybe just send some supplementary fruits and veggies.  The mornings became SO much less stressful without packing 5 lunches!  Plus we were all pleasantly surprised to find that the school lunches here are much better - much fresher and more healthy food with more variety and fresh fruits and veggies at each meal.
  • Cutting hair.  I've cut Jared's hair and all the kids hair always.  Thanks to some clippers and a how-to video we got for our wedding, I've been the sole barber for Jared and the kids.  And I've actually become a pretty decent hair cutter over the years (my first attempt right after our wedding left Jared with shaved off sideburns - oops...).  I've saved our family a lot of money over the years with my hair cutting and with 5 preschoolers, the logistics of actually taking the kids somewhere for haircuts was way more daunting than just doing it myself.  But with 6 heads of hair to take care of and the mess of hair everywhere in the kitchen and the crying of kids who can't stand having all those itchy bits of hair all over them, I needed to let go.  After the move, the kids were very very shaggy and I couldn't face a whole evening of hair cutting and weeping and wailing.  I saw a newly opened "Great Clips" advertising $6.00 haircuts and we headed on in.  One hour later, everyone had nicely cut hair and life was good.  We'll be heading to Great Clips every couple months now. (But I'm still doing my own hair color - the time and expense  - and trust - involved in having someone else do it just doesn't work for me.)
  • Perfect house.  My house in St George was beautiful.  It was clutter-free.  It was clean.  It was designed and decorated with great care.  Each paint color, each piece of furnishing was chosen with great deliberation and care (and stress) by me.  Our house there started off as a show-house for the design company I hoped to launch and for the contractors who wanted to showcase their work in the Parade of Homes.  But even after I did a couple design jobs and decided to put all that on hold, I kept that place pretty immaculate.  What was I thinking trying to raise 5 preschoolers in an immaculate house?  It was really all about control.  I felt like maybe I couldn't control the diaper explosions or the bickering of my kids and I couldn't control the flailing economy or my husband's worrisome work prospects, but I could control that house.  I could make it be clean and beautiful.  And I'm sure that little element of control did help me sometimes.  But overall, keeping a house beautiful when kids live in it is an exercise in futility.  My new housecleaning goal in this new house is one I got from my partner April: "clean enough to be sanitary, messy enough to be sane."  And thanks in large part to the fact that everything we already had went quite nicely with the paint colors and finishes someone else took care of on this house, I'm able to very happily live with all the art work and furnishings we already had without spending time and stressing out over developing the ideal decor.  This house looks just fine and it's pretty clean and we all feel quite attached to it.  There's some clutter here and there.  We could probably vacuum more.  There are still lots of pieces of baseboard to be finished and places needing paint plus the tons of exterior work to be done.  But you know what?  It'll happen sometime and right now, this place is just perfectly fine and dandy for us.  We live here and living isn't all that neat and tidy.
  • Power of Moms Perfection.  I used to be concerned about making sure every detail of every project on Power of Moms was done just right.  Each web page involved carefully crafting and editing.  I spend tons of time learning more about the psychology of color as we designed the look of the website.  I spent hours putting together "perfect" newsletters to email to all of our people.  But I realized that the difference between 1 hour of work fleshing out an idea on the webiste and 100 hours of work making that idea "perfect" didn't really make that much difference in the end.  If the idea's good and it's written up decently, it'll fly - even if it isn't wordsmithed and presented in an ideal way.  Plus I've learned that when I step back, there are other people who can do things - and do them beautifully.  During several tough times for me and for April, we've seen just the right people step up at just the right times to take over various projects.  As we've passed off projects to capable and wonderful women and trusted them to run with the projects, we've really reduced our stress levels while the end results are generally better than they would have been if we'd continued to be involved in all the little details. 
  • No TV.  We haven't had cable TV for years and it's been a great thing.  When we used to have cable, the kids would always be begging for TV and when we got rid of it they found so many more creative and fun things to do during their down time.  Jared and I watched shows via Hulu once in a while and we got a Netflix movie every Friday night for family movie night.  But after we moved and started getting a regular paycheck again, Jared politely suggested that we get cable so he could watch some Jazz games.  He'd been going to sports bars or following scores on the internet when there was a game he cared about and mostly we were working on Power of Moms stuff in the evenings.  It hadn't occurred to me how much he was giving up by not being able to watch football and basketball.  I mean I don't care about those things so why would anyone else, huh?  Anyway, we got cable and Jared has so enjoyed watching games and it's been a great bonding thing for Ashton and Isaac to watch games with their dad - especially since they're playing basketball this season and Jared is coaching Isaac's team.  TV is a totally fine thing.  Watching sports is great entertainment.  I've even taught myself to enjoy watching basketball - a brand new thing for me.  Relaxing and doing something just for fun in the evening is OK - it really is.  This is new for me.
I could go on but I'll spare you.  You get the idea.  I want to remember that while I've still got a long way to go, I AM becoming less attached to things that don't matter and more attached to things that do.  I'm figuring out what really matters to me and to my family and to those around me - and learning to cast aside the things that really don't matter that much once I think harder about it and weigh out the cost/benefit ratios.  
What can you let go of this year?  What isn't working for you and your family and really doesn't need to be part of your life?   Or what have you fought against that really would be an OK thing to let into your life?

I'm not saying we should throw up our hands and just let things ride.  I think it's so important to figure out and stick with the things that do matter.  But figuring out what those things really are- that's the issue.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Three birthdays for four people

January is birthday month around here - and for my whole extended family.  We start the day before January with Jared's birthday on New Year's Eve and then Ashton's birthday is on the 3rd, then the twins' is on the 14th, then there are cousins and siblings and in-laws occupying birthdays throughout the month.

Anyway, Jared's birthday was great.  We celebrated by walking downtown (5 blocks away) and spending the day seeing a movie (Tron - like playing a 2 hour video game that doesn't totally make sense but Jared and the boys loved it and the special effects were awesome), going out to lunch, and bowling.  It's so fun that all these things are just down the street from us.  We came home for a big birthday dinner with our family plus my parents and brothers Eli and Josh then we celebrated New Years NYC time (watched the count down in Times Square and scanned the crowd for my sister Charity who was there in person) with the kids, tucked them in bed, and headed back downtown to bring in the new year at a comedy club where one of Jared's high school friends performed.  He was hilarious - and totally clean (he'd made it to the final round of Last Comic Standing).  There's nothing like a good laugh!

New Year's Eve/Birthday dinner with my parents, Josh and Eli - stole this photo off my mom's blog -
sort of forgot my camera most of this day.  Sometimes it's nice when you loose your camera
and get a break from being the family photographer for a little bit.
Jared's favorite is pecan pie.  I went with Sara Lee.  He was happy.
I don't know how to make pies and I haven't gotten around to learning quite yet.
For Ashton's birthday, he planned the entire day (we always let the birthday person chose every aspect of the day on their birthday as much as possible - we don't do big parties usually and we generally don't do a lot by way of gifts - we focus more on activities and experiences and helping the birthday person feel really special).  We started with cinnamon rolls, eggs and fruit and having everyone go around the table to share their favorite things about the birthday boy, had a dance party, Ashton did a magic show for us (he's quite good actually), met up for Jared for lunch at Jumbo Burger (Ashton's a big burger fan), we played Ashton's favorite board games, headed downtown so Jared and Ashton could go indoor skydiving (we even have sky diving a few blocks from our house!), came home for Papa Murphy's stuffed Chicago pizza for dinner and played more games before bedtime.  Ashton LOVED everything, especially the skydiving and we all had such a fun day.

Jared got to go sky diving too as part of his birthday present.  They both had a great great time.  I'll post the videos later. Those huge fans make for some really funny facial expressions when they're in there!

No, I don't make pretty cakes.  And in case you're wondering, my clever idea was to decorate the cake by making a capital A followed by a period out of candles (well, I made the A and had an extra candle plus an off-center A so we had to go with a period at the end...).  I know, I know, so special.  But Ashton thought it was great and the cake was very very tasty - I'm a stickler for good-tasting cakes and somehow the cake-decorating bug has never bit me.  I've asked the kids if they want a pretty store-bought cake but so far, they've always opted for my cakes.  I sure admire those who can make beautiful cakes but that's just not me.
The twins had a few of the same ideas as Ashton for their birthday (wonder how that happened...).  We had cinnamon rolls, eggs and fruit for breakfast, played games, Grandma Loosli and uncle Joel joined us for a big birthday lunch of quesadillas and bean and cheese burritos with broccoli (their favorite meal).
So fun to have Grandma with us! She gave the twins wonderful books and the twins were delighted to read them to her.  Se always picks the perfect gifts.  It's so great to see her getting around so well and looking so healthy and beautiful after enduring a super-hard year with back surgery and two hip replacements!
Thanks to a lovely snowfall the night before and some blessedly warmer temperatures, we were able to play in the snow for a couple hours after lunch. The boys and I worked on shoveling the walks in between snowball fights and snowman-building and the twins delighted in some outside time (they've been mostly confined indoors thanks to their casts that are stretching their heel cords and fixing what they call their "tip toe problem" - but since they were about to get new casts - they have to get new ones every Friday until they're stretched out enough for specially-made orthapedic braces - I figured they might as well play in the snow).  I discovered that snow-shoveling is a great workout (my back's still reminding me of that).  I loved hearing Oliver say in his prayers the night of his birthday "thank you for that snow you sent us for our birthday" and I loved hearing Silas say, as we talked about what was great last week, "I loved that we got that bonus activity on our birthday to play in the snow.  Jesus gave us that snow and that really pretty sunset too for our birthday."  Oh, I love these little boys and how they see things!

Then we spent about 3 hours getting a second set of casts on the twins' feet.  They've been so fascinated with the casting process and haven't complained much at all about their uncomfortable-looking gait.  The casts don't seem to slow them down at all.  I thought getting new casts on would be sort of a sad way to spend their birthday afternoon but they chatted happily with our great physical therapist and she let them help her soak the fiberglass stuff and hold things she needed and they were pretty darn happy with the whole thing.  Silas started only being able to get his ankle bent to  about a 110 degree angle (normal would be about 70 degrees) and Oliver started off at about 98 degrees.  They're now at 100 degrees and almost 90 degrees.  So this seems to be working.

After the casting, we went to McDonalds for dinner as requested by the twins then came home for cake and ice cream and a little party.  They went back and forth about whether they wanted friends over (it's an even year for them so they had the option of having a birthday party with friends if they wanted one).  At the last minute they said they did want friend over but just wanted two friends - our new best friend Shai, an 8 year old who lives two doors down and Adam, a 3-year old who lives on the next block.  It worked out perfectly - just enough kids to make it feel like a real party - a great group of mixed ages and everyone got along great and had a nice time. We had our kids, Shai, and Adam and his family plus a few cousins who were with them for the day.  The twins requested that we play Twister and have a dance party plus they insisted on party hats and a yellow cake with Nutella frosting (turned out really yummy actually).  They got all their wishes and it was a really nice evening.

Now we're done with holidays and birthdays until Eliza's big day on February 13th.  I must say, it feels good to be done with celebrating for a while!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Are you getting what you need out of motherhood?

My babies turned 6 a couple days ago.  My oldest baby turned 11 a couple weeks ago.  How did this happen?

While I had 5 preschoolers, I had lots of seasoned moms tell me that "the days can seem really long but the years really fly by."  They were right.  I knew I was supposed to be enjoying motherhood - and I certainly did - sometimes - but everything just kept coming at me so quickly and those days of diapers and messes and being needed by several little people with mutually exclusive needs at all times did seem very very long.  But quite suddenly, years full of those days are over.

Now I have five kids in elementary school.  Now I have 3 hours of kid-less time each day while the twins are in Kindergarten.  I have 5 kids who can get themselves dressed and put on their own socks and shoes.  I have 5 kids who can read.  I have 5 fun people around to talk to about all sorts of interesting things and to accompany me to the library and to museums and to instigate bike rides and art projects and family read-a-thons.  I've got 5 people who know how to do the dishes and clean up their rooms (but of course knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two different things).

I'm loving motherhood these days.  While I loved my kids' babyhood and toddlerhood and often wish I could go back in time to cuddle their squishy little bodies, hear their babbling and first words, and see their adorable first smiles, first steps and first laughs again, I think I've really hit my stride as a mother with all my kids in this middle childhood stage.  I think most moms have a stage of motherhood that really clicks for them.  My sister Shawni is all about newborns.  Others can't get enough of toddlers.  Some adore the teenage years (and I hope that'll be me).  So far, the stage I'm in right now is absolutely delightful (most of the time) for me.  And I wish I could keep these fun kids right where they are for a while - quite a while.

I heard a quote a while back by a mom who'd had a big career outside her home while also mothering several children.  In an interview one time, she was asked whether she thought she was able to give her children the attention they needed while giving her career what was required.  Her answer was something like this:  "My kids turned out great.  They're fabulous people.  I think they got everything they needed from me.  But looking back, I feel like I'm the one who missed out.  I don't think I got everything I needed out of motherhood."

I don't want to look back and feel that way.  I want to cherish this precious time when my children are at such delightful stages and when they still want to show me things and tell me things and do things with me.  I need this time with my kids just as much as they need this time with me.  Last week Isaac brought home a book about ancient Greece and we all read it together.  Everyone was fascinated - including me.  On the twins' birthday, we all worked together on shoveling the driveway and building a snowman and it was just so fun.  Today we all sat around the table after church and talked about the theme from Stake Conference - being a modern day pioneer and getting to know our ancestors - and everyone had such great ideas and thoughts to share.  I love this stuff.  And I want a lot more of it.

So while there are 1000's of hours of Power of Moms work that needs to be done and countless other timely projects that are important to me and to others, I'm protecting my precious time with my precious kids. I can get work done while they're at school and sometimes in the evenings.  I can reply to a few emails while they're happily doing something on their own.  But I'm protecting Sunday afternoons and bedtimes and homework time and daily reading time.  I'm going to make sure I get individual time with these precious individuals who call me mom plus we're planning some great activities we can all do together each month plus some big stuff for this year.

While I've sometimes been so stressed (especially lately with the move and the holidays and lots of Power of Moms deadlines) that I want to throw up my hands and quit most everything other than being a mother and a wife, I know that for me, I truly need some "extracurricular" activities.  Plus the opportunities I have to learn and give through Power of Moms and the chance I have to reflect on my life and actions through this blog helps me be a better mom and person in so many ways while setting an example of community-mindedness and caring and journal-keeping for my children.  But I'm seeing the time slip away and I'm determined to get all I need out of motherhood while giving my kids the mom they need.  So I'm going to push back deadlines and grab more of the now-or-never moments that have seemed to float on by too much.

You know the saying, "Never put off 'til tomorrow that which you can do today"?  My parents flipped that saying in a book they wrote and I want to embrace this new version a lot more:  "Always put off a put-off-able in favor of a now-or-never."

NOW is the time to be with my kids.  It's also the time to embrace and support the great things that are happening with The Power of Moms (we've got over 40,000 moms who are enjoying the website and new opportunities pop up daily).  I'm realizing I CAN do both.  But only with carefully drawn boundaries, tons of patience, plenty of help from many outside forces plus a large dose of letting go and letting God.

So to any of you who've been waiting on me to do things (like finish judging the scores of beautiful entries we received for our Power of Moms writing contest or update a bunch of stuff on the website), thanks for your patience and understanding and please know I'm working hard every day.  But I only have so many hours a day.  The important things will get done.  I just can't promise exactly when.

I'll end with this poem I memorized when I was a teenager - it was cross stitched in a frame in the home of a woman I used to babysit for all the time.  As I played with her cute kids, I remember thinking of the day when I would have children of my own and I would always prioritize time with them.

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow
For children grow up, we've learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust, go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby
And babies don't keep

Here's a new version of the poem that rings even more true to me today:
Websites and emails can wait 'til tomorrow
For children grow up, we've learned to our sorrow
So quiet down projects,
Phone, go to sleep,
I'm enjoying my children
And children don't keep.

Oh, and if you want to join me in making the most of your current stage of motherhood, please play the Bloom Game (click on the flower on the right) with me.  You can sign up for free and it'll take you to a self-assessment where you can figure out what you want to work on then decide on how you're going to be the deliberate mother you want to be while pursuing your own interests and talents in a balanced way.  You'll get to set bite-sized goals each week and the program will prompt you to set new goals each Sunday.  Plus the program encourages you to look for and create more opportunities for "serendipity" in your life.  I've slacked off on the program myself for a little while and doing it again this week has made such a difference in my life!  When I'm doing Bloom regularly, I find I FEEL so much better about my life - plus I AM better.

And if you do the program, please please please take a minute to share a little about how your goals went that week when prompted by the Sunday reminder email you'll get.  It's so motivating to share and hear about experiences with this program.

Even if you only do the program for a couple weeks for free, it'll totally help you to do the self-evaluation and learn a simple new way to set and achieve goals in a manageable, balanced way so you can move towards becoming the mom and person you really want to be.  DO IT!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Deliberate Mothering - in Thailand

I got an email yesterday that brought tears to my eyes and made me realize the serious life-changing POWER that happens when moms mother deliberately and share their ideas and experiences.

The email was from Allyson, a mom who attended our New Hampshire Retreat and who decided to jump in and do something she's always thought would be so good for her family. I'm SO excited for her (and jealous, I'll admit). Our day will come - we're saving up and waiting for the kids to get a little older then we're headed to Bulgaria to spend time with the orphans we raise money for each Christmas - and hopefully to many other exciting and eye-opening places as well both here in this country and abroad.  And we've already found a couple ways to help others and learn from those we reach out to in this community

You certainly don't have to go to Thailand (like Allyson) to create the experiences you want for your family - you can create amazingly memorable experiences full of life-lessons for your kids on any budget in any location - the key is deciding what you want for your family and then making those things a priority and pushing through any obstacles to make what you believe is best for your family actually happen.

Anyway, here's what I got from Allyson - totally worth the read:

Dear Power of Mom Retreat friends! This is an email I wrote about the new adventure we are on. I wanted to make sure you all got it as YOU are a big part of the reasons we are doing this! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the words of wisdom and advice I received from all of you. It changed my life!
XOXO, Ally

PS My blog is now working- see link at the bottom - all you pro bloggers out there just ignore my kindergarten attempt:)

Dear friends,
We made it! It was a long trip, but I am happy to report that Charlotte and Ashton only cried once the entire trip to Thailand - a miracle since they basically missed an entire night's sleep, were severely jet lagged, and had to wear the same clothes for 3 days.

I'll give a little background info for those who are just hearing about what we are doing. In Nov. I attended a Power of Moms Retreat (highly recommend it-it was fabulous). One of the main things that I pulled away from the conference was that we need to be deliberate in the things that we want to teach our children. I have thought a great deal about what I want to be "deliberate" in as a mother. There are things that I have always wanted to incorporate into our family, but I never do anything about. Part of the reason is simply because I have been down in the trenches with babies, nursing, sleep deprivation, and moves. The other reason is because I have failed to sit down and take a moment to figure out how to implement it. If we are distracted in the day to day things, we let the long term goals go by the wayside.

I was reading an article called "How Will You Measure Your Life" by Clayton Christensen in the Harvard Business Review magazine. These particular lines stood out to me. "If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works"

A little panic set in after I read that because while I still have a lot of little kids, my Samuel will be in High School next year. Half of his life I have been in bed sick with pregnancies:) He was amazing through it all, but I realized high school is just around the corner for him. That is when I took being deliberate seriously and Matt and I came up with our "bucket list" of parenting. On the top of our list was to have the children see a different side of the world-one that is a polar opposite of their itouch, xbox, homework-filled, sports-crazed, fast food on every corner life. Don't get me wrong, we love America, we are so grateful for all the blessings we enjoy, but we just wanted them to see what most of the children in this world live like.

After going through finances, it was a stretch, but we prayed about it and spent a lot of time thinking-weighing the positives and negatives and we decided to book it. Eight tickets to Thailand for almost a month. I don't know if I would have had the courage to do it except for a dear friend I met at the Power of Moms conference who shared how her family sold their house and moved to South America for 8 months. She said it changed their life. She gave me courage.

The children went door to door selling a hand sanitizer that my brother-in-law's company sells and they were able to raise money for the orphans (ownership of the helping the orphans). We gathered the many donations of items people brought over (thank you!) as well as the money, packed our bags, and we were off.

Korea was beautiful (and freezing)- our bags continued to Phuket, so all we had were what we had on. It was snowing, but the kids loved the Palace and many outdoor markets. New food, new culture, and definitely new smells. We had a lot of dry heaving going on.

Yesterday was our first day in the orphanages. The first one was called "Safe Haven" attached to the women's prison. They live in 2 rooms that are maybe 12 foot by 12 foot and there is nowhere to play outside. There were about 35 children all lined up in rows eating their lunch of rice and noodles. There was not an inch to spare in that room. They were about to take their naps, so we are going back today.

We then drove to the "Holland House" orphanage. We were very blessed to find it-with the many little roads throughout the city, with no street signs, we had a tender mercy as we ran into a lady that drove us straight there...

This is the part of the story where every wonder of doubt we had over coming and spending the money disappeared into thin air. I have been up since 3 am thinking about the day we had yesterday. We walked into the small orphanage and the children were also eating their lunch. I watched as my children almost instinctively picked a child to sit next to and help feed them their lunch. Sam and Brandon took some of the little boys and played football with them with the football they had brought. Ashton had no language barrier as he ran around playing with the other 3 and 4 year olds. Olivia was in her element as the children just wanted to be held and kept jumping in her lap and on her back. It was a true gift to be there experiencing this with our children. They loved it. The workers there who spoke very little English kept saying over and over again-"Children happy. Children happy." The children in the orphanage giggled and giggled, tackled the boys (they really are the same everywhere), and had such an amazing spirit about them. There really was a feeling of love there. They had about 4 workers who you could absolutely feel loved these children. Though some only had a t-shirt and underwear on with no shoes, they did feel love.

There was one little girl however that I can't get out of my mind. She is almost 2, but looked malnourished and half her age. She wouldn't move off of the helper's lap and she cried on and off the whole time we were there. I can't erase the sadness off her face. She is the only one who never engaged or even smiled. Through the broken English we learned that she had only been there 2 days. Obviously, she was dealing with the sadness of losing her family and being somewhere where she knew no one and missed her family. I kept thinking of that happening to my little Charlotte. Alone and confused as to where her family was. It was truly heartbreaking.

The children are so BEAUTIFUL. The Thai people are so gracious and kind. I had heard and read about how the Thai people loved and revered children, and it was no understatement.

We are off to go back today and bring more items and head to the grocery store to bring food that they had on their list. They get a little government funding, but desperately need donations to survive. They had run out of diapers and while we were there 2 of the children had an accident as a puddle formed around where they were sitting. They were obviously wearing underwear before they were ready due to the lack of diapers.

Some of you have asked if there was anything else you could do or donate. The answer is yes, yes, yes! They are desperate for money to buy needed goods. They also said the children have not been on an outing to the beach or aquarium etc. in 6 months-which means they have not left the orphanage. An outing like that costs about 2000 baht which is about $70. Anyway, if you would like to help more just let me know.

We love you all! I will start posting on my blog, which I never write on, as soon as I can get it back to English. All the words to make a new post etc are in Thai. The blog is    

Monday, January 10, 2011


OK so it's late and I've got to keep up on my routine resolutions but I wanted to just say one thing (to keep up with my blog-writing resolutions).

It's cold here.  It's really really really cold here.  I like Odgen - I really do.  And I love our new old house.  And this is really feeling like home.  And I do like the coziness of being inside on a cold day and the snow is very pretty (when it's fresh).  But after tons of gray skies and temperatures that have mostly been in the teens, I'm feeling just a tad bit nostalgic for good old St George.  Oh, the skies are so blue there!  And it's warm there! I think maybe we'll go back and visit this weekend.  We'll see.

Here's what I used to see out my window every day (view from the back balcony):

Now I see this (view from our bedroom):

Pretty big contrast, huh?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Don't get Cocky

I like this quote - can't remember who said it or where I heard it, but it stuck with me:
"As soon as you get a little cocky about your mothering, the principal will call and let you know that your son just drove a motorcycle through the gymnasium."

Sort of weird, yes - but it sticks with you, no?

I was a little cocky in my last post about routines.  I did do a good job getting the routines rolling and I was enjoying a good day that day.  But here's how our "routine" went this morning:

I got up 10 minutes late.  I used the snooze button on my new phone - thought it was a 5 minute snooze - nope - ten.  I dragged myself out of bed and headed upstairs to make sure the kids were up and going on the good old routine.

Nope.  Ashton was reading a book instead of taking a shower and the rest of the kids were asleep.

I sent Ashton into the shower and got the other kids up.  But I'd been tired the night before and forgot to set out their clothes - or go over what the schedule and routine was for the morning.  Ashton had no school shirts that could be found anywhere.  Isaac got dressed quickly and headed downstairs - I asked him to set out the bowls and make sure his homework was ready in his backpack.  I got the twins going on getting dressed and got myself ready.

Time for breakfast - just 10 minutes late - we'll still be OK.  I realized Ashton was still in the shower and headed upstairs to ask him nicely - again - to HURRY.  On the way back down I heard another shower and found that Eliza had decided to take a shower too even though it's not her shower day so I asked her to HURRY.

Got downstairs to find Isaac wandering around aimlessly, no bowls on the table, no homework ready - what had he been doing for the last precious 10 minutes?  He had no idea.

Got oatmeal whipped up and sat down to eat.  Ashton finally came downstairs demanding that I find him some shorts to wear for gym that day and that they needed to be shorts that went past his knees.  I explained that needs for things like new gym shorts should really be stated in advance of when you actually need them.  We have shorts that go to the middle of his knee but he said they would be too short.  I searched through his stuff and handed him the longest shorts I could find and asked him to put them in his backpack.

I finished everyone's hair, checked all the backpacks, reminded everyone to clear their places (somehow it's SO hard to remember), asked whoever was guilty - and I don't even care who - to PLEASE go flush the poo down the toilet in the powder room right off the kitchen (wondering what that smell was as I was getting breakfast), and asked everyone when their socks are supposed to go on their feet - "before we come downstairs for breakfast" they chorused back.  Well, no one remembered that little part of the routine so everyone went upstairs to the laundry room where we keep socks and got socks on, got coats on, got backpacks, got shoes on (some people strangely doing this in slow motion while I urged everyone along with increasingly less-nice urgings).  Then I realized Eliza didn't have her glasses on and had her go back upstairs and get them (much to her dismay - going ALL the way upstairs is so HARD.  Tell me about it - I've already done it like 10 times today myself...)

I sent the kids to hop in the car while I looked for the keys that I really thought I left on the window sill.  Turns out Ashton had taken the keys to the car.  I got in the car and saw that Ashton somehow had no coat on - even though I'm pretty darn sure I reminded each child to get their backpacks AND their coats when they headed to the closet.  Reminded Ashton for the hundreth time that we live in a cold place and we should always put on a coat when we go outside (St George habits die hard with that guy).  He said he was perfectly fine without a coat.  The temperature thing in the car said 11 degrees.  I sent him back in for the coat.

We headed out - just 8 minutes late.  In the car, we had a fun little quiz to see who could remember all the steps in the morning routine.  Eliza passed it off with flying colors.  Ashton passed it off too - but somehow KNOWING what he's supposed to do and actually remembering to do it are two different things.  We dropped Ashton off at school and then I asked Isaac to tell me the routine and he didn't answer.  We all realized he wasn't in the car.  Oops.  The kids in the back thought he was in the front seat by me and I assumed he was in the back.

We headed back home and found a very sad Isaac sitting on the back steps (with no coat - and it was still 11 degrees).   He'd been in the bathroom when we left.  I'm not sure how he missed all the commotion of trying to find the socks and get the coats and shoes on.  I guess he was in the upstairs bathroom since the downstairs one was so stinky. We all felt bad.

We got Isaac's coat and headed out to school for the second time.

When I got back from dropping off the kids, I saw that Ashton's gym shorts were sitting on the kitchen counter.  Glad I spent that extra 5 minutes looking for them.

So yes, routines are beautiful.  But when the mom gets up 10 minutes late and the reminders of the routine didn't happen the night before and someone needs gym shorts, even the best routines just don't quite work out!

At least I haven't received any calls from the principal - yet!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Beauty of Routines

The kids went back to school today.   I'm pretty excited to have some semblance of a routine and regular schedule for the first time in a couple months (moving back to back with the holidays wasn't very routine-friendly).

Last night we talked about our school-day routine before getting the kids to bed.  We make beds when we stand up out of bed.  We brush teeth when we go to the bathroom.  We take a shower before we get dressed in our school clothes that are laid out the night before.  We don't play or eat before we're dressed and ready.  We put our socks on before we come downstairs.  We keep our shoes in the shoe place by the door.

So this morning went really well.  I got all the big kids to school on time (the clear morning routine plus the fact that everyone can now actually find their clothes and the fact that I've finally figured out the fastest route between our home and their school sure helped).  After dropping off the big kids, the twins and I had a quality reading time and I so enjoyed snuggling with them by the fire while we read.  I replied to a handful of emails while they drew pictures (30 minutes of email time in the mornings - max - that's one of my New Years Resolutions) then we had a nice little lunch together before I took them to school (another resolution - lunch at 11:15 so they can be at school by noon - and we were on time!).  I came home, got dinner in the crock pot (resolution to figure out what to have for dinner before it's actually dinner time), and spent the last hour and a half on the phone with April prioritizing Power of Moms stuff (and I'm feeling much better now that we've put off some things that were making me way too stressed - resolution to be better at prioritizing and saying no). Now I've got 20 minutes to write this little post before I go pick up all the kids (resolution to write more often and write shorter more targeted posts).

Routines are wonderful things.  I've missed them dearly. And routines sure help with resolutions.

Of course, most days the established routines get messed up here and there.  Unexpected things pop up - usually at the least opportune times.  The repairman shows up when you need to go pick up the kids from school.  Someone calls with a crisis when you're trying to help your kids with homework and you probably shouldn't have answered the phone right then but you did (or one of your kids did...).  Your twins dump out 50 pounds of pinto beans in the pantry while you're downstairs cleaning up the potted plant they upturned a few minutes prior while you were trying to do story time with your older kids (happened to me a few years ago - similar sorts of things again and again almost every day while the twins were two - any semblance of a routine was hard in those days - but still, days when I tried for at least a simple routine went better than those when I didn't even attempt a routine).

But having a routine that generally works is a very good thing.  Having times where you can usually plan on having a little quiet time to get things done or plan on helping with homework or plan on running errands or plan on doing bedtime stuff is a good thing.  Being able to "blame" the clock for the necessity of doing certain things at certain times can be a great thing with kids - and can help you be more personally disciplined as well.  Knowing what to expect and setting up expectations for your family members about how the day should go generally makes the day go better - as long as your expectations are realistic, that is.

So today, I give thanks for routines - imperfect and flexible but generally tried-and-true routines.  Long may they live.


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