Monday, January 30, 2012

Beautiful Weekend in LA - Serious Happiness

I'm totally on a high after spending a glorious weekend of beautiful weather, lots of great discussions and lots of laughter in LA with 65 really wonderful mothers. My well is full. My often-neglected social needs are met. My idea bank is overflowing. My belief in the importance and beauty and wonder of motherhood is at an all-time high. And my love for my own sweet children and husband is deeper than ever. I came home completely exhausted but after a good night's sleep last night and a chunk of time catching up on emails this morning, life is looking good. Very, very good.

This was Power of Moms Retreat #11 and it was especially fun for me. I've now got more confidence and a lot less worries and jitters than I did with those first Retreats. I can go in there and present without tons of preparation and I know pretty well what works and what people might ask and how to handle things. Plus I love presenting alongside April - after doing this so much, we know how to go back and forth and cover everything pretty darn well between us. We had other great presenters there as well who did a fabulous job and as always, some of the best ideas and points and stories came from the wonderful moms who came to the event. The moms who come to these Retreats are a self-selected group of truly amazing people. The sad part of each Retreat is that there isn't enough time to hear the stories and ideas of every single mom there. We had moms who've been through cancer and bankruptcy and hard, hard stuff with their children and rocky marriages and infertility. We had several moms of twins that I wanted to talk with a lot more. We had everything from new moms to a mom of 11 children. What a plethora of mothering knowledge and questions we had there in that room of 65 wonderful moms! (This photo only shows about 1/2 of the moms who were there - we were so busy chatting and presenting that we didn't think to take a photo until half an hour after the Retreat ended and lots of the moms were already headed home at that point. Oh well!!!)

The setting was as perfect as can be - gorgeous weather and the loveliest home perched on a ridge overlooking Los Angeles (our discussion groups and lunch were extra nice outside). We're so very grateful to our hostess, Lisa Palmer, for opening her home to us and dealing with all our little requests for everything from platters to safety pins to refills of toilet paper. (Lisa's sister Julia went on study abroad with me to London about 20 years ago and when she heard we were looking for a place in LA for our Retreat, she suggested her sister's place and it all worked out beautifully. And I found out that the Palmers lived in Boston for many years and that they'd known Jared and my sister Saydi through church there - small world!) 

We're so grateful for Sarah, Susan and Amy - three wonderful women who are sisters-in-law (they married three brothers) and who've attended or helped with a few Retreats now. They took care of registration details and copies and chairs and food and helped make things so wonderful for everyone - especially for me and April who've handled far too many details on our own at some Retreats. Sarah picked up the chairs and got everyone registered with her cute baby on her hip. Susan made beautiful desserts complete with the cutest individually-made fondant daisies (like the Power of Moms logo) and a "shot glass" of milk to go with it all. Amy made chicken cacciatore for dinner that was so delicious I'm still thinking about it. And so many other wonderful moms pitched in to help with set-up and clean-up and everything in between. Plus we're super grateful to Panera - they donated delicious sandwiches and cookies for our lunch. I love that place! Wish they had it in Utah.

It doesn't matter how many times I do a Retreat, I always learn a ton. Here were some little specific resolutions from this Retreat:

  •  Prioritize social time more. I had the chance to fly out and back to the Retreat with one of our Power of Moms writers and presenters, Allyson Reynolds. We talked and laughed the whole way there and back and learned so much from each other. I had great conversations with lots of moms at the Retreat during structured discussion sessions and during breaks and before and after sessions. Everyone has such interesting stories and great ideas. I need to make time for more conversations like this and stop letting everything else get in the way. I just emailed Allyson to schedule a time to get our families together rather than doing what I typically do - keep saying "we really should get together sometime" and then getting around to really scheduling something all to seldom.
  • Start doing awards again. I'll write a post about this soon but as I presented about our Sunday dinner awards ceremonies with our kids, I realized we've been forgetting to do this for way too long and the kids really need and want it.
  • Speak my husband and kids' love languages more. Susan gave a great presentation on Love Languages - not a new concept to me but one I don't think about enough. I've got to give Oliver and Silas more hugs and tell them I love them more (their love language is verbal and physical - they're ALWAYS hugging me and hanging on me and saying how much they love me and I don't do those same things for them nearly as often as I should). I've got to write Eliza more notes (her notes are so sweet and when I actually remember to write her a note, she's over the moon. In fact I'll write one and put it on her bed right now before I even finish this). I've got to hang out and really listen to Ashton when I tuck him in bed at night (he's not a big talker but he has lots of things he wants to tell me about the latest electronic gadget or something that happened at school when I tuck him in - but I'm usually in too big a hurry. He really needs individual time right now in his life and I think some of the problems he's been having are because he needs more attention). I've got to give Isaac more hugs and tell him what I specifically appreciate about him more (he was such a hugger as a little kid and I think he still needs and wants that and he just blooms when he's praised). I've got to do more acts of service for Jared (he's so good about serving me and I know he loves it when I make time to do something special for him).
  • Be more purposeful about what I eat. Someone mentioned keeping a food diary and how that holds you more accountable to yourself. I've been eating whatever, whenever since Christmas and that extra weight from the holidays is going to be mine to keep forever if I don't start paying attention. Beth Aldridge talked about her new book, Real Moms Love to Eat and that really got me thinking about some things...
  • Be more consistent about playing the Bloom Game. When I set those little goals every week and keep that rolling, I feel so much better about my life and prioritize important things way better.
  • Get outside every day. While we sure don't have the amazing green and flowers and sunshine I experienced in LA here, I can still get out and go on a walk around the block and find something beautiful in nature almost every day. I can get out there and feel the sun on my face for a few minutes when it's cold. I can get the benefit of fresh air a lot more often if I make it a priority - and I sure need that. And I've decided we need to schedule a Southern CA or St George trip at least every couple months during the long cold winters here. If I prioritize it, it will happen. 
Here are some of the beautiful things I saw in the snippets of time I had between everything else going on. I love love love the trees - their different shades of green, their different shapes and sizes, the dappled sun that comes through their branches and leaves. I loved seeing the blossoms (it's already spring there!) mixed with the left-over fruits of fall. It was all so beautiful there!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happiness IV - quick thought

I just saw this pop up on Facebook. It spoke to me.

I need to live in the present. Living in the past can only offer happiness as a memory. Living in the future can only offer happiness as a hope or an expectation (and expectations can be dangerous). Living in the present and looking for the good stuff right here, right now, is a pretty good recipe for present happiness.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happiness III: What do you focus on?

OK. Here goes part III of my thinking about happiness posts.

So I'm happier this week. I'm still stressed and worried about a lot of things. But I'm learning to accept that since I'm a worrier and since my life seems destined to be full of excitement and projects and opportunities (quite a bit of which I DO thrive on), I need to learn to find happiness amidst the stress and hard times rather than entertaining the thought that happiness is something that comes AFTER the stress and hard times are over.

What do you see in this photo?

I walked past this scene the other day and it brought me joy. The flowers looked so lovely in the sun and I love my old windows. I love fresh flowers but I rarely feel I've got money to spare to buy something that seems a bit "frivolous." These flowers were given to me for a speech I did last week and they've lasted amazingly long and brought me lots of joy.

My camera was sitting right there so I snapped a photo.

Then I realized there were a lot of not-so-pretty things in the picture. Did you notice the messy papers and piles? What about the chips and scratches on the table? Did you notice how dirty the window are in the background? What about those snowflakes the kids made that have been up there for a couple months and should probably come down? Did you notice how close our neighbor's house is right through those windows? (Luckily we love our neighbors but I do wish they'd thought to put just a few more feet between these houses...)

And that got me thinking. I'm happy when I notice and celebrate and focus on the beauty and goodness that is always to be found in life. I'm happy when I choose not to dwell on the imperfections and hard stuff.

As I think back on this past week, I choose to focus on the coziness and tastiness and fun of making cookies with the kids while beautiful snow finally fell all afternoon on Saturday - rather than focusing on the big spilled oatmeal mess and the way the boys whined about shoveling the driveway. I choose to focus on the excitement and accomplishment the kids and I felt at how good their rooms looked after a thorough cleaning and rearranging rather than the frustrating moments when the kids got off-task. I choose to focus on how cute Ashton was saying goodbye to the little kids he babysits when I went to pick him up rather than the fact that he forgot an important homework assignment right after we had a another big talk about school and grades. I choose to focus on how nice it was to watch a movie snuggled between the twins with Isaac reaching over to play with my hair and Ashton offering great commentary rather than focusing on Eliza's grumpiness about our movie choice and insistence on sitting in an uncomfortable way on the floor to try to make us all sorry for picking a movie she didn't like when she couldn't even think of anything she didn't like about it. I choose to focus on how Jared fixed a leak in the basement and did umpteen other really helpful and kind things for me and for the kids rather than focusing on a couple things he did or didn't do this week that made me feel a little bit invisible.

Happiness is all in where I place my focus.

This isn't exactly a brand new idea. And it's not so easy to focus on the positive when the negative is bearing down upon you or your mind just isn't feeling all that open to happy thoughts. But still, I can work on this more.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I grew up in a cookie family. Some families are pie families. Some families are ice cream families. Some families are into cake. The Eyres were firmly into cookies. As teenagers, my sister Shawni or I made cookies all the time after school. Our friends and younger siblings and all their friends had handfuls of cookie dough (a lot of times, the cookies never made it to the oven and we never really heard of salmonella but no one ever got sick) and fresh hot cookies for their after school snacks in our crowded kitchen - always the gathering place. We experimented with lots of recipes and borrowed lots of ingredients from our very patient neighbors who probably wondered why in the world we kept starting to make cookies without verifying that we had all the ingredients first. Sure, we probably could have picked a healthier after school snack. But we also could have picked something worse... At least there wasn't corn syrup or partially hydrated oils or chemicals involved...(and I've got a whole post 1/2 written about my theories on healthy eating for kids so maybe that will make up for some of the non-super-healthy focus of this post...)

Now, whenever we get together, someone is whipping up a batch of cookies at least once a day. Our kids have been trained in cookie-making from young ages and they do a lot of the cookie baking these days. Most of us have developed our own special versions of the primarily oatmeal chocolate chip recipes we made growing up.  Shawni brought a great oatmeal-heavy recipe from her mother-in-law to our family. Jonah perfected a fabulous recipe including ground flax seed instead of some of the butter. Saydi created a recipe that includes coconut and rice crispies for an added twist. Oatmeal is a staple in all our recipes as are semi-sweet chocolate chips. And we're all into cutting out some of the butter and sugar - we like a little lighter taste and figure that if we're going to make and eat cookies a lot, we'd better make them a little healthier. Everyone has their strong opinions about what's the best recipe but luckily, since we make cookies repeatedly when we're all together, everyone gets a chance to make their favorite recipe.

Here are a few photos I found quickly and easily of cookie-baking experiences over the years:
my sister Saydi making cookies with Ashton and Isaac the night before the twins were born

Ashton doling out the cookies to siblings and cousins

Liza and Silas work as a team to make cookies
(this is how many should fit on a cookie sheet for the recipe below - and the cookie scoop is a great thing!)
Anyway, over the years I've fine-tuned what is now MY favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. And here it is - for posterity - and for those who might want to try it out!

Here's how the cookies from this recipe are supposed to look
(the twins wanted them for their birthday "cake" a couple years ago)

Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Loosli Family Favorite

This is the recipe we use at least a couple times a month for after-church cookie baking or family home evening treats. It's super yummy and we love doing different variations – sometimes with chocolate chips and dried cherries and coconut, other times with chocolate chips and raisins, sometimes with chocoate chips and walnuts. As this recipe uses ½ the butter of most recipes and has lots of oatmeal and some flax seed, it's quite healthy as far as cookies go.

2 cubes butter (1 cup) - softened
½ cup ground flax seed
1 ½ c. brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 c. white sugar
3 large eggs (or substitute one egg for ¼ c. water to cut down on fat)
2 tsp vanilla
MIX TOGETHER, then add:

1 ½ c white flour
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
MIX IN with the rest,
then add, one cup at a time:

3 ½ cups quick oatmeal
1 c. chocolate chips (or 1 1/2 cups if you like them more chocolaty)

Optional: (you can cut down a bit on the chocolate chips if you want to add all this stuff)
1 c. raisins, craisins or dried cherries
1 c. flaked sweetened coconut
1 c. rice crispies

Preheat convection oven to 330 degrees. Drop by spoonful (or cookie scoop) onto a cookie sheet. Should fit on two cookie sheets if you do 5 rows of 4 (plus there will be a little dough to eat!). Cook for 8-9 minutes. Take out when slightly brown on edges but still a bit doughy looking in the middle. Once cooled, put in the freezer if you'd like to have them remain super fresh for use in the future. Or eat the day you bake them!

Makes the equivalent of a double batch of most recipes - about 40 cookies.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Best Serendipity of my Life

Today is Oliver and Silas's birthday. Oh how I love my little guys! What would I ever do without them?

Seven years and seven months ago, I had a total deer-in-the-headlights feeling when a midwife wielding an ultrasound wand told me she saw 2 heartbeats - I was already completely overwhelmed with three tiny kids and felt like I was "stepping out into the darkness and reaching out for the hand of the Lord" in accepting the strong prompting that we needed to go for a fourth child. It was one of those surreal moments that will forever be crystalized in my mind when the midwife turned the screen towards me and pointed out those two blinking kidney beans. And when I managed to somehow drive my shocked self home to where Jared was watching the kids so I could go to the doctor, he just about passed out when I showed him the ultrasound pictures.

And then, after getting so excited about the two little boys who'd be joining our family and trusting that it would all work out somehow, I'll never forget the afternoon when I was about 5 months pregnant and was having lunch with friends and quite suddenly, there was blood - quite a lot of it. I rushed into the doctor, leaving the kids with the friends I'd been with at lunch. I sat there for what seemed like forever until they could get someone to do an ultrasound. Oh what joy when two little hearts were still beating in there! What a beautiful crystal moment! But the placenta was inexplicably tearing away from the uterine wall and I had to go on modified bedrest - not that easy with my three tiny kids and no family nearby and a husband who needed to be on the other side of the world for work quite a bit. But friends and members of my congregation pitched in and we taught baby Eliza how to climb into her high chair and crib and carseat by herself since I couldn't lift her and we were as careful and prayerful as can be. Those little hearts kept beating strong at each doctor visit until the placenta finally healed itself.

And then there was that crazy night exactly 7 years ago when our two babies were born. After going through a quick but intense natural labor, I rejoiced as I held precious Oliver in my arms, and felt wonderful adrenaline and joy as I got ready to push his brother out. But Silas was stuck. It was pretty sad news to hear that there'd be no more triumphant pushing but instead, a scary emergency C-section. That night is full of more poignant and blazing memories - the most beautiful of which involved finally holding my two babies in my arms, drugged and groggy and in intense pain, but so very very grateful to have both babies delivered safe and sound.

I've had plenty of other crazy, sweet, hard and crystalized moments since the birth of my little guys. Oh, the messes and scary moments and general chaos that they've brought into our lives! There were the many many many sleepless nights with two newborns. Then there was the time a stranger showed up at our door holding a dirty little Silas. "Is this yours? I found this baby crawling in the street." Great moment there. Jared had inadvertently left the door slightly ajar when he got back from work and Silas must have somehow slipped out the door while I was focused on feeding Oliver and the other kids were gleefully greeting Jared after work. All it took was about 3 minutes.

There was the day they smeared vaseline all over the new carpet and new Pottery Barn bedding I'd saved up so carefully to buy while I was cleaning up a potted plant they'd upturned in another room (and nope, vaseline doesn't come out - I tried everything). And there was the time they figured out how to open a 25 pound bag of pinto beans in the pantry - wow, those beans sure roll everywhere!

Then there was the time they both split their chins open in the very same spot just a few days apart from each other - one tripped and fell onto a sharpish edge on our eliptical machine and the other one slipped while doing a spontaneous dance in a restaurant when he hit a wet spot on the floor - identical scars.

And there was the time last summer at Bear Lake when the twins and one of their little cousins were playing on the old tractor we use to launch the boat and ended up accidentally starting that thing while the rest of us were busily and noisily making dinner and didn't notice. After a joyride/scared-to-death ride involving somehow making three loops around an empty lot without hitting anything or getting killed, they steered the tractor up a sandy hill and luckily that caused the engine to stall and stop. Not knowing exactly how to explain what happened, they headed into the cabin to eat dinner and the story didn't come out until their cousin let it slip and we found the tracks and the tell-tale tractor stuck in the sand. Lots of big talks on that one.

Never a dull moment when Oliver and Silas are around! And I could go on and on but you get the idea. If one smart, busy, curious little boy can get into a lot of things, just imagine how much more craziness can happen when two identical smart, busy and curious little boys put their heads together!

But the sweetness and laughs and beauty they've brought into our lives is vastly more important. They are the most loving, funny, sweet, smart, fun, enthusiastic little boys and I love them so very very much. They shower kisses and hugs and "I love you's" on me every single day (especially on the hard days - they seem to be so in tune with what I need) and never cease to make me smile. They're the best serendipity of my life.

Seven years ago, these were my little guys.

5 years ago, these were my little guys. (We laughed our heads off watching these next few clips as part of our birthday celebration today)

4 years ago, these were my little guys.

2 years ago, these were my little guys. (The big kids think this one should be featured on America's funniest home videos - but it might just be extra funny to us - see what you think. They've attributed some pretty interesting stuff to Micheal Jackson.)

And here they are a couple months ago.

Yes, I'm biased, but aren't they pretty darn cute?

I'm blessed beyond measure to have these sweet boys and I'm so grateful for all the crystal moments they're always bringing to my life - both the crazy times and the beautiful times - and the times that have been crazy and beautiful simultaneously.

Here are a few photos of today's festivities for their birthday. Ashton did a fabulous magic show for 10 mesmerized little kids, we did pinatas in the backyard on a perfect sunny afternoon, we did a family trip to Kangaroo Zoo (the twins have been begging to go there forever and it did not disappoint) and we topped it all off with a pizza party with my parents. What a day we had!

Opening presents after their chosen birthday breakfast - egg burritos 
Good times at our family party at Kangaroo Zoo
coming down the slide in a train

The friend birthday party started with a great magic show by Ashton

ready for cake and ice cream (they asked for banana cake and I found a super
good recipe for banana chocolate chip cake with cream cheese frosting - yum!)

pinatas in the back yard on a perfect sunny afternoon
(thanks dad and mom for the random pinatas found while cleaning out your house - they were perfect!

Waiting in line to hit the pinatas

grabbing the loot - we stuffed them with popcorn packets, hot cocoa packets, granola bars, fruit snack packs -
fills them up faster and makes for slightly more surprising and healthy loot
pizza party to end the day with Grammie and Grandfather

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happiness - Part II

OK, so I've been working on happiness. And it's working.

In the last few days, I've prioritized some of the items on my happiness-inducing list in the last post and in the next few days, I'll prioritize more of them.

I went running outside in the cold on Wednesday and this morning. I was NOT looking forward to the cold or the running as I headed out the door both times, but I felt ALIVE as I ran in that cold and I felt so proud of myself when I got back home. I needed that fresh air and I needed the energy of mind, body and spirit I get from vigorous exercise (#3 and #6 from my happiness list). Plus the mountains are so pretty. And that hot shower feels so good afterwards.

I went to lunch yesterday with a couple friends and heard their latest stories and it was so nice to just talk and be out and about. I need to do that more. (#8 on the list)

I've found chunks of time to read lately and I'm almost done with Minding Frankie. There's this social worker in the book who doesn't hardly know how to smile. I don't want to be like her. We had another little read-a-thon snuggled up on my bed last night. It was so nice. That takes care of #2 and #4.

I finally put new caulk in the kids' shower. Jared drilled out the old messed up caulk about 2 months ago and it was my job to put in new caulk (I'm just a teeny bit better at neat caulking than Jared - let's just say the shelves he caulked, bless his heart, looked pretty goopey).  I've had that caulking job on my to-do list for 2 whole months and no one's been able to use that shower this whole time. I finally blocked out yesterday morning to do it. Oh how good it feels to finally accomplish something I've been putting off forever! And I listened to great music while caulking - love Pandora - love my Plain White T's station. So that took care of #7 and #9 quite nicely.

And I've got a new thing to add to my list. Here's #11:
11. Do something spontaneous that's NOT on my list and that I don't really have to do but that's just fun. Yesterday when I went to lunch, my friend pointed out a flower shop along the way that said "If your name is Oliver, come in for a free rose." I guess they put up different names there all the time. So after school, even though I had plenty of other things to do, I surprised Oliver - took him for a little drive, pointed out that sign and he was overjoyed to go in there and choose any rose he wanted. He got a gorgeous orange one and they wrapped it up beautifully for him and he was pleased as punch. I need to grab the moment and do fun little things like this way more often.

As I've been focusing more on doing the things that make me happy, I'm also realizing that it's important to simply RECOGNIZE that I'm doing things that make me happy. Then I'm happier.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What is Happiness?

My sister-in-law gave me a book called The Happiness Project for Christmas and although I've only read a couple chapters so far, it's really got me thinking.

Am I happy?

I haven't had a chance to think a whole lot about whether or not I was happy in the past dozen years or so. I remember contemplating happiness back when I was single and had plenty of quiet moments. But since having kids, I've been so busy doing everything that comes along with dealing with the needs of small children while trying to juggle a couple websites and involvement in my kids' school and in the community that I never got around to thinking about happiness much. There were times when life was really hard and I did some thinking about how to pull myself out of a slump. But mostly, when I've had time to think in the past dozen years, I've thought about goals and to-do lists and plans for helping the kids and myself and everyone around me become all that they can and should be. And I do think happiness is quite interconnected with progress and growth and helping others - all of which I've experienced in great abundance especially since launching into my motherhood career.

But now that all the kids are in school and I have a few more quiet moments to myself each day as I chip away at my endless to-do lists, I'm feeling the need to figure some things out. Am I happy? Am I as happy as I ought to be? Should happiness be a pursuit or a goal? Or is it silly and selfish to devote much time to thinking about my own happiness?

I experience lovely fleeting moments of happiness every day. Joy jumps up in my heart when I see fresh snow or a brilliant blue sky, hear a sweet comment from one of my kids, feel little arms around my waist, see my child be kind or accomplish something he or she is proud of, watch my kids run up to me with huge smiles when I pick them up from school, snuggle with my little ones as we read together. I feel a satisfaction kind of happiness whenever I accomplish something or complete a task. So I'm experiencing happy moments a lot and I'm so grateful for each of them.

But do I feel happy in general? Not so much.

I feel worried and stressed and overwhelmed much more often than I feel happy. And I think this is partially because I think about what I need to DO much more than I think about who I need to BE or what I NEED. I think about accomplishments far more than optimism and gratitude. I think about good works far more than faith, hope and charity. And while I do believe happiness relies quite a bit on progression and helping others, I don't think I've thought enough about the other things happiness relies upon.

So this week I'm going to focus on figuring out what makes me happy - other than getting things done (I've got that one down pretty well). Then I'm going to figure out how to bring more of this happiness-inducing stuff into my life more regularly. I've realized that in order to be the mom and wife and person I need to be, I've got to figure out how to be a happier person. And it's not just going to happen by itself.

Here's my first step - making a quick list of what I love to do off the top of my head:
1. Cook tasty food that's quite simple but has great spices and flavors and that my whole family loves (I made thai food on Sunday and it was a pleasure to cook and a pleasure to eat)
2. Read beautifully-written novels with great characters and a story that sucks you in and makes you think (really enjoying Minding Frankie by Mave Binchy right now).
3. Exercise (actually I really don't like exercising much but I love the feeling I get AFTER exercising)
4. Read with my kids (we all snuggled on my bed Sunday night and read out own books together and it was so cozy and made me so happy).
5. Travel. Visiting a new place - be it a new part of town or a new country - always gives me a rush. I love meeting new people, seeing new sites, figuring out new favorites, and seeing my kids get excited about it all.
6. Go on a hike or walk. Moving my body while enjoying fresh air and nature always offers elevates my mood and gives me sparks of joy and renews me. I need to be outside every day - at least for a few minutes. But I don't make time for that every day.
7. Hear great music. I need to have music playing more regularly. I need to crank up the music and dance more. I miss singing. I miss playing the violin. I need to make as well as enjoy listening to music more.
8. Have a good conversation. I'm not getting nearly enough of this. I'm alone too much. I email all day with people but I'm not with other adults enough.
9. Finish something. I'm getting quite a bit of this one - at the expense of the others.
10. Laugh. I don't laugh nearly enough. I'm way too serious. Anyone got any really funny YouTube videos or TV shows are articles you'd recommend?

So there's my quick list to get me started. I'll work on what to DO about these needs soon.

And I'd love any tips or ideas anyone else out there has!

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Beautiful Rite of Passage

I love rites of passage. I think we generally have too few of them in today's world. I'm so grateful to be part of a church and a faith that offers beautiful rites of passage.

On Saturday, Jared and I took Ashton on a special hike preisthood-preparation hike in the mountains near by. Jared planned the whole thing out. After a weirdly snow-less winter, it finally snowed on Friday night and we woke up to a winter wonderland. The snow made the hike perfect in a way we couldn't have imagined. We had the mountain to ourselves and it was gorgeous.

When we reached a lovely overlook with a nice gathering of rocks to sit on, we sat down and Jared pulled out some scriptures. We read and discussed the passages that explain all about the duties of the priesthood with a focus on the duties of the Aaronic priesthood and of a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood. Ashton had good questions. I love that the Lord entrusts humble, eager, wide-eyed 12-year-olds with a piece of His power and expects them to step up to certain duties. We sat there talking about God's power surrounded by God's creations. It was beautiful and quiet and holy.

We finished our little meeting with some hot chocolate. Jared brought a little camp stove and kettle and we drank in the warmth of that nice chocolaty stuff while looking out across the valley and talking to Ashton about the climbs and vistas he has ahead of him in life.

Saturday afternoon, I took Ashton shopping for a nice new white shirt and a sport jacket for his big day the next day. After initially turning up his nose at the idea of dress-up clothes, when we found the right shirt and coat, Ashton came out of the dressing room with a big smile and a swagger and wanted to wear the new stuff home. We didn't need to buy him a tie. We have 4 ties that belonged to Jared's dad who passed away a couple years ago that will go to each of our boys. We figured they could each pick one of them to wear on the day they receive the priesthood. Ashton got first pick.

On Sunday at church, Ashton received the Aaronic (or preparatory) priesthood and was ordained a Deacon. As a priesthood holder himself, Jared was able to lay his hands on Ashton's head and confer the priesthood upon him and my dad, my brother Eli and other good men from our congregation stood in a circle around Ashton, placing one hand on Ashton's head and the other on the shoulder of the man next to him. I felt that power. It is real.

At the close of the blessing, Ashton hugged or shook hands with each of these men. I love seeing these circles of good, humble men, using the priesthood to bless others.

I love that there are certain things that only I can do for our children and certain things that only Jared can do.

As a newly ordained Deacon, Ashton had the chance to pass the Sacrament for the first time. He was so nervous and excited. He did an excellent job. I caught his eye as he passed the tray to the row behind me and he flashed me a beautiful quiet smile of accomplishment. This boy is ready, willing and able to do God's work. I love this boy of mine and all the wonderful men in my life who honor the priesthood and use it in love and humility.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Jared's birthday and New Years

In our family, Christmas is just the beginning of the festivities. We follow Christmas with a trip to Idaho to party it up with lots of Looslis, then we head to Park City to party it up with lots of Eyres, then we celebrate Jared's birthday and New Year's Eve on December 31st, then we usually have a big party with my mom's extended family New Years day or thereabouts, then we top it all off by celebrating Ashton's birthday on January 3rd. Then we can take a breath and relax from so much celebrating for a few days until it's the twins' birthday on January 14th. Meanwhile, it's someone in our extended family's birthday pretty much every single day in January. I wouldn't mind it if some of these special occasions were more spread out, but hey, what can you do? I feel bad for Ashton because by the time we get to his birthday, everyone's partied-out. But he's a great sport about it and we try to make it special for him.

Anyway, here are a few shots of Jared's birthday and New Years:
Jared's birthday tradition is going bowling - we went with my parents and my brother Noah and family
to a pretty swank bowling alley in Park City and had a great time.
Jared's birthday breakfast at my parents' house

Birthday cake time
We had tons of fun with my brother Noah and his wonderful wife and kids

Silas was excited to meet his new cousin Bennett who has the same middle name as him -
they both have their grandfather's name for a middle name - Richard
(I just realized Bennett seems to be flipping us all off. I'm quite sure he didn't mean it.)
Isaac couldn't get enough of new baby Bennett. He loves babies so much.
 After lots of great times with family in Park City, we headed home for New Year's Eve night.
The kids were excited to have their own little New Year's party with lots of treats
Jared and I headed out to a grown-up New Year's party with friends for a couple hours 
 And then it was done. 2011 is done. It was a good year. It was a hard year. 2012 is going to be awesome!

Thursday, January 05, 2012


The Christmas stuff is put away (after sitting grouped together for a few days until I had time to box it up - my office looked like a Christmas shop for days). The tree is in the backyard, the pine needles are swept up and the living room is rearranged back to normal. I'm almost caught up on the most urgent Power of Moms stuff that piled up over the holidays. The sugar intake is way down, the routine is back in place, and we're all nicer people with less sugar and more sleep. The kids are back in school. There's a warm glow of happiness still eminating from the great times we had over the holidays. And randomly, it's totally warm and sunny. Feels like spring. Went for a lovely run yesterday. Weird. But nice.

Life is good.

But a couple days ago, life wasn't so good. I was trying to make Ashton's birthday special while feeling totally overwhelmed by my Christmas-shop office and the dust, pine needles, candy wrappers and bits and pieces of Christmas toys strewn throughout my house that had been sorely neglected while being in and out of town the week after Christmas. I had like 500 emails in my inbox. The kids were wound-up and/or grumpy. I had a to-do list a mile long and was worried about a lot of things that I'd put off worrying about over the holidays. And I was hormonal. Life seemed pretty darn awful.

I guess that's how life goes. Up, down, up, down. I just need to get better at remembering that things will be totally fine soon when I'm in the midst of a hard time!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

My Young Man

Today is Ashton's 12th birthday.

How can this be? How can my little baby be such a big boy? When I hug him (which he doesn't exactly love but tolerates quite well - he was never much of for hugs), he's this big solid person in my arms and he doesn't fit beneath my chin anymore. His feet are bigger than mine now.

I miss my baby Ashton.

But I love love love the young man I've got in his place.
This is Ashton after his indoor sky diving birthday present today. He LOVED it!
In the past 12 years, my little baby Ashton has developed into his own person - a person I really like a lot who has skills and abilities and interests that I can take no credit for. I remember the first time Ashton told me something I hadn't taught him. He was two and had picked up a new idea from the lesson in nursery at church. I can't even remember what it was that he said but it struck me that my little boy's world was expanding and that he was starting the long road of becoming who he needs to be - part of which will certainly be rooted in who I am and who Jared is and what we've taught him - but much of which will be shaped by who ASHTON is and by the experiences and people he encounters beyond our family and home.

If motherhood has taught me anything in these past 12 years, it's taught me that children are seedlings, not lumps of clay. They come who they are. They need water and sunlight and a little pruning now and again from their parents. But they need to become who they're meant to be - not who their parents may think they ought to be. Sure, there are bits and pieces and even whole chunks of me and of Jared in each of our kids. But I sure love seeing how they put those pieces together and add their own special stuff to become their own person. And what a joy it's been to see Ashton grow and bloom these past 12 years.

Ashton is the master of every electronic gadget he lays his hands upon - he's dabbled in pretty impressive computer programming, he's beautifully edited all the Deliberate Mothering videos for Power of Moms, he's got our old phones turned into game stations, you name anything you want done and he can do it. He decided to be a snow boarder this year and picked it up quite nicely in just one day. He's mastered tons of quite amazing magic tricks and took it upon himself to research and join the local magic club. He was totally undaunted when he walked into the first meeting and found mostly middle-aged guys there - he's become a solid contributing member of the group. He can read a big fat book in a day if his mean mom doesn't tear him away from his book. He's wonderful with little kids and has become a sought-after babysitter. Nothing warms my heart like seeing him with one of his adoring little friends or siblings. He's an excellent public speaker and I was so proud of the excellent job he did as the MC and narrator of this year's Children for Children concert (and when people keep commenting to me how impressed they were with him). He knows what's going on in the world and has interesting opinions and great ideas that are uniquely his. He's cool and tough and fun yet sweet and smart and mellow. Sure, we're all dealing with the mood swings and surliness that comes with being a pre-teen, but all in all, Ashton is coming into his own quite beautifully. And I'm so glad to catch glimpses of the man he is becoming.

Here are a few favorite shots of Ashton over this past year:

On Antelope Island for Memorial Day
with cousin Emmaline at Bear Lake

getting his Arrow of Light award back in February
Ashton's end-of-the-year school party with some of his best friends from last year
Results of a lego-building marathon led by Ashton
playing his guitar and earning money at the Farmer's Market (with a lap-top screen saying "tips appreciated")
hanging out with the family downtown (did this a lot this year)
hanging out with his revered Grandfather and his not-so-revered little brother
Ashton's pumpkin this year reflected his interest in cyclops and all mythology thanks to the Lightning Thief series
Ashton out in the middle of the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake
With one of his fans - our little neighbor
Ashton with family and friends ready to do some indoor sky diving today

I love this boy of mine.

Happy Birthday, Ashton. Here's to all that you are and all that you are becoming. We love you so much!


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