Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today my amazing mom turns 65. I hope I can be half the woman she is by the time I'm 65.

My sisters Shawni and Saydi are with her in England today (Shawni and my mom are there to attend a conference about the syndrome Shawni's little girl has and Saydi lives outside London). They've got 65 envelopes for my mom, each containing a memory from someone who loves my mom. She'll be opening the envelopes one at a time throughout the day. I wish I could be there with her in person but I'm so glad she's with people she loves and along with opening envelopes today, she'll be visiting a place in England where her ancestors are from. One of her passions is learning and sharing the stories of our ancestors so this'll be a perfect way for her to spend her birthday!

Mom grew up on a little farm in Idaho, driving the farm truck from the time she was 8 and practicing piano and violin 2 hours a day. In high school, she won the "Miss Bear Lake" title and headed off to college at Utah State determined buck the trend and see the world and do exciting and fabulous things before she'd marry and have children. But then she met my dad who convinced her that they could achieve their dreams together - with a bunch of kids in tow.

Me and mom

Mom with me and Shawni enjoying the cherry blossoms in Virginia where we lived

one of many road trips - me in the back seat, Josh, Mom and Shawni
When they were in their late twenties, my mom and dad were asked to lead the England London South mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and oversee the 200 missionaries there. I'm sure this seemed pretty daunting - my dad's fledgling company would surely fold without his presence, they had 4 young children, the oldest of whom was a 5-year-old - me, and they'd never left the United States before. But they packed up and headed out and it proved to be a marvelous experience for everyone. My mom had two more babies (one of them - Jonah - very premature - scary stuff) during their 3-year tenure in England. And somehow she helped all those missionaries and all those babies feel completely loved and cared for.

Here we are in England - Mom is pregnant with #6

At the hospital meeting baby #6, Talmadge

Mom made us these matching British flag pj's for Christmas.
I love that Mom's in her purple quilted  bathrobe here -
I remember her wearing that every morning for years and years!
After our time in England, my mom and dad kept traveling and we moved every couple years. They loved meeting new people and wanted to raise us as "citizens of the world." Plus they started writing parenting books - and as authors, they could live and work just about anywhere. They didn't have any background in child development or family sciences - my mom's trained as a musician and my dad had a career as a political consultant. But they had a lot of tried-and-true ideas and knew how to explain them in a way that really resonated. They started a program called Joy School that exploded into 1000's of parent-run co-op preschools around the United States and across the world. They started giving speeches all over the place. And they kept having kids until there were nine of us and nine just felt right.
book tour photo in the 80's

Here we are traipsing around Mexico - we lived there for a summer to learn Spanish and experience a different culture. My mom had her "learn Spanish" book with her all the time and worked so hard on it. The rest of us, not so much. I love how mom is always seeking to learn something new.

Here we are in Oregon - spent a summer there building this log cabin - my dad's dream. My mom made camping all summer with 8 kids work somehow - she came up with amazing campfire dinners and somehow kept us all happy and fed and safe while we lived in tents and built this basic cabin and came to appreciate our pioneer ancestors immensely. Mom definitely has the grit of a pioneer woman.

Here we are with mom the day she and dad brought Charity - #9 - home from the hospital. We were all over the moon about our new little sister - especially after 4 little brothers in a row! Mom taught us to adore babies. She was always so in love with her newborns and made us all so excited to be parents some day.
Through all the busyness and book tours and travels, we all knew that being a mom was by far the most important thing to my mom. She somehow found time to create beautiful memories with all of us. She shared her passion for nature and literature and art and music and travel with us. Through her example and her "buck up" attitude, she taught us to work hard and be tough. She taught us to embrace adventure. She taught us to notice those in need and reach out to them. She taught us to be interested in everything and everyone. She taught us to always be kind. She taught us to embody our family motto: "Broaden and Contribute."
Here's Mom with me and Saydi making dinner - good thing we had photographers pop
in sometimes or I doubt we'd have any photos of this sort of every-day stuff.
(and good thing I've got a photo of my awesome hair...)
Mom pushing Noah on the swing 

mom and Josh
mom with newborn Noah? Eli? Oh, how Mom loves little babies!
This is a staged story time for a magazine photo shoot - nope, we didn't read as a group like this.But reading was really important in our home. And we did read scriptures together early every morning in the living room - half-asleep, curled up in our blankets on the couch.

Here's another staged photo. My mom did have us all learn instruments - music was so important to her. And the older kids did get up each morning and play string quartet pieces together with my mom and dad. But we didn't all play together like this. And Jonah doesn't play the mandolyn (he played the drums but I guess they were too hard to bring up from the basement). Tal doesn't play the guitar and I don't think Eli or Noah played the violin - I guess too many people on the piano wouldn't work for the photo. But the rest of us are playing what we really did learn to play! You can see my parents' musical instrument collection on the wall - they gathered a new instrument as part of all their travels. Many of us didn't love playing instruments and Mom was wise in not pushing certain people too far. But we all gained a great appreciation for music. And we won "Western musical family of the year" or something like that one year. I'm not sure if it's an award anyone else had ever heard of but my mom was pretty happy to get that plaque and feel that at least a piece of her dream of a family orchestra had come true!

Mom teaching Saydi to play the piano (with Eli's help)

Yep, another magazine photo but this is something we really did every day and I'm so glad it was captured - we had breakfast together every morning and had a serious family dinner together every evening.

But this is what my mom was doing during most dinners - I don't remember her sitting much:

When I was a missionary in Bulgaria, my parents' newest book, Teaching Children Values reached #1 on the NYTimes Bestseller list (being on Oprah with the whole family helped...) and their writing and speaking was elevated to a whole new level.

Here are everyone's intros on Oprah. Shawni, Josh and I were in Romania, England and Bulgaria on missions so we weren't there. Sorry I don't have the whole segment but these intros are pretty funny!

Since that NYTimes Bestseller boost, Mom and Dad have written a lot more books and travelled the world and speak in just about every industrialized nation plus do quite a bit of work in the 3rd world. But most importantly, my mom has been an amazing mother to her nine children and anyone else who crosses her path and seems to need a little mothering.

Here's my mom on a humanitarian service expedition to Bolivia that we went on as a family - Mom somehow made great friends despite the language barrier.
Mom is still playing regularly with the string quartet she got together with when I was a baby.
I love that! She's such a good example of keeping friendships and passions alive.
Here's mom at a recent speech in Poland. They're always somewhere exciting giving a speech.
Check out mom's blog - for TONS of photos of their travels.
They're helping SO many families through their books and speeches and they just keep going and going!

Mom's the best grandma ever. She does "Grammie Camp" every summer with the kids and 
teaches them all about their ancestors while showing them the time of their little lives.

My mom is probably the most kind and hardworking woman alive. She plows right into any task and never seems to get tired. She can talk to anyone about anything with genuine interest and concern. She's smart as a whip and kind as a saint. And yep, she's gotten more mad about things that she should have sometimes and she hasn't always handled things right. But she's great at apologizing and learning and moving on. And I especially love her for that.

Anyway, I thought I'd finish by sharing some of my favorite memories with my mom here as well as some of my favorite photos. I'm SO amazingly blessed to have such a mother!

When I was about 4 (we were in Virginia), I yearned for pig tails or braids but my hair was so darn short and just didn't grow. I was always begging mom to do my hair in various ways that I saw on other little girls and that I thought would work for my hair that seemed like it was getting plenty long. Mom kept explaining that my hair just wasn't long enough. But one day when I asked, she dropped everything and did my hair in two miniscule braids. I was over the moon about it. I'm sure it looked ridiculous but I was so so so so happy.
wish I had a photo of the braids - but you can see here how little hair Mom had to work with!
When I turned 5, my mom made me the most amazing Winnie the Pooh cake. I wish I had a photo of it - but maybe it's good I don't. I don't think it could possibly look as beautiful in a photo as it does in my memories.
this is my 5th birthday party - no Pooh cake in site - but I love the way my mom is looking at me

For every birthday, Mom made us a great cake in the shape of something and that meant so much to us. This photo shows the "little girl" cake I requested for my 6th birthday party right after we moved to London.

Here's a close-up of the cake - work of art, huh?

When I was six, I was shopping with my mom for a new coat and found one that I absolutely fell in love with - gray/blue velvet with fake fur trim - the most beautiful coat I'd ever seen. But it was wasn't exactly cheap and my mom was all about shopping on the sales racks and making due with whatever was a good price. I was thrilled when she agreed to buy me that coat. It was my most cherished piece of clothing for years. And then one day it disappeared from the school cloakroom. That was a sad sad day for me. Here's the coat (and Saydi and Shawni):

On the same note, years later, when I was going to my first formal dance in high school, I showed my mom this dress I thought would be absolutely perfect. I was sheepish about even showing it to her because it was really expensive - and while I'd saved up quite a bit of money (we bought all our own clothes after earning money in our family economy system), I knew I couldn't buy it without some considerable help from my mom. Much to my surprise and delight, my mom said she'd be happy to buy it for me and I didn't even have to use any of my own money. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world and had so much confidence wearing that dress!

When I didn't have any friends my freshman year of high school, Mom would come pick me up at lunch when she could squeeze it in. I loved those days when I got to hang out with Mom rather than wandering the halls and trying not to look lonely and friendless at lunch. I realize now how hard it must have been for her to fit in those lunch visits when she still had preschoolers to take care of as well as SO many other things on her plate! To help me make friends, she arranged for me to be in a violin sextet that performed all over. She had to take me to rehearsals at 5:45am at my violin teacher's house and drive me to performances. But I made great friends. I also made great friends when she totally supported me in being in a play that involved rehearsals every day and she had to drive me to most of those.

My first year at Wellesley College, Mom sent me a lovely postcard with an art print on it EVERY SINGLE DAY. She'd fill up the backs of those postcards with great bits of news about everything going on at home. She'd often start by telling me where she was as she wrote the post card - often the line at the grocery store or the post office, often waiting to pick up a carpool. My roommates and friends were amazed (and jealous) at the postcards I received every day. And those cards were a beautiful lifeline to home during that first hard year away. Plus it was great to have those beautiful postcards - I decorated the back of my dorm room door with postcards of my favorite art prints. I love how mom's postcards helped me feel a bond to her and to everyone at home while strengthening the bond we share through our mutual love of art.

When we moved to Ogden last year, mom carved out time to be here with me to help unpack and help with kids and get us pizza and make a hard and crazy move as great as she could make it. Having her help and having her offers of help even when we didn't end up needing it meant so much to me!

Mom has been the #1 supporter of Power of Moms. She immediately jumped at the idea of doing Retreats back when the twins were babies and did so much to make those first Retreats possible. She's hosted and been a keynote speaker at 3 Retreats at her house in Park City and is doing another one next month. She's always willing to do absolutely anything I ask and has great ideas. Plus pretty much all the best stuff I can offer other moms through Power of Moms is directly thanks to her example and writing and ideas! Here's Mom, me, Shawni, Saydi and Charity at the Retreat at my parents' house last year:

Thanks for everything, mom. Happy birthday!

Look what you've created:

And my brother Eli summed up a lot of great stuff about Mom that I couldn't squeeze in here, so I'll just end with his words:

You rule the earth! 
The world's best mom
The world's best charades player
The world's best story teller (don't you wish you had a camera, singing toilet) 
The world's best cook
The world's best conversationalist 
The world's most understanding person
The world's most tolerant person
The world's most loving person
The world's best short phrase person (to die for, fab, she she) 
The world's best caregiver 
The world's best traveler (she can travel for weeks out of that little red roller bag)
The world's best friend 
The world's best encourager 
The world's best believer in others/me 
The world's best weeder 
The world's best throw anything together an make an amazing meal person 
The world's greatest mom! 

Love you mom! Hope you had a great 39th!!!


Jennifer said...

I just loved this and I know your mom and all your family will love and cherish this too. The pictures where wonderful! I couldn't help but think that I need more picture of me with my children. I have plenty of my children, but mom seems to always be behind the camera. Thanks for sharing!

Ingrid said...

What in inspiration! I am going to wake up and be a better mother tomorrow just because I read this and got a glimpse into what an amazing woman your mom is! (I kind of already knew it from reading so many of her books, but still-- this was super personal and a sneak peek from "the inside.") Thanks for sharing and tell your mom happy birthday from me and a zillion other moms who aspire to be great like she is!

Rachelle said...

WOW! Saren, this is awesome! Thanks for taking so much time to share so many pics and details. I love the early 70's clothes and big hair!! :) Your mother is an amazing woman, who has blessed the life of so many!

Barb said...

You mom really is the best!

Laura said...

What a moving testament to your mother and your wonderful relationship with her. The memories of her that you cherish are very touching. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

what great experiences your parents provided for you. so inspiring! risk taking, too.

i love the 65 envelope idea!

valerie said...

What a great tribute.
You are so fortunate to have such memories and example.

charity said...

sar this is the best! do you know that the pictures and words get cut off on the right? is it just my computer?

lauralee said...

Thanks for sharing all that Saren. How beautiful your memories are. It must mean so much to her that all that really sunk in!!!

Momof4fabkids said...

What an amazing tribute to your Mom! This makes me want to be a better mother.

Gayla said...
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Gayla said...
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Alissa and Brandon Owen Family said...

What a wonderful tribute to a most wonderful woman! She was a mother to all who were ever in her home and she makes me feel inspired every chance I get to see her. YOu and your mom are both wonderful, wonderful moms to all! You are carrying on her legacy!

Eyrealm said...

Saren this is the first moment I've had to sit down and look at blogs since I got back from our whirlwind trip. How in the world did you not only find time to write this, with all you've got on your plate, but to find all those pictures??? It's been many years since I've seen some of those wild and wonderful pictures! If this is the payback for all those postcards, I'm so glad I did it!

How lucky am I to have such an amazing daughter who could take the family baton and pass me up!

Love you forever!


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