Friday, June 29, 2012

Bingham Canyon, Grandma, and a New Job

Like my new header? After about 6 months of having "make a new blog header" on my "to-do" list, I finally did it.

The kids are sitting here doing their writing for the day so I thought I'd join them in writing. I haven't felt particularly inspired about writing on this blog in the past couple weeks. I'm realizing that motivation, like so many things in life, comes in waves. Some days, some hours, some weeks, I feel excited about doing a given thing, then other times, I just really don't feel like it. No real rhyme or reason to it. I can usually force myself to do the things I don't really feel like doing if it's important or timely. But sometimes, if no one else is waiting on me and it's fine either way, I give in to that "I don't feel like it" thing. And I'm learning to be OK with that.

Our Learning Adventures Camp is still going very well. The kids did their three weeks of almost-perfect points and earned their trip to Lagoon (scheduled for next week). They decided they wanted to pool their points for the next 3-week period (which they'll be done with next week when we take off on a family Pioneer Trek and then head to Bear Lake) and earn a trampoline for the backyard (it'll cost them their points plus they need to do a big part of the work to dig the hole so we can make it an in-ground trampoline - and actually they're about as excited about digging the hole as they are about the trampoline...).

It's been great to see how many families are loving these Learning Adventure Camp ideas. Here's one of my favorite adaptations.

And here are a few things we've been up to lately:

For last week's field trip, we went to Kennecott Copper Mine - the largest man-made hole on earth -  with our friends the Reynolds. We saw trucks the size of a house and learned all about how they get the copper out of the earth and refine it (it's quite a process). As the canyon where the mine is located is named after my great great grandfather, Erastus Bingham, the trip had added significance.

Here we are with info about our great great grandfather

Here's a close-up of the sign so you can read it. Cool that they ended up in Ogden where we now live. And the little cabin they built in Ogden was eventually moved to Pioneer Village at Lagoon and we visited it last year. I think maybe the connection to Lagoon was cooler to the kids than the connection to the copper mine...

see Ashton in the back?

For this week's field trip, we went to Logan for one of my mission companion's birthdays and got a chance to visit my sweet grandma as well.

It was SO FUN to see amazing women who were my companions in Bulgaria at the birthday party of one of them, Deborah. What crazy and beautiful times we had there together - having people share wild stories with us, going to church in old communist club buildings or bars where the church could rent space, seeing people's lives change as they felt loved and saw real purpose in life.

And as always, it was wonderful to be with my Grandma. It's heartbreaking that she doesn't know me anymore but she is still as beautiful as ever - her love for all of us radiating even when she doesn't remember who we are. The kids did all the jig saw puzzles she made for her children 60 years ago and I told her how many 1000's of kids and families she helped through the Joy School program she helped start (she ran the original Joy School for about 30 years). She's always pleasantly surprised to hear that Joy Schools are still going and to remember that she made up most of the lesson plans that are still being used throughout the world. We always sing Joy School songs with her and it's beautiful to see her smile.

Jared and Isaac (with minimal help from the rest of us) have been working hard on a new fence for our backyard. The old one blew over in the huge wind storms many months ago. It's going to be a very strong and very lovely fence. They've been working fast because JARED GOT A NEW JOB and really wanted to finish the fence before going back into the world of full time work at an office. It's been over a year that Jared has been working diligently on major projects that have moved the Power of Moms website to where it needs to be while doing consulting for others and helping get an exciting new company off the ground with some friends. The pieced-together work has been good work and we've loved Jared's more flexible schedule. But he was ready for a new challenge and he's found a good fit. It's in Salt Lake but since he can do the full commute on the train and the train has wifi so he can work while traveling. It'll be a whole new thing for all of us but we're really excited for Jared and for the company who gets to enjoy his skills and presence.

This might not look like a lot. But getting the old fence out of there and getting these posts
and 10 more installed in concrete deep in the ground has been a MAJOR project.
Yeah, Isaac and Jared!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Uncharted Waters

For family night, we decided to play a board game together as a family - we haven't done that in a long time. It was all well an good until one player decided to stop playing mid-game. He hadn't scored any points and everyone else had. But there was still plenty of time for things to turn around in the game and it's a game where fortunes can shift quite unexpectedly. We pointed this out politely. When that didn't work, we stated that "Looslis aren't quitters" and insisted that he keep playing. But that didn't work. He defiantly said, "I'm not playing and you can't make me" and stormed off.

In the grand scheme of things, being a good sport and finishing out a board game with your family really doesn't matter much. But learning to keep trying when things are hard DOES matter. So many things come easy to this particular child and when something turns out to be difficult, he's taken aback, he feels really uncomfortable, and he really prefers to walk away. He wants to be an instant winner all the time. But life doesn't work like that. We're always telling him that "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" and that "hard is good."

As our kids get older, it's so tricky to know what to control while we still can control it (in hopes that strongly encouraging some things with talks or bribes or whatever it takes may lead to more understanding and self-motivation some day) and what to let go of as we strive to respect our kids' opinions and their need to make their own decisions. Jared and I struggle to be loving, understanding parents while also pushing our children strongly towards the things they are capable of and that will likely bring them joy and success.

I'm realizing more and more that while life is much easier when it comes to taking care of my children's basic physical needs now that they're older, it's much harder when it comes to the tricky nuanced work of taking care of my big kids' mental, social, emotional and spiritual development. The phrase, "Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems" seems to hold true. The plethora of little problems just about did me in some days when I had 5 preschoolers. But I'm finding that all it takes is one "big kid problem" to really throw me for a loop.

I have been blessed with some excellent raw material with these kids of mine. They are generally kind, helpful and smart smart. We've set up rules and consequences with their input and help and we've had a lot of buy-in from the kids as we kindly but firmly enforce what we can all see makes sense. We've experienced very little defiance and only a few tantrums. The kids respect that we are the ones in charge and seem to appreciate that we ask for their help and their input in roughly equal doses. We work hard to ensure that they know they are loved and appreciated and cherished.

But as they get older, they want and need to take on more control of their own lives. And that's hard stuff. As much as I know they need to make more of their own decisions and become their own person, it's so hard to know when to insist and when to give in, when to hold on and when to let go, when to say something and when to be quiet.

I've figured out a lot of things about parenting - partly thanks to being raised by wonderful parents whose example gave me a big leg-up when I started out as a mom, partly thanks to the wonderful ideas I get from our community of deliberate mothers at The Power of Moms, and party due to trial and error.

The last few couple years, I've felt like a pretty darn good mom as I've really hit my stride as a mom. I quite naturally "get" elementary school-age kids (babies and toddlers, as adorable and fun as they are, were a bit more of a stretch for me). But just lately, my 12-year-old and sometimes his 11-year-old brother are humbling me big time. I'm in some uncharted waters for sure. And it's hard stuff!

Here are four things I've learned so far (mostly the hard way):

  • "If it's important to you, it's important to me." My mom suggested I remember this phrase when I headed into marriage and I'm finding it's just as important for kids. I'm working to show real interest in the things they care about and to really discuss possibilities they bring up, even if they originally sound pretty "off." I'm learning about bands the kids have mentioned. I'm getting to know their friends. I'm helping my son earn up money for the electric guitar he really wants.
  • Relationships take time. I can't expect my kids to open up to me if I'm so busy I don't have time to talk when they want to talk. When I'm so tired at the end of the day and just want to clock-out as a mom after tucking kids in bed, if I'll tuck my son in last, go sit on his bed, and just let him say whatever, we often have good conversations about important things. 
  • People respect those who give them respect. When I ask my older kids what might be an appropriate consequence when one of the younger children has broken an important rule, they feel flattered and respected - and are more likely to pay attention to the rules themselves. When I ask for their help in researching something I'm thinking about doing or buying that fits with their interests and knowledge, they feel useful and helpful.
  • Raise the Praise, Minimize the Criticize. As I tuck my son in bed each night, if I take 30 seconds to tell him something I really appreciate that he did that day or something I've noticed he's good at, I'm making vital investments in my relationship with him. When I ignore what I can ignore and minimize criticism and/or keep critiques short and sweet, our relationship is much better. 
  • Sleep and Food Matter - a lot. Remember when we were so careful to make sure our babies got good naps and ate enough healthy food and no junk? Remember when lack of sleep or food resulted in serious melt-downs with our toddlers? As pre-teens bodies and brains go through puberty, they need quality sleep and quality food desperately - but often don't feel the need for either. I'm getting my son to bed early. He can read or use his ipod in bed for a while (that helps keep him from being defiant about going to bed). Then I tell him it's lights-out and we chat a bit and he's usually tired enough not to fight it much. I'm pretty sure it'll just make him want it more if I try to ban my kids from all junk food. But I've found that if I only have healthy foods (lots of fruits and veggies on hand for snacking, healthy breakfasts and dinners) in the house, that's what he'll end up eating for the most part. We talk about what fuels our bodies efficiently and he worries about the amount of acne and excess weight he sees on some kids and generally accepts that healthy food is best.

As I move forward, I know I'll mess up and I know there will be power-struggles and tricky questions. But as I'm trying to teach my son, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" and "hard is good."

I'm so glad we've got some great moms of teens and older kids writing stuff for us on The Power of Moms Here are a few posts that have helped me on this new roller coaster ride of mothering pre-teens:
Short Shorts and Mothering Teens
Managing Social Media and Technology with our Kids
The Personality Test that Helped me Really See my Daughter
Podcast: Patience with Teenagers
How to Tell a Teenager "I Love You"
Straight Talk: Beauty, Brains or Both?

P.S. One thing I HAVE figured out pretty well is road trips. If you've got a family road trip coming up, check out my latest post on The Power of Moms - Tried-and-True Road Trip Tips.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wedding and Family Reunion in Ashton

Our niece Kristen (Jared's brother Brian's daughter) got married last weekend to a great guy named Jarin (now there's an Aaron, Karen, Saren, and Jarin in the family...). We were so glad we could head up to "the farm" for the wedding and enjoy the rare chance to be with ALL Jared's 8 siblings and most of their spouses and kids. It was a serious house-ful at Grandma Loosli's house. I wish I had a photo of the full group but in the craziness of wedding photography, I didn't think to take a photo of my own...

We had a wonderful 4 days at the farm. We stayed up until the wee hours playing games and laughing until we were crying. We prepared and ate wonderful meals and consumed tasty snacks galore. We waited in line for the bathroom now and then. We helped prepare for the wedding by setting up chairs, tying ribbons on chairs, making mounds of guacamole (the food at the reception was wonderful and Connie's guacamole was something we all could help with), and doing every other little thing we could do to help with the big event. We rode horses (and Ashton decided he's a serious horseman and galloped through the fields with glee until he fell off - but luckily he wasn't hurt). We did the often-annual Loosli Family Fun Run (I was so proud of myself for doing the full 10K this year thanks to some good running partners, some perfect weather and lovely scenery). The kids enjoyed scores of hours on the good old trampoline. We enjoyed amazing beauty. We talked about wedding plans for two more nieces who'll be married in August. We watched Jared and Aaron and most of the men-folk build an exciting new zip line in Grandma's back yard and then watched the kids enjoy it immensely (what a great Father's Day activity to build this and bring so much joy to all the kids! Plus it was a great bonding activity for the dads). 

I'm so blessed to be a Loosli.

Here's the story in pictures:

Making mountains of guacamole (Isaac's favorite thing in the world) for the wedding reception

The lovely wedding on Friday

Getting ready for the Loosli Fun Run
quick snapshot while I ran the 10K. Scenery like this and perfect cool weather makes running so nice.

another shot across the field while running

Building the zipline - everyone surveying how to anchor the pole...
Hay bales - perfect solution for building a platform to reach the zip line

Finished zip line - SO MUCH FUN! (that's Eliza taking her turn -
adults and kids alike rode that zipline for hours on end)

Silas and Oliver with their cousin Logan having fun on horses

The kids spent about 8 hours a day on this great old trampoline and the huge tire swing behind them.

 Ashton is a gorgeous place. These are all just raw photos taken with my phone:

We all stood out there to watch this sunset. Beautiful moment.

Pasture land across the street from Jared's mom's house

Tiny potatoes starting to come up in the fields

Tetons in the distance
Father's Day gifts. Loved being there for Father's day so we could
visit Jared's dad's grave and reminisce about great times with that great man.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Eight Kids for a Couple Days (and a necessary P.S.)

It's such a beautiful day. I'm sitting here by an open window and there's a soft sweetly cool breeze. I can hear the kids and some neighbors playing happily in the backyard. Life is good.

I guess everything seems extra peaceful given that we're back to just our five kids and the occasional neighbor around here. For the past couple days, Jared and I had the chance to see what it would be like if we'd had three more kids after the twins. My brother Noah and his wife Kristi are on a trip and my parents have been taking care of their three very cute kids for the past week. But we wanted in on the action (my kids love love love their little kids and we figured that my parents could use a little break). So we've had Cubby (2), Lyla (3) and McKay (6) with us for the past little while. And it's really been so fun!

Eliza and Lyla delighted in the chance to hang out together - as the only girls in each of their families, they need all the pseudo-sister time they can get. They were so excited to find matching outfits and matching hair ribbons to wear and had SO much fun together.

Oliver and Silas and McKay make a wonderful threesome. Oliver and Silas got their somewhat cautious cousin up in their favorite tree (but totally respected that he didn't want to go up as high as they like to go up), got him climbing over most every railing we encountered (but respected that he wanted to go around some of them), and were totally impressed with the sound effects he made while playing computer games. They set up three chairs right smack up against each other so they could be right together, McKay in the middle, at each meal. And they were delighted when McKay loved all their toys so much.

Ashton and Isaac couldn't get enough of little Cubby. I heard one of them say "I love you Cubby" to the little guy about every 2 minutes and they were constantly telling me the cute things he said (he's quite an amazing talker  for a 2-year-old!).

It was more work to feed everyone and get everyone to bed, but for the most part, my big kids were delighted to keep their little cousins very happily occupied and it really wasn't much more work for me or Jared at all. I now understand a bit better how my parents were able to effectively raise and care for 9 children. They've always said effective use of "middle management" (the older kids) is a real key for large families and I totally see how that can work now. But I think we'll stick with five kids. No matter how helpful middle management might be, the buck still stops with the executive management - the parents! And I'm finally feeling like I can manage my five kids quite well (most days). * but see my P.S. below...

Yesterday we played in the backyard and ate banana chocolate pops that we made (pretty darn tasty - just dip bananas in melted chocolate chips and put them in the freezer for a while).

We went to the library down the street to do puppet shows (they have lots of puppets there) and learn about whatever the kids were interested in - frogs, monsters, and kittens were the favorite topics to research. Then we went on a nice walk on a deliciously cool evening and I was sad I didn't have my camera because the light was gorgeous. But sometimes I guess it's good to enjoy the moment w/o worrying about trying to capture it on film.... We finished off the day with three slumber party groups - Lyla in with Liza, McKay in with the twins, and Cubby in our old port-a-crib we unearthed from the basement in with Ashton and Isaac. No one got a whole lot of sleep. But they seemed none the worse for the wear today.

Breakfast for 8 (the twins and McKay HAD to sit together at the head of the table at each meal)

Then today we went on an excursion downtown (it totally took me back to pack up diapers and wipes in my purse...). We got tasty slices of bread at Great Harvest. We played at the park. The kids put on little shows at the empty amphitheater downtown. We visited the invisible man who lives at the invisible house down the road (there are some old steps that go up to an empty lot). We found a friendly lion and some huge firefighters plus lots of gorgeous flowers. The kids played in the fountain and found a new secret fort under a tree. Watching my little nephews and niece brought back such great memories of when my kids were little. But while excursions with my own small kids were always pretty stressful and very hands-on, today I was able to mostly just observe and enjoy. It was heavenly to have big kids around to help hold little kids' hands and chase after them when they decided to run. We wandered. We didn't hurry. We noticed lots of new things. We laughed. We had a really great day.

We talked about what "fallen firefighters" are and talked about what it means to be brave

We met a friendly lion who gave everyone a ride

Liza and Cubby put on a little dance at the amphitheater (and everyone else performed as well)
After our wandering and some more fun back at our house, we met up with grandfather at the train station and he took Cubby, Lyla and McKay on the train back to Salt Lake to meet up with their parents who'll be home tonight. The conductor let us get on the cool double decker train with them to get them settled (plus threw in a little tour of the train for the heck of it - the kids thought that was awesome). There were lots of long hugs and sweet good-byes as the train got ready to pull out. Good thing we get to see our little buddies again at Bear Lake in just a few weeks!


P.S. When I wrote this post earlier today, things were quite lovely. Since then, we've had several major kid melt-downs about usually non-major issues (this seems to be the price we pretty much always have to pay for action-packed days and late nights with cousins - but the cousin-bonding that results from those late nights and busy days is worth the price). My brief thought that 8 kids might actually be a manageable thing was doused by the craziness of this evening with just my 5 kids. 

The dinner I worked hard to make turned out to NOT to be tasty to Silas and he was in tears about having to eat a few spoonfuls. Oliver was totally lost it when I asked him to finish a job I asked him to do earlier in the day then let him leave for a while to play with McKay. Eliza kept getting her feelings hurt by EVERYONE. Isaac randomly decided he didn't want to go to scouts and really doesn't like scouts (He let me know about this via Silas - Isaac wouldn't respond when I was calling up to him after dinner to get his scout shirt on because it was time to go - so I sent Silas up there to get him while I searched for his scout book and Isaac sent Silas down with the message that he didn't like scouts and didn't want to go to scouts anymore. That lead to a little yelling on my part, I'll admit, and some tears on Isaac's part. But we had a good talk about the importance of scouts on the way to the scout meeting and things ended well.) . Then when I went into the bathroom to grab something later on, I found that there was a thin coating of powdered bathroom cleaner all over the walls, mirror, sink and floor (I'd asked Ashton to just clean the toilet in there earlier today and was pretty perplexed about how the toilet cleaning powder could permeate so many areas of the bathroom - especially when the toilet itself is in a separate little room...). I called Ashton down and asked what happened. He said the powder just spilled. I pointed out that spilling usually means things go DOWN - not up and all over the place. He didn't really have an answer. I didn't really care. I just told him to get that stuff cleaned up really well and get to bed. 

So no, it's not all sweetness and light around here. But I'll keep the bad stuff since I can't really have the good stuff without some bad I guess...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Impressive Camp Leaders

After all the fun we've been having with our Loosli Learning Adventures Camp, Ashton, Isaac and Eliza decided to set up their own "Adventure Camp" for all the neighborhood kids.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned to my my big kids that they could probably run a fun little day-camp for the little kids in the neighborhood for a few mornings and make some extra money. I told the kids that if they wanted to do a camp, I'd be happy to give them ideas and help a little when they asked but it would have to be entirely up to them.

They took the idea and ran with it.They made fliers (and asked me to look it over - I just had a couple format and content ideas), took them to families in the neighborhood with little kids (they came up with some ideas and asked me who else I'd recommend), managed registrations, had serious meetings to plan out how they'd divide the kids into groups and work the rotations and schedule activities (with a few suggestions from me about how long they might want to allot for different activities - they thought some things would take a lot longer than I knew they really would - but I let them learn some things through trial and error...), planned out a snack menu, put together a supply list of what they'd need and set up a time when I could take them to the store to get supplies and promptly reimbursed me.

Here's a screenshot of the spreadsheet they made with the schedule and activities and names and ages of the kids who registered. I don't know what some of those initials are for in the outside games - but they do - so it's all good. I do know that "MTH" stands for "Magic Tree House" books. It was so fun to see them discuss and plan games, books, and activities - and see that apparently a lot of the stuff I've done with them over the years was meaningful and fun enough that they remembered it and wanted to replicate it.

So for three mornings this week, we've had 14 little kids ages 3-7 at our house doing crafts (Eliza's specialty), outdoor games (Isaac's specialty) and magic and science (Ashton's specialty), snacks, story time, and free play time. And listening to my big kids present great activities to the little kids in cute sing-songy voices and throw out lots of encouragement and shower love and attention on their little charges and help them work through the little issues that arose has been priceless!

Here's their first meeting when they went over the schedule and rules of the camp with all the kids. The big kids had each group come up with a fun name for their group. They ended up with the "butterflies" (the youngest kids), the "panda bears" (the 5 year olds), and the "cheetah's" (the 6-7 year olds).

I caught some good moments on film but wish I'd been ready with the video at some of the greatest moments when my big kids were explaining and helping the little kids in such a cute way and when the little kids were looking so adoringly at my big kids.

Here's a little video of the teachers getting everyone organized on the first day:

Here's Eliza with an arts and crafts group (they did bendaroos, pipe cleaners, paper airplanes, moon sand, sketching, painting, origami, you name it).

Here's Isaac getting the kids going on outdoor games:

Here's Ashton doing magic and science (he taught them simple magic tricks - he's SO into magic - and he did fun science like making goo and doing fun stuff with vinegar and baking soda.

Here are the kids enjoying their snacks out on the lawn - one of the leaders prepped the snacks each day while the other two supervised free-play time. (Yes, we need a new fence. We're working on it...)

And here's their final water party:

Here are all the kids just before pickup today, the final day of the camp. The top row are the "camp counselors" - Ashton, Isaac and Eliza plus some friends who wanted to help out with the extra-special activities on the last day (water play, mini-pizzas, making "goo," painting - things that could use the help of extra counselors).

You see, one of my big goals as a mom is to prepare my kids to be great moms and dads one day (maybe they won't get the chance - I know that's not in the cards for everyone - but I'd like them to really "get" little kids one way or another). So seeing my kids doing such a great job with these little kids gives me the sense that my goal is coming along pretty nicely. You don't get a ton of opportunities as a mom to see in a concrete way that you're meeting your goals as a mom, so you've got to cherish those you get!


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