Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Painting Easter Eggs and Listening to Handel's Messiah

We've got Easter Week in full swing around here. We acted out Palm Sunday, we talked about the cleansing of the temple, and then we dyed Easter Eggs. As always, we dyed the first egg red (Bulgarian tradition) to symbolize Christ's blood (the red dye) and his rebirth (the egg). We talked about and memorized John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever should believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life") while we worked on dying our eggs. We also listened to and talked about the words in Handel's Messiah - perfect music to have on during Easter (did you know it was actually written for Easter, not Christmas?). "Surely, he hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows...and with his stripes we are healed..."

I love that the kids are old enough now to really have fun creating beautiful and creative eggs. I love that permanent egg dye spilling all over the place isn't such a stressful possibility anymore. I love that they were actually singing along with snippets of the Messiah as they worked on their eggs even though we haven't listened to it for quite a while. I love that we could really feel the Spirit in our home as we enjoyed a creative and fun project together while thinking about and discussing the key event in the history of the world - Christ's Atonement.

Here are some photos of our creations (sharpie pens, egg paint and q-tips, and putting electrical tape on eggs to create letters and patterns were some favorite techniques this year).

Eliza loved her "E" egg.

Ashton made the awesome "L" for Loosli and lightening egg on the left and Jared made his traditional Loosli egg on the right using electrical tape.

Silas went for the drippy look (on both his eggs and his hands):

I made my two traditional eggs - a "sunset egg" dipped in red, orange and yellow bit by bit and a spring green egg to celebrate all the green shoots we're seeing outside. I realized this has become a tradition when the kids asked if I was going to do my sunset egg and spring egg. Fun when they remember things that even I don't remember.

Isaac made a very cool egg with lots of little triangles of electrical tape and everyone was excited to see how it would turn out:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dr Seuss, Teeth, Haircut, B-ball Champion, Family Visitors, Bull Sale, Violin Lessons

Lots of great stuff happens around here that doesn't quite add up to a whole blog post but does need to be captured. So I'm trying to do one post a month that catches this stuff.

I finally got around to giving Silas a haircut. Here's the before picture:

Here's the "after" picture. He was quite pleased to get a haircut like his dad's and look a little more different from Oliver. We always have lots of people thank us when we do what we can do to help these twins of ours look a little more different from each other. And they like it when people can keep them straight. Different haircuts help.

We had Dr Seuss day at school and Eliza got to be "Thing 1" with her friend Lucy as "Thing 2." Practically every kid in the school wanted a photo with Thing 1 and Thing 2 and Eliza enjoyed her time in the spotlight.

In preparation for the party at school, Oliver made himself a "Sneech suit" and Silas made himself a "Cat in the Hat hat." They came up with the ideas and made their outfits totally on their own. We read a bunch of Dr Seuss stories together while they worked on their costumes. We love Dr Seuss.

When we got back from the party at the school, we had green eggs for dinner. The kids were thrilled.

Isaac's basketball team won the championship on Saturday. What a team! There were several kids who were truly amazing at three-pointers. And Isaac was great at getting the ball into the right people's hands. He really had a great basketball season and even though he was recovering from strep throat for the championship game, I was proud of him that he got in there and played his very best anyway. Here he is with the championship prize he got - a t-shirt.

We've got a lot of missing teeth. And a very delinquent tooth fairy. Isaac just showed me an envelope of 9 teeth he's got under his pillow. Oops.

Isaac had to have a few baby teeth pulled because they just weren't coming out on their own and the big teeth were bulging and trying to come in. He now has the perfect bunny teeth for Easter but says it's a little hard to chew with so few teeth.
Silas wins the prize for the biggest gap I've ever seen in the front of his mouth.

Oliver's a step ahead of Silas on getting those top teeth in and wow, he's getting some BIG teeth that aren't exactly coming in straight. We've got a lot of orthadontics in our future, I'm afraid!

My sister Shawni and her family came to town to ski for spring break and we met up for dinner at my parents' place. So fun to be with those guys.

My mom handed off all our old prom and graduation dresses to me and Shawni - fun little walk down memory lane.

Isaac got to go skiing with Shawni's kids and had a fabulous time.

Jared's sister Jayne and her daughters came to visit and we celebrated Jayne's birthday with a fun party (and a cake that the twins were so pleased to make entirely by themselves for their very beloved Aunt Jayne). SO great to have time with these guys!

After asking off an on if she could start violin lessons, Eliza finally got out my old violin, handed it to me and asked me to teach her. So I did. And she can now hold the bow and violin correctly and play lovely whole notes without much screeching at all. She knows all the parts of the violin and understands how to tighten and loosen the bow and all that good stuff. We'll move on to fingering and paying Twinkle Twinkle Little Star next. It's been fun to play my beautiful old violin again as I've demonstrated to Liza. After this post, I've been thinking a ton about music and I've gotten up the energy to get going on more musical education for my children.

And last but not least, Jared took Ashton and the twins up to the Farm to help with the annual Loosli Bull Sale a couple weeks ago. They all had a great time working and playing. Oliver and Silas helped shovel manure and built a swing in the barn where they could swing off huge hay bales. They had the time of their little lives. Ashton helped get all the bulls lined up for the auctioneer and was the right-hand man of his cool cousin Mark who's a great worker. Eliza and Isaac stayed home with me because Isaac really really really wanted to try out for the school soccer team and Eliza didn't want to miss her beloved dance class. Isaac made it through the first cuts for the soccer team (impressive for a 6th grader, I thought, since it's a junior high team) but didn't make the team. He was pretty sad. But I was proud of him for trying! Jared and I both loved having special time with just a few of the kids for a few days.

I don't have actual bull sale photos but here's a screen shot of the website and you can even click HERE and see some of the bulls in action. I love that we get to be connected to the wonderful Loosli farm.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

They're Driving me Crazy!

I write a lot of nice things about my kids on this blog because there are a lot of nice things to write and because I like to try to keep things fairly positive when I share information about my kids. But wow, these kids of mine are giving me a run for my money lately! They cannot seem to stop bugging each other and/or being overly sensitive about what each other was doing. Some of them have been pretty critical of me - in a disrespectful way (I'm all for constructive criticism, but wow, the tone of voice needs to be nicer!) And some of them seem to have developed some bad habits that are awfully hard to break.

Here's some of what's getting to me (presented in as anonymous a way as possible):
  • One kid is going through this phase where they take every possible occasion to point out every little thing that anyone says slightly wrong. (Like someone will say we watched a certain movie Saturday night and it was actually Friday night and the error has to be thoroughly pointed out repeatedly until other family members chorus together "Who cares???")
  • One kid is constantly being called "annoying" by another kid. We've had to institute a new (and somewhat effective) policy that anyone who uses the word "annoying" owes me a dollar.
  • One kid is just plain grumpy most of the time lately, seems to have a perma-scowl on their face, and has something ranging from not-so-nice to downright mean to say to pretty much everyone.
  • One kid (or two) cannot sit still - always seems to be bouncing off the walls.
  • One kid wants to sit still way too much - wants to sit and read or be on the computer all day and resists all suggestions to get outside and do something active. 
  • One kid will never admit that they are ever wrong about anything - even in the face of pretty darn obvious proof.
  • One kid generally will not give complete answers to questions that Jared or I ask them and insists on being as evasive and vague as can be. I'll ask something perfectly nice and normal like "So what homework do you have tonight?" and they'll say "Math" then I'll say "what do you need to do for math? and they'll say "some stuff" and I'll say "can you please be a bit more specific? how long do you think it'll take" and they'll say "as long as it takes." It's painful.
  • One kid is really into "dog-piling." If Jared or I (or anyone else) points out something that someone else could work on, this kid likes to really drive the point home by re-iterating whatever we've said and adding some more criticism.
  • One kid gets their feelings hurt very easily and is not easily consoled (there are actually a couple kids who seem to trade off taking this role).
  • One kid uses superlatives a whole lot - "I NEVER get to _______." "You ALWAYS make me do ________."
  • One kid points out all the time what everyone else seems to be doing that we don't permit in our family and what everyone else in the world doesn't have to do that we do have to do in our family.
  • One kid bursts into tears over what seems like nothing sometimes and then can't seem to identify why the tears are happening.
  • One kid keeps getting sick and needing lots of special attention (not at all their fault but adds to the stress around here).
  • One kid cannot leave the computer alone and keeps sneaking onto the computer when their computer time is up.
  • We talk about our "sweet" - the best thing that happened to us, our "sour" - the worst thing that happened to us, and our "service" - something we did for someone else that day - every night at dinner. Last night, one child said that their "sour" was the nice dinner I'd worked hard to make.
  • One kid wants to talk to me all the time and gets offended when they don't get the full attention they require.
  • One kid takes off whenever I try to talk to them or has next-to-nothing to say.
  • One kid is just plain messy and cannot seem to remember to clean up the crayons and paper pieces and craft supplies that they are always spreading across the table and floor.
  • One kid is super smart but can't seem to remember to turn in school assignments so their grades are suffering (or make that two kids).
  • One kid is always late to the table for scriptures and moves in slow motion as we try to get out the door for school, often making us late. (It sort of switches off week by week which kid this is.)
  • One kid says "I know" in response to pretty much everything I say. "You need to clean up your room." "I know." "I've got to take so-and-so to such-and-such." "I know." I've tried to point out that if they know they're supposed to clean up their room, then why is it that I need to point it out? And how could they possibly know the things I'm just telling them for the first time?
  • Several kids tend to interrupt me and everyone else constantly. I keep suggesting that I really can't listen to them when I'm in the middle of saying something. It's not sinking in.
  • One kid leaves assignments until way too late in the game. I sat up until 11pm with one kid last night, helping them write a book report for the THIRD time since the original draft was inadvertently lost by the computer randomly shutting down and losing it then the second version was inadvertently lost by the kid not saving it correctly.
  • One kid does about 5% of any assigned job and then needs to go the the bathroom - every single time.
  • One kid does about 5% of any assigned job and then disappears without an excuse.

But you know what? I guess I'll keep them, warts and all. I'm sure I'm doing some things wrong to help inspire some of this behavior. And some of this stuff needs to be ignored. And more positive reinforcement is definitely needed. And more one-on-one time with each kid always helps. We'll get back on track here.

To get my mind and heart in a better place, I'm going to share some of the great things going on around here - many of which are the flip-side of the behaviors laid out above:

  • One kid produces beautiful artwork (and messes) constantly. The artwork is totally worth the mess.
  • One kid has an amazing smile that is all the more beautiful given how seldom I get to see it lately.
  • One kid tells me interesting facts about what's going on in the world of technology and helps me fix any computer problem I have.
  • A couple kids are developing great senses of humor. I love it when we laugh together.
  • Most of the kids are generally very respectful and obedient when asked to do something or not to do something. They seem to appreciate and embrace the logic of our family rules.
  • One kid loves talking with me and tells me all the details about their day along with assessment of what was great, OK and not-so-good.
  • One kid is so tender-hearted and loving (and sensitive) and notices whenever I or anyone else needs a little extra love.
  • One kid's teacher told me they were so impressed with this kid's kindness as they continually helped a child with special needs in their class. The teacher said "That kid just has a kind and good spirit - really unique and special."
  • One kid points out all the little beautiful things in the world around us.
  • One kid loves to help me with any project I need to do (and is actually very capable and helpful).
  • Three kids always say "thanks for the ride, I love you" and blow me kisses when I drop them off at school.
  • One kid has had their grades improve quite a bit this year. Another has had them improve dramatically this year.
  • One kid is totally great (almost fastidious) about making sure they do all their homework in a timely manner.
  • One kid (or two) does their after-dinner job and "zone" clean-up area of the house quickly, happily and well (switches off which kids this is).
  • Most kids happily eat everything I ever make for them.
  • One kid (or two) is at the table on time for scriptures every morning (even when I'm a bit late). 
  • One emotional kid is more full of happy and joyous emotions than sad emotions.
  • All the big kids are so very kind and helpful to all the younger kids at church and in the neighborhood.
  • One kid practically trips me with big hugs several times a day.
  • One kid gives me a spontaneous hug about once every few months and that hug is priceless.
  • One kid sings me this sweet song they made up about how much they love me several times a day.
  • One kid tells me every night that I'm the best mom in the whole wide world.
There is no all-or-nothing. There's very little black-and-white. There's just a lot of up and down and around and around. And that's OK.

Monday, March 18, 2013

St Patrick's Day

So I've never really been into St Patrick's Day. It mostly seems like an excuse for stores to market all sorts of green merchandise and for a lot of people to get drunk. But the kids love it and over the past few years, I've learned to embrace the simple fun it can offer during the dreary end-of-winter. We're sort of hit-and-miss with traditions for this holiday but I think it's nice to just go with whatever the kids think would be fun and not have any "musts" as far as traditions really.

Last week, as we were sitting in the car waiting for something, we were next to an Irish pub covered with shamrock-studded St Patrick's Day promotional signs. The kids asked why we have St Patrick's Day and why all the shamrocks and green stuff. So we pulled out my smart phone and had a nice little learning moment as we did a little research. Turns out St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland back in the 400's. He supposedly used a shamrock to help explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish pagans. (I'm sure there were plenty of three-leaf clovers underfoot to use as an object lesson.). St Patrick died on March 17th, 461. Turns out blue used to be the color of St Patrick's day but eventually green took over and green is the color of the shamrock and a great symbol of new life, of faith, and of growth (all of which St Patrick helped bring to the Irish). Turns out there's no readily available information on how leprechauns got involved in St Patricks Day - but they are a nice addition to spark the imagination and add a kid-friendly aspect to the whole thing. (I did find out that leprechauns are considered a type of fairy and that they used to wear red, not green. Interesting.) Knowing a bit more about the origins of the holiday made me feel even more friendly towards St Patrick's Day.

This year's celebrations were extra fun because I really let the kids take the lead and they each came up with fun surprises for the rest of the family. Eliza helped me pick out some festive decorations at the dollar store. The twins wanted to buy chocolate gold coins when we were together at the grocery store and they planned out that they'd "be leprochauns" and hide gold coins for everyone to find plus help me figure out what to say on a note from a leprochaun that would explain the treasure hunt.

The night before St Patrick's day, Oliver and Silas hid the gold coins they'd picked out and gleefully helped me set the table nicely for St Patrick's Day breakfast (plus the came up the idea of serving green water with breakfast and were thrilled with the result). In the morning, Ashton and Isaac helped me make green eggs on toast and sliced green pears for everyone for breakfast. After breakfast, everyone was pleased as punch about their extravagant St Patrick's Day presents - a couple of pencils each from the dollar store (seems we're always needing more pencils around here!).

While Jared finished up his meetings at church, the kids and I surprised him by setting the table extra nice for Sunday dinner with the china and crystal and all. Then we feasted on corned beef and cabbage and potatoes and carrots.

We finished off the day with some green cookies that Oliver and Silas made (and that were really yummy despite their appearance!).

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Scripture Challenge Finale - Favorite talk on the Atonement

So the scripture challenge I did with my mom and sisters is officially over (I posted something I'd learned through the scriptures or church pretty much every Sunday for weeks). And I won. Yes, I'm awesome. But I'm going to keep posting my spiritual thoughts quite a bit. Since one of the big reasons I blog is for my posterity, I want them to know what lessons I'm learning and offer them inspiration that could help them in their lives. Plus, hey, some of you readers seem to really like this stuff.

Anyway, as my official "finale" to my scripture challenge posts and as a precursor to Easter, I want to share my very favorite thoughts about the Atonement of Christ. The passage below is from the book Lighten Up by Cheiko Okazaki (was in the General Relief Society Presidency - our church's women's organization). My sister Shawni and I shared this with each other in letters when we were both serving missions for our church. It made me cry then. It makes me cry now. It reminds me that no matter what I may be going through, I'm never alone. And it helps me really feel the beauty of the Atonement in my heart.

We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence as part of his great Atonement in Gethsemane. It's our faith that he experienced everything - absolutely everything. Sometimes we don't think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family that Jesus took upon himself. 

But we don't experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. 

That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer - how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.

Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. 

On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. 

He knows all that. He's been there. He's been lower than all that. 

He's not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don't need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief. 

You know that people who live above a certain latitude and experience very long winter nights can become depressed and even suicidal, because something in our bodies requires whole spectrum light for a certain number of hours a day. Our spiritual requirement for light is just as desperate and as deep as our physical need for light. Jesus is the light of the world. We know that this world is a dark place sometimes, but we need not walk in darkness. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and the people who walk in darkness can have a bright companion. We need him, and He is ready to come to us, if we'll open the door and let him.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Moments of Love

In my Learning Circle last month, we discussed a great article on love and came away with the assignment to write down the little moments and acts that fill our hearts with love for our families for at least five days.

Here's what I recorded (and I think I'll keep doing this - love recording and cherishing these little moments!)

Yesterday I walked to the younger kids' school to surprise them with the chance to enjoy the beautiful weather by walking home together and enjoying a stop at their favorite park. I picked up the kids and we all walked to the park, then when Isaac called from his school, I asked him to come meet us at the park. He was grumpy and said he didn't want to meet us at the park - he'd rather just walk home on his own. But I wanted him to walk home with us so we could have a nice time together and so that he wouldn't have to walk home alone (Ashton had to stay late at school and I don't like them walking home alone, especially w/o a cell phone and Ashton had the phone). Isaac agreed to meet us as we headed towards his school - or so I thought. Turns out he thought he was supposed to meet us at the park and he took a different route from us so we missed each other. He ended up at the park by himself while we were at his school looking for him. (A friend of mine was kind enough to go look for Isaac at the park while I went home to see if he'd decided to do his original idea and just walk home. My friend found him at the park and brought him to the house.) I thought my instructions and our agreement about where to meet were clear, but apparently they were not. Isaac was mad at me. I was frustrated that my plans for a spontaneous and fun afternoon enjoying the beautiful weather with my kids hadn't turned out and was sad that Isaac was sad and mad.

Anyway, after we were all safely back home, Isaac and I had a big talk. He told me his whole side of the story and I listened and tried to simply empathize and not be defensive. Then I gave him a big long hug and told him my whole side of the story. I felt so much love for this boy of mine as I really listened to him and thought about how grateful I am for him, for his safety, for what a good boy he is. And when we got done explaining our points of view to each other, I told him about a silver lining that had happened while I was looking for him at the school. One of his teachers came up to me and said she'd been meaning to talk to me about Isaac and went on to tell me that she loved having him in her class so much and that he just has a very kind and helpful spirit and was a real joy to teach. She told me about a little boy with special needs that Isaac has been helping and how Isaac did such a good job explaining science concepts to this kid and helping him to focus. I felt so much love for Isaac as the teacher told me all this. And then I felt even more love for him as I told him about what his teacher said and saw his tears turn to a big smile.

Sometimes the sweetest moments come after the worst moments, I guess!


It's so easy to be a great mom when I'm used to having five kids and I suddenly just have two! Jared took the twins and Ashton up to help with the annual Bull Sale at his family's farm in Idah - Isaac and Eliza had obligations here so I stayed with them. Making a lovely dinner for three is a snap. Enjoying a board game with just two big kids is a pleasure. Getting just the three of us ready for church was so easy. Being patient and loving is a lot easier when there are just a couple kids needing my attention. I've loved the chance to shower attention on Isaac and Eliza and really focus on doing what they want to do for a few days. They made a list of fun things we'd do together while the others were gone and we got to pretty much everything on the list - play a board game, go on a walk, play soccer together at the park, get frames at the dollar store to frame all the great artwork the kids have produced and hang them up in the kitchen, make brownie sundaes, have a little read-a-thon. I loved seeing Liza's face light up with pride once we got her artwork nicely displayed - and seeing Isaac and Eliza get excited about how excited the twins would be to see some of their artwork up in frames when they returned home. (I need to get Isaac and Ashton to contribute to the gallery now...)

But while I'm feeling the love in a wonderful way for these two kids and enjoying some special time with them and a bit of a break, I'm feeling my heart grow extra fondness and love for those who are gone. The three of us are a lovely, manageable little family for a few days - but I'm starting to miss the constant party of our regular family of seven, even though it brings its share of craziness with it!

Last night, Eliza, Isaac and I got the twins on speaker phone and heard all about the adventures they're having up at the farm. The twins, in their cute, funny little voices, told us all about how they'd played in the barn on the hay stacks, helped shovel manure, and met some "totally adorable" newborn calves. I felt so much love for Oliver and Silas as I heard their cute voices and when we got off the phone, Eliza, Isaac and I talked about how much we love those little boys. Isaac talked about how sad he is that they're growing up so fast. Eliza talked about how funny and cute they are when they play together (the other day she saw them playing with their big firetruck and pretending it was an adorable little dog). Hearing my kids express love and appreciation for each other always fills my heart to overflowing.

When Jared, Oliver, Silas, and Ashton got home last night, it was SO good to see them! Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Oliver and Silas gave me big big hugs and Silas sang the song he always sings for me - "Mom, I love you so, so much, I will never stop loving you." When I hugged Ashton (he's not one to initiate a hug), I caught our reflection in the window and saw that he's very nearly as tall as me. How did my baby get so big! He got a big smile on his face when I pointed this out. And he went on to tell me all about the work he did at the bull sale - drawing me a diagram so I could see how he lined up the bulls in the order assigned by the auctioneer and got them ready to go into the sale barn. It was great to see him so excited to tell me about his work and success. He's such a young man all of the sudden!

Isaac didn't make the soccer team and he's so sad. He really looked good and played his heart out but I guess it wasn't meant to be (and as a 6th grader trying out for the 6-9 grade team, it was tricky). My heart ached for this boy of mine whose soccer dreams had been dashed. I felt such love for him as the tears rolled down his cheeks and he tried to buck up and be a good sport about it. All the other kids were so nice to him about it - loved seeing that.

Oliver's prayer last night: "Thanks so much that I can have my mom and that we get to be together forever and that we're back together now and that she takes such good care of me." So nice to be so loved and needed and appreciated.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Eyre Family Orchestra (or lack thereof)

Last weekend, when my mom and I were waiting to meet up with the rest of my sisters and sisters-in-law for our MFME Retreat, we saw a bunch of teenagers carrying cased violins and other instruments - a traveling orchestra. My mom smiled at them. And I think that deep inside, a little spark of one of her long-ago unrealized dreams perked up for a melancholy moment. I see this same sort of slightly nostalgic smile on my mom's face when she talks about great young musicians or families of great musicians like the Five Browns.

My mom dreamed of raising a bunch of amazing musicians and having a family orchestra. But it didn't exactly work out the way she dreamed.

My mom's mom came from a very musical family. She and her parents and many siblings played in church and at all the dances in their town. Grandma went on to conduct the yearly "operettas" at the elementary school and teach piano lessons to pretty much everyone who was remotely interested in music in the small town where they lived. She made sure that her two daughters devoted hours every day to honing their own musical talents. My mom sometimes hated having to practice so much but music became one of the great joys of her life as she became a fabulous violist and learned to play the piano well also. Her sister became a fabulous pianist and a pretty good violinist. The two sisters played at just about every wedding and funeral throughout Bear Lake Valley when they were young and their musical talents (along with their charm and good looks) helped them each be crowned "Miss Bear Lake", my mom one year, then my aunt the next, then carried them on to great things in college. Music gave them identity and purpose and joy and opportunities.

My mom dreamed of having a large family. Naturally, music would be a big part of the lives of the ten children she planned to have. With such a large family, there could be a whole family orchestra, not just a little duo like she had with her sister. Her family could be sort of like the family in the Sound of Music - singing together, playing instruments together. It would be heavenly. 

When I was six, my parents gave me a half-size violin for my birthday and I was excited to learn to play the violin like my mom. It seemed I had some talent and things came somewhat easily to me. I didn't like practicing but it was just a necessary part of life that I didn't really question and it was great to master a beautiful piece and get a "superior" rating when I'd do juries.

My mom was great about helping all of us practice our instruments. I really don't know how she managed to keep up with our lessons and practicing with so many kids! Sometimes, when we couldn't find a great teacher, mom was our teacher. But that didn't work so well - too many power struggles. So she worked hard to find us good teachers and invested a lot of time and money into our musical educations.

Every day when we got home from school, mom made sure classical music was playing. She taught us to identify the great classical composers and took us to symphonies. She did music flashcards with all of us from a very young age so we could learn the notes and clap out rhythms and all that. And she kept up with her own violin playing, practicing and performing with her own string quartet regularly while we were growing up and performing violin solos here and there. Plus she always accompanied us on the piano when we were playing our instruments or singing.

Thanks to our mom (and our dad's total support and encouragement), we could see the beauty and joy and importance of music.

When I was in 5th, 6th, and 7th, grades (or so), every morning at about 6:30am, Shawni, Mom, Dad and I met in the living room for "Ensemble" (I thought it was "ansambo" until I finally saw it written out one day). We had our own little string quartet. I played 1st violin, Shawni played 2nd violin, mom played viola, and Dad did a pretty darn good job with the cello as long as there were only about 8 notes involved in his part. Over time, our little string quartet got pretty good. We even performed sometimes.

As music was a big part of our lives, when a magazine was doing a feature on my parents (thanks to one of their book tours), a lot of the photos they took involved us playing instruments (some that we really played, some that just came off my parents' prized "instrument wall" where they kept beautiful and interesting instruments from all their travels - everything from Peruvian goat toenail percussion rattles to crocodile-skin banjos to Chinese violins to an African harp).

When I was 12, mom got me in with a really great violin teacher who helped me find the joy in music more fully. I had the opportunity to be in a first-rate orchestra in junior high school and I loved that feeling of mastering a lovely, difficult piece and performing with an orchestra  - hearing all the instruments come together to create something big and beautiful. I was overjoyed when I made first chair in that orchestra. Then in high school, I was able to be part of a selective violin sextet and we performed all over. I made some good friends and experienced the joy of working hard and seeing great results.

But I didn't love the violin. My back always ached so much when I was practicing. And the violin seemed so common - EVERYONE I knew played the violin, it seemed. I encouraged my younger sister, Saydi, to go for the cello instead - it seemed so much more unusual and interesting. And I looked longingly at violas - that deeper lovely sound . . . But I'd already invested so much in the violin - it made sense to stick with it. When I was a junior in high school, I started playing the harp and loved that - but it was a little late in the game to go very far on the harp before I was off to college and busy with other things. I decided that when I was a mom, I'd introduce my kids to all the different instruments and then let them decide what they wanted to play.

Singing required less practice and offered more immediate rewards for me and I was a pretty decent singer. In elementary school and junior high, I sang with a performing group with my sisters and we practiced for hours every week and had a whole lot of performances. It was really fun. Then in high school, I sang in some audition-only small groups and was in a top-tier 12-member a-cappella group in college that performed at concerts almost every weekend and involved lots of travel and fun.

Shawni was way better than me at getting up early and practicing hard without complaining. But piano and violin didn't come very easily to her. And while she was a good singer and seemed to enjoy being in the singing group we were in, she didn't really love singing and never felt like she was particularly good at it.

Josh had talent but hated praticing. He tried violin and piano and trumpet (wow, that was loud!) but ultimately, my mom realized that building a good relationship with her son was more important than making him into a musician.

Saydi was the best musician of all of us. She played the piano beautifully and sang really well (she starred in the musical "Annie," sang the national anthem at an NBA game one time, and made her own CD). She also learned to play the cello well. She was a natural at every musical thing she tried. She praticed hard and all that she touched in music seemed to turn to gold. We joked that Saydi was mom's favorite because she was such a great musician.

Jonah didn't go far on piano or violin but had a fun time playing the drums. He had the bedroom next to mine and I woke up at 6:30am every day to him banging out "Danger Zone" from Top Gun on his drums. I'm not sure if he ever learned any other songs. Jonah was a good singer - sang in a couple small groups in high school.

I think Talmadge, Noah, Eli and Charity took piano lessons for a while. Tal, Noah and Eli sang in the choir in high school and maybe in small groups as well. Charity ended up becoming a great flutist and a beautiful singer. But music sort of fizzled out a bit with the younger kids as sports became a huge focus for that string of four brothers born in a row.

So mom never quite got her orchestra. But she did get a fairly decent string quartet for a while there and saw a few of her children achieve some nice things in their musical pursuits. More importantly, perhaps, she helped all nine children develop a life-long passion for music. Every one of us loves, loves, loves music. We all have different tastes and we're always introducing new musicians and favorite songs to each other. A high point of our family reunion every year is the unveiling of the "Eyrealm CD" of the year - everyone submits their favorite song from the past year and the reunion organizers create a CD with all the adults' picks and a CD with the kids' picks - 40+ great songs from many different genres that we listen to all year and that remind us of the people who submitted each song.

So my mom did get a family full of serious music-appreciators. And a bunch of kids who learned a lot about hard work and discipline and success through music lessons and performances. And a posterity that values and cherishes music.

And some of us have taken off on music later in life. Josh has bought himself a keyboard and taught himself to play the piano quite well and loves teaching the kids in his class about music (he teaches elementary school). And Shawni has done a great job ensuring that her children take music lessons and progress nicely in music - she's even been able to accompany some of them on the piano and teach some of them piano lessons herself.

I don't play the violin much anymore or sing with any groups. It just hasn't worked out for me. I never found myself a string quartet group like my mom had and opportunities to sing in groups sort of fizzled out over time. On occasion, I get out my beautiful old violin and play for the kids. They love it. I should do that more. I did buy myself a ukelele the other day when I saw a lovely one that came with a nice little instruction book at Costco. I've taught myself a few songs and it's been fun to get that feeling of achievement from learning something new again. But it's been hard to find time to really get into it.

With my own children, I haven't done a whole lot with music. I've made sure they can all read music and have given them some piano lessons here and there. Ashton can play a couple hymns on the piano. I've asked around about good teachers but haven't actually signed any of them up for lessons. I've made sure that we listen to classical music and we've learned a bit about the great composers plus we've been to great musical performances. The kids can identify all the instruments and can usually pick out what instrument is playing what when they listen to music. Jared's taught Ashton some chords on the guitar and he's gone on to teach himself a lot of songs. He saved up his money to buy an electric guitar. He's really quite talented and one of these days, I'm really going to find him a great teacher. Eliza mentions wanting to try violin once in a while and maybe I should help her pursue that. All the kids get to take music at school so that's nice.

There are just SO many wonderful things to spend time on. The kids love writing and reading and playing outside. We hike a lot and bike a lot. The kids have a lot more homework than I remember having. Scouts and dance and sports take a lot of time. And I feel like we've all got plenty on our plate. For years, we really couldn't afford music lessons and now I'm just not sure how music fits in and whether I should be making a bigger effort in that area. I think music is so wonderful and important and that practicing and passing off pieces is great for kids. But so are a lot of other things.

I'm so grateful for the wonderful musical education my parents - especially my mom - provided for me. I just don't think I've got the passion and diligence and conviction it takes to be a musician-mom like my mom. But writing this out has made me realize that I do want and need to do more with music with my kids. So I'd better get Ashton that guitar teacher, take the time to work with the kids on piano more and get them to the point that they can each play at least a hymn or two, and maybe give Eliza a chance on the violin.

How important do YOU think it is for kids to take music lessons?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Retreat with My Mom and Sisters - MFME 2013

I'm amazingly blessed to be related to each of these women.

Last weekend, I got to spend three and a half precious days with my mom, my 3 sisters and my 4 sisters-in-law in Laguna Beach, CA.

My mom decided to use the money her wonderful, frugal, hard-working mother left for her to enable us to get together for an MFME (Mothers and Future Mothers of Eyrealm) retreat at least every other year. The purpose is to get away to gain perspective, have fun, and fill each other up so we can be the moms and wives and people we want and need to be. (And this idea of my mom's is what spurred Power of Moms Retreats.)

Since we live in NYC, Boston, DC, San Diego, San Francisco, Hawaii, Phoenix and Utah, it's a trick finding a place we can all fly into with direct flights and cheapish airfares. LA proved to be the best option this year. And wow, were we ever blessed with amazing weather! the high 70's and low 80's felt heavenly!

We hung out on the beautiful deck of the very-cool eco-friendly house we rented (up the canyon about a mile from the beach), enjoyed the beach, ate at wonderful restaurants, made cookies (a must at an Eyre get-together), went for some great runs and walks, took turns coaxing great smiles and coos out of Julie and Eli's adorable first baby Zara, oohed and ahhed over the beautiful architecture, fun details and lovely plants and landscaping all around, and talked, talked, talked, talked, talked.

The house where we stayed:

Talking on the deck:

On a walk around the neighborhood:

Morning run and yoga on the beach:

Enjoying the sunset:

Talking on the beach:

Wandering around Laguna Beach and watching a parade:

Eating way too much yummy food: (and my dad popped in to surprise us for a few hours!)

We reported back on the daily scripture reading challenge we agreed to when we were together last summer at Bear Lake (and I got a prize - a beautiful candle - for keeping up with my reading and reporting on it every week on my blog here!). We shared our "best" and "worst" about the previous year. We laughed until we cried about things our kids have said and done and crazy moments we've each had. We recorded a podcast for Power of Moms about some of our most ridiculous "mom moments." We all read "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindberg and discussed that along with really interesting articles that each of us submitted for everyone to read in advance. And we talked about food - a lot. In honor of the fact that we're all pretty into food, Julie gathered everyone's favorite recipes from the past year and put them all together for each of us. Yeah Julie!

And we came away with a new challenge that we'll all follow up on each other about. Inspired by "Gift from the Sea" as well as many points from the articles we read, we're all going to set aside 10 minutes a day, one hour a week, and 3 hours a month to really fill ourselves up - to meditate, to pray, to learn something new, to do something that's purely about self-development and/or relaxation. We realized we all could use more dedicated time for just being rather than focusing so much on doing.

Here are some personal resolutions I made on top of our joint resolution:

I will take time to think every day - not just about what to do, but about who to be.

I will do something every day that fills me up and teaches me something new or reminds me of something important. I'm always pouring out and pouring out without filling up leads to some meager offerings and some serious depletion.

I will stop beating myself up about not being all things to all people all the time. I'll more fully embrace the great concepts in these posts that have really changed my thinking and actions lately:

  • How to be all Things to all People (Get rid of guilt by telling people what your heart wishes you could do, then explaining what will actually work for you and what won't)
  • Drops of Awesome (Realize that every little good thing we do is a drop of awesome that can only build, and cannot be depleted when we omit something or do something bad; realize that the Atonement takes care of the many many many drops it takes to go from our best efforts to what it takes to be what God wants and needs us to be)
I'll blog about what I really feel in my heart more and less about what I feel I "should" blog about.

I will stop trying so hard to suck the marrow out of every day and every experience. I can't really enjoy life when I'm trying so hard to enjoy life. Enjoying comes from sitting back, taking in, accepting what comes, loving what comes.

I will stop trying so hard to stretch myself and cover all that I feel I need to be covering. I'm stretching myself too thin too often and all that stretching is often not adding up to all that much in the end. As the instructor said in my yoga class the other day, "you can't really stretch until you relax. Once you really relax, you can really stretch." As she said that, a light bulb went on in my head. I'm trying too hard! I'm overthinking things! As I focus on RELAXING, not stretching, I'll actually be able to stretch in the ways I need to stretch.

Love this post by Saydi - she captured things so well and brought tears to my eyes:

Love this post by Charity too:
Eyre Girls Hit Laguna Beach

And on a much lighter note, here's a video Aja made. Can you tell that we couldn't hear the music? We just did what Aja instructed us to do w/o really having a clue what we were doing...But actually the words to the music go pretty well with our weekend...

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Deliberate Mother's Guide to a Christ-Centered Easter

I spent the most wonderful weekend with my mom, sisters and sisters-in-law last weekend. I've got all these new ideas and lots of great photos that I'll post soon. My life and kids looked more wonderful to me when I got home than they have in a long time (there were piles of laundry and an empty fridge waiting for me what I got home, but that was totally expected and OK). Breaks are so vital!

Anyway, after putting in some laundry, re-stocking the fridge, and enjoying a great night last night with the kids as we celebrated Dr Seuss's birthday by reading our favorite books, eating green eggs, and going to a celebration at the kids' school, I got going on writing up the Power of Moms and Motherhood Matters post I promised to have done today.

Too many hours later, my post is finally ready and I have to say I think it turned out pretty well. Writing this article was a great excuse to go back through all the things we've done for Easter over the years, gather the resources of videos and scripture passages, find the best photos, and put everything in one place. Easter will go so nicely for us this year with all my tried-and-true ideas laid out in this article. And I hope the article will be helpful for many others as well. Please add your ideas in the comments on the article itself, if you will! The more ideas, the better.

I hope this article will give you some great ideas! Some of them involve stuff you'd want to start thinking about quite soon so I wanted to get it up while we've still got a few weeks until Easter.

A Deliberate Mother's Guide to a Christ-Centered Easter


Related Posts with Thumbnails