Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dreaded Birthdays - and a very good one

Yesterday was my birthday.

I actually kind of dread my birthdays - and this isn't just a recent thing that came with age and not wanting to have to face the fact that I'm getting older. Even as a kid, birthdays were hard for me for various reasons. I generally didn't get to have a friend birthday party because we were usually up at Bear Lake for the whole summer, far from friends. I usually celebrated with my family and whatever random visiting friends or extended family might be at the lake on July 30th. There was always cake and presents (usually school supplies wrapped in tin foil) and my family always tried to do some nice things to make my birthday special even though I was one of nine children whose needs never ended and even though they were stuck with whatever random little gifts they could find amongst the meager offerings at the store in the little town near Bear Lake. But somehow my expectations were always too high and I often felt sort of disappointed on my birthday - in the lack of perfect presents and activities and in what I perceived to be a lack of real progress and achievement in myself as I turned a year older and didn't feel I'd really done enough with the past year. Plus even as a kid, I felt sad to see another year slip away. I never felt like the year had been perfectly completed and I wasn't ready to go on to the next but time marched on.

So I've generally tried to be quite sensitive to other people's birthdays (especially the birthdays of Jared and my kids), trying to make their day really special. I believe that one day out of they year, it's really great to be the king or queen of your family - choosing your favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner, choosing your favorite activities, your favorite cake, calling all the shots for the day and having everyone tell you what they love about you. I'm not that great at gifts - in fact I'm quite terrible at gifts - I can never think of what is the perfect gift for anyone and I want it to be perfect so I often end up empty handed after all my deliberating. But I'm great at treating the birthday person like the king or queen of the world. And they seem to like it. A lot. When you're one of five kids and you've got parents who aren't particularly indulging, being treated like royalty on your birthday is a really grand thing.

But in general, the kids and Jared are pretty easy to please and are thrilled with whatever I and anyone else does for them. I, on the other hand, can be quite a challenge when it comes to my birthday.

Poor Jared. Jared's never cared much about his own birthday - it's on New Year's Eve so it's always sort of been combined with other stuff and that's been fine by him. He doesn't really like being the center of attention and he's generally happy with whatever in just about any situation. So he was totally thrown for a loop on the first birthday I had after our marriage when my unexpressed expectations were not met and I was NOT happy about it.

When we woke up that morning, Jared gave me a cheery "Happy Birthday" and hopped into the shower.  I sort of waited around to see if he was going to be making me a special breakfast or something but as time ticked away, I realized that wouldn't be in the plans and made us some nice omlettes, thinking he'd surely announce some plans for the day at breakfast. Nope. He ate and headed off to work without another word about my birthday. I sat there lonely and pregnant in the depressing little temporary apartment we were living in while waiting to move into our first home. I had no friends in our new area and the one person I did have didn't seem to be remotely concerned about my birthday. After an hour or so, I called Jared at work, sobbing out my sadness and sharing the birthday angst I've felt for most of my life (something that I really should have shared at least a few days in advance of that fateful birthday!), and he jumped into high gear, had some flowers delivered to me and came home to take me out to lunch. He'd planned on taking me to dinner that night but hadn't yet realized that I was a person who needed to know that my needs were understood and were going to be met.

Every since that fateful first married birthday, he's been hyper-sensitive about my birthday - and I've tried to back way off on my hopes and expectations. But they still creep in. And Jared gets so tense. And I just want to get the whole thing over with.

So over the years, I've learned to make hopes and expectations super simple and clear. After tons of trial and error and disappointment on both sides, I've learned to buy myself a couple presents so Jared won't have to stress about picking the right thing (he - and I - have learned that there generally is a right thing - even when I couldn't identify what that would be . . .). I've stopped expecting my dear husband to plan out perfect activities for the day (he has come up with GREAT ideas in the past - perfectly wonderful stuff - but it's just too much stress on him and on me when the planning of the day is left up to him) read my mind even when he does get it right!). Now I think about what would be fun, plan it myself, or ask Jared to help out in the planning and execution. Works great.  I've learned to be totally and sincerely happy with whatever Jared and the kids come up. I've learned not to expect anything I haven't explicitly asked for while being delighted by any little surprises that come my way.

So with this new attitude, I had a great birthday yesterday.

I decided I wanted to start off the day with my favorite long, hard hike which was made perfect by unusually cool weather and great converstation with my dear friend and hiking/running partner, Mindy. For many years now, it's been my birthday tradition to bike around Bear Lake for my birthday (50 miles) but the past few years, our time at Bear Lake has ended before my birthday so my tradition has morphed into doing some sort of serious endurance activity out in nature. So the hike definitely fulfilled that. I texted Mindy, set up the hike, and it was just right.

When I got home from the hike, I found that my very creative and thoughtful children had come up with the cute idea of using a random car window marker that they found to write stuff like "Happy 29th Birthday" and "You are Awesome" and "Hope you have a great day" on most of the windows of our house. Plus they wrote sweet little notes on post-it notes and put them all over the house and used some blue painters' masking tape to put stars and patterns on various things around the house. Great to come home to! I couldn't have planned or expected this lovely display of affection. It just came right out of their loving hearts and creative minds.

Here are a few examples of what they did:

Found this on our map table - the arrow pointing right to Ogden.

At noon, I left the kids with a short list of little cleaning projects I'd love to have done while I went to lunch with a friend and praised them up and down when I came back to find most everything done.

Then Liza and I went shopping to see if we could find me a new birthday outfit. I sure love that girl of mine - she was so helpful and patient and we found a couple good things at great sale prices. It's hard to work around my tummy when shopping for clothes. But with Liza in the dressing room with me, watching me scrutinize my midsection in each thing I tried on, I smiled and said, "you know, I need to get back into some better core workouts and cut down on desserts a bit more because I'd like this tummy to go down a bit - but it'll always sort of be there because of you kids - especially the twins. But you guys are sure worth it!" She gave me a huge smile and said, "You look great, mom." I accepted the compliment and we laughed together at some outfits that really accentuated the tummy before finding some that kept it from taking center stage. I told Eliza that I have a mom body and that's a good thing because it means I get to be a mom. I want her to know that bodies change thanks to time and life events and that "perfect" bodies only exist in the fiction of airbrushed magazine photos and the lives of women who have personal trainers and chefs and who make their living in large part based on how they look. We can all work to improve the health and fitness of our bodies and eat in a way that gives us energy and happiness - but we can be happy with the scars and bulges that life brings our way. Who's to say they aren't beautiful in their own way?

My parents and some of my siblings sent me the most thoughtful and beautiful emails that helped me get a better glimpse of what I mean to them. Plus I got tons of kind birthday wishes from far flung friends on Facebook.

Jared took me out to dinner and we had a chance to just talk and relax together, just the two of us, something we haven't had a chance to do in AGES. It was so nice. Then we came home to enjoy cake and ice cream and games with the kids. The kids all told me such nice things that they love about me and Jared thoroughly beat us all in the game he's so darn good at (why did I pick that game???) and we laughed and talked and it was just such a nice evening. Jared gave me some of my very favorite cookies (Ruby Snap is just too good) and told me he was setting me up with a cleaning lady to help out with some deep cleaning of this house once in a while which will be SO nice.

So it was a perfect birthday. Everyone was so kind to me. The things I planned turned out great (not perfectly - but I wasn't going for perfect). There were some nice little surprises. I'm so loved. I'm so blessed. I'm so glad I've gotten over a lot of my silly birthday dread and have learned to expect less and enjoy more.

And as far as getting older, I'm OK with it these days. I feel like every year I've let go of more and more stuff that I really don't need to care about while understanding and internalizing more of what I really do need to care about. I feel more at home with myself every year and less concerned about what other people think and what I "should" be doing and saying than ever before. I understand myself better and better all the time. I've learned to expect less of everyone, including myself. I've learned to be more loving and less judgemental. Life just keeps getting better. So I actually quite like this getting older stuff.

Hope there's something helpful to someone in this rambling!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Isaac

Isaac turned 13 a couple days ago. Wow. I've got TWO teenagers now!

What a blessing it is to be Isaac's mother!

Here are 13 things I love about this wonderful young man:

1. Isaac is kind. His whole life, he's always loved sharing and helping and making people feel better when they are sad. When most toddler's favorite word is "mine," Isaac was insisting on giving a generous portion of anything he got to his big brother ashton and his baby sister Eliza.

2. Isaac is a worker. He embraces hard physical things like mowing the lawn or running cross country or helping build things.

3. Isaac has a beautiful smile. And he uses it frequently.

4. Isaac has a natural and genuine love for babies and little kids. He knows how to make them feel comfortable and special and their adoration for him is quite obvious.

5. Isaac has worked hard it get great grades. He's smart and he's figured out what it takes to get the grades he wants.

6. Isaac has my favorite brown eyes and I'm jealous of his long thick lashes.

7. Isaac is friendly and happy to be friends with everyone. I love hearing from teachers about how he's befriended kids with special needs and been kind to kids that others aren't so kind to. And I love seeing him go right up and talk to anyone new, looking them right in the eye and taking with them in such an easy way.

8. Isaac is fiercely loyal. Don't even think about doing or saying anything remotely unfair or mean to anyone in Isaac's presence.

9. Isaac is popular with the ladies. When I happen to see him in the lunchroom at school, he's sitting at a table surrounded by about 8 girls who quite obviously think he's pretty awesome. And when he's had parties at our house all these cute,  nice girls who show up. I love that he had great friendships with girls and doesn't get caught up on the silliness that so many kids his age are prone to.

10. Isaac is confident in who he is, what he believes, and what is right.

11. Isaac likes going for unique and cool stuff. Like learning to ride a unicycle and riding it in the 4 th of July parade. Or trying and enjoying octopus and sushi.

12. Isaac is loving. I love that he's still fine with hugging his mom in public. And he still calls out "bye, love you!" When I drop him off at school.

13. Isaac is happy. He knows how to find joy in everything he does.And his happiness is contagious. He's great at making other people happy.

I love you, my wonderful Ike!

Here's a glimpse at the birthday celebrations we enjoyed last Saturday:

Isaac got a new bike!

We did a lot of playing in the water, Isaac and I sat out on the raft and talked about life as the waves rocked us, and Isaac did some impressive wakeboarding (but somehow I don't seem to make it out to the boat with my camera...). Plus there was plenty of playing in the sand:

 We had Isaac's favorite - fish tacos - for dinner. Yum.

We finished the day with a big party. Here are all the kids who were here (Eliza organized all the cousins to help make the great banner):

And here's everyone including most adults who joined in the festivities (nice face, Isaac!):

We played a few rounds of Reverse Charades. Here's the boys' team:

And here's the girls' team (we won - just fyi).

Then we had cake - banana nutella cake - and everyone shared what they love most about Isaac. Everyone had such nice things to say and I felt so glad to be the mother of such a boy as Isaac and so happy that he's surrounded by so many people who know and love him so well.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eyrealm Reunion Official Video - 2014

Eli and Julie were this year's reunion chairs and they did a phenomenal job. Organizing food and activities and t-shirts and clean-up for 45 people is no small feat! And on top of all that, they made this great music video - cajoled all of us into creating video clips at our favorite places in our hometowns (Boston, NYC, Orange County, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Francisco, and of course, the illustrious Ogden) and put them together into this year's reunion video.

Click HERE to watch.

(if you want to see the original video that ours was loosely modeled after, here it is.)

And in case you want to see last year's awesome reunion video by Noah and Kristi, here it is.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

4th of July and Bear Lake - 2014

After a great few days celebrating the 4th of July in Ashton, Idaho with Jared's family, we've been here at Bear Lake for the past couple of weeks with my family.

In Ashton, we had a great time watching/riding in the 4th of the July parade (the kids decorated their bikes and rode in the parade this year - Isaac rode a unicycle the whole way - pretty impressive!), participating in the Ashton watermelon-eating contest (Jared won the adult division and the kids all came in near the top in their age divisions), waterskiing, tubing and wakeboarding out at the reservoir (Ashton surprised us all by pulling right up on on ski and immediately doing all these impressive cuts as he whipped in and out of the wake - wow!), and laughing and talking until late into night. I sure married into a great family.

Here's a glimpse of what I posted on Instagram about our good times in Ashton (for more, click here and scroll down a bit.):

After our good times in Ashton, we headed straight to Bear Lake. We enjoyed some pre-reunion fun and reconnection with many family members who showed up around the same time we did, then our official family reunion was July 9-13 when all 44 members of the family (we added Charity's fiance Ian this year - so happy for them! - and we sadly were missing the oldest cousin, Max, this year - he's doing an internship in China) were here. Here's a run-down of some of the stuff we did (thanks to Eli and Julie for being the reunion chairs this year!):
  • The opening bonfire - tradition on the first night of the reunion, we get to hear the official reunion playlist where everyone contributes one song - and guess whose song is whose. Plus we threw in a great dance party at the end this year.
  • The annual Eyrealm meeting (where we discuss which charities we've helped support this past year and listen to proposals for grants for this upcoming year - the Eyrealm Foundation is a small non-profit where my parents put most of the money they make from speaking these days and we all get to help decide which family-focused non-profits to donate to each year)
  • lots of water sports - the older grandkids are into wakeboarding lately, the adults mostly slalom ski and work on perfecting their cuts, most kids like crazy tube rides...
  • the third annual Fear Factor - participating kids eat crazy things and when they come to something they can't eat - they're out. They started with olives, pickles and mushrooms (which got LOTS of kids out - mushrooms were the hardest for most kids...). They moved on to sardines, roasted rattle snake (the dads shot, skinned and roasted an errant rattle snake a couple days before the reunion), toasted and flavored worms and bugs (you can get them on Amazon). Eliza came in second place and Ashton came in fourth. We have some crazy good eaters!
  • the second annual Eyrealm Relay Race - a 12-mile race where we divide into teams and everyone of every age - other than non-walking babies - runs 1/2-mile to 1-mile legs
  • tons of really excellent food -despite the fact that we've had tons of salads and generally really healthy and delicious gourmet foods and I've been doing some serious swimming, paddle-boarding and/or walking and running every day, I think my waistline is expanding a bit thanks to late-night cookie baking and the urge for second helpings!
(For some specific info on how we do reunions, check out this post I wrote last year:  Three Keys to a Great Family Reunion)

At the end of the reunion, quite a few people had to head back to work but most people stayed on for more fun in the sand and water and fun, Grammie Camps (where my mom takes a few kids at a time off for a special overnighter and teaches them about their ancestors, about music and about the beauty and importance of hard work - they LOVE Grammie Camp!), plently of spectactular-sunset-watching and scenery-enjoying, kids' driving lessons (my brother Jo taught Ashton to drive the boat and many adults here have been nice enough to give the older kids fun driving lessons on the beach in the old beat-up Moneros we use to shuttle stuff and people around on the big empty beach - perfect place for kids to try out driving!), lots more late-night discussions about stuff like women and the priesthood, marriage advice (in honor of Charity and Ian's recent engagement), parenting issues and ideas, my parents' new book (The Turning), and my brother Talmadge's really interesting insights from the Masters program he just finished at UPenn (Positive Psychology). Plus we've laughed a lot and played games and enjoyed really catching up with each other in a way that being together for days on end allows you to do. The cousins have all had so much fun together and it's been so fun to see the interactions between big and little kids, peers, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, etc.

It seems like we're pretty much always cleaning up or cooking and the logistics and noise involved with so many people sharing space for so much time can sometimes feel a bit daunting. But it's worth it. For sure.

(If you want to know more about how we ended up spending time at Bear Lake every summer, click here for an old post that explains it all.)

The internet is slow here (when I can get it to work at all) so it's hard to upload photos to this blog. But I've put up a few photos each day on Instagram and they show what most everything I wrote about above actually looked like. If you want to check them out, just click here and use #eyrealm2014 to get to all the photos of our time at Bear Lake this year (and a quick overview is in the collage below). 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

June Overview - Mostly in Photos

Instagram makes it so easy to just post along the way as we go about our summer - so that's mostly how I've been recording what we've been up to. My goal is to do a blog post a week here, then post an Instagram collage with a link every so often so that the day-to-day happenings can be easily accessed through this blog and directly through Instagram.

Here's the latest collage Instagram made of all the photos I've been posting there (click HERE to get details on any of these photos and check out more photos of our latest adventures.)

June was a good month. I've enjoyed lots of great hikes, bike rides, reading, day trips, etc with these fun kids of mine and we've had some great times with family and friends. Power of Moms is humming along pretty nicely with just a couple hours a day of work from me (as I've learned to let some things wait and let other things go in the interest of really enjoying my kids and staying sane - for the most part . . .).

The kids have generally done a pretty good job on their goals and "must-do's" (the twins made this podcast with me about goals HERE - love hearing them explain how it all works). I have to keep reminding myself that they're kids and they have a long way to go when it comes to will-power and stick-to-it-iveness when they get off track and when they seem to find it so difficult to do the list of things that I give them that seems so short and simple to me (what looks like a mole-hill to me can sure look like a mountain to them...). They may not be getting everything done that they're supposed to do each day, but they're definitely getting more useful and productive and meaningful stuff done than they would be if there weren't any goals or "must-do's" going on.

I got some projects done around the house. We got a lot done (I'm finally putting a finish coat on all our doors that were stained but never varnished - it's a big job but wow, the doors sure look good when they're done! And I've been doing some re-painting of the windowsills I just painted last year - grrrrr - I used the wrong type of putty and now I have to scrape down and repaint after just a few months!)

And now, after a couple days of laundry and cleaning and sorting and packing, we're heading up to Jared's home town for the 4th of July and the weekend then we head straight on to Bear Lake. Let the summer travels and time with relatives begin!
And happy 4th of July!


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