Friday, August 28, 2015

happy weekend

I've been thinking about this all week. Yesterday, Elliot was really mad at Oliver about something, and he said, "Oliver made me so mad!" I think that's our natural response. But someone else can't make us mad. We just let ourselves get mad, which I tried to explain to Elliot, but of course he didn't really understand.

Anyway, sometimes I just have to decide that I'm going to be happy, even when I don't particularly feel that way, and like magic, I become happy (this is another good lesson from the Happiness Project). It's the same for anything, I think. If I decide I am confident, I'll feel more confident. If I decide that I am a runner, I'll feel like a runner. I can be whatever I choose to be. Why it has taken me this long to learn this, I'll never know. Hopefully this is a lesson I can instill in my children at an earlier age.

This week has been filled with routine, and that makes me feel good. And also sort of tired, so I am looking forward to a low-key weekend. I always think I want to have grand weekend plans, but really, I just want us all to hang out at home together and eat pizza.

Doesn't that sound nice? Have a happy one!

Friday, August 21, 2015

happy weekend

Well, we have the first full week of school under our belts and here are my thoughts:

We love half-day kindergarten. I still get my buddy for part of the day, and some time by myself to get stuff done. Plus, Elliot is having a great time at school. It's a total win win. We were able to take some naps, run some errands, and eat lunch together everyday this week. It's been so nice!

Getting up super early day after day is really hard, but completely worth it. It feels like I am being proactive and using my time more wisely.

And I know I've talked about it before, but I think having a routine is so important. My kids need the stability that a routine creates. And so do I! Having a consistent flow to our days makes life at home more predictable, but that means more peaceful, too. It just seems easier to do this during the school year.

Our best times as a family are when we are all home together in the living room. This year, I want to see more of that happen. So while we have piano lessons and homework and scouts and choir and everything else, I am conscious of not adding more to our schedule than is needed. School is busy enough. We need more down time together.

Our weather is ever so slowly inching its way toward fall. I'm even considering stocking up on canned pumpkin. We're still over 100 degrees everyday, but not by much. It's amazing how nice 102 can feel after days of >110. I hope the mornings are crisp wherever you are!

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

on happiness and swimming

One of my big takeaways from the book, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, was to think of things that made me happy as a child, and to try to incorporate more of them into my life as an adult. From the time I was 10 until the end of high school, I was on a swim team. It was something I really liked. (Not the racing, though. Just the thought of stepping on the block and waiting for the gun to go off turns my stomach.) I liked the repetitive nature of swimming laps. I liked being in my own little world, with minimal distractions. It was just me, my foggy goggles, and the water. I realized I missed it. I went back to swimming laps a few times last fall, but I am more committed now.

So once a week, you can find me at the pool. I get there in the dark, and as I swim back and forth, over and over, the sky gradually lightens. When I head home, there is a bounce in my step, a clearness in my mind, and a weariness in my muscles that feels really refreshing.

It is easy to forget about these things that used to be part of me in the midst of having and raising babies. And that's ok, I think. There is a time and a season for everything, you know? I feel like I'm at a point in my life where I can pick up some hobbies or activities that I had left behind. And Gretchen was right, doing these things that used to make me happy still does.

Monday, August 17, 2015

early to rise

With the new school year comes an earlier wake up time for all of us. If I want to exercise in the coolest part of the day and get the kids ready for school on time, I need to be up and out the door by 5:00.

As Mike and I were running this morning, I took a mental stock of myself at that early hour. Yes, it had been hard to get out of bed, but after being up for just a few minutes, I felt full of energy and optimism. I was able to formulate a plan for my morning to make the getting-ready-for-school routine go smoothly. I had time to think about what I would make the kids for breakfast and what I would pack in their lunches. Mike and I were spending time together before he left all day for work. And as a bonus, I was able to see the pretty sunrise.

For this week's Conference Report, I am using an article from our church's magazine, the Ensign, entitled "Filled with Life and Energy". It is a good read, especially if you don't consider yourself a morning person.

The article starts with a story from the life of Elder Marion G. Romney, a previous General Authority. He was feeling quite inadequate in his new call and sought advice from good friend and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Harold B. Lee. Elder Lee told him, "If you are to be successful as a General Authority, you will need to be inspired. You will need to receive revelation. I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested and then in the quiet of those early morning hours, you will receive more flashes of inspiration and insight than at any other time of the day."

Elder Romney later recalled, "From that day on, I put that counsel into practice, and I know it works. Whenever I have a serious problem, or some assignment of a creative nature with which I hope to receive the influence of the Spirit, I always receive more assistance in the early morning hours than at any other time of the day."

I have seen this in my own life, too. Things seem clearer first thing in the morning. The solution to whatever I've been struggling with, or worried about, all of a sudden becomes obvious. I am more cheerful, more patient, and better able to handle the stresses of the day. When I wake up early, I feel like I am able to accomplish so much more.

I've noticed that having an earlier bedtime has helped keep the peace in our home. We are winding down and getting settled earlier, before anyone has a meltdown (and that includes me). It feels good to be following this wise advice.

As a final plug, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, "To those who feel defeated and downtrodden, look to the early hours of the day for your rescue."

It is these early hours that have provided mine.

You can read the whole article here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

happy weekend

This is why I chose half day kindergarten right here. He had started to give his naps up during the summer, but school wipes him out just enough so that we find ourselves having a little lie down after lunch. Thank goodness.

This week I have been reminded of the truth that everyone is happier when they have work to do. Forming a routine is key at our house. We've fallen into a nice one already, and it feels great. There is a purpose to our days that was sometimes lacking during summer break (which is how it should be, I think). But I am grateful for this new school year, for the fresh start, and the opportunity for growth for all of us.

I like where we are and who we are becoming.

Have a happy weekend!

p.s. Mike made a Facebook page for my blog. I don't know how it works, or why a blog even needs a Facebook page, but if you'd like to follow along there, here is the link.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

at the cabin

About two and a half hours from this hot, hot valley, is a place where huge pines cover the land and storms roll in every afternoon. Where sweaters are required, even in August. Lucky for us, Mike's parents bought a cabin there this summer and gave us a copy of the key. We went up for the first time last weekend and had such a nice trip. We can't wait to go back!

S'mores the first night, of course.

Not sure why this shop sells Alien statues, but my kids were fans.

My favorite part of the whole weekend, aside from the incredible weather, was the lack of electronics. There was no tv, no iPads - I didn't even bring my phone! It was so relaxing. We read books, played board games, went for walks, and explored outside. It was such a nice escape. I think we like the small town life. Thanks Heber, we'll be back!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

first day

They're off! Mabel and Oliver left early this morning to catch their bus. They are in 8th and 5th grades this year. Last year, when they started at their new school, they were understandably very nervous. This year, I think they are just looking forward to seeing their friends again. And their bus driver. He's our favorite.

Stella and Elliot left a while later, for 2nd and kindergarten. Their school is just across the park behind our house, so we go out the back, through our gate. They were pumped. Elliot is in the half day class, so I'll be back to pick him up soon enough.

And now the house is quiet. And the beds are made. And this freedom feels really great. Hooray!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

43 years

I've learned a lot about marriage from watching my parents. They've been through it all together - sickness, health, highs, lows, and everything in between. I am thankful for their example of steadfastness, loyalty, and unconditional love. Happy anniversary to them!

Monday, August 10, 2015

lose yourself

School starts on Wednesday, so it is time to put a new family theme up on our chalkboard. I thought and thought and prayed and prayed about what our theme should be this school year. In a moment of inspiration, I opened the New Era (our church's magazine for teenagers) and saw President Monson's message, Lose Yourself in Service. It was just what I was looking for.

He says: "The Savior taught His disciples, 'For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.' (Luke 9:24)

I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish -- and in effect save their lives."

A friend once told me that when she was growing up her mother often said that she should spend as much time getting herself ready in the morning as she needed - to pick out an outfit, and do her hair and makeup, etc. But as soon as she stepped out the front door, she needed to forget about herself and think about others instead.

This is what I want for my children this year. I want them to lose themselves, to not be so concerned with their own worries that they can't see the people around them who might need help. If I can get them to look outside of themselves more this year, I think it will be a success, regardless of how well they do on their school work.

President Hinckley, our previous prophet, said this: "There are opportunities all around to stretch our lives and our interests in behalf of others. My plea is--if we want joy in our hearts, if we want the Spirit of the Lord in our lives, let us forget ourselves and reach out. Let us put in the background our own personal, selfish interests and reach out in service to others."

It is easy to get caught up in our own worries, insecurities, and needs. But I know that when I put those things aside and focus on someone else, I am happier. And those things that were so bothersome to me before don't seem so important anymore. This is what I want my children to know.

Friday, August 07, 2015

happy weekend

We woke up this morning to thunder, but no rain. I am hoping the rain comes soon. We need a good storm to start off the weekend. My in-laws bought a cabin in the nearby mountains recently, so we are headed there for a bit later today as a last hurrah before school starts next week. I am looking forward to wearing jeans and maybe even a sweater and hunkering down inside while it storms.

I've been trying to get us back on a school-appropriate bedtime routine around here. We are easing ourselves into it. We did pretty well this week, and still had time to read in bed - my favorite.

Have you read anything good lately? I just picked up Pope Joan at the used bookstore and I am looking forward to cracking it open.

Have a fun weekend!

Monday, August 03, 2015

living the dream

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm living the dream. That this life didn't just happen to me, but that I chose it. This is important to remember because sometimes I feel like this life requires more than I have to give - or at least more than I have to give with a good attitude. But that isn't true. I can be kind, even when I am feeling tired or hungry or overwhelmed. I can be cheerful when I really just want to be alone. I can look above the mundane and see the divine. But it takes effort, and sometimes I don't feel up to the challenge. The good news is that tomorrow is always a new day, and I can try again.

Friday, July 31, 2015

happy weekend

I think I officially reached my limit this week. I am ready for school to start. I'm ready for everyone to be busy, and to have more purpose to their day, you know? No more putzing around on the computer or begging to watch a show. I'm done. Everyone out.

For the first time, all of my kids will be in school everyday. I want to use that time wisely, so I started working on a schedule for myself. Elliot will only be in half day kindergarten, so I won't have all day to fill, but I am going to make the most of those 3 hours, darn it!

How is your summer coming along? Have you hit the wall, too?

In other news, our pantry is finally rat free and it feels great. I hosed it down with bleach and started putting everything back, mostly in glass containers. Because having a rat live in my pantry is something I never want to repeat. It was the old fashioned snap trap with peanut butter that finally did the trick.

We have grand plans to hit up the skating rink this afternoon, then hopefully dinner out for me and Mike. He's been so busy this week at work and church that I feel like I've hardly seen him.

Have a good one, friends!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

self-help book report 3

I'm not usually drawn to the self-help variety of book, but I've read three books this summer that sort of fall into that category and I thought a book report was in order.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is a very in-depth look at one woman's search for greater happiness. Ms. Rubin created a twelve month long experiment for herself. Each month, she focused on a different aspect of her life and set measurable goals which she marked off on a spreadsheet. One month she focused on finding more happiness in her marriage, another month it was in her professional life, etc.

I'm glad I read it, but I admit to skimming a lot of it. I really loved her honesty. She put herself out there, faults and all, which was refreshing. I felt like I could read about her experience and learn from it, without having to go through my own year long experiment. I really liked that she didn't want to change her life, she just wanted to feel happier in the midst of it. I can relate to that.

It turns out that it is the little things that add up to a happier life, which is something I've believed all along. And deciding to be happier almost always leads to being happier. It made me take a look at my own life and decide that I could probably stand to be a little more cheerful at home, more selfless, and more giving. That holding my tongue is usually a happier way to live, and giving others the benefit of the doubt will improve my outlook. Making small changes in these areas can make for quite a bit more happiness overall.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

self-help book report 2

I'm not usually drawn to the self-help variety of book, but I've read three books this summer that sort of fall into that category and I thought a book report was in order.

I loved, loved, loved Real Moms, Making it Up as We Go by Lisa Valentine Clark. It is a quick, easy read, but that doesn't mean it isn't deep and meaningful, too. Lisa is hilarious, down to earth, and genuine. I loved reading what she had to say. She inspired me to be a better mother, and gave examples from her own life that helped me to see how to do just that. 

One of my favorite paragraphs:

"It amazes me that most kids today truly don't know how to open up a van door. This happens 100 percent of the time anyone under the age of twenty-one comes into my 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan: They stand in front of the door, waiting for it to open automatically. It doesn't. This car was built before most of them were born. I yell, 'You have to open the door! It's not one of those that open . . . you're just going to have to slide it . . yank it open!' At this point they look confused and inevitably shrug, presumably looking for a doorknob/handle/lever, and about 23 percent of them locate it, but of those 23 percent, none of them can successfully operate it to open the door. Not one. It's the weirdest phenomenon. (Has our reliance on technology atrophied our arm muscles already? Are we living in the future NOW?) They yank. They look confused, and preemptively, while my own kids have been starting at the door or looking aimlessly around at no one in particular, I've been telling them, 'Just do it. Just open the door. Just . . . ' and soon my kids are telling their friends (like its obvious), 'JUST PUSH THE BUTTON AND SLIDE THE DOOR OPEN!' Twelve percent of that group is able to, and I usually sigh at this point. (My youngest, Margaret, always asks me why I sigh so loud. I tell her I'm just trying to catch my breath. Which I am. I'm also reevaluating the choices that brought me to this point. This 'point of sigh.')"

But she's really spiritual, too. For example:

"We mothers are often accused by our children of asking too many questions, of being too intrusive, meddling, smothering, and interfering, but that happens because we often err on the side of loving too much instead of not enough. We love too much. (You're welcome, children.) Is that even possible? Our job as mothers is to love our kids, to teach them, care for them, and prepare them for the journey ahead because we don't know what that road will look like. One of the hiccups in parenting our kids with a prescriptive list is that we can't predict the future. There is so much I want to teach my kids that, if I make a list, not only does it seem overwhelming (although I wouldn't hate it if they all knew how to play the piano), but is conditional on so many things that are out of my control: their choices, the choices of others, accidents, surprises, changes in society, technology, and a million other variables. If I can show them how to find answers to their questions (by studying, learning, and seeking personal revelation through prayer and listening to the Holy Ghost), and where to look for guidance (by studying the scriptures, words of the prophets, and worthy mentors), then they can find their own way to find lasting joy, no matter what the path ahead turns out to be."

I really feel like I could quote this whole book. I can't recommend it enough. Mostly, Lisa made me feel hopeful about the heavy responsibility I bear as a mother. She made me want to get to know my kids better and enjoy their company more. And she did it in the most positive, uplifting, and happy way. 

You can find more of Lisa on her Youtube Series, Pretty Darn Funny.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

self-help book report 1

I'm not usually drawn to the self-help variety of book, but I've read three books this summer that sort of fall into that category and I thought a book report was in order.

First up, majorly popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. There were lots of things I really liked about this book, and some things that I didn't. Instead of leaving me feeling motivated, I finished the book and felt completely overwhelmed. And it took me a long time to shake that feeling. In the book's defense, I read it right before I had a lot of things going on in my life (like the pioneer trek and girl's camp and a long vacation) and no time to implement its practices. The method the author promotes is very specific, and that kind of turned me off. So I guess I would suggest reading it only if you can set aside plenty of time to purge your house.

But there were lots of things that resonated with me. Like, only keeping and buying things that "spark joy". I love that idea! I don't need to limit my belongings to a particular number or amount, I just need to limit them to what brings me joy. It feels really good to look in my closet or into a kitchen cupboard and only see things that I love. Granted, some things might not spark joy but are necessary to my household. I like to think that their necessity sparks a sort of joy.

Something else I liked was how the author describes thanking your belongings for their service. It sounds totally crazy, but thanking a dress for it's service before getting rid of it makes getting rid of it a lot less painful. Same goes for gifts. If someone gives me a gift that I don't need or use or like, I can thank the item for the joy it brought me when I received it and then I can feel ok about getting rid of it. And Ms. Kondo gives us the go-ahead to throw all of our papers away! It's really liberating to think that I don't need to keep every paper that comes home from school, or all of those old bank statements or credit card bills.

I fold our clothes differently now, and the kids' drawers are no longer overflowing. And that feels good. But I still roll our socks together, because that's just what makes the most sense for us.

Have you read it? I'd love to hear what you thought about it. Did it make you feel energized or overwhelmed?