Friday, July 11, 2014

happy weekend

Speaking of using time wisely, Mike and I spent a couple of hours at the temple last night. That is always a good use of my time. It is a quiet, thoughtful place, where I can put aside the cares of the world for a bit, and focus on the things of the spirit instead. I left with some much needed insight and a resolve to be a little better, particularly in one area where I am struggling.

Two things: When we entered the temple yesterday evening, the evening sun was blazing and the heat was stifling. We came out to darkened skies, and still the same oppressive heat. It is monsoon season here in the desert. We haven't seen much rain yet, but you can cut the air with a knife, it is so humid. We tried to beat the heat by running at 5:30 this morning, but it didn't work. Oh man, it was so hot.

Also, no one ever told me that when your first born child is old enough to babysit for you, the whole world opens up. Mabel has been babysitting for us for about a year, and it is life changing. Trips to the temple, or even the grocery store are possible like they never were before. If your oldest is still too young to babysit, hang in there. Your time will come. And when it does, it is marvelous.

I hope you have a good weekend!

p.s. My friend, Annie, wrote an essay about how the longer we are parents, the less likely we are to give parenting advice. So true!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

on the wise use of time

One day I woke up early, just as the first bright rays of sunlight were making their way through my bedroom window. I woke Mike beside me and we left the house for an early morning run. As we ran together, we discussed our plans for the day. We talked about each of our children, and some of the problems that they might be facing. Mike shared some concerns he had about work. We talked about solutions. It felt good to be up and moving.

When we got home, I stretched my legs and read my scriptures. I had several minutes of quiet study by myself before Elliot stumbled into our room, hungry for breakfast. I gave him a big hug and we went to the kitchen together to make waffles. As we were cooking, my other children woke up, each coming upstairs to the kitchen with puffy eyes and messy hair. I welcomed them with a kind voice and we ate a nice breakfast together as a family before Mike headed off to work.

The rest of the day flowed well. I was able to complete my household chores and even a few sewing projects while my children played together peacefully. I set up visiting teaching appointments and answered Relief Society emails. While I was working, I felt the spirit prompt me and I knew I had received an answer to a prayer.

At the end of the day, I tucked each child into bed with a hug and a kiss and I told them that I loved them. I didn't feel hurried or impatient, even when Stella was slow to come for family prayer. Our house ended the day as quietly as it had begun.

It was a good day.

But. . . on a different day, I woke up to Elliot poking my side, looking for breakfast. I had stayed up too late watching a movie the night before, and now I was paying the price. I rolled out of bed and shuffled into the kitchen without a word to my little Elliot. I hurriedly poured him some cereal and then I left him sitting at the table alone to eat, while I crashed back into bed. As the other kids came upstairs, I ignored the disappointment on their faces when I announced that it was cold cereal for breakfast.

Mike left for work without a kiss goodbye.

It seemed that no matter how much cleaning I did that day, the house was still a disaster. Beds were unmade, legos were strewn across the family room floor. My frustration was rising by the minute. There was no way I was going to finish my seemingly endless to-do list. I was grumpy.

And so I escaped to my phone. I checked Instagram for the hundredth time. I let myself be distracted by Facebook status updates and new blog posts. When my children needed me, I answered their questions without even taking my eyes off of the screen.

It was a very, very bad day.

Have you ever had days like these? I taught Relief Society this past Sunday on the wise use of time and on avoiding distractions. I used these slightly exaggerated accounts of some of my best and worst days as a mother to illustrate the difference that poor time management and prioritization can have in our lives.

We discussed this article, entitled "A Time to Prepare". It is wonderful to read, if you have a few minutes. One of my favorite quotes: "With the demands made of us, we must learn to prioritize our choices to match our goals or risk being exposed to the winds of procrastination and being blown from one time-wasting activity to another." Oh man, does that ever happen to you? It does to me, for sure. Elder Ardern, the author of the article, talks about finding those things that are distracting us from using our time most wisely, and eliminating them from our lives. He said, "I urge each of us to take those things which rob us of precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us." I had been having a hard time managing the time I spent on my phone, as you know. Finally, rather than trying to check things like Facebook and Pinterest "less", I just deleted them from my phone completely. And oh, the freedom! I felt so light, so good. It is all so silly, and I don't miss them one bit. The best part is that I find myself spending so much less time on my phone, and more time doing the important work of mothering instead.

I still have a ways to go, but I know that when I prayerfully approach each new day, seeking guidance on how to best spend my time, I am much more likely to relive a day like that first one up above. It is my choice. And I choose good days from here on out.

Friday, July 04, 2014

happy weekend

We've fallen into quite a good summertime routine around here. The kids sleep in. We eat a nice breakfast. Then we build forts or play with legos or even run errands if we're feeling particularly brave. We try really hard to not use the tv in the mornings, but sometimes it happens and it's not a big deal.

Something new I've been trying: I've made lunch our main meal. Mike has been working from home a lot lately, so he's around in the middle of the day. It's been awfully nice to get all of the major cooking out of the way before the heat sets in. After lunch, Elliot takes a nap and the other kids find a book and a cozy spot for quiet time. I don't even have to remind them anymore. We spend our afternoons at the pool, coming home for a quick bite (something like smoothies and cereal or fruit) and then bed.

My favorite thing so far: I've completely stopped stressing about bedtime. It's so nice to not feel rushed during this part of the day. This is something that I struggle with during the school year, and it feels good to go slow and not worry if someone is getting to bed a little later than they should. It might make the adjustment to earlier bedtimes next month tricky, but for now I am really enjoying it.

Do you have any fun Independence Day plans? Big surprise, we don't. :) I did buy a watermelon, so that's something. I hope you find some fireworks!

Have a happy weekend. And hooray for the USA!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Gloucester, MA

Last week, we called this pretty house home, along with Mike's parents and his three siblings and their families. There were 22 of us all together. We were in town to help Mike's Granddad celebrate his 90th birthday. Unfortunately, Granddad ended up having surgery the day we flew into town. So no party, but we had a nice visit with him in the hospital and lots of fun all together in the house playing games, or tennis, or just talking late into the night. We were right near the ocean in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Here are a few pictures from our week:

This rocky beach was a quick walk from our front door. I couldn't believe how dark blue the water was. It was so pretty. Mabel and Oliver spent lots of time here climbing the rocks and looking for shells.

We found a "sandy" beach a little farther down the road. Mike and Oliver even braved the 60 degree water and went for a swim.

The walk home was along this beautiful tree-lined road. So different from the beaches I am used to in Southern California. I'm sure the winters in Gloucester are tough, but goodness, their summers are lovely.

Stella and Elliot are surrounded by cousins on Mike's side, lucky kids. They had a great week together. We all had matching shirts, but these girls even had matching hot pink shorts. Totally unplanned, but so much fun.

Oh, the ice cream! New England knows how to do it right. My goal for the week was to eat as many humongous ice cream cones as I could. And I did.

On our last morning there, I took one final walk in the ocean air. Look at that view! Thank you, Susan and Steve for taking us! We had the best time. And dear Granddad, please get well soon.

p.s. All of a sudden this dry desert heat doesn't seem quite so bearable anymore. Blah.

Monday, June 23, 2014

12 year old Mabel

Mabel is so full of talent that it spills out of her unabated. Sometimes I feel like my only job as her mother is to help her see what she is capable of. Lots of times I feel like I am failing. But just as she taught me how to mother a baby 12 years ago, I know she will teach me how to mother a complicated teenager now. I think I just need to follow her lead.

Happy birthday Mabel! We sure love you.

Friday, June 20, 2014

happy weekend

I've been trying really hard to unplug myself this week. This is what I've discovered: I don't miss technology! Life goes on and is more peaceful without it! But that doesn't mean that I am completely in the dark. I still keep up with my close friends and family on Instagram, and I am so grateful for it. For instance, how else would I see adorable pictures like this one of my sister's chubby baby in England? Or how in the world would I find out that my brother's surfboards were featured on the Price is Right? Thank goodness for things that help us stay close when we live so far away from each other. But you know what? I don't miss Facebook or Pinterest one bit. And eliminating some blogs from my feed have only increased my feeling of serenity.

How do you manage these things? I'd love to hear your ideas.

We're headed out of town this weekend. Have a good one!

Friday, June 13, 2014

happy weekend

My kids are growing up before my eyes. I know all parents say that, but this is the first time I've felt it to be true. I'm starting to panic a little, feeling like my time with them at home is disappearing too quickly. Am I using that time as well as I could be? Or am I letting inconsequential things distract me. I know the answer to that, and I don't like it.

And so lately I've been trying to narrow my focus a bit, or be more aware of what I am allowing to influence me, I guess. Nothing is more important than what is happening in my own little home. I know this is true. So what am I looking for when I putz around on the internet, or check Instagram so often?

I needed to make some changes. We've canceled Netflix, again. Instead of trying to do things like Facebook less, I just removed them completely from my phone. I follow so few people on Instagram now, that it's hardly worth checking. I keep my phone on the kitchen counter and try not to touch it during the day. Mabel is getting nearer to the age where she will want to participate in social media, and how can I expect her to manage it well if I can't manage it myself? It's time to step away a bit. Blog less. Read fewer blogs. Put down my phone. Be more present.

Is this something you struggle with, too? The thing is, I don't want to look back to these good, happy years with my kids at home and think that I wasted them on something as ridiculous as social media. It's just not worth it.

Anyway, stay cool and have a happy weekend.

Friday, June 06, 2014

happy weekend

The kids have been trickling in to the kitchen for breakfast this week, one at a time. Elliot is always first, dragging his Wolfie and looking for a hug. Stella, who had a hard time moving quickly before school, has been staying in her bed sometimes for an hour after she wakes up. She makes her way upstairs last, usually after the breakfast dishes have been cleared and cleaned. Oh well. That's what summer is all about.

Mike signed them all up for swim classes at the city pool this week and next, but luckily they don't start til mid-morning. It gives us lots of time to move slowly in the mornings if we feel like it. And we do.

Since they don't have swim class on Fridays, I was thinking about taking the kids to see Maleficent today, but I'm afraid it's too scary for my little ones. Have you seen it? Is it as scary as the trailers make it seem? Because they make it seem really scary.

Have a good weekend!

***Update: I took Mabel (almost 12) and Oliver (9) to the movie, but I left Stella (6) and Elliot (4) at home. I'm so glad I left my little kids at home. It is way too intense for young children. I would have felt really uncomfortable with them there, and I know many scenes would have been much too frightening for them. But Mabel and Oliver and I liked it!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Berry Syrup

Something that we've been loving at our house lately is homemade berry syrup. We eat a lot of waffles and pancakes and german pancakes, and berry syrup is a nice change from the usual, sugary maple syrup we put on top. I like that I can make it with as much or as little sugar as I want. I am always trying to reduce the amount of sugar we eat, and this is a good way to have something sweet, but not too sweet.

Berry Syrup

1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 to 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
2 cups berry mix, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries

Bring all ingredients to a boil on medium high heat. Boil vigorously for about 5 minutes (careful, it will splatter), or until the fruit has broken down and is very soft. Then blend with an immersion blender, or mash with a spoon. I use our bean masher, and I keep it sort of chunky. Serve warm on top of your favorite waffles or pancakes with some freshly whipped cream.

(I like whipping my own cream. I think it tastes better, and it allows me to control the amount of sugar here, too. I use a small half pint carton with just a tablespoon or so of sugar and a little vanilla. I like it sort of runny, so I only whip it until it is nice and heavy.)

Bonus: Berry syrup is super delicious served over vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Monday, June 02, 2014

summer vacation, so far

Well, we are one week into summer vacation, and it might be a little premature to say this, but I think we are going to be just fine.

When I was growing up, summer vacation was all about watching too much tv, going swimming, and getting really really bored, all with minimal parental involvement. I want that for my kids, too. I don't think my children need me to entertain them, or to provide activities for them. They need to build things with legos, or draw pictures, or get lost in a book. And then they need to get really really bored, so that come August, they are excited to go back to school.

So this is our summer plan: hang out at home all day in our pajamas doing whatever we want until it's time to go swimming. Then eat dinner and go to bed. And repeat.

We have some fun trips planned, too, so we are looking forward to those. That's it! Oh, and a guitar. Mabel is borrowing my sister-in-law's guitar, so hopefully she can learn a few chords by summer's end.

I think it's going to be great.

Friday, May 23, 2014

happy weekend

I stayed in bed this morning, reading my book. Stella is still sleeping as I type! There were no lunches to pack, no homework to sign. No one to rush out the door. We're thinking of going out for doughnuts in a little bit. Then maybe we'll go to the library. Happy summer vacation to us! We're so glad it's here.

We always forget to make plans for Memorial Day weekend, so I am sure it will find us at home, doing our normal weekend things. That lawn isn't going to mow itself, after all.

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

California Quinoa Salad

I don't remember how I came across this recipe for California Quinoa Salad, but I am glad I did. It is fresh and light, and full of good things like mango and peppers and coconut. I'm trying not to eat sugar during the week, and with the raisins and mango, it even satisfied my sweet tooth. I made it for my lunch the other day, then served it to my family as a side that night at dinner. Fair warning: my kids wouldn't take more than the one bite required of new foods. But I thought it was delicious.

I followed the recipe with just a few small changes: I added avocado, because I don't think something can be called "California" without it, and instead of 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, I only added a few splashes. I wanted the lime to shine, and it sure did. Oh, and my mangoes were very small, so I used two. I don't even like bell peppers, but I really loved them in this dish. I'll make it again for sure!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

for my super hero loving boy

I have been holding on to these square frames for years. For so long that I didn't even remember what was inside them (old records, apparently). I don't think they've seen the light of day since we lived in our little condo in Provo before Mabel was born.

This is when minimalism gets tricky. Theoretically these frames, which were languishing in the dark recesses of the closet under our stairs, should have been tossed when we did our major clean out. But sometimes I am really glad that I've hung on to things. Like everything else, it's a balance, I suppose.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread and a weekend report

Weekend highlights: a long run with Mike, where we (literally) ran into Reachel and Beth on the canal. Dinner out with good friends and good food, and lots of lazy family time. But the best thing by far was Mike and Mabel's duet of I Need Thee Every Hour during Sacrament meeting yesterday. I might be somewhat biased, but I thought it was really beautiful.

Also a highlight: this zucchini bread. My neighbor gifted me with zucchini fresh from her garden, so I made up two loaves and we finished them off after Sunday dinner.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread with Cinnamon Topping

3 cups shredded zucchini (maybe 2 or 3 medium zucchinis, or one humongous one)
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the topping:
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease the bottoms of two loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, spices, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and combine. Pour into prepared pans.

In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients. Use a fork or your fingers, it should be crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the loaves.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out pretty clean.

Friday, May 16, 2014

happy weekend

This week sure flew by. With only one week of school left, summer will be here before we know it. (And the temperatures are rising to prove it.) Our summer plans look like this: Get a pool pass. Go swimming.

But first, five more days of packing lunches. I've lost the will to pack them responsibly. Extra waffles from breakfast? A few mixed nuts? Half of an apple? Sounds like lunch to me.

Have a good weekend!