Tuesday, August 23, 2016

in favor of bed making

Do you make your bed everyday? The admiral in this video claims that if you want to change the world, you need to start by making your bed. I've never thought about it that way, but I'm with him!

Monday, August 22, 2016


One of my favorite paragraphs from The Family: A Proclamation to the World says, "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." I thought it was interesting that in Dr. Sax's book, The Collapse of Parenting, he talked about how important it is to have fun with your kids, too.

With that in mind, when Elliot asked to go fishing Friday night right before bedtime, we said okay.

Elliot has only been fishing a few times in his life, and he has caught a fish almost every time. So we are either giving him completely unrealistic expectations, or he is just really lucky.

The whole outing only took about half an hour that night, but the time we spent there on the canal as a family is something I'll always remember. I know that wholesome recreational activities can bind us together and promote a family culture that makes us stronger, happier, and more committed to each other. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

happy weekend

Today marks the end of the first full week of school. I'm pretty sure we're all wiped. I've been making my way through my list of long-neglected chores. Things like wiping down the walls, cleaning out the little office off our kitchen, and giving everything a thorough dusting. (Dusting is the chore I skip most regularly, especially in the summer.) Mike and the kids have been busy expanding their minds and learning all sorts of new things, I'm sure. I think we're all ready to relax this weekend.

Two no sugar recipes we tried and loved this week: Chunky Monkey Breakfast Bake and No Sugar Added Banana Bread. For the breakfast bake: I quadrupled it to feed all four of my kids, subbed regular milk for the almond milk and peanut butter for the almond butter in the sauce (Mabel is allergic to tree nuts.), left out the maple syrup, added a tablespoon of coconut oil, and used just a few dark chocolate chips. For the banana bread: I left out the walnuts and next time I make it, I might add a pinch more salt. The bread really hit the spot (and uses a whopping 6 bananas!). It has almost the same texture as our old favorite banana bread, but none of the added sugar. It'd really be best with the walnuts called for in the recipe, but we don't want Mabel's throat to close up, so what are you going to do? But as good as these were, they mostly just reminded me of the chapter in Year of No Sugar called "Everything Tastes Like Bananas and Dates." Ha!

I know this feeling is fleeting, but I've actually been excited to pack lunches in the morning. I am challenging myself to do it with no added sugar or white flour. So far so good. We couldn't have made it without hard boiled eggs, the really sweet watermelon I picked up at Fry's, and Lara Bars. Those have been a big hit. Other things I've put in their lunches this week: tuna sandwiches on homemade buns for the boys (our mayo has sugar in it, but I've decided to let condiments go), unsweetened plain yogurt with raspberries and grape nuts, and these sesame and sea salt crackers for something crunchy. For school lunches, I try to stick to the one part sandwich, one part fruit, one part crunchy rule, maybe with a few extras thrown in.

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

book review: Year of No Sugar

I related to so much of what Eve Schaub wrote in her memoir, Year of No Sugar. She is funny and smart and real, and her book was a pleasure to read. This memoir follows her family through their "year of no sugar." For one year, they avoided all added sugar, specifically, anything with fructose in it (aside from whole fruit). That means no table sugar, no corn syrup, no honey, no molasses, no agave, no evaporated cane syrup, no maple syrup, no artificial sweeteners, and no fruit juice. She writes about the science behind her decision in a way that is easy to understand. And then she relates their experiences (sometimes funny, sometimes tragic) as they navigated this culture which is so saturated with sugar.

Her family had a few rules for their experiment: Every month, as a family, they chose one sugar treat (like a birthday cake, or a favorite seasonal pie). Each family member had one exception (jam for her girls, diet soda for her husband, and white wine for herself). And they instituted the "birthday party rule", which was that when her children were at school or at a party without parents, they were able to choose for themselves whether or not they ate any sugar.

She talks about how hard it is to eat out, and how making almost everything from scratch is sometimes the best way to avoid added sugar. And she describes how after you haven't had sugar for a long time, your body doesn't want the sugar even though your brain still does. It's a weird conundrum-- your brain wants all of the comfort and good feelings our culture assigns to treats, but your body no longer knows how to deal with it. I've seen that in my life, too. I so look forward to my weekly treat at Sunday dinner, but it inevitably gives me an immediate headache and makes me feel yucky. I also love that she addresses the fact that choosing to not eat sugar is totally a first world problem. Sometimes I feel so silly thinking about food so much, when really, I should just be grateful that I have food to eat!

Anyway, this is a great book to read if you are at all considering reducing the amount of sugar your family eats. While I am not about to embark on a project like this, Ms. Schaub and I have kind of come to the same conclusions: We will avoid added sugar whenever possible, but we aren't going to obsess over it.

The only thing I didn't really like about the book is that the author started substituting powdered dextrose for the sugar in her baking. While dextrose doesn't contain fructose, this still sort of felt like cheating to me. I'm not even sure what dextrose is, but I'd rather just not have the baked goods, you know?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

hello again

About a year ago, I gave up my smart phone. I was having a hard time keeping it out of my hand, so I took a break from it. During that break, I did some soul searching. Did I actually need a smart phone? No. Could I really live without it? Yes! But the thing is, giving up my smart phone didn't really solve my problem. I was still looking at instagram too much, but now it was on our little iPad instead. What to do? Get rid of instagram?! Heavens! I was moments away from taking just such a drastic step when I got a chatbook in the mail. Shoot. Chatbooks are our favorite. I never ever print photos, let alone put them in a photo book, so chatbooks are the best. They take photos from your instagram and automatically send you a little book every month. My kids love them. They are the only non-digital record of our life and I wasn't ready to give that up.

And then something happened. Like the flipping of a switch, my attitude about instagram changed and I am so grateful. Instead of thinking of it as something to fill the time when I had a spare moment, I started to think of it as a place to document our family life. Period. It's always mostly been about that for me, but with a good amount of time wasting added in. Now I can post a photo, but I don't have to see how many likes it gets. I can scroll through my feed to see what my close friends and family are up to, but I don't need to follow everyone in the world (like people I knew a million years ago or people I've never even met!). I can go a day or two without looking at it, and I certainly don't have to check it right before I fall asleep every night. If I can think of it just as a place to post photos for our family record, I think I'll be ok.

But I can feel my old habits creeping back in, ever so slowly. Here's the good news: because of the long break I took from my smart phone, it is easier to recognize when I need to take a step back and put the phone down and walk away.

Some rules I made for myself: Instagram isn't on my home screen. I have to search for it. And the search function and the news tab inside of the app are off limits. The sound doesn't work on my ancient iPhone, so the new instagram stories are pretty much pointless. And that's ok with me!

The new school year always feels like a fresh start. Even though I'm alone for most of the day now (!) and no one can see if I'm wasting time on my phone or not, I know that I can be better. There is a difference in my day when I spend too much time on my phone. It makes me feel frazzled and anxious. This is a good chance to get back to some good habits.

But I have to tell you, texting is SO much easier on a smart phone. And maps! I missed those maps!

Monday, August 15, 2016


We don't put a lot of emphasis on a school year theme at our house, but I like to choose one, anyway. It's nice to have it plastered on the door to the garage so we see it a million times a day. I hope that even though we don't talk a lot about it, the messages we have chosen each year are making an impact on our children.

This year's theme is "kindness begins with me." I chose this as my own personal New Year's resolution (I wrote a post about it here), and now I want to extend it to the rest of my family. My children are bright. I don't worry about their academic success, but I do worry about their quality of their characters. More than smart children, I want kind children. And so, this year, every time we step into the kitchen, we will see the words "kindness begins with me" staring back at us.

Stella is going to teach our family home evening lesson about the parable of the Good Samaritan tonight. I think it will be a good introduction to our theme.

I will share this quote from our previous prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley: "There is no end to the good we can do, to the influence we can have with others. Let us not dwell on the critical or the negative. Let us pray for strength; let us pray for capacity and desire to assist others. Let us radiate the light of the gospel at all times and in all places, that the Spirit of the Redeemer may radiate from us."

It's easy to get caught up in our own stuff--our own fears, our own responsibilities, our own desires, etc. I want my children to look beyond their small selves and see people around them who might need help, or a smile, or a kind word. I know that when I make a greater effort to do this myself, I am happier. Those fears and heavy responsibilities fade. My desires become less important. I am more content and more at peace. I want this for my children, too.

Quote from President Hinckley's talk here.

Friday, August 12, 2016

happy weekend

Well, we are three days into the new school year and I have to be honest, I feel a little out of sorts. I didn't expect to feel this way! I'm a little lost. The good news is that my house is really clean. The bad news is that I've spent the past two days doing nothing but cleaning. I don't want to spend all my time cleaning. Time to reread this post, I guess.

Here's the school report: Mabel says high school is a glorified eighth grade and is underwhelming. Phew! Oliver's bus leaves later than last year, giving him about half an hour more sleep in the mornings. In classic Stella fashion, she says things are "great." And Elliot is really, really tired. Good thing tomorrow is the weekend and he can rest up.

My kids are dying to see Pete's Dragon this weekend, but I kind of just want to veg in front of the olympics. Doesn't that sound nice?

Here's something good: Rubygirl.org. My sister introduced me to it. It's a wonderful, uplifting, and positive place for girls (and women, too!). From their site, Rubygirl is a place where "young women from all over the world gather to exchange ideas, work through problems, share faith, and build friendships. . . We hope to encourage writing as a tool for spiritual, personal, and emotional development." I subscribed Mabel to their feed. She spends a lot of time online, and Rubygirl seems like a better place to browse than pinterest, you know?

Have a happy one!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Who would you most like to have dinner with?

I know this is just a commercial, but I thought the message was powerful and sweet. It made me really grateful for the opportunity to sit with my kids around the dinner table almost every night, and a little more willing to cook that blasted dinner, too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

here we go!

Oliver left first, bright and early this morning. Because he is now in 6th grade, he will have an extra hour of instruction in the afternoon, so it will be a longer day than he is used to. Other than that, he is at the same school with the same friends as he has been for the past two years. He attends a public school in our district with a more rigorous academic curriculum than our regular neighborhood school. He is doing well there and I am grateful for that option.

There were a little more jitters in our second group. Mabel is off to high school! She will be a third generation Warrior, as she gets to attend the same high school that Mike and his mom both attended, where she will be doing the International Baccalaureate program. She is nervous, but I know she'll do great. She is bright and kind and so capable. She is excited to be out of uniforms, but of course that led to a little outfit stress this morning. Ha!

Elliot will be in all day first grade, much to his chagrin. I know he'll love it once he's there (he is especially excited to eat lunch in the cafeteria), but he thinks that all day is going to feel really long. It probably will. I sense an extra early bedtime tonight.

And Stella is ready in her cat pants to take on third grade!


Monday, August 08, 2016

Mike's first day

Today is a big day. Mike went back to school! After thirteen years of being a small business owner, he is getting his MBA. He has always wanted to do this, and the timing finally felt right (even though we feel really old!). Here's a serendipitous coincidence: He decided to apply and was accepted the year ASU's WP Carey School of Business decided to offer full tuition scholarships to every full time student. The competition for admittance was understandably a little more intense because of the scholarship and I am so proud of him for making it (and not one bit surprised). Mike is one of the smartest people I know, and one of the most driven, too. His ability to work hard to achieve his goals is one of his most admirable qualities. I can't wait to hear all about his first day when he gets home tonight!

Friday, August 05, 2016

happy weekend

It has been monsoony all week, which makes for really pretty pink streets after the rain. And lots of humidity, too. The overcast skies that come with the storms are always such a nice change from the searing red hot burning sun we get every other day, though. Can you tell I'm over summer yet? Sheesh. I walked into Joann's yesterday and they had their fall decorations out and I very nearly swooned.

The countdown is on! Only three more days until Mike starts school and 5 days until the kids start. What am I going to do with myself all day everyday, you ask? Whatever I feel like doing, that's what. Ha! Actually, I'm going to try to be very deliberate about how I spend my days. And I'll probably miss everyone more than I think I will. But think of all the time I'll have! Hopefully I'll be able to do more sewing to help supplement our income while Mike is in school. And maybe swim more. And definitely take more naps. . .

I have a feeling that once Mike is gone all day, I will realize that I didn't appreciate how much he was home this summer. Who will fix the internet if it's being slow!? Or run with me to the grocery store real quick? We'll have to make the most of this weekend, I guess. Like, by watching the Olympics. Hooray! The opening ceremonies are tonight. I am so excited. Do you watch the olympics? I have so many great memories of watching them with my family as a child. I want that for my family, too, so you'll find us glued to the tv for the next two weeks. For all things olympic, go here.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

saying no to screens

The other day Elliot was begging and begging to watch a show on the iPad. I said no. And no. And no. And guess what? He didn't die. :) Actually, just a few minutes after his hopes of screen time were dashed, I found him on the kitchen floor happily making a welcome home banner for our girls who had been in Utah, all by himself, completely of his own accord. And then I knew that I needed to write this down so that next time he begs for a show, I can remember that saying no isn't the end of the world and that most likely, within moments, he will have found something (usually much more creative) to do with himself. I know this. But sometimes it's easy to forget.

Sort of related: I am back to using my iPhone. I need to tell you all about it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

a quick trip to California

Mike and the boys and I headed west last week, and we didn't stop until we reached the coast. I have two brothers and my grandparents still in southern California, where I grew up, and it was high time we had a visit. Since all of the girls were in Utah for granddaughter's week, the boys had the run of things.

Cousin Henry, visiting from Massachusettes, showed us his muscles. Cousin David showed these out-of-towners how to dig.

That's my oldest brother, Elliott, in the background. (He lives in Massachusetts.) I don't think Oliver came up for air once he had that boogie board in his hands. He also tried surfing (thanks to my patient brother, Matt) and it makes me wonder what he would be like if he was able to do these things more often. I don't think I've ever seen him smile so big.

One night, we all got together at my brother, Matt's house and celebrated my beautiful grandmother's 86th birthday with my sister-in-law's fresh peach cake.

And then the next night, we went to my grandma's cozy house, one of my favorite places to be.

My brother, Elliott, and his wife, Ginger, and their youngest, Henry, were there with us. Album Surf shirts are sort of the family uniform.

My grandpa was there too, of course. There were lots of old photos to look at and stories to tell and yummy food to eat and good company to enjoy.

It was a quick trip, but I got to see the ocean, laugh with all three of my brothers at the same time, hug my grandparents, drive by the house I grew up in, and eat a veggie burger at Ruby's! A success all around, I'd say.

Monday, August 01, 2016

powerful nurturing

In Sacrament meeting yesterday, one of the speakers quoted from Julie B. Beck's 2005 article, Powerful Nurturing. I loved the quote so much that I went home from church and looked up the whole thing. Because school starts soon, and because I need a little reminder about why family dinners are so important, I'd like to share the article here for my weekly conference report.

Basically, the gist of the article is that women and mothers are "primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." (From the Proclamation on the Family) And to nurture means to "feed, foster, care for, or rear." So, as the woman and mother in my home, it is my job to feed my family. But it turns out that feeding my family can be about so much more than the food!

Sister Beck says, "As a young mother I did not fully understand my power as a nurturer. Though we were a busy family, I considered everyone's presence at dinnertime nonnegotiable. It was our most consistent gathering time, and everyone planned to eat together before going on to other activities. I learned of the influence of my nurturing when our youngest daughter wrote in a college paper: 'Dinner in our home was not just an eating ritual, but a special time for the family to communicate and to share our thoughts and stories of the day. ... We often sat together for over an hour as we savored the conversation as much as the food.'

"I thought I was just cooking casseroles and soup. But I had created the venue, the reason to gather. Because I prepared a meal to share with my family, something special happened. ... Mothers who are 'primarily responsible for the nurture of their children,' can be a powerful force for strengthening families when they use mealtimes to gather loved ones. They follow the example of the Savior to calm, teach, and help their families remember important things as they feed, cultivate, educate, and rear at the consecrated tables in their homes."

I'm not sure what our dinner routine will look like this new school year. Last year, we ate at 4:30 every afternoon. But I do know that sitting down together and eating as a family every night is one of the best things I can do for my children, and is worth whatever sacrifice we have to make for it to happen. As my children have grown, our dinner time experience has changed. I feel like it just keeps getting better and better, and hopefully more of the teaching that Sister Beck mentions will begin to take place.

Read the entire (really short!) article here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

summer: expectation vs. reality

I found this doodle in my living room the other day, drawn by Mabel. I thought it was so funny! And also true. We always have such high hopes for summer, don't we? And then it's 115 degrees everyday and we mostly end up sitting around, trying to stay cool. Well, our summer break is winding down. Only two weeks til everyone will be back in school (including Mike!).

I thought this little part needed to be enlarged. Ha! #blessed

We have one last quick trip to California to visit family and see the ocean. And then we'll be all about the backpacks and lunch boxes and pencils and new shoes.

Any last fun plans before school starts?