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?

Monday, July 27, 2015

the plan of happiness

For this week's Conference Report, I chose President Boyd K. Packer's final public address, "The Plan of Happiness". He passed away a few weeks ago and I will miss hearing from him at our conferences. He was not afraid to be bold, but he was kind and compassionate in his boldness.

In this talk, President Packer lays out the Plan of Happiness, as we believe it, and goes into great detail about the relationship between husbands and wives, how that relationship is essential to the plan, how it can bring us closer to our Heavenly Father, and how it can unite us and bring us joy. He talks about why we should save sexual relations until after marriage, how it is important to "bridle our passions", and how true love can grow through experience and time. It's worth a read if you have a few minutes.

Here are my favorite bits:

First, he says, "The end of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity." That is the reason we do all that we do, right? So we can be happy together at home, and so we can be together forever. There is much that is required of us in this life - many difficult things that stretch us and cause us to grow, but those are the things that bring us the most happiness.

And for those who have not married, or cannot have children, or who have difficulties at all in this area, he says, "For now I offer this comfort: God is our Father! All the love and generosity manifest in the ideal earthly father is magnified in Him who is our Father and our God beyond the capacity of the mortal mind to comprehend. His judgments are just; His mercy without limit; His power to compensate beyond any earthly comparison."

One last bit about hope and the Atonement: "Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, He has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity."

Read the whole talk here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

last and best stop: Sundance

On the back of Mount Timpanogas, about 20 minutes outside of Provo, is Sundance, Utah, my most favorite place in the whole world. My parents bought their home there when I was 15 years old, and then moved in full time about eight years ago.

The views from my runs with Mike were stunning. The runs themselves were totally killer. As in - they almost killed me dead. But it doesn't get prettier than that.

We soaked it in as best we could. (This is the Alpine Loop Road that starts in Provo Canyon and goes past Sundance, past Aspen Grove, up and over the mountain into American Fork. It is extremely scenic and also very windy, so car sick prone people beware. It costs a few dollars to drive it, but you can run it for free!)

Home sweet home.

When I was giving my hips a break from running straight up and down the mountain with Mike, I went hiking with my mom. She knows all of the best trails. They had a really rainy spring, so the ferns were out of control.

Something fun to do at Sundance is to ride the lift to the top. Hello Heber!

We walked to the resort for lunch at the Foundry Grill a few times and enjoyed the rustic ambiance that can only be found at Sundance.

The real fun started when my sister, Leslie, and her family arrived. I love these brothers and cousins.

Sundance recently opened their incredibly high Zip Tour, but we stuck with the homemade one below my parents' house.

The traditional "Cousin Bench" photo. We are missing lots of cousins in this picture, but we'll take what we can get.


Almost every evening we'd take a loop around my parent's neighborhood. It was a good way to end the day.

Our last hike of the trip was to Stewart Falls. Oh man, I'd give anything to be back there under those cloudy skies right this minute. We were there for two weeks, but I could easily have taken two more.

Until next year, Sundance!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

next stop: Provo

If you ever get the chance to be in Provo, Utah on the fourth of July, take it! It is so much fun! We started the day in downtown Provo to eat doughnuts and watch the parade. The streets were lined with spectators wearing red, white, and blue, and the parade was full of marching bands, horses, and pageant queens. It doesn't get more patriotic or American than that.

My parents' friends own a beautiful old house on Center Street, which is the perfect spot to view the parade. We crammed on their lawn with lots of other people and enjoyed the show. That night we attended the Stadium of Fire. Journey headlined the night, and the firework show was incredible.

Some other friends of my parents have a home in Provo Canyon. They are very generous and always let us use their pool when we're in town. Elliot is really getting good at his cannon balls.

But seriously, that view. It's killer.

Other fun things we did in Provo: we drove by all of my old houses, visited the BYU, went to the Bean Life Museum, ate at Waffle Love, and admired the incredible mountains that I never really appreciated when I lived there. But the real highlight, at least for my kids, was this:

My dad got tickets to a technical rehearsal and a live taping for Studio C. My kids went bonkers! It is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to them, I'm sure of it. If you aren't familiar with the live sketch show on BYUtv called Studio C, do your kids a favor and check them out of youtube. So funny and clean and creative. It was really neat to be in the studio and watch them live.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

We always seem to have browning bananas sitting on our kitchen counter. So, when we needed a treat for Family Home Evening this week, Mabel and Oliver tried a new recipe. We all thought it was a winner. They made Kelsey Nixon's Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I had them swap the shortening for butter, halve the sugar, and use whole wheat flour because I'm like that. And they tasted great! Plenty sweet with only 1/2 cup of sugar. The bonus of making "healthy" cookies, is that I don't feel bad letting them eat them for breakfast.

Oh, and ours were done baking after about 18 minutes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

first stop: Logan

Here goes the travelogue. I hope you don't mind. . .

Mike owns a Chem Dry carpet cleaning company. The corporate headquarters are located in Logan, Utah, and he was presenting at a conference there during the last week of June, so we tagged along. I had never been to the Cache Valley area of northern Utah before, and it was so beautiful! We had a fun three days exploring the area and swimming in the hotel pool while Mike was busy in his meetings.

Our favorite spot, and the only place I photographed, apparently, was Tony Grove, about 20 minutes outside of Logan. It is a pretty little lake nestled high in the mountains, surrounded by pines and wild flowers. We walked the short loop all the way around and admired the views.

It felt really great to stretch our legs after spending the previous two days in the car on the drive up.

Other fun things we did in Logan: we went antique shopping, ate spudnuts at Johnny O's, took turns driving a friend's off-road vehicle up the mountain (and now Mabel and Oliver are counting down the days until they're 16), and went horseback riding. I've heard the winters up there are sort of brutal, but Mike and I were ready to sell everything we own and find a little land to farm. We really liked it there.

And look at the pretty temples we found! We stopped at the St. George, Utah temple on the drive up, and saw the Logan, Utah temple while we were out and about one day.

Monday, July 20, 2015

on prayer

I would like to be better at saying my prayers. I believe that prayer can be a direct and personal communication with our Heavenly Father, but I haven't been utilizing it as well as I should. So, in an effort to improve, I did some reading yesterday before church. I really liked what J. Devn Cornish had to say in his talk, The Privilege of Prayer. A few of my favorites:

"God our Father is not a feeling or an idea or a force. He is a holy person who, as the scriptures teach, has a face and hands and a glorious immortal body. He is real, He knows each of us individually, and He loves us, every one. He wants to bless us."

"Please believe how very much your loving Heavenly Father wants to bless you. But because He will not infringe upon our agency, we must ask for His help. This is generally done through prayer. Prayer is one of the most precious gifts of God to man."

"When we truly believe that God rules His kingdom and that He has all power and all glory, we are recognizing that He really is in charge, that He loves us with a perfect love, and that He wants us to be happy. I have found that one of the secrets to a joyful life is to recognize that doing things the Lord's way will make me happier than doing things my way."

Other good reads:

The Language of Prayer
Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer

Friday, July 17, 2015

happy weekend

This week was about getting back on track. It is so hard to come home from vacation, isn't it? Sheesh. I think we all wish we were still at my parents' house, sitting around reading books and eating ice cream every day. But that's not real life.

Luckily we had a rainstorm blow our way. It came out of nowhere and left us drenched. Rainstorms like that are the very best part of an Arizona summer. Nothing lifts our spirits and cools the air quite like them. We are very happy to be entering monsoon season. Hopefully it will be long and plentiful.

Before I go any further, are you watching Poldark on PBS? Hurry, episode 1 expires in 2 days! It kept me company while I finished up some sewing projects this week and now I am hooked. I'm serious, it is really good.

If this week was about getting settled again at home, next week will be about getting back into our routine. We have cleaning and laundry and swimming to do. But first, we have a mouse to catch! It turns out that the mouse I saw about a month ago didn't just magically disappear like I hoped it would. In fact, it completely took over our pantry while we were gone and I haven't had the energy to do anything about it yet but fret. Our cat is officially fired. And the sticky mousetraps I set out didn't do the the trick. Help!

I hope you have a good (mouse free) weekend!

Monday, July 13, 2015

home again

We've been away. For three solid weeks! Man alive, I don't think we've ever been gone for so long in one go. Mike had a conference in Utah, then we spent a couple of weeks at my parents' house in Sundance. It was really nice to step away from real life for a bit. It gave me some good perspective and hopefully the opportunity to alter some habits and make improvements here at home. 

I have quite a bit of catching up to do, but I'm sure I'll bore you with a trip recap soon enough. 

Have a good week!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

happy birthday Mabel!

Not only does Mabel have to put up with these yahoos all of the time, but she has had to put up with having me and Mike as her parents for the past 13 years, too. Despite all of us, she is turning into the best young woman. She is bright and kind and creative. She is helpful and responsible and funny. I am excited about this next phase of teenager-hood because I can see who she is becoming and it makes my heart burst with love and pride. She's going to knock her teen years out of the park.

p.s. How not to ruin your relationship with your teenager.

Friday, June 19, 2015

happy father's day weekend

Motherhood made my world flip upside down and inside out. Mike, on the other hand, entered fatherhood without breaking his stride. It came so naturally to him. One day it was just the two of us, and the next day there were three. I've always admired that about him. He is steady and kind and way more fun than I am. I am so grateful to be parenting by his side.

Every once in a while, Father's Day and Mabel's birthday fall on the same day. This year is one of those years. So, here is a photo of the two people who first made us a family. I love them both and wish them a happy Father's Day and happy birthday on Sunday, respectively.

Have a happy weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

sum sum summatime

Well, we've officially reached the point where the heat is only bearable if you are wearing a wet bathing suit. I really really love living in Arizona, but man alive the sun was scorching yesterday. And so we went to the pool. And we got very wet. And we lived to fight another day.

T minus 8 days until the great summer escape of 2015 begins.