Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting Ready for 2011

We're spending this week getting our house de-junked and totally ready for the new year.  It's a huge process, but it absolutely invigorates me to see clean shelves and closets.  My mind can breathe!  Our de-junk goes something like this, if you'd like to try it:

(1) Pick one major room each day, plus maybe a little cupboard/closet/bathroom (so you can have the whole house de-junked within a week).  If you're balancing a heavy workload, a full-time job, or lots of little ones, it also works to pick one major room each week and space out the process a bit more.

(2) Plan to stay home every day in your pajamas, if you have that luxury.  Shower in the afternoon once your room is dejunked . . . it's good motivation to get your work done.  Serve quick meals for dinner. 

(3) Get your whole family involved in the process.  My husband doesn't love de-junking, but he's very good at it, so he works with me as much as possible.  I'm usually the one who does it, though, because he has a tendency to throw everything away.  :)  My children will help take out trash, sort toys and art supplies, and run things to their "new homes," but mostly they play and color and come in and out to ask me questions once in awhile.  They like seeing all the "new things" that have been hiding deep in the cupboards.  It's a party.

(4) Go around the designated room systematically, emptying every shelf, cupboard, drawer, etc.  Toss/donate/relocate everything you possibly can, and put back only things that are beautiful, useful, or really special.  Jot down anything you need to buy or do to make that space more functional.

(5) Once you have that space clean, teach your children how to keep it that way (they can usually keep it nice for at least 30 minutes), and then dance around the room to your favorite music.  Open each drawer at least three times so you can "ooh" and "ahh."  Celebrate the fact that you have conquered one portion of the mess.

(6) Repeat until the whole house is beautiful.  You will feel like your square footage has doubled, and you'll feel excited about life, and you'll walk around your house thinking that it is heaven.  (For detailed instructions, my FAVORITE book on this is "It's Here . . . Somewhere.")

(7) If your children are anything like mine, they don't naturally keep things clean.  That's okay, though.  They can learn to pick up after themselves, and when the house is de-junked, it's easier to keep on top of the mess.  One or two things "out of place" are much more manageable than 115 things.

We've finished the master closet, the kitchen, the pantry, the laundry room, the garage, and the children's rooms, and now we're going to tackle our office, our master bedroom, the bathrooms, and the living room.  It is SO worth the effort (and think of all the things you can donate to charity!).

The challenge I'm having right now, though, is that in the process of taking care of my home and family (and potty-training Spencer . . . YAY!!!!), my heart is hurting over all the things I simply can't do. 

I know there are millions of discouraged mothers out there who are living in tough circumstances.  I wish I could alleviate their burdens, visit their homes, give them hugs and shoulder massages and tell them, "You can do this.  Don't get down on yourself.  Don't doubt yourself.  All this hard work is making you stronger.  You have so much to offer your family and the world." 

I know there are children living in situations full of abuse, poverty, and neglect.  I wish I could take care of them all--or even just a few--and give them a home and family where they could be loved and adored. 

I know there are political campaigns going on that need support, people struggling with illiteracy, and homes sinking in mud from our recent California flooding (my husband helped dig around a practically-destroyed house for several hours yesterday).

Even though I know I can do many "good" things in the world, I'm just going to take it one step at a time.  I'll get my home clean and organized, I'll help my children to grow, and I'll involve them as I move on to more projects within my community.  I'm also hoping that as I help mothers get organized through Mind Organization for Moms, we can all reach out a little more--thereby multiplying our efforts.
And now it's time for bed.  I've got lots of de-junking to do tomorrow.  :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Are You Ready for Christmas?"

In the days and weeks leading up to December 25th, we often hear this question.  Initially, I ask myself if I've finished my shopping, if I've sent out my Christmas cards, if I've stocked up on our favorite treats, and if I've delivered the last of our "neighbor gifts."  But this Christmas, I'm thinking about it a different way. 

When I was in high school, my mom spoke in our church meeting about being "ready" for Christmas.  She said that even though she might not have all the "things" prepared, she is always ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  She challenged all of us to focus on the purpose of the holiday and the love that our Savior has for us.  Are we "ready" for Him?

This year, I decided I wouldn't let stress enter the holiday season (you can read "My First GTD Christmas" guest post on David Allen's blog here).

We didn't send out Christmas cards (hopefully next year!), we didn't put out all the decorations, we didn't start the 53 traditions I have in my "Someday" folder, and we didn't make it to all the parties that we ordinarily love to attend. 

I know for some people, our Christmas probably looks like a failure.  What?  No lights on your roof?  No matching Christmas outfits?  No ornament exchange?

Christmas traditions are great things, and I'm looking forward to many years of magical family memories centered around this special holiday, but I've had to put my sanity first this year, and I simply can't do everything. 

My husband and I have had a lot on our minds these past few months, and our three-year-old likes to scream a lot.  Our schedules have been filled with a variety of responsibilities with our family, work, and church, and some great new opportunities have opened up at The Power of Moms (publishing a book, writing for Deseret News, marketing the Mind Organization for Moms program I put together . . .). 

To compensate for all this, we've slowed down in other areas.  We're still doing what we can to reach out and help others this season, we're singing hymns around the piano with our children, we're sharing our feelings of love for God, and we're reading the scriptures together each day.  We've also made time to decorate a tree with our homemade ornaments, make "candy cane airplanes," let the children buy gifts for each other at the dollar store, and send little packages to the grandparents.

This Christmas won't be memorable because of our photo ops.  It won't be memorable because of our travels.  It won't be memorable because of all the "big ticket items" our children got for Christmas. 

This Christmas will be memorable because the Lord is absolutely taking care of our family, and our love for Him has grown.  Sometimes I wonder how we're going to "pull all this off."  I know I'm not as smart as I need to be, and I know I need to be refined in MANY areas of my life, but at the same time, I feel such love and support from the Lord. 

Today, as I was driving our children to church (we meet Daddy there because he has other meetings), I was having a hard time dealing with the fussing, tattling, whining, etc.  I do try not to cry in front of them, but the tears came too easily.  My three oldest children could see my distress, so they opened their scriptures and each sweetly shared a verse with me--as a way to apologize for their behavior and to try to cheer me up (Alia found a verse about "weeping").  When we got home from church, my girls put sliced cucumbers on my eyes, rubbed lotion on my hands and feet, and sent me to bed at 6:30.  I am so, so grateful for those tender mercies (I did finally stop crying).

We've got a busy week ahead of us--with excited children who seriously don't notice how much we're "not" doing--and although it might seem like the holiday festivities have escaped me, I really am ready for Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Officially Entering "The Blog World"

My love for reading and writing blogs is completely unexpected.   I just never pictured myself in this world.  Maybe it was because I didn't like the sound of the word "blog."  Maybe it was because I wanted to focus on "real life" and not spend too much time online.  Or maybe it was because I didn't quite understand what's actually going on out there in cyberspace.

Well, the more I've learned about "Internet Land," as Sarah Turner calls it, the more I want to organize the way I learn from other bloggers.  I keep finding incredible blogs out there, and I think, "Ooh, I want to come back and check this one" or "I bet if I met this person in real life, we'd be friends."

So I have some questions for those of you who are more familiar with blogs than I am:

(1) How do I put all the blogs I love onto one list that I can check?  Some blogs have a "Follow" option, but others only have an RSS feed.  I admit that I know very little about this process.  I have used Google Reader, but it's not very "fun."  No pictures, etc.  Is there anything better?

(2) How do you decide which blogs to include on your own blog sidebar?  Should I categorize them by "People I Know in Real Life," "People I Want to Know in Real Life," and "Communities I Like?"  I would love to have all my favorite blogs right here on this site.  Any suggestions?

(3) Is it weird to have a "Following Gadget" on my blog?  Do people want to publicly follow me, or does it look like I'm just trying to get attention?  I personally like to follow other people's blogs, and I think it's a fun way to be part of a blog-community, but I don't know if that's the general consensus out there.

(4) Anything else I need to know?  Can I follow your blogs?

And two more tidbits before I sign off: 

  • Joanna from Creating Better Habits has a Mind Organization for Moms giveaway going on for us here.  (We'll also have one soon from Jodi at What Makes Mama Smile and another from Learning Mommy.)
  • I have a couple of blog posts up this week on our Motherhood Matters blog at Deseret News.  There's one on Optimism here. And one on Organization here.  We'd love you to be a part of the conversation over there.

Thanks for your ideas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thinking Right

Today my focus is on "thinking right."  I'm reading the book, "As a Man Thinketh" by James Allen, and it it absolutely beautiful.  You can find a few of my favorite quotes here.

For some reason, it's extremely simple not to think right during this time of year--with all the party-planning, shopping, making of cherished family memories, and trying to capture the right spirit of the season--on top of the normal work/home responsibilities we all have.  Does anyone achieve 100 percent peace and serenity in December?

I started feeling a little frustrated this morning, but then this little guy came over to comfort me.

He wanted to lay down by the fireplace and eat a granola bar, and he wanted me to sit right next to him. 

"I wuv you," he whispered.

"I love you, too."  I whispered back.

"Do you have pooky spots on your pajamas?"  he asked.

"Yes.  But they're called polka-dots."

"When you was a little boy, you call them pooky spots too?"

"Well, I don't know what I called them when I was a little girl, but pooky spots is a good name."

Then I leaned over and kissed him about a hundred times, and he LET me.  We talked a little bit and laughed as he tried to "hug me with his feet," and now he's off playing, and I'm getting back to work.

I've just been reminded that "thinking right" involves focusing on the moments.  I can't get caught up in the worries and all the things that go wrong.  There are too many opportunities to savor the life that's around me.

"Thinking right" during Christmas is easier for me if I remember why we're celebrating.  The purpose of Christmas is to remember and draw closer to Jesus Christ--not just for the month of December, but for the whole year.  When my thinking is directed toward Him, when my faith in Him is unshakable, and when I listen to His voice as I decide how to use my time, I feel the peace, serenity, and beauty that this season is designed to bring.

So today I am going to do all I can to think right--to focus on the moments I get to live, and to remember that all the joy, love, and purpose I could ever want in life comes from the Lord.  He really is the Prince of Peace.

What helps you "think right" and keep your focus during the Christmas season?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trying to Balance

There are hundreds of choices for each of us to make each day that determine how we spend our time.  Do I clean up the kitchen right now or go play basketball with my family in the backyard?  Do I turn on a movie or finish organizing my closet tonight?  Do I get up with my alarm, or do I press snooze a few time?  It's a constant struggle, but I'm doing my best to balance.

This photo (of balanced rocks) was the basis for my blog post on Deseret News' Motherhood Matters blog yesterday.  I'd love to read your comments over there.

Now I'm on my way outside to play some basketball.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"I Am His Daughter"

For the past three summers, I've had the chance to teach at Especially for Youth, a fun, inspiring conference put on by Brigham Young University for youth ages 14-18 to help them increase their faith in Jesus Christ.  My experiences at EFY are some of my very favorite memories, and I can't wait to go back.

Each year, they record a CD, and I usually keep it on in my car, but Spencer shoved two CDs into our car stereo at the same time, and now we have to have the entire thing taken apart.  But before that whole fiasco, I heard this song on the CD, and I absolutely loved it.

Sometimes when I need a reminder that my life has a specific purpose and that I am supported by God, I play this song again and again.  My daughters have started humming it while they walk around the house, and I hope the message is sinking in.  It's been a huge blessing to me, so I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Moments vs. Reality

My reality tonight wasn't pretty.  Three of my four children were in tears at bedtime (for various reasons),  I couldn't figure out how to stop worrying about some personal issues that have popped up, and, as I looked back at my day, it seems that I literally ran in circles without accomplishing anything (and I'm the Mind Organization Mom!).

What's hard about the blog-world (or even the Internet, in general), is that we capture moments, but not reality.  Unless I'm actually in your kitchen or living room, I can only guess what your life is like--and I usually guess wrong. 

We compare ourselves to visions of perfection (and sometimes try to replicate those images in our own homes), and then we get frustrated when it doesn't turn out as planned.

For example, I watched a cute video on my friend Shawni's blog last night.  Her children were dancing in the kitchen while they cleaned up after dinner, and it looked like so much fun.  See?

My children have been great at picking up their "zones" each night, and we do work together throughout the day, but we don't usually do dinner clean-up together.  After watching this video, I thought I'd give it a try.

It didn't work out.

One of my children had been going straight for 13 hours and, being overly tired, started sobbing in the middle of the table-cleaning.  Spencer was still eating his corn, and he didn't like eating the "ends," so he went from cob to cob, just eating the "middles."  Our phone kept ringing off the hook--important calls we had to take--and then since my husband only had 15 minutes before he had to leave for meetings, he wanted to hold me on the couch (which I LOVE), but then the kitchen clean-up fell apart because the jobs weren't clearly defined, and I wasn't in there to supervise, so I ended up putting everyone to bed and just cleaning up all by myself while I cried.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because I'm ultra-sensitive about giving a false representation of my reality on this blog.  My real goal here is to be helpful to other moms.  I'm not seeking compliments.  I'm not trying to live my life for an audience.  I simply believe in the power of moms, dads, children, and families, and I want to do whatever I can to be useful.

I wrote up this post a few months ago and included a video of a Perry dance party. 

This was a moment--a happy one--but it's not my reality. We don't dance every single day. I'm often in my pajamas until noon while I juggle computer work and my little Spencer.  Sometimes I don't think motherhood is "fun."

So my goal is to enjoy my good moments, stop worrying if I can't replicate others' good moments, and try to learn as much as I can from the chaos and wonder that is often my reality.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What helps you to focus on your own sweet moments and not feel frustrated when your "reality" doesn't seem to measure up?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Podcasting with my Girls

These are my two daughters, Alia and Grace:


(This photo was taken on a day they wanted us all to match.) These cute little girls ask every day if they can help with The Power of Moms, and/or work on The Power of Kids (with Saren's children).

Sunday morning, while the boys were playing upstairs, we gathered around our kitchen table and recorded our very first podcast together.  We had such a good time that they're already planning podcast #2. 

Click here to go to our podcast page at The Power of Moms

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Feeling Excited for Allyson

I've got to get back to deciphering the Power of Moms Writing Contest results, but I had to take a second to introduce you to my friend Allyson Reynolds.


We met through email almost two years ago when she started contributing to The Power of Moms.  Her essays were amazing, and I was dying to get to know the woman behind the words.  I think we've emailed each other hundreds of times since then, and in the process, we have become dear friends.

What I love about Allyson is her passion to strengthen families, her down-to-earth nature, and her willingness to do scary things.  She's written features for our site, provided material for our Learning Circles, presented at a Power of Moms Retreat, and taught at BYU Idaho's Education Week.  Today she's featured on Deseret News for her first column on "Motherhood Matters."

None of this is easy for her.  She stays up late and gets up early to accomplish these things.  She taught at BYU Idaho just a couple of days after moving her family across two states.  She devotes her life to her husband and four children, yet she makes the time to uplift the mothers around her.  I was just feeling excited for her today and wanted to share.

(Click here for Allyson's blog.)

There are so many incredible women that I get to work with--I think I'll start featuring them more often!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Sneak Peek....

It's been a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  I've had lots of opportunities to enjoy my husband and children, and I am realizing more than ever how important it is to savor the moments (even the ones where three-year-old Spencer thinks he's in charge of everyone and proceeds to boss us around all day).

Before I get back to my computer work tonight, I wanted to post a quick "sneak peek" regarding the new Power of Moms blog that will be featured on Deseret News starting this Sunday.  They made us this darling header, and I can't look at it without smiling.  Join us in the conversation there three times a week.  We'd love to learn from you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Here's What My Mom (April) Is Up To

My mom is getting ready for dinner guests, so she asked me (Alia, age 10) to update her blog.  The Power of Moms Writing Contest is going really well.  I wrote an update on it HERE.

Her friend Alisha Gale is helping her get all the entries sorted (I helped a little bit too).  It's taking a lot of time but they are very excited about it.  Saren is moving this week, so it is a busy time at The Power of Moms.

That's all for now!  Get ready for a surprise ending if you click on the writing contest link above.        

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simple Steps for Helping Children "See Need"

A few months ago, I was lifting a watermelon from the trunk of our minivan when our twelve-year-old neighbor called out, "Hi Miss April!  Do you need some help carrying in your groceries?"

"Sure!"  I responded.  It's not easy to unload the car with a two-year-old running loose, and I welcomed the help.  Within minutes, my kitchen counters were loaded with crackers, milk, salad dressing--you name it--and my cute neighbor headed back to her house.  

"Wow,"  I thought, "Would my children have offered to help someone like that?"  I'd like to think so, but to be quite honest, unless children are taught to see need, it isn't always a natural thing.  As I've spoken with a variety of mothers at our Power of Moms Retreats, it's become clear that we all want our children to be "that" person--the one who's quick to act when a service opportunity presents itself.

Here's a three-step process that has worked wonders in our home: 

Step 1: When you're standing in the middle of a pigsty, give your children the chance to identify what the room needs.

I have a little dry-erase board hanging in my kitchen that makes this into a fun activity.  The children gather by the board, and I ask, "What do we need to do to make our house feel clean?"  Everyone looks around and starts listing things:
  • Wipe the banister
  • Pick up the toys
  • Vacuum the carpet, etc.
I offer some prompts to help them out, and then each child initials which tasks he/she would like to do.  Here's a photo of our "See Need" board...taken as my two-year-old was signing up for his task.

This has been a wonderful way for us to work together--not every single day, but maybe once a week.

Step 2: Offer "Seeing Need" Points when your children take initiative.

I don't always want to be the one dishing out the jobs, so I told my children that if they independently see and act on a need, they can earn special points (one point for taking out the trash, two points for cleaning up a bathroom...they tell me what they did and then we decide on a fair point value).  We then track the points on the dry erase board. 

Sometimes I'll purposely leave out some grocery sacks (minus the refrigerated stuff)...just to see if anyone will notice.

 Step 3: Offer rewards that don't cost a thing.

I think it's important for children to help out around the house simply because they're part of the family.  They don't need to be paid for every little chore, wouldn't you agree?  We brainstormed a list of basically-free items that can be "purchased" with the Seeing Need points. Here are a few:
  • 10 Points = 10 Minutes of "screen time"
  • 15 Points = A can of soda
  • 35 Points = King or Queen for a day
  • 100 Points = Pizza-making party with friends
Here are some results that have come from this process:

One afternoon, my son asked if I needed a shoulder massage (which I always do).  Afterward, he brought me a little cup of water, just in case I was thirsty.  SO sweet.

My daughter earned some points in her church class (they can earn points outside the home).  Her teacher was giving a lesson about service, so she intentionally dropped some crayons on the floor to see if any of the students would pick them up.  My daughter said, "Mom, I saw that there was a need, and I was the first one down on the floor to clean up the mess."

My other daughter put away all her brother's laundry because she saw the full basket in his room.  Another day, she cleaned up a pack of cards at the library that had spilled all over the floor.  To see the look on their faces when they see a need is amazing, and really, the points aren't the main motivation.  They're just "extra."

This isn't a fool-proof method.  My house still gets messy, my children "forget" to pick up after themselves, and often they'd rather play basketball or read a book instead of earning Seeing Need Points, but I think this process is laying the foundation for important life lessons. Someday, if you're my neighbor, I hope my children will be the ones to say, "Can we give you a hand with those groceries?"

Do you have any experiences or tips for helping children see need?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Trigger List for Moms and Dads

This is a guest blog post I've put together for GTD Times...the majority of the posts there are for business professionals, but I think moms need the system even more.  

A friend of mine came to visit when my first child was three months old.  Noticing I was still actively using my day planner, she joked, "What do you write on your task list, 'Cook and Clean?'"
She wasn't trying to hurt my feelings, but her question reflected an assumption that many people have about those who spend the majority of their waking hours taking care of little ones...that they're not actually "doing" anything.
I've spent 10 years as a full-time mom, and let me assure you that taking care of a family is a huge responsibility.  It's a party some days, a train wreck other days, but it's the most important thing I've ever done.  I've created a Mom-and-Dad-friendly "Trigger List" to help parents see what types of things they can organize with GTD. 
Let the fun begin:
  • Books to read together as a family
  • Holiday traditions to create more unity
  • Recipes that can be made with lots of "help"
  • Lullabies to learn on the guitar
  • Parent/Child date night ideas
  • Promises I've made to my children
  • Promises I've made to my spouse
  • Family service projects
  • Neighbors we'd like to know better
  • Family Vacations
  • "Quiet Time," family-friendly websites
  • Free community events
  • Family day-trips
  • Errands to run when I'm by myself
  • Errands to run when I've got lots of company
  • Volunteer opportunities with the PTA
  • Birthday party gifts to keep on hand
  • Fun birthday party games and ideas
  • Good behavior incentive programs for my children
  • Job charts/housework plans
  • Shopping lists (pre-printed, organized by store)
  • Sports for my children
  • Home de-junking plans
  • Cultural experiences to calendar
  • Great mentors for my children
  • Items to discuss with my children's school teachers
  • Holes in the wall to repair
  • Family fitness goals
  • Clothing to mend
  • Clothing needs (did they grow out of that already?)
  • Ideas to make nap time happen regularly
  • Parenting books to read or classes to take
  • Journal entries to record (so I don't forget how cute my children are)
  • Doctor and dental appointments to make
  • Character traits I want to develop as a parent
  • Character traits I want my children to develop
  • Home decor ideas
  • Play date ideas
  • Crafts that won't leave my kitchen sparkling with glitter
  • Family memories to create so my children will always remember how much I loved them
The list can go on and on, but way I see it, I have two options:

Option 1:  When my children turn two, I can say, "Look, Honey!  This is called a TV.  It's going to take care of you for the next 16 years!"


Option 2
:  I can be an involved parent.  I'll certainly take time, occasionally, to watch great programs on television, but I want more than that for my children. 

I want to be the kind of parent who thinks big.  I want to bring inspiring books into our home, bake 23 different kinds of bread, visit historical landmarks, tour the world's museums, help families living in poverty, teach my children about history and politics, create a family of incredible photographers, and bike 12 miles together on Saturdays. 

All of this used to overwhelm me.  Of course I can't do everything I imagine, but I can do a lot of those things--if I'm organized. 

Getting Things Done isn't just about "things."  It's about people, about relationships, and about creating a lifestyle that most people think they can't achieve. 

Our family has improved dramatically since I implemented GTD into my life--not just because I'm less stressed about running my business and managing the home, but because I now see a clear path to turning my dreams of a strong, healthy family into my reality.  
(For my mom-friendly version of GTD, please check out our Mind Organization for Moms program at The Power of Moms.) 

What kinds of things would you like to organize into your life?  Can you help me add to this list?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Just Scribble

A few years ago, my three-year-old son and I were sitting in a meeting, and I was trying to keep him happy with a coloring book and crayons. 

"Come on, honey.  Why don't you color something nice?"  I whispered.

Resting his chin in his hands, he sighed, "I can't.  I just scribble."

He was right.  His drawings did basically look like scribbles, but that was okay with me--that's how every artist begins.  My son didn't see it that way, though.  His older sisters could stay in the lines.  Their pictures actually looked like something.  When they finished a masterpiece, they felt a sense of accomplishment at having created a colorful garden, a family portrait, or a series of rainbows and fluffy clouds.

My son could only make scribbles. 

It hurt my heart to see him discouraged, so I picked up a green crayon, placed it in his grip, and then guided his hand around the coloring book, helping him create the picture he could see in his mind's eye.  

I remember that moment clearly because the Lord used that experience to teach me a powerful lesson.

I often look at my life and think, "I just scribble."  I burn the pancakes, I miss half the stains that enter our washing machine, I don't create perfect web pages for The Power of Moms, I struggle to find the "right" way to teach my children how to behave, I cry too easily, and I'm lacking in patience. 

These are little things, for the most part, and I know that I do many things well, but I still get discouraged.  Sometimes I don't even want to try to create that masterpiece I can see in my head.

The Lord knows that.  Every successful person has started out with "scribbles."  It might look like everyone else can stay in the lines, but if that's the case, it's only because they first started out with a mish-mash of indecipherable lines and squiggles. 

It's when we're feeling discouraged--when we're convinced that our efforts will yield nothing but failure--that the Lord takes us by the hand and helps us to create something more beautiful than we ever imagined. 

A scripture I love from church says, "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers."

I know this is true.  I've seen it happen in my own family.  We'll have a really hard day, one that is full of sickness, quarrels, and messes, but then everything will turn around, and suddenly I'm sitting in the middle of a masterpiece I did not have the strength or ability to create.

It's all because of Him. 

When we start to question ourselves, and when we feel convinced that our scribbles will never be enough, let's remember to rely on Him.  Rely on Him heavily.  Rely on Him forever. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Publishing Our First Book...

I've spent dozens of hours over the past couple of weeks on our Writing Contest at The Power of Moms.  To say I'm thrilled about this project would be an understatement.  I've wanted to publish a book since I was 9, and this is literally a dream come true (and to be writing with four members of the Eyre family is even more of a dream come true).

What's great about this book is that it's going to have more than 20 authors.  We're all working together to create an uplifting resource for mothers, and we would love for you to be a part of it!

I've got so many things I want to write about and so many things I want to do, but sometimes it's best just to get to bed. 

My day with cute little Spencer has been full of tantrums and whining.  Someday I won't be exhausted at 7:20 p.m. (Just thought you'd like to know that I get tired, too).



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Do You Do when Life Gets You Down?

This is my husband's favorite scene from "Finding Nemo."  Whenever we start to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, etc., we start singing this:

Now didn't that put a smile on your face?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Need a Learning Circle

Life has been good around here lately.  I'm de-junking the house, I'm playing the Bloom game, I'm establishing our Family Systems, I'm dating my husband, I'm working on The Power of Moms, I'm keeping my Mind Organized, I'm getting enough sleep and exercise, and I'm trying to be the kind of mom who's actually there for her children.  (Oh, and I'm trying not to have as many's getting better.)

But I still need a Learning Circle.  If you haven't heard about these yet, let me be the one to introduce you to the idea (my dear friend Saren's brainchild):

A group of moms meet together once a month--kind of like a book group, except they discuss a fun article related to motherhood.  Next month's article is called, "Am I Destined to Live in a Pigsty?" (It's all about how to strengthen your family relationships while simultaneously doing what needs to be done.)

I thought this photo from our website was a "stock" image, but then I recognized three darling moms from our June Power of Moms Retreat--this is THEIR group from Arizona. 

Learning Circles have been changing the lives of women all over the world (Click HERE for quotes).  We have groups in several countries and all over the United States, but I don't have my own circle!  This blog post is a call for help.

Here's my plan: 

Next month, I'd like to host a Trial Learning Circle for interested moms in my area (near Corona, California).  I'll show you how to get a group started, we'll have a fun discussion (with treats!), and then we'll figure out the details: who would like to be a Learning Circle Leader (it's not hard), who would like to be a "participant," how we could involve more moms, etc.

(Dues to keep the website going are between $10 and $15 a year, depending on the special.  Our prices will most likely be going up next year, so now is a great time to get "grandfathered in.")

One reason I'm so excited about this is because of an email I received from my dear friend Penny, one of our new Learning Circle Leaders.  She did a whole write-up for our site:

Have you ever felt so excited about a book or a product that you just had to figure out a way to get it?  Haven’t you had times when something strikes you so strongly to your inner core that you just HAVE to check it out? 

There are things in our lives that are worth every penny you could put into them! They will be life enhancing and so mind opening that things will never be better in your life at home!

After having been a part of different moms organizations in our state, we found that we had fun getting together, but trying to figure out a topic to discuss and what was a good source, was a constant challenge.  Most of the time we all had our hands full of young mothering issues and couldn’t find the time to put together a lesson of our own with much quality.  We all wanted to learn how to do better at solving our problems and wanted our time spent there to be valuable. 

The Learning Circles program provided on The Power of Moms has monthly lessons for us that are of the caliber of noted authors!  With 12 lessons/yr. coming to you, you have a book on mothering that is more valuable than any mothering book!  Think about it. For $10 annually you get a “books” worth of information along with the added value of the insights the members of your Learning Circle will add.  How could you put a price on that?!  Besides, this book will become your own, as you discuss the articles every month and really benefit from what you learn and then apply in your family

We hope that this hits you strongly to your core!  We know that you will be so grateful for the insights that come from the discussions and this time that is dedicated to helping you “train” yourself for the calling of motherhood!  Where else can you go only one time a month and learn something every time that will help you become the mother you want to be?

Isn't that fabulous?  We didn't even assign her to write it...or pay her to write it.  She is just so excited about taking Learning Circles to the world.  Can you see why I want one so badly?

Please leave a comment or email me if you'd like to meet up in November (early...before Thanksgiving).


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Putting HusbandHero on Hold

About two years ago, my husband and I launched a website called HusbandHero, which is designed to create closer couples by reminding husbands (and wives) how to be a clean, "cute" sort of way.

Here's one of the images from our homepage that makes me all teary-eyed.

We've had great fun with the site, and every month, Eric and I have brainstormed ways that couples can show their love for one another.  The process went something like this:

  • I would spend a couple of hours scouring the Internet for great products and racking my brain for romantic ideas that left me feeling giddy
  • Eric would tell me which ideas husbands would actually like (because sometimes I got a little too carried away...)

We also sent out a WonderWife email each month with a quick romantic idea and a Marriage Tip of the Month--usually linking to a great article about how to show your husband you adore him.

Here's why we're putting it hold: 

(1) The admin/tech side of the site has never worked quite right (mainly because we were inexperienced and didn't know what to ask for), and the sign-up portion of the site suddenly stopped working last month.  We've got some great ideas to redesign/fix everything, but in the meantime...

(2) We've been presented with some exciting opportunities that need our full attention.  Things are moving fast (in a fun way!) at The Power of Moms, and I'm pouring my heart and soul into building the organization into what it's meant to be.  My husband was also asked to serve in a new leadership position at church, and between work, church, extra projects, raising our four children, and trying to keep our OWN marriage strong, we have to learn how to more fully focus our lives on the most important things.

Here are our plans for the future:

Once we can get a few more ducks in a row at The Power of Moms, we're planning to start a companion website called "The Power of Families."  That is where Saren and I will combine all the family-strengthening programs and materials we've put together over the years:  The commercial Joy School Company she runs, HusbandHero, Family Volunteering, Family Night Ideas, Family Unity, Family Traditions, Family Systems, "The Power of Dads," and other programs/ideas we've had in the works over at The Power of Moms.

So I'm going to "close up shop" temporarily at HusbandHero (yes, it is a little sad) and get working....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why I LOVE the Love Languages

I mentioned before that Susan Chapman taught an excellent class about Love Languages at our Power of Moms Retreat.

In one sentence, the love languages tell you how your family members feel most loved--through acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, or physical affection.

Three weeks later, here's how these ideas are changing my family:

(1) My little boy is the "gifts" kind of child.  He presents me with fun rocks, gives me dandelions from the's really sweet.  I used to say, "Thanks for the rock!" and then throw it back into the pile when he wasn't looking.  Now, since the Retreat, I CHERISH those gifts, and I let them know how much they mean to me.  It's not just about the's about the love that went into the giving.

(2) My husband shows love by giving us quality time with him, and now I'm learning to do the same.  Before, when he would get home from work, he'd take a short break on the couch (before heading out to meetings for church), and I would flutter around the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner. 

Now, I sit down next to him, talk with him about our days, and do a little snuggling.  Then the children help me clean up after he leaves, and it only takes a few minutes.  The other day, when I sat down near my husband, he said, "You DO know that I like when you sit by me!"

(3) One of my daughters feels love by words of affirmation, and this morning she was feeling a little down.  She asked if she could check her email (which I closely monitor, and I knew she didn't have any emails in there).  I told her to wait just a second, and then I typed up a quick love email, just for her:

Just so you know how much I love you!
1- You are funny.  I like how you make me laugh when you do funny dances.
2- You decorate the bulletin board with fun Halloween decorations.
3- You are a helpful sister.  You treat Spencer with such respect.
4- You always want to make the right decision.  You don't say bad words, you don't lie, you don't are a good, good girl
5- You like when I tickle your back at night and sing "Baby Mine"
6- You massage my arms and legs when I am tired at the end of the day
7- You help me water my plants so they don't die again!
8- You are not demanding in any way.  You are grateful for the clothes, money, etc. that I give you.
9- You are a good friend.  I never hear you saying anything unkind about your friends.
10-You are smart!  I am always so impressed at the good work you do at school.
It was heartwarming to watch her read this email.  Seriously, it took only 3 minutes to type, but it transformed her morning. 
Here's to Love Languages!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Beautiful Mess

As long as I'm in this mode of full disclosure...

My house is often a mess.  

I don't mind telling you because I'm not ashamed of the disorder you'll find in my closet, on my counter, under my bathroom sink, all over the laundry room, and on the shelves of the garage (among other places). 

I don't necessarily LIKE messes, but when you are living in a house, it gets messy. 

It's my beautiful mess.

Some friends and I were talking a few weeks ago, and we figured it would be helpful to women worldwide if every blogger posted a photo of her own beautiful mess.  You know, so we don't feel alone...and so we don't feel sorry for the other moms out there--supposing that they never get to experience the fun of beautiful messes.

Are you wondering if I am insane at this point?

Here's my take on things:
  • It's lovely to have "a place for everything and everything in its place," but it doesn't matter if everything is in it's place all the time.  Model homes look like heaven, at first glance, but there's no LIFE in them.  That's not heaven to me.
  • Working together and keeping a home tidy is essential to building strong relationships, teaching responsibility, and maintaining a healthy standard of living, but if our homes get messy during this process of raising children, that's not a poor reflection on us as parents.  It's natural.
  • Messes are signs of growth and development.  When piano books are stacked all over the piano, that's because we're learning to read music.  When papers get piled up on the counter, that's because we all set our stuff down before heading out to the backyard to play...and then we made tacos together and visited with the neighbors and worked on Algebra and folded the laundry and then headed up to bed for stories.  It'll get clean...but what's the hurry?
  • And finally, there's a difference between "people-live-in-this-house-so-it-doesn't-look-perfect" messes and "Aargghh-I-can-never-find-anything-in-this-pig-sty-why-why-why" messes.  The former, I can handle, but the latter requires some serious, immediate attention.
I didn't always see messes for their beauty.  When I had three preschoolers (while living in a tiny apartment in Boston)  I felt like I couldn't control ANYTHING, so I tried to control each and every mess.  One night, I wanted so badly to have our apartment "perfect," that I was tempted to walk into each bedroom and make the beds while my children were IN them.  I stopped myself in time, but I laugh now that I think back on those days. 

With experience, comes wisdom (at least I like to think so).  The day is over, my children are tucked in their beds, and I am curled up on the couch, gazing lovingly at the remainder of today's beautiful messes.  We've got toy cars all over the train table, too many shoes by the front door, a dishwasher full of clean dishes, a sink full of dirty ones, leftover tacos that need to go in the fridge, at least 64 surfaces that need to be wiped, disinfected, or polished, and crayons on the kitchen table.

Isn't it beautiful?

If you'd like to join me in this "beautiful mess" campaign, write a blog post about YOURS and then come back and link it here.  Won't that make all the moms out there feel great?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Three Ways to Avert a Meltdown

My cute Spencer is now three, and he's growing up beautifully, but when he was two, we had meltdowns just about every day.  Whether we were at the store, church, school, the library, or the park, he never wanted to leave, and he would throw huge tantrums and run away from me.  

I would try to reason with him, I would try to get him excited about our next activity, and I would try to hold his hand and gently lead him to the car, but he wouldn't have any of it.  

Finally, my friend Saren taught me the "barrel hold."  I would carefully scoop Spencer into my arms, hold him on the side so his kicking legs couldn't bruise my shins, and get home ASAP.  One day I had to get a photo because this was such an integral (and frustrating) part of my life--it's important to document the bad and the good.

But today's post isn't about Spencer's meltdowns.  It's about MINE.  For some reason, moms seem to feel better when they know that other moms have meltdowns, so I am going to spell this reality out on my blog:

I have meltdowns.  

I try not to have them often, but sometimes I get so frustrated and tired and upset that I cry...a lot.  One of my recent meltdowns happened while I was on a date with my husband.  We'd arranged a sitter, we ate dinner at a lovely restaurant, and we were looking forward to having a nice evening together.  Instead, I cried all over my husband's shoulder, smeared mascara all over his light blue shirt, and said something like,

"I'm so TIRED!  There is too much to do.  I'm not doing well at anything in my life.  I'm not getting enough sleep.  Why am I even trying to do anything extra with The Power of Moms?  The reason that moms don't do stuff like this is because it makes them insane to juggle so many things, and who am I to try to be a help to other people when I am struggling so much with my own challenges?"

It wasn't a pretty sight, and it went on for quite awhile.  My husband was incredibly patient through the whole thing, and after some comforting discussion and a good night's rest, I was fine (but a little embarrassed about my display the night before).  

Even though it's normal to have meltdowns, it's preferable NOT to have them, right?  I've been working on this pretty seriously for the past six days (since my last meltdown), and I think I've discovered a few ideas to avert future meltdowns.  (I'll have to report on this in a few months to let you know how it's going!)

Method #1: Get enough sleep.  

I know this seems obvious, but how many of us are actually getting enough sleep?  At the Power of Moms Retreat we held in June, we went around the room and each listed one thing that would make the biggest difference in how we felt about our lives, overall.  Nearly everyone said they needed to get to bed earlier. 

This requires more discipline than I expected, but it's working.  I've given myself a bedtime, and if that means I don't get to watch that TV show or finish up that project, then so be it.  My sanity is more important.  I've been helping my children get to bed between 7 and 7:30, and then I'm done by 10.  It's amazing how the world looks beautiful when you're well-rested.

Method #2: Give yourself a break.

As mothers and women, we work long hours, and we do lots of great things.  It's wonderful to have high expectations, but if we start getting grumpy because we're we're overwhelming ourselves with visions of pefection, it's time to give ourselves permission to relax.

I'd love to be a daily blogger.  I think it's a fun way to catalog lessons learned, and every blogging conference will tell you that daily blogging is important to your blog success, but that's not realistic for me right now.  

With my current blog, I'm planning to post once a week, if the stars are aligned, but if I don't get to it, the Internet won't implode.  It's not worth the stress.

I'm applying this same logic to many other areas in my life.  If the counters are crumb-covered until morning, that's all right.  If a load of laundry gets wrinkled sitting in the dryer, that doesn't make me a bad person.  If I can't be a classroom volunteer this year, that doesn't mean I'm a neglectful parent.  If I don't implement a new marketing strategy this week, then we'll just do it next week.  

I'm not trying to set up mediocre goals here, but I have a tendency to want to do everything perfectly--right this minute, and that doesn't make for a mentally healthy mom.

Method #3: Anticipate your "meltdown triggers."

We all have them.  In a college Psychology class, we studied our "stress indicators," and meltdown triggers aren't any different.  There's always some sort of warning sign before we turn into emotional wrecks.  What is it, really, that throws you into that downward spiral?  Is it hormones? Relationship issues? Overscheduling?

A big one for me is deadlines.  I like being a responsible, deadline-meeting kind of girl, but when my first priority is my family, external deadlines create too much stress.  Spencer (as demonstrated in the photo above) doesn't care if I have a meeting tonight or a presentation to make this weekend.  He's more concerned that his line of Hot Wheels is completely straight along the edge of the table, and he wants me to "ooh" and "ahh" right along with him (which I WANT to do).

Now that I know deadlines are a weak point for me, I'm taking steps to reduce the number of deadlines in my life.  For example, I'm not attending the New England Power of Moms Retreat (though I'd LOVE to be there) because traveling is too stressful for my family right now.  I'm also not putting my children in a ton of extracurricular activities or committing myself to scheduled writing deadlines because I know it will only cause more meltdowns.

Maybe it sounds like I'm turning into a pansy, but what I've found is that when I am rested, relaxed, and free of deadlines, I am actually MORE productive.  I move my business forward at a faster rate, I am open to more creative ideas, and I am actually enjoying the process.

If you have meltdowns, try these methods and let me know how it goes, okay?  I've got this vision of a happy, productive, meltdown-free life.  It will be fabulous.  Want to join me?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

California Power of Moms Retreat--The Report

Uploading these photos from our Dana Point "Get Organized" Retreat for The Power of Moms has been a bit of an emotional experience.  It seems like only a few months ago, I was creating a pretend homepage with AutoShapes:


And now I get to attend Retreats with women who put motherhood at the top of their priority list...right where it belongs.  I always get a little tickled when I see "official" Power of Moms signs (I hope this excitement never wears off).

Saren, Susan, Sarah, and I arrived a bit early to set up our room and greet the moms as they arrived to the hotel.  (Sarah and Susan were at our St. George Retreat, and now they're Power of Moms Trainers--it's nothing short of heartwarming to watch them in action.)

(See those cute brown sacks in the background?  Those are homemade treats we got to eat that evening.  I was in HEAVEN.)

We had "speed friend-shipping" in the lobby of the hotel, where each mom has a half-sheet of paper with questions to ask the other moms.  We pair up for five minutes each and get to know a bit about each other.   Here are Erin, Ann, and Melissa (with cute Benjamin):

 Saren loves to pose for me...(kidding), but I couldn't resist this shot of the elevator.  There's a beautiful window where you can admire the palm trees and harbor view. Have I mentioned that I wouldn't mind living in Dana Point?

I'm pretty sure I squealed when we walked into our hotel room.  You see, I NEVER stay in places like this.  Our family generally camps, stays with friends, or finds the least expensive hotel room available if we're traveling long distances.  But I must say, staying in a beautiful room--complete with an ocean view and a private balcony--did something unique for my spirits.  I loved every minute of it.

After our first sessions, "Taking Care of the Person Inside the Mom," (by me and Saren) and "Making the Time," (by Sarah...which was fabulous!), we all took a little walk to the shore to eat dinner at an incredible restaurant called Mahe's.  The stairs weren't exactly stroller-friendly, but we had lots of extra hands to help out.   

At dinner, we had four table topics--Family Traditions, Finding Joy in Motherhood, Tips and Tricks to Run the Home (and get the family to help), and Capturing Teaching Moments.  Two trainers sat at each table, and then our Retreat participants chose which topics they'd like to discuss.  We had some great discussions.

I think we were all so giddy to be out to dinner without high chairs, sippy cups, or diaper bags.  The waitress came by and asked if we needed more time to order, and we all started laughing because we had all decided within about 30 seconds. Moms don't sit around looking over menu details.  We act fast...before someone has a meltdown or needs a potty run.

We found a cute family sitting in the park when we were walking back to our hotel, and they consented to take a photo of our group.  

And then someone had this great idea of doing an "Eyre Jumping Picture," but after three tries, our cute friends still couldn't get the picture to take while we were up in the air.  (So I have a lot of "laughing" pictures.)

I snapped this picture of Kelly and Jill as we approached our hotel (is that not a beautiful building?).  They each came on their own--Kelly from Washington, Jill from California--and I thought it was great to see them talking, relaxing, and enjoying some time away to get rejuvenated.  We get lots of moms asking if it's okay (weird?) if they come alone.  Our answer?  Absolutely not...we're all best friends after the first few hours.

Okay, this picture needs some explaining.  A few months ago, I noticed that some of our celery was wilted in the fridge.  I put it in a glass of water, and it perked right up.  Then I said to my husband, "Sometimes moms feel a little 'wilted' when they've been taking care of their families for a long time without much rest.  Going to a Power of Moms Retreat is like putting celery in a cup of water."  My husband gave me a very odd look, but then he suggested that we make a "celery" pose at our next Retreat when we were in the hot tub.  So here it is:

Can't you see it?

Our evening session Friday night was a "Picking Your Priorities Panel."  Susan, Kelly, and Sarah Chapman are in the middle.  Kelly is the mother of thirteen children, and she is full of incredible wisdom.  Susan and Sarah are two of her daughters-in-law.  We were thrilled to have all of them with us.  

During this session, we talked about focusing on the relationships in our lives--that's what's most important, after all.  

Here are a few pictures from our breakfast buffet at the Vue restaurant located on the bottom floor of the hotel.  I absolutely loved it.

And here's a close-up of Benjamin.  I asked to hold him as often as possible.  
SO sweet!

Saren did an outstanding job with her Family Systems session.  I took copious notes, and I can't wait to more fully implement her ideas for a family legal system, economy, and culture.  The Eyre family has beautiful traditions, and I'm anxious to develop more within my own family.  I also realized that our family rules aren't clearly defined or posted anywhere in the home.  Gotta get on that....

Susan conducted a beautiful session regarding family love languages.  I'd heard of the book, but I never took the time to identify each family member's preferred way to receive love (Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch, or Acts of Service).  Here Susan is showing us a board she made to help her focus on each of her family members' needs.

Here's our lunch set-up on the front lawn of the hotel.  They had weddings out here each day, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect.

And again, since I was a little out of my element, I had to laugh when they brought us Grey Poupon.  Susan volunteered to pose for a photo op.

Because we've had such a great response to Mind Organization for Moms, we decided to hire professional videographers to record that session of the Retreat.  This is Sally from One Productions (an INCREDIBLE company) fitting me with a microphone.  I've never had that done before...can you see how excited I am in this photo?  

Here are the four Power of Moms Trainers after we finished up the Saturday sessions.

And guess what!  We have three NEW trainers now who stayed after the Retreat for a "Train the Trainer" session.  Tiffany, Melissa, and Ashley are three incredible women who are going to help us take The Power of Moms out to the world.

Once our evening came to an end, I packed up my bags, drove an hour to get home, and was greeted with this beautiful sight:

My husband is really the one who makes it possible for me to do these Retreats.  He spent the whole weekend with the children--taking them hiking, making them treats, setting up a tent in the living room, and spending quality time together.  

As much as I loved the time I spent in Dana Point, and as much as I love working on The Power of Moms, my REAL joy is right here.

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