Monday, December 31, 2012

Minimalizing (My FAVORITE Way to Unleash Creativity)

Are you feeling excited about 2013?

Thought I'd record some ideas that have been really helpful to me this week--in case you're looking to clean up your life a bit and make this next year even more wonderful.

I had the chance to interview my dear friend Marilyn a few weeks ago about how she and her family de-cluttered their home over the past year.  (Our conversation will be posted as a podcast on in the next couple of weeks, so you can hear her tell all about it!)

One of the "secrets" she shared for getting started was to read Minimalist Blogs.  (I was kind of embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of the term "Minimalist Movement," but wow, now I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of it.)

There are tons and tons of blogs out there that teach how to get by with less.  They show you how to get rid of your stuff and focus your life on what's really important. 

I've always loved books like "It's Here . . . Somewhere" and Julie Morgenstern's "S.H.E.D. Your Stuff, Change Your Life." I follow blogs like, and I've spent lots of time de-cluttering in the past.  I just didn't know that there was a movement going on that could help me become more deliberate in how I focus my life. 

For example, my daughters are getting ready to paint their rooms, and this photo, featuring beautiful simplicity, inspires us:

I also LOVE this quote that was posted on the GTD Times Facebook page the other day (Are you following them yet?):

"The end of a year and start of the new is a great metaphorical event to use to enhance a critical aspect of your constructive creativity—get rid of everything that you can.

(This is the photo GTD Times posted with the quote.  One of the comments said, "Some nerve -- posting pictures of my apartment without my permission."  That made me smile.)
"Your psyche has a certain quota of open loops and incompletions that it can tolerate, and it will unconsciously block the engagement with new material if it has reached its limit. Release some memory.

"Want more business? Get rid of all the old energy in the business you’ve done. Are there any open loops left with any of your clients? Any agreements or disagreements that have not been completed or resolved? Any agendas and communications that need to be expressed? Clean the slate.

"Want more clothes? Go through your closets and storage areas and cart to your local donation center everything that you haven’t worn in the last 24 months. And anything that doesn’t feel or look just right when you wear it.

"Want to be freer to go where you want to, when you want to, with new transportation? Clean out your glove compartments and trunks of your cars. And for heaven’s sake, get those little things fixed that have been bugging you.

"Do you want more wealth? Unhook from the investments and resources that have been nagging at you to change. (And give more than usual do to someone or something that inspires you to do so.)

"Do you want to feel more useful? Hand off anything that you are under-utilizing to someone who can employ it better.

"Want some new visions for your life and work? Clean up and organize your boxes of old photographs. Want to know what to do with your life when you grow up? Start by cleaning the center drawer of your desk.

"You will have to do all this anyway, sometime. Right now don’t worry about the new. It’s coming toward you at lightning speed, no matter what. Just get the decks clear so you’re really ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

—David Allen

Isn't that fabulous?

So my family and I are doing some major de-cluttering this week.  We're cleaning out our closets, garage, cupboards, drawers, reading baskets, bookshelves, filing cabinets . . . everything.  We're making space in our lives so we can make room for the things that really matter in 2013.  It doesn't have to happen all at once, and I'm sure we'll get better at this over time, but it feels AMAZING.

(If you have any advice--favorite blogs, books, podcasts, videos, etc. that teach how to simplify/minimalize, will you please share them in the comments?  I am eager to learn.)

Much love,

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Consecrating the Year

When I was growing up, my mom and I used to go for morning walks on "The Boardwalk."  It's a beautiful path right along the beach with sweeping views of the Long Beach Harbor:

(Photo courtesy of Nina M.)
At the end of the path, there's a little post, and before we ever turned around to walk back to our car, my mom said, "You have to touch!" 

So my siblings and I (whoever of us was accompanying mom) grew up "touching the post"--like it was part of a game.

One day, however, I noticed that my mom wasn't just tagging the post quickly and heading back down the boardwalk, like I was.  She touched it gently, closed her eyes, smiled, and then went on her way. 

I asked her what she was doing, and she said, "Every time I touch this post, I say quietly in my mind, 'I consecrate my day to the Lord.'  Then I think about Him through the whole day and try to please Him in everything I do."

That simple gesture meant a lot to me, and I started following her example.  Sometimes when we would reach the post together, we would smile at each other and say aloud, "We consecrate our day to the Lord!"  And then we would hold hands and walk the rest of the boardwalk--feeling a little more excited about the day ahead.

Whenever I go on a jog that goes up and back the exact same path, I find some end point--a stop sign, a fence, a tree . . . and I think of my mom as I whisper, "I consecrate my day to the Lord."

Last week, Eric and I took our children up a beautiful canyon trail near our home.  Now that Spencer is five, we're able to do longer hikes, and so for the first time we made it to the "Trail End" of this specific path.

I asked my children if they remembered what Grandma Zoe says whenever she reaches the end of a path, and they all chimed in, "I consecrate my day to the Lord."

And then, since we're just about to start 2013, I said, "How about we consecrate our YEAR to the Lord?"  

So we did.

And we're excited.  

The new year holds so many possibilities, and as I wrote out my list of goals, I wondered if I would really be able to do all these things I dream about.

But then I realized that if my life is consecrated (declared to be sacred, sanctified, devoted), and if I'm closer to Him at the end of this year than I am at the beginning, then that is absolute success.

Do you have any specific reminders that help you to focus on God?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish all of my friends, family members, and visitors to this blog a beautiful Christmas!

In the midst of all the cookie-eating and gift-wrapping, we're trying to spend as much time as possible in meaningful activities that will help us to focus on the real reason for the celebrations.

Anyone else feel the tendency to become overwhelmed and frazzled?

One of my favorite ways to remember the purpose of Christmas is to listen to this recording we made of Spencer last year, when he was four.

He was asked to give a short talk to the children's group at church, and so I practiced it with him over and over again at home.  I would say one part, he would repeat. 

I decided to record our "practice session" and then delete my voice so all you can hear is Spencer.  It's just one minute long, and it is so darling.  This link below will play the mp3 in your browser:

Click here to listen to Spencer's Christmas Talk.

And if you haven't seen this lovely video by The Piano Guys, then you're in for a treat!

There are a lot of things to think about this season.  The recent tragedy in Connecticut has been a wake-up call for so many of us to focus harder on the time we have with our loved ones.  And as we contemplate the arrival of 2013, I think every one of us would like to make this the year when our goals pop into place and we feel the Hand of God leading us on a daily basis.

I love the Lord, and I know He lives.  I know He has the power to strengthen us, help us, and direct us.  And in the coming year, I want to do all I can to serve Him, help others to feel His love, and give Him my whole heart. He has an amazing power to make life beautiful.

Have a wonderful Christmas week!

Much love,

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When He is Our Guide

Several years ago, I'd taken on a very overwhelming project which took me far outside my comfort zone.  I knew it was something God wanted me to do, but it was definitely not within my area of experience or expertise, and I felt extremely inadequate.

For weeks I thought about it, talked with my husband about it, and brainstormed ways I could make it happen, but I kept procrastinating the actual doing of the project. 

Then one afternoon, as I was driving the car around town, running errands by myself, I felt a voice inside, which I can only describe as the Spirit of God, say, "April, it's time for you to start doing all of the things you've been planning to do."

I paused for a moment--knowing what I should do, but trembling inside at the mammoth amount of work that lay ahead of me and all the insecurities I had to overcome.

The voice had been so real and so close, so I responded aloud, in a timid whisper, "But I'm scared."

And then that voice asked me this question--which has stayed with me ever since.

"Why are you scared when I am your Guide?"

That single question--and the beautiful love and power that accompanied it--sank right into my heart. 

And in an instant, my hesitations, fears, and frustrations with myself transformed into a sure knowledge that I could do anything God wanted me to do--as long as I let Him be my Guide.

I moved forward with the project and grew in enormous ways through the process, but the point of this post isn't to talk about that. 

It's highly likely (and possibly certain) that each one of us is "holding back" in at least one area of our growth and development because we are scared.  That's human nature.

Maybe we're afraid to open our hearts to others, afraid to write that book, afraid to even try to be that mom/wife/sister/friend whose image is perfected in our minds.

I've actually been feeling really happy lately--so much that I've been pausing often during the day and thinking, "Wow, this is happiness.  Right here!  Right here!"

But there are occasional days when I'm afraid to even get out of bed because my whole day feels like Mount Everest.  My life feels scary to me.

I posted this scripture on my desk a few months ago:

Behold, I will go before you and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded.  

That image of God going before us and behind us and also being in our midst completely empowers me.

I'm not the perfect follower, and I definitely stumble and lose my focus and make tons of mistakes, but when I look to God, study His words, pray to Him, and offer my whole heart to Him on a daily basis, I don't feel afraid anymore.  I don't feel the need to procrastinate.  I'm convinced I can do hard things.

That is a beautiful, beautiful feeling.  And it's available to all of us.

I hope some of these thoughts might be helpful to those who pass by this blog today, and I welcome any additional insights you'd like to share.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moms . . . In Concert

Back in June, Power of Moms received this email from one of our authors:

Power of Moms inspired some of us to put on a Revival Recital this summer, to renew and revive old talents that have been pushed aside while we mother. But not anymore. I thought you might be interested, so here's the link.

Thanks for the inspiration, Power of Moms.

Karin Brown

She outlined a special recital where moms would dust off their flutes, violins, trombones, or piano keys . . . and then perform for each others' families and friends--just because it feels good.  (The link above is the "call-out.")

And then a couple of days ago, I received the link to the follow-up blog post which features a video collage of the moms who participated in this concert:

This put me in the BEST mood . . . for so many reasons.

(1) How great is it that moms would take time to play music again?  So many times the children's lessons and practice time become the focus (that's how it is in my home), but these moms got right in there and did it, too.

(2) I love that this recital was for any skill level.  You can just tell that they were sincerely routing for one another.

(3) I love that the families came to cheer them on.  That's powerful, isn't it?

Last night, I pulled out our Christmas music binder and started playing some of my favorite songs (When Christmas Comes to Town, Somewhere in My Memory, O Holy Night, Breath of Heaven), and it felt SO GREAT!  I need music in my life.  It's a beautiful feeling to sit down and play something that stirs your heart.

I told my children that so much of my love for the Lord was developed during the hours I sat at the piano and played hymns and sang my heart out.

So thank you to these wonderful moms.  This revival concert was a fantastic idea.  Maybe the moms in my area would like to do one with me?  It could be drama, poetry, music, dance . . .   Oh, I'm getting so excited.  Someone let me know if you want to plan it, okay?  :)

P.S.  If you're commenting here and have a blog, will you type the blog url into your comment?  I switched from Blogger comments to Disqus, and they don't have a way for me to easily link back to your blogs.

(Anyone know of a good commenting system for blogs that allows a "reply to" option as well as an automatic link-back to the commenter's blog?  Thanks!)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Something to Think About When You Sweep the Floor

Tonight I swept up six "piles" in the kitchen.  Our kitchen vacuum is broken, and we had guests and a late night, so I sent Grace (our kitchen-cleaner-of-the-month) to bed and did the sweeping myself.

As I looked at the final contents of the dustpan, I was shocked at how many things ended up on the floor throughout the day.

And then I thought about this article on Power of Moms that has had more than 11,000 Pins on Pinterest and more than 20,000 reads.

It's called Christlike Mothering (by Rachel Hixon), and it starts like this:

I had just swept the final collection into the pile.”Pretzels, captain crunch, popcorn, cheerios, chips…” I spouted off to anyone listening. “Nope. I didn’t eat any of these things,” I continued, as I brushed the last of the pile into the dustpan.

dirty feet 

But then it parallels mothers' work with the work of Christ:

They spend their life cleaning up messes for everyone else, messes that they had no hand in making.

You'll want to read the entire post so you can read everything in context, but I've been very interested in the comments that it has generated.  

This has had a profound effect on so many mothers--including me.  

I want to clarify that the post doesn't say that selfless service and cleaning doesn't also apply to fathers.  And it doesn't say we shouldn't teach our children to be responsible and helpful around the home.

It simply suggests that when we do sweep or do laundry or dust or vacuum--we can do it with a pure, loving heart.

This is the quote that has been pinned most often with this post:

Mothering as He would. Not for praise. Not for recognition. Not for a hug, a kiss, or even a thank you. Not because I can’t stand a dirty floor or because someone coming for a visit might see the display of animalistic behavior my children can exhibit. Not for any type of compensation.
Sweeping up crumbs because that’s what He did. With a perfect love.

I like thinking about things like this when I sweep the floor.  Rachel did a simply beautiful job with this post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Last Time

Tonight I had a quick chat on the phone with my mom, but we had to hang up kind of quickly.  My children had already started to unravel the Christmas lights, and I could see we were going to end up with a tangled mess if I didn't intervene and get going with our tree decorations.

While I was fiddling with the long strands and trying to plug them into the socket by our tree, Grace said, "Mom, remember that article you wrote about 'The Last Time'? Whenever you say goodbye to your mom on the phone, you should make sure you tell her you really love her.  And you should say, 'mmmmwah, muah, muah, muah' (like you're blowing her kisses).  Because you just never know if this is going to be the last time you get to say goodbye."

I didn't think Grace even remembered that article.  I wrote it four years ago when she was six.  We don't even have it on Power of Moms anymore because it was on the old site and hasn't been transferred to our new one.

But my friend Sarah re-posted it on her blog when I first wrote it, and I went and found it tonight.  And of course, as I read it, I realized that all those beautiful things I treasured back then are now simply memories of the past.  

That's okay, though, because we're making new ones right now.

Thought I'd post that article here tonight: 
The Last Time
“You know you’re a real mom when you have peas in your purse.” I said to my friend Sarah last week as she opened the container of strained peas she’d brought to a dinner party to feed her baby. We laughed for a second, but then she said something that has stayed with me all week. “I’ve been thinking lately about all the little things that moms do,” she said, “and I wonder when it will be the ‘last time.’”

I must have looked confused because she clarified: “There’s a last time for everything. For example, when was the last time you played Barbies?” Well, I can’t remember the very last time I played Barbies. It’s not like I sat down and said, “This is the final time I am going to let you kiss Ken.” It just kind of happened, and then I moved on to something else. Sarah’s point was that there will come a day when she’ll put peas in her purse for the very last time, and she won’t even know it’s the last.

For the past several days, I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember when the last time was that I did handstands in the hallway of my parents’ house. When was the last time I tap-danced in the kitchen or sat on my mom’s bed and told her all my problems. Can you remember the last time your dad took you on a walk or the last time your mom did your hair or the very last time you asked to borrow the car? Probably not, right?

Then I started thinking about my own children. I know there was a “last time” I put water wings on my oldest daughter, Alia, a last time that Grace asked for a note in her kindergarten lunch, a final time my son wanted me to watch Baby Einstein with him, but I didn’t even realize it at the time.

Now I look at what my children are doing, and I wonder if today is the last time for something we’re experiencing together. I won’t mind if today is the last time I have to sing the “Kindness” song when the children are bickering. I would love it if tonight were the last night my one-year-old woke up at 3:30, and I would be thrilled if today were the last time I had to beg the children not to take a dead grasshopper to school (because one child is screaming to keep it OUT of the car, and the others are fighting over who gets to hold it).

However, there are other things I don’t want to end. What if today were the last time my baby made “that face” we all think is hilarious. How would I feel if after today my son didn’t need me to help him shampoo his hair anymore? Today might be the last time Hotwheels are in my bathroom sink, the last time I have to pick up bath toys before I take a shower, the last time I’m awakened by a seven-year-old girl with big blue eyes.

And now that I think even more about it, I realize that for all the new advancements that happen each day in our home (learning to spell, walk, play the piano…), we’re leaving an equal number of things behind. That’s just how it’s meant to be.

I’ve decided I’m going to savor every hug, every phone call with my mom, every chance to volunteer in the classroom, every sweet question, every scowl, and every runny nose. Because even though I feel like the challenges of motherhood will never end, these precious moments just might be here for the very last time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mission of "Power of a Family"

My life as a mom doesn't neatly coordinate with the ideal world painted in my mind.  Do you ever feel that way?

Our rare vacations aren't exotic.  My pie crusts are crumbly.  Our pilates ball is mostly used for rolling up and down the stairs.  Our walls have multiple chips in the paint.

And I don't always have great lighting or beautiful backdrops to help document my totally ordinary daily routines.

I ask my sons to gather the trash from the upstairs bedrooms, and they decide to hang the garbage bag on my ceiling fan and see what happens if they swing from it.  (Can you relate?)

I'm not giving up on (or putting down) this ideal life I imagine, and I'm sure someday I'll have a cute kitchen and maybe a trip to Europe.

But what I need after a long day of messes, meals, interruptions, and squabbles is to feel relief.

I need to know that my efforts are worth it.  And I need to know that all my work is enough.

Mostly, I need guidance, confidence, and tools to spend my time on what is most important.

Because so much of what I yearn for--the images that please the eye and leave me feeling utterly and devastatingly inadequate-- is completely unnecessary.

What is necessary are people, relationships, and family.

Far too often, however, I get distracted by superficiality, the inundation of emails, and the siren song of social media.   I miss out on the true happiness that is ALREADY EXISTING right around me. 

I want to live better.

I want to kneel down by the couch and fold dish towels while my ten-year-old cartwheels all over the living room.  And I want to hold her tight when she wants to talk about her friend at school whose mom passed away from cancer this year.

I want to ride our little tandem bike home from the kindergarten pick-up and let the wind blow in my face while my son and I race down the hill--cherishing his voice while he yells, "Faster, Mom!  Faster!"

I want to chop sweet peppers and celery with my nine-year-old and let him excitedly tell me all about the characters in the book he's read four times this month.  

And sit cross-legged on my teenager's bed while we brainstorm ideas for her science project . . . and then sit quietly and really listen when she changes the subject and lets all her concerns and insecurities spill out.

I want to savor this messy, noisy, unpredictable life.

You do, too.  Am I right?

So let's share our imperfections, discuss our best ideas, and help each other to keep our focus.

Big things are expected of us, and there is a Power beyond our own who will guide us toward solutions--in a way that will never overwhelm or discourage us. 

Building a powerful family, with God as our Guide, makes life beautiful and leads to true happiness.

This is my goal, and I'm dedicated to achieving it. If you want to join me, it will be so much more fun to do this together.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My PDF Download for Planning Christmas

I spent a few hours today working on a Christmas-planning post for Power of Moms, and I must say that I'm very excited about Christmas this year.

Here's the link, if you'd like to read more: "Planning What Matters Most at Christmas."

My children and I were laughing about our gingerbread house from last year (I included this photo in the post):

The first caption I wrote for it said, "Can you tell I let my children do 100% of the decorating?"

But that hurt their feelings, so I changed it to, "Didn't I do a good job?"

And then Alia changed it to this:  "We made a kid-friendly gingerbread house.  No rules or regulations . . . just pure fun."

I said, "That's great, Alia!"

And she replied, "Yeah, I have a way with words."

Hope your Christmas planning is going well.  It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated.  It's about the feeling, right?


Sunday, November 25, 2012

PRIVILEGED to Be a Housekeeper

The title of "housekeeper" isn't very impressive.

I've never referred to myself as a housekeeper because it sounds so mundane and undesirable.  
No education is required.  There aren't any promotions.  And the work includes things like scrubbing toilets, taking out the trash, and telling my four-year-old over and over again not to put tape all over his face.

But I was reading Psalms 113:9 today--about keeping house and being a joyful mother of children, and I started looking more deeply at the word "keep."  

For example, a phrase we use a lot at church is "keep the commandments," but in Spanish, it's "guardar los mandamientos."  Guardar suggests that we guard, protect, and treasure the commandments.

So then I wondered if I could apply the same meaning to "keeping house."  

Maybe it's not so much about keeping the tile clean and sweeping the leaves off the front porch.  Maybe it's about guarding, protecting, and treasuring my home.

A quick trip to the online dictionary revealed these definitions for "keep":
  • to be faithful to

  • to preserve, maintain

  • to watch over and defend

  • to take care of/maintain in a good, fitting, orderly condition

  • to support

  • to maintain a course, direction, or progress

  • to stay on alert

  • to celebrate
I love these definitions.  They change the way I look at my family interactions--like when I spend five hours on a Saturday rearranging my girls' rooms, vacuuming up the dust, and talking with them about their friends at school.  

Or when I make barbecue meatballs for Ethan, pick up photos for Grace's "star-of-the-week" poster, carefully scrutinize the blogs Alia has added to her Google Reader, do "finishing touches" on Spencer's teeth-brushing, and reorganize the piles of blocks, Hot Wheels, and Legos we have all over our living room.

Right now, the majority of my life is spent "keeping house" . . . keeping our home.  And more often than not, when I reflect on my efforts at the end of the day, I feel like I've hardly accomplished anything.  

But now that I look at this new definition of housekeeping, I realize all this work I never even count . . . really counts.  All that time that seems to EVAPORATE somewhere between breakfast and dinner is actually being invested in the people who matter most to me. 

And that is pretty special.
I'm grateful for the privilege of being a housekeeper.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mercy at the Grocery Store

Remember that game from elementary school, when you would hold hands with another person, and they would try to twist your wrists until you called "Mercy"?

I didn't like that game.

I always lost.  I always called "Mercy" too quickly.  And the boys in third grade thought it was hilarious.

Well, last week, I was sick for a full week--feeling totally overwhelmed, trying to keep up with emails and deadlines, and keeping the children happy, fed, clean, and loved.

Eric saved me that whole week--making mean batches of pancakes or frozen pizzas for dinner and sending me to bed as often as he could.  And my children were incredibly sweet and helpful, for which I'm very grateful.

But Tuesday night, we were out of groceries, and Eric was driving the children around on some other errands, so I took about an hour to buy food and return library books by myself.

While I was out, the weight of the world started descending upon my shoulders.  I know I worry too much and feel obligated to do too many projects, and I know I take my concerns too seriously sometimes.  But in this case, all of my worries felt totally justified.

Thinking of all the things I wanted and needed to get done--and comparing those aspirations with my then-current state of health left me deep in discouragement. 

As I drove down the street toward the library, feeling "life" twisting me in too many uncomfortable directions, I thought back to those days in third grade.  And I quietly whispered, "Mercy, Lord.  I'm calling for Mercy."

And something amazing happened that night.  While I shopped at the grocery store and drove around our little community, I felt an outpouring of love.

Answers to my problems didn't come right away.  And nothing changed in my health, but I felt God there with me.  I felt Him telling me that He was watching out for me, and that He knew I was being stretched.  I felt His power lift me and fill me and pour out of me.

The other shoppers might have wondered what was wrong with me--as I wiped my eyes and smiled at them in the bakery section, and the produce section, and the check-out area.

But that feeling was so real.  That power was so real.  And so beautiful.

This morning I was reading from Isaiah 49 (quoted in 1 Nephi 21 in The Book of Mormon), and these words echoed my feelings from that night at the grocery store:

" . . . the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. . . . But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me--but he will show that he hath not."

This is a lesson I keep learning over and over again.  Whenever life feels hard, and God seems silent, I simply need to call for His mercy.  He has the power to comfort us, to remind us that we are never forgotten, and to fill us with the power to do mighty, wonderful things.

Just thought I'd share . . . in case you needed this reminder, too.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to wish all our friends and family (and any blog readers we haven't yet met) a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanks for all you do in YOUR homes. And thanks for joining us on this wonderfully challenging and exhilarating journey of family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Laundry Hanging in the Kitchen

Isn't this a fun photo?

Our dryer broke on Tuesday night--right in the middle of wash day. 

So after Eric and I tucked the children in bed, we came down to the kitchen and hung laundry everywhere.

On our dryer rack, on the chairs, on the cupboards, on the drawers. . . .

When I went upstairs to go to sleep, I started laughing because Eric had also hung laundry ALL over the canopy of our bed.

We're shopping for a new dryer (recommendations, anyone?), but in the meantime, I think it's important to note that these little inconveniences aren't that big of a deal.

Yes, it's kind of annoying to have clothing all over your kitchen.  (It took forever for these things to dry.)

But we have family relationships that are stronger than ever.

When I'm filling up the water bottles or scrubbing something in the sink, Eric comes over, wraps his arms around my waist, and kisses that ticklish part by my ear until I get goose bumps down to my toes.

The girls are always watching closely, and they say something like, "Ooh-la-la."

When I tuck Spencer in at night, he says, "I love you 30, 50, 100 until the numbers end."  And since I've been sick this week and spending a lot of time on the couch, he keeps running up to me and saying in a deep voice, "Who loves his MAMA?"

Grace could see I was losing my patience last night, so she worked extra hard on her zone (kitchen this month) and danced around on wet towels to get the floor nice and shiny.  Then she gave me a neck massage and entertained me with at least 50 cartwheels up and down the living room. 

Ethan has totally taken responsibility for Spencer.  He made him a little snack yesterday after his nap, he makes sure Spencer shampoos his hair in the bathtub, and he teaches him all about Legos and car tracks.  Even though they're noisy little boys, it's just sweet to watch them together.

Alia is like a second mother to the younger children, and when I've been dizzy and head-achey, she's said, "Mom, go lie down.  I've got this."

And she does.

Sometimes life feels heavy.  I know that.  But quite honestly, if I had to choose between a new dryer and a family of best friends, I'd hang laundry in the kitchen any day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Good-Day-Bad-Day Cycle

Yesterday I wrote a bit about my "perfect" day in Long Beach.  And it was.  A beautiful gift from God during a challenging time in my life.  I wrote about it because I knew it was a blessing, and I didn't want to forget the feeling of that time with my friend Sarah and my family.

But then today was hard.  I woke up sick, and I've been wearing my non-exercised-in exercise clothes the whole day, trying to rest when I can and getting a few little tasks accomplished here and there (I did get the podcast up!). 

I feel "blah."  No energy.  Prone to discouragement. Inclined to cancel everything in my life and just give up.  (You know that feeling?)

Tonight when I was lying still on the couch while my children were cleaning their zones, Eric said, "Honey, you know I think you're beautiful, but right now you look like death warmed over." 

At least he's honest.   :)

Then I thought I should probably take a moment to record this "down" day to bring balance to what I posted yesterday.  But I realized I already wrote this exact post two years ago!

And this is part of a comment from my friend Amy that struck me:

I think part of the reason that we like to hear about others' "awful days" is because of the all-important empathy factor and the "we're-all-in-this-together" factor.

I've heard SO many mothers express discouragement because of what appears to be our fear of not measuring up~but after talking with them I find it seems to be more of a fear of opening up about the current realities we're dealing with. We're afraid it will come across as complaining, or expose us as the only one lacking in one way or another--when in reality it just means we're human (and for some of us that's scary). 

So for any of you wondering if you're alone in your humanness today, let me assure you that I'm right here with you.  Life is a cycle of good days and bad days. 

Sometimes my hormones get the best of me. 

Sometimes I get these crazy rashes on my stomach when I have too much anxiety. 

And sometimes I simply can't get things together because of heavy decisions weighing on my mind.  (That's how I'm feeling right now.)

I'm going to get to bed soon, but as long as I'm opening up here, perhaps I could share one more thought that's been running through my mind.

I'm trying to figure out exactly what I need to be doing with Power of Moms.

Those who know me and Saren understand how much it takes to keep this site going.  We have an amazing board of moms who donate thousands of hours to this organization, and we certainly couldn't do this without them, but it still requires daily effort (sometimes a LOT of daily effort) to manage all the little details that go on behind the scenes. 

And lately I've been feeling stretched too thin.  My emails are piling up, and it's taking more and more effort to get through them all.  I need quiet, uninterrupted time with my husband.  My girls are at that age where they really want to talk.  And I really want to talk WITH them.  Ethan desperately wants me to play Legos with him, and Spencer can't get enough story time. 

Our dryer broke halfway through the weekly laundry job this week, there are TONS of ants in our dishwasher (can't seem to get rid of them), and my throat is hurting so badly right now that I can barely think.

And so I'm trying to figure out what specific Power of Moms roles and activities need to be my priority--and which ones can be dropped, delegated, or deferred.

Saren and I keep going with this because it really is making a difference for mothers and families out there.  Not everyone wants or needs The Power of Moms, but we get emails every single day from moms who are grateful for this community.  We both feel like this is part of our life purpose.  But we still need to figure out how to make the work on the site actually work with our families.

I remember reading a fantastic mom-book back in 2002, when I was just starting out.  On the back of the book, it listed a website I could visit.  I enthusiastically ran to the computer and typed in the url . . . only to find that the site had been taken down, with nothing left in its place.

Seeing the look on my face, my husband asked, How do you feel? 

Like I've been abandoned.  I replied.

Finally, I had felt some glimmer of hope--some way to connect with other mothers who were going through the same ups and downs as me.  But for one reason or another, the book author couldn't run her site (I can understand!), and I was left to figure things out for myself.

I don't want Power of Moms to be like that.  I want this to go on forever.  I want my daughters to help run it when they are moms.  I want this community to BE there for the moms who need it.

But you know what?  I am not smart enough to do this.  And I'm okay to admit that. 

That's why I am in my scriptures and on my knees every single day.  I am counting on God to help us make this work, I am doing my very best to listen to Him, and I am grateful that He is willing to use my inadequate hands to help orchestrate this beautiful movement.

So that's all for now.  Thanks for caring.  Thanks for all you do for your families.

Going to bed now. . . .


Today's Trip to Long Beach

I spent today in Long Beach with my children--visiting my mom and my dear friend Sarah Hull.

We started out at Sarah's house so Sarah and I could record a podcast that will be posting on Power of Moms tomorrow.  Our seven children played inside the house while we sat in my minivan and talked all about how mothers can use their voices for good. (Sarah's husband, Bryant, was kind enough to make sure everything was okay with all the kids!)  This was my first "official" car podcast, and although it started getting a little stuffy in there after 30 minutes, I had such a great time.

Then we went to my mom's house for a bit, and I sat on the couch by her and hugged and kissed her as many times as I could before we took the children to lunch at In-n-Out (my mom's favorite).

Sarah was able to meet us there, and our children were so cute together as they ate and played with their In-n-Out sticker cards.  And the hats . . . I just love the hats:

After lunch, we went to our favorite park, and my mom, Sarah, and I sat together on a bench while the children played together.

We talked about prayer, faith, and motherhood. I told my mom the same stories I tell her every time we get together, and she always smiles and says, "Oh, I'd forgotten all about that!"

Sarah told us about the time she won a student council election in fifth grade, and she skated home as fast as she could so she could tell her mom.  She remembers her mom picking her up and hugging her and swinging her around the kitchen (skates and all), to celebrate this huge moment for a young girl who was naturally shy (though you wouldn't know it, now). 

As I was telling Eric about the day, I said, "It was perfect.  It was one of those perfect days with sunshine and friends and happy children.  I got to be with my mom, and even though she won't remember it tomorrow, I'll remember it."

So tonight I'm going to bed grateful.  I'm grateful to the Lord for such a peaceful, happy day with ones I love. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Directed Efforts

Over the past week, with the election here in the USA, there have been a lot of emails, Facebook messages, and conversations about the state of our country, the people in power, and the policies being put in place. 

Regardless of one's political views, there are a lot of emotions involved here and many important issues at stake.

I think it's incredibly powerful when the nation, as a whole, is paying attention to what's going on--and trying to do something to improve our country and our world.

What happens, though, is that in the midst of staying informed and trying to influence the well-being of our society, it's easy to get distracted.

We could waste away our lives listening to talk radio, scouring news sites, and engaging in debates among our friends and co-workers, but how effective is that, really?

Today I just wanted to share an idea that's been helpful to me.

Once I research the issues, keep myself updated on the news, and form an opinion on which ideas are best, I go to the Lord and ask this question:

Where would you like me to direct my efforts?

This one simple question has completely shifted my perspective.  It brings peace to my life and enables me to take a deep breath.

Sometimes the instructions I receive are to get more involved in politics.

Sometimes I'm told to keep my eye on my current projects and give an increase of love to those in my circle of influence.

Sometimes it's a little of both.

Each one of us needs to be a leader, and I have zero doubts that God has specific work for each of us to do.  He wants to demonstrate His power in each of our lives, He wants us to love each other, and He wants us to trust Him.

Out of all the titles given to the Lord in the scriptures, one of my very favorites is "The Prince of Peace."

How grateful I am for that peace.

Any other thoughts on this you'd like to share?  Have you noticed how easy it can be to get distracted?  Do you have any other solutions that I could apply?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Eye on the Vision

I've been helping my dad with his Christmas card this year. (He's learned how to google, but he's afraid to print anything unless I'm sitting right next to him.  It's really cute.)

So as 150 cards have been emerging from my desktop printer this week, I've been thinking a lot about my parents and siblings.

I grew up as the seventh of eight children, and I was so happy to be a part of a large family.  

I remember sitting next to my dad in church when I was five, and to keep me quiet and happy, he would draw 10 smiley faces on the back of the program.  Then we would label them together:

Dad, Mom, Bobby, Linda, Susan, Laura, Lisa, Page, April, and Ryan.

With so many people looking out for me, I always felt safe, loved, and part of something really special.

This is from my mom and dad's wedding in 1958:

And this is the family photo we took the day before the first child (my brother Robert) got married.  

 (That's me in the bottom left corner--8 years old.)

And then this is the photo from May, when the 8th child (Ryan) got married, and all ten of us were there with our spouses:

It's amazing for me to see the family they have created over the years.  This is exactly what they always wanted, and when I looked at my dad's face as his eighth child got married, I couldn't help but get choked up.  This was his dream, and he and my mom have been working hard for 54 years to make it happen.

The scripture that really stood out to me this morning is "be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great."(D&C 64:33)

I can't even tell you how much that means to me.  

There have been lots of sweet, fun, happy moments around here lately, and Eric and I are closer than we've ever been. 

However, there are certainly times when I do feel weary, and it often seems like everything I do is small.  

But feeling weary is a choice, and it's the small things that grow into the great things.

I know there were times when my parents were tired and couldn't necessarily see the fruits of their labors. They worked hard to support us every single day, and we gave them plenty to complain about.  But they didn't give up (and they didn't even complain) because they had a vision of what they were creating.  

Today, as I get my children ready for school, do the laundry, return our overdue library books, catch up on emails, and complete dozens of tasks that are waiting for me, I'm going to keep my eye on the vision and remember that these small things are simply part of of a foundation for beautiful things to come.

What thoughts help you to keep you eye on the vision?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Adventures

Last night Grace and I were doing the dishes together, and she said, "Mom, I've been reading your blog, and I'm glad you don't make it seem like you have a perfect life or anything, but I think sometimes you write too much about your hardships, and it's kind of depressing.  I mean, you're a great mom and everything, but I think you need to write about some happier things."

Oh, I laughed.

She is totally right. 

My blog is a place I can go to write about the thoughts I'm trying to work out in my head, but I have a great life in so many ways.  I want to be sure my children know how great it is to be their mom.

So I thought a good place to start would be to record what a fun Halloween we had.

Halloween is seriously one of my favorite holidays. Eric's not a big fan, but the dressing up, the pumpkin-carving, the walks around the neighborhood where everyone waves to each other . . . that's just fun. 

After our first Halloween celebration (at church on Thursday night), the children were so excited to sort and trade their candy.  The boys sat at that counter for at least 30 minutes--grouping the chocolates, skittles, and suckers and then dividing them evenly.  It was really cute to watch.

At celebration #2 (on Saturday), we got to spend time with my side of the family in Long Beach.  This is my sister Lisa and my handsome dad (he's turning 80 this year!).

Again, my two little storm troopers found a special spot to sort their candy.

These are three of my five sisters: Lisa, Susan, and Laura. One time I was at an event with Susan, and a friend of mine said, "THAT is your sister? But she looks nothing like you!  She's so tan . . . and so skinny.

What do you say to something like that?  I smiled and nodded, and I have laughed about that ever since.

I snapped this picture of our "costume bucket" because it just makes me happy.  Lots of hats and little accessories the kids love.  I should probably upgrade it to something fancier, but they have no problems digging through the container to find something fun to wear.

I was reading an email from Saren on Monday, and she said, "Off to carve pumpkins!"  I panicked. 

How could I have forgotten the PUMPKINS?  

It had totally slipped my mind with all the adventures going on around here.

So I piled the children in to the car, took them to pick out pumpkins at our local market, and then proceeded to spend the rest of the night carving and gutting three of the four pumpkins myself.  (My children can't stand the innards, but I told them this was my last year doing it for them.  I was exhausted by the end of the night.) 

Did you see the pineapple that Eric carved?  He doesn't really like pumpkins, but he did a great job hollowing out the pineapple, and we all had a nice sweet treat to eat while we worked.  The children thought he was hilarious.

And here are my sweethearts right before we went out on Halloween night.  The girls are wearing my cheer uniforms from high school, and I even taught them one of my favorite cheers to perform for anyone who asked.  There was quite a bit of squabbling about an hour before this photo was taken, but by the time we talked it all through and sent two of the four to their beds for 20 minutes (I won't say who), everything worked out just fine.

This is Grace's "bestie" from school, who we joined up with halfway through the trick-or-treating:

And as soon as we got home, Spencer said, "I want to sit on the porch and pass out candy.  You know, in that chair . . . with the bowl."  

He did the exact same thing last year (same costume, too!):

Alia spent some time this afternoon making a candy display, and we have got to figure out what we're going to do about all this candy.  I've heard quite a few possible solutions, but for now, we're just letting everyone enjoy their full bags and reminisce about the fun time we all had together.

And this is my favorite picture:

My heart was so touched by my friend Rachel's post about her mom this week, and I felt incredibly lucky to be healthy enough to be out running around with my kiddos this Halloween.  I asked Eric to take a picture of us so I could remember the moment.

I love this little family of mine.  And I feel very grateful to get to be the mom.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fighting the Inclination to Turn Inward

I've been struggling lately with knowing what to share and what not to share. 

Life isn't easy for me right now, for a variety of reasons. 

Some of those reasons seem silly when I compare my life to those who have it "really" hard. And some of those reasons are simply not shareable because they involve others whose privacy I would never take away. 

But what happens is that I simply stop writing. I stop talking to friends. I turn inward with the hope that I'll eventually get through the hard things, and THEN I will be in a position to be helpful to others. 

But this morning, I learned something that I wish I had known all along:

When we are struggling, that is when we need to turn outward--to help those who are struggling as we are.

This goes against every natural inclination I have.  Because, to be perfectly honest, I would much rather be up in the shower right now or working on a project or busying myself with cleaning up from our Halloween adventures last night. Distracting myself from thinking about the things that weigh me down.

But that's not where I need to be.  I need to tell you more about what I learned.

There's a new book out by a man named David A. Bednar, which is called Act in Doctrine.  

I read the first chapter this morning, and it focuses on the character of Jesus Christ.  One element of His character, as recorded in the Bible, is that when He was struggling, He focused His love and attention on others.

Think about how He comforted His apostles right before He suffered and died for us.

Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. - John 14:27 

Or how He made sure His mother Mary was cared for . . . while He was hanging on the cross.

No one would have faulted Him for turning inward, but He didn't do that because that's not who He is.

I'm still trying to figure out what the best way is for me to "turn outward."  I know that part of that process will be with my family.  They are the ones who need my heart.

And perhaps part of it will be through this blog.  

But whatever it is, I feel something happening inside me.  My heart is beating fast and I feel like I've finally identified why it is I've been feeling so disoriented lately.

It's because God doesn't want us to suffer alone.  He already did that so we wouldn't have to.

I'll write again soon.  

Much love,

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Published Book--and Thanks for Help Balancing

I feel very grateful to have friends through this blog.  The advice you gave me (in the comments on the previous post) have stayed with me over the past few days.  You've helped me to slow down and get my balance.

When I say I'm feeling "unbalanced," that usually means that I have planned so much into my life that I don't have time to sleep well, exercise, clean, laugh, and relax.  But sometimes things come so fast that I don't feel like I have any other option.

But I DO have options.

We all do.

Over the past few days, this is what I changed:
  • I didn't go out to visit my mom on her birthday.  I know it sounds sad, but she wasn't having a bit party or anything, and instead I decided to go out on a separate day when I have time to take her out for frozen yogurt.  She was totally fine with that, and it gave me a whole evening to clean the house with my kids and get our lives together.
  • I delegated more to my husband and kids.  They're happy to help if I give them lists.  I just need to make time to make those lists.
  • I did Jillian Michael's "Ripped in 30" (love that DVD) and made time to go running or do some sort of good exercise each day.  That helps.
  • I took some really long naps.
  • I listened to beautiful music and thoughtfully studied my scriptures--taking all the time I needed.
  • I showered early in the mornings and actually got "ready."
  • I gave myself a week off from teaching my children their piano lessons.  (No complaints from them!)
  • And I made progress on a bunch of tasks that had been sitting on my lists.
Oh, it feels so much better.

So thank you.

And because I have been working like crazy to get our book ready, I just have to make the "formal" announcement on here that our book is now available in two formats:

Click here to see it on CreateSpace.

Click here to see the eBook option on Power of Moms (and to read excerpts, find out about Learning Circles, and see our $10 Bloom Game offer for those who buy the book.)

This has been a long, hard process (I won't lie!), but now that I've done it, I think everyone should write a book.  It just feels really, really good to record the ideas that matter most to you in such a permanent way (that will hopefully be of help to others).  So let me know when you write yours, okay?

And now I'm going to take a blogging break for a few days. 

Our church has a special conference every six months where we are able to listen to beautiful, inspired messages that help us to "chart our course" and think about what God wants for our lives.  I love it.

Eric and I always have our best discussions during this weekend.  We're always brought back to center (because everyone gets a little off).  I'm going to think about balance, and how to spend my time doing what I, specifically, am meant to do.  I'm going to think about ways I can be a better mother and wife and daughter and friend, and I'm going to be thinking a lot about Power of Moms and what I need to do there.

My email inbox fills up too fast.  My heart wants to do too much.  My days aren't long enough to let me choose to do everything.  (Isn't this your situation, as well?)

But we each have a purpose that God wants us to fill, and once we figure that out and hold to it, everything will work out.

Much love,

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Trying to Balance (and a Sandbucket Magazine Giveaway)

Balance is an art.  One that I haven't yet mastered, but I'm working really hard at doing so.  Because there are so many choices to make, something always has to be left undone. 

Our book is coming out in just four days, which means I've been so excited about preparing for the launch that I didn't even notice we totally ran out of toilet paper.

I'm also falling behind on emails and desk work because there have been several extra events this week.

We had a birthday party for Spencer on Wednesday.

and it was precious.  Look at that little smile of his and the all those party hats.  Oh, I love those kids.

Alia decorated the kitchen and made Spencer's cake (she's a sweetie),

Grace wrapped the gifts and ran the games (this was "pin the tire on the car"):

and I did the shopping, baked the pizzas, got the house cleaned up,  and enjoyed visiting with our guests.  (Keeping it simple was a huge bonus.)

Ethan had his "Raingutter Regatta" on Thursday (but forgot to tell us his boat needed a rudder until we were loading the car).  Eric gratefully is a master with superglue, so Ethan's boat still got to race:

(LOVE my guys in their uniforms.)

Ethan was sad that he didn't win, but we cheered on the other boys, and we came home with all kinds of ideas for making his boat faster next year. 

My sister Linda came to visit from Seattle on Friday afternoon, so my brother Robert, my parents, and I spent Friday afternoon talking and singing around the piano.

Eric and I went to our friends' home for dinner and ice cream last night, and today I got to speak at the Little Penelope Lane Boutique/Blog Conference (It was fabulous!  More on that later).

Then tonight our church had a wonderful conference for all the women (which was such a treat).

Life is good, and things are going great overall, but every single time I make a choice to spend my time doing something "extra," something else has to give.  I'm learning to be okay with that, but goodness, it's hard.

There's a brand new magazine called The Sandbucket, and it is simply beautiful.

They asked me to write an article about balance for their Fall issue, and it just came out this week.


You can access the digital version of the magazine by clicking here.  And if you leave a comment on this post, one of you will be given a free copy of the real magazine in the mail.   (This is my first giveaway on this blog--I thought the magazine was so lovely that it was definitely worth sharing. So please participate in the giveaway!)

I'll pick the winner Tuesday night at 8pm Pacific Time.

Your comment can simply say, "I want to win!" or you can share a tip about how YOU balance.  Because isn't that the goal we're all trying to reach?


(Update: I just picked the winner, and it's Kristine Jones!  Congratulations! Your magazine will be arriving in the mail shortly.)

Related Posts with Thumbnails