Thursday, January 31, 2013

Full Report of the L.A. Power of Moms Retreat

I'm still on a high from our Los Angeles Retreat last Saturday.

You know how, in motherhood, you often feel like "it's just me"?  Well, at a Power of Moms Retreat, it is exactly the opposite.  You spend a whole day with like-minded women who are going through pretty much the exact same situations you're going through, and while you're together, you talk and share and laugh and get a little choked up, and you think, "I can totally do this motherhood thing.  And I can be good at it.  And I'm not alone.  Not one bit."

It's incredibly powerful.

I have a lot of photos to post here--some from my camera, the rest from my sweet friends and board members, Emily (she blogs at Emmy Mom), Allyson (, and Tiffany (

I went up Friday night and met Tiffany and her sister-in-law Cindy, who helped set up the chairs and coordinate the details for Saturday. (SO grateful for their willingness to pitch in!)

And then Allyson met up with me and took me to her favorite Japanese restaurant, which was such a treat, since Allyson lived in Japan for a year and a half, and I'd never really eaten Japanese food before.

The food was so beautiful that I had to take a picture.

And Allyson thought it would be funny to take a picture of me taking a picture, so we have these matching photos (except the lighting is way better on hers).

It's so fun to hang out with special friends.  I need to do this kind of thing more often. 

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early to get ready for the Retreat.  We were so fortunate to be able to hold it at the Palmers' home again this year.  Lisa is one of the most kind, supportive, easy-going women I know, and she was gracious enough to let us spend a full day focusing on motherhood in a lovely home environment.

My friend Lauralynn brought Alia up and back for me on Saturday, so it was sweet to get to have her with us.  She says that she doesn't like "missing out on cool Power of Moms events."

Here's Emily, Lauralynn (and Adam), Cindy, and Tammy--getting to know each other before the Retreat started.

And this is my dear sister Laura:

Around 9:00, we gathered in the main room for our Mind Organization for Moms session.  (This is the program we have at Power of Moms that is based on GTD, which has totally transformed the way I process emails, papers, ideas, projects, tasks, etc.  I love this system, and I love having the chance to teach it.)

That session lasted about three hours, and Julia, Emily, Lisa, Tiffany, and Allyson helped out with the break-out groups and shared some of their experiences with the program. 

Then we had a lovely lunch, which was beautifully organized by Marinda and Melanie (thanks ladies!) and partially sponsored by the La Canada Panera restaurant.  We love Panera.  It's my favorite dinner spot for date night.  (I could live on their broccoli cheese soup, BBQ Chicken salad, and whole grain baguettes.)

Thank you, Panera!

After lunch, we did our "Taking Care of the Person inside the Mom" session.

It just does my heart good to see moms with little babies at our Retreats.  I know it's a lot of work to feed, diaper, rock, and care for your little ones while you're also trying to take notes on your phone or participate in group discussions.  But I wish every mom could have a retreat-type experience--especially when life is so busy with the little ones.

My friend Lauralynn is on the right, and on the left is Merrick, of the lovely blog, Merrick's Art.  After reading through so many of her creative posts, it was fun to meet in person!

Sarah Hull (from A Hull Lot of Fun) talked about taking care of ourselves socially, and she did a beautiful job sharing her thoughts on "Warrior Moms."  I need to ask her if I can post her whole speech.  It was just beautiful.

This darling mom, Heather, taught us about caring for our physical bodies, and she did a brief exercise routine with all of us.  We did a series of squats for about five minutes to some fun music.  I had a smile plastered across my face through the whole thing.  Such a great way to get the wiggles out . . . especially before eating our afternoon chocolate treats!

And Alisha, Allyson, Tiffany, Emily, and Julia shared so many inspiring ideas.  Looking back on the day, I should have turned way more time over to them.  I really like the sitting-down-and-listening more than the standing-up-and-presenting, and they are all such great, deliberate mothers.

(For any of you who write for Power of Moms, or who would like to write for us, this is Alisha Gale, our main editor.  We email just about every day, and we don't see nearly enough of each other, so this was a treat.)

Isn't Allyson's smile in this photo so cute?

Alisha and Allyson!

And if you attend a Power of Moms Retreat, chances are you'll get to know Tiffany very well!  She's our Retreat Manager, and she does such a fantastic job.  Not only does she get all the logistics taken care of, but she works with any mom who wants to come to the Retreat and figures out what it will take to get her there.  It was so nice that she got to attend this Retreat and share some of her great stories.  We just love her!

And this is Laurie Brooks, who has helped out with Power of Moms for years.  She's one of the authors in our book, Deliberate Motherhood (along with Allyson and Tiffany), and she is amazing.  She and Tiffany were both at our very first Power of Moms Retreat in 2010, so it was a fun reunion.

I met Julia at last year's L.A. Retreat, and wow, was it fun to see her again.  She has started a beautiful blog called "Blueberries in the Morning," and I had read and commented on it without even knowing it was hers.  She has children who are a little older than mine, so I'm soaking up every word she says about college applications, family vacations, teaching teens about work and money, etc.  Such a sharp, kind, incredible lady.

At the end of the day, we spent a couple of hours on Family Systems, and Alia couldn't wait to help present.  We talked about our past family t-shirts, how we organize money and discipline, and how things generally run at our house.  I love having my daughter there with me.

This is just a quick video to show some of the discussion that takes place at each Retreat.  Watching everyone share and learn is empowering to me.


And here are a few group photos (this one has Alia in it):

This one has Emily in it (wish I had more photos of her, but she was the one with the camera!):

Just looking at these photos brings back so many happy memories.  I meet some of the best women in the world at these Retreats.  They are kind, good women who are building strong families.  They share excellent ideas, they offer hope to each other, and they show me that even though it seems like the world is falling apart sometimes, there are strong, amazing families everywhere.

Here's one last photo of "the team" (missing Sarah):

Lisa, Alisha, April, Emily, Marinda, Julia, Allyson, Tiffany, and Melanie
And I just have to post a couple more photos from Saturday night.

Allyson was shocked when I told her I didn't know how to exfoliate my face and properly take care of my skin.  (She had this huge bag of cleansers and moisturizers, and I didn't know what she did with all of them!)

So we dropped by the grocery store and Allyson bought me an early birthday present.



And then we got a yummy frozen yogurt.  Such a great way to end the day!

And if you want to come to our Couples Retreat on February 8th, please do!  It's going to be a great date night.

Much love,

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Join Us for Date Night!

Eric and I have a very special date night planned for Friday, February 8th, and for those of you in the area, we would love for you to join us.

"Dinner and a movie" is a nice way to relax on the weekend (and we do that, too), but a Power of Families Couples Retreat, is an amazing way to energize our marriage and figure out specific, simple ways to move our family forward.

I thought I'd put together a few bullet points to better explain what the Couples Retreat will entail, and then you can click the flyer and link at the bottom of this page to check out the full registration details.

Okay, here we go:
  • A Couples Retreat/Date Night is kind of a new concept.  Most of the husbands who have attended these in the past initially made the decision to go because they wanted to make their wives happy.  But you know what?  By the time everyone gets into their discussion groups and starts talking, husbands and wives are both having an incredible time.
  • The reason we do these joint husband-wife events is because when we're trying to figure out how to create the family systems in our homes and establish great parenting partnerships, we really need both parents on board.  And where else do you see couples gathered together, talking excitedly and brainstorming specific strategies for building their families?  Never in my life have I seen the energy, enthusiasm, and deliberate-ness of a Couples Retreat matched.  It's phenomenal.
  • At this particular Couples Retreat, we're going to be focusing on our core curriculum from Power of Moms--how to create a strong family economy, family legal system, and family culture.  We'll talk about best practices for teaching kids about work and money, establishing positive discipline strategies, and making our family life fun in the process.
  • The event is going to be part presentation, but mostly directed small- and large-group discussions.  If you don't feel like talking, you can just listen, but everyone will be given the chance to participate, and that's the fun of it--learning from each other.
  • We price our events carefully.  We want to make it affordable for everyone, but we also want the price to reflect the value of the experience.  This particular night is $80 for each couple.  And we have a special payment philosophy (you can learn more about it on the registration page) that will enable any couple to attend if they really want to do so.  Honestly, if you want to be there, we'll get you there (as long as there's still space left!).
  • I know sometimes husband and wives worry that they'll feel intimidated by the other couples in attendance--or that everyone else will already have perfect families.  Let me squash that myth right now.  We're all learning and growing through parenthood, and when we get together and discover that there are lots of other people going through similar challenges, it makes us feel so much better.
  • When I do my work through Power of Moms, I don't talk very much about my husband--mainly because I know that not every mom has a supportive husband and a healthy marriage, and I want to focus on the power of mothers.  But in this case, for this Retreat, I'd just like to say that my husband is a very dedicated husband and father who cares about other people and wants to strengthen families.  We're both looking forward to this chance to meet you and spend an evening moving our collective families forward.
If you have any questions, please let me know!  The Retreat is coming up fast, so please register soon and we would absolutely love your help spreading the word!

Click here to visit the information page for the February 8th Couples Retreat.

Much love,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Dreaming Night" and L.A. Power of Moms Retreat

I always come back from Power of Moms Retreats totally energized to take on the world and be an incredible mom.

But there's always a touch of "Post-Retreat Let-Down Syndrome" that sets in, and it takes me a few days to get back into the swing of things.  (One of my children was up six times the night I returned with a really bad headache, and then we found the hallway carpet covered with throw-up the next morning.)  Sorry, I know that's such a bad image, but I've got to think that every mom can relate to that!

The kindergarten pick-up is in 26 minutes, and I still haven't showered (since I joined the kids at the school's 100-mile club this morning and then recorded a special call with Richard and Linda Eyre--that will post next week--and put the finishing touches on our new Power of Moms Radio Show episode you can listen to right now), so I thought I'd just link you to two wonderful blog posts that have beautifully recapped the events of the past week:

Saren did an amazing review of our "Dreaming Night" from last Wednesday.  Visit Saren's blog to read the whole thing.  (And that radio show episode I linked to above was recorded by me, Saren, and Linda the morning after the event.  It'll give you a little glimpse of what we talked about there.)

And Emily Barton posted some wonderful pictures and lots of details about our L.A. Retreat on her blog, Emmy Mom.

That was SUCH a fantastic weekend, and I need to add my photos and a whole write-up as soon as I can.  Love these ladies and feel so privileged to be a part of this organization.

More later!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Hope You Can Join Us!

I'm getting ready for our Power of Moms Retreat this Saturday, and I would so love to meet you.

There are always a lot of little details to manage right before a Retreat, and since these next few days will be busy, I just wanted to put up one more quick invitation.


If it's at all possible for you to get to Los Angeles, and if you can arrange for someone to watch your children, we will do everything we can to make it possible for you to attend.

And we'll make sure it's absolutely worth your time.  I've been to nearly a dozen Retreats, and I have loved every single one.

Click here to see more information on the Retreat.

And let me know if you have any questions, okay?



Monday, January 21, 2013

On Dreaming

I'm preparing a few brief words to say at our "Live Deliberately: Dare, Dream, Do" evening this Wednesday night.

And this morning, I realized how appropriate it is that we are holding this event just two days after Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

I'm going to be watching this video with my children today.

And then we're going to talk about how crucial it is to show love and respect to everybody--regardless of differences in beliefs, skin color, lifestyle, religion, personality, background, financial situation, etc. (They've been studying this at school, and I'm excited to hear more about what they've learned.)

I love listening to this speech because it embodies everything that is right about communicating an idea to an audience in a way that really connects--straight to the core.

I've been reading an amazing book called "Resonate," and the author dissects this speech--showing each of the components that helped propel Dr. King's ideas forward.

In the book, as the author is trying to help others to share their own ideas, she asks this powerful question:

How badly do you want your idea to live?

As I listen to Martin Luther King Jr. and see his passion, his calls to action, and this beautiful vision he shares with us, I can't help but be deeply impressed by his bravery, devotion, and perseverance.

What a beautiful man.  A true inspiration.

There are ideas inside each of us that can move the world in a positive direction.  And though it takes a lot of work, it's such a privilege to participate in something so meaningful.

Happy birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Thanks for inspiring us to dream.

Anyone want to share a dream you're working toward?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Lost Wallet

Alia is collecting stories of faith from all of our extended family members, and tonight I found one I recorded on November 24, 2009.  Thought I would repost it here.  Such a great experience:
Tonight was very, very sweet. I'd had a L-O-N-G day with all the children off track, trying to get ready for Thanksgiving, recover from my surgery, run errands, etc., and Eric was only home for about 30 minutes in between work and meetings at church.

We'd been praying all day that Eric could find his wallet. He lost it somewhere between a restaurant and home on Friday night, and he couldn't find it anywhere...which wouldn't be that big of a deal except for the fact that he's supposed to get on an airplane in a few days, and he kind of needs his I.D. I called the airport and tried to figure out what it would take to get on the plane without a driver licence, but it all boiled down to getting a temporary one from the DMV tomorrow. Eric doesn't have time to go, and I have so much to do. I barely have enough energy to keep things going here at home--there's no way I can squeeze three hours of line-waiting at the DMV into my day.

After I tucked Spencer and Ethan in bed, I knelt down in the living room and prayed that somehow we would be able to find Eric's wallet. I knew that if we didn't find it, the Lord would give me the strength to get all the necessary things done tomorrow, but I said, "If I could just ask for one thing, it would be to find the wallet."

I then went upstairs and started feeling sorry for myself. My thoughts went something like this: "Why does everything have to be so hard? I'm so tired. I haven't even had the chance to recover from my surgery because I have so many little children who need me. We had a weekend of fevers, I've been in this house for several days without a break, and Eric is doing such a good job serving as the bishop, but he's gone all the time, and I just need help."

Then Alia walked into the room and said, "Mom! I KNOW the Spirit helped me! I found Dad's wallet!" She lifted her hands and, sure enough, there it was. She'd found it in the nightstand drawer--a place he NEVER keeps it--the nightstand is usually empty because Spencer likes to dump the contents out all over the floor. Alia had tears in her eyes and said, "I've been thinking of that spot all day. I'm so glad I found it!"

We knelt down right there in my room and thanked the Lord for helping us, and then we called Eric to let him know the good news. I took Alia and Grace downstairs and snuggled them on the couch and explained how grateful I was to the Lord for looking out for us. I told them how I'd been feeling frustrated about everything, and how this was a huge blessing to me. Alia said, "Mom, you were starting to doubt everything, but the Lord helped us."

We kept talking about how we need to have faith in God's power and how we need to record experiences that strengthen our faith. Alia kept talking about the experience over and over again and said, "I will NEVER forget this." The rest of our evening was filled with a sweet feeling of love and gratitude, and when Eric came home, Alia happily presented his wallet to him and was SO excited to tell him all about her experience.

Part of this blessing was for Eric. He needed his wallet. Part of this blessing was for me. I needed relief from all the demands on me right now. But most of this blessing was for my girls. The Lord has helped people find purses and keys and wallets and shoes and all kinds of things throughout the ages, and I think He does this so we will remember to believe in Him and to trust in Him. Some day, Alia is going to need help with something much bigger, and because of this sweet experience tonight, she'll know where to go for that help.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dear Young Moms:

I've been thinking about you tonight--you moms with little children (maybe you're young, and maybe you're not-so young, but I think having little ones keeps you youthful, right?). 

I want to say something to you while I'm close enough to that stage to remember what your life is like, but far enough outside to have a bit of perspective to offer.

My youngest child is 5 right now, and my oldest child is 13.  Life is busy and sweet, and we have lots of messes and mayhem (and frustrating nights like last night, where I totally vented into my journal and recorded all the details that bothered me--so I could see it in black and white and realize that things will always get better ), but life is not chaotic . . . like it used to be.

When Eric was going to graduate school, we lived in a modest apartment on campus with our three preschoolers. 

I love this photo Eric took one evening as I was nursing Ethan and reading nursery rhymes to Alia.  Grace couldn't find any available "lap space," so she grabbed her bottle of milk and just leaned against my legs.

That was my life.

One afternoon, I thought it would be fun to get everyone out of the apartment for a few hours and go to a special store in Boston called "The Christmas Tree Shop."  They had all kinds of toys, home supplies, and decor items (year round), and I was feeling up for an adventure.

So I bundled everyone up in their coats, hats, and mittens, got all three strapped into their car seats, and drove for 30 minutes to get to the shop.

Ethan was being fussy, so I put him in the front pack, draped a blanket over us, and let him nurse while I pushed the cart.  (In hind sight, that seems incredibly awkward, but desperate times . . . .)

After shopping for about 20 minutes, my cart was about half full, and I was feeling pretty excited about my purchases: a Dora tent for the girls, some curtains for our windows, a night light for Alia's bedroom, and a few little knick knacks for decor.

"Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom right now."  Alia said.

"Just a few more minutes honey. I'm almost done shopping."

She started dancing.  "Now, Mommy, now!  I can't wait!"

More dancing.  More panic in her voice.  (Turns out she had contracted a strange virus, and her tummy was totally unsettled.)

I rolled the cart over to the restrooms at the back corner of the store, parked it to the right of the ladies' room door, lifted one-year-old Grace out of the cart, and proceeded to walk my two girls into a large stall in the restroom (still nursing Ethan).

Alia needed some extra time to take care of things--more than Grace could handle--so Grace slipped under the door and started running around the empty restroom.

Splash . . . Splash . . . SPLASH!

Suddenly I realized that little Grace was running into each of the other stalls and sticking her hands into the toilets (having a grand old time).

I opened the door to Alia's stall so I could reign Grace back in, and Alia started screaming that someone was going to SEE her.  Fortunately, no one else was in the restroom, so I was able to grab Grace and direct her back into the stall, help Alia get cleaned up, get everyone's hands washed (especially Grace's), and then calmly exit the restroom (though inside my head I wanted to scream).

I'd spent so long in the restroom, however, that by the time I was ready to head to the check-out, the dutiful employees of The Christmas Tree Shop had reshelved everything in my cart.

Isn't that a fun story?

It makes me laugh now.  Motherhood is utterly ridiculous at times, don't you think?

But here is one idea that I wish I had known back then. (You've probably already mastered this.)

Several times, when I was in the midst of the mundane (sweeping, mixing formula, wiping spit-up, picking up toys), I wondered why the young, healthy, vibrant years of a woman's life are also the prime years for childbearing.

Doesn't it make sense (I reasoned) for women to have a chance to LIVE before settling down to raise children? (I wasn't talking about waiting until our 30s or 40s--I was thinking it would be perfect to start around 60.)

I felt like I was spending the "best years" of my life changing diapers and trying to sleep while toddlers were piling toys on top of me.

But now I don't see it that way.

Now I think, "How lucky am I to get to spend the healthiest, strongest, most energetic years of my life as a mother!"

I can bounce on the trampoline--holding their hands in mine, boogie board with them, and jump up in a flash to provide kisses when they bang their foreheads on the edge of the table.

I can hold my babies on my hips (yes, I still hold Spencer sometimes), chase them up the stairs when it's time for bed, and talk about boys with my teenage daughter--because it wasn't really that long ago that I was going through her exact same time of life.

The more time I have to move forward on professional projects and travel the world, the more I realize that time spent with children IS living. (What on earth had I been thinking?)

I still have lots of years to pursue other adventures.

But this adventure of young motherhood, which is too-quickly shifting to empty-nest-hood is a beautiful, beautiful time.

Just something to think about when your children are splashing in the toilet.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Upcoming Events (Book Night, Two Retreats, and Blissdom!)

There are a lot of details being juggled around here this week (like at everyone else's home, I'm sure).

Ethan has a fever (I feel so bad for him), we're finally getting lighting installed in the ceilings of our children's rooms tomorrow (can't wait!), Grace is bringing the snack to her basketball game Wednesday (she can't believe I actually bought Oreos), my mom's occupational therapist is going to see her tomorrow for the first time (fingers crossed!), I started my "100 Days of No Sugar" again . . . after eating way too much pumpkin bread batter (seriously, can you stop eating that stuff once you start?), and Saren and I recorded our second Power of Moms Radio show about teenagers (that was fun!).

I'm also preparing for a few events that I'm so excited about, and I wanted to get them up here on my blog, so if the stars align, we can meet in person!  (Not really sure who's reading this, but I can see there are a lot of visitors dropping by each day, and I'm guessing you're really nice people that I would be honored to meet.)

The first event is our "Book Night," with Whitney Johnson (author of Dare, Dream, Do) on Wednesday, January 23rd in Salt Lake City:

Power of Moms published our very first book a couple of months ago (do you have it yet?), and Whitney Johnson published a beautiful book just a few months before that, and so we made some plans to get together and have a fun evening discussing inspiring ideas with friends. 

(These events are open to everybody--they aren't specific to one religion, one "type" of mom, or anything like that.  Just wanted to clarify!)

Click this link to see the details for this wonderful evening

The second event is the Southern California Power of Moms Retreat on Saturday, January 26th in Los Angeles.

You can see the report from last year's Retreat here, and if you click on the image below, it will take you to our information/registration page.  I'd LOVE your help spreading the word about this.  It is going to be an outstanding day.

The third event is the Couples Evening Retreat on Friday, February 8th in Tustin, CA.

More about that soon, but I'd love for you to save the date and visit our registration page.  Eric and I will be facilitating/presenting at that one, and we're really looking forward to it.

The fourth event is a blogging conference called Blissdom--March 21st - 23rd in Dallas, Texas.

I've never been to Blissdom before, but I've heard wonderful things about it, and I'm sincerely excited to learn how to develop Power of Moms, meet new friends, and have a few days away to think.

If you're going to Blissdom, please let me know--I'd love to be on the lookout for you.  And if you have any questions or comments about the other events, just leave them in the Comments section below.

Have a great day!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Celebrating Success

I had a special "mom" moment today.

(For the past four hours, I have been curled up on the carpet near our fireplace, barely able to MOVE, since I've been so exhausted from the past week, but this experience was a highlight.)

Alia had been asked to play the piano for the opening hymn in her Young Women's class at church, and she was VERY nervous.

She'd written reminders to herself to practice each day, but she kept pushing it off until the next day . . . and the next day . . . and the next day. (Remember doing that?)

Finally, this morning she asked if I would sit down with her and help her find an easy song she could play.

She knows how to sight read with both hands, but she gets ruffled when people sing along, so I told her to just play her right hand this time (and then I encouraged her to start practicing with both).

After several hours of "Oh Mom, I'm so NERVOUS!" she headed into her class, and I hid out in the hallway, my ear pressed against the door.

I listened to the soft melody coming from the piano and heard all the girls singing along to "I Need Thee Every Hour."

It was just one verse, only lasting a minute, but it was BIG for her, which means it was big for me.

I love seeing my children reach outside their comfort zones. And I love seeing how little accomplishments can give them so much confidence.

I told Alia how sneaky I was, listening from the hallway, and how I was so happy for her.

She said she messed up on the beginning, but she had a cute smile on her face, and she knew she did a good job.

Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Loving the teenage years so far (It's been five days!).


Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Birthday Project" Podcast (that I can't stop talking about)

We posted a podcast on Power of Moms today that is a MUST listen.

Honestly, I've been talking about it with my husband, with my kids, with my friends . . . it's just an amazing story by some amazing women.

You can see the blog post that started it all at Making Life Whimsical.

And then once you read the whole post (and you start wondering, "How on earth could I replicate something like this--with my kids and my messy garage and my stressful schedule?") come back and click here for the podcast page.  Amy and Michaela will walk you through the whole thing. 

This is going to be a new birthday tradition in our family.  I turn 35 in 3 months, and I'm already planning it.   (Anyone who lives near me and wants to join in the service will be welcome.  This will be a birthday party I will never forget.)


P.S.  See how fun their car looked?  It inspires me every time I think about it.  Thank you Amy and Michaela!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Power of Moms Radio

A couple of months ago, Saren and I were talking about which Power of Moms activities are most enjoyable and exciting for us.

We decided that podcasting together was at the top of the list.

We spend lots of time talking about our organization's needs, and sometimes we just want to talk about life and motherhood and personhood, and all the thoughts that are swirling around in our heads.

So we decided to start our own weekly Power of Moms radio show--and this past Monday, we made our first recording. It was SO fun!

(You can click the image below to learn more.)


During the show, we talked about what moments from 2012 were most memorable and what we want to focus on for 2013.

I was scrolling through my photos during the call, and these are two photos that really stood out.

First is a photo I snapped at the beach last summer when my brother and dad were helping my mom walk across the sand. (She's had a hip and knee replacement, so sand-walking isn't her favorite, but look how happy this made her!) Spending that afternoon in a beach chair with my family by my side was a treasure.

This second photo is from a Mommy-Daughter night that Grace and I attended together at church. We wore our jammies and painted our nails orange and learned about yoga and hairstyling. We ate snacks and visited with our friends and had such a memorable time together.

Although a lot of great things have resulted from the hours I've invested in writing and emailing, it's moments with the people I love that mean the most.

So this year, once I finally catch up from Christmas break, I plan to ease up on the non-interpersonal tasks and increase the beautiful personal experiences that make life so sweet.

Click here if you'd like to listen to the full conversation on this topic--on our first radio show!

(Did I mention how excited I am?)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Aligning Our Wills

This morning I finished the book Act in Doctrine, which I referenced in a post I wrote after I read Chapter One.

I absolutely loved this section from p. 137:

As we teach, we do not represent our families, our friends, our academic discipline or training, or our professional experience.  

Rather, we represent Him.  

His purposes should be our purposes.  

His interests should be our interests.  

His work should be our work.  

His ways should be our ways.  

His will should become our will.

That really struck me because I've been thinking a lot lately about the work I am doing--within my family, the community, Power of Moms, etc., and the only way I can feel deep satisfaction with my life is if I know my will is totally aligned with God's.

Is that easy for anyone out there?

I had a mini-meltdown a couple of days ago.  I'd been trying to do too much (again), and too many unexpected things came up (mostly relationship-based, which I simply couldn't put off), and my heart was hurting for my sweet mom, whose short-term memory is pretty much gone. 

She stayed up the entire night on Monday, waiting for my sister and brother-in-law to fly in from Seattle--because she was looking at an old calendar and didn't know that it wasn't December anymore. 

She finally woke my Dad up at 5:30 in the morning, and when he realized she'd been up the whole night, he got her settled back into bed, and then he called me to see if he needed to cancel any medical home-visit appointments that morning (I'm managing her care schedule since my mom gets so confused when people call the house to talk about appointments).

I know I can't make all this better for my mom, but as she is slipping further and further away, I feel like a little piece of my heart is dying.

I only live 45 minutes away from her, but my responsibilities are here--taking care of my children, being here with my husband, running Power of Moms, helping out at the school whenever I can. . . .

And if I'm going to take time to sit at the computer, I want to be 100% sure that the work I am doing is aligned with the Lord's will.

There simply isn't time for anything else.

So those are my thoughts today.  I'm going to go out on a little run and breathe in some fresh air and pray along the way--and then I'll do my best to listen closely for the answers to come.  They always come.

Much love,


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Give 'em a Hand!

At a Power of Moms Retreat a couple of years ago, a darling mom named Heather told me how she gives her children "hands" (literally).

She bought some paper hand cut-outs at the Dollar store, and whenever one of her children did something to exemplify one of their five family rules (like peace, respect, etc.), she would write it on one of the hands--and then post it on a wall in their kitchen.

My children will do ANYTHING for a hand, she told me.

So I tried it with my children, and it worked like a charm.

They wanted to be good and to receive my praise.  They were nicer to each other.  They went the extra mile.  They helped around the house without being asked.

But then I got distracted and stopped doing the hands for awhile--even though my children would periodically ask, "Mom, can I get a hand for that?"

I would always say, "Oh yes--I'll make you a hand.  I just need to find some of those pre-cut ones, or I can trace your hand and cut one out of construction paper.  But absolutely yes!  You deserve a hand."

But then I kept forgetting.

Well, the other day, I found this in Ethan's room:

You can see how he wrote adjectives on each finger to describe himself: smart, nice, caring, loving (and a cute smiley face).  Then in the center, he wrote, "Ethan played with Spencer so mom could rest."

Seeing "a hand" with my nine-year-old's handwriting on it really touched my heart.  Part of me feels badly that I took so long to make one for him.  But the other part of me loves to see him identifying the character traits that he is developing as he does good things in our home.

I think I'm like most women in that I want to be a really good mom. 

My husband tells me I'm too hard on myself and that I can't expect to meet the impossible expectations I set as the standard. 

And sometimes when I go to bed at night, my stomach is in knots because I wonder if I'm living up to what I know I can be.  Do you ever feel that way?

I AM going to work on making these hands a little more often.  Once in awhile the children can make their own (because I think this is far cuter than what I can make).  But little things like this are what my children will remember.  And paying attention to the sweet things they do is going to help me love them all the more.

Maybe I'll even make myself a hand and tape it to my bathroom mirror when I do something nice. 

This was just a sweet idea I wanted to share.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy Birthday to Alia!

Today our oldest daughter, Alia, turned 13.

We had a special birthday breakfast and a birthday dinner as a family, and then she just wanted ice cream with candles on it for dessert. 

Tonight while Eric and I were tucking her in bed, we were reminiscing about the past.

And then I pulled out my laptop to look through a few photos from Alia's early years.

This is one of my favorites from our college apartment:

And this one honestly cracks me up every time I see it:

This photo was taken when we lived in Boston and Eric was attending business school:

And what I love about this photo is the creativity Alia displayed at such an early age.  (She made an elephant mask with three paper plates and a straw for the trunk--the idea just struck while she was looking around in the pantry.)
Love her blonde curls . . . that have now turned into lovely darker waves.

I honestly don't know how I would have managed having four children if Alia hadn't been such a great helper.  Sometimes when she and I were on an outing together, she'd say, "Isn't it nice to be out without the kids?"

She has grown into such a precious young lady, who I can honestly say is one of my best friends.  Alia understands me--sometimes better than I understand myself.  She's incredibly observant, she's got a quick mind, and she's one of the most thoughtful people I know. 

(And Grace, Ethan, and Spencer . . . you are, too.)

While Alia and I were talking last night, she told me that one of her dreams has been to offer one of her handmade headbands as a blog giveaway.

I said, "Well, Alia, most people do blog giveaways when they're trying to promote a company or a product."

She replied, "I don't care!  I just REALLY want to do one!  I'll even pay for the shipping!"  (She makes me smile.)

So, in honor of Alia's birthday, I'm fulfilling her wish by hosting Alia's very first blog giveaway.  She made a darling little headband out of felt, and she took these pictures so I could show you what it looks like:

There's no catch and no business to promote.  She just wants to make someone happy.

***Update: We just closed the giveaway, and "3 under 2.5" won!  If you email April (at) with your address, we'll mail it to you.  

Thanks everyone for participating!

Happy birthday, sweet Alia.


P.S. To see Alia's blog, you can visit

Monday, January 7, 2013

Geocaching (Guest Post by Alia)

Hi Everybody!

This is Alia, April's oldest daughter, and I am 24 hours away from being 13.  I am SUPER excited to do a "guest post" on my mom's blog.  She is giggling in the kitchen right now because I am SO enthusiastic. . . .

Anyway, has anyone heard of Geocaching?  It is one of our family's favorite "spending-quality-time-together" activities, and we get along great and work together to find these "caches."

You can look up nearby caches online at by typing in your zip code, and that website has an app you can get, as well.

The hiders are extremely clever, and we find film containers, micro-magnets, fake metal magnetic plates, old ammunition boxes, and other containers like this candy cane below that was tied to a string and dropped into a storm drain.  :)

Possibly my FAVORITE cache yet!!!
This is the logo you'll want to look for if you get the app:

It is $10, but you can get a free version to try it out.  (The pricier one is a bit more accurate.)

Siblings can take turns navigating, and sometimes mistakes are made, but that's how we all learn, right?

We like to use the compass/map and that is always fun!  We all have to really think hard, because of the high difficulty levels we choose.  If you have younger kids, pick some with an easy difficulty rating, and then you are set!

Below is a picture of us on a tennis court, where we found an Altoids container stuck behind a metal box.  The contents were coins, pieces of paper, an army guy and SO much more!  The one main "rule" of geocaching is if you take something, you need to replace it.  We have a stash of bouncy balls, army guys, coins, and random tiny toys in our trunk, because you never know what size container you will find!!

Some caches are very secret and very hard to find.  See the wire coming out of that pipe? (The picture is sideways for some reason).  The wire is attached to a film canister, and it took us forever to find.  Although we were looking in the rain, everyone was cold, and everyone had muddy feet, we had fun!  That is all that truly matters.  

This is a small magnetic capsule, and these kinds of things are so fun to find!!! It takes a careful eye and lots of searching, but in the end, it is so worth it, and your family's bonds are stronger!

I hope that you have enjoyed this post and might be considering Geocaching with your family!



P.S.  If you want to listen to a really good podcast about geocaching, my mom found one HERE.

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