Sunday, March 30, 2014

Being FIVE

There's something about Drew that just makes me smile. Of course all of my children make me smile, but there's just something about Drew at this stage in his little life that has all of us wrapped around his little finger. He endears himself to all of us in a way that I suppose only the youngest of a family can.

I was surprised how much I didn't tear up today thinking about my baby turning FIVE! I so love the little boy he is becoming, and maybe I'm doing better at embracing and accepting what is.

Although having said that, as I tucked him into bed tonight, and kissed his little cheeks, I did blink away a tear at how quickly FIVE years have passed. I reminded Drew that even if he was FIVE years old now, he was still my baby and always will be. I told him he'll still be my baby at 55 to which he replied, "Will I still be alive when I'm 105 after I'm dead?" The moment was over, and so I planted a kiss on his big FIVE year old cheek and wished him a final Happy Birthday greeting.

Celebrating FIVE is a lot of work. Especially when the birthday was on a Sunday and it got spread out over two days. Ugh.

Dance games and pirate games, treasure hunts with bandanas, swords and gold (and a pinata) and cake and ice cream for a group of children made up his simple "Pirate Party" that he had been anticipating for weeks. (Man have my party-doing skills gone down hill over the years...)
My cake skills on the other hand have not decreased. They really couldn't get any lower. But Drew and Joshua were mightily impressed with my efforts, and everyone else gave polite compliments.

The real birthday on Sunday brought presents, a birthday breakfast with grandparents and cousins, church (supposedly a prayer in his classroom that included him praying for, "Bless we can all be happy on our birthdays."), and a birthday dinner with grandparents.

In Drew's words, "I liked my birthday."
That's what matters.

Happy Birthday Drew!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smiles Amid Barfs

We've had the stomach flu around here, and it hasn't been pretty. Megan is the only one that has escaped it so far. Mike and I had some kind of deranged synchronized throw-up schedule yesterday. We laid in bed together ALL day, with the exception of when we would each run to a separate bathroom/bucket. If we hadn't been so sick, I think we would have laughed at the synchronization. It was by far the most un-romantic amount of time Mike and I have ever spent together.

Things really went down hill around mid-day when Drew started throwing up too. Except Drew had it coming from both ends. Mike and I took unspoken turns helping him out. I'm not sure what made me cry more, the fact that it seems completely unfair that mothers are allowed to get sick, or the fact our little 4 year old nurse was now down for the count himself, and no longer at our beck and call.

Drew was asleep on the couch in our bedroom, and Mike and I were resting in bed when the germaphobe of the family, Megan came home from school. She promptly entered and exited our room in one motion, claiming she was closing and locking our bedroom doors and asked that we stay in our rooms. She then promptly began to Lysol the whole house. I was settling back into bed after another meeting of my head to a bucket and just beginning to think how silent and peaceful the afternoon routine would be with aforementioned germaphobe taking charge and not allowing anyone to interact with the sick parents (and Drew)...

When suddenly, I heard a loud commotion. This time it wasn't Mike and his throwing up (that can be heard from miles away), it was Luke arriving at the front door and yelling, "Ellie is throwing up on the bus RIGHT NOW."

I can't even remember if I started laughing or crying. It's kind of all a blur now. Luke started barfing a few hours later.

On the bright side to our otherwise not so bright day, I was receiving several emails and notifications about the new book I am a part of that was just released on Monday. Motherhood Realized: An inspiring anthology for the hardest job you'll ever love.  The initial success has been extraordinary! It is now #1 in "Motherhood" books on Amazon and yesterday afternoon was #122 in ALL of the books on Amazon. It was also on Amazon's Movers and Shakers List yesterday.
(Can you see it down there on the bottom right?)

Motherhood is far from glamorous. I can attest to that from personal experience yesterday and now today, as 6 out of  7 of us have dealt with the stomach flu. It seems sort of a funny twist of irony that amid the diarrhea and throw-up of the day, the book I'm an author in with the subtitle, "An inspiring anthology for the hardest job you'll ever love" was racing up the charts.

It certainly gave Mike and I something to smile about yesterday as we jointly parented together during times there wasn't much else to smile about.

Book Info:
Hop on over to Amazon HERE and buy a copy of the book! Or buy two or three or more! Buy one for the moms you know that would love it. We are focusing on generating orders THIS WEEK, by Saturday, March 29th. (That's what helps rank us high in lists and can potentially help us get on the NYT list.) Mother's Day is coming up in 6 weeks or one and save it for the moms you love.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mothers in Albuquerque

Of all of the Power of Moms Retreats I have participated in, it seemed that the weeks leading up to the Albuquerque retreat experienced the most "hic-cups." There were a few times that we had to think seriously about whether or not to carry through with it, but I felt an underlying feeling that the Power of Moms ABQ retreat needed to go on.

And it did...


I was able to travel and present with Cheryl Cardall. This was her first time presenting at a Power of Moms Retreat and she did great! She has a passion for teaching and it showed.
These ladies made the ABQ retreat happen! Jen and Emily (on the left) attended the Phoenix retreat last fall and expressed an interest in bringing one to their hometown! And we did! Angela jumped on board to help make it happen too. Their efforts were endless. I've been involved in a lot of POM retreats, and I have to say I've never quite seen the diligence and hard work before that they put into making this happen. They never let the bumps in the road deter them. I give full credit to Jen, Emily and Angela for making the Albuquerque Retreat happen!

This lady, Barbara was our gracious host. We love to hold our Power of Moms Retreats in homes. As we talk about our families, and the things dearest to us, it is always nice to be sitting within the walls of an inviting home. Barbara's children are now grown, and we benefited from some of her wisdom and advice.
And just look at these darling babies that were part of the day! (One more left before this photo.) I love having babies in attendance at some of these retreats. It brings so many things into perspective as we see mothers in action...balancing note-taking and listening with the demands of diapers, feeding, rocking, and comforting.

The feeling it the room was powerful as we spent the day together discussing motherhood. Again, I was reminded first-hand how many wonderful women are out there in the world. I feel so privileged that I get to spend time with them so frequently. I loved the beautiful thoughts shared at the end of the day by a couple of our participants. Truly, heart-felt expressions of love and appreciation for not only motherhood, but for all of the other deliberate mothers around them.

I LOVED what one of our dear attendees, Angela who I now am happy to call a dear friend, said on Facebook the day after the retreat,

"There is something about surrounding myself with amazing women, phenomenal but imperfect mothers, that makes me feel like I am not as far as I thought I was from my end goal. Came home to my kitchen spotless and the kids happy. Perfect weekend! I am blessed."

It isn't likely that all of our attendees returned home to a spotless kitchen, (I returned home to my 6 year old having the stomach flu!) but I do hope these mothers returned home feeling as though that are wonderfully, imperfect, deliberate mothers who are doing a fabulous job in their small corners of the world.

Motherhood is beautiful. It is also hard and challenging. But there is something about these Power of Moms Retreats that always leave me feeling as though I really can conquer the difficult days ahead. Despite waking up early on Sunday morning with the need to hand my 6 year old a bucket to throw-up in, I realized this is what motherhood really is. Motherhood is the good mixed with the bad. The difficult mixed with the easy. The sad mixed with the happy, and the frustrations mixed with peace. And somehow all those juxtapositions turn motherhood into something beautiful and meaningful.

When I saw this photo, I teared up when I saw the little baby on the front row looking behind him. It's as though he is looking  in awe and wonder at all those deliberate mothers behind him!

Here's to the mom's in Albuquerque...
Love them!

In addition to an uplifting day meeting with some wonderful women, all of my prep work for the Power of Moms Albuquerque retreat finally taught me how to spell ALBUQUERQUE correct the FIRST time. Believe me, it took A LOT of times typing that word over the past 6 weeks or so to finally master that spelling the first time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Eyes Do More Than See

When I was in labor with Megan, the nurse said to us, "I predict this child's most distinct features are going to be her eyes." Mike and I didn't think too much of the comment. Mike has beautiful eyes, but other than the occasional person stopping him at the gas station to comment on them, or the lady who once asked me if Mike was of Japanese descent ("Or are his eyes just like that?" she continued), we never really dwelt too much on eyes. And when you're in labor with your first child, thinking of their most distinct feature wasn't exactly at the front of our mind.

As Megan grew from a newborn into a baby and toddler, we began to notice she got a lot of comments about her eyes. Mike and I laughed when we remembered the nurse at the hospital, and wish we could have taken Megan back to visit.
(My all time favorite photo of Megan. Even though you can't see a close-up of her eyes.)

I didn't think too much of Megan and her eyes, you know...when you're with them day-in-day-out, they aren't as stand-outish or unique. It's more normal. (That sentence doesn't quite sound right. I think Megan is beautiful, including her eyes-but there just "Megan's eyes" to me... get what I'm trying to say??)

As Megan grew a little older, hearing the very frequent comments of, "Oh you're eyes are beautiful!" or "Look at those eyes!" or "You're eyes are so pretty." became so normal and common to Megan that as she began to talk and communicate, she'd reply, "I know." I think it was no different to her than if someone said, "Your shirt is pink." She only replied "I know" a couple of times, before I embarked on an emergency learning lesson about the difference between a compliment and a fact. Megan learned to say, "Thank you" to the eye comments pretty darn quickly.

As our other children joined the clan, their eyes were never the most prominent features to Mike and me (again the whole--we see them everyday thing...), but we soon realized it was no longer only Megan that received eye comments.

We hear comments about their eyes from complete strangers, from family friends, teachers, etc. etc. Our children sometimes talk amongst themselves, "What's the big deal about our eyes?"

We've joked for years about wishing we could take all five of our children to visit the nurse that made such an accurate prediction.

I'm beginning to realize my children's eyes should have a spot in the record of our family history, especially after an experience we had at Disneyland last month...

The first day we were at the Disneyland Resort, Joshua, Drew and I left California Adventure to head over to Disneyland. As we exited the park, the boys got their hands stamped by a nice worker lady and we went merrily on our way.

The second day we started out at California Adventure, and after a few hours headed over to Disneyland. This time, my brother's family was with us. I followed Casey toward the exit turn-styles. Joshua and Drew were standing in front of me, and as they outstretched their hands for the invisible hand stamp, the lady said, "It's those eyes again! I remember you boys from yesterday!! Immediately in my mind I'm thinking, we are at a resort where she sees hundreds of people each day and she remembers MY BOYS and THEIR EYES??

The lady looked up at me and said kindly, "Now I can see where they get their beautiful eyes from. Yesterday you were wearing sunglasses and my co-worker and I wished so badly we could have seen your eyes." I think I was so dazed and shocked that someone was remembering me and my boys from such a large crowd, that instead of graciously accepting her compliment, I said, "Oh! They get them from their dad. He has beautiful eyes."

Casey and Cindy were as shocked as I was that:
1. What were the chances that of all the turn-style exits, we'd encounter the same worker lady as the previous day?
2. How in the world did my boys and their eyes stand-out to her among the thousands of people she encounters in a 24 hour period!?

Instead of feeling giddy and happy as I walked into the gates of the Happiest Place on Earth, I found myself wishing there was a way to tell the nurse that worked an October 1998 shift at Orem Community Hospital that not only was her prediction right, but it was right with the next four children that would follow.

I was also trying to give the emergency-always-say-thank-you-for a compliment-talk to Drew as he turned to Joshua and said, "Why do peoples always talk about our eyes?"

The end.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Powerful Moms

Last year when I was leaving the Phoenix Power of Moms Retreat, my friend asked, "Why don't more retreats happen in Utah?" I didn't have a great answer for her, but as soon as Allyson Reynolds approached me and asked about doing a retreat together this spring, I knew I couldn't turn down the opportunity!

What a wonderful day spent presenting with THE Allyson Reynolds last Saturday at a beautiful home in Utah County.
And what a fabulous day spent with these incredible ladies!
Sometimes motherhood is discouraging. As always seems to be the case right before a retreat, last week was a crazy week. There were numerous occasions I was reminded how absolutely unqualified I feel to stand in front of a group of mothers promoting motherhood. In fact, just the night before, I had one of those "motherhood moments" that I felt as though I surely needed to turn in my resignation to the Power of Moms organization.

But then I spent a day with mothers that know exactly what I'm up against some days. Mothers who have the same deep and abiding desires that I do to be a good mother. Yet mothers who absolutely know and understand the hard days and moments that thwart those desires. Motherhood is hard. But in the same vein, it is beautiful and wonderful. Truly a privilege.

I wish I had taken more photos of the day. Photos of mothers laughing together, some crying together, and some sitting around a table sharing advice and ideas. There is something so powerful about being in a room with 50 deliberate mothers.
(Instead all I got was this photo taken at the end of the day. I always love seeing the small groups gather at the end as we say our goodbyes.)

I've been to a lot of Power of Moms retreats in the past few years, and I have loved every single one of them. And until Saturday, I don't think I could have pinpointed an absolute favorite thing about a retreat. But I can now...

This guy.
It wasn't the free afternoon treats that he brought us, or the $50 worth of gift certificates he gave to us to give away that propelled him to my favorite POM retreat experience thus far. 

It was him standing in front of almost 50 mothers, and sharing his love and respect for mothers! He shared a personal experience of his mother and grandmother, and his poignant message probably touched every mother in the room. He was so genuine and sincere in his praises for went far beyond a marketing ploy.

(Please, go to their Facebook page and "like". And if you're in the Lehi area, go to his store! Definitely taking my family there next time we are in the neighborhood.)

I wish I had taken a photo of all of our Power of Moms trainers that we had in attendance. But we forgot until the end when we were the only ones left.
I love that Power of Moms trainers don't claim to be any experts. We are simply mothers who love motherhood and want to help encourage and lift other mothers. We facilitate the discussions, and give a few ideas, but the greatest moments come as we learn from each other in attendance.

As I drove home on Saturday night, I couldn't help but think of April and Saren and their individual dreams they had that eventually brought them together and has made Power of Moms what it is today! The website is a wonderful resource, and there is so much great stuff on there. But the in-person retreats and mini-retreats? Nothing can quite compare to a group of mothers sitting together in the same room sharing experiences, feelings and stories that are dear to their hearts. It is a powerful thing!

Following each Power of Moms retreat, I am reminded me of the quote by Helen Keller...
"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." 

Mothers supporting mothers is a prime example.
Love Power of Moms!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Mini MTC

One of these days, I'm going to get around to writing an article about my mother-in-law. Until then, suffice it to say that I wouldn't have always said the following: My mother-in-law (and for the most part my father-in-law) are pretty dang awesome.

For a lot of reasons.
But today I'll focus on just one.

As Mike said recently, "The best way for them to show their grandchildren their love of the gospel (our Mormon beliefs) is to show them by example." My in-laws love missionary work. They have served 3 missions thus far, and are currently serving in a branch presidency at the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in Provo, UT.

Last month they held a "Mini-MTC" for their Utah grandchildren. (Although the 3 in Kentucky Face-timed to participate in some of it.)
I met a friend for dessert and then shopped and Mike worked on a bid nearby, while the children engaged in all sorts of activities that taught some pretty valuable life-skills. (And will certainly come in handy as missionaries too.)

They wrote letters to the missionary cousin, and in the process were taught how to correctly address an envelope. They sorted laundry and ironed shirts. They were each paired up (older cousin with a younger cousin) and memorized scriptures, researched a country/city and made a poster collage, learned to lead music and who knows what else?

I returned a little early, and watched from upstairs. I was overwhelmed with the love and dedication, my in-laws have to help teach their grandchildren. It isn't their responsibility to do these things, but how wonderful to have grandparents helping us parent and teach our children life skills. (In a non-controlling and very subtle way.)

The event all ended nicely with the surprise reading of a new mission call...
New York City Public Affairs Mission!

My new found love for traveling (due largely in part to my mother-in-law, see I told you she was awesome) will now take me (and Mike and some children) to NYC sometime in the next 18 months.

I love my in-laws.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Ocean

There's something soothing to me about being at the edge of the ocean. I consider the fact that I was in the Caribbean in January, and then sitting on the beach in California 6 weeks later nothing short of LUCKY!

The trip to the beach on the way home from the airport while in California a couple weeks ago, was quite relaxing, despite having 3 excited children between us. The three children played in the sand and in the water while Casey and I sat on towels talking. I love Casey. I wish I had asked Joshua to take a photo of Casey and me sitting together on the beach. I'm sure we'll never do such a thing again, and I wish I had thought to capture the moment in a photo I could print, rather than just a mind photo.

There is something about being at the edge of the ocean that makes me get deep and philosophical in my thoughts about life. I love the feeling of something so expansive having such power over small things. I love looking out to the horizon and wondering what is beyond it all.

(I remember distinctly standing at the edge of the ocean in England as a 9 year old girl on holiday with my good friend. I remember one particular day feeling homesick for my family (I was gone for over a week), and somehow feeling comforted and not as alone as I looked out at the horizon.)
I love the ocean. And I love the beach.
Mike called a couple of times while I was sitting on the beach to ask questions about real life and business stuff that he was back home taking care of. I felt so far removed from real life and the questions he was asking me, that I finally responded, "How about you keep making a living working hard and earning money, and I'll make a living traveling and sitting on beaches, and then one day we'll travel together?"

I think we are both still trying to decide if I was serious or not.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Realities of Motherhood

I'm not sure if I've been in vacation mode too much lately, or if it is just the realities of life that have me a little less cheery and smiley than I should be. I've found myself getting smacked in the face with reality one too many times in the recent days. Let me share:

~ Seeing the shocked looks on my children's faces the other morning when I announced that the first waffle in the waffle maker was for ME!

~ Looking at the family calendar on the side of the fridge and the March page has mysteriously disappeared. Of course the Shall Remain Nameless person who removed February swears they didn't accidentally rip of March too. We're considering hibernating for the whole month of March. Well, or forgetting any and all appointments and commitments.

~ Telling the children they can't use our toilet, despite the other 2 toilets being clogged. Are we the only family that always seems to have a clogged toilet?

~ And while we're on the subject of toilets. I can't stand that more often than not I have to wipe the toilet seat before I can sit on it.

~ Seeing your 6 year old get a straw and sip hot fudge sauce directly from the warm pan. Instead of correcting his behavior, I stop and stare at him and wonder why in the world I've never thought of doing this myself?!?

~ After being out of town for several days, being greeted first thing in the morning with a demand for clean underwear.

~ Excitedly announced to Mike and Megan the other day, that I paid a donation to my church and deposited a check into my bank account, all while sitting at the same office chair. I was so proud of my modern advances in technology when Megan announced, "That's why America is so fat." She realized how it sounded as soon as it came out, and quickly tried to explain herself further and apologize about any implications she may have inferred. In the meantime, despite us all having a good laugh around the table, I felt my initial excitement about my financial advances quickly wane.

~ Trying to reconcile the random comment from my 4 year old when he woke up and announced, "I thought I was sleeping in applesauce."

Sitting at the computer extending an upcoming trip and feeling a mix of sadness at missing my children for even longer, but quickly replaced that with feelings of excitement that I'll have a few extra days without anyone whining at me.

~ Making the mother-of-the-year decision to cook homemade waffles for breakfast on Fast Sunday instead of fasting. (Something we Mormons are encouraged to do each month. You can read about it HERE.) Feeling even worse about my decision when one child refused to eat the homemade syrup and instead insisted on going to see if we could borrow syrup from the neighbor. Thus spreading the news about our lack of faithful obedience.

~ Trying to remain sympathetic and not laugh while Drew describes his recent bout with diarrhea. "It was coming out so fast and I couldn't stop pooping."

Sometimes motherhood is dreamy and rewarding. More often than not it is real and ordinary.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Surprise

Last Monday morning Joshua (and Drew) were awakened early. Joshua wasn't happy to be rushed along being pressured to get dressed and eat breakfast in a timely manner. He was tired, and not very co-operative. The poor kid was obviously confused as to what the early rush was about and began to cry. Mike realized it was time to announce the secret, and while the girls each held a recording device, Mike announced, "If you're so sad and don't want to go to school today. How about you go to Disneyland instead?"

The long awaited secret that Mike, Megan, Luke, Ellie and me had kept for weeks was finally being announced. Mom and the two little boys were going to go on a surprise trip to California, and Disneyland. The video cameras rolling in Joshua's face, and Mike's overly excited announcement proved to be too much for cranky Joshua. Believing he was being teased, Joshua's crying increased and he yelled, "No!" to Mike's suggestion. My long awaited plan was being announced and it went nothing like I had imagined. Drew on the other hand was quietly saying, "I will go to Disneyland."

It wasn't until we were driving with the airport in view that Joshua said, "I think I believe you now." Again, as the plane ascended into the sky, Joshua turned to me and with a big smile announced, "I believe you now." The next day, as we descended an escalator into the Disneyland Resort, Joshua looked at me and said, "I can't believe I didn't believe you." Drew on the other hand, never doubted.

The little boys and I spent a wonderful 4 days in California last week. Two of the days at Disneyland, and all of the days with my brother Casey, his wife Cindy and darling Cousin Lucy. Oh what fun!

It's kind of hard to put into words the magic of Disneyland and the wonders of the beach with two little boys.

Upon landing at LAX airport, Drew looked out the window and declared, "This is a big, big airport." "Yep!" I replied, "It flies planes to nearly every country in the world." Drew looked at me with big eyes and asked, "Even Utah?"

The kids LOVED seeing characters at Disneyland. Sometimes they wanted to line up and actually meet them, sometimes they were content to just see them from a distance. Joshua was always in a constant state of concern as to how the characters could see, and Drew was always questioning how they make the people so big inside them. (I think it was the tall Monsters, Inc. character that began his concern about that one.)
Carsland was the best. The best! We lined up for one hour to ride the Radiator Springs ride, and it was worth every second of standing in line. I may or may not have cried because my two boys loved it so much.
Hmmm-yeah-so I didn't get Drew's face in the photo. It was entirely because the sun was bright and I was trying to be quick. Not because I didn't want to pretend he wasn't there with us. Even though there were a few incidents I wished he wasn't. He was hard more often than I would have liked.
The boys loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Drew leaned over to me during it and said, "They are really good at building all this, huh?

Joshua insisted on waiting in line for the Storybook Adventure (?) ride. I had never been on it before, but Joshua was begging to go on it, despite my efforts to get him to choose something different. The big whale's mouth was what was enticing him...
Entering the whales's mouth is at the very beginning of the little journey, and then the boat is led through a charming series of picturesque storybook villages while the boat host tells us the well-known tales. 
I was just beginning to think the ride was worth the long wait, when Joshua announced, "This is not fun. I thought we'd go down big hills and stuff." (Go figure? His favorite ride was the Matterhorn and Space Mountain.)

Being at Disneyland with my brother's family was an extra bonus. Even if Lucy needed a cardboard sign that said, "Please donate money for my Ariel piggy bank." She was getting pretty desperate to fill that thing.

Casey had big issues that the photo at the end of the Buzz ride has the scores reversed. Who knows? Maybe 6 year old Joshua really does have a better aim than Casey?
This is my least favorite ride. Yet somehow, just as we were stepping on, Casey volunteered to take pictures  instead of ride and left me spinning to sickness with 3 children.
I could keep going with photos and commentary. Even though I'll have to do a separate post about our beach time, I think there's enough here to remember Disneyland.

On the return flight home, Joshua decided to tackle the several homework sheets he had originally said on the flight TO California, "I will do them later at the beach." One of his assignments was to write a sentence using certain vocabulary words. He wrote the following:
Although Joshua left the question unanswered, I'm fairly confident I know his answer.

Loved Joshua's "journal entry" of his Disneyland trip:


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