Friday, May 08, 2015

Power of Moms retreat - 2015

I’m not sure how I got to lucky, but I got to go out last weekend to attend and speak at the annual Power of Moms retreat in Park City.  IMG_20150502_110904113 The weather was absolutely gorgeous.   Utah looked so green compared with Boston!  IMG_20150502_162348624_HDR 

I love those retreats!  The power in that room full of 85 mothers is almost tangible.  I met so many amazing women, so deliberate in their mothering efforts.  All of them taking time away from their busy jobs as moms to step back and think about the job they’re doing.  I’m going away from it feeling full of ideas and inspiration. 

I’m on the plane home now and feel so inspired and excited about motherhood.  So ready to get back to my kids.  Certainly I’ll crash on re-entry but before I do I want to write some of the things that really struck me this time around, things I felt inspired to change in our home and in my mothering. 

Things are feeling a big broken in our family lately.  I was hoping to come away from the retreat armed with some ideas of how I could alter our family systems in order to help our kids behave better, respect more, clean more, obey more, fight less, work more, complain less etc etc etc.  But what I came away with instead was the desire to change things at the root.  Before swooping in and altering our systems or introducing new ones, new consequences, more rules, I need to take a good look at the foundation we have under us.  I feel pretty convinced that if our foundation isn’t built on love and enjoyment and positivity and praise anything we build on top of it will topple over.

I’ve been caught in a wave of negative mothering lately.  This weekend as I’ve been away I’ve realized that the way I see my children is muddy and mired.  Lately their weaknesses loom large in my mind, overshadowing so much that is good and strong and amazing about their little souls.  And since children really form their self image in the mirror of their parents perceptions, how I perceive them is critical to their wellbeing. 

How can I expect them to become their true selves if they can’t see themselves clearly.  Maybe my main job as a mother is to help my kids to see themselves clearly. 

So I’m going to work on altering my perception of them.  There is plenty of good stuff to see when that is my focus.  When I zoom out to see the bigger picture it’s easy to see them as beautiful, strong souls trying their best to figure out this world.  Pushing buttons, trying on behaviors, figuring out what pleases and what doesn’t, where the boundaries are.  That’s their job right now. These behaviors wont all spill into their adulthood.

Before changing any systems, clamping down on time outs, making a new and better list of family rules I want to make sure my kids know who they are.  I want to spend my energies right now figuring out how to create a more positive environment in my home.  A place where my kids can see themselves clearly because they stand firm on a foundation of love and acceptance. 

I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to do this, but I think it starts by lots more affection and genuine praise and lots less criticizing.  This is much easier to do with some children than others.  But the ones who make it difficult are the ones who need it the most.

I’m determined to see the good.  To offer them genuine praise.  To cut out the criticism.  To sandwich corrections with complements.  To stop being (at least visibly) annoyed by their silly behavior. 

I’m also more determined than ever to cut out lots of things that are non-essential to my priorities as a mother.  I want more space in my life to enjoy the present.  When I have more space in my life I’m able to see everything a little clearer.  I have more patience, more energy to look past the frustrations of the present to the bigger picture.  At the retreat my mom spoke about cutting your job down to the essentials.  She encouraged us to make a list of the essential mothering tasks that we want to accomplish and then figure out ways to either delegate or delete those things that don’t light us up, that don’t help us towards mothering the way we’d like to.  I love that challenge.  Delegating and deleting are both hard for me!

Last I’m going to work on taking in the good in my life as a mother.  In my presentation I talked about enjoying the present.  How changing your perspective, zooming into details and zooming out to a bigger picture can help you enjoy the present more fully.  I talked about this great book I read called Hardwiring Happiness, which explains why our brains are like “Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good.”  How we can make all the good, beautiful stuff stick in our brains, changing the fabric of our brains to make us happier, calmer people.  Fascinating stuff.  I promise to write more about it sometime soon.  I’m loving teaching my children how to take in the good. 

I’m touching down.  Time to test all this out.  Even if re-entry is grueling (all the piled up laundry and kids who are a little mad that you left them) I’m all pumped up.  I feel like I have a clearer picture of what I want to accomplish, how I want to love.  

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Thanks so much to my big sister Saren for creating Power of Moms.  A huge labor of love and dedication to supporting motherhood.  I love her.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

stuffing ourselves with goodness.

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I listened to this podcast on Power of Moms a few months ago and it has fundamentally changed the way we eat around here. And I love the change.  I feel so full of good food all the time, yet my body has been getting stronger and shedding extra weight.   And my kids have been eating differently too.  We’ve never really had a ton of junk or processed food in the house, but we haven’t always had a TON of deliciously nutritious and healthy food in the house either.   We’ve had just kid of so so stuff around here, stuff to get us by, but not to necessarily stuff us with goodness.

In this podcast April Perry interviews Jonathan Bailor who wrote a few best selling books about food/diet.   There’s lots of good stuff they talk about, and I’m sure his website and books and whole big plan are great, but what I took away from it all is that we should be stuffing ourselves with real, living food every day.  He challenges people to eat not just 5 servings of fruits or vegetables, but ten!  Double digits servings of non-starchy vegetables a day.   So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.   Rather than worry about calories or limiting sugar or carbs I’m just trying to make sure I get all those veggies in my body each day.  I find that when I do that I don’t really have space for too many empty carbs and my sweet tooth is too busy chewing up celery to care much about treats (aside from dark chocolate which I've declared to be ok). 

The other thing I took away from listening to Jonathan and April talk is that I want to fill up my kids and our house with real foods. The way he talks about processed foods like pretzels and crackers and chips and stuff makes them sound so unappealing.  They are all dry, dead foods.  So I've been trying my best to just not bring that many of them in the house. 

And the best part about it is that my kids haven’t really noticed a big change (diet changes are sometimes traumatic for them!).  They have noticed that I’m eating really healthy, cause I talk about it all the time, and they make fun of all my arugula eating.  But they haven’t noticed that they are also really eating healthy.  The green smoothies are getting more green and less sweet, there’s no longer sugar in their yogurt, just frozen berries, I’m most often sending an apple or orange or banana for snack instead of a Chewy Granola bar.

Just after listening to the podcast I considered making a big deal over this new eating healthy challenge.  A TEN VEGGIES A DAY challenge or something like that, to do it all together and make it fun.  But then I decided that for my kids it might be best to just not say anything but change a lot of behind the scenes stuff.  And I think that was the right choice for us.  Not a lot of complaining, but a lot more good eating.

We haven’t perfected this yet.  And I have to say that discovering Google Express has been a big setback (free same day delivery of non perishables from Costco made it super tempting to buy easy pre-packaged and processed snacks).  But we have come a long way and I think we all like where we are. 

So, if you want a little push to up your game in the whole foods/healthy eating department I recommend that podcast.  It was super inspirational to me.

I’m going to try to start posting a few of the things that are working around here to keep us stuffed with goodness.  Sharing always helps me to stay motivated.  So stay tuned.  IMG_8467

Saturday, April 25, 2015

baby a

IMG_8840 I haven’t been posting many previews for clients.  Just so much going on!  But I have to document here that I love my job.  I get to see the best parts of family life and capture them with my lens.  I get to get out of my own life and see into another, different, but similar enough in little ways to remind me that life is pretty fantastic.  I love how photography freezes a moment, strips away all the noise and chaos and lets you look into it the present, to see how truly lovely it is.

I loved meeting this couple and their brand new little baby.   During our session no one tried to push anything and in return this little lady did everything just right.  We had a morning filled with baby peace.  I had to tear myself away to go back to my own little (but much louder) darlings.   IMG_8855 IMG_9026IMG_9164IMG_8858 IMG_9095IMG_8882IMG_9276   IMG_9147 IMG_9260 IMG_9223   IMG_9296 IMG_9319IMG_9311   IMG_9324 IMG_9346  IMG_9404

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Makes me want another one.  Thanks for sharing your little piece of heaven with me L and J.  Can’t wait for you to see the rest. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Easter Season wrap up – 2015

Before reading this post that might look like we had things all put together this Easter season be sure to check out the reality of it all in the post I put up back here.   This post is just to document all the beautiful parts of our Easter season.  There were plenty of ugly parts too, but I talked about them already, so….moving on.

We really did spend a whole month learning about and thinking about and talking about Jesus ALL THE TIME.  It made me realize that the rest of the year needs to have more of that in it.  I often thought about this scripture:

I want my children to know where to look.  And for that to really be in their bones we need to talk, rejoice in, preach, write, act with Christ at the center. 

During the Easter season we tried to replace our regular (well semi-regular) scripture study with an Easter devotional. We loosely followed the plan in this doc.   Like I said before, these devotionals weren’t always perfect, but I LOVED the times where the spirit filled the room and the kids sat wide eyed as I told them stories of Jesus.  Peter and Emmeline especially loved watching the LDS bible video reenactments of the scripture stories that we read.   I loved looking into their eyes as they absorbed this information.  It was as if they were learning something that they already knew, they were like little sponges, so eager to know Jesus.IMG_5977

The devotionals got a little more involved once we hit holy week.  We acted out Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Sunday. I love doing this little play with the kids.  Making the palm branches, saying the word Ass, ridding on daddy donkey….always thrilling.

I raged at my kids on Monday to commemorate Christ driving out the money changers….that wasn’t really the plan, but it gave us all a different angle to think about this part of the Easter story and how we need to cleanse our own temple.

On Tuesday we talked about the Parables Christ taught during his last week.  On Wednesday Hazel lead a game of Parable Charades and we went on our Easter walk (which, again, didn’t go as planned, but still connected us to the Easter story). IMG_6009 We did find some powerful symbols in nature as we walked and felt the warm sunshine.  IMG_6011IMG_6017

On Thursday we had our Passover dinner.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a Seder.  One day I hope we’ll be invited to a real Jewish Seder.  I’m sure our attempts would be laughable by any Jewish person.  But we did put together a Seder plate.  Peter spent a full hour cutting up apples into small bits to make our "Charoset” – a little compote of apples, honey and nuts to symbolize the sweetness of deliverance.  We tried to roast an egg in the toaster oven….next time I should look up how to roast an egg, because my ad hock method didn’t really work so well.  The exploding egg was quite thrilling and funny though.  IMG_6019 We did pull out the plates I bought in Jerusalem during my study abroad there.  We did hide pieces of unleavened bread for the children to find.  We set a place for Elijah.  We cleaned the house (a little) before the meal.  We washed our hands (but no time for feet).  We ate lamb and matzo and drank a lot of grape juice.  Our friend Stacy joined us and told the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage.  We talked about the symbolic foods.  IMG_6022 And we teared up while taking big bites of horseradish.  There was fighting and fussing about the food of course.  But I loved our dining room all filled up with candle light.  I loved thinking about Moses and the way God cared for His people.  And I loved helping the kids make a connection in there, to help them think about what Passover means in a Christian context.  To think about Christ’s celebration of Passover, the last supper.  To draw those powerful parallels of deliverance.   IMG_5945During Easter season Stacey also came over to make these adorable wet felted Easter eggs with the kids.  She has been crafting with Hazel once a week for the past few months and this time the other kids got to get in on the action.  It was so great having someone truly crafty come into my home and help my kids experience that kind of joy.  I enjoy crafts, but don’t have the talent for them really, or the patience it takes to do them with children! IMG_8785 Aren’t they so cute?IMG_8795IMG_6024   IMG_5980We also, at Hazel’s insistence, made Easter sugar cookies.  I HATE making sugar cookies with my kids.  It’s just such a mess, all that frosting and sprinkles and food dye!  But I sucked it up and tried not to let them detect my distain.   They LOVED it.     IMG_6025 On Good Friday the kids had a half day.  I scrambled while they were at school to set up what I wanted to be the most solemn part of our Easter celebrations.  I tried to recreate a stations of the cross type activity for them where we walked through the things that Christ did after the Last Supper and before the Resurrection.  As I was setting it all up I was so worried that they were going to derail it all.  Something told me that bribing them was the trick.  So, when they got home I told them if we could make it through this long, pretty solemn and serious activity together we could all ride our bikes to Zinga.  And, it worked!   They listened and cooperated and it really was quite moving I think for all of us.  At each station we read the scriptures explain what happened and sometimes we had little activities to go along with it.  We tore some fabric (cloth rent), we cast lots, we washed our hands, we twisted thorns into a crown, we carried a heavy beam around the back yard, we nailed in a nail, we tasted vinegar, we blew out a candle.  We said a prayer and sang a song and felt the spirit. IMG_6029

And then we biked to Zinga.  IMG_6026 After Zinga we made it all the way to the end of the bike trail.  The plan is to extend this trail from our town all the way to the ocean.  I’m hoping that really happens.  It was so great to bike with all four kids on their own bikes.  IMG_6028  IMG_6039I made Jeff dye Easter Eggs with the kids on Saturday while I took a break.  That was pretty glorious.  Coming home to all those dyed eggs. IMG_6037 On Saturday we had our annual cemetery Easter egg hunt.  It was cold with patches of snow still spotting the ground.  But the kids were delighted to be outside in the sunshine with candy.  IMG_6038 At one point Peter, mid-hunt, bursting with excitement beckoned me over to see something.  When I got close enough he pointed out to me some chintzy fake flowers “planted” at the base of one of the headstones.  “Mom! A sign of spring!”  I love that kid.  IMG_6041On Sunday morning I convinced my adventurous girls to get up before dawn to come with me to watch the Sunrise.  This was my very favorite part of the whole Easter season.  IMG_6044
We drove all bleary eyed and foggy up to the highest point in our town and got out in the light of the moon to watch the world come alive again.  It was COLD and we had to run around and do jumping jacks to keep warm.  At one point as we shivered and waited Hazel said, “Mom, what if the sun just didn’t come up?”  We had been waiting a while and it did sort of feel like the sun could just stay down forever, leaving us shivering and waiting.  It struck me anew, the beauty of Easter and spring time and new life and resurrection.  The hope and joy that comes with spring, with the sunrise each day and with Christ.    IMG_6046

We shivered and sang and read the account of those other three ladies, up before dawn who saw the Son rise.  IMG_6050

It was a powerful moment for me and the girls.  One I think we’ll never forget, and one that we want to repeat each year. 

The morning also reminded me of an Easter morning exactly 20 years ago when I was able to go to a Sunrise service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.  The same big nearly full moon was setting over that golden city as we left the BYU Jerusalem Center to walk to the Tomb.  The air was cold but full of hope.  That would be a day I’d relive if I could choose one.  That, and the days my children were born.  IMG_6042

I  guess for centuries it has been a tradition to watch the Sunrise on Easter.  I didn’t really realize this, but when we got home and warmed up we started reading through a few Easter books we got from the library and found that people all over the world get up to great the Easter sun.

I loved reading this book by Lillie Patterson.  It was full of adorable vintage drawings and lots of really great info about Easter throughout the centuries.  It explained the origins of all kinds of Easter traditions.  It made me wish I had found/read it sooner.  I ordered a used copy off Amazon for next year. 

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And to top it all off we came home to some simple Easter baskets.  I had this grand idea to make everything in the Baskets symbolic of real, deeper things… bread for the bread of life, water bottles for living water, a few church activities, but it was pretty half baked.   There’s always next year.    We didn’t make a big deal over the Bunny.  I think my younger two assumed that’s where the baskets came from, but we didn’t really say anything.  The only Easter Bunny worth it’s weight in my book is that Country Bunny with her golden shoes.

There you have it.  Our Easter 2015.  It’s a work in progress, honing all these traditions, pulling these holidays off in a meaningful way.  It’s not all peachy, but, my new mantra: The Whole Glistens. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Enjoy it!!!

I love being a mom.  I love my life.  I am happy.

But boy is it hard to enjoy the moment sometimes.  Life just sort of gets in the way.  Days are long.  Kids whine.  I’m tired.  There’s always too much to do.  It’s cold. We’re late. We’ve got to get to bed!

Sometimes I’ll go through a whole day so focused on moving us through everything only to find at the end of it all that I haven’t really seen the beauty of what’s happening.  This usually hits me when I see my kids in a picture I’ve posted on Instagram at the end of the day, or catch a glimpse of them sleeping when I come in to put away folded laundry.  When things are still and quite, stripped of the chaos of the moment, I see the wonder of the life I’m living.

I love this quote by Anna Quindlen:

“But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make…. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”

Of course it’s impossible to grasp and enjoy every moment of a mothering day.   But I’ve been working hard lately on trying to find a few seconds each day to stop to treasure the doing.  To enjoy the moment.  Because it’s happening, and really won’t be happening like this forever.

As a photographer there are two ways to really capture beauty.  One is by zooming into it.  When seeing your subject up close, all the intricate details pop out and something simple transforms into something miraculous.  The second is by zooming out, way out and seeing your subject in the context of a bigger picture.

In my journey this year to figure out how to enjoy the present more I’ve tried to apply these two concepts to daily living.  When I find myself moving through a day harried and frazzled and devoid of joy I’ve been trying to either zoom in and see more acutely the details of my life or to zoom out and get above the chaos and grind to see what I’m doing in a larger context.  And when I exert the time and will power it takes to change my focal length I can see the joy in the moment.   IMG_4553 

Zooming in can be as simple as stopping for three seconds to see a beautiful but overlooked detail in your life.  I stop to see the dark brown speck in Emmeline’s right eye as she tells me about the game she is playing upstairs with Peter, it is beautiful and in it I can see into her soul.  Or I pause for a split second to listen to Hazel as she talks all motherly to Peter, there is love deeply planted in that sibling relationship.  Or I gasp as I walk out of the store to a parking lot filled with spring air lighting up a pink sky, breathing in the joy of the world.  Stopping to recognize the intricate loveliness in the mundane moments helps me feel the thrill of the present.  Usually it only takes a second, but I can bask in the beauty of that moment for quite a lot longer. 

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Zooming out might take a bit more time, but it is powerful.  We zoom out any time we take a step back from our lives to see it from a different angle.   We zoom out when we go away for a day or take a walk for 20 minutes or just shut ourselves in the bathroom for 30 seconds and breathe.  We zoom out when we walk outside of our house and look in. Suddenly we can’t hear the kids yelling, we can’t feel the crumbs under our feet, we can’t see the piles of laundry (or at least they don’t look so overwhelming).  Through the windows we just see a house with children running around inside, soft light flooding out of the kitchen full of people working to build a family.  We zoom out when we look at a picture someone snapped of us with a child at the beech on a stormy day, smiling, happy.  When we see the big picture of our lives the angsty emotions of the moment are drown out by the beauty of the whole. 

When we change our focal length by zooming in or out we turn down the volume of the chaos or discontent we might feel as move through life.  We see the whole of our lives.   And like a pointillism painting the dark bits combined with the light ones make a beautiful picture.  A glistening whole.  I’m stuck on that idea, that image.  The dark and the light together, the whole of it, experienced in the moment by changing our lens, that’s what makes life glisten.

So.  Speaking of zooming out, I get to come to a Power of Moms’ retreat in Utah in a few weeks!   I’ve been to quite a few of these retreats and they always give me a hefty dose of perspective.  They help me both zoom in and zoom out of my life.  They help me take a microscope to my mothering and think hard about where I want to be and where I am.  But also they get me get above my job as a mother to a higher ground where I can see the big picture and gain some clarity.  I love being in a room full of mothers all carving out space to think about their job as moms.  I always leave feeling inspired and ready to hit the ground running.

Not only do I get to attend the retreat but I also get to present about strategies for living in the moment.  My mom and I gave a speech together about this in March here in Boston and I get to present a big part of it at the retreat in May.

If you’re in Utah the first Saturday in May please consider coming, there is still space, but I know it’s filling up pretty fast.  Click here to find out more information.   I know it’s hard to get away for a whole day, but it is definitely worth the investment.  You’ll re-enter life the next day with a totally new perspective on yourself, on your kids, your husband.  I always go away from those things feeling more powerful, armed with the resources, ideas, motivation and love that I need to really enjoy my job as a mom.   

May 2011 Retreat1

So please join us!  Saturday, May 2nd, Park City Utah.  Click here for the details.  

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