Sunday, March 29, 2015

Let Your Light Shine!


I just registered for this Women’s conference, and I’m so looking forward to it!  The workshops all look so fantastic, it was hard to pick which ones to attend.  And I can’t wait to hear Stephanie Nielson speak.  She is one inspiring lady.

For any of you fellow New England warriors out there come and join me.  We need a little light after the winter we’ve just survived!

It is a free conference, but registration is required since space is limited.  So sign up early!  And let me know if you’re coming, I’d love to connect.

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Hello New England Women of Faith! 

We would like to invite you to Let Your Light Shine 2015, New England's first FREE conference for ALL women of faith, hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come join 3,000 women from all six New England states on Saturday, May 30, from 10am-4pmat the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Massachusetts, and let your light shine a little brighter. 

Registration Opens Saturday March 28, and SPACE IS LIMITED and so REGISTEREARLY at to reserve your seat for this great event! Distinguished keynote speakers from around the country and more than 25 workshops will be offered to build your light spiritually, physically, and intellectually, including:

· The Power of Everyday Women of Faith (Sandra Rogers, Humanitarian and LDS General Relief Society Board Member)

· The Lord is My Light (Stephanie Nielson, author of the Nie Nie Dialogues)

· Your Secret Superpower: Using Positive Reinforcement to Pleasantly Parent Teens (Coleen Bennett)

· Entering New Life Phases with Courage, Hope and the Power of your Dreams (Whitney Johnson)

· His Face: Christ and Christianity in Western Painting and Sculpture, a Visual Feast (Jennifer Helvey)

(Some foreign language workshops, translation, and ASL available)

This conference has been built upon the common ground that connects us all: faith, hope, truth, love, and light.  Please join us for this unique event and let your light shine a little brighter as a result!

With great anticipation,

The Let Your Light Shine 2015 Team

Friday, March 27, 2015

A whole Easter Season

IMG_5957We’re really trying to make a big deal over Easter this season.  After this long winter we need the joy and hope that Eater brings (since spring won’t be here for a while!).  Ugg.

Now, by big deal I don’t mean lots of bunnies and chocolates, but lots of Jesus.  For a while we’ve done a pretty good job at celebrating Holy Week with so many good ideas from here and here.

But this year my friend Heidi and I decided that Easter needs more than a week.  It needs a whole season.  And since the world doesn’t go as commercial crazy for Easter like it does for Christmas we decided that we could take it over pretty easily and help our season to really have Jesus at it’s center.   

We came up with an Easter month plan mostly to use with our own families, but also to share with friends and members of our church congregation.  It starts three weeks before Easter and extends one week past Easter.   Here at our house we’ve been trying to do a daily devotional in place of our regular scripture study to have time to talk about Jesus, his teachings, his life, his miracles.  We’re trying to really help the kids connect with these stories, to see his miracles and teachings come alive in our lives. 

And we’re watching a lot of the LDS bible videos to help the kids really get a better feel for how real Jesus is and was.  They’re not perfect, and sometimes I cringe a little at the way they’re produced, but for the most part they’re great.  And I know we all feel the spirit as we watch them. 

This new shift and focus on Christ has changed the feeling in our home.  Sure we’re still fighting and tattling and pushing buttons.  But not as much.  There is a distinctly different tone in our home.  And I know Jesus is rattling around in the kids heads more because they’re talking about him and asking questions about him and trying to figure him out.  Hazel and Charlie are grappling with hard questions about Jesus:  Did he get mad?  Is he bragging when he talks about who he is and what he’s here to do? What would he do in a certain situation?  Emmeline and Peter are hungry to hear his stories and asking real questions, like what did he eat?  Where did he live?  Where did he go after he was resurrected. 

My dad always says that the strongest families he knows are the ones who have Christ at their center.  Sure, it’s good to make family your center, or the church your center, or service or education or healthy living.  But Christ is where the real power is.   I want, more than anything, for my kids to know how to tap into that power.  And it begins with really knowing who he is and how he lived.

We haven’t done it all right.  I had planned to wake early and read the scripture passages I wanted to share alone first to come up with questions and feel out what my kids most needed to hear, but instead I’m usually winging these devotionals, and lots of times we’re tired at the end of the day and things don’t go as planned. We aren’t doing all the activities (there are way too many for to pull off while still remaining calm), so we’re picking and choosing and doing what we can.  And somehow, in spite of our sometimes week efforts, through the magic of the sprit and the power that comes when you think about Christ, it’s working.  The gaps are filled up.   We are abiding more in Christ.  And he is abiding in us. 

I meant to get this doc up here before now, but at least its in time for Holy Week next week.  And of course you can continue your Easter season after Easter too.  Maybe Easter is just the kick off?  I think we’re going to continue.  We’ve just barely scratched the surface. 

Enjoy, and Happy Easter Season!

Click here for the doc. 


(Two more things)

I love this new video produced by our church.  Powerful.

And I just discovered a great online Easter week source here.  You’ve got to scroll down to the Easter week part.  I’m excited to have so much info all in one place – quick access is essential around here!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Grammie and Hazel and Lousia May

IMG_8663 Somehow a few months ago my mom and Hazel started emailing.  I’m not sure how it started, but they emailed  back and forth about how virtual school was going, how Hazel was doing with her piano and singing, how she was feeling about friends etc.  And then it morphed into books.  Hazel would email Grammie about the books she was reading, Grammie would respond with recommendations which Hazel would then devour.  And then somehow Hazel started reading Little Women and told Grammie how much she loved it, which got Grammie to read it. And then, somehow, Grammie had booked tickets out to Boston to take Hazel to tour Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House.  That mom of mine is one amazing Grandma.  All of this emailing back and forth was exactly the boost Hazel has needed this year.  It makes me tear up just thinking about the special bond these two have formed over the past few months.  A bond Hazel will always have, rooting her into all that is good and strong and beautiful about my mother.   When I named Hazel I hoped she’d have a special relationship with my mom (whose mother’s name was Hazel).   I’m so thankful to my mom for seeing this need and nurturing it.  And for loving Hazel so perfectly.  Hazel feels from her the kind of unconditional love that I wish she could always feel from me.  Sometimes it’s hard for mothers and oldest daughters to fully feel the love they have for each other with the day to day tasks of raising and growing.    IMG_5669Grammie and I also read Little Women (well, we at least got through part one) in preparation for our visit to the Orchard House.  We stopped at the Colonial Inn in Concord before the tour for some brunch.  The dining room we ate in dates back to the 1700’s and as we ate we liked to think about how Louisa and her family certainly had walked through that place, if not eaten there for a special occasion.  The food was surprisingly delicious (Hazel got Chicken and Waffles!?!) and we had a nice chat.


We were all incredibly inspired by our visit to the Orchard House.  I wish we had a picture of our amazing tour guide Kathy.  Since no one else was there we had a private tour.  It only lasted an hour but I think we all wished it could last forever.  We learned so much about the Alcott family.  We all left feeling inspired in different ways.  I left feeling like I wanted to ditch my kids for a whole week and just read about Transcendentalism, read Thoreau and Emerson and Alcott and all the memoirs and biographies I could get my hands on for Louisa and her sisters and parents.  What an incredible group of thinkers.

Here are some notes I took on my phone, things I wanted to remember and think about more.  Maybe I’ll write more about them one of these days:

  • The Alcotts were incredibly deliberate parents.  They raised 4 solidly independent and talented daughters who each thoroughly perused their passions.   Anna was an actress, Lousia a writer, Beth a pianist (and an angel) and May a very accomplished artist.  I was super inspired by this, I want to help my children to find their passions and pursue them.  I wish I could take Amos and Abby to dinner and pick their brains about how they discovered their daughters strengths and how they encouraged them.  Maybe someone has written this in a book somewhere. 
  • The Alcott children kept two journals.  One was a heart journal where they wrote the private workings of their hearts.  The other was a journal that their mother (and maybe father?) read and wrote responses in.  I love that idea.  Just started it with Charlie and hope to do it with Hazel too (once she warms up to the idea…sometimes that takes a little while).
  • Grandpa Alcott wrote this beautiful poem to his little Grandson (I think it was Anna’s child).  It’s framed in the room that was their nursery once their father died and Anna spent more time back at the orchard house.  Darn, I can’t find it on the internet.  I’ll post it when I find it.
  • Lousia believed that you should run and play and do lots of housework in order to be a good writer.   My mom bought Hazel a whole little booklet of “Aunt Jo’s Literary lessons.”  Lots of great advice for young writers.
  • Lousia was a stormy woman with a strong will and a lot of gusto.  Lots like Jo in Little Women. 
  • She wrote Little Women on her little desk in her room right in that house. She wrote part one in 6 weeks.  We saw the desk, I wanted to sneak a hipshot picture, but I liked our tour guide too much to blatantly disobey her.  So we took pictures in our mind. 
  • She wrote sometimes for 16 hours a day.  She taught herself to write with both her right and left hand so that she could just keep going.  Her pen couldn’t keep up with her thoughts most of the time. 
  • Little Beth (third sister) was the Angel of the house, but we all decided on the tour that the mother, Abby Alcott was the arch-angel of the house.  She came form privilege and money but then gave it up to marry for love.  The Alcotts moved like 27 times before finally settling in the Orchard House.  They were always struggling financially. Abigail worked to help support her family and found positions for her daughters to also work. Part of the reason Lousia wrote was to help support her family.  Abigail seemed to be fiercely dedicated to her girls, to raising them to be strong and good and complete.     
  • Louisa had a “mood” pillow.  It was set different ways on the couch to indicate Louisa’s mood.  If it was one way than it was safe to talk to her, if it was turned the other way she was in a mood, or busy writing and was to be left alone.  Hazel LOVED this idea and now has her own mood pillow. 
  • Louisa’s first book is called “Flower Fables” and is a collection of stories that Thoreau told her as he walked with her through the woods.  She had a huge crush on Emerson and seemed to always be mingling with all those great minds. 
  • The group of people who lived in Concord during that time were INSPIRED.  Amazing things happened within that group of people at that time.  Connections are so important to furthering ideas.   IMG_5894IMG_5676 That afternoon when the kids got out of school we took a trip to the Science Museum.  I love that view from the Museum.  IMG_5678We got to see a free IMAX film about the Galapagos as part of the MOS Free Friday Films.  My mom and I kind of fell asleep, but everyone else loved it.  IMG_5886Of course my mom showered us with new books.  She knows what we like!  These were some serious winners.    IMG_5902  And then people started throwing up.  We spent the greater part of Sunday with barfing children.  My mom came to the rescue when, just as we were leaving, all gussied up for church, peter was sick all over himself and me.  She calmly drove everyone to church and did all the sacrament meeting wrestling that I normally have to do.  Bless her!IMG_5904

On Sunday night (after all of Peter’s birthday festivities) I got to speak with my mom as part of our Stake Women’s speaker series.  This was so fun for me.  We spent a lot of time preparing (for my sake of course, I don’t think my mom has ever prepared so much for a talk!).  It was so fun to talk with her about so many deep issues about life and being present.  And to see how her mind works and to work together to put all of our thoughts into some kind of structure.  I will always cherish that working time I had with her.  And then when we finally got up there in front of our audience it was fantastic.  My dad’s a lucky man to speak with her all over the world.  She is so full of charisma as she speaks and even though she is usually speaking to total strangers, the room always fills with her love.  I hope we get to do that together again some day. 

I promise to post some of what we talked about soon.  It was all stuff that really has altered the way I’m thinking about life. 

And after the event a few friends came over and we talked for a few hours.  I think I need a weekly dose of that.   I wish I had a picture so that I could remember that evening and all we discussed.  Hopefully these words will help me recall it.  IMG_8657 On Monday she took Emmeline and Charlie each on their own little Grammie Date.  Em had earned a trip to get frozen yogurt for filling up that whole happy practicing chart and she was thrilled to have Grammie take her rather than boring old mom. 

Charlie and Grammie went together to buy Charlie a batting helmet that he’s been dreaming about.   

IMG_8665 Oh how we love that Grammie.  IMG_5826

As I drove away from the airport after dropping her off, thinking of all that she did for us in that little extended weekend I lost it.  How did I get so lucky to have this woman as my mother?  She has loved me my whole life, I’ve always known that, but to watch her love in action?  To see it transform my children?  I can see that it’s got a supernatural power to it, a power that has blessed my life beyond what I can comprehend but that I can see a little more clearly as it encircles my children, arming them for life in this world. 

I know I’m sounding super over the top here, but really, she’s that great.

(for a better written and more complete account of this trip see my mom’s blog here….)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Peter turned 4!

It was hard putting this guy to bed the night before his birthday. To think I’ll never have a three year old child again.  It nearly killed me.  This is the most angelic little guy you could ever dream up.  I hope 4 is just as golden, but I’ve seen three other times what four can bring.  Kids do change.  Angels to devils sometimes.  It’s hard to believe that could happen to this guy.  He’s a powerfully good little soul.
I could feel it the minute they placed that wet little body in my arms four years ago.
Peter did not have a hard time going to bed the night before his birthday.  He had been waiting and waiting for his big day, literally counted down the days.  At Christmas time he started to get psyched that his birthday was coming up.  We told him he had to wait until after Charlie’s birthday (which was in January).  So the day after Charlie’s big day Peter woke up giddy with excitement to celebrate his big day.  Oops, It’s so easy to forget how literally 3 year olds take things and how long each day is for them.  He was crushed when we told him he still had to wait.  So I made him this little calendar.  “My Calendar” he called it and he crossed off the days until it was his big day.  That boy does have a mountain of patience for a child.  I wish I could spread if his out between his older siblings.   

His siblings might have been even more excited for his birthday than he was.  They spent the week before preparing.  THey (mostly Hazel) spent the whole day before making that cardboard car for him.  And they hung little gifts above his bed with tapeHe was thrilled with this morning birthday surprise.     
Boy do his siblings adore him.  You’d think with a younger sibling so golden they might harbor a little resentment, but they all adore this kid.  If I ever get mad at him for doing anything wrong he has three staunch little defenders coming to his rescue.  I’m sure that’s going to mess him up one day, but maybe not.  Could anything mess up this kid?  IMG_8557 We had a breakfast birthday party since Peter was done with waiting (and since we had a packed day with church and a speech later that night).  The kids showered him with presents and cards that they carefully picked out and planned.  Cute Hazel, of course, saved up her money bought him something extravagant.  That girl is generous beyond belief.  IMG_5900IMG_8560 I love pictures of kids giving and receiving gifts.  So much emotion.  So much joy, on both sides.  IMG_8570 IMG_8574  IMG_8577 IMG_8580  IMG_8588 IMG_8591 Charlie (who usually wants to give a good gift, but is too poor to afford anything new) gave Peter his old MP3 player which peter has been coveting. 
And then came the present from Grandma and Grandpa Shumway.  Somehow they always pick winners (see Peter rubbing his hands together in delight?!).
IMG_8593 IMG_8598 
IMG_8604 IMG_8611   IMG_8619 IMG_8625 IMG_8627 
It was so great to have Grammie there for his birthday party.  She wrapped her gift in the traditional Eyre tin foil wrap.  A dino car that he is wild about. 
IMG_8629  IMG_8632
IMG_8633 IMG_8635 IMG_8637   And a four year old birthday party isn’t complete without Gronk flakes and a Nerf gun. 
Peter requested Mac and Cheese for his birthday lunch which we fit into our busy Sunday morning, only to have him barf it all over himself and me just as we were packing up to go to church.  Thank goodness for my mom who just stepped right in and took the big kids to church while I stayed home with Peter.  I was sad that that little guy didn’t feel great on his birthday, but so glad to have three quiet hours in the house with him sleeping by me.  Before he settled into that happy post barfing sleep I retold him the story of his birth and we looked through some pictures of his birth day.   Time slowed down and I was able to remember some of the feelings I had on the day he was born.  One of the most thrilling days of my life (click here for the story of his birth….magic).   
IMG_8650 IMG_8651  He woke up happy and ready to eat a bite or two of his requested spaghetti and meatballs and have some cake.  This kid puts a smile on his face and sees the bright side of life even if he’s not feeling great.  It’s really who he is.  I love that cheerful streak that runs deep in him.   
IMG_8644 IMG_8645


I’m not sure what life would be like without this sun shine in our lives.  Peter is full of light and happy joy and delight and wonder.  He is always wanting to please, to make us all happy, to do the right thing.   I’ve worried at times if this is too much of a responsibility for someone so little….but then I realize that it’s just who he is, how he came.  He came with this amazing natural ability to make others happy, to love, to enjoy, to brighten up the world.  We are so happy that he was sent to us. 
It’s tempting to keep telling Peter not to grow up.  He is my baby.  I want to hold him forever just as he is, his little body bouncing around our house, leaping into my arms.  But lately I’ve been trying to tell him it’s ok if he grows up.  That I know he’s going to be a fantastic big person, that I’m sure he’s going to forever bring us joy.  I can just feel that deep in my bones. 
Happy Birthday Peter.  We love you more than you can know. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Being Present

I’ve been thinking a lot about being present lately.  My sisters and I have all resolved to enjoy more in 2015.  To not just go through the motions of life, but to enjoy them.  This sounds easy, but is so hard to practice when life is buzzing by you in a flurry of busyness and work and repetitive tasks day after day.   Life is stunning when you look up close, or when you back way up, but when you just barrel through it it can be grueling, mundane and blah.  So I’m trying to figure out how to see the details and the big picture.  How to both zoom in and back out of my life to see it’s beauty.

Of course it’s impossible to live in the present of every minute of your life.  I love this post on Momastery about how crazy it is to think we can seize every moment of every day.  I think probably most of each day just needs to be lived through. There is laundry to be done, groceries to buy, kids to hustle out the door and then back home and through homework and dinner and the bedtime routine. 

But there are moments in every day that can take our breath away and fill us with joy.  If we can figure out how to stop all the multi tasking and business and freeze those moments, time slows down and we can see crystals in the air.  Things become clear and we feel happy.

I love this TED talk about happiness and being in the present.   After collecting more in the moment happiness research than has ever been collected before this social scientist found that people are happier when they are present and focused at the task at hand,  even if the task is unpleasant and the place where their mind is wondering is pleasant.  It seems that social science keeps uncovering what children so instinctively know: we are happy when we are living in the moment. 

Photography has taught me a lot about the present moment.  In a photo none of the craziness is captured, just the raw emotions, the beauty happening in the second of that shutter speed.  Somehow it’s so hard to see it when you’re riding the wave of real life, but when you can stop and freeze it it’s all so obvious.

IMG_5297Take these pictures for example: Emmeline’s birthday party.  10 kids there, lots of noise and excitement and emotion.  Emmeline was tearing through her presents with Hazel’s help as I snapped photos.  When she got to this present and I realized what it was my mood fell. A princess drum set?  This is something no parent ever considers buying for their own child.   It’s meant for grandparents to give to children to thrill them and win them over without a thought to the crazy chaos it will bring.    As Em opened this present all that I could think about was the noise this would fill our house with.  And with those thoughts I missed these faces of delight and glee that were happening in that moment.    IMG_5305

When I sat down to go through her birthday pictures the next week I saw all that I missed in the moment.  Look at the pure joy on that child’s face.  While looking at these pictures, with the noise and chaos and dread about the chaos to come stripped away, I fell in love with Emmeline all over again.  I saw the beauty of that moment. 

As much as I love being able to relive something and see it more clearly through a photograph, I’d like to become better at stripping all the clutter away in real time.    How to freeze the moments with my brain instead of just with my camera.  How to have more of those slow moving crystally moments where love sinks into your relationships and you’re filled with wonder and joy and gratitude.  I’m not asking for a whole life time of this, just a few little chunks each day.  I think that that is where real happiness lies.  

My mom is here this week.  She came to spend some special time with Hazel, her little pen pal, and I cajoled her into speaking with me for our Stake Relief Society women’s speaker series on Sunday.   Our topic is: Enjoy it, because it’s happening. Picturing the present with an eternal perspective.   We’ve been brainstorming like crazy to figure out what helps bring more perspective and how we can be more mindful and engaged and present in life.  My mom is so good at this.  My mom.  She’s really amazing.  I’m so excited to speak with her. 

Anyway, I know it’s just in two days, but I’ve been trying to get this blog up all week to ask your thoughts.  We’d love to hear any ideas you have on how to be more mindful, cut more out, see more clearly, enjoy the present.  How do you zoom in and slow down to see the magnificent details and how do you back up to see the bigger picture? 

We’d also love anyone local to come and join us on Sunday night.  It’s at the LDS Revere Chapel, 455 Washington St. at 7pm on Sunday. 

And if you can’t make it on Sunday, please join the conversation here.  I’m planning on posting a bit more about this topic this year as I embark on a quest to really figure out how to be more present.  How to be all here (but not all the time, that would be crazy).

Friday, March 06, 2015

dead things will come alive again.

I got all teary over salad this week. 

I made our summer salad.  (recipe back here)  During the summer we had this salad at least 4 times a week.  Sometimes as a main dish with some chicken mixed in.  And then when late fall hit I ran out of pesto and the salad sort of fell off the radar.  Until this past Wednesday night.

It was a busy weeknight and I pulled together some pasta with meat sauce for dinner.  As I was thinking about what kind of salad to throw into the mix I remembered that sometime in late August I had put aside some pesto that I had made from the crazy amounts of basil that grew in our garden last year.  I put in in the freezer thinking that it would taste nice in the middle of the winter. 

I had no idea then what a brilliant idea that was.  How incredible it would be to taste summer in the DEAD of THIS winter. 

The kids were all pretty excited when they heard we were having summer salad (funny, they never raved over it before).  Midway through dinner I told them that this wasn’t just any old summer salad.  I told them that the basil in the pesto grew out of the ground in our back yard.  We looked out of the window and tried to remember that under all that snow and ice there is earth, and that earth has the power to grow things.   Green things, things full of flavor and color and life.  Snow will melt, the sun still works, the sky will bring warmth, the ground will unfreeze, the strawberries and raspberries and cilantro and mint is still alive under there and will grow back.  The earth will carry the seedlings we will plant, the sun will coax them through the ground.  The birds will come back, the trees will put on their brilliant green and before we know it we’ll be popping little yellow tomatoes in our mouths as we ride our bikes in the back yard. 

My kids sat memorized by my words, probably mostly because I was tearing up (that always gets them to pay close attention) but also because they could feel the truth and reality of what I was saying.    And with every bite of that salad, that summer salad, we remembered the abundance this world does bear every single year.  Our faith in spring was renewed, we were all lit up with hope.

We discussed how perfect it is to celebrate Christ’s resurrection in the spring. How the whole world testifies that dead things do come alive again. 

I think this year (with over 100 inches of snow) we will have a new appreciation for life in the natural world.  We’re trying our best to find beauty in all this snow, but maybe the real beauty is in the contrast that it will give our lives.   As I go about my life and observe those around me and listen to the radio (grumpy people everywhere) I’m pretty sure this Boston winter is carving out a deep yucky hole in most of us right now (still more snow in the forecast!).  But I’m also pretty sure that the glory of spring will fill that hole, to it’s depth, with exquisite wonder and delight.  We will cherish those buds and daffodils and little green shoots more keenly than we have ever before, for our vessels have been dug deep.   We have more capacity.

Fullscreen capture 372015 95515 PM.bmp

So it is with life. Sorrow, discomfort, sadness, pain, trials--they all build our capacity to feel joy, comfort, happiness, triumph. 

This is the beauty of God’s plan for us.  He will give us beauty for ashes.  He will make the ugly things beautiful.  When we trust Him then our sorrow and trials will root us deep and give us more holding power for joy.   

Dead things will come alive again. 

Hope is a glorious thing. 

At dinner Hazel decided that every August we should all make pesto together to freeze for the dead of winter.  We could all sense that that pesto taught us what Hope tastes like.  And it tastes really good. 

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.


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