Friday, May 29, 2015

Dreaming of a Castle in Scotland

The other day I walked into a conversation between my husband and my 13 year-old son. My son posed the question, "If we discovered that we were gifted a huge, old, beautiful castle in Scotland, would we move there?" What a great question, right!?! I guarantee when I was 13, I wasn't thinking past the cute boy in my homeroom class, let alone living in Scotland! If you knew my son, you would know that this actually isn't an unusual thought for him. He loves medieval European history and Scottish history in particular. The surprising thing to me was my husband's response. You see, I probably would have said something like, "yeah, that'd be cool", and then moved on with the laundry or whatever else I was doing. But not my husband. He began to ask questions. Questions about the castle, the location, the proximity to other things. Questions about school, church, and community. They explored the possibility of attracting tourist and maybe even inviting our whole entire extended family to live. The conversation lasted for some time as they discussed many "what if" facets to the question. How awesome is that man I married! He granted my son permission to dream. Permission to dream about adventure. Permission to dream about risk. Permission to dream about possibilities. And for a brief few moments, in his mind, my son was packing his things, saying goodbye, and beginning his adventurous new life in Scotland. It was probably the next day that my son told me that he was going to save all his money to pay for plane tickets to visit Scotland for himself and my husband. He explained the currency exchange rate and how things would be less expensive there. I just hope they plan to come back for the rest of the family!
My amazing husband turns 41, and my youngest cookie turns 8! I love my family!

Friday, May 22, 2015

They Say You'll Miss This

Cookie#4, ca. 2007

When my kids were young I would wish the days away waiting for them to grow up. They say you'll miss these day but it's so hard! It's exhausting! The days are monotonous; running one right into the other. The nights are long and it seems you'll never catch up on sleep.  It can be lonely and depressing; a time full of self-doubt and frustration. No wonder it seemed like somedays I was just holding my breath, hoping to survive one more day.

My baby just turned 8 yesterday. I am starting to see my family grow up. Some days I do wish to hold those small babies again but I'm mostly just grateful to watch them grow and to begin to see some of the fruits of my labor. I have a few words of encouragement to all those moms out there with little ones, just keep going! It'll be worth it! It may not be glamorous day in and day out but you are doing a great work! Sometimes all you can muster is to get yourself out of bed and be there. Sometimes that's enough; just being there! The smiles aren't always real. The enthusiasm isn't always there. It will come. Just keep going! Every diaper you change, every meal you prepare, every bath you give is a blessing to your child. Just in meeting those simple, basic needs, you are laying a strong foundation for that little human. They are blessed. They will love you for it. They will have all they need to flourish and grow. That's huge! It seems so simple but I have learned that by small and simple things, great things shall come to pass (Alma 37: 6-7).

So give yourself a break! Recognize your worth! You are blessing your family more than you could ever realize. And in turn you are blessing the entire world : ) Moms are so awesome!

Cookie #4, age 8, 2015
All ready for his baptism on Saturday. So proud of this young man. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Me and My Beautiful Cookies

Me and my four beautiful cookies

We took this picture just a few days ago on Mothers Day. I soaked up every ounce of added love and appreciation. My favorites: breakfast in bed, hugs, flowers, some alone time, and a delicious home-cooked meal. Thanks to my sweet husband who was behind most all of this. Luckiest mom alive!

The Key to Solving Life's Problems!

Change is such a gift. Think about's like a second chance; a do-over.  What if we only had one shot at something and that was it. Think of your first boy friend, first hairstyle, first major in college, first pair of curtains...we'd be doomed! Change is the answer to all of life's problems. If something isn't working, we change it! How great is that!?!

I do interior design (when I have time), and I love it! One of my favorite aspects of design is solving problems- with change, of course. I love to walk into a space and identify what isn't working in a room and fix it. It's not merely making something look better, it's changing the way things function, which can totally change the way you live. I recently solved two problems in my own house that I'm thrilled about! Let me share.

Problem#1: We have a tradition of inviting friends over for dinner a few times a month. Not that I'm a fantastic cook but I do love to sit around a pretty table and share food with friends old and new. So, we have temporarily moved into a pretty small home (I'll share that story another time) which has forced us to be very careful with how we use our limited space. Problem #1 came when we realized that our dining table is just too wide for the designated dining space. You have to ask everybody to tuck their chairs in as far as possible and then contort your body in such a way that your belly button touches your back bone in order to be able to squeeze by. Needless to say, not working! There was no possible way that we could continue to eat like this, let alone have friends over. Problem! The catalyst for change came when we somewhat accidentally invited 6 adults over for diner on the same night!

I thought about replacing my nice oak table with a cheesy folding table but that was a terrible idea. I thought about temporarily pulling the table out into the entry...still no good. I really had to think outside the box (or designated floor plan, anyway). Then it came to me...I would swap out the living room area for the dining area! It's all one great-room, so it shares the same space, but the living room area is bigger than the dining area. I decided that I valued our family dining experience more than lounging on the couch (which we rarely do together and could also be done upstairs); change ensued! I pulled all my "cookies" downstairs and they helped me move couches, rugs, lamps, everything. We decided to keep it a surprise for my husband : )

We all love the result! We have plenty of room around the table and it feels super special near the fireplace, even when it's not on. The living room feels very intimate and we actually end of spending a whole lot more time hanging out there. I'm finding that I really do love small spaces! They make me feel happy. Problem #1...Solved!

And speaking of small spaces...

Problem #2:  3 growing boys sharing 1 room (along with 5 amphibians) just wasn't working. My "Cookie#2" simply was not enjoying all of the family togetherness. He needed a place to call his own and he was tired of cleaning his brothers' messes; I don't blame him. I could tell it was really bringing him down. I knew we needed to make a change. But what? I can't create a bedroom out of nothing...or can I?

So, downstairs we have a small coat closet tucked in around a corner, under the stairs (yes, think Harry Potter). I just knew if I emptied it, I could make a cozy corner for my boy. I did just that. I cleaned it out, draped fabric from the ceiling and swooped it back against the wall to act as a headboard (I seriously just used pushpins and threw the fabric up on the wall). I hung a picture, placed a cushion on the floor with a few comfy pillows, added a lamp and his favorite books and ...TADA, he has his own space. He even calls it his bedroom (which I feel a litle funny about). But no, it's totally like camping out every single night, which totally works for this child. Problem #2...Solved.

Change is funny; sometimes we resist it when really it may be just the answer we're looking for. It may appear as though we don't have any alternatives but that is when we need to get creative. We have to look outside the box (or the designated floor plan, anyway). Don't let the boundaries restrict you! And this doesn't just apply to interior design; it can apply to our relationships, our diet, our traditions, our routines, our job-Life. Embrace the change! It's the key to solving all of life's problems.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Turn on Those Hazard Lights!

I hate driving in the rain at night! You know the kind of rain I'm talking about; the kind that makes your palms sweaty and puts all of your senses on high alert. I was caught in that kind of rain just a few weeks ago. The sun was just beginning to set and I was on the freeway headed to a meeting when the rain began. It was raining hard; I was nervous. The water was starting to puddle on the freeway and I could feel my car begin to lose some traction. Before long my wipers couldn't keep up and all I could see was white. I remember learning in my drivers education class that I was supposed to keep my eyes on the white lane lines but they had long disappeared. Up ahead I could see one pair of very faint tail lights but otherwise I was alone. Alone, driving along knowing that I couldn't stop but feeling scared to keep going.

Suddenly I saw some tail lights up ahead. They were bright and flashing; way brighter than the dim lights of the car I had seen before. I locked my eyes on those bright, flashing lights and did not look away. This car had turned on their hazards lights. What a brilliant idea! I could see them; I could follow.  "Thank you!" I felt a serge of confidence, courage, and comfort. I'm not sure why; maybe it was the fact that I wasn't alone and that somebody else was going through the same thing- and surviving! Almost instinctively, I turned on my hazards too. I must not have been the only one to notice because before I knew it, I was driving along in a pack of cars, all shining and flashing their lights to be seen and to light the path for others to follow.

Is this a thing? Maybe it's something that goes on everywhere and I'm just clueless? To me, on that night, it was a blessing. A small miracle.

So, in life, can we not all think of our own personal "bright, flashing light?" Somebody who has gone before and enlightened us; giving us courage, comfort, and hope. Maybe it's a friend, a teacher, a mentor, *a mom (Mother's Day plug). It's amazing how one singe act by one person changed everything. That one car, that one driver, influenced the whole pack of cars. We were then strong and confidant; full of hope. The power of one! I believe in it!

If "one" can have such an impact, maybe I should be doing more. Do I reach out to others as often as I could? Do I offer a hand to somebody in need? Do I take time out of my busy life to think of another? If not, maybe it's time I turn on my bright, flashing lights and light the way. Who knows, I may just end up saving somebody (in one way or another).

The storm cleared; the rain stopped. I was exiting the freeway and the "one" was continuing on. I didn't know them and I never will.  I said (outloud), "Thank you." I almost wished I could have met that person. They would have thought I was weird : )

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Growing Into Awesome

Formal Family Portrait ca. 2011

I have heard the phrase many times before, "They're such an awesome family!" I didn't really know what that meant but I knew I deep down longed for it. I knew I didn't have it. My kids were young, a lot of work, and not necessarily all that much "fun" to be with. Of course you always "love" your kids but kids are demanding! If given the chance, I would almost always choose to get a baby-sitter and get out of dodge for a while. I guess that would imply that I didn't really think they were that "awesome." Little did I know, that we were growing into awesome.

I figured it out, what this "awesomeness" actually means. It means love. It means adoration. It means kindness. It means affection. It means laugher. It means #1. It means best friends. It means...I love YOU and I want to be with you!

We weren't in that place. I believe it doesn't just happen. You may get a glimpse or two but I think when your kids are young it's harder to see. In fact, it wasn't until recently that I realized how awesome we really are. A sister missionary that was here recently kept telling me how awesome our family was. Now, granted, I think she told a lot of families that, deep down, somewhere I started to think about that and maybe even believed her a little bit. Well, this week should have been anything but awesome. We've been sick with some kind of stomach bug. To various degrees, the kids and I have all been struck down. So, needless to say, we've been homebound for a few days. Today we didn't really even leave the house. We're in no hurry, with nothing too interesting to do. For the most part the t.v. and electronics have been off and it's just been So what have we done? Talked, played games, hung out, played piano, prayed, read scriptures, ate (kind of), taken naps...together. And guess what, it was awesome! Just us, being together, showing kindness, laughing together, snuggling, reading, playing...just being awesome!

So, how did we get there? Like I said, I don't believe it just happens with no effort whatsoever. It happens with consistent togetherness, even unpleasant togetherness. Let's be honest, there is lots of unpleasant togetherness before pleasant awesomeness happens. Between toddlers and teenagers, life can be pretty darn unpleasant! But I must say, I'm beginning to see the fruits of our labor (and least you forget, it was labor at times). But, boy is that fruit sweet! I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I believe it's what we all yearn for. That place where we belong. That place where we are somebody else's #1, best friend. It's in our home and in our families.

So, bring them home! Turn off the electronics. Draw them close. Play with them. Talk to them. Read with them. It might take a while and you may be faced with some resistance, but be strong and do it anyway! They really want you to. Don't do the easy thing. Before you know you, you may just look around and realize how completely awesome your family has become.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Less is Actually a Whole Lot More!

Why do so many people buy into the idea that more is more? More house, more clothes, more toys= better quality of life, right?  WRONG! Worse than wrong; I actually think that MORE is a WHOLE LOT LESS. And I'm really beginning to understand and believe that LESS is actually a WHOLE LOT MORE! Let me begin to explain.

MORE structured, stressful activities (including traditions) = LESS time enjoying life and doing things that actually work and make us happy!

It's hard to let go of things that seemed important at one time, or things that are important to others but just flat-out aren't that important to you. For example, the birthday party craze. It's out of control! Now, I did do some pretty cool parties when my daughter was young because she loved it, and it was fun for the two of us to do together (valuable. see cool pic below). But my boys, they absolutely don't care! They just want to play with their friends and eat sugar! So, that's what we do; a glorified play date with lots of treats! I may throw up a balloon or two and bake a cake...wait, I take that back; I let the kids that enjoy baking, actually bake the cake. Anyway, the boys always have a fantastic time and I spend very little time stressing about the party. In fact, lately I've been turning it over to my husband even. He simplifies to the max! And everybody is happy. So I'm letting go of the pressure of the over-the-top birthday party.

Cookie#1's "Mulan" inspired birthday party

But guess what birthday tradition we have not let slide? The family dinner. You know, the good old fashioned kind; where the birthday boy or girl gets to choose the menu and receive the "special plate." And then my favorite (which is actually the most meaningful of all) is when everybody goes around the table (guests included) and tells one thing they love about the "celebrity of the day." This is a tradition that I grew up with in my family. After we banned the response, "he/she's nice," we actually managed to share some pretty heartfelt sentiments of love around the dinner table. So much better than a stressful, over-the-top birthday party (unless, of course, that is your thing).

Cookie#1's Sweet 16 family dinner (with great friends, of course) 

Before we leave traditions, I've got one more bone to pick...why do we try to load all of our traditions on top of an already overly stressful time, a holiday! Who ever thought this was a good idea? Yes, let's not only attempt an ambitious dinner menu straight from Martha Stewart's cookbook, but let's also decorate our home to impress the likes of an HGTV designer. And how about we plan to reenact the most important and spiritual event in the history of the world; using children, babies, and live animals as our actors (costumes NOT optional). Oh, wait, don't forget about the homemade pajamas, homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, cookies for Santa, reindeer poop on the front lawn, and pranks by the Elf-on-the-Shelf; and that's all before the kids go to bed! Does that strike anybody else as CRAZY! Way too much! More is way, way less here.

A veery simple Nativity, ca. 2004

We started a new tradition in our family; it actually started on it's own (*hint, hint these are the best kinds!). It's has nothing to do with any national holiday but is none-the-less special in our home; It's CookieFriday. That's actually all it is, cookies every Friday. I don't even get fancy with the kind of cookies; it's always chocolate chip. I know the recipe by heart, I always have the ingredients on hand, and it can be done in 20 minutes, clean up included. The kids love it, I love it, my husband loves it. It's such a fantastic way to celebrate the end of a hard working, busy week and a great way to kick off the weekend. We have held this tradition for probably about 5 years now. I don't think there has been more than a handful of times we have missed it. Why is CookieFriday a great tradition? Because it works! It's easy. It's stress free. And never once have I screamed, lost my cool, or had a meltdown over CookieFriday. Now that's a tradition that will be passed down to the generations (even my 16 year-old daughter says so)!

CookieFriday today! No, we weren't done mixing. The boys made them all by themselves!

Okay, that one example took way more words than I thought! But I think it's worth some consideration. Do we do things just because we've always done them that way or because we grew up doing it? Perhaps we should ask ourselves, "Does this activity or tradition work? Does it bless my family? Are we likely to be able to keep this up?" If not, dump it!

That felt good! I may have to follow up with another MORE=LESS post...I've got lots to say on this!