Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Be The Good

I've been itching to tell you some happy news. And I can't wait any longer. Months ago I was invited to join a team of great writers and people who care about being the good. About sharing the good. A group called Multiply Goodness.

After lots of hard work by some very inspired and creative people (with whom I am simply tagging along) our shiny, new website, in all its gorgeousness, is up! Check it out. Skim through "who we are" and see if you recognize anyone. One of us will be posting every day once we get rolling. Short, inspiring memos you can share.

Be sure to read Emily Freeman's #bethegood challenge.  

I took the challenge. Will you?

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While reading back posts tonight, I was inspired by a video Macy Robison posted. Have you met Kid President? 

He is totally worth knowing. He makes me laugh. And cry a smidge. He is someone who, despite being handed a tough life, has decided to make others happy. By the end I wanted to smooch those luscious cheeks, give him a big high five, then sit down on his front porch and eat a corn dog.

Talk about being the good. 

Gather your family around and watch him tell it how it is. He will make you smile. 

More about Multiply Goodness coming soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


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First Day of School

I'm starting to sound like Wendy on the movie, Hook, with Robin Williams. (Weren't you sad to hear he was gone?) Remember when grown-up Peter and family travel to London to stay with Wendy? And she tells his children, "There is only one rule in this house. No growing up." They look at her with wide eyes. "So stop," she says. "Stop right now."

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That's how I feel these days. I want my little people to stop growing. Not forever. Just for a while. So I can squeeze every ounce of joy from this season. 

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They came so quickly, a windfall of bundles into our arms. Which means they are going to leave quickly. Like birds, ready to fly the nest before I've figured out how the nest works best. Sigh. 

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Occasionally I find myself staring at a young mother, new baby curled over her shoulder, bitty fingers clutching her shirt. I ache for that closeness, those dented knuckles and chunky thighs. 

But we can't stop the clock. They don't want us to. And really, look what they grow into. Helpful people, who can read books, write love notes, and sing so sweetly I stop in the hallway to listen.

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Since we can't stop time, I figure, at least we can stretch it out. Childhood, that is. We can keep our children innocent and young. Encourage silliness, imagination, and wonder. 

There's no need to hurry up the maturity. They'll get there too quickly on their own.

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Sure, they need responsibilities at home, consequences so they learn, and structure. But those things will rule them the rest of their lives. 

They are only children once.

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Which is why I say yes as often as I can. Why I send them outside to play every afternoon. Even if it costs me a roll of paper towels. 

Now, in full disclosure, I admit, we were ready for school. All of us. Ready for routine and some space apart. I have a list a mile long of things I want to do with my few hours of freedom each week now that the boys are in preschool. 

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But look at these two. It's my second day with them gone and it's oddly quiet. I keep thinking I will hear them swinging outside, that they'll come clash-banging into the kitchen with their swords.

I feel a little sad each time they climb onto my lap because I have to puff-blow their hair out of my face as it tickles my nose and their heads bonk into my chin. The baby stage, while hard, really did go fast. Too fast.

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So I was sitting at Back to School Night, listening to Ali and Sami's teacher talk about the year. (All three girls are now together at a charter school and I couldn't be happier with their curriculum and teachers. When you ask them how they're liking school, they have one word. "Awesome!" They're loving it.)

I was surprised to learn the charter school is doing something different this year. They're pulling away from homework packets. Homework will be focused on reading 30 minutes at home every day and practicing math facts (for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade). Homework pages will only be sent home as needed, if a topic or principle needs practice. 

At school, expectations for performance and involvement are high, but after they go home, they want kids to go to their piano lessons, soccer, dance, and simply be kids. Ali and Sami's teacher quoted Einstein who said,

"The greatest form of research is play."

She then said that 98% of children age 5 exhibit creative, divergent thinking. That number plummets to 2% by age 25. (Research by Sir Ken Robinson. Listen here to his TED talk about how schools are undermining creativity.)

Then she showed us a video made by a group she works with called Kidnected. They believe in the value of exploration and imagination. They call it Wonderment. 

By the end of the video I was fighting tears, a little embarrassed I was hunched over my daughter's desk, wiping my eyes because her teacher feels the same way I do about childhood.

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So here are a few Wonderment images of our own. Followed by the video she showed, which you will love.

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The boys. Waiting for their first ride on a Ferris Wheel. 
(Cassia County Fair)

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Watching lightning in the western sky as the city lights turn on. 
In their pajamas.

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Eliza discovering "Little Birdie" who couldn't fly and realizing there wasn't much she could do. So she built birdie a safe home, said a prayer, and let go.

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A hike into the clouds with these beautiful ladies
and 14 imaginative kids.

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Ladybug with four black spots.

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Mud-covered shoes.

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Eliza, Eliza, and Hazel, lying down in the river. Just for fun.

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Raindrop, held together in perfect cohesion, on an aspen leaf

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Emmeline, smiling at her fistful of wildflowers as Saydi helps her down a slippery trail.

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More droplets. Suspended. Glistening.

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Butterfly on a cone flower.

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These boys, dragging logs out of the forest to build a bridge.

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And these girls, three peas in a pod that day, finding slate rock, which they used to write on and play school.

We didn't entertain anyone that day. The kids entertained themselves. They explored, they built, they laughed together, played dress-ups. And we talked. (Thank you Saydi, Saren, and Jen for the loveliest day.)

This short Wonderment video will make you want to keep your children young. Make you want to stay young. 

The Wonderment from The Wonderment on Vimeo.

I love that place, that moment, that spark in each of us. When we know things. Beautiful, wild, essential things. That moment when we discover... wonder.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Luxury to Worry about the Less Significant

Last Saturday I volunteered at Salt Lake City's Color Run. The happiest 5K on the planet. Volunteers splashed powdered color on runners wearing tutus, rainbow headbands, and striped socks. It was pretty incredible to watch.
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The run benefited two charities. Global Citizen - a movement, website, and app invested in ending extreme world poverty, and UN Women of Utah - an organization working to help women and children in a variety of ways including refugee services, eliminating prostitution, and advocating education for girls in Africa.

My friend, Nikki (pictured above) is the go-to girl for both. Years ago, through the International Refugee Committee, she connected me to a Sudanese family that I spent time with during my college years, helping them acclimate to a new life in the United States.

Saturday was the first time in years I've volunteered somewhere beyond math facts and reading at the elementary school. And it got me thinking. When I do have a little more time, as kids go to school and life cracks open a bit, how will I spend it?

My interest was piqued when a friend shared a FAIR talk with me, given by Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities. I thought it interesting that she was asked to talk on a subject unrelated (so I thought) to her work. A topic that has worn us out of late: women in the church.

I was so moved by her presentation, I wrote about it at Segullah today. She does a marvelous job explaining the LDS church's doctrine on gender and women, then pairs it with the idea of practice. Yes, sometimes there is a disconnect. 

Then she asks the question, how do we use our time? Where do we spend our intellectual curiosities? What do we worry about? Sometimes, she points out, we have the luxury of worrying about less significant things and we forget the bigger picture. Link to the video and transcript of her talk @ Segullah. Absolutely worth your time. Best thing I've heard on the issue yet.

Friday, August 22, 2014

When There is Beauty All Around {But Not at Home}

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wildflowers in albion basin

There is beauty all around
When there's love at home.
There is joy in every sound
When there's love at home. 
Peace and plenty here abide
Smiling sweet on every side
Time doth softy, sweetly glide
When there's love at home.

This well-known LDS hymn, Love at Home, was written by John Hugh McNaughton (1829 - 1891). Ironically, it was my mother's least favorite hymn while we were growing up. With six kids battling each other more than she'd like, screeching, screaming, etching our names into closet doors, and sitting for long time-outs in the bathroom, she begrudged the tender hymn that celebrated a gentle, near-perfect home life.

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throwback to 1988. six kids, ages 14 - 4

The last verse bristled her most:

In the cottage there is joy,
When there's love at home.
Hate and envy ne'er annoy
When there's love at home.
Roses bloom beneath our feet;
All the earth's a garden sweet. 
Making life a bliss complete
When there's love at home.

My Mom has always tried to do what is right. She is kind and easy to please. But she is also very real. As we got older, we teased her about this song - the way the lyrics chafed her. And when we sang it, we laughed. Our home wasn't what I'd call blissful. Nor do I remember roses blooming beneath our feet (that image always escaped me). There was enough chaos and fighting, my mom worried we would never like each other, never be friends. But we are. We love each other more than ever now. We carry each other.

Still, when I sang the song in church a few weeks ago, I chuckled.

There has been beauty all around this summer, but not so much at home.

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          fireweed on the trail to secret lake

My kids have done more fighting the past three months than ever before. I can't figure out why it's been so epic. They've been far too physical. The shrieking has reached tones I haven't heard since I was a kid. Mean words have been said. Words I don't like. And even I have been called names. 

Too often I am refereeing some tiff or tattle, holding kids apart as they kick or swing a fist, sending offenders to their rooms, adding extra jobs to their list, or finding some way they can serve their sibling as retribution for an unsolicited attack.

It has been totally exhausting.
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mamma moose - you can usually find her and her family somewhere in the basin

Ask my children what the word "restraint" means and they will tell you. "Control your emotions and behavior." We've talked and talked and talked about it. We've redefined the rules, discussed love in word and deed, tried new tactics. But with little improvement.

Just the other day I walked around with a squirt bottle hooked to my belt loop. I changed the setting to stream. Every time someone hit, pushed, scratched, or made a rude comment, I blasted them in the face with water. Have you ever been squirt-streamed? It's not pleasant. It's an affront. 

I lasted about one hour then thought, Really? This is what I've turned into!? A mom with a water weapon!?

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I've considered the cause(s).

They are so close in age. Which means they're constantly elbowing for the same things, the same needs. I would love an older sibling who didn't care if they got the watermelon blow-pop, who could take a little one by the hand and calm them down, act as peacemaker or helper. But alas. Herd mentality reigns. 

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm out of patience too quickly. Maybe they're modeling my own frustration, or at least, feeling it. 

Maybe it's because we haven't read the scriptures regularly this summer, or had family home evening as often as we should. 

Maybe it's because summer is just about over and every one of us needs more structure, more time apart.

Maybe it's all of the above.

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So I'm trying (always trying) to work on things. Trying to use a calm voice when every sinew inside me wants to erupt into a yell. I've started family scripture reading in the morning when everyone wakes. I'm trying to find more opportunities for us to work and play together. And this week we did an official family home evening, with everyone participating and taking responsibility for a job.

I believe those things help. I've seen them work enough times to know they do.

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And I've noticed one other thing that works. 

Simply getting outside. 

When we take the bickering and needling out under a ceiling of sky, it stops.

We can have slugging, scratching, and sassy words during the drive, but once we park and push open the doors, things change. We unwind, stretch out, coexist.

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Nature helps us reclaim our best selves.

Be the people we should be.

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Two weeks ago we hiked to Cecret lake, one of our favorite summer trails that leads to a gorgeous fresh water lake, shelved into the craggy swells of Albion Basin.

As we hiked, talked, and held hands, tempers settled, spirits smoothed, and we remembered how it feels to love each other.

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To everyone's delight, the lake was teeming with salamanders. If only we'd brought our nets we could have brought a friend home for Manders. Since Sally mysteriously went missing one day.

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I stepped back for perspective. Watched my six favorite people exploring the water's edge.

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Ali found the perfect rock for a rest.

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A nice man offered to take our picture.

It was just before sundown. Devil's Castle loomed above us. Mountain peaks reflected in the water.

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We made our descent down the ski runs. Much quieter and less traveled. Sami and Gordon stayed with me.

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I pointed out my favorite wildflowers. Monk's hood always makes me smile; it looks just like its name.

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Sami gathered a small bouquet for Grandma Ronda's birthday. Shhh... I know we're not supposed to pick the flowers. But she was so ardent, and wanted so much to make Grandma happy, I gave in and said yes.

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My Mom loved them.

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No one argued. No one pushed.

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I thought my heart would burst with gratitude at being surrounded by so much beauty outside, and in.
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I know families who get along famously most of the time. I wish we were one of them. I want to be one of them. But we're raising five strong, creative personalities, who clash, who have agendas and wills, and forget to use their words.

Hopefully, as we keep teaching and talking, working and loving, and loving some more, we will move out of this stage. Into a place of real friendship, increased kindness, and love at home.

Things were better today. Eliza wrote Sami the sweetest "get well" note. The boys apologized to their sisters for destroying their restaurant downstairs then helped me clean up the basement. Ali hugged her brothers before bedtime.

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We work at it every day. The sun sets on the good and bad. Then we get up and work at it again. Success comes in small doses. We find extra patience. We help, remember, forgive, share, choose not to rush, speak softly, listen, and try again. 

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home." - Johann Von Goethe

And out of fairness to John McNaughton, I found a version of Love at Home by guitarist, Michael Dowdle, that I like very much.

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