Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Good Stuff and the Hard Stuff Right Now

It's been a whirlwind of a week. But then every week is sort of that way. It's just the season I'm in. And when I accept this little fact, I feel less put-upon. Keeping expectations in the realistic zone helps life feel a lot better. And right now, realistically, we're going to have action-packed mornings as we get ready for school and afternoons and evenings as we run from cross country meets to Scouts to dance to rehearsals for the cultural celebration for the Temple opening and cram homework and dinner into the little spaces around everything else. Our kids are involved in less extracurricular activities than most - but five kids and two busy parents means we're going to be busy. Relaxing quiet time isn't going to be common. And that's OK. We'll enjoy it all the more where we can get it!

Highlights:
  • Ashton made the volleyball team again this year and has been having so much fun with that. He's really improving a lot. He's lobbying to go on a special school trip to Spain in the spring and that has led him to work really hard on his grades and search out lots of ways to make money (he'll need to have straight "A's" and earn a large portion of the money if he's going to go). I love it when my kids have external motivators - makes my job so much easier!
  • Isaac is doing great with cross country this year - came in 7th overall in the first race. He's being very responsible with his homework and grades this year. I loved watching him at Ashton's volleyball game last night - there were these cute little boys playing around near where we were sitting and Isaac started entertaining them - just making them giggle a little - nothing disruptive. I love watching him with little kids - he knows just how to keep them happy and their eyes shine with adoration for him. He's also become a junior coach for a new soccer program at the park right next to us - great to see him enjoying some soccer time while really helping the coaches with the whole flock of unruly kids who've shown up for this new free program. 
  • Eliza ran for vice president of her school - and won! This is the third year she's run for office so her experience helped make this a much smoother process this year. While she did neglect to tell me that she needed to put up her campaign posters on Monday until Sunday night, we luckily had posters from previous years to flip over and re-use for her new posters. She prepped a nice speech totally on her own and did a great job. She loves being involved and having a leadership role. She had a great time volunteering with One Ogden at the Temple Open House (giving people directions, welcoming them to Ogden, etc.) and volunteering as a race monitor/crossing guard at last weekend's National Cycling Championships held here. She also just joined "Jr Junior League of Ogden" which will give her the chance to help with lots more events and service projects in Ogden. And she had a big dance performance last week and did a beautiful job. 
  • Oliver and Silas are really enjoying being in different classes at school for the first time this year. I was worried it would be a bit rocky for them at first but they've had no problems at all and seem to each have teachers that really click well with their personalities. They are loving cub scouts and the easy-going little soccer league they joined (the one Isaac is helping with). They are just happy, fun-loving, active, super loving kids and I'm so grateful for them. They are conscientious about getting their homework done on their own (Oliver especially) and they are super into reading (working on the Mysterious Benedict Society series right now). 

Hard stuff:

There are always hard things going on with people in our ward and thanks to Jared being the Bishop and me being in the Primary presidency, I wind up seeing or hearing about or helping with the hard stuff people are going through. Plus the kids are great about helping out with quite a few things. They are so good about visiting this very sweet lady who lives nearby and who is totally disabled. Her husband gets her up and dressed and gets breakfast fed to her before leaving for work in the morning and comes home at lunch to get her lunch and help her go to the bathroom. Then he's home after work to care for her in the evenings. But for the rest of the day, she's sitting there in front of the TV, immobile, unable to get herself a drink or a snack, and really really loves having us come visit for a few minutes whenever we can and see if she needs anything. But we can't get over there as much as we'd like and I just worry about her. They have too high an income to receive assistance with regular home health care or other services they really need - but way too low an income to actually affort the services that would be good for them.

And there are about 20 other really hard situations going on in our ward right now - evictions, job loss, huge mental and physical health problems, abuse, neglect, marriage issues, substance abuse, depression, you name it, we've got it going on in our ward. Plus there are always issues of trying to staff and train all the positions in the ward that need to be taken care of. Plus there are ward events to help with and new people to welcome and on and on and on. Sometimes it's just so physically and emotionally and mentally exhausting! There are days when it all feels so heavy and my heart hurts for some people while my anger flares up where others are concerned. Then there are other days when I feel so grateful that our family gets to be basically serving a mission together - that we all get to work together to "lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees" (from a favorite scripture in Isaiah) and by so doing, we strengthen ourselves.

There are plenty of hard things going on with the kids that are personal to them so I won't share them here.

But I will share that we're really struggling with our mornings still! We've been back in school for over a month but still, every morning, we're dashing out the door late and I'm getting mad at the kids for dawdling and not getting their stuff together the night before like they're supposed to. We keep talking over what needs to happen the night before to be ready on time in the mornings but somehow we're just not quite getting it right. Isaac got all mad at me yesterday morning as I was frustrated with him for making us late. He said "I don't think you understand - when you were a kid, did you have to worry about getting the right binder in your backpack (they have an "A Day" and a "B Day" binder and they have to be sure to switch them out) and get your clothes from the day before out of your backpack and put fresh cross country clothes in your backpack for that day and get all your homework in there and bring your cross country shoes and your lunch and remember to bring Ashton's guitar for him since he rode his bike to school and eat your breakfast and do your hair and clean up your breakfast?" I assured him that I did actually understand and had to do pretty similar things myself when I was his age. But it was good for me to hear how overwhelming it all felt to him so I could be more understanding and helpful. I told him I'd do better at reminding him to pack up his backpack the night before so he wouldn't feel so overwhelmed.

There are some afternoons and evenings (Tuesdays especially) when everything has to fit together and line up perfectly if we're going to get everywhere we need to be in a somewhat timely way. And sometimes we're just going to be late for some things on Tuesdays. But that's OK. We just do our best. And the rest of the afternoons and evenings are more manageable but can still be really messed up if I'm not totally paying attention to the time or if I get on the phone or on the computer at the wrong time.

I'm struggling with figuring out how to prioritize the many, many things that need to happen while the kids are gone to school each day. There are always tons of things I could do for Power of Moms, for the kids and Jared, for our ward and neighborhood, and for our house (working on re-finishing our sadly weathered exterior doors and decks right now - huge project but I couldn't find anyone to hire to do it and things were really deteriorating so we decided to do it ourselves and I'm trying to chip away at a little a day). Plus I feel like it's important to take time to learn and to read and to exercise and to be with friends. I'm trying to do this - and it really helps when I keep up on it. And it helps to remember this quote by President Julie Beck, former president of our Relief Society organization:

But still, it's hard.

So that's a bit of our life right now! (And if you want to see pictures of a lot of what's laid out above, check out all the photos I've posted on Instagram here.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ashton, Idaho - 2014

I thought I'd posted this a while ago - but just found this in my drafts.

We had so much fun with Jared's family this year! We got spend time at the farm twice this past summer - once for the 4th of July weekend, and once for the 24th of July weekend.

Here's the story in photos:

The lighting was so pretty across the fields when we first arrived! So fun to hop out of the car and see this gorgeous view and have cousins right there waiting for us.



The 4th of July was fabulous, as always. The kids decided to decorate their bikes and ride them in the parade this year rather than decorating a truck or a float to ride in.

There was all the usual stuff - horses, four-wheelers, tractors, a few floats - and plenty of candy being thrown out.


I was totally impressed with this couple's festive attire:


 Here are our bikers:

Isaac rode his unicycle the whole way. Seriously impressive.




Some kids wanted to be in the parade and some wanted to watch and get candy. The compromised by being in the parade on the way down the street, then watching the parade on its return journey (parades in Ashton always go both ways - you get to see everything twice!).

They got plenty of candy.


Then it was time for a picnic in the park and the watermellon eating contest. The younger kids went first. Here's Ollie and Si with cousin Logan, strategizing.

 Silas somehow got an extra thick piece.

But he went after it with gusto!

Oliver stored most of his watermelon in his cheeks.

Then it was Liza and Isaac's age group's turn:
 


 Ashton totally won for his age group:



Then the Loosli brothers took the challenge:

Jared won!

Here are the awesome prizes they awarded him:

We had tons of fun out at the Loosli cabin the weekend of the 4th and the 24th:


Eliza skiied all over the place with this stance - she's got some seriously strong legs to be able to do that!



Isaac got really good on the wakeboard:





Oliver got really good on the kneeboard.

Ashton learned to slalom and dock start - he can actually stand there on the dock and start skiing from this position. Amazing.

This is his "yeah, I'm tough, I've got this, and I don't really want you to take a photo" face.
 

Ready to go:


Lots of tubing went on (and there were only a few broken ribs - Jared's poor brother . . .)











There are always a few Uno games going on at the cabin.

It was so fun to see our kids enjoying good conversations and laughs with their older cousins.

Here are all the cousins who were able to make it this year. Such great people - love all these great examples for my kids.






Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Instagram Update - and Wanderlust

I've been putting up a photo or two most days on Instagram. So much happens every day and I feel time slipping away and my kids growing up and I want so much to capture and cherish the good moments and the beauty. Instagram is just so much easier and more immediate than this good old blog when it comes to capturing moments and sights I don't want to forget.

Here's a quick collage of some of what I've posted on Instagram lately - click here for more.



But I'm determined to capture ideas, thoughts and feelings and Instagram isn't so good for that. So I'll keep writing here (and saving my more personal ramblings as "drafts" in the back end of this blog - there's sure a lot of stuff I need to write out but don't publish!).

My sister Shawni and her family are in China for a few months, having crazy-exciting adventures with school and food and culture there. Last weekend (in between volunteering for the National Cycling Championships downtown and painting our sad-looking porches), we sat down together and looked at the photos and information on her blog so we could live vicariously a bit and catch up with some of our favorite people. So interesting. We ended up talking a lot about Chinese culture and customs and looking some more stuff up. I love all that we get to learn through others' experiences.

But, being an Eyre (we have a legacy of wonderlust and a thirst for crazy-exciting new experiences), checking out Shawni's experiences made me yearn to get extra serious about a big trip for this summer. Summer before last, we did our big cross-country road trip, taking in Chicago, Boston, NYC, DC and lots of church history sites while visiting relatives and friends and putting on FIVE Power of Moms Retreat. It was wonderful. It was exhausting. This past summer, it felt great to stick with a few day trips and enjoy our fun neighborhood between family reunions and time at Bear Lake. But this next summer we're thinking that maybe it's time to head to England and France. We're saving up and trying to figure out if we can make it work. So much of of my growing up experiences were in England and Jared and I both have lots of English ancestry. I yearn for England sometimes. I can hardly believe my kids haven't experienced England - haven't been on a double decker bus or climbed on the lions at Trafalgar Square, haven't experienced the pastoral beauty of the Lake District or the ancient grandeur of my favorite castles and cathedrals.

And while we're in England, we really might as well do France. I've loved my travels there in the past and I think the kids would so enjoy it. Then, of course, we need to get to Italy where Jared served his mission and Bulgaria where I served mine and where we need to visit the orphanages we've been helping to support with our Children for Children concerts every Christmas. And we want to go to Switzerland where both Jared and I have lots of ancestry (Loosli is a swiss name) and where our dear sister-in-law is from. And actually all of Europe would be fabulous to visit. But we're thinking England and France will have to do it for now.

But wow, Europe is expensive! We've been setting aside money for years by foregoing eating out and doing stuff that costs money for entertainment (luckily hiking and biking are free and there are tons of free festivals and events near us all the time). We'll step up our earning and saving and I think we can make this happen! Anyone got any great tips on how to save money when traveling to Europe? We need to get the best airfare we can, figure out transportation once we're there, find inexpensive places to stay, etc.





Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tinkering Towards Utopia

Wow! This back-to-school stuff has sure given me a run for my money!

Our second week back in school has proven to be harder than the first. The novelty has worn off and the kids are sure struggling with getting to bed on time and getting up on time so our evenings and mornings aren't all that peaceful and orderly around here. Plus Ashton's started early-morning Seminary (a religion class offered by our church) before school so I need to get kids out the door at two different times and that's pretty tricky. 

We've had talks about how to make things work better and I've tried everything from getting new alarm clocks for kids to fining kids $5 for getting to the breakfast table later than 7:10 and thus making us all late. It's a work in progress. And there's more rushing and yelling going on that any of us like.

But my 15 years as a mom has taught me that I don't need to throw up my hands in dismay and despair of ever getting things right when I'm in a tough patch. Tough patches and trial and error are just normal parts of motherhood and as we keep tinkering and tweaking, we get things sort of right and things get better. Then other things get worse. Then we do some more tinkering and tweaking and talking to make those things a bit better. Deliberate motherhood is all about getting some things wrong, learning from mistakes, making changes, forgiving ourselves and trying again as we move towards our beautiful visions of what family life can be. 

I read a book called "Tinkering Towards Utopia" for an Education class once. I can't really remember what it was about. But the title stuck with me. I think it describes very well what motherhood is all about - tweaking and trying and making mistakes and trying again as we strive towards the ideal. And then a couple weeks ago, I made this podcast with a friend and she talked about the importance of "tinkering" in parenting - so the concept has resurfaced in my mind.

Here are a few things we're working on right now:

The twins are obsessed with legos and with the book series, Mysterious Benedict Society. When they have legos or a book in front of them, they are in a different world and cannot seem to hear me at all. They're generally pretty obedient but lately I have to call for them for scripture time or homework time or dinner time again and again (sometimes with threats) and ultimately I have to go all the way upstairs (they're on the third floor) and hold their faces in my hands to get them to listen. I love legos. I love books. But we've got to figure out a happy medium here.

Isaac has been super lethargic and came home from school sick yesterday because he was so tired and groggy and dizzy that he couldn't focus on school at all. Plus he had a weird swollen bump on his foot that was making him limp. I asked whether something was worrying him about school. Nope. He loves school and has remarkably few worries. I looked up everything about infections and bug bites and ultimately we decided the bump on the foot wasn't related to the tiredness, I gave him a big lunch and put him to bed for the afternoon. He slept for about 3 hours. Then he seems totally happy and fine this morning. Another thing I've learned this past 15 years as a mom - most of children's maladies go away with some extra rest, extra water to drink, and extra TLC.  

It's so hard to get kids to bed at a good hour when it's light outside and the evenings are so pleasant. Everyone wants to be out on the trampoline and playing around with neighborhood kids. It's hard for me to get into the routine of dinner at 6 so we can get kids to bed on time. It's hard getting up in the morning so early when I'm just so tired. It's hard fitting in everything that needs to happen while the kids are at school so I can be fully present for them when they get home - especially on days when unexpected needs of friends or church callings or our kids or neighbors or extended family members come up (which is quite often).

The kids want to take home lunch every day this year and I'm theoretically great with that but it involves a thought and time that we haven't built in very much. I'm trying to get them to put together their lunches the night before but we aren't into a good routine there yet. And wow, there's a lot of paraphenalia the kids need to take to school this year - our evenings and mornings are full of finding and packing up running clothes and shoes, volley ball clothes, Ashton's guitar, signing kids planners, checking to see if homework made it into backpacks, etc. There are just so many THINGS to keep track of around here!

I was also really strugging with how many times we needed to drive kids to or from the school each day. Ashton needs to be there at 7am. The rest of the kids need to be there at 8am. Regular pick up is at 3pm. Eliza and Isaac need to be picked up from cross country practice at 4pm. Ashton finishes volley ball practice at 5pm. That's five trips to and from the school each day! Each round trip is about 20 minutes so that's over an hour and a half of time in the car each day. So we did some tinkering and now my friend and I are trading off on who does the 3pm pick-up and who does the 4pm pick-up (her daughter's also doing cross country) and I had a good talk with Ashton last night about the big picture of all these trips to and from school and he came around to seeing that if he rides his bike to school, he can get there almost as fast as we can drive there (there's a nice bike path that avoids lots of stop lights) and he can save us 2 round trips of driving (40 minutes of driving!). So now, at least while the weather is good and Ashton can bike, I'm down to just two round-trips a day!

On a more positive note:

Ashton has become a remarkably more pleasant and fun kid to have around. A summer full of positive affirmation from all the relatives we spent time with sure seems to have helped. He was so amazingly helpful with all the little cousins we spent time with and was always quick to help when anyone asked. And the more praise he received, the more praiseworthy he became. Watching this process made me realize more fully that this wonderful boy of mine needs to know that we think he's wonderful in a more pro-active and constant way. 

Plus he's developed some serious skills that give him lots of confidence. He learned to slalom ski like a pro. He learned to drive the beach car at Bear Lake. He found a real passion for guitar (he's practiced hours a day and has a reperatoire of over 70 songs now, many of them really tricky - plus he's become a super singer with his beautiful new low voice). And he just made the volley ball team at school. 

And he's just plain matured and so have I. I've learned to pick my battles and to give him a lot more freedom. I've learned to really seek out and listen to his ideas and concerns. I've learned to not react in an overboard way to overboard statements from him but instead to find the truth in whatever he says, agree with what is indeed true, and work with him towards solutions we both feel good about.

Sure, grumpy and moody Ashton still escapes once in a while. But we're in a much, much better place now.

And the kids just really like school and are involved in activities they're really excited about. They never complain about going to school. They sometimes wish it wasn't so early. But that's about it.

I realize this is a huge blessing. I remember struggling with anxiety as a kid - going to sleep with a stomach ache as I worried about the next day of school - had I finished all my homework? Who would I sit by at lunch? Would there be a test I'd forgotten about? Who would I play with at recess? When I was in third grade, I called home sick all the time because I was so stressed out at school that I really was sick (I had a particularly difficult teacher that year who was a real screamer). Because of my experiences, I was geared up to deal with some worries and anxieties in my own children as they went to school. I resolvied long ago to pull my kids out of school and find them a better option be that a new school or homeschooling if they really weren't enjoying school. But so far, nothing. Nada.

So anyway, I'll keep you posted on my tinkering as I move forward. Every family is a work in progress. No matter how perfectly wonderful a family might look from the outside, I guarantee that there is a lot of trial and error and tinkering going on in that home. And that's OK. That's how we learn and grow. That's life.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School - 2014

I dropped off al the kids at school this morning.

A 9th grader, an 8th grader, a 6th grader and two 4th graders.

Seems like just yesterday they looked like this:
Ashton starting 1st grade, Isaac starting Kindergarten

Eliza starting Kindergarten, Ashton 3rd, Isaac 2nd

Oliver and Silas starting Kindergarten, Ashton in 5th, Isaac 4th, Eliza 2nd
And now we're here:
Eliza in 6th, Isaac in 8th, Ollie and Si in 4th, Ashton in 9th
I'm sort of crying a little bit as I look at these old photos and write this. The first day of school each year is such a mixture of emotions for me.

I love the prospect of having a more predictable schedule and being able to have some uninterrupted time each day when I can get my Power of Moms work done. I'm excited to have the house stay a little cleaner and be able to get errands done more quickly without bringing any kids with me. And I love seeing the kids' joyful anticipation as they see friends again and look forward to new classes and teachers.

But I really like my kids. I like having them around. I love having a relaxed schedule. I love not being so tied down. I love staying up later and getting up later and not having to be worried about bedtimes so much. I love going on field trips together and listening to books on tape together and taking individual kids off on little "dates" and getting things done in a less pressured and systematic way.

And I miss my babies. I wish I could go back and snuggle their squishy little bodies for a minute here and there or hear their baby voices calling me "mama." I wish I could go back and read them a favorite story again, little people overflowing off my lap, wiggling until the story fully caught their attention and made them still. I wish I could see the look of delight again on their little faces when I'd go to get them up after a nap - they'd be jumping up and down, holding onto the crib rail.

I also miss my preschoolers. I miss taking Oliver and Silas and Eliza on our regular trips to Costco, the one place that had carts with two seat-belted seats so I could shop with the twins neatly contained and Eliza, the one child who'd ever contently stay by my side, dutifully holding onto the side of shopping cart. It was our little tradition to get here - the twins sharing a hotdog all cut up and fed to them bite by bite by me and Eliza who shared a chicken bake. I miss teaching Joy School to each of my kids and their little friends and seeing their faces light up as they learned new things while also seeing

I miss my little school-age kids. I miss walking into their classrooms to volunteer and seeing their eyes light up and having them pop out of their seats to give me a hug. I miss walking through the school halls and having most every little kid smile at me and say hi since I was in the school a lot volunteering in all my kids' classrooms. I miss being the all-knowing mom who was a great homework helper and had a solution to every issue that came up in their lives (now I have to have them wait for their dad to get home when they need help with math and somehow, my older kids no longer think I know all that much about all that many things!)

But I love these beautiful, strong, confident people that my children are becoming. And I love that we all have our own separate lives as well as the family life we share. I love hearing about their joys and worries. I love helping them figure out what they want and what they need. I love that Ashton helps me figure out my phone and my computer so adeptly. I love that Isaac makes me laugh and helps me keep things in perspective with his easy-going nature. I love that Eliza wants to talk to me about everything. I love that Oliver and Silas still give me tons of hugs and think I'm all-knowing and tell me that I'm the best mom ever so often (especially on days when they can tell that I'm struggling to be a decent mom!). It's such a privilege to be their mother and to watch them grow and develop and come into their own more and more each year.

So there it is. The first day of school. With all its mixed emotions and memories and excitement.

And here are a few snapshots as I dropped kids off at school this morning:

Ashton with his guitar - he's taking guitar this year. He's so grown up it's killing me! I got him to give me hug and it's so weird that he's taller and bigger than me now.

Eliza just got new glasses - took ages for her to pick just the frames she wanted but she finally found just the thing. She had an idea for a perfect first-day-of-school hair style and wanted my help but I guess I wasn't quite getting the same vision she had so things were a bit rocky there - but we figured out something that would work OK and she put a smile on her face and looked just lovely! (and she just lost a tooth yesterday - a baby tooth that had been hanging in there for far too long . . .)

Oliver and Silas will have different teachers and classrooms for the first time this year. We thought it would be a good idea to try this out and they were all for it. It'll be interesting to see how it goes! They have lots of friends other than each other and usually sit at different tables and play with different kids at school so I don't think it'll be too much of an adjustment. Their main concern was simply whether one or the other of them would have a better teacher. But both teachers seem great and they smiled big as I dropped them off at their classroom doors (which they were glad to see were right next door to each other). I was glad they wanted me to walk them in. It's nice to still be needed.

Here's Oliver:

And here's Silas:


I think they'll be just fine.

Somehow I didn't get a photo of Isaac. But he did consent to giving me a nice big hug in the parking lot. I don't think Ashton would have gone for that. So luckily for him, Jared took him to school early for his first day of Seminary so he got to have his hug from me here at home before he took off.

OK, I'd better get some work done before it's time to pick the kids up and hear all about their first day of school!


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