Monday, April 14, 2014

Easy Easter Week Ideas

It's Easter Week! We're rolling out the activities for each day of Easter Week that we've been doing, adjusting and polishing for years. Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday by carefully reading in the scriptures about Palm Sunday, looking at depictions of the event that popped up when we googled "Palm Sunday," and watching this really wonderful new video about Easter:

BECAUSE OF HIM

(We watched it about 5 times and talked all about who Christ was to others, who He is to us, and what seemingly "impossible" things He made possible in our lives).

If you'd like scriptures, videos and ideas all put together for you to help you celebrate Easter Week, here's the post I wrote a couple years ago for Power of Moms:

A Deliberate Mother's Guide to a Christ-Centered Easter
(Scroll down a little to get to the part with the day-by-day Easter Week ideas. I have to go back to this post every year to remember everything myself!)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Launch Event

Last Thursday I had the privilege of gathering with about 80 other mothers to celebrate the launch of our new Power of Moms book, Motherhood Realized (which is now a bestseller - thanks for helping to make that happen!).

Oh how I love gathering in person with other mothers and sharing our ideas and our hearts! It's always quite an ordeal getting these events together and in the process of it all, I often wonder whether the effort is really worthwhile. But as I talk face-to-face with the wonderful moms who always show up, all the work I do day-in and day-out, sitting in my house at my computercomes to life. It's such a joy to actually meet some of the moms I'm reaching out to every day via podcasts and posts on our website. And it's an even greater joy to listen to them and learn from them in real time.

Eight of the 30+ authors of the book shared beautiful readings from the book and then we broke into small groups and really delved into discussion about what motherhood has helped us realize (plenty of tears and laughter - I so love these small group discussions that are a hallmark of all Power of Moms events).

Here's a glimpse of the event in photos:

 My mom, April and I enjoyed a nice little dinner right before the event. Love these ladies!


What a roomful of wonderfulness:

We had 8 authors each share a beautiful, powerful reading (lots of tears, lots of laughter...)

Here's my mom doing her wonderful keynote - all about the light found in motherhood.

After the readings and my mom's talk, we had rich small-group discussions:


Here are the wonderful authors who were able to join us for the event:

After the event, April and I had the chance to have a great slumber party and planning meeting (it's a rare and special treat for us to work together face to face rather than over the phone and email!). We recorded this podcast sharing our thoughts from the evening plus concrete ideas for how moms can create and nurture important and fun friendships with each other:

PODCAST: The Importance of In-Person Gatherings

And I have to end with a big shout-out to my very very favorite cookie place in the world:


Ruby Snap was kind enough to donate cookies for refreshments for this event. And these aren't just any old cookies. These are top-of-the-line all-natural-ingredient gourmet cookies that are seriously amazing. I'm sort of a "cookie connessieur" so when I found Ruby Snap last year, I fell in love with their unique recipes and high-quality deliciousness. We love getting food donated for our events so that we can keep the costs down and involve more moms at an affordable price so with this event, we approached Ruby Snap and I was delighted that they agreed to donate a whole bunch of fabulous cookies. When I found out that the were going to donate cookies, I was seriously jumping up and down. I'm not sure whether I was more excited about finding out we'd be getting free Ruby Snap cookies or finding out that our book had become a best seller!

The cookies received rave reviews at the event and I think Ruby Snap is going to have a bunch more loyal customers now.

Anyway, here's the Ruby Snap website so you can check out all the uniquely amazing different kinds of cookies they offer and find out how and where you can sample them for yourselves.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Nuturing Magic in Childhood

I recently read this great article: I'm Done Making My Children's Childhood Magical

Here's an excerpt I especially liked:

When we make life a grand production, our children become audience members and their appetite for entertainment grows. Are we creating a generation of people who cannot find the beauty in the mundane?

Do we want to teach our children that the magic of life is something that comes beautifully gift-wrapped -- or that magic is something you discover on your own?

Planning elaborate events, daily crafts, and expensive vacations isn't harmful for children. But if the desire to do so comes from a place of pressure or even a belief that the aforementioned are a necessary part of one's youth, it's time to reevaluate.

A childhood without Pinterest crafts can be magical. A childhood without a single vacation can be magical. The magic we speak of and so desperately want our children to taste isn't of our creation, and therefore is not ours to dole out as we please. It is discovered in quiet moments by a brook or under the slide at the park, and in the innocent laughter of a life just beginning.

We constantly hear that children these days don't get enough exercise. Perhaps the most underused of all of their muscles is the imagination, as we seek desperately to find a recipe for something that already exists. 

I used to work really hard to make my kids' rooms look Pinterest-worthy (before Pinterest even existed). I used to worry about planning picturesque and amazing parties and activities for my children. But in the past few years, I've really embraced the beauty of a simpler life for myself and for my family. Maybe I gave up on the pretty "extras" in our life partly because I was overwhelmed with the basic needs of my family combined with the busyness of running Power of Moms. But I was also very affected by the book Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kennison where she writes beautifully about the importance of unstructured time for children and the importance of stepping back from orchestrating things so you can actually enjoy the symphony of life.

I think my kids are having a pretty good childhood. I hope they'll have bright memories of the many trips we've taken, the extracurricular activities they've participated in, the birthday parties and holidays I worked hard to make special, the work projects we've taken on together as a family, and the adventures we've had skiing and hiking and biking. But I think some of their fondest memories will include the stuff I didn't orchestrate, the simple things they came up with that make up the fabric of their childhood -  making up games on the trampoline, setting up lemonade and cookie stands, coming up with little plays and performances, hanging out with the neighbor's kittens, and playing "sharks and minnows" in the front yard with a gaggle of neighborhood kids pretty much every summer night at twilight.

There are some great comments about this concept of what really constitutes magic in childhood on our Power of Moms Facebook Page HERE if you want to see what others had to say. We have some very wise moms in our community and I love hearing their thoughts.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What lies beneath...

Sometimes being a mom is really hard. Like really REALLY hurt-your-heart, wonder-if-you've failed kind of hard.

I won't go into details but I just feel like I should say that even thought I run a website called "Power of Moms" and I blog about lots of great stuff going on in our family, I sure don't have all the answers. In fact, sometimes I feel like a total fraud writing articles about motherhood and putting on conferences about motherhood when I so clearly know SO little in the grand scheme of things.

But you know what? I'm trying. When things are hard, I think hard and pray hard and talk with my husband a lot and talk to the kids a lot and try new things and fail and try again.

I celebrate the things that are good a lot on this blog. I post photos and pictures of my kids' accomplishments and our fun family adventures and the things I've figured out that work pretty well in motherhood. Sometimes I post about really hard days I've had and stuff I'm struggling with. But a lot of the hard stuff isn't really stuff that would be good to share here. Some things need to be private.

And the more I talk with other moms, the more I realize that this is the norm. Every mom has hard stuff that most people can't see. We can look at just about any mom's life and think things look pretty darn nice. But under the surface, there are pretty much always heartaches and struggles - some huge, some medium, some small.

Just know that no matter how things may look to you, no one has a perfect life. As you struggle, know that you're not alone and that beneath the Sunday-best behavior and the smiling waves from other moms at school drop-off, there are hard things that most every mother is dealing with. It's not that other moms are trying to pretend that their lives are perfect. It's that they're often dealing with hard stuff that needs to be private for a variety of reasons so they're keeping it inside.

So let's all be gentle with each other. Let's assume the best of people while knowing they may be dealing with the worst. Let's realize that life is hard for everyone in different ways. And let's listen and love whenever we get the chance to really talk to another mom.
 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Great Little Happenings - February and March

Wow - lots of great things have happened that haven't quite made it on the blog. So I'm going to do a little catching up here.

Eliza has so much fun with all the great girls in the neighborhood. Here they are doing a cookie stand on and extra-warm February day. They were dancing around and getting cars to stop and they ended up making a decent little profit while having a really fun day together.

That same nice warm February day, I found Ashton, Isaac and their friend doing this:


Jared was loading up our old TV to take it to the D.I. and when these boys came along and apparently the three of them decided that the TV could find a great new home at their friend's house. So now their friend's family has a nice big TV that flickers when there's too much white on the screen and has some cobwebs inside it that add interest to whatever you're watching. Glad that old thing could find a happy new home.

During the Olympics, we had a fun Family Olympics Night. We did "ice dancing" involving "skating" around with our socks on the slippery wood floors and doing lots of spins and fancy "finishing positions" (like the one below):


We also threw in a little "limbo" - makes a good winter Olympics sport, right?
And we made up challenging new events - hopping up our steep stairs on one foot (wow, was that ever hard! Isaac beat us all on that one), seeing how far we could slide in our socks on the wood floor, etc.

We did have to have a talk about being a good looser when Oliver got very sad at one point... (see that tear? But he still automatically smiled for the picture...)

There were a lot of great sunsets. And Eliza or Isaac love capturing sunsets in photos:

We made a lot of cookies. Oh, how we love cookies. And sometimes we eat so much cookie dough that there aren't that many baked cookies in the end. We make a few different kinds but these are our favorite - Oatmeal chocolate chip (recipe here).

I went running quite a lot. I love running when it's in the 50's - perfect running weather. I love the snow-capped mountains and I love seeing the cemetery where I run gradually ease it's way out of winter yellows and grays and browns towards spring greens.

Eliza made a LOT of rubber band bracelets.

We skiied a lot. The kids all know Snow Basin Ski Resort like the back of their hands now. And wow, they are getting to be really great skiers!
 

After a long day of skiing, this is how Isaac and Eliza feel:
Isaac had one pretty bad ski day. He lost control, ran into Ashton and whacked his nose really hard on Ashton's helmet. His nose started gushing and ski patrol was pretty worried about the large pool of blood in the snow. They strapped him to a sled and took him to their little clinic place. But after watching him for a while, he was just fine and headed back out to ski again. Tough kid!

Here he is heading off with ski patrol (Ashton was with him and took great care of him until I could meet up with them and get the full ski patrol report.):


The twins had a great basketball season. They got to play on the same team as one of their best friends, had a really excellent coach, and their team ended up winning the tournament! 


 

The twins were thrilled with the cool trophies they got:

Eliza needs to get glasses - one eye is 20/20 but the other one is pretty weak so she's getting headaches. Here she is trying out different frames. We still haven't found just the right thing for her but we're working on it!
Isaac had a good basketball season. He's one FAST kid on the court and did a great job getting the ball to the right people at the right time. He's definitely more into cross country and soccer though. He's thinking this might be his last year playing basketball.



Quite amazingly, Ashton got 4th place in the Chemistry category with his science fair project. We were all (including Ashton) pretty surprised. He put in very minimal effort on the project (despite plenty of nagging from his parents...) and went with a pretty lame baking soda and vinegar hypothesis. But he followed all the instructions regarding research and experimentation, made a nice board, and did a great job presenting to the judges.  I guess he proved that a nicely put-together and well-presented project can do well even when it's not based on a stellar idea! He heard that there are some pretty great prizes when it comes to excellent 9th grade science fair projects so he got excited about coming up with a better project next year and coupling that with his good presentations skills to do something really great next year. So it all ended very well.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Bali Part I

So about three years ago, my parents sold J.B. Mopeltel (I'm told I came up with this random name for the house when we moved into when I was 4 - and it stuck). 

Neither of my parents really loved the house that much when they bought it but it was a good price, it was in a good neighborhood, it had hardwood floors and a good-sized back yard and side yard, and it had a beautiful view of the Salt Lake valley from the nice balcony that went all along the back of the house. 

Over the 35 years that my parents owned the house, it was redecorated and remodeled several times to better accommodate our family, and it ultimately became a beloved home chock-full of cherished memories. (You can read a great tribute to the house on my sister Charity's blog here.)

After we'd all moved away, J.B. Mopeltel just wasn't the right house for them. There were so many small bedrooms they didn't need and no nice big open gathering spaces that they did need. So they built a new house that better accommodated their needs in Park City, incorporating all these beautiful old carvings and beams they'd found in Bali on a recent trip (they'd fallen in love with the peace and beauty and culture of Bali and wanted to incorporate it into their lives - and ours). It was a lot of work designing and building this unique new house (I got a chance to help quite a bit since I was doing interior design at the time). When it was done, it was really a wonderful place. My mom named it "Baliwood" (since so much wood from Bali had been incorporated). My dad named it Beaver Creek Ranch at Narnia Canyon (BCRANK). And most of us call it B-Crank (short for dad's long name). 

But we all still felt tied to good old JB Mopeltel and my parents kept it for a couple years, waiting for the real estate market to improve and our nostalgia to abate a bit.

When they finally sold good old JB, they announced the news of the sale which they knew would make some people sad along with some news that they knew would make all of us happy. They'd decided to use some of the money from the sale to take all of the adults in the family on a fabulous vacation to one of their favorite places - Bali!

We set the dates for this trip about 3 years ago so everyone could plan and finally the day came when we all got to meet up in Bali and enjoy the best vacation ever with people we love so much. Perfect that our growing-up home that housed so many beautiful memories could fund this get-together where new memories could be created and relationships could be strengthened!

Thanks Mom and Dad! Thanks J.B. Mopeltel!

So here's my first installment of photos and info about the trip.

Jared and I along with Jonah and Aja and their new baby Ezra and Saydi and Jeff all arrived a day before everyone else (just worked out that way with travel arrangements). So we met up on the southern tip of Bali at Ulu Watu for some pre-adventures.

We met up at sunset at the beautiful cliffs near the Ulu Watu temple and had a glorious reunion and loved meeting little Ezra for the first time.






We stayed our first night in Bali at this rustic and beautiful little inn called Satria Bungalows - it cost just $26 (or $30 with a 24-hour rental of a scooter - we went for the scooter upgrade and it was perfect)

Here's the bathroom - you go out the back door of your room and there's this lovely private little outdoor area with the sink, toilet and shower.

 
Ulu Watu Cove was such a cool place - caves and surfers everywhere.

 On top of one of the big rocks in Ulu Watu cove, there was a little dive of a restaurant with good food and breathtaking views and a lady who gave me the best neck and upper back massage ever for just $3. It was heaven sitting there watching the waves and the surfers and enjoying great conversations and food - and a nice massage thrown in for good measure.


Here's what I ate - Mie Goring - a Balinese dish they had everywhere. This was my favorite version though - delicious with fresh seafood. The food was SO good everywhere we went - and so very inexpensive too.

Here's how we got around. Jared really loved the thrill of driving on tiny windy streets on the wrong side of the road. I loved riding along behind him and enjoying the view.
 We ran out of gas but that wasn't a problem at all. There are little shops everywhere and they all have a nice supply of gas available in old vodka bottles. You pay $1, grab a bottle, fill up your scooter, and you're on your way.
Before each bridge, there's always one of these "guardian" statues. Guardian statues are also found at the entrance of many homes. Such interesting creatures of stone everywhere you turn!

After our 24 hours with just the seven of us (counting Ezra), we headed back to the airport to meet up with the rest of our siblings and head to a lovely villa where my parents were waiting to greet us.
What a fun reunion!

And what an amazing villa my parents rented in Candisada. 10 gorgeous bedrooms. A long table that seated all 18 of us. Wonderful staff attending to our every need. Beautiful pool. The sound of the ocean right there. We felt very spoiled. And very happy!


We headed out to snorkel - gorgeous views from the boat. Amazingly colorful fish and coral. And I got sort of smashed by a huge wave when I followed some fish a little too far in the wrong direction. But in the end it wasn't a bad adventure!

View from our boat to the other boat with more of my family. Such smooth beautiful water! Gorgeous green hills in the distance.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Villa talking and relaxing in the perfect-bathwater-temperature pool. So great to catch up in small groups and just enjoy the sun and the water and the scenery.


We visited an ancient village tucked into the beautiful mountains where you could walk right into anyone's house and check out what it was like and ask questions about their culture and customs. Super interesting. (And my mom wrote a whole post about the ancient village on her blog here if you want more photos and info.)

Here are some of the women getting water and cleaning up in the town square:

Every home is a little compound with several buildings inside - a building for special ceremonies like weddings and baby's first haircut (a BIG deal when the baby is 6-months old - involves a huge feast families have to save up for) and the tooth filing ceremony (when boys and girls are about 13, the local priest comes to file off the tips of their K9 teeth and they have a super big feast), several temple structures (at least three temples in every compound - one for the family, one for ancestors, one for protection that is always near the road, sometimes ones for different Hindu gods), a kitchen building, and buildings where families sleep (usually a couple generations share one family compound).


Here's a father and son practicing playing the gamalon (a zylophone type instrument - beautiful and unique sound) for and upcoming celebration:


Jared liked the water buffalo wandering about.





Every home's compound has a beautiful gate at it's entrance - even poor homes have really lovely gates, usually with tons of intricate carving. There are just a LOT of artists in Bali! And they really value art and fine craftsmanship. Art isn't a luxury there. It's a necessary part of life.

This gate was made of stacked flat rocks - amazing.
  


The doors on many gates had amazing carvings all over them. Here's a close-up of one door:


And many gates have little niches for offerings. Little hand-made reed baskets full of offerings of lovely flowers and a little food need to be set out every morning to keep the balance with the spiritual world and honor ancestors and ward off evil.

Here's an offering in a niche of one gate:



Here are a couple typical offerings - handmade baskets full of flowers, some rice or crackers, incense stick burning on top:

Here's an offering at the entrance of a shop in town. Offerings to create balance with the spirits and ward off evil need to be placed every morning at every entrance.

 

 One day, most people went scuba diving. Anita and I aren't so into scuba diving (I'm certified but I just don't like being way under water with a leaky mask and I have an odd-shaped face so every mask leaks and hurts - I've decided snorkeling is just a lot more enjoyable for me...) so we went with a guide on a beautiful day hike instead.

We went across a beautiful river on this great bamboo bridge:

We trekked through tons of rice fields and learned about how they grow rice:

We hiked through the jungle and saw amazing plants:


 We found these awesome leaves that were stiff enough to make perfect fans:
 
 Here's what the money looks like - $10,000 rupia equals a little less than a dollar. It was interesting getting used to things costing so much - and so little - at the same time. It was interesting taking out a million rupia from the ATM (about $90). Everyone's a millionaire in Bali.

I loved hearing the little kids chanting away as they do call-and-repeat-style learning at the schools we saw. Here's the courtyard of one school - such a pleasant place with nice plants and carved stone above every door and happy children running around. Everyone in Bali was smiling all the time. Really. I loved that.
 Here are some little kids at the entrance to their school:
On our last night at the Villa, we had a special celebration for my parents' 45th wedding anniversary (which really isn't until this summer but we figured we'd celebrate early). The staff at the villa said we simply must have a roasted pig since that's what they do for any really special occasion.

So here's the pig:

And here we are enjoying a beautiful meal while sharing 45 memories and things we love about our wonderful parents and singing them the family songs they made us sing all the time as little kids with new lyrics designed for the occasion. What a wonderful night!

What wonderful parents! Seriously, how did I get so blessed????

After a few days it was time to leave the surreally lovely Villa and the coast and head off for our next adventures in Ubud.


We took lots of photos before leaving. But somehow I only have the outtakes right now...

This one totally cracked me up - apparently we were all somewhat perplexed about something at this particular moment during the photo shoot:


On the way to Ubud, we saw more of Balinese culture:

We passed tons of these little stores where everyone shops:

We saw all these guys hanging out in with the head wraps all the men wear, having some sort of meeting:
 We saw lots of cargo being transported in creative ways:


 And our driver got lost trying to find our hotel in Ubud. But we found it eventually. And it was spectacular - much more old-world Balinese than the Villa, right in the middle of the jungle. I'll put up photos and write all about Ubud in my next post!

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