Orange Ginger Splashed Smoothie

Want more energy? Want to feel good? Want to make your skin glow with goodness? Inspired by Laura at abeautifulplate.com, I jumped at the chance to blend me some orange ginger-splashed magic just in time for love day.DSC_0008 Start with juicy orangesDSC_0227 A beautiful yellow beet (much sweeter and more mild than red)
DSC_0089-11 carrot plucked fresh from the garden…or the grocery store will do

IMG_58681 Braeburn apple – yum!

unnamed-1A hunk of ginger, 2 inches thick

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Orange Ginger Splashed Smoothie:

  •  2 navel oranges
  • 1 medium golden beet, peeled
  • 1 carrot, scrubbed
  • 1 Braeburn apple, cut
  • 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water + handful of ice

Blend it all together and have a gulp of goodness (you know I fancy the vitamin for its superior blending capacity.) Who needs caffeine when you could have a smoothie to get going?

This recipe was inspired by pressed juice, meaning all the juice was squeezed out of the fruit and vegetables. But I prefer smoothies for several reasons: smoothies keep you full longer, they contain more nutrients especially fiber, there’s less waste, and they are much less time consuming to make than juicing. In addition, because of the fiber (the bulk), smoothies don’t hit your bloodstream so hard and fast like juices do, which means you have longer-lasting and more steady energy.

Convinced? Give it a try!

On Facebook, a friend asked, “isn’t that a lot of ginger?” Yes, it is! There is definitely a “zing” to this, which I like, but I’ve also acquired it. Ginger is terrific for gut health which is why I eat/drink so much of it. If you’re not a ginger fan, try less of it.

Looking for more valentine treats? You might like:

Oreo Truffles with Strawberriesfruit-heart-300x300homemade dark chocolate

cream puffspuffpancakes-300x300old-fashioned sugar cookies

Happy weekend!

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The “Yes, I’d Love To,” Jar

unnamed-1Happy February! Am I the only one happy that January is over (in 4 short hours!)? Now that sickness has swept the house (last one standing!) we can move on to the month of love!

Speaking of love, I bring you the “Yes, I’d Love To!” Jar.

Many months ago I heard about this idea on a podcast (wish I could remember which one!) The darlings became my guinea pigs. The idea is simple:

1. Put a jar on the counter

2. Label it: “Yes, I’d Love To.”

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, respond with “Yes, I’d love to!”

4. For every “Yes, I’d love to” response, put a cotton ball (or something similar) in the jar

5. When the jar is filled up, go for ice-cream

Of course the darlings liked the ice-cream idea. And it became somewhat comical how fast they could fill the jar up – like in five minutes – by asking ridiculous questions and rushing to make a basket.

I told them we had to play for real.

My older kids humor me, even when obviously feeling “I’m-way-too-old-for-your-games-mom.” (I like to live in the dream world where they actually like my cheesy games.)

And so we began.

“Nelson, would you please get me a fork?”

Instead of, “Get it yourself,” he caught himself. “Yes, I’d love to, Brynne,” in yes, a somewhat sarcastic voice. But he still handed her a fork.

“Mom, would you please get me some milk?”

Instead of, “I just sat down” or “You have legs” I caught myself trying to ever-so-cheerfully set the example with, “Why yes, I’d love to!”

“Cope, would you please cut me an apple?”

Instead of a flat, “No,” Cope darling sighed, but eyeing that jar in need of filling and with ice-cream fairies dancing in her head, responded: “Why yes, I’d love to.” Add some eye-batting. And a high-pitched Cinderella voice.

Maybe we’re just competitive. Maybe we like games. Maybe we just wanted ice-cream, but the jar began to fill. And seeing the jar fill, made us want to fill it faster.

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At first I wondered if I was just teaching them to be fake or only acting for a prize.

But then again, we nudge our children all the time to do things they don’t actually feel like doing. “Say thank you,” “Tidy up your space,” “Be kind to the new kid,” “Write a note.” In fact,  isn’t that what parenting is all about? Isn’t this part of the future training of America? Do the thing you really don’t want to do because it’s just the right thing to do!

Also, because it was on my brain, a quote from philosopher and psychologist, William James:

“Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.” -William James

Oh yes, I love it. Armed with James and his mighty words of wisdom, I felt completely justified in the training of my guinea pigs with the “Yes, I’d Love To” jar.

An avid Gretchen Rubin fan, I loved her advice on episode #42 of her podcast: Act the Way You Want to Feel.

Based on research for Better Than Before (fabulous new book on habits) Rubin found if we want to feel a certain way, we can act that way first.

It’s really hard to change our emotional state just by wanting to change it (though Mindset surely is powerful.) But it might be easier if we ACT first and let the emotional state follow.

Wasn’t that so true when I was at home with little kids. Just the act of changing out of my pajama bottoms and doing my hair as if I was going to a real job – which motherhood surely is – changed my whole day from slogging through to more-happily mothering.

It works. It really does. When I’m irritated and snappish with a child, it works wonders for me to laugh. Or hug. Or smile.

“Fake it ‘Til You Make it” works.

Isn’t it the truth that when we speak more kindly, we feel more kindly?

It doesn’t really matter if we want to get a fork for our sister. Get the fork. It makes her happy. And guess what…we all know acting kinder makes us happier, too.

Brain research supports this idea. Act the way you want to feel. Not the other way around. If you’re walking around yelling and slamming doors, that only makes you want to yell and slam some more doors. Your brain says: “I must be really angry!”

Harvard research says that the act of giving thanks actually makes us feel happier. Such a simple and quick fix for general grumpiness.

I used to hear that boys should go “punch something” to get their aggression out. Perhaps they should make some cookies for the neighbors instead.

Feeling shy? Introduce yourself! I swear it works wonders. Suddenly we’re confidently chatting our way through an awkward social situation.

This experiment suggests that people who use Botox are less prone to anger, because they can’t make angry, frowning faces. Crazy, huh?!

This phenomenon happened to me the other day.

I was feeling pretty miserable. My energy was low. Consistently telling myself how much I hate January doesn’t help. I had to take a car full of kids all the way to Concord, be in charge of an youth activity, and then drive everyone home again. Growling would just not do (because not all of the occupants were my kids :) ) I wanted to lay back down on the bed, read, and be served warm toast. Instead I got out of my sweats and pulled on a pair of jeans. I put my hair in a ponytail, slapped on some mascara and started the carpool. By the time I got home I was a totally different person. I was actually happy.

Was I being fake? I don’t think so. I think I was choosing to be the person I wanted to be that night.

The aftermath of the “Yes, I’d Love to” Jar was this: over time the darlings lost interest in putting cotton balls in the jar. But I did notice that the “yes, I’d love to” phrase hung around for much longer. It still comes out of everyone’s mouth once in awhile. The jar works best if it’s on the counter for awhile and then put away for a season. It’s like a special toy – best to be pulled out only occasionally. And then when it’s pulled out again, it’s fun.

So I ask you – How do you want to feel?

Then act that way.

The jar hasn’t been out for months. But I think it’s time again. The dishwasher needs emptying :)

 

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Recent Reads: Books I Loved {and some I didn’t…}

A good book is an event in my life. -Stendhal

1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It won the Pulitzer for heavens sake, aren’t I supposed to love it? My overall feeling: meh. If I’m going to take two months to read a 772-page book that weighs ten pounds I’d like to feel a few things: enlightened, empowered, inspired. Sadly, I felt none of those things. There is no doubt that Tartt has an immense capacity to string words into beautiful sentences. She’s very very good. I just wish I hadn’t been left feeling so…meh.

2. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. Based on a true story, I read this as Cope embarked on ocean classroom. The beginning hooked me right away, though I had trouble wading through the middle. I was left feeling thankful I’ve never had to send a loved one off to sea for two-three years. Also, thankful I’ve never had to contemplate whether or not to eat a human or starve. Wonderfully researched.

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3. Missing You by Harlan Coben. I needed something light and quick after cannibalism. Coben knows how to create a page-turner. Didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it. Feels a bit formulaic. ho-hum.

4. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Nonfiction. I adore Gilbert’s writing. And if she’s going to write about writing? I snatched this one up quick! I underlined many many passages. A great read for anyone who wants to write. Big takeaway? You have a work to do. Only you can do it. So get it done and let the haters be darned! Oh, and Gilbert has this most remarkable theory regarding a big story idea, Ann Patchett, and a kiss…fascinating.

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5. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I have a new favorite author. I was hunting for some exciting, adrenaline-pumping fiction and found my match! Moriarty is so good – she nails the dialogue, the pacing, the inner thoughts we think and can’t articulate. There are a few “parts” but not too racy. I RAN to the library after I read this to get her next book, crossing my fingers I would like her as much the next time around.

6. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Oh, I was not disappointed! This was fantastic. It made me think about how we grow older with our spouse. Remember when it was all rose pedals and butterflies? Alice, our heroine, bumps her head and when she wakes up, she discovers she’s getting a divorce! She can’t remember the last ten years or that she has THREE CHILDREN. She only knows she adores her newlywed husband – what could possibly have driven them apart? IT’S SO GOOD. January, (okay, life in general!) feels so good knowing I have more Liane Moriarty books to read :)

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7. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. This was a big winner in the middle grade world. I liked it okay.

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8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Yep, I went back for more. Here she dives into serious issues like domestic abuse with couples who live seemingly “perfect lives.” She also makes you laugh at all the right moments. OMGoodness, I love this author.

9. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sender. A beautifully written book about a great love story…you may weep. Reminded me of Pearl Buck and The Good Earth.

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10. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Okay, friendlies. If there is one book you need to read this year – THIS IS IT. It has changed my life because it has changed the way I think. It is SO incredibly powerful for me as a parent, teacher, and writer. It’s readable, filled with practical examples, and has the potential to open up worlds of opportunity. I love this book. It was our faculty’s summer reading – what a gem! READ THIS. Or you can start with Dweck’s TED talk: The Power in Believing You Can Improve.

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And that’s all for the latest edition of Recent Reads. What am I reading now? Another Liane Moriarty book…:)

What are you reading? As always, I love to hear!

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

Just because it’s fun. And because a mom needs a record of such things!

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1. “I’m going to marry David Archuletta and we won’t talk – we’ll just sing to each other.”

2. “If Santa doesn’t bring Pringles, Christmas will be ruined!”

3. “Unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that you could be that piggy. You’re just like Dudley.”

4. “Paige, put your dishes in the dishwasher. (sigh…) She has so much to work on. She’s going to be a terrible mother if she keeps this up.”

5. “I need a good pen! A good pen defines a person!”

6. “I want a goat. It’s good for the environment. I will name her Arabella. And I will toilet train her. Mom, will you take care of her when I go off to college?” (no.)

7. “We all know we can go a year without tater-tots…buy why?” (after mom’s decree)

8. “Do you know how much crap I get for having to ask my parents to use my phone?”

9. “Mommy, I want to tell you something and I don’t want you to ever forget it: you are the best mommy in the whole wide world.” (favorite child status)

10. “You know, for a child who bore four children you have surprisingly small hips.”

The Professor did not contribute to this round as I have not seen the Professor in a great while. We think he still lives here. Occasionally there is a sighting and we wave to one another.

unnamed There he is! Hello, Professor! You’re looking mighty cute with that beard and stern expression on your face. This is the season of the winter widow, where the man is on the road and on the court coaching boys to jump high and shoot big. We are proud of the man. And his boys (they are AWESOME.)

So thank you, darlings, for providing me such entertainment. More real quotes here.

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What My Daughter Has to Say About Helicopter Parents {who, me?}

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The problem with educating your children is that they become…educated. When Cope came home from Ocean Classroom (and after a period of love and kindness) I was informed we were doing it all wrong – “We need to get chickens again and eat our own eggs. And we need a goat. Mom, that face wash is ruining the ocean! And FOR SHAME – YOU’RE USING PLASTIC???!

Enthusiastic she was saving the world from her wasteful and consumerist mother, I had a silent counter-argument… just wait, honey. just wait until you’re a mom packing lunches and walking through knee-deep snow to water chickens only to find them slaughtered by a weasel and golly gee, can’t a girl use her favorite face wash? Oh, and yes, let me skip outdoors to milk the goats daily. I shall wear braids and an apron. And sing.

Sometimes it’s fun to be patronizing.

Now the girl is taking Psychology. She spent Sunday afternoon educating her mother. Hey parents, leave those kid alone.

“Mom, what do you think of this: in the UK there are adventure parks called The Land, designed in the 40s, where kids can make fires and uses knives and saws.”

I said: “Fires?”

Apparently this is a thing. This adventure playground looks like it was inspired by a junk yard. “It’s one of dozens in the UK fostering an endangered human behavior…RISKY PLAY.”

And I kindof love it.

Cope says parents need to stop helicoptering, using Atlantic Monthly writer, Hanna Rosin, as her muse.

“Kids who are not at risk or who don’t feel like they’re at risk (at danger) or don’t find risk in socially acceptable ways – like handle scissors before age 6, flip pancakes, chop potatoes – they will either become afraid of everything and not know how to handle real life situations OR they will seek out risk in socially unacceptable ways like doing drugs…”

She spoke passionately, wearing her brand new smarty-look glasses and gave me these gems to consider:

“If you’re always hovering and giving stuff, helping, never letting them fail, they’re much more likely to feel entitled, angry, and ungrateful.”

I took mental notes. No more hovering. No more stuff. Fail, darlings, fail!

“If you never let kids feel like they can handle themselves than they’ll never be able to handle themselves.”

This discussion made me think of my own childhood, a more relaxed time, where I was a free-range child in a Nebraska suburb. We roamed unsupervised for hours at a time. When I was 5 years old me and my twin brother walked to school. Alone. It was a mile there, a mile home. We often got side-tracked. It was glorious.

Our mother drove us maybe once a year. No matter how late we were running – and we were often running – We walked in sun, rain, and snow with other unsupervised children.

Once I arrived at school at 9:30 (school started at 9.) “Where were you?” my kindergarten teacher asked. “Just walking to school.” I remember how big her eyes got.

In second grade I picked up a dead squirrel in the road, and brought it to school for show ‘n tell (my teachers loved me).

We got into all sorts of mischief. Those memories remain some of the happiest of my life.

Oh, guess what else we did? We jumped on trampolines! (okay, okay, I broke my neck but that was a fluke.)

As I’ve grown up and become a mother, it’s less socially acceptable to let my children play or walk places independently. Parents get arrested for such things. We’re meant to feel like we’re sub-par parents unless we’ve got EYES ON THE CHILD every single second.

Once, when Cope was six months old, I gave her a fork to play/eat with. The women came out of the woodwork – OH MY GOSH WHAT ARE YOU DOING????!!!! YOU GAVE HER A FORK!!! AHHH! SHE’LL POKE HER EYE OUT AND DIE!!! WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? That fork was snatched so fast out of her hand it made both our heads spin. Publicly shamed, I didn’t make that mistake again. We gave her forks in private. And she learned to eat with it.

I partly blame the media. With the speed of news, we hear about every kidnapping, car crash, accident, drowning, and child murder that ever happens. The thought sends chills and horror through my body. But guess what? Kidnapping rates haven’t gone up. Child accidents haven’t gone up. Just because we walk our third-graders to school or teach them never to talk to strangers, doesn’t lower their risk of being kidnapped. The rates have remained the same since the 70’s.

Cope quotes Rosin again, “We’re always saying kids are growing up so much faster now – they’re not. They’re just mimicking adult behaviors. And then when it comes time for them to exercise responsibility and become adults they don’t know how. They can’t.”

My own mother studied human behavior extensively in the 90s. She hated the 1980’s self-esteem movement. “Telling yourself how wonderful you are all the time is stupid,” I can hear her saying in my head. “Teaching kids how TO DO THINGS makes them feel good about themselves.” Which was why I scrubbed the disgusting kitchen floor every Saturday. And golly gee, I do feel good about myself!

By skipping milestones (not letting our kids cross the street, get jobs, walk to the store alone) are we actually depriving our kids of becoming capable? How sad. Because that’s not the intention of any parent I know.

When I was in college I had a roommate who went home after one week. I felt terribly for her. She just couldn’t hack it. She told me she had never done her own laundry or dishes before. She was too scared to find her classes. I was shocked her parents would actually let her come home. I imagined my parents saying, “Are you joking? Suck it up. After a semester we’ll discuss.” (obviously there are exceptions to every situation!)

Want more? Read this: How To Land Your Kid in Therapy by Lori Gottlieb: “Why the obsession with our kid’s happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods.” Yikes.

Obviously I need to be a tad more neglectful, let the darlings feel a little more discomfort, fail more and bigger – let them discover that they are perfectly capable of getting right back up.

I vow to try.

But children, beware. Does this also mean: no more driving to school with your forgotten gym shorts, requesting a teacher, hounding the coach because your didn’t get enough playing time, or worse…writing your homework essay? (for the record, I’m batting 50% at these four.)

Remember the Battle Cry of the Tiger Mother? I loved that book – and was fascinated, inspired, and appalled.

Concluding words, Cope? “Don’t be a helicopter parent! No one likes it, least of all your incompetent children!”

My friends, these are very encouraging words indeed. Parents, it’s time to take a load off! Read in bed. Take a nap. It’s cereal for dinner – and they’ll pour the milk. Bonus: It’s good parenting!

“Cope, aren’t you glad I gave you chores and made you do things?”

“Actually, I’d rather be pampered hand foot.”

Too late! Yesterday afternoon I took her advice to heart. I took a nap. Without supervising the children. BEST MOM EVER. Right?

I also want to say: Thanks, Cope. For reals. You’re going to make a terrific mom.

(And don’t worry, I’ll bandage the cut off fingers of my grandchildren after they use scissors without supervision :) ).

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Having the Best Year Ever {by setting & achieving goals}

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” -Henry David Thoreau

Oh yes, it is that time of year. When I feel absolutely giddy about GOALS.

But did you know? Only  8% of all people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions?

On Sunday, we had a family meeting, I excitedly gave each child their very own Goal Binder (yep, I know how to have FUN!)unnamed-13 We gathered round and made covers.unnamed-11

unnamed-10First, we reflected on 2015. What was great? What wasn’t so great?

We all agreed, Tenny getting hit by a car was a low point :( Also, Paige did not achieve “cutting stuff.” I don’t know what to tell you. Except you can learn a lot about the people living under your roof…

unnamed-6Next, we wrote down what we wanted to accomplish in the next six months.

To make it a little easier, we divided our goals into categories: spiritual, educational, physical, and personal.

After all the reading and listening I’ve done this year, I’ve learned:

The best way to keep a goal:

  1. Be specific (“be healthy” is not specific. “Eat 5 fruits and vegetables every day” is better)
  2. Set a deadline
  3. Write down the “next action step”
  4. Be accountable to someone other than yourself

The “next action step”

Writing down the next action step is crucial. For instance, you want to run a 1/2-marathon in May? Then maybe your next action step is to download a 1/2-marathon program. Maybe it’s driving to the Runner’s Ally to buy a pair of shoes. Maybe you need to ask a friend if she’ll be your running buddy every Saturday for the long run.

Want to eat 5-7 fruits and vegetables a day? Perhaps the next action step is to write down some fruits and vegetables that you will actually eat, on your grocery list.

If your goal is to hang family pictures on the wall, then your next action step might be: “Go to Lowe’s and buy nails” or “Gather pictures I want to hang.”

The point is: break big goals up into small, easy steps. Post in a place you will see them.

Wisdom says it’s best to only have 5-7 goals at one time. Otherwise we get overwhelmed. But hey, even 1 or 2 goals is great.

Being accountable to someone else

I have to have running buddies – not every day – but at least once a week. It’s huge for my progress. We text each other, check in, sign up for races together.

My friend, Kelly, wants to run her first 1/2-marathon this June. She schedules her run in her calendar. This appointment cannot be broken! We also email throughout the week to talk about any issues and to keep her pumped up! Accountability, my friends, works.

I should probably have a “cleaning-the-house” accountability buddy. But. Nah.

After the six month goals, we made a list of the goals  to accomplish in one year:unnamed-3I encouraged specificity and next action items (working on that :)

Next came some fun speculation. We looked into the future. Where do you want to be in life? Who do you want to be? We wrote goals down for:

  •  the next six months
  •  the coming year
  •  the next five years
  •  the next ten years
  •  the next twenty years unnamed-8 In five years, Paige wants to start her Personal Progress Program (our church’s fantastic youth program), play on her mama’s soccer team(!), and make high honor roll. Her mama approves!

unnamed-2unnamed-7 In twenty years, when she is 28, Paige plans on having eight children. Hey, I said be specific!

unnamed-5   In 20 years, this darling hopes to be “low-key” wealthy. “Enough to be comfortable, but not mad rich.” Made me laugh.

unnamed  It was great to see Brynne wants to be brushing her teeth 2 x a day in 20 years :)

And it’s good to know I’m going to be a grandmother surrounded by many many little tots.

Thank you, darlings, for giving us a small peek into your personal goals!

And for you? I highly recommend Michael Hyatt‘s free three-part video series:

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There are tons of goal-setting methods out there, countless “how-to” posts and articles. But however you want to improve, I suggest just starting. See where it takes you. Find a method that works and begin, even if you’ve failed before. Procrastination fosters big dreams but kills big goals.

Did you know? A person will set the same New Year’s resolution 10 different times without getting it done?

I love goals, but I’m also reminded that there is a time and place to JUST STOP. To BE STILL. To be happy right where we are right at this moment. I have struggled with contentment for a long time, always wanting to be better at being me. All this “becoming” and growing up has led me to a good place, but now? Stop. Breathe. Say thank you.

We are doing a wonderful job being. Just being. It’s a form of gratitude to sit still and say “thank you for this. And that’s all.”

There are a thousand ways to be a good mother, even if it’s different from everyone else around you. Be happy with that. We don’t always need to be a “BETTER” version of yesterday. Sometimes, we just need to BE.

Maybe that’s a goal for 2016.

Goals shouldn’t make us more busy. No, instead, writing out goals should help us focus on the things that matter most. Goals help me not drift or become too driven by my own ambitions.

 

Some favorite resources:

“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits . . . You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. . . .” -Flannery O’Connor

Happy New Year – to your best year!

The End.

And of course I’d like to know – do you write out goals for New Year’s?

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A Glimpse at Christmas

Paige has been asking for an elf on the shelf for years. “They come to your house and watch you and you can’t touch them and please please please, I NEED an elf!”

IMG_3393 Inspired by my friend, Lindsey, and  this post, twin elves arrived at our house while the girls were at school. There was much shrieking! After Paige read the note she said, “no, no, no we can’t TOUCH THEM!” So  they ended up moving themselves every night after we were in bed. They are magic, after all.

DSC_0327 To get into the Christmas spirit we did our family annual “secret santa.” How tricky could we be? Always fun!

DSC_0366 Sometimes the elves got into the pretzels, but mostly they reminded us to do nice things.IMG_3381 I found this hysterical.

IMG_3430 We bought our tree from the local fire department, decorated it, and had a fight about the ornaments…we repented later with tears and apologies. Yep, just keeping it real here.

IMG_3555 Our church youth group went caroling at a retirement center. After a shaky start, we sang with gusto and had a great night :)DSC_0388 Our elves continued to move, hanging out in odd places.

DSC_0374 Our tree has a duct tape star, made by my Nellie-mak many years ago. He now thinks it looks trashy. I refuse to get rid of it!

DSC_0318 Paige left little snack crumbs for the elves. If we get mice I’ll blame it on Christmas.

IMG_3800 Our elves speak Spanish!

IMG_3507 Brynne proved to be my real Christmas elf, addressing Christmas cards. Whew.

Apparently, our address is difficult to find:

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Did you know, one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy!

Making cookies makes me happy…

IMG_3728   It’s one of the most fun things we do as a family in December. Even when Nelson tries to walk out of the picture. Note the weather? AWESOME.

My children were grumpy there was no snow whilst I not-so-secretly expressed my great glee at 50-degree December temps. It makes the morning run so much better. And I know…the white stuff is coming.IMG_3736 Christmas favorites.

It was an odd year, too. My children are getting older. They have amazing opportunities!IMG_3589 Nelson left before Christmas to go ski in Canada with his Nordic team.

IMG_3558   Cope went to Germany to au pair for her nice and nephew!

IMG_3680I think she really ate a lot of treats and bratwurst. Incredible experience!

IMG_3765Finally, all my children came home.

IMG_3824 Christmas Eve is always special. We read the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 2, Matthew, and The Book of Mormon. This is our angel declaring the good news!

IMG_3850 Andy Rooney said, “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.” This is the “before” shot.

IMG_3456I bought myself some Wicked Good Slippers from L.L. Bean 50% off. Life is complete.

After the presents were open, The Professor left us Christmas morning for a basketball tournament in England! What???!   IMG_3980 But guess what? They won!IMG_4028 And strutted the famous crosswalk in front of Abbey Road Studio. Proud of our #hornets!

We’ve missed our daddy. Especially when the basement flooded. I can’t talk about it yet.

But…IMG_3972 It snowed! And the kiddies were happy. I’m adjusting. It’s beautiful!IMG_3982 And our dear Mr. Goody plowed me out when I got stuck in the driveway. Hey, I’m a feminist and all that but I sure like men with tractors!IMG_3987 Obsessed with brussel sprouts this season. I’ve got a knock-out recipe…

DSC_0442 Days before it snowed we had a photo shoot. IMG_3940 My parents arrived from Arizona. Yahoo!

DSC_0432 Striking a pose. DSC_0426 Ewwwww…my feet are getting wet!DSC_0447 Mom, I can’t sit down on the wet rocks – my pants!DSC_0449 So he sat on his sister’s hand. “This is so wrong,” he said. But aren’t they cute?DSC_0481 Walking down the catwalkDSC_0487 That’s enough, paparazzi.

So there you have it. Our Christmas. Food. Our beloveds. Snow. Presents. Love.

My friend, Scott, sent me this article by Tim Urban, an author/illustrator. It’s called “The Tail End.” He writes: “I’m 34, so let’s be super optimistic and say I’ll be hanging around drawing stick figures till I’m 90. If so, I have a little under 60 winters left.”

But his bigger point was that he’s used up about 90% of his time with the people he’s loved best: his parents and siblings.

I’m thinking about my children now. They spend so much time together now. But these long December days together are dwindling. They are going incredible places. How many more moments do they have with each other? How many more Christmases will we spend together?

Gee, aren’t I a bundle of fun???

I’m just saying: The Tail End has made me feel more intentional this season, more mindful of this time that is flying by.

When you actually draw a picture, marking out the days you’ve had with your parents, siblings, children, best friends, like Tim Urban did, it becomes starkly clear that although you might not be at the end of your life, you may be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important, and the most loved people in your life.

So this season, I especially liked this:IMG_3813

First there was a little family. Now there’s our little family. Your little family.

I hope that this Christmas season we made the most of our time together. But if not, remember: tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a NEW YEAR!

Happy 2015. Happy 2016!

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Sunday Meditations: Why I Love Mary

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Mary was named National Geographic’s Most Powerful Woman of 2015, and while I don’t “worship” her the way some religions do, I revere her. I always imagine the type of young girl she must have been, to be chosen to raise the most extraordinary man and influence the world has ever known.

Sometimes I feel very inconsequential, like I’m never doing enough, that I’m not “living up to my potential,” the message “CHANGE THE WORLD OR YOU’RE NOTHING” constantly being thrust at us. It’s exhausting.

During the bustle and hustle of Christmas time, I’m so happy to pause and think of Mary. Quiet and serene, holding a small baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a dirty barn in a field under the stars. Or maybe she was loud and boisterous and had a wicked sense of humor. I don’t know. But she’s sitting in the barn wrapped in pure love with some cows, her Joseph, and their beloved baby. She’s thinking nothing of social media likes or platform or being important. She’s just loving her baby. This scene is pure peace. I want to sit under the stars with her and just hold my babies, hearing nothing but the cattle lowing…

A few years ago I realized that the greatest thing I would probably ever do in this life was raise good children. What a wonderful way to change the world.

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