Glimpses

A few weeks ago Scott and I went in for our 20 week ultrasound. I had been waiting for that day pretty much ever since we found out we were pregnant. I had always been excited about the ultrasound for our three other children too, of course. That glimpse into the womb gives you a sneak peak of so much–a healthy baby, hopefully, first and foremost. But also learning if we were going to have a daughter or son was always so magical. We could start picturing how our little family was being shaped. For our first, we learned we were having a boy. I was thrilled because I had always wanted an older brother when I was growing up, and now I knew this little guy would be the oldest sibling. With our next pregnancy, our ultrasound gave us exciting news–a healthy baby girl. Now one of each! With our third pregnancy, we found out that our little girl would have a little sister, which made me so happy. Every girl needs a sister, at least in my book. So, with each ultrasound it was a little different, and always exciting news. But this fourth one was different.

Here’s why. I thought for a long time that we were done with three kids. Growing up with just two kids in the family, three felt like a lot. I felt like my hands were pretty full most of the time, and I was happy that each of our kids had two siblings. A family of five seemed like such a great number. I was content.

Then something happened when Scott and I were sitting at an extended family reunion around two and a half years ago. President Henry B. Erying was speaking, and he was talking about his brother. Something hit me then. Zach is supposed to have a brother. It was just a thought in passing. Maybe it was more like “It sure would be neat if Zach had a brother.” But the thought didn’t leave me. I drove away that day and couldn’t get the thought out of my head. Inspiration? Who knows. But ever since that day I couldn’t feel quite comfortable with our family of five. 

Scott had been excited about the idea of having another baby for a while, but I just hadn’t been ready. But after this experience, we started to really talk about it, and sincerely pray about it. Both of us felt like a baby–a boy–was missing from our family. It was so weird to say that, because we had never felt strongly one way or the other about the gender of our other kids. Once we decided that, yes, we were excited to try for another baby, we went for it. It took us a while–longer than any of our other kids–but we finally took a pregnancy test that came up positive (after lots of negative tests taken in our impatient excitement). Then the question remained–were we going to get the boy we had felt so inspired was supposed to be in our family?

Twenty weeks went by, and finally the day of the ultrasound came. Again, first and foremost we were hoping to find that we had a healthy baby, with all the working organs and limbs he or she would need to start off life well. The tech dimmed the room and we stared at the images on the machine. I’m sure I was holding my breath. She took measurements, showed us a healthy heart, brain, stomach, arms, and legs. I loved seeing a beautiful little profile shot. What magic to see a glimpse of our child. Then Scott saw something. “Is it a boy?” he asked. The tech smiled and said “You stole my thunder.” Then she moved to a screen shot that showed so clearly. “Yes, it’s a boy,” she said. The emotion I was trying so hard to keep in control let loose and I cried. I squeezed Scott’s hand tightly as we looked at each other. “Zach’s going to have a brother!”

Telling our kids was magical. Scott and I stopped by Target on the way home and got three little boy outfits with gift bags. When we got to my mom’s house where all our kids were, we gave each one of them a bag. They pulled out the little boy outfits and all screamed. They had all been asking for a brother for the past year.

Now we anxiously await our Dec. 31 due date. We don’t know what he’ll be like or look like, but we know a little bit about him. We’ve seen him, after all. Besides that he will be the little brother in our home, we know that he will be one of the most loved little boys ever to come down from heaven. So, little man, we’ll see you in a few short months.

The Two-Minute Marriage Project Released Yesterday

My new book, The Two-Minute Marriage Project, came out yesterday! So far reception has been great. I think people are looking for easy ways to make a real difference in their marriage. It was so fun getting my first copies in the mail and being able to hand a few out to friends and family. Thanks to my publisher Familius for giving me this opportunity. Also, here’s a link to a fun story that just came out on Redbook’s online page (don’t mind the quote about bringing home wine, which I didn’t say). Hopefully you’ll find some fun tips for making a quick difference, which is what the book is all about: http://www.redbookmag.com/love-sex/advice/quick-ways-to-improve-marriage#last-slide.

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Happy-mom moment

There are so many times when I get frustrated with how my kids are treating each other. You know how it is–someone wants to play with the toy someone else has, someone is touching someone in the car, someone is complaining that it’s not fair that so and so gets to go out on a date with dad and they have to wait a whole two weeks until their turn. Yeah, you’ve been there right? The grit-your-teeth, take-a-deep-breath kind of moments?

Luckily, I have lots of moments when my kids are actually behaving like best friends and not worst enemies. Tonight Addie is on a date with Dad, and Zach and Ellie have spent the night bouncing together on the trampoline, giggling through dinner, and enjoying their twosome time. When it was time for everyone to crawl in their beds, Zach and Ellie asked if they could hang out together on Zach’s bed for just a few minutes. I said “No, it’s bedtime.” They said “Pulllleeeease.” I figured it was a special opportunity and gave in. “Five minutes,” I said. It’s been 20.

Now they are upstairs and Zach is reading out loud to Ellie his new biography, “Who Was Neil Armstrong?” They are two bugs in a rug, as the saying goes. That’s a happy-mom moment. The question is–will this mood hold through tomorrow? I can only hope. But I know the reality is that before I know it, someone will be bugged by someone again. So I guess here’s to enjoying the moment . . .

14 miles

Ellie just learned to ride her bike a few weeks ago. We had gotten her a bike in February for her birthday, but in Utah, February and March don’t provide too many optimal riding opportunities. We took her to the church parking lot when we finally had a nice Saturday, and we did the usual drill–push, hold, run along side, let go, watch her fall, try again. She was a trooper. After an hour or so all she needed was a little push to get going and she could ride.

It took her a few more tries in our cul-de-sac and she got the hang of starting by herself. Once she had that, she wanted to ride her bike out front every chance she got. She loves riding that bike. Of course, out in front of our house is pretty much the only riding she’s ever done, aside from a little family bike ride around our neighborhood a couple of weeks ago. Over Memorial Day, we had the opportunity to challenge her, and Zach, for a ride along the Jordan River Parkway with some of Scott’s family. It’s a beautiful ride, and quite easy for an adult. But for a kid on a bike with no gears, on a trail with hills that ended up being 14 miles round trip, we were asking a lot.

Ellie had never ridden more than about 4 miles. Zach had never ridden more than about 5. There were moments when both kids wanted to quit. Zach pulled over after a few miles and said “Can we go back? I’m tired. My legs hurt.” Then he did it again a few miles later. “I don’t want to ride anymore!” Sorry, Charlie.  If Ellie was in the back, watching all those big grown ups in front of her, she got discouraged. “I can’t do this Mom. I’m tired.” You can do it. Once she got up in front, she knew it too. And she had a blast.

On the way back, Zach led a breakaway group home without looking back. “Like a horse to his stable,” Scott’s Dad said. On the hills that went up and down on the last mile before home, I looked back at Ellie and her face was contorted like she was about to cry. “I was crying in my head,” she later told me. I said, “Ellie it’s just over these hills. You can do it.” She took a deep breath and kept pushing those pedals around on the only gear she had available. I felt bad, knowing I had switched to an easier gear several times on the ride. But that option wasn’t available for her, and there was no where to go but forward.

We made it to my in-laws’ street and Ellie knew she was almost there. It was an uphill climb to the finish. On our short neighborhood ride the day before, this is where she had hopped off her bike and walked. But she had ridden 14 miles and she wasn’t about to quit now. She pushed harder and moved her bike ahead, finishing the ride just in front of me. The look on her face was priceless–I wish I had taken a picture. “You did it Ellie!” I said. She grinned with the pleasure of someone who’s just conquered the world. “I didn’t know I could ride that far.”

I think there’s a pretty good metaphor in there somewhere. How many times have I been in a situation that was hard, that I’ve never done before, when I’ve felt like I might need to quit? But then, digging deep, that’s when we find out what we’re made of. It helps when you have a few people along the way who can say “You’re almost there!” and “You can do it!” I’m starting a new book project right now, on the subject of parenting with the Holy Spirit. I love the topic and I have loved diving in to the research, reading books and articles and interviewing people. But there have been moments where I have sat back and said, “How am I going to do this? This is too big, too important a subject. I can’t do it.” I think we all have days like that. I guess those are the days I’ll remember Zach and Ellie’s 14 miles. I’ve just got to keep pushing those pedals and, eventually, hopefully, I’ll make it.

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Mother’s Day

Being a mom can be tough sometimes. It’s hard when, like last night, my daughter starts playing with my son’s Legos and he gets mad because she broke some of the pieces off. Then they both fight for their cause until we need to send them to their rooms to cool off. It’s hard when, like yesterday, my daughter wanted to play with the neighbor friend who was over and did not want to finish her homework. Or practice cello. Or go to school. It’s hard when my two girls want the same toy, which my 6-year-old may or may not have had first, and my 4-year-old bursts into the tears of injustice. It’s hard trying to teach, for the 20th time, why we don’t call somebody “mean” just because they don’t want to play the same thing we want to play right when we want to play it.

On the other hand, being a mom can fill me so much with joy I don’t know how I can possibly keep it all in. These are the moments that make it all worthwhile. Like when Zach asked to go running with me on Monday morning and then that night when I asked him what his favorite part of the day was and he said “Running with you.” Then he set his alarm early so we could do it again the next morning. Or going to his first piano recital on Thursday night and watching him do what he has been practicing for weeks to do, feeling so nervous about it. Then afterwards, when I asked how it went and he said, “I loved it.” Or when Ellie and I were driving home from her cello lesson after a rain storm, and the sun was coming out, and she wanted to look for rainbows in the sky. Then, with her curious mind, she started asking me questions about all the biggest things on earth. Or watching her draw a beautiful picture on a Mother’s Day card with the most creative flowers and colorful sky. Or when Addie gets lost in her own land of play, having conversations between dolls or ponies or whatever for what seems like hours on end. Or when she laid down on my bed this morning and looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t ever want another Mommy. I love you so much.” Or watching them laugh and be silly together. That might just be the best part.

It seems that the greatest things in life are the things that take a little hard work, a little sacrifice, and a great deal of patience. I am so grateful for my opportunity to work hard and sacrifice and be patient for these beautiful, amazing little ones. That’s the only road to the gifts they constantly give me of love and joy and wonder as I watch them grow into the people they were always meant to be.

To the moms in my life–thank you for your sacrifices and for everything you teach me and for your love. I am so grateful for you. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Daisies

When my husband and I were first dating, for my birthday, Scott surprised me with a dozen white roses. Boy did I love those roses. And I was falling hard for that boy. He got me a dozen roses on our honeymoon and another dozen on our first anniversary. He’s a “go big or go home” kind of guy. I think he thought that was the only way that giving flowers should be done.

As time went on, as the story often goes, life happened. We got busy with school and jobs and kids and cars and mortgages and everything life throws. I didn’t receive the beautiful bouquets for some time. Which was fine–because for so many of those early years we were poor students with no extra spending money.

A few months ago, Scott was having lunch with a client (we weren’t students anymore) who asked him, “When’s the last time you brought your wife flowers?” Scott hummed and hawed a bit and then said, “It’s been a while.” The man replied, “Go get her some.”

Scott followed his orders and came home with a lovely bouquet. I was surprised and touched by the gesture. Almost every week since then, he’s brought home flowers. They haven’t been the big, expensive bunch of roses. Instead, he’s often come home with a simple group of colorful lilies or daisies. Just this weekend he came home from getting a haircut with a little bunch of daisies for me. It costs him less than $3 for those daisies. (I know because I do the finances.) But oh how well spent that $3 is! In that simple gesture, I know that my husband is thinking of me, wanting to make me smile.

Sometimes we think that only the grand, sweeping gestures matter when, really, the little things mean just as much, or more. I always loved the roses. But it’s amazing how much a simple bundle of daisies, given for no reason on a rainy Saturday afternoon, can communicate about love.

What have you done to love your spouse today?

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Unplugged

It happens to be Earth Day today, so I thought I’d write a little something about what a beautiful planet we have. That was especially easy to notice on our spring break trip this year, which we spent camping in Malibu, California.

For five nights, our family of five slept together in a tent. I was a little concerned about how everyone would sleep, and whether the sand and dirt would be bothersome. It turned out that the sand and dirt were most entertaining, and we all slept like logs after big days at the beach. And there’s something special about being so close together.

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Leo Carrillo State Beach is the most unique beach I’ve ever seen. Because of how the rock walls curve in and out, several small beaches are accessible for anyone who takes the time to find them. We preferred one that was a ways down from the main beach. For much of the time, we were the only people there. The scenery and animal life was spectacular. I’ve never before seen sea caves and rock tunnels that actually take you from one beach to another. I think I was just as enthralled (or more) than our kids. Once we got through the rock wall, we came to an area of tide pools where literally thousands of sea anemones and mussels were thriving.

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In addition to the tide pool life, we saw whales and dolphins off the coast, and one morning when I was out alone for a walk along the beach, I came across what I thought at first was a dog sitting on the rocks scratching it’s ear. As I got closer to the golden, furry creature, I realized it was a seal! So I sat down about five feet from it, just me and the seal. I watched him for ten minutes or so, thinking he might hop off his rock and head back to the sea. He was content just soaking in the morning rays. There’s nothing quite like hanging out on the beach alone with a seal. I could have reached out and touched it. But I didn’t. Do seals bite?

I wish I could have taken a picture of that seal, but my phone (with its camera) had run out of batteries, and we had no way of charging it.  Though that was disappointing, there’s something to be said for the screen-free life. No music, no podcasts, no calendar, no schedule.  My morning walks offered blissful escape from the commotion of regular life. For about an hour every morning, while everyone else slept, I walked up and down the coast. I looked for shells, discovered starfish and sea slugs, watched the ocean, and had some time with my thoughts. How rarely that seems to happen in life. I’m committed to making it happen more often.

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Perhaps my favorite part of the trip was the fact that we had each other’s undivided attention for five days out in nature. No video games or television shows for the kids. No phone calls or meetings. Just time together. Scott and I much of the time just sat next to each other on the beach and watched our kids laugh together, run from the waves, and dig holes in the sand for hours. We are, after all, each other’s best friends. With so much time together, that was easier to remember than when we are all running around in the “real world” of work, school, sports, and the stuff of life. I guess it takes these moments where we unplug from everything where we can finally focus on what matters most.

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Escape

Recently Scott and I went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I loved the story of a man who finally decides to start living his life outside his own head. As I sat in the theater, Scott and I listened to the theme song “Escape,” sung by Jack Johnson. I knew the tune, but it was the first time I’d ever really listened to the lyrics.

The song is about a man who is lying in bed one night looking at the personal ads, when he reads one from a woman who is looking for someone who likes pina coladas and dancing in the rain. The man considers for a moment his long-term relationship and the fact that he and his gal have slumped into the “same old, old routine.” So he answers the ad. He wants to escape too, just like she does.

As he walks into the bar to meet this exotic new lady, the man finds her and realizes “It was his own lovely lady.” They laugh and say, “I never knew . . .”

Sometimes the thing we are yearning for is sitting there right there in front of us. We think we need to escape our situation to feel better, to feel alive, when really, we might just need to mix things up a little.

For spring break this year, Scott and I are taking our little family beach camping. This is new for me. I love the ocean, so I figure that with a little, sand, water, and sunshine we have the perfect cocktail for a fun family getaway. I hope. As long as the dirt, wetness, and far-from-pillowtop sleeping arrangements don’t get in the way. If nothing else, we are stepping outside our old, old routines and trying something new. That should be enough for one family escape, with or without the pina coladas.

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Planting a seed

Our six-year-old daughter, Ellie, had her first cello lesson on Friday. We were excited to get her started in music lessons of some kind, and after lots of thinking and listening to different music, and making a chart of pros and cons to three different instruments, she decided cello was her pick.

The lesson, and the cello, I found adorable. The teacher was wonderful–she talked softly to Ellie and got down on her level, looked in her eyes and immediately referred to the new instrument we were renting from her as “Ellie’s cello.” She even had cards with little pictures to help her remember what songs and rhythms to practice. All the doubts I had about driving 25 minutes downtown for this teacher evaporated. I was already in love.

But it’s a heavy cost in terms of money, time, and the inevitable struggles over daily practice. Why do we do it?

I asked Scott that question as I was mulling it over this morning. With a career as a wealth manager, his mind went straight to investments. “We are investing in the future,” he said. “Something small can turn in to something great, with time.” Then he mentioned his mother.

We spent yesterday at my in-laws’ house. Scott’s parents have five kids, and through the years, each of those kids has grown into an incredible adult. They are well educated, they are kind, they are responsible, they are fun, they are musical. Of course, no one starts life with all these talents and abilities. I think of how Scott’s mother must feel watching these grown children of hers, and I think of all the years of investment–one music lesson, one practice session, one hour of homework, one heart-to-heart, one day at a time.

Like so many things in life, when we plant the tiny seed of something new, we hope for something great to grow in time. For our family, it’s the hope that, one day, each of our children will be able to make beautiful music. We just planted a seed for Ellie. Now we’ll see if we can make it grow.

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He shoots, he scores

Monday night we got free tickets to take our family to the Jazz game. Our girls had never been before, and we were all excited for a night out. We sat down at the top of the arena and looked down on the players. They were so small, and the giant screen in front of us was so . . . giant. I don’t think the girls were paying as much attention to the actual game as they were to the dancers, the gift-giving blimp, and the little bags of popcorn I brought in my purse.

Third quarter got ugly. Our players weren’t shooting well. We were fouling left and right. We were even missing our free throw shots. I told Scott “This isn’t looking good.” He smiled as the girls were climbing all over him, clamoring for turns to be tickled. He offered to take them for a quick walk around. Zach and I stayed to watch, since he was into the game. He was cheering out “D-fence,” as the jumbo-tron encouraged, but we gradually fell further and further behind. I was looking at the clock, feeling like maybe this hadn’t been the best idea to keep our kids up so late. Especially if we were going to lose. (I know–terrible attitude, right?).

A few minutes later Scott came back with the girls. In their hands was a giant bowl of ice cream. Cookie dough and Moosetracks–my favorite. I had to smile as everyone huddled around and dug in to the bowl with their own personal plastic spoon. Scott doesn’t even eat dessert (hasn’t for years) but he seemed to get as much joy out of watching us as we got consuming it. The night had been redeemed.

We didn’t win that game–not really even close. But as we were walking home I asked Ellie how she like her first Jazz game. She smiled at me and said “I didn’t even want to leave!” She didn’t care at all that our team was shooting terribly that night. She had her family, and a fun outing, and part of a big bowl of ice cream. Who really needs anything more?

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