Author Archives: Heidi Poelman

Raising resilient kids

I love the story of a pioneer woman who worked all day making jam, then left the jars out a little too long in the sun. She realized the jam had fermented and was no longer good to eat. She figured she could at least give the jam to her chickens, who devoured it happily. A few hours later she came back to find her chickens lying motionless all over the yard. “I killed my chickens!” she moaned. She sat for a minute and then figured she couldn’t just leave them like that. She did the only thing that made sense. She plucked out all the feathers so she could cook the chickens. After hours of plucking, the woman went to tend to something else and came back to find the chickens back on their feet, running around the yard again–naked. (Apparently the chickens had not actually died but had only passed out temporarily from the fermentation). Naked chickens would get too cold with winter coming on. So she did the only thing that made sense. She knitted a sweater for each and every one.

I can’t think of a better example of resilience. This woman didn’t let a setback (or two or three) get her down. She didn’t fester on what a failure she was or give up entirely because it was too hard–although it would have been easy and understandable to do either one. Those early settlers were made of some tough stuff, and I, for one, would love to gain more of whatever it was. What makes the difference between someone who responds to adversity with courage and optimism and someone who feels incapable of going on?

We live in an era where mental fatigue in the form of depression and anxiety is growing rapidly around the country, especially for young people. According to a 2016 American College Health Association survey, nearly 37 percent of college students reported feeling so depressed at some point during the previous year that they found it difficult to function. That’s a 40 percent increase from 2008. Kids are having a hard time facing the challenges of life. Some of these challenges come in the form of chemical imbalances that can only be addressed with counseling and medication. But some of these challenges are just life’s way of pushing us ahead in our journey. We can get passed them if we have developed a resilient soul.

“Resilience,” is a word that can be used to describe a material that bounces back quickly when it is stretched. Defined another way by renowned psychologist Adam Grant, “resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity.” As he explains in his and Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, “It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.”

I’d love to help my children strengthen those muscles so that when they face obstacles in this crazy, complicated world, they’ll know what to do. In the next 10 years, my kids are going to be stretched by school, jobs, relationships, technology, social media, sickness, peers, temptations, and all sorts of other challenges. If I have a child that at some point faces a mental health challenge, then I will do my best to help them find the resources to get through it. But even the healthiest of children will need to know what to do when their best friend moves away, or they fail a test, or they lose a job, or they trip on stage, or they miss the game-winning goal, or they just flat-out mess up. Is there anything I can do to prepare my kids to walk away from these challenges successfully? Experts say yes. Here’s how:

  1. Let them fail. This sounds counterintuitive. I don’t want my kids to fail! At least, not big failures, or long-term failures. Yet small failures help us to grow. We all have to fail at some point. If our little ones can figure out how to work through some of the smaller challenges now and see that they can come out on top, then they will know what to do when bigger failures come down the road. As David Bush, Director of Utah State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, put it in an interview with BYU Magazine: “If you do too much for the child, you actually cripple them and undermine their confidence and ability to be self-reliant.” We can’t always stop our kids from falling down when they are small or they won’t know that they can pick themselves up when they are grown. We want our kids to believe in their ability to succeed after they fail. I mean, where would we be without Thomas Edison’s failures? He just chose to look at things differently. “I have not failed 10,000 times,” he said. “I have just found 10,000 ways that it won’t work.” Let’s reframe the concept of failure.
  2. Let them feel. Have you ever been in the middle of a really painful experience and had someone say to you: “You’ll be fine.” Trying to push someone past their feeling doesn’t allow them to work out the emotion of the moment or let them know you are their to share the pain. Sheryl Sandburg, whose husband recently passed away unexpectedly, said in an interview on the podcast On Being that hearing people say “You’ll get through this” wasn’t helpful because it didn’t acknowledge her experience. She didn’t know whether she’d get through it so how could they? What did feel supportive and helpful was when people could say, “I don’t know if you’ll get through this, but you won’t go through it alone. I’m here with you.” That’s a helpful reminder to me that when one of my kids gets hurt I shouldn’t be too fast to tell them they’ll be fine. Sometimes all they need us to say is: “I know it hurts, but I’m here with you.” Then, when they are ready, they can move on.
  3. Teach them about grace. Matthew 5:48 says we should “Be ye therefore perfect” but we have to understand that perfection comes only with the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We do our best, and He fills in the gaps–every time, no matter how big the gaps. Apparently kids who understand this concept have an easier time with adversity. According to a recent survey of 574 BYU students, ancient scripture professor and psychologist Daniel K. Judd found that students who believed their salvation was primarily up to them had dramatically higher levels of anxiety and depression than the students who embraced the principle of grace (that Christ already has our salvation covered, as long as we try our best). It’s a reminder to me that I need to help my kids understand they can make as many mistakes as they need. Christ has already taken care of it.
  4. Praise the effort, not the outcome. As much as I want to jump up and down and clap when my son finally plays (almost) perfectly the piano piece he has been working on for weeks, I have to remind myself to praise his struggle along the way. Rather than saying “That piece sounds awesome” I try to say while he’s learning “Great job working out that tricky part. I love seeing you try that over and over again.” Then he learns that I am proud of him for working through something hard, not just performing it well. That’s something I learned from a conversation with a neighbor who has been involved in educating children for decades. As she said, “We have a hard time with the perfectionists who only receive praise when something is finished well. It makes them afraid to try new and hard things because they think they might not be able to succeed.” Let’s praise their effort instead.
  5. Teach mindfulness. Mindfulness is the exercise of being aware of what is happening with your own internal experience, free of judgment. According to the American Psychological Association, people who regularly practice mindfulness have lower levels of depression and anxiety, have more positive feelings, healthier relationships, and have an easier time focusing. Teaching kids to be still and listen to their own body can help them notice when they are feeling anxious about something in the future or keep them from ruminating on something in the past. When they can sense emotional turmoil coming on, they can take steps to acknowledge and then resolve it in a healthy way (say listening to music, going for a walk, or talking to a friend) rather than in a destructive way (such as extensive video gaming, pornography, or binge eating), which only leads to more stress.
  6. Teach and model healthy habits. We can’t feel well emotionally if we don’t feel well physically. After all, the brain (which processes all our thoughts, emotions, and reactions) is just an organ. Have you ever noticed that your kids fight more when they are hungry or tired? I have. Everything seems better after a snack and good rest. Talk with them regularly about how this works. Let them know–sleep, exercise, and healthy eating is a trifecta that can make us strong for our whole life. Oh, and guess what works better than telling them? Show them how it’s done!
  7. Make their voice important. As Adam Grant said in an interview with On Being, “They need to know they matter. They need to have a say.” If we are always telling our children what to do and what to think and how things should be done, then they won’t learn to trust their own voice. It’s as simple as asking them around the dinner table, “How do you feel about this idea?” Or when they have a problem, starting with “What do you think you should do?” The more practice they have trusting their abilities now when they are young, the more capable they will feel later in life.
  8. Encourage them, but don’t push. We want our kids to feel strong and capable. Being there to support and love and answer questions is great. Pushing them, shaming them, or causing guilt over things they didn’t do right will probably backfire. Kids need to know we believe in them. That’s not to say we can’t insist on follow-through. I love the way my tennis teacher once put it when I asked her how her son became such a great tennis player. “Did you ever push him?” I asked. “No,” she said. “I didn’t push. But as he moved ahead, if he ever wanted to quit or go backwards, I was always standing right there behind him.” I like that visual. I’m far from perfect but I hope to be the cheerleader my kids need in this life–letting them know I believe in their endless possibilities.

Yes, depression and anxiety are rising, possibly because life has never been quite so complicated. My kids are still young, and I have no idea what kind of physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual difficulties they will face. But I’m a big believer that I can help them have a few tools ready for the oncoming battle. I can teach them to make mistakes, take a deep breath, shake it off, and try again–when they are ready. After all, we all have mountains to climb. Sometimes we rise and sometimes we slip. My goal is to help myself and my kids keep moving ahead.  And every once in a while, we can look back, enjoy the view, and be darn proud of how far we’ve come.

What is my success story?

As a mom, it’s hard to know how to define success. I am in charge of four beautiful, smart, spirited little children, whose decisions I don’t control. I love these people and consider them my greatest treasures. But I’m not going to lie–there are some hard times, and I occasionally find myself asking: Am I succeeding?

On Thursday, my two year old, Sam, had a neighbor friend over to play. Literally (I kid you not) every toy this little neighbor touched was received with “That’s mine!” I spent an hour and a half trying to keep my son from making our neighbor cry.

On Friday, I had to ask my daughters three separate times to take space from each other because my 9 year old, Ellie, kept making my 7 year old, Addie, cry with her “mean look.”

On Saturday, we were running late to get to Addie’s soccer pictures so I pulled up at the red-painted curb, turned off the car and ran her over to her team. I got back four minutes later to move the car and found a police officer pulled up, writing me a lovely parking ticket. Apparently, someone had called earlier to complain about all the cars parking in the red area. I tried to plead my case. “Are you a mom?” I asked. She chomped her gum and handed me the white paper. “Consider this a learning opportunity,” she responded. Gee, thanks.

On Sunday night while Ellie was trying to teach her well-prepared family home evening lesson about “seeing the best,” my 11-year-old son Zach couldn’t keep from flailing his arms around to make Sam laugh, despite our repeated requests that he stop so Ellie could finish her lesson.  We ended up asking him to go upstairs. We finally wrapped up around 9:00–half an hour past everyone’s bedtimes–and past the time when Mom’s patient energy disappears.

I finally got everyone into their beds and found my husband asleep on our bed, breathing deeply after a full day of serving our neighborhood as a member of the bishopric and wrapping up preparations to leave town for work. That’s when I laid down, closed my eyes, and asked myself–“Am I doing this right?”

I have a quote on my fridge by Ralph Waldo Emerson about what it means to succeed. It ends with this line: “Whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition. To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.”

I like that last phrase. One life. I got up off the bed after a few minutes and went into my children’s rooms to kiss them one by one as they slept. That is one of my favorite parts of the day. My last stop was at little Sam’s mattress on the floor (where he’s been sleeping since he started climbing out of his crib at 18 months). He lay there snuggling his favorite blue bear, sucking his thumb. Peace etched on his face.

It’s easy as mothers to see what we are not doing right, and to see what others are doing well. It’s easy for me to find my anxiety level rising just a bit when I get to church on Sunday and see another mom with daughters in matching dresses and lovely bouncing curls. Some days I have that going for me. Some days I don’t. Either way, I don’t think that’s how I want to define success.

For me, success isn’t about the size of my house, the make of my car, or the price tag on any of my family’s clothes. It isn’t about whether my kitchen is remodeled (it’s not) or how many Facebook likes I received for my last update. For me, success is that I made dinner last night when what I really wanted to do was keep reading my novel on the couch. Success is that when my daughter yelled this morning that she would NOT do her cello scale one more time without the blanket covering her fingers, I rolled with it and opened her music book. Success is snuggling up at night and reading two pages of our current chapter book, even though it was past bedtime. It’s going out to throw the football with Zach when he asks me to, and it’s taking Sam for a walk around the park to pet the dogs we see (his favorite thing), even when I have a long to-do list. Success is laying next to my tired husband at night and reflecting on our 17 years of doing this amazing adventure together.

I’m not afraid of failure. Those hiccups are how we all learn. And when I am in charge of four imperfect people who are learning a whole lot every day, I’m not going to set perfection in any area of life as my daily target. I just want to know that, because I was here, these favorite people of mine can say they breathed a bit easier. That, as Mr. Emerson would say, is to have succeeded. I’m going with it.

How to use technology and stay happily married

Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone.

― Dan Brown, Angels & Demons

There is no getting around it—we live in a technological age. Everywhere we look we see some kind of screen: on the wall, on the dresser, on the desk, on the table, at our work, in our homes, in our hands. Many incredible advances and opportunities come with this age. More information is at our fingertips than ever before. Connecting with our loved ones—even when they are on the other side of the world—has never been easier. We can capture our own experiences and share them in seconds with the people who matter most to us. At the same time, we have to be careful. Being more “connected” than ever has its drawbacks. Suddenly, as we fiddle with our phones and surf the waves of social media, we are more disconnected than ever to the people we love the most—maybe even the person sitting right next to us. Thus, with great technology comes great responsibility. So how do we use technology to strengthen our marriage while avoiding the drawbacks that can cause so much damage? 

The Good

My husband, Scott, works a lot. Not as much as he used to as a lawyer, but still. He leaves the house most days before 8 a.m. and doesn’t get home until just before 7. Then, because of church responsibilities, he is away two or three evenings a week and most of the day on Sunday serving our neighborhood. He is engaged in wonderful things, and I am happy to support him. What makes it easier is our ability to connect through technology, even though we are apart. Cell phones and email are awesome tools–and we use them to our advantage. We generally try to talk for a few minutes at some point during the day simply to share how the day is going. During our conversations, I might share with him something I did with the kids, or about a writing project I’m working on, or a funny thing that happened while I was volunteering at the school. Sometimes we send pictures to each other that capture something interesting or beautiful we saw or we’ll send a video clip sure to crack the other up. Or, I might text him to say, “Hey honey, I hope you are having a great day. Thanks for all you do.” I know it doesn’t sound like much, but he says that means a lot to him. That little gesture shows that I am thinking about him. I know I feel the same when he sends me a little digital love note.

It doesn’t take long to make the connection. Use technology to connect with your spouse during the day and to share your love. Whether through a phone call, an email, a text, sending a photo, leaving a voice message, or having a FaceTime chat when you are apart, take the opportunity to love your spouse digitally. Watching a television show or playing video games together can also boost the loving feelings in your relationship, provided you are both excited about the prospect. Researchers at Brigham Young University recently surveyed married couples and found that when both people were excited about playing, 76 percent said that gaming has a positive effect on their marital relationship. The number of hours of play time didn’t necessarily make a difference. The important factor to consider is “whether or not it creates conflict and quarreling over the game,” Recreation Management Professor Neil Lundberg of the study. For Scott and me, watching an episode of Frasier, Friends, or Modern Family at the end of the day is a fun way for us to relax and laugh together. Do what works for you.

There are plenty of ways to use your digital savvy to bless your relationship. If you find a way to use technology to make your spouse smile, to feel closer, or to simply help your spouse know that he or she is on your mind, then go for it. The trouble comes when you use that same technology to connect with the oh-so-many others who are available and waiting for your attention.

The Bad

Using technology to connect with our spouse in positive ways can strengthen marriage. However, connecting with our Facebook friends or posting pictures on Instagram needs moderation if we’re going to keep our number one feeling like number one. This modern-era addiction is becoming increasingly difficult to drop. In fact, according to a recent study reported by The New York Times, women now spend 12 hours more per week on their smartphones than with their partner! (http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/10/14/women-spend-more-time-on-their-smartphones-than-with-their-partners-research-shows/). Sure, social media sites are a fun way to share and connect. The trick is to make sure we aren’t doing it so much that we are sacrificing time with our most important person. As marriage therapist Dr. Kent Griffiths put it, “Young couples, in particular, have so little time with one another with the demands of children, career, and maintaining home and lifestyle. To spend scarce free time on social media removes precious opportunity when they could otherwise be connecting. Social media is our way of joining with the world, but needs be managed in terms of its time and importance.”

Especially at night, screens are simply bad company. Dr. Alicia Clark, a Washington DC psychologist, reported to The Huffington Post that being on a screen at night surfing social media can be damaging to your relationship for many reasons. “Not only are you on your computer screen when your partner might be interested in relationship-enhancing conversation, physical intimacy, or a cuddle, you are likely tinkering with your natural sleep cues that could leave you sleep deprived,” she said. “As I’ve told clients, avoid social media (and screens) at least one hour before bed in order to help you get the best sleep possible and so you can engage with your partner instead. Keep the bedroom a screen-free zone” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/7-ways-facebook-can-ruin-your-relationship_us_56706867e4b0e292150f80b6).

Don’t let your gadgets interfere with your ability to have a happy and fulfilling partnership with the person right there next to you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: Am I spending more time posting on social media than I am spending with my spouse? Am I on my phone or computer at night or in bed when I otherwise might be meaningfully engaged with my partner? Has my partner expressed frustration with the amount of time I spend on social media sites? Am I more concerned about what is happening on Facebook than about what my spouse is doing right next to me? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then it’s time to make a change.

The Ugly

Connecting through technology can move beyond being a simple distraction and become a serious threat to the happiness of your marriage. This is the dark side of technology, home to two of the worst culprits of emotional infidelity: social media sites and pornography. 

As of January 2014, 74 percent of adults had a Facebook account (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/). According to Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher with Pew Internet and American Life Project at Pew Research Center, while 89 percent of adults said they used their online profiles to “stay in touch with friends,” 20 percent said they used it “to flirt.” If you think that seems innocent enough, consider that one-third of divorce cases cited social-media as part of the problem (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/21/facebook-cited-in-a-third-of-all-divorce-cases-its/).

Flirting of any kind, old flame or new friend, can be potentially harmful to your marriage. What starts innocently enough can all too easily become something it was never meant to be. According to Psychologist John Grohol, the CEO and founder of Psych Central, “Readily available communication on Facebook leads people to pursue temptation or engage in risky behaviors. Facebook makes it easy to engage in less inhibited communication — which can lead to taking risks we wouldn’t ordinarily take in our everyday life.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/7-ways-facebook-can-ruin-your-relationship_us_56706867e4b0e292150f80b6).

One couple, marriage educators K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky, authors of The Social Media Couple, gained personal experience when Kelli started catching up via Facebook with her first love. She was having a rush of happy memories and emotions, while her husband started feeling pangs of anxiety and jealousy. The couple started talking about what was happening and reversed course before any more damage was done. “We came to the conclusion that having Facebook friendships with exes wasn’t good for our marriage,” says Jason.

Keep in mind that you can be emotionally unfaithful to your spouse just as much as you can be physically unfaithful. Even becoming emotionally involved with someone of the opposite sex puts a hurtful wedge between you and your spouse. Talk to your spouse about what you are both comfortable with and consider ruling out connecting with old flames.

Beyond connecting on social media, the Internet also provides access to the other ugly technological weapon that is destroying marriages by the minute: pornography. Husbands and wives alike can be drastically hurt by the effects of pornography. One 2004 study found that its use is so rampant that 56 percent of divorce cases involved one party being obsessed with pornographic websites (Manning J., Senate Testimony 2004, referencing: Dedmon, J., “Is the Internet bad for your marriage? Online affairs, pornographic sites playing greater role in divorces,” 2002, press release from The Dilenschneider Group, Inc.). In another study, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, polled 350 divorce attorneys in 2003 and found that two-thirds of them reported that the Internet played a significant role in the divorces, with interest in online pornography contributing to more than half of the cases.

According to Dr. Peter Kleponis, a licensed cinical therapist in Conshohocken, PA, the use of pornography is a violation of marital trust to love and honor each other. He explains, “Viewing pornography is akin to breaking these vows because they are in no way a sign of a man’s love, honor and respect for his wife. For these women, the men they married all of a sudden seem like strangers. Many feel like a fool for ever having trusted their husbands. For some women, the violation of trust is so deep that they question if they can go on with their marriage. . . . Pornography invading the home can also lead a wife to feel old, unattractive and sexually undesirable.”

To avoid the kind of serious damage that can come along with pornography, the simplest, safest plan of action is to avoid it all together. Consider using Internet filtering methods to limit the kinds of images that can come into your home and keep an open dialogue with each other about how you will safeguard your marriage.

What to Do

Absolutely use technology in your marriage! But use it to connect when you are apart, to share moments from your day, and even to enjoy a good show or video game together. In other words, use technology to enrich and strengthen your relationship.

But be aware of how you are using technology, and consider whether you are distracted by it. Are you spending more time connecting with others through your gadgets than with the person sitting right next to you? Remind yourself how important this person is to you, and be sure to invest in that relationship first and foremost.

For the health of your marriage, avoid using technology in any way that will damage the trust between you or cause feelings of jealousy, irritation, lack of respect, or unfaithfulness. Have an open discussion about who you will connect with online and agree on reasonable amounts of screen time. Above all, remember that the person you love is right there waiting for, and needing, your attention. Don’t let the little screen take anything away from you.

Easy action steps:

  • Think about how you use technology in positive ways to connect with your spouse. How do you regularly reach out with phone calls, emails, and texts when you are apart? The next time your spouse has been away for more than an hour, send a photo or a message that communicates your love.
  • Think about how much you use technology in the evening when your spouse is home. Are you spending more time on your phone than you are interacting with your partner? Tonight, make a goal to have your bedroom be technology-free.
  • Consider whether you have ever used a social media site to flirt with an old flame or used the Internet to view something that would make your spouse uncomfortable. Make a date to talk to your spouse about rules for using the Internet and commit to only doing what will benefit your marriage.

How my husband surprised me with Hamilton

I just had the most amazing weekend with Scott. For our birthdays he planned a trip to New York City with 15 surprises (including all sorts of amazing restaurants, activities, people, and even a new set of carry-on luggage because ours was always too big to fit in the overhead bins). I knew this guy was good, but this trip was beyond my wildest imagination. It will never be beat, I’m pretty sure.

Let me preface everything by saying I am obsessed with the Broadway hit Hamilton (as is much of America, evidenced by the fact that the show is sold out for about a decade, or something close to that). My kids and I know all the songs and listen to the music repeatedly. I now have a hard time listening to anything that doesn’t have an amazing, dramatic storyline that will keep me engaged, laughing, crying and basically spellbound throughout the duration of my listening session. When I found out we were going to New York, my first thoughts went to Hamilton, but I had no idea how he would get us in. And he would not spill the beans, no matter how hard I tried. He wouldn’t even say if he was trying (though he did ask permission to possibly spend a ridiculous amount of money on something we would never forget, IF he could make it work. I, of course, said yes. But then a few hours later he said he wasn’t sure if HE could. That of course made me bonkers, because I thought, “Well then why did you even ask??”). More on that later.

We got to the city via Uber and met up with cousins Megan and Preston, who live in upper Manhattan. We caught up over dinner at a yummy Indian restaurant Thursday night and slept on a blow-up mattress in the middle of their darling little apartment. On Friday our first stop was at a quaint bakery that created the now-famous “Cronut,” which is basically a croissant donut with banana cream. Super yummy–though I don’t know that I’d stand in line for 2 hours for one. I don’t think any food is worth that sacrifice.  We next img_1561walked in the rain to the 9/11 Museum, which I’ve wanted to see. It was sad but powerful walking through and reliving the events of that awful day and seeing some of the artifacts left behind, like twisted steel and a ruined fire truck. There was a beautiful wall of 3,000 blue watercolor squares and a quote from Virgil about time not erasing you from our memory and a room full of photographs of the people who were lost. Outside we visited the large square waterfall memorial. Beautiful. Touching. Amazing.

Next we went to lunch at a restaurant called Max Brenner, which specializes in chocolate and has a menu that says on the cover “Chocolate is Good for You.” Ha! I liked this place instantly. I shared a bit of Scott’s chicken salad but wanted to save room for my chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and shot of cold chocolate. Yum!!! Keep in mind, at this point there himg_1566as been no mention of the musical I am dying to see, in New York. And we’re IN New York, 2200 miles from home. But I wait . . .

After lunch we went to 30 Rockefeller Center and saw the view of the city from the top of the building. They actually warned us that their was no visibility but we had no time to come back so we pressed our luck and ascended in a musical, colorfully lit elevator ride to the top. When we stepped out we saw the clouds clearing away for us to see beautiful views in all directions. It was perfect! We saw the leaves changing colors in Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and thoimg_1576usands of other buildings (with, apparently, more than 30 million windows in sight). I loved it.

Afterwards we went downstairs to a tour of NBC Studios, where we got to see the sets for Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and the Seth Meyers Show. So cool.

Next we went to dinner at a darling restaurant called Bea with brick walls covered in theater photographs and a lighted tree growing inside. We shared a delicious pear salad, shredded pork appetizer, and a pizza. So good! Great company. Scott then relayed the secret of our next adventure. We were going to see… the Broadway hit…. Something Rotten! My heart about stopped with anticipation, but I had heard great things about this show, so I was immediately excited. The show is about a writer in the Renaissance who is trying to beat out Shakespeare and learns that in the future musicals are the next big thing, so he sees a fortune teller who mentions something about Shakespeare’s next big hit, “Omelet could it be?” and tries to beat Shakespeare to it. The best part was the portrayal of Shakespeare as a David Bowie-like, black leather clad, self-absorbed pop star. He had us cracking up the whole time.

Then we went back to sleep at Megan and Preston’s where I tried not to think about the impossible–actually getting tickets to Hamilton. I wasn’t sure if Scott could make it happen. And he, of course, wasn’t saying a word.

First thing Saturday morning, we went to a little French bakery. It was so cool because we had just been walking along this beautiful tree-lined street that reminded me of Paris. Then we sat down in this cafe for another Cronut (and hot chocolate. I was on vacation, ok?) and the couple at the table next to us was speaking French! Were we in Paris? Wormhole? Too funny. We sat and talked about how inflation works and our feelings about the coming election as it drizzled outside. “Bubble effect” we call it.

We finally left the restaurant and headed for the Museum of Natural History, where we saw the outside but didn’t have time to go in because of our long and lovely conversation at the cafe. We were taking a stroll through a wet and beautiful Central Park when Scott got a phone call. He said something about “ok” and “Marriott Marquis.” After he hung up I said “who was that?” And Scott said “no one” and then said we needed to go to the Marriott for a minute. So we high tailed it out of the park and back into the city. When we got to the Marriott, he sat me down and said “I’ll be right back.” I was so curious!! When he came back 10 minutes later I couldn’t exactly read his face but something was going on in that head. Good or bad, I couldn’t tell, but he wouldn’t look at me. I asked if everything was OK and he said “it will work out.” Ah!! I was dying to know if he had been able to get tickets!

Next stop was a little Italian restaurant called Cielo in the theater district. I went to the restroom and then joined Scott at this adorable table up in a little nook by a window. I said “so when do I get to know about the next surprise??” He said “as soon as you find it!” I looked around and saw nothing and he said “look under your seat.” I lifted the cushion on the bench and there, sitting on the dark wood, were. . . get ready. . .  two tickets to Hamilton!! I couldn’t believe it! I jumped up and down and hugged Scott and said I was so excited! This was the impossible, and Scott had achieved it! I asked himg_1595ow he did it and he told me about the process. He had read about ten ways to get tickets. He tried one through eight with no luck. The ninth option was to wait until the hype died down–which would not work for a scheduled birthday trip that we were already ON. Last option: pay a line sitter. He ended up figuring out the best group to do that (Same Old Line Dudes) and paying for two guys (it had to be two because of the particular rules of Broadway line sitting) to stay out all night in sleeping bags. Good at their job, they were the first two in line when the theater released the small batch of daily available tickets (which sometimes don’t get released at all depending on whether the actors have special guests attending). It had worked and we had our tickets! Unreal. I was so full of emotion and excitement I felt like I was going to pop right out of my skin. I held it together enough to avoid making a scene, but just barely.

The show started at 2:00 so we made our way down the street to get in line at the theater. Where Hamilton was playing!!!! What a dream.
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We sat down in our amazing seats (we had to buy premium seats–or enough tickets for our line sitters to attend, which would have been just a few dollars less expensive. Again, line sitter rules! Whatever–it worked.). Our seats were close enough to see all the incredible emotion and expression on the actors’ faces. Wow. I mean, I already loved the music, but to hear the music AND see the actors and the expression and movement and dancing and lighting–it was even more brilliant and amazing and wonderful than I could have imagined. I loved every single minute of it (and those were some expensive minutes–but worth it). By the end I was so emotional from the beautiful story and performance and the fact that I was even there that I started to cry right there in my seat. The theater staff finally had to kick us out so they could prepare for the next show. Outside I just stood there and let tears drip on to Scott’s jacket. It was an experience I will never forget and that will surely never be replicated. I am so grateful to Scott for the incredible effort and thought and time he put into giving me this gift.

We ended the trip with a wonderful reunion dinner with Josh, Mike and Lex and their family, who had taken a bus down from Boston. We ate pizza and then walked out by the water and looked over the Manhatten skyline. Then kids got ice cream and I got yet another hot chocolate (I’d be concerned by now but we calculated that we walked something like 35,000 steps in the last two days so I figured “Why not?” Still on vacation).
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We said our goodbyes and went back to end the evening at Megan and Preston’s place. As I write, I’m sitting on an airplane headed for home, with Scott asleep beside me. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to wake up from this dream but I guess real life needed to come back at some point. It always does. Thankfully, I have a pretty darn good life back at home. And a pretty darn good man going there with me–dream giver, Scott Poelman.

Summer in Yosemite

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Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

After experiencing gorgeous waterfalls, blue skies, granite cliffs, and colorful meadows, Yosemite is now one of my favorite places on the planet. Our family visited at the end of July, and I just couldn’t get enough of the cool hiking experiences and breath-taking views. I think I said “Wow” more times in one day than ever in my life. If you haven’t been here, please go.

My favorite hike was on Mist Trail, where we hiked the few miles and hundreds of stone steps to this incredible waterfall. You could actually see a rainbow in the sunshine and mist at the bottom of the falls. This was a great hike for our kids–challenging but doable, with a great reward at the end. We thought the end of our journey would be the falls, but to our surprise, just past the falls was a giant pool of water, complete with natural rock waterslide!

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Natural waterslide at Emerald Pools.

Despite none of us having swimsuits, most of us somehow ended up in the water. My son was the first to throw his shirt and shoes to the side and jump in. Then my daughter joined. My husband and his brother got in and swam over to the waterslide. Then my sister-in-law (more adventurous than I ever realized) said she was going for it, fully clothed. I started to realize this was not an opportunity to miss, so I counted down (my perennial weakness) and jumped in the frigid water alongside her. We swam over to the waterslide, hiked up the smooth rock surface where it was dry, then slid down into the water. Super fun!

If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, we also saw a bear (the only bear I’ve ever seen in the wild) traipse across the rock surface not 50 yards from where we had just slid down the rock. A bunch of teenagers who were on the same side of the pool started screaming and running toward the water. Luckily, the bear took no interest in them and just kept walking along until it disappeared back into the brush.

At night we camped just outside the park’s south entrance at Summerdale Campground. As we were setting up our camp, our camp neighbor shouted, “Scott, look!!” We looked up in the sky and there was a huge orange and pink meteor streaming across the sky, with tiny pieces breaking off so it looked like a dozen blazing shooting stars all together. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in the night sky. Our kids were enthralled. Amazing! Come to find out, it was apparently some kind of Chinese satellite junk. Not quite as cool, but still.

The other neat and unexpected experience at camp was crawdad fishing. I haven’t done this since I was a kid, but our camp host said we had to try it. So we put a hotdog on a string and literally, within minutes, we could see the crawdads in the water creeping toward it and climbing on. It took us a few tries to get the things out of the water and into a bucket, but eventually we caught 8 or so. We kept 6 to cook because, well, why not? We are all about new experiences. We boiled them and cracked them open. They tasted fine. A lot of work for the two bites out of each one, but it was fun.

Our little family miracle of the trip happened to our 10-year-old son Zach. He had just picked out a souvenir from the trip that day, a neat wooden pocketknife with his name etched in. While we were fishing (pretty much in the dark) his pocket knife fell out of his pocket. We all looked around but couldn’t find it anywhere. After all, it was wood colored. We said we’d try again in the morning. We suggested to Zach that he say a prayer, and went to bed. The next morning, Zach and Scott went for a walk and I said a quick prayer that, if it be God’s will for him to find this little treasure, he would find it. I understood that God may want Zach to have the lesson about taking care of his things, and I was open to that result. But that lesson is of course much less fun. The other lesson would be that prayer works, and sometimes you even get the answer you are hoping for. Well, right after I said my prayer, Zach and Scott came back with big smiles. Zach said he remembered walking by a particular poky bush that made him jump the night before, so they went there. Lo and behold, they looked down, in the wood and grass and dirt, and there was his pocket knife. Yay for little miracles!

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Playing at the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls.

Another adventure was, when we went for a hike to Lower Yosemite Falls, which had another little surprise waiting for us: fun pools of water and lots of rocks for the kids the play in. We hadn’t learned our lesson about wearing swimsuits in this water haven, but we got in, again, in our clothes. The kids climbed and swam and splashed for hours. Too much fun.

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Granite Point

For a view of the valley, we drove out to Glacier Point, where we did a short walk to a lookout point. From there, we could see two waterfalls and 360 degrees of rocks, trees, meadows, and mountains. Beautiful.

On our way out of California, we decided to stop at Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, mostly because we wanted more stamps for our National Parks passport books. OK, not really. Well, partly. We of course were excited to see what made those places so special, especially as we considered the 100-year anniversary of the National Parks system. Both parks were incredible. I especially loved the Congress trail with the huge groups of sequoia trees–the biggest trees in the world. It was incredible to be so dwarfed by nature.IMG_1308

Overall–an amazing, wonderful incredible trip with some of my favorite people. We will definitely do this again.

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Happy kids, enjoying the outdoors at Sequoia National Park.

Time to Love Our Spouse

More from The Two-Minute Marriage Project…

“The ‘secret’ to loving is loving: the more we give of that vast and powerful force called Love, the more it returns to illuminate our days with hope, simple bliss and heart-happy wonder.”

-Margie Lapanja, author

Loving our spouse takes time and effort. Yet many couples today get swept away in the chaos of a distracting and busy life. We have sports and competitions and recitals and deadlines and politics and schedules to watch. We have texts and tweets and a barrage of information constantly ready for our review. We have streaming sports scores, advertisements everywhere, and endless pressures to succeed. How can we remember to show love to our spouse daily when there are days we hardly see each other?phone

For parents, the battle for time is even more difficult. Parenting has become busier than ever before as moms and dads seek to ensure their child has a rock-solid self-esteem and a leg up on the competition. We enroll our three year olds in sports and music and camps, hoping that they can keep up with the neighbor kid who is enrolled in even more. As parents, we want our kids to have every advantage and we want them to know we love them and would do anything for them. That’s all fine and good for the kids (for the most part). It’s not so good for marriage. Studies show we spend far more time with our kids today than parents of previous generations, which leaves significantly less time to our marriages (For Better 176). When researchers ask kids what they want? Rather than more time together, they want happier, less stressed out parents!

I can relate to the transformation from loving and attentive newlywed to distracted, busy parent. My husband Scott and I met 13 years ago at a college barbecue. A mutual friend introduced us and we couldn’t be separated the rest of the evening. In the months that followed, I found myself falling hard. We talked until the wee hours of the morning, he brought roses and wrote poems, we dated, we danced. The whole thing was as natural and effortless as breathing . . .but substantially more exciting. Nine months later, a ring was on my finger and we found ourselves debating an August or December wedding. The only point in the December column was Christmas lights, so we began planning for summer.

The wedding was picture perfect, even with the rain that poured down on us. Everyone else ran from tree to tree trying to stay sheltered as we walked around for our photos. We couldn’t care less that we were getting soaked. In fact, I’m not sure we even noticed. My cheeks hurt from smiling at the end of the day. This was my ideal life partner and our life together was going to be all roses and sunshine.

As newlyweds, we were still as happy as ever as we adjusted to our new life. No one else competed for our attention at home, and our only real responsibilities were to do well in our college courses and earn enough to pay for our 600-square-foot apartment and meals for two. We walked to school together, took classes together, shopped together, ate together, read books together, and played together. Showing our love every day in small and meaningful ways was effortless.

Fast forward a decade and then some. Things are a little different now. Responsibilities are many and time is scarce. Between us we have four beautiful kids ages 1 to 10, a lovely home with attached mortgage and two-car garage, two cars, a new business with all the added excitement and stress, multiple church responsibilities and volunteer hours at school, grocery shopping and meals for six not to mention soccer games and music recitals. It probably goes without saying that the number of love sonnets I once received has reduced dramatically.

Some days we don’t see each other for more than ten minutes as we both race in different directions. He’s up to go to the gym and the office. I’m up to get kids and breakfast going. He’s working hard at the office. I’m working hard at home cleaning, cooking, carpooling, shopping, washing, folding, ironing, writing, and finding moments to sit down and play with the kids. What a gift it is to raise a family with the partner I love. I wouldn’t trade it or go back for anything.IMG_0157

Here’s the tricky part: showing our love to each other in our marriage now takes more effort and deliberate attention. Much more. We must be doing something right. We still often get what we affectionately refer to as “tingles” when we see each other at the end of the day. And it’s not entirely a matter of luck (though we both are fairly cheerful people). I can say that we are still best friends and more in love now than on the day we married. Partly, that’s because we focus on loving each other every day.

Many couples end the honeymoon stage of their marriage and become so focused on their own paths that they forget one simple thing: their relationship needs tending. In the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days writer Andie Anderson is assigned to write an article on how to make a man break up with her. One thing she does in her attempt to get him to throw in the towel is deliver a “love fern.” Andie dramatically explains to Ben that the fern symbolizes their love and that he must care for the little plant like he cares for their relationship. Later Andie pretends to be horrified when she finds the plant withering. “You let our love fern die? Are you going to let us die?” The scene is comical because Andie is so dramatic. Yet I see some truth in the metaphor. Just as a fern or a garden needs daily attention, so does a marriage. 

plantSo ask yourself today, what do I need to do to tend to my marriage?

More to come…

Falling and staying in love

Below is an excerpt from The Two-Minute Marriage Project, a book I wrote about staying in love over the long haul. It’s a topic I’ve thought a lot about in order to find the secret of a lasting, fulfilling marriage. Here’s what I found it comes down to, from social scientists, personal experience, and interviews with happily married couples: the little things. Over the next few weeks I’d like to include excerpts here on what I found. For today, a bit of background on love:

Right now in the United States there are 60 million married couples. We still love and believe in marriage. We love marriage so much that we fight over how to define it and exactly who can do it. But marriage today, by most accounts, is not thriving. Experts calculate that only about 40 to 50 percent of married couples stay together. People quit their marriages every day, and here’s the sad thing: The majority of people who quit simply fell out of love. As author Pamela Haag reports in the book Marriage Confidential, more than half the couples who divorce had a relationship that was “amiable but listless.” Basically, they just didn’t thrive. According to studies on couples who divorce, the vast majority of people who end their relationship report that they simply lost a sense of closeness and did not feel loved or appreciated (as reported in Gottman, 2000 The Timing of Divorce). 

Even many couples who stay together aren’t fulfilled in their marriages. Of the couples who do stay married, according to a group of marriage researchers at the University of Denver, only half are actually happy. (Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg, http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/10238.html).

What is going on? Most people, at least in the western world, marry because they are in love. But that wasn’t always the case. For thousands of years, marriage wasn’t about love or personal satisfaction. Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz reports in her book Marriage, a History, that marrying for love didn’t come about until the late 18th century with the Enlightenment focus on individual rights. Before then, most marriages were arranged by outside influences who would be positively affected by the union. Something as important as marriage couldn’t be based on “something as unreasoning and transitory as love” (p. 5). Yet during the Enlightenment, a marriage revolution began to occur. We started seeing marriage as what it could be–a private relationship with the potential to provide great happiness for the couple, regardless of family wealth or political alliances (New York: Viking, 2005).

Staying in love

So we came along way as a society. We decided that it should be in our control as individuals to choose who we marry, and that we should do it primarily for our own happiness and not for the betterment of our relatives. We decided that marriage could be our greatest human relationship and the source of our deepest satisfaction in life. Yet, as Coontz reports, “the very features that promised to make marriage such a unique and treasured personal relationship opened the way for it to become an optional and fragile one.” (p. 5). Marriages are breaking apart because people are falling out of love. We aren’t staying in the same state we were in before, and that scares people. As George Bernard Shaw humorously pointed out, marriage brings together two people “under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausromanceting condition continuously until death do them part.” (Quoted in John Jacobs, All You Need Is Love and Other Lies About Marriage, New York: HarperCollins, 2004 p. 9).

We “fall” in love–suggesting something outside of our control. Our brain is malfunctioning, to a degree. Staying in love–now that’s something we have some control over. It isn’t easy. Over the years, as a culture, we have lost some of the glue that helped couples stick together. As John Jacobs, professor at NYU’s School of Medicine, has written, some of the martial glue that helped keep couples together from the past is now largely irrelevant. The glue of women’s financial dependency, the belief that happiness is rare or unnecessary, prevailing religious dogma, and legal constraints are all gone. The only glue holding couples together now “is the glue created by the two of you–the glue of mutual satisfaction, gratification, appreciation, and respect. The glue of mature love.” (All You Need Is Love and other lies about marriage.)

We simply cannot forget to show love and affection to our spouse every day. As Dr. Jacobs declares, one of the greatest threats to a marriage relationship is complacency.  “If you want your marriage to survive,” Jacobs writes, “you must actively cherish your spouse and protect your relationship” (Jacobs, 234). Staying in love isn’t as easy or effortless as falling in love. It takes time, attention, and deliberate effort. But if we do it right, our marriage relationship can provide the same tingles and excitement as it did when we first came together as partners, soul mates, and best friends. Indeed, if we do it right, and if we do it consistently, staying in love can be the happiest, most fulfilling part of our lives. The trick is to do that even while living in a chaotic modern world. 

More to come…

Temple Walk

A few month ago, the Young Women in our neighborhood ward went on a walk from the Draper Temple to the Salt Lake Temple in honor of stone mason John Rowe Moyle. Moyle walked those 22 miles every day, every week for years to work on the Salt Lake Temple. He even did it with a wooden leg for several years after an accident with a cow necessitated an amputation. The man’s spirit, courage, and dedication is unmatched in my mind.

After their journey, the Young Women’s president Jen Wilhite shared her testimony about the experience in church. Our 10-year-old son Zach was listening. Afterward, he said to Scott, “I want to do that too.”

My husband is not one who says no, especially not to amazing and challenging opportunities. So, he told Zach they would plan for it. Before we knew it, Zach was recruiting his friends to join him. Not many wanted to take on the challenge, but Zach found two friends who would.

Last Friday, Zach and these two other boys along with their dads did the walk. They started at 6 a.m. and walked all day. They had a few scheduled stops, three of which included a little parent presentation on an inspiring person. We figured that the boys would have a lot of time to think, and might need some pep talks, so we tried to inspire them with people who had succeeded in getting through their life challenges. I shared the story of Nelson Mandela, my friend Mariah shared the story of Mariatu Kamara who lost her hands in the civil war in Sierra Leone, and another friend, Anthony, taught about Mother Teresa. 13418736_10154239159024254_6126387665414988282_n

My other kids and I planned to arrive at the temple a little before the boys, but they made such good time we were caught off guard.  We were riding ponies at This is the Place Heritage Park when I got the text that they would arrive between 4 and 4:30 p.m. I expected them there at 6! So we packed up and booked it downtown, hoping to beat them. 13435496_10154239159399254_8006715581788676638_nWe actually passed them walking on South Temple so we hooted and honked and hollered, then looked for a quick place to park. I found a 5-minute spot and we spilled out of the car with our “You Did It!” poster in tow right as they walked up to the temple gates. They had made it! The boys collapsed on the grass, exhausted.

I hoped the lesson of perseverance had sunk in, hoped that the boys would remember this the next time they had a challenge. I didn’t have to wonder long. The next morning, our family was one of the families assigned to clean the church building at 8 a.m. I woke Zach up and he resisted, saying “I can barely walk!” I finally was able to motivate him to get his shoes on and make his way to the car, saying something like, “I bet John Rowe Moyle didn’t wake up thinking, ‘Yes, I get to walk 22 miles on my wooden leg today!.'” Zach paused for a minute and then said, “You’re right. He probably didn’t want to all of the time. But he knIMG_0815ew it was important. So he did it.” Then Zach got in the car.

We all have challenges in our life, whether that’s trying to heal after losing a loved one, fighting depression, staying awake all night for weeks with a colicky baby, being stuck in a job we despise, or inescapable physical pain. I suppose part of life is simply the struggle to overcome the hard stuff. I don’t think those experiences are meant to make us miserable. They are meant to make uIMG_0812s strong. The next time I am faced with something hard, I’m going to think of John Rowe Moyle, and of my 10-year-old son who wanted the challenge so he could see how strong he really is.

How You Can Keep Your Marriage Fun and Exciting While Caring For Your Kids, Advancing Your Careers and Managing Daily Life

Below is a guest post by marriage therapist Waverly Hanson on keeping marriage fun. This is relevant to my research into the little things couples can do to keep the love alive in their marriage over the long haul. Happy reading!

How You Can Keep Your Marriage Fun and Exciting While Caring For Your Kids, Advancing Your Careers and Managing Daily Life

Marriage is an opportunity for you to commit to spending the rest of your life with another person whom you love and respect. Often, the first year or two of marriage is filled with excitement. However, once children enter the picture, it can alter the scene dramatically. Instead of two, you are now three or more. This does not mean the end of your status as a couple unless you allow it to.

Unfortunately, many couples become so caught up in raising children and bucking for promotions at work that they forget to prioritize their relationship, taking it for granted. However, without intentional nursing, you will grow apart. You both need to reaffirm your love and relationship as an entity separate from, and a part of, your family.

Some people have a difficult time doing this because they believe or are told such behavior is selfish. Quite the opposite is actually the truth. You see, if you have the love and support of each other when troubles arise, you will be able to handle them more readily. So, you will actually be better, not worse, parents.

When you have younger children, you will need to plan for a babysitter for those occasions where you want to leave the home. Hire someone with impeccable references and CPR training for infants and children.

If you have friends with little kids as well, you may want to swap watching them on the weekends. One couple could go out Friday and the other Saturday. You could also plan for alternating weekends.

Plan for fun activities that you can do at home in addition to going out on a regular basis. Naturally, the frequency of your outings can depend on many external factors, and leaving home to have some adult only fun may not always be an option. Also, it can become expensive.

You may be able to arrange for the kids to spend the night with grandparents or other relatives so you two can have the house to yourselves. If this is not an option and your kids have friends with whom they spend the night, try to coordinate a night where they are all at someone else’s house.

When going out, sometimes keeping things simple is best. Take walks in the park or along the beach like you did when dating. Play a round of miniature golf, or visit an arcade while you are out. Stop and get some ice cream or frozen yogurt. Planning a fun, teenager style date might even include “parking” somewhere and making out before going home. Just make sure you don’t break any indecent exposure laws!

Another inexpensive idea is to order some pizza and watch movies together. Each of you can pick a movie and the toppings for your half of the pizza. Women can wear one of his large t-shirts and snuggle on the couch during the latest action flick or whatever else has been chosen. The point is to enjoy the time together, not to focus on getting your way or only watching movies you like.

In fact, you can plan dates where you focus upon a particular like, taking turns to keep it fair. Technology should be turned off, snacks available and questions asked. For instance, you may give him a lesson in crafting with clay, explaining the various nuances and why it matters to you. In turn, enthusiastically listen and respond as he teaches you about the intricacies of hockey. While you may not convert each other into being fans, you will learn more about each other and grow closer as a result.

You can also leave sexy notes for each other, learn about sexting and have a quickie once in a while. Buy some inexpensive dice for romantic play or a similarly themed game. Go on a picnic together, have a couples massage or any other activity that will be enjoyable. Make sure to get in plenty of laughter-inducing choices.

Talk to your spouse now about planning some special time together!

About the Author

Waverly Hanson is the best-selling author of “How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage” available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats. She has been assisting individuals and couples with relationship and life transformations for more than 25 years as a therapist, counselor, coach and consultant.  Visit her website <a href=”http://marriagecounselingonline.mywebpal.com”> marriagecounselingonline.mywebpal.com </a> to learn more.

 

 

Camping in Beautiful Sedona

For spring break last month we took our kids to the beautiful Arizona city of Sedona. I wasn’t sure how camping was going to go with Sam, being still so small, but we figured we’d give it a shot. When looking for our destination this year, we had three important criteria: 1) warm enough at night to camp without being miserable and 2) close to cool National parks or monuments that would give us a stamp or two in our kids’ passport books. 3) Close enough to drive to from our home in Sandy, UT. Sedona fit the bill.

IMG_1569Well, mostly. The temperature was great during the day and was supposed to only get to the 40s at night, but with a few nights stretching into the 30s it was less comfortable than I would have liked. Everyone was fine in their mummy bags except for Sam, who didn’t have one. I bundled him as much as I could but he would still wake up in the middle of the night crying (unheard of for this angel baby). That at least gave me my co-sleeping opportunity, something I’ve never really taken advantage of with any of my kids, with good reason. I mean, I just don’t sleep very well with a little person next to me. But I have to admit I did love snuggling this sweet little boy every night.

What I love about camping is getting so close to nature and so far from the typical distractions of our modern-day world. No cell phones to use, no televisions to watch, no Kindles to fight over. We literally were just IMG_1552outside all day, enjoying peace. (Until it came time to doing all the work that camping requires–then there was a little less peace. But the kids got the hang of it fairly quickly.)

I loved seeing the National monuments near Sedona. First we went to explore Montezuma Castle, an ancient cliff dwelling thousands of years old. It was fun to watch my kids think through what it might have been like to live so close to the earth (and even in the earth) every day. We also checked out a similar nearby monument that let us get a little closer to the ruins of an ancient people. Our last experience with ancient life was on the way home when we stopped at Canyon de Chelly, another site from the lives of ancient Pueblo people. First things first: we got our passport books stamped. Check! Then we did a hike down into the canyon, saw the ruins in the cliffside along with some cool wall art, and then hiked back out. This was our IMG_1556first hiking experience where all three of our older kids beat us to the finish line by a long shot. Scott and I were impressed.

Other favorites from this trip included a beautiful hike in Sedona, playing in the river by our campsite, visiting Slide Rock state park (with it’s 80-foot super cold natural waterslide) and my perennial campfire favorite: s’mores! After five nights of camping, luckily we were smart enough to check the weather and realize it was going to rain right at the time we needed to pack up our campsite. So we got on Priceline and booked a hotel in Chinle. Everyone was beyond excited to see actual beds. The kids slept for 13 hours straight, and I slept for most of that too. There’s nothing like appreciating simple pleasures after ruffing it for a few days!IMG_1625

All in all, a successful, beautiful, super fun adventure! I highly recommend this area as a wonderful trip for families.