Category Archives: Children

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.

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.

15 things I love about being a Mom

Last night after a wonderful fun-filled night of family bowling, a very kind stranger gave my three kids one giant, green bouncy ball. They all had fun with it for a few minutes, and then it happened. Somebody started whining that they hadn’t gotten a turn. Then someone else wasn’t sharing. Before we knew it, our three older kids were in a full-out brawl. Tears were shed. I ended up taking the ball and giving it to some other unsuspecting family. All my children were mad at me.

Sometimes being a mom is hard. My days are filled with washing, drying, shopping, cleaning, cooking, carpooling, wiping up spills. They sometimes include breaking up brawls, motivating for the umpteenth time, and less sleep and personal time than I’d like.  And little people don’t always remember to say “thank you.” However, today I wanted to take a moment to think about the good side. The really good side. Because as hard as being a mom can be, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Here are some of my favorite things about being a mom:

  1. When my kids make me laugh out loud, either by singing a silly song, dancing, telling me a joke they heard during the day, or quoting a line from a favorite movie.
  2. IMG_1671When my kids love each other, like this morning when Addie spilled her cereal and Ellie helped her clean it up (without my asking), or when Addie came down to sit at the table and  when Zach finally looked up and noticed he said, “Oh! Good morning Addie!” Or when Addie writes one of her precious love notes. Or when they all hear Sam waking up and they ask, “Can I go get him Mom?”
  3. When my kids have worked really hard on something, like a piano or cello piece, and I get to watch the look on their face when they finally nail it with pride.
  4. When they surprise me with the things they want to do, like Zach asking to wake up at 6 a.m. for the past two weeks so he can exercise with us. “Really? Are you sure?” I still ask.
  5. Cuddling with them before they go to bed.IMG_0466
  6. When they mess up and then own it, as evidenced by the note I found on Ellie’s cello yesterday morning that said: “Thank you for teaching me cello Mom. I love it. Sorry I yelled.”
  7. Reading stories in bed together, either laughing at something funny or learning about something interesting, like last night when we read that in high school Barack Obama was dubbed “Barry O’Bomber” because of his jump shot. My kids loved that. Who knew?
  8. Having Sam snuggle up and rest his head on my shoulder while he holds his bear and sucks his thumb when he is sleepy.
  9. IMG_2289When my kids make each other laugh.
  10. When they can’t wait to show me something like a new fun game or a new trick they learned.
  11. Seeing them snuggled up at night with their Dad, who is known for letting them jump in our bed to watch an interesting 60 Minutes clip instead of getting them in bed when I’m away.
  12. Watching Sam copy everyone at the dinner table, like blinking his eyes tight or nodding his head or putting his hands up in the air or clapping when someone else does and having everyone else crack up at the cuteness.
  13. Watching them sleep, peacefully, quietly, in their beds.
  14. Getting to show them new beautiful or interesting things.IMG_1634
  15. Hearing them say “I love you Mom” even on the days when I haven’t been patient or I haven’t made the dinner they like or I haven’t let them go play with their friends when they wanted to. Like yesterday when I asked my son to turn off the computer for the third time. I lost patience and he got frustrated, but then he quickly said, “I love you Mom, you’re the best.” That’s love you can’t put a price on.

Sure, motherhood is hard. But it is also the greatest blessing in the world getting to be with these little people every day as we help each other grow. I’m sure glad to be the Mom.

House on wheels!

Last week our family did something we’ve wanted to do for a long time–we rented a motorhome! I was too scared to drive this 38-foot mammoth other than for one hour on the freeway, but Scott was amazing at maneuvering the thing. The kids absolutely loved having the space to play, and I loved getting to enjoy my favorite parts about camping–being outside in beautiful places–along with the comforts of home. Yay for beds, electricity, toilets, showers, and an easy place to cook! We took the kids around to Zion National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and Bryce Canyon National Park. We picked up a cool Passport book for each of the kids that they get to fill up with stamps from every National Park or Monument we visit (they are so excited, I think this will be a lifelong quest to fill up the book!).

The motorhome was so fun to hang out in. For a few of the mornings, we got out of bed slowly and hung around the table, just playing Life, Monopoly, Uno, and Go Fish. Sometimes we sat for hours doing it. When in real life does anyone have time to do that? IMG_0102

The national parks were beautiful. In Zion we did the Emerald Pools hike, which I just loved for how many cool crooks and crevices the kids got to explore, including a path that went under a waterfall. IMG_0188

The Grand Canyon is jaw-dropping. I loved seeing the kids see something so, literally, grand. It’s huge! After spending a couple of days hiking around, we packed up the RV (easy!) and headed to our next adventure. A favorite day for everyone was spent just floating in our life jackets at Lake Powell (the downside of this day was getting our RV stuck in the sand at Lone Rock beach–but luckily an angel named Alan had the gear to tow us out and point us in the right direction). IMG_0151The kids loved the water and came up with a challenge for us all to swim out to the buoys and back (Sam came too in his little life jacket!). They all loved playing in the sand, building sand castles, and playing a good old fashioned game of keep away. Sam thought he might enjoy eating the sand–as he does everything–but I think soon realized this delicacy is not for him. Good learning experience.

IMG_0153We wrapped up at Bryce where hoodoos and cool rock walls juiced up our kids’ imaginations. We spent the hike out of the canyon keeping the their minds off the hard stuff. They spent the hot, hard part of the hike creating elaborate stories about any random set of objects we gave them. My little five year old probably went on for 20 minutes creating a story about a pirate, a mermaid, and an octopus, all while hiking uphill in the heat. I don’t think she even noticed. Another favorite moment was lying outside one night on a picnic table by our RV, looking up at the stars together. We pointed out the Milky Way and used an app to find cooIMG_0167l constellations. There is nothing quite like the night sky in southern Utah. All in all, an awesome and memorable trip!

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!”IMG_0199IMG_0203

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.

IMG_2763Now 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.

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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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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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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Heroes on the wall

For my “A is for Abinadi” launch party, I had some little stickers made up with heroes from the book. Just some of my favorites–Nephi, Queen Esther, Mary with Joseph and Jesus, Samuel the Lamanite, Eve, and Captain Moroni. I thought it would be a fun giveaway for the kids who came to the party. I let my kids pick out the ones they wanted to keep. My son, who’s eight, picked one of each and put them on a white paper. Then he wrote “My favorite scripture heroes” at the top. I thought that was cool, but didn’t think much more about it.

A couple of weekends after the party we were finally moving our littlest child out of her crib because she was turning four and she was old enough to insist that she “needed a big girl bed.” But why? You’re so cozy in there! OK, we knew it was time. With our other two kids, we always had a new baby motivating us to move one child out of the crib to make room for the next. This time the incentive was low. But when she was ready, we got ourselves excited too. Before we made the move, our oldest son and daughter were sharing a room. We took this opportunity to move the girls in together with the bunk bed and let our son finally have his own room–much to his delight.

Kids have a way of putting the things they love up on the walls. We all do. And now that this was his own room, he had free reign. The first thing he wanted up was the poster of an alligator he got as a prize at school with the word “Smile” written in what looks like it’s supposed to be blood. Cringe.

His grandma gave him a pin board so he could pin up other things that are important to him. We set up the board for him above his desk and let him go at it. When I walked in later that night, I found the scripture hero sheet pinned up on his board. Now, when he sits at his desk, he has these spiritual giants to look to. That made me smile. It was a moment that, for me, summed up the whole reason I wrote “A is for Abinadi.” I wanted kids to be familiar with the amazing men and women in the scriptures and maybe, just maybe, let those people be their heroes.

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