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Cruisin’ around the Caribbean!

OK, so I haven’t been in the habit of writing lately–something about having four little kids maybe? Well, I’m recommitted to jumping on here more regularly simply to share what is happening in my life. I’ve been inspired by the minimalists, who used a great phrase: “Sit in the chair.” As a writer, sometimes I feel like I need to wait to be inspired before I actually sit down (oh, and when I actually have free time, which is . . . let’s say rarely). I suppose you need to make your own time if you want to fit something in. So, here goes. I’m sitting in the chair.

The first thing I wanted to write about was Scott’s and my 15-year anniversary cruise. We snuck off for a whole week just the two of us to go explore the Caribbean. Wow. Can I just say, wow? I’m a big fan of getting away as a couple occasionally. It’s a wonderful way to reconnect with your spouse as husband and wife again, leaving Mom and Dad roles behind for just a bit (while kiddos are in good hands and loving their own adventures at home with Grandma and Grandpa and Grams and Papa in our case!).

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Yummy breakfast on the ship in the Solarium.

Let’s start with the ship. We sailed on the Oasis of the Seas, the biggest ship on the ocean. We stepped on board and set off to explore (no simple task). This ship had 17 floors. 17! That is a lot of floors. Swimming pools, hot tubs, restaurants, rock climbing walls, theater, ice rink . . . you name it, this ship had it. I still don’t understand how it even stayed afloat. My favorite moments were sitting in the hot tub at the top of the ship, watching the ocean or the towns as we pulled in to port, reading a book next to Scott on the top deck in the sunshine, and eating at the top floor restaurant for breakfast, where every morning greeted us with a beautiful, colorful buffet.  Anyone who knows me well knows I love breakfast food and am quite happy enjoying breakfast for any meal of the day (and snacks too!).

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Does this look like the Caribbean? Yeah, I didn’t think so either!

We stopped at three ports–Nassau (Bahamas), St. Thomas, and St. Martin. When we pulled in the the Bahamas, it was pouring rain with 25 mph winds. It was February, remember, and I had just left months of cold, gray, and snow. I was so distraught over this unpleasant welcome that I literally broke into tears when I realized we couldn’t go on our little beach outing in the sun like we had planned. I know that sounds pretty pathetic, but we only had three days to get off the ship and enjoy the beach (my favorite part of vacation) and now Day One was a gonner. Sigh.

But I pulled it together and determined to enjoy. We decided to go explore Atlantis, the resort I had heard so much about. Trying to get a cab was a bit comical. One of the locals would put us in the cab and then we sat there for five minutes wondering what happened. Then we got out and asked for another cab, and they stuck us in a different cab and left. This happened three times. We realized that the locals were trying to fill their cabs so they could earn more on the 10 minute drive over to Atlantis. Crazy! We finally made it over there after a woman promised to leave “Right now” and spent the rainy afterIMG_0248noon wandering around inside Atlantis, checking out their aquariums and grounds. I imagine it’s beautiful when it is sunny and warm. Windy and gray made it less than magical.

One thing that made me smile was this funny sign at Atlantis, their best attempt at asking people not to leave cigarette butts on the ground!

We made it back to the ship and crossed our fingers that the sun would come out for the rest of our journey.

Luckily, it did! On St. Thomas we wanted to see Magen’s Bay, dubbed one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by National Geographic and the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die (my regular go-to resource).

By the time we got there, sadly, we only had 30 minutes before it was time for us to head back for our kayak tour. We only had a few hours on the island, so we had to make it count. I’m glad we went to see the Bay, because it really was beautiful and peaceful. It would have been more so without all the people, but I guess that’s the price you pay for seeing the most beautiful places in the world. Everyone else wants to see them too!

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Magen’s Bay

After our brief jaunt at Magen’s Bay, we took a cab back over the top of the island to our kayak spot. This was a fun way to mix things up. We got to kayak through a lagoon, then pull over and walk on a pebbly path to a blowhole on the island. (Basically where the waves crash into a rock that has a hole at the top and water sprays out of the hole.) Pretty cool. Then we snorkeled for a bit in the lagoon. That was fun, but a little chillier than I expected and frankly not as much variety of fish and things to see as I was hoping for. (I think I got spoiled in Maui by Black Rock where there are so many colorful fish!). Still, it was fun, good exercise, and beautiful. Scott and I had a great time.

Our last port was my favorite. We went to St. Martin, where we went with a IMG_1278snorkel company on a boat tour around the island. The sun was out all day, thankfully, and the water was a beautiful blue. We enjoyed a yummy barbecue lunch on a pretty secluded beach and then stopped at a couple different places to snorkel. Again, the snorkeling wasn’t as spectacular as I would have hoped, but the water and island were lovely and fun to circumnavigate. One of our stops was to the island of Pinel, which I think you can only access by boat. There was a little restaurant and a few shops and it just felt really quaint and relaxing. My favorite moment was sitting by Scott on the dock and dipping our toes in the water, while we did some people watching.IMG_0287 We also watched a woman pull up a big crate of lobsters, fresh caught that day, and let a customer pick his meal!

I wish we could have stayed longer, but I guess that’s the nature of these port stops. You’ve got to keep moving or you’re going to get left behind!

Back at the ship, we enjoyed ourselves completely with more food and rest and reading time. And some more food. Wow, there was a lot of yummy food. I couldn’t get over the fact that if I couldn’t decide what I wanted for dinner, I could order two things! How fun is that? I even asked if I could have a tiny bit of two different desserts one night (since, again, I couldn’t decide) and our awesome waiter brought me this:

IMG_0323That made me laugh! Then he brought me out another plate with some decent portions. I can’t remember what it was, but it was tasty. After all this food, it’s a good thing the ship had a pretty amazing gym (where Scott spent a good portion of each ship day) and a running track that went around the outside of the ship. I had so much fun running around the track, looking out at the sea and listening to the soundtrack of the new musical “Hamilton.” Way cool. I also spent my time while Scott finished his workout for the day on our balcony, with more deliciousness and a good book. The ocean, the sun, some chocolate, some reading, and then a short nap to energize me before the evening festivities. Wow–I’m looking back at how extravagant that was. Taking care of four little kids every day is a wonderful, amazing blessing, but it is hard! I look back at this and think “Did I really get to do that for a whole week?” Alas, real life is not sunshine and chocolate. If it were, then this wouldn’t have been a dream vacation and it wouldn’t have tickled me every time our room attendant left us a towel monkey or grabbed a cup of fresh fruit at the Park Cafe for no charge. Oh, it was fun.  At least now I have these amazing memories and pictures of the time we had. I’ll look back every now and again and remind myself of the beautiful adventure. Some days, that’s just what I need to pick me before getting back to the daily grind. Luckily, I have a pretty blessed life, and four little people who made it happy coming home. Still, I don’t think it will be long before I start planning another sunny escape…IMG_1306

Summertime…we miss you!

Where did summer go? So much fun playing, swimming, relaxing, running around, and being together. I remember when the summer started, I was nervous about having all four kids home all the time (minus a few little play dates and camps). The when school started, the same exact thing happened that happened before the start of last school year–I felt sad. Although it was stressful at times helping everyone find things to occupy their time happily (which mostly, they are pretty good at on their own) it was been so fun just being together. I knew I was going to miss Zach and Ellie, who are now back to school for all the live-long day. Luckily, breaks like UEA help–where we got to spend days together visiting the Golden Spike, going to a BYU football game, and playing at home. I guess no matter what phase you are in, there are things to be happy about, and things that might make you sad. Like today, it’s Monday and all my favorite people are gone doing their important things. On the other hand, my baby is asleep, and the house is quiet…and I just got to finish the last leftover piece of birthday cake. It’s a good day.

My heart grows

 

 

 

 

IMG_6336In December, a precious baby boy joined our family. You know how sometimes you feel like your heart is already so full of love for the people in your life, it couldn’t possibly love any more? A new baby in the family teaches you something about what a heart can do. No matter how much you love each person in your family–for their quirks, their mannerisms, the sweet or funny things they say and do, the way they sing or play or hug you goodnight–your heart can love more. This little guy, Samuel Scott Poelman, has been a precious gift to our family who has caused my heart to swell. He’s our little caboose, almost five years younger than our youngest before him, which makes him immediately and absolutely adored by everyone. He has a gentle spirit, the most wonderful smile, and watching my older kids love him absolutely melts me.

 

IMG_3878A regular nap schedule I’m finding is a thing of the past. With each of my other babies, I could do it because my oldest at the time was only two or four with not much going on outside our little home. The world could revolve around them a bit more. With Sam, we are on the move, whether it’s off to school, dance, soccer, scouts, the grocery store,IMG_0189 piano, play dates or wherever else, this guy gets to sleep in his carseat, or his stroller, or he passes out whenever he nurses because he has been all over town. Thankfully, he seems happy to sleep that way (which is now becoming a little troubling in the middle of the night when I want to sleep and he wants to nurse!). We’ll figure it out. Overall, we are so grateful for this sweet addition to our family and can’t imagine life without him.   IMG_3944

 

 

Deseret News book review

I was so excited to see this book review of The Two-Minute Marriage Project in the Deseret News this week: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865615852/Book-review-Two-Minute-Marriage-Project-offers-inspiration-instruction-for-staying-in-love.html?pg=all

THE TWO-MINUTE MARRIAGE PROJECT: Simple Secrets for Staying in Love,” by Heidi Poelman, Familius, $14.95, 142 pages (nf)

“The Two-Minute Marriage Project: Simple Secrets for Staying in Love” by Utahn Heidi Poelman is a refreshingly relatable guide to marriage maintenance for newlyweds and longtime spouses alike, worthy of space on any couple’s bookshelf.

Tackling topics like learning to understand a spouse’s perspective, creating and maintaining intimacy and handling conflict, Poelman discusses various facets of a day-to-day marriage relationship, offering numerous suggestions on small, everyday actions to nourish and support a lasting partnership. Each chapter, which addresses couples in every stage of marriage, ends with a summary list of “action steps” each spouse can complete to strengthen their relationship — each of which can be done in two minutes or less.

While many authors of classic marriage self-help books are scholars and marriage and family therapists, Poelman is neither. Rather, she is a wife, mother and Utahn who has “been in the trenches” and understands what the everyday life of marriage is like. Whereas other guides can feel stuffy or more theoretical than practical, “The Two-Minute Marriage Project” is a simple read that makes sense, is entertaining and is easy to apply.

What she lacks in professional expertise, Poelman more than makes up for in relatability; her engaging, self-deprecating style evokes a type of trust that is hard to feel for academics. Utilizing many of her own marital experiences to demonstrate the principles she discusses as well as “what not to do” scenarios, Poelman makes it easy to understand and apply her suggested action steps.

Aside from the observations she has made about tried-and-tested marriage maintenance ideas among family and friends, Poelman references plenty of academic studies and marriage therapists to create a balanced list of citations.

Thanks to Poelman’s practical applications and prosaic writing style, “The Two-Minute Marriage Project” is an enjoyable and easily applicable marriage maintenance guide.

Jennifer Ball is a freelance journalist out of Los Angeles specializing in food criticism and LDS media. Email:jenniferpelota@gmail.com

The Two-Minute Marriage Project Released Yesterday

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

2MMP

 

Happy-mom moment

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

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

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

Mother’s Day

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

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

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

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

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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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