Friday, December 23, 2016

2015 in Review: Part 1

I started blogging in 2010- right at the beginning of my pregnancy with Ellie. I loved it right away, and blogged consistently for about a year and a half. Then my laptop broke. And then my camera got stolen, and over the years even though I have wanted to blog all along, I have been pitifully inconsistent. So as the year comes to a close and my thoughts are reflective, I want to do a little recap of the last few years for my memory keeping's sake. Here is a brief run-down of our 2015:

Rang in the New Year with my family at my sister Katie's house. I was delighted when Lorenzo fell asleep on me.
Designated our family theme for the year, and had a little feast along with it. (In our pajamas). I can't remember what the theme was for this year. Ha!

Went to Las Vegas with BJ for soccer. Ellie thought it was the most beautiful place she'd ever seen. :) The kids loved the thrill of staying in a hotel. BJ rode in a limo with his soccer girls.
Took Ellie to LA with me for Rebbie Groesbeck's wedding. She loved the one on one time and the dancing!

Kept doing Strands stuff- and Megan ready to deliver baby Winnie!

After meeting her a few months previously, Nicole Thompson and I started hanging out and connected instantly. She then introduced me to so many new friends. 2015 was the year of friends for me, and Corona officially felt like home then.


Jess, Dustin, and the two younger Rogers girls came to visit during Tana and Kenne's cheer competition. I LOVE when my family visits!
Had to include this picture of Jenny because she is just such a dear friend that I spent a lot of time with this year! (Not specific to March).

Easter! ...was actually horrible this year, but the kids looked adorable!

We travel to Lancaster with BJ for a soccer tournament and Lorenzo falls and splits his head open in the hotel room, goes to the Emergency Room, and gets 7 stitches.

BJ and I get to take photos with Amelia Lyon and these are two of my favorites from the shoot.

We go to Utah for a visit and get to tour the breathtaking new Payson Temple.


While visiting in Utah, we went to the carnival at Edgemont Elementary. The kids rode this train, Ellie rode a horse, and won a fish that made it all the way back in a cup of water from Utah to California.
 We cheer Nashy on in one of his games! Lorenzo is enamored.
 We watch Carter for a couple days after Dani Bree had Naomi.
Ellie learns to "rollerskate". I really need the laughing/crying emoji here!

Monday, December 19, 2016

My Grandma

Last night I stood at my kitchen sink deseeding a pomegranate into a warm bowl of water. Deep purply-red juice stained the water, the counter, the knife, and my hands. As I felt the familiar popping release of the seeds loosening from the outer shell, my thoughts drifted to my grandma Arlene- my dad's mom. I still remember the day when I was 6 years old that she came to my parent's house with pomegranates. I had never seen one before. She brought me from the backyard into the kitchen so she could show me what a pomegranate looked like, felt like, smelled like, tasted like, and how it worked. The beautiful, exotic fruit fascinated me. She shared it all with me.

I remember that when my parents were building their home we lived with her for several months. I remember the time that I got sick at school, and she was the one to come and pick me up. When we got home she lovingly took me to the little room next to her bedroom where she watched tv. There was a sofa, and a recliner in there. She laid me down on the sofa with a blanket, felt my forehead with her soft, warm hand, and went to the kitchen to make me something to eat.

I remember her half apron she almost always wore around her waist. I remember her feeding my friend and me animal crackers with frosting after we had hiked to her house, and how that seemed like the most decadent treat in the world. I remember standing with her in her backyard garden, picking pear shaped miniature tomatoes that were orange, yellow, and red and warmed from the sun. I  don't think I've since eaten a tomato that tasted so good to me.

My grandmother was warm and soft. She had hard candy and kleenexes in her purse. Always. She wore long shorts with a t-shirt tucked in and Keds. She wore pink lipstick, and her hair was perfectly white.

I miss my grandma. I miss the feeling of being the little girl cuddled up into her side. I miss her comfort and constancy. I miss going to her home for Sunday dinner. I miss riding in the back of my parent's van with her by my side. I miss visiting her home and seeing dahlia's the size of my head in her hanging flower pots on the front porch.

My grandma showed me the beauty of being a woman. She taught me that when you're a woman you can be gentle and strong all at the same time. She taught me that taking care of your family is the most special task that will ever be required of you. She taught me that you take good care of yourself so you can take good care of others.  She showed me that you'll never be more beautiful than when you are truly you. She taught me that giving your time to others is the way you give your love to them.

I miss my grandma, and I so desperately hope that I can one day make a little child feel as special and whole as my grandma made me feel.

Friday, December 16, 2016

To My Oliver Taft

My precious baby Oliver,

You lay next to me as I type this. It's early in the morning, not even light outside, and its raining. We are cozied up together, both wrapped up in blankets, just like you love to be. My goodness my beautiful baby boy, it is hard to put into words all the feelings I have for you. You have blessed our family with your coming. You are adored by all around you: me, daddy, your brother and sister, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends. We all adore you.

You are a beautiful baby. I truly haven't seen many babies with a face as perfect as yours. But your mild manner is what is so heartwarming and unique. You have a gentle, peaceful soul that is noticeable to anyone that spends time with you. I know it sounds funny with you being so tiny still (you are 8 and a half weeks today), but you have this quiet strength about you. You have a maturity and understanding in your eyes that makes me so excited to watch you grow and to see the path you'll walk in this life.

You are precious, Oliver Taft. Thank you for coming to our family. Thank you for the peace and light you bring with you. We are so blessed to have you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Visions

Having a baby around the holidays is a beautiful thing. This time of year filled with celebration and gathering is magical in and of itself, but when you add a fresh baby into that equation, it's almost more than the heart can bear! I've been so excited that this is the first year we will have Christmas in our very own home, with (just) our family of five. Naturally, with that excitement and anticipation, come daydreams and visions of what I hope this first milestone will look like for us. I can picture our children eagerly waiting at the top of the stairs and hurriedly making their way down on Christmas morning. I think of them going to bed together on Christmas Eve, practically shaking with excitement. I can see a beautiful spread on the table of a dinner that is beautiful, nourishing, and delicious- and followed the next morning by a breakfast of sweet velvet crumb cake, fresh berries and orange juice, and a hearty and savory vegetable and egg hash. I've already posed a cozy group shot of all of us cuddled together on Christmas Eve in our pajamas. I can see it all, and in my mind's eye, it all looks perfect.

As Christmas has drawn closer over the last week or so, a natural let-down has occurred. The handmade wreaths made with local greenery I was dreaming about have not been made. The pine-cone swag I was hoping to hang on the door hasn't been assembled. Christmas cards need sending, there are still presents that need to be purchased, made, wrapped, and delivered. And the three adorable children included in all of these fantasies have actual real-life needs that sometimes (most of the time) aren't in line with the time and energy it would take to create all of these scenes.

As silly as it sounds, this year I was really hoping I could have both. I wanted the warm fuzzy feelings of togetherness, as well as the perfect picture- the outward beauty emanating from the handmade decorations, the sparkling clean house, and the dazzling bowed-up packages and made-from-scratch food. But yesterday I had a thought who's truth resonated in my head. "It doesn't matter what it looks like. It matters what it feels like". I already blogged about the rough evening we had on Monday, and how we had to cancel having friends over for hot chocolate because the kids were so dang tired. In the middle of that evening, once we succumbed to not having friends over, we all sat on the couch and just sat. It was the first moment in the day that everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. No one was hurried or distracted, we were just together. The togetherness is really what we crave, I think. The togetherness is what our souls actually need. Of course the lights, and the decorations, and the homemade food don't hurt, but they're not the most important part.

I think I'd be wise this week before Christmas to create a new vision. The new vision would be one where the mom pauses, stops even, to laugh and play and share with her children. This vision would know that the mom doesn't, shouldn't and can't "do it all". It would inevitably include a house that isn't that clean, and food that's on the table whether or not its homemade. The new vision would focus more on looking into someone's eyes than looking at a pretty decoration. The new vision would look hard at the two precious children, and the one teeny tiny, perfect baby that she has, and realize that the  magic of the vision is in them, because they see magic around them regardless of what things look like.

Do you guys struggle with this too? I don't know why I'm such a slow learner in this regard. Can you relate to these feelings, or does embracing the messy come a little more easily to you?

Thanks for stopping by. xoxo

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Who I'm Running For

Yesterday I felt frazzled. Like, the whole day I felt frazzled. I was in motion, only stopping to pause when Lorenzo needed to be put down for a nap, but the rest of the time, I was moving. I could feel the list of Christmas to do's pressing in on me, and I saw dishes to wash, laundry to do, a filthy, unorganized garage that's driving me out of my mind, and closets that need to badly to be organized. I was the metaphorical hamster in the wheel. Running and running, but not getting anywhere.
Amidst all this running and moving, and exhausting action, I hardly took a second to check in with my kids. It didn't feel like there was time to look them in the eye, let alone sit down and talk or play them. By the afternoon Ellie was starting to unravel. I wanted to unravel, but we had plans for friends to come over for hot chocolate and Christmas singing in the evening and I still had dinner to make, a trip to the grocery store to accomplish, and a house that at a minimum needed picking up. Ellie needed me, but I didn't have time to listen. I didn't have time to pause. After loads of tears, 3 ineffective time outs, a headache and short tempers, I finally decided to text my friends to tell them we'd have to get together another time. Ellie was upset about it at first, but then I finally sat down on the couch to pause. Our burnt dinner could wait. The dirty house could wait. I could breathe, and Ellie could finally have the attention she needed. BJ tickled her back and cuddled with her, and eventually she fell asleep on the couch. We ate a calm, relaxed dinner together at the table (I hadn't realized Ellie was starving. She hadn't eaten since lunch at school.) I let the kids have the hot chocolate we had made to share with friends. Then we got in pajamas and watched an episode of Fixer Upper together. (Our new favorite.) I put Ellie to bed by herself, and then Lorenzo. BJ sealed and stamped all our Christmas cards while I cleaned up the kitchen, and we went to bed early.
It's hard when we have demands on our time and we find ourself in the struggle of so many good options to decide between, and only 24 hours in a day to figure out which ones need our priority. Yesterday wasn't fun feeling torn and frazzled, but it taught me that even at Christmas time, sometimes the better option is to simplify. What we all really need is connection. Sincere, honest, simple time to connect. So often, we need time to slow down. I made a list last night before bed of the things that absolutely need to be done this week. Those are the things I will spend my time in motion for. Things like my filthy garage and my unorganized closets will have to wait, because one thing on that list is time to actually be with these people that I'm doing all the running for.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review

I wanted to share with you three books that I read this year that really made an impact on me. They were captivating reads for me, and ones that challenged and stretched my way of thinking- a characteristic mark of a truly good book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I mentioned this book in yesterday's post. I read this book at the beginning of the year when I was so sick in the early days of my pregnancy. It was the thing that helped me realize that if I could stay mentally stimulated or engaged in something it would improve my quality of living and attitude, as I was mostly just getting through the days at that point. Gilbert speaks of the creative process as a living, breathing thing that we must listen to, engage with, and honor. She speaks of artists, and creatives- something I consider myself to be- and how they can literally engage in a (metaphorical) dance with their inspiration. She speaks of the way ideas come to us and how we can honor them by working our butts off to help them come up. It reminds me of an artist I love, Brian Kershisnik and what he said of his work, "I firmly believe that when a painting succeeds, I have not created it, but rather participated in it." Or how Michelangelo famously said, "  Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." 

I would really recommend this book to anyone. I think it presents a really unique concept in a way that is convincing and powerful. It is illuminating, and Elizabeth Gilbert's energy, conviction, and humor are contagious.

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl. To date, this is hands down my favorite parenting book I've read. Contrary to other cross-culture parenting books, these authors don't make a mockery of American Parenting. Instead, an American woman married to a Dane, along with a Danish psychologist wrote this book about the natural culture and ways of parents in Denmark after years of observation. The book uses the acronym, "PARENT" to pinpoint the 6 key elements of Danish parenting, which are,

P- Play

A- Authenticity
R- Reframing
E- Empathy
N- No Ultimatums

T- Togetherness

I was attracted to this book when I heard that it focused on empathy and how to instill this oft-forgotten characteristic in your children. After reading it, I discovered that all 6 of the elements they outline are powerful in raising children. Something that is unique about this parenting book is that it is not at all condemning. It clearly and quickly lays out each concept, and doesn't spend time pointing out all the ways you're doing each one wrong. It doesn't make you feel guilty for the way you're currently doing things, but instead makes you think, "Oh wow. That makes a lot of sense. I want to try that." I also love this book, because I feel like the principles it teaches are in line with the way Jesus Christ treated others. This book teaches you how to honor children in the way you think and interact with them, and illustrates how to nurture them in a way that will really help them feel understood, safe, and content. This book is a quick read, and it doesn't read like a textbook. I have this book in physical, digital, and audio form because it is a great reference guide that I turn to often.

The third book I recently listened to was "The Magnolia Story" by Chip and Joanna Gaines. I've watched a handful of Fixer Upper episodes and have enjoyed Chip and Joanna and their antics together, and I was just curious about this book. I never expected to be so inspired by it. It was so enjoyable to listen to that I finished the five hour book in about two and a half days. I took away a lot of lessons from it, including: staying close to God, cleaving to your spouse, dreaming big, listening to inspiration, putting family first, enjoying the journey even when its not going well, not sweating the small stuff, trying to be a good person, and finding the path that's meant for you. Chip and Joanna have a way of living this really beautiful, authentic life that is centered on what is good and right, and they don't make you feel jealous or like your life isn't good enough. I really can't recommend this book enough. I'm hoping to listen to it with BJ on our drive to Utah at Christmastime now that he's finally conceded to watching a few episodes of Fixer Upper with me. (He totally enjoys it.) This book shows how God prepares those who follow Him to have a voice and share their story in a way that will lift and inspire others. Chip and Joanna do this in such a pure way.

The books coming up next for me are, "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Elaine N. Aron, and "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown.I love the power of a good book.

What have you read lately that you love? Any recommendations? I'd love to hear!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

On Finding Inspiration

I recently came across this quote that spoke to my soul:

"One of the marks of a godly woman is that she takes responsibility for her soul's need for joy and delight. A woman is a conductor, who leads the orchestra of her surroundings in the songs and music of her life. God is a God of creativity and dimension, and so He is pleased when we co-create beauty in our own realm, through the power of His Spirit." -Sally Clarkson

The part of this that really jumps out and grabs me is "a godly woman takes responsibility for her soul's need for joy and delight." I whole heartedly agree with this.

When I was pregnant with Oliver this year I was set back physically. The first trimester I was sicker than I had ever been on a continual basis. I felt crummy around the clock, day after day. I had never experienced this before, so I never understood how taxing chronic sickness is on your mental, emotional, and spiritual well being. Later on in my second and third trimesters I didn't feel as sick, but I definitely wasn't my usual self. My energy was limited. My strength was weakened. I had aches and ailments and discomforts every single day.

At some point during my first trimester I discovered something that I tried to apply throughout the rest of the pregnancy. By reference I began reading a book entitled, "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert. It inspired me. It was thought provoking and interesting, and stimulating for my mind and soul. I couldn't believe how good this inspiration felt. I had found myself unmotivated in many ways, because the little positive energy I had I was trying so hard to channel toward my children. I wasn't motivated to seek spiritual experiences through studying because at the end of the day I just felt done.  Keeping up with life seemed to be just about all I could manage at that point, so when Big Magic came around and my spirit and mind were truly fascinated by something again, it just felt so good. I clung on to this little bit of new found wisdom. I realized that while my life couldn't be my regular or old life for a time, that if I could just find something little, something manageable every single day that spoke to me, or stirred, or was enlightening to me, that would be the endorphin kick I needed to feel like myself. I couldn't believe the staying power that just little bits of inspiration gave me.
So I'd take little walks, or read something motivating, or just try to pay greater attention to what I was doing and search for beauty in the mundane moments.

Painting I love by Brian Kershisnik entitled, "She Will Find What Was Lost"

So now that I'm not pregnant (hallelujah), and now that my physical health is returning and I feel like myself again, I'm finding other sources of inspiration. I recently listened to "The Magnolia Story" by Chip and Joanna Gaines. I downloaded the audiobook on Monday, and finished it last night while I was cleaning up the kitchen. You guys, it was gold. It was a ticket in the fast lane to the land of inspiration. I cannot possibly recommend this book enough to you. I'm also feeling jazzed about my new Audible subscription. I told BJ that I wanted this for one of my Christmas presents, and then went ahead and signed myself up yesterday cause I just don't want to wait! Why did I not do this sooner?! Audio books and podcasts are the best, you guys! I love that I finished this amazing book in three days. It's so nice to listen to while cleaning, or driving, or exercising. I am seriously thrilled about all the books I'll be able to "read" that I would have never found or made the time to actually read.
Identifying ways that you're inspired is one way you can "take responsibility for your soul's need for joy and delight". What are ways you find inspiration? What have you found that brings your soul joy and delight? I'd love to hear. Here are some of mine:

-going on walks
-writing in my journal or blogging
-reading/listening to a good book or poetry
-looking at inspiring art (I've been googling different artists lately and looking at their works on my phone, and I love it. I screen shot the ones I really love and use them as my screensaver.)
-spending time at the beach
-waking up early and having quiet time to myself
-doing something creative with my hands, like rearranging my decor or cooking
-having a good quality scripture study with prayer, my journal, scriptures, and talks

(I took this picture while I was pregnant and feeling terrible. We were waiting for a friend to swing something by, and the kids were playing in the front yard. I sat on the front porch and watched them, and it was such a tender and beautiful moment for me in its simplicity.)

I hope you can find ways to feel inspired in your life on a regular basis. Hugs.