Tyler is so fun to have in our family! He is friendly, adventurous, smart, determined, athletic, artistic, and fun to be around! Tyler has an excitement for life that is contagious! I hope you're having fun watching the new Star Wars movie with Brian and your dad. We sure love you, Tyler!
We decorated his bedroom door, Brian made him waffles for breakfast, and now the boys are at the new Star Wars movie! I'd say that's a super fun morning for the birthday boy!
Today, I hosted Julia's preschool class at our home. We learned all about the letter A, the number 1, the color red, and about circles. We started class by reading a couple of stories. Then we sang the "Days of the Week" song, talked about the weather, and about calendars. Then, we went downstairs to watch a church video about Adam and Eve and to play, "Follow the Leader." Following that, we built castles out of Mega Blocks, making sure that some of the blocks we used were red. After snack time, we colored in the circles, the As, and #1s that we found on butcher paper that I spread out on our kitchen table. We ended our class today outside, where we jumped on the trampoline and had ramp races (rolling a ball down the ramp). The kids were very well behaved and we all had a great time.
Today was Julia's first day of preschool. She wore her current favorite shirt (long sleeved purple shirt with pink hearts) a pink skirt, and her pink crocs. Oh, and she insisted on wearing Mommy's oversized red bead necklace. We held hands as we crossed the street together to Ethan's house. One of the activities we did there was to draw pictures of our favorite things. Julia's responses surprised me. She said her favorite toys are princesses, favorite food are mushrooms, favorite person is herself, favorite animal is a tiger.
Three years ago, our baby, Julia Elizabeth, was born! From the get go, her brothers and sisters couldn't get enough of her. She's a momma's girl and her favorite person to play with is her big sister, Katie. Nothing slows this girl down! She holds her own on the trampoline, sneaks treats and hides to eat them, and gives herself haircuts with any pair of scissors she gets her hands on! We love her cute little voice, the way she tilts her head and gives the sweetest smiles, and we love how she hugs best when she gets a running start. We love our Julia! Happy birthday, sweetheart!
The day before her birthday, the two of us had decorated the kitchen with princess balloons and pictures of Julia growing up. She opened her birthday cards from her grandparents and they both had some money inside. The kids were all at school on Julia's birthday, so I had hours with Julia to myself to spoil. We had a laid back morning at home. After lunch, we spent Julia's birthday money at a local print shop/party supply store. Julia picked out a pink elephant stuffed animal to fill up with stuffing. She named her elephant Sophia.
Here's a little note I wrote to Julia to remember some details of her birthday:
Your big brother, Brian made you a strawberry ice cream cake. Tyler helped you open your presents. Katie bought you a Barbie doll and a heart shaped balloon. Daddy gave Mommy ideas for your presents. I invited Great Grandma Hallstrom over for cake. Julia, you are at such a fun age where most everything is exciting.
Sam is the only one in our family that had ever been to Colorado before. For the rest of us, we didn't really know what to expect. We took the road through Wyoming to get down to the Denver area. We left mid afternoon on a Wednesday and drove all the way to Rawlins, WY. We ate dinner at a McDonalds with an indoor play area. Brian and I walked across the parking lot to a Dollar Tree store. We bought some pool noodles (for the hotel pool) and some treats for the rest of our road trip. We stayed in the Fairfield Inn Marriott hotel for the night. We all went in the indoor hotel pool and hot tub. The kids were so happy and wound up to be staying in a pool. I'm so glad Katie had a life jacket on! That girl loves the water. After the pool, the girls watched some TV with their dad and I took the boys to the hotel's fitness center. They had fun learning how to use the treadmill, the elliptical, and the exercise ball. I only got a little bit of a workout in, but that's better than nothing. All of slept good that night, except for Sam. Katie insisted on sleeping in the bed with me, leaving Sam without much room to sleep on the bed. I was impressed with the variety of things the hotel had out for breakfast the next morning. The kids ate their fair share and we tried our best to clean up the giant mess we left behind.
We continued on our merry way and got to downtown Denver early afternoon. We took our kids to the Denver Children's Museum. We knew they needed to get their wiggles out and explore. This museum was so fun for the kids. My girls especially enjoyed the area with a grocery store and kitchen. The boys really liked the area where you help bouncy balls get through the maze and create your own maze too.
Early evening, we made it through Denver without hitting any rush hour traffic. Sam's brother, Aaron and his wife, Sarah welcomed us into their home in Littleton. The live in a nice older home in a coule de sac. Our kids sure had fun getting to know their cousins better. They especially enjoyed sleeping in their cousins' bedrooms at night. Sarah did a great job feeding everyone! She's a trooper to let us stay with them being weeks away from having her sixth baby. We did several fun things with Aaron & Sarah's family. We had a pizza picnic and swimming time at the Webster Street pool, had a nice drive up in the mountains to Tiny Town. It was there where we the we rode the train, had a picnic lunch, and ate some ice cream. We played a fun game called Bubble Talk with the kids, I taught the kids how to make colorful tissue paper pom poms for their bedrooms, and we explored Bellevue Park.
After our two day two night stay in Littleton, it was off to see Jenny & Seth's family in Centennial. We met them at an oversized, free, outdoor splash pad. There were rock walls to climb, a couple of waterslides, a playground, a wading area with streams of water to play in. Jenny & Seth live in a nice neighborhood that has it's own park and swimming pool. The home they are renting is larger than ours, but has a very similar layout to ours. Jenny and I were able to escape our families for a couple of hours to go on a sister date. We went to Panera for lunch and then to Target to do a little shopping. (Logan doesn't have a Target store, so I was excited to go there.) The kids had fun playing with their cousins' toys, playing video games, going to a couple of parks, and going to a different Primary on Sunday. Seth made us some slushies. We all liked the root beer flavoring he put in. Jenny and I watched the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. I showed the kids how to make tissue paper pom poms for their bedrooms. It was so fun to spend time with Jenny and her family.
The drive home was super long and uneventful. We are all so glad that we could go on this vacation. We can't wait for our next trip to Colorado.
Making: my house look and feel stylish and functional Cooking: Poppy Seed Chicken for dinner Drinking: ice cold water out of my $1 store purple water bottle Reading: too many FB and IG updates Wanting: to feel content Looking: at the messy walls, floors, and kitchen Playing: chef with my 2 year old, Julia Wasting: time selling and getting rid of stuff we no longer want or need in out home Wishing: I had fun plans for the weekend Enjoying: binge watching Netflix after the kids are in bed Waiting: for the day the 3 big kids go back to school Liking: the sunny skies and balmy weather Watching: Julia cut up paper with scissors Loving: Sam and his hard work and dedication in keeping our family happy. Marveling: at how fast my kids are growing up. Needing: a day at the spa. I've never been to a spa. Smelling: the yummy blueberry cake I made Wearing: my apron on top of my orange and gray workout clothes Following: inspiriational quotes on Instagram and writing them down in my quote book Noticing: my kids want to experience fun times as a family Knowing: Sam and I are building a life to be proud of Thinking: I should make a treat for our new neighbors across the street and have my family go meet them. Feeling: Like tonight is a good night for sleeping in. Bookmarking: podcasts to listen to later Opening: my brush pens to try out a new calligraphy technique Giggling: over Julia and what makes her giggle Wondering: how long it will take for my hair to grow about 6 more inches Hoping: the kids don't get sunburned at playground group
Happy Birthday to our Superman, Sam! Thank you for always making us feel loved, protected, and provided for! Sam is very dedicated to the well being of his family and spoils us with lots of quality time. The kids and I are spoiled by having such an attentive and service oriented husband and father by our side. Sam has to work today so we celebrated his birthday yesterday. We took the kids on a new hiking trail that just opened up, made fruit kabobs, had a backyard BBQ at home, and opened presents. We love you, Sam! And of course, even though we celebrated yesterday, we still have a few surprises for you today.
The following is an article by Catherine, the author of the blog, littlesloveandsunshine.com Dear fellow thirtysomething mum,
I see you in the supermarket, I see you at the playground. I see you at the school drop-off, I see you on the train and in the kid-friendly restaurants. Sometimes you see me too, and we exchange a little smile, an eye-roll, an “I get it” moment. More often you don’t see me – you are chasing your toddler down the aisles, watching your pre-schooler like a hawk as she climbs higher than you’d like, admonishing your kid for pinching her brother, reaching for a wet wipe, mopping up a spilled drink.
A few days ago I was at our public swimming pool, and if ever there was a stark metaphor for life as a mum in her 30s, the public swimming pool has to be it. There we all are – the stereotypes we swore we never would be – wading knee-deep in the kiddies’ pool, eyes locked on our littles – and genuinely delighted by their antics. Although we may be there in pairs or groups, our conversations are piecemeal, we cannot relax. Our focus is entirely on our children. We are tired. We are distracted. Our tankini-clad bodies are battle-scarred and utterly not what they used to be.
Up on the hill are the shiny twentysomethings. They are flipping through magazines, chatting to their friends, Facebooking and selfie-snapping on their iPhones. They are rested. They are toned. They are magnificently oblivious to what is coming their way in the future. They don’t even see us. Or if they do, they swear they will never be us.
It’s okay. We were there once, and we know better than to be offended.
You see, the truth is, we thirtysomethings have let ourselves go. No. We have let our SELVES go. We have small children and for the next little while, our SELVES will not come first. We will be sleeping (or not) according to the timetables of our toddlers and/or newborns and/or a combination of the above. Our hair will not be washed as often as we’d like. Sit-ups? What sit-ups? We will be wiping noses and bottoms and messes from the walls. We will be cooking what feels like continuously from breakfast to supper time and not leaving the table until at least a forkful of peas have been eaten. We will spend hours a week kneeling by the side of the bath and then reading “just one more” bedtime story until we pass out on the edge of the toddler bed. We will be fluent in the language of Paw Patrol, Sofia the First, Peppa Peg and Doc McStuffins, and will use said characters shamelessly as threats, bribes, or as digital babysitters so we can dash upstairs to grab a shower. We will find ourselves negotiating with terrorists even though we swore we never would. We will answer to “Uppy” and “More” and “I don’t want to”, and we will say “What’s the magic word?” more times a day than we ever imagined possible. This is thirtysomething. It’s not easy – and that’s the truth.
But there is another truth. Up there on the hill, nestled subtly amongst the twentysomethings, are the fortysomethings. They too are rested. They too are toned. They are alone, quietly reading a book. They see us, and they are sympathetic but also a bit smug. They’ve been there and done it and they know it doesn’t last forever. Girls, fortysomething is the holy grail. Fortysomething is coming.
The decade we get our SELVES back.
Not that I want to wish away the time. Although thirtysomething so far is a bit of a blur, it’s also a kind of magic. Never again will I feel a squidgy cheek rest on my chest in the middle of the night. Little arms reaching up to me after a fall. The delicious baby smell and the little pairs of skinny jeans and sparkly trainers. The scooter rides and monkey bars and the bed time stories with a small person in the crook of each arm. Hearing “I want Mummy,” and “Please can you help me?” and “I want to huggle you.”
Yes, fortysomething is coming, and it’s going to be bliss. But don’t let it come too fast. If I’m to lose my self for a decade, motherhood sure is a delicious thing to lose it to.
I read this article that my sister, Amy shared on Facebook. It really got me thinking on how I feel about the stage of motherhood I am in. I got married and started my family in my early 20s, so I wasn't really ever one of those "twentysomethings" girls. I wanted to be a young mom and learn the ropes of motherhood. My amazing mother has always been someone I turn to when figuring out this whole motherhood thing. When I was really little, my mom would play with me and teach me all sorts of things in preparing me for school. She taught me to always try my best and to be kind to others. She taught me how to serve the less fortunate. I really think that she enjoyed her time as a mother raising her 8 young kids.
"Motherhood is not a competition to see who has the smartest kids, the cleanest house, the healthiest dinners, or the nicest clothes... Motherhood is YOUR journey with YOUR children." - DrLaura.com
I feel like I've been rocking it with my family lately! I've been thinking of fun things to do with my kids. I've been really patient with everyone, just listening to them when they want me to really hear what they have to say. I have been spending quality time with my kids. Katie even wrote me the cutest note tonight:
Anyway, I've got to mention that a couple weeks ago, was Fast Sunday. On his very own, Tyler leaned over and told me, "I want to get up there and do that, Mom." He kept going back and forth on the idea, and then finally right at the end, he had me go up to the podium with him and whisper in his ear what to say. Right in the middle of Tyler's testimony, Katie comes running up from the back of the chapel saying, "I want to do it too!" So I helped Katie bear her testimony as well. Then it was my turn. Being up front with Julia on my hip and two other kids of mine at my side made my time up front there short and sweet. I'm so glad that Sam and I are setting a good example of being strong and faithful members of the church.
Brian Tyler Katie Julia "I can't help but get all sentimental looking at these four beautiful names. The names who make me a Momma. I just get overwhelmed when I stop and reaaaalllyyy think about what I have been given. They make me want to be better---The best version of myself. So that I can fully serve THEM better. For so long, I have "unhealthily" found my identity solely in being a mother. I didn't allow myself to be anything else. My good days and bad days all revolved around if I was "good enough" or if I measured up to this misconception of what I thought a good mom should be. But over the last several months, the Lord has been teaching me that when I find my true identity in Him, I am most satisfied. He created me with specific gifts/interests that allow my soul to thrive. And it's when I allow myself to do some of those things, I am a better Mom. I love people. Like really, really love people. They rejuvenate and energize me, so I have found I need to cultivate more relationships. I love to give gifts. One sure way to lift my spirits quickly is to go buy a gift for someone. I love to decorate and have order in my home. When my home is cozy and inviting, it brings me so much joy and frees me up to love and serve others well. Those are just a few things that make me "me," and it's been a blessing to see how God has revived some of those desires and longings in my heart. What makes you a #MomAndMore? I would love to hear what makes your heart beam?!" Elizabeth Sirven @myfourarrows "Only one life, twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last..." "A man without a vision for his future, always returns to his past." "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you have now was once among the things you nearly hoped for." -Epicurus _________________________________________________________________________________________
Over a year ago, I took an online class that changed my perspective no how to life a more full, balanced life. I still have areas of my life to work on, but it's nice to know that I can look back on this course and remember some tips.
Every Branch Thriving Life Course Review
1. My biggest takeaway from the Thriving Life Course was realizing how my was life was so out of balance! I had been obseesed for years in building my identity mainly on being a talented, sought out professional photographer. I know I have been distracted for a few years focusing on perfecting my photography skills, my people skills, even my likability as a woman in the vast world of professional photographers. My lightbulb moment was realizing how I want "my tree" too look beautiful and full of rich experiences and fulfilling relationships. It was the time to lessen my focus on the need to be recognized as a professional photographer. The Thriving Life course sure made me think about visualizing and planning out the life I really and truly want. Thank you, Every Branch and Brooke Snow for creating this amazing course!
2. I have approached life drastically different after taking the course. I now tend to let life unfold more naturally instead of forcing things to happen. I have been working hard on spending more quality time with my family and have made several new friends too! I am picking up new hobbies that I have been sure to carve time out for. Life is now way more fulfilling for me!
3. I would totally recommend this course to an overwhelmed friend. I think so many people get overwhelmed with social media, comparing themselves, and thinking their own life they are leading is lacking. The Thriving Life course so easily explains how to rethink the structure of your life and how to plan and carry out your own thriving life. Hands down, I give this course FIVE STARS!!!
I've always considered myself a dreamer. When I was young, I dreamed of Halloween and the plethora of candy I would receive. As a teenager, I dreamed of what life in college would be like. In college, I dreamed about what married life would be like. And when I was first married, I dreamed of what life with kids would be like. I dreamed of what it would feel like to buy our first home. I dreamed of what it would be like to having paying clients for my photography business. I dreamed of what it would be like to have occasional preschool classes in my home. And so forth.
As a dreamer, my mind tends to live in the future. Complete happiness is delayed. You know the moments when you think, "I'll be happy when _______." Yeah, those thoughts come into my mind all of the time. I struggle with living in the now... enjoying what I have... and not just longing for more.
I really don't have anything to complain about, but yet I do find myself complaining about the mundane day to day things. Things like cleaning up the kitchen, getting the kids to eat their dinner, and just getting my day started. I am so not a morning person and tend to not be the most pleasant person when I don't get enough sleep. But yeah, I really have to work at being more grateful. Reading positive quotes and writing my favorites down in my notebook make me feel good. Writing in my journal helps me to slow down my mind and really think about the great life that I had.
I have a really quick mind and my thoughts come spewing out of my brain much more quickly than I could ever speak them. That's why I like typing. I can type a lot faster than writing things down by hand.
Anyway, so what is the dream I'm living now?! Let me go back to the time when Sam and I were first married. At that point in my life, I dreamed of what life would be like to have our own home filled with our own children. What would it feel like to be a mother? How would my love grow? What personalities would each of my children have and what would they teach me? What would our home be feel like to those who enter it's walls?
I can't speak for others, but instead only discuss what I hope my home feels like to those who enter. (I love how we live on the edge of town in the last stretch of suburbia, before it turns into farmland, in a corner house in the middle of the street.) I hope those who enter our home feel loved and accepted just they way they are. I hope our home feels like a safe haven. A place where celebrations take place. A place where making mistakes is okay. A place where you can have fun and just be yourself.
To be a mother... what does it feel like to me? It feels like a roller coaster ride. Highs and lows. Some of the highs:
- when my baby girl runs up to me, gives me the biggest hug and says, "Mommy, I love you!"
- when my oldest daughter laughs with glee as she learns to pump her legs just right to swing "super high"
- when my youngest boy wants to "snug" (snuggle up and watch a little tv) before bedtime and still gives me hugs and kisses.
- when my oldest son confides in me, still likes to hang out with me, and is totally okay with holding my hand in public
Some of the lows:
- when you didn't get nearly enough sleep, you don't feel well, and you still have a long day ahead of you
- when you feel all accomplished on cleaning your house and it gets destroyed in well under 24 hours.
- when you loose all privacy in the bathroom. Your master closet is your favorite hide out and where you keep your emergency stash of survival candy.
"Sometimes the story that we are telling the world isn't half as endearing as the one that lives inside us...how can we be loved if we're always hiding?... if we live behind a mask we can impress but we can't connect." -Donald Miller in his book Scary Close
How come it takes so long for me to learn my limits? I expect so much of myself and find myself beating myself up for not getting everything done that I set out to do. My to do list is never ending. I stay up too late to have my "alone time" that I so desperately need. But even during my alone time, I am usually doing something to help someone else, reading a self help book, or just bingeing on Netflix. I am constantly searching for something new to learn, a new project to start, or comparing myself to others on social media. The way I spend my alone time has me feeling discontent, like I'm not good enough, I'm not doing enough, and that I should be accomplishing something and showing off my grand accomplishment to the world. I have a love/hate relationship with social media.
Anyway, instead of overdoing it everyday, I want to make it through the day with energy left to burn. I want to praise myself in every accomplishment that I set out to do. My to do list will not be so long. I will get my proper rest and still have my "alone time." I will only do things in my alone time that build me up, that uplift me, that leave me feeling full of rejuvenation. I will be more plan out specifics of what I want to learn and not have too many projects going at once so I can more fully enjoy the process. And I will not feel the need to advertise everything that I do to the world to make me feel like I too am doing something worthwhile in my life.
I have felt like I am being a great mom to my kids. Lately, I've been doing better at really listening to my kids when they speak, I usually fulfill their requests to play and spend quality time with them. I do my best to plan my day with their well-being in mind. I try so hard to teach them life lessons when things come up and may not go the way they'd planned.
There are still things in my life that I want to make sure to carve out time out for:
- reading scriptures
- creating art
- learning new recipes
- dates with kid
- date with Sam
- enjoying nature
Of course, I won't have the time to do all of these things everyday, but I know that if I make sure to give myself some "me time" daily, I will be happier and feel more content with life.
Brian and Tyler have been on a roll doing extra chores and secret services. They are earning money for the extra chores that they do. The money they earn is going towards buying a new touch screen for our laptop that they broke. They love playing Minecraft on the laptop and of course can't play it on the laptop until they earn all the money to replace the screen.
Katie and Julia have been playing so well together for a couple hours a day. It seems as though the time of day that they are both in the mood to play well together is late morning/early afternoon. Lately they like to play in the backyard... creating sidewalk chalk masterpieces of princesses and Ninja Turtles, eating snacks, swinging, etc.
God created woman he was working late on the 6th day.......
An angel came by and asked." Why spend so much time on her?"
The lord answered. "Have you seen all the specifications I have to meet to shape her?"
She must function on all kinds of situations, She must be able to embrace several kids at the same time, Have a hug that can heal anything from a bruised knee to a broken heart, She must do all this with only two hands," She cures herself when sick and can work 18 hours a day"
THE ANGEL was impressed" Just two hands.....impossible!
And this is the standard model?"
The Angel came closer and touched the woman" "But you have made her so soft, Lord". "She is soft", said the Lord, "But I have made her strong. You can't imagine what she can endure and overcome"
"Can she think?" The Angel asked... The Lord answered. "Not only can she think, she can reason and negotiate"
The Angel touched her cheeks.... "Lord, it seems this creation is leaking! You have put too many burdens on her" "She is not leaking...it is a tear" The Lord corrected the Angel…
"What's it for?" Asked the Angel..... . The Lord said. "Tears are her way of expressing her grief, her doubts, her love, her loneliness, her suffering and her pride."...
This made a big impression on the Angel, "Lord, you are a genius. You thought of everything. A woman is indeed marvellous"
Lord said."Indeed she is. She has strength that amazes a man. She can handle trouble and carry heavy burdens. She holds happiness, love and opinions. She smiles when she feels like screaming. She sings when she feels like crying, cries when happy and laughs when afraid. She fights for what she believes in.
Her love is unconditional. Her heart is broken when a next-of-kin or a friend dies but she finds strength to get on with life"
The Angel asked: So she is a perfect being? The lord replied: No. She has just one drawback "She often forgets what she is worth".
We're doing family home evening right now. We had a lesson on how we love our brothers and sisters. I told my kids about how it's fun to have a brother out on a mission and read them your latest email. They liked hearing how to pronounce words in Russian. They are glad they didn't have to try and eat Murmunsk Salad like you did.
Tyler wants you to know that he reads the scriptures at nighttime and I learn a lot about Jesus on the cross. He watched some Bible videos on the computer today. He is getting faster at running. Uncle Mike took him to the high school track and they ran a mile. Brian will have his lemonade stand in a few weeks and Katie will have her lemonade stand in August. Brian is excited to paint his room downstairs. He has been saving money to go on the extra rides at a waterpark called Cherry Hill this summer. Brian can make peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies all by himself. He doesn't need me anymore to help him follow those recipes. Katie and Julia share a bedroom again. They have a hard time going to sleep because they have so much fun playing. The girls love coloring with chalk on patio out back. Julia is doing well getting potty trained. Julia tries to keep up with her big sister and bothers. At the end of July, we're driving to Colorado to visit Jenny's family. We're looking forward to out visit.
What kind of non- church service have you been doing in Russia? Is it still light outside late into the night? Tell us more about the town you're currently serving in? Brian wants to know if you can tell him how many members of the church there is in Russia?!
Is it okay for me to email you pictures or do they only allow pictures to be sent via snail mail?
Keep up the good work. We pray for you and your safety and success.