Friday, July 29, 2016

My Life Today

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 36th Birthday, Sam!!!

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.

LIVE in the NOW

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 PatrolSofia the FirstPeppa 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.
Love, Catherine

________________________________________________________________________
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

Testimonies

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 me and whisper in his ear what to say for his testimony.  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.

Me, Motherhood, and Learning to thrive

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!!!


- Lisa Ward 
lisawardphotography.blogspot.com

I'm Living The Dream

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.

Something to Ponder

"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

Learning My Limits

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
- journaling
- blogging
- creating art
- learning new recipes
- friends
- photography
- 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.

Update from the Spring

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.

Spiritual Thought

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".

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Letter to Our Missionary

Dear Elder Hallstrom,

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.

Love, Lisa, Sam, Brian, Tyler, Katie, and Julia

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Best Mother's Day Poem Yet

My Mom
By: Katie

My mom has brown eyes.
I call her Mom. 
She looks like popcorn and smells like marshmallows.
Her hair is brown like mine
and her hands feel like chocolate milk. 
She helps me clean. 
She likes to do chores every morning.
We like to together jump on the trampoline. 
She is special because she cleans everyday.
My mom makes me feel sad when she is in the bathroom too long.
She loves me because she is special.
I love her because she tries to be nice.

Happy Mother's Day 2016 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Happy 6th Birthday, Katie!

Years ago, I dreamed of having a daughter.  I could just visualize what she looked like as a young girl... dark brown hair, brown eyes... a mini me!  And wouldn't you know, that dream came true when Katie Jane Ward was born!  It's super fun to have a little mini me.  
Katie is so fun to have in our family.
She's always had a great head of hair.
She is very independent and likes to do things her own way.  
This girly girl loves to plan parties and picnics in our backyard.  
She is a little artist and has a wonderful imagination.
Katie's birthday is at a great time of year... 
the end of the school year and the beginning of summer break.  
She ran in her first Wildcat Run three days before her birthday.  
She had fun running the half mile with her daddy and the rest of the kindergartners.
That same day, Katie's class celebrated her birthday.  Her teacher and classmates made a special birthday crown for her to wear in class.  Some of her classmates had some very nice things to say about her:
- Katie is fun!  ~Allyah
- Katie is good at school. ~ Maritza
- Katie is happy. ~ Eduardo 
- Katie is nice. ~ Shayla
- I like to play with her. ~ MaKenna
- Katie is smart. ~ Moo
- Katie is a good friend. ~ Trindon
- Katie is kind. ~ Carson

This year Katie had a character party in our backyard.  We told all of her friends to come dressed as their favorite princess, superhero, or whatever.  Katie couldn't decide what she wanted to dress up as, so she chose two characters: Spiderman and Donatello the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  She was so happy at her party.  All of the other girls dressed up as princesses and Sawyer Griffiths dressed up as a ninja.  The kids made bracelets, played a Spiderman web bean bag toss game, and then the kids  decorated their own cupcakes.  The kids went outside and we opened presents.  One of Katie's friends, Penny Wheelright, gave her the game Pie Face.  It was super funny to watch the kids play that game.  I'm glad it stopped raining so the kids could go and play outside.  

It's been a fun year watching Katie come out of her shell more.  
She's super excited for the summer.  
She will be taking ballet, participating in summer playground group, going to family reunions, etc.

Katie, we love you so much!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Letter to Uncle Ryan (Elder Hallstrom)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hi Elder Hallstrom!

I want to see a picture of you in your awesome Russian coat!  How was the Russian Orthodox Christmas?  Did you do anything special to celebrate?  How is Sergei's apartment cleaning coming along?  I've helped clean super yucky trailers before which have needed tons of elbow grease to get anything clean.  How are you and Elder Larson getting along?  Where is he from?  

Did you get my Christmas letter and family picture yet?  I hope so.

This year, our ward meets from 9am-noon.  I now teach the Sunbeams with a Japanese lady named Asami Flake.  She has 4 kids like me and lives two streets over from us.  Anyway, we have had 7 Sunbeams in class so far.  They are very active kids but I think we do a good job keeping them busy and learning.  I kind of miss doing singing time every week, but it's nice not to have to plan out what we're doing every week in learning the Primary songs.  I think it's nice that all the kids in my class already know me from coming into Nursery and doing singing time with them last year.  

Brian has been a part of his school's Lego Robotics League.  They had a regional competition yesterday at Utah State University here in Logan.  Sam went with Brian and they were gone most of the day.  His team did well, but they were not one of the top teams.  They will not be moving on to the championship this year.  Brian enjoyed being a part of that group though.

Tyler is 8 years old now.  He was baptized on our Stake's Baptism Day on Jan. 2nd.  The water heater wasn't working that day, but Sam still baptized Tyler in the freezing cold water.  We had a pizza party afterwards at our house for the family members that came that day.  Two of Tyler's friends from church came to his baptism as well.  Tyler wants me to tell you that he got a crossbow for his birthday!  He likes to practice target shooting in the backyard.  Tyler is excited to be in Cub Scouts.  

Katie sure enjoys morning kindergarten.  Sam drops of the kids at school on their way to work.  Katie is good about getting her homework done before the boys come home from school.  She is learning how to read and lost her first tooth right before Christmas.  Katie is still in love with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She practices drawing Ninja Turtles on the back of her school papers.  She is quite the artist.  

Julia is in her second year of nursery at church.  She has no fear of her new classroom and new teachers.  She is super smart and knows how to get what she wants most of the time.  Julia got an Anna costume (from the movie, "Frozen") for Christmas.  She wants to wear her costume everyday.  Julia loves to watch YouTube videos of kids playing with Disney Princess toys.  

Sam has been working long hours for several months.  But since the start of the new year, he's home from work about 5:15pm, which is nice.  The boys are prepping for the Pinewood Derby at the end of the month.  Sam is good to help them create their derby cars.  He'll be taking the boys to his work to use their tools to cut the shape of their cars.  We're excited to see what they come up with.

Anyway, I just wanted to write you an email with a little update.  We pray for you often.  We are blessed to have you as an example to our kids in serving as a faithful missionary.      Keep up the good work.  

Love, Lisa

Letter to Russia

March 3, 2016

Dear Elder Hallstrom- 

HAPPY 19th BIRTHDAY!!!  We love you so much and miss you tons.  We hope you have a good time celebrating your birthday this week.  Does your mission have any random birthday traditions?  

I wanted to let you know how much I admire you, my youngest brother.  You're the youngest of the Hallstrom 10.  I bet it is super fun, yet kind of strange growing up as the youngest.  The day you came home from the hospital, I pretended I wasn't feeling well and stayed home from school so I could hang out with you.  You are such a fun person to be around.  I love how you easily make friends with the older generation and like to do some things "the old fashioned way."  I think it's so cool how you've taken a particular interest (calligraphy) and have taught yourself how to perfect your own style.  I am taking a modern calligraphy writing class using brush pens.  I haven't made much time to practice yet, but I've enjoyed it so far.  I'll have to send you a sample of my fancy calligraphy sometime.  Hey, do you still have that envelope I mailed you of the Primary pics my ward put together?!  I hope sometime on your mission you'll be in a ward/branch that has a Primary that you can share it with.  Let me know when that happens.  Our Primary would love to hear back from Primary children in Russia.  If there's no interest in the Primary children in writing back, you may have the church members write back.  Just an idea. 

Thank you for emailing pics of Russia.  I think it is so neat to see what it's like in other parts of the world.  Is the weather warming up or are you entering a cold season?  It's finally starting to feel like spring in Logan.  Our snow is melting and it's been in the mid 40s to low 60s the past week or so.  Brian is 11 now.  Sam took our boys and two of Brian's friends to the Jump Zone to celebrate.  They came to our house to for cake and ice cream and opening presents.  Brian LOVES birthdays.  He really wanted me to take him on a date to Pizza Pie Cafe (a pizza buffet place) for dinner.  So we did that.  And on the way home, we stopped by a nice big cooking store  that we've never been inside of.  It was fun to browse around that store.  We found out that store offers summer cooking classes for kids, so I'm going to sign Brian up.  I had an idea that night and told Brian about it.  I told him that I should get a hold of my friend who runs her own little bakery out of her home and see if she could teach Brian how to decorate cakes, how to set up a business, and sell VanWie chocolate chip cookies, strawberry ice cream cakes, fancy cupcakes, etc. to earn money towards his mission.  Brian seems excited about that idea.  

My girls have been rather mischievous lately.   Last weekend, I caught Julia cutting her own hair with kids scissors!  I had my friend and neighbor fix her hair.  Then a couple days later, Katie found scissors and gave Julia ANOTHER haircut!!!  Ahhh!  Julia's hair looks kind of wild now, but I refuse to cut it anymore.  When I take the girls on walks around the neighborhood, they like to ride their bikes.  And of course, Katie is a lot faster of a bike rider than Julia, so I have Katie wait at the corner for us to catch up to her.  After awhile, Katie got way ahead of us and continued on her merry way.  By the time Julia and I got back home, Katie wasn't there!  We search really quickly up and down a few streets.  Katie eventually rounded the corner onto our street riding fast and crying her little eyes out, thinking she'd lost us for good.  Poor girl!  I loaded their bikes up in the van and let the girls ride their bikes in the church parking lot to make them happy again.  

Anyway, we just got a pretty cool family gift... a Yamaha digital piano!  It's a really nice model and has hammer weighted keys like a real piano.  Mom mailed me some of my old piano books.  We've had fun with it.  I really want to review what I've learned over the years.  I'm so rusty with my piano playing.  I'd really like to get a simplified hymn book and start there.  Oh, Tyler wants me to tell you that he's not doing soccer this spring.  My school kids have all decided to join a running group that meets for a month or so over at the high school from mid April -mid May.  They want to prep for their end of the school year Wildcat Run.  They'll have fun running and should sleep great for that month or so.  

Well, this email could just go on and on and on.  There's always so much to tell you about.  Oh yeah, we had Grandma Hallstrom, Uncle Calvin, and our cousin, Nathan Kristjanson (who is going to school in Logan) over for dessert on Valentine's Day.  We had a few different treats that I made, one of which was a bday cake for Grandma.  She loved how we remembered and celebrated her.  I had family members (that wanted to) mail bday cards to my house for Grandma to open that night.  She's 85 now and doing well.  She comes over sometimes and spends the night.  She says it's like a vacation coming to our house.  One of the boys always gives up their bed for Grandma to sleep on and we let her sleep in as long as she needs to.  Grandma says she doesn't have to worry about Calvin while she's here.  The kids love seeing Grandma and hanging out with her.  

I guess that's enough of an update for now.  Tell me more about your missionary adventures.  What do you miss about the USA?  Tell me more about how the people do things differently in Russia.  

I leave you with a quote that stood out to me today:

  "To succeed in life, we must teach our spirit and body to work together in obedience to God's commandments." -L. Tom Perry  

I recently got out of a rut I was in for a super long time. I was so down on myself thinking I wasn't living up to my full potential because I didn't have the booming photography business I have been working towards for years. After a lot of prayer, fasting, soul searching, etc., I am finally at peace with the current season of my life. I am a wife and mom of 4 young kids, who are my pride and joy. I love the home my husband and I have created and the strong family bonds we're creating with our kids. Instead of wishing I was living in the future, when all of my kids are in school, I have switched gears in my mind to enjoy life NOW. So, I'm working diligently daily on creating the life I've been dreaming about. Life is beautiful and SO. ARE. YOU.!!!! 

I love you, Ryan!  Keep up the great work you're doing.  Know that we pray for you ... for your safety and success.  

Love, LISA (Sam, Brian, Tyler, Katie, and Julia)

Dear Elder Hallstrom

April 6, 2016

Dear Elder Hallstrom,

Thank you for the beautiful calligraphy written letter you sent us a few months ago.  How do you like your new companionship?  Tell us about where you live and more about the ward there.  Please share the packet I sent you at the MTC with the Primary kids.  We'd love to hear back from them!  

Life has been a whirlwind lately, but life has been good.  I am a substitute teacher at the best preschool in the valley.  I subbed one day so far.  It's nice that Julia gets to come with me and learn and play.  If a permanent position pops up, I want it... so Julia could go to preschool for free.   I love how well behaved the kids are and that the teachers teach them how to read before going to kindergarten.  Mark, Blue (the dog), and Tristan Gilmore came up to our  house for Easter.  We invited Nathan Kristjanson to join us for Easter dinner too.  (Nathan goes to Utah State University in Logan).  Those college boys sure know how to eat and my kids love being entertained by them.  Our ward had an egg hunt the day before Easter.  It was the best one yet... a guy brought a remote controlled plane (that he made) filled with candy filled Easter eggs, flew the plane around in the sky for a few minutes, and opened a hatch that released the eggs.  They dropped from the sky.  Little parachutes opened as the eggs made their way down to the church parking lot.  We all thought that was the coolest thing ever!  

Five of the six of us took our turns getting flu like symptoms for the day over spring break.  Sam was the lucky one who didn't get sick.  He took care of everything on Sunday when I was sick in bed watching General Conference and resting.  This summer, we have a Ward Family Reunion in Eden, Utah (up the the mountains east of Ogden).  We're also planning a trip to Colorado late July to see Jenny's family and Sam's brother's family.  I'll be signing the boys up for swimming lessons and Katie will probably take a 5 week ballet class this summer.  Katie has been begging me for about a year to try ballet.  Julia is so fun these days.  She's super independent, loves all the Disney princesses, and loves to color.  I'm soaking up all of the cute things she does everyday.  Brian is 11 now and will start Jr. High this fall.  He decided to join the band and play percussion.  Brian still loves baking with me and is determined to open up his own bakery one day.  He already has his plot of land picked out in Logan to build the bakery.  Talk about a boy with vision and a plan!  Tyler loves hanging out with his friends in our backyard... soccer, trampoline, making up games are his favorite things to do back there.  Sam is still working hard.  His work just released a new rugged handheld computer called the Mesa 2.  I wish I remembered some of the cool features it has so I could tell you.  I've been doing a lot of sorting through stuff around here... organizing and getting rid of things we don't use anymore.  I really don't like having stuff that we don't need/use taking up space.  I'm super excited that the weather is finally nice.  Sam bought himself a grill!  We've already had a couple of BBQ's so far.  In a few weeks, we're ordering a sweet table for the patio.

We hope this letter finds you well.  Have you been able to watch General Conference yet?  It was a really great Conference.  One of my favorite quotes from Conference was by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland who said, "Keep loving.  Keep trying.  Keep trusting.  Keep believing.  Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever."

Love you so much,
Lisa, Sam, Brian, Tyler, Katie, and Julia

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Favorite Indoor Hangout Spot

Where is one the most fun places to play? 
On Mom & Dad's bed of course.  
Playing with dolls and playing with blankets without a care in the world.  
Children teach us so much.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sisters in the Snow

It was a snowy but not so cold afternoon.
We had about 15 minutes before we had to pick up the boys from school.  
The girls already had on their Elsa and Anna costumes.  
When I suggested they grab their princess wands and we go outside 
and take some pictures in the snow, they were thrilled.
I went into this photoshoot with the mindset of just letting my girls play
and capture photos as their playtime unfolded. 
Here are the results:

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Playing on the Window Ledge

I've been having fun just taking pictures at home of my kids playing.
None of these photos are staged.  I didn't even tell them I was taking their pictures.
And that's the way I like it.  I like to capture moments as they happen.  
I'm loving how the black and white photos create both high impact and simplicity.




Mark and His Dog, Blue

My brother, Mark came up to visit us during Christmastime.  
He brought his Blue Heeler dog, named Blue with him.
Blue is a good dog and loved our backyard.