July 28, 2016

Try Everything

My older boys, Eric and Seth, feel like they should just know how to do something. There should be no practicing involved, they should be perfect on the first try.  Which is why it took so long for either of them to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels, why neither one of them can tie their shoes, and why Eric still insists that he doesn't know how to read. (He does.  I promise.)

So, while sitting in a dark movie theater, this song punched me in the gut and I knew that it needed to be our family's new anthem.

I messed up tonight, I lost another fight
I still mess up but I'll just start againI keep falling down, I keep on hitting the groundI always get up now to see what's next
I knew that this needed to be drilled into their little heads. And not just my boys, but my girls too.  All of my children seem a little too prone to giving up.  When things get hard, they don't want to work harder to make it happen. 
'Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail
I know that listening to a song isn't going to create some magical reaction.  I know that watching Zootopia isn't going to solve all of their problems.  But maybe, just maybe, coupled with my encouragement, it will give them a little push in the right direction. 
I'll keep on making those new mistakes
I'll keep on making them every day
Those new mistakes.

I won't give up, no I won't give in

July 25, 2016

Growing up is hard to do. . . .

I threw a birthday party for my daughter. She's pretty particular about things and she knows what she wants. She also gets her heart set on it.

That's the problem.

She has a friend, a cute girl, who tends to be less reliable than others.  They haven't been able to get together all summer long, every time because this friend has cancelled at the very last minute. And I hate to see her face when she finds out. She tries to be strong, because she's too old to cry about silly things like friends not being able to come and play, but it's still painful.

When my kids were smaller, there were certain friends that you could almost count on to cancel. And when they're little, all communication goes through mom, so I learned really quickly it was better to make playdates a last minute surprise, than to build it up all day only to have someone break their little hearts.  And I know that kids have to learn to deal with disappointment. I know this. And she is.  But there are so many other disappointments that I can't control, that in this one thing, this one little thing, I can keep them safe.

But now I do not hold the power I once did. She makes her own plans, with her own friends. (With my approval, of course.)  She has to figure out which friends she can count on to be there for her. And which friends will regularly let her down.  I just wish she was still the cute little three year old, dancing her way through life without a care in the world.  That's all.

July 18, 2016

Dear Jane available to Pre Order!

I may have mentioned earlier that I wrote a book.  Which will be release August 9. And I was just informed that it is available for pre order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  So, I just thought that I would pass along that information for your benefit.  :)  



And just because: 
The plan was to serve a mission, marry her boyfriend, and live happily ever after. But all of that changed when Quinn got a Dear Jane email. Now she's stuck at home with no boyfriend, no job, no major, and absolutely no social life. Will Quinn ever find the path that leads to her eternal happiness?

July 11, 2016

Sunday Musings

I'm sitting outside with a restless toddler who can't handle Sunday School. It's easier outside, rather than chasing him out of classrooms he shouldn't be in, and through conversations that I have to barge through. It's a beautiful day, a break in the sweltering temperatures of the last few weeks. It's quiet except for the wind blowing through a row of noisy trees that I don't know the name of. In a backyard somewhere nearby, someone just lit a charcoal grill. I know because it's the Sunday afternoon smell. It makes me hungry and sad at the same time. My dad used to grill dinner every single Sunday from May until September. And it's funny, because I don't really remember the food, I remember the smell. I remember the black on my hands when he would let me help pour the charcoal in. I remember shucking corn while the grill smoked, sitting on the back steps while he sat in his designated lawn chair and watched the birds while he waited for the coals to heat up.  I remember him banging on the back door, his hands full.  I remember his self deprecation as we ate, a trait that I picked up, critical of the way the meat was cooked and concerned that we weren't enjoying it. 
A year after losing him, the smell sends almost a visceral reaction through me, making me both nostalgic and, simply put, devastated.  I experience a moment like this almost daily, some little thing reminds me of him and it knocks the wind out of me for a moment.  And I am grateful that most memories, while breaking my heart a little, almost make me smile.  I am lucky to have such a dad.  Something that I wish that I had realized just a little bit sooner.  

July 4, 2016

Shelter From the Storm

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always liked a good storm. My favorites are the storms that blow in unexpectedly, the dark clouds performing a hostile takeover of a brilliant summer day. Watching the rain as it hits the windows, blurring the view, safe and warm and comfortable from the other side of the glass, preferably on the couch wrapped in a quilt with a book in hand is one of my favorite things to do. I have a fond memory of doing that very thing several years ago. I was very pregnant at the time and curled up as tightly as I could be with a beach ball growing out of me, and my children danced happily around the living room, totally oblivious to the fact that there were many unhappy people on the other side of our walls, whose Labor day had just been ruined. I didn’t care. I was grateful for a break in the heat and a break in the bickering that was the usual morning fare. I’m probably the only one in my family with a clear memory of that morning, but I like to keep a corner of it in one hand like a blanket on the days that are deceptively  bright  and sunny outside, but dark and ominous  within.  Over time, I have collected memories like this one, sometimes moments sometimes hours, and pieced them together one by one  in a patchwork quilt that I can pull out on the coldest days.  
There are all kinds of memories in my quilt.  The day that I convinced two little boys that they should go out and play in the rain. I thought all little kids want to go outside and play in the rain, but not Seth and Eric.   Up until then, dark clouds meant thunder and thunder meant lightning.  And lightning is terrifying and unknowable and reason to run screaming into the house.
I decided it was time to introduce them to the glories of a good rainstorm. They were hesitant at first, venturing out a few feet at a time and then running back under the porch.  After a while, however, they were asking for their swimsuits, racing down the sidewalk and dancing across the driveway.  It was a happy moment for this mama.  
Or there was the time that Tayleigh convinced me that Labor day was more than just a day with no school. A few years ago, the girls were trying to figure out why they didn't have school on Labor Day. And when we told them it was a holiday they were even more confused. They didn't know what colors to wear (such girls), they didn't know what festivities we would be attending and they couldn't figure out why no one was going to work. We thought about being all educational and looking up the background of Labor day and having a little history lesson. Except, do you know the history of Labor Day? It is not a history lesson for a 5 and 6 year old. So, we summed it up with "It's a day that no one goes to school or work."
Well, my 5 year old Tayleigh, every resourceful, thought about this for a little while and approached me. "Mom, if no one has to work on Monday, does that mean that I don't have to clean my room?" My first inclination was to laugh. But then I thought about it.
"Nope. You don't have to clean your room."
Then I decided that she was really on to something.
So What did we do that day?
Finger paint
pushed the kids on the swings
have, not one, but 2 picnics in the living room
take the kids to Sonic
rent a movie
let them play with their friends all afternoon
What we did not do that day:
Anything remotely resembling work.
Or my 30th birthday.  When John turned 30 he got a truck.  It was kind of a spur of the moment decision, and I didn't love it.  He talked about taking me on a cruise or getting me some huge gift for my 30th birthday, but when it came down to it, it didn't make any sense financially to pay for a cruise when what I really needed was a computer and all I really wanted was a party.  So, I threw one. I decided months in advance that was what I wanted. I didn't make John throw it himself, because, let's face it, if you want something done right, you do it yourself. I tasked him with the clean up of the back yard in preparation for it and I went shopping.  It was perfect. I scored a fire pit at a yard sale, marshmallow roasters and white lights on clearance, and lots and lots of candy from the bulk bins at WinCo. For one night my backyard was full of friends and family, kids of all ages, everyone that I love to spend my time with.  And for the pièce de résistance, a makeshift photo booth, manned by my talented niece.  It was such an amazing night.  
I’ve needed my quilt quite a bit recently.  My dad passed away a few months ago, not unexpectedly but much too suddenly.  This has been the darkest storm yet to cross my path.  I don’t know, but like to think that maybe William Cullen Bryant had just lost his father when he wrote:
Ah! well known woods, and mountains, and skies,
With the very clouds!—ye are lost to my eyes.
I seek ye vainly, and see in your place
The shadowy tempest that sweeps through space,
A whirling ocean that fills the wall
Of the crystal heaven, and buries all.
And I, cut off from the world, remain
Alone with the terrible hurricane.
It was a hurricane. A tornado that swept me up and stripped my roots bare. I have had to hold on to my quilt for dear life, pulling it tightly around me, trying desperately to ignore the  sting of pelting rain on my face, running my fingers over the stitching, comforted by the memory of a stormy day in South Dakota as my family  drove from Mt. Rushmore to Wall Drug, an historic drugstore on the edge of the badlands, famous for their free ice water. About halfway there,
as if the hands
That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky.
My dad gripped the steering wheel and turned the wipers up as high as they could go to no avail. My mom, however, was less concerned. She was enamored by the dozens of Wall Drug Billboards along the side of the highway, each one ending with the phrase “free ice water.” So enamored, in fact, she took it upon herself to read each and every single one of these billboards out loud.  Mile after mile and billboard after billboard, “free ice water,” until my normally calm and patient father turned to her and announced: “I don’t know which is worse, you or the storm!” And my sister and I collapsed into giggles in the backseat. This memory, along with memories of a too long dirt road, planting flowers and tomatoes together, an apology after a burst temper, attending BYU basketball games, and a car stereo pounding classic rock so loudly that the car shook, kept me sane through the strongest of gusts.  But not only was I able to hold on to memories, I created new ones that added strength.  An unexpected sympathy card from a sweet ward member, a couple of pizzas in the fridge, a box of chocolates, the familiar faces of several wonderful women from the ward appearing in line at the viewing. My ward family was there for me, shielding me from some of the wind, keeping me from simply flying away.
Many of the memories in my quilt have not only kept me warm, but dictated how I would choose to raise my family.  Dinner together every night.  Family vacations together.  Family prayers. Respect.  A home full of good books.  A commitment to education.  A commitment to the gospel.  Offering opportunities to learn and grow and opportunities to experience the consequences.  Family Home Evening, no matter how short and insignificant, and we’ve had all kinds.  Our favorite family night activity for years was a version of charades.  We stuck pretty close to animals, with the boys pretending to be all things that growled and the girls everything else, until we branched out and Tayleigh stumped us all by being an Old China Man. And then my dad topped that one week by being a fly.  
All these things, plus a constant, almost overwhelming concern for my children's  welfare.  I inherited that particularly fierce trait from my dad, best illustrated the night I was picked up by friends to go canoeing down the Jordan river. Dad wasn’t home when I left, but mom had given me permission to go with them, knowing full well the plan.  She and I were both unaware that due to a particularly wet spring, the river was swollen and fast, but Dad knew and when he heard the plan, panicked. THis was before cell phones were ubiquitous, and so dad found my high school phone book  and called the parents of everyone i was with, trying to find where on the river we were. No where, to be precise.  Somewhere between the planning and execution stages, someone realized the river was  a bad idea and we ended up at a pond instead.  When I learned what my dad had done, I was humiliated--this was high school after all--but looking back, feeling the way I do now about my children, I realize I would have done the same thing.  
Eden goes to her first day of 7th grade tomorrow.  They tell you that kindergarten is hard, but that is nothing compared to Jr. high. As much as I would like to, as hard as I wish I could, I can’t take her out of the world, but I can give her shelter from the storms that are sure to rage around her.  I can give her a quilt of her own to hold on to when the world is full of darkness and the road is full of mud.  Even more impervious than memories, I can give her truth.  The truth that she has a family who loves her.  That she has parents who would do just about anything for her. And most importantly the truth that she has a savior who loves and knows her. That he can heal her broken heart and bind up her wounds.  That he is her rock, her fortress, her deliverer. That he is her salvation, her defense, her refuge and her strength. With him and through him all things are possible. He is her foundation, that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon her, it shall have no power over her to drag her down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which she, and I and you are built, which is a sure foundation, whereon if she builds, she cannot fall.  
So, tomorrow when Eden walks into her new and unfamiliar school and I hold tightly to my quilt, gripping the memories of her asking if grasshoppers speak spanish, bringing all her stuffed animal friends to her brand new baby sister and explaining to me that a scarf will help her keep her balance, I just have to hope and pray that I’ve helped her piece together a strong enough quilt, warm with memories of family dinners, family vacations and family prayers.  I can’t keep her from the world.  The world needs her beautiful light. Its a dark and stormy day out there.


June 27, 2016

Summer Bucket List: Tracy Aviary

Ready or not, it's summer. Your kids are home, all day long.  We're about a month in-- are you out of stuff to do yet?   If your in the Salt Lake County area, I've got the solution to your problem: Tracy Aviary.  The babies and I got a chance to check it out recently, and we had a blast.  

One of the things that I love about Tracy Aviary, is that all of my children love it.  This was the first time for my littles, but I have taken my older children several times and everyone always has a blast. There is a sand pit and water tables to keep the little ones entertained, by my older kids love going even though they've outgrown those particular features. They love to see the birds and learn their names and where they're from. 

While there, we were able to visit the new exhibit, Treasures of the Rainforest, which I had never seen. It was beautiful. I wish that we had been able to spend a little extra time there, but we were given the opportunity to release Ladybugs, which I absolutely loved, as pictured above, the two year old did not.  

 The biggest highlight of the day was the Amazon Adventure.  We were each given a cup of food for the birds and they would fly down and land on the cups.  The babies thought that this was the coolest thing to ever happen to them.  

So, the next time that the kids announce for the millionth time that they are bored, consider Tracy Aviary as a potential cure. 

GIVEAWAY:  Tracy Aviary has generously given me 4 free tickets to give away to one of my readers.  Leave a comment below to be entered.  

May 23, 2016

What NOT to Do on a Road Trip with Kids

After 13 years of being a mother and six kids, I kind of feel like I have a handle on the whole road trip thing.  We have family in Southern California and drive down there at least once a year, and usually twice and I have learned a thing or two about making a ten hour drive. (If we're lucky. . .)

A few years ago I decided to go frugal/green. Which for us meant reusable sandwich boxes, Tupperware instead of sandwich bags, etc. And I thought it would be a good idea to carry this over into road trips. It wasn't. It is a pain and a half to find all the sandwich boxes upon arrival and make sure they get washed so the leftover crusts don't become a giant mess of white fuzz. Or make sure that everyone who had milk in their washable cold cups dumps out any leftovers so I don't get any curdled surprises. We still totally do reuseable stuff for school lunches, but NOT the car. Especially finger foods. 
Have you seen this super popular idea floating around Pinterest? Don't do it. Sure, it's cute and clever but how often is cute and clever really practical? Let me put it like this: imagine you are a couple hours into your ten hour road trip. Everything seems fine. Your four year old asks for a snack, so you hand her this giant, meticulously divided box of every snack she could dream of. She's thrilled. She can't contain her excitement. Excitement that manifests itself in bouncing legs exaggerated hand gestures. She is in possession of this box approximately two minutes when you hear a sound that makes your heart drop faster than the entire Lego bin being dumped on the floor: the box is upside down on the floor of your car, and all your work, not to mention all the snacks that were supposed to keep her happy for the next 8 hours, are in a colorful cascade down the car seats and floor. This, my friends, is why individual snack sized baggies are the way to go. 

There are in my experience exactly three exceptions to the disposable rule:
1. Sippy cups for baby/toddler. When there's only that to deal with, not impossible.

2. These ingenious snack cups for baby. Seriously, whoever invented these needs some kind of reward.
3. Water bottles.  Everyone has their own water bottles and they only ever have water in them.

We do sack breakfasts and lunches. Brown paper bags, everything in baggies that can be thrown away when we stop for gas. And we do. Husband fills up the car while I rally the troops to find all garbage that can be thrown away. It keeps things slightly neater.


I'm sure you've seen the dollar store present idea. You know, buy a bunch of stuff and wrap it and then every so often give your kids a present. Great idea, right?? Couple of problems with this one. First, wrapping paper. The last thing you need on a road trip is more garbage in your car. Second problem is expense. If you have one kid, no big deal. If you have six, you can see where I'm going with this, right? My solution: if you have advanced notice, I'm talking months, that you will be taking a trip, gather up a few toys around your house. Some books, a few hot wheels, anything small that is conducive to playing while sitting strapped in a car. Put them all in a box and pull them back out before the trip. For kids eight and younger this works like a charm. If you have a DVD player, you can do this with movies too. It's practically as good as getting something new, but it's totally free. And when you're spending that much on gas, free is good.

What I do is make all the older kids a travel binder and refill as needed each trip we take. There are so many road trip printables out there that I never run out. License plate bingo has been incredibly popular with my kids. Plus, I can tailor it to each kid. My little boys get lots of Pokemon coloring pages, easy word searches and dot to dots. The older girls get crosswords, Sudoku and Would you Rather? questions. And everyone gets lots of blank paper to write or draw on.

Don't Rule Anything Out!!!
Never say never.  It's the one constant in parenting. Never say never. You will, I guarantee, eat your words.  DVD players for the car are a bit of a hot topic.  You want to be the good parent who has meaningful conversations with your kids. The parent that plays I SPY and trivia games. And that is wonderful. That is admirable. But, somewhere around hour seven (or sooner), you might just need to rest your voice. And you might just REALLY need your kids to rest their voices.  Sometimes an audio book will do it.  And sometimes it takes the big guns.  Keep an open mind when it comes to road trip entertainment. We love Brain Quest. We love the alphabet game, and license plate bingo but we would not have survived the many, many trips that we have made to Southern California without our travel DVD players.  

As soon as my kids are old enough to walk and talk and open their own drawers, they help with the packing. Do you know how long it would take me to pack for six kids by myself? Everyone gets a list of things that they need, they pack and then I have final approval. That way I only spend my time double checking to make sure that the four pairs of shorts that they chose will actually match the four shirts, and that the underwear they threw in there is clean.

road trips, road trip with kids, packing for kids, packing tips

Everyone has seen the packing outfits in ziploc bags, and while this might be a great idea for kids maybe four and under, once they get a little bigger, so do their clothes and trying to fit one outfit in a ziploc is way more trouble than it's worth. Not to mention, this method requires one of everything for each day, and we simply don't have enough room to pack a full change of clothing for every single day that we will be gone. Laundry gets done halfway through our vacation.  But, by having kids pick their own clothes, you know that they will wear what the chose. No kid is going to go for style over comfort. 

What are your favorite road trip tips?   Where will you use them this summer?

May 16, 2016

Summer Plans: Natural History Museum of Utah

You all know the song, right?

There's 104 days of summer vacation, 
And school comes along just to end it. 
So the annual problem of our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it. 

Summer is coming. So unless you have a couple of genius inventors that live at your house, you have to find something to do, right? Because otherwise, you've either got a destroyed house with kids running wild, or zombiefied kids zoned out in front of the TV. It took a while for me to get a good system down. We started with a summer bucket list, which kind of worked.  From there, I came up with a perfectly unreal schedule for each and every day, which totally bombed.  Then a reward system, then a chore system, and then, about two years ago, I struck gold.

A notebook. With our entire summer in it. This is as much for their sanity as it is for mine. This notebook has our summer chore system.  Our (much more reasonable and flexible) daily schedule. Lists of projects that need to be done this summer.  Lists of books that need to be read this summer. Lists of things to do BEFORE any electronics go on.  And a list of places to go this summer.
nhmu free days, nhmu, rio tinto center, utah dinosaurs

kids museum utah, hands on museum utah, things to do in utah

High on that list is the Natural History Museum of Utah. I want to write 'New' in front of that, but it's been open for five or six years now, so new hardly describes it. I had the chance to take my two youngest a few weeks ago, and we loved it.  No, seriously, my two year old loved it.  That's not to say that your 12 year old won't love it, because I'm pretty sure that there is something for everyone there.  There are hands on exhibits everywhere. There are several rooms dedicated solely to games for younger kids.  There are interactive exhibits on flooding (WATER!!), earthquakes and cells.  It is fantastic.  And, they just opened up a new exhibit that I'm excited to see, the Genome: Unlocking life's code.
nhmu summer camps, natural history museum of utah, dinosaur museum utah

This will definitely be one place we will visit this summer.  Want to check it out?  Well, the museum has given me four passes.  Add this to your summer list, and leave a comment below for a chance to win.
Want extra entries?
Tell me what you do to keep your summer under control in a comment.
Best books for 12-13 year old girls? Leave a comment.
Your favorite thing to do with kids in the summer. Leave a comment.
museum at university of utah, bonneville shoreline trailhead

Contest will close Friday, May 20 at 5:00pm.  Good luck!!
And hey, if you lose, the Natural History Museum sponsors several free days a year. Mark your calendar for August 22 and get more info here.

February 8, 2016

Cover Reveal!

There are a few things in life that I have always wanted to do.  Being a mom was on the top of the list. Going to college was another one.  Europe is up there, but has yet to be seen, also New York City. This year I get to check something huge off of my list: a book that I wrote will be published!
A few months ago, I got a very exciting email.   My name would finally be on the cover of a book!! Cedar Fort, a Utah based publishing company, has chosen to publish my book, Dear Jane.
dear jane cover, dear jane by rachel ward

Before the mission, Quinn’s future was uncomplicated, straightforward and involved a wedding. Now, eighteen months later she is without a fiancee, without a job and without a direction. Slowly, things begin to fall into place, maybe not the way she would like, and definitely not the way she imagined, but after much trial and error Quinn creates a new path. One that will open her eyes and change her life.

Dear Jane will be released in August of 2016!

October 19, 2015

7 Ways Going Green will Save You Money!

saving money, save money, thrifty life, thrifty habit,

You would be surprised how frugal going green can be. There’s a pun here somewhere, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it.  Here’s a list of a couple things that we have done around our house to go green AND save green! (There it is.)

  1. Ditch Paper Towels: Okay, so we still have paper towels for the GROSSEST messes that need to go directly into the garbage, but for everything else, we use rags or sponges.  
  2. Cloth napkins:  With six kids we go through lots and lots of napkins. The best thing I ever did was hem a bunch of fabric scraps and turn them into napkins. One more load of laundry a week is worth it.
  3. Reusable dryer sheets:  Another way to use up those fabric scraps, but this time, you don’t have to hem them. Get your scraps, soak them in fabric softener and hang them to dry.  Throw one into the dryer with every load.  Each sheet should do 15-20 loads. They’ll gradually lose their stiffness and you can kind of gage when they become less effective and just repeat the process.
  4. Jars instead of zip top bags: Jars are great for leftovers, for veggie dip, and for storage. Rather than pouring out your inconvenient bag of chia seeds into a zip top, use a jar for storage.  
  5. Get energy efficient: If you live in a cold climate, or even a hot one, this one can be really effective. Make sure your furnace or AC can keep your house comfortable without having to do extra work.  Try a reusable filter that can be cleaned every so often, rather than buying them every couple of months.  Make sure that any drafts are blocked to keep the expensive air in.  Open the windows when you can.  Insulate outlet covers.  Recaulk your windows. Your utilities bill will thank you.
  6. Compost: If you garden, this is a great way to keep your soil healthy without having to purchase fertilizer. Keep a bucket under your sink for food scraps.  Everything but meat and dairy can be composted.  Just mix it in with green matter, grass and leaves, and brown matter, like shredded paper, and turn it often.  It is great for productive gardens.
  7. Walk: if it’s within walking distance, don’t drive.  You’ll save money on gas, help keep the air clean and get a little exercise.

Did I miss anything? Let me know! I'd love to save more money too!

Copyright Trapped Between a Scream and a Hug

Meaning all content on this blog is mine. So you better not steal it. Seriously.