Say, “Yes”!

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We were playing a version of the $20,000 Pyramid’s Winner’s Circle recently with some tween-aged girls at the After School Writing Club I lead with BreckCreate. The category was, “Things Parents Say.”

The first thing the clue-giver said was, “No!”

Is that what parents are known for? The nay-sayer, the joy-kill, the hammer. We all laughed, but it kind-of made me sad!

I could barely hold in my delight, though, when one of the girls later asked Jadyn, “So, do your parents say, “no,” or “not right now.” Without skipping a beat, she said matter-of-factly, “My parents say, “Yes.”

YES!

We do say, “yes”! We have always tried to say, “yes” as much as we could in their lives. If they had an idea, a desire, or request – if there was really no reason to say, “no,” we said, “yes.”

I think that’s the best gift we can give our kids and ourselves. Say yes to the good and simple things. Popsicles, movie nights, meal requests, homemade popcorn, walks in the woods, playdates with friends, dinner out, playing a board/video game, boba tea. And try to say yes as much as you can to the big things, too – family vacations, skiing trips, Six Flags days, art classes, music concerts, summer camps, internships, private coaching, or private school. If time or money is limited, still say yes, but involve your kids in figuring out how to make it happen. There’s always a way.

When we say, “no,” we quickly limit our options, our creativity, our opportunities. We shut down those things for our kids as well.

Sometimes parents may be worried about spoiling their kids if they say, “yes” too much. But in my experience I’ve seen the opposite. I grew up with parents who also said “yes,” and I’m forever grateful. I’ve seen our kids take more ownership of the pros/cons of a decision if we are the ones who say, “Sure!” They have to weigh their own resources in time, energy, and money and start to learn the wisdom of trade-off’s that are just a reality of life.

Say, “Yes” to those good things for yourself, too-

good friends

good food

time outside

reading, writing

reflecting

exercising

relaxing

listening or dancing to music

exciting business endeavors

trips to special places with those you love

meeting new people you think you’ll resonate with in business and life.

If you say enough “yeses” to those good things, you won’t have time to wonder about those other things you should have said “no” to anyway. You’ll be too busy creating and enjoying a special life for yourself and your kids.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

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For those of you who know me well, you know what I love: family, the outdoors, music, friends, adventure.

For this holiday season, I thought I’d share a “few of my favorite things” that are a part of my every day world that could also offer unique gift ideas for others.

National Parks

National Parks – With 58 National Parks and over 400 National Monuments, Historic Sites, Battle Grounds, and Preserves, there is much to learn and explore. Our family has visited over 100 during our travels, and we are always amazed at and grateful for the unique geography and stories that are preserved. Some of our greatest family memories have taken place in the National Parks. You can purchase a yearlong pass for your family or loved one for just $80. You can also throw in a special Passport Book so they can collect stamps at each park. Or how about this beautiful deluxe National Park sticker set?  Start planning your summer trips now!

Snowboarding

Snowboarding – We always remember this video from Sage Kotsenberg – it captures our family’s sentiments exactly – it’s a magical thing. There is nothing like going down a mountain together as a family, watching the kids try out new tricks and spins, taking in the majestic views. It’s wild how this has become such a central part of our family identity now. It used to be just once a year family winter trip. Now we snowboard about 100+ days a year! But this experience is definitely one of the best ones you can give someone. Keystone Resort caters so well to families. Our favorite is Copper Mountain.  Arapahoe Basin offers the best prices on beginner lessons. Or splurge on the Epic Pass and have fun hitting all the different resorts!

 

Barre3Online

Barre3 Online – I’ve been so efficient with my workouts in the past, being able to run for 20-40 mins and call it a day. It’s harder for me to make time to go to a studio class for some reason. Well, the Barre3 Online classes are awesome because they are time-efficient and yet give me an even better workout than running – including core strengthening and muscle tone. You can get an online subscription here!

Sunbasket

Sunbasket – This meal-delivery service has made our family dinner times so much better! They offer organic, sustainably farmed meats and produce. We order 3 meals a week – they have both paleo, and vegetarian options, and we’ve loved all their meals. Don and I grab a glass of wine and whip up the meal together while the kids get their homework done. Then we get to enjoy dinner conversation and sometimes even squeeze in a chapter of a book, like Life of Fred or this month, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

BreckCreate

BreckCreate – This is for locals in Summit County! This organization is a gem in our town. They have a beautiful arts district right off Main Street where you can see artisans at work on their craft. They bring in special events and speakers throughout the year. And they offer weekly classes in art, photography, glass-blowing, clay-making, and even writing to the community. I’m honored to be a part of it and excited to be leading the weekly After-School Writing Club for kids 10-14. Sign up for their newsletter to stay on top of off their offerings and pay for a class for you and a friend to learn something new!

Continue reading A Few of My Favorite Things

Broken

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Has something ever taken you out of life for a season – perhaps an injury, a loss, or even a bad decision? I can only imagine as shock starts to slowly bleed into reality. “This is real. This is happening.”  It’s probably like watching a movie and wishing you could push rewind to rewrite the script or get a do-over as in Groundhog Day. 

This last month, our daughter Jadyn broke two bones in her arm from a fall off a rail snowboarding at Copper Mountain with her team. While we were grateful that it was only a broken bone, we were also all so very disappointed because of what it would mean for Jadyn – time off of training in the snow.

She was really heartbroken. She had been training well during pre-season and was looking forward to continuing the momentum in an awesome season with her coaches and friends. But now she was sidelined for 8 weeks. She was worried that it would put her behind, was sad for all the fun memories she’d miss, and just bummed about the inconvenience of a limited “10 pound” weight on her dominant hand!

As a mom, it was difficult to walk that fine line of being strong for her, being understanding and letting her grieve, and also trying to encourage and point her to a hopeful, positive mindset.

But I was so proud of Jadyn. She walked through those stages of grief and positivity – often waffling between them both within the same minute. 🙂 But eventually, she started to embrace the brokenness and look for the best in the situation. It was not easy, nor did we try to be superficial about it. But it definitely helped get through the day-to-day in life when we chose to see the good. Continue reading Broken

Take Them Hiking

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Our family has always enjoyed hiking. Since the kids were toddlers, we took them exploring on trails and jumping in rivers, lakes, and streams all over Texas. As they’ve grown, the distances of our hikes have also grown. Over the last four years, we’ve chased popular trails all around the Western US, hiking through most of the National Parks. We even backpacked in the Sierra Nevadas for 3 nights, hiking about 8 miles each day.

There are so many benefits to hiking with your kids when they are small:

  1. Balance and coordination – Trails are not flat and predictable like sidewalks. While walking along trails is very natural for a kid, it’s not easy the first times if they’ve only walked on sidewalks. It takes another level of focus when hiking over roots, or *around* puddles or on rocks. I feel like it keeps both their minds and limbs sharp. Falling is never fun, but if they do, it’s best to just check their hands and scraped knees, compliment them, and send them on their way again. No biggie.
  2. Observation and appreciation – Kids naturally notice things. And nature affords countless opportunities to notice the intricacies and complexity of plants and animals. I loved it when our kids would pause to observe an insect or stop to listen for bird calls. It’s never a waste of time to take as long as a kid wants to really study something new on a trail.
  3. Inner Peace – I can’t say this without thinking of Kung Fu Panda! But get any hyperactive kid on a trail, and watch them gradually relax minute by minute. It’s fascinating for me to watch. The first few minutes are sometimes harried making sure you have everything you need for the hike and figuring out the way to go, but then……once everyone is in their groove, it’s like magic.You only have one task in front of you: walk. It makes everything in life simple. Your mind starts forgetting the silly distractions of regular life (for both adults and kids). And everyone just has to focus on each step in front of them, listening to the sounds of nature, and then, the best part, enjoying each other. There’s an inner peace that naturally occurs as you enter another world with trees and beauty and family/friends all around.

All that being said, hiking with tweens and teens is MUCH different! They have opinions. They have attitudes. They are unpredictable. They could have uber energy and want to blaze ahead independently or feel lazy and want to just lag behind moping. They have friends and other activities they’d usually prefer over a “boring walk” with family. They think they know what’s better.

But all those same benefits above are still why it’s just as important to take your older kids hiking, too!!! It’s just a little harder emotionally to make it all happen. But don’t let that stop you, parents! 😉

Our kids are now 15, 13, and 11. Over the last year, we hadn’t been pushing them as much to hike with us. Ultimately, we want them to choose it for themselves. They are always invited, but we’d rather not make it a “battle.” But yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I just wanted to do my favorite thing in the world (hike). Our kids were willing to oblige, so I took advantage of the gift.

While there was a slight bit of “hemming and hawing,” I just stayed upbeat and positive and patiently waited for them to just shed their subpar attitudes. One of my “tricks” is to make them go ahead of me. They get to lead and control the pace which always makes a difference. They get to notice things first like a beautiful waterfall or hoary marmot! We sometimes play games like “GOAT” or “I Spy” if they need it or I’ll mention something to look forward to at the end of the hike (like mochi ice cream from Whole Foods 🙂 ) Whatever works and helps them to embrace the hiking experience! Good snacks and plenty of water is always a must as well.

Yesterday, we hiked up about 1.4 miles to see Hanging Lake at the top of Glenwood Canyon. We walked up along a rushing stream which offered us countless waterfalls and photo opps. The evening sun was perfect for lighting and temperature. It really was gorgeous and serene.

And within 10-15 minutes I noticed that inner peace magic start to happen. We got lost in our thoughts and also appreciated the amazing scenery around us. We had great conversations about school and our summer ahead. And we just enjoyed each other, which is the best gift any parent could ask for. It will definitely be a memory to look back on as a family, and makes me so glad we made the effort to get them on trails with us!

 

Seasons Change

As we near the end of our active winter season, I gave myself a treat and holed up in our snowglobe of a home to put together our family fall slideshow.

It evoked so many different emotions I wasn’t anticipating. This was the first year our boys went full-time to public school, and their absence hit me when scrolling through our fall hike photos and videos. They weren’t in them! It was just me and Jadyn! It made me appreciate those special hikes and memories with her, as it may well have been my last fall with Jadyn, too! She’ll be jumping into middle school next year herself.

This was also a big year for Isaac as he turned 13! I loved reliving his celebration week through the pics and thinking about how deeply he is loved. He’s grown so much this year, attacking his studies like a boss, and mostly just realizing for himself how much he has to offer the world with his ideas and strength. He is thoughtful and insightful and leads others well.

The songs I chose for this slideshow were mostly for him. The first one reminds him so much of our first year of Freejourner travel, as he’d replay it often, “Far from home…but we’re so happy.” And the second song, Something Wild by Lindsey Stirling was more of a hope and wish for him, and one we listened to hundreds of times this fall:

You’ve got a big heart
The way you see the world
It got you this far
You might have some bruises
And a few of scars
But you know you’re gonna be okay
And even though you’re scared
You’re stronger than you know
If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
I think the outdoors will always be “home” to our family. We can always hit a trail to find that peace and clarity. It’s familiar and comforting. It’s a gift we intentionally wanted to give our kids. Ironically, there’s a security in the unknown and the wild that will be a constant for them.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons because of the colors. Here in Colorado, the Aspen yellow is the brightest. The golden leaves just sparkle and shine in the sunlight. It’s magical.

Fall also represents change, and I guess it’s just hitting me more strongly these days as a parent. Our kids are big now. I’m not spending as much time in the daily grind of academics with them, and I miss our down-time hours together playing games or watching movies as a family. We cherish car rides now and meal hours to catch up and connect.

When I was in high school, I memorized a poem by Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” It’s about change, and it’s a bit pessimistic, honestly, but I loved how one of the main characters in the movie, The Outsiders turned it positively and told Ponyboy, “Stay Gold, Stay Gold.”

That message was a great way to end our slideshow, as a neat reminder to our family to hold onto those experiences and memories that are treasures that shape us, even as we push ahead to new seasons and adventures that await.

Staying Flexible

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If you asked me on Monday morning what I was doing on Wednesday, I would not have known. By mid-afternoon, I had plans to play tennis with my friend, Amy. By Tuesday morning, our plans had changed, and we were going to snowboard/ski together instead at Keystone!

And then Tuesday afternoon, I got a text from the marketing director at Keystone Resort asking if we’d like to join for a powder day photo/video shoot the next morning!! That sent all other plans out the window and me into a barrage of texts to coordinate the special opportunity. I was inviting other kids to join us and asking our friend Vickie who lived at Keystone if we could spend the night at her house so we could easily get to the mountain the next morning.

I’m so grateful for these friends, Amy and Vickie. Vickie was most hospitable (as always!) letting me and three kiddos crash at her place within a few hours notice. And I told Amy that I wouldn’t be able to snowboard with her after all, and she said it was fine! “You can always cancel on me because I totally understand,” she said.

And that’s why we’re friends! We love living in this beautiful place with a boatload of amazing adventures and options EVERY SINGLE DAY, so I think everyone is generally loose about plans because new things pop up each day. I also think it’s unique living here in this area, because we inherently know that things can change at any moment…the weather forces us to live that reality of life. It can change here within the hour. A bus delay, or getting stuck in the snow, or just even taking the wrong turn down a ski run and ending up at the wrong lift can quickly alter plans. And we learn that that’s totally ok. We learn to roll with it, to look for the good in it all, to be patient and understanding. All the time.

Staying flexible this week allowed us to coordinate an amazing photo/video shoot with a fun crew of these awesome young snowboarders and friends. Here are a couple photos that we’ve seen published to Instagram so far, and we can’t wait to see what else Keystone puts together with some of the video footage they captured!

I realize that people who really are naturally flexible don’t necessarily need to talk about it (or write about it! ;)) They just live it, without even thinking about it.

So, the fact that it is something notable may say something about me! Ha! I feel like I’ve been on a long journey of becoming more flexible in life. And so, if there are any others out there on this similar journey, here are my best two cents to embrace it:

  1. Life is more fun when you are flexible. Plain and simple. You don’t get disappointed as much because you don’t hold on as tightly to expectations of plans or people.
  2. You live life more “eyes wide open” looking for the surprises and opportunities instead of trying to control the fun and plan everything out.
  3. You learn to be more patient and gracious with others and with yourself. And relationships are just more meaningful and long-lasting with patience and grace.

And I’ll just end with some favorite quotes I found on flexibility:

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. -Michael McGriffy, MD

Flexibility is the key to stability. – John Wooden

Problems disappear when we become willing to be flexible. – Roxana Jones

A Reward

fullsizerender-2Today we got a little treat. It felt like a reward for 13 hard-earned years of parenting a very passionate child.

I had planned to take this middle son of ours out to dinner for his monumental 13th birthday, some special time with just Don and me. We had gifts to shower on him.

But I didn’t expect to get a few gifts myself. Before dinner, we went to his school for parent-teacher conferences. He was so happy and eager to introduce us to all his teachers. He has told us how much he loves them all. But I was still unsure of what he was like in class and how exactly was this school experience panning out for him.

They totally loved him! I could tell they just genuinely enjoyed him. One teacher said he’s the best gentleman. His art teacher made sure that we knew he had a very special talent and eye. He earned the MVP in PE for the whole 7th grade class, for both his character and performance. His Language Arts teachers said they can always count on him for great questions and responses and are impressed with his writing.His grades are fantastic. They all said he’s a wonderful role model and leader in class and just needs to keep up the great work he’s doing.

I really was blown away and very proud of this crazy kid.

Parenting is not easy. There are many days when it feels like we lose, and it’s hard to see if the effort pays off. But on days like today, the reward is sweet.

The one-on-one time with him was icing on the cake, hearing all of his stories and reflections. I blinked back tears when he told us what he wrote in warm-ups today when asked what he was thankful for: My parents. They love me and want the best for me.

He gets it! That’s what we always wanted – for him to know that he is loved.

That love sure goes deep! And that’s what I celebrate today.

Work is Good

Several years ago, I thought of a mantra to share with my middle child:

Work Is Hard.

Work Is Good.

Work Takes Time

He would repeatedly get frustrated when his schoolwork or chores were more challenging or time-consuming. I felt like it was because he had wrong expectations and beliefs. Most of our frustrations in life come from missed expectations.

Therefore, if he believed that work is inherently good (not bad), hard (not easy), and that it takes time (not always completed immediately and that there are trade-offs), he would be able to embrace life for what it really is. He could tackle the task at hand without adding the burden of an extra emotional layer of frustration.

Today, I ran up against this same myth with my youngest and was able to share this mantra. I heard her repeat it a few times and could really see a shift in her mindset throughout the day.

And then I knew it really sunk in when she wrote it out on her own as I was reading Little Women to her.

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Ironically, this applies to the hard work of parenting as much as it does to our kids! It sure isn’t easy, but it is so good, and such a treat to see the reward of the commitment, love, leadership, and patience that was hard-fought and learned through it all!

Be a Memory Maker

When we were married, we asked a special mentor couple of ours to share some words of wisdom and encouragement to us during our wedding ceremony. Brenda shared many wise words with me, but what I remember most was her saying to “Be a Memory Maker.”

To me, that meant setting up the scene for wonderful experiences as a family and capturing them in pictures or words so that we can relive them and reflect upon them.

Now for me, as a photo/scrapbook lover and a “precious moments” kind of gal, it seemed like an easy and enjoyable charge.

But as the years pass, our family grows, bills pile, calendars fill, and work demands. “Memory making” has definitely become more of a challenge.

However, it is still so worth the effort. It’s one of the more fun priorities in life, for sure!

Family Culture and Traditions

There are so many ways to be a “memory maker,” set some fun traditions and create a general atmosphere of joy and fun in our home.

I have friends who have weekly family movie nights or who throw huge themed birthday parties for their kids. Other families escape to the “farm” where they go 4wheeling and skeet shooting. Some people go all out with holiday decorations, and others just put up a few things but relish the traditions of setting them out.

As part of our “family culture,” we like to always be ready for a hike or for a spontaneous visit to friends.

It really doesn’t matter what we do, I’ve learned – what matters most is our attitude when doing it. A cheerful fun attitude is what counts . . . and what is remembered.

Living out these times together can be incredible, but I’ve also seen that it is almost just as enjoyable to RE-live them through photos and videos. Our kids could reply a fun video hundreds of times without getting tired of it!

I’m not that different. Looking at the past offers us a privileged lens of perspective. What a gift! Continue reading Be a Memory Maker

Love Leaves Its Mark

Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign. . . to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.

Now, I know that I am very late to the game, but I just finished reading the first book in the Harry Potter series last week. My kids have been speaking Potterisms for a few years already, so I’m glad not to be left in the dark any longer! I’m hooked. Fell in love with Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione and appreciated their strong bonds of loyalty. Such beautiful examples for kids to meet in literature.

There are so many themes within the book, but the classic theme of good vs. evil shone brightly at the end, and this quote was the clincher that got me all awash. Who cries reading Harry Potter?! (I’m guessing (hoping) there are more of you out there like me!)

I was thinking – I have been loved sooooo deeply by my parents and my husband, and I soooo love my own children in ways words can’t seem to express. But these words captured it tangibly for me.

I often feel like our love for each other penetrates into places unseen and offers a million gifts that we can’t anticipate. As parents, we hope that our expressions of love will result in a sense of security and confidence that allow our children to go after their dreams and make a difference in the world. “To have been loved so deeply will give them some protection forever.”

Granted, our kids will not have to face Quirrell’s or Voldemort’s with magic wands, but one day they will have to go out on their own to pursue their own adventures, battling against many adversities, hardships, and even”forces of evil” in their lifetime. And I think the love we offer will give them a strong inner sense of security, knowing in their core that there is a safe and loving place to be, and therefore being “protected” from some of crazy things they will experience in life from others- “hatred, greed, evil ambition.”

And I know I was lucky, and my kids are lucky, and Harry, even though he lost his parents, was so lucky to have been loved by them. They did their best to love and protect him, just as we do.

But not everyone is so lucky; I know that. The double-edged tears I shed were for other kids and big-sized adult-kids who do not know this kind of love and protection. It inspired me to keep an eye out for ways to show that love whenever possible. Show grace, kindness, patience, humility. In doing so, maybe we can give a byproduct gift of security and protection that will “mark them” forever.