I watched this wonderful talk a few weeks ago and was particularly struck by this part, summarized here:
"Many of the problems across the world are occurring because the secular world has been pursuing an incorrect definition of happiness," he said.Elder Cook quoted a study on success and happiness being conducted over the past 70 years.
“The study showed that college entrance scores and grade averages did not predict either success or happiness in later life,” he said. “One area where there was a high correlation was childhood family happiness.”
He said it was interesting—but not surprising—that the study was completely in line with what the scriptures and the Church have taught about the family. “The emphasis the Church has made on family home evening, family prayer, expressions of love, family togetherness, and family traditions are the very kind of activities that the study indicated would produce happy, successful adults.”
It's very comforting to me to know that one of the most important things I can give my children is a happy childhood. As I look back on our summer, I think I fulfilled that goal.
Camp Rising Sun
Our biggest adventure this summer was the absence of our oldest. Lillian was chosen as Utah's representative at Camp Rising Sun this summer. She had one week off from school, attended Girls Camp with our ward, then had just a few more days at home before taking off for mid-state New York and the experience of a lifetime. The camp has been around since the Depression and its purpose is to bring together future leaders from all over the world. Lillian attended camp for seven weeks with girls from 35 countries and 12 states. She was tent-mates with girls from New York, Spain, Uzbekistan, Ecuador, Argentina, and Palestine, just to name a few. She got to know girls from China and Korea. She attended presentations about various topics, from the theory of infinity to the concepts of Buddhism. She presented once on the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church. She helped build a suspension bridge across a river and backpacked for four days in the Catskills. She attended a Boston Symphony Concert.
It was an amazing experience for her, and she loved it. We joked that in some ways, the camp was like a prison. Girls were only allotted twenty minutes of computer time once a week, and phone calls home were scheduled only three times and for only twenty minutes. Every time we talked to her, she was full of news and excitement.
She got home at midnight Sunday night and we're so happy to have her back. The night before she left, she and I stayed up late playing Dr. Mario together. We did it again last night, talking while she thoroughly beat me three times in a row. She said people were always shocked and amazed at the size of our family. Even the girls from countries with larger families (largely Muslim countries) still thought nine was huge. She pulled out the book of family photos I'd made for her many times to prove that she wasn't just making it all up. She said one girl told her, "I love your family! I haven't even met them but they are awesome!"
Some of my friends who knew Lillian was gone asked me how we were handling things without her. As our oldest, she is our most responsible and our best babysitter, but honestly? Aside from missing her and the way she fills our home with beautiful music, things ran just as smoothly without her. A few years ago, it would have been much harder to do without her, but now, with my oldest five kids ages 15, 13, 12, 10, and 10, we spread the work and responsibility among them. Allison and Sarah got their first taste of being in charge a few times and did wonderfully. And Michael was awesome. Because I knew Joey would be gone for part of the summer, too, I gave Michael the responsibility to babysit every day while DH and I exercised for an hour. And he did an excellent job with it, never complaining and handling the younger girls well.
Rather than assign specific zones for clean-up, who-ever was home at the end of the day helped us pick up. It went well and the house stayed relatively clean even with seven or eight children going in and out all day.
Working on the Farm
While Lillian was gone for eight weeks this summer (one for Girls Camp and seven for Camp Rising Sun), Joey was gone for six (one for Scout Camp, five at Grandma's house). We knew he needed more responsibility this summer, but because he's too young for a summer job, we asked his grandparents if they had work for him. They live on a good-size acreage in Sanpete County, Utah, and were happy to have him. Joey went down after Scout camp for two weeks in June, came home for several weeks, then went back for three more weeks in July. He worked hard most mornings and got paid enough to buy himself a very nice fly fishing rod as well as put some aside for later. He loved being by himself at Grandpa's house, riding four-wheelers and going fishing. Grandpa took him on a few outings for fishing and rockhounding, and he came home happy to see us again.
It felt strange to have "just" seven kids around for a lot of the summer, and it was quieter without Joey.
Swim Team and Summer Exercise
In June and July, Allison and Sarah participated in swim team from 7:30 to 8:30 every weekday morning. They had a wonderful time, improved in their swimming, and somehow I didn't get one single picture of them at any of their practices and meets. Oops. I also loved it because we used that time for our regular exercise. On (most) Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, DH took the girls over to the Rec Center and exercised during their practice, then drove them home. Meanwhile, I met my running partner Marci and ran during that time, with Michael in charge at home. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I took the girls over and worked out with weights and on some cardio machines. I climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower on the stairclimber a lot. I liked being able to sleep in just a little more than usual, though I usually woke up at 6:30 and used the quiet time to read the scriptures before anyone else woke up.
Summer ActivitiesWe had lots of fun adventures all summer long, like:
* Six kids ran a 1K
* We trained Michael and Allison to mow the lawn (Joey's been doing it for several years).
* We went swimming about once a week at the Rec Center.
* We went swimming about once a week at the Rec Center.
* We went to the library once a week and brought home and read bazillions of books.
* We got new couches for our front room and then banned anyone from sitting on them without permission. Most of our other couches are brown, so it's awesome to have some color!
* We traded in ugly ties for dozens of donuts
* We roasted S'mores in our backyard.
* We had friends visit from Rexburg and went on many adventures with them: to the Bean Museum, the BYU art museum, the Creamery, and Thanksgiving Point's Museum of Curiosity. We also roasted S'mores and ate tacos.
* We celebrated ten years with Allison and Sarah with a nice meal at Tucanos . . .
* AND, their first pet, a hamster they named Izzy who used to bite but doesn't anymore. They didn't know about her until she showed up the evening they turned 10. Can you tell they're excited? And the excitement and love has not waned one bit since.
* We hiked to the Grotto.
* We went to the awesome splashpad in Springville twice and indulged in Snow Cones both times. I love that they still sell a Tiger's Blood flavor I remember from my childhood. Ah, the 80s.
* We went to the zoo.
* We went to our friends the Macdonalds for Fourth of July Fireworks and a Pioneer Day BBQ. The kids played in the river and hung out with our friends the Leavitt's on the 24th.
Cami saw the boys take off their shirts for swimming and decided to follow their example.
* We ran, walked, pushed a stroller, and rode scooters for a family 5K on Pioneer Day (and loved that our friend Hailey could be there with us!).
* We enjoyed Pioneer Day at North Park as well
* We got to enjoy a small-town Pioneer Day celebration as well when we went to visit our grandparents and see Joey. Small towns are awesome! There was a Scout breakfast, fun games, a parade with gobs of candy thrown (and the royalty riding a front-loader!), and a potluck lunch. And a cool playground. Joey took Katie on the four-wheeler and was part of the parade; the others watched and gathered up candy by the ton.
They also got their faces painted, then went back for more layers.
* Joey became obsessed with selfies and perfected the "up the nose" pose very well. Here's just one he took.
* We got plenty wet and made our own fun at the park and in our backyard lots of times. We also picked bazillions of blackberries.
* We had swimming lessons for Eliza, Harmony and Katie.
* We had quiet time every afternoon from 1 to 3 while Cami napped. We did a good job of keeping electronics and media confined to those few hours, and after quiet time, the kids had lots of fun playing with friends lots of afternoons. Sarah and her friends made cookies three or four times, and Allison once or twice. We had a couple of late nights with friends, let their kids ride their bikes to the dollar store a few times, and just played in our yard.
* Joey, already an expert fisherman, honed his skills this summer. He caught 65 fish at Scout camp, the most anyone caught. The next-highest person caught four. He tramped the river, went to Utah Lake with our older neighbor Gordon Claitor, and begged me to take him to Sportsman's Warehouse a half dozen times.
* DH took six kids on a nine day Daddy Trip through California and I got to take two kids on a four day trip to Idaho. Story and pictures of those trips to come . . .