So a day after Dave got back from China (and we had a chance to snuggle him up) I packed up my bags again and went up to Utah to reunite after two years with these lovely, inspiring ladies:

At this gorgeous home up high in the mountains of Park City:

The reason for our gathering?  A motherhood retreat.

Years ago when my sister Saren organized her first motherhood retreat we each invited a few friends up to our cabin at Bear Lake.  It was incredible.  At the end of the retreat Saren encouraged us all to go out and do our own retreats to spread the value and beauty of deliberate motherhood.  (More history about that retreat and the one I attended two years ago back here, and more about how Saren continues to do motherhood retreats here.)

Two of those girls took that challenge to heart and have built up the most amazing group of strong women who meet every other year to discuss the dynamics of motherhood.
Darcie (on the left) and Monica (on the right) are the two from that original retreat and they are so organized and well-thought-out about this whole thing they amaze me.  For example, they sent out the “save-the-date” thing over a year ago.  When I plan things the invite is usually a phone call a couple hours before :).  These women know it takes planning like that to make something happen.  Becca (in the middle) was the one who helped host this year at her Mother-in-Law Margaret’s beautiful home.

I honestly don’t quite know how to sum up my experience there.

Each of those girls brought such a beautiful perspective to motherhood.  They came from different areas all over the country and they range from having one child to seven (and #8 on the way!).  They have such varying backgrounds and personalities but the main thing they have in common is that they are all very enlightened as far as motherhood is concerned.  The spirit was thick all weekend long, and I felt gentle whisperings telling me exactly what I need to tweak and change in my parenting to merge more easily into the kind of mother I am valiantly striving to become.  I came home so filled up to the brim it almost makes me emotional because of the richness and love the weekend held. 

Most of our discussions looked like this:

…with the person presenting here:

They asked my Mom to be the keynote speaker which was pretty smart of them 🙂  She opened up the retreat talking about “Parenting with the End in Mind.”  She asked the question “What do we want for our kids?” to which there were all kinds of answers including knowing their divine nature, helping them to be “self-appointed,” helping them know how to really love others, etc.  The discussion (with my Mom’s help) led us to the realization that all those things we want for our kids all boil down to one overall thing that will give them all of that:  giving them ownership.

What’s that you say?  You’ve heard me talk about that before?  Well yes, I think ownership is the most brilliant thing we can give kids (and yes, I am indoctrinated heavily by my parents :).  Ownership of their choices (helping them make decisions in advance), ownership of relationships (helping them see and treat others as God would), ownership of their arguments (the “fighting bench” is a perfect solution to that one), and most importantly, ownership of their beliefs.  I know I’ve talked about it a whole bunch, but my parents wrote one of my very favorite parenting books on the whole ownership jazz:   The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership. Click on that title for more information about that one.

My Mom and Margaret are good friends who go way, way back to Harvard Business School days so it was so fun to see them together.

Yes, I do definitely need a new point-and-shoot camera…I think this one has been dropped one too many times.

Check out this old picture I found of them back in the “olden-days”:

That’s me my mom is holding…Nolan (Margaret’s husband) is holding my sister who is not very pleased about that little fact.  And I don’t know if that’s my brother Josh or one of the Archibald’s kids Margaret is holding…

It was so great to have these “seasoned mothers” to give some perspective to us mothers who are deep “in the trenches.”  Susan (on the right below) is the mother of some of the girls in attendance and also the host of the last retreat two years ago
I wish she could remodel our new house for us…she is phenomenal at that stuff right along with motherhood.

Margaret opened up the day on Saturday.  She spoke about helping our children develop self-esteem.  She highly recommended a book called Your Child’s Self-Esteem
I am going to have to order because she brought up SO many points from it.  I am going to write some highlights of my notes because it was like she was speaking right to me.  Here you go:

  • Children value themselves to the degree they feel valued.
  • Of course we love our children and we assume they know that.  But there is a difference between being loved and feeling loved. 
  • You are a psychological mirror that your children use to build their identity.
  • Be aware of giving technology more attention than we give our children.  Do our eyes light up when our children enter a room?  They should!
  • Sometimes as mothers we habitually attend to what is missing or what is wrong instead of building up the good stuff.  She told a story of when she got so frustrated with her son for forgetting things and missing the bus.  She dropped him off at the school with all the weight of her lecture weighing him down.  As she was about to take off, her younger son rolled down the window and called out to his older brother: “I love you!!”  Oh the way she told that story made me so motivated to ease up a little on those lectures!
  • Kids are such a work in progress…we should put ourselves in their shoes.
  • Find the goodness in each child and build that up.  Reinforce the good parts of the day and how they made you feel.  We all need positive feedback, right?
  • Compliment kids in front of the other kids…pray about how grateful you are for them with them at your side.
  • Undivided attention with each child is so important!  (that made me glad we do the things I wrote about back here)
  • We are all encumbered and frazzled by so many things.  We need to be sure that we acknowledge that those sweet children are so much more important than a phone call, email, blog post, etc.
  • Show love through service.  The mundane (helping them clean a room, a sincere compliment) can become monumental.

She ended with this quote that I adore from Elder Jeffrey Holland years ago:

“Mothers, cherish that role
that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels
to watch over you and your little ones. Yours is the work of
salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made
more than you are, better than you are, and better than you have
ever been.
 And if, for whatever reason, you are making this
courageous effort alone, without your husband at your side, then
our prayers will be all the greater for you. Know that in faith
things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly,
of you. We thank all of you, and tell you there is nothing
more important in this world than participating so directly in the
work and glory of God.” 

The other parts of the retreat blew me away as well.  The theme of the whole retreat was “Nurturing the Whole Child” (as determined by Darcie and Monica) and many of the girls prepared stuff before we got there to lead discussions.  I could write and write and write and write because man alive, I took notes like nobody’s business, but I’ll just leave you with a few highlights amidst the highlight pictures.

The first night there were some of the funniest stories told as we all caught up.

This is Jen Eyring (below), the one who gave me the idea I talked about back here which my Mom and I ended up using for our Time Out for Women presentation last year (with her permission of course)

She is expecting her eighth baby and shared such inspiring stories along with everyone else. 

It was interesting because the leaders of each discussion brought up so many things and even though the group is large, everyone put in their two-cents and each of those two-cent-es spoke to me.

Darcie led a fascinating discussion about the ultimate goal for our children’s minds.  We talked all about teaching our children to “act” rather than being “acted upon.”  We talked about how our body and spirit must be nourished.  It led to how important it is to help our children be in nature as much as possible and how that helps children to “restore” themselves.  She recommended a book called Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder that I’m determined to read…sounds so good.

Becca talked about “Nurturing the Emotional Child” and amidst the great points she brought up, she recommended some really good books for that:  
The Hundred Dresses, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, and Zero

Monica had us watch this talk which led to an awesome discussion about how to help our children establish their own connection to Heaven.  We need to let our kids know we have faith that they will make the right choices.  I was so hit by that talk during conference so I loved watching it again and having a sort of “book club” discussion about it. It sure made me think a lot about how much to push kids or let them make their own choices.  Loved it. 

Vanessa had us watch this talk that spurred a very thought-provoking discussion about how to help children recognize truth…especially through the teenage years.  (Vanessa has seven kids some of whom are teenagers so it was so good to hear her perspective.)  She recommended this book that looks fantastic:  Arming Your Children with the Gospel: Creating Opportunities for Spiritual Experiences.

Some ideas that came up in the discussion:

  • The role of the Holy Ghost is to help children (and us) recognize the truth.
  • Questioning things is good…help children sort things out in their own minds.
  • Be alert–recognize teaching moments.  

She recommended these talks:
        Tender Mercies of the Lord (there’s also a video of that one here), and Oh Remember, Remember

Sorry, yes, all these ladies are LDS (Mormons) so we had a lot of General Conference brought up.  We feel (as so many other mothers do) so strongly about reaching out for God’s help raising these children entrusted into our care and I’m SO grateful for the help of church leaders urging and encouraging us along.

Our discussions were interspersed with breaks (filled with impromptu inspiring discussions) and healthy food. 

These two below are my fellow Hashimoto friends who almost have me convinced to try going gluten free. (Still trying to get up the nerve to do it.)

The hostesses:

The views:

On the last morning (Sunday) before we all left to catch our flights home, Liz (above on the right) gave the most amazing devotional.  It was called the “Battle Hymn of the Dragon Mother” where she compared us to Chinese dragons who traditionally symbolize “potent and auspicious powers including in particular control over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods” (pretty typical of a mother, right?).  She said the dragon is also a symbol of “power, strength, and good luck,” which I sure hope to have as a mother.  She went into four habits of a “Dragon Mother” that were so inspiring I got her permission to use part of them for a portion of the speech I had to give at the American Mothers convention in Washington D.C. the next weekend.  I could go on and on on about how inspired I was by her words, but I’ll just leave you with this: we are all “Dragon Mothers” in our own way and we should go forth with joy, feasting on the words of Christ, praying hard and remembering to “be still” enough to let God guide us in our journey of motherhood.

My sister Saren was getting an award during most of this retreat (see my mom’s write-up about it back here), so I didn’t get to see her until right before my flight.  We met half way between her house and the airport for a picnic and to catch up.  Love that girl SO very much.
If you are wanting to attend your own motherhood retreat without putting in the hours of prep time Darcie and Monica did for this one, check out the Power of Moms where new inspiring motherhood retreats are always lined up.  Saren has helped countless mothers with this retreat idea and oh how grateful I am for her (along with thousands of other mothers).

Wow, this is long.  And I could write forever.  But I’m going to be “present” with every electronic gadget turned off as my kids walk in the door from school in a few minutes.  I’ll leave with this beautiful quote:

“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a
statue, or so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more
glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere through which we look –
to affect the quality of the day. That is the highest of the arts.”
–Henry David Thoreau

May we all find joy in affecting the quality of the day in our own families.


  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful post! It is exactly what I needed to hear today. I have been so overwhelmed with being a wife and mother lately. I am making a difference, I can do this! Thank you so much!

  2. Between a carefully places "Draw Closer to God" book by Henry B Eyring, and a perfectly timed post by you, I think I am armed for my next day "in the trenches". Well, mostly. I gotta get through all these tabs I have up now from your post, lol.

  3. A wonderful post filled with so many great ideas and information. Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds as if this experience was wonderfully uplifting for all the women who attended.

  4. How awesome! And of course that was a Jen Eyring story! Everyone sure loves and still misses them in Boston. Did I see Christine G. in those pictures too? What a powerhouse group! Thank you for sharing what you learned. xoxo

  5. That looks totally awesome and I loved meeting Saren when she came out to Australia. Wish I could go to another one and I think I might just have to put one together myself 🙂

  6. I love all your tops in the above pictures. Where do you shop for clothes, and where did you get your tops?
    Also, how does one attend that retreat? It sounds amazing!

  7. Darci?!?! I love Darci!! She lives close and our girls do plays together, what a small word. What an blessing to have this experience.

  8. Hi Shawni. Sometimes we see or hear things when we need to. The universe is amazing in the way it presents wisdom into our lives at the times when we need to hear it. The bullet points you brought up from the conference really hit home with me and I am going to share them on my blog today, the blog that I have been neglecting because I have been to focused on my cooking blog. I have been feeling like I have been on the computer to often and I need to take a break more when the kids are at home. Blogging is great, but family is 100x better.

    Thanks for sharing the wisdom and I will pass it along as I think we all need reminders. I also believe that if were hearing the message and it's speaking to us, then others are needing to hear it as well.

    Thanks Shawni!


  9. Shawni, this looks SO fun. I definitely want to participate in one of these retreats someday. Did I ever tell you that Darcie Davis is one of my friends from when she lived in Redmond? She is one amazing woman!

  10. I'm playing the "small world" game too: Becca is my dear friend from college. EFY counselors together, double date partners, and so fun to see her pop up on your blog today. Made me wish I had been there!

  11. I love to visit your blog! I am a mom to three little ladies and I always feel inspired and uplifted when I click over. Thank you for providing a positive and inspiring place where you can really feel the divine spirit of motherhood. I love it, and now I really want to go to a retreat! Feeling the fire of deliberate mothering is life changing…for the whole family. Thank you so much!

  12. I know this is not what you were going for, but can I just say….JEALOUS!! 🙂
    I need to find a way to gather a group of strong, spiritual Mothers. I need all the help I can get and I truly believe that Heavenly Father works through others to help lead and inspire. Thank you for sharing. I have a lot of reading and listening ahead of me. Thank you!

  13. I am planning a retreat for my moms group–boy is it a big task! We are new moms, with only 1 child and the group has been together almost 1 year. The retreat will actually coincide with our anniversary. I'm at a loss of a possible theme. We are only able to retreat for a day. Any help or resources would be much appreciated!

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