Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Afternoon Insanity

Back in Utah, the kids were in school from 8:55 until 3:30. (Well, Bria was. Chloe had 1/2 day Kindergarten last year.) Here in Michigan, school begins at 8:15 and lets out at 3:21, so that is about 30 minutes longer in school or so? (Listen, I don't even understand Bria's 4th grade math, I'm not going to be able to figure this out without a calculator!) And then you add the bus time in, and they leave the house around 7:40 and come home around 3:30.

Bria has always done her violin practicing in the morning. She's a fairly early riser, so she was always up before 7:00 and there was plenty of time for her to get dressed, eat, make her bed, brush her teeth and still have 45 minutes to practice. Now, she has an entire hour less time in the morning, so practicing has to wait until after school unless I think I want her to get up before 5. And believe me, I don't.

Chloe had afternoon Kindergarten last year, so she just practiced her piano sometime in the morning before she left for school, provided she actually woke up. Since she is my late riser, sometimes she wouldn't get up until 10:30 or later! She has actually done amazingly well with the early schedule this year, but she still drags in the morning, and I don't think her faculties are quite with her. Like yesterday, when I told her to go upstairs and make her bed and brush her teeth. She came down 15 minutes later, just in time to leave for the bus. I have no idea what she actually did up there because when I went up to put clean laundry on their beds, Chloe's was completely unmade and I had already deduced from the smell of her breath while standing at the bus stop that she hadn't brushed her teeth, either.

Anyway, afternoons have become hectic, and my least favorite time of day. And I also feel like the kids don't have any time to just play and be kids. With Bria on the violin for 45 minutes and Chloe on the piano for 30, homework, a couple after school chores (all quick and easy, like putting away clean laundry), an after-school snack, and then any lessons or commitments we have to be to, dinner, baths (which have now been cut to every other day or *gasp* less), reading requirements (imposed by teachers, not me), bedtime routines and anything else there is just no time for a little R&R before they have to be in bed and start all over again in the morning.

Add whatever Sophia needs to the mix, and it equals chaos.

Yesterday was especially awful for us, because the bus was 20 minutes late bringing them home. Not only did that mean that I stood out in the freezing cold for that long, it just made the afternoon that much more crazy. So crazy that Bria got to bed an hour late because she was working on her book report, which is just code for "gigantic craft project using only all-natural or homemade materials with a brief summary of the book." It wasn't due today, but she really wanted to turn it in and get the extra credit. Which I support 100%.

There really isn't anything I can do about it, except give up music lessons, which I'm not willing to do, so I won't complain anymore. I just need to figure out how to make it completely streamlined so that there is no time wasted, and hopefully time left over for them to have a little fun.

I guess that means I'd better make the after school snack right now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Curse of the Good Girl



Shortly before the big move, TLC Book Tours contacted me about reviewing The Curse of the Good Girl by Rachel Simmons on my blog. My first inclination was to say, "No, thank you. Too much on my plate right now." But then I read the book's description and, as a mother of girls, I thought I shouldn't pass up the opportunity.

When Joel and I first turned the key in our new home, the book was already waiting for me to begin reading.

As I started reading the introduction, I began to worry that this book would be a little too feminist for my tastes. That the ideas contained in its pages would teach girls to be selfish and mean and only concern themselves with their own feelings. What about compassion and service and selflessness? What about kindness and respect?

But then a particular passage struck me, and I was on board with the idea.

"There is nothing wrong with being a nice person, nor is it my intent to undermine the unique sensibilities of women and girls. But girls need to have the tools to say no, to ask for what they need, and to say what they think. Too many girls and women walk away from conversations muttering to themselves about what they really wanted to say. When kindness comes at the expense of truth, it is not a kindness worth having. And when generosity leads to silence or abuse, it is not a generosity worth giving."

Wow.

So I kept reading, and to my horror, I discovered that I myself am what Rachel Simmons calls a "Good Girl." (So horrifying, right?) I began to realize that much of the inner angst I put myself through is because I feel like I shouldn't be feeling a certain way, so I don't allow myself to feel whatever emotion it is I shouldn't be feeling, even though I am feeling it so I just bottle it all up inside until I have PMS and it all comes screaming out. And then I can just blame PMS.

Or something like that.

It seems so logical--almost too logical--that instead of keeping it all in, I should instead learn to communicate how I am feeling to the people I love most. And that's just the beginning.

Good Girls are afraid to take risk. Any hint of criticism causes them to fall apart. They are afraid to ask for what they need, instead just hinting or expecting those around them to be mind readers. They can't stand it when somebody doesn't like them. They are afraid to have an opinion, because it might differ from someone else's opinion.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Like I said, it all was horribly familiar to me. I am the poster child for being a Good Girl.

I figured I ought to try some real-life application of some of these principles. The book gives some excellent role-playing situations where mothers can help their daughters learn to understand and deal with their emotions in a healthy manner. I do plan to use these ideas with my daughters, but my real-life application had to be for myself. To see what happened to my Good Girl mentality when I personally used some of the principles I had read about.

So, after a big move which caused much stress on me, I had definitely been bottling more emotions than usual. I pretty much had a year's supply. I was feeling annoyed with my husband, and that annoyance had quickly morphed into all out anger. Anger that I wasn't supposed to be feeling, so I pretended not to be. In the end, I sat down and wrote him an email about the way I was feeling. The results were amazing. He came home from work, having read my email, and we talked (civilly) for a long time and guess what? He wasn't mad at me. We came up with solutions together. He actually understood where I was coming from because I stayed calm and explained what I was feeling and why, instead of blowing up when I finally couldn't take the negative feelings anymore.

With all of that said, I still feel that the author sometimes took things a little too far. I would have liked to see a point of view that was more religious, and how to find a balance between the things I am taught in order to be more Christlike, and the things that I need to do to be emotionally healthy and confident.

Definitely a good read, especially if you have teen-aged daughters, or daughters who are rapidly approaching adolescence, like I do. It's a quick first-time read, and then can serve as an excellent reference book afterwards.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How Blessed I Am!
Reason #725

I can't lie down to read or nap or take a break without having little Sophia come in and say, "Mommy I wanna suddle you. Pwease?"

I'm still not sure whether she is trying to say cuddle or snuggle, but still. Who can resist a suddle from Sophia? Certainly not this mama.

Sunday afternoons are the perfect time for napping. And for suddling.

The best part?

Afternoon suddles mean Sophie will fall immediately to sleep.

A much needed nap for both of us.

What a blessed life I have.



(Thanks Joel for taking a picture of your sleeping beauties.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tranquility



This is another picture from the Butchart Gardens. It is my favorite one...it just seems so peaceful. I think I will enlarge it and hang it somewhere.

I promise to be better about taking pictures this week. The leaves are starting to turn and it is very pretty, but I haven't picked up my camera since we were at Lake Superior two weeks ago. Just not in the mood, I guess.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Non Sequitur

One of my neighbors brought us pumpkin cookies last week. I love pumpkin anything. It is my absolute favorite. (Yes, I would rather have pumpkin pie than chocolate cake.) After I ate the delicious cookies, I got a hankering to make some pumpkin bars or some other pumpkiny goodness, so the next time I was at the store I tried to buy some canned pumpkin.

Couldn't find it anywhere.

And then, I found out the horrible news.

People. There is a canned pumpkin shortage. I thought about not telling you all, and hoarding it all for myself when the pumpkin shows up again. But then I realized that I don't think anyone in the entire U.P. reads my blog, so I can tell you to go ahead and hoard your own pumpkin.

We wouldn't want anyone to be without pumpkin pie for the holidays.

**************************************

I am singing the alto solo for this year's production of Handel's Messiah with the Keweenaw Symphony and Chorus. I am excited about it, but have only ever done the soprano part, so I have an awful lot of learning to do. And practicing.

**************************************

My voice is gone. Laryngitis. Everyone in my little family is dealing with major colds right now. For me, any type of cold or flu goes straight to my vocal cords. It really isn't fair.

So much for practicing.

**************************************

I am sick of logging into Facebook and being bombarded by political diatribes from both sides of the middle. I have my own political beliefs, but what I don't get is how angry some people are getting about things. I may have to start hiding a few people until the whole health care issue blows over.

For what it's worth, several of my Facebook friends post political statuses/links/whatever in a nice way. It's the ones that cannot be civil and are doing it all day that I want to run away from.

**************************************

When Sophia says the word "really" it sounds like "ree" and when she says "tired" it sounds like "tahdeed." So when she says she's "really tired" it sounds like she is telling people she is retarded. More than one person has thought this when she says that. I get a giggle, but I notice she is improving upon her "r" sounds, so I'm guessing this particular funny will be phased out fairly soon.

**************************************

I am desperately in need of an entertainment center. It seems I can buy all kinds of wonderful options if I have a new-fangled TV. But since we have a (very heavy) dinosaur type TV, most are going to be too flimsy for it. Or not fit it at all.

I've been stalking Craig's List and Goodwill with no luck. Hilary helped me find a few on Target.com yesterday. But it's hard to tell what will really work. For now, it's on the floor and it is driving me nuts.

**************************************

One of the two young women I have that actually come to church is moving to Alabama. Sad Day.

**************************************

And now I'm off to go sip herbal tea and lie around hoping that my voice decides to come back.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Breakfast Fungi

The other day as we were walking to the bus stop, the girls noticed a patch of toadstools--really, really large toadstools--growing on someone's lawn.

Bria: "Ewwwww! Look at those mushrooms! Those are gross!"

Sophie: "They not mushrooms! That's PANCAKES!"


PS: I took my camera to the bus stop that afternoon to take a picture of the mushrooms that really did bear a striking resemblance to pancakes, but the offending fungus had disappeared. Most likely cleaned up by the owner of the lawn.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Rainbow of Butchart Gardens

Remember how I went on an Alaskan Cruise in June?

Yeah, me neither.

So I guess it's a good thing I took so many photos.

Actually, I was just moving a bunch of my photo files off of my hard drive and I realized I hadn't posted these pictures on my blog. And since the Butchart Gardens (located on Vancouver Island, in Victoria, which was our last port before we docked in Seattle and headed back to normal life) is now in the top ten most beautiful places I have ever visited, it would be a complete travesty if you did not get to see the photos I took there.

Millions of flowers, in literally every color imaginable.

RedPink








Orange



Yellow



Green (Okay, so there were no green flowers...but just look at all of the green leaves everywhere!)

Blue




Purple






White


The place was just awe-inspiring, to say the least. I really wished I lived close enough to see the gardens in every season. The roses were just beginning to bloom, and many of the flowers were starting to die off, while others weren't quite ready to come out and play yet.

I did buy some seeds in the gift shop, and I can't wait to plant them in my yard come spring. Since I can't live at Butchart, hopefully I can bring a little bit of Butchart to my home.

Monday, September 21, 2009

We'll Sing and We'll Shout!

We went to Stake Conference in Green Bay this weekend. And, because Green Bay is a 4 hour drive from my house, making our jaunt to Stake Conference a mere eight hours of total driving time, that makes me just exactly like the pioneers.

To be honest, I had a pretty bad attitude about the whole thing. Going to Stake Conference meant giving up my entire weekend. It meant being stuck in the car with three children for lots of hours. It meant staying overnight with members we've never even met before. It meant budgeting money for gas and food that could have been used for other things. It meant trying to figure out what to do with children while Joel and I attended the adult session. It meant socializing with people I did not know.

It also meant doing what the Lord has asked me to do, getting up off my duff, sucking it up and going. It meant sacrificing.

In the end, though, I'm very glad I went. Isn't that always how it is? You leave your creature comforts behind and "overcome inertia," as a counselor in the Stake Presidency put it, and you experience something wonderful that you would not have experienced if you had done what you thought you really wanted to do. Had you not sacrificed a little. (Or a lot, as the case may be.)

I had opportunity to both serve (I was asked to fill in for a musical number who had fallen ill exactly 3 minutes before the meeting started) and be served. My vessel was filled to overflowing as I listened to amazing counsel from our Stake Presidency, collaborated with others serving in the Young Women and felt the love my Heavenly Father has for me.

Most of all, I was just astounded at the faith and the dedication of the members in my stake. We were not the only ones who drove 4 hours in order to attend, after all. Others came 2 and 3 hours, and some only 45 minutes. Still, 45 minutes is quite the sacrifice when I compare it to the 5 minute drive I have been used to all of my life.

Not only did they come, but they were thrilled to be there. I know this because of the way they sang.

Yes.

They sang loud. With gusto.

I opened my mouth to sing in the adult meeting on Saturday night, and was surprised to find that I couldn't hear myself amidst the fortissimo sounds on all sides of me. This is not normal in my world. In fact, in my last ward, I often felt like I was the only person singing, because everyone sang so quietly. (I am not able to sing very quietly, and besides, I don't like to!) But this time, I could sing at my very loudest and not worry about that. It was wonderful to hear everyone around me praising the Lord through song. I almost can't even describe what it felt like to be there, and I don't know the last time I've been in a congregation that sang quite like that. Maybe I never have.

I'm not really sure why I'm writing this, except to say that I really think I have taken for granted the easiness of being LDS while living in Utah or in Arizona. It's not hard to go to Stake Conference when it's across the street or a few blocks away. It's not hard to NOT go to Stake Conference where you probably won't be missed. It's easy to forget the sacrifices that were made for us to be able to worship the way we believe. It's easy to forget why we sing.

I'm not saying you've forgotten, but if you have, please do me a favor next Sunday.

Sing loud. Sing praises to God. Remember why you're there. Be happy to be there.

Be a pioneer.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Report Card

Today marks the end of the second week of school for the girls. So far, it seems that things are going swimmingly and they are really enjoying the school year.



Bria had a difficult first day. When I picked her up, she seemed in good spirits, but she told me that she just stood in a corner and looked at the ground all recess and that she only said 3 words all day, and those were to her teacher. And some boys called her "Burrito." Things didn't seem to bother her all that much, but I know my daughter and she tries very hard to remain stoic about things. My heart broke for her and I shed a quite a few tears over it after she went to bed.

However, the second day was much better for her. I had met my neighbor with the three daughters after the older girls were already in school, so when we went to catch the bus the next morning, all of the girls were excited to meet each other. Bria and Ann, who is in her class at school, have hit it off well and Ann has brought Bria into a cute little group of girls who have already had a great influence on her. They are involved in girl scouts, so we signed Bria up and she is very excited about that. Even more surprising, is that Bria went to choir with them.

In her elementary school, choir is only for the 4th and 5th graders, and they have to give up their lunch recess on Tuesday and Thursday in order to participate. I had asked Bria if she wanted to go, but she wasn't willing to make that kind of sacrifice, and plus there was the whole performance anxiety thing she has. Since she does play the violin, I decided not to push it. But she surprised me when she came home from school yesterday and said, "You might be proud of me.....I went to choir." She went because Ann and her other friends went and she would just be alone at recess, and guess what? She loved it! Of course, I knew she would if she just tried. And indeed I was proud.

Academically, things are getting harder for her this year, but she's doing well. She has to read a fantasy book and do a book report project for it and she has chosen to read the first Harry Potter book. It's been fun to watch her do it, as she is really surprised by how much extra detail is in the book vs. the movie.



Chloe is absolutely loving first grade. Apparently, the teacher she got is the best one in the whole school. At least, every time I tell someone who Chloe's teacher is, that is the reaction I get. All that matters to me is that Chloe absolutely adores her. Chloe, being the social butterfly that she is, had no trouble making friends (this is the child that invited 6 girls to her 6th birthday party and had 11 show up complete with gifts and everything...I still don't know how she managed that!), but she was extremely nervous to ride the bus.

The first day they rode the bus, the bus driver didn't know that they would be on the bus and didn't save seats for them. Since they have to ride for the first bit with high schoolers and middle schoolers, the driver tries to save seats up front for the younger kids. That first day they kind of had to just find somewhere to sit, and a very nice 5th grade girl asked Chloe to sit with her and they were best friends by the time they got to school.

Chloe also got to sign up for girl scouts, but I don't know anybody who will be in her troop yet. She is very excited, though. I never did girl scouts as a child, so I have no real idea what to expect (except cookies, of course!), but I'm glad that they're both looking forward to the meetings. She is also doing piano lessons and enjoying that.

So far, Chloe hasn't been challenged a ton at school. It seems like they are just doing a lot of review so that the teacher can really see where each student is. She doesn't like the easy books that get sent home with her, so she has raided Bria's Junie B. Jones stash and is really enjoying them. Her homework seems to be all based in reading as I haven't seen a single math problem yet.



Sophia is absolutely loving preschool. It is very upsetting to her that she only gets to go to her school twice a week, and I have to deal with much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth on the off days. She loves to dress up to go to school, and talks incessantly about all the friends she has there.

The first day, Joel and I went to pick her up together, since he wasn't teaching any classes that day and wanted to come with me. The kids are all out on the playground for the last part of class, and we found her in the sandbox playing with trucks. We stood and watched her for a minute and then called her to come with us. She started to cry, because we were the last people on earth she wanted to see. It wasn't until she realized that all of her friends were also having to go home with their parents that she finally let us take her out of the sand.

Yesterday I went to go help for the last 1/2 hour of her preschool, and when I got there they were doing circle time and singing songs. She didn't notice me at first, and it was really fun to watch her sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and do all the actions. She was loving it. But then she saw me, and yelled, "NO MOMMY! I don't want to go home!" She couldn't be consoled until I came and sat with her and assured her 300 times that I was just there to help for a little while. So maybe it isn't the best idea to go help at her school. I guess I'll just sign up to bring snack next time.

I am enjoying having the kids in school, simply because I am able to get so much more done. I'm still a bit overwhelmed with all there is to do, but little by little it's happening.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Drowning in a Sea of Papers

My den/office/computer room/craft room (I haven't decided what I will officially call it yet), is a mess. It's become the catchall for stuff that I don't know where to put just yet, and boxes I can't unpack just yet, and things I plain don't want to deal with just yet.

And papers.

Lots and lots of papers.

Papers from bills and loan paperwork and insurance paperwork and children's artwork. But mostly papers from the girls' schools. And all of them are stuff I need to keep for the time being.

Help?

What do you do to keep your den/office/computer room/craft room organized?

I am at a loss.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Knowing, Doing, Being

Today I start teaching voice lessons again.

On the one hand, I really do love to teach voice lessons. Nothing is quite like guiding a student to figure out how to use her voice properly. It is so exciting to see great progress and to know that I was a part in helping unlock the door to singing beautifully. It energizes me.

On the other hand, teaching voice lessons tends to detract from the more important things in my life. Like my children. The three years I spent in Cedar City, trying to be a mother and run a studio at home, at SUU and at Tuacahn was really exhausting and I know my children suffered for it. My home definitely suffered for it, and lots of other things did, too. It was just difficult for me to find a balance.

I learned a lot these last three years, and I really hope that I can apply those things now, so that my priorities and energies are much more in line than they have been in the past. Of course, at this point, I only have one student, so it shouldn't be too difficult. But I will have more and I will need to keep things checked.

I have really loved the last few weeks. Not having moving looming on the horizon, and not having to be anything other than a mother, a wife and a homemaker has been wonderful. My house is unusually clean. I spend more quality time with my children. They actually get an after school snack, help with their homework and practicing, and a listening ear--all from their mother!

I tried before. But, being pulled in so many different directions, I don't feel like I ever truly succeeded. I knew what needed to be done, but failed so many times in the execution. And by simply not doing something I knew I should do, I started to become something I didn't really want to be.

I'm hoping to reverse that process. Even if I have to take on more vocal students than I really want to, I'm not going to let that get in the way of the things that matter most.

Not only will I become an excerciser, but I will be the mother I know I need to be, first and foremost.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Becoming an Exerciser

I am the black sheep in my family.

I don't exercise.

With a well-known fitness instructor for a mother, and a former BYU football player for a father, sports and fitness were just a part of growing up. One of my brothers now owns an Anytime Fitness in Seattle, all three of them played high school sports, and two on a collegiate level. They all still work out pretty regularly and are in great shape.

But I am rebellious.

I hate to exercise. I mean, there are much better things to do, right?

But alas, I have reached a point in my life where I have realized if I don't become an exerciser, I am really going to pay for it in the not-too-distant future.

So, an exerciser I will become.

You might remember I mentioned this to my friend Rae right before I moved. Well, today marks exactly one month since I arrived in Houghton, and my exercise bike still sits unused (unless you count "storage rack" as one of the uses for an exercise bike). The only exercise I have gotten is walking the girls to and from the bus stop (one block) or carting laundry upstairs and downstairs a couple times a day. Oh, and there's that one time I decided to walk the girls to the park that's maybe three blocks away. But it is uphill both ways. Not even joking about that.

Still not enough.

It's time to make good on my word and get working out.

Right after I do the dishes and the laundry, make my bed and clean the bathrooms.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

By the Shores of Lake Superior



This afternoon we drove the ten miles to McLain State Park, which is right on the shore of Lake Superior. It was an absolutely gorgeous day...so far the fall is turning out to be a lot warmer than the summer was. I'm not complaining.



We didn't really realize what the park was all about, so we weren't really dressed appropriately.

No matter. Rolling your pants up works just great.

In Bria's case, it didn't really make a difference. She was soaked to the bone when we finished.


The girls had a blast finding pretty rocks. They were hoping for seashells, but since we weren't exactly at the sea, pretty rocks were a fine substitute. We'll have to start a rock garden or something in the backyard.









So, when do you want to come visit me?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Train of Thought

It is pretty humid here. Like Oreo cookies get soft kind of humid (ewww). Even in dry climates I have a hard time with my hair being a little bit frizzy. But hello? I can't control it here. At all. I suppose I'm getting my just desserts for laughing at Joel's terrible haircut, because now he is always laughing at my frizz-bomb.

Yesterday, I found one of those very frizzy hairs painted right into the kitchen wall. I managed to get it off, but you can still see the line where it was. Sigh.

We painted our kitchen Cornelian Red this last weekend (I'd show you pictures, but now the curtains that came with the house don't match, so I must get new ones before the room is post-worthy). The color it was before was turquoise-ish sky blue. Pretty, but I wasn't a fan. I am in LOVE with the red.

I have big plans for most of the house. I am impatient. I spend my spare time searching the internet for just the right paint colors and carpet and fabric and rugs and furniture. I fall asleep arranging and painting rooms in my mind. Let's just say I'm a bit preoccupied with it all.

However, the front rooms really are pretty presentable now. Things might not be perfect, but they're out of boxes and orderly. I wouldn't mind having people over.

Which is a good thing, because I got a voice student yesterday! Without even trying. She'll be starting up this coming Tuesday, while Sophia is in preschool.

Chloe and Bria also started their music lessons this week. Chloe's piano teacher is in our branch and she comes to our house for lessons. Bria's violin teacher is a music professor at the University, so she goes to her office for lessons. And her office is right next door to Joel's, so that's nice and convenient for me. The younger two just go in and hang out with dad while Bria has her lesson and I observe. Then we all go home together.

After Bria's violin lesson yesterday we walked downtown to get a couple new violin books and decided on a whim to get the girls ice-cream cones. We then walked down to the waterfront and sat on a little pier and ate them. It was a gorgeous day and it was so peaceful to watch the birds and the boats and just be together. I really love living here.

Except for the humidity.

It makes my hair frizzy.

***********************

PS: As it is 9/11, I thought I'd link up to the post I wrote a few years ago remembering where I was and how I felt that day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mystery solved

A few weeks before we moved, Sophia came down with a very stuffy nose. She didn't seem to have any other cold-like symptoms, though. Just incredible stuffiness of the sort that caused her to sniff loudly every 1.4 seconds, and more often than that if she was lying down.

I started to wonder if something had come in season that she was very allergic to, but her nose never really ran. It was just stuffy.

Since she had no other symptoms, and I was very involved with things like packing up my house and dealing with loan officers, I didn't bother taking her in to be seen.

She continued with the stuffiness, and also bloody noses almost daily. And I just continued to think she must have allergies and the nose bleeds were due to the heat. After all, when I was young I had that same issue with my nose bleeding all the time in the summers.

And here's where I start feeling like a crummy mother.

Fast forward to Wisconsin. We are staying at my uncle's house. He has a big huge backyard with lots of fun things to do, among them a trampoline. Sophia and her sisters were happily jumping away when I heard an alarming yell from Bria.

"Mom! Sophia's nose! She has a big green thing that just came out of it!"

"What, a booger?"

"No! It's like really bright green. It's like a round green crystal!"

So, I got up and went to look at this alleged green crystal that came out of Sophia's nose. And there was indeed a snotty green craft bead. And right then, I realized that I had found the source of her mysterious nose-stuffiness and bleeding.

She had a freaking bead stuck up her nose.

The girls had gotten a new set of beads to make jewelry with, and Sophia had just as much fun as the older girls did making necklaces and bracelets for herself. And, apparently, she also had a lot of fun seeing what would happen if she put one in her nose.

Now, I have no idea if a doctor would have figured this out if I had taken her in. I have since decided that I am not such a bad mother. While I am a little distressed that she had a foreign object up her nose for three weeks, I have reconciled myself with the fact that Sophia is just bound to do stuff like this.

I've just added it to her repertoire.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Three Little Maids From School Are We

Or, three little maids on their way to school, anyway.

I must warn you, first day of school pictures are my favorite of the year. I love them. I even love looking at other people's first day of school pictures. And so, obviously, when it comes to my own kids, I especially adore them.

Okay, now to the lots of pictures part.

All three girls ready to go on the front porch.


Bria, the fourth grader with some attitude. :)


Full body shot. It was actually quite warm (upper 80's), but both Bria and Chloe had been so excited about wearing their new hoodies that I let them.


New backpacks this year.


Chloe has some attitude, too. Just the first-grader variety.


Such a fake smile. I love her shirt. Don't you love her shirt? (That is if you can even see it under her (also adorable) hoodie.)


The obligatory backpack shot.


Sophia. She doesn't have a backpack for preschool (yet). But she does have plenty of leaves.


Cuteriffic! And a fake smile to rival Chloe's.


Aren't they adorable?


We live about 8 blocks from the elementary school. The girls will be bused, but we decided to take them for the first day. School didn't start until 12:30 pm, so we left the house a little after 12 and it took us nearly a half-hour to get there! Every other parent in town had the same idea, it seems, and the traffic was horrendous!

After I got the girls to their respective classes, I took Joel back to his office and then took Sophia to preschool registration. No real class today, just paperwork. I did meet a mom that lives just down the street from me. Get this: She has three daughters. A fourth-grader, a second-grader, and a three-year-old who is in Sophia's class. Her oldest and Bria are also in the same class at school.

I'm thinking they're an answer to prayer.

And the best part? The bus stop is right in front of their house.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A School Girls' Feast and a Family Theme for 2009-10

IMG_3763 feast web


This year I wanted to do something to make going back to school super special. It's always a little hard for my girls to go back to school, but this year I knew it would be especially hard since they are in a completely new school 2000 miles from the one they are used to. So, I took a leaf out of Nie Nie's book (or a post out of her blog, actually) and did a Back-to-School feast. It was wildly successful, and I'm pretty sure it will have to be yet another tradition for us. (Thanks Nie Nie.)

School starts tomorrow afternoon (there is only a half day tomorrow), the day after Labor Day. So we labored all day to be ready for our big feast tonight.

We introduced our family theme for the 2009-2010 school year:

KINDNESS BEGINS WITH ME


"I want to be kind to everyone,
for that is right, you see.
So I say to myself, 'Remember this:
Kindness begins with me.' "

We used the best dishes and the best tablecloth (none of which are all that great), and ate by candlelight. We had a lovely vase of wildflowers that Chloe picked the other day. We still had to use paper towels, though, because I couldn't find my nice napkins. Maybe I haven't unpacked them yet. Hmmm.


I made the girls their crowns only about 5 minutes before dinner. So, they're not the cutest, but they still loved them.

Celebrating Bria, going into the 4th grade:


Chloe, entering the first grade:


And even Miss Sophia, who will be starting her very first year of preschool:


Daddy made a delicious meal of pasta with chicken, artichoke hearts, capers and olives. We had steamed squash on the side. Yummiola!


For dessert, we ate vanilla pudding with whipped cream and fresh berries. The girls and I picked the wild blueberries and blackberries the other day. I am going to love living here knowing I can do stuff like that all the time!

After dinner, the girls modeled their first day of school outfits for us (no, they didn't get to eat in them). I'm not going to show you pictures because that would ruin their first day of school pictures!

After the fashion show, Joel gave them their Father's blessings for the beginning of the school year. I always look forward to these, and I hope the girls do, too.

Wonderful evening. Let's hope the school year is just as great.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Enlisted

Looks like Joel decided to ditch being a professor and join the army.

At least, that's what the chick that cut his hair last week thought.

He totally procrastinated getting his hair cut until the very last minute, and went early in the morning the day school started. I got a phone call a little later that morning, and heard Joel on the other line say, "Lara. Something devastating has happened."

I was thinking he'd wrecked the car or something.

But it was worse.

His curls were gone.

Luckily, bad haircuts have a way of righting themselves quickly enough. I'm afraid this one is going to take a lot more than just two weeks, but his curls will be back eventually.

And for now I giggle uncontrollably every time I see him.

For that matter, he giggles uncontrollably whenever he passes a mirror.

I mean, wouldn't you?



Friday, September 04, 2009

White Irony

We have rented our homes for the last 10 years. Obviously, with Joel in grad school for the first 7 years of marriage, that was a no-brainer. When he got the job in Cedar City after he graduated with his doctorate, we thought we would buy a house.

So, we looked.

But, alas. It wasn't to be. He graduated in May of 2006 and we moved to Cedar in August. Just in time for the tippy-top of the housing inflation. The twin home we ended up renting was going for 205,000 dollars when we moved in. For a 1,400 square foot, poorly-constructed duplex, I thought that was insane.

For the first year, we still looked around at homes, and our landlord actually pushed the place we were living in quite heavily. She would drop the price by a few thousand dollars every couple of months, but we knew if we were to buy, it certainly wouldn't be that house. After a little over a year of living there, we gave up on buying a home even though the prices were steadily going down. We had begun to feel our time in Cedar City was very temporary, and buying a home wouldn't be the best move.

I'm so glad we didn't. Had we bought, we would probably be renting here in Houghton, simply because we wouldn't have been able to sell our house in Cedar. And if we did, it's doubtful that we would have gotten what we paid for it.

I tell you all this, because in the ten years we have been renting, there is only one thing about it that I truly hate. Because really? Renting has its advantages. Like, when the garage door commits suicide, you don't have to pay to fix it. Or when the sprinkler system refuses to work right, it's your landlord footing both the water and the repair bills. No property taxes. And, best of all, you don't have to sell it when you move to Michigan.

But, oh, the white walls.

I hate the white walls. The one and only reason I couldn't wait to be a home owner was just so I could have a little color in my life. That's it. Otherwise, I might have been happy to rent forever. Okay, so that's not entirely true, but seriously? I really, really hate white walls.

Therefore, it is completely ironic that my very first painting job here in the new house would be to paint the girls' bathroom--you guessed it--white. Whoever lived here before painted it a light brown. Not taupe. Brown. And it was awful.

The space has no natural light, super low ceilings (Joel can't even stand up straight in there, and my head touches the ceiling in several spots), and the brown just made it look dingy and dirty and completely uninviting. I evaluated it for several days, and I knew it had to be brightened up. And with the lack of natural light and the painfully low ceilings, white was really the only color that would work.

So, ultra-bright white it was.

And I am a great big hypocrite.

Here's the finished product (sorry--I was almost finished painting when I realized I should have taken before pictures. I won't make that mistake again).
So, I based the entire bathroom on this shower curtain, which I had before and really like. I got it at Target if you want to know.

This bathroom only has a standing shower. And it's never once been used by us because my kids hate taking showers. So they come downstairs and use the awesome clawfoot tub that's in our bathroom. So, for now, this shower is just for show.
This is a view just as you walk in the door. You can't really tell that this part of the ceiling is also fairly low, but I can reach up and touch it without straightening my arm. The artwork is done by Chloe. I figured it works.

I got the cabinet thingy at Wal-Mart and put it together all by myself. (Yes, Joel cooks dinner while I paint the bathroom and put together furniture. Works for us.) The small doorway that I was lucky enough to have the cabinet fit exactly into goes into the attic. The very yucky, scary, icky attic. I was really worried that my kids (Sophia) would go in there all the time if we didn't barricade it somehow. I'm sure I'll clean it out eventually, but for now, there's a cabinet. And it holds lots of stuff like shampoo and hair pretties and washcloths and toilet paper, too. Dual purpose!

Flower hair pretties hanging from some ribbon on the wall. Above-the-toilet artwork done by Bria. In front of that partitioning wall is the shower. Behind it is the vanity, which I will show you next.

Voila! The vanity. With more towels. And even more in a basket. I got the little buckets at Target and thought they'd be fun for toothpaste and toothbrushes. Each girl has her own bucket. The pink step stool that you can't see very well because my camera lens isn't wide enough is also from Target. I am missing Target right about now. Sigh.

Kind of hard to tell, but this is all in a corner-ish type area. The hair pretty holder is on the wall that divides the vanity area from the shower.


And there it is. My once dark and dingy and depressing attic bathroom is now bright and white and happy! And I like it so much, I don't even care if it makes me a hypocrite.

So there.