Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hibernation is Not an Option

If it weren't for Thanksgiving and Christmas, this part of the year would be absolutely unbearable for me.  I have a hard enough time getting up in the morning when the sun is shining and the temperature is warm, so the freezing black mornings that lead up to the winter solstice are, to put it mildly, difficult.

I got back from walking the girls to the bus stop about 20 minutes ago, and the sun still isn't up.  Although the early light is finally starting to creep into the sky.  I'm trying to decide which things I can skip this morning so I can just go back to bed for an hour, but it's Tuesday and I have to go to work at 9:30.

So instead, I will go make myself some warm breakfast and eat it in front of the Christmas tree.  That will be enough to lift my spirits and give me the will to get ready for the day.

But tomorrow I'm going back to bed.  I much prefer hibernating.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

It's nearly the last day of November, and I have yet to write a gratitude post.  Not because I am not grateful, but because I have so very much to be thankful for that it sometimes seems overwhelming to me to sit down and write it out.

This year, however, I am most thankful for my family.

For three beautiful daughters who teach me how to be a better mother, a better daughter, and a better person.  Every single day I learn something from them.  Sometimes I learn that feathers make a very apropo Thanksgiving accessory and other times I learn about faith, hope and charity.  Mostly I learn that they are amazing children, given to me by a loving Father in Heaven, and they make my life worth living.

Ready for Turkey

For a wonderful husband who loves me and treats me like a queen, even when I definitely don't deserve such treatment.  He is such an amazing father, and I have always love watching him with our children.   They adore him, and I'm so happy they have such a great example of a loving father and husband.

What do you think about this spoon?

For being born of goodly parents.  Who are amazing people and from whom I learn so much, even still.  They continue to do so much for me and my little family, and I am forever in their debt.  From replacing my toilets to just being there when I need to talk, I can always count on them.

Thanksgiving Day

And finally, for my three brothers, who are also amazing people.  I hate that we are literally in four corners of the country (Seattle, Miami, Utah and Michigan) and rarely get to see each other.  I cannot wait for the vacation of the century in January, orchestrated and paid for by my parents, when we will all get to see one another again.  Bria even has a countdown on her white board...not for Christmas, but for the cruise.

So much to be grateful for, indeed.  But the older I get, the more I realize that it's the people I love that make life most wonderful.  Family is forever, and for that, I'm forever thankful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maestro in the Snow

Maestro Outtake

Joel has a concert coming up next weekend and has really needed a new headshot.  Pretty sad that the one he uses is one I took about 6 years ago!  Back when I still used a film SLR.  Definitely time for an update.

But, see, I only take pictures in natural light, and where I live there isn't a lot of that indoors no matter how many windows your house has (and mine has quite a few), so we had to tromp outside in the snow.

I must say, the results are nice...although I did have to do some pretty crazy maneuvers to get them!  (The picture above was taken while I was hanging off the fence with one hand and obviously wasn't the best way to stay in control of the camera!)

So, anyway, here are the rest of our favorites from his headshot shoot (I love to say that) plus a family shoot I did (also in the snow) for some friends.

The Maestro
Kuzmic Family

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Inaugural Snowman

First Snowman of the Season

We got a few inches of snow on Tuesday, so when the girls came home from school they couldn't wait to go out and play in it.  And play in it they did, until it was 5:00 and the sun was down.

That snow wasn't so great for snowman building, but they get an A for effort, right?  This is our first snowman of the season, and just by looking outside, I have a feeling that he definitely won't be the last!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yes, I am Completely Insane

Black Friday today.

Of course I went out, though ever since I moved away from my mother I haven't been able to convince ANY of my friends to go out with me.  They must be smarter than I am.  Although, I'm a sucker for a good deal, and am probably a little too motivated by saving tons of money.  Also, I am a total insomniac anyway, why not go shopping?

It's 5:50 and I just got home from this year's adventure.  Which included WalMart only having 10 Leapsters in stock and the lady in front of me grabbing six of them and leaving none for little old me, who was planning to buy 2.  I hate how Wal-Mart does Black Friday, by the way.

Anyway, that was a little after midnight, so I came home (in the steadily accumulating snow) and worked some magic online with the Leapsters and managed to get them for just the same amount I would have paid at WalMart.  I am awesome.

And then I slept for a couple hours.

When I woke up at 3:30, I was greeted by a good 3 inches of new snow, with more still falling.  I was still undeterred.  I headed over to JCPenney's and managed to get some amazing deals for Joel and my little clothes-horse, Bria.  Who wants nothing but clothes for Christmas and she is only ten.  Sigh.

Then ShopKo.  Nothing great there, but I thought I'd check it out anyway.  I ended up with one gift for Sophia, some tape to wrap all these things with and a pair of fabulous shoes for myself.  Oops.

When I came out to my car there was another 6 inches of snow fallen.  My street hadn't been plowed yet this early (the snowplow only just came by as I was typing this) and so I was very grateful for my snow tires as my car trudged through the snow.

There was only a little snow last year.  This year, I am experiencing real Yooper snowfall I think.

I'm headed to bed for a few hours, and then we are decorating the house for Christmas.  This is my favorite day of the entire year, besides Christmas itself.  It truly makes my spirit bright.

I hope your spirits are made bright today, too!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Thanksgiving Eve

Papier Mache Ornament
'Twas the night before Thankgiving, and all through the nation
Families were preparing for tomorrow's celebration...

Okay, that's enough of trying to write poetry for me.  But we are preparing for the big day tomorrow and here's what we have done so far...

For Family Home Evening on Monday we made a thankful tree. Well, we wrote down what we were thankful for on some pretty labels I printed out from The Graphics Fairy, and I made the tree later. We each had 4 of the labels to write what we were thankful for, and I encouraged the children not to duplicate answers from others, and I have to say I love hearing the things that they are grateful for. Because they are just the right things.

I'm Thankful for My Sisters

Sophia is grateful for her sisters.  I'm grateful for her newfound love of writing letters and words.

Then, yesterday, I made some papier mache ornaments. Yes. I ripped up some of my old music, but it was a book that was 50 years old and falling apart anyway and it was something I doubt I'll ever sing. But it still hurt me a little bit inside to tear it up. I've been trying to be frugal and sometimes my projects don't exactly end up being as cost-effective as I'd like them to, but this one was incredibly cheap.

I bought a package of twelve ornaments at Goodwill for $0.99 and a spool of red grosgrain ribbon at WalMart for $1.97. I printed off the free labels onto nice cardstock I already had in my stash. I trudged through the snow in my backyard with the hedge clippers and cut down a few branches, and I had purchased the Kleenex holder at Goodwill months ago with this very project in mind. I also already had the floral foam, Spanish Moss and the Mod Podge I used to seal the ornaments once the paper was dry.

Dining Table

I really love the result and it makes a great centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table.  I'll probably keep it up for Christmas, too.  Which brings me to the next preparation I've made:  Setting the table.

Place Setting

I know it is probably a little strange that I set it so early, but it's something easy to get out of the way, and I do fret about it a lot because I want it to be beautiful. We're having some friends over and since we don't have enough chairs we decided that the three youngest children will sit at a kid's table. Hopefully that works out okay because I have never loved the idea of kid's tables—I like everyone sitting together on a holiday like this.

But I am happy with the settings I came up with. They go nicely with the centerpiece.

All Set for Thanksgiving

And oh!  I am just now realizing that you haven't seen the paint job I did in the dining room this past summer. Well, there it is.  I did a texturizing technique and then a two-toned faux glaze thing. And I can't believe I haven't shown you yet because I love it. And I also can't believe I did it all by myself.

Here are a couple more views


The color is a little yellower than it's showing in the photos, but here is a close up of the texture.  Also, you can read more about my metal scrolly thing here.

N the Corner

I originally bought a cool circle vinyl to go around that "N", but it was too small.  I wasn't paying attention to size.  Someday I will get our family picture taken and hang it on that blank wall there.

And now, I'm off to do more Thanksgiving prep.  Lots of cleaning and laundry first, and then I will bake the pies. I'm doing Pumpkin, Pear and Pecan and I can't wait for my one piece (darn diet)!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Refocus: Eating Right

Bedhead with Shake

Sophia with bedhead and my daily protein shake

I probably don't have to tell any of you that my goal to stay off sugar for all of 2010 was not exactly met.  I did really, really good until Easter and then I had a bit of a setback.  But I recovered!  I did pretty well over the summer, although I wasn't quite as strict and allowed myself to eat birthday cake here and there.  But the stresses of this fall have just completely done me in.  And I gained more pounds back in September and October than I have lost the entire year.


So, I'm back on my diet.  I feel so much better when I'm eating right.  I'm actually on a different diet now, one that's very strict, but easy to stick to because you have all your food all ready to go, and that is what I need.  I guess you could say I'm on Satan's eating plan...choices are just too much for me right now!

Apparently, Sophia has noticed that I don't eat with everyone else anymore, and I have my own special food. She's always asking me about it, and I explain that it's my special diet food (perhaps I shouldn't use that word, but oh well) and that's why I'm eating it.

Well, the other day she caught me in the kitchen with a can of frosting in my hand and a knife in the other.  I was actually making some after school snacks for the girls and about to spread said frosting onto some graham crackers, but Sophia FREAKED out.

"Mommy!  That's not your diet!  You can't eat that because it's not healfy for you!  Don't eat it!!!!"

She would not calm down until I finished making those graham cracker sandwiches, and watched me like a hawk until the frosting was safely put away.

Yeah, so no cheating while that child is around!  Any of you dieters out there just let me know, and I will happily let you borrow her for a while.  I'm sure she'll be especially effective during the holidays!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Refocus: Being There

My Girl

Have you ever been the worst mom in the world?

I have.

It was last year, right around this time, and Chloe's first grade class had been chosen to do a special Thanksgiving play at the local retirement home.  On top of that, Chloe had been given the role of Jane, who was the lead.  Or as much of a lead role as you can have in that sort of production.  I was so excited to see her in the play.  So excited.

I even told Joel the morning of the play that we would need to go see it at noon.  And then I went grocery shopping and ran a few other errands.

And forgot all about the play.

When Chloe got off of the bus that day, she looked  at me and said, "Mom, you weren't there." And I started bawling, right there in front of the bus driver and everything.  I was inconsolable.  How could I have possibly let stupid errands interfere with seeing my own daughter's shining moment?  Chloe was sad, but when she saw how distraught I was, she started comforting me and said it was fine, even though I knew it totally wasn't.

You just don't miss things like that as a parent.

But guess whose class got chosen to do the same play again this year?  Chloe's.  She didn't get cast as Jane, but she was an adorable little pilgrim girl, and more importantly?  I was there.

I had to rush from a lesson, and so I was a couple minutes late.  I parked my car and I ran all the way through the (very full) parking lot, through the front doors and to the elevator.  And as soon as I walked through the elevator doors into the room where the kids were already singing a little Thanksgiving pre-show, Chloe saw me and her whole face just lit up.

Happy Little Pilgrim GirlWe are the Mamas...

And she sang to me the rest of the time, with a giant perma-grin on her face.  And once again, I cried--but this time it was for the simple joy of being there.

Want to see Chloe playing the role of a pilgrim on video?  I know I'm her mom and all, and I have to say it, but she's a pretty good little actor, and more importantly, she's adorable.  Click here to watch, and don't forget to leave your comment to win a $100.00 Visa gift card from BlogHer.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Joyous Outtake

We'll have a pink Christmas...

We had our Primary Program today at church, and that is traditionally the first Sunday my girls get to wear their Christmas dresses.  I have to say, they were adorable singing their little trio together of the Noah verse in Follow the Prophet. Too bad I had to be playing the piano, or I could have actually watched them.  It did melt Daddy's heart quite sufficiently for the both of us, though, I'm sure.

It snowed a bit while we were in our meetings, so I decided on a very quick photo shoot when we got out of the car.  I think I actually may have gotten one good enough for the Christmas card.  We'll see.

For now, enjoy this one.  It makes me smile.

Aw heck, here's another one.

Eye Roller

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grandparents Rock: A Book Review

Bria is my parents' very first grandchild.  I'll never forget how excited they were when I found out I was expecting, and after she was born.  They even changed their answering machine message to "You have reached Grandma and Grandpa P." instead of using their first names.  They were thrilled.

And I have to say, my mom and Bria definitely shared an instant bond.  She said Grandma (she pronounced it Mamah, rhymes with Grandma)  before she said Mama, and even though it may have sounded similar, I knew what she was saying.  It turns out I was definitely right, because when she could speak a little better (and Bria was quite the verbal kid), she called me Daddy and Grandma was Mamah.  No question about it.

When she was not quite three, we moved to Arizona for Joel's doctoral work.  My parents actually came down and helped us move in, but eventually they had to go back home.  And you have never seen a more distraught little girl than Bria was when we dropped them off at the airport.  She cried for hours and was absolutely inconsolable because her Mamah was leaving her.  Then she told me that she wanted to just go live at Mamah's house instead of living in Arizona.  I told her I would miss her too much, but she had answer for that, too,  "Well you can come live with me and Mamah!"

Bria had to get used to not seeing Mamah all the time, but the bond they shared is still just as strong.

I loved reading Grandparents Rock by Pat Burns, because it speaks to a new generation of grandparents.  My grandparents really did seem old, and I don't remember them any other way.  But my parents are not old.  Neither are my husband's parents.  They may have a number that's a little higher, but they certainly don't act old.  This book is full of wonderful stories about how real grandparents have connected with their grandchildren.  I have to say, I cried several times while reading it, and while we all know that isn't exactly unusual for me, it does mean that the book touched me.  More than once.

It's cleverly written, and each section uses the title of a rock song for its theme.  The grandparents featured in this book are like my children's grandparents:  young.  And funny enough, it seems that not one of them actually goes by Grandma or Grandpa.

I know most of my readers aren't grandparents yet, but I also know that most of my readers have parents who are.  And this book would make an awesome gift for them.  Only a few more weeks till Christmas, after all.


PS  The winner of the book Dear Mrs. Kennedy is Christibear!  Congratulations!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


We had our first real snow on Sunday and woke up to quite a bit on the ground on Monday morning.  Winter had officially arrived.  While that snow is almost all gone now, we know that more is on its way in the next few days.  And much, much more is on its way in the next weeks and months.

But this year, we are prepared.

The snow tires are on the car.  Getting up our hill won't be exactly easy, but it will be significantly easier than it is without the snow tires.

The windows are covered with plastic.  When I first moved here, I thought that was ridiculous, but I have learned just how important it is to keep out the cold air, especially in our 90 year old and very drafty home.  Who knew that a little bit of plastic vinyl (so much better than the shrink wrap stuff) would do so well to keep the cold out and the heat in?

The garage is cleaned out.  The snowblower is gassed up and ready for use, and we can fit the car into the garage.

The snow gear is ready.  The girls have worn this season's snow boots, snow pants and winter coats to school this week.  I've already washed Sophia's twice, but if they want to play in the snow we won't be scrambling to the attic to figure out where all the hats and gloves are.

The non-skid stuff is on the front stairs.  Our front porch has a set of steep stairs that can get slick in the winter.  Joel bought the stuff this morning (which will wear off by spring, but has to be put on now because it won't stick if it's too cold or wet), and was out there with towels and a blow dryer to get it down.  It was the one thing we had forgotten before the snows came.

As we have been making our preparations this fall, I couldn't help but think about how the seasons of the year have such a spiritual aspect to them.  Summer is easy, carefree and winter can be difficult when you aren't ready.  The fall and the spring are the in-betweens, but they provide an excellent time to prepare.

And life is the same.  We have easy times, hard times and all the times in between.

Are you prepared for the hard winters of life?  Have you guarded against the cold air?  Can you make it up the hill? Will you slip on the ice?  Can you play in the snow, and find all the joys winter has to offer despite its hardship?

It's sometimes hard to remember when all is going well, but once it's hard, it's often too late.  I appreciate the seasons, because we do know that winter is coming eventually and we know we have to be ready for it when it arrives.  And while I don't know when a trial is going to come into my life, I do know that I am not exempt.

I will need to winterize while I can.


On Overstuffed Reviews:

Another post, another chance to win the $100.00 gift card from BlogHer.  This one includes a video starring me and Chloe the pilgrim girl.  Go ahead and make fun of me, but don't forget to enter to win!  Just leave a comment, that's all!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Refocus: The Cat's in the Cradle

Jacob's Ladder

About a month ago, Chloe came down with strep throat.  When we went to pick up her antibiotic prescription, I also bought her a couple of fun books to keep her busy while she was stuck at home being sick.  One of those was a book about how to play the string game Cat's Cradle, and do several other string figures (which is apparently what they are called).  It came with a brightly colored string all ready to go and she and I spent a lot of time that day learning how to do it (or, in my case, relearning).

Now, Chloe wears that string around her wrist every day (on the wrist that isn't already full of Bendy/Silly/Krazy Bandz) and is always practicing different figures.  She has been working really hard on learning the Jacob's Ladder, and last night she finally got it right.  Bria has had it for weeks, and Chloe has been dying to do it just as well as her big sister.  I wish I would have had the video camera when she did it perfectly for the first time.  She turned her hands over, fully expecting it to be all messed up yet again, but when it was a perfect Jacob's Ladder she gasped, then squealed and then dropped all the string because she was so excited.

This picture was taken this afternoon.  Jacob's Ladder: perfect in every way.


PS  I have a post up at Mormon Mommy Blogs again today.  I only just realized.  It actually goes pretty well with my whole theme of refocusing on the things that really matter.  Read it here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Learning to Refocus

A month or so ago, I received a phone call that I have been thinking about ever since.  It was from another mom at the preschool wondering why she had to volunteer and do fund-raising.  I explained to her how our preschool is a cooperative preschool and relies on the parents to help out with many things to keep it running smoothly and to keep tuition costs low, as we get no money from the state.   She was a little bit worked up about the whole thing--I could tell because she was doing the same things that I do when I am having a conversation I am worked up about, like talking fast with a shaky voice--and kept insisting that she was much too busy to have to volunteer, and besides she brought snack and wasn't that enough?

During the course of our conversation, I found out that the reason she is so busy is because not only does she have her preschooler, she has a baby, too.  And that was it.   And even as I was trying to sympathize with her, I felt like screaming that not only do I have my preschooler, but I also have two other children, a part-time job, a church calling and a position on the preschool board and I still managed to volunteer for the fundraising activities, so surely she could find a few hours to do so herself.

But she couldn't, and she ended up buying out of the volunteer time.  Which is fine.  I don't buy out because I don't have the extra money, and I figure that what I do have is time.  So I volunteer.  And mostly, I don't mind helping out.  It makes me feel good and gives me a chance to know what's going on at school with my daughter, and even have a say in it.

But I haven't been able to get that conversation out of my head.  My reaction didn't sit well with me, although it has been tough to see just how many preschool parents are unwilling to help out and that it is the same people time and time again doing all of the work.  But that certainly doesn't make one parent better than the other, it just means we have different feelings about how we choose to spend our time and our money.

Shortly after this conversation (like the next day), was General Conference.  And President Uchtdorf spoke directly to me when he said,
Refocus on What Matters Most
Click the image to download straight from Flickr. Instructions for downloading from Flickr are HERE.
And I thought about how maybe the other mom from preschool was actually the one who had it right.  It's been a little more than a month now, and I think I have been fairly successful in refocusing my efforts where they must be.  There are still many, many things to do and many, many choices to be made and some must be done, much as I wish they didn't.  But there are plenty of other things that really can be left for another time, things that someone else can do right now and things that I don't even need in my life and I think that I am finally learning the difference.

For the rest of the month I want to literally focus (with my camera) on those things here on this blog.  Ironically, I don't know that I will find the time to do so, but I will certainly try.

PS  President Uchtdorf's talk is the one Stephanie is focusing on this week over at her General Conference Book Club.  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Night Owl


(Picture taken on Halloween during Trick-or-Treating at the University dorms.  They had a bird exhibit on the front lawn.)

This night owl (me) has been getting up much too early and staying up much too late to function well at all these past weeks.  I am looking forward to this weekend with an unprecedented ferocity, as it is my first Saturday in TWO months that is completely blank in my planner.  No wonder I've been so overwhelmed!  My weekdays can be cram-packed and it's fine as long as I get Saturday all to myself.  I'm selfish like that.

And I have big plans for this November 13, people.

  • Sleep.
  • Finish reading the book for book club.
  • Sleep.
  • Teach Bria how to use the sewing machine she received for her birthday a month ago.
  • Sleep.
  • Take our Christmas Card photo.  (The girls dresses are so freaking adorable this year!!!)
  • Sleep.
  • Catch up on laundry.
  • Sleep.
  • Do some projects for Primary.
  • Sleep.
Have a wonderful weekend!  I know I will!!


Enter to win a $100.00 Visa Gift Card from BlogHer! (All you have to do is click over and tell me what your favorite menu item is for Thanksgiving--that's all!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dear Mrs. Kennedy

 I am not much of a history buff.  I have decided that this is due to the incredibly boring manner in which the history books I studied in school were written.  I might also lay blame on less-than-stellar history teachers, too.  Suffice it to say, I usually don't enjoy reading history books, but every once in a while, one comes along that makes history come alive and draws me right in.

Dear Mrs. Kennedy by Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis was one of those books for me.  It is not just a collection of letters written to Jacqueline Kennedy upon the death of her husband, though that is what the book centers around.  It is a time capsule of feelings, frozen in its pages and ready to be felt again by the reader.  I was bawling by the end of the first chapter as I realized what it must have been like for The First Lady and how amazingly she dealt with the entire ordeal.  The letters evoked all sorts of emotion in me, and most of them made me cry.

If you ask anyone who was old enough to remember the Kennedy Assassination, they will most certainly remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.  Some of the letters even addressed this aspect of the tragedy, and one in particular really painted a poignant picture.  

A letter from a Mrs. Charles Casteen from Hyattsville, MD dated November 27, 1963 read:

Dearest folks:
     This has been a long, sad weekend.  The silent crowds are gone, the muffled drums are stilled, and the wheels of government begin to grind again...
     I think everyone, as long as he lives, will have indelibly stamped upon his memory the exact time and place he happened to be when the news came.  I happened to be, of all places, in the supermarket.  The loudspeaker was blaring the word that the president had been shot as I walked in the door.  Everyone was standing as if frozen to the spot, disbelief and horror on their faces.  After a few minutes, I had the presence of mind to get a basket and move along the aisles...As the bulletins came in, people gathered in little knots--strangers, trying to get comfort from each other.  Finally, there was a long pause, and the announcer began--"Ladies and gentleman," and here his voice broke, "The President is dead."  There was a gasp, then dead silence.  I remember seeing a boy unpacking boxes of cereal, put his head down on an unopened box and weep quietly, his shoulders shaking.  Another man, grey-haired and well-dressed, standing at teh end of the aisle, his head in his hands, his elbows resting on a stack of Pepsi cartons standing there--unmoved.  Ten minutes later he was still standing there.  No one talked...the horror was too great.  Al of a sudden I had the urge to get out of there--it seemed incongruous, almost disrespectful, to be there amid the brightness and color, the gay displays....At the checkout counter, the clerk worked mechanically, only his stricken pale face betraying his feelings.
     At home, we sat, stunned and transfixed in front of the television...I think we were waiting for somebody to step in and say it wasn't true, that we were just dreaming.  But they never did...
                                                                                                            Much love,

Perhaps that letter was particularly touching to me because it was eerily reminiscent of my own experience and feelings on 9-11, which is, of course, the only thing in my life that I can relate to the death of JFK.  No matter how you look at it, his assassination rocked the country (and the world) and is something that people will always remember, as well they should.

This is an amazing book, and even if you don't always love history, I think you'll really enjoy it.  I have one copy of the book to give away (US/Canada only), so if you'd like a chance at winning it leave me a comment and tell me where you were when President Kennedy was shot.  Obviously, many of my readers will not have been born yet, and if that is the case, you can tell me about another event (9-11, Princess Diana's death, etc.) that you will always remember.

I will announce the winner on Thursday, November 18.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.


Today on my review blog:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Some Links

I was very excited to come home from work yesterday and find that my post had been featured on Mormon Mommy Blogs!  You can read it here.  Go read it!


Ever since I started the process of letting go of perfection, people have been sending me links on the subject.  Here are my two favorites. (The first one was sent to me by five different people.) (It's good.)  (So is the other one.)

The Disease Called Perfection by Single Dad Laughing

Killing off Super Mom at Modern Mom


Finally, don't forget to enter the Scentsy giveaway if you haven't already!

Happy Tuesday.  Except I have to work all day.

Monday, November 08, 2010

And Fred Flinstone Was My Neighbor

A few weeks ago, Chloe asked me if I had i-clickers in my classroom when I was a little girl.  My response of, "What the heck is an i-clicker?" should have clued her in, but she was absolutely flabbergasted to find out that no, I did not in fact have such things in my classroom as a child.  Imagine her shock when she learned I didn't even have computers at my school until maybe my junior or senior year in high school, and even then, I still had to take a keyboarding class and type on an actual typewriter.

And then I had to explain what a typewriter was.

My kids have no idea how easy they have it.  Perish the thought of actually having to find somebody to drive you to the library where you would use the Dewey Decimal System and a bunch of drawers with little cards in them to find the information we now have at the click of a mouse without even getting up from the couch.  And heaven forbid that there be only 3 channels available for watching on TV!

Bria asked me the other day when I got my first phone.  I assumed she was talking about a cell phone, since the question wouldn't really make sense if she meant when did I get my first phone with a ten foot long, very curly cord (I highly doubt she's ever even seen such a device in her short life), so I answered truthfully.

"When I was 30 years old."

"No, Mom.  I mean how old were you when you got your first phone," she repeated, as if I had somehow misunderstood the question.  And like her sister before her, she was absolutely stunned at the news that I had only had a cell phone in my possession for about 6 years.  And she was sure I was making it up when I told her that I had never even heard of cell phones until I was in college.

I mean, when I was a kid, if you were stranded somewhere and you had to make a phone call, you used this thing called a pay phone.  That's why we all wore penny loafers, after all--so we had somewhere to stick our dimes (and later our quarters) for making those phone calls.  And if you were truly stuck, you just called your mom collect and let her pick up the bill.  Unless you were my brother Dave, who would make a collect call and in the space where you were supposed to say your name to see if the call recipient would accept the charges, he would yell, "Come pick up Dave at the baseball field now!" and then nobody had to pay at all.

Smart kid, my brother.

My children can't fathom that when I was a child there were no i-pods or even CD players.  I listened to records and cassette tapes.  Forget about e-mail, Facebook and texting, if I wanted to communicate with a friend from college that had gone home for the summer I wrote actual letters on actual paper and put them in an envelope with a stamp on it and dropped it in the mailbox.  Or, if I really wanted to talk to that friend, I spent a lot of money on long distance telephone charges (unless, of course, I called collect).  When I took pictures, I didn't get to instantly see them on the back of my camera.  I had to actually wait until I had the time and the money to take my roll of a mere 24-36 pictures down to the drugstore to have it developed.  And then I had to wait a few days for it to come back!  I guess I could have used the One Hour developing, but who had enough money for that as a college student?  We didn't have Netflix or DVDs or Blu-Ray.  We had VCRs, and we taped things off of the TV so we could watch them again and again, since there was no such thing as a DVR.  I even had a black and white television as a kid!

What a hard life!

And I thought my parents were the ones that lived in the Stone Ages. Imagine my surprise when my children informed me that I did, too.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Little at a Time, and Day by Day

Every week as I sit in my children's music lessons, I am reminded of the power of preparation.  And not in the way you'd think.  Of course I realize that practice during the week makes for a much better lesson.  As a music teacher myself, I can always tell who practices and who doesn't, who comes to lessons prepared and who doesn't even remember what is going on.

But during my children's lessons, another point presents itself, and I have been pondering on it because it is really frustrating.  For instance, during last week's violin lesson, Bria didn't do so well on her scales, because she didn't really work on them that week.  So, in an effort to be better for yesterday's lesson, she worked her little tail off on her scales.  She still did everything else she was supposed to do, just not quite as diligently as she did her scales.

So yesterday, after she played her scales wonderfully, the teacher said "That's great," and moved on to something else.  Unfortunately, one of the things she decided to move on to was something that Bria wasn't prepared to do.  Partly because she worked so hard on scales and partly because she didn't really know she should have been playing through that piece at all.  So, she didn't do very well.   And then her teacher took a lot of extra time out to help her with things she really should have known.

And all the time I'm sitting in  my chair, silently frustrated because I know that Bria practiced harder than usual this week.  I swear, this scenario plays out week after week in both violin and piano lessons and it is so frustrating!  I want my kids to go into just one music lesson and feel successful in every single thing the teacher asks them to do.

And I am always disappointed.

Life can be quite similar.  I am so attuned to my failings day in and day out, that I just kind of breeze by the things I'm doing well.  And then I decide that I am going to be better in a particular aspect of my life, like yelling, and I really work on it and I focus on it and I do improve.  Only to fail in something else that I overlooked while trying so hard to be calm, cool and collected.  

And yet, certainly I can't be expected to focus on all of my weaknesses at one time.  That would kill off even the most perfect among us, I'm afraid.  

The thing is, in the music lessons, progression eventually happens in all areas.  I just forget to realize that. Scales are good this week, but the Becker Gavotte wasn't.  Next week scales will still be good and so will the darn Gavotte, but maybe now sight reading will not be so hot.  And so the cycle continues.  Unless Bria finds four hours a day in which to practice, she just isn't going to be able to perfect everything all at once.  Maybe the scales really are enough for this week.

And maybe not yelling is enough for now and I don't need to get down on myself because I still have other weaknesses while I have focused on that one.  Because guess what?  I rarely yell anymore.  And now I am free to focus on something else (probably eating more healthily)(or learning to say no)(or giving up on perfection).  I need to recognize my successes even as I realize I have weaknesses and then work on things a little at a time and day by day.

A little at a time, and day by day
These small acts of duty build a will of which I'm master
A little at a time, I'm on my way
I'll learn as I meet demands,
Yield to the right commands,
Make more than just a start, 
Follow a daily chart 
to discipline my will
In every way.
I'll learn to live my life the proper way.
And so I say
I'll find a way
Just a little at a time...

(That's just a cheesy song I once sang when I was in a fireside group way back when.  It started going around and around in my head as I was writing this and, man, does it ever apply! Only, it's been so long that I'm not really 100% sure the lyrics are right, but you get the gist.)


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Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Very Scary Birthday Party

One of my goals this year was to become a better birthday party mom.  I have always been the type of mom who throws things together at the last minute, and my children's birthday parties were never planned out very well.  I'd send out invitations according to whatever theme my child chose, then on the morning of the party I would realize I needed to actually plan something, run out and buy a pinata and some candy and then make up one or two games, and hurriedly make a cake.  At the party, once any games were exhausted and the pinata had been broken, we would open gifts and eat cake.  And then there would usually be an hour left of the scheduled time in which I would just let the kids go play.

That worked for a while, but my girls are getting a little older and they started asking for better parties.  Now, perhaps in my quest to simplify my life and embrace imperfection, doing a better birthday party doesn't fit in.  But, it's for my kids, and they are most important, so I vowed to put on a fabulous party for each of them, starting with Bria's in October 2010

And I tried.  I planned more, but I still ended up doing everything the day of.  I guess that's just how I work.  But I do think it was a smashing success...


The favor bags, which mostly held little Halloween items and one piece of candy.  Also, a little sewing kit, which was what Bria really wanted them to have. They drew slips of paper at the end of the party that said either "Trick" or "Treat" on them.  If they got "Trick" then they had to do some sort of trick for me in order to get their favor bag, but if they got "Treat" I just gave it to them.  The kids loved this and all of them wanted to do a trick or two!

Ten Candles

The cake.  I did better at actually planning it this year....I thought it would be fun to make it look kind of like a candy corn inside.  And I did my best to decorate it Halloweeny enough.

Candy Corn Cake

Pretty cool, eh?

Bone breadsticks and candy corn guessing game

I made bone breadsticks, and spider juice (didn't get a picture) along with the cake.  We also played a "guess how much candy" is in the jar game and did a few fun Halloween crafts (didn't get pictures of those, either)

Party Guests

The girls all wore their Halloween costumes, and we had a costume contest.  The winners?  The vampires tied for scariest (prize went to Bria's friend), the jellyfish for cutest and the alien for silliest.

Smoking candles

The obligatory blowing out candles picture.

When all was said and done, I only had to make up games for about 20 minutes of the 2 hours the party was planned.  Who knew making two Halloween crafts and playing about 6 games would only take an hour?  Sheesh!  But, I think I did eons better and that this is the best birthday party I've planned since Bria turned 3 and I went all out on a Wiggles party for her.

Happy Birthday Bria!

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I am always grateful when life gives me an excuse to slow down.  Or, rather, when life forces me to slow down.

This semester, I teach all day on Tuesdays.  Pretty much the entire time my big girls are at school, I am teaching.   Sophia stays at a friend's house (and I keep her kids while she works on Wednesdays) and it is nice to be able to get most of my teaching done in one fell swoop.   The problem has been that I also teach a lot on Monday afternoon, so I never really get a chance to clean my house from the weekend until sometime on Wednesday, and I really hate that.

This last weekend my laundry (there's that &*#$ laundry again!) got so out of control it was comical.  The pile in my bedroom was higher than the chest of drawers next to the laundry basket, but I just plain didn't have any time to deal with it.  Or maybe I just didn't have the emotional strength to deal with it.  Whatever.  It was a lot of laundry.

And then, at 1:00 on Tuesday morning, Sophia came into my bedroom and proceeded to be sick.  I was up for several hours bathing her, dealing with the new laundry she had just created, and helping her make it to the toilet.  Poor thing.  It became incredibly obvious that I couldn't teach all of my lessons on Tuesday, and that Joel and I were going to have to tag-team between taking care of Babalicious and teaching our classes.  The way that worked out for me is that I had to cancel my last 3 lessons of the day, which meant almost 3 hours of found time.

While I fretted a little bit about having to make these lessons up at some point (the worst part of cancelling lessons), I was grateful for the time.   Time to cuddle with Sophia, time to vote without rushing and time to get a few things done at home.

Like 9 loads of laundry.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Treat Street

Treat Street 2010

Last year we hit Treat Street a little bit later, and we walked.  This year, we got there fairly early, and we drove (now I can't even remember why).  Both years, we had lots of fun, but I'm pretty sure that there were three times as many people this year!  It was a mob!

Starting out

There were lots of smiles...

Trick or treatsmilesHappy Vampire

...and lots of friends.

VPA kids

We went with our friends the Andersons, and met up with some other friends, too.  Between the 6 parents, 5 of us work for the university in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.  So these are the VPA kids, and they get along swimmingly.

Sophia loved getting her bag filled with all manner of candy.

Filling the bag

And Chloe loved eating it.


Bria enjoyed staring people down and threatening to suck their blood.


I did not dress up, but I did take a lot of photos.

I was there too

The Maestro did not dress up either, but he was our fearless leader as we traversed the city street.

Daddy's Girls

At the end, we all got pretty tired and sat down at every available opportunity.

Treat breakAll finished

We actually got home before dark this year, and all in all, I'd say Treat Street was a smashing success!

Can't wait until next year!

(Actually, yes, I can.)

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Cute Little Witch and an Adorable Kitty

I did not make Chloe and Sophia their costumes this year.  I was at high stress levels, and while talking on the phone with my mom, she wisely told me I needed to simplify and she bought Chloe and Sophia some Halloween costumes right then and there.

They came in the mail a few days later, and the girls loved them, and all was right in the world.

And best of all, I didn't make them.  Thanks Mom!!!

Golden KittyScary Face?Halloween Catlittle witchMeow!Little witchCuteriffic!

Poor Chloe wasn't feeling too great for the Halloween festivities, and even had to leave early from one activity because she was throwing up.  So I don't have as many pictures of her this year, and many of the ones I do have you can tell she isn't feeling so hot.  But she tried to have fun.  And she was super adorable in her costume.

Sophia, on the other hand, was her normal crazy self, and of course Halloween just made it that much better! She definitely had a wonderful holiday, and my favorite Sophia quote this weekend was when we were driving to her preschool Halloween party, and she was talking about how excited she was to see her friends' costumes, and for them to see how cute she was in her costume.  Then she stopped for a bit and said, "The hard part is being patient, right mom?"  Ah, she's finally getting it!

Finally, this last picture is for my mom and dad, who very kindly paid for new carpet for our front porch.  I have looked and looked, but sadly I do not have photographic evidence of the ugly, very orange (and Halloween appropriate) carpet that was there before.  Just imagine the ugliest orange indoor/outdoor carpet you can think of, and you might be close.  But here's a picture of my crazy cat and the new carpet.

Look mom! New carpet!

Hope your Halloween was smashing!  I will be sharing more pictures of our own holiday all week long, most likely.  I certainly took enough!

I already shared pictures of Bria in her vampire costume.  Click here if you missed them!