Monday, June 27, 2011

A Day in My Life

Saturday, June 25, 2011.
Staging Rehearsal
Staging rehearsal for the opera.  9:30-5:00.  Joel was out of town at another performance (tonight I finally get to go with him), so my friend came to pick us up.  And I had to get up awfully early to get everything done that morning, which included letting the neighbor's four dogs out and vacuuming up whatever they had torn up during the night.

So, back to rehearsal, all nearly eight hours of it.  Chloe had to be there for all that time, too, so I just made Sophia and Bria go upstairs in Joel's office.  They trashed it by making Barbie clothes out of paper and who knows what else, but I figure it was better than trashing my house and/or paying a sitter.  Joel got back to town and picked up the girls just before our lunch break. Chloe had to go to a costume fitting during that time, and I had to have my corset (ugh) refit, so he went and bought us hamburgers and we ate quickly before we were due back on stage.

Can I just say that these long rehearsals are never good for the diet?

After rehearsal, Joel wanted to go to dinner to celebrate our 12th Anniversary, which was coming up the next day (June 26), but I felt like I had hardly seen my children all week...
Eating at the Library Restaurant we took them with us!  And we had a lot of fun.  And I ate a wonderful salad, which was much more diet-friendly than the cheeseburger from Hardee's was.

After we ate, we thought we'd head to the park for awhile.  So we went to Chutes and Ladders, which is right on the waterfront. Joel and I walked laps on the pier and enjoyed the beautiful evening...
Our Bridge
...and it was such a beautiful evening.  We've had such crappy weather for so long, and Saturday was the first really nice day in a long time and I had been bummed that I was stuck inside a dark theatre for most of it.<
At one point, Chloe ran up behind us and scared me half-to-death.  And then she walked with us for a bit.  I'm sure she hated being cooped up at rehearsal even more than I did.
Chloe by the Canal
Sophia fell down on the slide and needed some Daddy loving...<
Daddy and S
...and the big girls were excited to show us how high they can get on the swings without being pushed by a parent.  (Oh happy day!  I'm not a fan of pushing my kids on the swings...does that make me a terrible mother?)
Bria and Chloe on the swings
Finally, at about 9:30 we decided to leave (I still had grocery shopping to do, after all), but the sun was just starting to set.  The sun set at 9:54 pm that day, and so we usually have light until nearly 11:00 in the summer.  It's wonderful and horrible all at the same time, because the kids never go to bed before midnight.>
Sophia at Sunset
But it took a long time to leave because we had races and potty stops and took time to throw rocks in the river.
Mom and BThe Jewels in my CrownSophia by the River
I felt like summer had finally arrived!  And even though it meant I was grocery shopping until about 10:30, I hope we can do it again sometime real soon.

PS  I took all these pictures with my phone and an app called Instagram.  I'm having fun with it, and it's nice not to feel like I have to lug my huge camera around whenever I want to take pictures.  They're not as high quality, but they'll do.  :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You Are Not Your Brain

Bad Habits?  I definitely have more than enough of those.  Unhealthy thinking?  Unfortunately, yes.  I struggle with that, too.

Sometimes I wonder why I can't control my actions as well as I would like.  Self-discipline and moderation have always been a little elusive to me.  I have my moments, but I also have my moments, if you know what I mean. It seems like sheer willpower should be enough to break bad habits and establish the ones that my heart really wants in my life, but I find myself failing over and over again.  (See exercise, eating right, losing weight, organization, time management, etc.)

And yet according to You Are Not Your Brain, a new book by Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding about learning how to finally breaking the habits that frustrate each of us, willpower isn't enough.  Instead, they reintroduce a 4-step solution to achieve better control of our thoughts and actions.

I say reintroduce, because I am already very familiar with Dr. Schwartz's work with OCD in his book Brainlock.  I have seen these 4 steps work to change thought patterns and actions in the life of someone close to me.  And while that person suffers from OCD and I have seen firsthand how well these steps work to alleviate it, I have never once thought that I could use them in my own life to combat my own ADD or difficulty sticking to a diet.  How enlightening to realize that I can!

As I've been reading this new book, I have also realized that I can use these principles in the motherhood, too.  I had a nice conversation with Chloe the other day about our brains telling us to do things that we shouldn't do, and that we don't actually have to do them and talked to her about the first couple steps.  And she got it.

I am excited about using these steps in my own life, and if you are interested in learning about them and using them in your life, I do have one copy to give away.  Just comment here and tell me one of the bad habits you'd like to see eliminated from your life.

I received this book from the publisher via TLC Booktours.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer 2011—Reading Lists, Chores, and More

Summer's here.  At least, it is schedule-wise.  The weather has yet to prove itself, but it has given us a few nice days, anyway!

As for our summer schedule and activities, I decided to go a little easier on the kids this year.  Which means no math workbooks--at least not daily.  Or any others, for that matter.

Easy DIY buckets for chores

Instead, we have a chore system, where they are able to earn "American Girl Credits" for our trip to Chicago and the American Girl Place later this summer.  They each have to clean their room every morning and clean the playroom together, and then they draw two jobs out of the chore bucket.  These chores are things that need to be done on a weekly-ish basis, like mopping and vacuuming or watering plants.   If they do everything satisfactorily (we're still working on that)(le sigh), they will earn the "American Girl Credits" which will translate into spending money once we're in Chicago.

Easy to make Bored Bucket to keep kids engaged during summer vacation

I also made a bored bucket.  This has things for them to do whenever they can't think of anything else to do.  Sometimes it's a job that isn't so much fun, and other times it's something fun to do.  Just a minute ago Chloe drew from the bored bucket and the stick said to plan a week's worth of dinners.  She is so excited and is busy on the floor behind me making next week's menu.  (Hopefully it won't be too crazy!)

My favorite thing about the chores bucket is that they are excited to go to work.  My least favorite part is that they aren't so good at some of these jobs yet and often make a bigger mess out of them than helping.  I'm trying not to get frustrated and remember that I am in the business of teaching my children, not having a perfectly clean house at all times.

The other thing I'm making them do this summer is read.  Read, read, read.  My mom had mentioned an article she read a while ago which said that if kids read 12 books over the summer, they will be more prepared for school the next fall.  I don't know where the article is and I Googled to no avail, but I figured it can't hurt.  Only I only chose 11 books for Bria and Chloe.  Sophia can't read yet, so I bought her a few new books and we'll read things we already have, which, trust me, is plenty.

Joel won a nice gift card to Amazon, so I used it to buy 4 or 5 new books for each child.  The rest we already had.

Bria's summer reading list (age 10, going into 6th grade):

Summer reading list for 11 year old girl entering 6th grade

She is just about finished with The Hunger Games, which was the first book she chose.  She can't put it down and is annoyed when she has to.  This was one I didn't know if I'd let her read, but she had heard about it and really wanted to read it. We've been talking about it as we go and she's done just fine with it.

Chloe's summer reading list (age 8, going into 3rd grade) :

Summer reading list for 8-year-old girl going into 3rd grade

She devoured The Secret Garden in one day (it is an abridged version, which I didn't realize, but oh well) and is almost finished with Heidi.

Sophia's new books (age 4--turns 5 next month, going into Kindergarten):

Summer reading for preschool girl going into Kindergarten

I have to say I love Interrupting Chicken.  The cat books are really fun, too.

My favorite part of doing the summer reading is answering the vocabulary questions that inevitably come up.  I love reading for expanding the vocabulary!  And I find that explaining vocabulary isn't always the easiest thing...thank goodness for dictionaries!  My second favorite part of the summer reading is all of the reading of my own I've been able to do while we're having reading time.  And I don't have a least favorite part.

As for other things we've got going this summer...I'm in the opera again (and so is Chloe!).  This time we're doing Rockland, which is a new opera and we are the US Premier.  It's quite an interesting work about the mining town of Rockland, which is just about a half hour drive from my house.  It's tough, though--part in Finnish and part  in English and very difficult music.  And rehearsals are starting in earnest this week.  I was trying to teach less for this summer, but I still have quite a load.  It's beginning to taper off, though, and by the end of the month I should have about 5 fewer students.

The Maestro is also involved with the music festival this summer: This time with his trumpeter hat on instead of the usual conductor hat.  He is doing four performances around the Upper Peninsula with another trumpeter and an organist as well as playing in the pit orchestra for the opera.  He is also teaching summer classes (hooray!  If you remember last summer, you know why this is wonderful!) and still playing with his rock band.

We (mostly Joel, and a little bit me) have also been working hard on making our yard fun and presentable this summer.  He's put in a patio, a flower garden, and is working on building a play set.  Pictures to come.

After I find time to breathe.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

School's Out!

Last Day!
This past Thursday was our last day of school, this one particularly bittersweet because it was Bria's very last day at Elementary School.  I'm still in a bit of denial concerning the whole middle school thing, but I suppose I have the whole summer to get used to it.  Maybe.

We lucked out this year with wonderful teachers.

Chloe and Mrs. G.
Chloe and Mrs. G

Bria and Mrs. T.
Bria and Mrs. T.  (I know I've mentioned it a few times before, but Bria's teacher was particularly wonderful.  Bria lost a lot of confidence in school last year and Mrs. T did so much to bring it back and make Bria love school again.  I will be forever grateful.)

Teacher Gift
Here is what we gave for teacher gifts this time:  A bag full of chocolate!  I made the cards with a new set of stamps I recently bought from Stampin' up.

Part of the last day of school was the Fifth Grade Banner Presentation.  This is where the entire class is presented with a banner that will hang in the school, and a small one of their own.  Yes, I cried.

The Banner
The Banner.

Banner Presentation
Getting a hug from Mrs. T.

Banner Presentation
Receiving the banner from the Principal.

Banner Presentation
Look how grown up she is!

Finally, not to leave Miss Sophia out, even though her last day of school was nearly a month ago...she's graduated from Preschool and will be moving on to Kindergarten.  It's a big year for us.

Sophia had two teachers:

Mrs F.

Sophia and Mrs. F
and Mrs. G.

Sophia and Mrs. G

And now for summer....we're just getting started today with our summer schedule.  I have so much to blog about....perhaps I'll get to it soon.

Happy Monday, and more importantly, Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Taste of Summer

Skipping Stones
This past weekend Bria and I went on a Girl Scout trip up to Copper Harbor for a little hiking, kayaking and letterboxing.  The weather was finally gorgeous--gorgeous enough for me to get a nasty sunburn--and I cannot even tell you how excited I am for the girls to be out of school this coming Thursday.  Two more days!!

Brockway View
I really love going on these Girl Scout outings with Bria (Chloe, too, when she has them, although hers this year was just a sleepover/swimming party in the hotel up the street) because I get to spend some special time with her.  I'm just so amazed by how grown up she is becoming.  Remember how I said there are only two more days of school?  Well, for Bria that takes on extra meaning because these are her last days of elementary school.  When on earth did I become the mother of a middle-schooler, I ask you?

Hunter's Point
I also love going on these outings, because I get to see so many beautiful places and learn so much more about the area that I live in.  We got to go to this rocky beach and find Lake Superior agates, and Bria and I found several for our collections.  Not to mention all of the other beautiful rocks we came home with.

Calumet Waterworks
And, hello?  We went kayaking.  Kayaking.  I never thought I would ever find myself on a kayak!  Bria and I did the tandem kayak and we had so much fun.  I can't wait to do it again with the rest of the family.  Joel would love it.  It was so wonderful just rowing along on Lake Superior, appreciating God's beauty.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures because I couldn't figure out how to learn how to kayak while simultaneously taking pictures.  I'm pretty sure I would have dropped my camera in the bottom of the lake if I had tried.  But trust me, it was wonderful.

Bria on Brockway
And boy, am I ever ready for summer!

Bring it on.