Sunday, August 28, 2011

What Language Is
(And What It Isn't and What It Could Be)

Did you know that I minored in Linguistics in college?  Not that a linguistic minor makes me any sort of expert on language or anything, but it does mean that I really love language and that all of its intricacies absolutely fascinate me.  As a Vocal Performance major, I was required to study the diction of English, Latin, Italian, French and German, plus take the 101 level class in at least 3 of those languages (well, not English).  So I took Latin 101, Italian 101, and German 101.  You'll notice that French is the one I left out, and consequently, my French diction suffers for it.  (But I still like French.)

Anyway, then I served an LDS Mission to Romania and became fluent in that language.  While I was learning Romanian, I found it really interesting that when I didn't know the word for something in Romanian, but I happened to know it in some other language besides English, I always used that word for it instead. A strange mixture of Romanian, Italian and German would often come flowing out of my mouth. My brain was totally in "anything but English" mode, I guess. Nowadays, we sometimes get phone calls from Spanish-speaking telemarketers.  Our surname is of Portuguese descent, but it looks like it could be Spanish, and so we occasionally get these calls.  Whenever I get a phone call like this, I always immediately say, "Nu vorbesc limba spaniolă" and it makes me laugh because my brain apparently feels like it has to go into foreign language mode whenever I hear a language I don't understand.

And now I'm rambling.  But the point is, I really love learning about language, and so I really loved reviewing John McWhorter's latest book: What Language Is(And What It Isn't, and What It Could Be)I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn't read any of his previous books, although I have wanted to.  I gulped this one down in less than a day, much of it during opera rehearsals, and I loved how many other singers came up to me and told me that they'd read either The Power of Babel or Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and loved it.  I wasn't surprised, because opera singers generally have a pretty vested interest in language (see first paragraph of post), and now those two books are on my definite to read list, even though our little library has neither.

This book focuses on the fact that English is actually an abnormal language because it is simpler than most.  The reason being is that so many adults who are not native English speakers have had to learn it, and that changed the language drastically.  And I'm not talking about immigrants from the 20th century, or even the 18th and 19th centuries.  More like the Vikings conquering England.  Or the French.  Many of the Indo-European languages are more simplified for this reason.  He then goes on to explain how language evolves, and how it becomes complicated.  He uses the word IDIOM to illustrate this:  Language is Ingrown, Disheveled, Intricate, Oral and Mixed.

Some of my favorite points from the book focused on the evolution of language.  Language is constantly evolving, much to the chagrin of some purists.  Consider these two passages concerning such evolution and particularly the usage of "lay" and "lie" (sorry Helena and Annette....): 
"We tell people they have 'made a mistake' in saying I was just laying there because one is to use lie in such a context, laying being something you exert.  If it was good enough for Anglo-Saxon shepherds, then it should be good enough for us.  And then meanwhile we hear younger people saying He's all... instead of He said... and wince at this intrusive 'slang,' which 'isn't right' because, well, it wasn't familiar to the people who used to keep lie and lay separate?  That Shakespeare spoke a different English from Chaucer is considered luscious.  That people fifty years from now might speak slightly differently from us is considered a herald to the demise of civilization as we know it."

"...keeping lie and lay separate does not aid clarity: never have I heard someone say I'm going to just lay here for a bit and wondered desperately 'But what is he going to lay:?  What???' And I most certainly have never wondered 'Who is he going to...' Plus, let us pass silently by the notion that I would think to myself 'Whom?: Whom is he...,' and the absurdity of that speaks to the general silliness in resisting the language's moving on as all languages always have--in order to become what they are now as opposed to what they were in antique stages we would never seek to restore.  No one in Milan walks around annoyed that people aren't speaking Latin."
Now, I know the correct usage of lay vs. lie, and I think  I usually use it correctly.  But the fact is, I sometimes don't and it's probably because most of the people I hear talking do not use it correctly.  Same thing with lots of different little grammar things.  Our language is evolving, and though it sometimes hurts those of us who like grammar, that's just what language does.  And, according to McWhorter, the way it evolves usually happens due to "an ongoing procession of mistakes."

I'm not sure how evident it is from the quotes, but McWhorter has a dry sense of humor that shines through on every page.  He clearly loves his work as a linguist and finds joy in teaching others about it.  This made the book much more enjoyable for me, because even though I do love the topic, who wants to read a clinical textbook?  This was much more fun.

The only little criticism I have is that there was no IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) decoder.  I know IPA fairly well (another thing I got to learn as a Vocal Performance Major), but I am not familiar with the symbols that occur outside of the standard opera languages.  So when McWhorter cited these fabulously interesting and obscure languages, I didn't always know the IPA transcriptions used.  Of course, it is easily found online, but I think it would have been nice to have it in the book, especially if we want people outside of linguist, speech therapist and singer circles to read it.

Loved this book.  It gets high marks from me.  And if you love learning about language, I have no doubt that you'll love it, too.  Even if you are a lay/lie stickler.

I have one copy of this book to give away.  Tell me what your grammar pet peeve is in the comment section.  I'm hoping that the comments on this post will give us all insight into the way English is evolving.....


I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chicago at Night

Chicago Evening

This is what we saw when we exited The American Girl Place after eating dinner there.

Sights like this are my favorite thing about big cities.


Crazy weekend over here, leading up to our very last week of summer. I just died a little bit inside, typing that. I am so not ready for fall, and yet my yard already needs a good raking and the air is feeling distinctly autumnal. As much as I love autumn, I have learned real good that winter comes all too quickly afterward, and I don't know if I can take the snow cold dreariness winter just yet.

Hopefully we'll get in a beach day or two before September 6.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Flight of the Bumblebee

I've lost my planner.  Which is basically the same thing as losing my mind.

So, when I sat down the other day to try to scrap together my week without my actual brain, I was a little shocked at how much there actually was to do.  I mean, I was really thinking I could take it sort of easy this week.  Ha!

The week has been filled with lessons, book club meetings (well, we went to see the author of this month's book lecture at the University), more lessons, school shopping, school orientations (middle school and Kindergarten), and more coming up.

Today was cuh-razy.

And I was nearly at my wits' end with all of the girls tattling on each other in the car while we were driving tonight.  It popped into my head the comment Melissa made on my blog the other day about tattling:

"Love the family rule book.
My all time favorite for tattling came from a fellow baseball mom.
If her kids wanted to tattle, they had to sing it. Tattling soon ended.
Actually for you musical family, that might not be such a harsh thing."

So, I told the girls that they had to be opera singers if they were going to tattle on each other, or else I wasn't going to listen to what they had to say.  At first they were all, "whatever, mom" about it, but then they saw I was serious, and so the opera tattling began.  And they thought it was so funny that they deliberately started hitting and touching and bugging each other, just so that they could sing-tattle.

And I have to say, it may not have stopped the tattling, but it made it into a funny joke, so maybe I'll keep the rule around anyway.  I certainly got a kick out of it.  Bria was very melodic, while Chloe sang in a register about three octaves higher than dogs can hear (and you thought The Queen of the Night and Mariah Carey could sing high!) and Sophia mostly plugged her ears, but I heard her sing a tattle on her sisters more than a few times.  I did all my answering in opera, too, and we were having a grand old time driving down the street when all of the sudden Bria's beautiful melodicizing turned into blood-curdling shrieking.

I pulled over, and through her screaming I deduced that a gigantic bumblebee had flown in the car window and headed straight for Bria.  Kamikaze Bee crashed into her chest and landed in her lap and she was absolutely terrified (let's not forget who we are dealing with here), so I had to get out of the car and get the half-dead insect off of her lap and into the road while she refused to either move or stop screaming.  .

Disaster averted.

And then I couldn't stop laughing and laughing and laughing.  I don't think I've laughed that hard in a while.  I finally got it together and drove us to our next engagement and only let a giggle or two escape.

The moral of the story?

While a planner can help you know what stress is coming, it cannot alleviate it. Stress is best dealt with by laughing, and if you're not lucky enough to have a suicidal insect fly at you, opera-tattling will probably do the trick. 

Or something like that.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How I Know I Married a Musician: Part 5

Today, Joel came out to the kitchen dressed to go to work after listening to recordings of this year's orchestra repertoire all morning. He's lost some weight recently and I thought that the pants he was wearing didn't fit him well anymore. So, I said to him, "I don't really like those cords." His (very indignant) response was:

The chords of William Tell Overture? Why not? What's wrong with them???!?

Parts 1-4

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Family Rule Book

Standing on the dock of the bay

This picture has almost nothing to do with this post. Other than that these are my three daughters and I am trying to be a better mother to them. Also, aren't those clouds awesome?

First things first: I know you're all dying to know how our bedtime scheduling went.

We introduced it on Monday Night at Family Home Evening, and the girls were totally fine with it. Tuesday it went without a hitch. Wednesday we decided to watch a movie as a family and we didn't get around to it until a lot later than we should have (I can't remember why) and the movie wasn't over until nearly midnight. Oh well, it's summer, no biggie. Thursday night we had some friends sleep over while their parents went on a little getaway. It was difficult to keep these children off the walls, much less make them stick to a bedtime schedule. So, there went that. Friday night was our turn to babysit for the babysitting co-op that we do (by the way, this is such a great way to get a weekly date and not have to pay a sitter) and so that was a bust. Saturday we were at some friends' house (where the above picture was taken) and we swam at their private beach, roasted hot dogs over a campfire and talked and played until way past bedtime. And then we went to yet another friend's house to watch a movie out on their back lawn--we got there just in time for the closing credits, and of course some socializing. Tonight is Sunday. And we tried. That's all I can say.

I'm giving myself a pass because it is summer. But we're hitting it harder this week, that's for sure.

Because, two more weeks until school starts.

At the same Family Home Evening, we introduced the Family Rule Book. It took nearly two hours, but together we came up with about 30 family rules and their attached consequences. At first, the girls seemed to think that things like "not spitting on people" and "don't slam doors" were the most important rules to worry about, but we eventually got them to come up with things like "be kind to your sisters" and "quickly obey" and a bunch more really good ones.

I think that so far it is making a huge difference in our household. Partly because they helped to make the rules and the consequences that are attached to them (many of them are more harsh than I would have thought up if I were doing this myself)(and I'm a mean mommy)(my kids tell me so all the time), so they know exactly what to expect. The only thing I'm seeing an increase in is tattling. Which I never know how to deal with, but if you have suggestions, I'll certainly try anything.

This next week the focus will be on Consistent Consequences. Basically, consistently and unemotionally administering the consequences that are already written in the book. Really, I look at it as extra practice with the Family Rule Book, since that's what we've been doing this week already. The hard part is to drop what I'm doing and just do what needs to be done. And staying unemotional sometimes is hard, but I'm getting better at that, and I promise it works.

Here's to another week of becoming the mother I want to be.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Soccer Star

IMG_0879 Sophia soccer web

Sophia is definitely my athlete. If finding her on top of the refrigerator at the age of 18 months didn't clue me in, the fact that she is the only one of my girls to ever show even a minute interest in team sports should.

IMG_0884 Sophia soccer web

She's still as girlie as a girl could be, as evidenced by the bright orange ring she has on one of her fingers while playing, the pink hairbow, and the sparkly purple soccer ball she chose at the store (at least it's obvious which one is ours).

IMG_0878 Sophia soccer web

I missed her first game because I was out in Utah, but Joel sent some video to my phone. I got it while we were hiking up to the "Y" and we all sat down to take a breather and watch Sophia score about 4 goals in the course of the 2 minute video. Joel said that for her first water break, she came running up to him and yelled, "I want my team to WIN!" with an intensity that really shouldn't have surprised him, but did anyway.

IMG_0882 Sophia soccer web

At her game this past weekend, I sure noticed that she kept her eye on her coach during every water break, just waiting for the signal to get back out there and play. She absolutely loves playing, that's for sure! And I hope that maybe the child will run some of her energy off every Saturday morning. That will be pretty good, too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the World

Bria at the Zoo

My very beautiful Bria eating taco salad at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.  Love those freckles.

Every time we go on a vacation I forget something.  It's usually something small, like my toothbrush or my contact solution.  Sometimes it's big, like the time I forgot my camera (who goes on vacation without a camera?).  I really should just make a checklist and be done with it, but I'm sure I'll just forget to put something on the checklist, and then that item will never make it with me on vacation.  Best to just be surprised.

True to form, in Chicago I forgot my bathing suit.  The girls were highly annoyed with me since they wanted to swim as soon as we got to the hotel, but I had no suit.  So, we decided to pop on over to the mall that was right there next to the hotel and get me one.  I didn't feel too bad about it, since the one I forgot is nearing the end of its life and it was probably time.

Taking my children to the mall--especially a big one like the one in Chicago--is an adventure.  Let me remind you that we live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the population of the entire thing is about 300,000 people.  My town--which is kind of a big city in Yooper land--has a population of maybe 8,000 or so.  We do not have big giant malls anywhere near us. Therefore, my children do not know how to use escalators.  Sophia and Chloe are scared to death of them.  They can't figure out how to get on, so I have to hold their hands and kind of drag them on with me.  Then they can't figure out how to get off, either, and I have to drag them again.  But even though they are scared of them, they are at the same time SO EXCITED about riding on an ESCALATOR!  They are AMAZING!

And it's a little embarrassing, because we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies whenever we are in the vicinity of a moving staircase.

And then there are the stores.  My children have never seen so many stores!  So many options!  So much fashion!  And they do love fashion, my daughters. We have WalMart and ShopKo and JCPenney.  And as far as fashionable stores go, Maurice's is as good as it gets where we live.  So you can imagine that walking into Nordstrom and taking the escalator up to the swimwear department was enough to send my children into some sort of rapture.

Bria is my child who especially loves clothes and hair and makeup.  Part of it is her age (have I mentioned lately that she is starting middle school this fall?  When did that happen?), but mostly she's just always been like that.  She has always loved shopping for clothes, and I haven't been able to buy her an item of clothing without first having her approval since she was about 4.  At least, not if I wanted her to ever wear it.

So here we were in Nordstrom, and Bria is helping me choose some bathing suits to try on, while simultaneously being completely overwhelmed and dazzled by all of the style around her: Stylish clothing, stylish mannequins, stylish clerks, stylish shoppers, stylish rugs, stylish shoes, stylish everything.

And she leaned over to me and she said, "Mom, I don't feel very pretty in here."

So many thoughts ran through my head as she said those words.

First of all, I didn't feel very pretty in there, either.  When you are surrounded by such seeming perfection and beauty it becomes pretty easy to be super self-conscious of every flaw you have.  I weigh too much, my nose is wrong, I forgot to pluck my eyebrows, my lipstick is rubbing off, I should have worn my contacts, my shoes are worn out, and a million other things that don't even matter in the grand scheme of life.

Second, Bria is beautiful.  I know I'm her mother and mothers always see the beauty in their children, as they should, but I know Bria is beautiful.  Inside and out.

Third, I'm glad we live in a small town.  And that we don't really have TV in our household.  And that so far, the friends my children have had aren't overly interested in looking like fashion magazines.  And Bria hasn't really been exposed to big malls and such because we've lived in smaller towns since she was 5.  And I didn't go shopping when we lived in Phoenix because we were poor students.  When I say she loves to shop, she is perfectly happy with whatever stores we have access to.

Fourth, I can't shelter her from the world forever.  She's going to have to learn for herself that she doesn't have to dress in all the name brands or wear the right shoes to be considered pretty.  But sometimes middle school and high school make that hard.  I want my daughters to know that beauty is so much more than what you wear or even what you look like.  It is how you act, how you treat others, your relationship with the Lord and your family, your smile.  We are all beautiful.

Fifth, I'm not entirely sure how to teach them this lesson.  It's a tough one for sure.  One that I'm not sure I've learned completely for myself yet. I still compare myself to the women around me and on TV and in magazines on a daily basis. I wonder if women have compared themselves to other women from the beginning of time? The answer is probably yes.


And then I looked Bria in the eyes and told her that she is beautiful.  We had a nice discussion about all of those things that ran through my mind, and I hope we can continue the conversation as she navigates her adolescence.

What are you doing to teach your daughters to live in the world, but not to be worldly or base their worth on a pair of designer jeans?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meant to Be

Our House in the Middle of Our Street

A somewhat creative shot of our house...I couldn't cross the street to get a better view because the dog would follow.  Oh the dog?  Not ours, unfortunately.  She belongs to my friends and we get to dog-sit sometimes and we love her. For a better (and more wintry) view of my house you can look at the bottom of this post.

When I first came out here to look for a house, I was overwhelmed and underwhelmed and completely disappointed.  Nothing really seemed right, and it was hard not having Joel with me to help.  My mom was with me and she helped a great deal, although she wasn't going to have to live in the place we ultimately chose, and that's just different.

Anyway, I did visit our house while I was here.  It and another one I saw were the only ones that I could imagine my family inhabiting, but I wasn't really sure.  Both homes were old and needed work.  Both weren't anything like what I envisioned I wanted.  But, there were no other choices.

Once I was back in Utah, Joel and I prayed a lot about which house we should buy.  For a while, we just thought that maybe nothing I saw on my visit was right for us and we diligently checked the real estate listings every single day.  Still nothing was right.  Wrong location, wrong price, wrong size, wrong feeling, wrong everything.  And I couldn't stop thinking about the house on A---- Street.

Finally, after much prayer and fasting and discussion and prayer (and did I mention prayer?), we called our realtor and had him measure the garage.  We decided that if that teeny tiny garage would fit our minivan, then we would make an offer on the house.  Because we couldn't not have a garage.  Not with the winters here.

Not surprisingly, our van fit perfectly.  I mean, it's a snug fit, and it always scares me a little bit pulling the car into or backing out of the garage in the winter, but it fits.  (We won't talk about how I knocked the side mirror off this past winter while backing out.)(Oops.)  And so, we took a deep breath and we made the offer.

Then we eventually moved in.  Like I said, the house needs a lot of work, you can see in the photo how badly it needs a paint job.  But, we've done a lot of improving and it has always felt perfect for our family despite its many flaws and the tiny garage. I know this is where we were meant to be.

This summer, Joel and I took an interest in learning more about the genealogy of our home.  After all, the real estate documents say it was built in 1920 so it is a pretty old house that has a lot of history.  We just didn't know any of it.  Joel, being the genealogist that he is, managed to put together a fairly detailed and complete history of Snow Cottage (that's what we named it)(okay, I named it--nobody else seems to care) up until about 1960.

I will not bore you with the entire history, except for a few things that were particularly interesting to us.  Firstly, we learned that the house was not built in 1920, but earlier.  We aren't sure of the exact year, but it was probably 1906-ish.  It was built by a mining engineer (copper mining was the thing that brought people to this area).  But on the side he was a musician. A musician! He played in the YMCA symphony orchestra in Ohio before he moved here, and he even composed music in his spare time.

Since music is what brought us here, we think this is pretty cool. 

In 1917, a French-Canadian family moved in.  They owned and ran a local grocery store and they had three daughters: Precelia, Marguerite and Stelia.  Three daughters, spaced and aged the same as our three daughters.

There are other cool things, like the first woman to graduate from our University lived here.  So did the first Electrical Engineering professor/department head.  But the musical example and the three daughters thing sort of took my breath away.  Joel's, too.  Kind of like the house chose us.

Maybe that's a strange thought, but it just further confirms my knowledge that this is the house we are meant to live in.

(Even if it is in terrible need of a paint job.  And new windows.  And new carpet.  And. And. And.)


Two postscripts today:

1.  I am very excited and extremely honored to be a Featured Blogger at!  (That stands for Time Out For Women, and I love their website.)  Go here to read my post.

2.  I have an exclusive discount code for my readers.  If you are in the market for a new dress, click here.  Maybe you could even get a new dress to wear to Time Out For Women.  I hear there are presentations  coming up in Phoenix, St. George and SLC in November.  Hilary, I'm looking at you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

American Girls

American Girl
Don't you love this picture?  All of us are there, thanks to the mirror, but you might miss Joel if you don't look carefully...

My girls are obsessed with American Girl.  Totally obsessed.  Before our trip to Chicago, they combed the catalogs, trying to decide what they would buy when we arrived at The American Girl Place, where all of their dreams would come true.  On the drive to Chicago, when they asked when we'd get there, they were not referring to the city, or our hotel, or anywhere but American Girl Land.

So, on our first train ride into the city, where we planned to eat "lunch" at Ghirardelli (that would be The Maestro's obsession, or at least, one of them), they begged and begged and begged to just see The American Girl Place first.  Since Ghirardelli is a short walk away, we let them.

And we couldn't tear them away.

They have arrivedWindow shoppingWindow Shopping 3Window Shopping 2
Finally, the promise of really good ice cream for lunch (and not even any healthy food!)(don't judge, we were on vacation) managed to loosen the magnetic pull of the American Girl Wonderland.

But it only lasted until the ice cream was safely in their bellies, and after that it was a marathon to see everything that is in that huge store.

Better than Disney
This is a really bad picture....

After their first purchases were safely made, we headed back out into the real world and took the bus to The Art Institute.

Daddy's American Girls
Don't worry, though.  We went back like three more times.  The girls couldn't stand the thought of not going again.  And again.  And, well, again.

One of those times was for dinner in The American Girl Cafe.  At first we said no way in heck were we doing that because we aren't made of money and it wasn't cheap.  But, something told us it would not only be worth it, but that it would probably be the highlight of our vacation for the girls.  And so we bucked up and forked over the bucks.

I can't even describe to you how amazing it all was.  While we were waiting in line to check in (reservations required), the xylophone notes were hit and the doors popped open, revealing a pink and white and black world filled with flowers and polka dots and people in pink aprons.  It literally made me cry (yes, I'm a little weird that way).

Cute Overload
We were shown to our seats, given little chairs for our three dolls, and served our first course: Cinnamon Buns.  Mmmmmmmmm.

Lainie and SophiaMamah, Rebecca, and ChloeBria and Bri-Bri
The table settings were too cute for words: The tiny menus, the hair pretties (we got to keep them) used as napkin rings, and the general fanciness of it all was almost too much to handle.

TablescapeAmerican Girls
Trying to decide what to eat off of the menu was also a bit intimidating!  So many wonderful choices!  I ended up with salmon, Bria and Chloe ended up with pasta, Joel and my mom ordered a chicken marsala and Sophia ordered chicken strips.  All of it was excellent.

So Many Choices...Deciding
While we waited, the dolls got some tea...

Rebecca and her Tea
...we got some yummy hot chocolate...

Sipping Cocoa
...and we played a question and answer game that came in the middle of the table.

Question/Answer Game
Then we got some lovely appetizers to pass around.

American Girls
And I didn't take pictures anymore once our food came.  I ate and I enjoyed.  As did the rest of the table.

But then there was dessert.

Now, had I known, I might have called 3 weeks early and paid for the birthday package for Sophia, which includes some fun stuff for her doll and a beautiful cake.  But I didn't know.  But they still put a little candle in our perfectly adorable dessert and sang to her.

Happy Birthday Sophia! (And Lainie)
Do you need a close up of that dessert and it's cuteness?  I thought so.

Cute Dessert
We finished up, fully satisfied with the entire experience.  Totally worth it, and I highly recommend doing it if you ever have the chance!

And I'm pretty sure my American Girls would agree!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Most Horrible Time of the Day

When I first started Project Walking Into a Hug, I was in the process of packing up to move across the country.  The first few tasks were relatively simple and were actually a joy to implement, despite my high level of stress.  But then I got to #4 and it told me I had to have a schedule for my family.  And I totally freaked out.

I do not do well with schedules.

I realize that this is my problem and that I need to buck up and stop making excuses (too right-brained, schedules make me angry [they do!], too easily distracted, whatever happened to spontaneity, need I go on?) and just do the dang schedule.

But a schedule for the entire day is just plain overwhelming to me.  And even though it's now been two whole years (TODAY!) since I moved, it still freaks me out.

This week, I knew I had to try to tackle this, and so I thought about it long and hard.  Finally, I decided that I don't need to schedule everything all at once.  I don't need to shock my family into a schedule when they are so used to my more--shall we say creative?--way of living.

I thought of what the worst time of the day is for me, and I made a schedule for that.

If you must know, it's bedtime.

And so, tonight at Family Home Evening, we will be introducing the brand shiny new bedtime schedule to the girls.  I have high hopes.  School starts in three weeks, and if we start now, maybe bedtime will be the best time of the day come September 6. 

One can only hope.

And when that schedule is all a concrete part of our lives (see how much faith I'm showing?), I will then create and implement a schedule for the morning, which is the second worst time of day, followed closely by getting the girls off the bus in the afternoon.   Baby steps.

The next goal is setting Family Rules.   I must admit, we've never really sat down and written them out--complete with attached consequences--before, so this will be something new.  I think it will be very helpful.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To My Mother

Mamah and Chloe

Chloe and my mom at the Ravinia festival in Chicago.  I just love this picture.  It pretty much encapsulates what a wonderful grandma my mom is, and how much my girls adore her.

Today it is my birthday.  I am 37 years old today, which means that my mom has now been a mother for 37 years.  See, since I am the eldest child in my family, my birthday is also my mother's momday (I just made that term up right now).

My mother is a pretty amazing woman.  I could write pages and pages about all of the wonderfulness that is my mom.  I probably don't even have to, because probably 98% of those reading this already know her. 

For my birthday this year, my mom flew Bria and me out to visit family in Utah, and boy-oh-boy did she ever show us a great time!  We got pedicures and haircuts, we shopped and saw movies, we ate out and we ate in, we did ropes courses and hiked to the "Y", we went to Park City for the zip line (scary!!!!), we shopped some more and ate some more and just enjoyed each other's company.

So, Mom, thank you for being so wonderful.  I know I don't tell you often enough how grateful I am for you and for all the things you do for me and my little family.  Thank you especially for creating such a wonderful time for Bria last week, I know she'll never forget it.  And neither will I.

Happy Momday!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Superior at Sunset

IMG_9972 McLainweb

The last day that my mom was here, we took her to see the sunset over Lake Superior at McLain. We got there a little bit late for the full splendor, but it was still beautiful.

And I got some good pictures, which is generally all I care about in these situations.

IMG_9984 McLain web

Mom walking down to the beach (that's Bria and Joel up there at the top of the post).

IMG_9965 McLain web

Chloe preferred to stay on the swingset and off of the beach.

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Sophia insisted on wearing her fancy princess dress down to the beach. The fact that I let her and didn't even bat an eye at it means that I am a very different mother than I was when Bria was Sophia's age. Poor Bria. Also, I really like the blue picture. I took it after the sun was totally down.

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My favorite picture, though, just might be this one of Joel. He's showing off some of the big rocks he gathered to line our flower beds. Such a goof, but that's why I love him!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Becoming a Joyful Mother of Children

Lincoln Park Zoo

Me and my popsicle-faced girls: Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

While we were in Chicago, we stayed at a hotel that was a considerable distance from downtown, and took the train in every day.  This was (usually) fun for the children, and it saved us lots of money so that we could actually do more exciting things on vacation.  The only downside was that we often found ourselves on a late train back to our hotel when traveling for another hour was the last thing we wanted to do with three wiped out little girls and two exhausted parents.

One night on the train, another family got on and sat across from us.  They were clearly just as tired out as we were, and it looked like they had had a really great time since they were all wearing paper hats with insults written on them from that one restaurant (Dick's Last Resort) and the kids were happily chatting with each other. 

Now, I don't presume to know what the mom was feeling or how her day went, but she was one grumpy lady.  I couldn't help but notice that she was snappy with her kids for no apparent reason, that she acted annoyed if they wanted to tell her something, and that when she did talk to them she only told them not to do whatever it was they were doing.  (Hey, the train isn't big, and they were sitting directly across from me so it was hard not to notice!)

I was kind of appalled at her behavior, but then I started to realize that I am that kind of mom way too often.  Tired.  Annoyed.  Unengaged.  Preoccupied. Critical.  It was like getting hit over the head with a two-by-four for me to realize how that might affect my children, and I am determined not to be that mom. 

I want to be the mom who always has a smile ready for her child, no matter how tired I am.  I want to be the mom who always listens and responds no matter how annoying my child is.  I want to be the mom who is involved with my children and cares about the things they are telling me.  I want to be the mom who is willing to drop whatever I am doing becaue my child needs me.  I want to be the mom who gives more positive reinforcement than negative, the mom who says yes more than she says no.

I've thought a lot about the Time Out For Women that I attended this past April.  I have had a really hard time coming up with something to become this year.  I was leaning towards working more on my health, on becoming an exerciser, but I am already feeling good about that particular goal and felt I needed to focus on something else.  I just wasn't sure what it was.

Until I observed that mom on the train.  I realized that the thing I need to become is a "joyful mother of children."  Sure, I am a joyful mother sometimes.  Perhaps this blog even leads people to believe that I am a joyful mother all the time. However, I can assure you that I am not. 

But I want to be.

And so, I am resurrecting my Project Walking Into a Hug (I based it on this book by Janene Ustach).  In typical Lara fashion, I started something that I never finished.  I hit a wall and I gave up.  I am going to finish it this time, even though I might have a hard time staying on track.  Each week I will post the goal for the week and if you would like to join me, you are welcome.  I could definitely use the support and the cameraderie. 

I'll start next week (I'm on yet another vacation right now).  In the meanwhile, I'll review the four goals I actually completed last time.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Wednesday Afternoon at the Art Institute

Sunday at the Art Institute

The Art Institute of Chicago.  My favorite painting of all time (on which one of my favorite Broadway musicals is based).  My beautiful little family.  Fun with photography.

Who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Road Trippin'

Road  Trip
We just arrived home last night from spending a week in Chicago.  We're completely exhausted, but only because we had a ton of fun and did as much as we could possibly cram in for the week.  I took hundreds of photos (the only reason the number isn't in the thousands is because I totally forgot to bring more than one CF card for my camera) and we made millions of memories.

Hopefully, I'll get a chance to go through all my photos soon and post about our adventures here.  Except, remember how we went on a cruise in January?  And remember how I've only posted the first three days of that vacation?  Yeah.  Maybe I shouldn't make such grandiose promises.

So, just in case I can't make good on the promise, here are a few highlights, courtesy of my phone and Instagram.

The highlight of the trip, of course, was the American Girl Place.  The girls had been working hard all summer to earn money to spend there, and they were so giddy with excitement that I was glad we had one adult per child most of the time.  We went a total of three times.  Once with just our family, and later with my mom (she flew out to Chicago and met us there for the second part of the week).

American Girls
The very best part was going to dinner there.  I could never have imagined how neat it would be.  I did imagine how expensive it would be, but every bit of money spent was totally worth it.  We did it on a whim at the last minute and I am so glad that we did.

The highlight of the trip for Joel was going to the Ravinia Festival to hear the Chicago Symphony play Tchaikovsky.  Being there meant being lost in a "sea of humanity" (I thank my friend MaryFran for coining that particular term), but it was really wonderful to be there in the park and to listen to such wonderful music.

Joel didn't sit with us, instead he went up to the edge of the amphitheater and watched the symphony.  It was hot and muggy and uncomfortable, but watching him smile like a girl in American Girl Place was worth it to me.  And hearing the real cannons at the end of the 1812 Overture.

Me?  I was just happy to be with my family.  I enjoy being in big cities, and this time was no different, and I had a great time.

Chicago Skyline
More pictures later.


Also, maybe even more cruise pictures.