Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I Am Giving Up My iPhone for Lent

Last ditch effort to revive the dead phone.  Phone in a baggie full of uncooked rice and placed in oven with the light on.  It didn't work, though the phone is still in the rice bag and now on the radiator.  The bag is also full of hope.
It all happened on Ash Wednesday.

The weather was horrendous.  The roads were icy and slippery and accident-inducing.  The girls were out of school for teacher inservice, and we were heading over to a friend's house.  I slipped and fell on my own front walk before I made it to my car.

When I fell, my phone also fell right out of my purse, but I didn't notice. I got into my car and drove out of the driveway and up the hill, where I realized I was missing my phone.  I was sure I had put it into my purse, but it wasn't there.

We turned around, and ran into the house to get it.  It was nowhere to be found.  We called it several times and heard nothing.  We looked in the car and couldn't find it.  It was like it had just disappeared!

And then, as I was standing on my front walk, I remembered how I had fallen.  I looked down and gasped.  There was my poor little phone, lying face down in the snow, right under the car's front tire.  It was pretty obvious I had run over it.

Amazingly, it was still working and it wasn't cracked or anything (thank you protective case), but, the melted snow didn't dry fast enough and it was soon freaking out.  As soon as I got to my friend's house, I put it in some rice, where it continued to turn itself on and off and generally go crazy.  Finally, it just died.

It's been nearly a week, and despite all my efforts to revive it, it has yet to come back from the dead.

And so it appears that I will be giving up my smartphone for Lent. 

I am embarrassed to admit how much this upset me.  I have barely been holding myself together the last month or so.   I have been depressed about my ever-growing weight, I have forgotten how to go to the gym, the weather really gets me down in a major way, I am overwhelmed by my to-do list, I have two performances coming up to practice for, etc.etc.etc.  Losing my phone, which was a huge help in keeping my life in order, was grounds for a nervous breakdown.

I barely functioned teaching voice lessons the next day.  Where was my metronome?  My music dictionary?  My recorder?  All dead with my phone.

Project 366 just got that much more difficult without it, I can't play Words With Friends unless I am in front of my computer--which isn't often, I don't have something to keep Sophia occupied while we are waiting for her sisters, I don't have an iPod to listen to the music I am trying to learn, I don't have my LDS apps which were well-used, etc.etc.etc.

I've now had several days to come to grips with this, and I really am okay. Don't worry. We have a plan of action, and I have my old dumb phone for now.  But, I can't believe how long it takes to text a person on it and though I can get on the internet if I want to, it's totally clunky and stone-aged.  I have definitely been spoiled.

 "To be upset over what you don't have is to waste what you do have."
-Ken S. Keyes, Jr.

So, even if I don't make it until Easter without replacing/repairing my smart phone, I recognize how blessed I am.   It was just a phone.  It wasn't my right arm, even if it seemed like it was sometimes.  It wasn't my child.  Just a phone.  Easily replaced, unlike many, many other things I could have lost or broken.  And I will no longer berate myself for dropping it and then running it over.

It could have happened to anyone.


Of course right.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On Little Wings

When I was first asked to review this book, I thought that the synopsis included in the email was very intriguing:
"This is the story of the countless ways we get love wrong.  And why, despite every disappointment, we keep fighting to get it right.
Jennifer must do the impossible bring her mother home. When a family is torn apart by death, two sisters take violently divergent paths and the story of their family appears to end terribly and abruptly. Two decades later Jennifer never dreams that the photo she finds stuck between the pages of a neglected book will tear open a gaping wound to her mothers secret past. Abandoning her comfortable life with her parents and best friend in the wheat fields of Nebraska, Jennifer's quest for a hidden aunt leads her to the untamed coast of Maine where she struggles to understand why her mother lied to her for sixteen years.

Across the grey, rocky cove she meets Nathan Moore, the young, reluctant genius surrounded by women who need him to be brother, father, friend, provider, protector and now, first love. The stories, varied, hilarious, and heartbreaking, unfold to paint a striking mural of the shattered past. As Jennifer seeks to piece together her mother's story, she inadvertently writes one for herself."
But once I began to read, it wasn't the story that pulled me in so much as the writing.  Regina Sirois is a gifted writer who knows how to find the beauty in the English language.  These are my favorite types of authors, regardless of the genre, and I don't come across them nearly as often as I would like.  Sirois is a true gem.

Don't get me wrong, the story itself was wonderful.  Even though the big family mystery didn't have as prominent a place as I thought it might, I loved the journey that Jennifer began as she traveled to Maine to discover the reasons her mother lied to her, and ends as she discovers herself instead.

I loved how the characters did "lines" every evening--sharing with each other a snippet of something they had read, whether a bit of poetry, a line from a novel or even a snippet off of a bag of flour.  The discussions that they had while doing lines were the best parts of the book.

I also loved getting to know the Maine coast a little bit.  I've never been there, but it sounds absolutely wonderful, and reading On Little Wings made me want to hop on a plane and visit tomorrow.  (Well, okay, maybe not tomorrow, as I'm dealing with my own harsh winter!)

I highly recommend this book, and while it is billed as YA, I think you'll all like it, too.  After all,  I did.

And guess what?  I even have a copy to give away to one of you!  Just leave me a comment and tell me a snippet of something you read today and what you learned from/liked about it and I'll enter you in the drawing!  I will announce the winner on March 5.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Everybody in My Family is Hawaiian, Except Me

The Maestro
The Love of my Life.  (I was going to type that in Hawaiian, but Google translate totally doesn't have a Hawaiian option...get with the program Google!)  I aloha him.
Last week, a very special envelope arrived in our mailbox.  In it were four very special cards--one for each member of my family (except me).

So, before I tell you about the cards, did you know that The Maestro is part Hawaiian?  Well, despite his inability to do the hula, he is.  His father is half Hawaiian and his Tutu (grandmother) had full Hawaiian blood.  These days, that is very rare.  So rare, in fact, that the island powers that be are assembling a registry of those who are "descended from the aboriginal peoples inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands."

Joel, being the avid genealogist that he is, was all over this project when he read about it.  He gathered all of the necessary documentation and sent it in, and a week later, our very special envelope arrived.

The girls were THRILLED.  I love that they love this part of their heritage.  They love their Hawaiian names and they love to learn about their Hawaiian ancestors.

Chloe even wrote a little note in her "thing that she writes in" about her Hawaiian-ness:

"Everyone in my family is Hawaiian exept my Mom."

Talk about feeling left out!

No worries though.  I married the Hawaiian because I love him, not because he's Hawaiian.

Good thing, too, because if I married him for any islander perks, I would be sorely disappointed to find myself trading the sand castles of Maui beaches for the snow sculptures here in snowy Michigan.

God's Country
They do say it's God's country here, but I'm not so sure the Hawaiians would agree.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A "Handy" Map

The theme of Winter Carnival this year was "From all over the state, what makes Michigan great."

And I think this was my favorite statue.

First of all, it was very well done.  It was one of the overnighters, so it was done quickly and really well.  Hands are hard to do!

Second of all, I think the hand map thing is one of my favorite things about living in Michigan.  I think it's the coolest thing when you ask a Michigander/Michiganian where they are from, and they whip out their hand and point it out exactly.  Sometimes people will just say, oh, I live near the knuckle of the index finger or something, but I love when they just show you right on their hand the most.

At first, I thought the special hand map was only for the Downstaters, but I have since learned that Michigan indeed has two hands.  While people downstate often only need to use one hand to show where they live, we Yoopers (I'm totally a Yooper now, right?) use both. (Or if we do use one hand it's the other one.)

For the record, I live in the knuckle of the thumb of that top hand, which is also the coolest place to live, by the way.  That thumb juts out into the middle of Lake Superior, and the canal that our bridge spans cuts right through the thumb knuckle so ships don't have to go all the way around the peninsula (the thumb tip).
Thumb knuckle
Maybe it's because I'm such a visual person, but I just love the handy map!
The girls are still getting the hang of it, however.

I have 81 other pictures of Winter Carnival to share.  All about the many cool things that make Michigan great.  From cars to sports to construction to lumber to snow to ships to Kellogg's.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

All You Need is Chocolate Chip Pancake Hearts, Brand New Books, and Love

Our traditional Valentine's Day Breakfast 2012 consisted of heart-shaped, chocolate-chip pancakes.  Joel was set on making pannu kakku, but we realized at 6:30 this morning that we don't have an oven!  Delivery tomorrow, thank goodness.  And pancakes did the trick just fine, anyway.
People, Valentine's Day has plumb wore me out this year.  I diligently had something for the girls in their mailboxes every. single. day.  And it was a lot harder than I thought.

I had prepared ahead quite a bit, but 14 days is a lot of days!  And so I found myself frantically getting things together at the last minute sometimes, but it all worked out.

Except, by today, I was kind of finished with Valentine's Day.  The girls were not, of course.  They loved it more this year than ever (and it's all my fault), so I suppose all of the stress was worth it.  Next year I'll plan better.  I'll have to, because I'm afraid I have set an insane precedent and made another holiday tradition.

And the making of new traditions does not necessarily cancel out old ones.  No way, no how.  My children cling to tradition as if it were the rope thrown to them as they are drowning at sea.  Especially Chloe.  That child would wither and die if we didn't continue every tradition we have ever started.  So there's no way in heck that she was going to let us forget our annual Valentine's breakfast!  Or our books! 

So, even though Joel and I wanted nothing more than to sleep in and not make a big breakfast, we did it.  And of course we're glad we did, don't get me wrong!  Traditions are the stuff that keep families together, and we love it.
Valentine's Day Breakfast
The girls really loved their books this year.  I did good, I guess!
The Wizard of Rondo
Bria got The Wizard of Rondo, which is the sequel to a book she recently read and talked about incessantly.  I have never enjoyed the fantasy genre much, but she totally gets into it.  Consequently, it has been hard for me to find books that I think she will like, beyond Harry Potter, which she has read several times.  She was totally thrilled to get this book, and I'm pretty sure she'll be finished with it by tomorrow.
Dork Diaries
Chloe got the third installment of The Dork Diaries.  While she likes reading fine, she would much prefer drawing, so these books have been favorites because of the visual art aspect.  She loves them.  (I'm not sure you would be able to tell how much by the picture...)
Even though she's hiding behind it, Sophia was quite pleased with her new Silverlicious book.  She's been wanting it for a long time.

As for The Maestro and I?  Well, tonight was rehearsal, and this week is the dreaded concert week.  No big Valentine's Day celebration for us. I've spent the evening updating my Project 365... oh so very romantic.  We'll go on a date next week I guess.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dear Thing That I Write In...

Today while I was manically cleaning the house, I came across a little notebook. I opened it up to see which girl it belonged to and saw that Chloe has been using it as a little diary.  "Dear thing that I write in..." was the first sentence in each entry.  I promptly died of the cuteness and then resumed the manic cleaning.
Dear thing that I write in,

This weekend has been cuh-razy. Yesterday saw voice lessons, violin lessons, extra violin rehearsals, a birthday party complete with frantic shopping for a gift, a GNO at my friend's house, a playdate and oh! How could I forget? The oven exploded.

I came home from shopping or a lesson or something, and The Maestro told me that he'd been preheating the oven, but was then talking on the phone before he actually put anything in it. While he was talking, he heard a BANG! CRASH! BOOM! from the kitchen and discovered some fireworks going on inside the oven.

Now, we don't know exactly how old the oven is, as it came with the house. But, we figured we could safely assume it was around the same age as the refrigerator which died back in August, and anyway, according to ye olde internette, the part we would need to fix the dead heating element (that is what exploded, as it turns out) was no longer available. So, another new appliance! Yay for me! Good thing I got paid yesterday morning. So, despite the crazy schedule of the day, we dropped everything and headed to Sears and bought ourselves a brand spanking new oven. I figure that, at this rate, the washer & dryer will go out in another 6 months. Better start saving up for those front loaders I'm dying to have!

Today has been no less insane. A violin performance, another birthday party (but I did the shopping for that one yesterday), Worldwide Training Meeting at the church for Joel and me, grocery shopping, a Young Men/Young Women activity and lots of manic cleaning were all on the docket.

We were asked late last night if we would please house one of the stake leaders who is here for branch conference tomorrow. Of course we said yes. We always do. The problem is, my house was an absolute PIG STY. Really. I just haven't had the time to properly devote to cleaning. And I'm tired. And I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Excuses. Dirty House. Amen.

So, dear thing that I write in, I stayed up until 2 in the morning cleaning. Today I slave drove my girls. I put my husband to work. Together, between all the rest of the stuff we needed to finish, we got this house sparkling clean. I have been complaining about the lack of cleanliness around here for a very long time, but I just cannot keep up with the messes of five people, and I have apparently not taught my children to clean up after themselves. So, this evening, just before the stake person was to come, I was thankful for a pressing reason to get my act together, because the reward was a clean house, and who doesn't love that?

Especially when, five minutes later, you get a phone call that the stake person isn't going to stay with you after all.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, dear thing that I write in. He knew what I needed, and he gave it to me. He just used my procrastinating, down-to-the-last-second, must-have-a-deadline-to-accomplish-anything ways to get it done. And I thank Him.

And I promise I'm going to try really hard to keep it up this time.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Celebrating Winter at Heikinpaiva

In front of the Finnish-American Heritage Center with the Heikinpäivä mitten guy.  Apparently, Chloe has a secret ninja identity.  Either that, or she's really cold.
Yeah, I know.

Who celebrates winter?

Well, apparently the Finns do. I suppose they have to. And since my area has an abundance of Finnish flavor, and also an abundance of winter, I suppose we have to as well. So, at the end of January we have this festival called Heikinpäivä. And, to be honest, I have no idea what that word actually means. If you want to know, you'll have to go ask a Finn. Or someone who speaks Finnish. The best I can do is pronounce it.

This year's Heikinpäivä was truly a celebration of winter, complete with a raging snowstorm. Normally, I wouldn't have bothered to venture out in it, but Bria had to play her violin at the festival, so venture out we did. (Without Joel...he was in Chicago attending a conference.)

First, we watched Bria play Finnish folk tunes with her youth orchestra. It was crowded in there (probably because it was actually warm), so I didn't really get any good shots.
Heikinpaiva Violin
After Bria finished up her playing, we went over to watch our friends do some Finnish folk dancing, and then we headed out into the (freaking) blizzard to play with the kicksleds, which are kind of the snowy version of a scooter. You get it going by kicking with your foot, and then you hop on and coast.
Sophia was particularly excited about these, but she had a difficult time getting the hang of it at first, so Chloe diligently helped push her along.
After a while, she really got into the groove and was coasting all over the place.
Violinist in the Snow
Bria was laden down with her violin and her music folder, so she mostly walked around watching, but I finally took them from her and told her to go have fun. Unfortunately, while the violin was on my own back, I slipped on the ice and totally biffed it. Such a klutz. (No worries, the violin didn't even go out of tune.)
KicksleddingWorld's Largest Kicksled
Our festival also has the world's largest kicksled. And, oh boy, is that thing LARGE. I don't know how you're supposed to use it correctly...but some guys were pushing kids around on it. (My kids didn't participate.)
We also saw some reindeer. Sophia wanted to see them fly, but they weren't feeling up to it I guess.
Vipukelkka (whipsled)28/366
After they kicksledded to their hearts' delight, they tried out the vipukelkka, or whipsled. I have to admit, this one looked like lots of fun! First Bria and Chloe pushed Sophia around the circle,
then Bria and Sophia tried to push Chloe, but they had a hard time getting it started.
No worries, though. A nice man saw their plight and came to help. Just in the nick of time, too, because Sophia couldn't keep up and fell.

Did I mention it was snowing like crazy?

And don't I have gorgeous offspring?
Double BriaDouble ChloeDouble Sophia
They're gorgeous even when they are frozen popsicles.

And here we all are (including Chloe looking like the kid from Fat know which one I mean) sitting on the kicksleds. Proof that I was there, too.
Oh! She has a face after all!
Snowy family
Unfortunately, we were too cold to stick around for the polar bear dive, in which certifiably insane people jump into the frozen lake in their bikinis and swim trunks. An important part of celebrating winter I suppose. Hopefully next year we'll actually get to see it.

However, since it took a good eight hours for me to actually have feeling in my face again after the half-hour we spent on the sleds, you're not ever going to see me participate. I like to feel my extremities, thankyouverymuch. Besides, I definitely don't have enough sisu for that.

And speaking of winter celebrations, Winter Carnival started today. There are some great statues out there, and I can't wait to get some good pictures.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Deja Vu

This is a video of Sophia practicing for her upcoming (first-ever) violin recital. I do enjoy how all of the recommended videos at the end are about other Sophias practicing various other things.  Go all the Sophias!  (And please watch this video...because you have no idea the pain and suffering it took to upload it.  All the usual things were not working....)

February or no, I am still finding myself with the desire to hibernate.  To cozy up in my bed with a good book.  To watch Downton Abbey and The Finder to my little heart's content.  To play Words With Friends all day.  To pretend I don't have responsibilities. 

After a weekend spent doing all of the above, I knew yesterday had to be productive.  And, let me tell you, when one puts her mind to it, it is always amazing what one can accomplish.  But only if her mind is to it, mind you.  I finally cleaned up the kitchen from the Young Men's activity Joel held on Friday evening (he made luau food for them)(don't you wish he were your YM leader?).  I taught a couple lessons.  I did some laundry.  I helped the girls with homework projects, like Sophia's 100-day project (hard to believe they've been in school 100 days now this year!)(I know most of you passed that milestone a while ago...we start school late) and Bria's science worksheet.  The girls and I made Valentine cookies for a sister in our branch who has had knee surgery, and then our family visited her in the nursing home for Family Home Evening later (they got new heart cookie cutters in their mailboxes yesterday morning)(see how I did that?).

But the most important thing I did yesterday was practice the violin with Sophia.  I confess, the winter doldrums have definitely made me a bit apathetic on the music-practicing front.  Sophia has been getting very little practice time with me, and she needs it the very most!  Bria is quite self-sufficient and amazingly gets herself up at 6 every morning and comes down to practice.  I rarely have to remind her, and I only do if my 6:30 alarm goes off and I'm not hearing scales coming from the living room yet.  And even then, I only have to walk to the bottom of the staircase, say "Bria!" and she's right down.  Chloe practices the piano without my asking her, it's just that she doesn't always practice the right things.  And, I have been negligent with making sure she does lately, hence she's not progressing as quickly as she might. (And her piano teacher reads this blog.) (SORRY!  I'll be better!)

But it also means that little Sophia, who has only been playing for a few months, is left on her own, too.  And that means she either doesn't practice, or she does, but with no attention paid to the important things like posture, fingerings, and, oh--correct notes.  So yesterday, with my newfound desire to be productive, after Sophia got off the bus and ate her lunch I told her we were going to practice her violin together.

And I was met with a full-scale temper tantrum.  No reasoning would work to calm her down (especially not the reminder that she has her first recital next week) and I found myself wanting to just give up on it and go back into hibernation.  It's easier.

But then I remembered all of the fun things I used to do to get Bria to practice when she was a Twinkler and throwing tantrums.  So, I quickly made eight little cards with her Twinkle rhythms and things like bow circles and finger marches written on the back.  I laid them out on the floor and told her we were going to play a game and it was going to be SO FUN!  She could draw a card to find out what she was going to play!  SO FUN!  And she only had to draw four and then we could be done.

And, since she is in Kindergarten, she did indeed think this was going to be SO FUN! and enthusiastically ran to get her violin out of its case.  The first card she drew was the rhythm she will be playing on her recital, so after she did it once, I told her she would be playing it with the piano at the recital, and so did she want to try that?  Yes, she did.  SO FUN!

I went over to the piano and dug up the piano accompaniments and I was suddenly bowled over with this sense of deja vu, for lack of a better word.  A sense of total well-being and joy.  That accompaniment book is well-worn from the millions of times I played through Twinkles with Bria.  She started at a much younger age than Sophia and it took her longer to learn them, and I played them with her on the piano every day diligently.  (Of course, I lived in sunny Arizona at the time, and the January blahs don't happen there.)  When I think about that time spent with Bria, I recognize it as being a source of great joy for me.  The pride in my little daughter as she worked her fingers and bow to make music.  The pride in herself as she realized what she was doing.  The quality time spent together, working on something hard, but rewarding.  And now Bria has this confidence--she knows she can do hard things with that violin.  It's why she has no problem getting up early and working on it (not that she never has her moments...she most certainly does).

I haven't really given that confidence to Sophia.  Not yet.  But yesterday was a start.  And I began to feel that pride as I played the piano for her and heard her play every last one of her Twinkles without a hitch (because she didn't want to stop at just four), professional fingers and all.  And when I turned around from the piano and cheered for her after she played the first time, I could see it in her eyes.

This is what she needs from me.

So even though her posture needs a lot of work (as all you violinists out there will most certainly recognize from the video), she now knows that she can do hard things with her instrument, and she likes how that feels.  And I anticipate that today she is going to get off of the bus excited about practicing.

And I will be just as excited to help her practice.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

February! And a Special Delivery.

So, thanks to Pinterest, I found eleventy billion cute little valentine ideas. And I wanted to make all of them.  Which, naturally, would require picking myself up by the bootstraps and leaving my January blahs behind.

As it was, aside from a bit of shopping for the projects, I didn't actually pick myself up by any kind of straps until last night. And I made those adorable little mailboxes up there (yes, yet another idea from Pinterest). Starting today, the girls will get a special delivery in their mailboxes up until Valentine's Day. I don't know if I'll do this every year, but it seemed like a fun way to do a bunch of the projects I found and have something for the girls to look forward to each day.

I found the little mailboxes in the dollar spot when we were down at Target a few weeks ago, but you can purchase them on Amazon by clicking here: Red mailbox, White mailbox, Pink mailbox. The candlesticks were purchased at a local thriftstore and spray painted black yesterday, and I just cut the letters out of some old paper scraps and slapped them on.  And they are a big hit around here, let me tell you.

Tonight at dinner the girls got to open their first mail delivery.  You'd have thought it was Christmas by all the excitement!

Knock my socks off

And they were right to be so excited, because it was socks! Socks with hearts and pink and cuteness! Totally not an idea from Pinterest, but I usually do buy them new socks for every holiday.  At least the holidays for which they make socks—have you ever seen Labor Day socks?  'Cause I'd totally buy them.

Tomorrow they are not getting anything very cool, just a box of heart-shaped Junior Mints.  Although, I suppose the heart shapiness of them is sort of awesome.

Except I will not be partaking, because it's February now, and I decided it's high time I got healthy.  You know, because I'm picking myself up by those darn bootstraps and all.