Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Summer 2014 Reading List

My summer starts in one day.

Even though there is still lots of snow on the ground (le sigh), I am done with the university school year and will not have to teach nearly as much over the summer. I will also not be performing at all this summer, and sad as that is, it is actually a huge relief.

Summer is here and it's time to READ! Preferably on the beach. These are a few books I am looking forward to reading this summer.

Because, more time to read!

I'm trying to knock out a few books that have been hanging around on my to-read list way too long, as well as a few new ones that I've been excited to read.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout has been on my to-read list for so long that I don't even remember exactly why I added it. Except that I added it in 2009, which is when it also won the Pulitzer Prize, which is probably exactly why I added it.

It is actually a series of 13 short stories, all having to do with Olive Kitteridge, the small town of Crosby, Maine in which she lives, and Olive's learning about life.

From Amazon: "Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires."

I tend to really enjoy books that "offer profound insights into the human condition," though others might see them as depressing. I usually find I have a lot to learn from them and am very uplifted by them.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok is another one that's been sitting in to-read purgatory for several years. I chose it as the book club selection that I will be hosting this summer, though, so I will finally be forced to read it.

(Not that I've been any good at reading the book club picks this last few months.)(Another le sigh.)

From Amazon: "Asher Lev grows up in a cloistered Hasidic community in postwar Brooklyn, a world suffused by ritual and revolving around a charismatic Rebbe. But in time his gift threatens to estrange him from that world and the parents he adores. As it follows his struggle, My Name Is Asher Lev becomes a luminous portrait of the artist, by turns heartbreaking and exultant, a modern classic."

At dinner the other night, Chloe was talking about The Hunger Games. I had finally let her watch the movie because she finished the book. 

The conversation went like this:

Chloe: "The book was WAY better than the movie!"

Bria: "The book is ALWAYS better than the movie. If I were President, the first law I'd pass is that people have to read the book before they see the movie."

Which is why The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is on my list. The movie comes out in June and the book is supposed to be phenomenal YA literature. Bria has already read it and has been bothering me to read it, too. (Little does she know that it's been sitting on my to-read list since, oh, 2012)

Speaking of seeing movies before reading books, I commited that cardinal sin where The King's Speech is concerned. I saw the movie a couple years ago, and I've wanted to read the book ever since.

Normally, I do not ever see R-rated movies, but I did a lot of research beforehand, and talked to a lot of my friends who know and support my values, and they all agreed it was fine to see. And it was. It was cleaner than a large portion of PG-13 movies that I have seen, which just makes me think that the Hollywood rating system is messed up.

But, I'm excited to read this book. I really loved the movie (who doesn't just adore Colin Firth?) and I'm interested to know the more of the story that the book is bound to tell. Since that's the reason the book is always better than the movie.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley is the just-published sixth installment in Bradley's Flavia de Luce series. I have fallen completely in love with Flavia. She is a 12-year-old genius who loves chemistry. She lives in 1950s England and spends her days concocting poisons, solving mysteries, and riding her bike, Gladys, all over the English countryside. She is constantly getting in trouble with the local deputy, the vicar, her sisters, and her father, but she always, always, always solves the mystery.

If you've not read any of the Flavia series before, start with the first (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) and go in order, because there are important plotlines that continue through the series. I just finished the fifth book in March, and there was quite a cliff-hanger so I'm particularly excited to start this new one.

Tying the Knot is the final installment in The Newport Ladies Book Club series written as a team effort by authors Josi S. Kilpack, Annette Lyon, Heather B. Moore, and Julie Wright

I have really enjoyed this series, about a book club and the women in it. The prior eight books each focus on one member of the book club and the things that are happening in her personal life. They discuss the books they are reading (they once read My Name is Asher Lev), they help each other, they hurt together, they rejoice together. It's just a really wonderful series about friendship. And it is only made better by the fact that the four women who write it are obviously very good friends themselves.

This is a series that you can pick up anywhere, except I think you do have to save Tying the Knot for last since it ties up some of the loose ends in previous books.

And then there is self-improvement. I read an article about this book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine, a couple months ago. When I read that article I was completely in the throes of Survival Mode, so I didn't bookmark the article or write down the title at all. Then, last month, I ran a giveaway on my Facebook page and I asked the participants to tell me which book they were currently reading. I was so happy someone mentioned this book, because I immediately went over to Amazon and purchased it.

I am constantly in Survival Mode. Or, if I'm not, I'm in Shut-down Mode. Both of those modes aren't very good for me, and it's sometimes hard to find happiness. I'm looking forward to seeing what the author has to say--I hope that it will help me have a better school year beginning in the fall! 

The other book I am going to read for self-improvement is Clutterfree With Kids by Joshua Becker. I just came upon it on Amazon one day, and decided to buy it because sometimes the clutter threatens to drown me. Especially when I am already in survival mode.

From Amazon:  "Children add joy, purpose, and meaning to our lives. They provide optimism, hope, and love. They bring smiles, laughter, and energy into our homes. They also add clutter. As parents, balancing life and managing clutter may appear impossible—or at the very least, never-ending. But what if there was a better way to live? Clutterfree with Kids offers a new perspective and fresh approach to overcoming clutter. With helpful insights, the book serves as a valuable resource for parents. Through practical application and inspirational stories, Clutterfree with Kids invites us to change our thinking, discover new habits, and free our homes. It invites us to reevaluate our lives. And it just may inspire you to live the life you’ve been searching for all along."

What's on YOUR summer reading list? I really want to know! Because I'm definitely going to be reading more than 8 books this summer, that's for darn sure.

More Book Reading at Overstuffed:
4 Fantasy Series Tween Girls Will Love
Summer Reading Lists for Kids
Follow my Reading Rocks Board on Pinterest!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Deck Sighting!

So enough snow has melted this week that we can actually see some of the deck! Hooray!

Also, three more days until NYC! I. Cannot. Wait.

But I still have to work for those three days. Let's pray that I can actually get packed and organized in time to go!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Springtime Lemon Cake--An Easy Cake Mix Recipe

One of The Maestro's favorite recipes is this easy lemon cake. It's super easy because you just have to doctor up a basic yellow cake mix, and it's really good, too. I need a good dose of springtime in my life, so we made this cake a couple weeks ago, and it was just the ticket. If I can't have sunshine outside, sunshine in my mouth is the next best thing!

Since we are a gluten-free household, we started with a Hodgson Mill Gluten-free Yellow Cake Mix, but you can start with any yellow cake mix you like. The gluten-free cakes will be more dense, so if you use a normal cake mix, your cake will probably be much fluffier than what I have pictured.

Springtime Lemon Cake


Yellow cake mix (if you want an extra lemony taste you can also use a lemon cake mix)
3/4 Cup apricot nectar
4 eggs
3/4 Cup oil
2 tsp lemon extract

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl or KitchenAid type mixer. Pour into an ungreased 9x13 cake pan and bake at 300 degrees for 50-60 minutes


Juice of 3 lemons
2 Cups powdered sugar

Mix lemon juice and powdered sugar in a medium mixing bowl.

When the cake has cooled for 10 minutes, use a fork to poke holes in it. Pour the lemon glaze all over the cake and let stand for 20-30 minutes while the glaze soaks in and the cake cools a bit.

Enjoy! It really is like a taste of springtime melting in your mouth!

More Gluten-free Goodness on Overstuffed:
The Maestro's Famous Mint Brownies
5 Tips to Help You Transition to Gluten-free
Follow My Gluten-free Pinterest Board!

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On Being the Mother

Doing Amahl and the Night Visitors was kind of a dream come true for me.

First dress rehearsal--I had to laugh when I saw my makeup design. I look awesome, don't I? At least I didn't have to really worry about hiding the real life dark circles that were under my eyes! I got to accentuate them instead.

Listening to it with my husband and children is one of my favorite Christmas Eve traditions, if not my most favorite. I love Menotti's operas in general, and while my dream role would be Magda in The Consul, playing Amahl's mother was right up there on the list.

IMG_1781 Amahl web
My rags. Of all the roles I've ever played, this is definitely the most raggedy. Pieces of my costume were all over the stage every night.
As it turned out, the character of Amahl's mother is someone I have a lot in common with, which made it even easier to play her. First of all, she is a mother. Her character isn't even given a name beyond that. In the list of characters at the front of the score she is called "His Mother." I just love that. Sometimes I feel that "Mom" is the only name I have, and I certainly feel that it is the most important one.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easy DIY Framed Bulletin Board

Recently, we implemented a new system for chores and allowance. It is still working really well, but I have not been super pleased with my ugly, taped to the cabinets, checklists. Then we started using a different brand of tape and it began to take the paint of the cabinets. This made the need to find a better way to put them up all the more immediate, and now it would have to include some way to hide the damage the tape had done to the cabinets already.
Chore Charts
If you look closely at the top of the photo, you can see where some of the tape damage is. Boo.
I decided that a nice framed bulletin board right on the cabinet would look really nice, but I couldn't find one that was the right size anywhere.

So I made one myself.

I took measurements of the side of the cabinet, and then ran over to WalMart and found a frame that would fit all of the checklists and was the perfect size for the cabinet. I also bought a package of square corkboard.

DIY framed bulletin board

I took everything out of the frame and used the glass as a template to cut the cork. Since my frame is rectangular and my cork was square, I had to cut two different pieces to fit.

DIY Bulletin Board

Once I had all of the cork cut out, I slipped it into the frame. I just had to make sure that the place where I seamed the cork inside the frame was with two straight edges instead of the edges I had cut with scissors. As soon as the cork was in the frame, I added the back of the frame back on and used my favorite Command velcro picture hanger doodads to hang it on the cabinet.

For about 15 minutes of work, I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It makes my kitchen look a lot fancier and the girls have had renewed interest in their chore charts, too! Hooray for functional AND beautiful!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday 2014

What a gorgeous, gorgeous day today was! And what gorgeous, gorgeous girls I have!

The girls woke up early to find their Easter "baskets." We don't have a traditional basket we use every year, so I end up buying some sort of basket/container every single year and it has made me wish I invested in nice baskets when they were babies. But this year I had the brilliant idea to use cute (and super inexpensive) baseball caps to hold all their goodies!

The hats were a hit. I splurged and got them each a nice new book this year, too. I just hate all the candy, so they really didn't get much. Just a few jelly beans, Hershey's kisses, a Cadbury egg, and the obligatory chocolate bunny (And can I just say it was nearly impossible to find gluten-free chocolate bunnies? Sheesh.) Then they each got one non-candy item as well: hair stuff for Bria, earphones for Chloe, and the cutest little lamb named Babs for Sophia.

The books they received were:

Dangerous by Shannon Hale for Bria (I'm thinking I'd like to read this one, too.)

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord for Chloe (She recently read Rules by the same author and really liked it.)

Ever After High: The Unfairest of Them All by Shannon Hale for Sophia (Yes, we do love Shannon Hale around here, and Sophia's latest craze is Ever After High.)

Sophia had been looking forward to that Cadbury egg for weeks. She's my kind of girl...I could eat those things all day. Mmmm.

After church the weather was simply gorgeous. So, we quickly took our Sunday photos, changed our clothes, and took the dog for a two mile walk. I'm pretty sure it was the happiest day of her little puppy life, because, what with the unusually cold weather and totally overstuffed schedules we've had this winter, she hasn't gotten many walks that were longer than a block or two. I'm pretty sure it was also the happiest day of my life. Despite all of the snow still on the ground, it felt HEAVENLY.

Easter Sunday Photo

I'm so blessed with these three (four, including the dog!) beauties.
After our walk, Sophia and I got the table all set for Easter dinner. We found a tutorial to fold bunny ear napkins and had fun learning to do that, even though it admittedly got a little frustrating for both of us. I received the flowers last Saturday night on closing night of the opera. They are getting a little past their prime, but they were perfect for an Easter table.


Sophia was set on making bunny place cards, so we rummaged through the crafts supplies and came up with these cute things. I helped her with the first one, but she made the rest of them herself. I sure love her and how much she wanted to help get the table ready this year. She knows how much I love a beautiful table!

Easy Easter place cards for kids to makeUntitled

I cut out a template for the bunny ears, and she used it to cut the rest out. We then glued the ears to a piece of cardstock. We used embroidery floss for the whiskers and just put a bit of adhesive down on the paper and stuck the floss to it (I used the Stampin' Up! Snail Adhesive, but one like THIS would work great, too). Then we put a bit more adhesive down for the cotton ball nose and glued the eyes on. Easy peasy!

Once she was finished writing the names and decorating the ears, we folded another piece of cardstock in half and glued it to the back. It worked great for an impromptu crafty project for her and they looked super cute, too.

As I type, The Maestro is putting the finishing touches on his famous roast and we are all looking forward to a wonderful Easter dinner together.

I hope you all are having a blessed Easter, too! Happy Easter!!

More Easter fun at Overstuffed:
End of an Easter Era
And I Believe in Matching Easter Dresses
The Grabbing Hands Grab All They Can

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Saturday, April 19, 2014


I've mentioned more than once what an all or nothing personality I have. I'm either perfect at everything or completely apathetic. I'm either dressed up quite nicely or in my pajamas. I either eat 100% healthfully or I eat like complete crap. My house is either perfectly clean or an absolute wreck.

And I have been in "nothing" mode big time this last week.

Once the opera closed, I allowed myself to finally just fall apart. After several weeks of nightly rehearsals, a teaching load that is bigger than ever before, plus all of the stuff that being a mother to three wonderful girls entails, I simply couldn't hold it together anymore. I'd already let plenty slide during the two months  of rehearsal in order to keep my sanity, my health, and to get enough sleep.

For instance, The Maestro pretty much took over doing laundry and dishes. While this has been a terribly busy semester for him as well, he has had more time at home than I have, so he rose to the challenge. He managed to keep the laundry clean, and I tried to fold it and get it put away. I did okay with this until the last couple weeks before the performance. Tech week is always brutal, and I couldn't cancel any of my lessons, so I just powered through while the clean laundry piled higher and higher and higher.

Pretty soon, all the clean clothing in the house was in a giant pile in the corner of my bedroom. Sophia had meltdowns every morning because she had no pants to wear to school and clothes were flung about as we looked for Sophia's pants. And Bria's favorite hoodie. And Chloe's underwear. I actually felt like crying sometimes when I came home and saw the state of my house. What on earth was I doing taking on so much outside of the home when my family obviously needed me home to do laundry?

And now I sort of feel even worse, because I've had a full week without rehearsals or performances and I have had to force myself to do anything beyond the absolutely necessary--like going to work. My sweet husband organized a massive laundry folding party last Sunday night, and he and I caught up on our favorite television show while we folded. And folded and folded and folded. And had he not gently suggested such a party to me, the laundry would still not be folded today. I'm sure grateful for him--and it's not just about laundry. I simply don't know what I would do without him.

I don't think the photo does the laundry justice. It took two episodes of Bones with both of us folding non-stop to get through that massive pile!

I am simply burned out. And yes, if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that this is just how I roll. All or nothing. Do everything. Do nothing. Crash and burn. I try and try, but I don't really change much.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beauty Box 5 Review: April 2014

"Shades of Beauty" is Beauty Box Five's theme for April 2014. The focus is on products and looks that require a little more leisure and a little less rushing.

I received all five of April's products this month, and here's what I think of them:

BH Cosmetics California Collection Eyeshadow Palette (retail $18.95): While I am admittedly not a big eyeshadow wearer--it's the one cosmetic that I just plain don't bother with very often--I have used this stuff and it is very high quality. The colors are really fun, too, and would be perfect for a night out on the town. I will throw it in my bag when The Maestro and I had to NYC (only two weeks from today!!) and glam myself up a bit more than normal on our trips to the Metropolitan Opera and various Broadway theatres.

Nicka K New York Hydro Lipstick (Retail $4.99):  You all know I'm addicted to my lipstick. What you may not know is that I'm extremely picky about the brands I use and would rather pay $40 for a tube of Giorgio Armani lipstick than $5.00 for Revlon at the drugstore. Because there is a HUGE difference in quality. However, this Nicka K. New York stuff is pretty great, and that's my honest opinion. It stays on nicely and doesn't dry you out or flake off. The color I received is called Concerto (perfect for a musician, hey?), and is outside of my normal choice of very dark, bold lipstick colors, but it is a lovely neutral and I wore it every night of my opera performances since my make-up design required a neutral lip. Loved it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Young Women Poem for Temple Envelopes

Make your LDS Young Women a temple envelope as a graduation gift.

In this post from 2010, I talked about making temple envelopes for my young women. It was for a lesson on temple preparation. I found a poem online somewhere and attached it to the envelopes.

I had a reader email me today about what the poem was, because you can't see the entire thing in the photo. Unfortunately, after searching my whole computer, I couldn't find it. I had a different computer then, and though I transferred most files, I think that one didn't make the cut. I Googled my little heart out, too, and couldn't find it anywhere. I must have magically found it before, because I don't know where it came from!

I had no idea how I was going to get the text since my only young woman at the time is now serving a mission (yay her!). Then I remembered that I had made two envelopes, because a visitor was in our branch that day. Thankfully, it's a visitor that comes often enough that I know her mom and tracked her down on Facebook.

And guess what? She still had the poem! She graciously sent it to me, and now I am putting it here so I don't lose it again. Unfortunately, I don't know who the original author is, and it is definitely not me. (If you happen to know who wrote this poem, please tell me! I'd love to be able to give them attribution.)

This envelope was made with love
Especially for you,
A symbol of the girl you are
To cherish your life through.

May its whiteness be a reminder
To please stay clean and pure,
As the fabric, may you be most strong
With a testimony sure.

As the lace, may all your lifetime
Be filled with charm and grace.
May the inner beauty of your soul
Glow in your eyes and face.

Someday you will be ready
To make covenants to the Lord,
To receive your own endowment,
And hear the Savior's word.

Carry this envelope with you
On that special, wondrous day,
As a symbol of the girl you are,
And will forever stay.

The envelopes themselves were pretty easy to make. I just used my own as a template. Perhaps soon I'll make another one and post a more in-depth tutorial here.

The reader who emailed me said she planned on handing out temple envelopes to her YW who were graduating, which is another great idea. I still use the envelope I received from my YW leaders during a temple preparation lesson. It means a lot to me, and even though I've since been given another (possibly nicer) one, I haven't switched them out.

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This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Obedience Makes Us Strong: General Conference Printables

While watching General Conference last weekend, I noticed a few distinct themes that were things I personally needed to hear. The first of those themes was Obedience.

I loved Elder Hales' and Elder Perry's talks on Obedience.

Elder Hales: If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments focused on following the Savior's example in obedience, using our agency to choose and letting the consequences follow, and how obedience can make us stronger and more able to deal with the tests and trials we will endure in our lives.

Obedience makes us stronger: Robert D. Hales

Elder Perry: Obedience Through Our Faithfulness used horses to teach the principle of obedience. He taught that "an obedient horse which is part of a well-trained team of horses needs little more than a gentle tug from the driver to do exactly what he wants it to do. This gentle tug is equivalent to the still, small voice with which the Lord speaks to us. Out of respect for our agency, it is never a strong, forceful tug." I loved this idea so much.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Puccini knows she is just one of the girls.
  • Sophia got a new cheetah hat today. People know how obsessed she is and they see things at thrift stores and buy them for her.
  • I have awesome friends who buy cheetah hats for my daughter or bring us dinner during Tech Week.
  • The opera went off without a hitch, Tech Week and all.
  • My house is quite possibly messier than it has ever been in its 106 year life.
  • At least, it's messier than it has ever been in the 5 years we've lived in it.
  • The snow is MELTING.
  • I can now see over the bank to back out of my driveway.
  • 17 more days until NYC
  • Time to go to bed.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Spring Break That Wasn't and General Conference Sunday

Church in our PJs! It's the best part of General Conference!

Ahhhhhhh, General Conference.

I have loved it so far. One more session left and we'll have to wait another six months to bask in the glow. So far, my favorite talks have been by President Bednar and President Uchtdorf. I desperately needed to hear them. I will write more later, but suffice it to say that I know my Heavenly Father loves me and that he can and will ease my burdens. BUT that those burdens are necessary for me to gain spiritual traction in this life. And gratitude is important for spiritual growth, too, especially while we are working through difficult times and carrying those burdens.

I have been live tweeting conference for the first time ever, and I daresay that I finally "get" Twitter. You can follow me HERE, if you'd like.

The girls had spring break this week, and the poor dears didn't get much fun due to the fact that The Maestro and I most definitely did not have spring break. Plus, it snowed a lot. A couple photos of dear, helpful Sophia working both by herself and with The Maestro to help clear the snow:

The last session of General Conference starts in 4 minutes. Join me!

Happy Sunday! And even happier Spring if you have it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Nurture Your Children's Talents: Five Strategies to Help Your Children Fly!

This post is brought to you by Disney's The Pirate Fairy and BlogHer.

All children want to fly. They all want to excel at something, too. That's one of the many reasons I love Tinkerbell. Not only can she and all of her other fairy friends fly, they have each taken the time to nurture and develop their talents. Tinkerbell is a tinker-fairy who is really great at inventing and fixing things. Some of her friends are gardening fairies, and others are art fairies or light fairies. There are even fairies whose talent is to fly fast! (For a complete list of Pixie Hollow Fairies and their talents, click HERE—it's quite extensive!)

As a parent, I want my children to fly, too. I grew up in a household that encouraged talent development in a big way, and I owe my parents a great deal for being so supportive of all of my endeavors. Without their support (emotional and financial) there is no way I would have developed my own talents to the extent I have. They also taught me to continue developing my talents throughout my life, and that I can always learn new things and be whatever I want to be.

How to help children develop talents | nurture talent and ability in kids | talent development for kids | strategies to develop talents | tips and ideas to develop hidden talents | God given talents and abilities | Helping kids nurture unique talents

Naturally, I want to do the same for my own girls. Here are five things I try really hard to do as a parent, but in the process of writing this post, I am realizing that I have many improvements to make in this department!

1. Encourage them to read as much as possible

If your child is curious about something, don't just tell them about it or direct them to the internet. Go the library and check out books. Lots and lots of them! Make time for reading all kinds of books together when they are too young to read for themselves, and have all kinds of books on hand for them to pull off the shelves and read when they are older.

I love to buy books for my children. They always get at least one book for Christmas, it's a Valentine's Day tradition to get a new book, and I usually buy several new books for their summer reading bins. Reading broadens their horizons and teaches them new things and they won't even realize how much they are learning because reading is so much fun, too.

2. Give them lots of opportunities to try new things

Children don't always just naturally know what they are interested in or what they are good at. As a parent, it's your job to give them opportunities to find out. This can be done in many ways and doesn't have to involve a financial commitment.

Go play soccer in the park with your kids to find out if they like sports. Sing with them and watch movie musicals to find out if they love theatre and music. Have art supplies on hand so they can experiment. Let them help you in the kitchen and learn more about cooking. And if they do show an interest in something you hadn't thought about before, find ways to expose them to that thing further.

Take them to art museums to see great art. Take them to concerts to hear great music and see great theatre. Introduce them to great literature by either reading it to them or recommending they read it themselves. Or show them the great literature in movie form.

How to nurture your children's talents. 5 strategies that will help them find and develop their own unique talents and abilities.

And if you can swing it financially, get your kids in music lessons, sports, and/or other similar activities. My girls are required to do music lessons, but they have also done art camps and clinics, sports, and other various activities that come up that they are interested in doing. It's often a sacrifice of both money and time, but the girls have grown so much that it has been worth every bit of trouble.

3. Say yes whenever possible

This goes hand in hand with #2, but when your child does show an interest in something, say yes if you possibly can. There are understandable restraints (time, money, transportation, etc.), but many of them can often be overcome with creative thinking. Your kid wants to join the soccer team but you don't have enough money to pay the registration fees? Can you do a fundraiser with your child like selling baked goods to your neighbors? Did you ask Grandma & Grandpa? (My parents have paid for swim lessons, music lessons, and several other things when we haven't been able to swing it financially--I know I'm lucky, but it never hurts to ask!) Don't have the time? If your child wants it enough is she willing to cut out another activity? Can you have a friend help with transportation? We can always find a million reasons to say no in order to make our lives easier. But we miss out on so much opportunity and growth when we say no.

Last year, my girls all wanted to be in Fiddler on the Roof at the university. Inwardly, I groaned a little bit, because I knew it was going to make my life crazier than it already was. But I let them do it, and it was a once in a lifetime experience for them. I'm glad I made that sacrifice. This semester, Bria decided she wanted to join volleyball. Again, the inward groan. This semester is one of the craziest yet for me, and many of her practices and games conflicted with my own opera rehearsals. I did have to miss some of her games (and she had to miss one because of her orchestra concert), but we made it work. She had a wonderful experience and gained a lot of self-confidence (she hasn't tended to feel she's good at sports) and I'm glad I said yes. Now she's joined the track team, to which I say "good for her!"

Say Yes as Much as Possible

Sometimes it's harder to say yes to the little things. I find myself really wanting to say "NO WAY!" when my kids want to do an art project or some sort of science experiment in the house. In fact, I actually do say "NO WAY" to these things way more often than I should. I'm mostly thinking about the mess that will ensue and how much I don't want to deal with it. But we should say yes to the little things, too.

A quote by one of my heroines, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, helps me to remember why we should say yes to our children as often as we can:
“My mother taught me some basic philosophies of rearing children. One is that you have to trust them. I tried hard never to say "no" if I could possibly say "yes". I think that worked well because it gave my children the feeling that I trusted them and they were responsible to do the best they could.”
Don't you love that? Not only are we helping children to nurture their talents by saying yes to them, we are showing trust and giving them a sense of responsibility as well.

4. Allow them unsupervised play time

This goes along with saying yes to the little things, but let them have some time every single day to just be free of chores, music practice, or whatever else we require our children to do. Requirements are a good and necessary thing, but so is free time. I am in awe of the things my children do in their free time. As I type this, Chloe is sitting at the table near me working on building a lamp for her American Girl Dolls out of Q-tips, cardboard, and a plastic Easter egg. It even looks just like the Pixar lamp! Isn't it cute?

Allow unsupervised play time

One Saturday, Chloe came downstairs and asked if she could download a particular photo app onto the iPad. I didn't see any problem with it, so I got it for her, and she scampered off. A few hours later she emerged having made this:

I was absolutely floored.  She has since made a few more stop-motion videos and has involved her friend in it, too.

Bria tends to read in her spare time, or browse Pinterest, and learn all sorts of new hair-styling tricks. That girl can do some pretty amazing braid things on her sisters' and her own hair. I love it! Sophia likes to go outside in the backyard and conduct interesting experiments or build forts and things. One time she came in after having experimented with feeding dragonflies water droplets and wrote out her findings. Maybe she'll be an entomologist someday.

Children absolutely need this time to learn without their parents hovering over them every spare moment. This is the time where they really figure out their own interests and develop talents and skills that you may have never even thought of (like making stop-motion videos!).

5. Don't pigeonhole them

Since The Maestro and I are both professional musicians it would be very easy to just stick our children in musical activities and be done with it. We do require music because that is important to us, but it is also important to be well-rounded. And our children are not us. Bria is adamant that she will not be a violinist when she grows up, which is just fine with us. But we also know that the things she is learning in her musical endeavors will help her in whatever she chooses to pursue later in life and right now. It might not be obvious to her that the self-discipline she has learned by practicing her violin daily for ten years helps her in her schoolwork and even her volleyball.

Likewise—and I have been guilty of this—don't put your children into a box. I have done that a little with Chloe because she showed such an amazing artistic ability from a very young age. I didn't realize that I was doing harm in two ways:

First, I was sending her a message that she was ONLY good at art. I personally hate it when people think I am ONLY a singer, so I realize that this is true. She likes to make sure I know that she isn't just an artist and that she likes to do other things and is good at other things.

Second, I was making my other children feel that they weren't good at art. No bueno. Take it from me, don't do that. Besides, I was wrong. My other two are pretty great artists, too.

Look at what Bria recently did in her art class at school! She never showed a real interest in art until recently, and I am chastened, because this is a talent that can and should be nurtured if she would like it to be.

Don't Pigeonhole Your Children

Let your children tell you what they love. They know best. It's great to require certain things, like music, but otherwise take your cues from them and let them spread their wings and fly like Tinkerbell!

Purchase the Tinkerbell DVD here: Disney's The Pirate Fairy DVD
Purchase the Tinkerbell Book here: Tinkerbell: Two Pirate Tales