Friday, December 31, 2010

A Perfect Moment

I looked out my kitchen window the other day and was delighted to see mama and baby deer resting in my backyard.  These are the same deer that in the spring devour my tulips and in the summer feast on my rose buds and tomatoes just before I can enjoy them. But now watching their stillness in the quiet snow became a perfect moment.  I had to forgive them for eating all my hard work in the garden because on this day they had brought me peace.

Have Happiness and Peace in the New Year!  


Wednesday, December 29, 2010


It's that time again. It's time to look back over the year's accomplishments and mishaps to figure out what I did right and what I could have done better. I break up my life into sections(Family, Work, Brain, Body) and analyze each one. I write down specific examples of how I can improve. It's uplifting to see what I did manage to do in the midst of everyday craziness, but the best part of this journey is looking into the future and imagining what I can accomplish in the next year.  I try to be specific.  I write down things like: I want to read 50 books this year (I read 40 last year which is huge for me!); or Be able to do 25 push ups in a row (I won't tell you how many I can do now).  This way even by June I can tell if I'm on my way to accomplishing my goal or if I'm way off track.  If I'm off track, I either kick it up a notch or I realize that my goal wasn't really that important to me.  On New Year's Eve we sit down as a family and present our goals to one another. I think it helps the kids when they realize we are all working together to improve ourselves.  I asked my son if he had thought about his goals for 2011 yet.  He said he didn't have any goals except maybe to play video games more.  Oh well.

Have a Happy New Year!



Thursday, December 23, 2010

In a Fog

The past three days I have been walking around in the fog of a nasty cold.  Between wandering aimlessly through stores and working, I haven't had the energy to write.  Thanks for the comments while I was out.  Hopefully tomorrow I will have a clear enough head to write something worth while.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Foreign Food Fest--Thenthuk

Friday we held our weekly Foreign Food Fest.  The kids chose to celebrate Tibet. I was pleasantly surprised to find a great website with recipes, cultural info, and stunning photos of Tibet at   I chose a dish called "thenthuk" which is a beef noodle soup.  Alyssa and I even learned to  make the noodles by hand.  Pulling the dough, tossing it into the broth, and trying to see who could do it faster were moments I'll not soon forget. Then we decided to make a coconut rice pudding for dessert.  Alyssa made the pudding all by herself. We were all impressed with the results of both  the thenthuk and the pudding.  Our taste of Tibet was a delicious success!
I'll be posting both recipes at  Check out yowangdu's site to take you directly to the thenthuk recipe with a great video showing the noodle pulling technique.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kid Free?

No thanks.  Both my parents and my in-laws called last week.  They thought we needed someone to watch our kids while we enjoyed a romantic anniversary this weekend.  I appreciated the offer but I actually wanted our kids to be with us.  I asked my hubby what he thought.  He agreed.  We both realize the importance of quality time for the two of us, but we only have 4 more years before our oldest goes off to college.  Then the other two will be gone.  Honestly we want to spend all the time we can with them before they go.  When the house is quiet and we have it all to ourselves we will have plenty of time for the two of us.


P.S. Stay tuned for our Foreign Food Fest of the week.  This week's lucky country is ...... drum roll... Tibet.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hmmm The Smell of Fresh Bread

Unfortunately, it stayed bitter cold and windy yesterday so our snowman did not get made, but we did create memories in the kitchen.  We found a recipe for a simple white bread in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  The kids were intrigued to see how the yeast became frothy in the sugar water mixture.  Then I showed them how to knead the bread by hand.  Yes, a bread machine can do it all for you but where is the fun in that?  There is something special about putting your hands in the dough and connecting with your masterpiece.  Then it was time to wait as the tiny yeast cells magically made the dough rise.  In a world of instant gratification it is nice to have to wait for something good.  Alyssa punched down the dough and shaped a loaf by herself.  We let the loaves rise again and put them in the hot oven.  Soon the smell of fresh bread filled the house.  The loaves were a perfect honey brown.  Everyone wanted to slice into them right away, but again we had to be patient.  "They must cool first," I said.  We tried to busy ourselves with other activities, but that aroma kept calling us back.  Finally, we could wait no longer.  I sliced 5 pieces and we all sat around the table feasting on our creation.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Days!

My kids enjoy school, but nothing compares to the joy of a snow day!  I love them just as much as the kids do. I love waking them up at the normal time but instead of rushing them out of bed, I say, "Guess what, you have a snow day!  Go back to sleep."  The blizzard which has blanketed the Midwest for the past 5 days has brought some good.  Now, it's not all fun and games at our house on a snow day. As I write my girls are practicing their algebra while listening to a Mozart concerto.  Ryan is reading a picture book that teaches Chinese characters.  Later today I am planning to teach them how to bake bread, and if the temperature rises above 2 degrees we'll go out to build a snowman.  

Stay Warm

Monday, December 13, 2010


 Habari! That's "Hello" in Swahili.  Our Ugandan Feast was delicious.   2/3 of my kids thought it was good, which is always the true test of whether the meal was successful.  I made the mistake of mentioning the plantains in the matooke are similar to bananas. Jessica decided bananas don't belong in stew so she carefully moved them to the other side of the plate.  The curried potatoes were a hit with everyone.  If you're interested in the recipes, I'm posting them at my other blog,  foreign food fest.
Uganda borders Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya.  In 1962, it gained its independence from Britain.  According to the CIA World factbook website, 82 % of the population is employed in agriculture.  What I found heartbreaking was that Uganda ranks as the 9th highest country in HIV/AIDS deaths.  In 2007, 77,000 people died of AIDS in Uganda, a country which is about the size of the U.S. state of Oregon.  The median age of Uganda's population is 15 years compared to 36.8 years in the U.S.  I found a wonderful book on the tragic epidemic in Uganda called The Price of Stones by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri.  Mr. Kaguri lost a brother to AIDS and is now living in America and raising money to build schools for the many orphans which AIDS has created in his native country.  Check out his website at The Price of Stones.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Card Delight

Ice cream in Whistler Village

I wandered through 2010's memories this morning, in hopes of finding the perfect picture for our Christmas card.  I relived our family ski trips and the Mississippi riverboat ride where we spotted nesting bald eagles.  Less memorable moments were also captured, like my grandpa and me looking up something on the computer, the kids being silly together, and a shot of my son's toothbrush.  It amazed me how many instances I hadn't remembered until the photo jogged my memory.  Another year almost past.  I wonder about those tiny special moments, not captured on camera yet somehow stored in the depths of my mind.  What will bring their images into the light again?


Stay tuned for our Ugandan Feast for Friday Foreign Food Fest.  Hopefully my pictures will be better and if you have any traditional recipes let me know!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Wonderland

 A soft white blanket of snow.  Lazy snowflakes drift down, muffling all man made sound.  Tree limbs bow, laden with their heavy burden.  The only sign of life is a tufted titmouse at the bird feeder, fattening himself for the long winter.  The rest of the world lies in sweet repose.          


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Little Time Means a Lot

Last week Ryan asked me to help out with his class trip to the roller rink.   Usually his field trips are planned for times when I'm at work so I jumped at this opportunity to spend time with him.  When I arrived at the rink, the kids were already skating and he was looking around for me.  His eyes lit up when he saw me.  He told me I should go get skates on which I did apprehensively. (I might be good at ice skating, but roller skating is a different story!) We held hands and skated around the rink.  He  took me around to all his friends and introduced me to them.  He was able to go much faster than I was comfortable going.  He lapped me a few times, but he always came back to grab my hand.   We skated the "Hokey Pokey" together and then it was time to get all the kids back on the bus.  The time had gone so fast, but it was an hour that I will always remember.


Monday, December 6, 2010

A Finnish Success

Salmon with Dill Cream Sauce
Our Finnish dinner was a great success, but I am definitely not a food photographer.  I tried multiple times to make this salmon look as delicious as it tasted, to no avail.  The other picture I took was even worse.  I had a nice plate set up with the braised red cabbage, a piece of salmon, and the quark dessert off to the side.  My husband said the picture of the cabbage looked like a tarantula on the plate, so I chose to show only the salmon.  Anyway, the Salmon with Dill Cream Sauce was excellent and as a bonus it was quick and easy to prepare.  I did make one small change in the recipe, I added about 1/4 cup of plain Kefir (a yogurt type drink), because I didn't have enough cream.  I love Braised Red Cabbage so I was excited to try a new twist on  this dish.  The molasses gave it a delightful depth without too much sweetness. Then we ended with Quark Dessert.  I had no idea what this was at first.  But I found out that quark is very common in Northern Europe. It is actually a type of soft cheese.  I was able to find it in the grocery store and it was similar to creme fraiche.   I mixed fresh raspberries and blackberries with about a cup of quark and then folded that gently into lightly sweetened whipped cream.  It was the perfect end to our culinary visit to Finland.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Foreign Food Fest--Finland

Hei, (Hello in Finnish), today for our official Family Foreign Fest, we are sampling the delectable Scandinavian cuisine of Finland.  I was lucky enough to find a plethora of recipes on .  Currently I am simmering the red cabbage,  Haudutettu punakaali.  It smells delicious, unfortunately my pepper grinder broke over the cabbage and I have a little more pepper than I had planned. Oh well.  Later, I am preparing salmon in dill sauce and something called quark dessert.  I'll let you know how it goes.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If She's a Pirate

Sometimes our children leave us no choice.  We try to use rational parenting techniques, but kids aren't always receptive to reason.  Eventually negotiations break down and new tactics must be used.  The other night, my husband was trying to coax our son to brush his teeth.  He kept stalling, so my husband resorted to motivation by fear.  "No girl will want to marry you if your teeth are all black", he said.
"If she's a pirate she will", he answered. He nonchalantly picked up his toothbrush.  


Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Quiet Now

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving week.  I had to take a bolgcation for awhile as I was in charge of keeping 17 people fed and entertained for 3 days.  Though I'm exhausted today, it was well worth it. The 6 children ran around the house creating chaos but their laughter filled the house.  I loved helping my nieces with craft projects.  My 3 year old nephew finally was comfortable enough to wrap his arms around me and lay his chubby little cheek on my shoulder.  My younger brother and I made stuffed mushrooms and barbecued turkey sandwiches while debating global issues.  My older brother helped out with the dishes and gave me an update on all the new computer gadgets. I might have been the general in charge, but everyone pitched in to make this year's dinner successful.  What am I most thankful for?  I'm thankful that I took at least a little bit of special time to spend with each family member.  Because now that my house is quiet, I can feast on the memories that our family created.  (I'm also thankful that my husband accepts the craziness once a year so that we can have the whole family together in one place!)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It Has Begun

It has officially begun.  People start trickling in to my house tonight.  Yesterday my Mom and I went to the grocery store.  We had a list of all the items we needed. We kept forgetting to grab certain items, and we had difficulty finding others. It was like we were trapped in a never ending maze, going around and around in circles hoping to find our way out. Eventually, we overloaded our carts and decided it was time to go.  Now it's on to the cooking!


Monday, November 22, 2010


As usual, I have waited until the last minute! I have only 3 days now to prepare for turkey day. I shouldn't be sitting here blogging, I know, but I'm kind of addicted to it.  I can't wait until all the cleaning is done and everyone arrives.  The cooking is fun because I have some great helpers.  My mom helps me put everything together.  My grandpa one year helped me make phyllo mushroom triangles.  It was wonderful to have him brushing the phyllo sheets with butter and seeing how he carefully folded each one into it's triangular shape.  Another year my younger brother helped me make bruschetta.  I'm hoping I can get some other family members involved in the kitchen this year.  There is a special bonding that occurs when loved ones create a special dish together.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ancient Books

This is a depiction of the Trojan war.
We went to the Art Museum on Saturday.  We looked around for about 2 hours.  The kids  loved seeing the Egyptian sarcophagi (my husband said the plural was sarcophaguses but I looked it up). I enjoyed everything but I was entranced by the illuminated books.  This one, from France, was done in 1470 AD.   The gold leafing, vibrant colors, and intricate patterns were astounding.   How many hours were spent creating this single page?  I imagined holding it and running my fingers across the beautiful Latin words. The words themselves were foreign to me. I wondered how many hands had held this treasure and what stories could be told of its own history?


Friday, November 19, 2010

Crazy Morning

Couldn't find Ryan's homework... Ryan missed the bus (probably because I was blogging!)... took him to school... took my boots to be repaired... got oil change... went to the bank... went to buy a birthday present... went to the grocery store...finally home.  Now I can eat lunch relax...check my Google calendar to make sure I'm doing everything...then go to work... take Ryan to the birthday party... make dinner... pick Ryan up... eat dinner... read for 2 minutes before I'm snoring.


Precious Moment

Last night while my son was getting ready for bed, he found my big pink comb on the counter.  He grabbed the comb and motioned for me to sit on the bathroom floor.  He stood behind me, gently combing small sections.  He walked around and carefully checked out how it looked in front.  His little fingers stroked through my shoulder length hair.  His mind was absorbed in taking care of me.  Most nights, I repeatedly remind him to get ready for bed, while he bounces around trying to add play time to a day that has already passed.  Last night, I let him comb my hair until he was done.  He took another look at his work and plopped down in my lap, hugging me.  He suggested I get a hair cut.  I couldn't make that moment last forever, but the memory of it will.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where Does Passion Come From?

I've coached skating for 20 years.  My own girls have skated since they could walk, but they have never really wanted to "learn" correct techniques. They wanted to slide around and have fun.  That was fine with me.  I never pushed them to take lessons, though I secretly wished they would have the same passion for the sport that I have.  I did however, want to see something spark their interests.  I was worried that nothing inspired their hearts to greatness.  They were happy being adequate in all their activities whether it was violin, piano, school, or sports. At 11 and 13,  maybe they were still too young.  How do parents ignite passion in their children? Is it possible? Do you have to wait until it shows itself? Can you subtly speed along the process? Or do you let them be adequate?  All these questions filled my head.  
Then everything changed.  I still don't know what happened, but all of a sudden my girls are begging me to give them lessons and skate as much as possible.  I asked them what was different and even they had no explanation.    I don't know if they will stick with skating or move onto something else, but now that they are another year older they at least have a burning desire to be great at something.         


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Life's Little Bloopers #1

Every once in a while I do something really stupid. I turn red, my cheeks flush with warmth and I try to hide from the world for a few moments.  I realize that every human has their dumb moments, but I don't have a list of these readily available to make me feel better. (Misery loves company right?)  So with that in mind, I am starting a series of posts in which I display all my bloopers.  This is my way of giving back, to help others realize that there is at least one person out there who has done something even dumber.

My First Thanksgiving Turkey:

I didn't realize that turkeys had to be defrosted for a couple days before cooking.  My college room mate and I tried taking it out of the fridge and letting it sit for about 2 hours. Then we put the icy bird into the oven.  After about 3 hours of roasting, we took it out to check on it.  The top layer was ok, but about 1/4 inch into the bird, it was still frozen.  I decided we should just turn up the temperature.  Our fiances showed up about an hour later.  We tried to serve what we could.  We each got about 1 slice.  (It probably wasn't safe to eat, but we didn't know that either.)  I don't quite remember, but I think we must have all gone straight for the store bought pumpkin pie and dinner rolls.  Somehow we survived the night and our fiancees did end up marrying us, so I guess it wasn't a total loss.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Only 6

My son doesn't seem to think he is only 6.  Somehow he envisions that he should be able to draw like an adult or play the piano with no mistakes.  This proves wildly frustrating for him when he does not perform up to his own expectations.  I haven't quite figured out the right parenting method to deal with this when he wads up all his school papers and proclaims that "this is the worst day ever!"  The other day, however I was treated to a glimpse of the future.
We stopped at an Italian bakery before going to a performance of a local youth orchestra.   Ryan enjoyed his cherry butter cookie so much that he wanted to ask the guy behind the counter what the recipe was.  I told him, I didn't think the guy would give it to him.  But Ryan persisted.  He walked up to the counter wearing his little suit jacket and tie and peered over the top.  The guy didn't notice him at first, but Ryan waited patiently for the other customer to be finished.  Then he calmly asked his question.  He came back to our table with a look of satisfaction.  No, he didn't get the recipe. The guy didn't know how to make them either, but Ryan was proud that he had tried .  At that moment I didn't see him as a 6 year old and I was happy that he didn't either.


Monday, November 15, 2010

A Little Surprise

We spent most of the day Saturday going through our usual routine of sports classes, homework and a trip to the library. My husband wanted to do something special for the kids in the evening.  We decided to order pizza and not tell them.  In fact, we told them we were going to have squash soup and salad for dinner, their least favorite selection! They grumbled and groaned. Then we put in a movie.  I prepared a salad so they wouldn't get suspicious and said I would make the soup after the movie. I also ran upstairs to call the pizza place.
Everyone was engrossed in the movie, then the doorbell rang. "Who could that be?" They asked.  I went to the door and my son followed me.  I handed him the bottle of soda while I paid for the pizza. "It's pizza! Who ordered pizza?  Dad did you order it?" They asked. They started running around excitedly. My husband and I acted like we had no clue how the pizza got there.
"I guess we don't have to have squash soup now", my husband said. They all laughed as they realized we had in fact planned the whole thing. We had our party on the floor, in front of the paused movie.
"Thanks Mom and Dad, you're the best!" They said.  It was a great way to spice up a routine Saturday.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Mighty Ganges

It looks calm here, but believe me there are huge rapids around the bend!
I didn't want to do it.  I was scared.  I'm not comfortable in raging water... but would I ever have this opportunity again?  My husband promised me that we would only raft down the tiny rapids.  Ok.  I was going rafting for the first time in my life and it was on the Mighty Ganges River.  Our guide handed out life jackets and explained in excruciating detail of what to do when something goes wrong, like when you fall out and get trapped under the boat.  My husband glanced back at me, his crooked smile didn't reassure me.  I felt the color draining from my face.  Then it was time to climb into the boat.  It was my last chance to say I would meet them when they returned.  But some other force took hold of me and I meekly stepped into the raft.  One guide sat behind me which made me feel better.  I hoped he could reach out and grab me if I came loose from the tiny rubber craft.
We came upon the first rapids.  My heart pounded in my chest.  The guide told us to paddle and I did exactly what he said.  We made it through. I sighed with relief.  Everyone else in the boat slapped the water with their paddles in celebration like we were at a football game!  The second one was a little bigger.  I could see the water swirling into whirlpools. To my right, sharp jagged cliffs rose out of the water.  The boat dipped into the  holy river and my husband and the other guys got wet. They all laughed. How were they enjoying this? I was just so happy to still be in the boat.
Then, my heart sank.  I saw before me a wall of water towering above us.  How could this flimsy rubber vessel possibly make it through that? My brain screamed. The guide commanded us to paddle.  I clutched the paddle as if it was my life line.  I blocked everything out except that small space of broiling water that I aimed for with my paddle.  I don't understand how it happened, but our little craft, crested the wave and easily traveled down the other side.  I didn't even get wet, but everyone else on the boat was nearly soaked.  They laughed and cheered. The guide behind me made fun of my wigging out, and I laughed too.  Our last rapids was the easiest and this time I wasn't scared. I also got drenched. Then I finally understood.  Our guides had steered the boat, so that I, "the terrified one", would get a smooth easy ride and everyone else would still get a thrill.
We drifted to a serene beach near Rishikesh. I was, at the same time, relieved to be disembarking and sad that our once in a lifetime adventure was at an end. Would I do it again?  You bet.

I'd love to hear of adventures that you were at first terrified by, but conquered anyway.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Time Chage

For those of you living in "Daylight Savings Time" area, I hope you all remembered to set your clocks back on Sunday morning.  Last spring I totally forgot.  One of my friends called me up from work asking why I wasn't there yet.  I thought she was kidding. (She likes to joke around a lot!)  Then I realized my time snafu.  It seems I have always had difficulty with concepts of time.  I remember when I was much younger, I called up a store to find out their hours and I asked them if it was their Daylight Standard Time hours or their previous hours.  The lady on the other end thought I was a complete idiot.  I just wanted to make sure I got there before they closed.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Review

I just finished reading Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.  I had been wanting to read it for awhile, but it just kept moving to the bottom of my "to read" pile.  Then my husband strongly suggested that I move it to the top.  I'm glad I heeded his advice.  In his book, Mr. Colvin, uses research to prove his point that "talent",  the way we most often use the word, is not inborn.  It comes from what he terms "deliberate practice".  Mindlessly swinging the golf club at the range doesn't do it.  You have to create a system where you search for your inadequacies, then focus all your energy on strengthening those aspects of your game.  Anyone can do it but it takes a ton of work..... more than most people are willing take on.  I thought it was very inspiring.  No one should ever think they don't have the "talent" for something and give up.  If you want it, whether it's in sports, music, business, or life in general, diligently work on your weak areas and you will improve.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chasing Turkeys

 Turkey....oh so juicy and delicious with mashed potatoes and gravy.  That is until I saw them up close and personal.  My kids and I were strolling through the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum enjoying the many species of flora.  All of a sudden we heard a rustle, then something ran out of the bushes like a velociraptor hunting prey.  My daughter yelled, "Turkey", and the chase was on.  The four of us tried to sneak up on the large bird, but kids aren't the quietest of species.  It ran out into the open this time and we just took off after it.  It was quickly out of range.  I never imagined that turkeys could run so fast!  We again tried the slow sneaky approach, which was a good thing because somehow, now there were 5 turkeys. We hid behind the bushes.  My son thought he was a real spy as he looked through the binoculars we had brought with us.  You wouldn't think that a bird with such a tiny head has much of a brain, but every time we inched closer, they sensed it and scattered.  Finally, we decided to hide behind a group of pines and just watch them.  We couldn't believe what happened next.  Another group of about 5 turkeys appeared and both groups started squabbling.  It was like family members at a reunion.  The noise level increased, until the two groups faced off around a tree and a turkey fight began.  They were jumping and squawking and chasing each other.  Just as quickly as it had started they all ran off and it was quiet again.  The kids and I looked at each other amazed. I looked around and wondered where the heck we were.  Great we were lost....thank goodness I had tucked the Garmin in my backpack.
Thanksgiving will never be the same!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Summer Memories

Some of my favorite memories from childhood, were made on the lake fishing with my Grandpa.  I don't get to the lake as often anymore, but I cherish every moment in his little oar powered boat.  It renews my spirit to float on the water, listening to the gentle lapping of waves against the boat.   The occasional swan glides across the surface and Grandpa tries to impart his many years of wisdom to me.  Sometimes we catch fish but that's not really why I'm there.
Now that the first frost has fallen upon the ground, I remember these summer days on the water and it warms my heart.


Monday, November 1, 2010


Today is November 1st.  I can't believe how fast time has flown by this year.  It's gone so fast, that last month I actually submitted my time card for work and I wrote a "3" in for the month.  My manager called me just to make sure I wasn't putting in time from March!  My brain couldn't process that we were already in the 10th month of the calendar.
Now, I only have 24 days to plan the menu and get the house ready for our big Thanksgiving feast.  Every year I host Thanksgiving dinner for our family.  11 adults and 6 kids.  Yes I am crazy!!  They all stay right here in our house for 3 days.  We don't have room for everyone, so at night the kids all "camp out" on the floor.  By Saturday, total chaos descends on the house as the kids run around crazy from their inevitable lack of sleep and from the sugar pumping through their veins.  The adults stay up late talking, playing cards, cooking, and eating more pie than we should.  It's all great though. It's the only time the whole family is together. Throughout the year, we all look forward to those 3 days in November when we are all under the same roof.    


Sunday, October 31, 2010


We just carved our pumpkin, yes I know a little late, but my son didn't care. He told me how he is going to teach his kids to carve pumpkins when he is a dad. Then, he really wanted to dig into all the candy that I was pouring in the bowl to hand out.  I told him he had to wait until he gets his own. (I don't quite understand why we make our kids walk around in the cold spooky night when we have a huge bowlful, at home.) But I know my son and I will have fun walking around in the cold together.

 p.s. I just wanted to say how proud I am of all my students.   Not all of them passed their tests, but I was very proud of the way everyone skated!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Testing Day

Today is testing day for many of my skaters.  Passing tests is the only way a skater moves to a new level.  It's nerve racking.  Three judges sit at the side of the rink and zero in on every mistake like a hungry eagle hunting mice.  If the skater performs the particular set of skills well, they receive a "Pass".  If not, the dreaded "Retry".  If I have done my job correctly, all the skater has to do is stay calm, hopefully the skating just flows.  Unfortunately, this is not an easy task.  Some skaters attach so much to passing the test that they "lose their legs" out on the ice.  They wobble, they forget their patterns, ......they fall.  But skating is all about handling pressure.  As their coach all I ask is that they do their best and get back up if they fall.  There is always another test.
Good Luck to all my students!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's a Stretch

In order to effectively do my job, I have to demonstrate certain techniques on the ice. Because I'm quickly approaching the big 40, I have to make sure I stretch regularly to prevent injury. When I was younger, there were many times in the day that I set aside for stretching.  Now, it is much more difficult.  I managed, however, to find the perfect time.  My husband thinks I'm totally crazy (which I probably am), but I do it while I'm brushing my teeth.  I have one of those electric toothbrushes that beeps when you're supposed to switch sides.  I hate just standing there waiting, so while the toothbrush scrubs my molars, I put one leg up on the sink and stretch.  When I hear the beep, it's time to switch sides.
It only adds up to 2 minutes of stretching, but once I have started it's hard to stop.  Usually, I continue for another 10 minutes, then I'm relaxed and ready to go to sleep.  I only wish I could read my book at the same time.  Oh well.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sick Day

My son, who's 6, is home sick today with a fever and a cough.  I never like it when my kids are sick, but I have to admit I like it when they are home.  I wanted to make him a light breakfast that would help his throat feel better.  He asked for miso soup, ginger tea, and Jello.  Luckily, I had all the ingredients on hand because my wonderful mother-in-law keeps my pantry stocked with the staples of Japanese cuisine.
After breakfast, I told him he should lay down and rest.  He wanted to put in a movie.  I didn't want it to distract my daughters from their schooling (I homeschool them).  He decided to watch a production of the Metropolitan Opera  performing Mozart's Magic Flute. He likes the dragon in it. So while I'm writing and the girls are studying, he is laying on the couch listening to the Queen of the Night's transcendental arias.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Going Off to College

Last summer my 13 year old daughter had the exciting opportunity to take classes at Northwestern University.  She had never been on her own before.  Though she is a responsible kid, I was nervous to think that she would be 5 hours away from us for 3 weeks! I was going to miss her terribly. She was still so young, at least in my mind. She and my husband, however had confidence that she would be fine.
She filled up the van with more than 3 weeks worth of clothing.  We stuffed ourselves in and drove her from Ohio to the Chicago area.  As we approached the University, her stomach began to tighten into knots.  We  arrived at the dorm where she would be staying.  We had to practically pull her to the different check-in lines. It was like her brain had shut down as she waited for us to figure things out for her.  Finally, my husband decided that if she was going to make this work, she had to start being independent now.  So we sat on a bench in the lobby and we told her to go figure things out.  She kind of wandered around, shyly asking a few people questions.  She came back and reported half an answer.  My husband gave her his quizzical look meaning, "What, are you sure that makes sense?"  She would return to the line to ask a follow up question.  Eventually, we met her roommate and unpacked all her things.  It was now time to leave.  I told myself that I couldn't cry because it would make her upset.  She and I were both fine until my son gave her a good bye hug and refused to let go. He looked like a monkey clinging to his tree for dear life.
"We can't leave her!" He said.  Now three of us were crying.  We pried his fingers from her and got back into the van for a long quiet ride back to Ohio.
3 weeks without my first child did not fly by, but soon we were all happily climbing back in the van to pick her up.  When we arrived back on campus, we were supposed to wait for her at the dorm. But we wanted to see her as soon as possible, so we walked to her class building and waited outside.  When she came out of class, my son was the first to run up and jump into her arms.  Back at her room, we packed up all her things.  This time, she quickly and efficiently found out exactly how to check out and return her keys.  She had gained a new confidence in herself.  It was great to see.

I'm definitely not looking forward to the day she goes off to college for 4 years, but I can't wait to see what she becomes when she is finished.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something Good

I have a friend at work who is trying to improve his diet. He knows that I'm kind of a health food nut, so he asked me if I had any suggestions.  He already knew that he should be eating mostly fruits and veggies, but it was hard for him to come up with interesting ways to eat them.
I love yogurt and I'm a firm believer that ever since I started ingesting massive quantities, I've been a lot healthier.  I suggested he add more yogurt to his meals, but I wasn't convinced that he would.  I decided to bring him a sample dish to show him how yummy yogurt could be.  I brought  in a large plastic container of my Yogurt Apple Salad, a spoon, and a bowl.  He gobbled up his bowlful and said he would rather have that than dessert.  Yeah! I left him the rest of the container. I was thrilled that he enjoyed it. I know that my salad alone won't make the world healthier place, but I was happy to have given him a healthy and tasty option.  The next day I came in to work and he had finished the last spoonfuls, told everyone else about it, and asked for the recipe!
So here it is:

Kathy's Yogurt Apple Salad

1-2 apples chopped (peeling is optional, I keep the peel on because it's good for ya!)
1 stick celery chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped grapes
About 2 cups French Vanilla yogurt (I use Stonyfield Farms whole milk variety)
chopped pecans-optional
About 1 T of honey or to taste

Simply mix the apples, grapes, and nuts(if using) in a bowl.  Mix in the yogurt to thoroughly cover all the ingredients.  Add the cinnamon and honey.  Mix and serve and enjoy!  Store refrigerated.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Piano Trouble

My son has grown up with music.  My girls have played the piano and violin since before he was born. It was only natural that he would want to start playing himself instead of merely watching their lessons.  This year, as he turned 6, he decided he wanted to try piano.  The first few trial lessons went very well.  He seemed to catch on quickly and the teacher suggested he have his own 1/2 hour lesson.  This last week however, we hit a major bump in the musical road.
 He was told by his teacher that he needed to practice his 4 songs 6 times every day.  We sat down to practice one night and he asked me how many total songs that meant.  When I told him 24, I thought he was going to run out of the room.  He did however sit on the bench and begin to play, but not the songs he was supposed to practice.  He wanted to make up his own songs.  I sat behind him and let him play his own composition until I felt he might not stop on his own. We turned to his song and we started to review the notes. (I'm far from a musician myself but I know enough of the basics to guide him.)  He read the first three notes keeping the time as he spoke.  The fourth note he said incorrectly and he knew it before I even said anything, so he started over. This time he made it to the 6th note, so he started over.  Now he reached the end of the first line.... and he started over.  By this time his short fuse was about to ignite and he hadn't even played the song yet.  He felt he had to be perfect and if he wasn't he had to start over. I told him he should keep going but he refused. After about 20 minutes of this, I was able to get him to begin playing.  Unfortunately, we went through the same routine.  I quickly decided that our practice session of 24 songs was going to have to be trimmed down to maybe 1.  
I finally told him that as soon as he made it through the whole song (which was only 2 lines), we could get ready for bed.  Despite how much he wanted to be done practicing, he continued to start over at the slightest mistake in note or tempo. I wasn't even pointing out the errors, he did it all himself and I just sat there behind him.  I honestly had no idea what to do.  But I felt that if I let him give up and go to bed it would set a bad precedent.  So we continued to sit at the piano, both of us now exhausted.
After about an hour of this he finally finished the whole song and it was almost perfect, he made one tiny error on the last note.  But I quickly said,"Okay you're done. Great job!"  He sat on my lap on the couch and we listened to my daughter play Beethoven's Fur Elise. We were both so glad to be finished.  I asked him if we could finish tomorrow's practice a little bit quicker.  He smiled a knowing smile and said, "Mom, I love you."


For the Birds

I was excited to hang my new bird feeder.  I found the perfect place for it.  I could see it from the kitchen window or the the patio door.   Soon my feathered friends appeared and happily feasted on the seed mix.  I had woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, cardinals, chickadees, goldfinch and the occasional Eastern Mountain bluebird.  The kids were so intrigued by all the different species that we borrowed a bird book from the library.
Then the squirrels came.  At first, it was funny to see how the they jumped from the deck rail to the feeder, or how they hung upside down from the tree managing to get only a few seeds before twisting and plopping to the ground.  Soon, however,  the squirrels taught themselves how to bat at the feeder to knock the seeds onto the ground, where they could gobble them all up in minutes.  One even figured out how to hang upside down, stretch  out, pull the feeder up with his tiny paws and stick his nose into the seed tube.  Of course all this squirrelly activity frightened the birds.  I kept refilling the feeder naively thinking that eventually the squirrels would have their fill.  Who was I kidding, even I don't turn down free food when I'm full!  This went on for a while until they had eaten the plastic tubing as well and the feeder didn't even hold seeds anymore.  Now it was war.  I bought a suet feeder.  They can't knock the seeds out and the wire cage prevents their pesky little noses from getting in.
It was peaceful again, and the birds returned.  I had won!  I had outsmarted those little tree rodents.
I woke up the next morning eager to see my birdy neighbors.  I looked out the window and all the suet was gone! Maybe the squirrels are smarter than me after all.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Harder Than I Thought

"The hardest part is the writing", people said about making a blog.  I kept putting it off, feeling I should read  Computers for Dummies, first. Then, my daughter started one.  Even though she has taught me all I know about cellphones and Facebook, I figured, if she could do it so could I.  I decided it was time to try.
The set up wasn't hard, until I had to insert some code onto my site.  I read over the directions.  I read them again.  I couldn't figure out what they meant.  It was like I was trying to read Chinese. I kept trying all sorts of things, but nothing worked.   My older brother, who designs software, could have done the task in two minutes.  I sat staring at those words for three days.  It haunted me in my sleep.  I searched the internet.  Every search resulted in the same foreign words.  I was about to give up and email my brother, when I happened across a slightly different explanation, one with real words not written for a computer to read.  It worked! "I figured it out!" I yelled.  I jumped up from the computer and pumped my fists to the sky like I had just scored the winning goal of the Stanley Cup.  My brother will be so proud!  I thought. The kids were just happy that now I could leave the computer for awhile.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Pie Part 2

My girls and I had a great time making apple pie together.  They helped me peel the apples, mix the filling, make the crust and roll it out.   Usually, when I make a pie, they aren't all that interested in helping.  They might add a few ingredients and then get distracted by something more interesting.  But this time, I loved it that they seemed to want to learn how to make a pie and to spend time with me.  I felt so honored that my teenager and almost teen wanted to spend their day that way.
Even my son helped out with decorating the top crust.  We put it in the oven and eagerly awaited for it to be done.  After about 40 minutes, the top was golden brown and tempting us with its aroma of cinnamon and sugar. We could hardly wait for my husband to get home so we could eat dinner and then have a slice.  It was worth the wait.


Fall's Splendor

Okay, I haven't written much the last couple of days. We have been thoroughly enjoying the glorious fall weather.   We spent most of the weekend outside taking in the gold and crimson trees and the crsip air.  I worked in the garden, replanting lilies that had patiently waited months for my attention. My son helped me dig and my 12 year old captured fall's splendor with my camera.  We went to an apple orchard/cider mill and bought a few more cinnamon doughnuts than we really needed, but they were delicious with fresh cider.
Sunday, we spent 3 hours hiking. We let our  6 year old son lead us through the trails. He loved glancing at the trail map and figuring out where we were.  It was a little slow going, as he often stopped to pick up sticks or look at leaves. The girls busied themselves taking pictures of mushrooms. It was wonderful seeing them share the joy of being in the woods together.
We arrived back at the car and my son said, "That was one of the best days ever!"


Apple Pie

I'm teaching the girls how to make apple pie.  It's their first time.  I'll write when we're finished.


Friday, October 15, 2010

My New Hair

For the first time in my life, I went to get my hair colored in a salon. (Yes, I realize that's odd.)  I went with a good friend and we had fun. But we sat in the chair for 3 hours and it was beyond expensive!  I was thankful I had a gift card.
That afternoon, I wore my hair down to work, which I never do, and I got a lot of compliments.  Really, though, my hair didn't look all that different except a slight tint of red in the brown. The real test was going to be whether my husband noticed when he returned from his business trip.
He got home and the kids all ran to him like a football line intent on tackling him.  We formed a giant group hug.  We asked him how his trip went and then we all settled back into our normal routines.  A few hours passed and the kids headed upstairs to get ready for bed. I couldn't wait any longer, I had to ask.  "Did you notice anything?"
He gave me a quizzical look.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Long Day

Yesterday was a long day.  There was work and violin lesson, late meetings and another trip to the grocery store.  We finally got home around 8:30 p.m. I had promised the kids I would make them spaghetti and meat sauce, so I started cooking the pasta.  When the angel hair was delightfully al dente, I proceeded to the sink to drain it.  My daughter, who was helping me cook, was talking to me and somehow as I was bringing the pasta over to the bowl, we bumped.  In slow motion, I watched the noddles squirm out of the colander. I tried to catch them but they only swam to the floor faster.  There on the floor in a steaming pile, sat our dinner.  "Quick, Mom, get them."  I felt a little uneasy serving my kids noodles that had just been all over my not too clean kitchen floor.   So we all stared at them for a moment.  The kids wondered if I might lose it and decide we were all going to eat cereal instead.  But I started laughing and reached for another noodle box. By the time dinner was done, I was exhausted.
 The kids started getting ready for bed and the phone rang.  It was my 89 year old grandpa.  He sounded tired too.  "How ya doing Gramps?"  I asked.
"Well, Tiger, (he has called me Tiger ever since I can remember), I'm awfully tired.  It's terrible I don't seem to have much energy these days",  he said.
"Well, what have you been doing? "  I asked a little concerned.
"You know that pine tree out in the front yard, it got hit by lightening last year, so I chopped it down today and I hauled the wood in the wheelbarrow to the back.  Then I started making a raised planting bed in its place.  You should see it.  I think it will look real nice." He said, excited now about his future planting space.
"Wow Gramps, that sounds like a lot of work. All I did was go to work and make dinner", I said.
"I know but I used to be able to do so much more",  he sighed.  Then I remembered him telling me how he hand dug the foundation for his house with a shovel back in 1946.  He spent 3 weeks digging, every night after work. Finally, he had a large enough area to build a house with his own hands for his young family.  All of a sudden I didn't feel like my day had been all that long.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Food Fit for Columbus

On Monday my son, who is in first grade, learned about Columbus Day.  They did an activity at school showing the kinds of foods Columbus brought with him on his ship for the long journey across the ocean.  Then he was supposed to draw the items that he would bring.  I was a little unsure as to what they were so I asked him.  He pointed to the pictures and said, "I would pack strawberry milk, Cheese-its, edamame (soybeans), and lollipops."  I looked at the pictures and now I could see all those items.  He was very proud of his work.

 I chuckled.  "Great job, I love your drawings", I said as I thought about how all my advice on choosing healthy foods must be only partly sinking in.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kids at the Grocery Store

I took the kids to the grocery store.  I had a list.  We were going to run in, get the 5 items on the list and get home.  It didn't quite turn out that way.  The fruit and veggie aisle didn't cause much trouble.  My son, who's 6, asked for watermelon and I couldn't turn him down seeing that it was watermelon.  We got the milk and yogurt, and then turned into the other aisles.  First thing I hear, "OOH Mom, look at this.  Doesn't it look soooo yummy?" my son asked pointing to some chocolate covered boxed doughnuts.    
"Oh yes but that isn't very good for you."  I replied trying to quickly move away from that area.  At least my son was in the cart today so I could steer him away. 
Then I heard my 12 year old saying, "Mom we should get this for our lunches it looks quick and easy."
I took the frozen package from her and glanced at the ingredients.  It was longer than my "To Do" list.  Most of them I couldn't even pronounce.  I try to stick to the rule that we don't eat things from the chemistry lab.  So I said, "No not that." Then we went down the cereal aisle.  I should have known this was a mistake but I needed more oatmeal.  This time all three of them started talking at once. 
"Can we have this one, no this one, no this one."
"You guys, you know these are filled with high fructose corn syrup.  We can't have that."  I replied exasperated. 
My 14 year old then wandered to the ice cream section.  There she was looking at all the different kinds. "Mom, Dad said he really wanted ice cream.  I think we should get this chocolate one for him." She said with a sly smile.
"Oh fine we'll get ice cream."  I said. I couldn't wait to get out of the store.  We made it home and as the kids and I unpacked the groceries, I realized that I had forgotten two of the items on my list.  Great, I thought.  I have to go back to the store tomorrow.
But after dinner we all enjoyed a big bowl of ice cream.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Stars Aligned

Usually I go through a day adding more items to my "To do" list than I manage to cross off.  By the end of the  week it looks like a book.  Sometimes I wonder if  a list even helps or if it just showcases my procrastination.   Yesterday, however, I managed to cross off 6 of the tasks on my list!  I don't know how it happened... maybe the stars were aligned for productivity.  Whatever it was, I didn't think about all the reasons why I couldn't do something, I just did it.   It didn't even take all that long to accomplish each item. I ended the day feeling great and I wasn't any more exhausted than normal.  I think I was even energized by the feeling of accomplishment.  If only I could repeat this daily, maybe my list would disappear.  But then I guess adding to the list is the only way to keep moving forward.  I don't really want to come to the end, I just want tasks crossed off sooner.  I'll take it one day at a time and hope that today I can continue doing instead of making up excuses.


Carrot Cake

Today was my daughter Alyssa's 12th birthday.  She wanted a carrot cake.  I told my son we had to make a cake for her and he asked, "Why don't you just buy one?"  Good point,  I thought, but for some reason I wanted to bake it for her.  I had never made a carrot cake before so I found what seemed like a good recipe online.  I don't have a food processor so I started shredding the carrots by hand on a box shredder.  The first one went fast.  By the time I got to the 5th carrot, my arms were getting tired and I tried to remember why I didn't go buy a cake.  It would have been so much easier!
Then the aroma of whipped butter, sugar and vanilla wafted through my kitchen.  I added the carrots and the batter transformed into a beautifully orange fluffy concoction.  As it baked the kids all gathered around the oven to see how it was progressing.  After about 25 minutes it was a wonderful golden brown color.  I whipped the  cream cheese and powdered sugar frosting while the cake cooled.  Getting the cake out of the pan was definitely a challenge.  First it got stuck, then it sort of came out in large chunks.  But I pieced it together and smothered it with frosting before anyone could see the damage.
I brought out the cake.  Alyssa's eyes widened and she smiled her beautiful smile. "It looks delicious, Mom." she said. We sang "Happy Birthday", she made her wish, and blew out her candles.  I don't know what she wished for, but my wish had just come true. Yes, it would have been easier to buy her a cake, but all the hard work of shredding carrots was well worth the satisfaction of knowing I had created something special for her.
"Mom, this is amazing!" she said, taking her first bite.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where Are the Keys?

Late as usual, I rushed the kids out of the minivan and into their piano lesson.  I locked the door and as I was closing it I got a funny feeling, "Don't close the door, don't close the door", but my actions were too fast for my hurried brain to stop what it was doing.  As soon as the door was closed, my brain caught up to what was happening.  "Arrggghhh!  I think I just locked the keys in the car!  Great!" I muttered to myself.  The kids had already gone into their lesson.

 I walked into the lesson frazzled.  I could feel my face heating up with embarrassment.  "I just locked my keys in the car", I announced.  

Luckily the piano teacher just said, "Oh no, don't worry you can use my phone and call the police.  I think they can open it for you."  She looked up the number for the local police department and handed me her phone.  I was afraid it might mess up the rest of her day, if we had to hang out at her house and wait for the police.  I knew she had more students coming.  But she showed no annoyance only sympathy for how I must be feeling.  She simply continued the lesson with my daughter, while I sat waiting, hoping the police could open it. 

I don't know how he arrived so quickly, but it must have been no more than 5 minutes and the policeman showed up.  It took him less than 3 minutes to open my door, and there on the floor between the front seats, laid my keys.  I had put them there to hand the piano books to my daughter. I thanked him profusely, but I got the feeling that I wasn't the first frazzled person he had unlocked a door for.  I went back into the piano lesson which was just wrapping up.  I thanked the teacher for helping out and we left on time.  As we piled into the van, heading for a school concert, I started laughing and soon the kids joined in.  I couldn't believe that so much had gone wrong and yet we were still on time, because the piano teacher had helped me fix the problem instead of dwelling on what was wrong.     
Life is too short to dwell on the negatives, I thought.  Even the Mayo Clinic agrees.  On their website at it states that positive thinking can:
·         increase life span
·         increase resistance to common cold virus
·         reduce risk of heart disease

 "One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body."

 Though I will try my hardest to never again lock my keys in the car, I know eventually, it will happen.  But this time I will laugh sooner.

Start with a smile, it will help you face the day!


Friday, October 1, 2010

My Inspiration

I was extremely lucky in the parent lottery.  Lots of kids have good parents, lots have bad parents, but not too many have great parents.  Mine were (and still are) great!  I'm not saying they were perfect, but honestly, I wouldn't change  much about them.  

Now as an adult, I am thankful for the daily inspiration they provide me.  My mom wouldn't like me divulging her age, but let me just say that I am 38 and they are about 30 years older than me.  They haven't slowed down one bit since becoming grandparents 14 years ago.  My mom is still passing figure skating tests,coaching, water skiing, and regularly wearing all her grandchildren out.  I hardly ever see her sitting still.  
When my dad isn't reading a good book, he is playing goalie (hockey), water skiing, or helping me dig numerous holes in my rock hard garden.  Neither Mom nor Dad has ever taken age into consideration.  They just keep on playing as hard as they can.  They never complain of the aches and pains they must be feeling from all this activity.            
So on those mornings when my body creaks, cracks and aches, I think of my parents and I remind myself that yes I'm not 20 anymore but that's ok.  You'll still find me on the ice when I'm 80.

You're never too old to be active!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

41 Countries in 41 Weeks

  No we didn't go on a 41 week vacation.  We stayed home.  But for 41 weeks, our family of 5 took a culinary trip around the world.  One Friday night the kids decided they wanted to have Chinese food on our regular Pizza Party night.  So being the mom who always goes a little overboard, I thought it would be fun to supplement our frozen potstickers with some traditional home made Chinese food.  The problem was that even though I am a decent cook I had never made anything Chinese from scratch.  So I spent a few hours searching for recipes on the internet.  I finally decided on potstickers, chicken fried rice and hand made steamed beef curry dumplings.  It took longer to make than our usual dinner, but I learned some new techniques.

The kids set the table for the feast and we all sat down to eat.  Though the dumplings didn't quite look picture perfect, they tasted great.  Even our 6 year old who pecks at food like a sparrow, gobbled up everything on his plate.  We spent the rest of the night watching the kids' favorite movies and playing Guitar Hero together.  "Can we do this every week Mom?" asked Ryan.
"Yeah can we pick a different place each week?"  Jessica and Alyssa added.
I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into, but I replied, "Yeah I think we could do that."
"Let's study all about each country for the week, and make signs with words from the language, and get pictures, and    ........"  Alyssa was fired up.
"Ok.  I think that's a great idea.  You guys can even help me cook the food", I said, starting to think it was a great way to teach the kids more about geography and culture.
The three of them looked at each other, "Maybe you can cook and we'll set up all the other things like posters and stuff",  Jessica said.
"Oh ok.  What country should be next?"  I asked.
"China!"  Ryan said immediately.  "I love Chinese food!"
"We just did China.  Let's do Tuvalu", Jessica replied.
"Tu...what?  Is that even a country?"  I asked.
"Oh yeah, Mom.  It's a tiny island nation in the South Pacific."  Jessica said with a smile.
Ok, maybe I'll be the only one learning here.  I thought.

 So far, we have had the cuisine from 41 different nations, from varying continents. And yes we did have a Tuvalu night. We have taken breaks occasionally and gone back to Pizza Party Friday, but we have decided that our culinary trip around the world won't stop until we have tried all 192 countries.  Not everything is gobbled up as quickly as on the first night, and the kids don't spend as much time learning about each country as I would like, but they have tasted everything and opened their minds to new foods.   Most importantly, we have all enjoyed this family journey staying right at home.  

Spice up your life this week!


Monday, September 27, 2010

What? No video Games?

My first grader brought home a project this weekend.  His mission was to interview an older person to find out what life was like in their time.  Coincidentally, Grandma, Grandpa, and Gramps (Great Grandpa), were visiting from Michigan.  So after lunch on Sunday, my son asked Gramps questions from his worksheet like, "What inventions do we have now that you didn't have back then?"   Ryan listened intently as Gramps told him that back in the early 1920's, when he was born, there were no jet planes, only planes with propellers, no calculators, no computers, no cell phones , no refrigerators, and no video games.
"What?  No video games?  Well what did you play with then? There's nothing fun to do without video games!"  Ryan was astonished. 
"Oh we did lots of fun things like play Kick the Can… where we uhh… kicked a can.  Innie I Over…..where one kid threw a ball over a house and the kid on the other side caught it ran around and tried to hit the other kids with it", Gramps explained.
I looked at Ryan.  He wasn't too impressed with those games.  Then Gramps added, "We also used to make our own scooters, kites, and model airplanes." 
"Wow, you made your own kites and airplanes?  Ryan asked excitedly.  
"Sure, we made planes out of wood and rubber bands and they even flew."
"Can you make an airplane with me Gramps?"  Ryan asked.
"Maybe when I come back for Thanksgiving", Gramps replied.   
What a great way to bring a little piece of Gramps' childhood to the present generation, I thought. While I cook, Gramps can keep all the cousins busy making airplanes, instead of having them watch movies.  It will be a Thanksgiving they will all remember…..though I think we'll keep Kick the Can in the past.

Have a great day! 

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I was so excited to get this blog up and running. I'm not known for my computer skills so it was a big deal for me to see my web page at the click of a button! I couldn't wait to show my husband what I had done. I was hearing in my head all the great things he was going to tell me when he first saw it.  So when he got home from work last night and he saw me working, he asked me about it.
"Can you email me the link?"  He asked. 
"Sure", I said readying myself for glowing praise.  He was standing right next to me as I opened up my email, so I told him to turn around.   I envisioned him clicking on the link, my web page magically appearing, and him being awed by my work. 
"Why do I have to turn around? Don't you have it up right there?" 
"It's a surprise.  Ok, here click on it."  I said.
He clicked and voila it appeared.  I could hardly wait.  He studied the screen. Then there was silence, a long silence.             
"What's the surprise?"  He asked. 
UGGGHHHHH!  What?  Look right in front of you!  My content appears out of nowhere.  It's amazing, isn't it?  I thought.
"Is it a Happy Birthday message?  I don't see it." He asked still looking.
Birthday message?  Oh I wasn't even thinking about that.  "Uh no, it's just ideas."  I felt like a balloon that had just been popped.
"Oh….. yeah, that's cool.  But I saw you workin' on it yesterday.  I had to turn around for that?"  He asked.
"I thought you would be amazed that you could click on my link and see my web page."  I said.
"Wait, you thought it would be cool for me to click on something and see it appear on the internet.  Don't we do that all day long?" He said with a slight chuckle and a hug.
 Well the hug helped and I laughed too, but mostly I felt stupid.  I guess I need to keep reading all those internet guides.     

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Never Enough Time

Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder, "Where did this day go?" I do, almost every day! Between working, getting my kids to sports and music lessons, and attempting to make something resembling dinner, the day seems to evaporate like fog in the desert sun. I have tried to be more organized, yet the piles on my kitchen counters reveal how successful that has been. My kids consider it a lucky day if they can find clean underwear before school.  Maybe if days were officially changed to 48 hours.......
Until this happens, I have decided to take matters into my own hands. Even though I'm a person who needs a solid 8 hours of sleep, I pledge to drag myself out of bed before 5:59 a.m. every week day morning. In these precious morning hours when the rest of the family lies in angelic sleep, I will begin my day and attempt to make my newly found hours mean more. I know I will want to hit that snooze 4 or 5 times.  But I have to do something differently.  If you have other ideas on how to get more out of a day, let me know, or if you decide to join me in my pledge I'd love to hear what you do in the precious hours before dawn. Otherwise, if you see someone asleep in the line at the grocery store, it's probably me.

Have a great day and try to enjoy at least some of your hours today!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stones Into Schools

I just finished reading Greg Mortenson's newest book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I recommend it to everyone! I thought it was even better than his best seller Three Cups of Tea. He has an extraordinary story. Through his Central Asia Institute, (CAI), Greg and his team in Pakistan work to build schools, in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many of these schools are all girls schools or women's centers. They overcome an amazing number of obstacles, from hauling building materials over non-existent roads with a series of yak trains, people and trucks to evading the Taliban. Many of the places they work have never had schools before. The wonderful people inhabiting these villages have been seemingly forgotten by their government which provides them no services. In spite of their dire situation/ or maybe because of it these same villagers have a hunger for education. They see their children's education as the hope of the future and will go to great lengths to provide schooling even with almost no resources. Greg describes how in one area he passed an old public toilet that was packed with children and a teacher, using it as a makeshift school. Many villagers travel days just to see Dr. Greg, as he is known over there, to petition him to build a school in their village.
At the printing of the book in 2009, the CAI had built 131 schools throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. The CAI operates through the generous donations of people throughout America, but they are always in need of more funding. For donation information check out the CAI website at Greg is passionate about eradicating illiteracy around the world.
Greg's work is tremendously inspiring. After reading his book it almost makes me want to head over there to help out. Then I realize I can help out over here. Teaching children is already my passion but I can do more to help. I can make helping women and children everywhere be my number one priority.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Women in the News: Elena Kagan

Solicitor General, Elena Kagan has just been nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court. President Obama has called her "one of the foremost legal minds in the nation." If confirmed, this will bring the number of women on the nation's highest court to 3. Before becoming Solicitor General, Kagan was the first woman to become dean of Harvard Law School. She comes from New York City where she went to a public high school. She studied at Princeton, Oxford and Harvard and was a clerk for Justice Marshall. Though officially a democrat, she will most likely be confirmed as she has not been extremely vocal on political issues and has in the past worked well with both Republicans and Democrats. Good Luck Elena!

To all of you Imagine Today fans, keep up your hard work doing what you are best at and learning what you're not!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Educate Yourself and Others

Start learning something today. Find a book on a topic that you have always wondered about. Check the library, bookstore or online for information that will stretch your mind. It doesn't matter what topic, just be passionate about educating yourself.
In the U.S. our educational system is failing. We are part of the problem. Adults don't always show interest in continuing to educate themselves. When was the last time the TV was turned off?  We need to be excited to learn new things if we expect that from our children.
My life is so hectic, how could I possibly add something else to my list? That was my question. With three kids involved in activities after school, my working, and running our household where could I possibly get more time? Well I started squeezing in reading while I sat through ballet lessons. Then I started checking out books on cd and listening to them in the car. I sometimes even listen to historical biographies with the kids in the car. They complained at first but now they actually enjoy some of them (plus it keeps them from squabbling in the car). Now I am so hooked that I actually listen to books while I am doing all sorts of household chores, like dishes, laundry and cooking meals. It is amazing how fast a book goes when your listening and how much you can learn while your getting your everyday responsibilities taken care of.