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!