Monday, April 30, 2007

a reminder

Tonight is the first part of the two-part PBS documentary on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

feliz día de los niños!

Children's Day is celebrated throughout Latin America. We honor and celebrate childhood and the joy and hope children bring to our lives. Today we're having a picnic (maybe on our covered porch because it's supposed to storm) and a special cake and ice cream. Probably some games, too.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

a new bible

It's called Raising Your Spirited Child: a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic. It's written by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka who lives and teaches here in the Twin Cities.

I cried through the first two chapters. I'm not even sure I can explain why because it's complicated. I felt validated. I felt a burden being lifted. I felt understood. I felt regret for not having read this book years ago when I think it would have helped me so, so much. I felt that in spite of not having read it, I have not frigged things up too royally. I've actually learned some of these techniques for raising spirited children the hard way, through experience.

When I started reading this book, I began to realize how much I've let other people's judgements of my child-rearing get to me. A stranger once yelled in my face, "What kind of mother are you?!" Another, after witnessing a Marcus tantrum, snidely whispered (loudly) to her friend, "Can you say, spoiled?" Throughout the years, many people at church have said things along the lines of, "Watching you with your children during sacrament meeting exhausts me." One told me this just a few months ago. People have given me shocked and disapproving looks when I let my children do dangerous things at parks, like climb to great heights.

Sorry, I got side-tracked. I could babble incoherently about this book and this topic if I let myself. I will try to be articulate.

Whether it be from other's comments on my parenting or my own observations and analysis, I have often felt like a failure as a parent. I've read a few parenting books and tried to apply their ideas only to be disappointed by the results. What has worked for other people doesn't seem to work for me or my children.

I have only read the first five chapters of this book, but there have been lots of light bulb moments. I scored each of my children's temperaments on the spirited scale, and all four fell squarely into the spirited category. I rated them on nine traits. All of my children, for example, scored a 4 or 5 out of 5 on "intensity." A "5" would be "never just cries--wails or explodes; a living staircase of emotion, up one minute, down the next; and every reaction is deep and powerful." The other eight traits are persistence, sensitivity, perceptiveness, adaptability, regularity, energy, first reaction, and mood. Most children will score high in one or more of these, but according to Kurckinka, only about 10 percent of the population would score high enough to qualify as "spirited," a term she coined.

And guess who outscored all of my children? Yes, it was me. It seems that I am a "spirited parent." (J is the only unspirited one around here. :-) He scores very high in energy, but fairly low on the other traits.) No wonder I often feel completely sucked dry at the end of a day with my children. I do have abundant energy, but I use a lot of it to keep myself under control!

What I like so much about this book is Kurcinka's positive spin on people who are "spirited." Why call a child "stubborn" when you can say "persistent?" Why "wild" when you can say "energetic?" How about "picky" vs. "selective" or "loud and obnoxious" vs. "enthusiastic and zestful?" Reading this made me feel so much better about myself and my children. Yes, I had realized that these traits can be very positive, but I hadn't thought much about the importance of always referring to my children's spirited traits in a positive way. How many times have I said, "Don't be so picky!" or "You are the loudest thing on God's green earth?" Pointing out to children that they are "selective" or "zestful" helps them develop a positive self-image, and it is crucial to teaching them how to manage themselves, a sometimes overwhelming task for the spirited child.

The book does not simply name "naughty" something new and palatable, it aims to help parents of spirited children train their children to remain calm and collected when faced with a new situation or whatever else could potentially set them off.

The friend who recommended this book to me says she's read it at least five times. Only one of her three children is "spirited." It seems that many families mentioned in the book so far have also only been blessed with one spirited child. I hope there is something in there about what to do with several!

Friday, April 27, 2007

about school

Several of you asked about why I am starting to doubt our choice, the charter school, for G next year. This is classical academy for grades 6-12, and it's a very small school with a cap of 50 students per grade. We know a couple of students there who like it. One very much, one more or less. We know four students who attended, liked some things about it, but ultimately ended up choosing to leave the charter school to attend our middle school. We know several people who have looked into the charter school for their children but have decided against trying it. I've talked with all of them, and here is my summing up, the pros and cons of the charter school.

Excellent, integrated, sequential curriculum. Art, History, and English classes all revolve around the same time period.

Art. I believe they have it every day, and the kids love it.

Latin. They have Latin every day, and everyone has liked it.

Small-community atmosphere. Our middle school has about 1500 students. It is fairly impersonal. At the charter school everyone knows everyone. There is very little teasing, if any.

Small class size. There are fewer students in each class.

Music. There is one music teacher who does everything at the charter school. The tiny strings group, maybe 4 kids, meets once per week before school. The middle school here has a nationally-renowned orchestra program which meets every other day during school hours. There are many ensemble opportunities, too.

Lack of world languages. At the charter school, only Latin is available right now and eventually they will add high school Spanish. At the middle school, students take German, French, or Spanish every other day.

Math. This could also be a pro, depending on who you talk to. Some like the Saxon Math program at the charter school, which is exhaustive and highly repetitive. It is excellent for the average math student, because those kids WILL learn the skills and there will be no gaps. However, I have it listed on the cons because I have never liked that program for G. I think she would go crazy with all the review work. The school says they work very carefully with gifted students, but one mother whose son left the charter school said she didn't feel that was the case.

No gifted program or "enriched" classes. The charter school says that because they are a small school they are more flexible and can easily meet the needs of gifted students. However, some of the charter's former students didn't feel like their needs were being met. The middle school has advanced English and Math classes. In 8th grade, enriched classes are offered for English, Math, Science, and History.

Extra-curricular Activities. G is interested in participating in MathCounts, Science Olympiad, and some sports. These activities are large, impressive programs at the middle school. Though the charter school does offer several extra-curricular activities, they are very small programs.

Another reason I begin to consider the middle school (G and I had a tour yesterday) is that I think the local high school, though horribly large, may be better for G than the charter school. They offer an incredible number of cool classes. I would have loved it. I've heard it is very, very good for self-motivated students, and G is self-motivated. I like the block classes. Every quarter students only take 3-4 subjects and I think that would appeal to G. So, if she is going to the high school, she would only be going to the charter school for 7th and 8th grade. And then I wonder how worthwhile that would be.

Have I lost you all?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I seem to have very little discretionary time lately. We have some remodeling to do in our house so I'm doing Home Depot time and also getting quotes. Remodeling! How exciting! No, not really. I don't have the money to do all of this right now, so it's actually been frustrating trying to reconcile what I want to do with what needs to be done with what we can afford.

Our refrigerator has reached the legal drinking age.

Another time suck: I'm trying to figure out what to do with Georgie for school next year, seventh grade. She wants to go to a classical academy charter school, but I have this nagging discontented feeling about that place. You know what I'm talking about, fellow moms? That feeling that we need to look at other options. So I've been doing that.

Dick Cheney is speaking at my commencement today. I'm not there.

I finished The Promise by Chaim Potok, our book group read for May. I don't like it nearly as much as The Chosen. I don't think it works artistically. There are too many plot lines for Potok's terse writing style. There are some boring parts. He does us the favor of explaining what the different Talmuds (Palestinian vs. Babylonian) are, and other Jewish terms he uses frequently at the very end of the book. I don't think the characters are especially interesting or enjoyable as presented.

It was interesting to consider the religious themes, especially after having just finished Brideshead Revisited. I greatly preferred Brideshead Revisited, though perhaps that is an unfair comparison. Some say this is Waugh's best book. It was one of those books that got into my head and stayed there. The characters were fascinating and the writing was beautiful. It's a sad but beautiful book. Check out this sentence: "I knew what she meant, and in that moment felt as though I had shaken off some fo the dust and grit of ten dry years; then and always, however she spoke to me--in half sentences, single words, stock phrases of contemporary jargon, in scarcely perceptible movements of eyes or lips or hands--however inexpressible her thought, however quick and far it had glanced from the matter in hand, however deep it had plunged, as it often did, straight from the surface to the depths, I knew; even that day when I still stood on the extreme verge of love, I knew what she meant."

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Yesterday Bernie went to a princess-themed birthday tea party and she got to dress up as a princess. We stopped on the way to the party to pick up a gift (I often do it that way because then I don't have to hear too much "Now what can I get for me?" because it's time to rush off to the party). Bernie got lots of smiles at Target. She skipped along behind me holding up the skirt because this Cinderella dress is too big for her. We got in line to pay and there was this boy in front of us who was probably a little younger than Bernie, maybe around four. He turned around and gasped when he saw Bernie. "A princess!" he blurted and ran up to her. He stared at her, open-mouthed, and asked, "Are you a princess?"
Bernie giggled and with the slightest touch of condescension said, "I'm not a real princess. I'm going to a party and that's why I'm dressed up." The boy continued to gawk. At first his mom was like, "Oh, how cute," but then eventually she said, "O.k.! C'mon back over here." But the boy would not be torn away easily. As his mom pulled him out of the store he kept looking back at Bernie.
She had a great time at the party and is determined that her party, in three weeks, will also be a princesses' tea party.

This is my monkey.
The neighbor sometimes brings her bunny out for a walk. Frodo is dying to meet the bunny, but he hasn't been allowed yet.
It's that time again!

Friday, April 20, 2007

french countryside

Check out Sipping Hot Chocolate's photos she took this morning on her way to Paris. Stunning.

ballet folklorico

When we were down visiting J's parents, it happened that the ballet folklorico from Centro Escolar Benemerito de las Americas performed in their city. The Benemerito is a private boarding school in Mexico City owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I had heard they put on a good show, but wow! It was incredible.
The show was about two hours and there were 75 dancers, ages 16-18. They performed folk dances from many different regions of Mexico. My camera battery died (drat!) so I only got a couple of photos at the beginning of the show. These costumes, if I remember right, are from Veracruz, home of "La Bamba." The girls must have had about a dozen costume changes at least! The dresses were gorgeous, but that wasn't even the most impressive thing about the show. Three things struck me as I watched these dancers: the amazing energy level they maintained throughout the entire two hours, the precision with which they danced, and the obvious enjoyment they derived from performing. I was completely entranced and I didn't want them to stop! I later learned that the Benemerito probably has less than 500 students grades 9-12, so those dancers in 11th and 12th grades may represent nearly half of the students in those grades. Think about that. A few of those young people probably have natural ability for dance, but the majority just practice and practice until they make it look that good. Some of those steps are pretty complicated. This was a free show, but I definitely would have paid to see it and thought it money well spent. It was professional quality. Frankly, I thought it was better than Living Legends, the BYU group that tours the world performing Latin American, Native American, and Polynesian folk dances.
I was so pleased that my children got to see this beautiful art form from their heritage. I wish more hispanic children in the United States had the opportunity to perform Latin folk dances. It is truly something to take great pride in. To me these dances embody everything that is positive in the culture. The women's dances are very feminine and the men's very masculine. I love the sassy, flirtatious dances. In fact, some of the dances were almost sexy. One of the dances essentially amounted to one long shoulder shimmy for the girls. It did not cross the line to distasteful because the puffy shirts with heavy, beaded necklaces the girls were wearing provided modesty. But I thought to myself, "How fun must that be for a sixteen year old girl?" The boys must have had an equally good time with their stomping, vigorous, machete-wielding dances, alternating with the courtlier, gentle ones.
Lidia loved it as much as I did. Bernie would have too, but it was late and she fell asleep. Marcus kept trying to leave, until they did the Aztec dance, and then he was mesmerized by the fire. Georgie admitted it was better than she thought it was going to be.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


We finally finished it today on audiobook. We've been listening to it to and from school for over a month, as we started back before spring break.
Lynn Redgrave narrates. She is one of my favorite narrators since I heard her do Chronicles of Narnia, and she really brings this book to life.
I think this is probably the girls' favorite audiobook of the many we've listened to. When I picked them up from school they'd bolt for the car, yelling, "Put on the tape! Put on the tape!" They were seriously intense about it. Georgie is excited about getting Inkspell now, though she says she doesn't want to listen to it on audiobook because it takes too long. She'd rather read it.
I enjoyed it as much as the children did. It's very well-written. The plot is nail-bitingly suspenseful, at least I found it so. The characters are memorable. The descriptive language is limited but powerful. I do admit to zoning out on a few less exciting parts, but very few for such a long book.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


From our hike up Chipinque, a mountain in Monterrey.


I finally got my other Mexico photos from J's computer. I couldn't seem to upload them onto blogger from his computer when we were down there. These three photos were taken in el centro in Monterrey. Amity mentioned Carlos Bravo's photography of Monterrey. For the most part I love his photography, though I'm not into his horror stuff. His view of Monterrey especially interests me. It's so mysterious and dramatic. Very Day-of-the-Deadish. It seems like more of a central Mexico mood to me that I personally don't find in Monterrey. Monterrey is very American. There are signs everywhere in English. They love the Cowboys. They love electronic gadgets, the bigger and more expensive, the better. In fact, regios remind me of Texans. The are friendly, straightforward, no-nonsense, hard-working people. I don't imagine them having much time for mystery and drama, say nothing about subtlety. I wouldn't say that the people are of an especially artistic bent. But who knows, maybe I just haven't discovered Monterrey's gothic side.

Monday, April 16, 2007

should-but-can't reads

I'm supposed to be cleaning (read: digging out) my laundry room right now but took a break to ask this pressing question: What books have you attempted to read because they come so highly recommended, but had to stop because you just couldn't get into them? I've started Tale of Two Cities at least a half dozen times, each time thinking, "O.k., this time I'm really finishing it." Most recently I tried to read the fifth Harry Potter and couldn't get beyond a few chapters.

What are your should-but-can't reads?

Or what about books you think you should like because so-and-so does, but you read it and you're like, "this is terrible?"

Maybe I'll have a minute tomorrow to post about Brideshead Revisited. I finished it today.

Friday, April 13, 2007

hair talk--feel free to skip this post

I know, it looks really dark. I was still coloring it this morning when J went to work, so here it is, Honey. What do you think?
The thing is, a week from now it will be so much lighter. After washing it a few times and exposing it to the sun, it will lighten up so that it is only a tad darker than my natural shade, a medium ash brown. And then after 4-6 weeks, it will lighten up so much that the roots will grow in darker than the rest of the hair. Why does that happen? I've been told that coloring your hair does not damage it. So why does it get lighter? I expect the dye to fade, but the surprising thing is when my hair ends up turning lighter than its natural shade, and brassy. I can't stand the medium ash roots contrasted with the brassy rest of it. Ye of the hair wisdom, why happeneth this?


I should go out for a walk. The weather is beautiful. I should stop crunching on my granola (anger food) and put on my sneakers.

I saw this cartoon early this morning and told myself, "This is stupid. I'm not going to let it bother me." But guess what. It bothers me. In fact, it makes me hopping mad.

Probably the line is a fine one between funny in an ironic way and justifiably offensive. I don't know where exactly that line should be drawn, but I know racist and bigoted when I see it. I know what mean is. I thought that the racist political cartoons about Condoleeza Rice were disgusting and couldn't believe they were printed. I think what Don Imus said was disgusting. The above may not reach that level of disgustingness, but it offends me.

Dave Granlund, did you know that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints do not practice polygamy? There may be little pockets (compounds?) of polygamists in the western United States who call themselves Mormons, but they do not belong to my church. I do not know why they practice polygamy and I do not want to know. I don't know why they call themselves Mormons. What I do know is that the Church of Jesus Christ is an international church. In fact, there are fewer members of our church within the U.S. than without. Dave Granlund, please go to the meetinghouse locator on our Church web site. Click on "select a country." Do you see how many countries in the world have Mormon houses of worship? We all have different skin colors and different ways of dressing. I've never seen a Mormon man dressed as an Amish man. Not that there is anything wrong with the Amish or how they dress--I'm just pointing out that your cartoon is LAME. Your attempt at portraying us as polygamist hayseeds is stupid and false. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

pearls before breakfast

Do you ever stop to listen to street musicians? What if that street musician were Joshua Bell, the world-renowned violinist? This is a fascinating article in the Washington Post (thanks for the link, Michelle!) describing the result of what happened when Joshua Bell traded in his signature black concert dress and packed hall for jeans, a baseball cap, and a metro station. There's video!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


One sister ate them... but the other became "gordita."

mark your calendars

On April 30 and May 1 there is a four-hour documentary on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints scheduled to air on PBS. The first two hours on April 30 will be on American Experience and the following night, two hours of Frontline.

On Meridian: PBS Film Likely to Cause Debate

From Helen Whitney, the award-winning producer: It is “a complex film, a respectful film, but not an uncritical film.”

"I hope that most of the stereotypes — ideally, all of them — will be blown away,” she told the newspaper. "Because so many of them are just based on ignorance. Ignorance about Mormon history, ignorance about Mormon theology. Ignorance."

In the Meridian blurb it says that in the first two hours there is extensive treatment of polygamy, including interviews with modern-day polygamists. For me that raises red flags. If this is a documentary about the LDS church, why is there discussion of people who are not even members of our church? They do not share our beliefs. A major distinguishing characteristic of the Mormon faith is our unifying doctrine. People who do not believe that doctrine usually leave the Church. The Church does not change its doctrine to accommodate them. However, I have not seen it yet. I should not prejudge. I'm just saying it raises red flags.

I think the following comment by Michael Purdy of the Church's Public Affairs Department sums it up:

“The big question that members of the Church are asking is whether these programs will come close to capturing the essence of how Latter-day Saints define and see themselves."

“Will members look at these films and say, ‘yes, that's me.' Or will they look at it and say, ‘even after four hours, they missed the point.' It comes down to both content and context and it is important that those closest to the faith see themselves in the portrayal.”

Sunday, April 08, 2007

primos por todos lados

los domingos


Come with high and holy hymning;

Chant our Lord's triumphal lay.

Not one darksome cloud is dimming

Yonder glorious morning ray,

Breaking o'er the purple east,

Symbol of our Easter feast.

From "Hi Is Risen!" text by Cecil Francis Alexander

My mom sent out an Easter card with the above text and photo she took in Maine.

We got back Friday night. It's nice to be able to upload photos again! More on our trip later.