Saturday, June 30, 2007

smart saturday

Last week the habit I worked on was clean speech. How did I do? Not too bad. I think I cut my expletives by at least 50 percent. Except I did swear twice at church because I was trying to clean up after the potluck and the garbage bags kept tearing. So that was bad, it being church and all. Tomorrow there is no potluck so I should do better this week.

The new habit I'm adding this week is violin practice. I started lessons last October. I don't have lessons through the summer but I'm trying to keep up practice anyway.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

marcus turns 7

He had his party at this place with giant inflatable play structures. He's been to a few parties there and I think what he found most fascinating was the enormous inflated throne the birthday child gets to sit on. When we went to the party room after the play time, instead of eating his pizza at the table with the other kids, he jumped right up on the throne and remained there for the rest of the party. His loyal subjects got to take turns sitting beside him. I think he had a great time, and the kids were very generous with their gifts. Too generous, I think. I would have felt more comfortable with simpler, less expensive gifts, but of course Marcus loved them.

When people would call to RSVP and say things like, "Well! So it's a [insert name of inflatable place] party! That's quite something!" I would start apologizing all over the place. "Yes, it's what he really wanted but we don't do big parties every year..." and so on. Of course the graceful thing to say would have been, "Yes, we're so glad you can come" or whatever but I seriously felt embarrassed about giving a big, expensive party when there are children in this world living in poverty.
So this didn't even begin to be an expensive party compared to some thing we've seen. And I have to admit I did a little happy dance inwardly when Marcus first said he longed for one of these parties. They do everything. Police the kids on the play structures, organize games with them, serve them pizza, cut and serve the cake, oversee the gift opening, write down the list of gifts and givers for thank you note reference (this last one which, one attending father observed, is worth about a hundred bucks right there). And they clean it all up. You just sit back and relax (or in my case, snap photos) and write out the check at the end.
If we really cared to build character in our son, we would have done a Feed My Starving Children party. Oh well. I guess he'll have to have his character built another year. This year he was too busy sitting on his throne.
[Edit: I just showed my children the FMSC website. I really talked it up for a future birthday. Georgie didn't comment, but Lidia and Marcus both said it did not interest them. So much for character!]

Monday, June 25, 2007


My friend Shannon Hale was on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. O.k., so it is presumptuous of me to call her a "friend." I've only met her once. But I feel like we'd be friends if we had the opportunity. Do you ever think that about your favorite authors? Wouldn't it be the best to have Jane Austen as a friend?

Shannon's interview on NPR is about her book Austenland, which is our book group pick for August. In the book, a young woman (in fact she is thirty-three, which is Shannon's age and mine too) obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy as portrayed by Colin Firth, goes to a Pride and Prejudice theme park.

Check out Shannon's excellent post "Our Chum Jane."

a young lady

A better photo of my beautiful Georgie sketching her otters.
She just got back from her first real babysitting job.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

something new

I really admire Montse. She is out there in Nevada on an alfalfa farm with her six girls and little baby boy and by everything I know of her she seems smart, funny, and beautiful. She is also a woman of great faith and she inspires me.

I won't embarrass her with further tribute, but I had to give credit where credit was due. She is the reason I'm starting this SMART Habits Saturday. (I know, today is Sunday, but yesterday was a long day with no computer time.) I've really enjoyed reading her posts about the good habits she is working on, and I've felt inspired to begin my own journey to smarter habits. Heaven knows I need to. I was trying to think of what smart habits I already possess. I quickly came up with regular flossing. I also never go to bed with dirty dishes in my sink. I do exercise regularly, but I don't know if that counts because I would be a danger to myself and others if I didn't! I seem to require a lot of physical activity every day to stay sane. Anyway, besides those few, I honestly can't think of others.

Sow a thought and reap an act;
Sow an act and reap a habit;
Sow a habit and reap a character:
Sow a character and reap a destiny.

~William Makepeace Thackery

It was a struggle to narrow it down to one smart habit to begin with. There are so many I'd like to try! However, for firsts, I decided to go with developing clean speech. Now, that may surprise you. You probably don't know me as a potty-mouth, and in fact I'm not a potty-mouth. But I do use swear words. {cringe} Not the heavy-duty ones that are edited (or used to be edited) from network t.v. Not even the second-class swears that are fairly mild. I managed to get rid of those a few years ago after my four-year old walked down her preschool hallway shouting "D---! D---! D---!" at the top of her lungs. No, I couldn't blame J, because he never swears, blast him. See! There I go. I have my own special set of swears that, at times, I do use liberally. Hey, cut me some slack. I'm a girl from central Maine.

No, I would not excuse myself, nor have others excuse me. Maybe you wonder why I would care about excising mild epithets from my speech. The other day, the topic of swearing came up on a car ride with the kids. I think Marcus was asking if a certain word was a swear. I said that it was, and he was never to use it again. Lidia piped up, "That's one of Mom's swears!" Georgie replied, "No. She doesn't use that one. These are Mom's swears..." and she proceeded to list them. I felt really bad. I don't want to be known as a swearing mom. Also, I feel like even these mild swears show a lack of dignity and restraint in my language. The language we use is so powerful. It says so much about us.

In July's New Era, a magazine for youth of the Church of Jesus Christ, Elder Tom L. Perry, writes a brief article entitled "Thy Speech Reveals Thee." It's not online yet, but eventually it can be found here. He says, "Our speech reflects the kind of person we are, exposing our background and our way of life. It describes our thinking as well as our inner feelings." Also, "Many times in our effort ot refrain from improper speech, we find words to substitute. Sometimes they are so close to vulgar phrases everyone probably knows that we are substituting words and have not really improved our vocabulary." Ouch!

"A good man out of the good treasure of his hear bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh" (Luke 6:45, my emphasis).

Every week I'll be adding new habits and giving an update on the ones I'm working on.

Friday, June 22, 2007

a new look

G wouldn't cooperate very much for a photo. She refused to go outside where the good light is. She just got back this afternoon from girls' camp where she claims she went to bed past midnight every night. She had a wonderful time, but she's tired!

It turns out she's slightly farsighted, so she needs to wear the glasses for school and for things like archery class.


And proud of 'em.

For some reason Athena won't show her freckles, though I think they are really beautiful on her. (Thought I'd pick on her a little more now that we've clobbered her about the two miles thing.)

As you can see, I even have freckles in my eyes. Or are they called 'flecks?'

A few days ago Marcus was reading aloud for me, and freckles were mentioned in his book. I asked him if he knew what they were. "Yeah," he said, and then pointed to my lower leg near my ankle. "They're those prickly things on your leg." What? I started laughing. It seems that he was confusing "stubble" with "freckles." And then he says, "You know, it's good that you have those because it protects you."

So not only do I have freckles, I also have leg stubble that "protects me." From what, I wonder? I'll have to ask Marcus.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

north and south

We have air conditioning again! They installed it on Monday and Tuesday along with the new furnace and hot water heater. We got used to the heat after a couple of days. The major problem ended up being the allergies caused by having the windows open all the time. I really don't think I'd mind so much not having a/c if it weren't for the allergies. Oh, and as long as I could sit all day on my three-season porch with a bowl of ice cream and a novel in front of me.

I started out so well last week. In spite of the failed a/c and 90's + weather, I was determined to do a reorganization of the kids' room, plus all of the other housework that got ignored in the last crazy weeks of school. After the third day, I'd had it. I started reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, a book I'd been wanting to read for a long time. I finished it yesterday. I loved it! I loved Wives and Daughters, but I think I might like North and South even a little more. There are some faults in the structure and proportion of the book, not surprising considering it was written as a serial for a magazine. Dickens' magazine, in fact. The extensive monologues written in the vernacular of the northern England working class got a little tedious because I didn't understand much of the slang.

But I loved the look at class relations, tensions, and attitudes, and also the contrasting cultures of agrarian southern England and the industrial north. The heroine, Margaret Hale, moves from the south to the north because her father has turned "Dissenter" and decided to leave his living as a minister of the Church of England. He goes to a northern industrial city to become a tutor to a mill owner there. Margaret and her family are poor but genteel. The northerners do not recognize the class the Hales think they belong to. Margaret is shocked and put off by the direct and overly-familiar manner of the northerners, as well as their poor taste in home decor and clothing. She sees them as ostentatious, garish, and crass, lacking elegance and care for anything but wealth and its trappings.

The novel also examines the relationship between the mill owner and his employees. Gaskell seems to go to pains to present a balanced view of both sides.

A couple years ago I saw the BBC miniseries of North and South, which is very well done. I recommend that too. The clothes are not as good as in Wives and Daughters, but the love story more than makes up for it. Richard Armitage as mill owner John Thorton is especially good.

fish lip

Yesterday we went for a bike ride to the library. It's not that far from our house--just over two miles. I had Bernie in the burley and Lidia and Marcus went on bikes. Georgie is at girls' camp. J is in Chicago. So we enjoyed our little excursion until on the way home when we went down a steep little hill that curved, and poor Marcus didn't make the curve. He landed on his face. His lip was split and it bled everywhere. I stashed his bike in the bushes and squeezed him into the burley with Bernie. My thighs burned that last mile!

He was still very upset when we arrived home. I covered all his owies with band-aids, gave him some ice for his lip, and sat him in the recliner. I put Tom and Jerry on and then called the triage nurse. It was a nasty gash and I wondered if he might need stitches. Before I even had the triage nurse on the line he was laughing at Tom and Jerry. My kids have seen those over and over, but they never tire of them.

He didn't need stitches. But it's still badly swollen. Marcus said he felt like a fish with a hook in his lip.

I went back for the bike a few hours later. It was gone. When I got home from my fruitless search, I told Marcus that I went to find his bike but it wasn't there. His mouth dropped open and he looked at me with wide eyes. "Mom," he said, "Did Jesus take my bike?"

I hope that Jesus has better transportation options. I think it is more likely that the police were alerted to the existence of a rusty, beat-up bike defiling the immaculate trails of our pristine suburb. They surely removed the bike without delay to Lost Bike Land before it could cause further offense. I meant to call today but was too busy reading Gaskell's North and South. More on that later.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

adios air conditioning

Our air conditioning passed away yesterday afternoon. I got some guys here this morning and they tell me I need to replace the furnace and hot water heater too. We were expecting it at some point. They are the original appliances in a 21 year old house.

But why today? Man, it's hot. We're off to the pool if I'm able to pull my swim suit on over my sweaty body. (Yikes, the hits I will get from searches leading to that last sentence!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

a small school

Friday was Georgie's "transition ceremony," or sixth grade graduation. It was a very touching and emotional event for most of the parents, as their children have been in this Spanish immersion program since kindergarten. They showed a video of pictures of the children over the past seven years. Georgie didn't go there until fifth grade, so there weren't many pictures of her, but her friends enjoyed pointing out to her who was who in all the photos. As each of the sixty-three children received their certificates, a teacher who knew the student well said something about him/her. I really like the teacher who spoke about Georgie. She is one of my favorites at the school. She's soft-spoken, kind, and good at teaching. About Georgie she said, "Georgie joined our school two years ago and adapted very well. She has a great sense of humor and laughs at all my jokes. She is, without doubt, the Rubik's cube champion of the school." She said something else referring to G's good character but I don't remember the exact words.

Lidia watched the ceremony too and enjoyed it. She also looks forward to "graduating" from the school in sixth grade. When J asked her if sometimes she feels like going back for fourth grade, she admitted, "Well, yes, sometimes." But she said she definitely wants to try homeschooling for fourth grade, and then go back to the Spanish immersion school for fifth and sixth.

There are many things we've loved about this school, but one of the things we like best is the sense of community. With only about 75-100 students per grade, everyone knows each other. It is very close-knit. This personal and moving "transition ceremony" was evidence of that. I can understand why people would choose to send their children to small private schools rather than the big public schools, if only for that reason. Community. I think that is a wonderful thing for families to find in a school. I don't think the enormous public schools in our city have that. They seem so impersonal. For many kids, that might not be so bad at the high school level. I know that when I was in high school with less than 5oo students, I longed to go to a large school where I could meet different people. However, for grades kindergarten to sixth grade, I think kids benefit tremendously from a small-school setting and the strong sense of community it provides. Any thoughts on this? How important is it to you that your children go to a school with a sense of community?

guess who?

In fifty years, I will be an author. I will write mystery books about islands with treasure and adventures. The ones who [will] read my books are going to be my grandchildren. I'm going to write a lot of books. Maybe I will will a prize because my books [will be] so good.

georgie's drawings

inspired by Redwall...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

richard bushman fields questions from journalists

The article on The Pew Forum is titled "Mormonism and Democratic Politics: Are They Compatible?" but few of the questions Richard Bushman fields from a group of journalists have much to do with democratic politics. Richard Bushman is a devout Mormon and author of a biography of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling. He is history professor emeritus of Columbia University.

Fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Is there something wrong with me if I'm fantasizing about folding my laundry and cleaning my bathroom? Because this evening I did. I used up more than a quarter tank of gas today on my rounds. Not that that's unusual. I fill my tank about twice per week. I don't even want to admit how much I spend on gas per month. Tonight Georgie, Marcus, and Lidia all had to be in different places at the same time. Yes, I'm doing my part to warm the planet.

I SO look forward to school being out. This merry-go-round of end-of-year this and that is wearing extra thin right now. So much so that having all four of my creatively messy, joyfully exuberant (read: loud) children at home for the summer is looking like an oasis of tranquility.

Monday, June 04, 2007

sir ian

The Royal Shakespeare Company, with Sir Ian McKellen, is performing King Lear and The Seagull in three U.S. cities this year: New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.

Yes, they're coming to the Guthrie. Tickets went on sale at 10:00 this morning to season-ticket holders. There are over 25,000 subscribers to the Guthrie. Tickets are only be sold in person or by telephone. I considered getting a sitter for Bernie and going down to wait in line at the box office this morning. But it didn't work out, so J and I had five lines going between us at 10 am. I started to get discourged after 1/2 an hr. How long can I keep this up, I wondered? And then I thought of Sir Ian and I thought, it's worth it. Anything is worth it. Then I get the skype from J: "i'm on hold." Oh, sweet heaven!

We have second row!

Friday, June 01, 2007

school daze

Read this in the WSJ. To Joanne Kaufman I say, "Amen, sister."

checking in

I've been online very little lately (except for making appointments and paying bills and trying to buy a cello). It's spring! I spend as much time as possible on my 3-season porch reading. I'm trying to finish Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China for book group Tuesday.

But I've spent almost no time on the porch. May is crazy. We've been to end-of-year concerts and celebrations and such. Last night was Georgie's Gifted and Talented presentation. The sixth grade did geotopia, and it was so neat to see the counties they created. Georgie has been working on her country for weeks. She named it "Otten." I forgot the camera last night, but I'll have to take a picture of her trifold.

Marcus is playing soccer and J coaches his team. M has made tremendous progress this year. Wow! He can finally kick that ball, and he's not bad as goalie.

I bought some basil. I hope to get it planted Saturday. The tomatoes will have to wait until my Earthbox covers and stake systems arrive.

Over Memorial Day weekend we had friends visiting. The Gs moved to Michigan in April. This was devasting to my children. They grew up with the Gs. In our first house we were neighbors, and they are members of the Church. In the above photo, Lidia and Bernie are with the two G sisters. The girl beside Lidia is "her very best friend in the whole wide world." They always have something exciting going on. They are both dreamers, and Bernie and little G sister go along for the ride. There is an older boy Georgie's age and they have a lot in common. Then there are two little boys, a four year old and a baby. It was a full house! It took me a couple days to recover, but my children were in heaven while they were here.

O.k., enough computer! I'm out to the porch.