Thursday, January 30, 2014


I keep wondering whether or not to keep this blog up and running.  I have been lacking motivation to sit down and write, even though I keep myself on the lookout for stories to relay.  I constantly compose in my head, and occasionally I will write notes to myself to help remind me what I have come up with.  But I rarely sit down and do it, and I wonder if I should just be done.

Then I have experiences like this one today, and I realize that I need this space.  I need to write for my own darn good, so that I can hopefully find some clarity by spewing forth words, out of my mind and onto the screen.  Hopefully I can make sense of things and approach a situation with more patience and inspiration than I would otherwise have, had those words remained jumbled inside my head.

So bear with me.  This post is long.  This post is for me.  For clarity.  Because I have been utterly schooled.

I have been teaching Gunner how to read.  I use a book that was recommended by several friends called "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons", or something like that.  We have been doing it off and on for about six months, but recently more often.  He has picked up on the routine of it, and he's actually doing really well.  I have made a goal to give him a lesson five mornings a week, and we have actually been doing it.  Takes about 20 minutes or less.

Then, since he has been doing so well at his little reading lessons, I decided that it was time to start him on piano lessons.  This was a harder decision for me, and something I have been debating about  since the beginning of the school year.  I originally thought that since I wasn't putting him in preschool, and since he has been asking to learn how to play the piano, that I would start him with a method book series for really young kids.  It comes with little characters, which I knew he would love, and it progresses super super slowly.

But then I had second thoughts because he is only five.  After teaching beginning piano students for years, my experience is that young students (age 3-5) love piano lessons, but they don't learn it quickly enough to make it worth it.  Starting a typical child at the age of 7 or 8 is perfect.  They can already read, they have more strength and coordination, and they learn quickly.  In fact, a new motivated 7-yr-old student can catch up to another 7-year-old student who has been taking lessons for years, in a relatively short amount of time.

I also promised myself that I would never teach my own children how to play the piano.  I think paying a professional is a worthwhile investment.  I also think it is good for the child to have the experience of actually "going" to piano lessons, where they sit in someone else's studio and listen to someone else telling them what to do.

Because of all that, I didn't start him in the Fall.  He has continued to ask me for piano lessons.  Then this week, I ran across a set of lesson books, written specifically for 5 and 6-year-olds, that I knew he would just love!  I have never gotten the chance to use them because they came out about the same time that we moved for Spiff's medical school and I stopped teaching.  They're written by my favorite Piano Method authors (The Fabers of Piano Adventures), and I'm actually really excited about them.  I ordered them right away, got them in the mail yesterday, and we started this morning.  Gunner had his first little piano lesson, and it was great.  He listened, followed instructions, asked to do fun songs again, and is looking forward to practicing with me tomorrow. 

Okay, all of that to get to this whole "experience" from today.  A friend invited us over to play with them in the snow this morning.  As I was driving across town, I was thinking about the successful morning of lessons we had had earlier, with both reading and piano.  I thought about how proud I am of his progress and his excitement to learn.  I also thought something that I have doubted my whole life...the fact that I have things to offer my children.  I am a piano teacher.  I can teach my child how to learn this skill, at least for now.  We can start making music together in our home.  I also thought about how we have gotten Gunner registered for Kindergarten for this coming Fall, and that he seems to have come so far in his maturity and development in the last six months that I actually feel like he'll be ready to start school in eight months.

These thoughts rolled through my head, and I felt proud.  Proud of him, proud of me, proud of us for progressing and learning things together.  I felt proud of my momming skills.

So, we got to our friend's house, played in the snow a bit, then made our way inside.  The kids were playing with a set of toys, and I observed my two children both having a difficult time sharing with one another.  I heard a whole lot of not nice words: "Hey, I was using that!!!?"  "Heyyyy, Give that Back!!!"  "That's It!  I give up!"  Etc.

I reminded and reminded them to share and use nice words.  I offered help.  I invited them to sit by me and take small breaks, all without losing my cool.  None of my reminders helped, and they both simply exploded at each other.  I was forced to put them both on a time out.  I thought if I could just get them to take a breath and a small break, we would be able to work it out and get back to playing.

Neither of them would sit down on their time out spots.  Not one of them.  Hobbes just jumped up and ran back to the table of toys.  Gunner refused to sit down and proceeded to yell and yell at me.  It progressed to the point that I had to give up and cart them both off over my shoulder to the car and take them home, to where Hobbes is now playing happily by himself and Gunner is napping in his bed.

It was the first time I have dealt with bad public behavior from both of them at the same time.  It has happened before with Gunner (a long time ago) when I have had to drag him out of a friend's house kicking and screaming, and it wasn't fun then.  This was a double attack of really naughty.  I was so angry, and embarrassed, and sad, and at a complete loss for a good solution.  Obviously they both lose privileges today (no TV, no friends, no desserts, etc.).  But how come it happened in the first place?  How do I even talk to them about it and resolve things?  What are good consequences for that kind of behavior?  What consequences will teach them what they need to know for future experiences?


Really, the lesson I learned here is that I should never ever ever get smug about my parenting skills.  My children will always be five steps ahead of me.  Sure, I have things to offer them, but it absolutely confirms to me that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

My List of Hymns I'd Rather Not Ever Hear Again

We had a funny experience in sacrament meeting this last Sunday.  The closing hymn was an altogether unfamiliar song (#132 God is in His Holy Temple).  I hadn't heard it before.  The melody is of those that sort of meanders around without a purpose so that it is difficult to pick up. I am a decent sightreader, and even I had a hard time with the melody.

Hobbes was sitting on my lap during the song.  After a while, he seemingly got tired of the hymn and turned the page.  Since I wasn't enjoying the song anyway, I decided to just go with it...and give up.  I stopped singing and looked around the room.  Every single person had their noses buried in their hymn books, brows furrowed, trying their hardest to pick out that melody.  No one was really singing.

After the meeting, the chorister (who chose the hymn in the first place) approached me.  She relayed the same story from the stand as I had just witnessed from my pew.  Even with no one singing, the chorister and organist soldiered on, and when it was over, she sat down.  Another particularly musical member of the ward happened to be sitting behind her on the stand and said, "Well, they should just take that one right out of the hymn book!"

I laughed out loud, but completely agreed.  I added it to my mental list of "Hymns I'd Rather Not Ever Hear Again."

I realized that I have been compiling this list for years, but when a friend asked me what songs are on the list, I had a hard time remembering.  So, here is it.  The Top 10 hymns that, in my opinion, should be removed from the current LDS Hymn Book, listed in no particular order:
(With the exception of the first one, the list does not include all of the many songs that I skipped over because I just don't know them.  I think all of those should be removed from the book because no one knows them.)

For good measure, let's start with our example from Sunday.
#132 God is in His Holy Temple--What?!  This one makes no sense.

#134 I Believe in Christ--This is the longest hymn in the hymn book.  It looks like three verses, but it is really six because of the mid-verse written repeat.  It is also always Always sung too slowly.  It is never "fervent" but always durge-like.

#309 As Sisters in Zion--There is really nothing appealing about this condescending melody.  It makes me feel like less of a woman to sing it.

#52  The Day Dawn is Breaking--This one has the most uninteresting chord progression of all hymns, including severely repeating I, IV and V chords only.  Just ask the tenors and basses.

#26  Joseph Smith's First Prayer--I know this is a beloved hymn for many people.  I just don't care for the sticky sweet melody.

#307 In Our Lovely Deseret--Does any one like this song?  I'm actually really curious about that.  Well, I guess the chorus is okay, although I find the words at the end ("happy hearts and cheerful faces meet") to be difficult to spit out quickly enough.

#260  Who's on the Lord's Side?--This one makes me feel like I'm trying to rile up some Primary-aged soldiers with that over-enthusiastic smile on my face that is associated with the way people think they Should talk to children.

#237  Do What Is Right--Seriously, do what is right here and sing the better subject choice, "Choose the Right."

#232  Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words--I believe in the subject matter, heart and soul.  The song is just so...sing-songy.  Shudder.

#177  'Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love--This if the version that comes second in the hymn book.  The first one is lovely.  The second one is not.  This is the song that I'm always excited to sing when I see it in the program, and then seriously disappointed when I realized which version it is.

That's it, in a nut shell.  I'm happy to report that it was easier for me to list off hymns that I love rather than those I dislike.  I do have a deep love for many of the hymns in our book.  Just not these ones.

What's on your list?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Christmas Entitlement Issue

I mentioned in my previous post that our Christmas was spent alone this year.  This was a new experience for me.  We have spent Christmases away from family before, but we have always celebrated with friends.  It didn't work out to do that this year, and I can't pretend that I wasn't bothered by it, especially since both of our families were celebrating together in their respective places.

That being said, we got really lucky with Spiff's schedule.  He worked very little on Christmas Eve, had Christmas Day off, and then volunteered for a personal day on Boxing Day since they didn't have a ton going on at work.  We took advantage of that day, packed up the kids and drove north to see some friends, share leftovers together, and then took everyone tubing, which was super fun!

After it was all said and done, I both liked and disliked it.  I liked that our little celebration was so relaxed.  I wasn't stressed about how messy my house was.  We sort of did whatever we wanted.  We ate when and what we wanted to.  We did cheese fondue for Christmas Eve dinner, and it was a huge hit with the kids.  Gunner loved it!  He especially liked the part whenever he dropped food into the fondue pot and got to run around the table to give me a kiss.

I always prefer to play games late into the night on Christmas Eve, and we never seem to do that when it's just us.  We put the tired kids to bed, set the rest of Christmas up for them, and then pass out.  Our Christmas morning was fun, then kids enjoyed opening presents.  But then, and here's the issue, the rest of the day was madness!  My children were nuts!  This is the very first Christmas Day that I have not had a chance to sit down for even a moment.  The kids didn't have anyone else to play with, so Spiff and I spent the entire day assembling toys that the boys would then play with for five minutes before scattering pieces all over the floor and moving on to the next one.  "Mom!  Will you open this?!  Mom, will you open that?!?!"  Instead of enjoying one new toy, they had to enjoy all of their new things nownownow!  All. Day. Long.

I got so tired of their 5-minute attention spans and the mess they were making that I eventually threw their snow clothes on them and kicked them out of the house!  I was very grateful at that moment for the new snow that fell overnight so they would have something to play with outside.  The whole day was actually very frustrating.  Instead of feeling peaceful and grateful, I ended up feeling irritable and grumpy, and I felt like mine were the world's most spoiled and entitled kids!

It has since settled down.  I have found places to put new toys away, and they have fallen into a routine of sorts and found games to play with all of their things.  It did take a week or so until that happened.  They spent an entire week fighting over new things and making gigantic messes, and I spent an entire week wishing that all the presents were wrapped back up and put back up under the tree.  It was kind of horrible.

So, here's my question:  How do I fix that "After-Present Effect"?

There have got to be ways of lessening the madness that entered my house on Christmas Day.  Less presents given to the kids?  Less of a certain kind of present?  A rigidly-formulaic approach to present-giving?  It's hard to control because we are so fortunate to receive so much love from aunts, grandmas and grandpas, etc.  And I do want my children to have fun and feel special.  I can't see how having more of a focus on giving would be helpful since they are so young.  Really, I can't see a good way of fixing this problem.

But there has got to be a better way.  What do you think?!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

End of 2013 Recap

It's that time again.  The time when I try again to keep up on the ol' blog.  I seem to let it slide at the end of each year while I'm desperately trying to get through the holidays.  So, I'll recap the last couple of months.  Then I'm going to bombard the blog with posts until I have exhausted my efforts.

In October, my oldest sister got married and told us she is having her first baby.  They got married quickly and quietly, and I didn't make it out for the wedding.

The boys and I did, however, go visit my family for a couple of weeks in November in order to celebrate my mom's 60th birthday with her, a party that was planned much further in advance to the wedding.  The family surprised her with a surprise party at her house.  Surprise!  Everyone in your family is now staying with you for the weekend!  Doesn't that sound like the best present?!  We planned out all of the food, and she did say that she was glad not to have to worry about what to feed everyone.

Our friends came to visit us for Thanksgiving.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at my house, surrounded by the best of friends and delicious food.

December hit with a quick realization that there were only three weeks until Christmas!!!  This year's Christmas preparations were greatly improved over last year's stress by the help of Amazon Prime Shipping.  It was such a life-saver.  I hope my gift recipients didn't mind it because it really was awesome for me.

Spiff and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary both by being super duper sick.  I had some stomach issue, and he had a nasty cold.  We postponed the fancy family dinner I planned to make for him for a couple of days.  Then I tried my hand at preparing filet mignon, and it was delicious.

We spent Christmas alone this year, just our little family, which was both good and bad for me.  I prefer a larger celebration, or at least sharing it with other people.  But on the other hand, it certainly was casual, and we really could do whatever we wanted, which is nice.

We were invited to a friend's house for a Finnish New Year's Eve potluck dinner.  I made this Finnish Pulla Bread, which was delicious.  You should make it, too.  It would make a great breakfast sweet bread.

Now it's January, and we are enjoying the coldest weather to hit the country since 1996.  But so are you!  Let's all bundle up and stay warm together somehow.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Arctic Vortex vs. My Windows

It's -25 outside today with a -45 windchill.  As we hunker down indoors, my windows are losing the battle between cold outside and warmish inside.