Saturday, September 29, 2007

Go, Aiden!

I'm posting this for the benefit of family members who are not able to come to little Aiden's promotions for Tae Kwon Do. He's been practicing faithfully three times a week for almost a year now and has moved through white, white stripe, yellow, yellow stripe, and now just promoted to his green belt! I got a little video of him performing his form and breaking his board before the panel of black belt judges. (nothing is wrong with your computer, the video has no sound) So proud of this kid!

Getting ready to be called up to break the board.


Hope the video works! Enjoy!

video video

Friday, September 28, 2007

The House Fairy

I don't think I've ever had an original idea, but I'm very good at taking hold of the good ideas of other people and making them work in my own life. Many of my "great ideas" have come from my mom. One, in particular, keeps my children enthused without fail: visits from the House Fairy.

The House Fairy is a distant cousin of the Tooth Fairy, and she comes to reward children whose rooms are tidy and whose beds are made. She leaves a small treat on the child's pillow, anything from a small bag of chips or a candybar to a sheet of stickers or a cool pen. Usually it's something edible at our house.

I would much rather reward children for good behavior than punish them for bad. I also would much rather have clean bedrooms than disaster areas, and I don't subscribe to "just shutting the doors". Our children are expected to have beds made and rooms tidied before coming down in the morning for scripture study, but during the week "tidy" gets a little more loosely interpreted. All I have to say when I see that things need a boost is, "I heard the House Fairy may be paying a visit today." That's it. They know exactly what this means, and they want in on the loot. And it's so much easier than nagging.

Sometimes I will do a spot check and say, "I don't know if the House Fairy will think this is good enough. Better be sure!" Or, "I'd go and remake that bed if I were you before the House Fairy gets here." They wait anxiously for her arrival, and subsequent approval. I never let them see her, of course. She must be protected. And when my children say, "Mom, can you put the candy on our beds now?" I reply, "Do I look like the House Fairy?"

This was one of my favorite inventions of my mother. It was an easy score for me too, since I was OCD on the cleanliness spectrum. We were also rewarded for having our chores done, and I remember July mornings before Summer Band, sweeping the wrap-around porch of our three story NJ house before the humidity was too oppressive. My favorite House Fairy gifts were the packs of cheese and crackers with the little red knife. My least favorite was the package of Cabbage Patch Kid briefs (GRANNY PANTIES) in shades of purple, pink, and yellow, right before my freshman year of high school. Let me tell you about changing in the locker room for gym class, being one of the only little tiny (Mormon) white girls amidst a sea of Yolanda's and Taniqua's when your mother buys you Cabbage Patch Kid briefs. Yeah. Talk about Fear Factor. Well, I'll tell you another time.

The important thing here is that children can be coaxed into having clean bedrooms with a little visit from the House Fairy. It works wonders, and I'd be glad to give her your address if you'd like. Tell the kids she's coming, and stand back to be amazed!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Whoooo-Hooooo!

What a high! I put the kids to bed tonight and made my trip out to the grocery store for some coupon extravaganza fun. Yeah, baby.

So I know you all want to know how I did, but before I tell you, let me let you in on a little secret: If you have multiple coupons for the same items (like you want to get 5 Fantastics, and you have 5 coupons for Fantastic), many stores will only double ONE of those coupons. So, my savings in prior weeks should have been a lot higher, and once I found this out, I was peeved! I called my sister with my coupon emergency and she tipped me off to two tricks:

1. Pick a cashier that is male or a young teen girl. They don't follow the rules as much as the middle-aged females that are bitter and jealous of your savings. They tend to want you to save money, and they like to feel that they helped you. Male cashiers don't pretend to have as much loyalty to a grocery store chain. Of course, this is all stereotyped, and I will deny that I told you, but I have found much higher coupon saving success in my experience with male cashiers, and my sister verified that she, too, has found this to be true. You're taking a chance, but there it is.

2. Separate your products into multiple orders. If they will only double your coupon once for your 5 Fantastics, then have them ring up 5 separate orders, and then you win! This seems like a pain, but the thrill is worth it, trust me. Especially since this week, Fantastic is FREE!! (And I actually got 6.) But that's what I did. I took my cart and separated it into three sections and when I had 3 coupons for something, I put one product in each section and then I had the cashier ring up 3 different orders to maximize my savings. Yeah, baby.

So, this week was exciting because I got lots of household cleaners. LOTS. More than a year's worth. Plus, 4 shampoos/conditioners (the GOOD kind, ladies. The generics are just too expensive!), cat litter, 2 bags of cat food, toilet paper, and my favorite savings was packs of Bic Soleil disposable razors that normally sell for $8.99....I got them for $.99 each. Three packs of them. Whoo-hoo! Lots of food. And of course, there's the bummer of milk, butter, and bread that I had to pay full price for. And now for the results?

I spent $80.01 for $291.23 worth of groceries! Savings of $211.22!! Yeah, baby!!

Little Lovelies

A few things worth celebrating:

~Over the weekend southern CA finally got a much needed rainstorm. The boys all wanted to go to the park anyway, and what the heck, we did. We headed out during only a light rain, and stayed till the downpour returned, running back to the car with wet baby in tow. It was delightful, I have to say.



~Conor has discovered storybooks! (And Nana, we can't find our copy of Goodnight, Moon anywhere. Or Pajama Time!)



~The flower seeds that Luisa sent me over the summer are blooming like mad!

~Lyndsay wrote a really great subjective voice narrative about a rabbit, that almost made her cry as she read it to me. (She has such a soft heart for animals.)

"There had been an unusual amount of snow. It was sad to see the small rabbit having such a terrible time digging down deep enough to get to any of the dried grasses and the small limbs of the bushes it had to eat that winter. The trap snapped shut...

The jaws of that rusty old trap caught the fragile bunny's hind leg, causing him to panic with pain. He tried and tried to escape, but after a few minutes the innocent victim's leg started bleeding from the intense pressure of the sharp teeth of the trap. He was exhausted from the lack of food and all energy that he had stored was quickly disappearing because of the futile struggle. He decided to use the very last bit of energy he could muster up for one last hope of getting out alive. He took a deep breath to calm down his panicing lungs and started kicking, jumping, and running, but that poor bunny's last attempt failed. Not being able to move, he laid down and closed his little eyes, and was never able to open them again."


~Dylan and Aiden are walking around the house chanting happily, "Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species!" and I think I've finally got it!

~Aiden is reading Little House in the Big Woods, and is loving it. This is good since last year in public school dampened his interest in books. Here is his illustration from today's reading:

~I wish I could put a video on here of Lyndsay reciting the Declaration of Independence. It's such a powerful document anyway, but to hear your 13 year old recite it from memory is almost more than a mother can take. Talk about tears!

It's the little things that make a Mama happy in her heart!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Easy Like a Sunday Morning"?

Since when is there anything easy about a Sunday morning? No woman trying to get her kids out the door for church wrote these lyrics, I can promise you that. Holy frijoles, Batman! I'd like to smack Lionel Richie.

This is what happens when you forget that babies should not have nuts before the age of 2, and your 13 month old eats (and then spits out!) a tiny, eensie weensie piece of a walnut. This is what he looks like about 45 minutes later, and what sends Mom rushing to the grocery store on Sunday morning for Benadryl (don't worry, gals, I had a coupon!) It took all day long for the swelling to go all the way down. Poor baby! Awful, I know.




Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Lamb

I had the rare opportunity to travel to Peru a few years ago. I was traveling with a man I was dating at the time, and a humanitarian group that he was leading from the States. Because of his knowledge of and involvement with the country, we were able to see Peru more intimately than most tourists, traveling to places that few get to see. Yes, I hiked Machu Picchu, but I also visited with native tribes living deep in the Amazon rainforest, and at 10,000 feet in elevation in remote parts of the Andes mountains. The experience made a delible impression upon me, like permanent ink on the tissues of my heart. I never want to forget the smudged, brown faces, piercing black eyes and the broad white smiles of little Peruvian children, dressed in torn and ragged sweaters and pants donated by Americans, shoeless, and filthy, but shining brighter than the sun at midday with happiness that few of us will ever understand.


While we were in the Andes, making plans to build greenhouses for the tribe that lived there, to teach them how to grow food inside during cold months and thus provide more adequately for their families, one of the men in the group got a craving for lamb. Fresh lamb. The people in the mountains are shepherds, leaving their young children alone during the day, while the adults and older children take the flock to pasture in the high hills of the beautiful terrain. This man wanted to taste lamb from the mountains in Peru, and asked, through a translator, if he could purchase one. The arrangement was made, and a lamb was sold for $50 American money, a fortune to these people. The lamb was separated from its mother, the two of them bleating their agonizing goodbyes, but once away, he became quiet. He was laid on his side, and his four legs were tied together with rope. And there he stayed throughout the day, until dinner time approached. He never made a sound. He laid perfectly still, eyes open, mouth quiet.



When the time came, and work was done for the day, this man, seeing only dinner, came to the lamb and prepared to slaughter it. It was a difficult scene for someone like me, raised by animal activists and vegetarians, and loving the creatures as I do. The lamb kept its eyes open, looked into the man's eyes, and never made a sound as his throat was slit, and his blood was spilt. He gave his life freely, without struggle or complaint, with perfect submission. I wept. It was a stunning object lesson. It has haunted my mind since that day, so much so that I have refrained from speaking of it for fear that it might desecrate the sacredness of the experience.

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth." Isaiah 53:7

Today, this Sabbath day, I am filled with gratitude for another sacrifice, the Supreme sacrifice, of One who went like a lamb to the slaughter.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Coupon Tutorial

My cute sister just wrote up a brilliant basic couponing tutorial on her blog here. So those of you who are interested, read it carefully and go for it! I'd love to hear about your savings! Hannah just bought $140 worth of groceries and only paid $.95!!! Not dollars, cents! Whoo--hoo!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Coupon Savings!


I love my newest addiction. It brings me such a high, that I want to shout "Hallelujah!" right out loud at the checkout stand.
This week's fabulous savings:
Ralph's Supermarket.......I bought $141.81 worth of groceries, and paid $30.74! I saved $111.07!
Von's Supermarket........I bought $175.08 worth of groceries, and paid $77.62!!!! I saved $97.46!

This means, that I came home with $316.89 in groceries, that I spent only $108.36 on! Yay!
(Are you so proud of me, Hannah???) And that included "big ticket" items like haircolor, detergent, a good razor, and carpet cleaner.

Hannah is my sister, cake baker/decorator extraordinaire, and coupon Queen of all Queens. She taught me almost everything I know. Lots of you have asked me how I save so much money at the grocery store, and so let me tell you....

....It's called The Grocery Game!! It is SO MUCH FUN! You can go to http://www.thegrocerygame.com/ and get a 4 week trial for only $1, after that, you pay $10/month for the first store, and $5/month for each additional store you want tracked. You enter your zip code, and your local grocery stores come up on the screen. You select the one(s) you want, and you see Teri's List, which matches the Sunday coupons up with the in-store promotions for the week so you can optimize your savings. Coupons are great, sales are great, but combine them both, and look out, baby! The items are color-coded by how high the savings are, with green being FREE, blue being at least 50% off, and black being some savings. The Game is to buy the green and the blue ones (whether you need them or not, so you can accumulate a "stockpile".) You only buy the items in black that you need, and as your stockpile grows, your list of "needs" gets smaller and smaller.

Yes, it does take some time to clip the coupons, and play The Game. It took me about an hour to clip all my coupons today and get my list ready for both stores. But I saved $200, and I don't remember the last time I made $200 in an hour. Well, okay, I had some excellent Mary Kay parties, but this time I had no pantyhose on, no makeup, and my feet weren't killing me! My pantry is becoming stuffed, my freezer is jam-packed, the kids aren't whining for food all the time, and I'm not feeling like a kitchen Nazi, trying to ration everything. I am spending about the same amount a month on groceries ($400-500 for our family of 8), and we have plenty of fresh fruit/veggies and meats too.

So, here's the deal...now that I let you in on this, if you decide to play with me and sign up, please tell them I referred you! Jenna Consolo. Please! Then I get some free weeks on The Grocery Game, and I love FREE!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Rembrandt is Blurry!

Darn, stupid camera. Well, actually, it's darn stupid ME. For some reason, when I turn the flash off, every picture comes out blurry. Time to take out the manual and READ IT.

Last night I took Lyndsay on a YW trip to the Norton Simon Art Museum in Pasadena. So cool. I heart art museums. Maybe it's a remnant of my mother in me, who was an Art History major, who is the most talented artist I know, and who taught me to do anything artistic that I can do. Every time I see a Cassatt, I think of her. Mary Cassatt used the theme of mothers and children prolifically, which is probably why both my mother and I appreciate her work, but I didn't see any Cassatt's last night.
This is the 100th anniversary of Norton Simon's birth. There was a fascinating display highlighting the development of his collection of art, and giving a history of the acquisition of some of the works. I've always been curious about the behind-the-scenes of art acquisition, so I loved this small display. Simon made one of his most important acquisitions on March 19, 1965, when he purchased Rembrandt's Portrait of a Boy, Presumed to be the Artist's Son, Titus, buying it for $2,234,000 in a very controversial and publicized sale at Christie's in London. He had turned down the chance to buy Titus in 1963, but was ready to bid on the painting when it came up for auction in 1965. However, he wanted to remain anonymous, so he devised a plan to allow him to communicate silently with the auctioneer. It was a complicated and complex "code" made up of combinations of sitting, standing, and raising a finger. Unfortunately, the auctioneer mistakenly misread Simon's charades, and thought he had dropped out of the bidding, and the painting was sold to someone else. Simon immediately demanded the bidding be reopened and after five minutes of arguing, it was, and Simon made the final bid. At the time, Titus was the second most expensive work of art sold at auction. And even though he had originally wished to remain anonymous, he appeared with the painting on the cover of Time magazine on June 4, 1965. Norton Simon considered Titus, along with Raphael's Madonna and Child with Book, c. 1502-03, to be his greatest acquisitions. There was an abundance of fascinating stories like this, that brought to life the man behind the collection.
We saw several Renoir's, some Rembrandt portraits, along with a collection of his etchings, some Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Raphael, Van Gogh, and Degas. Lots of Degas. And not only Degas' paintings, but many, many bronzes, of both dancers and horses. Norton Simon purchased an entire collection of seventy modele bronzes, which means they were the bronze master casts taken from Degas' wax originals, and from which all subsequent sets were produced. They were lovely. Lyndsay fell in love with Degas. (Must be the dancer in her.) She has great taste. I bought her a very cool art poster of a Degas ballerina bronze in the museum gift store, which I will give her for Christmas.
So, I've reconfirmed that I really like 16th and 17th century Dutch art, but not so much French of the same era. I like later French artists, though. Maybe this is due to my Dutch ancestors tainting me with a spiritual bias through the veil?
Favorite pieces of the night?

Edgar Degas, Women Ironing c.1884

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait c. 1636-38

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Boy, Presumed to Be the Artist's Son, Titus c. 1645-50

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878-81, Bronze

Vincent van Gogh, Mulberry Tree, 1889

Georges Lacombe, Chestnut Gatherers, 1893-94

There were so many, though! What a collection! I wish my art expert friend, Luisa, had been with me to give me a tutorial as we browsed the galleries. I would have learned so much more. I've always felt that the finest existence is one in which one is surrounded by beauty and wisdom in art, literature, music, and nature. Even a simple home, filled with treasures of books, well-chosen art, diverse and uplifting music, some nature inside and a view of nature outside....well, that's just about heaven!

Wish I had better pictures. Dumb, stupid camera.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bona Fortuna

Good fortune for the past week:

1. After feeling very depressed all summer about the state of my carpets, a friend let me borrow her steam cleaner and now everywhere I look is clean! (as long as I'm looking down) I LOVE clean carpets, almost as much as I love my children. I hope someday Santa can bring me my very own carpet cleaning machine! Bissell ProHeat Advantage=TRUE LOVE.

2. Yesterday I went grocery shopping and thanks to helpful tips from coupon guru Hannah, and careful organization and strategy, I bought $451 of groceries and only paid $229! I love it!

3. I have increased my yogic capacity Beryl Bender Birch style from 14 minutes to 36 minutes, and did not throw up!

4. I have met some very cool, very fun new blogging friends, thanks to a shout out from Josi Kilpack about my "Towering Above the Masses" post, and Candace Salima's LDS Blog Ring, and the very addictive and hip cre8buzz site! There's too many of you to name, but thanks for looking twice, you super-cool gals!

Aidenisms

Aiden: "He got tooken out of the pack of wolves in the jungle."

Mom: "Aiden, 'tooken' isn't correct English."

Aiden: (exasperated) "Sorry! Trrrrooken. Is that better?"

Trooken? what? (sigh)


Later, giving a plot summary of Tomie dePaola's Jamie O'Rourke and the Giant Potato...

Mom: "And so what is the author trying to teach us?"

Aiden: "You should never trust leprechauns."

A good lesson for us all, eh?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

And So IT Begins

The new school year! We had such a great family night on Monday, with each of the kids writing down goals in four key areas of their lives: academic, spiritual, physical, and relationships. They came up with some very keen aspirations! Some were: make 3 new friends from the "uncool" kids, learn to read more fluently, say 5 nice things to people each day, earn my Faith in God award, don't complain about wearing Sunday clothes, improve push-ups each month, lose 10 pounds (okay, that one was mine, of course).

We have a tight schedule for piano practice and showers here in the morning, and it ran like clockwork without any help from Mom this morning! I was so warmed to hear the water turn on at 5:50am (Lyndsay), and the piano exercises at 6:10 (Dylan). All of the kids were dressed, beds made, and scriptures on their laps ten minutes EARLY for scripture study! I was so proud, and what a great start to the day! Hearty oatmeal for breakfast, first day of school pictures, and out the door. Well, two of them.

This year I am homeschooling all three of my bigger kids. And re-routing baby Conor constantly. We had warnings and rules before we got started, and they were all raring to go. But lest you think I'm a perfect mother with perfect children, for whom everything runs perfectly....

It wasn't long before meltdown #1. And then meltdown #2 was fast on its heels. And then meltdown #3. And then meltdown #4. That was mine, and it was successful enough that there were no more meltdowns from the crew, thank you very much. I can only take so much! We all have to learn a new routine and find our place in it. The boys have had the last two years in public school, so it's been a while since all of them have been under my inadequate, but willing tutelage. Official students at the Caelum Academy. They did great work though. Dylan is reading Pinocchio, and Lyndsay The Diary of Anne Frank. Aiden is working through a fairly decent retelling of Kipling's The Jungle Book. They all wrote about their reading today, and re-wrote about their reading. They each did a math lesson and some Mind Benders, Lyndsay started Wheelock's Latin, and Aiden learned the difference between common and proper nouns. We took it fairly easy on them. Our grammar, science, and Vocabulary from Classical Roots, along with Dylan's Latin hasn't arrived yet, but stay tuned! It's going to be a great year!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Weakness and Forgiveness

I have this mouth. Sometimes it's wickedly clever and witty. Sometimes it's keenly pointed and poignant. Sometimes it's astute and wise beyond its years. Then still, sometimes it's full of itself and downright mean and cutting. Sometimes it works on auto-pilot and I can't seem to slam on the brakes fast enough, but this is my lesson in life. However, I don't want to shift responsibility to my mouth and stand back victimized, for I am my mouth.

One of the greatest challenges in life is learning to "tame the beast", in whatever form the beast may present itself. Religiously speaking, this is referred to as overcoming the natural man, or bridling one's passions. Metaphysically speaking, it would be evolving or enlightenment. It's all the same. Growth begins when we can claim our weaknesses and then work to conquer them, rather than sit back resigned to a state of "this is just who I am". This is the saddest kind of hopelessness to me.

My mouth is my beast. My mind works fast. It is sharp and sassy and witty and intuitive and a blessing. It can also be opinionated, judgemental, sarcastic, and biting... and a curse. I often forget that I don't need to say everything that comes into my mind, that not everyone cares. I wish the connection from my mind to my mouth would short-circuit a bit more often than it does, but this is my challenge, and I take courage in knowing that I am not alone:

"...I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle..." Psalms 39:1

"He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction." Proverbs 13:3

"And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword..." 1 Nephi 21:2

If this was Nephi's gift, I have no doubt that he struggled to bridle it, as I do. That's the way it works: virtue and vice. Then just yesterday I was reading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling, before my older kids have to read it in homeschool, and I stopped at the following passage:

"You kin tame a 'coon. You kin tame a bear. You kin tame a wildcat and you kin tame a panther." He pondered. His mind went back to his father's sermons. "You can tame arything, son, excusin' the human tongue." (p.79)
Yikes. Almost true. Taming the human tongue is tough, but not impossible. We can overcome all weakness through the Lord. It is in that very act that we are made strong:
"...for my strength is made perfect in weakness..." 2 Corinthians 12:9
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." Ether 12:27
It is in the weakness that humility and softening are found. When I was a young mother with two children, I often found myself overwhelmed and running on empty. My fuse was short, as was my temper with my sweet little ones, from whom I expected too much. After scolding my daughter, who was 4 at the time, I was filled with remorse and went to sit on the front porch to weep with my weakness. She came and sat down next to me. I looked into her angelic face, and her eyes looked lovingly into mine, those eyes that have always had an exceptional gift of wisdom, and I said, "Mommy hurts your feelings all the time, don't I?"
She scooted closer to me and wrapped her little arm around my back. "Only sometimes," she answered.
"I'm so sorry, my Lyns," I said. "I shouldn't do that."
"That's okay, Mommy," she said without thought. "I relieve you."
I looked at her. She had meant forgive, but how appropriate and ironic was her mix-up. Isn't that exactly what we do when we forgive, relieve? Relieve from burden or sorrow or guilt? Isn't that what the Savior does for us when he extends his benevolent hand in forgiveness towards us? Out of the mouth of babes.
These two themes, weakness and forgiveness, play such a prevalent part in my life these days. With one, the other is needed. As often as I extend forgiveness, it's true that I need it extended to me with even greater frequency. And there's something divine in the extension, something heavenward, heavenly, heavenbound.

Playing Along

My cute sister-in-law, Sarah, tagged me for the Middle Name Meme, and though I have the same middle name as she, maybe I can come up with something different. Thanks for inviting me, Sarah!

L oud-Mouthed. Hey, I grew up in a very large, Italian family, and one had to be loud to be heard! Actually, this has more to do with learning to discipline my mouth than it does the actual volume of my mouth, but both could use some work. My mouth is both my virtue and my vice.

Y ogi. One who practices yoga. And though I've been on hiatus, I'm back in it, baby! I can barely walk or lift my arms to prove it.

N ympho. My husband said I should put that. It's the one thing we never fight about.

N utritionally Nurturing. I love to help other people get healthier by eating better. I love to teach my own children how to make good food choices, and I love to serve nutritional, nourishing meals. I love to nuture sick people back to health through proper food and herbs, and I love the feeling of eating a "clean" diet. Not perfect at it, but I love it.

Okay, so I have to tag Luisa because she's usually a good sport and because she's great with words, and Annette (have you already played this Meme?) for the same reasons. Thanks, Sarah! Hope I didn't embarrass you! :)