Friday, October 31, 2008

Make Your Own Napkin Rings!

Over the past few weeks, I've been searching for really cute napkin rings. Apparently, they're not as easy to come by as you might think.

I found ugly rings, black rings, bronze rings (eew!), braided rings, boring rings, expensive rings and poorly made rings. And every time I looked at all these hideous things, I thought, "I should just make my own." Yesterday, I just happened to have three toilet paper tubes and a free hour, so I finally got down to work.
Here are the supplies you'll need:

3 toilet paper tubes
scrapbook paper
3-D scrapbook embellishments
glue dots
card stock

Here's what you do:
1. Cut the toilet paper tubes in half. Make sure the tube edges are relatively even.

2. Stick several glue dots onto the tube, then roll them in pre-measured and pre-cut scrapbook paper.
3. Trim any excess paper.

4. Cover paper seam with ribbon by cutting the ribbon to the proper length, then sticking a glue dot to each end. Tuck the ends inside the tube so you can't see the rough edges of the ribbon.

5. Affix the embellishments where you like them and voila! You have cute, personalized napkin rings for virtually free!

**Delicious alternative***

If you don't have any 3D embellishments on hand, don't worry. Print out a few pieces of clip art that you like, then cut them out. If you print on regular printer paper, you'll need to glue it onto card stock for strength. (If you have white card stock, you can print directly on to it.) Attach your images to your rings and you are all set!

So now your table is not only stylish, but also Green! You gotta love that! Plus, they are so simple and speedy to do that you can make them for different seasons or holidays.

Hey, it just occured to me that this would be a fantastic gift for kids to make and give! Aha... one more way to reduce costs this holiday season!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A homeschool/public school split?

Public school has its many woes, but I always assumed that my girls would be fine. They'd learn what they needed (academically and socially) to become intelligent, participatory members of society. But having been in five different school districts, I am starting to doubt that my girls are getting what I believe they need in a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Only one out of those five districts have/had spelling programs. Sure, there are still district standards for words kids need to know how to spell, but those words are so basic it's pathetic. My friend, Kelly, just sent me her son's 6th grade spelling words from last week. Here are a few...

a lot any friend beautiful because school quiet

Tell me, are you as shocked as I am? Both my girls knew these words in first grade! So what do I do to compensate? I give my girls spelling tests at home with words that I deem appropriate. I supplement their lacking education.

I don't think either one of my girls is learning as much as they should be. There's just not time in the school day. Homework for both of them is minimal, at best. I seem to hear an awful lot about movies watched at school. And there are minimum days all the time! Field trips have been severely minimized because of budget cuts. The only art program is the parent run, once monthly "Art Discovery". (I have to say, though, that the music program in this district is phenomenal.)

As with the spelling I do with them each week, I would love to supplement their learning even more. But, honestly, there is just no time. Hayley is gone from 7:15 to 2:45. Emma is gone from 8:50 to 4:00. By the time they snack, do what homework they have and practice instruments, they're ready to relax for a little bit! I truly believe kids shouldn't be overscheduled because they need time to be kids! Dinner and bedtime come before we know it and another day is gone.

I would love to homeschool my girls. They would learn so much more; I could tailor their learning to what I, as an active member of society, deem important. I could teach them at their levels -- not allow them to be held back by others who are behind academically.

But the social aspect of school is almost as important as the academic, so I have trouble whole-heartedly embracing homeschool.

So here's what I propose... The district should offer a homeschool/public school split. Kids could attend two or three classes at public school -- math, science and history, for example. Then parents could teach the kids the other mandatory subjects, plus electives.

Kids would then have the advantages of public school, but still have an academic standard more tailored to their individual needs. They'd get the best of both worlds. The district still gets paid for their attendance. (Plus, homeschooled students generally score better on standardized tests then their public school counterparts.) Parents would then be satisfied that they are doing everything possible to prepare their children for a successful adulthood.

What do you think? Would this work? Obviously, it's not a choice everyone would want to make. Many parents work outside the home and don't have the time. Still others don't have the desire or the resources. That's why it would be a choice! What would you choose?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I know all parents think their kid is the best, but...

I have to say that Emma really is! That amazing (and generally fairly reserved) kid volunteered to play her violin in our church's talent show! She did try to get out of it this afternoon, saying that she was scared. I basically told her "Too bad, so sad."

Well, the show started tonight at about 6:30. Em was fifth on the list. When she was introduced, she went right up to the mic and said, "My name is Emma and I'm going to be playing Minutes 1 and 2 by Bach." She flicked her hair back, got in position and took off playing.

SHE WAS AWESOME!! Just listen...

After finishing the first song with a flourish, she went into rest position and took a bow. The applause was thunderous. The laughter and "awwww's" melted my heart! She smiled faintly, lifted that bow again and launched into Minuet 2. It's a longer song and she was concentrating so deeply. Another fantastic finish and I saw her breathe a little sigh of relief. She had done it!

When the show was over, so many people came over and told her how amazing she did! I know it's only a matter of time before the church's music director asks Emma to play during a service. (She's already asked Hayley to play her trumpet!)

Em also did fantastic at her violin recital on Saturday night. She was really nervous about that one, but did fabulous, of course! Boy, was she ever mad that other parents brought flowers for their kids. She said, "It is just so inappropriate! How can parents even do that!" (Of course, it was really jealousy talking. I thought about getting her flowers, but then I hadn't gotten Hayley flowers after her band concert the other day. I wasn't about to start the vicious circle of envy!)

I am so thrilled that my daughters are learning to perform in front of others. I have horrible memories of recitals and the abject terror I felt. In fact, Emma's violin instructor asked me to play the piano while Emma played on her violin during the recital. There was not a single second of hesitation before I said, "No!" with vehemence and determination to run if need be! He got the point.

Schumann's "Happy Farmer" is next in Emma's book. I'll upload a video of the finished piece when we get there!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ever have those "snapshot" moments?

Those moments where you're doing something, anything, and you suddenly see yourself as if through a camera?

I felt that camera click just a few minutes ago and it left me with such a feeling of contentment...

Emma and I were in the living room waiting for her school bus to pull up outside our house. I was measuring a twin size white sheet on her so I can cut it into a Princess Leah costume for next week's big day. Sitting on my knees, leaning over the material, I measured and marked and cut and measured again.

We heard the school bus coming up the street, so Emma grabbed her pink backpack and rushed out the door. She made it three feet to the steps before running back to give me a hug and kiss.

I stood at the door, costume in hand, watching her climb those steep bus steps, smile at the bus driver, walk down aisle and plop down next to a friend.

That's when the camera clicked.

I saw myself, a stay/work-at-home mom seeing my amazing daughter off to school while I finish up her costume. How blessed am I? This is what I've always wanted! My biggest, most significant dream has come true -- to be a wife and a mother, a housewife, if you will.

It's certainly not all fun and games. Laundry isn't particularly fulfilling and the constantly askew dish towels make me want to pull my hair out. My eyes glaze over at the dusting to be done yet again and at the miscellaneous pile of stuff we tend to move from one place to the next, but never put away.

But in spite of all this, there is a familiarity, a comfort in the routine. A feeling of security. A sense of achieving domestic perfection (haha!) a la Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best.

My house isn't perfect... the beds are unmade, there are weeds in the yard, various things are missing and despite all the laundry being done, Emma still can't find socks. But I generally manage to keep the chaos somewhat under control, stay mostly on top of dishes and laundry, keep the pantry stocked (although Hayley would beg to differ) and occasionally find time to write.

I'm content.

I think I'll go make cookies so my girls will have a fresh, homemade snack to come home to.

Should I put on pearls while I do so? No... I think the colored macaroni necklace is better suited.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Learning to deal with death wasn't exactly on my agenda this week...

I'm 34 years old and have fortunately only known, up to now, three people who have died. Uncle John died when I was maybe 10 and Grandma Wegener passed on when I was 15 or so. Just because they were related, though, doesn't mean I knew them well. I certainly didn't. John lived in Texas; Grandma in New York. We were then in San Diego and saw each of them only once or twice that I can remember.

When they died, I was sad. But I was more sad for my mom because it was her brother and more sad for my dad because it was his mother. I don't want to sound callous, but their deaths were not earth shattering events for me.

When Grandma Kettleman died, I was 27 and two weeks away from giving birth to Emma. I visited her weekly in the assisted living home she was in. She could barely hear, though, so visits could be frustrating. She was well into her nineties and her body was failing. She wasn't happy and was ready to go. She even asked my mom at one point near the end, "Why is it taking so long?"

(This photo was taken on Mother's Day 2000. Lydia, Scott, Hayley and a six-month pregnant me.)

I was with her just hours before she died. I remember telling her that I loved her and to hang in there, that I'd be back first thing in the morning. Looking back, my comment to "hang in there" sounds so naive. She didn't want to hang in there. She wanted to go. But what did I know? I was so young and had no idea, had never really even thought about wanting to die. Being ready. Looking forward to it, even.

She stopped breathing around 4am and when Mom called me, I was so very sad, but didn't cry. Grandma was happy again. I knew that and I was comforted by that.

I met my parents at the assisted living facility later that day and I did start to cry when I looked at the bed where she died. Her tiny imprint was still on it. A grandma-sized tissue was crumpled right where her hand had laid. It was suddenly real, but I knew everything was okay.

Michael's death this past weekend has filled me with thoughts of a wife widowed too young, daughters grown but still dependent on their dad, friends shocked that they'll never hear his laugh again. I've cried along with Scott, feeling his pain as my own. But yesterday, I felt the pain as Michael's wife's and I don't think I'll ever be the same.

I've coordinated a meal rotation for Joann and her daughters. I delivered the first meal last night. Joann was so grateful and she hugged me for such a long time, sobbing on my shoulder. I cried with her, feeling her anguish and her disbelief. She kept saying, "I just want to touch him again."

As her daughters cried, I held them, too, even though I'd never met them. They shared memories with me and we laughed and then cried and then laughed some more. I felt so honored to be there, to help them, to hold them.

I cried much of the rest of the night. Not for my own sorrow or for Scott's. But for theirs. I've never been so close to death before. I've never seen what it can do to the family. I've never tried to comfort a widow. But I learned. I learned that there's little you can do, no words that can comfort. I learned that there is laughter after tragedy and smiles and blessings to be thankful for. I learned that, God forbid anything similar happen to me, that I want Joann to comfort me.

Death is such a common occurrence, but the incredible pain cannot possibly be. It is, but it shouldn't be. There's no love without loss -- we all know that. And we know death is a constant. But I guess the bottom line is to remember to cherish every single moment you have. Tell your spouse every single day how much you love him. Hold your kids tight even when you want to strangle them. Be kind those around you. Pray.

Hayley's Band Concert -- Oct. 21, 2008

This is the 6th grade concert band at Hayley's middle school. They all started playing in 5th grade, meeting for lessons twice a week. Now, band is a year-long elective and since the kids are playing every day (and hopefully practicing every day - haha!), they are getting really good! I was so impressed!

Hayley is playing the trumpet. She's in the middle of the screen and is the only trumpet player who's trumpet you can see. It's the gold thing in the middle of the screen, so you can't miss her!

In Memoriam: Michael Antonelli

It’s not often that we actually recognize an angel here on earth. How amazingly blessed we were to know such an angel, to smile at him each Sunday, to enjoy dinner with him, to feel safe and protected in his hugs, to know without a doubt that he cared.

Michael was one of those amazing people who lived his faith. You could see it in the way he talked to people, the way he listened. It was easy to hear God in his voice. People magnetized to him because of that. He was a mentor, a teacher, a leader, a comforter, a hero, a friend.

At only 47 years old, a heart attack took Michael up to Heaven this past Saturday. Michael, along with the men’s group at church, was having a blast at their annual retreat – a weekend they all looked forward to throughout the year. He had been laughing when it happened. It didn’t take him immediately, so he was able to tell the men at the retreat he loved them and to tell his wife he loved her. The paramedics did everything they could, but there was no way to save him. They tried for two hours to bring him back. Michael was already with God, though.

Michael made such an imprint on my heart. Now as I sit here in Starbucks with tears in my eyes, I see snapshots of Michael over the 14 months we’ve known him…

  • His genuine and welcoming smile when we first entered what would become our church…
  • The concern he showed when he visited Scott in the hospital earlier this year…
  • His laughter as he helped me organize paperwork for VBS training last May…
  • The relish in which he ate the fajitas I served when he and his wife came over for dinner two weeks ago...
  • The words of praise he poured over my husband, telling me how amazing Scott is and how lucky St. Andrew is to have him in his congregation…
  • The day he caught me in the sanctuary and told me how impressed he was with Hayley doing the high ropes course…
  • His arm around my shoulders as he’d ask how my week went…
  • His honesty when he told me that life wouldn’t get any easier for a while – not until my home was free of teenage girls. (Joann whacked his arm and said, “Don’t tell her that!”)…
  • The amazing way he greeted my parents when they came to service during a visit and his concerted offer to help my dad up to the alter for communion…

Michael was most definitely an angel on earth, so I have not a single doubt that he is now an angel in Heaven, watching down on his beautiful wife and daughters and all of us whom he touched so deeply.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I've been thinking a lot about the environment lately...

and I want to go green in my house. I feel like it's the one thing I can do to help the earth. I can't make a difference on carbon emissions. I can't control factory pollution. And you know what? If I call the Chinese government and ask them to make some serious and prolific environmental changes, I really don't think they'd listen. So in my small .07 acre of the world, I'm feeling the need to go green:

Here are a few green things we're doing already:

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  • Buy many fragrance free, dye free products

  • Switch household items to the less waste variety (microfiber clothes, one heavy duty tape dispenser, canvas shopping totes, etc.)

  • Print on both sides of the paper

  • Give the kids boxes, fabric scraps, egg cartons, etc. to play with

  • Use tuppers to pack sandwiches for the kids' lunches

  • Wash and reuse plastic baggies (the girls even bring the ones in their lunches home to reuse)
  • Send reusable water bottles to school with the kiddos

  • Replace old bulbs with flourescent

  • Recently switched from paper to cloth napkins

  • And most importantly, continuously impart the crucial needs of our earth to my children

Here's what I'd like to do:

  • Put more plants around, including ferns since they're supposed to absorb extra chemicals.

  • Get rid of toxic cleaning chemicals (I won't waste money, though. I'll use them till they run out, then use environmental alternatives.)

  • Replace my teflon-coated pans with the old-fashioned variety. (My pots and pans are just fine, though, so this one won't happen any time soon.)

  • Convince my local recycling plant to accept much more than they currently do.

  • Eat organic. (Hahahahaha! When I win the lottery, that is...)

I was reading a book the other day about greening your home. Many, many useful tips, I thought. So many, in fact, I almost bought the book. But as I continued to read, my frustration grew as the author continuously intoned that I was killing my family because of the way I keep house. Yes, I use Comet to clean my sinks. Yes, I use dryer sheets. And yes, I do actually use the microwave!!!!! (This is where you take in a quick breath of horror and disbelievingly say, "No!")

I do have to live, you know!

The book ended up at the bottom of the pile we weren't buying. I'd love to read a less accusatory book about Going Green. Any suggestions? I'll have to peruse the online library catalog. (Oooohhh, totally off topic, but the city just broke ground on the new GIANT library! I'm so excited!!!)

Seriously, we're all so busy and overwhelmed. We need a book that can provide doable suggestions while understanding that as much as we want to make going green a priority, we have to be able to fit in around violin lessons and dr. appts and grocery shopping and Girl Scouts.

But tell me... what is it that you do in your home to go green? How much of a priority is it for you? Is your family cooperative?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I can't believe that I didn't...

put this in my post below regarding where I would go if I had time to myself...

If I had a free weekend, I would most definitely fly down to LA
and spend the weekend with Jessie!

Jessie is one of those amazing forever friends. We met on, the predecessor to iVillage, when our ten year olds were newborns. At first we were just online friends, but shortly before our girls' first birthdays (they're 12 days apart), we arranged an actual family-to-family visit. Husbands immediately entered Geekville and stayed there for the entire visit while Jess and I got to know each other better. An fantastic friendship formed between us all!

She and her family then lived about an hour and a half northeast us, so we didn't see them as often as we would have liked. But Jess and I did talk on the phone practically every day during the years our daughters were two, three and four. And we always drove the distance for birthday parties, baby showers and other extra-special events.

They moved and we moved. Then they moved and we moved again. We ended up exactly three hours apart until my family and I up and moved to Chicago. Thank goodness for email because the two hour time difference was a killer! I'm back on the West Coast again, this time 1000 miles and 15 hours of drive time away.

So the further distance and crazy schedules currently prevent us from catching up as often as we'd like, but occasionally we'll catch up with an hour long call. No matter how long it's been since we've last talked, though, it's like we just talked the day before.

We've gotten each other through loneliness, financial crises, miscarriages, hospital stays, family drama, relocations, deaths, sick children and frustrating husbands. We've celebrated with each other through births, promotions, moves, job offers, amazing husbands and our children's milestones.

How blessed are we to have such a friendship?! I miss you, Jess!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Emma Plays Minuet 2 by Bach

Emma will be performing in her fall recital later this month. On October 25, she will stand in front of a sizable audience and play Bach's Minuets 1 and 2 and High School Musical's When There Was Me and You. She's currently memorized both Bach pieces and will soon have the HSM song committed to memory as well.

Later this month, our church is hosting a talent show. Emma is so excited about participating with her violin. These will be her third and fourth performances and while she gets a teeny-tiny bit nervous, it doesn't show. She speaks loudly and clearly while introducing herself and her music, then plays with a passion and flair not often seen in most 8 year olds!

In the above video, it's just about bedtime and she's getting s-l-e-e-e-e-e-p-y. That's why she's not smiling. It's taking all her energy to remember the notes!

Enjoy her performance!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Pushing Daisies" is starting again tonight!!!!

I am so excited!!!!!

Scott and I have been anxiously awaiting ever since it went off the air last winter because of the dumb writer's strike.

If you haven't seen it before, start now! It is hysterical and completely random. And, unlike 99% percent of other shows in tv land, it's original! It's not the same insipid story line that we've all seen hundreds of times before. It's totally unique and well worth even the time it takes to sit through the commercials. (We TiVo almost everything we watch, then fast forward through all the ads. Pushing Daisies is worth watching on live tv!)

Tonight. 8 pm. ABC.