Thursday, December 27, 2012

after-christmas fudge and pumpkin pie for breakfast.

I actually like the days right after Christmas best. All the frenzied shopping, wrapping, baking, programs and to-doing is over. I can just kick back and hang in all my pajama glory and bed-headed-ness.

Each Christmas is different and I have long ago given up any kind of expectations attached to the season.

What made this year wonderfully unique:

*Most of my shopping was done online (thanks, Megs!)
*The MoTab Christmas concert with Jioanny
*Celebrating pre-Christmas at Texas Roadhouse with 2 of my brothers and their wives. Good to be with them all but I miss our old Arnett Christmas Eves.
*Churchin' with our little Arnold family to hear Kenzie and Cate sing in Sac mtg. Nothing like seeing your 4 year old grandchild wave and blow kisses while singing "When Joseph went to Bethlehem".
*Christmas eve with Janny and Jiao. Great Asian cuisine. Ld posted a pic of Jiao's mashed potato and broccoli Christmas tree on Instagram if you recall. Her carved carrot star was amazing. There is no end to her talents. She is a fiercely competitive Scrabble player, too.
*Oh, and ld and I had to talk in Sac meeting on the 16th. I was pretty bummed about this because my computer totally kaputed on me. You try writing a talk on your ipad. Grrr. But Ld, merry Santa that he is, gave me a new laptop for Christmas and now I can surf, research, blog more and write more talks! hehehe.

Yesterday Ld and I braved the snow and went to see two movies. That, coupled with the usual after-christmas reflection, has me working my thoughts.

Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. Go see, go see. Had me thinking all night about leadership and history and our republic. And in a crazy bit of serendipity I came across this last night. Not about the 13th amendment and Lincoln at all but rather about 20th century changes.

This is a fantastic presentation. It was shown first on C-span but I think reading the transcript gives more power to his words.

This speech by George F. Will. The Lincoln movie. They intersect in my mind. Come prepared to Sunday-dinner discuss.

Oh, and we also saw the Hobbit. Another post for another day, but let's just say I have been googling "Dwarf Rune" all morning.

Monday, December 3, 2012

vintagely counting down

I started making these last year for the grandies but with all the trauma surrounding Meghan and Emerson, not to mention planning a wedding, well, it had to be put on hold.

Finally delivered Cate and Maddie's on Saturday. (Faye and Emer: Grandma is stitching frantically, hoping to get yours mailed in a day or two).

These advent calendars are based on the one I had as a child. My Grandma Rose Clifford gave me one, it was a hot selling item at her annual Relief Society Bazaar. I had eyed it longingly and she put one aside for me.

Friday, November 30, 2012

boo hoo

Couple of days ago, I was whining explaining to Megs over facetime why I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.*

It gets ugly when I'm in a foul mood. My kids know this.

Me: My computer is running soooo slow, my sewing machine is busted (projects! projects), I haven't finished my Christmas shopping yet and my knee hurts. I am so depressed.

Meghan with muffled voice: Fir-wor-probs

Me: What?

Meghan (Speaking clearly now and daring to state the obvious): Those are first world problems, Mom.

Oh. Yes. Right.

As google tells me, "First World Problems, also known as "White Whine," are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It's a comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences..." and as sometimes happens with humor, it can carry great truth.

It did and does sober me a bit to know that many third worlders would roll their eyes at my complaints.

So I have a new code for perspective now, to take the place of my old mantra to ld, 'It's not cancer, dude!' When things don't go my way, when an appliance breaks, or the store runs out of my preferred brand (Cup of Golds!) or when I have to inconveniently visit a doctor or dentist, look for my finger to shoot up. No, not that finger. The pointer one, the one that signifies number one. The finger that reminds me of all the choices and privileges I have in my life and to knock off all that myopic petulance.

*from one of my fav books. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad day by Judith Viorst

Saturday, November 24, 2012

we give thanks

Some years our challenges, difficulties or pain simply won't allow for a gratitude mind-set. Other years our blessings out number our problems - it's easier then to count our blessings. Our later years begin to teach us how essential living with awareness and perspective is to feeling peacefully thankful.

For the record, this year the cup over floweth. Sometimes we are blessed in spite of ourselves.

Cate was thrilled with the prospect of a little Thanksgiving play. She offered up a detailed description of what her costume should be and there were to be no deviations.

Don't you want any feathers or beading? No, Pocahontas didn't wear any.

Look, I delicately tried to explain, Pocahontas wasn't actually involved with the First Thanksgiving, to which Cate replied: It's a play, Gamma. I want to be Pocahontas. Thank you, Disney.

As for Maddie, she steadfastly refused to wear the costume I so lovingly made her. It was Strawberry Shortcake or nothing. She did enthusiastically consent to beat her drum and joined in with the dancing.

Cate also contributed to our Thanksgiving dramatization by composing the musical score. During appropriately deemed moments she would burst into song. She sang with so much heart and sincerity it brought us all to laughter tears.

As she sang so poignantly

When life gives you hard,...

Clearly, she took something from the Pilgrim experience. You had to have been there.

A sweet day with those I love most, minus our beloved Milwaukeans. I am left in no doubt, however, that their own celebration was successful, as Megs and I talked about twelves times throughout the day. It was her first attempt at turkey making.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

for emer duder buddy

Finished Emer's bag of animals a couple of days ago.

It really is a mixed bag as the cretaceous creatures are all mixed with safari and farm animals.

I thought of making a playmat but it's kind of limiting. What if he wants the tree to be further away from the volcano? This way he can play the way he imagines it.

A few pics then:

The watering hole.

Pride rock, er, cave.

A volcano and tree.

A popsicle stick fence. To control those wandering farm animals.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

tea with teddy

We fly out next week to celebrate Faye and Emer's birthday. Megs is busy planning a little lady and little man party. Can't wait.

ld and I bought them each a 'real' gift, but I like to stitch and glue a little something, too.

Guess what's in this bag?

Yup, Tea-to-go. Made from felt scraps and whatever I could find around the house. The bear is one of several my mother used to decorate her Christmas tree. I think she would approve of Teddy Beara re-locating to Wisconsin.

The hat I fashioned out of, you guessed it, cardboard and then covered it in fabric.

Hope Faye likes it. A lot of love with each imperfect stitch.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

spooks are coming. get ready.

Missing our little Wisconsin spooks. Waiting anxiously for pictures.

More pics of our Utah grandgirls over on GP.

Friday, October 26, 2012

preschool culture exchange

Jiao taught Cate's preschool about China yesterday.

Chopsticks instructions

Saturday, October 20, 2012

gaudium #999,000

Morning walk up the canyon.

excerpts from Autumn, by John Clare (1821)

And I do love the varied hue,

And I do love the browning plain;

And I do love each scene to view,

That’s mark’d with beauties of her reign.

I love the year’s decline, and love

Through rustling yellow shades to range,

O’er stubble land, ’neath willow grove,

To pause upon each varied change:

For every leaf, that twirls the breeze,

May useful hints and lessons give;

The falling leaves and fading trees

Will teach and caution us to live.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

the case against bimbo pretty

Lots of discussions around my house on how to raise women of substance. I'm adding this to the conversation. I would link to the video but there's a big f-bomb in it. Google it if you want, it's pretty powerful, bad word notwithstanding.

“This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, “No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters. “You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely ‘pretty’.”

--Katie Makkai (Pretty)

Being pretty is not any kind of achievement, really. And if it is all a woman has to recommend her then it becomes frustratingly painful when the looks go. And go they will. We all lose our youth, age fades us all.

But here's the thing, my whole life I have been surrounded by beautiful women. My mother was lovely and my own daughters, too. I have nieces, sisters in law, all of them very attractive. Physical beauty does draw you in at first glance.

But believe me when I say that there better be something behind that pretty face, because it really is only character and competence and caring that matters or endures.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

FAO Schwarz eat your heart out

Let's see, FAO wants 80 bucks. Mine came under 6 bucks because the felt was on sale.

I have wanted to make a giant felt world map for a long time. When Kenzie told me she would be teaching an Around the World unit in preschool, I volunteered. It’s not quite finished yet, I have many other details I want to add. Also, it’s huge, bigger than my dining room table and designed to hang on the wall or played with on the floor.

Found the international children and flags from Kizclub online and the other symbols from random clip art sites. I backed them with sticky back felt.

Still need to add some Islands and Antartica but it’s been great traveling to other countries, even if it is only by way of felt.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

today's gem

"Losing weight is hard. Being fat is hard. Choose your hard."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

a reminder

“Words are things, I’m convinced. You must be careful about the words you use, or the words you allow to be used in your house. In the Old Testament we’re told in Genesis that, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was God, and the word was with God.” That’s in Genesis. Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial perjoratives and sexual perjoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you."

--Maya Angelou

Friday, September 14, 2012


Years ago I saw the documentary about his class, The Hobart Shakespeareans.

Highly recommended. Your library should have a copy.

Since then he’s written a couple of books Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire and There Are No Shortcuts and Lighting Their Fires.

Seeing the film and reading his insights inspired me, way back when my children were very young. His philosophy helped shape the way I parented, even though I fell short and muffed many things.

To my children who are raising my grandchildren, have a go at Rafe Esquith’s ideas on teaching and parenting. Catch his vision.

Lighting their fires
Parents who want more for their kids have to take matters into their own capable hands. Reading for pleasure helps students excel in many pursuits, from art projects to scientific experiments. Reading for extended periods of time and then discussing the content with peers is a priceless exercise in focus. p. 53

In studying Shakespeare, I have heard several experts define tragedy as not something that is merely bad, but something that is bad that should have been good. p. 66

The ultimate goal in raising a child is to get him to turn off his own television set. We can take the cigarette or bottle away from the addict, but that is not the cure. And besides, we cannot simply remove the danger of television. It's there and it's a reality. The real challenge is to teach a child the reason why television can rob him of his potential and get him to make his own decision. [...] A child who chooses to limit his time in front of a screen enormously increases his chances of finding an avenue to greatness. p. 67

Extraordinary young people are not necessarily brighter than their peers; they have merely developed sharper vision and see the picture more clearly. p. 78

But for special children, excellence is a way of life, not just something to stive for in school. p. 107

For children to be inspired to work hard and achieve greatness, they need to understand that their own world is a small one. Other kids are doing the same thing and achieving more. This is not meant to discourage a child, but to show him reality. It is rare that anyone has greatness thrust upon him. p. 112

After all, the first rule of parenting and teaching is to be the people we want the kids to be. p. 146


Reading is not a subject. Reading is a foundation of life, an activity that people who are engaged with the world do all the time. It is often exceedingly difficult to convince young people of this fact, given the world in which they are growing up. But it is possible, and when you consider what is at stake, the effort is worth it. If a child is going to grow into a truly special adult—someone who thinks, considers other points of view, has an open mind, and possesses the ability to discuss great ideas with other people—a love of reading is an essential foundation. p. 33

These children are not geniuses. They are ordinary, as is their teacher. They have become extraordinary by working hard and by being exposed to activities that go beyond the norm. p. 95

And from There Are No Shortcuts:

“To quote the exceptional teacher Marva Collins, "I will is more important than IQ." It is wonderful to have a terrific mind, but it's been my experience that having outstanding intelligence is a very small part of the total package that leads to success and happiness. Discipline, hard work, perserverance, and generosity of spirit are, in the final analysis, far more important.” ― Rafe Esquith, There Are No Shortcuts

Thursday, September 13, 2012

prompted because I have been watching way too many episodes of Rosemary & Thyme

If it's not fun, fast, easy and cheap then I'm not interested.

A good motto for shopping or making a quick dinner or sewing beanbags but not so good for really important things. For things like learning a new skill, gaining an education, becoming physically fit, building/maintaining a relationship, serving others, overcoming a destructive habit or achieving a goal - for those kinds of things that life motto just won't do.

The truth is that to achieve excellence in anything valued requires sustained, challenging and often un-fun effort. And it's nearly always costly, in both time and effort and often even money. It's all discipline and endurance and problem solving coupled with frustration. Ugh. Who wants that?

Come on. To be challenged, focused and stretched over days, months and years? Give me cheap thrills, instant gratification and something for nothing because even though we may embrace and live by these words it's interesting we don't want to claim the results. Who wants to be known as a lazy, shallow bugger? No, we want to be known as a thoughtful and qualified person even if we only appear to be instead of actually are.

But! The reason hard, long, difficult/challenging and costly is a better motto is because that's how growth, competence and meaning come into our lives, not to mention joy.

Insert rant:

Look, I don't really hate the idea of fun, it's just a word that has so many meanings. When it means lazy, constantly looking to be entertained, seeking for cheap thrills at the expense of more meaningful pursuits then I scold myself for having succumbed. Ahem. When it means a reward after long hours of toil, a release, or rejuvenation, fine, I'm ok with that. When fun means smiley face happy all the time then I want to smack it right across the mouth because I can't take fun seriously. It just doesn't have the gravitas or authenticity that other emotions have for me. I know, I know. There's therapy for that. A yellow personality is not inferior to a blue/red. I know this in theory but (shh!) I don't believe it. And yet, who am I to even talk? I think cardboard crafting is FUN and if I could I would spend all my waking hours with a glue gun.

Then I read this today:

“I hate the idea that, when it comes to books and learning, HARD is often seen as the opposite of FUN. It's strange to me that we should be so quick to give up on a book or a math problem when we are so willing to grapple, for centuries if necessary, with a single level of Angry Birds.” ― John Green

Aha! I can totally get on aboard with the idea that fun means to be excited. Being excited about working hard toward something meaningful or creative that is a much better definition, eh?

End of rant. Back to original point.

Fun, fast, easy and cheap. For some days, some occasions and some tasks, ok. But it's no way to live your life, Candy. Quit with the gardener detective shows.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

guadium # 999,201

Down to the Utah Shakes on Friday. It was JLW's birthday and since I'm a convert to the gift-giving notion it is far superior to give an experience instead of a pair of pants, we all made the trek down south to see Les Miserables.

We missed our little Staples family terribly, of course.

Jean Valjean groupies.

The deep plot, characters and the powerful themes of grace, forgiveness, sacrifice, love, redemption, legalism, so beautifully woven into the story - it's hard not to be moved, right?

And it's hard not to want to be, to do, better.

To love another person
Is to see the face of God.

On Saturday we extended the fun and showed Jiao some of Zion National Park.

A few pics before my camera battery died.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

today's read

Penee gave me a copy of these last night. Thanks for the share. As promised, Megs, here's the links:

I could describe many of the events of Joseph Smith's life, but I couldn't explain the thing that really mattered: why it all worked.

then this:

"The constants of the universe were shaped by our distant descendants, who engineered the collapsing universe to restart," Bradley said, then asked incredulously, "He thinks this is more likely than God?"

and this:

"The questions we ask largely determine the kinds of answers we find," Bradley said. "I had pushed the cynical interpretation as far as it could go, tried to explain as much as I could using that model, only to find the model ultimately deficient. It could not explain the spiritual power of Joseph Smith and of the faith he founded...I have no doubt, on historical grounds alone, that Joseph Smith is vastly bigger than the cynical caricature of him and that he was a sincere seeker after truth and a magnanimous soul."

The other article:

Loving the idea of finally coming from a place of humility and complete vulnerability willing our mind to shush. Because as she puts it: Sometimes the heart and the mind don't learn at the same pace.

Let's Sunday-dinner discuss, shall we?

Monday, September 3, 2012

nursee lesson #10 I Will Take Care of My Body

I brought a little tent to nursery yesterday. They fought each other to get in and crammed their little bodies. 6 little boys all sitting inside, it reminded me of the children's folktale/story The Mitten. Bursting at the seams. Sorry I didn't get a picture, you'll have to take my word for it - a success.

I also made this little game they went crazy over. It's a cardboard take on the old one with marbles. I still have one from years ago. But no way I would bring marbles for my nursee babies. So! Cardboard and ping pong balls it is. Voila! I bought the ping pong balls at All A Dollar, 8 for a buck.

I also brought along these: Of course, as with all things small and choke-able, this is a supervised activity:) Lock and keys. I have the older nursery kids so more age appropriate for them than tiny toddlers. I attached long strings to the keys so they wouldn't be tempted to mouth it and color coded keys to locks with nail polish.

Gave them some plastic cheapo tongs to sort by colors, too:

5 little Ducks, printed out from Kidzclub, the site I have been recommending forever. Their free story props are amazing.

5 little ducks went out to play, over the hill and far away

Because our lesson was on taking care of our bodies I made small individual flannelboards and let them play.

Dress a body:

Make a face:

Make a pizza:

Make a sandwich:

The lesson:

Showed the pic from the manual and posted this body on the flannelboard.

Then I had them touch their corresponding body parts. Again visuals from Kizclub under the Topics section.

We talked about ways we can take care of our bodies using the mystery bag. Brush & soap = Keep our bodies clean. Apple = take in good food. Ball = exercise and pillow = rest.

More visuals of good food. Kizclub, people. Again, under Topics. There's the Story Props section (amazing), Nursery Rhymes, Topics (which is huge), Flashcard section and much more. Seriously, check it out Megs and Kenz:)

Lesson over. On to snacks and coloring.

Some singing time props:

A Happy Song Ducks in the pond quack a happy song....

I am like a star, I am a Child of God (mirror) and Smiles.

A Happy Family. I love mother she loves me...we love daddy yes siree...

Rain is Falling, with rain in water bottle.

Homemade shakers filled with rice. I glue gunned them shut. 5 for a buck at All a Dollar. Yes.

Pom poms to dance around with during Do As I'm Doing.

The big hand on the stick. Used with the Hello, Friends song. I wave the big hand and they shake hands with their neighbor. Also, I compiled all the nursery songs, fingerplays and rhymes we use because I keep flubbing the words. Aging sucks.

Oh, and another activity. Playing post office. They loved this. Sometimes I forget they are playing with a cardboard box, after all.

Front side.

Side view.

Back side.

Another mailbox to deliver to.

Stamps and stickers and envelopes. We let them have at it.

Little children. I love them. I love playing with them.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” Leo F. Buscaglia

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw