Sunday, February 28, 2010

How to Pack for Vacation

 
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Buy luggage, especially if your last set of new luggage was your high school graduation gift from your parents.
Have kids try on summer clothes to see if any fit. Shop for necessary items. Translation: drag three males to the mall while you and your daughter do all the shopping.
Buy kid travel items like new books to read, gum, a couple new toys, etc. and convince kids not to play with or lose said items before the actual trip.
Lose lots of sleep as you burn the midnight oil building cabinets and notating student compositions with software you’ve never used before AND keep the same schedule as a regular week.
Post your stress on Facebook so that every one can join in your misery of preparing to leave for Florida. (do not get many “likes”)
Take daughter to get manicure/pedicure as part of vacation preparation. Wait, wait and wait for your fingernail polish to dry before heading to son’s basketball game. Note that your polish never did dry completely and remove polish entirely from fingernails, thus removing $12.50 worth of polish and try to rise above the situation to not ruin experience for daughter.
Have husband start laundry which means every single article of clothing must be cleaned, folded and put away before packing. Assure other family members that either wearing the same clothes for the next three days or going naked is entirely okay for the sake of the laundry being done.
Create an exhaustive packing list and step each child through it, not allowing any deviance. Find lost travel items and quarantine packed backpacks and bags so that no further items can be lost or added.
If time allows, organize sock drawers and alphabetize spices.
Send husband and older son on a long snowmobile ride and allow daughter to go to basketball game while you enjoy the fact that you are packed and are going to Florida.
Blog and dance about it!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Week Recap

Here is a list of things from this week:
-I learned how to use notation software for the first time as I copied 3 student’s compositions to send in to a national competition. The software is called MuseScore and it is free.
-Bill got a promotion and raise at 3M this week. Yeah!
-I realized that I don’t really want my brother and his family to move to Michigan. Just the thought makes me want to cry. I don’t want the cousins to leave!!!
-I found out that I am a bad eater when I am tired. I want sugar, salt, and all sorts of take out food. Get more sleep= eating good food= don’t get into an emotional/food swing
-I need women’s Bible study. I need it for their prayers, I need it to keep me accountable to stay in the Word, I need it for balance in my thoughts, I need it for their friendships.
-Smoothies are a great way for me to stay full and satisfied after a workout.
-I use threats in my parenting: it just sneaks in there. I should stop.
-I still chase after useless idols way too often.
-I need a vacation to cut loose from everything.
-I don’t need to accomplish everything on every to do list I’ve ever made before I go on vacation.
-I am a list maker

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Vision Come True

There is this place in Chicago, called The Merchandise Mart. You can read about it here with this link to Wikipedia to get a general idea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchandise_Mart
Bill and I visited Chicago and the Merchandise Mart five years ago. We loved this place from the moment we walked up to it. The architecture and the d├ęcor elements alone (things both Bill and I enjoy) are wonderful.

We worked our way through the kitchen and bath section of the building to see what the cabinet trade was up to. We saw some fantastic kitchens and many, many great ideas. It showed us what great cabinet companies are doing. We loved that place, (though they could use more chairs for pregnant women to rest in) and have never forgotten our experience there.

Fast forward five years and Bill’s cabinet business, Envision Cabinetry is doing well. Like I said, we never forgot what we saw in Chicago and so when I saw this picture, I thought it was just a random picture from the Merchandise Mart.
I thought Bill was looking at it for ideas that maybe client was thinking about. I thought, wow- it sure would be nice if Bill could do that someday. Then I realized it was a picture from a recent kitchen he had completed! This is his kitchen! He already can do that!! I was floored! I often see the projects only from home, when he meets with the client here to discuss the layout and plans. I see wood samples, door styles, and boxes being unloaded from the semi. Very often I don’t see the final product. The time that Bill works on the cabinets is after his other work, so it is late. And it is off site at his shop, not our basement or garage, like it used to be. If I do stop by the shop, the cabinets are often in pieces still or covered to protect them, so these pictures just blew me away!

Bill said that he felt quite pleased that I thought his cabinets were from the Merchandise Mart. He felt that to pass my discerning eye (hah) was quite an accomplishment for him. I am just so amazed and proud that he is able to take what people see, make it happen and make it look fantastic!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Baked Potatoes

I am always game for a way to use leftovers without them being leftovers. Do you have any chili leftover from the other night? Then bake up some potatoes, recipe courtesy of The Pioneer Woman (do I need copyright permissions for baked potatoes?)and load it up.

Baked Potatoes

Scrub clean some large baking potatoes. Rub with vegetable oil and place on baking sheet (don't pierce and don't wrap in foil). Bake 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender.

Now, my family take their potatoes pretty tame. Ben- butter only. Luke- butter and cheese, Audrey- butter, cheese, sour cream, Bill- butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon, Me?- butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon, green onions, and chili (and I just had the thought that Fritos would be over the top great). Ooh- now, if only I had a chocolate shake, it would be my favorite lunch from high school. But you can top your potatoes anyway you want to.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A start at keys

Once upon a time I had a little girl named Audrey. I taught piano lessons through my entire pregnancy and as soon as she was born I started singing to her and sitting her at the piano. It was evident very early on that she loved and connected with music.

Then this little girl grew up and became part of an awesome jr. high ministry at our church, called 180. Through her own desires and God's giftings to her, Audrey is a part of the worship team on vocals and keyboard. This week was her keyboard debut with the worship band.

Audrey was a bit skeptical when I told her at the beginning of the year that she should not only sing, but also play keyboard. To not take part of this opportunity, I knew, would be for her to miss out in a way that she might regret later on. Also, I wanted her to begin her keyboarding skills (different than classical piano skills) early on with some really talented band members. She hesitated at the idea, but was willing to go with it. Her preparation for it earlier this week was not without its highly emotional, panic stricken drama. We all pulled through, however, and Audrey did great!! She had such a great time that afterwards, she asked me if she could be on the call list for substitute keyboard players!!

Over 200 jr. high students meet together every week to hear the Word and to worship. It is not any easy thing to stand up on a stage and sing and play in front of that many kids. But how the Lord loves our sacrifice of self and our talents for His glory. Yeah, Audrey!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crock-Pot Chili

This week is a busy week. Busy as in... regular lessons, plus a day of make-up lessons; parent teacher conferences; Audrey is playing keyboard for jr. high worship team (180); Bill is installing cabinets and is gone; haircut; basketball practice and games; spa night with Audrey; helping lead songs for D6 kindergarten class; helping Jessica decorate her house; joining up with my regular Bible study again; oh, and we need to eat... I need my crockpot on these kinds of weeks. Here's a tried and true recipe from a friend who gave the recipe and my crock-pot to me when we were both newly married. Thanks, Laura.

Crock Pot Chili
1 can chili beans
2 14.5 oz. cans chopped tomatoes
1 lb. Ground beef, browned and drained
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cumin
½ bottle chili sauce

Put in crock pot in order listed. Stir once. Cook 5-6 hours on high, or 10-12 hours on low.

This is a good basic chili that you can heat up by using hot chili beans, Ro-tel tomatoes, hot chili powder, if you want. We like it the way it is because Ben says it doesn't "spice his mouth". We eat it with shredded cheddar cheese and frito chips.

Now I gotta go. I'm busy giving my best energies and affections to that list on top and more!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

What is the best Valentine's gift I've ever gotten from Bill? Is it the first Valentine's Day where we dressed up and Bill brought home supper for us to eat in our apartment? No, that ended up being too corny for me. Was it the next year, when I tried to fix a really nice dinner, which never cooked in proper time and left me in a mess of tears? Possibly. That year we began the tradition of skipping the entire notion of fancy schmancy in exchange for a Chicago style hot dog at Dairy Queen. It was great. We really have never looked back. We had DQ hot dogs for several years and felt very happy to just be with each other. Since then we have pretty much stayed in, had a home cooked meal and watched a movie. I like it. Since everything costs more when you go out that day: the dinner, the flowers, the gifts, the sitter, this way just takes the pressure off and we get our time together with three kids in tow.
We still have had our ups and downs despite our tradition. The year I was pregnant with Ben I got heartburn so badly that I called First Nurse because I thought I was going to die. One year, we had out of this world homemade pizza and instilled in Audrey the love of Frank Sinatra. Another year, Bill got me a gift, which was a surprise to me since we don't usually exchange gifts. I liked it but felt bad and compelled to get him something. (I can take a small gesture and really blow it up.) Even this year, he wanted to go a little over the top for me- art museum, fancy dinner- and what did I say? No, thank you! I just want to go to a movie, in town with a nice, casual dinner afterwards. What is the matter with me?!! Actually, Bill doesn't care, though he never realized he was marrying a romantic holiday-phob! So, he patiently explains to me that all he really wants is to be with me. (contented sigh from me)
In spite of all that, this year he got what might be the best gift so far. A snowmobile! Okay, it's not really for me, it's for my gearhead husband and especially our boys, but I am benefiting from it. He takes them out for a ride while I get a break. They all have a lot of fun and I get tremendous joy from their fun. They burn off energy and I get to blog or work out or play with the others or any number of other things by myself, in quiet. By myself. In quiet. Bill had no idea that I would think that this was the best Valentine's Day gift ever!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Shopping for a Keyboard

I recently had a conversation with a friend, Abby, who was interested in piano lessons for her and her family. During our conversation, I asked her if they had a piano and her answer was that she was looking for a keyboard. I told her that I had opinions on that subject. Her main objective was that it had a headphone jack so practice could happen among a family of 7 and growing. I thought it was a very good idea for her. Headphone jacks are among the nicest things that a keyboard provides, even for a piano teacher like me. I can practice at all hours and not disturb anyone and Audrey and Ben can still practice and give me a break from the noise, especially after a long day of teaching.

Here are the absolute essentials when buying a keyboard:
1) 88 keys!! That's a full keyboard. Anything less will limit your abilities, even for beginners.
2) Weighted, touch sensitive keys. This means the key depresses similarly to an acoustic piano and will respond to a lighter/heavier touch by sounding softer/louder. You will want to try several keyboards to understand this more fully. For contrast, remember the little Casio you got for your 10th birthday? No, you don't want a big version of that.
3) Sustain pedal. This is a pedal continues to allow the sound to reverberate while it is depressed.
4) A stand or better a cabinet for the actual keyboard. This is a way to hold the keyboard stationary, keep it from wiggling while playing and also keeps the pedal stationary.
5) A bench. Proper height and posture at the keyboard is important for technical development.
6) Music stand. Hopefully, self- explanatory but if not, it holds the music. At this point, if you have a proper cabinet, you will also have a music stand.

What is definitely not so important:
1) The number of sounds it can make. Yes, it can make practicing more interesting, but don't pay extra for it.
2) Any programs that syncronize with a certain piano method. What are the chances that your teacher is going to use that particular method?
3)Any other technical stuff that they try to sell you on. Remember, technology changes instantly. If your child get to the point he wants to layer sounds, etc. you can always add on. The keyboards all come with enough outlets to add those features.
4)Cabinet color. I know, this is a sensitive subject! I am not in love with the cabinet color of my keyboard, but for what I wanted, it was all that was available. If your instrument will be in a highly visible place, perhaps this will be a bargaining point with the dealer. However, don't walk into the store and say you want a black piano!
Addendum: If you are currently or will be taking lessons soon, ask your teacher what he/she prefers. A lot of teachers will be fine with you having a keyboard for an instrument. There are some teachers, though, who only want you to have an acoustic piano. And a few, far in between teachers, that insist you must have a grand piano! It is always a good idea to check if you can.

What to do at the store:
Have you or your student play lots of keyboards and listen and feel. The top two things I shopped for in my keyboard was how the piano setting sounded and how the keys felt when I played them. The heavier, the better since it will help finger strength. Listen to the piano sound and don't get distracted by the drums, voice, strings and trumpet sounds. What you will work with the most is the piano sound and so you want to like it. Most keyboards are not going to have state of the art sound systems to amplify, however, you can always add on. But do listen. If you don't like it you may want to choose a different one or be prepared to configure things with additional purchases. Listen to the higher voices, lower voices. Listen to all sounds when the pedal is depressed. Play it by making loud sounds, soft sounds, fast, slow, short, not connected notes, long, connected notes. Don't be afraid to do all of these to all the keyboards. Even if you don't know a lick of music. Try, try, try. Ask questions, too. Be discerning of those who are trying to "sell" you versus helping you make the best instrument purchase for your needs.
Don't look at price tags, too much at the beginning. It will sway your opinion prematurely. Make notes: I like... on this keyboard. I don't like this... It costs this much, etc. Then, later on, as you look through your list and try them out again,you can narrow down the list. If a favorite is just way out of your price range, ask the dealer if there is another similar keyboard, but in a lower price range. Now, there is wiggle room in all of the prices. The competition of online shopping will tell you that. I am not a good haggler, so I leave that to Bill. Be prepared, though, to perhaps spend a little more for a better instrument that will bring the enjoyment you expect it to.
There are many brands out there. What I chose may not be what you choose. Again, be cautious of numbers the dealer may swing your way. "This x-brand has sold more than ...# models." There is a lot of room for a lot of everything in those kinds of statements. I can't say much for online reviews. Everyone is going to love or hate something about each and every keyboard, and it can get really geeky, really quick, leaving you without much help. It is really up to your personal preference.

This is going to take a little while. Please don't expect to walk into a music store and buy that day. I hope, though, that you will feel confident in making your purchase after reading this. Please feel free to contact me if you have more questions, too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Here in this first picture you will see Luke and a proud picture of his name he wrote by himself (with a race track around the edge- the red line). You may also notice that Luke doesn't have much of a front left tooth. Herein, lies our story.

Luke chipped this tooth about 2 years ago in the manner of leaning against a ball bat. A ball, thrown to his sister, bounced on the ground and then hit the bat. The reverberation of the bat did it. It was a sad day for me because he had such nice front teeth and now he had a tiny chip. (Also, that day, Luke fell off the merry-go-round and got dragged through the mud a few feet while still hanging on. We needed a nap after that trip to the park.)His tooth never absessed, which is a good thing, but it did turn darker and Christmas pictures from there on were touched up.
This past Christmas after some rough play, I noticed it was chipped a bit more. I'm not sure if being dragged down a set of stairs riding a quilt or being pelted in a marshmallow fight, both instigated and carried out by Uncle Philip, did it. After that, it just kept chipping away. When I went in to have a regular dental check up, I showed the dentist Luke's tooth. He said he could take it out or we could try to wiggle it out ourselves. We opted for the latter, but there just wasn't much of a tooth to hold on to and wiggle. So when I came in to have some dental work done this past week, I brought Luke with me and showed the dentist his tooth again. Dr. Overman had time and we decided to go ahead and have him take out the tooth. It would allow the permanent tooth to work it's way down a bit faster and to also reduce the risk for infection.

So, Luke climbs in the chair and I snap this picture of him and Dr. Overman before the procedure begins. I come over to be by Luke's side. After the initial numbing of the gums for the local anesthetic to be put in, it went down hill pretty fast. The little bit of a pinch that Luke felt was too much for him. Mostly, I believe because it was a new feeling, not because it hurt. The dentist made several attempts to get enough anesthetic in, but Luke was not in for it. So, the dentist tried to start on the tooth and at least get it a bit looser, but the tooth broke off!! There wasn't much to start with and now even less. We had to stop several times and Luke just crawled up into my arms and did not want to let go. By that time, though, we were too far into it. The dentist had to finish. We tried a mask with the funny gas, but the valve in the front kept sucking shut every once in a while. Then, once a bit of tingly sensation started, Luke did not like it, either. Oh, it was sad. Long story coming to a close... the tooth finally came out. Tears, blood, relief and then stickers. Luke was not letting go of me, but he perked right up when they brought out the Thomas the Tank Engine stickers.
Later, Luke said, "I'm so glad Dr. Overman pulled my toof out." I think, however, he could have said that because we were going to by him a new toy. I kept talking to him about the experience all through the day helping to reassure him that Dr. Overman was not bad, just his tooth. Dr. Overman called twice that night just to see how Luke was doing!
We have been back to see Dr. Overman at the office. Since Bill had a cleaning, I wanted to get Luke back in there in a neutral situation while I could monitor it. No problems! Luke was looking forward to seeing Dr. Overman and showing him his new toys. He didn't even flinch when the doctor looked at his mouth. I think it was also good for the staff to see Luke again. Every one was pretty shaken up after it all so they really needed to see his perky smile again.
Luke will now freely show you his missing tooth, and tell you who took it out and that he's going to get a new tooth like his brother and sister. He also likes poking his his tongue in the hole and pretending it's a tooth.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A word of warning: This blog is a work of technology progress for me.
You will not be blown away by the amazing photos I take nor how I edit them. You will not be astounded by any impressive videos I share. I found a nice picture of myself, cropped it and uploaded it all by myself. It's pushing the limits of my capabilities. It's a good thing this blog isn't about that. At some point, Audrey may take over as IT of this thing. She wants to anyway.