Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Parenting Tip - Dress the Dress to Walk the Walk

"If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk."

"Dress makes the man (woman)."

I've been thinking about how I dress and how I walk the walk; that is, how to dress according to what I'm doing for the day. 

Have you noticed how you feel different by what clothes you are wearing.  If you are dressed up to go shopping, you certainly don't feel like cleaning the house. On the other hand, if you're dressed in tennis shoes and work clothes, you don't mind getting more dirty by sweeping or mopping the floor .

Since I don't like cleaning very much, I have to psych myself up to do it.  I have to wear tennis shoes and clothes that aren't spic and span clean (meaning I already wore them yesterday!)  My hair still needs to be curled and combed and I don't have any make up on.  In other words, I look rather grungie, ready to work and maybe get sweaty in the process.

Then I have to turn up some music nice and loud (my favorite is "Happy Working Song" from the movie Enchanted) or listen to an interesting podcast, and I'm ready to clean.

If I'm gardening or working outside, I wear the same sort of clothing--a little soiled and definitely tennis shoes--I can't work outside in flip flops, I don't want to get my feet dirty.

But, I've noticed that I can't do other things with that particular "outfit" on--like teach piano lessons or do emailing business work or create music lesson plans.  For these type of activities, I do much better when I'm dressed in nicer clothes, my hair is done, my make up is on and I feel "presentable". 
Then I'm ready and motivated to work with my brain.

The way we dress DOES effect our behavior.  Haven't you told that to your children before?  Why do we have to dress up for Church?  Because you act more respectful and reverent; you feel more dignified. Why can't I wear shorts and flip flops to school? Because you'll feel like playing instead of listening and learning.

My husband had a beard and mustache for probably more than half of our married life.  He admitted that when he had a beard, he felt more sloppy and unkempt and behaved that way.  Oh yeah, funny story that I just remembered about my husband. 

My husband had NO sense of dress.  He would go for a walk in the morning dressed in a holy old t shirt with suspenders holding up a grubby pair of sweat pants and wearing an old, old pair of tennis shoes.  One morning while walking in the parking lot of a grocery store, a man in a car drove up to him and asked him if he needed some breakfast;  he was willing to give him some food.  The man thought he was homeless!!  I died laughing when my husband came home and told me what had happened.  It was close to Christmas so guess what my husband got for a present?  Yep, new exercise clothes.

So what do we do with this knowledge of dressing?  Dress for what you're doing that day.  If it's laundry, cleaning and scrubbing day, then you better get your tennies on.  If you need to get some cooking done, wear your apron (my daughters do) and get to cooking.  If you're running to the store, and school most of the day and will be seen by people--dress nicer.

What about if you want to parent better, hmmmmm, what to wear?  Are you more patient with your children, do you take advantage of teaching moments, and are you more loving to them when you're dressed in nicer clothes?

That would be an interesting experiment to try:  "Does what I'm wearing really affect my attitude and effectiveness as a mom?"  I know dressing appropriately certainly affects how many things I get done on my "To Do" list.

Here's some quotes I found by unknown sources:

Every girl should know to dress for success. No one will take you seriously if you show up in leggings and Uggs
  Thanks for reading,



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Parenting Tip - Get Outside

This is a blog post for anyone who is a little down in the dumps.  Or sad.  Or worried.  Or stressed. Or mad.             
That's my advice.  I know it helps because I've been there before; mad, sad, stressed and worried, and every time, I'll come home from a walk feeling lighter, happier and more hopeful.

A few years ago when I turned 40, I became worried about all the candy bars I had--and was still--eating.  I decided I needed to take charge of my life, if I wanted to have a healthy old age.  So I started walking in the mornings, and I haven't quit.  I love walking!

Then when I turned 50, I started hiking once a week with a friend.  I love hiking!  You're out in nature, you see God's handiwork and you talk and talk with a friend.  It's even better than eating a candy bar!

 When I'm walking or hiking my outlook changes.  My perspective broadens and I'm not microscoping in on my problems. 

 In fact, my problems shrink in size when I look at mountain tops and gaze down into valleys.  When I walk by cacti, flowers and trees, I see God's love for me in a wide lens. I feel stronger, able to handle my situation.  I feel gratitude for God and see His tender mercies in my life.  I start to see analogies in nature and relate them to my life.  I'm energized!

But sometimes it's impossible to go for a walk either because of health issues, kid issues or time constraints.  So here are some good, better, best options when the outdoors are just not available.

Good:  Sit by the window and look outside at the sky, the clouds, the birds and the trees and flowers.
Better:  Pull up the blinds and really look outside, up and down, back and forth.
Best:  Put on some music and admire the great outdoors, thoroughly enjoying the sky, flowers and trees.

If you are able to go for a walk, here are some good, better, best options as well.

Good: Walk slow to begin with, then increase your pace.
Better:  As you walk, notice nature.  Look up and enjoy the sky and clouds. Notice the birds.  Look at the architecture of the houses and buildings you pass by.
Best:  Find a beautiful park to walk in and listen to  music or a podcast as you walk.  Jog for a few seconds, here and there during your walk.  Enjoy nature.

And finally, if you can go for a hike:

Good:  Go with a friend.  Talk about cooking, problems, frustrations.  
Better:  Notice the birds and rabbits and lizards.  Draw strength and serenity from the open sky, the mountains, the trees. Gaze down from your trail and see how small everything looks below.  Notice how far you have come.  
Best:  Suddenly your problems and cares become miniscule and your heart enlarges and expands with love and optimism. 

Thanks for reading.....
Now go walking,


Music Tip - The Triangle

I just received a nice comment from one of my subscribers (thank you Master P), so I decided to check out a couple of her blogs.  Since she is a musician and teacher, one of her blogs is about helping her own children practice and ideas on how to motivate them.  Today she posted a "scathingly brilliant" (know what movie that is from?  Anne of Green Gables, I love that phrase!), idea for practicing and a very sound learning principle behind the idea.

I don't want to take away her thunder, so you'll have to check it out, here.  It is a very true principle.
Also scroll down and read the idea about chocolate chips practicing.

Now here comes the point to my post today.  I, as a piano teacher, feel like my job is to teach, encourage and motivate my students to practice.  I enjoy doing that, in fact.  

BUT....I'm not the reason your child will learn to play the piano; it will take a triangle for this to happen--- Me--the teacher, you--the parent, and your child--the student.  Together we can create a musician.

You--the parent, are VITAL to this triangle.  You can't just "wish" your child to play the piano.  You can't even just "pay for piano lessons" and have your child learn to play the piano.  YOUR CHILD HAS TO PRACTICE THE PIANO. 


You--as the parent, have to provide enough time in the day for your child to practice. That sounds simple, but read that statement again.  

t h e r e  h a s  t o  b e  time  t o  p r a c t i c e. 
Think about it.

You--as the parent, have to help motivate your child to practice.  You have to be involved.  You can't just provide piano lessons, you have to help make learning it, happen.

So, there you have it.  Me.  You.  Your child.

It's a journey all 3 of us are on together.  Let's have fun on the journey!  Let's be creative!  Let's enjoy it---cause let me tell you, music is a gift from God, and it is one of the most beautiful gifts He has given us.  

Let us say, "thank you" by using this beautiful power to enrich and bless our lives.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Parenting Tip - An Amazing Mother

Aubrey Kleinschmidt is a wife and mother of four children under the age of 6; Tyler 6 years old, Emma 5, Jacob 2 and Gracie 8 months old.   Aubrey is blind.
Aubrey lost the sight in her left eye when she was only 4 days old.   She considered her vision in her right eye to be normal and did not consider herself to be visually impaired. Her sight limitations weren’t really noted until she was working at a dry cleaners. She had trouble matching customer tickets with their dry cleaning items because she kept reversing numbers. The owner of the cleaners suggested she might be dyslexic. She was tested as a senior in high school and found to be visually impaired. She qualified for an Individual Education Plan and went to Berkley, California (an assisted living program) for vocational rehab where she had an opportunity to learn Braille and life skills related to functioning as a blind person. It was assumed that she would lose sight in her right eye.  Aubrey says that she did not take the program very seriously. She met Michael, her future husband, while living in Berkley. 
Aubrey and Michael married and began their family.   Aubrey's pregnancies, however, were stressful for the fragile retina of her right eye. Her vision began to wane after Emma was born. Despite repeated attempts to salvage the sight in her right eye – Aubrey was told, almost three years ago, that she was considered "stone blind" (totally blind).  Shortly after this news, she discovered that she was pregnant with Jacob.

Aubrey attended classes for the blind for over a year. She was taught life skills/mobility skills and Braille, etc. She has special equipment that helps her to read printed text and a very smart phone.

Since Aubrey knew that she would never visually see Jacob’s face she made a special effort to find a doctor that would let her assist with her own delivery. She had the amazing opportunity to help bring Jacob into this world. He has a very special spirit and was a very calm and easy baby to care for.

Despite the loss of her sight, Aubrey and Michael felt there was still a baby waiting to come to their family.  In 2013 she had another special opportunity to help bring Gracie into this world. Gracie has also been an amazingly calm and easy baby to care for.

  Aubrey was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 4, 1983.   She was delivered at 28 weeks and weighed 2 lbs, 2 ounces.  The doctor didn’t think she would make it through the night and her mom was told not to even bother to name her! Retinopathy of prematurity (ROM) was the  cause of damage to her eyes.
 Aubrey cooks, cleans, helps with homework and stays on top of the myriad of details sighted moms have to contend with. She is an amazing mom. She doesn’t see with her eyes. She sees with her heart.

Despite the devastating news of losing her sight, Aubrey was not one to wallow in self-pity.  She says her vision loss has improved her marriage and strengthened her testimony of God. She says it has made her a better mother.  When Tyler or Emma say, “Look what I’ve made," Aubrey can’t just glance over and then get back to whatever she was doing.  She stops and goes over to the child and feels with her hands what they have made. When she interacts with her children she is down on the floor playing with them in ways other mothers might skip.

Aubrey is especially grateful for the tremendous support Michael has been for her since she lost her sight. He has been her rock and comfort in difficult times. His flexible work hours have allowed him to drop everything and attend to her needs when necessary. 

Aubrey has a few tricks she and Michael have developed to keep on top of things at home:

- safety pins in all the girls clothing to tell them from the boys.

- puff paint Braille dots on the stove, microwave and washer where the instruction words are.

- always keeps spatula handle aligned with skillet handle so she knows where it's at.

- Tyler's school teacher puts a staple in the top right hand corner of school papers that need parental attention.
- if the TV is on, Aubrey can judge when she is walking in a straight line away from the sound or moving diagonally away from the TV
-Children's shoes are velcroed together and kept on a shelf.
- Aubrey has the chocolate chip cookie recipe memorized!
-Aubrey holds the baby in front of her with her elbow touching the wall as she walks down the hall and the other hand is in front of baby's face (she's bumped the baby into things before)
-Aubrey is constantly feeling her preschooler and baby's faces for smiles, running noses,or  objects in mouth that shouldn't be.
-Aubrey crawls above her baby and explores the floor with her.
-if Aubrey needs to find her younger children she'll call their name and instruct, "say moma" so she can hear where they are.
- Aubrey feeds baby food to her baby by cutting the top off the nipple to make the hole bigger.
-Aubrey is reading Harry Potter to her children with a braille copy of the book. 
Aubrey understandably has her down days.  Life is hard for a mother with sight, and especially hard without sight.  6 year old Tyler spells out the instructions for his homework, letter by letter so Aubrey can know what he is to do.  By the time he finishes, he and his mother are both mentally exhausted before they even get to the homework.

Aubrey has an amazing outlook and attitude about her life. She states that her problems in life are not due to her blindness.  She understands that her vision loss does not affect her ability to progress in life. She does not use her blindness as an excuse for not being the best person that she can be. 
Aubrey "sees" what is important in life!
Thanks for reading,
 Thanks to Cathy Rogers for help in writing this post.
This post was published on the Arizona American Mothers blog  
and pending being published on the National American Mothers blog.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Parenting Tip - Easy List vs Hard List

My daughter emailed me this and said I could post it on my blog:

"Lately it seems like everything I do is from the easy list. It's no wonder I feel like a flabby, grouchy, time waster. 

Before we came to earth I'm sure we were looking down at all the types of people and things we could do and promised ourselves we would not be wasters doing things on the easy list.  

It's obvious that the things that are worth anything are all on the hard list. After earth life is over, I want to be made up of the things on the hard list.  So why is it still hard?

Oh well, I guess I should stop philosophizing and get up and do something. I'm probably just feeling guilty that it's only 10am and I've already eaten not one but four of the kids' lunch treats... And as I know eating, making lists, and feeling guilty are all on the easy list!"

Isn't that so true?  All the easy things are not the BEST things.  It's that good, better, best idea, though there wasn't anything"good" on my daughter's easy list.  Ok, so if we think of the things we do every day as being on the "easy" list or the "hard" list, will that motivate us?  

My motivation comes from seeing the whole picture, and actually the end of the picture.  What is my goal?  To live together forever as a happy family.  Now what are the steps to reach that goal?  Well, nothing on the easy list, that's for sure!  

What motivates you to do things from your hard list?

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Parenting Tip - How to Shrink your World

Have you noticed how small the world is becoming?  With technology constantly upgrading, updating and up-smarting, we can communicate easily and immediately with anyone, anywhere, and at anytime.  This is GREAT NEWS if your family is spread out like mine is, and chances are that your family is spread out.  My siblings plus my own children live in 8 different states and 3 different time zones: AZ,CA,UT,TX,MN,IL,PA,VA.

So what is the GREAT NEWS about having your family spread out all over the entire United States?  The GREAT part is that we can still stay in touch with them through technology and creativity.

Let's brainstorm some ideas of things families can do to stay in touch with each other:

Birthdays. Of course, this is an easy way to stay in touch.  Birthday cards can be sent as well as gifts.  You should see me at Walmart lifting up toys and guessing what their weight is and how much postage it will cost.  My daughter-in-law recently told me her children are saving up money to purchase a big item they want.  She told me money would be more welcome than an actual toy.  Thank you.  Goodbye Walmart.

Buying and sending gifts online is another great alternative to buying and mailing birthday presents.  You can even email Amazon gift cards.  No postage or shipping!

My mother likes to make her own birthday cards on the computer using past pictures or baby pictures of the birthday person.  Wow, she is 85 years old and knows how to make cute computer birthday cards.  Technology sure has not passed her by!
What?  It's my birthday?  Come, on then, bring out the cake!
Last week my Dad had a birthday; he turned 91 years old.  One of his favorite songs is The Strawberry Roan.  Each of my siblings wrote a verse to the melody of this song that told about a specific time in his life.  Then when they called on the phone or skyped to tell him "happy birthday", their families sang their part of the song with their verse and chorus.  My Dad loved it.  He felt cherished and special.  And just as important, my brothers and sister and I felt a bond between us as we worked on this surprise for him.

How about writing a song for your Mom or Dad, or your daughter or husband or married son?  Find a cute melody like, "This is the Song that Never Ends" or "Frere Jacques"  and write new words to the melody.

Holidays.  My youngest daughter decided she would send her nieces and nephews something for every holiday this year.   I was babysitting my grandsons the other day and sure enough there was a package that contained hearts galore that she had "heart attacked" them with.

I do something different for Mother's Day.  I've never really liked this day and feel like everyone is "staring" at me all day. When my children got married and started having their own children, I, like all grandmothers, wanted to give them lots of unasked for advice. As one Mother's Day was approaching I had the inspiration come to me, that I could give them unsolicited advice every year on this day, because I was a mother and this was my gift to them.  I gave them notebooks to keep my advice in, and I've had so much fun giving advice each year!! I've given advice on "what to do instead of watching TV", marital tips, things to teach your children, funny things my kids said when they were children, and much more.  Each year I try to present my advice in a fun way, using grandchildren's faces, or Disney prince and princesses...whatever.
          They love the years when I write memories of them when they were children and the joy they brought me.

School Projects.  I've had grandchildren send me Flat Stanley and asked me to take him with me and and then send him back with photos of him in the places I've been (exotic places like the grocery store, hiking, you know....).  Cousins have also sent them to each other.
My grandson is holding Flat Stanley
 Babysitting.  I love to go out of town to help out when families have a new baby coming. Or one year my son and his wife went with the youth in their church on a 3 day hike and I went and stayed with my grandchildren.  What fun!  This is an opportunity for 24 hours of bonding that you normally don't get to have.  You can also take photographs while you're visiting, and put them together to make a little memory book.
The letter "A" for a memory alphabet book

Special Events. With children around, there are always special events you can invite family members to, if time and transportation allow it.  Things like baby blessings, baptisms, plays, or sporting tournaments are fun things to attend and bond with cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents.My son and his family went to PA from their home in VA to attend the blessing of new niece.  The cousins had fun playing while the adults had fun talking and eating (of course). Be sure and send lots of pictures to the family members who can't come.

Skyping. This is a super good way to stay in contact with family members.  I even know of a grandma who gives her grandchildren piano lessons by skyping them (no, it's not me).  You can skype on birthdays and special occasions.  You can skype to share news, or even play games.  I've played card games with my grandchildren once or twice.

All my children skype with me on my husband's birthday so we can remember "grandpa" and make it special. It's really hard to skype and find a day and time when your family is in 3 different time zones like mine is.  We've discovered that the Sunday when our church has "General Conference" is a good time for us to all get together for a group skype.

My son-in-law has a program where you add things to the callers while you're skyping, such as a mustache on someone, or funny hair, glasses, or a spider.  It's hilarious!

Videos. It's so easy to take videos of your children playing the piano or singing or playing soccor.  What a great way to keep grandparents in the loop of what their grandchildren are doing.

It's also fun to take videos of cousins/grandchildren teaching you how to do something--"This is how you do a cartwheel", or "This is how you make a peanut butter sandwich".  How about, "This is how you make a rainbow bracelet"--they're so popular right now!

Photographs. It goes without saying that everyone loves to see pictures of distant cousins, grandparents or new babies.  You can even have fun with photos in a creative way.  One day my 3 year old grandson was taking pictures with my camera.  Needless to say there were lots of photos with close ups of something or other.  So I sent a batch of these pictures to his cousins and said to guess what the pictures were of.  I told them I would send a prize to the families with the answers.  Sure enough, soon the emails came with the guesses, and I mailed out a pack of gum to all the families.

Do you have a photo program where you can distort the faces?  I used a free one I found on the internet and have never laughed so hard as when I was distorting my grown kids faces for some project I was sending them. (I can't find that program now.  Anyone know of a good one?) Be sensitive in distorting faces, though. One of my granddaughters was not so happy with her face and it made her cry. 

One time my daughter sent "Where's Waldo?"photos to all the cousins.  She told what object was hidden in each of the pictures, then the cousins had to look at the photos and find the object.  Fun!
Can you find the red flashlight?

Phone Calling. Whoops, I almost forgot this one--it's so easy to do! My son used to call me every Sunday to catch up on things we were both doing.  I love talking with my daughters (they're in 3 different states). Sometimes we talk once a week, and other times 3 times a day!

After my husband passed away, my brother called me from Texas every month for a year.  This meant so much to me and reminded me of how close we were when we were growing up together.

Texting. What would we do without texting?  My children and I who live in the same town text each other with "sunset alerts".  We LOVE to see AZ sunsets.  My out-of-state children have recently texted me with their weather alerts (-30 today and no school).  It's so easy to text:  "I love you!" or "Thinking of you!" or "what's up?".  I especially love getting a text from a grandchild.
Sunset alert!
Did I forget cards/letters?  Duh?! One of my favorite letters I received was from my grandson a few months ago.  It said, "Der grama, Just to let you no I have ben singing a lot of songs!  Love Kimball
do you like the dexrrashin? [decorations-there were music notes around the edges]" 

 Ahhh! I keep that letter on my freezer.  (I had visited Kimball a few months before the letter came and we had enjoyed singing lots of songs together.  Did my heart good!)

 Okay, so this has been a really long post.  Sorry.  It takes a lot of work sometimes, to keep your family close to you.  But it's some of the most important work you can do--and so fun and rewarding!  Send your ideas of what your family does to stay close, so we can all get more good ideas.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Music Tip - If All the Raindrops

At my mom and tot class yesterday, we sang a song most of you probably know, "If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain that would be.....".  We sang it because of the second verse---it's about snowflakes, and the theme of our class was snowflakes. 

Do you know the 2nd and 3rd verses?

If all the snowflakes were candy bars and milkshakes?
Oh what a snow that would be.
Standing outside with my mouth open wide.
If all the snowflakes were candy bars and milkshakes?
Oh what a snow that would be.

If all the sun beams were bubble gum and ice cream?
Oh what a sun that would be.
Standing outside with my mouth open wide.
If all the sun beams were bubble gum and ice cream?
Oh what a sun that would be.

I accompanied our singing by playing the ukulele.  I heard through the grapevine that one of the moms in the class was going to dust off her ukulele and I thought how fun it would be if we had several moms bringing their ukuleles to class and play with us. the moms in my class.  If you have a guitar or ukulele, here are the chords for the song.  Practice and bring your instruments to our next class.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Music Tip - Start Good Practicing Habits Today!

January always motivates me to set goals for the new year.  I, in turn, am trying to motivate my piano families to set goals for the new year of consistent piano practicing.

Two of my families have come up with some great ideas.  A mother of twins, whom I teach, who is a violin teacher herself, wrote this:
We started something in my studio on January 1st and we are all doing it.  Me included!  We are going to practice for 100 days in a row.  We are on day 13 now!  We have discovered that on normal days it's easy to remember and find time to practice.  It's those other kinds of days that make it hard.  We have been trying to anticipate those days and come up with creative ways to still find time and practice.  So far it's working!  I also discovered that it took 10 days in a row of practicing with the twins before they stopped complaining or whining when I say let's go practice.  They just quietly sit down and it's no big deal now!

Wow, 10 days of being consistent, and the whining stops.  Seems to me worthwhile to try that idea.

I had a student come to lessons today bringing an ipod and a microwave bag of popcorn.  He had videotaped himself playing his Beethoven Sonatina, so while he found the video, I popped the popcorn.  Then we sat on the floor and watched the video of him playing his piece while eating the popcorn.  It was so much fun!

Videotaping is a great idea to help students polish up a piece.  They can visually and aurally hear where they need a bit more practicing, and also hear where they do well.  Warren said, "Did you hear my dynamics right there?" A great way to self critique their playing.

As teachers and parents, we need to key into what motivates our students and children.  A transfer student who is age 12 and on level 3 is not interested in playing from method books.  She wants to play popular and fun music.  That is exactly what she should be practicing then--that will be what motivates her to continue to practice. (She chose "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction--a great piece that's easy but fun and the Beatles, "Here Comes the Sun", another easy-to-learn song.)

Another student who is age 13 and in Suzuki book 4, doesn't have time to do his homework and practice a lot of different songs each week.  He doesn't want to quit piano, but has limited time to practice.  He is going to focus on learning hymns and just practice one hymn a week.  That will motivate him and not overwhelm him.

I'm throwing my students a Pizza Party.  At the end of February, we will have group lessons and pizza.  They have a weekly pizza chart to mark off the days they practice and times they practice flashcards.

Consistency.  Motivation.  Fun music.

That's what it takes----(and popcorn and pizza help too!)

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Parenting Tip - Pass on Your Heritage and Traditions

Everyone comes from somewhere. 

Duh, that was an intelligent sentence.  What I meant was, that if you trace your roots back far enough, you will find that you come from some country other than the United States.  It's fun to find out where that is.  For some families, it may be several countries, but no matter where your ancestors come from, it's often enlightening to see just where that is.

My mother's ancestors came from Sweden.  My mother is 100% Swedish and I am half.  My children are one quarter Swedish and my grandchildren are 1/8.  It is so heartwarming to see my grandchildren embrace their Swedish heritage as their parents pass on the traditions that they enjoyed as children.

Yesterday, December 13 was St. Lucia's Day.  This is celebrated in Sweden as the day when darkness will begin to recede and light will gradually stay more during the day.  It also commemorates a young girl, Santa Lucia, who brought food to the poor.  It is traditional to observe St Lucia's Day by dressing the oldest daughter in the family in a white dress, tied with a crimson sash. Candles are set into her crown, which is covered with lingonberry leaves.  She then wakens her family in the morning, bringing them rolls and a warm drink.

My aunt and her daughter would waken my family in this manner on St Lucia's Day when I was a child.  When I grew up, I dressed my eldest daughter, Faith, in the traditional white dress, sash and crown and we went around town waking up my family members and Swedish friends.  She was 3 when we started this tradition and carried it on until she was in junior high, then passed it on to her younger sister who passed it on to my last daughter.  This year, that daughter, (married -but with no children yet) made rolls and shared the tradition with her friends at work.

My eldest daughter-who just had a baby-shares this tradition with her children in their school classes.  Each year her 2 daughters dress in their white dresses and crowns and tell the history of St Lucia to their classmates.  Her son doesn't dress up, of course, but loves to share the day with his class also.

I got to go with my grandchildren to their school classes this year and share our tradition.  Their teachers were so welcoming and enthusiastic.  My daughter even has the students make their own paper crown headband, then they parade around the classroom while the music, Santa Lucia, is playing.  Each of the teachers get a plate of St. Lucia rolls and the students get a candy cane.

What traditions do you continue to use that have been passed down from your ancestors?

What traditions do you begin, that your borrow from something or someplace meaningful to you?

One of my sons served a two year  mission for our Church to Germany.  Presently he is writing his doctorate dissertation in a field of research having to do with Germany, and he has returned several times to Germany for research.   His family is connected to Germany on different levels.  Recently they began a German tradition of ...well, I can't remember.  Ammon, please comment and tell us about your German Christmas tradition.

Merry Christmas,
thanks for reading,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Yes, Virginia, You Can Have a Guiltfree Christmas

My grandchildren think I'm old. I don't think I am.  But still, when I look in the mirror, I'm seeing sagging cheeks and wrinkles on my neck and hands, which I prefer to think of as "wisdom lines".  I remember when I turned 40 that I decided if I was going to be THAT old, then I should start using the wisdom I had gleaned throughout those years so that the next 40 years could be a little less stressful and more enjoyable.

Which takes me to Christmas.  I've seen lots of Christmases--as a child, teenager, young adult, young mother, middle aged mother and now, as a grandmother.  I've felt a lot of guilt during those Christmases about things I didn't do and wish I had, or things I did do and wish I hadn't. But I'm really, really tired of feeling guilty.  It's no fun. So with all the wisdom I have learned over the years, and all the hope I have for many more bright tomorrows and Christmases, here are some thoughts about having a....

Guilt-free Christmas!
1.  Enjoy other people's decorations - I'm in Pennsylvania in a winter wonderland of postcard beautiful snow (my daughter just had baby number 4--a girl).  The house two doors down is decorated with 36 wreaths hung outside in front of every window!  It is gorgeous.  Should we feel guilty that we don't have any wreaths hung up, let alone lights or a tree.  Nope!  We're enjoying their wreaths (and enjoying that we don't have to take down 36 wreaths and find a place to store them!)

As you drive around your neighborhood, don't feel guilty.  Enjoy the decorations, savor the lights--even the traffic lights.  I love to see the red and green traffic lights at night during December, they're so Christmas-y.

2.  Enjoy the humor.  I just received a text that said, "Here is a letter _______ wrote to Santa today:  Dear Santa, two of the kids in my class don't believe in u.  Can u please put coal in their stockings.  Their names r Sienna and Jake. (Names changed to protect the innocent, and so Santa can't find them!)

Find humor in the car as you drive (yeah, very dificult, I know).  As I've been driving grandchildren around this week (and getting lost every single time), I have noticed that in between the streets, there are these cute little side streets called alleys (they don't look like AZ alleys) and they all have the name of vegetables!  There is carrot alley, leek alley, tomato alley, artichoke alley.  I find it hilarious. 

3.  Enjoy the food.  You don't have to make all the holiday treats you read about on every blog you look at or from every person you talk to.  Just pick one treat you have time to make or that your family likes.  Then savor and enjoy eating it.  I have the hardest time eating slow.  But I'm going to try and saaavvvvvoorrrrr my food this season instead of gulping it down.   My goal is to drink hot chocolate and watch the falling snow, which I should stop typing and do right this minute!

 4. Enjoy your children and husband and family.  Listen to your children--look at their cute little faces.  Try to figure out what makes them tick.  My daughter said she finally realized that if one of her daughters didn't get to bed by a certain time, she would have a melt down every night. Her daughter just couldn't cope, be obedient or make any rational decisions if she was too tired.  Sidenote:  last night we were trying to get the kids in bed on time and my daughter was making silent gestures at me to remind me we needed to get so and so in bed on time.  My granddaughter noticed and said, "Mom, I don't do that anymore."

Love your husband and make memories.  Find out what his love language is: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch.  Then be sure and tell him what YOURS is.

5.  Enjoy Christmas shopping.  If you're not done shopping, try shopping online this year.  Or try going first thing in the morning.  Make it fun:  hum or listen to Christmas music while you drive to the store, suck on a candy cane in the car,  feel grateful, grateful, grateful.  Above all: don't feel guilty because you kow of others who are done.

Those are my ideas.  If you have any other ideas on how to enjoy the Holiday Season, please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading,



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Parenting Tip - Prayers of Gratitude

At this thanksgiving time of year, I am reminded of an experience I heard in a talk several years ago that has always impressed me.  A family was kneeling for their evening family prayer with a Church visitor who was staying the night with them.  The well respected  Church visitor requested that the wife (who had been asked to say the prayer) only say words of appreciation for blessings received, and not ask for anything. The wife, who had received word earlier in the day of a dear friend's passing, wanted to pray for help for the family.  But acting in faith and obedience to the request, she offered a sincere prayer of thanksgiving.
She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.
This family learned an important lesson about gratitude and how in the midst of trials and problems, one can always find things to be thankful about.

I have offered prayers of gratitude and have experienced some very special moments at these times.  When you only express gratitude, you look at things in a different light and suddenly come to understand problems and situations in a different way.

If you are dealing with a troubled child or spouse, suddenly you see and express gratitude for the opportunity to learn and grow and for the wisdom which your Father can give you through the Holy Ghost. 

If you are experiencing health problems for yourself or a family member, you understand how to express gratitude for good health in the past and for medical doctors that give help and medication.  You thank your Father in Heaven that you live in this day and in this country where medical knowledge is so advanced and available.

If you are undergoing financial difficulties, you find yourself thanking your Father for future help He will give you.  You thank Him for the ability to know how to be resilient and wise in cooking with the food you have on hand and how to manage on a tight budget.

I LOVE to offer prayers of gratitude now, because I have such a paradigm shift in looking at life.  It's so fun to see things in a completely different light.  Instead of looking at problems as "why me?", you view them as a chance to learn and grow. Instead of your problems having a negative and depressive feel, they take on a more eternal and spiritual perspective.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1Thessalonians 5:18    

Happy Thanksgiving!



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Parenting Tip - We are Mothers!

When I was pregnant with my 5th child, I was embarrassed to tell my neighbors or even go grocery shopping. I dreaded getting those looks that said, “What? Do you think you have to populate the whole world yourself?” Or worse still, the people who made snide little comments like, “Are all those your children,” then walked away muttering, “doesn't she know about birth control?”

But I loved children and my husband and I wanted another baby. We both were raised in large families and saw the benefits of having lots of siblings, and we wanted a large family ourselves. But did I really? It was hard enough raising four children without adding another. I decided, yes, I did want another child. But I also decided that if I loved having a large family, I needed to start noticing the joy my children gave me, so I started a “Joy Journal”. In this journal I recorded little things that happened during the day that gave me joy. I didn't want this to become a burden or another failure attempt, so I didn't record things every day, just whenever I noticed something special.

My Joy Journal became a wonderful blessing in the life of my family. At birthdays I would read from my journal about the things the birthday child had done during that year that brought me joy and this became a special part of their birthday.

Every family is different. Some mothers who only have one or two children wish they could have more. Some are very happy to have just the amount they have. But as mothers, regardless of the number of children we have, we should never be embarrassed to BE MOTHERS.

With permission, I quote from an article I recently read (Ensign Oct. 2013, 60) of an experience that happened to the author, Craig Cardon's, wife. It took place when they attended a dinner for members of the Dean’s Alumni Leadership Council at the Harvard Kennedy School several years ago.

“After the dinner the president of the council invited the council members and their companions to stand and introduce themselves. He suggested that each person share educational and professional background information, along with what each considered to be his or her most significant accomplishment. Because of the way the room was organized, our table would be the last to participate.
[My wife} later explained to me that as she saw all in attendance standing and listing their many academic degrees and professional accomplishments, she thought, “What can I possibly say to these people who have been ambassadors, high government officials, educators, professionals, and leaders of gigantic enterprises? I don’t even have my bachelor’s degree yet” (though she subsequently received it in 2008).
[My wife’s} mind continued racing: “I’ve got to think of something to say. No, I’ve got to find an excuse to leave.” Then, in an instant, she thought, “I’m going to pray.”
She said a silent, earnest prayer, pleading with the Lord for His help and direction. In that moment, a voice came into her mind with perfect clarity. It said, “Debbie, who in this room has achieved more important things in this life or has had more amazing experiences than you? You are a mother in Zion. You have brought eight children into this world. Those who are of age are happily married and are having children of their own. What is more important than that? Debbie, get up and tell these people with power what you have done.”
At that moment, the microphone was passed to our table. I had seen [Debbie] shifting in her chair and looking a bit uneasy, so I extended my hand to take the microphone, thinking to give her additional time to prepare herself. Imagine my surprise when her hand stretched out in front of mine and literally grabbed the microphone.
She confidently stood, and with an elegance difficult to describe, she said, “A few years ago I accompanied my husband here to the Harvard Kennedy School. And my most important achievement is that I am the mother of 8 children and the grandmother of 18 grandchildren” (the number of grandchildren at the time).
With that statement, spontaneous applause erupted in the room. It was the only applause of the entire evening. [Debbie] shared a few additional thoughts relating to the central, societal role of the family and the happiness found therein. Then she handed me the microphone and sat down. I stood and added simply, “I’m her husband.”

We are mothers. We love, teach, and nurture our children into responsible adults. We cry with our children, cry over our children, and cry about our children. We laugh with our children, laugh about our children, and cry when they're gone. We teach with our words, teach by example, and pray that our teaching will become internalized. We have an important job! Let us never be embarrassed to proudly say, we are mothers!

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Parenting Tip - Do Not, I repeat, Do Not Overschedule Your Children!

I was talking with another piano teacher who told me that one of her students is blind.  She mentioned that his caretaker brings him to lessons and sits in another room waiting for him.  Her student never progresses and she was feeling frustrated one day at his lesson.  Finally, she asked him when he practiced--when in the schedule of his day did he find time to practice the piano.  He replied in astonishment, "you mean I'm suppose to practice at home?"

The teacher asked him about his day's schedule to try to help him find a time to practice but he said he was always busy.  She went and talked to his caretaker about his piano practice and she answered the same as he did, "you mean he's suppose to practice at home?"  After talking with the caregiver she realized that he had no time at all to practice the piano at home.  He went from one activity to another after school until it was time for bed.

I have had piano students do the same thing and I feel like shouting to the parents, "What are you doing??????  What are you teaching your child?"

This is really a pet peeve of mine--overscheduling children.

I've tried to look at it from the parents' perspective and know they have their children's interests at heart.  They are probably trying to enrich their children's lives, expose them to different kinds of activities and help them develop their talents.  But instead, too often, they are teaching them wrong principles.

They are teaching them:
*  I can do it all.  I'm a super kid and I can be good in sports, be in gymnastics, learn a musical instrument, swim, etc.

*  I deserve to do it all because my friends are doing it all.

*  I can do it all without practicing.  I can show up to rehearsals, lessons and that's all that's required of me.  I don't understand the concept of daily practice to become more proficient.

*  The Law of the Harvest--what you grow, you reap--what's that?  I just show up, then leave and don't really get good at anything.

*  I'm here to be entertained.

 I understand that parents want their children to be well rounded, be able to compete with their friends at school, and to develop talents.  They want them to have the life they didn't get to have, the lessons they missed out on, the talents they wished they had.  But unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

So what do parents do?  Can't your children take any lessons or experience any new classes?  Yes, of course, but there is a balance to life.  You can have your child take gymnastics or be in the after school choir or be in sports, but it doesn't have to be all at the same time.  One summer do gymnastics, one semester be in the youth choir, choose one season of sports.  Then if your child shows an increased interest in one area, choose it for continued lessons and daily practice to help your child develop a talent in that area.

Your children need time to be home with their family.  Time to do their homework without rushing through it at the last minute.  Time to sit down with the family and eat dinner.  Time to help out with family chores.  Time to play with younger siblings.  Time to read books.

Don't put your child through a rushed childhood.  Let him enjoy being a child.  Playing, imagining, swinging outside, writing with chalk on the sidewalk.  Riding his bike, skating.  Talking with you.  Laughing.  Snuggling.  Enjoying life. Loving you.

Give your child a happy childhood.

Here are just a few of my happy grandchildren.  I'm so glad their parents are balancing their activities and giving them a happy childhood.

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Music Tip - Be a Cheerleader

One of my piano moms sent me a link to this piano post on a piano teacher's blog.  I thought it was such a good idea, I decided to talk about it too.

It seems that children who are in sports have a lot of parental and family support.  Their parents take them to practices, and many times the Dads are even the coaches, with the whole family coming out to the ball games or swimming/gymnastic meets.  It's a fun, busy time of year for the families, with grandparents also attending the weekly games.

But what about the poor, lonely piano student?  He/she gets dropped off at the teacher's house, gets nagged at every day to practice, and then has family support once a year at a piano recital.  No wonder so many children quit music lessons.

I've always pictured parents as being the cheerleaders for their children.  They encourage them, support them, tell them how great they are and attend all their activities.  But sometimes parents need to step up their cheerleading routines to keep their children interested and progressing in their music lessons.

Some parents have told me they dance while their child is practicing the piano.  One mother said she does her daughter's turn of dish washing in return for piano practicing.  One family said their 3 year old comes running into the piano room from wherever he's been in the house, just to sing along with one of the songs he really likes that his brother plays.  Another mother always stopped by Seven 11 and bought her daughter a muffin after her early morning cello lesson.  All these families are being cheerleaders.

It doesn't take much to be a cheerleader.  You just need to know how to:
  • smile
  • jump up and down
  • be enthusiastic
  • call out chants
  • clap
  • always be positive

Speaking of chants, how about:
who do we appreciate?
______________________ piano playing!
(your child's name)

Enjoy being a cheerleader this week!

Thanks for reading,



Friday, October 4, 2013

Parenting Tip - What Would Happen If....

One of my favorite things to do with grandchildren (or any children for that matter) is play the "which would you rather" game.

Which would you rather......go swimming or play at the park?
Which would you an ice cream cone or lick a sucker?

You can find out a lot about your children/grandchildren's tastes and interests by asking questions like these.

Recently I read another fun game here that fosters imagination.

What would happen if......everyone had 4 arms?
What would happen grew on trees?

Your child has to think and imagine the scenarios of these questions--which is a great cognitive skill.

Researchers are studying children and their imaginations and hoping that will help in understanding children with autism. In an article on children's "magical thinking", Dr. Harris states, "there is evidence that imagination and role play appears to have a key role in helping children take someone else's perspective. Kids with autism, on the other hand, don't engage in much pretend play, leading some to suggest that the lack of such activity contributes to their social deficits." 

Interesting! Can you help an autistic child learn to imagine things? Would that stimulate part of the injured brain and help repair it?

The Reader's Digest had an article that listed 5 benefits of encouraging your child's imagination.  I especially liked this one:

     Work out fears
     Playing pretend can help children work out their fears and worries. When children    role-play about the big, bad monster under the bed, they gain a sense of control over him and he doesn’t seem quite so big or so bad. Imaginative play also helps kids vent confusing feelings they might have, such as anger toward a parent or rivalry with a new sibling.

      To encourage your youngster’s imagination, read to him every day. Books offer  children the opportunity to visit other worlds and create new ones of their own.

I read a fun book this week to a music class of children/parents called, "Cows Can't Fly" by David Milgrim.  I had two of the older siblings play funny sounds on a keyboard after every stanza, which really added to the fun.  Then I encouraged the children to close their eyes and visualize cows flying in the sky.  I asked them what color their cows were and what they looked like.  Then I challenged them to go home and draw some cows flying.  

I was delighted to have one of my students, Clark, age 8, come back later in the day for his piano lesson, with his picture of cows that were white with blue polka dots.

*  Encourage your children to use their imagination by not providing them with lots of toys.  I loved watching my two preschool age daughters play secretary one day many years ago, using bananas as their telephones.

*  Encourage imaginations by reading to your children.  Every so often have them draw something related to the book.  

*  This site has lots of fun ideas to encourage your children's imaginations, with many ideas requiring nothing but talking with your child--like "Mouse-Eye View, and If Pickles Could Talk.  What a great way to keep your child quiet and busy while waiting in the doctor's office or grocery store line. 

And this by Walt Disney, "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."  I think that is hilarious and yet, profound.
Thanks for reading,



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