Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Temple Attendance is Up in Our Home...

...with an unexpected group of patrons.

Monday, September 28, 2009

School Days, School Days....

Here is a link to an article from the Associated Press concerning changes that Pres. Obama would like to make to the school calendar.

Basically, he would like to add time to classes, keep schools open later, and leave schools open on the weekends as a safe place for kids. Education secretary, Arne Duncan told the AP, "Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here. I want to just level the playing field."

Interestingly, the AP points out, "Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests - Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)." That leads me to understand that other country's school days are shorter. Not only would our children be going to school more days in the year, but we'd also be increasing their hours spent in school? No thanks.

Charter schools are used as positive evidence behind increasing time spent in school, as well as a Massachusetts'
expanded learning time initiative program.

Most disturbing to me is the vision that Education Secretary Duncan has of our schools being "the heart of the community". Ummmm.... Isn't that what the family is?

Here are my thoughts/questions/ponderings: How will these changes affect the family? Will these changes really make our children more competitive? How are we going to fund this (it seems to me that most schools are already operating on skim funds)? Why not use that money to give teachers a raise (I feel teachers are the biggest factor in the quality of our children's education rather than how long our children are in school)? Is it the school's responsibility (taxpayers) to babysit/provide for families that have two working parents? Kids hanging out at school after hours or on weekends seems like a breeding ground (perhaps literally) for trouble... unless they are being supervised by/engaged in activities by teachers, in which case, how do we fund that?

What do you think?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The End of an Era?

Meet Honda's new electronic mini unicycle.

Transportation on at least one college campus that I know of, may never be the same again...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Design Friday: Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman are most likely familiar pieces of furniture to you. They are considered one of the most significant designs of the 20th century, are on display in museums, are very commonly used by designers, and I even spotted it in the background of Frasier's apartment on TV. (Look for it!)

photo from hermanmiller.com

The chair and matching ottoman were designed by Charles and Ray Eames* (a husband and wife team) for director Billy Wilder. It is very much a man's chair, no? They were serious designers that paid close attention to detail, and enjoyed problem solving through experimentation. They were pioneers of the molded plywood technology seen in this chair, in which they sought to create a club chair that had, "the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt." What do you think? Did they achieve their goal? Apparently, this chair is famously comfortable. I have yet to sit in one and verify that, but from appearance I think it screams for you to sit down and take a load off. It is hand assembled and has been in continuous production for the public since 1956, by Herman Miller

* This couple was a powerhouse in design. We'll be seeing more of them in future Design Fridays.

- http://www.hermanmiller.com/Products/Eames-Lounge-Chair-and-Ottoman
- http://www.dwr.com/product/furniture/living/eames-collection/eames-lounge-ottoman-vicenza.do?sortby=ourPicks

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"One Semester of Spanish Love Song"

In the spirit of continuing education (and for those of you who studied Spanish instead of Italian), here is a funny song that utilizes tries to make use of everything you learn in one semester of Spanish.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How's Your Career Satisfaction?

"Teach your daughters to prepare for life's greatest career- that of homemaker, wife, and mother. Teach them to love home because you love home. Teach them the importance of being a full-time mother in the home.
"My eternal companion has wisely counseled mothers: 'Radiate a spirit of contentment and joy with homemaking. You teach by example your attitude toward homemaking. Your attitude will say to your daughters, 'I am only a housewife.' Or it will convey, 'Homemaking is the highest, most noble profession to which a woman might aspire.'"
-President Ezra Taft Benson

I have an acquaintance who is putting off having children. This is a topic that I have never discussed with her in any way, but she is very open about her decision (I sense she gets heckled by family and closer friends). One day she sent out a mass email that included an article by a single woman explaining how unappealing motherhood appears, due to the fact that all she ever hears mothers talking about are their frustrations, the yuckiness, etc. that go along with being a mom. My acquaintance found great validation in this article. I was bugged by the article, but mostly bugged by the fact that she had sent it to me. Especially, because I am not in regular communication with her, and certainly never about this topic.
As I read President Besons's quote, this article came to mind. Could there be validity in this woman's attitude? From my personal experience, I know when a group of mothers get together we seek comfort, support, and common ground with each other concerning the struggles we face as mothers. There is no denying that it is a hard job, and there is no denying the struggles and yuckiness that are all part of the job. But how often are we caught "radiating a spirit of contentment and joy" in what we are doing? Or at the least, a belief in the importance of what we are doing? Are we doing a bad job selling other women on being a homemaker?

Is Pres. Benson's quote an impossible expectation for us? If we aren't finding joy and contentment in what we are doing, how do we find it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good News for Mothers

Soda is healthy now!

Forget the juice. Now our kids can enjoy high fructose corn syrup along with 10% of the daily recommended dosage of vitamin E.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Unharnassed Power

Here is an excerpt from a conversation between my son and I, while hurriedly getting ready for preschool the other morning:

Me: (Putting socks on his feet, sneakers in tow)
My Son: (Insistently) I want to wear boots today. I want to wear boots.
Me: (Having already fought and won a clothing battle that morning) Okay.
My Son: Fine. I'll wear shoes..... Fine. I'll wear shoes. You can't make my decisions.

How did I do that?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Avast, ye! Tis Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Arrr, ye scurvy land lubbers! I've bin awaitin' for this here day, ever since me dear brother told me of its existence.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Design Friday: Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier (pronounced: Lay Core-BOO-zee-ay) is arguably the most influential architect of the 20th century. He was born in Switzerland in 1887 as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (he later chose his grandfather's name as his pseudonym). He was trained as an architect during the time that the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movements were in full swing, and set out to reinvent architecture. He is famous for his belief that living spaces are a "machine for living", meaning homes should be built to function for people and their needs (such as sun, space, good ventilation, vegetation, insulation from noise, and controlled temperature) and should also use human scale as the measure of dwelling design.

He was the pioneer of the International Style, the key elements of this style being: to raise the building above ground on stilts which support reinforced concrete slabs that can serve as ceiling and floor. This allows exterior walls to hang as curtains and an open, free-flowing interior space which bears no structural load. Lastly, making use of the roof and the space beneath the building. This style largely influenced modern office buildings and skyscrapers, and his concepts were practiced by many architects.

perspective drawing for Domino House (Marseilles, France, 1914)

His approach to architecture also influenced his interest in city planning. He believed that "great cities are the spiritual workshops in which the work of the world is done," and worked at problem solving the inefficiencies in current cities such as poor traffic circulation and little space for recreation or exercise. His theory was to build "vertical cities" (for housing, and the business and service industries) connected by "linear-industrial cities" (which would be centers for manufacturing), with separate centers for agricultural activity. He did design a few vertical cities, such as the Unite d'Habitation (Marseilles, France) and created the master plan for Chandigarh (capital of Punjab, India).

Unite d'Habitation (Marseilles, France, 1945-1952)

Later in his life, he explored a more sculptural approach to architecture by utilizing reinforced concrete, as seen in the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut.

Notre Dame du Haut (Ronchamp, France, 1950-1955)

- Tansey, Kleiner, "Gardner's Art Through the Ages", 10th Edition, 1996
- www.time.com/time/time100/artists/profile/lecorbusier.html

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parenting Resource

If you are looking for a down-to-earth, common sense resource on parenting and discipline, I highly recommend "John Rosemond's Six-Point Plan For Raising Happy, Healthy Children".

Here's an excerpt from his introduction that kind of gives you a taste of where he's coming from:

"Over the last forty years or so, we've taken the very practical and commonsensical job of raising children, dressed it in fancy language, and turned it into something very abstract and, therefore, difficult. What the 'experts' haven't romanticized, sentimentalized, and idealized, they've scrutinized and analyzed to such an extent that we are no longer able to see the forest for all the obsessing we do over the trees.
"In the process, childrearing- or parenting, as it's now called- has been transformed into a pseudo-intellectual 'science,' something people think they must strain their brains at in order to do properly. But parenting is anything but an intellectual endeavor.
"... Parents who think too much tend to say things like, 'Raising a child is the hardest think I've ever done.' I understand. I used to feel that way myself. Then I stopped thinking so much about it, stopped obsessing over all the little details, stopped worrying about whether one wrong decision was going to ruin my children for life, and started paying at least as much attention to my own needs and the needs of my marriage as I did to my kids. That's when raising children became relatively easy and enjoyable."

I better stop there, or I might just transcribe the whole book for you!
Anyway, if you're in the neighborhood for a good parenting book, check this one out (like all books, you take what works for you and leave the rest).
I especially like that his first point is to give more attention to your marriage than to your children.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Babidee Boopee!" or Learning to Talk Italian

I studied Italian in college for 4 semesters (in order to avoid the math GE), and I fell in love with it. After my 4th semester, I really felt like I was getting the hang of things, and now I can hardly remember anything! To make matters worse, my husband speaks Spanish semi-fluently, and now I mix the languages. Arrgh!
So, in an effort to refresh my skills I am taking a class. I am very excited about it. I'm not sure what to expect from the class. Perhaps it will go something like this:

And while I'm sharing Italian clips, here's another one that my brother sent me.

And what good does learning Italian do me? Well, it gives me a good reason to visit Italy! :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Playing a Part

“For too many, responsibility seems to end with hand-wringing and exclamations of dismay. Yet talk without action accomplishes little. We need to be vigorously engaged in the world. If our schools are inadequate or destructive of moral values, we must work with fellow members of the community to bring about change. If our neighborhoods are unsafe or unhealthy, we must join with the civic-minded to devise solutions. If our cities and towns are polluted, not only with noxious gases but soul-destroying addictions and smut, we must labor to find legitimate ways to eliminate such filth. … We have the responsibility to be a blessing to others, to our nation, to the world”
-Elder Robert S. Wood (“On the Responsible Self,”
Ensign, Mar. 2002, 30–31).

I found this quote really inspiring and motivating. It reminded me of the article, "Lessons from the Old Testament: In the World but not of the World" by Quentin L. Cook in the February 2006 Ensign. I was particularly struck by this quote:

"In early 1969, at the height of the “flower children” period in San Francisco, California, the Bay Area was a magnet for drug use and all manner of promiscuous and sinful conduct. A concerned stake president asked the leadership of the Church if Latter-day Saints should be encouraged to remain in the Bay Area. Elder Harold B. Lee (1899–1973), then a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was assigned to address the issue. He met with a group of priesthood leaders and told them the Lord had not inspired the construction of the Oakland California Temple only to have the members leave. His counsel was for members to create Zion in their hearts and homes, to be a light to those among whom they lived, and to focus on the ordinances and principles taught in the temple."

I was somewhat surprised by Harold B. Lee's response, because I think I had Abraham's instruction to flee Sodom and Gomorrah in mind. We are, after all, instructed to stand in holy places.Obviously, where we raise our family is a matter of personal revelation, but anywhere we go our children will be exposed to bad influences. It's just hard as a mother to know that our children will be exposed to experiences that could erode their testimony. On the other hand, theses experiences have the potential to solidify their faith. It feels like such a gamble, because their choices are not for us to make.
If anything, for me these quotes drive home the importance of making my home a refuge or a holy place for my family to stand, and taking advantage of the strengthening power of the temple. And as for the first quote, perhaps our first response to destructive influences should be to fight it, rather than to flee from it.

What do you think?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Circus Act

There are times in my life as a mother in which I feel like I am taking part in a circus act. In fact, when I find myself in particularly ridiculous circumstances, circus music plays in my head. Try it some time. It really helps you feel in character and have a sense of humor about things.
A few days ago, in an effort to encourage performance, I asked my son if he would like to participate in the upcoming church talent show. He excitedly jumped on board, and after I was able to convince him to sing a song instead of show his "fighting", we were good to go. He was confident as could be.
The talent show was last night. What was supposed to be a cute little number with my son dressed in a raincoat and galoshes singing a song about the weather, became a tug-o-war between myself and my son. Literally. He introduced himself, and then stood frozen. [cue the circus music]. I tried to help him, and then he was overcome by the most impish version of himself and stood with his hands on his hips staring at me and stuck out his tongue- an offense that would normally get him in big trouble, were we not on exhibition for our whole church (I don't know, maybe everyone would have enjoyed a demonstration of my disciplining techniques. I'll consider it for next year). He would push me away, and then ask me to help, and then push me away, etc. Finally, he sang the song into my neck and we were done.
I understood that he was having stage fright, but had I known that we were going in the clown direction, I would have worn a costume. I'm considering carrying a red nose and a wig in my purse for these wonderful impromptu moments. Maybe people would even tip us.

Friday, September 11, 2009

God Save the Flag

Washed in the blood of the brave and the blooming,
Snatched from the alters of insolent foes,
Burning with star-fires, but never consuming,
Flash its broad ribbons of lily and rose.

Vainly the prophets of Baal would rend it,
Vainly his worshippers pray for its fall;
Thousands have died for it, millions defend it,
Emblems of justice and mercy and all:

Justice that reddens the sky with her terrors,
Mercy that comes with her white-handed train,
Soothing all passions, redeeming all errors,
Sheathing the sabre and breaking the chain.

Borne on the deluge of old usurpations,
Drifted our Ark o'er the desolate seas,
Bearing the rainbow of hope to the nations,
Torn from the storm-cloud and flung to the breeze!

God bless the Flag and its loyal defenders,
While its broad folds o'er the battle-field wave,
Till the dim star-wreath rekindle its splendors,
Washed from its stains in the blood of the brave!

- Oliver Wendell Holmes

(Design Friday will be back next week.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health Care Reform

I am getting so tired of this topic. Last night, I watched a bit of Obama's speech to Congress. I am excited by Obama's motivation to really try and fix the system and get it done, but I do not agree with his method (i.e. introducing a public plan to "compete" with private insurance). These are my thoughts about the approach that we should take for reform.

If you are not in favor of Obama's approach, you should continue to write your representatives and let them know how you think reform should take shape. Check out my sidebar for links to find your reps.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leggo My Lego!

If you were to track the activities of my daily life and how I spend my time- you would not only be a bit creepy- but you might think that I have a new hobby.

The past few days, I have spent a considerable amount of time prying tiny Lego pieces apart with my nails, repairing damaged creations, meticulously following instruction booklets to build things, and visiting Lego.com a few times a day. In the beginning, when my son would solicit my help, I would try my hardest to involve him in the process. Those days are gone. Now, it's all me. I'm serious about building these things, and getting them built right. Perhaps, this unexpected consumption of my time will lead me to create something like this:

My husband would think it was HOT if I did.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Makeover Rx

Like all women, I have an interest in keeping my wardrobe updated and learning new techniques for applying makeup and styling hair. This has resulted in watching my share of makeover shows or makeover segments on talk shows. I have found a very simple formula that they all follow:

1. Choose a stay-at-home mom who "no longer has time for herself". (It is common knowledge that women with a career have oodles of time for themselves and have impeccable taste).
2. Rifle through her current wardrobe and scoff at each piece. Underwear is not off limits. Maximize on this opportunity to express disbelief and condescension.
3. If the hair is long, cut it. If the hair is straight, curl it. Bangs if no bangs, etc...
4. Highlight, highlight, highlight.
5. Apply makeup.
6. Steps 3-5 must take a ridiculous amount of time and money to upkeep.
7. If your program has time, send the woman shopping by herself and mock her selections.
8. Dress the woman in 'dry clean only' clothing (a cocktail dress is preferable) with stiletto heels.
9. Reveal the new woman to her friends.

And... voila! You have transformed a frumpy, stay-at-home mom into a hottie ready for her new life attending board meetings, the opera, and black tie events.

But what is she supposed to wear when she's running errands, changing diapers, or doing housework? I've decided these shows focus too much on dramatic transformations rather than finding realistic solutions for the individual's lifestyle. Sure, they are entertaining, but I don't think they are very helpful or relevant. Plus, how hard is it to find a better solution to a sweatsuit? The before and after pictures don't even compare.

If you're looking for a good resource on wardrobe selection, I have found this book helpful. Any other great resources out there?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Lion and a Lamb

I just finished reading "A Lion and a Lamb" by Rand H. Packer. It is about Willard and Rebecca Bean, newlyweds who were the first missionaries to return to Palmyra after the Saints left. What originally was supposed to be a 5 year mission turned into a 24 year mission! It is an excellent book. Their main obstacle to overcome was the large anti-Mormon sentiment that the community had, and it is amazing to read how this was accomplished.
Three things stand out in my mind since finishing it. One, is how the Lord uses each of our unique personalities and abilities to accomplish his work. Willard was a former prizefighter, and therefore had a strong, fighting temperament. And yet he was still very Christlike and friendly. The Lord will make us mighty with what we have to offer. We don't have to try and be someone else. Second, is a quote from Willard in talking with a Methodist minister: "I have always felt that just because people believe differently, it doesn't need to make them enemies." Willard became a great friend to many in the community who were of other religions, and he was very respectful of their differences. Sometimes different beliefs can be such an obstacle to friendship, when it doesn't have to be. Third, is Rebecca Bean's patience with the people in the community. While she and her children experienced exclusion and hatred, she did not blame the people. She understood that they were trying to do what was right, based on the lies about Mormons that they had been taught. She knew in time, things would change.
Anyway, it's a great book. Willard gives some simple and beautiful explanations of the Gospel. The Beans lived in the Smith home during their mission, and I loved imagining what it would be like to live there. Their family would often frequent the Sacred Grove and visit the Hill Cumorah. What an opportunity!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Design Friday: The Portland Building

Today, I am highlighting the Portland Building. This building is a municipal building in Portland, Oregon that was built by Michael Graves in 1980.

It is deemed the first major postmodern building, meaning it rejects modernism (which is a rejection of the past and deals wholly in abstraction). Because of its unconventional style and color, you can imagine it was met with criticism from the community. As time has progressed, it has been criticized as being an inefficient building to work in. It is guarded by "Portlandia", a sculpture based on the city's seal.

Whenever I meet someone who has been to Portland or lived there, I always ask them if they have seen this building. No one that I know has seen it or knows what I'm talking about from my description. It's a pretty unique building, so I don't know if it's in an obscure location or what, but if you find yourself in Portland, take the time to look for and appreciate this building.

References: (I've actually forgotten how to do this, but here's my best attempt!)
* Tansey, Richard G., Kleiner, Fred S., "Gardner's Art Through the Ages", Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996
* www.greatbuildings.com
* www.architectureweek.com

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Embracing Now

Sometimes, I actually understand and believe this... and other times I take it on faith!

"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly."

-President Thomas S. Monson, "Finding Joy in the Journey", Ensign, Nov. 2008

Does this mean that we shouldn't clean up after our children, when visiting the grandparents?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lost in Translation

Lately, this seems to be the case in our home.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why Is My Job So Important?

"But for all of the children of God, this life is primarily a probationary existence designed to prepare them for the eternal roles of husband and father, wife and mother.
"If we are to be true to our eternal covenants, we ourselves must believe that the highest of roles, patterned after the highest of heavenly roles, are those of father and mother. Latter-day prophets have taught that there are important, unchangeable differences between men and women. Parents, by aspiring too much outside the home or through too much self-focused achievement, risk teaching their children that the roles of father and mother are not very desirable- or less so than the attainment of material goods, the honors of men, or even educational diplomas."

- "A Parent's Guide", The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985

(By the way, "A Parent's Guide" is a really neat resource. It gives advice on how to teach children throughout the different stages of their life- including topics like sexuality and puberty- with a Gospel perspective. It's only $4 at the Distribution Center)