Monday, February 29, 2016

February Required Reading night right around the new year, we were gathered around the dinner table ready to eat. I was so pleased with the meal I had prepared for my family, it was balanced and beautiful. Then it began...the grumbling and complaining. And that's when I lost it.

How could they complain?? These children have traveled to a place where they have seen people starving in the streets. They have a little sister who cannot eat, but rather receives all of her nutrition via g-tube. My children have perspective! They should open the fridge and pantry - which are filled with fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meats, and be filled with gratitude. But they weren't. So it was time to get tough.

I announced right then and there that there would be no fast food for all of 2016. Also, I would once again pack lunches for them (they had begun packing their own lunches) to ensure they had healthy meals. The children were horrified. The prospect of a year without fast food seemed cruel and unusual in their eyes. But when I say it, I do it. And so it has begun.

As I sat down to determine a required reading book for February the topic of nutrition came to mind. I thought it would be good for the children to read facts about food to help reinforce the things I had been teaching them. After reading some reviews, I decided on...

Nutrition Facts for Kids

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Alexandra is the first to turn in her essay...what a gem! Oh, how I laughed! 
It simply has to be shared. So without further adieu, here it is:

Alexandra Sorenson
Nutrition Essay

So, nutrition. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. BORING! You know, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more, if it weren’t for the author’s totally biased opinions. Like, honestly, in my mind, I was like, “Darn (insert author’s name), Back at it again with your stupid, totally biased, ridiculous opinions!” Ok, my venting is done. Well, it is done for now. Okay, back on topic. So, let’s just face it. There is an overwhelming amount of fat people in this world. Well, this country. TO be honest, I don’t think there is a whole lot of obesity in other countries like there is here… Anyways, there are fat people here, because no one really pays attention to Nutrition. People just eat artificial, fake, unhealthy food. And that isn’t good. So yeah, every once and a while, you can have something unhealthy. If I recall correctly, the author stated that 90% of the time, you should eat healthy, and nutritiously, and that 10% of the time, you can have sweets and other unhealthy foods.

                I would have to say, one of my favorite parts of the book was when it talked about CHOCOLATE!!! Did you know that chocolate in its original, pure form is actually really healthy, and good for you?!?!?! Yeah, you did know that, and I did too. But it was really fun reading about chocolate. But most people actually don’t know that. Most people know chocolate as the candy bars with all the added sugars, milk, and other products. Most people know “Milk chocolate” not your pure cocoa bean chocolate. You can probably tell that I like chocolate.  Moving on. The book also talked about snacks. Instead of eating potato chips with dip for a snack, why not have an apple? If you want sugar, apples have lots of sugars in them! So do strawberries! SO, the next time someone says they want sugar, or something sweet, give them an apple! So, ALERT! ALERT! MAJOR ANGER ISSUES AHEAD! MAJOR RANTING AHEAD! BEWARE!

                Here is what really ticked me off about this book. THE AUTHOR! I absolutely hate the author of this book! Ok, maybe I am being just a little over dramatic… but seriously, come on! If you are going to write a children’s book to inform them about nutrition, don’t have all these biased opinions! Please! Is it really that difficult? NO! You may be wondering, “Well, what is wrong with the author? What makes them so biased? Why are you freaking out?” This is why folks. In this ridiculous book, the author claims that it is unhealthy to use hand sanitizer, cleaning products, etc. I mean, seriously, is it really?  Apparently to the author, when you use hand sanitizer, it kills off 99.9% of the bacteria. Some with household cleaning products. But, according to the author, it is the most terrible thing in the world to use these items, and to kill 99.9% of the germs and bacteria! Why might you ask? Because while it does kill off all the bad bacteria, it also kills off all of the good bacteria, that fights off the bad bacteria. THAT IS TOTAL BOB SAGIT RIGHT THERE! Yes, it is totally, definitely, the most terrible thing ever, in the whole entire world to use hand sanitizer, and cleaning products.

So, the author also wrote about how you should only eat food that is all organic. That is a bunch of phewy right there. Apparently, food that isn’t organic is done to death by farmers, who drown their fruits and vegetables with toxic stuff that will kill us. But no! We should not eat food like that! We should only ear food (and I quote) “within a 100 mile radius.” Yes my fellow reader, you read that right. That’s right. You should only eat food that has been grown within a 100 mile radius! Beware, if you eat food from other countries, you will die, and be cursed. You might as well say goodbye to your family now, because you won’t live much longer.

Another part that I thought was really fun about this book was the food colors. The author showed us how different colors of food mean different things. For example, white foods, such as onions and cauliflower help with your immune support, green foods, like avocado and broccoli help with detoxification, yellow foods like lemons make you beautiful, orange foods like carrots and oranges help with cancer prevention, red foods like tomatoes and red onions help with heart health, and purple foods like grapes help with longevity. Cool huh?

This book also taught us about food pyramids. Food pyramids are nutritional diagrams in the shape of a pyramid. They are designed to show us how to bake better food choices. The pyramid breaks food categories into a spectrum so you can have lots of variety in your diet. IT is recommended that we eat more food from the wider sections, like grains, fruits and vegetables, and less food from the smaller sections, like fats and sweets.

This book also had a diagram of a nutrition facts label. We were taught how to read the label, and learned what some of the numbers and words mean. For example, the “Percentages Daily Value” show us a number of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Calcium, and Iron. These numbers help determine if the food in the package has a high or low amount of a specific nutrient. The author said that two things that you should NEVER eat is foods that have high fructose corn syrup, or Trans-fat. But I think that it is ok if we just have a little bit.

                So, the final thing that I am going to talk about is Digestion. Digestion is the process of breaking food down into millions of tiny pieces. Digestion begins in your mouth when you chew your food, and ends in the toilet, following a route about 30 feet, all inside your body. After you chew and swallow your food, it travels to the stomach by way of a tube called the esophagus. Food does not fall down the esophagus because of gravity; wave-like muscle-contractions carry the food down to the stomach. We have what is called the small intestine, and the large intestine. The small intestine is a coiled-up organ that looks like a tube. It helps us break down our food. The large intestine makes poop.

                In this book, I learned that eating healthy really isn’t that bad… I don’t know if you have noticed (Whoever is reading this right now) but I actually have been trying to be healthier. I have been choosing apples (Surprise, surprise! J) as my snacks instead of unhealthy foods. Actually, frankly we don’t even have any unhealthy food in our house to tempt me anyway! (Except for the ice cream in the freezer that I may have had a bowl of) But that isn’t the point. I have actually been trying pretty hard to be a healthy person lately. And yeah, sometimes I am tempted outside of the house. For example… my fellow reader, (heaven help me) SO, funny story actually, really funny… A couple weeks ago during the second weekend of Holes, my mom packed me a really delicious dinner. Really delicious. Then, in between shows, my friends and I were talking. I was just telling her about how I am not allowed to have any fast food all year, and how outrageous it was. Then she was like, “Do you want me to get you anything from McDonald’s? I am getting some for dinner. And then I was like, SURE!!! And she came back with a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink for me. SO at the moment, I was like, “SCORE!” But after I finished eating, I honestly felt like crap. I felt really bad about it, and I physically felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t even finish my food that is how bad I felt about it. And I still feel bad about it. Only now, do I realize that I didn’t need fast food, and I still don’t need fast food. I would have been perfectly fine with the meal that my mom had made me. So, let’s all agree, me, and my fellow readers that we should just forget about the past let bygones be bygones, and move on! Ok? OK! So, let me finish by saying that I am really going to try and make an effort at this new nutrition thing. I think that one I get used to it, I will have a happier and healthier lifestyle. J

Friday, February 26, 2016

Family Reading Night

Yesterday was Family Reading Night at Lorelai and Elsa's elementary school.

An author, Lisa Harkrader, had visited the school during the day and was in the library that evening so that the children could meet her, ask questions, etc. Elsa had told me as soon as she got home from school that she wanted to read Harkrader's book, The Adventures of Beanboy. I assured her we would purchase it and Elsa even got three bookplates signed by Ms. Harkrader last night (there are three books we plan to buy).

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[Elsa and Lisa Harkrader. She is holding up the signed bookplates to put in her new books!]

While in the library, Lorelai, who is a library helper, showed us the part of the library she is in charge of:
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This is one of my favorite pictures ever of my daughters. First of all, they are in a library...which I love. Second of all, it just highlights each of their personalities and stage of life right now. Elsa, so girly, Alexandra, looking like a teen, Elisabeth, the forever baby, and Lorelai, the super athlete.

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At the end of the evening, all the 2nd graders reported on stage to put on a performance for the parents. There is Elsa, on top and in the center, that big pink bow just popping against the black curtain behind her. She was so nervous! It was cute!!! I am so proud of her!!!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Joshua Bell Live!

Saturday night was the night my dream of 20+ years came true: 
I listened to Joshua Bell perform live in concert.

With Alexandra in a play and Elsa having a basketball game, and with Elisabeth and her special needs, it made sense that I just go alone. 

So I gave Elisabeth kisses...

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 And posed for a picture with my family...

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And set off on a solo adventure to Portland. 

After checking in at the hotel, I got dressed and did my 
hair into a good see-Joshua-Bell-perform hairdo. 

I was tickled with how it turned out:

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Then off to the concert hall!  photo IMG-1456021121513-V_zpsn4xujwig.jpg

As I walked in I was trembling. I couldn't believe the night was here, something I had waited so long for. Part of me was a little nervous. I had built this up in my head for so long and soon it would be over and I would never have this first magical experience again. But I decided not to dwell on that, to soak up the moment while it was happening.

The interior of the hall was breathtaking:

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Joshua performed the Bruch Violin Concerto - which happens to be my favorite. Having played it in my youth, I know every note, and that intimate knowledge of the piece made it even that more thrilling to listen to. It was as if I could not only hear the music, but feel the music. And when Joshua Bell played it...oh, the sound! The only way I can describe it is to say it sounded like butter tastes: smooth and rich and creamy. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time. My dream was coming true and it was the most magical of experiences!!!

And then - as if that didn't qualify it as one of the best nights of my life already - he was signing autographs in the lobby afterwards!!

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I met Joshua Bell!!!!!!!!!!!

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I still can't believe it. Twas the perfect night in every way, from beginning to end. 

There is a lot of negativity in the world; a lot of evil and hatred and misfortune and anger. But as I fell asleep that night and reflected on my evening I thought how that experience felt like all the good in the world. It felt inspiring, happy, beautiful. And it was all for me. The memories I made will be ones that I cherish forever.

The next morning I took out my autographed CD and listened to it on repeat as I drove back to my home and back to my family.

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The drive was beautiful. I spotted seven bald eagles!  photo 20160221_091149_zpshpkc2k16.jpg 

And at last I was back and within minutes the girls and I were playing a game together in the family room. 
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I am blessed in life, of this I am sure. I am blessed by my family. I am blessed by music. I am blessed by rich experiences - such as the concert this weekend.  

Life is good.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gymnastics Meet #4

~The MAC Open~
Portland, OR
Valentine's Day 2016

What a turn around!!! After some strong focus and an attitude change, Lorelai was a whole new girl at the meet this past weekend! I am SO PROUD OF HER!!!! Her scores improved dramatically, but it wasn't the scores that impressed me as much as the personal progression. I am not concerned about how she places or what the scores are, but rather that she is being her personal best and growing as a person and athlete. The MAC open showed me that she is.

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[Lorelai on the balance beam, 2/14/16.]


Bars - 8.35
Beam - 8.2
Floor - 8.4
Vault - 8.525

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Oh, how lovely!

Four lovely things:

1. On Monday afternoon I heard Elsa talking to Elisabeth. I went and looked at them to find that Elsa was reading Elisabeth her Valentine's Day card from Oma. Lovely.
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2. Not an hour later, I spotted my two eight-year-olds reading. How lovely.

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3. At school yesterday, the children in my class presented me with a bag full of Valentines:
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If you read my post on Friday (click here), you know how much it meant to me. 'Twas simply lovely.
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4. Yesterday, Alexandra stayed home sick (not lovely) and spent her afternoon painting:
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And this was the masterpiece she created:
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So lovely!

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Hearty Review

~ February 14th ~
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Valentine's Day morning must be met with Valentine's Day goodies!

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This year there was a red and white striped box awaiting each of the big girls.

And some candy {of course!}.
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And inside those red and white striped boxes were...stationary kits!

{And JUMBO push pins}

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After opening their gifts they ate warm cinnamon rolls covered in orange glaze.
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Then Elsa and Lorelai searched through our children's books to find every one with a Valentine theme.

Behold, our collection:
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Impressive, no?

Alexandra presented me with this Valentine, written on new stationary from her Valentine box:  photo 20160214_090400_zps89l2nhwr.jpg

It was one of those letters that you keep forever. The kind, I'm sure, that I will pull out of a shoe box some 50 years from now to read and re-read and reflect upon how good life was [is].

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day 2016

Love is...

"Being with my best friend."

"Performing Beethoven's 7th Symphony."

"The arts."


"Gymnastics and Track."

"My baby doll."
-Elisabeth (I'm pretty sure this would be here answer.)

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Friday, February 12, 2016

That Woeful Day in 1987

Once upon a time, some six years ago, I told the tale of how I missed my first grade Valentine's Day party because I was sick (click here for that post). Now, when you are in the first grade, missing the Valentine's Day party is a big deal. It is such a big deal that you never forget about it and every Valentine's Day party you do attend for the rest of forever is met with extra gratitude and appreciation.

Anyways, as I have mentioned, I have worked at an elementary school since last fall. All week long the children have been buzzing with excitement towards the big Valentine's Day party on Friday (today). Secretly, I was buzzing with excitement too, because, like I said, you just don't get over missed Valentine's Day parties. And here was another chance for me to make up for that woeful day in 1987!

Then, in the the middle of the night, I was awoken by a pounding headache.

"No, no! Not today!" I thought.

Then I decided to fall back to sleep in hopes that I would wake and find that it was nothing more than fatigue. But when I did wake was worse. So I got up out of bed and went to the kitchen to drink a glass of water. "Perhaps I just need some fluids," I thought. But even so, I started feeling worse and worse until suddenly I was vomiting. Blah!

I was (am) so sad. I admit to tears. Of all the days to have to call in sick to work, why today? 
Why not on a boring old day when they are doing testing or something? 
Why on the day of the Valentine's Day party???

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But as I have laid here in bed, sick and feeling sorry for myself, I realized there are a few positives. At least it was on a Friday when Donald was home to get the kids up and off to school. And at least it was today and not this weekend when I am supposed to watch Alexandra perform in her play, and Elsa dominate in her basketball game, and Lorelai compete at gymnastics. And at least it isn't the day of my Joshua Bell concert! And at least it is me and not one of the girls. Because I know how it feels to miss a Valentine's Day party (twice) and at least they don't.

And hopefully, never will.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Violinist In My CD Player

Anyone who knows me knows that Joshua Bell is my absolute favorite violinist ever. I mean, if you read this blog you've heard me talk about him here and here and here (just to name a few posts). I first discovered him early in my teen years when I was a budding violinist myself. Clearly, I can recall lying on the floor of my bedroom with his CD playing, absorbing every note he played. Plain and simple: I am a fan.

My lifelong dream has been to see him in concert. But as it is, I have been so busy...oh...raising children, and caring for a medically frail child, and adopting from across the sea that I could never justify such a luxurious experience. Until now.

Some twenty years after laying on my bedroom floor and listening intently to the great Joshua Bell play through my CD player, I am finally - FINALLY - going to see him perform!!!!!!!!!!!

I am beyond excited. Ecstatic is more like it. And as if seeing him wasn't thrilling enough, he will be performing one of my all time FAVORITE violin concertos by Max Bruch (which is one that I learned some 20 years ago when I was obsessing over the violinist in my CD player.)

9 days and counting!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ciao, Ciao!

I admit that before we adopted Elsa I knew very little about Ethiopia or its history. So imagine my surprise when we arrived in that land far across the sea and heard everyone saying "Ciao!"

As I soon learned, Ethiopia was once occupied by Italy, leaving behind a lasting influence. So the little girl from Ethiopia that I was going to adopt said "Ciao" to me every time we said goodbye. It was soooo cute!

After the adoption was finalized and she came with us to America we continued to say "Ciao". Indeed, it was a habit for a while. But its use became less and less until suddenly we weren't saying it at all anymore.

A few weeks ago, while shopping in Target, I saw this dress on display and it brought back a flood of memories:

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I knew immediately it was the absolute PERFECT dress for Elsa. So I surprised her with it.

Yesterday, she wore it to school and all the children were asking her what it said,

"What does it look like it says?" she countered. Then she went on to tell me their creative guesses in pronunciation.

"It says ch-ow," she would explain (to still-confused classmates).

Haha! I love this internationally aware child of mine!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Three Sisters At The Gym

Last night I dropped Alexandra at her rehearsal and then went to
watch Lorelai for a bit before Elsa's basketball practice.

(We keep quite a busy pace in our family.)

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I am pretty sure Elisabeth knew her big sister was back there somewhere,
doing fancy things on balance beams...

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And while all of that was going on, Elsa simply did this...

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Is it time for basketball yet??

Monday, February 8, 2016

Required Reading for January

Sometimes it is overwhelming to think about all there is to teach the girls. I get one shot at raising them right. Now, I am not sure there is necessarily one way to get it right, but I can follow my instincts and do the things I feel are important.

Education is one of them. I want my children to have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to help guide them into adulthood. So I hatched a plan. Each month I will have a required reading book which they will read and then write an essay on. The books will vary in genre, sometimes fiction, sometimes biographical, sometimes historical, and other times informational. I will evaluate carefully and select a book that I feel will be full of impact.

The January Required Reading Book was...


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~A Smart Girl's Guide~
How to make it, save it, and spend it.

It's never too early to learn the ins and outs of finances. Each of my children have their own savings account which I deposit money into weekly. They are able to withdrawal money from their accounts to buy things they want or need as they wish. When they turn 14, they will get a checking account with a debit card. I want them to be so comfortable at managing their own finances that it is second nature by the time they reach adulthood. This book, I felt, would help them realize the importance of managing money and give them new ideas and insight.

I gave the girls four questions to address in their essay:

1. What was the required reading book and what was it about?
2. Why do they feel I chose this book?
3. What did they learn from it?
4. How will they apply what they learned into their daily lives?

All three girls finished reading the book by the January 31st deadline and once the essays were submitted I chose a winner. This month it was Alexandra and she was rewarded with a shopping trip to the mall yesterday afternoon. 

Ready, set, read!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Week in Snapshots

February 1-7, 2016

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Gymnastics Meet #3

Sweet on Gymnastics
Pullman, WA
January 23, 2016

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Three meets in and Lorelai is really struggling. Instead of seeing a steady increase in scores, we have seen regression. This is the part of life that is hard, when things get tough, when you have to stop, evaluate, and make decisions.

Donald and I sat down with Lorelai and discussed where she is at with gymnastics and what her goals are. We talked about the increased difficulty, the reduced competition (many girls she competed against have dropped out), the strict judging, and the importance of focused practice. Because one thing I know is that if you want something, you have to go all in. It doesn't work to sit back and be complacent. Life takes work, it takes focus, it takes dedication, it takes bravery. Life - when lived to its potential - takes so much more than what is comfortable and easy.

So for now Lorelai has decided to keep on trying. To dissect each routine to figure out what she is doing wrong and how to fix it. She has decided to not only put in the time at the gym, but to go to other resources as well; to watch, to read, to ask, to learn.
I told her that this isn't about scores. It isn't about winning. It's about personal progression. It's about being better today that she was yesterday.

I am so proud of Lorelai. She is learning lessons about life that many never even grasp. These are the lessons that will carry with her, that will help mold her into the adult she will become. And I know she has a bright future awaiting her. 

Gymnastics or not, the sky's the limit.   

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