Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last of the Classical Music

This about rounds it out.  I have thought about doing the same thing with soundtracks at some point in time - we'll see.  Hope your holidays are fantastic, that you aren't stressed and that your spouses and children and roommates are keeping the teasing/tormenting to a minimum.  In the meantime, if you are going with a must listen to from this list, consider the Anvil Chorus, The Ashokan Farewell and A Lark Ascending. Incidentally, they are all pretty relaxing.  Go on, you deserve it.
Tarrega  - Recuerdos de la Alhambra
Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto #3, The Nutcracker Suite, 1812 Overture, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Marche Slave

Ungar – The Ashokan Farewell

Verdi – La Traviata, Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (Nabucco), Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatore),  Dies Irae (Messa Da Requiem), La donna è mobile (Rigoletto), Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera
Vivaldi – Four Seasons, Guitar Concerto 

Wagner - Overture (Tannhauser), Ride of the Valkyries, Overture (The Flying Dutchman) 

Webber – Invocation 

Williams, John – Call of the Champions

Williams, Ralph Vaughn -  A Lark Ascending, 5 Variants of 'Dives & Lazarus', Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis, Fantasia on Greensleeves

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rachmaninoff to the Strausseseses (yup, there's two)

Rachmaninoff  and Saint-Saens round out my top five composers (Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven are the others).  There is so much emotion in Rachmaninoff's compositions - beautiful and powerful.  Saint-Saens would maybe restore my faith in French composers, but the rest don't sound like him, which is probably why I like him.  You must experience his 3rd symphony where you have good stereo and surround sound.  

Rachmaninoff– 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Prelude in  C# minor, G minor and B flat minor, Elegie, Op. 3, No. 1 (piano, not vocal), Symphony No. 2

Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade (there is a really cool interactive site teaching all the different parts of the story here), Flight of the Bumblebee

Rossini – William Tell Overture

Saint-Saens – 3rd Symphony, 2nd Piano Concerto, African Fantasy, The Carnival of the Animals (especially The Swan), Piano Sonata in B, Dance Macabre, Bacchanale

Schubert – Symphony No. 9

Schumann – Piano Concerto in A minor,

Shostakovich – 2nd Piano Concerto,

Sibelius – Finlandia, Romance Op. 24 No. 9
Smetana - Overture  and Dance of the Comedians (The Bartered Bride)

Stravinsky – The Firebird Suite, Rite of Spring
Strauss, Richard - Thus Spoke Zarathustra,
Strauss, Johann - By the Beautiful Blue Danube (orchestral)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Khachaturian to Prokofiev

Seriously, how many blog posts can start with that title?  Within this grouping, there is probably my top five piano composer, Franz Liszt.  He was quite the showman - would throw his green velvet gloves off at women in the audience during performances - kindof a rockstar of classical music - if there is such a thing.  His works are ridiculously impressive - I suggest taking the time to hear all the Hungarian Rhapsodies, but put down my favorites.  And if you were to see the sheet music of La Campanella while listening to someone perform it, it just doesn't seem possible.  
Mozart is here, but relatively small.  I think most people have heard more Mozart than they know, and it would just take too much time to put all the works of his that are impressive, so I did a top five.  
Khachaturian – Sabre Dance
Lecuona - Malaguena, Córdoba, Gitanerias
Liszt – Piano Concertos 1 & 2, Hungarian Rhapsodies 2, 4 and 6, Sospiro, La Campanella, Liebestraum
MacDowell – Hungarian Op. 39 No. 1
Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E minor, Concerto for Two Pianos,  Symphony #4

Mozart – Clarinet Concerto, Ave Verum Corpus, Symphony No. 40, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Marriage of Figaro
Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain, Pictures at an Exhibition
Orff – O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)
Pachabel – Canon in D (strings)
Paderewski – Piano Concerto, Polish Fantasy
Parry -  Jerusalem
Puccini – Nessun Dorma, Humming Chorus (Madame Butterfly)

Prokofiev - The Montagues & Capulets (Romeo and Juliet)
Probably just one or two more posts on this subject matter - then on to other witty ideas :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Composers C through J

Sorry for the delay on the rest.  I had the goal of posting them every other day, but just had my other foot surgery and was working on that...percocet free I'm happy to report.  Of course, it hurts more, but I can think - decent trade-off I think :)  Lots of contemporary works in this group of composers, but I don't think any of them enter the weird phase.  And apparently blogspot hates me right now and the formatting is very strange...not sure how to fix without doing an intensive html overhaul...sorry.

Fanfare for the Common Man, Appalachian Spring
Capua & Capurro
O Sole Mio
Farewell to Stromness
Cake Walk, Clair de Lune
The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Humoresque in G-flat minor, Symphony No. 9, Piano Concerto in G minor 
Cello Concerto, Enigma Variations, Violin Concerto in B minor
Cantique de Jean Racine
1st Piano Concerto, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, In the Hall of the Mountain King & Morning (Peer Gynt Suite - I have horrible memories of trying to earn Anita's Dance from this - still hate it)
Rhapsody in Blue (orchestral), Piano Concerto in F
Zadok the Priest, Music for the Royal Fireworks, Messiah,Water Music
Mars & Jupiter (The Planets - You should probably listen to the whole work at least once, but these are my favorites - Neptune really drives me a bit mad...) 

Elite Syncopations, The Entertainer, Maple Leaf Rag - really his works are all quite impressive

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Whole Post for Chopin

Chopin is one of those composer names that many people know even if they don't really know music.  Part of that, I think, is because it is a name that isn't pronounced the way it is spelled and that tends to come up in conversation lots.  Chopin is also a composer that has many works familiar to even the most naive classical listeners because they watch cartoons.  

Chopin is a tricky fellow.  He's kindof like Beethoven in that when you hear the music, it doesn't always sound like it's very complicated and I suppose that is part of the brilliance in his compositions is that when it is learned well and performed well, it sounds easy.  I promise it isn't.

I suppose my loyalty to Chopin partly involves from being a pianist, because most of his works are for piano.  But he is able to express power and beauty, simplicity and passion with little white and black keys that you just have to push to make sound.  He was truly astonishing.  He is also the best thing to happen to the key of C sharp minor EVER.

So here are my favorites, grouped by kind of work - this is maybe a quarter of what he wrote.  
Piano Concerto
1 and 2 (Two is my favorite between these two and I'm partial to the live recording of these by a 9 or 10 year old Evgeny Kissen - talk about double brilliance) 
A major (Op 40 No 1) 
C-sharp minor (Op 26 No 1)
A flat major (Op 53) when my mom performed this in a pageant, the poor emcee didn't really know music and instead of pronouncing it like the name of the letter, he pronounced it like the article a.  Made it sound like the piano  had been tuned down to that key.  Ha ha ha!  Hmm.  That might not be funny to everyone else. 
D-flat major (Minute Waltz) Bugs Bunny could perform it in 30 seconds.
E-flat major (Grand Valse Brilliante)
C sharp minor (Op 64 No 2)
E-flat major (Op 9 No 2) This is the song that Sharon, pretending to be Susan, plays when she is fighting with her dad in the original Parent Trap when he asks when she learned how to play the piano
B-flat minor (Op 32 No 1)
C sharp minor (Op 72 No 2 Posthumous) If you have seen the movie The Pianist, this is the nocturne that is played throughout
D flat major, (Op 27 No 2) 
D flat major (Op 28 No 15)
A major (No 7)
for Two Pianos My mom and I are currently working on performing this one - hopefully in March?
Fantasy Impromptu C-sharp major 
C minor (Revolutionary)
 E Major (Op. 10 No. 3)
Ballade in A flat Major
B-flat minor (Op 31)
B minor (Op 20)
C-sharp minor (Op 39)
Sonata in B-flat minor (Op 35) The third movement of this work has what is often called the Funeral March - I know you have heard at least part of this if you have ever watch a Tom and Jerry or Looney Tunes commercial where someone has (for the very brief moment) died.  Maybe in Alfred Hitchcock somewhere too.
I hope you and Chopin can become friends.  It's been a great relationship so far.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Music is in the Air

I think it is known by most people who read this blog that I have a certain level of nerdiness.  Two to three hundred years ago, it probably would have been the norm, but I probably would have also died because of my strong opinions that I feel inclined to express often, so I'll stick with being a nerd.  But what I know about most nerds is that many of you are closet nerds.  The next several posts will be for you.

I LOVE classical music.  I listen to this station every morning in my classroom when I prep (Confession - I hijacked an England post code to be able to do this - I keep waiting to feel guilt about it, but I don't.)  But I also have many works that are on both computers, own multiple discs with great works on them, etc.

Over the last few months, I started a list of my favorite classical works.  This was not a small project. When I first thought about uploading this list here, I realized it is so HUGE that if someone were to want to dabble in the classical realm, they would be completely overwhelmed.  So I kicked in some of my OCD and organized the list in alphabetical order by composers last name.  Not all the letters are equally represented, and I skipped the A's altogether (my favorites, remember?  If you like some of the A's, make your own list).

So today, I present to you my favorite classical works written by composers with the last name of B.  There are lots.  Beethoven alone could have taken up a page, but I've tried to make it concise and easy to read/find/experience/criticize/whatever.

Concerto in D minor for two violins
Air on a G String
Toccata and Fugue
Cello Suite #1
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor – Badinerie
Piano Concerto No. 1
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Adagio for Strings
The Damnation of Faust
Symphonie Fantastique

Pearl Fisher’s Duet
L'Arlesienne Suite
Piano Concerto No. 1 & 2
Rhapsody in G minor

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Violin Concerto No. 1
Scottish Fantasy
Concerto for Two Pianos & Orchestra

Symphonies (Love them all - favorites are 4, 5, 7 & 9)
Moonlight and Pathetique piano sonatas
Piano Concerto (Again, all are amazing - favorite is No. 5
Choral Fantasy
Turkish March
Egmont Overture

As always, I would love to hear your favorites and if you think I left someone or something off the list that absolutely should be there. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trying to Improve a Lousy Day

You know those people who get up in church and say that they gave the talk that was really for them, but you get to listen? 

Yup - this is one of those times. 

In an effort to pretend myself out of a .... mood, I found this article.  It's from a GREAT blog about happiness in life and all that, but I wanted to share it here.  For me.  Maybe for you too.

We've all had terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. A bad work evaluation, a disappointing grade, a potential crush who turns out to be interested in someone else, a fight with your mother, a worrisome report from a doctor, a broken resolution…lousy days take many forms.

Here are some strategies I use for coping with a lousy day:

1. Resist the urge to “treat” yourself. Often, the things we choose as “treats” aren’t good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day. So when you find yourself thinking, “I’ll feel better after I have a few beers…a pint of ice cream…a cigarette…a new pair of jeans,” ask yourself – will it REALLY make you feel better? It might make you feel worse.

2. Do something nice for someone else. “Do good, feel good” – this really works. Be selfless, if only for selfish reasons. A friend going through a horrible period told me that she was practically addicted to doing good deeds; that was the only thing that made her feel better.

3. Distract yourself. When my older daughter was born, she had to be in Neonatal Intensive Care for a week. I spent every hour at the hospital, until my husband dragged me away to go to an afternoon movie. I didn’t want to go, but afterward, I realized that I was much better able to cope with the situation after having had a bit of relief. Watching a funny movie or TV show is a great way to take a break, or I often re-read beloved classics of children's literature.

4. Seek inner peace through outer order. Soothe yourself by tackling a messy closet, an untidy desk, or crowded countertops. The sense of tangible progress, control, and orderliness can be a comfort. This always works for me – and fortunately, my family is messy enough that I always have plenty of therapeutic clutter at hand.

5. Tell yourself, “Well, at least I…” Get some things accomplished. Yes, you had a horrible day, but at least you went to the gym, or played with your kids, or walked the dog, or read your children a story, or recycled.

6. Exercise is an extremely effective mood booster – but be careful of exercise that allows you to ruminate. For example, if I go for a walk when I’m upset about something, I often end up feeling worse, because the walk provides me with uninterrupted time in which to dwell obsessively on my troubles.

7. Stay in contact. When you’re having a lousy day, it’s tempting to retreat into isolation. Studies show, though, that contact with other people boosts mood. So try to see or talk to people, especially people you’re close to.

8. It’s a cliché, but things really will look brighter in the morning. Go to bed early and start the next day anew. Also, sleep deprivation puts a drag on mood in the best of circumstances, so a little extra sleep will do you good.

9. Remind yourself of your other identities. If you feel like a loser at work, send out a blast email to engage with college friends. If you think members of the PTA are mad at you, don’t miss the spinning class where everyone knows and likes you.

10. Keep perspective. Ask yourself: “Will this matter in a month? In a year?” I recently came across a note I’d written to myself years ago, that said “TAXES!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I dimly remember the panic I felt about dealing with taxes that year; but it’s all lost and forgotten now.

11. Write it down. When something horrible is consuming my mind, I find that if I write up a paragraph or two about the situation, I get immense relief.

12. Be grateful. Remind yourself that a lousy day isn’t a catastrophic day. Be grateful that you’re still on the “lousy” spectrum. Probably, things could be worse.

13. Use the emergency mood tool-kit. For an emergency happiness intervention, try these tips for getting a boost in the next HOUR.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poem to Percocet

I just had a bunionectomy on my right foot on Friday - will probably have my left foot done just before the Christmas break - and that was the inspiration for this lovely little poem.  :)

I first met you through his bad reaction
throwing up just out of knee surgery
such a sound always makes me look for distraction
doctor's comments about your good could be perjury

A little later, still suffering from pain
my fiance took another dose of you
But then he passed out and swore never again
his committment to your help was through

Then it was my turn, I was told it was coming
The time when I too would be hurt
Just one little dose for pain to begin numbing
I believed that through care I'd convert

The first dose went well, kept the pain at bay
any side effects could be cured through sleep
not passed out or dizzy, I went through my day
another dose the next night wasn't too steep

Things started to change the following night
my chance for more sleep was to fade
I woke with great pain just after midnight
and realized a price would be paid

Like a noble knight, to my rescue you came
and I drifted back into my dreams
my alarm said get up and I wanted to exclaim
quick comfort isn't always what it seems. 

You did your job, the pain was gone
but everything in my head was dizzy
I taught my students while feeling withdrawn
I thought it might fade if I kept busy

Three hours after the end of the school
I started to again feel like me
I realize now that I was a fool
thought you'd cure pain but I see

You get joy out of my incoherence
Are thrilled when my sanity you take
I know you've scheduled a reappearance
A repeat performance over Christmas break

In the meantime, we're through
I'm done with you
It's been more than a day and still
You stick around worse than glue
Blur my personal field of view

I'm still trying to climb sanity hill

Is the pain relief worth all this haze
I haven't had a dose in almost two days
Even then I took just one a day
Hoping this effect would stay away.

You are the epitome of a necessary evil
I leave now for a mission of clarity retrieval
Don't hold your breath waiting for my call
But can I get away without using you at all?

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Most of you may know that I have known the author of this book for a long time, first grade maybe?  I found out she had this book coming out several months ago and was absolutely delighted.  The advanced anticipation for this book has been growing for several months, people are just clamoring to get their hands on it.  Then, through a series of conversations, Ally asked if I wanted the opportunity to read this book before it was released. 

Um, yes!

This is the story about Cassia, a 17 year old girl who has just attended her matching banquet, a night she has been waiting with for her whole life.  Her best friend,Xander,  shows up on the screen that night, her companion for life and someone she actually knows.  But when she pulls up the file provided to her by the Society, she sees another face, of another boy she knows, Ky. It is a mistake that the Society shouldn't have made.  Now Cassia is faced with an issue - keep doing whatever the Society has told her she must do, or follow her feelings, curiousities and follow her own desires.

What a great book.  There is a reason it is getting the hype - Ally's writing ability to capture the characterization of Cassia is superb.  The Society is captured in a way that makes readers recall the reading experiences of other distopian books, but is absolutely unique in the depiciton.  I felt like I could understand this society very well, how they acted, protocols, etc.  In short, this book is delightful, a great story, fantastic characters who I love and I can't wait for the next one. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Newest Thing in Being Fit...

I go running at between 5:00 and 5:15 most weekday mornings. 

One, it's the only time that I really have that I know I will have every day. 

Two, there are very few people to see me sucking wind and pretending I can run. 

Three, I don't feel quite as much like an idiot.

I have known many people who have a strong aversion to gym type surroundings because of how they look in comparison to how others look, don't like the feeling, whatever, and end up just paying money to work out to not work out because they don't like how they look when they are working out. 

Then today I saw the newest thing on the exercise circuit...

I'm sure that it provides a fantastic workout and could be lots of fun, but I'm also reasonably certain that I would look like an absolute fool.  If you have $2500 you just don't know what to do with and think this is the coolest thing since you in high school, go here.

I'll stick with my $100 Walmart mountain bike for now...

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Trojan War - teen edition

I'm finishing up a unit on Greek mythology and the Trojan war with my classes, and on the test, one of the essay questions was to explain the literary cause of the Trojan war - gods, goddesses, Helen of Troy, etc.

Here is one student's submission.

"Well, they all had this agreement that this princess would be with this one guy.  But then, this other guy makes her fall in love with him, so everyone's like hey give her back, and he's all like no.  The reason she dell in love with him is because if the guy said aprodity was the winner then he could have anybody."

The author?  A seventeen year old boy, who wears army and camo gear every day, wrote his paper about Adolf Hitler being his hero and draws swastikas his arm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Good Thief

I had this book recommended by a co-worker.  I had seen it around a little bit but didn't know much about it. I didn't know what it was about at all, but found that the story quickly caught my attention. 

This is the story about a boy named Ren who lives at an East coast orphanage in the late 1800's.  He has been there for as long as he can remember, doesn't know anything about anything before he got there.  He is missing part of his hand, but again doesn't know why.  He knows his name is Ren because it was sewn on his clothes when he was put through the hole in the gate at the orphanage.  Frequently there are people who come through to adopt the boys, and one day Ren, inspite of his handicap, gets his chance to leave, although the circumstances are not what he has imagined.  Benjamin, the man who wanted him, lives a life unlike any Ren had expected and there are many harrowing adventures that make Ren question staying with him, except that he seems to know enough information to be able to let Ren know about the past he can't remember.

This book falls in line with the great Gothic tales it is meant to imitate.  I felt like I could be reading Robert Louis Stevenson or Mary Shelley.  The detail is perfectly matched with the pace of the plot and the twists that I just didn't expect.  It is very well written and an enchanting book as well.   The reading level isn't terribly difficult, but it does deal with some issues that probably would suit middle school and up.  I'm not sure if Tinti has written anything else, but I intend to find out.  If you are looking for a good book on topic for Halloween, this would be a great choice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Golden Spiral

This is the second book by Lisa Mangum in her Hourglass Door series.  It continues the love story between Dante and Abby, the complication that arose at the conclusion of the last book, and gives the reader the opportunity to see that Abby isn't like other girls in other books who adopt the damsel in distress persona and are unable to escape.

Abby is seeing her life torn apart by what Zo is able to do with his new-found power.  What has been her norm through high school graduation is being manipulated, people who were there suddenly aren't, and friendships that had been tested before are again and again in this book.  Abby takes matters into her own hands, gets people involved who don't seem to know why they are and learns that she has many more abilities than she ever thought possible.

Here's my disclaimer - this is total brain candy, but smartly done.  The symbol of the river that is reintroduced in this book, the complexities that it draws, the allusions to other great pieces of literature all make me like this more than I should.  I like that it has those smart elements, but that it isn't necessary to identify all of them to have a really great reading experience.  I feel like her teenaged characters really are the same as the teens I teach, that she walks the line of being too teenish very well, keeps their language appropriate but not too mature, and there are twists that kept me engaged.  I do look forward to the next book (probably a year away...)

Monday, October 11, 2010


I actually finished this about a month ago, but just haven't had a few minutes to sit down and write my review.  As many of you may know, this is the highly anticipated conclusion to the Hunger Games books.  As is often the case with works so anticipated, there are many who love it, some in betweeners and the avid haters.  I fall in the first group.

Again, with these books, they are very difficult to review without being revealing or spilling any spoilers.  Katniss is involved in her continued fight against the Capitol and is joined by characters from previous books, both some that I liked and some that I really did not like.   She again gets to spend some time with her mom and sister and there is a significant opportunity to see how everything she has experienced has impacted her family. Gale is also back in this book, and the complications that were hinted at from before concerning Katniss' feelings toward Peeta and Gale are again addressed.  Finally, there is a situation like those we have come to expect, where wit, intelligence and sheer courage are necessary to come out victorious, but not without some tough decisions and sacrifices.

Much has been said about how this book ended, and I'm sticking to my pledge to not give any spoilers.  Let me say this - one of the things quality writers do is create difficult situations for their characters and make the choices that are necessary in those situations to stay true to the characters - all of them.  The journeys the characters take in this third book force them to truly identify who they are, what they are willing to do to get what they want most, and I greatly appreciate Collins keeping them true to form eventhough the decision had to be difficult.  There is an incredible example of situational irony* that took three books to develop and a commitment to telling the story that makes me really appreciate who Collins is as an author.  I like that people who I cheered for I was forced to pause before praising again, and some who I thought were vile elicited compassionate responses.  Collins was true to her story, created the perfect ending and I admire her very much for making these decisions.

*an outcome that turns out to be very different from what was expected, the difference between what is expected to happen and what actually does

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Creative Kids

I love my kids.  I love their personalities and their creativity and their overall inventiveness.  There have been creatures, inventions and overall hilariousness that I have wanted to preserve.  These are some of the reasons raising kids are so much fun and things I don't want to forget - ever.

However, I don't know about you, but my kids go through paper. 

Lots of paper.

REAMS of paper. 

Will loves to create different creatures, combine different ideas, etc.  Ellie writes books and songs daily.  Catie is currently on a princess kick and is drawing castles frequently.  I have seen several ideas on how to encourage this but not push it to the point where I'm just months away from being featured on a show about hoarders. 

About a year ago, I saw this blog mentioned on Shannon Hale's blog and I knew I had found my answer. 

I have started a blog for my kids to share their work.  I decided that would be a great way for me to share what they have accomplished without it overtaking this blog (which is VERY far behind - I have two new book reviews to add and a big project I've been working on that's getting closer).  As soon as I have the time to figure out how to make a button I'll add it to the upper right hand corner - right now it is just a link...

Please don't feel like you have to visit all the time - or even at all.  It is public but with comment moderation set up, but if you find something in your visits, feel free to leave a comment.  

And please, if you are in the same situation as I am, steal the idea, scan in the lovely pieces and then purge as you please without guilt. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Process

This time last year, I weighed 200 pounds.

That is a little shocking to see, especially because some of the female contestants who are on the Biggest Loser just 20 pounds heavier.  While I'm aware that I never looked like they do when they start the show - being about six feet tall does have it's perks, but there is something demoralizing about stepping on the scale and knowing I wasn't in the ones anymore.  Incredibly demoralizing.  I had flashbacks to high school, the nit-picky self-degradation of my body.  Add to that the fact that Enoch is not only shorter than me, but also has a waist size that I haven't seen since I stopped growing, and I just didn't have much to be happy about.  I finally realized how much this was impacting me when I looked through my clothes closet and found that a majority of my clothing was brown, grey or black.  It was a perfect reflection of my outlook.  When it came to my appearance, my body, my health, I was depressed.

My problem was I had so many plates spinning on high unstable sticks that I knew adding one more would make all the rest come crashing down.  Something had to give and it was my workouts, my time and effort to eat well, my commitment to take care of me.

Last spring I had an incident (no more description...) that dropped me to my lowest low in terms of my self-esteem.  I was crushed.  I cried so hard I couldn't stand up.  It took weeks to even begin to think about myself as I had in the past, but coming out of that depression, I realized that it was the perfect time to address the issue I had kept dismissing. 

I found a website that was compatible to my preferences and very user friendly and I started documenting EVERYTHING I ate.  There was a lot of crap.  I was grabbing what was quick, what was easy, and the calories indicated that.  I saw what I was supposed to eat to get down to where I wanted and was convinced that I wouldn't ever get there without being the most irritable person on the planet because I was hungry.  But then I found out about Bountiful Baskets. And I started changing the way I thought about food.  I found that when I was completely focused on using EVERYTHING in that basket first, I was eating very natural foods, lots of fruits and veggies, and the weight started coming off. 

Then I got invited to play volleyball with some friends, which was a delight, and more weight started coming off.  And I committed myself to my health, focused on being happy FOR ME, setting aside some time for me and working on my overall well-being.  Then I did what I thought I never would and picked up running, with some motivation from here.  I've also tried to use my bike instead of my car whenever possible - including hooking up the bike trailer we have from when the kids were little to pick up my Bountiful Basket.

Thus far, I have lost 22 pounds.  In three more pounds, I will weigh what I did when I graduated high school.  Then I have 15 more to go to weigh what I did when I got married.  Yea, I did the freshman 15 in reverse.

Remember the title of this post?  This is a process.  Just yesterday I lost focus of things and spent some time feeling like all I do is work and never take time for me.  So I went on a walk.  Quickly.  For some reason an increased heart-rate seems to help put things back in perspective for me. 

I have been rehabbing some injuries, so I'm not running faster and some days am even slower than I was two or three days before.  But I no longer downward spiral when I see a picture of myself.  And my complication lately is that I don't have much to wear to work because none of it fits me anymore - the good way. 

This hasn't been a fast process - there have been weeks of plateaus when I wanted to cry over how hard I'd worked, how good I'd been and how the number didn't move - or even worse, went the wrong way. (now should also be the time when I let you know that I don't have a scale at my house - my OCD over weight would drive me insane if I did - I check my weight weekly at one of my parent's/in-law's houses).  This has been a life change, one that I'm really enjoying.  Granted, to some people, the idea of entering all their food everyday seems like quite a burden.  But for me it has been liberating. 

I'm remembering how to be happy with me. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

So what if you could be reincarnated?

There have been many times I have been asked the question, "If you could be reincarnated as any animal in the world, what would it be?"  Not sure if that is a former random prep for pageants question or one of those questions lots of people get asked that is somehow telling about who they are as a person or whatever.  I used to think about all different kinds of animals - let's face it, the life of a cat is pretty easy - eat, sleep, stretch, repeat.  Dogs are man's best friend and everything.  But I always come back to the same animal. 
I love these birds.  I love the "don't mess with me" look that they have without looking too intimidating.  I love their coloring, from the snow owl to the great horned owl.  Of all the birds out there, these are my favorites and I only wish I lived in a place were they could be seen much more often.   
But I also love them as characters - like this guy.

I loved him in the commercials and thought it was absolutely stupid of a kid to bother such a wise creature with the stupid question of Tootsie Pops.  Everyone knows that if you get to ask a talking owl to share their wisdom, it should be matters of greater importance.  Tootsie pops - psh.

One of the other reasons I love fall, besides football, red leaves, crisp air is that it is the cool time of year to do things with owl - decorations, treats, etc.  I just found this guy here


Seriously, how much fun would this be to make?!? 

I am presently on a mission to see all the great owls out there - projects, printables, treats, etc.  I'll share here, but if you find some fantastic ones you want to share, please feel free to email me (tasha DOT seegmiller AT ironmail DOT org) or blog about it or whatever.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why I Hope Rodgers and Hammerstein Get Reincarnated

When I was in 5th grade and an unwilling participant in the mandatory maturation program, some idiot inspired teacher thought it would just be so cute to have all the girls learn some songs to sing at some parent assembly.  One of the songs was I Enjoy Being A Girl.  Maybe as a pre-dating program - but 5th grade?  Seriously? 

I have a few problems with that.

The depiction of the girl in the song when I was in 5th grade drove me crazy.  Our teachers told us all how were were supposed to look.  Bras weren't cool.  Curves weren't cool.  Because that meant other things were happening, whether or not we wanted them to.  The boys were relentless to us for these things. 

I didn't want boys calling me all the time - I didn't like most of them.  My opinion of many of them never improved. 

Since several of us had already started having zits, our idiot clever teacher switched "a pound and a half of cream on my face" to "a pound of Noxema on my face".  Yup, feeling lots better about that!  Sure glad I'm a girl. 

Dresses made of lace.  Puke.

We had to learn actions to go with this song.  Because it was cute and that's what girls do.

Our dads were sitting in the audience and very aware of why we were singing this stupid song.

That just made everyone uncomfortable. 

Over the next few years, there were increasingly fewer reasons I enjoyed being a girl.  Love it when I had a deep cut four inches long above my ankle trying to shave.  Yanking individual hairs out of my eyebrows is a kick.  Hormonal imbalances just make me giggle with delight (BTW how come guys hormones don't ever get out of whack?).  And don't even get me started on boob issues.  And I get to enjoy all these wonderful delights for 20 more years at which point I'll go into menopause, whether or not I WANT to, and get all sorts of fun new things to enhance the "girl" experience.

Therefore, it seems to me that the only way for things to be fair is when MEN write songs about what they like about girls and say it's what we like, they should be able to have a personal experience of how much fun it really is.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reality Check

As you are all aware, school started.  Sure, for many it is a time of celebration, mom's discover that their houses aren't always the equivalent of a boxing, or MMA ring, and schedules are implemented to assist with the sanity of all.  I love the schedules - always have.  And I'm a planner, so I usually have a decent idea of what is going on for an entire week - it's just who I am.  But I'm realizing that my planning is in need of some serious tweaking.

First, there is my life.  Sure I'm teaching Jr. English and Creative Writing like I did the last two years, but this year I added Jr. Honors English to my teaching load.  I was happy to do it - still am - but I'm having an awareness that my method of prepping and teaching during the last three years is in no way going to cut it this year.

Example.  During the first two days of school, we toss aside the block schedule and have all our students come the same day.  Sure it is like when I was in high school, but because we will return to the block schedule (A Days and B Days) and because we have probably a hundred or so students who are Success students, taking classes at the college either all morning or all afternoon, the schedule couldn't be A1, A2, A3, A4 Lunch B1, B2, B3, B4; we had to do A1 A2 B1 B2 Lunch A3 A4 B3 B4.  This switch had my first two days as follows Prep, Honors, Prep, Creative Writing, Lunch, Honors, Juniors, Creative Writing, Juniors.  By the end of the first day I was a little confused and my head started spinning and by the second, I felt like the girl on Poltergeist.  I realized that I had one repeat, three VERY different classes to prep for and not nearly enough ready.

I'm pretending I have that under control for now - I'm sure there will be moments where I lose my mind throughout the year and will hopefully have a fresh Diet Coke nearby.

Feeling like I could maybe conquer the world, I then went to Will's classroom blog for our weekly update and saw this -

*Book Report: This month (Aug./Sept.) the student will be required to complete a county report. The students may not necessarily read an entire book about the county, but they will have to research information in order to complete the assignment. The students and I have gone over the requirements and they've been shown examples. I'm sending home a yellow packet that can be used as a guideline for this assignment. Have fun learning about one of the county's in Utah!!! This project is due September 24th. 

I'm in trouble because I did my county reports on Sevier and Iron county - so of course he got Cache.  (Charlotte - I may be hitting you up for some cool things...)

I knew there were reports in 4th grade, but I had no idea that it would be this soon.  I'm pretty sure that Will is going to have a paper due before my Juniors do!  And his spelling words?  Eclipse, applaud, attract, trouble, describe, snowflake, freedom, slimy, glance, burglar are a few with the bonus words being elevation and characteristics.  Again, some of my students seven years older are struggling with these words.

I have come to the realization that I'm not ready for 4th grade.   

*On the plus side, the shy, reserved semi-anxiety ridden boy that has been my son for years seems to have disappeared.  He is talking to people he doesn't even know, offering advice to people not necessarily talking to him.  I think it has been very liberating for him to go to a new school where people don't expect him to be shy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Day Pics

I'm incredibly biased, but I think these kids are about a cute as they come.
Skinny jeans were made for bodies like hers.
His sense of humor cracks me up all the time.
There is no coaching on her poses - this is all Catie.
They are growing up too fast....

Thursday, August 19, 2010


School started.  I have a ceiling.  And a roof.  If you saw the school two weeks ago, you would realize why these two things make me happy.  I even have cool air - kindof.  I'm teaching three different courses this year - two classes of each - and have 24-30 students in each.  It's going to be an adventurous year with some learning curves for me. 

My kids put on their new clothes this morning all ready for school.  Will upload pictures later, but Ellie in purple skinny jeans and Catie in jeans bedazzled with white and pink were adorable.  And you will have to wait for Will's shirt - I laughed when I bought it for him and continue to laugh every time I see it. 

Glad it's starting.  Going to miss snuggle mornings in my bed with Catie.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Heavenly Home in the making...

Several weeks ago, when I was getting ready to do my visiting teaching, I read the message and it just didn't seem to resonate with me as the exact direction I needed to take with the sisters I was visiting.  I did some research, explored some of my favorite minds, and stumbled on a speech that, when reading, I had the overwhelming impression that it was a talk that would perfectly fit with my sisters.

But more importantly, it really stuck with me.  I read it through and went immediately back to the front page and started again.  Some excerpts...

"The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things....one of the purposes of our earthly probation is to become like them in every conceivable way so that we may be comfortable in the presence of heavenly parentage"

"President David O. McKay was inclined to awaken at 4:00 a.m., skim read up to two books each day, and then commence his labors at 6:00 a.m. He could quote 1,000 poems from memory. We knew that whenever he stood at the pulpit. He referred to the grand masters of literature as the “minor prophets.” He was a living embodiment of the scriptural admonition to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom"
"Dear daughters of God, you are the crown jewels of all of His creations. There has never been a sunset, symphony, or work of art as lovely as you. May you catch the vision that you are destined to be a refined and regal queen, honored by an uncountable posterity, worlds without end."

"...your Father in Heaven, has sent you away from His presence to have experiences you would not have had in your heavenly home—all in preparation for the conferral of a kingdom. He doesn’t want you to lose your vision. You are children of an exalted being. You are foreordained to preside as kings and queens. You will live in a home and environment of infinite refinement and beauty, as reflected in the language, literature, art, music, and order of heaven."

 You can find this whole talk here. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I don't want to SEE the Wizard - I want to BE the Wizard

Sometimes, in my life, I feel like one of the characters in the Wizard of Oz.  No, not the munchkins - I was taller than them by the time I saw the movie.  In elementary.

One of the things that I have always found interesting about those characters is they are parts of a whole.  Obviously their inabilities are exaggerated to make them endearing characters, but they seem to just be one thing.  I mean no one ever compliments the lion for his ability to be empathetic for a friend, or the tinman's bravery and willingness to start chopping at people who threaten his friends or the scarecrow's ability to lighten the situation with his humorous antics.  But they are all off to see the wizard with the desire to have ONE thing.  Not to be complete or whole, but because they are longing for one thing.

Sometimes, I feel like those characters.  I feel like I go through phases where I'm trying to be awesome at one thing, and then a few weeks later another and so on.  And sometimes I even feel a little crabby like the witch. So what did the wizard have that I want?

Proper perspective and sheer determination.  

So, some life-balancing goals.  

Some of you may have noticed that I put a pounds lost button on my blog.  I have lost that just by changing my diet with MyFitnessPal, but I really have 15 to go before I would be okay with my weight and some serious toning and muscle building to even really be happy after that.  I found a program called Couch to 5k (c25k) that I'm embarking on and biking on my crappy decade old mtn bike on non-running days.  But more than that, my commitment to be fit has me trying to find reasons to ride my bike more often and to more places. And this journey so far as me wanting to buy clothes that aren't primarily black anymore, being happy about the person I see in the mirror each day and beating myself up less.  All good things, right?

Obviously during the summer, I have more time (and desire...and eye power...and alertness) to read lots, but then often, during the school year, I will let that slump off a bit.  I require my Honors English kids to read 70 pages a week.  That's ten a night - surely I can fit that in.

I set time aside in my daily schedule to write and have three different ideas I'm toying around with right now, so the writer's block will not work here. And I can really find 15 minutes.  I'm trying to write 500 words a day but making sure I get the 15 minutes for now.

Because of Bountiful Baskets, we have been having fun eating at home more, but then this last week, that crapped out big time.  The kids like helping me, seeing and trying the food we get is like a weekly Christmas and when Charlotte posts yummy recipes like this, I really have no excuse, right?

I decided that it was pointless to just make goals on December 31 and then check a year later to see what happened.  The beginning of the school year seems like a good time to see what I can do to get all five elements of my life - physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and financial - more balanced.

I'm off to become the Wizard...kindof.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the most inspiring people to me.  She balances a decent amount of acreage, raises chickens, plants beautiful gardens and writes compelling books.  This year, like every August for the past two years, she is doing a program of Write Fifteen Minutes A Day.  The last two years, I declined participation, convinced I was too busy or didn't really have something to write.

That has changed this year.

My master's is done, my classroom is trashed (CHS remodel/renovation project) and I'm busy, but I've recently made a commitment to keep my sanity, which means doing things I like for me. 

Will I ever have people clamoring for my work like Ally?  
Who knows.  

Will I ever write as fast as Stephenie
Probably not. 

Will I ever have a writing cottage like Laurie?


But I get a kick out of writing, creating characters and seeing what happens to them.

So, for the month of August I will write fifteen minutes a day.  I didn't know about it on Sunday, but I put it off yesterday and didn't get it done before I went to bed.  I was woken up three separate times by characters I've been thinking about but haven't written yet. I won't procrastinate anymore.  And I've had a few new ideas that I'm excited about.  I figure it will be good to develop the habit and gear me up for a successful year with NaNoWriMo. 

Since I know not everyone want to write, I am highly recommending you do something this month, for 15 minutes every single day, that makes you happy, may lead to some personal development and find some way for it to happen without any distractions (a girl can dream, right?)  Get husbands on board - I think most would be willing to pitch in for 15 minutes to have a happier wife. 

I would love to know what you decide...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Brotherly Love

When Catie wakes up, she is a little snuggly.  Today, Will was watching some cartoons and when I came back in the room, I found this.

But it is hard to watch TV that way.  So Catie moved.

And Will just let her snuggle.  This kid has may be one of the most kind-hearted boys I've ever met.

But I am a little biased.

Monday, July 26, 2010

To Save My Sanity

I like to consider myself a patient person.  Afterall, I teach teenagers for a living.  I have three kids.  I have been married for almost eleven years.  I'm the oldest of five children.  I'm the primary second counselor.  I taught piano (and may start again) for eleven years before I got my teaching job.

All of these areas require patience and while it may be accompanied by frustration, I still can usually work through it.

However, there are few things that can drive me absolutely crazy faster than when I ask my kids to do something and they say okay. Then, fifteen minutes later when I go to check on progress, they are rockin' out to their tunes, but the beds aren't made, clothes aren't put away, brushes aren't in drawers, water hasn't even been turned on to clean the bathroom, five pairs of  underwear are on the floor, they are buried under the blankets that are supposed to be on their beds...well, you get the idea.  And then...

I turn into a yeller. 

I don't like being a yeller.  And then when I go back five minutes later and see the same scene depicted above, I just lose my mind and contemplate if it would be easier for me to run away or get rid of my kids.  

I know - bad mom.  
So, because I'm tired of being a bad mom, for the last week I have been researching homeschooling families.  Especially LARGE homeschooling families.  Seven to eight kids minimum.

Did I lose you?
See, the way I figure is that homeschooling families and both parent working families have lots in common.  There are things that are trying to be accomplished that seem impossible.  Homeschooling families are teaching their children, all of different ages and abilities, running a home, often have a dad working at home or on a farm, and managing all of it with grace and calmness most of the time.  

That's my goal.  

So, with that in mind, I've taken the ideas from Managers of their Homes (MOTH) as shared here and Managers of their Chores.

Here's how it should work.  

Everyone has a daily schedule.  Please note this is VERY flexible because we will have games and things that will require things to be adjustable, but I like the idea that there is a basic idea.  You can see the schedule here.  Obviously this is for during the school year but if it proves successful, I will modify it for next summer.

Each morning the kids have chores that need to be accomplished PRIOR to 8:00 am.  These are things like get dressed, make bed, brush teeth, comb hair and then each child has a part of the dishwasher to unload, Will feeds the pets, Ellie cleans off the counter in the bathroom and Catie cleans up the bathroom floor.  Then the evening chores they have are things like homework, piano/violin, get backpack ready for next day, daily assignment, dinner assignment, bedtime routine.  I asked the kids if they would rather have an area they are in charge of once a week or once a day and they wanted to do daily. 

So how will all this minimized the mom yelling syndrome?  Enter Daddy Dollars to create a system that the kids are excited about and should required NO yelling from me.

The kids can earn three of these IF they have their morning chores done by 8:00 am and they can earn another five if they have their evening chores done by 8:00 pm.  If they don't, they don't get part later.  It is all or nothing.  Then, when they want to go bowling, or get a snowcone, or whatever, they can redeem these for that award. If they don't have enough for whatever someone else gets to do, guess what.  Life is tough.  I like this because then there isn't money going back and forth and it is recyclable :)

I'm not quite done with everything for this to launch yet - hoping to have it completed today.  I'm buying each child a clipboard that matches their art stations and will tape a small money sized manila envelope and their morning and evening responsibilities to the board.  Then it is all in one place.  There will also be a Mom/Dad clipboard with a master list of who has what responsibilities and the Dad Dollars. 

I think it's going to work.  I'm really hoping it's going to work.  Because I can't keep doing everything for everyone.  I turn into the meanest mom on the planet, which is frustrating and exhausting and full of all kinds of self inflicted guilt trips. 

I'll keep you posted.