Monday, November 30, 2009


At rehearsal for the Christmas Pageant after church on Sunday:

Pageant Director: And what would you like to be in the pageant this year, Jillson?
Jillson: A lion.
PD: Oh, I am sorry, I don't have a lion in the story this year. Would you like to be an angel?
Jillson: No, not an angel, because angels are not real. I would like to be a princess instead.
PD (winking at Gutsy Mom): Perfect!

The pageant director then spent the rest of rehearsal referring to the Angel Princesses. At one point, Jillson, who was also under the impression that Angel Princesses performed ballet moves during the pageant, stepped forward from the group and called out "Alleluia!" as though she were saying "Amen, sister!" at an AME church, hands outstretched and all. She was quietly ushered back to the host of little angel princesses by one of the bigger (i.e. crowd control) angels.

We could be in for quite a meltdown when she realizes that angels, even princess angels, do not wear purple tutus in the Christmas story. Stay tuned.

Thanksgiving Fashion & Ballet

Jillson is demonstrating "teer-o-wets" before Thanksgiving dinner. Final picture clearly indicates that scrappy-mommy-photographer has worn out her welcome at this photo shoot.

Also, I'm pleased to announce that my email war is nearing an end. From about 4,500 emails in my inboxes I am down to:

Yahoo account: 22 (hooray! goal met!)
Other account: 78 (only 53 to go)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Almost Eleven Months

Grab a cup of coffee if you want to see 'em all; this goes on for a few minutes. You'll know you're done whent the "add your review" message comes up. If you want to see close-ups, click on the button below the slideshow to view all the pictures.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I Can't Stop Singing

I suppose it is time to confess a few things. First of all, I am a total gleek. If that makes you think of a fancy way of streamlined spitting that was popular in the 80s, I'm sorry about that. But if it makes you think of a musical high school TV show that is totally not designed for my demographic, then you are right on. Did my school have show choir? No. Was I a singing geek nonetheless? HELL YEAH. I did do choir, madrigals, a cappella, musical theater, opera, a vocal jazz ensemble, and private singing lessons, so it's a pretty safe bet that if my school had had a "glee" club, I so would've been in it.

I think my husband and daughters were only mildly disturbed at dinner last night when, after the Gutsy Dad asked "It's Wednesday, right?" I looked up from my enchiladas and squealed "GLEEEEEEEEE!" I don't care if they use auto-tune. I am riveted to the screen any time they sing ANYTHING. And, because they keep singing favorites of mine, perhaps I need to rethink the demographic of this show after all.

I just tried to link to YouTube for you, and my computer crashed, so if you are curious about the music in Glee, I highly recommend trying "Somebody to Love" or "Lean on Me" for starters. When I heard them sing "Lean on Me" last night I was instantly in 5th grade again, at a sleepover at Cary Allen's, wearing leggings and an oversized sweatshirt, jumping around on top of couch cushions and sleeping bags, singing my guts out into a hairbrush. I just might have a problem that you'd understand... such as... how do I get this song out of my head?

Now, from the ridiculous to the sublime. My choir at the cathedral is singing an amazing anthem (motet, really) on Sunday, and I am going to do my best not to mess it up. It is called "Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing" and was composed in 1964 by the British composer and organist Herbert Howells. He wrote it "to the honoured memory" of JFK, our 35th president, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963. This Sunday is November 22. My choirmaster is nothing if not appropriate.

The words to this anthem make me cry. I tried to read them aloud to the Gutsy Dad last Sunday on the way home from church and I got all choked up. The words were written by Prudentius, a Roman Christian poet who lived from 348-413. Them's some old words. For the anthem, Howells used the English translation by Helen Waddell, an Irish poet who apparently translated a lot of Latin poetry into English. (At this point, I'm fairly certain the only person who is still reading who still finds this interesting is my dad.)

Take him, earth, for cherishing.
To they tender breast receive him.
Body of a man I bring thee, noble even in its ruin.

I wonder what noble warrior Prudentius had in mind.

Since I joined this choir, we have sung A LOT of Howells. Probably more Howells than any other one composer. I am used to choir directors favoring one composer or another (Rutter and Purcell come to mind), but I have never loved Howells. This piece, however, that we are attempting for Sunday, is quite extraordinary. Even with its often-harsh (tonal) harmonies and 20th-century-ness, it still leaves a chill in the bone at the end due to its majesty and mystery. (And yes, it's on YouTube, too.)

I am totally impressed by people who can compose music.

So that's that. Two vastly different grown-up songs that I cannot stop singing. I am sure, by the end of the week, I'll be back to my usual play list of "Twinkle, Twinkle," "Wheels on the Bus" and "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" so I won't be boring you with geeky (gleeky), church-y musings.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Girls' Day In

The Gutsy Dad is in class today, so we five girly-girls are hanging out at home today. So far we have...

1) Made a Thanksgiving "tree of thanks" craft
2) Painted a portrait in blue & turquoise
3) Cleaned windows
4) Drew pictures on said windows (with markers for that purpose)
5) Designed the family Christmas card
6) Made "hot hors d'oeuvres," a recipe from my childhood, just because. (The smell of these roasting away in my toaster oven instantly transported me to my parents' living room, where I used to help pass appetizers during cocktail parties.)

Seems like a pretty good Girls' Day In so far. And, oh yeah:

Results from today's culling of emails starting with C & D...

Yahoo count: 2974
Other count: 338

What's the ultimate goal? No more than one screen's worth per account, which is roughly 25 per inbox. Right now, progress feels slow and elusive, rather like weightloss.

Hot Hors D’oeuvres

1 cup chopped olives
½ cup chopped scallions
1 ½ cups grated cheese (mixture of cheddar and parmesan is good)
½ cup mayo
½ tsp salt
½ tsp curry
party breads (those tiny little Pepperidge Farm loaves, or just cut up some dark rye)

Mix all the spread ingredients together thoroughly and spread onto the little breads. Broil and serve.

PS: I'm having blogger issues; it keeps randomly publishing before I am done typing or proofreading. Dude.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let Battle Inbox Commence!

I've had it with my overflowing inboxes. Yes, plural. There's the yahoo account, of course, and then the "real" one that most of you use, you know, the one provided by my husband's employer. Anyway, two email accounts with roughly 4,500 emails in them, sitting there, undealt with. UGH.

Starting today, I'm attacking them. If your "received from" name begins with A or B you were dealt a mighty blow today. The keyboard is still warm from the heat of my rapid-fire deleting. Seriously, in all the "A & B" emails (and there were hundreds) there were only three I needed. (Two people with A names whose info needed to be updated in my address book, and one email for a vendor with a B name I need to save.) The rest are GONE.

I forgot to look at a starting number. But after my slaughter, the results are:

Yahoo count: 3230
Other count: 415

Next up on chopping block: C & D emails. Your hours are numbered.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This Day In Gutsy History

As part of a workshop I am taking, I accepted the challenge to start a Perpetual Family Memory File. You know those blank, perpetual birthday/anniversary calendars some people use to track important dates? This is kinda like that, except it's for tracking (and celebrating!) the things that make up your every day life.

Since it is just a file box with 3x5 cards in it, the whole thing was assembled for under $3.50, using ink, stamp sets, a ribbon, a tiny bit of cardstock, and adhesive I already had in my stash. There is a card, date stamped, for every day in the year, plus month dividers and a pink "you are here" marker card.

It's meant to have just one line about your ordinary life that day. Examples of recent entries are: "Jillson's first ballet class," or "Maddie bit Mommy's knee and was told no!" or "Dinner with friends at Dave & Buster's." I love what another participant wrote about this project: it's like an old-school, paper-and-pen, permanent "status updates" file--something that'll stick around longer than, say, tweats and such.

I thought this Emerson quote was perfect. I found it while I was looking for something else he wrote and thought "oh, I know just what to do with THAT quote."

If we can hold on to this file for years and years, as I hope to, we can look back and see what we did on the same day in years before. We're keeping the box in the kitchen, and almost every day, usually during dinner, we talk as a family about what one liner to put on the card.

Thanks to Stacy Julian, Kolette Hall, and BPS for this great idea.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Exercise. Sort. Create. Read.

Welcome to Project ESCR, my latest plan to achieve the unachievable, i.e. a balanced and happy life as a stay-at-home-mom. Go ahead and roll your eyes now, but please don't roll them in the comments section, because I am so stoked right now, and I don't need your rain on my parade. Project ESCR is sooooo working for me.

Most of you know that I never thought I would be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) for very long, and, though my feelings on the subject have changed rather regularly over the last three years, I am pleased to report that for quite some time now (about 10 months, hmmm) I've been seriously content with my SAHM status. I woke up one morning a few weeks ago and re-realized two things for sure: (1) I will not be a SAHM forever and (2) I had better make the most of it while I still am one.

So, then, how to make the most of it? How indeed, when so much time gets sucked away doing the chores and errands and driving here and there? (This situation bewilders me a bit. When I worked full time, I still had to do all those things, and I found the time to do them outside of work, so, in theory, as a SAHM, shouldn't I have 8+ hours in the day to do things other than chores and errands? You would think so, but any other SAHM would tell you that it never really works out that way. The constant reminder of the things we feel we should do is there, in our faces, all day long. So we somehow do them all day long. Or, embarrassingly, we waste a precious hour watching Days of Our Lives [because we can] with alarming regularity. Also no bueno.)

Anyhoo. All fired up to "make the most of it," I sat down and made a list of all the things I "had" to do or "should" do versus all the things I "wanted" to do (there was a little bit of overlap) as a SAHM. The most exciting revelation came when I was looking at my "things I want to do" list and easily identified four things, which, when I do them, make me feel seriously great afterwards.

And thus was born Project Exercise Sort Create Read, or Project ESCR (pronounced "Esker"). Here's how it works. Every day, in addition to doing my chores and errands, I am committing to spending time on each of the ESCR categories. In theory (and believe me, I did the Mom math*) I should easily have 4 hours for Project ESCR every day, which conveniently would allow me one hour per activity per day.

I presented this idea to my husband over dinner one evening, because I knew I would need his support and buy-in in terms of overall family time management. He was totally on board with ESCR, knowing that a happy Gutsy Mom means a happy Gutsy Family. (Also he's pretty much a shoe-in to support anything that has an acronym, so I knew he'd like Project ESCR from the get-go.)

For two weeks now, Monday through Friday, I have kept a little checklist on the bookmark in my day planner that simply says "exercise, sort, create, read." In the interest of full disclosure, I have only actually done all four in one day once (but DANG it felt good). But I must say that any day where I've done at least two of the four activities, I have felt great about the way life is balanced, and this in turn makes me more giving of my time to my kids and husband and dogs. Funny how that works.

In the weeks to come, I'm going to share some musings on each of my 4 ESCR categories, but in the meantime, I am simply committing to doing AT LEAST two of them every day.

By the way, if anyone out there (hello? hello?) has ideas about life balancing to share, please chime in.

The Gutsy Mom

*Mom math is the practice of looking at your daily calendar and figuring out where your pockets of available time will be, assuming (1) the children eat and nap when they are supposed to, (2) you are relatively caught up on dishes, vacuuming, and laundry, and (3) you do not have any papers to edit for your husband.