Saturday, January 31, 2009


Those who know me well know that organization, structure, and planning do not come easily to me. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a child who offsets those particular weaknesses very well! This morning, I went out to the living room to find Lily finishing up a List with her plans for the morning. This is what I read:


She then proceeded to carry out her plan: Morning prayers, get dressed, eat breakfast, take a bath, and practice music. I was impressed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Daddy Time!

More Sunday afternoon fun with Dad--I think he was trying to read a story to them, somewhat unsuccessfully!
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Delighting in my Children

I was nursing Esther this morning after Nathan left for work; Lily came and climbed into bed for a snuggle, and both she and Esther fell back asleep. As I was lying there trying to figure out how to extricate myself from between them so I could get up and start my day, I thought to myself "what a nice problem to have--two beautiful daughters cuddled up next to me!" I really do enjoy my children. On Sunday we had a Stake Conference--7 or 8 local congregations of our church gathered together for Sunday meetings. According to my husband, it was a wonderful and spiritual experience; I really don't know because I spent most of the two hour meeting in the mother's room, hallway or nursery with the children. I'm not complaining--sometimes I have as hard a time sitting through church meetings as they do! What I wanted to share is what happened after the meetings.
My husband, always responsible, decided to stay after the conference was over to help put away the folding chairs in the overflow section. Lily and Luke saw him folding up the chairs and stacking them at the sides of the room, and decided to help. I was so proud of my husband for his example of serving unasked, and of my children for following that example. It was quite a site to see little 3-year-old look fold up a chair bigger than him and push it ahead of him to stack at the side of the room! The best part was when little Esther, 13 months old, went up behind a chair, grabbed ahold of the sides, and put her foot up on the bar at the back to try to push it closed: she had obviously been watching closely and wanted to participate too!
Back home on Sunday afternoon I discovered just how well Esther can communicate. I was in the back bedroom when she came and got me, saying "bight, me, bight!" I picked her up and she pointed me down the hallway to the kitchen, and then pointed to the pantry. Inside the pantry she pointed to the jar of Nutella on the shelf. Aha! That was what she wanted! In case you're not familiar with Nutella, it is a spread made of hazelnuts and chocolate, and I first became acquainted with it when we lived in France and would spread it on baguettes fresh from the bakery. Mmmm. It the kind of treat I buy it very often because when I do it doesn't last very long...but Esther knew it had come home from the store with us on Friday and obviously knew where to find it! What could I do but give her some?
I love life with kids. I get to smile so often!

Sunday Afternood Rumpus

I knew when I married Nathan that he was going to be a great Dad. I was right!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Amateur Violin Repair

Lily is enjoying her group violin classes so much that I thought it would be fun to start a beginners group for Luke. I've talked to a couple of moms who were interested, so when I saw a couple of old Suzuki Nagoya violins very cheap on ebay, I bought them. The first one arrived this week with one problem: it had been shipped with the bridge up (and without a sound post) and had cracked in transit. You can see the cracks here. The seller offered a full refund if I wanted to ship the violin back, or a partial refund if I wanted to keep it. Given the price of the violin (very low) I didn't think it was really worth shipping it back--and I thought I just might try my hand at a repair. By the way, if you happen to be a luthier please don't read any further as I am sure my methods will make you cringe. For those who are interested, this is a 1/10 size violin made in 1980.

Here's a picture of the violin as it arrived. You can see the damage done in shipping--one long crack running up from the f-hole, and another small one running down from the top right shoulder.

Another view of the cracks.

I took the strings, bridge, and tail piece off. I spread wood glue on the exposed edges of the cracks, aligned them, then "clamped" them together by tying a ribbon around the violin. I left this in place for 24 hours.

A closeup of the cracks after I glued them.

This is 24 hours later as I was getting ready to finish setting up the violin. The little piece of wood next to the violin is a sound post I scavenged from another instrument. The tail piece is from a cheap chinese violin I bought a few years back. The strings are good ones I bought for Lily's violin but didn't like on it--I ended up using a different brand.

This is my improvised sound post setter. I actually bought a sound post setter several years ago, but discovered that it was really made to fit full size instruments and was very difficult to maneuver in a small violin. This was my solution.

I used pliers to bend the safety pin. The sound post usually sits slightly behind the right leg of the bridge (or in that general vicinity) so I measured from the f-hole to the mark left by the bridge foot to know where to bend the safety pin.

Here's the safety pin inserted into the sound post.

Inserting the sound post into the violin. You can see the repaired crack in this picture.

Retrieving the sound post from the violin. The first two times I set it up I couldn't get it to stand straight. I knocked it down trying to adjust it and had to get it out of the violin and start all over twice. Getting a loose sound post out of a violin can be tricky--I basically rolled it back and forth while holding the violin up-side-down and trying to stop the sound post with the safety pin as it rolled past the f-holes.

I finally got the sound post into what seemed an acceptable position. Here's a picture looking through the f-hole.

Add strings, bridge, and tail piece. Almost done!
I fixed the chin rest in place and Tah-Dah! New violin. The real test, of course, was to get a bow and play it. I was very pleased with the result. This violin has a very smooth tone, and is surprisingly resonant for such a small instrument. It sings particularly nicely on the A and E strings. The D and G sound slightly fuzzy to my ear, I wonder if that is inherent in the instrument or has something to do with my sound post placement. I'm not planning to try moving it around, though! In any case, beginning violinists play mostly on the A and E strings, and those sound beautiful.
Altogether, I am very pleased with the results of my amateur violin repair! Hm, wonder what I can try my hand at next...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I just had to share

Jane, over at What About Mom, made my day today with this blog post. It's so nice to know I'm not the only whose house can get into this condition...
OK, I'm off to clean the living room :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I've not been around here much lately. My blogging pace will probably pick up again at some point in the future, but I find that right now needs to be a time of retrenchment. My family needs me more than cyberspace does. Don't worry, I'm not going away...just cutting back for a time!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Picture Tag!

Violin Mom at Mighty Oak Country School tagged me. Here are the rules:

1. Go to your 4th folder where you store your photos.

2. Select your 4th picture (no exceptions)!

3. Post the picture with an explanation and link it back to your tagger.

4. Tag 4 people to do the same!!

This is a picture of Lily back in 2004. We were in a small apartment with carpet in the combined living/dining room, so I put plastic on the floor in our eating area. I gave Lily some raw oatmeal to play with and she loved it--way more fun than all those baby toys in the background!
I think this tag has gone the rounds already among many of my friends, so I'm not going to pass it on at this point.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Morning Devotionals

We're still taking things a bit slow around here. We're mostly over the flu (if that is what it was), but have lingering coughs and tiredness. And of course crankiness. I suspect our English word cranky shares its origins with the German krank, meaning sick. Certainly being sick makes us all rather emotionally fragile. And of course my job is to try to keep all these cranky people happy, without having an emotional meltdown myself. Honestly, there are days when I feel exhausted from the energy expended throughout the day in the effort to remain calm!
On the plus side, we've started out our new year with at least one new habit that is so far proving quite successful. I have introduced a morning devotional during our breakfast hour. We use this time to memorize scriptures and spiritual songs, to read the scriptures, and to pray together. Sometimes we also read a poem. So far the children have participated cheerfully, and it really helps to get our day off to a good start. I made a chart to put up on the wall to remind us. Every morning after breakfast one of the children gets to put a sticker on the chart. I have also introduced sticker charts for music practice, foreign language study, and recess, which my children will tell you is the most important part of homeschool! Recess means outdoor time, playing at the playground, riding bikes, or anything else as long as we are outdoors and active. I really do believe Charlotte Mason's observation that children really need time outdoors, especially in a natural environment. The sticker chart is really for me--to remind me to take them out! They certainly don't need any extra urging.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A bumpy start to a new year...

It seems we've been sick ever since Christmas. Christmas morning I woke up with an upset stomach. The day after Christmas I felt much better but Nathan was sick, so we had to cancel our plans for a much-needed date that day. Then the kids all came down with a respiratory infection--general flu-like symptoms: congestion, caughing, fever. By New Year's Eve Lily in particular was quite sick, and she and I ended up in the emergency room at 1:30 AM on January 1st for a viral-induced asthma attack. When Lily was a baby respiratory infections used to make her wheeze, and we had a nebulizer to use with asthma medication but she hadn't needed it in 3 years and I gave it away before we moved down here. Looks like I acted too soon. Anyway, we were in the emergency room until 7:30 in the morning, while they got her breathing stabilized (actually, we probably could have come home a little sooner, but the breathing treatments had raised her heart rate above 190 bpm and we had to wait for it to come back down to a safer range). She was amazingly patient through the whole thing. We got home to find that Esther had refused to sleep after I left with Lily, so she and Nathan had been up all night as well. Since then we've pretty much been trying to recover.
I have to say the scariest part of that whole night was driving to the hospital in a thick fog at 1:30 AM on New Year's Day. I wouldn't have been so concerned about the low visibility on another day, but I was worried about people out on the roads after New Year's Eve parties...I tried to stay on the back roads where there were fewer cars.
A Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you are all getting a better start to the year than us!