Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Addiction

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to spend 15 minutes at the library, alone without kids. A rare treat! Of course, I quickly got lost browsing in the new adult books section. I found several books that looked interesting and checked them out. Since then, I've been enjoying reading and feasting on my new finds.

For me, books are like food. I eat them up. I can't remember a time when I didn't like to read. One of the things I remember enjoying as a kid was our regular trips to the local library. I'd check out a stack of about a dozen books and devour them over the next two-to-three weeks. Then, I'd return them and get another stack.

This afternoon, I was able to spend a delicious hour with a book about creating spaces in our homes. The author is self-taught artist and designer but not an interior designer. She shared her experience with buying a house and making it her own. It wasn't your typical interior design book and gave me some great ideas on the process of creating spaces that are livable and enjoyable and not just for show.

I love all kinds of books: fiction, non-fiction, history, business, finance, self-help, mystery, young adult,... Usually, I'm reading at least two or three books at a time. Right now, I'm reading Jean Chatsky's The Difference, Jason F. Wright's Recovering Charles, a book about ETF's, and a couple others.

Why do I read? To learn new things or new skills, to understand the world better, to be entertained, to get away (take a mind vacation), and to see someone else's point of view.

I also love to read to my kids. There are some amazing illustrated children's books. I think the love of reading is a gift a parent can give a child. Charlie loves it when I read to him and he loves to "read" to himself. We always read a story before naps and bedtime. Ellie's still young and won't sit still to be read to but she loves looking at the books we have around the house. I often find her sitting on the floor turning the pages of a book she's found.

The only downside to my love for reading is that it's akin to an addiction. If I'm really involved with a book, I have a hard time putting it down. Sometimes, I feel the urge to keep reading even though housework or other things are calling for my attention. I tend to get lost in the story. I find myself intending to read just 15 minutes and the next thing I know, it's been an hour. So, I have to watch myself. Despite their addictive nature, books bring me joy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Ellie is teething. She has had two bottom teeth for the longest time but recently more teeth have been coming in. A few days ago, it looked funny because she had another bottom tooth coming in and one on top also coming in on the right side. But since then, the second tooth on top appeared suddenly and another one sprouted to the left of her bottom ones so it's more balanced now. Her appetite has been terrible and she's been very fussy. I've basically stopped buying baby food because she won't eat any of it. It's like she's decided she's not a baby anymore and refuses to eat anything mushy - except for the applesauce. I don't know why I've been buying baby apple and pear sauce when I could've started feeding her apple sauce months ago! Unfortunately, there's not too many things she can eat with just a few teeth. I'm looking forward to her getting more teeth so she can expand her menu.

I've learned something new about Charlie. He definitely has a hard time with being in new situations. I caught a glimpse of it when he freaked out the first Sunday he went to Sunbeams. It took him a few weeks but he did finally get over it and now he tells us all about how he got to go to "primary school." He loves singing the primary songs they're learning this year. The other night, he sang "My Eternal Family" and got all the words and the tune right! I'm hoping he inherited the Schmidt genes for music.

Last week, Charlie had to be in another new situation and reacted the same way as he did with going to Sunbeams initially. I signed him up for a once a week gymnastics class through the city's rec department. Last Monday was his first time going and he just bawled. One of the instructors had to hold him and he wouldn't stop crying for at least 25 minutes. He kept saying he didn't want to do gymnastics. I kept reassuring him that he didn't have to do it and that if he wanted to go back to class, I'd go with him. I also told him we could just sit and watch with him. By the end of class, we made it to sitting at the doorway.

So, Sunday night, I made sure to remind him we were going to gymnastics on the next day but that he wouldn't have to do anything and that I would sit and watch with him. Monday morning, I reminded him about class again and told him that he could just watch with me. He seemed to be okay with the idea but said over and over that he didn't want to go. I almost decided not to take him then because I didn't want to make him do anything he was uncomfortable doing. However, I'd already paid for the class and I wanted to give him a chance to realize it could be fun. I told him that if he behaved, I'd let him have a piece of gum after class. Well, he did great! He watched with me but I kept encouraging him to try doing all the things the other kids were doing. He did try a couple of times but kept running away or sitting by me. Finally, when the instructor was showing the kids how to jump on the trampoline and letting the kids take turns on it, Charlie just joined right in! I was really proud of him for overcoming his fears and felt good about giving him a chance to do it on his own terms.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Being Older and Other Things

I'm 32 years old. Just saying it makes it official, right? Ever since my late twenties, I've been too busy and too caught up in my life to really think about my age. Now, if someone asks me - no, no one usually asks me because most people think it's rude to ask about someone's age, especially if it's a woman - I meant, if a form asks for my age, I usually have to do the math and then confirm. Although, I think a friend did ask once but I wasn't offended, I'm not offended if anyone asks my age. Anyway, before I turned 30, I'd always thought it was SO old, so grown up. Even now, I still think it's old and have a hard time thinking of myself as someone who's over 30. I still feel like I'm 25, young and invincible, sometimes. Until I look in the mirror or try to go for a jog and realize I don't look or feel so young anymore. I'm not trying to be depressing because there are some great things about being in my stage of life.

For example, I'm still young enough that even though my retirement portfolio took a huge hit, like minus 40%, during this economic downturn, I still have what financial experts call a long time horizon so my risk tolerance is pretty high (i.e. I have time to recover my losses...I hope).

Also, if we were to have another child, I'm still under that threshold of 35 when they say you're at higher risk for having complications and you have to take all these tests for genetic problems.

On a different note, my computer area in our basement is a disaster area. It really looks like a tornado has gone through it because I have jumbles of papers and receipts on my desk and my table AND the floor. Cleaning it up has been on my to do list everyday for the past two weeks but for some reason, it's still here. Every time I come down here to do it, I end up checking my email or getting on Facebook, or doing anything else BUT what I intended to do. I really thought I'd have it cleaned up by the the time the appraiser came yesterday morning but it still didn't happen. I was mortified when I saw him taking pictures! I don't know why I'm having trouble cleaning it up.

Why I'm Angry

With so much going on in the economy, it's easy to be scared and confused. How did this terrible thing happen? How is this going to affect me and my money? What's going to happen next? How long will the recession last?

I don't know the answer to the last three questions but I'm angry about how it all happened. It all happened because in 1999 Congress deregulated the banking industry, allowing commercial banks and investment banks to "consolidate into a single institution which had essentially free reign to offer everything from passbook savings accounts to speculative financial investments such as commodities trading and credit default swaps. It is the credit default swaps that got us in trouble when the housing mortgage market collapsed. Suddenly, banks lost billions of dollars on their books and people couldn't get the credit they needed for their day-to-day activities. So, then the government bails out these banks because they are "too big to fail." The very people who got us into this mess is getting help from us, the American people. Many ask, "Well, who's going to bail us out if we lost our jobs and our retirement savings and now we can't pay our bills?" The same banks who are getting bailed out by us are now increasing our credit card interest rates.

And now, the big banks are saying, "We are big and strong, we don't need the bailout money. We were forced to take it but now we're returning it because we don't like the restrictions that come with the money we took. We want to pay our executives unreal sums of money and bonuses and to h--- with everyone else!" Except, what the big banks didn't say was that they screwed up big time and that the very people they're paying huge salaries and bonuses to are the same people who created this crisis in the first place. The banks are trying to tell the government that they don't want to be told what to do. Well, the president, the treasury secretary, and the Fed Chairman need to stand firm and not back down. The government runs this country, not the banks.

And another thing: In a situation like this, it's natural to just want to blame somebody. Well, it's not just one somebody that's culpable. There are many people who bear responsibility:
  • the investors who want big returns, not caring how it got there,
  • the banks who thought they were so smart to come up with such risky and complicated investments,
  • the people who couldn't afford the huge homes they bought,
  • the lenders who sold the subprime mortgages,
  • the Congress who decided to relax laws regulating banks, and
  • the regulators who were supposed to be the watchmen.
Maybe we all just got a little too greedy and too complacent during the good times.

That's my two cents!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Fun

Easter is my favorite holiday after Christmas. I love, love Christmas but I love Easter just as much because there's no presents involved and it's so fun for little children. Also, my finding the gospel makes Easter that much more meaningful to me. I mentioned in a previous blog post that my conversion began with making that phone call to get a free video on Easter Sunday. (See Time Out for Women.)

Two of my favorite things to do with my kids on Easter are hunting for eggs and decorating eggs. Last week, we held an Easter Egg hunt for our little playgroup at church. After the hunt, we had a brunch with fruit pizza, cut up apples, muffins, and a bunny cake. I was the one that made the bunny cake and I had such fun making it! I saw the idea in a magazine and decided to make it because it looked so cute. Now, I'm not a baker - I can do it but it's not my favorite thing to do. My husband's the one that usually makes the cakes so this was kind of a big deal for me. For some reason, I loved the whole process of baking and decorating the cake. I even enjoyed getting all the ingredients from the store! Here's what it looked like.
Decorating eggs is a tradition we've had even before Charlie was born. Last year, I found a neat idea for making unique designs on the eggs using reverse-stenciling. If you want to try it out, go to the Family Fun website.

We haven't dyed our eggs yet for this year but here's how they turned out last year.
I also look forward to having a special Easter dinner with my family on Easter Sunday. We will have ham because it's not something we normally eat and it's on sale. I've been craving my mother-in-law's yummy rolls so we'll probably have that along with a couple other side dishes. Mmm, just thinking about it is making me hungry. I can't wait for dinner!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Movie Review: The Freedom Writers

This was the most interesting, thought-provoking, and inspiring movie I have seen in a long time. This is based on a true story. Hillary Swank was the executive producer and also the lead role as Erin Gruell, an idealistic new English teacher at a Long Beach high school. She is given a class of inner-city ninth-graders who face unbelievable racial/ethnic problems and the school administrators have already written them off as failures. Despite a rough start, she is able to engage her students and helps them see themselves and each other in a different light.

I love this movie because it shows how a great teacher can influence her students. It's also a lesson to the audience about the importance of seeing each person as a human being and that when we do so, we are able to bridge the divide between ourselves and those we percieve as antagonists.

I highly recommend this movie but just to warn you, it does contain some rough scenes and language.