Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell, 2012. You were a good one.


We sent physical Christmas cards to everyone who sends us one, plus a few lucky-ducks who get one no matter what. Here’s the photo of our card, and a post adapted from the enclosed letter.

our Christmas card, for blog



clip_image002Michelle lists. . . .


Our Top Ten* Blessings of 2012

*only 10, because there truly are too many to list

1. Inspiration received for DC to change careers ~ He is now working toward becoming an occupational therapist.

2. The restored gospel in our lives ~ Hummer’s baptism and confirmation into the Church of Jesus Christ (with all 4 grandparents in attendance) and Exacto’s ordination to the office of teacher

3. Being together, in good health, and knowing we’ll be with Benjamin again

4. Attendance at two temple weddings for my youngest brothers, a September one in Arizona and a November one in Utah

5. Fluffy’s 1st time to hike the Grand Canyon / my experiencing heat exhaustion and then a miracle through the Priesthood (hope I get to blog about this one – it was amazing)

6. A 15th anniversary celebration cruise to Cozumel. . . and homeowners insurance that covered the floor replacement made necessary by a toilet flood the day before we left!

7. Attending the Kansas City Temple Open House, and a wonderful Easter Sunday with cousins in Bentonville, AR

8. Seeing most of DC’s family and all of mine during our summer trip to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona

9. Three visits from my sister Becky’s family, and one from my sister Mandy’s

10. Having my dream job of full-time mothering, with Rosebud as a very sweet constant companion

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 57 ~ { two answers for two parenting conundrums }


Together, Tomorrow,

Together tomorrow again.

Tonight when I’m sleeping

I’ll dream of us being

Together tomorrow again.

~ Tom Chapin





I believe that all truth, religious or ‘secular’, is from One Source, and that often people are inspired by heaven (even if they don’t realize it) for the benefit of all. And I 100 days of gratitude tagsay, the more light the better!

In the past couple of years there have been two major crises in our parenting. Both were solved by much research, prayer, trial and effort, and finally hitting upon just the right solutions for our family. This is pretty personal and pretty long – all that I am sharing is in the hopes that this will help someone like it helped me. Both of the books recommended here I WISH had been around when I first had Exacto and could have known this stuff with all my children! Here is what I have been so grateful to learn. . . .



One crisis I blogged about long ago, but never really followed up on the resolution of it – infant Rosebud’s apparent unwillingness to be unconscious for more than 3 hours at any given time! She was the WORST sleeper. You cannot imagine unless you have been through it. If your baby had reflux or colic then you probably know what I am talking about.

She slept with us because the only way I could get her to sleep was to nurse her, and with how often she woke up, I didn’t want to be traipsing into her room over and over all night long. It was sweet to have her there, but SO EXHAUSTING. Sometimes she would wake up literally every hour. I would get up in the morning feeling like a truck had hit me, and then proceeded to go about my day in a total fog. I forgot things all the time, couldn’t form a complete sentence -- I even had a fender bender due to my fatigue.

I never have felt right about letting a baby cry himself to sleep. It just feels dishonest to me. (Please know I never judge people who do this! It’s just how it feels to me personally!) I work hard all day to fill your needs and connect with you and then when it’s dark? Bam, I’m gone! I just couldn’t do it, especially with this precious baby girl whose arrival had helped so much to heal my heart from the previous loss.

I am a book-learner – I love to find answers to things by reading. So I read and tried many sleep-method books: The Baby Whisperer, Baby Wise, The No-Cry Sleep Solution. . . .none of them worked for us. They were either too aggressive to feel right to me or too passive to have any real effect on the problem. If you want me to go into more depth on why I don’t like those methods, just ask and I’ll write another treatise. :)

I went online and did tons and tons of reading there. I knew that somehow people managed this! From watching My Neighbor Totoro I knew that the Japanese co-sleep and somehow they survive. I tried to find out how they do it. It was during one of these one-handed research sessions (because the sweet girl was always on my lap :) that I first stumbled upon something about an Australian nanny who seemed to have a magic way about getting babies to sleep, without making them cry themselves to sleep.

Her name is Sheyne Rowley, and she is brilliant. It is out of gratitude to her that I wanted to write this post, and also to help other parents out there who feel the way I do—that there must be a better way.

I was so happy to find this. It could have been subtitled, How You Can Teach Your Baby to Sleep, Minus the Guilt Trip. Her philosophy has much to do with communicating with your baby. She uses role-play – you role-play the bedtime routine using a doll or a teddy bear while the child watches, and then she knows exactly what’s going on when you begin it with her. The book discusses nutrition and timing of food and how it affects sleepiness. There is a charming concept called the Sleep Bus that helps parents decide whether to go in and comfort or wait a few more minutes because the baby will soon fall asleep. The best part is the overall tone of love for the baby and how that works with a parent leading the baby’s day and night.

It is for babies 6 months to 24 months only.

It is not for someone who wishes to continue co-sleeping. (Although it works just fine for a nursing baby/mama).

It is not well-edited. The 700+ pages could probably have been more like 400. But Rowley’s ideas really changed and shaped the way I think about parenting, especially with babies. I had never realized before that a baby might feel anxiety about the crib because I feel anxiety about having her there! I love how Rowley ‘comforts’ the parent while teaching the parent how to comfort the child. You are not asking anything painful of the baby – only to get the rest he needs in the cozy crib in a safe room you worked to decorate and prepare for him. I love how she teaches what a baby understands from what we do and say. It really helped me get into Rosebud’s head and understand her better, and it also helped me to know what she needs.

Ahem – little soapbox moment here. Babies need parents who know what to do. And so do children. I believe that the last couple of decades worth of parenting books/parenting advice have wreaked havoc on the new generation. We’ve been told not to spank or yell. Children naturally grow into the people they’re meant to be if we don’t interfere. We’ve been told the attachment is more important than perfect behavior. We were sold a lot of half-truths. The result has been insecure parenting! We can see that our children are being annoying or even doing things that are dangerous but we sure aren’t going to spank them like our parents did. That’s not enlightened. And so we passively let them turn into whatever they choose to turn into. Rowley says this lack of clear limits causes anxiety in children. What they need is parents who show them what to do, in a loving, respectful way. Not backing off as soon as there’s negative emotion, but not correcting in a way that will damage the relationship either! (More about this below.)

Anyway, we put it into effect March 2011, when Rosebud was 15 months old, and it was AMAZING. Almost no crying at all, and she slept through the night from then on!!! Plus, she started taking solid 3-hour naps and still does even now that she’s almost 3.

So yes, it is a lot to wade through. But it totally works, and here is why it is a method I can use. It is lovingly assertive, where the other methods are passive or passive-aggressive. Part of the night-time routine is the moment when you turn your baby to make eye contact and say, “Rosebud, it’s time for sleep. Mommy and Daddy love you. It’s time for night-night.” And then, because of the clear limits we have taught her, through role play and especially through gentle consistency, she knows it is time for night-night. She goes to sleep! Anyway, I could go on and on about this book. I highly, highly recommend it for any parent, desperate about sleeping or not. It helped me with other parts of raising babies, too, such as setting limits and boundaries in a clear but loving way, and also just ENJOYING them.


The other Problem cropped up not long after the first was solved. Our Hummer began throwing the absolute worst tantrums you have ever seen. It got to where he was angry nearly all the time.

I wondered if it was a delayed response to the trauma of Benjamin’s death. Two days after his funeral, my grandfather died and we all had to go to Arizona immediately. Me, because I was still very much recovering from the C-section and and Chris had gone back to work—I needed my mom’s help. So it was that a few days after being at Benjamin’s funeral, 3-year-old Hummer went to Great-Grandpa’s funeral. When he came back from the viewing he would only whisper. It was for several months that he whispered, especially around other people. At home sometimes he would talk in a normal voice, but never when he was with other people.

Anyway, he eventually went back to normal talking, and seemed happy enough until late 1st grade, when these angry spells began. I pulled him out of school to homeschool him, thinking that more time with a happy mom was what he needed. I wondered if his being home alone with me for that whole depressive episode while I grieved had harmed him.

I arranged for him to start counseling with a wonderful lady who specializes in children’s therapy. He absolutely loved her, and the days he had counseling were always his best days. She also gave me the comfort I needed by deducting that Hummer had suffered no permanent emotional scarring from the events mentioned above. She said he was just fine.

Months went by and the tantrums continued and worsened. He got bigger and the destruction got more intense. I was really struggling with staying calm myself and seeing that the time with “a happy mom” was not what was happening here. And so, it was back to the books. I’d read Love and Logic, Haim Ginott, John Rosemond, Dr. Dobson, Dr. Sears, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, and many more, but again, either too harsh or too lenient. We quit counseling, and I kept searching.

This time I was led to a very talented lady named Nicholeen Peck. I had read her articles often at Meridian Magazine, and at first I didn’t think much except general agreement with her ideas. But as this situation with Hummer became a full-blown crisis that was making our family miserable, I started to feel that she knows more than I had realized. I went to her website and found a video of her family when they were on the BBC show The World’s Strictest Parents, where two rebellious British teens are sent to their Mormon homeschooling home in rural Utah. Watching that video changed my life forever. I saw her handle that out-of-control behavior with such beautiful calmness and grace. I saw the change that came about in those teens because of her clear teaching and unconditional love combined.

Now I knew that it is possible to stay calm and to teach children effectively—I just didn’t know how yet. I combed through her website, reading absolutely everything, and despite misspellings and grammatical errors that usually cause me to dismiss information, I was feeling an increasing excitement that I was really onto something this time!

Last Thanksgiving when she gave a limited-time offer for a huge discount on her Implementation Course, I snatched it up with glee and began an amazing journey. There are 10 steps on the course that are supposed to take about 6 months. Nearly a year later, I am on step 9. It has been wonderful—I am learning so much and changing so many thought patterns that it is for good reason that it’s taken such a long time.

You don’t have to sign up for her course, though. She has a book, too, which comes with the course or can be bought separately. It is full of cringe-inducing typos, but is worth the effort for the literal mine of truly valuable content. Also she has tons of free articles on her website.

Nicholeen Peck is a woman on a mission! Her ideas are water-tight and so helpful, although they do take work to implement. It is hard to make a change in the way you parent! You parent all day every day and the habits are so ingrained from your parenting experiences so far and also from what you grew up with. But her writings and her class have really helped me begin that change, and our family has been greatly blessed by her work.

Here are some of the ideas she teaches:

– family relationships are the most important thing in life

– someone who is calm has power

– assertive, not passive or passive-aggressive (I LOVE her explanation of this! I apply it all over my daily life.)

– a marriage needs to be strong as the foundation for a happy family

– a family needs vision of what they want to be like

– there are four basic skills that are key to good relationships

– to teach a child, connect

– you can’t connect if either of you is not calm

– you don’t HAVE to correct a negative behavior the second it happens, but be sure you do after you are both calm

– the goal is not well-behaved children, rather joyful adults (this one had me at first, but I am coming to see she is right)

– have couple’s meetings and family meetings (the way she says to do them, they are fun, I promise!)

– have regular mentor sessions with your children

There are many more. If you are on her Implementation Course there are weekly conference calls with her where she answers questions. I have had her answer four of my questions since beginning the class, and she is now one of my favorite people on this planet. She took time to really understand what I was asking and what my situation was, and then very thoroughly answered the question, giving ideas that often surprised me but also amazed me with their brilliance. She is inspired and inspiring. My perfect world has her along with my sisters living on the same street with me. :)

So there are 10 steps on the Course. By step 8, we had our Hummer back. You would not believe the change in him unless you saw it first hand. He went from tantrumming / breaking things / kicking / shrieking every single day any time he was expected to do something to. . . . well, just this morning, I said, “Hummer, I need you to go change your pants. Those look dirty. Okay?” And he said, “Okay”, grabbed some clean pants and went straightaway to do it.

The things I have learned / am learning are helping with the other children, too, in the more everyday parenting challenges, and also they are strengthening my marriage. There is a special place in heaven for Nicholeen Peck. I am forever grateful for her!

SO, if you have a baby who won’t sleep and you know you will feel guilty letting them cry, DREAM BABY GUIDE. And if you are at your wits’ end trying to teach your children to behave, visit

No one is paying me to say this. :)


(note: I just saw on Amazon that the Dream Baby Guide has sky-rocketed in price since I bought it. You can request that your library purchase it. That’s what I did before I decided I wanted my own. :)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 56 – {the thing with feathers}

birdcageroundgfairy004bHope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson

Sorry about the delay in answering the question of the last post. We were out of town for this joyous occasion. . .


Remember my bookend baby brother? He returned last year from his mission to the Czech Republic. Last Saturday he was married to beautiful Lori in the Snowflake Arizona Temple. It was so awesome to be there.

075See sweet Rosebud there in her special wedding attire? :)


Okay, no more fun pictures. Down to the serious business of baring my soul to you.

So yes, why then an A&P textbook in the household of musicians?

Many of you know that DC has a doctorate in violin performance. We spent the first 8 years of our marriage with him a full-time student. Our move to Arkansas came before he was done with the doctorate. We took the symphony job here because we were desperate for an income--he just needed to finish writing the treatise (like a dissertation) and then he could get a good job. Plus it would be great professional experience.

He became Dr. Baker in December 2005, and immediately began applying for teaching jobs nationwide. With a break here and there while we put our lives back together (read: 11/2007 to about 5/2009) he has continually applied to whatever came over the radar. And as the economy tanked, less and less has come over the radar.

We have been grateful for the symphony work, but it does come at a significant cost for a family like ours. He is gone many evenings and weekends, including Sundays. The pay was not stellar when we took the job, and later we had a recessional cut of 10% that still has not been reinstated. We live 17 hours from my parents and 24 hours from his. What we longed for--what we went to all the trouble for him to get a doctorate for--was to have him teach at a college or university and be home in the evenings, possibly even to live closer to our family, and of course, more money would be pretty sweet, too.

While he was still at Florida State, he had 2 different interviews for teaching positions where the universities paid his travel to come interview because he was one of their top candidates. He didn’t get either one but we thought for sure that later, with finishing the doctorate AND having professional symphony and quartet experience, he would be able to land something.

But many fields of employment are having rough times now, and professional music is hardly recession-proof. (Even the top orchestras in the country are having trouble.) We feel greatly blessed that we have taken only a 10%, where Phoenix Symphony took a 25% and many others have had worse or folded altogether. The academic scene is possibly worse if anything. One year there were fewer than 10 openings nationwide, and you can bet there are tons of amazing, talented, doctorate-holding violinists vying for those.

DC and I began to discuss other options. He could teach in the public schools, although he would need to get certified. He could  . . . gulp. . . . go into another field altogether. He applied for a job with Memphis City Schools that would pay half-again as much as the symphony salary. And he started combing through the Church’s job site, hoping to find something, anything, that could work out better for our family.

One night in early July, he stayed up well past midnight on the computer, which is very unusual for him. The next day was Fast Sunday, and before he left for his early meetings, he told me he had discovered something very interesting on the LDS Jobs site, and he wanted to tell me about it, but to just know that he was fasting about it and we could talk about it later. I fasted that whatever he was fasted about, we would both be in tune with the Spirit enough to know what was right.

Later we talked, and he told me that the night before he had kept seeing openings for “Occupational Therapists” and started wondering what the heck an occupational therapist even is. As he researched and read about the work OTs do and the type of job market they have, he started to feel very strongly that this was what he is meant to do.

We talked for hours and hours, staying up past midnight several nights in a row (and we are not night owls! :). At first I was excited because he was excited. It was the happiest I had seen him in ages. Then as reality began to settle in and I saw we were in for 2-3 years of more school for him I became—sorry to admit it—angry.  I had been hoping to go back to school myself part-time this fall. We still haven’t paid off the student loans from last time, for Pete’s sake.

I couldn’t understand why Heavenly Father would let us spend all those years and all that money for him to get a doctorate, only to turn around and have him change careers. We gave it our all for so long because we believed he could do it—that it was possible for him to provide for our family using his particular gifts and what he loved. It just seemed like such a waste to turn our backs on that. Plus, 3 years means Exacto will be a senior when DC finishes school for the second time! I could hardly bear it.

It took weeks, maybe even a couple of months, for me to get to the point that I feel mostly acceptance about this (still working on that last little bit of stubborn). It has taken many anguished prayers and some special heavenly promptings. I feel like Doctrine & Covenants 25 is my motto for the next three years, especially as it pertains to my role as DC’s wife.

Yet even with all the emotional roller-coastering, there has been a decided undercurrent of peace in my heart about it all from the time he first told me about this new idea.

And so, he has returned to student-hood.

He is still with the symphony full-time and teaching part-time this year, but taking his pre-requisites at a community college, getting ready to take the GRE, and is already applying to OT schools around the country. (I have taken on the job of choosing the places where we are applying. :) And next fall he will again be a full-time student. Where, we don’t know!

That’s a long answer to the big question. I wanted you to see inside our hearts, to see why on earth we would ever make such a drastic change. The decision has not been made lightly, by any stretch of the imagination.

100 days of gratitude tagBut we are grateful for the hope that has been set aloft again. 


P.S. I told DC through tears one night, “But what about my blog? I don’t want to change the name AGAIN! I thought that was one thing that wouldn’t change ever! Boohoohoo!” And he said, “I’m still a fiddler. I will still play. But it will be FOR FUN.” :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Times they are a-changin’

I know that the writing on my last few posts has been a bit spartan, and I apologize! I miss writing soooo much – I will get back to it! Yes, I will! Life is grand, it’s just really really busy right now. Big changes are underway (hint at the end) and I want to share with you how they began.

But for now, and for the sake of my beloved distant family, a few humble photos. :)


We haven’t been visiting the cemetery nearly as much as we used to, but I always love to be there, especially with the family. (Rosebud is wearing her cousin Brooklyn’s dress from Aunt Joy’s wedding 6 years ago.)

Life is busy but good.

Exacto’s favorite parts of the day are seminary and band. He’s playing the mellophone for marching band (the marching edition of a French horn).



. . . .And here’s the fam at the high school’s recent open house. . . .

(I love DC’s fancy ‘hat’, don’t you? :)




Rosebud is our potty-training rockstar. It only took her a couple of days! I can hardly believe that we’re done with diapers. Those I will not miss. (The crib, on the other hand, is still set up in her room. . . .)




And he wonders why it takes so long to do the dishes? :)



We bought a jogging stroller. I have big plans to run a 5K in under 30 minutes. (I am a slow runner – this is a tough goal for me!) Any favorite running/workout songs? Do please share! The Mozart violin sonata this morning was not cutting it!



Fluffy had a campout this weekend with the 11-year-old Scouts at Lake DeGray. DC went with him for part of the time. It rained 2 inches that night. Yep. Fluffy’s Scout leader is in the National Guard reserves, and brought some MREs for them.


Hummer is doing great; there just aren’t any great photos of him recently. He is reading like there is no tomorrow, having missed the walker group three times now after school due to distraction. Also has left his homework home, but NEVER his Harry Potter book. :)


And this, my friends, is an Anatomy & Physiology textbook.


It had a hideous photo on the cover that had been bugging us, so for part of a datenight DC and I made a beautiful new cover for it, courtesy of Leonardo da Vinci. :)

Why would a professional musician be toting around an A&P textbook? Good question, good question. . . .

Monday, August 27, 2012

First week of school

first day was 8.20.12


Exacto is in 9th grade.



Fluffy at the middle school, in 6th grade.



and Hummer’s back to public school, this year in 3rd grade.

090 with arrow


. . . .so do you think Rosebud is moping and sad because it’s just her and Mommy?


That first day with just the two of us again, we made a “meditation jar.” If you start to get upset, just shake the jar and pretend like your thoughts are the glitter, and just watch them all settle. It’s magic.


And we had some fun mornings with friends, including one of my favorite people in this world, Vicki. She’s from Bolivia and is cheerful, generous, and humble. She calls me “Sister” because we are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ. I love her.


Rosebud is honing her mothering skills. She takes her dolls, or “Dadas” (a name derived from one doll’s seemingly metaphysical ability to say that word when compressed at the abdomen), literally everywhere with her. And they are subject to the same treatment she herself receives, being buckled into carseats (we have had to evict Blue Dada a couple of times in order to get Rosebud in!), feeding, going for walks, etc.

Here she is doing Purple Dada’s hair:

spraying. . .


combing. . . (note Purple Dada’s excellent conditioning – no tangles!)


and applying a “french braid” (her word for rubber bands). . . .



On Saturday we had a family excursion to Toltec Mounds, which were not built by the Toltec people, but rather the Plum Bayou, apparently in about 2nd century AD.

Verrry interesting place!


I had thought they were used for burial, but I learned that most were not. These two big ones were probably platforms for temples or residences of cultural leaders.

The sun came out! :)


We enjoyed our self-guided walking tour, stopping and reading out loud from the guidebook every few hundred yards.


(Rosebud insisted on carrying the guidebook).



And what would be a trip to the Mounds without a little appropriate chocolate refreshment? :)


The End.

P.S. It is hurting my perfectionism not to tinker with these photos and their lighting, but today is bill-paying day and I have delayed it long enough!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A week in the life of the Fiddler’s family, in pictures

Notes: this is far from complete as far as describing our week – just the pix I wanted to share with my family to go along with my weekly letter. hope you enjoy. cruise pictures to follow soon, if the planets remain aligned.

April 22, 2012

007  004  013

Here’s Rosebud’s Easter dress. I finished it on April 22. It’s sort of a tradition for me to finish her Easter dress a couple weeks late. (ahem)  

      019     020



April 23, 2012

For part of Family Home Evening, we went to the deserted elementary school nearby and Exacto launched the rocket he had build for his engineering/technology class.



(i love Hummer’s face in this one :)



Afterward, it smelled like fireworks.

April 25, 2012

Embarkation of the Cranky Toilet

Behold the implement of destruction that caused us to file a homeowners claim for damaged flooring the day before leaving on our anniversary cruise.




. . . . . . .

.later that day.

an excursion to a nearly forgotten cemetery, for Exacto to locate the subject of several months’ research for a world history project



We had some firsthand experience with ticks and poison ivy that day. . . .still finding ticks in the car. {shudder!}


April 27, 2012

Arkansas is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. If I could just convince my family to move here (and the Church to build a temple here), I would want to stay pretty much forever, I think.


078 square 079 square 080 square


C’mon, Mom and Dad, sibs! How can you resist? :)

Plus, there’s this. . . .


not to mention her awesome big brothers.

.the fiddler’s wife.