Sunday, September 30, 2012

31 Days....

I'm a planner and a lister. And for almost 20 years I have made it my intention to be done a lot of the running around and shopping for Christmas by the time Thanksgiving Vacation begins. (Yes, that means I don't do Black Friday sales.)

Sometimes this has helped me really set apart the season to be different and myself to be prepared. Sometimes it just makes Thanksgiving week incredibly stressful.

For the next 31days, I'm going to commit to writing and planning about Christmas season 2012. I will write about preparing our home and our hearts for the season where we celebrate the coming of the BabyRedeemer.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Grasp

Five Minute Friday Today is the day when I set my timer for five minutes and write on a given topic - with minimal editing. This weeks topic --- GRASP.

The first image that comes to mind is my hand grabbing or being grabbed. Reaching for my husbands hand, my children holding mine - one more tight squeeze before turning out the lights (do they want me or the lights on longer).

Then a desperate comes to mind - desperate to hold onto something. Life or death holding on to some sort of hope.

Finally a quiet understanding - a coming into the presence of understanding of another persons ideas or an algebra problem. (Yes I did look up "grasp" but I did truly have all these images before reading the definition.)

It seems that these different images can all be passages from one to another. A desperate need to understand leads to a quiet hand holding and then a revelation.

The grasp of a hand from the water of someone drowning will receive a hand of comfort as they are saved and recovered. They will eventually grasp what has happened.

Less concrete, how similar are my days with Jesus. Grasping for His mercy and grace and love - desperately, comfortingly, and every once in a while with a mysterious experience of understanding.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Ways to Share Music with Kids

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I read The Art of Family over ten years ago. One of the stories that I remember frequently is how she would take her little ones to the museum and stand with them in front of her favorite painting. It wasn't to inspire the kids to become artists, but to share a piece of herself with them.

This month, my home became populated with more musical instruments (that are being learned and played) than humans. This took me by surprise and delights me immensely. I never set out to become a mother to musicians. But I was determined to share the piece of myself that love, love, loves music.
Here are My Top Ten Ways to Share Music with Kids:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings 1. Rehearsals - When Caleb was young, we lived at a boarding school. I approached the music director and asked if we could come watch rehearsals. This was great. Rehearsals are chaotic and noisy and I didn't need to be as worried about him sitting quietly. I would whisper about the instruments and about expectations for behavior at a 'real' concert and we could come and go quietly as we needed. At a rehearsal, you also might get time to go talk to the musicians and see the instruments up close

2. Young People's Concerts - Around this same time, we found that our local library had many VHS tapes of Leonard Bernstein's Young Peoples Concert. To say that Caleb fell in love with Bernstein would be a lie, because we all did. Marc was so proud that he went to a music shop and bought Caleb a conductor's baton so he could conduct along with LB. (Still thinking that wasn't the BEST choice for a 2/3 yo... pointy things in eyes and all that... but it was sweet.) We have not found these since moving from that place. They are available but expensive online. A quick search just found some parts of them on youtube, though.

3. Outdoor Performances - Where we are from, this happens in the summer months. The more we looked around, the more we found. And many were FREE. These were also another great performance to go to because you aren't expected to be on perfect concert behavior outside, and you can leave when you need.

4. Churches - As many churches as there are, there are that many kinds of music. This is another space where you might be able to watch rehearsals - choral or instrumental. You can always visit another churches holiday services to hear an organ or a praise band. One thing we learned is that kids behave better when they are closer to the front of the church (or auditorium). Yes, this is counterintuitive because every parent wants to have the escape route planned when teaching young ones how to sit respectfully and reverantly in a public gathering. But kids in the back can't see. So if you sit up front, positioned to see the current instrument of interest especially, kids work harder and stay more engaged.

5. Library - Libraries have loads of programming. For kids you can often find a sing-a-long time. And just because you have a kid doesn't mean you can't go to other programs. Our local library is going to begin to feature our high school jazz musicians on Sunday afternoons. (Yes, I know. I am very blessed.)

from wikipedia
6. Music guilds - Do a google search on music guilds in your state. Jazz, bluegrass, fiddlers, kazoo alliance. When Caleb was four of five, we found out that our state jazz organization was making an effort at having family friendly events. A local brew pub was hosting the event. Caleb had his first 'chocolate milk on the rocks' with his grandma at the bar AND pointed out to all the adults with him that the instrument being played was NOT a guitar. We found out from the artist during a break that it was a dobro. He gave Caleb a history lesson on the dobro, and a little glass slide to take home as a remembrance.

7.  Rhythm instruments - the quiet kind. What I love about the fisher-price xylophone shaped like a dog is how cute and colorful it is. But as an introduction to musical instruments, it wasn't anything the kids could have a musical success on. But a shaker egg can be played with music put on in the background. A small tom-tom as well. We have had a piano in our home for almost 7 years and as soon as our youngest could reach the keys she was taught that noisy banging was not okay. She had full access to the piano, but was expected to listen to what she was doing - with expectation.

8. High School and College music calendars - Again - often free music. At the high school level you don't know what skill level you'll be getting, but usually you will see a group of people working together as a team. This past weekend we went to a free Herbie Hancock Tribute put on by Colby College music faculty. (Have you ever seen a bass flute played? ME EITHER! It was so cool.)

Anna getting ready for
her first recital
9. Learn or practice an instrument yourself - I play guitar. I'm not super at it. There is plenty that I want to learn still. My kids have seen or heard me practice and have seen me lead worship in church (a small church!). This year I started my youngest on the recorder. Something I haven't done with the other two. I bought a recorder for myself and we are learning together.

10. Pandora - or online radio stations and youtube. The online world of information is changing everyone's access to excellent and different music experiences.
As I wrote my TopTen, I realized how very perfect and disciplined I might sound. Not at all. This is an ideal that our real works toward every day. Even momma is known to just take some time to make lots of noise on her guitar or recorder. Hope you get a chance to enjoy music today!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Five MInute Friday: Wide

Five Minute FridayHow wide is this fabric? A question that accompanies the searching of material to made into something. If you have bought a pattern and are using that as a guide, it will show you (usually) a couple of ways to arrange your pattern pieces based on how wide your fabric is. It has always been a source of delight to my logic puzzle, tetris loving self to see if I can come up with a more frugal use of space. (I usually can).

What happens with sewing is that if your fabric is thinner than you need, you can still buy it, but you need to buy more length. And if it's wider, then you can probably buy less length. Following me so far?

We are ending Week 3 of our tenth year of homeschooling. There are more pattern pieces this year than there ever have been. And there is still me. Just Me. At the helm. And as much as women like to think we can stretch a little more here or there, really, the hours we have in a day don't change all that much - width or length.

Pieces of My Quilt
My width and length may not be able to change too much, but I can add other pieces. My 13 yo can take up a couple of those pieces on his own. The 10yo asked (yes asked!) if she could learn to do a thorough bathroom clean. She can have that piece. The 7yo loves to help in the kitchen. Looks like this quilt is going to be just the right length - and width.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Ten Smells that Make My Heart Smile

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little BlessingsI'm a Top Ten Tuesday newbie. And when I told a group that I'm part of that I was going to commit to LinkUp here for at least the next month of TopTenTuesdays, I thought I was coming up with a fairly easy commitment.

Tonight I find myself wondering where in the world am I going to find 10 of anything to list. My son (almost 13) suggested I write the top ten things that are awesome about him - but quickly admitted that that would be too hard because there are so many more than 10. (However, maybe for his birthday in a couple weeks I will give that a go.)

We were talking it over while making dinner together. And I began to smell the onion, the salsa, the yummy burrito bake smells all coming together. And that is where I found my first TopTen. The Top Ten Smells that make my heart smile.
10. My youngest daughter's (7yo) hair after her shower. No matter what shampoo she uses, she still has that baby smell. Maybe because she is mine.

9. Freshly cut grass, after a HOT day, when it is cool in the evening (usually that means end of August, beginning of September). Something about the atmosphere intensifies those smells for me. Sweetness, health, peace.

8. Sandalwood candle. Maybe sandalwood, I don't know. I found this smell by accident at a candle store. When I sniffed the candle, I was brought back to walking past 'shops' in Calcutta 15 years ago.

7. Murphy's Oil Soap. My mom used this a LOT to clean when I was at home. I don't. But if I walk into a place that has recently used it, I am transported to a time when someone else cleaned.

6. New books. The sound and smell of the newly opened pages delights me - shivers to my toes. (I hope someone will capture this smell in a candle because I love my kindle but it has no smell.)

5. Pine. I thought this was a Christmas smell association, but when we went on a hike this summer we turned a corner and all of a sudden the air was full of pine smells. It was lovely and mysterious.

4. Pipe Smoke. Yes, smoking is hazardous to your health. But I love that Grampa smell and am delighted that hubby will pull out his pipe about once every five years and let me take a smell.

3. Chocolate Chip Cookies baking. This is my go to comfort food. It says home, love, fun to me.

2. Baking Bread. Do I really need to explain this one?

1. Coffee. I would have to work a long time to remember a morning that didn't start with this smell. And for the past 8 years, that cup has most often come to me from my husband of 17 years as we share our plans and prayers for the day together.

Friday, September 14, 2012


For about the last month, I've been reading Colossians 3:1-17 almost every day. I read it in TNIV and then The Message, and I just try to sit with it - in awe that these 17 verses could take a life-time to 'get'.

Yesterday I stumbled and stopped at verse 13.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Heard it. Read it. Heard sermons about it. Told my kids about it. 

What I read 'for the first time' was 'forgive as the Lord forgave you'. This has always translated into - in my mind - forgive fully, thoroughly, even though it isn't deserved or earned. 

Yesterday, though, I began think about exactly how the Lord forgave me. No, not about all the things I have done. About all that HE did. 

  • He was born into a human form. He had to learn to eat, walk, talk and get along with the people around him (I can't believe that that was any easier 2000 years ago).
  • He had to wait in relative obscurity. We don't really know exactly when Jesus had a full grasp on what He was doing here. At age 12 we know HE knew that the temple was His Father's house. Then there are about 18 years of .... we don't know what. I am terrible at keeping secrets. And I would much rather burst out in my half-baked ideas than to wait for a perfect time. 
  • Important people hated him. From the beginning of his public ministry. As many as He was healing and caring for, there were those who were haters. I squirm at he idea of people not liking me - especially important people.
  • His family thought he was a little crazy - at least his brothers did.
  • The people that liked him and listened to him - weren't that pretty or put together or bright - at times. They fought for position and notice. They didn't get his 'simple' stories. 
  • Then there was the brutal (followed by glorious) end of his time on earth. 
Jesus forgiveness for me isn't consolidated to a one time brutal hanging on the cross followed by a resurrection from the dead three days later. It isn't my praying a prayer or singing a song or believing with my shreds of unbelief hanging on. 

The story of my being forgiven by Jesus, begins with the agony groans of Mary during childbirth. My forgiveness, my acceptance into His family, is woven into every step of his life. 

I could go on about the Jesus story, but that's not entirely what caused me to stumble in my reading. What caused me to stumble was that I AM TO FORGIVE LIKE HE FORGAVE ME. I have certainly grown in being quicker to say I forgive you. And my heart and mind are quicker to follow. 

But I am not putting myself out in labor to forgive. I am not working to cover my offenders reputation. I am not going to great lengths and sacrificing myself for the good of my offender. I am not sweating, crying, or putting up with irritating circumstances and people all for the sake of forgiveness.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about healthy boundaries and healthy relationships. Don't take this like I'm saying "stay in a bad relationship". (Maybe to a fault, but what's a homeschool mom to do? Yeah - that's another blog post or therapy session.)

I'm just saying that I think I still approach forgiveness with the attitude that I can save face and be the right one if I say the right words. The challenge to spend myself for the sake of forgiveness really messes with my paradigm. 

If I take this seriously, offense and forgiveness might begin to look more like the beginning of a relationship rather than the closing of a transaction. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A New Student

We have a new student in our homeschool this year! ME!

No, this doesn't mean that I have felt myself to be an all-knowing teacher during the last nine or ten years. It has been far from that. I have learned more since I started homeschooling than I remember learning in all my years of school. I have learned right beside my kids every year.

The big change this year, is that I'm actually a student. We added Rosetta Stone (Spanish - Latin America) to our curriculum this year. Rosetta Stone has a special Homeschool Edition that allows for some extra record-keeping so if I do this right, this could be Caleb's first high school Language credit.

As I entered the kids names and levels as students on the program, I added my own name along with theirs. Initially, I did this just so I could keep an eye on what they are learning and be a little bit able to help them if they have any questions.

But this is actually a pretty big deal. In high school and college (Latin and Spanish, respectively) I had horrible language learning experiences. (In writing this, I remembered that in second or third grade I was also put into a French class as part of an enrichment program. I think that was my earliest experience of feeling like an academic failure.) I managed to cram and test well enough, but I felt lost more often than not. It has been a source of shame (in knowing that however I passed it was as a big faker) and fear (that I really can't learn to communicate across languages in a world that will require bilingual ability).

Hope I don't get in trouble for being a Class Clown!
I have no idea how well I will or will not learn Spanish in the coming years. I know that I will likely be more accountable to working on it, because my kids are working on it as well. I will be more likely to practice it, because my kids are going to end up talking to me in the phrases they learn. I will be more likely to laugh at myself, because I'm trying to teach my kids to take a light view of these things in their life. And because I don't have a scholarship riding on it or a BIG TEST waiting for me at the end of the semester, I'm much more likely to learn it.

So welcome new student, and new beginnings, to Pitman Academy.