bits & pieces turns into story


Amelie is reading these days.  A lot less sounding out, a lot more easy reading.  Right now we are aiming for reading small, manageable bits, consistently.  This week, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, in two two-page spreads per day.

We are really enjoying Dick and Jane.  For some reason Dick and Jane have been sorely misaligned.  They are just perfect for my early reader and the classic illustrations keep me entertained, too.

Levi caught the sounding out bug early this year and helped himself to letter-learning and letter-writing and letter-typing.  He often refers to himself as “L-E-V-I”, all spelled out.  Kiri and Lia and Devo, likewise.  Those of us with longer names just get called as usual, no spelling.

I had been watching his skill-building from the corner of my mind as I worked with the others on spelling and reading and writing.  I offered him help and new materials when needed, but it was his thing and he was happy and I was happy.  This week he read his first BOB book.  Not too shabby for a little peanut of a three year old.  He has a knack for remembering the sounds he just sounded out and smooshing them quickly into a word.  Helpful knack, that.


:: story

So the other week was communion at church, which means foot-washing.  Which means, in our church, small basins of water and thick paper napkins.

Church day continues to be a rigorous day for me, worthy of marathon status, surely, herding my small flock hither and yon and up and down, to class and muffins and cups of gold fish and the bathroom.   And all in heels.

I really must get flats.  (Side note – don’t think I haven’t tried to get in on this wondrous proliferation of cute flat shoes that fashion has been so kind to bestow on us.  For some reason, my heels slip out of every single ding dang pair of flats, regardless of size.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Target or Nordstrom’s or Clarks.  Pity me.  I do.)

But on communion day, it was cold, so I was wearing my Uggs and tromping around lithely and blithely and warmly.

(Really, you can’t imagine how much extra effort heels and a skirt requires over the course of a morning/afternoon at church.  Or maybe you can.)

I thought we could swing foot washing with three big kids and one toddler and one experienced mother.

Things did proceed fairly smoothly, right until I took off my own shoes (lead by example, right?) and was standing in the church with one sock on and one sock off.  Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John.

It must have been then when Kiri dumped over the basin of water as I vainly grabbed for her, because I distinctly remember that my toes were cold and wet, and I couldn’t figure out if it was more important to put my shoes back on (I know some people have a serious problem with bare feet in church) or make a barefooted dash to the table with all the paper napkins to mop up the water beneath my partially stockinged feet.

And then Kiri took a look at her handiwork and plopped herself down in the middle of the spreading sea.  (How can an inch of water in a small basin make such a large puddle?)

This was a first for me, I realized.  Eight years and no one has ever dumped out the foot-washing water.  With our odds, that’s rather remarkable, I’d say.

Cue out-of-body experience.  I see myself mopping on my hands and knees (in skirt) and trying to keep hold of wet child and coaching the bigger ones through the drying of feet and the donning of (frilly) socks and shiny shoes.  Some hissing of orders to take the other basin, navigate crowd, and empty it. Carefully!

And I see the other people around me, so very very close in proximity.  Are they oblivious to the small but desperate drama happening two feet away?  Or are they politely not seeing?  It’s too bad if they are being polite, it’s definitely worth a chuckle.  And maybe a napkin.

There was no pious post-foot washing prayer that day.  It was more like a rout and dripping retreat.  In bare, wet feet.



:: Levi in Plaid

Self-styled for church this morning.  I’m all for self-styled as long as it looks like personality, not abject parental neglect.  Personality, indeed.  And, as he pointed out, it matches.

When he walked into my room this morning, all I could think was “He’s gone PLAID!”  Name that movie.

:: VBS Aftermath

We have just finished a rockin’ week of VBS.  I’m sooo glad my mom was here…she added an indispensable layer of help and hysterical laughter into the mix.  Late-night, kids-crying, extremely-long-days-that-just-would-not-end, kind of hysterical laughter.  Comic relief.  True bonding.

I am totally planning on indulging in some coma-inducing TV watching for the kids as part of the recovery process.  Can we say “grumpy”  “very very tired”?

:: Mommy Brain Strikes Again

Mommy Brain’s most recent manifestation has made itself known in the Name Center of my brain.  Where there used to be names of friends and children and family and people I’ve known for forever and people I met last week, there is now … nothing.  Just a blank.

A pleasant, slightly bewildered blank.

But it’s not even like the name is there somewhere nearby if only I can think hard or long enough.  Nope, it’s just gone.  If the name happens to appear within ten minutes of needing it, I consider it a gift.

So if you see me looking at you with a bit of a blank, bemused smile, just know that I’m searching for your name and coming up with nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

But I do know who you are.  I just don’t know your name.

:: Vacation Troubles

We are supposed to go on vacation next week.  We really want to go on a road trip to Central California.  See the redwoods, camp, follow the coastline.  We’ve done staycations for two and a half years, I think we’re all itching to vacate this place.

Problem 1 – We don’t all (us plus Mom and Liana and stuff) fit in one car.  And we like to be together.

Problem 2 – Both of our cars need work.  The (old) Explorer needs a working air conditioner.  The (old) Odyssey has a stubborn check engine light.

Problem 3 – We’ve been considering going down to one car.  We’ve also been considering upgrading to a 12 passenger van for our adventures.  And can’t we fit a cargo bike into one of these scenarios? Puhleeeease?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to do whatever it is we’re going to do now before paying for gas for two cars on our road trip?

Well, we’ve gotta decide tomorrow and do whatever we’re going to do on Monday so we can get outta here!  (Eek, I’m really not sure what we should do!!!)

:: Cake Dreams

Does anyone else ever daydream about a slice of those vanilla layer cakes with chocolate frosting in Pollyanna?  Me too.


Children’s Choir

:: catching up, post #5…see, I told you I was busy ::

December 4 was the Ordination/Commissioning Service for my good friend (and Devo’s pastoral colleague) Janeen.  She’s been Children’s Pastor here since Lia was 6 months old…so she IS our children’s pastor.  Ordaining women in ministry is not something that is common in our denomination, so I am so proud to be a part of a community that acknowledges the work of God through women.

She requested that my Children’s Choir participate in the service.  We hadn’t done anything since the Easter Messiah last year, so I was glad to get it going.  Janeen requested You are the Shepherd.  A beautiful, beautiful song to follow her ‘response’ at the end of the service.

And then we thought that the children could lead the opening hymn, so I chose the perennial success To God Be the Glory.  Because no matter what happens, everybody can sing “praise the Lord!  praise the Lord!”

Three weeks of rehearsals, through Thanksgiving weekend, no less.  I opened up the choir to the ‘younger than 6 year olds’ for the first time and we had a whole row of 3 year olds.  It was a lot of fun.  We spent a lot of time working on the three verses of To God be the Glory and I am proud and gratified to say that they knew the second verse really, really well.  O perfect redemption, the purchase of God… If anybody ever needs ideas on how to teach this hymn, I have many.

We ended up choosing Gracie as our soloist for You are the Shepherd.  Gracie is four, and I’ve been sitting in Sabbath School with her for two years at least.  She was just. darling.  It was unbearably sweet.

It was such a great group of kids, I’ve started thinking about what we should do next year.  So many of my kids are getting almost too old (or so they think), so I’d like to do another something before they outgrow Children’s Choir.

And then we dashed out the door, I dropped the family off at home, and sped off for my choir concert.

edited to add :: I just realized that I don’t know who took the pictures that my husband acquired.  Let me know who you are and thank you!

Wild Times

Today is officially our day of Return to a Sense of Normalcy.  At least, I’m hoping hoping hoping it is.

It’s been wild around here.  Our church has just added a second service (‘contemporary’, for lack of a better word) and the first two weeks were awesome in the most literal sense of the word.  But as you can imagine, it has also been a lot of time and alot of work and a lot of anxiety for the pastors.  To put it mildly.

And then <BIG ANNOUNCEMENT>, it has been officially announced that Devo has come to the end of his (NINE YEAR!!!) tenure as youth pastor here and he is going to transition to a new position.  To be very clear…same church, new position.  It’s not exactly clear yet just what the new position will be, but all the options look promising.

And it’s all great and going to be great, but that, also, obviously, has taken lots of time and work and anxiety.  To put it mildly.

Devo and I fell into the habit of having serious conversations…several hours after a normal bedtime.  And then he’d often work some more after that.  I pretty much threw up my hands and let our daily life run very very loosely.  If we were going to be in a time of fluctuation and change, then by George, we were going to embrace fluctuation and change.  Besides, otherwise we might never have seen Devo if we hadn’t arranged ourselves somewhat around the 15 minutes here and there we could see him.

So there was the new service launch, followed by week of prayer at the academy, and it was all pushing us right to the very brink of insanity when the girls and I came down with the stomach flu Thursday night.

It wasn’t pretty.

WARNING :: GROSS SUBJECT MATTER…skip bulleted items if possessing of weak stomach…

Some thoughts after a night and a day of a stomach bug ::

  • Words for vomiting are actually pretty cool :: vomit, emesis, puke, throw up, hurl, retch, up chuck, barf.
  • I have never before shared an emesis basin with another before, but it’s quite a bonding experience.  And that’s what happens when the chain reaction is set off and there are only two receptacles for three people.
  • I love how encouraged Lia was every time it became evident that another person had joined her in sickness, it really cheered her up.  Guess misery really does love company.
  • I heard it said once that you know kids are “big” when they can make it down the hall to throw up in the toilet all by themselves.  I guess Lia’s a big girl now.
  • Premarital counseling question #657 – Who will take care of children when they have the stomach flu?  Does anyone have a weak stomach that would preclude them from Puke Support Duty?
  • Devo’s week of prayer theme was “7-Up”…What’s Up, Fess Up, Own Up, Listen Up, Stand Up, Show Up.  And Friday he facebooked that he had indeed completed the 7th “up” … throw up.  Hahaha.

I was so thankful we are a one career family and I had nothing else to do but take care of my family.  Oh, and survive.

Friday we recovered, Sabbath we were raring to go again, and then Saturday night Lia’s stomach rebelled against the day’s culinary offerings. And her stubborn streak made one of its (blessedly) rare appearances.  She planted herself next to the toilet and refused to budge.

She was determined to spend the night at the toilet, and yes she was very comfortable, thank you very much.

And she did look quite comfortable.  And I did think seriously about letting her just stay there and go get some sleep myself.  But I just couldn’t do it, so after a couple of hours (and a number of chapters in my book), I finally coaxed her off her perch and we snuggled together on the couch, our handy puke bowl ever at the ready.

And lest that sound too calm and nurturing, I think I ran out of calm and nurturing some time around 1am, and was ready to plead with tears and threats…but luckily was not driven to do so.  That would have been a mess, wouldn’t it?  I can just see myself whimpering, limping in to wake Devo up and beg him to rescue me, puke notwithstanding, with Lia crying hysterically as she clings to the toilet.

It could have happened.  It very nearly did.

We survived the night.  We survived the week.  We survived the last month.

And now I’m hoping that we are shifting back into a normal life.

Please.  Please.  Pleeeeeeeeeease.

I’m ready.






:: Would you like some cheese with your ham? ::

:: Lia photographs Amelie ::

:: My closet finds new inspiration.  Today’s name of choice…”Chandelier” (or “ChandeLIA”) ::

:: An exploratory look reveals the long awaited adult teeth…growing in their own row behind the babies.  Lots of teeth wiggling going on here. ::

:: incidentally, Lia has begun ending her speeches with “she said”.  For example, “No, I don’t want another sandwich…<in a quieter voice> she said.”

:: After a 17 month hiatus, Friday Night Youth returns.  So does the minestrone and hot chocolate ::

:: A trip to the creek today…this is what I want for my children ::

Not Baal

As I left the room, I said, “Tomorrow is a special day – the day when we worship God together!”

Lia’s little voice comes out of the darkness, “Not Baal!”

Can you tell the Sabbath School lesson is on Elijah this week?

End of the Week Round-Up

End of the Week Round-Up — by no means all inclusive.  Or even representative.  On further reflection, maybe I should retitle it End of the Week Weak Stream of Consciousness.

1) Herbs.

Can I ever have enough herbs?  There’s nothing like running my hands through the basil.  Or the dill.  Or the thyme.  Or the rosemary.  I cannot imagine a life in which I have enough herbs.

I have five run-of-the-mill basils, a purply basil, a purply ruffly basil, and a spicy globe basil.  And yet still I ration.

I have one dill.  And it was so intent on flowering, that I let it…it seems against the cosmic order of things to thwart so determined a process.  Next year, more dill.  MORE DILL!

And speaking of more, next year (or, perhaps, even this year) MORE TOMATOES.  Here we are at the beginning of August and I’m rationing tomatoes.  This is wrong, very very wrong.  (I don’t think the tomatoes like their new place in the garden…too much clay?)

2)  VBS recovery.

See, I said that Pharoah was cute.  I think I’ll name this picture Reason #23,986 Why I Love This Man.  Not everyone has a rockin’ Pharoah for a husband.

As I said, post-VBS, the children have {all} been down with a mild cold.  Perhaps “down” is the wrong term.  Maybe I should say that they’ve been “up” with a mild cold…up at nights, that is.  I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m going to succumb (how can I not, being bathed continually in snot?  hey, that rhymes).  But I’m ignoring my sneaking suspicion and consuming vast quantities of vitamin C.

3) New (to me) blog genre (or would it be a category?)

I’ve been perusing the crafty blogs this week.  I need a new bookmark category because all my new favorites are getting lost in the home decor category.  Here’s a few, maybe you haven’t seen them::

Posie Gets Cozy

Angry Chicken

Not Martha

All Sorts

4) This week’s sewing funSnack Bags from angry chicken.

They are like  old-fashioned fold over baggies – remember those? – made out of fabric. So easy, so quick, so cute, so usable!  They are even easy and quick when little someone’s sit on my lap and do all the sewing.  Or, serging, rather.

In her video tutorial, angry chicken uses a serger.  I have a serger.  My mom bought it for me, oh, five years ago.  She used it to sew me an extraordinary bridesmaid dress in a feat of sewing daring and prowess.  And I’d never gotten it to work since.  I became, through a number of hours of pouring over the manual and peering into the machine, proficient at threading the thing.  But I could never get it to make a decent serge.  (Or whatever the terminology would be). And getting to a Joann Fabrics class just never got to the top of my “I really should do this” list – it remained firmly entrenched in the “I feel perpetually slightly guilty that I have not done this” list.  Do you have one of those?  (I recently starting actually making that particular list – hoping to check some of those things off and release some guilt into the stratosphere).

Well, cute and reusable snack bags were inspiration enough.  I retrieved the serger from its resting place in the garage and the girls and I watched a youtube tutorial to freshen up my threading skills.  We threaded it, and as I was fooling with tension knobs, I discovered two more knobs around the back side.


Voila.  Now I have a working serger.  Thanks, Mom!  I’m going to use this gift alot!  Five years later.

The girls picked their fabric and sewed their bags, including a small one for a friend’s birthday gift, and we filled them with homemade crackers. Yum.  They didn’t last 24 hours.

Really it’s all about church

Time has flown!  Where have I been?

1) watching World Cup Soccer, and now Wimbledon. Devo’s wondering why he had to preach THIS week of all weeks.  But never fear, I’m sure he will watch all the important matches AND manage to write a sermon.  As well as taking the kids to the park, reading stories, and taking them swimming.  Because he’s Super Man.  And he’s mine.

2) Sewing. I got a remnant of this cute green and white stripe canvassy fabric at IKEA, came home, and promptly sewed it into a valance for my kitchen window.  Said kitchen window has been dressed for the last two years in a repurposed white eyelet skirt.  The skirt is now being repurposed into a cape or dancing dress, as needed by the imaginations of small girls.

I also sewed a beach/picnic blanket.  She came, she sewed, she conquered.

Dumb thing took way longer than it should have.  Mostly because I was piecing together scraps.  It’s hard to feel like a domestic goddess for hours on end when you know you should have been finished hours ago.  But now it’s complete, and only cost the batting – which I got on sale.

3) Cooking. Buttermilk pancakes.  Hummus, tzatziki, and Greek salad.  Homemade pizza.  Vietnamese spring rolls.  Roasted garlic.  Roasted potatoes and yams with garlic and rosemary.

4) Reading Little House in the Big Woods with the girls. We’re over halfway through and we just started this week.  I’ve decided to skip over all the parts where Laura bemoans her ‘ugly’ brown hair and glorifies Mary’s blond hair.  We are at an impressionable age.

5) Reading Do you find that you focus on certain blogs at certain times?  Sometimes I’m all about  Or  (I’m always about  Other times I can go days without looking at them.  Right now it’s Soule Mama, with her bright colors, four children, and creative life.

6) Debating the church problem.

{Hi, my name is Leilani and I have a problem with church.}

I have reached a crisis point.  So let me confess, for confession is good for the soul::

I am incapable of getting my three children bathed, dressed, fed, and shod, going to Sabbath School, to the potty, and to church, and then to the potty, and then after church playtime.

The bathed, dressed, fed, and shod part isn’t so bad.  Usually.  In fact, we are almost always early.  (My philosophy : Get out the door as soon as you are ready or risk disaster.)

It’s the NAP.  Daily nap at 10am is great…except on Sabbath morning (Sabbath School starts at 9:45).  Levi won’t sleep at church and he just gets wilder and noisier and wigglier.  Until I feel as though I’m on the rack, being tortured.

So instead of enjoying the one day a week I get out into the wider world and interact with people, I ‘run the race marked out for me’, and it’s truly a heruculean effort.

Two weeks ago I was determined to stay and hear the sermon by one of our great (female!) religion professors.  We did alright until two minutes into the sermon.  And, people, you know how it goes.  When we melt, it’s instantaneous.  There was no time to gather the toys, the shoes, the girls, the bags, and the shrieking baby.  I just grabbed him up and fled, leaving the rest behind.

Lia and Amelie happily migrated to the pew behind where a friend from Sabbath School happened to be sitting. Having people watch my children without even the courtesy of me asking their consent is a great exercise in letting go of pride.  Let me tell you.

So Levi and I stood in the hall (he wasn’t getting down to run and think it’s all a lark, no way Jose), and peeked in the door at the girls in one minute intervals.

The logistics are simply impossible.  One me, three of them, innumerable opportunities for trials and temptations, difficulties and disasters.

No matter how much I gird up for the fray beforehand, each week is just getting harder.

Devo has been so busy – I don’t even know what he’s doing, he’s so busy – we don’t even get to wave at him.  Or shriek, depending on our sensibilities.

I’ve been real tempted to whine.  But how would that sound?  Why can’t you sit with us in church?  Why do you have to do your job? Good ones, Leilani.

I started seriously thinking about the pressures of church a few weeks ago when the Sabbath School pianist didn’t show up and I played for the first few songs.  Another lady kept an eye on Levi and Amelie.  And I sat there on the piano bench and thought I can’t believe how much easier this is!  All I’m doing is sitting here! It was literally a shock to my system to realize how much strain and stress it is to take shy Amelie and wiggly Levi to Sabbath School.  Frankly, the hardest part is managing the baskets.  I have taken away their ability to handle their own baskets.  For the sake of my sanity, I put all the stuff into one basket and dole it out at the proper time.

I’m sure people look at me and think that I’m not allowing my children to learn responsibility, but frankly I don’t really care.  Let them fill my shoes for a day and see if they can keep all the stuff inside the baskets.

Sometimes I look at these families who have two people to share child caring on Sabbath mornings and do one of two things : sit up straighter, thinking loftily of my prowess in navigating the morning alone.  Or, slump a little and wish my child caring partner could be around to share the load.

I don’t like admitting defeat, but I think that sometimes the time arrives when I must admit that I can’t do it all alone.

That time would be now.  I can’t do it all alone.

Except, of course, that I have to do it all alone.

So there you have it.  Prime time for coming up with a new solution. And, lucky for me, I have a new solution.

I have decided to try week swapping.  Sabbath School one week, then come home for the nap, then go back to church to chat afterwards.  Next week, stay home for naptime (skipping Sabbath School), and going to church.

I have actually garnered the consent of the girls for this new proposition.  If, indeed, they actually understood the proposition.

So this week, being that Devo is preaching, we will try skipping Sabbath School, and go to church.

Last week, when I left potluck after 20 minutes of chasing baby, mopping up spilled water, cleaning up spilled food, and herding children apt to scatter like the winds, I told Devo that I wasn’t coming to church anymore.  (Does that constitute a whine?)  Ignoring the possible slight on his work situation, he instead promised to think inventively about how to make Sabbaths enjoyable for me.  Because it’s important to him that I enjoy Sabbath.  And gave me a hug (which was observed by that other group of people…all of them…as they were getting into their car).  Which made me feel a whole lot better.  A little bit of love can do alot…

Usually I go for the Iron-Hand-in-the-Velvet-Glove approach at children’s choir.  But tonight, I had to show more of my true colors, the Mean Leilani.  No, it wasn’t that bad, it was just unusual.

After choir, there were some kids waiting for their rides home, running and wreaking havoc in the hallways.  BIG no-no in Leilani’s books.  But I had to speak pretty sternly and honestly.  Several times.  Using The Face.   (“I don’t like it when you argue with me.  Stop arguing and do what I ask you to do.”).  And they did – I feel that perhaps we are approaching an understanding of who is in charge of Children’s Choir.  (That would be me.)

But now, instead of remembering the great rehearsal, I feel – bleah.  What a great descriptor bleah is.  Bleah.

But we had such a great rehearsal.  Lia paid close attention and sang well.  We are making serious inroads in a difficult melisma.  The flow went well, no downtime.  My groups are more even than last week.  I acquired two new kids from a favorite family.  (Come to think of it, I think Lia was wearing hand-me-downs from them.)  I worked with the soloists afterwards and after a week of wondering if I made the right assignments, now I know that I did.  And I am so pleased at the natural ability of many of the singers – it makes rehearsals so much easier.  Even the quiet, shy ones are learning fast.

But now it’s the end of a busy day.

I’ve been on a streak of full and good days, which makes for good nights of sleep.

Devo is preaching this weekend, so he’s getting down to sermon crunch time.

I’m trying to decide how to utilize a gigantic and beautiful cabbage.

We didn’t read The Secret Garden today.  First day we’ve missed.

Lia finished learning her piece for group class next week – Mary Had a Little Lamb – and we do a wicked duet.  Amelie videoed it for us.

Amelie got out a long dowel (against the rules) and when I told her to put it away, she stuck it in her mouth length-wise (think dog with long, skinny bone) and then tried to walk through the doorway.  Ow.

Been picking weed prickles out of my skin since yesterday.

OH, BIG NEWS!  Today we played with cuisinaire rods and Lia wrote her first math sentences.  1 +1+1=3, 2+1=3, 1+2=3  Neat!

Been up to much

Rachel was lamenting that the Rachel of five years ago would be appalled at what the current Rachel does not accomplish (she has two little ones and is pregnant with number three…Abigayle, isn’t that sweet?).  I just saw that the picture of Devo and I on this blog is from our fifth anniversary.  As in, two years ago.

But if I got it all done today, what would there be left to do tomorrow?


(Rachel, I hear you!  More grace everyday!)

I did kind of mop the kitchen floor today.  When releasing the steam on my pressure cooker, it spurted all over (anybody know how to not make a mess doing this?).  I thought it was all on the stove and deck, but when Amelie came in to get the ketchup from the fridge (she was setting the table), she slipped on the big puddle on the floor and hit her head HARD.

What is it with me and head injuries?  Why can’t we do broken bones?

Of course, the food was just at the point where it needed to be lifted off the stove and out of the oven.  But instead we sat in a chair with a bag of frozen beans and calmed ourselves down (convinced my heart to stop going thump thump thump).  Soggy broccoli is much preferred to hospital run.

(The roasted yams, potatoes, and carrots with rosemary and garlic didn’t burn.  It was YUMMY.)

Lia entertained the squawking Levi, getting his food out of the fridge and feeding him.  Also deciding to put a glob of pureed vegetables on his tray, like we do with finger foods.  🙂  She was so helpful, my mommy heart went pitty pat. So I guess at this point it was really saying thump pitty pat thump pitty pat.

The point being that I flung a washcloth on the floor and swiped at the slippery puddle with my foot.  And managed to get a bunch of other spots at the same time.  That counts for kind-of-mopping, don’t you think?

Piano practicing is really going well.  I am amazed at how much Lia has learned in the last few weeks.  Her hand position and coordination have improved by leaps and bounds.  She spends what seems like hours picking out tunes she knows or making her own.  She can sightread her little pieces, first try.

Just in her piano practice alone, she is reading, writing, tracking from left to right, and learning math – counting, fractions.  We were laughing while playing a music game this week because I told her, Music is math you can hear, cooking is math you can eat!

Our weekend in the mountains went really well.  There was snow, but it wasn’t too cold.  And I had lots of help from our friends.  The kids and I enjoyed taking walks up and down the mountain and playing in the snow.

Valentine’s Day passed us by.  We thought we’d declare Monday another Valentine’s Day, but that one passed us by, too.  Too.  Tired.  Maybe we’ll try again next week.

I think it was Friday night that I was putting the girls to bed and told them that it was time to stop talking.  Amelie says, “But I love to talk.”  Very matter of fact.  I just about died trying not to laugh.

Amelie is in a new phase.  She is intensely involved in her inner landscape.  Which means that anything you say to her, you must make her repeat, or it will never penetrate through to her REAL reality.  She is always carrying on lots of imaginary play with whatever toys she has.  The more vocabulary she has, the more we find out what’s really going on in her little mind.

She is making her first forays into the world of arguing.  Anything I say (after I make her repeat it back) is followed by a “but…”.  She has also begun to tattletell, but I haven’t been able to explain what she’s doing well enough so that she can identify it and stop.  So, until then, we have a local police officer, morality director, and general gossiper.

I put Levi to bed in his crib in the girl’s room tonight.  I wanted some time on the computer.  And the freedom to have a snack. I have decided to try for regular naps (whether needed or wanted or not).  Today was fairly successful.  I’m aiming for an 11am nap and a 3pm nap.  Or somewhere in the general vicinity.

Children’s Choir is coming along.  We worked on Hallelujah Chorus tonight, in two parts.  And it was fairly successful.  I have some really good singers with good ears this year.

We spent Monday and Tuesday morning in the garden.  I’m trying to learn to garden the way I clean house – that is, do the more visible things first.  Or, as I kept saying to myself, “more bang for my buck”.  Interesting garden mantra, but it works.  Keeps me away from spending hours fiddling with minute weeds in a square foot of earth.

So now I’ve collected most of the toys that have languished all winter under dead plants, we’ve mowed and weedwhacked, scrubbed out the summer pool and relocated it to the garage, and pulled all the big milk weeds threatening to go to seed.

One bed is ready for swiss chard.  One I’m thinking seriously of making the herb bed…it’s easiest to access…but first I have to find places for all the strawberry babies that invaded it this fall.

Looking back, I’ve accomplished alot this week.  I sewed two beautiful toile covers for my big pillows.  The pillows have been sitting upstairs, uncovered, for two years.  And now they are beautiful and have been requisitioned as comfy seats for the play castle.  Someday they’ll make it to the living room.

I made a springy flower wreath for the front door.

Last week, I had the girls paint Valentine’s colors on pink paper and put the paintings in ‘their frames’.

And I did some other things, too, but I can’t remember them now. Not surprising.

Today was Ash Wednesday and now I’m thinking of Lent.  Late, as usual.  But better late than never.  Question, how to make it kid-understandable.

The BE attitude

On Sabbath I spent time thinking (or not thinking, as the case occasionally was) about be.

I seem to spend my days striving or trying to be…something.  Be responsible.  Be a good wife, mother, housekeeper, cook, daughter.  Be calm, kind, frugal, organized, educated, well-spoken.  Be. Be. Be. Be. Be.

Even the Sabbath is filled with wearisome BEs.  Be on time (!!!).  Be at church.  Be happy. Be friendly.  Take away church and I still feel the pressure to be faithful, be in tune spiritually, be good to people in need, be a student of Scripture, be still, or be still and know.  Be. Be. Be. Be. Be.

Take that away and I feel that I need to be me.  But that, also, is an awfully tall (and messy) order.

A Sabbath (sabbatical) is, I think, divine permission to just…BE.

No strings attached.


Sabbatical Preparation: Officially Begun

Well, there is only so much a girl can write about baby-induced sleep deprivation.  (Well, not really.  But I do have a great deal of power over that publish button that keeps me from talking about nothing but…)

Today I tore into the girl’s closet and did the grand switcharoo.  Summer clothes in current (almost outgrown) size put away.  Winter clothes (that it’s still too warm to wear) filling drawers and closet.  Summer clothes in upcoming size sorted and readied for our impending sabbatical to the tropical island of Guam.

So now they have nothing to wear between now and next Wednesday.  I refuse to think too deeply about this chink in my great accomplishment.

And I strongly considered trying to stuff all the girls clothes (including the bank of storage drawers) into my closet with my clothes (my three wardrobes–summer, winter, maternity).  Because it drives me NUTS that Amelie gets into the clothes and wreaks havoc.

But instead I’m keeping it as is, in faith that in three months she will be three months less likely to mess up my hours of labor.

If I got paid for the amount of time I spend getting their clothes sorted, I’d be making pretty decent money.  And that doesn’t include regular laundry time.

So we’ve got the clothes ready to be packed.  Minimalist plan is to take clothes and toothbrushes.  Any thing else is luxury.

I’ve started peeking in closets.  And asking myself if it would be a good or bad idea to take things like:

-the floor mat Grandma made for Lia that Levi is just the right age for and will have grown out of by the time we get back.  My mom has hard tile floors.  And it’s got jungle animals on it.

-the shopping cart cover thingy.  Again, just the right age.  (I’m thinking this goes to the bottom of the list).

-Sabbath School quarterlies

-Christmas sheet music

-which sling/carrier will we use the most?

BOB books and kindergarten workbooks, our usborne book about nature, and the kids yoga book

-Afrikaans books and videos, just a few…but which few?  I’m thinking the cartoon series based on Heidi.  Then Grandma can watch too.

-which Lori Wick book will I be just dying to read?  Or will I crave Maeve Binchy?  (Mom and Grandma already have Mrs. Pollifax).


Current plan: pile it all up on my dresser and then pack it in order of importance.  When I run out of room, that’s it!  No more!

Other than packing, not sleeping, and general happy family stuff, I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time working on our church’s Easter program.  We’re trying to get it set up before we leave.  It’s going to be really good.  Really.  Good.  (Is that boasting?  I don’t think I’m boasting…)

Between the hours at the computer, the hours walking the crying baby, and the lifting on and off of forty-eight outfits over two small heads today…my shoulders hurt.

I’m going to really miss yoga.


A Soprano of a Mother

Did I ever mention that I’m a soprano.  I mean, I was a soprano.  I mean, I think I’m still a soprano.  I hope I’m still a soprano.  I want to be a soprano.  Still.

Four years of college and fairly regular practice, as well as one year of a master’s in vocal performance at a fairly prestigious music school.  Operas, oratorios, the works.

And then I became a mother and used it as a wonderful excuse to excuse myself from another year of school and another $15K of student loans. It was absolutely the right choice.  On all accounts.

I sang for church a time or two post-baby.  Not the easiest thing maritally when your spouse is paid to show up and work hard on Sabbath morning.  Because three minutes of singing takes several hours of focus and focus doesn’t come easily in the midst of spit up and oopsie diapers.

So when asked when I am going to sing for church again, I say, “Either when our children are older or my husband finds a new job.”  I tell myself that it’s just not the season in my life for singing, and that Sabbath is a time to be together as a family.  One family member otherwise occupied is enough.

But as the years (did I say years? am I old enough to say years?) slip by, I am beginning to second-guess myself.  That maybe all the hard work and blood and sweat I put into overcoming my terrible case of stage fright might just fizzle and disappear.  And so I’ll be a 40 year old soprano who can’t be taken out in public.

Which would really be too bad.

I’ve been practicing.  A little.  About once every three months.  On average.  I started working on Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock when I was pregnant with Lia.  Still working on it.  I think that in my heart of hearts I don’t really want to finish it because it would be kind of like being all dressed up with no where to go.

A few months ago I was starting to sink into a perpetual state of glumness regarding the whole thing when, out of the blue, people started asking me when I was going to sing again.  And not just Jim L., who is a professional percussionist who played with an opera company for years (and soothes my soul with his compliments).  But really random people.  Really.  Random.  People.

So I perked up and made a list – a recital program of sorts – of my favorite art songs (read: new repertoire!).  With a few of Lia’s favorite songs.  And made a folder.  And more recently, shelled out the dollars for accompaniment CDs and internet downloads.  And put a copy of all the texts and translations into my notebook that contains all the vital information about my life.  And put all the songs and accompaniments onto Devo’s old iphone, in lieu of my dearly departed ipod.

I got it all ready to go…and promptly got sick.  And lost my voice.  Finally got fed up (I still sound scratchy) and started practicing anyhow.  While I do dishes.  When Devo takes the kids and I’m supposed to be napping.  Or, like tonight, with Levi in our borrowed ergo-carrier after putting the girls in bed.  And as Levi nodded off to sleep, he would jerk his head up and look at me with that what-on-earth-are-you-doing-Mommy-it’s-kind-of-freaking-me-out look whenever I sang anything over an F.

I’m hoping to overcome all the fear and bad habits I’ve accumulated by thinking about singing instead of actually…singing.

After Levi went soundly asleep, I crept into the girls room to see if Lia had gone to sleep.  (She likes to “sleep” with her “eyes open”.)  My Lia who loves Shepherd on the Rock (she should, she’s been hearing it since she was in utero), and Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate.  And who’s newest interest is opera…specifically The Magic Flute (it has a princess – and the Queen of the Night).  She was still awake.  She hummed for me her favorite song from the evening’s concert.  And my little Mommy heart went wooshy gooshy.  And then she asked why there are no songs in English.

I guess I should probably add some songs in English.

I love singing for my children.  They’re so non-judgmental.  Unlike their mother.  But I’m working that.

On my way to blog about this topic, I passed by facebook and saw that my friend Scott had posted a link to a video Laundry and Tosca about a woman (a soprano!) who worked a 9 to 5 for years, while practicing and dreaming her dreams.  How…fitting.

Edited to add:  I just finished watching Laundry and Tosca and it was amazing.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  If you have half an hour…

Children’s Spiritual Development and Sabbath School

When Lia was in Cradle Roll (ages 0 – 2 1/2) and Tiny Tots (ages 2 1/2 – 4 1/2) I spent my time critiquing the pedagogical efficacy of the way we do Sabbath School.  [Sabbath School, in case you don’t know, is like Sunday School – age-based classes before the main church service.]

Do babies and toddlers really learn best by holding a basket full of items that they take out and rattle at appropriate intervals?  By placing children in small chairs with well-dressed, skirt-clad parents sitting behind them, are we teaching parents how to engage in their child’s spiritual life?  Are we setting a lifelong expectation that the teacher is the primary spiritual teacher?

And I daydreamed about Sabbath School becoming something of a spiritual Gymboree – parents dressed to physically engage with their children, developmentally appropriate props and skills, sitting on the floor in a circle clapping and singing with babies in their parents laps.

But now, at the age of four and a half, Lia is starting to pick up on what her Sabbath School teachers are saying, so I’ve transferred my interest to the theology being presented. How is she being taught to think about God, the world, the church?

The first thing that caught my attention is how common it is to say that Esther or Jonah or Daniel prayed to Jesus.  Um, no, they didn’t.  They were pre-Jesus, old testament figures.  They prayed to God, Adonai, Yahweh – the big Jewish God who was so sacred, you wouldn’t utter God’s name.  To so freely mix in New Testament faith into Old Testament stories is to lose a great deal of …GOD.  In my opinion.

Curriculum-wise, the meanings that are drawn from the stories are often misleading and/or erroneous.  Daniel, for instance, and his rendezvous with the lions, is turned into a story about how angels protect God’s people when they pray.  And we hold toy steering wheels and sing songs like “when I go riding along, along, God takes care of me”.  (This particular song was never more painful to me than when it was sung in the presence of a teenager whose friend was – and still is – in a coma from a car accident).

If my child believes that the story of the lions den is only, mostly, or primarily about God’s angels keeping God’s people from harm, how am I going to explain things like car accidents, martyrs, or abuse from that point of view?

How about drawing on themes of devotion, faith, prayer, engaging with the powers-that-be when they overstep their bounds?

Our curriculum needs serious theological overhaul.  What children learn at this age is what shapes their world view, what shapes their God-view.

Maybe it would be a good idea to sit with Sabbath School teachers and talk about the stories – first at the adult level of understanding, and then at a child’s level of understanding.  I think both the teachers and the children would greatly benefit from a wider, more informed reading of the stories.

I would love to be a part of this change  – to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.  But as a church widow (ahem, I mean, married to a pastor), my responsibility is to my three children, caring for them and being the engaged parent during church hours.

So instead, this has really driven home what we’ve always believed –  parents are the most important spiritual guides/influence/leaders in a child’s life.  Not the Sabbath School teachers.  What we say at home needs to by far outweigh what they might hear elsewhere.

Which means, for us, is that we need to talk about God MORE.  And tell stories MORE. Lia loves to hear stories from the Bible.  She especially loves stories about Jesus… and bloody Old Testament stories.  (I think I’m going to give up on explaining the violence in the Old Testament and just let the stories speak for themselves…just like the Bible does).

And we need to continue to develop a language about God that we believe is right, rather than just accepting what gets handed on.

One of our greatest achievements in this matter is to hear Lia, when singing songs to herself, sing “Jesus came to show us how to live”.  We don’t believe that the entire purpose of Jesus’ life was His death.  His death is important, vitally important, but it was His life that brought Him to that death.  And the language we use is teaching her that both clearly and subtly.

The funny thing is that there are things that I know and believe with all my heart.  But when I open my mouth to explain them to our four-year-old question mark, I find that my understanding is full of holes.  So parenting is turning out to be a great faith-instiller, a great theological clarification process, and a great reason to study more.



Amelie has entered the greatly revered stage of the ubiquitous “Why?”.  To be sure, she has not yet mastered the art of asking question after question after question after question after question…  but the “why?” has begun to crop up more and more frequently in our conversations.

Sabbath morning, Amelie looks at me over the breakfast table and asks out of the blue, “Mommy, why Levi come out your body?”

Mental gear shift from “Don’t spill on your Sabbath dress” to the wonders of anatomy and physiology.

“Because that’s how babies are born.”  (Brilliant mommy reply, don’t you think?)

And that was the end of the conversation.  I thought.

So later on we’re walking into church, and the effusively welcoming greeter admires the children and then comments to the girls, “And what a sweet baby brother you have!”

And as the dear lady turns away, Amelie informs her, “He come out Mommy’s body!”