Thursday, December 10, 2009

The biggest problem with a 'people-pleasing' obsession

"We must continually remind ourselves that the first commandment requiring us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, is indeed the first. I wonder if we really believe this. it seems that in fact we live as if we should give as much of our heart, soul, and mind as posisble to our fellow human beings, while trying hard not to forget God...But Jesus claim is much more radical. He asks for a single-minded commitment to God and God alone. God wants all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul."
--Henri J.M. Nouwen

Instead of walking in the continual presence of God, I often walk within the worry and sadness of my own (and sometimes others') perceived inadequacies, failures, relationships, and losses. In doing this, I disregard the love for us that God has so abundantly revealed in his coming. By choosing to walk in worry and doubt, concerned with the people around me (and all their worries, and fears, and expectations), I also ignore his command to walk in Him, to give him all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my mind.
Today's advent reading from Matthew 22:34-38 (when Jesus tells the Pharisees about the most important commandment), challenges me to get rid of those old worries (and to deliberately choose give up forever) in exchange for the "shelter of a loved and loving God."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

We already had our 'fake' tree up...

...but Ryan took us to his childhood Christmas Tree farm for a snowy hayride, hot chocolate, and a fresh wreath for our front door.

In the midst of ethnomusicology research papers, Christmas program planning, church choir rehearsals, business trips, and the cleaning, and 'stuff'...we're loving all the Advent and Christmas traditions that are feeling more and more permanent in our family.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Musical spontaneity remains

when children are not ‘redirected’ or ‘hampered’

by adult intervention.

They may not always need

our ‘approval’ or guidance

for making their music.

(paraphrased from the book "Songs in Their Heads" by Patricia Campbell)

Take out the first word 'musical' and insert...artistic, playful, creative, intellectual, social, linguistic, etc...

and the statement remains as convicting (at least for me.)

Though I'm a big fan of approval in general (guidance too!), I love this reminder of how gentle, purposeful, and careful must be the work of parenting and teaching.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One more reason I teach and make music...

...lastly and most importantly, I believe, music and music education help develop a child’s sense of being, her consciousness, her ‘self.’ Madeleine L’Engle, who is best known as the award-winning author of A Wrinkle in Time, believes that one of the greatest responsibilities of educators is “to give the child a self.” Instead, educators, parents, coaches, administrators, and counselors often struggle to give them something drastically different (and I would argue, inferior), a ‘self-image.’ Is our culture’s preoccupation with giving children a ‘self-image’ a good idea?
By giving a child a self instead, we are not giving them “something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming. Being does mean becoming.” (Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet)
This concept of ‘becoming,’ of having a self, of consciousness is a defining human capability. Overcoming the selfish self, the self-image, means that we are becoming more real, more human, more loving. We become more conscious and less self-conscious. Consciousness is authentic sensitivity, awareness of being. Self-consciousness is superficial, affected, and selfish. L’Engle explores this truth and its connection to creativity in A Circle of Quiet (one of my favorites of her non-fiction), “So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves.”

Some reasons I teach and make music.

...the inherent and unique ability of music to bring order to consciousness for those who engage in ‘musicing.’ Just as writing helps bring clarity and order to my also helps clarify my thoughts and feelings which cannot be expressed with words. provides opportunities to experience “flow” (motivation which occurs when exciting challenges are perfectly balanced to match and extend ability) which spurs self-growth and self-knowledge.
...the distinctive power of music to “refine and extend” our ability to feel. By intensifying our felt experiences, music allows us to deepen our connections with the world around us, to broaden our capacity to love, and ultimately to strengthen and enrich our humanity.

I think these ideas capture a small (and somewhat cloudy) glimpse of the true masterpiece (the 'big picture') of the way that we were created to our Creator so generously intended.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heard you that shriek? It rose
So wildly on the air,
It seem'd as if a burden'd heart
Was breaking in despair.
Saw you those hands so sadly clasped --
The bowed and feeble head --
The shuddering of that fragile form --
That look of grief and dread?
Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
Its every glance was pain,
As if a storm of agony
Were sweeping through the brain.
She is a mother pale with fear,
Her boy clings to her side,
And in her kyrtle vainly tries
His trembling form to hide.
He is not hers, although she bore
For him a mother's pains;
He is not hers, although her blood
is coursing through his veins!
He is not hers, for cruel hands
May rudely tear apart
The only wreath of household love
That binds her breaking heart.
His love has been a joyous light
That o'er her pathway smiled,
A fountain gushing ever new,
Amid life's desert wild.
His lightest word has been a tone
Of music round her heart,
Their lives a streamlet blent in one --
Oh, Father! must they part?
They tear him from her circling arms,
Her last and fond embrace: --
Oh! never more may her sad eyes
Gaze on his mournful face.
No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
Disturb the listening air;
She is a mother, and her heart
Is breaking in despair.

"The Slave Mother," by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

This week I transcribed (into musical notation) a recording of this poem. It brought me to tears several times. I could say much more...but I've just been writing too many papers instead.

Friday, October 09, 2009

the end of summer seems forever ago...

My fingers are freezing right now, actually. But I'm still cherishing the beginning of fall. Cherishing, slow-cooking...and baking (too much). Since the cold and rain began, we've already enjoyed pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, apple crisp, chocolate chip cookies, rustic peach pie, squash bisque, pork roast... I love all the warm smells (and flavors) in our kitchen.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Pictures from a fall 2005 post.

This one of Will all bundled up was taken at one of Liam's soccer games. I think I was secretly pregnant with Maya when I took this picture of her big cousin Will.

I'm thinking about fall...even wore a sweater today. It was premature. The girls and I were peeling off layers when we got back into the car at the library.

But I think it's okay to start pretending it's fall. A few nights ago, we had squash bisque for dinner.
We bought another butternut squash today... and all the ingredients for pumpkin pie and a big bag of apples (which may become a pie as well).

That wreath is back up on our door...only now our door is navy (it'll probably end up red soon though, I just can't help it.)

But we've also been thinking about our little Will all day...he's much bigger now than in the above picture. And today, he's pretty sick, maybe pneumonia + asthma...needing oxygen and staying the night at Hackley.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

four kids are sleeping upstairs.

We feel pretty proud of our accomplishment. Four children, all of them under four are having their very first sleepover slumber party. They are sharing two bedrooms. They are all asleep.

And the only one who really struggled with bedtime was Maya...she was just...way. too. excited. She was so determined to obey. To go right to sleep. To do 'better' than she did at nap time (when she was removed from the 'sleepover room'). But she just couldn't leave poor (exhausted) Natalie alone. She kept telling her to close her eyes. The 'no talking' rule seemed less important than her need restate the rules in a mother-ish condescending tone to her silently annoyed friend.

We tried hard to keep them so busy today that no one would have time to revolt or whine and so tired that they couldn't help but sleep. It worked, everyone in the whole house (except myself) took a 2-3 hour nap, and I got a lot of reading (even some lesson-planning) done. But after naptime, we had to get them all tired again, so there were two long walks, one carousel ride, side-walk chalk art, soccer games, bike riding, bubbles, races around the house with all the neighbor kids, violin lessons, snacks, pajamas, and stories.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

It seems like there should be something else to do.

But I am utterly incapable of doing anything...except to pray. I know I should realize that more often. But this evening this truth is very real to me. And even more to my friends.

Please pray with us....

We have enjoyed forming a really deep friendship this year with Rick and Cindy Kamp and their daughter Lauren (2). In early August, Rick was diagnosed cancer. They arrived again at Mayo this week to begin the Mayo 'Protocol' for his type of cancer....a process that involves cancer treatment followed by a Liver transplant. This treatment plan is usually very effective...and his prognosis is quite good if all goes well. It has been an incredibly difficult summer for them, but they have been grateful to have good treatment and a solid plan from the doctors at Maya. Their faith is humbling.

But today, a CT scan showed bumps in Rick's peritoneal cavity that the radiologist interpreted as metastisis. This disease is rapidly terminal if there are metastisis in PSC patients and Rick would be excluded from his 'eligibility' for the 'protocol' (treatment and Liver transplant) that has been planned.

They should find out tomorrow afternoon if these bumps are cancer or if the CT scan results were wrong.

Please pray.

Rick's carepage

Thursday, August 27, 2009

We found "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

He was eating through one of our tomatoes in the we let him have it. It's been about 3 days, and he's almost finished it. I don't think I've ever seen such a huge caterpillar...he's larger than any of my fingers.

Maya named him...or her..."Maya, a 'gayl'. Cuz I love Maya. I love my name."

Monday, August 03, 2009

'Your eyes smile peace.'

Sonnet XIX - Silent Noon

Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace.
The pasture gleams and glooms

'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.

All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup-fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.

Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:—
So this wing'd hour is dropt to us from above,

Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
musical setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams

I wish I could write more here. But I'm trying to type a critical analysis of this beautiful sonnet/art song.

Tonight, our 'nest' is not quite so romantic. But still, this 'hour is dropt to us from above.' And I guess, in a way, we're enjoying our 'two-fold silent song of love.'

Happy seventh anniversary, baby.
I love you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I went back to MSU...

...and haven't been seen here ever since. I should have written that prediction into my last post. Or did I?

The two weeks I spent being immersed in Music Learning Theory were overwhelmingly fun, exhausting, inspiring...everything that I was certain they would be. The flood of learning was constant...philosophical ideas, educational research, theoretical concepts, practical knowledge and skills... It was enough to satisfy me for a while...the kind of learning that keeps growing, even after you leave the 'classroom.'

Ryan spent the first week and a half touring Lansing with Maya and Sophia. The highlight was Impression 5 Science Museum. But they also found gardens and playgrounds, mall play areas, parks, storytimes at libraries and bookstores. The girls loved having so much time with their Daddy. Uncle Randy and Aunt Jo entertained us, and put up with our chaos and noise, cooking for us all week, and even participated in 'practice music lessons' for me.

The next week marked the start of the real Summer Session, and daily 2 hour commutes both ways.

And now...
...I am drowning. In exhaustion. In the mess of my house. In my sadness over missing days in a row with my girls. In Music Theory assignments and quizzes (which bring back all my feelings of anxiety and insecurity and frustration that I remember from sitting in Math class!) In guilt for not completely enjoying the decadence of education.

I've been consuming audiobooks insatiably during my drives. That is a great pleasure. Except that for some reason, I've chosen really depressing stories lately, all seeming to have a common theme of death....Ellie Wiesel's Night, Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Master and Man...and now I've begun Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.
Don't tell me the ending...but I'm really hoping the old man does not die. However, he has been 2 days out at sea, without much food being pulled by a giant fish... Maybe I just need to find some light, shallow 'literature' to fill my time in the car.
One of my courses this summer is near the top of my 'favorites thus far' list, Curriculum with Judy Palac. She is a brilliant and generous thinker. I love being in her class...her smile and frequent laughter are engaging. She seems always patient and calmly assured as we discuss the questions she guides us with. And the content is exactly what I need most in my teaching right now. One of the things I've most enjoyed at MSU has been the balance and richness of learning both theoretical and practical....the unending immersion in scholarly research and philosophical writings...and the constant questioning and application of these ideas to actual teaching.

We took a fast trip to the cabin over the 4th of July weekend. It was a blur, and knowing this would be the case, I took lots of pictures.

While we were there we saw....
...a doe and a fawn crossing the road, 2 turkey vultures perched on the dock trying to intimidate a seagul to steal his fresh fish, a very loud osprey, a parade in 'downtown' Cedarville,a mechanic who put a new battery in our car which quit working, 1 tick on Maya's scalp, and Sophie constantly trying to get into trouble in and out of the cabin. It was quite a trip... Maya still sings "Around the corner's the cabin" (tune: For he's a jolly good fellow...) daily, sometimes changing the lyrics to reflect the fact that the cabin is actually not around the corner any more.

This weekend we've been trying to recover, spending as much time all together as we can, riding around town in our little old convertible...and I've been slowly attempting to finish my Music Theory homework.
I've almost given up on keeping my house clean...(thank you, sweet friend for helping me try :)
though my family has been eating well thanks to my Mother-in-law and Mother who keep feeding us.

Only 4 more weeks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Back to MSU

Two years ago I was introduced grad school and to Edwin Gordon's Music Learning Theory in a week-long 'workshop' course at MSU. It was a fun week that reawakened my mind and reignited my love of learning. The introduction to Music Learning Theory both affirmed (some of) and reversed (others of) my thoughts and practices as a music teacher. My eagerness to learn more was instant, but my enthusiasm and understanding has been steadily growing ever since. Maybe I'll post about it someday. But next week, I'll begin my first certification workshop in MLT with one of my favorite professors and two of the brilliant teachers that she introduced me to.

I'm so excited.

We all leave on Sunday night. Ryan, Maya, Sophie and I will all be staying with our very generous Uncle Randy and Aunt Jo for a week...or more if they'll let us. Ryan has a week away from work and will spend it touring the playgrounds of Lansing with Maya and Sophie.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

If Anything Ever Goes Wrong At The Zoo

by Mary Jean Hendrick and Jane Dyer
is one of our favorite books from the library right now.

So Maya and Sophie were floored with excitement when I announced at breakfast last week, "We're going to the Zoo today!!"

It was a rare kind of adventure for a mid-week trip without Daddy (who unfortunately had to work). But it was spent with good friends that we've loved for a while...and some new friends that we love too.
With lots of wonderful snacks and lunches packed by our generous friend, Jen, the day was magical and exciting and even slightly relaxing.

(Having a sweet four-year-old companion for my Maya seemed to keep her completely out of trouble...even amidst chaos, crowds, heat, with only a single-parent for the day, and no double stroller!)

So although we've been reading about a catastrophic day at the Zoo....for us, absolutely nothing went wrong at the Zoo.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Chunky Urban Bucket Hat from afterthebump

Red Felt Mary Jane's from ithinksewdotcom

Kawaii Zakka Paris Pillow from dedeetsyshop

Pretend Play Sugar Cookies from Madelaines

If only I had more time and money to make imaginative and adorable things for my girls....

I should be reading Learning Sequences in Music: Skill, Content, and Patterns (required reading before my class in 2 weeks) or sleeping....not posting random things I found on the internet to my blog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

This may be my favorite of Madeleine L'Engle's 'Time Quintet' (A Wrinkle In Time) so far. The possibility and hope of this story (these many stories, really) intertwined through creation, history, humanity, individuals, and time are still making my heart race and my mind swirl a little.

I love the way that Reality is made clearer in L'Engle stories...that what we see is not all that is. And that what we cannot see is far more real. As I read, I felt newly awakened to the reality of how small I am. How fleeting are all things visible and present. And yet even as I was dwarfed by the enormity of the Universe and my Creator, I was synchronously awed by the significance and interconnectedness of each person, each action, and each moment.

At the risk of sounding silly, ridiculously romantic, and childish....I'm kind of hoping my dreams tonight will be graced with time-traveling unicorns and wind and sparkling water and golden sun....

But despite the appeal of all those enchanting images, the truths that Madeleine L'Engle so brilliantly and generously has given her readers in this story will linger in my conscious far longer than my wild dreams of time travel and outer space.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Romaine, basil, mint, red pepper... onions, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumber, and green beans.

Our first attempt to grow food.

We may have been a little over-zealous in our quantity, for such a small garden. Some of the cucumber plants (that Ryan and Maya started as seeds) already seem to be a little scrunched and choked....or maybe they're just wimpy. But most of the other plants are still looking quite hopeful.

I'm mildly concerned about the hungry animals that make their home in our yard. Do squirrels like to eat lettuce and tomatoes? I've only ever seen one 'Peter Rabbit' in our yard this year...but we do have squirrels in abundance.

But if the rabbits and squirrels don't steal it all, we may have some very fresh salad at our house this summer for our friends who come to visit.

You'll have to wait a few weeks though.

Of course you're still welcome to come sooner if you're not just in it for our organic food.