Monday, November 29, 2010

The light... near.

The tunnel just seems really crowded and impossible to navigate well.

I know I'll get there...and it will happen quickly. (Too quickly, in fact. I'm getting a little shaky just thinking about the pace of the next few weeks.) And along the way there will be several climactic and joyous moments to celebrate. Just a little worried about the quality of my task completion until then...and hoping there won't be too many horrifying moments of failure to mourn.

Certain things will suffer. I'll have to choose carefully.

I will also have to remind myself several times a day to slow my racing brain and frantic respiration to contemplate what is real.

Christmas is coming. And that Light will be beautiful to celebrate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Little House Christmas

We had an early little our little house (which feels a lot bigger with our new basement) with Aunt Kelly and Uncle Sean. Since they won't be 'home' for Christmas, they decided to spoil my daughters early with some perfectly chosen (and way too decadent) gifts while they were here for Thanksgiving. Kelly made for Maya a beautiful "Laura Ingalls" bonnet and apron...wrapped together in a basket with a little glass jar of chalk, her very own 'slate', some yarn and wooden beads for stringing and a book of Little House on the Prairie Crafts.
The bonnet and apron are seldom removed. (Every time I see her in her costume, it's a little reminiscent of my own childhood, spent dressed as "Old Mother Hubbard." if only she she added some white plastic sunglasses with the lenses removed....)

Her beloved basket now sits by her bed holding all her new treasures and her copy of By the Shores of Silver Lake. In the book, it's Christmas Eve right now. And the family is warm and happy by the fire, listening to Pa's fiddle and enjoying oneanother's presents and presence. With each Ingalls' Christmas we read about, I am struck again by the simplicity, the love, and the contentment, despite the incredibly hard life that they live. A typical Ingalls' Christmas included some hard-earned or hand-made Christmas gifts: two sticks of candy, AND a pair of knitted socks, AND... a tin cup.
Inspired by her heroes, Maya had the idea to make a "Charlotte" rag doll for Sophie this year for Christmas. Last week, she sewed one button eye to the doll's face...and then told me that she was just too tired to do the other. I love that she wants to do this for her sister. I hope Sophie understands someday how hard her sister worked....but mostly, how deeply she is loved.

Sophie was also quite spoiled... receiving her very own shopping cart and cash register. They love to take turns being "Da Lady" (who runs the cash register) and "The Customer" who fills the cart with pretend food, and uses the credit card to "pay". Their pretend play seamlessly leaps through time-periods and characters. And it's pretty delightful to get to pretend with them...or just watch and listen.

Thank you, Kelly and Sean and Chloe.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fall trip to Frederik Meijer Gardens

The trees were up, but not lit. We can't wait to go back to experience the whole Christmas display (including the beautiful train and village) and fun activities.

Sophie was a little mad because I made her slow down on the cement sidewalk.
She had already crashed once.

Entering one of our very favorite places to visit...the "Little House."

It's always extra cozy when the fire is roaring.

Maya taking a break in the garden maze.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

i didn't believe her...

...when she told me she could hula-hoop.

Then, I got to visit her at preschool. The moment didn't last long, but camera caught it to forever prove her claim.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Soon..we'll have to have a party...

It's not huge, but it will drastically increase the living space in our little house.

The basement is almost done!

A guest bedroom...just in time for the Holidays, come and visit!

Tile for the floor in front of the fireplace...Ryan finished the grout last night.

There is even more progress now...paint on the walls, tile in front of the fire, and carpet arriving on Friday.
More pictures coming soon.

Monday, November 08, 2010


Sometime, I am going to combine this and this (using sun-butter or soy-butter instead of peanut butter) to make my own peanut-free, gluten-free granola bars.

I've always wanted to make at least I'll have the recipe filed away here.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Good night (from Sophie, with some direction by Maya)

So we're a little obsessed with The Sound of Music these days.

All day long our house is filled with sweet (loud) little voices singing, "Da hiws ah alive wit-da sound of moo-sic...AAHHHH"

or "You ah sixteen going on seventeen, I'll take cay-ah of you"

Friday, November 05, 2010


Of the many reasons that I've grown to love October so much in the last few years, my favorite reason (at least for today) is the connectedness that I feel to the earth. The richness of the colors and smells. The cold air that fills every part of me, my lungs, and fingertips... The apples and pumpkins and squash and vegetables that we collect in the cold and bring home to be eaten and baked or transformed to soup. The many trips to the farms and orchards, the farmers' market, carving pumpkins with our hands and getting the stringy insides everywhere...

But I love November too...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

a day at the farm

Goats, sheep, wallabies, bunnies, a camel, zebra, elephant, pony....

Apples, pumpkins, cider, donuts.

Friends. Fall sunlight. Time together.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

our life these days. (6 posts in 1)

an overwhelming September...
The new fall routine hit us hard.

Maya, our pre-schooler, now has early morning places to be...dressed, fed, and off to school by 8 AM on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. Last year on all our early mornings (there were only 2)...we used to just carry the sleepy girls out to the car...all bundled up in their pajamas...and head to Grandma's house. The new weekday morning routine requires a lot more preparation and early rising every day.

My new school schedule was another hard adjustment. Three long full days of teaching approximately two hundred students daily, ranging in age from six to eighteen was a drastic change from last year's two mornings a week.
By week 2, both Sophie and I were pretty sick...allergies and asthma mostly. Her Albuterol and my Nyquil got us through some miserable sleepless nights together. She could hardly breathe, my voice was gone, and my headaches never seemed to go away.
Even if I'd been healthy, the planning and preparation of being a new teacher (again) was slightly unnerving at first (and will probably be again...especially in December...and May). There was so much paper-work, information gathering, communication, question asking,...on top of meetings, new colleagues, new and unknown expectations, hundreds of new names, curriculum planning, daily lesson planning for a completely new kind of teaching experience...on top of the older routines of my other school's curriculum planning/adjusting, daily lesson planning, communication...etc.
Mostly though, the new routine brought new worry, guilt, anguish, fear, regret...over the separation from my girls, their adjustment (and mine) to the new routines and more time apart. I felt like I was drowning in it all for a while. And I wasn't positive that I would surface before June. Honestly, I've been surviving only because of Ryan, and the fact the we live in (incredibly de-pendent) community with our parents and siblings, and some really good friends.

But by the end of September, my perspective was a little less cluttered...(unlike my house)...and the girls seem to be delighted to spend a little more time with their Grandmas, my students have made the teaching fun and rewarding, I have a classroom stocked with almost 40 little violins that make my new second graders smile every time they open their magical cases, the planning seems to be working, and I'm finally feeling more settled, grateful, excited, hopeful, at peace about all that is new this year.

two new family traditions forged this month...
The Cherokee for breakfast. We had forgotten. Though we used to be Saturday morning 'regulars' when we lived on Forest Hills, we sort-of abandoned the place once we had Maya. But we wandered through town last weekend and ended up there. We've already returned once, and this time we were wise enough to order a bit less food.

Hoffmaster State Park...and hiking in the cold. A few times now, after a quick dinner, we've escaped to the wooded dunes to catch some wind and golden sunlight on Lake Michigan. We also used our State Park sticker for a spontaneous late-night visit to Uncle Daniel, Isaac, and Will's campsite for s'mores.

alone time with Sophia...
While Maya floats from Pre-school to AWANA and back to Pre-school during the week, Sophie has enjoyed some rare individual attention. She doesn't stop thinking...or talking...or moving. Ever. And her spinning, hilarious thoughts make my life a LOT more fun.

a new family experience...
Instant Netflix...on our new TV. A significant viewing difference from our tiny laptop screen. But...I'm not sure how I feel about 'high definition.' Generally, I love the intensity, the clarity, the beauty of the picture. But, everything looks too...real? Like some of the magic is gone, and the actors just seem like actors. The lighting seems strange and artificial, I can tell how much make-up they are wearing, and even if they have cellulite. It almost looks like incredibly high-quality home video. I suppose I'll get used to it. But I'm not convinced.

a broken camera...
Our digital camera has been struggling for about a year now... and it finally gave up about a month ago. Maybe its demise has caused my lack of inspiration here. I do love to post pictures, and having none, my posts are few. My phone has been the only photo-documentation devise lately...and those pictures usually end up on facebook.

treasured weekends...
The weeks now seem to fly by in a stressful, exhausting frenzy. So Friday feels like a new blessing each time it arrives. Our first October weekend was spent mostly at home, working and playing. Ryan's been running wires in the basement, the girls have had fun playing with us and with each other..and have pulled out every toy, book, and puzzle they own (and put some of them away), and I've almost conquered the laundry folding...and re-organizing of new sizes and seasons of girls' clothes. Clothes are laid out for the early morning...and most of the lesson plans for the week are ready. And there is still Monday to enjoy..mostly at home.

...As I write this, the weekend has officially ended, and I must sleep. It seems I don't have the time to contemplate, or breathe, or blog very often. Hopefully, October will allow for more settled routines and more time to reflect.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Who is beyond your imagination.

"Bodily calm is part of our presence to people, and also to God. You may be on your knees, standing, sitting or prostrate. You try to stop the body moving. You focus on something physical: the breath flowing into you, or the sounds that invade your stillness, or the awareness of your enveloping skin. Then you give space to the Lord who created you, who is more central to your being than your own mind is, yet who is beyond your imagination.
I pause for a moment and think of the love and the grace that God showers on me: I am created in the image and likeness of God; I am God's dwelling-place.

I exist in a web of relationships - links to nature, people, God. I trace out these links, giving thanks for the life that flows through them.
Some links are twisted or broken: I may feel regret, anger, disappointment. I pray for the gift of acceptance and forgiveness."

~from Sacred Space this morning.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

I made this today....

North Muskegon Elementary Strings website

I thought that making it, and having it linked to their website would be a good way to distribute information and introduce myself, since I am new to the program.

I'm hoping to make one for Calvary the very near future.

Any suggestions? Typos?

Friday, September 03, 2010

wind in the trees

We've been listening to the wind all day. In the morning, we went straight outside to see the silvery sunlight peeking through the bending pine trees. The wind was glorious on our faces, in our hair. We just had to go out walking. It was cold, but that perfect kind of bearable cold that seems just right.

While Sophie and Maya covered the sidewalk with chalk art, I sat on the front porch filling out some school paperwork. The sun disappeared and reappeared all morning as Maya and I sat on our front steps watching the clouds roll across the sky. When we came inside, we opened all the windows in the house. The curtains have been billowing, doors slamming all day. I had almost forgotten the wonderful smell of cold and earth and fall.

Summer is still my 'favorite,' I think. But every year I start to wonder...

We drove around running errands...finally meeting Ryan, Grandma 'Go-Go', Emma, and Liam for Egg-drop soup, Jam Bong soup, chicken, egg-rolls, rangoons and rice at the Egg Roll House. Snow White, The Poky Little Puppy, and Laura & Mary Ingalls greeted us back at home in the girls' beds. As I lay beside Maya, we tried to be still, listening to the sound of the wind in the trees. As I had hoped, nap time was extra long.

One of my grade books is ready, there is so much more to be done before next Tuesday. But it will happen...somehow. We're ready to eat Squash Bisque and parmesan beer bread for dinner. (I even made extra soup to freeze for our busy fall schedule)

It has already been a good end to a busy week. It seems to be fall now. I think I'll go digging for that fall wreath...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The End.

This afternoon, I will drive to MSU for my very last class.
My assignments are all done. I still have to email my last paper. But I'm done. I'm not sure I quite believe it, actually. But this is the end.

Tomorrow, when Ryan is done working, we'll leave for the cabin.

There are piles of clean laundry to be folded, and suitcases that need to be packed. The house needs some serious attention, but the mountain of dirty dishes is gone. The kitchen is actually quite functional now. I've been a little productive, but mostly the girls and I have been playing all morning. Maya figured out how to play most of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on the piano today. She was trying last night..and this morning, she got it. Finding that first interval was really hard, she kept guessing and getting frustrated. I'm not sure how she memorized her starting note, or the distance between do and sol, but she's got it down now. It is so fun to watch her working at something with such focus..and then experiencing the delight of realizing her success. It's pretty magical to watch. We've listened to a short Youtube excerpt of Swan Lake again and again. She wants to figure that one out next. That, and Vivaldi's Spring. Sequential learning is just so tedious.

I'll get more laundry/cleaning/packing done tonight and tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

just like last year...

I am sitting here, typing a paper for school. Well, I should be. I just took a five minute break to make sure that this day does not go completely unnoticed, undocumented, or uncelebrated.
Ryan is in the other room, catching some election results, and trying to stay awake with me. I just got home from class a couple of hours ago.

Throughout the story-time bedtime routine... we've been chatting all evening, little snippets of funny conversations. We can't wait until we can really have conversations. Maybe even a real date.

It's our eighth anniversary today. We're feeling extra romantic and silly with love. And yet, here I sit, typing away on the computer...writing my very last assignment for my Master's degree...preparing to give my very final presentation tomorrow morning in my Research class. I should be a little stressed, since I'm not completely ready yet. But instead, I'm just happy. Calmly contented, knowing that in just two days, it will be officially complete. And in the morning, I may not have slept much, but I'll be ready for my presentation. And I'll have homemade blueberry muffins for my class. I can smell them baking right now.

Next year, we're going to have to celebrate big, to make up for our lame anniversary night dates of recent years. But I'm happier than ever to wake up beside this amazing man who supports and sustains me in more ways than I even know. Our love seems sweeter, richer these days. More fierce and exciting, and at the same time, steadier and more solid.

I am a very lucky girl.

Back to my research paper...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I know it's not what you expect here...

...but this is the best I can do right now...for a post.

This is what my mind is thinking about, at least on the back burner, 99.9% of the time. Yes, even when I'm sleeping...I dream about finding great research articles.

I'm kind of a nerd. But this is pretty exciting stuff. I'll probably let a lot of it go in about 3 and a half weeks. For now though, these are my thoughts...

The Formation of Musical Identity

Monday, July 05, 2010

One of my favorite sounds.

Sophie's happy sleepy voice. (while laying on her pillow tonight...)

"Mama, I yun-you-a hole my hee-ann." (translation: Mama, I want you to hold my hand.)

It's impossible to resist. So I hold her tiny fingers...all wrapped around my thumb. For a long while. And all the time I'm thinking about how lucky I fleeting and wonderful is this moment.

And when I finally say, "okay, Sophie, it's time to go to sleep now"...

...and she says, "Mama, hole my hee-ann peas?"...

...and I say, "I will, the morning when you wake up."

...she just flutters her sleepy eyes, smiles and sighs, "okay."

Sometimes, bed time is perfect.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer break is over... least until August.

Tomorrow I begin my last summer of commuting to MSU for my Masters program.

I've got the ipod ready with an audio book from the library.

My stomach is feeling jittery, and my brain is panicking a little. I'm going to miss my girls this week. And I'm going to miss my Ryan too.

So here I am, typing when I should be sleeping or packing or reading for my class...but sometimes blogging just helps me clear the chaos and focus.

I must finish packing, so that sleep can follow soon.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

cabin weekend in pictures

It seemed more formidable in the middle of the night, blocking the road to the cabin in the thickness of the dark woods.

In the daylight, Ryan saw that he could move it with just a hand saw and his bare hands. Well, gloved hands. It only took a few minutes.Watching him move the giant obstacle out of the cabin road reminded me of our first cabin trip alone together almost eight years ago. When we arrived on our honeymoon to a very similar sight, he didn't hesitate at all to move the tree with his bare hands! (But this time, our desperation for sleep, the midnight darkness, and the two sleeping children in the car made the hotel decision pretty easy to make.)
The girls were excited to wake up in a hotel, though Maya was confused when she first looked around, "how do we get out of here, Daddy?"
Just sleeping in their own big bed together was enough to satisfy their hunger for adventure...but when they found out about the continental breakfast and the POOL they were really impressed.
After a quick swim in a very cold pool, we were all ready to finally head to the cabin.
The first breath of cabin air was more refreshing, healing, and comforting than I ever remember. I have seldom arrived at the cabin in the morning. Usually, the long drive north brings us to the cabin by the late afternoon, or sunset, or most darkness. The first glimpse of the sparkling water through the cedar trees, the rhythm of our feet hitting the stone path to the dock, the creaking of the hinges on the wooden screen door and that wonderful slap of the wood when it closes...all seemed even better this time. I think my pleasure was made richer by the wonder (that I've always felt) shining on the faces of my girls too. Maya remembered so much from last year, but she seemed to soak it in with more awareness and love this time.
Sophia was wide-eyed and eager for every new surprise. The cozy little lamp on the top bunk in the 'kid' bedroom was her first delight.

But the attic, where we all slept was the place the girls loved most. Maya loved the fact that she could see the stone chimney going up through the roof. They could have played in the attic pretending they were Laura and Mary in their "Little House" all weekend if we hadn't forced them to find other cabin adventures...

(a friendly dog named "Sophie" at the Creekside Gallery)

Sophie was a big fan of s'mores. She only had one...of the half cracker size...but I think that chocolate was to blame (in part) for the terrible bedtime we had later. They did NOT want to fall asleep.

One morning, I even woke to sunlight streaming in the open window above my head, birds calling, the bubbling sound of coffee brewing and a crackling cedar wood fire.