Monday, December 26, 2011

“Our love of course seemed to us a miracle. First love always does, the old, old story sung by poets and sneered at by wrinkled of heart. And yet it is a miracle, an unbelievable miracle, just as every springtime of the earth is a miracle.”
"And there was a principle of courtesy: whatever one of us asked the other to do- it was assumed the asker would weight all consequences--the other would do. Thus one might wake the other in the night and ask for a cup of water; and the other would peacefully (and sleepily) fetch it. We, in fact, defined courtesy as 'a cup of water in the night.' And we considered it a very great courtesy to ask for the cup as well as to fetch it."
~Sheldon VanAuken, A Severe Mercy

Some of my favorite themes from a treasured book. And even better than reading the book, is the realization again and again, that for me, it's not just a romantic dream or a deep and unfulfilled spiritual longing. I'm actually lucky enough to have a love just like this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wishing you Joy

Dear Friends,

If you are reading this, we are probably connected somehow... by a bond of family or friendship or overlapping lives (or lives that overlapped long ago). Our bond may be new or old, growing deeper, or a bit faded with distance, maybe we were close in a different place or time (a completely different life, it may seem). But no matter how our lives are connected, we love you and wish you great joy (and hope and peace) this Christmas.

We are so grateful for His gift of Love....and for the many ways that you have shown us that Love by your lives and your friendship.

Merry Christmas from the Corbins!

Ang, Ryan, Maya, and Sophia

(p.s.-- Consider this your Christmas's all that's happening this year)

Advent Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparation for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for
the complete joy of your Kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy
seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people,
walking in darkness yet seeking the light.
To you we say
“Come, Lord Jesus”.

~Henri Nouwen

Monday, December 19, 2011


Never were there such devoted sisters."

(Creepy make-up, I know. It was 'required' for her dance recital. She looks frighteningly like her future 16 year old self. But I love their embrace in this picture. So excited and happy.)

Right now, as I type, I'm listening up the Maya breathlessly singing... "two different faces, but in tight places...."

She can hardly keep her voice going for all the dancing she's doing. I hear her feet thumping around.

A minute ago, as they got their pajamas on, Maya and Sophie went back and forth (about twelve times) saying, "thirsty" (Maya) and "thuh-sty" (Sophie).

It started like this...

Sophie: (from the bathroom, probably getting a dixie cup full of water) Maya, ah you thusty?
Maya: (a bit mockingly) Thusty? Sophie, do you mean thirsty?
Sophie: Yeah, thusty. Ah you thusty, Maya?
Maya: Sophie! It's THIRSTY. Say THIRSTY.
Sophie: Thusty
Maya: Thirsty
Sophie: Thusty
Maya: THIRRRRRRR... Sophie, say Thirrrrrrrrrr
Maya: THIRRRRRRR... Sophie, say Thirrrrrrrrrr
Maya: (sweetly condescending) goooood, Sophie. Thirrrrrrrr...
Sophie: Thuuuuuuuuh
Maya: Thirrrrrrrrr...

...and it went on like this for quite some time. Then, the song began... "Sisters, sisters..."

I'm not making this up.

But I should go send them to bed.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I've been hunting

...for the original clothes for my American Girl "Kirsten" doll ever since I brought her out of storage for Maya and Sophie to play with. Until a few months ago, she was packed up in a clear zippered bag on a shelf in the basement, just waiting for the day my daughters were ready.

This summer, when one of Maya's generous friends decided to just GIVE her an (extra) American Girl doll...(and a Bitty Baby for Sophie, and dresses and accessories, etc.) it was time. I decided to get my Kirsten out, so that when another friend came over to play (that same day), they could play together. But my doll had no clothes. I just knew that they were packed away carefully in a shoe box...somewhere. I asked my parents to search my old closet, the garage storage, the crawl space...

When I was little, I knew that ownership of such a doll was no small thing. In fact, no one gave her to me. I'm pretty sure I knew better than to even ask. I carefully studied (or memorized) the catalog as I saved my money...for...years. When I finally had the $90, I ordered her.

Just the doll. Not the extra accessories...

Not any of the other outfits or books or furniture either. I made those. I sewed a detailed quilt by hand, my dad built a poster bed, and I made pillows, a sham, a fitted sheet & top sheet, I made her an apron, my mother sewed her an extra dress. I loved this doll. And I loved the historic time she represented and all the ways she excited my imagination.

I do have issues with the whole game that the "American Girl" company runs. While there are a few great ideals wrapped up in the "American Girl" package, it mostly seems to be a slick and brilliant business, marketing endless products and accessories, all exhorbitantly priced, offering branding and identity shaping, early materialism building.... The whole machine makes me a bit cynical.

But I'm obviously still (a little?) guiltily hooked. I try to be a skeptic, but deep down, it's really hopeless for me.

After that day that I pulled my Kirsten out of storage, I did a little internet searching on her. She's 'retired' now, and sells for over $300 new. Not that I'd ever try to sell her (she's not in good enough shape if I did)...I was however a bit more desperate to find those original clothes. I called my parents again. I went there and dug through my old closet myself. No luck.

Tonight, as Ryan pulled down the Christmas boxes from the garage attic, he found a box, a huge forgotten plastic tub. He thought it might hold some of my childhood things. He was right. It was filled with baby blankets and six labeled shoe boxes, each a treasure chest for a sentimental mother of two little daughters. Inside the tub, I found my old Madame Alexander baby doll from my Aunt Connie, my only "Barbie" (not a real worldly Barbie, of course. Mine was actually a Biblical "Esther" doll purchased at the local Christian book store), my Hatian doll (brought back by missionaries), a white and pink quilt from my bed, a few of my prettiest baby clothes, several doll dresses, and my beloved "Sarah" cabbage patch doll.

I had a handsewn "cabbage patch-wanna-be doll" for a long time (that someone made lovingly for me, I'm sure), but it just was never the same to me. I always wanted a real one, like all my friends had. When I was seriously ill in the hospital as a five-year-old, my next-door neighbors bought one for me. I still remember opening the box in my hospital bed. She had long brown hair and brown eyes like mine. She wore authentic cabbage patch accessories, white & pink pin-stripe jeans, white tennis shoes with pink stripes, a pink rain jacket (all found preserved in this magical bin). Owning her then made me feel SO rich.

And in the box on the bottom, Kirsten's things. The pillow I made for her bed with a ruffled edge and heart hand stiched in the center, a red flannel nightgown (which will be perfect for our Corbin family Christmas red-flannel pajamas tradition) and Kirsten's original dress and apron.

I'm full of once forgotten memories now, and...pretty excited to reveal my treasures in the morning to my two sleeping girls.

Friday, November 18, 2011

day for giving thanks

On days like today, it's so easy. The wind keeps roaring wildly as it passes by the house and plows into the siding. The leaves are swirlng everywhere and the golden sunlight makes all of it glow. (I know, I have an obnoxiously recurring thing about 'golden sunlight' and wind. I just can't get over them. I think these kind of days force me to blog becuase I feel just too full.) When I happen to notice life-giving beauty for a moment, it seems time-less and mesmerizing, and I desperately want to store it make it through the not-so-beautiful days.

The perfection of the magical picture outside my window isn't real. I'm well aware. Life just isn't quite that picturesque. For the past three weeks, I've been sick, ...hacking and coughing, struggling to breathe every night. Sore and weak from not sleeping, I've been grumpy and whiny too. In my exhaustion I tend to worry about things I care deeply about but can't solve. I've also begun to feel that nagging sense of urgency about my students' upcoming concert and my lack of remaining rehearsal time.

Ryan was gone on a business trip the night before last, and my single-mom-for-a-night self was frustrated and impatient with my squirelly children who where being silly and ridiculous and NOT getting ready for bed after a late night out at Wednesday night church. After a tearful saga and loud and a rather dramatic bedtime routine, we all finally slept.

Yesterday, the girls played with their Nana, while I spent the day listening to beautiful (as well as awful) violin, viola, and cello sounds, listening to (and attempting to offer wise advice? for) elementary playground conflicts, passing out bandaids, comforting tears, and hearing delightful stories about hours spent practicing and new songs memorized.

Now today, all seems well again. So my gratitude kicks in. Looking back, my week was just busy enough, with days at home, and work that I love at school. I feel full and accomplished and overflowing with gratitude for this restful day. My love for my students is growing as I watch them grow and our knowledge of one another grows too. They delighted me with enthusiastic stories of their practicing accomplishments this week.

Ryan arrived back home last night after two business trips in two weeks. And today, after work he begins his full week of vacation. (I'm envisioning a new mantle built over the fireplace and boxes of Christmas decorations being unpacked, stockings hung, lights twinkling...)

Sophie is sleeping upstairs after our fun morning of bringing Maya to school, sipping our coffee and chocolate milk at Starbucks, cleaning our house, reading stories, and bringing birthday oranges to Great Grandpa Andy & Grandma Marge. While we were there, Sophie got several rides down the hall on their walker (which I think is only used for giving Sophie rides?). They made her a bowl of Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup at her request (at 10:30 AM!?) and a cup of instant coffee for me. We dug around their apartment through three bedrooms full of old cassette tapes, VHS tapes, books, pictures, boxes of yarn and old greeting cards searching for the DVD of Anne of Green Gables. The grandchildren bought it for Grandma last year for Mother's Day, but she couldn't remember where it was. When we finally found it, we discovered a broken DVD/VHS player. A problem that will need to be solved soon.

But the time was lovely, and I can't get over how grateful I am that my daughters have such rich connections with (four sets!! of ) grandparents and great grandparents. I've always had special grandparent connections too, but mine always lived far away, and my Great Grandparents where all gone before I was born. My children have an almost daily kind of life with Grandparents. Something I never even imagined. Today, Sophie's 93 year old great grandfather hopped down to his knees (as if it were no big deal) to give her a big good-bye hug. She ran to meet him (and I envisioned, with horror, her wild force knocking him over) and gave him a gentle hug. (phew)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

beef & barley

We're a little low on (okay...almost completely out of) groceries. But I really wanted dinner to be waiting for us after church tonight. And I had some beef tips in the freezer, a few carrots in the fridge, and a semi-well-stocked pantry, this afternoon, I put the slow-cooker and the bread machine to work.

Beef & Barley
Beef tips (for stew), browned
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves pressed
1 cup dry barley
3 cups beef broth
14.5 oz canned tomatoes (with Italian seasoning)
1 1/2 cups water
garlic powder (to taste)
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

with Honey Whole Wheat Bread in the bread machine.

As soon as we stepped inside the house tonight, Maya turned around with big eyes and said to me, "It smells SO GOOD in here!!!" and added a few seconds later..."Home. Sweet. Home!"

We're all excited for left-overs for lunch tomorrow.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our Little House

When Laura left home to take her first teaching assignment, she stayed with the Brewster family in a town 12 miles away. Every night of her stay was miserable, awkward, cold, and sometimes frightening. The Brewster family was very unhappy, their child neglected, their home a mess, and their words were always bitter and angry. Sometimes there was cold silence for evenings on end, broken only by loud arguments and hateful words screamed all night long.
Although Laura never told anyone about her miserable lodgings, Almanzo came to the little school every Friday to bring Laura home for the weekend. She realized, as she left one world and entered another, that her home was warm and safe because of the love and kindness that her family had for one another. There were no angry words, no selfish complaints, no sharp arguments. Everyone did a great deal of work to provide for one another. The chores were hard and never ending, but everyone helped each other willingly with love and gratitude.

I wonder how much, if any, of this story is fiction. It doesn't really matter. I still love the contrasting pictures of family life.

And I use the images of the two women, Mrs. Brewster and Ma Ingalls to remind myself of the kind of mother I want my girls to remember. The kind of home I want to build. The sort of memories I want my daughters to have of how they felt...when they were home.

I have to admit, I also use the story to teach my girls about the effects of their words too. When I hear them yelling, arguing, whining, I sometimes ask "What kind of words do we want to fill our home with?"

I'm just waiting for the day when they turn around and ask me that same question.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

C.S. the role of "Uncle Screwtape"

Screwtape...on my car. Horrifying and funny. Makes the "real world" outside my car... seem very different. Far more poignant now than the first time I read it as a teenager.

"Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office."

"Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus become wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary."

“The Enemy (God) wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents-or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.”

“The characteristic of pains and pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality.”

Friday, October 07, 2011

In second grade violin class...

...we've been spending our first few weeks "getting to know the violin" and "getting to know the bow"...separately.

We know the parts of the violin and how to put it away in its case and how to take good care of it. We practice holding the violin in shoulder position...plucking the strings, learning their names and sounds.

We've also met the bow. We've practiced carefully removing the bow from the case, tightening and loosening the horse hair, rosining the bow. We've even practiced holding the bow correctly.

But every time I see a group of second graders in the hall or at recess they ask, "Do we get to play them together yet? Can the violin and bow meet now???"

This week, one second grader raised his hand and said thoughtfully (and innocently, I should add),

"Mrs. Corbin, even though the bow and the violin have
never even met,
they've been sleeping together all this time!"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pork Roast and Vegetables with Biscuit Crust to make some simple and crazy delicious comfort food with your pork roast left-overs:

1 pork roast cooked all day in crock pot (seasoned with garlic and onion)
potatoes, carrots, and onions cooked with roast in crock pot with broth.

Cut pork into bite sized pieces.  Spoon all 'left-overs' into pie dish.  Top with cooked peas (or any other vegetables on hand), sprinkle with a bit of dry tapioca, salt & pepper, and chicken broth.

While vegetables & meat are heating in the pie dish in the oven or microwave, prepare biscuit dough.

My Biscuit Recipe
2 cups flour (1 cup whole wheat/ 1 cup white)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Add 1 stick unsalted butter (yup, it's that bad for you) chopped into small cubes
Pulse mixture until course meal forms.  
Add 2/3 cup of cream (or milk) and mix well.

Spoon biscuit dough on top of "pie."

Bake 20-25 minutes in 425 degree oven.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Shrimp cooked with tomatoes, a touch of cream, white wine and a hint of lemon. This pasta dish is so simple to make and is ready in about 15 minutes, perfect for a weeknight meal."

That's what "Gina" said about the Angel Hair with Shrimp and Tomato Sauce, and I need as many perfect weeknight meals as I can get.

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • oregano
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (I added fresh basil and oregano too)
  • 8 oz angel hair pasta (whole wheat, low carb or high fiber)
    Boil water for pasta. Cook according to package instructions.Meanwhile, season shrimp with salt and oregano. Cook shrimp and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper and cook an additional minute. Add half and half and cook 1 more minute.Add lemon juice and parsley and serve over pasta. Divide equally in 4 plates.

    Now that we are back into the familiar groove of school, I'm still feeling grateful and happy to be a teacher. I love summer, but I think I'd feel lucky in my job even without those three months off every year!

    Today was just one of those great days. I felt prepared for the day, more organized (than last year), confident in my role, and surrounded by lovable students excited to make music.

    Maya is loving Kindergarten. She seems to come home every day either exhausted, or incredibly (obnoxiously) hyper....and full of stories. Some stories come out immediately in the car, others just pop up over dinner, or bedtime...or days later. And some of her stories are just for me, conspiratorially whispered into my ear when Ryan is across the room. She finished her last vowel today in class. And with her mixture of Ryan's meticulous perfectionism...and my...distracted, free-spirited...creativity?'s a challenge sometimes to get all her schoolwork done in timely manner. But, every paper she does finish looks...impeccable. So our new motto is "Do your best, but GET IT DONE!"

    Sometimes I have to repeat that motto again and again...for me. Just to stay on task. Between the laundry and ironing, the house-cleaning, the dinners and the dishes, the online coursework and reading and communication, the lesson planning, and school paperwork, the Kindergarten papers, and the places to be, the doctors appointments, and the pretend play, the puzzles, and the storybook reading, and the important conversations and times with friends....I get a task at times, running frantically between jobs, never finishing any. And sometimes, I just end up on the couch, bewildered at where to start. Then there's always facebook! :)

    But this week, the crazy chaos is manageable. And quite fun. I love my new schedule. I miss the faces and the familiar routines, the musical fun, the shared history that my old teaching role provided for so many years. I will cherish my memories, and 'my kids' there forever. But I'm feeling much more settled, more rooted this year, both as a Mother and as a Strings Teacher. I love my days with just Sophie and our Tuesdays with just me and both girls. We go to ballet and gymnastics, and we play together and read and talk all day. I'm pretty lucky.

    And next weekend, my Love is taking me away for my belated birthday celebration. Two days and one night in Chicago alone. Just the anticipation is a perfectly delightful gift.

    Thursday, September 01, 2011

    Back to school.

    The world seems to be suddenly spinning at a faster pace.
    I think we'll settle into this new routine alright, but getting prepared is a little overwhelming at times, and I'm not quite as 'together' as I'd hoped at this point. Ahead of last year, definitely. Will I ever feel completely organized, prepared, and in control?

    I just turned in my first paper of the semester. And I think my online class is going to be manageable. I had been pretending that this course would actually just disappear from my agenda this year, though I need it to have a professional teaching license. I've been dragging my feet about becoming a student again and ignoring the existence of this one last class. But one class, without driving to Lansing all week... this will be fine. And it will be over before Christmas.

    Maya is heading to school this year too. Her backpack has been ready for weeks, and we're all pretty excited about Kindergarten. I'll post her first-day pictures soon!

    This time of year always comes with a powerful mixture of feelings... nervous anticipation, panic, sadness in mourning the loss of summer, a bit of regret at the plans left undone, relief for the fresh start, excitement for new routine and hope for big possibilities for growth and accomplishment.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    A post from the past that seems fitting today...

    "So many pieces of who I am and what I value have been acquired through years of watching and listening to my big brothers. They have, in ways that I'm sure I don't even recognize, shaped understanding of family, of love, of friendship, trust, parenthood, faith. In unique ways, they each continue to challenge and sharpen my understanding of who I am, how I perceive and think about the world, and how I know and love my Creator.
    Different seasons of my life have particular memories of times spent with each one of them..."

    (And since today is his birthday...I pick brother David to celebrate.)

    Some of the only times in my life that I've felt physically strong, athletic, fast, were the hours I spent practicing basketball in our driveway, learning to dribble and shoot with David, or attempting to copy his jump-rope routine to become a higher jumper. Along with my dad, it was David that taught me to kick a soccer ball, shoot a basketball, serve a volleyball, bump, set....and well, (I watched him) 'spike'.

    He made college seem magical when I visited him for 'Little Sibs' weekend. I have a truly terrible memory (I'm realizing this more and more), but strangely, I have remarkably solid memories of those weekends with David, just going to his classes and drawing in my sketch book, 'hanging out' with his friends, playing in a sibling 'game show' with him on campus (we didn't win, and I still remember the 2 questions we got wrong), having my presence announced in his dorm by loud shouts of "Woman in the hall!!"...I was probably about 10.

    I fondly remember sitting in his classroom as a high-schooler, feeling proud, happy, and actually challenged to think (too often a rarity in high school). My friends loved and respected him so much, and I loved knowing that. He shaped a lot of my friends' lives too.

    And in more recent years...I smile when I think about running back and forth between our houses to borrow a vaccuum, an egg, a spare key, a lawn mower, dinner, to share cookies, to use a shower, to return a run-away dog, to ask a question. He always seems to be close when I'm locked out of my house, my car won't start, I'm stuck in the snow, or I've run out of gas. David has rescued me a lot. He does that well. Only, it was way easier when we were neighbors. I do miss Forest Hills.

    And now, I get to watch the way that he loves my daughters and they love him. His eyes shine when he bends down to hug them. Sometimes they run for their hug, but sometimes they giggle and run away. He is the self-proclaimed "Yes Uncle." He explained it to me once, "if they ask me for something they want, I say yes." I laughed and rolled my eyes a little, I think. It isn't really true, I hope.

    And once again, I get to sit in his 'classroom' sometimes. Lately, he's been preaching about love from I Corinthians. And I feel like I hear him just a little differently than most of the people who hear his teaching, because I'm lucky enough to know how he has always shown me love in his own quiet and steady, always dependable, never selfish, frequently rescuing, and even tender-when-necessary way.

    Happy Birthday David. I love you.

    I posted a similar blog post back in 2008. I've used several quotes from the original, but added and deleted some as well.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011


    In early August, we embarked on a whirlwind trip to visit cousins in Ohio, cousins in Springfield Massachusetts, and even a 'quick' trip to Philadelphia to see more cousins for a total of 16 cousins, 2 Aunts, and 2 Uncles visited in three different states in just one week. This post is only going to attempt to cover the four days spent in Massachusetts.

    Day 1: The Springfield Zoo...
    ...was a little sad (in the way that all zoos can be), but then, the day was just a little wet, dreary, sticky and hot, with threatening thunder and lightning. It had a classic sort of look though, which Ryan loved. It seemed to be the kind of zoo that is always in storybooks, like Curious George or Goodnight Gorilla. It was a short adventure, a quiet way to start the week of fun.

    Ice cream on the farm.
    There is something pretty great about hearing 'moo-ing' cows while licking your ice-cream cone.

    Day 2: A Colonial New England kind of day at Sturbridge Village

    We packed our lunches and took a beautiful drive to fun place, a restored colonial village where all the employees dress in authentic colonial clothes and demonstrate what life was like long ago...caring for sheep, sheering the sheep, spinning the wool, growing the food and herbs, dyeing the yarn with plants from the garden, knitting the yarn,...
    It was quite an experience, the kind of place where you just kept discovering more and wishing you had more time.

    Day 3: Boston
    One day in Boston wasn't long enough, but it did allow us to see the New England Aquarium, enjoy fresh lobster rolls, wander through Faneuil Hall, eat in Quincy Market, and (almost coincidentally) run into my oldest brother (on a run while visiting Boston for a conference). Sadly, we ran out of time to enjoy "the worlds best cannoli". We'll have to visit again.

    Day 4: Eric Carle Museum.

    This was a return visit to the museum for us, though our girls were much littler last time. And this place never disappoints. There were tears when we left. (Though the heightened emotions may have had more to do with the need for lunch and nap-time)

    Though the food and the adventures were amazing, the best part of Massachusetts was by far the family we miss. Meeting and holding baby Bridgett, playing with big sister Chloe and staying up way too late talking and laughing with Kelly and Sean was worth all the driving...even Pennsylvania. Lucky for us, they'll be in Michigan in just a few days!

    Day 5: New York City
    "On our way" home, we ended up spontaneously driving into NYC. I was a bit silly with excitement over this unexpected treat. There is more to that story, but it will have to wait...