Monday, January 14, 2019

The Last Month in Pictures

Happy New Year!  A few moments from the last month at our house:

My youngest daughter was given the role of her dreams and played Mary in the grade school Christmas program last month.  She had a scant few lines, but treasured the opportunity to play Jesus' mother.  When I asked her why playing the part of Mary meant so much to her, she talked of Mary's great faith and openness to doing what God's will for her was.  I hope my daughter can continue to emulate Mary as she grows up!

Changing gears from the solemn topic the first picture lends itself to, I give you this picture.  Let us pretend the second line doesn't take God's name in vain, and once you've done that, you can understand my home.  The boys want to wear only shirts and shorts and feel incredibly annoyed when I care about their well being and suggest otherwise.  I can't say my girls follow this as well - they seem to be a bit more sensible in the clothing department.  But the boys - YES.  "Leave me alone, mom.  I am fine!!"

This cup, from my sister for Christmas.  😊  I don't think I am the best sister ever, by far (I have been told numerous times how bossy I was when we were children (and I concede I may have been a wee bit authoritative)), but every time I drink from it, I think of my sister, and remember what a great sister she is! What a blessing to have a sister! 😊

And this wine glass, from a student (and her mother I think 😉).  I have used it a few times since I received it, and it makes me smile every time.  I'll take a time out now and then! 

Our poor pupper, Shadow babies, being tortured with a bath at a nearby pet store.  He endured the ordeal bravely, but as you can see in the picture, he has perfected his "poor me" face.  Mommy was happy, however, as we got a punch card - 5 baths for $25!  Waaaaay better than cleaning the entire bathroom of black dog hair!  He smelled a little better, and I didn't have to clean the bathroom.  Win win!

And this little list.  My daughter returned to college yesterday, and this list pretty much sums up life around here after she left.  I'm glad she is where she is, and she is too - happy and enjoying her classes and friends.  But that doesn't mean I can't also miss her when she leaves each time. Our house just isn't quite the same without her in it.  When I set the table with just six plates, it causes my heart to ache a little, and when I look down the church pew and see only four pairs of legs, things feel a little off.  I look forward to the next time she's home again!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Mary Poppins Returns (and warms my heart)

My girls and I saw Mary Poppins Returns this afternoon, and I loved it!  I arrived home floating through the house, pirouetting as I prepared dinner for my family, sniffling a bit still from the tender parts.  I was singing songs from both movies and felt as though I was light as air as I danced through the kitchen. In reality I can't dance a step, but so in the moment was I that it didn't feel that way.  The movie was whimsical and touching and so reminiscent of my childhood.  I cried no less than four times (even though no one died or had any major traumatic events, although the death of the children's mother was an overarching theme, causing many touching moments for this mamma), but after each teary scene, a lighthearted one followed, drying my tears and making me laugh.
I loved all the casting choices:  Emily Blunt as the loving but no-nonsense Mary Poppins was wonderful, even though I am a serious Julie Andrews fan; Lin Manuel Miranda's talent was showcased as Mary's sidekick, and all of the other names made me happy too - Angela Lansbury, Meryl Streep, and definitely Dick Van Dyke's cameo - that man is still so agile at 93!  My daughter told me that Julie Andrews was offered a cameo too - I would have loved that!  Not sure if it's true or not, but my daughter said that Julie (we're basically BFFs, so I can call her Julie.  Or Jules), turned down the cameo, saying that she wanted this to be Emily's movie.  If it's true, yet another reason why I love her!
It feels like children today (mine included) seem to need more and more from entertainment and they have shorter attention spans to boot.  Mary Poppins Returns was old-school; there were moments of animated whimsy, and it had an overall lighthearted feel.  It seemed as if Mary Poppins came to save the day, but the real salvation was in the Banks family realizing that family was more important than material items, no matter their sentimental value.
I'm no movie critic, but this is the stuff I want in a movie - singing, dancing, feel-good storylines, and the realization that family and relationships are at the heart of everything.
Mary Poppins - many thanks, sincerely!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Programs Past

The time frame:  December, every year from 1979-1987
The location:  My childhood Lutheran church in central Indiana
The characters:  My sister and I, and all the other students in our school from K-8
The occasion:  Our yearly Christmas program

Every year, for my entire grade school experience, our school would gather in the sanctuary to practice our Christmas program.  Don't worry - we didn't come to the rehearsal unprepared. . .in our individual classrooms, for weeks beforehand, we had been learning and memorizing our parts.  Each class was to "choral read" (that phrase was always strange to me as a child) a portion of the Luke narrative (see below - we always used the KJV translation), and also sing various Christmas and Advent hymns.  Everything was memorized in my recollection:  large chunks of Luke 2 and several stanzas of all the hymns.  

In my memory, the program was wonderful. The entire school sat in the first many rows of the church, and the parents, grandparents, and other congregants sat behind us.  While the older kids spoke from the lectern, we all sat patiently in our seats. Until -- it was our class's turn to speak.  When that special moment came, we all stood, turned around and faced the adults, and chorally recited our portion of the Luke 2 story.  When we finished, we sat down and the program continued.  Interspersed throughout the program were hymn stanzas.  One in particular stands out in my mind - From Heaven Above to Earth I Come . . .we sang alternating stanzas from each side of the church.  

 When I was younger, the older kids were to be revered; looked up to.  They had extra speaking parts from the lectern at the front, and generally seemed to have the program well in hand. As I got older, those special jobs fell to my class.  I remember having some lines from the lectern in about 7th grade, and specifically putting on Vaseline lip gloss so my lips would shine while I was reading (perhaps a little too self-focused that year!).  Another year, I remember sitting in the pew, waiting with my class for our turn to speak during rehearsal, and playing with a little shark tooth necklace I had.  I must have been told to put it away and disobeyed, because my teacher took it away from me until after the practice.  After the program every year, we would go to our classroom to pick up our coats and belongings, and often, our teachers would give us a little Christmas gift.  Those moments, post-program, in our classroom are vivid in my memory -- everyone was so excited for Christmas!

The annual Christmas Program created so many memories for me.  A sense of belonging, excitement, sparkling lips, fancy dresses (with hose and heels as I got older) and a feeling of pride in our telling of the Christmas Story.  But what is most etched in my mind is the actual words we spoke.  Because we memorized everything year after year, I can recite, almost verbatim, the KJV Luke 2 story.  I also know many, many hymn verses by heart as well.  

My youngest daughter and I have an Advent countdown chain on the refrigerator.  It is a telling of the Christmas story.  Each day, she reads the verse on the chain link to me.  As we began, I was delighted to hear her read the KJV verses aloud.  I quickly join in each day, with phrases such as "went out a decree from Caesar Augustus" and "his espoused wife" and "sore afraid", each snippet of the story taking me back to those early days of hearing the story over and over.  

I am so thankful for the foundation that annual Christmas Program gave to me and all my classmates. I imagine many of them can recall the sacred story of Christ's birth as well, largely in part to our learning it in our Lutheran grade school.  And, in turn, I am ever grateful that my own children are being given this foundation as well -- both at home and at school.  

"Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace, goodwill toward men."

Luke 2: 1-19 KJV

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Week(ish) In Pictures

It's been ages since I've blogged, I see!  November was in.sane.  Lots of good stuff - entertaining, holidays, traveling, plus regular life that doesn't slow down just because all the other stuff is happening.  All of the above results in little time for writing.  So here's a few thoughts on our last week or so, in picture caption form:

Gazing upon this collection of baby Jesus in the manger warms my heart.  I collected these over my children's preschool years (and no, we don't have an extra four children hidden away that you were unaware of, some children made a manger more than one year), and I treasure them now.  Baby Jesus' many faces, each drawn with careful preschool precision are precious to me.  Now that I teach preschool, in the same school my children attend(ed), I do this project with my students too.  I hope their parents enjoy The Best Gift as much as I do. 

Ummm.  Yes.  My boys seem to think T shirts and shorts are still the clothing du jour, even though it is freezing out and there is snow on the ground.  I have mentioned to them that going without a coat seems foolish and ill-advised, but they are not concerned.  And unless they're going to be outside for an extended amount of time, I am not going to fight that battle.  So please don't judge me when you see my boys looking ready for a late summer stroll.  I've been down that road, and I'm gonna let it go.

I texted the picture above to my husband (full disclosure - while we were in the house together, but on separate floors - are we the only couple who does this on occasion?).  I find ALL THE TRUTH here.  To be honest, I love Christmas shopping, but Christmas shopping isn't for wienies.  The list-keeping, the tallying, the recording, the keeping-it-even(ish), the sale-searching, the waiting-in-line (and also the waiting-for-free-shipping) and the schlepping from store to store can take a lot out of a girl!  Luckily for me, my husband is great gift-giver, so he always aces his Christmas list.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

All Saints' Day

Today is one of my absolute favorite days in the church year.

All Saints' Day. Every November 1st, we get to celebrate those saints -- those who died in Christ -- who went before us.

And when I sing (pray, meditate on) the words of this hymn below, I am almost always reduced to tears. What an example the saints are! They lived their lives -- not perfectly, not without sin -- but they lived their lives with Christ at the center and forefront. They lived their lives fully for Christ. Every Sunday, as we commune, we are united with the saints who have gone before us. Every Sunday, heaven and earth meet as we share Christ's body and blood with those at worship with us, all Christians on earth, and with those saints who are living with Christ in heaven. How beautiful!

Take a moment to read the words below and think about the saints who struggled as we do, who fought here are earth, who never lost sight of Jesus. Those who died in Christ have won! They are brave again, their arms strong. These faithful warriors have been given rest in heaven with Christ. What comfort this gives us! Those who have gone before us -- both "famous" saints who inspire us with their lives of bold faith as well as those quiet saints who lived among us. . . friends, family members. They are in paradise with their Savior!

My dear friends, I have tears streaming as I ponder these words, because they are written for us too! Someday, as our warfare has run long, and our fight has been fierce, a distant triumph song will be in our ears too. And soon, soon to us - His faithful warriors, will come rest. Eternal rest in Christ.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

"For All the Saints Who from Their Labors Rest"

by William W. How, 1823-1897 
1. For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
2. Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
3. Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
4. O blest communion, fellowship divine,
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
5. And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
6. But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
7. From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
8. The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon, to faithful warriors cometh rest.
Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Live Blogging it, Instant Pot Version

4:30  Decide we will have dinner in the brand new Instant Pot (which I purchased for a fabulous low price at Kohl's of course).
4:31  Commence reading all the directions.
4:32  Feel terrified that the house will blow up due to exploding pot pressure
4:40  Feel vaguely competent and begin looking for a recipe.
4:42  Gather ingredients for mexican chicken recipe.
4:46  With great trepidation, begin the Instant Pot cycle and pray we live to see tomorrow.
4:46:05  Adjust cycles several times, re-reading non-user-freindly directions and searching fruitlessly for an apparently misnamed function.
4:50  Watch the steam valve spew steam, and remind all the children to give the Instant Pot a wide berth at all times, lest death occur.
4:55  Approach the Instant Pot, being certain the valve is in its low, resting position.
4:56  After removing the lid, attempt to shred meat and find it is done, but not at shreddable done-ness.
4:56:05 Feel frustrated.
4:57  Add two more minutes to timer and hope for the best.
5:01  Attempt to speed along the valve-dropping process, touch the valve (as the directions say can be done), and jump backward a mile when steam wails out of the valve.
5:02  Take deep breaths and remind myself that I am in charge of the Instant Pot.
5:03  Pour myself a glass of wine.
5:04  Attempt to remove the lid and find that it is stuck.
5:05  Listen to ridicule from my eldest son. Stick my tongue out at him.
5:06  Re-read the directions AGAIN to see what is wrong.
5:07  With great fear and trembling, mess with the valve thingy and let out the rest of the steam.
5:08  Finally open the lid and give great thanks that the meat is shreddable now.
5:09  Shred meat in kitchenaid mixer (one of its amazing uses!).
5:10  Serve dinner to family.
5:11  Call the Instant Pot a qualified success.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Stack 'Em Up!

Two months.  That's how long it has been since my eldest girl left for college.  Two months of getting adjusted to life around here without her.  Two months of her getting adjusted to her new life.  I've missed her terribly, but I've also been surprised that I've been doing all right in her absence.  I'm so proud of her. . .she's working hard - at her job, her studies, her extra curriculars, making friends, and keeping her faith nurtured while away from home.

And like I said, we are finding our way as a household of six.  Getting out six plates instead of seven. . .me and the kids being able to fit into our teenager five-seater instead of needing an SUV. . .moving  two of the kids into new bedrooms and reorganizing. . .'circling up' to say our morning prayer with six instead of seven. . .the list goes on.

BUT - this weekend, we got a brief few days to be all together again.  My girl had a long weekend and came home, and it was glorious.  She helped out in my classroom, she hugged and loved and played with her siblings, we baked cookies and bread and made chili (until the power went out - for 24+ hours 😐 ).  We watched movies and cuddled on the couch, she flopped on my bed like old times and talked to me at bedtime, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.  It was good for my soul.  Saying goodbye today (while not as hard as two months ago) evoked a few tears from both of us.  Having everyone home just feels right.

And I remembered what I blogged about a year ago (you can read that blog post here). When my kids started driving, I had them enable the Find My Friends app on their iPhones, allowing me to see their location.  I only look at it if I have a concern about someone's late night drive or arrival time, but it's very comforting to have when someone is running late etc.  And as I blogged about last year, when everyone is home, the little circles with everyone's pictures on them are stacked up neatly together, right on our house.  Oh - how I love seeing them all here!

I know my kids leaving the nest is exactly what they should be doing; it is what we have been preparing them for.  We want them to spread their wings and fly.  But I cannot tell a lie.  When all the circles are stacked up at our house on my little iPhone map, my heart soars.

When all of us are home together, all is right with the world. 💗