Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Paper Chains

It's that time of year. . . we are getting linked in.  Not social media--actual paper chains.

I'm getting excited. The piano kids are getting ready for the winter recital. These paper chain links represent each of their perfect repetitions. The finished chains double as decorations on the pianos. They have been working hard.  Each child will play one classical piece and one holiday piece.  This is my favorite recital of the year. By 4:30 on Saturday December 10th it will almost be dark and we will have some candle light to set the mood. For the past 13 years, one of the moms, Linda, has made these extra special cookies to delight the students after the recital.  It is an awesome kickoff to the holidays.

I love it for another reason.  The truth is, in fifteen years, these kids may or may not be playing Mozart or Brahms or Beethoven, but they probably will sit around the piano and play Christmas music for their families.   It might be music of their own faith traditions or broadway musicals. . . but. . . they will play it very well, with poise and beauty. . . and a little fun.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Breath of Heaven

Breath of Heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of Heaven 
Breath of Heaven
Light up my darkness
Poor over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of Heaven

We are back from Austin.  I'm not asking for any sympathy, we had an awesome weekend.  But, reality is looming.  The cats have thrown up everywhere while we were gone.  Laundry looms.  There are no groceries in the house. I'm teaching extra to make up for missing yesterday.  We haven't even talked about buying the Christmas tree yet.  The recital is ten days away.  The tea, the choral service, the pageant.  I was scurrying around like a chicken with my head cut off this morning and this Amy Grant song came on my stereo.  I actually had the presence of mind to stop and remember that it will all get done, and that I will enjoy doing it.  This time is supposed to be holy.  It can be holy.  We can be holy.  At least for a moment.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

Hope and John's Farm 2009
My mother was waxing melancholy on the phone tonight.  Her company went home.  Empty house.  She reminded me of the Thanksgivings when we were growing up.  Oh, the traditions we had.

Each year we spent Thanksgiving Day with the Stephens clan--at Grandpa Gene and Grandma Ethel's or Dale and Maureen's or Jim and Peg's.  They all lived within miles of one another--close to Washington, Iowa.  Sometimes, but not always Aunt Kathy, Stacey and Scott would drive over from Omaha.  It was always cold.  Sometimes bitter cold--I remember once my Dad blow-drying the car's engine block when we went to leave.  The ten cousins played.  Once an inner-tube was hooked up behind a tractor in the snow.  That was an uncle.  My dad never would have done that.  (Daddy would haul us over hill and dale behind two huge Percheron horses in a rickety wagon--but the tractor just wasn't safe.)  One year there was quite the scandal when Aunt Peggy already had her Christmas tree up.  Oyster stuffing.  Yuck.  Dale and Maureen had a wooden toy barn with animals in the basement.  How I loved that toy.  For years my mom planned some elaborate craft for after dinner.  Eventually we switched to wine.  How many little felt ornaments and quilted hoop things can you make?  Aunt Maureen would eventually pull out the hymnal and some sheet music and four part harmony singing would ensue.  As Alison Kraus sings--oh how I long to hear that harmony. . .

The drive home across the Iowa back roads was the all-clear to start Christmas.  Susan and I would sing and sing and sing all the way home.  Hark how the bells. . . . The year of the engine block heater my feet never got warm the whole drive home.

At home, Mama and Grandpa would be waiting--having driven in the daylight from Lime Springs, four hours north.  We would all eat leftovers.

Early Friday (not "Black Friday" not 3:00 a.m. and not midnight) the girls went Christmas shopping.  My mom gave me $20, and maybe I had saved a little money, to get everyone a present.  We went to the downtown Davenport Peterson-Honored-Von Maurs departments store.  I'm not spelling it right--but it doesn't exist anymore to look it up.  Now it is just Von Maurs.  There was no gift that couldn't be bought there.  And all for $20.  We dressed up.  Lunch at Bishops.  A slice of ham, french fries and french silk pie.  Three generations.  Then Susan would take something to the car and lose the car keys.  They would turn up in a dressing room of the teen section of Von Maurs--called "The Loft."  Sorry Susan--but it's part of the story. . .

At 6:00 p.m. I would start to cry as it became painfully obvious to me that we weren't going to make it home in time to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on CBS at 7:00 p.m.  If I was lucky, we made it home by Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  Otherwise, you had to wait a whole year to see it again.

We hurried to hide all our gifts in our closets. Grandpa would have the woodbox filled and the floor vacuumed and the table set.  Who knows what else he did all day?

It is no wonder my mother is melancholy, there are so many happy times to reflect on.  This is her first Thanksgiving without her mother.

We were blessed to have all those times together.
Now we turn around and make new memories for our kids to write about.  They won't be the same, but they will be just as precious.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessing

It is Thanksgiving Eve and the kids sang at church and then we had choir practice.  Tomorrow morning choir sings again.  I'm feeling ever so slightly over-churched. . . .but every now and then even when you love it, a gig is still a gig and you must show up.

The themes seem to be gratitude and blessings.  Pastor Kevin's sermon posed gratitude as a metaphorical family member, who accompanies us, all through our lives.  Even it seems--in death.  Perhaps in the end gratitude is the best--or dare I say the only--path through grief.

Pastor Kris' last blog entry ( was about the beatitudes and what we deem as blessings in our lives.  If health, wealth, and wisdom are blessings, are the poor, the sick and the simple unblessed?  Did my Dad's life stop being a blessing when he got sick and died?

Not if we have a God who counts the hairs on our head and calls us by name.
Not if this is not all there is.

We are still blessed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Food, then Music

I had a reader from Kenya yesterday.  Who knows why and probably by mistake, but nonetheless.

It got me thinking.  Feed My Starving Children is doing a big relief effort for the people in the horn of Africa who are suffering from a six year drought.  Easter church is participating, and I'm sure FMSC will take a donation on their website.  Bill and I had the privilege to go to the Minneapolis FMSC banquet a couple weeks ago.  We had a nice time.  As nice of a time as you can have, eating a fancy meal watching a program featuring families without food or water and children without parents.

FMSC is an awesome charity.  Seven year old Mary sent in a little money in honor of the celebration of American abundance called Thanksgiving.  Her $4 will feed some ridiculous amount of children.

Perhaps if we ever get to the day when everyone's survival needs are being met, then we can start to share each other's music.  Each child can have the chance to take the music of his own culture and develop his own talent.  Dr. Suzuki had the dream that music could change the world.  My guess is it has to start with food.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Change of Attitude

It is Sunday night and I've pretty much had it up to here after a weekend with the kids and activities.  I put them to bed and was looking at the photos Bill took today of the first snow.  Sometimes looking at photos of the kids reminds me how much I love them.  Of course photos are so quiet and never interrupt your train of thought. Tomorrow is a new day to face with a happy heart.

I also treated myself to a new Christmas coffee mug.  It is huge.  Holds a whole pot of coffee.  It makes me smile and laugh. It has a dove and a heart on it. I believe the message is: if we have a big enough cup of coffee, we can face Christmas with peace and love.

Pastor Kris laughed about my pre-advent highs and lows.  She sent me this "pre-advent" prayer.  I don't know who wrote it:

  My brother, Jesus. It happens every year. I think that this will be the year that I have a reflective Advent. 
I look forward to Sunday and this new season, Jesus. But all around me are the signs rushing me to Christmas and some kind of celebration that equates spending with love. 
I need your help. I want to slow my world down. This year, more than ever, I need Advent, these weeks of reflection and longing for hope in the darkness.
Jesus, this year, help me to have that longing. Help me to feel it in my heart and be aware of the hunger and thirst in my own soul. Deep down, I know there is something missing in my life, but I can’t quite reach for it. I can’t get what is missing.
I know it is about you, Jesus. You are not missing from my life, but I might be missing the awareness of all of the places you are present there. 
Be with me, my dear friend. Guide me in these weeks to what you want to show me this Advent. Help me to be vulnerable enough to ask you to lead me to the place of my own weakness, the very place where I will find you the most deeply embedded in my heart, loving me without limits.

It is a little heavy, but a good message.  Jesus is not missing from my Christmas, but I agree that I might be missing some awareness. I'm too busy practicing Christmas music and running lines at the pageant rehearsal to think about Him. . .  I was venting about having volunteered to chaperone the first grade field trip tomorrow.  I really would love to stay home and get a leg up on my laundry and Christmas decorations, practice some choir music.  Then my sister reminded me that because she is a jr. high teacher, she was never able to do anything at her daughter's grade school.  She also reminded me that the day will come where Mary might not want me along on her field trips.

Tomorrow is a new day to face with a happy heart.  And a big cup of coffee. And some more pre-advent reflection.

Thank You Mrs. Schoen

Dear Principal Haugen,     I'm writing this letter with a special request in mind.  I know this might not be possible, but could you please add sixth grade to Deerwood Elementary?  We have enjoyed kindergarten through fifth grade, but are not quite ready for Calvin to move on to middle school next year.      Sincerely,   The Kotrbas
Hmmm.  I doubt it will work, but it was worth a try.  One of the reasons we love Deerwood is the music program.  I've said this before, but I'll say it again, it really is amazing, and the main reason is Lisa Schoen.

The Da Capo choir had it's concert Wednesday after school.  At least 130 third, fourth and fifth graders sang in the concert.  These kids signed up and stayed after school an hour once a week for about six weeks.  How they got all this music learned is beyond me, not to mention cute actions and a fifties theme.  It was really lovely. She also let Calvin play the accompaniment on the last song, which was really special for him.  Many kids had vocal solos throughout. Congrats Lisa, the choir did a great job and thanks also to Mrs. Sipe for accompanying them!  Bravo!

The next night, we had the fifth grade program, Alice in Wonderland.  As Principal Haugen said, Mrs. Schoen outdid herself. Calvin was one of the white rabbits. I believe that every student had a spoken part and most had a solo line to sing. They each marched up to the microphone to say or sing their part.  Nobody balks or makes a funny face. They all do a great job. They all had a costume. Everyone. The parents did not have to make the costumes, thank you very much. . . Calvin told me at 6:00 a.m. Thursday morning that he needed a white shirt and grey sweatpants to wear under his rabbit accessories that day and by the grace of God each was clean and folded in the drawer.

Talk about an every child can situation. Why shouldn't we all be able to sing a song or say a line in public? What a great opportunity for all these kids, every one of them.  There are a few stars, but everyone sings well and has a pleasing voice. What a great life skill. It has been such a wonderful thing to watch all these children get more and more comfortable in their voices over these years of programs.

So Friday I was a little tender that the programs were all over for Calvin.  I wished there would be a sixth grade program.

I still remember my sixth grade musical--I was the indian princess, and it was something about rain and Texas bluebonnets and I had to sing a solo with Matt Lindaman the pioneer, whom I also had a crush on.  My mom sewed the fake leather dress.  It really was the beginning and the end of my musical theatre career. Mrs. Darland did a pretty good job directing us all. Probably no longer politically correct subject matter.

These kids will remember their roles in Alice in Wonderland too. Especially if it makes the reruns on Eagan public cable TV.

I can't imagine how much work it was to write the script and plan the songs and make a costume for each child. I know Mrs. Olive the art teacher helped and Mrs. Fischer the P.E. teacher helped too.  So, thank you all, but especially Mrs. Schoen.  We love you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Delinquent Tooth Fairy

Twice now the tooth fairy has not shown up.  She comes late.  Two weeks ago she came while Mary was eating breakfast, and she didn't leave an actual photo of herself, as requested in the little girl's note left under her pillow.  The first time Mary asked for a picture of her, the fairy left a self portrait in crayon, which Mary thought looked suspiciously like a Christmas angel.  Hmmm.  I guess leaving an actual photo is against fairy policy.

Last night I had choir practice and Bill put Mary to bed with the sacred front tooth under her pillow and there must have been so many little first graders needing visits that the tooth fairy didn't even get here until after Mary got her hair combed and the remaining teeth brushed before school.  What can you do?  

I know the tooth fairy doesn't come to everyone's house, but I really enjoy her visits.  Especially when she remembers. . .

Sometimes she scatters fairy dust on the clean dresser.  Today she left a sparkly "kiss print" on a post it note--again by request in Mary's first grade handwriting.  Apparently she, the tooth fairy, had left a kiss on a paper for Mary's friend Miranda.  Nothing but the best for our schmoo. . .

The going rate at the Kotrba house is one $2 bill per tooth. The bills are given in order by their serial numbers and heaven help the fairy when the child loses a tooth out of state. This morning the tiny winged creature left an additional $1 as an interest payment for coming so late.

Next time, I'm leaving my own note for the tooth fairy, I'm going to put it right on my bathroom counter where she will surely see it.  Perhaps then she will not be late.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Sum is Greater Than the Parts

I led my second Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild meeting today.  We had a great turn out and everyone shared information about their favorite advanced supplementary repertoire.

I'm excited about the SPTG programs for the rest of the year as well.  The board has decided to bring in a couple guest clinicians, but also to have our own members present ideas. In March Suzanne Greer will present information about organizations, contests and programs outside the Suzuki Community. Lastly in May we will have a panel of teachers share ideas about groups and games.

Since Nancy Pederson retired, our Twin Cities organization does not have an active Suzuki Piano teacher trainer. That may soon change, but in the mean time, it is the sole responsibility of SPTG and SAM to facilitate ongoing teacher education.  We have been doing that the last few years, bringing in folks like Caroline Fraser and Chris Liccardo.  Now I feel we are on the cusp of offering even more.

One of the most exciting things for Suzuki Piano in the Twin Cities is that Beth Turco has been hired as the new director of Suzuki at the MacPhail Center for the Arts.  Congratulations Beth!  No offense against our fellow string players, but just by virtue of having a pianist in the this position, we will be able to synchronize our efforts to present quality programs for our piano students and teachers.  Between MacPhail, SPTG and SAM we have so much energy and talent!  Beth and Cindy Malmin are already planning MacPhail's Suzuki Institute for next summer.  This year Fay Adams has agreed to be the guest clinician and offer Book Five teacher training.  This is a great opportunity for our piano students and teachers.  Save the dates, July 23-27, 2012!

I believe Dr. Suzuki's Talent Education is the greatest way to learn the language of music. To continue his legacy and take the mother tongue approach to the next generation, we have to keep educating ourselves as well as our students.  I'm excited about all the educational opportunities SPTG, SAM and MacPhail are planning to give our students and teachers. When we listen to everyone's ideas and brainstorm together, the sum is truly greater than the parts.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ordinary Devoted Parent

Traveling soccer is the number one public enemy of piano practice time. To be fair--high school marching band is number two.  As Bill and I drive by the Blue Cross Blue Shield soccer fields on Saturday morning with the kids, we casually ask, I wonder what those kids did--that they are being punished like that--to have to run around that field with those funny clothes on?  Bless their hearts.

Come to think of it--marching band is not that much different.  You got the field, you got the funny clothes. . . someone on the sidelines frantically waving his arms. ..

In may seem incongruous to all of us that I hired a lady with "hockey-soccer-mom" in her email address to help watch my children while I teach piano.  The Lord works in mysterious ways. . . almost four years have gone by and she hasn't attempted to convert either of my children to hockey or soccer.  We have a mutual trust.

In keeping with my research on intrinsic motivation, I asked her, Mary Lynn, mother of four grown children to share her thoughts.  One of her daughters is a captain on the University of Minnesota women's soccer team.  Go Gophers!  This is every little soccer girl's dream.  To reach the pinnacle of her sport and pay for college by playing. Wow. I asked Mary Lynn what she and her husband did to motivate Tamara along the way.

Had they paid her to practice?  Had they set up little charts and stickers?  Was Dad on the sidelines swearing when she missed a goal?  Midnight dribbling exercises?  What age did she make it her own?  All these questions I have.

Turns out it wasn't that complicated from Mary Lynn's point of view.  She said--they always stayed for practice and games. They never just dropped off their kids. When the kids were little Dad did a little coaching. (I happen to know that they are also very supportive in other ways--for example--volunteering their labor and resources to the U to build a picnic shelter where parents and families can hang out and share a meal before and after soccer games)  She also said that growing up the whole family went to a lot of college and pro soccer and hockey events around town.  It was just part of their life.  Mostly though, they just showed up.  Showed up for practice after practice, game after game. No tiger mom. No bull-dog dad.

Ordinary devoted parents.  (That's not my phrase--it is Edmond Sprunger's--in Helping Parents Practice, his practicing bible published by Yes publishing.)

Turns out that is all our kids really need. Not super mom. Not jock coach dad. Just ordinary devoted parents.  That is how we help our kids meet their potentials.

I'm so relieved. I think I can do that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spilling Hot Coffee on Christmas

My pre-advent high is officially over.  Reality has set in.  

I have a google calendar. I can add things to it from my phone or my laptop. I am so technological. I am so overbooked. It all goes fine until you print out the calendar of events you have so effortlessly been adding to the virtual months of November and December. Holy cow. I've done it again. Some live and learn, and some just live.

I habitually fill in the spaces of family life. Like an impressionistic canvas, I fill in every space with brush stroke events, overlapping when necessary. The result is often blurry.

Every weekend day between now and New Years somehow got painted in--colors blending. Band concerts. School choir concerts. The fifth grade program. Calvin as Herod in the church pageant-twice.  Choristers and Cherub choirs at church services.  Senior choir choral services. Piano Christmas recital.  Children's theatre tickets. A new gymnastic showcase event. Piano kids playing Christmas music at a nursing home. The Christmas Tea at church. A trip to Austin, for fun. . .what was I thinking?

Here are some sobering words from one of my theological heros, Thomas Merton:

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects , to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his or her work for peace.  

In The Book of Awakening, page 361, Mark Nepo comments on Merton's words:

"Merton wisely challenges us not just to slow down, but, at the heart of it, to accept our limitations. We are at best filled with the divine, but we have only two hands and one heart. In a deep and subtle way, the want to do it all is a want to be it all, and though it comes from a desire to do good, it often becomes frenzied because our egos seize our goodness as a way to be revered.  I have done this many times: not wanting to say no, not wanting to miss an opportunity, not wanting to be seen as less than totally compassionate.  But wherever I cannot bring my entire being, I am not there.  Its is like offering to bring too many cups of coffee through a crowd.  I always spill something hot on some innocent along the way."

Guilty as charged. I feel a little like I might be spilling hot coffee on Christmas.  And Thanksgiving for that matter.  I see my sin.  I know what I have done . . . but . . .

What's done is done.  I don't think I can undo any of these events. It is not as easy as hitting delete on the google calendar. Anyway, I don't want to--they are all special and valuable in their own way. The season will center around music and church--family and friends--all things I love. Some other things--like trying to be Martha Stewart--will have to go. Nepo offers one more suggestion--and I think it will be my mantra for the next six weeks:

Do one thing at a time and do it entirely, and it will lead you to the next moment of love. . . 

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks.  Christmas is about celebrating God's love given to us in the birth of Jesus.  Dear Lord, let this season be a series of events about those things. . . moment by moment. . . moments of love.  Amen.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I'm on a high today.  Could it be it is my first day with some moments alone in nine days?  Kids were sick and then there were school conferences. . .

Perhaps I'm high because the vile holiday of Halloween is over--but for the candy.  I hate Halloween.  Always have.  This year, in a parental marketing victory, I managed to convince my kids that last year's costumes were so cool we could get one more year out of them.   I'm so un-fun.  It is just that there is enough honest to goodness scary stuff in the world without glorifying spooky stuff.

Halloween being officially over means I can start the season of pre-advent.  I made that up today.  Pre-advent.  I like that.  Pre-advent is where we start to think about making Christmas lists.  There is also pre-advent music.  This includes the more classical selections like Handel's Messiah.  The first words after the overture are comfort ye.  What a beautiful way to start the season.  Next, my all time favorite CD, Michala Petri Noel, Noel, Noel.--classical recorder with the Westminster Abbey Choir.  I'll save the more pop and jazz stuff until after Thanksgiving.  Very noble of me.

My husband, Bill says I'm out of line.  It is too early.  It is just that I have such a love of Christmas music, and such a collection, that I have to start early to fit it all in.

Friends will tell you that after my kids were born I often felt overwhelmed about Christmas.  Perhaps even anxious and depressed.  I felt that it was all too much and I tried to think of ways I could do less.  Less decorating.  Fewer gifts.  Fewer traditions.  Less hoopla.

We have scaled back and that is good.  A couple other things have changed as well--the kids are a little older.  I don't have to worry that if I run outside to hang up some Christmas lights a toddler is going to fall down the stairs--or as happened one year--sneak into a 2 pound bag of m&m's. Mary Ray. . . .

Something else has changed my attitude.  People on my Christmas list died.  It sure wouldn't seem like any kind of burden to think of thoughtful gifts and shop for them, if they were still here.  In fact I would go all out.  Pull out all the stops!

We only have so many Christmases together.  Our kids will grow up.  Traditions will change.
So, I'm still gonna go all out.  Not with stuff--but with making every moment of the season special.  

Starting with pre-advent music.  
Now if we could just get some snow. . .

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You Know You are Doing Enough Listening When. . .

I finally put my money where my mouth is and made the itunes playlist for my family.  All of Mary and Calvin's current and near-future repertoire on one easy to click playlist.  Pumping through the stereo 24/7.

I walked by the bathroom door and heard my husband singing in the shower--Fur Elise in an imitation Louis Armstrong voice.  What a Wonderful World meets Beethoven.

That is when you know you are doing enough listening.

Even the cats are humming Bach Minuets.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Music is the Language of the Soul

Hello Russia!  You are the third most popular country to visit my blog!
I get statistics on my blog followers.  This week we hit 5000 visits.  The stats don't tell me who you are or your email or anything like that, only what country you are from and what operating system you use.  Personally, I'm okay with whatever operating system you like. . .that's not my deal. . my son Calvin probably has stronger opinions about that.  

So--here is a list of countries that have made visits: Russia, India, UK, Australia, Germany, Montenegro, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Poland, Denmark, Spain, Singapore, Latvia, Brazil, Austria, Sweden, and Macedonia.  A few of you got here by mistake, search engines do that, but some of you keep coming back.  

I sit here and think about the different cultures in Minnesota, Russia, UK, India, and Vietnam.  I wonder why folks would come back to read my random and long-winded pages.  

I think--that it is because the topics I return to cross every culture.  People everywhere love music.  People everywhere are wrestling with how to raise their kids.  People everywhere--and from every religion--have questions about their faith.  

Growing up, my pastor was very open to the toughest questions.  I appreciated that.  
The other confirmation students sat through quite a few of my musings.  My Missouri Synod Lutheran Pastor was pretty strict about his answers.  I  no longer agree with his reasons why women shouldn't be pastors and a few other things, but I learned a lot--mostly that it was okay to ask the questions.  

When I came to my mother about life issues, she always told me, "if you are feeling this way, chances are that other people are having the same feelings."   I still believe that.  

Truly, that is the whole reason I write this blog, as opposed to just keeping my thoughts in a personal journal.  I have a faith that if I'm having these feelings, these questions, chances are someone else somewhere else is having these same feelings, these same questions, and that somehow by sharing them, we validate each other.   

Here's to the questions.  Russia, if you are out there, have a nice day!  

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Spoke Too Soon. . .

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth. . . 

Remember what I said about things going along so smoothly?  Now I have two sick kids.  Also, Tuesday night the phone rang at 8:00 p.m.  Calvin saw the caller ID and his face turned white.  "I knew I shouldn't have sent that email." It was the mom of a friend from school calling. Her daughter had received a nasty email from our sweet little son.

It is never his actions that get him in trouble.  It is always his words, this time in written form. Unkind words regarding her talent or lack thereof and the school play.  Yikes.  As a proponent of talent education, I was mortified.

The girl is an aspiring theatre star, singing, dancing, acting--and the kids got jealous.  Calvin joined in.  Or maybe he was the instigator, I don't know. He knew he screwed up--on a multitude of planes including but not limited to misuse of the computer and not being kind.


He called with a truly contrite heart and apologized to her.  She apologized for some hurt feelings she caused in the past and they both seemed to be at peace about it.  It was right for parents to intervene at this age.  Kids don't have the skills to work it out completely on their own.

He still lost the use of any computer for one week.  His Household Post newspaper subscribers will have to suffer through.

It is a long weekend, the kids had Thursday and Friday off for conferences.  No computer.  Not too sick, but too sick to go anywhere. He was really bummed, but I'm the one paying the price.  Now we have the incessant rhythm of the manual typewriter, a pass down from Great Grandma Hope, typing out recipes for a handmade cook book.  Now we are making pies.  I wake up to a playdoh bakery, complete with background music.  It is only Friday. . . I can't imagine what my house is going to look like by next Tuesday. . .plugging in is so clean. . .

Sometimes I feel insecure about parental decisions.  Sometimes what needs to be done is blatantly obvious.  This was an easy one.

There is no electronic privacy until you are 18.
The computer can never be used as a tool to hurt someone else.
Friendship is optional. Kindness is not.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Moonshines

We have a family tradition.  October nights we sit on the porch under blankets, light the candles and read Pumpkin Moonshines by Tasha Tudor. Little Sylvie Ann visits her Grandmummy in Connecticut.  She wants to make a pumpkin moonshine--that is, a jack-o-lantern--so she goes out to the pumpkin patch and picks such a fine one. It rolls down the hill past the goats and the poultry and runs right into Mr. Hemmelskamp who was carrying a pail full of whitewash. Her Grandpawp comes out and cuts the top off that runaway pumpkin and makes it into a pumpkin moonshine. They hide behind the bushes to watch how terrified the passersby are at the sight of their fierce pumpkin moonshine. They had a wonderful time.

This morning I spent a few minutes and pulled all the Thanksgiving books from the shelves and put them in a basket for easy reading. I don't miss diapers. I don't miss buckling seat belts. I don't miss all that much from early childhood, which is coming to a close at our house.  But, I'm gonna miss the books. I confess to having spent an exorbitant amount of money on children's books. Factor in two sets of book-loving grandparents and you can guess we have more than our share. Oh well. I love them. I'm guessing I will keep buying beautiful hardcover picture books even when my kids are too big for them. Dolls and doll clothes too.

This might not surprise you. . . but I have kept a journal off and on for most of my life. To read the journal, you might think I was having a pretty tough life, or that I was always mad at my mom. That is because I'm guilty of mostly writing on the bad days. On the good days we don't always think to write. So, today I'm writing. And, I'm long since over being mad at my mom.

Sometimes everyday life is just enough. This month we are in a pretty good groove, everyone is pretty much being their very best selves. Practicing is going good. Nobody is acting like a doofus at church. Generally respectful acceptable behavior.  Bill has been home more. Mary is sick today, but not too sick. My mom was a school teacher. I remember the subtle grin that came over my mom's face when I would wake up "just a little sick."  She would have to stay home with me. Cupboards got cleaned out. Craft projects got started. Naps got taken. I lay on the sofa bored to tears, feeling better soon.

Here's to family traditions, and books, and everyday life.