Friday, August 31, 2007

Is This Helter Skelter? Perhaps...

The family is pretty busy these days: three campus concerts - one last night (Thursday), another today, and a final concert on Saturday. Whew. Set lists, chord charts, lyrics, practices, setting up and tearing down, carting equipment here and there, last minute personnel changes, phone calls, etc. Who would ever think that all this goes into the making of a concert? Well, it does. And it makes for a busy home front, to say the least!

This very full weekend of college outreach will culminate on Sunday with an open invitation for lunch here at our home following church. "Estimated attendance?" I asked. "Plan for 90ish," was the exuberant reply. Okey doke. So today the planning began. I finally had time to consider a menu: baked ziti, salad, Italian bread, and cookie bars. A quick phone call to a friend experienced in preparing ziti for crowds has yielded more info. I now know the quantities to purchase and have a game plan for prep. That will all be put into action starting this afternoon. Buying, cooking, baking, and setting up. Fortunately I have a couple of daughters who are not involved in today's concert. Whew, again!

However, some semblance of real life goes on. A daughter returns from her yearlong stint in Friedrichshafen, Germany on Tuesday. We began planning for celebrating that homecoming this morning as well. None too soon, but sometimes we take things as they come around here!

School is still slated for starting this Tuesday, too. That along with homecomings. And how much school will we honestly get done on Wednesday with a sister finally at home? Maybe some of the morning routine while she sleeps in a bit, but I think flexibility will be the order of that day.

And so, you can see how routine works around here. It doesn't. That lovely schedule posted on my cupboard door simply provides something to aim at, a plan to assume when nothing else is happening. And once in awhile, on a rarer than rare occasion, nothing else is happening -nothing else at all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Curriculum Saga Continues (see previous post)

I have officially ordered math workbooks for the littlest student in the Sinclair Academy of Fine Arts (I determined long ago that we would undoubtedly major in the arts - try as I might, it was inevitable. Somehow even our science ended up with song and dance.)

I also discovered that last year I had given permission to consume the consumable vocab books, so replacements were also purchased.

A search through the bookshelves yielded a fun find for history/English. As I laid my hand on Alistair Cooke's America, I fully intended to discard it to the "remove from shelves permanently" pile, foolishly assuming it was one of those coffee table texts full of panoramic views of mountains, plains, valleys, and red barns. It had found its way into my home when a faithful daughter along with an almost daughter attended a local library give-away day. They carted home boxes full of unwanted volumes and America was amidst the collection. Up on the shelf it went, relegated to the miscellaneous picture book assemblage. There is nothing inherently wrong with coffee table books but now, in my minimize and simplify mood, it was about to move on once more. But...

...a quick peek inside revealed much more than sweeping photos. Here was a retelling of the American story from Colonial days to the Vietnam era, all from this quippish Brit's perspective. This was just what I needed! It is chock full of photos and portraits I've never seen along with "real people" stories. It is the American chronicle in larger page format, not as overwhelming as a weighty high school text, with wonderfully colored illustrations and such. This would serve well as our main core of study, the skeleton, if you will, of our lessons.

I then reached for my favorite assistant: Beautiful Feet History by Rea and Rebecca Berg. These old standbys would provide ideas for fleshing out our studies. I gathered up the primary, intermediate, and advanced curriculum for American History and began to plot. I'm not very far along but all my children now have reading, writing, vocab, and music assignments to correlate with the America text through to October. I also have a general idea of how we will utilize the entire volume throughout the year.

Twenty-one years later, I am needing a fresh approach. As I once confessed, I delight in new and different more than many. So, my Lord has indulged me once again. He is a good and wonderful God for many good and wonderful reasons. Knowing me and my desires, and somehow meeting those desires is one of them, no doubt!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Curriculum Ponderings

I've been teaching my children at home for good number of years now. This is fall #21, if my figuring is somewhat accurate.

By now most homeschooling moms have finished contemplating curriculum plans for the coming year. I have managed to put a rough outline together, but I'm afraid that's as far as I've gotten.

The dollars are a bit tight this year, and there are music lessons to add to the budget, so I have determined to use whatever texts I have on my shelf, whether they are the latest and greatest or not. There will be some consumable workbooks to order, but otherwise I will go with the same ol' stuff.

Don't get me wrong. I like new and different as much as the next guy (maybe a bit more) but I came to the conclusion some time ago that the endless search for the perfect curriculum is illusive and vain for this reason: there is no such thing as the perfect curriculum. Any workbook needs tweaking; all curriculum needs customizing. Let me clarify: some are better than others, no doubt, and it is worth asking around and getting input from people who are familiar with what's out there. But there's alot out there - and it's downright confusing!

So for the purposes of frugality and sanity, I have stopped looking too much. A browse through a curriculum catalog can be thoroughly depressing, or at least, discouraging. Nagging doubts soon ensue. "Maybe they're not getting the best math." "Perhaps I need to add French, Latin, music history, and an extra vocab book this year. And look at that geography text. I wonder if we can fit that in along with chemistry experiments." "Wow, the pictures in this series are more colorful than the reading books I just purchased last year. But I can't afford to invest in more so now my child is missing out..."

You cannot do it all. You cannot have it all. You do not need to. You do not need the best or the latest and greatest. Good curriculum, thankfully, has become more accessible as well as more available. This is wonderful! But the industry has taken off and is like any capitalistic, free-market venture - it is money driven. And that is okay (if you want to know my opinion, I think that is good, but that is another whole topic!) We just have to be aware of choices. There is excess and we must not get stuck in it!

Mostly I encourage myself and others to examine, then choose, and then be content. Make the curriculum work for you, not vice versa. I repeat, there is no such thing as a "perfect for you and your child" curriculum. Therefore adopt this paradigm: don't be a slave to the book - use the book for your purposes. Be creative with it. Supplement when something you value is not emphasized enough. Add drill if they didn't catch it the first time, or if they need more time learning it. However, if your student is catching on quickly consider deleting repetition rather than boring him to death. But for a quick speller, writing out "tan, can, van, ran" several times in one week gets a bit tedious.

Is the chapter calling for a research paper? Determine whether this is the best time for that, or would it be more advantageous to combine a research paper with next month's history assignment? If so, hold off until next month and jump to the next chapter instead. Trust me. The sky will not fall, nor will the ceiling cave in if you jump ahead or cross off an assignment.

How about spelling? Don't feel compelled to stick to the book. Take spelling from his writing, or lift words from the scripture passage he is memorizing. Build word families from it, discuss the spelling rule involved. Save the spelling workbook for those off weeks (or months) when you are too busy to be that involved. Then - don't panic if the workbook is not completed - it has been used as a supplement only.

So in the next few days I will peruse the bookshelves in my family room and determine the history topic to be studied this the year. Vocab workbooks will be pulled down (even though I ordered consumables I was so cheap that I had them write the answers in separate notebooks so that we can use the workbooks over and over.) I will order the same old math that I have now grown familiar with, even though there might be something more colorful available. It will still work. It has before.

This I've learned along the way: whether the curriculum is new or old, colorful or picture-less, a consumable workbook or a video lecture series, it is really up to me to make it work. Most of all, I need to renew my vision. I remind myself once again of the importance of the coming days and weeks, of how quickly they will slip away, of the privilege of spending my time with these precious children. And I remember that there is nothing more I would rather do than this. Absolutely nothing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Kingdom Employment Stats: Always A Job Available

Pray for laborers. There is work to be done.

The Lord Himself told us to pray for laborers. And I am currently reminded that there is a plentiful harvest waiting, but few laborers. There is reaping to be done, but few reapers. There is a harvest brought in, but few caregivers.

I repeat: there is work to be done.

Workers needed:
1. sowing
2. harvesting
3. putting up the harvest

What part are you doing? Surely you fit in somewhere. There are needs of all types of labor, from evangelism to discipleship to administration to hospitality. The local church needs musicians, children's care and teaching, table wiping, floor sweeping, computer keyboard typists, etc., etc.

Yes, we are busy at home, and rightly so. But the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 fame found time for the poor and needy as well. The top priority must continue to be home and hearth, but if we look only inward, we miss opportunities to show love and teach love to others. We must not be guilty of personal kingdom building. Stretching our hearts to include the church necessarily means investing time, energy, and talents.

What need can you meet? How can you help your local church serve the lost community? Is there a way to help that new believer grow and become established? Are their young children learning the Word of God (how can these new believers teach what they do not know? Can't we hold their hands for a season until they are established?) Is God being glorified in worship, in the welcoming nature of the building, in the excellence of the bulletin boards? Find a niche and plug in. I know of very few pastors who would turn down your cheerful help! And while you help, your children learn to have servants' hearts with a passion for the flock of God.

You guessed it - it's fall in this pastor's home and we are contemplating anew the ministries that our church offers. And as usual, there is far more to do than we seem to have hands for. So we must consider priorities, but we must also get on our knees and pray for laborers.

Those laborers are you and me. There's a job with heavenly benefits waiting for us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where Is My Time Going?

A daughter is returning home after a year's absence. We are busily and happily making a spot for her (surely you didn't expect her old one to have remained vacant in this house, did you?)

I am also busily and happily considering plans for the upcoming year. Where to be involved, how much time to give outside of the home - these are the perennial questions. Yes, you're right. I think the answers are overdue if I were to be on top of the fall calendar. But I am not, and I do not have the answers quite yet. So I am even more overdue. Oh, well. Somehow school will start, lessons will be scheduled, and we will come to some conclusions. Somehow.

If you drop into my house you could possibly catch me in diligent vocal practice. For some reason, I am intent on getting my singing back in shape (if that is possible after all these years) and if I come even close, I may indulge myself in preparing a Broadway recital. Would you come if I did? Streisand I won't be, Bernadette is out of reach. But I will try to sing in tune and present a nice variety of songs from all kinds of shows. Sounds like fun to me. As I recently said, some people hunt, some play golf. For me, this a wonderful creative outlet. So chip away I will. Something presentable may come of it all in the end. I'll let you know!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Heaven On Earth?

"Home interprets heaven. Home is heaven for beginners." Charles Henry Parkhurst

As I shared the importance of creating healthy homes with my young audience (a girl's youth group) I was reminded myself of the impact of a Godly home.

We discussed how homes should be the center of life, not merely a pit stop along the way.

Homes should be places of refuge where there is safety and nurturing and care, providing shelter from the storm and peace far from the maddening crowd.

The hub of much ministry is a home. Coffee and counsel are shared at the kitchen table. Young people from broken homes find solace and comfort there. They witness something they've never experienced elsewhere. Your own children and husband grow in Christian love, blossoming in their calling to follow after Him.

We underestimate the value of the home. The world has sold us a false bill of goods. We're led to believe that jobs, wearing nice clothes, sporting a diploma, and bringing home the bacon are of paramount import, certainly more significant and valuable than investing primarily in a home. It is humbling, downright embarrassing at times, to admit to being a homemaker. Face it. Girls grow up being asked, "What are you going to be when you grow up? A teacher, model, secretary, or astronaut?" No one ever expects the answer to be homemaker. And no one would applaud such mundaneness. How unimaginative. How banal. How trivial. How... small.

Creating order, living economically, establishing freedom to learn and explore talents, providing nurturing care - these things and more go into building a healthy home. And these things require intelligence, creativity, energy, strength, administration, and - an all important ingredient - time.

Nothing is more important than providing a sanctuary for family and fellow travelers along life's way. And there is no greater task than seeing a husband and children encouraged in and released to Christian ministry in the local church and community.

So let's remember once again the largeness of the task before us. A man once shared a vision the Lord had given him. He was looking into heaven at the multitude surrounding the throne in worship. As he drew closer he began canvassing the front rows, searching for his heroes in the faith. He examined face after face and recognized no one. These rows, he soon realized, were comprised of unknowns. A majority were older women, mothers who earned their coveted positions here through quiet service, proving themselves faithful in that which is least. The man was amazed and humbled.

What we consider common place, mundane, and therefore of little importance weighs out very differently on His scales: Home, Family, Love = Priceless.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Great White Way

The Drowsy Chaperone was viewed by several of our gang on Wednesday evening. We hit up the TKTS booth on Times Square and bought half price tickets (still not what you and I would think of as a bargain, but we will write it off as an educational expense.) It proved to be a delightfully entertaining musical full of corny jokes, acrobatic stunts, tap dance, and lively characters. Lots of hearty laughs! Unfortunately there were some off-color comments as well, but they were fairly minimal. What a disappointment, though.

Last evening hubby and I attended Frost Nixon with his sister, Judy, and her husband, Huck. It was nothing short of wonderful. The actors presented drama that was thoroughly engrossing, deftly drawing the audience into the 1977 scenario depicting the famous David Frost interviews with the then resigned President Nixon. Who would have thought that it could make for fascinating theater? As usual, the script alone could not do it, the actors alone could not do it. It's that magic combination of fabulous playwright, director, and actors. Simply put, I loved it!

As we left the theater I couldn't help but notice Angela Lansbury's new show across the way. Wouldn't I love to see such an experienced craftsman (or is that craftswoman?) as she takes control of the stage. Who can imagine her presence in that arena? She would undoubtedly be phenomenal. But the reviews are less than fabulous (the two ladies had glowing reviews but the script did not) and my budget is definitely less than ample at this point. Ah, well. Broadway will have to wait...

It has been fun. Most assuredly this is a favorite hobby of mine. Some people like hunting, some golf - I'll take theater, dance, and all the trappings.

And say, if Angela Lansbury can still be starring at her age, who knows what lies ahead for me? Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Brietta's little ones are thrilled to be at Aunt Judy's house. In their young minds it is fast becoming a vacation home, full of fun and memories. As I helped Daniel settle the kids on makeshift beds in the corner of their room and open the pack-n-play for little Jackson I was thrust back in time about 22 years. When Danica, Bri, and Carina were the toddlers and babes, Rick and I were routinely visiting Aunt Gerry in Leominster, Mass. That was the vacation home in their young minds. Bedtime with stories and favorite blankets was done on the daybed outside of Aunt Elly's room. And now, here we are, establishing similar memories for Gabriel and Bronwyn. Cycles.

Later we found Papa (that would be Rick) snuggled on the hammock in the side yard with little Bronwyn. Immediately a favorite photo came to mind: Papa (Rick's dad) snuggled on the chaise lounge with baby Danica on the front porch in Leominster, Mass. Cycles.

Off to Levittown we drove yesterday, caravan style. Daddy was intent on showing the younger set the old family homestead. As we pulled up in front of 16 Morning Glory, warm fuzzies flooded my soul. Brietta stepped out of the van and her eyes filled with tears. It had been a long time since she was last here, and the absence of Nana sitting inside that big front window was sorely felt. The favorite neighbor was there to greet us and the sound of her voice was comforting. As she said, "It is never the same." Some cycles are not so easily repeated.


Once again, time leaves its mark, either in cycles revisited with us in a new place in the circle, or in memories never to be lived again.

And the promise of eternity draws near. Oh, sweet Jesus, how dear You are.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Looking Forward To -

A four bedroom house, nineteen bodies, and lazy mornings. Gourmet food, espresso, and porches.

Beach pails, towels, and sand. Waves, seagulls, and sunscreen.

Subway trains, outdoor concerts, and Central Park. Fifth Ave., Southside Seaport, and Broadway.

Laughter, stories, and games. Movies, magazines, and shopping.

Where am I off to? A week in Northport at Aunt Judy's new home. I can tell you right now, it's hard to beat!

Be back Saturday.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Christian Rituals - The Real Deal

When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 Chronicles 7:1

And he said to them all, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

I am reminded once again that without sacrifice there is no fire. If we want fire in our hearts, the zeal of God, we must put something on the altar and walk away, allowing Him to consume that very thing.

Once again I remember that without the cross there is no death; we are not giving our very lives without that daily cross. If there is no denial of self, He is not enthroned.

It's pretty simple to understand. It's just not easy to do.

But if we want fire in our hearts, the consuming fire of God, a zeal for Him that leaves all other passions laying in the dust behind us, we must present sacrifice. If we want His life in us, if we want to follow after Him in all His ways, we must choose the cross, the way of death. Daily.

Sometimes it sounds like such a supreme endeavor, so noble and all. After all, it is hard to do. But as a friend of mine once said, "What's the big deal? 'Oh, I'm giving up my life and everything I hold dear.' Let's be real - we're giving up sin and brokenness - our drugs and cigarettes, our vain ideas, our shallow dreams."

Yeah - we're giving Him so much. How noble.

But flesh is flesh, and death is death, and flesh doesn't readily welcome death. We don't embrace it easily. And yet, it is the way to life. It brings the consuming fire of God which ushers in His presence in our lives.

It is the only way to live with His glory shining through and His zeal consuming our hearts. It is the only way to truly follow after Him. He gave no other.

"Oh, Lord, let me choose your ways today. Help me to let go of all that You would require of me. Let me lay it on the altar freely. Let me take up that cross and all it represents: death to my ways, desires, will, and dreams. Only You. Only You. Amen."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dump Days

Stacks of children's books, extraneous videos, broken toys, games with missing pieces - all of the above have been relegated to shopping bags now sitting in my side porch awaiting final dismissal via garage sale day or dump day, whichever comes first. As long as they leave my house, I don't really care. I never view garage sales as opportunities to turn a buck. They are, in my opinion, for the sole purpose of relieving the house of excess baggage. If I get a bit of pocket change in the process, so be it!

But today, as I told a friend, we merely moved a teaspoon of the mountain. Oh, to have two full weeks for digging out. Oi, veh! How does one family yearly create such enormous superfluity? (That was a bit redundant, but it proves the point...)

Once started it was fun - the kind of thing I love to do. Looking at the mountain sometimes leaves me undone, but toss one thing, which always leads to another, and pretty soon the momentum builds. Then you just better step back or you may find yourself snatched up, discarded, and crammed into an old J. Crew bag on my side porch. And who knows where that may lead to!

These are the days my husband prays, worries, and then prays some more. Over the years he's experienced some painful losses (ouch - I've not always been mindful of his attachments) and now he is gun-shy. So I will be careful. And I will try to contain my enthusiasm at the dumpster this year!

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Day's Plans

I think it's going to be one of those all day rains. That helps me figure out what not to do on my unending list of things to be done SOON! We will not mow, weed, weed-whack, or rake. We will, instead, with some persuasion from Mom, take on the role of professional cleaners and hopefully make some progress on gaining order and cleanliness around this here house of mine. YUCK! It's pretty bad.

Like another friend of mine, I prefer deep cleaning in the fall. I do wish I could also squeeze it in during those spring months, but somehow I never do. Fall is the natural time for such doings in my book. Spring pulls me out of doors into weed-ridden garden beds, but fall finds me cleaning out closets and yanking excess from shelves. I love it. Unfortunately, not everyone in my family feels the same exhilaration. In their minds, it's their stuff I toss, not my own. Oh, the folly of perspective!

This morning I ordered three musicals for perusal from Tams-Witmark, and will beg another company (Rogers and Hammerstein Library) to send me three as well, even though I currently have some on loan from them and therefore am not entitled to more. But I figure I am a customer in good-standing, and I want the scripts before I leave town on vacation this Saturday so that I can read through them while traveling. I hope they cooperate with my plans!

The first destination for our travels is a wedding in Vermont. I will busy myself with finishing up those plans (overnight accommodations and such) after I call the bride's mother. You see, when looking up the address for the ceremony I discovered that I failed to send in the RSVP. For those of you that know me, this is no surprise. But you would think I would know better. I just had to do this for the last wedding we attended! What an embarrassing way to meet the mother of the bride! Humbling. Oh, yes. Humbling. So I will call and let her know of our hopes to attend, and ask if it is too late. If it is not, I will check out places to spend the night. It would be easier to just remember the RSVP in the first place...

Granola is baking and the timer calls. Then I will mill some flour for bread. Maybe soon the troops will be ready for orders. We're a bit slow. Everyone is exhausted from late night performances. So a rainy day only adds to the tendency to sleep in a bit. I will indulge their tired bodies. But not for too much longer. I've got plans, you know!


I've had numerous requests for this recipe so here it is!


Oven 250.
Mix in large bowl:
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup wheat germ
1 T. salt

Blend separately:
1/2 cup water
1 cup oil
1 cup honey
2 t. vanilla

Add any variety of dried fruits and nuts, spices or flavorings (cranberries, cherries, blueberries, raisins, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, almond flavoring, etc.) to the dry ingredients and stir.

Add liquid blend to dry ingredients, stir until thoroughly mixed.

Spread out on jelly roll pans (I use two) and bake approximately 1 hour or until fairly dry and a bit golden. Let cool and put in air tight containers.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Weekend Is Over

My busy rehearsal schedule is now concluded. Finished. Show is done, costumes put away, set dissembled, script handed in.

I thought I would be a bit sad, but I am actually feeling pleased to know that a chore routine will resume around the house, and I might get curriculum ordered and musicals for the spring perused.

Not that I didn't thoroughly enjoy myself, mind you. In fact, I am dreaming up opportunities to perform a recital of Broadway selections. I so love singing and acting! And since my chance for lead roles is all but impossible (older ladies typically don't get soprano lead parts...) I will create occasions myself. Perhaps I'll even have a bit of an audience!

Meanwhile, I start contemplating a musical suitable for CFA students. That is trickier than it may appear. But I know God will reveal an appropriate show - soon, I hope!

And now, back to reality. A little boy is waiting for bedtime stories. Then I'm off to my own pillow. Ahhh! What delight a simple pillow can provide!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Closing Night!

A matinee show of The Music Man at 2:00pm followed by a cast pizza party, then a photo shoot, our final show at 7:30pm, and a cast party 'til who knows when.

Sounds like a day to me!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Higher Goal

"... there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.
... and all they think about is this life here on earth."
Philippians 3:18,19 NLT

All they think about is this life here on earth...

How easily we become caught up with this world and everyday life, plotting for the days, months, and years to come. Do we need to plan? Yes. Must we be wise with the time allotted? Absolutely. But should we keep a higher goal in view as the ultimate purpose? It is imperative!! Otherwise we become like them, living only for this world.

Perhaps we are busily endorsing a Godly lifestyle as the way to happiness, but if it is happiness for this world's existence that we are promoting, we have missed the point. It is most certainly true that for those who are searching for a better way to live this life the scriptures have much counsel. But if the only things espoused are some principles for successful living here and now, we are no better off than the people about whom Paul was warning the Philippians. He called them enemies of the cross!

We have been saved for one thing, and one thing only: eternity with Him. Heaven is now our homeland. We no longer have a citizenship in a passing world. So let's not live like we do! Let's long for home, talk fondly and proudly of that land, and do all we can to prepare for that homecoming.

Oh, to keep Him in my sight, to never be found living for this life and all that is passing, to be as Paul who forgot the things behind, whether good or bad, and pressed on to a higher goal! That is my earnest prayer this day.

"Lord, set us apart. Cause us to be people whose citizenship is obvious, clearly seen in the longing we have, the fondness readily shared of our true homeland. Make us those whose affections are truly set above where You are preparing a place for us. Let us forget the things behind and press on today toward the goal. You, and You alone, are the goal. Help us to be divorced from worldly attachments. Let their grip on us be broken as we gaze heavenward into Your glorious face.

We have been redeemed from citizenship in this sin-sick, broken world.
We have been made a new creation to live an eternal life in Your presence.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Production Week

The theater world is a funny world. Make-believe. Non-reality attempting to imitate reality. In measure, it does.

But the people doing theater are all real - some more than others. But in spite of how far from reality some attempt to live they are real people created in His image.

Real people attempting to present a reality from which they are attempting to escape. Now that makes for interesting conversation.

But here in "Podunk, USA" our little community theater is mostly full of pretty normal, everyday folks. And I am getting to know some of them. That makes for interesting conversation, as well.

So if you think of it, pray for meaningful conversation, good witness of His great love, opportunities to share significant words of high impact, and good report and reputation for His name's sake.

And come see the show, if you can! ;)