6.18.2016

The Piano Lesson

When our oldest son, Aidan, was just 9 months old, we noticed he could match pitches. He would repeat back to me whatever note I sang and would easily finish the musical phrase I left undone. My parents were so sure of his excellent rhythmical abilities that they bought him a drum set when he was two (a gift I am still pretty certain was some sort of revenge present....) It proved to be a hit (buh-dunt-dum) and he has since become quite the drummer. 

Fast forward several cellos, violins, pianos, and guitars later, all of which he or his siblings are currently studying, and you get to Solomon. 

Solomon has had a major propensity toward music, especially singing. For years, we have often heard him humming the main theme to Star Wars while immersed in his legos or singing along to whatever tune happens to be on. He, too, has very good pitch and around his 5th birthday he started asking when it was his turn for piano lessons. While I have sat with him a couple of times at the piano, teaching him some VERY basic things in effort to appease him, I decided last week that maybe he should get a trial run with the girls' teacher. After all, he is kind of needed to complete our "Family Band" ....(move over Jackson 5!)

Last week, I asked her to just try him out for about ten minutes at the end of Madeline's lesson and so into the practice room the three of us ventured. He hesitantly slid onto the end of the bench, as far away from the teacher as he could muster without falling off.  

"So, what do you know about the piano?" she asked, in her pretty thick Korean accent.

(Insert DEAD SILENCE.)

"So, let me tell you something about the keys that is pretty interesting," she went on. "You see, the keys come in two color: These are the white keys and these are the black keys," she said, pointing them out.

Solomon turned and looked her square in the face. 

"Um, that's not actually very interesting," he said in all earnest.

And so ended his first lesson. The end.

No, no, actually, she continued to try and grab his attention for nine more excruciating minutes until he finally told her:

"You know, I don't really want to take piano lessons after all."

And THAT was when she came out to tell me, "Maybe we should try again in a few more months.... or never...."

(Ok, ok, she is too kind to add the "or never" part but you could tell by her body language that she meant every word of it!)

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there. (And happiest returns on the day to Lily, whose birthday not only trumps Father's Day this year, but also adds her to our double digit kids!)





5.25.2016

Extended Stay in Wonderland

Kurt and I were watching the hockey game last night when we heard noise from upstairs.

"Why did we have kids again?" I asked in jest.

"I don't know," he answered.

"I mean, we would be having much more fun without them," I joked.

Just as I finished saying it, we heard footsteps tumbling down the stairs and into the room popped Solomon, completely and utterly naked.

"Mom! Mom," he energetically exclaimed, half out of breath.

"Uh, Solly, why are you naked?" I asked, stifling my laughter.

He ignored me and continued. "Mom, you know those things that hold clothes?"

"You mean, drawers?"

"Yeah, drawers. Well, I accidentally pulled off one of the handles. But, in a way, it's like fixing it because now it is easier to get to my clothes," he explained. I could hear Emeril in my head going BAM!


And by "pulled off one of the handles" he meant "completely demolished the entire drawer."

And that is when I realized that my life is not like a series of short adventures into Wonderland as I had once imagined but more like an extended stay at the Mad Hatter's tea party. And what's more, today, as I sat down to write an email to our neighbor and ended up shopping on Thirve Market, while editing my iPhone's playlist because WHY IS THIS HORRIBLE MUSIC ON MY PHONE?! before unloading half the dishes, writing a partial grocery list, gathering together a dozen eggs to sell, peeking through the mail, and oh what's this? My kid's homework pile and school news......probably need to glance through that....while planning out my garden, checking the calendar, thinking about how to hang the kids' art for their "Home Art Show" that our in-house docent, Solomon, is hosting, (and not finishing a single one of those things!), I realized, not only did we check into this party without an ending date in sight, but yours truly IS THE MAD HATTER!

A Mad Hatter with a team of demolition minions to supervise......who in their right mind thought that this was a good idea?!




5.08.2016

Life and Death

I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath
Before I start off again.
Driven on without a moment to spend
To pass an evening with a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin
I'd like to pause
No matter what I pretend
Like some pilgrim
Who learns to transcend
Learns to live as if each step was the end

It was Easter in England. It was Easter everywhere I suppose but we had just landed in England, about to start our grand Footie adventure. Early in the afternoon, a text came from Lily: An egg had hatched! Easter arrived, bringing with it new life! Hope everlasting! We were tickled.

From across the world, I could feel Lily's excitement as nine peeps hatched that week; I sensed her worry as three almost died and her relief when they were nursed to good health by my faithful mom and Best-Neighbor-Ever. I mourned for her heartbreak when one of them did not survive and she buried it by herself next to the shed and wept...for hours. 

My mom cried from Florida, sad she was not still there to comfort and console. Lily cried in western PA, discouraged that the roosters would kill one of their own. I sighed, tears held back, helpless in England. Actually, helpless no matter where. Life can be cruel. But one thing that this life has taught me is that no matter how cruel, life goes on, even amidst sadness and death. We cannot hold onto what we have, what we had, what is to come. But those valleys give rise to great mountains. 

(Time stand still)
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
(Time stand still)
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each impression a little bit stronger
Freeze this motion a little bit longer

England was a fantastic blur (that I hope to share in a picture-post on a different day) and there were many moments I paused, wishing I could somehow capture them and keep them with me. But it was over before we knew it and a few days after we returned from overseas, I went out to the barn to tend to the peeps and found that our bunny, Morgan, had given birth to five kits. They were cold and lifeless. 

Five. Dead. Bunnies.

Shocked and a wee bit panicky, I texted my Best-Neighbor-Ever and she said she'd be right over. I began removing their damaged bodies from the cage. Only two of the kits seemed like they could have been viable. The others had been trampled and were damaged beyond repair. I held one under the heat lamp. Maybe if they just warmed up they'd come back to life. Maybe they were alive and just very deep sleepers. Maybe I was ridiculously hopeful; hopeful that somehow I was mistaken. But how would I tell the girls? Should I even tell them? Did they need to know this? The kits did not move. There were no detectable heartbeats.

"I don't even know what to do," I confessed to my friend, moving in slow motion as if in a dream. 

"Well, we should bury them," she offered, not wanting to look at the little bodies in front of us.

"You're right, " I agreed, gathering up the supplies and bundling up the babies.

We buried the bunnies next to our back coop and added a stone to mark their grave. The girls wept upon hearing the news, hearts broken in pieces. But, life somehow manages to keep moving forward. 

That night, I made the mistake of scouring the internet for information to help me process the dead bunnies and stumbled upon a post from someone who had "brought cold bunnies back to life" by warming them up. I was sick to my stomach. Did I just kill bunnies that could have been saved?!?!?! 

I kept reading, looking for other examples. Most of what I read told about young rabbit mothers often failing to keep a first litter alive; about how frequently first litters are dead upon being born, etc. But I kept coming back to the thought that I could have saved them. After tormenting myself for over an hour, I grabbed a flashlight and headed out back. Almost midnight, it was dark and beginning to snow. I grabbed the shovel and went to the grave thinking that mama rabbits bury their babies to help keep them warm, maybe burying them helped keep them alive. I stuck the shovel into the ground and as I was about to turn over the soil I had a moment of clarity. 

I texted my friend about it in the morning:

Me: So, it took everything I had to NOT dig those bunnies up last night.

Her: WHAT?! 

I watched this video about a guy who revived dead bunnies by warming them up. I KILLED THE BUNNIES! Seriously, three of them were irreparably damaged but the other two were just perfect, you know, outside of being cold and lifeless....

OMG! I HELPED you kill the bunnies!

Well, there were far more articles saying that first time rabbit moms often give birth to dead litters.

Let's go with that.

Even this morning I thought maybe they would still be okay since rabbit moms bury their bunnies to keep them safe and warm. But Kurt said that if I brought them back now they'd probably be like zombie/vampire bunnies and come eat us.

And the girls would be confused and horrified. 

See my dilemma? I actually went out at almost midnight to check on the rabbits and then dig up the bunnies. But then I stopped and said: Wait, this is INSANE! 

Stick with that. This is insane. Dead is dead. 

Yes, it is. 

But will you come dig me up after I die to see if I come back as a zombie vampire?!! After all, that's what friends are for. 

*****

I told you she is the best!

Time has not stood still, try and try as we might....we cannot force it to do so. But in those moments of grief, time seems to move so slowly that one can only believe that that moment will last forever and joy has ceased to exist. 

Not more than a couple weeks would go by before the tiniest Silkie peep hatched whom the girls named Biddy May. The next day, Bingo, our beloved one-eyed duck, was killed by the neighbors Doberman. Once again, Best-Neighbor-Ever came to help dig a hole. Sadly, we are getting to be old pros at this. 

"On the bright side, we know we can dig a lot deeper now," she offered. 

(Husbands be warned.) 

My children have learned the joy of new life, and the heartbreak when it is over. We have learned the art of burying the dead and of saying goodbye. With each feathery or furry friend, a little more innocence chips away. But such is life.

I just hope the burials get easier. 

We bought these pretty lighted flower and globe ornamental garden stakes to mark the graves and as I was sticking them into the ground, Madeline asked, "Wait! Are you sure you are not impaling their heads?"

"No, I know where they are buried and I am not impaling them." 

"Oh good," she said. "Because it just doesn't seem right to impale someone's head, even if they are already dead."

And the eulogies are even worse. As Madeline said some words over Bingos grave, it took everything I had not to burst into giggles:

"Family and friends, we are gathered here today to bury our mostly loved duck, Bingo.....who only had one eye and was blind in the other, so really, he had no working eyes. But we loved him anyway because we saved him when no one else wanted him and he was going to be killed by the farmer. And we kept him alive a year longer than he would have had and he lived a happy life here, but maybe sometimes he was sad because he couldn't see a thing. And that is how he died: He made a mistake and wandered into the neighbor's yard where he was eaten by their dog and he will never do that again. So, farewell Bingo. We will miss you walking in circles. Have a nice life in heaven."

Lily wept out a little more of that childhood innocence. Our sister-like friend hugged her then suggested they go play. 

Life went on and we ate chocolate and everything was essentially okay. 


Summer's going fast, nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away...
The innocence slips away
-Rush

3.26.2016

Easter Bacon, 2016

"For God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus.....And bacon."

--Kurt (a.k.a. my husband.....there is a reason I do most of the spiritual teaching in the house....)


Seriously, I know it is a time for full rejoicing at the resurrection of Christ but really, bacon is so much more tangible sometimes. All that fatty, salty goodness......I sometimes wonder if God could have gotten away with just the bacon. (No offense, Jesus.....not trying to discount your sacrifice or anything.....I am pretty sure bacon was the gift of remorse God offered after kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden.....like he felt a little bad so here's a little consolation prize.....definitely softened the blow if you ask me!)

As I type this, we are thousands of feet above the ground, flying toward a land already celebrating Easter Sunday. It’s like our personal attempt to get to Easter quicker, to escape the burden of Lent and the sorrow of that pre-Easter Saturday, arriving where we left off, hopefully with renewed faith and a revival of life.

I don’t fly well; I will admit it. I do not like being so high above the illusion of the sure footedness I feel with the ground directly under my feet. Madeline noted that everything looks so small from up here. Perspective is an amazing thing. Truth be told, most things ARE so small, we just only realize it when we remove ourselves from our norm and look at it through different lenses, from a distance perhaps.

Eating took on a different tune when we stopped filling ourselves with sugar and wheat products. It was scary at first, like taking leave of solid ground, but by the end of Lent, it did not feel so unfamiliar; it had become comfortable, a new norm. Adding candied eggs and treats suddenly this morning seemed odd…..why would we fill our bodies with stuff that isn’t sustaining, that doesn't nourish us? (Ok, admittedly, the kids had no problem tearing into their Easter baskets and devouring that which had been off limits for the last few weeks....SOME even learned why we don't eat the whole darn chocolate bunny at once!)

Cracking through the other forms of wastefulness was a different sort of beast though. It did not take long for me to realize that it was just too big of a feat to conquer. There were too many conflicts, too many justifications, too many temptations.

Oh, and not to mention, I am too imperfect!

While we should have filled dozens of bags or boxes to donate and throw, we got through only a few. While I should have freed plenty of time to finish up my books and devotionals, I am still wading knee deep in the trenches, digging through the muck to recall what I already read so that I can plunge forward again. While our budget should have been rejoicing from all the saving we did, I struggled to make everything add up just right with this big trip looming and the preparations for Easter upon us. 

And the list goes on and on. 

But, Easter is here! Well, it’s Easter SOMEWHERE anyway, and the fact remains, it never disappeared to begin with. All that wandering and waiting, that fasting and pursuing, just a remembrance; a reminder; just a discipline for our spirit, one that gently guides us back into the grace that existed before we began and will continue on until we are no longer even remembered. 


So yeah, bacon is pretty darn awesome. A close second perhaps.... But it can’t free us from ourselves. Only Jesus can do that. And that is what he did between the cross and the tomb and the emptiness and the rising. Our bunnies may be hollow, but His promises are not. We may celebrate with bacon (and/or chocolate filled tummy aches!), but our Easter joy comes from the love of God, and God alone. (And we know he loves us because he gave us Jesus.....and, yeah, bacon!)








3.23.2016

On Being Found

Kurt and I are getting ready to head to England with Madeline who was selected to go train with the Wolverhampton soccer academy for a week. We leave the day before Easter so, one day on the way to school, I was explaining to the kids that we would be celebrating Easter early (again) this year. 

"Well, how is the Easter Bunny going to know that we need him or her to come early?" Lily wanted to know. 

"I will just send the Easter Bunny a message like I did last time," I said.

"How?"

"Well, I will put a note in the mail......or maybe I can tell the chickens who can tell the birds who can take the message to the Easter Bunny," I replied thoughtfully.

"Oh, I know!" she exclaimed. "We could tell the cats to tell the Easter Bunny since they go far away hunting."

"Hmmmm, I sure hope that wasn't the Easter Bunny's liver at our doorstep yesterday," I responded. 

There was a dramatic pause as it slowly registered in their now warped little minds. Then the car exploded in laughter as I said a silent 'You're Welcome' to their future therapists.

****

I was thinking about it recently: There is a strange sort of beauty in being lost. You see, if you are never lost, then you don't get to experience the supreme exhilaration of being found again. You don't get to experience the joy that accompanies finding your way back home, being welcomed with open arms, rejoicing in reunion. Traveling can do this for loved ones. ("Let there be space in your togetherness," said Kahlil Gibran, reminding us that in that space, in that time apart, we recall fondly those we love and we miss them....something not allowed by continual togetherness.....which is why I send my kids to opposing corners over and over and over again.....)

And while the Easter Bunny is probably very happy not being found (you know, that whole avoiding organ removal and full limb dismantling thing), the rest of us, well, sometimes being found, coming home again, is all it takes to renew our spirits and lift us toward joy. 

Dawson left the safety of the run to find Bingo.....

Lily brought them both home again.
And we rejoice.
(Even if I am still plotting to find them a new home!) 








3.17.2016

Who We Are

The night of the Subway adventure, I was awakened a little before 2:00 a.m. by a screaming Madeline:

"Moooooom! Lily is puking all over our room.....ALL OVER MY BED!"

I resisted the urge to pull the sheets over my head and ignore her panic and instead leapt up and grabbed my stash of cleaning supplies that, let's be honest, I think I keep just for this occasion. 

When I arrived, I questioned why I had not gone with my first instinct and I dearly wished I still had on my blinders from the sub shop. My mind raced: didn't we JUST go through this a month or so ago? Doesn't that fulfill our quota for the year?

For the love of......!

Lily, top-bunk sleeping Lily, had sure enough become what might be described as violently ill.....if by violent we are referring to a sudden, torrential attack of projectile vomiting. From the looks of the crime scene, she had been assaulted by the sudden onset of whatever tummy bug Solomon should have picked up from Subway's bathroom floor (again, EWWWW!). Pink, regurgitated berry smoothie was dripping from the top bunk, down onto Madeline's lower bunk, somehow hitting every step of the ladder as well and covering EVERY. LAST. THING. ON. THEIR. OFF-WHITE-CARPET! (Kurt might claim it is a light beige carpet but trust me, from the Contrast Art perspective of that moment, it was definitely closer to white!)

I was furious. How many times had I told them to go clean their room in the last week?! How many times had I failed to follow up and make sure they had actually done it?!

Madeline curled up outside her bedroom door, exhausted; Lily, a pale heap on the bathroom mat next to the sludge covered toilet, quietly shivered. 

It took me a full hour to calm myself down clean up the disaster zone: half a bottle of Lysol, a full roll of paper towels, two full garbage bags of unrecoverable, drenched books, art work, notebooks, pens, pencils (and whatever else I angrily threw in there just because) and eight loads of laundry carefully rolled inward and piled up in front of the over worked machines.....why, oh why had they decided to leave all that clutter all over their floor? (And seriously, why couldn't it have been Solly, sleeping two feet from the bathroom door on the floor of his room? And finally, what's with my kids puking on each other?!)

At one point, after sticking in another load of soiled stuffed animals and sheets, I went into the guest bathroom to wash my hands and was met with this: 






Not only was their room a ridiculous disaster, but they had infiltrated the guest bathroom which was now oozing creativity in the form of ONE. GIGANTIC. MESS! (I refrained from taking a picture of the paint-stained sink and overflowing trash......)





But then something caught my eye. Four simple words.










Oh dear Lord! Why can't I just be mad for one moment before you throw something back in my face?! For, if they are the sheep.....who is their shepherd? And if that is my call in this moment, for this season, how will I tend my flock? With anger? Resentment? Irritation? 

Or will I follow The Way set before me, tending to them with love, compassion, and forgiveness?

(Honestly, Jesus didn't have kids that we know of and I can't recall any stories of him having to clean up the bodily fluids of anyone in the middle of the night while he really needed sleep and as far as I can tell, when he needed a break, he just climbed a mountain or entered a garden and told people to back off and they listened......I can't even use the toilet without interruption for crying out loud! But somehow, his example is supposed to apply here......so onward we push.) 

It is a funny balancing act being both a shepherd and a sheep; hoping to be found while also doing the searching.....praying for forgiveness while also doing the forgiving.....receiving grace in the midst of the dispensing.

I left the art room, silently finished the sanitizing and making of beds, gave Lily fresh clothes and covered her with a clean blanket. Then, I went back to the girls' closet, where I had angrily thrown Madeline's clean stuffed animals, and one by one I gently placed each animal back where it belonged so that they could be bearers of comfort to the one who loves them most. 

I am a sheep. YOU are a sheep. 

Let us also be good shepherds. 

3.15.2016

When Blindness is a Virtue

We were in Subway on Sunday buying gluten-filled sub sandwiches for our gluten-starved children. (We stopped bringing gluten into the house at the beginning of Lent.....some kids have taken it better than others.) As we were walking out the door, Solomon told me he had to go potty and ran to the women's bathroom. When he came out, I asked if he had washed his hands.

"Yes, I did," he said, flippantly waving his slightly wet hands in the air. "Oh, but....." He stopped short and ran back to the bathroom. When he came back out, he was holding his mostly eaten sub sandwich which I assume he had put down [insert anywhere in the bathroom as it really doesn't matter because EWWWWWW!] in order to wash his hands. He took a big chomp out of it before I could manage any words. (And then I think we all just threw up a little in our mouths because again, EWWWWWW!)

After suggesting that maybe he did not need to finish the sandwich, I turned a blind eye.....because really, when your kid eats food off of a fast food restaurant's bathroom floor, sometimes it is best to simply put the blinders back on.



Subsequently, I went from begging for this:


To saying, um, scratch that and instead praying for this:


I think that is called surrender, right? 

It's amazing what perspective a little trip to Subway can bring!