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I'm BAAACK! What? No time passed for the rest of you?
I've been in Narnia, a land not normally inhabited by humans. A visit from Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve is a big deal. So who lives there? Narnians!
These are woodland Narnians. A couple of my teen helpers did leaf-and-vine designs on all of them.
Here is a Pixie. My very own pixie, in fact. :) Another teen helper painted all 8 pixies every show.
There are fairies in Narnia. The Fairies were all teenage girls able to do this elaborate design on themselves and outline it with gold Aqua Glitter. (No, they did not wear old shirts for costumes--that is a cover-up, required when cast members are eating or applying makeup.)
There is a Witch in Narnia! A White Witch who makes it always winter and never Christmas. Here she is with her henchman, Scratch, the Dwarf. One of the other moms, who had never done stage makeup before but who had been an art major in college, took on the White Witch as her project. From hair design to finishing touches of silverleaf, it took 45 minutes or more to get her ready, but the results were worth it. She looked fabulous onstage!
The White Witch is accompanied in her dance numbers by Cruelies, who are evil spirit-types. The directors wanted them to be nearly faceless, so we covered their lips with makeup and added this creepy-looking design around their eyes. It was simple enough for them to do themselves, and it looked great!
There were other Evils who joined the White Witch's army. I encouraged them to go crazy with wrinkles, bags, shadows, wild-and-wooly eyebrows, and super-teased and messy hair. This girl gave herself a unibrow!
Mr. Tumnus, a Faun, plays a leading role in the story. Fauns are half man, half goat: bare-chested, with facial hair. With prosthetic ears, he was nearly there, but for the finishing touch, I handcrafted horns out of Model Magic and mounted them on a headband. He looked distinctive from all the other characters on stage, especially when frozen into a statue!
Finally, Narnia is full of Talking Animals.
Here is me applying finishing touches to the Bull, Aslan's military commander. He may be hard to recognize, but that is my 13-year-old son.
The costume and a little bit of distance make him look more Bull-ish. All of these designs look different on stage than they do in these close-ups. We have found that subtle does not play well in our extra-large theater with not-great lighting, so bolder and bigger is better!
All of us on the makeup team found that we were our own worst critics. (I think this time I made the white area around his mouth too wide; his face looked longer and narrower when the white did not extend beyond the edges of his mouth or as far up onto his nose.)
The Beavers proved to be quite a challenge, but we finally got them right, I think. I did Mrs. Beaver's face and Mr. Beaver's hair "ears" every time. Here you can see how a slight change in a design can make a big difference. I blended out the white around Mrs. B's eyes a bit too much this time, and I didn't darken her nose as much as his is. He looks better because there is more contrast of light and dark on his face. Also his eyebrows really complete his design. I made hers more feminine and "plucked" on purpose, but imagine her arch thickened just a bit--see what that would add? Also, I had trouble with the brush I used to do her whisker dots too, and that area got smudgy when I tried to fix them. The crispness of his looks really good by comparison. Just little stuff...but it's making notes like this that helped us get better each time!
Okay, that was for anyone googling "bull makeup" or "beaver makeup." All done critiquing.
Here is a creative use of hair to make ears, on our Deer...
We had a Rabbit and a Hare. We gave them both the same makeup design. She had to flip a little girl over her head in one dance, so we made her a French lop, with her ears on the sides.
...a Fox (with hair fastened to make a "beard" or "ruff")...
...and an Antelope are all good Narnians.
But in the Green Room, a Talking Leopard can be friends with a Hag...
..and a Squirrel can play cards with an Ogre (who creatively gave himself a black eye, you can see!). It's like the Peaceable Kingdom! (Don't you love his hair?)
Finally, we have the magical White Stag. If you catch him, he'll give you three wishes! Our Stag had a Doe for a dance partner, and their ballet interludes during scene changes was one of my favorite parts of the show. She remained a Doe for the whole show, so her makeup is more elaborate (lots of glitter which showed up well under the lights) while his was as minimal as possible. Why? Because he had a quick change into the Professor, who appears in the very next scene! So less white, less black on him--which had to be wiped off in a flash, and a few wrinkles reapplied. Off came the antlers, and on went a pair of horn-rimmed glasses--and some folks didn't realize it was the same young man! I was pleased at how his hair looked white in this costume, and gray in his Professor sweater.
(As a makeup tip for anyone googling--because it can be hard to get dark hair to look white--I painted his hair with a Graftobian Disguise Stix in white to start out, especially on sideburns and bangs, then sprayed with Streaks'n'Tips white hairspray. The Party City brand was very wet and only turned the hair gray; Beyond the Zone Color Bomb hair spray is not as good either. The Graftobian Glitter Gel was cheaper, more glittery and less sticky than Ben Nye's Glitz. We used Ben Nye Magicake Aqua Paints for most of our designs. For the White Witch, we used a color called Blue Spirit as the base, and went with a creme base for more comfort and blendability.)
I have some makeup experience, but can you believe that the other five moms on my committee had never done makeup before?? Didn't they do a fabulous job? And though you always lose some control over the designs when you have the kids doing themselves--cough, Evils, cough, cough--there is no way we could have got 80-some cast members ready any other way! And they learn so much from doing it. I was SO PROUD of the kids, my team, my teen helpers and the RESULTS. The makeup was a huge addition to the whole illusion of sets, costumes and props creating the wonderland of Narnia!
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So I haven't been able to write a blog post in the past couple of weeks because every spare moment has been consumed by...makeup!
Dress rehearsals for Narnia, the Musical, begin in less than a week. I don't think I've ever had so much makeup and hair to think about for a single show before! I've even chaired the makeup committee for this show when we did it before, but I had a co-chair who was an artist, and he did all the animal face designs. If you think about it, there are only six humans in the whole show.
This time I've also had to order costume pieces that were missing. No Santa wig and beard with the suit? No bull horns with the Bull costume? No headbands or hoods on the animal costumes; you want the kids' hair shaped into animal ears?
Couldn't find any suitable Tumnus horns online--for sale, that is--so I'm going to try to fashion my own with Model Magic. My friend who made them for our other Narnia production sent me instructions--I'm hoping they come out half as good as hers! (And what happened to them, anyway?)
And the emails--trying to communicate and meet with my committee to try out designs, and draft and train teen helpers, and write up instructions for parents, so they can help their kids can do as much of their own makeup and hair as possible....
The best-laid plans...and half of them have come to naught!
We started out this school year with confidence that everyone was set for the year. They were all enrolled in virtual schools; they had their laptops, their curriculum, their teachers. We'd all done this before. I knew I'd be hard-pressed to assist them all, but the older two could handle it, I was confident.
Six weeks later... and I have pulled Chicklet10 out of her virtual school, and B17 has dropped two classes and added two others! It's been a rocky beginning.
As a homeschooler, I am used to previewing curriculum before I choose it for my kids. Most parents in the public schools do not have that luxury, I realize, but it is one of the great gifts of homeschooling. Through our selection of assignments, we can make sure that our kids are spending the most time on activities most suited to their needs and abilities, with the right amount of challenge.
I just could not stand by and watch Chicklet, in 4th grade, have to scroll through paragraphs and paragraphs of low-interest, wordy, non-fiction text and then answer droves of questions requiring her to search back through all that material for a certain phrase. She was having to read more stuff about evaluating literature than actually reading any selections. I can see explaining first and third person to fourth graders, but third person limited? Third person omniscient? Third person objective? She had paragraphs and paragraphs of details about all the functions of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. (For fourth grade, I'm delighted if they can name the three branches; I'm thrilled if they know that they mean the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court!) She needed my help to search and find answers to questions like "What are the three categories of symbiosis?" (The answer was buried in a paragraph of text, not numbered or set off with bullet points, and the categories are multi-sentence explanations, not easily condensed into a word.) The last straw was a social studies assignment for her to read the Declaration of the Rights of Man (the French declaration of independence) and compare it to the American Declaration (neither written at a fourth grade level)--and highlight the similarities. Really??
Early on, she had been so hopeful that she would be able to work independently, but about the third week, she said, "Mom, I feel like I am not very smart." I began to spend more time helping her, so it wouldn't take so long and be so frustrating, and that's when I realized the problem was the curriculum. It's the first year they have offered this level, 4th grade, of Lincoln Interactive. It's a curriculum we had used and loved for second grade, and B7 is doing great currently in Little Lincoln, 2nd grade. I gave them my feedback...and pulled her out.
Since then, she has read Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark, The Courage of Sarah Noble and Sam the Minuteman with excellent comprehension and enthusiasm. She's doing several pages a day in various workbooks for math and language arts, with lots of time left over for reading, which she loves and which is what I believe 4th graders should spend most of their time doing. That and memorizing math facts, and writing--and none of these were frequently assigned by the other curriculum!
For B17, it was also a matter of difficulty. He was so lost in Spanish 2. Papa Rooster, who took two years of Spanish in high school and was a bright student, finally took a look and said it looked more like Spanish 3 or 4 to him. The guidance counselor readily agreed that the Spanish 2 course was very difficult, and she approved our thought that he switch to Latin 1. His brother is currently taking Latin 1 as an 8th grader, so I was able to preview the curriculum(!) and I could tell that B17 would learn more from a year of Latin than from Spanish 2. They are now both enjoying Latin class.
The only problem, in high school, is that even a simple choice like that can have ramifications for college acceptance. Unless B17 takes Latin 2 next year (not his plan), he will have two years of a language, but not the same language. How badly will that hurt him? My hope is--not much. It would be fine with TIU, where his sister is, and Taylor, for example, doesn't require but recommends two credits of foreign language, no mention of it being the same language. Still, some colleges want two years of the same language, and he doesn't know where he wants to apply yet.
The other tough decision was to pull him out of Algebra 2 where he was confused and getting more lost every week. It's covered on the ACT, and many colleges want to see 3 years of math through Algebra 2, so it was a hard choice. But the Algebra 1 class he had taken in 9th grade was a slower-paced class called Algebra Survey which may not have fully prepared him for Algebra 2. With input from the math teacher and guidance counselor, we decided to put him in Algebra 1 as a junior and plan to take Algebra 2 as a senior. Since then, I heard of a college math professor saying he wished everyone could take Algebra 1 twice, because that foundation is so important for any higher level math, so we are feeling good about that decision. B17 is, too.
He's also taking speech at a community college, once a week for three hours. So far, he's doing well, and the plan is to take a college class each of his remaining semesters. He'll enter college with some credit, and it will build his confidence before he is faced with a full courseload.
Meanwhile, B13--who you may recall ended up at the local middle school for the second half of last year--is struggling once again with motivation. He really, really does not want to go back to the public school, but he may require the structure. He actually did have a good experience last year and thought the work was easier, but he hated how many hours he was trapped in school. "Every day is the same," he once complained, which made me laugh, because so many people would think that homeschooling would be more monotonous! Maybe now that we finally have B17 and C10 settled, I can shift my attention to B13 and help him stay on top of it. The middle school girls, however, will be delighted if he returns to public school!
Thank heavens B7 is chugging along steadily in second grade, doing Little Lincoln online. He is a good reader for his age, which helps. I am familiar with the curriculum, since we used it with C10 two years ago, and I am comfortable tweaking the lessons to make them less laborious. Really, he can just write "S" or "P" instead of "singular" or "plural," don't you think? Or maybe I can take fill in the word web as he brainstorms ideas for a paragraph? B7 is such a willing fellow, but he balks at too much handwriting in one day, and I think it ultimately interferes with learning, at his age. He enjoys the 5 minute instructional videos and games, and overall, I like the program a lot.
So, six weeks in, and I am still not sure that we are settled. But after our rocky start, it looks like a smoother road ahead.
They tell me it has been 25 years since my graduation from Wheaton College.
I can't quite believe that. Somewhere inside this seasoned mom of six and wife of 25+ years, I still feel like a college freshman. Wait, make that a college senior. (I do not feel anywhere close to a recent high school graduate.)
I can't write off the ensuing 25 years, for so much has happened in that era, but still, what a formative time those four years of college were!
I am watching my own daughter, now a college sophomore, make a slow transition into the adult world, with adult responsibilities. And I know I traveled that same road when I chose a college 6 hours from my Ohio home, which ended up taking me even to Europe--on an unchaperoned train-and-hostel trip with three other girls--and regularly into the just-as-foreign Windy City. By the end of those four years, I had met "the one" and graduated as a married woman. What a whirlwind of growing up!
My one regret of college was that I went steady with a guy, all of my freshman year and half of my sophomore year, and I started dating my husband at the beginning of our junior year. Though I don't regret dating my husband, of course, I do feel like I missed out on girlfriend time.
But God has a way of redeeming things. I was in a small Bible study with three other friends during my last two years at Wheaton. The four of them, plus my wonderful roommate--God sure was good to me there--made up my wedding party. It was through one of those three friends that I found traveling companions for our memorable trip to Europe.
At our 20th reunion, I discovered that some of these same girls, from the Europe trip and the Bible study, had formed an email group to stay in touch and share prayer requests. In the group were other girls that I knew through mutual friends and from being on the same dorm floor. I casually asked them to add me to the list too, not realizing what a sisterhood I was asking to join--and they have become a significant force in my life in the last five years! We have shared deeply and prayed one another through crises, decisions, adoption, divorce, retirement, sudden death of a husband and other tough stuff. Girlfriends, indeed. Thank you, Lord!
And I get to see three of them this weekend!
Also get to see Professor Brother and his wife--it's their 20th, so they are coming from Kansas--and we'll other friends from our class. I am excited!
But still disbelieving. I am actually not old enough for this.
But if they go this quickly, here's to another 25!
Part 1: Confession and forgiveness Part 2: "Not I, but Christ"
This final section focuses on Scripture prayers for the day ahead.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Lord, I want to please you, not myself!) Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest of righteousness if we do not give up. (Gal 6:8-9) Fill me with courage to seek what is great and become worthy of it. (the virtue of magnanimity) Give me humility to be a servant to my family, as You washed the feet of others. Never as a martyr, but filled with holy humility and love. Fill me with the wisdom that comes from above, that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17) Help me: -set my heart on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:2) -rid myself of anger, rage, malice, slander and lies (Col 3:8) -be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love (Col 3:12) -bear with my loved ones and forgive (Col 3:13) -be ruled by the peace of Christ (Col 3:15) -be indwelt by the word of Christ as I teach, admonish and sing...with gratitude (Col 3:16) -to reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience and instruction (2 Tim 4:2) -not to embitter and discourage my children (Col 3:21) -to encourage and help (I Thess 5:14) -to be patient, kind and joyful always (I Thess 5:16) -to pray continually, giving thanks in all circumstances (I Thess 5:17-18) -to have a gentle and quiet spirit (not angry and protesting) (1 Peter 3:4) -to do what is right and not give way to fear (1 Peter 3:6) Help me not to be angry, and in my anger, not to sin. (Eph 4:26) Set a guard, O Lord, before my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. (Ps 141:3) Let me be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to take offense and get angry. (James 1:20) Help me do all things without grumbling, fault-finding, and complaining (Phil 2:14), but instead to encourage and help. (I Thess 5:11) If I have the ability to speak life to you, to encourage you, to help you, to make you feel good, to cause you to believe that you can make it, but I choose instead to discourage you, to tear you down, to make you feel mieserable, to cause you to want to give up and quit, there is something wrong with my mouth. (Joyce Meyer, Me and My Big Mouth) Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and will teach you what you shall say. (Ex 4:12)
These passages are so significant to me that I like to come back to them here:
Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. (Is 54:2-3) Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones. All your sons will be taught of the Lord; and the well-being of your sons will be great. In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear. (Is 54:11-14) Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost...and delight yourself in abundance. (Is 55:1-2) For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up. (Is 55:12-13)
Final thoughts to go into the day:
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree planted in the house of the Lord. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. (Ps 92:12) When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul. (Ps 94:19) May the God of peace sanctify me through and through. The one who calls me is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thess 5:23-24) Amen.
In Part 1, we began by preparing our hearts with confession and the receiving of forgiveness. As mothers, we are so aware of how often we blow it! We ended with the declaration, "Not I, but Christ in me."
This next quote unpacks that idea so practically:
I will cease striving in my own strength and goodness, and walk in Yours. I will celebrate my smallness, my inadequacy apart from You. Apart from you I can do nothing. You alone are my righteousness. I will live in the present moment, always looking to Christ, always practicing His presence, always moving in tandem with him.(Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul, changed to first person)
For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.(2 Cor 4:7)
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses...in hardships...in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10) My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
There is something so restful about accepting that I am small and He is great, that I am weak and He is strong.
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. Find rest, oh my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people, pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. You, O Lord, are strong and You, O Lord, are loving. (Ps 62:1-2) In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Is 30:15) May your unfailing love rest upon me, O Lord, as I put my trust in You. (Ps 33:22) Let me know how fleeting is my life. (Ps 39:4) My times are in your hands. (Ps 31:15) Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (Ps 90:12) It is good to praise the Lord, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night. For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.(Ps 92:1-2,4) I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart. (Ps 119:32)
This verse brings back to mind the opening call to "enlarge the place of your tent." It is God who enlarges my heart and makes me capable of more than I am in my own strength. This verse also begins a turning of my thoughts to the responsibilities of the day before me, especially the challenges of parenting and educating children.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)
May the favor of the Lord rest upon me, and establish the works of my hands for me. (Ps 90:17)
If we work on Marble
It will perish
If we work on Brass,
Time will efface it.
If we rear Temples,
They will crumble into dust.
But if we work on Immortal Minds;
As we embue them with principles,
With the just fear of God
And love of our fellow men,
We engrave on those tablets
Something that will brighten all
Eternity. (Daniel Webster)
Though the education of many children must create abundance of trouble, and will perpetually keep the mind employed as well as the body, yet ‘tis no small honor to be entrusted with the care of so many souls. And if that trust be but managed with prudence and integrity, the harvest will abundantly recompense the toil of the seedtime, and it will certainly be no little accession to the future glory to stand forth at the last day and say, “Lord, here are the children which thou hast given me, of whom I have lost none by my ill example, nor by neglecting to instill into their minds, in their early years, the principles of thy true religion and virtue.” (~Susannah Wesley)
These quotes make me thankful, once again, for the privilege of shaping and molding the young lives God has entrusted me with--despite the "abundance of trouble" they create. There are many ways I might think to spend the hours before me, but little else will last into eternity.
Stay tuned for Part 3, the final section, which moves into specific prayers from Scripture for a mother’s day.
Years ago, I found myself struggling to get out of bed and face the day.
Okay, sometimes I still feel that way.
But it was years ago that I pulled together a collection of Scriptures and quotes that somehow help me move, on bad mornings, from "defeated before I even start" to "a little more confident that I can do this again today, with God's help."
I've been wanting to participate in "Walk with Him Wednesdays" at Holy Experience, so each week I will unfold a section of this "liturgy" in hopes that it will bless others!
So, ready to join me on Wednesdays? Here we go!
A Liturgy for Mothers
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Ps. 81:10)
Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. Instead of the thornbush, the cypress will come up. Instead of the nettle, the myrtle will come up. (Is. 54:2)
These promises bring tears to my eyes on tough mornings. It is a test of faith, first thing. Do I really believe them?
I confess, right away, the things that block God's generous provision and action in my life.
Lord, I confess the things that constrict my heart: [fill in the blank] My list includes things like pride, judgment, criticism, selfishness, grim determination, stinginess, self-hatred, self-sufficiency, fear of suffering, lack of trust, lack of love. These have bound my heart and made it small and dry.
I confess my desire to control my children, husband, schedule and circumstances. I confess that I cling to my agenda too tightly. Help me let go of my plans for the day and embrace Yours.
After admitting all this...I am ready to receive these words:
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Him, the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.
I am grateful to be reminded:
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (Jn 15:2) No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. Remain in me and I will remain in you. (Jn 15:4)
For I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Gal 2:20)
This last assertion is so powerful.
I once had a vision of sorts, while in church, of Christ IN me, in my physical body--along with these assurances: "When you gave birth, I was IN you. When you nursed your infants, I was IN you. When you wipe their bottoms and their noses, or extend a cup or a plate of food to them, I am IN you."
Not I, but Christ. (Gal 2:20)
How is possible that He hallows my flesh, that the incarnation is happening every moment of my life? That we, his followers, form His body on earth as he inhabits each one of us?
He is in me, whether I fail or finish well. Whether it's a day to be proud of--or one to forget.
There is forgiveness...and there is grace. Somehow Another delights to live in me, and it is his righteousness, not mine, that makes it possible.
It has been a long time since I've posted anything about our church, hasn't it?
Photos are from our church picnic, on the grounds of the Kemper Center.
The big news, on a global scale, is that we have switched our affiliation from AMIA (the Anglican Mission in America) to ACNA (the Anglican Convocation of North America). My Anglican readers will be interested to hear that we are coming in under Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, but we are in a process to form a Midwestern diocese with a local bishop, in the next year, hopefully.
Not that we won't miss our current AMIA bishop, Sandy Greene, and his lovely wife--a couple of my favorite Anglicans on earth!
Over the past six months, Father Rooster and I have attended several "unity meetings" and services for church leaders in our region. We recently attended this meeting; one of our parishioners wrote that post for the new Upper Midwest Anglican website. (Shameless plug here for Lisa's blog, Devotions from Daily Life. Lisa is a spiritual director and she has worthwhile things to say! She is also way more disciplined than I am about keeping posts short. She started blogging after moving to Kenosha about a year ago, so see--moving to Kenosha will inspire you! And there is the cutest house EVER, for sale right around the corner from us; it's a corner lot with a white picket fence around the back yard. Here ends shameless plug for Lisa, her blog and her brilliant choice to move to Kenosha--which you, also, perhaps, should consider. :)
In the pews, our move into ACNA has changed nothing at Light of Christ. We are so grateful to God for blessing us each week with an uncommon gift of community and fellowship, powerful words from the Lord in sermons and in prayer, and music that leads us into worship and praise. Sometimes we are surprised that our little congregation hasn't grown more or faster, because many of us feel like it's the best-kept secret in Kenosha...except we try not to remain a secret! Part of the problem is a geographical one; we meet in the chapel of the Kemper Center, which is right on Lake Michigan. It's on a quiet street, and we can only put up signs on Sundays, so our community presence is light. We never did a big postcard or billboard campaign, since God kept sending us visitors and some of them stayed, to bring us up to our present number of nearly 70 regulars. It's a really nice size, I have to say.
I've had prayer requests posted in my sidebar for ages, and I want to thank and update anyone who's ever prayed for us! I'll start with the church "wishlist." God did send us a guitarist--Father Rooster's brother, who is a professional musician. He and his wife and our niece live in Chicago, and it takes them over an hour to get here. They have to come super-early in the morning too, so that he can practice with our other musicians before the service, so it is a huge sacrifice for them. But what a blessing to us all--and he says it is to him, too. He can lead vocally as well as with the guitar, so when he's there, it adds so much.
Also, in the last year, B17 has grown so much as a guitarist that he can fill in when his uncle isn't there. Our deacon pianist's 13-year-old son can also play well, so our worship team provides opportunities for both these young men to develop their skills.
We prayed for a drummer--and God sent us one who also does sound, the husband of the afore-mentioned Lisa! B17 has been learning to do sound as well, and he runs the soundboard while John accompanies our worship team on the hand-drums. Add piano on some songs--our deacon is torn between his diaconal duties and the keyboard--and an amazing violinist--our worship leader is another professional musician--and we have some beautiful moments in worship together, as well as some laughs when the last-minute nature of our rehearsal time means things are sometimes less polished than we would like. But we chuckle and are blessed just the same.
I also asked for prayer for a director of our children's ministries, and someone agreed to do that. But then we scaled back on children's church, since we had a number of kids age out of the program at age 6 (when we expect them to remain in church with their parents) and we also lost, through a job-related move, a family with four young children. Sunday School has been in a holding pattern too. We've had discussions about starting a youth group, and we are about to host a conversation in our home this Sunday (one of the advantages of a small church is we can still invite everyone over!). It will be about discipleship in our whole congregation, which naturally will include discussion about our kids. Prayers appreciated!
Finally, I asked for prayer for a volunteer church administrator, and we haven't really filled that position in the way I still envision. But we've had great volunteers who do our bulletin each week, and schedule our worship participation each quarter, and maintain our church website. Our vestry, which my sidebar refers to as "new," is now in its second year, and they have laid down that solid foundation that I mentioned as a prayer request, and they continue to provide excellent spiritual and temporal leadership.
We still have families in extreme financial difficulties, but no one has lost a home yet and for that we are grateful. We have a wedding coming up in November, of two parishioners who met at our church! It will be our first wedding at Light of Christ.
In other news, several months ago we looked at a church building in Kenosha that we might be able to buy...but then figured out that we don't have the budget to heat, cool and electrify the place on a monthly basis. We are thankful for affordable rent at the Kemper Center, and I was recently reminded that another thing we have to be grateful for is our very own storage room there. Many mobile churches have to cart all their stuff onto a truck and store the truck somewhere during the week. With the storage room, we are blessed to have a relatively simple set-up and take-down, as well as easy access to our supplies throughout the week.
Classes started on Tuesday, and it is weird not to be teaching one this semester! I miss it. But it's not hard to enjoy the break.
B13 is taking an advanced voice class called Duets and Harmonies, and Chicklet is excited about her Tap and Jazz class. B7 is in the 6/7-year-olds class for the last time, and is looking forward to "graduation" at the end of the session. Next time, he will be old enough to sign up for one of the big kid classes!
On Thursday night, we had auditions for the fall show, Narnia, the Musical.
They only perform partial songs because auditions are limited to one minute.
B13 and Chicklet10 worked hard to prepare, and they were both so pleased to be called back for lead parts!
Callbacks were Friday night, the very next evening...and Saturday morning, the cast list was up! Just in time for the first rehearsal. A whirlwind, indeed, of effort and emotions.
Chicklet10 is delighted to be a Pixie, a Narnian dancer. And B13 is the Bull, one of the commanders of the Narnian army--a small speaking part.
B7 was allowed to do a practice audition, because next time, he'll be old enough to audition to be in the show! He did a good job, for his first time. He missed a word and got off his music, then had trouble hearing it and just sang fast--to get through it!
Happy Birthday to the sweetest little ten-year-old I know!
Blondechick was this age when Chicklet was born, and she and I had prayed hard for a sister for her. With Blondechick off at college and about to turn--gasp--twenty!, I am so glad to have another little girl at home with me still!
And she is a pure delight. She is loving, kind, willing and helpful. She is a good friend and sister. She is quick to smile, slow to pout and quick to become silly. She's a hugger. She is sweet, sensitive, agreeable--and fearless!
Tonight she auditions for an upcoming production of Narnia, the Musical (based on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). She's singing "Castle on a Cloud," a sad and wistful little song from Les Miserables, and she performs it with such presence and sweet innocence. B13 is auditioning too, and B7 gets to do a practice audition, since he will be old enough to audition "for real" next time!
Last week she and B7 started their virtual school at home. She's in fourth grade, and he is in second. This week we added B17 and B13, back to virtual school as well. It's been a busy week!
And somehow, between school and auditions and possibly callbacks and birthday cake and rehearsal and Blondechick's classes and work, we have to squeeze in a visit to the mall this weekend. Oh yes, it's a rite of passage! We made Blondechick wait till she was 10 to get her ears pierced, so Chicklet has been patiently waiting--and Blondechick not-so-patiently--for this day. It will be a fun mother/daughters outing!
Here she is with jewelry of a different kind!
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (I Peter 3:3-4)
Well, it kind of got overshadowed by the funeral, in my blogging life, but just the weekend before, we traveled to Ohio for a joyous celebration of my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary!
Forty-eight assorted relatives gathered from my mom's side of the family. (Dad has just one sister--she and her husband and son were unable to make it for health reasons.) Mom had four siblings. One just died suddenly from a heart attack, and we held a memorial service for him while we were all together. Her two sisters and one brother attended and brought most of their children and grandchildren!
My kids were delighted to meet cousins and second cousins and cousins-once-removed. We had a grand time sorting it all out!
Papa Rooster took a zillion candids on the farm, but I am having a terrible time choosing just a few for the blog. Do you see all the good-looking people in the photo above? And you already know what an excellent photographer my husband is!
So first I give you a couple formal shots. Papa Rooster tried to get each family group, but Pilot Brother's five children--6 and under--weren't having any of it. They did well to keep their little ones seated and smiling for the above shot--they are the family seated in front, minus the teenage boy on the left.
But here's my Professor Brother and his family, from Kansas. Their oldest daughter reminds me a little bit of myself at her age.
Here we are. We managed to coordinate our clothing somewhat, without even planning it!
And here are the culprits--the ones who began this fine mess! Little did they know, fifty years ago, what they were beginning. Having just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year, it makes me excited to think about what the next 25 years most likely will bring!
It was wonderful to see family I hadn't seen in years--and to meet others for the first time! We are a far-flung group, hailing from California, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Wisconsin and of course Ohio, where we all started out. It's quite amazing that so many were able to come. It was an experience to go from this joyous family gathering to the funeral, less than a week later, and see another whole group of family to which we belong. I found myself noticing family traits, like noses or mouths, and mannerisms. Are those genetic? People who are hardly ever around each other can have such similarities!
While we were in Ohio, we got to meet my newest and only nephew!! Pilot Brother has waited a long time for his boy.
He reminds me of my boys when they were babies--which hasn't happened before, with all nieces up to now! One of the cool things about this birth is that now our somewhat rare family name will continue, God willing. He gave us all the boys, but we have a common last name. Wonder if he cares about such things as family names? A rose by any other name is still a rose, but I'd hate to lose the word rose.
We are so excited because Pilot Brother's family has announced that they are indeed going to do what they've been talking about doing! They are moving to Ohio, as soon as they can pack up and get their house in Florida ready to put on the market. They will stay in the farmhouse that my grandparents used to live in, while they build a new home on the site of the oldest farmhouse on the family farm. They had hoped to restore it, but it's going to be impossible. Instead they will salvage what they can and have designed a house that will incorporate many of the same architectural features. (Look for it someday in BH&G!)
Here it is:
They're going to put a pony in that barn, and chickens in the henhouse (which has appeared in my header for years!). Grandparents, aunt, uncle, 5 cousins, a pony, chickens...even more reasons to go visit the farm!
As if we didn't have so many already. There are the ever-popular Toro Twister rides....
The tire swing and the climbing rope have been a backyard feature since I was a girl.
If you look way in the background of the above photo, you can see where we held our old-fashioned weiner roast.
Food was a main feature of our gathering, of course, and many of us spent a good bit of time working and chatting in the kitchen. My cousin used to have his own catering business,and he smoked a brisket for us back in New Mexico and had it overnighted, frozen, ahead of time; he warmed and served it, along with coleslaw, beans and his famous banana pudding. He also invited us all to sample sausages made of elk, rattlesnake (both good!) and alligator (too fishy).
We played soccer...
...and manly games.
And thanks to my photographer cousin-once-removed (thank you!), we have a rare shot of the man behind the camera.
He's had a birthday, in the weeks that have ensued since these big events, and I've been so busy, and so little in the blogging mindset, that I didn't write him a post. Happy Belated Birthday, Papa Rooster! You bless our family--and extended family--and friends--so much with your photos, and all the time you spend editing and sharing them. And you work so hard and so faithfully to provide for us. And you lead our church...and our family...and do it all with humor and grace. And struggle to do it all well, I know--but remember, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly!" as G. K. Chesterton said. You do so much that is worth doing, and God sees--and rewards. We love you.
We love you too, Mom and Dad! Thanks so much for hosting us all, and for hanging in there for fifty years, and for your part in creating and bringing together this fine mess of a family! By God's grace, every one of the 48 gathered knows the Lord. What a heritage--one I pray will be true of our brood in 25 years!
So many things that I'd love to write about...but we are busy squeezing out the very last drops of summer.
Temps are cooling, but we are still hitting the beach with friends!
Laptops are arriving--the better to do virtual school with--but I am still tearing up the schoolroom and culling out all the preschool items I no longer need to keep, now that my youngest is reading well and entering second grade.
We are attending back-to-school fairs--meeting friends there (who are giving our virtual school a try this year) and visiting the Betty Brinn Children's Museum in Milwaukee with them. It was our first time to visit this fun destination!
We are finishing up our summer reading lists, turning them in to the library, receiving our rewards--Culver's coupons for free scoops of frozen custard--and eating them! We have a brand-new Culver's in Kenosha, so we have to check it out.
We've had Grandpa Rooster here with us for a couple of visits, since the funeral. He is tired, but well. We've also enjoyed several other visitors in recent weeks.
Grandpa and Brother Rooster helped us celebrate Papa Rooster's birthday on Sunday. (He's now the same age as me, for a few months, then I beat him for the other 8 months of the year. :)
PR is busy, busy with his new job. So much to learn in a short time!
While he was still on his July break between jobs, we started the huge project of culling our book collection. We have boxes and boxes of books to give away, if you're local and want to come by--and we're still sorting! Hoping to finish by Thanksgiving, at this rate....
Blondechick's summer ended already, to her dismay. We helped her move her stuff back into the dorm today. But she's excited for classes to start Wednesday, and she's eager to transfer her summer restaurant job to another location near her college.
Auditions for our fall musical--Narnia--are in two weeks! We need to get practicing! B13 and Chicklet are auditioning "for real," but B7 gets to do a practice audition...because for the winter show, he can audition "for real," since he'll turn 8 in February. How time flies!
I'm taking a break this fall from teaching drama. Wasn't sure how things would be with Grandma, or with Grandpa...and it will be different with four kids at home again.
This week we are trying out a voice teacher for B13 and Chicklet, and a new piano teacher for B13. I was so impressed that his old teacher suggested another teacher who could teach him more about improvising--a strength and passion of his. She's a fine teacher, and Chicklet will continue with her.
And we still have a vacation to look forward to! It's a wedding that Father Rooster is performing. It's far enough away to require the rental of a small cabin on a lake near the estate where the service and the reception will be held. Good friends of ours will be staying in the cabin next to ours. B17 and their daughter are playing guitar and singing harmonies to their original acoustic songs, outdoors, in between the wedding and reception. B13, B7 and Chicklet will be helping to pass out wedding cupcakes. It's going to be such a fun time!
It's been a time filled with sorrow and grief, but also filled with laughter, joy, family, friends, food, memories, appreciation and gratitude for a life well and fully lived. My mother-in-law touched so many people.
In recent years, she had begun reading books on heaven. I remember her recounting ideas that had amazed her in Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven. She read a number of books on the subject and she would pass them on to us, along with many other books, as she always did--and which we rarely got around to reading. But I know these books helped prepare her, and gave her a peace that passed our understanding.
At the funeral, probably the most moving moment was the offertory, when an old recording was played. It was my mother-in-law, back in the 1970's, when her dramatic soprano voice was at its peak. She sang "Finally Home" by Don Wyrtzen:
Just think of stepping on shore...and finding it Heaven, Of touching a hand...and finding it God's, Of breathing new air...and finding it celestial, Of waking up in Glory...and finding it Home.
She also spoke--a younger voice than I had ever known--inviting the audience to give their lives to Christ and secure their own hope of heaven and of an eternal life with Him. Then she resumed the chorus. Each time she hit that high note on "Glory," the recording equipment couldn't handle it and there were hisses and crackles, but the note itself was so pure and free, with a glory of its own--what a voice! What an amazing woman.
And what an amazing God, who made sure that her family had that recording to play at her funeral. It was from the time after she retired from show business, but missed singing. A prayer partner of hers was a pianist, and together they selected some worship songs to learn. They took their little show on the road, performing in churches on Sunday or Wednesday nights, sharing their testimonies. My father-in-law would often join them and sing too, and in one recording we have, they asked their two sons who were with them to stand up--my husband and his brother, who were young teens or tweens then.
My mother-in-law very occasionally wrote poetry, not as a regular thing at all, and when she did, she was usually adamant that God gave her the poem. She left us a number of beautiful verses, and we used this one on the back of her funeral service bulletin. It illustrates so beautifully her hope of heaven:
You peonies from my neighbor's garden,
How jealous of her I should be
Had she not, in generous spirit
Bestowed your pinkness on me.
Here; on dining table you explode
Such color and in wondrous fragrance you unload
Much joy and brightness!
Oh Lord of glory, God of all,
In this sweet flower help me to see the autumn
When cold does come and freeze away
The warmth and brightness of this day.
Prepare me Lord and hold me steady
So when winter comes, I will trust and stand ready
To enter into eternal summer
Where such grand flowers will be but one small feature
And on new earth
I am your complete creature
Made fragrant in You.
(Do not reprint without permission.)
These verses--we read the whole passage from 1 Corinthians 15--also reminded us of the reality that she so greatly anticipated:
But someone will ask, d“How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! eWhat you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42 fSo is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.43 It is sown in dishonor; git is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
...I tell you this, brothers: qflesh and blood rcannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. sWe shall not all sleep, tbut we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For uthe trumpet will sound, andvthe dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and wthis mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
My mother-in-law loved earthly bodies. She had a compliment for everyone, even total strangers, and all who knew her had a story of an unforgettable compliment she had bestowed upon them. The first time we spoke, over the phone, she told me I had "a well-modulated voice." The rector who performed the sermon shared with us the time she complimented him on his cheeks, sure that he must use rouge to get them so rosy, and confessing that she'd really like to kiss them, if his wife would understand! On Facebook, one of our friends commented, when he heard the news of her passing, "What a sweet wonderful hilarious woman she is. No doubt, she is telling Jesus how beautiful His hair is, at His age!" She used to urge Blondechick and I to wear short skirts to show off our legs. "I used to have great legs, you know," she would say--and when we went through the old pictures, especially the showbiz ones, we saw that she was not exaggerating!
She loved these earthly bodies and had a beautiful one herself. Her face had a timeless beauty that aged well and handsomely, but she occasionally lamented the toll that age had placed upon her looks. I can't help but think about her spiritual body, and how her earthly body was just a seed compared to the glory of her immortal, imperishable body. How she must delight in it! Will she continue to admire the bodies--the spiritual bodies--of those around her? I can just imagine it!
Someday we will join her there and see for ourselves. What a blessed hope we have together in Christ!
Early this morning, Grandma passed away. My father-in-law was by her side. As he quoted Psalm 23, her anxious breathing quieted, and she relaxed and entrusted herself to God in her final moments, as she has every other moment of her life since she believed.
This is the last photo we have of her before she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. It was the day before, and she wasn't well, but she was fully trusting. She pulled me aside, and said in a confidential, energetic stage whisper, "You know, this is all part of God's plan. Nothing's going to happen to me that He hasn't allowed. I am absolutely confident!" She reassured all of us, separately and as a group, with similar words.
Blondechick took this photo of a page in an album of family photos--Grandma as a young woman in New York City, newly married and auditioning for jobs on Broadway. She landed one, in Camelot, with Julie Andrews and Richart Burton, and also other roles off-Broadway and at the Shakespeare Festival. She danced with Bob Hope in a television special. She appeared in print advertisements, wearing false eyelashes and holding a cigarette! She gave it all up after her second child was born and never looked back, but something was lacking in her life. When her boys were 7 and 5, some hippie Christians knocked on her door, offering to pick up her boys in their church bus and take them every Sunday. "Only if I come with them," the New York City-savvy mom insisted, and at that church, she met her Lord. Her sons and husband did too...and a whole lineage is forever grateful to those hippies and their church bus!
Today was the day we had once planned to move her out of the care center and in with us. Papa Rooster was supposed to start a new job today; his new employer was understanding and so gracious. Today I left my parents' home in Ohio and a family reunion of 49 relatives on my mom's side, all gathering to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. This weekend, there will be another family reunion--different side of the family, different kind of celebration.
Today is also my brother-in-law's birthday. In a way, it's now Mom's birthday too--the first day of her new life with Jesus. Her sons and husband all have August birthdays, and it's been our tradition to always celebrate them at once. Now, every year, we'll celebrate their birthdays--and hers.
Change of plans for Grandma...she is going to stay where she is. Because of the level of care she is requiring, because noise has begun to make her startle, because it doesn't seem like much longer now...her husband and sons now think it's best to keep her there. She's not really awake and aware for more than a few minutes a day, and wasn't able to speak to my brother-in-law at all yesterday. We are hoping she will know we are there, if our whole family comes one more time, maybe.
But so much to do before we go to Ohio, soon, for a celebration of my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. It turns out it's going to be quite a family reunion! Can't wait to see aunts, uncles, brothers, nieces, one new nephew and cousins galore.
When we get back, Papa Rooster starts his new job, so we've been trying to get his office into decent shape so he can work there comfortably. But it's hard with so many books filling it! He's been weeding out his collection since he's out of shelf space, and I have been going through family shelves to see if we can make some more room there too.
I'm finding we own a number of kids' classics that I can't imagine our kids having any interest in reading. Should I hang onto Captains Courageous? Treasure Island? Kidnapped? The Spy? Never read them any of them myself. The language seems difficult and archaic to today's kids, but maybe they'd work well as read-alouds. I'm sure they are available at the library, as are many other literary classics we own; they're probably online too, but these are such beautiful hardbound editions! I wish our kids didn't have so many distractions from reading. I loved to read when I was growing up, but I know I often read because there was nothing else to do. I don't know if I would have struggled through some of the more difficult books if I'd had a home library of DVD's and VHS's also, and the internet just a click away. Pooh. A plague on all technology.
In other news, B13 had a great week at a Christian summer camp--not Honey Rock, where his older brother and sister have gone, but Camp Zion in Door County. It was his first time and we are so thankful that he had such a great experience. It was a very meaningful and significant week for him. Praise the Lord!
Tonight, our air conditioner is broken. It is a sticky 84 degrees, even at midnight, so we are all sleeping in the basement tonight. Fortunately, B13 and B17 are spending the night at the home of their friends--brothers--a rare treat. Now, I sure am thankful we let them go! I like how God worked that out.
He works it all out. Even if no one does ever read Kidnapped, illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. Even with death and loss looming. Even with change and challenges ever before us. He works it all out for good.
Between swimming lessons, appointments, friends visiting, summer projects and I don't know what all--where do the days go?--I haven't been to visit Grandma in a couple of weeks. Papa Rooster tells me that she's slowing down, sleeping more and talking so softly that she's hard to hear. She's still able to eat a few ounces of food every day and not losing much weight, but she's completely bedridden now.
In my last update, I said that my father-in-law would be interviewing live-in caregivers in hopes of bringing her home, with hospice. However, his options are narrowing as his bank account empties, and weighing all possibilities, it seems clear to us all that the best thing for them to do is to move in with us at the end of this month. Now that she's no longer needing to be transferred in and out of bed, the caregiver isn't neccessary, as long as there is someone around to help him turn her on her side so that he can change her a couple times a day. He can attend to all her personal care with this minimal amount of help, and we have multiple people here who are strong enough for that task.
We'll probably put her hospital bed in our "schoolroom," which was intended to be a formal dining room by the builder of our house, but which we have filled with bookshelves, a computer desk, a regular desk and a small table (these last two pieces can easily be moved out for now). We'll hang drapes in the doorways to this room for privacy when she needs it. No one thinks she'll mind the noise and activity of our family--she'll probably sleep through it regularly. She also may wake up more often, with her grandchildren around! We are hopeful that this arrangement will give my father-in-law some much-needed rest as well. It will also be easier on my brother-in-law's family, since they already drive up here from Chicago most Sundays for church, and it will save him another 3 hours of driving each week.
At the same time, we will have another big change in our family--Papa Rooster starts a new job on August 1. His new employer will be a former colleague who started his own company a couple years ago. It's been very successful, and Papa R will be his new sales department. It's basically the same type of sales and consulting that he's been doing, related to employee benefits and coverage, government rebates, pricing, Medicaid and other variables in data related to the health care industry. It's so complicated and different for each sale that there is no simple way to explain it. An acquaintance asked me recently what my husband does; he said he'd asked B13 but he wasn't very clear. After I did my best, the friend said, "Okay, no wonder your son couldn't explain!"
Anyway, we are excited about the new job because it will be less travel, and his office will be at home. He's excited about the environment of a small company too, with an involved owner--rather than an investment group that just wants to see profits every month without knowing or caring about the challenges and opportunities of the current economic climate.
It's also worked out that between phasing out of his old job and stacking all his vacation and personal days at the end, he's basically getting the month of July off. So we've been spending more time together than we have in months, and that has been great. Not only have we been catching up on long-delayed projects and discussions, but we've also been very intentionally rebuilding and re-establishing our connection to each other, which has been badly disrupted with him traveling 3-4 days every week and both of us functioning more and more independently over the past several
I know. I've waited a ridiculous amount of time to post these, but back in May, you may recall, we did have a couple of super-cute productions going on!
The first was a musical version of Charlotte's Web. Chicklet9 played the spunky little lamb with the bossy, over-protective Sheep for a mother.
The whole barnyard was full of singing and dancing animals!
All of them required special makeup, and I enjoyed helping out on the Makeup Committee once again. Mostly I focused on Templeton the Rat.
He's also in the top picture, on the left, but I am sad to say this is the only close-up I have of him, taken with my phone in the hall after the last show. His mouth makeup has rubbed off, but normally I drew ratty pointy teeth on his lips, too. I was quite pleased with how he turned out!
I also did Chicklet's makeup, and sometimes her mommy's too. I am proud of Chicklet's curls! Her hair is stick-straight normally, but with lots of gel, sleeping in twisty rollers, and tons of hairspray, her 'do lasted more than one day. (Second day in these pics.) It helped that we got her long hair cut to shoulder length before dress rehearsal week, the better to curl it for the show.
As one of my witty friends commented, "Oh, she got a lamb chop!"
The other May production was a one-act comedy called The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet. This one's a little more dear to my heart because I directed it!
I love summer. LOVE it. As beautiful as the autumn is, I always find it depressing because it means the end of my absolute favorite season.
So I am trying to drink up these wonderful sunny days. As badly as we need rain--and I have been praying for it--there's nothing else to do but enjoy the beautiful weather and be thankful for the low bug count that comes with drought!
The little kids have had the most fun outside, riding bikes, rollerblading, running in the sprinkler and playing in the sandbox. B16 is glad of the good working weather, as his job at the Christmas tree farm has continued into this summer. He's been mowing, trimming trees, baling hay, building fences and enjoying the outdoors. He also loves running outside, and jumping into Lake Michigan at the halfway point!
Blondechick has enjoyed the good running weather as well, since she got back from her college choir's tour in Europe. They traveled all over, singing in churches and cathedrals, staying in homes with host families, and soaking up the sights in Budapest, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Stuttgart, France, Barcelona and Madrid. After 3.5 weeks of living out of a suitcase, she was tired and ready to come home and find a summer job. She was fortunate to land a hostessing position at a restaurant chain that will train her to become a waitress this fall, if she transfers to another location near her college--but she needs to make enough money to afford a car! So we'll see.
B21 is still unemployed but has taken a volunteer position at a charity resale shop. Two days a week he covers a shift, sorting, organizing, pricing and shelving books. The job is right up his alley, and good experience for him to put on a resume. Even more exciting, he is finally driving! We bought another older car for $1500--a '95 Toyota Camry with 176,000 miles on it--so that we now have two older cars for our three teens to share among them. (The one we've had awhile is a '98 Dodge Neon with less than 100,000 miles, that we paid $1200 for. We found them both on Craigslist, and I thank God regularly for how little we've had to spend on repairs for the Neon, and pray that the Camry will be just as reliable.) Anyway, we let B21 start driving himself to work and to his friend's house; he's recently added Walmart and our church to his known destinations. Soon I'll be able to send him to Aldi for me!
In May, B21 took a Greyhound bus to his grandparent's house in Ohio and stayed two weeks, helping my dad on the farm. He mowed, cleared out a haymow, moved wood, and I don't know what all. It was a great experience for him. We'd like to send him back for a few more weeks, but he needs to stick close to home just now to be available for interviews. His caseworker is having him apply for jobs that she can follow up on, and he just had an interview at Walmart for a stocking job. Say a prayer for him!
We've had various friends come to visit, and with the hot weather we always take them over to the beach. Lake Michigan is too cold to stay in for long, but the weatherman's refrain, "Cooler by the lake," is really true and it is so pleasant to sit in the shade and enjoy the brisk breeze off the lake.
Last fall, I entered this school year thinking of it as a sort of sabbatical after 14 years of homeschooling, because I was sending my two youngest to public school, for 1st and 3rd grades. It was still my 15th year of home educating, because I had 7th and 10th graders at home, enrolled in a virtual school, but I was hopeful that they would be pretty independent, and it would be a refreshingly light year for me. At the semester break, we ended up switching the 7th grader to the public middle school, so for the second half of the year, I only had one student at home (plus our 21-year-old son who is still at home, without a job).
So, was it a break?
Well, it ended up not being as much of a break as I had hoped for. Some of B17's assignments were really challenging and rather overwhelming, and I often got involved in breaking them down and helping him get started. He'd have at least one or two of these a week. They were great for his education, but not so much for my sabbatical plans! I could see that he learned more and better when I helped him, though, and it was fulfilling to watch him grow in confidence and ability to take over and do more on his own. His writing, especially, has really been strengthened this year.
And so has our relationship. I discovered this year that my quiet son is a verbal processor. Often, when he'd be in the kitchen at breakfast or lunch, or when something in his history lesson would provoke questions, we'd fall into great conversations that were hard to end. He's starting to really enjoy conversation with adults and discussing ideas and his thoughts. Removed from the high school setting, he's not consumed with social drama, and he's enjoying that freedom! The world of ideas seems to offer more inspiration for song lyrics, too. We butt heads too, sometimes, but it's really been a great year with him, overall.
It definitely has been a less stressful year for me. Although I have not had time for sabbatical projects I had hoped to get to--photo albums? writing? clean out the storage room?--I have not had 5 kids at home all needing me all the time, either. That hasn't happened since I had the sixth child, I think! My life didn't slow down to a snail's pace or anything--once everybody got home from school things were busier than ever--but during the day, it was nice to just keep up with life without having to push hard.
It helped that it was an extended time, too. A vacation is a nice break, but a week or two is not long enough for your soul to catch up with your body. It had been years of stress--not just from homeschooling but from moving, starting a new church and launching teenagers--and it was going to take more than a summer off to rejuvenate me.
Each morning, I kissed and hugged my little ones goodbye, and I would watch them get on the bus without a pang of regret or guilt. I missed them during the day, but I knew it was right and good for them to go. I felt I had so little to give. Only recently have I felt a turn in my spirit, as if formerly empty places are now filled up enough to think differently about next year.
I'm ready to have them all home again in another week or two.
And maybe next fall.... But I will save that for another post!
"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Col. 3:2
Woke up with this verse on my mind.
I am at a transition point, a slow turning of the hinge from the school year into summertime. It began last week with B17's last final completed on Friday. Suddenly, his schedule is free! Then Blondechick returned yesterday from her 3.5 week tour of Europe with her college choir, and now I have my 3 oldest all home, and my 3 youngest joining them next Monday at noon.
I feel a heightened anxiety about summertime and its lack of schedule and structure. My mind is on things below, like the weeds in my garden, our cluttered garage and storage closets that need purging. I hope for activities that will keep my kids healthily occupied preferably without my having to drive and accompany them everywhere, quiet pastimes like reading, writing stories and cleaning their rooms. I hate it when the unstructured days fill with decisions about "can we?"s "will you take me?"s.
It's the decisions that tax me, and I feel that I should be doing something, this week, to plan for what's coming and set up some proactive intentionality to our days. So far, I'm thinking of requiring everyone to be up by 9:30, and to read for 30 minutes in the morning, including their Bibles, before they are allowed to go anywhere. I'm thinking of setting some limits on how many times a week they can...[fill in the blank--but I have to think through each age and stage!]. We definitely need to have a conversation about chores in the summertime.
But do I have to be home all the time to make this happen? Probably. That's the problem with setting up structure; it takes some effort to establish and enforce it, and usually, in the summers, the last thing I want to do is manage kids. But they must be managed, either proactively or reactively, so it would be smart to think it through. Preferably with my husband, when he gets back from an almost final work-related trip--one more, and then things are changing so that he won't have to travel so much anymore! He'll be working from home more, then, so it would be good to think together about this.
But all this feels like setting my mind on things below. When I think of "things above," I cast my anxiety on God. I thank Him for this time of new things that is coming. I pray for new jobs, new summertime creativity and responsibility, new friends, new things to learn and experience. I thank Him for completion, for the good experiences my younger kids had in public school, for the challenging but good year B17 had in virtual school, for Blondechick's good first year of college. I thank Him for the times we'll have to be together as a family in these coming summer days, and I pray for the rest of this Colossions 3 passage, one of my favorites, to be true in our home:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I pray for times of family devotions and prayer, for social times with family friends and neighbors, for rich times with Grandma and Grandpa, as Grandma continues to weaken. I thank God for things I see Him doing in my children's lives--lessons they are learning, deci
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On Monday at noon, all my kids will be done with school and home for the summer.
And none of them are going back in the fall.
Not because they had a bad experience with school. Quite the contrary! C9 and B7 both did very well in third and first grades. They made lots of friends. They loved their teachers. They learned so much. They loved having art, gym, music, recess, keyboarding and choir. They didn't even mind the bus ride, really.
But they don't want to go back.
In January, they both said they want to be homeschooled next year. They have continued to enjoy school, but they have stayed firm in the idea that next year, it's virtual school for them. Apparently they both have good memories of Chicklet's second grade year. B7 is eager to do what he saw her doing--it will be the same curriculum for him in second grade next year--and she is excited to move up to fourth grade. She keeps telling me how much more independently she'll be able to work, now that she's reading and writing so well.
When they first latched on to this idea, I was open to it but not sure if I'd be ready! But as my "sabbatical" continued, I felt more able. Then their elementary school announced that they would be laying off a dozen teachers, including C8's excellent teacher that we loved. They would be re-organizing the kids into learning groups by ability, not age, and classes would be much larger. Not sure if this is a good idea or a bad one, but it sounded like my children would be guinea pigs if they went back next year, and this news was all I needed to push me over the edge. Okay, kids, virtual school it is. (Wisconsin Virtual Learning, to be exact, with Little Lincoln and Lincoln Interactive curriculum.)
B13, you recall, started out this year in virtual school, struggled with lack of motivation, never did pull it together and found himself in 7th grade in public school for second semester. He found it much easier and never had any homework (to my disappointment; I was hoping he'd be more challenged). He made friends, he was well-liked by teachers, and he was Student of the Month in March. ("No fair," one of his friends said, "You just got here!") But he, also, insists that he wants to be homeschooled again in the fall. He wants a second chance at the virtual school, which he thinks is harder, but takes less time. His main objections with the brick-and-mortar school are sleep deprivation and long days of imprisonment, with no free time on days that he has after-school activities. Plus, next year one of his good friends is going to do the same grade in the same virtual school--eAchieve Academy--so he's sure he'll be much more motivated.
B17 struggles with the virtual school because he just doesn't enjoy academics, and it's hard for him to make himself buckle down. He dislikes figuring it out and teaching himself. He'd prefer a classroom environment, with a teacher explaining everything step by step. But he knows he's learned a lot from having to read and teach himself, and from having to write so much. And he loves the flexible schedule that he has with virtual school, to run and work out during the day, or make some money at his farm job, or practice guitar, or write songs when the mood strikes. He's decided he wants to do it again next year, for 11th grade. (Same school--eAchieve.) I am delighted and thankful. I really pushed him to try homeschooling again, and I was afraid he'd hate me at the end of the year if it didn't go well. Though he never stopped complaining about it, on the last day he thanked me. He said it's been a great year for him and he's glad he did it. Rather than hating me, he said he was thankful for how much it had strengthened our relation
One thing that happens when you put your sheltered younger kids in public school is that they learn some new words, and we are not talking about the ones they learn for vocabulary in Language Arts class.
We have had no problem with our kids actually using or repeating these words at home, but their awareness is suddenly there. When they hear them now, they react. I can see in their faces that they know, "That's a bad word!" They occasionally tell on their friends, telling me who says bad words and who doesn't. Last week, B7 showed me, in the sandbox, how one of his friends had used the curved green plastic sandbag walls that come with every cheap army man set to spell out a 3-letter word that requires two S's.
"Well," I responded, "We don't have to leave it there, do we?"
I remembered B17's story about his one year in public school, back in second grade. "I learned all the bad words in one day," he told me. "It was on a field trip. It was the only time that whole year that I was in a school bus, and there, on the seat in front of me, someone had written a list. It even had a title: 'Sware Words.' "
All I can say is, it doesn't seem to have ruined him for life.
Grandpa Rooster got to be with his whole family on Father's Day:
Our family, and Papa Rooster's brother's family all gathered at the nursing home where Grandma is staying. We had iPads to keep the younger kids happy, and the rest of us visited and laughed together until it was time for the dads to go bag our dinner. Pizza is a Rooster men's tradition! We all had Lou Malnati's right there in Grandma's room, and she even tried to get down a bite herself.
Mostly she's living on Ensure and jello, because she can't swallow much else. She was having a good day when we there. She smiled the whole time and was just so happy to see us all. "It's so good to see your faces," she whispered to me when we said goodbye.
She's doing all right physically. Her left side is still too weak for her to get in and out of bed by herself, but she was actually lifting and moving her left arm a little bit more. She has lost a little more weight, but she's maintaining pretty well, overall. Mentally, she struggles to find words and finish her sentences, but her personality is still there, in flashes of humor and sparkle.
She told us quite frankly that she's seeing things that aren't there. "Like"...and she didn't finish, except to add, "And I saw one in the store the other day. I was in a store, and I saw...." She also told my husband that she keeps seeing a brown man who speaks words of comfort to her. He has brown eyes, hair, skin and and a brown beard. "Is he Jewish?" Papa Rooster asked. "Oh, yes," she replied. "And he says such comforting things to me."
Could it be Christ himself? Except that Jesus has appeared to her before--it's part of her testimony of how she was saved. Papa Rooster thinks of John the Baptist: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." Whoever the brown man is, we are so thankful for him.
Grandpa was so happy to have us all there too. He is thinking about bringing her home, if he can find the right live-in caregiver. We are praying for God to send someone, the perfect person, who will be a blessing--more than a caregiver--to them both.
Thanks so much for your prayers for Grandma, Grandpa and all of us. We are feeling them!
As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to read this book. When I went to order it from Amazon, I noticed that 123 out of 125 reviewers had given it 5 stars! That clinched it. Worth buying.
Katie Davis walked away from a privileged life as a high school homecoming queen and senior class president to work at an orphanage in Uganda. She had a convertible, a boyfriend, and a blank check from her parents for college, and she traded it all for a 16-passenger van, 14 adopted children and a life of caring for the uneducated, the malnourished, alcoholics, AIDS victims and the abused.
It is a remarkable story, and if you want a taste, check out her blog, Kisses from Katie. Every post is so moving! I love the way her writing inspires not guilt, not the sense that everyone should move to Africa and do what she does, but encouragement to see God at work around us, to look for opportunities to serve those we live among, to trust God in the midst of suffering and pain, and to draw in deep breaths of His word, His love, and His promises.