30 April 2008

Human voodoo doll

My arm hurts today. And when I say it hurts, I mean it really, really HURTS. I think I have a pinched nerve. It may have resulted from me moving a Clavinova up stairs with my husband on Saturday. But it has gotten worse instead of better. Today, I'm going to see if my chiropractor can see me. I need help.
The arm is the latest in a series of physical failings as I approach my 33rd birthday this week that move me to consider my decrepit physical state with contempt. If I didn't know better, I'd think God had a voodoo doll of me up there and was systematically torturing me. First, it was tendonitis in my Achilles tendon. Then my back was in pain. The the arm. Now my wrist, too.
Year 33 is going to have to be one of focusing on physical strength and wellness, I think. I have never, ever been comfortable focusing on or even acknowledging my body. I've got issues and history, to say the least. (And none of you who know me are allowed to use this post against me in real life.)
But it is ridiculous to be unable to wash dishes or pick up little guys. So something needs to be different. And now. Because everything hurts to much to wait much longer.

29 April 2008

Prairie Girl and Farm Boy

Sunday evening was really quite beautiful, if a little chilly. We had an opportunity to take a dinner-time drive and went out to Dennis' mom's house in the country. The cousins were there so Annalivia ran around with them and Daddy took a moment to introduce his son to Daniel's late grandfather's tractors.

I swear this zen-tractor look must be passed down on the Y chromosome in Dennis' family.

As soon as we took him off the tractor, he fussed to get back on. It was a pretty sweet companion to Annalivia's braids whipping in the wind as she ran around.

She asked me to put the braids and bows in her hair on Sunday morning. I was surprised the bows lasted until the evening.
Especially since she was just a little more than a tad ornery all day.

27 April 2008

Dapper Dan photo shoot (alternate title: Why it is important to keep the talent well-fed)

The other day at Target, I stumbled into an entire rack of little boys' Easter outfits for 75% off. It is just darn hard to find dress-up clothes for little boys, so I bought a bunch in sizes up to 5T. Today, Daniel was in a long-sleeved shirt, vest and plaid shorts. It was a little chilly so he wore the Easter jacket Grandma made him. He looked very dapper.
He's such an introspective lad, eh?

Apparently hungry, too...

25 April 2008

What would be on your list?

As per a recent post about music, I have been trying to make a list of "essential" pieces for my children. It is, of course, subjective and, by no means, meant to be exhaustive. But I'm curious... what would be on your list? What classical music would you want your child to not only hear, but know?
The start of my list...
Bach -- anything and everything, but especially B minor Mass, cello suites, Brandenburg Concertos, Goldberg Variations
Barber -- The Hermit Songs, Adagio and Agnus Dei
Beethoven -- anything, especially The Pastoral Symphony #6, piano sonatas
Brahms -- German Requiem
Copland -- Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, El Salon Mexico, Fanfare for the Common Man
Durufle -- Requiem, Four Motets
Dvorak -- New World Symphony
Faure -- Requiem, Pavane
Gershwin -- Rhapsody in Blue, American in Paris
Handel -- Largo, Water Music, Royal Fireworks
Holst -- The Planets
Ireland -- Greater Love
Mahler -- Symphony #2
Mendelssohn -- Symphony #3, Midsummer's Night's Dream
Mozart -- anything, especially the Clarinet Concerto in A
Palestrina -- Missa Papae Marcelli, motets
Prokofiev -- Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Wolf
Rachmaninoff-- Piano Concerto #2, Piano Concerto #3, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Preludes
Rutter -- Requiem, anything else
Schubert -- assorted lieder
Stravinsky -- The Rite of Spring, The Firebird
Vaughan Williams -- The Lark Ascending, Canon on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, choral works and hymns
Vivaldi -- Four Seasons

I have seen it ALL!!

Saw this at Tia's cleverly-named post "Someone Knit a Sweater for Satan". Wow.

24 April 2008

Dinner cooked in a convenient kitchen

This weekend, Dennis put some shelves up in the dining room of our house. The parsonage is a typical ranch style. It has a little kitchen and very little storage (and Dennis and I are packrats, which does not help.) Up to this point, we had too much stuff on the counters, but Dennis' shelf installation allowed me to move pretties to the shelves, then we moved the microwave to The Impossible Corner and... voila! We have an entire counter on which to cook!

The lamp is not supposed to be there. It was Dennis' grandmother's lamp and one of the many projects he completed last weekend was re-wiring it and cleaning it up. It's there because it's a great little size for that counter and the cord is long enough to move it out of the way and then move it back to the outlet later.

I'm going to mooooove it because it's obviously a nursery lamp. But isn't it sweet? (We looked on eBay to see if we could find one similar so both kids' would have one. The one we found sold for $75!)I like the way it kind of fits in with the kitty cat cookie jar -- just like Grammy's -- and Annalivia's milk pitcher, which were the whole reason to put up shelves to begin with.

It's just so nice to cook dinner in a kitchen that is sort of functional. Seven years into my stay here, it's nice to finally figure this out!

23 April 2008


I do not have Photoshop for two main reasons. a.) It costs an arm and a leg and, more importantly, b.) I am infinitely capable of being obsessive and letting all else fester as I photoshop hour after hour.
Despite the fact that I don't have Photoshop and I don't have the familial energy to devote to photoshopping pics, I always read Pioneer Woman's Photoshop posts with interest.
Tonight, I went back to a post by the lovely Miz Booshay and decided to see if I could do the same thing in my JASC program I bought for $10 on eBay. Why, yes, I could. Then, for some crazy reason, I decided to read other Photoshop posts and see if I could do the same sort of things addressed in said posts in my cheapo photo editing software.
It involves a little translation and some playing around with settings, but oh my goodness, I have an entire arsenal at my fingertips that I did not know I had!!!
Tonight, I played around with this photo.

It's of my lovely girl, but otherwise was pretty boring, I thought, underexposed and taken on an icky day. So I played -- cropped and lightened and texturized and so on and ended up with this.

Which just makes me smile.

And this is just the start. What in the world have I discovered?

Incredibly practical financial advice

For the last few months, I have been reading The Simple Dollar. It is a great personal finance blog written by Trent, a guy who has pulled himself and his family back from the financial edge. His advice is straightforward, simple, and well-written. I find that I am adding his posts to my favorites more than anything else I encounter. Trent has a great post on budgeting up today.
I highly recommend The Simple Dollar. You may not agree with everything, but you'll almost certainly find something helpful there.

Thank You, God, for Spring

I'm on my laptop working on the bulletin on the back porch. Daniel is trying to untangle a hose and Annalivia is pretending to water flowers. We drove up to have a picnic lunch with Daddy today and I had a lovely drive through the country while little ones slept. It's an absolutely glorious day.
I am so, so, SO glad Spring is finally here!

My thoughts exactly

Time to go get some coffee!

22 April 2008


Terrible confession

I don't ever really say anything controversial on this blog. There was the time that I blogged about our Christmas tree, I guess. And recently, I suggested that making falafel could be shortcut by adding stuff to hummus. But usually, I say nothing the least bit inflammatory.
Until today. Because I have something terrible to admit to the blogosphere...
I don't really like other people's children.
I know that is not gracious, kind, earth-mother-y or pastorly, but it is true. I am ok with recognizing them as children of God, unique creations, beloved of their own parents, etc., etc., BUT I, myself, do not really enjoy them.
There are exceptions, found mainly in those to whom I am related by blood, and exceptionally cute babies, generally those whose parents I adore. But for the most part, I'm ok with not hanging out with another person's child.
I really liked other people's children before I had my own. But after having my own, I feel very differently. And it's not that I feel my own children are superior to all others; it's just that it takes enough energy to be with them that I don't want to be with someone else's children. And I certainly don't want to hug and kiss them and play games with them and have fun with them. Nor do I want someone else to do this for mine.
This is but one of the million reasons that I am not a daycare provider and never will be. And it is one of the million reasons we don't use childcare providers.
I don't really like other people's kids.
And I'm hoping I get over this before I'm a grandparent.


I hurt my back today. I was doing a radical move of bending over to pick up mustard, salad dressing and jelly that a helpful little boy had put on the floor and the lower part of my back just sort of seized up. I have no idea how I did it. I was bending over angrily, though. Suffice to say, I have learned my lesson. Angry-me makes everything hurt.
This happened one other time in my life before Dennis and I got engaged and I attended a birthday party of one of his nephews. It was a bowling party and I was trying to be enthusiastic and energetic and very impressive, helping the little ones and spending most of two hours bent over. I wasn't angry that time. Just stupid. After it, I could hardly walk, but, I think, the pain went away the next day.
This morning, my crippling occurred as the kids and I were leaving the house. It got really bad after I had to rescue my son from an evil patch of grass that was ensnaring him, thus rendering him motionless and unable to walk. I came home, took some Vicodin left over from my wrist surgeries and laid on the couch. Dennis stayed home from school tonight and the drugs made me feel nauseous and sleepy, so I laid down in bed with Daniel about 6 a.m. and we both fell asleep. I got up at 11:30 p.m. and am heading back to bed now, with another dose of drugs. My back is feeling a little better, I think, but, truthfully, most everything is numb thanks to the codeine.
Is this what people mean when they say their backs "went out"? If so, I'm hoping mine comes in before morning.

21 April 2008

Sacred music and spiritual formation -- some ramblings

After the concert last night, Dennis and I were talking about it, and he mentioned how much he loved the deep sounds of a pipe organ. I related to him a conversation I had with R, one of the members of our group, an organist who owns his own organ-building company. He is my age and fell in love with the organ when he was in his early teens, then went on to get a degree in Organ Performance and now owns this company where he constantly works with this instrument that so many churches are casting aside.

R and I were talking about the way an organ can elevate an entire congregation. As he said, the organ just seems to "wrap arms around you." There are few instruments that have that breathtaking and breath-giving effect. Perhaps it's because the organ's very apparatus is one of forcing air through pipes and thus "breathing" that it performs in such a way. Whatever it is -- it can be just amazingly moving.

I was thinking more about it and realizing again, for the gazillionth time, how much I MISS good congregational music. When I was growing up, the pipe organ in my home church, a lovely gothic-esque structure, was played by the incredible Lois Humbert. She treated the organ with such care and played it just beautifully. I remember my father taking us to church and him sitting there with his eyes closed during communion telling us to "close our eyes and listen to the little notes playing with each other." The music was not just hymns played dirge-like in the background, but toccatas and fugues and airs and all sorts of wondrous, substantive, and real music that twirled around on the acoustics of the nave and danced into my ears.

My parents continued to introduce us to sacred music as we grew older. We learned to play piano and Dad subjected us to all sorts of educational instruction about composers and styles and musical periods. (I remember being in the Learning Center of my grade school when I was in second grade and a teacher asked the group about symphonies written by Bach and I know-it-all-ingly informed her that symphonies weren't invented yet when Bach was writing music.) We went to choral concerts in churches and at the universities near us and listened to the great music of the church in all sorts of different settings.

And it became part of us, I think, to the extent that, when I wasn't really conscious of belief or doubt, when I had become unwittingly apathetic about faith, music was always the first thing to call me back to the presence of God. The Mozart mass. The Vaughan Williams and Durufle choral pieces. The Christmas motet from college. The Iona song cycle in seminary. It wasn't what brought me Home, but it sure opened the front door of the House and reminded me of how beautiful the Host had made everything inside.

Now, every once in a while, I get to experience really good sacred music and I feel like I am gulping down some sweet, satisfying nectar that I deeply crave and desperately need and seldom find. The music in the church I serve is... terrible, for the most part. We have a Clavinova now, thanks be to God, and got rid of the hideous funeral home organ, even more thanks be to God, but the music feels functional, seldomly beautiful and almost never treasured and savored and ingested.

And I wonder what kind of musical education my children are receiving. Will they learn to sing quietly and disinterestedly and to see music as a filler in the background for whatever it is that is going on in the foreground? Will they think that Jim Brickman piano solos and a choir singing the melody on absolutely everything and a praise song played 400 times during communion is what music is supposed to be like? Will they ever get to hear a pipe organ that breathes around them and with them and lifts them up as they are singing Praise to the Lord, the Almighty at the top of their lungs? Will I ever get to make them sit still while Mommy and Daddy are carried up in the rapture of a beautifully executed fugue leading them to wonder what all the fuss is about?

This morning we are listening to Vaughan Williams with the speakers cranked up high and I have just placed an order for some more cd's.

But I may have to become an Episcopalian after all.

20 April 2008

Closet Episcopalian

Today we had our concert. In addition to some Mozart and Strauss, the choir sang three gorgeous, lovely, wondrous English choral anthems. It led me to contemplate for the millionth time a conversion.
My mom came up for the concert and managed to get in one of her trademark "BRAVO!!"s. She has them perfectly timed in that space between the end of a piece and the beginning of the clapping. This time, the piece deserved it. It was incredible -- 30 piece orchestra, full choir, four operatic soloists, amazing organ -- all singing full voice the words of Paul. I could almost not sing, it was so glorious. Mom said she felt like she was lifted out of her seat by it and that if anyone had looked at her, they would have seen a beam of light shooting out of her head. The whole audience leapt to their feet in applause. We were all glowing afterwards.
After the concert, on our way home, we realized we had sent my drivers license home with Mom, so, thanks to miracle of cell phones, she turned back and we intersected her in the country. It was lovely to spend a little more time with Dennis, right in that sweet time before the sun sets. It was a beautiful day and the light was just enchanting, the birds singing, and the grass smelling sweet and warm. It was a perfect concert, in and of itself, a little Spring symphony to end the day.


Tomorrow is my first concert with the Canterbury Singers. I am excited. I get to sing soprano (I never get to sing soprano) on this song (and sing a big high A!) and it is going through my head constantly!
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
Have I mentioned how happy I am to be able to sing again?

18 April 2008

Date night

Dennis and I got to go on a date tonight. We went over to the Quad Cities. We had a nice drive down -- it was drizzling, but the grass has become bright green this week, the bluettes are carpeting farmhouse lawns, and we have flocks and flocks of pelicans in our area right now, pausing here as they migrate north. We stopped at a Christian bookstore and picked up some little presents for door prizes for the Mother's Day breakfast, then went to the hospital so I could visit a quasi-parishioner (thus qualifying this date for a mileage reimbursement). Then we had dinner at a local pizza place -- a dive in the best sense with very good, slightly quirky pizza. Then we headed home.
And when we got home, my mother in law had the children in bed and the house straightened up and vacuumed. She is so incredibly generous sometimes.
This was a very, very nice evening.

16 April 2008

How high the moon

Yesterday late afternoon, I pointed out the moon in the sky to Annalivia.

"Look, Annalivia! It's the moon."

Annalivia replied with an overly-enunciated and pointedly-patient tone. "I don't like the moon, Mommy. I like the sun. Daniel likes the moon." She said it as though I constantly confuse the affinities of her and her brother, my 14-month old child who, so far, can say "MAAAAAAHHHHHHEEE!" and that's about it.

I wonder when Daniel mentioned to her that he was fond of the moon.

12 April 2008

Redbox, Redbox, how I love thee...

Do y'all know about Redbox?
Redbox is a movie rental system that is in places all over the country. I had heard about it a while ago and didn't think there were any Redboxes around here, but the other day, I realized we had one at a grocery store I rarely visit across the river. Then I read The Centsible Sawyer's post about Redbox and realized I needed to get on board.

There are several truly great things about Redbox.

1. Rentals are $1/ day.

2. There are almost always codes available for free rentals.

3. They have lots of new releases.

4. They are quick and pretty convenient.

So far, we've rented Dan in Real Life, Barbie Mariposa :), The Dark is Rising: The Seeker, and Catch and Release -- for FREE!! They were all in great condition and it has been really nice to try out new movies for FREE!!

Book winner

Announced on that post! :)

09 April 2008

Mommying in the midst of it

A beloved one is celebrating a new pregnancy at the same time that she is called to do some pretty big things by God. Last night she was wondering how it will all work.
I am thinking about that tonight because it is almost midnight and I am finishing up a homily for a funeral tomorrow. I need to go to bed because I actually have two back-to-back funerals tomorrow. The first is at 10 a.m. The second is at noon. They are both for folks who were baptized in our church and have not been involved at all. The second is for a 33-year old man.
This morning a dear, dear husband of a beloved member of our congregation passed away -- FAR too early after a brief and devastating struggle with cancer. I missed the first two phone calls this morning from the wife. The third I got because my daughter had brought the phone to me and placed it by my sleeping head.
The next few days are shaping up to be a bit overwhelming. Tomorrow it's two funerals and a meeting about the church's ailing investments in the evening. Friday is a meeting in the morning, followed by coordinating the funeral with the Catholic priest (the deceased was baptized and confirmed Catholic, but has been worshipping at our church for 40 years), a presentation to concerned congregants involving a new clavinova, an impromptu choir rehearsal and, hopefully, a date with my guy. Saturday morning Dennis has a meeting and then I a meeting with the deceased's family. Sunday is church with said clavinova, a board meeting, the visitation for the deceased, and my choir rehearsal, and then a dear friend is coming to visit. Monday is the funeral and party for dear friend.
In the midst of this, there are meals to plan and cook and CVS to visit for diapers and milk and, most importantly, children who will need attention. They will need time to be with me, too.
Occasionally, at moments like this, I think it may not have been the smartest idea in the world to keep the kids with me non-stop. I end up writing sermons at midnight and showering at 1 a.m. Sometimes I think it would be easier if we had regularly scheduled separation from each other.
But, for me, in my little church, these times are few and far between. And tonight, I know a little body will press up against me after they are both in bed with us or Daniel will run/trip over to me and pull on me until I pick him up and he can settle into the crook of my arm with a bottle or Annalivia will say something like, "Mommy, you are my dearest darling Mommy-toes!" tomorrow. And even as I'm trying to get out of the house with nylons unscathed by little hands, it will all make sense once again.
God has called me to some pretty big things, I believe.
It will all work.

Free money!! (really!)

Have you heard about Revolution Money Exchange? It is similar to Paypal and if you sign up before April 15, you will get a free $25 for doing so.

AND you can refer friends and if they sign up, you will get a free $10 credited to your account, up to $500.

If you think it's something you'd like to do, please consider clicking through on my link!
Refer A Friend using Revolution Money Exchange

FYI -- this is totally completely legitimate and above-board!

08 April 2008

April's clergy-tax tip of the day*

If you have difficulties with the whole quarterly-estimate thing and you are married and file jointly, you can have your spouse withhold more from their checks and forego paying quarterly payments. As long as the government has it, they don't penalize you.

*this is the only day I'll have a tax-tip because I know almost nothing about taxes. And you should check this one out with your accountant. It works for us. We're getting a BIG refund this year!!

07 April 2008

A little giveaway

I've decided to give away a very, very, very lightly used copy of the book, Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. It's a nice book, but I'm downsizing and think now that I've read it, I can use the concepts pretty easily without the book taking up space.
If you want in, leave me a comment confessing how you pull one over on your children on this post by Friday, April 11 at 5 p.m. central time. I'll choose by random selection. Feel free to pass along the news. International entries welcome, too.

My confession: I cut things in half and say, "See... now you have two!" in the happiest voice I can manufacture. I think #1 is starting to figure it out though.

Free Starbucks on Tuesday!

Tomorrow, visit a Starbucks at 11 a.m. Central Time and get a free cuppa.

Visit any participating U.S. Starbucks store on Tuesday, April 8 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time (12 p.m. Eastern Time) and Starbucks will give all customers a complimentary short (8 oz.) cup of the new Pike Place Roast™ to enjoy as they participate in a simultaneous, nationwide, coast-to-coast, coffee tasting conducted by Starbucks coffee experts. More here.

And lift a toast to your friend April who is, alas, too far from a Starbucks to justify gas cost for the free cup. :(

05 April 2008

Big day

Today I was supposed to go to my alma mater for an alumni board meeting. I was feeling kind of icky last night and also this morning when I got up to get ready, so I decided to stay home.
It was a good decision to do so. It was an absolutely gorgeous day here -- got up to 63 degrees, I think! And as long as I didn't eat anything, I felt pretty good. Dennis and the kids and I were in the backyard most of the day and worked on it ready for spring and then moved on to the garage which is need of a huge rescue. We made a dent, which is good.
After the outside work, we came inside and everyone took a bath/ shower, and then Dennis and I tackled our hall closet. It's an odd closet between the bathroom and bedrooms that just ends up being junky. I needed a place to store all of my CVS finds, so we cleaned it all up. It's just lovely. Right now the door is open to it and we keep walking by and sighing because it all looks so nice.
We are in the midst of a massive reformation and redistribution of our possessions. What we should have done when Dennis and I got married and conflated our stuff into one ranch style home, we are doing now with lots of kids' stuff thrown in the mix. We have big plans and the garage and hall closet are key to all of them.
I am going to start taking before and after pictures. Hopefully, by the time summer is over, no one will recognize this house!

03 April 2008

What happened here?

The entire contents of Annalivia's room and closet dumped on the floor.

Me: Annalivia! What happened here?!?
Annalivia: I was trying to make a mountain!

Toy management

We have too many toys.
I strongly suspect that little elves sneak in here during the night and add more toys to the fracas, but that theory has yet to be proved.
Last night Dennis and I went through the toys and put a TON of them in a plastic bag to be sold at our spring garage sale (which we ARE going to have, darn it!). We got rid of all the cheap plastic toys, some stuffed animals and all of the electronic things, or anything that makes noise by itself.
A while ago, my mom had read somewhere that a family handled their plethora of toys by dividing them up into several containers and each day a new container was brought forth. At the end of the day, the toys were put away.
I personally thought this was brilliant. We have tried putting away some for a month or so, but there is still just too much choice. And while that probably means that we should just get rid of a whole lotta the toys, the kids really DO play with ALL of those that are left after our purging. And, honestly, Dennis and I are suckers because we think the remainder are cool toys!
SO -- anyway, we divided up the remainder, into some bins. We've got wooden toys, puzzles, a shape sorter and a bead game in one. The wooden kitchen range, pots and pans and teaset and food are in another. All of the Little People stuff is in one set of bins. Another has the Thomas trainsets. Another has cars and other "things that go". And the final one has some plastic animals in it. The last bin will eventually hold dress-up stuff, I think. Annalivia has her dolls and some stuffed animals in her bedroom. Daniel has a little box that can be added to at some point when he claims his own toys. And I think I'm going to develop a little box of Waldorf-esque dolls for Annalivia to take in the car and add the wood clackers, etc to it for Daniel.
I'd imagine that this system will have to be tweaked as the kids grow older. Right now, Annalivia plays with all of those things and Daniel plays with whatever Annalivia is playing with. Maybe their choices will differentiate at some point.
But I'm thinking that for now this will work better for us.

Today is Little People day. So far it's been a big hit.

02 April 2008

Pizza monster

Annalivia has become a little pizza-holic. Whenever we ask her what she wants to eat she says, "How about some pizza?"
Yesterday we got up in the morning and she wanted pizza. We actually got pizza for lunch after a long, long doctor's appointment and she had no sooner finished eating it than she said, "Maybe we could have some pizza for dinner."
Today she had just finished eating lunch and asked, "Mommy, can I have some pizza?"
I think if she had nothing but pizza and chocolate, she would be a very happy girl.

01 April 2008

April Veriditas

I had a professor in seminary who, in addition to being brilliant and articulate, was also one of the kindest persons I ever met. She was a true gift to all of those who studied under her.
When I met her, she had just finished writing a book on the mystics and was awash with all sorts of wonderful imagery. One day in class, she mentioned Hildegard von Bingen's concept of veriditas, the "greening of the soul," in which the soul become lush, fertile, verdant, and welcoming to the seed of God's grace planted therein.
I have been thinking about this month of April and have decided that, as the Earth greens and the blogosphere begins teeming with posts on how to be more ecologically responsible or fashionably "Green", that I would take the opportunity to do some spiritual greening. I've got some changes to make if I want to experience some significant spiritual blossoming, and this seems to be the perfect time to prepare the soil of my heart.

Anyone else needing some spiritual gardening?