Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Year of Loss: 2018

So... it's been a while since I last posted anything. I originally started this blog to keep up with the hilarious things my toddler was saying. That kid is 14 years old now, so I probably won't be capturing too many adorable quotes from him anytime soon.

It's been quite a year.

In February, one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with cancer.

In March, I started watching her boys part-time.

In April, my divorce was finalized.

In May, my ex-husband moved a mile down the street.

May, June, July, and August: The summer I had five kids.

In June, I lost my maternal grandmother.

In July, I lost my friend.

In August, I started a "new job."

In September, I started experiencing frequent hot flashes.


I've spent all day today and yesterday sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop, learning how to make Google fall in love with my friend's website. Heidi owns a lovely dog daycare and boarding business in Nashville. She's wanting to give the virtual side of her business a bit of a face-lift, like a new coat of paint on a big, beautiful home. Figuratively speaking, I'm learning which colors are Google's favorite so that it pays more attention to her site and mentions it more often when people are searching for what her business offers.

Adorable pup with tongue hanging out stands in pool at Red Rover Dog Daycare in Nashville
You can find pictures like these on her Facebook, Instagram, and website.
I've always loved helping to support small businesses (if you know me at all, you know that I tend to avoid chains), so this is a way I can do that remotely and still homeschool the kids during the week (and run them to auditions and rehearsals and shows).

So, as I wrap things up on this quiet Sunday afternoon (the kids are with their dad on the weekends now, so I have a very quiet house in which to work), I just wanted to take a minute to revisit my poor, old, neglected blog and sort of make sense of the year in words.

I wondered today what the primary life stressors are since I figure I've probably lived through several of them this year, and as it turns out, I have.

A quick Google search of the 10 major stressors turned this up:

I also happened upon this article in my search about major stressors, which lists "Death of a loved one," "Separation or divorce," and "Starting a new job," as three of the top 4 out of the top 10:

So, yeah, I guess it's been a bit of a stressful year so far.

Next month, I turn 44. I like to celebrate the entire month of October. Hoping for lots to celebrate.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Green Card by Elizabeth Adams

Green CardGreen Card by Elizabeth     Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Playful banter, snappy dialogue, witty comebacks ... conflict, romance, ideals, humor ... this is the PERFECT romance novel those of us who appreciate well-written dialogue. It looks daunting, but it reads like a fast-paced screenplay. A delightful vacation read--light, easy, fun with the perfect level of suspense. I found myself laughing out loud along the way, recognizing characters from both my New Jersey roots and my rural Kentucky upbringing. A couple of scenes even made me tear up. If you're in the mood for a romantic comedy but would rather curl up with a good book than watch a movie, grab a copy of Green Card by Elizabeth Adams and enjoy! (Warn your family and friends, though, that you're not going to be available for a while. I got sucked in and ended up devouring this book in two days!)

View all my reviews

Monday, March 23, 2015

Judah, My (ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD!!!) Judah

At the beginning of this month, Judah celebrated his 11th birthday. 

The first part of the day was spent on location with Surly Urchin Studios (Ryan and Allison Rehnborg, Meg Rehnborg, Scott Crain, Derrick Minyard, and several others) and Fable Cry (Zach Ferrin and friends) filming The Rat King, a short film based on the Pied Piper in which Judah plays a child king for the 54-Hour Film Festival. 

Among the Murfreesboro submissions, Judah took home the award for "Best Child Actor" while his sister Miriam was awarded "Best Child Actress." Overall in Middle Tennessee (Murfreesboro, Franklin, and Nashville), Judah won "Best Child Actor." 

I nearly came unglued. 

Just a few minutes ago, I happened upon an e-mail I sent out when Judah was two and I was 7.5 months pregnant with Miriam (see below). I used to capture his conversations in this blog. He still says some pretty hilarious things, but I rarely write them down anymore. 

Happy Birthday, kiddo. I'm so, so proud of you. 

In case you're interested, here's what Judah was up to at age 2:

More Conversations with Judah
This one happened moments after I told Judah that drawing on his body wasn't good for him. We had since moved from the kitchen to the living room.
JUDAHMommy, I want you to go bye-bye. 
ME: You don't want me to go bye-bye?
JUDAH:  No, I DO want you to go bye-bye. I want you to go over there. (Judah points to the hallway.)
ME:  Why do you want me to go over there?
JUDAH:  Because I want to draw on my legs. 
One day after Judah had spent all morning running around naked and going potty on his own, I put a diaper on him and put him in the car. 
JUDAH:  Mommy, I going pee pee.
ME: You are? Is your diaper catching it?
ME: Good job, diaper.
JUDAH (in his deepest toddler voice):  You're welcome.
ME: Did the diaper just talk? What a smart diaper!
JUDAH (in the deep voice again): Thank you.
In an effort to distract him from "helping" me wash dishes, I sat down on the couch with him in my lap and started asking him questions:
ME: What's your name?
ME: How old are you?
JUDAH: Two. (He has to hold his other fingers down to make two stand up.)
ME: Do you have a groundhog?
ME: What's his name?
JUDAH: Joonk. (He came up with a name for the groundhog that frequently visits us.)
ME: Do you have a daddy?
ME: What's his name?
JUDAH: Daddy.
ME: Do you have a mommy?
ME: What's her name?
JUDAH: Princess. 
I promise he came up with that one one his own. We were in a restaurant when a man asked him if his mommy was a nice lady, and he said, "No. She's a nice princess." Who wouldn't want to spend their days with this kid?
If you spend any time at all with Judah, you're going to end up telling stories and role-playing. Here are some sample story requests:
Mommy, tell me a story about...
David and Goliath
David and the Bear
Robbers (a.k.a. The Good Samaritan)
The Lions' Den
Jonah and the Fish (or Jonah and the Whale)
The Leopard Seal and The Doggies (from the movie 8 Below)
Two Brothers (from the movie Two Brothers)
or whatever he happens to see in the room or in a picture...
He always asks, "What is ____________ saying?" Then you have to make up whatever you think the person or animal or object is saying. If you say, "I don't know." Judah will reply, "NO! No say that! What is it saying?"
He's been introducing other children his age to "pretend" play. Poor Thomas Wiles in Virginia didn't know Judah was pretending when Judah said, "A bear is coming!" Thomas ran screaming and crying to his parents. He didn't know that the appropriate response is to get out your sling and hit the bear with a rock.  
He even likes to pretend to play ball. Whether it's in the car or outside or in the house, we pretend to throw and catch a ball. Sometimes he'll give me a play by play about the direction of the ball:
It's up high!
It's coming down, down, down...
I got it!
Mommy, throw it to me!
Good job!
Judah seems to have a running commentary or a song for everything he does. 
Speaking of songs, his favorites are:
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Jesus Loves Me
Baa, Baa Black Sheep
Happy Birthday to You
And all of the animal lullabies from his "bunny book" except one. 
He has the story of David and Goliath down. If you don't know what to say, he'll tell you. A typical role-playing exercise goes something like this:
JUDAH/GOLIATH: Mommy, you be David. I be Goliath. Okay? "Give me a man to fight!"
ME/DAVID: I will fight Goliath.
SAUL/JUDAH: How you will fight Goliath? You are only a boy.
ME/DAVID: God will help me.
JUDAH/GOLIATH: I am a dog that you come to me with sticks? (Instead of Am I a dog?) 
ME/DAVID: You come to me with a sword and a shield, but I come to you in the name of God. This battle is the Lord's!
Then, I pretend to put the stone in my sling and hit Goliath in the forehead. (If you don't know what to do at this point, he'll tell you.) 
Goliath (Judah) falls down. He's really good at falling down. He dives onto the floor. As soon as he gets up, we reverse roles. 
When Judah is playing David, he says, "Cereal wins! Praise the Lord!" and he does a happy dance. (cereal =Israel)
Judah also likes to pretend he's David when David rescues his sheep from the lion or the bear.
JUDAH: "Mommy, you be the bear. Get my sheep." 
ME: I roar, and pretend to get his sheep.
JUDAH: He takes a pretend rock and puts it in his sling. He hits me with a "Pow!" 
ME: I fall down.
JUDAH: He takes the sheep, moves it down the hall, and says, "Now you're safe." 
He likes to role play Jonah and the whale, too. I'm almost always the whale and he's Jonah. After he gets thrown into the sea, I gobble him up. He says, "God, save me!" So I spit him out on the couch. Then, he runs down the hall and tells the people of Ninevah, "Stop being bad and start being good. This is a message from the Lord." If he's the whale, he says, "Mommy, pray and pray for three days, nights." 
If you leave Judah alone for any length of time, you'll probably come back to something being put in order. He likes to line up his blocks and place his bears on each one. All bears face forward and sit in the middle of each block.
This week, I came downstairs to find playing cards leaning against the living room window, with all of his Noah's ark animals on the corner of the windowsill. Sometimes he'll lean books against the windows or place old Scrabble letters in a line or in squares on the floor. 
I've been battling a relentless sty on my left eyelid for months, so I've been using hot compresses. Last week, I laid down with the hot compress and fell asleep. Judah was still up, and when I woke up about an hour later, he had crawled in bed with me, but not before he placed two bears between us, covered himself with a baby blanket, and placed another bear to his right. 
The next day, I fell asleep again, and when I woke up, I didn't see him or hear him. So I walked into his room, where all of his toys were in his lego blocks bin and a little wooden block creation had been made on the floor in front of his changing table. The lego blocks and a few wooden blocks were aligned on his windowsill. When he was done playing, he had climbed into his crib and fallen asleep. I couldn't believe it.
Sometimes, we'll lay down for a nap together, and I'll whisper, "I love you." Judah will whisper back, "Thank you." 
One morning, I didn't think he'd ever wake up. After I ate breakfast, took a shower, and got dressed, I heard his little voice from the other side of his door saying, "Mommy, is that you?"
Typical Judah sayings:
I working so hard. 
I did it! 
I will help you!
I can do it myself.
No, no, no. No say that.
Come and find me!
Here me are!
I'm a big big boy.
I'm a big boy to do that.
Let's play swordfight!
My belly's full.
Silly mommy/daddy! (In his deep toddler voice.)
Yesterday, I took Judah and his friend Finley to storytime at the main library downtown. By the time we got back to the van, I was exhausted. I had lost our parking ticket, and Judahhad a poopy diaper. He pulled the plastic cover off of the back of the van (where the jumper cables and other emergency things are kept), and I said, "Oh, Jesus." Judah replied, 
"Are you healing me? Why are you healing me?"
A few weeks ago, we were in a hurry to get somewhere, and James told Judah to run down the stairs. Judah said, "I can't run down the stairs. I maybe fall down."
Regular questions Judah asks:
What happened?
What is that sound?
What is it called?
How does it work?
Where did it come from?
Who gave it to me?
Who made it?
See what I made?
Can I touch the doggy?
Can I ask?
Can I try?
Can I eat it?
Can I drink it?
You want to...
     go downstairs?
     go outside?
     play with me?
     read me a story?
     eat a pocs-sil-lil? (popsicle)
Judah often gives me pretend popsicles to eat (we love popsicles from Las Paletas). They're usually blueberry peach. When he returned from a two-day trip to Nana's house, he started offering to make me cookie dough. Hmmmmm...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Blue Hair and a 24-Book Project for our October Birthdays

So . . .

This is what I looked like on my birthday. Not to begin with, of course, but after my friend Christy Fike got hold of me with her red lipstick and blue wig. The idea to add the tiara was hers, too, but I borrowed it from my girls. (Thanks, Nana! It came in handy!) The necklace was a gift from the husband and kiddos thanks to my friend Erin Dorn who came over with a few Noonday Collection pieces.

When it comes to jewelry, I pretty much only wear the handmade kind--and I especially love jewelry made from upcycled materials by resourceful artisans who are living in impoverished areas.

Check out all the beautiful jewelry and accessories at, and if you find a gift for yourself or a friend today or tomorrow, enter Erin Dorn as the Ambassador and Lori Todd as the Trunk Show Name, and a percentage of total sales will go toward a free gift for the birthday girl. :0)

Thank you for loving me and loving the beautiful artisans who make these lovely creations!!!

Now, you're going to want to know what The Husband is doing for his birthday. In one week, he turns the big 4-0! Click on the link below and watch the video that Bar Sinister Films put together for us--and let me know what you think of the kid at the end!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


A dear friend who is pregnant with baby #2, parenting a toddler, and who spent time on Broadway (!!!) asked me last weekend if being a theater mom is as exciting as being on stage myself. I was in tears as I told her about watching Miriam on stage during her first production with The Theater Bug. I didn't miss a single show. I couldn't take my eyes off her. I LOVE being a theater mom!

Well, Miriam's at it again, and this time she's in a musical called SHOWMANCE about theater nerds. I got to see it tonight (there are two separate casts, so I took her to see the other cast), and it was INCREDIBLE. I laughed out loud, cried like a baby, and wanted to stand up and cheer. This show is SO BEAUTIFUL and fun and poignant and witty and comedic and fast-paced and delightful and . . . I love it. I just LOVE it!

Here are the details so you can come and see why I love it so much:

Facebook event page is HERE.

From Cori Anne Laemmel of The Theater Bug:
The Theater Bug is proud to present this summer's show, SHOWMANCE! Meet the talented, sometimes strange, always full of heart young actors of the Showmance Summer Stages Theatrical program for Young Artists as they give you a backstage tour in the life of a young actor. With a fabulous soundtrack and an incredibly talented cast, Showmance is great fun for the whole family! 
The show runs July 11th through August 4th, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 2pm.  
For tickets, please visit or you can buy them at the door! 
 Here's the link to the official promo video:  
We'd love to see you there! 

NOTE: If you specifically want to see Miriam and The Brentwood Carpool*, be sure to buy tickets for July 25-August 4.

Show options (to see Miriam and The Brentwood Carpool perform):

Thursday, July 25 at 7 PM
Friday, July 26 at 7 PM
Saturday, July 27 at 7 PM
Sunday, July 28 at 2 PM
Thursday, August 1 at 7 PM
Friday, August 2 at 7 PM
Saturday, August 3 at 7 PM
Sunday, August 4 at 7 PM

More Info:

1) SHOWMANCE features two separate casts. I HIGHLY recommend seeing both!

2) The Theater Bug is tucked away in a strip-mall with Save-A-Lot and Direct Insurance on Gallatin Road in East Nashville, super close to the YMCA.

3) Their shows tend to sell out FAST, so get your tickets from ASAP!

*The Brentwood Carpool includes:
Miriam Todd
Bella Higginbotham
Abbey Rhyne
Erika Skelton
Hannah Trauscht
(with a cameo appearance by Lilla Toler)
These girls are AMAZING!!!

NOTE: many of my friends know Ambra Harris--her Isaiah is in it, too!

P.S. I went to see the first cast perform tonight (7/13/13), and I'm smitten. If you're not able to catch this show during the two weekends that Miriam performs, just try to get there. You'll LOVE IT!!!

What audiences are saying:

 "In intermission at The Theater Bug's opening night of Showmance, and I'm blown away by the talent, heart, commitment, and theater chops of these kiddo actors. They are incredible...(and they've made me cry 4 times already - still another act to go.) Please, PLEASE do your self/heart a favor, and go see this beautiful show!"

"If you have no plans tonight....I encourage you to grab the kiddos and friends and come down to Theater Bug's performance of Showmance....Starts at 7......Only 10.00 for adults and 5.00 for kiddos..... It is a great show that will move you and your kiddos. It features amazing talent such as Lockelands very own Gus O'Brien, Robin August Fritsch, and Katie Madole. They will also perform tomorrow and next weekend!!!! Hope to see all my friends. The Theater Bug is located at 2618 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216"

 "Wow, wow,wow!!!!! Opening nite was amazing!!!! I felt like I was in NY on Broadway....this show is a must see!!! So much talent and love filled the room. Tonight was a sellout hurry and get your tickets . I promise you will be blown away."

 "Man, do yourself a favor and go see The Theatre Bug's production of Showmance. Those kids are absolutely incredible and they perform with such heart. It's been a looooong time since live theatre moved me to tears, but today it did. Three times. I was a mess. GO see this beautiful show. It opens this weekend!"

 "I saw the most entertaining, beautiful, and moving performance last night - and you ALL need to see it, too. Cori Anne Laemmel has written and directed my new favorite musical - SHOWMANCE! - and it stars some of Nashville's most brilliant child actors. These kids will BLOW YOUR MINDS. That's a promise. Showmance! runs this weekend through August 4th. A limited number of tickets are available at the door, but no matter! You can buy in advance online, by clicking that link right down there. There is so much wonderful art being made in our city, and this fabulous, hilarious, and heart warming story is a stellar example. You will absolutely laugh. You may cry. You may do that clenchy thing with your face that my husband does to keep himself from crying. But you Must. Not. Miss. It."

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Barefoot Children in the City of Ward

My sweet little six-year-old Miriam auditioned for her first play on the same day as her birthday party. When asked from the stage how old she was, she paused to think, then said, "It's complicated." Given a chance to explain what she meant, she said, "Well, my birthday is tomorrow, so today I'm 5 but tomorrow I'll be 6." Ms. Cori Anne Laemmel agreed that it WAS complicated and cast her as "Little," the youngest of the patients in the "City of Ward." 

From The Theater Bug's press release:

Welcome to the city of Ward! The city gates are always open, as long as you know the rules. The city is beautiful, but holds a secret. In reality it is the pediatric oncology ward of Nation’s Hospital, one of the best pediatric facilities in the world. Join the children as they invite you into a world of their imagination that is sure to make you believe in the magic and strength of a child’s spirit. This show is proud to partner with Gilda’s Club, an organization dedicated to providing support, education and hope to people affected by cancer. All ages welcome though this production will feature some mature themes about illness.

This truly remarkable play has two completely different casts, so if you want to catch Miriam in her very first theater production, plan to come:
***Feburary 1 - February 3***

Friday, February 1, at 7 PM
Saturday, February 2, at 2 PM and 7 PM
Sunday, February 3, at 2 PM

Advance tickets are a really good idea since the shows tend to sell out quickly and there are only approximately 100 seats in the theater. Head over to ASAP!


Click HERE for a beautiful article by ArtsNash, which includes the promo video.
HERE for Martin Brady's glowing review in the NashvilleScene.
Judith Yates' up close and personal article in the HERE (with pictures!!!)
And Fiona Soltes led the way HERE with her kind review in The Tennessean.

If you have children who are interested in theater, get on the mailing list for The Theater Bug so you can find out about upcoming auditions. Check out their Facebook Page for more press, adorable pictures, and a promo video! 

I couldn't have created a better first-theater-experience for Miriam. As long as I can remember, she has wanted to be a nurse and an actor--as well as a host of other occupations, but these two happen to be particularly significant--because her very first show takes place in a hospital. She not only gets to be on stage, but also deliver lines, sing, and even dance a little. Every single night she comes home from rehearsals energized and full of joy. And we could sing the director's praises all day. Ms. Cori is pretty much the most adorable grown-up I have ever met. She loves these kids with her whole heart and encourages their socks off night after night. She cheers them on, hugs them, gives them high-five's, and never stops smiling. What a treasure. 

I am SO proud of Miriam, and I am just THRILLED with The Theater Bug and this original production! 


Sunday, December 23, 2012

If I were to send a Christmas card . . .

When James and I got married, we sent out artistic, handmade wedding invitations thanks to my dear friend Leilani and her boundless creativity.

When James and I moved to Uganda, we created a beautiful newsletter with the help of our talented friend Jonathan and mailed it to practically everyone we knew.

When Judah was born, we sent out a birth announcement--again, with the help of Jonathan for the fun photos.

When Judah was around 18 months old, we had family pictures made by our budding-photographer friend Lillian. She designed a fun Christmas card, which we sent out along with a "Happy Dances" DVD that her husband Chris put together for us.

When Miriam was born, we sent out a birth announcement--again thanks to Lillian's photography and graphic design skills, now already at a professional level.

When Nadia was born, we didn't even send thank-you notes.

What happened?

I had fully intended to mail a birth announcement. I even had some newborn pictures made by Sandy Shaffer, who took my first-ever maternity pictures when I was pregnant with Judah. I fully intended to hand-write thank-you notes and send them with the announcement. I have a list of dear friends who blessed me immensely with gifts and visits and meals and words of encouragement and acts of service . . . but I failed.

I failed to do much at all the year after Nadia was born.

Honestly, I was facing some pretty tough postpartum depression. It didn't lift for an entire year. I started to feel a little better after about six months, but it was fully a year before I felt like myself again.

I've thought for the past two years about sending out Christmas cards that say something like this:

We had a baby!

She's almost three.

Nadia Ruth Todd
born April 7, 2010

I don't even remember how much she weighed or how long she was. Truthfully, I don't always remember her birthday. Like my friend Lisa, who was also born on April 7, I want to say April 6. And often do. It's embarrassing. All I really remember is that she was my breech baby who needed to be born via C-section and it took a ridiculously long time to recover. We snuggled a lot that first year. Rested and snuggled. And read books. And played dress-up.

The Christmas card would continue with a list of things that have happened in our lives since the birth of sweet Nadia Ruth . . . things like the trips we made this year to visit family in Florida . . . how the kids got to meet their great-grandma for the first time . . . how Judah has taken an interest in fencing as well as acting . . . and how Miriam is still dancing with Rejoice and has started taking another dance class with a former student of mine from New Song Christian Academy, Isabella Kearny . . . how she is LOVING her one-day-a-week kindergarten tutorial . . . how much we're enjoying the home education journey and reading lots of great books . . . how this year marked 20 years since I graduated high school and my parents' 40th wedding anniversary . . . how my family, instead of doing theater this year, appeared in a commercial and a documentary . . . how I discovered Beyond Organic and did my first cleanse and got hooked on all the nutrient-dense, high-probiotic yumminess, and love it more now than I did a year ago . . . and it would most certainly include a personal note of thanks for the cards, meals, visits, gifts, etc. that were bestowed upon us during the weeks following Nadia's birth, nearly three years ago now. And, of course, it would wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I never do it.

As my mom and sister will tell you, I'm an all-or-nothing kind of gal. If I don't have something professional-looking to send, I won't send anything. If I can't sit down to write all the notes at one time (and have everything I need to get them out--the list of people to thank, what I'm thanking them for, the beautiful cards, the envelopes, the addresses, the stamps . . . ) It will never happen. It remains an unmaterialized idea indefinitely.

I have a gorgeous picture of sweet Nadia Ruth with our very first Christmas tree ever. It would make a tremendous Christmas card. I think. But what if the print quality is off? What if it only looks good digitally on a lighted screen? These are the things that lead to my creative paralysis.

And then I feel like I need to explain why we never had a tree. Never had the desire. Never saw the point. Never had the space. Didn't care. Until I had children and moved into a house with 1) space to put up a tree, and 2) space to store a tree. And my parents gave me their tree--and all the decorations to go with it. So the year that we moved into our new house (exactly one year ago this month), I put up my very first Christmas tree ever (as a grown up). My dear friend RoseMarie came over to help, and I even called my dad for help as I was putting it all together. It looked lovely. The kids were visiting my parents and came home to their very first Christmas tree ever. The excitement was tangible. That night I got a picture of Nadia in a tutu, reaching for an ornament on the tree. It's magical.

This year Miriam asked me, "Mom, why do people put up Christmas trees?"

I said, "I don't know, baby, but the tradition had to start somewhere with someone, didn't it? Maybe we could find out."

She replied, "Maybe it's because the bad men who killed Jesus nailed him to a tree. Do you think that's why? So people will remember?"

This child asks questions and offers some of the most well-thought-out answers . . . just the other day she asked me why Daddy was so much more stern with them than I was, and, of course, I said, "I don't know, baby" (my standard answer for deep questions like these), and she says, "I think it's because you still have your mother, but Daddy doesn't have his mother anymore."

She thinks. She wonders. She offers some of the most beautiful and grace-filled explanations. She melts my heart. She turned six last week. Two-hands needed for that number. Sweet, sweet Miriam. I love that girl.

And Nadia. A friend described Nadia last night as "very advanced for a four-year-old . . . but she's two." When I told my mom and sister what my friend said, they both remarked that Nadia doesn't "baby talk." I'm always in awe of how expressive she is and how articulate. I seem to produce highly articulate children. I like that.

My first-born auditioned for a play and landed the role of 9-year-old Jesse in "Distracted" with the Tennessee Women's Theater Project. This will be his first paid role. He is THRILLED. I do need to offer a word of caution, however, that this play, while it is certainly for families, is not family-friendly. Please don't plan to bring your children to this one. Seriously. Your teenagers or college-aged students, maybe, but no kiddos. Too many mature themes and coarse language.

We auditioned together since TWTP was looking for both a mom in her late-30's to early-40's and a 9-year-old boy. Thanks to the utterly remarkable Kristen Chipman, we had same-day headshots, homemade pumpkin soup, childcare for the girls, and Costco prints in hand as we headed to our audition. She made that entire day possible, and I don't know what on earth I would have done without her.

January and February will be very theater-centric months for us because not only did Judah land a role in a play, but so did Miriam! She auditioned for "The Barefoot Children of the City of Ward" with The Theater Bug, and was cast as Little. This show actually has two casts--Which cast and What cast--since she is in Which cast, she will be performing from January 31-February 3.

Judah's play runs February 22-March 10, and right in the middle of that, he will turn nine.

A month later I will be the mom of three children: 3, 6, and 9.

The year will be 2013.

In October, I will turn 39.

So many odd numbers. I wonder if it will be an odd year.

Back to the Christmas card. If I sent one, I would also want to include a picture of our family. This one was taken last year by Jill Batson. It hangs above our fireplace and makes my heart happy.

So, here's to an odd 2013 and the materialization of creative ideas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

By the way, we're having an open-house on New Year's Eve if you'd like to stop by for some fun, food, fellowship, and other things that don't begin with the letter "F." Games, for instance. And cheese.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On Apples and Arrows

On the recommendation of a trusted friend, I took Judah and Nadia to the Linden Waldorf School "Elves Faire."(Miriam was busy with her Daddy doing all sorts of other things--a kettlebell class, a Publix run, a visit to the Farmer's Market, etc.)

Armed with $15 worth of $1 tickets, Judah took off toward the archery booth. After shooting five arrows with his first two tickets, he moved on to the rope ladder. After that, he was off to the climbing wall.

Nadia and I cheered him on as he made his way up the wall with some serious spider skill. He was up in no time. The volunteer dad offered to let him climb it a second time. When he asked for the most difficult part of the wall, he was routed to the other side. This one took a little bit more time to scale, but the volunteer dad assured me that he was doing a great job. In fact, several kids who were taller than he was weren't able to get up that side. Beside him, a little girl had made it to the top but was too afraid to let go and belay down. Scared, she cried and cried and just kept holding on. Judah climbed up (again) and showed her how to let go and ease down. He climbed back up and offered to hold her hand. He climbed up a fourth time and showed her how slowly she would come down if she would just let go. She never did.

I was so proud of that kid.

Then we were off to have a little snack, which Judah paid for in tickets.

Now, out of tickets, Judah began to climb other things. And . . . he found a $5 bill. So he bought more tickets. I found another ticket, which I gave to him. By the end of the day, he had found at least 12 more tickets, nearly all of which he spent on archery.

He was told that if he were to hit the apple with an arrow, he would not only get to keep the arrow, but he would also win a pie. He might be a little bit motivated by competition--and rewards.

Since he never hit the apple, he finally came to me.

"Mom, if I give you two tickets, will you shoot an apple and win a pie for me? I'll buy another treat for you and Nadia."

Sure. I'd try. I think the last time I shot a bow and arrow, though, was when I was 12. That was . . . too many years ago.

By this time, James had arrived with Miriam, so I convinced Judah to let her have some tickets, too. We lined up at the three stations: first Miriam, then Judah, and then me.

The volunteer dad behind me coached me through loading my arrow and standing properly. "Good form," he says. "Ready?"

I let the arrow fly.

Right into the apple.

On the first try.

I am my father's daughter.

I had four more arrows to launch, but only the second one hit another apple. I think I had too much nervous energy after that. Poor Judah didn't get his pie, though. They ran out too quickly. He did, however, get to walk to the van holding an apple with an arrow through it. He made eye-contact with everyone he met on our way out and felt like the envy of every (very impressed) little boy on campus. I have to admit, I was pretty delighted to walk out of there knowing that not only did I offer to shoot the arrow for my young son, but I also hit the apple with the first shot. Makes me feel like my own little apple didn't fall far from his tree.

He might have been a little younger in these pics. Hee hee hee!

Wednesdays are for Writing

Wendy reminded me that today is Wednesday. That means I'm to write.

I actually have two memories I want to capture from the past week. I'll post them separately.

The first one happened the night Miriam lied to me (again) about brushing her teeth. She's mostly a truthful child. She has very few character flaws. She is, to be quite honest, nearly perfect.

But when I ask her, "Did you brush your teeth?" She nods. Whether she brushed them or not.

Usually I keep asking questions:

Are you sure?
Can I check?
Come here and let me smell your breath.

She sighs. Then pivots around and heads back to the bathroom. This scene may play out more than once before I call in reinforcements. I can rest assured that she has brushed her teeth if Daddy is in there to supervise.

Once we get to the part of the night that teeth are being brushed, I'm ready for a break.

This particular night, I just stopped and asked her, with sincere sadness in my voice, "Why are you lying to me?"

She broke down. She ran into the other room and cried. And cried. It took her several minutes to regain her composure, and when Daddy told her she needed to make it right with Mommy, she lost it again.

Finally, she came over to me, I took a break from washing dishes, sat down on a kitchen chair, and forgave her. I told her that I wanted her to be honest with me and that I would always try to be honest with her.

We embraced.

She says, "Mom, I got a picture of that man who was going to sacrifice his child and then the angel came and said not to do it and offered him the sacrifice. And then they hugged for a really long time."

Precious girl.

Photo by Plaid LLama Studios

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My de-stress surprise.

My dear friend Ruthie posed a question on her blog that I kept thinking about even after I commented. She asked, "What do you do with the stress in your life? What are some of the things that you’ve found, that help you de-stress? "

Not so long ago, about a month or so, I felt like I needed to get the heck out of the house. I just needed a break--a moment of quiet. Peace. I felt over-stimulated and edgy. I just wanted OUT.

Now, let me preface this by saying it's rare--extremely rare--for my 8.5 year old son Judah to ask for music. In Daddy's car (Mommy's car no longer has a radio), he prefers talk radio to music stations. At home, he'd rather listen to an audio book than anything else. But on this particular day--on the day I needed OUT--he asked for a song. 

"Mom, I NEED to hear that song, 'Uncontainable.' Could you play it for me?" I've never played this song. Ever. I don't have a CD for it. I don't even really know all the words. But I know that we sing it sometimes at our church fellowship and maybe that's where he's heard it. (I found out later that he listens to it in the car with Daddy sometimes. That made me smile. I thought they mostly listened to NPR . . . which makes for some interesting conversations with my globally-minded son.)

I found the song on my fancy phone and handed it to Judah, who played it AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. He belted out the words at the top of his lungs. He got on his knees and lifted his hands in worship to his Great God. 

Watching him give himself fully to The King of Kings in worship in my dining room/living room/kitchen, I melted. I started crying. I joined him. I was transported OUT: out of this realm and into another. All the stress left my body and I was at peace. 

Judah said to me, "Mom, I feel like I'm in another world when I'm singing this song." 

I offered, "That's because your spirit is connecting with God, who is also spirit. You're communing with God in a different realm."

He replied with tears in his eyes, "This is true happiness."

You are amazing, God. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Contentment

We visited my grandma (my mom's mom) and Aunt Vicki (my mom's younger sister) this week in Ocala, Florida. The kids had never met their great-grandma and Aunt Vicki had never met her nieces. We ended up calling Grandma "Peacock Grandma" since we already have a "Coffee Grandma" and this Grandma not only loves coffee but also loves peacocks--and ice cream.

Aunt Vicki is affectionately named "My Favorite Aunt Vicki," which is what she trains all of her nieces and nephews and now great-nieces and great-nephews to call her. Judah asked me how she could possibly know she was his favorite since she didn't know Aunt Sarah or Aunt Heather, but it didn't take him long to chime in, too. Sweet Nadia Ruth not only loved her Favorite Aunt Vicki, but also MFAV's dog Nacho. Little Nacho is 18 years old. The first time Nadia met him she literally squeezed the poop out of him. Nothing like being "loved" by a 2 and a half year old.

Miriam connected beautifully with Peacock Grandma. I'm convinced that if we lived closer, she'd ask to visit her every day. Judah had a lot of fun with the residents at the assisted living home where Grandma stays. Ms. Lee and Ms. Pat were his favorites (see pictures on the next post). They got almost as many hugs as Grandma before we left. If not for Miriam, the hugs would have been evenly distributed. Miriam just didn't want to let go. Precious girl.

During our Sunday afternoon chat on her beautiful front porch, Aunt Vicki asked if I'm content being a stay-at-home-mom and homeschooling. I was able to answer honestly, "Yes." I'm not only content, but my current occupation fuels many of my days. Today, for instance, I read a Facebook post by a dear woman who is navigating the world of staying at home with a 3-year-old highly sensitive son and a 6-month-old daughter (it wasn't that long ago that I was doing the same!) She posted today about some anxiety he experienced at a gymnastics class. That got me to thinking about the anxiety I experienced just registering my children for their Sunday School classes at Aunt Vicki's (HUGE!!!) church. Then, in between reading children's books aloud to my three littles, I snuck in a few pages of some of the books that I pick up as encouragement along the way.

So often in our busy and hurried American culture, we attempt to adapt the child to new situations instead of adapting situations to fit the child (this is also why I enjoy homeschooling so much--each child is so different!)
This particular mom was asking about essential oils as a possible remedy for her son's social anxiety. I'm thinking, "Just don't take him to gymnastics and forego the prescription! He's just not ready!" But I remember how hard it is to want to do as much as possible--to fit in an array of opportunities and educational experiences and provide a full life for your beautiful little toddler--and how heartbreaking it is when it doesn't work out as expected. So I forwarded to her a private message that I wrote three years ago and e-mailed to another friend who was experiencing similar struggles with her son and his preschool.

In that e-mail, I reference Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School. Since I was first introduced to this book by my dear friend and veteran homeschool mom Valda Christensen, I have tried to read it every year to help shape and then reinforce my educational philosophy. Parenting is tough. It's full-on. It's all day and sometimes all night. And I'm in it for the long-haul. But I need encouragement, and Ms. Macaulay has it for me--as does Carole Joy Seid, who introduced me to Dr. Raymond Moore, whose books I pick up and re-read from time to time.

In Chapter 2 of For the Children's Sake, entitled "Children Are Born Persons," (penned first by a certain Charlotte Mason, who lived well over 100 years ago and pioneered an educational movement in England which continues to ripple through 2012 all the way to Nashville, TN), we read: Look well at the child on your knee. In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence. We can only love and serve him and be his friend. We cannot own him. He is not ours (p. 13). I forget that. These children are entrusted to us by God. They are His. And what a mighty responsibility that is.

Macaulay goes on to say on p. 14, "Charlotte Mason rejects the utilitarian view of education and the conventional educational standards of her day. She challenges us instead to identify the child's actual needs and capacities; to serve him as he is, on the basis of what is right and good for him as a person. Will this perspective not produce a selfish, nonuseful member of society? No indeed. Not if we serve this person with true education.

Our journals ask with scorn, --'Is there no education but what is got out of books at school? Is not the lad who works in the fields getting an education?' and the public lacks the courage to say definitely, 'No, he is not,' because there is no clear notion current as to what education means, and how it is to be distinguished from vocational training. But the people begin to understand and to clamour for an education which  shall qualify their children for life rather than for earning a living. As a matter of fact, it is the person who has read and thought on many subjects who is, with the necessary training, the most capable whether in handling tools, drawing plans, or keeping books. The more of a person we succeed in making a child, the better will he both fulfil his own life and serve society (from Towards a Philosophy of Education, pp. 2, 3, quoted in For the Children's Sake, p. 14). 

It took some time and a quite a bit of reading and chatting with other parents and educators before I began to develop my own philosophy of education. "Charlotte Mason . . . a great educator . . . not only said that she treasured a child's mind, but she acted upon that belief. Charlotte Mason enjoyed sharing the good things of life with the eager minds of children" (p. 16). Ah. As do I: three in particular. And that makes these days fulfulling. Yes, I am content.

After college, I spent a few years teaching at a junior college. I didn't realize it then, but I was employing some of Ms. Mason's philosophies with my adult students. I knew most of them would never read any classic literature, so I read it to them. We didn't finish the entire book, but I had a few of them tell me later that although they were resistant at first, they loved the story and bought the book to be able to read it on their own. It was  A Separate Peace. Later, I taught at a homeschool tutorial two days per week. We read some rich literature, discussed it, fiddled around with grammar and syntax, wrote several different pieces, and I fell in love with homeschoolers. My heart opened up to children again. I warmed to the idea of being a Mom.

Now that many of my students are adults, I've asked them if they think I should homeschool my children. They know me. They know my children. They know what it is to be homeschooled. Every single one has responded with a resounding, "Yes."

I truly love these three little people whom God has entrusted to me and my husband, and I desire to serve them--not only with good food to eat and clothes to wear but also to nourish their minds and clothe their hearts. As Macaulay closes her first chapter of For the Children's Sake, "What Is Education?" I will close this post:
Let us really and truly be courageous. . . . One day we will stand before the Creator. Were we willing to give, serve, and sacrifice "for the children's sake"?

("For the Children's Sake" is the motto of the Charlotte Mason College, Ambleside, England.)

Is my life marked by giving, serving, and sacrificing for the sake of my children? Indeed, I hope so.

Photo by Beth Berger