Friday, January 28, 2011


1. a: causal or logical relation or sequence

Last week as I was dusting the bookcase in my bedroom, I saw a book sitting on the shelf and thought, "That's a book I've always loved.  Why haven't I shared it with the girls?" Determined to correct that, I sat down with B and K a few nights ago and read them part of Where the Sidewalk Ends.  This book is old (more than thirty years old, in fact), worn and well-loved.  On our first reading, we only got through a few poems before we needed to pack up and leave to meet someone.  So last night, while the girls finished eating their dinner, I read to them.

If you're unfamiliar with this book, it's a collection of children's poetry with rhythmic words, funny punch lines and fabulous illustrations.  I've always loved to read, but this is the book that made me love poetry for the first time.  I received it the summer I was seven and I've held onto it ever since - through college, moves and more.  It's interesting to read this book to B (age 9) and K (age 6) together.  B gets every punch line, sometimes even before it arrives, but I sometimes have to explain a joke to K, who isn't as adept at reading between the lines.  Even given B's love for words and her sharp mind, I was blindsided, stunned and touched by her insight after one particular poem.

Here's the poem:

Hector the Collector 
by Shel Silverstein

Hector the Collector
Collected bits of string,
Collected dolls with broken heads
And rusty bells that would not ring.
Pieces out of picture puzzles,
Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,
Twists of wires, worn-out tires,
Paper bags and broken bricks.
Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,
Gatlin' guns that wouldn't shoot,
Leaky boats that wouldn't float
And stopped-up horns that wouldn't toot.
Butter knives that had no handles,
Copper keys that fit no locks,
Rings that were too small for fingers,
Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.
Worn-out belts that had no buckles,
'Lectric trains that had no tracks,
Airplane models, broken bottles,
Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.
Hector the Collector
Loved these things with all his soul‹
Loved them more than shining diamonds,
Loved them more than glistenin' gold.
Hector called to all the people,
"Come and share my treasure trunk!"
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked...and called it junk.

And here are the illustrations:

I paused after reading the poem and said to K, "How is he feeling?"  Before K could answer, B said, "But that's right.  Now he's like his stuff.  Broken."

I was stunned.  I've read this poem dozens of times and never, ever thought of it that way.  My shock must have shown on my face because she said, "What?  I'm just making a connection like they teach us to at school."  Well, that's definitely a connection.  She's right about that.

I puzzled over what to title this post.  My first idea was "daunting" because I'll confess it's a bit daunting to think about homeschooling this child next year.  Can I keep up with her?  Can I challenge her?  Can I teach her all that she's capable of learning?  I also considered "inspiring" as a title because I trying to keep B challenged will no doubt inspire me to make my own connections.

But as daunting and inspiring as this is to me, it's also exciting.  Because when a child is making these kinds of connections for herself - when she's thinking so quickly and so deeply all on her own - how much fun will it be to teach her?  All I'll really have to do is put great books, engaging opportunities and lots of questions in front of her.  She and her amazing mind will do the rest.  And the best part?  We'll be so much more connected after investigating, learning, talking and living life together.  I feel certain that a year together will leave us with connections we can't even imagine right now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


2. a: of a sympathetic or helpful nature
b : of a forbearing nature : gentle

I've been through lots of transitions in the last 12 or 13 months.  Some of these transitions have meant loss, some have brought gain.  I have had friendships that have withered, disappeared, died mid-stream.  This is completely natural and perhaps as it should be.  My counselor believes all friendships are for a season and that the more we individually move towards health and healing, the more instances of solitude and/or loneliness we will feel.  I think this is true because the more we are willing to take our own journey and walk our own unique path, the more likely it is that friends will veer off - either for their own journeys or to continue on the well-worn, accepted paths.

I am not one to shy away from solitude and its attendant gifts of introspection, quiet and revelation, but I have found in recent years that friendships are worth pursuing.  Maybe this sounds odd to you.  Doesn't everyone want friends?  Probably so, but friendship also has costs.  It requires our time, our energy and, most importantly, a willingness to be vulnerable.  Sure, you can have friendships without being vulnerable or authentic, but those aren't real friendships, are they?  And to be quite honest, I've never been very good at being artificial, superficial or less than authentic.  There's plenty of junk in my life, in my past and in my heart.  And while I don't go around flaunting it - I'd much rather try to learn from it and move through it - I don't pretend to have it all together.  I guess I'm simply too much of a mess to even try to pretend to have it all together - that seems like such work for so little reward!  But if I'm going to live life like I want to - authentically, first and foremost - then I must be willing to be vulnerable.  And vulnerability risks rejection.  Being willing to plant a seed of friendship means accepting that your watering of the soil, your tending the area for weeds, all of your work may not bear fruit.  Not every friendship we nurture will bloom - and some that do bloom will still die after a season.

I'm OK with friendships being for a season.  I think the alternative is to stop growing and stay who we are and I don't want to do that.  I'm not the same person I was five or ten years ago and I hope I won't be the same person tomorrow or a year from now.  What's the point of the pain and the beauty of life if it doesn't help us grow?

That doesn't mean I don't grieve friendships that haven't sustained as I wanted, expected, hoped.  I have.  I still do.

This still present grief makes it all the more beautiful and touching when I look back on the last week.  Two different friends have talked with me, encouraged me and listened to me.  I haven't known either of these women for very long, but they are in or have been in similar circumstances to mine and they have been so willing to listen and just be a friend.  They have been kind, yes, but even more than that, I've found it so kind of God to have put these women in my life at just the right time, at just the moment when I need support and encouragement.

Even when I am seeking God's face and feeling his presence, I can forget that he cares about how I am feeling.  I forget that he is sympathetic to my pain, gentle in his care for me, kindness personified.

I hope I can learn from his example and be kind.  Kind to my children, to others, to myself.  I think I am most impatient with my children when they fail to learn a lesson the first (or second or third) time.  This is also when I am prone to get most frustrated with myself - when will I ever learn?!  But a component of kindness is forbearance and gentleness.  I've been working with my girls on letting their love for each other cover the little offenses they inflict.  I keep reminding them that they do love their sisters and life together leaves little bumps and bruises.  That's why the love is there in their hearts - to be a salve to those careless wounds inflicted by siblings and others.

Perhaps I should listen to my own words and remember to be kind to myself on the off days, on the days that don't go as planned, on the days when I fail to meet my own expectations.  Because here's what I don't want:  I don't want to be faced with the evidence of God's kindness to me and walk away unchanged.  I don't want to see him place two friends squarely in my path and walk around them, ignoring the offering.  I want to accept that gift with a thankful heart and pour out kindness in response.  I want to be changed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Word Origin: c.1300, from Old French corage, from V.L. *coraticum, from L. cor "heart," which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.

Over coffee this morning, a friend shared with me that her word for 2011 is courage.  She went right on to say that she wasn't feeling at all courageous, but was instead discouraged.  I offered two thoughts: 1) that perhaps the courage was not supposed to come from her, but to her and 2) that the word might be less scary if seen as a promise, an offering, an invitation instead of a command.  This has been my own experience with my word for the year: unfurl.

As we ended our conversation and headed our separate ways, she mentioned a blog post of mine she'd read a while back.  She didn't know it, but that little comment offered me encouragement.  Because I started today thinking of abandoning this blog.  Not just leaving it to rest for a while, but removing it from viewing.  Disassembling it altogether.  At the thought of no more WordGirl, I did not hear a, "No! Don't do that!"  Perhaps you wonder why I would expect to hear voices in my head?  I'm reading a book where the main character hears Adonai (his favorite name for God) tell him "No!" several times when he is about to make a mistake or commit an offense.  I took the resultant silence as affirmation that perhaps this blog had run its course.

And then my friend offered me an encouragement, when she was feeling discouraged.

I came home to two messages - one from an acquaintance, one from a friend - both encouraging me about my blog.  Three offerings so quickly together?  Frankly, it made me cry.  Because I was not - am not - feeling courageous.  I am instead feeling like I am knee deep in a word drought, yet this felt as clear as Adonai saying No to Gurion.  How to go on with no words?

I think the key is in the origin of the word courage.  It's from several older words, all of them linked to the word heart.  Isn't that beautiful?  How did I not see that before?  I've been to the Sacre-Coeur, yet never connected the French word to my English one.  So when we are courageous, our hearts are full.  When we encourage, we are filling the hearts of others.  When we discourage, we are robbing the hearts of others.

I saw this linguistic lesson put into action this afternoon.  Tuesdays are busy - this one even busier than most.  We walked in the door from picking A up at tutorial and had 15 minutes before we needed to leave to take A to dance.  I said to all three girls as we walked in the door, "You each have a stack of clothes on the sofa.  Please put them away.  B, the dishes in the sink need to be put in the dishwasher."  This was met with some grumbling, mainly from B.

Somewhat annoyed, I went downstairs to collect the other laundry from the dryer.  And on the way, I realized why B was grumbling.  Talk about robbing the heart of another.  Who wouldn't be discouraged to spend all day at school and be greeted at the door with chores?  I apologized for my first words in the door being about the dishes.  "That was the second thing you said," she said quietly. 

"The second?

"Yes, first you told me to put my clothes away."  Eyes full, heart hurting at the ease with which I discourage my child, I offered to let her read for a few minutes before tackling the chore.

These words that are dry beneath my fingertips, under my tongue, in my head - they are seeds.  Maybe they are drying up because I am not using them carefully enough.  Am I planting encouragement or discouragement?  Because until I am planting encouragement, I don't think I can expect to reap courage.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


8. something that is without quantity or magnitude.

In a matter of days, I've gone from MUCH to NOTHING.  I try to blog roughly every other day, so I was feeling pressure to find something worth saying, some word worth pondering, something.  But as I thought about writing today, my heart sank and I thought, "I have nothing to say.

No words. 

No thoughts. 

No lessons. 

Nothing to share.

Nothing to give.

Nothing much worth taking.

Sunday evening, I met a few friends to write.  We started with a three minute freewrite to get us going.  Here are some of my words from that evening:

What words are hiding, just beneath the surface, waiting to get out?  Or is it optimistic, prideful, arrogant to think that they are just beneath the surface and not buried in the depth, under concrete coated with a thick, black ooze that clings to your hands as you try to push, pull, tear your way through to the words?

No words.

At times like this, I have a tough time knowing whether to give myself grace or a swift kick in the pants.  I'm tired.  Three weeks straight with my girls, holiday festivities and guests, followed by a mere four days of school before ten more days at home has left me depleted.

I've tried to raise my energy level by working out - walking on the treadmill, lifting (small) weights, a bit of circuit training - over the course of the last week.  And to show for that I have blisters on both feet. (I switched from one pair of shoes that hurt my right foot to another pair of shoes that hurt my left foot).  So go buy shoes, right?  When?  With my three daughters in tow after ballet, after school, after dinner one night?  Or at the expense of lesson time with one daughter who has yet to have a normal week of school this year?  Nothing is easy.

So while I still have much to be thankful for, I am feeling that all of my efforts to meet the needs, demands and desires of those around me are without sufficient quantity or magnitude.  I've got nothing today.

Friday, January 14, 2011


1. great in quantity, measure, or degree

I am standing at the kitchen counter, chopping vegetables for fried rice when it hits me:  I have much to be thankful for.  At the time of my realization, it is day 4 of snow days and I have just received word that Snow Day #5 is on the immediate horizon. As I am struck by how much I have to be thankful for, B and K are sitting at the kitchen counter making clay hearts to give as valentines to their classmates.  I think to myself, "This moment alone was worth the hassle of having the kitchen renovated."  But this moment is just one of many to be thankful for this week.  

I think back to last year's string of snow days.  For that set of days, I was trapped on the sofa, recovering from surgery, doing my best to take care of myself and three housebound girls.  I couldn't play in the snow with them.  I couldn't go for walks with them.  We couldn't go sledding or build snowmen.  Yet we managed.  J bought valentine's supplies and the girls sat on the floor of the living room making dozens of cards with foam hearts, glittering hearts, hand-drawn hearts while I looked on from the sofa.  A friend took my girls overnight when snow day #3 was announced, giving me time to rest and recuperate and giving the girls someone to play with.  We managed, yes, but I can't say it was delightful.  So I am thankful for my health this year: for the ability to crunch up and down the street in the newly fallen snow, to stand and chat while they sled down a hill, to be up and about, keeping up with A, B and K.

I think about friends who are going stir crazy at home with their toddlers, women who had looked forward to the return of parents day out so that they could grocery shop alone for the first time in weeks.  And I have much to be thankful for.  Toddlerhood was hard for me.  I love that my girls are older now and I can leave A & B at home for short excursions or go upstairs to the treadmill while they are watching a movie.  I don't feel constantly overwhelmed, even when they are with me non-stop for days on end.  I actually enjoy them.  I've enjoyed seeing how they entertain themselves, how they choose to spend their time when given a free day.

They have done much with their time this week.  They - and we - have, in part: 
watched movies and created a game based on the movie
read books
played on the Wii
made clay hearts
started a painting that was stalled when I realized we needed gesso
played the piano
read books
danced around the house
created imaginary worlds populated by Littlest Pet Shop, Zhu Zhus and Zoobles
eaten pancakes for breakfast
had weekday lunch with J
read books
visited the library and stayed there to read before heading home
turned left-over pancakes into cinnamon toast for another breakfast
watched Live to Dance together
played Yahtzee together
done a probability experiment
stayed up late
slept in late
painted, cut, glued
read books
gone for walks
hung out with neighbors
enjoyed each other
This has not been a perfect week.  Nearly every day, I have had to surrender my own agenda for the day, the week, the month and be more flexible, more gracious with myself and others, more willing to go where the day takes me.  My house is not clean.  My laundry is not done.  We are all - homeschooled or public schooled - a week behind in lessons.  

I realized last night that part of what has been difficult is the not knowing.  Had I known Sunday evening - or even Monday - that we would have no school all week, I could have formulated a plan.  I could have made a quick trip to Michael's, researched and requested some books, set my children's expectations.  Instead, we have all had to learn to take what comes our way.  By Wednesday, my girls were disappointed to hear there would not be school the next day.  On Thursday, we calculated the probability that they would be in school today.  There have been lessons for all of us in this.

But for me, I am left with this:  I have much to be thankful for.  I like my children.  They (mostly) enjoy each other and me.  They are creative, imaginative, silly, funny girls.  And I am growing as a mom.  Would I have preferred to have school this week?  Yes, in large part so that we could begin to settle into some kind of 2011 routine.  But even more than routine, I want to learn to embrace what comes my way.  I suppose this is part of my unfurling.  Instead of being so bound to my own ideas and plans, I am more able to let the wind take me... and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

I have much to be thankful for.

Pre-snow shot

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


: one dancer, one martial artist, one sister to a band of brothers, one artist

My daughter A turned 11 one week ago today.  We celebrated her birthday as a family that night with tomato tart, salad, brownies and gifts from each of us.  Then on Saturday, four of her friends joined us for a night of tacos, ice skating, cupcakes, movie watching and sleeping.  (Although less sleeping than all of the other fun stuff.)  We took time to open gifts after returning from ice skating and while the gifts were very thoughtful, it was A's reaction that pleased me most and has stayed with me.  After receiving a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, a dance t-shirt, assorted tween girl items like a berry smelling pencil and a painting her friend made just for her with a poem and a ballerina adorning it, A kept saying delightedly, "My friends know me so well!"  She was clearly more thankful for their friendship than for any individual gift, lovely though they were.

The timing for this gift of friends who know my daughter well could not have been better.  In a school year that has brought change, loneliness and transition after transition, it is a blessing from above for A to realize that in the midst of it all she is known.  This longing to be known is something we all share to some degree and A is no exception.  She seeks connection with the friends she has and was forging memories as she skated around the ice rink, not just burning calories and sharing smiles.

The joy it gave A to be known has me wondering how well I know this girl of mine.  We've had lots of extra time together during this year of homeschooling, but am I paying attention to who she is?  Or am I missing the transformation taking place before my very eyes?  God is taking care of this as well:  earlier this week two different friends told me how they see A.

On Monday (the day of the lost keys), a neighbor shared with me that she feels like A has really grown up this year and seems at home in her skin.  While she doesn't know A especially well, I tried to be like Mary and ponder those words in my heart.  I don't have any desire to rush A towards adolescence, but I do sometimes wonder whether she is progressing academically, socially and emotionally the way she should.  This is the thing about eldest children, isn't it?  I have nothing to compare to, so I have no idea whether A is a normal 11 year old or not.  Regardless of that, I most certainly desire for all of my girls to be content with who they are, so it was encouraging to have someone else see this in my daughter.

Later that same day, a friend shared her daughter's take on A, who is a few years her elder, "I just really feel like I can be myself around A.  She makes me feel like it's OK to be nice because she's nice to everyone, even the kids that I think are a little loud and scary."  There's a lot here to be thankful for, several gems to store up in my heart and ponder.  First of all, A makes this little girl feel like she can be herself.  What a gift that is!  How often in my life I have tried to change who I am or what I think because I feel like I am not enough... or am too much.  To have a child who makes someone else feel like they can be exactly who they are is encouraging, indeed and perhaps A's ability to do this is linked to her own level of comfort with who she is.

So how well do I know my daughter?  Probably not as well as I think.  She's a first-born, an introvert, a girl who keeps her own counsel about many things in this life.  There are undoubtedly things going on in her mind and her heart that I do not know.  But I know a few things.  I know she had the birthday party she wanted, right down to the type of cupcakes served.  I know she is growing into herself and she is someone I enjoy being around.  I know she is both more like me and less like me than I would choose.  I know that I see beautiful things inside her - and outside her as well.  And I know she has friends who see this as well.  Friends who appreciate and enjoy this daughter who is part known, part mystery.

Monday, January 10, 2011


1. a small metal instrument specially cut to fit into a lock and move its bolt

Hide and Seek:  Can You Spot the Missing Keys?
Some days simply do not go as I expect.  I'm normally a huge fan of snow days.  I love an excuse to do nothing - to make pancakes, sip hot chocolate, play in the snow and read books .  But I really didn't want a snow day today.  Instead, what I wanted was the start of routine.  I wanted to have a full week of school since last week started on Tuesday and next week is also a four day week.  I wanted to catch up on the laundry that has been piling up gradually in our home since Christmas break started.  I wanted to help our home recuperate from my illness last week.  Because when I am sick, nothing but the essentials occur.

So I tried a different approach.  We did a math investigation together - where we discussed probability, then tried it ourselves, taking turns rolling the die, making the tally marks, calculating the frequency.  There was some grumbling, a few dirty looks that we were actually (gasp!) learning on a snow day when all the world was sledding, drinking hot chocolate or watching TV (or so said my children).  But it was nothing compared to the reactions to my next request:  "K, please go and clean your room.  I will set the timer and you can work for 15 minutes before taking a break.  A, please collect the lights.  B, you get the darks.  Bring them to the basement  for me so that I can start the laundry."  This elicited a fit from K, tears from B, sighs and glares from A.  Fun times.

I did not back down.  I explained that we needed to get caught up on chores since things went undone last Thursday and Friday.  They did not care.  I decided a walk in the snow was in order.  At a minimum, some time outside would hopefully freeze their tongues and defrost their bad moods.  So K read a chapter of her book to me while I folded one load of laundry.  Then we bundled up and headed out.  First stop at a neighbor's house, to see if they wanted to join us for a walk.  They did!

We headed down the street and found other neighbors sledding down a hill.  We joined them, standing and chatting about schools, parenting, life's odds and ends.  After a bit of sledding, A was cold.  I gave her the keys to the house and told her she could head home to warm up.  B continued going down and up the hill, finding just the right track for optimum speed and experimenting with various sledding partners.  K played with friends, threw a few snowballs, got caught in some vegetation. All was well.  I was a bit cold, but the girls were no longer grumpy and I was therefore feeling much better myself.

And then A reappeared.  "I lost the keys," she said.  "You lost the keys?" I repeated, all words other words fleeing my mind, so using hers instead.  OK, then.  Let's look for them.  After a few minutes of getting B & K collected and off the sled, we head towards home, carefully backtracking via A's earlier route.  We looked in snow covered grass, on snow covered sidewalks.  No keys.  Mumbled apologies from A.  Curt nods from me.

We head back, me hoping that B's window is unlocked and we can climb in.  I'd left without my phone and was unable to even call J to request help.  The window?  Locked.  I slog back out to the street to find my neighbor, borrow her phone, ask if we can warm up in her home until J arrives.

My neighbor J is gracious and kind.  She offers snacks, hot tea, company for me and my girls.  And a crisis is averted.  Her boys are not fighting with each other.  My girls are not snapping at me or each other.  We are warm.  I am thankful.

My day didn't go as I planned.  I have laundry in the washer, laundry to be washed, more to be folded.  The dining room needs to be vacuumed.  But my children are happier.  Those lost keys?  They brought a few blessings:  My husband was able to join us for a game of Yahtzee since he was home in the afternoon.  I got to know my neighbor better.  I let go of my agenda when A let go of the keys.  And A?  I hope she learned to hold fast to the keys if she actually wants to get home.  But I hope she also learned that sometimes letting go is the key to enjoying the day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


1. schoolwork assigned to be done outside the classroom

Want a good reason to homeschool?  Here's a big one:  no homework.  I'm not sure who detests homework more - me or my children.  Actually, I will confess right now that I hate homework far more than my children do.  They don't like it, but they accept it as a part of life.  My dislike of it has really grown this year, as I've seen firsthand what life is like when one child almost never has homework.  (I say "almost" because there have been one or two times when A has not completed her work during the day and I've insisted she do it after school hours.)  Homeschooling A has given me a glimpse of what life could be like if none of my children had homework.

I'm not a lazy parent.  I don't dislike homework because it requires something of me.  I understand that homework can be used to reinforce important new concepts presented in the classroom.  I do think it is sometimes used as busy work.  But here's my biggest complaint about it: I don't like that it takes my children away from me when they finally get home from school.

It's somewhat ironic that I now hate homework since when I was young, my brother argued that I actually liked homework.  As best I recall, my mother laughingly replied that I didn't like it, I just did it quickly to get it over with.  But I will admit that while I rarely looked forward to homework, I didn't mind it.  I enjoyed school, since it was a place where I was successful.  Luckily, my daughters are more well-rounded and have more varied interests than I did.  So there are many ways they would rather spend their time other than homework.

Here's how I'd like for our afternoons to work:  A gets snack ready for her sisters, who come home, change clothes and then alternate between playing, reading and practicing the piano (with a break now and then to drive someone to dance class).  Instead, my afternoons are a combination of reminding B to do her homework, helping K do her homework, driving A to dance and getting dinner ready.  And here's the thing: B gets very little out of homework.  She has to do a reading log every night.  Great.  She reads at least three books weekly, often far more than that.  I can understand encouraging children to read and that a reading log might motivate some to read more and/or more closely.  But this child really doesn't need that.

Of my three children, K probably needs homework the most.  She needs that bit of reinforcement for new concepts.  But because her homework most often requires side by side parent help, if she has homework on a busy night, it simply does not get done.  How to best address this?  What would probably be ideal from a parenting standpoint is to have a customized plan for K's homework that is heavy on reading and requires no more than two nights of work weekly.  I could then manage reinforcing key concepts with our family's schedule.  From a teacher standpoint, that's entirely unrealistic.  I understand that.  I still hate homework.

Maybe the solution is to limit homework, encourage reading, but have monthly or bi-monthly projects to be completed at home.  A never enjoyed projects very much, but I have seen B take ownership and learn a great deal from a science project on butterflies, a moon phases project and more.  Could this be incorporated for first graders without parents going into performance overdrive and completing the project themselves?  I'm not sure.  Maybe I'm the problem here and I should just accept homework as a way of life for the next eleven years.

I started writing this post a few days ago, then was waylaid with sickness and an eleven year old's birthday party.  But I decided to go ahead and finish my thoughts on homework even after the news we received Saturday that A and B did not get into either of the schools that we applied to via our county's lottery system.  This means I'll only have homework to manage for one child next year since I'll be homeschooling both A and B (who will be in 6th and 5th grades, respectively).  I was quick to point this out to B, who was disappointed not to have the opportunity to attend the magnet middle school.  She replied that it will all be homework since she'll be doing it from home.  But I'm betting she won't miss homework at all.  In fact, she'll probably delight in spending her afternoons reading and playing.  I know it will delight me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


: the age of my eldest daughter

How did this happen?  A turned 11 today.  Wasn't it just yesterday she was crawling across the floor playing with J as he chased her?  Didn't she just learn to read - and immediately start correcting me if I skipped one word?  Wasn't it last week that she was begging to take dance classes and I was making every excuse in the book, certain that a child of mine could not possess dance genes?  How did she turn into this still girl, almost-young-woman I see?

One of the things I love best about A is how she hasn't turned out to be who I thought she was.  I thought she was more like me than she is, but she's a fabulous blend of me, J, other family member and her own unique idiosyncrasies.  And that makes me excited for all of the other surprises that await me as I watch her continue to mature.

In celebration of her birthday, here are eleven of the multitude of things I love about dear A:

She Dreams Big:  she wants to audition for So You Think You Can Dance, be a professional dancer and then be a librarian after her dancing career is over.

She Loves Kids:  A is quite serious, but has a wonderful nurturing side that emerges in the presence of little ones.

She Loves Books:  I sometimes watch this girl and think to myself, "I want her life."  I wouldn't be surprised if she read 200 books this year.  I am green with envy.

She Is Still A Kid:  At her age, I was all about growing up, but A's favorite Christmas gifts were toys.  And she plays with them.  She has plenty of time to be an adult and I'm thrilled that she's taking the time to enjoy being a girl.

She Knows Her Heart:  Whether it's her desire to dance, the right book from the library or what she wants for dinner, A knows what she wants.  What a gift!  Since she knows what she wants, she can pursue those things.

She Asked for Tomato Tart, Salad and Brownies for her Birthday Dinner:  Now that is a kid I love.  A dinner that's easy, yummy and pretty healthy.

She Is More Than Meets the Eye:  She's serious, funny, silly, smart and so much more.

She's Messy:  OK, so I don't love this about her.  But I do love that she's learning to blend her desire to keep her room strewn with items with my desire to be able to walk on the floor.  She's adapting, I'm adapting.  Isn't that what family is all about?

She's Learning:  To cook, to take notes, to do difficult math, to tackle things she thought she couldn't do.

She Can Do Things I Can't:  Who wants children that are mini-me's?  Not I.  Instead, I am thankful to have a daughter who can dance, who can hear music in a way I can't, who is living her very own life.

She Is Teaching Me to Be a Better Mom:  Last night as I prayed with A on her last night as a ten year old, I gave thanks for this girl who made me a mom and who has gently ushered J and I into parenting.  I can only hope she learns as much from me as I learn from her.

Happy Birthday, Sweet A!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


3. a candy made of soft chocolate, shaped into a ball and dusted with cocoa

A few nights ago, I had a truffle for dessert after dinner.  As the girls protested that I was having dessert and they weren't, J told them that when they were moms, they could have a truffle.  "In fact," he said, "if any of you want to do mom's job for a whole day, I'll buy you a box of truffles."  I don't think he actually thought any of the girls would take him up on this offer, but midday Monday, B told me not to make my own lunch.  "I'm making lunch for everyone, so that I can be Mom today."  As a part of her mom duties, B decided to blog, here is her brief post:

Guest Post by my daughter B, age 9:

Hi! I'm being a mom today because I'll get a box of truffles. By the way, Mom wouldn't let me name this post Truffle Mom because it's two words and Mom only uses one word for her blog post titles.

As a mom, so far I have (1) made lunches, (2) went grocery shopping, (3) chopped celery, (4) folded laundry and (5) written this blog post.  Mom was telling a neighbor how much easier her day has been with me helping like this.  By the way, my mom is typing this because I am a slow typer.  My mom wanted to write "typist," but I made her change it to "typer" because I don't care whether it's a word or not!

She ran out of steam with blogging because of her typing skills, but it was amazing to me how much I was able to get done with a shadow mom helping me out.  I not only made a smoked turkey corn chowder for dinner, but prepped tonight's dinner.  This turned out to be a special gift to myself since today was our first day back at school in nearly three weeks.  The fact that dinner required only that it be popped in the oven, not prepared, was glorious.  We would otherwise surely be eating frozen pizza.

It was interesting to see the jobs B found easy and the ones she found difficult.  On our trip to the grocery store, I gave her a list and a bag and told her to get the items on her list and then meet back up with me.  She had trouble finding them and eventually asked someone from the store for help.  As she came back with her items, she told me she was destined to be a bad mom because she couldn't find the food.  This really made me laugh since grocery shopping is one of the easier (if not most pleasant) tasks I perform as a mom.

As J and I lay in bed last night, I gave him details on B's performance.  Once she decided that she was going to do this for the day, she didn't complain.  She collected laundry, folded laundry, loaded the dishwasher and more.  Watching B be helpful actually seemed to dissuade A & K from attempting to earn their own box of truffles.  When J asked if the other girls wanted to give it a try, K replied, "No way!  Mom works all day and never plays."  Luckily for her, B was kind enough to share a truffle with A & K... something her own mom will only do on occasion.

I hope I can learn from B's example and do my various motherly duties without complaining.  Maybe I'll even get a box of truffles for my efforts.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


1. to present as worthy of confidence, acceptance, use, etc.; commend; mention favorably

On our way to church this morning, our family discussed whether it's more appropriate to celebrate New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.  Which day should be the holiday?  I argued for New Year's Day saying that I felt this time of year should be more about looking forward than looking back.  And yet... today I've found myself reading a very good book, which led me to think about the year in books, 2010.  I referred back to my goodreads list and meandered my way through the books I read last year.  My original list had twelve or fifteen books on it, but when I found I read only 81 books this year, I felt that was too high a percentage.  So I've scaled it down to a top ten.  If you'd like to start 2011 with a good book, a fun book, an engaging one, here's what I would recommend (separated into categories for your convenience - and mine):

Young Adult
The Underneath: It's not often one of my daughters recommends a book to me.  It works the other way pretty frequently.  I know what books A enjoys and which ones thrill B's heart.  But B read this book first and new it would be a book I would like.  She read me a passage or two aloud and she had me hooked.  I enjoyed The Underneath so much that I debated whether to include it as a young adult book, or a contemporary one.  I decided to include it here since it is written for a younger reader, but it's a book I would recommend for anyone wanting a good read.

The Alchemyst: This more recent read is the first in a series, but it got off to a great start.  I've not read the other books yet, but will be heading to the library this week to pick up the others.  This is a series I can share with my daughters and do so not simply for the shared experience, but because I also enjoy the book.  This one is a fast-paced read that still takes time for character development.

Graphic Novel
Persepolis: I don't read a lot of graphic novels.  I'm all about the words, if you haven't noticed.  But the blend of recent history and well-written story made this a winner.  If you're interested in exploring this genre a bit, I think Persepolis is a good place to start.

Historical Fiction
Blackout and All Clear: These books are a great blend of historical fiction and sci-fi and while I initially had them categorized here as sci-fi, I decided what I loved about them was the historical component.  These books made me really think about and appreciate what life during Germany's WWII blitz of England would have been like.  I am not a huge fan of modern history, so my knowledge of the world wars is not extensive.  These books took me to a time and place that has shaped our world today, but in a way that was enjoyable, not drudgery.

Sacred Hearts: Have you ever wanted to be a nun?  It's crossed my mind.  Not because I don't love my husband and children - I very much do - but because I think I would enjoy the rhythm of the life.  Sacred Hearts takes you to a lovely country (Italy) during an interesting time (the Counter Reformation) and it gives you characters that you'll enjoy getting to know.  Those are the components of great historical fiction, in my opinion.

Voice of the Heart: If you know me, you may be surprised that I read a non-fiction book this year, much less am recommending one.  But Voice of the Heart has helped me understand emotions and their God-given role in our lives.  So if you find yourself, like me, suppressing emotions in yourself or others, this book is very helpful. I love that it tells you the gift of each emotion and illustrates some of the unhealthy forms each emotion can take.  This has helped me tremendously in accepting my emotions instead of casting them aside.

Love in a Time of Homeschooling: I loved this book because it is one of the most balanced takes on homeschooling I've encountered.  Many who homeschool and write about it are (rightly so) passionate about their choice.  But Brodie's approach is more akin to my own.  Specifically, she asks what is right for her child for that season.  I don't know how long our season of homeschooling will last, but Brodie made me feel like it was OK to see homeschooling as part of a sequence of learning, not the only right choice for education.  An author who can make me feel sane and less scared about a new venture is worth reading.

Room: A brilliant (if disturbing) concept, fascinating characters and a gripping plot.  This is a book worth reading.

The Man from Beijing: I heard an interview with the author of this book on NPR that made me want to read this book.  It was far better than I anticipated.  It had components of a thriller, but was far meatier in its subject matter.  I loved the European perspective on China and think this was one of the most unique books I read in 2010.

Broken for You: And finally, a book I read in January of 2010.  Maybe I loved this book for its timing: I had recently had surgery and was stuck in bed.  Maybe I loved the art component.  Or the historical references. Whatever it was, I thought this book was a rare gift: a book that made you think without beating you over the head with its themes.  If you want a book that will challenge you, encourage you and uplift you, Broken for You should be your first choice.

So what did you read in 2010 that you'd recommend?  Do tell.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


1. to spread or shake out from a furled state, as a sail or a flag; unfold
Isaiah 54
2010 was the first year I named.  Or the first year that was named for our family.  I'm not sure I did the naming, especially since its name was Change and there's only so much change one person can affect. I got the idea from an incredibly thoughtful and encouraging blog and I found I liked having a name for the year, a word to encapsulate it from start to finish.  And I found as the year went on that it was stunningly well named, this year of change.  So around the start of Advent, I began praying for a name for 2011.  This was weeks ago and I wasn't anxious as I prayed, just quiet.  I waited for the word to come. I didn't throw out suggestions to God or toss around ideas to the Spirit.  I just tried to listen for the word.  And one morning as I was laying in the bathtub, the word came: Unfurl.

Unfurl?  Yes, unfurl.  Clear as a bell.  Unfurl is the word for 2011.  I've known for a few weeks that this was our new word.  I say "our" new word, but I'm not sure whether this word is meant for our family or for just me.  I'm claiming it for the whole family because that makes it a little less scary.  Because change?  That was a word I could handle.  But unfurl has knots of anxiety taking up residence in the pit of my stomach.

Unfurl is a word that I approach with some trepidation, so I waited and listened to make sure this was the word for 2011 for quite a while before even looking up the definition.  Unfurl brings to my mind a flag, flapping in the wind, for all to see. I held onto that image for days before looking to see whether there was more to the word.  Turns out that's a pretty representative image.  The primary definition as shown above uses a flag or sail to illustrate the meaning.  But I wanted a bit more, so I looked up "furl."  After all, if something can be unfurled, it must first be furled.

The definition of furl brought little comfort:  to gather into a compact roll and bind securely, as a sail against a spar or a flag against its staff.  Hmmm. So if furl means bound securely, then unfurled means... Uh-oh.  I'm right back where I started with finding this word a tad on the terrifying side.  So I'll not just be at the top of the flagpole, but exposed and unbound as well?

When the word unfurl first came to me, I wasn't scared by it. I imagined how this word could help us embrace our daughters for who they are, could help our family remember to celebrate the things that are unique about us.  It sounded like a word of freedom.  And I suppose it is that very freedom that's begun to worm its way into my mind, making me wonder whether I can make it through 2011 if it is a year of unfurling.

I told J this morning that the word for 2011 was unfurl.  He threw out some images that came to his mind, including one of a woman letting her hair fall down over her shoulders after being pinned up.  He later told me he hopes he's not one of the bindings that needs to be loosened.  I replied that I think he's the flagpole.  Sound crazy?  Maybe.  But I think a key for me to approach this year as something worth embracing is to remember that an unfurled flag doesn't slip away on the first breeze that comes along because it is anchored.

And I am anchored as well.  To a husband and family who love me, but also to the One who gave me the word unfurl.  I know He will not let 2011 rip me to shreds as the unfurling happens because a tattered and torn flag is not worth flying.  But one that has been bound securely and needs the air to fly is worth some gentle untying to be free to do what it was crafted to do.

I don't know if reading the word unfurl conjures images in your mind that are beautiful, fearful, both or neither.  I don't know if you have ties, chains or bandages around parts of you that want unfurling.  But I hope and pray for you that 2011 will be a year that brings you the word you need, whether that be change, unfurl or something else altogether your own.