Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Montessori Print Shop Giveaway!

I've been a fan of the Montessori Print Shop for many years. I used them when I was homeschooling the boys and I continue to use their excellent resources in my Montessori classroom. 

Montessori Print Shop is celebrating their 10th birthday with a week of great giveaways! If you are interested click on this link:

Montessori Print Shop giveaway

Good Luck (but I really hope I win!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Eyes of the Heart

I spent part of my New Year's Eve trying to explain the first chapter of Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner. 

I was failing miserably. 

In part I was failing because I really do not understand it myself fully. Actually, I'm not sure I even understand it partially. Perhaps I don't believe what she is trying to say. I don't know yet. 

So I've decided to try to blog about the experience in the book. Each chapter is meant as a meditation of sorts. It incorporates photography but not in a typical fashion. I'm hoping that if I share the chapters and some of my photography here, it will increase my own understanding of the mystery of contemplation in the world. Contemplation through the lens as it were. 

In thinking about contemplation, Paintner speaks of two types of time: chronos and kairos. Chronos time is linear and sequential, time we are all bound by too much in our culture many days. Kairos time is dwelling in the fullness of the moment, a moment that may be special or unexpected. Dwelling in kairos time allows us to linger above chronos time to take in something that I think may be mystical in some way.

I like this quote from the introduction on page 4, " Giving ourselves over to the act of art-making is one way we find this moment of eternity, or even better, how we allow the moment to find us."

Reading this book is a journey that I want to savor and take in slowly. I hope by sharing the journey here it may help you find your own way to those mystical moments in your own lives while helping me make sense of my own journey.

If you want more information about the author, check out her website: Abbey of the Arts.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


The day after. We had a wonderful Christmas that included visiting with family, midnight Mass singing with the choir and more visiting with family. Needless to say we were exhausted last night. 

As we cleaned dishes, put chairs back into their proper places and tucked teenagers into bed (yes, they were so tired they went to bed by 8!) we reflected on this especially enjoyable Christmas.  Although gifts were given, they were minimal and well thought. We had ample time to converse with family in a way that doesn't happen very often due to busy schedules. After the house was in order (something that soothes my soul!), we spent some time together, just we two. It was peaceful. 

This morning we awoke to the snow falling and changing our plans for the day. It will be more of a homebound day then we expected. It is so nice to have a cleaned and uncluttered home this morning so that we can go right into the small projects that we have been putting off. 


That's a sigh of contentment. After several weeks of busyness, this day of confinement is welcome. 

I'm off to work on a quilt, write some thank-you notes and maybe build a fire and read a new book. Happy St. Stephen's Day!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thoughts on gift giving

It's that time of year again....the buying and giving time.....also known as Black Friday and Christmas.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not much of a lover of "stuff." I don't dress well, I don't decorate well and I don't collect. 

Please know that I'm not demeaning those who do. I just have to be me. 

In this the "middle" time of life (God willing!), I have to be true to myself instead of being what others what me to be. 

I've been told, "You are hard to buy for." 

I consider that a compliment. What I can't understand is why, if I don't need or want anything, others should want to give me stuff. I think the gift giving is often not meant to please the person receiving the gift but the person giving the gift. 

I assume I'm offending quite a few people at this time. I don't mean to. 

But it is true. If I don't want you to spend your money on me but you insist on doing so, then you are doing so for your own gratification, not mine. 

Sigh. I fear I will be misunderstood and offensive. It's just something I've needed to get off my chest. 

So, this, the day after Black Friday (biggest purchasing day of the year), think about why you are giving gifts. Think about whether they are needed or wanted or will end up in the Goodwill come January 15th. 

Just reflect. That's all the gift I need.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Woody and Elizabeth

Woody with his cigarette (the sign of the times)
Elizabeth and her groovy apple banjo. I wants one.
There are so many things I love about working with children. Every day is a new adventure. Currently I am working in the toddler room and that age is full of wonder (and misbehavior!) It is not the age I am certified in, so anytime there is a teacher out in the primary classrooms I am the "in house sub." I love my toddlers but I am in love with my preschoolers!

I teach science once a week to the 3-6rs and I love when they call me Mrs.Science Teacher or tell their parents, "This is my science teacher!" It is thrilling to know I am helping them expand their scientific horizons. 

Two of our primary (3-6 yr. old) teachers are pregnant. I will be taking over for one of them in the spring when she takes maternity leave. It is so wonderful to have the same children for a longer period of time. One of the things I've enjoyed doing as a sub is teaching songs to the children. They love to sing!

We have a fabulous teacher, Mr. Ben, who teaches a music enrichment and generally sings and plays his guitar with the children. One of our 4 yr. old's even dressed up like Mr. Ben for Trick or Treat! Wow.

I am no Mr. Ben but do want to have a repertoire of songs to teach the children. I may keep my uke at school since it is so small. So many of children's songs are put to terrible music. Yuk. Even songs that can be great are recorded with terrible sound tracks. 

I've been listening to Elizabeth Mitchell and Woodie Guthrie of late. Such wonderful music for the younger set. Elizabeth Mitchell covers many of Woody's songs for children. She puts the songs to such amazing musical backgrounds. Her voice is so clear and pure. And fun. We all know children like to have fun!

Woody's songs for children are so child-like but serious and fun at the same time. Glorious, really. I'm having the best time working them out for guitar and ukulele and look forward to singing them with the children. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Musical Musings

My man's hands. Love them.
Mike playing with Steve, Marty and Aaron.
Aaron at the drum.
Steve, an amazing guitar player.
My fabulous bass playing hubby. I was so glad to see him playing his fretless.
Marty - I'm itching to sing harmonies with him.
Aaron's wife and her knitting. I was so absorbed by watching her stitches last night. Another skill I'd like to learn.
Music has always been a part of my life. As far as I know, no one in my family had any musical training. Yet we all love music. My fraternal grandparents' church (Plain Mennonite) had no instrumentation, only vocal music. Thus, the vocal music was richly harmonized. My mother always had the radio playing. Hymns mostly. She was not a fan of rock and roll. 

Church was also a HUGE part of my childhood. I have so many fond memories of Sunday School and Junior Missions. The thing I remember: the singing. I can still sing you most of those little songs. 

I can remember standing on the steps of my grandmother's farm and belting out the Sound of Music. It just seemed the thing to do in that vast expanse. Well at least to my 8 year old self. 

My parents were (and still are) very frugal. Paid lessons were not lightly given. I asked and asked for piano lessons. It was only when I moved on to asking to play the violin (I guess it was around 2nd grade when they introduce the orchestra at school) that I was allowed to take lessons. My mother says she just couldn't stand the thought of the screechy beginning violin.

I still have my piano. (It was probably 50 years old when my parents bought it. I'm not sure it has aged well.)

I was not a good piano student. Yet, I have fond memories of my piano teacher (and her dog, Petey). It is one of the skills I am so thankful to have, even if the skill is poor. It is up there with knowing how to sew and cook.

When I was about 12 I wanted a guitar. I guess by that time my parents knew my love for music. I received my first guitar that Christmas. I diligently worked on my calluses and learned the basic chords. I'm a bit ashamed to say that's about all I still know!

So what am I getting at with these reminiscences? 

It's been 31 years since I opened that guitar on Christmas morning. I used to play and sing and listen to music all the time. All of my friends played or sang. I married a musician. We used to host musical gatherings before the children were born. 

Last night I went to see Mike play with some other musicians. It is always glorious to see Mike in his element (behind a bass). The other musicians were very good. VERY GOOD. It made me realize that I don't know music the way I used to. I still sing with the choir at church, Mike and I sing together once a year on Good Friday and I sing with the kids at school and church. 

Yet I want there to be more. So I've been thinking about why there isn't more music. I think technology has actually kept me from pursuing music more. When I was in college there was no Facebook to scroll before classes, there was no email to check, no cell phone to carry, no iPod with podcasts to put me to sleep at night. I used to pick up my guitar or put on a CD at those times that now I grab my iPod.

It's ironic that I have more easy access to music than ever before and I listen to less of it than ever. 

So here's hoping I will change that. As I'm purging my possessions this weekend, I'm thinking maybe I also need to purge some of my unproductive habits so that I can get back to some things that I value, such as learning new music. 

Maybe it's time to host another musical get-together. Anyone up for it?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Purging on my Day Off

Goodbye papers!
I had the day off work today but the kids still had school. I love these extra little days. After getting everyone off to school I tackled a big job: cleaning the boys' room. I don't usually clean their room, I consider this their job. However, since they've both been working and Nolan has play and band practice, football games and competitions, I've been giving them a little slack. Needless to say their room (which is small for two large teen age boys) was DUSTY! I also wanted to change to the winter sheets and blankets. 

The one nice thing about living in about 1,000 square feet of house is that it forces us to be picky about what we keep and is easy to clean. So even cleaning the bedroom of two teenage boys took under an hour. It sure made me feel better once it was done.

That's the thing I know about me: I feel deep contentment when my house is clean and clutter free.

Not everyone is like me, I get it. Nor does my house look like a magazine. It certainly looks lived in and could use a paint job in several rooms. Our kitchen is small and thus always has food-in-progress and drying dishes (no dishwasher here) on the counter. 

Mike is in the process of moving his music students to a new location (out of our living room!) which has gotten me thinking about our living space again. We've lived with an upright bass in the dining room, amplifiers in the living room and students and parents coming and going throughout the evenings most nights. It has been a blessing to have Mike's business be so fruitful but an adjustment to our living schedule.

In November I'll be able to sit on my couch whenever I want to. 

This fact as well as my ongoing pursuit to minimize the "things" I own in addition to my aforementioned day off work led me to do a little purging.

I recently read a book about minimalist living. I can't now remember the name of the book but it was very interesting. The author talked about their shift from living in a home to a one bedroom apartment with their two young children and the amount of "stuff" they purged. I went online and saw photos of their home. I don't like to judge another person's choices but in my mind I kept thinking I could not live like her family. It was not the lack of possessions they owned that bothered me. It was the fact that there was not one photograph of the children or family in the home. The apartment looked like the timeshare we used one summer. Furnished but void of personality.

I do not wish to live that way.

And that's ok. We all have to find our way in this world. Some people love to collect things. Some enjoy looking through old photos in albums. Others get out their children's papers periodically. 

So today I decided to clean out the closet. We don't really have an attic that is usable in this house so our storage tends to be in the basement and the shelves in our bedroom closet. I have gone through the boxes on these shelves many times. Each time I get rid of a little more. Since I've been doing a lot of self reflection about what is important in our lives on my own and with Mike I've been wanting to go through the closet.

Today was the day.

I had three objectives: Purge my fabric to one box, decide if any of the boys homeschool portfolios needed to be saved and go through the artwork box.

The fabric box was easy. I made a trip to Lancaster Creative Reuse with a little less than half my stash. I then tackled some homeschool books I've been saving. I realized that while the books I saved were really good ones, they are not ones my boys will need in the future and they are too advanced for the preschoolers I work with. I decided to see if the elementary teachers at my school can use them. If not, I'll donate them to the library. 

I then tackled the art box. 

Fortunately the boys were coming home at the time I was going through the box. Mike was also around so we all had a grand old time looking at all of the artwork and crafts the boys made since preschool! I even found a pasta necklace. We saved the most important works and were able to get rid of the rest after having a good laugh at much of it!

After tackling the art (which was really the hardest) I went through the box of homeschool portfolios. There was little that was hard to get rid of. I again saved a few things that showed the boys personalities or growth and pitched the rest. I think the thing I had difficulty with was the realization that I was "throwing out" my hard work. Of course this isn't true. All of the hours I spent with the boys during our homeschool years have contributed to something much better than papers and music and artwork. I have my fantastic men to remind me of those days. I don't need the binders full of math and english work.

So my shelves are a little emptier and my heart is full of memories. I wonder what I'll tackle tomorrow?
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