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Educating Masses

23 Jan

This afternoon marked my favorite yearly children’s choir rehearsal.

Not because the Schola Cantorum just returned from their annual trip to Concordia Theological Seminary where they blew the roof off Kramer chapel with a splendid Trinitarian descant, a reformation era hymn setting, and rock-solid chanting.

Not because they were still bubbling with excitement and couldn’t wait to both tell their younger vocal counterparts of the joys that await them on future trips to Fort Wayne, and demonstrate the music they accomplished in just two rehearsals.

I heart childrens choirs

Not because they moaned in disappointment when they found out it was time to hand in their music and that they couldn’t take it home as a souvenir.

Not because they were shocked to find out that not everyone has been singing Luther’s creedal hymn “We All Believe in One True God” by heart since birth.

Not because they got to see the OSLC funeral pall for the first time and immediately made the connection between it and the robe of righteousness we receive in our Baptism.

Not because they immediately glommed on to “Preach You the Word” and connected the text to their sneak peak of the amazing Sower Triptych by Edward Riojas to be dedicated at the seminary tomorrow.

And not because when I told them they were a Liturgical Choir they innocently asked, “What other kind of choir could there be?

Don’t get me wrong, all these things were great.  But the real reason this time of year is my favorite is because I sent these young choristers home knowing that sooner or later they’ll have a conversation with their parents that will, I imagine, go something like this:

Parent:  (Sweating profusely) Beloved Jr. High offspring of mine, do you have any questions about sex?
Schola Cantorum Member:  No, Dad/Mom.
Parent: (somewhat relieved, but bewildered)  Really?  No questions at all?
Schola Cantorum Member:  Nope, Mrs. Roberts explained it all.
Parent:  (with understandable anxiety) Mrs. Roberts?  Your choir director?  What exactly did she tell you?
Schola Cantorum Member:  That it’s roughly 60 days before Easter.

Yes, today was the rehearsal where I handed out propers for Sexagesima.

Pre-lent.  It will humble you every time.

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History 10What?

29 Nov

Things I (we) Love:  My husband’s approach to History Education

Yesterday he taught his class that when Marco Polo arrived in Beijing, Kublai Kahn welcomed him into his palace, invited him to take a swim in the giant pool, and then made him close his eyes while the emperor dodged about shouting the guest’s name.

You just can’t make this stuff up.  Oh wait, you totally can.

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Two birds. One stone.

12 Apr

Thing I(we) Love: Crafts

The other day I made this:

I was proud of my handy work so to my sister (and a few others forgiving of braggadocio) I sent a picture. Christina replied with something like this:

“You should quit wasting your time on material yens and blog.”

Or maybe it was this:

“How dare you shove your lack of blogging in my face with felt and sack cloth!”

It may have been closer to this:

“BLOG, darnit! BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

So, CyberFriends, feast your eyes.

Acting Our Age

29 Mar

Things I (We) Love:  You

Today is our blogiversary, but it’s really you we’re celebrating.  You see, before you came along we were just two sisters e-mailing back and forth trying to maintain familial closeness over the span of several states.

It was working, but then we decided my sister was so funny that she deserved to be read by others.  Well, that’s what I decided anyhow, I don’t know what Stacy was thinking.  Oh yeah, that’s right, she was too busy giving birth to notice that I roped her into this debacle.

Our present to you this week is excerpts from the e-mail exchange that started it all.  Today you get the first message.

Let me lay the context.  It was March of 2011.  Stacy was substitute teaching and magnificently pregnant.  I was homeschooling Simeon, but the younger two brothers were still in preschool.  The Babies were actually still babies.  I had recently posted a facebook photo album about Dr. Suess’ birthday that was sort of another entrez into blogging, later next week I’ll try to figure out how to post that as part of this ‘looking back’ series.

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To:  Stacy, Mom, Dad
From:  Christina
Subject:  Snippets from the Week

—The boys were teasing each other on the way to school this morning, so I decided I’d better intercede and find out what names they were using.  Turns out they were calling Abe a polytheist.  Poor kid.  Don’t worry, Sim assures me that they all know he’s really a monotheist.
—This week we checked out Rocky and Bullwinkle from the library.  It makes the boys guffaw.  Us too.
—They are also watching Baby Rocket.  He was the King of the Wild Frontier, you know.
—This morning Simeon read the story of Moses and the Israelites to his brothers from the NIV children’s Bible including the part about the Plague of Lobsters.  You remember that one, right?
—Cecilia has a weird smell coming from her right ear.  I think there was a tear (or spit-up) in her ear from lying on her back, crying over you (or, more likely, me.)  Anywho, we now call her Stinky Ear the Pirate Lass.  She doesn’t mind.
—Pete turns his head when he hears his own name.  Either that or he just like it when we read C.S. Lewis.
—We’re nearly finished with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  The suspense is killing them.  We may have to let them stay up late tomorrow night to finish the last three chapters.  I think for the sake of Thomas’ sanity we best not leave Aslan dead for a full 24 hours.
—I checked out Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Twins from the library.  It doesn’t seem to be working yet.  I suppose I should read it.
—I refined some of the rhymes in my Suess Parody.  You can go back and reread it if you’re in to that kind of thing.
—Next week is Spirit Week at school.  Sim noticed that they are having another Pajama Day and has requested the same.  But not Hat Day.  No way, no how.  I don’t really get it, we have a Baby Rocket hat he could wear.
Good night and Good bye.
=CJ=
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It’s in the Mail

15 Mar

Thing WE love: Pen-pal-ing Cousins

Years ago, when I was a youngling, I wrote letters. Letters and letters and letters. Seriously, a LOT of letters. You don’t understand – there are book nerds, there are band geeks, there are chess dorks (I think), and then there was me: Snail Mail Dweeb. I’m not even kidding you. I wrote a letter a day. At least. I wrote letters to Christian in Germany, Ohogoho in Nigeria, Michael in Sweden, a boy in California (whose name escapes me) that I was certain would someday be my husband, and my grandparents in Minnesota. Heck, I even wrote letters to my classmates (although some would argue those had been termed “notes”).  But, my very favorite correspondance, the one for by the mail box I did wait, was penned by none other than my cousin, Amy.

Letters from Amy began cool and ended awesome. I felt popular reading them. Is that weird? It was like I had my own cool-kid-club, but it was with my cousin and she lived 2 states away. So maybe that IS weird. It probably is. I don’t know, there was something about those scribbles from afar that opened the door to cool-ness. She talked about cool things like jeans. I talked about cool things like my cats. We were cool. (I KNOW I keep saying “cool”, but there is no other adjective to describe the pubescent entitlement those letters gave me.)

Do you want to know the cooler thing? My boys now have their own cool-kid-club. They have acquired some of the coolest pen-pals ever made. And they’re feeling it, too. Very recently they began their own Snail Mail Trail with the Michigander Cousins. They correspond about such important things as Hero Factory Legos, Swimming Lessons, and Literature. Yes, LITERATURE.

It turns out they’re way cooler than I’ll ever be.

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Close, but not quite.

8 Mar

Scads of young children agree: Opa's a funny man.

Things I (We) Love:  Our Dad’s One-liners

Some of which may be unintentional.  Take this one, for instance:

Dad and Abraham were playing hide and seek.  It was the best kind of game –  the one that requires no adult movement and excessive preschool giggling under a blanket.  After one of Abe’s many reappearances, Dad said,

Oh!  There you are!  I thought you were like Dumbledore, and had aspirated.

Have My Cake, and Eat It Anyway

1 Mar

Things I (We) Love:  Cooking Blogs

Too bad this isn’t one.  And although I seldom follow a recipe as written, my combined fear of causing plagerism, boredom, and upset stomachs has kept me from posting too many recipes.

Here’s another Thing I (We) Love:  Cake Wrecks

And as I mentioned the other day I’ve made enough buttercream disasters to warrant my own amateur category over there.

So today, I’m going to combine those two loves, and provide you with a Cooking Cake Wrecks post.  I’ll reveal a few secrets, some in the form of cakes that would be better left unseen, and others that are my ways of avoiding unsightly icing mounds.

Secret 1

This is the really, really, really important one, so take note:  AVOID FROSTING.

I didn’t understand this one for the first several years.  Sure, sometimes I tried to cover it up with cookies, and innumerable candles.  But other times I let it try to carry the show.

It sounds like an impossibility to avoid frosting altogether, right?  Because unless you’re like our Mom who served us chocolate cake with butter on top (nope, I’m not making that up), frosting is pretty much expected.

But take me seriously, frosting is the enemy.

It should not be trusted.  It will not help you.

Secret 2

Avoid fondant.

It might be pretty, and give you smooth results, but steer clear.

That is, unless you like having your husband ask every time you pull out the mixer, “Will you please make edible frosting this time?”

Secret 3

Toys.

They cover a multitude of sins and globs.  Also, they pull the cake recipient’s attention away from the fact that you spent little time on the creation of his birthday dreams.

And if you buy a big enough toy you can simply dump the cake in, add a little of Secret 6, and the birthday boy will be none the wiser.

Secret 4

Make the cake interactive.

Like a toy, it adds the element of distraction.

And any unsightly frosting can be blamed on the children who were playing with their food.

Secret 5

Pyrotechnics.  This is a tip stolen straight from the big movie makers.  If you want a blockbuster, the dramatic and excessive use of fire always helps.

Secret 6

Candy.  I once made a cake covered entirely with different types of candy.  

Nothing screams “Happy Birthday” like pure sugar and Blue No.  2.

Candy can also be repurposed into a variety of objects from eyebrows,

to hair,

to delivery truck contents.

And don’t overlook the coverage properties of colored sugar and coconut.   Both fall in the candy category.

Secret 7

Fruit Roll-ups.  Like fondant, smashed sheets of dried fruit product provides smooth coverage.  Unlike fondant, fruit roll-ups are edible.

And here’s the really good news.  Sunkist now makes a fruit roll-up that is not tattooed with Sponge Bob.

This is the best news since, well, candy.  They are very versatile, a carefully stretched sheet of fruitified sucrose can make an innocent marshmallow into a ruddy schnoz.

(Sunkist is not paying me to advertise for their product, but if they would like to, I would happily accept their money.)

Secret 8

Keep asking your child what they want their cake to be until they finally give you an answer you like.  Then stick to that.  If they say they want a model of Superman leaping tall buildings, ask them again tomorrow.  If they say they want an ice cream cake with gummy bears, be thankful for dental coverage and take on the task.

And if they say they want a cake that looks like a cookie, agree loudly, and never bring it up again.

Especially if you plan to give birth to twins two days later.

Secret 9

Save this secret  for an emergency.  Use it cautiously, because you will probably only be able to pull it once, and only if they are quite young.  But in an extreme situation it is helpful to remember that:

they are called panCAKEs.

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To Verb, or not to Verb

9 Feb

Things I (We) Love:  Verbs

Wait, wouldn’t it be more appropriate if it read . . .

Things I (We) Love To Do:  Verb

It bothers me that verb is a noun.  It can even be made into an adjective, but it can’t, at least not in Merriam-Websterland, be a verb.  Verb can’t verb.  It’s all wrong.

But don’t worry, I still believe in verbing.  In fact, you might have noticed, I verb a lot while writing.  You know of what I speak, right?  It’s like this:

I love Michigan because although it lightnings and thunders, it doesn’t often tornado.

(It’s true.  As a child I had plans to move to tornado-free Alaska, but the Mitten State has done a good job of showing its fury in terms of blizzards, not cyclones.  I don’t mind living in gray-scale several months of the year if it means I don’t have to endure the dizzying trip to Oz.)

Okay, here’s another example of verbing:

Ugh, I just decontacted myself.

(No, really, I did.  I rubbed my itchy eyes, and just like that, both flimsy little lenses fell – one to my lap, and the other to the floor.)

Alright, one more example:

Look at this!  My daughter’s hair pigtailed!

(Betcha thought that was just a sentence fragment.   Nope, both subject and predicate are accounted for.  Plus, I can’t resist an opportunity to post a gratuitous picture of Cecilia’s hair.)

In summary, my friends, it’s okay to verb.

Well, unless you’d rather grammar.

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Uhhh……

12 Jan

Thing I Love: ………….

Nevermind.

Thing I Hate: Brain Block

Sorry about the strong language, but it’s true. I hate not having something to say.

Since Christmas I have desperately been trying to reach into the depths of my mind for words with which I might amuse. Thoughts with which I might thrill. Diatribes that deliver meaningful sentiment and ponder-provoking points.

Alas, the well is dry. The keg is tapped out. The milk jug has nary a drop. (I must be thirsty….)

See that? It's me. Doesn't it look just like me? It does.

So, I am going to do what I do best. I am going to rely on my strengths and ignore my weaknesses. I am going to whine.

I’m good at that, right?
Here it goes:
WHERE ARE MY WORDS?!?!??!?!? Contrary to the above proof, I can’t find those little guys. And I REALLY can’t find the big fellas. What’s a blogger to do? Oh, right. Whine. We’ve been over this. I’m writing in circles, and as much as I love that particular shape, rotund writing is rather flat.

Writers out there (as I presumptuously put myself in your group), has this happened to you? Do you ever get dumb? What do you do? Let’s turn this post from hate to love. Give me something I can use. I love that. Go.

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For Us and Our Kin

22 Dec

Things I (We) Love:  Time on the Interwebs

also,

Things I (We) Love:  Time with our Family

Something’s gotta give.

Therefore,  during the 12 Days of Christmas (please recall my earlier rant explaining the proper dates,) or for at least the Octave of Christmas (the week between Christmas and New Years’ Day) we intend to err on the side of familial festivities.  Instead of digitizing our every memory, we plan to make a few.  We will replace emoticons with actual smiles, lol’s with audible joy, and the all caps of our children’s voices with ear-splitting excitement.

Santa, did I mention that earplugs are inexpensive and would totally fit in my stocking?

But we do have a few more treats for you to pop out of this virtual Advent calendar.  Tomorrow will be our first ever book giveaway.  Saturday, Stacy has something up her sleeve (at least I’ve bossed her around and told her to do so.)  And if you’ve been nice this year, there might even be a special Christmas morning surprise for you.

After that, we join generations of elementary students in skipping out of the classroom on a Christmas party sugar high and hollering the most clever of all second grade adieus:

“See you next year!”

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