Musical Evening

This evening (Saturday night) we had a “Musical Evening” at our house. It was a lot of fun. The idea behind the evening is that I want music to be accessible to everyone. I feel like there is a pervasive attitude in our culture that music is for the professionals. Our job as average people is to sit and listen to the professionals. And that’s just not true. Music is to be enjoyed by everyone. Every age and every ability level. And when we do get the chance to hear a professional, it’s just icing on the cake.

Almost all of my kids performed something, along with almost all the adults in the room. We had some self-made compositions on the piano. We had some kids do their own rendition of the Avenger’s Theme song, complete with drums. We heard the ukelele, the guitar, the piano. We had some really fun songs that made you laugh and some songs that had me crying. Patriotic, Religious, Humorous, Classical. Considering that we really were a small group, we did pretty good.

I am hoping to do more of these throughout the year. I want music to be an important part of my children’s home culture.

When I was a kid (pre-internet, pre-cell phones) music seemed to be everywhere. I went to a little elementary school in Eastern Kentucky, back in the hollows (pronounced hollers). My fifth grade teacher was an amazing musician. He kept a guitar in the corner of the classroom and when the class would start to get rowdy, he’d pull out his guitar and we would sing “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. I know we sang lots of songs, but that’s the one that stands out to me. In that community everyone played the guitar or the banjo or the fiddle. My dad would take his guitar with him when we would go to community events and a group of guys would always gather around and all start playing together. Blue grass. Folk songs. Gospel.

When I lived in Haiti we would sing for entertainment. Songs with different parts, harmonies twisting around each other. I remember my family learned a song that I believe was a translation of a piece by Bach. The words are, “Father in heaven, hear now your children, hear and bless us with your love, ever and ever, stronger yet and merciful, is your love for us, hallelujah amen.” It was a fairly simple two-part round song. I took such pleasure in singing it with my family.

I remember in Alaska hanging out with my friends in the summer. Some evenings we would gather around a piano and sing worship songs. Just for fun.

I remember going back to Haiti when I was 20. One of the missionary houses at a hospital compound, where I spent some time each week, had a piano. The piano was in a little nook close to the dining room where the nurses and doctors and other volunteers would eat their meals. I would bring my music and hide away in the nook,  playing to my heart’s content. I remember one dark evening, playing the entire Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. I knew that people were listening in the other room, but as long as they left me alone, I could relax and feel like I was just playing for myself.

I remember when I was still 20 and now in Chile living with my brother and his wife. I didn’t have a piano to play on. I felt desperate to be connected to music in some way. My sister-in-law had a music cd by Twila Paris. (I may be remembering this wrong, but I’m almost positive it was her.) The music was worshipful and had a couple songs I recognized. When I was home alone, I would put the cd on and sing along with it, full voice, full emotion, joining in the only way I could.

You know, there are more important things to teach my children than music. Jesus. Learning how to love people. Being kind. Responsible. But, music is like adding color to a black white photo. Putting sprinkles on the cupcake. Upgrading to first class on that long flight. It’s getting a vacation in Hawaii. Eating PapaJohns Pizza instead of Little Caesars. Life is just richer with music. I’m so thankful for my musical heritage that my parents passed down to me, and so thankful for a chance to share this amazing thing called music with my children. Thank you to all our friends and family who came out joined in!

 

Fat Fridays: Week 22 How To Encourage People in Their Weight Loss

Hey Everyone. How’s your week been? Mine was busy but it looks like we are finally slowing down. My kids had their last day of school today. I’ve got a thing at my house Saturday night and then my schedule is wide open. Now I just have to focus on keeping a house full of children busy all summer.

The past couple days I’ve been thinking about how encouraging my husband has been on my weight loss journey. It wasn’t always that way. At the beginning of our marriage I put on weight with my first pregnancy and he really didn’t know what to do. He made a lot of mistakes. But over the years we’ve talked a lot and he has evolved into this amazing man who makes me feel loved and beautiful no matter what weight I am. And I genuinely feel like he’s ready to support me in whatever efforts I make at improving my health.

I’ll give you some examples. I am not a super active person. In fact, that’s an understatement. I know I used to run around as a kid, but somewhere around puberty I discovered the joys of curling up on a couch with a good book, and that became my default activity. There is one thing I do enjoy though, which I’ve mentioned over the years to my husband. I love badminton. It is so fun! So satisfying when you can keep the birdie in the air. I also like ping pong. Something about smacking an object back and forth appeals to me. 🙂 So, over the years,  we have occasionally bought a little yard badminton set. Flimsy poles. Flimsy net. The kids destroy it within a couple weeks.

Well, this summer my husband went all out. He bought a professional net, set up a sturdy pole system, marked out a court with yellow rope, bought me some fancy rackets..We are all set for badminton. But even better, in the evenings when it’s cool, he comes and asks me if I want to play, and we go out and play badminton together. How cool is that? I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have a great passion for the game. But he has a passion for me. To see me happy, see me healthy.

We also figured out that I like canoeing. Our 20th anniversary is coming up in a couple months and he is currently building us a wood strip canoe for two so we can get out in nature together. He’s kind of handy that way.

He helps me keep on track with my diet too. We were at a party this past weekend. One of my kids ran up to me and handed me a cookie and then ran off. Well. I really wanted that cookie. It looked so good. I took a bite. Andy was watching me. (He wanted the cookie too.) Hey! That’s not on your diet! Give that to me! Now. let me make something clear. I hate being bossed around. He knows that. I handed him the cookie, because the truth is, I really did want to stick to my diet. Then he said, If you don’t want to stick to your diet, just let me know and I’ll leave you alone. And that’s what makes him great. Because I’ve done that before. I’ve said, listen, I’m sick of this diet, I just want an ice cream cone. And then he takes me out for ice cream.

I’m sure a lot of you have someone important in your life who is struggling with weight issues. I can tell you from experience that the best support for me has been my husband’s unconditional love for me. Knowing that he he is willing to take me like I am actually helps me feel empowered enough to want to make changes to become healthier.

Goals for this week: look into Chiropractic Neurology at the recommendation of my brother. Get out and play badminton. Write a meal plan for the next week, as our eating has gotten a little haphazard.

See you all next week!

 

Fifth Grade Graduation

Today I went and saw my eleven year old’s fifth grade graduation. He’s finished elementary school and will head off to middle school next fall. They had a nice little ceremony. About a hundred fifth graders were sitting on folding chairs in the middle of the gymnasium while all the parents crowded the bleachers and lined the walls when the bleachers filled up. Our community is all about celebrating children’s accomplishments. There were parents there with balloons and noise makers, ready to holler as loudly as possible when their child’s name was called. I was the only family member there to cheer on my son. I had taken my two little boys with me to the kindergarten graduation in the morning and that had been an exercise in frustration. They were not very interested in sitting quietly on the bench next to me. By the time I got them home, I was thinking Never Again. I knew I still had the afternoon graduation to go to, and so I was very relieved when my highschooler came home at lunchtime after getting released early. I set her up to babysit and went off to the next graduation of the day.

My son won an award from the librarian for being an enthusiastic and voracious reader. He also met his math and reading goals for the year. Yay! I watched my handsome boy, standing happily holding his certificates. A little embarrassed to be the center of attention, but obviously pleased with his accomplishments.

This week has been the week of awards and ceremonies for my children. They have all done well. Some of them shining like stars, their accomplishments impressive. Others did the equally impressive feat of just getting through a school year with the the knowledge that their teachers were pleased with them and happy that they had had them in their classroom.

As I sat there in the bleachers I was overwhelmed with pride in my children. How on earth did I get such amazing kids? I looked around the gymnasium and saw a room full of parents who all seemed to be having the same sentiments. I took a closer look at the other kids, sitting in their folding chairs. My son’s classmates. His friends. His peers. At the beginning of the ceremony, the music teacher had lead all the kids in singing “This is Me” from the Greatest Showman. (If you are not familiar with this song then you are obviously not plugged in to pop culture nor do you have teenagers in your house!) This is apparently a popular graduation song, as the kindergartners sang it also, and the high school dance team did an amazing dance to the same song at the high school graduation. The words are very inspirational..

 

Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me…”

Another line from the song says, “For we are glorious!”

 

Now, I don’t buy into the philosophy that children are these innocent creatures, mini-gods walking amongst us. I have ten kids. I am very aware that children are just mini-humans. Capable of anger, jealousy, pettiness, and all the other unlikable things. But, in children, it’s like it hasn’t completely taken root yet. There is so much potential. They are still at a place where you can correct their mistakes, direct them down better paths, teach them in hopes that they will avoid some of the big pits that you fell into yourself.

I sat and watched these little 5th graders. Each one an individual in their own right, marching bravely into the future, optimistic and full of energy. I joined the other parents as we clapped and cheered. Those are our kids! We believe in them! We are dedicated to doing everything we can to turn them into happy, productive adults. We are ready to show up and cheer them on, no matter how small the milestone. Yeah, my kids are amazing. And so are yours.

 

 

I’m Ready for a Redo

We have some houseguests at the moment. As my husband and I’s room is the closest thing we have to a guest room, we relocated upstairs with all our kids. This means that we had to start using the “kids bathroom” upstairs. Yikes. Since we moved downstairs, about two years ago, I rarely enter the upstairs bathroom. I bathe our two youngest in my bathroom downstairs, we moved toothbrushes downstairs so we could supervise tooth brushing. I have no reason to go into the upstairs bathroom. Every week or so, I appoint bathroom chores to my older children. You clean the toilet, you clean the sink, you get the trash etc. And every week I assign one of my older girls to clean the shower. I will, on occasion, inspect their work. Nope, toilet is not done, try again…please sweep the floor better…But, I’ve never bothered to peak into the shower to see how that job was done.

Last night, I jumped into the upstairs shower to take a quick rinse off and I recoiled. Oh my goodness. This shower is repulsive. I think we’re going to have to tear this entire shower out and put in a new one. When was the last time someone cleaned this????? It was horrifying. (Just to reassure you, I know that it hasn’t been two years since it was cleaned, I do, on occasion, hire someone to come in and do a deep cleaning for me, so not two years, but definitely somewhere in the months range.)

Today I went down to the dollar store and loaded up on scrubby sponges, rubber gloves, and a shower cleaner that looked like it would melt iron. I also bought a new shower curtain and bathmat. This bathroom was going to get a makeover. Several hours later, many inhaled chemicals later, the shower was sparkling clean: new shower curtain with cute butterfly curtain rings, fluffy blue bath mat. Everything else in the bathroom was sparkling too. At last. A fresh start. A bathroom worthy of me. 🙂

All this cleaning got me thinking about Fresh Starts. Redo. Makeover. Lately I’ve been feeling like I need a fresh start. I remembered back to when we just moved back to the States after living in Chile for a year and a half. We had only been back a couple days and a friend asked me what the difference was between Chile and the U.S. I told her that when I was overseas, I felt alive. I was in tune with Spiritual Things. Everything felt sharp and in-focus. Relationships were life-giving, every-day life was an adventure. When I came to the States and talked to my friends, I got the impression that people  were very distracted, very caught up in the superficial world of entertainment and the acquiring of new stuff. Life felt fuzzy. I didn’t like what I saw and I wondered how I was going to keep myself from falling into the same trap.

Fifteen years later, I look at my life. I look at my priorities. Everything is fuzzy. Though I profess that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, reality doesn’t seem to reflect that truth. Social media, books, the internet, movies, books, interesting thoughts and theories. These all seem to have first place in my life. I feel out of touch with my Bible. I feel out of touch with nature. I feel out of touch with people. I’m existing in a small, insulated world of entertainment. Any time there is a pause in the day, I pull out my phone. Check Facebook. Read my emails. Check in with my blog. In an attempt to avoid boredom, I have instead dulled all my senses, flattened out the highs and lows, and created an existence that demands constant stimulation and is afraid of simply being. In an attempt to avoid boredom, I have become a boring person. A person who only engages on a superficial level. I have lost my First Love, Jesus, and replaced him with the idol of diversion.

I need a fresh start. I think about the hard work I had to put in to reclaim my bathroom. Make it clean and fresh and usable again. It wasn’t easy. Fresh starts aren’t. I’ve talked to my husband about the need to make some big changes. It’s not just me. It’s the entire family. We are all addicted to our wifi. The little kids have tv shows they stream. My teenagers have their shows and sites they must check up on every day. We always seem to have our faces glued to a screen. Andy and I have decided that as soon as school is out, we are pulling the plug on the wifi. No more internet at the house. I have wanted to do this sooner, but the reality is that the kids do need internet to do their homework. We’re going to try it out for the summer.

This is going to be painful for the whole family. We have already heard our teens’ opinions on the matter. I told them I would take them to the library as often as they wanted to go. We just weren’t going to be hooked up at our house. We love Friday Night Movie Night. So, maybe we’ll make trips to the dollar theater or go to the drive-in. We’re not trying to give up watching movies, just turning it back into an occasional special treat instead of part of the daily diet. I am hoping that as we no longer have a screen to stare at, we can wake up from this fuzzy dream we have entered and start having time for real life. Make devotions priority. Get outside. Focus on each other again. We will find out soon. The Restart button is about to be pushed.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 21 In Which I Almost Fell Off the Wagon

Hey Everyone. How’s your week been? This week has been tough for me. I almost completely fell off the diet bandwagon. It started on Saturday. I was feeling very uncreative for supper and so I asked my husband if he would be willing to grill some meat I had and I would cook potatoes and vegetables. My husband is a good cook, but he’s usually too busy and it just makes sense for me to do the cooking. Well, he went all out. He looked up a marinade recipe, cut the pork loin into thin slices, marinated it and then grilled it to tender perfection. It smelled amazing. And then he comes up to me with this perfectly grilled bite size of meat and says, TASTE IT! In light of all the work he’d gone to, it seemed rude and petty to refuse just because I’m trying to be vegan. Sigh. I ate it. It was really, really, really good. Ok. One piece. It’s not going to hurt me. Then we served up the kids and one of my picky children decided they didn’t want their meat, and my, let’s-not-waste-good-food mode kicked in. Fine, give me your meat. That stuff is too good to throw away. So, I ended up eating a whole serving of the stuff. Still. One piece of meat here and there isn’t going to hurt me, right?

The next day was Mother’s Day and I was excited. My oldest daughter said she was going to make me some vegan pancakes with a sugarless blueberry sauce. Then for lunch we were going to go out for Chinese food. I was anticipating a big pile of stir-fried veggies over fluffy rice. So, that morning we were waiting around while my daughter finished making breakfast and the phone rang. It was my parents. Their house was on fire. They were out of the country. Could Andy and I please go and take over the situation? Of course. I grabbed a water bottle and a plate with 2 pancakes and sauce and we ran out the door. I shared the pancakes with my husband in the car as we drove the hour to my parent’s house. The next hours were spent watching firemen, waiting for the flames to go out so we could enter the house and see what we could salvage. Somewhere around 1 pm we were finally able to go in the house. The firemen cautioned that the house could Rekindle and we would need to call them again, so we felt some pressure to get in and out as quickly as we could. The firemen left and we went in. We were able to save some paintings and musical instruments, some knickknacks. A fireman had grabbed an armful of photo albums. I was standing there, just kind of in shock, when Andy ran past me yelling, The roof is on fire again! If there’s anything you want, get it now! There was a glass cabinet that had a lot of my mom’s collectibles she had gathered over a lifetime. I frantically looked around for a box and finally saw an untouched cooler. I grabbed the cooler and started throwing ornaments into it while my husband called the firemen again and then threw water on the flames that had leaped up.

The firemen returned, more hoses, more water, more waiting. By the time they left again I was starting to get hungry. It was now the middle of the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten anything except one pancake in the morning. We hadn’t brought any food and while there were stores not too far away, we weren’t ready to leave the sight. I walked into the kitchen and looked in my mom’s pantry. All of the shelves had been sprayed down by the firemen, the cardboard boxes were soaking wet, but after some digging I found a box of energy bars that were individually wrapped and water proof. We tore into the energy bars which were low-sugar and tasted just a bit funny. My husband grumbled, but I pointed out it was better than nothing. A couple minutes later I was standing outside and my husband came out holding a bag of Pepperidge Farms Milano Cookies. The outside of the package was a bit scorched looking but the package had somehow escaped getting wet. It was not on my diet plan, but at that moment in time, I didn’t care. We tore into the cookies, the sweetness helping to calm raw nerves. Ok. One slip up. Not the end of the world.

The next two days was a flurry of phone calls, picking up my parents from the airport, getting ready for other family members who were coming into town for my son’s high school graduation. I was trying to rescue my parents photos, we already had houseguests…My stress level reached epic levels and cooking became my last priority. Chips and Cookies were laying around the house which is unusual for us. Temptation was everywhere and I was too stressed to care. Then, Tues morning I hit the crisis point. I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet and there was an open package of cookies. I just wanted to eat cookies for breakfast. Not good. I lectured myself. Ok Esther, if you’re determined to cheat, cheat smart. Cheat smart. Ok. I poured myself a bowl of Kix cereal which only has 3 grams of sugar per serving and claims to be made from whole grains. I used rice milk and felt pretty smart. There. Not too bad a cheat. Well, my body thought differently. My blood sugar rose so high that I crashed. My speech started getting slurry and all I could do was crawl into bed and sleep it off. An hour and half later I woke up with a headache and just generally feeling horrible. I had so much stuff to do that day and I felt so stupid for eating food that my body just couldn’t handle. I lay there in the bed and gave myself a lecture. Listen girl. This has nothing to do with weight loss or trying out some fad diet. Your body simply can’t handle refined sugars and carbs. It makes you feel sick and sluggish and you have way too much to do without making yourself sick eating this junk…Ok. Yes. You’re right.

I’m happy to say that since that crash Tues morning, I have gotten back on plan. My meals have been a bit random, but no more cereal or cookies. My son’s graduation party is tonight and I have laid in some on-plan treats so hopefully I won’t be too tempted.

And so, life goes on. Goals: Try and get some walks in and schedule some downtime. I really need some downtime. See you all next week.

 

House Fires and Photos

We have had a crazy couple days. On Sunday my parents house burned down. Or, burned? There is still a house standing, so it didn’t technically “burn down”, but just saying “burned” sounds weird. It is no longer livable and a large percentage of their belongings were destroyed. My parents were out of the country when it happened and so my husband and I became the ones in charge of the situation. Let me just say, my parents can be very relieved that I married who I married, because my husband has been superman in a cape. I have basically stood off to the side wringing my hands. My brother also stepped up to the plate, long distance, and got all the insurance stuff moving while my husband worked on the grunt work of cleaning out paths of debris so you could walk in the building and boarding up broken windows and doors. The two of them have been amazing. Me, I have listened, nodded my head, said uh-huh, and hovered on the sidelines, available, but not sure how to help.

I ended up with 3 totes of water-soaked, charred photo albums. This became my baby. I told my brother I would try and find a company that could help with photo restorations. I called around. Everyone I talked to were full of lots of useful advice on how I should go about drying the pictures, and then, when the pictures were dry, I could bring them in. I asked one lady on the phone, is there anywhere I can take these where someone can help dry them? Oh no, she said, we really don’t have room for that. I’m sure you have a lot more room at home. Right. We have houseguests at the moment. I informed the lady that I had, literally, thirteen children in my home at the moment. There was nowhere safe I could lay out pictures to dry. She also didn’t seem to realize that we were talking closer to a thousand pictures or more. Not, a little handful. My mom is a photographer, my late grandmother was a photographer, and my mom is interested in family history. We’re talking about a 100 years worth of family photos here, from families that liked to take photos.

I finally took the very unorthodox method of sitting on a stool on my lawn and spreading wet pictures all over the grass. When they dried, I would then gather them up and put them in a box. I have been doing this for two days. I still didn’t finish all the photos. My brother, who drove down to help, finally came this evening and took the rest of the photos from me since I am now having to shift my attention to my son’s high school graduation which happens this Thursday, and all the hoopla that goes along with that.

It has been an interesting experience, going through all my mom’s photos. There’s pictures of me in the hospital, covered in wires. I was born a month early with weak lungs and then got pneumonia. According to the little notations on the photos, I didn’t go home till I was nine days old.

Estherbabypic

Then there’s a pic of my parents when they were engaged. They were so 70s!!

parents

I found an awesome picture of me with my maternal grandparents when I was three years old. This picture means a lot to me. My mother was British and has two sisters. My mother married an American, one sister married a South African, and the other sister married an Englishman. Needless to say, I didn’t see my relatives on that side of the family often. My grandparents were missionaries in South Africa, our family was in Haiti or the US. I met my grandparents three times in my life: when I was eight months old, when I was three years old, and when I was ten years old. My grandfather died on the trip home after that last visit. I met my grandmother one other time when I was fifteen. They were amazing people, I loved them, and I wished that I could have had a chance to know them better.

rigbygrandparents

I found my dad’s baby book. My grandmother’s careful, elegant handwriting, detailing important facts of his first year of life. There was a picture of my grandparents holding my father. I have always been proud of the fact that my grandparents had an interracial marriage in an era when that was not very acceptable.

picazograndparents

As I gathered up all the dried photos, scattered across the lawn, everything got mixed up. Pictures of my children mixed up with pictures of my mother as a baby, mixed up with pictures of the Picazo family, mixed up with pictures of the Rigby family. All the time periods blurred together into a box that represented Memory. Memories that we were here. Memories that we lived in families, we hugged our babies, we smiled at birthdays, we got married, older generations died, newer generations were born. Memory of the human story. So Universal. So Personal.

In the end, I have played a small role in helping my parents with this tragedy. But I think it was an important role. Keeper of the Memories. I wasn’t really preserving these pictures just for my mom. I did it for me. For my children. For my grandchildren. Here is the story of our family. Let me tell you about these pictures.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

I want to wish all the Moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day.

To the Moms of older children, thank you for sticking it out, putting in your time in the trenches. You are a hero.

To the Moms with little children…This is the hardest time. Be encouraged. You can do it. It is going to get easier!

To the Moms who are raising children they didn’t give birth to, you are amazing. Your heart for your children is an inspiration to all of us.

To the Women who think they aren’t Moms, but who go around mothering all the children that enter their lives. You are so important. Raising up the next generation is a community project, and your role is vital.

And to my Mom…Thank you. Thank you for all the sleepless nights you put in. Thank you for sitting with me at bedtime when I was afraid of the dark. Thank you for letting me pour soy sauce all over your amazing cooking because I was too picky to enjoy it the way it was. Thank you for buying me chocolate whistles at the grocery store. Thank you for always having a tissue in your purse when I needed one. Thank you for letting me stay up late reading books. Thank you for turning a blind eye when I came home covered in mud. Thank you for french braiding my hair. Thank you for sharing your Cadbury’s chocolate bar with me. Thank you for making me a pizza with nothing on it because that was the way I liked it. Thank you for all the times you didn’t give me advice, just gave me a long hug instead. Thank you for paying for piano lessons, and not saying a word when I played the same piece over and over and over and over and over again. Thank you for giggling with me over the silliest things. Thank you for continuing to make my birthday special every year. Thank you for teaching me about prayer. Thank you for your hugs. Thank you for being my Mom. I love you.