Archive for the ‘family’ Category

7
Jun

the meal table

   Posted by: liz

i have noted before that it is nothing short of magic what happens when friends – new and old – family, and even strangers are gathered around a table of food and drink.

some would like to blame it on the alcohol, but i credit the euphoria on the flavors of food and drink that humans share together around a table.

some of my favorite recent memories are hosting meals around our farm table in our dining room. even before i redecorated the room (now a cool colonial blue), our dining room has hosted christmas meals, thanksgiving feasts, and our dinner group of friends eating, drinking, and usually breaking into song at the end. it is by no coincidence that our family piano is tucked away in a corner of our dining room. we stash all of the sheet music, our boys’ piano books in a basket near the piano, but also a stack of old hymnals and psalters.

one thanksgiving meal comes to mind, that included my brothers and their families, my parents, and some friends of ours that we had recently met. we ended the chaotic meal (chaotic only because 12 kids under the age of 10 with 10 adults to match makes it so) around the piano. We sang the Alleluia chorus from Handel’s Messiah, stumbling our way through the four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), but sharing together in the richness of filled stomachs and Handel’s brilliantly coupled harmonies.

another remembrance is a dinner group of friends, all of us with sons (10 total), shared a potluck dinner of indian-spiced goodness, deep, dry red wines, and a table full of singing before we said our nighttime goodbyes.

i hosted my book club for a cookie exchange one christmas and set up the dining room meticulously with christmas decorations and space for all of our dozens of cookies to be displayed. but where did all 8 of us spend the entire exchange? standing around my kitchen table (ignoring the festive dining room) where the brunch items and mugs of steaming hot coffee were. we laughed, we comforted those of us not looking forward to the upcoming madness that Christmas can be, and we played a “name that tune,” christmas song version all while sharing together the cinnamon rolls, mimosas, and several versions of quiche.

maybe it’s not magic. maybe it’s what is supposed to happen when we open our comfort zones – our family meal tables – with friends. maybe we’ve gotten so bogged down with school schedules and day jobs and family crises that we forget to notice that when we take time to sit, eat, and remember…connections happen. friendships deepen, family members open up, incredible flavors of food and fellowship are shared. this is how we are supposed to sup.

my mom’s book club gets together monthly to talk about their latest book at restaurants and sometimes one of the members hosts a potluck brunch or dinner on their deck. when i ask my mom how her book club was, she always responds, “oh, it was great. we LAUGHED and LAUGHED…” that’s what friends, and hopefully family, does when they share time and conversation around a table. when it’s more than a passing conversation on the phone or email. when we sit, breathe, and break bread together, we are sharing our humaness with each other.

“take, eat…” Jesus says to His disciples. let us do likewise. together.

2
Jun

blogging

   Posted by: liz

it’s been so long since last i blogged that i actually forgot my login password. january was my last post, and it’s been the longest time between posts, ever. i’m always thinking of blog posts, always churning ideas around in my head, but never sitting down to write.

this was a particularly long and tiring winter. this spring has been unusually wet and cold. memorial day weekend marked the beginning of the longest stretch of warm weather, and it started out with a cold frost. i guess i could fill you in on the last 3 months, but i don’t want to bog you down with a depressing post. instead, i’ll give you a highlight reel of current things in our family:

- i continue to be so amazed at how the boys and i grow in our relationships with each other. we are together all day long, every single day. there are DEFINITELY some tense and frustrating moments in that. we get on each other’s nerves. we need our space from each other. but for the most part, our conversations and our time spent WITH each other are rewarding, fun, and always growing. even though they are around their mom every single day of their lives, the older two boys are beginning to spread their wings and be more independent. i’m all for this, and i’m glad it’s happening, slowly, but surely. i don’t know what this would look like had we chosen traditional schooling – would they have been much more independent by now? probably. i’m okay with it taking it’s time. i’m REALLY okay that they’re still young boys who are innocent in so much. there is still so much time for them to grow up. slowly.

- that said, there are some stretches of exhausting times when we are together as a family all the time. the bickering and the whining about school work and farm chores and…the list goes on. i get tired of being their teacher and their mother every single day of their lives. it’s hard. it’s hard having them with me on all my weekly errands. it’s hard not having time to myself until evenings (although our evenings are all full these days). it’s just plain hard.
but we did end our school year two weeks ago and have been enjoying the warming weather, and hanging out with friends. both rowan and sawyer had evaluations this year and both of them “passed” with rave reviews from their evaluator. during that time, i realized that adam was reading a book that sawyer was reading previously. sawyer is reading so well these days, but adam has taken off with his reading. he doesn’t sound out words any more, he reads for comprehension, which is earlier than the other two boys ever did. for all the struggles of teaching your kids that you may encounter, there are some pretty great discoveries along the way!

- so i’m running again. i really need to not take the winters off (but how i HATE indoor running, and it’s harder and not at all comfortable to run outside in the winter). i’m signed up for my first 5K of the season. i’m ready! because once i start to run, i can take on the world and all it throws at us again.

- this past week, kenny was rockstar dad and husband again as i took three days in a row to teach a geography and art camp for the co-op that we are a part of. i was out the door well before the boys woke up, and he tended to them and their needs while i taught forty-one 6 to 8 year-olds for three solid days. i came home to dinner already cooked before turning around and heading back out to rehearsal the first two nights, and on the last night, i came home to a beach chair sitting next to the pool, a bottle of my favorite chardonnay already uncorked, and a lovely grilled tilapia, chicken, green beans, and coconut rice dinner, al fresco (with friends joining us at table!). a great way to end those crazy exhausting three days.

- we are three weeks away from opening night of our second production, The Tempest. the rehearsals have been going so well, the cast is amazing and the sets and costumes are going to be stunning on that stage. i can’t wait for Butler to see that Shakespeare is interesting and fun and not stuffy and boring. we’ve been really busy every single evening and weekend putting this show together. some moments are tense and overwhelming, but for the most part, i’ve really loved the creative process in this production. from the conversations with the actors about their characters, to the evenings i spend at the sewing machine while kenny composes music for the show, it’s been a fun and exciting production.

- our farm is on hold for the moment. at least the sheep, their guard donkey, and our two chickens are happy and healthy. we just haven’t added to to our flock this year, and our honeybees did not make it through the winter. we’ve also decided to container garden on our deck instead of plant our massive yard garden again this year. i’m okay with this. sometimes you just need to take a year off of the hobbies that may consume you.

- we are so blessed. there is nothing hard about our life. we are a healthy, busy, a bit nutty family who has absolutely nothing to complain about.
except the winter weather.

3
Jan

from the director’s chair…

   Posted by: liz

it’s been a wild and crazy past few months for our family, but why would we want anything less than that?

we’ve been living and breathing theater since september when kenny started working on another production, and moreso when we announced auditions for our production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol through a newly formed theater group we started, hobnob theatre co.

production week at the theater was so intense, so tiring, so exhilarating, i wanted to post my thoughts and photos of it all before i forget. we loaded in the set, props, and costumes on monday of production week, had techinical rehearsals monday through thursday nights, opened the show on friday, and closed on saturday. it was certainly a whirlwind week. we didn’t have a full cast throughout  the technical rehearsals since we were out several cast members from illness each night until opening night. i knew the actors were ready, so i didn’t worry about that. tech week is for learning and polishing the technical aspects of the show. and fortunately, that was accomplished.

(click on each picture for a closer view)

~                                 ~                             ~                               ~                                 ~

here are some photos of the set pieces. Christopher, our scenic designer and artist (pictured in one of the photos) put some finishing touches on Scrooge’s bed and our indoor flats (pictured below is the Cratchit flat) that just made each set piece turn from “just a set piece” to a realistic bed or wall. it was such a joy seeing him bring such beauty to our set! kenny designed and constructed the fezziwig rafters – i think that was one of my favorite drops because of it’s simplistic elegance. and it was the backdrop to a really fun party scene in the play.   the bottom picture is our “London street” scene – with four buildings that are wheeled out for all the street scenes in the show (the beginning and the end of the production). the two middle buildings are named with our production sponsors.

i loved walking through the backstage area where the actors were preparing before each dress rehearsal or performance; applying make-up, wigs, putting their characters’ clothes on and walking onto the stage a completely different persona.

we had two props tables. our amazing stage crew (pictured below) kept these props in order, changed the set like a well-rehearsed dance each night, and kept the behind-the-stage area so organized.

and our amazing cast of actors. after spending a lot of time together for several weeks as a cast, you begin to get to know each other, enjoy each others’ company, and get used to each other. then, after a show closes, those people aren’t in your life any more. this is true for every single show i’ve ever been involved with. this show was a bit different because i felt more responsible for the quality of these cast members’ lives. i knew they had outside lives that were more important than their cast life, but i felt they were vitally important to the cast as well. it’s a hard balance and you tip it in the direction of theatre company that last week of production, certainly. i definitely miss my HUGE cast of actors and look forward to working with them again!

we had a cast party after Friday’s performance (the first big snowy night of the season!). it was so much fun to celebrate a fantastic opening night (full house, too!) with our cast and crew members!

 


We were also blessed with a very good photographer who did head shots of each actor and displayed them in our lobby:

 

the cast really gifted Kenny and I with so much during the show and then went and gifted us with a huge bag of gifts the night before we opened. Below is a “Scrooge and Marley” light up house that I put next to our advent wreath that sits next to our tree. it will be there until easter! :)

the whole experience was amazing. each step in the way, from the auditions to the rehearsals, to the technical meetings to the performances, we learned and were blessed by the people who were involved with us. it was exhausting, but in a way, it was also easy. there was much sacrifice, but in the end, we had a huge group of helpful and supportive people in all aspects of the show. it was one of the best times we’ve spent as a family unit. i was encouraged once  to follow our dreams while our boys were still young. it would be a good example to them. i admit, there were moments when they were sick and tired of the theater, and i was wishing for it all to be over to get them back to normalcy again. but they’ve been resilient. they’ve bounced back to our normal schedule very easily.

i loved having the opportunity to study and research and fall in love with Dickens and his victorian backdrop. our wheels are already turning for future dickens shows (in addition to performing A Christmas Carol each year!)

our next project with our theatre company is much more low-key, but still very exciting. kenny and i are helping to coach some students for the Shakespeare Monologue and Scene contest held at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. and we’re already planning future shows for the remainder of 2013.

please follow along with us by subscribing to our email list, or liking our facebook page!

16
Nov

7 quick takes…

   Posted by: liz

i haven’t done a Quick Takes in forever and a day…

1. now that the presidential election is almost 2 weeks behind us, i can finally say…we are okay with the results. i mean, we’re not happy with the results, but what can you do?  wednesday morning, november 7th had a rough start. kenny and i woke at 4:00, saw the results, couldn’t go back to sleep, so we decided to finally start Season 3 of The Walking Dead so we didn’t have to watch the news, or read web sites about the difficult loss our country experienced the previous night (i realize that is a matter of opinion).

here’s the thing: i think the thing that is most upsetting is not that we lost a tough election…but the realization that your own values, and what you believe is really better for the country – poor, middle class and the rich – is very different than a slight majority of the rest of the country. i’m not opposed to change – i don’t fight change. it’s just hard to witness values held dear to so many being thrown away by so many more.

2. this week is tech week and opening night was last night for Peter Pan…the community musical that kenny is playing piano for and all 3 of our boys are in (along with about 50 other lost boys/girls in the Butler area). the show opened to rave reviews, rowan and sawyer have LINES in this production (and even get to talk to Captain Hook AND Peter Pan!) and adam just follows his friends around on stage and looks adorable in his little lost boy costume.  here’s proof:

3. I haven’t been able to be as available for tech week shows because of the rehearsals i’m holding for our very own show, A Christmas Carol. kenny and i started our own theatre company and have been advertising, holding auditions, and now rehearsing for our very first show at the same time as all this Peter Pan production.  it’s been a little nutty.  we’ve been able to keep it together for the most part and are enjoying the amazing experience we’re having with the start of this new theatre company.  our supporters and cast have been amazing.  more on this in a later post…

4. remember when we mummified a chicken back in september?  we finally dug it out of the layers of salt, dusted it off a bit, wrapped it in cloth and “buried” it in its own decorative sarcophagus.  again, here is photo-proof…

here is mummified chicken wrapped in one of the 3 coffins:

here is one of the drawings on the sarcophagus, so the gods will recognize the chicken in the afterlife:

the boys really wanted to bury it, but i snuck it in the garbage.  it was a fun experience to do…the boys learned more about mummies and decaying flesh than i could have taught them!

5. we’re coming up on my favorite part of the liturgical year: advent, christmas, and epiphany.  i know that our crazy schedule will only get more hectic as we enter the last month of rehearsals for our show, so i’m starting to prepare our family advent now. ironically, i think our schedule won’t allow us to truly celebrate and be a part of christmas until Christmas Eve (as we’ll be busy rehearsing and finishing the set and costumes and props and staging and…and…) just as our calendar helps us to do. the 12 days of christmas, beginning on christmas day, will really be cherished in our home, surrounded by family (two of my brothers and their families are coming in for closing night of our performance, so they’ll be there when our family crashes and puts our feet up for the first time since september)!  it will be a fabulous way to unwind from a stressful season.

6. kenny and i are running a 5k together on thanksgiving morning. i ran it alone last year, loved it and decided to drag my husband to it this year.  i haven’t been able to train as much this year, so i’m not going to go all out and try to beat my time from last year. i hope to just have fun, run along with kenny, and then drive home in time to put the turkey in the oven!

7.  i’m saving the best for last:  since moving to the country, i’ve been on a mission to find and see with my own eyes an owl in the wild. we hear them at night constantly – the great horned in the winter, the screech owls in the summer and fall.  last night, november 15th at 10:44 pm, i saw my first wild screech owl…as it FLEW INTO OUR WINDSHIELD a mile away from our house. we didn’t “know what hit us” – literally – but knew that it couldn’t have been anything but a nocturnal bird, and it was a bigger “thud” than a bat could make. we turned the van around, and sure enough, a tiny little owl sat…alive…on the side of the road, looking up at our car with the saddest, most human-like eyes, its head, tilted to the side. i was heart-broken. we could do nothing. our outdoor cat would have killed it if we brought it home (it was about 6-7 inches tall).  i’m trying to get over this…but it’s hard when the image of his sweet little face, and the boys’ reaction of “AWWWWWW! he’s so cute!” ringing in my ears.  what would YOU have done?

 

11
Nov

thank you, veterans

   Posted by: liz

My Grampy (the boys’ “Great Grampy”) has come to visit a few times since the beginning of summer. The boys love it because he comes for school and they LOVE showing him everything they’re learning. He especially loves to sit in on math class…he says that was his favorite class, but he has been enjoying our history lessons as well.

One of our history lessons had us interview family relatives, so this photo is of him telling the boys a favorite memory he has of when he was a boy. I think this particular story is about fishing.

I post this picture today, so he can see it (he is a regular smithical reader, and lets me know when there has been too much time between posts!).

Happy Veterans’ Day, Great Grampy – thank you for all you did and sacrificed for your family and this country!

 

4
Nov

communion and worship

   Posted by: liz

i understand why the roman catholic faith makes a person’s first communion a big deal. usually, it is a child, around the age of 6 or 7. for a parent, it’s a wonderful thing to see your child recognize and understand the meaning behind the elements of the eucharist. and i am down with worship services that surround this milestone in a person’s life.  i grew up in the orthodox presbyterian tradition, where you are older when you make your confession of faith and take communion for the first time.  i was 15 or 16 when i made a public profession of faith in church and before the board of elders and pastor of our church and when i had my first communion. protestants, in general, don’t believe in big worship services honoring this event.

when i joined the episcopal tradition, i noticed families taking communion together at the rail and i understood this to be a family decision. of course, the church would like your children to understand the “whats” and “whys” of the Eucharist, but i loved that the family was a bigger part of this sacrament in worship.  i always envisioned our family, kneeling at the rail together when each of our boys would partake for the first time, and not just receive the blessing on their heads, but be an active part of the Remembrance.

this morning, one of our boys had communion, in church, for the first time. for a myriad of reasons, we were not with him when he did it. i’m coming to terms with this, and i’m okay with it…here are my thoughts:

first of all, we’ve talked about this as a family. the older two have been asking about communion over the past six months and we’ve discussed in full what it means, why we do it, and the different ways in which churches offer it. communion is distributed on trays to the sunday school classes that are happening at the same time the “grown ups” are in corporate worship. we decided that for their first communion, they would take it with us in the worship service, and then following their first communion, they could take it in their sunday school classes from now on.

this morning, kenny was playing music for the worship service and i was asked to serve communion. so, i told both of the older two boys that they were welcome to just take communion in their sunday school class today if they still wanted to. one did, and one didn’t.  i was proud of both of their decisions.

i love it when we are asked to distribute the elements. i love watching the people pour forth from their seats and take the symbols of the highest sacrifice. i love telling them “This is Christ’s Body for YOU.” and i love it when they look back in my eyes and accept this gift for the 1st? 50th? 1000th? time.  no matter how often i take part in the great mystery, it is worship so amazing, so divine, i am in awe again and again.  St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”

so when i asked my son how his first communion was, i was expecting him to tell me that angels sang from above, that the earth moved below him, and he answered….”um, the bread was kinda yummy.”

he’ll get there.

he was also baptised as an infant (as were his brothers) and we have no way of knowing if they experienced what an adult experiences at their first baptism. so as a child takes his first communion, sometimes it’s not the same experience as an adult partaking for the first or for the 100th time. the mysteries of the sacraments aren’t explainable. at any age.

secondly, our children’s first communions aren’t about what we, as parents, want to experience with them. of course, we raise them in our faith and hope they understand and believe as us, but these milestones are about them meeting God and understanding Christ’s love for them. they aren’t about how i always envisioned it happening. my ideal church is so far from where we currently worship, but God has us there for His reasons, not my own. i have to let go of my ideal (infant baptism, children’s choir robes, ancient hymns, and weekly Eucharist), and really live out my belief that God works through and is truly worshiped in any worship setting.

there was no pomp and circumstance in our child’s first communion today…but neither was there in the lowly birth of our Saviour 2000 years ago.  humble experiences are just as Holy as those with pipe organs and angels singing from the heavens.

 

11
Sep

sawyer’s 8!

   Posted by: liz

the older they get, the more they amaze me! sawyer was always so much his own kid (21 months):

our middle boy: the peacemaker, rule-keeper, dare-devil, energetic sawyer cole…we love every little bit of you! (he’s also a great LEGO engineer, is showing promise in acting, and still loves tickling the ivories on the piano…..)

19
Aug

Outer Banks, 2012

   Posted by: liz

This was our family’s second summer vacationing for a week at the Outer Banks.  It held a different atmosphere this year. Two years ago, it was the boys’ first time ever on the beach and we were so excited to see their reaction to the vastness, the bigness that is the ocean’s edge.

They were definitely excited, but not in the “first time at the ocean” kind of way. They couldn’t wait to get back into the waves!

The weather was much different this year. Last time, it was high 80s, sunny all day, every day with one rain downpour one evening. This year, we arrived to flooded roads and yards, and it continued to rain off and on the whole week we were there. There was certainly sun – and hot days (even at 80 degrees, it’s hot under the sun at the beach!), but there was more cloud cover. It was the perfect beach week if you were looking to relax and not be overly hot. The waves were MUCH calmer this year as well – last time the waves were rough and the undertow was strong the entire week due to an off-shore weather system.

Our boys are all two years older this time around, so I was able to relax (slightly more than last year!) as they kept themselves busy. Also, we had two sick boys on different days, so I stuck around the house with one feverish boy at least two of the days, so that added to my reading time.

We spent two different days on the Sound Side as well, doing some crabbing, which was a big hit with the kids. Even if we threw them all back into the water, it was still a good experience feeling the tug of the string, wondering just what those little crabs could possibly find delicious in raw chicken necks. Each kid was able to catch at least one crab. Once they were out of the water, they didn’t go near them, so the grown-ups had to toss them back into the water.

Also prominent this year was an influx of mosquitos. According to the locals, it’s a really bad season for mosquitos. I’ve never had to give a second thought to mosquitos as we barely get more than a few bites a year in the wilds of Pennsylvania. But this year, as soon as you were on the ground level, and especially around the dunes on the way to the beach, dozens of mosquitos would find their way to your skin within seconds. It was a 3 minute walk to the beach, and in that time, we all got several new bites every time we’d walk to and from the beach. The only respite from those pests was on our decks (I guess they don’t fly very high from the ground?), at the pool, and on the beach or sound (lots of wind by the water). One day we stayed away from the beach the entire day – none of us had it in us to make the walk through the infestation. I really don’t know how the locals survive being outside. Does one really stay inside all day?

Regardless of those little pests…we all still had a relaxing, enjoyable beach visit. When the boys weren’t in the water with Kenny, they were scouring the beach with me for little shells. We have a new collection this year to add to all the shells we still have from the last visit. We went with two other families (who we went with last time) and we were able to play lots and games (The Game of Life was a favorite of the kids, and Carcassonne and Scrabble kept the adults busy).  The grown-ups enjoyed happy hour every evening (and the kids had their own one night!). The kids used the hot tub a lot more than the adults (twice a day!), and we were completely entertained by the miniature frogs all over the pool area of our house (that sounded a lot like spring cheepers!).

The beach is such a different world than our home. The sounds and smells, air and wind, color of the sky and water….  As we left the beach on Friday afternoon, I instructed the boys to keep their eyes out the window as they said their goodbyes to the salty air, the crashing waves, and the windy walks along the beach. We returned home to crisper air and some coloring leaves already!  The night air is dipping into the low 50s even though there is a warm-up on the way. I love planning our beach visits at the end of summer because I’m always ready for the season’s change after a week at the beach.

 

I leave you with a trio of pictures I call, “Adam trying Old Bay Shrimp”

 

22
Jul

freaky friday

   Posted by: liz

i loved that movie (when i was but a wee-tween) where jodi foster and her mom switch roles for the day. hilarious and heart-warming. i have heard that it has been remade: don’t bother to watch any remake of that movie; the original is best!

for the first three days of last week’s work-week, kenny and i switched roles. i would get up, shower, eat breakfast and be on my way to “work” before 7:00 am, returning home at 5:00. i was so exhausted at the end of each day, and the 50-minute drive home each day got harder and harder. i couldn’t imagine doing it another day!

kenny took vacation two of those days and worked from home the other. the boys had a great time hanging out with their daddy all three days AND he had dinner planned, prepped, and started by the time i walked in the door each night. as i walked in on the third night (my last day of teaching), he handed me a glass of wine and told me to sit down and put my feet up, smells of peanut-coconut sauce wafting through the kitchen…ahhh!!!  heaven!

i told him he did a better job at my job than i did, half-jokingly. i know that staying at home with his boys was a treat for him, but he is good at what he does at work, and provides well for all of us. i could never do his job (nor would i want to leave the stay-at-homeschooling-mom position that i love!).

what the past few days taught me is that we are both equally satisfied with our familial roles. what it mostly taught me is that i can’t expect him to have energy to be with the kids the minute he walks in the door, and i wish i could take back those days when the kids were young and FULL of energy and baby/toddler-ness, and beg demand that he take over when he came home from work to relieve me of my daily duties. because i can vouch for the exhaustion being away all day and driving home brings!

switching roles temporarily allows us to “walk a mile” in each other’s shoes.  i was grateful for the opportunity to “bring home the bacon” for a few days because it made me realize how much i love what i do every day, and more grateful for what kenny does every day for us!

9
Jul

9 years young

   Posted by: liz

the one who turned us from DINKs to PARENTS turns 9 today.  such a sweet face for such a sweet, loving, inquisitive, sensitive boy!

we love you so much, rowan, and are so proud of who you are growing up to be! your younger brothers look up to you, and we couldn’t be more happy of the role model they have in you. happy 9th birthday!

2012

2003