Archive for the ‘family’ Category


once upon a time….

   Posted by: liz

…there was a girl who liked to be on stage. but not until she was about 16 years old, and only when she didn’t have to sing. in front of people. because that was one of her worst fears: that she would be forced to sing in front of somebody else.

so she acted and did shows like Our Town and The Crucible…then onto Electra, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Three Sisters. Then Lysistrata (and is still heart-broken over not getting a role in Dancing at Lughnasa). Finally, she graduated college and moved to London where she saw great theater in the land of “theatre.” And when she mvoed back home to the States decided to try to audition again.

and it was no good.

she gave up after a few shows where the theater companies were anything but friendly, and the roles were always given to company donors, and she lost her love of being on the stage, but never for creating. she found a love of directing high school shows and even a community show or two.

and then she met him. he acted. and sang. and played piano. and didn’t care that the girl didn’t like to sing. he married her despite her flaws and even got her to sing one day. in front of PEOPLE! in church. they left their love of the stage on the back burner for several years as they began their family, getting involved in small creative roles here and there. but never on a stage or in a theater.  their three darling boys had a penchant for soccer and running and swimming, so years of sports teams were on the horizon for this girl and boy (now “mom and dad”).

but then one day, the boys started making plays and magic shows and songs with motions for their mom and dad. and mom and dad wondered if there was a way to introduce them to…the stage.

and then…a miracle!  (sorry, not really a miracle, but it’s a line in my favorite movie, Amadeus, when Solierie’s father begins to choke and ends up dying and he describes that as a miracle….i know it is horrible but it was a funny moment in the film) an open invitation to be in a local musical!

the mom and dad didn’t tell the boys that musical was called Cinderella (because really they had no idea who Cinderella was any way). and the boys grew to love their time rehearsing, and when the time came for the show to go on, the boys became enamored with the performance, the audience, the laughter and clapping, and friends backstage, and lots of cards and candy, and time spent with each other for hours on end.


we were proud as punch for the work that rowan and sawyer put into their first ever musical but come on…the stage parents of the younger cast need to be appreciated too. i mean i heard some stage parents lost toenails during the grueling week of tech rehearsals!  :)  i wouldn’t trade last week for almost anything. it was crazy, with late nights and way too much fast food, but it was a great experience for all of us.

the company members of Sing Hosanna! (the community who put this show on) were so great. we’ve never worked with such a big group of great people before. from the youngest of the young ensemble, to the parents who put in hours of supervising, to the show’s principle roles, everyone was so great to work with. i was so happy seeing kenny on the piano again. he works hard providing for his family, but i know he loves music so much. i was so glad for his creative outlet during this show (and i love seeing him in an orchestra pit!)

sawyer asked if we could start a new musical this week. i think we’re all appreciating the break, although we’re all experiencing a small amount of “let down.”  fortunately we had a big play date after our co-op yesterday to keep us from moping about.  and finally…i’m putting a full home-cooked meal on the table for dinner tonight! :)

Sawyer, Rowan, Anthony and Chesna:

Practicing the waltz before the show (with one of Cinderella’s stepsisters who helped the kids so much with their choreography):

Makeup! (Rowan was worried he had to put it on himself. I was relieved to find they didn’t have to!):

The Closing Number with fairy Godmother:



a country drive

   Posted by: liz

what a great weekend to have no plans!  we’ve been running constantly since christmas break with every single weekend being full of plans. this weekend has been open on the calendar and i’ve been fiercely protecting it so that it wouldn’t fill up with plans. last night, as we were all falling asleep kenny and i noted how nice it was going to be to have TWO FULL DAYS of no plans.

so this morning, we all slept in (yep, until 7:15!!!) and made pancakes and (turkey) bacon and eggs. then we all sat around and read, played the piano. around 9:30 kenny and i decided to take my spinning wheel to a local woodworker who specializes in antique spinning wheels. it was going to be a nice country drive, so we packed some snacks and headed out around 10:30.

on the way up north, we saw the most spectacular thing in a spring-budding tree. a bald eagle, perched directly over the road. we turned around to let the boys see it and to snap a few photos. it didn’t like us sitting right under him, so he took off right in front of us – a HUGE, lovely bird (click to enlarge).

we arrived in mercer at Nashannock Woods a few minutes later and were greeted by the friendliest, sweetest puppy-dog (and we aren’t dog people!) and a very kind woodworker named Chris. we brought in our wheel and were entertained by josie the dog while chris examined the wheel. his wood working shop was filled with antique wood – tables, chairs, spinning wheels, bowls, hutches.

after only 5 minutes of looking at the wheel he told us it was 150 years old, made in canada. it doesn’t need that much work – just a new bobbin and an adjustment to the “mother-of-all” and the pedal. spinning wheels are his specialty and his shop is full of different ones.

i’m so excited to pick it up in a few weeks and start practicing on some roving i’ve been saving up for when the wheel is fixed.

we hope to have the sheep shorn in the next few weeks and i’m getting the wool fleeces professionally cleaned (because…ewww!). i’ll card and rove them and then put the old spinning wheel to the test.

stay tuned for some more daisy-and-violet handspun skein.


leap years and birthdays

   Posted by: liz

it’s been a whirlwind of events over the past few weeks…

Leap Day!  It was a bad, bad day. A boy waking feverish in the night, and then our laundry room ceiling leaked poured rain water all morning due to heavy rain and a very old roof. Kenny had just walked into his office when I called him, begging him to come home and fix the leak (really, the word “leak” is such an understatment!). He did. He took the morning off, stopped at Lowes to get some roofing supplies, and drove all the way home to fix the roof. In the pouring rain. I married a saint.

My Birthday! I turned 39 on march 7th. I’m very opposed to hiding your age. What does that tell people?  Why are women not supposed to reveal their age? Why can’t we stand proud and tall at the experience under our belts?  I turned 39, was spoile rotten by my four guys, and now I’m counting down the days until my 40th birthday next year!  I can’t wait!

Kenny surprised me with theatre tickets. He arranged for a babysitter last Tuesday, and off we went down town Pittsburgh for dinner and a show. Dinner was at Olive or Twist and the show was around the corner at the Pittsburgh Public Theater (The O’Reilly Theater) where we saw Freud’s Last Session.  It’s a two-man show, a hypothetical meeting of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. We both thought it was really well done, and gave both men equal footing in the argument.

My favorite C. S. Lewis line, at the end: “My idea of God changes over and over again. He changes it.”

It’s been a long, long time since we’ve been to a show. We’ve seen a few musicals here and there, but a straight show, in an intimate theater like the O’Reilly is something we haven’t done in years. It was so good to be back.

The theater bug has bitten.



officially a non-preschooler family

   Posted by: liz

Since the minute I found out we were pregnant with Rowan over 9 years ago, our world has been full of finding space and time for…newborns, toddlers, onesies, homemade babyfood, tactile learning, pincer grasps, crawling, vaccinations, Baby Einstein, Word World, and Veggie Tales.

We are now officially past all of that. Well past all of that. When I (slightly jokingly) suggested earlier in the week that we snuggle up and watch an Elmo video together, all three of the boys scoffed and yelled how “babyish” Elmo is. Then I suggested (again, jokingly) that we curl up with some Baby Einstein videos and they all looked at me with a blank stare.  How could they possibly have forgotten the hours of brilliance we watched together with classical music and moving toys on the screen? Weren’t they ever-so-slowly becoming baby geniuses? (By the way, you can now watch full episodes of Baby Einstein videos at youtube)!

Of course there are days where I have a hard time with all this time passing quickly. But honestly, I love each and every stage so much, and the life of parenting boys just gets more and more exciting as they get older. Sure, I look at old photos of diaper-bulging onesies and toothless grins, mashed peas all over a smilng baby-face and videos of the sweetest little baby voices. but now I get to have honest-to-goodness conversations with those smiling boys. I love being with them every day as they grow up!!

My last pre-schooler, five-year-old Adam’s only goal in life is to catch up with his brothers in all things academically. He’s very committed to his reading and math because he like being able to sit with a book like his big brothers have been doing recently. He is about to finish the 9th book in the Fly Guy series:

He’s begging for “more math!” each day as his math lessons aren’t long enough. He whizzes through the worksheets, so we’re playing more of the math games that come with our curriculum, and i’m finding some adding practice for him that he does if he feels his math lesson wasn’t long enough. After his lesson on place value, he practiced addition with an angry-bird “color-the-sum” activity.

Today, for Presidents Day, we all did an “Abraham Lincoln fact-craft” and we read one of our favorite books, George Washington’s Breakfast. This is Adam posing with his Ab craft:

It’s a little blurry, but these are the facts that we listed inside the Abraham Lincoln top hats. he read the dates as “one thousand eight hundred and sixty one” instead of “eighteen sixty one.”  i couldn’t bring myself to correct him as it was only a reinforcement of his place value lesson earlier this month. later on i’ll help him read the date correctly:

When Rowan and Sawyer were finishing up their Lincoln facts and I was telling them that Lincoln was the First Republican President, I asked them if they remembered what the other majority party was in our political system. Sawyer said, “Hermetrats!” I don’t know where he came up with that answer, but there you have it, the country according to Sawyer: Republicans and Hermetrats.

(For the record, he does not know what political party to which we belong, nor do the boys know our political leanings. At this age, they need only to know the facts, not their parents beliefs. They love President Obama, and we wouldn’t have it any other way at this age.)


knitting for the boys

   Posted by: liz

with all the knitting i’ve been doing for kenny and myself, it would seem i’ve left out the three boys!

i have not forgotton our offspring in my latest “making” adventures, i promise you. in fact, here they are sporting their brand new, made-with-love from mama sweaters!

sawyer’s covering all his bases, “it’s cool,” and “peace out!”

adam DOUBLE LOVES his sweater!

rowan THINKS he likes his sweater.

they have yet to wear them out anywhere. in fact, for some reason, they all put them in the garage the minute after i snapped these photos. good thing i’m so in tune with my boys to know exactly what they love to wear! i will never be that aunt who crochets big bold sweaters that never see the light of day….


*lest you think i’m serious, these were made by me, but not knitted. we were invited to an ugly sweater party back in december, and i cut up an old afghan and sewed some granny squares onto the ugliest sweaters we could find. the boys decided nto to wear them to the party at the last minute, so they’re up for grabs if anyone likes them! ;)




nostalgia triggers

   Posted by: liz

sunday: waking up this morning, i knew i’d have to start on dinner right away if we wanted to eat something more than cereal (and we’re out of cereal any way) or sandwiches (what we had for lunch) or even breakfast-for-dinner (finished the eggs last night). so on kenny’s suggestion that we haven’t had red meat in a while, i pulled a top round steak from the freezer and began to thaw it on low in the crock pot. by the time the boys and i left to meet kenny at church, it was thawed enough for me to add some broth and then figure out what to do with it once we returned home after a long day of being out.

we returned home today at suppertime, yet it was my Nana and Pop Pop’s home we returned to in my mind as the aroma of roast beef with gravy filled the house, and dinners around their dining room table in philadelphia poured through my memories: the textured wallpaper in their dining room, the “old fashioned” football or basketball games they’d pull out for us to play with, the soft-padded basement floor with speckles, the tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies wrapped in wax paper and kept on the top of the refrigerator. it felt as though we were important guests as the dining room table was always set so elegantly, the bathroom filled with frilly rose soaps and hand towels to match.

after supper, Pop Pop would pull his bible out and read from a devotional (Daily Bread, maybe?) and then read through his KJV and closed us in prayer.  i would help clean up by being the dryer of the dishes. Nana would wash them, and i was never allowed to wash – only dry. as a grown up, a kitchen-owner myself, i totally understand why i was never allowed to be the washer. but still, i asked if i could wash every time.

nostalgia triggers are all around us, every day. pay attention!



wrist warmers/fingerless gloves

   Posted by: liz

kenny has been playing the piano a lot lately, much to the enjoyment of his family!

he’s been playing every single week in church while the other pianists take a break for various reasons;  he’s been playing the piano in our home in the evenings — The Messiah during christmas, and some very complicated too-many-notes* classical pieces from his vast collection of sheet music; and just recently, he’s taken on playing the piano score for a local theatre’s spring musical in which Rowan and Sawyer are participating.

when he’s done playing, he’s always needing to warm his hands by the fire. and it’s not like he can play the piano with gloves on. so i whipped up a quick pair of fingerless gloves using a dark chalky-colored wool that i’m sure is sock yarn that my mom gave me.

i’m not sure how warm they’ll keep his fingertips, which i think get the coldest, but perhaps the warmth of the wrists and lower hands will keep the fingers from getting too cold. or something.

they were very fun to knit, and it was good to have a project i could keep in my purse and easily take with me to meetings and rehearsals this week. i made up the pattern, using size 5 bamboo needles:

cast on 40 stitches
knit the first 8 rows
knit in stockinette stitch for 6 rows
knit another 6 rows
then knit in stockinette until the piece measures roughly 8 inches (dependent on the wrists their being made for!)
knit the next 5 rows, and cast off.
putting right sides together, fold piece in half length-wise and stitch up the side, making sure to leave an opening for the thumb.


* that was a reference to a scene in Amadeus, my second favorite movie of all time, the first being Chariots of Fire. yes, even my movie taste is stuck in the 80s.

join others over at Stuff and Nonsense’s Fridays Unfolded ~

Stuff and Nonsense


a day in the life…II

   Posted by: liz

wednesday, february 2012
5:40 finds me awake. the wind howled all night long, and there is new snow on the ground. i do not want to get out from under my very warm blankets. kenny beats me to it and gets ready for work. i join him downstairs once i get the courage to get out from under the warmth.

6:15 ~ kenny is off to work and my morning looks pretty identical to yesterday’s morning. today, though, i have to prepare dinner, so i pull a few round steaks out of the freezer to defrost.

8:00 ~ the boys begin to stir upstairs, so i start some oatmeal for Rowan and Sawyer. Adam is not a fan.

8:05 ~ Sawyer comes down and sits with his book in front of the fireplace. He’s reading Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy books. i think he likes the idea of reading and finishing short chapter books more than he’s really enjoying the books themselves. Rowan emerges from sleep and joins Sawyer with his new Franny K. Stein book. he actually is loving reading and enjoying these stories. he’s finishing a book a day so i think he’s ready for the next level up in books.

8:15 ~oatmeal is ready. adam comes down and requests cold cereal. they all eat, and go back to their books. i don’t press them to get dressed and make their beds as usual this morning. i savor seeing them with their noses in books. again, i remind myself that there are more important things than keeping to a schedule!

9:00 ~ i gather the boys to the kitchen. today we are starting off our lessons with a science experiment. on monday, we took materials for a fun science experiment over to our friends’ house and had so much fun with that that we wanted to try another simple experiment this week. Today, we are making homemade bouncy balls. the first time, it didn’t work. the materials didn’t come together into a ball, and it made a sticky mess all over our hands and bowls. we took about 15 minutes to clean all the spoons, bowls and hands. sawyer told me it was okay that it didn’t work out. he also asked me if i was embarrassed that the science experiment didn’t work (he’s such a tender-heart!). we gathered the materials again and i tried it again. this time, i skipped the food coloring step and it came together fine!    adam and sawyer decided to try again as well (rowan went back to the fireplace with his book) and it worked for them as well.  this was a great way to learn that sometimes experiments just don’t work out the way we think they will. this segued into a review of our science definition of the week: “what is a chemical?”

10:00 ~ i finally tell them to get dressed and make their beds. they have a snack first because they’re STARVING (does anyone else have constantly STARVING kids?)

10:15 ~ art project: a study in symmetry. i print out three symmetrical designs to be colored. rowan wants to read more, so i color his design myself. as we discuss what symmetrical shapes and designs are, sawyer observes that “only the outside of a house can be symmetrical, not the inside. otherwise, you’d have to have two kitchens and stuff.”

11:00 ~they all decide to play. i think they decided on laser tag. i fix myself a cup of decaf coffee and look through the circulars. tomorrow is shopping day (first day of grocery store sales!) and i want to go completely prepared. i also realize that i should probably get started on cleaning the bathrooms. i’m trying to get on a regular cleaning schedule of them. i’m distracted by the requests of yet another snack from three STARVING boys. it’s 11:30, so i start on getting lunch together.

12:00 ~ lunch!

12:15 ~ during lunch, sawyer complains of sore knuckles. he’s always had chubby hands, but they’re red and i think the redness makes them look a bit more swollen. he goes back to eating while i self-diagnos him with kawasaki’s disease. i call kenny to let him know and he talks me down from that diagnosis and tells me there is no need to call 911. he’ll take a look at it tonight. i am relieved, of course, but make a mental note to check sawyer’s knuckles and hands every day until he turns 10, at least.

12:30 ~math!  my favorite time of day!! </snark>  rowan’s lesson today is a review sheet. he hates them because they require doing problems on a page. he would much rather figure out problems in his head. i only make him do half the sheet, while sawyer and i set up our math cards for his lesson.  rowan is done before we are, so i let rowan and sawyer finish the game. adam and i start on his lesson. we breeze through 5 whole lessons – i didn’t realize how much math he actually knows, so i’m bumping him up to the end review sheets for this level, and tomorrow, we’ll start the second level of math curriculum for him.

1:30 ~ i’m so glad math is done for today. co-op review while the boys have an afternoon snack…

1:45 ~harry potter time. i was going to skip it today, but they loved it so much yesterday that they begged me to read more today. how could i possibly say no?

2:30 ~finally!  some time to work on my knitting project, read some of my book…just in time for adam to come ask me:

2:45 ~”mommy can i paint?” time to get the paints and brushes and paper out, clear off the kitchen table, and get some water and paper towels ready.

3:30 ~ mom and dad come over for a quick visit. mom comes with goodies – peanut butter filled pretzels and cookies from trader joes. i start on dinner: braised round steak with brown rice. it’s not the best dinner, but the juice is amazing – just like french onion soup!  kenny arrives home at 5:00.

5:45 ~ after dinner, i suggest we all go to the mall but kenny suggests i go alone – he’s so brilliant.  i need new jeans so badly as my favorite pair have three new holes in them.

6:00 ~ i spend some time roaming the aisles and hallways of our little country mall. i find some sales, and try to gather friends to meet me for dessert. i know it’s hard on short notice…so i head home at 8:00 p.m. to a house full of laughing boys. yes, they are still so full of energy at the hour of 8:00 (and 9:00…) every night.

8:30 ~ boys tucked in…kenny and i decide to find the first episode of the new season Downton Abbey online. a great end to another great day.







celebrating 10 years as a family…

   Posted by: liz

last october, the boys got to spend a whole weekend with my parents (oh my goodness, the anticipation of that weekend was almost too much for them!) while kenny whisked me away on a romantic getaway to the middle of the state. my parents were troopers keeping the boys on a cold, rainy/windy weekend with one of them being sick, and one needing to go to a soccer game.  the boys keep talking about the fun they had, and we received periodic photos (via texts) of the boys throughout our weekend.

when we returned home, we celebrated our family birthday by taking the boys to Ballocity at Fun Fore All, and then out to Ichiban Hibachi Steakhouse for dinner. fortunately, it has now surpassed Chuck E. Cheese in the favorite restaurant department. unfortunately, we probably won’t return until rowan celebrates his own 10th birthday (as the price warrants only big celebrations for us!).

highlights of our 10-year-celebration week:
~kenny and i were able to check out the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. The 2 mile long lane from Route 30 to the Memorial is sobering. a quiet, country ride demands silence and reverence, and the spot of the actual wreckage is subtly marked by american flags. the juxtaposition of our celebratory 10th, and remembering that scary day 6 weeks before our wedding was very obvious to the both of us.
~the best fillet mignon i have ever had in my entire life. coffee, cocoa and dark cherries over a medium-well filet: amazing.
~kenny totally surprised me with a gift: an edwardian dinner ring, to match the antique era of our wedding bands and engagement ring. i still gaze at it in amazement.  when i was in the post office the other day, the post man behind the counter complimented it and i told him it was a 10th anniversary gift from my husband. he replied: “i told my wife on our 10th anniversary that she hadn’t earned another ring yet.”  i don’t know what he meant by that, but i am thankful that my husband doesn’t see my role as his wife and mother to his children as a means to a gift that i earn.

~celebrating these 10 years of family with our boys: kenny and i both agree that all three of them are the biggest highlights of this past decade.




   Posted by: liz


even homeschoolers find themselves stuck in boring teaching and learning ruts.  i’m now pretty good at seeing one coming, and for us, it’s always about MATH!

as i’ve said before, i’ve never been a math person. give me a Shakespeare comedy or Sophocles tragedy to disect, and i’m a happy girl…but once you start in on math worksheets and science concepts, i’m completely uninterested.

adam’s answer to “what would you rather do today?” always involves baking.  he’s very good at it -a cracks his own eggs, scrapes the sides of the bowl instinctively, and of course, licks the spoon all by himself.

rowan and sawyer would rather play legos or nerf gun spy war all day, so i have to be a bit more creative in the “alternative learning” department for them.

in my search for “how to teach math without teaching math” the other day, i found Math Curse by Jon Scieszka. so we got it from the library and yesterday’s math class was reading through the book. it’s a series of fun little math questions or problems with funny questions that aren’t math-related thrown in for good measure. i never told the boys to answer any of the math questions, they just started doing it. they would run to the chalk board and create tally up sums, and then figure out multiplication problems (thank goodness we memorized skip counting last semester – they use those little songs ALL the time!).

later that afternoon, we drove down to a neighborhood in pittsburgh to join several other 7- and 8-year old boys for a math club, run by an older homeschooled boy (sawyer said, “he was a teenager, not a teacher!”).  the purpose of this math club is to see how math is used in everyday life, or outside of a classroom setting. he introduced cryptography to the boys and within minutes, they were creating secret messages, cracking each other’s codes and using math in a way that they enjoyed.

we also took an hour to put together a 150-piece puzzle of the united states. since we are memorizing states and capitals and their location on the map as well as land forms and famous american sites this year in our geography memory work, this was a fun enrichment activity. we sang our geography songs, read the funny story that went along with the puzzle (“the scrambled states of america”) and called it a day.

today we’re back with regular old spelling and writing and math and memory work review. but now i’m on the lookout for 5-day-a-week alterna-schooling techniques to keep these boys excited about learning.

afterall, teaching them how to be excited to learn is a big part of our job as teachers, right?