Friday, December 21, 2012

Written Love

This week was my last week of piano lessons (I teach) until the new year. Many of my students bring me little Christmas presents and all of them make me grateful and excited, like presents should. Yesterday one student brought me this, which she had made for me:

"Dear Mrs. Chupp,

I hope you have a great Christmas! You are the greatest teacher in the world! I made up this poem Roses are Red Violets are Blue Stares Shine and so do you.

from Claire to Mrs. Chupp"

I mean, have you ever?

I will put this in a keepsake album in which I keep nice old letters from friends, extra nice thank you notes, the "Warm Fuzzy" pages from the old a cappella choir retreats. Today I anticipated being an old woman looking through my Love and Kindness Book and I was surprised to find that it made me sad. It seemed like it might feel like looking at something that was gone forever.

What do you do with all the Written Love in your life?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Experiment

A dead branch from a nearby woods...and in place of Charlie Brown's single red ornament - one red bow. I like it for a change in the holiday foyer. And, that's right, the presents are all purchased, wrapped and under the tree. For each person you will find Something You Want, Something You Need, Something to Wear and Something to Read.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hanging of the Greens

Two weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Advent, I envisioned/wrote/led the service at church. (As I soak in that last sentence, I realize how full-of-myself it sounds. It just happened to be one of those jobs that I think is kind of great for the church and church-goers. I had an idea that I thought was good, got the approval of the leaders of the church.... and killed myself making it happen. It was a nice change of pace from so much church work - like agreeing to do a job that someone suggests to you, only because it needs to be done and the workers seem to be few.) My thought was for a Hanging of the Greens service, in which the sanctuary was decorated for the season before our eyes, over the course of our morning worship time. Each element was introduced and, when needed, explained, as in the case of the evergreen swags and garland, which represent eternity and life...
...and wreaths, which combine the vibrancy of the eternally green branches with the shape of a circle, which represents God's eternal nature.
Also new to some people was the origins of the poinsettia, which is sometimes called the flores de nochebuena, or the Flowers of the Holy Night. The many points of the poinsettia petals remind us of the star of Bethlehem.
We lit the Christmas tree...
We rang bells...
The children placed the nativity...
We lit candles... A
A few parts of the service did not go as planned. More things did. I was too exhausted and grumpy to see things clearly even as some of the people of the church wandered over to my corpse to tell me thank you for my work. I went home and said, "Never again." Two weeks later, I'm instead thinking how can I do it better next time, and with less stress? I come back to the notion that church work SHOULD be labors of love and inspiration. The question is: How do you keep the love and inspiration in the labor? Do you have the answer? 'Cause I don't.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My girl has a penchant for saying on, say, October 29th, "I'd like to be a woodland nymph/Hermione from Harry Potter/a mime." Fortunately, the mime costume came together quickly with a black and white striped dress, a black beret and white face paint which I was lucky to find in the store easily... I'm learning that Ava is finding out she has a hambone voice itching to be heard. Or acted out, in this case. She offered to do a strongman mime for the folks in the neighborhood who asked for an act.
Gosh, it's hard to sit for long at the computer! But I'm back y'all.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Where I've Been

No excuses, but there is life to be lived. I would like to believe that this season of life is the most strenuous I'll ever experience. Everyone is old enough to be in a few different activities, but no one is yet old enough to drive themselves.
But, come January, the free ride is over for this one. Sixteen! My heart!
In the meantime, life beckons us to get in the car! Sign up for things! Have exerperiences! There have been many things I've felt I had to do. I've had to encourage my baby in her first "Try"-athlon. She is so strong! She is learning to do hard things!
We had to go play at the county fair.
We have had to support Brooks through his first marching band season. State competition tomorrow!
We did some home improvements, including a new color in the dining room. Painting around all the trim work really got to my nerves and I found myself trimming around one small section and then walking away from the project for a few hours. Or a few days.
Eventually, I let my girls go at it, figuring that the ratio of blue wall to white wall was at least moving in my favor.
Never fear, however, for those of you who, like me, worry that this kind of busyness often leads to drive-thrus, frozen foods and sandwiches on the run. I was able to keep that kind of meal at a minimum and instead turned to the grill and to my garden pantry for a kind of convenience food I can live with. A new favorite is White Chicken Chili and I love making fresh crunchy tortilla strips to garnish the top.
With Sophia going gluten-free, it's hard to trust even packaged corn chips that seem to have no suspect ingredients. One never knows whether the oil used to fry them have been used to fry another product that was gluten-y.
I use a pizza cutter to cut corn tortillas into strips, toss with olive oil and salt and toast in a 300 degree oven for five or ten minutes - until crisp and golden.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Where My Heart Is (Before Where I've Been)

I've been compiling photos and thoughts for what I thought would be my first post in awhile. (The "Where I've Been" post.) But then a weary and tender-hearted friend posted on Facebook a link to this blog and a certain post so spoke to me that I wanted to share it. Now. Feel free to read the whole post, but I feel eager to have her sound thoughts read, so I'll type out the last half of her post here. It is her response to the Chick-Fil-A debacle and the following firestorm only now dying down. (Please God.)

Jen Hatmaker is the blogger and she expresses better than I ever have what My Theology looks like. Or what I want for it to look like. Actually BEING like Jesus is hard for all of us, isn't it? She opens with background of her childhood in Kansas, where the tornados raged overhead while the family retreated to their basement refuge. You'll see that theme show up in the following:

"...lest you unfairly brand me as a mouthpiece for the right, I hate the culture wars on both sides of the party line. Christians, do you really think posting pithy statements on Facebook about 'standing firm in our values' and 'resisting the liberal media' is helping? The lines we draw in the sand do absolutely nothing except assure everyone else: YOU'RE OUT. When we turn to politics and power to legislate our brand of morality, we take the opposite approach of Jesus whose power was activated in the margins with the oucasts...humbly...peripherally.

I'm sick of the Jesus forwards and judgment. Sick of majoring in gay marriage. Enough, everyone. With every hate Tweet and finger jab and Bible bludgeon, you are telling my gay friends they are indeed unwelcome, unloved, unvalued and uninvited. If your agenda is to battle homosexuality, how's that going? How many gay folks read your Prop 8 yard sign, knocked on your door, and said, 'Thank you for voicing your opinion to the neighbors in this manner. Would you kindly invite me in and teach me how to be straight? And do you have a Bible study I can join?'

When we resort to the same tactics being leveled at Truett Cathy, we sink to the least common denominator and - this is important - we make everything worse. How are these culture wars working out for us? Well, the church is losing around 50K folks a week, and the next generation downright refuses to come. The gay community is ostracized entirely (oh, they've gotten the message alright), and Christianity has turned into white noise.

Digging our heels in even harder is the problem, not the answer.

Love is, if you believe anything Jesus ever said or did.

Everyone is screaming and swearing at each other, pointing fingers and posting cliches on Pinterest. The storm is out of control. What happened to civil discourse? What happened to basic human respect? What happened to good men and women pulling up a seat at the table together and navigating differences with dignity and regard? What happened to listening? What happened to humility?

I'm done. I'm going to the basement, and I invite you to join me. Here is what we hate down in the basement:

We hate injustice.

We hate our own sin and pride and arrogance, and we grieve at how it has wounded, sliced, slashed, and humiliated.

We hate that 25,000 people will die today of hunger and we're arguing gay marriage again.

We hate how the Gospel has been turned into a bludgeoning tool.

We hate pointless arguments that widen the gap and devalue real human people.

We hate abuse and violence and crowded orphanages and trafficked sixth-graders.

And it's not all hate, lest you imagine the Basement Dwellers are a sorry lot indeed. We love some things down in the basement, too:

We love people. Because Jesus does. All of them.

We love grace, because it rescued all of us sinners.

We love healing and redemption, and we get to be a part of that every day, if we are brave enough to say yes.

We love that Jesus uses broken people, because that is our zip code and He chooses us anyway. Mercy is our only sane option.

We love the Body of Christ, when she isn't being a bully or a tyrant or trying to take over the Oval Office and the Red Carpet. I swear, she can be beautiful.

We love Jesus, who was always in hot water with the religious folks for eating with sinners and offering scandalous grace not just to the leper but to the tax collector.

We love love, and we believe in its power.

If you are weary of the storm, come on downstairs. We're going to get on with the business of loving people and battling real injustices and caring for the poor and loving Jesus. We're going to go ahead and offer mercy to one another, even if it is viewed as 'soft' or 'cowardly' or 'dangerous.' (But once I conquer all my own demons definitively, I'll be happy to turn a critical eye on everyone else's. Good?) We're going to trust that Jesus is actually at work in this world like He said, and when He promised that 'His kindness leads us to repentance,' we're just going to believe Him.

Sure, the storm will rage on up there. But you can find refuge just down the stairs. We have a whole thing going on underground. Gay friends and family, you are welcome down here. Marginalized women, come on down. Isolated and confused by organized religion, afraid your questions aren't welcomed? Join us. Activists and bleeding hearts, you are our heartbeat. Plain, old, ordinary sinners saved by grace, you belong here. Misfits, ragamuffins, and rebels, bring the party. Reformed legalists, you are my people. Pastors contending for God's glory an dpeople, help lead us. Dissenters, dreamers, visionaries, we need you.

Come on down to the basement. "

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stolen From a Friend

I thought this seltzer bottle idea of Margo's (or was it Mr. Margo?) was so brilliant and tidy, I just wanted to share it with whomever might stumble across me. Going to the recycling box now....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Peppered Marigolds...and Other Buffet Line Offerings

In my house live a man and a woman, a boy and two girls. Elsewhere on my property live three bunnies, a cardinal family (and other less colorful birds), the occasional black squirrel passing through and countlesss chipmunks.
They are entertaining to watch and do not hesitate to make their homes rights up close to the house. I remember the first time I heard loud and persistent chirping on the stoop at the door right behind my seat at the computer. I peered out the window to find the bird in distress, but it was no bird. It was a chipmunk, leaning against the brick, smoking a cigarette and calling to all the other chipmunk street toughs, letting them know the time was ripe to trot over and destroy my flowers.
These ruffians don't actually bother the blooms, but they love to dig through the soil and throw it out over the shoulders as they burrow. Years ago, I had some bunnies sampling my marigolds. The plants were large and impressive. I kept noticing that there were always buds swelling and promising to burst forth, but there were never any blooms. On closer inspection, I saw that there were several places where a stem would rise, presumably to present a bloom, but something had snipped it off. I blamed the bunnies that I had seen sprinting from beneath the marigolds numerous times. (I don't know if they just waited for the blooms to get nice and swollen before they took them off, or if they managed to get to a freshly sprung blossom before any of us got to see it.) Without inflicting real harm on the sweet-looking creatures, I wanted to protect my flowers. I visited my gardening store and found this product:
After sprinkling hot pepper sauce all over their buffet line, the marigolds filled out with yellow blooms within a week. And this year, I sprayed it on the container garden that was being bothered, and it is now lush and full. Or at least, it HAS been lush and full. Currently it is in another kind of distress, in this extreme heat and drought. Sad little things...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


"Why, oh why did I have two lattes after 8PM?" she asked, in the most alert way ever.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'Til We Meet Again

I want to tell you a story. I can't decide if the message of the story is about the power of social networks, or how we are all alike and human and willing to come together for each other, or what. But all I know is this is the saddest story I've observed in a long time and it will possibly wreck your day. Or inspire you. And I won't put my own message into it. I will let it stand on its own because it feels sacred. The players of this story are the members of a family who I know only peripherally. Five years ago, Ava was in preschool with their oldest son. Two more sons came after him, the youngest not yet out of diapers. Father is a teacher at an elementary school in town. I once served with him on a committee for the school system for a year. Mother is a pastor at a tightly-knit church. The rest of the story takes place, for me, on Facebook. About six months ago, a photographer I follow posted a picture of this family with a caption which mentioned that Mother had recently been diagnosed with cancer. The family was finding it important to preserve memories together. All members of the family looked sturdy and smiling. Over the last few months, I've been seeing posts from our mutual friends declaring that they are lighting a candle for Mother, or that Mother was the very personification of grace. I grew concerned for her and her battle and sought out Father's page. He had recently posted a photograph of some chalk scribbles on his sidewalk with this post: "From time to time, people will ask me how the boys are handling ....'s diagnosis. In case you aren't used to kindergarten writing, (he) wrote, 'I will kill you, cancer.'" My heart. I continued to observe MY friends and neighbors mention THEIR sick friend and neighbor and the admirable way she has faced her battle. The photographer recently posted another family photo, this one very different. Mother is thin and gaunt, her hair shorn close. Her arms drape tiredly across the shoulders of her two oldest, who clutch at her lovingly and grin at the camera. Father holds the baby. More Beautiful photos of her alone with each of her boys. My breaking heart. I checked out his page again. The latest: "I've been working on our Christmas newsletter. Christmas '11, that is. Only somehow it's turned into a ....'s on Hospice announcement. Somebody wake me from this nightmare." On Saturday, one friend posted to another asking for a tangible way to help this family. It was suggested that they check out a Facebook page with sign-up opportunities to provide meals. Also, the next day was Mother's birthday. They were placing a basket on their front porch to collect birthday cards that people might drop off. She would not be up to visiting. That night, another friend posted that she'd just gotten back from singing to Mother. Again, off to his page. Father had posted a video. He looks out the open window of their second floor bedroom. A huge crowd is gathered, and they are gazing up at their friends singing "God Be With You Til We Meet Again" in perfect, four-part, Mennonite harmony. The next morning, I check in again, fully invested. She had died in the night, on her 38th birthday. "God be with you til we meet again; By His counsels guide, uphold you, With His sheep securely fold you. God be with you til we meet again. Til we meet, til we meet... Til we meet at Jesus' feet. Til we meet, til we meet... God be with you til we meet again."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Freezing the Winter Carrots

Last year during our gardening, Dad said that carrots would be sweeter if left in the ground over the winter. We tried it and did notice an extra mild flavor in the harvest of winter carrots we dug this spring. Sophia's 4-H project for Preserved Foods this year is a frozen vegetable, so looked up the correct method and got some into a freezer bag. First, Sophia sliced them into medallions with an identical slicer that my mom used back in the 60's and 70's. It's simple but it works flawlessly. I'm glad I have one. Next, we blanched the vegetables to reduce the enzymes which cause the products to go bad quickly. This means Sophia tossed a quantity in a pot of boiling water for a length of time. Because the pieces were fairly small, she kept hers in the water for 3 minutes. She pulled the carrots pieces from the boiling water, drained them on paper towel and put one layer of them on a cookie sheet to freeze quickly - a process called Flash Freezing. Doing so means that the carrots will freeze quickly and in individual pieces, rather freezing moistly together in a large, unwieldy carrot icicle. Once the medallions were frozen through and through, Sophia pried them loose from the cookie sheet and slid them into freezer bags, which she then labeled and stored away, first for Judgement Day and then for stews and stir-fry.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Garden Tea

Since we had nearly two weeks of unseasonably HOT weather back in March, I have had a beautiful stand of mint for several weeks now. Long enough to have everyone in the house accustomed to having iced garden tea in the refrigerator at all times. You know, I grew up just calling this mint tea, but no one else seems to call it that around here. I say mint tea and they think I'm talking about a hot beverage. Most others I know who make it call it Garden Tea. I don't know why.
I start by picking tender, fresh leaves of my crop. It's easy now, but later in the summer, the lower leaves seem to get chewed on by some unseen insect, so I stick to the freshest top leaves of each stalk. I wash them and put them in a pot with a quart or so of water and let it simmer. Oh, I also throw in one teabag of decaffienated tea, just so the finished product has some color and doesn't look like I'm serving my guests urine.
When my tea looks as stout as I like for the concentrate, I remove it from heat and let it cool to room temperature, during which it seems to deepen in color and flavor, which is good. I pour it into my pitcher, which is a two-quart contatiner. I fill it the rest of the way with water and add some sugar to taste. I sweeten the whole pitcher, since that is the way my family likes it, but I don't find that it takes much sweetening, what with the coolness and refreshment that the mint already offers. About 1/4-1/3 of a cup is all that it needs. Chill.
Serve over ice. Garnish with more of that fresh mint. Don't worry. You'll have enough. It spreads like weeds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Week in the Life

(Say, I adjusted how the photos are printed on the blog and I hate the result. It's not recognizing me hitting the enter bar for an extra space between paragraphs. I'll fix it in later posts. Too busy now) Excuse my absence. The spring is a busy time for us. This week I'm trying to get ready for a garage sale, so I'm organizing. Purging. Decluttering. But that is this week. As for last week..... Here is a glimpse:
Sophia had a softball game. She's been working on her pitching and her coach (also her Daddy) put her in for an inning. She did well and I was happy for her.
Brooks had an orchestra concert. He's plays the French Horn in the Symphonic Orchestra. The string intruments meet during the school day and they have a full rehearsal with the wind instruments and percussion on Monday evenings. The final concert means he's done with the evening rehearsals now.
Brooks had a golf match. Golf is a new sport in this household. It is a whole new culture....
Mahalia had a check-up.... clean bill of health. She really is like a new dog since her surgery. Chasing her tail and running laps around the house now....
Ava turned nine and we had the family over for a birthday brunch. (She blew candles out from atop her Birthday panCAKE.)
I planted a few flowers.
Ava had a softball game. I was previewing the above and wondering if maybe it sounded unintentionally pleased or prideful. That's not really what I intend, though weeks like this and the surrounding couple on the calendar are part of what makes me feel like motherhood makes me tough and resilient. And we are enjoying the activities, though we are worn out without much downtime between. And rather than feel pleased with "keeping the kids busy" - on the contrary, I feel a bit embarrassed that I might look like the kind of mother who runs her kids at a dizzying pace trying to turn them into WINNERS! In truth, I let my kids choose a few activities throughout the year, and it so happens that several of them overlap in the spring. And the spring is already busy with end of school year activities, yard work, Mother's Day and birthdays. Remember me reporting how pleased I was when Brooks infiltrated every part of the music department at the high school? Still color me pleased, but now with a hint of lethargy as the band, choir and orchestra each have their own spring concert in the week and a half before finals. And high school brings a new breed of spring concert, since awards need to be given and seniors need to be honored. They go on and on and on. Seven days of school left. May the force be with us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And This One....

...has been a part of our family for over ten years. Longer than Ava. This is Mahalia Jackson, our Shih Tzu. We're not over-the-top pet owners. Well, I mean no offense to anyone who considers their pets their Furry Babies, I just mean we've always known that our pets enhance our family, but are not PART of our family, in that PETA kind of way.

That's why we decided, a year and a half ago, that we were not going to intervene when growths started appearing along her mammaries. We were reassured that she was in no pain, but we've been waiting for that shoe to drop ever since - about 18 months.

Over Easter weekend, we saw some alarming symptoms which made us think the time had come. We were sad all Easter day and dreading the trip I'd make with the pup to the vet first thing Monday morning. Before the kids went to school on Monday, I encouraged them to give her extra loving, since I anticipated that it would be goodbye. Brooks petted and sighed heavily. Sophia refused to pet or even look at the dog, until right before she walked out the door, sobbing. Ava was nonstop tears, interspersed with flinging herself down to Mahalia's bed where she could hug her.

I cried for my kids.

Lo and behold the vet told us that her symptoms were unrelated to the presumed Doggie Breast Cancer. It was the result of an infected uterus, which led to alarming blood work and significant blood loss. Somehow we ultimately decided that surgery was a good investment for our family. They removed the infected uterus and did a lumpectomy to do a biopsy.

All is going well. I even got a call from the vet yesterday to say that the results of the biopsy came back and the lumps are benign! It makes us feel better about the investment in her health. We're not waiting for the cancer shoe to drop anymore. She's not a pup anymore, but she likely has many more years of good health ahead of her.

"First you take my uterus, then you take my dignity." - Mahalia the Dog

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This One...

...has migraine headaches. Has had since she was two years old. When they started and she was tiny, they often came in the early morning hours. She would wake up crying and would spend an hour or so writhing in misery, crying, until she either fell asleep or threw up. Both of these actions served as a bit of a solution. She would finish either job feeling significantly better.

We had the big tests done and had the scary stuff ruled out. But the headaches persisted. Eventually, the severeness of them subsided, but as she entered adolesence, the frequency increased. For the first half of the school year, she needed to take ibuprofin every morning at breakfast.

I was sad and concerned. And I was sad and concerned out loud. People suggested things. Some of the suggestions we heeded. She hasn't had caffiene in a year. We are careful to give her adequate rest. These things help some.

Recently a friend told me that the only thing that solved their family member's migraine problem was getting off gluten. I had to try.

Reader Jenny asked for an update on the gluten-free experiment, so here are my observations to this point.

1. Cooperativeness of subject - much better than expected. It shouldn't have surprised me. Sophie is an adventurous eater so she doesn't mind trying new things. She is a middle child so she thinks it's special that many foods are being chosen specially for her. She doesn't feel well and wants to feel better. This all adds up to a relatively pain-free experiment.

2. Ease in providing the food - not without difficulty, but again, a bit better than I expected. Gluten-free girl MaryBeth told me that lunches are the most inconvenient and that's the case all right. Sophia doesn't mind taking a packed lunch and I don't mind packing it. We find gluten-free bread at our health food co-op and she might take a ham, or a PB, or a Nutella sandwich. Sometimes she will take a ham roll-up, with a bit of cream cheese inside. Other times a salad. Other go-withs: fresh fruits and vegetables, string cheeses or mini goudas, yogurt, these awesome gluten-free rice and nut crackers we found (if there are any left after I get to them). On days when I feel rushed, she might pack her own, but if we both feel rushed, there is always the salad bar at her school.

Here I have to brag on my local co-op a bit. Soon after starting the new diet, I had an opportunity to travel to The Big City, which has both a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods. I was excited to see what I imagined would be abundant and varied offerings in the specialty diet area. Really, I found very little that I hadn't already found at home.

3. Hidden gluten - This is one that worries me a bit. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for on labels. Mostly I avoid breads, pastas, cereals and their ilk unless I find one labeled gluten-free. I also rely on similarly eating (and more experienced) folks around me. Celiac Spouse Stacy made me so happy when she said corn tortillas are ok for taco night. We heart Taco Night.

What worries me is the stuff it never occurred to me to wonder about. MaryBeth tells me that there is gluten-free soy sauce available because most SOY sauce lists wheat as the first ingredient! Huhn. And as we searched for gluten-free cake recipes, we found one that called for baking soda and one that called for gluten-free baking soda. So is it safe or not?

4. Cost - more expensive, for sure. One caveat being that scooping my own measurements of rice flour out of the bulk bins at the co-op is a lot cheaper than buying the pre-packaged stuff at the supermarket.

5. Eating other people's meals - tricky. But so far, not insurmountable. A week into the diet, we were invited to a small group church carry-in where the host provided macaroni and cheese as the main dish. We found a rice pasta version and brought a pot of that for us. We figured she would be able to find some other things to eat there also. Some things were safe for her but of course there was no dessert she could eat and that made her sad. Solution: carry a gluten-free breakfast bar in my purse or hers so that she can have a sweet that is portable and handy.

6. Tastiness of the special foods - so far so good. A couple of things have even tasted better to Sophia than the original versions.

7. Effectiveness in treating Sophia's migraines - still hoping for better. Look, there is no denying that there is improvement. She has taken very little medicine for her pain since we started 2.5 months ago and she really, truly had been taking it every single day before that. But I'm always asking her to score her pain. "What's your head right now on a scale of 0-10?". And she has never, EVER said zero. Perhaps it takes time to completely purge her system?

We'll keep trying. And if there's anything to report, we'll keep posting.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Brooks and I recently returned from New York City, a first trip for the both of us. It was a school trip, with several ensembles in the music department competing in a music festival at the famous Riverside Church. I've been aching to go so I pimped myself out as chaperone. It was a demanding trip (I'd be surprised if anyone got more than 20 hours of sleep over the course of four nights) but I'm sure I'll always remember it favorably.

One reason I wanted to go was to have some interesting culinary experiences. Sadly, several of our meals needed to be at places that could house our whole party of 250, so not all meals were noteworthy. We did manage to stop at the Magnolia Bakery right away after they dumped us at Rockefeller Center for some of their delicious cupcakes - chocolate with buttercream frosting for him and pistachio for me.

We stopped at St. Paul's chapel, where 911 rescue workers once sought rest and comfort. It serves as a memorial today and these origami peace cranes sent by Japanese school children and other groups are among the artifacts still displayed.

We made the usual stops - Liberty and Ellis Islands, Times Square, and here, the top of the Empire State Building.

I feel lucky that my kids have such a great music department to go through in our public school. The directors are tireless workers with high taste in the arts. I was reminded of what a special community we have for music students when our ensembles won every category in which they were entered at the music festival.

The festival provided all the participating schools a cruise around the Hudson with dinner and dancing. It provided the close of the trip (and the close of this blog post) with this beautiful view of the island of Manhattan.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Deluded Little Sprouts

Torn I am between feeling delighted at the strangely summer-like weather we've been having for the last week.... and fretting over it's implications. Mostly it's hard not to be delighted when it means we can enjoy time outdoors as a family before Little League makes us too busy to do so.

I gotta say, it was nice to do some clean up work in the yard before things got hectic. Raking out the flower beds, however, revealed some deluded little sprouts that may be in jeopardy later. Really, I don't need highs in the 80's from here on out, but if we have a freeze after all this warmth, it will have serious ramifications beyond backyard gardening. The apple trees in the orchard down the road are budding and we are all wringing our hands over their recklessness.
Over the weekend Michael, Ava and I rode our bikes into town to the Schwinn store for some new bike swag. It was a long ride for the first one of the season. Mike told me later he was exhausted when we were still a half mile from home. Ava was conking out, too, and with her on small wheels, she really had to pedal almost the whole way, while Michael and I did a fair amount of coasting while we kept pace with her.
On the bike ride we saw crocus and daffodils.... even a magnolia tree or two almost ready to burst. It was hard to feel worried amidst all the beauty. I tell ya, I have never had a St. Patrick's Day like that before.

Kiss me, I'm sunburned.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pincurl Tutorial

I started doing Sophia's hair in pincurls about three years ago, after I fell swinging from a rope swing like Tarzan and ended up with a bunch of broken fingers.

Sophia's hair has a texture that can be time-consuming to make attractive. We have to WORK to make it curly and we have to WORK to make it straight. I have suspected for years that her hair will get properly curly as she goes through puberty and I believe I see it happening before my eyes.

Pincurls were my strategy for organizing her hair during that time because my splinted, clumsy fingers made me slow and ineffective and our mornings were frenzied and chaotic while getting ready for school. With this method, I could take my time winding her hair after she bathed at night and she could simply take the pins out herself in the mornings and be mostly ready to go. Also, the pincurls made her hair look nice for a couple of days between settings.

After she washes her hair, we brush it free of tangles and part it where she likes it.

Sophia's hair is quite fine and of average thickness, so we take a section of perhaps a square inch. It seems like a comfortable amount of hair to pin.

I wrap the piece of hair around my finger to make the curl... I put one index finger close to her scalp and use the other hand to wrap the length of it around that finger. I've seen some online tutorials which "rolls" the hair from the ends to the roots - like one might roll up a length of ribbon. I find it needlessly time consuming, but it does make a differnt kind of curl. I would suggest experimenting a bit to get the kind of curl you like.

Next, I move on to the next square of hair, next to the first and still under the part. I work in rows as best I can. Heads are neither square nor flat, so I don't sweat about adding a bit more to a curl or fudging the rows as I need to.

This night, I surrounded the part with pincurls and worked my way down...

...until the whole head was covered.

This morning she got out the door for the bus before I could get a picture of the fresh ringlets. I'll look for an older picture to show you what the first morning looks like and update later.

This picture was taken after a day of school, a game of raquetball and being brushed out. It's basically what it looks like on Day 2, which I think I prefer.


1. I've got my pinning technique pretty well perfected. Now that I've figured out where to insert the pin and which direction to point it (but which I find I can't articulate in words), I generally only need one pin per curl, but if you don't trust just one, put a second one in so that it criss-crosses with the first, which will lock them both in place. (The pins need to grab both the curl and the hair underneath.)

2. Pinning wet hair and leaving it until it dries makes the tightest curls. Pinning hair that is already dry will make looser waves. (I even read one tutorial in which the woman said she only did pincurls a day after she shampooed because setting "dirty" hair gave her the kind of style she liked.

3. Likewise, pinning small amounts of hair makes tighter curls than thicker strands.