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Summer in Full Swing: Check

11 Jun

Kids off to summer band – check. Kids off to science camp – check. Girls off to Girl Scout camp – soon to be checked. Church camp and Bible camp – nearly checked. Children’s library reading time – checking all summer long. Swimming lessons – not yet checked. Cleaning the house – checking. Worst-ever sinus infection – check. Flowers, tomato plants and herbs bought – check. Planting said flowers, tomatoes and herbs – not yet checked.

Weekend away with the family – check. Longer vacation with the family – yet to be checked. NOT doing a community theater production this summer in order to actually have a summer – check. Removing ticks from the cat – check. Bird watching out my windows – checking each and every day with joy. Doctor appointments, dentist appointments, veterinary appointments – check.

Strawberry shortcake – checked several times. Iced coffee consumed by the gallon – checking daily. Grill used and appreciated – check. No time to write – check. Barely able to blog – check. Taking advantage of every moment possible to cuddle and read to kids – check. Reading a lot myself – check.

Getting verklempt every time my six year old reads to me with her newly-acquired fabulous reading skills – check, check, check.

Summer in full swing: check.

Ian tuba


Lucy meal


School Bus Stories, Part 1

21 May


“Cool,” I thought to myself as I stepped onto the bus one morning, 10ish years old, hair in pigtails, my Charlie Brown lunchbox clutched in my hands. “An empty seat.”

My exact lunchbox.  Well, not MY exact one...but exactly the one I had!  I bought it on Ebay a few years back.

My exact lunchbox. Well, not MY exact one…but exactly the one I had! I bought it on Ebay a few years back.

I sat down, scooted to the window, smiled.

Only then did I realize that there were words all around me. Words jeeringly flung into the air. Words aimed at me.

“EWWW!! You sat in the throw-up seat!”

I didn’t. I did not. Denials rushed through my mind and my own sudden nausea soured my stomach. I looked wildly around at the seat. It looked clean. Much cleaner than usual, actually. This is not a throw-up seat. They’re just being mean. I remained seated, hoping to goodness they’d just leave me alone.

“You’re in the throw-up seat, you’re in the throw-up seat,” voices chanted all around me.

“I am not,” I muttered, redder than the beets Mom served at dinner.

“Are too, Freddy’s little sister threw up there right after we picked her up. And you’re sitting in it.”

So that’s why the bus was late today. Shoot. I AM sitting in the throw-up seat.

“Cleaned it up,” grunted the bus driver, Mr. Faff, a cap-wearing, denture-sporting, laid-back man who doubled as the school janitor during the day. Sometimes he took out his dentures to make us laugh. Mostly he just minded his own business and left us to mind ours.

“He cleaned it up,” I whispered in my defense. “He did. He cleaned it up.”

But he couldn’t clean its reputation.


A Short Post About a Serendipitous Tradition

2 Apr


Okay, you might not believe me when I say this, but truly, we TRY to find each and every plastic Easter Egg each year at our outdoor Easter Egg hunts…but somehow, every year, one or two get lost and then a year or so later we find them, bitten by animals, grubby, abandoned, lying in plain sight beneath a tree or a bush. We love this “tradition” – even if it happens purely by serendipity and never by design.


The first time it happened, 8 years ago when we moved out to our acreage, we weren’t too surprised. We had hidden over 200 eggs that year, and, though we didn’t count them all afterwards, we were pretty sure that there were some unaccounted for.

Searching high and low!

Searching high and low!

“Did you guys search in the way back?”

“No, that was too far.”

The hunt begins.  Seven 5 & 6 year olds having fun.

The hunt begins. Seven 5 & 6 year olds having fun.

We went back to look and found about a dozen. BUT…we still didn’t find them all. In fact, it took us three years to find all of those, we know because that was the only year we hid little erasers in some of the eggs and, sure enough, when the lawn-mower found an egg three years later, it had a butterfly eraser inside it…and the marks of some creature’s teeth all over the egg’s smooth, plastic, ovoid exterior.

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Mostly they’re found in the spring, when the long grasses have died back and the new ones haven’t yet taken their place. It’s as if the snow has rooted out the eggs, shoved them forward like icebergs shoved rocks across the plains, and they wait to be found, little mountains of color in our prairie lawn.


Ironically, it’s not green eggs that we tend to find, but pink or purple or orange – colors, in other words, that you’d expect would be easy to spot beneath a tree. But, as Carl Sandburg so poignantly reminds us, “I am the grass; I cover all“.

A few weeks ago, the kids and my husband took a walk in the back yard, despite the March wind and snow. When they came in, cheeks red and noses running, some twenty minutes later, Boo proudly held up the egg they had found.

And then, with a grin, she opened it.

Lovely. Was it a malted egg? That’s my guess. Though, to be sure, it’s an educated guess more than an obvious match for said candy. The remains of it could fool an archeologist.

The interior.  Not too appetizing one year later.

The interior. Not too appetizing one year later.

I burst out laughing, loving the grubby egg, the continuing tradition.

The lucky finder of the Golden Egg one year ago.

The lucky finder of the Golden Egg one year ago.

Anyone care to hazard a guess on how many eggs we’ll find a year from now? If the seven five and six year-olds who came to hunt eggs at Boo’s party have anything to say about it, it will be zero. I, however, as the realistic mom…I’m guessing two or three.

Or, should I say, that’s what I’m hoping for. After all, it would be a shame to let a good tradition die.

I love dying eggs!

I love dying eggs!

PS – Sure enough, there’s at least one that we couldn’t find this year. Boo says that the leprechaun took it. Could be she’s right. How else can we explain their total disappearance?!

Not eggs...but a egg-like welcome to a party!

Not eggs…but a egg-like welcome to a party!

PPS – ON EASTER DAY Boo found one from last year – nice and grubby and innocently hiding all year long near the well. What a hoot.

A tradition continues.

A tradition continues.



No Man – or Girl – is an Island

26 Mar

I have been struck anew, this past week, over the tenderheartedness of my two daughters. Though, to be sure, their emotions are shown in different ways.

Boo, age 6, was watching The Lion King the other day. She came up to me, scared, but dry-eyed, when Mufasa the king was thrown off the cliff to his death by his own brother, Scar. I held her, and together we weathered the injustice of the jungle out there.

The Lion King

But her indignation at Scar’s behavior was not done. Later, at the end of the movie, as Scar is trying to convince a young Simba that it is his, Simba’s fault, that Mufasa died, Boo suddenly shouted from her place on the couch. “Dummy head! Double Dummy head!”

That, to Boo, is high abuse indeed.

I must say, I loved that what came out of her mouth in that moment of unguarded behavior was something so benign…and yet so full of truth.

She knew, though perhaps could not articulate, that the “jungle out there” is, truly, the jungle we all live in every day.

I couldn’t help but think of our other daughter, now age 11, who behaved much the same way when she was Boo’s age.

She and I were watching A Little Princess, a nicely-done movie based on the book by Francis Hodgson Burnett.

A little princess

She was sick that day, as I recall. She liked the movie, followed it along, understood – for the most part – what was going on. But every so often she would turn to me and ask, “Why is that woman so mean? What did Sara do to deserve that?”

I suppose I said something about injustice in the world. About bad people. About things not always working out the way we wish.

But then came the end – the part where Miss Minchin lies and denies that the amnesiac man is Sara’s father. And our daughter stood up on the couch and cried, “NO! NO! He is her father!” And she cried and cried and cried and could not be consoled.

Her tender heart has not changed over the years. Just now, at age 11, she came upstairs in tears. It’s well after bedtime, but she’s caught up in her book, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, and Beth, the sweet, kind sister, just died.

Little Women

“Why do we care so much about storybook characters?” she asked me through her tears.

Because we love them, my sweet girl. Because books have power to change our lives. Because you have a kind and gentle heart and when you cry over injustice and sorrow and sadness in the books you read, you are really crying over the things in this world you have not yet faced, but you know are real. You know they could happen, and you weep for those they have happened, and will happen, to. You weep for the imperfections of the world. You weep because you are not an island. You are a part of the continent, a piece of the main.*

Never send to know, my darling girl, for whom the bell tolls.

It tolls for thee.

*John Donne, Meditation 17

What’s a Little Ice When You’ve Got Angels on Your Side?

5 Mar

After 19 years of living in the Mid West, I think I’m beginning to belong.

I have joined the ranks of Minnesotans who say, “If we stayed home at the least little bit of nasty weather, we’d never go anywhere for six months.”

I have survived two horrid driving events in the past month and a half, and I am alive to tell about it, with my untainted driving record still in place.

Lest you think I am bragging, let me hasten to assure you that I know – I KNOW – that God has at least one angel on perpetual “Keep Gretchen Safe While She’s Driving” duty – so it’s not to my credit that I’m alive…it’s to His.

I don’t know why He has chosen to protect me in this way. All I can think is that He must still have some plans that involve me and it’s just not my time yet. Which is fine with me.


Both of these wretched driving situations of the past few weeks have involved freezing rain. Both involved me saying, “What am I, nuts?” as I drove along the highway at speeds less than half of the 65-75 suggested miles per hour. And both found my husband out of town and my kids and I braving the elements together.

And both, I must admit, did not take me out of the house for life or death reasons.

Take last night, for example. The kids and I drove out to our pastor’s house for a book discussion with some other couples from church. I like this chance to talk about interesting stuff, and the kids like the opportunity to play with their friends. I’d seen the weather report, yes. I knew that the rain was beginning to fall as we left the house…but I’m an optimist. I figured, “Either the weather report is exaggerating and this won’t come to anything or I’ll drive home in the freezing rain and put those angels to work.”

Okay, I didn’t really think about the angels. I just hoped for the best and ignored the worst.

When we left their house two hours later I was slightly worried. As we slid on our tennis shoes across the road to our car – holding tight to each other’s hands – I was a little more worried. As I started up the car, after breaking the ice on the door handles, I was in full “praying mode”.

This was one of those, “Kids, please turn off the radio and don’t talk,” car rides. What usually takes us 13 minutes took us 35. I saw a few semi trucks pulled off the road and I wondered – not for the first time – how truck drivers do what they do.

The temperature was 26 and the rain was relentless. In the dark and the conditions, I managed to make a wrong turn. I forgot to put on the Four Wheel Drive until I was about three miles from home. The ABS brakes kicked in several times.

But, despite it all, we made it home.

When the garage door finally shut behind us, I realized I was shaking.

“I never stopped praying,” Meep, our oldest daughter said.

“I prayed a little,” our son added.

The six year old was asleep.

Yep, she’s a born Minnesotan. “Mom will get us through. What’s a little ice?”

Either that or the angels were singing her a lullaby as they kept our car on the road.


Boo Who?

12 Feb


A sad – and yet, of course, happy – thing has happened and I must memorialize it.

I’m not quite sure how it happened. Nor am I certain that I fully believe it, but the calendar tells me that my youngest child, fondly known on this blog as Boo, is turning six years old this week. How can this be? How is it possible that she, born conveniently between snowstorms – one which kept us trapped at home for 3 days, less than a week after she was born – could be six? Somehow six sounds so much older than five. So much more grown up.

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I have before me my old copy of A. A. Milne’s book, Now We Are Six. It describes Boo’s opinions quite well. For example:

The End

When I was One, / I had just begun.
When I was Two, / I was nearly new.
When I was Three, / I was hardly Me.
When I was Four, / I was not much more.
When I was Five, / I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever. / So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
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Or this one, titled Us Two

Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, / There’s always Pooh and Me. / Whatever I do, he want to do, / “Where are you going today?” says Pooh: / “Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too. / Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he. / “Let’s go together,” says Pooh.

“Let’s look for dragons,” I said to Pooh. / “Yes, let’s,” said Pooh to Me. / We crossed the river and found a few – / “Yes, those are dragons all right,” said Pooh. / “As soon as I saw their beaks I knew. / That’s what they are,” said Pooh, said he. / “That’s what they are,” said Pooh.

“Let’s frighten the dragons,” I said to Pooh. / “That’s right,” said Pooh to Me. / “I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh, / And I held his paw and I shouted “Shoo! / Silly old dragons!” – and off they flew. / “I wasn’t afraid, “said Pooh, said he, / “I’m never afraid with you.”

So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, / There’s always Pooh and Me. / “What would I do?” I said to Pooh, / “If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True, / It isn’t much for One, but Two / can stick together, “ says Pooh, says he. / “That’s how it is, “ says Pooh.
Boo’s “Pooh” that sticks with her almost wherever she goes is called “Buddy”. Buddy is a crocheted baby blanket, bought for Boo by my Aunt Betsy. And Buddy is Boo’s best pal. Buddy is the background – or foreground – of almost every baby photo of Boo…and toddler photo…and pre-schooler photo…

The earliest recorded proof of the importance of less than two months old.

The earliest recorded proof of the importance of Buddy…at less than two months old.

Even Daddy likes Buddy.

Even Daddy likes Buddy.

We prepared Boo for kindergarten far in advance, by warning her that Buddy would not be allowed in school – at least, not out of her backpack. “He isn’t a student,” we said. “Though I know you wish he could sit beside you.”

“She,” Boo corrected us. “Buddy is a she.”

“Of course. I always forget.”

Luckily, Buddy travels well.  Makes for happier plane rides.

Luckily, Buddy travels well. Makes for happier plane rides.

Buddy likes the ferryboat.

Buddy likes the ferryboat.

The first days of kindergarten last fall, Buddy hung out in the backpack. That first week was great fun. Adrenaline was high. Excitement huge. Fear very low.

The second week, the adrenaline was lower, the excitement tinged by homesickness, the fears rising fast. Buddy-in-the-backpack wasn’t enough.

So we sent a piece of yarn in Boo’s pocket. Yarn felt like Buddy; could be fingered and caressed throughout the day. The yarn was an “Assistant Buddy” – that’s what Boo called it, not “substitute” but “Assistant”.

Sometimes Buddy makes a good wig.

Sometimes Buddy makes a good wig.

Buddy was irreplacable when Boo spent 4 days in the hospital when she was two.

Buddy was irreplacable when Boo spent 4 days in the hospital when she was two.

But soon all the pants (or dresses) with pockets were dirty and what now? Where does the yarn go when there is no pocket to hold it?

Around the neck, of course.

This lasted a few weeks and then, one morning, “assistant Buddy” was forgotten in the excitement of morning preparations.

And Boo survived the day just fine.

Halloween candy tastes better with Buddy.

Halloween candy tastes better with Buddy.

Now, several months down the road of maturity, Boo – and Buddy – have reached another milestone.

Buddy is beginning to unravel.

The blessed unraveling.

The blessed unraveling.

Quite badly.

The Sailboat King and I believe this is from God.

It was the final acceptance of our new rule that Buddy Must Stay in Bed All Day and Not be Dragged Around the House/into the Car/in the Backpack.

Note Buddy on the ground.

Note Buddy on the ground.

Buddy, being introduced to the new "tent" one Christmas Day.

Of course, another Assistant Buddy has arisen.


Lamby...found after much hunting, hiding on the rocking chair.  Lamby - as her predecesor Buddy - tends to wander off.

Lamby…found after much hunting, hiding on the rocking chair. Lamby – as her predecesor Buddy – tends to wander off.

Made of wool yarn and equally appealing in texture.

But far less grubby…for now at least.

And so our six year old progresses on her route to emancipation. One step at a time. And, as long as she’s got Buddy – or some approximation thereof – she can fight dragons with the best of them.

Just like Christopher Robin – “As clever as clever” – forever and ever.
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My Week as a Pre-School Teacher

15 Jan

I am a people person…kinda. I like people, I like talking to them and interacting with them…but I also need time away from people. Time to read a book or write, neither or which are things that are done too well when interacting with others. (These things can be done in the presence of others…just not in conversation!)

I like to think of myself as an extroverted introvert. I am not a person who thrives on contact with other people…but if I go a couple days with very little contact, I can become far too self-centered and I realize that I need that human contact to remain…well, a happy human.

All that being said, last week was a week of insanity for someone who needs a little non-people time in her life. I had agreed – without stopping to consider my introverted tendencies – that I would substitute as the aide at my children’s old preschool. Yep. Five days of kids…and zero days of writing.

I have a friend who once said – in public – “I do not like other people’s children.” I laughed out loud when she divulged this truth about herself, all the while thinking, “I don’t really either, but I would never admit it out loud.” Well, on careful consideration, it’s not that I don’t LIKE other people’s children…but I definitely do not want to have to take care of them for more than, say, an hour.  Once a year or so.  Tops.

I walked into the classroom on Monday morning, already feeling relieved that I had remembered a former commitment for Tuesday, which got me out of one day of preschool insanity. I was looking at 4 days, however. Four very long days of no reading, no writing, and no quiet.

The day began with a very smiley young man walking up to me proudly and saying, “I got a new belt!” Which, with a tug at his long-sleeved t-shirt, revealed not only the new belt but also his entire abdomen. “That’s great!” I said, smiling nervously in return and wondering if I ought to pull down said shirt or leave him alone to take care of it on his own. After several nanoseconds of deliberation – all the time looking anywhere but at the wee boy – he saved me from having to make a decision by lowering his shirt himself. Thankfully. He did, however, make the exact same declaration in the restroom on Friday, using the exact same tone of excitement in his voice. It’s a big deal, a new belt.

Monday proceeded without too much more excitement, and I headed home that afternoon glad that I only had three days left of this fun.
Tuesday I woke up both relieved and nervous. Nervous for the events of the morning – which I blogged about on my other blog if you’re interested – and relieved that I wouldn’t have to face any more belts.

Wednesday dawned cold and foggy. It also brought a phone call from the preschool teacher. She had the flu. Rather badly. And, with the regular aide being out of town, and no substitutes reachable, that meant that someone would have to phone all 40 children that both the morning and afternoon classes were cancelled. Being a member of the preschool board and the appointed substitute of the day…guess who got to make all those calls? Oh, and by the way, I hate telephones.

By the time I returned home after making approximately 65 phone calls, I was ready to go to bed.

Thursday morning brought yet another phone call from the teacher. Still ill. But, this time, she’d gotten a sub. I drove in wondering what the preschoolers would have to say about not one but TWO substitute teachers.

Can you guess?

“That’s not how we do it!” That’s what they said. Over and over and over. The other frequently-heard sentence of the day was, “You’re supposed to sing a song for that.” To which I replied, “I know, but I don’t know that song.” “We do!” was the shouted response. “Well, then,” I replied, “Can you sing it for me?” “Yes!” the happy children cried. “Okay, go ahead,” I said, knowing perfectly what their response would be.


Total and complete silence.

I must say, however, that the children, though deprived of their regular songs, were wonderfully behaved and the morning went quite well. Since neither of us really knew what we were doing, it was all just fun and games and forgetting names all morning. By afternoon the teacher was well enough to return and never have I felt so relieved!

Friday dawned foggy and cold yet again, but this time as I drove in to school I felt relaxed. I’d made it this far – I could make it another few hours! Turns out, that day was the most fun of all, perhaps because I was the most relaxed and least worried of the entire week.

The day began with a discussion about water, ice and igloos. Somehow the question of penguins and the arctic arose and as the teacher was dealing with a minor behavior issue that involved, I believe, a demonstration of penguin tobogganing, one child commented, “They have penguins at the North Pole.” “What is the North Pole?” another classmate inquired. “It’s kinda like the South Pole,” the first child replied seriously.

I jumped up immediately to write that bit of wisdom down on a scrap of paper.

Later, during Choice Time, I found myself sitting at the playdough table. This proved to be an excellent place for relaxation and stimulation, both. I was relaxed because it was something I was fairly good at: making playdough cookies, snakes, and, as one little boy wanted to make, roads. It was stimulating because of the fabulous conversation around the kidney-shaped table.

“I saw my friend J. at church this morning and I was so exciting to see him. And he was so exciting to see me, too.”

You say “exciting” I say “excited”. Potato PoTAAto.

A few minutes later, when handed a playdough cookie (shaped like a whale) on a tray, my favorite wee girl (I know, you’re not supposed to have favorites. Couldn’t help it.) said, “This is delicious or, as Fancy Nancy would say, ‘it’s delectable’.” How could I not love a child who quotes Fancy Nancy?!

And then there was the candid discussion about one girl’s morning visit to the doctor. “I had to get three shots right here [shows upper leg] this morning and two right here [shows upper arm].” “Oh,” I replied, “that’s a lot of shots. Were you brave?” “No,” she said, smiling. “I cried and cried.”

The “five-minute” warning came about then, and I couldn’t stop grinning as we cleaned up the playdough. Turns out, I do like other people’s kids.

In moderation.

About once a year. Tops.

I Dream of a World…

8 Jan

So apparently I can’t get away from list-making and reflecting on the new year. I think it has something to do with the fact that for me the new year is doubly new, as my birthday is January 3rd, so not only is the new calendar year beginning, but so is a new year of my life.

I turned 43 on Thursday. To me this feels old though I know that it is not. I am not one of those people who won’t tell their age. I’m okay with being 43. Though, to be sure, 43 looks a lot younger to me than it did 30 years ago. Back then it looked old. Now it just looks…a wee bit old.

I thought that I’d have accomplished more things by this time in my life. I suppose that all kids imagine that. I thought that I’d be a published author. Or maybe a famous opera singer. Or maybe a scrappy journalist, speaking Russian and helping to end the Cold War.

Somehow the Cold War ended without me. The music major I’d considered turned out to be unrealistic, and the journalism major was more work than I was willing to put into it. So I majored in English (the standby for all people who love to read), went to grad school (the standby for all people who can’t get a job with their major), got married, taught a little, had kids…all those good, lovely things that happen to people, whether they achieve their imagined selves or not.

And I love where I am in life. I mean, I’m far from perfect. Far from the “#1 Mom” that my daughter tells me I am. Far from the perfect housewife, the perfect friend, the perfect parishioner. No, I’m not famous. I’m not perfect in body or mind or will. But I’m content.

No, I have not sold my book – not that I’m quite ready to try…give me a few more months – and I maybe never will. Maybe all the months and years that I’ve spent on it will end up as nothing more than a file on my lap top.

That would really be a drag.

For now, I’ll keep plugging away at it. I’ll take each day as it comes and not regret a thing. (Well, I do regret some things I’ve said and done …but I won’t bother regretting the things I haven’t done.) I’ll keep on washing the dishes and folding the clothes.

And it will be good. Because this is where I am. And I like the path I’ve taken to get here.


There are, however, a few things that I think would make the world a perfect place. A few dreams I have.

Allow me to share them with you:

I dream of a world where my children can sit together in the back seat of the car without arguing.

I dream of a world where my children notice that the garbage can is full and, knowing that it’s their chore for that week, will take it out without waiting to be told.

I dream of a world where our two cats totally reject their bird-killing tendencies, but totally keep on exercising their mouse-killing tendencies.

I dream of a world where the snow falls only on the grass and trees and houses, but never on the roads.

I dream of a world where hair care products for a family of five cost less than a new lawn mower.

I dream of a world where I can watch the news in the morning and every story won’t be about violence, sex, or irritating politics.

I dream of a world where I can eat all the Christmas goodies I want and my body will shrink instead of expand.

I dream of a world where we can actually use my husband’s frequent flyer miles as opposed to letting them build up but not having the money, kid-sitters or time to go anywhere with them.

I dream of a world where tiny pieces of Lego stay where they belong, rather than wandering all over the house and multiplying in mysterious ways.

I dream of a world where socks match up after the laundry, clothes never shrink in the dryer, and the clothes automatically fold themselves rather than remain in the laundry basket, mocking me every time I walk past them on my way to do other, more pressing things. Oh, and speaking of pressing, I dream of a world where I never have to iron again. Especially things with pleats.

I dream of a world where, when my children brush their teeth, it doesn’t mean automatically having to wipe the sink out afterwards.

I dream of a world where I don’t complain about stuff and face everything with a smile.

I fear that’s about as likely to happen as #1.

‘Tis the Season for Christmas Pageants

25 Dec

Merry Christmas! How handy that my favorite holiday lands on a Tuesday, my favorite day to post. I know that many of you are busy today, and this entire week (okay, month) but I’m posting anyway because I have a few pictures and thoughts to share with you.

My topic? Christmas Pageants.

If you were a star, wouldn't you use your prop as an air guitar, too?

If you were a star, wouldn’t you use your prop as an air guitar, too?

Ever since I was a wee girl, singing “Away in a Manger” (in which, apparently, I sang, “The ‘tars in the ‘ky”) in the church Christmas program, I have loved Christmas pageants.

The very phrase conjures up images of dimpled angels with crooked halos; wooly and grumpy sheep sweating under the lights, their guardian shepherds wielding eye-poking crooks; and small boys wearing their father’s bathrobes, gaudy crowns perched rakishly on their heads. Who couldn’t love such a scene?

A few of the animals at the stable.  In various degrees of happiness.

A few of the animals at the stable. In various degrees of happiness.

And don’t forget Mary and Joseph, two adolescent kids standing awkwardly side-by-side, gazing adoringly at a plastic doll and trying desperately not to look as if they despise each other while their mothers nervously wonder if, someday in the not-so-distant future, those two kids – who have, of course, known each other since diapers – could possibly ever be excited to be so linked.

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Some moms are praying that they will. Some are praying that the casting is in no way prophetic and dreaming up ways to fake an angelic visit should such a thing ever be even a remote possibility. An angel that warns girls to run far away from boys until she is at least 22 and out of college.

Mary, of course, didn’t have that option. For several reasons.

The shepherds as they received the Good News!

The shepherds as they received the Good News!

But I didn’t mean to write about theology. Though, if you really think about it, the very scene I just described – the quintessential Nativity Scene (crèche/nursery/manger scene, depending on what country you hail from) – is, in and of itself, biblically inaccurate because the wise men didn’t make it to the manger. They came when Jesus was two. But those wee boys in their robes are just too cute a tradition to break.

The whole cast in all their glory.

The whole cast in all their glory.

But I digress. Again.

I love the annual Christmas program. I love the kids tripping over their costumes. I love the shepherds pretending that their staffs are lightsabers. I love the kid who holds the “M” card upside down, turning “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” into “C-H-R-I-S-T-W-A-S”.

Christ was what?

"Wise" men...always a debatable term...

“Wise” men…always a debatable term…

But back to the pageants.

I love the tiny band, formed of kids still learning how to hold their instruments without bonking their neighbor with the fully-extended trombone slide. I love the off-key, ear-splitting racquet. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” The band is my favorite.

That's my boy!

That’s my boy!

I love the tone-deaf kid who sings his or her heart out, two beats behind the rest of the angelic choir. I adore that kid.

My favorite wee angel - one year ago.

My favorite wee angel – one year ago.

I also adore the small, sweet voices that stumble over their lines. The bold voices who, I know, have worked nightly on their parts and stand with confidence before the microphone because they know this, though three weeks ago they feared they could never do it. (One girl, during this year’s program, gave her mom a wink after doing her line. It was priceless!) I love the expressive voices and I love the tentative voices, whose owners look at me, their die-hard director, encouraging them from the front pew, just needing that nod, that smile, to boost their confidence.

“You can do this!” I say with my grin. “Ignore Grandma and Grandpa in the audience. Don’t pay attention to Aunt Suzy’s video camera. Don’t be afraid!”

Don’t be afraid…“Fear not…The Lord is with you…Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” – Luke 1

And I do believe.

I love this photo.

I love this photo.

C-h-r-i-s-t-W-A-S…Still is.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Last year's whole cast.

Last year’s whole cast.

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