{Israel recap} Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Moat built by crusaders at Caesarea Maritima
Gate built by Solomon at Megiddo
First century rolling stone tomb

(hello and thanks for reading my Israel recap. Last December my husband traveled on an amazing study trip to Israel. I stayed home to take care of our four little girls and blogged to keep track of how it went. Since my computer is being a little wacky right now I decided to rerun this series. Thanks to all who prayed and helped and supported during this time. Hope you enjoy reading!)

We go to a big church. I love our church. Today, it was incumbent on me to get myself and my four small daughters to church alone.

The prospect of getting four little girls up and out the door early might sound daunting, but I wasn’t really worried about it. Deep down, I know what it takes to get places ready and on time; I just get lazy and leave things ’til the last minute and then pull out the old, “but I’ve got four little kids!” excuse.

Anyways, times like this I realize I’m going to have to be on my game and what do you know? Things normally turn out fine.

***Interpretation of everything I just said for a male: Everything went fine getting the girls and I to church.***

I dropped them all off at their respective nurseries and classes and headed upstairs to our adult Bible fellowship. Our room is at the end of a long hallway opposite of the stairs. Walking past people, it seemed that everyone had someone to talk to. Of course, people said hi and everything, but it was the first time I really felt alone.

I sat and learned and talked to people and everything like normal, but it was all so un-normal because Paul wasn’t there. I guess you don’t know what a privilege someone’s presence is until it’s gone.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

{Israel recap} Official introduction: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband goes on an amazing study trip to Israel)

Hello dear friends, family, and readers! I hope that you all are doing well on this lovely day.

Unfortunately, my computer screen is not behaving; fortunately, I’ve been wanting to rerun the Israel series (since it occurred before I had told most of you that I was doing this).

Starting today, I’m going to rerun all of the posts. And hopefully by then I’ll have my computer working again. If you want to see a few other related posts to the Israel trip, you may check them out here and here.


Hello and welcome to my first series: staying home alone with four little girls (while my husband goes on an amazing study trip to Israel.) For fun, I’ve included pictures from Paul’s trip. Israel is a truly beautiful land.

Caesarea Maritima
Caesarea Maritima

This series begins on the day that he left, after working until six o’clock the previous night, spending the evening with the girls, deciding to start packing at 11:22 pm, running to Walmart at midnight, and finally going to bed… oh, about two.

I possess a strange set of emotions; most of the time they kick in way after the fact. I’m saying this because I really had no idea how I was going to react to him leaving. Would I cry? Be scared? Try to remember every detail of his face in case it was the last time I saw him? Not feel anything at all? Act tough? Act wimpy? What would the girls do?  

Two weeks before he left, I went through several days of wondering if I was going to survive. Like literally, survive. He’s gonna die; or I’m not going to make it; or something… I’m pretty sure life as I know it is over. 

Thankfully, with the next week came some hormonal straightening out and I began feeling nothing. This is cool. We’re going to be fine. It’ll be so fun to have the car (for the first time in months). 

I began to wonder if something was wrong with me for not feeling more sober or anxious about it.

Planning my grocery list and menu for the week he would be gone gave me the first feeling of true nervousness in my stomach. All right; so I am normal. And yeah, this is going to be okay, but it’s also going to be hard and sad and lonely. 

When Paul got home from work the night before he left, the sadness hit hard. That’s it. There’s nothing between him and this trip now. 

The theatre at Caesarea Maritima
The theatre at Caesarea Maritima

I loved the girls reactions to him when saying good-bye on the morning he left.

Hope began truly crying, “You’re going to be gone for such a long time!”

Sophia smiled at him excitedly, “Are you coming home for lunch?”

And what did I feel? Excitement for him. I’m sure some mental compartment noted that him going down the stairs that last time meant I would be on my own for two weeks, but all I could think about was how much he was anticipating this incredible opportunity.

So there you have it. The next post will start with our first day on our own (while Paul got stuck in airports for hours, had flights canceled, gates changed, and ate a lot of Five Guys.)

Happy Mother’s Week!

My husband once shocked a congregation by announcing from the pulpit on Mother’s Day, “I think Mother’s Day is silly!”

After everyone recovered from their indignation (not really) he continued to say something like, “After all mother’s do all year long we say, “Okay, you can have one day.”

So here at small steps, big picture, we’re going to celebrate Mother’s Day all week long! I’m so excited!!

I have several posts lined up that will encourage and compel women and mother’s from all walks of life; so check back during the week and celebrate with us.


To start it off, today I have the lyrics to a song I’m working on inspired by my sweet little Mckayla. Her little breaths and contented sighs while nursing melted my heart. Is there anything as sweet as a newborn?


For Little Breaths

For little breaths and contented sighs,

For kicking legs and smiling eyes,

For this new life we thank you, Lord;

For all the months we had to wait,

And for the fire of curses pain,

For mercy great, 

We thank you, Lord.


For words to teach them wrong from right,

For hearts to show a love for Christ,

For lives to be their salt and light; 

For wills to yield and sin to shun,

For hearts to be by your Spirit drawn,

For new life given

We ask you, Lord.


For hands to hold and walks to take,

For times to cry or celebrate,

For gifts of grace we praise you, Lord; 

For seasons new and memories past,

For wings they spread and bonds that last,

To be so blessed

We praise you, Lord.

Teaching piano lessons to your own child: Bloopers!

photo credit

Well, I do believe that I will end this series for now. Maybe in a year or so, I’ll revisit the topic with some more thoughts.

Haven’t read the other posts yet? Here are the links:

The Name Game

The teachers have it better

4 practice tips for during the week

Looking like a teacher on lesson day

To close, I’d thought I’d share a few funny comments from… ahem… my student.


It’s come to my attention that Hope is not unlike other students at all; she frequently blames her mom for the fact that she hasn’t practiced.

Unfortunately for her (and me!), I am her mom.

This week it was, “Yeah, we didn’t practice that too much, because I kept asking my mom if we could do it and she kept saying, “Not right now,” but then we never did do it.


Okay, partly true, but definitely blame-shifting!


“I didn’t do my theory because my mom never remembered to help me with it.”

Have I mentioned I have four kids five and under?


“So, I didn’t practice very much this week, but it wasn’t my fault. We were really busy.”



Oh, but I take it all in stride. Mrs. _____ knows the truth. One, that Hope is a perfectly typical little girl who loves to practice, but also doesn’t always quite do it the way she should, regardless of me; two, that I’m a just a mom with all the imperfections, busyness, and priority struggles of every other mom.

All this means that our weeks of practice follow a very normal pattern for beginning piano students, and I think that’s probably a good thing.

Thank you so much for reading! If any of this has been helpful or interesting, I’d love to hear your feedback. I know there are other moms out there doing the same thing, so I’d love to hear what has worked for you. Hope you’re having a lovely week!


Teaching piano lessons to your own child: 4 practice tips for during the week

photo credit
photo credit

Well, hello again! I have been teaching my daughter Hope piano lessons for twelve weeks now. Knowing that it would be a challenge, I decided to chronicle the happenings here. It’s been great for encouragement and reflection and hopefully even helpful for you as well.

The first post in the series dealt with a little trick I call The Name Game.

Next, I shared why The teachers have it better.

Today, I’m going to share some helpful tips I’ve learned about practicing with your child during the week, as the mom and NOT the teacher.

Tip #1: Take a different posture than you do while teaching. 

If you usually stand while teaching, try during the week to sit down while they practice. If you’re the teacher who prefers to sit, trying standing while they practice.

This might seem so small, but it has made a huge difference for me.

The first few weeks of practicing with Hope during the week were really rough for me. I was trying so hard to not be “teachery,” but having trouble! I know one day I literally chewed a great big spot in my cheek. (It hurt!) Everything in me wanted to be correcting and instructing, moving her hands and straightening her back, and ugh. Something had to happen. So one day, probably the day after I chewed the inside of my cheek off, I decided to pull up an ottoman and sit down next to her instead of standing. (I always stand up when giving lessons) It was amazing how this small change gave me a totally different perspective. Instead of being a teacher, now I was just a mom. Listening, helping her know what to practice next, making sure she wasn’t dawdling in between assignments, but other than that, just being there and watching her play. Sometimes I hold a hot cup of coffee and just sit there; it’s actually kind of relaxing.

Tip #2: As a general rule, only correct what an ordinary parent would know to correct. 

Yes, while I’m watching Hope practice, there are a thousand things that I know “Mrs. _____” would say if she was listening, but during that time, I’m not her teacher, I’m her mom. Especially at this early stage, I’ll do more damage than good by using my “pianist knowledge” with her as she practices. I would much rather her come ask me for extra help, then wish that I would put a cork in it.

When she’s practicing, and I think I should remark about something she’s doing wrong, I ask myself, “Would an ordinary parent know to say that?” And if I think yes, then I go ahead and try to help. If not, then I leave it alone. After all, we wouldn’t “Mrs. _____” to not have any work to do during the lesson.

Tip #3: Focus on developing good concentration skills and work ethic.

I feel that a parent’s “supervisor” role should have as it’s focus their child’s concentration skills and work ethic. Do I want Hope to learn to play that D Major scale correctly? Yes! But I can artificially teach her how to play it perfectly. As a parent, it’s more important to me that she begin to learn good character as it regards to learning and practicing.

Here’s an example, I won’t correct every wrong note or note value that she plays; but I do work on her dawdling in between songs, playing what I call “whatever music” (just random notes on the piano).

“Hope, this is your time to practice your lesson. That is not your lesson. We only have so much time, and you need to work on only the things that are written in your assignment book. When you finish one thing, you go right to the next.”

I’m all for being creative. I regularly let Hope have time at the piano to just “play.” She likes to experiment with sounds and intervals and ups and downs and everything. That is good and that is helpful. But when it’s time to practice the lesson, she must be focused.

This might sound like a lot to ask from a five-year old, but I’m not actually expecting her to do it perfectly now (that’s why I’m here), I’m just trying to plant the seeds of how to focus on a task you’ve been given. This translates to chores, schoolwork, and even games.

The same could be said of work ethic. I have the chance to watch her and gauge her diligence and effort. Even now, I want to encourage her to give her best. It’s a huge lesson in life to learn that a major way to respond with thankfulness for opportunities is to engage yourself in them with all your heart. Thankfully, she does pretty good at this right now, because she’s still loving it.

These things, concentration and work ethic (thought I might not use those exact terms with her), are things that I will comment on as I see the need. I feel that as the parent, these are things that fall under our concern. We’re uniquely able to deal with these issues as we oversee the practice time during the week.

Tip #4: Try not to make up for your child’s memory just because you are also the teacher.

This in some ways is a sub-point under the last tip. I’ll try to make it short. = ) A teacher has to be very careful and clear about what they want during the week. The child’s responsibility is to remember. If something is extremely important and the teacher thinks the student might need help remembering, they will probably make an extra note on the assignment book so the parent will be aware of the instructions as well. This way the parent can also help the child remember.

As far as Hope and I go, if it’s not expressly written in her assignment book and she doesn’t remember what Mrs. _____ said during the lesson, I don’t remind her (even though I am technically Mrs. _____ and know what she’s supposed to do). She needs to be accountable for remembering and she needs to feel the consequences of not remembering at the lesson if she didn’t follow through.


I hope these have been helpful and thought-provoking. As I already said, it’s been good for me to think through the different challenges of teaching your own child; and it’s been fun to figure out solutions to those challenges.

I can only imagine what we’ll learn together in the future! = )

(Next time we’ll talk about preparing yourself and your house to be “teacher-like” on lesson day)

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. 

Teaching piano lessons to your own child: The teachers have it better


photo credit
photo credit

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the first post in this series: The Name Game.

If you were to ask me as a piano teacher, “What is the one common denominator among happy, successful beginning piano students?”

The answer would be easy: “Parents who are involved with the child as they practice.”

It took about two weeks of being Hope’s piano teacher and her mom to realize, “Wow! This being the mom of a child taking piano lessons is hard work! The teachers have it way easier.”

My hat (that one that everyone carries around for the sole purpose of saluting) immediately went off to all the parents of my past students. They had been the ones responsible for their children’s accomplishments. With that little mental ceremony over, it was time to face reality: I wasn’t just a teacher any more, now I was a mom.

And with my sweet little Hope taking piano lessons, it was my job to help her practice.

Being your child’s teacher does not exclude you from being their mom during the week.

I now have to live up to the expectations that I placed on parents:

*Help your child practice every day

*Make sure they closely follow their given assignment

*Assist them with any theory work

*Be there to answer questions and give common sense guidance

It takes work to build a daily practice time into your already busy schedule. It was quite a challenge for me during those first few weeks. I would think, “I already did the lesson, now we have to practice, too?” Yes, you spoiled person; just like you made all those other people, now you have to practice, too.

Currently, she’s dying to practice every second of the day, so that makes things a little easier. I do try to not just put her off when it’s not a good time, but explain that we will do it later and then follow through with what I’ve said. Most of the time, practice happens while the little girls nap, and I sit right with her. Sometimes it happens when the others are awake, and I’m just barely supervising her work, and sometimes I let her practice by herself while the little girls get baths.

It’s quite the juggling act, but we’re determined to make it work.

And one more thing, it is hard to not jump back into that teacher mode during the week. I have discovered a few things that have been helpful, and I’ll share them next time!

Until then, thanks for reading!

A Giant in the House


photo credit
photo credit

They creep through the house, quiet and trembling. I watch from my place at the sink as they hurry into their room and close the door. After a few minutes, the door swings open and four little girls come running out, screaming, “A giant! The giant’s here!” Laughing, giggling, and talking over each other, they come to me and try to explain their game.

A few weeks ago, we found an adorable old book at Salvation Army called The Giant’s Shoe. The girls know it so well that they go around quoting it.

Also a few weeks ago, my husband decided in the middle of dinner to demonstrate the height of Goliath with a tape measurer. (Goliath had been the topic of many of their conversations that week)

Maybe these explain all the giant talk in our house lately???

One giant game I’m particularly fond of is the one that requires they hide between the piano and the wall, covered in blankets and completely quiet. They stay there a long time!! It’s amazing what kids do to entertain themselves.

Hope and Sophia think it’s great fun, but every now and then Gracie runs into the kitchen because she’s truly frightened herself. Mckayla just follows them wherever they go and laughs.

One day Gracie was talking about how much they eat and so I asked her, “Gracie, what do giants eat?”

The answer: “Lions!” In her most dramatic voice.

That night I asked her again to see if she would say it again, but this time she replied, “Five pizzas!” Again, dramatic voice.

Another time I asked her, “Gracie are you scared of giants?”

“No, they’re not sca-wy. Giant’s are nice, just big.”

Well, the giant in the book ran away in a torrent of tears, but from the sounds in the hallway, I’m pretty sure ours is still sticking around. = )

What the fly on the wall heard, week 2

This just in from Sophia

“We’re hiding from poisonous snakes. They have guns.”

(I say) “Poisonous snakes don’t have guns.”

“These ones do,” she insists, “They’re right in their brain!” (pointing to right eye)

She continues, “And when they want to shoot, they just raise up their tail, and it hits the gun, and shoots! Even if you’re far away.”



(Gracie) “Mommy, what is ba-ba-jo-ja?”

“I have no idea.” (Mommy)

An encouragement regarding children who aren’t inclined to work

for the families 006
She volunteered to wipe down the cabinets!
In her element, "playing" with water
In her element, “playing” with water

If I’ve heard my husband say how he first noticed me once, I’ve heard it a million times.

“We were working at this camp together, and it was my job to give out the responsibilities. I noticed that this girl was always where she was supposed to be, didn’t mess around, worked really hard and did great at everything…”

Blah. Blah. Blah…little did I know in a few years he’d want me to have four kids in a row, take care of them, clean the house, make the meals… no wonder he noticed a hard worker! = ) Totally kidding!

A funny thought occurred to me a few weeks ago; maybe it was after hearing him begin that story for the bajillionth time.

I actually wasn’t a good worker at all as a kid.

My parents, who were very committed to teaching us how to work and be responsible, had to remind me constantly to keep working. I would daydream, do a half-hearted job, ask to go do something else, or just plain stop. We weren’t allowed to whine or complain at all, but I do remember not being very happy about working on the inside.

To their credit, my parents never really criticized me for this. I don’t remember any lectures or “No more, or else!” moments. They just quietly, consistently kept giving me jobs, talking about the value of work, and expecting me to do my part for the family. I don’t remember at all it being a negative memory; I just know that in my heart, I would have rather been swinging, reading, or climbing trees.

I do remember a big light bulb moment towards the end of high school. (Sorry, Mom and Dad that it took so long!) I literally remember thinking, They ask me to vacuum and wash the car every week! Why don’t I just do it before they ask me so it won’t be so annoying when they tell me to do it and I’m in the middle of something? Like I said, light bulb! I began to do it first thing every Friday and I was so much happier! By that time, I actually enjoyed the jobs that I did; and finally taking ownership of them was even better.


Now I remember what made me think about this: I was watching Hope do some little job and thinking, She’s just not a very good worker. Then I remembered, Oh yeah! Neither was I; for a looong time. Then I thought, Ha! Isn’t it funny that the “hard worker” character trait was one of the first things that Paul noticed about me.

So, the point is, if you have a child that’s not inclined to work, don’t despair. Even the worst of us can be reformed.

I’m proof. = )

(Now just don’t ask me about what happened to that stellar work ethic after I got married and pregnant!)

What the fly on the wall heard

For a long time I have wanted to have a place where I could write down all the ridiculous things that are said in our house on any given day. My sister gets a great kick out of some of the things she overhears during our phone conversations. We’ll see if I can remember to record them as they come.

For today, here is your first edition of What the fly on the wall heard:

“Can you please get me that can of chickpeas that you put up on the piano, Sophia?” (Christie)


(Hope, teaching kindergarten to Sophia and Gracie; just after she taught them how to spell “owl”) “And the way you spell ‘ouch’ is O-W-L-T-H.”


(Gracie, on the way home from getting vaccines) “I’m going to tell Daddy the doctuhs huht me!”

Hope you enjoy! Have a lovely weekend.