Teaching piano lessons to your own child: The Name Game

Hope's first and only piano lesson from Daddy
Hope’s first and only piano lesson from Daddy

For a few years I’ve put off teaching my oldest daughter piano lessons because I didn’t want to do a bad job. The stereotype seems to be that most piano teachers do not have success with their own children. It’s challenging to play the role of parent and teacher simultaneously.

However, I also dearly love teaching children and am extremely picky passionate about how they are taught. I haven’t really run in the piano teacher circles since our move, so I didn’t have any good choices that I knew of for Hope. Besides that, right now, it would be best to have a teacher that was free.

A few months before Hopey turned five, I knew it was time to stop stalling. People had been asking for years when I was going to start teaching her and she had begun asking to play constantly. We decided that this would be one of her birthday presents; I ordered the books online before I could change my mind.

My piano pedagogy professor in college went through all the reasons why it’s not wise to teach your own children the piano. I do remember him saying something like, “The only person I ever knew it worked for would make her girls go out the door, walk around the block, and come back in for their lesson. They were required to call her Mrs. Swaim.”

This idea stuck with me, and I decided to try it. Since I had everything else going against me, I figured this was my only chance.

I told Hope that she would have to go out the door, and then knock to come in for her lesson. She would have to call her teacher Mrs. Mylastname and that she was to be very well-behaved. Her eyes lit up as she caught on.

Not quite knowing what to expect, imagine my pleasure when she walked in the door with the most adorable smile on her face and twinkle in her eye, “Hello, Mrs. ________.”

This little game has actually helped me a lot. I’ve been able to look at her like any other student. It’s been so fun to realize, Wow, she’s just like other kids; doing cute things, annoying things, childish things… she’s just my piano student for that hour.

After her lesson, I send her out the door again. When she comes back in, I ask her how her lesson was and she tells me all about it and shows me what she has to do for that week.

We’ve been going for at least two months now, and it’s been great. The name game has really helped.

Obviously, there’s still a long road ahead filled with many challenges. But since we’re on the way, I figured why not blog about it.

Hope you enjoy! Next time I’ll talk about why teachers really have it better.

Don’t want to miss this series? Follow my blog if you’re on WordPress, or sign up to receive posts through email. Do you have any experiences teaching your own children music lessons? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments! Thanks so much for reading and have a lovely day.

Seven observations from the Social Security office

I was about to go...
I was about to go…

After marriage I made my dutiful visit to the Social Security office to request a new card with my new name. However, I waited and waited and waited and waited… and it never came. Five years later, I decided to brave the miserable experience again. This time in a new state, a new city, and with four little children.

Here are my observations after the experience:

1. Pulling into the parking lot only to find that you have to drive around for ten minutes before a space opens up is a real optimism killer.

2. You now check in at a computer; this computer asked me a question that really perplexed me. As I stood there thinking, the security guard came over to see what was impeding the “progress.” It took her approximately .8 seconds to say, “Ma’am, what are you here for today?” I explained my predicament and ba-da-bing-tap-tap-tap-b-dum-woo-woo-woo-whop her fingers flew through the touch screen questionnaire and my waiting ticket printed out of the machine. Observation: I don’t particularly like rude, impatient people, but I will take rude, impatient helpful people any day over sugary-sweet employees who have no idea what’s going on.

3. The Social Security office was not exceptionally social.

4. The Social Security office did not make me feel especially secure, except in the knowledge that I would be there awhile.

5. The TV running information regarding how you really should be doing this online and saving yourself (and them) the trouble of dealing with your matter in person actually suggested that you “Like” them on Facebook and “Follow” them on Twitter. I would love to meet the person who has done that.

6a. A big sign posted in plain view on the wall stated something like this: Any person displaying disruptive, angry, or violent behavior towards a social security worker will be subject to fines, arrest, or imprisonment.

6b. I’m pretty sure that some of the folks who packed out that waiting room had been diagnosed with manic depression, bipolar, OCD, and other disorders that cause disturbing behavior; even others had obviously done their time in the fields of alcohol and drugs. It was curious to me how nicely they all were behaving; of course we were all feeling impatient and a little upset with the system, but somehow we suppressed those feelings and made it through.

6c. A few strictly enforced rules do an amazing job of curbing bad behavior.

7. I do have to admit that although the two workers I dealt with directly were moderately rude at the beginning, once they found out that I wasn’t mad at life or at them (and that my children were being angels, thank God!), they were actually nice.

And the happy conclusion… my card came in the mail today: hooray! I’m real!

The Patience Store

Hopey
Hopey
Fia
Fia
Gracie-poo
Gracie-poo
Mckayla-roo
Mckayla-roo

Have you ever said something to your children that came back to bite you; or convict you?

I don’t remember the exact circumstances surrounding this event, but I do know that Sophia was having trouble being patient.

I oh-so-lovingly-and-gently said, “Sophia, you need to be patient.” She replied unsatisfactorily a few times before I again insisted, “Sophia, you must be patient.”

Her response was classic. “But I don’t have any more patience!”

An idea popped into my head. “Well, you’ll just have to go get some.”

“Where?” she asked suspiciously.

“From The Patience Store.”

“But I don’t have any money.” This kid didn’t get off the boat yesterday.

I continued my thought, “It doesn’t cost anything; it’s free; you just have to go and ask for it. There’s as much as you need.”

I’m not sure if she was just completely amused at the idea, or decided to be more patient, or whatever; I don’t remember at all any further happenings regarding her and that conversation.

But I do remember that a few days later, I was having trouble being patient. Caused I’m sure by circumstances ordinary to any mom: needy kids, overflowing housework, not enough sleep, not enough devotion to Jesus. I was huffy and grumbling in my mind and tired of it all.

These words ran through my head, “You need to go to the Patience Store. There’s as much as you need; you just have to ask for it.”

Big sigh.

It really is that simple isn’t it?

Since that day, I’ve even thought about it further when pondering writing this post. James says that God gives to us liberally without asking why we keep coming back. He gives when we ask for wisdom. This wisdom we ask for is in direct response to the many, various and sudden trials of life. Why can we have joy in these trials? Because they produce that beautiful, precious, high-value virtue… patience.

It’s abundantly available.

I probably need to sign up for the frequent shopper card.

Day 14: Reunion

"I am the bread of life," was declared by Jesus here. "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." Wow. This synagogue is built on the synagogue where Jesus taught in Capernaum.
“I am the bread of life” was declared by Jesus here. “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Wow. This synagogue is built on the remains of the synagogue where Jesus taught in Capernaum.

He’s back.

Safe, sound, and scruffy.

As he held me close and my head leaned into his big, hard familiar chest I heard him whisper, “Hi, mommy.”

His eyes lit up as he saw the girls. I thought they might scream or run to him, but they waited with huge smiles for him to walk down the “Do Not Enter” corridor and then hugged him and watched him with their ever-adoring eyes.

I teared up when I first saw him coming. He’s here; he’s really here; God brought him back safely to me!

As we went to get his bags and the car, I was so, so, so, so happy to not be the only adult in charge anymore; to have another pair of eyes to watch the girls with, to have a friend to smile at, to know that he would be with me now.

He showered us with presents. If I can get good pictures of them, I’ll share them in a couple of weeks.

Even though he was exhausted, he stayed up to talk to the girls while I made lunch. We ate together and then he went to sleep… for fifteen hours.

But I didn’t care; the backpack in the middle of the living room, the maps and books and pictures everywhere, the zonked out body in the bed, the mountain of laundry waiting to be done, the smiles on the girlies faces, all said one thing: Daddy was back.

And for now, that was enough to be completely happy.

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

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Day 10: the weakest link

Day 11: exhaustion setting in

Day 12: In other news

Day 13: Christmas shopping for Daddy, anxiety, and felt flowers

Day 13: Christmas shopping for Daddy, anxiety, and felt flowers

Bet Shan; this city is important because it illustrates the Romanization of the Jew at the time of Jesus. Seen here the "Cardo" or main street.
Beit She’an; this city is important because it illustrates the Romanization of the Jews at the time of Jesus. Seen here the “Cardo” or main street.
Remains from the earthquake at Bet Shan
Remains from the earthquake at Beit She’an
Theater at Bet Shan
Theater at Beit She’an
Viewing the old city of Beit She'an; Saul's body was hung in disgrace on this hill.
Viewing the old city of Beit She’an; Saul’s body was hung in disgrace on this hill.

It’s been awhile since I’ve really been able to buy Paul presents.

Gone are the days of being in love, single, employed, and able to buy things for the man you love. Not that I’d trade a big warm body to cuddle up to at night, no siree! But I do miss giving him special gifts.

Let’s see, last year I had this great idea to make homemade butter and other gifts to sell at our apartment office in hopes of making enough money to buy him a really great present. After covering the costs of   materials I had about sixteen dollars left which I used to buy him The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough which he really liked, but it was not the kind of present I had hoped for.

But this year would be different! I still didn’t have any money, but because he was gone I made some executive decisions about how the money given to us by family would be used. (Haha! rubbing hands together gleefully) Of course, the girls would get their presents, but they already have so much and the things they wanted weren’t going to cost that much anyways. So the girls and I discussed it, and we made a plan to go shopping for Daddy!

Bottom line: it was a blast.

I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty details, but here’s what we came away with. A laptop table from World Market, Hebrews from the New American Commentary series, a dress shirt and coordinating tie (picked out so lovingly and adorably by Hope and Sophia), and a stud finder (we are permanently and irreversibly diy/home improvement challenged). Yay for presents!

********

After a great day of shopping for daddy, I noticed that I was really feeling anxious about him flying home. So much for my unshakable trust in the sovereignty of God that allowed me to not worry at all when he was flying over there.

Basically, I think that knowing he was so close to coming back just made me really want to know that nothing would keep us apart any longer. Everything had gone so well; it was nerve-wracking to think about what would transpire if there were any major calamities now, on our end or on his end. My solution? A night of crafting.

I am not a crafter whatsoever, but I had heard that felt flowers were really easy to make and I wanted to actually make something to give the girls for Christmas. After putting it off for two weeks, I decided that I might not get any sleep that night anyways, so I would do something to occupy my mind.

Unbelievably, they turned out in such a way that you could recognize them! It was tons of fun and I will hopefully do  more in the future. I confess one that was supposed to look like a rose ended up looking like a really bad outie belly button, but other than that, I was happy with them.

Now to go to sleep, and wake up, and hear that he’s in the states.

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

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Day 10: the weakest link

Day 11: exhaustion setting in

Day 12: In other news

Day 11: exhaustion setting in

Caves in Arbel
Inside the caves in Arbel
Caves in Arbel
Caves in Arbel
Rock climbing up Arbel; I want to do this!
Rock climbing up Arbel; I want to do this!

A few things have surprised me during this time of taking care of the girls alone. First that it’s been… relatively easy. At least a lot easier than I thought. Second, that Gracie seems to be missing Paul the most out of all the girls. Lastly, I’m beginning to be exhausted. The thought of that possibility never occurred to me.

Apparently there’s been a physical and emotional drain that I haven’t noticed because everything seemed to be so normal. I thought I was doing well going to bed and resting all night. But it’s not good for woman to be alone; or least this woman.

Come to think of it, this is how I felt the first week Paul returned to work and seminary after the summer. I had gotten so used to him being around, to sharing the load of work, and (most importantly for me) to feeling the emotional support of not being alone, that back-to-schooltime was a shock.

Again, I cannot help but think of single moms or parents who do this every day, all year.

Our pace is definitely slowing down during the day because of me, but we’re still trying to keep up the “fun.” So far it’s working minus Gracie being a little off.

Counting the days ’til he gets home? Not yet; I don’t think I could stand it.

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

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Day 10: the weakest link

Day 10: the weakest link

A view of Arbel from the Sea of Galilee
A view of Arbel from the Sea of Galilee
Like place for the setting of John 21
Likely place for the setting of John 21
Tour boat on the Sea of Galilee
Tour boat on the Sea of Galilee
IMG_1407
Driving to Arbel

I wondered who would be most affected by Paul’s absence for two weeks.

Hope? Who’s connection to Paul still surpasses the other girls.

Sophia? Our emotionally fragile, oh-so-sympathetic roller coaster.

Gracie? Recovering Mama’s girl.

Mckayla? Happy as long as she has her food, her mama, and a chance to run around the house and play.

I must say the answered surprised me.

Ever since Saturday night, Gracie has been asking for Paul. Not whining, not crying, just asking, “Where’s Daddy?”

She doesn’t know where Israel is. She doesn’t understand a study trip. She just knows Daddy’s not at the dinner table. And she’s getting tired of it!

I’ve noticed a change in her behavior. Like I said, asking for Paul; also becoming super clingy to me. How many times can one girl come in the kitchen and ask me to hold her? So far there haven’t been any meltdowns, but we still have several days to go.

Hang in there, Gracie; Daddy will be home soon.

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

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Inside the main gate of Caesarea Maritima, built during the crusader era
Inside the main gate of Caesarea Maritima, built during the crusader era

There I was, Sunday afternoon, with a decision to make.

Eat with friends? or eat by ourselves?

Sounds simple, but for me it’s not.

The afternoon before I had texted my friend E to see if she had plans for after church. Her text back was not what I was looking for: D is actually off work tomorrow and we’re eating with N and K since we haven’t seen them since before Thanksgiving, but you’re welcome to come!

Not a fan of being the third wheel. Especially when said third wheel is a mom with four kids eating with two other couples and only one of them have a (singular)  sweet little baby.

All right, being honest here; I had agonized about it all Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. I didn’t want to go; but, I did. They were my friends. Not just my acquaintances, my friends. But without Paul, I’m all kinds of shy. The excuses my mind came up with were numerous: they could go somewhere more fun or closer to where they live if we didn’t go, maybe the girls would be misbehaved or I’d spend the whole time taking them to the bathroom and leaving the others at the table, and on and on.

It really was ridiculous.

But now I was walking down the nursery hallway from picking up the girls and they were all waiting for me. How could such a small, simple decision make an adult woman want to melt into the ground?

I went with them.

And I was super glad I did.

The girls were so good; and it felt so good to just be the person that needed some encouragement and support  and to be okay with that.

Goodbye ever-lurking independence. Goodbye odious voice of insecurity. Goodbye you nasty monster pride. All of you, I will see again; but for today you were defeated.

Hello to the other side of friendship. Hello to being okay with the fact that you have four kids and your life doesn’t quite look like everyone else’s. Hello to letting others be there for you.

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

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 8: An answered prayer

Church of the Beatitudes
Church of the Beatitudes

I do remember praying before I went to bed the night before that God would somehow give me the strength and joy necessary to take of the girls the next day. Everything had been going so well, and then with the news of the shootings I felt all my physical and emotional stamina just caving in.

I woke up not feeling great, but determined to do my best regardless of my feelings. The girls all woke up early, except Hope, and they were pretty much ready by the time I heard my phone ring.

It was a long, weird number and I strongly suspected that Paul was on the other end.

I answered, smiling before I even heard his voice. But the smile after I heard his voice probably made the other smile look like one of Gracie’s scowls.

What he said hit me out of nowhere. After hearing the news about Connecticut, he said he needed to talk to us. He? needed? to talk to us? But you’re in Israel – the coolest place ever!

Why was I surprised? Of course I know how much he loves us. Of course I know how close he is to the girls. He would have had all the same thoughts and feelings that I had.

It was so good to talk to him. It was amazing to watch the girls excitement as they held the phone and talked to their beloved Daddy. It was so familiar to hear his excitement and love as he talked to them.

God could have answered my prayer in many ways. But He chose to give me strength and joy through my very favorite person, Paul. And once again, I was terribly excited for him that he was in Israel; and completely okay with taking care of the girlies alone.

***********

At dinner Gracie asked, “Where’s Daddy?”

“In Israel!” I replied.

“No,” she disagreed, “he’s at school.”

This was the first time that any of the girls had expressed concern over his whereabouts.

When thinking of how to best handle this time of them being away from him, I had thought about watching videos online of Israel or having some sort of countdown where we would eat candy out of a jar for every day he was gone and watch the amount dwindle. In the end, I did none of these things. The girls were handling it famously. They knew where he was and it felt best to just carry on and try to occupy ourselves with fun things.

It was interesting to me that Gracie had been the first to ask about him, sensing that it was weird that he was gone. Everything was fine, but I wondered what this second week would hold.

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

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you