naughty kidDo you ever feel like diving for cover when you hear the school bus pull up outside your house?

I sometimes do. Bracing myself for the drama, I toss something in the oven for supper, flop on the couch with the dog and a cold glass, and paste a smile on my face, trying not to think of all the work I still need to do that evening.

If it’s been a particularly arduous workday, I turn on my ER reruns and try to decompress a bit before the door slams. But I may need to rethink that strategy.

This morning a paragraph from one of the readings leaped out at me:

I will walk with a blameless heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes whatever is base (Ps 101).

Now, the psalmist didn’t have access to ER reruns, but he knew a lot about human nature. He understood the temptation to find a handy “escape” from the realities of life. And yet, life has a way of breaking through.

Nine times out of ten, my R&R is interrupted by the sound of teenagers quarreling — doors slamming, glass breaking, high-pitched demands for snacks. You know, life. And more often than not, my response is less than maternal — loud, self-centered, and irritated beyond words.

I feel justified in my outrage, of course. They are perfectly capable of getting a snack or drink, and coming to settle in next to me for a chat. Or better yet, go with me to walk the dogs.

On the other hand… “I will walk with a blameless heart within my house.”  Am I truly blameless in the drama that ensues? Isn’t it just possible that by escaping into reruns, I am unwittingly putting up a “keep out” sign — and my kids, who haven’t seen me all day, express their legitimate need for my full attention, any way they can be sure to get it?

In Psalm 101, the psalmist connects the dots between what I see and who I become. As an adult, I manage my own time and can decide if some “down time” is in order. As a mother, I must also consider what my actions are saying to my two high-anxiety, stressed-out teens. When they see me, how do they feel? Welcomed … or tolerated? Relaxed … or nagged? Loved … or lectured?

Who have I become to them? Is it the person I want to be?

Advent Moment: “A Christmas Celebration”

Craig and I have talked about my taking up the organ again — I used to play in local churches as a teenager. Last weekend I took the first step and attended a concert hosted by the Ann Arbor Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor.

I was the guest of Dr. Michelle Johns, Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Michigan. Turns out, her doctoral candidates need organ student “guinea pigs,” and she thought that I might be a good fit for one of them. (Yeah!)

The three soloists were really wonderful — it amazed me how each of them got such very different sounds out of the same organ, and had such markedly different styles. It really inspires me to get my own skills up to date!

These concerts are a really wonderful way to introduce your children to the magic of pipe organ. There are several upcoming concerts, so if you’re in the area be sure to stop by and support the AGO!

* “A Christmas Celebration” on Sunday, December 18 at 7 p.m., at First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in downtown Ann Arbor.

* “Organ Music for Church Services: A Reading/Listening Session” on Saturday, January 15 at 10 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti (300 N Washington St). This one is especially good if you want to beef up your church organist repertoire.

* “Organ Plus Orchestra with Gale Kramer and Naki Sung-Kripfgans on Friday, Marcy 4 at 7:30 p.m. at FUMC.

* “A Calendar of Hymns” on Sunday, March 6 at 4 p.m. at FUMC.

* “J.S. Bach: St. John Passion” on Good Friday, April 22 at 7 p.m. at FUMC.

Tips for Helping Your Child Cope with Stress

This week at, I recount a story about Christopher. The stressors of his world … his school work, his piano lessons, his home work, and the changes that are part-and-parcel of the end of the year… were creating a short fuse.

This post is short and sweet, because I’d like to open it to you, my readers. Have you ever been through a particularly stressful time with your grade schooler, and what did you do to help him or her through it?

Also, if your child has been taking music lessons, what do you do to help your child get practice time in — and balance his other responsibilities at the same time?

Any and all advice welcome!