Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


Class of '11

Saturday was Melanie's graduation party. Eighty to one hundred people gathered on our property for fun, fellowship, and a celebration of Melanie's exciting achievement! It's amazing to think that half of our family has now graduated--and all of us have been homeschooled through every grade.

Our beautiful aunt and adorable cousin came...

There was lots of talking and catching up...

There were the security details patrolling the property...

Then the ceremony itself...

There were the volleyball players...

And the volleyball watchers...

Time with friends and family...

Pulled pork for lunch and cake, cupcakes, and ice cream for dessert...

Pictures with Grandma and Grandpa...

And pictures with Mama and Papa...

Special presents from special people...

And lots of cap throwing...
And then, after everyone had gone home, we stealthily crept towards Mel, innocently gathering up her gifts, and bombed her with three cans of silly string.
It was a good day.

All pictures taken by Jennifer (Mama)


The Legacy of the Stones: An Allegorical Tale

Photo Credit
Once upon a time there was a great city, majestic in its beauty, renowned for its wealth, and honored because of its people’s love for their King. Before the King left on a long journey, he fortified his city with a great wall,and he charged his people to keep it strong and in good repair, and to pass on to their children the legacy of the stone wall. While the King was gone, vicious enemies attacked the city, and the people’s valiant fighting would have been to no avail had they not had the wall. The wall kept the enemies out, it kept the little ones and mischeivous older ones from wandering off, and it united the people together as they worked, played, and worshipped within the wall’s boundaries.

The people were very careful to keep their wall strong and in good repair, and to pass on to their children the legacy of the wall as well, and for a long while, the wall was kept in impeccable condition.

Slowly, imperceptibly, carelessness began to creep in, and the people began to forget to check the wall until one dark day they neglected it altogether. And very shortly thereafter, a pair of fighting billy goats rammed into the wall during their sparring, and a moss-covered rock quivered,then toppled off of the wall. But nobody even noticed.

Who can say how long it was before the energetic lad walked that way? Perhaps days, perhaps weeks. But his long legs were about to carry him past the broken section, when something caught his eye. No, not the displaced rock,for his parents had never told him of the importance of the wall. Instead, the alluring view beyond the wall swept into his vision and captured his heart.

Before long, all the people had scattered throughout the countryside, intent upon going out for a lark, and the wall was left unguarded and untended, an easy target for the raiders from beyond the hills who came riding in a cloud of dust.

The people frantically tried to repair their wall before the horsemen arrived.They broke their backs passing stones down a line to try to fill in the gaps. But the more they threw boulders into the gap, the more uneasy the wall became, until it would collapse, bringing down more with it. The effort was in vain, and years too late.

The people were captured and carried off by their enemies, leaving a broken-down city with nary a stone stacked upon another stone to testify to its former greatness. And the great King sorrowed. Thus the city would have remained for centuries had not one man remembered the legacy of the wall.

This man became desperate to repair the wall, to return his nation to its majesty. He could not eat or sleep, so burdened was he with this great desire, and the King himself used his great might to procure passage for this man and a group of the people, that they might repair the wall.

The morning the repair was to begin, the people stood in the rubble at dawn, surveying the barren and stark landscape. Their joy at repairing the wall was soon overtaken by solemnity as they worked all that day at clearing the site for the wall and made hardly a dent. The day passed into night, and the days fell into weeks; they fell into bed at night with blisters swelling their fingers and bruises mottling their legs and aches tensing their backs. There were times when the people simply knew that they would not be able to finish the wall, when the believed the ever-present voice of their mocking enemies that theirs was an impossible task.  But they persevered, and on the day when the people began laying stone upon stone, they remembered the legacy of the wall.

They remembered the stone their ancestor had set as pillar and dedicated to their King when the King had visited him and promised this nation would be great. They remembered the two stones upon which the King had written his great laws. As they heaved stone after stone and fitted it exactly into place, they remembered the twelve stones their fathers had set up as a memorial to the day the King had stopped the raging waters of a great river for them to cross over. As a few ill-fitted stones collapsed every now and then, the people’s frustration gave way to remembrance of the city their King had given their fathers by collapsing its wall, and they purposed that they would never again forget their wall. The people were nearly done with the wall now, and as they laid the final stones they remembered the five stones another one of their fathers had heaved with his slingshot, slaying instantly a brutal, giant enemy.

And when the wall was finished, the men stood with their arms about their wives and their hands upon their children’s heads, smiles upon their dirty, sun-burnt faces. With the sun setting behind them, its warm golden rays reflecting off the stones in the wall like so many  prisms, they marvelled and remembered indeed the legacy of the wall.

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.…He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”

…And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:…The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones….Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.”
-Revelation 21:3-4,7,10-12, 18-19a, 25-27

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Strike a Standard

An "A" is a simple thing really. You may be completely ignorant of music, or entirely cognizant of it, but an "A"--vibrating at exactly 440 cycles (or waves) per second--is the standard by which musicians tune. It is the pitch sounded at the beginning of a concert by the oboe, and again when a soloist comes out, and again after intermission. It is the pitch a violinist must strike on the piano, or blow on a pitch pipe, or hear on a tuning fork, or press on an electronic tuner. If I am tuned to a 440 A, and you are tuned to a 400 A, and we play a duet together, then we end up with an unpleasant mixture. If, however, we both agree to a 440 A, and we play together, we will have a delightful time producing harmonious music.

Photo Credit

Although the A has vacillated between the extremes of 309Hz (Trinity College Cambridge Organ in 1759), 422.5 (George Frederic Handel's tuning fork), and 454 (Steinway's pianos in 1879), in 1939, an international standard of 440 was agreed upon--all other notes would be tuned and aligned based upon a 440Hz A. That must be that, right? Now we can all make music in pleasant harmony and forget about the worrisome scientific details of debating between a 420 A and a 450 A. Not at all.

You see, many orchestras have decided to creep their A up. Just a tinge--just a tad. Hardly noticeable, you see. They just want the extra "brilliance" of a 442 A or a 445 A. It sounds so much brighter--cuts through an auditorium so much more crisply. 444 A is quite standard in many concert halls, and especially those in Europe.

I was discussing this topic with Sarah and Lauren last week. "Now," I began, "correct me if I'm wrong, but if everybody decides to tune to a 444 A, then won't it lose its perceived 'brightness'? Won't the enterprising orchestras now have to move to a 450 A in order to achieve the desired brilliance?" They agreed with me, and Lauren pointed out that the A has historically grown sharper and sharper. Despite the fact that a standard was agreed upon, that there is no truly musical necessity for raising the pitch of an A, and that it can be quite harmful to instruments--especially pianos and the like--to be constantly changed from one version of the A to another, many, many orchestras and performers insist on tuning to something other than the standard.

C'est la vie. Or, at least, such are humans. Whether dealing with a musical standard or a moral standard, we are consistent in one aspect: pushing the standard. Just as a 441 A has a barely perceptible difference compared to a 440 A, so a frumpy, frilly, Victorian bathing suit revealed only slightly more skin. But 441 As usually lead to 444 As, and the Victorian bathing suits of a century ago have led to bikinis that expose shameful nakedness.

Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life may not have seemed much at the time, but the compromises it presented have led to generations of people who have taken the book to it's logical end and rejected the Scriptural account of creation--and with it the sanctity of human life, from conception, for all people groups, for all levels of intelligence, whether functional or not, whether old or young. From a book to a worldwide policy in favor of the murder of babies and the elderly, so goes the sagging of a standard.

You see, it's a dangerous thing to reject the moral code of God in favor of what "feels" right, or what is "edgy" or popular. Once we decide that morality is a personal choice that should not be forced on others, we have created a free-for-all. We do not just have orchestras tuning to a 444 A--we have musicians tuning to all sorts of incredible As, from 300 to 500. And when the members begin to play together, all that comes out is a hideous cacophony.

Tolerance and permissiveness do not create unity--they destroy it. Isaiah 5:20-21 addresses this serious matter:

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!"

Do not live by a personally derived morality. It will ever be changing, slipping, and sliding. Instead, tune your instrument to the true standard--God's--and live by that standard in every area of your life.

Photograph courtesy of Shaylor.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,
Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

History of Pitch


A Day in My Life: Musical Utah Version

Photo Credit

Check out Mikaela's post here if you haven't already!

6:00 The alarm sounds and Mikaela, Sarah, and I lie in bed soaking up a few more moments of sleep.

6:03 But our day must commence, so we blearily get up and begin getting ready. Today is “T-shirt Day”, so Sarah and I don our new Stradivarius Suzuki Institute t-shirts , dressing them up as much as possible with skirts, necklaces,and cardigans.

7:00 We head downstairs and over to the next wing of the hotel for our breakfast. Eggs, potatoes, sausage, waffles, cereal, bagels, yogurt, fruit, and donuts means that none of us will starve, and we certainly aren’t bored by the breakfast options! We have a traditional breakfast table, the one we sat at every morning two years ago in Utah, and the one we’ve sat at for nearly every meal this time. No—we are not creatures of habit!

7:30 We are back in our hotel room and already thinking about our next meal—lunch must be packed and necessary bags gathered! A friend we saw at Suzuki Institute aptly described how I feel about lugging all my paraphernalia each day when she said of her load, “I feel like I’m going out of the country!”

7:45 We continue our Bible study on the Holy Spirit. This morning, we are finishing up going through all of the people in the Old Testament upon whom the Holy Spirit came. The Lord has really blessed our time in His Word this week, and I am learning so much!

8:17 It was so difficult to tear ourselves from our study that we find ourselves dashing downstairs to catch our 8:20 shuttle to the high school where our Suzuki classes are being held. As we run outside, we catch sight of one shuttle pulling away from the curb, and when we finally sprinted up to the other shuttle, we are told that it is full. We were later told that we at this point looked somewhat forlorn, but we quickly recovered when we realized we had plenty of time. Finishing some writing from the day before, we sit and wait.

8:30 …and wait.

8:40 …and finally load up onto the shuttle! Adults with cellos, violas, and violins, not to mention briefcases and coffees climbing into the back seat of a 15 passenger van make for very entertaining mornings normally!

9:00 Pencils poised, paper ready, we are prepared for our first observation of the day, a group class led by one of our favorite teachers, Fernando Pinero, from Argentina. Last night he informed us that we looked tired, but this morning he reassured us that we look better. (-:

10:00-12:00 We troop upstairs for our class time with our fabulous teacher trainer. We made it through half a song today (yay!), going measure by measure, bowing by bowing, note by note, and then learned more about vibrato technique. Today we had a fabulous mentorship session in which we went around the room, each of us playing an intimidating two notes. Impeccable tone was never so desirable and never so achievable, yet somehow the standard for tone has never been higher nor more demanding.

12:00 We head outside for lunch on the grass, and over sandwiches and grapes discussed with our classmates whether or not vibrating backwards or forwards was the most pedagogically sound. What do you think?

1:00-5:00 A lecture on music reading and three hours of observation round out our afternoon. We’ve filled out pages of notes, watched numerous students, and ran up and down flights of stairs: we are quite ready for the next item on our schedule.

5:00 We are geeks. I might as well just admit it before you discover for yourselves what our free half hour was spent doing, and what in fact all our free moments have been spent doing: trying out shoulder rests. We test out feel and fit, sound and durability. And, lest you concern yourself unnecessarily, we are not conspicuous in the least as we swarm the table and monopolize all the shoulder rests, our open cases strewn everywhere, our round notes filling the big hall, analyzing every detail.  And I for one have found a new love for a shoulder rest!

5:30-6:30 We enjoy a concert performed by the phenomenal fiddler Aaron Ashton. With bow flashing, fingers flying, and keys changing every measure, he got wild applause and shouts after each unbelievable sequence. A few pieces were less than enjoyable, but the majority were mind-bogglingly amazing!

6:30 And we find ourselves waiting for the shuttle once more, since it somehow seems impossible for it to be on time. Our fellow passengers on the ride back to the hotel, however, were a mother and her children originally from New Zealand and Australia, which meant she had a delightful accent, and we simply listened to her talking!

6:53 We enjoy a delicious barbecue downstairs in the hotel, and, as always, manage our fair share of laughs.

7:17 We begin our evening rituals. Sarah, Mikaela, and I call home to talk to our families. I miss them, so it is so good to hear their voices each evening! Showers, cookies and milk, foot massages, and an episode of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House round out a very good evening.

10:45 The morning will come all too early, so lights out! Good night, Utah!


Purple Mountain Majesties

God, friends, and music...a beautiful thing! Lauren and I have been enjoying a lot of these things since last Wednesday, when Lauren, Sarah, and I traveled to Salt Lake City to reprise our adventures of two years ago and continue our Suzuki teacher training for violin. We traveled by car, plane, bus, and train to arrive at our hotel just outside of the city with a sigh of relief and an excitement to be back. Back to the city guarded by mountains, warmed by the bright sun, and refreshed by an occasional rain. Back to the school where 800 people from Singapore, Argentina, Costa Rica, China, Canada, and all over the USA converge for 11 days to learn, teach, play, perform, and meet new people.

We got in so late, we ended up ordering from Five Guy's Burgers and Fries online and then picking up our greasy (but delicious) meal in the nick of time before closing.

Of course, we are in the heart of Mormon country, and two years ago, God gave us several opportunities to witness to our unsaved classmates. This year, however, we have already met many, many Christians (though none from around here), and God has given us opportunities to have serious discussions on Mormonism, standards of Godly music, and homeschooling.

We have been studying on the Holy Spirit in the morning before heading to class, and the Holy Spirit has guided our time together to reveal some amazing new concepts. We'll definitely be planning a blog post on that in the future!

Two years ago, we realized what a challenge it was cooking for only three people with none of the customary staples like salt and pepper, flour, milk, or sugar. This year, however, we organized a meal plan and went shopping, and we have been eating quite well!

One evening, we took an excursion to this fabulous theme restaurant we had heard good things about. We invited Marissa, a homeschooled Christian Texan who plays the cello, to come along with us, and we had a fabulous time watching a diving show, taking in the Indiana-Jones-type atmosphere, and enjoying delicious Mexican desserts.

Sunday afternoon, we took the opportunity to explore SLC more, and we had the privilege of going to a Bible exhibit at the University of Utah. It was exciting to see a Geneva Bible from the 16th century, a King James Bible from the 17th century, a page from the Gutenberg Bible, and a variety of other ancient manuscripts and translations. This was an incredible chance to learn more about God's preservation and protection of His Word!

A tea shop sounded perfect to us, and the minute we walked in and were greeted by a waiter with an authentic British accent, we knew we had come to the right place. Our pasties and loose cherry blossom tea were perfection--every bit as lovely as the ones you can get in London!

This week, we have long hours of classes and observations, intermixed with some incredible concerts. Monday night, we watched Jenny Oaks Baker perform Legende by Wienawski, selections from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, and Rimsy-Korsakov's Scheherezade, as well as stunning arrangements of Disney's most beautiful pieces, such as Beauty and the Beast, and A Whole New World.

The faculty and teachers at Intermountain Suzuki Institute

We're all looking forward to learning more, meeting new people and continuing old relationships, and coming home better teachers, musicians, and friends with a renewed desire to serve God through our music.

Many pictures taken by Sarah, who blogs at The Lord's Lass.
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