Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Our version of New Year's Eve is a quiet one. Tonight we'll have two guests (we typically range from zero to one more family).
The itinerary:
  • Work--a new puzzle (1,000 pieces).
  • Eat--veggies and dip (somebody might!), taquitos, CPK pizza, spanikopita, mozzarella sticks, chex mix, muddy buddies, Christmas cookies.
  • Bake--Williamsburg soft gingerbread cookies. Len makes either these or soft pretzels every year.
  • Drink--a toast with sparkling grape juice (NOT cider).
  • Play--Bananagrams.
  • Watch--the ball drop at midnight.
May your new year be blessed and bright.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Holy Family

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Family. The second reading, from St. Paul's letter to the Colossians, grabbed my attention. We homeschoolers had memorized this passage last year, which explains how God wants us to live in community, as our own holy family. We keep some laminated copies near the prayer table and still read Paul's words together now and then.

Here is part of the passage (Col 3:12-17). We still have a long way to go before reaching this about you?

"Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful."

Monday, December 22, 2008

DC in December

On December 12, our art co-op went to the National Gallery of Art to see works by some of the modern artists we studied this semester.

Some of us went in early (In for a penny, in for a pound--make the drive and parking worth it!) and started with a visit to the United States Botanic Garden. (I always say "botanicAL", but it is "botanic". Now we know.)

Right now the USBGarden is decorated for Christmas, with trees, trains, miniature DC landmarks, etc. There's a room filled with different varieties of poinsettias.Here's Becca in front of the big tree. My mom sent that plain red dress for Lauren long ago, and I cross-stitched the design on it. I remember frantically sewing in the last moments before Christmas, but it's hard to believe I ever had the time to do it all! Anyway... The orchid room was full of gorgeous blooms. Here's just one tiny plant:Joe grabbed the camera and raced around taking pictures. Here are two sides of the same leaf:The jungle:The several stories high skylight/greenhouse roof:After lunch we had our art tour. We divided into older and younger groups, and followed our docents, who were skilled at getting the children to observe and think about the works.

I was hoping to see some specific pieces that unfortunately weren't on the day's list. But as we were racing through the tunnel between the buildings, we came upon a familiar sculpture!The cool thing was that, from a distance, I said, "Wow, that looks like a Henry Moore!" And it was!

I've been to the gallery many times before and SEEN that sculpture, but never RECOGNIZED it until that day. For me, that is one of the great things about this co-op--I'm learning along with my children. (They have their "aha!" moments, too.)

When the day was over, guess what we saw on our way back to the car?Yes, another one we could guess from a distance. How different it looks from varying angles!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How to Make Your Big Sister Cry

  1. Read about her favorite Christmas.
  2. Find out she doesn't have the COMPLETE memory collection.
  3. Send her the final piece. (Cue tears as the first notes play...)
Thank you!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Prayer is Always in Season

When we need to keep a prayer request in our minds throughout the day, I light a candle. Seeing the flame is our reminder to pray.
This past week a family from school suddenly lost a five year old, and my cousin endured a serious surgery. My aunt had a mild heart attack the week before that. I wish I had posted sooner to ask others to pray with us. We went to A's funeral Monday. My cousin's recovery has been slower and more difficult than expected, but he should be home within a few days.

Please help us pray for healing in both situations. Thank you!

Christmas Carols

I found this Christmas carol meme over at MacBeth's.

Christmas Carols:

1. Love 'em, hate 'em, tolerate 'em, or...? Love them!
2. Policy: none before Christmas, none before Thanksgiving, or...? None before Thanksgiving.
3. Favorite? Favorites, if you've got more than one?Wow--lots of favorites. The Andy Williams Merry Christmas cd takes me waaaaay back. The first "jing-a-ling, jing-jing-a-ling" perks me right up. Luckily my children have been brainwashed indoctrinated into the tradition.

I really like Advent and chant-type songs: O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence; Of the Father's Love Begotten; People Look East; What Child is This? Also Joy to the World; The Holly and the Ivy (beautiful verses); O Holy Night. Newer songs like Breath of Heaven and Mary Did You Know? Weston Priory songs. And more I can't think of right now. I love Christmas music!
4. Least favorite? Drives you batty/hate it/turn it off if it comes on the radio? Santa Baby, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer
5. Caroling door to door in neighborhood? Ever done it/would do it? Wouldn't even consider it? Caroled some as a kid, and fortunately have a friend who hosts a caroling party every year. We'll be going on Friday!
6. Funniest kids' rendition, if any? Hmmm...
7. Most inappropriate carol ever heard in a church setting (Catholic or otherwise)? Hmmm... Guess I've been lucky (or forgetful).
8. The one foreign language carol I know (or know best) is...? Probably one verse of Silent Night in the original German.
9. Carol that perplexes you the most? Remember the adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?" That's what I don't get about some secular "Christmas" songs (see #4 and their ilk)--WHY?

Too much "styling" always perplexes me, as well. A singer may want to add his or her touch to a familiar carol, but the ones that stray too far from familiar tune or tempo or instrumentation make me wonder, "Why?"
10. Carol your whole family will sing? Away in a Manger, if we start on the right note.

Mary, Did You Know? is a song I didn't hear until I was a homeschooling parent. I distinctly remember receiving the Rescue cd as an extra in a big order from Rainbow Resources one year. Here's someone else's version for you to enjoy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Man Walks Down the Street in That Hat, People Know He's Not Afraid of Anything

--Immortal words spoken to macho Jayne Cobb as he models the hideous hat his ma has made for him. Jayne's a character on a tv show (Firefly) that filmed just 14 episodes 6 years ago, but when David asked me to knit the hat, I was able to find multiple patterns online. Never underestimate the fans!

The problem with multiple patterns was actually the variety, especially when it came to figuring out how many stitches to start with. I made four gauge swatches, then an educated guess, hoping to produce a hat that actually fit. Once past that stumbling block, the actual knitting was pretty easy. A side benefit of the long Thanksgiving drive home was that I was able to finish everything, including my first ever pom-pom. What do you think?It definitely takes a special guy to wear such a--ahem--unique hat.

Mini review: we experienced Firefly on dvd. It's a sort of Western, set in a sci fi future, but driven more by story than technology. Len and I enjoyed that it is intelligent, complex, and funny, with interesting characters, but I can't give an unconditional thumbs up. There is violence, sometimes extreme or gratuitous, and some episodes had too much, shall we say, sensuality. We censored ourselves a bit, and David more. It's maybe surprising we watched it all, considering we haven't allowed ourselves to see the latest James Bond movie.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

They Stepped Up to the Plate

Yesterday I wasn't feeling well. It was nothing dramatic, but I spent several hours in a daze on the couch.

The children at home were wonderful. They quietly went about their schoolwork, coming to me for bits of help now and then. They made tea for all of us. And all morning, THERE WAS NO BICKERING!

Bickering, button-pushing, and criticizing seem to be part (sometimes a big part) of most of our days at home. It's immensely draining (Do you referee, do you ignore it, do you have to hear it AGAIN?), and I am really grateful at how smoothly life passed by yesterday.

Maybe I'll school from the couch more often. ;-)

Metro Traffic

Okay, don't complain to me about your traffic unless you live near Los Angeles. Our DC metro area is #2 on the hideous list. Today's evidence:

It took 68 minutes to get David to his school's play rehearsal this morning--11.8 miles away. (Yes, he was late.) No accidents, no emergencies, just "volume". The journey home? 24 minutes. Ack!

Whining over--resume normal programming. :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Memories

Click on the link, and when the music starts playing, minimize the screen. That should bring you back here to read while you listen.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is of the first time our family (I was in high school or college) spent the week at Weston Priory in Vermont. We stayed in a renovated barn heated by a wood furnace. The monks cut down a giant tree for us, which we covered with paper snowflakes. Most of the family went skiing nearby while I played in the deep snow with my little sister who could walk on top of the ice crust. We walked through the woods to attend 5:00 a.m. prayer in the darkness with the monks. They sang then, and during the Christmas Eve mass which was followed by a breakfast brunch. Was it midnight mass? My mom must remember many more details than I do. It was a peaceful, active, reflective, religious, family Christmas.

I finally bought myself a "monk cd" as we call it, and am savoring their songs of Advent and Christmas.

Do you remember your favorite Christmas?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Fruit

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Pomegranates are an early winter treat that my family enjoys (not me--too seedy). While an association with St. Nicholas is a bit of a stretch, they do grow in Turkey. (Remember, he's from Myra in the land that is now Turkey?)

If you've never tried this exotic (for me, anyway--I didn't see one before I was married) fruit, now may be the time. I've put up a preparation tutorial over at Come to the Table.

Friday, December 5, 2008

In Memory

Hyatt Nolan died peacefully Thursday evening, December 4. Please pray for her soul and the family and friends who will miss her.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Our Little Bit of Advent

We're halfway through the first week of Advent, and have begun digging out and setting up our decorations. Maybe I'd be more on the ball if we hadn't been driving home from NY on the first Sunday (8 1/2 hours just from Long Island!). Then again, maybe not...

So here is the front door banner. A friend gave me the felt pieces a few years ago, and I put everything together. The flames are pinned on one by one as time goes by. We'll put up a Christmas wreath when Christmas gets here. I think a pine wreath with four bows (3 purple and one rose) would also be a nice Advent remembrance.Our Advent wreath is usually decorated with evergreen pieces from our Christmas tree. Since we don't have that yet, I put the candles on a cake stand for now. These are those big, glass novena candles, so they make quite a display already.I bought a beautiful, gigantic Advent calendar this year. Some other families have noticed that some days are more political than religious, so we'll tweak those few. I've actually got several to fix, as I bought nine more to give to our godchildren next year!The homeschoolers are still trying to say a rosary decade with meditations during the week, so this is what the prayer table looks like right now.I thought the Advent calendar would be "enough", but the children did want to use our Jesse tree again. We made the shrinky-dink ornaments last year, and I've seen several poring over them in the basket, finding their favorites and remembering which ones they colored. It will be nice to go over the scriptures and symbols again.

Now to spend some time preparing our hearts for Christ. Happy Advent to you!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Way of the World

My mom and aunt call each other 'ster.

My sisters and I made fun of them for years.

Now we call each other 'ster.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Come to the Table

There are a few new posts over at Come to the Table: cinnamon rolls, hot spiced cider, and the use of dental floss in the kitchen (really!).

Coming up when I get around to it: chocolate mousse pie (RICH), the best flank steak marinade ever, homemade "gyros", buttermilk and oatmeal (muffins and pancakes).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Let's Just Call It...Invigorating

I had a cold shower at my parents' house the other day. Not just cold...REALLY COLD.

See, the furnace had been turned off for an oil delivery, but in the hustle and bustle of the day, turning it back on had been forgotten. So when I finally got out of my pjs around lunchtime (hey, we're on vacation here), the furnace (and thus the hot water heater) had been off for hours.

So there I am, la la la, sudsing my hair...rinsing my hair...when the cozy shower begins getting much less cozy. The call out yields the information that, no, no one is running the dishwasher or another shower or anything like that--this is truly THE END of the hot water. And the warm water. And the tepid water. Yikes!

Okay, then. Water off. Suds up. Pour scoops of gaspingly cold snowmelt over pitiful self.

I've got to say that it was invigorating in a well-now-I-feel-warm-I'm-so-glad-that's-over sort of way. My mom is still apologizing, but it's actually kind of funny. Now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Delaware Doldrums

Alternate title: "Delaware Makes Me Grumpy"

Alternate alternate title: "I Hate Delaware"

Traveling through Delaware seems to be an ordeal every time. I'll bet we're only in the state for 15 miles, but they are often the most trying of a trip up the 95 corridor.

Tuesday night was no exception. Late night, not THAT close to Thanksgiving, and this time it took 45 minutes to go ONE mile. Ugh!

It's gotten to the point that I didn't even pray that Delaware would pass quickly (Some prayers are just answered, "No."), but that I would have a good attitude about it all. And I was okay for awhile, even listening to an educational cd (Mary in Scripture) while everyone else slept. Slept! (Although it was actually a good thing that I was wide awake...)

Eventually we were through and made it to my parents' house and are now enjoying the feast of food and family time that is our Thanksgiving. It's wonderful.

And there's always the bright side to look on: the drive up was definitely better than our drive home will be: south on 95 on the Sunday after the holiday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Small World

On weekend mornings, I meet other dogs and their owners on the trails through the woods. Some like to "meet and greet", others need to keep moving. One nice man always stops so his dog and Dusty can play for a few minutes, running, circling, bouncing, and sniffing.

I saw this pair on Saturday and Sunday, and we chatted a bit, mostly about the dogs. On the way home on Sunday we met for the third time this week and I actually introduced myself. Guess what? He's the husband of Joe's violin teacher! Len (the musical one) goes to the lessons, so I'd only seen the dog a few times, and in a very different context.

Now Dusty has been invited to go along for those Thursday morning lessons, to play in the yard with Max. A moment of serendipity for me, and many play dates to come for Dusty. Lucky dog!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Co-ops Are Cool

I was so focused on sharing pictures and narration of this year's art co-op that I neglected to mention some of my favorite features of co-ops in general: shared effort and accountability.

Co-ops are useful for sharing planning or execution (or both) of subjects that are time consuming or in which one mom has more skills than the other(s). If one is good at science and another at writing, maybe you can get together once or twice a week to cover both subjects.

Our preschool and KONOS co-ops involved academics and activities, and required lots of effort, but because many families were involved, most weeks were easy for most moms.

Accountability is probably the most important aspect of co-oping for me. That Henry Moore plaster project? For "just" my kids? Probably not happening. I make a better, more consistent effort when I know I'm responsible for educating other children, too. Co-oping is a way for me to follow through on doing what I WANT to do, especially with the more hands-on side of school.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Art Co-op

Co-ops are a great way to enrich the homeschooling experience. My first introduction was with a preschool co-op 14 years ago. Five moms (6 students) took turns planning and executing lessons with another mom as a helper.

Through the years I've been involved in co-ops for unit studies (KONOS--6 families, 12 plus children), science, history, writing, and art. Some have included just one other family.

I've used Mona Brookes' Drawing With Children at home (just my family), with good results, but have been part of a 6 family art co-op for going on 4 years now. We usually meet for 8-12 sessions per semester. In the past we've hired a "real" artist to teach drawing as well as work in varied media. We have so many students that we meet simultaneously (divided by age) at two nearby homes.

For our last several semesters we moms have led lessons from Discovering Great Artists. We present the artist and his (occasionally her) work, teaching some history and art appreciation. Then comes an art project related to the week's artist. The children have painted with melted crayons, watercolors, and tempera thickened with flour. They've made prints with wood and leaves, molded clay, and produced landscapes in several styles. We've worked our way through the Renaissance and into the Expressionist, Surrealist, and Abstract movements.

For my latest teaching turn I presented the British sculptor, Henry Moore (1898-1986). He was prolific, producing many small

as well as huge works.His early work, while not realistic is recognizable--women, mothers with children, families. Animal forms also interested him.

Moore sculpted lots of reclining figures like this one.This animal shape is more "inspired by" than a replication.For our art project, the children were to carve blocks of "stone". I mixed equal amounts of plaster and sawdust, then added enough water to get a mashed potato consistency.
Having a veterinarian for a husband means I have a big box of gloves in just my size. So handy!

Len has a dust collection system in the workshop that he has never emptied. This meant we had an ample supply of sawdust for my 23 blocks. The hardest item to gather was actually the 1/2 gallon containers; our family was happy to drink premium orange juice for a few months!

I've worked with plaster before, and it's often tricky to get everything mixed with just the right amount of water before it starts hardening. The sawdust gave me a lot more time to get everything just right.
I mixed the plaster about 1 1/2 hours before class so it would be firm enough to unmold but still easy to carve with dinner knifes and regular spoons.
Everyone enjoyed this project. For some it was just a chance to work with a new material, while others had a plan and tried to make something specific. This one was inspired by birds. From this angle it looks a bit like a bird's head, and from another direction it looks more like a body and tail.It was easiest to carve on the first day, but Becca worked on her project, below, over the course of several sessions.
A knife and spoon work for carving, digging, and smoothing. While soft(ish), the sculptures could also be smoothed with just fingers.
Our co-op is going on a field trip to the National Gallery in December, but otherwise we're done until January. I'm scheduled to cover just one artist next semester--Salvador Dali. I may add an extra session just so I can try a project (not in our book) inspired by my favorite contemporary artist, Andy Goldsworthy. (Follow the link to see some of his beautiful, transitory works.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Morning Musing: The Near Occasion of Sin

Dusty is a good dog--cheerful, friendly, (mostly) obedient. A very good dog.But when the trash can holds the carcass of last night's roast chicken, I don't leave it in the kitchen. To the mudroom it goes, behind the gate. Dusty's a good dog, but hey, there's only so much that can be expected of him in the face of such a temptation.

This morning, when I saw what I done almost automatically, "near occasion of sin" jumped into my head.

There are many versions, but my favorite act of contrition is an old one:
"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because of Thy just punishments, but most of all, because they offend Thee, my God, who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin."

When something or someone or someplace makes it easier for us to sin, maybe even likely that we will sin, we need to stay away from it/him. We've all got our weaknesses--certain books or movies, bad friends, lack of sleep (Moms, you know what I mean!)--things that make it hard to be good.

We need to put those things in the mudroom behind the gate. We can't stay in the kitchen with them, smelling that chicken, seeing that so-easy-to-tip-over trash can, and then expect ourselves to not take off the lid and make a big mess of things. The Church in her wisdom reminds us to stay away from temptation.

Another thought I had is that we need to also make sure we're not someone else's near occasion of sin. Things that we say or do, even if they're not objectively wrong (but especially if they are), can make it hard for others to be good. Sometimes we may need to put ourselves or our behaviors behind a gate to protect others, especially those we love.

I'm thinking of siblings pestering each other, friends sharing bad language or bad images or gossip, parents nagging until anger or resentment builds, or (this is the one that jumped out at me today) women dressing provocatively. That could be a zillion posts or books by itself (and is, all over the web), but the idea of women dressing modestly to protect the virtue of men is an interesting one.

Have a great day! Share with me YOUR morning musings! :-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Countdown Continues

Just four more days until she turns 4!

Sunday, November 9, 2008





Both families can still use our prayers. Thanks!

Meatless Meals

Because of Jesus' ultimate offering on Good Friday, the Church calls us all to make a concrete sacrifice on Fridays throughout the year. In our home, that usually means no meat.

Joseph has questioned me many times about why we eat no beef, pork, or chicken, but do allow seafood (catfish, tuna, pasta with clam sauce...). The answer lies in tradition with a small "t", but I admit it's not fully satisfying. I'm going to try to let this child lead me.

Now I'm planning Friday meals that are solidly vegetarian. It probably won't be 100% right away, but that's okay. It took a few years early in our marriage to get from meatless Lenten Friday to meatless year-round. I'll still try to make things taste good--soups, Tex-Mex foods (beans and rices), cheese and egg concoctions. (We're not vegans yet!)

This week I tried a new recipe for butternut bisque. As I expected, the reactions were mixed: thumbs up from the adults, thumbs down (way down) from the children. A favorite "fasting" dinner is soup, rustic bread, cheese, and apples, so at least no one went hungry. It did take some of them a while to empty their bowls (only one scoop each!) though.

I'll try something safe this week, before stretching our palates again. :-)

BTW: I followed the recipe pretty closely, but added about a teaspoon of salt.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Run, Don't Walk (An October Tale...Tail?)


Dusty, lunging: "Grrrrr... Ruffruffruff..."

Me, actually looking because although this dog chases deer and squirrels and rabbits and birds, he is usually silent: "Dusty, that's a skunk! What are you thinking? Run!"

I pulled that leash with vigor, turned both our tails, and RAN. Luckily said skunk had not yet lifted its tail.

We had a very short walk that day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Romans 12:12

"Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election 2008 Meditations

This morning I started my rosary on the walk to the polls. Tuesday is the sorrowful mysteries, providing food for thought on God's mercy and love and just how far He'll go for us. The line that stood out the most to me, though, was from the Lord's Prayer, "Deliver us from evil."

I suppose that sounds dramatic, but making it easier to abort babies only hurts women and society, and of course the children. We don't allow people to choose to steal or stalk or abuse. Why should we allow them to choose to kill children? It's not about the woman choosing what to do with her body--she's deciding what to do with someone else's body. That baby is not her mother.

Today is the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, schooled in both civil and canon law. The meditation in Magnificat included these words from Deuteronomy 4:5-8,
"Therefore, I teach you the statues and decrees as the Lord, my God, has
commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to
occupy. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your
wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and
say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.' For what
great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to
us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and
decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you
I'm praying our nation's laws will come closer to God's law in all areas of truth and justice.

One last quote! Deuteronomy contains statutes for Israel as well as history relating to the tribes' entrance into the Promised Land. I can't read quotes like those above without being reminded of Chapter 30, verse 19,
"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before
you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life,then,
that you and your descendants may live."

Election 2008

Maybe my guardian angel woke me up this morning.

I needed to vote, but today's schedule is tricky. Turnout is supposed to be lighter mid-day, but I'm teaching the art co-op at 1:00. And we're carving a plaster/sawdust mix, which needs to mixed ahead, but not too far ahead. And then there's school--how much do I give up or how much can we do while standing in line? I considered going early, but I've been in line then during off years, and today would be slow.

Well, I woke up plenty early, even for this self-professed morning person: I was out of bed by 5:20! Dusty and I set out for a walk, and I was at the school by 5:47 a.m. (polls open at 6:00 here). There were already about 70 people in line!

I tied Dusty to a tree once the line started moving. All went smoothly; he waited about 15 minutes for me. We took the path home through the woods to let off some steam (I was jumpy, too), and made it back before I usually do from our morning walk.

I feel like I just got two hours of my life back. :-) Now it's time for shower and school and art and carpool and...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sarah Anne Foss

Sarah Anne Foss was born October 31, 2008, about 5 weeks early. Things went well considering how early she was--she came in at 5#6oz. Right now she's having trouble breathing and will likely be in the NICU for another two weeks. Sarah has only been able to attempt nursing once so far. Please pray for her and all her family, and for Elizabeth's recovery and perseverance.

Here's a video the family posted on YouTube:

She's small, but I can still see the "Foss" in her--I'm thinking of Stephen, for one.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Book Review and a Memory

We've been listening to All of a Kind Family these past few days. It's the first book of a series by Sydney Taylor about an observant Jewish family in NYC in the early 1900s. It's sweet and fun--the author understands children well.

She's a good teacher, too. In the course of telling a good story, she's explained many Jewish traditions and practices; we recognized most of our Seder meal in her description of Passover. I highly recommend this audio, although you may want to make a cheat sheet early on to keep the children straight. I just looked at the back of the box and found out I had daughters #2 and #3 mixed up.

A special meal in the story set off my memory. As the family celebrates the weekly Sabbath, they all drink some of "the sweet, dark, red wine that Papa made himself."

Instantly I was at a sunny park in California, toasting my brother's marriage with a sip of sweet, dark, red wine (the best I ever tasted) that our Opa had made himself.

That was a happy day, but now I am missing Opa. He was a wonderful grandfather.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just Tell Us the Truth

That's the title of this powerful video I found today. If you are thinking of voting for Barack Obama, please consider this carefully:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Worth 1,000 Words

So I won't add many of my own.

Starting at Trinity in 8th grade (rather than 7th) could have been tough for Daniel. Fortunately, there are several new boys in his small class. Another thing that has really aided the transition is the soccer team.

Trinity offers one sport per gender per season, so most of his classmates are playing with him. He's spending good time with his classmates and some great men who are his teachers AND coaches.

Biggest help for the first days of school: Soccer practice for a whole week BEFORE school started.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back, Then Forth Again

VCU had no classes for a few days, so Lauren came home for a long weekend. When she arrived Wednesday night, everyone ran outside to greet her ("Lorny, Lorny!"). She distributed thrift store finds (leftover from art projects) and showed us some of her work on the laptop.

Of course she spent time socializing with friends, but Lauren's homework load meant that she also stayed home for many hours each day. It was such a treat to wander by her room and chat a bit. Talking to her now is like getting to know her all over again; her life has changed so much.

She ventured forth again this morning, and it was a bit like an initial send off. The loading of the car (plenty of homemade food from Grammy and Costco food from Mommy). The multiple hugs and kisses. The waving from the driveway. Joseph ("I don't miss you!"), who was camping, WAS disappointed ("Darn!") to come home to find he had missed her departure.

Ah, but she'll be back.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Re-do is Done

The bathroom update took a little longer than expected (explanation further down), but the project was a great success. By skipping the new cabinet, using leftover flooring, and putting in a lot of sweat equity, Len kept this project under $100 (not counting the plumber--explanation below).

First, some "before" pictures:

Not hideous, but not inspiring.Hideous.Blah. The light fixture, mirror, and medicine cabinet were all removed. The toilet was in the bathtub.Len cut two holes to add reinforcements behind the drywall, then built a long, sturdy towel bar out of a pipe. It reaches from the door to the shower.Ta da! The paint is a bright (rather than soft) yellow. Lauren said, "If you're not a morning person, it will make you one."The accent color is "mango" spray paint. Notice the towel bar.No longer blah.

Len bought a sheet of vinyl flooring, but when he pulled up the old floor and one layer of water damaged subfloor, it became apparent that it would be a lot of work to install that inexpensive floor. He decided to use the laminate tile we have in the kitchen, which hides dirt well, looks good with the paint, and has held up very well in the four years we've had it.
Laminate is not the ideal material for a (wet) bathroom, but hopefully the children are old enough to help keep it in good condition. (I still need to show them the spot in the pantry that was swollen by a leaky gallon bottle of water.) Len glued many of the joins and caulked the edges carefully, so we have high hopes for this (free) floor.
When Len was ready to reinstall the toilet, he found that the water shut-off valve needed to be replaced. No problem. He's handled bigger jobs before. To replace it, though, he had to turn off all the water in the house. Problem: the whole house shut-off valve wasn't working, either.
The next line of defense was a valve between our house and the street, so it was time to call a plumber. He came, he replaced, we paid. Len took care of the toilet and its valve, and we have a bright "new" bathroom upstairs (shared by up to 6 people).
Calling the plumber was not really a big deal, either. It delayed the project a bit, but was not a problem in any other way. It was a few days before I clued in to the biggest blessing about the valves, namely that the best time to find out you can't shut off the water is when you don't really NEED to shut off the water. Who knows what disaster may have been averted? ...
Thanks, honey!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pro-Life Politics

There is much more to being pro-life than politics, but politics does matter. Here are some interesting links. (Thanks, Elizabeth.)

The first is more inspirational, the others scarier. There is very little being said on the national scene about Barack Obama's plans to eliminate abortion restrictions, or about his record so far. And when it came up in the last debate, he smiled and lied.

Women must be helped and valued before abortion will end. Hearts must change before abortion will end. In the meantime, laws can save lives.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Caterpillar Diaries: Day 29

I'm confused, and I think our Eastern Black Swallowtails are, too.

We've never had butterflies emerge so late in the season. After the four chrysalises formed, I kept the jar on the school table for a few days. Then Marianna noticed that one was getting darker. Not the change from green to brown that they sometimes make, but the darkening that in the past has foretold the rotting of a "dud".

That was my signal to put the jar in the fridge to prevent any others from going bad. A few days later I had to take the jar out again to make room for groceries, but I left it in the basement, which is at least cooler than the main level.

After a few more days--eek!--I saw a butterfly in there as I passed by! It had emerged from the first (darkened) chrysalis, I think 14-15 days after forming.

I put the jar outside in the shade to let nature decide what to do with these guys. We've had some cool nights, but also some really warm days, so there may be some confusion about overwintering vs. emerging NOW.

Another butterfly has emerged since then, and a third chrysalis is darkening. The jar is staying outside for now. If we have any chrysalises left when winter truly arrives, I'll need to decide about leaving them out vs. putting them in the fridge. Butterfly #2 waiting to be released. Can you see the empty chrysalises on the stick and the wall?
It was still subdued and crawled from hand to hand rather than flying away immediately, so we must have found it not long after its emergence.

Joe coaxed it onto a flower in Marianna's cutting garden. We also have a butterfly bush nearby.

This second EBS was released on October 13 (caterpillar day 33). I'm not too optimistic about its survival and reproductive chances, but I suppose this is what would have happened if it had always lived outside, too.