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.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

If I Only Had a Brain

Joe's aunt and uncle are celebrating baptism anniversaries with several of their godchildren today with a trip to the Kennedy Center. He received his invitation weeks ago, and the event was duly written on the family calendar. Len's sister followed up a few days ago with an email. Yesterday we spoke about the arrangements--dropping Joseph off at their church and picking up from their house later.

You see where this is going, don't you?

1:40 p.m.: The phone rings. "Barb?"

Aaaargh! Joe was supposed to be at church TEN MINUTES AGO! I managed to COMPLETELY forget!

It turned out fine. Joe changed, we hopped in the car and zipped down the highway, arriving at the Kennedy Center just a few minutes after the rest of his group. He didn't even miss the instrument petting zoo before the performance.

It was almost pleasant driving into DC without traffic--zoom, zoom. It would have been nice to not have to drive so far, but the worst part was really that feeling of totally losing my mind.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Would You Do

if you had four days off?

My marvelous husband is redoing the upstairs hall bathroom. This 15 year old room has never been painted. The yard sale shower curtain is maroon and dark green. The floor (it's the kids' bathroom, after all) is dinged and water damaged.

On the project list:
  • new shower curtain (done)
  • soft yellow paint
  • a hefty new towel bar
  • a cabinet over the toilet
  • a new floor
  • probably something else
Right now everything is out in the hallway. I'm talking the door, the mirror, the medicine cabinet--everything! Len cut two holes in the drywall so he can add wood into the wall for anchoring this towel bar he's making out of a pipe.

I'm hoping to post before and after photos. (But right now I'm teaching school. Right!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

She Thinks Like a Knitter

For the past several weeks I've been teaching Marianna how to knit while Len takes Joe and Becca to their violin lesson. We've worked through some sample rows and have now started knitting a small purse from a birthday kit.

Yesterday the girls and I walked to the yarn store during tae kwon do. I needed to check the stock of double pointed needles, and the girls wanted to see the pretty yarn. Soon Marianna was asking to buy something beautiful. I reminded her that she's working on a project right now and doesn't even know what she'll make next.

Her response? No problem: "I'll buy it now and think of what to make with it later."

This must be why I keep reading about knitters swamped by their stashes. =)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Does He or Doesn't He?

Joseph's favorite refrain since Lauren left for college is, "I don't miss you!" We're pretty sure he doesn't mean it. =)

Proof that out of sight is NOT out of mind: On last week's nature walk, Joseph took the picture below and immediately said, "That was a Lauren picture. It took skills."
Side note: As I was going through the massive file of photos last night, I actually deleted this one because it's not perfectly in focus. (Joe and I both need to practice using the manual focus.) Later I remembered that I hadn't even shown it to Lauren. Waaaah! But this morning Len taught me about the recycle bin, and lo and behold, the picture is restored!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Q: How Do You Get Children to PAY ATTENTION During a Nature Walk?

A: Bring the digital camera along!

I brought ours on last week's walk, and EVERYONE was looking for and taking interesting photos, from vistas
to reflections
to close ups.
Lots of close ups.It even got a little tiresome stopping for photo after photo (and sharing the camera), but we were all enjoying the discovering. It was one of several cool, damp days, so we saw many kinds of mushrooms.Sharing the camera meant even the less skilled photographers got their turns.Rebecca took this picture of a daddy longlegs.We took close to 100 photos! Here are a few more for now--I took just one or two of the following.