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.