Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Daze

The patch of wild mint bordering our woods is where I discovered the only living creatures that seemed to be enjoying the oppressive heat and humidity of a July afternoon.
At least ten species were crawling, hopping, and fluttering among the petite blooms.
Based on the handy charts and photos at,
I believe the blue-winged insect above is a double-banded scoliid wasp.
Neon green, ordinary black, yellow . . .  Boring and beautiful were both there.
The smallest ones seemed the most numerous.
These look lile Red-banded has almost 4,000 photos of various adults--who knows how many caterpillars the website could also help you identify!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Better Than the Alternative

For a few years now I've been flipping out about my approaching 50th birthday.
Thirty felt young--for goodness sake, my first baby was barely a year old then. 
And 40 was no big deal.  Heck, I had a baby at 43!
But this half-century mark has been looming like a dark cloud on my horizon:
  • For the first time ever, I was embarrassed to state my age.
  • I dreaded becoming lonely and frail (despite the fact that the older generation of my family is busy and cheerful).
  • I worried about becoming insignificant/obsolete, having my children outgrow me.  They are a huge part of my life.  Would I stop mattering as they naturally and rightly mature and move on?
Fifty didn't equal elderly to me, but it felt like the beginning of the end.
It may sound silly to you, but my angst and sense of foreboding were growing steadily.  Once in a while I'd joke that growing old "beats the alternative," but that wasn't enough to actually turn my attitude around.
So what changed?
I had been reflecting on discerning and following God's will, and on those who abandon themselves to Him.  Blogposts and In Conversation With God nudged my mind.
For ages I've believed myself committed to doing God's will if only I know what it is.  But how do I know? 
Of course there's plenty of guidance out there, most of which I'm too lazy to seek out and read.  But one day a thought passed through the noise and struck my consciousness:  until further notice, I can assume that God's will for me includes growing old (or at least older).
Go ahead--laugh.  I think I did, too!  ;-) 
Yet that simple idea has turned my attitude around.  God wants me to live, and live for Him.
If any of my fears become reality, so be it.  I can cope and offer up any hardship.
Growing old, like growing up, is meant to be.  Happy birthday to me!
Photos taken by Lauren during our June vacation in the Smoky Mountains.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Moving Right Along

Friday we mailed a signed contract with a check in order to reserve Lauren and Adam's reception venue (their first choice date was already booked!).  Saturday we drove to DC to look at it in person.  Charming!

"On the way" (ish) Len, Becca, Grammy, and I shopped with the bride and bought her gown.  Yes!  It's in our hands already!
Sorry, that's all there is to see for now!  I will tell you that the dress is lovely.  :-)  Of course, it didn't take much to transform my daughter from beautiful to glowing (not that I'm biased or anything).

There is still a myriad of details to take care of before next summer, but with the bride and groom away at school for months between now and then, it's a huge relief to have some of the bigger boxes checked off.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Small Successes: Homemaking Tweaks

I haven't written a "small successes" post since April, and in that time it's moved from Faith and Family Live to Chocolate for Your Brain
Here are a few of my recent (not all this week, though) accomplishments:

1. We have an effective chore system, and one of the weekly tasks is the emptying of trash cans.  Historically this worked fine for 9 out of 10 containers, but the receptacle in the kids' bathroom was always overflowing before Saturday.  Overflowing.  Every week.  With trash on the floor.  Ugh!  It took many years, but I finally came up with the no-duh solution--I bought a bigger trash can.
Not bad for a $5 impulse buy

2. My in-laws generously bought me a new bread machine 2 Christmases ago, which I've mostly used for making dough.  This summer I've been working to develop a 100% whole wheat recipe that will mix and bake in the machine.  It will save time and is so much more energy efficient than using the oven, especially in hot weather.  I've had some successes and failures, and so far don't have a keeper recipe.  Yesterday's attempt came out fairly well, though (a little dry, and I'd prefer a perfectly smooth top).
3. I have a pantry with plenty of wire shelves, plus an extra high set that Len built for me long ago, but sometimes it's still tricky to manage all the food and equipment I want to store in there.  Lately the bags have been driving me crazy!  We have more than usual--Boy Scout popcorn, chips, pretzels, rice cakes, tortilla chips, etc.  Not everything is open or eaten every day, but those floppy bags take up space and get jumbled and fall down from on high.

I decided to buy a container to corral all those goodies--something clear or with open sides so we'd be able to view its contents.  It also needed to be light enough to easily pull down from the shelf.  I located a few possibilities in the store, but as I kept wandering I found . . . ta da . . . a laundry basket!  It's light, open on the sides, and cost an unbelievable $2.75.
Yes, I know I'm easily amused.  Thank you for pointing that out.  ;-)

Sherry has links to other moms' successes.  Go be inspired!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Me and My House: Summer 2011

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:15

What with summer trips, summer calm, summer craziness, and computer issues, I've been away from this blog for quite a while.  It's time for a quick update.

When we left for our Smoky Mountain vacation in early June, the tadpoles had developed back legs and were resting on them, as well as hop/walking a bit. 
Unfortunately, the froglets began another die-off.  One expired the day before our departure.  As time passed, each morning and afternoon Marianna's best friend would find a new group of corpses, 5-10 at a time!  Yes, we had many creatures in that habitat.

Even though they changed the water every day (not a simple task, carrying two pitchers from the creek), fed the living, and removed the dead, our intrepid sitter and her mom couldn't end the carnage.  Perhaps the habitat was too crowded, or maybe a disease was running through the population.  Eventually we all agreed that it was time for an early release.  The remaining adolescents were carried to a calm spot and set free into the creek.  We'll probably never know what went wrong, but hopefully we'll have more success next time.  Yes, we hope to try again.

In June our family spent a week in the Carolinas, mostly in the Smoky Mountains.  We hiked, ate out, tubed, ate in, watched movies, visited family, played mini golf, swam, kayaked, biked, etc.  It was great!  That postcard photo above is the view from the deck of our vacation home.  Not too shabby, eh?  The fog is an almost daily occurrence, hence the name Smoky Mountains.

Over 4th of July week, we all spent some time in NY.  There was no Saranac trip this year, but we had a family reunion of sorts at my sister's house (and my parents' and other sister's, too).  She and her husband and children live in a charming old house

on several acres
complete with a large garden and chickens.
There's also an idyllic swimming hole at the creek down the hill.

Family time--gotta love it!

Rebecca enjoyed a one week visit from her favorite cousin just before our NY trip.  She's become a bookworm, and this summer is tearing through American Girl stories, Charlotte's Web, and other chapter books.  Now she's in the midst of dance/gymnastics camp, and is loving her first all-day-away experience.

Marianna's favorite girl cousin (from FL) spent 2 weeks in NY, so she was there, too.  Then came a week at camp in MD (close to David's college).  It was a Catholic camp, and the girls had so much fun!  Swimming, canoeing, daily mass, gospel reflections, Messy Olympics, games, songs, etc. kept them busy and entertained.  The Messy Olympics sound amazing--the girls ended up covered in food from various events:  spaghetti, peanut butter, ketchup, syrup and flour, eggs, and on and on.  Eventually a fire truck came to hose them off.  Really!  Marianna has two more 1/2 day camps coming up this summer:  Irish dance and basketball.
Ready for Marianna's final mass at camp

It seems that our youngest children are the busiest this summer. Joseph spent two weeks in NY and is now on a two week scout trip in Alaska! He'll have a week of camp in August followed by a pre-Labor Day school start.
On his way to the carpool to the airport to Denver to Fairbanks.

Daniel is working as part of the summer maintenance crew at our parish, painting, moving furniture in and out of classrooms, weeding, cutting grass, etc.  This means he can participate in fewer trips and camps, although he did manage a weekend in NY, a retreat in Steubenville (OH), and an August trip to World Youth Day.  Then comes junior year, with SATs, college visits, etc.  Here we go again!

David's job at the bike shop gives him a little more flexibility, so he was able to spend some time at the beach with his favorite cousin (are you sensing a summer theme?) after our NY reunion.  He developed (or modified--it's not quite clear) a role playing game and has enjoyed hosting a group of friends for weekly gaming sessions.  In June Dave hosted a bonfire that turned into a sleepover, since so many of the guests were college friends, driving two hours to attend.  We enjoyed spending time with such great teens.

Since her nannying job is in the neighborhood, we're seeing more of Lauren than in some previous summers.  She's been working hard on the personal front, too--getting her class schedule taken care of (so she will--God willing--graduate on time) and making wedding plans.

In this beginning stage, she's been concentrating on reserving a date and a hall.  Lauren has put in untold hours researching the possibilities while taking into account budget, beauty, distance, etc.  She found a lovely space in DC, which will hopefully be ours very soon.  We're planning a late summer 2012 wedding.

Meanwhile, at the beach, Lauren was dragged (kicking and screaming I'm sure--not!) to a bridal store by my aunt, cousins, and niece for her first dress try-ons.  (No, I missed it . . .)  My cousin took some pix with her phone, which I can't resist posting.

My baby!

Len's summer has been busy with work, leisure, and maintenance projects.  He and his partner hired a new veterinary graduate, who started working at Towne this month.  February (the clinic moving time) was not the best time for an open house, so that was also in July.  It was a fun afternoon with tours, raffles, children's activities, etc.
Len did almost all the organizing of our Smoky Mountain trip.  When we returned home he decided it was time to relax by refurbishing the deck.  This long overdue project (I won't lie, but I don't help much, either) involved power washing 17 years of weathering followed by staining/sealing.  Len dismantled the homemade table, found a new one on Craig's List, and built a gate for the stairs so that Dusty can join us for dinner without the otherwise inevitable deer chase.  It feels like a new, and newly welcoming, space.
And after a few too many "blue screens of death," our hero researched, bought, and installed a new computer.  Two interesting aspects of this projects are its speed (Len mentioned to Daniel one morning that we "would probably need to get a new computer," and by the time he returned from work, there it was!) and the fact that David approves of Len's choice.  Sometimes it's a challenge to keep up with our tech-savvy progeny!
My summer sounds quite dull compared to the rest of my crew's.  Keeping the house tidy, laundry done, and food on the table seems to be more challenging than expected.  We've been eating mostly dinners that can be yanked out of the freezer or whipped up quickly from staples on hand.  The freezer is almost out of last minute saves, so I'll have to start planning again soon.

Planning school is next on my agenda.  This year I'll have "just" a 2nd and 6th grader at home, but I want to do it right, which for me means having the game plan in place before we start.

In between driving, homemaking, and pooling (okay, not really a verb . . .) I have managed some knitting and more reading than usual.  I'm a bookworm at heart, but often don't read because a good book might not be put down, leading to several days of nothing getting done, which I can't afford any more.  And a book marginal enough that I can put it down means that I often do so, without picking it up again. 

This summer I've indulged myself.  Many of the books I've read are at the tween and teen level (checking them out for Marianna or reading along with the boys), which makes them quick.  The latest grown-up book I read is Unbroken, about an American captured by the Japanese in WWII.  Wow!  What a book!  Laura Hillenbrand is an engaging, thoughtful, and thorough author.  When I finished reading (after a few late nights and barely-there parenting), Len told me he was glad to have his wife back.  ;-)  You may be on the waiting list a long time (I was), but do put this in your library queue.

I hope you've enjoyed this rather long catch-up session.  Maybe next time we can visit over tea and scones.  Give me a call or drop by!