Monday, February 27, 2012

Me and My House 2/2012

There's usually plenty going on around here.  A mini update:

  • Len recently removed a dog's salivary gland.  (He's always got an interesting or quease-inducing story to share.)  His latest home project was winnowing our 2011 photos down to 9 collage pages and printing out a set for each of our memory books.  It's hard to imagine that we once debated whether or not we would enjoy owning a digital camera!
  • I'm trying to subdue a sore throat in time for tomorrow's neighborhood Soup Night (New England clam chowder and Italian sausage soup--yum!)
  • Lauren is crazy busy with her final semester.  Her workload includes three studio classes, an internship at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the planning of the senior art show.  Over Christmas break we visited a seamstress and signed contracts with a caterer and dj.  
  • David is carrying fewer credits than last semester, but his workload is no smaller.  His classes include math, physics, and computer science, and are all mind-expanding and time consuming (hours and hours of homework).  On Saturday he fenced in a tournament at GMU, and the girls and I were able to attend.
That's my boy--the one with the French braids and mutton chops!  ;-)
  • Here's footage of one of his matches.  David is on the left.  I don't understand the rules well enough to follow along.  I just watch the director's hands to find out who makes each point.  (David won this match.)
  • Daniel earned his driver's license in January and we are both enjoying his burgeoning independence.  He turned 17 on Saturday and will begin lacrosse practice this week.
  • Yesterday Joseph performed in TYOF's latest concert.  Both orchestras sounded fantastic!  I'd share a picture, but Joe looks too serious in all of them.  His persistent requests (and a three year dog sitting job) paid off for Joseph--he'll be flying to Rome for Holy Week!
  • Marianna has been dancing for several years, but only recently joined an Irish "show class."  Now she's preparing to dance in two parades and at multiple other St. Patrick's Day (really all through mid-March) events.  She's nervous but excited.  Marianna, her best friend, and Becca created and performed a play (about an orphan who dreams of dancing on Broadway) which we all enjoyed immensely!
  • For weeks Rebecca had an exceptionally tidy, elaborate Indian encampment set up in my bedroom.  We finally moved it into Lauren's usually unoccupied room, and it's now been transformed into a messy American Girl/Playmobil wonderland.  We also pulled the couch forward in the family room so Becca can leave her doll house set up behind it.  I am happy to make room for such imaginative play.
I hope you and yours are enjoying this last little bit of February.  Some days it feels as if spring is already here!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pine Cone Project

Last week, the girls and I enjoyed a drizzly saunter through our woods.  We were searching for ferns with sporangia on the undersides of their leaves, and returned home with them as well as other materials to study under the stereoscope (3D magnification up to 40X).
We recently studied conifers in our botany book.  Pine cones open or close depending on the weather: 

"The reason why the pine cones open when it's warm and dry is because that's a more favorable condition for the seed dispersal and germination," Read [a biology professor at Cal State] said.

Wet and cold weather would prevent the seeds, which are often winged, from spreading far enough from the tree to find a place to grow. Seedlings also wouldn't last long in winter rain or snow.  (source)
This is how our pine cones looked on a drizzly, cool day,
after a one hour soak in ice water,
and then another hour in a 250 degree oven.
Easy, interesting, and educational--my kind of project!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being My Valentine--How I Know He Loves Me #7

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My husband believes I'm beautiful and tells me so.  This should probably count as a double gift!  Most women aren't 100% satisfied with their looks, and I'm no exception.  Yet I don't doubt Len's sincerity when he compliments me.  It's important for me to feel attractive to him, and it's such a relief that he doesn't require my physical perfection.  (His acceptance is beneficial to my overall self-esteem, too.)

This week I've been celebrating some of the ways Len shows his love for me.  Paying attention to his gestures makes me appreciate my husband more than ever.  I highly recommend making the effort!

Expressing my love in the ways that reach him best is a related topic.  If you haven't investigated the concept of love languages yet, grab a book from your library.  We've read The Five Love Languages of Children and found it both fascinating and helpful for understanding each other as well as our children.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Being My Valentine--How I Know He Loves Me #6

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I don't always feel like an interesting person.  It's easy for me to get caught up in the mundane details of life at home.  Yet even when I'm not discussing a new book, idea, spiritual concept, or current event, Len listens to me.

He pays attention when I gripe about school for the zillionth time.  He appears interested when I explain why I'm dissatisfied with my latest attempt at Sunday gravy or what makes my newest coffee cake kit so wonderful.  As I drone on about laundry, driving logistics, chores, or cooking, my husband really listens.

That's just one more reason I know he loves me.  <3

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Being My Valentine--How I Know He Loves Me #5

As I've spent time celebrating how Len shows his love for me, acts of service keep coming to mind.  He is a handy, DIY guy, so many of the projects he undertakes could arguably be for the good of our family or home, or for his own satisfaction.  There are some, though, that are done for love of me.  A few examples:

When I saw an ad for a pantry door organizer, he bought and installed it.  For me.
We've been fostering Lauren's cat for over a year now.  Now that we've cat-proofed as best we can, life with Lucca has mellowed considerably.  The last real annoyance was the baby gate we were using to keep Dusty away from the litter box and Lucca's food.  It was a hassle to step over, and wasn't easy for the shortest people to open or climb over.  I make many trips through that door to the mud room and garage.

My darling built a gate.  It's shorter than the old one
 and has a latch easy enough for everyone to use.
This project benefited everyone, but I know who it was made for.  :-)

Then there's the gift of light.  Len bought and installed (it was tricky) it, including my favorite bit--
--the switch I can reach while snuggled under the covers.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Being My Valentine: How I Know He Loves Me #4

There are countless things about Len that make me love, respect, and admire him, but I'm spending the week before Valentine's Day celebrating how he shows his love to me.

Now and then he'll call or email me from work to let me know he's thinking of me.  Len's a veterinarian without a lot of desk- or down-time, so a mid-day message is a rare treat that never fails to make me smile.

I know there are many damaged or broken relationships out there, and I know hugs and phone calls aren't enough to build a strong marriage.  That takes time, and work, and God's grace.  And yet.  These little acts, these small signs, do build us up and bind us together a bit more tightly.  Thank you, darling!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Being My Valentine--How I Know He Loves Me #3

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Does your husband love you?  I'll bet he does.  How he expresses that may or may not be obvious to you, but I believe you'll find his messages if you look for them.  And when you "read" his "I love you" actions or words (especially if you didn't pay attention before), you're doubly rewarded.

There are countless things about Len that make me love, respect, and admire him, but I'm spending the week before Valentine's Day celebrating how he shows his love to me.

I know he cares when he rubs my shoulders or back for no obvious reason.  He reaches out to touch me as we pass each other throughout the day.  And my husband kisses me goodnight every single day--even if I'm grumpy or already asleep.  What a wonderful man!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Being My Valentine--How I Know He Loves Me #2

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There are countless things about Len that make me love, respect, and admire him, but I'm spending the week before Valentine's Day celebrating how he shows his love for me.

For one thing, he tells me so.  I certainly appreciate hearing him say, "I love you," but his written words touch me even more deeply.
When I spy an envelope from my husband, I know I'm in for a treat.  His words of appreciation, tenderness, or encouragement warm my heart and put a smile on my face.  Yes, words of affirmation is another of my love languages.  Len knows that and offers me something special . . .
. . . because he loves me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being My Valentine--How I Know He Loves Me

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There's a lot to love about my husband, and I do.  He is loving, intentional, and attentive.  He is fun, serious, and thoughtful.  He is an outstanding provider, family leader, and friend.  Etc., etc., etc.

I've been thinking, though, not about why I love him, but about how I know he loves me.  He gifts me with these signs, and I want to spend the week before Valentine's Day reminding myself (and you, I suppose) of a few of them.

Len understands that one of my love languages is acts of service.  Once I casually mentioned how much I admired a neighbor's lantana flowers and how pretty some would look around the base of our mailbox.  THAT DAY he went to the nursery, bought a set, and planted them.

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He loves me!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dinner With My Girls

Planning and preparing meals is supposed to be a monthly homeschool event, but we haven't been on our game for a good long while.  Marianna and Rebecca each spent time cooking with Mom these past two weekends, however.

First up was Marianna.  Her dessert required the most effort:  tin roof ice cream.  One day we made the fudge ripple sauce, chocolate covered peanuts, and custard base.  On the next we froze the custard, stirred in the peanuts, and layered it with the ripple.  That's a lot of work for a heaping quart of ice cream, but it was delicious and satisfying; a little goes a long way.

Marianna also prepared what we call "super supper salad", Italian bread (a blend of different recipes), and pasta carbonara, which I had never made before.  I've always been somewhat nervous about tossing the raw eggs with hot pasta--would that really be enough heat to cook them safely?  We combined the cream, eggs, and cheese, and warmed them slightly in the microwave before tossing with the linguine.  I checked the temperature with an instant read thermometer.  I don't remember the exact number, but it was high enough to satisfy me (so over 140).

Marianna and I enjoyed our planning and cooking time, her best friend stayed for dinner, and we all tried a completely new (for us) dish.  A successful event!

On Saturday Rebecca and I worked on her meal.  I knew she had picked a labor intensive menu, so we were supposed to begin our preparations on Friday.  That never happened, so instead we spent hours (and hours and hours) cooking (and cleaning and cooking and cleaning and cooking and cleaning) on Saturday.

The most unusual and effort intensive dish was meat pasties from The Narnia Cookbook.  We mixed and rolled a boatload of pastry.  The filling required us to saute onions and garlic, blanch tiny potato cubes, and finely chop meat in the food processor.  This was put into circles of dough for individual pasties.  By the time we reached this stage it was obvious that time and energy needed conserving, so we made a few individual pies and then created a family-sized one. 

Also on the menu:  veggies and dip, pesto pasta salad, and crepes (something else I'd never made before).  We made ranch dip.  We prepared several fillings for the crepes, including fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream mixed with homemade lemon curd.  (Nutella was also available, although we didn't make that!)  By the end of the day I was exhausted!  We had a great time, though.
Rebecca cut and arranged these vegetables, and took the picture.
The pasta salad was delicious.  As the crepes were flipped out of the pan one by one, people filled them with the myriad of toppings displayed on the island (sorry, no pictures).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Little Women on Love and Ambition

As the girls and I continue listening to Little Women (17 cd's!), I'm (not surprisingly) relating more to Marmee than I did before my own mothering days.  We certainly share many of the same hopes for our children.

Here is Mrs. March responding to her two oldest about some hurtful gossip they've overheard:
   "I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.  To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman; and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience.  It is natural to think of it, Meg; right to hope and wait for it, and wise to prepare for it; so that, when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy.  My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world,--marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting.  Money is a needful and precious thing,--and, when well used, a noble thing,--but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for.  I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."
And later, speaking about whether she'd rather have her daughter marry a rich man:
   "Money is a good and useful thing, Jo; and I hope my girls will never feel the need of it too bitterly, nor be tempted by too much.  I should like to know that John was firmly established in some good business, which gave him an income large enough to keep free from debt and make Meg comfortable.  I'm not ambitious for a splendid fortune, a fashionable position, or a great name for my girls.  If rank and money come with love and virtue, also, I should accept them gratefully, and enjoy your good fortune; but I know, by experience, how much genuine happiness can be had in a plain little house, where the daily bread is earned, and some privations give sweetness to the few pleasures.  I am content to see Meg begin humbly, for, if I am not mistaken, she will be rich in the possession of a good man's hart, and that is better than a fortune."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Lesson from Little Women

What we call "read aloud" has been part of our homeschool from almost the very beginning.  In reality, we most often listen to stories on cd so I can drive or work in the kitchen instead of falling asleep while trying to read.  ;-)

The girls and I recently enjoyed the Melendy Quartet, and are now speeding through Little Women.  I know the book backwards and forwards, having read it multiple times when I was young.  I love this novel!  The characters aren't perfect, but they are trying to be truly good, so following their adventures and mishaps is edifying as well as entertaining.

This time around, I'm focused more than before on the mothering side of the story.  Sometimes Marmee echoes my feelings; at other moments she sets me a good example.

I was struck by a conversation she had with Jo, who bemoans her quick temper and is surprised to discover that Marmee struggles with hers, too.
   "Mother, are you angry when you fold your lips tight together, and go out of the room sometimes, when Aunt March scolds, or people worry ?" asked Jo, feeling nearer and dearer to her mother than ever before.
   "Yes, I've learned to check the hasty words that rise to my lips; and when I feel that they mean to break out against my will, I just go away a minute, and give myself a little shake, for being so weak and wicked," answered Mrs. March, with a sigh and a smile, as she smoothed and fastened up Jo's dishevelled hair.
   "How did you learn to keep still?  That is what troubles me--for the sharp words fly out before I know what I'm about; and the more I say the worse I get, till it's a pleasure to hurt people's feelings, and say dreadful things.  Tell me how you do it, Marmee dear."
   [Her mother used to help her, then her husband, but it was easier before they were poor, with four young children.]
   " . . . then the old trouble began again; for I am not patient by nature, and it tried me very much to see my children wanting anything."
   "Poor mother!  What helped you then?"
   "Your father, Jo.  He never loses patience,--never doubts or complains,--but always hopes, and works and waits so cheerfully, that one is ashamed to do otherwise before him.  He helped and comforted me, and showed me that I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example.  It was easier to try for your sakes than for my own; a startled or surprised look from one of you, when I spoke sharply, rebuked me more than any words could have done; and the love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy."
Some take aways for me:
  • I must model the behaviors and faith I want my children to embrace.
  • A confidant and helper is invaluable, and my husband is the best choice for this role.  Fortunately for me, Len is more than up to the task.
  • My children don't seem startled or surprised when I speak sharply.  :-(  On the positive side, when I do apologize, they forgive me readily and don't seem to have taken it to heart.  Hopefully they know how much I love them and that blunts the sharpness a bit.