Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Cheesy title?  Maybe, but it fits the day and recalls a song from the all-time-BEST Christmas album ever.  

I joke about our school system's wimpy response to inclement weather, but this truly was not a morning to have buses on the roads.  Here's what "no school" looked like today:
 In anticipation of the light snow, wintry mix, and freezing rain, I filled the bird feeder yesterday.

 The crape myrtle

 My coolest (ha ha) sighting today:  a strand of spider webbing coated with ice!

The bare trees stood straighter than bushes and anything with needles.  This small tree is bent nearly double.
Just after taking these pictures, I heard a branch fall from on high and decided it was not the best of ideas to traipse through the woods after all.
By the time Dusty and I went out, the ice on the pavement was melting from below, creating this version of a puddle.
By afternoon, ice was dropping from trees, roofs, and power lines, and the roads were mostly clear.  School is already cancelled tomorrow though, as we are expecting snow, sleet, and more snow just a few hours from now.  I'm looking forward to more family time...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Prayers for Grandpop

My father-in-law has been suffering from MS for over 30 years.  When I met him he used a cane.  Next came the walker, then the wheelchair.  For many years he has spent most of his time in bed or the special chair in the living room, leaving home only rarely.  My mother-in-law is his primary caregiver, working hard to keep him in the best shape possible.

He has been a constant, quiet presence in our lives and the lives of our children.  Our 7-12 graders traditionally stay over at Grammy and Granpop's house one school night each week, keeping them in contact.

Lately the colonel has had difficulty swallowing (leading to the placement of a feeding tube) and breathing (a special oxygen mask is at home now).  We don't know how much time we have left, but your prayers for all of us are greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pumpkin Power

Len refashioned the compost bin this summer.  Now, in addition to an earlier remodel that made it possible to dump produce directly from the deck, the bin has two sections with removable sides.  Isn't it lovely?

Our garden did not do well this year.  It could be due to too much rain or not enough tending (I'm a big-time gardening slacker); we may never know.

Our most successful crops are our "volunteers"--pumpkins and butternut squash that grew from the compost!

My science program this year is inspired by Barb McCoy's nature study blog.  It's filled with an overwhelming number of lessons and outdoor challenges based on Anna Botsford Comstock's classic Handbook of Nature Study.  (free download here)  The book has a lesson on pumpkins, so we started our fall session in our own backyard.

The remaining comments will be from Rebecca (age 8).

The tendrils are searching for something to grab onto so they can help the plant climb.
Here is a tendril that's long and thin, and it's grabbing on to the fence.  It looks like it would feel squishy, but it actually feels like thin, metal wire.  In the background is a ripe butternut squash that we picked.  It had grown into the compost bin! 

This is a female flower, and the big bulb below the closed bud will turn into a pumpkin. 
The one above is also a female flower, but it is open.  Below is the same flower at a different angle where you can see the stigmas, which receive the pollen.

Here are two pictures of male flowers which make the pollen and do not produce any pumpkins.
The stems look fuzzy but are actually kind of spiky.  They're usually thick and strong enough to let the pumpkins hang without touching the ground.
The leaves are big and usually have five lobes.
Here are two unripe pumpkins.  They start out green but then turn orange.
This pumpkin is pretty big and it's almost ripe.  It's growing in between the fence of the garden and the fence of the compost.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grandpa Time

Len installed a light and ceiling fan in Becca's room today, spending way too much time in our hot, hot attic.  He definitely earned this moment!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Another One Gone

Len, the girls, and I drove Daniel to the Josephinum last week.  The house is emptying little by little.  Sigh.
Some images of the latest departure:

Daniel decluttered and organized his room, resulting in so much spread out STUFF that he slept on the couch for several nights.  :-)

On his second to last morning at home, Marianna and Rebecca were inspired to make him a special breakfast.  Fortunately he's such a solid sleeper they were able to putter around the kitchen without disturbing him.

Highlights:  The mini vase of crape myrtle and mint, the home-sewn napkin, and the drop scones.  I coached the girls to use a bag of scone mix (homemade), increasing the milk just a little bit (to 3/4 cup) so that the dough was too sticky to knead and cut.  They dropped it with a scoop, sprinkled with coarse sugar and baked.  That small variation saved a lot of time!
Dan had no special dinner request, but included pumpkin cheesecake in his list of possible goodbye desserts.
Pontifical College Josephinum:  a view from the entrance
 Moving In
 Dan's room is small but private.  He shares a half bath with an adjoining room; showers are down the hall.

 The view from his window
After three college drop offs, this is now an official tradition:  shopping for items left at home or that we didn't know were needed.  This has included door organizers and hardware (Lauren), pillows (David), and goggles (Daniel).  It's always something!
In the past Len and I have kept the college send-off to ourselves, but this time Marianna and Rebecca joined us.  We stayed overnight because the Josephinum shared morning mass and brunch with families on Sunday.  Here we are the night before at a local Italian restaurant.
 Pizza with pesto, shrimp, goat cheese, and roasted tomatoes--everyone wanted a taste!
As always, leaving a child at college is bittersweet.  We're grateful when the school is a good fit (so far we're three times fortunate), and glad to watch each one growing and maturing.  But we've missed them all.

Even though we know as parents that our children are never truly ours, it's easy to forget while they're under our roof.  We can't help but remember now . . .

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I don't consider myself especially articulate, and this analogy will only stretch so far, but here goes.

Last June, an intensely windy thunderstorm swept through our area, causing huge amounts of damage in just a few minutes.  We lost power for more than three stifling days, and our beloved sour cherry tree suffered a split down its main trunk.
 This tree and its harvest are family touchstones--dear to me.

There was no way to bandage or hold the trunk together.  Taking the advice of a tree expert client, Len roped together branches from opposite sides of the split to minimize the strain.
We waited and hoped. 
This spring I was thrilled to see blossoms and leaves on both sides of our tree!
 The split is still there.
 We will never climb this tree again.
 But it is alive and beautiful
 And fruitful. 
We are again anticipating the harvest.

I have a wonderful life, but have been through trials, too.  I have needed (and in most cases received) healing.  Haven't we all?

I'm reflecting on the idea that healing isn't necessarily about complete wholeness.  Our cherry tree has a split that will be there for the rest of its life.  It's scabby and a little scary to look at.  The tree can't be climbed again--that would be too much strain for it.

But it is alive.  It is healthy.  It is fruitful.

Our lives can be like that.  We may not be the same after a trial, but we can still be fruitful.  We can be happy.  We can live lives of joy and beauty and peace.

God can bring good out of evil if we let him.  I'm not saying God sends all our trials (don't get me started!)--we live in a fallen world full of people who have free will.  Our cherry tree isn't fruitful because it has undergone a trial.  The healing is bringing the harvest.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Co-op Craft

On Monday I led our small co-op in creating this Tiffany style art project.  I was efficient enough to gather all the materials, but unfortunately not so with-it that I brought my camera.  Thus, there are no pictures of the process or any finished artwork besides Rebecca's.
 I followed the instructions on Kids and Glitter--visit there for the details.  The children drew simple designs on cardboard and glued yarn onto the outlines.  The yarn was covered with foil, then colored with permanent markers and outlined with black Sharpies.  If the cardboard is cut to the suggested 6 1/2" x 9" it can be attached to colored cardstock to frame the picture.

We followed the suggested Lenten theme, but this technique can be used to make all sorts of beautiful images.  Enjoy!