Wednesday, July 23, 2014

a summer ramble

It's been one of those weeks so far when I have had the most bizarre and truly incomprehensible dreams all night, waking to get drinks of water and figure out if I'm awake or still dreaming, sitting up in bed, getting out of bed and getting back in bed bewildered by it all.  During these hot and humid days, I daydream that Shane surprises me by bringing home a portable air conditioner that allows me to keep my hair long and my house clean without sweating. Then I think how dumb it is to have a machine in our small house that I will have to clean around and generally not need 358 days out of the year.

The laundry is piling up around here, huddled in small groups likely commiserating over their collective needy state. We have gone a week and a half without our own washing machine and we are supposed to be getting our new washer and dryer delivered today by Sears. I have done laundry twice since the machine broke, once at our sitter's house last week(and then again at our next door neighbor's) where I picked the shortest cycles on her machine once she informed me each load takes her an hour to do. As it was the girls and I ate our lunch there and kept our distance from a playmate of Seth's who the sitter was watching for an hour. A playmate who has long hair and was being treated for lice. Poor fellow.
Our sitter owns a computer and many home-shopping network gadgets but she does not want the internet. Sooooo, I spent the afternoon mentally hurrying the washing machine and dryer to do its thing to our clothes so I could be back in time to get our dinner ready and my regular life under control. That was Tuesday. Wednesday after dinner, she came to our house and watched the kids while Shane and I took ourselves into the unknown world of shopping for appliances. This is the first time we have needed to buy any appliance other than toaster ovens and a microwave. I've put off buying a new dishwasher for two years, I think I have appliance-buying anxiety.  Anyways after a terrible dream about the our washer and dryer being delivered in a completely ridiculous manner, I woke up a bit worried and am kind of hoping they make up their last stop of the day and then Shane would be home to handle this. [updated to say, he wasn't here and it didn't go quite as we planned. oh well, we have the new machines.] Let's distract ourselves by looking at another picture.

My girls are currently over at the neighbor's house inside where I rarely allow them to intrude. But the neighbor girl's mom is away having accompanied our next-door neighbor to the hospital in the ambulance that came around eight o'clock this morning. She is having problems with back pain, but it may something more serious so her husband called the ambulance to come fetch her back to the hospital. The other neighbor mom asked her sitter, another neighbor(I have ever mentioned there are 20 units of condos here?) to come take care of her two girls while she hopped in her car and followed the ambulance since the husband has to be out of town on a work emergency and I will spare you the details on why that is.
The neighbor on the other side of us, carried her baby monitor with her so she could sit with the the two girls until the sitter could get herself dressed.  This is not the first time I have realized that this type of condo living has the benefit of forming a natural community since our lives are easily intertwined. Or I should say, can be intertwined. Some of the residents keep to themselves, but those of us with the children interact quite freely. Two of the units are currently up for sale, the second one just got the realtor sign pounded into its front lawn about ten minutes ago.

A humorous first occurred in our house this morning. I came downstairs after having showered, dressed and dolled myself up(drying hair, putting on light powder and blush, and using deodorant) and Seth took one look at me and said, "What are you wearing?". Taken aback by this endearing expression of love and concern, I inquired as to the problem. Apparently it was inexplicable as all he could muster was "You look, odd."  Satisfied I was not immodest by his standard, just strange, I proceeded to get on with my day.  Are you wondering what I was wearing that prompted this concern?  Can you imagine a comfy black tennis-type skirt with a equally comfy black crew-neck tee-shirt? I think it was the black ankle socks that did it. I added those because I knew the floor needed to be vacuumed and I wanted to protect my clean feet. I'm going out for dinner with two friends tonight, one of whom is moving away. Since I never do this, I should probably get Seth to check my outfit for the "odd" quotient. Better to know ahead of time what the strange looks sent my way mean.
Of course, if I am seen wearing just a camisole/tank top around the house, Seth and Laura usually ask if that's what I'm wearing to church or just out. Obviously my children are prudent souls concerned for my reputation or more likely they just don't want me to embarrass them. I think they are doing a good job of raising me so far, only time will truly tell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

morning work and reflection

As we prepare to celebrate Laura's fifth birthday, I was reflecting this morning on how differently I spend my days now.  I am able to work in a leisurely fashion that I never could have dreamed of when the girls were babies and toddlers. Yes, my days are stilled filled with caring for small children, homemaking and home school lessons(well, planning right now), but I have time and energy to enjoy my work, to see and capture beauty out my windows, to have moments of reading and thinking quietly. It is a marvel.

As I write this, Seth is at our patio table by the garden, playing his third board game of the morning with a neighbor friend. The girls have been playing in a neighbor's inflatable baby pool in the front yard where I can see them making a terrible, grassy mess and loving it all. I have been: working in my kitchen cleaning out the freezer, making breadcrumbs, thawing blueberries for baking, in my garden tying up climbing cucumber and pea plants, on the computer organizing my morning photos, outside chatting with the neighbor, and back inside tidying up the house, and a few other activities.

It is quiet right now in the house, but in a moment I will be busy with two bathing suit-clad girls who will likely eat their lunches outside before returning to pool play for a short while, but then the calm will come again when they rest in their beds this afternoon while the temperature soars to very hot and humid. By late afternoon I will be rummaging in the garden for peas and beans to add to our sweet corn and homemade burgers for our dinner tonight.

Nothing is perfect, certainly not our family, but God's grace abounds in our lives and His mercies are new every morning, ready to continue to work He has begun until the day He completes it. May you be encouraged this day to work with what He has given you, knowing it is all from His hand and accomplishes His purposes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scrap Journaling

I finally have been able to get underway with a project that has been smoldering on the backburner of my mind for a while now: scrap journaling all the bits I have been saving over the years.
I had no idea how to pull this off until one day I stumbled onto a blog post that seemed to fit what I was capable of doing.  And you know what the hardest part was?  Getting that first page done.  Once I had the scraps laid out, things just started clicking and before I knew it, I was whizzing along filling pages.

Many of the ideas for how to arrange and organize my bits of paper came from this helpful post using SMASH Books products. A quick trip into Michael's while Seth was at soccer scored me a nice archival pen with a gluestick on the other end seen in the linked post above. I also managed to find some small paper pockets on clearance which I have used so far to hold some medical bracelets from when Seth was little. You can see it in the last photo where I stapled it to the page before filling it.
I tape things along the left to create a hinge so that you can turn the paper to see what is written on the other side. I use regular clear tape, but mix in some of my washi tape for fun and color.

I also create a cascade of  papers, taped one over the other so that you can just lift each one up to see what's underneath. Again the idea came from the SMASH post linked above. It's a great way to showcase several similarly sized bits of paper without taking up much space on the page.

Christmas gift tags from over the years

scavenger hunt clues from previous years

I'm using a SKETCH book I found on the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble. The pages lay open nice and flat which is great for attaching bulky scraps. I haven't gussied up the pages very much as I was trying to just get stuff into the book. Once I am caught up, I would like to go back and fancy up the pages a bit.  I'm so relieved to have found some inspiration for this project and that that intimating first page is behind me. 

garden = happy place

May/June Book List

Favorite Picture Books

My Favorite Things by Rodgers and Hammerstein, illustrated by Renee Graef
I had this on my wish list and then a young friend of ours participated in a ice skating show based on this song and I thought I would order a copy for her birthday. And of course, if I'm going to order a copy for her, we certainly needed to have our own copy to make sure the book was indeed a good gift. I was drawn to it because of the illustrator, Renee Graef who illustrates many of the My First Little House Books. I will warn you though, it's hard to read it without singing it. So clear your throat and take a long draught of water, because you may need to 'read' it more than once.  Pure delight.

Chapter Books 

Abel's Island by William Steig
A short tale of a well-to-do mouse who becomes stranded on an island and seeks ways to rescue himself in order to return to his beloved mouse wife. Without giving into despair, Abel works diligently to secure his release despite enduring many failed attempts. He is hopeful and ingenious, loyal to his family and steadfast in his heart, everything you would want from a classy protagonist. It was an enjoyable read and I passed it on to Seth to read after I finished it.

Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era by Sterling North
Considering the problem the  raccoons are giving us with our garbage and compost bin, I should not have enjoyed this book so much. Rascal the raccoon is described with endearing terms and humorous accounts of his activity all of which I found wonderful as long as I remembered it was not him who was rummaging around in our yard most nights. Sterling North has written, as the subtitle suggests, about his growing up years in a time when boys could be boys. This book is a  recounting of one year spent with a pet raccoon and it reminded greatly of the My Side of the Mountain trilogy which I read this same time last year. I hope to find and read North's other books.


Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway
Seeing the buzz around the internet about permaculture, I decided to request a few books from our local library. This was the first one that came in and I'm sad to say that I only made a dent in it before I had to return it. But the thirty or so pages I read and the several pages of appendix, charts and illustrations I pored over gave me a good taste of what this permaculture idea is about. I see permaculture as using wisely God's creation to create sustainable, beauty-filled, life-giving areas around our homes and places of gathering. It is simply what God's people were called to do right from the beginning and what redeemed creation seeks to do now.

A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking by Douglas Wilson
I have yet to meet a Doug Wilson book I haven't liked. He has a writing style that completely appeals to me with meaty content and humorous, witty delivery. This book which defends the use of satire in Christian apologetics and discussion is an easy read and provides an overview of biblical passages in which sarcasm abounds. If you are not used to thinking of the Bible this way or perhaps have considered someone's response as too 'salty' or uncharitable perhaps you may find this book helpful in discerning what a proper response should be to some discussions. Here are a few quotes to give you a taste of what Wilson writes about.
"After Elijah's taunts about how Baal was off in the bathroom, sitting on his throne, we might want to reconsider our glib asuumption that there is never a godly place for scatological humor. And this brings us to the mocking narrative about Ehud, a left-handed deliverer, and Eglon, the obese tyrant. The story is what is called a slave narrative, with an oppressed people having fun at the expense of the established powers that be." p.54
"Nothing is more serious than the sin of idolatry, but this did not keep the prophets from making fun of it. The first thing Isaiah notes is how hard certain men have to work when they are making their god. Hard work being a deity-smith." p.55 (see Isaiah 44:12)

And later speaking about why Paul writing in Phil. 3:8 would use the term dung, animal excrement, in the same verse as "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord", that he might win Christ, Wilson goes on to say:

"Part of the reason why we might have trouble with this kind of forcefulness in language is that we do not have the same zeal to 'win Christ'. Of course, there are boys in junior high school who delight in bathroom humor, and they need to memorize Ephesians 5:4--so that they might win Christ. No one is maintaining that Christians should routinely speak or write in some foul fashion. Paul prohibits it.
But when certain key issues are at stake, and the verbal equivalent of a tactical nuclear strike is needed from the preacher, the Scriptures show us in a number of places that the prophetic preacher comes through. Ezekial uses calculated moral obscenities, designed to shake up the complacent (Ezek. 23:19-21). Isaiah, attacking the same attitude of religiousity that Paul hated so much, compares all our attempts at self-justification to nothing more than a used menstrual cloth (Is. 64:6). And Paul speaks as noted above." p.65

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

in the garden

 Today it's a quick run through the garden to see what's growing this year. First up are the lettuces, two kinds, Romaine and my favorite seen below, Bronze Arrowhead.

A row of slim celery stalks plumping up with each watering.

My trailing cucumbers finally making their way up the fence. I prefer English cucumbers without the seeds. 

Marigolds stationed as guards to help keep unwanted pests away.

Clematis going above and beyond the lattice frame it came with, doing its part to cover an ugly brown fence.

A new kind of bean, something similar to a white kidney bean, but I have been eating them as string beans.

The obligatory sun sugar mini tomatoes, the only ones ripe yet. Mmmm.

The leggy pea plants that grew a million feet while I was away and needed to be tied up to the top of the fence. Hopefully they put their energy into producing flowers and pods now that they have been secured.

One pod in the making, looking forlornly around for others to join him.

Yellow wax beans, already giving us some delicious beans that gleam like gold on our plates.

Yellow zucchinis forming, with unopened flowers waiting to burst open and be pollinated. I like to help with that part if I can.

Russet potato plants thriving and no potato bugs in sight!

Overwintered mint(in a clay pot in the ground) back with full strength, giving its flavor to countless batches of brewed iced tea.

And from my neighbor's garden, a fence full of blooming cucumbers. Isn't it glorious!

More E.B. White enjoyment

It is always a delight to open the pages of his books and enjoy reading right from the first sentence.
Here a few autobiographical quotes that gave me much pleasure as I read them last evening.

"I remember the cellar, its darkness and dampness, its set tubs, its Early American water closet for the help, it coal furnace that often tried to asphyxiate us all, and the early sound of the Italian furnace man who crept in at dawn and shook the thing down. As a very small boy, I used to repair to the cellar, where I would pee in the coal bin--for variety."

"One of the fringe benefits of being the son of a piano man was that our parlor at 101 Summit Avenue was well supplied with musical instruments: a Waters grand, a reed organ with phony pipes, and at one period, a Waters player piano called an "Autola". There were six of us children, and we were practically a ready-made band. All we lacked was talent. We had violins, cellos, mandolins, guitars, banjos, and drums, and there was always a lot of music filling the air, none of it good. We sang, composed, harmonized, drummed, and some of us took lessons for brief spells in an attempt to raise the general tone of the commotion."

"Many American families have enjoyed a short interlude with baby alligators, but the Brittingham alligators were no transients; they settled right in. When they were six or seven feet long, they were moved down cellar and dwelt there in morose seclusion, terrorizing the man who was supposed to read the meter."

"Lil had a hard time deciding whom to marry among her many suitors. She kept putting the matter off and for a while went to work in New York as a secretary and became a commuter. But after a few years of this, she met another commuter--Arthur Illian, a Wall Street broker--and married him, thus becoming Lillian Illian, a dubious triumph in alliteration."

~ E.B. White from Letters of E.B. White

Monday, July 14, 2014

the scents of nature study

I wrote this a week ago, while visiting my parents in Pennsylvania.

As I sit here on the computer, my fingers still carry a strong scent of walnut.  I just finished working on weeding one of my mother's flower beds that had become home to four small walnut saplings and two larger saplings and I didn't wash my hands yet. As I sat here typing with scented hands, I also thought of the mint I had pulled and the fresh strong smell that came wafting up as I removed the invasive, yet lovely mint and restricted it's boundaries.

It occurred to me that studying nature is also about identifying scents, not just leaves, flowers, bark or bug. Knowing that as you walk by a grove of branches and shrubs you are smelling honeysuckle before you even see it.  Admiring Queen Anne's lace as you smell carrot tops. Brushing up against some plants and realize that you smell lavender and sage in the flower bed. Learning to know the scents of chrysanthemum and geraniums.  Getting to know the perfumes of phlox in all its different colorful arrays.
There is a memory bank of scents to store up in your mind as you wander through creation and enjoy this aspect of nature.

this phlox smelled so good!

Friday, July 11, 2014

nature study in literature

"By this time, the nature walk had left the village, and had taken a steep muddy track uphill. On our right a flock of Mr. Robert's sheep grazed on the close-bitten grass. Above us the skylarks vied with each other, pouring down their lively trickle of song, as they pushed higher and higher towards the blue sky.
We sat down on a bank to get our breath. Most of the children were content, as I was, to sit in silence, studying the village spread out below us like a pictorial map." ~ Mrs. Pringle of Fairacre, Miss Read

I love how she describes the children, content... to sit in silence, studying the village spread out below. Not that nature study must be done in quiet, but that the children could be content to study it quietly for a few moments.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

sand, sun and ocean water

Yes, everything gets sandy, wet and gritty, but oh how good it is to feel the waves, sand and sun all at the same time on a nearly empty beach after dinner.