Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Eco-Friendly... Driveway?

I think all homeowners have a list of property characteristics they would like to change. Our list includes the yellow wood siding, the carpeted kitchen (who does that?), and the gravel driveway. Or, it used to.

Recently I was doing some research to get a rough idea of what it might cost to get our driveway paved. Our driveway is in need of some serious attention, as it has weeds and brown patches in it. Rather than pay for a truck load of gravel and just postpone the problem, I figured we should bite the bullet and get it paved.

As an aside, those brown patches turn to mud in the winter. We've needed to call AAA twice to be towed out of our own driveway. "Model, color, and license plate, ma'am?" Are you serious? How many cars do you think are stuck in our driveway?!

Anyway, while I was wandering the internet, I discovered multiple sites with information on how to switch from asphalt to gravel. I was flummoxed. Who would possibly want a gravel driveway? Turns out, we do.

Gravel driveways (along with sand, wood chips, porous paving blocks, and even grass) make for a happier planet. They reduce erosion and run-off. Rain water settles naturally back into the water table, rather than requiring a trip through the sewage system. If you're on well water, a gravel driveway helps to keep the well full!

The new plan of action is to weed the driveway (sigh) and buy some more gravel.

But that carpeted kitchen is still on the hit list.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Children as a Commodity

My friend runs a dairy farm. In his business, cows are valued FAR beyond bulls, for obvious reasons. (Ever tried to milk a bull?) When a bull calf is born, it is sold as soon as possible and usually for very little money. Bull calves are burdens. This makes sense to me. Dairy farming is a business; cattle are a commodity.

THIS does not make sense to me. In this video, an undercover actor enters an abortion clinic to find out if she can abort her child - if it is a girl. The answer? A resounding, supportive yes. She gets tips on what to say to her OB/GYN and how to get Medicaid to pay for the ultrasound to determine gender. Because really, who doesn't want the 'perfect family' of one boy and one girl?

In fairness, the group producing the video would not release how many clinics they tried before getting this footage. Hopefully they just found one of the oddities. But how does even one clinic like this come to be?

Simple. We don't value children.

Society says we should have two children, a boy and a girl, 2.5 years apart. Or twins, because that's cute.  We should be neither too old or too young when we have them and they need separate bedrooms. Our sons should play ball with their dads while our daughters go shopping with their moms.

Are we talking about human beings or the newest collectibles?

I used to think "gendercide" was only a problem in China. It's disturbing to find it here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

One Minute Update

(Yes, I timed it.) Had a wonderful weekend with my in-laws out in the Syracuse area. They set up a kiddie pool, which Peter loved. Today the big pool got up to 78, so with the afternoon getting up to 90, we took the plunge. First swim of the season! I loved it. Also went mini-golfing, but apparently that was too long in the heat or sun or both, because now I have headache I can't shake. Time for some juice and a good night's sleep. I hope.

Happy Memorial Day!

OK, this is actually the pool at MY parents' house,
but the idea is the same!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Which Church Father are You? :-)

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!
You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Homeschooling Goals / Educational Philosophy

I recently discovered an excellent book at our library. 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, which sounds like an overview of curricula, is much better defined by its subtitle: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style. While the curriculum reviews were somewhat helpful, the real value of this book is the first few chapters, which guide you through developing your own goals for homeschooling and educational philosophy. This book also helps you understand how different learning styles interact with a variety of educational models and helps you choose the model(s) that are a best fit for you and your family. An excellent book!

After developing my own goals for Peter's education and choosing the style I thought would work best for our family, I gave the book to my husband. I wanted him to complete the same exercises, without knowing what I had written, to see how much common ground we had. Thankfully, we're in agreement on pretty much everything, including a strong preference for unit studies and Charlotte Mason's model of education. Of course, this may change as time passes, but it's nice to know we're starting from the same page.

Today's lesson: Mozzarella sticks stay hot a long time,
even when you blow on them.

Below, I have written verbatim what my husband and I wrote as our goals for Peter's education. I think it's interesting that, while our style of list-making is different, we ended up with the same goals.

value as a child of God
importance of domestic, local, national & international community
appreciation of music, art, &  literature
how to write in varied genres/styles
practical hands-on skills
stewardship of money, planet, self
understand real-world math & science
how to research and study
Practical Knowledge
Tech Skills

What goals do you have for your children? How are you meeting these goals?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Making Do or Going Without

One of my brothers and I were recently counting our blessings for growing up in the family we have. One of the wonderful gifts from our parents is knowing the value of work and of "making do." We had hand-me-downs and thrift store clothes. We ate leftovers and bought things in bulk. For vacation, we traveled to see family, rarely staying in hotels or visiting theme parks.

None of this was considered a hardship.

It's the difference between making do and going without. We made do with what we had, finding inexpensive solutions to problems that arose. We never felt as if we were being deprived of what we deserved because our parents never talked that way. Rather than apologizing to us for not providing a hotel with a pool (which was a real treat when it happened!), they would talk about how fun it would be to stay with Uncle Rich and what he might be growing in his garden this summer.

We make do by lowering our utility bills.
(Can you tell which one Peter hung?)

When I was in high school or college, I asked my mom why we never packed picnic lunches anymore when we drove to the Midwest. When we were little, we always did. We'd stop at a picnic area and my brothers and I could run as much as we wanted while Mom put our sandwiches together and got out the fruit. As we got older, we stopped bringing lunch and began eating fast food. When I asked my mom, she laughed. "Liana, we didn't bring picnic lunches as a treat. We brought them because we couldn't afford to eat at McDonald's." Oh. Well, I thought it was a treat. That's how it was presented.

Frugality and a good work ethic are important. I hope to pass along these values to Peter. But more than wise money management, I want him to understand how wealthy we are. I want him to see life as not "good enough" but good. You only feel you are going without if you initially feel entitled. Our family? We're making do.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ascension Thursday and M&Ms

My mom has a tape recording of my brother when he was a toddler. She bribed him to sing the songs he knew by promising to give him an M&M when they were done. The entire recording is punctuated by, "Now emma-emma?" These songs are nice, Mom, but when is it time for the fun stuff?

Today was the feast of the Ascension. The first reading at Mass, from the Acts of the Apostles, states Jesus' promise to His disciples that they will soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit. They reply, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

My immediate thought was, "Now emma-emma?"

Edit: Feedback suggested I didn't make my point. To me, it seemed the Apostles had completely missed what Jesus wanted them to do (spread the Gospel) and were still focused only on an earthly reward, as my brother had been.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's Spring!

We recently got this book from the library and Peter loves it. I looked on Amazon today and discovered we can buy our very own copy - starting at $25 used! Eek! Glad we have the library close to us! And to really appreciate spring, we can just go outside. (Pictures taken with my NEW camera that Peter got me for Mother's Day!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rote Memory and Education

Your World

Your world is as big as you make it
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner
My wings pressing close to my side

But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the sky-line encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.

I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
with rapture, with power, with ease!

by Georgia Douglas

Fly bird
Image from powerplant via Flickr

This is a poem I memorized in middle school. We had an old-fashioned teacher who made us memorize poems and rules of grammar. In elementary school, I had math teachers (and a mother) who made us memorize our times tables. To this day, I can do long division in my head, use object pronouns correctly, and appreciate the poetry of Psalm 23 more than the other Psalms.

Memorization didn't seem like a waste of time. I knew the things I memorized had value and, if nothing else, stretched my mind to do more than I thought it could. Memorization was a challenge that promised mastery of new material. My teachers also explained the underlying concepts, but they saw value in rote memory. I know many educators, teachers and parents alike, shy away from memorization and consider it useless. Personally, I'm excited about helping Peter memorize poems and facts and whatever else he can use.

After all, your world is as big as you make it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pros and Cons of Gardening

Today while Peter napped I got our romaine lettuce and green beans planted. (Is anyone else skeptical that those floppy things you see in the store ever lived on a vine? Fresh green beans are so much better!) As excited as I am to begin our green bean crop, I suspect I should have taken advantage of nap time to get some sleep of my own.

1. My husband apparently contracted hand-foot-mouth. It's unusual but not unheard of for adults to show symptoms. I always knew he was special.

2. While Peter is definitely feeling better, he's not completely recovered and has been waking somewhat frequently at night. Therefore, I have not gotten a good night's sleep in well over a week.

3. It is 10PM and Peter shows no inclination of being ready to sleep, despite screaming tantrums earlier in the evening indicating exhaustion.

Hindsight is 20/20.

These beans better be amazing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Help! Possibly going crazy...

I finished the 5K today without walking! And I'm still semi-functional! We'll see how I'm doing tomorrow, but considering I didn't actually end up training for this one, I think 34:47 isn't bad.

I'm not sure if the race is a contributing factor or if being sick has just pushed him to new limits, but for the first time in all our nursing relationship, I am "touched out". I just want to tell him to keep his hands to himself. Every time he nurses, he wants to rub my back, arms, stomach, any place he can reach to touch my skin. It's driving me batty. I thought wearing a nursing tank top would help, since that blocks access to most of my skin, but it just created a different problem. Now his hands just roam constantly, looking for an in.

If he wasn't sick, I would stop this nonsense, but I know he's miserable. I'm trying very hard not to lose my patience or sanity. In the mean time, I think I'm going to take a shower now that he is finally asleep. (After two hours of crying and nursing, often at the same time.) Any advice for how to avoid losing my mind?

Edit: Turns out I was pregnant!

Friday, May 11, 2012


I am reading... the Little House series. I just finished Little House in the Big Woods last night. After my recent post on inspiring characters, I decided it was high time I reread the series. I'd forgotten that they are aimed at a younger audience than the Anne of Green Gables series. Still good reads!

I am praying for... Peter's quick recovery. After a doctor's visit today, we confirmed that he does indeed have hand-foot-mouth disease, which he picked up on our trip to Wisconsin. The doctor has no more idea than we do why his rash is covering his entire body instead of being concentrated on his hands and feet, but assures us it is indeed Coxsackie A virus. Poor Peter.

My favorite seasonal food is... fruit and yogurt parfaits. I am getting a bit ahead of myself here, since strawberries won't be in season here for another couple of months, but I couldn't help it. So delicious!

I am planning... to run a 5K race tomorrow! First time since high school! Here's hoping I am still alive at the end of it. :-)

I was recently surprised by... how much Peter has been nursing. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that he has a steady supply of fluids, calories, and mommy's antibodies as he fights this illness, but wow! We're talking soreness and infant poop again. It's like I just slipped backwards to when he was 4 months old.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

for my Goddaughter, on her Second Communion

Dear Aidan Rose,

Last week, you made your First Communion. I was so happy to be with you as you received Jesus through the Eucharist for the first time! As you pointed out, I love church. And I love you, so seeing you more fully initiated into our Church was truly a joy.

This Sunday, you'll make your second Communion. There will be no white dress, no party, and probably no one paying attention except Mom and Dad. But guess what. The most important person will still be there and He is SO excited you're coming back! Jesus has been excited all week, waiting for you to come back to Mass and join Him again in Communion. So cool!

Sometimes, especially as people get older, they stop being excited. They say, "What's the big deal. Jesus is there whenever I want. It's nothing special." I pray that you, my dear Goddaughter, never get so careless. I pray that every time you approach the altar and receive the Eucharist you are filled with the joy of His Presence. He is GOD and He is waiting for YOU! He loves you more than you can ever imagine. Remember that.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 
Romans 15:13

May God bless you always and in all ways. Happy second Communion!


At her First Reconciliation

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Sleeper car to Chicago, exciting layover at Union Station, and a short trip up to Milwaukee. At least once every 30 minutes while he was awake, Peter would point out the window and exclaim, "Choo-choo!" He resisted sleep with every ounce of effort, but eventually succumbed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Be Ridiculous: Traveling as a Single Parent Part 2

Since I was responsible for Peter and all of our luggage, I packed very lightly. Everything we brought, including cloth diapers, fit into a backpack and a small rolling suitcase. To make this work, I only brought enough diapers for two days, figuring I would do a load of laundry Saturday night after I put Peter to bed.

On the floor at their house, since he refuses pack-n-plays.

I thought about calling my cousin to warn her, then dismissed the idea. After all, who would object to me doing one load of laundry? I was even bringing my own detergent! I figured it was ridiculous to even ask.

When we arrived, my cousin was advising me never to replace all of our appliances at once. They did that thirteen years ago. "And now everything broke the same week! The refrigerator, the washing machine... Oh no. You use cloth diapers! Were you planning to do a load?" She started to laugh and admitted she had thought about calling to warn me, then dismissed the idea. After all, I would only be staying two days. She figured it was ridiculous to even bring it up.

Moral: Be ridiculous.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Single Parenting and Sleeper Cars

Since Peter was born, I've often admired the skills of single parents. Raising a child is just so all-consuming! After this past weekend, my respect has risen another notch. My Goddaughter made her First Communion in Wisconsin. Jeremy was unable to take time off to travel, so Peter and I made the trip without him.

This isn't completely without precedent. Peter and I have traveled with my parents' in the past for a weekend getaway, but in that situation, my parents were around to help. On this trip, it was all me. (Once we were out there, my brother was a great help, but to and from I was solo.)

11:30PM - too excited to sleep! We're at a train station!

To simplify my life and increase the likelihood of both of us being happy upon arrival, Peter and I took a sleeper car on the train from Rochester to Chicago. It was AWESOME. I now understand why people pay for first class. I didn't know this, but apparently sleeper cars are the first class of train travel. We got to board first, meals were provided, our conductor was ultra attentive, we had bottled water and hot coffee available at all times, AND Peter got a fun hat.

The experience was also unparalleled for peace of mind while traveling. I had no schedule, traffic, or poorly timed bathroom needs. We had privacy and a great view. Since the door locks, I knew that Peter could explore whatever he wanted without bothering other passengers. If we had unlimited cash, I think I would travel by sleeper car everywhere!

More coming tomorrow. Tonight I just really need to get to bed. (You may guess that we didn't get a sleeper car on the way home.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Ahem." -God

I'm a planner. I don't adapt well to change, disrupted routine, or altered expectations. Today went all wrong. Except that in the end, it was just as it was supposed to be.

This morning, I had my day planned. Take my husband to work and the car to the mechanic. Visit the nearby playground until the oil change and inspection were done. At home, do diaper laundry and prepare potatoes for soup tonight. When Peter napped, I would shower and get some dishes done. I would visit my mom at the thrift store, have dinner, go to youth group, and stop by a friend's birthday party briefly in the evening. A busy but doable day.

So much to do, so little time!

Except the car did not pass inspection.

Nearly $300 and 6.5 hours later, it is street-legal again, but my day was in shambles. No laundry, dishes, or soup. I showered at my parents' house. (And as much as I like using eco-friendly detergent and such, their towels smell awesome.) For the first time all year, I skipped youth group, assuaging my guilt by remembering that they were food shopping tonight, so no serious conversations anyway.

So we had dinner at our friend's birthday party. Peter had a ball, playing with the "big kids" and running back and forth across the stage in the church basement. I got to talk with a mom who is homeschooling her three kids and belongs to the local Catholic homeschool association. Our friend was happy to see us. We had chocolate cake. It was a much more relaxing evening than what I had originally planned.

And when we got home, Peter was so tired he nursed to sleep in about ten minutes.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
 Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8

Oh right. This life isn't about me being in control. Thanks for the reminder!