Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Biannual Haircut

I typically get a haircut every two years, as my hair grows about a foot in that amount of time. Then I get it cut and donate it to Locks of Love. This is not one of my favorite styles, but it's certainly a lot easier to wash! And the stylist kept her word; it looks good after just being combed and left to air dry (which is good, because that's all I ever do to my hair!).

Ponytail that went halfway down my back


Monday, August 26, 2013

Peter Says

(McDonald's was recently giving away noise-making minions from Despicable Me 2)
Anne giggles, Peter starts laughing - "Mommy, what does Anne sound like a minion?!"

Multiple times each day, Peter and I have a scripted conversation: Hello, Mommy, how are you? I'm doing well, Peter, how are you? I'm doing well, do you have any special plans for today? It always goes this way, whether he or one of his stuffed animals are talking with me. Until:
Hello, Mommy, how are you?
I'm doing well, cow, how are you?

Jeremy teases Peter when his feet are wrinkly from the bath, calling them old man feet.
"Daddy, look at how old my man feet are!"

Mommy, this is a woe-woad.
A railroad?
Not a wayo-woad, a woe-woad.
Oh, OK. (default response when I still don't understand, but don't want to keep asking)
Because it has a big turn!
*light bulb* So it's a whoa road?
Yes! We go on it and say, "Whooaaa!"

Peter, Daddy had a sad day at work. What can we do to make him happy when he comes home?
Um, we can play with him aaand give him a haircut!

This is a doggie school, where doggies learn. And other animals that don't live in the jungle or the zoo. Doggies, kitties, bunnies, and whatever-those-are, and chicks, and brain cells, and giraffes - those live in the jungle - so brain cells, and pigs. And that's all.

Friday, August 23, 2013

7QT (Vol. 53): Stewardship Challenge

"Finish your food. There are kids starving in Africa." The message is that you should be thankful for the food you have, but I'm confident that forcing yourself to eat more than you want is not the path to real gratitude. Tied up in that admonition also is a vague feeling that your food consumption affects the food supply in areas of famine. In reality, the world easily produces enough food to feed everyone; distribution is the problem. Cleaning your plate isn't a moral issue.

African sunset

I'm not in any way advocating wasting food, though. This is why food storage containers exist, even tiny ones that hold about 10 grapes. Being a good steward of your resources (incluing food) is a moral issue. I can't count how many times I have put two bites of food in the fridge for Peter to eat later. Before I get too comfortable on this high horse, though, let me share some ways where I fail spectacularly.

We all know there is a finite supply of fossil fuel. We also know that carbon emissions are harmful to the environment. But I still accept plastic now and then when I forget my reusable bags. (Yes, plastic uses fossil fuels.) Whenever I go out, I check to make sure I have my phone, keys, and wallet. I can just add "bag" to that list.

We drive much more than we need. We drive somewhere almost every evening, even though we have no meetings or activities currently. I waste fuel to tack another 5 minutes onto the drive home so the kids will fall asleep. One month, we made a point to limit outings because we had made two trips and were concerned about our travel budget. We easily stayed within our limits, which was a wake-up call about how much we needlessly spend on gas. Staying home even two nights each week makes a huge difference for the planet and our pocketbooks.

I try not to think about how much electricity I use for this laptop. I mean, it's a netbook, so it's tiny and fairly efficient, but it's also primarily a toy. Sometimes I do useful things (planning & research for homeschooling, emailing, blogging, daily Mass readings), but often I turn it on just to see if I have any new Facebook notifications or emails. By "often" I mean about 10x/day. I think I'd survive if I went on, say, 3x/day. Checking in after breakfast, during naps, and once the kids are asleep would keep me in touch while not wasting electricity. It would also help me be more present with my kids. (I don't have a smartphone, so if I'm not on here, I'm not online at all.)

Finally, water. Living up here where water is cheap and plentiful, it is hard to remember to conserve. I run the tap to get cold water because I don't want to drink it quite as cold as it is in the fridge. I stay in the shower a few minutes after I'm clean. I leave the faucet on while I wash my hands (I'm getting better about this one). I dump the remainder of a glass of water because it got warm or I wasn't that thirsty. If I stop being the problem, I become the solution.

This isn't meant to be a confessional, but rather a motivator. Consider it in the same light as people who share about removing clutter from closets or losing weight. I get public accountability; you might get ideas or motivation. Will you take the challenge? What's one way you can step up your stewardship of this planet of ours?

7 Quick Takes is hosted by Conversion Diary

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Peter's Haircut, Anne's New Trick

"Mommy, I will get blonde hair ALL OVER your floor!"

"Now I'll just make a maze for my fingers."

Yep, I can pull to standing!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Unschooling This Week

I'm officially starting homeschooling again next Monday, after about a month of vacation. Local schools start after Labor Day, but our first unit will be the beach, so I want to do it while Peter's memories of our recent trip to the ocean are still fresh. I've got lessons outlined through December with a different theme for each week.

This week, though, we're still on vacation, so we are learning nothing.

Yesterday, we attended the Gateway Music Festival and heard two orchestral pieces performed at the Eastman Theater (music, art). We whispered about skin colors, where Africa and Europe are, and how God designed people to look different (social studies). Peter's favorite instrument was the timpani, although he likes the word bassoon.

When he got home, he asked to read Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, a book that uses rhyme to teach about instruments and counting (reading, music, math). He got that one for his birthday recently; having read it before the concert helped him understand what was happening. Today, his grandparents came to visit. He and I told them about the concert (pre-writing) and later he played his instruments with Grandpa.

It's a shame we waste so much time on vacation, not learning. I'd better make more lesson plans.

Learning properties of matter, mainly taste

Friday, August 16, 2013

7QT (Vol. 52): Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope

"All generations will call me blessed." 
Luke 1:48

A significant amount of my faith formation post-elementary school happened in Presbyterian circles. The youth group at my parish was very poorly attended, so in addition to that, I went every week to the thriving youth group at Brighton Presbyterian Church. Through that, I became involved in Summer's Best Two Weeks, a non-denominational Christian sports camp. All the ones where I worked were hosted at Presbyterian churches.

I learned a lot about my Catholic faith through these experiences. Being challenged on points of doctrine is a good incentive to learn to defend one's faith! I questioned a lot of what I had always believed and found solid answers to my questions. Since that time, though, I've been cautious about devotion to Mary. It's one of the red-flag issues for many Protestants, and I can see why. There are certainly people who have turned Mary into an idol, ascribing power and giving worship to her that belong only to God.

I asked a priest friend of mine once, "How do you know if you've crossed the line into idolatry?" He replied, "Prayer should bring you closer to God. That's your measuring stick." Because I've retained the caution about Marian devotion that I picked up in Presbyterian churches, I've often felt a little ill at ease with the line from Hail, Holy Queen that describes Mary as "our life, our sweetness, and our hope."

Just this past week, I finally understood. When I attended Mass for the feast of the Assumption, the priest spoke of Mary as our life. In Mary, we see what our life can be when infused with God's grace. She is "our life" because she is the ideal of our life. Our life should be one of humble obedience, as hers was. In the same way, she is our hope as an example of what awaits us. Her assumption into Heaven encourages us to trust in God's will for our eternal life.

This description finally helped me reconcile calling Mary our life and our hope with Jesus' statement that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is indeed the source of all Life. And we can see how that life should be played out in the life of Mary.

"Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin Mary too much. 
You can never love her more than Jesus did." 
St. Maximilian Kolbe

Quick Takes hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Peter's Awesome Hat and Other Vacation Pictures

The beach is exhausting

Seriously exhausting

Just happy to be with Daddy (and his oven mitts)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Toys: Channel Surfing for Kids

Peter has a fair number of toys, but they are all Good Toys. He has stuffed animals, a train set, different sets of blocks, cloth dolls, trucks, balls, miniature cars, beads to string, musical instruments, beans to dump on Daddy measure, math toys, stacking cups, puppets, craft supplies, puzzles, dress-up clothes... Basically, everything a good preschool room would offer. His toys are of good quality and, with three exceptions, don't use batteries. My husband and I have been selective about what we want him to use and our parents and siblings have humored us.

New set from his Godfather!

Now, all of Peter's toys are out of sight except his musical instruments and his puzzles. None of them have been packed, just temporarily stored. Some are in the window seat, many in a play area in the basement, and some in baskets in his room. If he asked us, he could use anything; if he went up or down some stairs from the main floor, he could get most of it on his own.

He was home almost all day today and didn't touch anything other than his music and puzzles.

Instead, he sang songs, asked me to wrestle, showed off for Anne, swept the kitchen floor with me, and made up a new game for us to play with our fingers. He seemed completely content to just be part of the family. It makes me consider what is the best approach to toys whenever we move. Should I keep them all in sight and let him browse or have most of them out of sight but available? Is there benefit to seeking out a particular item versus "toy surfing"? It will be interesting to watch him in the near future and see what toys he actively wants.

Friday, August 9, 2013

7QT (Vol. 51): Going to the Beach

My laptop is plotting against me. I have a refurbished acer netbook, which is not exactly stellar. One of its favorite tricks is spontaneously deciding it has no battery power (even when near 100%) and hibernating without warning. Which it did tonight. As I was powering up again, I noticed acer's slogan: Empowering People. Ha.

Anyway, we were on vacation this week with my brother, sister-in-law, and her parents. It was a great, relaxing trip in Pawley's Island, south of Myrtle Beach, an early celebration of our 5th anniversary. The weather was cooperative and both kids had a lot of fun. Anne didn't really go to the beach much, since all she wanted to do was eat the sand, but Peter did.

The first evening, we were all out on the second story deck together. Someone asked Peter if he wanted to walk down to the beach. "Yes!" (looks around concerned) "But, um, there are no stairs here so I guess we won't."

He wasn't crazy about the ocean after the first time it splashed him in the face, but he loved digging on the shore with his uncle. Together, they dug a hole more than 3 feet deep! It was neat to go by at high tide and see what was left of it.

We stayed at the Litchfield, which is an excellent resort. If renting a condo, as we did, you get very good rates. Since you're living in someone else's home, though, you're never sure what the room set-up will be. Our room had two sets of bunk beds, which Peter loved. Anne woke us the first night/morning at 5:20AM wanting to nurse. Peter called drowsily from his bed, "It's OK, Anne. We have bunk beds!"

The humor of spending our anniversary trip in bunk beds has not escaped me.

I'd hoped my brother would have pictures posted already that I could steal, but alas! Come back Wednesday for pictures of my adorable children in all their vacation glory. :-)

7 Quick Takes hosted at Conversion Diary

Monday, August 5, 2013

You Didn't Waste Your Time

Regret. Maybe you poured yourself into a job that was a dead end. Maybe you were in a long-term relationship that ended poorly. Maybe you spent thousands of dollars on an education that doesn't seem useful or applicable in your present life.

You look back at that time and shake your head, wishing you had made different choices. You spent time, energy, and money, and for what? You have nothing to show for it except frustration, heartache, and perhaps an overwhelming amount of debt. If you could visit your younger self, you would say, "No! That is going to be pointless. Do it a different way. Listen to the advice of so-and-so who has a better plan."

What a waste. Or is it?

I have my Master's degree in school psychology. I haven't been employed as a school psychologist since earning that degree. I used my education for the year I worked in social services (educational advocate for kids in foster care), but I haven't brought home a pay check in over two years. I have no plans to return to employment. It would be easy to look at the three years and roughly $10,000 I spent on that degree and see it as a waste of resources.

Better than a paycheck

I know better. I grew significantly during those three years. I learned about how the education system works, about my classmates from widely varied backgrounds, and about myself. My relationship with my husband deepened during that time, as we dated, got engaged, and got married. I learned more about living independently, both financially and emotionally.

I thought when I chose grad school over seeking employment with a BA that I was following what God wanted. I still think so. Even if I was wrong, though, it would not have been a waste. God takes all our experiences and uses them to shape us into who we are. Whether your regret is relational, professional, or something else altogether, let it go.

It wasn't a waste. You would not be you without that experience.

Maybe as a result, you've been motivated to learn something new. Maybe you turned to God or brought your faith to a new level. Maybe you learned that, in fact, you can live without that person. Move forward with your life. Let go of the bitterness and anger that have been following you.

That experience wasn't a waste. Holding onto regret will be.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

7QT (Vol. 50): The End is Here

The end is here! We got the house clean and the big projects done. Today our real estate agent came over, took pictures, and put a sign in our front yard. We're on the market!

This evening, we went over to my parents' house to eat their leftover pizza and avoid making dirty dishes. Got to enjoy this cleanliness while it lasts. :-)

I'm pleased with my problem solving for this transition. We moved a lot of Peter's toys to a corner of the basement, so he can still access them while leaving the main floor open and spacious. I also emptied the blanket chest, which stores a surprising amount of toys!

Some of the other relocations are less reasonable... the kiddie bathtub is in a closet, along with the kiddie toilet seat. The tissues are in with the coffee. When it's in the house, Anne's car seat is in with the summer hats.


Speaking of Anne, she's been constipated recently as she's transitioning to solid foods. We gave her prune juice last night and today. She generally refuses to drink from a bottle and makes a mess still with a sippy cup, so we had to get creative. She loves her gas drops, so I just cleaned out a bottle and used the medicine dropper. Success!

It is well past time to get to sleep. I'm looking forward to a full day tomorrow with no manual labor. Have a great weekend!

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary