January 2007

I’m going to take an Internet sabbatical of undetermined length.  (Well, I’ll be at the IRS website, but aside from that.)  In the meantime the links in the sidebar will take you to some great blogs and websites, which are in turn linked to many other wonderful places.  Enjoy.


No Ice Storm  For us, anyway. Do pray for those in the southern midwest who have been hit with the big ice storms.  Ice storms are way worse than snow storms. Big trouble.

Overwhelmed That’s how I was feeling, especially yesterday.   Defining moment: wanting to just sit down and cry, but eyeballs hurting too much to make it worth the bother.   I guess it isn’t exactly good news, but maybe consoling to some.  It’s easy for us to always have our happy faces on in public — when you’re miserable, you hide at home — and that habit can make it seem as if the housewives with public lives, whether writers or speakers or group leaders or whatever, are always so pulled together.   As if this business of raising a family is really just so easy if you would only put your mind to it.  Oh, and maybe if you had more faith, prayed better, and didn’t eat so much chocolate.

So the good news is this:  If it seems like things are hard, maybe it is because they are.  You aren’t alone.

Dangerous Prayers  One of the reasons I was feeling overwhelmed was sleep-deprivation.  Not the obvious kind, where you’re up all night and therefore you know you need to catch up on sleep as soon as you can.  Rather, this was the sneaky kind that accumulates slowly over a week or two, as you miss half an hour here, a few minutes there, and next thing you know, you are very very tired, with no plans laid for how to fix it.  So that was part of it — sleep-deprivation makes me depressed.  Got some extra sleep, am feeling much better.

But there was something else, too, that happened.  And it happened twice, which will show you I am not a very quick learner.   I was reading yesterday in Butler’s Lives of Saints (the 1956, personal preference, plus it’s the one I happen to have on hand), and I read the biography of St. Apollo.  He was an abbot, and lived circa 395.  I like to read about obscure saints because their biographies are so much shorter — quicker to get through, easy on tired brains.  Anyhow, this struck me:  "He made it his constant petition to God that he might know himself and be preserved from the subtle illusions of pride."

So, was I happy to just say "oh, that’s nice" and put down the book and move on with my life?  No.  I thought, "Oh, that looks like a good idea.  I should do that."  So I did it.   Next thing I know, there I was, completely overwhelmed.  It wasn’t until a few hours later that I sat down (not crying — remember, the eyeballs were sore — but wanting too) that I remembered what I done.  Oops.  Well, Mrs. Castle Lady, Suddenly getting a view of what you can manage on your own power, perhaps?  Of course it’s overwhelming!   I was grateful for the answered prayer, but it that didn’t exactly make things better. 

Moral of the story: It is not a bad prayer, but a risky one.  And of course I went to go dig up the name of the saint before I blogged, and what did I do?  I re-read the biography (like I said, it’s short), once again thought it  seemed like a good idea, so I prayed it again.   And I had a Sunday morning to prove it.   Knowing me,  I’ll probably do it again sometime. 

A New Baby!  Late this morning things took a turn for the better.  I received the news that my newest godchild was born yesterday evening.  It’s a boy, yet un-named.  I made him (thought until last evening to be a her, but luckily I used yellow and green) some little experimental baby mittens, but have not yet delivered them.  Fortunately the new godboy was not born with long fingernails, and is therefore not scratching himself to pieces on account of my slow knitting.

A Growing Baby!  SB turned six months.  Those who have met the SuperHusband will not be surprised to learn that she is tall and thin.   She gets her big puffy cheeks from my side of the family though, which combined with a winning personality (all her own) is a source of some distraction at Mass.  Not to mention her new-found love of making VERY LOUD screeches of happiness during the Consecration.  Must be that "using your gifts" Father preached about today.

Overheard On The Family Bike Ride  Says LP, age 4, about halfway through our ride around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon:  "Look mom!  I’m not complaining!!  Yes!!"  Once again making me the proudest mommy in the world.   Also,  I saw an owl. 

Rain started last night, and it is drizzling a little now.  There is a light film of ice on the Airstream, and the raindrops on the crepe myrtle don’t seem to be dripping any more – quite pretty. 

We had an ice storm about three years ago, and that is when I learned to dread the things.   It gets cold and dark — none of the bright reflectiveness of snow.  You don’t want to go out for a walk, even after the rain stops, because tree limbs start falling down like crazy, all of which seem to aim directly for the hapless offspring.  

Inside it gets cold and dark.  Our house is designed to stay cool in the summer, which 75% of the year is a real advantage.  Fortunately ice-storm weather isn’t all that cold, so even without heat you can get by just fine wearing coats and sleeping in the sleeping bags.  I think the last time it only got down to about 45 in the house.   It’s just depressing, is all.    We do have a gas hot water heater, which is a wonderful luxury in an otherwise powerless house. 

I am very grateful, in addition, for the very very nice gas grill my father-in-law gave us two years ago.  Includes a side burner for cooking your corn-on-the-cob or what have you.   So, fortunately, there won’t be a major disruption in meal plans if the power goes (note to self: call SuperHusband and ask him to bring home an extra fuel tank).  Also grateful to our friends who gave us their old refrigerator, now inhabiting our garage.  Easy to keep a fridge and freezer cold if they are stored in a freezing-temperature room to begin with.

What could be disrupted is blogging plans.  In our last ice storm we were without power for many days.  Part of that was due to a downed power line at the edge of our property — the other side of the street got back power a couple days before we did — so if I’m out for more than my usual Friday and Saturday of busyness, it could be that.  Or it could be just a Sunday and Monday and so on of busyness.

Bird Feeder News  The squirrel-proof bird feeder has been in place for about a week now.  The squirrels are persistent in their efforts to access it (who needs TV when you have squirrels?), but so far have not succeeded.   Mrs. Cardinal has been spotted feeding, and Mr. Cardinal nearby; other birds have been seen on the ground feeding in the general area, but no visual confirmation of direct feeder use.   In all it appears the new feeder is unpopular — there is still plenty of seed in there.

A Drop of Water
(subtitled "A book of science and wonder by")
 Walter Wick
Scholastic Press, 1997
ISBN 0-590-22197-3

This is a positively gorgeous book.  Written by a special-effects photographer, each page uses brilliant photos and concise explanations to explore a characteristic of water.  Molecules, surface tension, ice crystals, and so on.  Some of the photos are simply beautiful shots of ordinary experiments, such as condensation on a glass.  Others, such as still-action shots of water dripping, or a display of snowflakes magnified, are downright breathtaking.

The explanations are short and clear but technical.   It will help if a young reader (or listener) has already been introduced to the scientific terms, either in every day conversation or by reading some early-reader science books. 

The photos inspire experimentation;  for those who want guidance, there is a set of suggested experiments at the back of the book.  Parents will appreciate the cautionary notes at the beginning of the experiments section, which include such essentials as "don’t look directly at the sun" and "never use water near electrical outlets", but also finish with the reminder "clean up spills and put away materials in their proper places when you are done".

If you are a structured sort of homeschooler, this book would probably fit best in a late-elementary or middle-school study of physical science.  (At that age, a good reader could work independently, too.)  Or it would make a nice series of activities to keep school kids busy over summer and winter vacations. 

But the book speaks most to those who have caught on to something more like family-schooling.   The explanations and experiments are simple enough to engage the natural awe and wonder of preschoolers (playing with bubbles! catching snowflakes!), but technical side of it offers plenty for a high-school-level scientist to contemplate.   Those who are fluent in physical sciences will immediately think of a thousand other experiments worth trying someday, and those who have never really understood these mysteries will discover the joy of finally understanding the how and why of fog on a window or condensation on the outside of a cold drink.

We’ve had a long set of holidays and surprisingly mild weather, so here at our castle there isn’t that case of January Misery that seems to afflict many homeschools.  But if you are suffering enthusiasm-blight this season , take a look for this book at your library.    Could turn out to be a nice way to get a break from school-as-usual, but with more learning instead of less.

Sunday afternoon SyrupHusband converted to StomachVirusHusband.  He headed off to work this morning, so the worst of it is over for him, it appears.  Bun is still on clear-fluids-only, with older siblings being threatened with un-named consequences if they should sneak her any more food.   (That said, you’ve got to love it when your four-year-old takes pity on her on little sister and secretly gives her green beans.)

I’m so glad to be homeschooling during times like this.  No feeling guilty about sending off a boy to school, knowing he may be carrying greetings of GI-misery to his classmates.  No waiting all day, wondering if the school office is going to call and tell me to come pick up the boy.  No needing to acquire doctor’s notes, nor worry about helping the sick kid keep up with the classmates.   These aren’t necessarily reasons we homeschool, but they are nice bonuses.

Meanwhile school here has been going fine.  We discovered a book yesterday that deserves it’s own entry, so I’ll put it in the next post.

In Canada and New England, The Maple Syrup Book tells us, sugaring season lasts several weeks in the spring, when freezing nights are followed by warmer days,  and the maple sap starts running.

 We have four maple trees in our yard, and years ago a then-resident woodpecker tapped  the largest of them.  Agressively.  The ants are thrilled —  both they and Mr. Boy both discovered that our brief dose of winter Thursday, followed by a return to this unusually spring-like weather for the weekend, has brought sugaring season to South Carolina.

For the first time — last year he was unconvinced — we pursuaded a SkepticalHusband to tap our tree properly (sap already oozes from all those woodpecker holes) and hang a little plastic pail to see what we could collect.  By evening we had a saucepan of sap, and after several hours of simmering, a few tablespoons of maple syrup.  The SkepticalHusband has been converted to a SyrupHusband, now keen on making maple lollipops with the sap we collected today.

We’re in quarantine.  Last night the SuperHusband sighed with happiness as we turned in, looking forward to sleeping in this morning.  Later last night, said SuperHusband was up with a certain toddler, afflicted with a rotavirus-like illness.  Days like this I am so thankful for the very limited amounts of carpeting and upholstery in our home, all easily moved.

I’m also thankful for the inspiration to pick up lots of new movies when we went to the library this week.  Two big kids have been watching the Three Stooges for their first time.  As predicted, it is a big hit with the 4- to-6- year-old viewing population.

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