Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gwendolyn Likes Tattoos

The captain of our transcontinental flight announced that we would land in twenty minutes. After a puddle-jumper flight from Syracuse to Cleveland and three and a half hours in the air towards Los Angeles, Gwendolyn began to show signs of fatigue. (We adults had travel fatigue, too—but we hid our signs.)

I felt the change in gravitational pull as the plane began its gentle descent. Almost on cue, Gwendolyn began to fuss.

After more than four hours of air time with a record clean of crying, I didn’t want the last twenty minutes to ruin the trip. I knew the people around me can handle it—if I were in their seats, I would be praising the Lord if the baby in the seat behind me only fussed for the last twenty minutes of the flight. But I wanted to hold on to Gwendolyn’s good-traveler’s standing.

I bopped, dandled, cajoled, sung, and otherwise made every attempt to quiet my daughter. But nothing worked. In a stroke of desperation, and knowing that she would not really comprehend, I pointed out the window and said, "Look, there's Los Angeles out the window!"

As I did so, my finger tapped against the plexiglass pane, and Gwendolyn's fussing paused as if by remote control. Serendipty came knocking as I rapped my finger again against the window; with three more strikes of my knuckles Gwendolyn was rapt. She couldn't care less that our plane was enacting a miracle of physics in hurtling from two thousand feet down to the surface of the earth. She wanted to hear the drum beat of my fingers against the window.

For the next fifteen minutes I did my best with knuckes and fingertips to keep up a jazzy beat, while Gwendolyn watched and listened.

After about five minutes I began to wonder if the folks around us would find my rapping annoying. Then I imagined the conversation sparked by an objection:

"Would you please stop that tapping on the window?"

"I'm sorry."

"Wah, wah, WAAAAAHHHHH!"

"Please excuse my daughter. Only the sound of tapping on a window keeps her quiet."

"Oh. Well, then. Carry on."

"Delighted, I'm sure."

I tattooed on the plexiglas until our wheels hit the tarmac, holding on to Gwendolyn's excellent traveling record.

Praise the Lord for plexiglas.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Child Size Zucchini

Today I was out in the garden picking some broccoli and wading through the zucchini bed picking when I stumbed upon a nice child-size zucchini. Well at least the size of my child.

I'm pretty sure she's trying to figure out how to chew on it...

If I could just get my hands around it!

This one's headed to a friend, but I've put pureed zucchini and shredded zucchini in the freezer and have zucchini chips on the counter. We've also had zucchini in pasta and some breads and muffins. Here's more ideas if you have zucchini coming out of your ears.


Butts on Ice

In June the alpine heights of Colorado mountians still host broad bands of snow on their northern slopes. During our time with the Sonlight campers, I went on a hike to Alberta Peak. On the way down, some of our more intrepid girls discovered this opportunity:

And they decided to engage in the time-honored tradition of glissading. To glissade is to wrap a waterproof piece of attire around the waist and under the buttocks (usually a parka or poncho--garbage bags did it for us in a pinch) and slide down the packed snow. Here's one of the ladies getting ready to sled on her derriere to the bottom of this patch of snow (about sixty yards downhill):

But why go alone? Why not make it a team sport?

I know you're wondering: Yes, I did it too. How could I resist?

Let me tell you: garbage bags make great sleds. Who knew? What I didn't count on was how hard the snow was and how many bumps there would be. My tailbone still aches from the three rides I took. But it was worth it.

After all, how many of us can say we've glissaded? And how many of those know how to pronounce it?



I figure it's a good sign that one is committed to a home when one starts planting trees on the property. A young tree stands about as far as possible from instant gratification.

In June, to celebrate Gwendolyn's arrival in our home, I planted a sweet cherry tree across the creek from the house:

Within the first two weeks, deer came and nibbled off all the shoots. Sigh. So I put a fence around it. I went out to check on it yesterday and discovered that some insect had not only decimated the shoots again, but had made the leaves look like old Swiss cheese. Double sigh. There's always next year.

In hope that perhaps the first experiences of the cherry tree will not become a trend, I planted a black walnut seedling gifted to me by our friends Richard and Phyllis. here it is, with fence immediately in place:

This tree stands in the middle of our yard, on the edge of a brown patch that used to be our strawberry bed. We have since moved the strawberries to a raised bed; so we hope that this circle of dirt will soon (in a scale of years) become mowable lawn.

One more (baby)step towards the yard we envision.

In thirty-five to fifty years, the black walnut may be good for quality furniture lumber. Just trying to think ahead.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Beating the System

Having order the birth certificate of my great-grandfather: $38.
Ordering it myself from the General Register Office: $15.
Eliminating the middle-man: priceless.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Windows Version 20.09

We have a running theory that the builder of our house really intended it to serve as a summer home. As I've written before, the drafts through all rooms are many and cold in the winter-time; so one of the continuing missions for us is to upgrade all aspects of the structure to preserve heat and increase the quality of life within our four walls.

One part of this mission is replacing windows. Last year we had four windows replaced by a local company called Madison Vinyl, who delivered an excellent product with poise, professionalism, and few marks that they had been in our home when the work was done. So this summer, inspired by a federal tax credit for installing energy-efficient windows, we hired them again. Earlier this week Ivan and Carlos came by to do their usual good work.

Here are a few before-and-after shots.
Our kitchen window, which had never had a screen before:

now allows us to do the dishes, enjoy a breeze, and keep the bugs out at the same time:

Our kitchen picture window gave us both a gorgeous view and a horrible heat sink:

But now has a triple-paned heat transmission factor of 0.21 (look up what that means, then be impressed):

The tiny first-floor bathroom window had that retro-feel from the glass blocks, but once again, not much heat efficiency:
And now it can be opened, cleaned entirely from the inside, and looks a little more not-out-of-the-seventies:

The upstairs central window went from a cranky split window with a misbehaving lock mechanism:
To an easy-to clean double-hung:

The north-east window lacked a screen, and the eastern-facing picture window had lost its seal, leaving us with a foggy view:

Now we can open them both, thanks to double-hung technology:

and we can see our driveway:

What's more, they don't look good only from the inside. The original exterior beauty of our windows came from shaped wood trim and accent-colored shutters:

Now, thanks to Ivan's diligence and creativity, our new windows are wrapped in the accent color, which will keep the elements off the wood trim and remove the need for shutters (which produce a problem of nesting bats and the resultant guano):

Thanks to Ivan, Carlos, and Madison Vinyl for adding beauty, convenience, heat efficiency, and value to our home. (And praise the Lord for tax credits!)


Strange Finds

Still only halfway through the first box of stuff from my dad's estate, I find strange things that bring back specific memories and remind me of the uniquities of my family life. The following photo is of a dissection kit, including one-hundred-percent solid metal scalpels, probes, and forceps, all in a felt-lined snap case:

As the son of an old-school physician (who used still to do house-calls) we had several of these lying around the house, and when it came time for Mr. Checcini's biology class or Mrs. Polentes' human anatomy and physiology class, they went to school to do their duty. Hence the cloth medical tape bearing the bold moniker, "TYLER," written in my dad's hand with one of his ubiquitous black felt-tip pens, designed to prevent any classmate from taking home the wrong kit.

Sigh. Those were the days, when excitement came with the dissection of a shaved and embalmed cat.


Blueberry Picking - Round 2

Today we managed to pick another 2 gallons of blueberries at Stone Hill and kept GBaby happy and beat the storm. It was a good afternoon! (Read about the first 2 gallons here.) Today's pickins are in the dehydrator and freezer and waiting their turn for round two in the dehydrator and freezer.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beauty's Demise

What happens when a vase of daylilies wilts against your living room wall?


Friday, August 07, 2009

Gods and Parents

Some time ago I reviewed the first three books in Rick Riordan's series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I recently finished the fifth book in the pentalogy, and I would like to add something to my review.

First, I reiterate my kudos to Riordan for struggling honestly with the social-emotive culture of abandonment that many of this generation's youth experience. As the fifth Olympians book comes to its stormy climax, we discover that the central crisis of the narrative is, in fact, whether the gods--who are the parents of our heroes--will take an active role in the life of their children.

In the fifth book, The Last Olympian, the question gets a finer point on it: Will the gods help their children save the world, or will our adolescent heroes have to do it on their own, abandoned by their divine progenitors?

The answer to both questions--narrative and meta-narrative--is, Yes and No.

With this answer Riordan harmonizes faithfully with our present world and simultaneously fails to strike a significant note of hope for the next generation. We discover that the great desire of the heroes is to be remembered by their god-parents, and for this they struggle and fight and plead. This yearning to be claimed as belonging to the heritage of the gods runs through the sub-story of every hero in this series. However, observant readers of Riordan's novellas will detect a deeper and less articulate need--a need which also resonates with greater power for our world.

Youth need not only to know who their parents are (to get a last name, as it were), but they need also to know that their parents are walking with them in life. They need not just knowledge, but presence. Wisdom prevents us from advocating parents who believe they are best friends with their children; but the same alerts us to the need not only for official pedigree but also for present involvment.

Riordan's narrative offers the hope that perhaps the teenage heroes will live in the full knowledge of who their divine parents are; but this does not cancel or cure the fact that the god-parents remain powerfully absent from their children's lives. And we--readers and real-world people--need a hope that will cure this latter problem.

Perhaps Riordan cannot see that hope; or perhaps he is preparing us for greater things in his next series. But for us and our children, for now, we need this higher hope: that our children may be given not just last names, but also the living presence of parents. It is not enough to be claimed; we must also be loved.

Let's hope the Greek gods figure it out next time.


Naptime Snuggles

Since GBaby was about three months old, she's been very good at napping in her crib. Give her a snack, lay her down and out she'd go. A true blessing, really. But today as we have a bit of construction going on in our home, her sanctuarial crib is not providing the solace needed to lull a little one to sleep. So, to the mai-tai it is. We sit on the back porch, summer sun all around us and she's curled up on my chest, peacefully sleeping while I write. We haven't done this in a few months and it's a nice treat!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Gratitude with Filling

I like to make pies. I'm not sure how this joy came about for me, though it may have something to do with the challenge of making pie dough just right (from scratch, of course). At any rate, I enjoy both the process and the product. What's more, I've noticed that others also enjoy the product, even when they don't enjoy the process so much.

I have also discovered that gratitude is a healthy discipline. This principle goes not only for one's attitude toward God, but also for one's attitude toward other people. Being thankful just plain improves one's quality of life and one's view of others. I could go into the whys and wherefores, but not today. This eve I'll just offer the observation that being grateful colors the world a bit brighter each day.

Somewhere along the line (after I discovered my joy for pie-making) I decided that for those who give me (or my family) gifts of service or favor, I would express my gratitude by making them a pie. It is the best of both worlds for all involved.

It has turned out quite well so far. It's fun to make pies, to deliver them, and to hear that folks are enjoying them. Furthermore, my pie-making skills are improving. (The peach pie pictured above only leaked a little filling, as opposed to the dripping cascades of ooze I usually leave behind in the oven.)
Of course, by entering this in the blog, I run the risk of receiving a host of favors from those hoping for pie.

Oh, well. I suppose there are worse fates to contemplate.

~ emrys

Future Footboard

After completing Headboard 2.0 for our bed, I decided I liked the overall product, but had a few minor things to tweak in the process and design. What's more, no bed is really complete without a footboard. So I've begun the production of a footboard, to be completed as early as autumn 2010 and as late as when I retire from ministry.

The wood for posts, crossbars, and spindles will come from a pear tree that had to come down on our property, and from an oak tree that our dear friends Sharon and Jay donated to the cause. Here are the rough beginnings, starting with the limbs of the pear tree:

Here's the outdoor workshop where the limbs get pared down to usable sizes:

And here's the stack of oak branches cut and ready to go into the second floor of our garage. There the temperature gets high enough that they will dry in a season. Then I'll cull the cracked pieces, shave off the bark, and tool them for the footboard:

Sara says I'll need to make a toddler bed once I've done the footboard. Oy! One project at a time!

~ emrys