Saturday, July 05, 2008


I wrote a year and a half ago about finding underwear for the guys that lasts and lasts. Although it's more expensive initially, it's cheaper in the long run.

Well, I have since discovered the same thing about Victoria's Secret cotton underwear. I don't want to put a link here (due to the pictures on the page), but you can find the page by googling "Victoria's Secret cotton panties," and they're currently on sale for 5 pairs for $25. That's a pretty good deal for ultra-comfortable, boring, long-lasting underwear.

"100" -- Backyard Weeds

After the septic system was installed, I seeded part of the mound, and the installer seeded the rest of the mound and the other places in the yard that were disturbed. When I put out grass, I seed heavily. Probably too heavily. Probably wasteful. But I get grass coming up in sufficient amounts to prevent massive amounts of weeds taking hold first. Well, the baby grass was finally long enough yesterday that it was time to mow. But that meant all those species of weeds were going to go down with the grass. Quick, quick, take pictures first!

1. This is DANDELION. You may recognize it. It is an alien species which was brought to America as a salad green. But the greens taste awful if you eat them after the flowers bloom. Maggie says they taste a lot like spinach.

2. This is a mint. It is called GROUND IVY or creeping charlie. The ground ivy is the one with the little purple flowers. It's very pretty, but it sure does like to creep and it's hard to eradicate.
3. Also in this picture is HOP CLOVER. It's the tiny yellow flowers. In this picture it's hard to see the three-leaf clusters that indicate clover, but here's an online picture.
4. There's also GRASS in this picture. Hey, laugh if you will. But it's a species we can identify!
5. Notice in the upper right corner of the picture are some 3"-tall MAPLE TREES. We could give you a picture of a grown-up maple tree, but I bet you've seen those. So we're just including the maples here with this snapshot.

6. PLANTAIN is recognizable particularly by the veins veering out of the stem rather than from a middle vein in the leaf. If you know plantain, then you can use it out in the yard or a park when you get a mosquito bite or bee sting or contact poison ivy. Plantain is excellent for skin problems.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fourth-of-July Cheesecake

Sometimes you start a tradition without even realizing what you've gotten yourself into!

In need of cheesecake one year, and with ample supply of strawberries and blueberries, I made the dessert and let the kids use the red and blue fruits to decorate the cheesecake. The kids, in desperate need of repeating the treat the following year, made another Fourth-of-July cheesecake. Twice in a row. That makes a tradition, I guess.

The recipe is:
2/3 pound of graham crackers
1.5 sticks of butter
32 ounces of cream cheese
1.75 cups of sugar
1 Tbsp of vanilla
1/4 cup of cream (or 3/4 cup of Cool Whip)
1 quart strawberries
1 pint blueberries

Crush the crackers into powder, add melted butter. Pat into a jelly roll pan. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes.

Beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Add vanilla and cream. Spread into cooled crust. Decorate with fruit.

We used to make it look like a flag. But I don't like having to choose which kind of fruit I want on my piece of dessert. So we started doing the stripes instead.

Today I made this with organic strawberries, homemade cream cheese from raw milk, and raw cream. So even though it's nearly all fat and sugar (yummmmmm) at least it has a few redeeming characteristics.

Small batch
about 48 square-inches
6x8" or 9x5" or 7" round
1/2 package grahams (2.5 ounces)
3 Tbsp butter
1 (8 oz) bar of cream cheese
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp cream or 3 Tbsp Cool Whip
strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and/or blueberries

Revive Me

This week's psalm is the "resh" portion of 119.
Verse 154: Revive me according to Your word.
Verse 156: Revive me according to Your judgments.
Verse 159: Revive me according to Your lovingkindness.

We so often think of God's "judgments" as something scary. But here is another place where we see the word "judgment" used to comfort and to bless.

Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord;
revive me according to Your judgments.

The judgment meted out upon us is:
You are in Christ, baptized into His name.
Atonement has been made.
You are holy; you are pure; you are righteous -- for His sake.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
For those in Christ, there is no trembling, no wondering if we have measured up, no fright.
Great are His tender mercies.
He revives us according to His lovingkindness.

Liturgical Hymns

This morning's psalm in Congregation at Prayer was 135. It sounded remarkably similar to one of the psalms we prayed recently. I went back and looked. Sure enough, much of the psalm is taken from 115 which is in the Hallel (in other words, part of the liturgy regularly used for holy days).

Our hymnals have hymnic versions of the liturgy: hymns on the Magnificat, the Te Deum, the Phos Hilaron, etc. And based on what we see in the Psalter, this is not a new idea. I thought that was cool.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

100 Species Challenge

Brenda is engaged in the challenge to find and identify 100 species of plants within walking distance of her home. The initial idea was presented with pictures.

I'm going to break the rules and not list all the rules here; you can go read them for yourselves. Basically the point is to identify species within a mile of your house. Hopefully, your log or journal (on your blog) will include information about the plants, as well as pictures.

Seeing as I don't have a camera, I am postponing the start of this challenge until I can get one. I've been meaning to buy one for a while, and this might give me incentive. This project reminds me very much of one of my favorite books: Naming Nature by Mary Blocksma. We've read this book three times for our homeschooling, and it is the most valuable nature book we've ever used! If I could make this 100-species challenge into a project to do with Maggie, it would be good for both of us. I'm rarin' to go on this (as if I didn't already want to spend hours upon hours writing the blog posts that are spinning around in my head!) and tried to buy a camera tonight to start on the project with Maggers tomorrow. Ah, but the camera-decision was too big. So I hope to pick my son-in-law's brain for all the research he just did on cameras, and get to taking pictures before we lose more of the seasonal wildflowers.

(This will have the added benefit of teaching me how to upload photos to my blog. So far, I always require help from a child. They teach me how to do it, and then I forget before I need to upload the next picture. Many plant pictures may drill the procedure into my brain!)

New Bike

It's gonna make it hard to use bicycles for transportation if we don't have enough to go around. The top priority for yesterday was going to a friend's mom's place to accept some really nice hand-me-downs and pack up a bunch of clothing. The second highest priority for yesterday was bike-shopping. The second one didn't get done.

So the top priority for today was bike shopping. I thought it would take about an hour to drive to the store and choose the vehicle. It took three gallons of gasoline and FIVE and a HALF HOURS . That's all day.

At the first store, it seemed like too many of the bikes were dented or assembled not-quite-right. We looked and looked through the offerings and finally decided upon one. Got it home. Rode it. Gears didn't work. And when you have hills like we have here, you better have gears on your bike that operate -- or you'll be walking that thing uphill quite often!

Back to the store. Returned it. Headed to another store. Found something ideal, except a 24", and Mr Bigfoot definitely needed the biggest size we could get. So off to another version of the same bigbox-store, a store that "has sufficient inventory" of the item we needed. Got there. No bikes. Sold out. (The same thing happened to Gary with deck screws at a different bigbox-store. How can one branch of a store check with the other branch to be sure they've got an item in stock, and just not tell the customer the truth about being sold out? I mean, really, does it make for good customer relations to send somebody gallavanting all over the metro area only to find that the item isn't in stock after all? Can you say "c-r-a-n-k-y"?)

Well, we made Try #4 this evening. (We phoned first. And they set the bike aside in the back room for us. That was so nice!) The bikes at this store all looked properly assembled. I came home with a bike that rides smoothly. It will serve Andrew well. We also bought bike helmets which we will need to fit to our heads properly, and then make a habit of wearing them. And then we'll be all set to use our little muscles to transport ourselves around. We can claim we're being green. But really we're just being tightwads. :-)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Square with the World

It probably took me 8 years at our old house before I figured out which direction was east. There's a big curve in the road --a rather unnoticeable and gentle curve-- and also some not-square "corners" (at highway intersections) that make it easy to think you're driving west on our old street when you're really driving south. Further complicating the matter, "liturgical east" (that is, the end of the church building that contained the altar) was in the "east" as my senses intuited. Problem is, "east" was actually north.

Eventually I learned that the sun rises in the southeast at Christmas and in the northeast in early summer. And thus I eventually got my bearings, with the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. My parents, however, not living in the place, continued with the same problem I had, sensing that the sun was rising in the south and setting in the north, even though their brains knew better. After many years, my dad's brain got it all straight, but his senses just wouldn't let go of that first impression. He said that he could be driving to our house, straight across Stateline Road, and everything was square and right with the world. But as soon as he turned onto our road, the whole world "spun" 90° in his senses. And I knew precisely what he was talking about, since I'd lived with the same feeling for so long.

This is one reason I think it's important that maps go on the north wall, so that places are lined up in the world with where they appear on the map. But the reason I bring up this story is because sometimes the same sudden "spin" will occur mentally. (More on that later.)

Sticker Shock

The credit card bill came in today's mail, and the gasoline was astronomical. It's never been that high. It's never even been HALF that high! I knew prices had gone up. But this? This was outrageous. Surely there was an error!

As I looked closer I realized that we had over $300 in gasoline for vacations. Whew -- those two trips in the van come out of the vacation fund. They aren't a typical expense, and next month's bill isn't going to be so frightening!

Legislation about Homeschoolers

A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would provide tax credits for homeschoolers. All homeschoolers who value their freedom should get on the phone with their senators and let them know that we are not interested in this kind of "help" from the government.

Jenn (whom I do not know) explains why very clearly. Here's an excerpt from her blog:
If we advocate for tax credits--beneficial as that money would be, as much of a right to that money as we have--we will essentially be inviting the federal government to notice us. To define us. To monitor us. To calculate us. To nickel and dime us. To determine us. This is an invitation that we cannot rescind. It's a way into our lives--a door, if you will. And once it is opened, it will never be closed--not by us and certainly not by them. It will only open wider and wider and our freedom will shrink ever smaller. And we will have invited this.

Besides the pigeon-holing of homeschoolers, the reporting requirements, and the invitation of the government further into our lives, there's another aspect to this legislation that people often do not realize. In high-school civics class, we learn how a bill becomes law. It all sounds so clear-cut. But when you get to politics in Real Life, bills coming out of committee often look quite different from the bills that went into committee.

There's also the record-keeping for taking tax deductions, and the government's prerogative to determine which expenses are allowable. Do we expect the government to pay for (that is, allow us a credit for) Bibles and hymnals used in our homeschooling? Do we expect them to allow the deduction of history or science materials that integrate Christianity in the textbooks? What about swimming lessons? Would it be fair for me to deduct my kids' swimming lessons (or piano or judo or theatre) when my brother's family cannot deduct those things? For those of us who use all of life to educate our children (like, say, daily Sudoku puzzles for a child) do we really want the loss of freedom that would result from the government deciding which expenses are legitimate homeschooling expenses and which are not? Might this even result in subtle pressure for homeschools to become more like conventional schools?

You really should go read Jenn's article. It explains this much better than I do and more rationally.

Hat tip: Jane.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Symposium (5)

One of the topics at CCA symposium a couple of weeks ago was contraception. I expected the discussion/debate to be between those who allow contraception in some instances and those who think it should never be used by Christians. That wasn't how the discussion went, though. While most of the speakers seemed to think that there should be allowances for the use of contraception sometimes in the life of married Christian couples, one of the speakers went so far as to suggest that there is a place for voluntary childlessness so that people can serve the Lord unencumbered by children. (Okay, so my eyes about popped out of my head at that one!)

A question was raised during the panel discussion as to the new stance in the church about okaying the use of any contraceptives. ("New" being something that has just been considered okay in the last 3-6 decades within the framework of 200 decades since Jesus' time.)

One speaker pointed out that "Be fruitful and multiply" is not a command which we are obligated to fulfill as best as possible. God said "Be fruitful and multiply" prior to the fall into sin. Before sin, Adam and Eve would have joyfully received children, and conception, pregnancy, and birth would have occurred easily.

But now, after the fall, things have been altered. The only perfect marriage is Christ and His Church. That is the marriage where children are given abundantly and are never a strain. Our marriages are poor shadows of the one true and good marriage. While it is obvious* that limiting the number of children can be contrary to the Gospel (which pours itself out for the other), we also need to remember that the husband must have compassion on the wife who is weak, whose body (or mind) cannot continue to bear children every year or every other year.

On the one hand, we cannot err in emphasizing LIFE too much. On the other hand, we cannot presume that we are capable of living completely the way God intended. If we must consider "Be fruitful and multiply" a command (instead of a blessing), we better be keeping our eyes on Christ and His obedience for us, and His atonement for our weaknesses. The more our eyes are on Him and less on our obedience, the more we find that we become ever more conformed to His image.

*footnote: I'm sure we all know people who "cannot afford" children although they can afford multiple vehicles, second homes, designer clothes, fancy vacations, etc.


Some people say that it's important that Christians be willing to "accept as many children as the Lord gives." They are saying that using contraception is wrong because doing so would not be "accepting as many as the Lord gives." Are we willing to imply that God's hands are tied by our decisions about contraception, as if He were prevented from creating life just because someone decides to use a product from the drug store or have a surgical procedure?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Catechesis and First Communion

Because the article was dated in May, some of you may have missed Pr Stuckwisch's post about "early" first communion and ongoing catechesis and what is necessary for proper reception of the Lord's Supper. It's long and thoughtful, so don't bop over there to merely skim the piece. But it's excellent. I appreciated especially what he said about the pastor's hard (and continuing!) work to teach when he takes seriously the task of lifelong catechesis.