Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chancel Changes

The first picture was taken prior to the addition of the corpus. The wedding was the last day of Eastertide, so that explains the white on the cross and the extra candelabras. The second picture is what we have now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Knowing the Baby's Sex

Almost everybody nowadays knows whether the baby is going to be a girl or boy before the child's birth. That can be really fun in some ways. You can start calling the baby by name, and pick pink/blue outfits, or little dresses instead of little bib-overalls.

But Katie discovered one problem. If you're expecting to have several children, and the sex of the first child is known ahead of time, there will be plenty of color-coded gifts. She said Liz doesn't want to know her baby's sex so that whatever they buy (or receive) for the baby will be appropriate for future children as it will be neutrally colored: white or those baby-pastel yellows & greens.

Being from the olden days when you discovered the baby's sex after he/she was born, I had never realized that Not-Knowing could be a frugality measure. It also crossed my mind that in these days of one-child-per-family, maybe a whole lot of people don't care whether the baby's things can be used for future siblings ... who are likely to not come into existence anyway.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


As of 4:28 this afternoon, 166 days after moving, I am done unpacking.

Now, that doesn't mean things are totally done. There are plenty of projects that still need to be accomplished that go with moving (the vent over the stove, digging up a garden plot so the grass can rot over winter, finishing the deck repairs, improving the wireless, hooking up the tv antenna, repairing a slightly mildewy spot under one sink, and re-painting with scrubbable paint. But if we get to only a couple of those things in the next months (or year), I will survive and even be able to function just fine. Ah, yes, there are also boxes of books and homeschooling items and wall decorations in the garage that need to be sold or otherwise disposed of ... or possibly stored.

But the unpacking and the decisions of where to put things,
And it's worth rejoicing over!

Now I can get on with life. (Whew. It's about time.)

A Subtle "Pro-Choice" Perspective

When I was pregnant with my kids (back in the Dark Ages, when kids were born without ultrasound pictures ahead of time) a pregnancy was 38 weeks. When I went to the doctor for prenatal visits, they told me that I was thus-and-so-far along ... and it was measured from the time of conception.

The stuff you find online about pregnancy today states that a pregnancy is 40 weeks. So now, instead of counting how far along Mommy is according to the conception of the child, we count how far along Mommy is from the date of her last period.

In other words, pregnancy is about what's happening to the mom's body, not what's happening with the baby's body.

Whenever somebody in the house asks me how far along Katie is now, I have the biggest booger of a time figuring it out ... because I don't count like the medical world today counts.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


There was a lot of gravel in the dirt around the swimming pool that was here when we moved in. Our shovels and our muscles moved a whole lot of it on Saturday. But with clay soil, over the course of many years that gravel got smashed down into the dirt and embedded ... and we just ain't gonna be able to move it.

So Gary talked to one of the neighbors, a real-live farmer, one of the hold-outs who still has cows and pigs and hasn't subdivided his land into one-acre plots for mega-houses. We're going to pay him to come over with his bobcat and shove this dirt and gravel around for us so that we can get some topsoil and plant grass.

As we enjoyed a nice chat, he mentioned that they were looking to move further out from the city. He's had some of the new neighbors complain about farming. That just makes me mad. People move out into the country, and then complain about tractors on the road, or the smell of manure, or the sound of the machinery. He said he had some problems hauling manure once. And I'm thinkin', "What do people want?" If a farmer has to dispose of his manure, that will be costly to him. And where would it go anyway? To the town dump? And if he put his manure in the garbage can for the garbage man to pick up (LOL!) what would Mr Farmer use for fertilizer? A bunch of chemicals that are more toxic than cow manure. Do we want that in our nice little "country neighborhoods"?

Putting manure on the fields is a really good plan that works with nature. And yet, city folks get all upset about it. Those people should stay in the parts of the city where there is lots of concrete, and where they see cows only on long trips or when they go to the zoo. And if they get hungry someday because we've turned all the farms into corporations and run the farmers out of business, well, then what?

PS: This neighbor milks cows. I am glad. (Let the reader understand.)

Gyro Secret

I like gyros. But the meat is specially processed, and not easily available. And pita bread is not something I always keep on hand.

Well, Andrew and I made a discovery today!

He was being inventive with his cooking. He put together sandwiches made of whole-wheat tortillas smeared with a little cream cheese, and then added some spicy deli beef, cheese, and sliced cucumbers. A couple days ago we made creamed cucumbers (mayo, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, cayenne, and garlic). Well, we've discovered that you never never never ditch that sauce. The cucumbers soak in that sauce, and after a day the sauce gets thin and runny with this cucumbery taste. It makes a great dressing to put on fresh tomatoes. But today (oh, heavenly-tasting day!) Andrew used some of this sauce on his tortilla concoction. And the result had THAT flavor, the flavor I LOVE from the gyros. So it's not really the gyro that I love, but the cucumbery sauce.

And that means I can revel in this flavor a whole lot more often! Wooo hooo!

(Somehow we are going to have to turn Andrew into a world-ranking chef....)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"100" -- Pines

I am cheating SO badly on this project. I've identified few species, but loads of genuses. Oh well, if I can get that far, I figure "good for me." And if I can teach some of this to the kids, then really really good for me AND good for them. After we learn the genuses, we can narrow down to species someday.

All the items in this post are of the pine family. Ain't that confusing? A pine (genus) is a pine (family). But a spruce or a fir or a hemlock is not a pine (genus) but IS in the pine family. But we do that with toads/frogs and we do it with cypresses, and I'm sure there are loads of other examples.

A tree in the pine family will have cones and needles and is evergreen.

67. SPRUCE needles are stiff. The needles are four-sided (like mint stems) and the same color all the way around the needle. Different from fir and hemlock, spruce needles are usually very sharp (which you know if you've tried to decorate one as a Christmas tree!).

Spruce cones are papery. The cones will hang along a branch or at the end of a branch.

68. Trees in the pine genus have bundled needles. The needles are often longer than other genuses/species in the pine family. This is a RED PINE. The long needles (5") are bunched by twos. Red-pine needles will snap when bent, while the other long two-needled species has flexible needles.

Pine cones will be more woody than spruce or fir cones.

The HEMLOCK doesn't have needles around the twigs, but one row of needles on each side of the twig. The flat needles are very soft and pliable. The underneath side of the needle will be lighter than the top, and also will have two stripes.

Hemlock cones are woody (like pine cones) but are tiny. Hemlock cones drip from the ends of branches.

The hemlock tree is not poisonous. It was the hemlock wildflower that killed Socrates.

I didn't give hemlock a number because, although I've occasionally seen them around the southeastern part of the state, I haven't seen any within a mile of the house.

Like hemlock, the firs have soft, short, flat needles. Also like hemlocks, the underneath side of the needles is lighter colored than the top side.

The cones of firs are different from the other "pines"; the cones on a fir will stand up on the branches. My FRASIER FIR is not numbered because firs aren't native to the area. You can usually only find firs in the midwest in arboretums and at Christmas tree farms, ... or by our old house where I planted a Christmas-tree patch.

So identifying the genus within the pine family begins with:

woody or papery cones,
-- tiny woody ones at the end of a branch = hemlock
-- bigger woody ones = pine
-- papery ones standing upright = fir
-- papery ones hanging = spruce

-- square, stiff, and sharp = spruce
-- long and bundled = pine
-- short, soft, arranged around the twig = fir
-- short, soft, two rows along each twig = hemlock

I'm sure I've oversimplified this. But it's a start in separating out the different kinds of trees.

He's Leaving

When we took Philip to college, it was a 70-80 minute drive to get there, depending on traffic. He lived in dorms 6 [long] blocks from Wietings (his brothers' godparents). Wietings had been like the local aunt, uncle, and cousins when we were in central Wisconsin far from family. Pastor Wieting had been Philip's pastor from age 3-7. Furthermore, because of Steve's illness and hospice care, we had reason to be going up that way frequently in Philip's first half-semester of college.

When we took Katie to college, it was an 80-85 minute drive to get there, depending on traffic. She was at a Concordia, with friends, one of whom had a car and would assure she would get to church in Sussex and Greenfield, more than once a week.

When Rachel moved away, we knew her "roommate." We knew she and her husband would be attending a good church. We knew they had their young friends nearby and our middle-aged friends nearby. And they were closer than either of the others, only a 45-50 minute drive away.

When we took Katie and Philip "away" to college, we said "Bye, see you Monday" when the Dead Theologians Society would be getting together for the Labor Day party/barbecue. We knew that there were frequent enough trips to Milwaukee that we could easily drop off treats or care packages (with enzyme capsules or raw milk?? what kind of mother puts THAT in a care package?) or items they had forgotten to pack.

It's different this week. Paul is going to south central Minnesota. That's further away than Katie and Nathan are. That's further away than my parents are. It's a 6-hour drive. I'm not going to say, "Bye, see you on Monday at the barbecue." I don't know what the church is like he'll be attending. (Everybody tells me it's great. But I don't KNOW that for myself.) If he forgets his snow-boots, we'll have to mail them instead of drop them off sometime in the next couple of months. Anything he forgets will have to be purchased there (eeeks! says the tightwad mother) or shipped. I don't know whether we'll see him before Christmas.

This is different.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Some Christians believe that they choose to accept Jesus into their hearts, or they choose not to. Other Christians believe that it's not our choice, but God's predetermination whether we will go to heaven or go to hell. Lutherans believe half of each. If we come to faith, we believe that it is all God's doing and God's gracious choice. If we are not Christians, it is not God's plan that we reject Him but entirely our own fault. This may not make sense logically ("Hey, if I can choose to reject Him, then I must be able to choose to accept Him!"), but nevertheless Lutherans are confessing what the Bible says about the matter.

Okay, probably most of you folks learned that in confirmation class. But now here's another aspect of the same thing. Some people will say that if our children are good or bad, it must be because the parents raised them right or botched something up. But that's not true. Other people will think that if our children are wretched or if they're wonderful, it's entirely chance (or God's will, or whatever). That's not true either. Rather, if our children are bad, we can attribute that to any number of things: the child's sinful nature, or something that God is allowing temporarily for the sake of a bigger good that He will work in the future, or maybe even sometimes mistakes that the parents made. If our children are good, however, that is no feather in the parents' cap. The catechism tells us that God certainly gives devout children even without our prayer, but we pray that He would lead us to realize this and to receive our devout children with thanksgiving.

We want so much to go on the assumption that raising kids is like making a cake. Do this, add a little of that, mix it in the right manner, and [voila!] you should get a certain result by following the particular recipe. Except child-rearing just doesn't work like that! Why not? Don't the social workers tell us to "do this, do that" and all will be well? Don't fellow Christians sometimes tell us the same thing? But like coming to faith, it's not a matter of reasonable logic. Whatever good God gives is to His glory, and we thank Him. And whatever bad may come cannot be blamed on Him but upon sin.

It's silly for me to take the credit when my kids turn out well. But likewise, it is freeing (in a way) to know that I'm not the one in control of the final outcome ... especially if someday things should not work out as I would choose.

Picture Day

I managed to get the last of the unpacking indoors done today. Yee haw! When I finally got that last room neatened and orderly, (like, y'know, I am finally able to WALK THROUGH that room) in a much quicker time-frame than I'd anticipated, I was rarin' to go finish all the unpacking and get the boxes in the garage taken care of.

Maggie and I sat down at the computer to sort through some photos for a gift we're working on. We looked through Facebook pages. We looked through our files. And then Paul came home from work, and we started sorting through hundreds (thousands?) of his pictures. We copied some of them into our picture files. We were having way too much fun, and not getting supper made, and not unpacking any boxes, and not doing any schoolwork, and not sweeping nor dusting anything.

Pictures are addictive!

"100" -- More Roadside

62. The way I learned MILKWEED was by going out with my mom and my grandma, looking for milkweed pods that had already gone to seed, popped open, and dried. I think they used them for craft projects. I don't know that I ever saw milkweed flowering until about 10 years ago when I we went on a flower-ID binge. When we were at Luwisomo one summer, it was just the right time for milkweed to flower, and we started looking for caterpillars. Monarch butterflies feed only on milkweed. We happened to find a chrysalis that was getting close to being done, so we brought it in and watched and waited for the butterfly to emerge. That was cool!

63. The flowers on GOATS BEARD are not remarkable. They look like dandelion or hawkweed, except that there are points that make it look a little more "starry" than the others. The time you recognize goats-beard, though, is when it goes to seed. The seedhead is reminiscent of a dandelion puffball, except it's airier. And bigger. The seedheads on goats-beard are the size of a baseball.

64. CURLY DOCK doesn't have burs like burdock. Instead it has a flower stalk that is a spiraling pillar. It will be green early in summer, but by this time of year curly dock is identified as the very dark brown, twisty weed along the roadsides.

65 & 66. One of the most beautiful sights in the world is a long ribbon of CHICORY and QUEEN ANNE'S LACE growing together in a lovely intertwining of blue and white. The kids taught me that chicory roots were used as a coffee substitute during the Civil War. And I taught them told them that Queen Anne's lace is also known as wild carrot. For those who have a hard time telling the difference between yarrow and Queen Anne's lace, the QA lace will have the small purple dot in the middle of the flowerhead, and it will make the "bird's nest" to protect its seeds from rain.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Soap Mistake

It's been a long time since I've made soap -- more than a year and a half. My supply was fine through last fall, and I kept telling myself that I had to get to it so that the new soap would have time to cure before I ran out of the previous batches. But I still had soap, so I procrastinated. And then the soap-stash began to get really low: only a couple of bars left. Still I procrastinated.

After several months of using store "bath-bars," somebody pulled the last bar of real, home-made soap out of the drawer. Oh, it is so nice and smooth and silky. And it doesn't itch. That was the impetus to get to making another batch.

I did tonight. But I noticed a problem with the lye-water (a problem which I'd had before) and attempted to intercept the problem and correct it. But I over-corrected. Now I have soap with lye-water oozing from it as it begins to cure. The internet tells me I can melt the soap and add fat and re-pour it into molds. But I think first I'm going to let it cure for several weeks and try one bar. If it burns like I expect it will, then I'll try fixing the batch. But for right now, I'm just going to wait and see what I've made. And probably make another batch so that I will have a proper soap all done and finished before I even figure out just what's up with tonight's batch.


In recent months, preparing meals has been overwhelmingly hard. Making food, however, doesn't seem like a big deal.

I don't know if I'm putting too much pressure on myself to have a nice, organized, pretty, appetizing meal. I don't know if I'm just thinking that I need to keep coming up with new ideas instead of being okay with recycling the same meal 2-4 times per month. But whatever it is, hamburgers or pizza or roasted vegetables or salad or fried eggs or tuna salad or burritoes don't stress me at all. But neither do I consider them meals.

Somehow I have to elevate these foods (especially when they come alongside 2-3 veggie side-dishes) to MEAL-status.

"100" -- Nuisance

59. I think NIGHTSHADE is one of the reasons parents teach their children not to eat wild berries. The flowers are attractive. The plant looks tomato-like. But it's poisonous.

60. SOW THISTLE has flowers that look quite similar to dandelion, goats-beard, and hawkweed. Except it's a thistle. It is, however, a whole lot easier to pull than Canadian thistle or bull thistle.

61. These heart-shaped leaves just love to pop up in any disturbed soil: plowed fields, construction sites, gardens, or where you recently dug up your yard for a new septic system. You can see pictures of the various stages of growth of VELVETLEAF.