Sunday, July 30, 2006

Botany 101

Here at the Peterson house, we've been learning a lot about gardening. Located as we are in the woods, there are often plants and animals that we've never seen before.

It was clear right when we moved in that a lovely oak tree in the back yard was being choked by a vine. We didn't know quite what kind, but a quick Google search identified the vine as the Lightcastia Electronis, var. holidae vulgaris.

Apparently with this type of invasive species, it's best to remove it on hot and humid days. Yesterday, when the temperature reached into the 90s, seemed like a good choice. Steve went up into the tree to get the part of the vine that could not be reached from the ground.

It is very tough -- note that he has to use side cutters to remove it. The vine had reached the point where the tree was growing into it -- there were places where it had to be pulled from the bark.

Then the kids went out to clean up the ravaged vine. No precaution was too great as they carefully placed the remains of the plant in containers to be hauled away.

We are all sleeping better tonight, knowing that our oak tree is safe from the terrors of this wild vine.

Written in New York Times, Happened in Minnesota

As reported in the New York Times July 30, regarding Reverend Gregory Boyd of Maplewood, MN. An excerpt:

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he [Boyd] said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

“I am sorry to tell you,” he continued, “that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

What made it really interesting for me is that this is a Baptist, Evangelical preacher, and he lost 20% of his congregation over these (full) remarks. I can't tell you how reassuring I find his candor.
Click here for the full article.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Book Review

I just finished reading Not Buying It by Judith Levine. It's the account of how she, and her partner Paul, decided to live for one year (2003, I think) without buying anything other than necessities. It even made Oprah. Both of them are freelance writers, working out of their home. They have no children. They live half of the year in New York City and half in a small town in New Hampshire. They made the decision after a particularly grueling holiday season where they found themselves wondering what the point was as they scurried to buy perfect gifts, in horrendous weather, for everyone in their circle of friends and family. Hmm. Recognize that feeling?

The first couple of chapters Levine talks about the decision-making process of determining what is a necessity and what is a luxury. Hair cuts make the grade, hair products don't. Bread, rice, vegetables, meat - all in. Cookies, pop, processed foods - nope. No movies. No eating out. No fresh flowers. Coffee only if made at home. Some of their friends admired them, others thought they were fools.

They didn't do it to save money (although they did, quite a bit.) They did it more as a type of social experiment, to try and see how much of who they are was defined by their consumer habits. They learned they are more tied to buying than they expected, but they discovered the expected pay-offs - mainly that not spending money forced them to spend more time being creative in how to entertain themselves, and their relationship flourished.

Now, Levine says she is back to shopping but on a much more "aware" basis - really thinking about what she spends money on and realizing how much she can live without.

So. I was impressed. Impressed enough to try it? I started thinking about what it wold be like and I can't say that I am brave enough - or strong enough - to try and duplicate the experiment, no matter how much sense it makes to me. I want to try and jump to the type of person Levine is now - still a shopper but a more careful and thoughtful consumer - but don't know if it is possible to make that change in habit without going through the time of denial first.

I do find myself thinking, though, as I walk through Target or even the grocery store, "is this a necessity?" And I also think of my friend Carla, who has had so many consumer choices yanked away from her life (or I guess a better way to say it is Carla has been yanked away from the consumer options) by moving to Africa where the definition of what you need is quite different than it is for most suburban American families. So maybe a little of the book has rubbed off on me.

The whole idea of living simply is so appealing to me. You'd never guess it by walking through my house, with piles of STUFF in every room. But I am trying, I really am (even if my husband doesn't believe me.) A close friend died unexpectedly a few years back, and now I find myself thinking I have to sort through - and get rid of - all this stuff so that no one else ever has to. I guess my superstition is that if I take care of it all, I won't have had need to - kind of like carrying an umbrella so it won't rain.

Anyway - I recommend the book. It leads to introspection and - I hope for me, anyway - better shopping habits.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Gardening Begins!

This weekend Ben & I started doing some planting in our new walkway entry area. We started with erosion-control under the bridge, down by Ty's window. Here we are at the end of our second day. The first day we transplanted some hosta and lilies from elsewhere in the yard. Then we bought some Lily of the Valley, and some Russian Sage. Those all were planted today.

Everything but the sage went down below. The sage is up by the bridge, with our Fairy House nestled in close. The Fairy House has been waiting for a proper location. It has a small bell inside which, we are told, will ring each time a fairy comes to visit us or our garden!

A Special Wedding

(Text & Photos by Ben)Last night, my mom & I went to a wedding. The wedding was for a friend of ours named Lindsey, who was marrying Dominic. Lindsey was my Norwegian tutor for this past year. We had a really fun time together learning Norwegian.

At the wedding, I took a short video of the dancing. Click here to see it! I also took a lot of pictures. These are three I call "Ghost Pictures" because they were moving while I took the picture.

Here is a picture (non-ghost) so you can see what they really look like!

After the wedding, they are moving to New York so that Dominic can continue his musical education. We were kind of sad about this at first, but we are hoping they will move back once Dominic has completed his musical education.

Before they go to New York, though, they are taking their honeymoon to DISNEYWORLD! I can't wait to hear about that!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Lights, Camera, Action!

Now available for all to see ... click here to view Ben's first video - now posted on You Tube.

He did it with our little digital camera, never thinking it would be something we would post online - but there you go, technology triumphs again! Now that he's had a taste, I expect there to be more videos coming - perhaps with special effects and pizzazz!

Who knows, maybe someday you will be able to say you knew him when!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Colby's New "Do"

Colby is a wonderful dog. He's smart, responsive, loyal, and loving.

But his hair is a royal pain to manage. And I am not very good at trying. So once again, he went in for a cut today and came out shorn ... poor guy, his hair gets so incredibly matted and though the groomer tries her best, she ends up having to cut under the mats.

If there was a market for poodle hair I wouldn't have to pay so much for the cuts.

At least it grows fast!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Suburban Soccer Moms Gone Wild

This past weekend 3 friends and I left husbands and children at home and headed up north to Lake Superior. We were feeling pretty superior, since the weekend was predicted to be the hottest one in 20 years, and *everybody* knows (heh) that the wind off the lake keeps the North Shore comfortably cool.

*Everybody* was wrong this year. We sweated, sweated, and sweated some more. We gushed our appreciation for car air conditioning ... more than once! We stayed at my parents' cabin - beautiful and comfortable.

But H. O. T.

Oh well. At least we didn't have to keep anyone else cool or occupied.

We went to Gooseberry Falls, (temperature: 106) where the water was low but the swimmers were out in full force (none of us had even thought to bring a swimming suit - it's always too COLD to swim up north!) It was beautiful, though, and despite every beverage vending machine in the park being sold out of every type of drink, we were glad we went. The falls were wonderful and the wild flowers in full bloom.

We also went to Flood Bay. My Mom says I should not mention it by name so it doesn't get too popular! It's my boys' favorite place and we stopped by mainly, I thought, so the other moms could check it out to make plans to come back with their own children. Well, much to my surprise, I think it was one of the highlights of the trip for everyone! There is just something magical (or mesmerizing) about sitting on the hot rocks looking for agates and good skipping stones.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

OK, so which is it?

So we had Chinese the other night and I got two fortune cookies.

So which one do I believe?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Frogs, Frogs, Frogs!

Another fun part of the weekend up north was watching Ben bond with a little green guy ...
There were a lot of frogs around the edges of the lake. At night they were quite musical as we drifted off to sleep. This one was caught under the dock, and he apparently had no problems with Ben at all. Ben held him in his hands for a short time, then set him on his arm, in the sun - and the frog was content to bask (and this was a passive bask, not an active one!) there for a half-hour!

Eventually he was startled out of his reverie and re-joined his two buddies in the water. (he's the big guy in the middle)

Annual Cabin Party

Every summer we spend a weekend at Fish Trap Lake in central Minnesota with friends we have known since college. Steve's former roommate Brett, along with his brother Kirk and thier families, host the annual event for as many people as can make it. This year was actually a smallish year with just 24 in attendance ... in the olden days it was all college buddies who made the trek. Then girlfriends started showing up ... then wives... eventually some babies made an appearance, and now the adults are firmly outnumbered by the short people. Of the 24 this year, there were 10 adults and 14 kids. The kids' ages range from 3 to 12, so it's a great mix.

Of course there is a lot of swimming and water play, with every type of water toy and floation device known to mankind. You can see the beginings of Ty's sunburn on his shoulder ... Ben beat him in that regard by the end of the weekend, despite numerous applications of sun screen.

We all share in the food supplying-and-preparation duties. While some years have seen some very gourmet-style dishes, this year we ended up with a lot of hamburgers and hotdogs in the grill. The moms (mainly!) decided to take it easy and go with a lot of no-fuss menus. The exception was Steve's tradition of Sunday morning pancakes - he really does make the greatest ones around, and he enjoys flipping the 'cakes off the griddle as fast as people can eat them.

There is also fishing for any of the more adventurous kids. They had to bait their own hooks with real worms, and despite having up to 5 kids on one dock (and several swimming nearby) not a single human was hooked by the haphazard casting going on! And a lot of fish were caught. I think Ben got the biggest one of the weekend, though Ashley (just a few months younger than Ben) had the magic hook - she caught one about every 3 minutes, it seemed. Ben says that's because she was allowing the little fish to be caught and that he was going for the bigger ones only ... otherwise he could have caught just as many. Uh-huh, if you say so!

There was boating, innertubing, water skiing for those who dared (Steve represented our family in that activity!) and of course, what cabin-party-at-the-lake could be complete without a fire every night, and s'mores?

The fire pit area is large and close to the lake. We also had sparklers the final night, and several people around the lake had fireworks leftover from the 4th so we got to see some fancy, albeit random, displays in various directions. The kids performed campfire songs (or other songs - whatever they knew and were willing to share) and everyone heard the legend of the man who picked up the hot rock. (and Steve has no lasting scars despite burning his entire palm after that mishap!)

All in all a great 2006 weekend, and we can't wait for 2007!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Walkway Update!

Well, the workers are done - the walkway is in! We still need a step to transition from the walkway to the bridge, but it already is so great (here's how it used to be). I have spent much of today putting down a weed barrier and spreading wood chips along one side; next week I will tackle the other side. Then the fun part begins - planting the flowers & shrubs!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oprah 'n' Me

Well, I have a confession to make. I am starting to like Oprah.

I know, I know, I have - for years - said while I like a lot of what she has done, I don't really like her. Like I really know her so well; well enough to make an accurate and insightful judgement. Hey, it's what I do.

But suddenly I find myself thinking otherwise.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled across a website of a mom in Texas who is also a magazine columnist. The site is basically all her columns, which she now has available in a book form (I just bought it, will let you know how it is.) When I was going through her archives, I read one from 2003, I think, about the difference between being right and being effective. (here's the link, the actual article is called "Call Me Mrs. Right" - you have to click on "2003" and then the title.) Go read it and then come back!

The column talks about whether or not it's OK not to be "right" all the time, if you can be effective. It really stuck with me and I have been thinking about it a lot. I find myself frequently in parenting situations where I want not only to teach my boys what to do (or what is right), but I also find myself selfishly and immaturely wanting them to realize that I AM RIGHT. And I know it's wrong and silly and it embarrasses me. This column has helped me realize that sometimes it's OK to not be right, and sometimes it's preferrable not to be right. That you can still be effective, and still get the outcome you are aiming for.

Which brings me to Oprah. She is incredibly effective, and (in my opinion) she is often not "right." But now, for the first time, I am thinking that might just be acceptable, and that I can appreciate her effectiveness and understand her rightness or lack of it.

I watched part of her show yesterday. It was her 20th anniversary show. Wow, can you even believe she has been on the air (nationally) for TWENTY years? And she was showing clips of highlights over the years, and of course some were tear-jerkers so there I was with my kleenex, watching Oprah and thinking "hmmm.... maybe she does GET it." She can be effective and do good things for a heck of a lot of people, and she doesn't worry about being "right."

I don't know, the jury is still out; but I watched her show again today. I have had a lot of years to get used to not liking her. But maybe now I do.