Reflections

Out with the Old, in with the New!

So much has happened since my last post here…we have covered lots of ground. We did lots of running around here and there, mainly because of Christmas shopping and visiting!  So, I won’t bother to comment on what has been, but what we are doing presently.

One project that I do want to comment on is the new ramp that Ben nearly single-handedly built behind the house!  With Mark’s help and instruction, Ben not only built a wooden ramp which is longer than the old temporary one, but he also mixed and poured twenty-two bags of cement to form a beautiful sidewalk at the end of the ramp!

I honestly think a better job could not have been done.  Ben is very shy about me sharing about this project, but to see him mix one eighty pound bag of mix after another, then pour it and begin again was incredible!  I think most men would have been slowing down after ten bags, but Ben just kept right on going!

Our weather has been very strange this winter. While the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted a colder and snowier winter than usual, we have had precious little snow and the temperatures have been mild.  We are supposed to be getting some snow over the next few days and I will welcome it!  The warmer temperatures we have had, along with the rain, have made me feel so chilly!  Better freezing temperatures with snow than warmer temperatures with rain and drizzle!  The dampness seems to get into one’s bones!

We are missing riding the snowmobiles this year.  Last year, we were able to have had several outings by this time, but with no snow, it has been impossible.  There was some snow up on Tug Hill, but Mark read accounts where the warm temps made nasty riding conditions with puddles. Yuck!

I have been in cleaning mode the past couple of weeks, wanting to thin out stuff we don’t want/need.  It is crazy how stuff piles up on us while we aren’t paying attention!  Michelle has been feeling the need to discard old junk as well.  We need to make a trip to one of the Salvation Army Stores soon!  I think this is the closest I come to making a New Year’s resolution.  I have just become restless looking at all the stuff that has been building up over the years.  We even have things from Mark’s dad who passed away seven years ago this month!

How about you?  Have you made any resolutions?  Do you usually stick with them, or do they fall be the wayside?

Still recovering…

I am still trying to recouperate from our little vacation.  We weren’t gone that long, but it was a bit of a touch and go trip home on Sunday. 

We had a wheel bearing go on the front right wheel on Saturday. Mark thought about going to a Chevy garage that was open until 6pm on Saturday, but decided he would like to try to do the job himself.  Ben was willing to help out and Mark thought it would be doable.

We hitched up on Sunday morning and went to the Sabres Development Camp. We really enjoyed watching the young prospects drill and then scrimmage on Saturday and Sunday.  We have been attending these camps for a few years now and have seen several players become Buffalo Sabres. 

After the camp, we began our very slow way home.  We would drive about 30 miles or so, then stop to allow the wheel to cool off.  It took hours to get home, but we were so thankful to arrive safely. 

Yesterday, the temperatures soared into the 90’s, making me totally miserable. Mark’s mother had a doctor’s appointment in Rochester at 9:30am, so Mark and I were off early in the morning, once again praying the wheel wouldn’t let loose. We took my mother-in-law to her appointment, then picked up the parts and tools we needed to fix the wheel bearing.  Thankfully, our faithful truck brought us safely home once again.

At this point, I must add that the Explorer is at the Ford garage, getting nearly $1500. in repairs.  I am of the mindset that we should put it up for sale right away and get something with good gas efficiency.  We will see.  The Explorer is a 2002 model and although it has low milage, it is getting old.  We will be doing some driving when Michelle begins RIT, so it would be good to have a sipping versus guzzling vehicle.

Today was another blazing hot day, although tonight, it is beginning to cool to the point that it is getting comfortable. Mark and Ben began working on the hub today, but parts seem quite fused together.  Mark cannot work for long periods of time, so they worked for just a few hours and quit.  Mark is searching for info on how to remove the hub and I just pray he finds a good answer.  With all this vehicle mess,  it would be quite pricey to have two vehicles getting repaired!

Well, enough of that.  I am not going to stress over things that I cannot control!

So, let me tell you about Lewiston!

As we were leaving our campground on Sunday, we realized we were really early, so Mark took the Lewiston exit.  I was happy to poke around, as the last time we were there, it was raining. A lot! 

Lewiston is referred to as “Historic Lewiston”.  It is a beautiful little community with beautiful little shops lining the main street.  Flowers adorn the lamp posts and there is a sense of a very old community. The buildings have a look of antiquity and were it not an early Sunday morning,  I would have gladly slipped inside the shops to have a look….they are quite inviting! Why I didn’t take a photo is beyond me, except for the fact that we were pulling the trailer behind us and together, the truck and trailer are about 50 feet long…makes for some interesting parking!

Mark drove around and stopped in a large parking area….right near one of my favorite statues…the Freedom Crossing Memorial. I blogged about this previously.

Just beyond this memorial was a set of stairs.  Well, curiosity got the better of me, and I hopped off in that direction.  I went down….and down….and down some more!  When I arrived at the bottom,  I was on a driveway/walkway just above the level of the lower Niagara River.  Oh, this was beautiful!

I walked along, meeting up with the Harbor Manager (I know that is the wrong name…I just cannot remember what the title was that was embroidered on his shirt.) What drew me was this…

This is The Black Pearl and cruises are available! I would love to go there and spend the day….the price of a one hour cruise is $35 per person…three hours is $75 per person.  The boat has diesel engines to get it moving up and down the river, but I was told that once it hits the lake,  it becomes full sails, a beautiful replica of a 1600’s ship. Wow, the directions my mind could go with that!!!

I spent considerable time looking around and talking to the Harbor man and another man.  They told me the fishing for Muskies is excellent there.  They said folks who fish there never divulge how big their fish caught were nor where they were fishing.  Hmm….They also said hardly anyone fishes there as they just don’t even know about this.

I suddenly became aware that I had many, many stairs to climb to get back to my family who might just be wondering where I was!  There was no way I was going to race up those stairs and I did notice a little addition off to one side with a bench…I thought perhaps they kindly put it there for folks who felt like they were going to drop from all that stair-climbing!

Since the family didn’t seem to be paying any attention to my winded self, I walked on over to see a restaurant that overlooks the water below.  It is an interesting shape and I just wanted a closer look.

As I snapped a photo of the restaurant menu, (wow! Who ever would have mounted their menu on a story board in front!!! What an awesome idea!) the man who founded the restaurant came over and talked my ear off!

I learned the history of the restaurant as well as how it came into being!  The restaurant was actually a coal silo that held coal for the steamships that used to travel the river.  After steam engines were replaced, the silo sat vacant for years and years.  While relatives from Minnesota were visiting with the man I spoke to,  they observed the silo from the Canadian side of the river.  They commented what a perfect day it was and the man said the only way it could be better was with an ice cream.  The relative pointed to the silo and told the man he should consider turning it into an ice cream parlor. And that is the condensed version.

The silo is leased from the town of Lewiston and the man’s son now operates the business.  He added a patio and outdoor picnic tables along with flowers and pretty landscaping.  ( I was told the view here in the autumn is absolutlely breathtaking…umm….one would NOT have to sway me…I believe it!)

The ice cream parlor (proper) was moved from the silo to an 1860’s Canadian Railway caboose.  The man explained that it took years to convince the town to approve the addition of the caboose.

Oh, by the way…that white house across the river?  It was owned by Tom Selleck at one time.

Wow, I learned so much from listening to this fellow! He was like a walking encyclopedia!  Oh, and by the way…the shape of the restaurant resembles a minaret mosque…the man lived in Istanbul, Turkey, for some 15 years!

I can’t believe I remembered so much of the conversation, but I do want to visit this restaurant.  It was given a high rating by a Buffalo food critic (the fellow chuckled, saying she critiqued the atmosphere, the owner and his wife, the setting…everything, but never once mentioned the FOOD!).  It also was featured on the show Man vs Food.

When Mark looked at the pricing, he was impressed.  He said too bad we were leaving town….this would have been an awesome place to take the kids for lunch!

Okay, so that’s it for Lewiston. (I think I oughta get paid for this! Or, at least get ONE of the vehicles fixed for free!!!)

A Word About Homeschooling…

I belong to a forum where folks chatter away about Scottie dogs, but last week,  someone wrote an off-topic post asking about homeschooled kids.  The poster wondered if homeschooled kids tend to be conceited and more interested in themselves than others.  To be completely honest,  I took no offense to the question…this woman was a professor at a college and said that homeschooled kids she has met just seemed “different” and less interested in the world outside themselves.

Another person on the list who recently retired from teaching young children answered that often children who are homeschooled tend to be a reflection of their parents.  She thought perhaps they were more opinionated and more close-minded.  She said they often believe the same things as their parents, as their parents are viewed as always right in their eyes.  I took no offense to this post, either!

In thinking about this whole conversation, I find it a bit sad that it must be viewed as “homeschooled vs public schooled”.  Many people believe that one must be a certified teacher in order to homeschool children or the education the children receive is inferior to public school.  I will be the first to admit I am a bumbling fool when it comes to math….perhaps a reflection on the lousy public school math teachers I studied under?  Well, no, I would never lay guilt there…I hated math, plain and simple.   I also hated science.  I saw no use for either of these subjects.

Needless to say,  I was right there with the kids, doing math with them right through algebra.  I could keep up quite handily until then,  and much to my own surprise,  I was even able to be of some use in geometry when it came to solving fomulas for volume!  When higher math became an unsolvable mystery to me,  I was happy to turn the whole math situation over to Mark who cheerfullylooks at calculus as brain exercises! He loves math and hates language arts. Oh, what a complement to me!

We did not “reinvent the wheel” by formulating our own curriculum.  We chose a Christian-based education that included Bible.  I need to add that we have met some Christian families along the way that were pretty radical, too.  Everything was done “their way or no way”.  Mark and I really tried to be open-minded and help our kids formulate their own lines of thought.  I have very little problem with this as I am not much of a control freak.  If anything,  I might look like one when I am passionate about something, but I am certainly not out to win the world. I do tend to be very passionate, though, and I need to sometimes just keep my mouth shut!

Our kids studied, using workbooks for their schooling, until second grade.  Michelle actually skipped second grade when we switched curriculum for her next year.  In first grade, she was reading at third grade level and beyond.  In changing curriculum,  the new work had a battery of tests for placement of students.  When Michelle was tested, she was at the third grade level, so we (quite confidently) placed her there.  She then began working on a computer-based curriculum, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  It worked well for me, as I was able to spend time with Ben hile she worked independently.

Michelle completed grade twelve at sixteen.  (Most kids graduate from high school at eighteen in the US)  In her final year, I suggested she take less intense coursework whereas Mark insisted she continue with pre-calc and physics.  Michelle was a trooper and worked her way through the hard courses, almost entirely learning on her own.  Mark always took time if she needed it,  but she most often resolved issues herself. (Most of the problems she could not solve were errors in the curriculum, rather than her errors!)

Ben has followed in Michelle’s footsteps and he works well independently as well, although he needs “the prod” from time to time.  One interesting thing about my kids is that although I never required them to write a paper for me, (such as an essay or editorial) I did go over (and over and over) how to write one.  Their schoolwork required learning how to write an outline and gave tons of information about how to formulate ideas on how to express oneself. 

Both of the kids have now taken college courses that have required them to write papers.  Michelle breezed through papers…she has never gotten below an “A” on papers she has written.  When Ben had to write, he became a little nervous, but Michelle merely coached him a little and he was able to work his way through.  So far, he has had to write two papers and has received 100% on each. (He would never allow me to see the paper until after it was graded!Michelle, on the oter hand, gives me her papers and asks me to “critique”) .

In looking at our homeschooling experience,  I would say that it has been a success.  Don’t get me wrong….it has not been an easy thing.  Aside from spending time working with frustrated kids,  it has been a very interesting experience. Many people voiced opinions that we were doing our kids a disservice, keeping them away from their peers.  That was far from the truth…They were free to play with neighbor kids (who attend public school) and we took them to events to be with other kids their ages.  They also participated in summer sports with kids from our area.

I tend to think of my kids as being more “homegrown” than “homeschooled”.  If parents have the tenacity to make their kids work,  homeschooling (or, homegrowing) is enlightening and downright fun.  We had lots of field trips and the kids learned so much about the world around them, in spite of themselves!

When Michelle was heading into her final “phases” of schooling, I became panic-stricken when I realized she had never been tested against kids in public school. She had never taken PSAT’s nor SAT’s.  The only testing she had done against other kids was standardized testing, as required by the school district.  Michelle had always scored post high school in those tests, but as she thought about college, I got cold feet!  Where would she stand against kids who had “professionals” teaching them?

Michelle did have to take a placement test when she went to Finger Lakes Community College for orientation. This is required of all homeschooled kids.  The tests basically analyze reading, writing, and math skills.  When the woman doing the testing was asked how Michelle did, she told us we had nothing at all to worry about.  No remediation was required for Michelle.

Michelle will be finishing her second year at FLCC this May.  My, how the time has passed so quickly!  She will now be ready to transfer on to a four-year school.  Michelle applied to three schools….Keuka College,  State University of New York at Geneseo,  and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).   Well, Michelle was accepted into all three colleges with no problem.  She was informed today that should she decide to attend RIT full time, she will receive a $6,000.00 scholarship from the school as well as a $2,000.00 scholarship from her business honor society she is in.  In the letter stating these amounts, she was congratulated for her academic excellence!

Please realize I am not writing this to brag, but rather to say that I am humbled that our “homegrown” girl has done so well for herself.  She now has three different options from which to choose, each unique and different.  I am just so happy for Michelle.  At eighteen, she has the world open to her, our serious little student! 

I guess I can now say with some confidence that Michelle’s homeschooling experience was indeed a success!  I know that homeschooling is not for everyone and many would thumb their nose at it.  That is fine, but for us,  I am truly glad we stuck with it!

Bet You Thought I’d Gone Away?

No, I have been here. I have just been overwhelmed by day to day life in general.  As I watched the days passing by one after another,  I decided I would wait until December first to begin posting once again.

In all honesty, life has been so full of this, that, and the other thing, I just thought a break would be beneficial to my overly-stimulated brain cells!  I keep bumping into myself coming and going and I was feeling a bit “fragile” to be perfectly frank.  Life has been one activity followed by another…most not lending themselves to my photography addiction and that made me feel so distraught! 

Soo….where do I begin?

Well, a couple of weeks ago, Ben and I began working on painting his bedroom.  Poor Ben. He had been given a small room and it was painted a (very!) pale pink color on the walls.  I loved that pink, as it really didn’t appear to be pink. When Ben was about ten, he decided pink was not his choice of color.  Taking matters into his own hands (quite literally, indeed!) he worked frantically, using an office stapler to mount newspapers and old maps to cover what he insisted was a hideous color.

Ben learned how to not only spackle, but also repair walls with some major flaws in them! He worked for a long time, removing those small staples and filling in the holes.  He had also made some larger holes in the walls so he learned how to repair those as well. 

After visiting the home centers a few times and bringing home scads of color chips to mull over, Ben decided on a color called “Fretwire”.  *as in the wire used to form the frets on a guitar*  I thought the color might also be called buckskin, as it reminds me of that color. (really dating myself here…remember when there *weren’t* zillions of colors available?)

Here is a photo of the freshly painted room.

This photo seems a little light to me, but you can see it looks very nice with the moulding and floor. Too bad. Well, about the floor, anyway, as Ben wants to put down some carpeting.  Argh. Oh, hey, Ben’s ceiling isn’t boring white, either!  The color is Swiss Coffee.  Doesn’t that sound like something one would want to awaken to?

Mark and Ben have some plans for building a bed and finishing the room.  I will show photos as the room progresses.

This is the time of the year when we begin to think about decorating.  One of the projects we undertake is a Christmas wreath on Mark’s dad’s grave.  Al really loved Christmas, so this is really special. This year, I asked Mark if we might try doing the wreath ourselves.  We usually go to a business across the road from the cemetery, but I thought we might try our hand at this.  As it worked out, we bought a gorgeous wreath from Wegman’s.  The only thing I had put on at this point was the bow. (and yes, most always a lovely plaid!)

Michelle saw me decorating the wreath and thought she might like to give this a try, so I stepped aside. This is what she wound up creating.

I was thrilled with the end result, as was Mark.  The most surprising outcome of our do it yourself effort is that it cost about one-half of the price we typically spent.  And, it had a lot more decorations!

Thanksgiving was the 25th of November this year.  Carly had asked if we wanted to join her and her family at her in-laws’ home this year. Wow, Carly offered to make the entire feast (with lots of helo from her three kids) and I wasn’t about to let an offer like that go! 

Madeline and Cy are the most awesome hosts and we spent the hours talking and laughing, sharing stories and just having so much fun!  Carly and the kids were bustling about in the kitchen when we arrived and it was awesome watching them work!

So, here are some photos of the most awesome feast!

That turkey could not have been any more perfectly browned! It looked like something from a magazine!!! (Carly used some recipes she had found in magazines to prepare this amazingly executed fare.)

Carly spent so much time creating this fit-for-a-king meal.  The bread used in making the stuffing was made by Carly! Carly’s Sarah has an allergy to soy and soy-based products, so Carly is careful about making food without those culprits.  It is tough sometimes, but she has been doing it long enough that it isn’t so taxing anymore.

Oh my, those devilled eggs were good! Carly made the mayonnaise used in making them as well since most mayonnaise contains some soy or soy products. The stuffing to the left of the eggs was awesome with cranberries and pecans included! On the very left of the photo is the delicious cranberry sauce she made.

By the way, isn’t that table elegant?  Madeline had created a most beautiful atmosphere in which to enjoy the meal! I loved the colors….everything really was picture-perfect!

The one dish I loved that I probably overate on was Brussel Sprouts and grapes.  I thought the combination really different, but it was lip-smacking good!

Oh, the rolls behind the Brussel Sprouts and Grapes were my (humble) contribution.  Carly had initially asked me to make an apple pie, but later asked if I could bring rolls instead. I love making rolls, so I was happy to do so.

Mmmm….there was rice with cranberries as well. There were amazing bite-sized biscuits with Chai and cranberries and simply amazing mashed potatoes with celery root.

The flowers on the table just added to this special meal!  Everything was fantastic!  I enjoyed this day so much. It was obvious that Carly and the kids had put a lot into this special holiday. Carly also made the most scrumptious pumpkin pie!

After a most filling meal, the women retreated to the kitchen to put away leftovers.  The kids went to the family room to enjoy some Wii games and Mark and Ben visited with Cy for quite some time. Cy had set up his bass guitar, thinking Ben might like to give it a try.  Ben thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity and was impressed by some things Cy showed him and Mark.

It seemed like the time flew by…as always, times flies when the occasion is enjoyable!

Thanks again, Madeline, Cy, Carly, and all who contributed to make this day one of the most memorable ones we have enjoyed!  I am just sorry this is so late!

Looking Back

That title might be just a little misleading, but as I thought about Michelle’s tour of Geneseo College on Monday, I couldn’t help but reflect a bit….

We began our homeschooling saga with Michelle when she was age four.  With her birthday being late in the year, (November) we could have opted to begin her schooling another year later, but she was ready and biting at the bit.  To have held Michelle back a year would have been a great disservice.

I will never forget Michelle’s Kindergarten experience.  She whizzed through her coursework with great excitement and ease. She was a wonderful little student….wide-eyed and like a little sponge!  It was a thrill to sit and listen to her reading to me and watching as she neatly formed letters on paper.  It was almost like a dream unfolding!  I never thought I would be working at home, teaching my kids the subjects they needed.

Our experience wasn’t without discomfort. Well meaning friends and otherwise would look at our kids and ask about their socialization.  It was as though people were afraid if we kept our kids at home for their studies, they might become the dregs of society.  Still, we persisted.  There were times when I felt like my feet were slipping some,  but the kids both came through like troopers!

Michelle is now in her second year at our local community college and the only reason she doesn’t have a perfect 4.0 grade point average is because she received an A- in her statistics class.  As she moves ahead, she began to think she might like to continue her education at a four year school.  We have been speaking with transfer people at four year schools to make sure her credits can be transferred toward her four year degree.

We arrived at Geneseo College on Monday afternoon and right away, a young man who attends the school appeared to give the family a tour.  This was complete with vehicle! 

Since the little unit was only big enough for four people, I happily suggested I would wander around a little.

(Yes, taking a few photos!)

I was surprised that there was a main sidewalk/roadway that lead directly to the main street downtown.  It was as though the campus is the town.  In commenting about that, the tour guide said that the population of Geneseo is about seven thousand, with about five thousand students at the college. The population greatly diminishes during breaks!

Here are a few photos I took of the town as I strolled along toward the main street. (Not sure if it is indeed Main Street!)

I spotted these gorgeous but fading purple flowers along the walkway.  My poor Panasonic camera nearly busted a lens trying to capture the intense purple color! And right nearby were some awesome sunflowers!

This next shot had me smiling….so cute!  This is the back entrance to a laundromat located in the town.  The “curtains” above the two ladies are actual fabric.  I think this is just so creative!

Of course, with my insatiable affinity for color,  how could I resist taking a photo of this pretty floral business?  The colors scream autumn!

The next two photos are of a large bronze statue that sits on top of a fountain along the street.  The street is divided in a median of sorts where the fountain sits.  I just read that the animal on the fountain is a bear.  I was guessing a wolf mainly because I think the body is too lean and the snout too long for a bear! Ah well…no idea the significance!

As you can see, the sun was positioned  in such a way it was nearly impossible to capture a good photo.  Add to that the fact that I was not about to stop traffic while taking a photo!  People in this little town are exceptionally polite regarding stopping their vehicles for pedestrians.

And, one last photo looking down the street toward the west.

After the tour,  our family met with a lovely lady who works closely with transferring students.  We met in a conference room surrounding a large table.  I watched as Michelle interacted with the woman while being questioned.  I must admit I was surprised with the ease and fluid conversation…I would say our little homeschooled girl has done pretty well for herself!

We have another tour scheduled on Friday at a small college here in the Finger Lakes.  Michelle and I are both very interested in this tour, as it is at a school that is actually situated on the lake…a beautiful setting!

Happy Birthday Wilma!

Seriously…

Michelle’s request for her special day today was to spend time at the Eastview Mall.  We left home today late in the morning and Mark dropped Michelle and me off to shop.  He and Ben left the area and went to another shopping mecca to attend to their manly business.

Yes, the mall is decked to the nines and I must say I was rather astonished at the number of shoppers out this Friday afternoon.  I don’t remember seeing so many people shopping this early (before Christmas) on a weekday, but there were some pretty good deals to be had. 

Michelle shopped while I observed. Michelle is an incredible shopper.  Instead of heading for the latest and greatest fashions,  she immediately heads to the clearance racks in every store.  While I find it mind-boggling to carefully browse through racks of clothing,  Michelle takes her time and surveys each piece offered.  In the end, she often finds some good bargains.  Such was the case today!

We shopped first in J.C. Penney’s.  In the midst of buying items for her birthday,  Michelle found some Christmas presents for others. Did I mention she is such a great shopper!

As we were leaving Penney’s,  Michelle called out,  “Look Mom!  They are selling Flinstone jewelry”!

I turned to see my lovely daughter with the most humorous look on her face with the largest sting of fake pearls adorning her neck….

Happy, Happy Birthday, Wilma!  Er, Michelle! What a terrific young woman you have grown to be.  How could we have ever known eighteen years ago what an impact you would have on our lives!  Love you, Michelle!  And Happy Birthday!

I’ve Been Thinking…

Dangerous pastime, n’est pas?

As the days become shorter and the weather gets a bit of a chill,  I always begin to think about the holiday season.  Things kick off with Thanksgiving,  then it seems like all eyes are honed in on Christmas.  Ah, Christmas!

I was thinking  about Christmases past when I was growing up.  I couldn’t wait until the day we went out and bought a Christmas tree and brought it home.  The pine scent lit up the living room and made it seem so magical.  My father would then go and fetch several large boxes that contained all of our treasured Christmas ornaments.

My father always placed the lights on the tree.  I remember those large old ones we used to have, but were replaced by the small (more practical!)  sets in the ’70’s.  As soon as Dad had finished with the lights, we all gathered round the tree and Mom would hand out delicate glass orbs of various shapes and sizes.  Mom had a friend who moved to California and she gave Mom many of her blown glass ornaments, including birds with fiber tails. 

When I was a small child,  we got to (carefully!) hang little wax figures on the tree.  I remember snowmen, santas, angels,  and toy soldiers…I think there were others, but I seem to have forgotten.  Our beautiful glass balls were just that.  They weren’t the  strange balls of today that often discolor over a year of storage. 

After hanging all the fancy doo-dads on the tree, it was then time to spend quite a bit of time meticulously and tediously placing the lead icicles on the branches.  Mom and Dad insisted these needed to be hung one at a time and carefully so the other ornaments could still be seen.

Funny now….in looking back,  I realize this was a real tradition in my family, although I had never thought of it as such. And in thinking about this,  I feel like a failure as my own children have no real tradition like this.  I always rationalized that tradition becomes dangerous when it morphs into “rote”.  Yes, I tend to be much more spontaneous and always looking for new things.

I shan’t muddle through a list of my shortcomings as that remains between me and God,  but as I walked through Lowe’s home center early this morning,  a sharp realization hit me like a ton of bricks!  Much of my lifetime,  I have heard people gripe about how commercialized Christmas has become.

Rows and rows of brightly colored “seasonal” decor called out to me and I must admit, many of the items made me smile.  But then, I wondered….what about the poor people manufacturing these items in China. What do these people think?

It is nearly impossible to find items made here in the US of A anymore.  I did find a display of “collectible” ornaments that proudly displayed an American flag on the front, along with the words Made in the USA.  I guess I should have bought one!

For years, I have told Mark I would like to build a tiny cabin where we could retreat for Christmas week without telephones, computers, and television.  It would be so much fun to just hang out as a family and enjoy the real reason for the season!  Why, just think how much more fun it would be to become snowbound for a few days.  No pressures from the world outside.

I guess deep inside I am just trying to resolve issues that cause discomfort in my life.  I long for simplicity.  Perhaps having an Amish friend reinforces such a desire.  I will never fault others for elaborate displays and their own traditions as that isn’t my business and I really do enjoy seeing many of the setups people do for Christmas every year. (Of course, as a child, another tradition was driving around town and observing all the beautiful Christmas displays!)

I have decided that I am going to work on some handmade presents this year, specifically designed for the recipient.  Although they might be small, the thought and care going into them will hopefully be appreciated. 

Perhaps my kids do know of some little traditions we have established that I was too busy to notice.  In the meantime,  I will just keep thinking.  And dreaming.   Of a White Christmas, of course!

So We’ve All Heard

Everyone under the sun has heard the expression that we must stop and smell the roses.  May I venture to say that perhaps we should take it one step further and stop to observe the milkweed?

I never really paid much attention at all to milkweed in the past, but a couple of years ago, a friend advised me that the beautiful Monarch Butterfly only lays its eggs in milkweed plants.  Since I really love those gorgeous little winged creatures of black and orange, I gained a great deal of respect for that otherwise less than comely weed!

I dropped Michelle off at college this morning and then decided that since it was an extraordinary morning,  I would go for a little ride in the country.  I was thoroughly prepared for such an outing,  complete with my companion, the Nikon camera.  Although there was a stiff breeze,  the air was mild enough not to cause undue chilling and the skies above were glorious.

As always, I opted to travel on roads I’ve not taken previously.  As I drove along the country roads,  I noticed many little milkweed plants nodding in the sunny breezes.  The autumn sun illuminated the silky heads bursting from their protective pods and the tiny strands glistened and danced about, grasping my attention and then absolutely fascinating my imagination as I spent time observing and photographing them….

This was the original plant that so captivated my wandering eye.  I parked the Explorer off to the side of the road, then hopped out to hopefully get a good shot at it.  Unfortunately, as I walked toward the plant,  I became aware that as I advanced toward the little weed,  I was trudging downward and (fortunately for me!)  I stopped abruptly just short of trouncing into a drainage ditch.

Was I discouraged?  No. Was I frustrated?  No.  I figured that further down the road, there would be yet another plant in a more convenient location, rending itself a bit more friendly to the camera and me.  I was happy I was feeling so optimistic as I didn’t have to go too far before I found a few more plants clustered together at the edge of the road.

These photos would best be viewed if one were to click on them to enlarge them. 

I took many more photos on my little morning jaunt and I will publish them over another day or two. In the meantime, I would like to encourage you, Dear Reader, to go beyond the roses…or even the beautiful mums that are providing splashes of color all about this time of the year,  and look into the more everyday and even less than beautiful to see God’s hand!

A Little Escape to Buffalo

It is that time of the year once again for the Buffalo Sabres Training Camp.  We have enjoyed visiting every year as we get to see some of the new players working hard to earn a place on the team.

The camp started with some hullaballo on Saturday, but we just had so many things on our plate, we didn’t leave until Saturday afternoon.  We packed the little camper and moved on out much later than we had originally anticipated.  I guess it was okay in the long run, though, as hurrying to leave is just too stressful!

When we pulled into the campground, the office was already closed, so we just picked a site and set up.  The most wonderful thing about camping this time of the year is that there are few other campers.  I love it, because during the summer months,  camping can get pretty overwhelming….while I love campfires and such, sometimes the smoke from too many fires is a bit too much! 

We pulled into our site and there were a total of three other campers parked in the same area!  They were far away from us, so you can only imagine how awesome this was…..we felt as though we owned the entire campground! It was so nice.

The kids decided they wanted to study and work on their homework, so on Sunday morning,  Mark and I set out alone to the Sabres camp.  It was nice, as the Scotties were left with the kids.  I think the four of them had some fun together!  And Mark and I felt at ease to enjoy watching the players!

I smiled when the Zamboni came out to resurface the ice.  One of the commentators for the game always calls out when a player gets the puck up over the goalie’s shoulder….he calls such a play “on the top shelf where Mama hides the cookies”!

Well, one of the large supermarket chains located in Buffalo is “Tops” and they had the slogan paineted on the side of the Zamboni, slightly modified!

I won’t bore you with countless photos of hockey, but after the session, Mark wanted to go to a Sam’s Club to find a new GPS, as our previous one (faithful for about four years)  was fritzing out!

Mark used a GPS ap he found on his cell phone and it actually worked nicely, although lagging a bit.  Thankfully, this was on a Sunday afternoon and there wasn’t a great deal of traffic on the roads!

The GPS led us along a section of Buffalo I was unaware of….namely, the Buffalo Irish Heritage District!  What a pleasant surprise!  As we passed the Buffalo Irish Center, we heard Irish dance being done inside.

Here are some photos along the way….not that much to photograph, really, as the Irish district looks pretty similar to other neighborhoods, save for some wee differences….

Oh my….there are times when a photo alone will not suffice. As we drove along the road,  poor Mark began to freak out!  “Katya!  I can’t read these street signs!!!! The font is so weird and I can’t make them out!”

Well, that in and of itself was worth “the price of admission” (so to speak) but I assured Mark everything was oaky…the English translation was located underneath on the “regular” blue street signs!

Buffalo is a city of rich ethnicity.  One of the largest groups has to be Polish, as well as Italian. I’m not sure that either of these groups has a specific neighborhood,  but I certainly enjoyed seeing the Irish influence as we passed along Bothar Abboid. (sorry about the proper “marks” being left out…not that savvy with such devices!)