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January 31, 2010

Bocelli sings the Lord's Prayer & Kids Help Their Parents Through the College Admission Process

I hesitate EVER to call myself a "singer" again after watching this rendition of the Lord's Prayer from Andrea Bocelli . How does he DO that??? That's a LONG stream of beautiful air coming out of his lungs. The choir and orchestra aren't bad either... (hat tip to my Bible study leader, Heather)

We're looking at various college options for Jason in 18 months. One website offered the following helpful advice for prospective university students:
  • Helping Your Parents Through This Process

    For parents, sending a child off to college is a big deal. ...Your parent(s) may feel lots of different things, and sometimes conflicting things at the same time. High hopes for you. Pride and a fierce determination that you go to a "good enough" school. Anxiety about your happiness and safety. Nervousness about what they see as a very big step for you. Grief that you are unmistakably growing up. Uncertainty about how to pay the tuition. Inadequacy, if they feel they can't help you with the admissions process. Frustration, because they can't control the outcome for you. An intense desire to help you - coupled with a desire not to interfere too much (as you can imagine, this can be a particularly hard pair of feelings to juggle). If you're applying to schools of the caliber of MIT, they may be worried that you won't get in - and equally worried that you will.

    Some parents cope with their feelings by paying a lot of attention to the college search process, others by being totally hands-off. Most come down somewhere in between....

    • If you would like more help and support from your parents, or less, or a different kind, dare to talk with them about it. Try letting them know that you understand how they're feeling, and then asking them to make a change. Your parents can be incredibly helpful in sorting through your college choices. Most likely, no one knows you better or cares more about how the world treats you. But it really helps to face the process as a unified team, with shared expectations.

    • If you and your parents are having a hard time striking the right balance between hands-on and hands-off, one practical tactic is to choose a few specific items on your long list of pre-college tasks and assign them to your parents. Of course, the big, substantive jobs should all go to you - things like deciding on your final list of schools, writing your essays, making calls to the admissions office, scheduling your interview. But there are plenty of other roles for your parents, if they're interested. Some likely tasks include planning college tours, keeping track of application deadlines...

So insightful and healthy-sounding! May God help us to strike the right balance.

Posted via email from K's Café

January 31, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Snoveling Show

Yes, Snoveling Show. 

And Lunder and Thightning.

I said the former, Emily said the latter. Then we had a conversation about Spoonerisms. No, actually, the tether worms came first, and the eciptation and prexercise discussion lame cater. The conversation plook tace in tetween the boo.

P.S. Have you seen this "billy sook" by Sel Shilverstein, called "Runny Babbit" ? Looks interesting. But probably not so good for kids learning to talk or read and write!

Posted via email from K's Café

January 31, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

If it snows any more, my ruler will be entirely inadequate to the task

I crunched through the snow this morning to the back yard with my trusty plastic ruler (in my light purple non-Ugg Ugg-lookalikes that I've had for a decade or so*), and am happy to say that I now feel completely accurate in asserting that we have "a foot of snow" out there on the lawn. The ruler, 12" or 30cm long, disappeared into the snow accumulation until it was exactly level with the top. Just to make sure, since I suspected we might have at least that much, I had also brought out our extendable** metal tape measure. It only confirmed the figure.

Have I mentioned that we love snow? The only problem I ran into today (so far) with snow, was the little concern that my neighbours might report me for disturbing the peace by shoveling my driveway before 8am on a Sunday...but I wasn't using a snowblower, as some people have suggested I do on Facebook...so I think it'll be okay. :-) It was so quiet and peaceful out there (when I paused).

At the dinner table Thursday night, we got onto the topic of words we didn't think existed in the positive form. The counterparts of unkempt, disgruntled, and uncouth. Were we surprised and corrected upon opening the dictionary! They all exist in Merriam-Webster's (8th?) Collegiate Dictionary, the same one I had at college (so it's not a new-fangled thing): kempt (1929), gruntled (1926), and couth (1896)! Check for yourself. The thing is, the etymology of every one of them is "back-formation" stemming from the negative version! We were pleased to note that we were all gruntled - "to put in a good humor <were gruntled with a good meal and good conversation — W. P. Webb>". My chicken mulligatawny soup, and our conversation about interesting words had a pleasant way of gruntling us. After dinner, I put the big, very hot pot of soup out in the snow on the patio, and heaped the white stuff around it to cool it more quickly for storage. Useful stuff, snow! The pot made a bunch of large, intriguing, perfectly round imprints.

Friday night, we learned a new card game. Well, a very OLD card game, but new to us: Euchre. It seemed like a four-person version of Sheepshead, with more cards. It was okay. We played four hands and moved on.

[Warning: non-sequitor paragraph which, however, has a segue at the end to a continuation from the previous paragraph]
When we were all in school, my brother wrote at least one computer program to help with something on campus - a scheduler for the career night sessions, telling everyone what room to be in at what time to learn about gemology or journalism or aviation, for example. Well, history is repeating itself - my son is now writing a program to help the school with course reviews. They want 1-2 student reviews of each class taught, by randomly selected students, with every student reviewing at least one class. I am excited about both aspects of this: the fact my son is being instrumental in it, and the fact that they are doing reviews. We had comprehensive reviews of the courses at my university, and it was so helpful in choosing classes and teachers.

Speaking of my alma mater, after the Euchre game, I pulled out a puzzle I've had forever and ever and never done: an artistic rendition of the Smith College campus. With David's help, I managed to finish it that evening (only 216 pieces, but hard ones). I spent quite a while searching through the pieces for one that was irritatingly missing. Oh well. I guess only one missing is pretty good. It was an outstanding night, since we also had a fire in the fireplace and read aloud in four voices from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy original radio script. Very funny, especially the whale monologue. Jason's studying the script in English class. 

More on the games front: in a brief ping-pong interlude, Jason and I played "first to five, by two" and the final score was 10-8 for me; what sweet victory, after five deuces! That was some quality ping-pong, there :-)

I want to thank God for breathing life into my blog again, and for breathing life into me in the first place (and every day). I am enjoying reading the Bible in chronological order this year (with a group of accountability friends who share a favorite verse each week on Facebook to keep each other going), and we came across a verse relating to this: The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4 The other verse that springs to mind is There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1) - I am hoping this new season of frequent blog posts lasts for some time.

* By the way, since my daughter keeps calling my boots Uggs (which they aren't), I finally decided to figure out what they ARE. There is no identification at all on the outside, but in the bottom of the inside, it says BP. Apparently this refers to Bearpaw Boots. I don't see any purple boots on their site anymore. What a score for my mother-in-law, who gave them to me whenever it was for some Christmas. She is a GOOD shopper and knows me well.

** As far as I can tell, there are THREE spellings of this, all of which means exactly the same thing: extendable, extendible, and extensible. Do you have any opinions on these words, oh you multiple vocabulary experts reading? You know who you are. :-) I did find one site that said they would use extensible only for physical things, and extendable for things like time as well.

Posted via email from K's Café

January 31, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 30, 2010

Trying a new blogging method

I've spent a while investigating posterous.com today, and I think I'll give some of its features a try. For instance:

- posting by email, as I am doing now (MUCH easier to add multiple photos)

- apparently it makes a photo album thingy out of my multiple photos? We'll see about that, I guess! *Update: so it only makes a special album on posterous, but just posts all the photos in a row on Typepad*

autoposting to various of my networking sites, like Flickr and Twitter (which I "never" use), and my regular Typepad blog page (where you are likely reading this, though I wrote it in an email and then it went out via posterous)

- it's sort of a back-up of my blog, really, as well

BY THE WAY: in the process of backing up my blog on posterous, I discovered that I had hit 1,001 posts this week! This makes post # 1,002! In case for any reason it is better for you, at the moment you can also access my blog here at posterous, with a bit of a different format. Not sure how things will end up, but I'll let you know.

So here, for testing purposes and your delight, are some favorite old photos from England and France, including flowers from outside Buckingham Palace, and Stonehenge.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from K's Café

January 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

First Blue Sky in a Long Time - and Deer at the Wildpark

My dear friend Katherine clued me in to the existence of posterous.com. I'm checking it out. While Emily listens to "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof. The Papa! The Mama! The Sons! The Dotters! :-) "May God bless and keep the Tsar....far away from us!"

This morning I stopped at the Wildpark for my daily scripture dose and prayer time in the parked car. Some blue sky appeared, and the deer nibbled behind me.

We hadn't seen blue sky in the longest time

I liked how this guy decided to eat sideways and just twist his neck a long way.

What do you want? We're eating!

Posted via email from K's Café

January 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dutch Fruit Pancake

We woke up to yet more glorious snow. This time it was the kind that sticks to each individual tree branch and coats the world in crisp, clean clarity. Right now a few flakes are wafting down, but it's sort of bright outside...looking out of the window, I said to Jason, "There's kind of a clearing in the clouds...it's almost like blue sky..." Which struck us both as funny.

It being Saturday, I decided to make something special for breakfast, and settled on my friend Laura's Dutch Fruit Pancake recipe. Laura has written a funny culinary post of which my favorite line about human nature is,

"I have recently realized that they actually don’t want things to be fair, they just want to get more than anyone else."

So true, so true!

Anyway, making the pancake was tricky as advertised, involving a pan, a platter, hot mitts and the sink, lots of butter, whole wheat flour, an apple and a banana. I wasn't too sure I was doing it right, got some batter on the hot mitts, some butter on the stove, and the edges weren't crispy as the recipe assured me they would be - but it was delicious and everyone liked it! A little maple syrup on top, and mmmmm.

Wait, wait - NEWS FLASH! The SUN is shining in my eyes!!! So foreign! So special! There's this little thinning of the clouds with the brightness crashing through it - but above, now, a huge expanse of blue! What is that stuff??? The actual sky. It's still there!

Now, should I take the kids to their drama rehearsals in my pyjamas, or throw on some honest-to-goodness daytime clothes?

January 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 29, 2010

I clearly don't suffer from S.A.D.

Today I was driving along, and noticed a round silhouette in the general overcastness. "Oh yeah!" I thought. There's a sun up there! Not that it was bothering me that we haven't seen it in weeks. I just forgot all about its existence. I am happy with the snow, the birds chirping while it falls quietly, my family, and the stuff I am learning as I read my Bible and study with other ladies and pray and go to German class and read people's Facebook stati (would that be the plural of status? :-) Oh, nope, it seems to be statuses) and look at my son's incomprehensible AP Calculus worksheets. Aha, you say - you didn't learn anything from the latter! Oh, yes, I learn that he is just like his admirable father, who also took Calculus AP classes in high school - one each in 11th and 12th grades, just like Jason is planning on doing. I'm glad there are people in the world like them. I did enjoy math, and I still very much like algebra. Just not too keen on the differentiation and integration, although I remember dabbling in them way back when.

In any case, it's snowing again, and I happily shoveled the driveway for about the ninth time this season. As someone on Facebook pointed out, I have a small driveway. He challenged me to clear his 150ft driveway happily without a snowblower. I had to concede. That would be a full-time job. Mine is just big enough to give me a little exercise and fresh air and sense of immediate accomplishment.

I was doing some errands this morning, and as I exited the third shop, I gloried in the copious snow coming down. This led to general thankfulness and wonder at how we get to live here in a place with mountains, lots of snow, cleanliness, abundance, snow plows, etc. I was so happy and excited at the way God has blessed our family, until, all of a sudden, Fear struck. Surely this means something bad is coming. You can't expect this to continue so well. There's a limit to this. You're going to have an accident, or someone is going to get very ill or die, or... Wow. I had to quickly switch from thankfulness to earnest battle prayer against the joy-stealing attacks from the enemy, pounding me with deceit. Time to counter it with Truth: I'm in God's hands. Whatever He sends, He will equip me with grace and strength to face it. He is not out to get me. He delights to bless. He is trustworthy. He doesn't do stuff randomly; He always has reasons, whether I know/understand them or not.

Now that I'm home, I'm looking up some verses to back up my recollections/reconstructions of these truths:

I'm in God's hands as I fight the lies: Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth. (Psalm 31:4-5)

Whatever He sends, He will equip me with grace and strength to face it: God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

He is not out to get me. He delights to bless: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (Jeremiah 32:40)

You have been pleased to bless the house of your servant. (1 Chronicles 17:27)

He is trustworthy: O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28)

He doesn't do stuff randomly; He always has reasons, whether I know/understand them or not: God is mighty, but does not despise men; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose. (Job 36:5)

But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:11)

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever. (Psalm 138:8)

So even though I don't suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, I do suffer from year-round attacks of fear, doubt, pride, or whatever the devil chooses to mess with me today about. Fortunately, God is on duty year-round, never takes a snow day, always has His plows in tip top working order, to plow away those pernicious lies that slip into my head and threaten to steal my joy and peace in Him. All the better for me if I catch them quickly and hand them over to Him for help: We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

January 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 28, 2010

No, it's REALLY not a Snow Day, I'm so sorry

What a morning.

It started at 6:52am, when a phone call woke me up, but Emily spoke to the person on the phone. I really wish she'd come up the stairs and passed the phone to me, but she didn't (she didn't want to wake me up, and I appreciate that). What she understood from the conversation was that not only were the school buses not driving, but that the school campus was closed for the day. Wouldn't this have been ironic, when I had just finished telling someone yesterday how things are never cancelled here due to snow. "Everyone knows how to drive in the snow, the plows get out there, and everything goes on as normal," I wrote on a Facebook thread.

I was so skeptical of this supposed news, given the minor-looking snowfall outside, that I immediately went to my laptop and looked at the school website for confirmation or denial. Nothing. However, there was email from Jason's school, saying that school was open, if you can get there, and don't worry about delays. I kept checking the site, and finally up popped the news: All campuses are OPEN. Some buses are not running due to "mountainous terrain." Well, we live up on a hill. I wouldn't call it a mountain, exactly.

In any case, poor Emily. So sad. Last year we had a day off school when trees fell into the school's only access road in a heavy late spring snow. She was so hopeful for another day at home. But her wicked (and adventurous) mother insisted that if school was open, we were going. Away from your novel and back to making your lunch, please!

Meanwhile, it turned out that David wasn't feeling any better than he had last night, and was staying in bed with a cold. He usually takes Jason to school, which is in the opposite direction from Emily's school. Hmmm.

I took a look at the driveway, decided I would shovel again, and carefully did NOT take a shower beforehand. Furthermore, I dressed appropriately: in a T-shirt under my ski parka, instead of my seasonal turtleneck and sweater :-) The ground was icy under the snow, but I enjoyed the shoveling as always. I informed the kids we'd be leaving together and soon, and we piled in the car (now safely post-shower & with warmer clothes on!). Our road had not been plowed yet (not until 1:30pm), but it wasn't bad. In fact, we had no problems at all getting first to Jason's school, then backtracking and heading to Emily's school, and then I carried on to my ladies' Bible study. By the time I got home again much later, my skid warning light had blazed about ten times, but nothing scary. People were careful, and God answered all my prayers for safety. So I'm really not too sure why they cancelled the buses. Maybe because Emily's campus has a new director, from Australia via Singapore?

I was wondering whether any of the other ladies would show up for the Precepts study on Prayer, but since they come from places like Canada and Iowa/Minnesota, or have lived places like Germany and Romania, or are just plain determined, we were all there, plus a new person since last week. Cool! We practically gave high fives to each lady as they trickled in one at a time with relieved looks on their faces.

Huusbrot I stopped to pick up some delicious Huusbrot at the gas station on the way home (a yummy kind of whole-grain, crusty bread with very soft insides), and was given a scratch & win card - I "won" a Corny Free Chocolate granola bar. The "free" part refers to the lack of sugar, but it contains an unspecified "Süßungsmittel" (sweetener) which sounds very suspicious to me - I prefer my sugar plain and simple from the cane or beet, not chemically manufactured. I ate it after lunch anyway, since one would not want to waste chocolate in any form, would one? (no)

DrivewaySnowPiles Arriving home, the driveway needed shoveling again. But first I brought lunch to my beloved in bed and we ate together. A nice weekday treat, even if it takes illness to achieve it...

I am starting to run out of places to put my lovely driveway snow. I managed to find spots, and even shoveled a pathway for the cat (yes, the one who drew blood yesterday; I have forgiven her). While in the back yard, I stuck a ruler into the snow on the lawn: 9" deep (24 cm). Cool! I know it's nothing compared to what you had in Virginia a few weeks ago, but I'll take it!

January 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 27, 2010

Five teeth and a Claw

The day began with our usually benign neighbourhood cat, Cub, having an aggressive moment and making me bleed. A nice 5cm (2") lightly bleeding scratch across my right forearm. Then there were the five little red toothmarks a little closer to the wrist. No big deal. I stopped petting her and washed up and added some disinfectant for good measure. Later I came back and stroked her with the other arm, which she did not wound. I think she knew that then there'd be no more arms available to make her purr.

The day entailed no shoveling, as there was no precipitation, but the driveway is covered in ice...which our kids find wonderful fun. I just have to be careful walking to the mailbox. It was -5C (23F) most of the overcast day. Good for zipping up one's (purple) ski jacket and wearing (purple) gloves. That's a segue to the fact that I noticed, on my way to German class, that I was wearing not only those two purple items, but also a purple sweater, and carrying a purple backpack. Of course I Facebooked this on my iPhone in its purply pink case. Someone then alliteratively asked me to "post a purple pic" - which request I fulfilled by gathering up rather a large number of other purple things I have around the house and getting a shot of those:

I REALLY like purple stuff

At German class, I received a real treat. Picture this in your mind's ear:
You're sitting in class on the ground floor of your husband's office building, with a 7-month-pregnant student from the Czech Republich, a male one from Hungary, yourself from USA, and the Swiss-German teacher. In comes a new student you've never met before. From his cheerful, inquisitive speech, you discern immediately that he has a delightful francophone accent. Notice I don't say "French," since he could be from various countries (including southwest Switzerland, France, Belgium, and theoretically Canada or Africa, depending). It turns out he's Belgian, and he has this great way of speaking mostly German with a few English words thrown in, in a French accent. The icing on the cake, though, which I could not stop smiling about, was the way in which, every 4th word or so, he inserted, in English, "like." You know, like, the filler word that a lot of, like, young people, like, use. Except it sounds all the more out of place in a grown man's speech while he's speaking German. With a French accent. I can't even attempt to reproduce one of his sentences. It was really fun.

Had a nice lunch with my son as usual for Wednesdays, then took my daughter shopping for some clothing necessities. The way these kids keep growing... Since I don't like shopping and want to spend as little time as possible doing it, I tend to ask for help from the Guy who knows where everything is - and He granted us the favor and success I pleaded for on the way out there. But I wanted to use these special certificates (UBS Keyclub points) we'd gotten from our Swiss credit card company as rewards for using their card. I had 60CHF worth of them, valid only at certain stores. We found some needed items at one such store (Manor), and I was so pleased that the goods added up to only 60 centimes (like pennies) less than 60 Francs. Perfect, right? Except the store would not take the certificates to pay for an amount less than they were worth, since they could not give us change. I said they could keep the change, but they said the computer would not accept that. I asked if they sold anything for 60 centimes. They said maybe a pencil, downstairs? So we trooped downstairs and looked for something really cheap. We spotted a pen on sale for 1CHF. But then, even better, we found some Tippex (white-out correction fluid), that Emily actually wanted for schoolwork. 2.80CHF, but more worth it. Back upstairs, and we finally made our "purchase."

I have more to tell you, but it's way past time for bed. See you tomorrow, I hope!

January 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 26, 2010

Shoveling needs to come BEFORE showering

A first today: when I was done shoveling snow off of the driveway and the part of the road that they don't plow, the driveway needed shoveling again already. When I had done a second round, the driveway got a third perfunctory clean-up, then it looked okay. Unfortunately, I was all showered and dressed for the day before I started all this...and then needed to start all over again with that. New clothes. Shoveling is so exothermic!

This morning Emily said that her favorite thing about living in Switzerland is all the snow we get! Our lawn has been covered with snow since January 2nd, uninterrupted. That's 24 days straight so far. Today's snowfall bodes well for this weekend's ski possibilities - except that Jason will probably have play practice for the high school musical on Saturday, 10-2. That pretty much kills any trips to the mountains during ski lift hours.

Off to a meeting with the high school's university counselor, then lunch with a friend, then prayer for my daughter's school with other moms, then pick up Emily, then pick up Jason, take Emily to drama, pick her up, make dinner...the rest of the day is quite full!

January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)