Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wow - Idaho!

On those days when I am bemoaning the state of the political climate in Wisconsin (which hopefully is moving back toward being progressive), all I have to do is look towards Idaho to get some perspective.

A friend on an email list who lives in Idaho shared a news story with us that still leaves my jaw hanging down. This week a committee in one of their state houses killed a measure to enstate minimum safety requirements for daycares. Why, might one ask, would anyone not want to see even minimal standards for the places where thousands of little kids spend their days? Well, several members of the committee felt very strongly that mothers should be home with their chldren and that no child should ever have to go to a daycare. Because their belief in the premise of "the woman's place is in the home" was so strong, they killed legislation to create minimum safety standards for daycares!!

Now usually I work in my life to extent curiosity - to set my judgments aside until I learn more - well, its a little hard to do here as it seems to me a leap of logic that spans the width of the Grand Canyon was made here.

Hmm, if we have substandard daycare, goes the logic, than moms won't want to send their kids and they'll stay home with them and we'll fulfill our "American dream" of the little woman at home with the kids.

I'm quite sure that will work wonderfully for
*single moms who have to work to house, clothe and feed their children - if they stayed "home" with them, home could end up being a homeless shelter.

*two working parents trying to make ends meet.

*women who know they parent better when other parts of their lives are fulfilled too.

There's nothing classist or sexist in this decision is there?

My "favorite" quote from the article was from a Representative who said that he felt children who weren't home with their mothers all day would be harmed by the experience of the separation. Sure, the kids in daycares might be harmed - not from the experience of being away from mom during the day - rather from the potentially hazardous conditions in the daycare.


Monday, February 26, 2007

What To Do with 18 Inches of Snow

Measure it!
Rowan and Gemma measured snow fall amounts in three places in the yard Sunday afternoon and got an average of 18 inches of snow fall. Our official city total was 15 inches. It wasn't that light, fluffy "story-book" snow - it was wet and heavy. Sunday afternoon's snow came in the form of wet glops that plopped onto our heads!

Sled in it!

Build with it!
This stuff was awesome packing snow - great for making snow caves - here's Gemma with her feet sticking out of a snow cave the girls built.
Shovel it!
It took us about two hours on Saturday morning and nearly 3 on Sunday to shovel. Jani forged a path off the driveway to our garbage cans and recycling bin.
And shovel some more!!
Don't ya' just love the mound of hard pack that the snow plow leaves at the end of the driveway! Impressive pile of snow that Rowan is standing on, wouldn't you say?

Figure out where to put it all!!
Jani is six feet tall, so that gives some sense of how tall our snow piles are. We are due to get more on Thursday. I don't know where to put more!!

And have gratitude for one's situation!!
I'm glad to say this is NOT our car!! There were several plowed in like this on our street. Our college-aged neighbors, snow shovel-less, borrowed our shovels to dig themselves out. They had no shovels. One wonders how you can manage to live in Wisconsin in the winter without a shovel!! Borrow one form your neighbors I guess! Anyway, they did finish shoveling the snow pack at the end of our driveway as a "thank-you" for the shovel loan which was great!!

And celebrate Gemma's Half Birthday!
On Saturday Gemma turned 5.5! We celebrated with her favorite meal - pasta! The table decor is her design - a Halloween tablecloth of black with glittering spider webs, candles, our fancy flatware and her Fiestaware tea service that matches our Fiestaware dishes.
At 5.5, she has lost two teeth (both on the bottom), just brought home a great report card from kindergarten and had a blast playing in all of the snow with her sissy.
Many gratitudes!
While some complained about our big snow fall, I had lots to be grateful for-
*A nice warm home to come to after our shoveling and play time - I got in lots of knitting this weekend!!
*The laughter of kids having a BLAST in all that snow!!
*A healthy body to be able to shovel it all.
*A strong partner to help.
*Above average winter snow fall to help restore our water table, so our mother earth can be beautiful and green in the spring and summer.
*The knowledge that it is late February and Spring Equinox will be upon us before we know it!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Crafty Weekend

Despite the dead car battery, leaking pipes and illnesses of the weekend, we had a lot of fun really delving into craft projects.

I finished Jani's cowl/burka. I have yet to get a picture of her in it. Now one of her co-workers wants one - not before I experiment with cabling and make a doll afghan for the girls from some leftover yarn and an Irish Hiking Scarf for a friend.

We also opened the Valentine's Day project assembly line. This year's project - making new crayons from old, forming them into heart shapes. Each girl then cut out paper hearts, put the name of the recipient and her name on each heart and affixed a new crayon to each to gift to school friends and others. All told, we cranked out 100 of these critters this weekend.

Here's a shot of two of them - from the first batch. They are so cute and they color just awesomely - a rainbow in one swipe of the crayon.

Here's one step of the process - after we'd de-labeled the crayons, we broke them into smaller pieces and divided them into like-colored families. We then filled the heart-shaped muffin tins with a combination of colors we thought would look neat together and put them in a low temp oven to melt.

This is Gemma busy at work, putting her friends' names on the paper hearts with the crayon heart attached with tape to the paper.

And Rowan pulled out her new (a Solstice gift) potter's wheel and decided to try throwing a few pots amongst the crayon project. Yes, we managed to keep the wet clay out of the crayons - a melted wax and clay mixture could have been down-right nasty!!

Gemma has taken to authoring many stories lately - she loves her new found skill of managing letter sounds and putting them together into words. She chose to work in the living room to avoid getting clay and wax on her book and is authoring a story about her stuffed animal bat, Batty - appropriately named - discovering gold.

After all was said and done - we'd craft ourselves into a stupor, so enjoyed a snuggly evening on the couch watching the movie, Grease. Yes, Grease! We got into the TV show, "You're the One that I Want" and realized the girls had never seen the movie.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What Do You Get When...

There have been nearly two weeks of bitter cold temperatures (some days the mercury failed to make it above zero even in the "heat" of the day)?

You get -
*frozen pipes that display their new "holes" when the weather warms a bit and things begin to thaw out.
*dead car batteries.
*illnesses galore from dealing with the temperature extremes.

Yes, we have experienced ALL of the above this weekend!

Friday night, I just about jumped for joy when I could run the dishwasher for the first time in two weeks - the line from the kitchen pipes to the dishwasher had frozen days before. In the back of my mind was that voice that said "hm, after two weeks of being frozen, I wonder..." Well, Saturday morning, there was no wondering as we awoke to a puddle in the kitchen and a slow drip-drop sound in the basement - we seem to have a leak despite reinsulating the pipes a couple of summers ago and tending to them whent he weather started getting cold. So, since we aren't flooded (yet) we aren't on the emergency list for the plumber when I called on Saturday - we should be seen today - I'm awaiting the doorbell's ringing tones as I write.

Saturday monring we awoke to temperatures above zero - first time in a long time to not see a negative number of the thermometer. However, the car battery didn't care. As we headed out the door to pick up another child, take Gemma and the little guest to gymnastics and drop Rowan off at a birthday party, we could progress no further than the sad clicking sound of the van attempting to turn over with no juice in the battery. So a visit from AAA got the van running enough to get it to the garage for a new battery. I ran Rowan on foot up the street to converge with two other families whose kids were also going to the birthday party and who were also walking since they too were carless for the day. So Rowan got a 13 block walk in to get to the birthday party. Thankfully we had wheels again by the time the party ended, so took all the kids home to parents who were thrilled not to have to walk the journey in reverse. Sadly, we couldn't pull off getting Gemma to gymnastics.

Now for the germs - ah yes, strep and croup seem to be the bugs of choice for our family. Rowan had strep - it was one of the many "freebies" she got at a recent Girl Scout sleepover involving 45 girls with more than 50% of them all getting sick post-slumber party. Then it was Gemma's turn - she's been barking like a seal and spiking a fever one minute and having normal temps the next - sure sounded like croup to our ears - doctor confirmed it yesterday during a trip to acute care. Gemma tried school today, but the infamous call from the school nurse came through when her fever shot up this morning. Now she's a couch resident as I type. I'm on my way into the clinic for a throat culture later this afternoon as my throat feels like I swallowed fire. My trip to the clinic comes after Jani's trip to the dentist for a crown on a broken tooth.

Ah, the joys!

Plus, just think about how much $$$ we got the "opportunity" to spend in the last few days -

car battery + plumber visit + tooth crown + meds = $$$ - fun, fun!!

Oh well, the "goodies" of the cold have been -
*time to hang out together at home, playing board games, reading, watching fun movies and knitting (for me).
*and we have gotten lots of time to enjoy our new living room furniture since we've been camped out in that room of the house.

A little silver lining!

Gotta run - the princess patient beckons!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Breaking News from the Koester-Jess Home

dateline - Jenifer Street
Gemma Rose has lost her first tooth at just a couple weeks shy of 5.5 years.

She first announced that the tooth was loose in mid-November and the dentist confirmed it during a check-up a week later.

We all started predicting when it would come out. She, of course, anticipated it would be out in just a couple of days. Rowan, Jani and I - all more experienced in the tooth-loss arena, cautioned that it might take a bit longer. But the three of us all predicted it was likely to be out within the month.
Would she lose it by Solstice - a new tooth for the Sun's birthday? Nope, the tooth was not yet ready to depart its first home.
As the days neared for us to leave for Florida, the tooth was still in place - getting ever so much more wiggly.
Maybe she'd lose it at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Will the tooth fairy find her there? Yes, the tooth fairy is wonderfully smart.
Nope, no tooth loss at Grandma and Grandpa's. Will she lose her tooth at Disney World? Maybe - yes the toothe fairy will find our hotel.
Nope, no tooth loss in the Magic Kingdom, so not all dreams come true there.
Great concern had now developed in the mind of this small girl - will her tooth "ever" fall out?
Rowan, the big sister in the know, told her that perhaps the tooth fairy was behind in her work after the holidays and perhaps put a spell on the tooth to hold it in place until she'd caught up on her work. This sounded quite reasonable to Gemma, given that Rowan's tooth loss resume certainly is far more extensive than her own.
Yesterday, the small girl appeared in front of me complaining that her tooth really hurt and was bleeding. Hm, could this be the moment of truth? Let me see, could I just give it a little twist? Oh no, off she ran, back upstairs to stare into the mirror somemore at her mouth. A few miinutes later she marched back into the living room, very excited and holding a tiny bit of calcium in her hand - the tooth was out!!! She's attempted to brush it and popped it right out. Her immediate declaration that the tooth fairy must have lifted the spell!!
Now, a new concern was voiced. Was it too cold for the tooth fairy to fly? No, we reassured her, it will be fine. How do we know? Hm, good question, should we google it? No, email her mom. Ok, let's see. We've discussed before that there are multiple tooth fairies, because its too great of a job to handle singly and that our area's tooth fairy has a name (Jenny, Jessie was her predessor) who is the Jenifer Street Tooth Fairy. Surely her business email address "must" be So we sent off a cyber connection to asking if she could make a switft reply.
Thankfully, Mama J checked email at bedtime and got a reply from Jenny's secretary, saying Jenny had already left to start her route and would be at our house as soon as Gemma went to sleep. Never in the nearly 5.5 years that this child has been on this earth have we seen her go to sleep so fast!!! (Too bad she doesn't lose a tooth every day!!).
She awoke at 1:05 AM, yes you've read that correctly, to check her pillow. Us mamas were all snuggled in with cats all around us when an excited voice penetrated the quiet stillness of the sleeping house to announce that Jenny had come and left her a whole dollar and a letter. The letter said that Jenny was so excited she'd finally lost the tooth, yes she could fly in any weather and just had to beat her wings faster to stay warm. The letter was sealed with love and fairy kisses.

Another Knitting Project Complete

I finished it last night and got to wear it to my first meeting of the day this morning. We're experiencing warmer weather today (only -4 right now) so I am back to my usual winter dress of a warm shirt, my fleece vest, a cowl and gloves.
I altered the pattern pretty significantly to give it more shape, rather than just a large tube and am very pleased with my alterations. The yarn is so snuggly - its a chenille, so soft and not at all itchy and warm!! Next its on to working on one for Jani using these new alterations.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My Knitting Portfolio

Last night I photographed and uploaded pictures of my knitting projects to share with friends on an on-line knitting list. I thought I'd share them here. The things pictured are the projects I've made since Thanksgiving. I've also done ponchos for the girls, but don't have them photographed as they are in the "spring/fall coat" storage box right now.

Here is a scarf and headband set I made in a couple of evenings for a friend's birthday. The pieces are done in a novelty yarn called Lion Boucle and the color is Wild Berry.

This is a cowl/hood thing that I made for Jani's Solstice gift. It's kind of neat - its a round scarf, done on circular needles. You can pull up the back of the cowl scarf to form a hood for colder weather. This one is made with a novelty yarn - Lion Boucle. It's too wide for Jani's liking, so I am modifying the pattern and shaping it a bit more and will make her another one in a chenille yarn. Rowan has laid claim to the cowl once Jani's new one is done and I've been wearing it to test it out and figure out how to modify the pattern. Jani's sister Sue wants one done in this same yarn and I've already made one for Jani's mom in a teal chenille yarn. I have a cowl/hood for myself still on my needles - hope to finish it today so I can wear it!! I've shaped the piece more than the instructions called for and am using a different stitch pattern, so we'll see how ti turns out - so far it looks great. Mine is done in a brown chenille with flecks of color.

Here's a hat I made for Rowan. I also made a second one for our 12 year old niece, Marissa. It's done in a rib stitch and then a stocknetter and then seamed. I made it using "Rowan" yarn which Rowan loved!! If I make more of these, I will do them on circular needles to reduce the number of seams.

Gemma's hat was also made with Rowan yarn too. I also made a second of these for another niece, Alyssa who is soon to be six. This one is all done in garter stitch with a gather at the top to "poof" it out and a chain stitched tie.

Projects on deck-

*another cowl for our friend, Marsha.

*Fiber Trends felted clogs - for something new to try!

*new afghans for the backs of our new couches (couches are sage green microfiber - they get delivered Wednesday!!)

*a few baby afghans to donate to St. Mary's NICU - since Gemma was a resident there and we appreciated how homely they attempt to make it - complete with little knitted things - I wanted to make a couple of blankets to donate.

Cold Day Experiment #2

If you put two bowls of water outside which we freeze faster at -13 degrees F? One bowl is made of metal, the other of plastic. The plastic bowl has a wider diameter than the metal bowl with more surface area exposed to the cold.

Rowan's prediction - the water in the metal bowl will freeze faster, because metal is a better conductor of heat/cold than plastic.

My prediction - they will freeze at about the same rate, because the larger surface area of the plastic bowl will equalize freezing time with the conductivity of the metal bowl.

After 15 minutes of the bowls being outside on our front porch, each bowl has about equal thickness of skim ice.

At one hour, both bowls are nearly frozen - starting at the top first and then the sides with open pools of water in the middle. However, the open pool in the metal bowl appears smaller than the one in the plastic bowl.

Our two hour mark will be here in 1/2 an hour, so we'll see what the bowls look like then. So far they seem to be freezing at a pretty similar rate.

How Cold Is It?

Cold enough to freeze boiling water drop-lets in mid-air!!!

When we woke up for school/work at 6:00 this morning, it was -16 degrees with a windchill of -38 degrees!! Yes, that's darn cold!!

As we watched the school closings scroll across the bottom of the TV screen, one of the station's meteorologists walked outside, threw a cup of boiling water into the air and filmed the result - water droplets freezing in mid-air and hitting the ground as ice crystals.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity for a science experiment, I ran downstairs to put the kettle on for hot water. A few minutes later, we headed out to conduct our own experiment.
With me as the water tosser-
Rowan is the outdoor observer and Gemma as indoor observer-
And Jani as photographer-
We too were able to toss boiling water into the air and watch it freeze in mid-air and hit the ground as ice.
And - it was also cold enough to freeze over our antique windows. The girls are loving the chance to carve designs into the frost - it brings back memories of reading "Little House in the Big Woods" with their frosted over windows. The other windows in the house have been replaced with energy-efficient ones, but we kept two of the anitque decorative ones.
Also, two major miracles today -
1. The Madison Metro School District actually CLOSED school today - this is a major feat as we typically don't close, even when all the districts surrounding us are closed.
2. Our kitchen water pipes DID NOT FREEZE!! I was able to fill the tea kettle with water from the kitchen sink. In years past, before we had the pipes all re-insultated, we could expect our kitchen pipes to freeze over on a night like we had last night - even if we left the heat up and opened up cupboards. So I was thrilled to having running water this morning and not need to head to the basement with a blow dry to defrost pipes. Now the dishwasher is another story - the connection line between it and the sink has been frozen for a few days, so we have to do things the old fashioned way - wash by hand - not a bad feeling though since the hot water warms the hands nicely.
It's now 7:49 AM and we've warmed up to -13 degrees!!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Blessings to All at Imbolic

When most of us in our mondern, Western world, think of February 2, images of ground hogs often come to mind. We think of the old legend that if the ground hog comes out of its burrow today and sees it's shadow, it will be startled and retreat to it's burrow for an additional six weeks of winter. Well, it really makes little difference if the little guys see their shadows today or not (other than being a fun thing to note), because we are at the height of winter and it will be six weeks until Spring Equinox (the first day of spring) shadow or no shadow.

My ancestors throughout Europe, especially those in the north, honored this day - the half way point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox as sacred with the Celts calling it Imbolic.

At Imbolic, like all the nature based sabbats, it is a time to honor the natural world and appreciate her changes. I have been very aware of the changes in our sunshine. At Winter Solstice, when the sun is being born a-new, it hangs low in the southern sky and its light is weak, even at mid-day. Each day over the last weeks, I've noticed our daylight returning later into the afternoon and the sun shines with great strength. Despite our bitter cold today, the sun is shining in all of his glory on our beautiful white snow that sparkles under the sun's kiss.

I am grateful for the bitter cold of the day, for it truly feels like winter with our blanket of snow and near zero temperatures. I hope it will serve as a reminder to many of the precious gifts of winter and how these could lost as our world climate continues to change.

Candles and fire were blessed at this time of year - as they brought light and heat into dark homes and were needed to sustain life. It is wonderous to light a candle and watch its flame dance and ponder what are the "lights" and fires in our own lives that we want to tend and bless on this Imbolic.

Young children were honored at Imbolic for they represent the continuation of all life and they hold the promise of spring. The goddess herself is in her maiden form at this time of year, waiting the bright blooms of spring and baby animals. Our two maidens of our home made "maiden muffins" for our family last night to feast on at breakfast time to bring us time to ponder all the wonders that young children bring into our lives.

And - how cool is this - the moon if full today. So not only do we get the bright, ever-stronger growing sunshine in the day, we get the glow of the moon, reflecting off of our snow and making the world a wonder of bright light mixed with dark blue shadows. As we returned from our women's group last night, I was moved by the night beauty of the season. I was very moved by the metaphor of light and shadow interplaying through the snow and moon.

So warm blessings to all who read this today in the days to come. If you wish, take a moment to ponder the wisdom of the season, learn about Brigid, the goddess of fire and metal crafts who is a guiding teacher at this time and enjoy the beauty of our Earth, cimmitting to care for her in all seasons as the Wheel of the Year keeps turning.

Blessed Be!