Zatera Ul


Filed under: Christianity, Foofy, General, Parenthood, Projects — April 15, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

A pile of things that I’ve wanted to blog about:

I used some of my Christmas money to buy a print of one Van Gogh’s Trees and Undergrowth paintings from 1887. We don’t have much art on our walls yet; it’s our most neglected area of decorating. Over time, I am appreciating the print more and more. It looks better in lower light; it was painted before electric lighting was invented. Van Gogh managed to capture all of the different colors and textures with just blocky brushstrokes.


I’ve been very busy recently, but one thing I’ve been wanting to do is to create a few stencil designs. Like many people, I “can’t draw”, so it was hard to get started. If it’s any help, this is what I did: I picked a genre (flowers and foliage). With a marker on plain paper, I drew some petal, leaf, and stem outlines. I picked the ones that looked best, cut them out, and then used them as templates to trace more iterations. After playing around a little, I came to a more specific theme (flowers and foliage in the wind), and started assembling new shapes, and then doing some freehand drawing. At the end, I had a pile of designs that are much better than I thought I could draw.

As a graduate student, I once read through a book on scientific illustration, so I know that “real” artists usually don’t dash off a finished picture on the first sitting. A lot of working sketches and studies and practice comes first.

Another technique I use when I have trouble getting started drawing is pointillism: I can draw a dot in a fairly precise location, and then I can tell where the next dot should go.


I recently read Tapestry, by Edith Schaeffer, a biography of her and her husband Francis. I don’t always enjoy reading biography or history, but it was a lively book. I think the following quote came from there:

Evangelism that does not lead to purity of life, and purity of doctrine, is just as faulty and incomplete as an orthodoxy which does not lead to a concern for, and communication with, the lost.

– Francis Schaeffer

I’m inclined now to view a few other Christian controversies in the same way: both sides are partially right, but also incomplete.


I looked at some of the Common Core standards. The ones that seem most puzzling to parents are about the mathematical method of decomposing numbers before doing operations on them. I actually use this technique a lot, but it’s just a trick that I use for my own convenience, and it rests on a solid foundation of good old-fashioned arithmetic, supplemented by a sort of intuition based on long experience. I’m not convinced that it is a very easy or useful technique to teach to younger elementary students.


We just started our spring homeschool term, which is marked by the last of the snow melting, and which includes going nearly TV-free.


There are a number of bloggers in my past and present church congregations, so I thought I’d make a list; these are just the ones that I know of:

More Bob
And, of course, John.

Setting the foundation into place

Filed under: Christianity, General, Pregnancy — April 1, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

I don’t get out to sales very often these days, but a while back I went to an estate sale, with a short “shopping list” of useful items I was looking for (which are more likely to be found at estate sales than regular yard sales). But at this sale, 95% of the items for sale were Trademarked Collectibles, of various flavors. Room after room after room of them. This couple had spent decades buying one little over-priced “limited edition” piece after another to build multiple collections. Now they had to let it all go, their children certainly didn’t want any of it, and it didn’t look like very many other people did, either.

Then today I stumbled on these posts, in particular this one:

As Boomers supplemented or replaced evangelism with marketing, we grew organizations that were marked by responsiveness to the felt needs of our target market. This worked as long as the target market was us.

My generation has a lot of work ahead of it. Shovel work, to start with, to get down through the crap back to the Cornerstone, Jesus. Taking Titus 2 seriously, for another (and it doesn’t require a program or a titled position in the church).

And then there’s March

Filed under: Foofy, General, Parenthood, Projects, The Naturally Frugal Baby — March 23, 2014 @ 8:09 pm

This month started off with family stomach flu fun, and tendonitis, the latter of which I am still dealing with–which limits my standing or walking, but I have to say that it’s good to have minions. Even StrongBoy has been doing a lot of helpful fetching and table-clearing and dishwasher-unloading. A tip I picked up from older mothers: Give the task to the youngest child that can do it.

I’ve been reading a lot of Catherine Marshall, and doing some spring cleaning of the soul, but there’s so much meat in her stuff that it’s taking me a while to chew through it all.

I sorted the baby clothes–we used to have a large dresser with enough drawers to basically keep one size in each drawer, but we left it behind in the move. Even then, the clothes tended to get mixed up, because some things were outgrown more quickly than others. My new system is to pick a couple of memorable garments in each size, and to stuff the rest of the clothes of that size into them.

I found some stained and worn baby clothes to cull out, and since I wanted to try making a hexagonal quilt, I chose some of them for that. The paper piecing method, when you hold the right sides of two hexagons together to hand-sew a seam, does have the virtue of making your stitches seem much smaller and more even than they actually are.

Goodbye February

Filed under: Foofy, General, Parenthood, Projects — March 1, 2014 @ 9:57 am

February is my least favorite month of the year, even worse than August. I’m very happy to see this last one over and done: cabin fever, medical bills, some seasonal depression, social drama that unearthed a variety of older hurts, and on top of that all the fun of trying to get a baby to nap in a small house with three other active children.

But the couch is more or less done. I still need to find a cushion for it, right now we are making do with the old couch cushions. I am waiting for warmer weather and better ventilation before I apply any finish to it.

I took the couch fabric and made a slipcover for the chair, which was a one-day project because I didn’t disassemble the fiddly parts on the arms when I took the fabric off the couch. That should carry us through the last of the potty training, and then I’ll probably reupholster it.

The tax preparation is coming along well, although I’m waiting on MFH for a few numbers.

TLG has been painstakingly cutting pictures out of his workbooks to play with. OLC has been drawing graphs to show her progress toward her savings goals. StrongBoy continues to be an enthusiastic big brother to TBM. TBM will play well by himself for a while, but then he gets bored and starts agitating for more Excitement and Adventure.

Shovelling the elephant

Filed under: Christianity, Foofy, General, Projects — February 21, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

Several inches of wet, heavy snow yesterday, then several more inches of blowing and drifting snow today. We still have places to put the snow, but we’re running out of easy places. It’s starting to look like God brought the U.P. to me this year.

What God has been saying lately: There is more than one way to build up savings, besides piling up money. There is more than one way to give, besides giving money. And there is more than one way to receive, besides going out and buying it with money.

So it seemed like a good time to start making yogurt again. (”If we’re going to be poor, let’s be poor in style.”) The hard part is keeping it at approximately the right temperature (108 degrees) for long enough to culture (8 hours or so). What I’ve been doing is heating a stock pot of water to 120 degrees, putting the quart jar of milk and yogurt starter in, and putting them both in the oven with a thermometer. Then I can warm the oven a little if it needs it, or leave the oven light on.

I also froze a batch of yogurt starters from store-bought plain yogurt, by putting spoonfuls into a muffin tin. After they were frozen, I moved them to a plastic bag.

The couch is nearly complete, but it will be a few more days before I can finish it.

Onward and upward

Filed under: Foofy, General, Parenthood, Projects — February 12, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

I made the happy discovery yesterday that I could whittle the 29/64 inch pegs from the old couch down to 27/64–which I have a drill bit for–and re-use them

I’m at the postpartum stage where half of my clothes are too big, and the other half are still far too small. I’ve actually taken the seams in on a few things, and I cut down and re-sewed a couple of shirts. Also, weeks ago, I whipped out a few pairs of baby pants. I’ve been drooling over the Alabama Chanin site, but after the couch is done I’ll be busy with tax preparation.

TBM is barely eight months old, and just learned how to climb up the stairs. The problem is that he learned it so fast that he didn’t learn how to climb down safely. So the baby gate is going up for a while.

I am not making this up

Filed under: General, Parenthood, Pregnancy, The Naturally Frugal Baby — February 5, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

My contribution to My OB Said WHAT?!? came up more quickly than I expected; it (and the rest of my story in the comments) can be found here.

Bonus tidbit: one of the other NICU nurses said, “In thirty years of nursing, I’ve never seen a case of nipple confusion.” I suppose in a strict sense that that was true, but our baby certainly came out of there with a strong and unconfused case of nipple preference for the bottle, which nearly destroyed our chances for success at breastfeeding. The NICU didn’t follow up after discharge, so they never saw the after-effects of their practices.


Filed under: Foofy, General, Projects, The Naturally Frugal Baby — January 30, 2014 @ 8:51 am

After pulling several hundred staples and a few tack strips, I reduced the couch to a pile of lumber, a pile of fabric, and a few odds and ends. Now I am starting to rebuild, which is going very slowly because of the weather: if it’s warmer, it’s snowing, so I spend much of TBM’s nap times shoveling. If it’s colder, the dishwasher drain freezes, and I am washing dishes by hand.

A couple of places online I have seen homemakers gushing about getting Evernote for their smartphones and going entirely paperless. I will not be one of them, especially for things I’m going to want to have around in 10 or 20 or 40 years. I’ve seen too much technology come and go, and how difficult it is to keep heterogeneous old data accessible and usable. I’ve hammered out a paper handling system that works well enough, there are maybe a dozen parts to it, but they are very simple parts.

I also see that the days of perpetual surveillance via “smart” appliances are just about upon us (when your garbage can will rat on you for not eating your federally-mandated ration of plain lentils), and I prefer not to share my grocery lists with the NSA.

Food security

Filed under: General, The Naturally Frugal Baby — January 21, 2014 @ 5:28 pm

You are going to have to eat more or less every day for the rest of your life, so you might as well know how to cook. Cooking from scratch is one of our core strategies for making my time at home affordable. These days I find convenience foods very expensive (might as well eat steak), slow to shop for (too many choices), slow and complicated to prepare (the directions for each variety are a little different), and just not very filling. Here are a couple of posts about basic frugal cooking: Cooking From Scratch, Food Stamp Challenge (cooking on a restricted budget that is comparable to our everyday food budget). Milehimama has also done several food stamp challenges for her large family.


Filed under: Christianity, Feminism, Foofy, General, Parenthood, Projects, The Naturally Frugal Baby — January 14, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

The biggest challenge of having four children is remembering my to-do items long enough to write them down on my list.

The dishwasher fixed itself after a day or so; apparently the drain froze in the extreme cold. There is a definite draft under the kitchen cabinets, and when I looked underneath with a flashlight, I understood why. I’ve made a note for my Future Home file: Don’t build the kitchen this way. (”Learn from mistakes. Preferably other people’s mistakes.”)

I have been reading a lot of Penelope Trunk lately; she has many good insights sprinkled amidst the crazy: Live near water. Not everyone is cut out for a career. (None of the aptitude tests I’ve taken ever said anything about the possibility of being a SAHM.) Don’t use daycare. Homeschool. Compare yourself to losers. (I had a hard time thinking of any losers, but eventually found a few, Casey Serin being the most notable.) Everyone has to make huge tradeoffs to get what they want the most. There is more than one story that you can tell from a set of facts. (Penelope is a genius at reframing.)

Also I’ve been reading some Christian women, outside of my own generation. The older women have good insights and encouragement, but also a lot of “teacup rearranging”, which I have no patience for at the moment. The younger women (or, “those kids”; I am feeling my grandma years approaching) are working out the tradeoffs for their own lives, while I’ve already made most of mine. They sometimes emphasize orthothymia (having the right feelings) at the expense of orthodoxy, which bothers me. But then, I’m an I-Something-T-J, so I would think that.

Penelope Trunk is very much into understanding the Myers-Briggs types, so that is another thing I’ve been thinking about, especially in the context of the Church. E versus I and T versus F, mostly, but P versus J and S versus N as well. And what happens when a community is too heavy in one attribute or another.

Finally, I started pulling the couch apart. So far it is all staples and tack strips; tedious rather than difficult. I think I am going to heavily remodel it, rather than start over from scratch.