Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sound and Silence

"Music consists of sound and silence."
A musician spoke those words to me many years ago. Little did he know how profoundly he'd impact my way of thinking about life in general. The words seem so simple, but they apply to so much.

The sound part is easy to get. We all hear the melodies, the harmonies. It's kind of hard to miss noise. Silence, though, is a little trickier. It's the full, quiet space that blooms around the notes.

Silence is what defines sound. It provides those necessary breaks that create rhythm and texture, tension and release. It provides rest, time to breathe. Without it, sound is reduced to relentless, unending droning.

I share a chatty (and maybe slightly narcissistic) tendency that I find common among writers. (Can I consider myself a writer just because I have a blog?) We seem to love stringing words together. Because everyone wants to read them. Because what we have to say is important. [Obviously. ;-) ]

Sometimes, though, it makes more sense to take a break. To be quiet and let the voice of another fill the space that we've been taking up. To simply listen and let something grow out of the silence.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop in My Sink

I've been antsy all morning, eagerly anticipating my plumber's arrival ever since my pump quit working yesterday morning. Except for camping maybe, I've never been without water for so long.

I know I sound kind of whiny. There are women in this world who trek for miles, pitchers of water on their heads, to bring water from a well to their homes. Water is a precious and necessary commodity, and they're willing to hazard being raped, beaten, and murdered to get it.

By comparison, I've been blessed with store-bought gallons, a health club membership (for showers), a year-round stream in my backyard (for toilets), and hospitably generous neighbors. For me, a lack of running water indoors is only an inconvenience.  Still... I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I really, really, really like having indoor plumbing that brings water out of the ground straight to my tap on demand.

I can't even list all the ways I use water (rather extravagantly) throughout the course of my day. We drink it and cook with it. We use it for brushing our teeth, cleaning scraped knees, showering, flushing. I wipe counters, launder clothes, mop floors, clean dishes. We pour it on our houseplants, fill vases for cut flowers. The kids dash through the sprinkler and splash in pools for fun. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Currently, every time I wash my hands (which is quite a lot), I feel the precious liquid slipping through my fingers down the drain. Silently, I wish for a water-conserving suit like the desert people in Dune wear because at the moment, every activity from eating to playing is structured to save moisture.

In my obsessive thinking about water today, two passages came to mind -- one from John 4 and the other from John 7
Jesus answered and said to her [a Samaritan woman], “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.... whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

In my arid state of affairs, those verses sound glorious to me. I'm basking in the thought of water that springs up and rushes out, unchecked. Water that I don't have to fetch and carry. Everlasting water that doesn't run dry. Water that can't be seized or stolen. Water for all my needs -- for thirst, for cleansing, for pleasure. Refreshing, satiating water.

Bushkill Falls, PA

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Acid Test

With the boys home for summer vacation, we've been doing science projects nearly every day. Last night, we had a great time making an acid/base indicator from red cabbage juice. (So technically, this post should be titled "The Ph Test, but...)

The project I'm going to share with you today is super simple. So if your kids are itching for something to do, you might try it.

Directions for Making Red Cabbage Juice Indicator

Take 1/4 head of red cabbage and chop it up. Put the cabbage in a blender and add enough water to cover the cabbage. Puree the cabbage, and then strain it through a sieve. Save the juice. You can toss the pulp into your compost bin if you have one.

That's it! Now for the fun part!

What to Do with the Indicator?

Red cabbage juice contains anthocyanins (that's what gives it its color), which are sensitive to the presence of acids and bases. Acids turn the anthocyanins pink/red. Bases turn them blue/green. The anthocyanins stay purple in neutral solutions.

Once you have your cabbage juice indicator, your kids can pour about 1/4 cup of it into a number of glasses or jars. Then they can try adding small amounts of various substances to the indicator to see if it changes color. What you test is completely up to you. Some suggestions:
  • Soda pop
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Ammonia (WARNING: This is spectacular, but please, use ammonia in a well-ventilated area with adult supervision.)
  • Various juices
  • Milk
  • Wine
  • Seltzer
  • Antacids (Guess what color that will turn?! ;-)
  • Cream of tartar
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Washing soda
If you measure your indicator and additions carefully (instead of dumping them in willy-nilly like we did), you can compare and contrast the color in the different glasses to see which of the additions were more acidic/basic than other.

Also, once you figure out which substances are acidic and which are basic, you might even try adding an acid to your red cabbage indicator, then a base, and then another acid for a real color-changing show!

Making Your Own Litmus Paper

For additional portability, you can make your own litmus paper by soaking a coffee filter in the red cabbage juice until it takes on a nice purple color. Then remove the filter from the juice and set it aside to dry flat. Once it's dry, cut it into strips. Now all your kids have to do it is dunk the strips for a second and then wait a few more seconds to see if the color changes. 

If you try this, I hope you have a great time! Who knows, your kids may fist pump and exclaim (as my five-year-old did), "Yeeesssss! We have a cabbage for science!"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mattel's Nightmare

Where the kids are concerned, I like the punishment to fit the crime. This is why, as of last week, I've begun tossing their toys into a garbage bag when I find them all over the house. The rationale? If they treat their things like garbage, so will I.

They got fair warning. Now they know that before going to bed, they need to put their stuff away or else it gets chucked into the bag. If they want to redeem an item, they have to do a chore. Not one of their regular ones -- one of mine. (Naturally, I'm spending my time doing tasks they're supposed to do, so they have to do something I would normally do.)

So how well is the new system working? I've gotten mixed results. There were a few one-trial items like DS's and wallets that are better cared for now. I've also discovered a few Nerf toys that keep winding up in the bag, but it seems the kids will do anything to get them back. I like these toys because that means my windows are just a little cleaner.

On the other hand, after 5 days, the bag is fairly crammed with stuff that the boys have no interest in retrieving. They can't even be bothered with watering the plants -- a job they normally volunteer for without any additional incentive.

Compared to a lot of kids I know, mine have a very moderate number of toys. However, based on their disregard for many of their possessions, it appears that even they have way too much. As for myself, I think this experience has reinforced something that I have suspected all along -- the best and worst types of toys (for us anyway).

Our Best Toys:
  • Sports equipment and outdoor toys that I don't have to spend a lot of time picking up
  • Games and activities that we do together as a family -- e.g., crafts, paints, science projects, and board games (BTW, this really involves giving the kids time, and what gift could be better, right?!)
  • Toys that the kids have purchased with their own money because they are more inclined to take care of them
Our Worst Toys:
  • Just about anything that you see an ad for on TV. The kids think they want them, but after a couple of plays, they're just not interested anymore.
  • Almost everything they've gotten from generous and well-intentioned friends at a birthday party or Christmas. The cars, figurines, and gimmicky toys all seem to end up in a closet or toy chest, never to see the light of day.
Lest anyone should think my kids are getting
shafted regarding their share of childhood
presents, this is a photo of all the stuff
they got from friends and relatives
last Christmas.
In the past, I've attempted to convince my husband that Baby Jesus only got three birthday/Christmas presents, and He turned out OK. If that worked for Him, it should be good enough for our kids. Of course, as parents, we enjoy showering our children with nice things, but now that I'm armed with a bag of hard evidence, I think it will be easier to adopt the attititude that less is truly more in the future.

Instead of lots of gifts that my kids neither truly want nor truly appreciate, I'd like to focus on the thoughtfulness and quality of gifts ('cause even Baby Jesus snagged some gold, frankincense, and myrrh!) Along with constant verbal reinforcement and some other sneaky mommy tactics, this is part of my campaign to teach my young ones gratitude and responsibility. I'm probably Mattel's nightmare, but I'm cool with that.

Do you have any kids? How do you teach your children to be grateful for what they have and to take care of their things? If you have any tricks or tips, I'd love to hear them!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Invisible Garden

"Is this our garden?"

My younger son waited sincerely for the answer to his question. I glanced behind me at the leaf and rock filled pit where our swimming pool used to be and then at the mountains of dirt on our driveway. In all honesty, the area wasn't much of anything at the moment. Leaves, rocks, half-broken concrete pylons. Only a fool would look at the spot and call it a garden.

But my heart told me something different.

My heart whispers dreams of aromatic herbs and flowers, of red-ripe tomatoes, of nibbling succulent fruit and vegetables straight from the earth. My heart sees canned salsas, jams, and pickles lining the pantry in lovingly packed jars. It's busy planning gifts that can be shared with friends and neighbors. It sees all the things that could be -- even if they aren't there now.

"Yes, dear," I answered. "This is our garden."


And now here is my secret, a very simple secret;
it is only with the heart that one can see rightly,
what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (from the Little Prince)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...