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Archive for the ‘Family and friends’ Category

That revolutionary rascal, Benjamin Franklin, is the most recognizable “citizen scientist”; someone who volunteers his or her time in the IMG_2400pursuit/study of science, often assisting professional scientists with day-to-day observances. A citizen scientist may gather data, monitor bees or dragonflies, note migration patterns of birds bats, chase tornadoes or measure water depth, reporting to a specific site or merely taking a photo and recording where they saw in a journal. We know a great deal about climate year’s ago from the daily weather journals farmers recorded.

If you have been tagging Monarch butterflies for Monarch Watch or photographing bees for university extensive services, you are a citizen scientist. Even if you are posting a slow moving turtle on Facebook, you are such a scientist.

Last week, while our Minnesota branch of the family tree was visiting, I noticed a caterpillar on the meadow rue during my early morning walk. I believe it to be a Tiger Swallowtail as they have chosen this plant to eat and grow in the past. You might imagine my glee at this discovery, for these little occurrences in life are really rather grand for me.

I hurried inside to announce my discovery, especially to our Keziah, who had already spent a considerable amount of time chasing after Monarchs and moths in our garden. We slipped on sandals and scurried out faster than a Beatrix Potter rabbit. Still in our pajamas, we snaked around the peony bush, tip toed through the ferns, the Echinacea and the brown-eyed Susans.

There it was, a very hungry caterpillar with yellow and black stripes, stripping a leaf in the slow and steady fashion of a caterpillar.

IMG_2330We talked and talked about caterpillars and cocoons and such, then I mentioned that we could watch this one while she was here. She was now a scientist. A citizen scientist, to be exact. We would watch the insect and I would take pictures and we would see what happens. Each morning, she queried “how are the caterpillars, Yia Yia?” and out we would go to check on their progress.

Kezzie was excited to receive such a distinction. Such things are important to children employed in the occupation of learning about life. Papa showed her how to use his magnifying glass and, as the days wore on as August days do, she and I frequented the meadow rue. We found a second, then a third caterpillar, which allowed us to observe how much and how fast a caterpillar grows and eats and to see them in a few different sizes. I made a promise that I would take more photos to share with her, and so I have.

It is such grand fun to experience nature with children and to see such things as caterpillars inch along from a child’s point of view. For your own point of view, remember to click onto the photos to see the caterpillar a little better.

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DSCN9324 - Version 4A delightfully unplanned, but heartedly welcomed family of visitors descended upon the Cutoff last week. They filled our home with laughter and curiosity, playfulness and adventures. It has been a week of blissful family time and all that comes with having small children about, as well as our own daughters and sons-in-law.

 I am so grateful.

While we have taken walks in the woods, had picnics and playtime and plenty of meals that I would love to share with you, it is children and water that flows in my thoughts right now. So, dear friends, I hope you won’t mind if I take you to a few of our recent watering holes.

The Little Red Schoolhouse Woods is a favorite spot of ours, so, we were thrilled when son-in-law Tom suggested we go to the nature center there and take a walk. I think it is a spot that will build some memories for our Kez and Ez, and appreciate Tom’s willingness to go there, especially with his very short turn-around time before returning home.

Kezzie noticed this frog eating Cheerios in a pond in the woods. She also noticed a water snake and some interesting dragonflies, but, those are stories for another time.

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Water features are prominent in the Children’s Garden at the Morton Arboretum, and really, what child can resist the lure of dripping water and walking barefoot between stones in a creek?

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Then, there was Ezra’s unbridled glee in a splash park near our house.

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I am a wee bit tired right now and have much catching up to do, but, I wanted you to know I wasn’t all washed up. I’ve just been enjoying family time and all the joy that it brings.

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There were two open gardens at the Garden Conservancy Open Days this past Sunday. One was Mettawa Manor, the other was in Highland Park.

The Highland Park home does not have the celebrity of Mettawa Manor, but, it is rich in architecture and lush in texture. The wooden bench, above, is just one of many features in this garden that were both beautiful and inspiring.

This bench also provided these two characters, who were flitting about, a quiet spot to rest their feet after oohing and ahhh-ing as they strolled about and had a delightful time talking with the homeowner.

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Since I was one of those characters, the one who talks too much, I’ll be silent now and show you a few highlights from the Highland Park garden,

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Highland Park:foxglove

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“I think I hear someone calling your name, Penny” said Tom.

“Look who it is”

How nice it was to run into Jan and Mike.

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Meanwhile, back at the Manor . . .

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Head #1Head #2

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Mettawa pond

Speaking of manor houses, look what’s coming to Chicago’s Driehouse Museum.

Downton Abbey (PBS) Season 1, 2010 Shown from left: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern

Downton Abbey (PBS) Season 1, 2010
Shown from left: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern

image from here.

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IMG_1127I’m out and about today, restocking the pantry, washing clothes after a week away, garden club activities leading up to the  July 12 garden walk, weeding the garden here on the Cutoff, and on and on we go.

I want to show you the masses of bee balm – with bees on them – that opened whilst we were up North and give you a measure of our success with how tall the grasses and compass plant have stretched since we’ve been away. The weeds. Ah, the weeds. They are abundant this year. It is what it is and I’ll be like Scarlett and worry about them tomorrow. For now, I hope you don’t mind my sharing a few photos of the grands, who charmed and challenged us this past week, and are growing even faster than the weeds in our yard.

Joy supreme.

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There is such a sadness floating around me swirling like water ’round a rock.

I fell asleep on Wednesday to the news of the horrid killings in Charleston and awoke on Thursday to the lingering sadness that prevails. Though my day was filled with work and purpose, I felt that proverbial weight of the world on my shoulders.

I sifted though a pile of envelopes; fliers, bills and such. Sitting in abeyance was a “note to self” to call a member of a board I sit on. I had not heard from Barb in some time, knew she was ailing. I had been experiencing a difficult time getting in touch with her. I put my note in a spot where I would see it, planning to call her when I returned home.

The best made plans do often go astray, for I returned home to a message that Barb had passed away. She will be missed.

The the sadness swirled some more as the news came to me in a phone call about one thing that led to an aside about something else; a long-time friend had passed away a week or so ago.

Milt was a unique person; a man who walked the walk he talked. He was an educator and a man with a servant’s heart; someone who truly practiced what he preached.

I first met Milt when he became the principal at the elementary school our daughters attended. When I met him, our Jennifer was in second grade. Katy was a toddler tagging along with Mom on a school related task. Milt, then the in-coming principal at Field School, introduced himself, shook my hand, and then got down on his knees to say hello to Katy. That was Milt; meeting everyone at their own level.

As time went on, we became friends and we started a book discussion group; the very same book group I am still in and sometimes mention here on the Cutoff. Milt and his wife, Rosalie, stopped participating a few years ago. Age related issues and life changes had deemed it time for them to move on. They were the most devoted of couples I have ever known. Most of the members of our book group are either retired teachers who taught with Milt or friends who are parents of children who were under his principalship. More than that, everyone in town seemed to know Milt, who winter-camped, had a prison ministry, was a staunch advocate of the rights of all and a good steward of the environment.

We’ve missed Milt – and Rosalie, who had successes in her own right. Rosalie was a writer and one of the first to publish a book about Alzheimer’s. “Journey with Grandpa” is a memoir of her father-in-law and of living and caring for someone with the disease. It became a loving  “how to” manual for many in a time when Alzheimer’s was just beginning to be recognized and talked about.

Milt’s story wraps around another part of my life which is part of my sorrowful mood right now. In a discussion some years ago, he mentioned the first school he was principal at and of  the young Greek Orthodox priest who tended his fledging flock with services in the school’s gym, with Sunday school in the classrooms. We had a good chat as I said that I was actually one of the children attending Sunday School and Greek language school there.

Not long after that, I attended a anniversary liturgy at the Greek Orthodox church, Holy Apostles, which had eventually moved to its permanent location, building a permanent church, where the very same priest Milt remembered, Father Bill, still tended his flock. I had a few moments to talk to him and mentioned my friend, Milt, the principal of Nixon school, which he seemed to delighted to hear about.  Father Bill passed away a little more than a month ago.

So it goes, this passage of time, senseless acts that have no rhyme or reason and a floating sadness like water ’round a rock.

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I’m not sure exactly when I first met Anton Cobb. I do know it was in the Chocolate Moon, a congenial coffee shop in Elmhurst that I frequented.

I do remember the first time Anton served me in the Moon; decaf, skim, vanilla latte, in a mug. He had grown from the young boy I first met to a young man in what seemed like no time at all and there he was, one fine day, brewing everyone’s favorite coffee beverages.

In even less time he was off to college, though he would spend time in the Moon when home on break. A cordial and good-natured person, Anton would always acknowledge what our Katy christened as “the Moonies”; a gathering of “regulars” who became friends there, including Anton’s mom. The Chocolate Moon had a life of its own. In fact, it probably has a book of its own; stories for another time.

Eventually, Anton moved away. Far way, in fact. His endeavors led him to Oregon, and that is really where this post leads as well.

Anton set a table, a chair, a flower and a tablecloth in a bustling park in Portland during his lunch hour. There he sits, each week, giving up his lunch money so that children will not go hungry. He invites passers-by to join him in his goal to help feed boys and girls who might otherwise go unfed. His efforts have not only helped the Oregon Food Bank feed children, but they came to the attention of media.

I could tell you my version of Anton’s hOUR LUNCH, but, he does it so much better, with passion and enthusiasm, that I would like to invite you to hear more about hOUR LUNCH from Anton Cobb himself,  on TED, perhaps while you are sitting down to eat your own lunch.

Well done, Anton. Well Done.

We are all proud of you – and inspired as well.

(I originally wrote this post after seeing Anton’s Ted Talk with the intention of publishing it today, unaware that today is Anton’s father’s birthday. It is interesting how the stars seem to align at times. I know that Anton’s mom, Janet (Blogging from the Bog) is very proud of  him, and I am sure that his dad, Fred, is looking down from above, equally proud. ) 

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DSCN8157Sunday.

Mother’s Day.

One of those mellow days of love and recognition that seemed to flow slowly and deliberately into a forever memory.

After Sunday worship, we went to Jennifer and Jason’s for brunch. Egg strata, bacon, salad and Mimosa’s. As I sipped and savored, I remembered another Mother’s Day, more than three decades past, where a toddling Jennifer brought me breakfast in bed. On that long ago morning,  I opened my eyes to a wee darling saying “happy Mother’s Day Mommy” as she slowly settled a plate of breakfast in front of me.

I remember it vividly.

A dollop of strawberry yogurt with Cheerios on top, toast, and a few slices of hard salami on the side.

This year; mimosas, egg strata, salad, coffee and Kringles.

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On our way home, Tom and I stopped at Lilacia Park in Lombard, where it is lilac time. Though the skies were gray and it was cool, the lilacs and tulips were resplendent.

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I took too many photos. Everywhere I looked was color and contrast, statements of nature painted on every stem, beads of moisture clinging to petals and leaves, a concert of color singing all-the-more brightly in the absence of sun. You can imagine my bliss as I tiptoed among the tulips, my indulgent and supportive  husband at my side.

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