Thus begins Holy Week.  It couldn't have been better weather:  sunny, dry, temperatures dancing around 60 (a nice break between episodes of 80's).  Of course we sang All Glory, Laud, and Honor while nearly everyone processed around the church grounds.  The end of the line got off from the beginning in the singing, but that's standard, too, and we all came together as we entered the church.  We waved palms and played instruments, and I even got to wail on my tambourine.

I really enjoyed our anthem, which I had not expected, as it's definitely not my style of music.  But it finally came together for me in the service.


Hosanna (Paul Baloche, Brenton Brown/Robert Sterling, Word Music, 08089039270)

I apologize for the recording (click on the image), but bad as it is, it really is better than what I was able to find on YouTube, which is all electric guitars and flashing lights and pounding drumbeats (yes, more headache-inducing than in this recording).  Truth be known, I'm sure the YouTube versions are closer to the original, especially since some of them are by the author himself....  But I like our version better.

I won't mention all the service music, but it was beautiful, and I can't resist pointing out that we're on a Paul Gerhardt roll—an anthem two weeks ago and O Sacred Head today.

Our recessional was the solemn and awesome Vaughan Williams hymn, At the Name of Jesus.  I've loved that hymn for a long time, but today singing it was a bit surreal for me, as superimposed on it in my heart was a vision of the Christians being slaughtered by ISIS and other extremists for exactly that Name of Jesus.

At the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess Him King of glory now;
’Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call Him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

At His voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders, in their great array.

Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom He came,
Faithfully He bore it, spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death He passed.

Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

Name Him, brothers, name Him, with love strong as death
But with awe and wonder, and with bated breath!
He is God the Savior, He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped, trusted and adored.

In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true;
Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let His will enfold you in its light and power.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With His Father’s glory, with His angel train;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon His brow,
And our hearts confess Him King of glory now.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Edit
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altThe Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum (1962)

When I was a child our family hardly ever bought books.  We were great readers—we didn't own a television set until I was seven years old—but books were too expensive to buy when the public library was free.  If our tiny village library in Scotia, New York did not have what we needed, an expedition to the Schenectady city library was usually sufficient.  (There was no Inter Library Loan at the time.)  Imagine the glory when we moved to the Philadelphia area and I discovered that their incredible Free Library was only a train ride away.

Printed books were also (relatively) more expensive then, as this was before the explosion of available paperback books and well before the view of books as disposable items.  Nonetheless, one of the great things my parents did for me was to sign me up for the Weekly Reader Children's Book Club, which periodically delivered a brand-new hardcover children's book to our door.  I still have many of the books, and am surprised at the consistent, excellent quality (considering how many bad children's books are now available), even looking back from the perspective of over half a century.

One of those books was The Winged Watchman, a story of Holland during World War II.  I had passed my copy on to our grandchildren, but it was recently returned because they had acquired another copy through their homeschooling curriculum.  Naturally, I couldn't resist re-reading one of my childhood favorites.

The Winged Watchman is still a favorite.  It's a glimpse of another culture in very difficult time, historically accurate without being depressing or overly graphic, and fits well my definition of a good book.  (A good book inspires me to be a better person.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 7:19 am | Edit
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Last Sunday it was our great pleasure to sing two beautiful anthems, both favorites of ours for a couple of decades.



Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (Cox/Lindh, Sacred Music Press, S464)

Not the best recording, but good enough for this purpose.





God So Loved the World (Stainer, G. Schirmer, 3798)

This is the third church choir with which we've had the privilege of singing God So Loved the World.  If we weren't quite good enough on Sunday to sing it completely a cappella, we will be next time.  :)


Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 8:01 am | Edit
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Our grandson has a birthday coming up.  Okay, two grandsons have a birthday coming up—the same day, in fact—but that's for the moment beside the point.  The problem is that we were given a great gift idea, but I'm having an astonishingly hard time fulfilling it.  He loves to read, and science books would be particularly welcomed.  His current interest is planets but it's just as likely to become airplanes or frogs or the periodic table—just about any appropriate subject would be good.  Reading/grade level is hard to determine.  I'd have guessed maybe third, but I've seen plenty that Amazon has rated fifth through ninth that could be appropriate—I'm sure they're underestimating fifth graders, let alone ninth!  But generally I'd say I'm looking for books aimed at elementary school age.

You'd think there'd be plenty, and there certainly is no dearth of apparently appropriate books.  But oh, my.  I don't want something obviously intended for schools, with questions and lesson plans.  I don't want jokes, especially not dumb jokes, and most especially not jokes about flatulence.  Flatulence?  Really?  In a discussion of Brownian motion?  This was in an otherwise appealing book, and leads me to suspect the whole series; Amazon only lets you preview a few pages, and I'm left wondering what unpleasant surprises lurk, unexamined.  Sad, because the series (Basher books) is otherwise one of the most attractive.

Condescension is almost as bad as flatulence.  Isn't it possible to present facts simply without talking down to your audience?  National Geographic books looked promising at first, but they don't have a lot of choice and are not free from condescension and stupid jokes.  I'll probably get some nonetheless, but I'm hoping for suggestions from those of you with more experience.  Bring them on, please!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Edit
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I'm quite behind in logging our choir anthems, mostly because we've been gone a lot.  Rather than attempting to catch up, I'll just begin again with last Sunday.  Both were repeats:  Give to the Winds Your Fears, and The Lord's Prayer, and were in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of two of our church members.  What else do they have in common?  Cello parts.  A generous member of the congregation has made it possible for us to have a cellist play with us once a month, and Raphael is a favorite of us all.

He also provides good spiritual excercise for me, as he is very active with a local youth orchestra, the very existence of which is a burr under my skin because of a series of unfortunate and painful events that took place nearly 20 years ago.  Whenever he comes, I can't help remembering those times.  It's absolutely ridiculous that I should still allow it to upset me—not to mention that I'm commanded to forgive even my enemies, and if these folks made our lives difficult for a while they certainly didn't cut off anyone's heads.  So I listen to Raphael's beautiful cello music and forgive, again.  People who preach forgiveness sometimes forget to warn that it must often be renewed many times.  Or, as a friend puts it, "I placed my sacrifice on the altar, but it crawled off."

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Edit
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altTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

I don't remember when I first read To Kill a Mockingbird.  Or even if I read it at all.  Did I read it in school, and was it therefore in my mind consigned to the Pit as worthless?  (I am an avid reader and re-reader, but no thanks to school, which utterly failed to reveal to me the good qualities of any book we were forced to read.)  Did I read it after meeting Porter and learning that this is his all-time favorite book?  Or did I only watch the movie?  If I did read it, I know I was not impressed, because books that I find worthwhile I will read over and over again, soaking them into my very being—and I know I didn't read To Kill a Mockingbird twice.

I'm really curious:  Did I make my judgement on the movie alone?  Movies rarely impress me the way books can.  Or was I just not psychologically ready to appreciate Harper Lee's masterpiece?  The latter is possible.  If I read it under Porter's influence, I would still have been very close to my school years and thus predisposed to being negative about "important" literature.  More to the point, I was at that time in my life extremely prejudiced against the South, and would have had little appreciation and less sympathy for the tribulations of small-own Alabama and its people.  I also had much less appreciation for good writing then than I do now.

Whatever the case, I was inspired by two recent events to give To Kill a Mockingbird another try.  First, we attended a local theater presentation of the story, which was excellently done and served to reveal that I'd clearly gotten nothing out of my first experience, be it book or movie.  Second, Heather was given some lavender bath salts that she had passed on to me, and I wanted to try them out.  I love to read in the bath, but my current reading was on my Kindle, and the combination of electronics and bath water sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.  So I pulled To Kill a Mockingbird off the bookshelf and dove into new waters—both physical and metaphorical.

It took me nearly half a century to discover it, but Porter was absolutely right:  this is an astonishingly wonderful book.  I knew in the first two pages that if I had ever read it before, I certainly hadn't read it.  What wonderful writing!  What a beautiful and important story!  If I had to boil my definition of a good book down to one sentence, it would be this:  A good book inspires me to be a better person.  The character of Atticus Finch alone can provide a lifetime of inspiration.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that it is easy for an author to create evil characters, because he need look no further than his own heart for inspiration, but to be able to create a credible portrait of good is a rare gift.  Lewis was, in that instance, praising the Scottish author George MacDonald, but I'm certain he would have said the same about Harper Lee.  Atticus Finch is as inspiring a noble character as could be wished.  At the same time, there is not a whit of sentimentality anywhere in the book.  There is real life, hard times, hard-core racism, poverty, incest, drug addiction, mental illness ... heroism, understanding, self-sacrifice, duty, love ... above all there is grace ... all in a package that I would not hesitate to recommend to our 11-year-old grandson.

The movie version with Gregory Peck is well-known, but I wouldn't go there.  Nothing less than the book could possibly do justice to the story.

For certain if I read To Kill a Mockingbird in the past it was well before homeschooling was ever on my radar.  Else how could I possibly have forgotten these passages?  Minor though they certainly are in the course of the story, they are nonetheless brilliant. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Edit
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In the first comment to Saturday's Pi(e) post, Kathy Lewis asked about the math legacy of my mother (the one who introduced Kathy to strawberry-rhubarb pie).  This inspired the genealogist in me to answer the question visually.  (Click image to enlarge.  Family members, please send me corrections as needed.)


Math-related fields clearly run in the family, by marriage as well as by blood.  Some other facts of note:

  • Most of the grandchildren (and all of the great-grandchildren, not shown in the chart) have not yet graduated from college.  Their intended fields, where known, are shown in italics.  One is very close to graduation, so I've left him unitalicised.
  • In each generation from my parents through my children, there's been an even split between mathematics and engineering.  However, with the next generation at nine and counting, I doubt that trend will continue.
  • The other fields don't come out of nowhere:  both of my parents had a vast range of interests.
  • With one short-term exception in a time of need, every woman represented here clearly recognized motherhood as her primary and most important vocation, forsaking the money and prestige that come with outside employment to be able to attend full time to childrearing and making a good home.  Every family must make its own choice between one good and another; this is not a judgement on other people's choices.  Nonetheless, homemaking and motherhood as careers are seriously undervalued these days, so it's worth noting when such a cluster of women all choose to focus their considerable intelligence and education on the next generation.  As daughter, wife, mother, aunt, and grandmother, I'm grateful for the choices these families (fathers as much as mothers) have made.
  • Engineering is a long-time family heritage.  My father's father (born 1896) was a mechanical engineer, and the first chairman of that department at Washington State University.  His father (born 1854) was a civil engineer.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 16, 2015 at 10:41 am | Edit
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... and that's the best I can do without looking.  I should have ordered one of Joseph's shirts for myself.


Our strawberry-rhubarb pi(e) is in the oven.  It won't be out by 9:26, at least not in our time zone, but maybe I'll come back and post a picture later.

UPDATE:  And here it is.


In honor of the day I bought vanilla ice cream yesterday.  Porter may scold me, as ice cream is his particular temptation, but pie and vanilla ice cream go so well together, and a day like this won't come back for another hundred years.

Penzey's Spices is offering free apple pie spice in honor of the day, and later we'll take advantage of that.  Bill Penzey may sadden me with his efforts to alienate his customers through his political rants, but that doesn't change the fact that Penzey's is the best I've found when it comes to high-quality spices and interesting spice blends.

And for the true nerds out there (as opposed to those who have jumped on the Pi Day bandwagon merely as an excuse to celebrate and eat pie), here's a free lecture from another of our favorite companies, The Great Courses.

Happy Pi Day 2015 to everyone, nerd or otherwise!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 9:26 am | Edit
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My nephews introduced me to Top Gear, the BBC show that achieved the astounding feat of making me thoroughly enjoy a show about ... automobiles.

Now the BBC has suspended co-host Jeremy Clarkson after a dust-up with a producer.  Clarkson is no stranger to controversy and has been "warned" about previous behavior.  This was apparently just the last straw for the folks at the BBC.  From the Wikipedia article linked above:

Top Gear has often been criticised for content inside programmes....  Incidents and content ranging from (but not limited to) remarks considered by some viewers to be offensive, promoting irresponsible driving, ridiculing environmental issues, Germans, Mexicans, and Poles, and alleged homophobia have generated complaints.  British comedian and guest of the programme Steve Coogan has criticised the programme, accusing it of lazy, adolescent humour and "casual racism".

Yep, Top Gear can be offensive.  The show where they drive from Miami through the Deep South wasn't funny to me, as it was clear they were going out of their way to promote negative stereotypes about Americans, Floridians, and Southerners.  (Few Floridians, except perhaps those in the Panhandle, consider themselves true Southerners.)  Who in his right mind would drive through Florida in the summer, in a car without air conditioning, and be surprised that he was hot?  And keep harping about it?  What disappointed me the most—though I had suspected it from watching other shows—was that much of the action was clearly staged.  I was certain in this case, because I know something about Florida.  Had I been as knowledgeable about the sites of their other road trips, I'm sure I would have had similar complaints.

Most offensive of all was their attempt to get a 1960's-era Ku Klux Klan response as they drove through Alabama, or maybe it was Mississippi, I don't remember.  They decorated their cars with signs and banners designed to offend their hosts, from in-your-face promotion of homosexuality, to insults to the region's dominant religion and to NASCAR.  (And no, despite some evidence to the contrary, the last two are not the same thing.)  Failing to get the desired, hateful response (they were mostly ignored), they went well off the main roads, and pushed harder, finally provoking a reaction—though I'm not entirely sure that wasn't staged as well.

So yes, sometimes parts of the show are over the top.  And much of the humor is puerile.  But that's the nature of the show.  That's part of what attracts the viewers.  They like the humor and the down-to-earth nature of the characters.  I still enjoy Top Gear—I especially enjoy sharing it with my nephews—and I'm more easily offended than most when it comes to rudeness.  The show is entertaining and informative despite its faults.  And here's the problem I have with its producers:  They know what sells, what the audience likes; they hire a man like Jeremy Clarkson who can pull it off; and when a little heat comes their way, they make him the scapegoat.  They hire someone with rough edges, then self-righteously distance themselves from his lack of polish.  It's like buying an axe and complaining that you hurt yourself trying to shave with it.

Why would I defend rude behavior?  Partly because of the show's good qualities.  Partly because Clarkson's offenses are minor compared with what others get away with.  (Think talk radio, for one thing.)  But mostly because the self-righteous hypocrisy of the BBC's thought police just sickens me.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 10:22 am | Edit
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Daylight Saving Time.  DST.  In Europe, it's called by the more logical name of "Summer Time," but we in the United States need a different terminology, since we now begin DST well before winter is over.  Is that wishful thinking on someone's part?  "Spring ahead?  Just how far ahead did you move it???" ask our Northern friends.

Our Spring Ahead for 2015 is now history.  But for our European connections (and for the record) I'm posting my two favorite time change commentaries.  (H/T Tim H. and Laurie D.)  You've seen the first before, but the second is new.  It's not completely grandchild-friendly, and somewhat rude, but it's funny and nails the point.  What's odd to me is how many people think that DST is for the sake of farmers, whereas I remember from early childhood that the farmers hated it and resented it being forced on them by the "city folks."

alt (click to enlarge)


(link for those whose feedreaders strip off the video)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Edit
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I don't know what caused our homeward flight to be delayed five hours.  It certainly wasn't the weather, which could hardly have been better for March in New Hampshire.  The Southwest Airlines agent said the delay was due to maintenance, but I suspect that any "maintenance" that so disrupts the flight schedule is more along the lines of "repair."

Whatever the cause, at about 2 p.m. we discovered that our 5:30 flight had been rescheduled for 10:30, with the estimated time of arrival in Orlando moved from a very reasonable 8:45 to a very unreasonable 1:45 a.m.  Unreasonable, that is, if your ride home from the airport has to get up early to go to work.  We looked into alternate flights, but none was direct, and their arrival times into Orlando weren't all that much better.  We chose to stay in a situation where if the flight were cancelled the onus was on Southwest to make other arrangements.  Porter reserved a rental car instead (there are return places for both Hertz and Avis near our home, which makes this a convenient option), and we settled down to enjoy a little more time with the grandkids.

Not all that much time, as it turned out, because in order to fit our new departure into the Daleys' busy schedule, we had to leave home sooner than strictly necessary.  There was a bit of a question just who would drive us there, as Jon had been called out on an ambulance run, but he made it back just in time.  The rest of the family stayed home, so there would be plenty of room in the car on the way home for a large load of pellets for the woodstove, but Heather insisted that Jeremiah come, even though he had to be awakened from his nap.  I'm sure it was a good decision to let him say goodbye to us at the airport, because at barely two I'm sure he was shocked enough this morning to find us gone.

At the Manchester airport, our flight was famous.  They kept one restaurant open well past the normal closing time, so we were able to eat a late dinner while passing the long hours of waiting.  The food wasn't great but it was more than we had expected, and we were grateful.  Pretty much, if we saw anyone there who wasn't an employee, he was on our flight.  Thus after dinner we were able to settle ourselves some way away from the gate (but within eyeshot), and know that we would not be left behind.  In fact, the Southwest agent came to us (and the others scattered around) to deliver our two $100 vouchers "for the inconvenience."  True, it was inconvenient, but for two adults with no travel deadline it could not be called onerous.  (I did keep imagining what it would have been like if we had been travelling with three children under four, as Janet and I had done in the summer.)  We settled into a set of comfortable seats with charging stations for two phone and two computers.  We were warm and safe; we knew our plane was now in the air and on its way to Manchester; we had work to do and books to read, in peace and relative quiet.  Some people might pay a lot for that privilege....

We took off just before 10 o'clock, and all went smoothly with the flight, our subsequent retrieval of luggage, the rental car, and the ride home (none of which should ever be taken for granted).  It's times like this when I'm reminded that one of the blessings that came from Porter's years on the road for IBM was a great familiarity with the whole car rental procedure.  Even so, this one took some getting used to:  it had no keys.  Well, it did, but we didn't find them until later, tucked away in a compartment.  The only instructions were "depress the brake and press the start button."  Figuring out how to turn off the radio was also a trick.  Eventually he knew enough about the car to drive it home, but our first computer was less complicated.

We arrived home somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 a.m.  Everything was fine except for the clocks, which all insisted it was an hour earlier.

Today Porter is digging his way through Central Florida's surest sign of spring:  mountains of fallen leaves, and the trees still shedding.  When he is no longer in danger of falling off the screened enclosure into the pool (best-case falling scenario), I will venture out again to replenish the neglected larder.

Our feelings for Southwest Airlines were not of the rosiest when we learned of the long flight delay, but I was impressed by their efforts to make it up to us:  not only did the vouchers sweeten the situation, but the cheerful good humor of all the staff was contagious.  It's still my favorite airline.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 11:34 am | Edit
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How do you get kids to practice their instruments?

That's the question of all parents who can't help having occasional misgivings about the large outflow of cash going toward music lessons.  As far as I can tell, the only honest answer is, "I don't know.  It's different from child to child, anyway."  Nonetheless, I have made a couple of observations while visiting Heather and family and will set them down for what they're worth.

  • Every child here over the age of three takes formal piano lessons.  The just-turned-four-year-old is eagerly awaiting informal lessons in the summer, and the start of the "real thing" in the fall.  They all enjoy their lessons, partly because their teacher is one of the best-loved in the area, and partly because she's also known to them as Grammy.
  • Everyone over the age of six walks or bikes to Grammy's house for his lesson.  Not only is this convenient for their parents, but I believe it helps them "take ownership" of the lessons.  It also means that if they forget their music books, they're the ones who have to turn around and go back, so responsibility is naturally encouraged.
  • Even with these advantages, practice time was hit-or-miss, until a simple change was made.  All the kids have morning and afternoon chores, which they are (mostly) in the habit of completing with minimal fuss,  "Practice piano" was simply added to the list, and voilà, regular practicing.
  • Best of all, the piano is located in the middle of everything.  You can hardly go from one place to another without passing the piano.  It gets played a lot, because it's there.
  • Here's something I'd never have thought of:  practicing is a whole lot more fun because the piano is not just a piano.  It's a "real piano" rather than just a keyboard, but it is actually an electric keyboard built into a piece of furniture.  Thus it comes with all the extras of a keyboard:  the ability to record one's playing, multiple timbres, the ability to split the keyboard (have different instruments in the bass and the treble), and more.  Yes, this leads to a lot of fooling around, but how many times do you think the kids would practice a particular piece or passage on a mere piano, compared with playing it with the piano sound, then the bagpipes, then organ, then flute, then with various sound effects?  Multiple repetitions, painlessly.

I still don't know the secret to getting kids to practice.  But I can recognize good tools for a parent's toolbox when I see them.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Edit
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It's extraordinary how often otherwise civilized people think it's not only their right but their duty to criticize the size of other people's families.  I freely confess to doing so myself on occasion, though I do try to limit my comments to general cases, not specific people.  Maybe it's because the only remaining area of our sex lives where criticism has not been taken off the table is its fruit (or lack thereof).

Most annoying are the self-righteous critics.  You know, the ones who insist that sweet little baby you just gave birth to will destroy the ecological balance of the world.  Or those who praise God for the gift of antibiotics and other life-changing interventions while solemnly intoning that your use of birth control betrays your basic lack of trust in God's plan for your family.  There are valid points lurking behind both of those extremes, but there is room for such a wide range of disagreement that prudence and courtesy—not to mention the love we owe our fellow human beings, and the good ol' Golden Rule—call us to admit that the size of other people's families is no one's business but their own.

That said, I recently found a Front Porch Republic article that explicates one of the negative side effects of the recent trend toward small families.  I highly recommend reading the entire article, but will quote here as much as I think I can without raising the ire of the copyright fairies. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 7:03 am | Edit
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Glenn Doman used to say that what babies and small children want most of all is to grow up, right now.  (I've wasted too much time already trying to find the exact quotation, but that's the gist of it.)  He must have known Jeremiah.

Jeremiah has two parents and four older siblings, and sees no reason why he shouldn't be able to do everything they can.  "Do!" may be his favorite word, meaning "I will do it myself."  He has been two years old for all of two weeks, and is busy acquiring new skills at a somewhat alarming rate.

We are staying in the Apartment, which is over the garage and accessible from the kitchen via two doors and a small set of stairs.  Before we arrived, Jeremiah could open the door from the kitchen, but not the door to the apartment itself.  First thing every morning, we would hear him knocking to be let in.  Now he's proud to be able to open the door himself, so we know that when the door opens without an invitation, it's our favorite two-year-old.  He hasn't yet learned that there are reasons other than inability for knocking at a door.

We were in the kitchen, and Jeremiah was hungry.  I watched as he moved a chair over to the hutch and got himself a plate, then went to the cutlery drawer and picked up a fork.  He opened the refrigerator door, selected a container of leftover French fries, which he gave to me.  I put some on his plate.  Then he opened the door of the microwave, set his plate inside, put a cover on the plate, and closed the door.  He waited while I set the time, then pushed Start.  (He'd much rather push the other buttons himself, too, but that gets him into trouble.)  When the timer dinged, he opened the door, took out the plate, closed the door, took his plate to the table, and proceeded to enjoy his French fries.  When I later reported the series of events to Heather, her immediate response was, "Oh, no!  He's never been able to open the refrigerator before.  Now he'll start getting his own drinks."

Which was true.  Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, because he normally does a great job of pouring from a carton to his glass.  But sometimes cartons are full and heavy (especially gallon milk jugs) and sometimes they slip.  Not to worry (much):  he knows what to do.  He grabs a napkin or a towel and starts scrubbing away at the spill.  But he is (barely) two, and sometimes doesn't remember to set the carton upright before beginning the clean-up process.

Another day I watched while Jeremiah got himself a plate, opened the refrigerator, and took out a package of tomatoes.  Then he opened a drawer and took out a cutting board.  I intervened enough to ask him to wash the tomato first, which he did.  Next he returned to the drawer, extracted his sister's paring knife, and removed it from its sheath.  At that point I intervened again (against his will, but he acquiesced with good grace), insisting that I be allowed to guide his hands as he cut, which he did semi-competently.  Two years of age is when the kids here begin learning to cut up vegetables, and they become dependable and genuinely helpful well before they turn four.  Jeremiah will no doubt learn the fastest of all, because he is so observant and so desperate to grow up, but the arrival of his new brother has delayed his formal lessons, and semi-competent is not good enough when wielding knives.  The girls' kitchen knives have been temporarily moved to a less-accessible place.

A tot-lock guards the under-sink chemicals.  Again I watched as Jeremiah decided he needed something from that cupboard, took out the step stool, opened it up, climbed to the key's hiding place and took it out.  And then ... I was disappointed that I didn't get to find out if he could actually open the lock, because he became distracted by noticing (from his perch on the stool) that the sink was full of soapy water and dishes.  He put the key back where it belonged and proceeded to have a different kind of fun.

Oh, and yesterday he casually removed the cap from a childproof bottle, another first.

As his mother says, Jeremiah is a very competent handful.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Edit
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I can see by yesterday's Frazz comic that Frazz lives in Connecticut or some other state that charges a few pennies extra for certain bottles and cans (mostly drink, such as soda and beer—but not water; I have yet to figure it all out), and then gives them back to you if you return the bottle to the grocery store.


What I still don't get about this system is, Why?  I mean, I understood it when I was growing up, eons ago, because the bottles were reused.  On the very rare occasions when we had beer or soda in the house, we were happy to return the bottles for the nickels they brought (five cents was worth a lot more back then), and so that the companies could refill them.  We always put our empty milk bottles back out on the porch for the milkman to retrieve—not for money, but so that he would in turn leave us bottles full of (pasteurized, but not homogenized) milk.

But those days were long ago and far away.  No one reuses bottles, and certainly not aluminum cans.  I assume that they are all sent from the grocery store to a recycling center.  Is a nickel, or even a dime, worth the effort of storing and returning the containers?  The real value is in the recycling.  The Swiss go through that effort because that's the way recycling is done there—there are no 5-rappen tips for doing what's right.  In our town in Florida, we collect all recyclables in one bin which is then picked up at our homes weekly.  It's as easy as throwing them in the trash.

The states that I know of that put a deposit on certain recyclables also have home recycling, so wouldn't the marginal cost of picking up all bottles and cans be almost nil?  Why, then, do they continue the old practice?

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 7:19 am | Edit
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