Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lily's High School Graduation

Thirteen years of study culminated in Lily's graduation from high school yesterday, so we partenered with the Bandy family to celebrate Lily and Emil's graduations in a combined party. Our celebration included an open house from 2 to 4:30, followed by comments from the fathers, and concluded with English Country Dancing.

The Bandy family are well known for their ability to prepare exceptionally delicious food in large quantities, and they were in top form for this party. We grabbed this photo earlier in the day as Ruth placed paper liners on the tray, while Grace cut cheesecake, and Emil filled each empty cup.

The graduates each had a table decorated with items of interest or projects they've completed. Lily's was heavy on the themes of sewing, fine literature, and classical music...

... while Emil chose hunting, weapons, and taxidermy. The contrast was hard to miss!

Lily is shown with the first diploma conferred by the Winding Brook School for Girls.

Steve presented Emil's diploma after charging him to keep God's focus, keep God's Word, and keep God's task.

The brave and hearty lined up for the promenade in one of the dances.

Another dance found multiple reels performing simultaneously.

The right hand star was also a hit for those that could tell their right hand from their left.

Adorable Stephanie Niesen honored us with her presence.

Grace and Ashton Bandy looking a bit exhausted after a long day of food preparation, mingling with guests, and dancing with gusto.

For anyone interested, here are my comments before presenting Lily with her diploma:

As we pause today to celebrate the fact that Lily and Emil have each completed the requirements of their respective schools, we could ask, why do we teach our children? I think it’s obvious that only the most perverse parent has no desire to teach their child to talk, or walk, or how to eat, or how to clean one’s own body; God has created people with this natural desire to teach our children. More amazing than that is the fact that our children want to learn even more than we want to teach them. Children may not learn the things we want them to learn when we don’t teach it ourselves, but they do learn. If you neglect to teach your child how to tie their shoes it may be a long time before they learn that skill, but in the meantime, they are learning. They are learning by imitating the people around them, whether they intend to be teaching or not. God has created humans to be teachers, but even more so to be learners.

Lily and Emil have been students for many years, and will be learners for many more. They have sometimes studied things that piqued their interest, and sometimes were forced to study things they cared little about. Like many of us who have gone before them, they’ve faithfully endured when the purpose for the study was not apparent. They’ve reached the age when they have much more freedom in what they study -- similar to when they were very young. I offer this charge to you, Lily, and to any others that wish to accept it: be careful and deliberate in what you study.

Deuteronomy chapter 6 is a favorite of homeschooling parents, but its message applies to all of us: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Our first and most important point of study is in learning how to love God with all our heart, soul, and might. This applies to all of us: parents and children alike. The next few verses seem to be addressed to the ones doing the instructing, but they could just as easily be applied to all learners. Just as we are instructed to teach our children in all the situations of life, we must also be prepared to learn in all the situations of life. Those unprepared to learn will miss much of the education God intends for them.

How does one learn to know and love God in the situations of life? Jesus once told his disciples: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." (John 15:4)

We study God by abiding in Jesus: reading his word, memorizing and meditating on scripture, communicating with God in prayer, and allowing Jesus to bear fruit through us, even the fruit of learning. As we abide in Christ, his word bears on each circumstance and shapes each thought, transforming us by the renewing of our minds. Abiding in Christ is how we live, as opposed to simply existing. Near the end of his time with his disciples, Jesus prayed: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3) Studying God, knowing God, is life itself.

One would be remiss to not mention the second greatest commandment, which is of course: "…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself…" (Mark 12:31)

But even the second cannot be accomplished without the first. We cannot bear the fruit of loving our neighbors unless we abide in Christ. In fact keeping the second, and all other commandments is evidence that we are successful in studying God.

"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." (I John 2:3-5)

Note the last verse of that section: if we keep his word, the love of God is perfected in us, which is proof that we are abiding in him. So by studying to know and love God, you can choose the study that will enable you to accomplish all of God’s commandments, and direct you in meaningful pursuits.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Corn in the backyard 2009, week 1

It may not be obvious from the photo below, but we have corn growing in the field behind our house again this year. I believe Farmer Wagenbach planted this field on May 13, and we just started seeing shoots peeking through the ground about 10 days after that.
May 24

This close up view of a couple of plants should be adequate evidence that there really is a crop growing in that field. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Deck Maintenance, Phases 1 and 2

We really aren't "deck people" like some of our friends, but when we purchased our house in 2007 it came equipped with this simple 14' x 20' platform that was less than 3 years old at the time. We sanded and sealed it that year and haven't worked on it since. This year it's due for maintenance.

This is the way the deck looked before our work began.

The first phase involved dismantling a portion of the decking so we could address a water movement issue underneath. Like most of the rest of the house, the ground around the foundation under the deck sloped back toward the house, encouraging rain water to pool around the foundation and seep through the block basement walls on particularly rainy days. We've addressed the slope of the ground on the other sides of the house, but because of the difficult access, this area was saved for last.

We raked the pea gravel away from the foundation far enough to allow us to add a bit of dirt next to the foundation. Once the decking is removed, it's always interesting to see what the previous owners left under it. I found a few pieces of decking long enough to be useful somewhere, several snack food wrappers, and the real treasure: a disposable diaper, used of course.

A bit of clay dirt uncovered by the garage construction last fall proved helpful here in creating a ramp to direct water away from the house.

Finally the pea gravel was moved back in place, ready for our next rainfall, or the next washing of the deck.

After the decking was screwed back in place, we moved on to phase 2: cleaning the deck in preparation for staining. Wow, who would have guessed it was that dirty?

Now that the deck is power-washed all we need is a dry day or two so we can stain it. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg Postlude

Just a couple more images to wrap up the Williamsburg adventure. The first image is from the rear balcony of the Bruton Parish Church during a service in May of 2007. I think this vantage point shows the beauty of the building better than the view from the ground.

It's neat to sit in that building and ponder the variety of people that have worshipped here over the past 294 years.

Lastly, a view of the number of visitors and pages viewed over the past month. Granted, the posts had been a bit dull leading up to May, but we've never seen visitors and page views in those kind of quantities in the past. My conclusion: we need to take the Madeira family on vacation with us more often!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Last report from Colonial Williamsburg, Day 8

On our last full day in town we were pleased to get back into the colonial spirit and try to squeeze a bit more out of our vacation. With the weather forecasted to be hot and sunny, we planned our day strategically around shade and air conditioning.

We started our colonial day listening to the Marquis de Lafayette describing how he planned to attack the British at Yorktown (the year is 1781), which he hoped would lead to the end of the war. An inspiring oration, but a little heavy on the idea that freedom results from human reason.

A photoworthy little building in the kitchen courtyard of the Governor's Palace.

The family thinks cool thoughts while they wait patiently for Karen's return with another mug of Diet Coke.

Lunch in the air conditioned Nawab Cuisine restaurant in modern Williamsburg. We ate dinner here on our first night in town, and came back to enjoy their wonderful lunch buffet. Sorry it was blurry inside the restaurant.

My twin, Brandon Hewitt, and I. We met Brandon last year on a day when he was working as a re-enactor. At that time Karen noticed that our waistcoats had identical buttons, so she decided we must be twins. It was a pleasure to see him a couple times again this year.

The book bindery.

Another trip back to the Millinery.

Doris, a retired school teacher, was entertaining and educational as always as she sat strategically over an air conditioning vent.

Doris clued us in on a quilted clothing exhibit at the DeWitt Wallace Museum, where we found this image of Mr. Hutter the tailor modeling his fancy quilted jacket.

There were lots of beautiful quilted petticoats on display, but we'll only share this one. If you want to see the rest, you'll have to ask.

This quilt circa about 1600 was so stunning I had to include it also.

Back at the milliner's where we spotted the embroidery on this book holder mounted to the wall. For Diane's sake we asked about purchasing the embroidered bag we showed a couple days ago. One of the milliners told me everything in the shop is a reproduction and is available for sale. She said she would have to consult her records to see how much time and material she had in the embroidered bag, but she gave me her business card so we could negotiate further. I'll keep you informed as we learn more.

A photo for posterity of Doris, Janea, and Sarah the apprentice all busy on the same project, a woman's morning gown.

We finally had a David Baker spotting today! That's David on our left with the best of the Senior Corps making their way to the field behind the Courthouse for a military exhibition.

Another shot of the full Senior Corps after the exhibition and back on Duke of Gloucester Street. David is the lead musician of the Corps and as such is privileged to call out the next tune as they march along. None of the Corps knows which song will be called next, as it could be any of the 300+ tunes David has memorized.

A proud Cookie Baker with her son David. Not only does Mrs. Baker follow her sons to as many performances as she can manage, but she has been very kind and welcoming to our family and the Madeiras over the last year. We look forward to our next visit in hopes that it includes more time with the Baker family.

We closed our day with an evening concert at the Capitol featuring Wayne Moss on the viol de gamba and Michael Monaco on the harpsichord. We also spent a bit more time chatting with the Kelley family from Zionsville, Indiana. They are homeschoolers also, and kindred spirits in many ways. Thanks for visiting!

Colonial Williamsburg, Day 7

Most of our day Thursday was spent photographing Lily's clothing for her portfolio, so we don't have many details on the colonial side of things today. Lily was a real trooper making countless clothing changes in one day while directing us to backgrounds that she thought looked pretty. I'll let the photos speak for themselves, since if I tried to describe each garment I'm sure I'd get it wrong.

I'll interject here that this gazebo is one of our favorites around Colonial Williamsburg, so it had to be included in the photo shoot.

In the evening we took a short drive to Mechanicsville to the home of Karen's uncle and aunt, four cousins and spouses, and several children. Karen's parents happened to be visiting, so they were there for dinner and socializing also. I seem to have knack for catching people in awkward poses in candid shots, so please forgive me for catching Karen's dad in the middle of a yawn.

This time I caught Karen, but that's not hard since she's normally pretty animated.

Last shot of the stimulated conversants. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg, Day 6

Our last half day with the Madeiras included a delicious but leisurely breakfast followed by a guided tour of John D. Rockefeller Jr's Virginia "cottage," Bassett Hall. At over 7,000 square feet of living space, the modest home is larger than the homes of most of the doctors I know, but then the Rockefellers were very wealthy.

The frontmost section of the home dates back to the 18th century, with several additions providing the majority of the floor space. Since Mr. Rockefeller was very involved in the restoration of Williamsburg and the establishment of Colonial Williamsburg, he purchased this home and used it as his base of operations when he and his wife would visit Williamsburg for 3 or 4 weeks each spring and fall. Compared to the other homes of the Rockefellers, this is the smallest, but it gave them a place to entertain and get to know the citizens of Williamsburg.

Although the dining room was the largest room in the house, it was still only intended to serve no more than 12 people at a time. Something seemed strangely familiar to me when I looked over this room. Check here to see how familiar it really was....

They're not exactly identical, and the Rockefellers seem to need some help picking an attractive seat cushion fabric, but I think the resemblance to our dining chairs is striking.

How's this for a view across the backyard? Bassett Hall sits on 585 acres adjacent to the 301 acres of Colonial Williamsburg, and all but 17 acres of the Bassett Hall property is woodlands.

Here Tim is trying to get his family excited about leaving Williamsburg to head back to normal life in NE Pennsylvania. The negotiations to try to squeeze in a few more hours here were pretty entertaining. Notice the pavement is wet from all the tears shed at our parting.

The Madeiras hit the road with plenty of good memories (and food) from Colonial Williamsburg. After they were out of sight, we all looked at each other and said, "Now what do we do?"

While moping and wandering about town wondering what to do with ourselves, I came upon Thomas Jefferson hard at work writing something. Here I am peering over his shoulder to see what's on the paper.

Just as I thought: Tom has writer's block! I can imagine his earlier attempts: "Dear George...", naw maybe, "Four score and seven years ago...", hmmm, how about, "It was a dark and stormy night...", or perhaps, "When in the course of human events...."

Back to the palace grounds to get some more sewing project photographs. Here the girls are checking out a quiet little garden east of the palace.

This is the maze in the northwest corner of the garden. We were impressed to realize how far one could see from this vantage point on top of the ice house mount.

Here's a zoomed in view to show you what I mean. The arches and gates in the middle of the image indicate that we are looking through four separate garden sections to view the light-colored bench in the distance.

Finally, a couple of dresses from Lily's sewing project portfolio.

I'm afraid you'll have to ask Lily for details if you care to know more about these. Thanks for visiting!