Monday, January 21, 2008

Why I Love NYC

So, a week ago, Libby gets a call to do a recital at a school named Blessed Sacrament on W. 70th Street. We were not familiar with the church or school, so it was all a surprise. We thought we might visit the church on our way out, after the recital. As it turned out, we parked on the block with the church (71st, back to back with the school) and figured we'd take a shortcut through the church itself, since it was about 26 degrees outside! We passed through the dark Gothic doorway which is modeled after a Vatican doorway by Rafael, and...


It was stunning! High altar (with a bare, cold "People's Altar" in front of it), communion rail, tabernacle front and center...architecture, inside and out, that is so very Catholic. I would definitely put it on the list of great churches to visit when studying architecture.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Audition Dates!

OK, Friends....

Could I beg prayers for Libby's auditions? Here are the dates (I'll post reminders as the days approach):

Monday, February 11th; Thursday, February 28th; Sunday, March 2nd; and Thursday, March 6th. There may be one more, but she has not heard yet.

Thanks in advance!

Here's a prayer to St. Cecilia (patroness of musicians):

Dear Saint Cecilia, one thing we know for certain about you is that you became a heroic martyr in fidelity to your divine Bridegroom.

We do not know that you were a musician but we are told that you heard Angels sing.

Inspire musicians to gladden the hearts of people by filling the air with God's gift of music and reminding them of the divine Musician who created all beauty.


Sunday, January 13, 2008


Bittersweet (Celastrus sp.) is one of the last splashes of color left in the woods this time of year. There are two types found locally. One, unfortunately the more common, Oriental bittersweet, is an invader, pushing out the native American bittersweet. Worse, it seems that the two can interbreed, making removal of unwanted bittersweet an identification nightmare. Read more here.

Putting the potential problems aside, bittersweet is an interesting and pretty plant. It vines in spirals (sometimes strangling trees), and provides the very last food for birds before spring. Our common winter birds, like the mocking bird and the European starling (another prolific invader), can often be seen among the vines, eating the fruit. When one examines the droppings left behind, one can see the orange skin of the fruit and the seeds. Both are nearly indigestible; the fruit itself has little nutritional value since it is mostly seed and skin, but what little it has to offer is welcomed by the very hungry birds in late winter. The seeds are spread by the birds (and foxes, I bet) in their droppings.

The kids entertain the rather dangerous habit of swinging on bittersweet vines when we hike. Since the vine does damage trees, this sort of play makes me a bit nervous. I have seen large vines come tumbling down out of the high branches, sometimes taking a tree branch or two with it. Have a care if you have young Tarzans on your hike! See a strangling vine photo here.

It often vines along with other climbing plants. Try your identification skills out when you see a mixed tangle. In this area (NY), you might find grapevine, poison ivy, cat briar, and Virginia creeper, near the bittersweet. Can you tell which is which in the winter?

Good News!

So far, Libby has had her pre-screening material approved everywhere she has applied (still waiting for one, which had a later date)! Now the audition dates are coming in, and all looks well, except for one three-way knot of potential dates conflicting with an orchestra concert. I hear the schools are in heavy consultation to provide ample time for auditioners (is that a word?) to get from Philadelphia back to NYC for the concert. I'm glad that this is not my headache...but I would not want Libby to have the last time slot that day with only an hour or two to get back. These things are stressful enough.

Meanwhile, anyone in the Cleveland area have ideas for fun things to do with an 11 and a 14 yo for a day (a Monday in February)?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Audition Scheduling vs. Fire Emergency

I had to laugh at this, from the Juilliard Admissions Blog:

The fine print:

(In which case, you should be running out of here, madly dialing “911” on your cellular.)

The finer print:

(You’re not still standing there reading this, are you?)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sisters in Sickness

I'm feeling a bit thoughtful tonight, after reading two thought-provoking blog entries...on from Elizabeth Foss, and one from Danielle Bean. I have known Elizabeth for a long time, and I know her well enough to know what she thinks about a subject, but I do so enjoy reading to get her way of saying things. I don't know Danielle as well, but I also enjoy her take on issues of motherhood. These 2 posts, in combination with this crazy day, got me thinking about sisters.

I don't have any sisters, but I always wanted one. I asked God for one frequently when I was little, but I guess, in the late 60s, I should have been asking my parents :) . In any case, I was thrilled when 3 years after Libby was born, Annika came along. There it is...that three year gap that some people (see the blog entries referenced above) think is just right for siblings. I'm glad I didn't know that, or there would be no T, as he was born smack in between the girls. I can't imagine life without T.

But back to these sisters. When I was expecting Annika, I hoped she would be very different from Libby, and she is. Libby has dark hair and dark eyes, but Annika has light hair (it was blond, but is now almost auburn) and green/grey eyes. Libby was quick at many things, but Annika, a typical Collier (my side of the family) was slower to mature. But they are also quite similar, sharing a room, clothes, and reading aloud to each other from their favorite books--Shakespeare, Austin, and more. They share babysitting jobs, and they both sing in the choir at church. Both have been CCD assistants in my class. Sure, they argue sometimes, but they are great friends.

These past few months, Annika has been going about her routine while Libby is caught in a whirlwind of activity. Between work, lessons, classes, and more, the girls see each other at bed time just long enough to say "goodnight." With all the applications done, and Libby's college physics class over, this week was going to be different, a time to do some sister things together.
They had big plans. On Monday, after Annika babysat in the morning, they both went in to the Metropolitan Opera to see The Valkyrie. Bonding over 5 hours of Wagner should have been enough, but they spent the night with a family friend, eating ice cream and playing poker way into the night. They came home on Tuesday, and had a regular day...Annika had her German class, and Libby taught her students.

Tuesday night, both girls began vomiting, and were up all night. All night. Libby had her 1st college audition today, Wednesday, just after noon, and I had to take her instead of letting her take the train, abandoning Annika on the couch with a bucket and a book, with a promise of Gatorade. Libby made it through the audition, weak and pale and shaky; there was no possibility of rescheduling. But that's one down...

Back home a few hours later, both girls napped and felt better. Together they sat up on the same couch for Gatorade, pretzels, and a sappy chick flick (Saving Sarah Cain). Annika asked about Libby' s audition. Libby asked about Annika's day. Both agreed they felt better. And they made plans for another outing. They poured more Gatorade and laughed.

I was so jealous.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Cool Lava!

The view from the road...had to stop!

Hey, who needs Hawaii when we have Idaho?? Don was driving at this point, and I was looking out the window. We were driving between Idaho Falls and Pocatello on I-15. I wished I had a copy of The Roadside Geology of Idaho with me..

See the nice lava flow pattern on the ground?

I kept staring, and thinking that it looked as though we were driving through an old lava bed. We stopped at a rest stop for the kids, and so I could get a closer look.

A sign invited Annika and Paul to touch a lava wall!

The great thing about the west is that EVERYTHING is a learning experience. This rest stop doubled as a small geological center, with two paths well marked as self-guided tours through 4000 year old lava beds! It was so cool, which is a good thing when walking over lava.

An immaculately maintained pathway, marked with informative signs, took us through a mile long loop, where we learned about micro climates in lava bed caves, pioneer plants, and historical geology in the area. OK, so , it's not Hawaii, but it was so unexpected and refreshing to get out and hike around a lava flow that we were beaming with quasi-tropical delight (it was a hot August afternoon). Thanks, Idaho!

Paul takes a sample...lava is light!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Has Anyone Seen My Wallet?

Oh. There it is.

Free Online Magazine for Young Naturalists!

Hey, I love free things, especially when they are online and don't clutter my life with extra paper! Check out the Conservationist for Kids! It's from the NYS DEC, and is geared towards 4th graders. It also includes teacher resources, printables (for those of you who don't mind paper...), plus great photos and clear illustrations.

That Gingham Dog is at it Again

I have a very vivid childhood memory of my mother reading Eugene Field's horror story in poem form, The Duel, to me and my brothers. I was seriously disturbed by that poem, both for the imagery about a dog and cat fighting until there was nothing left of them, and because of my grandmother's Chinese plate, which I was sure was always watching me.

Now, it seems I have a Gingham Dog of my own. Fortunately, I have no Calico Cat. Unfortunately, this puppy has torn apart everything that can be torn in the entire house. Here she is working on Libby's conducting stick, with a no-longer-stuffed dog beside her. And you should see the recliner (which was on its way to the dump anyway).

And my plates? They are all Chinese.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

(Mostly) Done!

All Libby's college apps are out! I only have two more packets of supplemental materials (transcripts, curriculm outlines, Libby's music CV, sealed recommendations...) to send out. They are ready to print or already in envelopes, so it won't take long, except for two items: A DVD of Libby playing Brahms (recorded and ready to transfer), and an essay for one college written by "The Homeschool Supervisor" (ahem), which I am calling my Manifesto. "Please tell us why homeschooling was chosen for this student, and explain your homeschooling philosophy." And the space provided? 5 lines. Handwritten. I figure if I need to go on, I can expound in the margins all around the paper, and look like a real lunatic.

Erm...Maybe not. If pictures are worth a thousand words, I could just glue this in the space and call it my "philosophy":