Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This Year's New Addition...

This is a pic of a very busy female paper wasp at work. She let me come and go through our sliding glass door until the nest got larger...and others were invited to come work on it.

We also had a huge nest under our deck, last year. They never bothered me when I was out gardening right in front of it. In fact, I was totally unaware of them, at first. After that, I made sure to stay out of their flight pattern, and they acted like they never even noticed me. It would have been quite the scene if they had!!! --LKR

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Last Year's New Addition...

I just found this pic from last year. It was the newest addition to our home in 2006. As you can see, the worker is quite busy! She is building her nest out of mud. I think it's a potter wasp. --LKR

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Serenity of Summer School

Amidst the hassles of summer school is a time of solace for me. True, there is no sleeping in on these lazy days of summer, and we're quite literally on the go all morning long, four times a week, five weeks in a row--six, if you count Orchestra.

For the past three years I've driven to three different schools each summer, with times overlapping. All have been in opposite directions and clear across town from each other. But I've spent the two hours between the longest waiting period as a time of peaceful relaxation. No dishes, laundry, or cleaning. It's my time to do as I please with no distractions, something any mom would covet. Time to read, write, or work on my embroidered tablecloth.
(That, I must add, is filled with almost 16 years worth of fading dinner guest’s signatures, patiently waiting to be immortalized in colored floss.) All this is mine without the guilt of needing to urgently do something more pressing. The 50 minute round trip is just not worth the time--nor my sanity--to spend at home for a mere hour. And, with the price of gas, it's a more economical choice!

So, here I sit at the north side of town, listening to birds chirping, rustling leaves in the breeze, and the laughter of children playing in a nearby park. Enviable, I know, but like all things like this that are too good to be true, it has an
end. --LKR

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Dobsonfly???

Driving the kids to a park for a picnic after summer school, I stopped to get some gas for our van. While fueling up, I scanned my surroundings, passing the time away. Ho, hum. Woe! What on earth is that??? Right below my hand hanging out on the hose was a huge winged insect, about 5 inches in length! It was unlike anything I had ever encountered, before. This docile creature continued resting quietly as I gazed at it. My oldest daughter handed me my camera and the photo session began!

Getting back into my vehicle, I was about to pull away when thoughts of how someone else might react when they encountered this insect stopped me. If they freaked, which would be easy to do, there was no telling what its fate might be—or the person’s--if I left it there.

I quickly got out of the van and gently coaxed this giant into an empty Parmesan container I keep with me for occasions just like this. (Honestly, I do rescue bugs! Just ask my family and friends!) Handing it to my 11 year old son, he empathetically studied this awesome creature. “Cool, huh?!” I said. He nodded in agreement.

“Mom, I think he’s getting scared.”

”I know, honey. Tell him we’re going to let him go.”

“Mom, he doesn’t speak English. He won’t understand.”

“Tell him anyway. We’re almost there.”

We released him onto a small tree at Mt. Simon Park in Eau Claire, WI which is along the Chippewa River. We ate, the kids swam, he relocated, and we headed for home.

Ever hear of a Dobsonfly? I sure didn’t before this! But there he was on an interesting website that helped identify him. Ours was a sweet little boy. Females have smaller, functional mandibles (jaws) that are capable of inflicting pain. On another site, I learned that they are otherwise harmless in spite of their appearance, and are nocturnal. Most of their lives are spent in the larval stage, growing up under rocks in rivers, steams, and lakes. A few years later, they leave their watery world and pupate (like butterflies do) on land, over-wintering. Come late spring and into the earlier summer months, they begin emerging. They spend only a few days of life as winged creatures, as their sole purpose now is to mate, lay eggs, and die.

The site that helped ID him was here, if anyone would like to check it out: http://www.whatsthatbug.com/


Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Race Is On!

The sun was shining, birds were sweetly singing, and bicyclists were whizzing by. The third annual Chippewa Valley Firecracker Bicycle Race, which took place in lovely Lowes Creek County Park, was on! A part of the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), it was the fifth of twelve races taking place in the state, this summer.

The evening before, my youngest and I headed to the park to check which trails would be used. We also watched and greeted cyclists both young and old as they pre-rode the trails, becoming familiar with them. Several narrow, twisting, hilly trails had been chosen, along with some wider paths for passing. The Youth category rode a shorter lap of six miles. Citizen and Sport participants cycled 12 and 18 miles, while the the Comp and Elite Women rode three laps of longer trails, putting in 24 miles of mountain biking. The Elite Men rode four laps, totaling 30 miles.

One rider had a flat tire that he quickly fixed. Another had his handlebars suddenly loosen up and had to borrow tools to adjust it, loosing his place as the lead. Towards the end of the race, another man cheerfully walked past us with his bike. Having dislocated his shoulder, he was using his bike to help support his arm. These guys were real troopers!

Participants and spectators came from all over Wisconsin, but we were told that many more were from Minnesota and Illinois, as well.

The next of these races is scheduled for July 15th in Suamico, WI. For more information on these events, check out their website at: http://www.wors.org/schedule/


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Growing up in a little colonial town was really exciting as a child, especially around the 4th of July. My sister and I would eagerly watch as our neighbor, a seasoned fireman, backed out the treasured antique fire truck he had safely stored in his garage. To us, it was a very special part of the highly anticipated parade held up on Main Street in Chatham, NJ. It was then cleaned and tuned up, making it ready for the big day… .

Way too early in the morning on Independence Day, we’d be awakened by what sounded like bombs being set off throughout town, which would rattle our windows and get us out of bed! Trees lining the curbs of many roads were posted with the usual black and white signs reading: “Emergency No Parking in Street”, although now the bold lettering is in red and more wordy, from what I’ve been told.

Throngs of neighbors lugging aluminum folding chairs would begin climbing streets leading to the center of town, while those who had left their chairs the afternoon before to reserve their spots would leave later for the parade.

Our Mom had always stressed the importance of honoring the many military veterans, volunteer fire and rescue workers, and of course the American flag, as they passed by. We’d do this by standing, saluting, and cheering them on, encouraging those younger than us to do so, as well. A highlight of the parade, herolding it’s end, was a clown setting fire to a small cardboard house. Triumphantly, a fire truck would come to the rescue, extinguishing the smoke while the crowds cheered.

At the park in the afternoon, firefighters would hand out bags of peanuts to long lines of children, tossing any extra bags to the crowds from their trucks. Fireworks were later held at what was then the Boro’s high school. I remember a lot of blue and gold fireworks, which were Chatham High’s school colors. Every year it was displayed: an illuminated “burning” house and fire truck rushing to the scene which thrilled young and old alike. Sirens were provided by one of the fire engines stationed nearby where the pyrotechnics were set up. Silvery white sparklers were the “water” that put the “fire” out.

Villa Park, IL, also had a real sense of close community with a lot of character. My children fondly remember the long parades filled with friends and neighbors they knew, and the interactive, playful water gun—and soaker!—“fights” between certain marchers and viewers that were quite comical to witness. In the evening, we’d head on over to Oak Brook Mall’s west side parking lot, joining the masses already lined along Highway 83 to watch the forthcoming impressive fireworks display.

We found our special niche for watching the displays in Eau Claire, WI, last year. Stumbling upon the beautiful new Phoenix Park over by the RCU building, we were rewarded with impressive views as well as displays without all the crowds that are usually jam-packed in Carson Park.

We all have our special memories of the 4th of July when we were growing up. What are yours? And, how will you be spending America’s birthday, today? --LKR

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Hearing strange noises coming from outside early Friday morning, I thought they must be working on our roads, again. My hubby soon left for work (around 6am) while I lay in bed, trying to rest--or fall back to sleep. Around 6:35, I decided to get up and take fido out for an early outing. As soon as we walked out the front door, we ran back inside to grab my camera. There were gigantic plumes of black smoke billowing up into the sky coming from beyond a remote section of my beloved Lowes Creek County Park, which is right across the street from us. Waste Research and Reclamation Environmental Services (WRR) was on fire!

While poochie and I were outside, I heard yet another explosion and the sound of heaving metal. Thankfully for us, the wind was carrying the smoke--and debris—in the opposite direction of our neighborhood in the country, which is maybe half a mile from the plant. Unfortunately, it blew over other residential parts of Eau Claire, necessitating precautionary evacuations, including Pine Meadows Golf Course and Fairfax pool. Highway 93 also was shut down for a total of twelve hours.

We decided to head for the Twin Cities a day earlier than planned after my hubby drove past WRR on 93 following yet another explosion. Witnessing an enormous ball of flames engulfing one of the structures, he promptly called, leaving two messages on our machine: get the kids up and dressed and ready to roll in 15 minutes. As a respiratory therapist, the father of two (mild) asthmatics, and a severe asthmatic himself, he thought it best to play it safe. Our youngest also has chemical sensitivities, so off we drove down the yellow dotted highway, heading for the hills, so to speak.

Thank the Lord, it was all but over by the time we got home, shortly after 6pm. At least the fire and smoke were gone. Unfortunately, the fate of the surrounding area’s land, due to run-off from the thousands of gallons of water used to extinguish the flames, is yet unknown. Firefighters were able to keep the toxic run-off away from Lowes Creek, but a nearby wetland, already suffering from pollutants, wasn’t as fortunate. The DNR is keeping a watchful eye on this for all of us in Eau Claire, which, by the way, is French for “Clear Water”.

Firefighters spent the night at the plant in the event another fire would start. One was later rekindled around 11am Saturday, and they were able to keep it under control. –LKR


Many things about tomorrow

I don’t even understand

But I know Who holds the future,

And I know Who holds my hand.

A Storm in the Night

Tapping out an email to a friend, last night, I smiled as I caught glimpses of rapidly flashing light that pierced though our basement window, illuminating the darkened room where I sat. We’d been desperate for rain, having below average rainfall. I thanked the Lord for the approaching storm, anticipating the hope of precipitation—and the light show!

I was all but finished with my note when I suddenly became alarmed by what sounded like a wailing siren. Severe thunderstorms had been predicted for late this evening. Racing upstairs, I flung the front door wide open (not too bright!) to confirm my suspicions. Grabbing my nine year old daughter out of bed, I guided this trance-like figure down the stairs and into the safety of the lower level family room where earlier, her two older siblings had decided to camp out for the night. The attempts to get my hubby to join us were futile.

About a month before, high winds had whipped our neighbor’s trees, bending and twisting them in unnatural ways. The sky became green, and the sound of loud train cars filled the air—something people warned me when I moved to the midwest was a sign of a nearby tornado. We later learned that a funnel had been spotted about a mile away. Fortunately, it had not touched down anywhere. (Tornados can form with no, or very little, warning. Having lived on the east coast, I can honestly say that hurricanes are much easier to avoid!)

This night, we had been wedged between two severe storm cells, one of which we were almost smack in the center. We were thankfully spared the heavy hail and other conditions this storm could have brought us. Both my hubby’s mother’s and brother’s homes had unfortunately suffered extensive damage during a recent hail storm they had in Wisconsin Rapids. The power of these storms always reminds me of the awesome power of God! --LKR


When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain't just putting on the ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)
There's thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn't joking
When He kicked 'em out of Eden
It wasn't for no reason
That He shed His blood
His return is very close
And so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God… .

--Rich Mullins Awesome God

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Walk in the Woods

When my family of five moved from Villa Park, IL almost three years ago, we all lamented leaving behind our beloved Prairie Path on which we spent many happy hours—and memories--walking. Shortly after moving to the south of Eau Claire, WI (technically in the town of Washington), the kids and I blissfully discovered the local’s entry into a magical wooded world that rivaled anything we had ever encountered this close to home.

With temps reaching into the high 80’s and low 90's this past week, I retreated onto these wooded trails of beautiful Lowes Creek County Park three times. Twice I was able to drag one of my three children along. For some reason unbeknownst to me, they now balk whenever they are asked if they’d care to join me on one of my treks.

With all honesty, I have to confess that when surrounded by nature, I tend to get absorbed by my surroundings. That said, I have to conclude that the hours which are mere minutes to me as each new bend on a path, rustle of leaves…, or damselfly beacons me to follow a bit further, deeper into their world, takes me farther from my children’s. It does not help that I bring a camera along!

The trip I made alone was the most enjoyable. It was quite incredible as I was totally awed at new vistas on a newly explored trail. A butterfly I had long sought after, a Baltimore checkerspot, suddenly flew past me, landing on the grass. It allowed me to get really close where I discovered that this black and orange winged beauty--with striking orange-tipped antennae--also had orange palpi, eyes, and legs!!!

Also encountered was a deer posing on a narrow path, a red spotted purple butterfly weaving through the canopy of trees above, and several wild columbine flowers that were still in bloom—something I’ll be able to share with my children through photos. --LKR