Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Yarn Along of Late July



I'm unsure whether Ginny will be hosting the Yarn Along after the sudden and tragic loss of her friend this week, and it would be entirely understandable if she didn't.  If you haven't followed the situation, you can read her short post on it from the other day, with the update that Sarah and baby Cecilia have passed away.  My heart is broken for this family so far from here and I can't even begin to imagine what they are experiencing.  I will be praying this week for Sarah's husband and their four children.

Whether or not there is a Yarn Along to join, I have been so looking forward to sharing the progress I've been making on the adorable Clementine hoodie.  I am onto the hood which is knit in a Feather and Fan pattern, one I've always loved.  I was inordinately proud of myself for figuring out the raglan construction from the bottom-up, since, well, I'm visually/spacially challenged and usually end up throwing projects across the room when I branch out into a new skill area but this sweater wasn't tossed even once!  Once I figured out the general construction of how to add the sleeves onto the sweater, I was able to trust the pattern and go forward.  

"Sometimes a day can get so busy, and we can get so preoccupied with all the things that we must get done that we can forget to smile into our children's eyes.  We can forget to make that heart connection.  Even on busy days, when my kids come to me to share a story or ask a questions, I try to "twinkle" at them - to let them know that I am glad to be looking at them."  Sections like this are the reason I am still so slowly digesting The Sane Mother's Guide and why I think it's so applicable even for families of "just a few" kids.  I was so cranky today, just short on patience since we were grocery shopping in 100 degree weather and loading kids and groceries in and out of the car and multiple stores in that kind of heat made us all so irritable.  But yesterday!  Yesterday I kept this suggestion at the forefront of my mind.  I love the word "twinkle" to describe that special eye contact connection because it is truly more than just looking at someone.  It's looking at them with the force of love and that is so important and so easy to miss.  Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity for twinkling eyes.  It is really important to me that I also "twinkle" at my husband this week since we are both very tired.

This is the last week of our summer ministry teams and so our last week of Kids Club for the summer.  I will miss the miraculously joyful and hopeful environment that Christ brings into the heart of the housing project where our family spends our summer afternoons and especially will miss some of the beautiful children, like the girl who comes up and tickles my back several times a day, or the precious girls who shyly presented my children with crowns and chains from the clover they had gathered nearby today.  I love to see the other moms who quietly sit near their baby in the stroller and watch their children play safe in the sun.  I try to take the opportunity to connect with moms there, even if it's a short conversation, and always hope that one day they might come back or will detect the love of God and want to come to church.  I decided to bring my camera today to practice taking pictures and we can always use more for our family's communication to those who partner with us, so I will try to get a post up on our family's blog with a few of those pictures and maybe some stories soon.  In the meantime, I am sharing my favorite of the Girl With the Clover Crown.


This past weekend was really beautiful. I took the girls over to the Seattle area for a brief visit with my family- the original reason for our trip ended up being rescheduled but my brother Austen just got engaged to his lovely girl and I also hated to disappoint my littles for no real reason, so we went overnight! It was really nice to spend time with all three of my brothers, my new sister-in-law to be, who I have loved ever since first meeting her several years ago, and my other brother's sweet girlfriend too.  Not to mention that it is always a joy to see my parents. I was really glad we went. As a sample of how sweet Kelly is, they asked my girls to be flower girls in their wedding and each girl got a darling flower crown made just for them! They are really excited.

Lyddie has been making new friends at church and that is really fun to watch. Little Harmony is the same age as Lyddie and I noticed Harmony seek out Lyddie this last week and that made me smile. While I wrote some last week about the care I have taken to keep from pushing structured education too early for our preferences, I realize that instead we work heavily in the area of faith and character development as completely foundational to formal education once we begin. Obedience, cheerful service, kindness to others,  truthfulness, tenderness, inclusivity, loving Jesus with thankful hearts... these all factor into our daily rhythms all the time.  Areas that are difficult for people much older than Lyddie and Millie to grasp- like seeing value and beauty in a person no matter how they appear or act- arise in natural and applicable conversations and they respond so matter of fact, connecting things we have learned about Jesus to the situation at hand. The glimpses of fruit I see in their lives excites me and gives me such hope for the beautiful ways God will continue to work in their hearts and minds as they continue to grasp their need for Him. It can be hard to remember the moments of beauty amidst the squabbling but they are there so often for my eyes to see if I would just look.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yarn Along, July 23

This week I finished knitting Lyddie's Bulle and I am still convinced it's going to be really adorable on her little string bean frame.  She's so willowy in spite of being really petite.  Can you be petite and willowy at the same time?  I found this button shop on Etsy and I'm enamored by many of her fabric covered buttons (aren't these ones adorable??)  They seem really reasonably priced, as well, so I think I will order some for my recent FO's that are still awaiting buttons, since we live in a cute-button-black-hole.

I started making a sweet Clementine Hoodie for a friend's baby, and I have a diaper cover that ended up being much too large for Rosie once almost I finished it and I plan on ripping it out and starting over in a smaller size soon enough.  I like wool soakers and although it seems counterintuitive (the zigzag red lines say that isn't a real word... but isn't it?) to put wool on a baby in the summer, the natural fibers of wool just don't trap heat in the way our PUL covers do, so it seems to be true what they say about wool being somewhat miraculous and her little bum really does stay cooler in it even with a prefold diaper inside.  I'm a believer, anyway. 

I am still reading A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family this week and taking it slow to digest and think.  It's not that it's a particularly deep book to read but full of really practical advice and ideas that I end up mulling over awhile before moving onto the next section.  I really appreciated her thoughts on how to manage activities with kids outside the home, something I've started thinking about more.  Many people have already had their kids in several extracurricular (can you call it that if there is no curricular activity yet?) by the time they are Lyddie's age of four and a half, but we just keep going slow and knowing there will be a lot of time for that and keep emphasizing play and pretend and relationship with each other and Jesus and learning to participate in household chores, and I felt like that mindset is consistent with the thoughts I read this week, in which she said they have ended up feeling like starting kids in most activities before 1st grade isn't really that beneficial and the cost is high enough on the family that they don't really do it anymore.  So many sources loudly yell that you should start tapping a child's potential really early so they can succeed and grow and blossom and be ahead of the curve- but she said that whenever they have started even just music lessons earlier than 1st grade they don't make progress as well or as fast as they are when they are older (which is consistent with my experience as a piano teacher too, actually!).  That was nice to read and it is freeing to let go of the "make it happen and now" mentality that I start to feel.

I am also reading By the Shores of Silver Lake by, of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  You know, the last time I read these books must have been junior high and I have such different appreciation and insight about them now than I did then and frankly, I can hardly remember the story so it's like reading them for the first time.  This book takes place when Laura is 13, jumping about 3 years ahead, I think, from the previous book.  The storytelling is so different, and through the whole series she so consistently captures events in ways that are true to the age she would have been when they were happening.  The writing style for Big Woods is very different from Silver Lake and I assume now that the differences will keep getting stronger through all the books as she gets older into her young adult years.  She was an incredible writer.  I keep wrestling with the way "westward expansion" has always been presented as such an admirable thing in my own past reading and education about the pioneers, since I now know what great cost was paid by the not-so-distant ancestors of some of my dear friends and for the way the "expansion" was accomplished.  There is a song sung in this book about Uncle Sam giving people homesteads and of course, my mind immediately now questioned why Uncle Sam thought he had the right to give that land away.  I know why "he" did, but I guess I just don't think he did have the right.  My opinions are strong, but I don't appreciate these books any less for it because the issues are so complex and history is history and can't be changed-- although our responses to it certainly can and should.  

That's the glimpse into my hands and heart today.  What are you knitting and reading?  Join up with Ginny at Small Things too if you can!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Its Time

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; 
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. (Ecc. 3:1-2)

Stalks that have been growing higher and higher, and then a sea of gold stretching and pointing upward to the hills beyond, from whence help comes. With fascination, the girl with the copper hair digs her toes into the wire fence and hoists herself up to watch as the ears pour through that contraption into the truck below.  Always questioning and absorbing the sights and sounds around her, tomorrow will certainly be full again of questions about corn harvesting, a thankful change from the worried questions of the other day about wildfires and the homes and lives of people affected.  "Momma, can you pray about the fires and the people?"  "Yes, honey, we can pray again about it.  The firemen tell people if the fire is getting too close so they can go somewhere safe until the fire moves away.  God, you are bigger than the fires and you know just what is happening and why.  Please make them stop soon, and protect the homes and people who are near them and especially use them to help people know how much You love them."  That is how most of my prayers end, because how else can I pray in the midst of the hard questions?  Yes, dear one, God loves us and He does have a plan for all these things that happen to us but that doesn't always make it feel good when bad things happen.  But He always loves us with a never stopping love and He is always our best friend.

This girl with the sandy hair fills the hours with laughter, her own and others.  Was there ever such a distinct and beautiful sense of humor in a three year old?  The boots clickety clack on the hard floor and she cocks her head to the side to listen closely, smiling.  Her sister makes a joke and a spiral of giggles winds up to the ceiling and back down again, pitch rising and falling and rising again. Delight to my heart when she wraps her soft arms around my neck and says quietly, "I love you, Momma."  And to remember back to that quiet fear when she was still in my womb, the one that I may not be able to love a second child as much as I loved the first, because when you love one more than life itself, can you love another that much too?"  And the answer is yes.  Love begets more love. 

 This girl, this mystery.  "EEEEEEEEEEzzzzzzz" she says in imitation of her sisters' "Cheese!" at pictures and you can see the vowel hanging on her lips.  

Mermaid paper dolls, complete with glitter decoration - it's the simple things.  


He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Time Flies

We pulled off the old sheets and pulled the new onto that top bunk, he and I.  He spread the comforter over the top.  Then he picked up that blankie, the one worn and graying with the not-so-soft-anymore fuzz and we smiled at each other, each immediately picturing her desperate attempts to make herself small enough to still fit under this beloved square of fabric, and the tears began to course down my cheeks.  He looked at me, perplexed yet already knowing what his crazy little wife was thinking, and I choked out, "She's getting big too fast," but not before he had wrapped his arms around me in a hug.

Then we glanced up at the top bunk where our littlest had clambered up the ladder and sat grinning wild at eye-level with me.  We burst into laughter and then more tears trickled down as I realized that this one is growing too fast too, but we both laughed at my tears too and then he reached through to tickle that little Squirmy Bug, as her sister so tenderly calls her.  And my life is over for awhile now, as I find ways to keep her from climbing the five foot ladder and getting stuck up on top. 


I worked double hard yesterday in order to observe Sabbath today and I was able to keep going because I kept picturing "just sitting" for an hour while the girls all rested.  Of course, there was still the flurry of work to get out the door this morning that is unavoidable, but because I had pushed harder last night to make breakfast ahead and start tonight's dinner prep and do extra laundry, I knew I would feel more freedom to sit and knit or read awhile this afternoon.  That has been a good thing and something I haven't done often enough lately.  I am so glad I did.  By the way, this Thai Crunch Salad is what's for dinner and I have no doubt it will be delicious, since all of Mel's recipes are.  In related news, I made her  Curried Cauliflower "Popcorn" last night and when Jesse tasted it, surprised that he liked it (since neither of us like cauliflower), I looked at his questioning eyes and said "Yep, Mel's" recipe, so of course it was good.  I'll be buying cauliflower again and making it again soon. 


One of my favorite memories from the past month is of Lyddie and her friend Harmony at church playing on the new seesaw.  I haven't had a camera at hand to catch the moment, but I'm not sure it would capture the unabashed joy both little girls show when the look across and see the other's big smile and they kick one another back up to the sky.  "Ouch!" they each say in turn as they bump their little bottoms up and down on the hard seat below and then peals of laughter pour out and fill the playground with the sounds that  should be heard at a playground.  All the adults pause and look to see the source of this happiness, and their happiness causes more happiness all around.  Just as it should be.  "Let the little ones come to me."


I somehow stumbled back across this old blog post from three years ago.  Sleeping babies are so lovely, aren't they?  Millie is almost exactly Rosie's current age in those photos and I continue my wondering where the time flown to.  She still sleeps like that often, on her tummy with her arms all sprawled out and her fingers entwined in the satin ribbon on that same baby doll named Susie. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yarn Along, Mid-July

Oh how I wish the colors were coming out more accurately in the pictures, but they're not so instead, I just oversaturated the picture for fun.  The red is really a more cherry red (although the color is "Serrano" so fiery red seems fitting) and you can hardly glimpse the pocket at all but it's the sweetest bright blue.  I have little confidence in choosing color pairings (which is why painting rooms in the house brings loads of stress) but I am so glad I went with the bright blue.  It pops!  I just need to finish the two pockets, sew ends and buttons and block before it's done and ready to be folded and tucked away until the cold arrives.  No need for woolens of any kind when the highs are in the 100s and the lows aren't going below 70 most nights!

I finished the Agatha Christie novel last week (The Mystery of the Blue Train) and was about to pick up the next Little House book when the library notified me that the book I placed on hold last week had come in. The Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family was what Ginny was reading last week and although I wouldn't call our family a "large" family with just three kids, I am really enjoying the little bit I plowed through this afternoon while hiding in our air-conditioned living room.  It is amazing to me how immediate the questions come about family size, even (especially!) after the birth of a baby.  "Are you done?  Are you going to try for a boy?" are questions I still get with regularity and I don't ever know quite how to answer the question.  Frankly, trying for a baby of a certain sex doesn't really enter my thoughts as we ponder the question ourselves.  Mary Ostyn addresses some of the issues around deciding to have more children head on and with honesty at the beginning of the book and they spoke right into my heart.  I love how she focuses on prayer and waiting on the Lord for His timing and answers. Even after the first few pages of practical advice on food and grocery budgeting, I was encouraged since I am already doing most of what she recommends to have a balanced budget with several children.  I look forward to reading more of her practical and encouraging advice and ideas over the next week. 

Feeding the Sheep is one I picked up at the library too, and it is such fun!  My girls were fascinated by the simple depiction of the wool-to-yarn process.  The text is very simple which I think is perfect because it points the focus to the details in the beautiful illustrations. 

Last but not least is Family Math, one I've been perusing just a little at a time and trying to settle on a way to incorporate some of the simple ideas and lessons into our days.  We have decided not to start homeschooling/kindergarten with Lyddie this fall; she is only four and will turn five in November so if she was going to be in public school she wouldn't be starting yet either.  (While the decision is not driven by my selfish desires, I have to confess it brings me joy to think I might be able to keep her with us an extra year of life unless it's obvious we shouldn't.)  We adhere to Charlotte Mason's ideas about limiting structured educational activities before age 6-7 and instead encourage a lot of pretend play, learning in the natural world, and reading aloud.  We read so much and we are surrounded by a lot of natural opportunities for exploration of God's world around us that I am satisfied with this mindset for our family.  Beyond working on reading and writing with her (because she loves it and is definitely ready), I will probably not do much in the way of formal teaching yet and am by no means picking out a curriculum to use yet.  But especially in our winter months I do try to include some fun planned learning activities since we are cooped up together anyways and it makes the time together feel special and exciting.  So I am hoping to pick several age-appropriate math-based activities from this fun book for the coming year and prep the materials to have on hand as needed.  

Oh my, I had a lot to say today about the books I'm reading but aren't they delightful?  In other news (that you probably know), Ginny guest posted on Ann Voskamp's blog today which was an exciting treat to see in my blog feed.  I read four or five blogs religiously and both Ginny's and Ann's are included in that number.  My mind was about blown that time I found out that they are friends in person as well. If you haven't ready Ginny's post there, you really should!  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Twenty-Six Years

A quarter of a century plus a year ago this week, I met this girl my age with blonde hair at Vacation Bible School in a church new to our family.  We were Lyddie's age then, and our friendship has remained steady over the years and over the miles.  She has loved me through my bossy early years when two pesky younger brothers were the only siblings we knew, during the years when Barbies and dress-up dominated the hours, on through nail polish and boys and dreams and the arrival of more younger siblings, right on through life decisions and all-nighters half a country away from one another, when periodic phone calls were the only way to keep in touch.  She has been a part of most of my favorite memories.  Our lives are interwoven and have been as far back as I can remember.  We learned together from our mothers how to preserve fruit and how to have friendships that can make it through the storms.  We learned from beloved Mary with the wispy white hair how to knit and how to cross-stitch and how to have common sense and spent hours together in her living room listening to the sage wisdom of one so many many years ahead of us on the road.  

This weekend, with my girls who adore her, was such a gift.  Such a gift to sip coffee together in comfy chairs and talk about life and relationships and where we've come and dreams and hopes and disappointments while our silver embroidery needles mirrored lives, plain cloth turned beautiful one tiny stitch at a time.