Author Archives: Melody

Hello friends

I started a post about Seraphina’s birthday, one about finishing a quilt for Iain, one about how I thought I was done with blogging.  Not a one of them ever went anywhere.  I know that some of you have been worried and for that I am very sorry.  Others have been sad or frustrated and I apologize for that as well.

I’ve been asked a number of times if I’m no longer in this space for good reasons or for bad and the frank answer is a little of each.

A few months ago we joined a homeschooling co-op.  We meet twice a week for two very long days.  It is both satisfying and all consuming.  I think that for Seraphina it’s like suddenly having 15 new siblings.  She always wants to go so desperately and when we are there it’s running from one thing to the next, all smiles for everyone.  Her current favorite game is to see how outrageously she can behave before Mommy will stop teaching to reprimand her.  When it’s time to leave she cries.  And when we get home, more often then not, she has a complete breakdown and spends the intervening days clinging to me like an infant.  It’s all mommy, all the time, making it pretty impossible to accomplish just about anything.

I’m co-leading a book club for the oldest kids (including Elijah and Iain when he has the time), where we’ve been reading the likes of Wuthering Heights and To Kill a Mockingbird.  And yes, I am  still not-so-secretly in love with Atticus Finch.  Fun fact: I attended the 7th grade book fair as the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw after having donned a lacy nightgown of my mother’s and powdering my face white.

I’m leading a book club for the next level down, including Galen, where we are just finishing up Swallows and Amazons, even though Galen has read it before.  That kiddo is a tough one.  It’s hard to find an appropriate book he hasn’t read.

I teach what I tend to think of as a small, mixed age, Waldorf kindergarten type class, which Seraphina has lovingly christened her “circle time class”.  I have a huge age range, with ten 1-8 year olds.  I lead a circle time with dancing, singing, story telling and finger plays followed by nature crafts.  We’ve made nests and nature weavings and played with snow dough, little clay pinch pots planted out with cress and more.

I’m also assistant teaching two drawing classes and helping out with a singing class.  It’s a lot.  With our dietary restrictions even just the food prep is an ordeal.  We’ve just shifted to a much more laid back, one day a week schedule, with lots of outdoor time and most classes being done until Sept.  I’ll be glad to take a step back and regroup.  Of course we have a singing concert, two performances of a play, an Irish dance concert and a ballet concert, with all the associated dress rehearsals over the course of the next three weeks, so we are still keeping quite busy, but things truly do ease up after that.

This is all the hectic but good developments.  Also in our world…

We were informed that Steve’s job of 14 years is moving several states away at the end of the year, and as we have made the decision not to move with it, there is a lot to consider.

Our ill little one, who miraculously and inexplicably grew well again around Christmas time, just as inexplicably began to decline again by Easter and we’ve found ourselves back in the world of long sleepless nights and seemingly endless worry.  I come unmoored at these times and loose all concept of time or priorities beyond what is in front of me.  I can’t even see beyond that.  It’s not even possible.  Full weeks just drift away without my being able to account for them.

Honestly, the only reason I am managing to finally post at all is that I’m laid up with “post vital cough syndrome”, Pleurisy (inflammation of tissue lining the lungs) and a resurgence of the RADS that hasn’t really given me trouble in over a decade.  In layman’s terms: whenever I try to move about I start coughing so hard that I see stars and feel like I’m going to vomit.

As to my future here, I truly don’t know.  Perhaps this post will be the catalyst that propels me back into regular blogging or maybe this will forever serve as my farewell post.  I feel like it could go either way.  There is so much up in the air right now that I have no idea what the future will bring.

No matter what, please know that this space and your involvement in it has been incredibly dear to me over the years.  Thank you all so much for sharing this little window into our life.  I’ve so enjoyed all of your comments and messages.

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March

And now it is March. Mid-March!  I just can’t keep up! Constant doings, in constant motion. I  thought older kids were supposed to be less work??? What they lack in hands on parenting needs, they sure make up for in administrative work. I’ve spent the last several weeks putting together portfolios of work for every subject that Iain studied in his first two years of high school, so that he can earn all the credits he needs in order to graduate.  I think the scanner is starting to make my brain vibrate.  And all of the paper work!  Forms for end of year dance recitals, forms for the prom, permission slips for outings, registration for 4H events, for school next year, for chess competitions, forms, forms, forms.  One of my favorites?  The back up emergency contact form.  In the event that something happens to my child, while doing his lessons, under my roof, with me present.  For when he finds himself in some sort of dire situation that his teachers on the other side of the state are aware of, but somehow I, in the same building with him, am not.  And somehow they can not contact me…. or Steve-either at work or on his cell phone.  I can’t really formulate a scenario where this would happen, perhaps some sort of crazy hostage situation?  But man, when it all goes down, calling my father, several states away, will help tremendously.

And on the subject of urgent situations, I whipped up some emergency throw pillow covers.  No thought, no planning, just grabbing fabrics at random; old flannel shirts, scraps of linen, pieces of an ill-fitting pillow case and stitching away.  I know you are all thinking, “Melody, there is no such thing as a throw pillow cover emergency.”  And I’m here to tell you that there is!  I won’t go into all the gruesome details, you are just going to have to trust me on this one.

Some little person (I hear she’s actually a snow angel) has a birthday coming up very soon!  Much making and planning under way…

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Avocado Pink

“God gave you a mind.  It is your job to use it.  And use it properly.  Do not waste it on negative thoughts or greedy desires.  If you focus your mind and use it wisely, you can achieve anything in this lifetime.  Healing is in your hands, not another’s.” ~Katina Makris quoting her father

A little while ago I dipped some Andes del Campo into the dye pot with avocado pits to make some special yarn for my pink obsessed little one.  It turned the palest of pearly pink-peach, a wonderfully pretty shade.

And this week I knitted it up into a cozy balaclava for woodland hikes and winter outings.  It’s a little late in the season for such a project, but she had suddenly outgrown her warmest hats and a quick, easy knit sounded satisfying.  I over blocked it a bit, but happily she will have plenty of room for next year.

Can you tell from her face that it’s mud season?

I’m currently reading Autoimmune Illness and Lyme Disease Recovery Guide: Mending the Body, Mind, and Spirit.  It’s probably not for everyone, but much of it resonates with me and this library copy I have here is full of little slips of paper marking pages with information that I want to look into further or things I wish to remember or implement.

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SaveOh, and meet Persephone the lamb, our very newest neighbor!

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February

Frozen
Enchanting
Beautiful
Remarkable
Unusual
Arctic like
Rosey
Yummy

Calendar stitching and poem by: Galen

We had a mild beginning to winter.  There was snow, but just in a general solid coating sort of way, not a burrow through and where on earth to put it all?  Sort of way.  The kind of snow that people south of us get excited about and we don’t even really notice.  Or bother to shovel.  And then suddenly heaps and heaps all at once.  Now, what?  I don’t exactly know what to make of it, but it’s warm and melty.  A late winter and perhaps now an early spring?  I’ll not let myself get too attached to that idea. I wake up every morning exhausted.  The urge to hibernate is strong.  But as the light strengthens I can feel a boost in my own resilience and I crave more from life.

Every evening that I’m able I bundle Seraphine into a sled and go out for a walk.  I watch the colors wash across the evening sky, no two walks quite the same and often wish for my camera when it’s been left at home, but there is no capturing it.  By the time we get back it’s gone.

Steve had emergency surgery and has been home recovering for all but 3 days this month so far.  He will be fine, but getting back to regular life is slow.  It was a fairly minor procedure, but with a long and painful recovery.

Meanwhile our young one who has been fairing poorly this past year miraculously and inexplicably started to grow well again two days before Christmas.  And for a month there was nothing but increasing strength and joy.  And I set to work trying to reclaim some sense of normalcy in our family rhythms, in our school day, even in how we relate to one another.  Re-entry is a challenge, a very welcome one, but tricky all the same.  The last few weeks things have slipped a bit, with concerning symptoms starting to arise again.  I know not where life will go from here.

I finished my birthday book and enjoyed it thoroughly.  The first part is a memoir including some raw glimpses of depression and a life-style gone ire, but also of hope, deep love, and devotion as well.  The second part would really only be of interest to someone who knows many plants by name and cares about the yearly cycle of a garden and wants to picture different flowers juxtaposed in their mind’s eye, all of which suited me just fine!

February is poetry month here.  One of those little markers of the year that defines the feeling of a month and has for so many years that I don’t even have to plan it any longer, it just is.  Most of the books for the children this year came from the Poetry for Young People collection.

And here is one by Mairi, just because I thought it was rather clever for a second grader…

Mairi
Aren’t
I
Right?
I am!

This is also the season for desperately drooling over gardening books.  I read The Sensuous Garden probably a decade ago now, long before I had ever heard of Montagu, a.k.a. Monty Don, and it made such a strong impression on me.  It’s not about the technical aspects of gardening, nor is it really about design, it’s about how a garden feels, smells, sounds.  It’s about the experience of being a gardener in a garden.  It’s beautiful.  I just checked it out again and it remains one of my favorite gardening books.  I also checked out this one. My goodness.  Total horticultural eye candy. It left me seriously wondering if His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales would let me just camp out in his garden.  I mean it can’t hurt to ask right?

On a different note, I really think I have to find some cold weather climate gardening gurus because sometimes amazing voyeuristic floral profusion is a necessity for mental health in the middle of a string of blizzards and other times, when you are listening to someone complain about winter wearing on and on before turning around to show off their daffodils blooming at the end of February… while you’re still looking at several feet of snow outside…and well… you kind of want to slap that person.  But maybe that’s just me.  I’m not very nice sometimes.  Also our early-early daffodils generally start blooming in the fourth week of April.  So yeah.  There is that.

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Mairi Rose’s 8th Birthday Sweater

Details:

I bought the pattern from Scandinavian Knitting Design.  They stock many patterns that are difficult to find in the US.  The yarns all came from Knitpicks: Stroll Tweed Sock Yarn in “Oyster Heather”, “Thirst Heather”, and “Rabbit Heather”,  Stroll Sock Yarn in “Wonderland”, and Comfy Fingering Yarn in “Flamingo”.  The pink shows up better in person than it does in these pictures.  I really like the stroll yarns.  Everything that I’ve made from them has held up well; it doesn’t shrink, it doesn’t pill, it’s soft, light but warm, reasonably priced.  It just really works well for me.  I’m also finding that it holds up so well that hand-me-downs are almost guaranteed, which can’t be said about a lot of yarns and only adds to the over-all value.  Elijah wears his vest daily and not just for quiet, gentle indoor activities either!  It still looks brand new, which is really satisfying after all of that work!

I altered the pattern for Mairi’s sweater a bit by doing contrast cuffs and button bands as well as adding little flecks of a second color between the yoke and hem.

I’m extremely happy to see this sweater finished and in use!

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Modeling Mondays

My darling Mairi Rose is many things, but easy to shop for is not one of them!  I confess to being entirely stumped as to a gift for her this Christmas.  No one else could think of anything either.  Believe me, I asked!  I finally settled on creating a kind of hand pottery set.  Perhaps not the flashiest of gifts, but it’s frankly been a beautiful experience that has added much to our homeschooling week.

To put together the kit I started with ordering 25 lbs of white air dry clay.  I can’t find the clay I bought, but I’ve heard good things about this one.  Lots and lots and lots for sharing and long-term use.  I re-purposed a caddy that we already owned.  I keep most of the clay in a closet in the original packaging and bring out five pounds at a time.  Even with at least three young people playing, this lasts a long time.  We’ve found that the best way to store it is in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel and with as much air as possible removed.  We’ve had no problems with dry out when stored this way.  In addition to the clay I purchased a set of wooden sculpting tools.  These are great and just right for kid sized hands.  As well as some acrylic paint for finishing the dried clay pieces.  To these I started adding bits and pieces from around the house: doilies to roll prints onto the clay, a giant silicon baking mat that didn’t fit any of my pans to use as a work surface, toothpicks for poking holes and supporting larger and more detailed sculptures, a piece of sponge for smoothing the clay.  I found a flower mold ice cube tray at a library sale for 25 cents to use as a paint pallet.  Mairi discovered that empty thread spools make a pretty little flower print.  Rubber stamps, both with and without ink, are fun to play with and the kids really enjoyed embedding beads into their projects for Valentine’s Day.  We’ve also made a lot of prints of flowers and leaves (taken from our house plants at this time of year!), with beautiful results.

Every Monday afternoon we take everything out and create.  Right now just the clay is entirely satisfying, but now that this family rhythm is established I’ll be mixing it up at times to keep things fresh, swapping out clay one day for say modeling beeswax, home-made play dough, or kinetic sand working with different themes and projects in mind.

Since people are likely to ask, the candle above was made using this candle making kit which Mairi received for her birthday.  As you can probably tell, art supplies are our major expenditure when it comes to gifts for the children.  We spend very little on toys, preferring to make most of what they own, but we do try to ensure that they have quality supplies to work with.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Decluttering Craft Areas

A little update on the 2017 decluttering challenge: I’ve been at it for just about four weeks now and so far I’ve rid our home of 741 items.  I am serious about this.  Conversely in that same time I did come home with a couple of new things.  Circumstances considered, I was very well behaved.  The first series of temptations came during an outing to a rare and used bookstore where everything was being sold for next to nothing.  The second was a craft swap where everything was available for literally nothing.  Books and craft supplies.   My kryptonite.

A hundred and six year old first edition copy of a book that I thought might make a pleasant family read aloud, two children’s magazines from 1937 and 1944 respectively, that have the sweetest illustrations and which I intend to tuck into Mairi’s Easter basket and two old knitting magazines.  Including the six or so books that Mairi, Galen, and Seraphina picked out, we spent $12.

I came home with a few things from the sewing and knitting exchange as well.  There was an entire room full of free sewing and knitting supplies people!  I’m only human.  Still, I dropped off three boxes worth of donations and everything I came home with fit in my handbag.  Not such a bad exchange.

The two designs above are from Bear Brand Campus Knits Vol. 335, cira 1947.  The patterns have rather humorous names such as “Beau Catcher” (Steve checked it out and found the bait inferior).  These two above are “Art Appreciation” and “Collegiate” and I can’t decide which I’d rather grace my needles.

I started sifting through craft supplies before I was truly ready because of the swap.  It’s really an emotional process, much like sorting through sentimental items.  I’m afraid this is one area where I’m guilty of keeping every last thing, just in case.  It’s comforting to me to feel that in lean times I could make whatever might be needed.  But I want to live with more freedom now, not stockpiling for a future which may or may not come.  I’ve started looking at certain fabrics and telling myself that I’ve made my dress or blouse or whatever from it and now I can let what’s left move on to someone else.  It has already served it’s purpose for me.  I don’t have to use up every last scrap.  I’m trying to think less in terms of what I could use, as just about everything falls into that category, and more what I genuinely think I will use.  And perhaps more importantly, what I want to use.

What about you?  Do you have experience with decluttering craft supplies or trying to keep a more minimalist craft set up?

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36

My birthday was beautiful and I feel blessed.  As a gift to myself I finally, finally, finally sewed the buttons onto my Calligraphy cardigan and blocked it and I’ve refused to take it off since it dried.  It still needs pockets.  I need more pockets in my life.  I’ll get to it at some point.  Unfortunately the buttons seem a bit too small or the holes have stretched a bit too much, either way I might have to do something about that as well.  But none of that is stopping me from wearing it constantly.  The yarn is Swish Worsted in “Doe” (I believe this color has been retired).

I just finished reading The Winthrop Woman.  It was most enjoyable.  I had trouble putting it down.

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Flight of fancy…

Or perhaps fancy of flight?

Measuring in at just over 6 feet tall, this is a replica of the 1783 hot air balloon built by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier that was the first to ever carry a human aloft.  We all played some part in its construction and subsequent launch, but really it was Elijah who did the lion’s share.

Each panel took at least a couple hours of constant hand cramping work in order to trace and fill in the design.  And as there are eight gores that was quite the investment of time and energy.  I suggested we just do a few…leave the other ones blank or embellish them with some simple stripes or polka dots or something.  But no, this perfectionist boy of mine had to have everything just so.  Not sure where he could possibly get that from (insert not so discreet throat clearing noise here).

We invited friends and neighbors over for the launch and afterwards toasted the Montgolfier brothers with sparkling cider.  Those of us who worked on it weren’t as impressed with it’s flight as we were hoping, but we’ve been talking through some potential modifications, both to the structure and our inflating methods.

The kit was put out by the Smithsonian Institution in 1998, so I don’t know how readily available it is at this point.  I found that Ben Franklin’s Balloons was the perfect documentary to go along with it.

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