Just fooling around. The video ends just before he threw his hat at me!
Just fooling around. The video ends just before he threw his hat at me!
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…
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
I am trying to post here more often, but I am also now on Instagram if anyone is interested in keeping up with us there. I do not now, nor have I ever owned a cell phone, but I needed an account for a project a while back and so it was set up in a way that lets me use my laptop. Sometimes when I’m too busy for a full out post here I can still manage quick pop in there.
One of the rhythms we are trying to get back to is that of a daily nature walk. Quite apart from all of the benefits for the children, I’m a better person when I go for a walk every day and that is good for us all!
I have a birthday coming up at the end of the month. A couple of people have asked what I would like. I always seem to have lists, both mental and literal, of what the kids need or want, but for me? There are a great many things that I want in this life, but don’t put me on the spot by asking what they actually are!
I’ve given it some thought and this is what I came up with…. I would like subscriptions to Taproot and Making magazines. A new lens for my camera, you know, one where the auto focus function actually works. And this book, which our library system persists in not having, no matter how many times I check. And enough warm and soft wool yarn to knit a hood and maybe some matching cabled mittens for those long, cold, winter walks. And perhaps even more yarn for a cabled pullover? Too may of those to link to… And a bag with a zipper that reliably closes and stays closed, with pockets inside so that everything doesn’t get tangled up in a big jumbled mess and a pile of 2×4′s to build a bench in the mudroom which seems like it would solve any number of problems and charcoal grey wool fabric to make myself a skirt (perhaps something as simple as this? Scratch that, I think I want this one) and something that blooms and smells sweetly for the dark days of winter. I would love a pair of shoes that I actually like the style of, which also fit my orthotics and don’t pinch my toes and make them ache, but I think that’s probably too much to ask of any day, much less a mere birthday. Mostly I think I’d be content with just a peaceful day, preferably one where I don’t have to make dinner. And maybe a really good cup of tea. Yeah, I want the tea too.
Really it all started when one of them decided to be born on the other one’s birthday. Ever since that year, statistically speaking, 1/5 has been a mostly crazy sort of day for us.
While birthday sweaters were wrapped up with needles still in them and many warnings to be careful in the opening of them so as not to inadvertently drop stitches, I did manage a last minute dress for her. The pattern is Simplicity 5997 from 1973. It’s actually meant to be a nightgown (their meaning, not mine), but whatever. The rose covered fabric was thrifted by my mother-in-law. It’s much paler in person. I’ve been itching for an excuse to buy some of the prints in Rifle’s new fabric collection, and thought this might just be my chance, but $11 per yard plus shipping versus free and already here? Guess which fabric won out… She was quite pleased. I should have gotten a close up of the vintage floral buttons and hand sewn button holes- sewn with real silk button and button hole twist from a tiny wooden spool- also from my mother-in-law. Yes, the button hole function on my machine is still not working.
This is the second year in a row where we’ve had to call 911 on their birthday. Lest you think we just go about calling emergency services for every little thing, these have been the only two times we have ever called. Ok, well Galen once dialed them by accident when he was 2, but I don’t think that counts (they don’t really care for that kind of thing, by the way).
This year’s calamity involved a chimney fire with flames shooting several feet into the air. Bless our metal roof and single digit temperatures with frosty snow all around. And the chimney being run almost entirely outside the house instead of in the walls. These things and these things alone meant a night of excitement instead of full out disaster.
Seraphina thought that the firefighters were coming to fight us and that we were basically under siege and bravely told Mairi that she would save her.
Iain spent the entire day pretty much too sick to move, poor kid. He did open gifts, but that was about it. You know your kids are feeling pretty miserable when the whole house is illuminated by flashing lights and surrounded by emergency vehicles with people coming in and out and around every which way and me piling snow boots and sweaters around them in case we are forced to evacuate and two out of the five of them barely bothered to lift their heads or open their eyes or even seem to register what is happening at all.
Also, it would be the case that what felt like half the town would turn out and need entrance to the house immediately after I tore apart the pantry, scattering it’s contents all over ever flat surface in the house. Along the lines of this…
Only everywhere else as well. Seriously, that wasn’t embarrassing at all.
On their birthday, as the fire fighters, first responders, et al left, I resisted the temptation to say that we’d see them next year. Here’s hoping we don’t!
Another old post that has been sitting around, waiting to be finished, for ages now…
“My heart always needs beautiful Christmas.” ~Seraphina Violet Juliette, age 2
Everywhere we go it’s like Christmas cards come to life; snow covered, candle lit, evergreen trimmed New England countryside.
I listen to podcasts on minimalism while working on absurdly intensive projects and smirk to myself over the perversity.
My children are obsessed with holiday diffraction glasses. They have come to expect gingerbread men everywhere.
Butter Tarts. My word! THE official holiday treat of the 2016 season.
She calls our advent wreath a nest, a belief that is probably reinforced by our forever tucking feathers into it.
I keep making her the same booties, over and over again, because I love them so much. Each time I just alter the pattern to be larger and now call them slippers instead- this time in a festive bright red.
When the Papa Bear was too ill to take us for our Christmas tree, our newly licensed man cub stepped up. It’s a brave new world and him a star in it. He did brilliantly on his exam, plus bonus style points. The examiner said that in 13 years, he’s never before had a kid show up with actual driving gloves on. ahem.
In the children’s room at the library one day, the only other person present is watching me out of the corner of her eye with awe, or perhaps like I’m crazy- I’m really too preoccupied to discern which, as I scan the shelves looking for just the right books while simultaneously reciting Goodnight Moon from memory to Seraphina as she turns the pages. Clearly not a mother of many. A head pops around the stack, “Mommy, who wrote the Pippi books?” “Astrid Lindgren dear….and a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush’…”. Galen returns, arms stretched straight down with a stack of books balanced up to his chin. “Ten, ten, ten, you may get ten books and no more.” He plots and schemes with Mairi and between them they agree to get several books that they both want to read to make the most of their limit. A woman by the door asks if we’re getting them by the pound. I explain that there are only this many because I put a limit on them. She thinks I mean that I used some kind of reverse psychology to convince them to get books. I don’t really know what to say to that. The librarian behind the counter quietly giggles a bit and overrides the system restriction, which we’ve now managed to go over again. She knows us and she understands. She was a child like this once. I don’t get kids who don’t read. I don’t get people who don’t read.
Every time he comes on stage she jumps up and screams, “Iain! It’s Iain! There’s Iain!” And no amount of begging, pleading, cajoling or popping dried fruit in her mouth at just the right time can stop her. On the way home I wonder, is this our last year of being the family with the disruptive young child? Maybe it will be so for one year more? Either way we are growing away from certain phases in life and while certain things will surely be easier, it’s a strange feeling to know these days a numbered. Days that are too busy and too loud and too stressful and too beautiful to comprehend.