Category Archives: Life

Christmas 2017

Seraphina’s Christmas Wish List: Eggnog, jelly beans, chocolate cake, candy, bananas, oranges, clementines, grapefruits.  My mother asked, “don’t you want any baby dolls or toys or books?”  Nope. Just sweets.

Elijah watches old episodes of Bob Ross, Galen watches Elijah, I try to figure out which walls can still fit more paintings.  The northern lights one was my Christmas present from Elijah.  Galen is an extremely prolific painter, but I tend to get fewer pictures of his as he tends to paint at night.

Two books that are perfect for around the time of the Winter Solstice:

Little Snow Bear by Hazel Lincoln has been a family favorite for years.  I believe Elijah received it for his 4th Christmas.  The illustrations are divine and I think they were the inspiration for the painting in this post.  It’s a very sweet and gentle story in which little snow bear goes out in search of the missing sun.  Our copy is worn and battered and greatly beloved.

Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root was a happenstance library find and entirely new to us this year.  The story is modeled off of Nordic lore, but more modern in tone and appearance.  It had me from the opening page, “Lucia and her mother and baby brother lived with a velvet brown cow and a milk-white cat in a little house at the foot of a mountain in the Far North.  The cow gave milk, the cat slept by the fire, and the baby cooed and grew fat by the hearth.”  When the sun disappears one day Lucia’s mother tells her that they will, “be each other’s sun until the real sun returns”.  The sweet story turns into an adventure when Lucia sneaks out to find the sun only to discover it’s been stolen by trolls!  The trolls, admittedly, were too much for sensitive, three-year-old Miss Seraphina, but I will keep this one in mind for next year.

Life with teens: I have one who walks about draped in home-made whips and another who randomly wears boxing gloves as some sort of bizarre fashion statement.

The baby doll Juliette has been in a somewhat horrifying state for about a year now.  She never really recovered from that time when Galen decided to give her “troll hair”.  And beyond which was getting rather grubby with two years of loving.  When two days before Christmas my neighbor dropped by with some brown mohair yarn I decided the time was ripe for an impromptu surprise makeover.  I do not adore the highlights.  They are what was salvageable of her original hair, plus the little bit of that yarn that I had leftover.  I was afraid that if I used an entirely new hair color she might be too different, so I tried to blend the two.  It’s ok-ish I guess.  I also cleaned her up, refreshed her rosy cheeks and donned her in her new Christmas nightie (of course) she made her grand reappearance on Christmas Eve.

Elijah helped with the Christmas pajamas again this year.  Thank goodness.  It’s too daunting for me alone.  It took 16 yards of fabric to cover those boys of mine!  Sixteen!  We hated the pattern (Simplicity 2771) so much that by the time we got to Galen’s we decided to switch to another pattern entirely (Kwik Sew K3945).  Elijah made that complete set on his own in probably a quarter of the time it would have taken us with the other pattern.  And probably half the size- the others were HUGE!

For the girls I used old standbys.  My favorite Kwik Sew 3423 and it’s bigger sister Kwik Sew 3105.  I used the latter for Mairi Rose’s first Christmas and have turned to them both regularly ever since.  I made them each a pair of pink organic cotton velour leggins for underneath.  And they are terribly sweet and soft and toasty and cuddly in them.

Oh, I almost forgot!  Seraphina’s romper….I was rushing out the door headed for a long car ride and trying to quickly pull together everything I needed for the day’s knitting.  I had every intention of sizing up the Lady from the North Cabled Romper, but something went amiss with my paypal and it decided to treat my payment as a check requiring three days to clear.  Are you kidding me??  So I grabbed a stitch dictionary instead and designed my own as I went along.  I was already well into it when the pattern arrived several days later.

And the chickadee!  I love him so.  It was a little project just for pleasure, started with some friends, mostly crafted on Christmas day, finished a day or two later.  I think I might have to make a tradition of it and make a new bird each year to add to the tree.

 

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December

And this is as far as I got in what was going to be a very full advent sort of post.  Better some than none?  I don’t know, but here you go anyway.

The garden is covered in ice and snow.  I’ve been scanning/quick reading Christmas chapter books all month to make sure that they are ok for Mairi, who reads at least one a day.  I’ve been making a list so that I don’t have to start all over again with Seraphina.  I should share it here, but who wants a list of Christmas books after Christmas??  I’m absolutely exhausted, but I suppose that can’t be helped.  Christmas pajamas are complete, but for a few snaps still needing to be set.  It took 16 yards of fabric to cover my boys this year, for goodness sake!  The girls’ are of a different fabric and pattern this year- pink and matching, Seraphina is going to be thrilled and hopefully Mairi Rose will be tolerant.  My Grandmother’s shortbread with all sorts of alterations for dietary restrictions turned out only so-so.  Elijah has been covering at least one canvas a week (that is one of the more recent ones above) and Galen has been averaging a painting a day (didn’t get so far as to include those pictures).  We’re supposed to have a snowstorm Christmas morning and I’m pleased about that.  Currently I’m trying to figure out if there is any way to fit in a Christmas Eve nap, but I think I probably ought to go clean up my living room instead.  It’s also my sewing space at the moment.  You might just be able to picture the chaos.  Or maybe not.  I seem to bring with me my own special brand of chaos.  And goodness I need to be on top of it all soon because in 12 days my children have a birthday.  Mairi Rose will be 9 and Iain will be 18 (!!!).  p.s.  Who decided that 18 makes for an adult?  I think I might like to have a word with them…  And there are still gifts and things to be tended to there.  So I think I’ll end here by saying a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season to all of you!!!!

with love, Melody, Steve, Iain, Elijah, Galen, Mairi Rose, Seraphina, and a whole slew of chickens

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: The Etta Dress

Funny story: As alluded to, two or three months ago I tried making a big deal of getting all purdied up for Steve’s birthday.  We were planning to go on a date, just the two of us. I quietly worked on a new dress to wear, in a style he would appreciate, as a surprise. I thought it was a sweet idea, but suspected he might be less thrilled when he found out that Seraphina has been telling everyone we know about daddy having a “secret dress”.

It turns out he just laughed.  Which I knew he would.  But the story is funnier the other way.

So, I do this thing sometimes….just because we are totally weird…where I randomly surprise Steve for special occasions by dressing up in the style of a different era, complete with hair, make-up, etc.  And I direct your attention to our ’50′s Valentine’s day (yikes.  Kind of wishing I hadn’t looked.  4 years and baby #5 had some serious impact!).  No idea where this started or why (actually, after re-reading that post, I think it started then!  The blog is educational!).  Like I said, we’re just kind of weird that way.  In honor of his birthday this year, I went with the decade in which he was born.  I was going for a Joan from Mad Men kind of thing, but Christina Hendricks I ain’t!  What I am is a middle aged mother of five, so you basically get what you get.

Sewing a fitted dress when you are nowhere near an average size and shape??  Holy moly.  I shortened the bodice, the skirt and the sleeves….brought in the waist, let out the high hip, brought in the low hip….did a full bust adjustment…a slight sway back adjustment (should have done more!)…made it narrower through the shoulders…lowered the neckline by two inches when one of my two muslins felt too choke-y* and correspondingly altered the collar.  And probably other things that I can’t think of because I’m blocking out the trauma.

*Just for clarification, I don’t think this is a flaw in the pattern, it’s just that people with a history of breathing problems (me) tend to get freaked out by anything too close to their throat.

My darts are all….I don’t know…awful.  Yup, that’s the word.  Terrible, atrocious and mortifying would all fit as well.  Even though I know how to sew darts properly and I swear I did them the “right” way.  Somehow they are still totally wrong.  I want to blame the fabric, but I’m not sure that’s fair.  And I don’t like where they hit.  I think I should have altered that, but I double checked pictures of the pattern and that is where they are supposed to be.  Side note: I seriously, seriously, seriously need a pressing ham if I’m going to insist on continuing to make women’s dresses.  Seriously.  An invisible zipper foot would be good too.

I felt the fabric would be just perfect.  I was wrong.  It’s a stretch sateen….which quite predictably shows and amplifies every little flaw, both in my figure and sewing ability.   The dress looks ok (and only ok) if I am standing still having just straightened it, but the moment I move at all it shifts and bunches and clumps-clings in funny and awkward ways.  This is probably evident from the photos above.

So much work for something so horribly disappointing!  I think I’ll be sticking with super simple sewing for a while now.

But yes, he liked it.  Though I suspect he wasn’t actually looking at the darts, so I’m not sure how much his opinion should really count for.  Just sayin’.

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a birthday date

Steve’s birthday just past and we made a long weekend of it.  Saturday an outing for just the two of us, Sunday a bit of a family celebration and Monday, by his request- trying and somewhat succeeding to do as near to nothing as possible.

I got entirely dolled up for our brunch outing (possibly more on that later).  It was a gift of sorts.  As we were sitting and eating I caught the eye of a beleaguer looking mother, trying to herd her young ones out the door.  The somewhat desperate look on her face!  It was like I could read her thoughts.  Because they have been my thoughts so many times.  It was a fleeting moment of mixed emotion that basically amounted to, “It must be nice to have the time, space, and energy for appearances.  I’d rather like that sort of luxury myself, but clearly that is not my lot.  I bet you take it for granted.” Just a split second, a glimpse of a thought, before landing squarely back in the world of, “No, no don’t run towards the street!”, “Please get that out of your mouth,”, “People don’t really like it when you bring sticks into a restaurant dear.”  In a way that probably makes me somewhat awful, it was rather flattering to be on the opposite side of this exchange.  Oh, but I empathized with her.  I really and truly did.  In my own jealousy (I guess that’s the best word.  Maybe envy is better?) it’s less about what the other person actually looks like and more about how they obviously took the time to care for themselves.  Which implies that they had the time.  That is what I find desirable and often unobtainable.  And I think I read more into it then I should about priorities and the ease of the other person’s life.  I wanted to go and hug her frazzled self and tell her that she should see me most days, carry a toddler and a bag for her and help with the door.

After brunch we visited a vintage clothing shop.  Which primarily consisted of us identifying articles that easily could have come out of the past wardrobes of our various relatives.  My trying on outrageous glasses and hats to make him laugh.  And my being made fun of for pseudo-secretly harboring an embarrassing desire to wear all of the pink chiffon garments that everyone else finds hilariously hideous.

We walked the sidewalk sale of a funky, artisan town and briefly visited an arboretum…sadly too late to tour the conservatories.  But that was lovely and I wish we had longer there.  Highlights for me included the immense Japanese umbrella pine that Steve is standing under in the picture above.  A big, beautiful 100+ year old ginkgo, and Cinnamon Vine (both pictured above) which I had never heard of before.  I found it by it’s scent which I trailed across the garden.  It’s this sort of intoxicating floral/cinnamon that had me vowing to add it to our own garden.  Then I came home and started to read up on it, learning that it’s considered invasive and you have to plant it every year and do special things to propagate it and so forth, at which point it all started to sound like too much trouble and I figured I’d just be better off occasionally sniffing a spice bottle instead.

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Wrapped in Emerald Green Silk…

Pattern: June Bunnies Shawl by Inese Andzane

Yarn: Luminance Lace Yarn, color: Thoughtful

Clarification on my last post: Most of it was written over a month ago and was accurate for that time, but doesn’t necessarily hold true for the present.  I’m feeling much better now.  I’m up and around, back to every day life.  Occasionally I’ll go on a bit of a coughing jag, usually triggered by singing or reading aloud at length, but most of the time the cough is completely gone.  I have to be careful to try to keep my seasonal allergies under control.  My stamina is not great.  By late afternoon I’m totally worn out.  I feel like all of my muscles have atrophied and I fear I’ll never get any strength back.  I’m soft and squishy, like a baby, only I don’t wear it nearly so well.  A month of inactivity, coupled with medications that cause weight gain and my none-to-perky metabolism have weighted me down, quite literally.  I’m still trying to get comfortable in my body as it is now, with its limits, sensations and appearance.

Every time I experience a health crisis it feels like a serious setback and I worry I will never fully recover the level of wellness that I had prior.  It’s a valid fear, as this has been my experience at times in the past.  Not every time, but enough to cause anxiety.  This feeling of forever loosing ground and never being able to make it up?  Not reassuring.  But I am doing what I can to heal under less than ideal circumstances.  I’m falling back on old herbal remedies, slowly trying to bring vibrancy back into this tired body of mine with gentle movement, and trying my best to hold on to hope.

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Starry, starry night…

Is it irritating for me to be so flighty about my future here?  I’m still laid up and according to the doctors will be for a while yet.  I’m in a good bit of pain, not really sleeping, dwelling on disturbing news and over-all feeling rather despondent.  And kind of lonely and isolated to be honest.  I still can’t talk long without going on a coughing jag.  So reaching out in an accessible way, trying to focus on the positive seems kind of right.  But no word from me for over two months, followed by an emotional possible farewell forever post, and another random post a mere four days later?*  Kind of obnoxious.

The quilt….it’s been in progress for years and years.  I believe I bought the owl fabric for Iain for his 9th birthday?  Maybe even his 8th birthday?  I thought I may have taken him to pick out the fabrics to go with it, but now I’m not sure!  Maybe I picked them out?  I sketched out layouts and ideas, which changed from time to time….there are several in my sketch book…picked out a thread color and then changed my mind…moved the box of “Iain Quilt” fabrics from house to house, taking them out to look at from time to time…and so it went.  In 2015, with his  sixteenth birthday on the horizon, I started work in earnest, wanting to finally be able to give him this long awaited quilt.  It was to be a surprise and every moment he was out of the house I worked away a square at a time.  Each square was pieced and then quilted onto a scrap of cotton fleece.  I used up all the bits of fleece I had leftover from other projects.  I gave him the quilt top for his birthday.

I added a layer of wool batting and a backing of thick chocolate brown cotton velour, for a luxurious touch, and hand tied it all together with deep red floss.  All of this was completed within maybe two weeks of his birthday.  Nothing but binding left to go…..and……it sat.  For over a year.  I don’t know, I had some kind of a hang up about it.  But it is now, finally, totally and completely done and in use.  It is, by far, the warmest quilt I have ever made.  I’m so glad to have finally finished it for him!

*Most of this post was written four days after the last one.  Then somehow it just sat around (quilt like), never getting finished, for nearly a month.  Which is probably a sign.  But I still don’t know.  I’m missing this space right now.  As another side note, I have no idea what’s wrong with the formatting on the pictures from my last post and I’m too tired to even look into it.  Also, I wanted to again mention that I am on Instagram.  Whether or not I get back to regular posting here, that is one way to keep up with us a bit.  I don’t believe you need an account to view photos on-line.  I don’t totally love Instagram, but a single photo and little caption posted once in a while seems more do-able for me right now.

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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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