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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve been holed up at home with a flu for weeks now. It’s a yucky and tricky sort of thing that gives the impression of fading, only to come back again in full force with new symptoms. I think, for me anyway, periods of illness have got to be the hardest part of raising a large family.
Though I don’t actually think of our family as large. It doesn’t feel large from the inside, since there is not a single component that we could very well do without. But the last time I tried to argue this point Steve put me on the spot by asking that I list families with more children. This I gladly began by naming a few families that I’m acquainted with through the wonders of modern technology. At which point he stipulated that I must know them in real life; decidedly harder. And the answer is two. I personally know of two contemporary families with more children than us. Though going back a generation or more changes things radically; my mother is one of seven, his father is one of thirteen. So it’s all a matter of perspective!
Still with seven people in one house, illness takes a tiresomely long time to work it’s way through.
The reasonable sorts of things that Steve does when I’m completely incapacitated with the flu: keep an eye on the kids, try to keep up with the dishes, maybe wash and put away a load or two of laundry… The highly unreasonable sort of things that I do when Steve is entirely laid up with the flu: attempt to completely remodel the pantry, entirely covering every flat surface in the main living area with it’s contents, making it nearly impossible to cook or find a place to eat, or well, move, allow the toddler to spread every single canning jar lid and ring I own out on the floor to keep her busy and therefore out of my way…you know, that kind of thing.
For the record, not my fault. And not my plan. When I was too sick to move someone dropped something heavy on a bag of yams. The yams were split open and then buried and well you can imagine the state they were in when I discovered them. It was a symptom of a greater, long-standing pantry problem. I will not bore you with the details, but let’s just say the situation snowballed and rapidly morphed from a cleaning project into a construction project. So, add a number of tools to the mess you are picturing in your head right now. And me using them between sneezes while taking frequent breaks so as not to pass out. And Steve so sick that for like two days I’m not even sure he knew there was full out deconstruction happening right under his nose.
Galen put on a light show for those of us who were upright on New Year’s Eve, using his new Snap Circuits Light Effects kit (highly recommended for scientifically minded people in middle childhood). In the mess on New Year’s day I cooked a fancy, but easy dinner. This served with kale and applesauce and sparkling cider. And we all found a corner somewhere to eat it, together more in spirit than physically. I pulled Seraphina up our road in her little red sled; the first time we’d felt well enough to stray a bit from home. Together the two of us greeted the moonrise on the first day of the year.
And never stops – at all - “~Emily Dickinson
2015 was a very hard year for us and 2016 harder still. So much more so than I’ve ever let on here, or I think could even put into words. Often in the last couple years I’ve wondered if that poem didn’t go the wrong way round. Instead of an uplifting force it’s seemed to me that she should have implied that hope is a flighty thing, difficult to grasp and often painful to try to hold. But I have hope for this new year, despite it’s rather inauspicious beginning. I have no resolutions, but certain thoughts and ideas that I wish to take with me into the new year.
Welcome 2017. I’m cautiously optimistic about what you might bring.