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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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snow child, snow sweater

I’ve not yet finished A Charlotte Mason Companion, but a big tempting stack of books came into the library for me and I figured I better start in on them in order to finish up before they are due back.  Also, it’s nice to have a bit of time to think things over and digest before moving on.

I just finished reading The Snow Child, which was enchanting and just the right sort of reading for these grey winter days.  Our current family read-aloud is Happy Times in Noisy Village which is keeping the middle set giggling.

I know I recently posted a picture of Iain’s sweater, but it’s really Mairi’s sweater, a fair isle featuring a snowflake motif, that I’ve been working on.  In sock weight yarn with size 3 needles, it’s been slow going, but I’m finally getting close now.  With no deadline and no pressure to finish from myself or anyone else, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the process.  I’m looking forward to seeing her wearing it.  Just this morning I came to the conclusion that I do not have enough yarn to finish the button bands.  sigh.  I have an abundance of every other color.  Just not that color.  Meh.

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Hinterland Hat

A new winter hat for Elijah.  He selected both yarn and pattern.  Hinterland Hat in Knitpicks Preciosa ‘Stormy’.  I kind of wish I had made the brim longer to fold up for added warmth.

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.

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Nature Walks and Birthday Wishes….

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.

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January 5th, Our Official Day of Familial Excitement….

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.

Iain is much better now and we did have a belated celebration for him a few days later.

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!

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Evolving

“It is something to know what to do with ourselves when we are beset, and the knowledge of this way of the will is so far the secret of a happy life, that it is well worth imparting to the children.  Are you cross?  Change your thought.  Are you tired of trying?  Change your thoughts.  Are you craving for things you are not to have? Change your thoughts; there is a power within you, your own Will, which will enable you to turn your attention from thoughts that make you unhappy and wrong, to thoughts that make you happy and right.  And this is the exceedingly simple way in which the Will acts.” ~Charlotte Mason

I think (hope) that we are finally past this recent bout of illness.  Never ending sickness seems to be everywhere this winter, doesn’t it?  I’m wiping all of the doorknobs, handles and drawer pulls with germ killing essential oils, and I added a bit to our hand washing soap as well.  We are quite ready to be done with all of this!

We are slowly getting back into a rhythm, adding in one thing at a time, including trying to be back in this space more often.  I’ve missed sharing here.   I’m reading A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflextions on The Gentle Art of Learning, which I started before, but was unable to finish before it had to be returned to the library.  I’ve taken it up again, this time with my own copy, which is rapidly becoming dogeared- even though I’m usually quite against that sort of thing.  But I  kind of bought it for just that purpose.

I’ve sign on for the 2017 in 2017 decluttering challenge and it feels fully soul satisfying and just very right at this moment to be distilling what is most important to us.

And on the subject of taking what feels good and right and letting the rest go, I’ve decided that our birthday sweater tradition needs tweaking.  It’s a tradition that we love in many ways, but the last couple of years it hasn’t flowed smoothly as it has in the past.  This year I told Iain and Mairi Rose well in advance that I wasn’t even going to try to finish their sweaters on time.  I’m not sure what this tradition is going to look like going forward.  I’m still thinking it over.  It did occur to me that when I started making a sweater for each child on every birthday, I had 3 small boys; one with a birthday in January, a tiny one in February and one in May.  Now I have two in January, one in February, one in March and one in May, with this year’s sweaters ranging in sizes from 4 to men’s large, and yet I’m still acting like things are just the same!  Including aspects like keeping them a complete surprise, even though with two teens in the house there are now multiple “children” who don’t go to bed until I should be!  I say should.  That doesn’t mean I do, but I’d like to see a shift there as well.

There are many changes happening in our lives right now.  This feels like a period of intense growth.  It feels strong.

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Advent Blur

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.

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feathers

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.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -

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.

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Light is returning….

Happy winter to one and all!  And, well, a happy summer to all the rest!

We woke up to snow again this morning.  It feels like it’s going to be a very snowy winter.  We’ll have a white Christmas for sure.  Plans for the day include tea, leftover chili, the baking of sun bread, and Elijah and I settling into some serious sewing.

I sewed a Winter Solstice inspired rope vessel as a gift for our neighbor who always hosts our annual celebration.  I’ve actually made a number of rope bowls/baskets over the last six months or so.  After the holidays I will try to share more.  I feel like I’ve learned a great deal in the making of them.

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