Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The occasional knitting post {yarn along}

It's not that often that my reading and my knitting end up being color coordinated.

The book is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It's our Well-Read Mom pick for this month, and I've just started it. (Goodreads tells me I am 6% done, so I can't really have an opinion yet- but I think I'm really going to like it.)

I've just finished the cowl I was working on before. (It still needs blocking- it's curling up a lot on the bottom edge- will blocking fix that?)

This week, I cast on and started knitting a hat for Sam, which he desperately needs.

This is the last hat I made for him (and a pair of matching mittens).

It was 2011. He's overdue.

The new hat pattern is Luuk by Annis Jones on Ravelry. I'm using a wool yarn from Knit Picks that I haven't tried before. I was afraid Sam would say it was scratchy, since it's wool, but he says he thinks it is going to be okay. The color is "sea monster," which he loves. He's calling it his Leviathan Hat.

So far, it's working up pretty quickly. After the counting involved with the eyelet, it's kind of nice to be back to just straight rows of knitting and purling. As often as I'm interrupted, the chances of my losing count on a complicated pattern are pretty high these days.

I'm linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along again- head over there to see what other people are making and reading...and tell me- are you reading or making anything you really like this week? I'm always looking for more books for my list and more projects for my endless Ravelry queue. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

7QT: The Sabbath Rest Week edition

After having completed our first six weeks of the school year, we are on break this week.

This is the first year we have adopted this schedule for homeschooling. I got the idea from Mystie Winckler over at Simply Convivial, who uses it successfully as a way to prevent burnout. With the knowledge that there’s a break coming, it’s easier to keep on keeping on when things feel tough. So far, for us, this seems to be true.

So, what happens during a break week? We’re not having any written work, but a lot of other things look similar. There was a giant medieval feast/birthday party for the Playmobil king this morning in which all the children were involved. When the girls got tired of Sam’s constant telling them what their characters had to do and say, they started building block castles for their blankies and dolls. Felix asked for books to be read to him and played for a while with scoops and funnels in a box of rice. We had a snack. They went outside. We had lunch, and now they’re resting.

Actually, it doesn’t look that different than normal.

I do feel different, though- as if I had more mental space to think about other things. I’ve half-written several blog posts in my mind this morning. Yesterday, knowing I had this week free from school, I found the energy to bake two different kinds of bread and make soup. I feel less pressure to keep the kids on task and more freedom to let them be loud and live in their pajamas.

I’m not sure what to expect from the rest of this week, but I’ll be sure to let you know how it went. In the meantime, here’s the short list of things I’m hoping to accomplish with all my extra time and mental space this week:

1. Replace the assortment of random stuff in our book basket with our fall books.
I’m a big fan of the seasonally-rotating book basket. When the books come out of storage, they feel like old friends. Especially in the fall, cuddling up to read those familiar stories (and a few new ones I’ve added) makes me feel like the season has definitely changed. Despite my commitment to the practice, I just haven’t been able to make it happen yet - it is on my list for this week.


2. Clean the windows.
Yeah, it’s kind of futile- they’ll be covered in nose prints and finger prints in just a day or two…but for a few sparkling October minutes, I’ll be able to see that bright blue sky streak-free.

I guess I could just go outside.

3. Tackle the mountain of recyclables.
September is our birthday season, with three kids’ birthdays falling in the second half of the month. That combined with the start of our school year made for a lot of Amazon shipments. We also had a Costco trip in there for the medieval feast birthday party (still planning to blog about that sometime), so there are a lot of boxes. There are also a lot of beer bottles and wine bottles. Some of those are from the party, some are from dinner parties, and there was a Presidential debate, and some are just…well, I don’t know. There are a lot. I need to take them to the recycling center this week because they’re obviously getting too comfortable in the laundry room and are multiplying, and I can't get in there to do the laundry, and people are running out of underwear.

4. Deal with the ordeal that is the seasonal clothing change.
The laundry room is also the temporary home to a bunch of those wonderful/awful giant grey Rubbermaid storage bins that hold all of the off-season clothes in the next size up for my children. Obviously, they’re in the way, and this is the week I have to tackle this chore.

I have a love-hate relationship with hand-me-downs. I’m extremely grateful for the clothes, but the process of sorting and trying on and laundering and separating and putting away seems to take a week (at least) every season. This is the time of year when I start looking at coats and boots and hats and jeans and sweaters in all sizes and wondering if we might be able to just move to southern California. What must it be like to only need one and a half seasons in your wardrobe?

5. Prep for the next big road trip. 

We are taking a trip soon to Niagara Falls for George to run the marathon there. As I’m preparing for a long car ride with my kiddos, I’ve started a Pinterest board to save ideas for games and strategies to make it all easier on everyone.  I’d love your ideas- what’s your best car trip tip for little people? Favorite travel games? Things you’ve tried that were a total failure (or just weren’t worth the effort)? Let me know. I’ll do a roundup post on what worked and what didn’t when we get back…just in time for your holiday travel planning needs. Let’s help each other out!

6. Quality time with the Rug Doctor.

I will also be spending some time this week cleaning the carpet in the girls’ room. It’s funny. I was just thinking (pretty recently as they approached Five Years Old) that we had finally found our way out of the Random Acts of Twin Naughtiness stage. It had been so long since they’d done anything really awful that fell into the category of “stuff they only do because there are two of them and somehow that is more than double the amount of naughty impulse and less than half the amount of self-control.”

In the last twenty four hours, they have cut their hair (and each other’s) with the fingernail scissors (kept behind a childproof lock in the bathroom cabinet, which they somehow defeated). They also pretended that their floor was a “rest area” and spread blankets out on it and peed on them. This is not our first family intentional floor-peeing incident (just scroll down to #6 there, and you'll be all caught up).

I’m not sure what this says about us.

Both the hair cutting and the peeing incidents happened while the girls were supposed to be sleeping.

So, despite my smugness, I’m forced to admit that the season of crazy twin behavior isn’t over- it’s just gone underground. Should I be glad, from a sibling relationship perspective, that they aren’t ratting each other out?

Mostly, I’m just annoyed. Bring back the tattling. Tattling saves hair. And carpet.

7. Finally, I’m hoping to knit this week.
I’m so close to finishing my cowl and ready to cast on a hat for Sam (who just can’t wear his any more). I haven’t knitted him anything since 2011 when I was on bedrest, so it is definitely his turn. I’m hoping to get some work done on the hat before Wednesday so I can show something new for Ginny’s linkup and not just more rows of the same.

There you have it- think I can do all that in a week? Sounds restful, right? Maybe "Sabbath" isn't exactly the word I should be using...

Thanks for reading my quick takes at the beginning of a week instead of the end of the previous one. For more of everything under the sun (divided neatly into sevens), visit Kelly and the others at This Ain't The Lyceum.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Yarn along, read along, get along

I'm in the middle of a few things that aren't quite ready to share yet, but you can find me over at Blessed is She today talking about prayer...specifically about calling God "Father" and what that means for our relationships with each other.

In other news, fall always makes me feel like knitting. I've been a dormant knitter for a while, but I pulled out this cowl this past week that has been unfinished for a long time, and I got back to work.

I still really like it! This is significant, because usually when I've had something hibernating for this long, it just doesn't make me as happy to work on it as it did before.

Nora says the needles are "more impressive" than the cowl. (I am really smitten with those, too.)

Our much-anticipated book club meeting is this Sunday afternoon, and I still have to make my way through about 40 pages of The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It's not exactly a light read, but it's not long, either. That's okay with me. Next month, we'll be reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I'm pretty excited to be leaving Russian classics behind for a little bit.

What are you reading? What are you making? I'm linking up with Ginny at Small Things for the first time ever, because I always mean to and never seem to get around to it. (If you go over there, please be kind and don't compare my knitting to those folks'- it's amazing and inspiring what people can do with yarn).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

On the edge of 8 {happy birthday, Samwise}

Dear son,

You were up at two o’clock this morning.

I heard your Dad in the hallway, trying to reason with you, trying desperately to explain that it wasn’t time to get up yet, that you shouldn’t have woken your sisters and brought them to your room to wait out the waning hours of your being seven, that we weren’t going to start a birthday celebration in the middle of the night. Not to be outdone, you were trying to break in, the rising note of frustration in your voice attempting to frame your argument, knowing that if you had the chance to lay out your points you could convince him you were right to be awake at such an hour.

It seemed about right to me.

Sleep has never been your thing. When you were a baby, we tried everything- co-sleeping, white noise machines, baths before bed, baths during the day, swaddling, rocking, singing. You seemed to enjoy the singing, but your eyes always flew open again when it stopped. You hated to be put down, but you hated sharing a bed with us, too.

I think you just want to be awake.

I think you can’t stand the thought of missing something- not a single moment.

Your brain runs at top speed all the time. Our dear friend, who knows you well, says it is like you never have just one tab open at once in the computer of your brain. You’re always working on a multitude of things, switching back and forth between your tabs with ease.

Sometimes the rest of us get left behind.
Sometimes this really frustrates you.

I don’t know exactly what it feels like to always be waiting on someone else to catch up with your train of thought, but I try to imagine so that I can help you. I do know what it is like to always be waiting on someone to put on his shoes or brush his teeth or find his library book, so maybe that helps a bit.

I thought I knew everything about being a mother before I met you, and then I realized I knew very little. I learn a bit more each year, but mostly, I unlearn things I thought I knew about children.

You have taught me so much that I never expected to learn.

You’ve taught me a lot about yourself, certainly- but also a lot about the phases of the moon and which dinosaurs were omnivores and which superheroes are DC Comics and which ones are Marvel. You’ve taught me about Viking funeral practices and tournament jousting and how toilets were constructed in medieval times. Together, we’ve watched operas on YouTube and Shakespeare on stage, touched horseshoe crabs and made clouds and built airplanes and sailed ships of our own design. We’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower (well, you climbed- I wore you in a sling and traded off with your dad) and eaten fish and chips in Covent Garden. We’ve watched the sunrise over the Atlantic and the sunset over the Pacific. We’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books.

People often talk about the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Seeing the world through your eyes has been an experience, for sure- a hilarious, baffling, exhilarating, disconcerting, illuminating experience. When I hear you wake up every day, usually long before the sun is awake, I have no idea what will happen, but I know to expect you to be wide awake and more than ready to take it on.

The most important thing I have learned in this adventure of being your mother is to assume positive intent on your part. I'm not always good at this, but I'm getting better. You’re a scientist. Everything you do has an aim. Most of the inscrutable things you have done over the years have been for one simple reason: you want to find out what will happen. When you tried to duct tape yourself to the ceiling, following a careful diagram you had drawn and scaling your dresser drawers to put yourself as close as possible to your goal, it was just to see if you could. When you colored on
the walls and furniture or dropped my cell phone into the fish tank or painted yourself blue or stopped up the sink with paper towels and seashells and Kosher salt to make an ocean, it was all about possibility.

There are a lot of possibilities. It’s impossible to guess which one you will tackle next, so I’m often stunned and caught off-guard. You have never met an adventure you didn't love...and if one doesn't naturally present itself, you are really good at inventing them.

At eight, you seem so tall to me. I don’t recognize your feet lately. But your hair still sticks up in just the same way, and your nose still wrinkles when there’s cheese involved in dinner, and your eyes still crinkle around the edges when you are pondering a serious question. You read through piles of books at a rate that astonishes me, so fast that I find myself doubtfully quizzing you sometimes to see if you really read that whole book.

You definitely did read the whole book.
You’re quick to tell me if you’re not going to finish a book.
You’re quick to tell me a lot of things you aren’t going to do.

Even when you're feeling disinclined to follow directions, I have to admire your grit. You commit to your position and you defend it to the bitter end. There's so much I admire in you- your zest for life, your thirst for knowledge, your strong sense of justice.

But you’re often agreeable these days, and you're willing to help out with lots of things now, like returning things to the library or running in at the post office so I don’t have to get everyone out of the car. You bake delicious cookies and start your own laundry in the washer. You unload the dishwasher and put the things away. You can play Star Wars on the piano and you dig giant pits in the backyard looking for fossils or treasure. You make movies and write screenplays and ride your bike to the country store and ride waves onto the beach and take showers all by yourself.

Today, like most days, I don’t know what is going to happen when we all wake up, but I know that you are going to be amazing.

Happy birthday, my Sam. I love you. I can’t wait to see what the adventure of being 8 will bring for both of us.

your mama

Friday, September 23, 2016

Five-Minute Friday: Five.

I'm linking up with Five-Minute Friday today, where we write for five minutes without filtering or overediting because we crave the feeling of words tumbling from our heads, out of our fingers, and onto the screen. Everyone that participates has a reason for writing this way. Mine is that I need to be more forgiving of myself and to embrace the thoughts that show up in this five minutes, even if they aren't perfectly phrased. God is always working, even right in in the middle of the mess.


Five minutes is sometimes all I can grab.

Sometimes, even that tiny sliver of time is impossible to find.

What is it about those pre-dawn moments in the quiet that refuels my soul? Five minutes alone in silence, without anyone calling my name, with a coffee pot gurgling in the background and an empty page in front of me can make a difference between a day that’s filled with purpose and a day that careens wildly off balance from start to finish.

I used to think it was the solitude that made the difference…that what I needed was a break to be by myself, free for a few moments from the demands of caring for small children and running a home.

In truth, it’s not the solitude that matters.

It’s the noticing.

In only five minutes, I can notice what is true all the time.

The love of God fills every cracked place in my life.

It fills the five minutes.

It fills the other 1,335 minutes in every day.

God's love overflows, refusing to be confined by the moments I allow myself to see it, overrunning every cup I set out to contain it. It streams over everything in the sink, no matter how dirty. When the sink is full, it flows over the sides and onto the floor. It fills the spaces I allow and the ones I don't, splashing over the sides and rushing in to wash over everything, even the places I try to wall off to keep it out.

Especially those places.

God wants to fill us up.

If five minutes is what we have to start with, then He will use those five minutes to reshape the riverbeds of our lives and to make the rough places plain. Five minutes is the beginning of wholeness in the fullness of time. 

For more Five-Minute Friday, visit Heading Home. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

to Twin A, on the 5th anniversary of your birth

When you arrived in the world on this morning five years ago, your eyes wide open and calmly taking it all in, I only got to hold you for a second. You stared at me, alert and awake, and I couldn’t take my eyes from your little face.

You have been surprising me ever since.

Somehow, despite being surrounded by intense, mercurial people, you manage to keep a smile and come out with a cheerful “I forgive you!” almost all the time. You are one of the kindest people I have ever met, always quick to fetch an ice pack or a blankie for a sibling in need. You love being a sister.

You remember first thing to ask your father how his day was at work every single evening. You twirl through life, stopping to pick every flower you see and hand it to me with a grin that lights up your whole face. You brighten up every room you enter.

Until someone touches your hair.

It’s irresistible, of course- your springy gold-tinged curls hang nearly to your waist now. I remember wondering if you would ever have hair at all. That seems like such a silly worry now. When you take your bath and lie down, your “mermaid hairstyle” extending behind you half again as long as your body, your hair seems to be everything.

People comment on it constantly, asking if they can “have” your hair or telling you how lovely it is. Your normally sweet expression becomes a fierce scowl. If there’s one thing you cannot abide, it is people (especially strangers) staring at you.

Everything about you seems more sensitive than other people. You can smell a piece of gum a mile away. Within a second of my opening a box of Altoids in the car, I hear your little voice from the second row backseat: “Can I have a mint, too?” Refrigerator odors, however faint, make you feel ill. Your ears are sharp, too- you’re always among the first to pick up the hint of a beloved song in a store or coming through the windows of someone else’s car. A mean look can reduce you to tears.

We come up with little strategies together, you and I. We’ve agreed that you’ll look down and say that you’re shy instead of hiding behind me or glaring at the curious hair-loving strangers. We avoid the hand dryers in public bathrooms, and I carry post-it notes in my purse for covering the sensors on those automatically flushing toilets. I put “fidget” toys out on the table when I’m reading aloud or we’re doing our morning time for school at home so you’ll have something to keep your hands busy. We got you a chewable necklace so you’ll always have something safe to put in your mouth.

I’m not always sure that I’m doing a good job understanding what you need. Sometimes you puzzle me, but I promise always to try and to listen to the things you tell me.

I love to listen to you.

You tell colorful stories with fascinatingly-named characters. You seem to pluck their names from a special place inside your brain, just as you do the names of your dolls and “special friends” - Blue Eyes in the Curtain, Yellow Submarine, Piggory, First Day of Christmas, Princess AnnahWannahThinkSo and your beloved Suzenuh. You sing little songs you’ve made up that turn into opera recitative as you narrate in song whatever you are doing (“and thennn…she was putting on her shoooooooe!”) You’ve even started to pick some of your favorite melodies out on the piano.

I know when you call out, “Mama! Listen!” that I don’t always respond as quickly as you’d like. We’ve worked out a strategy for that, too, where you put your hand on my arm and wait beside me until I can give you my full attention.

You absolutely deserve my full attention, and I know it’s hard to wait. I see you struggling to do it, the way you struggled to walk, and I know you are the kind of person who always does your best, in her own way, in her own time.

I promise to try my best as your mama, too. Your unique perspective is a gift to all of us. The world is a more interesting place because you are in it, and I am lucky to get to be your mother.

Happy birthday, my darling. I love you a hundred ice cream sundaes and forty-seventy milkshakes much, and I always will.

your Mama