Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Yarn Along

Well, it turns out I'm a bit behind already.  I was planning on having all 4 animals done by now, and just have the clothing left to make.  Last night I finished stuffing Miss Dandilion Doe, and she just has her ears to sew on and nose to stitch.  I have to go back and stitch the noses on the other 2 animals too, because I forgot that step.  It doesn't take long.

Mr. Fox is not even cut out, yet.  There's still plenty of time to get Mr. Fox done for Elias.  I'm cutting it close, though, and I still don't have any idea how to make a car pillow for David.  I think I'm going to rearrange my gift giving a bit since I'm about a week behind schedule.  You see, I bought a really fun robot making, engineering-type set off of Zuilly a few months ago, intending to give it to David for his birthday.  It was a bit extravagant, because we usually spend $30-50 on gifts, and this was a $150 dollar gift on sale for $50 or something like that.  I was thinking when I bought it that Elias will be so jealous because even though David is a crazy builder, Elias is as well, and robots are sort of his thing.  So I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get Elias an equal enough gift.

But David's birthday came, and I showed Knut the building set, and he said that David really wanted a snowboard, and Knut wanted him to have a much practice during the snow season as possible.  He said we'll give the snowboard to him for his birthday in the fall, and give the building set to him for Christmas.

Well, I was putting together a Christmas gift list for the kids, and realized it was very lopsided.  Each of the kids get a small, homemade stuffed animal, and David gets this enormous building set worth 4 times as much.  He wanted a car pillow, so I thought I'd closet the building set until his birthday comes around again, but reluctantly, because he would really like it and I want him to have it now.  At the time the only other solution I could find was buying bigger/more gifts for the other kids, and that would get expensive quick, not to mention just that much more clutter in my house to control.

So I'm going to de-stress this last home stretch of gift making.  I'm going to skip making the fox for Elias, and I'm going to give the boys the shared gift of the building set.  That way neither one of them can lord it over the other that they can't touch it.  That will free up a few days of crafting time with 2 less gifts to make, and allow me to finish up the other animal clothes without pulling some super late nights.

With this step I can also easily finish some handmade wool socks for the boys that I was hoping to do, and that way they're still getting something handmade by mom for Christmas, as is tradition.  I can knit the socks in front of the kids easily because I have knitting projects around the house all the time.  They really don't ask questions anymore.  But stitching up a stuffed animal has to be done in secret, and there's only so many secret waking hours I have.

Silje and Solveig's socks are pretty much complete.  I just need to graft the toes and weave in the ends.  Ingrid's first sock is done, but they're so little that they knit up in a blink of an eye.  I plan on finishing up hers today or tomorrow, and then start on the boys' socks.  I really wish I hadn't done the block coloring with the little girls and just did one solid color for each pair.  Oh well.  I'm so not redoing them.  They don't look bad, but I think I could have done it cuter.

I should be doing more advent reading, but actually for my own reading time I've been still going through Susie Larson's book "Your Beautiful Purpose."  This book has now completely drawn me in, and I find myself thinking about something I read in here even days later.  I'd love to explain further the huge ways this book is touching my heart right now, but I don't have time to write that tome.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I'm Blessed

Well, we made it through our crazy-sanity-rule-breaking-week intact.  Solveig celebrated her 4th birthday and Ingrid celebrated her 2nd.  They're both getting crazy big it makes my head spin.  The stress level in the house has dropped, as I look forward to our schedule this week that has minimal, manageable running around.

We're playing hooky from school today and making Christmas cookies.  We haven't made a single one yet, and that needs to be fixed.

Knut has been home a bunch lately, which is nice.  It's partly because it's a slow time of year on the farm, and partly because he hasn't been feeling the best.  He's starting to fight the achy, low-grade fever thing that Ingrid and I had last week.  It didn't stop him from helping to get the lights up on the tree.  We actually had the best year ever of the kids helping with the tree decorating.  Usually there's a lot of yelling and fighting.  This year it actually went well.

Knut and I got to go to a Christmas party with some of our friends at the end of the crazy week last week.  It was actually a really rough day for me, but at the party, I laughed until my face hurt.  I'm not sure I've laughed that hard in a very long time.

I'm excited for this week.  I feel like we can actually focus on preparing our hearts and home for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Yarn Along

I'm getting completely off track with my Christmas crafting.  I'm supposed to be making the little animals for 4 of the kids.  I still need to make a car shaped pillow for David too, and I'm not quite sure how to do that yet.  So all of that is pretty much on track, but I got a bit distracted because as I was going through the master list of Christmas gifts yet to buy, I realized that part of the contents of the kids' yearly Christmas stocking is a good pair of wool socks.  For a cross-country skiing family like ours, it's an essential.

So this idea hit me this year, that I could skip buying them this year, and just make the socks from yarn in my stash.  It's not exactly cheaper, but I'm not spending any cash, so that's a bonus.  I'm starting to see 2 big problems with this plan: I have never made socks before.  Baby booties, yes, but I've actually never made socks.  Second, is I have 5 children, which means just whipping up 10 socks as if I had the time.

This plan is very soon approaching a scrap point.  I started making socks for Silje first, and figured I'd just go down the ranks.  I picked this pattern for her socks, and since she wears the same size shoes as me now, I'm just fitting them to my feet, which is easy.  Since she has narrow feet like me, I used a size US 0 needle for these, but after trying them on, I wish I would have used a US 1 because it is a bit snug from side to side.  The length is good.  Maybe they'll loosen up with wear.  On the other hand, maybe my feet are a bit wider than hers.  I'm not sure on that one.

I'm not sure what pattern I'm using with the boys yet, but for Ingrid and Solveig I was planning on using this easy one from Purl Soho.  Maybe I'll just make some socks for the girls, and buy the ones for the boys.  My boys LOVE homemade gifts, (more than my girls even) though, so they may take that hard.  Maybe I'll save them for Valentine's Day.  Maybe they're not getting socks this year.

There's a lot of maybes going on right now.  'Tis the season.

At any rate, I shouldn't be working on these, but I am.  I will soon be returning to working on what I should be working on.  I get distracted easily.

Also, I'm totally making a pair like Silje's for myself soon.  They're so cute.  I think I want mine to be an slightly off white and grey stripe, with a light pink heart on the heel.

This is the time of year I get distracted by anything pretty and all things wool.  I'm such a procrastinator.  I'm also supposed to be working on a baby gift for a new niece coming in March.  I have zero time for falling in love with sock knitting right now.  Well, at least I should finish this pair.  That feels at least a little responsible.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I'm Blessed

This weekend I have been so stuck.  Knut has been around, so there has been an extra adult around which has allowed me to slide a bit.  I may have watched a few seasons of "Gilmore Girls" on Netflix.  I have been a bit paralyzed, out of sheer expectation.

I have such a full week this week.  Looking at my calendar is stressing me out.  Every rule I have for household management and keeping collective sanity is getting broken this week.  There is nothing to cut.  Should we just not go to the kids' choir concert?  Or maybe it should be Solveig and Ingrid's birthday party we should skip.  Not to mention not one, not two, but three Christmas "parties/banquets/year end parties" on the schedule this week, each promising to be lots of fun.  Fun, but another piece of busy-ness this week.

I'm told I should be working on some sort of Christmas baking too, soon, which hasn't started yet.  I may have to delegate some of that to the kids.

I'm so frustrated with myself because I worked so hard last year to make room for advent.  This season is actually about the birth of Christ.  I want my family to celebrate that.  I want my focus to be on Him.  I'm failing at that this year.  We are perpetually one day behind in our advent readings this month.  We try to catch up, but then we miss the next day.  Every day has been a 2-reading day, when we actually remember.

I don't want Advent to be an afterthought.  I want it to be the main event.

I was working last night on a devotional to give to the Women's Ministries Christmas banquet at church tonight.  It won't be long, and it's not a big deal.  I actually like doing that.  Anyway, it actually made me stop and reflect a bit on Advent, without the hurried "catch up" feeling in my stomach.

I was thinking out the idea of the birth of Jesus.  The incarnation certainly boggles the mind, but I was actually thinking about birth.  Every woman who has been pregnant can relate to the stress of the last few weeks of pregnancy.  There's the discomfort, the constant moving within, the skin pulled tight, and most of all, the constant wondering if it was "time."  I don't know about you, but I always wonder if it was "time" for each of my births right up until about an hour before the baby came.  My kids liked to keep me guessing.

As I was thinking about the rush of the season, and the tendency for the moms in families to take the bulk of the present buying and wrapping, and food preparing, and wondering "why is that?" that we women put so much pressure on ourselves during this season...

it dawned on me that Christmas holds a special spot in my heart, not only because of the beauty of the season and the love of the music, and the joy of the lights.

God chose to enter this world through a woman.

Christmas was delivered through a woman.

I don't mean to get into a battle of the sexes, or dare say that males or females hold more weight or significance in God's eyes.  That's not my intent at all.  I just find it ironic that women often hold the weight of Christmas duties...which is what it was like in the beginning.  I doubt any woman has ever felt Christmas weigh on her like it did for Mary.

What an honor.  What a privilege.

Please don't establish doctrine of duties through my words, but pause and reflect what an honor it is to share the message of Christmas with your children.  You get to set the stage for the message.

And just like birth: Christmas is going to come whether or not we are ready.

We can scurry about our house, nesting for this birth, crossing off to-do lists and driving our spouses crazy as our stress hits the roof.

Sounds like the 3rd trimester, days before birth.  Right?

It's easy to forget how hard those last few weeks before birth are.  When the stress hits, and we start tearing up, "It's not all going to get done" and you're not sure which ball will get dropped, just remember what you are doing, and what this is all for.

It's about a baby.

A baby that's coming whether or not we're ready.  A baby that we know will change everything about our lives.  Life cannot possibly be the same after this birth.  It's about anticipation and expectation.

When you are feeling overwhelmed this season, and hit that point where you think you just can't do it all, remember God picked you to deliver this message to your family.  He picked you.  It's one of the biggest honors he can bestow.  It may feel like the only way to survive this season is to have a very organized calendar and to-do list, and remove all toddlers from the house.  The truth is, Christmas will come, like it or not.  We can't hold it back with our disorganization and over-scheduling.  The way to survive it is to fix our spiritual eyes on what is actually happening.  Breathe.  Visualize.  We must keep our eyes fixed on that baby.  We must pause and take delight in the sheer thought of this baby.  Oh my goodness, a baby was born, and came to turn this world upside-down...or maybe it was to turn it right-side-up.

Either way, this baby changed everything.

Let the scurrying stop now.  Let the distractions and stress fall away.  We all know that "when mama's not happy, nobody is happy." Let me add to that, when mama stands in awe, they all stand in awe... or at least look to see what stopped this busy, crazy woman in her tracks.

I get to deliver this message.  What an honor.  What a privilege.

I'm blessed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yarn Along

My worktable in the sewing room is a mess right now, with 1,000 things being constructed at once.  Well, only 4, but it feels like 1,000.  I may be prone to exaggeration.  Silje's cat (her Christmas gift from me) came together last night, except for 1 ear.  It was pushing midnight, and I decided to leave the last ear until morning.  Really, these are coming along really fast, and I'm pleased with that.

Along with the rest of the world, it seems, we are going through Ann Voskamp's children's Advent book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

Well, honestly, we forgot to do our reading yesterday...which was Day 2.

I can't believe I dropped the ball on that this year, this early.  Sigh.  Fortunately, we can do 2 readings today, and even more fortunately, we're not reading a book about how wonderful our works are and how impressed God is with us.  Nope.  We're reading a story about God rescuing us, and his unfailing, unconditional love when we seem to constantly fail.  It's the story of love coming down, and reaching us because we couldn't be perfect.

So I think it might be okay that Day 2 is read alongside Day 3.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Playing with Knives

In the past, we have taken the month of December off of doing schoolwork at home, and focusing on preparation for Christmas and just taking a long break.  This year, though, we didn't do as much schoolwork in the summer as we usually do, because I pulled the kids into gardening help more than I have in the past.  They're old enough to help more, and most of the time, they enjoyed it.  I struggle sometimes in labeling a gardening day "non-school" as well, though, as there is much learning done in the garden.  So much so, that many large, and even urban schools are using gardens to teach the kids.

So we're still doing schoolwork, but I decided at the very least, during this month I can mix up the prioritization of subjects during this month.  There are some subjects that we usually prioritize (reading, writing, arithmetic) but some subjects (koine greek, poetry) if we don't get to them, it's okay.  We'll try again the next day.  So this month, since we are trying to encourage the kids to make most of their gifts, we are going to prioritize art.  Not only have we been studying some artists' works, but we are learning a new appreciation to how much energy and thought, not to mention skill goes into that work.

For awhile now, Knut and I have talked about getting some of our kids some woodworking tools, as we have a nice little wilderness behind our house to find some wood to whittle, and it requires a lot of patience and focus from the child...both skills we wish our kids would develop more.

Ironically, this month's issue of Taproot magazine, had an article talking about teaching kids to whittle wood, and which whittling knives are recommended for kids, and how to teach them basic safety with woodworking knives.  That's all I needed to push me over the edge, so recently our kids' knives (the 3 older ones got some) arrived and wood chips seem to be continually on my kitchen floor now.

We spent some time in the beginning going over safety rules, and talking about the dangers of knives.  We set up some house rules with the knives, and let the kids pick out some wood from the woodbox next to the fireplace.  They want to whittle some Christmas presents, and they each had an idea of what they wanted to make.  Knut promises to take them for a walk to show them some wood he thinks they'd really like to use out in the woods.  Knut loves carpentry, as a hobby, so he knows more about what kinds of wood there is, and different characteristics of that wood than I do.

Elias and I had some 1 on 1 training time as the 2 older kids were at piano lessons.  He was so excited.  He is truly the most artistic of my kids, and with this element of danger added, he was completely on board.  You should have seen the concentration on his face, and the time he took to think.  We talked about how to find the grain of the wood, and examined different parts of the stick he chose, and talked about what made it a good piece, or a bad piece.  I've never whittled wood, but we just talked.  We talked about thinking where the knife would go if it slipped.  We always wanted it to hit air if it slipped.  He worked so hard.

When Silje and David got home, they were so excited to get to it.  Silje claimed she couldn't do it about 15 seconds into whittling.  She excels  at almost everything she tries, and if she's not good immediately, she normally walks away or claims that she doesn't like it.  She's brilliant, but we're really trying to help her learn to work through hard things that actually don't come easily.  I made her stay and try.  After complaining for about 5 minutes, she ended up getting sucked in for about an hour, and learned a few tricks along the way through trial and error.  This morning she was whittling with Knut before breakfast before I got up.  I think she wishes it would go faster, but she can't help but keep shaving off more pieces either.  It's hard to stop.

David of course, plans on whittling a whole chess set, which I think is a tad too ambitious as a starter project, but I won't tell him.  He's working so hard at it.

I can't believe I'm turning into the mother who is letting her kids play with knives, but there you have it.  Right now they can only whittle in the kitchen when I'm working in there, and turn in their knives to me when they want a break.  While Silje and Elias love painting and drawing, David hates art...yet he loves this.  There's something about the hardness of it, and the element of danger that draws him in.  It's sitting and concentrating, and yet he's completely on board.

What's more, is after our whittling lesson, we returned to the pictures of Michelangelo's marble sculptures, and the kids have a completely new appreciation for the detail work, and the difficulty level of what was actually accomplished.  They stare at the picture for ages, and talk about how on earth did he make marble look like draping fabric, and what sort of tools do you think he used?  The sheer number of questions they have have increased ten-fold since we saw the exact same pictures 2 weeks ago.

Sometimes the best way to appreciate art is to roll your sleeves up and get to work!

Monday, December 1, 2014

I'm Blessed

I hope all my US friends had a good Thanksgiving holiday.  We headed over to Knut's parents, and joined the rest of family and had a pretty quiet day.  David wasn't feeling well after the big feast.  He ended up getting sick, but just once.  We went home early anyway.  This sickness bug has not stung us like a bad bee sting, it's more been like a gnat that just won't go away.  Last night Solveig threw up randomly again.  She's fine now.  Ingrid had a terrible cough last night, but we've been meaning to put up the humidifiers around the house since we started the wood fireplace for heat, and just haven't yet. I got the one up in her room last night, and put the oil diffuser in the room as well for good measure.  This morning she hasn't coughed once, and her voice isn't cracking.  I'm hoping it was only a dry throat.

So no child has been sick for more than 4 hours, but a day or two later another one pops up with something.

That's what's been busy here on the frustration side.  Lots has been going on in the joy side too.  No kid has been sick for long.  We got our house decorated for Christmas, except the tree.  We haven't gotten one yet.  We start our Advent readings at home today, and I couldn't be more excited about that.  I've grown to love the Advent season, and the mental, spiritual, and physical "making room" for celebrating Christmas.

The Christmas baking will start very soon.  We had 4 enormous barrels of apples from our apple tree that we are storing down in the cold room in our basement.  They only last down there 2-3 months, so I've been meaning to get them more properly preserved for the year, and just haven't had the time.  Saturday we did apples all day.  I made dehydrated apple rings for the first time.  I'm doing that again, because those are yummy!  I made several loaves of apple bread, and canned many quarts of apple sauce.  David was my big help all day that day as he was cranking apples through the apple corer/peeler for a long time.  Silje was out helping Knut finish up our wood pile for the winter.

David and I got through 1 entire barrel after that day long work, and it felt so good.  I was so sore afterward.  I'm living off of apple bread at the moment, and quite satisfied with that.  (The picture above is wheat bread, though, as we made some of that too.)

I'm not sure where I'm going with all of this.  I haven't been blogging much as I've been working so much on Christmas preparations, and getting my family well.  I miss sharing what has been going on here.  Through all the sickness, and all the holiday and family times, through the good smells in the kitchen and the middle of the night baths for sick kids...I'm so thankful.  We are so blessed.  As my grandpa used to say, it's an honor and privilege to care for sick kids.  The apples are a lot of work too, but I had 4 huge barrels of free food.  Advent preparations are work, but they have a lifelong impact.  I get to be a part of that.

I'm blessed.