Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yarn Along

I have not caught my breath yet, if any of you are wondering.

It has been full speed ahead around here.  I got the kids signed up for all their Spring things.  I'm honest when I say that we limit them extremely, but I have realized that all of us have been benefiting from some movement and I'm eager to get us all in shape a bit.  So I'm bending the normally strict schedule for some physical activities.  Spring planting is just around the corner, and I'm trying to prep for that too.  We returned from our trip to an empty fridge and no real meals planned, so I've been busy coming up with meals, grocery lists, massive shopping, and the like.

My seedlings are starting to pop up.  That makes me incredibly happy.  The cabbages and marigolds are leading the pack right now.  I do see that white mold is starting to grow on my seed trays already. I wasn't sure what to do about that but a quick google search lead me to try sprinkling ground cinnamon on the mold, and so far the mold has quickly receded with this treatment, and I'm hoping will be gone completely soon.

But today my writing is about knitting and reading.  Well, tonight I hope to get a lot of knitting business done, but as for actual knitting, I'm still plugging away at this color work mystery using one of my favorites, Brooklyn Tweed Loft yarn.  I'm in no rush getting this done, and it has been the exact type of knitting that I have been needing: repetitious and easily memorized.  I can do this pattern in my sleep now, and can carry on a conversation while knitting it, and yet it does hold my interest, and it's taking awhile.

I know that many knitters value a quick knit, but I love a knit that gives me my money's worth in yarn enjoyment.  One can easily spend $30 on a skein of yarn that's bulky and can be knit in a day or two.  But spending over a hundred dollars, while intimidating, this enjoyment has lasted me a few months. For one who must knit for sanity, fingering weight yarn is the way to go.  I don't spend money and then rip the project off like a bandaid.  Well, in December I do, but that's December.  Everyone is looking for quick projects then.

I have finished most of the long line of Clarkson family books from the Mom Heart Conference I went to.  I feel full of inspiration.  Actually, what I feel most inspired to do after reading A Storyformed Life is to actually read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  I was a literature major.  I took a college class on C.S. Lewis, one of Tolkein's best friends.  I have watched the Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson, and have been a Tolkein fan .... shhhhh ... while never actually reading it.

That's right.  I've never actually read the books.  [putting bag over head.] Knut has, and has this deluxe, fancy addition he got for his birthday or Christmas a long time ago.  I've always been meaning to read it.  I listened to a podcast "The Read Aloud Revival" (my new favorite podcast by the way.  Excellent, excellent stuff.  She blogs here, but I'll admit I don't follow her blog yet as much as I've been following her podcasts.)  Anyway, several of the people she interviews on that podcast answered her question "If you were stuck on a desert island with only 3 books, which would they be?" and several of these giants in literature answered "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy."  Many of them have read them many times.

I didn't think I had the time for such a tome, but 1) I haven't read good fiction in awhile, and I am a firm believer that everyone should read fiction, just like I think it's good for everyone to create things with their hands, and 2) I have this newfound time when putting my littlest to bed.  Ingrid (age 2) has been so messed up from our trip to see my parents that either Knut or I have had to sit outside her door, and put her back in bed several times after we lay her down as she has been coming out over and over again.  Sleeping next to her isn't an option.  She's just so messed up with the time changes, and sleeping arrangements constantly changing on our trip.  She just needed Knut or I to be up there and remind her of the routine.

The first couple of nights/naptimes have dragged on for 2-3 hours of her getting up after laying her down.  At first she got out about every 5 minutes.  After a few nights and afternoons of this, she is down to falling asleep in about an hour, getting out of bed only once.  We are on the right track.

Don't get me wrong, she's not calling for us, or screaming and keeping her 2 roommates awake.  I've realized that when my kids are clingy, the most effective thing to do is be clingy right back.  I smother them with hugs and kisses, and hold them in my lap for as long as they like.  It does not take any child long to push me away as if to say "Mom!  Enough!  I need some space and want to go play!!"  Depending on age, it takes anywhere from an hour to 5 minutes, but it always happens.  It's my secret, evil plan that has worked with my kids.  They know if they cling to me, they'll get me.  (evil laugh.)  It's my smother them with love technique, and I came up with it myself.  It didn't come from a book or anything.

Ingrid is giggling and wide awake at night, that's all.  It's actually worse, because while I know how to calm cries, I don't calm laughter and energy well.  She's her normal cheerful self, just in a hysterical, tired/exhasuted sort of way.  I am fairly certain, that in another week she will be down to 30 minutes or so, and maybe even by then we can start imagining our great sleeper will have returned to her normal schedule.

In the meantime, I have been reading this volume outside her door.  I am interrupted from time to time, but over the last few days I've been completely drawn in, and now I'm completely hooked.  I have seen the movies, I know how it ends but as always the book is always better.

Oh my word this is so much better.  The movies are a shadow.  My heart is racing reading this, and my heart is captivated.  I know I don't need any more stress in my life but this is fun stress, if there is such a thing.  "Thrilling" I think the word is.

I feel a bit sorry for my family, who will be neglected as I hole myself up now and just read this.  But what's done is done.  There's not much turning back.

I'm joking really.  My family is too demanding to let me hole myself up.  They like eating and stuff.  Like, everyday.

I made 3 egg bakes yesterday morning for the freezer so it will be ready for spring planting time for Knut, and invented this amazing Brussels Sprout and Ham Salad that 3 of my 5 kids really appreciated.  In the area of salads, that's a big win in our house.  Oh and we have new chicks and I have so much to tell about that, but I'll save that for tomorrow.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along

Friday, March 20, 2015

Back Home, Making Plans

(taken near the school where my sister teaches in San Diego, CA)

We made it back home.  The first thing Knut did was light the fire in the fireplace and I think there was a collective sigh throughout our family, as we just let the warmth and delight of the flames just calm us from our travels.

My kids did about 100 times better on this trip that I anticipated they would.  I suppose I was preparing for the worst, but I'm so pleased with how it all went.  It was one of the longest trips we had ever taken, but we were moving around so much that we never really got bored in one spot.  We made some good memories, but now it's so good to be home.

Of course, there's a whole pile of catch-up waiting for me on the kitchen table with mail piled high.  Knut reminded me that I really need to get him my tax information to bring to the farm accountant, and David has another doctor's appointment coming up, oh and Silje has missed a few weeks of choir and her teacher thoughtfully made her a cd to help her catch up before they start preforming.  (By the way, Silje, "Miss Independent" really wanted to keep her things separate from the family on this trip. I told her I have an easier time not losing things when they're together.  I can't have my brain all over the place.  She assured me she could take care of herself.  She did really great the whole trip except when we got to the airport to fly home, and realized she never brought out her suitcase to get loaded in the car and was back at my parents.  Sigh.  It should arrive on Monday, and not cheaply.)

I have laundry to do, birthday presents for family to buy, an empty fridge to fill, food to cook, calls to return and don't get me started on my business emails of which I'm ridiculously behind.  The to-do list for my knitting business is crazy long right now.  Also I have to download David's Tae Kwon Do curriculum for his next belt and go over that with him.  I need to come up with a report card for him too, to see if he qualifies for an academic award, and the seeds needed to get started about 2 weeks ago but I held off because I didn't want to ask anyone to water them when we are gone.  Knut had a last minute township meeting, something about water regulation, and I have a homeschoolers meeting, and then I think there's some basketball games coming up this weekend too that Knut needs to be at.

Since we got back Silje just got signed up for volleyball at the YMCA.  This is her first sport ever.  She hates sports, and we are always trying to get her more active, so when she asked to be on a team, we couldn't help but just make it work.  We had to rearrange some swimming lessons starting up.  Our days in town are just growing longer.

The chicks will arrive sometime today, and the coop needs to be mucked out of it's winter bedding.  Oh. my. word. my head is spinning back here at home.

I missed cooking.  I have all these ideas starting up in my head of what to make.  I'm excited to be back in my own kitchen with all my favorite gadgets.

Last night I was up late adding all of these things to the schedule.  Different kids have swimming lessons at different times.  Choir practice, concerts, Tae Kwon Do tournaments, volleyball...did I mention that I hate activities and I've been digging my heels into doing this for a few years now?  I looked at the calendar and saw something really big missing.

My weekly business/crafting time has disappeared.  Not dwindled.  It's gone.  Zero.  Zip.

I felt my world get really small last night, as my worst fears of going down this activity road was coming true.  I get that my world is my kids right now.  Believe me that I understand that is my reality.  But I used to have the goal of spending 5-8 hours on my business a week.  Then it went to maybe 2 hours a week.  Then 1.  That has gone down to zero.

This morning when making breakfast, I told Knut how worried I was about the schedule.  If this last year and a half of pain and anxiety has taught me anything it's that I'm not a robot.  I need to feed myself food, mentally, physically, and spiritually if I have anything to give my kids.  If I can't make myself a priority for me, than at least I have to do it for them.  I was worried that the next 2 months on the calendar left no room to get myself fed.

So I asked him if he could take over the evening duties every Wednesday night with the kids that we normally do together, putting them to bed, etc, and let me just work on my stuff, be it patterns writing, or sewing or quilting or general "me time."  I know he has a Wednesday night meeting once a month, and that spring planting will mean he has to work late very soon.  But until that happens, can he just watch everyone for me so I can just go in my crafting space and be alone once a week?  If I can just make it to summer, I'll have more sitters available once school is out to give me a couple hours a week, but for now, could he just step in and do this?

He said sure.

Just like that.

Here I was... all stressed out on how I was going to get some "me" time... and I just had to ask.

I'm learning more and more that people in general don't always see needs.  I'm also learning that I've been pretty terrible about communicating those needs, mostly because my needs are at the bottom of my list.  It's something I've been learning the last few years, especially in my marriage, that I have to ask.  I went for the longest time thinking "but I shouldn't have to ask."  Yes I do.  I have to speak up.  I can't just go on and on expecting people to just know what I need, inside my house or outside.  It's not a fair expectation.  It's especially easy for a mother to get the martyrs mindset that nobody sees, and nobody cares.

I suppose that's because the jolt into motherhood is so severe.  It's such a dependent relationship that you will die for this little one if you had to, your love is so fierce, but the little baby could care less whether you eat or sleep.  The responsibility of having a little baby to care for is so huge, and then that baby doesn't want to go to anyone but you, and you are the one who knows how things get done, and kids like routines, and then one or two people make thoughtless statements about how they never had any help, they understand it's hard, and this is just what motherhood is about.

So then you start thinking that the problem is with you, and you just have to buck up and hold it all together by yourself.  You think that maybe you're just not strong enough.

I see so many mothers around me running on empty, and wondering what in the world is wrong with them.  I can relate.  I live that often.  I'm still in the trenches.

But deep in my heart, I know this is not how it's supposed to be.  We were made for community for this reason.  I think this is why a healthy marriage is so important, why a church community is so important, why small groups of friends are so important.  There is no shame in asking for help, despite how some people make you feel.  As I've written about before, we are designed to need rest.  If a mother is running on fumes, it's not because she is too needy.  It's because she has a tough time asking for help, or she's not getting enough support in her marriage or church or community.  And yet when those issues are too big to handle, we just try to need less, or take care of ourselves less, and just become more and more invisible because that seems easier, and then feel sad that no one notices.  It's a lonely place to live.  One of my favorite things about how Jesus healed in the New Testament is that he always acknowledged their core need.  It wasn't always obvious.  He had a way of getting straight to the issue.

I guess this just leaves me with an encouragement for my readers, and myself, to see people today.  Think about doing a random act of kindness.  Drop off supper at someone's house, just because you know they've been busy.  Send a gift card for a coffee shop.  Ask people who seem to have a tough time asking for help what specifically you can do.  If they say "nothing" than make some suggestions, to let them know what you are open to do.  Maybe you could babysit.  Maybe you could help mentor a kid of theirs who is going through a tough season.  Write an encouraging note, and put it in the mail.  Maybe you could volunteer in the church nursery or at a MOPS group so they could have a moment to get fed.  Maybe you could just give them a big hug and let them know that you notice how hard they are working.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Travel Blessings

Every year of our marriage, we have visited my family down in Phoenix.  Last year we skipped it for the very first time because our kids got so carsick the year before I just couldn't bring myself to put us through the 2 15-hour day drives again.  On top of that our car accident injuries were still pretty fresh last year.  So we skipped it.  I told my sister it was about time that they come and visit us.  So we started talking about her family coming out to our farm sometime in the summer.  

Not long after we talked about it, my sister and her husband (both teachers) got a job offer in San Diego for both of them.  Even though my sister said there's no way it would work out, because they hadn't been able to sell their house in previous attempts, they went along when the school offered to fly them out to look at the campus, and learn about their program.  They fell in love with it there, and tentatively decided to move.

What happened then was their house immediately sold, they found a new place pretty much right away, their kids got enrolled and about 2 days before school started at their new job they moved out to San Diego.  This whole whirlwind obviously canceled their trip to our farm.  

So the burden lay on us once again, to go to them.  

It's a you can see from these beach pictures.  I mean, who likes to be forced to go see family who lives just a few short miles from the beach and it's gorgeous.  Plus, as a farming family, the only time we can go out here is in winter.  

Hardship, I tell you.  

So this year, we knew we still couldn't drive, we decided to fly to Phoenix, spend a few days there to see family, and then rent a van and drive the 6 hours to San Diego to visit my sister and her family in their new home.  My brother in Los Angeles, and my Mom and Papa decided to come too.  It had been 2 years since I have seen my nieces and nephew in person and they have gotten so big.

On Saturday, we went to a beach that had cliffs behind us.  My sister and brother-in-law love this beach because the cliffs are one side, making the job of watching kids much easier.  You only have to look in front, and it's harder to run off.  Tony (my bro-in-law) and my nephew who is right in-between David and Elias age-wise, taught Silje and David how to catch some waves.  Elias isn't quite a good enough swimmer for that, so he played with the younger kids, and I think he preferred that.

My sister has a little boy, and twin girls, who are all school aged now.  I just cannot believe that. Solveig is just under a year younger than the twins, and the 3 girls together looked so much alike that at times I thought they could pull off the idea they are triplets, although the twins are so alike that even their parents get them mixed up from time to time.

Ingrid hated the water so much, but loved every second playing in the sand that was as soft as powdered sugar.

Not far from where we were hanging out, a sea lion came out of the ocean, and started soaking in some rays.  It was amazing.

The lifeguards came by in not that long, and took a look at it and said it was a pup, and a malnourished pup at that.  They arranged for it to get some help.

Elias wants to bring a whole suitcase of rocks home for his collection.  There were shells as well, but he really loves the rocks.

My mom wanted all her grandkids (now that they were all together!) to do a pyramid picture.  It was actually hilarious, because the little ones had no idea what we were doing.

They needed a lot of help, and in the end, there was always an adult in every picture, and we just did the best we could.

So today we are visiting Heidi and Tony's new school.  They arranged for Silje and David to hang out a bit in Heidi's 4th grade classroom, and Elias gets to spend some time in their son's class.  Then in the afternoon we head out to Los Angeles to spend a day with my brother near his place where he has a big surprise lined up for the kids tomorrow.  We have another fun week ahead of us.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yarn Along: Storyformed Addition

Yes, I'm knitting and reading on vacation too.  I'm working my way through the books I got from the Mom Heart Conference, many of them written by members of the Clarkson family.  The book I went through quickly this last week was Caught up in a Story.  This is written by the eldest Clarkson girl, who is a talented literary critic, and she is currently studying at Oxford.  I have other books by Sarah, and I have heard her speak before (she's fantastic).  So keep in mind, this review is coming from a fangirl.  My children love every book she has ever recommend that I give them, and Silje will now read any book I hand her without hesitation when I tell her "Sarah said this one was good."

As an educator, I love how she explains the importance of stories on brain development in a child.  It's easy to see that math and science are important for job security or technology.  However, she talks about how stories, and music and art form the brain of a child in a way that science cannot.  If we teach a child that the only thing that can be trusted are facts that can be proven, and things they can touch and feel and explain, then we are limiting them indeed.  There must be fairytales.  There must be legend.  One must also teach a child to wonder, to imagine how big or grand, or awe-inspiring something can be if they are to ever believe in a God.  They must understand that they are not unconnected, and that every life is a part of a story.  Cultures are always steeped in stories, and eliminating stories as well as the arts, is virtually limiting the foundational thinking of that culture from the psyche.  Her explanation of how stories actually form a child's brain how to think is worth reading the book in itself.  But there is more.

In our little homeschool, Silje and I have been studying elements of a story: exposition, rising action, crisis, falling action, and denouement.  All major stories follow this flow, and Sarah takes this basic premise, and applies it to the life of a child.  Children go through these phases of a story, and need stories to walk them through.

Drawing from her own life, and the lives of stellar authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, among others, she talks about how stories helped her sort through various circumstances in her Christian walk.  Each chapter is based on one of these elements of story, how it applies to a child's life, and at the end of each chapter, she makes suggestions for books that would help a child through this story-phase of their life.

These suggestions are not organized and thorough like her book Read for the Heart, so don't expect extensive book lists.  If that is what you want, get her other book.  She tries to limit each chapter to 10 suggestions at the end, though you can tell she struggles to limit herself to a number that low.

People I think would enjoy this book:
-adults who are well read
-adults who wish they were well read
-parents who are looking for guidance in choosing children's literature
-parents who are looking for inspiration to make literature a part of their children's life
-parents who don't care what their kids read
-every educator
-literary buffs
-non-literary buffs who need enlightenment

Granted, I got my degree in literature.  Sarah Clarkson is preaching to the choir with me.  Her passion and knowledge for how literature shapes the lives of kids, though, is so exciting.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sunny Skies

After much preparation, we packed up everyone and headed out to visit my family down in Arizona and California.  We have traditionally driven down in the 2 day (15 hours each) drive, but last year we skipped it as I didn't think I could make the trip with my bad neck, and the year before was especially bad with 3 of the kids getting sick on the way down.  This year we finally bit the bullet and flew us all down, even though it required we drive 3 hours to a cheaper airport.  While the 3 1/2 hour flight beat 2 long days driving for sure, it wasn't a piece of cake either.

Ingrid and David had the toughest time, but the rest of the kids were pretty good troopers.  Solveig kept telling me.  "I'm not afraid of heights.  I like looking outside."  When we landed, I instinctively put my hand across Ingrid, and I think the landing startled her so bad that once we slowed down and I put my hand down, she grabbed it and put it back on her tummy just in case it happened again.

We are here now, though.  My neck is in bad shape.  Handling the kids along with Knut, and just sitting for so long which hurts, was rough.  Actually, at baggage claim once we landed, I was feeling nauseous from the pain, and sat in a pile of coats and backpacks.  Knut took the kids over to get the checked bags.  One by one he brought the ornery, overtired ones back to my pile of stuff, and after a few minutes, I was sitting with my head in my hands, on a pile of stuff, surrounded by 3 kids who skipped naps and were over an hour past their bedtime, screaming, and Knut and 2 other kids (Silje and Elias) were helping him haul the rest of the bags over to us.  We had drawn quite a crowd at that point, of people chuckling about how tough it is to fly with kids, and a very nice service man loaded up all our bags on his cart and brought it out to the drive-up for us where we were to meet my parents.  Really, we encountered only friendly people who were delighted to see kids running around the whole trip.  Even business men, would pull out their phones and show us pictures of their kids they were missing.  That made me happy that our crazy brood was welcome everywhere.  In the past I remember getting glaring looks whenever we brought an infant with us on a plane.  It wasn't so this time.

It is so good to be "home" though.  This morning I woke up feeling better, and the kid have been having fun being at Grammy and Papa's house.  I'm taking it easy.  The kids absolutely love not having to wear coats.  When taking into account wind chills back home, it's nearly 100 degrees warmer here.  Well, not today actually.  It's the coldest day today for the trip, being in the low 60s.  It will soon be much warmer.  My mom is trying to bundle my kids for this cold spell, which they find funny.

My mom got each of the kids a blank notebook and a bunch of scrapbook supplies so they can document their fun vacation.  They're really having fun with that.

David is having the toughest time, not understanding the lack of wide open spaces, and wanting to run and run, and not having quite enough back yard to suit the speed of his legs.  Thank goodness for parks!  I'm looking into getting adjusted while I'm down here, as I'm still hurting from the trip down, and honestly a little nervous about flying back already.  I need to not think about that right now.  Right now we have some lovely days with my parents and grandparents, and then we're driving to San Diego to visit my sister and her family by their new home just a few short miles from the beach.

Then we will visit my brother out in Los Angeles, who has a very special surprise for them that is so secret, that I shouldn't even blog about it.  We'll also see some dear friends of ours, and then head back to my parents for some rest before we head home.

As a mom of 5 kids, I'm loving so much being "mothered" by my mommy.  I have missed not being here.  My kids felt at home instantly (even little Ingrid), even though they hadn't been here in 2 years.    My mom is showing them pictures of my brother and sister and I and they are all getting so much attention.  My Papa (wonderful step-dad) had to work a bit today, and David has been anxiously waiting for him to come home so they could play chess.  Papa was his original chess teacher, and I have a feeling there will be dozens of games before we make the next leg of our journey.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Yarn Along

The knitting for the "Norsk Cloak" as I'm starting to call this pattern is still coming along.  It's quite a huge piece, so thankfully this will be a nice project to just keep going on for awhile so my brain can focus on other things.  I have the color work portion memorized now, so it's easy to just pick it up whenever.

I'm finishing up Own Your Life though you'll probably still be seeing it in my Yarn Along posts for awhile because I feel compelled to read it again, this time with a pen for underlining.  I meant to underline as I went this last time, but never seemed to have one available.  There's just so much in here that I want to sink in, that I don't think I'm done with this one yet.

I am also doing some finishing work for my Plucky Yarn pullover sweater design which will be called "NĂ¥de."  It is inspired by one of the family heirloom baptismal gowns my kids wore.  It's so close to being done, it will soon be in my "for goodness' sake get this edited and published!" pile in no time.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along, and joining other bloggers as we share what we are knitting and reading this week.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Faces

It's been quite the weekend with Knut being gone at his big ski race in Wisconsin, and even my in-laws (emergency babysitters!) were out of town on a retreat as well.  I fed the kids waffles, which is usually reserved for special occasions.  Maybe I was just trying to cover up the vulnerableness and anxiety of being alone with some sort of "let's party!" attitude portrayed to the kids.  It worked.  

Actually, David is strong enough to do most of Knut's chores around the house, and that's been a big relief to both Knut and I when he is away.  It eases up my burdens quite a bit when I don't have to worry about hauling firewood into the house or lift large, heavy buckets of corn for our corn-burning stove in the basement, or shovel snow off of the driveway.  All those things get David really excited.  He's just built for that sort of thing.  Silje was also a huge help, and we had some great talks this weekend as we were stuck inside due to the extreme colds.

Unfortunately, Solveig and Ingrid both had fevers yesterday, (a few days after these pictures were taken).  They were a low grade, all day sort of thing.  I'm hoping they will be over it soon.  I have to admit, that if I have to deal with sickness in the house, the snuggly kind like this is the best kind to get.  It's not the best for productivity, but it is great for hibernation.

Knut got back last night.  It was a hard race for him this year, and he's pretty sore.  There is so much to be done this week, I'm trying not to get overwhelmed by it, or dream up what I'll do if this sickness works it's way through everyone.

I'll get back to my writings on rest soon.  In the mean time, I'm going to try to work on prioritizing what needs to get done in my house.  Sick kiddos change everything.