Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yarn Along

I'm about an inch away from finishing the second arm.  Sometime this week I hope to connect all the pieces together, and then the real magic happens.  Sigh.  If only summer weren't so busy.

I'll admit, I'm loving my garden this year.  It's just so beautiful, and the food is unbeatable.  I'm getting so much canned, frozen, eaten that basically nothing is going to waste and we'll be eating preserved garden produce easily into next summer, if not beyond.  Food is everywhere.  I'm giving away, and have already started lining up people willing to take some of our squashes and pumpkins that are growing like crazy all over the garden.  I'm staying up late every night in my kitchen trying to finish up the day's work so breakfast is doable in the morning.

These days I'm working on dill pickles, and canning the raspberries into dark chocolate raspberry sauce for ice cream.  (Recipe here...for the sauce, not the pickles.  Oh my goodness, it's to die for.  I substitute dark dutch process cocoa powder for regular cocoa powder.  Yum!)  There is just so little down time.  At camp last weekend, I got a few inches of knitting done on the sleeve, but even so, I tried to allow myself to just sit and be as often as I could. That's why you go to camp.

I look ahead at our schedule, and see very little downtime in the next month as well.  I'm trying not to get upset about that, and just embrace the season for what it is.  My parents are coming up for a visit soon, and I know my mom's heart is usually to give me some down time, but when they end up getting here, all I want to do is just sit on the couch and drink tea with her in any spare moments I can pry the kids away from her.  My tomatoes are going to be crazy then as well, so even sitting and drinking tea when they are here might be a pipe dream.

Out at camp, I had a chance to go through yet another book that I'm previewing before I assign it to Silje.  This one is Do Hard Things.  Do you remember the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye ?  That was written by Josh Harris.  This book was written by his younger twin brothers.  They wrote this when they were teens, for their peers.

I like how they lay a good foundation of grace in the beginning of the book.  It's NOT "God want's you to do more" or "You need to do hard things for God to love you."  No, the message is loud and clear:

"You were made for more than what the world has to sell you."

It shares a very interesting history of the word "teenager" and where the concept of this in-between world between childhood and adulthood originated.  They say it goes back to child labor laws, which were laid in place to prevent children dropping out of school and going to work in horrid, unsafe factories where many of them died or became permanently maimed.  It goes back to requiring "kids" to be in school longer.  Basically, both of those changes are less than 100 years old.

In the previous generations, adulthood, or at least expecting kids to start acting like adults started when you went through puberty.  This book talks about the pendulum swinging over to the other side of teens viewing the high school years as years to party.  The attitude of entitlement begins, and problems of drug and alcohol abuse arising from teens who are frankly bored with life become prolific.  The position of "teens" changed from that of a producer to that of a consumer.

This is a book rooted in Christianity, so those coming from a secular perspective might be annoyed by the constant referring to God.  I love the message, so far.  It's good for people of any age: God has saved you.  He died so that you can live.  So live.  Stop wasting your life.  God has a purpose and calling for you.  It's not all about being happy.  It's not about serving yourself.

As I have been discussing this book with Knut, I realized it all boils down to how we view work.  Is work a blessing, or a curse?  If you make your children/teens work, are you blessing them, or cursing them?  Of course nobody wants to swing back to the days where 7 year olds were shipped off to factories.  That is not the kind of work 7 year olds should be doing.  But what sort of work should teens be doing?  I don't attempt to give a whole complete thought on "what is work" because the topic is worthy of a whole book.

But I do believe that work is a means of giving dignity to people.  Participating in various charities makes me firm in that belief.  Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, and extremes are bad places to live.

I am no more eager for my children to grow up any faster than any other mother.  However, I want my kids to know the dignity of work.  I want them to know it before they leave this house.  I don't want to hold them back from all the things they are capable of doing.

Anyway, I'm off to look at a rabbit with Silje.  She got money for one for her birthday, and we might have found one that she likes.  So I'll have to leave my work tangent there.

Also, I'm linking up to Ginny's blog, but there's a good chance she may not host the Yarn Along today.  One of her dear friends, a mother of 4 little kids, and 21 weeks pregnant with her 5th child died very suddenly due to a wasp or bee attack and allergic reaction, and her unborn child died as well.  Please still do stop by the website, and find ways to help the grieving family there.  They are in our prayers as well.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm Blessed

Elias at the sling shot range.

I asked David to take a picture of me doing the slingshot.  He got my elbow, which is pretty close.

We just got back last night from a long family weekend away.  We returned to a place very special to me.  I worked out at this camp 16 years ago.  It can't be that long, but I did the math twice, and that's what the calculator says.  I just had a service job.  I cleaned dishes and toilets, and helped out in a number of jobs.  It still holds my heart as my favorite job ever, besides the one I have now.  My "bosses" back then still work there now.  Really, they were more like mentors with high expectations than bosses.

In the last 16 years, the camp has continued to grow, and has had a chance in recent history to expand their property on the lake, and take on new campers.  Silje and David have had a chance to go multiple times, and next summer will be Elias' first chance to go by himself.  I have been able to attend their quilting retreats in the spring twice, though it doesn't always work out for me to go.  This place is a sanctuary for me, and I hope will be for my kids as well.

3 times a summer, they hold a family camp, where whole families can rent cabins and stay out there.  Since we normally go down to Arizona to visit my family for vacations, we haven't done this, as we can't exactly do 2 vacations a year.  But Elias and Solveig really struggle with carsickness, and we decided to let them get a big older before we take the big road trip again.  I hope next year.  We need to figure that out because my sister and her family are moving from Phoenix to San Diego, and so now our family will be split.  So it's very likely our next family vacation will be in San Diego.  We just haven't even gotten to the point of discussing it, so we'll see.  My brother lives in California too, and has just flown to meet us at my parents in Phoenix when we go.  But now with 2 siblings in California, that may be our new meeting place. Then again, I'm longing to go to South Carolina these days too…but that's another long story.  We also have plans for a trip down to Florida, as we have family dotted the whole way down there, and the same out to Oregon.  Not enough time…not enough time.

At any rate, we decided to spend our vacation differently this year, and we spent a long weekend out at Bible camp, for the first time as a whole family.

--I was blessed that the little ones actually slept well, in beds that were not their own, in a strange place.  Well, Ingrid woke up early most days, but overall, we slept.  That was my main concern.

--I was so blessed to sit and eat full meals prepared for me.  With the food prep and dealing with the garden produce this time of year I was longing to leave the kitchen and just not look at it for a few days.  

--I was so blessed by sunsets on the lake, hearing loon calls, sipping tea, talking with old friends.

--I was so blessed with humility.  Yes, humility.  I had gone to one of the sessions on parenting, and afterward, went to go pick up the little ones from the nursery.  Knut would have gone with me but was dying to go on the adventure course.  I didn't think my back could handle it, so I picked the parenting class.  Anyway, I went to pick up the little ones since my class was done first.  We started back to our cabin so we could get a diaper change for Ingrid, and put the other kids' crafts there while we were eating.  Elias didn't want to put his craft there, and Ingrid wanted food, not a clean diaper, and Solveig was along, but not crying.  She was too delighted with her craft.

I passed Silje on her way to the dining hall where we were all supposed to meet, and told her that if she saw Daddy, to tell him I'm at the cabin, and he needed to come help me.  Ingrid had flung her body in such a way in my arms that my neck just hurt and I needed him to help.

She told him I was at the cabin, but forgot to mention I needed help.  So Knut and Silje and David just got in line for lunch.

I got the diaper changed, through the screams, my head began to pound as I felt a serious headache coming on, and tears started to warm my eyes.  I was more scared of how bad it could get then hurt.  Elias was overtired, and I walked with the 3 little ones, slowly, slowly back to the dining hall.  Knut didn't come.  As we got close, I was hurting so badly I just sat down and let Elias and Solveig run the rest of the way as they could see Daddy in the food line in the distance.  (It was a picnic that day.)  Ingrid was just screaming at me, and I just couldn't will myself to go up to the line with so many tears in my eyes, and feeling so weak.  I didn't want anyone seeing me like this.

Thankfully, one of the amazing staff people saw me, and asked if she could help.  Ingrid went straight to her, and she carried her over to Knut, and told Knut I needed some help.  More staff jumped in to help Knut with the kids who all needed a cup or their food cut, etc.

My old mentor/boss came over to hug me for awhile, as I told her how much I struggled being weak in front of my kids, and other people.  I told her how I just hated being limited physically like this, and I didn't like having to constantly admit to people my weakness.  I hate picking out which activities I think my neck can handle, and saying no to activities I love.  She just spoke so much Scripture into my heart.  She talked about how when we are weak, God is strong.  She talked about God's grace covering all, and how God is using my weakness to teach my kids the things they need to learn.  He is equipping them through my weakness.

--I'm blessed that I have weaknesses, because my kids need to see that.  They will be blessed through it.

--I'm blessed with the special moments I got with each of our kids while we were at camp.  Knut got to take some canoeing, I got to take some to the slingshot range, David won the carpet ball tournament.  The little girls spent hours at the playground and enjoyed some parachute games as well.   I had a special moment with David when he just needed some prayer, and I got to point him to our great God.  The same opportunity happened with Silje during sunset overlooking the lake, when she needed reminding to bring her cares to God, and I just got to sit and pray with her about the things weighing on her heart.  I was so blessed to be there.  I already see in both of them that they get frustrated with their weaknesses and limitations as well.  It's a human condition.

--I'm so blessed to come home to our animals, raspberries, flowers, work, and just this life I love so much.  As always, as much fun as vacations are, coming home and sleeping in my own bed is one of my favorite parts.

How has God blessed you this last week?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yarn Along

My "cozy morning sweater" is moving right along as I'm nearly halfway through the second sleeve.  I'm really, really getting excited about this one.  I can't wait to join the sleeves to the body and finish the yoke.  We have some lake days coming up, and I plan to bring this along.  While I doubt I will have a chance to knit lakeside, as I'm often chasing kids, I'm usually the one the little girls want in the cabin when they're sleeping.  So I will likely have some nap times just sitting in the cabin, waiting for them to wake up.

I'm reading Sally Clarkson's "The Mission of Motherhood" which has been extremely convicting.  It talks about the design and purpose of motherhood.  I feel like it's almost an updated version of Edith Shaeffer's "Hidden Art of Homemaking" which was another book I loved.  If anything, this books stresses the importance of motherhood, and how the role of mothers impacts the whole family.  It's convicting because not a single woman could live up to this original design.  That is why I love the grace-breathing words of Sally, continuously pointing us to Christ, and the work he has done.  Still, in a role where it's easy to get sucked into the lie that it doesn't matter what we do, and no one cares, or notices, the truth of the purpose of a mothers role comes through loud and clear in this one.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along, where others share what they are knitting and reading.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

County Fair

I'm not sure if the 4th of July or the County Fair is a bigger deal in this house as the highlight of summer.  This is our second year bringing 4H projects to the fair, and I felt like we went this year with some realistic expectations, and experience under our belts.

4H is a club common in the country (though not excluded from cities) where kids show animals and projects.  It took me an a few years to grasp the range of projects that could be done.  Now that we have a better understanding of categories, we were able to bring a lot more projects this year, and interview better for them.  The kids are interviewed about their projects and are awarded either a blue or red ribbon, depending on the quality of their project and interview combined.

Silje brought 8 projects this year, and was awarded 8 blue ribbons.  The girl who interviewed in front of her with some amazing wool projects, and was her age got 3 grand champion ribbons, which was exciting since we got to see that happen.  So now Silje is trying to brainstorm a champion-grade project.  David brought 3 projects, but he's in the cloverbud class, which is the younger kids.  It's his last year as a clover bud, and next year he will be judged in the older class with Silje.  Cloverbuds basically practice interviewing and bringing projects.  They get used to the process, and the judge usually gives them hints on improving their projects for the next year, and gives them an inside look on how the judging is done.  He got his 3 rainbow participation ribbons this year.

They get money for their projects too, and their checks will be mailed out later this fall.  This is one of the biggest income generators for our kids for the year, so they really put their hearts into it.

Silje's projects were:
-A fairy garden terrarium
-2 flower bouquet arrangements
-2 framed, completed stamped cross stitch projects
-2 pieces of pottery from their pottery class
-A framed painting she did of her cat Starlight, and her 2 kittens

David's projects were:
-A poster explaining his tree project with a tree to have on display
-A Lego starship he built from his imagination
-One of his pieces of pottery from their pottery class
(He was limited to 3 projects, in this class though if we had animals to show it could have been more.)

The kids' club also had to volunteer one morning at the food stand which earns money for the 4H program.  They mostly had to wash tables, as the older kids in their club make more of the food.  They also helped fill some simple orders.  While they were at the food stand, the 3 younger kids and I walked through all of the barns and just had fun with all of the animals.

I've learned over the years that toddlers rarely stay in the stroller, and they scream if I just force them to.  I always end up carrying them AND pushing the stroller, and it's too much on my body.  So I just put Ingrid in the Ergo carrier, which is nice on my back, and since she snuggled into me all morning, I don't have any pictures of her.  I have bunches of Elias and Solveig, though.

The baby animal barn was a favorite.

The ducks and geese were THE favorite.  I found that surprising for some reason.

Of course, Solveig was delighted at the 4H club that decorated their horses' stalls in the "Frozen" theme.

Oh, there were so many other fun things.  I won't bore you with our endless "vacation pictures."  On the last night of the fair, the kids used the money they saved to buy some wristbands and go on rides.  Silje and David have much stronger stomachs than I have!  I will say that a good time was had by all, and ideas for next years projects are already in the works.   I made it home the whole week without buying a lamb or bunny or anything.  Knut counts that as a victory.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I'm Blessed

We did the county fair last week.  When your kids are in 4H, it's not just a matter of visiting some booths and going on some ride.  There are weeks, if not months of preparation for projects, and then days of judging, volunteering, and of course rides.  Our judging days were cut down to one since the red fox took our fair chickens.  They must be a certain age to show, and our current layers are too old.  Frankly the others were too young, but we were planning on bringing them anyway.

Anyway, I have so much more to say on the fair, as it's such a highlight of our year, but I'll leave that for later this week.  Today I'm counting my blessings.

(Silje during the judging of her fairy garden.)

-My kids did just great at the fair.  They were helpful and polite.  I was so proud of them.  There has been several days this last week where I'm just soaking in and loving the ages my kids are at right now. We've had massive meltdowns this week due to fatigue and fair food, and general busyness, but those were just small moments.

-My car insurance requested that I be seen by a different chiropractor of their choice for evaluation.  They brought in a guy who lives 3 hours away, and told me to meet him at my local hospital, where it took them 50 minutes to find us a room for the examination.  Knut happened to be able to be home that day, so I left him with the kids and sat in that waiting room for them to locate a room for us.

(I have no idea how my appointment went.  They guy was really nice, and basically took some specific measurements of my range of motion and such.  He said he was going to send all those measurements to the people who requested them and that's all he knew.)

Anyway, I got 50 minutes of uninterrupted knitting time in the waiting room.  What a big surprise blessing!  It's so hard for me to find moments like that.

-I'm likely getting an iPhone today.  About 30-50% of my calls and texts have not been getting through to me over the last year or so.  We've complained the our server, and they gave us a discount, but did not fix it.  We're switching companies today, and Knut wants to upgrade me to a smartphone.  Since my laptop is Mac, it would make sense to stay with that so they can sync up.  He's mostly decided to stick with a regular cell.  His job is very hard on phones.  I've been pretty resistant to jump on the smartphone bandwagon the last few years.  It just feels so excessive for my needs, and I see many people who have them just stare at them all the time.  Not that I'm judging, because I know I am the same way.  That's why I didn't want one.  I didn't want the temptation in front of me.  I know how addicted to stuff I get.

But our internet often will go out for a day or week without notice, especially in the winter.  There are very few internet options out here in the country.  I run a pattern business, and it's been tricky when I lose my internet and I have emails that need to get out to editors or customers.  Hauling all the kids to the library so I can write an email doesn't exactly work.  So we decided it would be a good idea for me to have this backup.

Anyway, Knut talked me into it, thinking there's some features that will really help me with my job of mothering, keeping the house and homeschooling etc.  I guess there are some great apps.  Right now our kids are only allowed to go on the iPad and computer for game time on Saturday and Sunday, and I don't think my iPhone will be an exception to that rule.  In fact, at least to start off, I don't plan on them using it at all.  So other than kids' games, I would really love if you readers would recommend some apps for me.  I'd love to know what's good out there.

-The raspberries started to kick it into high gear at the end of last week.  I'm planning on canning some more raspberry syrup for pancakes.  I also found a recipe for raspberry chocolate syrup for ice cream that can be canned.  I don't plan on making any jam out of it, as I'm already overfilled with jam from the strawberries.

-The big kids offered to help out around the house so much this week (they were constantly trying to convince me to go back to the fair) that on Saturday I had the opportunity to really do some deep cleaning on our school shelves and cabinets.  I spent hours reorganizing and purging things.  The room feels so clean and clutter-free now.  Again, I have some fun pictures to show you with what I did for school prep next year, but that's for another, longer post.

To finish out this completely random post today, I'm sharing a picture of our Cheetah-girl, to make you smile.  Remember, you're blessed too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yarn Along

I got a surprising amount of knitting done this week.  My evenings were clear for the most part after the kids went to bed, and I force myself to sit a bit.  The kids are old enough to shell peas during the day, so my fussy garden things that used to consume my evenings in years past are now being handed down.  I'm working on the right sleeve for my Cozy Morning Sweater.  I'm pinching myself a bit on how well this sweater is coming together.  All my charts are now complete, and it's a only a matter of finishing up the knitting, and then finishing the grading the pattern for various sizes.  That's always the tricky part.

I'm still working on my homeschooling preparation for this fall.  I've been completely enraptured with How to Teach your Children Shakespeare.  This is not directed towards homeschoolers, but parents in general.  I studied Shakespeare in college, but have no idea how to make it interesting for the kids at their ages.  This author started having his children memorize passages of Shakespeare starting around age 6.

In this book, he outlines 25 passages of Shakespeare's plays that are perfect for children's memorization, and outlines how various things in each passage to teach kids about Shakespeare from the stories in his plays to what various words mean.  I've always studied Shakespeare from a literary perspective, but this author sees Shakespeare from a theater perspective.  I'm learning a lot just from this change of perspective.  Things like how Shakespeare outlines the speed and tempo of the lines through syllable placement makes these readings seem almost musical.

I'm now at that place in planning for the year when I realize I cannot do all the things, and I must decide which things we will do this year.  The good news is, we don't have to learn everything this year.  It's okay if we learn things next year too.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along,

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm Blessed

I hate activities.

What a great way to start out this post, right?  I'm smacking you with honesty.  I want to be a hermit.  I want to spend my days at home, and not have to go anywhere.  I want to invite people over to my house, at my convenience, one at a time.

Alas, not everyone in my family is like me.  In fact, life in general isn't about me, is it?  I like to think it is, but that is not the life God has called any of us to.

Thankfully, last week after we finished up another summer activity week, I looked at this coming week, and the new activity going on this week as the kids are bringing all of their 4-H projects to the county fair and such, and knew I would be losing my mind just about now in preparation and running here and there, and so I called up one of my friends to babysit for me for a bit today so I can get some time alone to mentally prepare for the "did you pack this in the car, and I can't find my shoe, and hurry up we're 20 minutes late, and she colored all over my project, and what's for supper, and did you call the insurance guy yet?" sort of week.

As my mom always says, it's not that introverts don't like people, and extroverts like people, it's that introverts get their energy being alone, and spend it being with people, and extroverts get energized by being with people and spend their energy being alone.  I get energized by being alone.  So today I actually scheduled it in on the calendar.

I'm so blessed to have a friend who is serving my family this way.  Community is amazing, truly.  Maybe the hermit thing is overrated.

Knut spent Saturday making our front porch not squishy to walk on anymore.  It still could use a new coat of paint and sealer.  But now all of the support boards that were rotting are new.  The old boards were put back on top, and the rest is for another weekend.  I'm so blessed to have a husband who helps out in these ways.  I got a lot of meals in the freezer this weekend in preparation of another week of being gone during supper-prep hours, and massive amounts of garden harvesting and preserving overtaking my kitchen.  I think that will make a big difference.

Not that long ago, I was talking with Knut's aunt.  We were just chatting and she asked how I was doing, and I said busy and tired.  She told me that she always remember when her mom (Knut's grandma, now about 95) was gardening and preserving and just being the on-call support person for Knut's grandpa on this same farm, she always lost a lot of weight in the summer.  Knut's grandma is a slim person to begin with, but the exhaustion took it's toll every year on her.  I don't know…somehow this comment made me feel better, like I was in good company.  Plus, I know she loved it, as much work as it was.  I remember not that many years ago (7 maybe?) she was my neighbor 2 doors down as we were renting and waiting to move out to this old house.  She was still crawling around on the ground, hunting strawberries in her patch until her kids decided she's probably too old to be doing that.  They were right, and literally had to dig up everything otherwise the thought of good food just sitting out there would drive her mad.

She and Knut's grandpa remain my favorite neighbors around here.  Oh they bless me.

I'm learning that happiness is a mood.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  It goes along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control.  Life is crazy right now, and I am tempted to look back at lazy days when the family is snowed in, reading books by the fireplace, but it's all a lie.  I'm being dumped with blessings right now.  One of the reasons I'm so crazy busy is our garden is producing so much food.  Seriously, how can one complain about the work of managing too much food?  With much abundance comes much work.  What's that proverb?  Something about empty cattle stalls require no cleaning?  I'm blessed with kids, with food, with friends, with work (yes that's a blessing too!).  I'm blessed with rest and encouragement from loved ones, and big smiles from my little ones every morning.

How have you been blessed?