Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Blessed

I actually got up this morning on time.  I'm not sure why I turn the act of getting out of bed into this long discussion/negotiation with God.  I could just get up.  However, I feel the need to analyze, debate, justify, and any other delaying tactic.  It ends up messing up most of the day.  Today I got out of bed in time to have some quiet moments before the kids got up.

We are now a few weeks into our Fall school schedule, and I feel myself giving this sigh of relief.  Yes, we are busy, but we're not over-busy.  My kids are learning.  My house is slowly starting to get put back together from the chaos of Summer.

Last week, Elias read his first 2 readers.  They were along the lines of: "Cat ran.  Rat ran.  Rat sat on cat."  You should have seen his face.  He's been grinning ear to ear, and has been pushing for more reading.  He also started choir this week, and he feels so big.  I asked him what they did in choir that was so fun.  He said, "We sang a lot of silly songs, and we exercised our vocal cords!!"  He just loves it.  We've been trying for awhile to pull Elias out of this sad slump he gets stuck in.  I'm not sure if it's personality, or nutrition, or just being the middle child, but he always seems down.  About a month ago, his doctor suggested I double his Vitamin D dosage.  We did, and then Fall activities started, many of them for the very first time for this kindergartener.  He's just happy and smiling all the time.  I'm not sure if it's the Vitamin D, or the activities, or the big leaps he's taking in learning, but I don't think I'm going to rock any boats right now trying to figure it out!

David got to compete in his very first chess tournament.  It was him and a bunch of old guys, but he didn't care.  They beat him royally, but he did win one game, in which he beat someone rated much higher than him, and won the award of the "biggest upset" where the brackets and estimations and rankings all got messed up from what was expected because he one that game in the 3rd round.  The older gentlemen gave him a beautiful carved wood chess set as a prize for this upset.  The tournament ran from 9am to about 8pm, so Knut spent the day with him there (I had no clue it would be so long!) and it was pretty much non-stop chess.  AKA, David's Disneyland.

In the meantime, I dropped Ingrid off at the grandparents, and took Silje, Elias, and Solveig, as well as our 2 adopted exchange students, Tiffany and Lulu to a "local" zoo.  It was a bit of a drive, but it was a fun outing, and it was so easy to take out 3 kids when I had 2 teenagers along as well.  I got to just walk, not chase.  I got to have conversations with people.  Can you even imagine?

Also, we got to go on a hayride with Knut's family.  We got to host a small group at our church this weekend as well.  It's been non-stop people, and the introvert in me surprisingly handled it all well, and actually enjoying it!  This whole taking care of myself thing has been paying off.

Knut was home on an overcast day, and I asked him quick to reshoot some of the Lady Pearl Vest pictures, because I have the pattern back from the tech editor, and I just need a few better pictures before I publish it.  I also got him to do a longer photo shoot for the Cozy Morning Sweater that is up next after I get the Lady Pearl out.  I know many designers don't wear their designs, but keep them in prime condition for showing all the time.  I probably should do that.  But I'll admit now that I'm totally going to be living in this sweater this winter.  I never want to take it off.  Also, Knut and I were having a bit of fun taking pictures...

There's a lot of joy and silliness being spread around this house these days.  We're laughing so lately.  The work, work, work of the summer is starting to slip off.  I love routines.  I love cooler, wool weather.  I love the colors of fall.  My kids have already started asking multiple times a day if it's snowing yet.  They still have a wait to go, but to be sure, we're living in the right spot.

I'm blessed.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Getting to Work

Earlier this week, it took me 45 minutes to send out a 1 paragraph email to my knitting tech editor to double check the row gauge and send a chart in a different format in my pattern she's working on for me.  I think I was interrupted close to 45 times.  I need to learn to type faster.

Missy was missing Tuesday morning.  She didn't show up for breakfast.  Her GPS collar was not registering on the map.  We called for her and she didn't come.  I called the humane society, and they took down our information.  With all the kids needing some direction in school, I pushed Lena outside (she prefers to nap inside all day) and told her, "Lena, I can't find Missy, and I just don't have time today for this.  Go find her and tell her to come home right now.  I'm very upset with her for running off."  (Missy needs to be tied up when we go to town, as she gets into trouble in a hurry when we're not around.)

10 minutes later, I see Lena escorting Missy back onto the property.  Coincidence?  Probably not.

My new tech editor sent me her revisions already yesterday.  Today is my afternoon "off" or "by myself" so I may actually get to go through it while the sun is still up, and not the wee hours of the morning.  This pattern may be ready sometime next week.  It's not quite the August deadline I set for myself, but I'm glad to take the time to do it right.  Deadlines I set for myself are the hardest to enforce!

Also, I spent some time chatting on the phone with my friend Alicia this week.  I always pinch myself when calling her my friend.  She's another Christian, homeschooling mom, knitting designer.  You don't find that much in common that often!  She's lives in that beautiful part of Maine where she's in contact with some great independent designers and companies and has sat in on some great discussions on the design business.  She gave me some good advice about my collection, yarn support, etc, and I'm mulling that over and may release some of the designs for my collection earlier.  We'll see.  There might be some more stuff to show off to you guys earlier than promised too!

I'm so delighted with all the knitting and pattern-finishing-up going on around here.  This has been a beautiful, but long summer!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Yarn Along

This blue cardigan is coming along.  I'm finishing up the cuff to the first sleeve today.  I was on the fence on how I felt about this coming along, but now that the first sleeve is nearly done, my excitement is completely renewed.  I cannot wait to see this one finished!  My only issue now is that I have enough yarn to finish up the sleeve, and then I have to think hard where I put the rest of it.  It's not where it should be, and I know I have a few more skeins of it.  This was my travel knitting last spring to Colorado, and I packed some extra skeins along in case I had a lot of knitting time, which I didn't.  I think it might be somewhere in my bedroom still.  So I'll finish up the cuff today, and then hunt down the rest of the yarn!

I'm going through a treasure called I Believe in the Holy Spirit.  It's one of my grandpa's old books.  My grandpa was a church planter for the Lutheran Brethren Church and was involved in planting over a dozen congregations in both the USA and Japan.  He and my grandma moved in with us after my parents divorced, to help ease the transition, and help out my mom.  That was for 2 years.  Then when I was in jr. high, my family was going to a community (Baptist) church, and my mom really wanted me to study the traditional confirmation studies of the Lutheran Brethren church, so we drove 2 hours north to their house on the weekends so that I could study one on one with Grandpa in his office.

Oh, I spent hours in Grandpa's office, surrounded by his books, studying God's word, studying Lutheran theology, asking questions about life.  He's the kindest man ever, and knows the Bible better than anyone I know, but he's super tough to study with too.  He insists on memorizing everything, and takes a hard line on the truth.

Anyway, a few months ago, Grandpa had to be moved into a memory unit of their living place, as he's been losing some short term memory and wandered off once.  So then Grandma moved into a smaller apartment near to him.  They had to downsize yet again, and my mom had the job of going through all of Grandpa's books.  She sent out a big spreadsheet to the family, with a list of all of Grandpa's books that they were getting rid of.  Everyone got to check all the ones they were interested in, and my mom went through the request lists and tried to distribute as many as she could.

Last month when my parents were visiting, my mom brought a big stack of my grandpa's books that no one else wanted.  I'm such a book hoarder.  There are some real treasures in there!  I haven't had much time to go through the stack though, so I paged through 4 of the books on the stack last night.  This one (translated from Norwegian sometime in the 1930s, it appears) caught my eye from the mere wear of it.  The spine is falling apart, and has been taped several times.  Many pages inside are falling out, and others have been taped in.

My grandpa's heavy, "flowery" signature handwriting is seen in several of the margins, and he has gone through and underlined several things, several times.  I showed Knut, and he smiled and said sarcastically, "You think he ever used this in his preaching?"  It's true, some of the things I read in here I've heard him say several times.  It's like he's next to me, and telling me about God again.  What a comfort.

One of the last times I saw Grandpa when I was in Arizona, he gave me one of his big bear hugs, and looked me lovingly in the eyes and said, "Now are you one of my daughters, or one of my granddaughters?"

"One of your granddaughters, Grandpa.  I'm Gretchen."
He laughed, and hugged me again.  I pushed further to help him remember.
"Remember Grandpa, when I'd come up to your house in Dewey?  We would sit and study God's Word together?  We'd talk for hours?"
He smiled, the twinkle still in his eyes, and said, "I bet I would have liked that."

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I'm Blessed

There has been a return to peace this last week.  That's not to say that the busy-ness has let up.  I think I've just identified with such certainty in my brain that my stress and anxiety these last weeks were so fear based, and fear is not from God.  He calls us to live by faith, not fear.  So I've been "calling it out" to myself when I see it rise in me.  It's weakening.  The stress of it all has fallen off my shoulders.  Even my kids have been noticing a difference in me.

Of course, saying one has conquered anxiety this week is like saying that I weeded my garden mid-June, and we're good to go for the rest of the season.  I think the other part of the equation is that my plan to take care of myself better this school year started taking effect last week.  My new babysitter came one afternoon to give me a couple of hours away from my house and kids.  This will happen every week.  I love being with my children, and I love homeschooling, but I'm so excited about this new built in rest from all of the work associated with all of that.  I'm so blessed.  Thank you to everyone who ever bought one of my knitting patterns.  You are funding this rest for me.  :)

I'm so blessed by a husband who has been empowering me so much to make some of these tough decisions as all activities are starting for the year, and long commitments and plans are being made.  He's been supporting me as I'm fighting for peace for our whole family with all of the schedule management.  I know he wants the kids in more sports, and more events.  I do too, but I think we're both realizing we need peace in our home more than all of that.

The constant preserving in the kitchen has made constant dishes.  We have no dishwasher, so this has made for constant dishes in the sink.  I do dishes for what seems all day long.  The older 2 take turns helping me with them too.  All in all we probably fill and wash a sink-ful close to 7 times a day.  And yet, I go to bed every night with a dirty kitchen, because I just stop from exhaustion.  I just want to sleep.  It's so, so hard to wake up to dirty dishes, as it's one of my least favorite thing.  But I'm feeling more rested, less anxious, and I've been yelling at my kids less.  These are the decisions I struggle with sometimes.  Do I stay up late, finish all the work that needs doing, and end up with 4-5 hours of sleep a night, or go to bed, and leave work undone?  I've started going to bed and leaving things undone.  Ironically, I think my house is getting cleaner because of this decision.  I'm not sure how that is, but it is.  I think I'm just more rested, and am working more efficiently.  My kids are working better, when they see me work with joy, not drudgery.  They are helping better.  I'm seeing a lot of wisdom in this whole taking care of myself better thing.

Knut finally got the barn siding finished this weekend.  When he and family were working on it a few weeks ago, he quickly realized that he had mistakenly not ordered 2 of the metal siding sheets for the last side.  So he had to order them, wait for them to come in, and assemble some family again to finish the last side.  It's now done, and it's time to move onto finishing up woodcutting for the winter.  Time to bring out the chainsaw.  Oh, we're so blessed with wood and a fireplace all winter long!  Seriously, it may be my favorite part of cold weather.  I just can't wait to have the fireplace going again.

I do miss writing on here more.  Our internet was out a few days last week again, so that was part of it. Oh, country life!  I'm not worried about it, though.  In fact, I was so busy that I didn't even realize it wasn't working for 2 whole days.  I was sort of proud of that.  Each day I can only do so much.  I'm learning to be content with that.

How have you been blessed this last week?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Yarn Along

I'm creeping along snail-paced in both of these projects.  The sleeve on this cardigan is going about 2 inches per week, at the rate I'm going.  There is just so little knitting time this time of year.  Yet I refuse to put the project away and say "after the garden's done."  This has been in my purse, and I get a few rows done waiting in the car here and there.  That's how knitting is often done--those stolen seconds here and there.

I'm nearly done with The Egg and I.  I've been reading a chapter a night, a few nights a week.  I think I have 3 chapters left, so I should be done soon.  I have loved this book so much.  It's hilarious, and as a farmer's wife, it makes me laugh out loud.  I have read reviews about the racism in the book towards the native "indians" that the narrator has.  I saw little traces of it, and then this last week I saw a whole big chapter of it.  In our politically correct world, I don't often hear people say the things that she said, and it really got me thinking.

In my area of the country, I don't really notice racism.  There's not the clash of races here that there is other places in our country.  There were times of my youth that I truly believed it had disappeared, and it was all in people's head.  I hated when people played "the race card."  Now that I'm in my 30s, not only do I see racism everywhere, but I see prejudgment everywhere…even in myself.  Goodness, we all prejudge people to some extent.  Racism is a prejudgement that can be done without even speaking to someone.  I'm not justifying it by any means, most especially in myself.  I'm just stating that when I look at myself, I have really strong opinions about things, and those opinions are not always correct.  To say I was never wrong would be a greater hypocrisy.

And yet…though this narrator has blatant ideas in her head, before she even meets her native neighbors, what solidifies her disgust is the total acceptance in that community of beating and degrading women, of encouraging and allowing blatant alcoholism, with even 10 year olds getting drunk consistently.  She ends up making friends with a small handful of them, but overall, she just can't stand it.

Which brings the other issues to the discussion, if I dare.  It is a delicate balance to not prejudge a people, and to love them as the human beings God created them, and yet not ignoring the very real dangers or issues within that subculture.  It is not acceptable to speak badly of a minority, but what if there are major issues needing addressing within that minority?  Not every Native American she met was a drunk, and some became close family friends, but drunkenness, drunk driving, and wife beating was a very common problem among the families she met.

Or was it?  Maybe she just saw what she wanted to see, and wrote it down.  Is she a reliable narrator in this instance?  I don't know.  In some instances she is not speaking from an attitude of love.  One phrase  she used about how she was glad that land was taken from these people sent chills down my spine.

But it has gotten me thinking.  I know this book has fallen out of favor with many literary people because of these passages, but I think that these passages only got me thinking, and mulling over the issue of racism.  Isn't that the point?  Shouldn't we read things that challenge our thinking, and make us analyze what we believe to be true?

The hard part in this culture, I think, is that people get so scared to talk about it.  It's so easy to screw up that kind of conversation and look like a fool.  There are terms to use, and terms that offend.  To be honest I'm not always current with the proper terms.  I have met indians who prefer the term "Native American" and ones that prefer "Indian."  I'm a bumbling idiot when it comes to being properly politically correct.  While some element of the politically correct crowd annoys me, the side that offends without care or compassion to people's feelings annoy me too.  So it feels as though I have no camp that I belong in.  I'm in the camp that desires to love people, but does so imperfectly.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

At Peace in the Chaos

Sorry I haven't had a chance to catch up on here yesterday.  So much has been going on since the start of school this year that I scarcely have time to catch my breath.  This week brings on our new routine, fully with our activities, and so we'll see how it goes.

The garden has not gotten the memo that school has started.  Yesterday I was out picking green beans, and those darn plants were still flowering.  We will be eating green beans all winter long.  I already have enough to feed it to my family about 4 times a week.  I was throwing the tomatoes into gallon Ziplocs until I had time to skin and can them.  But then I ran out of room, so I've been thawing and skinning them in preparation for turning them into sauce and canning them.  I need one more freezer.  Plus, next week we're getting half a pig from one of our neighbors.  So I really, really need to go through the freezers and make sure they're packed as efficiently as possible.

You know, in my spare time.  Also, last Sunday morning, as I was getting the kids dressed for church, I found that with the 3 younger kids they had no clothes that fit them.  I had to pull out their hand-me-down boxes/bags from the closet and try to shake out something respectable for them to wear.  It all worked out, but I've realized that I need to do a big clothing revamp for 3 of the kids this week too.  Doing one or two kids' wardrobe is work enough, but 3?  I'll need at least 2 days for that.

I've come this close to just canceling school this week.  We just have no time for it.  We're doing too much life.  I have decided to drop a few subjects just until the garden is done.

I'll confess, Sunday morning, I went to church as a total grump, and was annoyed with my children, as is the normal Sunday morning.  I'm not sure what it is about that morning that is just extra hard.  Sunday mornings are a battle, and I don't mean with my family.  It's against something unseen.

As always, my time with my church family, and actually listening to the sermon was so refreshing. I was so renewed.  The last song that we sung after communion, though, was God speaking to me in preparation for the week.  It was "Man of Sorrows" and I was so touched by it.

Now my debt is paid
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled

Now the curse of sin
Has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed!

Then the chorus went:

O that rugged cross
my salvation!
Where your love poured out over me!
Now my soul cries out
Praise and honour unto Thee.

I was feeling so defeated from the dawning of this week, as I saw all that needed to get done, and how it was physically impossible to do it all.  I wondered which things would drop.  Where would I drop the ball?  When will I fail?  I was so driven by fear.

Fear.  Not faith.

You see, I'll likely screw up somewhere.  I still sin.  I'm not perfect.


My debt is paid in full.  I'm free.  God does not call us to a life of bondage, but a life of freedom.  That rugged cross completed the work.  My life is just a "Hallelujah" now.

All the feelings of failure, and fear just fell off me and I got that moment of peace where all those things that burdened me, from the tomatoes on my counter, to the curriculum sitting on my dining room table, to the piles of laundry all upstairs…it just didn't matter.  Not that I shouldn't do it, but that it doesn't own me.  It has no power over me.

I feel like it was such an experience, that I cannot possibly describe it accurately.

To turn the conversation and catch you all up on another big thing, Sunday evening we had some new friends over that you'll probably hear about on the blog over the course of this year.  Knut and my old high school has had such a surge of foreign students living in their dorms.  When we went there they had about 20-30 Norwegian students, and 3-4 Japanese students.  Now, they have students from Norway, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, China, Taiwan…and on and on and on.  Word on this tiny high school in this tiny town that offers boarding to students has gotten out in the international level.

Anyway, Knut and I were asked if we could volunteer this year to "adopt" 2 students into our family for the year.  The main purpose is to provide them a break from the dorms.  I used to live in those same dorms, so I know the need to just get away!  We'll be the people who bring them to the doctor, or to the airport.  We'll open up our home during the holidays, and have them over on some weekends just to rest.

So we were assigned 2 girls, who go by their American nick names of "Lulu" and "Tiffany."  Lulu is a senior from Shanghai, and is an accomplished sword fencer on a competitive level.  Tiffany is a junior from Taiwan, and is obsessed with playing with kids, and I think was assigned to our family for that reason.  :)  This is the 2nd year at this school for both of the girls, and the 1st year the school is doing this "family" program.

So Sunday night I made them sticky rice, and ginger shrimp dumplings, and "Chinese marinated" salmon.  I never really make Chinese food, and it was all a vast experiment, so I was worried it wasn't very good.  I knew I didn't have to make them Chinese food, but I knew that they weren't getting it in the dorm, and I wanted to set up my house as a place of "rest" for them.  They took second and third helpings, so it must not have been too bad.  I was worried about our family taking on one more thing, but I felt so strongly that this was something we were supposed to do.  I'm so glad we said yes, because these girls weren't "work" at all to have around.  They are just delightful, and our kids adore them already.  I think I got more rest having them here than not.

So we have plans in 2 weeks to take them along with our family when we go to the zoo.  I've been suggesting all sorts of get togethers with them.  Sometimes they just look at the ground, or slowly nod politely when I suggest things.  Other times I suggest something, and their faces light up and say "yes that!  Let's to that!"  The zoo was one of those light-up suggestions, so we'll do that one.

They both speak English very well, but they offered to help the kids with their Chinese anyway, as my kids have been going through the Rosetta Stone program (very slowly…) the last few years in our homeschool.  We are perfectly matched.

So hopefully we're all caught up.  Well a little.  Today I have to put on the chauffeur hat and take the kids to speech class and 3 different choir practices as the 3 older kids are divided up by age.  It's our activity day.  Also I have to can a bunch of tomatoes, and find some clothes for people to wear.  You know…that's all.  :)  As I've said before, whoever put the "home" in "homeschool" was l.y.i.n.g.  Let's just call it "familyschool" since it happens within the family, all over the place.  I think I like that better.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back to School

It's our first week back to school after quite a break.  The garden took over, our time.  While many people consider gardening hands on learning, and I would as well, it's easier to speak about back to the traditional subjects as back to school.  This week was a return to our daily routine, and a return to the books and writing side of school.

I have done a lot of planning this year on entertaining the little girls during school.  It really hasn't been as hard as I imagined it would be.  They're happy to play when we're reading.  I made some batches of play dough.  They scatter popsicle sticks.  They tear, cut, and color paper that is left behind from the bigger kids.  It's all been working out.

The kids started the first day of school around the dining room table, but since then they have scattered. David likes to work on the porch, and Silje likes to work in whatever room other people are in and then complain about the noise.  Only Elias has stayed at the table still.

Actually, our week has been interrupted so many times, and the "new schedule" has been thrown off so often that I wonder if we shall ever, ever have a normal week.  Perhaps not.  All of our activities from choir to speech class to piano lessons, etc. all begin next week.

People say sometimes what a peaceful place we have out here, or how peaceful my blog is.  Honestly, this blog is often the only peaceful part of my life.  My children are so loud.  We're always running.  There's always a million things to do at home, and a good portion never gets done.  Yes, our scenery is lovely, and I have to make myself go on these walks and distract myself from the chaos with all of the beauty that surrounds us.

I hope, though, that this blog is a peaceful rest for you as it is for me.  I don't mean to put on pretense.  This first week of school is always a struggle for me, most especially when it falls in line with when the public school starts.  I need to remind myself to not go on Facebook next year during the back to school season.  I read all of these comments of moms who drop their kids off, and go out to coffee together.  I see the excited looks on the kids' faces in all the pictures posted.  I look around at my loud children, without my friends around, and say "I did this to myself.  Why am I doing this?"

This season is ripe for spiritual attacks on homeschool moms who are doing what they're doing, not because it's always so gosh-darn-fun, but because we feel called.  It's a choice we believe in.  I feel so judged, when I'm not.  I feel like such a failure, when I'm not.  I feel like I'm left out, when I'm not.  I wonder why I'm doing this, when I know why I'm doing this.  Sigh.  'Tis the season.

I texted a dear friend of mine last night and went out to eat with her last minute.  It's just what I needed. God has given me such a kindred spirit friend at just the right moment.  I think she needed to get out as much as I did.  Knut had been gone for nearly every lunch and every supper and every bedtime so far this week.  No, it's not harvest.  He's just been busy.  So I felt bad that he was finally home last night and I high tailed it out of there and said, "Have fun with the kids!"  Oh well.  They survived.

Actually, the time that I've spent with the kids has been a blast.  They're really loving school this year.  We're doing a lot more science and art.  We're studying koine Greek together as an elective, and playing silly games.  I even got a Greek workbook myself, and doing it alongside them.  Knut put up a big whiteboard in the basement, and we're starting to leave "secret code" messages that only Silje, David and I understand.  It's so fun.  The biggest hard part is the lack of a break.  I wish there were more of them.  There are some breaks planned into this next week.  I need to catch my breath from time to time, from this wonderfully peaceful life.  :)