Monday, February 28, 2011

Annie Dress

When I think of a little baby Annie, I think of Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables.  Anne as little baby “Annie” would have loved the excess of flair in the skirt, and little Annie would have had braids as soon as possible.  Just be sure that if there is a little shirt worn under this dress in the winter, it has puffed sleeves so that little Annie would approve. ;)

I tried to think of a designing a dress that would grow with the baby, so that special hand knit items just might get a few more weeks, if not months of wear.  The bodice on the dress is stretchy, and as it is knit from the top down, the length of the dress can be added to with more cables, garter stitch, or whatever else you like. 
This dress is knit in the round and a great starter project for those wanting to try out cables.  Using dk weight yarn, and a size US 5 circular needle, it's the perfect weight for all seasons.

Sizing is for an 18" doll (American Girl Doll), as well as preemie-24 months.



Permission is given to sell hand-knitted items from this pattern provided each knitter buys her own pattern, and that credit for the design is stated in the listing as follows: "This dress is designed by Nerdy Gerdy Designs and hand knit by 'your name here'.  This pattern may be found at http://www.hesowsandshesews.com/search/label/Patterns." 


 Mass production and distribution of pattern is prohibited.  It is protected under copyright laws; all rights reserved.

Immediate download of PDF format of the pattern available here.

$5.00

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Results

Well, obviously we made it.  Believe me, there is more than on Norsky here!
Knut realized about 4 hours into our drive that he forgot his energy pouches and water bottle and the hip pack he uses to carry extra wax.  So we had to make a stop at a ski shop, which in Birkie land on the day before the Birkie is like going to a jewelry store on Christmas Eve.  He got most of what he needed, but not as nice as the things that were left home.  During the race, however, his new water bottle froze, which his other one wouldn't have.  I'm sure that carrying around a hunk of ice like that wasn't fun, but he rationalized with me that it wasn't any heavier than water!

So, it was a very chilly morning for the race.  Knut's uncle was nice enough to drop Knut off at the starting line so I got to sleep in for the beginning of the race, and of course, checked out the yarn store here before heading to the finish line.  I cannot help it.

Solveig and I bundled up and it started to lightly snow by the time we got to the finish line.  I was worried that I had already missed him because he didn't come for awhile, but he wasn't at our meeting spot.  I couldn't remember the bib edging color for his wave, but the lady next to me assured me that the wave we were seeing was mostly wave 2, and he was in wave 3.  I knew what he was wearing though, and since he does the classic version of skiing, I knew which lane he would be skiing in downtown. 

After waiting in the cold for about 20 minutes, I saw someone who was wearing the exact racing suit as Knut, and in the right lane, but he was an old man.  It couldn't be him.  However, as the skier sped 3 feet in front of me as I was standing on the sidelines, my jaw dropped as I realized it was Knut.  So I snapped a picture quick.

Although, I don't think you can see him in this picture.  He's way past the finish on the left, but I think I'm the only one who sees him.  He had a navy top and gray pants.

Aaaaaand this is why I thought he was an old man:

He would drink the warm water they give at the checkpoints so fast that they would drip down his goatee and by the time the race was done, it was one big chunk of ice.  It didn't take long to melt, and he had a couple bowls of soup before we headed out to lunch together.  For those curious, he was wearing his heart rate monitor for the race, and he supposedly burned just under 5000 calories during the race.

He made the 25th percentile this time, which was one goal of his.  He finished in 3 hours and 25 minutes, shaving 30 minutes off of last year's race.  He was 13th in his age group and 177th overall.  He's very pleased with his time.  So besides a few blisters and a very sore body, he's feeling good.  Right now he and Solveig are snuggling on the couch.  She has fallen asleep, and I wouldn't be surprised if he tipped over any minute now...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Race Weekend

The skis are waxed and waiting.  
This weekend it's time to see if all of Knut's training has paid off.  This will be his second year doing the American Birkebeiner.  What's the Birke?

The Race of the BirkebeinersAccording to the birkie website, the Birkebeiner race was created to: "honor and re-create a historic Norwegian event when in 1206, two warrior soldiers, called "Birkebeiners" because of the birch-bark leggings they wore, skied infant Prince Haakon to safety during the Norwegian civil war. Prince Haakon subsequently became King of Norway, and the Birkebeiner soldiers became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity."

You can read the story in this children's book. The author of the book was at the race last year so I got to talk with her and get her to sign a copy for the kids, which was fun.

Every year they have a couple of people who do the race dressed in 1200 AD garb and recreate the event alongside all of the modern skiers.  There's an essay contest every year that determines who gets to do the official re-creation each year.  Last year was the first time the people who did the re-creation actually wore a real live baby during the entire distance.  All on handmade wooden skis too! 

It's a 54km (34mi) cross country ski race.  Well, it's not just a race.  It's the largest cross country ski marathon in North America with something like 11,000 skiers this year.   All I know is that they had to close registration months ago.  It's a huge event!

Last year, since it was Knut's first time he was placed in the 8th wave starting, which is the last wave in the classic category.  With over 10,000 skiers, you're assigned a wave of course!  His goal last year was to finish the race in 4-5 hours.  He finished in 3 hours and 58 minutes.  That time got him a spot in wave 3 this year.

Since he's in a faster wave this year, he said he most likely won't spend nearly as much time waiting at the bottom of hills for slower skiers in front of him to get to the top.  He'll have people at his skiing level to "chase down" during the race.  As he's been checking the daily trail reports of the Birkie trail, and it's predicted to be very fast on the snow this year, he's aiming for a 3 hour race this year.  We'll see if the snow conditions and a different wave can shave a whole hour off of last year's time.

He says that if he earns a spot into the elite wave 1 next year, he'll do the race in the classic category one more year.  Otherwise he'll do the race in the skating style category next year.

One of these years maybe we'll take the kids to do their own race in the "Prince Haakon" (children's version of the race).  For now, though, only Lena and Solveig are coming with and we're calling it our getaway.  Knut's aunt and uncle have a very dog friendly cabin near the race that we get to stay at.  Lena had a great time at the cabin last year.  Solveig is still too young for me to leave her, so she and I will be greeting Knut at the finish line.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Babies

 When did my little Elias get so big?  This little boy likes his boots on all. the. time.  We normally don't wear shoes in the house.  However, Elias doesn't function well without these boots to stomp around in.  It's the only thing that calms him down with the big kids go out to play and he can't go because he needs more of a watchful eye outside.  His speech is getting more refined every day, and he's adding more words more often now.  We knew it would only be a matter of time before he realized that using actual words is important.  He still prefers to explain life to us through sound effects, though.
 This baby of ours is so so close to rolling over.  We haven't spent a lot of time getting her to do it, and I'm sure if she were our firstborn and we didn't worry about her getting trampled by 3 kids and a dog, and had more time to be on the floor with her that she may have it by now.  I cannot begin to tell you how pleasant this little girl's personality is.  She flashes that dimple at us whenever we make eye contact, so pretty much all the time.  Although no one can get smiles and excitement from her as well as Elias.  She loves it when his face gets right up to hers and they talk.  This, of course, needs constant watching as he loves her to the point of smothering. 
She gets me in trouble because often I have to get some chore done.  If I'm working on something and happen to make eye contact with her, I'm completely drawn in and have to stare and coo back at her.  Once our eyes are locked I'm a goner.  She coos and squeals at me, and flails her arms and legs in excitement.  I'm spending way too much time having little baby conversations with her, and not nearly enough time getting the laundry folded.  Then again, maybe I have it just right.  I haven't decided yet.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yarn Along

I'm participating once again at the Yarn Along over at Small Things.  I love to knit.  I love to read.  I love to find other people who love to knit and read as well.  Ironically, several of the people over there are homeschooling moms as well.  Who knew?  At any rate, I've enjoyed getting to know them and participating in this weekly party.
Well, let's see.  I've worked hard on getting my Annie Dress pattern ready for release next week.  I finally settled on offering sizes from newborn to 24 mos, with bonus instructions for an 18" doll dress.  It's my first pattern, and I'm trying to be meticulous about proofing it.  I've been putting off the last bit (the boring part) of developing and selling a pattern.  Just like everything, I save the most unpleasant parts for last and drag my feet.  It's the automatic PDF file distribution after payment that is giving me problems.  I'm not that computer savvy, and the whole time I'm working on proofing, installing alien looking script on websites, setting up descriptions and delivery systems I'm thinking to myself "I'd rather be knitting."  

So of course, I pick up my needles and knit.  I've been working more on what I'm starting to call the "Jane Dress" pattern.  In fact, the bodice, after 3 tries, is the way I like it.  I nearly finished the entire skirt to it this last week, but ended up ripping back.  Honestly, if it were just for Solveig, I would have left it.  It wasn't bad.  But if I'm putting my name on the design, I want it to be perfect.  So back to the waist I go.  I'm soooooo in love with how this is turning out.  In fact, if I were to play favorites, I like it better than the Annie Dress.  It's taking longer because I'm making the prototype in size 18 months, instead of 3 months like other times.  I figured Solveig could wear it this next winter and spring.  

I've spoken with my sister, because I do intend on the pattern being ready before this winter and spring and I need a model.  Either of her twin girls would be the perfect size and we're going to see them in a couple of weeks.  So my goal is to be ready for a photo shoot with this dress by the time we see them.  

I am still double checking my stitch count on one of the sizes in the Annie Dress and that's what you also see in the picture with the "teaberry" colored yarn.  Honestly, I can't wait to get that pattern done so I can focus on the Jane Dress.  Who am I kidding, though.  I'll have another project started by then.

I've been reading snippets from 2 old friends, Jane Eyre and The Hidden Art of Homemaking.  I wrote about them here recently, and now that they're out, I'm just sneaking in a quick tea with Jane, or some inspiration from Edith.  I just don't have the heart to put the 2 old friends back on the bookshelf quite yet.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Books That Changed Me

I was thinking the other day how much I miss reading a good book.  I still read, but just pieces here and there.  I miss picking up a book and then becoming a hermit for the next 3 days until it's done.  I'm not allowed to be a hermit in my room anymore.  Even when I try, there seems to be yelling and pounding and little chubby fingers reaching underneath the door.  So I've given up.

One thing that is not taken, though, is my memory of books.  I can close my eyes and go anywhere.  From the moors of England to the desert of Iran.  When I think about which book would be worth my time to read, I'm reminded of the books I've read.

There are some books you never forget.  They're not in any order.  They're pretty much all amazing very different reasons.

Jane Eyre I think of Jane Eyre, which was just a random purchase over Christmas break in college.  A chapel speaker encouraged us to put down the Christian romances and pick up a good solid book.  So I used a $5 gift from an aunt, and bought a cheap paperback classic.  Little did I know, that meeting Jane would change me.  Seeing her resolve, her certainty.  She had convictions.  When love tried to blur what was right and wrong, she held to what was right, even though her only chance of happiness was within reach.

My favorite part:
"I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now.  Laws and principles are not for the times when there is not temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.  If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?  They have a worth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane--quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.  Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot."

This world could use some more of that.

Seriously.  I think I've read this book hundreds of times.  Knut laughs when I just pick it up and read a random chapter.  I tell him I'm having a little visit with my friend Jane.  We think that in our world, and in our culture, nothing is black and white.  Everything is a shade of gray.  Jane makes things black and white.  Her world was all gray, but she didn't see it that way.  Looking around her, there were all sorts of "versions" of Christians.  From the hypocrite of Mr. Brocklehurst to the martyr, St. John, it's not until the end of the book where you see a true picture: Mr. Rochester, broken, and handicapped.  Grace was poured on him in abundance in the end.


In Jane Eyre we can see what religion can be twisted into, and contrasts that with the grace of God. 

O, and it's an incredibly great love story.

This book got me out of cheap Christian romances and into great literature.  Because of this book, I chose a degree in literature.  It just contrasted so sharply from the "good" romance books I had picked up as a teenager.

The Hidden Art of HomemakingThe Hidden Art of Homemaking was given to me as a Christmas present.  Knut's girl cousins usually do an exchange and one year it was a used book exchange.  Little did I know, the used book I got in the exchange would bring so much joy to my job.  Like many women in my generation, my mom worked.  I don't mean to make this a stay at home/working argument, but I think in the last few decades, some knowledge didn't get passed down.  I think families went into "survival mode" for so long, that the art in homemaking was lost.  It went from a work of art, to a job that needed to get done in the most efficient way.

Edith Schaeffer inspires in this book.  She makes me want to iron tablecloths.  The most memorable story in this book is one where she explained that when a hobo would stop by her house asking for a meal, she would always bring him out a tray with her best cloth laid on it and always, always had a vase with flowers in it alongside the meal. 

It makes you think.  Am I trying to feed my family a meal, or am I going to make it beautiful?  To her, creating beauty isn't just reflecting our creative God, it's a means to extend His grace and a tangible way to give value to life. 

This book clicked me out of the survival mode that I was in from having 2 little babies 15 months apart, and put me into thriving mode.  It made me want to create a beautiful home for them to grow up in.  It made me want to write them letters, create memories, and pick some flowers.  I think this is a must read for any homemaker out there.

What's So Amazing About Grace?
What's So Amazing About Grace? was a book I picked up when I worked at a book store in college.  Written by a journalist, not a professional theologian, he dives deep into what exactly grace is.  Up to this point, if someone asked me what grace was, I'd respond: something you don't deserve.  I had always heard that mercy is withholding something bad that you deserve, and grace is extending something good that you don't deserve.  However, that description is hollow compared to this book.  This book brought me to tears again and again as I started to grasp how deep is the love of Christ.  I would recommend this book to someone who has been a Christian for awhile.  Better yet, those who grew up in the church.  Someone who can explain how to come to faith without breaking down in tears at the awe of it.  I don't even have this book on my shelves anymore.  I keep buying it, and giving it away.  It never stays on my shelf long.

This Present DarknessThis Present Darkness is a scary book.  While having all the aspects of a cheap bestseller, it mentally engages you in a battle.  So we have grace.  Now what?  This book, along with it's sequel, Piercing the Darkness are a work of fiction.  They're not meant to be great works of theology, nor should they be taken as such.  However, they made me aware of a battle.  It made the Scripture talking about putting on the armor of God make sense.  In this book, unbelievers are victims of a terrible evil.  They are captive.  Christians are soldiers, whether they are aware of it or not.  This book makes the Christian life something very very active.  It's not a passive, oblivious life.  It's involved.

I think it would be easy (speaking from experience) to go through the Christian life thinking that because God's grace covers all, it doesn't matter what I do.  I'm not here to preach some heresy of works based salvation.  I'm just saying, there's a battle that we get to take part in.  The Bible talks about this battle over and over.  Being aware of the deception of demons, as put very well in The Screwtape Letters is a huge portion of that battle.  God has saved us, by his grace.  God has called us to his service, and has set out work for us to do in this Christian life.  The work doesn't save us, his grace does.  The work he equips us for makes us effective Christians. 

I think we are robbed from joy in the Christian life when we start to believe that since we are not saved by works, it does not matter if we do the work God has given us to do and equipped us to do.  What at stake is not the removal of God's grace, but the effectiveness of us as believers, and the joy in the work.

Both the Peretti books and the Screwtape Letters are great reminders of the battle around us, and opens our eyes to the maneuvers of the enemy.

What about you?  What books have changed you?  I'd love to have a book on hand just in case I'll be able to read it!

Dinner Party

 Last night we were privileged enough to have over for dinner Knut's Grandma M, Grandma R, and Bestefar.  (The kids call him Oldefar.)  It might be the first time we had them all over since Grandpa M.'s passing. 

As always, we had a blast.  I had picked up some yummy bread bowls when we were in town, and I made potato cheese soup. 
 David was waiting all day to play Uno with all of them.  They were more than willing to oblige him.  This is just an observation, but I think Grandma M. and David play off of each other's competitiveness.  Grandma M. won the round.  Again.  David loves that she can always beat him.  I'm pretty sure she enjoys beating him too!  He wasn't used to playing with so many people, though, and had to go to bed after this because he got hysterical that he never drew the Draw 4 Wild card.  (He's been known to stack the deck so that he draws all 4 of those wild cards in one hand.)  So it wasn't the most pleasant ending, but I'd say the rest of us had a great time.

Sisters

I just got Solveig's 6 week portraits back. Setting them next to Silje's old 6 week portrait, I think you'd have to admit that they're sisters.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Homeschool Friday

The week began with something new on the homeschool front.  Silje was trying to convince me that we should skip school on Monday, since it was Valentine's Day, so that she could watch all the cartoon specials.  She said we could just catch up on another day.  I had to try to explain to her that we don't just skip school on a whim.  Sometimes, the family needs to make a trip to the big city, like yesterday, and we work around that schedule.  However, we don't ever skip school for the purpose of becoming a television drone.  I would have delayed if she suggested a day of crafts, or for preparation for one of her extravagant concerts...since it was a holiday and all.  In the end, we had school in a coffee shop, so it was a fun treat that day.

We started something new, inspired by The Year of Miss Agnes book we had been reading, and have now finished.  The teacher in there gave each of her students a book for words.  Each time they asked how to spell a word correctly, she would put it in their book so that they could look it up later.  It's like having a personal dictionary of most commonly used words for each child.

So we pulled out a blank composition notebook for Silje, and I had her write one letter of the alphabet on the top of the first 26 pages to organize the words.  She is quickly filling her spelling dictionary, and she's not allowed to spell a word wrong once it is written in there.  Not only does she love the idea, but Knut thinks I'm a genius.  Double bonus.

We are quickly approaching the 'problem' of running out of curriculum this year.  I saw it coming, and tried to slow down and add supplemental materials from the library as we go along.  She has less than a month left of math for the year.  She only has 6 readers left, which she could quickly finish in a week, discussions, projects and all if I let her.  The reader problem is easy to fix with a library card.  She's been reading 2-3 extra books in between each reader, and I've given her much more poetry to read as that is her current favorite.

The math however, will quickly become a problem.  I have run out of ideas for supplementing the material.  She's simply going through it too quickly, and hates extra busy work in this subject.  I've been debating whether or not to continue with Saxon math, or to move to the Math U See program instead.  After much inner turmoil, I've finally decided that it's not the Saxon math that I dislike, as much as the teacher handbooks that go with them.  I feel that they're redundant, and unnecessary.

I love the feedback I've heard from Math U See, but I've already bought the manipulatives for Saxon math through 3rd grade, and I'd have to buy a completely different set of manipulatives for the other program.  I could research for a few more months, but I hate the idea of Silje being without any math work from March until September.  That's half a year wasted.  So I found a place I could buy just the math workbook, instead of the complete 2nd grade package including the teacher's manual.  So when Silje finishes up her math for the year, we can move seamlessly into 2nd grade math.  I'm sure I can handle this level without the manual, and so far am confident with this decision.  I'm going through the workbooks now, and already have ideas on supplementing this material.  We'll be just fine.

I have also made the decision to set science aside until this summer.  There are so many projects in there, and so many things we could do that I really think David would enjoy, but he has a hard time concentrating on right now.  I'm sure that given a few more months, and with the option to do the reading and projects outside in nice weather, he'll be much more likely to join us in this subject.

For science, we're supposed to be studying astronomy.  I figured that maybe I could do something like whoever gets their section of the garden weeded gets to stay up late to look at the stars with us.  I'm praying that will work, because I just hate weeding.

At any rate, the month we took off for Christmas was so tough on the kids, and I know we won't make 3 whole months of summer without any school.  I've heard many families say they leave science for summer, and I thought that maybe that wasn't such a bad idea.

I've been so much better being on top of piano practice and Chinese lessons.  Those 2 most often get dropped on busy days.  Silje is still learning to take her time and do things right the first time. She knows that when her work is done, she can play with her siblings or have free time.  I don't "grade" her work yet, but make her fix all of her mistakes and insure she gets every concept in subjects before we move on.  If it's pretty evident that it wasn't a matter of not understanding, but just too much haste, I'll make her redo the assignment.  That's been happening more often then lack of understanding.  I'm trying to teach her that the fastest way to get work done is to do her best the first time. 

For those things like piano, or writing in a journal, where it's difficult to "grade" I have to set the timer.  She loves the timer because it's so objective. 

I'm learning so much about teaching this year, it's exciting.  I'm sure, like always, when David starts school full time I'll have to learn a whole new set of rules!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Improvising

(Warning: I'm putting super cute pictures of Solveig in this post to multitask.  I haven't put up pictures of her in awhile.  They have absolutely nothing to do with the written content of this post.)

I took all 4 kids this morning to the "big city" about an hour away to get Elias' 2 year old pictures taken.  It was so crazy around his birthday that I just put it off until now.  He was in clean, adorable clothes.  He got his hair cut last night.  He had a good breakfast before we started out on the hour drive to Penny's where I had a coupon for 7.99 package.  I pay good money for family pictures.  For the kids' portraits, I take the cheapest route that I can.  That way I can get them done often and not feel too bad about it.  With my new camera, I could probably do them myself, but there's no way I can even print that many photos for 8 bucks. 

Anyway, it was Elias' turn.  We don't go to the mall often, but I've learned the trick to doing it with 4 kids.  We just have a single stroller, and I don't intend on getting a double one as we rarely use strollers out on the farm.  When we lived in the city we used a stroller all the time.  Out here baby carriers are much more practical.  The trick is to put Elias in the stroller, and Solveig in the Mai Tai, and all the "stuff" that comes with such a group under the stroller in the basket, and all of the coats laid on top of the sun visor over Elias. 

It works, but let me tell you, when you go to the mall by yourself with 4 kids ages 6 and under, you get looks.  No...stares.  I got stared at.  Like people stopping, turning around, and staring at us walk by.  At one of the stores where I was trying on a pair of shoes, the other customer next to me said "Wow you have your hands full!"  She was, like the 15th person to say that to me since I entered the mall.  I said nicely, that I was surprised to be getting so many stares with all of them.  They weren't being loud, and were listening well.  She smiled very sweetly and said, "It's because everyone is in awe."  That made me smile.  She made me feel less like an old woman who lived in a shoe and more like an accomplished mother. 

Anyway, we were there for Elias' pictures.  As soon as we entered, Elias didn't want to get out of the stroller.  The photographer was going over background options with me as I was pulling him out, all the while having Solveig strapped to me.  Then he started screaming.  He wouldn't go into the studio where the camera was.  He just fell to the ground, red faced.  He wanted to stay seated in his stroller.  He had no intention of smiling, or being anywhere on the pleasant scale.

We tried to calm him down, bribe him, pull him for about 15 minutes when I realized it was useless.  He was determined to melt down.  I asked the woman if she could squeeze us in later this morning.  She said she was booked solid.  We had driven an hour to get here.  I had a coupon.  If he wasn't going to get his picture taken, someone was, gosh darn it. 

Solveig had just gotten her 6 week pictures done and wasn't old enough for her 3 month ones yet.  So she was out, even though she was pleasant and wearing a cute outfit. 

David needed his 5 year old pictures.  But he needed a haircut badly, and didn't get his hair cut the night before because for some reason we only had time to do one of them, and so we picked the boy who was getting pictures.  Plus he was wearing my least favorite sweater of his.

Silje needed school pictures taken.  She hadn't had a bath in a few days, but she did brush her hair well this morning.  I didn't pack a comb to fix her part, though.  Her shirt wouldn't be my first choice, but it was clean and cute.  Well, good enough.  "Silje, I guess we'll get your school pictures done today."

She was a good sport, even though it was last minute.  I got to pick the one that I hated the least for the package, so that was good.  Seriously, they weren't that great.  I feel good about it, though.  We have now confirmed the fact that it is impossible to go through childhood without at least one bad school photo...even if you're homeschooled.  Maybe I'll go back and get them redone.  Maybe not.  I mean, having a bad school photo almost makes me feel like I can cross that off the list of "childhood to-dos."

I've learned a lesson too.  The next time one of the kids' need their pictures done, I'll have an understudy ready.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yarn Along

As always, I look forward to participating in the weekly Yarn Along hosted over at Small Things.  I feel like I've rambled on too much on the blog this week, that ironically, I don't have much to say today about my projects.

I finished the dress of the faux "American Girl Doll" for Silje.  She's so in love with it, and is calling it Jenny's party dress.  I'm so pleased I got it done!  The pattern and notes are basically complete now, and I just have to finish putting my notes together before the pattern in sizes 18"doll and newborn-2T will be ready.   Although it won't be much work, it will be work requiring my whole brain at the same time, so  therefore I'm glad I have given myself almost 2 weeks to finish that work.  

In the mean time, I'm working once again on the second dress pattern, this time using worsted weight yarn.  I made so many mistakes in the last trial that I made a bunch of notes, and am working off of those notes now.  So far, so good.  I won't know if it's looking right until I finish the entire yoke, and take measurements again.  So we'll see if this actually gets finished, or ripped out sometime in the next week.  I really need to come up with a boy design after this one.  I wouldn't want my boys to be left out of the fun!

So this week for reading I've mostly been studying my notes, but I have been continuing my research on chickens.  It's just getting me more and more excited, so that's good!  I'm yearning for a good novel these days, though, as I'm not quite attached to Silje's read aloud book this week.  More on that on Friday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Prayer Part 1

"In your prayers, above everything else, beware of limiting God, not only through unbelief but also by thinking you know exactly what He can do.  Learn to expect the unexpected, beyond all that you ask or think.  
So each time you intercede through prayer, first be quiet and worship God in His glory.  Think of what He can do, how He delights in Christ His Son, and of your place in Him--then expect great things." --Andrew Murray.

I recently read this quote in one of my favorite devotionals, and it reminded me of how limited we get sometimes.  As I've been dwelling on the idea of prayer, I'm recording my thoughts not for everyone else's benefit, mostly, but for my own.  I seem to be forgetful at times of things God is teaching me, and it's good for me to record my journey, so that down the road, when I have forgotten the lesson, I can look back, and hopefully skip over the painful mistakes that I make the first, second, or tenth time around.

One lesson I do remember from my freshman year of college, is realizing how much God could do in my life if I just bothered to ask him.  If I just bothered to tell him what was on my mind.  If I would just stop censoring my prayers to be only filled with "spiritual stuff" so it sounded pretty, than God could start dealing with the ugly things about me.

I've found, that my favorite way to pray is with a good chunk of time.  I've tried multiple times to get up early and pray in the morning, but I always end up falling asleep and start my day out defeated.  My mind tends to zone out that time of day.  I'm sure there's a way to retrain my body to be somewhat alert during this holy prayer time of day, but I have yet to achieve it.  Some of my most amazing times in prayer has been in the quiet of the evening.  When my brain is racing and won't shut off.  When I am weary, or burdened with thoughts or events of the day.  I will not argue that it is better to start your day with prayer, but I will allow myself the simple fact that it is not wrong to pray at night, either!

Why do we pray?  If we knew why, maybe we'd do it more.  I remember being on my first mission trip, and being required to spend 30 minutes every day having quiet devotions.  The first week I was at a complete loss to know what to do.  I started reading through 1 and 2 Samuel, and keeping a small prayer request slip.  I always seemed to have more time than things to say.  I was confused how I was to spend this full 30 minutes of silence.

What is funny, is that by the end of the mission trip, about 7 weeks later, 30 minutes seemed painfully too short to spend with God.  I don't think I would have been satisfied with even an hour!  Likewise, when I joined with a ministry while I was living in Chicago, my first job was to be one of the prayer partners who stayed back at the "base" and prayed for those walking the streets in the middle of the night, and ministering to the women who worked there.  It was often 2 1/2-3 hours in the middle of the night that we were to stay up and pray.  I mean, there's only so many times you can say "Keep them safe" and "Open their hearts" or "Give them the words to say."  You can only say it in so many creative ways, or so many times before your eyes start getting heavy at 2am, and you know you have at least another hour of prayer to go.

Do we think that prayer does something, and if it does do something, than why doesn't God do it without prayer?  Are we that influential on the unchanging God?  Does what we have to say really matter?  Will God forget something if we don't remind him?  The very way that we approach prayer can be so belittling to our idea of God that the very act of prayer seems silly.

I've noticed that we tend to analyze everything.  (At least I do!) I don't know if it's the western world, America, or just humankind.  We like to know exactly how something happens, when something happens, the process of how things happen.  I was reminded of this the awhile back in Sunday school when we were discussing Christ's baptism.  Theologians love to debate when a person is actually saved, what baptism actually does...and it's kinda like an American looking in on a foreign wedding that takes place over the course of 7 days and asking "Now on which day are the couple officially considered married?"  Well, that whole process is getting married.  That culture does not divide it up as ours does.  Sometimes, I think we ask the wrong questions.

What I mean to be getting at is that I don't think "why do we pray?" is bad question, but we ought to think relationally about prayer rather than scientifically.  That does not mean that we cannot test God, or ask him scientific questions, or that science and God do not mix.  However, the purpose of prayer does not lie in scientific thought, but in terms of our relationship with God. 

I think one of the best books I've read on prayer, is in the Spiritual Disciplines.  Although, there are about 3 other books on my shelf on prayer that I haven't gotten through yet.  In our freedom of the current spiritual trend of "God loves me just how I am and I don't have to do anything at all" trend in this climate, we have, as a culture, forgotten what a spiritual discipline is.  The statement above in quotes is one of the most irksome thought to me for several reasons.  First off, God asks me to come just as I am, but he does intend to change me.  You cannot encounter God and not be changed.  The very idea that God loves you just the way you are, faults and all, is just hogwash.  God loves you despite your faults, not because of them and sanctification will take place.  Somehow we get in our minds that unconditional love means you never have to change.  Well, you don't have to change for God to love you, but when God gets a hold of you, you will be changed.  That's just a fact.

Second, is the notion that God will never ask anything of us.  Let's think about that for a minute.  We don't earn God's love.  We don't earn our salvation.  That is very foundational to our faith and should not be argued.  However, I feel like we as theologians bring issues of justification and blend them with issues of sanctification.  Here's what I mean.

Let's say you have an arranged marriage.  You show up for your wedding day, and bam!  You're man and wife.  That is justification.  It's the beginning of a new state, a new mode, a new life.  With that new, and I'd imagine, intense beginning, there is somewhat of a responsibility to know your husband.  Talk to him, get to know him.  Try to figure out how to please him.  If you fail in this, will your marriage be void?  Certainly not!  Will he divorce you?  No.  Will there be blessings to be had with blood, sweat and tears and honest to goodness work poured into this relationship?  Without a doubt.  You see, spiritual disciplines are not earning salvation.  It's not the process of getting married.  It's the process of being married.  Of sanctification. 

Even in that work of cultivating the relationship, in that sanctification, God equips us to do the work.  We can't do it on our own.  God is the one who strengthens us to do it.  Isn't his generosity overwhelming sometimes?

Prayer, is one of the spiritual disciplines of knowing God better.  The purpose is not just to bring our requests, although that is part of it.  The purpose is not confession, although that is also a part of it.  I think if I had to boil down my own thoughts on it, it would be that the purpose is worship with all the complexities that heavy word has.  It's taking the time to recognize who God is, and who I am in relationship to him.  This should drive me to confession, as being fully aware of God's glory should bring about humility in me.  The rest, I think, is just sharing my life with him.  I think it would be pretty impossible to grow intimate with a good God, and not be blessed, so blessings would come from this.

Now, that's pretty simplified.  My best prayer times are started in just sitting and dwelling on who God is.  Do not underestimate the power of this one simple exercise.  Reminisce with God what he has done for you, where he has brought you from.  Meditate on his greatness.  Think of his creation.  Sometimes I go to prayer and just get stuck here and never get around to my requests.  It's my favorite spot to get stuck.

Sometimes, I'll admit, I'm proud enough that I don't know what to confess.  I honestly don't think of some nagging sin.  Or, I like to think of them rather as "struggles" or "issues" or whatever fancy word it is categorized as in my head.  It's at this point that I like to ask God what he wants to talk to me about that day.  Sometimes, he catches me totally off guard.  This is usually a pretty fast part of the prayer time, as God never seems to make me wait to hear what in my life he wants to change.  The part that takes awhile is me justifying myself to him, or trying to explain why I did what I did that displeased him.  I barter, defend, justify, or sometimes I'm wise enough to skip to the end and humble myself before him.  He always seems to get me there eventually, but the time that takes really depends on my level of pride that day.

I've been thinking about prayer lately.  I've been thinking about my lack of it, and my struggle to find time for it.  I think about how many days it's reduced to shooting up a "God help him," or "Could you help me out here, God?" throughout the day.  Sometimes a simple "keep us safe."  Somehow if I do that throughout the day I think that I'm practicing the presence of God, and that is good.

I'm not saying it's not good, or not enough.  It probably has some benefit, and how does one define "enough" when God is enough all by himself?  I will say that type of praying does not give the same benefit as time spent with God.  I think that's what God was talking about when He said 'if my people call on me...I will heal their land."  I think that it's not a matter of us praying for our land that will remind God to do it.  I think God is waiting for us to put him back in the place of priority. 

So let me challenge all of us to spend some time with God this week.  Stick in on your calendar or schedule if you need to.  I feel like my time is always interrupted, even at night.  Last night, my prayer time was over the coarse of a diaper change and feeding.  My mind was on him, though, and I was exceedingly blessed.  However, it had been weeks if not months since I have done this.  This is another area where I seem to be so easily distracted.

Let's return to God this week.  Not with any agenda but to worship.  Not with a list of requests, but an honest heart that sugarcoats nothing.  Let's spend more time listening and less talking. Let's do our best not to rush, but simply enjoy the thought of him.  When you do, share how God ministered to you with someone else.  Talk about how good God is.  Just remember, you cannot encounter God and not be changed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Good vs. Right

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!  The kids were so excited today because PBS kids was having Valentine's Day themed shows all day long.  That made my mission for the day clear: keep the kids away from the television.  I refuse to let a television show be the highlight of their day.


So the boys went to a church preschool drop off that's once a month.  They had a blast doing crafts and songs and playing with all the toys there.  Silje and Solveig and I went for the monthly school-at-the-coffee shop that we've started doing on the days that the boys go to the church.  As always, we get the stares, as I'm sure a six year old doing grammar and studying Ancient Greece while sipping the rhubarb tea she ordered herself isn't a common sight.

Knut and I have have talked a lot recently about what has lead us to our current state of crazy.  We have obviously bit off more than we can chew, and have lost track of priorities.  Especially with Knut's schedule.  We've both said OK for him to do things that are really good.  However, they were perhaps not the right thing to do.  It's so hard to say no to good things.  It feels selfish and wrong, even though it's right. 

The easiest example of that is overbooking church events.  It is so good to be involved, but it can sometimes distract from the calling God has given you, and your God-given reponsibilities get neglected.  I think it was unwise of us to say it was fine for him to teach Sunday school at the same time of year he had to prepare year end reports and budget work for the church.  Teaching was something we both really wanted him to do as he loves it so much, so we figured we'd make it work.  He is not capable of "coasting" for Sunday School either.  Even though he's working with a great curriculum, he spends no less than 3-4 hours in preparation each week.  Minimum.  However, that in comparison to the time needed to get year end financial work done as the church treasurer is just a drop in the bucket.

The amount of time he has spent doing church work in the past few months far exceeds any skiing, or any home improvements that he has promised to get done.  It's hard to say no to some of that because we somehow equate service in the church as "God" on the priority list.  In that mindset, saying yes to a church activity trumps any family or work obligations, and I do not believe that is correct.  The Bible clearly puts family obligations above church ones in numerous passages. 

Also, we don't put chores on the calendar, although maybe we should.  I told Knut that if he sees an empty space on the calendar, that doesn't mean we're doing nothing on that day.  It actually means we're trying to catch up from all the other days on that day.

This is also the reason that I haven't been able to restock my store.  I simply cannot sew and take care of the kids, who have been needing so much lately.  I can multitask and cook, knit, or even type while the kids play.  I can't seem to get into my sewing room alone, and there are too many dangerous tools in there for little ones to play in there with me.  Having my own business is good and fun, but it cannot take away from my kids.  It's such a hard line to see sometimes.  When I have to squint to see that line, I step way back from the lower priority.

I intended to start taking diaper orders again in February, but I don't think I could handle that until Solveig starts sleeping earlier, and better.  I can knit without neglecting the kids, so that part of my business can move on.  Fortunately, I have an amazing husband who insisted that my income was never leaned on too heavy, so if it would drop we would be in a bind.  He would like me to remain a lady of leisure (big chuckle).  Or shall we stick with the antiquated word: "housewife" or the modern "domestic engineer."  Believe me when I say I cannot possibly equate the words "unpaid" with "unnecessary."

As we're setting new standards for ourselves by learning from this crazy winter, we look forward to our plans that we have had for the kids.  We finally paid off enough of our college loans for Silje and David to go to gymnastics or something of that nature this fall.  Now we're pulling back and thinking no.  It feels so awful because we have no doubt the kids would love it, we can now afford it, and it's a good active activity for them.

However, fun does not equal good, and good does not equal right.  We watch other families, and one we admire quite a bit, didn't put their kids in any separate activities, but only did things that the whole family could do together.  If they had some time of leisure, they would take an outing as a family.  This particular family chose skiing and biking as sports for their kids, because the whole family could do it, and do it on their own time. 

We have one afternoon a week that the kids have activities.  I cannot fathom us handling more than that.  Having homeschool group on Tuesdays, along with choir and piano is nice.  What happens when it's ballet on Wendesdays, or gymnastics on Thursdays, and maybe soccer for another kid on Fridays.  We just can't do it.  It's just not right.  The manner in which we wanted to raise our family would vanish. 

It's true they need constructive things to do, but I think it's better to choose things that we can do as a family, that benefit the whole family and are not so child centered.  Activities like caring for chickens.  That does not require driving, scheduling, packing up sleeping babies in cars, going through a drive through because we ran out of time, or circling parking lots looking for a spot.  It does require working together, caring for others, caring for God's creation, and being good stewards.  All valuable life lessons, I think. 

I reminds me of a phrase I once heard: "If you're not getting everything done, than you're doing something in your life that God doesn't want you to be doing."  I firmly believe that God gives us enough hours in the day to do the work he sets out for us to do.  If we're not getting it done, than we've filled our day with at least something that shouldn't be there.

As boring as it sounds staying home every other day besides Sundays for church and Tuesday's for some music and art, I like it.  Keeping it that way as the kids get older, I think may get harder and harder.  Mostly because we'll have to tell the kids "no" to a lot of things that are good to do.  We'll have to teach them that good is not always right.  Most importantly, we'll have to teach them to pray for guidance.  We want them to live every moment to the fullest, without living a cluttered life. 

Well, maybe we'll have to figure that out together.

I do have to admit, my life has simplified vastly since we started homeschooling, as opposed to Silje going to school last year.  I mean this genuinely, with awe: I don't know how public school moms do it.  I don't think I was ever juggling so much and running around so much in my whole life.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Home Improvements

I’m very excited that our fireplace that has been in operation for over a year is now getting a front to it!  There has been so much debate as to how it ought to be done.  I was beginning to wonder if it would ever get done.  For the record, when stubbornness from both Knut and I faced each other, my husband won.  I always thought that when I got married I would be the stubborn one in the relationship.  Boy was I wrong.  Knut wanted to use field stone from our fields.  He asked what I wanted.  We both looked at a million pictures and took samples of facings home, and I liked brick the best.  Not a hard red new brick, but like an old Chicago brick: something that had a re-purposed feel to it.  Since Knut really wanted stone, I said I’d be willing to compromise, and maybe pick a castle stone, or some otherwise square, clean lined cut stone facing. 

We talked and talked about it.  Knut finally decided to go with field stone…without my ok.  I didn’t fight him on it for a few reasons.  I was maybe 20% for the idea for the simple reason that I love authentic renovations.  Field stone is what I believe the original owners of the house would have used a hundred years ago.  Knut tried to make me feel better, saying we wouldn’t have to buy the brick/stone facing.  We could just gather it from our rock piles on the edges of the fields for free.  I reasoned the facing was by far the cheapest cost of the fireplace, so it wasn’t much to argue over.  However, little did he mention that picking rock from our fields would mean that we would have to buy extensions for the fireplace fan, etc, to go around the thick rocks, since it wouldn’t be thin plates that normally go around fireplaces.   So the extensions cost more than the brick plates would have.  Hear me laughing.

The other element to the equation is Knut normally has better taste than I do on these things 9 times out of 10, and I normally kick myself at things he does, wishing I would have thought of it first.  However, I normally can see the big picture of whole rooms better than him, and he normally finds great pieces of rooms. 

I had to take into consideration that this fireplace is his baby. How it looks matters way more to him than me, even though I spend more time at home than he does.  He convinced me that he can envision exactly how it will look, and assures me I will love it.  I do trust him, but get nervous when he asks my opinion mid project.  Should it go like this, or this?  I have no idea what you’re trying to make it look like.  I have no vision in my head I’m trying to match it to anymore, because I just can’t seem to envision how it will look with field stone.

It helps to understand as it progresses.  Since the bottom of it is pretty much done now, I’ll have to admit, there’s a huge smile on my face.  Now we just need the actual facing done (so there will be stone basically everywhere it is black), the mantel, and the porch pillars that may make it to the scene as well.  Not because it is exactly as I had hoped or better.  I still can’t tell how I’ll like the finished product.  I’m smiling because there’s something about it I love: it’s looking finished (let's face it...anything is better than the industrial black thing in our living room forever), and my husband is building it for me with his own two hands.

What is finished is our new couch!  We were both relieved that the couch actually fit in our house, as it was a special order and could not be taken back.  This is the first piece of furniture for our house that we actually bought at a furniture store.  We've been saving for a few years to get exactly what we want, and I'm just giddy about it.

Pardon the tags and disheveled pillows.  It's a busy day.  I know a red couch may not be the most sensible.  I'm so sick of beige everything.  Knut and I had a chuckle when we went to the first furniture store and met an old salesman at the door.  He asked what we were looking for.  We said a couch.  He asked if we had a color in mind.  Yes, we wanted red.  "Don't have 'em.  Sorry."
"Well, could you order one?"  I asked.
"Sure, but you'd have to wait a month to get it."
Knut laughed and said "We've been saving a few years, I'm sure another month wouldn't kill us.  We also need one that will fit in the small doorways of our house."
"In that case," said the salesman.  "You'll want a couch that reclines.  The backs are removable on those."
"You know, we don't really want a couch that reclines.  This is our more formal room, and maybe someday in the basement we'll get one of those.  This room we want something comfortable, but polished.  Clean lines, a more tailored look."
"No, you want one that reclines."  said the salesman.  "They're very comfortable, and no one has anything formal looking anymore."
"Well, not old formal, but polished formal" I clarified. 
"Let me show you what you want." said the salesman.  He took us over to an over-sized reclining couch with pillows up the back like it was covered with marshmallows, and roughly the color of puke.  Not exactly the trim, tailored, red couch we had described to him. "This will hide any stain those kids could throw at it."

"Yeah, I bet." I said, as Knut covered his laugh.  Both of us could envision all 4 of the kids fitting on there, sick with grossness coming out both ends of their bodies, and not being able to tell at all.  Surely a high compliment for any couch.

Every time we asked him about another sofa we saw in the showroom, he kept telling us how it wasn't for us, and how we'd hate it and really wish we had bought the puke sofa.  It reminded me of the book "Pride and Prejudice."  The puke couch would be Mr. Collins, and the couch we were holding out for would be Mr. Darcy.  Almost makes me wonder if the salesmen had a bet about who could sell the puke sofa first.

Needless to say, we did not buy our sofa there.

Maybe it will fade. Maybe it will stain.  Maybe we're stupid, but I just love my new couch.  I like the color beige but not everywhere.  I'm so done decorating in beige and white.  Knut and I both long for some refreshing color.  You could say that we're both very excited how this turned out.  I think our new theme isn't decorating with something "safe", but decorating our house with things we genuinely like.  Of course, if we decide after a few years that our choice was not wise, I'm we can go back to the store with our heads down and shame and get the puke marshmallow sofa.

When the fireplace is done, and the furniture is actually back in place, I'll have to post pictures of the finished room!

Homeschool Friday

I did better this week in the extras.  I told myself I wasn't going to go overboard in planning, but I was going to try to look for opportunities for the learning to continue.  To let an activity flow out of a lesson...
 
 We're reading a book called The Year of Miss Agnes. It's about a one room school house in Alaska, and all of the schoolchildren are Native American.  They go through a run of teachers who can't stand the life in Alaska, nor the constant smell of fish that is packed in the children's lunch bags.  Then there's Miss Agnes, who is tough enough to handle the rural life, and has a sinus issue preventing the fish smell from detouring her.

There's so many options to go off of with learning in this book!  It's just fascinating!  The little girl in the book lives with her mother and grandparents who make things from caribou legs, and moose sinews.  Things like boots and snowshoes.

The first assignment that the Miss Agnes gives is to make a painting.  She gave each of the children a piece of paper and said they must not let once space of it go without color.  It must have color on every inch.  So after we read that, I suggested that we bring out the paints, and Silje should do that assignment too.  Silje nearly fainted from surprise.  Mommy?  Offering to bring out the paints without me begging asking?  So of course she took me up on it, and made a picture of a rainbow...and a snowman.
With such a great success there, I was pushed on to continue looking for extra fun things to do.  I wanted some great memory making activities.  So as I was brainstorming, I saw pieces of our fireplace all over the living room floor, and thought to myself that the stone is currently not on the hearth, and there will be empty spaces underneath it.  Why don't we do a time capsule, and keep it underneath the hearth, never again to be seen by our eyes?

So at supper that night, I brought up the idea of the kids building a time capsule.  Knut loved the idea, and Silje was curious as to what it was.  I said we could put things in it that we feel represent our life.  We could put in a family picture, a newspaper, maybe a note or drawing, maybe a toy we don't use anymore. Silje started to brainstorm which toy she could put in.  As some of her favorite toys came up to question, I reminded her we weren't going to have access to the time capsule.  It was going to be sealed below the fireplace hearth, never to be seen again by us.  It was going to be for someone in the future.

I wasn't prepared for what happened next.  Silje started to cry.  Tears were burning in her eyes and she was wondering why she had to bury one of her toys so that she could die and another girl could come and live in our house and find them.  She didn't want to give up her favorite toys.  She looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked "Why are you making me do this?"

With a mixture of laughter and frustration, Knut and I blundered through trying to correct the idea that we had mistakenly given her as to the point of the time capsule.  She could put in there whatever she wanted.  We wanted her to think of something that would help people in the future understand how we live.  Still, the idea that someday we would all be dead, or that the house would fall apart and someone would someday find it horrified her.

Well, I guess you win some, and lose some.  As a family, we put in the time capsule a newspaper, our family Christmas picture, a note from Silje telling who all lives in our house and two drawings. 

As for a poetry update, we've moved into acting out her poem with stuffed kittens and real mittens and little tin plates for pie.  It's amazing how much easier it is for her to wrap her mind around the words when she sees the sequence of the 4 stanzas of the poem in action.  The confusion has gone way down.  So work has begun on voices and tone for the different characters in the poem.

The comments I've heard from Silje this week is "just one more chapter!" or "just 5 more minutes" when she has her journal time.  (I set the timer and she has to write for 10 minutes.)  That makes this all worth it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chickens

So our plan to get chickens this Spring is still moving forward.  Everyone I talk to who has them, and every book says that they are extremely easy to keep, and are quite rewarding.  The hard part seems to be brooding them for the first month, and then of course, all of the start-up costs.  Everyone says, even finding babysitters for them is much easier than finding a sitter for let's say, a dog, because the babysitter gets fresh eggs out of the deal.  Hey, I'd hen sit for eggs!

So there's a couple of things that I'm learning, and decisions that I've already made.  First, we're getting laying chickens, not meat chickens.  I told Knut I have no intention of going out to my yard with a hatchet with the idea of bringing back dinner.  There's still some prissy city girl left in me for that.

I am not like Knut's grandma, who keeps her windows so clean that a gorgeous pheasant once flew right into it, breaking it's own neck.  If my windows were to ever be that clean, and that would happen, I most certainly not go get the bird, clean it, and present it as supper as she did.  My mind just doesn't work that way.  Fortunately, my windows are never that clean.

He said he'd kill the birds, and I said he had better pluck it and gut it as well, and present it to me clean in a plastic bag with instructions on it on how long it should be cooked.  We could go the butcher route, but at that point, we're just paying too much for food.

However, the idea of having fresh eggs all the time thrills me to no end.  Not to mention, I think it will be great for the kids to help take care of the chickens.  They need some chores that they can do, and learn that responsibility.  You better believe Silje has already come up with a list of names for chickens.

This year we're going with a hybrid breed called the "Easter egger."  They're not purebreds, so they can't be in shows, but for some strange reason, I'm not disappointed by this. ;)  Easter eggers lay white, light brown, dark brown, and sometimes green or blue tinted eggs.  Well, I've learned each chicken has one color egg that they produce their whole lives.  However, if we get a variety of this hybrid, it's most likely that we'll get a variety of egg colors.

I know that the egg color doesn't effect the taste or nutrition.  I just think it's plain cool.

I was thinking of getting the chicks in April, so they could start being outside more in May.  However, after talking with neighbors, most of them get chicks in June, as it's much less fuss to keep them warm that way.

I'm learning about how many perches we'll need in the coop, and how many nesting boxes.  I'm thinking about getting roughly 20 pullets.  I know what a pullet is now.  We won't be getting any roosters this time around, since I'm not sure I'm ready for hatching our own quite yet.  Maybe in a year or two we'll take that route instead of buying chicks to replace others.  I've heard that survival of the chicks depends largely on how many you get.  If you start with, say 5 or 6, it's likely you'll lose half the first year.  However, if you get over 20, most of them will make it because the have each other.

However, 20 chickens will provide more eggs than our family can eat.  We can easily go through 2 dozen eggs a week, and sometimes 3 if I'm doing a bunch of baking.  20 chickens, if they all survive, should give us roughly over 6 dozen a week.  We'll probably start to solve that problem by eating more eggs.  Then we'll wait for David and Elias to become teenagers and we'll need to have a flock of 40. ;)  Plus, I've learned you can freeze eggs by cracking them into ice cube trays, and use them in the winter when the egg production drops dramatically.

We'll probably give a bunch away too, as we have no desire to get into the egg business.  Knut and I go around and around about how to do that fairly.  We'd like to give away eggs, but we don't want people to just stop by demanding eggs.  So we decided if we got into that situation, where someone was showing up consistently, we'd charge them a few bucks so that at least it would help cover our costs.  So I think that will be our rule: random gift = free.  Routine moochers = help us cover the costs.  (Note: we are neither seeking out or turning away moochers at this point.  Actually, we don't even have chickens yet, and when we get chickens, they won't be laying for several months.  Let's not count our chickens before they hatch.)

I've window shopped a bit online, and now I need to shop around town to see what kind of chicken supplies are there.  Things like litter, feed, etc.  I'm sure since we live in a rural place, the choices will be quite abundant.  I think this is one of the few things where there are more options in stores here than in the city.

As we're doing more and more research, our list of things to buy gets a bit longer, which is a bit discouraging.  Knut realized he might need a varmint gun.  Talking to our neighbors, chickens tend to attract coyotes in our area.  I hope we'll never have to use it.  Knut will have to research the laws about this as well, and see if he needs a special permit to shoot a pest, although I'm hoping having Lena around will scare way pests.  My needs are a bit less.  I don't have any rubber work boots.  I realized if the coop is ever going to get clean I should probably have a pair of shoes that I don't also wear to the grocery store.  The kids already have rubber boots.  Second hand places are great places to find rubber boots for kids as they rarely have been worn.  So I'll be boot shopping for me.

I know...the lengths a woman go to in order to get new shoes.  I'm hoping to find something pink and girly.

I'm a bit worried as to how Lena will respond to having chickens in our yard.  Labs are bird dogs, and are bred to hunt birds.  She loves chasing birds out of our yard, which is why we only enjoy viewing them on the bird feeder when she is inside.  She's quite smart, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if she caught on that these birds are to be protected.  At least that's my hope.

If there is a problem, we'll probably either have to leash her when she's outside, or get some sort of fence put up for the chickens.  Right now we're hoping to have them run free in the yard like several of our neighbors.  We've had a grub problem in the past few years, and chickens are walking grub eaters and fertilizers.  They'll destroy a small yard, but make a large yard beautiful.  Our yard is acreage, so I think we'll be fine.

At any rate, I think this will be a fun new adventure.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yarn Along

Today I'm participating once again in Ginny's Yarn Along. For this event, we're supposed to take a single photograph of what we are knitting/crocheting and reading, and talk about it.  Or not talk about it and just put up a picture.  I always like to talk about it! 

I feel like this week will be a letdown from last, because I haven't gotten nearly the same amount of knitting or reading done.  Well, I've been doing a lot of reading, although it's not what I consider reading.   More like research.  What I wouldn't give for a few quiet hours to read a novel.  I don't even know which one I would read.

I actually got an "American Girl" (18" doll) dress done to match Solveig's from last week, but I had configured one thing wrong in the measurements, and undid the whole thing and started over.  It's not that far along, and you guys have seen that project a few weeks in a row now.  So it has me double checking my math in all the other measurements for the other sizes for the pattern.  I intend in doing a partial tester in each size to confirm the math.  However, on Tuesday I was feeling sick.  I was so achy that the thought of picking up needles sounded awful.  I know...sick.

I did start some testing over the weekend for my next pattern, which I shouldn't be doing until this one is done.  However, my wrists get sore when I work with DK weight yarn (or thinner) for too long, and my next pattern is going to use worsted weight. I thought the change would do my wrists good, and help me get some good technique back.  I'm starting to realize that's why I like having multiple projects going at the same time: so I can rotate through different weight yarns.

Even though I made great progress in the pattern, everything was frogged and notes were made before I'm ready for a tester.  Basically I figured out how NOT to do the neckline, and I think I have a good idea how it should be done now. So I did a lot of knitting this last week and have absolutely nothing to show for it besides some written notes.

I should show you the books that I'm using as I'm figuring out numbers of stitches, and designing neck bands and edges. I love perusing through my new books.  Paid for through swagbucks. (Something the diaper divas got me into.  A nice way to pick up some Amazon gift cards by just using their search engine.  Honestly it's not that great of a search engine, but I get so much free stuff that I normally couldn't justify buying for myself.)  I'm trying to build a great knitting reference library.

I should probably should do an entire post on all the books someday, but for now, I'll talk about my three most recent: A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, (as it is already misplaced, it didn't make it to the picture), Knitting on the Edge, and Knitting Over The Edge.  These have been so inspirational and helpful along this design journey.  The last 2 there have some really great ideas, and a lot of wasted space where I think it's pretty much a stretch as a border.  O, and this last one didn't come in the last shipment, but I've finally cracked it open and it's amazingly helpful: Knitting from the Top.  It's very dated but the material in there is so relevant (in my opinion, the definition of a true classic), and I can't find anything else out there quite as good.

So as I'm giving myself a break from knitting until I feel up to par, I'm going over these books and learning so much about knitting design, and getting so inspired!

I'm working on a dress for Silje from the book: Sewing Clothes Kids Love however, it's been slow going since I can only seem to find 10 minute increments to sew with.  It's for spring, and that's right around the corner, so I should really hop to it.  I LOVE this book, and I've learned so much about the construction of children's clothing, and several things to take into account when designing and accessorizing them.  Plus the patterns in there are just gorgeous.

Lastly, there's more looking ahead to spring with our chicken books from the library.  I think once we get them, we'll definitely have time for them, but the matter of getting the coop ready is beginning to worry me, as the fireplace is coming together slower than I had anticipated.  I'm not sure when Knut will have time, but he keeps telling me to keep getting ready and reading up on what we need to do, etc.  So I'm not sure if the coop will be ready, but I know I'll be ready.  (I really have no clue what I'm doing.)  The kids are so excited about getting chickens because I guess then we'll be a "real" farm.  We've just been a 4,000 acre fake one up until now, I guess.