Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yarn Along

Well, I finished Silje's Little Pearl, although it didn't get done over the weekend like I'd hoped.  I'm hoping in the next day or two to get some pictures of Silje in it for the pattern cover.  She's so excited about that.  I made this in the pattern's largest size: 7.  It took much longer than the 18 mos and 2T that came before it.

I'm enjoying this pattern so much that I immediately cast on a newborn size just to make sure my math wasn't way off.  Plus, I would like to return to knitting the fair isle sweater just for me, and I think I'd like a quick no-fair-isle project to whet my appetite before returning to that one.  I want something instant right now, so a newborn size it is.  I got half of it done in about 2 hours, so not bad!

Since I don't have any (tiny-tiny) newborn girls around me right now and none coming in the near future, this one is going to be a gift for a friend.  I tend to give large baby clothes to friends who are having their first child, and indulge in newborn sized ones when the baby is not their first.  I'm a little giddy about it.  Plus it looks like a doll sweater.  I may have to pull out some newborn clothes to make sure that babies actually do come this small.

For books, I'm trying to gear David up to doing some chapter book read alouds.  I'm also trying to figure out how I'm going to manage David and Silje's read alouds this next year as their levels are a bit different, and I'm not sure he's ready for what she was ready for in 1st grade, let alone what she is doing now.  So I decided to try to get him excited about the chapter book idea which so far has not worked this year with the 3 other books I tried, with a few months breaking them apart.

We may have a winner.  I pulled out a read aloud that we're supposed to do with him (according to our curriculum) next year.  His main incentive is sit down/read aloud time with Silje is after bed and if he can manage his body enough to sit and listen to a book, he will be able to stay up late.  So we're going to work up to it.  (He loves to sit and read short books, and is starting to read books on his own more and more.  He just gets very blank-faced if I pull out any chapter book.)

Anyway, he's liking Homer Price.  He hated it until I read the part about him building radios in his shop.  Then the pet skunk reeled him in a bit further.  I think we may have our first winner.

I also have in the picture Given: Poems which is a library book Knut brought home.  I tend to be an emotional reader, and read what I feel like or wherever the wind blows me.  Knut reads methodically.  He likes to rotate between fiction and non-fiction, and he always is reading things that anyone recommends to him and things that I would not dream appeal to him.  This is one of those cases.  His cousin recommended this book of poetry to him, so he's been reading it.

I think he's been enjoying it because when we're on the couch he keeps interrupting my knitting to show me a poem.  I can't get him to just read them to me.  They are truly beautiful poems, and this collection has one right after the other that bring out the reflective side of me and I love it when poems do that.  It's a lot about nature, aging, life, and so on.  It's been a fun book to have laying around the house these days.

O, and by the way, I finally published the Buttercup Soaker pattern.  It can be found here on the blog, or here on Ravelry.  I'm hoping the Little Pearl will be published sometime next week.  

Thank you, Ginny, for the opportunity to join the Yarn Along again.  Such fun.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Buttercup Soaker

The pattern is finally done!  This is a little wool soaker style wrap for cloth diapering families.  The linen stitch in the body makes it perfect for overnights, and the ribbing on the back and legs make it a really nice fit.  I'm making a couple of these for my nephews, and I'm hoping the last one will be done very soon!  These might appear in my store at some point too...when I get there!

For now, I'm making it available as a PDF download for those who want to make it for themselves, or to sell in your own stores.  My only request is that if you sell this soaker, you are the one who put the love and care into making it, and you give credit to the design where it is due.  A link to this page would be appreciated.


And just because it is fun, here's Solveig modeling it for you.
And here is her playing peek-a-boo.
Sigh.  She's getting so big.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Slide Show of Real and Pretend

Over the weekend, I got a few good pictures, but unfortunately there were many I missed.  The ones I feel most badly about missing were the ones that I wanted to take while we were driving, but to stop the car would have easily woken Solveig at a time when I really, really wanted her to sleep.  So I'll fill in the blanks with the ones that are not here, and try your best to imagine them.

Picture #1: Amish buggy.  Knut wanted to go off our normal route in typical spontaneous fashion.  We took some winding southern roads, and went through some very small Amish areas.  I've always wanted to go to Pennsylvania to see some of the "touristy" Amish sights there such as quilts.  I didn't realize, though, that Knut was driving me through a small Amish area of our own state until we had to drive around a horse and buggy that was all boarded up tight to keep the wind out in winter.    I nearly jumped out of my skin and it was a small thrill for me.

Picture #2: Old men at garage.  I was too shy to take their pictures, but I thought these guys were a hoot.  Our car broke down about 3 hours into our 5 hour trip.  After we stopped for lunch, our van wouldn't start.  Well, it fired, turned over, and then died...over and over again.  So Knut called a couple of mechanics upon recommendation of the fine Dairy Queen staff and finally found one with time to look at our car just then. 

An old guy came to tow us behind his truck, and we were brought into this nice little garage.  There, 3 guys who have probably worked together for 30 years looked over our van while communicating to each other with little more than grunts and occasional yells to start or stop the engine.  They took turns staring at the car with folded arms resting on their bellies and grunted at each other some more. 

One took rolled under the van and they repeated the whole grunting/yelling symphony, until he emerged saying it was the fuel pump.  I asked how he knew and he said he felt all the different parts of the fuel line from beginning to end, and that was the part that felt off.  Surprisingly, I trusted that guys feel for what was wrong way more than any computer.  I like guys who figure it out old school.  Here they started the van, and the whole thing was vibrating and he knew what each part should vibrate like, and that one was vibrating incorrectly.  I'm just going to take a moment and acknowledge that dying art form.

Most likely because Solveig flashed her serious blue eyes at them, they pushed aside all other projects and worked on our van so we could get on our way right away. 

#3 The Finish Line:
The Birkie finish line is quite a sight.  (Pardon my dirty lens.)  They move snow in to fill up the whole street of downtown Hayward, WI and people line up on the sidewalks and crowd and push against the fence holding them back.  To the right of the picture, you see the guy in red is skiing the "classic" style.  Think "Nordic Track."  (That's not Knut.)  There are 2 tracks set up on the finish line for those skiing the race the classic style.  To the left of the picture is where the "skate" skiers come.  This looks a lot like ice skating or roller-blading with skis on.  Their surface is smooth and packed.  (That's not Knut either.)

This wasn't the winners, this was just some skiers finishing.  The race is big...about 10,000 skiers in these combined techniques.  The skate technique is much more popular, probably because it's faster.  Sometimes the finishers would come in bunches, and sometimes they would come in by themselves.  Regardless, they finish with a crowd yelling and waving their cow bells loudly.

Knut didn't do nearly as well as last year.  He thinks that besides hardly having any training time because of our lack of snow, his skis' wax was a bit off.  Waxing skis is a fine art, it seems.  He was heavier this year than last year too (which might relate to his lack of training time) and so the range of his kick wax was probably off.  Most of you have no idea what that means, but just nod your head and move on...

Knut wanted to finish within 3 hours, but said he probably wouldn't.  Just in case, Solveig and I arrived at the finish line 2:45 minutes after his wave started.  He ended up having a finishing time of 3 hours and 48 minutes, so we were waiting for awhile.  I was chit-chatting with the people around me, and one grandma shared her doughnut with Solveig.  Like I said, she gets people to do stuff.

So the lady next to me was laughing when I finally saw Knut come up, Solveig was holding onto the strap of my camera and I couldn't get it lifted up enough to bring it to my eye, so I just blindly shot at him as [the lady next to me] yelled "You're just taking pictures of his butt!!"

Actually, I got one decent one.

Picture #4:

He's "double poling" at the end, which is an enormous ab workout and tough to do when you're exhausted.  It's like his one last sprint.

This is my 3rd year of not missing seeing him at the finish line, which Knut is pretty impressed with because you have to be staring the whole time and not wandering off into the little bakeries and Nordic gift shops lining downtown. 

Last year, which was one of the coldest years ever for the Birkie, I remember saying to the lady next to me, "Well, that old guy has the same racing suit as my husband!"  It turned out that the "old guy" was actually Knut with ice trailing from his goatee a few inches. 

This year it wasn't quite as long.
Picture #5:

I will say, he did feel much better after the race this year because last year he forgot his sport drink solution at home along with his "gu" they call it.  He picked up what he could the night before the race last year, but you can imagine what selection was left at the one ski shop in town with 10,000 skiers picking up last minute forgotten items at home.  The look on his face last year scared me, and the nurses at the finish line gave him several looks before they sent him to the soup tent to rest.  This year he did not make that mistake and his face looked invigorated and alive at the finish line.

So I'm going to be really mean and not show you the pictures of yarn that I bought just after the Birkie on our way back to the cabin.  Solveig had fallen asleep in the van, so Knut decided to take a little nap as well as I shopped around.  There are very few yarn shops I go to, but the one just by the race is a favorite, and I'm actually getting to know the ladies in there.  I guess I just talk to much about yarn.

Picture #6: Ice houses on Mill Lacs Lake.  It's a huge lake we passed on the way home the next day.  It was snowing and the whole sky was white, and the whole lake was white, and there were little boxes of ice huts all across the lake.  It was the most amazing sight, and I wish I would have pulled over to capture it.  (Again, Solveig sleeping issue.) 

It would have been a picture of solid white, with the only way to tell where the horizon was was those little black boxes in the middle filled with, I'm sure, grumpy old men watching their little televisions and drinking beer around their little holes cut into the lake, and just waiting for the little flag to go up to say they caught a fish.  As you might guess, the concept of ice fishing amuses me.

Picture #7: Also around that big lake, we drove past a race in action.  This was an actual track set up on the lake for race cars.  The cars were racing on the ice, spinning and fish tailing like crazy with a crowd cheering on.  O, the things we do to amuse ourselves in the winter.

And for good measure, here's the little girl who tagged along for the whole thing.
Picture #8:

Oh my...those cheeks!

I'm Blessed

Well, we're back from Wisconsin now.  We had a very fun weekend.  I'm sorry I didn't get our homeschool post done on Friday, but it just got too busy with the packing and all.

I'm quite amused that my last post on the war against stuff got so many comments.  I actually wrote it out and scheduled it to post on that day, but planned to proof it better and rework some parts.  The scheduling "thing" on blogger hasn't worked for me for a few months, so I didn't think it was actually going to publish, and I didn't notice it actually had until I had a few comments.  I'm glad, though, that my rough writing resonated with so many people.

I have such a good list for today because I feel so overwhelmed by blessings.

-I'm so blessed to get away with Knut (and our tag-a-long Solveig) for a weekend.

-We were blessed to see so many fun things on our trip, and we were blessed with safety.  When our van broke down, it did so while we stopped for lunch and not on some back road.  When we were towed to a nearby repair shop they were able to find the problem quickly, had the part available, and 3 hours and several hundred dollars later, we were back on the road.  I'm blessed that we had an emergency fund so that delay did not ruin our weekend or throw us into a panic.  We are not always blessed that way, but I must say, it kept some peace this weekend.

-Knut was not injured during his race, even with his sparse training season.  He's actually in better shape now than when we left.

-As I'm unpacking everyone's bags today, I'm thankful for my in-laws who watched the 3 older kids for us without any complaint or grumblings that we sort of "expected" them to do this.  Not only that, but my mother-in-law washed all of the kids clothes so as I unpack, I just have to instruct the kids to put their clothes away.  No washing, drying, folding, etc.  She makes it so simple for me. May they be blessed with lots of rest this week!

-I'm thankful for Knut's aunt and uncle who let us stay at their cabin every year for this race, feed us gourmet food, and let us soak in their hot tub.  (That part is incredibly wonderful after Knut's race!)  We're spoiled rotten, I say.

-I was so blessed this last week in so many ways.  I need this today because every weekend away comes at such a price to the household.  The kids need to get on task, the house is covered with random bags with random things in them, and I usually have no meals planned.  It's chaotic, and takes us at least 3 days to have any resemblance of normalcy.  I like so much the routine of "normal" life, but I need to remember that sometimes we're blessed with a break to that normalcy. 

If you'd like to share how you've been blessed, leave a comment to share and/or link up with your blog.  To do so:
-write a blog post on how God has blessed you.
-put a link to this blog in that post (you can use the button to the right if you'd like)
-copy and paste the link to your post and leave it below for others to follow. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

War Against Stuff

We are so blessed where we live.  We have space for the kids to run.  Our house has nice closets.  I've lived in places with very few closets, and I think closet space is wonderful.

Being blessed with space and closets, and the kids having their own space to put their toys comes with its own set of problems.  Knut and I talk a lot about living intentionally.  This is not to be confused with living legalistically.  For instance, we watch very, very little t.v.  Knut hasn't played video games in...I don't know...years.

It's not that these pieces of technology are sinful, it's that we found them consuming so much of our time and we were constantly complaining to each other that we never had time to do stuff that we wanted to do.  So we jointly came to the point where we realized we didn't want to spend our lives watching movies and playing games.  We each had goals and interests.  We wanted a life that this stuff was keeping us from.  So we stopped using that stuff.

Did you ever notice that kids normally do better with less toys rather than more?  Our house is like a toy vacuum, and TWICE a year I go through all the toys with the attempt to get rid of half.  Half.  I usually end up keeping the same type of toys (the wooden train set) and getting rid of the same type of stuff (McDonald's Happy Meal toys, etc.). 

This last week I went through the kids' books.  I haven't done that in years, but they haven't all fit on the shelves for at least a year.  It's really tricky to teach them to pick up their books when they don't all fit on the shelves.  So I got rid of all the ones that annoy the grown-ups (pretty much all the Disney/commercial ones.  Again...nothing against Disney or My Little Pony, but when I'm going through books to decide which ones I'm keeping, The Velveteen Rabbit wins over something shallow.)

I also got rid of all the books that were drawn in, torn, or pretty much falling apart.  Our bookshelves now have a bit of space to spare.  Now when Knut eventually gets to building bookshelves in the den for school books, we can actually put next year's school books there.

It doesn't help that the kids are always wanting stuff, and they see their friends having stuff we don't get for them.  For instance, we have an xbox that I'm sure is very outdated from when we were first married and the kids don't play with it.  We don't have a Wii, or PS4 (I have no idea what number they're on even).  This is by choice.

It's not a legalistic issue, it's a intentional issue.  We've decided what kind of childhood we want our kids to have.  We want to hold back on the technological play, and rev up the hands on, imaginative, outside, make believe, forts-out-of-couch-cushions play.  We believe that when our kids are mature and developed enough to handle technology they'll be able to figure it out.  Silje now does some research on the computer on topics that interest her.  She's started reading this blog too.

When they go to friends' houses, we let them play video games.  We sometimes have family movie night and we all watch something together on the couch with popcorn.  Like I said, we don't want our decision to limit technology and toys in our house to be any resemblance of legalism.  I have no intention of teaching that.

I guess what I'm venting here is not my hatred of technology, or any sort of judgment on those who give their kids a cell phone and a DS (whatever that is) at age 6.  What I am venting is how choosing a simple childhood for our kids is such an uphill battle! 

It's really frustrating that even though we homeschool, our kids don't watch much t.v. and they go to the store maybe once a week, but more often every other week...they still are consumed with stuff.

I wish that when they ask for stuff I could say "we don't have room for that" or "that's too expensive."  I have no excuses besides "I don't want you to have that.  I want you to have something better.  There are better ways for us to use our money and our time and more than anything I want you to know that."

Because if we had some excuse, I'd use it.  Telling my kids this is a choice just feels mean.  They know that the only thing between them and junk is our will and determination. 

I don't want my kids to be limited to spending their days mastering a level of video games.  I don't want them to see the world only through the eyes of Hollywood. I want them reading about Michelangelo, and performing a play through the means of a flashlight and shadow puppets.  I want them to read library books about bumble bees, and not learn about the world through Calliou.   The tough part is the kids won't choose it themselves.  If you put vegis and cake in front of them, most kids (though I'm sure not all) will choose the cake. 

Finding that balance might be the hardest.  It would be so much easier if we made it legalistic and said "this is bad and we're not going to do it."  It would be easier to make the kids feel superior because they don't lower themselves to watching television.  It would be easier to label technology sinful and wrong.  That would be lying, though.  Technology is neutral.  It's how we use it that is good or bad.  It's how we manage ourselves and our time that is good or bad. 

I believe it will be worth it, though.  The simple life doesn't come easy.  It's hard.  That's another message I want my kids to learn: do hard things. 

I sometimes hear "you can't protect them forever" and "you don't want to shelter them."  I saw a tote bag the other day that said "Why yes, I am sheltering them.  Are you going to accuse me of feeding and clothing them next?"  I don't intend to control their lives forever, but neither am I loony enough to believe that they are mature enough to make some of these choices for themselves.  We will explain the "why" behind our choices.  Probably thousands of times.  We'll let them make some mistakes, because sometimes that's how we learn.

I know that some people roll their eyes at homeschooling, or having few toys, or constantly giving kids healthy snacks and not letting them "experience" junk food as much as their peers.  Hollywood says that parents should edit what their kids watch, not them.  Then when parents do edit, they're controlling, sheltering, oblivious and too idealistic. Our kids play by themselves outside for big lengths of time, and we choose that over gymnastics 3 times a week in a structured class, yet we are the controlling ones.

I hear comments muttered from both media and friends that we are depriving them.  I even heard on the radio the other day that people homeschool so that they can indoctrinate their children in one set religion and the government should put a stop to that.  It's un-American.  (Serves me right for listening to Ed Schultz).  It wasn't enough to say you couldn't talk about God in schools.  There are some out there who say we shouldn't be teaching it at home either.  It should be something that they learn...if they decide.  Religion doesn't bother liberals unless it's practiced.  Sorry...I'll stop that tangent before I get all political again.

If parents don't show kids how to live, I mean really live, and not just go with the flow then who is? 

It's hard, because parenting today is an uphill battle.  Finding that balance, having nothing holding you but but sheer will sometimes when your kids, the media, and the culture and sometimes yourself doubts your sanity.  The simple life is a battle sometimes.  Sometimes it's hard to know which battles need to be fought and which ones left alone.

We'll continue to do hard stuff over here.  I'm not sure right now what will come of it.  We'll wait right along with you for the next 18 years or so to see if what we're doing works or not.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yarn Along

At the risk of being redundant, here I go.  I love this book that Silje and I are reading and I'm sneaking ahead at night after she goes to bed...again.  It brings me back to when I was a little girl and used to write chapters of novels and dream of getting published.  (The story is about a little girl who is a writer and wants to publish a book.)  I'm loving it.  Silje's liking it.  I think in about a year or two she'll love it.

Since our deal is that she cannot read a designated school book until it is assigned to her, and of course once we're done with it it's free game, I'm sure she'll read it many more times.  At this point she re-reads her assigned books about 3 times after we're done.  Some more, some less.

I got the variation to the Little Pearl Vest done.  It's just a little sampler fair isle on the body.  I made it a size too big for Solveig, but let her wear it to church last Sunday even though the shoulders were big.  Actually, after considering the "flair" in the shoulders as the size goes up, I'm adjusting my pattern slightly in the increase area so it will be more hugging the shoulders and less flaring, and am checking my adjustments with a vest for Silje.  I haven't made anything for her in awhile. 

The yarn I'm using for Silje's Little Pearl Vest is actually from a project I've been meaning to frog for awhile, but haven't had a chance.  So without the messy winding up the yarn business, I'm just knitting straight from the unraveling sweater on the left.

I've hit a bit of a wall when it comes to designing.  I finished the editing for the Buttercup pattern, and that got sent out to the testers.  I have one more edit, and as I faced this next pattern for Little Pearl coming up, I went ahead and got a tech editor so the stress about checking my numbers 15 times for each size would fall off my shoulders.

Although I feel very professional getting a tech editor for my patterns, and I am relieved that I have the necessary help for them, I find I'm still coming up against a hard place when it comes to designing.  It's not that I don't have more ideas.  It's that figuring out how to execute each idea requires so much measuring and planning and math, math, math, math.

I was talking to Knut about it the other night.  I love designing patterns.  I feel so creative and it gets my brain going and I think it's so important that as adults we continue to learn and think and not just coast for years on end.  I was wondering out loud why on earth I'm making myself do something so difficult?  Maybe it's easier for other designers (although I doubt it).

Still there's that little voice inside me wondering if I'm cut out for it.  I wonder if I'm just wasting my time.  If I could even describe the butterflies I get in my stomach when I'm getting near the end of a pattern.  I have 3 new patterns that will be done by the end of this month if all goes well!  That's a lot of butterflies.  What if they're bad?  What if I start getting floods of emails telling me the patterns don't make any sense, they came out the wrong size, I wasted their time and money...etc.

Knut lovingly told me that #1: if anyone should be stressed it should be him.  His biggest cross country ski race of the year is this weekend. I did note that. ;)  #2: Don't quit something because it's hard.  Maybe it's fine to quit if it's best for the family.  Maybe it's fine to quit if you hate it.  Sometimes you quit if you feel no desire for it or you have no time to give to it.  It's not fine to quit because it's hard.  If it's hard, it's worth doing.  He encouraged me to show my kids what following a dream looks like.  I shouldn't stop because it's scary or because the work is hard. 

He's right.  We try to tell our kids not to be afraid of hard work.  O, I love my husband.  He never ever thinks my dreams are stupid.  I hope I can always do the same for him.  I'm looking forward to be standing at the finish line this weekend with my cow bell ringing loudly as he finishes this 50 kilometer race for his 3rd year.  He's earned his spot into wave 1 (out of 8 waves of starters in the classic style) this year, so he'll get to be right behind the elites.  It's a massive race with thousands of skiers.  At that point it won't matter that he's barely had snow to train in...he'll be skiing with the fast people so he'll have to go fast.

Little Chicken Update

It's been awhile since I've talked about our chickens, so we have some catching up to do!  So much has been going on.

First, though, I must tell you about Cali.  You see, last year we had this mice issue in our house.  It was our worst year yet for mice, and as we talked with our neighbors, we found out that everyone was having a big mice issue.  Knut and I don't consider ourselves "cat people" but we seriously considered getting one as a mouser.  The traps were not working, and the mice started bringing the poison from the part of the basement that the kids don't get to into, and building little poison nests in the kids toy bins.  I pretty much freaked out.

This winter, we never needed to get a cat, though, because Cali showed up.  She's a stray cat that came into our yard, and since she arrived we have not seen a single mouse.  This has been a no mouse year so far which is just fantastic.  So we encouraged her to stay by setting out warm water on bitterly cold days.  He/She has been around for a few months, although since she is a stray we have told the kids to not touch her.  That's fine, because she's pretty skittish around us and I doubt we could catch her if we wanted too.

Anyway, this winter has been unseasonably warm and the chickens have been allowed out of their coop much more often.  Lately, we've noticed their egg production drop.  It went down from 4-8 eggs a day to 1 a day.  Then we had 3 days of no eggs. 

Then I went to the coop one morning and there was Cali resting in one of the nesting boxes, licking her lips with egg shells all around her.

O, I yelled at her, and she ran like the wind.  The chickens did not like her around.  She didn't touch the chickens but she sure liked the eggs.  At this point our solution has been to leave Lena outside when the chickens are out, as she guards their coop like...a guard dog.  She doesn't even notice the chickens anymore, but she does not like that cat, or anything else in her yard.

I will say Lena isn't thrilled with this new arrangement, as she spends most of her day begging to come in at the front porch window.  She will growl and run off if anything enters the yard, though.

So for now it's not the season that mice flood into the house, and everything in that regard seems under control.  Except the chickens are being a bit naughty themselves.  I blame the cat.

You see, now they're laying eggs outside the coop.  I honestly think that's because the cat was all over their nesting boxes.  We're finding eggs in the garage, in the summer kitchen, and once outside under a tree.  The kids like to "hunt eggs" and are pretty good at it. 

So to retrain them, we left them in the coop for a few days where their only choice was the nesting boxes.  They in turn went canabalistic on us and started eating some of their eggs, which is very common in chickens.  However we're trying to put a stop to it.  I'm trying to make sure we're bringing them out some interesting slop to distract them.  I've read eating their eggs is what chickens often do when they're bored of being "cooped up."

So besides having a bit of an egg shortage around here (we only have one full 18 ct carton we keep up in our fridge these days.  It's starting to grow again.  Previously, we'd have 3-18 ct cartons in the mix in our fridge.)

Spring is on the way, and that means that we're about to see exactly what these girls can do.  You may remember that they started laying just when the weather turned cold and we have not yet seen them lay at full speed.  We've just been enjoying the winter crumbs of them laying.

New Year...New Stuff.
We are also starting talk of expanding our flock.  Well, our 17 girls can rest assured they won't have to share their little house.  No, we're considering this summer getting some meat birds and housing them in a portable "tractor" they call them on the south side of our yard.  These ones will not have names, and the kids won't play with them like the laying ones...although I don't think I'll be able to keep them away from chicks.

Knut learned to "harvest" chickens last summer at our friend's house and he thinks he's ready to do our own this year.  He said he'd do the chopping, and I'll do the plucking.  I watched the plucking last year and I'm gearing up for it.  Deep breaths...

On the upside, I think I'll need some new specialty knifes in my kitchen to deal with our "fresh" meat and I'm all about new kitchen gadgets.  More deep breaths...

We want to be sure to keep the laying birds and meat birds separate as they require different things and can tend to bully each other.  We're hoping for some pasture fed meat and we might join in with Knut's cousin on this venture.  Anyway, I'm supposed to be researching meat breeds right now, so I should probably sign off.  Planning is half the fun sometimes anyway!

Monday, February 20, 2012

I'm Blessed

I have a list of some big things, and some small things that gather together into big things.

This morning I surrounded by little ones in footie pajamas with crazy hair and hypnotizing smiles.

What can I say?  I'm blessed.

Yesterday our family got to relax with friends.  You know, the kind of friends where your family can be their crazy selves and you don't have to apologize.

My husband has coffee ready for me when I wake up in the morning.  I'm spoiled.

I have a song stuck in my head from church yesterday.  It's a wonderful song to have stuck in your head, and may just make my Monday:

Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.

I'm so blessed.

As always, if you want to join in by sharing how God has blessed you this last week, leave a comment!  I you have a blog and want to join the blog party, write a post on blessings, make sure there is a link to this blog in there so people can read more (you can use the I'm Blessed button I have on the right hand side of this blog if that's easier for you), and leave your blog post address below.  It's really pretty simple.  Thank you so much to those who participate each week.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Teacher Notes

It's not very exciting to write about school these days.  Whenever one of my friends who homeschools asks me how school is going, they have an expression of understanding.  I'm in my 2nd year, and I'm finding that nearly every homeschooling family I know goes through some sort of February slump.  The exception to that might be the families I know who educate year round.

I sure feel slumpy, though.  Things like Valentine's parties, and other antics are my small attempt to keep it exciting.

It's the time of year where we start to realize how much work we still have left to do this year.  I start to wonder if we'll get it all done.  It seems like it's going to last forever.

It's the time of year where I just try to keep us moving.  I'm trying to remember the different speakers I've heard for encouragement.  I've been mixing things up a bit to keep some drudgery out.  For instance, 2 subjects that I feel both Silje and I are glazing over are science and grammar.  Since we're studying botany, I picked up a bunch of library books on the subject, and we're looking at some of those.  The change has really been good for both of us.  Her favorite book has been one on official state flowers.

As far as English, I haven't done grammar in a few weeks, but instead I've had her work on memorizing poems, and I've been reading aloud to her several poems by Robert Frost.  She has been loving this.  We're not dissecting the poems really at all.  I'm just trying to get her to have a baseline of basic types of poems in her memory so that when we do discuss poetry in the future she has the knowledge to pull from and understand the concepts.  She does talk a lot about the rhythm of the poems, and she has really been enjoying this "unit."

It's difficult to find the balance between making changes when you see your child glazing over, and the possible downside to that: removing things that are hard.  I don't want to remove things that are hard for my kids.  I want to give them the tools to work through them.  We've actually been dealing with that in some other areas in our lives.  I feel like the theme of what I teach my kids these last few months is: do hard things!  'I know it's a mess, but you still have to clean it up.'  'I know you're hungry, but you need to wait until everyone is at the table.'  'I know you want to sit there, but we're going to let Great-grandma sit there right now.'

However, when I read a chapter to a child, and they cannot remember one single thing from what I read, I sometimes read portions again.  If that child still has no idea what I said, it's time to try something else.  It's not a matter of laziness, it's a matter of learning.

I'm confident that I made the right choice to wander off the curriculum path in those 2 subjects.  I really am.  However, I'm not sure what to do with the parts that we're not doing now.  Do I just pick up where we left off when we're done with our side notes?  We'll be a few weeks behind, and possibly have to go into summer.  I've honestly considered this.  It's either that, or I'll have to pick portions of the curriculum to skip.  As silly as this sounds, it feels so wasteful to skip portions of the curriculum.  I'm trying to justify that I'm not wasting them, because they'll likely get used for another kid down the road.  "Not now" doesn't mean "never."

All of these wonderings on how best to work through these curricula is playing into the beginning of plans for what we'll be doing for school next year.  I may make a few changes here and there.  I hope every year I make a few changes for the better. 

As far as David goes, he still continues on with his math at least every day...sometimes multiple times a day.  He's still obsessed with chess.  He's started reading to Elias.  This has been so heart warming.  I'll be reading to Silje, and I'll see David and Elias walk off into a corner with a Dr. Seuss book, and David will read the whole thing to Elias and they laugh over the whole thing. 

I'm really eager to incorporate David into our core lessons with Sonlight.  I'm anxious to start him on that.  My plan was to have him do more "major study" with us when he starts 1st grade next year.  This year my goal was to have him reading, and in the habit of doing a bit of school each day.  I was hoping that he would want to do some of the history/read alouds/geography with us, but he has not.  In fact, Elias does more with us than David does.

Next year the choice will not longer be his.  I'm going to make him do those subjects with us regardless of his desire.  That's fine because he's still just working up to that.  We'll be ready then.  I was just secretly hoping he'd want to join in early.  Who knows...the year is still young.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Potty Story

Don't you just love how as a mother you feel free to talk about poop and pee like men discuss football?  There's such drama in the event.  When passing a major milestone like this, I feel the need to reflect on how it was with each of my kids.  Don't ask me why.  Processing maybe?

With Silje, I was under the impression that kids were supposed to be potty trained at 18 months.  So around 16 months or so I started putting on the pressure.  I spent hours showing working with her and trying to make it a game.  A few times she would go potty on the potty chair, so I switched to "demand mode" and required her to go potty from then on.

She fought me tooth and nail...for 9 months.  She would have accidents multiple times a day.  I would set timers, I would spend countless minutes sitting next to her while she sat on the potty.  We'd read books on the potty, we'd sing songs on the potty.  We lived with that potty chair for 9 long months.

So when it was David's turn, I was very nervous.  David's personality is quite different than Silje's.  If Silje fought me, I don't know what word they would have if I put David in that situation.  I knew that whatever he set his mind to he would do with all his might.  So my plan was to make sure he wanted it.  I knew that if he didn't want to be potty trained, I was wasting my time.  Some of you with very strong willed children know exactly what I'm talking about.

So I waited.  I waited and waited and waited.  We talked about the potty chair, and he knew all about it.  Still I waited.  I waited until he was 3, which at the time was getting embarrassing as my friends had started potty training their kids David's age.  When he turned 3, a light switched and he decided he didn't want to wear diapers anymore.  2 days of occasional accidents, and we were done.  Potty training over.

I liked that method.  It was so much less headache, and I didn't feel like I was tied to staying home and sitting next to a potty chair for months.  We were tied to our house for 2 days.  Done.  So for Elias, waiting was my plan.

Well, he's been 3 for a few months now.  Just before he turned 3, I was able to get him to go potty on the potty chair like clockwork before his bath.  He could go on command.  That was good, but he didn't like to go any other times.  Bribing wasn't working.  I honestly had no time to fight him on this, so we just waited more.

It felt like we were going backwards because when we got back from Christmas vacation, he stopped going before baths.  He would sit on the potty chair and say calmly "It's not working.  It's broken."

So I tried to up my game a bit.  David was more than willing to show him how to go potty several times.  The potty chair was brought into the kitchen and I'd have him sit on it where I could talk to him and still do dishes and cook, etc.  He's sit calmly "reading" a book on the potty for 45 minutes with nothing.  I'd put his diaper back on to eat lunch, and he'd go immediately in the diaper.

So I was telling this to my mom, and she said that was similar to how my sister was potty training.  (Hehe, discussing my sister's potty training on my blog...I love it!)  My mom said she just told Heidi that the diapers were broken, and there was only the potty chair left.

Ironically that night, we ran out of diapers.  Since I sell cloth diapers, I should probably explain.  I may have said this before, but I have about 3 cloth diapers that still fit Elias.  I should buy/make him some more, but it has the feeling of putting expensive new tires on a car you're about to sell, you know?  We're supposed to be done with his diapers, I don't want to make new ones!

So I've been using Elias' 3 large diapers to round out Solveig's stash, and have put Elias in sposies for the last little bit.  It has been super annoying because sposies are not easy to 'spose of out here in the country.  Knut and I practically have to draw straws to who gets to pile weeks worth of stinky diapers in the van and drive the long, stinky way to the dump.  You don't want to make the trip unless there's a lot, and when there's a lot it smells so bad the whole way, and it's too cold to have the windows down.  Anyway...

In hindsight, I probably should have just gotten him a few more cloth diapers, but I didn't and this isn't part of the story anyway.

So I ran out of sposies that night, and Knut was going to have the van the next day so I wouldn't be able to run into town to buy some more.  I realized I was out about 10pm and really wasn't in the mood to go then.

So I decided that when Elias woke up the next morning, I would tell him we're all out of diapers.  We had just enough cloth ones for him to wear during naptime and bedtime.  Otherwise, he had to use the potty.

When he woke up, and I took his nighttime diaper off and told him we were all out of diapers.  He laughed and thought I was joking.  I let him run around with his bottom half naked.  He sat on the potty chair but again claimed it was broken.

About 30 minutes later, he had a small accident.  It was obviously he started going, then promptly stopped.  He was stressed out, and wanted it cleaned up.  I cleaned it up, and put him on the potty chair.  Again, he said it was broken.  So I let him continue to play.  About 5 minutes later, he looked at me with panic and said, "Mommy!  I need a diaper!"  I told him I didn't have anymore.  He argued while I put him on the potty chair once again that he didn't need a broken potty, he needed a diaper.  That's when the flood came out he'd been holding in.  A look of relief came over him, as nothing was broken, and there was actually a solution to the no-diaper problem his mommy seemed to have.

Once he went potty, I rewarded him with a pair of Thomas the Train underwear and a brownie.  Our kids rarely wear commercial figures like that, but for potty training, I pull out the cookies, candies, cartoon clothes...whatever it takes.  He got them a little wet once, but not enough to get on the ground.  He ran to the potty chair and that was a success later that morning that required another pair of undies.  And #2 went in the undies.  We'll be working on that for a little while longer, I think.

The rest of the day (besides a diaper for nap) he had no more accidents.  The next day, I didn't even have to remind him to go.  He went there by himself, pulled his undies down by himself, emptied the bowl underneath into the big potty by himself, flushed by himself, (he needs some help getting the bowl back and finishing up potty duties at this point).  Seriously, though.  Not bad for day 2.

I know some people (Knut included) think I'm crazy to let my kids be in diapers for so long.  I'm telling you, though: this is my favorite way to potty train and causes the least amount of interruption to the rhythm of our home.  I'm sure I could have poured more energy into it months ago and saved us hundreds of diapers, but in all reality, I just didn't have the time to devote to it, nor the desire.

I guess my goal in mind was to get him potty trained the easiest possible way, and my goal was not to potty train the earliest possible.  Different moms have different goals, and they all end up potty trained in the end.  Sometimes changing a diaper is just easier.  Sometimes you really need something in your life that is easy.

When they're ready, it's a snap.  When they're not, I'm just making it worse.  At least, that's my experience.  Like all things, I'm sure Solveig will have her own way as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yarn Along

I'm going to be a rebel this week and just share knitting and not reading.  I know...wild and crazy over here.

I am so happy to show you a few finished projects.  I'm pausing from my fair isle sweater (a much needed pause!) to do some quick finishing.  I've found that it's actually a good thing to have several knitting projects going on at the same time.  You see, there is different knitting for different circumstances.  Some knitting requires more brain concentration than others.  Bringing fair isle work is sometimes tough to bring places.  On the flip side, hours of endless stockinette stitch is perfect chatting with friends.

The picture above shows a finished "Buttercup" soaker for one of my nephews.  I need to make a second for his twin brother.  I was so excited to try out the polyresin snaps on the thickly woven fabric to see if it worked.  I used wool felt to back the snaps on the ribbing.  You know what?  I don't like it.  It still pulls on both sides too much.  So I'm removing that part of the pattern and sticking only with buttons.  I'm going to have to figure out how to adjust this one before I send it out.  In the mean time, I've cast on the second soaker for the other twin (I'm not sure who is getting which one.  I think I'll let my sister-in-law decide.)

I'm also happy to report I've been working on my pattern editing, and this pattern is very close to being released as a great solution for heavy wetters and overnights.  All sizes are edited except the newborn size, which I wasn't planning on including at all, by my pattern testers requested.  I think I might wait for feedback from my sister-in-law as well, because this pattern was designed with my nephews in mind.

I also knit this little vest for Solveig this last week.  I've had this pattern design swimming around my brain for awhile, and I finally just cast on.  It was a quick knit: 2 days!  Usually when I'm designing something, I start with an idea, and look for a yarn that fits the bill.  This is one of those exceptions.  I've had the yarn since this time last year, just waiting for a project. 

I don't like buying yarn without a project in mind, but last year when we were in Wisconsin for Knut's Birkie race, I roped him into going to a yarn shop not too far from the starting line location and Knut told me to buy something.  He meant to treat me, so I picked out something nice even though I had no idea what it would be for.  I got this yarn called "Suri Merino" which I told Knut "feels like I'm knitting kittens."  It is so soft I just love it!  It's baby alpaca, merino wool combo put out by Plymouth Yarn.

I think the yarn was stretching the truth a bit in saying it was worsted.  It is most certainly DK weight, and I had to adjust my math and needle sizes several times because of this mis-marking.  I only tolerate such stupidity from kitten-soft yarn, so it's okay.

I finally decided what I could make with the 2 skeins I bought last year, but then started worrying that 2 skeins wasn't going to be enough so I thought I should see how far I got before I ran out, just in case I could pick up some more when we head out to the Birkie race this year in 2 weeks.

I didn't run out.  In fact I have about 15-20 yards left over.  I made this in size 18 months so it should fit Solveig for awhile.  I think she'll have to wear it at the Birkie finish line this year (although maybe not over her pajamas), since she's coming with again.

The back has a little button closure.  I've been brainstorming what to call it.  Since there's only 2 rows of purling (just how I like it!) I'm thinking of calling it "Little Pearl."  I thought it could be "Little Purl" but I'm trying to keep all of my patterns having a name, and my name (Gretchen) means "pearl" and so Solveig would be like my "little pearl."

I picked from the stash of buttons I recently got from Knut's grandma as she was cleaning out her sewing supplies a little vintage mother-of-pearl button to go on the vest.  Plus, I've been helping Silje memorize a poem the last few weeks called "Little Pearl Honeydew" and I think the name is burned on my brain right now.  So I think "Little Pearl" might be it.

Since it's so simple, I'd like to spruce up the pattern before I make it ready to sell...perhaps a few variations.  I have a specific variation of this pattern in mind, and so I'll work on that next.  (As well as the other diaper soaker, and my fair isle sweater of course...) I even have some stash yarn in mind for a size 2T to make for the pattern variation.

I have the Buttercup editing and the Dirk editing to finish up first.  I'm hoping that my portion of the editing will be done by the end of this week for both patterns.  There's no reason it shouldn't get done.  Then I'll start writing up the instructions for "Little Pearl."  It came off my needles so fast it threw me a little off guard!

A Good Wife Knows Her Place

When I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher made us memorize the prologue to the Canterbury Tales in the original language:

"Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote."

(That's only the first 2's much longer!)

The original language is English, but an English of Medieval times.  When I got to college, I took a whole class on the Canterbury Tales (something I likely wouldn't have taken had it not been required) and my professor, who did her doctoral thesis on this very work, insisted that we read it directly from the middle English, and not a modernized version.  I couldn't make heads or tales of it in certain parts, so I had to read both versions: the middle English and the translation.

I hope Dr. Harris isn't reading this because I'm not sure I remember much of the Canterbury Tales.  That's besides the point, though.

I've seen this list before several times, as it really gets passed around.  It's from a magazine article from 1955 that outlines how to be a good wife.  I know 1955 isn't quite middle English, but I still think we have a hard time making heads or tales from it:

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have be thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
  • Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dustcloth over the tables.
  • During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
  • Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.
  • Be happy to see him.
  • Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
  • Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
  • Don't greet him with complaints and problems.
  • Don't complain if he's late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.
  • Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
  • Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
  • Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
  • A good wife always knows her place. 
Wow.  I know, right?  As a woman it's easy to want to rip apart this list piece by piece.
I'm beginning to see the traces of wisdom in here.  Stay with me.  It's Valentine's Day, after all.

First off, this does not include the man's list.  There was not an article published in a magazine for men on how to be a good husband.  It's one side of the relationship portrayed.  I don't think that for a second God designed woman to serve man.  I think he designed us to serve each other.

So a good wife would know her place...just like a good husband does.  She should look for ways to sacrifice to make her husband's life easier, and he should do the same.

What I'm trying to say is that I think that the wording is outdated, but perhaps the intent isn't that awful.  Here's my own modern version for us stay-at-home moms:
 - Try to have supper ready.  Make his favorites.  Surprise him with dessert.  Plan ahead and get the kids involved in "spoiling Daddy."

-If you have more than 3 bodily fluids smeered across your clothes, do a quick change before he comes home.  If anything, put a big smile on your face when he walks in the door, no matter how exhausted you are.  It's not because you're pretending, it's because you are genuinely happy to see him.  Don't act like he abandoned you by going to work.

-Don't unload your issues from the day he steps in the door.  You have no idea what kind of day he's had either.  He's not your trash can.  The evening can be so much more peaceful if one of the parents is determined to keep the joy, and don't wait to see if he's going to do it.

-Ask him how his day is before you tell him about yours.  He's your best friend.  Be his.

-Is there one thing in your house that if it's wrong you can't concentrate?  Is it water on the floor that distracts you?  Is it dishes, laundry or or toys in the entryway?  I know for my husband, I could have been washing drying, folding, putting away clothes and cleaned out 4 closets, and he doesn't notice unless I tell him.  Really, when he walks in the door and sees dirty dishes he has trouble relaxing.  I need to realize that if I can just get the dishes down, his whole night is better.  He's my best friend.  If my mind is on him, I'll make a priority of his needs.

-Be happy to see him.  (I don't think there's anything old fashioned about that.)

-Ask yourself: do I want him to dread coming home, or look forward to coming home?

-Don't think that just because you're home all day, that the whole evening shift is his.  He's had a day shift too.

-Build him up.  Unless your husband is a CEO, he's probably not given much importance.  Maybe his boss puts him down, maybe no one notices how hard he works, maybe his boss hates every idea he ever presents, maybe he's dealt with people all day long who don't care at all about him.  Maybe a customer chewed him out for something that wasn't his fault.  Maybe he dealt with a student or employee who disrespected his authority.  Don't let his home be one of those places.  Let it be the one place where his ideas are heard, and he knows he can come to you and just be himself.  Let him know how highly you think of him.

-Don't let home be a prison either.  Both of you need a break.  His workday is not his "break".  Take turns making sure you each get a chance to do something fun.  Don't keep score.

-Give him a chance to unwind before jumping into home duties.  Yes, he may need to watch the little ones for a minute so you can finish up supper (or start!).  Maybe he needs to give you a rest from dealing with one of the children being ornery and deal with the child for awhile.  Give him a moment to switch gears, though.  Don't throw him to the wolves.  If you don't know how he relaxes best, ask him. 
-Don't treat him like one of your kids.  Just because you're the boss when he's at work doesn't mean you can boss him around when he gets home.  Let your home be his safe haven from people picking him apart. 

-Keep your goal in mind: uplifting your spouse, being an encouragement to him, and a source of freedom and love in his life.  Your goal is to show Christ to him from the moment he walks in the door.

Now, like the magazine article from 1955, my audience is primarily women.  If I wrote to men primarily, I'd have a whole separate post for them.  I understand many families don't run like mine.  In most families, both parents work, or work separate shifts, and sometimes the dad stays at home.  Shouldn't the sentiment be the same: serve one another?  Put the other person's need above your own?

I think that in America, we're in the mode to fight for our rights lest we lose them.  There is a time and place for that.  Our homes, and our marriages aren't the place.  Our marriages are supposed to mirror our relationship with Christ.  With that image in mind, I think: "While we were still sinners...Christ died for us."  I think the ideal marriage is the cycle where spouses try to out give to the other.  Too often, though, neither one wants to start that giving snowball affect, and wants to guard their rights and make certain above all else that they never become a doormat.

I'm no genius.  I've been married 9 1/2 years.  Most of that time we've been happy, but we've had our dark times too.  I don't claim to know each situation, or be a couples counselor.  I'm just saying that the message found in this "good wife" article may not be all that bad: serve.

Here's why I don't think it's that bad: because Christ serves us.

Now, I don't get this whole list done, and I'd like to shake the hands of the woman in 1955 who accomplished that list, (along with that Proverbs 31 woman) because I don't think she had children who were anything like mine.  It's just not my reality. 

But I think the message stays the same, and I personally think it's more of an idea list on how to love your spouse.  I hope you enjoyed reading it anyway.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

I'm Blessed

I feel like I have nothing profound to say today.  I've gotten a lot of work done.  Some really good things happened this week.  Things are good right now.  I'm just not in the mood to spread sunshine everywhere.  It feels like I'm just shouting from the rooftops that life is fantastic like I'm this perpetual high and don't you all wish you were too?

It's Monday morning.  I'm tired, and there just does not seem to be enough coffee in my cup.  We had a very eventful weekend that resulted in Elias being basically potty trained (yes, you read that right!  Story to follow!), and Solveig having a big rash on her bum.

I have been knocking out knitting projects that have just needed finishing.  It's so much fun when you "finish" 3 projects in an afternoon.   I'm started and am almost done with the final edit for the Buttercup diaper cover pattern.  This week for sure.  I cast on a new pattern idea, and I cleaned my sewing room so you can actually get in it.  Like, a big, deep clean.  I can actually sew again! theory.

Today I have to bring Knut, Silje and David to get their teeth cleaned and have a little check up.  I have to get some school done this morning, and I have to get Silje to piano lessons.  Wait...she'll be getting her teeth cleaned.  Looks like I have to sort some things out.  Let the juggling begin.

This wasn't intended to be my mental checklist, this is meant to be my refocusing on God this morning.  This is intended to push all that brain clutter aside and focus on how He has blessed me.  I so often miss it if I don't.

I'm blessed:
-with a life abundant, yet filled with peace!
-with down time, with busy time.
-with smiley faced kiddos who clutter around me for hugs constantly.
-with dishes to clean.
-with freedom to raise our family in a way we choose.
-with exercise.
-with brownies and coffee for breakfast.

That's all I got.

If you are also in need this morning of reflecting on God's blessings, please join me!  How has God blessed you?  You can either leave a comment and/or a link to your own blog post on blessings.  Don't forget to leave a link leading back to this blog in your own blog post, etc. etc. etc.

I love you guys.  I don't say that enough, but I really enjoy writing these posts, and I get giddy knowing someone is reading them.  Thanks for reading.  It really is a blessing in my life too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Teacher Notes

 This week at school had some good highs and lows.  We had homeschool group on Tuesday afternoon, and Knut once again led gym class.  I think the moms and that group really love seeing a dad play with the kids, as there is such a huge difference.  One mom commented that when moms do gym, if someone is "out" of a game, the child is often given extended time to stay "in."  With dads, however, if you're out, you're out.  There are rules to games, and the competitiveness comes out.  Needless to say, the competitive spirit really came out of a bunch of kids too.

Last month he taught 4 square in gym class.  This week he taught kick ball.  I think he has one more class at the end of the month, and then he's done. 

I've had a couple of "showdowns" with Silje this week.  The first one happened on Monday when she was doing her last piano practice before her lesson later that day at her great-aunt's house.  I hadn't been in the room for her previous practices, so I thought I should at least double check that she had everything ready.  I soon realized that she had practiced one of the songs, but not the other because she perceived it as too difficult.

It was a tricky song, and I explained that was all the more reason to practice it.  She spent almost her whole 30 minutes working on the song she knew, and a whole 5 minutes on the song she barely knew.  So I put more time on her practice timer, and said I would put on more time again if she didn't get the song right.

I said her lesson was later that day, and she was not allowed to go unprepared.  She started crying, and there was a bit of yelling, and some half hearted piano plunking.  I told her it was fine by me if she spent the rest of the morning and all afternoon until her lesson sitting in front of the piano.  She could either practice and be done, or sit there angry.  Her choice.

So 15-20 minutes later, she mastered the hard song.  She was still very angry with me, and felt that by adding practice time off the cuff was unfair.  She likes to know what to expect, but I told her what I expect.  I told her it was very obvious she did not use her previous practice time wisely, so she needed more.

What made it all worth it is I didn't have a chance to tell this story to her piano teacher.  I dropped her off at her lesson, and when I picked her up she was walking on clouds.  Her teacher doesn't hand out stickers like candy.  In fact, she has only gotten a sticker on her assignment sheet once before.  However, this time she got a big sticker from her piano teacher, with a note that she did excellent!

Silje was over the moon with the praise from her teacher that she had actually mastered the difficult song in one week, and she gave me a hug.  I'm going to take it as a "thank you."

We had a similar situation in math.  She was not getting a new concept, and Saxon math only gave her 3 questions to practice the new concept that day.  She got them all wrong, so I worked through each one with her.  Then I gave her a new problem to see if she could do it on her own.  She couldn't, so I wrote out page of these problems so she could really work on it.  That did not make her happy.  She likes when I just stick with the system.  O well.

A big highlight was our Valentine's making party that we decided to throw.  Silje has been in a slump, and what is better to cheer her up than planning a party!  Since it fit in our schedule early afternoon best, we were limited to inviting other homeschool kids.  I was so excited that 3 families came out with their little girls (and 1 boy).

Silje took the lead in planning the party.  I wanted to make homemade angel food cake and pull out frozen strawberries from our garden that were in the freezer for a sauce.  She surprisingly said no, and wanted to make red velvet cupcakes from the box, with sprinkles and all.  They were okay.  The kids seemed to like them.  They were super cute, though.
 We spent about 3 dollars and got fun cupcake wrappers, toppers, plates, etc.  She loves decorations! 

 The main event was something we certainly do not do every day.  The girls made Valentines (and the boy played with my boys).  We brought out GLITTER and glue and they went to town.  It made such a mess, and I may be wearing glitter on my clothes for the next next year or so.  However, I think it was completely worth it. 
Then the girls ran down to the basement/playroom to play dress up and the moms and I had a fun time just sitting and chatting in peace.  It was fun for everyone!  Knut came home early and surprised us in the living room by bringing us a pot of tea and a platter of pumpkin bread, served on my good china and everything.

I was so blown away by that.  He sat and chatted with me my friends, and I was so glad that he was actually able to get to know some of my mom friends.  I'm the one who goes to most of the events, and so he hears a lot about people he doesn't know.  I was so glad he was able to put a face to some names he's heard.

It was a lot of fun, and we'll have to have homeschool parties at our house again in the future.  Well worth the mess!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

round button chicken


While Silje was reading her schoolwork, and I was working on David's reading on the couch, the 2 little ones decided to work on reading as well.  Elias has this book memorized, so he read it to Solveig.


 (David practicing his "drums")

 Elias believes that the egg basket is not limited to carting around eggs.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yarn Along

As you can see, progress is coming along with the fair isle sweater.  I'm sure one of these days I'll post something else.   I did have other projects in the works this week.  One of them was super secret, and is now out of my hands and delivered by the post man to its destination.  Actually it really isn't super secret if I'm mentioning it.  I'm "foreshadowing."  I know...sneaky.

I also finished the shorties from last week, and did an elephant embroidery on the bum.  I was going to do this big tutorial on how the embroidery is done on knitted pieces, and show off the cuteness, but I ended up running out of the house with it as I was planning on dropping it off with the customer during our errand day on Tuesday.  I totally forgot to take pictures of the finished product with all the other "remember not to forget" items going on in my head in the morning.  So you'll all have to trust me that I finished it.

So it didn't really feel like I worked a lot on this sweater, but as I counted the motifs, I realized that I got 4 1/2 rows of flowers completed and this week I'll likely finish the back portion and move onto the other arm.  The arm is done in the round, so super fast!  Yeah!  Once the other arm is done the fair isle portion of the sweater is done and I expect it will go very quickly after that so you won't have to endure seeing it for too many more Yarn Along posts.

Silje and I just finished reading The Apprentice together.  I must say, it is one of those books you cannot judge by it's cover!  We both really enjoyed it!  As we're moving into the Renaissance period in school, here's a story about a painting apprentice who is bound to his master.  Not only did we learn about the apprenticeship process, and it was a really good mystery, but there was some amazingly deep thoughts in there about freedom, and what that is exactly.  Various characters throughout the book talk about their freedom or lack thereof.

What I loved most about this book was the natural discussion that Silje and I had afterward.  Normally when we talk about the book, I check her for basic comprehension.  Did she understand the facts, who was who, what happened, etc.  This time, we discussed the theme of freedom.

"Freedom isn't about your circumstances, or your wealth, or even your position...(more thoughts that would be a terrible spoiler to those who want to read it)...  It's about the peace in your heart." is how Silje explained it to me.  It was my FIRST EVER literary discussion with Silje and this Lit. major wants to mark it on the calender.  As we discussed how this played out with each character...the apprentice, the boy kidnapped, the duke's daughter, I just wanted to pinch myself.

I was actually planning to read this for the first time alongside Silje, but after she went up to bed on several occasions, I would read ahead because I just had to find out what happened.  (Knut sat next to me, tsk tsking.  He knows I have very little self control when it comes to books.)

In a nutshell, I'd recommend it.  Sonlight's booklist is still knocking me over.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It Can Only Mean One Thing

My house has been pretty clean.  I know, it's weird.  I've been working really hard at getting the kids to do their chores, as I've started to let them slide.  It's amazing how clean it's been.  Now when I clean, I'm not picking up their stuff.  I'm vacuuming, or cooking, or doing stuff I never get to do.  I completely reorganized my kitchen cupboards and threw out old "non-perishables" that were very expired.  I'm sure that open box of potato flakes that expired 5 years ago really won't ever get used.

Part of it is that I've been doing more after the kids go to bed.  Normally I really try not to do chores after they go to bed because I really need some down time.  That's when I either hang out with Knut, do "me" stuff, or on rare occasions, see friends.  Lately, though, I've been sweeping kitchens, doing dishes, meal planning, and even doing some lesson planning when the house is quiet at night.

It can only mean one thing...I'm procrastinating.  There's a job I have to do, and I haven't done it.

There are 2 knitting patterns that are ready to release either for sale or for testers (one of each). I just need to edit them.  That's all.  The samples are made, the instructions are written up, the calculations are all there.  It's always the last edit that terrifies me. 

If anyone ever wants to get into writing, technical writing is the way to go.  They make so much money...because no one wants to do it.  They're like rich plummers of the English vocational world.  Editing things like manuals, instructions, handbooks is really boring.  It's boring, but it must be perfect or be certain you'll hear about it.  So you must concentrate very carefully on really boring stuff.  I studied a sliver of it in college but preferred the more creative writing classes like poetry.  You know, the really fun stuff that makes no money.

However, after graduation, when I wanted to make it as a freelance writer, I took a job writing sentences for a jr. high grammar workbook.  I wrote 800 sentences to their grammatical specifications.  I've never come closer to dying in my whole life.

So I procrastinate.  I normally clean when I procrastinate.  Knut's loving it.  That's really not helping.

It's one of those things where I really, really don't want to, but I really, really want it done and I am really, really the only person who can do it.

I need to clear the way (and brain space) for new pattern writing that is ready to happen.  There are 2 patterns in the "fun phase" of knitting and note taking and within a month or so, they'll be ready for their final tweaking and editing.

I cannot have 4 patterns to edit backed up.  I just can't.  I'll give up knitting pattern writing right then and there and I really like doing it.  Well, I like 90% of it.  It's that last 10% that is killing me.

I always thought procrastinating was something I was going to grow out of.  I must have never gotten around to that...

What do you do when you procrastinate?

I'm Blessed

This week I'm reflecting not so much on what I have been given, but what God is allowing me to witness.

We've had days of fog last week.  I've never experienced such a bout of fog before.  We have not seen much snow this year.  In fact, we just got word this morning that the kids' ski race next weekend has been canceled.  It has been an unusual winter, but I'm grateful for the frost that has turned everything white.  It seems as though it cannot be winter until everything is whited out at least one way or the other.
 Looking behind our house into the woods has the feeling of reading a story about an enchanted land. 
 The whiteness drips from everything possible.  I wonder if the animals know the beauty in which they live.  I wonder if they gasp in awe at God's decorating for their home.
 The hoary trees with their black bases splitting smaller as it grows upward looks like a pale and aged hand, but where the blood still brings life.
 Not a detail was missed.  No blade of grass was forgotten.  Not a single leaf stubbornly clinging to a branch thus far avoided the frost. 
 It has the feeling as though God is preparing his canvas of Spring.  Spring is a feast for the eyes, and Winter serves as a great foil for that.  It makes the colors then seem even brighter.
 This last week a friend of mine in town found out her 3 year old son has stage 4 cancer.  Through tears, I read my devotional that night, and read these words:

"My child, I have a message for you today.  Let me whispter it in your ear so any storm clouds that may arise will shine with glory, and the rough places you may have to walk will be made smooth.  It is only four words, but let them sink into your inner being, and use them as a pillow to rest your weary head.  'This is my doing.'
 Have you ever realized that whatever concerns you concerns Me too?...I want you to learn when temptations attack you, and the enemy comes in "like a pent-up flood" (Isa. 59:19), that 'this is my doing' and that your weakness needs My strength and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you...The pain will leave as you learn to see Me in all things."

My devotional is many writings collected by L.B. Cowman who was a missionary with her husband in Asia many years ago.  They had to leave the mission field because of her husband's health, and return to the states.  There, for the next 6 years she watched her husband slowly die in much pain and suffering.  These collections are her searching for God and faith in that time of her life.  It was the means in which God comforted her when she didn't understand why God would remove them from the mission field, and why would he let suffering and death to someone she loved.

As horrid as it sounds that this storm in our community and most certainly in their family's life, God has control over it.  It makes you want to punch God in anger like a toddler against his daddy's chest, then when you run out of energy to do that, you begin to rest out of exhaustion.  You begin to remember who your Daddy is, His character, His trustworthiness, and you begin to see, He is just preparing the canvas.

He is about to do something great, and He's preparing the canvas for us to see.

 Already, I think this family is overwhelmed with comfort.  I think it caught us all off guard how it would draw such a large community of believers together.  I think the comfort to us all caught us off guard.  It came so quickly.  I saw one friend write something like: "If prayer is like incense, than there is a dense fog over our town tonight."

Then the fog actually, physically came.  I wonder if a fog of prayer has the same effect.  It came and whited out everything in site.  It brought to anticipation a rainbow of Spring God is going to paint before our eyes.  It once again reminded me that God sees every blade of grass.  He has a plan.  This did not catch Him off guard. He knows that when this is all said and done, regardless of outcome, we will gasp at the beauty of it.  We will see His glory.

I'm blessed to be a witness.

If you'd like to share your blessings, please share!  Leave a comment, or link your blog.  To link your blog:
-write a blog post about how God has been blessing you.
-put a link to this blog that people can follow to read more blessings posts.  You can use the button code in the right hand column if you like.
-link to your specific blog post below so that if someone reads it days later, they're reading the right post.