1. This French music cd that Paul gave me for Valentine's Day. I've listened to it nearly every day since then. Even the kids are starting to waltz and make French-sounding humming noises. That alone makes it something worth loving. (Oh yeah, it also came from Starbucks, but we're going to overlook that point.)
2. Authentic chai tea from Earthbound Arts, a local shop with all manner of wonderful pottery, felt, soaps, paper art, hand-blended teas. I always liked chai tea, but never loved chai until I had this chai. I don't know if it's the fresh spices, but the taste is so much richer. Mmmm...
3. Figuring out this knitting thing. I'm tackling learning to purl now that I've gotten the knit stitch down pretty well. Purling doesn't come as natural to my fingers, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.
4. Reading The Secret Garden with Elizabeth. On the nights that Paulie and Philip are with their mom, Elizabeth and I have been reading The Secret Garden together. I especially love the illustrations in this version that I stumbled upon at the Strand in NYC last year. Elizabeth is captivated with Mary's interaction with the bird and the small growth she discovers in the garden, probably because Elizabeth has been similarly drawn to nature since she was small.
5. Reading This Organic Life in my spare (ha!) time. There is something fascinating to me about this couple who purchases their homestead based on the gardening potential. The house is merely a secondary, if necessary, consideration. Joan Gussow's journaling of preparing the land, testing various crops, and adventures in razing the existing house and eventually building an new house are endlessly fascinating to this suburban mom. Maybe one day I'll actually have the time to devote to gardening, especially for food, that I desire.
I hope you have a peaceful weekend and find something to love in it.
After attempting to learn to knit on my own last year, I finally broke down a took a knitting lesson at a local yarn shop. Actually, Elizabeth and I took a lesson together on a day off from school last week. I finally seem to get the hang of casting on, knitting, and casting off. Yippee! Now I can expand my yarn creations from crochet only. Finn has become increasingly interested in participating in working with yarn. He adopted my first washcloth-like knit piece as his practice piece.
Now that I've gotten the basics down, I got this book from the library to help push my skills a bit further. I was a little bit afraid of the adult books so I thought Kids Knit! might be less intimidating, since I have no desire to frustrate myself to the point of giving up again. This book as some really simple projects geared toward practicing which is exactly what I need.
As for Elizabeth, she was so intense in her effort that she ended up with really tight stitches making every stitch a struggle. She's decided to take a break and maybe we'll take another lesson later in the spring or summer. In the meantime, I've ordered the knitting mushroom from Three Sisters Toys to give her a bit of push in the right direction with out the pressure and tension of the needles.
The fuzzy darkness with peaks of faint color reminded me
of this poem in the Wendell Berry book
I gave Paul for Valentine's Day.
To Know The Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
On another note, Philip came home from school with this thick paper. He had drawn a picture on one side and carefully mapped puzzle lines on the other side. He trimmed them out carefully then set to work putting together the puzzle he'd crafted.
I thought he did a fantastic job and the finished product was slightly remniscent of an earlier puzzle we worked together.
Paul and Philip go to an arts magnet school and Elizabeth attends a charter school based on arts education. I thought I'd spotlight what they've been working on lately in school. Paul has been working on a pottery project, which of course, takes time to complete, so I'll have to return to that at a later date when it finally makes it's way home.
Philip's Van Gogh
(painting/drawing to music, then chopping up and reassembling)
This next photo has nothing to do with school art, but I couldn't help but share. Elizabeth and I stumbled upon a wonderful Oscar Wilde short story turned children's book named The Star Child. The copy we found at our local library is apparently out of print, but Amazon has an updated version with a different illustrator. Elizabeth was enchanted by this beautiful book!
While the older 3 kids were at their other parents for the weekend, Paul, Finn and I spent some time with my brother and his family down in Charlotte. Our newest family member, Aren, was just learning how to smile and what a treat it was to be around to watch him practice his latest trick.
Finn and Aidan enjoyed some cousin time and were such a delight to watch playing together. They've recently begun to actually play together rather than just in the vicinity of one another. I think that means we need to get them together more often now.
A cousin is a ready-made friend for life. ~Anonymous
Finn's beloved "mar-balls" have a new home. We gave him an empty coffee can with a plastic lid with a small hole in the top to drop the marbles through. Voilà! New favorite toy...or maybe just an enhancement to an old favorite toy. Either way, it's scarcely left his hands in the last 3 days. Maybe I should let him paint the can to make it more official?
It's been quite some time since I talked about what we're reading so I thought I'd post an update on the books in each of our hands lately. As a family, we're reading through Little House on the Prairie. The older 3 kids seem alternately intrigued, bored, apprehensive and captivated as we move through the story. I'd forgotten how much detail is given about things like the front door Pa builds and how spooky it felt during the description of the cabin surrounded by wolves. In all, it's greatly enjoyed so we'll probably watch the pilot episode of the Little House show when we're finished since it follows the book fairly closely.
Paulie has been informed by his third grade teacher that his reading skills surpass the level of books he's been choosing to read lately so in an effort to push him a bit, Paul picked out a Wrinkle in Time, which he remembered enjoying quite a bit as a kid. I can't say that Paulie was thrilled when he started, but he's enjoying it more now that he's further into it. I think finding the balance between pushing him a bit on his reading choices while still letting him read Diary of a Wimpy Kid books on a regular basis is going to be key in avoiding giving him a distaste for forced books while expanding his horizons a bit.
Elizabeth received The Hundred Dresses for her birthday and decided to pick it up last week. She was intrigued, of course, by the notion of 100 dresses, but within 2 chapters confronted me saying, "I thought you said this was a good book? These girls are mean, mean, mean to her; they just tease!" I, of course, encouraged Elizabeth to keep reading to see if the story would get better. By the end, Elizabeth still wasn't sure if she liked the book or not. She was relieved the girls weren't as mean anymore but still concerned about Wanda. Maybe a less heavy book is in order next.
Our fledgling reader, Philip, has immersed himself nearly every night this week in Go, Dog, Go and similar Dr. Seuss easy readers like One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. His teacher mentioned a few weeks ago that he's one of the better readers in his class and we've seen his reading soar since the beginning of kindergarten. He's just starting to get to the place that books with common words, like Go, Dog, Go, can be read with some fluency. I think he's pretty thrilled with his new reading skills.
Finn has 2 favorites that have been frequent readers over the last week or two. He's really been fascinated with colors lately and trying to name the colors so the concentration on that in My Many Colored Days has captured his attention. He's also been very partial to reading Time For Bed every evening as part of his bedtime routine. Mama rather enjoys reading that one as well. Elizabeth also adored this book at this age so it's partly sentimental and partly just a really sweet book.
While Paul was out of town this weekend, Elizabeth, Finn and I decided to venture out to the local sheep farm for their Shearing Day. Finn likely doesn't remember coming last year as a family when he was barely toddling, but Elizabeth remembered and came with box in hand to store the feather collection she was intent to find.
Finn had almost as much fun chasing the chickens as watching the sheep. He also tried to climb in the coop when he heard all the clucking going on in there. Something tells me he'd be quite the handful if we lived on a farm.
Several baby lambs were born in the last week. They were extremely cute and hard to resist touching even as the mama sheep gave us suspicious glances.
Elizabeth was rather satisfied with the feathers she found lying around the farm. She seems to remember there being more last year, but she was content to settle for these. I'm sure Paul will be thrilled when he returns to find the threat of bird flu hanging out in Elizabeth's room again. He's not, exactly, what you would call a lover of random bird feathers.
In all it was a wonderful morning. Elizabeth and Finn had a fantastic time frolicking around the farm, and Mama bought some gorgeous local wool. I guess I'll have to decide what wooly goodness to make now.
One of the first things we did to this house upon purchase was to paint almost the entire downstairs in vibrant color. Paul and I are not fans of the institutional-looking off-white that most houses are painted, and we wanted a house that would reflect our taste. Little did I know that almost as soon as we painted our downstairs bathroom Pale Purple, which is a slightly lighter shade of the Pageant Pansy that covers our living room walls, I would regret the choice. Not the color so much as the type of paint. We like the matte look of flat paint, but having 3 then 4 kids in that bathroom almost constantly means that there were ALWAYS streaks on the walls from water, hand prints from sticky fingers before washing, and general messiness. It drove me absolutely nuts. So here this week of Valentine's Day, my wonderful husband gave me a lovely gift...he painted SEMI-GLOSS Pale Purple in our bathroom. Already, the semi-gloss is proving to be an easier cleanup, and I couldn't be happier with that! To top it all off, apparently Lowe's carries a line of No-VOC paint in semi-gloss so we didn't have to drive all over town trying to find paint that wouldn't off-gas toxic fumes into our house. Now that is a good thing!
When he was done painting, Paul decided to make a weird paint design on his hands. I can't figure out where the kids get this stuff!!
There were about 3 other things on my mind yesterday to blog about, but I'm afraid that there are precious few nice weather days left before the February chill comes back, so when Finn pleaded for "outside" as soon as we walked in the door yesterday afternoon, I couldn't help but accomodate him. Wednesdays are Mommy and Finn evenings while the older kids are in various other places so I always enjoy being able to let him pick the activity and then to focus solely on him for a few minutes.
Finn thought 'what good is a mommy outside if she can't hang out in the clubhouse of the play structure with you.' So up I climbed to sit with him in the clubhouse.
Have I mentioned how much I love these Shufs from Simple Shoes? I fell in love with them more than a year ago and when I saw them on clearance at Rei.com I couldn't resist.
After watching Finn slide down and climb back up quite a few times, we decided to head in the house for dinner. He happily left the yard and remained in a fantastic mood the rest of the evening.
What a joy it will be when spring comes to stay and we can spend many more afternoons this way!
One of my very favorite bloggers, who I have been reading since Elizabeth was only 18 months old, is Catherine Newman of Babycenter's Bringing Up Ben and Birdy. She now writes for family.go.com (formerly Wondertime) as the Dalai Mama. She posted this recipe less than 48 hours ago and now I'm posting about it; I needed to try it that badly. I mean, how can you resist any recipe that begins with chocolate and coffee sitting in a bowl together?
I only made a half-recipe since I didn't want extra cupcakes around beckoning me. Waxed paper was used to create the heart spaces.
The cupcakes were thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. We'll definitely be adding these to the holiday rotation. I might even be able to come up with other holiday shapes. Hmmm...
Finn is turning into quite the fun little guy. I think the 2s is one of my favorite ages for playing, you know, when they aren't freaking out and crying over something that, try as you might, makes no sense when they say it through the whining. We had lots of time for playing this weekend since we didn't venture out of the house/yard much due to Finn's random fever. He discovered this cape and hat hanging in his closet so I helped him dress up and found a wooden wand to complete the outfit. His "sar sick" (that would be "star stick" to the rest of us) has become a new favorite toy to drag along everywhere he goes. He doesn't quite understand what it means to pretend to be something, but he did enjoy strutting around in his fancy "sar" clothes.
PS. Yes, he has a big head that refused to allow the hat to be crammed down far enough to actually stay on his head very well.