Tuesday, February 25, 2014


What did you do today?

What are you going to do today?

Those are probably two of the hardest questions for me to answer. When I worked a full-time job, they weren't always easy to answer, especially if the person asking knew nothing about database administrator, but in my head there was a concrete answer, even if it was difficult to articulate.

Now that I've been a stay-at-home mom for 3 years (and I truly can't believe it's been that long), my head immediately answers those questions with a bit of a snarky thought along the lines of, "What do you want to hear about first? The litany of messes I cleaned up today, or the baking I accomplished?"

When there are small children at home all day, the monotony can be similar, but at least there is the accomplishment of keeping a small child alive and well for another day. When your kids spend all day at school, a stay-at-home mom can really start to question her value. Or at least I have.

Ultimately, I don't know that I have anything profound to say on this topic. I just wanted to share for anyone who might feel alone in this situation. Now that my kids are mostly tweens/teens, the value of being a stay-at-home mom can feel even less than when you have small children who need your help with homework or want to share about their day. I do think that teens need a parent around who is interested and cares whether they would ever admit this or not.

One thought that I will share is that you really do have to find joy in the doing. I don't make granola bars for an after-school snack hoping that someone will be particularly appreciative for that gesture. In fact, I'm just as likely to hear, "Granola bars AGAIN." The value of the gesture is not defined by the gratitude of the recipient, or lack thereof. The same notion holds true of staying home in service of your family. My value in working here at home, whether I'm cleaning the bathroom, canning spaghetti sauce for a future dinner, or planting yet more succulent shoots into empty yogurt cups, is not defined by whether someone outwardly appreciates that fact. My value is in the doing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

making do

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Ah...the mantra of every man, woman, and child of the Great Depression. Not as much of a mantra for the Gen X, Gen Y, or Millenials, although you do hear a similar sentiment in the "going green" movement. I grew up with a bit of this mentality, and it has definitely carried over into my adult life. Our cloth napkins are a perfect example. They've been a part of our family for longer than Finn; many of them are stained and worn, yet they remain in constant circulation. (Although we do keep a few nicer ones tucked away for guests and holidays.)

Last year, I wrote briefly about the little farmstead we put an offer on and how that fell apart. I didn't wallow much in this space, or even outside of this space, because I'm not much of a wallower. I think that my heart wallowed more than I was willing to admit though. I found myself looking at houses with land in our area for hours and hours through the months of April and May of last year. Finally I admitted to myself that this didn't seem to be the path we were supposed to follow right now because the right place had not manifested itself since the first little farmstead that captured our hearts.

And so, for months and months, little things started languishing in the house where we currently live. Nothing huge. I just could seem to think about updating the paint in the dining room here when we might be moving somewhere else. Wouldn't that be a waste of time and energy?

Somewhere around September of last fall, I finally had a stern conversation with myself. The kids were still asking occasionally if we were going to move. I only had vague answers for them. Other folks who knew about our plans would ask. I would feel somewhat rankled to have to keep answering those questions. A decision needed to be made. Not a decision on which house to buy. A decision to make do. We felt like this was the perfect place to raise our family back we had only 3 small children. Our family has grown, and those children are now teens. If it doesn't feel like a perfect fit right now, then what can we do to make it a better fit?

This new mentality was part of the driving force in the crazy decision to redo each of the kids' bedrooms for Christmas. (You can see the results here, here, and here.) And since Christmas, I've been slowing working my way through other spaces that have been less than perfect, making them fit our needs better. The laundry room and Paulie's closet have been reorganized, and we just bought the necessary parts to get our jetted tub back in working condition. In the next month we have projects slated to make new curtains and paint the dining room, to build a shelf to reorganize and create more storage for the canning jars, to clear some of the brush from our back fence that is shading the garden.

Through each of these projects and through the conversations as a family about our plans to stay here, I feel myself growing more content, more objective, more peaceful in our life here at this house. Maybe one day those plans will change, maybe they won't. But not one more minute will be wasted in expectation. Making do is much more soothing for the soul, and that's more important than the perfect farmstead anyway.

Friday, February 14, 2014

on Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day might be one of the most low-key we've ever celebrated. Not that we usually celebrate in a big way, but being snowed in certainly puts a natural limit on the festivities. Finn has already worked hard on his Valentine bookmarks for his classmates. They won't receive them today, but they'll be ready when he finally makes it back to school.

We found this cute printable with 8 different bookmarks, printed them, cut them out, punched holes in the top, and tied thin grosgrain ribbon to the top of each, then Finn signed the back of each bookmark. A lovely alternative to the homemade Valentine's card, I think.

As for my gift, I rose early this morning to finish the remaining toe of my husband's Valentine socks. They were kind of a last minute idea so I've spent much of the last week working on them. Tweedy green socks make for a good Valentine gift. We have to keep the toes toasty for these last few weeks of winter!

My boy and I also plan to have a grand time on this beautiful sunny day full of glittery snow. We will undoubtably spend a fair amount of time enjoying the snow remaining outside. The temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s next week so we won't have long to enjoy our southern snow.

But for today there are many inches waiting to be sledded, with a nice layer of ice on top for speed.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

::right now::

::smiling over the pink sugar cookies made with my favorite cookie cutter::

::baking some love cookies::

::experimenting with beet pancakes::

::bringing out the festive Valentine's banner::

::preparing for an upcoming snowstorm::

::making Love words to hang over our kitchen table::

Monday, February 10, 2014

raising a reader of classics

I've heard many people in the blogiverse mention this in passing, and now apparently, my time has come as well. Teenagers don't fancy being featured on their parents blogs! Imagine that! Actually, mine don't complain too much about my photographing family events or activities, but they do not want to be the sole subject of any photograph. I've yet to be asked not to talk about them in this forum, and I typically don't delve much into their privacy anyway. So instead of cute photos of teens reading fabulous books, you get a stack of books on a desk, or a bed, since you wouldn't want to see the death stare of one of my adorable teens NOT reading a book because they're busy glaring at me.

Back to the topic at hand! I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers on the topic of raising a reader of classics. I do, however, want to share a few observations I've made in the last few months. (years?)

I did not grow up reading very many classics. For a few reasons. I did read the Little House books, Pilgrim's Progress, and a few of The Chronicles of Narnia. Those are really the only classics I remember having any exposure to as a child or teen. I switched schools just before 11th grade, and suddenly, I was reading The Scarlet Letter, Our Town, A Tale of Two Cities, and Shakespeare. I was intrigued by a little, frustrated by much, and bored by some of what I read. As I grew older and started reading more complex books on my own, I recognized that I missed some of the crucial reading-growth links between light childhood reading and those classics of my later high school years.

As I had my own kids, I, of course, surrounded them with books when they were little, some quality, some just fun, but beginning when they could sit with me for 10 minutes or so without having to look at pictures, I would read aloud to them from chapter books, often from chapter books that were just a tiny bit above what they could easily grasp. Of course, as you read aloud to multiple kids, what might be spot on or a tiny bit above what the oldest can grasp is leaps and bounds above what the younger children can grasp, but as a pattern of listening developed for them, their ability to process, at least most of what they heard, increased exponentially. I often had 2-3 different books going, depending on who was listening. And by now, many, if not all, of our kids have heard everything from Just So Stories and Swiss Family Robinson to Anne of Green Gables and Little Women to The Call of the Wild and A Christmas Carol. This in addition to the plethora of new release books we read, as well as whatever they are reading at school, which is also progressing as they move through the grades.

In the last 2 years, each of the oldest 3 kids have read The Hobbit on their own, which, of course sparked an interest in The Lord of the Rings. Philip is only 11 so he hasn't started them yet, but Paulie read all of The Lord of the Rings series over last summer as well as The Silmarillion and several of the history of Middle Earth books. He then wanted to move on to Beowulf. For Christmas we bought him a copy of the Seamus Heaney bilingual edition as well as a graphic novel version to read along at the same time. (I'm a firm believer that a good graphic novel version of a classic can spark a level of earlier understanding that might be otherwise difficult to attain.) Elizabeth also received a graphic novel version of Homer's Odyssey for Christmas, which she devoured in only a few days, and then passed on to Paulie to read. Elizabeth also received a graphic novel copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with the original text of the play, for her birthday. She's still working on A Midsummer Night's Dream, but she has mentioned to me a few times already how helpful the graphic novel is at understanding exactly what's happening when the language is unclear for her.

Just last weekend, I took Paulie with me to our local used bookstore to turn in some books for credit. While the shop worked on our books, he looked for the next Ranger's Apprentice book, a series with which he's currently obsessed. When he didn't have any luck, he came to me with used copies of both Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, and queried, "I've been meaning to read these so can I get them instead?" (My mind screamed Hooray! but teenagers typically don't appreciate that.) "Of course," I replied.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Elizabeth's birthday sweater

Back when I made the Shalom sweater for myself, Elizabeth tried it on and declared that she'd like one for herself. She hasn't been much into sweaters lately, so I am happy to accommodate any request of knits from her.

I ordered the Biggo yarn from Knit Pick in Calypso Heather, which is a color that she currently loves and chooses to wear quite often. I kind of wish I'd just gone with a heavy worsted or aran weight though. My sweater was knit with Madeleine Tosh Chunky, which isn't an overly thick yarn. The bulkier yarn just made the sweater a little bigger, something thin Elizabeth doesn't really need. I guess it gives her room to grow though.

Last January when I took Elizabeth to NYC for her 12th birthday, she picked this beautiful glass button out at Tender Buttons. It was easily the most expensive button I've ever purchased at a whopping $10 for the lone button. We decided back then that it needed a special project. It's been sitting in my button box for the last year, and I decided without telling her that this birthday sweater would be that special project.

With a week left to go before Elizabeth's actual birthday, I ran out of yarn on the bottom trim of the sweater and had to order another skein. (I blame the thickness of the yarn that it ran out too quickly! I bought the recommended amount!) The final skein came just the afternoon before her birthday which caused a frantic knitting session after she went to bed that evening.

Fortunately, it was completed and wrapped with her other gifts for her birthday celebration. And I now have three-quarters of a skein remaining for something else, if she chooses. Overall I'm very happy with how it turned out, and the fact that she's actually wearing it. Success!