Saturday, October 8, 2016

There was always another baby.....


In 2005

I have tasked myself most-recently, in the wake of my oldest child's eighteenth birthday, of going through and organizing all our family photos.

The birthday parties.
The goofy moments.
The toothless faces.
And while looking through everything, I am seeing something in a different way.

There was always another baby.

I remember scrambling to pull off a summer zoo trip with the kids, my bump in the way, always in the way, and then baby pics to follow. The bump in the pictures doesn't always tell the real story - of morning sickness, of exhausted days, of illness, of waiting.
There was the kitchen remodel.  Garage racks full of our dishes and pots in the living room, kids playing around everywhere, and there, another newborn baby in the middle of the mess.
I went through a lot of pictures last week to find some for my husband's cousin, who was visiting.  He remarked that every time he came back to see us; 

There was another baby.

It hit me.  It's true.  I had never thought about it in quite that way.  We got pretty good over the years of making room for another little one, in some ways, even being pretty cavalier about it: by the time our last little one, #6 came, I was unworried about just about everything - where to put the baby, what they baby really needed, what the latest gadgets were (who cares?) etc. 

But, looking through all those pictures, I know that even in the middle of the tough stuff, I loved every single minute of it all.  Every baby smile, every first step, those little words, those first teeth, those school field trips.

Then later on the music concerts, the soccer games, the summer car trips.
Now it's the driving lessons, the dating scene for my older kids, marching band, and watching them become these amazing people: with the best and worst of you somewhere inside of them. 

There is so much craziness.  The full calendar, the occasional fights, the clothes that they will outgrow in a just month or two, the fridge that empties itself magically every couple of days. 
Sometimes during the stress of all this teenager stuff, I dry my tears while snuggled-up to my two-year-old, and remind myself how fast it all goes by.

Thank goodness, there's still another baby. 

I'm so grateful for this extraordinary, jumbo-size family and larger-than-life experience.  But after writing this, I suddenly feel like I need a very long nap.

Happy 18 Naomi. Every day with you was a cherished privilege, and I can't wait to see what you'll do and where you'll go.  And as you break my heart by growing up and moving on, thank goodness:

There's still another baby. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Roses and Remembering

Wild Foxlove
These lovely photos are the result of everything else pretty much falling apart. 
It's been a month. Water heater problems, coughs and colds, dog sprayed by a skunk, landed myself in the ER (much better now), meetings, birthdays, races, crazy. One kid nearly set our house on fire right before everybody came over for BBQ. It goes on. This week, I sat for a moment, silently praying to thank God for how wonderful it all truly is. Because even with the crazy it truly is. With the dynamic of our family shifting to the teenage years, it had been a few years since we'd all trekked ourselves over to Chuck E Cheese for a birthday. This month, we went to celebrate my daughter's sixth birthday. I can remember so many times going to Chuck E Cheese with my little kids that are now big teenagers.  We all got to take a step back and remember how short a good childhood is.

We also managed to make a visit to the Granpa's grave.  We still miss him, and we try to keep the memories alive for our kids as long as we can.

And then there's the roses.  Between all the mishaps, injuries, and illnesses; the quiet knitting needles, and the masses of unfinished laundry, I have squished in some time for one of my passions:  Old Roses.  I keep reading books about old lost heirloom roses, found in old cemeteries, or old forgotten European gardens, or along old homesteads or cabins. They read like detective novels.  Then of course, as I drive the kids to school, to scouts, to everything, I've been taking old country roads, and making discoveries of my own. I've been finding wild roses, and antiques, planted long ago, along dusty old roads, and in some private local gardens. Their names haunt me:   Ispahan, Belle Isis, Souvenir de la Malmaison, Queen of Denmark, Celestial, Great Maiden's Blush, Autumn Damask.  They are all fragrant in a way that no modern rose is - the smell is intoxicating!  In my own rose beds, I'm planting the newer David Austin English varieties that are bred to look old.  There's almost nothing that the smell and sight of a rose can't cure, at least for me. 

Long ago, roses were often cultivated for their healing properties, and they were always included in the old monastery gardens for that purpose.  This month, they've healed me.  And oh, how I've needed those roses this month!

Gertrude Jekyll and Abraham Darby

Munstead Wood

Wild Mutiflora Rose



Mystery rose from some private gardens

Mystery old rose found on the side of a road

Flower heads left after taking old rose cuttings

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bittersweet Spring


There's nothing like sitting out here in the middle of a grove of Cedars during some powerful March wind.  It comes through the grove in a big roar, an almost frightening, primal sound, but a lovely one as well.  The soft and flexible cedar branches bend easily in the wind, and their lace-like fronds seem to dance and shimmer each time it blows.
March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, they say.

It has been a turbulent March for us as well.
Why do I trick myself into thinking things will ever settle down and become a little easier, or quieter, or less hectic? 
They don't.
And being part of a family, at least this family, means that while we wade through really tough stuff, we are also stopped dead in our tracks with the hilarious, the heartfelt, and the sweet. The fact that all this can happen within the same five-minute stretch of time never ceases to amaze me.  (Am I happy, yes, am I sad, yes, am I heartbroken, yes, am I laughing, yes, every single day, every single hour.)

Then a glimpse of rare spring sunshine comes through and everyone is giddy for a day. We are suddenly to be found picknicking on a blanket under a blooming tree.  No matter our age or stage, or what was on that 'to-do' list, we find ourselves playing outside, working outside, checking on things outside; suddenly needing to do anything and be everything out-of-doors.

I find myself confronting both the realities of a really difficult life and the great blessings of it all at once. It all just seems a little weird and changeable. I guess that's a little bit like Spring. 
New things are growing here around every corner.  Daffodils, primroses, camellias, cherry blossoms.  There is a lot of dirt and mud and rain.  The nights are still cold, too cold for the big bulk of garden plants and flowers, but the buds are all appearing.
My kids are growing up too.  Some days they bloom like flowers, other days, let's just say are pretty muddy - and there are lots and lots of storms, as they grow up and as we grow into parents and we all struggle to figure out this really hard growing-up stuff. 

All the good and the bad all at once  - so bittersweet.
Such is my bittersweet spring.

Also, I painted my very ugly front door blue.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Row by Row Help for the Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Sweater on Two Needles

It felt really good to get this one out of my system.  By that, I mean, that I have wanted to knit this little sweater for a long time.  My copy of Knitter's Almanac is well-worn from baby longies, a half-finished pie shawl(still), some attempted Norwegian mittens, and some wonderful reading.

In progress

I'd assumed it would be simple to knit, but when I finally cast on, I realized the directions were a little sparse.  I did lots of research on Ravelry, and from everyone's help I made it through pretty well.  Only one frog, at the very beginning.
I thought I'd post some notes here for anyone else knitting this sweater.

Row by Row help (not the pattern) for Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Sweater on Two Needles

Note: For this sweater, I chose to make it completely seamless, and took suggestions to knit the sleeves in the round.  This also avoided a messy cast on mid-project, and made the whole sweater seamless!

Buttonholes:  BEFORE you begin, you need to make a button-hole decision.  If you look at lots of projects on Ravelry you can decide if you want buttons on the yoke only, or buttons all the way down the sweater.  Every 8 rows gives you three on the yoke, Every 8th ridge (that's two rows) gives you only two on the yoke, and continuing that spaces them well down the rest of the sweater.  So look and decide FIRST.

Cast on the # of stitches in the pattern. 
Rows 1-3 work in garter stitch
Row 4: (First button hole row for my example)  K2 edge stitches, K2, M1, then Knit to end.
Row 5 - 8 as per pattern.
Row 9 (Increase Row, as per pattern.)
Row 10 -17 (as per pattern)
Row 18 Increase row
Row 19 (change to gull lace pattern) K4, pattern row 1 to the last 4 sts, K4.
Row 20 (buttonhole row) K2 edge stitches, K2, M1, pattern row 2 to the last 4 sts, K4.
(This was my last buttonhole, but if you are continuing down the sweater, you will repeat this buttonhole row every 16 rows.) 

At this point the pattern is pretty straightforward until you get to the sleeves.  You will continue in pattern, until the sweater is 4 1/2 inches long. 

Divide for Sleeves:
Next Row:  Knit in pattern for 25 stitches, put the next 28 stitches on a spare piece of yarn, Knit the next 42 stitches in pattern, put the next 28 stitches on a spare piece of yarn, Knit the next 25 stitches in pattern. 

At this point: Take a note of what pattern row you finished, as this will be your next row when you continue to knit the sleeves later on.

Next Row: Knit along the body as per pattern, until the body is complete, following the pattern cast off suggestions at the end. 

Go back for sleeves.
First sleeve:  Slip 14 stitches off your spare yarn onto a double pointed needle, then the next 14 stitches onto another dpk.  In the gap, pick up either 7 or 14 stitches (I did 7, but the pattern calls for 14) onto another dpk.  Join your yarn, and continue with the pattern row that you noted before, and knit the sleeve in the round, until the sleeve length designated in the pattern. Be sure to remember that in the round, your purl rows are knitted. 

Repeat for second sleeve.  Weave in ends.  You are done!
I hope I got this right and it all makes sense.  Please feel free to comment below if you don't understand something, or if I need to correct my notes.

Usually, I'll knit a project, and then I'll look for a cute outfit to match.  In this case, I fell in love with a baby dress at Peek, and then decided that it needed a sweater!

Liberty of London prints are my favorite!

Our classic tree-branch buttons from the cedars

Back view

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

No More Resolutions

It all started with a list.  Last month I was very preoccupied with all the things I wanted to do this new year. They were all good things, some things I wanted to learn, some personality traits I wanted to improve. I made a list.

I pondered the list for a few days, wondering where I should focus my energy.  But the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized I was already at maximum capacity. I am navigating the family control center.  It is a busy place, with diapers, and dishes, and teenagers, and special-ed.

I decided, you know what, I'm good enough. 
I am doing enough.
I just need to keep doing my best.
(This sounds like something my good Mom would say.)
I crumpled up my list and threw it away.

Last year for January family night, we all sat down as a family and wrote down resolutions.  This year, no longer being in resolution mode myself, I had another inspired idea.

I was going to do this for my kids, for some family harmony, and on principle.

We gathered as a family, and I handed out pencils and cards.  I asked the kids to keep their cards private, but to write down the name of every person who had offended them or hurt them or done something to them this year.  Including among our own family members.  If they wanted they could write down the thing that bothered them too.

And then we got some flames going in the fireplace, and we burned each card, one by one.  While we burned them we said these words, some of us silently, but the words were,

 I forgive all of you.

To be honest, I didn't think this would really work.  Forgiveness has always been such an elusive thing for me. I'm a grudge-holder. I'll think I have truly let something go, only to find myself stewing about it later, and frustrated with myself. 

So, in fairness, I warned the kids, This might not work, and you might still feel some pain or anger later on, and that's ok.  But it's also ok to try. And it's ok to need help from the divine.

One by one the cards burned.  Simple.  Easy.  Almost, too easy.  I didn't really think about it.  Didn't analyze it, as I have in the past.  Just did it, cause the kids were doing it, and didn't want to make too big of a deal out of it.

A couple of weeks went by for me, full of our usual busy-ness. A beautiful peacefulness has crept up slowly upon me.  I feel a softness that is unusual for me, especially considering my stress level right now.  It's a little easier to tame my temper.  I feel a little less upset at the world, and well, happier.

Somehow, during our little ritual, I found some extra peace I was not expecting.  Peace that I would've paid lots of money for had I realized it was so easy.  I think I always made things too complicated before.  Or I didn't make an attempt to forgive because I assumed I would fail, so why try. 

Of course, I have no guarantees that this will last, but I do know, that a regular ritual of Forgiveness is going to be part of my life.  Most especially, it will be a part of our starting each new year: a new tradition.

What better way to start a new year, then to let go of last year's baggage?  Seems a better way to get a fresh start on the year then to make an impossible list. 

Here's to a Hopeful New Year for me, full of seed catalogs, and garden books, and knitting patterns in the queue.  I may, or may not, get to all these things I hope to do.  I am okay with that.