Friday, November 26, 2010

Edith Hats Galore

PatternEdith Hat, by Johanne Landin
YarnKnitPicks' Palette in White & Bluebell, about half a skein each.
Needles:  US 1 & US 2

I made this cute little hat for my mother-in-law, who I have been promising a hat to for quite some time.  I went with the idea of making something that I really wanted so that I knew for sure that it was a good gift.

The problem with this gifting philosophy is that while you're busily knitting away, you develop a sort of sadness that you will not be keeping the beautiful thing you are creating.  I would share my frustration at knit night as I plugged along--how beautiful the hat was and that I couldn't keep it and would have to suffer my way through the pattern yet again when I embarked upon knitting it for myself.  (I'm generally not the kind of person who starts a project for someone else and then decides to keep it for myself...I would feel guilty each time I wore "someone else's" project!)

So my knitting buddy made me one:
(And I totally stole the picture that she took of it for her Ravelry project page.  Hee hee!)
I almost cried when she casually flopped it onto the table and remarked that she had noticed that I seemed to really like the pattern and she figured that I'd appreciate it if she made one for me because Heaven knew when I'd be able to get to making one for myself. 

I was speechless.  (And that's hard to do to me.)  I still get a little choked up when I put this hat on each morning as I head out into the bitter winter wind.  Especially since I've worked through the pattern myself and know how time-consuming and challenging it is...what a wonderful gift. 

Bluebird did me the favor of modeling her grandma's hat for the blog.
Her verdict:  "It's so warm and toasty, Grandma will love it!"
Seeing how my mother-in-law isn't obsessed with knitting like myself, I don't think she'll get all emotional about her hat every time she wears it...because I'm pretty sure it's kind of weird that I do that and we just don't need any more weirdness like that in this world.  But hopefully it brings a smile to her face.  She has really pretty brown eyes and I think the blue will complement them ever so nicely.

It's just such a beautiful hat, it even has a picot edging!  Oh, just lovely.  If I didn't go cross-eyed while reading the pattern, I'd make a whole lot more.  Love it Grandma, love's destined to be a one-time-only creation.

(I wrote this post before I gave the hat to my mother-in-law and it turns out that I think she was pretty pleased with it.  And it fit quite nicely.  I'm kind of hit-and-miss with making things that actually fit other people.  Success!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekly Report: November 15-19, 2010
Bubbles & "Nazi Spider"

The time-based schedule is still working for us, but I think Bluebird is starting to figure out that if she dawdles even more, then the time will run out and she won't have to do any more work.  I've decided if she runs out of time because she's not working hard enough, then she'll finish the work later as homework.  If she runs out of time, but was working hard, then we'll continue with the work the next day.

Let's see, what is worth mentioning?

Obviously, the bubbles and the "Nazi Spider."

Science:  This is where the bubbles come into play.  We studied chemical reactions this week and did the much-enjoyed lemon-juice-into-baking-soda-water experiment.  The girls loved it and begged to do it over and over again.  And then they wanted to do it themselves while I filmed them, so they could make science videos.

You gotta wear your goggles when doing chemistry!

(I know, I know...she's not wearing her goggles.  You try getting a two year old to wear her goggles the entire duration of a science experiment.)
History:  We studied Ancient Africa.  I actually was prepared ahead of time for it.  Then the girls got sick and we didn't do about half of the stuff I prepared.  Argh.

Literature:  However, our study of literature follows our study of history and ancient Africa = Anansi the Spider, otherwise known as "The Nazi Spider" when our two year old tries to pronounce his name.  We settled down to read the most well-known Anansi book on Tuesday and the girls giggled and cheered for Anansi and his sons.  When we finished, all three of them begged to read it again and roared their approval when I acquiesced to their request.  When we finished the second read-thru, they pleaded for yet another reading.  It warms my heart to hear that, so I read it again.  Many times throughout the week I'd walk into a room to find a couple of them curled up together, reading through it again.  Last night alone, between Bluebird and myself, Junebug managed to have it read to her five times.  We read a lot of other tales about Anansi, but kept coming back to this one.

Everything Else:  Yeah, we did some of it.

Highlights of the Week:
  • Penguin is definitely "getting" this whole phonics thing!
  • Repeated requests for Anansi stories...I mean, really, that's the kind of thing that always brings a smile to a homeschooling mama's face.
Lowlights of the Week:
  • Penguin's illness making its way through the house.
  • Monkeyboy is still teething and still has to be held for every one of his waking minutes.  The whining just about drove me to the edge of my sanity.
Funnies of the Week:
  • Bluebird:  "Zombies like to eat plants.  They also like to break into your house and eat your brains.  That's why zombies are omnivores."
  • Junebug, upon Michael's return home from work, excitedly trying to explain the plot of Anansi the Spider with her heavy lisp.  Michael had no clue what she was talking about, but appreciated her enthusiasm over whatever she was trying to tell him.
The last week of our first session of school is officially complete!  It was a tough week to get through because I think we're all fighting off whatever illness Penguin has succumbed to.  We took two sick days simply because it was next to impossible to get through to them while they were so tired and irritable.  But we made it to a natural stopping point and we are all eagerly anticipating an entire week of baking and crafts!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bluebird's Winter Hat: Molly Beret

PatternMolly Beret from Never Not Knitting

Yarn:  Knit One Crochet Too "Crock-O-Dye" in Tomato colorway (#250) & Dale of Norway Baby Ull in Light Peach (#3403)

Needles:  US 1 & US 3

Size:  20"/Small Adult

I buy our winterwear during the summer when it's 80% off, which limits the colors we can purchase.  This year, Bluebird had to choose between white/gray, grass/lime or a peach/coral winter coat.  (She was not happy about this because she wanted pink or purple, but alas, those are the colors that sell out and usually aren't available on clearance.) 

However, the Brooke family is well-known for its love of the color orange and she went with the orange-hued parka.  Upon receipt of said coat I began to wonder how in the world I was going to match any sort of accessory to its non-traditional color palette.

Bluebird accompanied me on my Yarn Quest shortly following, and she spied the Tomato Crock-O-Dye yarn while we were investigating The Black Sheep Wool Company.  She brought it over to me and announced that she had found the perfect yarn to match her coat.  I agreed that it did match, and complimented her on her good eye for color.
Bluebird browsed through the Ravelry pattern database with me and chose the Molly Beret pattern, which just tickled me to no end.  (I think little girls in berets are just one of the cutest things ever!)  I paired up the Crock-O-Dye with some leftover peach Baby Ull from the Peach Yoked Cardigan and was quite pleased at how well the two yarns matched her crazy technicolor winter coat.

All in all, I really like the finished product.  I made it a touch too large, but her head measured 20" in circumference, which was the small adult size.  However, upon further reflection, one wants a hat to fit snugly and should therefore knit a cap one size smaller to assure a secure fit.  It still looks cute despite its super slouchy appearance.  She receives compliments on her beret every time she wears it and her little face just lights up with pleasure whenever someone notices her hat.  I have more than enough yarn leftover to knit mittens or a scarf, but I have other projects that need my attention first.  (And I'm already in the midst of a scarf knit with fingering weight yarn and I don't think my sanity could handle casting on another scarf in skinny yarn.)

A friend laughed at me when I told her about my predicament in trying to find a yarn that would match Bluebird's coat and quipped that not everyone frets about matching their children's accessories.  And I guess it's just not an issue to a lot of people, but I garner great satisfaction out of attiring my family nicely and I experience pleasure in knowing that I created those items myself.  It's such a fun process to pick out the yarn and pattern together and then watch your child's eyes light up while they watch you create something just for them. 

However, the other children become very vociferous with their requests for handmade items when a sibling's project is on my needles.  Next up is a scarf for Penguin.  But knit in a very bulky-weight yarn.  I can handle that.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekly Report: November 8-12, 2010

I really need to create a better banner for this, as I'm sick of this pea green thing.  (It's been on my to-do list for a few weeks now, so you can see how high of a priority it is to me.)

Alright, alright, another week of school completed!  It was a good week!

I switched from a task-based schedule to a time-based schedule, just to see what would happen; and I'm rather happy with the results.  Instead of only doing one lesson a day for Spelling, Bluebird can generally pump out 1.5 lessons in a fifteen minute period.  I think this will work nicely for her because she can now fly through the things that are easy, instead of having to go at the usual one-lesson-a-day pace that I was holding her down with.

I've also crammed Phonics, Grammar, Spelling and Handwriting into every day instead of two per day.  I've allotted fifteen minutes to each subject.  She's going to start moving ahead quickly.

Math:  Going good.  I'm trying to only do math for sixty minutes and then moving on to our other subjects, but it's hard to let a lesson stay undone!  I'm a big fan of the repetitive nature of Saxon Math because I want my children to memorize their math facts so they don't have to "think" about them.  It's time-intensive and I'm not willing to cut any more out of the meeting time than I already have cut.  She's a big dawdler when it comes to completing her worksheets, so that's what gets left undone by the end of the lesson.  I keep saying that she'll have to finish them later as homework, but then I forget.  Teacher fail.  I'll need to set some sort of reminder for myself to make her do her "homework."

Junebug likes to steal the Saxon K Math book from Penguin and do the lessons herself.

History:  We studied Ancient China this week.  I wish we had done a lot of cool stuff for it because I love Ancient China, but all we managed was painting our own pictograms, and making clay bowls that we will finish painting tomorrow.  (We have suddenly gone from being a two-car family to being a one-car family and this has seriously hampered my ability to procur supplies for school.)  I have big, big plans for the next time around.  Or perhaps we'll do a unit study next summer if we finish history early.

I did unearth some of my old college textbooks that I have been saving for this very point in time.  Bluebird especially liked the Cambridge Illustrated History of China for its pictures, and I was reminded of The Book of Songs (Shijing), which I will have to make a note to procur for when we study this time in the logic and rhetoric stages.  It's a collection of 305 poems written during the Qin period (primary source!); love poems, complaining poems, poems from peasant folk and aristocratic folk.  It's a great collection that really allows you a window to understanding everyday life during that time.  I wish I had remembered it beforehand, but there were enough excerpts from it in Illustrated History to appease Bluebird's interest.

Science:  We learned about molecules and made molecules out of marshmallows.   Not surprisingly, it was a lesson enjoyed by all.  

I have also decided to supplement our study of chemistry with Adventures with Atoms and Molecules and The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia.

Each Real Science 4 Kids lesson is easily completed within our one-hour science session, and there's only ten lessons in the book. We do science twice a week, and I'm not about to get done with this in only five weeks. We're going to stretch it out.

"Birthday Party for a Baby Triangle"
by Bluebird
Art:  We did some more work with watercolor crayons.  They were pretty happy about it.  We were challenged to draw a picture "that talks."  I don't think they grasped the idea too terribly well, but I don't care. 

by Penguin
I laughed a hearty chuckle when Penguin informed me that she was going to draw a house and I asked how that kind of a picture would "talk."  She responded with, "I will draw a mouth on the front door."

She ultimately decided to draw a picture of her dear old mother, and told me that her picture said, "I love you."  Sweet girl.

Highlights of the Week
  • Bluebird achieved her goal of reading 100 books.  Her personalized lunchbox has been ordered, and I'm sure there will be pictures to come.
  • Bluebird recited Omni 1:26 for her Primary President on Sunday and was rewarded with a rock candy stick that she ultimately gave to Junebug.
Lowlights of the Week:
  • Penguin battled a cold all week long and spent most of her time in bed, looking rather pitiful.
Funnies of the Week:

Michael informed me that we may have the opportunity (in the next few years, don't go and get excited for us yet) to re-locate for a few months to China in order for him to work more closely with his work's supplier.  I asked the girls what they thought of the possibility of living in China and received the following responses:
  • Penguin:  "China is where they have Panda Express!"
  • Bluebird:  "China is a good place for rice."
  • Junebug:  "Pandath ith methee."  (Pandas is messy.)
I'm so thankful for the opportunity to spend so much time with my children and hear all the cute things they say throughout the day!

Having said that, I am still looking forward to the weekend!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dressed for Church

I just found myself admiring my little family this morning, all dressed up so nicely for church, and I decided that I wanted a picture of them to remind me of the happiness I was feeling in my heart as I watched them get ready for church.  What a big handful of blessings we've received.

After we returned home, Michael went about his after-church ritual of taking off his suit jacket and tie and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt.  After he finished, he picked up Monkeyboy and did the same for him.  It made me laugh.  And it made me feel all the more thankful for our little boy and for the wonderful father he has, who takes the time to make him more comfortable.

My heart is just so full today and I wanted to share.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Weekly Report: November 1-5, 2010

I am officially letting go of the dream of a normal week of school.  I am not sad about this--I actually find it rather amusing.  Whatever.  Meh.  Yup.

Science:  Well, the big news in the Brooke house this week was that our science curriculum finally arrived.  Bluebird can't stop herself from chanting, "I get to learn chemistry, I get to learn chemistry..."  She also asks me incessantly about when we're going to make potions; specifically potions that can make you grow taller, grow stronger or be invisible.

We have to suffer through the introductory lessons of our curriculum and learn about observing and hypothesizing and all that annoying stuff that every science textbook begins with that threatens to drive me to tears with boredom.  Seeing how this is a book aimed at K-3ers, who generally haven't been exposed to the scientific method, I totally support this introduction.  I will behave and plug along cheerfully until we get to the good stuff.

MemorizationBluebird was victorious in her quest to memorize Omni 1:26.  After earning her reward, Penguin and Junebug became very interested in memorizing the scripture as well.  Penguin gave it one impressive effort, and I was rather surprised by what a four year old can recite when she's really motivated to do so.  However, the rules of memorization are simple in this house:  Say the whole thing, correctly, by yourself and you'll earn the reward.  I think Penguin will rejoice over her own peanut butter cup in a few weeks' time.

Sweet little Bluebird--after seeing how sad her sisters were over not getting their own peanut butter cups, she decided to share hers with them.
Phonics:  Penguin will use Phonics Pathways!  We have an elaborate "Catch Dewey" ritual that we embark upon each morning in which we go hunting, with Post-it notes as our ammunition.  It's great, riotous fun.  And it's paying off:  she sounded out her first two consonant "words" this week, "si" and "so."  Woo hoo, Reader #2 is underway!

Those are the highlights of the week, and everything else is just your basic day-to-day happenings.  We made messes and we cleaned them up.  Children cried and Mommy held them until they stopped.  We made meals and ate them while discussing the things that young children consider important.  We missed Daddy, who has had to work a lot right now to fulfill orders that will determine the future of his company.

Technically, a productive week.  I'm starting to eyeball that wonderful strip of paper tacked over the week of Thanksgiving that reads "SCHOOL BREAK."

We're scheduled to take a trip to the library today after we chauffeur a favorite college freshman to a doctor's appointment.  I was asked to procure some medicines for her late last night and run them up to her dorm, which is why today's a bit of a light day for us.  It's weird how happy it made me to do that.  And even weirder to see how much heartache that trip has created because it has made me realize how much I miss experiencing the day-to-day with my extended family.  At least I get a little taste of it for a few years now, right?

We're excited to study Ancient China next week.  I have a degree in history with an emphasis in the Han and Tang Dynasties, so anything Chinese history makes me super happy.  I'm hoping to imbibe in lots of calligraphy and pottery next week.  It should be a lot of fun for the girls.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween Costumes

I had no Halloween mojo this year.  I stated upfront that I wasn't spending more than ten dollars on costumes, so we needed to be creative when it came to assembling outfits.

All in all, I spent $10.62.  Bluebird's mummy costume consisted of three yards of unbleached muslin ($5.97) that I ripped into strips while watching a movie the night before, Penguin wore her penguin costume from last year (still haven't sewn the hood for it!), Monkeyboy wore a costume borrowed from one of our neighbors, and Junebug wore her Halloween pajamas.  (I did buy two yards of bleached muslin ($3.98) for Junebug to be a ghost; but, even though she had talked about being a ghost for months, she would not let me measure her for her costume.  She ended up staying home with me to pass out candy.)

I loved Bluebird's mummy costume!  She's just wearing a pair of pajamas underneath and I wound the strips of muslin around her and safety-pinned them to the pajamas as we went along.  It started falling apart soon into the actual trick-or-treating, but I figured it was OK for a mummy to have cloth trailing behind it.  And yes, her costume is inspired by the fact that we've been studying Ancient Egypt for the past while.  She saw a Cleopatra costume at the fabric store, but I simply said that I didn't have the time to sew it together.  I much preferred the low-stress approach to this year's Halloween.  I might just do it again next year.

Halloween done.  Next up is Thanksgiving.  I'm grateful that there's no costumes required for that holiday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Moment of Realization: I PREFER MOTHERHOOD

You know how a lot of us women will complain about a bad day or how hard something in regards to our marriage, our children, or our homes is?  And then we'll say something like, "But regardless of how hard it is, I'm thankful for [my husband/my children/being a stay-at-home mom]."

Honestly, I cringe when I hear those words.  They just rub me the wrong way; like the speaker is afraid to own up to the reality that her life is just plain hard at that moment and she's not happy.  It's like sugar-coating one's misery, which I think is completely ludicrous.

Being a mama is just plain tough sometimes.  I'm having my usual "six months post-partum I-have-absolutely-no-free-time-anymore" phase where I wake up feeling overwhelmed, drag myself through the day without any chance of catching up on anything, and then settle down at night to dream about all the things that I'm stressed out about.  I don't know why having a six month old baby makes life so difficult overnight.  Perhaps it's the whining, teething baby that wants to be held every minute of its wakeful existence.  Or the whining, "I-can't-reach-the-toy-that's-three-inches-away-Why-can't-I-get-to-it?" baby who is so close to learning how to crawl.  Or the whining, "Breastmilk-won't-fill-me-up-anymore-so-in-addition-to-the-two-hours-we-spend-on-breastfeeding-I-need-you-to-feed-me-pureed-foods-that-I-can't-keep-in-my-mouth-three-times-a-day" baby.  Or the three other children that I am parentally responsible for.

And I did it:  I slipped into the fantasy-world of "What would my life be like if I was just single and only responsible for myself?"  I imagined a world of much nicer clothing, a thinner body minus the pregnancy stretch marks and enormous boobs that make clothing shopping incredibly unappealing, time to participate in NaNoWriMo, time to just knit as long as I wanted to knit, silence, time to read a book from cover to cover, travelling...the list went on for quite some time.  I tried to remember my life back when I had all those things; tried to remember why in the world I had given all of it up...had I been duped?

And then I remembered why I decided that I wanted to pursue finding a spouse and starting a family:  I was alone.  I had tons of time for myself.  I did tons of stuff that I enjoyed doing, when I wanted to do it.  But my life felt hollow.  I wanted someone to share it with.  I was tired of always being by myself.

And God brought Michael to me within months.  Such a wonderful answer to my prayers.

At first, we were going to "wait" to have children...wait until school was done, or wait until...whatever, I can't even remember what the reasons were anymore.  But as I continued in my college studies, my heart just wasn't really into it anymore.  I was married, I wanted to move on with my life and become a mother.  I no longer wanted to be a doctor or a history teacher.

God fulfilled that yearning in my heart within a few months.  It was so difficult.  I learned so much and it brought Michael and I together in a way that we could never have achieved had we waited until parenthood was more convenient for us.

And now, ironically, I sometimes find myself wishing for that empty life I possessed so long ago.  (The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it?)  I ran into an adamantly-single friend who "has" time to embark on the creative pursuits I'd like to do right now...and after spending half an hour with her, I just wanted to get away!  I simply didn't care about the office politics she was talking about, and it wasn't very entertaining to hear about the plots of televisions shows she enjoyed watching.  I found myself wanting to go home to listen to my four year old babble about anything.  I craved the active atmosphere of my home and the company of my favorite, interesting people.  I preferred motherhood.

Not much later, I stumbled across a quote from the mother-author of The Well-Trained Mind that summed up my feelings:
"My children are the most creative project I have been involved in.  I can't compare the relationship I have with them to a relationship with a [hand woven] rug, no matter how beautifully hand-crafted.  And my crafting of their education has been life-enriching to all of us."
--Jessie Wise
My family, my home...they are my favorite project, my favorite people, my favorite place to be.  Yes, it is difficult and overwhelming at times--most of the time right now.  But it's such a short chapter of my life; in fact, someone pointed out to me that Bluebird's time at home is already 1/3 done.  It seems weird, but I was mildly devastated to realize that I only have twelve more years before she becomes an adult and moves away.  It makes no sense, rationally; but in my heart...oh, the angst.
I see parents who could not wait for their children to grow up and move out.  They are sorely regretting their attitude towards their children now because their children know that they were burdens to their parents.  Those same parents don't understand why they have poor relationships with their children.$  (Talk about ludicrous!)  Parenthood isn't something you suffer through and then reap the rewards of once your children become adults and become interesting to talk's a remarkably enriching experience of patience, love, forgiveness and understanding that you embark upon in order to nurture another soul along the path that will lead them to their life's mission.  It's an awesome responsibility, filled with both frustrating situations and overwhelming rewards.  You get out of it what you put into it.  It is the investment of your lifetime.

I'm in a difficult, exhausting chapter right now--the chapter of "Lots of Young Children and a Husband Who is Trying to Establish His Career."  But I wanted this.  Badly.  And now I have it.  It's beautiful and it's mine.  I love my overwhelming life, and I don't want to trade it back for my previous life of silence and unlimited crafting and reading.*

It's not ludicrous, sugar-coated misery.  It's Motherhood: the most difficult and challenging, best project you've ever been involved in.  Nothing else compares to it.  It's emotional and irrational...and it makes complete sense to its participant.  My life is a lovingly answered prayer.

*(Although, honestly, I will probably mentally flirt with the idea again in the future on the days when...well, you know.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hop on Mom

Monkeyboy was doing some tummy time the other day and I noticed that the light might make for a nice picture of him.  I left the girls with their worksheets and found my camera so I could snap a few shots of my lovable baby boy.

Unfortunately, it proved too tempting a distraction...

I turned the camera around to capture my attackers in action:

It was after that shot that I declared an end to all the madness.  We resumed school; the girls happy to have done some roughhousing with good ol' Mom, and I was happy to have got a good (smiling!) photo of my little Monkeyboy: