yarn along

DSC_0133I finished the Advent mittens for the kids, but decided to give them to them tomorrow for St. Nicholas’ day.  I’ve printed off some coloring sheets and we’ll make some Christmas cookies as we learn about who St. Nicholas was.  I thought it would be fun for them to have a little something to open on that day.

I need to get started on Noah’s birthday sweater, as his bday is quickly approaching, but while I wait to get the yarn I cast on some mellow shorts for baby girl.  I’ve been dying to cast this on and all I want to knit is baby knits!  🙂  But Noah has asked for a red sweater, and he truly enjoys my hand knits so I can’t resist making him something for his birthday.  I just visited my favorite yarn store today to get yarn for him and will hopefully cast on sometime later today/tonight.

Also, the needle case pictured was a birthday gift from Brandon (though I picked it out) from the etsy shop Pea Pod Thread and I love it.  My only complaint is that I can’t really fit my fixed circulars in there, and definitely no DPNS so I still feel like I need another case for organizing those.  My knit picks interchangeable needles are very happy, though, to have a new home, after the plastic case they came in was completely torn.

I’ve been really enjoying the first week of Advent readings from this book, Hallelujah, by Cindy Rollins.  Her book, Mere Motherhood, has been one of my very favorites.  This one journeys through the scripture and music of Handel’s Messiah, which we have been doing together in the mornings.  We still spend evenings in Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift while the kids color corresponding ornaments to decorate our little wooden Jesse tree.  I grew up listening to Handel’s Messiah every Christmas and it holds a special place in my heart, so it is exciting to share it with the children, even if it may be a bit over their heads.

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a big girl

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The day before Thanksgiving was Philippa’s third birthday.  Being that all of our children thus far have birthdays around the holidays, we often struggle with how to celebrate both Christmas and birthdays reasonably, simply, and economically.  We’ve tried different things each year, it seems.  This year, we’re making a bit more of birthdays and planning a lower-key, less-gifts sort of Christmas.

Philippa woke on her day early, and it’s the first birthday where she has really talked about it for weeks before her big day, and both girls woke up eager for birthday fun (Phoebe enjoys other people’s birthdays just as much as her own).  Phippa really can’t wait to be “a big girl.”  We had to wake sleepy Noah up a bit early that morning so birthday girl could open a few gifts before daddy headed off to work.  Usually we let the birthday child decide the meal plan and activities for the day, but her only real request was for chocolate cake with blueberries.  A girl who knows what she wants. 🙂  We gave her a few gifts in the morning–a hand-dyed play silk from my favorite blogger, Ginny, and her lovely little handmade shop.  It smells heavenly and is simply gorgeous.  Ginny generously sent along some stickers (made from her own nature photography) as well for Philippa, which was such a treat (though I was tempted to keep them for myself).  She also sweetly worked hard to get Philippa’s gift to her on time, which meant a lot to me!  We let Philippa open her birthday dress and her toy, which was a wooden stable with horses.  That was a huge hit with each of the kids and they all played with it all day.

I made a grain-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free chocolate cake from the Celebrations cookbook (sidenote: amazing cookbook!) for Philippa, topped with the vanilla buttercream from the same cookbook.  I did something funny/wrong with the frosting so I had to play a bit with it to get it to spread on the cake, but it ended up being delicious.

We had a fairly regular sort of day otherwise, school and cleaning and playing outside.  Daddy came home with a balloon for her, which she loved.  After dinner my parents stopped by with their gift for Philippa and we let her open the rest of the gifts before cake.  We gave her her own “journal” (from Michaels) and her first real set of colored pencils.  I found a really cute handmade pencil roll-up case at this etsy shop, and it happened to have foxes on it, which Philippa loves.  I wasn’t sure if she’d be too young to appreciate it, but she has treasured this little gift every day since, and has used many of her stickers from Ginny to decorate her journal, too.  She seems to feel quite grown up with own little set of pencils.  My parents gifted her a sweet new dress and pair of pajamas, and a tiny little mini mug.  She opened my hand knit sweater for her and promptly tossed it aside, as she did with the rest of the clothes, but the next day she was eager to try everything on and wear it.  We also gave her a ukulele, and it has been okay, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t real wood and sort of wish we had gotten this one for her.  Still, for our music-loving kids, it has been fun for each of them to have something to play together (Phoebe, her violin; Noah his drums, and now Philippa her little uke).

A couple days later Philippa agreed to let me snap some pictures of her in her sweater that I made (ravelry notes here), and I’m super proud of it.  I feel like it’s the first one I’ve made that has fit how I wanted it to.  It’s a cropped sweater, so the body is supposed to be short on it, and it looks darling over dresses.  She seems to really like it, too.

It was a fun day, even though there were some usual hiccups and challenges along the way.  Her hair did briefly catch on fire while blowing out candles.  🙂  I remember Philippa’s second birthday being hard, her being out of sorts and unusually grumpy and strung out, and she was a bit like this on this birthday, too.  All the attention is a bit much, even though she loves it at the same time.  Although in reality, their birthdays make me feel a bit strung out, too, trying to make it a special day.  Simple is always best, right?

We are pretty thankful to get to know this precocious, funny and darling little girl.  Lately she keeps coming up to Brandon and I and rubbing our arms and saying, “I lus you daddy” or “I lus you momma.”  We live for those sweet little unexpected moments.

Philippa’s first birthday here, second birthday here.

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a (late) birthday letter

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hey baby girl.  can it really be?  you’re finally three.  i look back on those early days with you–oh, how happy they were.  you were born in laughter, and you were your strong-natured unique and spicy little self right from the start.  you were born just days before Thanksgiving and with everyone busy with family and festivities, we had a quiet few days alone together at home enjoying new you and the sleepy early days.

this past year with you has been fun and full and hard, a bit, too.  being two is hard, and maybe being three won’t be much easier.  but i see you growing and changing and learning, and i’m proud of you!  you began talking up a storm this year, and hearing more of your little thoughts and funny words for things has kept us laughing.  You call your bottom your “bawnos” and your fingers “fing-wey” or “fing-wa.”  hugs are “squishees.”  you call my yarn my “kninning” and my needles “neenles.”  i love the way you run, little arms down and flapping back and forth.  you love “moomies,” get excited about anything phoebe and noah are excited about, and you still love to be the family clown and make everyone laugh.

you can be bossy and head strong but also so sensitive, and a harsh word can easily send you into tears.  this year we worked on potty training, and it was a long, long road–with still some hard days here and there, but you’ve made great progress and how you’ve loved your new big-girl status.

you and noah are inseparable, the very best of friends.  often when i’m busy in the mornings doing school with phoebe, you two are off playing together somewhere and, boy, do you love to laugh together.  i hope your bond stays strong all of your days.

often you ask me how the baby is doing, and you seem so excited to be a big sister and not the littlest one anymore.  i think you’re going to love it and be a very good big sister.

sweet girl, you have a tender and joyful spirit.  i still love our evening sings and prayer time, just you and me.  watching you grow up is a delight.  seeing you become more interested in our morning family time in scripture, and your interest to always try and answer the questions.  to sense in you a love for God and to hear you pray is a blessing.  i pray for you continually to love Him, to walk with Him all your days, to know the joy it is to grow up in the shadow of His wings, facing all your days with Him.  He has a great plan for you life little one, and i’m thankful we get to be a part of it.

happy third birthday, philippa ruth.  i love you so ❤

mommy

 

yarn along

DSC_0129I finished Phoebe’s sweater last week, haven’t blocked it yet but will soon.   I’m really happy with it though and think it will fit just right.  I woke up the other morning and my first groggy thoughts were of mittens, wanting to knit mittens for the children as a gift for the first day of Advent.  I started on Sunday and have almost finished Noah’s pair.  I will maybe be able to get these done before Friday?  If not, it’s okay, but they all do need mittens anyway.  I’m using leftover yarn from the first pairs of socks I knit for all the kids.  It’s knit picks wool of the andes.  I’ve been surprised with how well those socks have held up to abuse and machine washing, so I’m hoping these mittens will work well for child’s play also.  I have so many knitting ambitions lately for Christmas or for the new baby, and I’m thankful my knitting mojo is back in full force, but hoping I can keep up!

Phoebe and I started reading Madeline L’Engle’s little book The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, which my sister-in-law sent us last year.  We’ve been loving it, and I’m planning to do something similar to what the Austin family does in the book for Advent, having one Special Thing to do together each day.  Phoebe and I have been writing down what they did each day of Advent and thinking about our own little list of ideas.  I really wanted to get a tree this past weekend, but we need to clear out some space in our home and organize a few things before we do.  Soon, though, I hope.

What have you been making or reading lately?

Linking up with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.
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a hard thanks giving

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We live in an unfinished story.  So many loose ends, so many winding roads, so many threads that seem knotted and tangled or just plain torn out, and we wonder what it all means, where it is all going to land.  The unanswered prayer, the lingering need, the weary middle.  This is where we live most of our days.  This is where Thanksgiving finds us.  Many of us with hands held open: searching, hoping, waiting.  Asking.  Maybe this is where you are this Thanksgiving.  At the beginning of a new diagnosis.  The news of a job loss, an affair, a broken dream, a broken heart.  Maybe you’ve been walking a painful road for some time–you started out strong in faith, but find yourself now in the weary middle of it with uncertainty all around.

Brandon and I watched cheesey Hallmark Christmas movies the other night, and something in me broke open and poured out.  I tried to hide the tears, until they became wracking sobs.  Sometimes we are holding onto a pain so tightly, we don’t even know it.  We can’t feel it for the sake of just trying to survive it.  We want to be strong, we want to be faithful–all the while, I wonder if our Savior isn’t beckoning us to release and to receive.. to be weak and let Him hold us.  We are trying to race ahead to the finish and end well, to do it well NOW, but we can’t do so if we aren’t honest in the raw hurting of it.  We’re in the weary middle of it, the aching middle.  The end isn’t anywhere in sight.  What does it look like to be faithful in this place?
I’m convinced: God doesn’t want our feigned joy.  He doesn’t care about our unshakeable strength.  He isn’t interested in our perfect faith.  He already knows the state of our real hearts.  I’m convinced He wants us to give our honest, broken hearts to Him.
Brandon, totally perplexed with my tears waited for me to be able to speak, to explain.  It’s the grieving, the fear of the future with Phoebe.  The weariness of the battle for her health.  The seemingly little gains when I hope for some great turn-around.  It’s the weight of the unknown, the wonder over what pain is around this next bend.
She did blood work last week.. and I’m trying not to let this week be consumed with the waiting and the dreading of the results.  I hope to have the results before Thanksgiving, but what if they are bad?  In the 2 1/2 years since her diagnosis, we’ve never had good blood test results, we’ve never been given a “normal.”  Every time, it is crushing disappointment.  Every time it feels like condemnation–we still aren’t getting this right.  We still haven’t done enough.  So we wait for news.  Anyone else out there waiting for news??  Waiting for–longing for–good news?  And I shouldn’t let me mind go there but it does–what if bad news comes to us on Philippas birthday–will it overshadow her day?  What if it comes on Thanksgiving day?  Will we genuinely be able to give thanks with family when we will be riding out the inevitable low that comes after getting bad test results?  How do we live, truly live, and not just hold our breath waiting for the next disappointment to come?  How do we be human and yet somehow rise above our humanity?
I’ve seen it all week, how she sits under the spreading tree, the tree that we’ve been filling up with leaves of chalky words even as the leaves have slowly fallen from all the trees around us throughout the month, and I can’t miss the juxtaposition.  In the background, this tree, a record of grace, a turning of our hearts, our stubborn and tired and forgetful hearts daily back to thanks.  In the foreground, this girl, the one with the battle that threatens so many times to steal my joy and my praise.  In many ways it has quieted me, made me feel like a big fat hypocrite.  This battle has carved out a weak and broken place in me, it has humbled me, and when can a humbling ever be bad?  Painful, discouraging, humiliating at times, yes–but always fruitful, if we submit to it.
Can it be that even in this place we turn our hearts to thanks?  Can this be genuine?  What if this is the best place for a thanksgiving, this weary middle of the road?  This juxtaposition between so many good gifts and so many heart aches and questions.  What if we didn’t wait until we had the good news to give thanks?  What if real life is in fact that we hold in our hands all these things–“these patches of joy, these stretches of sorrow”–as we celebrate God’s goodness to us, knowing that even in the wounding, even when He’s broken our hearts with what He has allowed, we know that we know that we know He is good.  He is working it together for our good, for His glory.  What if the most beautiful thing we can do is exactly that: to give thanks when it isn’t easy, when we have to hunt for and remind ourselves of the many riches we have in Jesus?  What if we have to remind ourselves that God’s good gifts aren’t the same as the usual things we call good gifts?
“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Ps. 84:11)
“No good thing will He withold. But how is this true, when God oftentimes withholds riches and honors, and health of body from men, though they walk never so uprightly. We may therefore know that honors and riches and bodily strength, are none of Gods good things; they are of the number of things indifferent which God bestows promiscuously upon the just and the unjust, as the rain to fall and sun to shine.The good things of God are chiefly peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Spirit in this life, fruition of Gods presence, and vision of His blessed face in the next, and these good things God never bestows upon the wicked, never withholds from the godly.”
-Charles Spurgeon

I remember easy thanks giving.  Good years, joy mixed without much sorrow, years where praise and joy welled up with ease.   It feels strange to me now, after being in this place for so long.
I don’t know what your “hard” is this Thanksgiving.  Maybe it’s a broken relationship.  Regret over the past with consequences still playing out fearfully in your present.  Maybe it’s financial loss or strain, maybe it’s sickness.  Maybe it’s that shocking diagnosis, maybe it’s that wayward child that still hasn’t come home.  Maybe it’s that loved one battling an addiction that cuts you to the core.  Maybe it’s a lost loved one, a lost child.  Maybe it’s the way you keep returning to that same old sin that bewilders you and leaves you feeling helpless and hopeless.  I don’t know what it is, but I know some of you are out there, too, some of you for whom giving thanks this year in this particular season feels hard, maybe even feels a bit fake, a bit like a slap in the face.
So when its hard to give thanks, when we are hurting and there is brokenness, when there are questions and a howling ache, then it is a hard thanks that we give.  It may feel hard to give thanks, but we do.
In these times, Lord, we bring a sacrifice of praise to You.  You know, you already know.  Nothing is hidden from Your sight.  We are so thankful we don’t have to clean up and come in pretense before You.  But we do come in holy awe and wonder that somehow, some way, even in the hard, we still can give thanks to You, we still get to give thanks to You.  We have life.  We have breath in our lungs.  We have Christ in us, the hope of glory.  We have another day, therefore we have hope.  This story can still finish differently than we fear.  But even if it doesn’t, we have You.  You in the midst of all, You, our shield + exceedingly great reward, and You at the end of it all.  You to look forward to, fulness and completeness and final satisfaction in You and with You, our forever home.  So we draw strength–miraculously, we draw strength to praise You and in our praising you, we find we are again strengthened for the road You have called us to walk.  Strange, this–how obedience to You in our “hard” feels not burdensome but life-giving.  Strange–how we feel filled up, renewed.  How in our “giving” to You, somehow we still walk away the beneficiaries.  We think we are giving to You, yet all the while You are giving to us–yes, you are not able to be outdone.  Wild grace, Jesus.  Wild grace.
Shame on us that we lose sight of You so easily in this wilderness, but we do.  And You know it, You who put on flesh and lived as one of us, tempted like us.  If we can’t find anything else to give thanks for, we give thanks for You.  That we get to know you, to walk with You, a testament fully to Your faithfulness, not our own.  We give thanks that in the middle of your biggest “hard,” You endured, fixing Your eyes on the joy set before You, and because of that we get to have You with us in all of our hard, too.
So we sing on, even if it is a broken hallelujah, because You are worthy and because You have loved us well, and will love us till the end.

yarn along

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Still working on Phoebe’s leksak.  I had to rip out the front edging part way through, realizing I had picked up the stitches on the wrong side of the fabric.  So I’m just now on the first sleeve.  I’m trying to force myself to work monogomously on this project until done, but I did cast on some Christmas socks for Brandon and trying to work on them secretly during the day if I have chances to knit so they can be a surprise for him.  He’s not a huge sock fan, but I’m hoping if I make a cozy enough pair, he might wear them?

I’ve been eating up this book, The Dirty Life, and loving it so very much.  Highly recommend.  It’s the memoir of a city girl from NY who goes to interview a young farmer and ends up falling in love with him and the farm life.  It’s the story of their adventure together and it’s been very engaging as well as interesting to me, a girl who’s always dreamed a bit about living the farm life.

Joining up with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.
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paying attention

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I seem to be always so behind in posting updates about our little days here.  It’s been weeks since Halloween, but here are a few snapshots from that day.  We don’t make a huge fuss of the holiday, since we don’t allow the kiddos to eat anything they would pick up trick-or-treating, and because funds are tight and I don’t care to invest much in short-lived costumes.  There is so much Phoebe already misses out on, so I do try to make an effort for her to participate in as many things as I’m able.  I picked out some candies for the kids from our local health food store, things that were certified GF and also free of dyes and corn syrup, etc.  We carved pumpkins, each of them picking out their own design and helping however they wanted in the process.  Noah was batman for maybe the third year in a row?  I didn’t mind one bit.  That costume was a good buy. 🙂  Phoebe wanted to be Sacagawea, but changed her mind to being Kaya (her American girl doll) at the last minute.  I had wanted to make her a simple cute fawn costume since she is obsessed with deer/fawns, but.. the indian costume was fine, already available.  Philippa was a little kitty, one of her favorite animals to pretend to be anyway.  We let them trick-or-treat around our block, since this is the first time we’ve lived anywhere with neighbors close by to even be able to trick-or-treat.  We traded their collected candy with my previously purchased goods, and handed out candy to a few neighbors who came by. The rest of the “junk candy” leftover I gave to Brandon to share with guys at work or dump.

We’ve finished up a semester of school with our co-op, though Phoebe and I will carry on with school through part of December to try and get as much done before baby comes in February and interrupts our rhythms a bit.  The blustery and sometimes dreary November days have kept us inside sometimes, cuddling under blankets and piles of books or hand crafts.  Our days feel full to the brim with schooling, errands, house work, playdates, library and park visits, playing outside, house projects, etc.  Slowly we go, it seems.  Some days I love the simplicity, somedays the mundane gets to me.  But always, I treasure this season with these little ones growing so fast.

We are entering birthday season in the midst of holiday season, and I’m often looking at these little ones with misty eyes.  Another year, already?  How it flies by, while feeling all the while like it’s crawling along maddeningly.  Philippa turns three this week, and I’ve been busy planning and ordering her gifts, hoping everything arrives in time for her day.    These days grow so full and busy and I’m always striving for ways to slow it down and hang on to the end of the year, trying to savor it all before it finishes.  I remember Ann Voskamp’s old well-worn words, that we weigh moments down with our attention.  So I’m trying to pay close attention to this day, this moment, to really see it–to know it is fleeting.  To slow down and see: how Philippa is still two years old for two more days, the way the light moves across the room throughout the day, their laughter in the chilly air, our quiet walks over crunching leaves, the boredom and the glory all rolled somehow together into one.