sweaters and sunny days

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We recently had a string of sunny, incredibly warm and spring-like days.  It was in the 60s and 70s and everyone in our home wanted their skin in the glorious rich sun.  So we spent as much time as we could outside, playing, picnicking in the yard, trying to soak it up.  I love winter so much and I don’t mind the cold and gray days, but it was a gift to have a short reprieve and remember what is soon coming.  The air held that smell of warming soil and all of us began to think about planting and growing things again.  Buds are forming on the trees and some of the bulbs we planted in the fall are beginning to send up shoots.

Phoebe set to work on planting a little “garden” in a corner of the mulch of their play gym.  She transplanted various weeds and onion grass from the yard and I even overheard her singing to her little plants.  I kept walking through our little garden plot, thinking and planning.  I’m excited for those planting days that will soon be upon us, but I know how much work it adds to our plate as well.  Also, I’m just not quite done with winter yet.  I’m still hoping for a few more snows!

I finished up Phoebe’s flax sweater (with a good few modifications).  Despite my best efforts to modify the neckline and ripping it out a couple of times, it still turned out quite large.  She doesn’t mind it but I wish it wasn’t quite so boat necked.  I shaped the arms a bit more drastically than the pattern called for and also cropped the sweater.  She has been wearing it constantly in rotation with her other hand knits, and I so love that about Phoebe.  She is always so grateful for anything I make for her.  The yarn is some rustic farm yarn from our recent visit to a local sheep farm called Bovidae Farms.  The yarn is dry and toothy and very lanolin-rich.  I loved knitting with it, it’s incredibly warm and every time she wears it she smells like a little lamb.  She’s also been wearing the sweater inside out and it looks just a good worn on the wrong side!  I hadn’t blocked it before taking these pictures of her wearing it and it looks a bit better after blocking, of course.

It has been back to feeling like winter again, as it should for just a bit longer.  We have days of rain ahead of us in the forecast so we are missing that warm sun but we know it’ll be back soon.  In the meantime, we’re happy to have woolen sweaters to snuggle up in.

june girls in their dresses

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I’m sharing a couple of finished knits here.  It was a rainy + cool June morning the other day, a nice respite from the summer heat and a good excuse to pull on a cozy shawl.   Brandon took a few photos for me of my pure shawl knit in O-Wool Local yarn.   Also, I knit a girl’s bonnet for a girl close to Philippa’s age so I asked her to model it for me.  (She was reluctant and had to be bribed with a couple of chocolate chips.)  Not to be left out of a photo opportunity, Phoebe soon arrived on the scene in her bonnet and cardigan (that I knit for her awhile ago) so of course, I had to take a few photos of her as well.  I suppose it was a day for the girls to put on a dress and some knits for pictures.

 

home and away

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“The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, ‘I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.’

‘That is because you have no brains,’ answered the girl.  ‘No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful.  There is no place like home.'”

-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In a recent blog post I shared all about planting our garden, only to discover on this past Saturday morning that the bulk of what we had planted had been eaten by a family of groundhogs.  Our entire day Saturday was spent rectifying the situation, digging a 1 ft deep trench around the garden and putting up fencing.  It was an all-day slog, half of it done in pouring rain and in between nursing and napping babies and feeding children.  It was a ton of hard work and come Sunday, I just wanted to get out of the house.  It can be a point of tension for Brandon and I sometimes on the weekends–he, working outside of the home and eager to be home and rest and work on projects here.  I, working inside the home all week, eager to get out on the weekends and be refreshed elsewhere.  On Sunday he agreed to drive up to a favorite spot of mine on the parkway for a hike and picnic.  No sooner had we hiked to the top of the ridge and he took a few photos for me of my finished Timber cardigan, when the skies opened up and began pouring on us again.  We got back to the car muddy and soaked (again) and ended up eating our picnic in the car at a pretty overlook.  It was fun and refreshing.  But still, when it was all said and done everyone was eager to go home and get cleaned up.

It’s funny how our ordinary days can feel so gray and blah sometimes and we are eager for more beautiful country, but in the end there really is no place like home.  In the end most of our lives are lived in the ordinary moments, and it’s these I’m convinced we’ll look back on with the most fondness.  All the glory we didn’t realize was such until later. I think that’s why I teared up when I read that quote from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz while reading to the children.  Sometimes it feels like we aren’t doing enough, sometimes I feel like I’m not giving them enough, like I’m not enough.  Like these days are too gray and dreary for them compared to all the fancy and exciting things other families are able to do for their children.  I’m hoping that this proves true–that there’s no place like our home for them, our simple ordinary growing-up-together years.

We are wrapping up our final official day of school TODAY (!!!) and with tomorrow’s fresh new month begins our “summer break.”  Now, of course, I don’t plan to quit all things educational, but our schooling will look less like ploughing through the necessities and more like soaking in our curiosities.  I hope to do lots of reading on a blanket in the yard, lots of adventures and hikes and exploring.  Learning along the way, delving deep into whatever strikes our fancy.  Making time for crafts and fun, garden discoveries and kitchen experiments, field trips and camping.  Sadly, these are the things we have so little time for during ordinary school days.  I read a comment by a fellow homeschooling mom recently who said they don’t take breaks for summer because schooling is their way of life and they don’t feel the need to take a break from it.  I’m trying not to feel “less than” upon reading that.  The reality is, the last couple of months have been quite a challenge with Phoebe and getting our work done and she and I both need a break.  I don’t think a break or a shift into more passive learning is a bad thing or gives schooling a negative connotation.  The reality is, learning is hard work sometimes, and taking a break can be refreshing.  Just like escaping to the mountains for a rainy hike makes coming home all the sweeter.  I so want to recapture for her (and I!) the joy of learning and discovery and remind her that learning is a part of every facet of daily life.  But at 7 years old, I don’t feel the need to constantly call everything we do “school.”  I believe that giving the children a wealth and breadth of experience and information will enrich their minds and souls.  I still think they need long stretches of play, free time, time to explore, imagine, and discover on their own.  What better time than summer for such things?  So yes, we will keep practicing flashcards and we’ll keep reading books together, but mostly we are hoping for some fun and some adventures.

books, yarn, and babies

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Lots of reading, snuggling, dandelion picking, school, imaginative play, and yarn taking up most of our days lately.  Nursing + rock-a-bye babying too.  Quiet days at home mostly, without any sort of hustle out of the house.  Driving each other up the walls sometimes because of all that proximity, finding each other to be our best friends the rest of the time.  With the weather warming up, we are finding ourselves outside more of the day, making garden plans, smelling the earthy scent of soil and honeysuckle on the breeze.  Spring is a shoulder season, a tug-of-war between winter and summer, and lately we see both winter days and summer days, and we don’t mind either one bit.

My mind feels all over the place, too–feeling behind on garden plans and preparations while trying to stay focused on finishing our school year well.  As I’m coming out of the initial recovery period after having Wren (she’s 6 weeks old tomorrow!) I feel my strength and energy returning, and we’ve been out almost daily for walks and fresh air.  I find myself reminded to keep my camera in hand, snapping pictures of our ordinary moments.  I find myself remembering and reorienting to who I am and what I love.  Sometimes I feel like I should rename this blog “books, yarn, and babies,” because it seems I have little head space for much else.  I promise more “soul” content will come soon, at least I believe it will.  But even as I say that, I hear the dichotomy.  I’m learning to remember that, as Gerald Manley Hopkins said,

“Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”
(As Kingfishers Catch Fire)
He shines in all that’s fair.  I find Him in the simple beauty of my current work, which is laboring over these children and this home, aiming to see Kingdom come, here and now, even if I lose sight of the connection sometimes.

I started this baby blanket for Wren at the end of January, and it feels just right for spring with all the lace and dusty pink.  I gave it a bath last night and blocked it and can’t wait for it to dry so I can snuggle her in it!  I used Quince + Co Osprey yarn which is incredibly squishy, springy, warm and soft.  With it being finished, I’m eager to begin a new project. Finishing things breathes fresh air into me, feels like a clean slate.

I hope wherever you are, you are finding bits and pieces of new life, freshness, spring, and the hope it seems to bring.

family + an easter sweater

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It’s taken me all week to get this blog post out, squeezing in moments here and there to work on it.  Everything seems to take a lot longer these days.

We stayed home Easter morning which felt a bit sad, but with Wren still being only four weeks old and a lot of sickness still lingering in our area, we felt it was best.  I also couldn’t fathom getting everyone dressed and out of the door on time, let alone myself and baby.  We’ve only gone to two dr appointments thus far, otherwise we’ve pretty much been home, so toting everyone around still feels overwhelming.  We had a quiet and easy morning, then headed over to my parents house around lunch time to be with family.  It was really sweet to be together!  My youngest brother and his wife had their first baby 5 days before Wren was born, so it was a treat to have them drive here from Virginia to share baby Silas with us and be together for Easter.

One of my other brothers and his wife live close by, so to have as many of us together as we can is a blessing.  (My sister and other brother and their families live in British Columbia, Canada and we miss them especially in times like these!)

The cousins playing and making memories together is precious to all of us and brings a lot of joy.  I’m thankful to my parents for hosting and pulling together such fantastic meals, such a treat for all of us.  I contributed a vegan + gluten free raspberry cheesecake, which was simple and not terribly sweet, but I really loved it and would make it again.

I also finished my featherweight cardigan a little bit ago and finally blocked it and wove in the ends, so wearing it for the first time on Easter felt special.  Its my first cardigan for myself!  I cast it on before I was pregnant so of course it is sized for my “normal” body size, and will fit a bit better after losing baby weight, but it still fits just fine for now.

I hope it was a happy holiday weekend for all of you also!

 

my campside

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The work of creating is important work for me.  I’m learning that I’m a maker, and I love making things–bringing beauty, even simple and small, into our ordinary days.  Bringing order from chaos.  It’s a good work.

Knitting small stitches from soft fiber–one small stitch after another, little ordered steps in a long arduous journey following a path laid out for me–ending in a beautiful finish.  Ending with something functional, satisfying, luxurious, beautiful.  It is a good reminder to me of the work I am doing as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, as a friend, as a child of God–small seemingly inconsequential steps on a long and arduous journey.  It will result in something beautiful.  Our work is, as the scriptures say, producing something, working for us an eternal glory that far outweighs the trouble we’ve gone through (2 Cor. 4:17).  Maybe it seems silly, but finishing a creative project is satisfying to me in that way–our small steps and small obediences are producing something beautiful, friends.  Let’s keep on until the finish.

I finished my Campside Shawl weeks ago and have worn it almost every day since then.  (Which is why it took me so long to block it–so glad that I did though!  It opened up the eyelet sections and made it even larger/cozier.)  It is crazy warm, squishy and cozy.  I didn’t know if I would wear a shawl, feels sort of old-lady-ish, but I am!  I’ve loved just throwing it over my shoulders for a quick warm layer during this spring season.  It is such a cheery yellow and it makes me think of camping in the woods, which I can’t wait to do soon (will take my campside with me!)  Knit it Madelinetosh, color way Harvest.

hope + a new beginning

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In the early morning dark, all sleeping in one room at the Ronald McDonald house, we woke Phoebe up to prepare for her procedure.  Brandon had already run out to get starbucks for he and I, and then we gave her the sweater that I had knit per her request (and her pick of yarn).  We also gave her the unicorn as a gift, for her bravery, discipline, and perseverance in this three month intensive part of her journey.  So, wrapped up in that knitted love and comfort, and snuggling “Rosie,” she went back into her procedure.  I was with her until she was just going to sleep, and it makes me cry every time to walk away from her and leave her there, but it was a small measure of comfort to see her snuggled up in that bright yarn and snuggling her new friend.

We have heard back about the pathology report from Phoebe’s recent endoscopy.  Her intestines are showing full healing, healthy whole villi, and little to no active celiac damage.  You guys!!!  We are FLOORED.  We are in shock, disbelief.  It feels like a miracle.  You guys have prayed us through, you have prayed for our girl and God has answered!

Now, we aren’t totally through the woods yet.  Her blood work showed still elevated levels of inflammation, which is a bit perplexing.  I’ve heard different opinions about what this can mean, and I’m still waiting on a call back from the Winston Salem doctor about having another pathologist look over her biopsy results.  So I’ve been sitting on the results for a few days waiting, but I know so many of you are waiting and asking and wanting to know the results and I didn’t want to keep you waiting.  Especially on, what we feel, is still SUCH good news!

Is it all over?  Is the worst behind us?  I don’t know.  We still have a lot of work before us in helping Phoebe grow and in encouraging her to eat more/healthfully.  We plan to do some work with a naturopath going forward.  She will have quarterly blood checks and regular weight/height checks so we can monitor progress.  We believe God has been speaking to us about this season of intense difficulty coming to an end, but my heart is so tender and fearful to hope.  It’s easier to brace for the next wave of the trial sometimes than it is to rest in HOPE and faith.  So you can pray for that for Brandon and I.  Of course, we know that we aren’t fully out of the woods yet, it is too soon, but we do hope that from here we will see our girl flourish.

To those of you who have prayed for this miracle: how can we ever thank you enough?  You have prayed life and healing over our girl and we believe we are seeing these shocking results because of your prayers!  God promises that our prayers are effective and powerful (James 5:16) and that they can make an actual difference in things like this.  God cares about healing and bringing wholeness and restoration, as we saw Jesus constantly healing all the sick ones that He came in contact with, and as we are told that this was part of His earthly mission (Luke 4:18).  It is still part of His mission: taking back the lost ground, healing the broken parts, mending the ruined world, glorifying Himself and making His power and might known in our midst.

To those of you who have donated funds so that we can afford these treatments for Phoebe and so that we can continue her medical testing, how can we ever thank you enough?  You have been a huge part of this process and this result.  You have provided relief and help in a very tangible way to our family.  You have, more importantly, just overwhelmed our hearts with encouragement, with the sense that you are behind us, for us, and with us.  We know one day we will be able to bless others financially as you have blessed us, and we eagerly look forward to returning the blessing.  We will do so in the small ways that we can now.

We will keep everyone posted as we know more about Phoebe and as we continue on this journey.  For now Phoebe’s diet will change slowly and with a different approach than anything we have tried thus far.  She is already so pleased just to have her beloved cereal, and slowly we will phase in other things, but will also phase out things we don’t believe she tolerates well.  I will still need to make most of her food from scratch and from carefully chosen sources, so there is still a bit of work ahead for me in trail + error.

As my mother-in-law gently but firmly encouraged me last night, we will rest in this healing.  That this is the beginning, a new beginning, and we are thankful to our Faithful God and to you!