Yarn Along

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I made some progress over the last week on the sweater’s neckline. Alas, I think I’m going to have to frog it back because I’ve gotten too many stitches on the needles. I do think I have conquered the new skills for the increases though, so these rows will go much faster once I start again. I knew starting something like this would definitely test my limited skill set, but the only way to learn is to practice and try new things!

I’ve been reading back through Laying Down the Rails, which I’ve had forever and have read once before. Sonya basically collated all of Charlotte Mason’s writings about discipline and forming character into one volume. It has very little commentary from Sonya herself, but many helpful notes and explanations in the margins that further clarify what Charlotte is discussing. After reading A Mother’s Rule of Life I realized that we had fallen off the tracks, so to speak, in character training and development, and this resource is helping me think and pray through where I’d like to go from here.

The children and I are reading through The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I made the mistake of promising the kids that I would not read ahead, and now I am absolutely dying of curiosity. It is such a torture! I want so desperately to read at my own pace and discover what happens, but I promised. We are all really enjoying the book. From all I have been told the whole series is good, so we look forward to joining in on the adventure.

Sharing with Ginny.

Every good gift…

grandma painting piano sunfields.

We had a good, quiet weekend here. James and I are really trying to steward the weekends well, to leave wide open spaces for rest and renewal. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but on the whole, our weekends look very different than they used to. For the longest time, the weekends for us were almost crazier than the weekdays- so many errands that had to be run, games and other obligations. We would hit Sunday night pretty exhausted and barely ready to begin again on Monday. Over the course of about a year, that has shifted profoundly. Now we rarely have anything that must be done come Saturday morning- the errands have all been run, the shopping completed. Occasionally there is a house project or two- fixing a child’s bed, or, as it was this weekend, helping Lorelei make a new fleece blanket for her bed. She and Grandma and I worked on it together while Grandpa and Daddy and the younger ones ran off to the park to play.  We have time for fellowship with friends, unhurried. We have time to poke about.

Our poking about this weekend brought with it a wonderful gift. Our Isaiah wants to begin cello lessons next year. Ben is also interested in beginning an instrument in earnest. I wanted to invest time over the next six to eight months in teaching them music theory- how to read music, what the scales were, etc. It is much easier to teach this with a piano or keyboard at your side, as you can quickly show in sound the abstract idea written on the paper. I’ve been looking for almost six months at keyboards and the like, very much despairing, as most all of the good, useful, quality electric keyboards were far out of our budget. I didn’t even bother to look at pianos, as they were very, very far out of our budget. I’d eye Craigslist occasionally for both, but even there, I struck out.

Come this weekend, my husband wants to poke about the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, hoping to find some lumber for a home project he is interested in. As we walk in the front door, what do I behold but a Baldwin upright Baby Grand? I walk over and finger the keys, finding it surprisingly nearly in tune, a rare, rare occasion in the land of thrift. So often when you do find pianos like this they are severely damaged and desperately out of tune- so far out of tune that it is almost useless to purchase them because the cost of repair will far exceed the actual out of pocket price. My heart leapt up, but I dared not to hope, because surely, anyone worth their salt would price such a quality label piano properly tuned and undamaged appropriately. My husband and I eyed each other expectantly, but neither of us quite wanted to flip the tag over and dispel the magic. James finally reached out and did so, only to discover that this piano had been priced for mere pennies. Needless to say, we are now proud owners of a good piano, and it will be tuned and put into service next week. Such a sweet and amazing answer to prayer, provided for us at just the right time and for a price that we could afford even in the midst of all our other medical obligations. We will all happily eat a few more meals of beans and rice than normal for the honor of this newest member of the family joining our crew.

Sometimes we go on a long wander on the weekends, as was the case this weekend. When we lived in the mountains, we would often pick a direction and see where it would take us, eating along the way and exploring. We can’t really do that anymore with the Celiacs in the mix- in that, yes, we can take picnic lunches with us, and we do, but no longer can we stop at delightful little wayside places along the way and find donut and pie shops and bakeries (which was where we used to stop on trips like these). There’s also not much wandering you can do ’round here, as you’ll land in the water just about any direction you head. So we wandered up towards Williamsburg and across to Jamestown, eventually taking the ferry over the James River and driving back through the lowlands of Surry, where so many of the empty fields were flooded from all the tremendous rain we’ve been having.  The sunset was so beautiful.

Ellianna grew interested in painting for the first time this weekend, too. The materials are always available and she has often watched as the other kids have worked, but we never could get her to try herself. She was content to watch. Not so this time. She asked, out of the blue, if she could paint, and not only did she do so, we couldn’t get her to stop! Only dinner finally brought the creative frenzy to an end. She filled page after page with watercolor and absolutely had a blast. It was so much fun to watch.

It was also funny and a bit sweet to watch her approach the piano. She was a bit afraid of it when it first came home, covering her ears and definitely regarding it with some apprehension. As the weekend wore on she would edge ever closer to it, until she finally began to ‘pet’ the piano’s closed keyboard. I asked her if she would like to play and she gave me one of those mixed messages- her eyes were saying yes and she had a half smile but she shook her head no. Trusting my mama instincts, I brought the chair over and set her in the seat, and showed her that she needed to touch the keys gently. She stuck one little finger out and hit a key, bringing forth a sound, and she looked up with surprise and then began to giggle in that way that toddlers do, and then she was off. She began to touch more keys, and I walked away. Soon she came and found me and told me that she needed her piano book so that she could ‘practice’. I put the beginners book in front of her, and she would study it intently (in the way that toddlers do), touch a few keys, and then flip the page and play again. “I am playing Jingle Bells, mama!” I always seem to forget how beautiful and wonderful this stage can be, distracting as it is when the self-same toddler is struggling to express her wants and needs and being feisty and testing limits. But man this is the age when the whole world and its wonders open to them and it such a thing to behold. And how blessed am I to join in this adventure again? It will be the last time I pass this way, and so I find myself treasuring these moments in a way I didn’t before.

Good reads…

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I’ve really been struggling to articulate my thoughts regarding the Charlie issue. The terrorists were wrong. But I cannot find myself saying je suis Charlie, either. My time at the National Holocaust Museum this last year reminds me that the Holocaust has never come to an end. and that horrific human rights abuses happen every day and we must give witness to them. Hence, I really appreciated what Sarah had to say in A Lament for Nigeria. 

I was grateful that Heather shared The Prayer I am Trying to Live.

Tonia has given me a proper kick in the pants for my reading plans for 2015 with her Bookish 2014, which she wrote as she was finishing up her book list from last year.

I really liked these ideas for expanding knowledge for multiplication facts from Playful Learning. It occurred to me that a lot of the ideas work for teaching addition, too. I really enjoy the Playful Learning blog, period. So many great ideas!

I follow The Artful Parent from my blog’s Facebook page, and she shared this older post full of mothering quotes. Can I just say, it was a like a lovely hug, a cup of tea, and a kick in the pants, all in one go?

What have you been reading that has really been making you think? Share in the comments!

Getting stitchy with it…


If you are now humming along to the ear-worm-y Men In Black theme song, sorrynotsorry. Whatever happened to good funny movies like that, really? At least the original. By MI3 the joke was getting a bit old…

Anyways. I had a backlog of sewing related repairs I needed to do, and last week and this week saw that to-do list finished too. Above, I finally hemmed the older boys’ curtains. We won’t talk about how long it took me to do that, m’kay? Suffice it to say, my boys have probably grown the amount of inches required to hem the curtains up…

Below, a husky repair for David. He was a very soft and cuddly patient. I can see why he is so loved!


Our house is styled in found objects. Some from the thrift store, some from antique stores, some even from the curb. (No shame! I’ve found some of my best stuff there! It’s amazing what people throw out sometimes.) For some reason, this has been the year that the kids have been super duper hard on the furniture. I think both of these started as small wear and tear holes that were “helped” along by the children.

First, the blue chair before:bluehole

And the blue chair, after:


The blue chair repair was ‘good as new’…you can’t tell that it was stitched back together. Before, I think this would have been a chair I would have looked for a slipcover for without realizing I could repair it with a needle.

The white antique love seat is another story. It wasn’t overly precious to me- I knew that the pretty silk damask would probably get discolored more over time, and I was okay with that- the artist in me actually considered eventually painting the fabric at some point in the future. Just not this year. I wasn’t expecting such a horrible gash to happen. This one was definitely helped by a certain child in the space of about five minutes- what was quite small (and could have been easily darned) turned into this massive gash with stuffing missing. By some serendipity, I discovered there was a four to five inch wide, foot long strip of the fabric underneath the framing, probably left there just for repairs. I was able to create a small patch for the hole, which I darned on with a sort of make-shift blanket stitch. I’m hoping that the patch itself will quickly discolor to the same state as the rest of the couch, at which point the difference in color won’t be so obvious. I may try gently cleaning the rest of the couch- I’m not sure yet. While it’s not the prettiest fix, the damage has been stopped and protected.

Here is the white love seat before:

And after:


Eventually it’s going to need a better, long-term solution. Perhaps I will try my hand at reupholstering it? It has a pretty unique shape, being so old, so average slip covers would be impossible. I can’t decide if making a sort of custom slip cover for it would make more sense (with the removable, washable factor) or actually reupholstering it. Whatever I decide, it will be as frugal as possible. For right now, a strategically placed blanket does wonders!

The Blessing of the Atlantic…

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On Sunday, after Liturgy, we trekked to the beach (about a mile from the church) and participated in the Blessing of the Waters- in this case, the Atlantic Ocean. This blessing happens as close to Theophany as possible. Theophany is celebrated on January 6- when we celebrate the Feast of the baptism of Christ and the blessing of the Holy Trinity is revealed.  After the prayers are read, the cross is thrown into the water. Some intrepid soul or souls will dive after it and receive a blessing. My children could not believe that someone would actually go in- the temperature that day was only forty degrees. They really didn’t believe me that in colder climes like Russia and Canada, they actually cut holes in the ice to bless the water and dive for the cross!

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