Thursday, August 30, 2012

she wonders

How did people get places before there were cars? How do dams make power? Why does it feel like the night is so short when I'm sleeping? Why did that man in a wheelchair spill his juice? How do dolphins get energy? Is grass a plant? Do we speak English or French? Why is cotton candy bad for your  teeth? But WHY? What does "retreat" mean? Why do girls always want to be pretty? Why does time pass?

Oh, the questions Violet comes up with. Someday I'll try to write them down for a whole day, or at least keep a tally of how many questions she has for me. The questions above were asked in about seven minutes of driving. It can be so tempting to answer, "I don't know", "Just because", or "Because that's the way God made it!" (my personal favourite).

But this little girl is not trying to be annoying. She has questions. About virtually everything. Life, the universe, science, philosophy, etymology, linguistics, dental care, and what it means to be a girl.

The least I can do, most of the time, is to patiently answer her questions. When I reach the end of my answering abilities (usually at about 3:00 pm, when I've been at it since 7 a.m. (remember, the above list was recorded in seven minutes. SEVEN...), I ask her, "What do you think?"

Exhausting as it is, I hope this little one keeps seeking and finding answers for all the things she wonders about in her life. Tonight, I'm spending the night at my parents' house while my husband puts the kids to bed at our house. When they were leaving, I said, "Violet, who is going to answer all your questions tomorrow?" (because invariably, no matter who is in the room, all of her questions begin with, "Mom?")

She looked genuinely perplexed, and just a little bit unsettled by my question. I suggested she ask Daddy all her questions. I avoided the stink-eye he gave me as he left, with a smile of confidence that he'd find all the answers, at least for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

yarn along

Four balls of Noro was enough to create this Baby Surprise Jacket (which ended up larger than I'd expected...about a one-year size), and the "Pebble" vest which might fit our new baby later this winter.

I've been reading "Simple Abundance" every morning, and "The Prisoner of Azkaban" (again) before I fall asleep. I find that when I'm into later pregnancy, I have to read books I've read before, or at least pick books that are on the light side. I've finished Terry Pratchett's "The Wee Free Men" and "A Hat Full of Sky" (HIGHLY recommended!) and am on the lookout for more light reading...we're due to go to the library today so I'll see what our visit brings.

Stop by Small Things to share your own Yarn Along!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

sand wrestling

Take two willing kids who love each other and weigh about the same (within five pounds, anyway)! Find a sandy spot. Explain the rules: no kicking, punching, biting, hair pulling. Play begins after each successful "pin" (both shoulders of opponent held to the ground). 

Liberal amounts of laughter, audience cheering and gasps, and hugs between rounds are highly recommended.

Sand wrestling! This went on for a lot of our camping trip earlier this month, drawing stares and gasps from passersby (and from their mothers, too)...these two cousins were well-matched. We expect that in a couple of years it will be the younger of the two who is mashing his cousin's face into the sand. For now, she has the upper hand. And he loved every minute of it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Little Hands, Sewing

A pair of patient hands must have guided mine when I was a child, to learn the first stitches...running stitch, backstitch, chain stitch, blanket stitch. My hands have loved handwork ever since, although I have no clear memory of being taught. 

Margot's hands, though small, are dexterous and adept at fine motor activities. She prints four of the letters of her name, cuts with scissors, strings beads, and so on. So creating a back stitched monogram was not beyond her ability, with guidance and patience from her mama.
It didn't take long to complete this little project, and I relished the rare uninterrupted time we spent together, her pigtails brushing my face, kissing her little neck, and just revelling in her nearness and warmth. 
M is for Margot.

Friday, August 24, 2012

:this moment::the straw hat::

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. 
Enjoy these last days of summer! Stop by to share your own moment or to see others.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

dinosaur diorama

With the busyness of our summer, crafting has been at a minimum. I find it hard to summon the energy to assemble the materials and support and supervise my children through the process of making stuff. But I'd been telling Jude for a week that we'd make a dinosaur diorama, and today was the day.
Air-dry clay made the perfect bases for our prehistoric trees (cedar and spruce branches), and we gathered some moss as bushes. Creating a diorama gave us lots of opportunities to talk about the kinds of plants that might have grown in the Age of the Dinosaurs.
 Jude graciously let his sister help with the process of painting the background mural (complete with volcanoes) and the inside of the box.
We left the assembly of the scene to Jude. He has played and played with it since he finished it. The teacher in me is interested the focus and interest Jude had in this project, without the motivation of marks or a rubric to tell him exactly how to do it. With patience and guidance, he learned the process, without the promise of an external reward, a deadline, or any pressure from me. Something tells me we'll be saving boxes to create more dioramas, and I'll be keeping an eye out at thrift stores for more plastic animals!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Slowing Down, for One Moment

I feel like this whole summer, from the very first weekend in July, has been a marathon of packing, unpacking, planning for the next outing, preparing food to bring with us, and repeating over and over again. 

As a school teacher, I am blessed to be off all summer with my children. Still, with swimming lessons, camping trips, visits with relatives and friends, a library reading program, and our performance schedule, it hasn't really felt like time "off". Every day has been spent preparing for the next event, trying to get my children to independently entertain themselves so that I could get the next load of laundry done (in order to pack another bag) or wash a load of dishes (after preparing yet more food).

I find myself looking forward to next summer already, when I'll have a 7 month old baby as an excuse to stick around home and slow down our lives (because being 6 months pregnant with three smallish children isn't enough of an excuse, right?)... 

It's been hitting me lately that I have only two more weeks to spend with my little ones before I begin working full time for the first time in three years. I haven't really thought much about it yet, as it pains me to think of Margot only seeing me in the evenings and on weekends. And I admit, I have some regrets about the rushing and hustling I've done over the summer to get the kids to their next "fun" event.

Last week, I was trying (yet again) to prepare a gluten-free cake for Jude to take to a birthday party he'd been invited to. The girls, as usual, were scrappy and hassling me to play with them. I crossly gave them a bowl of our CSA veggies and told them to make a farmers' market. 
 Of course, with a bit of direction (and some spelling help) their little game took off. Signs with exorbitant prices were created, vegetables sorted into piles, and of course, cute little aprons donned. Jude and I were the shoppers. I'll tell you, these two little farmers drive a hard bargain and are very possessive about their produce ("No, Jude, you can only take TWO carrots!")
In the face of all the busy fun we've had this summer, I think this will be one of the moments I cherish the most, when I slowed down enough to just play.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

eight years

At three in the morning, we hear the kids' door opening, followed by ours opening. "Mommy, I had a bad dream". I lift the duvet, inviting Violet into the safety of our bed, and Robin sighs loudly. I say crossly to him (in my half-asleep stupor), "Margot gets in with us all the time!!"

Violet misinterprets this; I think she returns to her room to get into her own bed, but as she crosses the hall, Margot starts to cry and Violet says, "It's okay, Margot, you can get into bed with them, too!"

The plan has backfired, as it so often does.

Robin gets up and takes Violet back to her own bed, where he settles in with her to banish bad dreams. Margot climbs in with me, where she proceeds to stampede her way up and down my back until six thirty, keeping me awake for most of the early morning hours.

She leaves the room when she hears Robin get up for work, then the door opens and JUDE climbs in with me. The baby starts to kick me from inside, and I know the day has begun.

Robin comes into kiss me goodbye as he does every morning. I grumble, "Happy Anniversary...what a difference eight years makes! I certainly didn't spend the night before our wedding sleeping with four different people!"

Our eyes lock for a moment and the past eight years, and the next twenty, whisper between us. I remember the blue sky full of puffy clouds, his tears as I joined him under the tree to be married, the bluegrass band we hired, our bare feet dancing in the grass, the faces of so many loved ones celebrating with us.

Cross, tired, six months pregnant with three kids to care for all day...and truly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Our lives are full in a way we never imagined on that wedding day, and I know there are so many adventures to come. Would I trade the laundry and small variations of our own faces looking to us for love and care for a moment of that day full of sunshine and roses? Never.

Some clever soul shared the idea with us to have a supply of envelopes labelled with different occasions and anniversaries available at our wedding. Each year, we open a note that was written to us on our wedding day, and often have another to open on Christmas Day, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, etc. We remember our wedding day again, and the person who sat at a picnic table under a tree to write us a little note. Words of advice, encouragement, or just a reflection of the day they were experiencing await us in those envelopes. We hope to make it to the one labelled "50th anniversary"! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Kid and His Pocketknife

I remember a dear friend, who used to cry "Danger!" to her toddler anytime he did anything, well, dangerous (e.g. toddling towards the road). It is, perhaps, the battle cry of all mothers, who instinctively protect their children from all harm. 
Jude was one of those kids who was always drawn towards danger. He climbed anything he found that had vertical footholds, and would squirrel butterknives away so that he could clang them together (to sound like a sword fight). He's not much into guns, but his interest in swords and knives has never really faded.

You can imagine his excitement when I picked out a nice little pocket knife for him, for our annual camping trip. The day before our trip, I showed him the knife, and had him practise opening and closing it safely. We repeated the safety "rules" over and over, as Jude has a language learning delay. We can express something that to us sounds clear, but he doesn't always get it the first time. Or even the second or third time. 
We've learned that much patience, repetition, patience, and understanding are required when communicating with our son. 

As we packed up the final gear, he asked if he could see his knife again. I reminded him again of safety, and walked to the sink. Before I reached the counter, he howled in dismay, running to the sink with a bleeding thumb. Sigh.

This is frustrating for me. Very frustrating. I felt that I'd been a responsible parent by talking with him lots beforehand, demonstrating safe knife use, supervising closely while he practised opening and closing, and setting limits (ie. the knife had to stay in my purse or in daddy's pocket, and he could only use it for cutting with close adult supervision). And still, he cut himself (if anyone out there is feeling smug, as in, "I would never have let that happen to my child, bite your tongue please...)
My husband came in and showed Jude the scar on his finger, from his first pocket knife. I realised that, perhaps, a cut on the finger is a rite of passage that many children don't experience anymore because of over-supervision.

Jude learned caution, only through hurting himself a bit. He spent the five days of our camping trip sharpening sticks into points so that we could use them for roasting marshmallows, into arrows, and into a stylus (which he burnt in a candle flame, to be used for drawing). 
I was inspired by this Ted Talks clip of Gever Tulley exploring the dangerous things we should let our kids do. 

Jude didn't cut himself again, in spite of much knife use over the time we spent camping. I'm a live and learn kind of gal myself...

Friday, August 17, 2012

::this moment::the archer::

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. 
Stop by to see other moments or to share one of your own!
Have a weekend full of learning new things...

Friday, August 10, 2012

when daddy gets home

When Jude was first born, my husband found it challenging to feel really involved, as I was breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, and baby-whispering as a new mother does. I assured him that in a few years, Jude would run to the door to greet him at the end of the workday, happily calling, "Daddy!" Then he'd get his chance to really be Daddy.

A few years later, a few more children later, and my heart still lifts to hear this familiar ritual. Someone spots daddy's car coming up the laneway, and he is greeted at the door by little arms reaching up for hugs, overlapping voices telling of the adventures big and small that the day held for us, and questions about how his day was.

I am so very grateful for this steady, loving man coming through the door at the end of the day, sweaty and tired, but with just enough love and energy to show the kids his tools, give them a cuddle or a wrestle, read them a story, and embark on the evening dinner-baths-play-stories-snacks-teeth-bed adventure that marks the end of another day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


This is some fun stuff! It's a cross between disgusting and amazing that appeals to children of all ages, and it's so easy to make!
Put 2 cups warm water in a jar and add 1/8 cup of borax. Close the lid and shake till the borax dissolves.
While this solution cools, place 1 Tbsp. of white glue in a small sandwich bag (I did this, times three for my children). Add 3 Tbsp. water, and a few drops of liquid food colour if desired, and let your child gently squish the two together till they are well mixed.
Add 1 Tbsp. of the borax solution from the jar, and continue squishing gently. 
You've got slime!
This slime brought HOURS of play to our kitchen table. 

A warning: do NOT get it in your hair, on your rug or furniture, or allow your children to wrap it around their stuffed toys. 
Also, when you're ready to dispose of it, put it in the GARBAGE (NOT your kitchen sink).

For more amazing, easy, fun chemistry, see Cool Chemistry Concoctions: 50 Formulas that Fizz, Foam, Splatter, and Ooze by Joe Rhatigan and Veronika Alice Gunter.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reading, Reluctantly

I've always been a reader, or so it seems to me. My mother tells me I was reading before I started Kindergarten, and I have no real memories of learning. It's just something I've already done. I always have a book in my bag, along with my knitting. I read prolifically, and cherish our local library for the books rather than for the free internet.

It was a bit of a surprise to find that my firstborn child was what some might call a "reluctant" reader. It is common among (though not limited to) boys of his age. He didn't find it fun to practise letter sounds, and dug his heels in when I suggested even games involved reading.

So, suppressing my growing unease, I just kept reading to him. I find books that will interest him: chemistry, spies, history, geography. Whereas his sisters will sit for an hour or more if someone reads aloud to them, Jude needs shorter chunks of time. Gradually, we've started sharing the reading, and I'm overjoyed to see his progress in sounding out harder words. 
Flat Stanley and the Cam Jansen series seem to be right at his level. I've learned to resist comparing what he's reading to what other boys his age are reading. I have yet to see him curl up with a book, reading on his own for pleasure. My parenting mantra, Faith and Patience, is being put to good use these days, and I know our house is well-equipped with cozy reading spots. One of these days, he'll find one, and will find it irresistible.

For now, it's enough to see him smile when I beam at his efforts, and to know he cherishes this rare one-on-one time with either of his parents.

Monday, August 6, 2012

She's Not Tired! But I Am.

We're in that funny transition time, where the three year old of the house doesn't want to nap anymore, but dozes off at odd times. Like 5:00 pm just before dinner is ready. Sleep is sneaky; it comes as we read a story together, or watch a movie. We let her sleep for a bit but it's starting to interfere with our bedtime routines.

Daddy does the bedtime routine in this house. After I put in a 10 hour day without breaks, I read the bedtime stories while he gets them a snack, then he piggybacks them up the stairs. Teeth flossed and brushed, using the toilet, then everyone snuggles in. Robin tells them a story from when he was a little boy, then sings them the old Yorkshire song his mother sang to him: “There was an old woman and she had a little pig, Mmmmm, fed him on clover, wasn’t very big, Mmmm”. I can hear his voice through the ceiling, and settle in with my knitting (on a good night) or start washing dishes (on a normal night).

He makes every effort to be here for this routine, but occasionally his schedule as a musician takes him away from home before bedtime.

I’m not sure what came first. Did the kids start goofing off and being uncooperative every time I put them to bed so that he took over that routine? Or do they goof off because I don’t usually do it?

I follow the same ritual he does: story/snack, teeth, pee, into bed, story from my childhood, song. I kiss them all hopefully, and quietly leave the room.

The room is peaceful. The windows are covered, a fan blows on low, the nightlight creates a narrow bridge of light over the bed. Handmade quilts cover the beds, and the floor is clear of obstacles that might trip a wandering sleeper. 

Twenty minutes pass peacefully, then she starts.

I want Mooooommmmmmeeeeeeee. And repeat. And repeat and repeat and repeat until I hear the door click open, small feet pad down the hall, and Jude’s voice whining, "I can’t TAKE this CRYING anymore!!"

I encourage him to tell her how her crying is affecting his sleep, and to let her know that I won’t be coming upstairs. I know when he has delivered this message because the crying just gets louder.

I KNOW there is nothing wrong with her. She is good and tired, is warm and comfortable, has a full tummy and the company of her siblings. This is an ancient power struggle, and she chooses to wage it with me every single time daddy goes out and leaves me on my own with the bedtime routine.

Many ideas for plans of action float through my brain, most of them involving wine and cigarettes. But alas, escaping to the front porch is not an option at this point, as I'm six months pregnant.

Jude finally creeps into my bed, and eventually I hear the door open as Margot’s yelling gets louder. She comes to the top of the stairs. I don’t WANT to sleep in my bed. I’m not TIRED!! When her feet start down the steps I decide that I’ll be damned if I let her set foot on the downstairs floor.

I gently carry her back up as she flails and kicks, insisting that she does NOT want to sleep in her bed and that she is NOT tired. I bring her into the sun porch which spans the front of our house. It offers a comprehensive view of the farm. I talk gently as she cries and yells, telling her about the angels that live in those pink clouds over there. I tell her that they're wondering why Margot Joy is still awake, and why she insists on crying so loudly. Doesn’t she know that the butterflies, trees, fairies, berries, and all living things are trying to go to sleep? 

At the mention of fairies, the crying abates. I tell her that we can’t see them, but beneath the tansy, hollyhocks, and golden rod growing just below us, the mama fairies are tucking their babies into their flower beds. Could she maybe sing a lullaby to them? After a few deep breaths to calm her sobs, she starts to sing “Twinko, twinko, witto staw”…

When I tell her that I just heard a fairy snoring, she smiles. 

But, alas, as soon as she feels my weight shift to make the move for her room, she starts up with renewed vigour. I get her into her bed, insisting that she needs to stay there now, and of course Violet wakes up. I step out of their room for a moment, to a rising cacophony of shrieks and complaints. At this point I feel as if putting a pillow over someone’s face (theirs? My husband’s? My own?) would take care of things nicely. But it’s only a fleeting thought, because Margot is banging on the bedroom door, reminding me hysterically that she is NOT tired and she does not WANT to sleep in her own bed (as if I could ever forget).

I swoop in and lift Violet from the bed, and carry her to my room where she gets in with Jude. Margot beats at my bedroom door, but I remind her that she has to sleep in her bed. This is a first; since birth, she has shared a room, and I always make sure she has a bed mate no matter where we sleep. But at age 3 and having strong verbal and reasoning skills, I want her to get the idea that her screaming has caused this isolation; Jude and Violet want to sleep and can’t because of her noise.

I step out for a moment, to gather my wits again, and call my mother quickly for backup support. As we chat and I swear a lot (it just helps me vent), I hear the crying abate, and eventually all is quiet.

I creep down the stairs, but before my foot hits the bottom step, she starts again. Between hysterical gasps and sobs, she comes to the top of the stairs to once again remind me that she…is…not…yawwwn…tired!! I know by the jaw-cracker of a yawn that she is unaware now of how tired she is.

I get her back into bed and assure her that as long as she stops crying, I’ll sit with her. In 10 minutes, she is fast asleep. My bum is numb, my sciatic nerve is aching, it’s 9:30 pm and I still haven’t washed the dishes.

Where is that pillow? Oh, right. My bed is full of kids that I’m afraid to move for fear of waking their tyrant of a little sister. I write a quick note to my husband: Bedtime from hell. I'm bagged but managed not to kill anyone. Therefore, the dishes will wait till tomorrow. J and V in our bed; gonna try to carry them into their own room so I can sleep. Open to ideas on how to make bedtime easier when you go out. S

The next morning, she greets me with tousled head, bright eyes, crumpled nightie. She doesn't mention the night before. And I don't either. We forgive each other our transgressions as an exhausted mama and an exhausted three year old. It's over now. We'll try again sometime soon.

Friday, August 3, 2012

::this moment::waiting for rain::

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. 
Stop by to share your moment or to see those of others.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

blessed rain

Renfrew County is now officially experiencing its worst drought in 120 years. Our CSA farmer put it best: no living farmer in our area has seen conditions this dire. In addition to the challenges presented by watering livestock and crops, we've seen barns blown down by fierce winds, and others burned down by the elements. Other farmer friends experienced their first rain storm last week, which turned into a hailstorm that destroyed many of their already-struggling crops. 

When the clouds gather, we feel hopeful. Often, we hear thunder in the distance, then the clouds sort of blow by without noticing our desperation.

But sometimes, the wind picks up a bit, and the thunder comes closer. The first drops start to fall, and we all run outside to feel the blessed rain on our faces.
Last night we were at my childhood home when the storm began. My girls ran out, stripped down, and shimmied around the outside edge of the porch to reach out to the downpour streaming off the roof.

They stuck their bums into the cold rain, and I had to laugh; my mom has pictures of me giggling and washing my hair under this same downpour when I was a child.
 We can almost hear the grass sighing as the rain comes down, and the flowers and trees seem to loll luxuriantly in her wet embrace. These small offerings of water, unfortunately, do not signal an end to the drought. It would take a month of daily, soft rain to repair the damage wrought by this summer's lack. 

We rejoice in every drop we get.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yarn Along

Joining in on Ginny's Yarn Along today!
I've started a Baby Surprise Jacket for our December baby, using Noro's Yuzen (a wool/silk/mohair blend). If you haven't made anything with Noro, get thee to a yarn store. The colours are just unimaginably delicious, from pearl grey to raspberry, sea green to deep purple. You never know what's coming next which of course adds to the "Just One More Row" syndrome that many knitters are suffering from! It's been awhile since I made a BSJ and I had to frog and cast on about three times before I started getting the rhythm of those darn sleeve decreases. Now it's fun, as I remember it being!

Shelter is one of the books on our library's Evergreen program (a reading club for adults, featuring Canadian novelists). This was a beautifully written first book, telling the story of two sisters who have are abruptly left at a neighbour's house by their mother after the death of their father. Through reminiscences of their idyllic, forest upbringing and their attempts at finding their mother, this book explores the bonds between mothers and daughters, the connections between sisters, the families we create for ourselves, and the search for truth about others and ourselves. Highly recommended!

Chris Judge's The Beast is appealing in all the ways a children's book should be. The cover sparks a discussion with your children: "What is a beast? What are some words that might describe a beast? Why do you think the beast is lonely?" The illustrations are bright landscapes, from forests, to oceans, mountains, cities, and plains, made all the more dramatic by the presence of this wonderful, expressionless beast who goes off in search of others like him. My children have decided that we have to write a letter to the author to tell him just how much we loved this book, and to encourage him to write and illustrate more! We fell in love with the lonely beast.

Stop by Small Things to find out what others are reading and knitting these days!