Thursday, February 28, 2013

winter's last word

I called the bus driver today to tell her that our road was still too bad for travel, and that I'd be keeping my older two home today.

Before my husband left for work, I put on a fleece jacket, a toque, and my boots, and ventured out into the pristine world left by yesterday's snow with camera in hand.


This late winter snow is sticky and heavy, and clings to everything it touches. It balances on the clothesline and on every little twig in the woods.


It knits itself into quirky, lopsided hats on every fence post.


The snow throws itself at flat surfaces with wild abandon, as if Mother Nature took a shine to Jackson Pollack's work and decided to give it a try, in monochrome.


Thick curls of snow slide slowly off tin roofs, and I imagine Hansel and Gretel scooping it off like frosting, with greedy fingers.


I clamber over the pile left by our neighbour's snow plow, and peek through to the potting shed, thinking of Mr. Tumnus and the Beaver family in their perpetual winter.


I acknowledge a moment of gratitude that my car will stay parked where it is today, and that my only obligations today are feeding the fire with wood and keeping my children warm and fed.


To continue with the silly metaphors, this old barn is an aging beauty, who overdoes her face powder a bit. Contrary to her intent, it calls her perfect imperfections into stark relief, and makes me love her more.



The trees around our farm bear the burden of snow with grace and loveliness, because it shows their textures off so effectively.


The sharp lines of fences and trellises are softened by the feathery drifts that grasp each wire.


In this world of grey hues, the only colour to be found is on my front porch in the shape of a bench and some coloured glass. Before I step up, I pause with my eyes closed, to just listen to the sound of chickadees, the almost imperceptible "ping" of tiny snowflakes landing on my hat, and the absence of all other sound. The world around me has been muffled, and I take a deep breath in conscious preparation for the many noisy moments that lie in wait once I return to the inside.

As I reach for the door, I see this little footprint and I almost look behind me to see if the Tomten has been following me all this time. I picture him whispering blessings to all of us as we wait for winter's last word, then open the door to the scent of coffee and woodsmoke, and the sound of my children's voices.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yarn Along: Teeny Tiny

* I feel compelled to note that I have minimal time for knitting. I carry my baby in a sling and knit at the end of the day when my legs and back are too tired for anything else, with the baby in the sling. Just in case you were wondering if I have staff in the background cooking and cleaning while I sit prettily and knit. I assure you, I don't.

I was working on a Rainbow Horse, using worsted weight yarn and 5 mm needles. It turned out so beautifully that I promptly cast on for another.

Then it hit me.

What it I followed the pattern using teeny tiny yarn and teeny tiny needles?
I couldn't let that question go unanswered.

And here she is. A teeny-tiny horse with beautiful stripes and flecks of colour. 

I used a small ball of self-striping yarn from my stash with a 2.25 mm needle and this is how she turned out.

We gave her to a friend for her birthday.

But the orders are in. My children want a whole herd of these teeny-tiny equines, and who can blame them? I'm picturing teeny-tiny saddles and teeny-tiny halters. Oh! How sweet!
Oh, right. The reading part. I've just started The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani. It comes highly recommended by my sister and I am enjoying it so far. 

We read a lot more kids' books than adult books around here and here are  few we're loving:
"My Friend" caught my eye because the artwork is actually fabric and creative stitchery. Love it! "Big Sister and Little Sister" (by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Martha Alexander) is my perennial attempt at getting my daughters to care for one another instead of fighting! We always enjoy Elephant and Piggie books (full of sight words, high interest story, lots of repetition but done so creatively that they're hilarious) and of course, "Sugaring" is in preparation for maple syrup season!

Please stop by Ginny's blog to join in the Yarn Along fun!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

while folding laundry

I asked for help with the sorting of the laundry and this is what I got:

Two super-heroines who wear undies on their heads (the leg-holes are perfect for pigtails to poke through) and who sling-shot villains with underpants.


Beware, bad guys. They have a wee protege who watches their every move closely. We call her Super Diaper Baby, and she's working on her kung fu kicks each day.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Musings: Birthdays

Joining in with Nadja at Patch o' Dirt Farm for Monday Musings!

Right now...I'm wishing I had another three hours' sleep. Violet and Margot are bickering. Jude is procrastinating with his get-ready-for-school routine. Norah is watching it all from her bouncy seat. The cats have just come inside, Robin is rushing around trying to get out the door, and I'm thinking about coffee. All is as it usually is on a Monday morning!

This weekend..we were invited to two birthday celebrations, both skating parties! Getting the kids out to socialize AND to get fresh air and exercise always helps the weekend pass more peacefully. Norah is in a new pattern of NOT allowing me to put her down at all during the day so I'm starting to feel exhausted, with a sore back and shoulders. Yes, I have several good slings and am pulling out all the tricks up my sleeve. I've been a bit spoiled by the fact that since her birth, she has napped for 2-3 hours every afternoon, allowing me to spend time with my older kids, fold laundry, make dinner, or rest now and then. I haven't given up hope that this is just a wee phase she's going through, although it's been four days of 20 minute naps in the sling and no naps on our bed!

Some plans for this week: I'm having to work on optimism this week. Margot will be four on Saturday, and I have lots to do to prepare for her birthday, even though it will be a simpler affair than her older siblings' fourth parties! Mostly, I want to declutter and tidy/clean a bit. Her rainbow horse is done and stuffed; it just needs ears, tail, and mane! I'm making a second one for her cousin who will turn four on Sunday (yes! cousins, born 1 day apart)...I hope to do a bit each day so that by Saturday, I won't have anything to do but celebrate my sweet girl.  

With that said, I just really want to absorb each moment with my girl in her last week as a three year old. She is such a joy, a credit to her name (her middle name is Joy). 

If I find some time for myself, I would like to...as usual, I'd like to bathe at least twice this week. I'd like to have the energy to take off my mascara at the end of the day. I'd like to keep up with the laundry. A girl can dream, can't she? 

I am grateful for...the fact that my kids slept in till 7 in the morning on Saturday. This counts as a sleep-in in our house!

Something that makes me smile: Margot in all her incarnations...Super Undies Girl, a superhero who wears panties and her blankie as a cape; a beautiful belly dancer; a ballet teacher; a cowgirl who wears sparkly shoes and twirls a tape measure as her lasso...I can't wait to see what this week brings in terms of Margot's costumes.

Friday, February 22, 2013

:this moment::library book::

Stop by Amanda's blog to see more and to share link to your moment!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

from where I sit

From where I sit, I can see the little messes that freckle our home.
Discarded clothes, a dropped blankie, piles of books, stacks of videos, and snack crumbs polka-dot the floor.

From where I sit, my hands almost itch to swoop around and tidy up, putting toys back into labelled baskets, throwing this sock into the laundry basket, sweeping up yesterday's muffin dust.

I must remember to run the extra carseat upstairs to the attic, when I get out of this chair, and stack the storybooks into neat piles.

But from where I sit, I look away from the mess and down at my baby, her small hands nestled against my warmth, her round cheek echoing the shape of my breast, her eyes latching on to mine as I gaze at her beautiful little face.

The rest just kind of fades away, from where I sit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yarn Along: Self Help and Rainbow Horses

I'm not a fan of non-fiction. I like a good story, a tale with characters, setting, plot, and a conclusion that gives closure. I don't mind reading about knitting or farming or parenting, but that is as far as my non-fiction reading goes.

Enter Brene Brown and Sue Johnson

I'm simultaneously reading their books, Daring Greatly and Hold Me Tight.

Wow. In the first few pages of both books, I was nodding in recognition. I like that. I like that I'm not a total freak, alone in my quirks and imperfections. I'm so normal, they've written books about me! I highly recommend both books. They're really helping us through some rapid and painful growth in our marriage and as individuals. The learning curve is steep, but we're finding that communication needs to be more clear and efficient, especially with the arrival of our fourth babe!

I had the luck to find the book The Arrival by Shaun Tan at the library yesterday. It's one of those graphic storybooks, telling a tale without words. I was completely smitten with the story and drawings and signed it out to share with Jude and Robin. It is a tale of immigration, longing, freedom, and connection. SO beautiful. I highly recommend it.

Pictured above is my first rainbow horse; the second just came off the needles, and I'm contemplating a third (and a fourth) for the other birthday girls in our family. The pattern is deliciously simple, and the result is so anatomically perfect...I love Linda's patterns! Visit her etsy shop for some of your own. I love that you can pick and choose from your favourite animals. I gathered my older children around the computer, and let them each pick their favourites...so, it's a horse for Margot, a swan for Violet, a penguin for Jude, and a hedgehog for me!

Stop by Ginny's Yarn Along to find out what others are reading and knitting these days!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

adaptation

The sun is barely up, and the temperature reads -25 C. This is a layering kind of day, where snowpants won't be enough. Long johns, warm pants, wool socks. T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, wool sweater, coat. Hat and hood, all wrapped up in a scarf. Mittens tucked deeply under the sleeves of coats, snow pant hems pulled snugly over the tops of boots.

They pull on their backpacks without complaint, and head out into the frigid air to wait for the bus.

This routine astounds me, every single day because they never whine about it. On days when they don't go to school, they do it anyway, to play until their cheeks and toes feel frozen, at which point they pile in the door, confident that there will be hot chocolate and popcorn waiting for them. They hang up their stuff, place mittens over heat grates, and make sure all will be dry for their next foray into Eastern Ontario winter.

The Inuit have adapted to cold, winter living over thousands and thousands of years. 

My husband and I, however, are descended from Irish and English ancestors. My foremothers and fathers came to Canada in the mid-1800s, fleeing famine and religious persecution, and settled into a life of farming the Canadian soil. Robin's dad was born in Canada, but his grandparents came here from Northern Ireland. His mother still speaks with an English accent, after coming to Canada in the mid-1980s. This is all to say that our ancestry, in terms of adaptation to climate, is drawn from milder climes, greener fields, damp and soft weather for the most part.

I get this surge of pride every time I send my kids out into the winter cold, knowing that they are among the sturdiest stock in the world. They adapt to heat above 30 degrees C in the summer, and cold below -25 C in the winter. And they play just as happily in either temperature.

As for me, I prefer to stay inside with wool socks, a warm fire, a bowl of steel cut oats with maple syrup, and my knitting, while waiting for Spring.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Musings: Family

Joining in with Nadja at Patch o' Dirt Farm for Monday Musings!

Right now...There's a full pot of coffee hot and ready on the counter. The fire has been built up and we're trying to patiently wait for the house to warm up! Jude is chatting with Norah who is happy in her bouncy seat, and Violet is putting sticker clothes on a fairy drawing. Daddy and Margot are still abed (lucky souls!) and I'm working on shifting my thinking from "not enough sleep" to "adequate sleep to get through the day", thanks to Brene Brown and her book, Daring Greatly.

This weekend...is Family Day weekend in Canada; Monday is an official holiday, intended to give families time together. Too bad we didn't get that day every week! On Saturday, Robin took the big kids to spend the morning and early afternoon sliding with their cousin. They enjoyed the bonfire, hotdogs and marshmallows and hot chocolate, and fresh air that accompanied the winter activity! When they got home, they were rosy-cheeked and delighted to find my sister Lana here with her two girls. 

They spent the weekend running around the house, rummaging through my old belly dance costumes, leaving a trail of discarded clothing throughout the house, drawing and wrestling and screaming and pretending as cousins do. 

We'd hoped to take them all skiing/snowboarding on Sunday, but the thermometer dropped below the -20 degrees Celsius mark  so we opted for some more sliding and a fire outside, here at the house.

I enjoyed the company of my sister, drinking wine, catching up, and watching Antonia's Line (my all-time favourite movie). I also enjoyed the afternoon nap I got on Sunday!

Some plans for this week: We're starting counselling this evening, to iron out some of the bugs in our communication skills as a couple. The rest of the week is quiet. I've started two great books as part of my goal to work through the old crap that keeps coming up in our lives, and to move forward. So, I'll be reading and resting, and nestling in for the last few weeks of February. I'll also be finishing up some knitting for late February/early March birthday girls (four of them!) 

If I find some time for myself, I would like to...well...the usual. I'd like to bathe, nap, read a bit, and knit a bit. Time for myself is at a premium these days, so even peeing with the bathroom door closed feels like a day at the spa. Haha!

I am grateful for...all the wood that's in our basement to get us through the last cold months. No winter colds so far (touch wood)! My down duvet and the snuggly baby I get to sleep with every night.

Something that makes me smile: The CamWow app that had my sister and I crying with laughter on Saturday night! 

My handsome, handsome son.

Hope your week starts with a giggle!

Friday, February 15, 2013

::this moment::artist at work::

Stop by www.soulemama.com to view other moments or to share your own!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

love bug love

Our house is infested...

with Love Bugs!

Inspired by the marvellous Margaret Bloom, I made my own versions. I couldn't get out to the store for flower stamen antennaes or sticks to create their little heart signs. I sneakily painted their hair, faces, and bodies while my girls played with play dough in the kitchen this morning! Then I glued the felt bits on this evening while they played in the livingroom. 

Even without the cute details, they're pretty darn adorable. I was so thrilled to receive a parcel from Bear Dance Crafts this week, and set to work immediately painting and gluing these little sweeties, for my children to find on St. Valentine's Day, and for them to give to their bus driver and teachers.
This year, my kids went wild with watercolour paints, covering big sheets of newspaper from which we cut heart shapes to glue on card stock. I printed a personal message on each card, and then they signed their names. We're pleased with how they turned out!

Much love to you, friends and followers, on Valentine's Day and always!

Yarn Along

Time with needles in my hand has been vastly curtailed by the arrival of Norah Dell, although sometimes when the circumstances are right (read: she is asleep in the sling and her older siblings are occupied) I've been known to knit while doing the rock-dip-sway that infants seem to prefer.

A rash of births amongst friends has necessitated the creation of many Aviatrix hats. I no longer use the pattern, so many of these have I knit...two a week for the past two weeks! It's just such a fun knit, and I'm especially enjoying using up bits of self-striping sock yarn to create these hats. The design is so clever and effective, and choosing a perfect button is a joy. 

I also started a slouch hat for myself, inspired by Soulemama, of course. I can't find the pattern and can't remember where it came from...will link to it some other time.

I finally ordered some patterns from the inimitable Linda Dawkins of Natural Suburbia. Check out her patterns at her etsy shop here. I'll be knitting a rainbow horse for Margot for her birthday (if I could ever get knitting after she's in bed and before I fall asleep)!

As for reading...well, I pop a Petzl headlamp on my head at night and read a few pages of Diana Gabaldon's Voyager before passing out. This is the fourth time I've read her series of seven (so far) books. And I love them, every single time.

Seed catalogues and gardening books are waiting for my attention, and I have a few books on order through Amazon and Chapters/Indigo. I'll write about those next week, where I can hopefully show you the progress on my horse!

Please stop by Ginny's blog to share your own Yarn Along!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

39 years

Two months old...looking a wee bit like my youngest child.

My third birthday, wearing one of my mom's groovy 70s handmades.

My beautiful mother, lovingly feeding me. I remember the creak of that rocking chair, and my mother's scent.

My first home, out on the Queen's Line.

And another groovy handmade...

Thirty nine years ago today, I came into this world. I had two older sisters who loved me, and my parents named me Stephanie Rose (with the little pink toes). 

I had a happy childhood, full of homemade playdough, helping my mom bake, learning crafts, reading in the boughs of trees, and running the streets of my hometown with my little brother and best friend. 

I spent my teens activating for social and environmental change while also teasing my bangs, wearing too much makeup, and dating lots of boys. I went to France when I was 17, got drunk for the first time at 18, and headed to university at 19.

I became a teacher in my twenties but mostly spent my university years playing guitar at pubs and coffee houses and parties, being philosophical while smoking light cigarettes in cafes (especially when I lived in Belfast), then settling down in a rural schoolhouse in Ontario. Then I met my husband and the rest, they say, is history.

I am grateful to celebrate this new age in my life, the last year of my thirties. I would sum up that decade with one word: mothering.

I look forward to the coming year, and the next decade in my life with joy and anticipation!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Musings: Celebrations

Joining in with Nadja at Patch o' Dirt Farm for Monday Musings!

Right now...I'm waiting for the baby to wake up. We just got word that the buses are cancelled due to freezing rain, so Jude is pretty pleased! Robin just came in from scraping off his car and tells me he could see Jude up in his room, wearing a pirate mask and fighting with his reflection in his bedroom window! We've already broken up a screaming fight between Violet and Margot. The kettle has boiled so I'm thinking it's time to make tea, although it feels like a coffee kind of morning!

This weekend...was full! On Saturday, Violet went to the National Arts Centre for a production called "Green Eggs and Hamadeus", part of a series of family concerts. She was so cute in her excitement, all dressed up for a date with her little buddy. I sent a small camera with her and loved seeing the photos she took. 

On Saturday night, we went out with my sisters, our husbands, and our parents to celebrate mom and dad's 45th wedding anniversary! Wine, steak, and a beautiful gluten-free dessert, with generous sprinklings of Norah-adoration made it a lovely evening. We are so blessed!

On Sunday, I lost ten years of my life getting the kids out the door to Mass. Jude will be making his first Communion this year, so we were invited to a Commitment Ceremony to renew the promises we made to him at his Baptism. Another ten years were lost in keeping Margot quiet and relatively still throughout the Mass. I realised that the pressure I feel for my children to behave in church has more to do with my own worries about others will think of us than with others' expectations. A friend and colleague approached me afterwards and reminded me of the blessing it is to see Margot so active and joyous, when a few years ago we were all praying that her heart surgery would be successful. I needed that bit of encouragement and perspective, and saw the experience in a whole new light. I've renewed my vow to get to Mass more often with my children, remembering that I am not always being judged as I fear I am.

When we got home I made some sushi, something I haven't done in a long time. I really enjoy making it, and cut up one roll for my family to sample. Jude and Violet used to love it when they were the only kids in the family (back when I had time to make things like that!) and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they still do!

The sushi was for a gathering at a friend's house to celebrate two birthdays (one is mine!). Guitars and singing, lots of drumming, and some divine potluck offerings, warm sunshine and a comfy chair, cats that love attention, and so much love and hugs poured out to one another...my soul was refreshed as it always is after spending time with these women (and one man)!
THEN upon my return, we celebrated my birthday with my parents. The girls were in party dresses and vibrating with excitement...they'd helped clean the whole house, tied helium balloons to my chair, and helped daddy make a cake while I was out with Norah! The kids gave me a microwave for my birthday because I'm always complaining that my coffee gets cold before I have time to drink it! When our old one broke I felt we could live without it...until we had another baby and I depend on warming leftovers etc.! 

Other gifts included seed bells for the birds, a bag of potting soil to grow some wheatgrass, and gift cards for a massage, pedicure, and facial! I'm thrilled. Self-care is at the bottom of the list these days, so my husband and parents chose well!

Some plans for this week: I'm hoping to gather with some other close girlfriends for a birthday celebration, and will be heading out to spend time with a friend who just added her fifth baby to her brood. Today I'll be making meals to bring, and hopefully my little one will let me hold HER little one so she can rest. My housework goals are getting the laundry sorted and starting to gather the odd boxes and bags of toys into one space to begin the great Toy Purge!

If I find some time for myself, I would like to...Haha...that's a good one. IF a moment presents itself these days, I like to just sit down for a moment. If I can read a few pages or knit a few stitches, it's a good day!

I am grateful for...The wood fire that continues to warm us through the late winter. Seed catalogues on the kitchen table. The voices of my children playing upstairs. This healthy baby that continues to delight everyone with her smiles and beautiful spirit. The willingness of my husband to continue growing with me in our marriage. The love and dedication of my children's teachers in all they do.

Some special prayer intentions for this week:  For two friends, one who is grieving the loss of her mother in the fall while caring for her large family, and the other who is adjusting to her new life as a mother of five.

Something that makes me smile: The image of  Jude sword-fighting his reflection in the window. Meeting my husband as he came up the stairs and I came down and enjoying a long hug until my milk started letting down and I bolted for the washroom so my shirt wouldn't get soaked! Plans for the day...putting out food for the birds and planting some seeds in the depths of winter.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

fridge door

Mementos from a trip, bits of philosophy, or tiny piece of artistic expression, the magnets tht adorn a fridge door perhaps can tell you as much about a new friend as the books on their shelves.
...a bit of Tolkien with a 50s flair...

...a daily reminder from our son, with the word magnet to reinforce the message...

...a magazine message, magnified by a dollar store glass blob...

...or a picture from a children's storybook, stuck on a sheet of adhesive magnet reminding  me to hang on to the goat-farm dream...

...a bit of textile beauty used to cover an ugly "ad" magnet, and my famous "three Newfie boyfriends" magnet...

Together, they hold up so much beauty: photos of loved ones, bits of inspiration, and especially the artwork my children create each day.

What's on your fridge door?