Monday, December 30, 2013

a clean bathroom

I don't often blog about my bathroom. We only have one in a house containing two adults and four children. It's the place where we all, ahem...well, you know what one does in the bathroom. And with children it all adds up to a general grottiness. Spotty mirrors. Toothpaste splodges in the sink. A ring of ugh around the bathtub. And the toilet? Don't get me started. 

I love the feeling of setting off into the New Year with a more organized home. Today I armed myself with a broom, some window cleaner, and some grocery bags. I cleaned the bathroom shelf by shelf. I scraped out my candle holders and rinsed them with hot water to polish off the soot and wax bits. I dusted shelves and scraped dried toothpaste off of many surfaces you wouldn't expect to harbour toothpaste blobs. I emptied jars of homemade lotions, shampoos, and salves, as they have a tendency to smell rancid after awhile. The smell of this shampoo was indescribable beyond telling you that I actually gagged when I smelled it.

Ah! The joy of a bag filled with emptied shampoo, body wash, lotion, and face cream containers to put in the recycling! Of a basket filled with "man stuff" (shaving cream/lotion, face wash, beard trimmer, deodorant, and so on), and drawer filled with my "lady stuff" (makeup, jewellery, lotions, and so on). Of knowing that the gunge that settles into the bottom of the toothbrush cup and around the base of the toilet has been scoured away!

Cotton swabs and dental floss picks have been replenished and stored in pretty pottery containers. A fresh bar of goat milk soap has been placed beside the sink. Books have been carefully selected to ensure good reading while bathing or doing other things in the bathroom. And the old rake I found in the barn has been added as a point of visual interest.

The plant I keep in the bathroom has not, as of yet, committed suicide out of despair at being neglected which is a triumph in and of itself. I'm guessing this is because the steam from our baths keep it adequately hydrated.

Tomorrow we will celebrate New Year's with a gathering of friends with children. And my bathroom is clean, sparkly, and organized! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

the days between


I love these days between Christmas and New Year's. The buildup to the big day has dozed off into a quietish lull (because, let's be honest, things are never quiet with four children in the house), and we can really settle in to enjoying the company of family.
We spent a few days at my parents' home, the house I grew up in, where we gamboled with cousins, had a Christmas concert where all the children performed a song or two, opened and assembled presents, ate many sweets, consumed much wine and rich food, and had our traditional games of cards which involve much good-natured cursing and competition between my sisters and I and our husbands.
The baby watched joyfully as her siblings built a snow person, then splashed in the sink that once bathed her uncle, cousins, and siblings.
These days between allow us a bit of rest before we ring in the New Year, after which we will be fully committed to napping, cuddling, playing in the snow, and watching children's movies before heading back to school.

Friday, December 20, 2013

wintry things

Today is a day for all things wintry.

It's snowing steadily, and after finally getting everyone dressed and out the door, I reflected upon the word trudge. I expect it was invented specifically to describe the way in which a four-year-old makes her way through deep snow. 

I also reflected on the full sensory experience of playing in the snow. Burying each other, scooping it out of the back of your collar, eating it, making angels in it, feeling it melt on your face, listening to the quiet sprinkle as it falls all around, and that wintry smell of almost nothing but cold and white, which aren't really smells at all, but there you go. Wintry.

We've slapped some gluten-free graham crackers together into small gingerbread houses, which was really just an excuse to eat a whole lot of candy before lunch. Jude, clever soul, filled his house with candy before he put the roof on. 

There are requests to string popcorn for the Christmas tree, and hopes that I will actually sit and watch a movie with them (instead of running around trying to tidy up and make dinner). Maybe we'll just have popcorn for dinner. Or maybe I'll order pizza.

After five weeks of the dizzy dance of full-time work and a week-long illness that sent us to the hospital with Norah twice, kept Violet out of school for four days, and put Daddy out of commission for awhile, the holidays have begun.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do as the Romans Do

In my son's room, quart-jars filled with tiny soldiers line the windowsills. Lots of them. My husband collected them as a child, inspired by his father's passion for painting historical military figures. In my father-in-law's basement squadrons, battalions, cohorts and legions fill wall-to-wall cabinets. Zulu warriors, Celts, Redcoats, Civil War soldiers, and French revolutionaries stand at the ready, weapons poised, all hand-painted down to the tiniest detail. My husband and his dad like to set them up on battlefields and play war games with them. I don't really get it, I confess.

I'll admit, I thought this passion was a bit weird when I first heard of it. Then my son's hands matured enough to wield the tiny brush necessary to add colour to 3/4 inch miniatures, and I find myself sitting with him to help out when he beings to paint. A base coat of white is sprayed on, then each part of the soldier is carefully coloured in with acrylic craft paint. When it is done, it is finished with a wash of dark oil-paint to create a patina.

They're tiny. They're fierce. They're adorable. And painting them is addictive.

My son's room is a scene from fantastical battlefields: Confederate soldiers rank up with Romans to fight the cowboys and Zulus. The time he takes to stand each tiny warrior in lines astounds me, as does the amount of time he spends playing with them. We are not a family that glorifies war by any means (and have avoided gun-play for eight years now), but the history of war is another story. The fateful weather, the lay of the land, the trick of a zipper or a red coat in betraying its wearer's whereabouts, and the folly of poor strategy are what capture our imaginations as a family.

For Christmas, he wants a set of Vikings and I'm already giggly thinking about painting those tiny, wild red beards!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mermaid Ornament

Sometimes I drive my husband crazy, like when I get it into my head to create a handmade gift the day before it's meant to be given. 

My niece's very special 10th birthday arrived right at the beginning of December, and I was just tying off the last knots on my Advent offerings. My older nieces had arrived for the weekend, and I'd been dreaming of creating this mermaid ornament inspired by ones I'd seen on Etsy. So on Saturday morning I started sewing.

She's just pretty magical, isn't she? I'm not crazy about sewing with the metallic thread but I'm kind of crazy about those circular things on her tail (I don't know what that stitch is called). She's got big blue eyes and curly brown hair like Meredith Ocea, the girl who inspired her creation.

You can read about my sister's extraordinary journey as a mother of a child with special needs here. You can read about their special connection with mermaids here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In Just One Year

Dearest Norah,

In just one year, you've taught me to surrender, slow down, really see and feel each moment for the fleeting beauty that it is. You've taught me that spinning, knitting, reading, and time to myself are lovely, yes, but not vital at this moment. You've taught me to sit on the floor and play and to ignore the housework.

You've learned to sit up, then crawl, then walk, all in one short year!

You've sprouted three teeth in a many weeks, and have three more working their way through. Your little body has fought colds, and now you're getting over a doozy: a whole week of fever and coughing. 

You've had two trips to the emergency room, once when you were two weeks old because you had a weird cyst in your armpit, and once this week because I was so worried about your ongoing fever.

You love to kiss and bonk foreheads with your siblings. Balloons make you laugh. You love to pet the ponies and cats. You act bashful by shrugging up your shoulder and turning your face into my chest when a stranger talks to you.

You love yogurt and scrambled eggs, cantaloupe, peas, water, and ground beef. You hate cow's milk.

Your face lights up when your siblings come home from school or come down the stairs in the morning. You are held by many arms, kissed by many people, and have brought so much more joy into our family than we could have imagined when I found out I was expecting you back in April 2012.

In just one year, you have established yourself as the sweetest, most easy going girl. You've deprived me of a year's worth of sleep, nursed for a year (so far), and woken up every morning for 365 days to the loving faces of your family.

You pinch our arms and necks as you fall asleep, leaving tiny bruises. I miss seeing those bruises on my arms, now that I'm back at work.

You toddle towards me when I come in the door each evening, with your wee arms stretched up to surround my neck. I crave the softness of your hair against my cheek, your kisses where you lean softly forehead and close your eyes for the gentlest of embraces, and kissing your beautiful, beautiful face.  Your deep brown eye, impossible eyelashes, and wide, squishy mouth inspire poetry in my heart when we're apart. I miss you all day and cherish your warmth all night.

Norah Dell, I love you, and wish you all the joys the world can offer as you set off into the world of one.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Goodness

Credits: Knitted gnomes, wooden houses, and wood-cut gnomes by the Wabi Sabi Wanderer; felt tree and St. Lucia peg dolls by Erin, needle-felted toadstool and fairy house by Shanti, pinecone gnome, snowflake ornament, and angel peg doll by Maureen, and dala horses, wet-felted/knitted snowpeople, and Wee Felt Folk dolls by yours truly! 

Some dear friends and I revived a beloved tradition this year, that of creating Advent Sticks for our children.

A few weeks ago I fired off an email suggesting we each create three handmade crafts, times five each (down from our usual quota of five times five crafts). Dreaming up sweet, unique, wintry handmades, spending our evenings in quiet (or hurried) creating, and finally gathering to exclaim in delight over each one's offerings before finally wrapping each one in tissue paper...this is why we do it.

This year, the gaps were filled in with kindness coupons and store bought sweets to bring the total up to 25 wrapped gifts, one for each day until Christmas Day. Instead of tying my goodies to a stick, I put them all in a basket. I've set up a space as a winter seasonal table, and each offering will be added to it to create a magical play space for my three older children.

Our Advent exchange is a treasured tradition; sometimes I wonder if I'm nuts to do it every year, but then we gather and the warmth, inspiration, and joy of it all reminds me that it is worth every stitch and every moment of delayed sleep!

Please pop by Twig and Toadstool for Maureen's account of our exchange! Thanks to Maureen for the photos!