Wednesday, June 14, 2017

pleasant surprises


I am so amazed when I think about all the natural beauty we are surrounded with here in central Washington.  We can drive just a fairly short distance and reach oceans, mountains, plateaus and prairies, glaciers, river gorges, waterfalls, and more.  Today was a day off for Jesse so we hopped in the car and drove an hour and half to the Columbia River and planned to visit a museum I had known about but never really researched.  I was so pleasantly surprised by the experience!  Since we were able to get in free because our library provides a free family pass to the Maryhill Museum of Art (which meant I really wasn't sure if it would be that great since free doesn't always equal stunning), it was well worth the plan and if it was a bust we'd just head further down the Washington/Oregon border to some little hike or something.  No hike needed.... the art museum was incredible, housed in a mansion atop the Columbia Gorge, right above the river rushing by below.  The museum had a big variety of exhibits, but our favorites were the Native American articles from all over North America; Plateau tribes, Coastal tribes, California tribes, Southwest tribes, Inuit tribes.  The collection of baskets and baby boards and tools and photographs was beautiful and I wished I had more time in there but the kids were getting antsy.  I had no idea there was a pretty large collection of Rodin sculptures as well which was my other favorite.  Many of his plaster casts were there which was fun to think about - practice models for the marble work later.  There were also several Greek artifacts from several thousand years ago!  The grounds contain several outdoor sculptures and a picnic area, so we enjoyed relaxing in the grass and since I am recovering from a sinus infection, I rested while Jesse took the girls around to see the sculptures.  It was a sweet day and the girls were sad to leave. It was quiet and calm with no crowds, and we really only got through half of the museum or so, so another trip is in our future.

While I rested I worked on my newest knit:  a little short sleeved shirt (pattern: Sorello) for Millie in some gifted Fancy Image Yarn yarn from a sweet reader here.  Isn't the yarn stunning?!  I am thrilled by the bright vibrant colors as they unfold in each row and Millie says, "Oh mom!  Is that for me!!?"

Thursday, June 08, 2017

school end and summer ideas

We have loved this school year.  I've shared several times about our work and plans this year and now it comes to a temporary close!  Lyddie and I enjoyed Ambleside Online Year 1 and I will get to do it all over again with Millie next year.  We skipped a few books (i.e., the D'Aulaire's Buffalo Bill and Pocahontas, anyone else skip those?) because I wasn't satisfied with the portrayal of Native America and the history included in those specific books, but will substitute with anything I can find that I like better; I'm still trying to find time to pre-read Bulla's version of Pocahontas before deciding whether to give it to Lyddie to read herself.  However, my kids will naturally have a lot of opportunity to learn Native American history and culture so I'm not terribly concerned at the moment.  

We read a lot of beautiful picture books in our morning times (lots of AA Milne and Beatrix Potter and Robert McCloskey and Virginia Lee Burton!); we read Life of Fred: Apples, did lots of nature sketching, some classical music study and learned several folk songs.  We completed Level A of RightStart math and whole year of Spell to Write and Read; Lyddie and Millie both learned cursive and got through SWR levels A through I.  I was so proud of all their hard work and pleased to see such tremendous improvement in their spelling skills.  We enjoyed several Chalk pastel tutorials which were always a highlight of the day each time we did them. 

Lyddie and I read many fairy tales, several beautiful retellings of Shakespeare plays, learned the geography of the American Midwest using Holling's Paddle to the Sea, became acquainted with several birds through the Burgess Bird Book, learned about ancient British and Scandinavian and church history using the books Our Island Story and Viking Tales and Trial and Triumph. She learned to cross-stitch and continued with her knitting. It's been a lovely year even with all the bumps and chaos and changes. Millie and Rosie spent a lot of time running and playing outside in the ice, in the wind, in the sunshine, helping plant the garden, water the plants, caring for our animals, and coming up with creative things to do with paper and scissors and glue.  Millie learned how to cross-stitch and loved learning to use a knitting doll and her nature sketchbook is beautiful; she has a natural talent for drawing.

Now we put aside the formal work of the school year to begin a different season.  Our summers are not slow but they will be a different kind of work and that is it's own kind of a break as well.  I have a few plans and hopes for the summer with the girls. 

We will continue with our morning time routine reading Bible stories, memorizing Scripture, and learning a hymn.  To go with that, I downloaded Pam Barnhill's summer adventure morning time plans at EdSnapshots (that go along with the summer reading program she puts together and that we are using) and I think they will just be fun things to do together.  Check them out!  Instead of doing them over three weeks, I plan to lazily stretch them over six weeks.  I wanted to continue with some fun stuff first thing in the morning to keep the habit, but I did not relish the thought of doing any planning while I'm also working on planning for next school year in my free time.  Pam's plans were the perfect idea and worth $5.  Although I did have to request our library to buy or do interlibrary loan for a majority of the books since I need to save my school budget for next year's materials; the recommended books are not obscure but because our library system is small and apparently full of [dumb] book choices, I just can't find them easily.  (I guess I'm helping them round out their collection with better books, right?).  Besides the morning time plans, I really want our downtime hours to be very restful and playful.  I loved seeing my girls pull out their china tea sets today for a "formal" picnic of crackers and cheese on the porch today and then sprawl out on blankets with books in the afternoon. On the hot days I plan to take them swimming; I thought it highly possible Rosie would take all summer to learn to swim, but in just 4-5 times at our friends' pool she's becoming a little fish and gaining confidence to swim across the the width of the pool even. Water safety is important to us, but since that's going so well, I am glad I didn't invest a lot more into swimming lessons this summer and decided to try to teach them myself as needed.

In reality I haven't done anything about this summer beyond print the morning time plans and try to order some of the books from the library and I think that's about the level of thought and energy I will have to put into any of that kind of structure at home this summer.  Most of my energy this week (besides participating in Sacred Road's summer kids ministry each afternoon) has gone to putting the house back in order - finishing up the school year strong meant letting go of so much around here and I was getting tired of never being able to find anything and the laundry and the crumbs and the clutter and still a few boxes...  soon I will start working on some prep for next school year, but that's for another post.  

Happy summer, friends.  I hope the weather where you are is glorious as it has been here. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

a list of june

School's out...hooray hooray!

swimsuits and sunshine...sun-dried towels and pinky cheeks

hammock play when uncle visits...giggles, rocking, squeezing
bunnies and kittens always everywhere...hopping, pouncing, mewing
deep cleaning and organizing...piles and purging and stacking and sorting
afternoon reading...  library visits, reading aloud,  fantasy worlds
Early summer

Tuesday, May 23, 2017



These early summer days are all riotous with promise and beauty in all directions.  With my spare time, what little there is of it, I've been planning and dreaming about and working on our big front porch.  It's bordered by birch trees and a big verdant ash tree, all of which provide the most beautiful shade almost all day.  Jesse and I kept looking at each other the past week agreeing "We really need a little table out here where we can eat."  So I hopped on OfferUp (have you seen this?  It strikes me as a nicer version of Craigslist) and the first thing I saw was the perfect table set.  We ran to pick it up and I spent yesterday morning there with the warm breeze blowing gently through the speckled shade. 

My days are full of little things like that right now; I'm so thankful, just thankful over and over and over again for all the Lord's provisions in ways beyond what I could have ever imagined for this moment, for these days with my young children.  There is so much beauty.  The raspberries with what must be thousands of bees flitting among the brambles; the big green strawberries burgeoning, waking up to little arms around my neck and birdsong out the window, soft white pea blossoms, the yellow rose hedge lining my garden, little girls living in their swimsuits all day, the list could go on and on.  

We discovered one of our inherited barn cats in the hedge with a den full of kittens last week, and she let us move them all indoors.  She is a darling cat and an inspiring mother. I've spent an embarrassing number of evening hours since Friday sitting on the floor alone by the box containing her and all five kittens just watching and contemplating my own motherhood.  As I watch her patiently center her whole world around meeting the needs of these minuscule creatures, it reminds me of the importance of putting the needs of my little girls ahead of my own self-centered longing for comfort or quiet or productivity. As I watch them clamber all over her in a chaotic tangle, I feel convicted over the lack of peace and faith I often demonstrate in my motherhood journey.  In so many areas of my life I see more and more how I am so self-focused, so driven by my own wants and needs over those of my loved ones. To lay down one's life is gain; to die to self is to live.  This is foolishness to the modern woman and yet the truth still stands and it takes a skinny calico to remind me of it this week. 

I am knitting the body of the Suzanne cardigan Lyddie picked out; I am afraid I will need to order another skein of Knit Picks Swish DK but will see how far I can get with the skein and a half left.  I need to finish several more inches of the body and then pick up a bunch of stitches to make the border... like a button band, but no buttons. She won't need it until fall so I have plenty of time to get more yarn and finish if I need to.  

I'm reading lots of things here and there including pre-reading the last couple weeks of Lyddie's school books, but mostly this week I'm working my way through a chapter of "Wise Blood" by Flannery O'Connor each night.  It's not easy reading for me, since I'm not a master of the abstract and I feel like her stories are a little too abstract for me to easily understand them. My brain always tries to land on concrete symbolism that isn't necessarily there; perhaps I subconsciously try to separate myself from the characters and the contrasts by inserting symbols to keep myself removed from experiencing the story, but sometimes the darkness and the light are just there. Like real life. I don't think we always need to read what is pleasurable and light-hearted (though there is a place for that too) and I have a knowledge deep down that walking through O'Connor's stories changes me and makes me to see my world in a slightly new way. Although I don't live in the US Southeast and haven't even ever traveled there, I think maybe hidden in deep are truths in her stories that are very relevant to the Rez. So I persist.

I can hardly believe we are nearing the end of May.  Come, dear sunshine, and cheer our hearts!

Joining up with Nicole for Crafting On

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

yarn along

After a whirlwind trip to the Seattle area this weekend we are home and working on our third-to-last week of school.  I am starting to wonder whether I can line up a few books on our kindles for the girls to read this summer or another way to keep them reading interesting things; not an easy task when one has a pretty lame book selection through one's library.

I've been knitting like crazy on Lyddie's Suzanne sweater and am nearing the finish line.  If you don't mind picking up a ton of stitches, it's a great pattern!  I don't really mind that and I like the look it achieves.  It's a pretty knit and I'm happy to be working stockinette now.

I finished In the Woods and cannot recommend it at all.  It was a complete disappointment!  I don't want to give away too many spoilers but I will just say that the last 1/3 of the book was terribly unsatisfying but it had held enough promise early on that I hoped it would resolve with some closure.  Nope.  I don't think I'll read any more of Tana French's books but it's too bad because I'd heard many positive reviews of the book which caused me to pick it up and she does have an interesting style that kept me engaged.

I'm now reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and it's a breath of fresh air after that last 400-page disappointment. I'm also reading a bit of Flannery O'Connor and seeing it with new eyes.  Listening to Wuthering Heights which is so-so... I haven't really found myself enjoying it either, per se, but I'm sticking it out because it's ... Wuthering Heights and I've always wanted to read it and know the characters because they are cultural references often enough.  And I'm listening to The Count of Monte Cristo (still) along with Heather at the CraftLit podcast and I'm enjoying it a lot the past several chapters.  Usually I ditch books I'm not that into but I am pressing through a lot of these in part because I don't have the energy to switch and find another book to read that I think I'll like better.  I could probably stand to have some book suggestions made in the comments here; I am looking for more past or modern classics - something that will stand the test of time (like Dillard, or Austen, or maybe Willa Cather or...?) or really excellently written mystery novels... or juvenile fiction is often a home run for me.  Anyone want to throw out a few books I should definitely look into that I might put on hold through the library that would help me feel excited to read again?