Thursday, November 29, 2012

Elving for a handmade holiday

Without going into too much detail, I'll just say that there is a fair amount of elving going on around here.  My sewing machine and knitting needles are getting more attention lately than they have in ages.  I like to make a handmade gift or two each year for my daughters and my niece and nephew.  I also put together a small photo album of the girls from throughout the year for the grandparents.  We buy a few thoughtfully purchased gifts, and choose not to exchange gifts with many of the adults in our family.  This allows us to focus on the togetherness of sharing time with family with minimal pressure to BUY (for us or them). Some years we've chosen to donate to Heifer International in someone else's name as a gift to them and to a family in need who can receive a flock of chicks, geese, or ducks for a $20 donation (or other animals and training to help develop self-reliance for a variety of donation prices).

We've given little gifts like colorfully decorated jars of herbs de provence or little glazed pottery dishes some years.  We are trying to combine the traditions of our given families with our own intentional choices to increase joy and connection and decrease stress and pressure :) 

In our immediate family we share gifts and celebrate the turning of the seasons on Winter Solstice and then celebrate Christmas with extended family.    

 Camille likes to take over my knitting from time to time.  We're working on the Cowgirl Butterfly Astronaut Vest for Ayla.
One can hardly bring three little people into a craft store for yarn this time of year without picking up some little wooden ornaments and glitter glue :)

Besides crafty business, we have gotten together with friends, taken an orienteering class at Aldo Leopold Nature Center, visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens, ...
 chocolate rocks

 beauty in all seasons

...and played Mushroom Age, a time travel adventure.  I love seeing my girls engaged, heads pressed together, discussing, learning, and laughing.

Have you and your family chosen a unique way to celebrate the winter holidays (or summer, for you southern hemisphere folks)?  Do you develop new traditions, hold on to the ones you grew up with, or a combination of the two?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

I'm thankful for the living and the loving, the challenges as well as the good times, the darkness and the light, friends, family, sustenance, a solar-heated home, and you!

 I'm thankful for a simple, messy, creative, abundant life, including the land that I live on and the internet that keeps us connected.

I am wishing you all wellness, Friends.

Monday, November 19, 2012

doing nothing

Last week was a crazy busy, Go!, kind of week. When we weren't out and about, running errands, and shopping for a used vehicle, I was doing such things as steam-mopping my floors.  Camille and Papa performed in Papa's Angels four times last week, and finished their final performance on Sunday, followed by a potluck/cast party, and a visit from Grandma and Grandpa.

Last night I had some kind of crazy migraine headache, and today I was determined to NOTHING.  Well, apparently nothing involves making two batches of jello playdough, reading a dozen library books in front of the woodstove, making 17th century corn bread, organic butter from cream, and a huge salad, building with blocks and wooden train tracks, and starting A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  (I don't dream up these things, they do!)
 cozy by the woodstove
 shaking butter in a mason jar
 mixing grape and orange playdough

taking it easy
Apparently, we play so hard that they just fall asleep in the middle of things. (Never mind the puppy-chewed furniture).

About A Christmas Carol, Camille said, "I really like this so far, even though it's kind of hard to understand, and he explains things a lot."  It took over three pages for Charles to tell us that (1) Marley is dead (as a doornail), and (2) Scrooge is not a pleasant man, but we laughed out loud at many of the descriptors.

I wonder how that 17th century corn bread is going to taste when it comes out of the oven . . . I hope it's good with homemade butter.  Camille has big plans for hasty pudding (aka corn mush) for breakfast, and then, because we overheard an Amish woman discussing her recipe for fried mush, I think that's next (It looks a lot better than it sounds :).  We also watched WordGirl (Sylvia's current fave), Molly, an American Girl on the Homefront, and part of Human Planet Disc 2.

I know I've said it before, but I really love this life.  It's not glamorous, but it's good.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

sand and stars

We spent some time recently playing with virtual sand, and then went out to play with real sand.  It was a very fine November day. (If you check out the virtual sand, try typing the letter c and then dragging your cursor through the colors.  Also, you can save creations to their gallery by clicking on the gray box in the upper left corner.)
Not everyone wanted to play in the sand.  I split my time between warm sand play and sitting with Camille, helping her learn how to cable knit.

 No cable needle?  A stick will work just fine :)

 I have a rather elfin hooded scarf in progress for myself.

We've also spent some time looking at virtual stars, and admiring the real ones.  We woke up in the wee hours to try to view the Leonid meteor shower during its peak, but it was so chilly out that we settled on just stargazing during the regular evening hours. 

We've had a lot of big emotions and big conversations going on around here.  All of it part of the learning. Conversations have included topics such as euthanasia and the death penalty.  It's amazing to me how different life is with my 9-year-old is than it was when she was 8.  Camille has grown intellectually, emotionally, and physically in leaps and bounds this year.  And yet she is still so playful and sweet and young much of the time.  I think she's feeling that struggle where little girl stuff is not as engaging anymore, but she hasn't found her stride yet with her longer legs.

Sylvia and Ayla have been having their own challenges, mostly involving 2-year-old-energy being too much for a gentle 5-year-old.  I'm so glad that Sylvia has a tendency to stay up later than her sisters because we have our best conversations snuggling in bed after everyone else is asleep.  I either read aloud to her or we watch nature documentaries (most of the time, though it was a Barbie Mermaid movie recently :)  I really value being able to spend some time with each girl individually as often as possible, so that it doesn't just become me managing the group dynamics of different ages and personalities, but really getting to connect with the shining spirits of Camille, Sylvia, and Ayla as they grow and change.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

musings ~ on balance in an unstructured life

A year and a half has gone by since we moved out to the country.  I still get thrilled every time I see a deer, pheasant, turkey, fox, etc.  I still love to hear coyotes and owls (and once, a wolf) in the evening, and to see the Milky Way on a clear dark night.  I'm still enamored of the view of rolling hills, patchwork fields, and the occasional rocky bluffs.  Even driving by run-down old barns, passing tractors and Amish horse-drawn buggies, fill me with a feeling of romantic idealism.  I am sure at some point this will seem so commonplace that my eyes won't see it so clearly.  They won't be open, so wide and childlike.  And yet being able to appreciate where I am now is a gift that I'm grateful for, even if it's bound to fade.

In other ways, life inside the home is not much different than living in our little rental house in the city.  We have solar panels for heat and hot water on sunny days, but we use electricity the same otherwise, watch DVDs and Netflix, use the computer, etc.  The other big difference is that we drive a lot greater distance for errands, community events, and friendship.  We have had two cars die recently, and had only just replaced one when the other gave out.  When we were searching for another affordable used vehicle, we ended up with a minivan.  I kept resisting it :), but the girls are much happier not being crammed together in a tiny backseat.

 That's my attempt at creative photography.  I call it Ice Crystals (as Seen From a Minivan Window While Driving on a Country Road  :).

Recently, Ayla said, "We should cook up that rooster.  He's bothering me."  It somehow shocked me that she should be so comfortable with this idea.  As a former vegetarian/vegan for most of my adult life, (and a city girl) it kind of made me squirm.  But the rooster was being very aggressive, actually jumped on her and drew blood, and we had already planned on butchering him for the stew pot, so why should it bother me?  At two years old, Ayla is comfortable in this life in a way that I am only get used to.

Vegetarians, avert your eyes.  Here's Camille scaring 'meanie rooster' away with her bow and arrow.
 Here's the rooster stew with sweet potatoes, carrots, and cabbage.

I have never been a person to fit comfortably in one category, in any one easily-defined identity or role.  I am constantly questioning everything.  I wonder how my daughters will each experience this ambiguity.  My hope, of course, is that they will be so comfortable being who they are, that it won't matter.

Camille cooked oatmeal this morning on the woodstove, while Sylvia watched Wordgirl, and I picked up some knitting that had mostly lain dormant since last winter.  Our lives these days seem like such a wonderful, yet simple, mishmash.  Not predictable from day to day, but simple and ordinary enough to not feel out of control (usually).

Yesterday, we drove into the city for a doctor's appointment and a homeschool class at Aldo Leopold Nature Center.  We also picnicked with friends and explored the exhibit.

 dress like Aldo Leopold

 And today, a local playdate (only 20 miles away).  Out here, that makes us practically neighbors.
I'm feeling grateful that we've cultivated friendships with families where the children and the adults alike can be good friends to each other.  We're definitely not poorly-under-socialized homeschoolers.

For me (and I think, for my whole family), there is a great wonder and openness in our lives, in the way we live and learn.  And yet, it can be uncomfortable at times, this openness, this awareness of the endless possibilities.  Too many choices can be overwhelming.  For that matter, too many dirty dishes can be overwhelming.  Staying grounded and focused is not one of my greater strengths.  So, here's one more thing that I'm extremely grateful husband is very good at being grounded and focused.

And yet, he's the one who thinks we should buy a horse (or two).  I think between him and I, we have been on a horse exactly twice in our lives.  I foresee another learning adventure with another steep curve coming our way in the next year.  Maybe we can finish the interior of the ground floor of this house before we take on fencing and animal shelters. . . .

Finding a place where wonder, practicality, excitement, responsibility, joy, stability, flow, and sparkle can meet in building a life is my goal.  Balance is the key.