"about me"

Almost Groovin'

On Tuesday, the boys started school. Ever since the painful decision was made to send them to school this year instead of home school them, my feelings toward the subject had changed from being based primarily in sorrow and anguish to excitement tinged with only a little worry and self-reproach. There were days in the summer, especially up until Jude finally completed Grade 5 Math (only two weeks before September 3), when the end of the school "holiday" couldn't come fast enough.

While Jason will be driving them to school most days, as his office is nearby and his work hours begin about the same time, I drove them in on the first day to help them find their classrooms and settle in. As I finally pushed Levi's stroller back to the van, unaccompanied by any of my other children, I found myself surprisingly emotional. While I don't have the typical fears that many mothers do for their wee ones when they send them off to the first day of first grade, I still found myself grieving. After all, I usually enjoy spending time with my children, which is one of the reasons I wanted to home school in the first place. For the last ten and a half years, I have had them with me for most of the hours of my day, not only during school sessions, but also at the grocery store, post office, while having tea at a friend's, or on business trips.

Not anxious to go home to a quiet house, I decided to take my mother's mail out to their place (we share a post box, which is a long story and had a good reason for it initially, but now that they actually live in the Peace Country, it is a bit of a drive to make sure we both get our mail in a timely manner--my mother and stepfather live about thirty minutes away.) As I left town, the memory of Noah asking to listen to music in the van, which he always did almost immediately after I turned the key in the ignition, imposed itself on my brain. Sometimes I would say no, not wanting to listen to children's music or have the kids argue or complain about what we listen to (they all prefer different CDs, of course), but sometimes yes. I came to the sudden realization that I could listen to whatever I wanted, and no one would say a peep about it.

So I didn't listen to anything. A sentimental tear trickled down my cheek, instead.

Levi fell asleep in the van on the way out, so while he snoozed, my mom and I shared a cup of tea, talked over the challenges that our climate has presented to our gardens this year while we inspected her crops, and more. By the time I left, my spirits had reached a more buoyant level, Levi was awake, and by the time I got home it was nearly the lunch hour. The rest of the day seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, my other three boys were walking up the driveway with stories about their new teachers, new school, new classmates, and a ravenous appetite. (They are last off the bus at 4:40--oh, does that bring flashbacks to my own bus-riding days.)

The next three days were just as full of activity for me, but by Thursday, I was able to actually get started on my "to-do" list. (Blogging has been on that list all week, but obviously not as high as some of the other items it contained!) Beautiful Indian summer temperatures approaching 30 degrees Celsius meant I got work done both outside and inside.

Levi is much easier to keep occupied outside. Our yard is large and open, and I can see him nearly anywhere in it, no matter where I am. He loves watching the chickens in their various enclosures, or chasing the four-week-old chicks with their mama scolding furiously, or climbing on his little slide, or playing with his trucks, or chasing the cats, or cuddling with Sunshine, our Golden Retriever (who thoroughly enjoys it, too.) As a consequence, I was able to make progress on gardening, mowing, cleaning out the chicken coop, and organizing our SeaCan.

In the hot afternoons, we hung out inside. Despite the loads of work I have waiting for me in my office, I found it tricky to make time for it, and am hoping to have better luck carving time out of my schedule to get my butt into my office chair this week. Without anyone else in the house, when I am in the office, Levi is either unsupervised in the main area of the house (a bad idea, as he loves to redecorate with dirt from my plants or torment the new kitty we have in the house at the moment, or do various and sundry other activities he knows he is not allowed to do), or he hangs his arms over the baby gate to the office and whines at me for attention, which is way too distracting to actually accomplish anything over.

So, instead, I began the changeover of our living space from a "school room" to a dedicated "living/dining room."

Something else novel--when you have ALL your kids home ALL the time, it seems as though the house is ALWAYS messy. While it is nearly always more work and energy to train your children to clean up after themselves, and have them do household chores to contribute to general cleaning maintenance, we considered the short-term pain worth the long-term gain of training our children. Not to mention, I simply did not have the time or energy to do all the cleaning myself. Thankfully, a combination of lowering the standards for what I expected and not having done all the cleaning work myself allowed for much less frustration at the constant re-cluttering and re-dirtying of everything.

BUT! Now that I am here by myself most of the day, not having to spend so much of my energy with cooking two full meals a day (lunch and supper), and cleaning up after at least one of them myself (lunch), with only one pint-sized boy whose messes are easily tidied in about 30 seconds (most of the time), I felt a sudden nesting urge. In only two days, the general level of order increased about ten-fold--at least, during daytime hours. I am looking forward to increasing that exponentially in the next week.

And all the flurry of cleaning and organizing activity helps me to forget, sometimes, how quiet it is in the house.

So, changes are happening, and most of them for the good. Supper and snacks now get more of my attention and creativity, and has already resulted in healthier eating. Yay! And I am also getting to enjoy some time outside, which too often got put off as the last thing to do on my list, right down there with exercising. Now, I am combining them in my work activities.

And, for the first time, I actually get to play with my baby instead of just care for him.

It might take me a while to feel like this changeover is complete, and get me "back in the groove", but I know it will happen. And, sentimentality aside, I know it's a good thing.

Happy September, friends!

Remembering Grandpa

I never put much stock in the old "deaths come in threes" adage. Nevertheless, we will soon be celebrating the life of someone close to us for the third time this year.

Kenneth Stanley McCarty was a long-standing and involved member of his church, community, and family, but I just knew him as "Grandpa." Whenever I lose a grandparent, I always feel the keenest loss at feeling like I didn't really know much about them or their life, and that is true now, also, to a degree. However, I was fortunate enough to know him some, and I was glad of the time we spent together.

When I was a little girl, I used to love biking around Lacombe with Grandpa. He taught me how to use hand signals for safety, and the rules of the road when biking. He didn't take me as often as I wanted to go (something to do with him actually wanting to get some exercise, I'm sure), but those were still treasured memories.

Around the time I was born (his first grandchild), he went into semi-retirement and drove school bus for income. In between, he also picked up running as a hobby. By the time I was a teenager, he had a wall full of medals and trophies of all sizes, colours, and shapes. I remember watching him carry the Olympic Torch for a mile on its trip across Canada when the 1986 Olympics were in Calgary. It never occurred to me how special and unique that was until I would tell my friends that my Grandpa still ran marathons, and see the look of amazement on their faces.

Grandpa was extremely musical. When we were kids, he would serenade us with old songs from the 40s and 50s, or hymns, or gospel songs, and accompany himself on the guitar or the accordion. One of my favourite photos of us together is when I was still a baby, lying on their couch, Grandpa with his poofy red-brown sideburns and accordion, singing something or other to me.

When I was a teenager, he recorded a cassette tape of two songs for me--"The Bull Song", an oldie by Wilf Carter, and "The Teddy Bear's Picnic", another one he often sang by popular demand. He had a steady voice with good pitch. Unfortunately, that tape was in the vehicle that was stolen from me when I was in college, and was among the items never recovered.

A couple of years ago, some of my uncles, my mom,  and I were encouraging Grandpa to sing us a few songs. By that point, his memory had declined to the point that some of the words never did come to him. Between us, though, we did manage to remember most of "The Bull Song", a humourous tale of a cowboy who finds a rogue bull on the range and determines to bring him home at any cost. It's proper name is "The Riding of the Maverick", but everyone who knew Grandpa always just called it "The Bull Song".

When I reached adulthood, Grandpa seemed much more meek and timid than I remembered him. Really, he was always just kind of quiet, and that reserved nature sometimes made me unsure around him as an adult. I have one very vivid memory of him and Grandma at our kitchen table, though. They had come to visit us when Jason and I still lived in Sylvan Lake. Grandma made some remark, like she tends to do, that hinted that "Ken" wasn't living up to her expectations. For the first time (in my memory), I heard him make a rather witty comment back. She did not catch it, but I did. It was the first time I had seen him stand up to her bullying a bit, and after that, I had more respect for the man. I suddenly saw a man who maybe didn't show it most of the time, but who had loved this woman, despite her flaws, for so many years that little comments like she makes didn't concern him. They were her problem, not his. He just lived his life, anyway, doing the best he could with the cards he was dealt.

Seeing his mental and physical decline over the last few years has been hard, made worse because it seems so sudden. For a man winning gold marathon medals into his seventies to go downhill so quickly was quite shocking to me, and it was emphasized by difference between visits with my sporadic contact with him. I think he always remembered me when he saw me, but I saw the haze of confusion in his eyes for a few minutes when he saw my boys, until he put the pieces together again.

Grandpa always had a hug, and a smile, and a helping hand for those that needed it. He lived his faith, and was generous to a fault.

I'll miss you, Grandpa, but I look forward to catching up with you when we're both on the other side of the Pearly Gates. Scout out the best scenic routes--I bet biking around the Holy City will be the best memory yet.

The Classic Question

"If you had to choose, would you marry Ginger or Mary Ann?"

My jaw dropped in surprise, then laughter, as I realized my seven-year-old had asked the question.

This summer has seen a resurgence in the popularity of "Gilligan's Island" in our house, and the boys are about halfway through the third and final season of the show. I never watched this show as a kid, so most of the episodes are new to me, too... well, kind of. It didn't take me long to realize that the show used the same two or three plot lines on a heavy rotation and none of the characters ever changed. And it was less than a week before I was beyond done with the ever-loving theme song. And stereotyped, one-dimensional quaint and charming characters.

At any rate, the boys have been loving it, and as long as they stick to their max limit of two episodes a day, I can handle it.

But I never did expect any of them to come up with the hypothetical "Ginger or Mary Ann" question... at least, not yet.

As it turns out, all the men-folk of the house, except Noah, voted for Mary Ann. (Well, also except Levi, who abstained from the vote.) I am glad. Noah gave his reason as "she's pretty."

Yes, she is, but I was relieved to hear that the votes for Mary Ann had a few more supporting reasons. Among them:
  • She's pretty, too.
  • She's nice.
  • She can do more than bat her eyelashes.
  • She can cook, and sew, and clean, and do stuff outside.
I can just never figure out why Ginger didn't convert her glittery, slinky gowns (WHY was she wearing that dress on a "three-hour tour?" when it is meant for a night on the red carpet? Does the woman not own a good set of designer cigarette pants, or anything?) into something much more practical and ripped-off within the first week of being stuck there. And knock the heels off her shoes. In fact, almost everything about that woman irritates me.

I am a strong admirer of the practical, as well as the beautiful. And every time she tries to manipulate a man into doing things her way by tickling his cheeks with her false eyelashes, I want to smack her.

(Aside: Also, I want to know how Mary Ann and Gilligan (the designated laundry-doers most of the time) managed to keep everyone's clothes so immaculate for three years on an island with no power or detergent. Seriously, I want their secret. No one ever gets so much as a worn cuff! Ahem. End aside.)

So, I guess I cast my vote with the majority: Mary Ann. Except I don't want to marry her. I bet she and I could have been friends, though. :-)

Tax Break

No, I did not keep up on my books in 2012 the way I had had the best of intentions to do.

However, in March, I was well on my way to being caught up and on schedule to submit my taxes on time.

Then, we adopted our sweet Levi, and suddenly my best-laid plans were blown out of the water by sleepless nights and days with a lot less time in them for office work. So progress, although it was being made, was a slow ordeal, and I was lucky to be able to devote two evenings a week to the project. Tax Day came and went, and I shrugged my shoulders helplessly. Summer came, but I knew I wouldn't really feel like I was on holidays until those cursed taxes were filed.

So I soldiered on.

And yesterday, finally, they were filed.

Which meant I could finally have my reward: a book holiday with a title that's been calling from my shelf for over five months, now. This morning, I got to start.

See you next week. :-)

Growth Opportunity

I've been sitting here debating about how verbose I should be about the week I've had.

I'm going with the minimalist approach--highlights only. Let's just say, Jason's been on a trip since Monday morning. Let's also mention that Jude, who is still working on finishing his Grade 5 math, has a way of turning a 45-minute lesson into an all-day affair that simultaneously involves a minor civil war. Let's discuss how my three oldest children can't seem to go for more than five minutes inside the house without fighting, arguing, or complaining, either with me or each other (both are equally wearing on me). Let's also remember that once I finally get all my kids into bed, (primarily Levi, as the others are all perfectly capable of getting themselves to bed), I have been working outside until it is too dark to see (about 11:30 p.m.), then coming inside and working in my office until my eyes refuse to see anything, which has made for way more short nights in a row than any single parent should allow themselves. And let's not forget that someone nearly ran me off the road on Tuesday (I'm pretty sure they were texting, also driving down the centre of the gravel road in the first place--WHY do people do that?!) And let's tack on that the baby seems to be having one of those weeks where he thinks that sleep is only for other, less-happening babies. And that he is now paying for that attitude with a nasty cold that descended upon him today, and which is making it even more difficult for him to sleep.

Let's finish that up by mentioning that I don't feel like I have only one raw nerve left, but that I am that raw nerve. I love my kids to pieces, but I need a break. With a capital B-R-E-A-K. It is taking all my effort not to run out the door, arms outstretched and eyes bug-eyed like a cartoon character, laughing maniacally and beating my head against a brick wall repeatedly to make it all stop.

I can't seem to get a grip on myself this week, and I feel weak and ridiculous about it--I feel like I have had a whole week of "epic failure" as a parent, and wonder what happened to that strong, self-assured woman I was the week before? Or the week before that? And how other women of my acquaintance manage to "single parent" for stretches of time quite well, without being fodder for the Funny Farm in only five days?

Okay, I knew I needed a break before this week descended on me. But I think what happened is this: if I am a tomato plant, developing strength and resistance to the pressures of wind and weather and heavy fruit to grow strong, and those pressures are the strong wills, needs, and requirements of my four children and running a household and hobby farm, then the stake that lends me support is Jason. And Jason left. Only, I haven't developed the extra strength required for not having him here to take the pressure off of me for the last several hours of every day so I can recouperate from the day's efforts. And I toppled over.

Now, my fruit is all messy and bruised, and I'm pretty sure my kids didn't remain unscathed, either. I may indulge in a cry (not for the first time this week), and some chocolate (also not the first), and maybe a chick flick and early-bedtime (that would be the first one) tonight. And I am very much looking forward to my husband's return tomorrow morning.

Lord, thank you for helping me grow stronger. Even if the process is painful sometimes. And please let Jason's work trips be over soon. Amen.

Fresh Start

I have a new goal: write a little every day.

And by "a little", I mean at least 10 minutes.

I may not always write in the same place. In fact, I can guarantee it that I won't. Sometimes it will be here on my blog, but more often than not, I am sure it will be in notes on my computer or my tablet, or in a journal (a private, pen-and-paper kind), or my songwriting notebook, or one of my other blogs. (Yes, there are multiples. All of the others I have are updated even less often than this one. Do the multiple blogs denote narcissism, or simply wishful thinking when it comes to writing time? Um... I'm going with option two.)

I find writing to be therapeutic, even cathartic, as evidenced from the stacks of hand-written journals I have in a box somewhere (created during my teen years, when I had, you know, time and stuff). And, I have noticed (and have also been told by many others who noticed the same) that it is much easier to write, and the writing is better, when it happens every day. I prove that to myself every time I look back at blog posts from, say, five or six years ago--when the posts actually made it into pixels on the World Wide Web four+ times a week rather than getting lost somewhere in the corpus callosum of my brain.

Speaking of corpus callosum, it is regenerating the long-dusty pathways of that very marvel of the human brain that is the precise reason for my new sense of purpose when it comes to writing. Why? Because somewhere in the dark and musty halls of the right hemisphere inside my skull wanders that elusive spectre that many have referred to as the Muse, but which I prefer to think of as inspiration. The problem is, in the crushing pressure of the "too much on my plate" that I have been overwhelmed by--and am finally starting to wriggle out from under--in the last several months to years, I have forgotten how to hear her.

(Aside: Henceforth, I will sometimes personify Inspiration as a woman, since that part of my brain is the source, and I am a woman. I may even refer to her as the Muse on occasion, although I have no desire to give any credit whatsoever to the Greek idea that Inspiration took the form of a tempestuous and fickle goddess. Rather, I consider inspiration to be divine, either directly from the Holy Spirit, or indirectly through the fact that God created this marvel inside our craniums, and made all of its workings wonderful, and gave us the ability to listen to (and the freedom to choose not to) the more elusive messages our right brain tries to share with us constantly. Nevertheless, as the Muse is now a term that has come to represent this inspiration, and most do not consider it to be divine in any form, let alone to be a goddess, and is SO much easier to use than explaining all the aforementioned stuff every time (and is seven letters shorter to type than "Inspiration"!), I may represent Inspiration with the word "Muse" on occasion as I muse over why my inspiration has been so sparse in the last year or two. End aside.)

I have read a book or two on brain mechanics. My brain is a little over-tired right now, which is why I know "mechanics" is not the word I was looking for, but can't think of a better one at the moment. At any rate, it is probably not news to you that our brains develop new pathways at a startling pace until we are about five years old. After that, those that do not continue to be used are essentially disconnected, and by the time we are twelve, they die-off rate is exponential. The older we get, the more difficult it is to reconnect pathways (or create new ones), but it becomes somewhat easier if we do it a lot. That includes the pathways that connect the logical left brain and the creative right brain together in the web of nerves between them. The stronger the pathways connecting these two dichotomous selves, the more easily and often we get those "Eureka!" moments that are the Creator's gift to us--moments that help fill our lives with purpose, meaning, and excitement.

I think it's only natural that the Creator gave those he designed in his image the ability to create in turn. But like the talent that was taken from the foolish servant who hid the only one he had in Jesus' famous parable, if we do not exercise our creative muscles, they grow weak and flabby and disintegrate... or rather, those neural goat tracks are abandoned for highways that are better maintained.

So, here's to repaving some roads!

... Now, I really gotta go get some sleep. :-)

Keep Moving Forward

So much time has passed since my last blog post, I find myself at a bit of a loss of where to start... which is where I've been with it for at least two weeks, and why I haven't posted before now. The overfullness of my life has continued on through May and June, but became a little more manageable with the purchase of a new dishwasher about seven weeks ago. We spent the big bucks and got a stainless steel interior, which has now saved me the additional work of de-rusting it every two months--after heavy use all this time, not a single part of the interior of the dishwasher is turning orange. Yay! Another perk of spending the big bucks is that the thing is so quiet, it is sometimes hard to tell if it is actually running. The dryer at the other end of the house drowns it out... *quiet smile*

I guess I could talk about the forest tent moth caterpillar infestation that ravaged the Peace Country this spring, and made all of our trees naked.* Thank goodness the grass is still green, because the trees make it look like January outside. Now, two weeks after the caterpillars started starving to death en masse, the trees are just starting to get a dusting of green on them again, but for several weeks, I found it depressing to look out the window. I wasn't alone.

"Poor trees," Noah sighed one day on our way into town. Where gaily-fluttering foliage should have been were wooden skeletons cobwebbed in sheets of caterpillar silk, with the occasional "cocoon tree", looking like it had managed to bud out its fluff without the benefit of leaves.

We did not have them quite as bad as some people I know, who literally had a layer over an inch thick and solid covering house, yard, and vehicles, but it was bad enough. They especially seemed to favour our south-facing front sidewalk and the corner beside our steps--which is a very difficult place to remove all the little carcasses from, and made it quite stinky there once they started dying.

Everyone say it with me: "EEEEEEEEWWWWWW!"

Once they started diminishing in numbers to something reasonable (e.g. 1/sq. ft. as opposed to 1/sq. in.), we actually managed to get our lawn mowed, and I even got the garden in. (Didn't seem to be much point in trying when the beds were covered in greenery-chomping nasties before that. Sadly, I was a little behind this spring, and hadn't got a thing in the ground before the plague hit.)

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that we had been in Sylvan Lake. We were there for Jason's grandma Joan Morrison's memorial service--a small family celebration of her life. Unfortunately, little Levi got a nasty stomach flu the night before the service. He had managed to keep a few things down for an hour or two by the time we needed to leave for the event, so I decided to go and take him, anyway. (Previously, I had been planning to stay home with him so Jason could go, at least.) All was well until I got distracted with visiting while feeding him a bottle and let him drink way more than I planned. The eruption of Mount Leviticus was epic, and folllowed by a first for Jason and me--washing our baby's hair together in the sink of the handicap washroom. :-)

Other than that, the weekend was great, and we were glad to have even a short visit with family members that we don't see nearly often enough.

After sudden jolts to a life system like adding Levi was for us, your habits and ways of doing things take a while to reconfigure themselves into something workable. But slowly, it does happen. My garden is in. The taxes aren't done, but at least progress on finishing my year-end has resumed, and taxes will hopefully be finished in the next couple of weeks. My boys are wrapping up their school subjects, with only one or two that will not be completed until sometime in July. While I still feel overwhelmed a good portion of the time, I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This morning, the boys and I went to a registration interview at the school they will be attending in the fall. I had expected to be upset about it, but I'm really not. I feel like I am under a huge, rainy cloud of pressures and responsibilities right now, and I can look across the field of summer to see some golden-leaved autumn trees on the other side--and that's where the sun is shining. But not here. Not yet.

I find myself wondering how long it will take for my mind to slow down, for me to not feel like every moment I am awake must be a productive one? How long to revert to a time when blogging could happen several times a week (on the actual computer instead of only in my head), I could occasionally sew myself a dress over a couple of days (instead of only buying fabric that sits collecting dust in a pile somewhere), and making a scrapbook page was a healthy, self-nurturing habit, not something I only do in stolen moments--with the guilt of things not being done whispering through the window screens of my mind's art gallery all the while? I am really looking forward to that "reset", when I don't feel like my whole life is lived on a deadline... to pick up the writing course I was doing... finally go through a few other educational books I have had calling my name on the shelf for a year or several. To compose again. To not be too exhausted to go out with my friends once in a while. To spend my evenings with my husband instead of my office work.

Wow. I am really, really looking forward to that. I know it's up the road a ways, yet, so for now, I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 'Cause the only way to get past where you are is to keep moving forward.

Happy summer, friends. I hope the sun is shining on you.

*In light of the floods ravaging southern Alberta at the moment, I want to clarify that I mention this not by way of complaint, but posterity. I'll take caterpillars over floods any day.

Cardi Love

I am so in love with this shrug:


I desperately want to make it, especially since one of my few wardrobe items that resembled it has felted to much too small for me this winter because I was too lazy to handwash it. Apparently, that was a bad idea. It used to look like this:

Bulky Cabled Vest 3.

Now, it doesn't. :-) (It is much more of a shoulder-hugging shrug now than the original Cable Vest, actually--which, by the way, is a brilliantly simple design by Sarah Punderson.)

The only problem is how very little knitting time I am getting these days. Less that blogging time, apparently, and that hasn't happened in a few years. :-) On the rare day when I do have a chance to sit on the couch with my hubby at the end of it, my hands are just so happy to be empty, and my arms are so thrilled to not be holding anything in them, that I will sit and watch an entire episode (currently on Season 1 of Smallville) without so much as opening my knitting bag.

Not to mention, I'm in the middle of three knitting projects already.

Still, the Forest and Frill pattern is calling me... It's so darn summery... and those other projects-in-progress (double-knit cheetah balaclava/mitt set I'm designing, thigh-high chunky cabled socks I'm designing, and green lace socks I'm not designing) all seem to be dragging into rather unseasonable seasons.... well, with the exception of the lace socks. Which, in my defence, is what I have been working on lately, when I have been knitting at all. (Although I know I need to finish the other ones so the patterns can be posted at the beginning of the appropriate season!)

Cables and lace, how I love thee... especially when combined in a perfect crop top and a delicious chocolate hue...


Zoom! There went December. And holidays. And 2012.

Despite the fact that we were on holidays from school from about the 8th, the month was very full. My list had several things checked off, but not as many as I liked. We got to see friends that the busy-ness of fall schedules had been keeping us from for several months. My old, second-or-third-hand oven finally bit the dust on Dec. 22, and we got a new one (which I LOVE!) And Jason got a promotion.

There is more to each of those stories, but they all seem a little too lengthy to try to cram into one post. Suffice it to say that Jason is now working as a System Analyst, a position that was handed to him within minutes of him receiving a job offer as a Project Manager for another company. The jobs were so similar as far as benefits, pay, and other things, that Jason struggled with the decision for about a week, initially thinking he would take the Project Manager job. He had no peace about it until he decided to stay with Northlands School Division as System Analyst, however, so that is what he did. We are very grateful that our belts can loosen a little, and that Jason gets to stay in a work environment he enjoys, making a wage he is happy with.

The kids were happy to start school again after our four weeks off. Last Sunday night, Jabin commented that he thought the holiday was TOO long. Didn't expect that. I could definitely have used another week, but my "to-do" list has significantly more items on it than theirs does! Especially for the last two weeks of the break, when Jason was off, too--there were a great deal of video games played during that time. It's good to know that they do see the value of structure and learning at times. :-)

My To-Do was more various forms of work, but fortunately, they were mostly ones I enjoyed:
  • sew
  • knit
  • write patterns
  • update web stores (all of them)
  • start newsletter mailing lists for various businesses
  • Plan Science for the remainder of the school year
  • do my books for the past year
It's the last one I have yet to tackle. I'll get to it soon. Most of the sewing was to make things like pajamas, mitts, and toques that my kids (or other family's kids) were short on. I am very much looking forward to making myself a new dress, which I purchased the fabric for a month ago and have been looking longingly at ever since.

Maybe this week...

That's What He Said...

Overheard on Thursday morning:

Jabin: I wish that you could rewind, because it was really fun in Grande Pairie [sic] yesterday.

Jude: We were in the van almost the whole day!!

Jabin: Yeah, but it was fun watching movies and playing on Dad's tablet.

Hee hee.
The boys and I have been on holidays from school for a week, now. That doesn't necessarily mean I have been on a complete holiday, though. I have been doing various and sundry business-related activities that I have been putting off until this very time of year, which I planned to devote to "catch-up." Still, the activities seem to be piling up a little, and despite the progress made this week, I felt a little overwhelmed by Thursday at the total amount of things still left on the "to-do" list.

Still, I'll just keep plugging away at them, one thing at a time, and get as much accomplished as I can before school starts again. Weekends are reserved for family and friends and play time, so I don't get totally bogged down in work... that whole "Too much work, not enough play, dull girl" thing sounds like something I want to avoid, if possible.

Hanukkah ended yesterday, and we gave each of the boys a little gift on the last day. Jason found this cool online service (U Star Novels) where you can substitute someone's name so they can "star" in a novel. He bought one for Jude using the Adventures of Tom Sawyer--Jude is Tom, and his friend's names are substituted for some of the other main characters.

Then he surprised me with a copy of Pride and Prejudice starring moi! "Mr. Darcy" has become "Mr. Winters", of course, and the Bennett family was transformed to the Hilmans. A quick flip through the book revealed that several other family members and and friends got supporting parts.

It's kind of cool, in a weird sort of way. I want to read through it again (never need much excuse to re-read P&P) just to see who gets to make appearances. But now I think I know how my junior-high classmates felt when it became known I had written a short sci-fi story starring all of them--fascinated and freaked out, all at the same time. (At least I know I like the story, which wasn't the case with all of my hapless classmates. Lesson learned on my part.)

And really, what woman reading Jane's most popular novel doesn't identify with Lizzy Bennett in some way?

Happy holidays, friends!

Introducing the Brennan Hat

About a year ago, Netflix finally introduced a version of itself that didn't require super-high bandwidth internet in order to watch a show. For $8/month, we figured it was a pretty good use of our entertainment budget. So, for the first time in nearly thirteen years of marriage, we were watching "T.V.".

Not really--no commercials. (Yay!) And we got to watch shows we previously had to borrow or buy on DVD to enjoy. Plus, discovering some new ones.

One of those discoveries was "Bones", a show about Dr. Temperance Brennan, a brilliant but socially awkward forensic anthropologist who works with Agent Seeley Boothe of the FBI to solve murders, who (fortunately) supplies the people skills she lacks.

One night, I was happily knitting along (since watching a show is just something to do while I'm knitting) when Dr. Brennan shows up on screen, watching Boothe play hockey, in a super-adorable cabled beanie. I fell in love with it immediately.

By the next afternoon, I had swatched and drafted a pattern for a very similar hat. And yesterday, it was published. You can find it at www.mysecretwish.ca, www.mysecretwishonravelry.ca, or www.mysecretwishoncraftsy.ca.

I made it to sell (the hat itself is in my Etsy store, too)--but I love it so much, I may have a hard time letting it go!

November, already?

The last week or so has been a bit of a blur. I decided on the Friday before last that I would enter a craft fair on December the 9th, and figured it was a perfect opportunity to knit up a few dozen things and move some older yarn out of my stash. Ergo, I have been knitting. And designing. And knitting. A lot.

Which is perfectly fine, because for the duration of that time, it was snowing. A lot. The sun finally came out a few days ago, sparkling off a new-fallen foot of snow. And me with the summer tires, still.

During that time, I managed to finish the first sweater I've ever made for my darling husband. He has a strong dislike for the effects of wool on his skin, so it took me this long to convince him that there was wool that was less itchy, and that it didn't have to touch his skin. Since it has been finished, he has worn it a gratifying amount of times. I'm not sure if he really likes it, or is just trying to make me feel better. Either way, it looks great on him.

Also during that time--on Saturday, to be precise--Jude managed, through no fault of his own, to turn 10 years old. I managed not to cry about it--but I did succumb to nostalgia and picture the little bundle of joy we brought home from the hospital that catapulted Jason and I from the world of normal adults into that wonderful and scary job category of "parents."

Jude is now not even a little boy--I am starting to see the man he will become, both in his features, and his person. He has helped me grow up--and it is a joy watching him grow up.

I love you, little man! And though the prospect of what the next ten years may hold has me a little nervous, I look forward to entering this next stage of the adventure with you!

Change of Season, Change of Pace

This past week, our Indian Summer made the full transition into Early Winter with freezing temperatures and two days of snow. This weekend, the mercury has hit +10 again, melting away most of the white stuff, but I know it is only a very temporary reprieve before winter begins in earnest.

... a reprieve that we are making full use of to finish our yard clean-up and other last-minute outside chores to prep for winter.

Jude has been driving us crazy for the last few months with comments of, "I can't wait for it to snow!" and "I wish it was winter already!" Given the brevity of our Northern summers, this has irked Jason and I, and we usually retort with, "Six months a year isn't enough for you?"

On Friday, as the kids and I were driving away from home in a snowstorm, Jabin said, "When it's summer, I want it to be colder. When it's winter, I want it to be warmer."

"Do you know what the secret to happiness is, buddy?" I asked him.


"Being content in whatever circumstances you are in." Then I explained what "contentment" is.

"Oh," he said, in that "clear as mud" tone of voice.

I guess that's a lesson we all have to learn in our own way. Sometimes, we re-learn it over, and over, and over.

Yesterday, I was surprised by a restless feeling.

"If we were in Red Deer," I commented to Jason, "this is the kind of day where I'd say 'Let's go to the mall and people-watch and have coffee.'" I think I just wanted to get out of the house, see something different, feel the crispness of the air and the bustle of a busier place. However, after seven years in Peace River, I don't get the yen for that much anymore--I'm out of the habit, I guess.

Well, since that wasn't an option, and since we wouldn't pile into the van for a two-hour trip to Grande Prairie just to have coffee at the mall, I did some digital scrapbooking instead. I managed to complete six layouts, working backwards from the present. That, plus the ones I've already completed in the last few weeks (I've been going through a miniature "scrapbooking phase") means that I have done all the photos back to mid-August already. You never know--maybe I'll actually get a whole year done digitally and print a photobook when Shutterfly has their year-end sales. That would be different. :-)

Well, I better go tackle those afore-mentioned outside chores. Here are the layouts I did yesterday:

Any Season is Knitting Season

I am in adamant denial that summer is only two weeks from ending. Even while typing that, I blindfolded myself and thought about rainbows and sunflowers so I could trick myself that it was just a "pretend."

This summer has been full, and busy, and not, all at the same time. July was travelling and visiting and getting sick, a cold that worked its way through our entire household and didn't move on for about a month. What is it about summer colds that makes them hang on so long, anyway?

Combine that with the heat wave that we endured for most of the month, and on into the first part of August, making our li'l Tin Can o' Dreams a mere 30C+ by evening every night, and most of the summer "to-do" list didn't really start getting tackled until the August long weekend (first weekend, for those not Canadian-holiday-aware). So, what did we do while we were coughing, and sweltering, through July?

First two weeks: The boys had swimming lessons from Monday to Thursday in the morning. Conveniently (for me), they were in a consecutive two-hour stretch each morning. Guess what? That meant two hours of nearly-uninterrupted KNITTING TIME!! I also met a new friend, another avid knitter named Lori. She was making a tank top. I was making a cotton sundress. (More about that in a minute.)

Next two weeks: Veg. Recover. Read. KNIT. I read several books this summer. The whole 12-month "Conspiracy 365" series (preview for Jude, ostensibly. Not bad--a little "mile-a-minute" for my tastes, but good adventure for teen and pre-teen reading.) After that, I read "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory McGuire. This is the novel that the musical "Wicked" is based on. While I enjoyed the skill of the writing, and seeing how the source material was changed to create the musical, I was disappointed in the vulgarity of the book--about an "R" rating. Oh, well. Since then, I have been working through "Which Lie Did I Tell?", William Goldman's sequel to "Adventures in the Screen Trade" about his life as a screenwriter.

The skirt of the sundress was very boring. Since I was reading "Wicked" on the Kindle app on my phone and PC, and therefore didn't need hands to hold a book open (and only a light touch to "turn pages"), I also got a great deal of knitting done while I was reading. This was a new trick for me, but I found it worked well to keep my mind occupied while my fingers were doing the same repetitive stitch for hours.

Cotton Cool Sundress 2

Here's the story of the sundress: I actually started it early last summer (2011), very excited about the slight challenge the lace bodice would supply, and the prospect of making myself a summer garment. (I don't usually knit summer dresses, I sew them.) Last summer, as you all know, was more than a little busy with moving, renovating, and the like. So, I didn't really put any speed on with the project until the week between Christmas and New Year's, when Jason was off of work and we were watching movies every night, with not much to do all day but knit, either.

Cotton Cool Sundress lace detail

By the end of the week, the skirt was nearly finished when I realized I had made two fatal errors: my gauge had loosened considerably from when I started the project, meaning the fit would be off, and I had also cast on the wrong number of stitches in the first place.

I was so grouchy about it, I stuffed the whole thing into my knitting bag and didn't touch it again for months. This spring, I was finally over my "irk" enough to rip it out and prepare to re-knit.

I (re)cast this on the third weekend of June, and finished it by the end of July. I am SO glad it is done, it fits (maybe a touch loose, but nothing major), and I can move onto something else.

Cotton Cool Sundress

Like this sweater for Jason, for which I just ordered the yarn.


Has it really been nine years?!

When I got out of the shower this morning, I could hear a little boy making shuffling noises outside the door.

"Is someone waiting for the bathroom?" I asked.

"I am!" piped up Noah.

"Okay, I'll just be a couple of minutes." I hurried through the process of drying off, wrapped my towel around myself and opened the door.

"SUPRISE!!" he shouted, holding up a drawing of a flower that he had coloured and cut out, with "Happy Mother's Day" scrawled across it.

"Thanks, buddy," I said, giving him a big hug. His ear-to-ear grin was a photo-worthy moment in itself.

That was the beginning to a day that kept getting better.

The other two boys had made Mother's Day crafts for me, too, which they sprung on me as soon as I came out to the kitchen. (Jude actually made me look around the room for his three items, one of which was a poem: "Hair like sparkeling Jewels, you say all the rules, We made these gifs for you. Like em, save em, and enjoy em. Love Jude." Tee hee!)

Jude had been up since 7:00, mixing up blueberry pancakes. He had told us last night that he would likely do so, and Jason said that was fine, just wait for him (Jason) to cook them.

So, after a huge pancake breakfast, we got into the van, dressed up and ready to go to church. Out on the road, I took a look at the clock.

"We're going to be half an hour late. We'll miss most of the service, and then there is the Mother's Day Brunch, so we'll just be eating again."

Jason thought for a moment.

"Do you just want to do church at home?"

"Yep." (I hate walking in late, and a half an hour just seems quite ridiculous.)

So, we turned around and were home about two minutes after we left. Sunshine (our Golden Retriever) greeted us like we had been gone for hours. :-)

Since we were all spiffed up, and it was a gorgeous morning, we took the opportunity to take some family photos before we went inside for our service.

During our service, Jason had each of the boys say a few things they like about their Mom (that was pretty neat for me). Then he talked about how when they start looking for a wife, one thing to consider is that she will be a good mother, and teach their children rightly. After that, they gave me their biggest surprise: a video presentation that they had all worked on together yesterday while I was out for the day, covering the last nine years in family photos in about forty minutes. It was so fun looking back on my sweet boys as they were growing up, and it was a really great gift.

I am so blessed to be a mom, and I am so thankful for the boys I get to mother.

Really, how could I resist?

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I don't know how those boys got to be so silly! (Ahem.)

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