Friday, December 23, 2011


Merry Christmas to all 
and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fourth Week

I'm trying to get away from the monster of "accomplishment" that gnaws at my breast this time of year. (I'm not referring to Raphael—I mean the metaphorical monster and the metaphorical breast).

During this final week of Advent, I am concentrating on moving peacefully amidst the great tidal wave of projects which I think (back in November) I can accomplish before Christmas —the baking, with all my floury, crumby, spready, spilly little helpers; the top secret knitting projects for a man with enormous feet, the handmade presents for godchildren, nieces, nephews, piano students...

See that baby down there? Oh good eyes! 
It is such a great comfort that the Son of God was born into poverty and squalor; that, as Chesterton points out, the rich and the educated (who no doubt had beautifully decorated houses and perfect baking) were the last to arrive at the manger.

This picture is from 3 weeks ago—we've since found pants for Matthias 
No matter what our house looks like or how many cookies we burn or how many handmade presents lie unfinished in the sewing room, Christmas will be beautiful, the Divine Incarnation will be beautiful...

...the most beautiful mystery, the oriens, the morning star rising in the East.

If I can remember to smile at the children (it's amazing how busy-ness will put a furrow in your brow) and enjoy them and their silly jokes and sing Advent songs while we work in addition to bossing them around, and if I can be Will's radiant wife, then perhaps the Divine Infant will find a home in our house this Christmas.

There are so many reasons to stop and enjoy the process, this "road to Bethlehem".

"Star in the East, the horizon adorning..." (shape note carol)
May your hearts be merry and your homes full of peace during this final week.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Doings

Here is our little friend who arrived on the Feast of St. Nick bringing chocolate loonies and peppermint candies and new books. And here is a little boy on that magical morning.

St. Nick was so easy to make (needle-felted head, body from an old sweater) that with the euphoria of the novice needle-felter I resolved to make a whole nativity set for the creche.

So far—one sheep.

The boys keep adding nature bric-a-brac to the stable to make a cosy nest for baby Jesus (mostly moss and rocks and spruce boughs plundered from the woods.) I like to picture the Divino Bambino coming into our own our case, a cold northern woodland full of pine trees and rocks.

 I told them "one item per day...."

...which is certainly building anticipation.

Come Lord Jesus, and do not delay!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

St. Nicholas Day


A few little treats, a few new books, told us that St. Nicholas came in the night.

Every year I grow more fond of the kindly bishop. 

Hugh was amazed that St. Nicholas managed to get down the chimney, since we have stuffed it with a towel.

He must have been paying attention to the stories last night because He and Matthias were playing that they were going to "Myrna"!

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homeschooling—without mojo


....never stops.

Not even when I'm driving kids to "real" school, and back again, each day—almost an hour total. (This doesn't include getting four kids into/out of the vehicle!)

Driving time, in our family, is put to work. Driving time is for reciting poems, spelling words, going over "ways to make 10", or when everyone is too whiny and tired for mental work, listening to stories.

Right now we're enjoying the Hobbit (read by Rob Inglis), the Chronicles of Narnia (a dramatized version narrated by Paul Scofield), and most recently some BBC recordings of MacBeth and King Lear. These last aren't child-appropriate by any means, but the boys love them and I make allowances because, well, it's Shakespeare. In the words of Bertie Wooster, "You mustn't listen when a girl is giving you hell. It's like Shakespeare. It sounds alright, but it doesn't mean anything." Ha ha! For us that's true. I don't want my boys to understand the dark, sad, complicated, adult passions that drive Lear and Macbeth to ruin. Not without a dash of P.G. Wodehouse to lighten the heart. Plenty of time for that. For now, we just enjoy the thick, juicy, gorgeous English.

Anyway. Homeschooling. Because, as we all know, it's a way of life, not a system, right? Please say yes because I've lost my homeschooling mojo, my crafting mojo, my clean house mojo, and my day-planner. I've lost everything other than finding socks, keeping food inside people, and tending to various bodily functions.

I'm exaggerating. Are you kidding? Socks? What are boot liners for? Matthias hasn't even had pants for over a week. I'm not sure if this is because his pants were sucked into the event-horizon of laundry, or because he somehow doesn't have any.

Two blessings: First, Willie and Hugh like cutting paper snowflakes. We make snowflakes without cease. Montessori bases a whole philosophy on cutting paper—eye-hand coordination, valuable motor skills, concentration, not to mention the delight of random cutting—all the fun of destruction with the satisfaction of creating something beautiful in the end. 

Even if every other ball gets dropped (not to mention pants), we have Shakespeare and paper snowflakes.

The second blessing is that Matthias copies whatever his brothers do, which considerably reduces my work.

Oh, and another blessing: Raphael sleeps. I don't expect it to last, but I don't need to tell you why this is boon to humanity.

So the homeschooling putts along, in spite of us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Homeschooling—with Mojo

Hey! Here's something to check out. You don't have to be a homeschooler to enjoy it. I've been watching these late at night while I nurse Rafe (and knit, of course) and finding out all those things I wondered about germs and DNA and evolution. I'm still in the biology section but I plan to go through chemistry, calculus, physics and all those things that scared me in high school. Except statistics. I'm not a monster.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hedgerow Mitts

A very practical lady I once knew said, "Knitting is for people who sit around all day". I think she meant it pejoratively, but here I am with a swiftly growing, ravenous Rafe nursing night and day and we're having a ball. (Or should I say a skein? Hahaha)

Knitting and nursing go together just dandy, in this mama's opinion—Rafe and I look into each other's eyes, he gets his sustenance, and I get mitts.

The pattern is the beautiful hedgerow mitts. I used sweater weight instead of sock yarn, so mine are a bit clunkier than Amy Ripton's elegant version. I also had to adjust the pattern a bit.

But they're stilll awesome. Fingerless gloves are the way to go for all the driving I do, not to mention tying shoelaces, wiping noses, zipping zippers, and putting mittens (back) on little hands...

Oh! Check out the background—after talking about it for five years, I'm finally painting the house! Paint! What a joy! Goodbye, icy mint green....

....hello warm smoke blue!

More pictures to come, after Latin Mass day and Advent festivities tomorrow. Will is part of a little choral group that gets together at our house for practice and brunch on Sundays. Fun but busy.

Happy Advent, for tomorrow.

Come Lord Jesus, 

and do not delay!

Monday, November 21, 2011

These days

 Sanding, sawing, headgear, and Martinmas Day lanterns are just a few of the things we're really into these days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A whole lot of love

There's nothing more beautiful, aside from watching your baby become himself, than watching your baby become part of the family. While the love isn't always gentle love, it's always sincere, passionate, and brotherly.

the thick of things

 These days I'm marveling at how beautifully each child has taken on his new role. Willie protects Raphael from errant blocks (and from Matthias' over-zealous, slobbery affection). Hugh cuddles Raphael in bed nearly every morning for about half an hour while I get everyone else up and going. I can already see a special connection between the two. Matthias rocks the carseat when Raphael cries, makes faces, and rubs snot on keeps Rafe entertained.

These days, I'm taking everything slow. The weather is golden. Matthias and I spend a little time in the garden every day just potting around, while Rafe naps in the stroller drinking in oxygen and sunshine. We don't get too much done. I'm way behind on all my commitments, not to mention the laundry. But we have a whole lot of love.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Hallows Eve

Matthias, 2010
Halloween 2011. There was so much mess and chaos and yelling that day, and the light was almost gone before I remembered to snap a picture for papa, who was still in Toronto missing all the fun. 

Hugh—"I forgot my helmet!" Willie—"Hugh, you won't be a saint if you freak out."

Yesterday, my sweet mother came for a surprise visit and whipped up a wig and some fringed ponchos for Willie, while helping Matthias through a midlife crisis, telling stories to Hugh, doing puzzles, making sewing cards, pressing leaves, and telling me the whole time that I am a wonderful mother and coping very well. 

The rest of the costumes we found in the costume box.
Hugh—"Yes, I will be a saint. I have a sword. See?" Willie—"No, Hugh. That sword's plastic."
Willie was an "Indian" for Halloween. He was also St. Joseph, a native Canadian saint and friend of the Canadian martyrs. Now I question his existence because I find no mention of him on Wikipedia. Did I dream him up?

Hugh was St. Martin of Tours, patron of soldiers. (It's all about the armour). 

I got fearful at the last minute that we'd get in trouble for saying "Indian" so I told Willie he had to say "native".

Lady/man at the door—"What a nice little costume. What are you?"
Willie, quavering, "I'm an....Indian...." `
Hugh, firmly, "He's a native." 

Everyone thought it was pretty funny and ribbed me for trying to be all politically correct.

Matthias missed halloween altogether, and as a result is a happy and healthy person this morning 

I felt twinges of guilt about this, especially after seeing these adorable pictures from last year.


But the great thing about yearly festivals is...there's always next year, isn't there?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thugs and Carpenters

Burglar Hugh

Burglar Will

This is the gruesome remains of Will's building project in the back yard. I keep trying to clean it up (hence the garbage bags: some primitive sorting) but Will objects because the boys play with the wood scraps and learn valuable skills. I'm a bit huffy about it, but yesterday I came around to seeing the beauty when I came outside to find that my little thugs had helped themselves to nails, hammers, and paint and were building signs in the back yard.

the painters' palette
first stage of construction
 Hugh was pretending not to be cold all afternoon.
Here are some of the lovely signs all finished. "Stop" and a fancy star. The boys have been burglars this week, since reading Burglar Bill—a family favourite— with Grandma.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cranberry Cowl Pattern

The Cranberry Cowl
{the humble cranberry—a great healer, a gourmet food, a Northern comfort—
I named this pattern for the humble berry that brings such health and comfort each Fall. The "cranberry pattern" is a simple horizontal lace pattern that makes a bold statement in chunky wool}

guage: 3 stitches per inch
materials: 16'' circular needle, size 10.5 US (or size you need to produce guage), tapestry needle, place marker (optional)
yarn: chunky (I used Bernat roving for the cranberry cowl in the picture)

CO 70 stitches
join in the round, being careful not to twist stitches, place marker to mark beginning of round (optional)
Knit in garter stitch (alternate knit round/purl round) for 4 rounds
Switch to stockinette (knit each round)
Knit 2 rounds
Knit cranberry pattern as follows:
   round 1: Purl
   round 2: Knit
   round 3: Purl
   round 4: {wrn to m 1, sl 1, k1, psso} repeat to end
   round 5: Purl
   round 6: Knit
   round 7: Purl

Knit 4 rounds
Repeat cranberry pattern
Knit 4 rounds
Repeat cranberry pattern
Knit 4 rounds
Repeat cranberry pattern
Knit 2 rounds
Garter stitch 4 rounds, beginning with a purl row
Bind off loosely
with tapestry needle, weave in ends

Cranberry Cowl

I didn't bounce back as quickly as usual after Raphael's birth due to a couple of post-partum infections (nothing some long baths in herbal tea and seasalt couldn't take care of—thanks, sweet Rachel!—and some pots of cranberry tea). My long-suffering mother has been captive here, taking over my duties while I nap. Kind friends have brought meals.

As frustrating as it is to be off my feet (and during the most beautiful weather of the year!), it hasn't been all bad: I devised my first ever knitting pattern! See the "tutorials" tab above for a free knitting pattern. A little gift, just for you!

I have this uneasy feeling, because it's so simple, that it's not actually original. Surely somebody, somewhere, has already thought of this combination?

The cranberry cowl is a simple horizontal lace pattern knitted in the round in chunky wool. I've worn it all Fall, and it is so cozy and pretty! It is named in honour of the humble cranberry which has brought so much health and healing this past week

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Labour Sweater

(warning: another knitting post)

When I realized I was in labour (for real, this time) I called my sister and told her to get on the next bus. It was 5 am (yes, she's a good sport!)  and the house had been spotless since the wee hours of the night, so I felt I needed something to do with my hands.

Fortunately I have bookmarked on my computer all those wonderful knitting patterns you think you have time for, but never get around to, including this simple, highly adaptable, beautiful one. It's a wrap-around kimono for newborns, knitted back and forth on a circular needle.

I took down my basket of scrap yarn—those tiny little balls leftover from other projects—and started twisting yarns together to make a thick-and-thin chunky yarn of variegated colours to match the guage.

When my sister arrived we chatted, joked, watched british comedy on youtube, laughed so hard it brought on contractions (just on me; she was safe), and drank tea. All the time I twisted wool and knitted back and forth on this tiny little sweater.

It was therapeutic to work with such beautiful rock and ocean colours. And keeping my hands busy kept my mind off things.

All morning and afternoon when the midwives arrived I kept twisting and knitting and thinking about the little body that was going to fill it, and longing to see him.

Eventually I had to abandon the sweater to focus on birth (it was a beautiful birth, as I mentioned before), but I finished it in the next few days post-partum while I nursed and snuggled with Raphael.

It isn't exactly a cuddly baby piece but see how strong it is! A free standing sweater!

The super fat yarn ended up producing a sherpa-like sweater suitable for horseback riding in Mongolia. Also when we take Raphael up Kanchenjunga he'll remain warm and dry.

Well, alright, at least he'll be safe from the Fall winds when we walk to the libarary.

After scouring Ravelry for the perfect baby kimono: seamless, raglan sleeves (the best construction, in my beginner's opinion), oh, and free, I found the beautiful pattern on sockpixie's blog. It is so simple and versatile, I've already thought of half a dozen variations for future sweaters!

But right now Rafe and I are happy with one, warm little wrap-around sweater.

Let the wind and the rain and the hail blow high
and the snow come tumbling from the sky...