Sunday, January 28, 2018

Knitting Pleasures

It's been a really difficult couple of weeks at work for me.  There are some very toxic people and it's been a real challenge to try to stay above it all and to, as my husband always says, "make sure that my side of the street it clean."  It's so hard to keep from being drawn into other people's drama but I have been really making the effort to be calm and compassionate (which has been difficult!)  I've been looking for ways to find the little pleasures in each day and one of my pleasures is knitting.

The past year or so was the year of the hat for me.  One of PK's skating coaches asked for a messy bun hat in "worksocks" colours which has become what the skaters refer to as the "Roots" hat.  I ended up making an entire set for her synchro team and I then go requests from people who don't skate :-)  Christmas was all about slippers (I'll do a post on that another time).  I had a colleague ask for a bun hat but she didn't want the worksocks colours, she wanted black.  The pattern that I had been using would just be too boring in black so, after some searching on Ravelry, I found a pattern that I really like.

Of course, I had to make one first to check tension and whether I actually like the finished product and yes, I LOVED it.  It's the Yellowstone Skate Ski Hat by Selena Miskin and available for purchase on Ravelry and I have been really happy with it.  I find winter so bleak and I love lighter colours when possible so, of course, I made it in my favourite cream colour.  Now, I have the black one is the works and I can't wait to finish it and pass it on to its recipient.  My only sadness is that the black really doesn't show off the lovely cables the way I would like.  At any rate, it's cabled enough to look very pretty (and impressive to those who don't know how easy cables are) and yet easy enough that there isn't so much counting that my eyes go crossed.  It's such fun to pass on a little surprise like this to someone.

PK is my model so the adult size is a bit big on her but it's perfect for me!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

My Life Giving Home

Life has been rather grueling of late and I won't lie, my spirit hasn't been coping all that well.  I always struggle at this time of year - my body desperately needs sunshine and this year, we seem to be in this endless darkness that does me in before I am out of bed in the morning.  I'm trying to keep my head above water but I have to admit, when I am feeling this way, I am especially vulnerable to all of the little weaknesses, such as my chronic insecurity and anxiety.  It's something I hate about myself and I wish I could stand up against it more firmly.

Because of all of that, a day like today is especially precious.  I've been working through Sally Clarkson's The Life-Giving Home and the workbook and I am loving the fact that it forces me to sit down and be intentional, even when I only want to curl up and hide.  For January, my goals are to create special times with my family throughout the week to make sure the know they are loved and accepted, to spend 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning before the house gets up and to spend some time in prayer over some worries that I haven't been coping well with.  Sunday has become a wonderful time with my family and it changes everything.

Today, after church, the kids and I went for a hike in the forest with the dogs.  We finally had a warmer day and the sun was shining in between the trees.   Yesterday, PK and I saw three deer in a field as we were driving to skating and on our hike today, we saw a fox up ahead.  Foxes are IJ's favourite animal in the world and it felt like magic to have sunshine and animals appear for us!  Getting into the outdoors is a major help for me at this time of year and having the kids enjoying coming along (unlike when they were younger and complained the entire way) is such wonderful therapy for me.  I feel so lucky that we live in an area that gives us so many options for outdoor exploring and especially since IJ has become such a happy member of Beavers, we seem to be spending a lot more time outside.

One of the things that seems to really speak to PK at the moment is that she is loving to cook and bake.  I have always tried to avoid processed foods when I can for them (not because I look down on anyone else for using them, just because I enjoy cooking and for some reason, having my kids take food for lunch that is homemade makes me feel as if I have sent them a bit of a sign of my love).  We do a homemade treat each week and since the cookie jar was empty (I know, I'm silly, but I love having some cookies we have made in the jar), we thought making gingerbread cookies together would be fun.  I am learning (slowly) to leave my perfectionism behind and to give them a fair bit of freedom.  PK picked some favourite music of us to share, I rolled out the dough and they had a great time choosing the shapes for their cookies.  Years ago, I got a set of letter cookie cutters and they were so excited to make their names.  Little do they know, they each get and 'I', a heart and a 'U' tomorrow in their lunches.  I hope they actually notice.

One other pleasure that we have discovered together is listening to books.  We buy them from Audible and then listen together while we do things we enjoy.  Over the Christmas holidays, on a long drive, Audible suggested The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood and it turned out to be one that the kids loved (having a woods and animals integral to the story definitely helped).  We had finished book 1 and so this evening, we started on book 2 while I coloured, PK knit and IJ worked on Lego.  It was a wonderful way to finish the weekend and I hope it will give us all some treasured time together to help carry us through the challenges of the week.

Friday, January 5, 2018


In this cold weather, it is a great time for some "hygge" and I am a bit one for comfort at home, when I can find it!  I have an addiction to foxes and my husband found me the most lovely fox mug for Christmas and we were gifted some Yorkshire Gold tea, which is exactly as I love a cup of tea - strong and full-bodied without being "stew-y".  I got several gift cards for Chapters (a Canadian rival to Amazon) and ordered myself the Inspire: Psalms colouring book that I have been wanting.  I have to find balance with my colouring books because, while I love them, they can be a reminder, at times, that I don't have the time that I would like to quiet activities like this.  I have a very bad habit of keeping lists for myself of things that I would like to do (and then, becoming frustrated and overwhelmed when my to-do's don't get checked off).  Last year, I bought myself a Coloring Psalms agenda and it was nice to do small pages but when I didn't keep up, it really frustrated me.  This way, I can work through the Psalms when I can and there is no timeline connected.  

The book is lovely and I really enjoyed my time with it last night.

Our Family Reading Culture

I haven't posted here in a long time and I suspect that I have lost any readers that I may have had but that's o.k.  I like to use this space for me, anyway, and it's a fun way to create a kind of an online journal of the things that make me happy.  It's been a very, very busy fall, given my inability to say 'no' which has led to new roles as the secretary of the skating club AND the registrar for Scouting in our town, along with all of my current involvement at church.  I can't lie, while it is NUTS, it's also been so much fun, since all of these activities allow me to be involved with my kids and the things that they are passionate about!

One thing that has made me happy for years (and my cluttered beside table attests to) is reading.  I love books, I love reading, I love getting books in the mail and from the library and, most of all, I love finding books that become part of our family.  I grew up the daughter of an Anglophile and traditional English books were a huge part of my childhood.  I have wanted to share that gift with my own children.

With a 7 year old boy and a 10 year old girl and time at a premium, it's challenging, sometimes, to ensure that we are reading as much as I would like.  We have tried to find books that both kids enjoy and that has actually been easier than I thought.  We went through a HUGE Dick King Smith phase (the Author of Babe: The Sheep Pig and the Sophie series as well as many other wonderful tales).  We dabbled in Roald Dahl but honestly, that wasn't such a success.  We have also spent a lot of time with the Famous Five by Enid Blyton (although there are a few that were just too scary for my son) and we have also been big fans of the Magic Faraway Tree series, also by Enid Blyton.

There was also the wonderful discovery of audiobooks as a family, after a particularly contentious drive up north when the bickering about DVDs in the car led to mom losing her cool and declaring that we would never watch a movie in the car again.  That left me scrambling for a way to keep the peace and minimize the whining on the three hour drive up to visit grandparents that led us to discover the wonderful world of Harry Potter.

Recently, I discovered the podcast Storyformed via Sally Clarkson (I will try to write a post about her book Different at another time, which was EXACTLY what I needed at a particularly challenging time).  I don't want to describe the podcast too much and get the details incorrect but allow me to say that this is a wonderful podcast about the impact of wonderful children's books and books that are so worth reading with your children.

More importantly to me, the Christmas podcast, Episode 20,  has been such a gift.  We do the "Pinterest" Christmas idea that I discovered a few years ago in which we wrap 24 Christmas books and read one each night (these are all previously read books but the kids still adore finding favourites from years ago).  I wanted to take the reading a bit deeper and a few of the suggestions from this episode have already become a part of our family Christmas culture and I am so grateful.  I love the way that books can build connection between the members of our family.

The book we have enjoyed the most, and that is perfect for the age of my kids, is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  We bought it on Audible on sale, no less, and it was worth every minute that we have spent listening.  My son, in particular, laughed and laughed and laughed and the kids kept begging me to listen to a bit more before turning it off.  The Herdman family have become a joke in our family and my kids keep trying to come up with different scenarios that fit the idea of a Herdman adventure.  There were also wonderful lessons to be learned in the true meaning of Christmas (which sounds like such a cliche and yet is so true).  We have listened to the book three times through on drives this Christmas season and all four of us have enjoyed it.  I think I am going to have to buy a paper copy, just to have a place of honour on the shelf with our other Christmas favorites.

We also discovered a wonderful book by J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters from Father Christmas.  He wrote and mailed letters to his own children from Father Christmas over a 20 year period and this wonderful book is a compilation of his letters to his children outlining the adventures being had by Father Christmas.  My children and I are loving this so far!   The kids are enjoying the illustrations and accompany each letter.  I was worried that they would find it too dated but, in fact, I think that the historical nature of the letters is actually making them more exciting for the kids.

I hope to post more regularly about what we are reading and how those books are impacting our families and I hope that, should I find any audience here, that you would be willing to share books that you are finding are enjoyable for your family.

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Word

I haven't made resolutions, I'm doing my "one word" again this year and this year's word is a bit different. My life verse is Micah 6:8 ("And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God"). I've always viewed this as a command and earlier this fall, after an interesting discussion, I started to reflect on it more deeply. I realised that "walking humbly" could be both a command and a gift - walking "humbly" implies that I don't need to be trying to be great, I am allowed to be human and to make mistakes and to have failures and to not try so hard all of the time. My word, this year, is "humble" and I am going to work at being easier on myself and allowing myself some space to be weak and meek and to relieve myself of the weight of expectations of other people a bit. It won't always feel good but it's a lesson I need to learn if I am going to move forward. Does anyone else have a word?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reading Challenge 2017

One of my favourite book blogs is Anne Bogel's Modern Mrs. Darcy and last year, I excitedly printed off her reading challenges for 2017.  I wasn't sure whether I was going to do the "Reading for Fun" list or the "Reading for Growth" list but quickly,  I noticed that what I was reading fit much more snugly into the "Growth"
Here we are, on December 29th, and I believe that I have only one more thing to finish and there is a very good chance that I am going to succeed.  Here are the categories and what I have managed to read:

A Newberry Award winner or honor book- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (which I had been meaning to read for years, as she is one of my favourite authors of all time)

A book in translation - No Knives in the Kitchens of This City by Khalid Khalifa (which could have also fit in the category of a book addressing current events)

A book that is over 600 Pages - I'm not quite done yet but I plan to go to bed early tonight and cuddle up with The Likeness by Tana French, which is 680+ pages and I am 540 pages in so far.

A book of poetry, a play or an essay collection - This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett.

A book of any genre that addresses current events - Welcoming the Stranger; Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate - Matthew Sorrens

An immigrant story - An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao

A book published before you were born - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Three books by the same author - A Vicarage Family, Tea by the Nursery Fire and A House in Cornwall by Noel Streatfeild

A book by an ownvoices or a diversebooks author - The Hate u Give by Angie Thomas

A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending - The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A book nominated for an award - The  Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner - The Pope and Mussolini - The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David Kertzer

I also achieved my goal of 52 books for the year (I actually read more than that but I discovered that I was adding books to my Goodreads "read" list without adding the actual read date so it wasn't being added to my year total). 

I am having a hard time identifying which books were my very favourites but I will say that The Hate U Give, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Historian and all of the Harry Potter books I read with the children were all very good.  We also LOVED reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever several times and I hope that will now be an annual tradition.

I am being ambitious and setting my 2018 reading challenge for 60 books and I plan to do the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge again this year.  You can find the list here.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Back again (finally!)

I know, I almost never post and it is probably something that I should just abandon.  I think it's the idea of posting that I can't release - at times, there are things that are so important to me, I want to take the time to reflect on them and/or to share (whether anyone is reading or not) but then, evening comes, I finally get the kids into bed and then, I haven't the energy to focus long enough to write.  My evenings, of late, ha' dave been dedicated to either preparing for Christmas (I am utterly convinced that Christmas isn't meant to be so much work) or, on more relaxed evenings, listening to a book on Audible and knitting.  I try to find 30 minutes or so for my knitting and instead of watching t.v., I try to listen and get some reading in at the same time.  For the month of December, my book has been 11.22.63 by Stephen King, which is brilliant.

Every so often, I ponder what kind of purpose my blog should have.  I'm not a food blogger - I like to cook but it tends to mostly be about fast and healthy around here and most recipes are not my own.  My faith is very important to me but there are so many wise Christian women bloggers who are much more in touch with the interests of the world that there is nothing I could say that would be new or, frankly, all that interesting.  I don't travel, I don't have any exciting hobbies or sports and really, my mom adventures aren't especially funny or insightful. 

What I keep coming back to, and the thing that means the most to me, are my reading and my knitting.  I know, not exactly the profile of an exciting person but truly, these are the things that give me the most pleasure.  I love to read, I love finding books, I squeeze in as much reading as I can (my in-laws find it hilarious that I have found a way to use hair clips to keep my page open so I can read while I blow dry my hair in the morning) and my best times often involve either a bookstore, a package arriving through Abebooks or a book club meeting.  My knitting is the way I take care of people, I think.  My grandmother, who was probably my favourite person in the world and most definitely the person who gave me the strongest feeling of comfort in my life, was an avid and talented knitter and one of the ways she showed us that she loved us was through creating for us.  I have such fond memories of hats, leg warmers and especially, her gorgeous socks and she always had needles in her hands.  I think knitting has become so important to me precisely because it makes me feel connected to her.  This year, for Christmas, many of my children's daycare teachers, skating coaches and babysitters received "dorm socks" (I'll do a post about that later) and I had so many compliments. 

So, I think, for now, I am going to focus most of my writing on three things - my knitting projects, my reading and the books that I am enjoying with my children (which has become a huge part of our family life at this point in time).  I hope that I will be able to find some time to write and to celebrate these special, small moments in my life and to create a place where I can remember things that bring me joy in the chaos of daily life.