Well, 2020 has come and gone, hasn’t it? I’ve attempted to write a few times. However, it seemed either like shouting into the wind or sliced a little too deep into some painful spots of the year.
We’ve found ourselves back in America.
And we’ve found ourselves living on a farm, something that we’ve always longed to do. And we’re living in our favorite part of the state. And, as of this week, Michael got basically his dream situation for if he had to be employed in something other than a missions role.
And I feel unworthy.
A couple days ago, I was talking to my daughter about our plans for our large garden next year. I said that I didn’t know what I should add to it.
“You can always add more flowers, Mama. Get some more flower seeds, Mama, and make the world a more beautiful place.”
And we come back to that refrain. And I’ll try.
It doesn’t look at all like I anticipated it would. But I’ll try anyway.
It’s been a bit of a wild month. Our little guy was over two weeks overdue. My parents came from America for two weeks, and now we’ve been on lockdown for over a week due to the spread of the coronavirus. Today, I wanted to share some photos from the last month to fight against fear with gratitude. We have found beauty and created beauty in so many places this month, but the most obvious was in the birth of our little boy.
We grieve with the world around us, as we see the effects of the Coronavirus. We also have hope with the world around us. I’ve found that as a homeschooling mom and a one-vehicle family, there really has been very little change to our daily life other than the ability to get groceries or go on extended walks, and Michael is home all the time now instead of his REALLY unpredictable ministry schedule.
I see many people who are frustrated that they are stuck at home. I greatly desire to help encourage parents who are unexpectedly at home with their kids, and I can sympathize. It is difficult when sinners all get cooped up in a house together, isn’t it?
I’d like to take a minute to acknowledge that unexpected “homeschoolers” have a hard job. Distance education/school at home isn’t necessarily “homeschool.” Homeschoolers have the ability to choose our curriculums, our days of education, what’s working and what’s not. We’ve intentionally made decisions, studied, and planned for this. I scrapped a grammar curriculum just last week because it wasn’t working for one of my kids, and right now I’m staying busy working on planning for the next school year. Many of you who are teaching your kids right now have no control over things like curriculum, and when your kids aren’t understanding, you feel powerless. Homeschooling isn’t like that.
So I wanted to acknowledge those who are working hard and adapting to things they never planned to do. It’s tough work, and you’re doing your best.
I also wanted to give a very light word of caution. Please express your feelings about staying home with your kids in a positive light. Kids hear. Everything. And remember…everything. If they happen to overhear you talking about being “stuck” with them, or how you’re wanting to drink because you’ve been in the same house with them for what seems like ages, they’ll remember it.
You feel powerless, and that’s where your feelings are coming from. But you are an adult with agency to make decisions (stay at home, or go out? make healthy food, or eat comforting less-healthy food? netflix every single season of that show or tear into a new project?) Your kiddos have very little agency. And if they’re hearing the news or reading over your shoulder while you’re scrolling on your phone (I’ve got some nosy parkers too…), they’ll realize that the world can be a scary place right now. Whom will they turn to for comfort if they’ve taken to heart the idea that you’re sick of them?
Off that soapbox for now. Here’s a bit of a list of some of the “extra” things aside from our usual homeschooling we’ve been doing to fill in the gaps of time that Michael would normally be working.
Additional audiobooks. (Audible has a bunch of books for free right now that you aren’t required to have a membership for.)
Art lessons, book readalouds, and concerts for free online. We try to only do one a day, because we still attempt to really limit the kids’ screen time.
That being said, between the kids being “off schedule” and a newborn, my yarn projects and sewing projects have taken a back seat. I had hoped to have child number 3’s Christmas sweater done four days from now. It’s not looking like that’s going to happen, as I’m only about 70% done. Sigh. It’s only March, right?
Unfortunately, the places I buy my yarn and fabric have closed down my ability to purchase from them right now. (Thank you, Wool Warehouse for taking the health of your employees into consideration!) So I guess I just have to finish the projects I’ve got.
I used to think I’d be a bandage wrapper, a makeshift nurse, or some sort of an active participant in saving the world, should I be needed. Turns out that the best thing that I can do to save the world is to stay at home and love my children.
And that’s what I intend to do.
God, help me to do my best and smooth over my failings with your grace. Amen.
While we wait for baby to decide to show his face, I’ve managed to do every chore imaginable (even washed the outdoor windows one nicer day) and also work a little bit more on some knitting projects. I like how the blue sock yarn is turning out for my third son’s Christmas sweater.
I also enjoy working in the round. The piecing together for the baby’s sweater will be easy, but working in the round is so satisfying and goes by so quickly.
As the baby is nearly two weeks overdue, I told my husband that if I finish our third son’s sweater before the baby comes out, I will cry. Who am I kidding, though? I cry a lot these days, to begin with.
Nearly every day, I wake up feeling guilty for being crabby at the other four kids, so I try to make up for it with a baked good or special breakfast. So not only are the kids anxious about the timing of our blessed event, they’re over-sugared. Sigh.
It’s a season. It will pass.
In better news, much of next school year is planned, and I’ve been able to work on my French language learning. 🙂
More Christmas Sweater Decisions
I decided on the Christmas sweaters for the two remaining kids. Our oldest will be getting the Teeny Geena Sweater, although I haven’t decided on yarns yet. His favorite color is red, but he likes hand-dyed or variegated yarns. I’m concerned that with the raglan sleeves it might be kind of wonky looking if I use a more textured color. Rowan does have some really beautiful hemp tweed that I love the look of, but it’s a little more cost-prohibitive for a very active boy’s sweater.
Our only girl loves sweater dresses and pockets, so I chose a combo of the two with the Fiona pattern (short-sleeved edition because it’s so mild here.) For the last two years, every time she’s been asked her favorite colors, her response is this verbatim: “pink and purple and orange and grey.”
So here’s what I’ll end up using:
I hope you’re having a fine day filled with color and sunshine. If not, I hope you’re enjoying a chance to snuggle under a blanket and read a good book or do something that refreshes your soul.
A couple of months after we arrived, a friend gave us two armchairs for free. The vinyl had scraped off in multiple areas. Not one to say no to free furniture (and probably an incurable optimist when it comes to “potential” and rehabbing things,) I just could not let these chairs go.
Funnily enough, I just saw a group of six of these exact same chairs with scraped off vinyl going for free on our local “freecycle” kind of Facebook group. So with the damage being consistent with eight or more of the same make and model of chair, I think it was just poorly manufactured.
I have great plans to recover them, one with a navy fabric and one with a floral with pops of navy blue because I deeply miss having the floral accent chair that I recovered so long ago. Unfortunately, the kids keep on picking more vinyl off, so I covered them with some free Sesame Street duvet covers that we were given. (Free fabric must have its use.) And that made it worse. Ha ha ha!
A couple of weeks ago, I got a package with some surprise yarn in it. I adored the colors. I began playing around and decided to make a mini chair cover/lap blanket for one of the chairs. I finished it up last week and temporarily pinned it into place. This summer, I will recover the other chair first, which means ripping it apart to come up with the pattern. At least this one will look presentable in the meantime.
Also, of note, I had multiple windows open much of the day.
We’ve been busy preparing for little man around here. That doesn’t mean that no crafting has been done. In fact, I’m sooooo close to finishing up a little blanket that will be used on our porch to cover up some wear and tear on an armchair until I have time to recover it. I’m running out of yarn, so it may be as big as it is going to get pretty soon.
We’ve also been beginning the process of double digging our garden beds. Yes, it’s February. Yes, this throws off everything we’ve ever known about gardening, but we’ve been watching local gardeners, and they’re beginning to prepare their beds now.
So that also means finishing up the purchasing of our seeds and starting our seeds. My husband managed to find some bio (organic) sweet potatoes today to get started indoors. Sweet potatoes (patate douce) are fairly expensive here compared to in the states, and they are so nutritionally dense, so we wanted to ensure that we’d have a good crop of them.
We’ve only got about 200 square feet of in-ground garden, not for lack of space, but for practicality. (We also will have 15 or so medium-sized containers.) Michael will be gone many hours beginning in March, and I’ll be in charge of the five kids and maintaining our little garden operation here. This year, it needed to be easier. So we’re doing a high-density double dug garden, based on the recommendations of John Seymour in The Self-Sufficient Gardener. But since the growing season here runs from early April through late November, we’re hoping to have several mid-season replantings and reap a huge harvest of…cabbages and beets and greens and such. Our kids are generally pretty tolerant of our healthier cooking as long as we season it well enough, but the amount of cabbage I’m foreseeing might push past their limits.
We are reusing seeds from last year as our primary seeds and then filling in with seeds for the things that are most expensive or hard to find here in France (celery, sweet potatoes, hot peppers, cilantro, etc.) We did make a couple of purchases of seeds that the kids requested (American watermelons, because the French ones are just not the same.)
Around our yard, we’ve been so pleased to see signs of Spring everywhere.
A friend sent a lovely package with some tea and cloth napkins from vintage cloth, and it’s been so delightful to hang them up on our laundry rack. I’m looking forward to March, when it will be much more temperate and line drying outdoors will be again a more feasible task for us.
I’m hoping that you’re finding beauty even on days that may be grey and gloomy.
I keenly feel for my friends back home this week, after our crocus sightings and then when daffodils started popping up in our garden. Living “up north” in the United States can be brutally beautiful. The prospect of several more months of bleak skies and cold temperatures is daunting for many. So I wanted to highlight the color grey in my color inspiration series this week, as an ode to Minnesota’s winters, as it were.
Because we work in a fairly industrial French city, there are a lot of examples of grey brickwork or grey sidewalks as well. For this post, my mind was stuck in Minnesota, so I chose mostly photos from “back home” as examples.
It’s more difficult for me to find examples of grey as an accent color in my photo collection. My eyes naturally get drawn to the brightest in the photos–much like when I wrote about brown here.
I’ve made 10 or 15 blankets with grey as a primary color in them. Grey always seems to set off the colors around it beautifully, like a best friend highlighting your “good bits” and smoothing over your failures for you. But grey as a solid (like the solid grey celtic blanket I made here) is lovely and cosy as well.
I wonder if you can find an instance of grey and focus on it as a beautiful piece of art this week. It might be difficult, but it may also help shift your perspective from “endless winter” to “understated elegance.”
The sun shone quite a bit today, revealing some Dutch crocuses in our yard to little eyes.
Crocuses in January.
New Yarn for a New Crocheter
I did get a yarn order this week, which was exciting. My oldest managed to get three balls of Stylecraft in my order. He began crocheting last week or the week before, and he’s doing so well after knitting for a few years, so I thought I’d let him pick a few skeins of his own to use colors he enjoys. He’s always been a jewel tones kid, and still, he continues. He’s working on creating a tiny blanket for one of his stuffed animals and has grand ideas of what will come next.
When Middle Children Complicate Decisions
Unfortunately, in my order, I got all of the yarn but forgot to order knitting needles for my next project, one of the Christmas sweaters I’ll be starting. Someday I’d love to have knitting needles and crochet hooks in every size all organized, but it’s just not that season. I’m not a Knitter with a capital K, so I have to use what I’ve got and plan for new needles every once in a while.
It was a real conundrum deciding how to do Christmas sweaters this year. (I’ve decided to do them in place of matching jammies, in order to reduce my “factory footprint.”)
I always love a good matching photo op for the kids, but one of the three older boys just a) wants to be different and b) hates to be different at the same time. I understand. It’s a middle child thing. So I tossed and turned about doing the same pattern for all three and just changing out the colors or doing the same pattern but giving him some distinctive elements like stripes. My husband finally decided that I should just do different patterns and different colors for all three, and then nobody will feel left out or like they don’t stand out enough. Our daughter will be getting a sweater dress for Christmas because she always loves sweater dresses.
Patterns I chose for the Christmas Sweaters
I haven’t figured out our oldest’s pattern or yarn yet (but his favorite color is currently ruby red, so it will likely be a flashy sweater.)
Our second son’s sweater will be Bernat’s Rickrack Pullover in a yellow gold with grey, blue, and orange colorwork.
Our third son’s sweater will be Drops Vincent in Drops Fabel Green Turquoise.
I have not yet determined the pattern for our girl’s sweater dress, but it will probably be purple, as I’ve worked enough pink lately to bring tears to my eyes. I might be convinced to add a little dusty rose color work to it, but that would be it.
Baby’s sweater is already in the works, as I mentioned recently. He doesn’t get a choice on his color or pattern, because I had this yarn lying around from two children ago. They just keep growing, and I never got to use this.
Tulips Because They’re Lovely
Michael brought me home some tulips today because I have such a heart for flowers. Buying fresh flowers here in France has a bit of the same “feel” as it does in the States, that you’re either trying to impress someone or that you’re just a bit “extra.” But I’m glad that he does little things like that for me every once in a while because beauty and goodness do matter.
Here’s hoping that today brought you a bit of sunshine or beauty, even if it’s in the form of an icicle or “Jack Frost” crystals on your windowpane.
It’s almost time for little man’s arrival. I just managed to get this finished in between packing hospital bags, working on my French for the hospital, and trying to get the house and children ready for me to be gone for a little while. (The average French hospital stay after giving birth is four days. What will I do? Not sure. I might go crazy from the lack of yelling and general hubbub, or it might feel like a silent spiritual retreat to only have one child around that sleeps the majority of the day.)
In any case, this texture lap blanket is done. And here are the details!
Stylecraft Bambino DK – Mellow Yellow, 800 grams
15,6 Euros (approximately $17.20 )
Time it Took
Began project on October 23, 2019. Finished January 23, 2020. Completed more than 30 smaller projects between, so not as much of my time was completely devoted to this blanket. Hard to estimate.
For other blankets (like this one!) or tah-dah posts that I’ve done recently (man is it hard to track down decades of progress photos!!!), you can either look at my Ravelry profile or in my finished objects category.
Now that the blanket is done, I just need to wrap my head around what life with a newborn will look like again. I find myself googling phrases like “newborn schedule” and other things that came intuitively the last time, which was five years ago. Ah well. It’ll all shake out, and little man will be so loved.
The baby commandeered this past week with three appointments. He turned around in the correct direction (please stay that way, youngling!), and we’re all so happy about that.
Baby’s Christmas Sweater
I began his Christmas sweater because I needed a mental break on one of the days when a new math skill was just evading one of my kids. Don’t look too closely; it’s been a while since I’ve done any “serious” knitting.
This weekend, my husband helped me do some serious nesting/rearranging. Together, we solved about eight household “problems,” but our house is still in full-on recovery mode from all of our industrious “fixing.”
If you ask the kids, the baby can come at any time. They are so anxious to meet their little plaything/friend, but some are beginning to have some amount of anxiety about me being in the hospital potentially for the French stay of 4 days. I’m ready for us to all just to be able to hunker down for a bit. And I wouldn’t mind having my spine back again.
A gift of yarn & a new project
A lovely friend sent me a bunch of yarn in the mail. As we say in our family, “my love bucket is so full!” The next day, I began a bit of a bobble blanket to use on one of our chairs that needs recovering. I anticipate that this will be a really swift project due to the smaller size and chunkier yarn. It only needs to be big enough to hide the major wear and tear on the chair until I can do some upholstery work.
trying to plan things better
Because I always bite off more than I can chew at the last minute, I created a calendar for all of my projects for the year. Don’t worry! I left some room for flexibility and fun. I’m a pretty ambitious person (with a lot of ideas!!!) However, I am choosing to not be caught making projects for all of the at-risk young men we work with in December this year. (It’s going to be hats for the young men this year, by the way, since some may still be living in the same housing situation…)
yet another crocheter in the family
I taught my oldest how to chain, single crochet, and double crochet this week. He caught on so quickly, although the moment I snapped this photo he was mid-mistake. (Isn’t that how it always goes?) He is flying through this experience and is genuinely loving it. Knitting was not the same. He spent about two hours today crocheting what will be a small blanket for one of his stuffed animals.
I read a pretty bit of a quote by Maya Angelou today: ” A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer…it sings because it has a song.”
I hope that today finds you singing the song you were made to sing.
Two pairs of boys’ jeans with multiple holes in the pairs, three dresses (requiring invisible mending because they were knits), and a few other garments are now repaired. I have three more pairs of boys’ jeans, one pair of boys’ dress pants, and a letting out of a hem on a girl’s dress left. (And a girl’s pair of pajamas since I first drafted this post…)
I bought myself some actual Sashiko needles on Amazon for around 3 Euros. Best 3 Euros I’ve spent in a while. The needles slipped through about five times as fast and easily as my old gold-tip needle. It was phenomenal.
The tools we use matter. And in this case, they weren’t outrageously expensive.
Slow Fashion Near Miss
On the note of slow fashion, a confession is in order. In France, there is a yearly sale, a month-long period of post-Christmas clothing sales going on. I decided to look online at H&M for t-shirts for myself since I anticipate needing some new shirts after this pregnancy, and their sales were averaging 60% off. Fortunately, the site sold out of all of the shirts I liked. My slow fashion ideals currently remain intact.
How easily I was swayed toward conventional factory-produced fashion, and how naturally I turn toward it is frustrating to me. Really, I have the skills to take in some of the t-shirts I’ve got or rework some old dress shirts that are far too big on me now. We’ll see what kind of projects I end up with this year in terms of slow fashion. My daughter will likely end up with a homemade sweater dress, because she loves sweater dresses so much.
My husband, on the other hand, I haven’t decided what to do about. He is a bigger-framed man, and he will eventually need some really sturdy pants. We have two brands from America that we generally can trust in terms of sturdiness. They would be much higher quality than anything that I could conjure up, but I’m not certain how they’re sourced or produced.