27 August

so alert



like jewels

Our baby boy is now just past two months old. He has changed so much in these two months. We are getting lots of smiles and lots of little "chats" from him. He is our biggest two month old so far, at just over 13 pounds now. He is also a baby who has a high level of need for his mama. I've been spending my time just holding and nursing him most of the time, which is fine with me. He and I just need this.

Though the other day, after a long day of holding him, soothing his fussing, and feeling like nothing was helping, I told my husband I was taking a drive.

Driving can be as effective as therapy for me. I've known this about myself for a good 16 or 17 years. I can always clear my mind. Turning on the radio and hearing favorite songs by Dave Matthews Band, U2, and Radiohead back to back never hurts, either. And then there was a rainbow. Within an hour, I was home and feeling much more sane. I'm sure taking a walk could have a similar effect but we live in an older suburban neighborhood so it's not always the best place for clearing one's mind. Slipping out for a drive is just right for me.

Not much else is happening. These August days have been going by slowly. Hot, languid, just a bit too much. I'm so ready for autumn. My husband's classes start next week and he's nervous. I know he can do it. I just hope there's a job at the end of it!

6 August


I usually hate August. I mean, I didn't start out having such a strong opinion of it. Way back, almost 15 years ago, when my husband and I got engaged, we chose an August wedding date.

Last year I wrote a post about August that I never published due to the intense lethargy I was experiencing (I seem to do that often in August). I'm going to share most of it below, in italics. 

This August is starting out a little different. A little bit outside of time, with a newborn. And of course, there's no return to work after a summer off for my husband. He's here most of the time right now. I never knew I'd be saying that unemployment was a mixed blessing. 

He's going back to school in a few weeks, to learn new skills and start a new career. It's overwhelming and scary and exciting and sad all at the same time. (This is a man with a doctorate in a field that he can't find work in, afterall.) As I say below, this time will pass, and things will be new. There is always hope: hope that September will come, that new opportunities will present themselves, that there is goodness and kindness in this world. And by hope, I don't mean empty optimism. I mean real hope, confidence that despite bad days and hardship, the end of the story is a good one. 

{Photos in this post are all from this year, not last year.}




swimming lesson


The other day, I saw a comment somewhere that read, simply, "I love August." It was in reference to the garden harvest this time of year. But reading it made me realize something: I hate August. Seeing someone profess their love for the month gave me the permission to admit my hate for it. It was freeing.

It wasn't always the case. It used to just be one of those summer months. Summer not being my favorite season, but special and delightful in many ways. There didn't seem to be anything remarkable about August, one way or another. We chose to have our wedding in August almost as an afterthought. I wanted it to be in June but thought it might be cliche. So we sort of randomly picked another summer date. Now I kind of wish we'd gone with "cliche" June.

August for me now carries all kinds of weird feelings. The heat is sweltering, the landscape dry. School starts too soon. The transition of my husband being suddenly gone for 14 hours a day, usually six days a week, is harsh and callous. To say I make this transition poorly would be a laughable understatement.

Years ago, shortly after I'd begun blogging here, February rolled around and lots of people started complaining about how hard February was, how unjust that the shortest month should feel so long. At first, I tried to play along like I "got" this. But really, I didn't. I don't hate February. I never did. Actually, I love February. 

But, as it turns out, I do hate August. It comes roaring at me, like a crazy locomotive, each year at a faster and more intense pace. I find myself being short with my children, resentful of my poor husband (whose transition to back-to-school is already chaotic enough), grumpy, bitter, and listless. For years, when I used to keep this blog up more than I do now, I'd suddenly take weeks off during August, unannounced. I'd retreat from friends, fight with my sister, hurt my mom's feelings. 

What am I going to do about it? I don't know. It doesn't seem as simple as just coming up with a formula. I think it's something I need to reflect on, and gradually turn over, like soil. 

I will tell you that I've been trying this year. One day when my kids seemed to be possessed, and I seemed to be possessed (fights, scolding, fights, scolding), I decided to break the cycle by taking them to the movies. I have never taken my own children to the movies before. So we went to see "Brave". Another day, I surprised them with little Lego sets. 

I've been trying to keep fresh flowers in the house. I've been going easy on dinners. Salad has been popular, and hot dogs. I've been reading to them a lot. I've been trying to say "yes" whenever I can. 

James starts soccer next week. Elisabeth starts a new year-round swim team soon after. The heat of August will pass, September will come. I know this.

I still hate August. But these little things helped. They reminded me, it's not all bad.



Today is my thirty-fifth birthday. First, a little bit of honesty: I have been dreading turning 35, for a long time. Probably ever since I turned 30. It seems silly to say, especially because I'm married to someone ten years older than me. But this was the first age I wasn't looking forward to. (Some people it's 30, some it's 40. For me, 35.)

But you know what happened? The days just kept progressing towards it, and now here I am. 35 full years on this earth. And you know, they have been 35 pretty great years. 



On Saturday, I received a package from my friend Ginny. Sweetest thing ever. I'm so looking forward to starting this next cross-stitch adventure! (Also, she wrote the funniest thing in the card about researching hobbies appropriate to those who have reached "advanced maternal age" [what we've been calling 35 for the last year as we both approached this age with some trepidation], and cross-stitch being the best. So funny.)



good morning, 35

It snowed a foot yesterday. Today everything is sparkling and white and beautiful.


one breath

Last night, I enjoyed a homemade cherry pie with 35 hand-dipped beeswax candles. (I teach until late tonight, so we opted for birthday celebrating last night.) I blew them out in one breath.

And today I don't feel nearly as bad about being 35. 

11 November


Well, I missed posting yesterday. It's the only time in a November blogging challenge that I've missed a post. Yesterday was a long day, spent trying to get my husband a new car which proved challenging. It was also bitterly cold and snowing for part of the day, which added to the car buying challenge. Later, we went to a housewarming party. More of the Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices were made. They are heavenly, people. Seriously.

In the end, not much snow accumulated, but the temperatures today remained icy cold. After church, I came home and ended up taking a lovely nap. The sun was warm even though it was so cold outside. 

outback of my youth

So, we're now bidding farewell to our Outback. We bought this car new in our first year of marriage. My husband pointed out that this year has marked an end of that era. The puppy we brought home that same year died only seven months ago, and now the car has called it quits, too. (Another thing: the tea kettle we got for our wedding got burned and destroyed since we moved in here. It's now been replaced with an inexpensive electric model which I actually like much better for where we are in life now. In the thank you note to the person who gave me the tea kettle for my bridal shower, I promised to keep it until one day when our future children would burn it up making hot chocolate. This is actually exactly what happened to my mom's tea kettle, when we were pre-teens making instant hot chocolate. The fate of my kettle was sealed not with hot chocolate, since we make that with milk in a saucepan, but boiling water for tea. Ah, well.)

OG firedancer sticker

Anyway, the Outback was actually my car for most of that time. I drove it until about 18 months ago. I love my bigger vehicle, not having to squeeze my kids three across, which always made me nervous with the carseats sort of jimmy-rigged in place. But I loved my Outback, too. It represented such a happy time in my life. My early marriage, my young motherhood. In the end, it's just a car, of course. And the time had really come to bid it farewell. But I'll miss it nonetheless.


The Outback was replaced with a used Prius. It has sort of high mileage but is otherwise in really good condition. The high mileage allowed us to be able to get a low payment on it, which is good since the timing of this is pretty bad. I've always liked blue cars, though my husband doesn't, so it's too bad it's his and not mine! We are most excited about the gas mileage, and of course, the hatchback style is perfect for all the instruments and gear my husband drives around with all the time. 

So, bittersweet things here. 



Yesterday my husband and I celebrated thirteen years of marriage. 


I was thinking about where we are now, and where I imagined, as a 21-year-old bride, we'd be after thirteen years. Today we have three kids, a house, a teaching job. I think I pictured us having a house, a pile of kids, and a teaching job of a different kind (originally my husband was looking to pursue a career in higher education, rather than high school). What has surprised me is the meandering road it's taken to get to that point, the way it feels to live this life day to day, and the actual where we live (I expected us to move to another state, rather than staying in my home state). 

Still, thirteen years seems pretty impressive. We've hit the teens! My mom gave us an anniversary memory book for our first anniversary, and at fifteen, it starts skipping years (just every five, and then every ten, years). I remember looking at that in the first few years of our marriage and thinking we had ages until it started skipping! Not so, now!

I'm happy, excited, and proud of these thirteen years we have under our belt together, and looking forward to what the next thirteen will bring. 

29 November

29 November1

I sat down to the computer without a single idea of what I want to write about tonight. Sometimes, that's the reality of it. We took the animals in for their shots and exams tonight, and it was expensive, and then James started throwing up. I've been feeling tired all week, and no end seems to be in sight. 

29 November2

But then I realized, all month I've been keeping track of things I'm grateful for. Here is a sampling: 

My many lovely friends, both near and far, those I know well in person and those I've never met face to face.

Just enough money to pay our bills. Just enough.


Hot showers.

The class I'm taking.

The kindness and generosity of my beautiful blog readers!


My beautiful, sweet, wild little family.

My car. (As silly a thing as that is to say, and as expensive as it feels to us right now, it's so nice to have room for all of us and all of our gear, and a bonus is to have something that doesn't feel embarrassing to be seen in!)


My mother-in-law.

Time spent with those I care about.

Lunches packed the night before.

My mom.

Being caught up.

The internet.


My husband.



That small houses are easier to clean.

Michael Jackson.


My siblings.

My across-the-street neighbor's Christmas lights that I can see from my bedroom.


My cello students.

My sewing machine.

My helpful eldest child.

My tender son.

My independent littlest one.

My life.

So much to be grateful for ... what are some of the things that make you pause to give thanks?

On housekeeping (part 1)

Today I'm going to write about something that I have wanted to talk about in this space for a really long time: housekeeping. But first, thank you for your birthday wishes over the last few weeks. We have one more birthday approaching in a couple of weeks and then birthday season will be past us and I'll heave a sigh of relief. And I thought I'd also update you on the illness front. It turns out this was pneumonia. And my first chest x-ray also showed something concerning in my lung, and I ended up having follow-up x-rays and a CT scan to find out what was going on. In the end, it turned out to be nothing. But between the pneumonia and the uncertainty, it was a kind of stressful time there for a while. Anyway, that's all on the mend and I'm avoiding human contact at all cost (OK, that's an exaggeration), to avoid any more exposure to illness this season!

on housekeeping

So, back to the housekeeping. This begins with a confession: I am not tidy. I am not neat. (I am clean, and actually slightly obsessively so, about things like bathrooms [I clean mine daily] and sheets [I change them at least weekly without fail] -- after the advice given to my own mother when she was a newlywed by an older friend and mentor of hers, a mother of five, who had been given that advice by her family physician when she was struggling with keeping five little ones healthy. So my mom took that advice to heart in her own family, and now, so do I.) But mostly, I think I fall into that "absent-minded professor" category: brainy, a bit scattered, and, well, kind of slovenly.

on housekeeping

I have a hard time keeping after clutter. I mean, I know everyone says that, but I'm worse than the average person. I am not good at getting rid of stuff when I don't need it anymore. I'm a saver. (You know the type.) Between overwhelm, busyness, lack of diligence (a huge problem of mine, and others like me, for whom so many "academic" things have come easily), and absence of any sort of system, this house can be quite messy, chaotic, and disorganized.

on housekeeping

Of course I appreciate a tidy home, but getting there has always been so hard for me. I see how our family thrives when things are running smoothly, but achieving that on any kind of consistent basis has been extremely hard for me. It's so hard to know where to start. (And for any of you wondering right now about the home that you've seen on the blog: never discount artful photography.)

I'm going somewhere with all this, I promise. Last summer, thanks to the advice of a friend who had experienced the same type of frustration, overwhelm, exhaustion, self-blame, and general stress from a life lived in messy surroundings, I found something that worked for me. My friend felt so transformed by her new way of life that she was nearly evangelical about it. And now I'm about to be.

on housekeeping

We call them "my cards".

on housekeeping

It's a system outlined in the book Sidetracked Home Executives, written by two sisters who had come to the end of their ropes with housekeeping. They came up with the system because they needed it. Simply, you write every single task that needs to be accomplished in your household on 3x5 cards, which are color-coded based on the frequency of the task. Daily chores are on yellow yards, weekly chores on blue ones, and anything that is done monthly or less frequently (seasonally or annually), are on white cards. (Pink are for "personal" things, like appointments, classes, activities, homework, vitamins or medicine, etc.) I made a card for each and every task that needs to happen in our house. As I've gone on, I've eliminated some cards that I don't need anymore (because I never forget to do the chore, and so don't need it anymore), or consolidated some. With other things, I've changed the frequency, after seeing what has worked and what hasn't.

on housekeeping

The system has been so freeing for me. There is no longer any emotional attachment surrounding housekeeping. If I don't complete all my cards, I just re-file them and get to them the next day (or week, or whatever). I do complete most of them most days. And I do get so much pleasure from completing something on a card -- even something small, like changing the dog water -- and filing it to the next day. As I see the day's cards diminish, I really do feel a sense of accomplishment. And it's such a good feeling to finish them and then feel "free" for the rest of the day.

on housekeeping

on housekeeping

My house is still not perfect. We have clutter "hot spots" that are constant battles. I fall off the wagon sometimes. Sometimes even for a couple of months. But I know that I have a system in place that can support me as I work on forming stronger habits, making our home beautiful and peaceful, and keeping our family happy and healthy.

on housekeeping

In my next post, I'm going to talk a little bit more about actual cleaning, my favorite tricks and tips, and using natural cleaning agents (something I've been doing since I was first married and really love).

And finally, I am giving away two copies of Sidetracked Home Executives. These are not gifts from the publisher, I'm purchasing them myself to give to two of you, hoping that someone out there will be helped by the book as much as I have been. I will also throw in some supplies to get you started (some cards and maybe a surprise or two). Please leave a comment on this post and I'll draw two winners in one week (Thursday, March 24). Good luck!

Edited, March 25: Comments closed! I'll announce the winner in a separate post in a little bit! Thank you all for entering!



Here I am at 33. I have some thoughts that have been swirling around in my head all day today, on what has been a very quiet birthday. I'm not sure I can even put them into words, exactly, but I wanted to share them with you after a very beautiful conversation I had last night with one of my dearest friends.

When I turned 30, I was in a very confident place. My children were six and two, and I was very comfortable in my role as a leader among my circle of acquaintance. Things were comfortable at that time. My children were in a very good play place; I had energy and time for a fairly prolific creative life. There was stress ... there always is, especially when you are a fairly high strung person. But mostly, I was in a great place then. I really felt confident, sure, and open to the world.

This year, I'm in a different place. I feel quiet, and maybe a little bit vulnerable. I'm not depressed, but just in a place that feels transitional. I think that I had an idea that by the time I was 35, I would magically be a different person, someone who had things all figured out. And now I'm closer to 35 than to 30, and I know I don't have it all figured out -- nor will I in two years. Though my youngest child is two tomorrow, I don't feel so certain in my motherhood as I did the last time I had a two-year-old. Perhaps it's my oldest, turning nine this spring, who is navigating new social waters. Perhaps it's a feeling of straddling two different worlds -- that of babies, and that of an older elementary-aged child, and not sure where I belong. I'm feeling a lack of community, it's true: the friends I was closest to three years ago aren't even in my life enough to have called me for my birthday this year. And that's not bad -- it's different. I'm wading through change here, at 33.

Someone suggested to me recently that I must be in a period of intake, and I think that is pretty accurate. I feel like I'm quietly absorbing a lot of what is around me right now, but not putting a lot out. It's a different place for me; I'm used to doing a lot, and being a lot. Surrender is never very easy for me, but I know that it's the path that brings the most peace. So I'm working on it.

And I guess that's where I am on this quiet thirty-third birthday of mine. In a thoughtful, seeking, slightly introverted place. Which is just where I need to be.

Thanks for walking along with me. :)

Sing We Christmas, and lessons therein


One of my happiest childhood memories is of standing around the piano, singing, while my mom played Christmas carol after Christmas carol. It was such a happy, peaceful time, and because of it, I also know all the words to at least three (if not more) verses to all the major Christmas carols, too.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but despite the fact that my mom is a classical pianist, and the fact that I have degrees in music performance (cello), my own piano skills are ... lacking.


However, we live in a house that came furnished with a piano, and this summer my mom found these two vintage Christmas carol books at a used bookstore for me. So I decided to start working on my piano skills, with the hope of creating similar happy memories for my own children.


The red book is from 1942 and is in 4-part choral arrangements, so it's above my ability level. However, the white one (from the late 70's) is easy. So I began fumbling through "The First Nowell" a few weeks ago. I made myself a goal to become proficient at one song at a time, and move on to as many as I was able by Christmas.

So far, "The First Nowell" has been learned and polished, and I'm pleased with how it sounds, so I moved on to "Good King Wenceslas" on Thanksgiving. I'm becoming fluent with that now, too, so I've begun learning "Coventry Carol", which is a little harder for me. I'm excited about my progress, though, and doubly pleased about the (perhaps not-so-) surprising benefit of having my children see me practice and improve at something that I haven't always done. (Most of the things I "do" were learned before they were born, so they haven't really had the opportunity to see me learn something so new.) It's a good example for Elisabeth with her own cello practice, as well as just being a life lesson that I hope they learn during their time home with me.


And, now we can enjoy (a few) Christmas carols sung around the piano, just like when I was a girl.

More on mindfulness!

You all are so sweet. Thank you for your comments on yesterday's little post -- they ranged from affirmation to concern, and each one was so sweet. I forget sometimes that not all of you have been with me since the beginning of this blog, and so you may not know that I've written here about mindfulness quite a few times. The first time was here (almost 4 years ago! look at tiny baby James, not even a year old there!), and there is a quote in that post that I think warrants sharing again. It expresses, for me, the core of what a mindfulness practice is.

"If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not 'washing the dishes to wash the dishes.' What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea, either. While thinking of other things, we are barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus, we are sucked away into the future -- and we are incapable of actually living one moment of life!"

-Thich Nhat Hanh


I do know that being gentle with oneself is a huge step, but I have become a master at gentleness with myself, and I know when I need to step it up and employ some discipline. When I work hard (and it is hard work for me) on being fully present in the moment, then I know I am really living my life, rather than just existing in it, and that's so very important to me.

It's also important to my spiritual journey. Last year, a wise priest I know said, "Being in the moment allows us to be available to the eternal present all the time."

sick fiona

Anyway, I'm so heartened to know that so many of you are right there with me on this journey. I am a very goal-directed person (hello, Type-A personality), and really understanding, in my bones, that life is about the process has taken me a long time. I don't know that I'm there yet, but much closer.

Thank you all for being here, in this moment, with me.


Being present this advent


I stayed home from church today with a vomity baby. As I was giving her the first of several baths, and she played quite happily in the warm water, I wondered to myself when it is that we seem to outgrow our ability to live in the moment? It seems like it's something that most adults struggle with, but young children don't struggle with it at all. My baby felt crummy, she'd just vomited in her bed and her hair, but she was happy in that moment in the bath.


I've been conscious of this for a long time -- I started working with mindfulness more than four years ago now -- but I wonder if I've gotten any better. My mind wanders -- sometimes in a "good" way, a way that I approve of, that doesn't distract me from the moment (but still wandering), and sometimes in such an "aggressive" way that I am completely removed from the present. I just wonder. When does this shift occur?


Anyway, I'm working this advent on being more fully present (because I can always improve -- the exercise never seems to get dull). Today we began a little bit of decorating. In a beautiful family moment, the strains of the song "Peace on Earth (Silent Night)" (it was that version, but I love the original, too) came on at the very moment my husband lifted the lid on the box with our nativity stable in it. Elisabeth and James were crowded around, and it already seemed like the perfect moment, and then James said, so excitedly, "The thankstivity!" That has to be one of my favorite advent moments, ever.

And I have a PDF to share with you of what we're doing this year with our advent calendar! You can find it here. This will hopefully help to see how it can be broken down into something simple, rather than getting overwhelmed by all the different options of things to do and give (you can see my previous extensive list here). I'm sure you may have questions for me when you look it over, and please ask in the comments! I'll respond there, too, so that everyone can see the answers. (Quickly, on day 20 it says "make fanky", and I'm sure you'll wonder what "fanky" is. It's a fried cookie from my mother-in-law's Czech heritage, almost exactly like Polish chrusciki.)

I hope that seeing the way I plan our activities is helpful to you, and gives you some ideas about where to start when planning your own family's seasonal observance. Remember to keep it simple -- in the end, you and your children will be much happier that way. Have fun!

Let it be

let it be

These little prayer flags were a gift from Heather when Fiona was born. I remember looking through the amazing box of gifts -- a virtual baby shower from a group of my "blogging ladies" -- with my midwife when Fiona was about two weeks old, and my midwife loved these.

Anyway, I've been looking at these and appreciating their message a lot these days. I feel like I'm coming up short a lot this autumn. Some of the reasons for this are tangible, and some of them aren't so easily defined. I can definitely use a reminder to take a breath and let things go, though. This NaBloPoMo is proving to be a lot more challenging than last year! But it's a good discipline for me. I actually have some good ideas for posts, just haven't organized my thoughts and photos yet. I'm working on it!

What little reminders are helpful for you when you need to slow down, take a breath, and let it be?

"Being an artist"

I said yesterday that I had eight dolls to introduce to you. A couple of them have not yet arrived at their destinations, and a lot of dolls in one post is quite overwhelming, anyway (I think). I also had some other thoughts on my life with dollmaking that I wanted to share with you. So today I'll share a few, and save a few for a couple of days from now. Today, I'd like you to meet....



Gwen dress

This sweet little blonde is one of my favorite dolls I've ever created. Something about her eyes, I think. And the purple dress and pinafore is one of my favorites, as well.



Violet dress

This doll was extremely hard for Elisabeth to part with. She was hoping that somehow she'd get to keep her, I think (which doesn't happen often!). She named her Violet -- normally I name all the dolls myself (their names just come to me as I'm working on them), and I actually had another name in mind for her. But Elisabeth was so enamored that I let her name the dolly as a concession. Violet lives in Australia now!




Brynn dress

Brynn pinafore

Brynn lives a little closer to home, and actually belongs to a dear friend now. I was nervous about the color combination for the clothes (a favorite combination of my friend's, but I wasn't sure how it would work given the particular vintage red floral I was using), but I ended up loving it. (Hence the extra photos of Brynn & her clothes!)

Five years ago, if someone had told me I would become an accomplished Waldorf dollmaker, I wouldn't have believed them. They really seemed intimidating to me! But necessity is the mother of invention, and out of making my own children's dolls, something was sparked in me that I would never have expected, or dreamed of. I used to shrug off compliments to my work, but I've really come to embrace them over time.

Last month, I attended a fundraiser dinner where most of the attendees were part of a social group that I rarely encounter: middle aged, mostly in academic and business fields, many of whom weren't parents, or had grown children. The man I was sitting next to asked me what I do. Of course, there are so many answers to that question. But in that moment, I didn't hesitate to answer, "I'm an artist." He asked what medium I work with, and I said, "Textiles." And you know what? I felt really good about this answer.

Five years ago, I would not have answered in that way. But thanks to this blog, and all of you -- your support, your enthusiasm, your encouragement -- I am honestly able to say that I'm an artist. And that's amazing to me! No, I don't make a living, or really even pay any of our bills, with the few doll commissions I'm able to take each year. But to know that a piece of me, the work of my hands, a little bit of my own unique perspective and vision, is living on in the hands of some of you and your children, is a true gift to me. I am so grateful and pleased to be able to share a little bit of myself with the world in this way.

Thank you all for being here, and helping me to realize the dream of "being an artist". What a dream come true it is!




This year, my birthday feels a bit anticlimactic. I mean, last year, I went to bed and then had a baby, you know? And then there's my sweater. It's oh-so-close -- just a few more sleeve inches to go, and buttons and blocking. So, I'm going to go ahead and say I finished it in time. But it's not the exciting "I'm wearing my new birthday sweater today" thing that I had hoped for -- though I'll definitely have my February sweater ready during February, at least.

Anyway, 32 isn't turning out to be the biggest birthday ever. But another year spent with my little family, living this little life of mine, and 32 beautiful, good years under my belt? Well, that's nothing to shake a stick at. And as I type this I'm thinking, 32 just has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I think it's going to be a great year.

this is what 32 looks like

(and yes, that's my sweater, on me!)

At the end of the day

Today I have something very special to offer here. I wrote this post just over six months ago, on August 20, 2009 (the events described had occurred the day before). I didn't end up sharing it at the time ... I don't remember why. It was written in the midst of what was a very hard time for me. My husband had begun his school year and was writing his dissertation; I saw very little of him. I was surprised when I stumbled across this post recently, and so grateful for it in the midst of a very different time of busyness. My baby approaches a year old in just two days; and beginning with mine tomorrow, we'll celebrate four birthdays in the next six weeks. Easter and other celebrations will fall during this time, as well. I find myself once again feeling stretched. How strengthening this voice from the past -- my own! -- is to me today. It feels like a gift that I sent to myself across the months.

I'm so happy to be able to offer this post to you today, just as it was written. How funny to see that many things have changed since then -- details great and small -- and yet how I can conjure those moments of folding the towels that night.

Wednesday, August 19

The baby wakes me at 7:20 to nurse; my husband has already left for the day. I was up too late the night before, and try to coax her to fall back to sleep. She won't have any of it, and the older two are already stirring.

I get up, and make a breakfast of eggs, toast, watermelon. I change Fiona's diaper, brush my teeth, and help Elisabeth and James get into their swimming suits. We leave at 9:25. Too early for our 9:50 swimming lesson, but chairs for parents are a scarce commodity at the pool.

We're early; we have to wait for them to open the doors. It's the last session of the summer, and the 9:00 classes didn't fill, so ours is the first class of the morning.

I have to laugh at the mad rush of parents to those 12 precious plastic chairs. I'm able to snag one today, and I'm grateful, because it's uncomfortable to sit with the baby at the awkward round picnic tables.

My children make their way to their classes. I watch Elisabeth practicing her kickboard across the deep end of the pool. Her legs and feet are so relaxed. She's a good swimmer, like me. I feel so satisfied and grateful as I watch her working hard. I look over to the shallow end and see James dunking under the water repeatedly. It took all summer, but he's found his confidence this week. The sun is sparkling on the water. This is summer.

A grandmother pulls her chair up beside me. She saw a bumper sticker on my car that sparks a long, interesting conversation. After their classes end, my children happily join their friends in the shallow end of the pool to play for a while. They both find their way back to me at about the same time.

On our way out, we run into a family we haven't seen in a couple of years. Their oldest son is Elisabeth's age, and they are also homeschooling. The mother and I have a long conversation about life, faith, gratitude. We exchange contact information, amazed at our chance meeting.

While we're changing in the dressing room, some friends are on their way in for the last lessons of the morning. My friend shows me the dress that she made for her three-year-old, her own pattern. I'm so impressed. Creativity abounds.

We come home and have last night's leftovers for lunch. Diapers are changed, swimming suits and towels are thrown into the wash, Fiona goes down for a nap. Wednesdays are my teaching day. I hurry around the house, straightening up for my students. I find myself taking joy in sweeping today, although I'm so tired and would love to lay down with the baby.

I have a full afternoon of teaching. I hadn't seen two of my students for a few weeks because of vacations. It's fun to catch up with them -- the thoughts and perspectives of preteens are enormously refreshing. I don't have help this afternoon and my kids are really wild, but surprisingly cooperative when I ask them to go play.

My husband arrives home a little bit before my last student. I'm surprised to see him, but glad when he offers to take the kids with him to the grocery store to pick up some dinner. It's already a bit late, and I hadn't started anything.

We eat dinner together as a family. It's not an idyllic meal, but there is a sense of gratitude for it -- we have so few family meals right now.

After dinner, we struggle to get the three children to sleep. It's past their bedtime and they're overtired. When they're finally down, my husband & his laptop retreat to a corner of the house to do more dissertation work, and I sit down with a movie and my knitting.

By the time the movie is over, it's almost midnight. I finish packing the swimming bag for the morning. The towels were already ready -- they were yesterday's, already dry and folded. The suits are hanging on pegs by the front door. I add a change of clothes for both children, tuck the sunscreen and goggles back into their respective pockets. As I fold the now-clean towels from today and set them aside for Friday morning, I realize that Friday is our last day of swimming lessons for the summer. It makes me a little bit wistful, knowing that I'm folding the last towels of the season. It occurs to me, as I take my vitamins, brush my teeth, and turn out the lights, that packing the swimming bag is love. It seems so simple, so obvious. But it's really love. It's one of the many small and not-so-small things that I do every day, out of love.

My life is both lonely and very full; it's both average and extraordinary. Yesterday's drudgery might be today's blessing -- or, perhaps, the other way around. It can be so easy to lose sight of these everyday blessings in the midst of hard work, a crying baby, arguing children, chaos, boredom, exhaustion, distractions. We want every day to offer an epiphany, a moment of catharsis, or peace, or contentment. But some days don't seem to offer anything at all.

Here's the secret: it's not easy. It will never be easy. It's much easier to fall into the trap of sleepwalking through these ordinary days, not realizing that, like each tree in a forest or pearl on a necklace, each one is both part of the whole, and a unique treasure of its own.

A wise friend of mine remarked recently, "The way you spend your days is the way you spend your life."

Here's to spending each day mindfully, living fully, loving with our whole hearts.


February 2


Today was the festival of Candlemas. Because we were out of town all of last week, preparing for it pretty much slipped my mind, so we just had a candlelit dinner and bedtime. Sometime later in the week, we'll make candles, too. Candlemas has never become a huge celebration in our family, but I really like the suggestions for its celebration in Mrs. Sharp's Traditions, I love to listen to this every Candlemas (it was written to be played at Candlemas). There are always small ways to mark the passing seasons, even when they are not big, fancy celebrations.

Really, I spent most of today in a quivery, trembling state, anticipating the first episode of the final season of Lost tonight. I was not disappointed -- I'm a real Lostie. It's the only television program I watch, actually. Usually our television only comes on once a week (for Lost); we've actually discussed finally removing the television from our home once the show ends. So, now you know a little detail about me that you might not have before!

2009, a retrospective {part 1}

I hope you all are not tired of 2009 wrap-ups. I know I'm a bit late, but bear with me -- I've been so very sick for so long, it's making me feel really behind. Anyway, I have had a 2009 retrospective on the creating end of things in mind for a while now, but I still want to photograph a last couple of things, so I thought I would start with the life part. And of course there's some overlap.


daily creativity


Quiet days at home. Knitting the bunting. Visits with friends. Cooking, freezing, nesting. Sewing. Contractions. Waiting.




More contractions. More waiting. More knitting. Elisabeth's first sleepover (away). My blessingway. My birthday. Fiona Catherine. Bliss.


on the couch in march

Holed up, insulated, babymooning. James turns three. Huge snowstorm. Snuggling on the couch with the baby and lots of wool while the others are out in it. Seedlings.



Stepping, ever so tentatively, out of the fog. Elisabeth turns seven. Seedlings (still). Fiona's baptism. My husband decides to finish his doctorate afterall. Dozens of tulips!


may basket in can

happy may day!

Going a-Maying. Enjoying our yard and gardens. Struggling to find a rhythm. Re-reading some of my favorite books. Elisabeth learns to ride a two-wheeler.




Peonies! Swimming lessons every morning. Fiona rolls over. Remembering to slow down. Roses.



hanging out

Still at the pool every morning, knitting in tow. A rainy 4th of July. Camping. Sewing. Second grade workshop. Catharsis.


10 years

pennant banner

10 years! Fiona sits up. Stress. Exhaustion. Computer break (oh-so-good!). My sister's baby shower. Sewing.


at the pool



Holding on to the last bits of summer. habit. Return to homeschooling. Apple orchard (twice), and apple pies. Classes for both children. My new niece.


michaelmas table

fiona and sweet potatoes


ready to go!

Our belated Michaelmas celebration. Eurythmy. Knitting. Lots of snow. Hot cocoa many days. New high chair cushions, and Fiona's first solid foods. Marathon costume sewing. Jack-o-lanterns. Halloween. My favorite month.




e sweater7

NaBloPoMo. Church linens. Elisabeth's first sleepover (at home). Simplicity Parenting. Martinmas. Sweaters. Book reviews. Thinking ahead to advent and Christmas. Giving thanks. Making dolls.


habit december23

habit december11


My shop. habit (december). King Winter. Helen's baptism. Fun with family. My husband's graduation. Sickness (lots and lots of sickness). Small miracles. Late Christmas cards. Last-minute gift making. Stillness; peace; silence. The richness of tradition. Joy

habit december21

Right now

Awed by the connections we all have: the way my life looks very much like yours, and yours like mine -- we're all in this thing, aren't we?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Happy new year, friends. May 2010 (which I refuse to pronounce "twenty-ten", by the way) be your best yet.

My next post will be the creating retrospective. And I'd still like to share a few things that we did in December, in between all the sickness. And then it will be new material for the new year, I promise.


this month's thoughts

I'm checking in here to let everyone know that I'm having a rough few weeks right now. I haven't really mentioned this here before, but I have been single-parenting nearly full-time since April. My husband is completing a stack of requirements for his doctorate. He has a hard and fast deadline of graduation by December or he will be forced to leave his program. He has already been granted two extensions, so this really is it for him. It's been an almost 10-year investment in time and money, and so we really can't have him failing to finish it.

Anyway, four months into this -- with four months to go -- the stress is really wearing me out. Obviously everyone has a different set of experiences and expectations in their own lives, and I'm not trying to make my problems sound worse than anyone else's -- I have a lot of respect for those of you who are actual single parents, not just temporary ones like me. However, for me, this feels like a lot.

Paired with the fact that Fiona is about the age now that James was when my PPD spiraled out of control last time -- and the fact that I'm feeling so hyperaware of this -- I just feel a little bit out of control right now.

It shouldn't be surprising to me to realize that my process for working on things might change from time to time throughout my life. Three years ago, blogging and photography were really helpful tools for me during a time of intense stress (and depression). Right now -- this month, today -- it's feeling a little bit like a "should" instead of a "want to". Feeling pressure from blogging is not new to me. I have had times before where I get to feeling all wanty and inadequate. I think most of us have. I wrote about it here, a little bit. Anyway, it's had me thinking a lot over the past few days about whether I want to continue to keep this (or any) blog, and what it would look like for me if I did (or didn't). I thought about closing the comments permanently. I spent some time fiddling with the look of the blog, made some drastic changes, changed them back....

Though I can imagine a time when blogging will just not be part of my life anymore, I don't think I'm really in that place right now. What I've come up with, instead, is to take the next two weeks away from the computer. Completely away. No google, no blogs, no email, no articles. No computer. I'm a boundary-setter by nature, and usually breaks like this are helpful to me. They help me to put this all back into proportion, into its proper place. This is, afterall, an entertainment medium. If it's not fun, then there really is no point, right?

I expect to resume some posting here at the end of August. I might still change the look here. I might come up with a posting schedule, or a posting theme, just to help myself get back into a rhythm in this space. I don't know yet about that. I still expect to do a shop update at some point -- I have a stack of very-nearly-completed tote bags that I'm hoping will find lovely homes someplace other than my sewing table! So, I don't expect to be gone for good. Certainly not. But I just need this time to get my real house in order.

Thank you all so very much for your continued support!



10 years

Ten years ago today, my husband and I were married. Ten years. One decade. About one-third of my life. It just doesn't feel like it's been that long.

But here we are, ten years later. I can't think of anything to say that wouldn't seem a bit cliche. To say that marrying him was the best thing I ever did; that he's my best friend; that we've had ups and downs, but the good always outweighs the bad ... well, it's all true. But it still doesn't seem like enough to say. So I won't say anything at all.

Except that I love this man and our life together, and that spending the last decade of my life with him really has been worth every minute.