1 September

{This was yesterday's post -- my thoughts turned toward the new beginnings of September -- but I couldn't post it yesterday because my camera software was corrupted and had to be reinstalled, and I couldn't find the disk until today!}


So, it's the first of September. I can hardly believe it! August zipped by in a flurry of chaos and adjustment, and this September promises to bring many good things. I'm thinking back to a year ago, when my husband was in the midst of the worst of his illness. We didn't know what the future would bring and I tried to distract myself from the unspeakable fear. A year later, things are so much brighter. What a difference one year can make!

morning reading

I wrote a "back to (home)school" post last week that needs some editing and tweaking before I publish it, but today I want to write a little bit about rhythm, something that I know is on the minds of many during this time of year.

roly poly

grasshopper observation

Rhythm has become a bit of a buzzword around blogworld. People talk about it and think about it a lot. For some, it's kind of become synonymous with a schedule of sorts, for others, it's a way of consciously structuring the things that repeat in their weeks -- whether the things that need to be done (errands, shopping, baking), or that they want to get done (art projects, hikes, etc.).




I wanted to propose another way of thinking about rhythm.

For me, rhythm is the way a family's days "go" at a given time in their lives. It may be quiet and inward, it may be wild and boisterous. It may be oriented toward a season or holiday, it may be free-form. But, to my way of looking at it, it's not imposed or structured, but develops organically over time, and shifts happens subtly. It's like realizing that you've fallen into step with your walking companion -- serendipitous, happy, natural. Though there have been many times where I've felt it necessary to institute a schedule to our days, it never works for the long term. I believe that's because a schedule can never take into account all the various things that really make up our family's unique rhythm.



Sometimes a rhythm is necessarily dictated by things that are scheduled, like this summer when we were swimming three hours throughout the day. But most often, for us, it's the smaller things, like the way my children are playing (together, and separately) at the moment. The things we are enjoying eating, and therefore, their preparation. The creative outlets that pull at each of us. 


I could not write down a "schedule" to what our rhythm looks like. It's not a "breakfast at 8, tidy up at 8:30, stories at 9, outside at 9:45" type of thing. And yet, we do find that there are things we do every day, in roughly the same order. And it shifts over time, with the seasons, with the things we have going on. Naps happen at roughly the same time. We all need time to read and relax and be quiet, to work on projects alone or together, to care for our home. 


This fall, we are trying something a little bit different for "schooling" than we've done in the past (more on that in my upcoming "back to (home)school" post), and I want to find a way to gently work it into our days without disrupting the good rhythmic elements that are in place already. I know that we're finding our way into a new rhythm right now, anyway, as autumn approaches (100 degrees today, but in the 70's by the weekend!), as we continue to adjust to daddy's new work schedule, as preparation for Halloween begins to be a part of our creative consciousness. So, I guess I'm not too worried about how adding some schooling back into our days will be. At first, it's going to be one of those "scheduled" things that the rest of our rhythm will move and stretch itself around. And my hope is that on the best of days, it will become part of that daily rhythm, that breath of our family's life together.


I'm very much interested in reading Amanda's new book, The Rhythm of Family, which I think must touch on what I've written here, because ever since this post nearly five years ago, I've felt that her way of looking at rhythm was similar to mine. The book hasn't found its way across my threshold yet, but it will soon, I hope. :)

I've been doing this for two weeks, and I love it. It's a way to briefly jot down my impressions of the day, without giving it too much thought, without laboring over it like a blog post, or editing what I say for others to read on Facebook or Twitter. It's just a little bit of my own memories of our days. And it even sends reminder emails, so I've not missed a single day. Such a simple way of recording these days of ours, and their unique rhythmic ebb and flow.

And finally, feeling such gratitude tonight for the health of my mother-in-law, who had a medical procedure today, for my best friend's sweet new baby boy, and for my brother, who will tie the knot on Monday! (Oh, and that my children don't have any squeamishness about insects.)

{Edited to add: I do feel that intention is so very important in family life, but I also don't believe that deciding to myself "Wouldn't it be nice if our days went like this?" and then writing it down makes it our family's rhythm. If that makes sense. This is meant to share my ideas about rhythm, not to criticize those who use the term to mean more of a schedule! In some ways, it's just semantics. Whatever you call these things, we all have both natural patterns to our days, and things that we need to schedule.}

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?

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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.


Our Martinmas -- and lantern tutorial


We celebrated a beautiful Martinmas last night with a group of homeschooling friends. There were moments that were so quiet and reverent, looking around the circle of us singing together, and there were moments that were rowdy and a bit challenging to manage. But overall, it was such a delight to celebrate as a group. 

I didn't get very many pictures (just these three, in fact, and I was missing my lens!), but the few I have tell a story, I think.

martinmas table

We met in a large park and shared a simple meal (of pumpkin soup, bread, and cider). Then we set out, a merry little band, singing. We stopped at a couple of houses in the neighborhood, and then wound our way back into the park. In a stand of trees, we stopped and I told the story of St. Martin to our group. All was still and dark, except for our lanterns. Finally, a quieter group found its way back to the tables to pack up and bid one another farewell.

small lantern

There were moments that weren't perfect. But it was beautiful -- magical, even.

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making lanterns10

This year, we again made our "go-to" lanterns. I loved the balloon ones we made last year, but didn't want to do them two years in a row (not that my children would have minded!). I thought about making some out of beeswax (sort of like these), but ultimately decided against it because I wanted my children to be able to make their own lanterns.

making lanterns12

These lanterns take 3-4 work sessions. You'll need heavy-weight watercolor paper (approx. 12"x18"), high-quality watercolor paints (those that come in tubes rather than the dry ones in a tray), paint brushes, smooth boards (can be made of plastic, wood, or any smooth surface) for painting on, cooking oil, paper towels, glue, a hole punch, tealights, and yarn, ribbon, or wire to make the handle.

painting for lanterns7

painting for lanterns12

painting for lanterns8 painting for lanterns2 painting for lanterns3

The first day, we made our paintings, using the wet-on-wet watercolor painting method. I like to use paintings that are completely saturated in color for these, so this method is perfect for that. (I took a lot of pictures of our painting day this time; find more pictures here.)

lanterns - oiling

Once the paintings were completely dry, we oiled them using cooking oil and paper towels. (This picture is actually from 2006; I don't have one from this year). It is important that the paintings are completely saturated with oil. You are not going for a light coating -- you want the paper to be soaked all the way to the back. This makes it translucent once dry. Expect each one to absorb several teaspoons of oil, at least. This is really messy and they will need to dry overnight.

making lanterns1 making lanterns4

making lanterns3

The next day, we marked one of the long sides of the painting with lines that were 2" apart and 2.5" long. I cut along the lines. 

making lanterns5 making lanterns7 making lanterns9

Then we glued them into a cylinder along one of the short sides, using clothespins at the ends to hold them together, and stones to weigh them down while they dried. Once the sides were dry, we folded the notched ends over and glued them shut, once again using stones as weights while they dried.

making lanterns11

Finally, we punched holes and added our handles -- these were yarn that had been finger-knitted by Elisabeth, and glued tealights into the bottom of each lantern. It's really good for children to have running projects like this, even something like this where each work session only takes a few minutes. It's very strengthening to work on something over several days.

making lanterns14

I hope if you try these, the instructions make sense and they turn out beautifully! Let me know if you try them. Enjoy your beautiful lanterns!

Seasons Round

summer maiden

Our family has had a nature table (or "seasonal table", as we call it) in our home -- in some form or other -- since Elisabeth was a baby. Although I've never quite accomplished the seasonal tableaux that some more ambitious people have, its presence, however great or small, has been so important to us. I like to inspire a feeling of reverence in our home, and to keep a physical reminder of the rhythm of the year: the seasons, the festivals we celebrate.

However, these days, I'd have to say that its presence has begun to inspire more of a feeling of "ugh" and less of a feeling of "ahh". It's dusty. I haven't been changing it out with much frequency. I'm bored with the same few objects in rotation all the time.

So, when Kyrie announced this week that she would be organizing a nature table exchange (the Seasons Round Exchange), I knew that the remedy for our sad little seasonal table was in sight! I am so excited to participate in the swap (sign-ups begin July 1 -- all the details here), and I hope that many of you will join in, as well!

Seasons round


You needn't already have a nature table in your home to participate -- this could be the beginning of a new tradition in your family! And you needn't have children in your home to join, either. Who couldn't use a little bit more inspiration, reverence, and reminders of the beauty of the natural world in their life? Edited to add: You don't even need your own blog to participate! Just an email address. The Seasons Round blog has a lot of wonderful links in its sidebar -- so much inspiration and information on nature tables. I think it's going to be my go-to resource for ideas.

I'm really excited about the new inspiration that participating in the exchange will no doubt bring to all the participants. I already have some ideas swirling in my head. I'm even feeling inspired to do a bit more for our seasonal table in the meantime. I hope you'll join me!

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PS: I think I have officially become the worst blogger in the neighborhood. I don't know why I feel compelled to even draw attention to that fact, or to apologize for it, but I guess it's just because I feel a little embarrassed about it. I literally have SEVEN posts begun, and saved as drafts, and I just haven't gotten them published. Anyway, thank you for continuing to visit and leave comments here. Also, I'm still at near:far every Tuesday and Friday, so you can check in there if you're missing me in this space!

New Knitter in the House


I mentioned last week that Elisabeth learned to knit this fall. Knitting is an important part of the first grade curriculum we're using, with the goal being a balance between head (academic), heart (artistic), and hand (coordination) in learning.

martinmas knitting4

Knitting is also an extremely beneficial developmental activity for a child at this age, because both hands are used and it is a "midline crossing" skill, which is so very important for reading. (You might have heard about children who don't learn to crawl as babies having trouble learning to read later -- this works with a similar principle.)

sheep farm3

I really wanted Elisabeth to be well-prepared for her knitting adventure (I'll admit that because I'm a knitter, I felt some pressure to teach it to her in a way that she'd really love it, and not just half-heartedly commit to it), so I sought out a sheep farm in our area that we could visit as an introduction to working with wool.

sheep farm1

The four of us spent a really beautiful September afternoon looking at and touching sheep, watching the farmer spin, and really experiencing what wool is. The farmer was so sweet to spend so much time just showing us things, and she sent us home with some raw wool to play with. We washed it and cleaned the little bits of grass out of it and dyed a little bit of it. It was really fun to see how the wool reacted to all of this.


Then Elisabeth learned how to use a Knitting Tower (a.k.a. Knitting Mushroom, Knitting Nancy, or Knitting Spool). I was really, really surprised by how quickly she got the hang of it -- she quickly became very good at it!

preparing to knit

We spent some time winding hanks of yarn into balls, and then we made a pair of knitting needles, using the directions from Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick. (I had intended to make size 8 needles using a 3/16" dowel because the fall issue of Living Crafts magazine had an article about teaching children to knit and one recommendation was not to use too large of needles, although size 10 with bulky yarn seems to be pretty common. But when I was buying the dowels, the 3/16" one just seemed too thin and flimsy, so we made size 10 needles with a 1/4" dowel.)

martinmas knitting3

When it came time to cast on and learn the stitches, we used the verses from A First Book of Knitting for Children by Bonnie Gosse and Jill Allerton. And from there, Elisabeth has just taken off!

early morning knitting

She had asked to knit a few times over the last year or so, and without intending to put her off, I just never got around to showing her. But I am really amazed by how quickly (and how well) she has picked it up since we actually began. Often it's the first thing she does in the morning, and she'll usually spend quite a while in the afternoon on it. She even came to me a few days ago with a circular needle and some yarn asking to make a hat for the new baby! I consulted a few resources about gauge, and then quickly made up a simple pattern. She has knit a couple inches on it already!


Anyway, we're all very excited by this new element to our days, dreaming about the many things that could be made with two knitters in the house. And James is already talking about when he gets to learn. :)


The beginning...

This fall we began our "official" homeschooling journey with Elisabeth as she began first grade. It has been such an exciting and eye-opening process for her, for me, and for our family as a whole. I am amazed -- truly, deeply amazed -- by her receptiveness to the little bit of school work we've begun, and by her ripeness to learn the things we've worked on. (She was so excited to begin, in fact, that on the first morning that we began school stuff, I heard her tell James -- in the early morning chatting that they do in their room before we all get started on the day -- "Guess what, Jamesy? Today I'm a first grader!")

main lesson3

Our approach to homeschooling, at least as we begin, draws heavily on Waldorf education. One aspect of this particular educational philosophy that I really like is the approach to school readiness and literacy. Generally the alphabet is first formally introduced in first grade, and reading follows along with that. I have been excited to observe that in "waiting" until now to really delve into letters and their sounds (although she does basically know all of her letters in a casual way), that Elisabeth has really grasped them extremely quickly. And I really love that the first thing that she learns to read will be her own writing -- in a book that she has carefully and lovingly written and illustrated. 

main lesson

In these photos, Elisabeth is illustrating a page in her book about the letter "characters" we've been using to learn the alphabet and introduce phonics. (Q for Queen, K for King, and so on.) Her care is so inspiring to me in my own daily work. Thank you, little one, for being my greatest teacher.

{Our path to homeschooling -- and the Waldorf approach that we're trying -- is a somewhat winding one. My parents homeschooled us, using a "radical unschooling" approach, beginning when I was five. I loved my experience, but I did go through a time when I thought I would probably still send my kids to school. Later, when I was pregnant with Elisabeth, I had the opportunity to teach cello in a Waldorf school. Many elements of this particular mode of education were, and continue to be, very inspiring to me, although as a Christian, I do not agree with most elements of anthroposophy, its foundational philosophy. We've decided to try homeschooling with Waldorf for now, but I'm open to an unschooling approach, as well, since that is how I was raised. We're currently working with (and adapting to our needs) the first grade syllabus from Christopherus Homeschool Resources.}