September 2009

I found myself in Luke this morning.  My devotions tend to follow no pattern, no sensible path.   And I admit I feel a little heavy this morning.   Sometimes I think while there is great joy in being a mom to many, there is also shouldered a heavy burden as well.

This morning, as I thought about how I felt, I decided it was a bit like a small child who has been given a  gift that is both huge and lovely.  She can’t wrap her arms around it, she can’t carry it home, and she wonders how she’ll ever be able to get it home… It seems a bit overwhelming and more than a little worrisome.  But she desparately wants it.

Thus far I have nine children….. Hannah is with Christ.  Out of my two oldest children who understand the concept of salvation, one is a Believer, the other is not.  There are days when I will run the statistics through in my head of how many of my children will follow my faith and how many will turn away.

I feel a bit like when the Lord says I am not willing that ANY should perish.  I am simply not willing.

There are days like today that I ponder the value of a good church, an Awanas program, things of this nature.  Truth be told I would really like the burden and blessing of instilling my belief system and faith passed onto someone else for a bit.  It is an awesome gift, to be sure, and yet I feel like the three year old… I DO wonder how I will carry all of it home.  It seems more than a little overwhelming at times.

Today I shed more than a tear as I looked at the beautiful pictures of my children hanging on the wall.  I would be willing… Willing to give just about anything that they should come to faith.  Willing to go through anything “bad” in order that the Lord use it for good, for faith in their little lives.

Do you not wonder, MOMYS, how you shall ever fulfill this task the Lord has given you?  How you shall ever hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”

I firmly believe I was “given” two verses this morning… One to me, the other regarding my family.

Luke 8:48

“Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

Luke 8:50

(The Lord here is speaking to the father of a child that has just died.)

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

And so what is there to do but to walk in faith with prayer and thanksgiving?

Have a blessed day.  Bless your family, pray for your family, love your family.  Thank God for them and be grateful today.   More than that, walk not in fear, but in faith.

Weekend?  What weekend?  It FLEW by!

The boys went down south to spend Saturday, Saturday night, and Sunday in a cabin and to catch a few fish.  I think they enjoyed themselves very much….  Right up to the point where Daddy was stuck with the barbel of a catfish.  Then it got less fun.   But they DID catch a few, visited the Bass Pro shop, ate an alligator sandwich, and had a campfire while playing chess.  Sounds like a good weekend to me.

I was left with all the girlies and Tim as the rules clearly state you must be EIGHT to go on the annual Man Weekend.  Poor kid.  You’d think we were torturing him.  Close.  Very, very close… The only boy home with Mama and the five girls.

But, the girls, not to be outdone, made our own plans.

Saturday morning, we kissed the boys, helped them pack, and kicked them out.  Then we did the normal girl thing… We went garage saling.   Now, those of you who LOVE to garage sale as much as I do will adore the irony in this… We drove twenty miles to citywide sales in a neighboring town.  The sales were acceptable and I found a couple cute winter maternity tops which I desperately needed.  I also found two ADORABLE dresses that match for Christmas for Abigail and Sarah.  But it wasn’t terribly impressive.  I drive back home through the town nearest us and see a garage sale and stop and hit the JACKPOT for winter clothes for Sarah.  Now, do I wish it had been for Abigail a.k.a. Child Without Clothing?  Yes, yes, I do.  But if you think I was turning down all these cute, namebrand tops and pants for Sarah for $0.50-$0.75 each in PERFECT condition, there was just NO way!   And did I mention I’ve been looking for the traditional LeapFrog Pad?  But they aren’t available anymore?  Found one in brand new condition Saturday for $7.  Put it up for Christmas.  Not kidding… Can’t decide if it’s tacky or not, but the truth of the matter is that it IS in giftable condition and Rebecca simply won’t care.  She’ll love it!  So, Christmas shopping is officially starting as well.

After garage saling, we came home to get started on the other big project of the day… Ana’s yarn.  I was pretty impressed by how carefully she did it and the little kids were just AMAZED at watching the yarn take the dye.  Ana was knitting with it last night and Lizzie picked up her ball of yarn and said, “I can’t believe a sister of mine made this.”  LOL!

Yarn in sections, Ana dyeing

Yarn in sections, Ana dyeing

Little ones watch in amazement

Little ones watch in amazement

Learn from me... Don't let your yarn ravel!

Learn from me... Don't let your yarn ravel!

Ball 'O Yarn

Ball 'O Yarn

Oh it turned out lovely!  Ana was thrilled.  The pink is a blend of lemonade, pink lemonade, and strawberry because she didn’t want the screaming loud red of Strawberry or the too soft pink of Pink Lemonade.  The burgundy is a blend of Black Cherry with a tiny bit of Grape.  It turned out JUST as she had pictured it.

I decided against dyeing my own yarn for the longies for Baby’s coming home… Purple is just to hard to get without using professional grade dyes.  And when I saw Tia at JuliBeans had a custom slot open.  Well, I was sold. Especially considering it would have cost more to have the dyes shipped to me than for her to dye it!  I’ve seen some longies knit up in some of her colorways and I was thrilled that she had “Your Yarn, My Dye Pot” custom slots open.  How exciting!  She also had Aran weight BFL on hand, so that was even better.

The kids had a nice nap and then we made banana splits with all the works.  And for supper we decided to make personal pizzas.  Somehow they tasted better than regular pizza!

Making Pizza

Making Pizza

We topped off the evening with a couple good movies and camped out in the living room for the night.  We all had fun!

Last night I went to bed early.  Mamas if you have a little one who insists on only falling asleep in your bed you have a problem.  Not that it is a problem if she’s in your bed, only if that is the ONLY place she insists on falling asleep.  Moreover, if the only way she falls asleep is if her mama is snuggled next to her, rubbing her little head, breathing on her face, and kissing her, you might have a BIG problem.  You should probably teach that baby other ways to fall asleep, for her own sense of comfort as well.

I know this lesson well.  You’d think I’d remember it.  But, alas, I have to say that maybe, just maybe, Sarah has softer skin than the other babies.  Or maybe she just smells sooooo good.  Or maybe it’s that she’s so APPRECIATIVE of being snuggled.  Sigh.  At any rate, I’ve spoiled this one something awful and if I don’t do something about it, the transition when the baby comes and I CAN’T lie down with her at 8:00-8:30 on the dot, or at naptime in the afternoon is going to come as a dreadful shock to her.   So we’ll work on it.  It sure would help if she was a rotten little stinky baby though. 🙂

DH said, “I think we’ve spoiled that baby a bit…”  Ya think?  But she is so pretty and so sweet and more than a little entertaining, and her hair is so silky soft and she likes to jabber quietly in bed.  There are SO many things to like about toddlers.

So, yesterday we sat down to do preschool and pulled out Rod & Staff’s Bible Stories which are the children’s most preferred preschool activity.  Now,  I think they’re just fine although I do prefer the Children’s Bible by Catherine Vos.  But the kids love that there are simple pictures to color along with them.  So yesterday we read about Cain and Abel.

We were just barely into the story when we read how each had brought God an offering… Cain bringing him some fruit and Abel bringing God the fat of the firstborn lambs… essentially the good stuff.  And we read how God wasn’t happy with Cain’s offering but was happy with Abel’s.

Elizabeth offered that God just didn’t want fruit.  So I explained to her, “No, Lizzie, that’s not it.  God wanted the best that Cain and Abel had to offer.  He didn’t just want a half hearted sacrifice.  It wasn’t that what Cain brought forth was bad… It was that he could have offered something better with an earnest heart and he didn’t.  When Abel brought forth his sacrifice, it was a gift of the best he had to offer.”

Now, stop.

Think about that for a moment.

So often I read of women who wish they could do something BIG with their lives.  But their at home, MINISTERING to their families, cooking, cleaning, praying for them, everyday, mundane stuff.

Ladies, the Lord will take any gift we have to offer.  He won’t turn up His nose at our fruit in favor of someone else’s lamb.  But he does want the BEST of what we have to offer… Not a half hearted attempt we toss at His feet.

Think of the widow’s offering in Mark 12.

“Jesus sat down opposit the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’ ”

I won’t sugar coat it for you.  There are days when the abundance of patience, or sweetness, or compassion, or kindness, grace, etc., has run utterly and completely low.  There is very little left to go ’round and on those days, I feel a bit stingy about it.  And I should give, even in my poverty, everything I have to keep me going, I still should give.  And that is *sacrificial* giving.

It is good to do good to your husband.  It is good to be sweet and compassionate to your children.  But how easy it is to give those gifts when they abound… How easy it is to show love on your GOOD days, when everything is well with the world and the sun is shining.

It is on our hard days, the days we are exhausted, wiped out, at the end of our rope, that being generous with the fruits of the spirit instilled in us, that it is sacrificial giving… Bringing forth the fruits that are truly the result of toil and effort.

Have a blessed day.

And, no, not done with the legwarmers yet.  Hoping for pictures tomorrow. 😉

I want to share an organization, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

It’s a topic on child loss.  So, if you want to continue, please do so.  If not, you should probably stop reading……….

If you’ve followed the blog, you’ve gathered bits and pieces of our loss.

In 2001 we were expecting our third child, a beautiful baby girl.  The pregnancy was going well, I was wretchedly nauseous.  In late December I started experiencing contractions, nothing dire, just unusual for me.  When I saw my OB (military hospital literally in the middle of the desert) she was young and inexperienced and pooh-poohed me.  We went home for leave in January and I saw my old obstetrician who put me on monitors and affirmed I was indeed having contractions and contacted my obstetrician back in California.

Following that week, they did an ultrasound with a specialist in the room and she told me I needed to be on bedrest.   It wasn’t anything I was terribly concerned with because no one thinks of bad things happening to them, especially not at 24 years old.   At least I wasn’t concerned until she said, “Well, if you can just get through March…….”  That opened my eyes.  I was horrified.  March? March!?  I wasn’t due until May 25, 2001.

Early  February 2001 I had a normal doctor’s appointment.  It didn’t go well.  They put me in an ambulance, lights on, and drove the 2+ hours to a hospital that could handle such a preterm birth.   I had a bolus of magnesium sulfate and then they put me on a drip.  That night was wretched.  I ended up with numerous tests and an EKG because they thought the mag. sulfate was causing serious heart problems.

I spent the next ten days getting alternating IVs all over my arms, hands, et cetera because the magnesium sulfate isn’t something your body particularly likes.   I was in a trendelemburg position (head down, legs up) on my hospital bed and wasn’t allowed up, even to use the bathroom.  Ten days.   That’s how long we lasted, Hannah and I.

Away from my babies who were almost 5 and almost 2 for ten days now, I gave birth to Hannah Elizabeth.  She was 26 weeks, 1 day, 1lb 15 oz, and she was tiny.  We tried so hard to keep our hopes down, but when she came out crying (mewing) and red and mad…… Well, it was hard NOT to hope.  It was SO hard not to hope.

And then the tests.  Oh my goodness, the tests.  She had two holes in her heart, a severe brain bleed, her respiratory system was a mess… These were the first reports.

But as the days, and honestly?  They melded into one very long day.  I don’t really remember where we ate, where we slept, what we did in between times at the NICU.  It’s such a blur now with just moments of clarity, of  “I remember…..”   As the days passed the reports came in and it turns out she had one hole (normal) not closed, and that closed with medication.  The brain bleed?  Not nearly as major as they thought.  And her respiratory system?  Well, not good, but not awful.  There WAS hope.

I remember…..

Those few moments of clarity.  The few things you remember.  I remember being SO angry at a grandmother who didn’t remove her rings like we were supposed to to stop the spread of germs.  I was so upset with her.   I remember requesting Hannah be baptised.  I remember going to the Ronald McDonald house and feeling relieved….  We couldn’t very well afford a hotel and to drive back and forth… Well, that wasn’t affordable either.  We had to figure out what to do with our little ones too… They were used to Mama being around.  And who in the world did we know that could watch them?  No one.  We were military, newly moved half way (literally) across the country.  I remember the baby across the aisle and how he had a huge machine that circulated his blood for him.   I remember watching a “kangaroo” video about how to hold your baby and was amazed that we might just hold her.   I remember how thin and transparent her skin was.  And how she looked so much like Briana, I thought.  She had hair, dark hair.  I remember, most of all, how perfect she was in every way.  Just tiny, miniature, like a baby doll.  And so incredibly delicate.  And I vividly remember watching her chest rise and fall.

And I remember the day she died, just twelve days after her birth.  We had gone home that weekend.  It was the first time I’d been home since February 4th.  My mother-in-law, who had come to take care of us since the end of January, had to go back to the airport and I remember feeling very alone with my children while DH took her……..  I had been so surrounded by people for the last three weeks.   And we called Sunday night to make sure she was okay and they said they thought she had a bit of an infection.  She had begun breastmilk just a couple days before, through a gastro tube.  We were concerned, but not overly, and we were planning on going in in the morning.

The next morning I was bathing and the phone rang.  We were getting ready to go the hospital.  They told us we had to come.  Now.  She wasn’t doing well.  They thought we’d have to make a decision today.  THE decision.

Oh Lord.  It was the single thing I had earnestly prayed for through it all… to NOT have to make such a decision.  How could I?  How could we ever decide it?  Live or die?  Hope or give up hope?  At what point do you give up hope?  I still don’t the answer to that.

When we got there we met her doctor, having also been gone for the weekend and we told her we had come to make a decision.  She felt we were hasty and we couldn’t be thinking about that.  She hadn’t seen her charts.  She went and came back and said she was so sorry……  And in that conversation before we could really talk about what we needed to decide, the nurse came and said we should hold her while we could.

And they took that tiny little girl out of her incubator for the very first time.  And they let us hold her.  And they gave her morphine.  A lot of morphine.  And then more, and more.  I’m sure it wasn’t so much but she had had some before we came and her eyes were open, really open for the first time ever and do you know just know how you know when an animal is in pain, even if it doesn’t cry out?  That’s how you know………..

There is a point.  There is a point that a parent should never, ever reach.  Should never know is even possible.   The point is when you come to the end of your child’s life and you come that single point when you turn the corner and you stop praying, “Oh Lord, let her live” and instead you pray, “Lord, please, please, please, let it be over.”  And you beg for the end of your child’s life.  It is not a point I ever, ever, ever, ever want to experience again in my life.  And I remember whispering for God to please take this sweet baby because her death was not painless nor was it fast.   But in the end it was most merciful.

When it was over we were allowed in a mourning room, to hold our daughter Hannah.  And we held her and sat there, we two.  We were so much younger then, this eight years ago.  Just barely turned 24 and and 28.  I don’t think we knew what to talk about……. What to do next?  What to do now?   How long do you hold a dead baby in your arms?  The answer is until she is cold and lying there so still and you realize that you will have to let her go.   You don’t have a choice, and you can’t take her with you………. You have to hand her to the nurse and walk away.

When they brought her to us, and it is in NO way the fault of the hospital, but when they brought her to us she was dressed in a cheap doll outfit.  It was scratchy and pink and I still have it and can I just say how much I despise that little pink dress?  How dare it touch her skin?  Didn’t they see how delicate she was?  How easily her skin was scratched?  The blanket was no better, itchy scratchy thing.  And what can they offer to a 1lb 15 oz. baby?  There isn’t much…………

And that became a driving obsession……. to find something to dress my baby in.  The only chance for a mama to take care of her daughter, the burial.

On the way home that night, and it seems too miraculous for me myself to believe, but it did indeed happen, friends can vouch for it….  Our van started on fire.  Not a major one, just a bit of flame and a lot of smoke.  And if you know the road between Barstow and Fort Irwin, you know it’s long and lonely and dark.  And there is no “little town” or “little stop” along the way. A van pulled up behind us and he was kind enough to throw his soda on the fire, but of course the van didn’t work.  And so they offered us a ride back.  Ironic, they thought, fortunate timing.  She lived off base and her brother in law was visiting… Had to run back on base for something and he offered to come with or else she probably wouldn’t have stopped.  They picked us up and so how was our night going?  Exhaustion.  That’s all I can say.  Because if I had had my wits about me maybe I wouldn’t have told this unfortunate one that our daughter had just died.

In the end, and here is the miracle, she helped to run the AER – the Army Emergency Relief.   By midnight that night we had virtual strangers, the gal who babysat my little ones 2-3 times when I had doctor appointments, also from Iowa, but barely an aquaintance, offer the use of her car.  The AER had promised burial expenses, car repair expenses, plan tickets… All on them.  We were new to the military.  We had NO idea that AER existed.  We had family and in the end they probably would have helped out, but when we could do NOTHING for ourselves, God stopped in.  I’m not fond of coincidences, I don’t much believe in them, for I know, I’ve seen, He can use all things, ALL things, for His purpose.  And I say this having buried a child.

The burial was very hard.  I made her outfit.  Blessedly I had learned to sew just months before that.  We had bought fabric to make preemie clothes in for her and I used soft knit with gray koalas and bits of pink and purple.  I didn’t make a lovely gown, there was no lace, no trim, but it was soft and comfortable and everything that that wretched pink dress wasn’t.  We made her a hat.  We got her a blanket.  We got her soft pink booties…..

What do I regret?  Well, looking at the organizations who supply things for the families for dead babies…… Oh. Sigh.  I wish I had  a decent picture of her.  That last weekend she had gotten necrotizing entercolitis, an infection in the gut that begins to eat away tissue.  It was invasive and acted quickly before they could.  The stress on her little body caused a massive hemorrhage in her brain and then a complete failure of her respiratory system.  The bleeding in her brain caused her head to be very dark and in the pictures, well, they’re hard to look at.  Elizabeth came across them one day not so long ago….. And she saw Hannah’s poor little body… Where they had intubated her they used tape.  And when they took off the tape, the skin of a premature baby is so delicate, it tore.  Her head was incredibly bruised.  As  a matter of fact even my most beloved friends and my family, including my mother and mother in law, have never seen pictures of their grand-daughter.  They aren’t something I’d share.  You have an instant recoil.  If you can get past it, I can, to see the face….. She looks like her sisters, so very, very much like all of her sisters.  She has the fine nose and the little doll lips.  She had dark hair and a bit of a narrow heart shaped face like Elizabeth.  I think she would have looked very much like Elizabeth Grace.

I hear now of all the things they have for mourning families and I think it’s an amazing ministry.   I pray that no one experiences the loss of a child.  But I am so very grateful that such ministries exist.   And I pray that if you know someone in the future that experiences loss, please, please, please contact them immediately and let them know such a place exists.  I look at the pictures they’ve taken and I am SO grateful that that nurse grabbed her camera that day or we would have nothing.  But oh what it would be like to have lovely pictures of her……  Something I could actually hang on my wall or carry with me.

I know that our family and friends were so far away.  And I know that they didn’t really experience her life or her death with us.   But if you could just let those mamas talk…….  They have such a need to talk.  To recognize that their babies DID exist.  They did live.  There isn’t a flow chart on the time it takes to mourn the loss of a child.  It takes a lifetime to mourn the loss of a child.  Every night as we bless our children, pray with our children, thank God for our children, we also thank Him for her.   Such a short life and yet it impacted us so greatly.

It is not so very long ago that a cousin lost his baby.   They were not prepared.  Is anyone?  I thought I could go to that wake and I wasn’t prepared for how hard it hit me.  From the moment I saw a coffin that looked like Hannah’s I started sobbing and couldn’t stop.  Later I felt a little odd and silly……. Eight years.  I thought that I had dealt with it.

And then tonight reading a story from a mama on Hyenacart that has just buried her little girl, and a couple months ago when another mama buried her daughter from HyenaCart, I just started sobbing all over again.

And there are times when I wonder…. Oh I don’t even know what I wonder.  I wonder if the time comes when you don’t cry.  And I wonder if that is even good or bad?

Am I still sad?  No, I don’t think so.  I’m not sad.  I’m not angry.  I’m not broken either.  I am thankful.  Not for her death, but how it’s changed me as a person, as a mother.   I’m thankful that I can console someone.   Or that I know to listen.   Or that I know that it’s okay for them to talk and I don’t have to say the right words.  Or that I know I don’t have to forget.  That it’s okay to remember her every single day of my life.  I’m grateful I’m a Christian and I have hope.  Hope and knowledge I’ll see her again, that I know where she is.

I’ll tell you a bit of a secret.  She is buried not too terribly far from here.  We had her buried in Iowa.  And we almost never visit.  I have family that visits her burial site far more often than we do.  They place statues and flowers and ornaments at the appropriate season.  They visit on Memorial Day and around Christmas.  And I don’t.  I don’t even feel compelled to…..  I know something they don’t.  She isn’t there.   Her life didn’t stop with burial.  The end is not a cold casket.  That is not all there is.

And in that I can find joy.  I will still mourn not knowing her….  What unique personality and quirks and joy she’d bring into our family.  But I have found joy beyond her death.  After all that isn’t all her life boiled down to.  Hannah Elizabeth wasn’t just about a death that occurred.  It was about a life that existed, a blessing given.   And for that gift, that blessing,  I am eternally grateful.

Okay.  So, like everything else, I’ve been researching this to death.

Originally I thought to myself, I am going to only use natural colorants, natural colorant snob that I am….  But then I spent WAY too much time poking through the colorways at Mosaic Moon, Selah, and Three Irish Girls.  And moseying over to Hyena, one can’t help but mention Laines Magnifique and from my own Congo I found both Huckleberry Knits *and* BugSnugger.  (Insert DEEP sigh.) Her Florence is so lovely.

And THEN to make it worse, I found this little project over at Ravelry.  This has all added up to a very serious yearning for wool.  Now, this is a strange feeling for me.  After all, let’s be honest, I can barely knit.

Beyond that I’ve been using wool for YEARS.  I made my first homemade soaker out of a salvaged Goodwill sweater for Christian (CHRISTIAN!) in 2000.  When I was running True Vine I found soap to be a very lucrative venture for trading for knitted longies.  I pulled out my wool collection, longies, shorties, a darling pair of capris, and soakers last night.  I touched all of them, removed pilling, and looked through with my fingers.  And gasp!  Wouldn’t you know it? They’re DIFFERENT!

I know ya’all who knit, you’re laughing right now.  You’re thinking, “Wow, she’s a bit slower than we realized.”  Yes, it’s true.  I never really THOUGHT about wool beyond, “Ooh.  That’s pretty.”

I need to put blame squarely where it lies.  On the FedEx man.  I won’t say this to him when he comes today but this is ENTIRELY his fault.  If he had come oh, say, last week, I’d be working on learning Magic Loop.  I’d be knitting with some inexpensive plain peony pink yarn, contentedly making uni-color legwarmies.  I’d be so busy I wouldn’t have time to be ogling projects on Ravelry.   Nor would I have had the time to poke through all of those colorways 384 times.

And most of all, and this is important… I would NOT have had time to watch dyeing tutorials.  Or find dyeing links.

But he didn’t come now, did he?  No, he failed me.  And so I HAVE looked through them all.

And it all adds up to trouble.  Big trouble.  Because I also found that my local (semi-local) yarn shop carries undyed, natural wool.  And that it is REALLY inexpensive.  And that Cascade 220, while CERTAINLY not BFL Aran weight, is still great for learning to dye.  It also washes up nicely time and time again and so will work fine for someone who just wants to “not ruin” some wool for longies.   I will move onto this: Baby Burgh but as I want to dye THIS WEEKEND I am settling for good ‘ole Cascade 220.  As a side reference, turns out she carries NUMEROUS brands of undyed.  Color me a happy girl.

So, after being certain I wanted the baby’s coming home outfit to be in colors ranging from light pink to deep rose with browns and creams, last night Abigail was wearing this smock top:

And the lavender and dark purple, white and aqua said, “No Kelly THIS is what you want!”   Which wouldn’t be such a serious issue, except I can’t find a good lavender in Wilton food dyes.  Laugh at me.  I’m okay with that.

Now, for those less uppity parties, read on.

Tutorial here: Knitty and I’ve pretty much decided to paint on the dye.  Now if only I can find out a general tip on how to do the repeats so I don’t get massive pooling in the longies I’ll be happy.  Of course if it was that easy then no one in the world would ever have the problem of pooling now would they?  From what I understand (oh so limited) the best way to prevent pooling is to alternate skeins, but when we’re talking about dying, the shorter the repeated lengths, the better.  Of course, that’s more difficult now isn’t it?

For color charts, we have the Wilton color chart or the Kool Aid color chart, depending on your preference.  There’s also a great Kool-Aid how to here along with a color chart that is fantastic.

And, now, herein lies the problem… Purple is one of the hardest colors to get true and get to stick.  I’d be very content if my purples came out all dark with cranberry like this other WordPress blogger.

And, finally, bless the woman who did this.  Oh my.  What a lot of work and she’s wonderful for documenting it all for ME.  Okay, well maybe not for me, but I’m grateful nonetheless.  What an amazing little experiment she has going on there.

So, now all *I* have to do is get Delphinium Blue and Violet to actually make violet, oh and I’d like that to variegate between dark and light shades of purple, add in a little strip of Blue Moon Berry Kool-Aid in one area for my aqua and then of course decide between using white yarn and natural colored yarn which is a doozy considering I’d like a cream colored sweater but I think the dyed longies would look nicer with white.

And this is why the internet should be banned from people who over-research.  In the good ‘ole days they didn’t have options.  They could do walnut brown, onion skin yellow, berry tans, nettle green, things like this.  THAT is why they called them the good ‘ole days.  No options, no discontentment.  Sigh.

Right now this is what I’m thinking:

Dark, deep purple – Grape KoolAid
Dark, brighter purple – sky blue Wilton mixed with violet Wilton  Delph. Blue also works.
Lighter shades of purple- Violet Wilton
White – leave alone
Aqua – Blue Moon Berry

Doing far fewer of the white and aqua sections, a moderate number of Violet Wilton dye and then the most of the Grape KoolAid and the Darker, Brighter purples.  I really want a variegated purple with stand-out white and aqua.  Hm… Best laid plans and all that.

Just wait for the pictures.  That’s all I’ll say.

Countdown: Four Days.

And just WHERE is that FedEx man?!

James 3.

My mouth – the bane of my existence.  Some days I almost wish I was mute.  An interesting thing happened when we didn’t have internet… I had a little more time to read.  Imagine that.  I finally picked up C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, which we’ve owned for YEARS and read it.  Oh my.  It’s pretty amazing reading if you sit down and just read it.  A bit of an overwhelming thought too, knowing you’re tempted.  It’s one thing in theory, it’s another to read the book and think, “Hmmm… Me?”

But I got a very interesting tidbit out of it.

I’ve ALWAYS struggled with controlling my mouth.   The Bible says, James 3:3 “When we put the bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.”

How much more effective could Christians truly be if they could control their tongue?  Both in WHAT they speak, WHEN they speak, HOW they speak, and what they do NOT speak.  Ladies, you know what I mean by that last one.

And if we were to ONLY use our tongues for building rather than tearing down.  That’s one my sweet husband’s new phrases.  I do believe it came from one of Voddie’s lecture and I have to tell you, it smarts a bit to be asked by your husband, “Are you building up or tearing down?”  On the other hand, it is a little nice to have him concerned about my relationship with my daughter.   I can be critical.  Yup, it’s true.  I come by it honestly enough… whether by genetics or environment, I learned criticism and sarcasm QUITE well.  What can I say?  I’m an apt pupil.  That, however, doesn’t excuse an adult from choosing to say the wrong thing…  Be wary of making excuses for your sins.

The little tidbit was essentially – Don’t try to do things in your own power.  Why?  “Ya ain’t got none.”  (I be hometeached.)  I struggled for a long while with losing my temper and yelling, yelling, yelling.  And I said on a board, “I don’t get this.  God has really convicted me THIS IS A SIN.  So why hasn’t He taken it from me as I’ve asked and asked?”  And the response was essentially that if I’m convicted it’s wrong then I need to go on and CHOOSE not to do it.

Ah….  The little lightbulb in my head turned on and I said, “Well, there it is.  I can do all things through Him and I just have to pull up by my bootstraps and just not do it.”

The advice given me WAS NOT WRONG.  I want to be very clear on that one.  But, it WAS doomed to failure.  Because once I believed that I just needed to “just do it” I determined on my strength to complete the mission.  It was doomed.

We are to come to God in ALL things.  He wants prayers of praise and prayers of need and prayers of thanks…..  And we are to come to Him with our needs.  Does that mean He’ll grant those?  No.  Does it mean that He doesn’t expect us to put forth effort?  No.

But, and maybe the rest of you have learned this, it’s a two fold answer.  We are capable of choosing right over wrong through HIS power, not through our own.

In another book Lewis talks about temptations.  Not everyone is tempted the same.  He mentioned that he, himself, was not a gambling man.   For one who does not struggle with controlling her tongue, you may not understand this.  Your answer may well be, “Well, just don’t do it.  Close your lips.”  Let me say, it’s not that easy.  I’m very blessed in that I do not struggle with various issues.  I don’t struggle with stealing.  Lying isn’t much of an issue nor is gambling or alcoholism.  But I struggle very much with a critical spirit.  It has taught me to be humble a bit.  It has taught me to respect those things OTHERS struggle with.  But most importantly, if you walk away with this with one thing it is this:

You will never overcome your temptations on your own power.  You may in fact be able to stop an action, but I believe the temptation will truly remain a temptation without the power of God.  So, yes, it is good to choose good over evil.  But when you do so, do so in prayer.  It is a two fold action, never put faith in you.

And if this fascinates you, I think you’d really enjoy Screwtape Letters.

Going onto other business… I believe the Fed Ex man is NEVER going to deliver my package.  I think he/she is probably a nice enough person who has an addiction to pink yarn and the Magic Loop technique.  I have to say I’m picturing the FedEx person in their vehicle, at this very moment, knitting up a cute little pink cardigan sweater.  It’s now been eight days since it said it shipped.  It left Minnesota last Friday.  I’m trying not to cry.

On the dyeing front, thanks to inspiration from Abigail’s smock, I’ve decided to dye the baby’s yarn in lavender, purple, white, and aqua.  I have a new book on natural dyes and can’t wait to get started.  But this first time I’m going to go easy and sans mordants and just use Wilton food dyes.  Yes, I know, I’m a sellout.  You’ll have that once in a great while.

For those of you who are yarn addicts… I’ve found someone who sells undyed yarn, one skein at a time.  $3 shipping.  Aran BFL, superfine merino Cestari, yes, all of it. 🙂  And I’m not telling where quite yet.  She has six skeins of BFL Aran and I want three of them and I’ve promised myself to wait ’til Friday.  So I’ll let YOU know where it’s all at on…. FRIDAY!

I’m dying this weekend!  Hurrah!

As with all things new, knitting has become a current obsession.  Today I had nothing to knit.  Well, it’s not entirely true.    I have some lovely variegated lime merino in a fingering weight that wanted to be a hat and booties……..  It doesn’t want to be that anymore.  Ever since we found out the baby is certainly a little girl, it wants to be something else.  Or *I* want it to be something else, but alas, I haven’t decided WHAT!  Methinks Abigail would look awfully cute in green booties.

All that aside, we know that I learned to knit.  I bragged of course.  I knit myself three lovely washcloths.  I placed an order at KnitPicks for wool for legwarmies.  I’m ready to knit.  And yet, the long awaited package has not yet arrived.  Finally on Wednesday I got desperate.  In a desperate move to knit something, anything, I searched for a simple pattern on Ravelry until I found something I had both yarn AND needles for.

Okay, so I didn’t EXACTLY have what I needed.  I found hats.  But then I turned to a little library book I had sitting here.  One skein of worsted wool.  Check.  One pair of size 8 dpns and one set of circular needles 16″ cable, size 8.  Well, I had size 7.  So, in my head this worked out… The pattern being for a teenager and me having several little girls.  It was a perfect match.  I was hoping it would fit Elizabeth, age 7.5.  But if it didn’t there was always Rebecca or Abigail.

Baby Sarah's New Knitted Hat

Baby Sarah's New Knitted Hat

Never in my wildest imagination did I see it only fitting Sarah.  Honestly?  So what?  I got to conquer my fear of knitting on both circular needles and double point needles.  I can’t say I enjoyed knitting on dpns, but I did figure it out.

So this morning DH wanted to go on a bit of a roadtrip.  I’ve mentioned that we are going to move South although as of right now he’s planning on moving AFTER the baby comes.  I’m thankful.  So we went driving through communities to see if any tickled our fancy.  I just wanted to knit.  So, FINALLY a hobby I can take on these excursions.  Did the UPS man bring me my package?  No.  Surely the mailman would bring me my package?  No.  So I was left with the remnant of my Sugar & Cream.  Fine.  I knitted another washcloth.  Sigh.  It didn’t hold the same glory and challenge the first few did.  But, it was knitting.

Was my package waiting for me when I got home?  Nope.

Please, please, please let it be here on Monday.  My goal for the week is to teach myself to Magic Loop.  That’s going to be a little challenging without yarn or needles.  I have the project, well, actually the next two projects all picked out.  I’m ready!  Where oh where could my poor package be?

Oh, but the day was lovely.  We enjoyed it very much and saw some beautiful Iowa communities.  We stopped at a gorgeous wooden park and let the kids play for a long while and DH and I even got to play with them a bit.  Came home and made a nice fire and toasted some marshmallows and watched a little “Elizabeth” television.

“Elizabeth” television, for those of you don’t know is our 7 year old’s Improv show.  She sets up the “television”, a cardboard box, and then gives us a remote control.  We’re allowed to flip through the channels, calling out shows – cooking, fishing, Snuggi commercials, whatever, and she does the acting.  She’s remarkably good at acting, but her improv seriously takes the cake.   Tonight she was even kind enough to act out the Dog Whisperer for her old mama.  Lovely night.  Might have to keep those kids. 🙂  Thank you God for all my blessings.

We got tucked into bed fairly early.  I had fallen asleep with Little Sarah when the kids headed to bed.  Everyone was tucked in when the sweet aroma of skunk drifted through our window.  And then we heard a dreadful squeak/scream.   I’m pretty sure it was a dying bunny. 😦  We had put away Legend for the night instead of leaving him loose.  Mark grabbed his gun and out we headed……  Certain that a skunk had found his way into our bunny colony and was killing the buns.  They were alert and awake, but not disturbed.  Blackie, the mischeivious one, is the only one that can get out of the colony.  And he spends most of his time in the woodpile.  The question is, did the skunk get Blackie?  Or did something get the skunk?  No ideas…..  I guess we’ll  know if we don’t see Blackie out and about.  Odd though that Legend, our fearless watchdog, never did bark.  Hm…….  Very unlike Leg.

And where does that leave me?  Well, I had a bit of a nap, so of course I’m wide awake with no sleep coming near.  I’m going to go read my Dog Whisperer book and hopefully fall asleep.  The nice thing about Cesar’s books is that they convince me we have one incredibly wonderful dog.  Even if he does eat live chickens and Abigail’s little stuffed pony.   And my chicken water.

And the recyclables.

And the kids’ softballs.

And wood?

And anything plastic.

But he sure is beautiful.  And sweet.

Oh my goodness what a great break!!  We took a vacation (literally) from the internet and our television.  I initially intended for the vacay to be 21 days.  BUT, then I loved it and decided I’d make it ’til December 1st.  Alas cabin fever set in and I caved after TWENTY THREE days.  But, with a twist.  I went ahead and installed a child guard software on the computer that only allows me a certain amount of time on the computer and only during very specific hours.  It’s one half hour in the AM (6:00-6:30) so that it falls after dressing/devotions and before the little ones are awake.  In the afternoon it’s an hour between 2:00 and 3:00 – so after phonics (little kids) and history/science with the big kids.   So far so good!

Although it took a LOT of work!  I had to transfer all my files into shared folders and set up separate windows accounts for each family member.  DH was sweet enough to password protect his account and promises not to tell me the password, lol.  Truth is, I have NO self control, so I have to build it in for myself.  And it’s working beautifully so far.

So, did I accomplish anything during those 23 days?  Sure did!  I switched out all of the summer/spring clothes for winter/fall and packed up the warm stuff.  Separated everything into Trash, Give Away, and Keep piles and got them packed back up, with the exception of the shoes.  I made the girls dresses and skirts for Unschool Day and we have really thrown ourselves into Tapestry of Grace and we’re loving it!

Unschool Day Picnic

Unschool Day Picnic

Pic1 Unschool Morning

I had time to make Abigail a new bag and an apron, complete with an EGG pocket for her birthday.

An apron like mama's!

An apron like mama's!

A mama from RGT made milk crate covers and they were so cute we made some as well!

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

I did INDEED learn to knit while we were on our break and I can now honestly say I can cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, bind off, and a couple other hand things.  With the help of online friends I discovered and I’m loving that!   Now, there are knitting sites and there are KNITTING sites.  This is the latter.  Oh my!  You can look up yarn reviews, patterns that are most popular, HUNDREDS of free patterns, you can sort through them, see the completed projects… It’s absolutely incredible.

My next project is LegWarmies.

LegWarmies - Photo from

LegWarmies - Photo from

I just know they’re perfect for us because the little girls will go through tights like crazy but Iowa in the winter is too cold for just socks.  I’m going to forego the stripes for the first pair and give it a shot on some pretty peony colored wool.  I’m using this pattern and I’m pretty excited to get started!   Ana suggested I size them for Sarah so that IF they’re too small they can be for baby Daniella and if they’re too big then Abigail can wear them.  Good idea!

So, it was a pretty fruitful three weeks.  We spent a few weekends at the timber and on the trail.  We gathered wild berries, wild elderberries, wild plums.  We harvested most of the garden.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

And some taters

And some taters

Did a little baking…

Pic9 Making bread on the weekend

We’re preparing to hatch our last round of laying hens for the year.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am that we got out of the house and enjoyed the bounty of the season.  It’s hard to truly appreciate how beautiful fall is unless you’re outdoors.  Here in Iowa  it is absolutely the BEST time of year.  It isn’t too hot, it’s not too cold, and there is a harvest to be seen all around you.

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Our Bounty of Plums!

Our Bounty of Plums!


Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

And, naturally we had time to read a few good books.

Pic11 Reading more

Legend has grown this year into a big beautiful brute.   Tira, our beloved good mama, has had a new litter of baby bunnies.

Pic12 Leg and Abby

On the homeschooling front we’re also seeing our hard work come to fruition.  Little Rebecca has memorized almost all of her phonics… She’s in SUCH a big hurry to be able to read.  But her enthusiasm is lovely.  Elizabeth Grace is reading quite well now.  She memorizes with ease and we made her some flashcards yesterday, lol.  She was so excited.   She’s reading four and five letter words now with ease and some that are larger as long as they are phonetically correct.  We ordered new math books for her yesterday as she is a WORKBOOK lover.  Gasp!  Yes, I suppose every family has to have one.   Ana and Christian are enjoying TOG.  Although I’ll readily admit that Christian is the one who loves it most.  This surprised me VERY much as he was originally a hesitant book lover.  I’m thrilled!

Tapestry is working out just as I had hoped.  At this point I can safely say we WILL be using Tapestry next year as we enter our first year of high school.

And finally our most important update.  You all know we had our cerclage surgery in Iowa City.  The placenta had moved 100% out of the way and is not even considered low lying.  I’m now past 22 weeks…. A point we greatly feared we’d never even make it to.  God is good…  ALL the time.   Our Baby Girl is growing beautifully and is right on track.  We had a beautiful ultrasound of her last week and we are SO incredibly grateful for this little one.  I get comments like this must be old hat.  She’s our ninth baby, our eleventh pregnancy.  No, no it never is.  Each time is special, each time is unique.  Each pregnancy is a completely and totally different resulting in a completely unique and beautiful blessing especially meant for our family.  Old hat?  Um, no.

Sooooooooo… What’s next for the family?

Well, we have play-doh and some bread to make today.  Afterall it’s difficult to make the earth without play-doh.   It’s time to gather nuts and I’m wrangling for a trip to the timber again this weekend.  My great uncle went through and labeled various types of trees in the timber… It will make for an incredible leaf collection for the children.  They’ve learned to identify many trees but there are SO many we don’t know yet.  I’m dreadful… I can tell a maple from an oak, but the only tree I REALLY know is a shagbark hickory.  And that one is REALLY obvious.    We have a pioneer festival coming up in October that will be fun and exciting.  We go every year and drink real rootbeer, see blacksmithing and spinning, and enjoy talking to the soap lady.  They always have lefse and Ana enjoys the lady who does geneaology.  It inspired the trip to the Norwegian festival this year.    The boys are going on their annual camping trip to Wisconsin in the next few weeks. I’m only a tiny bit jealous, kwim?  Ana and I have a llama and alpaca festival planned for October as well.  We’re going to buy some natural yarn and try our hands at some simple dying…. tutorial here if you want to peek.  I’m terribly excited about this… And a little fearful that I’ll destroy some really beautiful Alpaca wool.  And, of course, we’re expecting the wee one to debut in December.

We’re also planning a move.  To where?  Oh sigh.  DH got transferred in his job.  The REALLY big decision is whether to have him drive there 2-3 days per week or to move there full time and he’ll work there 4 days a week with one day at home.  He’s been doing the drive for weeks now while all of this medical mess was up in the air.   But, we’re thinking we’d like to be moved by Spring.   We like this house well enough, but I’m not going to lie… If we could find a house with an acreage with a BIG barn or with a little pasture, we’d love it!  A four bedroom farm house with a horse barn and pasture came up last week, but it would only increase his drive at this point.

We’re still very much up in the air about this and it is on my prayer list…  Not to necessarily find the “perfect” house but to be where God wants me when He wants me there…  After all, that’s the best place to be, blossoming wherever God plants us.