Friday, December 10, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finding Our Tree

We had our first cumulative snowfall of the season this weekend. Our Saturday morning plans were forgotten and we stayed snuggled indoors watching the snow fall. By mid-afternoon, the sun was peeking out and I headed to the stable where Winston and I had a beautiful, if a little chilly, ride around the snow covered pastures.

The next morning we celebrated third Noah's birthday with a few gifts and some carrot cake. Later that afternoon, we bundled up and went out in search of our Christmas tree. The warm glow cast upon the tops of the snow covered trees by the afternoon sun was really beautiful. We brought along a small sled to pull Isaac in and he was happy as long as we kept moving along. Of course, Noah also wanted to ride in it before long.
Alas, there was only room for one bundled boy in the tiny sled. And with neither of them able to move very well in their puffy snowsuits, Isaac soon toppled head first into the snow...
But came up smiling nonetheless. He got picked up by Curtis, who immediately set off again in search of the tree. They were truly on a mission. I ran along after them, pulling Noah in the sled, zipping between narrow rows of trees, and knocking snow off the low hanging branches onto Noah who was laughing the whole way. We finally found a beautiful tree, just in time too, for the the sun and the boys' patience (OK...probably all of our patience) were beginning to wane. Curtis did a fabulous job cutting down the tree while I warmed up Isaac's nose with kisses and Noah had a small meltdown because he fell down and couldn't get back up. We had a good laugh while dragging the tree back toward our car when Curtis asked Noah if he was doing alright, and Noah, who answers "Yes" to almost any question, said without hesitation, "NO!" We managed to get our tree back to the car and tied down tight (and by we, I mean Curtis. I stood in a barn with the boys warming up). On the way home, I think I saw a look of longing in Curtis' eyes as we passed the Christmas tree vendor in the church parking lot with all the trees pre-cut and lined up, snow-free and ready for purchase. Between the cold noses and toes, and some minor meltdowns, I was beginning to think my idea to cut our own tree had been a flop. But then, as we got home and piled out of the car, Noah said, "That was fun!" And that right there, made it all worth it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Book Basket

As I sit here on this first day of December, the first snow of the season is falling gently outside. Though we are all snuggly warm in our woolens, it is cold outside. We have begun decorating our house for the holidays, and have exchanged the autumn books in our book basket for winter ones. Over the next month we will be reading the Nativity Story and about all things snow and winter.
In our winter book basket:
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
Winter by Gerda Muller
The Mitten adapted by Jan Brett
First Snow in the Woods, Stranger in the Woods, and Winter Friends by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
Snow by Cynthia Rylant
The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers
The Magical Snowman by Catherine Walters

We have also been reading a few special books for Noah's upcoming birthday:
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
The Twelve Gifts of Birth by Charlene Costanzo
Angel in the Waters by Regina DomanHappy winter reading!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Organizing the Play Space

A few months ago, I began to realize that despite our focus on keeping just a small number of toys available for the boys to play with at one time, there was beginning to be more than could be neatly organized on the one small shelf of our living room end table. We decided that a bookshelf would be the best way to organize their things in the small area between our kitchen and living room where we spend most of our time. We had a custom bookshelf made at a local store and then I finished it myself with some homemade jojoba oil and beeswax polish (instructions here). The polish worked great and I think I may like it better than the kind you can buy. The shelf turned out really lovely, and was just what we need to open up this area while allowing for organization and room to play. The top of the bookshelf is now home to our seasonal display and a basket of books that are currently in rotation. We keep several seasonal books and a few favorites in the basket at a time, rotating the favorites in every couple weeks. The rest are stored away in a closet 'library' awaiting their turn. We have a similar, smaller 'library' for toys that are not currently age appropriate for either of the boys. In the coming months, we will return Isaac's baby toys and teethers to the library and bring out the puzzles and shape sorter.
The top shelf has a basket of wooden animals, a basket of knitted animals, some large shells we found while on vacation on Sanibel, and a soft doll. The middle shelf contains some stacking toys, a basket of various sized soft balls, and a small laundry basket with colored silks. Basically, things that are safe to be pulled off without hurting a certain little creeping baby. On the bottom shelf are all things wheeled and Isaac's little basket of teethers and rattles. The small train and its track hang out in a basket alongside the shelf. These few toys, along with Noah's larger wooden train, the play kitchen and pushcart are plenty to keep the boys busily at play.
I am loving this newly organized play space. Keeping similar items in their own space or basket makes it easy for Noah to help clean-up and get everything back to its special place at the end of the day. Even Isaac knows where to go to find his little basket of toys. I also love how it has opened up this little corner of the living room and we can now walk through and into the kitchen without having to go around the other side of the couch. More importantly, the boys are loving it, and will hopefully spend many hours playing happily here while I work nearby.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A photo (or two!) capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
(Tuesday morning, after getting the boys up, fed, dressed, and to the doctor's office for Isaac's check-up, I found out I was a week early for his appointment. So we went home and spent the rest of the morning lounging outside on a beautiful, 68 degree November day.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


While the days are getting shorter and colder, I have been thinking a lot more about warmth. We are reading several articles in our Waldorf playgroup about the importance about protecting babies and young children from the elements and keeping them warm so that more of their vital energies can be utilized for growth and development, and not heating their little bodies. One of the articles we are reading can be found here. More about dressing babies specifically can be found here, as well as in the longer article here. While I knew about this some time ago, and make an effort to dress the boys appropriately when we are outside, I feel that this in an area where I sometimes slack-off when we are insde. I am noticing however, as it gets colder, that even my fingers and toes are cold when we are in the house. If I need another layer and a pair of wool socks to keep warm, surely the boys would feel more comfortable in more layers as well.

Naturally, when I think about warmth, I think about wool sweaters, vests, hats, and slippers. And when I think of those things, I think about knitting. Thus, for every degree the temperature drops, my knitting "to-do" list grows longer. First off, Noah was in need of a new hat. I searched and searched for a pattern for a hat that would keep his forehead, neck, and ears warm. I ended up combining a few patterns to come up with this hat/scarf combo (shall I call it a scat?) knit in super soft Malabrigo wool (Ravelry notes here). It seems to be doing the trick and I love the golden color.
I am finishing up a pair of mittens to match, and also want to make each of the boys more vests for layering over their cotton shirts. So much to knit, and so little time. Actually, the past few days, I have been able to sneak in a few minutes of knitting here and there while Isaac is awake. He has learned to inch-worm his way across the floor, which has led to him being able to play independently for short periods, scooting around to get the toys he wants without needing to be constantly entertained by me. (That is, when Noah isn't snatching the toy away just as Isaac gets to it...but we are working on that.) Of course, he is also now able to creep across the floor to wherever I happen to be and demand to be picked up by yanking on my pants or biting my feet. Those blue eyes, when combined with the desperate mama-mama-ma of a teething baby are nearly impossible to resist. And when the fussing gets really bad, we bundle up and head to the park for some swing therapy.
Because who can't help but smile when they swing? Go and and try it the next time you are feeling blue. Another plus is that the cold, fresh air makes baby oh-so-sleepy when we head back inside. And while they nap, I knit...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I apologize to all our family who have been waiting for this post. Recovering from our vacation and then trying to organize a week's worth of activities into one post was too overwhelming to tackle right away. So here it goes...

It was three or four months ago that we decided that we wanted, no, needed a vacation. We needed to get away from all our regular responsibilities and spend some restorative time as a family. In choosing the destination, we wanted a place near the ocean where we could explore the shoreline and sea life, but without all the commercialism that a typical beach vacation can entail. I remembered reading some time ago about Sanibel island off the coast of Florida, known for its exceptional shelling.

In 1974, the residents of Sanibel established the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan to maintain a balance between development and preservation of the island's ecology. As a result, more than half the island is made up of wildlife refuges. There are no billboards or streetlights, and buildings cannot be any taller than the nearest palm tree. Sanibel seemed like a perfect choice for our beach adventure.

Destination chosen, we then needed to decide whether we should fly or drive. We were worried that Noah would freak out on the airplane, given his melt-downs when we have tried to even go through a drive-thru carwash. In the end, considering Isaac's continuing hatred of carseats, we decided that 4 hours of in-flight torture versus 24 hours in a car would probably be the best choice.

To prepare Noah for our trip, we got a book called The Noisy Airplane Ride and read it over and over. Before long, Noah was talking all about the trip and airplane ride. We woke up early on the morning of our flight and headed to the airport with our pile of luggage. To our amazement, the boys both did much better than we expected on the airplane. One of the benefits of Noah not watching tv at home was that he sat in his carseat on the airplane entralled for an hour and a half watching a movie on our iPod. Isaac was restless at times, but all the while charming fellow passengers with his blue eyes, big toothy grin, and chubby legs. One stewardess even held him for a while when he was particularly restless. She didn't even seen to care when he spit-up on her sweater. Eventually we were able to get him swaddled so I could nurse him to sleep.

After arriving in Fort Myers, we trudged our way through the terminal with all of our luggage and kids in hand. Though we had taken Noah's carseat with us for the airplane ride, we decided to rent one for Isaac from the car rental company. We received a rather filthy seat, which took us about an hour to install into our rental car without the instruction manual. Fed up with the difficulty of putting the seat in the car, keeping the hungry, overtired kids calm in the heat, and controlling our own emotions, we drove off to start our adventure. We stopped at a local superstore to pick up some food and supplies for the week. Would you believe that we unable to find a simple bucket and shovel for playing on the beach? While looking for some potential sand toys, we walked past a new infant's car seat that was on sale for about a quarter of the cost it was to rent our smelly one for the week. Shaking our heads in disgust, we picked up some bananas, grapes, and a package of stale cookies and continued on our way to Sanibel.

Approaching the island of Sanibel, there's a beautiful bridge (the causeway) that takes you up and over the ocean. When driving up it, it looks as though you're driving into the clouds. The small resort we were staying at happened to be on the far side of the island, and we finally pulled up to where we were staying right as the sun was setting. The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the car were the little lizards running around everywhere. We definitely were not in Wisconsin anymore. We dropped off our bags in our room and briskly walked down the sandy path to the beach to catch a glimpse of the sun. Even though it was only our first day and we had barely settled in, it was probably the most beautiful sunset we saw the entire vacation. Bright splashes of pinks, oranges, and yellows shimmered across the cool blues of the ocean. It was a nice reminder to clear our minds and enjoy the beauty of nature and the time we all had together. We headed back to our room to make some dinner and soon discovered that our "one bedroom apartment" was actually one large room with the "bedroom" being separated by a slatted door and a dividing wall that was open at the top and bottom. Once Curtis and I finally got the kids to sleep, we sat there in the dark in silence. Obviously I wasn't going to be getting much knitting or reading done after the kids went to sleep. It would be early bedtimes for all of us on this trip.Despite missing many of his naps during our trip, Isaac was eager to start each day. He also woke everyone up at midnight, 2am, 3:30am, 5:30am, and 7am. At home, we are able to ignore Isaac's early morning babble and he will doze off for another hour or two. However, with everyone sleeping together in such close quarters, and sharing a wall with our poor neighbors, his early morning babbles could not be ignored. We soon fell into a rhythm of eating breakfast in our room before heading out to explore the island, heading home for lunch and a nap (or an attempted nap) and walking up and down the beach, which was just a short walk from our room. Often we had almost the entire beach to ourselves, as we were staying on a particularly remote area of the island, away from other resorts and condos.
Sanibel's beaches are known for their abundance of sea shells. Piles upon piles could be found along the shoreline. Amongst piles of small and broken shells, the occasional larger, intact shell could be found. Shelling is somewhat addictive. You always want to look through just one more pile, or a few more yards of beachline, in search of a new variety or a particularly pretty shell. Noah, by the third day or so, began to appreciate all of the sand to dig in. Up until then, he would continually inform us that he had sandbox in his shoes. Keeping our laughter to a minimum, we told him that it was okay and that we could wash them off when we were ready to go inside. Isaac either rode along in his carrier as we walked up and down the beach or kept cool with Curtis as they lounged under a giant umbrella and he tried to keep him for eating fist fulls of sand. We saw a lot of birds while we were on our vacation. The island is home to over 220 varieties of native birds as well as the many more migratory birds that pass through on their way south. The white ibis was a common sighting on the shore, poking it's long beak into the sand, searching for food.
One day, while Isaac and I were napping, Noah and Curtis borrowed some sandtoys from our resort owner's stash and headed to the beach to make Noah's first sand castle. Five buckets of mud and a good 30 shells later and they had built a castle fit for a king crab, complete with a shell drawbridge. A few days after arriving, we left our room early (Isaac's idea) to do some shopping. After discovering that life on the island was very laid back, with pretty much nothing opening before 11:00 am, we continued to the other end of the island for a short hike see the Sanibel lighthouse.
We also spent some time on Captiva, a small island just North of Sanibel. We were amazed by the luxurious houses on this tiny island, set off the road, their grand staircases partially hidden in lush tropical vegetation. On Captiva, we lounged on the beach and splashed in the water. I discovered that the ocean is the world's best white noise machine, and Isaac dozed off in his carrier while I walked up and down the beach, watching the tiny living coquina shells frantically dig themselves back into the sand after each retreating wave left them exposed where I had been standing. This beach had fewer broken shells, so we were able to go barefoot and Noah and Curtis practiced wading amongst the waves in the shallow water. Noah was intimated by the big waves, but did pretty well as long as he was distracted by watching sailboat off in the distance. Near the end of our trip we went to the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum where we saw some exquisite shells from around the world. We left knowing much more about the various kinds of shells and their uses throughout history (a couple hundred years ago, you could buy a chicken with 50 cowries, or a bride for several thousand of the tiny shells!). Meanwhile, Curtis was silently hoping that a large broken shell I found on the beach was an artifact from a native tribe.

The weekend before our departure was the beginning of what is known as 'Ding Darling Days' in Sanibel. It's an annual celebration of the large nature preserve on the island, and there were a number of events and exhibits. We walked through a butterfly house, saw a bald eagle up close, made a stuffed manatee out of a pantyhose and some cardboard, and visited a touch tank with some sea stars and living shells. In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to go on a guided boat ride in the mongrove estuary. We were lucky enough to see a few dolphins, the large nostrils of a manatee coming up for air, some fins of a shark, jumping fish, and plenty of birds.
The day before we left, we went on a nature tram tour through the reserve. We had a great time learning about all of the various trees and wildlife. That night, after catching one last sunset, I had a traditional meal of stone crab for our last dinner on the island. We took dessert "to go,"and after the kids were finally asleep and I opened my dessert box in the dark, I was delighted to find that they had accidentally given me not one, but two, pieces of key lime pie. I had to eat it all, of course, since it was our last night.
One more exhausting day of travel and we were almost home. Noah finally had the melt-down we had been expecting all along as we made our final landing in Madison. His tiredness and the pressure in his ears finally got the best of him. Despite the mountain of laundry that overtook our living room, we were so happy to be home and sleeping in our own beds.

So there you have it. I wouldn't exactly call it a 'relaxing' vacation with two young children and less sleep than we are used to at home, but it was great to get away from work and chores and spend time together for a week in some natural surroundings that are so very different from those we are used to.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Celtic Vest

It has been a quiet week here. We are recovering from what we think was food poisoning. All of us, excluding Isaac, came down with a stomach flu on Monday and it has been a slow return to normal. I did manage to finish up the last few rounds on a Celtic Milo vest for Noah using some of the yarn from our excursion to the Sheep Festival. It is dark gray Coopworth Lamb, a bit scratchy, but fine over another shirt. I found a scarf pattern with this Celtic cable on it and adapted it for knitting in the round. I think the final result looks a little bit like a knight's chain mail, which is funny because I would have finished it in time for Michaelmas last week, but got knocked down by a cold. Yep, a cold, and then the stomach flu. It has been a joyous week. Anyway...I may have to make a knight's hood to match from the leftover yarn.Yesterday, as soon as the vest was finished drying, I stuck it on Noah, put Isaac's Owl Vest on him and headed out for a nice fall walk to the park. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the temperature had soared into the high 70s since we had been out earlier in the day. Needless to say, the vests were stripped off as soon as we reached the park. So there we all were; the boys in long sleeves and pants, and I in my long sleeved dress and leggings hunting down the shadiest spot in the park to cool off in October. Oh, well. It will get cool eventually.
The baby is calling...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apple Pickin'

Last Saturday was a perfect fall day for a family activity that I have wanted to do for some time now: apple picking. From several local orchards we chose one that practices sustainable farming with little or no spraying. This is especially important when there are little ones picking and eating the fruit. After walking out to the orchards, we were a bit disappointed to find many of the varieties rather picked over, and were beginning to think we would go home with empty bags. Then, we found a few trees with apples way out of reach. With a little circus act involving me balancing on Curtis's shoulders, I would pick the apples and hand them to him one at a time, who in turn would hand them to Noah, whose job it was to put (I say put, but it was actually more like throw) them in our bags while Isaac sat nearby, pulling grass and sampling the leaves. Noah kept saying, "Izat apple pickin'?" Yes, Noah, that is apple picking family style!
After making some slow progress, I resorted to just climbing the trees and handing the apples down. Soon our bags were filling up. At one point, Noah, who has recently become very good about using the potty at home independently got his first lesson on going to the bathroom in the great outdoors, proudly announcing "I peed on a tree!"
Before long, our bags were full. We picked 44 lbs of apples! (I should probably leave out the part of the story where Curtis dropped a 22 lb bag of apples on the floor after paying for them. Imagine the gasps from the lady checking us out as well as about 20 other customers waiting in line."You were going to use those for baking, right?" she said.) Just a couple hours after getting them home, I pulled a bubbly apple cobbler out of the oven. The next day we learned how to can, and made 7 quarts of applesauce. We still have about 20 lbs left that are destined to become apple pie filling. I think we could possibly consider canning my newest obsession. It must be true what they say about children eating foods that they otherwise might not if they are able to participate in harvesting them. Before our apple picking excursion, Noah would not eat raw apples. But now, when asked what he would like for lunch, he proudly says, "apple pickin'!"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Falling Leaves

It is fall, and the beginning of a new journey for Noah and I. Yesterday was our first day in the Apple Blossom Playgroup at our local Waldorf school. While our home lives have been inspired by Waldorf philosophy from the day he was born, yesterday was the first time we had a chance to spend time with other families with similar lifestyles. It was a lovely morning beginning with the mamas working on a simple craft while the children played, followed by a shared snack and tea, circle time with fall-themed songs and finger-plays, and ending with free play outside in the garden. Isaac came along, of course, and sat contentedly on my lap through the crafting. He then tried to pull my place mat and tea onto the floor during snack time, and sat in the middle of the circle during our circle time as we "ring-around-the-rosied" around him. Did you know that you can do finger-plays with ones hand while holding a nursing baby with the other? Noah, who will play independently for hours at a time at home, was very shy and stayed close by my side through most of the morning. I am hoping that in the coming weeks he will become more comfortable as he plays and explores in the new environment.

To celebrate fall and this new beginning, I thought Noah deserved some special slippers to wear during our weekly playgroup. This pattern caught my eye some time ago. It has an unusual construction for a slipper, which are first knit as a long strip with two side flaps. It took quite a bit of planning to figure out where the different squares would end up on the final slippers so that I could make an actual left and right, and not just an identical pair. Thankfully, many people have made these before me and shared their helpful notes on Ravelry. After knitting the strips, they are then sewn together in an origami-ish way. At that point, the slippers were big enough to fit my size 10 feet. However, after 3 cycles in the washing machine, they felted beautifully and fit Noah with a little room for growth. This pattern is great for using up bits and pieces of yarn. I made Noah's using KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, leftover from his knitted fruit and vegetables. The reds, yellow and orange are reminders of the changing colors of the leaves that will soon be falling from the trees. Welcome, Fall!