Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. I hope that you and yours had a wonderful day, filled with everything that is truly important. Based on recent world events and a heightened desire to really slow down and focus on our family and the true meaning of Christmas, we had already planned a very low key and non-traditional Christmas day. No formal sit-down with china and silver. Nary a tablecloth in sight. I was planning to make at least one traditional pie, but beyond that it was tamales and whatever else came together as we went along.

Due to an ill-timed line of thunderstorms, we got our family bonding time started a little sooner than we planned today. We went to bed just after midnight-certainly a record for we, the wrapping-procrastinators. Unfortunately, the storms came in with hail, lightning and window-shaking thunder at about 2:00 a.m. With the storm came all three kids. As the storm slowed down, they actually had the chutzpa to ask if they could go check their stockings. At 2:00 a.m.! Good effort.

One kid was sprawled on our bed perpendicular to our feet; one between us, there was a great shuffling of bed/chair/beanbag, etc. between the eldest and the hubby. Storms rolled in in waves until about noon, but we finally relented at 6:13 a.m. to the hourly requests for stocking inspection. We had stockings, Santa, our immediate family gifts, coffee and breakfast all done by 7:30. Wow. New league record!

The girls were all happy. All three. I felt like the mom in that commercial who gives her tween the boots she wanted and banners fall down all over the room proclaiming her the champion mom of all time.

*******Breaking News:

They got the American Girl dolls. Yup-we did it. Glad we did, because they were huge hits. So were the accompanying accouterments like equipment, clothes, beds, etc.

“I got McKENNAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!” Shouted the middle kid.

“Wait, wait! Is this NUMBER 27????? It IS! I got her! She looks just like me!” squealed the youngest.

The eldest got the Madden 13 game she wanted. 

“This is awesome-I knew I would get this!” she said, with a great deal of self-assurance.

The best part of the day, however, was seeing so many family members. All day, people came in and out. It was great to see everyone. When we hurriedly (because some family members had to beat the bad roads and had to leave early) sat down to eat, little voices thanked God for the day, our food, the snow and for sending Baby Jesus. Very special.

As the rain changed to sleet and then snow, the sleds that Santa brought last year, and that had not seen one second of action thus far (other than serving as backrests for the movie last night) finally were brought out to play.

Starting when there was a light dusting on the cars, the middle child had been stalking the front yard.

“Can I sled?”
Not yet.
~~~~five minutes elapse~~~~

“Can I sled?”
Not yet.
~~~~five minutes elapse and her sisters joined in~~~~

“Can we sled?”
Not yet.

This went on for nearly an hour. They finally gave up on sledding and just ran around in it for a while. We tried to tell them that the huge flakes dropping on the lawn needed time to build up, and if they churned all the snow up now, there would be less accumulation. Obviously we were speaking in Charlie Brown adult character language for all they heard.

Finally, the snow was high enough to sled. Down our lawn and our neighbors they went. I was shocked how much better the plastic sleds cruised than the cardboard pizza boxes we used in the past! They actually built up some speed on the slight accumulation and even worked for a little knee boarding and ill-advised snowboard attempts.

The Texas kids on our street got what they had been dreaming of: a White Christmas. They made angels, threw snowball, sledded, ran and romped with the dogs. Exhausted from the minimal sleep, excitement and snow play, all were passed out by 8:15. Successful day. It was wonderful. While it wasn’t as planned, it was as close to perfect as I can wish.

These things I now know:

-Wet-snow snowballs hurt when thrown in your face.
-Shepherd-mix dogs with furry feet love the snow.
-Terrier-mix dogs that look like Muppets do not.
-Dolls can still occupy hours of my kids’ time.
-Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story are still as awesome even after 527,000 viewings.
-Tamales on plastic plates taste as good as ham on china.
-Family is the most important thing.

Blessings to you all, may you have a fabulous rest of 2012 and a wonderful 2013.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grace in the Face of Grief

After what happened in Connecticut on Friday, I found my creative spirit and joy snuffed out. I found myself crying spontaneously when I would see one of my girls spin around and laugh. When I would address a Christmas card I would think about those families who had already sent cards with smiling pictures of their precious little ones-maybe the last photos they had taken before their lives were taken. I would burst into tears.

When I went to get my own babies from their school on Friday, the little kindergarteners were sitting outside after their early release, waiting to be picked up from school. The sight of them gathered there, talking, laughing, being kids, started the tears for the ones who had been doing the same thing just hours earlier. When a policeman walked up beside me, saw the same kids and turned from them-tears running from his eyes, it started me up again.

I had to restrain myself from running into the school early to gather my girls and hurry home. When the release bell finally rang and the kids began pouring from the doors, I wanted to hug each familiar face-not just my own sweet ones. 

As each news update had been released, painting a more detailed picture of the day’s horror, I thought of the little ones I had just read to in my child's first grade class the week before. The same age as those taken. I thought of all of those individual sweet spirits. Each one an angel. What must they be going through in Newtown? It was unfathomable.

I have been praying since Friday. I have been questioning God, though I know it is not for me to know why. I have cried out that I don’t understand. I know to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

I know this and cling to it. But what happens when someone does not trust in the Lord with all of their heart…and their path intersects yours? And it's horrifying? What then? I know that we all have free will and I also know that God accepts me for my doubt and fear. I am human-and what happened breaks my heart

As I prayed and cried and questioned and prayed some more, I also turned off the TV, only watching the news sparingly. I turned in to my own house and family and friends and children. I made the decision to turn over the paralyzing fear and confusion to Him and it is getting better. God's Grace is good and it is healing me slowly.

We did have to have the discussion with the kids about what happened and they all took it in different ways. From a matter-of-fact shock over the terrible act, to a desire for details-an effort to grasp any reason why, to a desire to not hear any details at all again. Three kids, three responses and all took the answers in stride. A little more sober but fairly quick to bounce back.

This morning was tough. It was hard to let my three go to school although we are immensely blessed to have such amazing people caring for them. I had to direct that fear into prayers for them, the other kids, the teachers and staff. Most of all for the families affected by the tragedy. It was freeing to give it all over to God.

I managed to get ready today and make fudge and Christmas jammie pants for the girls and address the rest of our cards. I watched Christmas movies and talked to a friend. The fear, sadness, questions and confusion remain in my mind and I don’t know that they will ever go away completely. However, as I watched my girls sit on Santa’s lap and smile and joke tonight, I know that our life goes on and that kids are resilient-more than me. And I am grateful for every second we get to spend together. For that we are truly blessed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sweater Wreath Redux for Christmas

I am resurrecting an older post from earlier this year because we now have these wreaths out for Christmas. I thought I would throw out this tutorial from earlier in the year and add photos from the Christmas wreaths we made and are making. We started, as before, with thrift store sweaters of a very high wool count. By washing them in very hot water (I know-it made me cringe at first, too!) and drying them on high heat, the sweaters felted down until they could be cut without unravelling.

Chunkier, thick wool
Softer, cashmere-type wool

Squares of felted sweater

To make this project, you need:

1. Several wool or high-wool content sweaters in colors you want for your wreath. Wash and dry them (as above) before starting.
2. Embroidery floss.
3. Tapestry needle.
4. Cutting mat and rotary cutter.

* Here begins the previous post:

The youngest child and I started to tackle more of the big sweater pile in the craft room. She decided that she felt sorry for her big sister since we found out her new cast has to be on for four more weeks.

“I want to make her a wreath to cheer her up since she can’t play softball for even longer,” she said. “And she can use it as a ‘keep out of my room’ wreath and hang it on her door when she doesn’t want anyone in her room.”

Can you argue with that logic? I certainly couldn’t.

Although the girls had used the rotary cutter on fabric before, the thick, felted wool was a bit trickier to get through. I decided to do the cutting of the squares myself. I asked her to back up because she is a huge allergy sufferer and a by-product of cutting wool is a million tiny wool fibers floating through the air.

“What are fibers?”

“Well, they are the long strands of hair or cotton material that get woven together to make threads or yarn and then fabric.”

“What are strands?”

“Well, they are the tiny, thread-like, itty-bitty strings that make up a plant or an animal’s fur.”

“Oh, so those would get in my nose and make me sneeze?”

“Yes, basically.”


Raw sweaters
Cutting strips into squares
 And on we went from there. I became a sweater butcher: cuffs in this pile, arms get whacked off at the shoulder and go over here. The thinner sweaters got parceled into large squares to be made into roses, while the thicker sweaters were cut in strips and then tiny squares for wreaths. I cut until I had a sizable mountain of squares to choose from.

Time for the youngest to step back in.

“Wow, you have a lot cut already!” she said.

“I already have a pattern I want to use,” she said. “Purple then pink and repeat all along the wreath. I am going to use purple because of her softball team, and pink because you have to put something with the purple,” she said.

I threaded a larger, dull tapestry needle with embroidery floss and tied one end to a pencil to keep the squares from sliding off the thread. She dug through the pile for the pinks and purples she needed then held up a purple square and squinted at it closely.

“Is there a darker purple and a lighter purple in here?”

“No, just the one.”

“Okay, because I was like, if there are two purples in here then my pattern is messed up!”

I grabbed a needle and thread of my own and started digging through the pile for slightly less-purpley-toned squares. I settled on some boring, tweedy greens, tans and maroons for my wreath. She observed my choices with a look but no comment. Tactful, even at six.

“Have you ever poken yourself with a needle?”

“I have poked myself with lots of needles, but not this kind,” I told her.

“This must have taken you a while to snip up all of these sweaters.”

“Yes, it did.”

“I am going to make this a surprise so don’t tell her until I finish,” she said quietly.


“I was going to make it for her birthday, but now I feel bad about her arm,” she said. “Her birthday is kind of far away so I will wait until the middle of April to start making her birthday gift.”

We sat there for a little while, threading and chatting. I can see the value of older times and the circles of women who quilted, knitted and sewed with neighbors, friends and daughters. The quiet moments of steady work, the accomplishment and pride at showing others your progress, the good conversation.

Once the wreath was finished and we tied off a knot and loop to hang it, she decided there needed to be a bow.

“Can you cut a strip of purple?”

“Yes, and I’ll sew it with a sharper needle and thread.”

“I need to see how you do it because one day I want to do lots of projects with my kids and I need to be able to show them how.”

Maybe I don’t need to live in the older times. Seems like now is just fine.

Here is a link to the CSI Project for other crafters! Have fun!

Visit thecsiproject.com

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