It begins...

A friend recently forwarded an email to me titled "The Invisible Mother," a short essay comparing the tireless and often thankless job of a mother to the builders of Europe's great cathedrals. Both give their whole lives for a work they will never see finished, both make sacrifices and expect no credit, and both are fueled in their passion by the faith that the eyes of God see every detail. The writer of the essay was inspired by the thought that our endless efforts in motherhood, invisible as they may seem, are worth it and can make an enriching life.

For many of us, the way we choose to hold our invisibility at bay is by creating something tangible. For me, my days often end with knitting - my love of fiber and the need to do something relaxing end up producing something I can hold and look at. Nobody will know how many times I swept under the high chair that day, or how many toys I picked up, or how many times I tried to coax a "please" or "more" or "sorry" out of my 5 year old. But a darling, handmade infant hat? That you can see.

I start new projects every day, and my 10 year old does the same. In this process of creating (and yes, often not finishing our projects!) we connect with each other and a bigger picture of ourselves in the process. My plan for this blog is to share the projects that excite me and bring some accessible proof of my existence in this invisible world of mothering!

So, this blog is dedicated to the mothers out there whose days are filled with the minutia of tasks that build our children and our families. I often tell people that I haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up. But for now, I am the builder of a great cathedral. With every shoelace tied, lunch packed, and forehead kissed, I build.

And I can hardly wait to create something new...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Animal Obsession

As I mentioned in my last post, Rowan has a huge heart. This wonderful quality also puts her at risk for falling in love with every stuffed animal she sees, which has been her personal obsession since before she could walk. We couldn't go into a store with animals or she would melt down over some furry thing with eyes. By the time she was 4, she had learned to shield her eyes with her hands any time we got near a display with stuffed animals, to save herself the heartache of being told "no."

Now that Rowan receives a weekly allowance, as well as money she earns from doing chores and taking care of her braces/teeth, she is able to afford a new animal more often than is necessary. We had to purchase a large laundry bin for the corner of her room to house her growing animal population, and they are now spilling over the top. She can't even reach to get into the depths of the thing, which means she has to dump it all out when she 'needs' a particular friend.

And of course there is the state of her bed, which is lined with little rows (the animal hierarchy) of heads tucked into various blankets. Literally half the width of her bed is animals, which means she only gets the outside half.
As my mom always points out, the animals bring her SO much joy, but at some point enough is enough! She is allowed to spend her money on anything she wants, but our new rule is that if she buys an animal, she has to choose one already at home to give away. This has helped maintain the herd in recent weeks!

Having said that, I am a total sucker, and Rowan has learned to work the system.

A friend recently gave me two bags of yarn from her stash, including some knitted Easter eggs that she had made but never gotten around to felting and stuffing. I showed them to Rowan and asked if she could use them for doll pillows or something. She liked the multi-colored egg and said she would keep it.

A few minutes later she came to me and said, "I know exactly what we can do with the egg! We can stuff it and then add 8 pieces of yarn to the bottom to make an octopus!" My knitter brain immediately imagined 8 i-cord legs of the same yarn and a darling octopus. Before the hour was up, I had cast on the first leg, and by bedtime had completed all 8. The next morning, Rowan stuffed the body and I attached the legs, and our wee octopus was born!
And now she has one more animal on her bed. Wait, how did that happen? Sucker!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

To the Death of a Single Wasp

This afternoon I finally got around to unloading the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen while Rowan and Brynn had a snack. I had started to load up the dirty stuff when I was startled by a wasp in the sink, it's head engrossed in slurping the motrin syringe. "OH!" I exclaimed. Rowan asked me what was wrong and when I told her there was a wasp in the sink she started to back away. "Is it alive? Is it moving? Can you kill it?"

I carefully removed the few dishes that were around it and then got the wasp spray from under the sink. I sprayed him, and Rowan asked, "Did you get it? Can it still fly up and sting us?" I told her it was dying and before I had a second to think about it, she walked over and looked in the sink.

The wasp was in the agonizing throws of its frantic, cling-to-life last moments. As soon as Rowan saw it, she cried out and started sobbing. She cried and cried and I held her and cried a little too. I had told the wasp I was sorry before I sprayed it, but seeing the horror in Rowan's face in that second she watched it struggle made me feel like a heartless murderer. Her empathy for an insect she is deathly afraid of was heartbreaking.

She has had a hard time since that moment. The tears are still coming here and there as the picture of the wasp dying replays in her mind. As we were talking it through afterward she wished there was some way we could have safely gotten it back outside, but I had to explain that we don't mess with wasps. If it's in the house, it has to die. She understands and agrees, but hates it.

Rowan is very good about using her creativity to express her emotions, either in writing or through pictures. It didn't take her long to get her paper and crayons out of the desk drawer and start a picture of homage to the dead wasp. She titled it "To the death of a single wasp - Freedom!"  She drew the little guy amid a sunny sky and pretty flowers - alive and darling with little blue wings. I asked her if it helped her feel better, but she just got teary again and said, "maybe a little."  One of the things I love most about my dear daughter is her natural compassion and today was a classic example of how devastating that can be sometimes.

So sorry, little wasp. And so sorry, my little girl, that life lessons can be so hard.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Administrative Week

Paperwork and forms, people! Pretty much all I've been doing for a week straight. Plus 5-6 hours of Brownie "lesson planning" that all got scrapped after I attended the Service Unit meeting and realized I was WAY overcomplicating things. Took a deep breath, simplified everything, started delegating, and am ready to have some Girl Scout FUN this year!

School is in full swing - these past 2 weeks have flown by! (Oh, and let me know if you want to buy an Entertainment Book!) We're back on track with our schedule, haven't forgotten to pack any lunches or snacks yet, and so far it's been smooth sailing. We finally got some rain, and Rowan and her buddy enjoyed some wet, cool outdoor time last week after school. (And check out the green lawn - in August!?!)

I held our Brownie Parent Meeting on Sunday night, which is all about administrative stuff (which I secretly dig).  Rowan decided to bring a handmade anklet for each of her Brownie friends to the meeting. She had a stash from an earlier craft day, but we got out the embroidery floss and made a few more. She lined them all up and took the picture below...She was very excited to give them away!
We also made a batch of Snickerdoodle cookies (SO yummy) and since my Flush is over, I could actually eat one...or three. :P Rowan helped roll the cookie dough balls in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Since I got all the registration paperwork this week, I was finally able to finish my long list of "to do's" now that I have an official roster:
- Make and print official roster
- Make meeting attendance sheet
- Finish 14th Brownie bag iron-on
- Write names on all Brownie bags
- Folder name labels for Brownie folders
- Final Kaper chart name-beanies
- Print Girl Scout law flashcards
- Print meeting board information and welcome banner
- Tweak first newsletter (still tweaking)
- Create/print pumpkin patch permission slips
- Stuff info in Brownie folders
- Order all uniforms, badges, pins, books, etc
- Double check all registration/health forms for missing info
- Make SUPER detailed financial page to track all the money coming in and what it's for

I could keep going, honestly. Some people would find it a nightmare, but like I said, it's right up my alley. (Yes, as a child I loved to play "school," "office," and "library."  I was all about stamping the forms, making official papers and documents, and correcting that schoolwork!)

One of the projects my Brownie's will be doing to kick off their Journey (either at the first or second meeting, depending on time - check ME out, with my flexible, non-rigid schedule all of a sudden! Who am I?) is to make their own Passport. At each meeting we will write down what country we "visited" and learned about. The girls will record the names of the book we read, any ethnic foods we tried, international games we played, etc. I will bring a stamp/inkpad to each meeting, and my "helper" will get to stamp each girl's page when they are done. I hope they think it's fun - I would have loved it when I was 7! I finally purchased a long-armed stapler (been wanting one for years!) and using cardstock I bought last year and cheap printer paper I constructed the passport booklets. I thought about writing "My Passport" on the front or putting a fun picture on it, but decided in the end to let each girl make it her own, with her own writing and creativity. And there is no pink or purple, so hopefully we won't fight over colors! I made a couple extra books, so that nobody gets stuck with the last one - I figured we could let guests (siblings) draw and write in the extras when they come to meetings.

Now, I just wait patiently (or not) for the giant box of goodies to arrive from the Girl Scout shop. Then I can label books and uniforms, sort all the badges and pins, and pack the girls' bags for our Wednesday meeting. So fun for me (I get to play Santa!)

I also spent over an hour yesterday and today completing all the paperwork the school district needs to write Brynn's IEP (Independent Education Plan) for when she starts preschool in November. So many developmental questions - some of it so hard to quantify. It made my brain hurt (and yes, my heart ached a little too.)

Perhaps, this weekend, I will get a chance to pick up my knitting again. Mom is sending me a new cowl pattern I am anxious to start, and I am about 25 rows from completing the first half of my Flutter Scarf - woo hoo!

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy Birthday... the craftiest woman I know - my mom! Mom, hope your day is wonderful and full of color and fiber. :) May there be many, many more years of creating and sharing with you. I love you!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Slack No More

I had several days of some serious slacking. Laundry overflowing, kitchen always a mess, piles of "deal with it later" all over the place. But somehow today I am getting it done and taking care of business. Brad never comments when the house is a pit (or when it's clean, really) so you know it had gotten bad when he arrived home a few minutes ago, walked in, and said, "Wow, you guys really cleaned this place up!" Rock and roll. Now, there is still the random junk that needs to go to Goodwill sitting in the piano room that I have gotten very good at ignoring. Gotta tackle that job. But Rowan has a friend over to play, Brynn is asleep, and who wants to deal with all that when there is crafting to be done!

My last sweater for Afghans for Afghans is blocked and dry, so I took a group picture before I box them up and get them mailed off. I made a serious dent in my yarn stash!
I also managed to slyly finish the last of the Brownie beanies under Rowan's nose this morning (too wrapped up in her TV show to notice) and wove in the last end.
Some are slightly smaller than others (I may have lost track of where I was in the pattern a couple of times!) but they turned out cute. I need to buy a pack of the little clasps to put on each beanie loop and then they'll be ready to give. We have our first Brownie meeting on the 31st, but we don't actually Invest the girls and get official until the 2nd meeting - I am waffling on when to give them their gifts. I think I'll wait for the Investiture and make it more meaningful as a ceremony closer. But it's hard to wait that long!!

I continue to work on my Flutter scarf, but it's inch by inch and doesn't look that different from the last post so I won't bore you with a picture. But since that is my "challenging" knitting, and since the beanies are done, I am needing another project that's the "easy" thing to grab and do. It's not too early to start making Christmas presents, is it? Food for thought.

I had planned to do a ton of printing for the Parent Guidebooks I am making for my Brownie moms this afternoon, but Brad showed up to work from home which means I have to bother him constantly with my in-and-out and printer noises. :P I could also make some more of the Brownie bags, now that I have more iron-on transfer paper but I need the printer for that too. He just might have to live with my interruptions! (After all, home is my office.)

Oh, and the "flush" is going well - we're 6 days in and craving carbs, but holding steady. I am feeling much more comfortable in my own skin again (and my clothes!) and have dropped 8 lbs since Saturday morning. Yes, most of that is water weight, but it makes a difference! Halfway there...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ready, set, FLUSH!

Apparently the stress of last week caught up to me, and Friday afternoon I pretty much ate my way through the kitchen. Not good. Stepping on the scale Saturday morning was ugly, and I decided it was high time to get things back on track. About once a year, Brad and I do a 2-week intensive liver cleanse/fat flush, so this morning we mixed up our magic potion (unsweetened diluted cranberry water with psyllium husks) and got to work. I hit the Vitamin Shoppe and Hy-Vee for the supplements and giant amounts of fresh veggies and proteins we will need. We've chopped and prepped and filled the fridge, and the Flush has officially started. Whew! Feeling good!

Yesterday, Brad and Rowan joined a Taekwondo school together, and came home with their new uniforms. They each had a patch that needed sewn on front, a task which of course fell to me. I lugged the sewing machine out this morning, said a prayer, and got those puppies sewn on. Not bad! I managed to keep them straight and flat!
Rowan is SO excited to start classes on Monday evening - she LOVES wearing her uniform, and also exclaimed that she can now write in Korean (she copied some wording from her handbook). Gung ho!

I have been trying to figure out what sort of gift to make for my Brownies as a welcome when we start the new year. It finally clicked that since I am using the Brownie Beanie shape for my kaper charts, I could make 16 little bitty beanies to give! Last year, I gave each girl a crocheted daisy with a clip on it - it was so heart warming to see how many of them actually clipped them to their school backpacks! This year they will have little brown beanies to clip on - with the instruction that every time they look at their beanie they can remember the 3 "C's" of scouting: Courage, Confidence, Character. Hope they love them!

Obviously, there is no pattern already out there for such a thing, so I enlisted my brilliant and crafty mother to construct one for me. She figured it out and emailed me the pattern she created. I've made 7 so far, and they are looking darling, if I do say so myself.
I've been trying to be sneaky and not make them around Rowan so that she'll be surprised, but she saw one partially done this morning and declared that it would make a perfect Barbie hat. Oops!

I have also been carefully working my way up the length of my lace scarf, one slow row at a time. Brynn's new favorite thing is to constantly have her feet on me. She gets right up next to me on the couch and gets her little flippers positioned perfectly to knock my knitting around, which makes lace work very tricky. Little turkey!
This coming week is our last stretch of summer vacation - hard to believe. Rowan and I need to make sure we have everything on her supply list and get her bag packed. We find out who her teacher is on the 11th! And of course with our new schedule and activities ready to launch, we found out this morning that the Verizon labor union is on strike, which means Brad heads into training asap and may get sent to God-knows-where to fill in as needed. This could be interesting!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wrestling Matches

Nothing is coming easy this week, unfortunately. Battle mode ON.

Our weekend started with Brynn having a fever of 102 Friday evening. This turned into a morning at the walk-in clinic with 2 catheter procedures and lots of poking and prodding. Diagnosis was a UTI, so we picked up meds and headed home to nap. 2:30pm the fever was at 104.4 and she started vomiting. The afternoon/evening was spent at the hospital. Another catheter. IV hookup and a cocktail of meds. Terrified, feverish, exhausted child. You get the picture. The fever becomes manageable and Sunday is spent watching her closely, so I get false hope that we're past the worst and I can start planning complex party foods to make for Bunco Wednesday night. 

By Monday the Augmentin antibiotic has taken ahold and by Tuesday is wreaking havoc on Brynn's digestive system. Explosive, watery diapers and poop on the floor, on the couch, on Brynn, on toys, on me. Today is even worse, with a diaper change every 30 minutes - the soiled laundry piling up faster than I can keep track of and Rowan and I constantly paranoid about when the next attack will hit. Brynn is fussy and hard to keep entertained and her poor bottom is now raw and blistery and changing each diaper is a wrestling match. The doctor has been called, and most likely we will take her off these meds and NEVER have her take Augmentin again! LORD.

This being said (and yes, thank you for your sympathy!), you can imagine the state of my kitchen and the general chaos of my personal state when I share what was already in process when the diaper issue began:
- Garnished chutney crackers
- Sinful spuds (stuffed with feta, pine nuts, dried currants, lemon zest)
- Artichoke heart truffles
- Lemon asparagus with prosciutto
- Caprese skewers
- Lemon chicken/snow pea skewers
- Key lime tartlets
- Petit au pain chocolat

With the ingredients purchased and much prep already done there was no turning back! Most of these recipes have handy "do ahead" sections, so as of this afternoon all of them are in some form of being finished and took some serious calendar planning to make sure things fell in order. Throw in laundry, the diaper wrestling, and the entertaining of 2 children in the mix and I come out looking like wonder woman. And I did shower (at 11:30, whilst the girls also bathed)! The wine is chilling now, and I am so ready to not be home this evening I can't even tell you! The final headcount for bunco (which is usually around 12 or 13) is 6. Let's hope most of the food is awesome and worth the effort (the key lime tartlets turned out looking like a bad science experience and resemble...well, I won't say. With whipped cream on top they are almost edible. Almost.)

Once I have all the purty party food on plates tonight, I will take pictures to share. If I remember the camera.

Also on Sunday, in an effort to cheer myself up after the long day at the hospital, I finished the last of the Afghan sweaters (still need to block that puppy) and treated myself to a new project.

Flimsy, lacy, and a bit more challenging than the sweaters - my desire to knit has suddenly increased again! I found a pattern I picked up who-knows-when as well as some lace yarn I bought in Iowa sometime and have cast on and made enough progress on my "Flutter Scarf" to see the pattern emerging. The ends will flare out slightly with a hint of ruffle, which is a bit more feminine than I usually choose so this will be fun!
The scarf starts with a "Provisional cast-on" using scrap yarn (mine is red) which marks the center of the scarf. Once I knit down and complete one flared end, I will remove the red yarn and have live stitches to put on my needle in order to knit the other half. The yarn, a lace weight Malabrigo, is a baby merino wool. Yummy!

Before all the craziness of the weekend hit, I got busy preparing materials for the upcoming Brownie year. Our parent meeting and registration is on the 21st, with our first girl gathering on the 31st, so I get to play "teacher" and get my "classroom" and supplies ready!
I made folders for the parent information (yellow) and a folder for each girl (green) as well as a bunch of Brownie Beanies for the kaper chart! (Last year each girl had a Daisy flower with their name on it to show which job they had at the meeting - this year is the laminated Beanies.) We are really going to focus on having the girls be responsible for their own belongings this year, so I also created a "I can pack my own Brownie Bag!" checklist for them to keep. It lists the meeting dates and what should be packed in their bag for each one. No more "my mom didn't pack my folder" excuses!

I also updated and created new laminated posters for my display chart that I bring to each meeting:
Thank you, Powerpoint! I worked on the materials needed for the Parent folder, and have just about finished tweaking the material order form, calendar and volunteer info, etc. I do love all the administrative tasks, I must admit. :)

My bamboo skewers are done soaking so it's time to assemble the chicken/snow peas. Then I can put the prepared feta mixture in my tiny scooped out new potatoes and assemble the Caprese skewers (fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes.) Then I'm home free until 6pm! There will be much white wine consumed this eve, methinks. ;)