Monday, September 15, 2014

Tears of Our Lady...

{From the archives of 2009 for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows today.}

The memory of an idea past lingered in my head. Very simple in it's practice, yet complex, this sincere symbolic statement spoke volumes compared to more elaborate gestures. Perhaps it had to do with the rawness of little hearts as they have recently endured a tiny bit of the pain and sorrow that loss brings.

Squeals of interest and delight resounded in the room where we learn and live together when they saw the pretty yellow drops in the bowl. We talked about the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady and scratched them out on our chalkboard. I asked them to take the lemon drops, one at a time, and slowly savor them while contemplating each of the sorrows of our Blessed Mother's heart.

There will be layers of sour that might even cause you some pain alternating with layers of sweet to reward you for you perseverance. Try to think about the pain of Our Lady's heart and how she had to endure it even when the sweet reward seemed but a glimmer in the distance.

Silence was the order of the morning. One sorrow. Then another. They quietly embraced this exercise and I was amazed by their conviction.

Four sorrows had now been counted and consumed. The Crucifixion was in sight. Shortcake turned to me with brimful brown eyes and an equally heavy heart and said, "I don't think I can take one more."

Oh dearest, little one.... many times in life will these feelings haunt you. Hurting heart, bleary eyes, lingering pain so fresh that you can still taste it to the point that your trembling voice breaks the silence and cries out in agony, "I can't take one more!"

Our Lady knows.

I wonder at what point she heard those words echoing in her ears. Her grief had to be tremendous. But she was free from the stain of Original Sin. Wouldn't she have been strong enough? Wouldn't she have been brave enough? Yes, but she also grieved deeply. She had to be in pain; not the sappy sentimental grief that some artists depict but real, trembling, heart wrenching pain.

She knows.

And in knowing, she comforts us. She holds us while we wait for the sweetness.

Go to Mary, little one. She can't make it go away but like all good mothers, she wants to. Rest in her arms. She is strong enough. She is brave enough. She knows.

Friday, September 5, 2014

WWRW :: Getting my reading groove back...

I know it's Friday, I'm just late. 

I've been wanting to post about what I'm reading, but it's mostly been picture books. A LOT of picture books. BigBoy has been doing a weekly Chess Club at our library so Cupcake and I have been reading tons of books. Right now, Mr. Putter and Tabby are her absolute favorites. She especially loves it when we mix up the names in the story… Mr. Tabby and Putter or Mr. Pabby and Tutter. She just giggles with delight.

Getting back into a weekly library trip was a side benefit of joining the Chess Club that I was looking forward to along with getting some alone time with the younger two. We have reached that point where I can leave the oldest three (16, 15 and 13) at home occasionally, and it is… wonderful! Those of you with little ones who all need your help… you will get there, I promise you. (And then, you'll want to go back. Sniff, sniff.)

So, along with lots of Mr. Putty and Tabber, we've made ourselves acquainted with the new acquisitions shelf (new to our library, not necessarily newly published) and want to share some of them with you. Here is a quick run-down of the ones we've enjoyed:

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf… Perfect for fall coming up. Really delightful little story about a girl who names and cares for her most precious treasure… a butternut squash named Bernice. Bernice, being a squash, can't last forever so you might think you know where this story is headed, but the ending is a happy one. My favorite page was the exchange between Sophie and her mom…
When it was time to make supper, Sophie's mother looked at the squash. She looked at Sophie.
"I call her Bernice, " Sophie said. 
"I'll call for a pizza," said her mother.

The Yippy, Yappy Yorkie in the Green Doggie Sweater by Debbie Macomber and Mary Lou Carney… I admit I got this one thinking that Sunshine would like to read it to Cupcake. It's about a little girl who is worried about moving to another house and leaving behind her old town especially the yarn shop where she learned to knit a sweater for her little yorkie named Baxter. Of course, she finds new things to like about her new place including a new friend who has a yorkie and wants to learn to knit. This book is by the author of the Blossom Street series for adults. I don't know anything about those. We've read the other kids book that she's written, The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater that Grandma Knit, and thought it was cute. This one too was cute and might be something that someone who is moving might like for their kids… or someone who knits… or has yorkies.

Do you like Patricia Polacco's art? Some people do and some people don't. I admit that it's not my favorite style, but I still enjoy it and her stories that have an "Old Country" feel to them. This one is not a new one but it was new to us. G is for Goat is a really fun little alphabet book with an unusual theme. Goats. It is fiercely cute. Looking to introduce your little one to the alphabet and just can't stomach one more "A is for Apple, B is for Boat" book? Definitely check this one out!

Minette's Feast by Susanna Reich... Darling story about Julia Child's cat. Anyone else find it funny that her cat's middle name was "Mimosa"? I loved how well written this book was (I'm a sucker for alliteration in a children's book) and of course, all the biographical information they snuck in especially the loving relationship between Julia and her husband, Paul. While I may not agree that "a house without a cat is like life without sunshine" I know many cat lovers who would. There is a notes section in the back with more specific information and a glossary for some of the french words and phrases. This one might be one we decide to own someday!

Lastly, this is one that I shared with Miss JessicaSpice when she CAME OVER TO MY HOUSE on Monday!!! I know! In person playing and snuggling a tiny baby and eating and chatting… and we didn't take one picture, either of us. We are such bad bloggers, or maybe just better friends? I grabbed If You're So Smart, How Come You Can't Spell Missisippi? by Barbara Esham off the new shelf without really looking at it. Turns out, it's about dyslexia. I don't have a child with dyslexia, but if I did, this would be a great book to own. A little girl questions her super-smart lawyer dad why he can't help her with her spelling test and he explains to her what dyslexia is. She thinks about a little boy from her class who can't spell either and takes is upon herself to learn about all of the amazing accomplishments of some other people with dyslexia so that she can share them with him. It was a very interesting read. Cupcake liked the pictures but wasn't into the story much. BigBoy read it too and he said that he liked reading about all of the great people who had dyslexia. His favorites were William James, a psychologist, and Helen B. Tausig who was a doctor in the 1930's.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Red Knit Cap Girl Birthday

Yesterday, Miss Cupcake turned three. How did that happen? She was just born the other day, I swear. I blinked and now she's three.

~ The Inspiration ~

Please ignore the lightbulb in the background. That wooden bowl is my husband's domain and I just don't ask.

Have you heard of Red Knit Cap Girl  and Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue? If you have little ones in your life you must check them out. The art work is so pretty, I want to frame every page. These books have delighted Miss Cupcake and captured her imagination since we were first introduced to them. We decided to bring these lovely little stories to life for her birthday since Cupcake is a huge Naoko Stoop fan. There is a third book, Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree,  coming out that we can't wait to arrive (thank you, Auntie Jessica and Uncle Sean!), and these two board books, All Creatures Great and Small and Noah's Ark,  also illustrated by Naoko Stoop are must-have items in Cupcake's Mass bag every Sunday.  

I wanted to make a larger version of the adorable little doll Jessica painted for Cupcake back last Christmas. And I wanted Sunshine to try to make a real knitted cap for her. Sean helped whittle down the bottom of a standard 3 inch peg doll form in order to create the look of a short coat and boots. I painted a cap on her head, just in case, but Sunshine's fit perfectly. 

 ~ The Cake ~

I started with the cake. One of the cakes I considered for BigBoy's Narnia themed birthday was this beautiful representation of Reepicheep paddling his coracle to Aslan's Country. I wanted to recreate the scene with Red Knit Cap Girl, White Bunny and Polar Bear Cub sailing north so I found some paper that looked similar to the paper used in the books. I even sent Naoko Stoop an email asking if the paper folded boat was a real one or her own imaginative design. She wrote back! Squeeeee!!! I love it when authors do that. She said the design was her creation but sent me a helpful little drawing and message for Cucpake. I used this website's instructions for a paper boat (scroll down to the pink one) with some of my own modifications and used a skewer for the sail anchoring it into a chunk of Sculpey.

I wanted to try using some marshmallow fondant to make the ice chunks and unfortunately, used up more of my powdered sugar than I thought so I ended up not having enough to make buttercream frosting to cover the whole cake. Instead. I tinted some of the fondant blue and wrapped it around the sides so I could use the buttercream just for the waves on top. I have never cared much for fondant and now I know why… it was only because it wasn't homemade! Everyone liked it.

I think she liked it. 

~ The Decorations ~

We found an old red cap that I crocheted for Rain (it kind of looks knitted) to use for a decoration. She wore it for 2.1 seconds.

I wrapped her gifts in white paper to look like icebergs and covered the table in a white table cloth. We pulled out all of the Schleich animals we could find to match the characters in the book. Polar Bear Cub, Squirrel, Bear, Hedgehog, Polar Bear Mama but when it came to White Bunny, we needed something tiny and cute. We chose one of the Playmobil bunnies from this set.  I also used some more printed paper to make a telescope (from Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue) and some paper lanterns like the ones they made for the moon's party in the first book. We strung them up with little lights so that they really glowed.

Kinda hard to see but you get the idea.
And streamers… Daddy makes sure there are always streamers.

 ~ The Banner ~

I drew this picture to add a space between the words. Other than that, this was a super easy banner. I didn't even print it out, just wrote the letters myself with a large, red marker.

~ The Birthday Girl ~

One of her gifts… her own polar bear cub with a pink knitted scarf, boots and glasses. Why? I don't know but she loves her and named her Snowflake.

We love you, Cupcake!

Friday, August 22, 2014

7QT: Austin Adventures Cont'd

I never finished telling you about the rest of our Treeschooler's adventure. One of the deciding factors in making this commitment was that the day of the shoot was the day before my grandmother's 92 birthday… and in the same city! We hadn't seen Granny since Cupcake was about a year old. We surprised her by showing up at the restaurant where she thought she was just meeting her adult children. I think she was pleasantly surprised, don't you?

My aunt had displayed some family photos and I was so delighted to see this one. I don't think I've ever seen a picture of both of my grandparents looking so young before. That little guy is my dad, I think. I'm pretty sure because he looks just like my brother did as a kid. Although, it could also be my uncle.

I have always thought my oldest son looked an awful lot like my PawPaw, but also thought maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part since I loved my PawPaw so tremendously. (I'm tearing up just typing that.) This picture and the comments of some dear friends on IG made me believe that it wasn't just my imagination.
Afterwards, we headed to the Texas Memorial Museum because they promised DINOSAURS and a paleontology lab with a real, live paleontologist to talk to. Well, they delivered on the dinosaur bones part…
...and some really beautiful rocks and gems. But the Paleontology Lab was closed, much to BigBoy's dismay. :( Oh well. It was a pretty sparse museum, but it worked for us since we weren't trying to kill a lot of time there.

The next day, we headed over to Sean's sister's house to meet up with family and squeeze in a little baby cousin love.
This little guy was fussy with a capital F but so squishy and delicious to kiss!
It was a crazy busy kind of weekend but good. It made us think that we really need to plan a family vacation. I know summer's over, but we are thinking a nice fall vacation somewhere cold.
Anyone know anything about Missouri? ;)
{To clarify… this is not a reference of any kind to recent troubles in MO. We really and truly are planning a trip there to see some (we hope) beautiful fall colors!}

Now, it's back to grind of daily life. Some of the online classes the oldest two are signed up for start next week but The Professor's Latin 3 class has a translation due before the first class begins. (High school is hard!) I think we will be easing into the school year a little at a time instead of just jumping right in. Right before this picture was taken, The Professor walked through the kitchen, smiled and sighed saying, "It's good to be doing Latin homework again!" He's such a cute little classics nerd!

 On the feast of the Assumption, we attended the Ordination Mass of this young man, the newly minted Fr. Justin, O. Cist.. He was beaming!
We couldn't hang around for his reception so we waited to give him a gift at his first Mass.
Cupcake was so excited to give him a present. She insisted that she had to give it to him and watch him open it. I think she thought it was his birthday. It was so sweet and beautiful that even the professional photographer who was there came to take pictures of the scene. So I was only hugely slightly mortified when she asked why we gave Fr. Justin a necklace. It was a rosary. 


And speaking of rosaries… I was playing around with taking pictures "off auto" on my big camera the other day and thought this one turned out pretty good. This is a quote that I love (from the movie Shadowlands) that I had asked Kendra to go all "Picmonkey Crazy" on but knowing that she's got lots of little ones, I decided to play around and see what I could do with it. Of course, Kendra came through and even posted hers today. (I never should have doubted.) Thank you, Miss Kendra! Her printable prayers are really just amazing… all free and beautiful too. 

Whether it's the first of your school year or the last of your summer, have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Theme Thursday: Google Me

Cari is doing something fun for her link-up this week. Do a Google Image search for your name and post the first picture that comes up. Knowing that my married name is very common, I opted for my maiden name…

Yeah… that's not me. 

Cari said, "Bonus points for a screen shot of all the results."

OK then….
Nope… none of those are me either. Although it was fun to learn a little bit about that awesome lady there with the medals who is a bum-kicking Special Olympian! (I said "bum" because she's British.) She could run laps around me, that's for sure. And that formidable black and white lady in the corset (also British… apparently I had a very British name) was a Crimean War Nurse who Florence Nightingale once described as " a kind, active, useful nurse and a strictly sober woman."  I'm pretty sure that would sum me up too in most people's eyes. 

So, how about I try my first name and then my blog name? Is that cheating? I don't know. Only Miss Cari can decide. Her circus. Her monkeys.

Oh, that's better. Still not me but at least I recognize the faces and the pictures.

this guy.

BTW… in the interest of full disclosure, my married name brought up no pictures of me either. I guess I really am a behind the lens kind of girl. I'm good with that. If you feel like having a little fun, just google yourself and then head over to Cari's place.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My favorite treeschoolers!

So… remember yesterday when I just casually mentioned that everyone loved Katherine's Blossom Tee that Sunshine made... even television costume designers? Here is the rest of the story…

It's no secret that we are huge fans of Signing Time. We've been buying their products supporting their efforts for years, but most specifically, supporting their latest project, Rachel and the Treeschoolers. We have enjoyed these shows deemed "too educational for TV" so much that when the opportunity came up to be a part of the show, we jumped at the chance. It happened that one of the filming locations was in the same city and on the same weekend that my grandmother would be celebrating her 92nd birthday. The perfect opportunity for some family fun! Since they only film ages 2-10, both Cupcake and BigBoy were able to participate.

First up, BigBoy played the piano for them and filmed quite a few lines. He was really good at delivering lines on the first take. He might end up in multiple episodes. While he was being filmed, they decided on an outfit for Cupcake. We brought the Blossom Tee that Sunshine made for her with a little skirt. They loved it! The costume designer even went upstairs to chat with Sunshine about it, she loved it so much. The crew had already filmed so much pink on other children earlier and they like to have a color variety in the show, so putting her little green dress over it was a perfect compromise. They tried to get some solo shots of the Cupcake, but the boom (mic) was really bothering her so I'm not sure how successful those were. Then they moved on to some brother/sister scenes. One of them was with a paper airplane. The one you see being filmed below was doing an experiment with oil and water.
 The tall guy is Rachel's husband, Aaron Coleman). He is really tall!
 That's Alex's mom in the white visor. She was the director for the shoot and such a nice lady. 
 The lights didn't bother Cupcake as much as the microphone. 
 And then came play time! Rachel put on her Signing Time gear so the little ones would recognize her. She talked to everyone and took pictures. It was such a great experience. These people are the nicest, most down to earth people! Everyone was so friendly and helpful. It couldn't have been a better experience. So exciting!
Just a little souvenir from the scenes he filmed.
 Exciting and exhausting...
We can't wait for these episodes to come out. I think they will make excellent Christmas presents, don't you? (Hope everyone in the family thinks so too!)

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Knitting Post from Sunshine

I'm turning this post over to my knitting girl, Sunshine. She has been working as a test knitter for Katherine, testing out this adorable Blossom Tee pattern. It is beloved by her littlest sister and just about everyone else who sees it including costume designers for television shows (more about that later). There were many adults at a family party yesterday wanting one in their size! Katherine is offering a giveaway on her blog for the pattern if you are a knitter or know someone who is.

Now, I'm going to let 15 year old Sunshine tell you about her experience with the pattern…

 I had been knitting for a little over six years when Miss Katherine asked me to test knit the Blossom Tee pattern for her. I had knit one of her other patterns before, the Martinmas Sweater, and I was thrilled to test this one as well. I tested size 4 in Cascade Yarn's Ultra Pima Fine in Primrose for my little sister, Cupcake.
 The pattern itself is very clear and precise, perfect for a beginner knitter who is ready to move on from scarves and such to their first sweater. The yoke increases and the flower detail at the bottom of the sweater also introduce the knitter to very basic lacework. Very simple, yet at the same time, pleasingly challenging. 
 It did take longer than I would have guessed to knit this sweater, but only because of my gauge. I cannot stress enough how important it is that every knitter knows how to check their gauge before knitting on a project they want to turn out well. A friend of mine commented on gauge once, “Gauge: the bane of a knitter’s existence that miraculously saves sweaters from turning into tents,” and I whole-heartedly agree. It is crucial to check your gauge before, and even during, your project, because your tension might not stay consistent throughout your work. Checking your gauge will keep your tension in check and prevent you ending up with a garment that’s too big or too small. (Need I tell you about my first sweater that was much too wide in the middle with the sleeves hanging way past my wrists? I thought not.:) So, it took me longer to finish this project because I had to start over and pay closer attention to my gauge throughout, but it was worth it to get it right.