Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Of cabin fevers and other kinds of fevers

Tonight, our little Eva is sick with a fever. No other symptoms, just a fever. This is how her older brother's terrible bout with Kawasaki disease started four years ago. I am trying very hard to be strong and positive, but that good old Post Dramatic Stress is kicking in big time. I half wish I were an alcoholic and could drown my anxiety in wine tonight. But I won't, not even a glass. I want to be alert for the times she will wake up in the night, so I can come to her bed site, feel her sweaty forehead and have all my mother's intuition intact.   
On a more positive note, we have weathered snow storms and power outages this week with lots of pizzazz. We got so bored that we invented crazy games, like draping a sheep skin rug over ourselves, almost peeing ourselves laughing at one another.

Eva, or Tina Turner
Lukas, or Hagrid from Harry Potter.
Kai, or Sasquatch
Me, or, as Kai says, Lady Gaga
Steve, or Mister Neanderthal
Before the power went out (for 24 hours), I had started bread dough, which I couldn't bake in an oven that requires electricity. So Steve and I played around with the coals in the wood stove and got them to a point where we could put the bread in our chicken brick and bake it that way. I expected it to burn to a crisp, but guess what happened?
Dinner, that's what.

The snow storm brought lots and lots of the white stuff, and the boys went nuts in it. I have very old cross country skis and boots I hardly ever use, so the boys claimed them for themselves to practice fancy ski maneuvers with them. I can hardly believe that these babies of mine fit into my boots. It is inconceivable.
Steve had plenty of fun playing in the snow as well. He built a snow fort with the boys, in which Lukas insisted on spending the night. By himself. When Steve told me Lukas would spend the night in “The fort”, I thought he meant the enclosed, moss insulated, windowed, and roofed tree house fort. I was not happy about the idea, but consented, not wanting to be a boring old mother who doesn't let her kids do fun stuff. Then I realized that they were talking about the SNOW fort, and my face fell. I let him do it. He loved it, of course. Check off another rite of passage (for him or for me, you ask?).

I took this picture out of the barn in the morning when I fed the goats.  I had to wake Luke up in his snow cave - he was so cozy, and fast asleep.  Here he is, heading back in for pancakes.
When the sun finally came out and the snow started melting, we found ourselves at one of the wild creeks in our neighbor hood. Do you think kids can get fevers from being held upside down over a raging creek, for fun?

Sigh. Eva really liked it. Please do send positive energy and prayers her way tonight, will you? And maybe some for the PTSD mama, okay?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Steve's sweater

What do you give a man who already has everything he could possibly want?  How do you show your love to a human being who is inherently content and happy?  Enter my husband: He hates spending money just for the sake of spending it, and he doesn't want me to do it for him.  Can you imagine how hard it is to shop for him at Christmas, or for his birthday?
So here is what I came up with this Christmas: I was going to knit him a sweater.  I found a pattern I loved, and fortunately, so did he.  I let him choose the color for the sweater.
I finished it yesterday.  Steve loves it.  So do I.
He saw me knit it for two months and heard me curse and swear through it (cables and fancy construction techniques can challenge even an advanced knitter).  So he really knows how much this gift means, labored over by his wife for many, many hours.
Ohhhh, how I love this man!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Depression and some cures for it - at least in my neck of the woods

The backyard.  Snow doesn't stick around long most years, so you gotta take pictures quickly.  This was taken in the morning, and two hours later, the snow was gone.
It happens every year.  Just about now, in February, many of us Pacific Northwesteners get depressed.  It rains a lot, it's dark too much, and we are sick of the prospect of three more months of winter weather.
You know what I do to cope with this depression?  I let myself cry and fret, instead of asking myself what's wrong with me.  I eat chocolate... the strong, 85 percent kind.  I try to go for daily walks, get fresh air and a lovely view of the grey sky.  When the sun comes out, I frantically try to expose my skin to it.
And I dye wool.  There's nothing like color to lift depression.

I have been experimenting for years with dyeing wool naturally.  Lichen is a great and easy way to get color.  It's such a magical process, this alchemy of collecting lichen in the forest, simmering it on the woodstove for a day, and then immersing wool into it and letting it do its magic for several hours.  In the photo above, the brown-golden roving on the right has been dyed with lichen, and the yarn on the left was spun with it.  The shiny part is mohair.

Lungwort lichen

Another strategy for battling depression is knitting.  I can't wait to show you the sweater I knit for Steve.  It has taken a couple of months to complete, and it still needs to have a collar, but I can show you the parts I have blocked.  By next week, he will wear it.
I am also knitting hats for felting to stock up my inventory.  Christmas markets are good for me - people buy my hats, and I need to make more.
Another anti-depressant: find yourself a cute little girl who gives you flowers.
Aren't you glad I'm giving you so many tips to stay sane?

The blocked sweater front and back, plus a felted hat, drying in front of the woodstove.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The joy(s) of home schooling

Look at these boys! They are proudly showing off the bows they made with Steve on Saturday, when we hosted a bunch of homeschooled kids at our homestead to teach them how to make their own bows. Imagine a shop full of eight to eleven year old boys, red cheeked, rasping off wood from staves, joking and laughing, chatting and rough housing. I got to hang out with the moms inside the house, and every time I ventured out to check on the boys and Steve in the wood shop, my heart jumped with joy.
I adore these home schooled kids. They are so open, curious and well behaved. They look an adult in the eye and converse easily, respectfully, comfortably. They are used to being around adults and even enjoy our company, I can tell.

Lately, I have loved home schooling. Sure, I go through periods of freaking out and questioning our choices. But lately, things have felt so right. Our boys are happy and thriving. Not only academically (I am happy to say that in a recent test, they scored one and two grade levels above where they “should” be in math, and sky high in reading and writing). But it's not about academics for us. It's about helping them discover who they are and want to be, and fostering their talents and interests. It's about giving them the time and freedom to explore, work with their hands as well as their minds, and grab opportunities when they arise.

The other day, snow came down in huge, feather-like flakes. Instead of sitting in school somewhere, the boys built a snow fort with their Dad.  We went for a walk and collected ice from the creek.  They worked on their bows. They played their fiddle and keyboard for hours, without having to be prodded by us adults. They wrote pages upon pages of action stories, complete with comic illustrations.  I taught them how to make power point presentations on the computer, and they went wild with it.  The family has learned a lot about cougars, falcons, and rattle snakes since then.

People sometimes ask me what kind of curriculum we use. We love “Moving Beyond the Page”, which is similar to Oak Meadow and very big on literature.  I like teaching it because I get to read all the great books as well.  It includes an inter-disciplinary approach to language arts, science and social studies.
For math, we use Singapore.  I like it because it has a good teaching guide, explaining to the person who teaches the kid how to teach it.  For someone like me, who hates math, who doesn't have a natural inclination towards math and critical thinking, it's great.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bonfires and headaches

Alpenglow at the Skagit River
This has been one of those days when my heart feels so tender and grateful that it could burst out of my chest. All day long, I have had the house to myself, without any other person in it. It feels so peaceful and luxurious, and I have spent five consecutive hours on the sofa, reading and finishing a book that has grabbed me. My day started with a headache, so I drank a cup of coffee, which I NEVER do. That didn't stop the headache though, and I was worried it would spiral into a migraine. Ibuprofin came to the rescue (as well as hours on the couch).
I miss my children when they are gone, while at the same time really appreciating the quiet and orderliness of my house when they are not in it.

I think one of the reasons I feel so drained is our crazy day of working in the yard yesterday. We cut down several huge trees to make more space for the sun in my vegetable garden. The whole family was involved in this endeavor: cutting, dragging branches, loading them onto the truck, and then burning them in a huge fire. It was a looooong day, and I felt my age at the end of it. 
Eva helps
Steve and the boys are working hard
I used to be so proud of out-working “the guys” in years past, when I did hard physical labor with men my age (or younger). Now? I'm 41, and my body has limits. Thank goodness I am no longer driven by my old macho attitude of being better then “the guys”. Still, I have the tendency to push myself too hard when I work with my body, especially after the endorphins and sweat kick in. It's hard to pace myself. I'm a type A German, after all...
At the end of the day, we collapsed around the bonfire with some friends who stopped by.  

See the speck of moon above the flames?
Let me leave you with an image of Eva, tucked away in a house made from sticks and moss.
And then there's the felted hat I just finished, with a bird I needle felted onto it.  Have a great week!

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