I wanted another baby so badly. Your brother was ten months old, and I was surprised to find that I was ready to do it all over again so quickly. Ready for more sleepless nights, more feedings, more diapers. Especially ready for more snuggles, more gummy grins, more baby toes. I thought about all these things, not knowing that I was already pregnant with you.
When I found out about you, I knew immediately that I wanted to have another boy. I imagined you and your brother growing up together. I wasn't surprised when the ultrasound technician told us, "It's a boy!" It was as it should be.
It is hard for me to think of you as a baby and not get a big lump in my throat. (Yes, my eyes are filling with tears as I type this.) You were the most precious baby. The type of baby that "Baby Whisperer" Tracy Hogg called the "Angel Baby". So calm. So peaceful. So sweet. You never made a peep unless you were hungry. You were a good eater, a good sleeper, a good snuggler, and a good smiler. I might've had a house full of babies if I could have ensured that they would all be like you.
That was before you discovered you were mobile. Then I had my hands full. Your brother would lay peacefully on his quilt and play with his toys as a baby, but not you. You were all over the place. Climbing, moving, playing. You couldn't sit still for hardly a minute in those days.
So long ago, and yet, just yesterday.
Last night just before bed you said to me, "Mom, this is the last official conversation we will have before I am a teenager!"
And I said, "Are you TRYING to make me cry?!"
I tiptoed into your room around midnight after you had gone to sleep and whispered, "Happy Birthday" as I kissed you on the forehead.
It is all at once difficult and amazing and wonderful to see your little ones grow up. I wish sometimes that I could keep you little, and yet, still I cheer you on. Fly! Fly high! Enjoy! Experience! You are more amazing, more perfect than you will ever know! You are loved more than anything in this world! Believe me when I tell you that.
I love so much about who you are. I love that you are uniquely you. I am so blessed to be your mom. Shall I tell you some of the reasons why?
1. You are so creative. You are able to brainstorm and think outside the box. You come up with such wonderful ideas. You are a wonderful artist and writer. I love your comic strips. I love your stories. You make me proud.
2. You have always had the best sense of humor! You started telling "Knock, Knock" jokes to anyone who would listen when you were barely three years old. You have great comedic timing. You never flub a punchline. You have brought so much joy and laughter into our lives!
3. You have the memory of an elephant. You remember EVERYTHING. Movie quotes, jokes, conversations, what you ate for dinner three weeks ago on Tuesday night. Whenever anyone in the family needs to remember a quote it's, "Where's Joel? He'll remember." And you always do.
4. You will listen to Christmas music anytime, anywhere. No matter the month. No matter the occasion. I love that. You carry Christmas in your heart. We all need some Christmas all year round.
5. That dimple in your chin! Oh, my goodness. Yes, I know I am probably embarrassing you now, but I love your dimple. When you were a baby, I used to poke it in the hopes that I could make it stay forever. I think it worked.
6. You are so talented. You can sing. You can dance. You can act. I was so proud to be the mom of the lead actor in Peter Pan and The Princess Bride. You never let stage fright get the best of you. You took those opportunities and soared. You amazed me!
7. I don't know what I would do without your encouragement. It doesn't matter what I am working on: skiing down a new run, writing a blog post, trying to decorate a birthday cake, making a quilt. You take the time to ask me what I am doing and then say something to encourage me. You care about people. You don't have to try. It's just who you are. Oh, that there were more people in the world like you. You make the world a better place.
8. You are a man who knows what he likes. It doesn't really matter to you what other people are doing. You don't look to others to make you happy. You are unapologetically you. I love you! And I love that even though we have lived in Colorado for close to two years, you still insist on wearing your Texas A&M ball cap.
9. You are always up for a chat over a cup of tea. You love tea like I love tea. (You ARE English, Irish, and Scottish, after all.) You like trying new teas, and I love that. I love baking you sweets, making you a new tea, and talking with you. You will be grown and gone and come home for visits, and I will still be making you tea. Always.
10. You like to stream television series on Netflix. You connect with the characters and the storyline, and you don't let go until it's over. Sometimes it's Chuck. Sometimes it's The Office. Sometimes it's Sherlock. I think you are the only one in the family who understands why I want to watch all the way through LOST. Again.
11. You like Weird Al. And Steve Carell. And Jim Gaffigan. You love to laugh. Remember your Snoopy laugh? The.best.ever.
12. You are patient. You have always been the child that saves his candy for a rainy day. Everyone else may have eaten all of their chocolate, but you have a nice big stash set aside. You will save money for something special and not blow it on unimportant things. You can wait. You keep the big picture in mind.
13. You are able to appreciate the joy in the journey. You slow down. You notice details. And in so doing, you teach me to do the same. I am a better mom because of you.
14. You are just cool. Any kid who voluntarily sits down and reads The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes is cool. End of story.
15. You march to the beat of your own drum. If we were the Rugrats, you would be my little Dil Pickles. *tears*
16. You are so kind, so caring. You are intuitive. If I am struggling or having a bad day, you are the first to see it. You are the first to ask me how I am doing. You are the first to give me a hug, a kind word. You are sensitive and empathetic. I am beyond blessed to have you in my life, Joel.
I could say more and more, because you are just that wonderful. I am so proud of you. God has such big plans for you. I can't wait to see you grow into them. I can't wait to see where life will take you. No matter where that proves to be, I will be here praying for you, cheering for you, loving you.
I wanted another baby so badly, and I am so glad it was you. I couldn't love you more than I already do. And I will love you like that always and forever. Happy Birthday, my dear Joel.
If you or someone you love currently (or ever in the past) lived a single day in the state of Texas, there's a good chance that you already know that yesterday, March 2, was Texas Independence Day. (Of course, Texas has its own Independence Day, Silly!)
How do I know that you might already know this fact? Because we Texans (Yes, I said, "we".) are just proud and obnoxious enough to make sure that we properly educate any and everyone that we know about these important matters. I don't know why Texans are the way that they are. They just are.
This fact was brought up over and over again in an episode of How the States Got Their Shapes. (We have been streaming some episodes of this entertaining show on Netflix over the last few weeks.) Did you know that some states got boundary lines because of rivers and waterways? Or botched land surveys? Or political rivalries? Or transportation? I didn't. Of course, I was most interested in watching one particular episode entitled "Mess With Texas". (Yep, it's SUPPOSED to be "DON'T Mess With Texas". Any self-respecting Texan knows this.) The episode shared all kinds of facts about the great state. There are historical facts about Remembering the Alamo and Six Flags. There are quirky facts about Aggies (*WHOOP!*) and anti-pollution campaigns.
One favorite fact, Texans don't drink soda. Or pop. Or cola. Texans drink coke. It might be a Dr. Pepper, an A&W Root Beer, a Coca-Cola or a 7-Up, but it's still called a coke. It is not at all uncommon to hear a Texan ask, "What kind of coke do you want?"
Why am I telling you this? (I am going somewhere with this. I promise.)
We were watching "Mess With Texas" one afternoon, when a map of the Republic of Texas appeared on the screen. Texans know that the Republic of Texas came into being after Texas declared its independence from Mexico on, you guessed it, March 2. The year was 1836. This made Texas an independent sovereign country in North America, complete with its own President and Vice-President. (It remained so until the annexation of Texas nearly ten years later.)
This was all being explained when the map of the Republic of Texas appeared on the screen.
After studying the map, you could've knocked me over with a feather. Do you see it?
"Lis! That's us!" said John.
Y'all, we live in the former Republic of Texas. A detailed map from 1845 shows our current beloved local landmarks. The Flat Tops. Rabbit Ears Pass. The West Elk Mountains. The big bend to the west described as the Yampa River. That's Steamboat Springs!
Of all the places in Colorado we could have landed...here we are. I go to sleep at night under the stars on land that Sam Houston once presided over. Sure 'nuff. Is it any wonder that every January Steamboat hosts a MusicFest called "Texas Week" where literally thousands of Texans descend upon our little ski town to hit the slopes and listen to live Texas bands at the mountain's base?
At the end of the Texas episode, the host asked a sweet gal from Dallas, "If I mess with Texas, what will happen?"
"You'll get your butt kicked."
And you will. Bless your heart.
Baking...Chocolate-Swirled Cheesecake Brownies. A little chocolately, a lot creamy, rich, and so, so good. Bonus: These are quick and easy to bake. Double Bonus: You don't have to bake an entire cheesecake to satisfy a cheesecake craving.
CHOCOLATE-SWIRLED CHEESECAKE BROWNIES
For the crust:
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. melted butter
3 T. sugar
For the cheesecake filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. flour
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
-In a medium-sized bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 3 T. sugar. Press firmly into the bottom of a buttered 8-inch square baking pan. Set aside.
-Place cream cheese, evaporated milk, 1/2 c. sugar, egg, flour, and vanilla in a blender container or food processor; blend or process until smooth. Set aside.
-Melt chocolate chips. Stir 1/2 c. of reserved vanilla cheesecake mixture into the melted chocolate until blended. Set aside.
-Pour remaining vanilla mixture over reserved crumb crust. Pour chocolate mixture over vanilla mixture; swirl with a spoon.
-Bake in a slow oven (300 degrees) for 40-45 minutes or until set. Cool. Cut into squares and chill to serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Makes 9 medium or 16 small brownies.
Reading (and Cooking)...Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole. I discovered this beautiful cookbook through one of my sisters. It arrived in the mail a week ago, and I have already made a couple of recipes from it, (Florentine Fried Eggs over Roasted Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto and Chicken Potpie in a Blanket of Puff Pastry), and have one scheduled for dinner tonight (Tuscan Chicken with Bacon and Italian Beans). I think I could eat chicken every day for the rest of my life and be very happy, but sometimes I run out of chicken inspiration and ideas. This cookbook has over 125 seasonally written recipes using, chicken and/or eggs, and they all look so good! The book also chronicles the author's adventure of keeping chickens for the first time. Highly recommend!
Hoping...for more ski days. We have a month and a half before the season is over.
Knitting...Snowfling Mitts by Tanis Fiber Arts. Still. I've been knitting these for months. They aren't at all difficult or even that time-consuming, but my elbow isn't happy at the moment. (Tendonitis, Fellow Knitters?) I do LOVE them, but I have a feeling that they won't be used this winter.
Wearing...Bandana Cowl by Purl Soho. My first stash-busting project. I bought this yarn on my very first ever yarn shopping trip. I was going to use it for a different project, but couldn't get gauge with it, so I set it aside until I could decide what to use it for. I love happy accidents. :) Bandana Cowl is a free pattern with clear instructions and the link to a wonderful tutorial on short rows. Knits up quickly in bulky yarn. Yay!
Ravelry notes here.
Loving...a beautiful wooden yarn bowl, given to me by my brother and sister-in-law as a Christmas gift. It is so soft and smooth, and it's my favorite.
Sewing...some of the 20 Projects that are especially for Emma's room. I am loving the dreamy spring colors and fabrics of these projects. Emma is wanting to do some decorating in her room. We are having fun!
Watching...snowfall. I am sure to be in the vast minority here, but I am so glad for this. We have needed more snow on the mountain and finally got some the last couple of days. It had been so long since we had seen a good snowfall, that I had forgotten how peaceful and calming it is to watch it float down from the gray skies.
Wishing...for a trip down to the Texas Hill Country some time during bluebonnet season. It won't be long before they are pushing up through the Texas soil. Just in case I can't make it there in time, fellow Texans, please enjoy those wildflowers for me. My heart is missing them.
My turn! Finally, after getting the kids their ski lessons and dealing with my own busy winter schedule, I got my rented boots and skis on and got on the mountain.
I was a little nervous. It had been seventeen (eighteen plus?) years since I'd taken a ski vacation. Yikes. I was really hoping that muscle memory would take over. I had my doubts on my first run down. (Yes, it was the easiest green run on the mountain.) I was shaky and my legs wouldn't do what I wanted them to do. I was afraid that it would prove to be a very, very long first day. I kept taking the same green run over and over, and on about my fifth trip down, something finally clicked. It started coming back. Whew!
I've had three ski days now. (Austin wins the record in the family with twelve ski days.) Each time I feel better and better, my legs feel a little more stable. I have fallen several times, (once because Austin plowed into the back of me on his snowboard. I told him he was grounded.) but, thank God, I've been able to get back up and keep going, mainly thanks to John helping me back up. Is it my age that I need help standing up after I fall with my skis on?
I am so loving it! I had forgotten just how much I love to ski. I'm sticking to the greens for now, but at least I am able to branch out around the mountain. Joel and I have become skiing buddies. We take the same runs and keep an eye out for each other. He's been such a sweet encourager to me. I don't know when (if) I'll try a blue this season. I don't have anything to prove. I'm just enjoying the ride.
Why I Love Ski Days
1. The anticipation I feel when I wake up. "I'm going skiing today!"
2. Riding the shuttle bus from the Meadows Parking Lot to Gondola Square. It makes me feel like I'm on a ski vacation.
3. Gondola Square. The pro shops, the restaurants, the fire pits, the General Store where we stock up on snacks.
4. The *CLICK!* that I hear when my ski boots snap into their bindings.
5. Riding on the chairlifts. As much as I enjoy riding on the Gondola, I enjoy the chairlifts much more. I especially love it when all five of us ride together on one chair on the Christi Peak Express.
6. The butterflies I get in my stomach when I start a run.
7. Plenty of powder. So that I don't slide on icy patches.
8. Cooling off at the top of the mountain after I have gotten too warm at the base.
9. Taking a break mid-day to get something hot to drink and a snack to recharge.
10. Taking quiet runs through the evergreens. I don't do well with crowded runs. I can hear people coming up from behind me, and it freaks.me.out.
11. Watching my kids enjoy the mountain. What a gift. So, so incredibly thankful.
12. That tired sore feeling I get in my legs. Yes, I love it. It tells me that I have been exercising.
13. Slopeside Grill. Our favorite Apres Ski Dining. Brick oven pizza. Mug Root Beer. (The only time I will pass on a Coca-Cola is when I can get a Mug Root Beer with pizza.) Warm and rustic. After a full day of skiing, it really hits the spot.
14. Cleaning up back at home. Hot shower. Pajamas and slippers. The fireplace.
15. The sleep I get at night after skiing all day. Warm, drowsy, worn out. It's the best sleep I have had since moving here.
16. Knowing I'll get to do it all over again the next time.
"The shadow from the starlight / Is softer than a lullaby / Rocky Mountain High" - John Denver
Music has always, always been an important part of my life, whether I was listening to it, playing it, or singing it. I sing all the time. All.the.time. My kids know this full well. I am regularly reminded by them not to sing out loud as we walk down the aisles of the grocery store. I am told not to sing along with the soundtracks of favorite movies or the theme songs of television shows. (Gilmore Girls. Tell me, how am I supposed to just sit there and not make a peep while Carole King sings "Where You Lead"?) People say things in conversation that immediately remind me of a song lyric. My husband teases that, to me, life is just one big musical. Well, of course it is!
I borrowed the idea of this journaling list topic from the blog Get the Words Out . Songs and the Memories They Hold. Oh, couldn't I write a book full of them?! Songs have a way of taking you back to such specific times and events.
Play Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" or Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and I am nine years old at the roller skating rink with one of my best friends (Shelly or Cammy) getting cokes and candy at the snack bar, giggling about cute boys, and wishing that I had a cute boy to skate "Partners Skate" with. (Although I would have been fine settling for Shaun Cassidy.)
Play any song from Randy Stonehill's album Equator and I am twelve years old at summer church camp. My friends and I are swimming, jumping on a trampoline, playing games, and, oh yeah, giggling about cute boys. Songs like "China" and "American Fast Food" are playing over the sound system. I go home at the end of the week, collect my babysitting money, and purchase the album on cassette tape. My first ever music purchase.
When I hear "If You Leave" by OMD, I am immediately transported to all things "80's". I am fifteen and at a formal school dance. I am in a red dress and high heels and I wear a wrist corsage of white roses. My date is in a tuxedo. The hotel ballroom is darkly lit. Everyone is excited. Dinner is served. The DJ is playing a mix of Duran Duran, Madonna, Thompson Twins, and Huey Lewis and the News. Hair (big bangs!), makeup, jewelry, and the smell of Polo by Ralph Lauren cologne are everywhere. I have a big crush on my date, but to him, we are only friends. My heart beats fast, my stomach is full of butterflies, but he doesn't know. Oh, the melancholy. Why must I be a teenager in love?
Then there are memories of my wedding day when I hear Steven Curtis Chapman's "I Will Be Here", remembrances of Joel singing to me in his toddler years when I hear Bobby Darin sing "Beyond the Sea", events of adulthood which permanently placed Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" on the soundtrack of my life. I could go on and on, but when I sat down to write this post, one memory stood out above the rest.
"Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" - The Avett Brothers
It was a warm Sunday morning. A rare and beautiful sunny spring day in Texas. Not too hot, not cold. Blue skies full of white puffy clouds. But I was indoors. The music team was setting up for Sunday service on the stage of the school's auditorium where we met every week. The speakers, the monitors, the mics, the instruments all had to be set up. Maria and I had set up our mics and music and now stood waiting as the musicians did the more involved work that their instruments required.
Jason, the bass player, walked in the through the back doors of the auditorium. I heard his voice before I could see him.
"Hey! There's a cardinal trapped in the foyer!" he said.
Now, I love cardinals. Love them. He had my full attention. "What?!"
"Yeah. It's flying around the foyer and can't figure out how to get back outside."
I looked at our leader, Kelly, expectantly. He nodded. Your part of set-up is done. Go ahead. Go check it out.
Maria and I rushed up the long aisle of the auditorium, through the double doors, and into the foyer. There straight in front of me I saw him. Vibrant red. Beautiful. And terrified. He was sitting in front of one of the several huge panes of glass that ran from ceiling to almost floor in the front of the building. He was looking outside, and then he suddenly threw himself into the glass trying to get to the world that he saw beyond it. I was afraid he would hurt himself. Maria and I stood and watched as he swooped up to the ceiling and flew back and forth the width of the room almost as if he were pacing. He couldn't find his way out. The glass double doors leading to the outside were there. He just didn't see them.
I was transfixed by him. I wanted to help him so badly, but what could I do? Perhaps he could tell his frantic flying wasn't working, or perhaps he was tiring himself out, but he finally landed on the same window sill that I had first seen him on. He threw himself into the glass again. Wings flapping wildly. Beak tapping. He called out. But he was trapped. He fell back down onto the sill stunned and tired. I could feel tears in my eyes. And then I stepped forward slowly and deliberately trying not to scare him. I wasn't sure what I could do. There was no way he was going to let me pick him up. But he did.
I reached my hands forward and gently but firmly grasped him in front of me. He didn't fight. I lifted him up from the window sill and held him out in front of me in shock. "I'm holding a cardinal!" I thought. I could feel his heart beating rapidly in his chest. I could feel his quick short breaths. His bone structure was so delicate, his feathers so soft. He didn't peck at me. He didn't try to flap his wings. He made quiet, little, pitiful, soft chirping sounds. My heart was hurting for him. He must have been so scared, but I knew what he didn't. His fight was almost over. Freedom was coming.
I walked slowly to the glass double doors that led outside, talking quietly and calmly and softly to him all the way. "It's okay. I've got you. It's over now. You are safe. You are beautiful. You are okay."
I got outside to the front porch and slowly cupped open my hands. He sat still for a couple of seconds, looking around and getting his bearings. Suddenly I felt his muscles tighten as he spread his red wings and flew straight up into the high branches of a nearby oak tree. He was safe. He was free. After a minute, he flew across the big, never-ending Texas skies.
It was then that I realized that my heart was pounding, too. My hands were slightly shaking. I looked up at Maria. Both of us were wide-eyed. Neither of us said a word. We walked back to the auditorium's stage and told the team that the bird was free. Set-up was almost complete. I stood and thought about that bird and how deep my emotions went.
I was that bird. I had spent years flying around in circles looking for freedom. I had thrown myself into obstacles trying to release myself from my cage. Oh, we all have cages. Some are forced upon us. Some are put in place by our own doing, and some are sadly put in place by our own choosing. But no matter how we ended up in them, all cages bring hurt. I, like that cardinal, had sat staring outside at the big blue sky, longing for what I saw there. Colors, breezes, warmth, sunshine, white clouds. Freedom. I didn't know how to get there. My efforts had only left me exhausted. I cried. And Someone heard me.
While I sat tired, afraid, and broken, I was picked up by arms bigger than my own. I was held in gentle but firm hands and carried to freedom. He knew the way. He spoke truth quietly, calmly, and softly to me. "You are okay." He did it all. I sat dazed but comforted in His hands. And now He beckons me to fly.
This happened about five years ago, but every time I hear "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise", I remember. I don't know what Seth and Scott Avett were thinking about when they wrote this song, (I'm sure it had nothing to do with cardinals.), but I know what it means to me.
James Avery Jewelry in Texas has a silver charm of a cardinal that I want to add to my charm bracelet. The next time I am back, I will buy one.
"There was a dream / And one day I could see it / Like a bird in a cage / I broke in and demanded that somebody free it." - The Avett Brothers
My mother-in-law's birthday is this week, and as a way to say "I Love You", I wanted to journal ten things that I have learned from her in the last sixteen years. Libby welcomed me into her family and into her life from the beginning. I am so very thankful for that. We share a love of fabric, a love of quilts, and a big love for my little family.
Things I Learned From My Mother-in-Law
1. Handmade is always best. Be it a quilt, a Christmas stocking, or a batch of cookies.
2. What it means to "fussy cut". Definitely a benefit of making your own quilt. Or pillow cover. I do so love fussy cuts.
3. Quilt battings are not created equal. Depending on the fiber content, the batting may shrink, it might make a nice "heavy" winter quilt or a "light" summer quilt. Choose wisely.
4. How to build, keep, and use a fabric stash. Always shop the sale fabric bolts. Stock up at the end of the season. Buy at least a half a yard. If you really love it, buy a yard or two. "Shop" your own fabric stash and fabric scraps when planning a new quilt.
5. Keep fabric scraps. You just never know when you might need one.
6. Keep your children's favorite books and toys. One day your children will want to remember what they played with. So will your grandchildren, because it's kind of fun to imagine your parent as a little kid. Good memories.
7. It's okay to stray from the pattern. Use your own color scheme. Add personal details. Use the elements you like and subtract elements you don't like. It's called "creativity".
8. How to make a pot of chili.
9. And the perfect sweet Southern cornbread to go with it. It's so good, it's like having dessert with dinner. (Recipe here.)
10. Country Girls have more fun. They know how to bake from scratch. They love animals. They don't mind getting a little dirt under their fingernails (and they have the gardens to prove it). They say "y'all" (well, at least they do in Texas). They own cowboy boots. They work hard, and they play hard.
Happy, Happy Birthday to you, Libby! I hope you enjoy your day and find some time to be spoiled! Wishing you your best year yet! We love you!
"Whoever said 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend,' never owned a horse."
I dreamed every winter of my childhood of snow and cold. That way I could wear scarves and mittens and hats and boots and sweaters every day. I could always find fall and winter clothes at the mall that I wanted to buy, but when the new spring and summer lines would start showing up on the racks, I would walk around and around in circles and leave with nothing. Spring and summer clothes seemed so, well...plain. I loved one particular sweater of mine so much that I wore it outside one summer day to talk to a friend. I lasted all of ten minutes before I couldn't take the heat (or my sweat) any more.
Even though we only enjoyed a few weeks of cold temperatures every year, I wanted to learn how to knit, so that I could knit all the sweaters that I so wanted to wear. One year, I thought my dream would come true. A young woman from Austria came to live with our family for a time. She could knit! So one afternoon we sat down with yarn and needles, and she did her best to teach me, but I just couldn't get the hang of it. Truth be told, I think I lacked the patience and perserverance to stick with it. In my mind, I just couldn't knit. I couldn't do it.
Twenty-five years later I still wanted to learn how to knit. Maybe I could give it another shot, but I didn't know anyone who could teach me. John and I had just started attending a new church. It was uncomfortable for me. I had lived and worked and shared and studied with the same group of friends throughout my adult life. I had had plenty of friends and a very full calendar, but things had changed. Now I was the New Girl. I knew no one. My days and nights were spent at home with three little ones. I discovered in this new situation just how much of an introvert I was. I discovered how difficult and awkward I felt trying to make new friends. I discovered that I didn't like being the New Girl.
It was an effort for me connect, and I wasn't finding an immediate pay-off. Perhaps it was all me. Perhaps it was partly the blame of current culture with its texting and facebooking. It seems fewer and fewer people connect face-to-face. But there was a baby shower at the new church coming up. I could go to a baby shower and sit with my one friend and hope for the best.
The mom-to-be started opening adorable little baby gifts. One particular gift caught my attention especially. It was a baby hat, handknit to look like a pumpkin! Someone there knew how to knit! Turned out, it was my Forever Friend Carolyn. But I didn't know that then. What I did know was that surely I would have some things in common with the maker of that hat. No, I didn't knit, but I loved crafting. Surely we would find some common ground.
At the end of the shower I walked out to my car. I had had a few nice conversations with other ladies, but now I was second-guessing myself and those conversations. Then I looked up and saw Carolyn walking to her car parked on the street a few car lengths ahead of mine. And then I sat and argued with myself. I should go introduce myself. But I hate introducing myself. Maybe I'll see her at church and meet her then. But, why not now. This is silly. I shouldn't be nervous. But I am the New Girl. I'm not used to being the New Girl. *sigh*
Before I could chicken out, I jumped out of my car and walked quickly up to unsuspecting Carolyn. I can only imagine how odd it must have looked to her. Here comes some woman walking purposefully up the street, making a beeline for you, smiling. (In fact we have laughed about it since!) But I did it anyway. I introduced myself to nice Carolyn, but because of conflicting Sunday schedules we didn't talk again for another six months.
Small Group sign-ups started up that spring, and John and I soon discovered that we had signed up for the same group as Norm and Carolyn. Little by little, week by week we connected with the most amazingly wonderful families in that group. Families that John and I dearly love. Friends that have stood by us, encouraged us, made us laugh, helped us move, loved our kids. The awkwardness of being the New Girl is nothing compared to the joy those wonderful friendships continue to bring.
One day I got up the nerve to ask Carolyn if she would maybe, possibly be willing to teach me how to knit. I didn't want to be a bother to her. Her reply surprised and delighted me. "Of course I'll teach you to knit!"
She told me that she had taught many people to knit. All she needed was fifteen minutes, some yarn, and some needles. I'd be knitting in fifteen minutes, she said. It took me all of five. Five minutes and a good, patient, encouraging teacher.
She taught me about the love of a good yarn shop (Park Avenue Yarns in League City, Texas!). She taught me about gauges and yarn weights and fibers and blocking.
I practiced and practiced for the next two days and then walked up to her at church that Sunday morning and said, "Now teach me to purl." And she did. I practiced and practiced some more. And I made mistakes. I hated those mistakes. A perfectionist always hates her mistakes. I had somehow managed to make a hole in my work. I sat and stared at that dumb hole. I didn't want Carolyn to see that I had messed up and made a hole. But I wanted to learn how to knit. Badly. So badly, that I would risk Carolyn's disappointment. I would show her my mistake. "After all," I reasoned. "She's nice. She'll correct me, but she'll surely be nice about it. Right?"
I showed her my progress that next Sunday, and I showed her my mistake. I told her that I didn't how what I had done to cause it. I would try harder. Practice more. She took one look at that hole in my work and said, "You made a buttonhole! Look at you! A buttonhole!" And she smiled. And she hugged me. And I soaked that grace up like the dry and thirsty sponge that I was.
So, you see...for me, knitting is grace. Each project takes time (sometimes a very long time). It takes patience. It takes stick-to-it-ive-ness. I make mistakes. Every new technique is a challenge at first, but I learn. I don't hate those mistakes anymore. I am learning that those mistakes make me a better knitter. They can be fixed. And when those mistakes have been fixed and I have been patient with the process, I am left with a beautiful piece of fabric art. Of course, the analogy is not lost on me.
Yes, knitting is calming. It is peaceful. It is my very, very, very favorite to hold a ball of soft yarn and a set of smooth wooden needles in my hands. I love to hear those needles *click*, *click*. I love to knit cables. Now I can make myself all those scarves and mittens and hats and sweaters that I always wanted to wear. But when I sit down with a cup of tea, some pretty yarn, my needles, and a new pattern, those aren't the things that I think about. Sweaters are why I learned. Grace is why I continue.
I love to read, and thankfully, so do my kids. Is there any better time to curl up with a good book than winter? A cup of tea. A roaring fireplace. A warm quilt or blanket. And a good book. Yes, please! Books that are set in winter are especially wonderful to me. So cozy, so magical.
Favorite Winter Children's Books
1. Charlie and Lola: Snow is My Favorite and My Best. Written by Lauren Childs. Oh, I love Charlie and Lola. So much. The books. The cartoons. The British accents. The way Lola expresses herself. Just adorable! And snow really is my favorite and best, too.
2. Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic. Written by Steven Schnur. The Alphabet Acrostics make up a wonderful series of books on the seasons. I bought this book when we still lived in Texas, partly because I wanted to show the kids what winter looked like in other parts of the country, and partly because I wanted to show them the beautiful poetry.
3. Over and Under the Snow. Written by Kate Messner. We found this wonderful book at our library here in Steamboat and fell in love with it right away. It has been so fun to see the wildlife here in the winter, and to know that there are all kinds of animals right underneath our feet when we go out for a walk in the snow.
4. The Long Winter. Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. What's not to love about a "Little House" book? I love the Ingalls family. (Emma was especially happy to find that Almanzo shows up in this story.) This book is so amazing to me, especially after moving to a mountain climate. Laura shares that their "long winter" lasted from October to May. Our winters are long, but we are prepared and expecting it. I am so very thankful for our heated home, a pantry of food, warm clothes and snow boots, and every other daily blessing that sees us through our winters.
5. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Written by C.S. Lewis. Oh, the imagery and the symbolism. Amazing. I love all of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, but this book in the set is my favorite. A wardrobe. A snowy world with odd Mr. Tumnus. Turkish Delight. The victorious triumph of the Overcoming King. Just magical.
"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.
"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."
6. Owl Moon. Written by Jane Yolen. I love Jane Yolen. This is my favorite of her many, many children's books. She makes me feel like I am right there in the middle of this story. I have never gone owling, but now living in a cold, snowy rural setting, I can imagine what it must be like. The illustrations in this book are well worth the Caldecott Medal that they earned. Beautiful!
7. Bear Snores On. Written by Karma Wilson. You knew I was going to have to include a bear book. Bear sleeps and sleeps while the winter blasts all around his cozy den. His woodland friends find refuge from a winter storm in the cave. They put the kettle on, make black tea, and pop some popcorn. They throw a party. But Bear snores on...
8. Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates. Written by Mary Maples Dodge. When I was a little girl, my grandmother, Nana, gave me a set of classic children's literature books that she had purchased. I loved how all of the blue bound volumes looked lined up on my shelf, but I didn't fully appreciate their content until a few years later. Then I devoured them. Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, just to name a few. It was through these books that I discovered how much I loved to read. Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates was a favorite. Hans tries to win his little sister a pair of beautiful silver ice skates by winning a skating race on a frozen canal in Holland where they live. This story had me at "ice skates". I loved figure skating even before Brian Boitano came along.
9. Little Women. Written by Louisa May Alcott. A sentimental favorite of mine. I love it so, and I can't wait to introduce it to Emma. My sisters and I have long seen each other in Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in so many different ways. (Can you guess which I was always compared to?) I have lost count how many times I have read Little Women, and I loved Little Men and Jo's Boys, as well. My definite favorite of all the books that Nana gave me.
10. The Snow Globe Family. Written by Jane O'Connor. This is such a great book! It tells the story of a little bitty family living inside the Victorian house inside a snow globe and what happens when their snow globe gets shaken. They get excited every time a child shakes the globe, because it means they get to enjoy a fresh snowstorm. So wonderful. And so out-of-print, I'm afraid. If you can find this at your local library, pick it up!
11. Bearsie Bear and the Surprise Sleepover Party. Written by Bernard Waber. Another out-of-print book. This book is my hands-down favorite of this entire list. I can not even begin to guess how many times I have read this book aloud over the years to my kids. It was a favorite of every one of theirs during their younger years. Bearsie Bear is warm and cozy in his log cabin, but Moosie Moose is caught in a terrible storm whipping around outside. He wants to sleep over. But so do Foxie Fox. And Goosie Goose. And Cowsie Cow. Which is all fine, until Porkie Porcupine shows up! Oh, I can still hear Joel's little toddler voice reciting the animals' names. Someone please pass me the Kleenex. And tell my kids to come give me hugs.
Do you have a favorite children's or young adults' wintertime book that I can add to my children's reading list? Or a favorite adult wintertime read that I can add to my reading list? Please do share!
"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." -C.S. Lewis
I love to journal, but admittedly, I don't always take the time to do it. I think one of those "One Sentence A Day" journals would be fun, but I find myself loving the idea of list-making as a way to journal lately. Maybe this is why I have always loved the part in The Sound of Music when, during a thunderstorm, Fraulein Maria (Julie Andrews!) captures the hearts of the VonTrapp children and sings:
"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens/ Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens/ Brown paper packages tied up with strings/ These are a few of my favorite things/"
What else is this but happy list-making?
I would love to share a journaling list each week, and in turn, I would love to hear your thoughts! Want to play along? If so, feel free to leave your thoughts as a comment, or leave a link to your own list on your blog.
List 1: New Year's Resolutions
2. Organize. Using this guide week-by-week.
3. Knit my yarn stash. No yarn purchases, unless I need some to finish a project or make a gift. I have 17 favorite patterns all ready in my Ravelry queue that I can make with the yarn I have stashed.
6. Exercise daily. Make it a habit. Walk the trails in the summer. Snowshoe the trails in the winter. 3 miles or 30 minutes a day.
7. Try new recipes. Especially from Steak With Friends: At Home, with Rick Tramonto (found here) and Our Best Bites (found here) and as many of the 40-something salads that I have pinned to my "Salads" board on Pinterest as I can.
9. Give thanks. Every day.
Did you make New Year's Resolutions this year? Did you post about them on your blog? Do you avoid making New Year's Resolutions at all costs? I'd love to hear!
Prayers and wishes to you for a 2015 full of much joy! Happy New Year and *hugs*! :)
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream" - C.S. Lewis