The joy of secrets

Tonight, we have a secret. After a long night serving lobster dinners to hundreds of hungry people and then performing with the band to entertain them, our girl B is helping me with a most special surprise.

Almost ten years ago now, K started school and made a friend. For the last two years, that friend has been at a different school than K and they’ve spent rather less time together than they might wish. Tonight, they both turned out and helped their younger siblings serve lobster dinners to hundreds of hungry people for no other reason than they could.

Even though they weren’t in the band anymore.

When the event finally ended, K asked if his friend could sleep over since the stars had aligned and everyone was homework free and with no school in the morning to worry about. And when said friend arrived, I found out that not only did the boys spend the last few hours ferrying plates of lobsters around, they did it on K’s friend’s birthday.

So of course we have to mark the occaision, and what better way to do it than with a midnight surprise birthday party complete with chocolate cake?

So B and I scurried off to the kitchen and whipped up a cake which is baking in the oven even as I type these words. Shortly we will take it out, stuff it in the freezer for a rapid cool down, and whip up some icing. Our fabric garland will come out and get draped around the room and I’m sure I can dig up a candle or 14 somewhere, and together, we’ll sing and smile and eat cake at midnight in honour of a wonderful young man we’ve been priviledged to know since the ripe old age of 4.

 

Well, hello again!

Life has been rocketing along everywhere I look. In the garden, the first daisy of the season has bloomed, making a small flag of crisp white petals flying high over a sea of green and leftover brown from last year’s garden.

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Elsewhere, the yard has been sprinkled with tiny flecks of blue and white as the forget-me-nots are in full flower, both the blue ones and the white ones. They used to grow down near the creek at my grandmother R’s house and have always been a particular favourite of mine since childhood.

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In another few weeks once the bloom has past, I’ll be mowing them down for another year as while I adore the scattering of tiny blue flowers, I’m not so keen on the messy foliage they leave behind. Once they’ve gone to seed, they’ll be cut back and eventually smothered by other things coming into their glory in the garden.

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My favourite flowering spirea (whose name is, appropriately, bridal bush), once it’s tiny white flowers are done, is a lovely dark green cascade underplanted with stonecrop and cowslip and a dark-leaved lovely whose name I forget. For now though, the spirea is covered in little white flowers with perfectly round petals which it is prone to dropping onto anything nearby like confetti.

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Every time I go outside, I find something new greeting me with a cheery “Hello! Did you miss me?” and I am hard pressed not to answer back as I run my fingers over stems and leaves, bend down to sniff flowers, and dig my hands deep in the soil that will soon be providing farm-fresh nourishment for our little family. I may only have a small suburban yard, but oh, I do love it so!

We still have snow

Apparently, it is high time for Spring to officially kick Winter to the curb. How do I know this? Not because the temperatures have been flirting with positive numbers every other day or so. Not because my kids have abandoned snowpants and scarves and sometimes even coats lately. And most definitely not because in the sunniest patch of the backyard, there is a flash of rich, brown earth speckled with last year’s grass.

No, not for any of those reasons do I think it is officially time for Spring to get serious about doing all her Spring-like things.

You see, yesterday was my birthday. Because of that, friends and family both near and far wrote, texted, emailed, and called with their birthday wishes. It was a lovely outpouring of love and joy and it made my heart happy, as it always does.

But a good proportion of them did NOT ask “Are you having a great birthday?” or  “What are you doing to celebrate?” nor even “What did you wish for this year?” with faces shining with curiosity and voices full of fun.

Instead, their faces were a little more threatening, their voices less fun and cheery, and more “you’d better do what I say or I might just have to find a shovel to bury your body with.”

And what they said? It ran something like this:

“Would you wish for the snow to go away?”

and “Wish for spring already, would you?”

and even “Did you wish for spring? You’d better have wished for spring…”

Apparently Winter has overstayed it’s welcome and Spring had better get off her lazy arse and start to green things up a little before someone gets hurt. Or moves to Costa Rica just to escape the white stuff.

We’re all tired of winter, it seems. That, and a shocking number of my friends actually believe birthday wishes do come true.

Except for that girl we call B.  She did not have any opinion about the weather whatsoever. She had zero curiosity about what I might have wished for. Instead, she wanted to know if I realized that this year, mathematically speaking, as of this moment, I am officially four times her age and will remain so until the end of April, at which time our ratio will become a repeating decimal.

I love that girl.

And yes, for those who are curious, I had a wonderful day full of joy and love.  I ate cupcakes for breakfast, spent an hour or two with the company of a great book, had phone calls from several people I love, and went out for dinner at the pub and listened to a friend’s band, The Fake McCoys, play for an appreciative crowd, then stayed up long after midnight chatting with one of my very best friends. It was a wonderful evening to finish off an enjoyable day.

But sadly, no, I did not wish for spring. Spring is already here, you see, though hidden a little under all the snow. The sun is so much stronger than it was even a week ago. The trees are budding, the sap is flowing, and the birds are flirting like mad from their perches in the tree tops. Spring is here, my friends, no wishing required.

Instead, I wished for Summer.

The joy of learning

One of my most firmly held believes is that learning should be both lifelong and well varied.  I’ve heard it said that to get a Ph.D. is sort of like taking a giant sphere of knowledge, picking one tiny pinpoint on its exteriormost surface, then milking every last drop of knowledge from that one tiny pinpoint. You’ll know that one subject with more depth than you imagined possible, but you will also have restricted yourself to an extraordinarily limited perspective.

I don’t have a Ph.D.

This is probably a good thing, as I suspect I would very quickly start looking outside of my little pinpoint of focus and, like a kid in a candy store, ignore the jelly beans slowly melting into a glob of stickiness in my hot little fist in favor of tasting a chocolate lollipop or filling my cheeks with gobstoppers.

Every year, I endeavor to learn new things. Often, these things are completely disconnected from anything I’ve ever learned before. Sometimes they’re academic in nature. Other times, they’re of the more hands-on variety. Some take only minutes to figure out while others take weeks of exploring and trying and backing up and trying some more.

Lately, I’ve been finding myself heading back towards learning knitting. Oh, I knit plenty, and I knit a lot, but I learned a bunch of different things a while back and then stopped learning more knitterly things for a while. I’ve never knit a sweater other than a baby sweater, for example. I avoid lace like the plague after a couple of disastrous attempts at shawls which were probably a little too tangy for my skill level at the time. And I pretty much stick to a few basic stitches done in a few basic configurations.

In other words, I’m a boring knitter.

I’ve always told myself that it’s because I like crochet better. That I’ve been doing crochet longer. That crochet just makes mathematical sense to me in a way that knitting does not.

It’s all true.

But it’s all wrong, too.

So this year, I’ve signed myself up for a knitting class and already I’ve learned the most gorgeously wonderful thing that I think is my new knitting BFF sort of thing: the linen stitch.

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I’ve only just begun, but it has solved one of my most aggravating problems with knitting.

I love knitting and crocheting with variegated yarns.  There’s something so enticing about yarns whose colours shift and change, going from orange to red to olive green, then with a splash of turquois thrown in for good measure. But when you start working with them, they often fail to satisfy. The colours clump and pool, leaving puddles of one colour and splotches of another.  Before you know it, that wonderful painterly palette you so admired in the yarn shop has become your most detested project ever.

Yet when worked in linen stitch, the colours fade into each other in a much more organic way, preserving the painterly look of the yarn as it lay on the skein.

The irony of it is that the class I’m taking is on knitting stripes with various different textures and techniques.  The instructor introduced the linen stitch with a variegated yarn simply to teach the stitch before then teaching how to work it in single row stripes, then wider stripes.

So here I am, taking a class to move my knitting skills further ahead and not wanting to move forward at all past the first 4 minutes of lesson 3. I quite like knitting the linen stitch in a variegated yarn. In fact, I like it so much, I can’t stop doing it.

I really should finish the class and try my hand at a few stripey variations on common knitting patterns, but as it is an online class, I think I’ll just pause here for a moment. Just long enough to make a scarf, I think.

Or maybe two.

It’s a beautiful day

Outside, the sky is a lovely wash of blue peppered with fluffy clouds in just the right amount so the sun can play peek-a-boo all day long. It’s warm, too, with an official temperature of +1 degree Celsius, and the wind is playing nicely, bringing it down to a pleasant -6 with the wind chill.

Inside, I woke to see the most adorable picture of my nephews enjoying a picture book together at my sister-in-law’s house.  The birds are cheerfully seducing each other, I’ve almost finished another of the brimmed hats I’m enjoying making so much, my workday is moving along nicely, and I find myself in the sort of happy mood that has me humming random snatches of songs just because.

It’s a beautiful day both inside and out.

Lumps of snow

Every year since the kids were old enough to lift a shovel, they have built a snow fort in the front yard. Some years, it boasts walls built of bricks. Other years, you would be hard pressed to identify it as anything other than a mashed down bit of snow where someone was tramping around for a bit.

This year…

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This year, they’ve built a palace.

To the right, just behind the tree, you can see the remnants of the turret. It was quite a few rows of snow bricks higher, but then they decided they had a better use for all those bricks and it was promptly shortened by almost a metre.

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From some angles, it still looks rather like a lump of snow someone’s been digging in, but you can sort of make out the different rooms.

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What I like most about this year’s snow palace, though, is the entrance tunnel/pathway that perfectly lines up with not one but two archways if you’re standing just right.

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And seen from a high perch, you can better appreciate the entirety of the structure (or so I’ve been told, with firm instructions that if I was going to blog about the snow palace, I had to post aerial view photos. Not being overly adept with the quadcopter, I opted for photos taken from the guest room window on the second floor.)

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To give you a proper sense of scale, the snow palace takes up the entirety of our front lawn save for the front walk and that arch you see? On a rainy day in summer, I can walk under it while holding an open umbrella over my head. Without ducking.  When the kids and their friends are standing in their palace, I catch occasional glimpses of the pompoms on the tops of hats and little else.

It’s a wonderful thing, snow is. Though I must confess I am getting a teensy bit tired of all the cold.

 

 

On books…

We have a tendency towards keeping busy around here. Rarely do we find idle hands, both child-sized or adult. If we aren’t actively doing something together, we’re busy with our own projects that span a huge variety of interests.

If you walk around our house on any given day, you’ll find little vignettes here and there that show just what has been occupying us of late. From this Mama, you’ll see puddles of yarn with knitting needles or crochet hooks at the ready, bits of embroidery, the remnants of baking (for it never seems to last long), and the beginnings (or endings) of a project being shared with 30 girls at our weekly Girl Guide meetings.

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Elsewhere, you’ll find art projects and latch hook projects, beading, jewelery making, and little bits of origami.

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But one thing you can be sure of is that everywhere you look, there will be books.

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We have bookshelves all over the house. The family room sports three huge ones plus two skinny ones. Each child’s bedroom sports at least one, and the bedroom I share with The Man We Call Dad has two (and desperately needs another). In the basement, our craft room has an entire shelf dedicated to books of a crafty nature while The Man We Call Dad’s office and my office add another 4 to the count.

And yet despite all the bookshelves in the house, we constantly find ourselves running out of room for books.

A few years ago, I dove into the world of e-books and bought a Kindle. I love my Kindle. It’s the most amazingly wonderful way to carry a whole library with you wherever you go. I add to it regularly, using the Amazon free books list and subscribing to a couple of newsletters to acquire books for free or nearly so, but I also do spend my hard-earned dollars regularly on authors I love and books that come highly recommended by friends.

But as K pointed out last week, there’s nothing quite like the feel of a real paper book in your hands and as nice as the Kindle is, it just isn’t the same. Shortly after he made that statement, B reminded him that they both received gift cards to Chapters for Christmas that they hadn’t spent yet. And immediately after that, The Man We Call Dad announced that it was time for a trip to the bookstore.

You might think, knowing that our bookshelves at home are full to overstuffed in every room, that we had enough books. You might also think, knowing that our Kindle is practically a full-featured library in its own right, that we had more reading material waiting to be read than we have spare minutes left in our lives. And you might remember this post from just over a week ago where I mentioned having just gotten an entire pile of new books from B’s Scholastic book order at school.

Do we really need more books?

Silly question! Of course we do! And, armed with gift cards and spending money, we filled not one, not two, but three shopping bags full of books to read.

There was much debate about who was buying what since we all want to read almost everything the other people bought, but in the end it was all sorted out and everyone is eagerly anticipating reading and sharing and borrowing all around.

I had wondered, once upon a time, whether it would be weird watching my children read books I myself love to read as an adult. Whether I would worry about the violence in the books, or the sex, or the heart-wrenchingly sad moments that leave a tender-hearted person feeling just as devastated by fictional events as they might be by real events, if only for a moment.

But I find myself so crazy proud of my young readers and thrilled to be sharing my most favourite books with them as well as discovering new ones together. It provides so much fuel for conversation and thoughtful exploration of the world we live in, with all its good bits and bad, its sorrows and joys. When I see my children tucked into a corner with a book in hand, expressions intent and focus absolute, I am certain that in this, at least, I have done something right.