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…

IMG_3672

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.

IMG_3673

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.

IMG_3674

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.

IMG_3675

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.)

IMG_3680

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.

IMG_0665

DSC_0031

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

IMG_3515

IMG_3516

IMG_3517

IMG_3518

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

IMG_3519

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.

Survival instincts

It is cold outside today.

It’s the sort of cold day that I’ve written about before — so cold you shiver just contemplating going outside. When I checked the weather app on my phone early this morning, it informed me that an extreme cold weather warning was in effect.

In bold white letters on a background of red emblazoned across the middle of the app’s screen so you could not possibly miss it.

The wind chill was -40 in the oh-dark-thirty hour, and -37 when that girl we call B left for school. The sun is blazing out of a clear blue sky, giving the illusion of a beautiful day, but I know the truth, and the truth is bitterly, bitterly cold.

Which is why our eldest child took one look outside and announced that since it was a PD day for him, he was going to spend the day battling tanks, chasing aliens, racing cars, and other such things on the Xbox.

A good plan for a day like today.

Our youngest child though? I have to question her sanity. She hummed her way through her morning routine, not having the day off like her brother, then called out a cheerful “Bye, Mom!” seconds before she slammed the door closed behind her and ran down the road to school. By the time I made it from the room I was in to the front door in hopes of a hug, or at least a shouted “Love you! Have a great day!” down the street, she was already well out of sight.

School is only a couple of blocks away – a 10 minute walk or so if you’re chatting with friends, shorter if you’re in a hurry, and less than 5 if you flat out run and cut through the park for good measure.

But the park is buried under a meter or so of snow pack, making it harder to take that shortcut. And when you have to walk the long way around the park, it is a good 10 minutes at least, though less if you’re walking fast.

I do so very much hope that she was walking fast, for when I turned away from the door (and the bitterly cold air that was pouring into the house at high speed, leaving a cloud of whitish mist in its wake), I spied a pair of dark gray B-sized snowpants still neatly hanging from their hanger.

She left the house without her snowpants, dressed only in her favourite pair of dark green cargo pants decorated a-la-Kaylee.

The Man We Call Dad and I looked at each other and sighed, knowing that with teenagers, some lessons just have to be learned the hard way.

But recess will be indoors, given the temperature, and it’s slowly warming up besides. By the time she heads home again this afternoon, it will be a balmy -19 with the wind chill at a mere -28.

And hopefully our B will have learned a valuable lesson about the importance of having healthy survival instincts, though I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll be having the same discussion about the importance of dressing for the weather for a few more years to come.

Tiny little things

I like little things. Tiny bits of embroidery, small seedlings just poking up out of the dirt, and of course wee newborn babies. All of these things charm my heart and make me smile no matter the time of year or who they belong to.

I like little toys, too. Little cars crafted of Lego? Tiny little Playmobil accessories? Adorable. (Unless they happen to be directly underfoot. Then they’re just ouchy.)

Little birds? Incredibly sweet and oh so delightful.

Little food? Well yes, I have recently discovered that I like little food too, and the teenier, the better.

When I was a child, I always felt that one of the biggest benefits of going to school was the existence of the Scholastic book club. Every time the teacher handed out those familiar flyers printed on terribly inky newsprint prone to smearing all over your hands, I was in heaven.

I would pore over those inky pages, pencil in hand, circling all the books I wanted to buy. (Hint: That would be all of them.)

As an adult, I’m not sure my reaction to those flyers has changed all that much. In fact, now that I not only have my own children to buy for, but also nieces and nephews of varying ages, the urge to spend my entire week’s paycheck on books gets pretty strong by times.

When B brought home not one, but three Scholastic flyers last month, we couldn’t resist ordering a few books. We got books about history for the most part, with World War I and the Underground Railroad being the topics of choice. But tucked in with the others was this little gem:

DSC_0007

It came as a kit complete with polymer clay, a bracelet, and little metal eyes and jump rings for fastening them to the bracelet.  Before I could blink, teeny tiny food was filling our kitchen table.

DSC_0010

DSC_0009

Shortly thereafter, a serving of milk and cookies was adorning B’s wrist. Along with a gumball machine, because who doesn’t need a gumball machine dangling from their arm?

DSC_0008

I’ve always loved books that inspire my kids to take action. And when that action involves crafting and creating and teeny tiny treats made by one of the people I love the most?

I’m positively charmed by them.

 

Another horse, of course!

Another horse has come to life under my fingers and I couldn’t be happier. This time around, the underbelly is a different colour of felt than the rest of the horse, and I rather like the look.

DSC_0006

The mane and tail are a lovely curly merino wool, and the body is Eco-fi felt which is made from 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles.

This horse comes with a few extras, and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. A bridle crocheted out of thread was the first addition.

DSC_0012

And a lovely flower-embroidered saddle came next, complete with bedroll and rope.

DSC_0013

All in all, I am delighted with how this little horse turned out.

DSC_0020 (2)

Shoulds and dids

I should be working on the finishing touches for another little horse. Or a pair of socks that is making rather slow progress, being for a grownup male instead of a child. Or a stocking for a rather new little boy who went his first Christmas without an auntie-made stocking.

But instead, when I wasn’t looking, this little hat just sort of crocheted itself and found it’s way onto a little girl’s head.

DSC_0004

It’s the Women’s Peaked Hat that was featured as the January challenge over at The Crochet Crowd, and it’s a fabulously easy little pattern despite its looks.

I like projects that require very little time and even less thought, especially when they are portable enough to bring with you to the dentist’s office.

The socks are a little less portable, given that I’m knitting them on a set of 5 DPNs and am not following a strict pattern exactly, which means there is a certain amount of calculating and measuring and thinking at each step of the way.

DSC_0002

Horses and stockings are not terribly portable even at the best of times (and the dentist’s office is not at all a ‘best of times’ sort of situation). But a little crochet hat? Small enough to stuff in my purse, simple enough to not need to bring a pattern with me, and with only 1 live stitch at a time there is no risk of disaster should I lose my hook in transit.

And now, home again, I have a horse that’s finally finished and ready for a little person to love.

Prepping for painting

Every so often, I get tired of my surroundings and change things up a little. Sometimes the urge is small and easily satisfied. A new pillow or two, a quick switch of lamps to put this one here and that one there, and suddenly the room feels fresh and new. Other times, I drag furniture around on those little sliding pads until nothing is where it was and everything feels different and my heart and head are satisfied that this is the arrangement that will suit us best for the next little while.

It drives The Man We Call Dad a little crazy, if truth be told. Not just because he comes home to a house he can’t navigate in the dark, but because I inevitably do these things when he’s away on a business trip or working 92 hours a week, and no, I don’t hire a moving crew to move the furniture around. I just do it myself.

(The fact that I most specifically should not be lifting anything heavy in order to protect the herniated disks in my neck is irrelevant.  I don’t lift the furniture. I slide it. Sliding totally isn’t lifting. Right? Besides, I have minions children to help me.)

But every so often, switching up the pillows and sliding furniture from one place to another just isn’t enough of a change. Every so often, I need to start with a whole new foundation.

No, not a new house.

New paint. Fresh, new colours without fingerprints or smudges and entirely lacking in chips and dents from that time when we were flying the quadcopter in the house or that time we played darts and missed or that time we taped party decorations to the wall with the wrong kind of tape and wound up taking some of the wall paint off when we took the decorations down.

Years ago when we first renovated the basement and were painting fresh drywall with its first coat of paint ever, we started what has become a well-loved family tradition. Before rolling on that first coat of paint, we each grabbed a pencil and scribbled blessings right onto the walls. The idea was that those blessings would become a permanent part of this place we’ve made our home, bringing joy and prosperity and love to all who entered.

(And sex, too, because we were young parents with a not-yet-2-year-old, a newborn, and a house in the middle of renovations, which meant putting “lots of great sex” on the walls before painting them seemed like a perfectly reasonable blessing. It was also, by sheer coincidence of the chief painter also being the chief human milk producer, one of the blessings that had not been covered over by the time the crew arrived to install the french doors the next morning. They found it highly amusing.)

Just before Christmas, I decided it was That Time again… that time when I start pouring over paint chips and dragging The Man We Call Dad shopping and we agree that I have excellent taste in paint and he is entirely lacking in the ability to envision the greatness of it all. Because he is the most awesomely amazing sort of man, he humours me and buys the paint while I enthuse over how marvelous it’s going to be.

He’s a good man, that Man We Call Dad. Not only does he spend hours discussing paint chips with me and then buy exactly what I want to buy, he also does all the pre-painting prep work for me. He washes walls. He fills nail holes. He patches dents. He moves thermostats, patches the drywall, spackles the patch, sands the patch, and then washes the entire wall a second time to get rid of all the dust from sanding.

And then I hand him a pencil and we scribble all over the walls leaving blessings for each other and all those who visit these walls we call home. We write things like “health” and “happiness” and “a house full of love” with no irony at all — these are the things we wish for.

DSC_0234

We also write things like “You are loved more than you know” and “You are smarter than you think” and “You are stronger than your fears” to fill our hearts with good things.

As we were painting the powder room on the main floor, we both agreed we had to write “You are beautiful” on the space where the mirror went so that every time you look at the mirror, someone who loves you is reminding you how gorgeous you are.

It’s positively happy making, just writing that on the wall and knowing that no one will ever see it, but that you’ve thrown it out into the universe. And besides, anytime anyone walks into the powder room and comes face to face with the mirror (which you have to – it’s immediately opposite the door), I smile to myself knowing that I’ve just told a beautiful person that they’re beautiful… and they don’t even know it.

You can only imagine my delight when the kids caught wind of what we were doing and demanded to get in on that action.

DSC_0233

I know the photo is hard to read… on top, it says “You are beautiful.”  Underneath, B added “No matter how much you try, you are Perfect, even with no makeup.”

And on the adjacent wall, K shared his best piece of wisdom:

DSC_0237

Don’t let life pull you down.

The powder room is now a lovely rose-ish colour and is sporting a new mirror and new lighting for good measure. It looks gorgeous and slightly glam and far more sophisticated than it did before. I love it.

But what I love most about it is knowing that hidden in the walls are some precious bits of wisdom we would be wise not to forget: You are beautiful. You are perfect, just the way you are. Don’t let life pull you down.