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As I drove home the other day, my attention was drawn skyward. I had noticed a large bird soaring above our neighborhood. I pulled over to get a better (and safer) look and saw the flash of white that confirmed my initial impression: a bald eagle. Seeing a bald eagle in the Cities is not that unusual, but am I more accustomed to spying the elegant form near the river. To have one grace the sky above our block was a treat. A treat I excitedly shared with my kids.

How often do we pass such beauty and grace without notice or acknowledgement? It is so easy to shuffle along with our eyes unseeing and our ears full of noise. To pay attention takes work. To help our children pay attention takes intention.

The reward to attention and presence is a chance to witness the work of creation. To teach our children to pay attention is to help further the work of creation.

Just don’t forget to pull over when bird watching from the car.

Advent and Christmas are typically high on my list of favorite seasons. This year I wasn’t so sure.

I started a new job at a large church in August. Within two months, my supervisor left and I was made Director of Children’s Ministries. It didn’t feel like a huge shift since I was only given five more hours per week and the responsibilities weren’t more than I’d had at my previous job. That was, until it came to Christmas. High expectations and deeply ingrained tradition. No pressure.

While I struggled to keep my head above water at work, I did manage to eek out some handmade gifts for Christmas. I whipped up hats for my sister-in-law and her husband.

I also knit a similar hat for my father-in-law, but didn’t take a photo.

Made pajamas for the kids. The girls’ were made from an old flannel sheet.

I ran out of sheet, so The Boy’s were made from flannel from the stash.

I cast on socks for the Mister, but haven’t even gotten as far as turning the heel. Good thing winter lasts so long around these parts. Hopefully I can make more progress now and he’ll still get some use out of them before spring.

I turned to the collective wisdom of the blogosphere for last minute giving and made a couple batches of Molly’s caramel corn.  Easy and delicious. This may have to become a holiday tradition.

In the end, the Christmas pageant was lovely. Gifts were finished and delivered on time. We enjoyed the holiday with family and friends. Despite the Christmas day on-set of a cold that kicked my backside, I managed to thoroughly enjoy Christmas after all. Perhaps it should stay at the top of my list.

Last summer, my parents traveled to Los Angeles to visit relatives.  Traditionally, they send us a box of various Japanese and Hawaiian foodstuffs, that are often hard to find in Middle America.  This time, in addition to boxes of Kauai Cookies and Japanese candy, I put in the request for a Japanese sewing book.

Mom came through with a book of super cute clothes for both girls and boys.  (Perhaps a hint that The Boy is getting the short end of the stick regarding my sewing projects?)  I’ve spent many hours looking through the pages and making a long mental list of projects I want to try.  A few weeks ago, I finally worked up the courage to trace a pattern.  Of course, the first time I traced it I forgot to include the seam allowance.  For all the clever, cute and wonderful things that Japan produces, you’d think they could include the seam allowances in the patterns.

Anyway, I finally got the pattern traced properly and decided on fabric.  I had ordered a few yards of this fabric from Jenean a while back to make Big Girl a new dress for Easter.  I ended up finishing a different dress for her instead, so I knew I wanted to use some of the fabric for this project.

I chose the pattern because it looked simple but, simple isn’t always easy.  At least when you are trying to follow a pattern written in a different language.  One of my problems is that I read just enough Japanese to confuse myself, but not enough to really follow the directions.  This is a source of great annoyance to me.  I majored in Japanese language in college.  I was always too self-conscious to speak really well, but writing and reading were always my strength.  I guess after 14 years of not practicing, skills do tend to atrophy.  *sigh*

After some time with a stack of Japanese reference books, I finally gave up on reading the pattern.  I was able to fudge my way through and ended up with a wearable product.  Fortunately, the parts I really botched aren’t visible and I doubt Baby Girl is going to complain.

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I am typically a pretty monogamous knitter.  One project on the needles until it is finished.  Every once in a while I get stuck and that project gets tucked into my basket to languish.  I knew there was a sweater for the Big Girl buried deep in the basket.  I hadn’t looked at it for at least a year and was figuring I’d rip it out and find another use for the yarn.  I’m not certain it will even fit her at this point.  Nevertheless, during my recent hunt for a project, I  rescued it from the depths and discovered  I was farther along than I remembered.  Just have the sleeves and button bands to knit.  Since I can’t remember the reason I put it aside, I decided to finish it.  Baby Girl can wear it in a couple years.   I will not let this UFO (unfinished object) taunt me any longer.

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I grabbed the sweater, the pattern and my DPN roll and figured I was good to go.  Have you seen my DPN collection?

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I have every size from 0 to 13.  Or so I thought.  Turns out, the one size I am missing is the size called for in the pattern.  Hmmm, maybe that’s why I put it aside in the first place.

My first instinct was to run to my favorite yarn shop and buy the missing needles.  I stopped myself and channeled my cheap frugal hubby.  At first I tried the Magic Loop method with a relatively long size 9 circular.  Then I remembered my Denise interchangeable set and decided two circulars would suit me better.  At least until I break down and go fill in the gap in my needle roll.

On the way home from daycare:
Baby Girl : Where we goin’?
Mommy: Home.
Baby Girl: NO! Not home. Where we goin’?
The Boy: Grandma’s son’s house.

One of the highlights of my trip to Memphis was the chance to meet Melissa of Bridgman Pottery.  She is as sweet and easy to talk to as you would imagine from her virtual self.  I could easily have spent many more hours sitting and chatting, not to mention admiring her work.

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I was excited to see her pottery in person and thrilled to visit her studio.  I am fascinated by how people work and what inspires them.  Melissa’s style, clearly influenced by the natural world, is clean and delicate.  Her affinity for birds only makes me love her work more.

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I hope my husband understands the large amount of restraint I practiced in making the small purchase that I did.  Seriously, I was pained to leave without “just a few more things”.  Like a honeypot, some ladybug mugs, a sea urchin vase, a cafe au lait bowl, an egg vase, etc.

I did come away with a few happies though:

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bamboo tumbler – in use

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bud vase (since she didn't have any egg vases to sell)

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berry bowl - the hard part is waiting for berry season!

What fun it is to make a virtual acquaintance into a real life friend!  Thanks, Melissa!

Although Sarah is none too shy about asserting her two-ness, she is by nature pretty sweet and funny.  The rapid expansion of her vocabulary and her budding sense of humor help make her immensely fun to be around, much of the time.  I can’t count the number of times a day Brad or I will turn to the other and say, “Man, she is so funny!”

Sometimes when we stop to appreciate something funny she has said or done, I recall a vague impression of Lizzie at the same age.  Like a soft whisper in my ear.  Lizzie was equally funny and sweet, but my memories of that time are cloudy, at best.

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When Lizzie was 2 1/2, I was engulfed in a thick fog of antepartum depression.  Instead of appreciating the sweet gestures and funny comments, I was busy thinking of how to get out of this parenting gig.  As soon as the baby is born, I thought, I’ll run away.  I was fully convinced that Brad and the kids would be better off without me around.

Fortunately, I was able to join a support group for women suffering depression and anxiety during pregnancy.  The support of those women and the midwife and social worker who facilitated the group was a godsend.  They helped carry me through to Joshua’s birth and during a “reunion” meeting, they recognized the continuing struggle of postpartum depression and urged me to consider meds, in addition to the talk therapy I had already started.  Sadly, the support group is no longer facilitated through the clinic, due to budget cuts and lack of grant money.  (You probably don’t want to get me started on that topic.)

Sarah is a gift to me for so many reasons, but she has helped me recall sweet moments from an otherwise bitter time in my life.  For that, baby girl, I am very, very grateful.

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Brad and I are both avid readers and we wanted the same to be true for our kids.  Aside from the first couple days in the hospital, I can’t remember a day that we didn’t read to Lizzie.

reading a little Dr. Seuss at 5 days old

reading a little Dr. Seuss at 5 days old

Be careful what you wish for.  At age nine, Lizzie is rarely seen without a book in her hands.  In fact, we often have to yell at cajole her into putting the book down long enough to do her chores or pretty much anything else.

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Lizzie-lu, you are one creative, imaginative and highly informed kid.  Must be all that reading.

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Happy belated birthday!

It’s hard being a kid with an over-grown social conscience.

J:  “I want those shoes with the check marks on them.  Can we go to Wal-Mart and get some?”

Mean Mommy:  “Honey, we don’t shop at Wal-Mart.”

J:  “Why not?  Because they don’t pay their workers enough money?”

Mean Mommy:  “Pretty much.”

L (from the other room):  “The shoes with the check marks are Nike.  I bet they don’t pay their workers enough either.”

I’m guessing no one was waiting on pins and needles, but I apologize for being late with the results of the giveaway.  Drum roll, please…..

The winner is Irene!  Glancing through her blog, I am confident we’ll get to see Jenean‘s fabric featured in some cute projects soon.

Here’s another chance to win.  Molly’s giving away a Palm Centro over at BabyCenter.  Go over and check it out.  Meanwhile, I’ll have my fingers crossed that luck goes my way. 😉