Thursday, December 22, 2005

It is almost Christmas. For our family, it is our first Christmas in many ways. It is our first Christmas with Michael.

And thus it is our first Christmas as THIS family.

It is also our first real Christmas since the hurricane. We barely celebrated last year; there was too much going on, I couldn't rise to the occasion and we just didn't have room in the tiny place where we were staying. This year, we are in our new home. Everything is new.

Knowing we lost all of our tree ornaments, my Christian Artisan friends got together and made us ornaments for our tree.

I am "blown away" by the kindness, love and talent of these ladies! Wow! Pamela made and sent many of these, including the beads (top), the yarn, the pine cone, the teasel, the angel pin, the walnut, the holly and the carousel horse. Her Christmas tree is our tree topper! The tatted wreath is from Sandra. The felted stars from Beth. The cross stitched snowman is a first prize winning ornament from Amanda. The wool angel is from Cary. The mittens with the neat buttons are from Melissa, who coordinated the ornament makers. And I don't know who made the beautiful mini sock, which I just love. Everything is so wonderful and my family is so touched by the love of these ladies. We have a very beautiful tree this year.

We just added some balls from Sam's Club and Wal Mart, some beads, some lights and some candy canes. It is gorgeous when the lights are on!

I love to sit in the rocking chair by the fire and just look at it.

Christmas has been a little rough for me this year. Between the hurricane and then being pregnant, I still haven't come to terms with my Dad's death two Father's Days ago. My father loved Christmas. He was a big kid. When we were little, he always insisted on doing the Christmas shopping for us. And he always did an amazing job. Well, there was that one year he was on a diet and bought us all food. We were still kids and I think we each got about $100 worth of Hickory Farms sausages and cheese. That was an interesting year.

My favorite Christmas memory is the year my Dad stayed up until 3:00 a.m. assembling presents. (With 10 kids in the family, Christmas was quite a job!) When he finished and everything was under the tree (and around the living room) my Dad couldn't wait until morning. He put a Christmas record on the turntable, cranked up the volume and woke us all up for a very early Christmas morning. Every year I think about that Christmas because I can barely contain myself once I get the presents all wrapped. I can easily imagine doing the same with my own children. Perhaps one year I will.

Two years ago we went "home" to Las Vegas for Christmas. That was the last time I saw my Dad (and my grandmother who died a year after my Dad). He was heavily medicated and quite silly at times. He had many health issues and had become allergic to his own hair. He kept it completely shaved as a result. I remember his nurse shaved his head while I was there, but he couldn't stand the stubble he could still feel on his head. In his drugged up world, he conceived a plan to fix the problem and called my mother. He told her to go to the store and purchase sand paper so he could scrub the stubble off of his head. I suggested a belt sander and offered to buy it. After all a man likes power tools. He realized his idea was silly and lived with the stubble after that.

When we went to Las Vegas 2 years ago, I packed yarn to start on a sweater for Kurt. Well, I finally finished that sweater last night.

It feels really good to be finished with this sweater.

At first Kurt said the sweater was itchy.

But after he put it on for the picture, he left it on saying the sweater was nice and warm. I'm glad.

In addition to sending a beautiful set of ornaments for our tree, Melissa made the most darling apron for Gabrielle.

She will hardly take it off.

I've had Gabrielle help me make dinner every night lately. She loves to cook and it gives us time together. Kurt and Gregory have so much in common with their computer stuff, I worry my now middle child will feel left out - especially with so much of my time being devoted to Michael at present. It has been a challenge for me to get beyond my "I can do it faster by myself" mentality, but so worth it.

This has proved to be one of my better ideas.

Gabrielle has also been helping me a little with Michael.

Gabrielle held Michael on three occasions so I could decorate the Christmas tree.

She is really learning to do a good job with him. I suspect she thinks of him as she does her many dolls. I also suspect he will endure much dressing up and babying when he is old enough to play with her.

Gabrielle and I have been at odds over her hair lately. The longer it got, the less Gabrielle wanted to take care of it. I threatened to cut it off. She still left her hair unkempt. I finally got tired of it and off it came.

Gabrielle loves her new haircut. We even bought her a new hair brush!

She probably saved herself a great deal of hair pulling from Michael too.

Michael is such a smart little guy and has really come to love playing with his toys.

Though barely tall enough for his jumper, it didn't take him very long to figure out how everything works.

We never had to set the lights and music to "continuous". He managed to get everything working within minutes.

I have been completely blessed by his ability to sleep through the night. Only a few weeks ago I asked my friends on Christian Artisans to pray about Michael's fussiness and poor sleep habits. Now he is sleeping around 10 hours a night. God is so good! Of course this means Michael sleeps less during the day.

This is Michael napping.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My first steek. And I survived. So far. I've been working on my first stranded sweater for 2 years, give or take. It is for Kurt and he is tall. His arms are longer than the extra large pattern suggests. There are a lot of stitches in this sweater. And it is my first steeked sweater.

I started by blocking my pieces. That part was easy enough. I had to use the top of the chest freezer to fit the pieces.

Tradition requires two rows of machine stitches when steeking. I started with a straight stitch "in the ditch" and then sewed a four stitch zig-zag just inside. I shortened the stitch length on both.

I received lots of great advice on steeking from my friends at Christian Artisans. However, I just couldn't see sewing such a loose fabric without stabilizer.

I added this part myself. I've had fabric jammed into the stitch plate too often in the past and I sure would have hated to see something like that happen to this sweater. Too many stitches, to much of my life invested. And Kurt really would like to get this sweater one of these days. He's watched me work on it for a very long time.

The stitching went well, though it was strange sewing something with so much give. My sewing did not distort my knitting however and I was very glad. I think this part worried me more than the actual cutting.

This part worried Kurt. He didn't know I intended to cut his sweater. He had never seen anything like this before. But, he couldn't have been too worried. He ended up sleeping through most of the process.

I asked Kurt to hold the baby for me for long enough for me to get through the steeking process. Kurt stayed up past his bedtime to help me. After all, he wants his sweater.

Aren't they cute?

I have a hard time getting "hands free" time that is not devoted to cooking, cleaning or laundry. As a result, I don't know how long it will take to sew the sleeves into the sweater.

Here I have completed the cut. Whew! I kept thinking I would accidentally cut another part of the sweater while I was cutting the steek. I've done that before when sewing other things.

I've torn away the stabilizer from the back. I like that it helps me see my stitches. I think it will make it easier to sew in the sleeves. We'll see.

I took Michael in for a well baby check yesterday. His doctor recommended moving him out of the bassinet and into the crib. So we did that today.

Apparently, moving him will become more stressful as he gets older. Here he is all tucked under the beautiful quilt June made for him.

This was his first nap in the crib. You should have seen the look on his face when he woke up and didn't know where he was.

Michael is now 10.5 weeks old. He weighs 15 pounds, five ounces. He is 24 and 3/4 inches tall. He is growing very fast. I just wish he would get some hair. I can't wait to see what color it will be. Most days I think blond. Some days it looks like it will be the red with which he was born. Right now, he looks mostly bald.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gregory is 9 years old today. Wow. How did that happen? And he is almost as tall as me already too.

We started the birthday celebration with a pile of presents.

Kurt wrapped only one present and naturally had to mess with poor Gregory. Kurt used a box from a computer game Gregory already owned so Gregory would think he got another copy of it.

Inside the box Gregory found the movie he hoped Gabrielle would get for him and a new Star Wars computer game.

I suppose I can't complain about Kurt's tricks too much since I told Gregory this gift was a bread box for his gfcf breads.

We told Gregory last year we wouldn't get him a Robosapien because we didn't like some of the noises it makes. But, Gregory loves robots so much and this is really the only cool one out right now that we could find, so we relented. Gregory was so excited.

This crazy car actually climbs the walls. Don't ask me what I was thinking.

In addition to the above, Gregory got 2 way radios (walkie-talkies) and a lego helicopter. But it was Robosapien who made it out of the box first. Gregory sure loves robots. He lost all of his robots to the hurricane last year so this is the first one that looks like a robot we have found. We had one happy birthday boy.

I think Gabrielle liked the walkie talkies because Gregory would need someone to use the second one.

I woke up sick this morning so I convinced Gregory it would be fun to decorate his own cake. He liked the idea until he discovered, as he put it, "It isn't as easy as it looks."

I ended up putting a little bit of frosting on when Gregory finished. In all, he was quite pleased with his cake.

And he even managed to blow out all of the candles! Happy Birthday Gregory!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

As the weather cools down, my thoughts turn to wool. I finally figured out I can knit while holding, comforting and rocking Michael. Praise God!

Once I learned to juggle knitting and the baby at the same time, I finished my Christian Artisans knit-along socks.

Finally! These are all cotton and though they are pretty, I don't really like them. They fit okay once they are on my feet, but they barely stretch enough to get there.

I've taken up sweater knitting for my husband Kurt again too. In fact, I did quite a bit of knitting on this a couple of weeks ago at a church party. We are desperately looking for a church home here in Brewton, Alabama, and are thus attending functions as well as services when we can. Our greatest hope is that a Calvary Chapel will come to Brewton one day. Of course after the church event, I found a small mistake with which I could not live and frogged all of my work.

I started the second sleeve to this Dale sweater almost 2 weeks ago. My progress reflects my desire to start a different sweater soon. This one is pretty boring. I've already settled on a new Dale pattern for Michael.

I believe I may actually finish my Legends of the Shetland Seas stole in the near future!

I'm almost half way through the edging. The edging is the final part of this stole. I cannot believe I am this close. How many years has it been? Well, if nothing else this proves persistence really does lead to success.

Michael is growing rapidly. He is already more than 14 pounds.

Here he is at 8 weeks. Don't you just love this sweater?

Michael's sweater was a shower gift from Joanne, from Christian Artisans, who designed and knitted it. The colors look great on Michael and it is one of my favorite outfits for him.

We got Michael a new toy for Christmas. But as Michael sleeps less and less, I couldn't wait that long.

It sure didn't take him long to figure out what to do.

I guess long arms are good for batting at toys. You should see him with the teddy bear mobile over his bassinet.

Michael is now 9 weeks old.

This morning we sat in the rocking chair and enjoyed a fire in the fireplace. When I put him in the chair by himself to take his picture, he tried to rock himself. Too cute.

Sharon, from Christian Artisans, knit the adorable pumpkin hat and the felted boots came from Debra. Aren't they adorable? Michael received the cutest gifts from my Christian Artisans friends!

Kurt and the kids recently decided we needed a tree-house in our back yard.

None of them have ever built a tree house before, but they are sure having fun figuring it out as they go.

Kurt believes a tree-house should have a Tarzan rope. I reminded him we do not have health insurance. I insisted that Kurt be the first to try it out, if he had to persist with the rope idea.

It isn't so easy to pull your foot out of a rope loop and that little tree in the foreground is directly in the way.

When Kurt realized how many problems he failed to anticipate, he needed Gregory to rescue him with a ladder.

He fixed the rope so it would be closer to the ground. There will be no Tarzan leaps off the tree house platforms, but the kids still have fun swinging on it.

And when they fall, and they do, at least they are close enough to the ground to minimize the danger.

The kids are very grateful for our new house and the wonderful acreage upon which it sits. I have to believe the Lord intended this for us all along.