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The mourning attire

*written 2/20/16*

My great-aunt passed away on Valentine’s Day.

I went to the back of my closet and pull out some dresses. I decided on one grey for the wake, one black for the funeral.

I don’t feel old, but I feel older. I understand and appreciate the rituals to mourn the dead.

I moved through the day, half there, half not. Dressed the kids, made them breakfast, played Luke’s new board game, read. Prayed.

Life moves in cycles and patterns through generations. Death does too.

My aunt was the second youngest of five and the only sister of my grandfather and his brothers.

We haven’t buried a Gambino in over ten years.

I put the three year old down for a nap; if they’re all coming to the wake, the little one ought to be rested.

I read articles about what mourning means and ettiquette for wakes with my 8 year old.  I explained what would be there, how the room would be set up, who would be there, and explained that aunt Nancy’s body would be there but that her soul was already with the Lord. That there was nothing to fear in death. She understood.

I never knew my great grandparents or great great aunts and uncles like my children have. I never had to say goodbye.

The first wake I ever went to was when I was a junior in high school, when my grandfather’s brother Angelo passed away.

It’s time to go. I help the older ones get changed into their nicer clothes and wake the little one. We go over expectations, practice handshakes, practice words to be spoken.

I put on my dress. It’s awful. I change three times and am finally ready to go.

It’s a blur of people and family and sadness and laughter. There isn’t enough time or space. There hasn’t been enough time together. There’s never enough time. There’s a sadness for the slow passing of a generation, a sadness because my aunt was the glue, the last matriarch of the Gambinos.

My great aunt, like her brothers, exuded love. When you were in her presence and her husband’s you just felt unconditionally loved. There’s not a lot of people like that. Fierce loyalty to family was a hallmark of their generation. They loved one another not only in word but in deed.

We say our goodbyes and come home. Sleep. Wake. Get dressed for the funeral. The kids stay home with a sweet friend of mine.

We settle in next to my mom and her brother and sister. I don’t often see them cry. Its seems like you cry for the immediate loss, and then your old losses and the losses that you know will still come. I don’t envy them, to see the generation above them slowly disappear.

The eulogy is beautiful and eloquent. The procession begins to leave. I’ve never seen my great uncle look so broken. I’ve never known a widower in our family.

We drive to the cemetery, say the final prayers, place  roses on her coffin.

As the sun begins to set on this generation it feels like a loss of the way things used to be. Our lives today are so hurried, so fragmented, so devoid of the deep and meaningful relationships that were the hallmark of my aunt’s generation.

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Those moments

There are moments where I feel I most certainly do not deserve them.

  
 When they are sleeping and I brush their hair away from their faces to give them a kiss, breathing in the sweet smell of childhood. My heart bursts. I do not deserve such beauty.

When they skip together ahead of me as we walk to the store, making up a game counting cracks in the pavement as they go along. My heart bursts. I do not deserve such joy.

When I’m a mess and trying so hard to get things together and get them where we need to go and be on time for once and I’m losing it all over the place and those eyes look at me so exasperated and flustered. My heart breaks over my sin, over the pain my hurry has caused. I certainly do not deserve them. They deserve better.

When she lay on her bed at night and tells me the details of a book she’s read over and over and is reading again, explaining every little detail about the backstory and the family tree of Oliver from Oliver Twist. My heart bursts. How could I possibly deserve to witness such passion for literature from an eight year old?

  
When he begs me to help build a new robot and refuses to let me give up despite the wires repeatedly not wrapping around the coils correctly, and he gathers random kitchen utensils as tools to aid in our quest. My heart bursts. I do not deserve to mother this child. I am most certainly ill equipped.

When she presents me with a bouquet of dandelions, chest puffed up with pride from plucking them all by herself, smile wide, eyes big and blue. My heart bursts. I do not deserve such kindness.

  
There are moments when I just cannot believe I could be afforded the joy and privilege to be their mom.

I count every moment as grace. Grateful beyond measure for grace I do not deserve.

 

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One sock done, one to go

After finishing Sydney’s Christmas stocking, I was inspired to knit again. With a family trip to California for Christmas, I thought a small, portable project would be a good idea.

I wound up a hand dyed yarn I had in my craft stash for years that I had purchased at a yarn festival. (Yes, yarn festivals exist. And I attended one. Once.)

I cast on for Childs First Sock in Shell Pattern from Nancy Bush’s “Knitting Vintage Socks” during takeoff.

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I had opportunity to relax and knit in the evenings after the children went to bed and Keith watched tv with his parents. I love tv knitting. And car knitting.

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After returning home the day after Christmas I didn’t have a spare second until this evening to finish up the toe decreases, until tonight. The kids wanted to watch a show after dinner and we all piled into the family room and snuggled up.

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One down, one to go!

While on vacation knitting, I was reminded of the knitting blogs I used to read many years ago. Many of my favorites have moved onto other things and I had a tough time tracking them down! One favorite of mine, “Lolly Knitting Around” , hosted the annual Socktoberfest in the month of October for years and I knit my first pair of socks during that month. Lolly doesn’t have a knit blog anymore, but she left her career as a research librarian to become a personal trainer. So interesting!

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Matching Christmas dresses

I found the cutest dress for my daughter Savannah this summer at a garage sale. It was in pristine condition and was very Madeline-esque.

I decided to try to recreate the dress in size toddler for Sydney, because my aunt taught me very well that sisters. Should. Always. Match. I remember so many memories of my cousins wearing matching outfits. I loved seeing them in their adorable outfits!

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The bow proved to be the most difficult for me; I might beg my friend Leslie to fix it since she has her own hair bow business and has serious bow making skills.

I used a current dress for Sydney to figure out the length and I utilized two other patterns to create the dress- one for a circle skirt and another that had a bodice, zipper and bell sleeves.

I cut off a few inches of the fullness of the skirt to make the finished dress more similar to Savannah’s dress.

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The bottom trim was also challenging because Joann’s was out of the narrow velveteen trim I wanted. The wider band did not bend well on a curved hem. I remedied this by notching the trim every few inches to create a curved effect. It was rather time consuming!

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Those girls are cute.

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I’ll be making them matching outfits as long as they will let me.

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Advent week 1

It is WORK to get a household with three young children to throttle back and have time set aside to read and focus on Christ this Advent. Our days are like most other young families- busy and sometimes exhausting. But I know that anything worthwhile in this life requires work, so we will keep pressing on.

Monday’s advent activities were fresh off the weekend and we didn’t have too much scheduled that day.

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I switched out the “Night Before Advent” banner with another from Ann Voskamps site in the dinning room. The kids made their ornament after school and we read together after dinner. Everyone went to bed at a reasonable time!

The rest of the week was a bit more harried and bedtime was much too late- 9 pm! Tuesday was completely and utterly my fault, because dinner ended up being a crash course in fire safety, as my homemade pizza night set the fire alarm off four times. Savannah started stop, dropping and rolling as I opened up the windows and doors to let the oh-so-fresh 17 degree air flow in and fanned the smoke alarms.

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Wednesday night is the kids mid week church program and by the time they got home , it was 815, and the snack and bedtime process was long.

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of a sweet sweet five year old friend, but it was also a later evening. We managed to read and discuss each night, but the ornaments were sometimes made the following morning.

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I’ve learned so far that if you have an advent calendar and you are reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, you should probably have the activities be one and the same. Two activities is more than this mama can manage to pull off on top of the usual shenanigans.

Simple dinners are helpful if you truly want a peaceful evening and special snacks during advent story time gives everyone something extra to look forward to.

I’m struggling with managing everything on my plate well this month. Some days I feel like I am running all day long! Wednesday after the school drop off run, I had a room parent meeting to plan the winter party for my seven year olds class, then my annual physical. And I had to take the squirrelly two year old with me to both of those! Then we went up to the zoo for Sydney’s cub club program, then back for Luke’s preschool pick up, then I settled Sydney down for a nap just in time to race back up to the elementary school and visit the book fair with Savannah. Then back home for homework, crafts, dinner and Bethel Buddies.

All in a days work.

My sink has been full of dishes more than I would care to admit, and my laundry pile is like a Jenga tower that I keep adding things to, but I’m trying my best. I guess that’s the best I can do.

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Letting out a pair of jeans

I must have been delusional, buying the size jeans that I did. They were snug in the fitting room, but I had just shed a ton of baby weight after #2 was born and I figured I would keep losing.

Wrong. Well, sort of. I did lose weight, but I also gained muscle, so my thigh circumference remained the same. I have what a trainer at the gym called “diesel legs” the other day. His female colleague smacked him and told him to never tell a woman that; he backpedaled and started stammering about how hard I work out and how strong I am, yada yada yada.

I wasn’t offended. It was funny.

But yes. I have diesel legs. Quads. Glutes. Hammies. They are strong. Thigh-gap ain’t nevah going to happen here.

I’ve had the aforementioned pair of jeans in my closet for about four and a half years. Gone through another pregnancy and birth. And yet did I toss those jeans? Or give them to a skinnier leg friend? No. I just kept trying them on every so often and wind up hopping around in my bedroom trying to will these jeans to shimmy up my legs. I usually ended up falling over in a pile of defeat.

Then one day a few months back, it dawned on me, could I alter them?

I flipped them inside out and noticed that there was more than a half inch seam allowance on the outside seam.

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To alter a seam, you need to rip out the stitches with a seam ripper. Take care not to rip the fabric and be sure to remove the wayward pieces of thread.

Iron your fabric to remove any creases before pinning a sewing the new seam.

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Sew as close as you can to the serger stitches. It helps if your pinning is precise, so you get the maximum amount of fabric added to the width of the pants.

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Wriggle and shake and get those jeans on! It worked!

Except once I had them on, I couldn’t move too well. I probably needed another inch. Oh boo. What’s the deal with me not giving up on these jeans!?! Sheesh.

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I went with Eclectic

Keith and I have this interesting non-style to what we want our house to look like. Kinda like an arts-and-crafts-mission-meets-farmhouse-on-the-beach. With some silver antlers thrown in somewhere.

Because who doesn’t want silver antlers? We want antlers. Somewhere.

I’m going to pretend I am trendy and call this “eclectic.”

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I had all of the frames lying around in the basement and garage. I kept the silver ones as they were but spray painted the others white. The word art is from a fantastic paper stack I scored at Michaels on 70% clearance that was filled with sweet family sayings. I picked up the boy and girl version as well to add some cute art to the kids rooms.

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These four panels were a garage sale find over the summer. They were brown with pink and gold flowers that were nowhere near my disjointed mission-beachy-farmhouse style, but I loved the shape of the panel and how the raised border was reminiscent of woodwork panels in an older home. The seller wanted $3 each but I negotiated her down to $4 for the whole lot.

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I created a stencil with my Silhouette and painted L O V E on the panels with black paint.

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The Instagram banner was inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s office renovation. I hung my favorite Instagram prints with mini clothespins on twine to make the whole wall a bit more informal.

I love it! Finally, after living in this house for fifteen months we have a painted family room and stuff on the wall!

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