Saturday, December 31, 2016

Night Before Nightgowns

We don't always give the kids new pajamas on Christmas Eve, but occasionally we do and this year I had a nightgown pattern I really wanted to try. I guess I "know how" to sew—my mom spent hours teaching me, and I took classes in both high school and college. I made dresses and quilts and button-up pajamas and even a denim jacket one time. But—this is the key—always with someone helping me! And though I have a sewing machine for hemming and basic mending and making things like rice bags, I really am not confident making things by myself! In fact, I had convinced myself I didn't really know how to sew at all—but, in a burst of ambition, I decided I might just TRY it this year.

And it turned out I liked doing it! It helped that I was making the same thing three different times, so I felt like I really got it by the third time. But I also remembered more than I thought I would, about overcasting seams and gathering ruffles and so forth. And even when I didn't understand the pattern at first, after actually holding up the pieces and thinking about it, I was able to figure out what to do! So I was quite proud of myself, and I especially LOVE these nightgowns. I ordered double-gauze fabric, which I have never sewn with before, but it is SO light and dreamy and soft!! And twirly! It is the same fabric those sweet soft baby swaddling blankets are made of—you know the ones. It practically floats off the ground as the girls are wearing it, and they feel like snuggly swaddled babies when you hug them. I did have to overcast all the seams (I don't have a serger) because the fabric is VERY loose and ravel-y (unravel-y?) but after that it sewed up just fine.

The pattern was actually made by a girl I know from high school, Katy Dill. She's amazing (and I love her kids' names). :) You can find the pattern here: The Night Before Nightgown. And I ordered my fabric here (online fabric stores are so great!).
We had our traditional Elf Olympics on Christmas Eve. Sam-ta assigned us all to design new toys (he gave us the names or functions; we made up the toys) for one of these activities. Here is Daisy's "Ballybimba."
Junie was concentrating hard.
Goldie during the Lego-building competition
Even Teddy was working hard. (Shirtless)
It was a happy Christmas!

This year's ornaments

This is the ornament Sam made for our ornament party this year. We go to this party with a bunch of awesome, creative people and everyone makes an ornament. It's so fun, and we love it, but since we have to give our ornaments away, I always feel like I have to take pictures so we have a record of all our work in SOME form at least!

I love Sam's fishy ornament. My favorite part is all the bubbles (you can't quite tell in the picture, but those are holes in the wood).
I made a crocheted Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. I don't quite like how they turned out—I started out using a pattern that I didn't think looked right, so then I changed it a bit (I wanted the "classic" Winnie-the-Pooh, rather than the Disney one with the red shirt) but I think I should have just started over from scratch. Anyway, Pooh and Piglet are still pretty cute together. But next year I'll do better. :)

(Previous years' ornaments: here, here, here, and here.)

We do always GET such great ornaments too! So I have no call to complain. It's really only when I think about what a cute collection of crocheted characters I'd have by now that I feel at all wistful about giving mine up. :) But at the party there are always so many highly-coveted items that get traded (or stolen) around! Two of the people that attend the party are stained glass artists, and everyone always wants their ornaments. Somehow Sam and I got lucky enough to get both of their ornaments this year—gorgeous faceted glass polygons—(which was a bit greedy of us, I admit, but they make such a lovely matched set!), and I love them so much! Here they are:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

But then there would be no purpose

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday morning session from the October 1974 Conference.
Elder John H. Vandenberg reflects on his experience driving alone on a lovely, peaceful morning, and then hearing the news on the radio:
During the next several minutes the announcer commented, as I remember, on a burglary, a shooting, an accident, a hijacking, people being held hostage, and worry over the economic conditions. The news brought to my attention that the world could be full of peace, but that it was not. 
Naturally, one fond of peace wonders why this is so, recognizing that if there were no people on earth, all would be quiet and peaceful. But then there would be no purpose in the earth. We know that its purpose is to receive God’s children where they may dwell in mortality and prove themselves in the test against the forces of good and evil. In this process there will be strife as well as peace.
I love a quiet, peaceful home. I love stillness and silence and cleanliness. But…I have seven children. And I really needed this reminder, which sounded like this in my head:

If there were no people in your home, all would be quiet and peaceful. But then there would be no purpose in your home.

The noise, the arguing, the misunderstandings, the clutter. Certainly we fight it where we can. But it has a purpose. We are training bodies and spirits. We are proving ourselves. We are learning to find the peace underneath it all.

Other posts in this series:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Santa and the hat

That title sounds like it's going to precede a very exciting story, and it does. We got this Santa suit at a baby shower way back when Abe was a baby. It's not really the right size for Theodore anymore, but since all the boys have worn it, by golly I was going to try to put Theo in it too!

He didn't like it. Especially the hat.

So we spent a very entertaining fifteen minutes tormenting him with it.
Poor baby.
Note thumb going in, for comfort at such a difficult time.
"Hat go-way."
He couldn't understand why we would keep doing this to him. We were all in gales of laughter.
Anyway, he's a very cute Santa. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Suffering and Christmas

For the past year, almost, I've been somewhat immersed (insofar as one CAN be partially immersed...which I guess one can't...) in studying and reading about World War II. We studied the First World War last year, so I was all primed for it, but while it's fascinating, I find much of it quite…difficult. I know that seems like a fairly self-centered perspective, when you consider that all these many harrowing things actually HAPPENED to people, while I'm merely reading about them. But nevertheless, it has been hard for me, and there have been many nights I've lain awake with a heavy heart, thinking about hardship and evil.

Here's a small sampling of the books I've been reading:

  • An account of Hitler's rise to power, and the way even ordinary people excused, then assisted, him.
  • The diary of a doctor in Hiroshima during August and September of 1945, just after the atom bomb was dropped. 
  • The autobiography of a woman who was stolen from her Yugoslavian parents as a nine-month-old baby and raised in Hitler's "lebensborn" program to raise up "racially pure" youth for the Third Reich.
  • The memoir of an American POW tortured by his Japanese captors. 
  • First person accounts by the soldiers who liberated concentration camps across Europe and found death and suffering beyond anything the world had imagined.
You can't read about this stuff and DENY the existence of evil, and there were plenty of people I encountered in these books who did lose their faith; who said, "I just couldn't believe in any kind of loving God after what I experienced." And honestly—usually, when some pseudo-intellectual atheist brings up the problem of evil, I'm flatly unimpressed. They reveal their own ignorance when, with the self-satisfaction of a magician producing the hidden card, they produce those tired old arguments as if they are brilliant or devastating.  "But why do bad things happen to good people? What about the SUFFERING of CHILDREN?? AHA!" They appear not to have even engaged with the constant stream of Christian philosophers that have struggled with, written on, and illuminated this very problem. In fact, you could say that the Problem of Evil is the central question Christianity attempts to answer!
But. I do acknowledge that Evil, when it comes so baldly and blatantly into our awareness, often forces a startling and troubling examination of belief. I don't pretend to have experienced anything remotely as faith-shaking as many victims of war and atrocity, but even for someone like me—perhaps especially for someone like me, so blessedly removed from the immediacy of most of life's horrors—reflecting on what depths humanity can sink to is a sobering and difficult exercise.

Still, as I've pondered these things and struggled with them, my central feeling has been one of deep gratitude for our Savior. I want to grab those people who lost their faith by the hands and say, "Don't you realize? All this suffering and evil and sadness: THIS is humanity WITHOUT Christ! This is who we become when we turn our backs on God!" Sure, I know plenty of the atrocities of war involve someone who professes religion. But "this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away."

I'm not a philosopher, and I know for all my reading, I'm still ignorant in so many areas. And with such an enormous subject as evil and war, any statement is an oversimplification. But maybe there is just this: reading about all this suffering convinces me, more than ever, of the beauty of God's plan, and of the absolute need for a savior. In fact, I think the existence of a savior is very possibly the ONLY thing that makes sense of it all. The suffering, of course, does not disappear with knowledge of God. But it gains meaning: not only for all those troubled by it from afar as I am, but also, by many accounts, even for those experiencing it firsthand. 

For me, knowing about God's plan changes everything. Questions about "fairness" in this life suddenly disappear when I know that mortality is just one piece of a longer journey; that God is continually working for the salvation of His children and will always do so. To see that evil and the natural man exist in all of us—yes, it is frightening. We can become like animals, and worse. The laws of this world DO often favor the ruthless, the cruel, and the heartless. But through Christ's atonement, we can change our natures—and in this change lies our only hope. 

I've thought to myself several times this month, feeling my heart aching from something I've read, or even from some less-vast sadness I've encountered, "What does Christmas have to do with all this? Is all our happiness and joy in the season unseemly, next to the great suffering of so many of God's children?"

And every time, something whispers to me "NO. Christ's birth and life and death have everything to do with suffering, and everything to do with joy." And I've felt the wonder of this season like almost never before. Because without Him, the horrors of war, of hatred; the struggle for power; the gradual descent into chaos and destruction—that would be all we had to look forward to. But because of Him, it all makes sense. We can repent. We can change. We can learn to build and love and sacrifice, in our small ways. And we can hope for, someday, a world full of goodness and light.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Santa Lucia (times three)

I had lots of help making our lussekatter this year, and not one but THREE little Lucias to celebrate Santa Lucia day! It's really just supposed to be the eldest daughter, but naturally that doesn't meet with the approval of the other girls—and can you blame them? So we dug out some more white dresses and red ribbon, and all the girls paraded down the hall to serve the boys these delicious saffron buns. (Recipe is here, if you'd like to try them yourself!)

Half the fun is making the buns. You roll out little flat snakes, and then curl them up frontwards and backwards into spirals like contented little cats—thus their name lussekatter, "Lucia cats." The smell of saffron drifting through the house on a cold December morning is just one of the loveliest things. Almost as lovely as three little girls spilling pearl sugar* and cocoa on their white dresses and giggling as they try to keep their candle crowns straight on their heads.
After the first few pictures, Daisy decided she really ought to be wearing Danish braids in her hair. And of course, her doll Rosie had to match as well.
She prudently decided not to try to balance the real candle crown AND a tray of food. Our little paper crown provided a good substitute.
Hot chocolate and saffron buns, ready to be delivered to the boys' room!
Junie, in lace
Goldie was SO pleased to be wearing Daisy's old Lucia dress! You can see her standing on tippy-toes just to prove how big she is.
And she felt PARTICULARLY pleased and grown-up to be carrying her own little tray of buns!
She kept asking for more pictures throughout the day.
Junie, on the other hand, seemed to think it would be fitting to wear two ribbons and a crown in her hair, and carry her baby pig in a sock. Makes sense, I suppose.
Happy Santa Lucia day! (And here's last year's festivities.)

*Last year I ordered some Belgian pearl sugar online (for waffles) and they sent me Swedish pearl sugar by accident—six bags of it! And then when I tried to return it, Amazon said just to keep it, so…if you live nearby and would like to borrow some…I have plenty.