Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the domestic monastery

I am so very grateful to Jen for posting the link to http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/ron/ron_14domesticmonastery.htmltoday.

The reason I have not been blogging recently are just as this author states,

For example, the mother who stays home with small children experiences a very real withdrawal from the world. Her existence is definitely monastic. Her tasks and preoccupations remove her from the centres of power and social importance.

Sometimes it even removes you from the edges of power and social importance - sometimes it even removes you from so small a social connection as the blogging world. I have missed blogging. But the (eight!) small hands tugging at my sleeves have been insistant during the past two weeks, moreso even than usual. I have wondered and wondered what it is the Lord was doing with me. I knew he was doing something, because he always is working for our good, and I trust him.

This article explains what it is. I am very grateful to have the words now to describe my daily experience: he is teaching me that my time is his time. I am glad to know - not just in my head, but in my hands - that that is so.

Again, Jen, much thanks.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, December 18, 2008

not for the squeamish, but . . .

this is one of the most amazing medical stories I've read recently. And one of the most amazing pictures.

Though, I have to admit, news stories about odd things having to do with twinning hit me a little differently these days.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

housekeeping, a bit at a time

In this season of not enough sleep, and very little time when I have one, let alone two, hands free, I am learning to do my housekeeping a bit at a time.

I'll keep this short because, well, I ought to sleep while I can. The babies will be wanting me soon.

But in case it helps anyone else . . . cleaning can be done here and there. I used to think that in order to keep my bathrooms clean, I needed to have a whole hour, in which I could roll up my sleeves and really clean both bathrooms, from top to bottom. Now I know I can wipe down the sink on Monday, before I wash my hands. I can sweep the floors on Tuesday while the kids are playing happily in the bedroom next door. I can scrub out the toliet after I put the babies down for their nap and before I head back downstairs. Etc.

Our fridge is getting cleaned a shelf at a time; I just do one a day after I wash the nightly dishes, and have soapy water and a wet dishcloth out anyway.

Bits at a time, but all the time, instead of getting clean, our house is staying clean.

And, the very most important part, we're doing a nightly pick-up-and-dishes fest. (Picking up being different than cleaning.) Part one is with the kids - they help clear the table and pick up their toys after dinner. Part two is after the kids are in bed - Adam and I do the rest of the downstairs - clutter and basic kitchen cleaning - so that we're not behind when we get up in the morning. We take turns reading to each other while we do this, which makes it a much easier chore.

Between cleaning in pieces, and picking up all at once every night, it still gets down.

I like cleaning house all at once, taking it within a few hours from dirty to clean. But right now that's a luxury. However, having a clean house isn't a luxury. It's just a necessity I have to take care of in a new way.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent continues

but blogging aparently does not. :)

Bless all of you still faithfully writing on your blogs during this season. I greatly enjoy reading your entries. Sadly, I haven't been able to keep up with blogging, as every spare minute is going towards crafting. I love, love, love this handmade holidays idea. But next year, I want to start in JANUARY.

peace of christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, December 5, 2008

Advent: December 4 & 5

The chai tea in the sugar cookie mix was delicious - though you have to like biting into small chunks of cardamom. Also, my husband thinks the cookies were responsible for a bit of insomnia on his part; I guess that's what happens when you actually drink tea.

Yesterday was taken up with some birthday activities - there are a couple December birthdays in my family, including mine - and tonight the kids are leaving out their shoes for St. Nicholas.

In other very, very, very exciting news, the GAFCON bishops whole-heartedly welcome the new North American Anglican province. God bless it and them.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Advent: December 2 & 3

Yesterday, the eldest and I gathered together all our Christmas books into one place. Today, we found a box to put them in. (I know, I know, today's activity was so ambitious!)

But I just finished mixing up some chai sugar cookie dough, and it's now in the fridge, ready to be rolled out tomorrow with the kids, so that they can put their cookie cutters to some good use. Well, good, yummy use, because their cookie cutters already get lots of good use . . . on their playdough.

I made the chai sugar cookie dough by mixing in the contents of a couple of chai spice tea bags in with the sugar cookie dough. I'll find out how that works in about, oh, three minutes, because there's a small batch of it cooking in the toaster oven right now for my husband and I to enjoy tonight.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent: December 1st

Today our Advent activity was simple: put up the Advent calendars.

Also, if you're looking for a way to solve that "do we put up the Christmas tree before Christmas?" dilemma, check this out.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, November 30, 2008

speaking of Christmas coming

go visit Kerry's blog to see the Carnival of Anglican Advent traditions!

We got our Jesse Tree up today (made of many pieces of construction paper, and taped to the wall above our dining room table) and got all the ornaments made yesterday (of craft foam and Elmer's glue). I'll try to get some pictures up once a few of the ornaments are actually on the tree.

It was so much fun to make the ornaments with my older two kids, and it didn't take much more than an hour. Some year it'd be fun to make more pretty and permanent ones, but I like how colorful and bright the ones we did this year are. They're far from perfect, but the kids (ages 4 and 2) got to actually HELP, with their own little safety scissors, and so the imperfection is well worth it.

We did not get our Advent candles lit though, so I'm going to try to at least get the candles (if not the wreath) out by tomorrow night. We'll see!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

IF YOU ARE MY BROTHER-IN-LAW OR SISTER-IN-LAW (OR THEIR CHILDREN), DON'T READ THIS

Okay, that's an even longer title than the last post had! Once again, spoiler space for the completed Christmas gifts, so please scroll down . . .


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Okay, first is a lovely sweater in cool greens and white, inspired by a dress found in this book.

I love the scalloped hem. It's modeled by my daughter, who's the same age as her cousin, for whom the sweater is intended.


Second is something terribly cute, for a terribly cute new nephew. You've seen those cool little girl's dresses that are made out of men's dress shirts? Well, now it's the boys' turn, so here is a little romper made out of a loud Hawaiian shirt ('cause a little fella can't wear pastels all the time):

To give you an idea of how it looks on, here it's modeled by a convenient stuffed animal (as we have no live models small enough in house at the moment):

That gives a better idea of what it would look like on, but fails to show the length of the pant portion, as Pooh's legs are rather short. The pants part is full length, making a nice little outfit that can be worn as is for summer, or layered with a onsie underneath in the wintertime.

Inspiration found here.


So, how are all of your Christmas projects coming?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

IF YOU'RE MY BROTHER, DON'T READ THIS

'k? The rest of you, check out the cool stocking stuffer I finished, after the ellipses



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Alright, here it is as it would look when worn. Can you tell what it is?

If not, here it is in all its glory:

Yep! It's a PI SCARF! Oh, the nerdiness. It cracks me up, just looking at these pictures again. Inspiration found here.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, November 21, 2008

impromptu baby gate

7 Quick Takes

-1-
Okay, I'm starting out with a bad pun. I suggest reading it aloud, for the full impact:

What's the difference between roast beef and pea soup?

. . . well, anyone can roast beef.

-2-
Here's a cool excerpt from the book I'm reading about St. Elizabeth of Hungary, by Nesta de Robeck:

"The one fact always associated with Saint Elizabeth is the miracle of th roses; in her story it takes the place of the Preaching to the Birds in that of Francis, indeed its poetry cannot fail to delight anyone. Such stories, however when divorced from their context, tend to limit and therefore to falsify the proportions of sanctity. The saints are witnesses to the reality of Christ's triumph, for they show what human beings can be when they are faithful to the divine grace of baptism and to the call of God. They show the redeemed creature suffering and working with Christ using His weapons and with Him conquering the evil of the world. They stand as witnesses to Christ's vivifying presence in His Church and to the fulfillment of God's promises in our midst. These wonderful human beings cannot be known though any single episode."

(emphasis mine)

-3-
I'm looking forward to celebrating St. Nicholas' Day this year, on Dec. 6. We've never managed to do it yet, but it sounds like so much fun. I want to make sure to have, along with a treat or two, an orange to put in each of the kids' shoes, because I remember that when I went to school up in northern Canada, we always got a bag with candy and an orange in it at Christmas. And when I was in northern Canada? fresh citrus really WAS a treat.

-4-
I'm excited about the new Anglican province that looks like it's forming here in the States. Excited and nervous. If there is an Anglican - really Anglican, in communion with the rest of teh Communion - AND orthodox place to go here, how can I not go? But I have the awful feeling that it'll mean leaving most of my parish behind, and that's a sickening feeling. For some it might be "property over theology" and for some it will be "leaving is never the answer; leaving is always surrender".

Maybe I'm wrong though. Maybe my whole parish family will leave together. That would be a wonder and a miracle, and God can do it. Because I think it would not be leaving. I think we have been left, and it would be rejoining.

-5-
I'm rewriting a finished novel, which is a great good thing, but I've also started writing a new one and it's so much fun. Rewriting is work, and so is writing sometimes, but I get such a high out of writing new fiction. It's like a rollar-coaster ride and the wind off of the sea and the bliss of an endorphin high all rolled into one.

I am also thinking this book needs at least one duel in it. I've always liked a story with a good duel.

-6-
One of the best duels I've ever read was in a short story by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, where the hero was provoked into a duel, and, because he was the one provoked, he got to chose the weapon. Because his provoker was a toad and a snob, the hero chose water balloons, the better to embarrass his opponent and ended up, among other things, breaking the provoker's nose, with a particularly hard throw. So awesome.

Georgette Heyer is also the mistress of writing the really good duel. If you're interested, I recommend "The Masqueraders" to start.

-7-
Am I the only one who thinks the new Star Trek trailer looks lame, but who totally wants to see the movie anyway?


More quick takes over at Jen's Conversion Diary blog; check them out!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

writing and the morning.

The day stretches before me, and I'm curious about what it holds. It's my first breathing space of the day; after the rush of breakfast and diapers and nursing, and cleaning up from breakfast and reading some books and nursing again, the babies are down for their naps and the kids are down for their quiet times. Or, rather, up, since I'm the one sitting in the living room at the bottom of the stairs.

I'm always puzzled at what to do with this short half hour or forty-five minutes of peace. Do I pray? do I relax? do I try to get some chores done? do I write?

Often I do some combination of the four. I'll start by puttering around a bit with the house stuff: move this over there, put that away, start this part of dinner so the end of the day is less harried. Today it was getting all the dirty clothes into the laundry bags and fishing out a recipe for herbed bread that I want to make to go with tonight's creamy veggie soup. Then a bit of relaxation: reading a snatch of TWOP's recap of Survivor (the one TV show we actually watch on the TV - over at my mother-in-law's; what can I say? it's become a Grandma-time tradition: dinner and Survivor). And now the tea is on, and I might read through the morning daily devotion in the BCP and then try to get a bit more of my novel rewritten.

The novel now, that's a thing. I wrote it in the small space between when my son started sleeping through the night and when I got pregnant with Lucy and Anna. Now that Lucy and Anna are - not sleeping through the night - but only waking up once to nurse - I'm starting to rewrite it. I didn't expect to be doing it so soon, but my husband, who hadn't read it yet, started reading it aloud to me during our dishes-and-clean-up time that we have every night after the squirts are a in bed, and hearing the words rather than seeing them has given me a gift I never expected to have: the gift of being able to experience my own words as a reader, and not a writer. I'm terribly afraid Adam has just let himself in for an entire lifetime of reading my work back to me. Brave man.

So I am working on the little, obvious fixes that I've noted. Add dialogue here. Make that character more consistant throughout. Show, don't tell, that they had a lot of fun at the dinner party. And in the midst of these little changes, I'm hoping that the bigger one makes itself clear. The story starts with a flourish, and ends with a delightful build-up of tension and an even more delightful release, but there is something missing from the beginning-middle of the book, and though I can feel the shape of what ought to be there, I don't know the specifics yet.

The shape of the change is so clear in my mind; when I talk about it, I always make the same low, round motion with my hands. But I don't know exactly how it is to be done yet. So I'm hoping that by fixing the easy things - this paragraph, that scene - I'll be able to lure the big change out of hiding. It's there, I know it, I can feel it, and I hope that by innocently working in its vicinity, while paying it no direct mind, it will come out of hiding, and show me its face.

But for now? Tea and Psalms. I've read all the way through them again, my one consistant piece of Scripture reading this year, and I'm back at the beginning: "Blessed is the man . . ."

That, and perhaps the biography of St. Elizabeth of Hungary that I got out of the library. Today is her saint day, and I know nothing about her except that one of the other liturgical blogging moms around her had her daughter dress up as St. E of H for Halloween. It made me curious, and so now I have an old, yellow hardback from the library that's going to assuage my curiosity. I should have read it last week, but I was deep in the middle of Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. That's done as of this morning though, and so to St. E of H I go!

I hope your morning goes well, and that the best possibiities of the day become reality.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, November 17, 2008

24 Days Before Christmas

Advent is coming!

Once again, our family's celebration of Advent is going to be modeled after the Austin family's in Madeleine L'Engle's Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas. In this book, the Austin family does something different every day of Advent to get ready to celebrate Christ's birth. I'm excited that this year, for us, this can even include decorating the banister like they did - because, having moved, we have one ourselves now! (Isn't it fun when a childhood dream comes true?)

Advent was the season when I started really celebrating the church year, and discovered what a good tool it was for teaching the gospel to my children. I'm learning every year that it's also invaluable in focusing my own eyes and heart on Christ. When you see the year not just as Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, but as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time, then the changing season don't just remind you that the Earth is circling the Sun, but that God Himself came down onto that Earth in order to save us all.

Back to our celebration of Advent. Here's a list of some things that we've done before on each day, and that I'm thinking about doing again, along with a few new ones. The key to doing something every day of Advent, I've found, is to be both prepared and flexible. Have a list of things you want to do, and even have an idea of the order in which you want to do them - perhaps even the day on which you want to do each - but be prepared to change that order and those days. If someone gets sick, it's not the day to try to get all the Christmas packages mailed. It might, instead, be the day to sit on the couch together and read all the Christmas books, one by one. Or cut out snowflakes.

And, with each activity, take the chance to talk to your children about the Incarnation. Tell them about the God who loved them so much, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believed in Him, might not die, but have everlasting life.

So, without further ado, here are some ideas to get you started:

-get a Christmas tree
-decorate the tree
-make snowflake cut-outs
-get out all of the Christmas books and display them together
-make iced cookies
-make candy for presents
-wrap presents
-write Christmas letter
-get out Advent calander (Day 1 or 2)
-assemble Advent wreath (Day 1)
-sing carols and have hot chocolate
-get out the creche
-celebrate St. Nicholas' Day (Dec. 6)
-color pictures of the Nativity story
-make ornaments
-make paper-chains
-make a star for the top of the tree
-act out the Nativity story
-make a wreath
-color pictures with the kids for them to give as presents
-make a gingerbread house
-make ornaments
-make popcorn chains
-make Grandma L's coffee cake
-make Grandma B's persimmon cookies
-donate to a food bank


Those are just some ideas; I'm also going to be checking out sites like The Crafty Crow for crafts for the kids; and we're planning on doing a Jesse Tree this year.

The whole of the idea is, though, to make sure that every day we are doing something to remind us that Jesus came, and that He came because of the Father's great love for us.

Many of the activities involve sweets or decorations, but for kids, this is a good thing, because we can always point out (and if you have a 3 or a 4 year old, you'll get the importance of this) the why of activity. Why are we doing these celebratory things? Because Jesus came (and died, and rose, and will come again), and there is no greater reason to rejoice. To celebrate. To party. :)


Also worth remembering, however, is that all of this is preparation for the party. Advent is actually a minor mourning season; Christmas is the feast. You might put the bulk of the cookies and candies you make into the freezer, to take out during the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25 - January 6). It also would not be untraditional to save some of the decorations you make and not put them up until Christmas Eve. And as you do all of these things, let it remind you to repent, much as the vegetarian fare of Lent reminds you to repent. "Let every heart prepare Him room," as the carol puts it. As you help your kids learn the story, take time to meditate on it yourself, and to make your heart as clean and bright as your home, by inviting the Holy Spirit to examine, convict and renew you.

A good Advent to you!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. This post is written partly for the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions, hosted by Kerry of A Ten'o'Clock Scholar. Go here to participate yourself. (And other liturgically-minded Christian bloggers are also welcome.)

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

7 Quick Takes

Jen, over at Conversion Diary, has been doing these “7 Quick Takes” posts for the past few weeks, and right as I was getting up the courage to copy her, she invited the whole interwebs to join in via a Mr. Linky. Thanks for keep me from plagerizing, Jen!

And, without further ado:

-1-
Is anyone else completely charmed by Steve of Blue’s Clues? The old, good Blue’s Clues, y’know. Before they went live-action and added the stupid puppets.

I have a rule for DVDs watched by the children in our house: they must not annoy Mom. Hence, John Deer Tractor movie? In. Barney? Way, way out.

Blue’s Clues? AWESOME. One of my husband’s friends told us once that he’d come home and find a bunch of teenage girls in his house, gathered around the television watching Blue’s Clues, because they all had a crush on Steve. While I don’t share their crush, I totally get it. He’s like the fellow you’d want your teenage daughter to date, because he’d to take her to the amusement park, be a real gentlemen the whole time, and actually yell “Wheeee!” on all the rides. Perfect for a kids’ TV host, because he just seems to think the whole world is so much fun.

-2-
Gamgee has moved up into 3T clothes, and so today I found myself dressing him in a shirt he’d never worn before: a red and blue plaid, long-sleeved shirt.

Quoth Gamgee: “A SPIDERMAN shirt!”

I guess all it needs are the colors.

-3-
On the awesomeness of John and Ken: I live in SoCal, and the two local obnoxious talk show hosts are named John and Ken. Now, they’re loudmouthed, and can be really annoying, but they’re doing something really cool this week: holding some local politicians to account.

The mayor of L.A. claimed, in a grab for good press, to have filled one million potholes since his term started. John and Ken questioned this, and the mayor’s office managed to produce proof of filling 50,000 of those potholes. Which leaves about 950,000 unaccounted for. Ha! the first.

Ha! the second: John and Ken are now sending a bunch of their listeners out to check that 5% - you can go to their website and be assigned a pothole address to verify – and guess what? Not even all of that 5% the mayor supposedly has proof for have been filled. Ha,ha!

So, like I said: annoying guys. But I love that they’re actually checking up on one of those wild claims that politicians like to make sometimes.

-4-
I got a great break from my usual, “boy you sure have your hands full” comments three times this week.

The first two were two separate times that a little old lady asked me, “How did you get all those children?” and I had to refrain from saying, “lots and lots of sex” or “do I really have to explain this to you?” (I went with, “um, the normal way?”) and the second was when I passed a bunch of firemen on the way to the library and one laughed and yelled, “You need more kids!”

I was proud that I thought fast enough to respond, “Yes, I’m just longing for a set of triplets!”

-5-
RSV seasons sucks.

-6-
It’s been five months since we moved, and I still can’t find my rosary. I thought I knew exactly where it was, but I didn’t. Then I thought it’d turn up any moment, but it hasn’t. I think it’s time to send out the bloodhounds. I miss it. It really is such an aid to prayer. To ordered, good prayer. Especially when I’m tired.

When I’m tired, my prayers tend to get repetitive. And if they’re going to be repetitive, I’d rather be repeating, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me,” rather than, something that starts, “and, Lord, um.”

-7-
Caring for mobile twins really is like herding kittens.

Go over here for more Quick Takes!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"we plow the fields and scatter"

Last year, during October, we taught "I sing a song of the saints of God" to our kids, in preparation for All Saints' Day. Now it's November, with another major holiday at the end of the month, and I've decided, "hey, it worked well once!" and we've started teaching the kids "We plow the fields and scatter" in preparation for Thanksgiving.

This is an especially good hymn to teach to children, because it has a chorus, as not many hymns do, and so they can pick up on part of the song very quickly, and, like any good chorus, it carries the theme of the rest of the song:

"All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all his love."

Our favorite method of teaching the kids a new song is just to sing it at bedtime. Do that for a month, and just about everyone will have it memorized, or close. (Which is good, because my husband and I don't have the verses quite down yet ourselves.)

Okay, all well and good, but here's the real puzzler: what song to we learn for Advent, in preparation of Christmas? So many good Christmas hymns, how to pick just one to concentrate on? I'm leaning towards "Hark, the herald angels sing!" just for all the good theology in it ("Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail the incarnate Deity"). Well, okay, and 'cause I love it. But there's also the excellent and joyful, "Oh come, all ye faithful", which rivals it for both cheer and good theology ("God from God/Light from Light eternal/Lo, he abhors not the virgin's womb").

We might just have to do two.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a quad stroller and God's good gifts

I was recently granted the chance to purchase a secondhand quad stroller, and immediately called the woman listing it on Craiglist and said, "Yes, please, pick me, and I'll come today with cash?" Now the kids and I can take walks again (thank you, Lord, for your blessings) in an amazingly cool vehicle that I call "the Rickshaw" and my husband calls "the Hummer" and my eldest simply calls "the monster stroller".

(I wish I could put in a link, but Blogger is not being kind to me at the moment and my tech guy - that is, Adam - is not quite home yet to help me out. But Google "Foundations quad stroller", and you can see a picture of the blue beast which we did not - I hasten to add - pay as much for as the price next to whatever picture you're going to find is going to suggest.)

There are a couple of things about this stroller, and I have to go back a bit to explain one of them.

You see, our twins were premature, and so are pretty vulnerable to illness this winter, particularly a nasty bug called RSV. It's a virus most people get by the time they're two, and most people just experience it as a nasty cold. But our girls didn't have the last seven weeks in utero that most kids get in which to develop their lungs, so they're still internally playing cattch-up, and, with airways much smaller than most babies their age, have a much greater chance of getting very, very sick with RSV. It can even kill, God forbid.

So, we had the fun of trying to decide how careful we were going to be this winter about exposing them to other children, taking them out in public and all of that.

It's so strange, because with my older two, I was the sort of mother who was back in church the Sunday after I gave birth, and who didn't worry about a snotty nose. But with the twins, a snotty nose could easily turn into something much worse. Still, it was weird to have to make a decision that boiled down not to, "what's the absolute right answer?" but to "we're going to have some risk; how much do we want?"

We didn't want to be paranoid, but as we prayed about it, I began to have these pictures going through my head. The idea of staying cooped up all winter sounded nightmarish, but as I asked the Lord for wisdom in this situation, the pictures in my head were all of green pastures and peace. I felt like He was reminding me of the Jubilee year, when the pastures are allowed to lie fallow, and the ground that has been worked over too long is allowed its rest. This was what this winter of staying in could be to us.

It seemed He was saying that we ought to take this winter quarantine as a gift from His hand, that it was meant to our family as a blessing and not a curse, that it was to be a chance to be what we literally were not last year this time: to be together. (And, weirdly, the quarantine time will last from Nov. 1 to the end of March. Which is exactly the time last year from when we found out we were having twins and that something was wrong to when they came home from the NICU.)

Last year, for over two months, I was away from either my older two or my younger two children. And for half of that, also away from my husband. We were not all together.

This winter, we will be very, very together. And though it seemed like overkill to me, I heard our Father telling me to be at peace about it. So I said, okay.

And the very next morning, I got this quad stroller. That I'd been looking for for months. It was as if He said, "see? I'll take care of you."

This stroller means that this winter will be easier. I can get out with all four kids, without exposing them to germs. It means we can take long walks and avoid cabin fever. Walk to the park, and let the older ones run around the duck pond and get their wiggles out. It means that when I need to, I can run to the store, and by dint of keeping them all in the stroller and Purelling my hands afterward, make that a not-too-risky venture (no germy shopping carts). It makes it much less bleak.


So, there are many thoughts in my head about this quad stroller. I'm walking again, and that means I'm well on the way to getting rid of that last five pounds from the girls' pregnancy, that was hanging on without my regular exercise (I've always lost weight from pregnancy by walking with the kids). It means that I got to take the kids to a park where they could see herons and kingfishers, along with the more normal ducks and geese. It means that I was able to pick flowers from the roadside to fill the vases in my house (yes, even in the suburbs, pretty things peek over the walls into public space - I love it!). It means that the babies get to get out in a winter when they would otherwise have only seen the inside of our house.

But, foremost, it is a reminder to me to be grateful to the God who calls me to obey Him for His glory. And not just for His glory, but, as the prayer book says, for His glory and for our good. Praise Him!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. I don't know where in the prayer book it says that. I'm just pretty sure that's where it landed in my head from!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wanted Children

I read an article this morning that made the point (and it was making a point, not asking a question), "Should a baby ever be born who is not really, truly wanted?"

I almost spit out my coffee. Wanted? WANTED?

Should human life then, depend on human caprice?

Isn't it, cruelly, peer pressure at its earliest, its foulest? Don't we always tell our children not to base their self-worth on what other people think of them? Yet this bases their very reason for being on whether or not someone thought they were worth it. Wanted? Wanted by whom, why, for how long?

Isn't someone worthwhile because of who he is, rather than what other people want from him, want him to be, hope for him to be?

In the end, there is only One whose love never fails, whose plans are never mistakes. His wants are truly linked to our existance. His desire engendered us, even more than our parents' desires did. In His Self, our existance and His desire for our existance are truly one. The philosophy, "the parents' desire should determine the child's existance" is a cramped, small twisting of the truth of God's "let it be".

In the end, I suppose, it IS so that only really, truly wanted children should be born. The problem is, for their existance to be justified, it is not we who need to want them.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

election links

I got caught up in election news (online and via radio, as we're TV (but not DVD) free over here). And now that it's over, here are some good people's reactions to the results:

Here's Kelly, with some thoughts on other ways to fight about social issues you care about, besides merely voting on them.

And here's Elena, with some thoughts that trip lightly and easily from why she disagrees to Obama to how to trust in the Lord to rejoicing with her neighbors.

And here's Barbara, whose thoughts include this gem:

Let us pray that under President Obama's leadership we will finally see the end to the bitterness and hardness of hearts - on both sides - that has stood in the way of reconciliation and final healing for the sin of slavery. Conservatives voted for Sen McCain for political reasons, not because of racism. But we can all share in the pride at how far our country has come. May the reality of an African American family in the highest place of honor bring assurance to every person on Earth that in this regard the American spirit, with the grace of God, has triumphed over evil.


I so earnestly hope this is true. I voted for McCain, because the President is not a legislator, and neither candidate can really do everything he promises to do, but the President can appoint Supreme Court Justices, who have a hope of ending the slaughter of the innocents in our country. So I made my vote on the executive branch in hopes of having an effect on the judicial branch.

Now I'm hoping so very much that there are no Justices stepping down in the next four years. Unlikely, but I hope it.

Nonetheless, though I wish Obama hadn't won because of his policies, I am so glad that his win was possible, I am glad that, as Barbara wrote above, there is a chance now for the final healing of the wounds the great evil of slavery inflicted on our country. May the curse of racism that has been passed down the generations here in America finally have its end.

God grant that it is so.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, October 31, 2008

Finished Object: Breastfeeding Faux Dress (McCall's M5105 and a half circle skirt)

First, forgive the silly expression on my face - my husband was making me laugh as he took the picture. But here's the project:
The idea? Well, I love wearing dresses, but they're not very breastfeeding-compliant, and with twins, I usually don't go more than two hours without nursing someone (if that). So I had the idea to make a shirt and a skirt in the same fabric, to get the look of a dress without actually wearing a dress. This is my first attempt. (Well my first attempt was to adapt a real dress pattern into a nursing dress, but that didn't work so well. This is my first attempt at the matching shirt-skirt thing.)

I like the result, but, um, I think I actually like the pieces better as separates. The top looks great with a black skirt; the skirt looks great with a green shirt.

I heartily recommend the McCall's M5105 pattern I used for the top. It's a pattern that gives you a sleeveless top, a t-shirt and a long-sleeved shirt pattern, in a couple of neckline variations. I've already cut out fabric for a t-shirt for my next try at this pattern. It's super-easy and fits really well. I love sewing with knits! (A note on McCall's M5105: the pictures on the pattern envelope are really goofy, because they added weird embellishments to the example shirts. But just leave off the embellishments, and you're left with simple, lovely, basic knit shirts.)

The half-circle skirt was also easy, and I pieced together a couple of internet tutorials for that one.

I think I'm getting addicted to sewing my own clothes.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Finished Object: Crochet Daisy Scrap Blanket


Here is Bess' Christmas blanket (you can see Gamgee's, finished earlier, here). She chose the pattern (after seeing it on my computer screen here) and helped to choose these bright colors out of my yarn stash. They're various bright colors leftover from other projects. I love how cheerful the result is.

The edge is a basic scalloped edging, with seven double crochets to a scallop. Here's a close-up of the daisy stitch:
One more off the list of Christmas-crafts-to-make! Only twenty or so to go! :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Happy Reformation Day - and a Blessed All Hallow's Eve!

Though Martin Luther is sometimes someone we Anglicans want to shy away from, Greg Peters makes the case for being proud to be Protestant on this Reformation Day. Read it here. An excerpt, to whet your appetite:

You see, Martin Luther, for all his flaws (and there were many) had re-discovered one very simple truth: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

The way I see it, to be Protestant is merely to be Pauline, to be biblical. Do you have to be Protestant to be Pauline and biblical? No. But to be Protestant in the 16th century was to be both of these things.


I also really like the way he points out that the Anglicans who claim not to be Protestant are being just a little - shall we say? - imaginative.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. This is not an anti-Catholic or anti-Orthodox post, except insomuch as I think that Catholics and Orthodox are, well, wrong. But if I didn't think that, I'd convert, eh? :) I'm perfectly aware and okay with the fact that my Orthodox and Catholic readers think I'm wrong. We are all Christians though, believing the doctrine of the Nicene Creed, and I think we all share a faithful belief that Christ will sort us all out in the end.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween: Remember That You Are Mortal

I will be glad to get to this weekend. I will be glad not to have to explain the skeletons in the grocery store to my four-year-old anymore.

Does Albertsons’ really think I want to have to explain corpses to preschoolers every week?

On the upside, I think I understand the urge to celebrate Halloween better than I have before, due to Bess’ persistent “why?”’s, as in: “why do they hang up pretend dead bodies next to the eggs and cheese?”

My answer, which surprised me, is, “Because they’re scared of death, and this makes them feel better about it.”

True, I think.

Surely the other great motive is our love of indulgence. Most people would tell you that Halloween is a day about candy. And, well, as an American myself, I understand the urge to stuff my face. (As a Christian, I am fighting it, but I do very much understand.)

But surely, if it were just about candy, we wouldn’t need all the ghastlies and ghoulies. Why do my neighbors, otherwise very nice people, feel the urge to hang horrors from their porches? Why are they happy to decorate with foulness that makes me avert my eyes in disgust?

I think it must be an attempt at inoculation. Maybe seeing all the fake gore can help comfort you into believing that real gore doesn’t exist. If you expose yourself over and over to corpses made of paper and plastic, maybe that becomes to you what a dead body is, and you can ignore the future dead body you’re currently inhabiting.

I think, as a Christian, my dislike of all this fake death is actually a sign of a healthy understanding of real death. In my experience, people who deal with real death are much healthier, happier and heartier than those who feel the need to boogeyman themselves to – hmm – death.

Two things: first, when I see a skeleton, all dressed up in a tattered cape, arms raised in a frightening gesture, I think, “what a sad thing to do to the remains of someone who used to be your friend, your family member, your neighbor.” That isn’t how we ought to treat dead bodies, you know? Dead bodies are the earthly remains of people. Costuming skeletons seems to me, firstly, disrespectful. I think all of these skeletons hanging around this time of year show a forgetfulness of what skeletons actually are. Not ghoulies, not ghosties, but just plain, honest, human remains. (And you too will be one one day. Perhaps soon.)

Secondly, the skeleton is just part of the person. The soul lives on, and, for the redeemed, will be reunited with a new body, one that never will decompose till all that remains is the bones. We respect human remains, because they are what used to be our neighbors. But we don’t regard them with fear, because they are not our neighbors anymore. They are not some odd, haunted object. The part of them that was human, well, what’s to fear about our brothers? The part of them that’s not human – because the animating spirit is gone – well, what’s to fear about an inanimate object? But, either way, they ought not to be hung out for the purposes of being nervously laughed at.

So, I find it distasteful, I think, because I view death differently than a lot of my neighbors. Sure, I’m scared of it, I think everybody is. I’ve never died before, and new experiences are always scary. I (sinfully) worry about those I will leave behind. I'm scared of how much it will hurt. But I know what’s waiting at the other side, I know Who is waiting, and though I fear Him in a way I fear no one else, I know Him in a way I know no one else, and trust Him in a way no one else deserves to be trusted.

And I know He beat death. Hanging out skeletons seems to me to be a weak option when I can contemplate the cross instead. Here is where death met its death. Here is where the horror of the grave was really confronted. Here is where Hell was harrowed. Here is my memento mori. Here is the vision of terror, and the One who was more Terrifying than the final terror, that I wish to hold before my eyes, now and always.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The No-Backyard Backyard

We moved to a condo this summer, and so lost our backyard. Now, we gained so many other things in this move that you shouldn't be sad for us about that, but it did leave me with the puzzle: how do my kids play outside now?

Well, eventually, I think that answer is going to involve going to the park more often, when we've got kids old enough for kicking a ball around a field and such. But since we're talking about preschoolers, the answer has been: we're making our patio as yard-ish as possible. Here are a few of the ways that we're doing that:
Sand is the first and biggest one. This has taken the place of our old backyard mud hole, where the kids played for hours with shovels and trucks. Now they have a big tub of sand they're allowed to scatter all over the patio, and they play with that for hours with their shovels and trucks. When they're done, I just sweep it all up and put it back in the tub. (The tub, of course, has a lid, to keep the neighborhood cats for using it as a litter box.)

Water play is another big one. They're allowed to fill their sand buckets with water and take them outside, to splash, to play kitchen, to get as wet as their little hearts desire.

Toy dinosaurs find room to roam, both on the concrete of the patio, and in the jungle of nearby landscaped plants.

The makeshift bridges in the picture above are my latest and favoritest no-backyard backyard development. The lumber was sitting on our patio, and the kids started taking it out and using it for balance beams. I suggested they put it over the nearby concreted-in ivy patch, and a game of building bridges was born.

That highlights one of the most important strategies of the no-backyard backyard, I think: using what you have. We happen to have a concreted-in ivy patch, perfect for board bridges. You might have something else. Use what you have.

What else do we have? A built-in audience of little sisters, curious to see what their older siblings are doing:


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

links!

A Shakespearian pun . . .". . . made glorious summer by this sun of York."

Rant: I See London, I See France. Another one by A Dress A Day, well worth the read.

Getting Ready for All Saints' Day


Today my oldest daughter and I went through our books and got out the ones about the saints (a few of them are pictured above). We've started reading bits of them, and will keep doing it throughout the week.

We've been playing some saints' lives during dress-up time. We're beginning to sing the children's saint hymn around our house again.

What are you doing to get ready for All Saints this Saturday?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, October 27, 2008

a good morning

This has been such a good morning, the sort of morning you want to share with someone, so here I am, sharing it with you.

My daughters woke me up, the twins cooing and my older one standing in the doorway of our room caroling, “good morning, Mom!” Bess kept her baby sisters amused while I got dressed and such; such a gift that she likes them so well!

When I came downstairs to fix breakfast, I found a note from my husband propped above the sink. I love notes, and he knows it, and every time he leaves one for me, it makes me feel so good that he took the time to do something he knows I love.

We had breakfast, the four of us, while my son continued to sleep. A good thing, as he didn’t get enough yesterday, and was cranky all last afternoon. Then I got to read a book while drinking my coffee – a pleasure regularly interrupted to talk to my oldest about the pictures she’s drawing and to play with the babies who were crawling around, looking for dropped Cheerios.

And then, Lucy crawled! The babies have been scooting efficiently forward for about a month now, but this was a real crawl! I love watching my kids learn new things. I bet Anna follows her sister’s lead within the week.

Finally, on the baby monitor, I heard a little boy’s voice saying, “I see baby Jesus looking at me!” and realized that Gamgee was awake and reading a Christmas book in his room. I waited a few minutes, because this is a boy who hates being interrupted while he wakes up, and then went up to get him. He wanted me to carry him downstairs, this sturdy little boy of mine, which was a treat for both of us. He usually wants to walk, and my arms are often full of his sisters.

He ate breakfast, and I looked at some fabric I’d brought downstairs, trying to match it with patterns I have on hand. Not a necessary job, just a just-for-fun thing. I’m trying to make myself craft Christmas presents on weekdays, and craft for myself only on Sundays, but sometimes it spills over from the weekend.

Eventually the babies needed to be nursed down to their nap, and after I did that, I let the older two go outside and play with sand and trucks and plastic dinosaurs. While they did that, I did my morning chores. Gamgee is still playing with the sand, even though his baby sisters are up again. He’ll play with dirt and trucks for hours. Lucy and Anna are on their tummies in front of the door, just watching him. I’m typing this, and about to get back to some real work.

But this is the sort of morning that I think of when I think of my best days at home with the kids. And I just wanted to share it. And record it, so I can remember. Thanks be to God that there are days like this sometimes.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, October 26, 2008

pruning

I listened to Haydn on the way home from a friend's house on Saturday night. I got to thinking about how I don't know much about music, but I always like Haydn when I hear him. It's not uncommon that when, in flipping past the classical station, I hear something I like well enough not to flip back to NPR or other music, I hear at the end of the selection that it's something Haydn composed.

I thought about how that phrase sounds in my head, "I don't know much about music." It's true, and it especially felt true coming home from my friend's house, a friend who does know a lot about music and, in fact, composes it. But it's not true in other ways: I know how to read a melody line well enough to play it decently on the recorder or to help me follow along with a new piece of music at church. I had various music lessons when I was young, and I'm grateful for them. I'm glad I know how to play at least one instrument, even if it is the humble recorder, because there's nothing like making music when that's what your heart really wants to do. It's not often for me, but when it is, I'm glad I'm able to.

It's good, I think, to be reasonably conversant with a variety of skills. To become competent at various things, especially when you're young. Good to be good enough at music, at sports, at reading, at writing, at cooking, at languages, at building, at camping. It's good to have a base in all of those areas, so that if you ever need to build on one of them as an adult, it's there. You'll have a bit of experience. You'll know where to start.

But that view of education means you will have many skills that you aren't particularly good at, as I'm not particularly good at music. This can be disturbing, because you are sometimes tempted to be upset about all the things you can do, but you can't do well. I'm still a bit tempted to that despondency, but not so much anymore. I've learned that it's a trap.

Why? Well, take my drive home on Saturday night, listening to Haydn. It made me wish I knew how to play the piano. I've often wished that, but I've never, as Elizabeth Bennett said, "taken the trouble to practice." Why? Because I don't want to enough. And this - here's the key - is a good thing.

Why? It is a good thing because the reason I don't want to practice the piano enough to actually do it is because there are other things I want to do more.

I've learned that I'm finite. To chose one thing means to not choose every other thing in the universe. Most of our choosing is easy, because most of our hours are spent on necessities: on caring for our families, on housework, on taking care of bodily functions (including the necessity of sleep), on paying the bills. Then there is our tithe and our gift of prayer. Then our relationships (love God, and love your neighbor). And then, what is left over we are (sometimes) allowed to with as we will.

And when I have that choice to make, piano is not what I want most. And if it never is what I want most, I never will learn to play it.

Instead, I write stories. Through that childhood full of learning to play instruments, to build, to camp, to speak, to read, to write, to play, to cook, to work (and how do we not realize as children how free our hours are?), it was always the writing that was where I found my fullest joy. So now that I am an adult, and cannot fit everything into my life - now that I have to choose - that is what I choose.


I think there will be seasons when this is not true. I think there are times (when the babies wake up three or four times a night, rather than just one) when I can't make the choice to write; I'm too tired to access whatever part of myself it is that the stories come from. There will be times, I think, when I might have the time to choose more than one thing (words and music!) But whatever season it is, it is a relief to know that I don't have to do everything.

My parents were good parents, and knew enough to make us learn to be competent at many things. They were also good enough to let us specialize, when we found the things at which we were more than competent.


But, finally, the point is that it's been good to learn that I'm finite. Learning this lesson has helped me to become content. To know that I don't have to do everything - well, even the idea that maybe I should be able to do everything is a kind of pride, isn't it? (You know - the kind of pride that makes you laugh when you actually spell it out - "oh, yes, hmm, me able to do everything - ha!") I must choose this, and not that, because I have only this hour, and I am only this big.

And, of course, the question, "what would you like me to do, Lord?" Sometimes, it seems, the answer is, "first what you ought, and then what you like."

But that last part, I'm still thinking about.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, October 20, 2008

snapdragons inside and out


I'm getting used to living in a condo, to not having a yard. But even without a yard, I couldn't not have a garden. The above picture is a shot of some of the plants I have on our patio wall. They're snapdragons.

I saw some last fall at a botanical garden, and fell in love. It was too late to grow them then, so I'm growing them now. They're lovely, with their soft pinks and architectural fall of blossoms.

Though I can't afford the huge bouquets you see in any home and garden magazine (ever spot a photo shoot without flowers?), I love having little bud vases here and there in my home. Right now I only have two out, one in the bathroom and one on the bar above my kitchen sink.

But I smile whenever I see them. There is something about looking, just for a few seconds in between rinsing dishes or washing my hands, at a graceful blossom that softens my mood. I think it even helps remind me to speak more gently to my children. I'm amazed, over and over, at how I'm influenced by my surroundings. As they say, "Geography is the mother of strategy." It's true in the home as well as the battlefield.

Forgive the poor photo, but the above are the zinnias growing in my kitchen window sill. They aren't as graceful as the snapdragons, but they're cheery and bright, and one more step to making our new condo feel like home.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Check out Renee's Finished Object Fridays

Every Friday, Renee over at Arabian Knits has a "Finished Object Friday" Mr. Linky thing. I love it, because it's a great incentive to finish a project a week.

I know there are other crafty moms (um, you clever Etsy people?) reading this blog - I encourage you to participate - it's tons of fun!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, October 17, 2008

what to say to a mom of multiples

I've been loving Shannon's series on "What I'd Like For You to Know" and yesterday she had a guest blogger post on being a mom of multiples. Jen's post is great, and I encourage you to read it. (I also think she's amazing because two of her four quadruplets were monoamniotic, like my girls. I know how stressful a momo pregnancy is, but having it be a quad pregnancy on top of that - wow!) She's right on about so many things, especially how hard it is to keep up with friends during the first year as a mom with multiples, but how grateful we are for the friends who stick through it with us.

But the thing that really stood out to me was, sigh, the what not to say to moms of multiples. Oh man. If I'm allowed to have a pet peeve (are Christians allowed to have a pet peeve? My old one was dyed hair - I think it's pretty uniformly ugly - but I've a new one now), it's hearing "My, don't you have your hands full?"

Now, let me be clear: if you say this to me, I don't think you're a horrible person. I don't hate you. I'm sure it's the first thing to occur to you, so it's the first thing you say. In fact, I'm sure of this because it's what I hear pretty much every time I go out with the babies, almost always several times. You get tired of anything if you hear it that often. If I heard some intone "the keys to a shiny new Austrailia" everytime I went outside, I'd get tired of hearing that too. I very well might have said "wow, you have your hands full" to some poor mom myself, back before I knew better. So, consider this in the nature not of a rant, but of a public service announcement.

It's almost always clearly meant well, or at least neutrally. But, aside from being repetitive, it also has the implication of, "Gee, I'd hate to be you," and "My, your life must be terrible and tiring." Yes on the tiring. No on the terrible. Even if you don't pity yourself, it gets tiring to hear other people pity you. Aloud. In public. Over and over. And over. (Did I mention it gets repetitive?)

But it's not fair to say what not to say, without saying what to say. Because friendly people do want to say something, and honestly, even though "you sure have your hands full" makes me wince every time, sometimes, when it's said with a particularly warm smile, it still lifts my heart a bit.

So what lifts my heart even more? These things, which you should say, not just to a mom of multiples, but to any mom of young kids who looks (ha!) like she has her hands full:

-"My, what beautiful children!"
-"Oh, you are so blessed!"
-any variation on the above.

I love hearing those. They're warm, encouraging, approving and - moreover - they're much easier to answer. You can't say, "thank you!" to "you sure have your hands full", and it's so nice to be able to make a kind, grateful response to folks who are benignly interested in our traveling zoo. :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

lozenge scarf


I was inspired by a craftster post (as I often am - scroll past the gorgeous pillow to get to the scarves), but I found the pattern I wanted in my trusty old crochet book - the one I bought used and have used more often than any of the ones I've bought new.

I'm planning on doing several variations on this scarf, for several different Christmas presents, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with different color combinations. I think it'd be cute to do one where all the lozenges were white, and surrounded by wavy lines of color. What do you think?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

A Few Links - St. Teresa, twins and the church year

Kerry at A Ten'o'Clock Scholar has a great post for Teresa of Avila's feast day tomorrow. I particularly like this observation: "all our possessions are only given to us to enable us to do the Lord's work". That's one to chew on for awhile. It reminds me of my favorite prayer from Proverbs, which implores the Lord not to give us to much, that we forget Him and say, "who is the Lord?", nor to give us to little, that we steal, and profane the name of our God. I'm not quite sure how the two thoughts go together, but it seems like a good thing to ponder on St. Teresa's day.

And here is a link to an interesting article about how MZ (identical) twins form. There is the terribly disturbing, bloodthirsty fac that the research was done for the purpose of figuring out which embryos were likely to become twins so they could be thrown away (Lord have mercy), but the actual observation of the formation of twins is fascinating.

And, finally, an article my mom passed onto me, just a general overview of the church year, but also a bit of a meditation on it. Worth reading, especially for some of the turns of phrase.

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13, Feast of Edward the Confessor

I saw on my Ordo calandar today that it's the feast of Edward the Confessor, King of England. As I have a fondness for English history, and I'm trying to get back to observing the feast days, I dug out my trusty Oxford History of Britain, and looked up old Edward.

He seems an odd fellow to be called a saint. It seems particularly kind to name him the patron saint of troubled marriages; I'm not sure that sending your wife away to a nunnery is any kind of example to follow. Of course, he did later take her back, and I suppose it is probably the the good example of reconciliation that we are supposed to follow.

His life, like the lives of most of England's monarchs, would make a splendid novel, if you found the right person to write it. But the wars, the family intrigues, the deaths, tortures, flights to safety, glorious battles, headache-inducing politics: it's all there.

Perhaps it's the glimpses of piety here and there that make it something extraordinary: the dedication to building a glorious church, the rumors of the healing touch, his care for the poor.

It is more piety, maybe, than is apparent in the lives of most great men. And maybe these few things that are remembered are evidence of much more that is not. It makes me wonder how much of our devotion to God would be remembered by any future generations. Or would they just see the wars, the politics, the oddities?

Though Edward was a king, I feel like he gives me hope for living as a saint in ordinary times. Though his times look extraordinary to us (the battles, politics, etc, mentioned above), it was, largely a peaceful time in England. There were wars, there were dangers, but nothing like what was to follow in the next little bit. He served where he was called, it seems. A king doing kingly things, but nonetheless, trying to be God's king.

So, in the end, after looking at this ambiguous saint, what I take is that I ought to serve where I am, regardless of what odd things or small things come to me.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

finished object and links

Another FO! I can't believe I've had so many so recently . . . I've had several projects I've been slowly working on, and they kind of all got finished at once.

This is a hat to welcome Emily's new arrival; can you see his name on the hat band? I did it with intarsia crochet:

And here it is blurrily modeled on one of my twins, so you can see the fit:

It was inspired by a hat in this book. I thought the shape (and the ears!) was very cute, and I thought it'd be cuter yet in crochet, with blue and green stripes and a name.


And, for your viewing and reading pleasure, here are a couple of links:
-check out what Ranee and her kids did on St. Michael's day. I totally want to do this next year (assuming - ha! - that we haven't just had twins!). Who wouldn't want to bake an edible dragon and then stab it with bamboo skewers?
-read this funny and oh-so-true list of people not to marry, by Anthony Esolen.

And, though it's a little late: happy Michaelmas!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, September 27, 2008

bird's nest pendant


I like this one. Couldn't you see it on an organza ribbon around someone's neck?

I'm enjoying playing with these materials. Can you tell?

So . . . would you like to see this under the tree? Can I spring it (with ribbon) on those infamous unsuspecting female relatives?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, September 26, 2008

the rhythm of the week

As we push our rock up the hill every day this year, it's been hard to hold onto the wonderful rhythm of the church year. Feed the babies, fall back asleep, feed the babies, fall back asleep, feed the babies, don't go back to sleep . . . try to love the children, take care of the children, make eye contact with all the children (hard when there are four sets of eyes to look into, and you have only one set yourself), answer all the questions, while making sure that those babies still get fed, and loved, and changed, and snuggled . . . and make sure to love and snuggle the older ones too . . . and teach, admonish, and love some more . . . it's not a bad life, in fact, it's better than I ever thought it could be, but it's like body-surfing: all you feel is the wave, with the water filling your eyes, nose and mouth, you have no sense of the larger ocean the tide is pulsing through.

But I think, in the midst of this, I'm getting the feel for an older rhythm, for the rhythm of the week. It's the same day, over and over, it feels, but then there's Sunday, and Sunday lifts us up.

It's a pause, a breath. Not that every Sunday is a sinecure. Last Sunday was awful. But even that bad break in the everyday routine led to new insight about what we were doing wrong in our day-to-day life, and this whole week has been better because of the fight we had Sunday.

(My husband and I have good fights, I think. We can always feel them coming, building like that sullenness in the air before a thunderstorm, and they're never fun, but we're always so much easier with each other afterwards, having said all we needed to say, and having come to a better place for the storm. It's always like a clear, rainswept day after a good fight.)

But there being Sunday changes everything. We stop doing what we do every day and remember why we do what we do every day. I can feed those babies . . . because Jesus feeds me. I can sleep . . . and I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I can meet my childrens' gaze . . . because the Lord sees me. I have these blessings . . . at the Lord's hand. Tomorrow is still coming . . . but the Lord will be Lord tomorrow also.


God instituted the seven day week in Creation itself. It changed forever, became itself, when Christ rose Sunday morning. So every week begins with hope, and every day's work is done in a universe filled with order, filled also with creative beauty.


I am almost glad to lose sight of the church year - for, ha! a season - to learn the beauty of the church week.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

first completed Christmas craft

Finally! I finished my two year old son's Christmas blanket, from the pattern he picked out; the first completely completed Christmas project of the year.

Here's what it looks like from above:

The trying thing about this pattern is that every round is longer than the last, so a pattern that initally feels like it's working up quickly starts to draaaaaaaaag. (It's over five feet from point to point.) But it's incredibly satisfying to see it all done.

And I think it'll be doubly satisfying to see Gamgee in his bed, all snuggled up under it this winter.

And I finally have something to post to Ranee's Finished Object Friday! :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. The pattern can be found here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

twinfancy


If you hadn't guessed from my lack of posts, this twinfancy thing is kicking my butt. I've decided to call this period of my life "Santification Bootcamp" because that sounds better than "In Which Jessica Gets Not One Minute To Call Her Own And Hopes That By Submitting To It All She'll Become More Like Christ, That Is, Sometimes, When She Actually Remembers That She's Supposed To Be Becoming Like Christ."

And no, I did not even make it through typing that first paragraph without interruption. I don't do anything these days without interruption. Talk about learning not to call your time your own.

I remember a passage in Lewis (probably from Screwtape) in which he points out that if our Lord were actually physically present with us all day, telling us to do our daily duties, we would do it with alacrity, and if he gave us just one half hour at the end of the day and told us "do what you like with it", then we would be jaw-droppingly grateful for his generosity.

The trick is doing our daily duty with such joy and attentiveness even when we cannot see him. I am so working on this. Because He is still here.

So, in the meantime, here are a few links (mostly read while nursing the twins) that have got me thinking this week:

From Amy's Humble Musings, a post on Getting Real.

And from that weightiness, I give you something mostly amusing: A Dress A Day on Why Skirts Are Better Than Pants.

And this post, from Anthony Esolen, asking "Where Have All the B Movies Gone?" has me thinking about my favorite version of the B Movie, the Regency romance. I love that genre, and it is so very much a genre, with rules, with predictability, with the hero, the heroine, the villian, the happy ending. But there is something good about hearing the same story told over and over again in different clothes. It's not high art, but it's worthy nonetheless, I think. I want to publish a few myself, someday.

So, dear readers, what's your version of the B Movie? What's the medium in which you could hear the same old story told a hundred times? Pop romance ballads? Paperback Westerns? Pulp radio dramas?

May your day be filled with God's grace.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. I hope it goes without saying, but when I mention my beloved Regencies, I'm talking about those in the classic Georgette Heyer style, and not the more recent p/rn-in-Jane-Austen-costumes style.

p.p.s. No, I didn't put the babies down on their tummies for a nap. They rolled over into those positions all by themselves. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

on necessity and free will

A post by my friend Sarah has gotten me thinking about duty and free will. And love.

Right now, I feel very tied down. Absolutely restricted. But not in any malevolent sense. I am simply bound.

I am bound by the demands of four children. I am bound to spend my waking hours tending to their needs and their comforts. Those take most of the time. I am moreover bound to their education and their sanctification.

But I walked into my restrictions of my own free will. My husband and I bound ourselves in our marriage vows, and the children follow logically.

But it's strange, nonetheless, because though children were what I signed up for, I did not expect four, ages four and under; I did not expect twins. I did not expect this.

So, in that way, it feels like I gave the Lord an inch and He took an ell, binding me to a regimen of hard, delightful labor.

It's a bizarre feeling to be doing exactly what I wanted to do, but without the liberty of doing anything else. I've always believed the maxim, "You can have it all, just not all at once" but I never before knew how few things you might be allowed at once.

Just this. I just need to do this. And do it, and do it, and learn to do it very well. There is no room - or very little - for anything other than my family.

(On a side note: I wish, wish, wish it were possible to explain to anyone who is not a parent of twims just how all-consuming having two babies at once is. It is the deepest blessing and the direst strain of your resources. My mother worried that we didn't know - in our head-deepness - how little margin we have in our lives right now. But I assured her, "oh, we know. Whenever we actually get a chance to talk, that's about all we talk about.")

But what is this one thing I'm learning? What is it the Lord has constrained me to learn?

Love. Love and obedience. I think the Lord decided, in His grace, to constrain me to learn to love and to obey.

And trust. He has taken me beyond my own resources, my own ability, and told me to obey anyway. And minute by minute, He has taken up the slack, multiplied my fishes, kept us afloat, cleared away again and again what seemed to be the storm that would surely drown us.

It is strange, to be forced to practice the virtue you always wanted. I think, if I keep obeying, I won't be able to help becoming a loving person. Not the selfish, crabbed one I was before. But a true Christian. Of my own free will, but only by God's constant badgering, constraining, helping, warning.

As I wrote on Sarah's blog: On my best days these days, my free will and my necessity are running in tandem, and I’m hoping that when necessity slackens, that my will keeps me going on this straight line of duty and delight. (Not of changing diapers, but of loving others.)

That's the thing? Can I keep doing it when I don't have to do it? So far, I don't think so. But I hope so. Someday.

By God's grace alone. Meanwhile, I'll do this. Thank you, Father, for this kindest of disciplines.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, August 25, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: tomato soup with basil grilled cheese sandwiches, and Crenshaw melon
Tuesday: freezer stash meal, with watermelon
Wednesday: pumpkin pie and whipped cream
Thursday: spicy peanut chicken over rice
Friday: dinner out
Saturday: sesame brown rice with shredded chicken and peanuts

The brown rice salad is a repeat, and I highly recommend making it the day before - it's one of those recipes that tastes even better the second day, y'know?

The spicy peanut chicken is a new one, and I'm interested in seeing how it turns out.

Tonight's dinner is the soup with grilled cheese (is there anything better than grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup?). But grilled cheese with BASIL - oh my. Just put some fresh basil in there with the cheese, and you've got something you'll think you should have paid twenty bucks for at a fancy lunch cafe. Mmmmm-mmm.

We don't have much room for a garden, but I do have potted basil growing on the patio! It's a summer must. :)

For more great menus, visit Org Junkie.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. Oh, and the pumpkin pie for dinner? Sometimes, you just have to have pumpkin pie.

veggievores

I made ants on a log (celery spread with peanut butter and dotted with raisins) with the older kids today. I've been trying to think of ways to get more veggies into their lives. They're fruitavores, and they Hoover plums, bananas, apples, necterines, you name it, every day. But veggies are harder because they take more prep. (They take more prep because, in my opinion, most of them taste much better cooked.)

They do get plenty of veggies with dinner, usually, because I cook things that have a lot of vegetables in them. But I'd like to supplement that a bit, hence the ants on a log. (Other hits are carrot sticks with ranch dressing, frozen veg microwaved with a bit of butter and salt, and sneaking handfuls of Mom's mixed greens salad - if I'm eating it, they want some.)

So, Bess and Gamgee were sitting at the table, enjoying their veggie creation, and Bess declared, "Mom, I think we should say that the peanut butter is the ants' poop."

Whatever makes it tastier, dear. :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, August 23, 2008

oh so true

I found this when I was reading through a comic book while, coincidentally nursing twins. So true! So true!

Friday, August 15, 2008

tears running down my cheeks

It might just be that I'm tired, but my husband and I looked at all the pictures on this site tonight, and I at least laughed hard enough that I had tears running down my face. See: Cake Wrecks. Go ahead, scroll through the archives.

happy feast day!

And may I point you over to this delightful Assumption post by Melissa Wiley?

Hope your day was good.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

on baths

I discovered, btw, that a bucket and a cup can do wonders on sandy kids.

I've also discovered, while we're on the topic of odd clean-up jobs that a vacuum's upholstery attachment is just the thing for taking care of the stream of ants who've discovered the leftover food in your son's booster chair.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

biology may not be destiny after all

So, you have two babies. They share every strand of DNA. They have the exact same milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (And second breakfast, third breadfast, fourteenth lunch, etc., ad infinitum.)

And one poops every day, several times a day.

The other poops once a week.

You tell me this world isn't a mysterious and marvelous place.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

oh dear

so far, I've avoided giving the kids baths when my husband isn't home. After all, what do you do with twin babies while you have two toddlesr in the tub?

I think I might have to figure that out.

See, my idea was that Bess and Gamgee could play with water on the porch, with buckets and cups and dishtubs and all good things.

My idea was NOT that they'd get into the sandbox with the water.

Silly me.

St. Mary's Day for children

I started to tell Bess, my 4 year old, about Mary's Day, and before I had a chance to tell her how we were going to celebrate it, she burst out, "We could pick flowers!"

Indeed! Funny how kids tumble to things sometimes!

Picking flowers is a traditional way to celebrate Mary's life. Roman Catholics will decorate her statues with flowers on Assumption Day. We don't have any statues of Mary, but we have some icons of Mary and Jesus, and I like the idea of making a small wreath (as Bess and I often do with the clover she picks out of the grass) and hanging it 'round the icon.

It's really, if you think about it, not that different than taking flowers to a friend's grave. It's a way of celebrating what God accomplished in the life of his servant, and remembering her willing obedience to Him, and encouraging ourselves to follow her example.

Here are some other ways to celebrate St. Mary's Day with children:
-draw a picture of her.
-read Bible story books about the Nativity or finding the boy Jesus in Jerusalem or the crucifixion, when Jesus told John to take care of his mother.
-make cookies with blue icing (use food coloring). Blue is the traditional color for Mary, and as you make the cookies, you can talk about how blue reminds us of Heaven, and how Mary welcomed heaven into her heart when she welcomed God into her life. And about how she is in Heaven now. This can lead to a conversation about salvation.
-talk about people you might know who are named after Mary, and how we name people after saints to encourage us to love God like they did.

As always, it's a good day to sing "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God".

How are the rest of you celebrating this Friday?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, August 11, 2008

of the Virgin Mary

This Friday is Mary's day. In Anglicanism, we celebrate it as her "falling asleep day" or "the Dormition", the day she died and went to be with God. The Roman Catholics celebrate it as the Assumption. I once heard an Episcopal priest explain the Feast of the Assumption and then observe, "of course, as Anglicans, we feel free to call it just that: an assumption!" :)

In either case, it is a day to celebrate the Mother of God, the woman who was a model for the whole church in the way she bent her own will to the will of the Lord. There is no better answer to God's commands than Mary's, "May it be to me as you have said." In this, she sets an example for us all.

Now that the babies are six months old, and life has a rhythm again (it's staccato, but it's a rhythm), I am trying to find my way back into the celebration of the church year. It seems like spending the week thinking about Mary is a good place to start.

I don't pray to the saints, but I take deep comfort in their example of faithfulness, and know that there is a lot for me to learn from studying their lives and words. And as my primary job right now is mothering, Mary is someone I want to spend a week meditating on.

Again, life is very full right now with the babies, so I'm setting myself an easy task: memorizing the Magnificat. I have it near to memorized, having read it often and often during Morning Prayer. But I don't have it quite by heart. I'd like to by the end of the week, and I'm planning on copying it over today so that I can read it while I nurse, or prop it on the counter while I do the dishes. I'd encourage you to do the same, if you are looking for a devotion fitting to the season. And, if you get a chance, read the first chapters of 1 Samuel, to see where Mary's prayer echoes Hannah's.

So, that's my celebration this week. I plan on doing my next post on how you can celebrate Mary's Day with children. There are some cool traditions that have grown up throughout the years that can be adapted to use with toddlers and preschoolers. Stay tuned!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell