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


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


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