“A New Coat for Anna”

Before all the craziness of vacations and nosebleeds and babies this summer, we did one last week of summer “school.”  I don’t remember this in as good detail as I usually do, but it was such a fun one that I didn’t want to skip it!

We were reading “A New Coat for Anna” by Harriet Ziefert which is about a girl in post-war Europe who needs a new winter coat.  Her mother trades all sorts of household goods in order to get what she needs to get that coat and in the process, makes new friends and learns what goes into making a coat.

On the first day of the week, we went to visit a good friend’s farm to see her sheep.  We got to meet all sorts of animals (goats, chickens, cows and sheep) and learn about everything that goes into taking care of them.

As close as the sheep would let us get.

As close as the sheep would let us get.

Notice Bo sneaking up on them in the background. He was practicing his pounce.

Notice Bo sneaking up on them in the background. He was practicing his pounce.

We learned about the things they eat and what sorts of products we get from sheep (milk, cheese, meat, wool) and we discussed all the fun parts of taking care of animals. Then we played some before we left the farm.  Thanks, Krissy for letting us bug you for a day!

We were digging sand out of their clothes all day.

We were digging sand out of their clothes all day.

The second day, we learned about World War II (on a very basic level).  We talked about the Axis countries and the Allies.  They made a chart by cutting out country names and putting them on the right side.  This gave them practice with cutting and gluing.  Then they took a world map and colored the Axis countries red and the Allies yellow.  Finally, they colored a German flag and we talked about famous German composers like Beethoven and Bach.  Bo was excited because he remembered Bach from music class.


Even Joe got in on the coloring fun. So enthusiastic, this one.

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On the third day, we all got up early and went fishing!  This was daddy’s favorite day.  We tried to catch fish so we could measure them like Anna was measured by the tailor for her new coat.  We also wanted to practice making observations and recording data, because I’m a science teacher, so you know I can’t resist that.  Unfortunately, we only caught one tiny little fish, but we had a beautiful day on the lake relaxing and had lunch in a very cute diner nearby.  A bust in terms of learning, but a great day of spending time together.  And we measured lots of other things besides fish.

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For the next day, we got to spend the day with our resident fiber/wool expert, Nana.  The kids were excited to have a teacher besides mommy and they got a big day full of adventures.

First, she showed them unprocessed wool and asked them to describe what it looked like and what it felt like.  They didn’t like the greasy feeling of the lanolin in the wool.


Then she showed them how to use very hot water and Dawn dish soap to clean the wool.

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After letting it dry for a while, we then learned how to card the wool using brushes with tiny metal teeth.  At every step, my mom asked the kids to observe how it looked and felt differently than it did the step before.


Then, she showed them how to spin using her spinning wheel.  Maggie was extra excited about this because she knew spinning wheels from Sleeping Beauty.


She showed them that yarn can then be knit into clothing by showing them a sweater she was working on and that it can be woven into fabric by showing them her loom.  In the book, there is a weaver that makes the wool into fabric, so this was interesting for them.

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The final step was dying the wool.  The kids chose a bright red color (motivated by Bo who is obsessed with red).


Of course after this, we had to wait for the yarn to dry before we could do anything with it and then Nana promised to knit Bo a sweater with the red yarn.  Maggie asked for a pink shawl and Joe claimed some very soft blue yarn for his sweater.  Just recently, my mom finished all these projects and my kids are loving it.  I just wish I had pictures of all of them.

Maggie shawl

Maggie wearing the perfect pink shawl Nana made her.

The last day was all about appreciating what we have and what goes into making it.  We talked about not taking things for granted and being thankful for what we have.  We prayed together as a family after listing some things we were thankful for.  This was a very simple day, but I think it reminded my kids to think about the work that goes into things.  Maggie went for a week thanking me for all the work I put into making dinner, which was super sweet.

We’ll see how cooperative they’ll be next summer with this whole school at home thing!


The Sun Shines through the Trees

I have a confession to make.  I haven’t been writing in my blog because I haven’t been feeling like I had anything important or wise to say in my grief.  In fact, my father’s death hit me like a ton of bricks, as the cliche goes and I haven’t felt quite the same since.

There was a day this past summer when I was riding in the car with my mom on the way to Lancaster when I noticed something was different.  I looked out the window at the beautiful scenery and I didn’t feel sad.

We were on our way to Green Dragon – a huge flea market – and were going to spend the day with many of my extended family members.  I brought all four kids, including the newbie that was just weeks old.


Taking a break from the flea market shopping to take a picture with my children.  You can’t see it, but I’m wearing Finn too.

The last time I had gone to Green Dragon had been with BOTH of my parents, and I was already preparing for moments where my eyes would fill with tears and I’d have to hold it back.  Memories of laughing with my dad and eating with him and walking with him. Wishing he was still with us to buy big jugs of beet red pickled eggs and munch on sausages and pretzels.

But they didn’t come.

Well, the memories did, but the tears didn’t.  Not that I wasn’t sad that he wasn’t there to form NEW memories, but I wasn’t sad about the old memories.  I was actually happy about the old memories.  Happy to have them.  Joyful to share them with others.  Glad to remember him and those moments with  him.

My dad had been dead for over a year at that point and that was the first time I could feel like I was peeking over the mountain that is my grief. It’s almost like every time someone I loved died, the grief was piled higher and higher and it became more and more difficult to pull myself up to the summit so I could see the sun shining on the other side.

And for the past year, I think I’ve been stuck clinging to the edge of my grief by my very fingertips, getting more and more exhausted trying to hold on.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and insomnia.  I’ve worried and cried and worried some more about who was going to die next and what I would do if I lost someone else. What if the house catches on fire?  What if I drop this baby down the stairs?  What if that ache in my stomach is actually cancer?  As though being hyper-aware of every possible catastrophe would allow me to be better prepared.

I’ve struggled with depression.  I’ve carved a seat in the cushions of my couch that held me for days, wearing the same sweatpants and t-shirt the whole time. I’ve told myself that it doesn’t matter.  That I shouldn’t worry because as time goes on, more people are going to die. That’s just a fact of life.  People die.  I’ve chanted in my head a quote I heard when I was very young:  “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.”  As though being fatalistic would prevent me from having any hope and therefore keep me from feeling disappointed when someone died.

I was clutching my grief to my heart with all my strength.  Holding on so tightly that I couldn’t function in normal life.

But that day in Lancaster, I was lying on a picnic blanket staring up into the sky through the dark green leaves of a summer tree, listening to the tones of the voices of my family around me – not the words.  Just the tones. The bright tenor of my Uncle Joe and the warm altos of my aunts Chrissy, T and Mecky.  The sharp squeals of small children laughing and playing. The whispered sigh of a Nana holding a new baby while he sleeps.

And I realized my grief was beneath me.


This is the exact view from that morning.  

It’s still there.  Ever present. Inescapable.  I am constantly standing on top of a mountain of grief.  But it’s not the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night.

Standing on the summit, I can see the sun.  The Son.

And feel hope.

Hope in knowing that life – no matter how hard or sad or complicated – is not about our brief time on this Earth.  And that hard times will keep coming, but I have hope that God will refine my heart through them.

That his purpose is greater than what I can see.  Maybe even greater than I will ever see.  Definitely greater than I am capable of seeing.

So, today, on the third anniversary of Luna’s stillborn delivery – the day we celebrate as her birthday, I ask you to have hope. To remember that God is calling us to lives of difficulty and trial.  But to lives that glorify Him.  To have hope that life is not actually about this time here.  Or about the death that ends this life here.

I went back and read some of the blog posts I wrote when I lost Luna and I wonder who the heck that woman was.  I want to meet her. Her words filled my heart with joy and my eyes with tears.  My grandmother quoted one of my blog posts recently, and I didn’t recognize those words as my own words.  Like I had lost a bit of myself in my struggle with grief.

But I slowly feel it coming back.

I just have to look up to see the Son through the trees.