Eight is Great

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We went walking at the Sandy River Delta last weekend and it was so perfect and flat and gorgeous and quiet and beautiful that when I came off Thousand Acres Road and turned into the meadow I just broke down and started to weep. I couldn't take it. Andy stood there with me while I cried. It was so perfect and the world is so hard and I never wanted to leave. I hope to soon be back.

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Our glorious daughter turned eight years old yesterday. The three of us went up to the woods at the end of our street and sat on the hill and ate Burgerville burgers and fries (her choice). She called chickadees with her bird stuffed animal (that sings; it's from Audubon) and they actually answered (it was amazing). She played for over an hour among the fallen logs and lichen patches with her many new LOL dolls, quietly talking in all of the voices of all of her dolls. She had Zoom calls with her family and opened all of her sweet presents and had chicken paprika (also her choice) for dinner. Last night before she went up to bed she said it was the best birthday ever. I'm so proud of my girl and I just love her so so so very much.

P.S. Thank you for every single Things of Autumn kit orders! They are now sold out, but we are planning to make 100 each of many of my older kits, including this one, over the next several months so stay tuned if you are interested. XO

Things of Autumn Cross-Stitch Kits and PDF Pattern Now Available!

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They're ready! Stuffed and ready to go!

Typing this with one hand while holding a kitten.

For the Things of Autumn Cross-Stitch KIT, please click HERE.

For the Things of Autumn Cross-Stitch instantly downloadable PDF, which includes both a color chart with symbols and a black-and-white chart with symbols, please click HERE.

Thank you very, very much! XOXOXOXXO, a

At the Table

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Oh, man. What a week. It's been challenging, guys. Thank you to everyone who wrote in and asked how we were doing. I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get back here and update you. School is taking a lot of time and I haven't quite figured out how to balance all the things I have to do now.

For almost two weeks, really up until last night when we had a thunderstorm and a bit of rain, we've been dealing with the effects — emotional and physical — of the Oregon wildfires, specifically the Riverside fire, burning just southeast of Portland. That particular fire started on September 8 and now encompasses over 137,000 acres. There are several other very deadly fires burning in Oregon, and as I'm sure you know they have incinerated entire towns. Gone. These fires are unusual because they are burning in places west of the Cascade Mountains that are usually wet. No longer. Forests are going up like tinder, and even the southern Portland suburbs were a Level 1 evacuation zone (we are couple of miles from the southern edge of the city, and yeah, we got our papers together in case we had to evacuate). The heartbreak of the local news cannot be underestimated. The smoke that has clogged our lungs and the skies of our state is awful. Truly awful. (Imagine being afraid to open your front door; indeed, we barely have opened it in over a week.) But the human losses of the fires have broken our hearts every day. I pray for rain, more rain than today's brief storm, as much as it was appreciated.

This poignant essay pretty much utterly sums it up for me.

Meanwhile, the house here revolves around our darling daughter's days. And I mean, literally revolves around. Her schedule is dizzying. She goes to the morning meeting with her class from 9:00-9:30, then we do Oak Meadow from 9:30 until 11;30. Then we have lunch and play with the kitten. Then she reads out loud to her grandmother every day on FaceTime. Then she goes to Zoom math class at 1:00 until 1:30. On Wednesday she goes to P.E. at 1:15 and on Thursday she goes to music (but I'm going to have her drop both of those; she does Zoom ballet through her ballet school for two hours a week, and we're learning to play recorder through our Oak Meadow curriculum.) In the afternoons we usually do art at the table or play games. Then she's free, and I clean everything up and go make dinner. I'm exhausted. Very happy with it all, but I won't lie, I am tired, and, just, TGIF. I'm ready for the weekend!!! We've been at the table a lot and I'm ready to go outside.

Things of Autumn kits (and PDF) are coming soon. I have all of the materials to assemble kits in hand and we've literally just been waiting for the smoke to clear (because it was in the house for a week — really awful feeling, let me tell you). But now that it's raining I think we can open the boxes. So I will be back with an update on this soon!

Good recipes for you: Really fudgy and delicious brownies; the best orange chicken I've ever had, let alone made, I must say; curried shepherd's pie from The New York Times; and Jamie Oliver's chicken tikka masala. All very, very good!

School Is Cool!

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We made it! We made it through the first week of school, and it was seriously awesome. I could not be happier, and Amelia is over the moon. She's asking to do school on Saturday and Sunday. How sweet is that. It's so much better than I expected. I haven't felt this much peace in ages. Our teacher came over on Wednesday. I could've sat and talked to her for hours. She's just so cool. Amelia can definitely stay enrolled in her school and participate in the school's distance learning, and this was such a huge relief to me. I didn't even know how big of a relief it would be until the moment of confirmation, and then I literally felt a weight lift. Her teacher said that they would have a Zoom meeting every morning and then have both computer assignments and assignments that she could do in an actual notebook. Group cheer! Let me just say, and those of you who have computer experience and small children right now know, it is trippy to watch them navigate the mouse and, like, place and resize objects (like stars and hearts) on their selfies, and write with pen tools, and just do stuff like that. I mean — does that not totally blow your mind? I definitely didn't teach her to do that. I think it's wonderful. Watching her morning meetings, seeing all the little kids on the screen wiggling, falling off their chairs, looking so much older, with their sweet little bedheads and their kittens and their bowls of breakfast cereal, my heart overflows with love for all of them, and I realize that I have missed seeing them all so much. I used read with many of them as a volunteer in the classroom every week. Since Mimi is in a 1st/2nd grade split class, half of the kids are the same from last year and I know them. The other half are new first graders, and we know some of them, too. They're all just so sweet and cute and wonderful. The teacher asks them to un-mute themselves, one by one, and tell everyone their favorite color. The second kid to go says "turquoise" and then at least half of the class follows by also saying turquoise. :) I text Andy as I'm watching, See, this is why they need this. They need each other, even if it's only on-screen right now. This is real, these windows of life, too. They are in this together.

After her class meets at 8:30 every morning, we then go into the dining room and do circle time, and then we start Queen Anne's Lace Homeschool. We've been drawing, printing, doing cursive, playing the recorder, painting, reading, and learning to crochet. Today Andy did social studies and science with her. Math starts next week. Also French (were using Muzzy BBC).  We worked on crochet for the first time yesterday. It's part of the Oak Meadow curriculum. It was your basic disaster. She got super angry when she couldn't make a foundation chain. I watched her hands and thought, "Hmmm, yeah, this is too hard. Her left hand is not coordinated enough to hold the chains and the working yarn, and she can't make her right hand manipulate the hook at the same time. It's okay. We'll try again another time, maybe in a few months." She was so mad she threw the hook across the room and then sobbed. I was cool — it's okay, honey, it's hard, it takes a lot of practice — and we put it away and went on with the day. And then last night after I got back downstairs after putting her to bed I found on the sofa her yarn and hook and a foundation chain of about seventy-five chains that she had done quietly while I was making dinner. She didn't even say anything. I couldn't believe it! And that moment was a gift that I'll never forget, and I think it will be a good metaphor for this year. Note to self: Don't underestimate this kiddo. She will surprise you!

Took the kitten to the vet today. The way they do it is that you come to the office, call when you get to the parking lot, they come out and get your animal and take it in, and then the doctor calls you after the exam. The doctor was adorable. I don't remember his name but I've never met him. He was gushing about Agatha: "Oh my gosh, she is adorable! She's just so cute, she has such a cute face, I mean it's like round, but fluffy, and it's just so cute! Everyone was freaking out she was so sweet. She let me do my whole exam without any problem. She's adorable!" I was laughing. He gave me the report (she's healthy, but has a slight heart murmur). At the end he goes, "Okay, they'll bring her out soon. The girls are taking selfies with her right now." Ha!

Such a proud mama of all my little girls!

* Meet Agatha *

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We got a new kitten. Her name is Agatha. Isn't she adorable?????

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We love her so much! She is so utterly adorable and sweet! I've never had a kitten like this. You can turn her over onto her back and she'll just lay in your arms and let you rub her tummy. You can pet her anywhere on her body and she loves it. You can pick up each of her paws and play with her little pads with your fingers and she doesn't even flinch. She is so totally relaxed. She wants to sit on one of us all the time and her purring is intense. She is so cute and sweet and adorable and loving, and the most chilled out cat I have ever seen and I can't believe she's ours!

Roll on By

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Just two days. Two days that felt like two years and also two minutes. River time is fairy time. You don't know what hour or even what day it is, unless you can tell time by the sun. And who really cares what time it is. There's nowhere to go, nothing else to do. The sun and the stones and the water are everything. They're all there is, all you need. Three nights and two days. If only we were there for longer! I honestly did not want to come home! I wanted to stay in the sun with the stones and the minnows and the water-skippers, with the eagles and the sparrows and the ducks, with the wind and the water and the people floating by with their radios and their super-loud conversations and their silly, cartoony tubes. I wanted to stay right there, with my book and my basket and my baby catching crayfish, and my husband skipping rocks, and my legs plunged into the cold, clear water, and then go up to the house for tacos for dinner and s'mores at the firepit and Taylor Swift on repeat and checkers before bed and baths together in the giant tub. I wanted to stay on the porch with my loves, drinking coffee by dawn-light, listening to owls hoot in the gloaming, looking for deer and rabbits in the grass, and watching the water roll and roll and roll on by. Time, mystical time, cutting me open then healing me fine. Oh, no, no, I did not want to come home. . . .

Things of Summer Cross-Stitch Kits and PDF Pattern Now Available!

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I'm sorry I am so late with releasing this design, but the good news is that all of the kits are assembled and ready to ship right now. I won't be long-winded here today — details and  are at the web site, and I know you know the drill!

For the Things of Summer Cross-Stitch KIT, please click HERE.

For the Things of Summer Cross-Stitch instantly downloadable PDF, please click HERE.

Thank you very, very much! XOXOXOXXO, a

P.S. Yep, they're strappy sandals! :)

High Summer (and a Plan)

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It's truly summer now. It's hotter, drier, dustier, and everything is in bloom. Our weather has been quite pleasant, in my opinion, because it's been a very cool summer here, only heating up this week. All the many troubles of the world aside, I could get used to this kind of summer, even though we rarely go out; every excursion beyond the property-line feels like traveling to a place of unrest. Everything that was so constant and familiar now feels strange, and tilted, and fragile, and fraught.

Thank you very much for all the homeschooling thoughts, and just for generally listening to me and helping me think through things. In truth, the decision was probably made by the time I got to the end of writing the previous post: We will definitely be homeschooling Amelia full-time next year. And we just got an email from our school yesterday that says they are tentatively planning (among various other options) to allow us (not just us — anyone) to 100% home-school with our own curriculum (instead of the school's distance-learning offering) and still stay enrolled and still be in touch with the class online.

It's all just incredible. My heart truly goes out to every single educator, school employee, janitor, parent, and kid right now. This is hard.

I think I literally researched every single suggestion for a curriculum or approach that everyone here and on Instagram made. I like doing stuff like that. You feel so clueless at first but it's always so bizarre — dig in just a little bit and you will quickly know exactly what you do and do not want. At least in theory. I talked to friends and looked at web sites and read Instagram posts and watched YouTube video-reviews and almost immediately settled on purchasing a boxed second-grade curriculum from Oak Meadow. I wanted something boxed, secular, nature-y, and tested. Oak Meadow happens to be Waldorf-inspired and, it was kinda funny, I got unexpectedly excited about that. It's been bringing me a sweet sort of comfort that reminds me of older happy days. When Amelia was four and five she went to a neighborhood Waldorf preschool (Song Garden, for anyone interested) that we absolutely loved, and I have a very soft spot for the traditions. The teachers were a couple of professional musicians who were longtime Waldorf teachers and had been running their little school for many years. The kids did lantern walks for St. Martin's Day and winter spirals at Christmas, played outside in rain or sunshine and planted a garden from seed. They made stuff out of felt and acorns, wore capes and crowns on their birthdays, and helped make stone soup and bake fresh bread for lunch together at the big round table. It was sweet and slow and gentle and thoughtful, and, for Andy and me, it was our very first introduction to being part of a (great) parent community and we could not have had a better experience. Those were happy days indeed.

Waldorf theory is interesting (I don't get too deep into it, but I'm good with most of what I know for younger kids) and it's also super CRAFTY. And very earthy. And it has a very strong community. And, you know, I just want all that right now. I don't want to be alone. This year is going to be hard for lots of reasons, relentless generalized anxiety notwithstanding, and I want our home (and our home-school) to be a place of joy and peace and comfort and connection. I want songs in the morning and candlelit reading and wildflower studies and fairy stories. I want Beatrix Potter and Elsa Beskow and dandelion play-dough and nature journals. In the second-grade curriculum they study dramatic storytelling and zoology and the histories of ancient China and ancient Mali. They learn to play the recorder, work times-tables up to 12, and use some expensive (holy shit! did you see how much?) art supplies. And I am excited to be part of all of this. Andy is excited, and we make a good team because I like to do the research and make the choices and he is always awesome about not only indulging my each-and-every obsession and whim but also getting totally involved and onboard (like, literally every single time). Amelia is excited because she's Amelia, and she's just got game. My girl is thriving at home and I'm so grateful for that. So, as I said on Instagram, get ready for the beeswax-candle and watercolor-rainbow and moon-phases-made-of-clay posts because we are about to head right down this rabbit hole! Let's see where it takes us! I want to share this experience here.

And very best of luck to every one of you who is also making this choice right now!

Considering

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Oh, hello my dear friends. How are you? We are all home today. Andy is in the garage playing guitar. Amelia is smashing something with the pestle and mortar (I dare not ask). I am cutting linen for the new summer cross-stitch kits. It is slow going and I don't think I've cut literally anything in parallel (I'm sorry). But it's getting cut, and that is something.

Thank you so much for the movie and TV-show recommendations! I am adding everything to the list. Many of them I have seen (because I love the genre) but many are new to me. Last week Andy and I together watched all of Godless, recommended by my friend Jolie, and wow, that was seriously intense. I thought it was amazing. (Very heavy on the sad, violent, and terrifying, though. Be warned.) Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey is in it. I think she is most soulful and lovely. I really like her. This week we're watching A Knight's Tale (which was recommended by many people!) and Ken Burns's The Civil War, and are trying to get into Poldark again. I watched Poldark a few years ago but there was one scene in season one or two that almost killed me and I never watched it afterward. But, so many good things on the list. Thank you again. I really appreciate it!

Today I've been thinking a lot about school next year and I'm moving toward a deeper acceptance of what our reality — everyone's reality — will be when (if) we start leaving the house: I'm considering keeping Amelia home, even if her school does physically open. I have been having this discussion with many of my friends, not just from our school but my friends from Oak Park and River Forest and my friends on Instagram and my best friend in Boston, and just all of us who have small children right now. I was really surprised to hear that many are considering home-schooling, if they have that option (and many people do not have that option). This is such an intensely personal decision, and everyone’s issues are so different. I will admit that I have never, under normal circumstances, considered home-schooling Amelia. But these are not normal circumstances. I suspect that our school's curriculum will include in-classroom teaching and online assignments. Online school absolutely did not work for us. Like, counter-productive disaster. I don't know if there's a way we could stay "virtually" in our class so that she can be connected with her people socially without actually doing the work (but doing other work, from whatever home-school curriculum I follow). I will definitely need a curriculum because I have zero teaching experience and, quite honestly, I will need structure and support and everything that would go with a tested program. I absolutely do not want to reinvent this wheel. I am researching several Montessori home-school programs (there are many!) and another literature-based one that my friend from school will be using with her kids. If we do home-school, we would definitely (hopefully) be returning to public school for third grade. (She's a rising second-grader right now).

I can't quite put into words exactly what school meant to all of us this year. The year before, when we went to a private Montessori pre-K-to-8 school and commuted a half-hour each way (and paid a lot of money), well — that was just actually a horrible year. I couldn't see exactly how miserable we all were (well, me and Andy, mostly) until we were out of it. I think it was also horrible because I had expected it to be so great. The school was great. Don't get me wrong — it is an amazing school (Franciscan Montessori Earth School). But traveling way out of our neighborhood; not having any classmates from our neighborhood; having a really gross, depressing, extremely irritating drive; having ZERO playground culture — all of those things wiped out every positive aspect. We just didn't know it would suck the life out of us like that.

But this school year, when we went to our neighborhood public K-5, was like a dream. Not necessarily academically, because I still prefer the Montessori pedagogy and know it would've been excellent for Amelia. (I will never stop wishing that public school was more like Montessori school.) But everything else about our school — the teachers, the playground, the other parents, the kids, my volunteer hours reading with the kids, the neighborhood, the five-minute drive, feeling a part of our community, having a mom crew, feeling like this thing that I, personally, had waited for for so (soooo) many years was finally happening. Just, the belonging. She felt it and I felt it and I loved it. She loves everything but I do not love everything and I loved this, for all of us. I won't lie. I cried at one point or another in the day almost every day for the first two months of lockdown, when everything just vanished. I just couldn't stop crying. I’ve never cried so much in my life. It was fear, I am sure, but also grief. Grief for worldwide suffering and pain but also grief for our family’s inevitable risks as well as our smallest, most prosaic losses: Everything about our now-big girl’s daily big-girl life had just gotten started — and then it was all just as suddenly gone. She told Andy, quite brightly, that she wished she could drink milk out of a bottle again. She wondered aloud to me whether it was weird that she felt the urge to suck her thumb (something she didn’t even do as a baby). I didn't let Amelia see me crying, except for the one time we did a drive-by birthday party for our friend Jaxen, and when it was our turn to approach and I saw Jaxen and his little brother and his mom out front with her streamers and her signs and her giant smile I just burst into sobs, honked and waved furiously with my big red face about to explode, and drove on. But on a daily basis, when I wasn't crying (privately! I swear! privately! [mostly!]) for what had been lost, I was crying because I was just so moved — every time she'd get on a Zoom call with her teachers (ballet, too) and her classmates,  I was just so moved by the incredible efforts that everyone was making to keep all our kids healthy and happy and safe and emotionally connected during this time. Seeing all these little kids on the screen in their pajamas, eating breakfast, with dogs and baby sisters barging in, and computers not working, and Mrs. B being her calm, loving, insanely patient self, teaching them how to turn their microphones on, telling them how good it was to see them. I mean, I just could not stop crying. Amelia was not crying at all. Not even close. She's been thriving at home, says she loves being at home, says she loves being here with us every day, and she's such a go-with-the-flow person that I believe her and I literally think she's seriously forgotten what she's missing. Like — she lives completely in the moment.

So, yeah. Oregon's numbers are going back up. Part of me is devastated that whatever school will look like, it absolutely can't and won't look like it did. Part of me feels obligated to keep my kid home because I can, and thereby will make more room for the kids and teachers who will have no choice (because their parents don't have a choice) but to physically go to school. Part of me thinks it will be a great adventure for us to home-school, and really dig into something that could be wonderful (but without museums? without the library? will they still be closed? will they close if they reopen?). Part of me just wants to do whatever PPS says we're going to do and trust that they’ll make the right decision about how to proceed. And part of me just feels unsure about everything.

Pulling Together

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Oh, where do the days go? They slide away, they slide away. It's been three months since our stay-home order went into effect. It's felt long and also short, since the days are all so similar they really do run together. I've been having a rough time of it lately. We've gotten out to the woods and the river a bit, and that has been wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I would like to go all the time. I love everything about the river. I love stopping at Jimmy John's [edited: won't be going to Jimmy John's after what you guys have just told me — ugh, thank you, I had no idea] and picking up sandwiches right on the edge of town. I love the drive into the country, past Christmas tree farms and billowing foxglove groves. I love the smell of the woods and stopping the car for a mama deer and three babies. I love watching Amelia play with her toys in the sand. I love watching raptors circle endlessly over the river. I love reading in my chair. I love when Andy and Amelia go on adventures. I love the sound of the water. I want to go all the time. I can't wait to go back. My nerves feel better for it, for sure.

I hope you are all well and hanging in there!

Amelia is currently in the bathtub. I gave her a can of shaving cream and said go for it. She's hooting and hollering in there right now. She just asked me for another can (no). She's spent most of the day in her underpants, watching Inspector Gadget in the office and eating water chestnuts out of a can with a fork. It's over 90 degrees outside and sunny, without a breeze in sight. I watered the garden at about 8:30 a.m. and then shot right back into the AC. Andy is back at work today for the first time in maybe a week. But we'll pay for that now, all that glorious time off; I think he is working seven days out of the next nine days. Twelve-hour shifts. An hour bus commute on either side. That's rough, though he never, ever lets it show. But we miss him when he's not here.

We stopped at the plant nursery yesterday to pick up some shade annuals for the porch and then we went to the library to pick up the book (Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid) I had placed on hold last winter. They are finally doing hold pick-ups at the library. They meet you at the front door; there there's a table blocking the entrance, and they slide the book to you on a tray. Sigh. I can't say I enjoyed being out at all, though I had been excited to go. We were only gone an hour or two. But I was so relieved to be home, back under my tree, watching Andy plant the impatiens and Amelia whack at the lawn with a croquet mallet. I guess I'll stick to the river for a while.

I have started a new Sawtooth Star quilt for myself, but I have not worked on it too much. It will be eight blocks each of ten different star combos, made of my precious calicos and hand-dyed (by me) muslin. It will be a king-size quilt that I will line with an Ikea comforter (turn and burn method [layer batting, top, then bottom; stitch around all sizes leaving an opening to turn, turn then stitch opening closed], then I'll tie it). I like my quilts to be just thin, puffy comforters now. I've decided I really don't like binding and I don't like machine-quilting — it all makes the quilt too stiff, in my opinion. I'm going back to puffballs tied with #5 perle cotton. I made one for my sister's birthday present (see first picture). Stay tuned, we'll see if I get this thing for myself finished. A precision quilter I am not, though I did buy a fancy Flying Geese ruler, and that is helping very much.

Amelia and I baked a blueberry–cream cheese babka, an Earl Grey cake (the recipe I used doesn't seem to be available any more), and a rhubarb custard pie. Today we are going to make Orange Julius popsicles and chicken tacos.

I have finished my design for Things of Summer (digital screen shot is above) and the printed patterns have arrived (though I haven't opened the box yet; fingers crossed that all is well in there), so I will start putting kits together next week, and it will be on sale soon!

What are you favorite historical fiction movies, like big, epic ones? Or series? I am so in the mood for that. I've been watching absolute garbage TV lately. I do love it so!!!

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.