Showers of Flowers

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There's a mysterious, melancholy beauty that is so specific and to this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. The skies are dark and flat, matte gray, or like a frosted light box, glowing and opaque. The wind is cold, blowing cold rain into your face. The ground squelches and sinks, and you slip, sliding on the skanty grass while trying to fill up the bird feeder. The birds come, bright flashes against the dark afternoon. The wind blows water from the new leaves. Some daffodils have already faded. The branches that haven't yet budded out (and there are many) are dark and wet, their patches of lichen and moss (and whatever else it is that creeps across their spongy bark) bright with chlorophyll and optimism. Everything is tender, and cold, and vulnerable. Nothing, absolutely nothing, wants for water, for water is everywhere now — in the wind, in the air, in the ground, in the leaves above your head as you sit on the porch and listen to the birds sing, and watch the squirrel that is probably the same squirrel that lives in your ceiling air duct eat sunflower seed for four hours from your flat feeder. He's content as a kitten, sitting there right in the pan with his tiny hands held up to his mouth, nibbling daintily but constantly at the black seeds.

This is the best time of year for me, with all the cold and rain of winter but also all the best flowers, the daffodils and forsythia and tulips and bluebells; the enormous, suede-like pink magnolias; the ornamental flowering pear trees lining every street, and the petal-heavy cherry blossoms, and her dirty hands holding bouquets of grape hyacinths to bring to the ballet mistress. The sidewalks are covered in bruised petals, and piles of browning petals collect in the gutters and gullies. Everywhere there are petals and buds and things still just beginning to start, which is my absolute favorite state of being.

Yesterday was a hard day, teacher conferences with Amelia's sweet, darling, angel of a teacher, hard because we have, with some relief but mostly with somewhat broken hearts, decided not to return to our lovely school next year. Simply, we just can't afford the tuition or the very long commute. Andy and I sat in Mimi's classroom yesterday, filled with gratitude for all of the amazing things she's learned this year, listening to her teacher talk about her with so much affection and humor and love. She told us stories so similar to the ones we live daily with Mimi, and we laughed with joy and wonder at the silliness and the amazingness and just . . . all the cool things that she and her classmates are doing right now. Learning to read is pure magic, sitting with her each night as she earns every single word she reads out loud, whispering the phonograms to herself, sounding out the letters, asking me whether a vowel is going to be long or short or silent in any case, restricting herself from using the pictures to guess at the words. I've never told her to do that, but it seems to come naturally, and I watch and listen in constant wonder at the mysteriousness of this process, and marvel at how, in just one week, a kid can go from not really reading to totally, suddenly reading. Is it not a miracle of human development? And what, honestly, isn't a miracle? I'm beginning to think absolutely everything, everything is.

We hugged the teacher and I got choked up in the hallway as we left the conference, saw one of my friends around the corner who knew how I was feeling (she's been there forever, and knows very well what we're leaving), and I said, red-faced and blotchy-necked, "Conferences," as explanation. "It's hard to leave everyone. . . ." She said, "I know," and nodded kindly. Already, in just one year, this has become Mimi's place, where she has loved and been loved and nurtured and encouraged and guided, where the Montessori pedagogy has been perfect for her, where everyone has been just so kind. I fervently hope that transferring to our neighborhood public elementary is as good an experience as this has, in almost every way, been. I'm so grateful it has been so good, even just for this year. We are definitely looking forward to being back in our own neighborhood. But I do wish there were more public options for Montessori-type education. 

Back at home, Kady and Andy and I are finishing up the final projects for Secret Garden. We've started to ship embroidery kits and will start shipping knitting kits next week. Apothecary boxes will be the last to go, as I still need to make all of the wax sachets for that. But that's almost the last thing. Packing these will be an adventure! The boxes are big and heavy. Everything looks so pretty and smells so good. I'm proud of all of this but I will be very ready to be done by the time we get the final order out the door at the end of the month. Next up for me will be a new cross stitch kit, and then I'll be working on my dollies this summer, for release sometime in the fall.

I recently finished two mysteries that I absolutely loved called Missing, Presumed and its sequel, Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner. I read the first one and listened to the audiobook of the second one. (If you don't have your library card hooked up to the Libby app, I recommend it; Libby is not great for browsing, but if you know what you're looking for you can check out audiobooks [and place holds] and listen to them right through the app.) I loved the narrator for the Persons Unknown audiobook. It's really the first audiobook since Secret Garden that I have totally gotten into. I really like detective characters. These mysteries are wonderful for me because they have so much character development. I'm now in that weird phase that sometimes happens where I only want to read something exactly like what I just read, and nothing else will do. I've started seven other books and three audiobooks since and they've all been . . . meh. I'm sure they all would've been fine books if only I'd read them before. . . .

***The lovely painting of Amelia is one I had done several years ago by Olga Bulakhovska of OliFineArt on Etsy. If you were reading this blog back in 2014 you might remember the photo in this post that was used to paint the portrait, and Oli couldn't have done a more perfect job of it. I love it so much.

48 comments

Hi Alicia.

I never commented but have been visiting for a long time, always enjoying your writing and your photographs. I just wanted to say hello from a fellow mum, adopter and maker of all sorts of things. Wishing you the best of luck with Amelia's new school, I am sure with your love and support she'll continue to thrive and be happy. My third child, James, would be so happy in a Montessori school, or maybe a Steiner school. He struggles with so much (he had a difficult start in life and spent two years in foster care) and a more child centred approach to education would be perfect. Alas, our wee public school does give him as much support as they can within their means (so many financial cuts to so many important services...). Thanks for the book recommendation, I absolutely loved Missing, Presumed. It is so rich and the characters are so well developed, a joy. I have already downloaded part 2.

Long time reader in upstate NY - and I just wanted to say we switched our daughter from Montessori (attended from age 2.5 - 6) to public school for 1st grade this past September and she has done wonderfully. I do think there is a different focus between Montessori and public school and I will admit to being nostalgic for certain Montessori traditions (and some very lovely people!) but we have also found some *kindred spirits* at our public school and the transition has been mostly seamless. Best wishes to your Mimi!

Wow, that photo and painting of Amelia are at the same age my daughter is now, and she just figured out walking a couple weeks ago and I'm feeling that everything-is-a-miracle thing pretty hard right now. What loves.

For what it's worth, my aunt and uncle went through something similar with their younger son, moving him from a Waldorf school to public school. I know my aunt was upset, but then he thrived at his new school. I am looking forward to my daughter eventually going to her neighborhood elementary (and middle, they're both really close) and I hope you find a wonderful community at yours!

I just received my oh-so-lovely Secret Garden inspired embroidery kit! I can’t wait to get started. I love it so much! Thank you, Alicia!

I also love stopping by to read your beautiful blog posts and to watch your family changing and growing over the years. Your blog will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first blog I visited many years ago when blogs were just becoming a thing. Let me say, there is something refreshing about a blog such as yours that is like a sweet, gentle friend that you love to spend time with. So many blogs these days just have such a different feel to them as the face of the blog world has changed.

Wishing you a lovely spring!🌸💕😊

After you are done with The Secret Garden things, you should do "Heidi" (by Joanna Spyri) things.....

If it helps at all, I went to Montessori pre-school and then straight into public school K-12. My Montessori start has stayed with me through adulthood. Neighborhood public schools are a dying breed thanks to white flight and the influx of charter schools I'm happy to hear that you're investing in one. My public high school AP English teacher once told my class, "private school kids are like hot house roses, delicate and must be carefully tended to and coddled but public school kids are like wild roses, they survive and thrive on their own", something to that effect anyway. I never forgot the sentiment.

Have you ever thought about homeschooling? I homeschooled for 19 years, and it's something that I'll never regret doing...it's time and effort, but well worth it. My kids always tested at least 2 grades ahead. I used a great curriculum that used historically accurate novels to teach some of the history. In elementary school, you only need 2-3 hours a day at the most. Your little girl seems to have enough extra activities that she wouldn't be lonely. Sex Ed. in K-12 was what finally convinced me to homeschool(the curriculum was provided by planned parenthood)… now you have so much more to think about, like transgender. I always thought that schools should not teach sex ed! What if your little girl came home and wanted to be a boy? In many places the parents are not having the final say in this. Then there's Common Core Curriculum, which is a total fail academically. Please do your research on this before you place her somewhere! Elementary school is such a fun age...we sat on the couch and read all of these great books from the curriculum! I'll understand if you decide not to post this...please feel free to email me if you'd like more info. Thanks.

Hi Alicia,
Good luck on transitioning all of you to public school. I was in private school for kindergarten and then it closed and I went to public school from 1-12. It took a bit of an adjustment, but it was fine in the end!
On books, have you read the Maisie Dobbs extensive series by Susan Elia Macneal? It is the story of a British woman and the stories follow her through war and life after, to her own detective business in a time when many women did not work. They are very good and there are lots in the series. ☺️

Oh Alicia, I'm so sorry you are leaving a school you love. As a public school teacher and a mom to two boys, I can tell you that our local elementary school was wonderful. Both our boys had excellent teachers and great experiences. Our eldest is on the autism spectrum. The love and care he received from his teachers was simply amazing. I wish we could eliminate all the needless testing and offer different classrooms for different styles, like Montessori and Waldorf, but I hope you take comfort in knowing that public schools are good - and you, as a dedicated parent, will work with your daughter's teachers so she has a wonderful experience.
On a reading note, check out Louise Penny.
Happy Spring...

I don't believe I've ever left a comment; I was sent to your website from my daughter, who has followed you for years, and is a regular shopper of your beautiful kits, etc. I wanted to tell you what always strikes me about your blog is not your photos, which are beautiful, but rather that your heart first sees the world, then you capture it through your camera, and lastly, share it with us. Thank you for doing so.

I was just wondering the name of the lovely blanket pattern...

Loving spring near Portland! We just moved back toward the area last year and I missed spring here so much. I also noticed, in our old town, Silverton, Oregon, they have a PUBLIC montessori school, how cool is that? It wasn't there when we lived there in 2012. I was honestly just thinking of the magic of watching a child learn to read! We homeschool and I was so worried about it all, but it just worked, and it's so amazing, really, how they do it! I guess we all did, but it is a miracle, like you said, everything is! I am also working w/ a sort of too long commute to a club in Portland and thinking it may not be for us. Too bad but I think it's better to stick closer to the house, the traffic stresses me out! Hoping she LOVES her new school and brings her brightness to it!

I wish you all the best as you transition to the next school. I have a son with special needs and find that the elementary school he goes to is just amazing, as it was for my older two that are grown but they thrived in school. There are wonderful and loving teachers everywhere and your darling girl will capture the hearts of all who work with her. Just a suggestion the Hoopla app is great for audio books. Just insert your library card number and you are off. I like it so much better than Libby. Hugs.

I spent one year a a Montessori school when I was about 4. It put me in good stead for the rest of my schooling. That was 60 years ago.

Thank you, thank you for your recommendation of the two Susie Steiner novels. I was fortunate that my library had both audiobooks available. I've just finished listening to "Missing Presumed" and loved it. Yes, the characters are beautifully developed.

Thank you for bringing the second of the DS Manon books to my attention! It is currently sitting on my bedside table. I read the first awhile ago, and was particularly appreciative of the realistic (ish) take on trying to date in one's thirties.

Hi there, Alecia,
I’ve ordered - and just received - your new embroidery kit. Can’t wait to dive in!
Can you tell me who the artist of the sheep prints you posted is? I’d love to know. Thank you!!!
Much Love From a fellow Oregonian—💛Kate

calzelunghemom says: April 30, 2019 at 03:58 AM

hi, i read you from Italy, where things are likely different from the one you describe...
Anyway, as mother of three and as teacher, I think things will be different next year for Mimì in public school: likely they would be not so perfect, but i deeply think that being able to stay next aur children when they face imperfection is a great learning opportunity for everyone...wish you the best

another Heidi... says: April 30, 2019 at 04:55 AM

Lovely, your Posts. I am being Patient, what waiting for the next one concerns. You do inspire, certainly not only me.
...just sayin'
XO

I know the feeling. Our daughter (3.5) was accepted to a local, independent, bilingual school with a Montessori-type structure (I'm a *public* Montessori-school graduate, if you can believe those exist in the US), and we had to turn down her spot because they didn't offer us any financial aid, and it just would have been too difficult for us to afford, especially when you add her little brother to the equation.

I was really in love with the place; I cried.

No advice, just commiseration.

Coming back to second this series (note the corrected author):

Maisie Dobbs | Jacqueline Winspear
http://jacquelinewinspear.com/books/maisie-dobbs/

It's a great, gentle, skillfully done detective series. One of my all-time faves.

Thank you for a beautiful post. You make such lovely word pictures.

I am reading the mysteries by Ann Cleeves. They are so good.

Prayers for Amelia's adjustment to her new school and for Angela's son (above) for healing.

Hi Friend- just wondering...if you feel your dear girl has benefitted from the Montessori approach- have you considered adding some Montessori elements to your home? Pinterest has some fairly simple ideas for this. I used to teach in a Montessori pre-school. It truly resonates with some learners' souls. Just an idea for you!

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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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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.