30 August 2019

The Birthday Adventures of Snowbow

Adventures await on this sunny day;
Must make plenty of time to play!
Enjoy the best tropical cuisine;
And don't forget to wear sunscreen!

Look what the garden brought today
To celebrate a special day!
May the skies be bluer than blue
And full of many fun things to do!

I won't say it 'cuz you've hidden the view,
But just know I'm thinking of you...

Pretty clouds in the sky tonight;
Lovely flowers in the garden bright!
Special wishes from my heart for you,
Hoping this day has been joyful, too!

Home for now, but back to work,
Responsibility I will not shirk;
But plenty of time to visit and renew
Friendship and fun things I love to do!

Snowbow’s met an awesome guy,
Growing faster than a twinkling eye!
Helping fight cancer instead of asking for toys...
This young man stands out among boys!

All I need is yarn and hook;
Then next time you look,
Smiles will abound all day
Because creating is the best way!

Nothing like a bed of roses to brighten your day,
Or a field of flowers to smell away!
Take time to enjoy the beauty around,
And you will be pleased by the joy you have found!

Summer coming through!
Snow will be here before long,
Enjoy the high temps with joyful song!

Animals here, animals there,
Loving animals everywhere!
If I could spend each and every day
Surrounded by animals I'd not delay!

Life could not be more complete,
Encircled by little bundles of sweet!
Blessings every day to count,
And joy continues to mount!

Rain or shine, I'll find a way
To enjoy every single day;
If dark the clouds do grow,
Just remember rain makes flowers glow!

Taking time to smell the flowers,
Wonderful way to pass the hours!
So much beauty to behold,
Never a minute can I withhold!

Moost the summer end so fast?
Camping has been such a blast!
Now autumn's on the way,
But I want more time to play!

Just when I thought summer was done,
More flowers bring tons of fun!
Don't take away my hug of blooms...
Nine more months before summer resumes!

29 August 2019


In a year of spectacular and glorious anniversaries, today lurks like a terrifying dark shadow or a permanent eclipse. Darkness that becomes more bold with every ticking minute. Intimidation that coils like an angry, agitated rattlesnake wrapped around both of my legs, daring me to move forward. Taunting me to move at all...

One year ago today, we learned Lizard does not have ALS, and I am still thankful to this day.

But one year ago today, we learned the tremors, the sleepless nights, the fading memories, the disorientation, the lapses in balance and the relentless exhaustion will not get better but in fact will continue to get worse.

Because there is no cure for Parkinson's. Yet. It is a progressive disease, and it will get worse. In just this short year, I've seen progression. I've also seen bright spots. I've searched for bright spots. I'm continually searching for natural remedies. I will fight for a cure for the rest of my life. And I will keep loving and caring for Lizard because he is the other pea in my pod. He is my soul mate. Regardless of how bad this gets, I want to make him as happy and as comfortable as he tried to make me after the trauma of my adopted kids running away and the tragedy of my emergency back surgery.

He was the best caregiver I could ever have. I intend to better his shining and compassionate example.

Regardless of how bad it gets, I will treasure every moment because every moment is a bonus. For three months before the diagnosis, I expected he would not be with me much longer. I expected amyotrophic lateral sclerosis would rob me of his wonderful personality at a much faster rate than Parkinson's can and will. I thought the six months following the diagnosis would be spent visiting family while we could. I thought I'd be spending the last two decades or so of my life alone. Again.

But that's not going to happen.

I'm going to help Lizard stay as healthy as he can for as long as he can. We're going to dance together, hike together, ride together, walk together. quilt together, play chess together and caress together.

No matter how bad it gets, I will always be his best friend.

27 August 2019

Family Ties

When I was old enough to start making plans for the future, I wanted to have seven kids. My mom and dad had seven kids - the Brady Bunch Way. The "Yours, Mine and Ours" way. I wanted to give birth to seven kids. And I wanted to be the best mom in the world.

Being the best mom in the world would be difficult because the mom who raised me is the best mom in the world. In comparison, I also had a mom who abandoned the family when I was four, and I've always wanted to be a better mom than that.

In one of my teenage diaries, I listed the names of each of my seven kids-to-be, their hobbies and interests, what they'd look like, and even what kind of car each of them would drive. I drew a floor plan for the house we'd live in, and each of my kids would have their own bedroom and their own bathroom. Their own stereo. Their own rotary phone. I spent many hours designing the clothes I'd lovingly stitch for them. All seven of them were girls, which is why I'd need so many bathrooms in my home.

Nadia would be a ballerina, and she'd drive a VW bug. Cara Lynne would be a photographer and would drive an RV equipped with a darkroom. Amory would be a librarian and would drive a little Toyota truck. Kate would be an artist with a Trans Am. Wendy would be a gymnast driving a Jeep. Jocelyn would be a writer, and her favorite mode of transportation would be a bicycle or skates. Sara would be a quilter who'd drive an old Mustang. Each of them would have long, flowing hair, of course, and a couple of them would even have natural curls.

Of course, my imaginary Prince Charming who would be able to pay for all my dreams didn't exist. I also wasn't able to have children. So I did the next-best thing.

I fostered nine children and adopted two of them. I'd have adopted all nine if the opportunity had existed. But two would have to do. Especially since my first husband didn't share my full nest dreams, and I was beyond the age of child-bearing by the time I finally discovered my real life Prince Charming, The Lizard.

I did not date while raising my adopted kiddos alone because I didn't want to chance introducing them to revolving-door daddies. I tried to surround them with the best father figures I could... my brothers, my uncle, men in my church and missionaries.

One of the foster children I took in (the second one) came with specific instructions: "Give this child a Disneyland weekend." Oh, how I wanted to adopt this little angel!!! The birth mother had dropped the child off at the local social services office, signed away all parental rights and gone about her way.

A family in a neighboring city had been chosen for permanent placement, and my instructions were to distract the preschooler from overwhelming feelings of loss and grief, and probably, in my own hindsight, to get out of town for a couple of days to prevent accidental encounters with birth mom. I'd been on the adoption waiting list for at least a year, and the caseworker knew most of my weekends were spent camping, hiking and wildlife-stalking in the mountains.

My second foster child taught me the importance of "Disneyland" weekends without going to California. Foster kids often need something very special to temporarily escape traumatic experiences they often are not equipped to survive. "Disneyland" became the keyword throughout the next seven kids. Only one got to actually see the real Disneyland with me, but all nine of my charges got to experience exuberant memory-making as I tried to be the caregiver they each wished they'd had.

For the two I adopted, both of whom I raised as a single parent, every weekend, school break and summer were designed to beat the previous outing. Family home evening wasn't just on Monday nights. It was every night I could possibly squeeze in a family activity.

Both kids had special needs (as did almost all of my foster children), and I researched every possible way of working with the specific needs, as well as how to bond with traumatized children. (Research in those days was done at the local library. I didn't have a home computer, and no one had cell phones with internet. I'm not sure anyone had internet the way we know it now before 1990.) We practiced cursive with jumbo pencils on special handwriting pads every night because the repetitive smooth, curved movements were supposed to be therapeutic. We took turns giving each other back rubs every night because that was supposed to help develop trust. I read to them every night because I wanted them to experience the magical worlds of books while hopefully teaching them vocabularies beyond their ages. I wanted to prevent them becoming boobtube-watching couch potatoes.

On weekends, we did service projects (such as feeding the homeless or putting together care packages for shelters), went hiking in the mountains or cycling on bike paths throughout the Denver metro area. The two kids I adopted would bike extreme distances, as long as I let them jump in the river along the way. Both of them had nice (used)  35mm film cameras by the time they reached double digits because they each wanted to be a photographer, just like me.

Bad weather winter weekends often were spent learning crafts, making blankets and learning to bake. My second job during those financially tight years was covering high school events for the local newspapers, which meant my kids had press passes and front row seats to all the best sports and even to regional marching band competitions. As they got older, my kids would take notes for me to help write the news capsules. It was another way to teach them to be productive and to notice details.

School breaks and summers were spent exploring pioneer trails, national parks and monuments, and swimming at Water World. I often told my friends I did not have children; I had fish. My kids loved water more than anything, even me. Water often is therapeutic for foster children.

One thing I was never able to unteach was the curiosity about birth families. I knew the longing and the loss as well as my kids; I'd often wondered what I'd done to chase away my birth mom. I often wondered what she must be like, if she would like the way I'd turned out, and if I had brothers and/or sisters out there somewhere.

When I finally got to meet my long-lost birth mom, I learned young girls who leave their children without a single regret and go on to live happy, literally care-free lives can never live up to the innocent and heart-felt expectations of the children who grew up wishing they could have been together, making excuses for why the absent parent never returned.

Part of a foster parent's responsibility is to nurture the bond between the children and their birth families. Teaching a child to love and appreciate where they came from, even if circumstances were not perfect, was supposed to help them accept themselves and learn to forgive. I grew up loving and longing for my birth mom but did not like her very much at all once I got to know her 28 years later. I carried a lot of anger and bitterness for a long time before realizing those feelings were weighing me down and preventing me from enjoying my life to the fullest.

My kids and I had candid discussions about all our tender feelings, and I thought my experiences would help them move on and heal.

I was wrong.

Both of my kids embarked upon permanent unauthorized field trips before they came of age (they ran away), both in search of the parents they'd lost. Both returned to the lifestyles of their birth families and have repeated some of the same mistakes their birth parents made.

That was 17 years ago. All three of us have grown and changed since I became an empty-nester. All three of us are healing.

I'm pretty excited about the way most of my life has turned out, and one of my kids is beginning to get feet back on the ground. Both my kids cling to old habits and crutches, and both of them have had offspring before they were ready. Both of them have made choices they regret to this day. But our relationships with each other are improving, and I still pray every day that I might be a good influence for them, and now for their children as well.

Only one of my 10 actual grands (26 if you count siblings) got to stay with the birth parent. That one, who lives in another state, calls me almost every day. We are becoming quite the conversationalists, even though I can hardly understand most of the toddler speak.

Three years ago, I was able to meet four more of the grands and their new families, and I'm now trying to be the best grandparent in the world to 16 kiddos. Once again, it's a hard act to follow, because I believe with all my heart that my Dad's mom was the greatest grandmother in the world.

She wasn't in the best of health, but she took care of me and my two little brothers until Dad remarried a single mom (and the two of them brought one more kid into the family), and then she was the best grandmother in the world to all seven of us, even though she had no obligation to three of the new grandkids.

She never left anyone out. She knew the three new kids (plus the new baby) could use all the grandparents they could get, and she tried in every way she could to make our time with her special. She taught us crafts. She fed us Lucky Charms (which was quite the phenomena for kids who'd never heard of cereal with marshmallows), taught us to work in the garden and let us play in the blue plastic kiddie pool in her backyard all summer long every year, deep in the desert southwest. She even let my teenage uncle bring home two hamsters (which rapidly multiplied and totally replenished the entire basement before Grandma finally said, "Enough!") so we could learn to be responsible and compassionate pet owners. (She treated us to a magnificent cat after the last of the hamsters was adopted.)

My new mom followed suit. To me, she is my mom. She took care of me and my two brothers as if she'd given birth to us, even though two of us were too old for her to be our mom. How many 23-year-olds could take in seven kids from newborn to nine years of age and thrive? Looking back, I can now understand things I saw and sometimes misinterpreted back then. Such as holding hands with the younger siblings, which were her birth children, but never us big kids when we were in the grocery store or the park.

Sometimes I find myself saying things like, "Man, I was a stupid kid!" And in many ways, I was. But I also was a kid who wanted a mommy to hold my hand. A mommy who wouldn't leave. A mommy who would always love me.

And that's exactly what I got. I guess I had to have kids of my own to see how much my new mom loved and still loves me.

When I adopted, I hoped I could be the mother my mom was to me. For a long time, I thought I'd failed. Now that my kids have had kids of their own, they, too, recognize how great they had it, and they sometimes thank me for everything I did for them. You know what's really bizarre? Sometimes they even ask me for advice!!!

Now I hope I can be the grandmother to all 26 grands, even though I do not have contact with 10 of them yet, my grandmother was to me. Yes, I count all 26. Each of those children is as precious as all 25 of the others. Not a one will ever feel I wasn't a real grandma, if I can help it. (UPDATE!!! I now have contact with three more of the grands, and I'm trying to finish quilts for them and two new babies coming to two nieces by Christmas!!!)

Yes, it can be overwhelming to try to make 16 19 Christmas gifts every year. Making 26 Christmas gifts is going to be months harder when it happens. But I have faith it will happen one day, and until then, 16 19 kids are going to see me being the grandma I wish I'd had. (Because I'm a good 20-plus years younger than my grandma was when she became my role model. And she never got to learn to drive or ride a bike. But she gave me my first bicycle!!!)

26 August 2019

Snowflake Monday

Today's pattern is inspired by the orange snowflake-covered rock I made for my sister-in-law last spring. I made a new orange-covered rock for my own garden to replace one of the rocks destroyed by our Independence Day hailstorm. I photographed it next to one of the grounded sunflowers (and spent iris leaves) that got beaten down by the July hail but refused to go down without a fight. It may be crippled, but it can still bloom with pizazz!!!

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Finished Size: 3 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Tanager Rock II Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 4 dc in ring, take loop off hook, insert hook through 2nd ch of starting ch 2 and replace loop on hook, pull loop through ch (starting popcorn stitch made), [ch 5, 5 dc in ring, take loop off hook, insert hook through top loop of 1st dc and replace loop on hook, pull loop through top of 1st dc (popcorn stitch made)] 5 times; ch d, 1 tr in top of starting popcorn st to form 6th ch 5 sp of Round Pull magic ring tight.

Round 2: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc over post of tr directly below, [ch 5, in next ch 5 sp work (3 dc, ch 3, 3 dc)] 5 times; ch 5, 3 dc in next ch 5 sp, ch 1, 1 dc in 2nd ch of starting ch 2 to form 6th ch 3 sp of Round.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.
NOTE: Binding off here and working a ch 10 instead of a ch 5 makes a cute little snowflake!

Round 3: 1 sc over post of dc directly below, [ch 3, in next ch 5 sp work (3 dc, ch 3, 3 dc), ch 3, 1 sc in next ch 3 sp] 6 times, omitting last sc of final repeat; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

22 August 2019

My Dyeing Days

Hungry yarn in need of avocado.

I've been all wound for you, tied up and down for you;
Now I just won't get a single knot.
I've swallowed my alum for you, I've baked and I've simmered for you,
And you still feel me a lot!
You got me stealing your time away 'cause you never give it;
Peeling the summer away and we can't relive it.
Oh, you make me laugh, and I make you cry...
I believe it's time for me to dye!

My avocado pits and skins have been steeping in the sun for two months now, and I'm anxious to see how the pigment will look on yarn.

I've hanked white crochet thread, white cotton yarn, natural wool yarn and for the first time ever, natural cotton blend yarn. The blend yarn is 50% polyester. Polyester will not change colors with natural dye (although it can stain). But I'm going to try the blend to see what happens. If it takes the dye unevenly, that's okay with me. It if doesn't take the dye at all, I will still be able to use the yarn. It won't be ruined. And if it takes the dye, well, I love surprises, and I will be a very happy dyer!

All the cotton yarn will be scoured, meaning I will hand-wash it with Borax. I'm told dish soap works, too, but I have not used that. The wool yarn should be ready-to-dye and was even already hanked. I just added a few more ties.

To hank your yarn, you may wind it around your arm from elbow to hand, around and around and around, or you may wind it around the back of a chair or any other surface that won't collapse as the yarn is wound.

I used to use a book for winding crochet thread.

My hanks now typically are 100 yards, or 100 wraps around a chair back. I wind 25 times around, then tie four about 10-inch pieces of cotton yarn around, not too tightly, then wind 25 times more and tie again three times. When I get done with the entire hank, I twist the ends of the yarn or thread I'm hanking a few times, then tie all five ties into a bow so I can remove them easily after the dyeing, drying, washing and second drying is done. I like to use the dyed ties in projects after I'm done.

After hanking my yarn and thread, I scoured it, then prepared a jar for each hank. My jars are specifically for dyeing. I don't mix my dyeing jars with my food jars ever, even when I'm using food stuffs for dyeing.

Up to this point, it is safe to work without gloves. But now the gloves need to go on, and you might even want to wear a mask. You'll need to work in a well-ventilated area. All steps from this point on should be worked with protective coverings, with clothes you don't mind getting stained and in a well-ventilated area where spills that turn into stains won't be a problem. Avocado pits and skins can stain carpet and concrete.

I've put about one tablespoon of alum and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar into each quart-sized jar, then halfway filled with warm water and stirred with a plastic knife or big wooden spoon that will never be used for food preparation. Then one hank goes into each jar. The crochet thread went into a pint jar because 100 yards of size 10 thread is less than a quarter of the size of 100 yards of worsted weight yarn. The jar caps go on tightly so I can gently agitate without spilling.

I let the jars sit outside in the sun for a day. I agitated gently to make sure all the fiber gets soaked.

I also stuck a fat quarter of cotton fabric into a jar with my alum/cream of tartar potion and let it sit in the sun for a day. I swished the fabric around in the jar before putting the top on, and I agitated gently a few times during the day. This is my first time dyeing fabric (other than T-shirts) with avocado, and I am so anxious to see how this will look! My quilting mojo is so psyched!!!

Now I'm ready to strain my dye into my jars. Remember, my dye strainer is used only for dyeing and never for food. The ammonia in my dye jars smells like ammonia, but there has been no mold this whole summer. The odor doesn't bother me at all. I feel like I'm cleaning the kitchen floor, only this is fun.

Some of the avocado grounds seep through the strainer, but that's okay. They may leave blotchy spots on the yarn, and I'm actually hoping they do. When I hand wash them later with strawberry shampoo and then condition them with strawberry conditioner, my nose will never know the avocado grounds or even the ammonia were ever in there.

I ended up putting all three hanks of yarn into a giant plastic pretzel jar because the quart jars were not quite big enough for the dye to move freely. I will gently agitate the jars each day, and I'll probably let them solar cook for a week because I want to give the pigment plenty of time to soak in. Avocado pit and skins dye gets richer with time, so I'm going to give it all the time it needs.

I will keep an eye on the wool yarn; wool yarn can become brittle if it soaks in mordants too long. I initially wasn't going to use a mordant on the wool yarn; avocado pits and skins do not necessarily require a mordant. When I decided to combine all three hanks of yarn into one jar, that means the wool is getting a bit of alum and cream of tartar on it. And you thought me feeling the yarn was a questionable thing!!! Ha ha!

I'm always amazed when solar dyeing fiber because the dye bath tends to clear a bit as the fiber soaks up the pigment. This is especially fun when you dye wool yarn with unsweetened drink mix such as Kool-Aid (which can be done in the kitchen with no special equipment or precautions). The water eventually becomes clear!!!

Before I finished up my onion dye jar for the year, I decided to stick a hank of scoured and alum/cream of tartar mordanted cotton yarn in the onion/sumac mixture. I didn't expect or get much color, due to most of the pigment already being exhausted on the T-shirt and fat quarter I did earlier. Initially, I thought I'd be okay with the really pastel hue, but it was such a pastel yellow, I decided to go ahead and use up the rest of my onion skins and make one more jar of dye. There were about six or seven onion skins left in the bag, so it wasn't very much, but I thought it might be enough for one hank of yarn to be just a tad darker.

I let the dye steep for about three days, and then I let the yarn steep in the dye for about three more days. The dye was poured into the flower garden after letting it cool overnight. It was pretty warm after sitting in the sun! I didn't want to boil my sunflowers, which are exploding with color right now!

I have dyed with wild sunflowers from along the roadside and in vacant lots, and it was fun, but I'm not going to cut down my sunflowers to use as dye. I do cut one or two every now and then to put in a vase in my kitchen, though...

After the second soak, I let the yarn dry (not in direct sunlight) to set the dye. I then hand-washed it with strawberry shampoo and conditioned it with strawberry hair conditioner, then let it dry again, not in direct sunlight. The shampoo makes the yarn smell so nice, and the conditioner makes it so soft and fun to work with.

Here's my final onion skin/sumac yarn color.

onion skin/sumac cotton yarn, wet

Linking up with Alycia Quilts and Confessions of a Fabric Addict.
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