Archives for May 2010

Project: Napkin valance

Monday was rainy, one of those glum, grey, stuck-in-the-house days. In an effort to keep my mood from being sucked into the vortex, I went looking for a project. Projects are my happy place, always. My first thought was birthday party decor, for my daughter’s 8th birthday on Saturday. Maybe a cloth garland like one of these.  My friend Molly made a great one from triangles of bright cloth sewn together, and I’ve been meaning to make one for our home.  With ten kids, there’s always a reason to celebrate something.

As I was looking around for possible fabrics, I came across some lovely linen napkins that I bought at a yard sale last Saturday, and had an even easier idea.  What about folding the napkins into triangles and stringing them on brown twine with clothespins?  It would be a sweet garland.  Or better yet, how about a valance over the kitchen window?

I folded the napkins diagonally and ironed them smooth.  Then I simply draped them over a piece of twine, overlapping the points of the napkins, and attached them with clothespins.  Any clothespin would have worked, but I had some fun ones that my kids decorated for me using scrapbook paper and Mod Podge.  I decided to add a button to each clothespin for just a little more interest.

Four napkins were enough to stretch across a four-foot wide window.  I screwed a couple of small cup-hooks into the wall, one on either side of the window, to which I attached the ends of the twine.  The valance ended up being really pretty, I think.   The whole project took me less than an hour, and required not one stitch of sewing.

It would be extremely easy to change the linens out for other colors at other times of the year.  I’m going to keep my eyes open at yard sales for napkins in other colors. I’m picturing red and blue for the 4th of July, orange and brown for Thanksgiving, and maybe burgundy and green at Christmas time.  What fun!  (Remember, you can click on any picture for an enlarged version!)

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Really loving

I’ve been thinking about love lately. About loving people no matter how well they love you back. Even in a good relationship, self-love comes easier, doesn’t it? We hope that our loved one is going to fill our gaps, fulfill our needs. And if they don’t when they don’t love us ‘right’, whatever we think that is, it is self-love that causes us to feel wounded. Self-love also makes it harder for us to reach out and love them anyhow.

When people don’t love us well, our minds can come up with so many logical reasons to hold back, to be on guard. To love on our own terms, or to not love at all. This person disses me, so they don’t deserve my love. That person hurt me irreparably– they don’t deserve my forgiveness. I’ve got to guard myself. I can’t risk being hurt again.

In the beginning of a love relationship, it is appropriate to guard your heart, to choose wisely. But once you’ve jumped in– married the person, brought home the child, or otherwise find yourself navigating the waters of family (sorry, you don’t get to choose your parents or your siblings!) there’s not a lot of room for self-protective love. 

The heart of true love is self-sacrifice, not self-fulfillment. At the center of the happiest relationships, you’ll most likely find two people, both willing to serve each other a fair bit of the time. But don’t underestimate the power of one person with a servant-heart.

There are some really difficult relationships, where boundaries have to be in place to protect one person from another. But we all could opt to love someone in our own lives better. I’ve got at least a few people. Chances are, a person or two is coming to your mind, too.

It is the hardest kind of love there is, to reach out to those who hurt us, or to those who love us ever-so-imperfectly. But that’s what we’re called to do. Think about how Jesus loved us. His love was and is an extravagant display, aimed at the very people who most hated him and wanted him gone. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He said those words from the cross. And He calls us to take up our cross and follow.

To love one another. Why? Because He first loved us. And because our loved ones need us to.

Need a bit more encouragement?  I hope these links do just that.


The always-real, always-encouraging Christine did the video below about loving attachment-challenged kids, but it will speak to anyone who has a challenging person in their life.


The following quote is from Pope John Paul II:

“Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom — it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another. Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing.”

(I’d highly encourage you to read the entire article on the topic of self-realization to better understand the context of this quote.)
Other relevant links:

In love with myself

Countering Romantic Apathy

What Real Love Looks Like


Note: In encouraging you to love a difficult someone in your life, I’m aware that in situations of true abuse a person might need to step away to be physically safe. If you find yourself in that most difficult of situations, my heart goes out to you. Please remember that God loves you, and that His perfect love is on the move even now.

Sunday– Mary’s Happy Playlist






I’ve been rassling a post for more than a week, mostly at bedtime. Each night after working it over for a good long while, sure it is on the brink of done, I decide I still haven’t done it justice, and it still isn’t quite ready to be tossed out to the world. And I post something else. This night is no different. So I will leave you with a picture of my darling Eldest, our first-born. And I’ll ask you to finish this sentence for me.

Love is….

Bliss this week

  • We started our summer schedule for school.  The kids will still be reading an hour a day.  Some kids will be doing math as needed, and some will be finishing up science.  BUT instead of getting up at 7:30 or so, we can sleep in til 9.  Yeah for summer!
  • We went to the library today in the pouring rain.  Walked out 45 minutes later into drizzly sunshine with bags full of books.   The kids were in bliss. Yeah for the library!
  • For lunch I made crab salad: imitation crab, lettuce, sunflower seeds, grated carrots, grated broccoli stems, feta cheese, ranch dressing.  And we had strawberries!  Yeah for yummy fresh food!
  • I sat down and actually managed to finish the socks I started knitting months ago.  My tootsies are in bliss!  Yeah for cozy socks on rainy days!


Whether they’re burying each other in the sand or using oodles of paint to decorate a cardboard barn that they built themselves, our little girls know how to find fun.  And they usually find the best fun when they’re playing together. I love that they get along so well!  (Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Thrifty gifty

Recently I went thrift store shopping and happened across a couple of big rolls of solid blue wallpaper. It was boring as wallpaper, but I decided it would probably make excellent thick, rich-feeling gift wrap. I snagged both rolls for the princely sum of $2. On a hunch, I scanned the next two thrift stores I visited for discarded wallpaper. At one thrift store I found a good-sized roll of brown craft paper with gold stars for 99 cents.  At another, I found two huge rolls of grey and silver foil wallpaper for $3 total.

The elegant foil is cloth-backed and feels way nicer even than Current gift wrap.  It will be great for weddings, baby showers or girls’ birthdays. Altogether I paid $6 for five big rolls of paper that will most likely last me years. I was pleased with my find. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve found at a thrift store?

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sweet weekend

What a fun weekend we had celebrating Jared’s graduation! The homeschool ceremony on Saturday was lovely. This year there were 54 kids involved. There were the usual caps and gowns, the usual crowd of proud families and yelling friends, with the occasional air horn tossed in for maximal impact on ear-drums.

The diploma presentation was personalized by a couple of touches that I haven’t seen at big graduations. First of all, there was a paragraph about each graduate written in the program, which gave you a feel for each young person’s interests and plans even if you didn’t know them. It also made it abundantly clear that home-schooled kids don’t just spend their lives sitting at home!  Then as each student walked across the stage to receive their diploma, a tribute was read that had been written by their parents ahead of time.

A couple of Jared’s good friends were also graduating in this group, so I had plenty of reasons to play photographer.  My new Mother’s Day camera lens (an 85mm 1.8)  did a good job getting me close to the action and maximized the available light. Yay!

Sunday was more jam-packed than Saturday.  There was a reception at church after the service to honor Jared.  Mid-afternoon we attended an open house  for Jared’s friend Allie.  Then we went home and cooked like mad for Jared’s open house.   It was fun, but busy.   I enlisted every set of hands we had, and we got done just in time for the first guests.

Here’s a picture of some of the food.  I forget to get a picture of the dessert.  Good thing there was lots of everything because we ended up having 75 people there, coming and going, with kids running amok and people all over the house and yard.  It had been dumping rain the day before for the graduation ceremony.  But thankfully the rain held off during the party, because I doubt we’d have fit that many people comfortably in the house!

Cars lined the road in front of our house.  The sliding glass door stood wide open, to pull a breeze into the warm house and better facilitate repeat trips to the buffet line.  I wandered around trying to chat with everyone, and peeking at Jared now and then, pleased that he was obviously enjoying himself.  Important discussions were held about the heat value of the bacon jalapenos with multiple people. (The consensus:  most were only moderately warm, but a few were real attention-getters.)

The kids were in bliss, thundering around playing Nerf with dozens of their nearest and dearest friends.  Eventually evening slipped away and people began to trickle away to get little children home to bed.  Conversations got quieter and the house cooled off a bit.   (Funny how 25 people in a house can feel quiet….)  Jared sat down and opened a big package from Grandma, which contained a lovely handmade quilt in a bright ‘puzzle’ motif.  He loved it, and it will be really fun for his dorm room when he goes off to college in the fall.

It was nearing bedtime.  Light was fading, and the sliding glass door was closed now, to keep out the cool night air.  We were all winding down, especially those of us who’d crammed several parties into one day.  But we weren’t quite ready to call the day done.  Allie’s dad Matt, who is the music minister at a local church, asked for a guitar and one was brought to him.  Allie came and sat beside him, and they started to sing for us.  Lively worship songs and quieter ones and silly campfire songs.

The kids trailed into the living room smiling and found places to sit down and listen.  Music plays nearly every hour of the day at our house, but it isn’t often live guitar and two part harmony.  My 15-year old toted his entire drum set down the stairs, thrilled to keep time to something lively.

Soon a bunch of us were singing along.  We didn’t know all the same songs, but we found lots of common ground. We were smiling.  Clapping.  Singing or humming or just listening as Allie and her dad sang loud and soft and silly and worshipful and everything in between.   It was the wonderful Spirit-led, blessed thing, hard even to describe with words.

Kids begged for songs.   Sometimes we had guitar chords to go with them, sometimes we didn’t, but Matt gamely picked out chords, and played.  And we sang.

I clutched the memory close to my heart, knowing that this was something special, not wanting it to slip away. Finally sometime around 10:30 we admitted it really was bedtime, and reluctantly saw our last guests out the door.

Lovely.  It was an exceptionally lovely weekend.

Sunday (bonus song!)

Because I forgot I’d already scheduled a Sunday post, and found another one to share with you! (Isn’t music the greatest??)

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you’re good
And you can’t believe it’s not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let ’em fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won’t disappear

So let it fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now
We’re here now, oh

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don’t fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
His blood can cover us

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

~Tenth Avenue North~


Take these empty hallelujahs
Fill my lungs again
’cause I wanna sing
And I wanna mean it
I wanna feel again

And when the world wears me down
You’re my life’s love
You keep my heart alive