Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Starting School

School starts, for real with students and everything, tomorrow. When I was a student, I never thought that my teachers were as nervous or excited about the start of school as I was. And last year I was calm but eager to try out this teaching thing on my own. This year, with Bobby's surgery looming, a change in classrooms, learning to leave my son with my sister during the mornings, and all of the other general life distractions, it hasn't truly sunk in yet that I will be back in front of students tomorrow. I'm sure it will hit me when the hallways get crowded and noisy!

I am already very tired and when I left the school today it was knowing that my room still was not very welcoming, inviting, encouraging, or anything else that you would want your classroom to be. But, there are also three teachers sharing the one room, so things are bound to be a bit tight and impersonal! The bigger reason I'm a bit worn down is because I have done an abysmally small amount of planning. I have general ideas for the overall course designs, and I have a few detailed ideas that I need to make the materials for. But that middle ground, where days are planned, lessons outlined, books gathered, handouts photocopied, none of it is covered. I did get my syllabi copied before I left today. But that was my only real victory. And that was because I have wonderful family who helps out when you need it!

This evening I've managed (again with the help of my husband) to map out what I am going to be doing with my students the first 3 days of the year, but I am more concerned abou the 3 days I am going to miss for my son's surgery. I keep reminding myself, that that's one week away and right now I just need to worry about tomorrow, which means going to bed as close to 8:00 as possible!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baking Cookies

For the last few days I have been craving chocolate chip cookies. I don't know why. I usually like making them, but it wasn't until I was about 5 months pregnant that I actually started really liking to eat them. I also make pineapple upside down cake quite frequently for my husband and don't particularly enjoy eating that either. So, when I started liking the way these ubiquitous cookies taste it was a pleasant surprise. And, as I was saying, I've been wishing that I could just walk into the kitchen and pick up one or two (or three) of these tasty treats, but I haven't actually gotten around to making them.

Now making cookies is sort of like exercising. Which could be good since the more cookies you make, the more you probably eat and the more you need to exercise. But, every time I think about making cookies I think, "Oh, I just don't have time. It takes so long to get everything together, measured out, mixed, baked, and then there's the whole messy business of cleaning up." So, I tell myself it's really not worth it. Same thing with exercising, particularly the cleaning up afterwards, but I can't ever really honestly tell myself it's not worth it. So, I guess it is a bit different. But, inevitably if I just do it without thinking about it, it doesn't take nearly as long and my husband is usually so happy about it he does the cleaning up part. At least with the baking, that is. And then I think, "Wow, I should do that more often!"

So, today I decided to just pull everything out and make some of those chocolate chip cookies. But, this is the first time I've made them from scratch since my son was born and that certainly made things interesting! It helped that my mom came over for some grandbaby time so I wasn't having to hold or entertain him, but it took a lot longer than I remember to mix everything and scoop out the dough onto the baking stone. So, I only had 10 cookies made by the time we had to leave for dinner. Because I was pretty sure the raw egg in the dough wouldn't react favorably to being left in a warm kitchen, I put the dough in the refrigerator.

Then, when we got home we gave our son a bath, filled out some paperwork for his pre-op appointment tomorrow, and now I am finishing the rest of the cookies. It's a bit late for this, and I'm sure I'll regret it in the morning, but I'll have to satisfy myself with a morning cookie. Anyway, the reason I'm explaining all of this is to declare that from now on (as often as I can, anyway) I will be putting my cookie dough into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to scooping it onto cookie sheets and baking it. This dough is so much easier to scoop into uniform lumps, get off the spoon and onto the stone, it bakes more evenly and doesn't spread out as much, and, it's a bit prettier to look at than the runnier dough I put in the refrigerator.

And, I'm sure that if I actually pulled them out when my timer went off instead of deciding to write one more sentence on my blog post, they would be better cookies overall!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Son the Scholar

My husband and I are both English teachers and so when we found out we were pregnant purchasing books was right up there with diapers, clothes, and receiving blankets; not to mention how tempting it was before we were pregnant to buy copies of books we loved reading when we were 8 and 9 years old. We've held off on this so far, and board books take up a lot of room as it is.

Today I walked with my son downtown for a couple of hours. He checked things out from his perch in the Moby until he fell asleep. Then we returned to our house had some tummy time, during which he showed his rolling turtle who was boss. But the most exciting part was how interested he seemed in the Eric Carle books I read to him while we laid on the floor. He was really focusing on the pictures and got pretty animated over the bright ones. Then I gave him his own book to touch and feel while he practiced sitting up. The result was pretty sweet and it's good to know that if nothing else he likes looking at them!

Now I just need to get his cloth books made...

Starting the Year

As a teacher I live my life in school years. One of my friends who is also a teacher said on her blog that January is the middle of the year for her, and that is absolutely true for me as well. Not only that, but I think the seasons agree with this modified start of the year because spring and summer make it more likely for me to start new things or keep up on resolutions. In January it is so cold and dark that I rarely feel motivated to try out any sort of changes; instead I retreat to the familiar and comfortable. But in May I'm usually up for anything. So, the way I see it, this year is about 3 months old, and we're getting ready to really get into the swing of it.

These last two days I have been back in the classroom, and despite the fact that I am only teaching part-time, I have been there full-time to try to get things moved, set-up, organized, cleaned, and generally ready to go when the students show up on Wednesday. Of course, I have also been attending meetings of every shape, size, and purpose. It's exciting to head back, but I am going to miss seeing my little boy in the mornings. He is so sweet when he wakes up, sees you and smiles. His head is still wobbly when he's just waking up so he bobbles towards you and reaches with his hands. It's wonderful and I'm going to find solace in seeing him wake up from naps. In other, Bobby news: I think he might be left-handed. I know it's a bit early to tell, but he uses his left hand a lot more than his right hand when he reaches for and grabs things. We'll see how that goes the more he grows!

These next few weeks will be interesting as school starts and we get used to our family's new schedule, but Bobby is also going to have his surgery soon. This Monday we have a pre-op appointment where we'll be able to hopefully ask all of the questions that have been piling up. Then the following Monday, August 25th, he has the surgery. We have to be there at noon with him. I'll know more about it after the appointment on Monday.

But, right now I'm trying not to worry too much and just focus on what needs to happen on each day and today I must head back into school to get more things ready!

Monday, August 11, 2008

All Starry-Eyed

Today I started working on a project that I can blog about since it's not a gift: a block of the month Seeing Stars Quilt. I'm doing this with two other friends and at the end of a year, roughly, we'll each have a good-sized quilt for our respective beds!

We met at 10 this morning, and were each, theoretically going to finish this month's block (the center block) and 4 of the border blocks; Sally was the only one done with her block by the time we left. But, mine is done now (almost 12 hours and much enjoyable conversation later) and the border blocks are started. I am super excited to see how this project develops and grows and hopefully today's rate of completion doesn't hold for too long!

This string of chain pieced half-square triangles for the border blocks shows what I think of this project so far:

Quilting Like a Rockstar

Just to head off any confusion, the title is really just fun. It's not meant to imply that I'm either very good at quilting, or that rockstars really quilt all that much. But, they probably should. No, this is more because I feel pretty rockin' now that I have taken steps to actually quilting a few projects! And by quilting I mean the actual layering and sewing together of a top batting and bottom.

A few weekends ago I took a long arm quilting class with my friend Sally. We drove out to Chugiak and there were confronted with a mammoth machine that sounds eerily similar to a jigsaw or a sports car. In fact as I was driving the needle around the curves of a simple meander I was almost feeling the rush of wind through my hair and wondering if I could convince my husband that this was in fact a power tool. After all, do we really need a car in the near-ish future or a down payment on a house at some point? Truly really? But then I realized that the 12' by maybe 4' machine wouldn't fit anywhere in our current residence. Oh well.

But, I left the class feeling like I could actually quilt my own tops and not be too ashamed of the results to show them to other people or give them as gifts. It wasn't quite perfect, some of my points were a bit loopy and some of my curves a bit square, but overall I thought both Sally and I had done quite decent jobs!

So now that I have at least once used a long arm I am planning to go back and actually quilt my other finished tops! It's very exciting to know that I will actual quilts to show for my efforts over the last 2 years. That's actually a bit embarrassing now that I read it.

When Sally and I got back into Anchorage I had more evidence that I really have married the perfect man for me. He knows that I get very excited about things and throw all of myself into them. Then when I'm exhausted (this may take two hours or two months) of obsessing over it I let it (whatever "it" happens to be) be for a while then revisit it with a more healthy moderation later. He also has a lot of confidence in my abilities and assumed that I would have such a great time at this long arm class that I would come home just itching to sew and quilt. In anticipation of this fervor he had set up my sewing machine and driven to the local sewing machine place and purchased the walking foot I had been talking about for the last week or so. I was very impressed he remembered the name of the foot I needed, and had taken the model number of my machine to make sure he brought the right one home.

Later that evening I finished my third ever quilted project. The first two were Christmas presents last year and both used a free motion foot. Which, interestingly enough, it took me a while to realize that I didn't always have to have the fabric traveling from the front of the machine to the back. But the whole "free motion" thing didn't occur to me until about half way through the first project.

Anyway, I finished my table runner that evening and a couple of days later Sally taught me to do the binding. This was my first time ever binding anything as my two other quilted projects had different edges. So here is a picture of the first time I've followed directions all the way through the last step: quilt and bind.

And, what kind of rockstar doesn't have fans?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Son's Completed Sweater

The friend of mine that I mentioned a while back that is nesting also managed to finish her son's sweater. It's the same pattern, same size, started later, but finished earlier. And her sweater recipient isn't actually able to wear clothes yet. I took a long time getting around to all that finishing, but she did motivate me to finish my own son's sweater. And here he is modeling and showing off some of his other tricks. He loves to stand up, likes to try to take a few steps and is getting better about actually alternating his legs, and sometimes sucks in his lower lip. He also can really talk it up when he feels like it!

As far as the sweater goes, the arms are a little short, but I'll just remember that for the next one I make!

A Rowan Day

This morning I broke my long yarn and knitting fast. Maybe it's not really been that long, but 3 weeks seems like a long time. I went to a local yarn store and bought 12 skeins of yarn. It's enough (as I told my slightly more frugal husband) for 5 projects! It was pretty exciting to find all the colors and yarns I needed for these projects, but I didn't notice a few things until I got home. First, all my new yarn is cotton, so now my cotton drawer is quite full. Second, all of the yarn is made by Rowan. So now I have 4 skeins of Rowan Denim for some drawstring recovery pants for my little boy and 8 skeins of Rowan Handknit Cotton for 4 cotton hats in different wonderful stripy patterns!

The hats are for various wonderful children I know and the pants are so that I can stay distracted while I wait for my son's surgery to be finished. We found out yesterday that he needs to have surgery to correct a problem with his kidney. It sounds as though the surgery will take at least 4 hours (from the time I don't get to see him anymore) and the drawstring pants are part of the 4 to 6 hour gifts section of "Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. I think I'll get them cast on and have a little bit started before we go to the hospital, but hopefully it will give me a more productive way to use my nervous energy. I figure I can put all my hopes for safety and recovery into those little pants, instead of working myself up into a self-destructive tizzy!