Friday, December 25, 2009

Just Wasn't That Ham's Day

This Christmas was an interesting one. At 5 in the morning my eyes popped open when I realized I had no pan to cook the ham in. The only pan that would work for was currently housing one of three large batches of cookies from the day before.

Later that became a smaller problem beside finding a ham that would work for this year (ideally one that had not been in the freezer for at least twice the recommended time). All the stores were closed. ALL of them and in a last ditch effort I called my mom. (Cliche, yes; effective, certainly.) She just happened to have a ham, thawed, and ready in her refrigerator. So, after I showered I loaded up Bobby and we made great time across town, given that it was early-ish on Christmas morning and most people were in their homes instead of on the road. Then we got back home and around noon the ham went in the oven. I was so on top of this!

Then, I was eating a late lunch of tomato soup (I am addicted to the stuff right now) when it ocurred to me that I had no bread sticks or rolls or anything of that sort. I had potatoes and corn, so starch was definitely covered, but it's a bit of a requirement to have bread of some sort. So, once again I called my mom (it worked the first time!) and it worked this time as well. So now I owe her a ham and a thing of breadsticks. They made it over and when all the sisters arrived from their house-sitting jobs, and the boys in the family started waking up from their afternoon naps, we finally got dinner on the table about 4:00. Which is exactly one hour later than that ham should have been coming out of the oven at the latest.

It was covered in aluminum foil, and so it wasn't until I had it out, and we were ready to cut it and put it on a serving plate that I pulled back the foil to reveal a cross between a ham and a big chunk of bacon on a bone. One of my sisters just laughed and left the kitchen. "Maybe, it's just the glaze that's crispy," Bob said in his ever-optimisitc way.

"I didn't put the glaze on the ham." I responded before we both laughed about it and just cut it into chunks. My sister said she wouldn't tell anyone, but it was kind of hard to miss the crispy, crispy edges, and the darker than normal color of the meat. My other sister said, "At least we know we won't get food poisoning!" But then my dad pointed out that it was already fully-cooked, I was technically just supposed to be reheating it.

In the end it turned out alright. Bobby even ate some (which is crazy), and we had fun opening presents and stockings later. This just wasn't the year for a smooth-sailing Christmas. But we still had fun and despite all of the potential for disaster, it went quite well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and quiet and peaceful. Bobby is going to bed, we had a great time with the first family we are seeing, and we're ready and looking forward to tomorrow. Today was quiet (perhaps even a tad lonely) when Bob took Bobby with him on his "covert operations," and left me at the house to get things finished. They were gone for most of the day, but seemed in very good spirits when they returned.

I finished Bobby's stocking. So now there's a place for his new socks to go. (I think it's wonderful and funny to put socks in a Christmas stocking.) Yes one is a bit bigger than the other. He tried them on as I went and that one was done first...

He mastered both of the puzzles he received that are marked for ages 3 and up. Bob and I noticed that almost everything we thought he would dig was supposedly too old for him. Now, I'm going to ignore most of those.

Tonight we're going to finish wrapping a few presents, and I'm going to relax with my feet in warm water and knit on the hard-and-oh-so-fun socks I'm loving!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Simple Things

Bob said something profound to me tonight: "I'm not saying life is black and white, but I think sometimes we invent new colors."

I obviously get a bit wrapped up in the whole Christmas season. I love the music, the lights, the time, the weather, the excuse to knit, the giving of gifts, the paper, the stockings, the wreaths, all of it. It glows and glitters in my little fantasy world of what Christmas looks like. When I was single, living at home, making way more money than I had any business making at a theoretically part-time job I was able to buy numerous gifts and stocking stuffers for family and friends. I loved having whole stacks of presents all wrapped up ready to hand out; I felt like the more I gave, the more they knew I liked them.

Then things changed, certainly for the better, but the income dropped as the expenses grew, and it took a while for me to feel like I was really giving something with meaning. Plus, there was (in my mind) an expectation of what I should be giving, based on what I had given in the past. Crafting has helped that in many ways, because when you give something you've made you're not only giving your money and thought, you're giving time and effort.

But, there's that whole time thing that is now a little short. (I think that there is nothing like a child to show you that you are a lazy bum, "What was I doing with all my time before Bobby came along?) And, I just don't have the time to make the thing I could in years past. I think if I planned better, if I worked on things year-round, it might work out, but given the number of people I know in the same boat each year, I just don't think that's a realistic expectation. And, I've decided there are some things I'm just not going to worry about anymore. At least, I'm going to try not to; we'll see how it goes.

So, tomorrow, I'm going to make Bobby a stocking. He needs one, we and others have things to put in it. And I'm going to finish an IOU present from last Christmas (I should have taken that as an indicator that things were not going to go well this year, if I still had something left from last year, but I chose to ignore it). I'm going to spend some time with family, I'm going to make caramel popcorn, and I'm going to enjoy the next couple of days. Then, I'm going to knit simple stockinette sweaters for Bob and Bobby.

They may not be fancy, they may not be fast, they may not be glitzy and show off my amazing new cabling abilities, but they will serve to remind me that I need to enjoy the simple things. That life is already complicated enough and that simplicity is often beautiful.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Counting Down

I had a to-do list. It was broken down into days and those were broken down into while Bobby was awake and while Bobby was asleep times. Yeah. I made that list while I was pretty rested, done with grades early, no big plans for the four weekdays before Christmas and a manageably small list of things to finish. Then I went and changed part of it. I wanted Bobby's vest to be moved up on the list, we spent a bunch of Saturday out and about, and then on Saturday night I ended up sobbing on the couch after throwing his vest (sans ribbing) into the middle of the living room floor in despair. My eyes were crossing while I picked up the stitches from the provisional cast-on and I knew there was no way I'd get it done in time. I had moved up the deadline and, well, it killed me. (I think that's where they get their name...)

I have moved on with the list, but despaired again when I realized that there's a knitter out there that took 5 months to knit the pair of socks I planned on knitting in 3 days. I started on Sunday morning and am on the foot now. I don't think it will take me 5 months; I do think that the recipient may get one sock and an IOU. That seems to be in vogue these days.

Today I managed to finish what I think is the last of my Christmas shopping, though I never really feel secure about it until the gift is wrapped and under the tree (and, Bobby makes that a bit hazardous). And tomorrow we don't have (that I know of) any plans. So I'm hoping to finish the sock and get at least one sewing present done. Ideally I'll get two sewing presents done, but I don't want to pressure myself too much.

Bobby's vest is now a New Year's vest. And, after Christmas, then I'm going to knit all of the other things I've been thinking about while I get through the things I need to finish. Sweaters for the two men in my life and then one for the little girl coming our way!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh So Close

I have one assignment left to grade. It's the final for my writing class and I only have one page of the objective portion and then their short essays and I'm done. I'll be free from grading for two whole weeks. I am so excited that we have almost a full week before Christmas. We'll be able to rest, enjoy time with friends and family, and get stuff done!

I scaled back my Christmas gift making endeavors a great deal this year, and though I have a lot to do in a little bit of time, I'm hopeful that with good planning and efficient use of time I'll be able to get them all finished a few days before Christmas and still be able to enjoy the time! I need to knit while we're out and about in the car, do the sewing at night after Bobby is in bed, and get a few hours during the day for the quilting portions of a few projects. I have it all organized and easily accessible so I theoretically won't spend a bunch of time getting things out and ready (or finding them).

I think it will work.

I may even be able to add in one or two more... maybe.

As long as I don't start a lacy, pink sweater...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lacy Little Knits

My little girl will be swathed in pink and lace knitting during her first few days. I thoroughly enjoy the blues and browns and greens and tans and bright oranges and reds that Bobby digs and that are available for the little boys out there. I'm also not into forcing gender preferences on people. Some boys like pink and some girls don't. And, if there is any color that is a lightening rod for the gender debates it's pink. If she hates pink as she grows older so be it; that's cool.

But I like pink. And so while she has no say (that is recognizably English and not easily explained by hunger) she will wear pink. Because she is a girl and when they first are out and about all babies look the same, but no one ever thinks a baby in pink is a boy. Babies in brown, yellow, green, and even soft baby blue might be girls or boys; but with pink there is no doubt.

I have pink yarn: Wool, 50% wool/50% alpaca, and 70% wool/30% silk (apparently a discontinued color in this yarn, lucky me!). With these yarns I am planning many things:
  • a pair of pants
  • a striped bonnet (this one says Jane Austen to me) or hat (this would match the sweater below and doesn't have the tie which worries me a bit)
  • a lacy sweater I'm thinking either this one or this one
  • in addition to the obligatory (and oh-so-sweet) Zimmermann February Sweater (I was a little sad when I couldn't figure out a way to rationalize this for Bobby)
  • a kimono style sweater (really wish I had known about those when Bobby was little).
  • a little pair of booties, because you have to knit babies booties (and these, on the right side of the page, are adorable)
  • She'll probably also need one of these little dresses at some point

While looking at these I came across a few things that I'm sure Bobby will need as well. (Emphasis on need for both of these lists)
As I was looking I realized that there are a lot more things out there to knit for little girls than there are for boys. It's interesting and too bad, really. But at least he'll have his bright socks (alright there's only one right now, but the other will be along shortly, I'm sure). And he seems pretty content with those.

So, long lists short: we're having a baby girl; her name is Virginia (though not legally, something about being born first...); she looked beautiful today (though rather skeletal, grainy, and black and white); and we'll get the fuller scoop in the prenatal appointment tomorrow. She's theoretically coming in mid-May and her name will be long because we have a few female names to get in there (she'll have a couple middle names) and who knows (given my husband's family's disproportionate male to female ratio) if we'll ever get another chance!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Things I Learned Recently

1. Edgar Allan Poe may have had a chimney, because while Bobby and I were napping there definitely came some rapping and tapping in our house. There was a bird (I'm certain of it" in our chimney. I never knew that could happen and it totally freaked me out.

2. I need to vacuum under Bobby's crib more, because it builds character he likes to push things underneath it and then shimmy under it to retrieve them. The dust bunnies might eat him if I don't take care of that. Now that I think about it, they may have already eaten his pig and sheep puzzle pieces.

3. I should give more tests. The quiet time while students take them is grading-time gold. The key here is to make the test easy to understand so they don't have too many questions and easy to grade, otherwise it defeats the purpose. (It also helps if one stack of grading is just make-up work.)

4. I always thought that I was just a messy person when it came to closets and clothes, but all I've really needed was an amazing closet organization system. Ever since ours was put in I've been putting clothes away and there was even one morning when I picked up a pair of Bob's socks, instead of the other way around (we need to give the folks that know Bob pretty well a moment to recover, here...). Weirdest moment of my day so far (it was 5 in the morning so not too much competition, but funny enough for me to tell him about it in the car on the way to work). Only the crazy cost is stopping me from even thinking about the craft room possibilities here.

5. I need a regular yarn budget, even if it's $20/month. Then at least I'd have a limit and a release-valve. The alternative is no yarn for a month and then a $232 yarn binge. (In my defense I ended up with at least $400 worth of yarn so it was all a good deal. And most of it is for knitting for other people, so do I get points there?)

6. I like to knit and it's likely going to take over creep into the living room. Going with the earlier organization lesson I found a basket to put my current projects in, instead of on the couches and tables. The basket may need to be bigger.

Those are the recent lessons and realizations; I'm sure more will be coming.

Tomorrow (well, I suppose now it's today) Bobby and I both have ultrasounds. His is for his kidney, just to make sure it's chugging along as it should. Mine is for the baby, make sure s/he is growing as s/he should and to find out whether we're having a she or a he! Hopefully anyway. It's probably the only time a parent hopes their child is at least a little into exposing themselves.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Change Is Hard

I think I have figured out (to a point) my sudden rash of new projects and sleepless nights. Things are changing around here. We've bought a house and are still trying to settle in, Bobby is getting older and more able to communicate, I'm pregnant (and if that's not its whole own bundle of change than I don't know what is), and our friends are leaving the country (not just the state, mind you, no, a whole other continent).

Knitting is, for the most part, predictable. I know that if I use these needles and that yarn, knit so many stitches a certain number of times I'll get a sock, or a vest, or a sweater. I can see what is happening and when things don't happen the way I expect or want them to I can see where I went wrong; I can fix it. I get an almost infinite number of do-overs. I can control knitting, or at least I can control it more than I can life. (And yarn, unlike that chicken in my refrigerator, doesn't have an expiration date.)

In life we don't get do-overs, we don't get to try something 4 different ways to see what we like. Instead, we get to make choices and live with the ways it turns out, for good or bad. We cast-on and do our best, hope for the best. And then, we have to hope for the best through all the unexpected changes.

We may start with wool, and suddenly we discover alpaca sliding through our fingers (wouldn't that be nice!). Then the chunky yarn goes to a sport weight and now it's a variegated sock yarn. Then we discover, much to our dismay that someone has changed our needle size. Life is navigating and negotiating all of those changes. Figuring out what to do with this unexpected combination. We're just chugging along trying to make it work and, on good days, trying to make it work well.

Sometimes you can look down at what you've done and it's nice. The finished fabric hangs together beautifully. Other times you have to shake you head and acknowledge that those were the places you were learning (and that it, apparently, took a long time to get it figured out).

Sometimes you have people around you that can lean over and say, "Maybe if you relax a bit your knitting will stay more even. I've had to knit with those needles; trust me, I know." Other times you just sit and stare at it, completely lost.

I'm sure I'll look back on this part later and see what was going on, that before I could get set-up for the beautiful cabling that's coming up I had to change my yarn weight, color, fiber, and needles. But this transition time, this is the part I don't understand. And not understanding, that makes it hard.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Don't Teach Rocket Science

I had a really funny conversation with a parent today when I was asked, very seriously, and for good reason, whether or not I teach rocket science. The answer to that, is certainly, "no." And my internal response is, "What do you teach in rocket science?"

I think it's an actual science elective, whether it's at my school or Bob's, I'm not sure. But I am positive I've laughed about it with Bob. I mean, come on, how is it not funny?

While it sometimes feels that way, but really isn't, rocket science, I do seem to knit a lot lately. I think I've been bitten by the holiday knitting bug. I've been working on my striped scarf whenever I'm in the car or need easy knitting and I do like it though I wish I had picked skeins that had more differences than similarities. Oh well, and there's more at the store. I saw it and touched it, and only Bobby being fussy meant I left without any. The other option was too irresponsible and would have meant major damage to the budget. Here is where I was before errands tonight. Now I'm almost done with the first two skeins.

And, Bobby loves the new socks I'm knitting him. He keeps asking to try it on, which while it takes away from actual time to knit them, is awfully cute of him. I'm thinking I'll be done with the heel of the first one tonight and then be able to finish it tomorrow. He does have two cute feet that need socks. He helped Bob take this picture of them to prove it. Again, colorwork, I love you.

I'm also hoping to start a new pair of socks that I cannot explain further for reasons of gift-giving privacy (meaning I want them to be a surprise if they're finished and not a disappointment if they're not). I will say this though, they're about as close to rocket science as I care to get.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Where to Begin

Our friends are leaving. I am in denial. Instead of talking about how much they mean to me or how much I will miss them both, I am going to talk about knitting and Bobby. Things that are staying here for the time being.

I have finished the bottom half of Bobby's new vest. It is long enough for decency, short enough to avert laughter. I am going to start the front and back after consulting with my knitting guru. In the meantime I am working on one of those noro striped scarves. Always thought they were pretty, always thought other knitters were crazy for buying that stiff, itchy yarn. Then an event involving a sale, unexpected cash, weak self-control, new shipments, and peer pressure resulted in 4 skeins of it finding its way to my house.

I started it yesterday and was first struck by how the yarn, while stiff in the skein, is quite nice in the knitting. And that the scarf is also equally soft. I had planned to pass it on to someone in a box, wrapped for Christmas. Now, it will probably end up wrapped around my neck instead. The stripes feed that incessant one more (or in this case two more) row syndrome. And the colors are quite nice. Quite nice indeed. I am a little disappointed in one spot where the two skeins match a bit and so you lose the striping, but live and learn. And, buy it more, and knit another one. I'm thinking that perhaps some entrelac, or diagonal something-er-other is called for. I'd like to do more with this yarn. Who knew?

And, Bobby's favorite socks are the ones I knit him for Sock Summit. Seriously he wouldn't wear any others today, so I plan to put some hot glue, or puffy paint on the bottom so he can wear them safely around the house. I'm also thinking he could use a new pair for Christmas, so he has more options. I have plenty of leftover yarn for it. Benefits of small feet, I suppose.

He had a fever today (maybe that's why he wanted his really nice, comfy socks). I stayed home with him and am going to do the same tomorrow. Hopefully then we'll know why he has a fever. That's the worrisome part for me. He's not coughing (except when he ate too much pizza too fast, I really didn't feel like cooking) and doesn't have a runny nose except when he's very upset and crying. He's just fussy and hot. The pediatrician wasn't sure, and said to watch him for a couple of days. Poor boy is usually so happy it's terrible to see him sick.

I've started being able to feel the new little one move. Not all the time, though if Bobby set any sort of trend, that time is coming. It's so nice to know s/he is still kicking around in there between prenatal visits when we hear the heart beat.

That's it for now. Hopefully in a few days I'll be able to say that he's all better, that the scarf and vest are done, and that through a strange series of events that left everyone happy, the capital of Spain moved to Alaska.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Revising the Vest

So I swatched in color work and the width is just about right on. The length, however, is not. I'm pretty sure that the shirtdress went out in the 80's and is now only acceptable (according to marketers, that is, I'm not really sold on them) on super-skinny high school girls. So, with that in mind, the vest back that I have knit which, when held to his his back, unblocked and without edging of any sort reached below his cute little toosh, I knew I had problem.

Bobby is wonderfully helpful and held it at his shoulders while I counted rows and figured out where, really, I'll start the armholes and how long it should be. It will change the design, and so I'm holding on to the original pattern and the back that's already knit, but rework the stitch patterns to fit into the smaller size. After all, Christmas comes around every year and little children eventually get bigger. How great would it be, this time next year to discover a half finished vest with the yarn and pattern for the rest? Pretty great, I think. I'm going to ignore the possibilities of changing tastes and opinions from myself or the little recipient.

So, I've got a new bottom pattern worked out. I'm also going to knit it in the round from the bottom to the armholes. Then I'll only have to seam the shoulders. All of that was okayed by a wonderful knitter I know. I had thought about it, but I always worry I don't know enough and that there is some deep, secret reason the things are knit flat and then seamed. But she mentioned it without prompting of any kind. And she knits. A lot. So, I'm pretty confident it'll work out! I'm hoping to finish bottom half of this vest by the end of the weekend. It has less rows, doesn't require me to purl (which I do more slowly when I'm stranding) and (by virtue of not needing to purl) lets me see the right side the whole time so I'm hoping to avoid the couple of color mistakes I made that had to be taken out and redone. I still think it's going to be great, if different from how it started.

Last night, though, because I have misplaced the needles I need, I spun while Bob and I watched TV. It was fun, but the fiber had a good bit of vegetable matter in it and several long guard hairs. When I had finished it my pants were covered with little bits of grossness. And, the finished single doesn't look so hot. It's kind of, I don't know, dirty. So, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. We'll see. It's too bad. The gray that I spun with first is gorgeous. I hate to not use that.

In Bobby news: his appetite has gotten so much better. I think that hearing from the dietician that he needed to eat more spurred some sort of change in him. He'll suddenly do more than pick at his food. And, in his efforts to perpetually make me a liar and trick me into thinking I understand him in any way, he started eating meat after that visit where I explained the various kinds of meat we had tried and that he point blank refused. Now he'll eat pepperoni while I'm making pizza (though not after it's on the pizza), he'll have breakfast sausage, taco meat, chicken strips, beef from stew and (much to my chagrin) bites of McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese. He also likes snacking on pecans and dried cranberries, he drinks milk like crazy. And, he'll actually ask for food now, instead of us trying to foist it on him. He's suddenly decided that anything and everything is open to him food-wise. It's great. I'm hoping that at our next visit he'll actually be on the growth curve. I don't care if it's down on the 5th percentile, I just want him on the chart. Even brushing the bottom line will make me happy.

I just don't want him to pork out too much before this vest is done.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vest Progress

I have finished the knitting on the back of Bobby's vest. It's a bit bigger than I had thought it would be. My gauge swatch and actual gauge disagreed, but only a little. So, I think he'll end up with an attached I-cord around the bottom so it's not tunic length. I'm going to weave in ends and block it tomorrow before heading onto the front. We'll see how big it is then...

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Tried, I Really Did

I love cables. I think they are beautiful and clever and sophisticated and interesting. I've wanted to knit something with cables for a while that's more than just your standard 2 over 2, but haven't found anything that I like, that will like me (the whole pregnancy body-image thing is getting to me- lame), and that I have time to knit (the holidays are, after all, here). So, I thought I would knit a little cabled vest for Bobby. It seemed the way to go since I only had one color and it was pretty solid and would make for mind-numbing repetition if I had done stockinette or garter stitch.

Yesterday, I found two patterns I liked in the stitch dictionaries, but then didn't really dig either of them when I knit the swatches. I'm actually rather impressed with myself that I knit a swatch not only once but twice. Impressed and relieved, because I learned something that I would have hated to learn in three weeks when I was crying about this unfinished vest: my true knitting love is color work.

I don't entirely know why, but it seems so fun to knit and interesting to look at and so full of wonderful possibilities. You can see (and check) your progress at every row, every stitch even (though that would slow down your knitting considerably). I had thought about trying to get a skein or two to compliment this vest and thus feed my insatiable appetite for color knitting, but couldn't quite justify it. And, without really thinking about it, I put myself on a yarn diet. A really strict one actually, and I've made it almost the entire month of November without buying yarn (for myself, anyway, I don't count the yarn I buy other people). It wasn't the best move given the timing of the holidays, but I'm sure my budget will appreciate the break.

My mom came through (without knowing it at the time) and gave me 4 skeins of a yarn that is the same weight and fiber and a wonderful complimentary red color for the grey-blue. I picked out some patterns from Simply Socks by Anna Zilboorg (my signed copy, because I took a class with her at Sock Summit and think she's wonderful). Armed with 5 stitch patterns, a copy of Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns (which I'm using for the vest pattern) I am designing him a little Turkish Christmas vest. I'm more excited than I can really say.

I tried to make the cabling plan work. I am going to keep trying; but right now, color is where my heart is.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Evening

As I'm typing this post we're at my parents' house. Bobby is downstairs with Bob, Papa and Aunt Aubrey (whose name comes out something like "Aubra" but close enough) playing with something that clinks like glass, but I'm sure it isn't. I brought along some knitting since I can usually snag some time in between his rounds with other more interesting people he doesn't see everyday.

Sure enough I was able to finish the next step on my mom's Christmas stocking. Upside: it's done and done pretty well if I say so myself. Downside: it was only one row, took a while, but was finished within 30 minutes of me actually sitting down to do it and I left the rest of the directions at home. ARGH!

Somewhere in trying to remember the pecan pie, potatoes, salad, drinks, Bobby's monitor, chair, diapers (had to restock the bag, something about all books and no diapers) my computer bag (thought I'd try to get some novel writing done, hasn't happened), extra yarn in case I finished the stocking (hopeful thinking there) and other stuff I can't remember that meant I had to make three trips in from the car I forgot the pattern. Go figure...

It did mean, though, that I was able to look through the stitch dictionaries I did remember and try swatching for the vest I'd like to make Bobby for Christmas. It's a blue sport weight yarn that Bobby picked out himself. Completely honest, we went into the store walked up to the display of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport and he picked it out. Then, he picked another skein of the same color, then again. He also carries it around whenever he finds it in my yarn reorganizing moments and carried it around all this morning as I tried to pack our stuff. So, really, he likes it.

I'd like to do some sort of cabled vest, but the pattern I picked out was vetoed by the fact that it would probably have encircled my little boy's underweight chest. Twice. Okay, that's a little bit hyperbolic, but it was a bit much. Even I had to admit it after I really looked at it and figured out rough gauge sizes. But I do love it and will be knitting something with it at some point in my life!

I swatched with a different stitch pattern that's nice, but I don't think it's going to work. Can't say why exactly, but it just isn't speaking to me. The fact that it's yarn and shouldn't be speaking is beside the point. So back to the drawing board. And also back to the family. Bobby has moved on to begging whipped cream off people's pie.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Problem With Voids

You get stuck in one and it just wants to keep sucking you back in. It sees how full your life is and wants a little bit of that for itself and before you know it weeks and weeks have passed and you've been spending it in a sort of holding pattern. At least, that's what it looks like to the outside world. Fact is, we've been up to a lot. When my students ask for make-up work I always give them a little more work than the original assignment. So, this is my attempt to make-up for the amazing amount of nothingness that has been emanating from my little corner of life!

Bobby was a dinosaur for Halloween. He loved his costume.

Even in character he maintained his high hygiene standards.

He is enjoying his new hat, finished just in time for the ridiculously cold weather we've been having lately.

He decided he loved grapes just in time for me to discover that they are a choking hazard, and we shouldn't be letting him eat them whole.

He also seems to thoroughly enjoy pears, but I suspect they would also present the same choking hazard that apples do. Again, just as we find something he'll really dig into, it's considered somewhat off-limits.

He discovered the light on the camera and squinted in the face of the glaring orange of it. (He's always had a flair for the dramatic.)

And then he "smiled" in an eerily Calvinesque way.

He discovered and mastered velcro after dinner one night.

He tried on Bob's boots. (On a separate note, he has started calling Bob "Bob" instead of "Da-da" so I plan to make a more concerted effort to call Bob "Daddy" in front of Bobby. Even though it's hilarious when in the middle of the night you hear an insistent "Boh! Boh!" He has trouble with ending sounds...)

He helped put away tea in my basket of hot drink mixes and did an amazing job of getting them all organized just so. He's a tad bit anal like that. I'm working on trying to appreciate this quality.

And, finally, he supervised the transformation of our closet from this empty room (which was an improvement in itself)

to this. He offers tours any time and likes to put people outside, and slide the door closed while saying, "Bye-bye!" He also walks around pointing to our clothes and explaining whose is whose and which hangers he helped to place.

He's been super busy, his vocabulary is expanding and we're just trying to keep up with him! Sometimes literally. He's been working on running as well, and he's so fast I can't always catch him and taking a picture is pointless. But I wish I could explain the hilarious, wonderful way he runs down the hall with his head back a little bit, hair floating around and bobbing with his steps, trusting fully to the little rubber grips on his socks and his own improving physical abilities. He also usually vocalizes as he runs, so it's the whole package of experience for him.

He's also been sleeping through the night at least twice a week. It's been amazing. Truly, wonderfully amazing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lost to the Void, But Back Again

There were two weeks in my life that just sort of disappeared. I'm not entirely certain where they went. I think it had something to do with being eaten by end of quarter grades, parent conferences, home renovation drama, Bobby illness, Halloween and the cutest little dinosaur ever (pics later), lack of sleep, errands, the start of November and NaNoWriMo, the start of a new school quarter, and just life in general.

With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starting I've also been experimenting with ways to procrastinate on writing, like cooking a pot roast for the first time ever (overall successful, but far too much garlic for my taste) and then trying to make chicken kiev. Not totally successful, but worth the try. Tonight we had errands that kept us very busy, so my plan (baked Macaroni & Cheese) didn't work out, but it's on the menu for Saturday. So, new recipes and fun eating. Bobby, of course, refuses all meat, but I have high hopes for Saturday.

As I said, Bobby has been sick with something. It just congestion in his upper lungs, I think. I've taken him to the hospital twice and twice been assured his lungs sound, "great!" And the last time she actually said he had, "good breath sounds." So that makes my asthmatic hyper-sensitive-to-breathing-issues self feel better. We have another appointment for Monday because despite the fact that he is taller, not necessarily skinnier that I can tell, feels heavier, and is eating more and more, the scale says he has gained no weight since he was 12 months old. I say it's a liar, they say to keep a food log. So we're recording every grape and goldfish he consumes, measuring his intake of milk in ounces, and cringing when we have to add things like "3 french fries" or "1 fruit loop" to the list. Well, I cringed. Not sure how Bob felt about it. We'll see how that goes.

The other big news that I've been holding out on because honestly it doesn't seem entirely real to me yet, is that I'm pregnant. We're excited, but my memory of being pregnant with Bobby leans more on the looming belly constant moving side, and while my belly is certainly more there (I've caught a few sly glances from students, but so far it just looks like I've been hitting the donuts a bit too hard) it's too early to feel movement. The ultrasound today, though, showed lots of it so I'm sure this little one will be kicking me in the ribs in no time!

With Bobby's pregnancy we had lots of "scares" from early warnings about miscarriage to markers for chromosome abnormalities to pre-term labor. It was, to put it mildly, a bit of an emotionally wild ride. I'm hoping things will be more even keel with this one, though we've had a fun little "scare" (though I hate in some ways to call it that) early on with this one. I went for my first prenatal appointment and thought I was about 10 weeks along. They put me at almost 11 weeks, but they had to adjust Bobby's due date back so I wasn't too concerned. I did get concerned though when the midwife was examining me and said with wide excited eyes, "Wow. You're measuring really big. I mean, I can feel your uterus up here." She went over to her table, grabbed the tape measure looked something up on a chart, came back, measured the height of my uterus, went back, then said, "Yeah, you're measuring between 15 and 16 weeks. Wow. Do you feel something there when you bend over?" She said it could be that I was further along than I thought, which I knew wasn't possible given when I had a positive test, or that I had a lot of fluid, or it was just a second pregnancy thing, or there was more than one...

This entire conversation made me feel so much better about eyeing my maternity clothes a full two months earlier than I had even bought any with Bobby, but the whole possibly more than one baby thing kind of totally freaked me out. She had me schedule an ultrasound right away which revealed ONE little ten week old baby (The exceptionally easy to see and clumped up umbilical cord made my heart skip a beat though). Apparently this one just needs lots of room. That's what I'm going with after seeing all of the stretching and moving going on in there today!

I'm hoping by Christmas to know whether we're having a boy or a girl (the tech today took a guess, but said it's really a big question mark until the later ultrasound) and I'm not going to tell my students until one of them asks. I think it'll be sort of funny to watch their faces until then.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Photo Friday 10.16.09

I'm including (mostly) brief explanations, because I hear that telepathic connections may not be as accurate via the internet. Something about competing bandwidth...

This week I attended two of a set of three spinning classes. The last is tomorrow. The classes were done by the Anchorage Weavers & Spinners Guild, which I have joined. These first two pictures are from the first night. They gave us all some wool (the light stuff) and llama (the dark stuff) and a tuft of buffalo which they said was more for inspiration than actual spinning right now because the staple length is super short compared to what we were learning on. I had never spun llama before and very much enjoyed it! I liked the stripey result, and I'm contemplating rewinding the mini skein onto a bobbin and adding the rest. Then I'd like to Navajo ply the whole thing. I learned how to do that the second night and while it takes a bit more effort (and coordination), I really liked the results. The last picture is of a skein I finished up the second night and am going to block and measure to see what I can make!

Bobby learned the fun of forts this week. My sister watches him in the mornings and I'm pretty sure building forts has been on her things-to-do-with-Bobby list since he was born. I have to say, she's pretty good at them. I tried to convince him to take his afternoon nap with me in his fort, but it was too cool for him to go to sleep. He kept pointing at the blankets and (I think) explaining how it all went together.

We lost (and later found) an elephant.

Bobby discovered the joys of milk (other than mine) in a sippy cup. Incidentally, this cup also sports an elephant.

Bobby learned to "ask, and you shall receive." Or in his case, insist, practically rub a hole in your jacket signing please and saying "nana" while pointing emphatically to the bananas as your father and I try to find the best bunch for you, and you shall be able to carry them through the store showing everyone who makes eye contact your treasure, hold them in the car, carry them through the house, and take two bites when we open one up for you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Is It Over?" and How We Define Fun

One of the things I love about teaching are the things students say. That and the unique views of the world I get in almost every bit of writing they turn in. Seeing as how I believe in process, practice, and lots of chances and drafts I get to read a lot of their writing, and they always reveal more than they intend to, and I'm very good at reading into things. Very, very good. Just ask Bob.

My writing classes inevitably end up with some work days when the quicker (usually more on-task) students are done and want to talk to me about this, that, or the other thing. It always start innocently enough (I think). Today it was a question about school dances.

Did I know what the last one of the year was.

Yes, Prom.

No, no, the one right before that.

Well, it wouldn't be the last of the year, then, and no I don't know. Sorry. Really, do I look like someone who knows much about school dances? (Which, now that I think about it, is asking them to judge based on appearance, which I don't like to encourage, going to have to think that one over.)

Careful looks and then, "Yeah, not really. But, you went to dances when you were in high school, right?" Truth: yep, 4. After overcoming their shock, they asked which ones. When I said I did indeed go to prom my junior and senior years they asked if I went with my boyfriend. Another shocking revelation: both years I had no boyfriend at that time. During conversations like this it's always funny to see their expression change from shock to disbelief to total incomprehension.

"But, when did you meet your husband?"

"When I was in college."

"Oh, but you had boyfriends in high school, right?"

"Yes, but not for very long."

"That's too bad. You didn't get to have very much fun then."

"Oh really? I think I had a ton of fun." (There's a little bit of revisionist history in there, but looking back I remember the good much more than the bad.)

Again the look of outright disbelief. This was clearly a teacher lie. One they tell to dissuade students from doing bad things. "Oh, the legal kind of fun."

"It was the safe kind of fun. There are plenty of legal, yet dangerous things to do when you're young and old; the illegal things are that way because of the safety issue, and is it really that much fun if the whole time you're doing whatever it is you're having to worry about being caught? Really?"

"Well, I guess not. I hadn't really thought of that."

Here a second student chimed in saying, "Yeah, I was at a dance with my boyfriend, but I wasn't supposed to be and the whole time I was worried my mom was going to call me, and even when she didn't I was still hearing her voice in my head." (It's nice when teenagers validate your world view... ...)

Then, I had a student call me out with the "you're making us write, why aren't you?" argument. Which, while valid also has the side-effect of leaving me distracted while they text, talk, and are otherwise disengaged from their own writing. Plus, then I can't have insightful conversations like the one above. I responded that I do indeed write, but right at that moment my time was better spent helping them with their writing. Speaking of, how was his going? In November I'm thinking of incorporating the NaNoWriMo stuff into the class and they'll certainly see me writing then.

And, it occurred to me that writing and reading, things that appall and bore many of my students are some of the ways I have "legal fun." And that spinning, knitting, talking over ideas, sewing, playing with Bobby, looking through cooking magazines, reading blogs, those are more ways I have fun. The things we consider "fun" certainly change over time, but many of them stick with us. And, we (hopefully) grow into new ones. Adding to our, "Wow this is so much fun!" repertoire throughout our lives. Then, it occurred to me that sometimes the things I do aren't necessarily "fun" in the sense that if you stopped me in the middle and asked if I was having fun I probably wouldn't say, "Yeah! This is action-packed! What a blast! Wow I just can't explain how great this is!" But the sense of satisfaction, of a job well done, and of having been useful for a time, I like that. And in many ways that is how I define fun.

Writing used to be not exactly fun for me. Well, not all writing, but academic explain in 3-4 pages so-and-so's view of fill-in-the-blank writing. I remember sitting in my advisor's office during an early undergraduate year saying with heart-felt desperation, "I hate writing." I think I was even tearing up a little bit. She said, "Then you are certainly in the wrong degree program." But I learned how to write better and started doing a good job, instead of just finishing a draft and hoping for the best. Now, I like writing. I like the process, not necessarily the finished product always, but again, I believe in the process.

All of this came back to me today as I was helping a different student expand her ideas and trying to cajole just a little bit more out of her. After I told her what else to think about adding she looked at me and said, "I hate writing. Do I have to write more?"

"Yes, just a little bit more. Maybe 4 sentences. You've done so much already, and you may not like it, but you're doing a good job."

She waved me over after she had added another paragraph and when I had read it she asked in a subdued voice, "Is it over?"

Obviously different people are going to have different interests. And what is torturous at times, is at others, exactly what we need. I just hope that all of my students one day learn that they can define fun for themselves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Changing Things Up a Bit

So, I haven't been blogging much. I've thought about it, and even started a few posts, but always got pulled away. And, there are those Friday posts that haven't been happening for a couple of reasons. The biggest one is that recently I haven't had anything to show for my time. Key word being show. I've been doing plenty. I've been teaching. I've been parenting. I've been reading. I've been doing the dishes occasionally. (By which I mean, when the sink is full and Bob eventually says a gentle something I finally manage to load the dishwasher.)

But I've not been crafting. I have a beautiful space where my sewing machine sits idle. The last action it saw was the creation of the way cool Halloween costumes my brother-in-law made his kids. I've been knitting a little bit, but not too much (a bit more on this later). And, as many of you mothers, teachers, and others are aware, often there's very little at the end of the day that you can point to (or take a picture of) and say, "Hey! I did that!"

So, a couple of things have come together at once to make me reevaluate the way I'm, well, valuing my time. A guy on the radio (have no idea who, sorry) was talking about Twitter and Facebook and the advent of "realtime digital living" (I think that's how he put it). His point was we live too publicly now. If things aren't seen or known by others then they don't exist. Basically, unless others agree, validate, or view your actions, thoughts, accomplishments, whatever then they aren't real; they don't matter. Now, I don't entirely agree with him. I like how Twitter and Facebook can keep me connected to people I wouldn't normally hear from. But, like all technologies, it's how you use it. Anyway, the point is the idea was planted in my head, and I started to wonder if I felt the compulsion to craft at a sometimes manic level just so I'd have something to post about, take a picture of, or show for my time.

I've also been doing some general thinking about parenting and what sort of parenting philosophy I ascribe to. Luckily, Bob and I are completely in agreement on this one. But some other people we know are using different approaches and apparently attachment parenting is not as mainstream or "normal" as I had sort of figured it was. When Bobby was born, Bob and I just started doing what seemed right for him and us; we didn't read any books (very atypical for us, by the way).

Children change you so much. I was a huge proponent of drugs for childbirth, then Bobby came along and I didn't want to drug him or have a needle put in my back, so natural childbirth and I became friends. Then Bobby was born and I would wake up in the middle of the night searching the bed for my missing baby. He would be fitful and fussy in the bassinet and we ended up co-sleeping for everyone's peace of mind and health. I certainly hadn't seen that one coming either.

I believe children should change us. It's a unique sort of relationship this parent-child one.

Then, there's Bobby himself. He's almost 18 months old and in the throes of separation anxiety. He started clinging to me like a sucker fish when he glimpsed the nursery door the other day. He gets skittish when Bob wheels the grocery cart to the other end of the aisle. He runs to various rooms of the house just to double-check I'm still around. He's getting a little better, but I'm sure I don't need to explain how difficult it can be to knit (especially if it involves a chart) with an 18-month-old doing a convincing impression of an octopus in your lap. He doesn't seem to quite value the time I put into his socks as much as he values the time I put into him. I may want to express my love for him by keeping him warm and cozy in things my hands have made, but he doesn't understand that kind of love yet. One day he will, but not just yet.

Right now he understands that I tickle him while we're waiting in the car for Bob. He understands that I clap for him while he puts his puzzles together. He knows that when he closes the door to his room to get some alone time, but 3 minutes later wants it opened, but hasn't quite figured out the new door handles, he can call me and I'll open the door and see what sorts of mischief he's been up to. He understands that using words and signs gets him things much more efficiently than crying does (though when words fail his racing toddler mind he resorts to crying easily enough). He's learning to tease and play with us. I think it's important that we show him we want to play back with him.

Also, I certainly don't want to set up the kind of relationship where he has to act out to get my attention. I want him to know that I love him and want to spend time with him. I am around too many teenagers who either don't want to be around their parents or think their parents don't want to be around them. If there is anything I can do to prevent that I will. Plus, I hear that eventually children grow up and move out. Eventually I won't be swinging a happy-go-lucky little boy into my arms, I won't be changing his diapers, I won't be napping on the couch with him. When that time comes, then I'll knit.

In twenty years, (though I am hoping it isn't quite that long) my fabric, my yarn, my fiber will all still be here. I will probably still be able to knit and sew. But in twenty years I won't be able to nurse my son. I won't be able to show him the bird that likes to fly between our tree and the one across the street and watch his eyes light up. I won't be able to watch him proudly walk half the length of the University Center carrying our new bag of purchases, and I won't be able to scoop him up to ferry him safely to the car. I am learning to love and value these times as much as he does. I don't want to resent the time I spend with him. While I may not have a lot to show for my time, I have great memories. Some of those can at least be put into words.

I am going to keep blogging, and knitting and sewing when I can, but for a while (likely a very long while) my children are going to be a much higher priority than having new things knit or sewn. I'm choosing my projects with more care now. The baby sweater I've started is the equivalent of a 20" x 7" garter stitch swatch until I get to the arms, and it's knit at something like 7.25 stitches to the inch on US size 3 needles. Yep, I've got a lot of mindless, easy to put down, easy to pick up knitting ahead of me. The sewing I do, will probably be at night. I'm a little nervous about what this change will mean for the holidays. I set the bar pretty high for myself. But I'll get through it. And, maybe, I'll even be a little less stressed. I still have some exciting crafting things coming up in the next two weeks, and I still have big hopes for things I'd like to do. But, instead of resenting Bobby's attempts to engage me in play, or to "help" me with whatever I'm doing, I'm going to play with him. We're going to grow together, and I hope eventually he'll appreciate the things I make him all the more.

Maybe (and no pressure, little dude, I'm just saying) I'll be able to knit more for my grandchildren.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Confirmed: It's Seasonal

I've mentioned several times before that I have many "hobbies" (though I prefer to think of them as "interests", "passions", or when I'm really getting into it with someone "callings"), and that my commitment to (read: utter obsession with) them waxes and wanes. Sometimes I want to knit all day and at the beginning of this summer, when Sock Summit was coming and I had no socks, all I wanted to do was cut and sew fabric. I hypothesized then that it could be a matter of timing and circumstances. I was day-dreaming of warm summer days and so wanted to sew things that fit with that mental image.

After today I think I was completely right. About a week ago the weather here took a turn for the cold. It's as though the wind woke up, geese starting flying, our heat got fixed, and we needed to use it. The last two days in particular have been pretty pointedly autumnal; the very visible and very permanent-feeling snow on the mountains makes it clear that winter will soon be upon us; the steering wheel in the mornings has confirmed that I need to find my hand warmers.

At first I was a bit upset. I don't like being cold. I don't mind a brisk day and as long as I'm properly bundled I'm okay walking in a breeze, but for some reason I love Alaska and hate the cold. I wasn't looking forward to dealing with all that winter brings.

But today, today we went to Eddie Bauer, and while I can no longer bring myself to buy knitted things, they had wonderful, beautiful, inspiring sweaters. There was color work, texture, light for layering, heavy for cuddling, simple, elegant, and everything else that knitting can be. All of it was represented. I wanted it all. And I knew I would never buy any of it because I can knit it all (and it would be knit out of wool, not cotton, sorry).

People talk about that moment when they know they're a Knitter and not just someone who knows how to knit. I've felt I've been there for a little while, but this experience at Eddie Bauer confirmed it. That and the other day I was telling Bob about how I had to remind myself not to stare at the sweaters some of my students wear. The stitch may be beautiful and the sleeve construction interesting, but it's not worth the reputation as the total oddball teacher. (One student last year, wore this wonderful lacy cardigan. It was interesting but simple, and I loved it all the more because it had raglan sleeves, which I haven't seen on lacy cardigans that often. I just can't see myself trying to explain that a teenager.)

But, I digress, I still have sewing projects on-going. I'm still thinking about quilting, but knitting has my heart again.

Tonight I'm going to work on a scarf.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Several Short, Random (and Likely Only Important to Me) Notes

Bobby is combining signs and vocal words. It makes for quite the song and dance.

I imagine it takes a good bit of intestinal fortitude to claim that the book you recently published is, "flawlessly structured." I understand the need for confidence and a bit of audacity, but come on isn't that a bit much?

My sophomores self-segregated in the computer lab today: all the boys in one cluster, all the girls in another on opposite sides of the room.

Yesterday Bobby managed to fall and bloody his lower lip then get the refrigerator calendar to fall on him and bloody his upper lip. It wasn't the best 30 minutes of his day.

For the first time in our married life Bob and I have a yard with trees that loose their leaves. It is both beautiful and depressing.

This year I have a love-hate relationship with the snow on the mountains. I love that I'll have a reason (like I need one) to knit things to keep my loved ones warm; I hate that this means it will once again be February, the depths of winter, and I'll be yearning for summer.

Bobby is learning to "smile," but it really looks more like a baring of teeth.

I don't have time to read everything I'd like to, but still try and so end up with a head board that looks like this.
Not too bad until you consider that I usually sit in bed for 5 minutes before falling deeply to sleep and I have never been able to read more than one book at a time and keep them both straight in my head; a serious disadvantage during both my English degrees.

The fat, cold rain that was falling when I left school today reminded me that every September it rains like this and every September I think, "Good thing it's not colder or this would be snow."

"Baby-proofing" really only buys you time, not certainty.

After reading some Transcendental writing with one of my classes, I have decided to simplify the scarf I'm knitting. Garter stitch with some spiraling eyelets, two yarns and it'll be simple yet (I hope) lovely.

Despite all my best efforts to confuse him, Bobby successfully put on his own shoe on the correct foot this evening.