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.