Thursday, January 28, 2010

Amazing Little Man, Really

Bobby never ceases to amaze me. He is learning new words quickly and unpredictably (I didn't realize "drool" was something he'd latch onto so quickly). He is also very observant and I think if he were taller would probably be able to get up enough strength to open the baby-proofed refrigerator door. He knows who sits where, which side of the bed is mine and which is dada's. He knows his name and that the track team at school is way cool. He knows how to say please oh so sweetly, even if he was being ridiculous a split-second before, and he knows that if his words aren't working he can use lots of gestures and body language to sometimes communicate to the apparently not-so-bright adults charged with his safe-keeping.

He's not potty-training. I don't think he's ready for it, but I think he's getting there. We have a potty, he likes to sit on it. He likes to point to it and name it, and Bob and I figure the more we can make it a normal part of the bathroom now the less intrusive it will seem later when he is potty training (I can also think of a million ways that could backfire, but we're being positive here). He is, however, like I said extremely observant. He knows how to take off pretty much every article of clothing he owns except those with fiddly buttons. He also knows that if he plucks at different parts long enough he can probably get his diaper undone. He has been known to, after a prolonged time of silence, run from his room in a moment of naked triumph.

(Warning: What follows is a potty story.)
Tonight after dinner he walked down the hall and Bob and I both assumed it was his room and his toys he was visiting. Instead he had headed into the bathroom, and when Bob found him he had his pajamas undone (lucky duck got to stay in them all day, but unluckily it was because he was sick) and his diaper off and was trying to work out how to get his diaper out from between his legs so he could dump out the, uhm, deposit he had just made. He has heard us flush the contents of his diaper and even watched a few times so he knew what to do. But, the lock on the toilet worked and he was instead going for what he considered his next best option: his training toilet. After we got him completely out of everything he sat for a while, but insisted that we close the door. After all that's how it works for mom and dad, right? Smart kid.

And fast now that I come to think of it.

And stealthily quiet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Close Enough

It's not the weekend anymore, but I have pictures. They were taken this weekend (mostly) and I just didn't get downstairs to download and post them. To start with, I think I have "startitis." I have plenty that needs finishing:
Buttons on two baby sweaters
neckband on Bobby's sweater
Ribbing, armholes, and neckband on Bobby's vest

And, I have plenty to work on that I enjoy and am really looking forward to having as finished objects:
Cardigan for Bobby
Socks for Bob
Scarf for me
Hat for me

But, I just can't seem to resist starting new things:
Such as this February Sweater for Ginny
Or the most recent sock club shipment from Knit Purl. (The colorway is called Sunflower IPA, and while I've never been much of a drinker, this really does it for me. The pattern sent me searching for the designer on Ravelry and I now have a huge knitter-crush on Stephanie van der Linden and have decided I need to learn knitting German.)

It's bad. My kniting basket (the embassy in the living room) is too full. The yarn runneth over (and the needles, and the notions, and the patterns, and the project bags).

But, on the upside, when I do finally sit myself down and finish all of these I am going to look like one prolific knitter!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Obviously It's Not Working Out

Thing Not Working #1:
I think it has something to do with weekend exhaustion, usually eating out on Friday night, and falling asleep for 3 hours while getting Bobby to sleep, but Photo Friday, just doesn't really seem to, I don't know, happen. So, I've decided for the sake of my guilty conscience to just try every weekend to get pictures up from the week.

It won't always happen, I'm sure. Things come up. Some weeks there are no new pictures. Sometimes the camera battery is dead at that perfect little moment. Other times the things going on just aren't that picturesque (Bobby is in my biased mind pretty darned cute, but when he's stubbornly saying "no" or pitching a fit about sitting in his high chair -where he asked to be- to eat food - which he specifically picked out and opened and can't be repackaged for later- not that it happens often, of course- but I don't have enough hands to take the picture and get handle the situation. Plus it's not something I want to remember too vividly when he's older). Or, we're too busy enjoying the moment to grab the camera which is usually downstairs from the last time I tried to download pictures to put on the blog.

But, at least this way I don't have to feel bad about not getting it done on Friday night, worry about how to make up for it on Saturday, stress over adding it to my end of the weekend to-do list on Sunday, berate myself on Monday, start to get calloused towards my mean self on Tuesday, remind I should actually find the camera on Wednesday, decide Thursday is really too late to get last Friday's pictures up, and then restart he cycle again the next day.

Thing Not Working #2:
My pregnancy diet (not meaning to lose weight, but the way I eat) is not what it should be. I was really, really good with Bobby. I had no (and I mean a truly, painful at times, absence of) refined sugar for the entire first half of his pregnancy. I laugh at that with this one. I walked during his pregnancy. Not aerobically, and I started his heavier than I did Ginny's, but I made a point to walk across the rather expansive school I teach at at least twice a day everyday. I don't have that kind of "free" time at school this time around. I drank water like I should have with him, and did a bunch of other things that you should do when you're pregnant. I also took no chances at all. No deli meats, soft cheese, nothing that was on anybody's danger list. This time, she's made it so far (kicking me right now actually), but I've indulged too often in things that I don't need (but sure do enjoy). Nothing bad, no alcohol or illegal drugs, but I don't always remember my prenatal, eat my veggies, get exercise, yet do have ice cream, take naps, sit and knit, and eat kind of whatever I want (the listeria thing still freaks me out and so I've managed to mostly stay away from the deli stuff).

During my most recent prenatal visit, it showed. I've been feeling bigger (and not just baby-bigger) but the numbers were ... ... shocking. I know we had the holidays and I'm chalking some of it up to that, but I am really going to try to get this healthy pregnancy thing into gear. If this was Bobby I'd only have 15 weeks until Ginny was born. I need to be getting ready for that fun little yes-you're-exhausted-but-now's-the-time-to-go-through-one-of-the-hardest-ohysical-feats-of-your-lifetime event!

Thing Not Working #3:
Coming up with a third item. The Aristotelean in me wants there to be three... ... Our culture likes three. It feels balanced. But I can't really think of anything that's not working out.

Buttons. I'm not really into sewing on buttons...

Nope. Got nothing.

Except two finished sweaters with buttons to sew on them. (Then there will certainly be pictures!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Validated (Or Something Like That)

Working with teenagers makes me so happy I'm no longer one. It's a great feeling to walk into a high school and really not give a rip that I don't have the latest clothes, haircut, boyfriend, highest grades, or whatever form of comparison and ranking they are choosing to use. It's good, because for some reason (I like to think it's that I'm very approachable) many of my students apparently feel pretty free to tell me exactly what they think of me. (There was a conversation before they knew I was pregnant about why I should go clothes shopping, get a new haircut, and spend more time with girls. Forever 21 was suggested. I didn't want to break their little fantasy bubbles quite yet, but I have no desire whatsoever to be stuck at 21 forever. None at all. I sealed the deal on my total "nerdiness" in that talk with how I met my husband in a grammar class in college. You should see their faces when I tell that one to those romantic 17-year-old girls.)

When the new semester started some of my classes changed a bit. Mostly I was down students and one of those students was what I like to call an "excessive participator." Seriously, a word in edge-wise was hard sometimes and that can steer the class in a way that is hard to get a handle on if you're not on top of your game all the time because you're, I don't know pregnant, nursing, and exhausted... Excuses aside, I really liked the student, but it is a bit of a relief to not be constantly trying to out-energy the same person all the time.

But, the lack had not gone unnoticed. For the first two class days all I heard from a couple of the remaining students was that the class was "boring" now.

I usually don't listen too much if it's on just one day that is admittedly not exactly action-packed or if it's only one person saying it. And that's what it was in this case. One (and then two, because it's high school and peer pressure is crazy to watch) student said it was boring, but then with some prodding I found out that the real issue was that it was pretty quiet. We were working on a short essay and while people worked through their prewriting and drafting it was really, really quiet in the room. (It's an odd sensation, but with writing, kind of the way it should be.) Quiet apparently equals boring.

This revelation added to the fact that we've already established that while I think writing can be a rip-roaring good time, they think it's like plucking leg hairs means that I'm okay if they're not weeping with laughter all the time, as long as they're learning and engaged in it. (The "silence" was full of pencil scritching and I had a 100% turn in rate on that assignment.) I put it out of my mind, especially after the same student said, "cool" to me showing them how to take 2-column character notes.

Then, we had a day off from school and on Tuesday I was talking before class with students about what they had done with that whole day of freedom. The number one answer was a variation on the theme, "Nothing. It was boring."

"Well, I guess I should have given you more homework if you had nothing to do!" I said that, but I thought this: free time is totally wasted on the young. And, I started to feel better. If a day to do whatever they want is also "boring" then I'm not doing too bad. Add to that one girl being asked what she thought of "Avatar." Her reply? You guessed it: "Boring." So, if my class is at least as exciting as a blockbuster movie, I'm feeling pretty okay with being boring sometimes.

Today, I had a slightly different experience, but it reminded me of all that had transpired in the previous two weeks. Before first hour started two girls came in to drop off their stuff. One of them had a bag with yarn and a garter stitch scarf going. The conversation went something like this:

"Oh, are you knitting that?" I asked as casually as possible.

"Yes, it's a scarf. Do you know how to knit?"

At this point I was trying to not gush and talk too fast (English isn't their first language after all). "Yes, I can knit! It's great!"

"Oh! Do you know how to make the gloves? I tried a hat and this scarf, but I don't know how to do gloves."

"Yes, I can do gloves. You just follow the pattern. Do you have a pattern?"


"Oh well, they're easy. And you just read it, oh, do you know how to read a pattern?"

"No, I don't have a book." And that's when I of course took her to Ravelry. (While navigating there she asked if I know how to knit socks and I just about choked up saying yes and trying to communicate the awesomeness of Sock Summit. It may have weirded them out a bit, that one, you have to ease them in slowly, I think...) By the time I was done showing her how to set up an account and use the pattern browser other folks had shown up and they were pretty excited about this whole knitting thing too. They asked what I knew to knit and I was able to conveniently take them to my projects page and scroll down a bit to where there are actual pictures of projects. There was much ooh-ing and ah-ing. Then one of them asked if I would teach them. (I wonder if I could teach them to read patterns and call it literacy learning...) And as I said we could try to figure out a time she walked away saying, "You are so cool Ms. V."

That's right. I have it, officially, from a teenager: I am so cool. And, best part is, it's because I knit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Viper Pilot Socks and the What Knitting Them Taught Me

I am pretty crazy happy with these socks. I was intimidated by the pattern. I was even more intimidated when I read about other people's experiences with them. I had trouble with the chart in the beginning. I thought I was going to run out of yarn. But, this is one project that totally went right.

(Well, except that they weren't done on time, which led to giving Joe a Christmas present of a single unfinished sock. Socks for Christmas are the stereotypical bad present. (I like to think that hand-knit socks blow that out of the water, but they are still socks.) An unfinished sock with working yarn still hanging on it and all the stitches on a variegated purple waste yarn so it can be measured: that's pretty bad. Also, I have a hard time believing the human foot is as long as all of the charts and my previous experiences knitting for them say they are. So back with a further along, yet still unfinished sock to put it on Joe's foot. Then, I apparently have trouble with estimating how much yarn is left and I was convinced that I wouldn't have enough to finish the socks. So I searched for a complimentary yarn that would help me carry off the story that I had totally meant for the toes to be a different color the whole time. It was a strategically planned design choice. But, God watches out for fools and children, is that how the saying goes? Because I even had a little yarn to spare. Not enough for another full repeat of the viper motif, but enough to use the leftovers in a crazy striped pair of leftover-sock-yarn socks I have planned for Bobby. But other than that, totally right.)

So, what these socks taught me:

  • I can knit. I know, sort of silly, but I've been having a crisis of confidence lately.

  • The human foot is longer than you'd think. I always think that socks are too long. That somehow my ruler which I measure with was shorter that day, and those numbers can't mean the same thing they did then. Or, that chart that tells average foot length based on shoe size, actually means 3/4 of an inch when it says 1". It's a ratio thing, like "foot inches," right? I am constantly stopping and remeasuring. It didn't help that the heel flap was ribbed so it's stretchy, so do you measure from the back of the sock, or from the back of the heel when you fold the bottom flap, where it's turned? See, not that easy? (Plus, it's really easy to convince yourself you should be doing the toe when you think you're running out of yarn.)

  • Which leads me to learning that I have no sense of how much yarn is left in a skein or how much it takes to complete a round. I'm hoping this will get better with time and experience, but a day after I tried it on Joe's foot I was certain that I had about one yard of yarn with which to complete the entire toe, and there was no way it was going to work. In actuality I had about 5 yards left after I'd grafted the toe and woven in the end. And that was on the smaller half of the yarn.

  • Clover needles are nice in a pinch, but not the smaller gauges. Brittany birch needles are great. Really like those. And most sock needles (the short ones, about 4" long) aren't quite long enough for me to be comfortable on an adult sock. I think I was developing a twitch over worrying the stitches would slip off into the ether.

  • I can pick up the stitches that are lost when Bobby triumphantly reaches over my shoulder and grabs a (decently long) needle out of my project bag that is in my purse while heading out the door. He was seriously proud of procuring that sharp pokey stick. I was seriously proud of not hyperventilating, yelling, crying (or even tearing up), and not losing any of the stitches.

  • Cabling without a needle is fun, exciting, extreme-death-defying-knitting, and a huge time-saver. However, I would caution against it if you're on a bumpy road. Or at least be really, really careful. Those stitches are just hanging out there waiting for a moose to jump in front of your car and you to pull and let them run up the length of the sock.

  • Sometimes knitting is about catching your mistakes and being able to efficiently fix them. I miscrossed one cable and was able to fix it a few rows back without taking out everything around it. That was exciting.

  • Fancy-pants socks are fun to knit. These were really, really fun to knit. I used to think that colorwork or a simple pattern with pretty yarn was the way to go, but these socks probably took a good two hours longer than they needed to because I kept admiring them. The cables and traveling stitches are just so pretty! (I mean, manly. They're masculine and rugged, Joe.) And the chart made things go fast! Or at least feel like it did.

  • One of the most important things: It's possible to enjoy an "obligation" knit. These were never an obligation in the sense that they were requested, but I felt an obligation to finish them (especially after he opened an unfinished sock for his Christmas present) and sometimes that stresses me out. But, with no firm deadline (wool socks are not a necessity on the beach in Hawaii, no matter how you spin it, so they didn't have to be done to prevent frostbite before they left) and, because it was fun to knit them, I was challenging myself and learning I never felt that sense of duty and obligation that drags a project down. I didn't even get second-sock-syndrome on this one!

  • And, perhaps most importantly: If you don't use the wool/bamboo/silk blend that was for the toes because you did actually have enough yarn, you get something pretty out of the whole deal for yourself! Just think of the possibilities here!

  • Strike that. This is the most important thing I learned while knitting these socks: if you need about 15 minutes of time and happen to have a child who happens to need fattening up anyway you can totally graft the toes and weave in ends for the small price of a handful of M&Ms. (A larger handful makes it and even sweeter deal. Oh, I'm so funny to me...)

So the socks are done. They taught me much and I am grateful to have been able to knit them. It was a good time, to always be remembered fondly.

Now, I am working on sweaters. I've almost finished this pullover for Bobby and have a cardigan cast-on. I'm mentally working out some logistics on the one for Bob. I've decided that if I'm really, really good until Ginny is born, then I'll treat myself to some yarn and knit for my "post-baby deux" body. (Anybody else notice how the whole pregnancy thing really throws off your pertinent sweater measurements?)

Do you remember that peaches song from the late 90s? "Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millions of peaches, peaches for free." Well, substitute "sweaters" for peaches and that's where we're going. Though millions may be a bit of a stretch. And, despite what I tell myself or our budget, they're not free. And, now that I think about it, I'm not knitting for me yet. So, I suppose the song technically doesn't apply, but the idea of the abundance of sweaters, that's there, and I'm moving to that metaphorical country. (I'm resisting the urge to pack along the M&Ms.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Easy Part First

This year (at least the first wo days of it) seems to be about organization for a lot of people. I've noticed a good bit of talk on Ravelry and in day-to-day conversations about downsizing, getting things together, finishing things that have stagnated, cleaning up, and putting away. I'm no different. I'm very interested in having a more peaceful looking house. (By that I mean one where the yarn is at least contained, the fabric isn't spread across the couches, and the floor gets vacuumed more regularly because I can push the vacuum around without pushing everything on the floor around with it.) And, that combined with my desire to finish more knitting projects means that I'm often going to have knitting up in the living room. That's generally a recipe for disaster.

When Bob and I moved into our house we were showing someone around. They asked, after seeing the craft room, how I, "managed to get an entire room of the house to myself. Where was Bob's room?" My snappy response, three hours later, was that by giving up this room, Bob was getting back the rest of the house. There will be times, despite my best efforts, when two or more of our three couches are unable to be sat in because they have fabric and yarn strewn about them. (I also need to start capping my needles more regularly, because Bobby is enthusiastic in his climbing onto these loaded couches.) In our old place there would be weeks (and even a few months) where meals were eaten on little corners of the table because my sewing machine had set up camp, dug trenches, and wasn't about to go anywhere.

Now, though, I have a place for it. That room keeps everything from migrating upstairs. It does get lonely sometimes though, and fabric, books, patterns, yarn, and rulers will occasionally pop up. But Bob and I both know where it should be, and so either of us can get it back into its room.

If, though I have a few places upstairs where knitting can be, then it may be difficult to stop it from spreading. The strands of yarn start reaching out like tentacles and grab on, pulling itself out bit by bit until one day you come home and realize your project basket is empty, and that throw pillow is not a pillow at all. The needles start turning up between couch cushions, and patterns find their way into your mail pile. It is a slippery slope, and I'm aware of it. But I also know that I won't be nearly as efficient or productive with my time if I don't keep my knitting accessible.

My solution is a storage tote, in the bookshelf, with enough space for books and patterns next to it. I have two more for the bedroom (when company is around) and have the yarn in them for my next projects. I'm hopeful. It's giving up ground, and before you know it, that craft room may have completed the job on the downstairs and started it's full assault on the upstairs, but I'm hoping this is more like an embassy. That this way I can keep the lines of communication open with my knitting. It can let me know if it might need a little more space, and I can tell it when my family is lost and it needs to give them back.

So the easy part is done, I'm more organized and have a plan. We'll see how well it goes.

Small testament to my success so far: I'm almost done with Bobby's v-neck stockinette (with one little cable on each sleeve) sweater. It's lovely, but again, this is only the end of day two.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Things to Come

2009 went out with a bang for us. Well, not a literal bang, luckily, but an exciting event. Last night we almost hit a moose. By almost I mean the headlights illuminated it's gigantic legs right as it was about to walk into our front bumper. Bob swerved around it, while throwing his arm across me. (I, of course, was very helpful and screamed...) We are both so thankful that no one, including the moose, as far as we know, was hurt. Bobby slept peacefully through the whole thing (despite my attempts to vocally startle him up), and Ginny was kicking around later that night. Some cultures believe that if something frightens a woman while she's pregnant it will mark her child in some way. If Ginny is born with the face of a moose, we'll all know where it came from. :)

Thank God Bob had just washed the headlights (the rest of the car will have to wait), we have studs, and Bob has highly advanced video-game-maneuvering skills. Any of those things being different could have changed it all. I've never had anything like that happen to me before. Bob apparently had an incident in the lower 48 that involved elk vaulting over the hood of his car. This moose just was walking calmly across the road (do they not see the lights streaming towards them?), and if adrenaline-filtered memory serves me is the largest moose ever to exist. It's legs seemed to hit its body about where our car stops and the sky starts. All I really saw of him were his hairy, knobby, moose knees. Then I saw the road we were likely to spin out on, I thought, and then the headlights of oncoming cars, though those were farther away and not a real danger. I checked the side of the car to see if we had a small swipe of dirt gone where we brushed him, but there was none. It was crazy, but we survived.

This event was foreshadowed: we saw a baby moose that had been hit recently enough that the trooper and the car were still there on our way out earlier that night. After our near-collision I was scanning the road-sides as we drove through the flats outside Palmer and Wasilla and in the fog I could see several moose. They suddenly seemed to be everywhere, just waiting for the right car to jump in front of. It's interesting how your perspective changes.

That was the last major event of 2009. It was, for the most part, a good year for us. It's 2010 that has me worried.

I know that it's only the end of the first day and that your attitude and perspective plays a big part in how things turn out, no matter the actual events. I also know that I get myself pretty excited about things and then am bitterly disappointed when they don't meet my (usually unrealistic) expectations. I'm trying to be more reasonable about the coming year.

2010 is bringing change. In 2010 friends are leaving, Bobby is turning 2, a new little girl will be born, and that's before we're even half-way over, and that doesn't include all of the little unexpected events that float your way. We'll see how it all turns out.

I'm not usually one for resolutions. It's the whole expectation versus reality thing (and being disappointed in yourself is terrible). But this year there are a few things I'm going to try to do. They are small, and yet big and important changes.

  1. I'm going to try to write more. I mean both for myself and to other people. I'm usually horrible at corresponding with people, but I can't afford to be horrible at it now.

  2. I am going to learn to say, "no" more often than I have been. I have a habit of putting too much on my plate because I worry too much about disappointing other people. I've started this, and it's hard, but I think it's important.

  3. I'm going to be more intentional about my knitting. I want to finish more things. I'm getting organized (Bobby helped me with that this morning) and have many (many, many) projects ready to go. I have lots of tools and materials, I just need to be more focused and organized.

So far that's all I've got. We'll see how it goes.