Thursday, December 28, 2006

Catching Up

I haven't been purposefully avoiding the computer or blogging, it's just that with all the sleep I've been getting since I haven't been working (oh SING with me about that!!!) I feel able to leap multiple-story buildings in a single bound and I just keep using that energy to do things like clean or go shopping or knit or really just about ANYTHING except turn on the computer.

Today I packed up and put away all of the Christmas decorations after one final shopping trip before I turn back into the big budget scrooge. While getting out all of the decorations from their cardboard boxes and having to pitch a number of broken decorations, I resolved this year to get some of those decoration-storage thingies that always go on sale after Christmas. So I did that. And today I put everything away in them. On Christmas Eve, I got out the paint and glue and with the help of our two final holiday-season guests, finished the 2006 section of the Christmas Tree skirt. Here is a picture of how it turned out. I'm really stinkin' pleased. Next year will be even better, I'm sure. I am especially grateful for that little HMBH. My grandmother, who will be 95 in February, insisted she didn't have the fine motor control to do her whole name, but she was willing to put her initials on it. I am pleased and grateful for the little extras that people added without any prompting from me. I love that my sister-in-law included her cat, that my Aunt added the holly above her name, that Grandma Gaye added a heart and a little swoosh below her name and that my mother put little Christmas lights around her name. I only realized later that they match the shape of the lights that go along my front walk. I glued a line of crystal beads along the border. I can't wait to see what next year's section looks like.

We rented a couch and love seat combo as we did back in April when we were having guests. Because the only thing I look for when going to the rent-a-furniture place is that the cost be as little as possible and that the furniture be not-too-hideous, I'm pretty much stuck with whatever they have on the floor. I was lucky this time and there was a choice of two couch sets (They won't let me rent just the couch. They're always sets. This is okay as it turns out that the one couch is never enough anyway.) so I went with the red set. This set is much more in line with our tastes than the sectional we rented from this place back in April, and at one time or another in the last week, all the adults have fallen asleep on them. I thought it was funny when Chris did on Christmas afternoon and took a picture. (The couch is normal sized. Chris is not.)


It was even funnier when I went to upload the photo though and found that he'd done the same thing of me (and Emily) earlier in the week (on the love seat). This was last week when I was still working on one of my lessons. Emily doesn't need an excuse for a nap. She's a dog. (And she has buried her nose in the UAB.)

For Christmas I finished three pairs of socks. One for Milo (Claudia's Handpainted yarn--100% merino superwash).

1 pair for Max (Barefoot Mountain Colors 75% superwash, 25% something else).
and 1 pair for Ben (Jagger sock yarn of some sort).

But I did not finish Chris' socks. Or even a sock. This was the sock Christmas morning. Now it's about two and half inches longer. That's it. I need to finish those socks though because I learned on Tuesday that the yarn has been discontinued, and since I'm not convinced there's enough in one skein to finish the pair, I need to hurry so that my LYS can find me another skein if need be to finish the pair.

I get one more true day of vacation and then this weekend I need to get back to work. I actually have quite a bit due on the 2nd and my sister is coming to visit for a few days starting Sunday (evening) so I'm hoping to get enough done to work half a day Monday and half a day Tuesday and otherwise be free to hang out with her.

It was a smaller and more modest Christmas than some in the past, but it was a good and a joyous Christmas and we all received more than enough and more than we asked for. I always reflect on the year during this week between Christmas and New Years and this year is no exception. There is no way, even on my most mentally ill day, that I can call this past year anything but a success. Though I have a long way to go on all fronts, we are on better ground on any "life" topic you might care to examine. We have less debt, less stress, more friends, more blessings, etc. etc.

I am grateful for the love and support that has been shown to us this year. We have been lifted up and encouraged on every dark day--and for that the whole year has been lighter. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Wednesday

Gramma Gaye arrived late last night. I finished up my work project and Max's Christmas socks. They've been washed and are laid flat to dry. I cast on for the shagged slipper socks I'm making Chris (don't click, honey) but it wasn't long before I could see that they were turning out on the huge side of massive. Chris has big feet, but this was looking like the start to a cover for my kitchaid mixer.

Now, I went the shagged slipper socks route because it's like 43 stitches around instead of 80 something around and they're on size 9 needles instead of size 0. It just seemed much more possible to finish the things for Himself who has size 12 or 14 feet or something. But with Max's socks finished, I'm now on Milo's socks. So we'll see how much I get done on his socks before bed time. If I finish his socks anytime today or tomorrow, I could, hypothetically, maybe, possibly, finish Chris' socks by Christmas. So exactly what I knit for Chris for Christmas is still up in the air. I have in my back pocket a plan C which involves finishing the snow-shoveling mittens I started for him a few weeks ago. This is an excellent plan C as the second mitten would take maybe 5 hours to complete. So if I get to noon on Christmas Eve and still have nothing for Chris, I can finish the snow-shoveling mittens.

It's just that there's no snow at all in the forecast, so it's hard to get excited about that.

Anyway, this morning the alarm went off at the usual time and I got Max in the shower and fed people and at some point decided that since Milo still sounds like a candidate for an Iron Lung and Ben's nose is starting to gush sympathetically, that neither kid would go to preschool today. Chris took Max to school and then we all went to the Waffle House for breakfast. (I have a problem exposing other preschoolers to my kids' snot and coughs--I don't have a problem taking them to the Waffle House when they are not running a fever or feeling miserable.)

After waffles, Gaye and I took the small truck and went Christmas shopping and Chris took the twins and the big truck and went home. Gaye and I hit the toy store, the kitchen store, Target, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and Barnes and Noble. I finished the last of my Christmas shopping. I think I need some nuts and candies for the stockings, that's all.

We headed home, ate some noodles with butter and salt, and now we're having quiet time. Chris went to get Max from school and take Emily to the dog park. I get to knit the rest of the afternoon and evening. Tomorrow Chris will go do the last of his shopping and I will work on my last reading lesson before break, and much productivity will ensue. But right now? Right now I'm off to take a nap.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday Night

I went to another school board meeting tonight. No decision was made. Lordy it was a LONG meeting. Like riding an emotional roller coaster, really, since we have no Plan B at this point if the school does not receive approval to add on another three grades. The item is back on the agenda for January as an action item. It had been changed to another discussion item this time. It's clear that the board has an interest in supporting us, but it's not clear yet which way they will vote.

The one thing I know for sure: I made a lot of progress on Big Foot Jr's second sock. I should get the toe finished tomorrow and move on to Milo's sock.

Let the record show I am formally griping about the size of the feet of the man I married and the children we have produced. The boy is ten years old and has feet 10 inches from heel to toe. That's just wrong.

Mr. B, the fifth-grade teacher, let it be known that he wouldn't mind it if I knit HIM a sock. I said I'd consider it if the school board approves the charter amendment.

Then I came home and counted lines in my most recent reading lesson until my eyes felt like they might bleed. Chris is looking for spelling errors. I'm going to bed. I have an insane amount of work to do tomorrow and I want so badly to be on the other side of that day because after tomorrow work gets a smidge easier with each passing day until Saturday when I am really and truly OFF for 6 days.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Things For Which I Am Grateful

In no particular order.

1.

2. Children's motrin and Children's mucinex for Milo who came down sick last night with a fever and a bad cough. And for abuterol and pro... that other stuff if his breathing gets worse tonight/tomorrow (which, with Milo, it usually does).

3. Grown up versions of all of the above plus some powerful antibiotics for my mother-in-law who has the same problem Milo does, only she came down with it first, and because of all those nice miracle drugs, still gets to come for Christmas.

4. Church.

5. wool, needles, and some free time coming up between Christmas and New Year's

6. This year we'll have my mother AND my mother-in-law coming for Christmas. I'm grateful for that. I'm also grateful I can rent a couch for a week so we'll all have a place to sit.

7. Abundant work and the means and will to do it.

8. Good health in the other boys.

9. A clean house (for once).

10. Leftover cake in the fridge :)

and more . . .

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Knitting Update

Okay, there is a great deal left to do, but progress has been made.

1. Ben's socks are done. Maybe I already said that. That was a few days ago, but I'm still proud of myself for ripping back half of a finished sock that had been suffering from second sock syndrome and making it bigger to match the second sock. So, one really soft, sweet pair of socks done.

2. Then I finished the first of Max's socks. It occurred to me yesterday that I started that sock not long after the Olympics were over last year. I think late March. He's grown, too--but not his heel, I had left off shortly after reaching the instep, so all I had to do on that sock was go a little longer than originally measured. My ten-year-old's foot is 10 inches from heel to toe. I am now through the cuff and into the endless stockinette before the heel. This is Barefoot Mountain Colors and it's a joy to knit with. Even at 8 stitches to the inch or so.

3. I dropped most Christmas knitting yesterday though because a good friend is turning 40 and we were throwing her a surprise party last night. I wanted to give her something knit, but she has a nice collection of hats and mittens, so I went with a felted basket, loosely based on the Mason/Dixon felted baskets. I used their method, but made a longer, taller, more narrow basket in colors I thought she would like. I didn't have it done and dry by the party, but it was in the washer in its second felting and I got the third felting done before I went to bed this morning. It's drying at her house. I didn't think to take a picture. The small amount of mohair in Lamb's Pride bulky gives it a soft halo around the whole thing. Pretty. It will be perfect for holding soaps or papers and pencils or something. Not so much for jewlery. Or velcro.

4. Next up will be Milo's sock.

5. Then a pair of I can't really say for Chris, and, if the Christmas Knitting winds are with me, a second pair for Gaye.

I have, um, 8 days and one yarn store knit-a-thon on my side. Against me are two reading lessons and a set of six math pages. I spend the rest of today cleaning and organizing. At this point it all still seems possible.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

House Tour

Here's my contribution to the house tour. First, let me begin by saying, hey, that clean living room IS part of my Christmas decorating. So, anyway, yeah, mine are kind of simple, but they're just the start. I'm not a big collector or a big hoarder, but I do plan on gradually increasing my Christmas decorations until they're just short of unbearable :)

You know, for the grandkids ;)


The front walk/yard/porch:
That's a light-up buck shaking it's head no in the background near to the porch. The long exposure makes the lights on the porch really pop, but there's garland there, too, which doesn't show up as much. There is a wreath on the front door that I don't think you can see either.

So you can't see much from the front hallway, but take a few steps in and I have this display. Here are close-ups of the bottom snowmen. And then a broader view from the other direction.



OK, from here we're in the living room and you can see the tree and the wooden advent calendar on the wall.

This is the tree skirt that we're working on. There is room for four "years" worth of artwork. You can see what we've got on there so far and I show a close up of the closing. It's really very nice.

These are the three needlepoint stockings.


Ben, Milo, and I also have needlepoint stockings, but they're all still on the stretchers waiting for me to put down the knitting needles and finish them. I swear I will do this before the twins graduate from high school. Promise. A friend actually did Max's stocking. I knit her son a mohair baby blanket--I wasn't experienced enough to know to block it, so it was lopsided and Max got the better deal. If I knew where that blanket was now, I'd properly block it and it would probably be a very nice lacey bit (it was a lace pattern--I'd made it up based on a scarf I'd knit the year before--but not working from a pattern, and this being before the days of knitting email lists and stuff--and me being on bedrest at the time--it had potential, but I didn't know how to properly finish it.) Anyway, I liked the stocking so much that I did the ones for Chris and Gaye.

To view more homes go to: BooMama

That's it for me! The laptop battery is dying and I have knitting to do. Hope you enjoyed!

Along the lines of the Ride a Bike Thing . . .

Teaching experience. Survive the first year and when you really need to know how to control a crowd of kids--you can. You can still pull out the hairy eyeball, dredge up unfeigned interest in the 2000th variation of an assignment you've were on the giving end of over after over . . .

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What happened today was that it was Thursday, the second week of December, and that meant that the day on which I had volunteered to run the class Holiday "party" by leading the class in making "gingerbread houses" (read: graham cracker houses held together with icing and loaded up with candy) had arrived.

I'd been dreading it. I'd been dreading it because my son's fifth grade teacher, who I genuinely like very much, is still a first year teacher. The classroom management needs work. Some of the kids test my patience. And this activity--it's loud. It involves buckets and buckets of sugar--the kids get a contact high just spreading the icing on the aluminim-foil-covered cardboard base. It involves buckets and buckets of candy. It sometimes involves tears when an overloaded house collapses too close to the end of the hour to do repairs. And in this case, I depended too much on the teacher to manage assigning the ingredients to the kids. It almost didn't happen. Yet, he didn't want to move the party. I was working myself up into a bonafide snit--the only thing keeping me from doing so really was that I had promised Max I would make this happen.

So, having turned in an assignment last night and being pretty much free to ignore work for a day, I got up this morning, took Max to school, came home and vented my frustrations on our yard.

Our yard was still a mess and when the rest of the neighborhood did their very last leaf rake--I was madly trying to meet my November deadlines to get us off to Indiana for thanksgiving. When we got back it was cold . . . then it kind of snowed . . . now it's freakishly warm again. So I finally got out there and raked.

But, the county program where they pick up your leaves--it ended a month ago. So get this--this is so typically Central PA--I called them and said please--and they said they'd come on over and get my leaves anyway. That CRACKS me up (and makes me glad I live here. I really appreciate compassion and mercy in a city works department).

Okay, so it was noon and I'd gotten most of the leaves into the front yard (not all, but the leaves on the other side of the swingset don't count as much) where the city works people can come get them, so I showered, whipped up 8 pounds of royal icing, covered it all with plastic wrap and wet towels, and drove over to the school.

Max's teacher was absent. He was home sick. The class was being managed by the aide and a substitute. I think the substitute has a regular job doing something else entirely in the school--like maybe she runs the extended-day program or something? (Our charter school technically runs 8:35 am to 5:30 pm, but you can pick up your kid at 3:25 if you're attached to them having a childhood or something. The longer I'm involved with the school, the more I soften towards the whole extended-day program thing. I'm getting the idea that it is both useful and fun, just as it intended to be, which is a pretty big deal. So far I haven't let Max stay because I want him to have unstructured time after school, but you know what? He doesn't. He ends up with sports or homework because of having sports later or piano lessons or something. He hardly ever gets to go find friends and play. We lost that when we lost homeschooling.)

Anyway, so the regular teacher wasn't there and somehow, that made it easier for me. The sub and the aide were pretty much waiting for me--the room was clean, a side table set up with supplies, all the desks had been covered in newspapers. I grabbed two kids from the back and they helped me bring everything in.

And then--I put on my big sunny yellow apron and stepped back in time to a million years ago before I had kids and I ran the activity just like I always had. Only with one-third the number of kids I usually had and with a better icing recipe. My old icing recipe wasn't as sticky. The kids were glad I was there, they laughed at all the places they were supposed to laugh (this lesson includes a part where they solomnly swear not to eat the icing -- or their house -- until they get home--this is important. If I let the kids eat the icing and the candy, some of them will build the house in three minutes, eat crap for five minutes--and proceed to make us all miserable for the next 52 minutes. By forbidding any actual consumption, they put a lot of effort into making a really rocking house, loading it with all the candy they want to eat later, filling the interior of the house with more candy to eat later, etc. The delayed gratification element leads to very nice houses, good photo opportunities, and no leftovers for me to deal with.

The biggest difference between then and now was that a) I got to leave as soon as it was over, b) one of those kids was mine and he gave me a big hug right there in front of his friends because the "lesson" went so well, and c) the improved icing meant no houses fell apart and noone cried. That's a bonus.

Okay, so then I went home and knit on BigFoot Junior's sock. I took Max to piano later and did all but the kitchener stitch, ran home and made every burrito's for dinner and did the toe grafting, tried it on the child and . . . perfect. Now I have to knit the second sock for him and then Milo's sock and then Chris's sock and then a sock for Gaye--all before the 25th. Is that possible? Tomorrow is the 15th. I don't know. I have to finish two more big lessons and two more small lessons between now and then, too.

Luckily, no more big kid activities. In addition to getting the Holiday party behind us, this was the last week of piano lessons before Christmas break. Next week will seem easy by comparison.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

OK, I'll Play


It's not much, but it's my home :) Check back on Friday.

Yarn Shop Raves

I love my local yarn stores, I really do. I love Stitch Your Art Out because they're so friendly and they have great taste (i.e., very similar to mine) in yarn--if a somewhat limited selection because they are in a very small space and they are also half a quilt shop. Their prices are a little higher, but not so much that you feel taken advantage of--it's just that they have to pay rent, you know. The customer service is worth it and they'll order you something they don't have in. About the only thing they really can't help you with is cobweb lace yarn. Their needle selection is limited, but they'll usually have at least one of what you need (as long as its not too obscure).

For that reason I also love Knitter's Underground. While I have had one truly unpleasant customer service experience, it was at the hands of the owner, and not her employees. (And their website is circa 1990.) They have a huge selection of yarn and their prices are superior even to most online prices (they clearly own their building). They have cobweb lace yarn in a wide variety of colors and gobs and gobs of needles--even the obscure things. They have everything, really.

But that doesn't keep me from occasionally poking around online. I follow the links other bloggers post and save them and once in a very great while, post an order for something I think Stitch won't have and don't feel like driving out to Centre Hall for (yes, I've become the kind of person who thinks a 20 minute drive is out of the way). I discovered Sarah's Yarns when I wanted to use JaggerSpun Zephyr DK, but didn't want to pay KU's retail price for enough of it to knit Chris a sweater (52 inches around with ease--actually, that was my measurement the night before I delivered the twins!). She sells JaggerSpun by the cone, charges very reasonably for shipping, and I swear if you place an order at 1am, she must get up and go package it and have at the post office when it opens. It arrives 2-3 days after I order it, every time. The price discount is so signficant, and she'll sell you part of a cone at a very reasonable cost, too. (Don't you think a scarf knit from two skeins of this would look smashing on me? I might need that yarn.)

My most recent discovery was through the Yarn Harlot's blog. She posted a link to The Loopy Ewe, and I think Claudia's Handpainted Yarns. So I followed the link to go peek and saw the colorway Carousel, which appealed to me in many ways. I bought two skeins and one is becoming a sock. It is sooooo soft and sooooo easy to knit up, that I went back and ordered two more skeins in colorway Turquoise Jeans. It is springy and soft and . . . I want more of it. Up until this point, the only other sock yarn I've used that makes me feel so smitten is Barefoot Mountain Colors. They even knit up for me at about the same gauge. Sheri at The Loopy Ewe takes care in her packaging and writes charming notes about your purchase on the back of the receipt. Her shipping is also extremely fast. (Colorway Oops makes me laugh--plus, it's pretty. I want 2 of those. Oh, and sunrise? I'll totally take two of those. I'm just throwing out ideas for whomever might not have shopped for me yet ;) )

So there you have it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday

The mint fudge is cut and wrapped in plastic wrap. The peanutbutter fudge is cooked and cooling in the fridge. Tomorrow night is butterscotch fudge night.

I would have been done with Ben's Christmas socks tonight, but . . . I ran into a very real problem when knitting for 5-yr-olds. They grow. I finished the first sock in this pair back in the spring and then it fell victim to a classic case of second-sock syndrome. I also wasn't wild about the way the heel turned out. I felt that when I turned the heel. I should have started out with more stitches--that the bottom was too narrow. But the sock was done and I wasn't ripping back.

Well, I hadn't kept any notes about how I'd made the first sock, and I wasn't really following a pattern--they're your basic socks, that's all. So I ran into two problems as I was coming into the homestretch on the second sock. The first was that I realized in measuring Ben's feet that my intended goal was now at least a half-inch longer than it was before. The second was that somehow the second sock was wider in the instep than the first sock. It's unlikely, although possible, that my grip on the yarn has relaxed that much. It's much more likely that the first sock was knit on 0's and the second sock knit on 1's (I know for a fact that the second sock is being knit on 1's :)

So I pulled out my scissors and did the right thing. I chopped the toe off, ripped back to the heel, put the stitches on size 1 needles, (discovered that I'd used reinforcing string for the first sock, too. Ooh, now you tell me. Well, too late. The second sock will just get a hole earlier than the first sock.) and re-turned the heel, picked up stitches again, continued on with the instep again. The good news is that now I don't have to hold back on the length of the second sock either. I can give Ben the full half inch and then a smidge. The socks will fit long enough for him to wear some holes in them, and they will be comfortable enough that he will want a second pair of socks eventually.

++++++++++++++++++++
I spent the first half of the day cleaning my office. I'd let it fall into its usual state of chaos during November and when I got back from vacation I sort of camped on top of the mess for a week--then retreated to the upstairs to work. Well, this morning was Carpet Cleaner Guy Day so I had to move back downstairs and let him try to salvage my carpet. I have a bunch of work due that I'm not exactly speeding through, so I started by getting a large trashbag and reclaiming my work space. It took a few hours, but at least work is going more smoothly since I can find the right piece of paper as I work.

Now, between the clean desk, the picked-up downstairs, the picked-up upstairs and cleaned carpet, the house isn't looking bad. Let's see if we can keep it this way for a week.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday

You know, diet Red Bull is really dangerous/amazing stuff.

This is how today went. First, I slept in until 9:30ish. I walked the dog, fed the dog, counted the boys (all accounted for), took a shower . . . and went back to bed for, oh, another hour. Until Ben came along demanding I really do something about the day. Milo had come along right before him, but I'd succeeded in putting him off for another ten minutes. Not Ben.

So. Up and at 'em. At eleven, or so. I worked on a sock heel for awhile, while verbally coaching the twins through the riggors of dressing themselves. Max was getting himself dressed at two or three. With the twins it was just SO much faster and easier to either a) dress them myself or b) let them wear jammies all day. Ben is morally opposed to dressing himself and Milo didn't have an opinion on the matter until recently when there is, as far as he is concerned, nothing he can't do for himself (including driving, retrieving casseroles from the oven, lighting candles, etc. You can't leave this one alone for long right now). So on the one hand I have Ben who thinks I ought I to dress him myself and Milo who changes his own underwear four times a day. (How fastidious, I know, but the laundry ramifications are staggering.)

Once the twinks were dressed I headed off to Wegmans to do a big grocery shopping trip. This was kinda sorta successful. The "I'll do it myself" phase is tiring and constantly flirts with the edge of rudeness and when they're both in it, well, I get snippy. "You MAY push your own cart, but NOT over my FOOT!"

Then, I had no list (I know!) so mentally I'm trying to think of nutritious, easy-to-cook things for us to eat and then go buy the ingredients. But the reason I hadn't made a list is because I'm just sort of uninspired in the kitchen right now and nothing sounds good anyway. Nothing. So I guess we're going to eat a lot of burritos and sandwiches and chili and macaroni and cheese with hamburger and that kind of thing. At the same time, we're planning on mailing out the first batch of Christmas presents this week so I was mentally going over the ingredient list and I'm sure I bought way too much stuff for fudge, but the fudge should be good this year, anyway.

Eventually the cart was full and I decided to quit while I was ahead. I went to pay.

My cashier's name was Emily and Emily has made up her mind to win today's little competition among the Wegman's cashiers. Apparently the store is equipped for curbside pickup but the program had fallen into disuse. Some manager had noticed that even the little old ladies were pushing their carts out into the 10 degree night the other night and thought, "Wait a minute . . ." so they gathered all the cashiers together, explained what curbside pick up was and how it works, and offered some incentive to the cashier that could get the most of their customers to use it.

At this point Ben and Milo were flirting with the "naughty" list--enough so that I had them sit down on the Wegmans floor just to keep them in sight while I was unloading the cart. So I accepted the curbside pick up offer and made Emily very happy (this put her in first place in the competition). It was at this point that I bought and drank the diet Red Bull.

When I got home I grabbed five bags and let Chris bring the rest in.

I (FINALLY) did the weather proofing of the big window in the kitchen. I'd been procrastinating on this window because a) it is so big b) it needed washing inside and out and there are literally three layers of window panes in the two side panels and c) the sheer curtains that hang over the window needed washing, too. But thanks to the Red Bull, the windows are washed, the curtains are washed and rehung (including me finally uninstalling the old blinds that were above that window--only blinds and small children creep me out, so we never use them--and then I unscrewed all the related hardware and installed new hardware to better place the curtains. You can see why I'd been putting this project off.) I replaced the burned out light bulb above the sink and washed those curtains, too.

We had Wegmans pizza for dinner and I worked on the Christmas packages and did the first batch of fudge. The carpet cleaner is coming in the morning, so now that I have dutifully blogged, I get to take the very last bit of energy from the diet Red Bull and finish cleaning the living room so that the carpet cleaner can get at everything.

Then I'm going to crash. Tomorrow I have LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of workwork to do, and the same with Tuesday, and then for most of the next two weeks I have equal parts work and holiday cooking/cleaning to do. Our first guest arrives on the 19th and our last leaves on January 5th, and it looks like our Christmas packages will get out in time--so I'm happy. Life is good. (And I have three more diet Red Bull's in the fridge.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Belated Yay

Today was Chris' birthday and we celebrated in typical understated style with a breakfast together at the Waffle House and then a dinner tonight of "a few of his favorite things" including honey-baked ham, potatoes au gratin, mashed potatoes, corn, cake, and Moose Tracks ice cream.

I got a long-anticipated check and just in the nick of time as the tires on the Expedition have been wheezing and giving long drawn out threats of dying--but I never believe my vehicle tires when they say they're dying. I give them long speeches about stiff upper lips and holding out a few more months and am forever surprised when that does no good. We spent the last ten days constantly administering CPR to the right rear tire and it was with great relief today that Chris refilled it with air for the last time and drove it across town to Sam's club where I wrote an obscenely large check to get four new tires for the Expedition.

It's like 15 times more expensive to get tires for the Expedition than for the Toyota pickup.

Of course when we were done I was reminded of why I liked the truck to begin with. With proper tires I was at about the seating height of a semi-truck and I like that when I'm driving. (Yes, yes, I know I'm killing the ozone and JUST as soon as I'm out from under this loan I'll trade it in for something more fuel efficient. But right now I'm too upside down thanks to buying it in VERY EXPENSIVE zip code and then moving to very cheap zip code.) I spent the same amount on my tires as the amount I have budgeted for ALL Christmas spending. ouch.

My to-do list for tomorrow:

1. Clean and tidy upstairs AGAIN
2. Finish baby sweater
3. Get all three boys to piano recital in decent clothing
4. Get all three boys through piano recital.
5. Go home, climb back into pjs, make serious progress on reading lesson

It's really freakin' cold here. Tomorrow it starts warming up again to impossible temperatures. Global warming is so wrong.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Run, Run Rudolph


Today, instead of earning a good living, I worked all day on the Rudolph mittens. In part so I could be done with them and move on to the Christmas presents. In part because it's supposed to be so freakin' cold tomorrow and I wanted my kid to have mittens. Since he's ten, I imagine this will be the last year he requests character mittens of any sort. Don't make fun of my stitching--I don't really have a lot of stitching experience and I was winging it. This is 100% my own pattern ;)

NOW.

What to work on first? One of the five pairs of socks? There is something intimidating about knowing that we are, um, 17 days from Christmas and virtually everything I hope to finish by that day is on size 1 or 2 needles.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Nice, Quiet Week

I have a lot of work.

But not too much.

And I have a lot of knitting. Really, way too much knitting, but that's not a bad thing. I'll get done what I get done. Today I finished the second baby hat and those will go out in the mail tomorrow. No pompoms on either hat. Off to work on Max's second reindeer mitten. I promise I'll take photos of those when they're done.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Will Ya Look At That . . .

I went to a (avoids the obvious searchable terms) meeting of the elected people who make big decisions in a school district tonight for the purpose of supporting our charter school in their application to add sixth through eighth grades to the charter. This is pretty important to me because, frankly, going back to homeschooling is more appealing to me than sending junior to the middle school (even though we live in the part of the district where the kids would go to the pretty new middle school with the good parking instead of the old middle school with the nearly nonexistant parking). Well, going back to homeschooling in general is appealing to me. It's just that people have limits and working full time, caring for the twins, and homeschooling all at the same time was aging me like a super hero getting all their powers sucked out of them in a Saturday morning cartoon. I would have preferred to keep on homeschooling, but sometimes you don't get to do what you want.

So anyway, lots riding on this school getting 6th grade.

Principal submits application to group of elected people. Some of group is new I think. There has been big bru-haha in our district over funding for an extraordinarily large project and the way the board handled criticism related to it or something and in most recent election some members were up for reelection and I'm not sure, but . . . some of the elected members looked like they were still learning the ropes. So they were probably new. Initial reaction was not positive on the part of two elected members. No real input from most of group. Enthusiastic support from one elected member. Closer to neutral but not really opposed to anything on the part of one other elected member.

It looked BAD. But our principal didn't wilt. He commented that it was okay if they turned us down flatout because we'd be right back with a new proposal that addressed the comments of the negative elected members. Not in a snake head kind of way--our principal is not from around here (here, as in, this hemisphere) and they don't snake head where he comes from. They're quietly polite and determined and that was him. He also mentioned that he himself is the parent of a fifth grader (the group with the most to lose if we "go away and come back in five years" like they wanted) and that . . . that changed something. That made him suddenly less a representative of "the school" and more "the first of the parents that you will hear from tonight" and indeed one of the elected members used that to start inviting "some of the parents who are here tonight" to speak.

And we did. We each got five minutes. And even the ESL parents were compelling in their testiomony. The first speaker never mentioned that she is also the PAC president (like PTO), but she did tell the elected group exactly what it's like for a kid who graduates from the school and returns to the regular public middle school--they lose all their language (we have Chinese and Spanish every day at every grade) because the middle school can't accomodate the kids. I spoke, too. I don't really remember what I said, but I was the last or second to last to speak and I made them laugh and then made my point and then I sat down.

And something wonderful happened. One of the elected members who hadn't said anything at all said a rather emphatic word of support. He said he heard us and he heard that we needed something the school district doesn't have right now. And other elected members agreed. And the whole situation changed. A bunch of parents stood up and said what they could to change the elected members minds--and minds were changed. At one point one of the parents who was speaking her five minutes paused in what she was saying and asked that everyone in the audience who was there just to support the charter school stand up, just so that the board could see. And it was a good size audience. And maybe half of the audience stood. I'm not really sure (I was in the front, so most people were behind me). That was maybe one of the turning points. But I think mostly it was just a little bit of everything that each person said.

And it was just a really amazing thing to see. It really looked bad. And then a bunch of people stood up and said, "You have to reconsider this. This is really important. We really care about this." And so they did. They're reconsidering it. I don't know the outcome, and I lean towards the cynical on things like this, but . . . I'm glad I went to the meeting and stood up and spoke. That's all I'm saying.

To Pom Pom or not to Pom Pom


I don't know how to set up a poll, so please respond in comments.

This little hat is for a baby boy who didn't get the "Please wait forty weeks for entry" memo and came at 32-ish weeks. He is now, I think, three or four weeks old. He's exceeded birth weight and is a hefty 6 lbs, 1 oz. I expect to hear he's heading home with mama any day. So, does the hat need a pom pom?

The hat isn't as pointy as it looks in the picture. Chris' hand is wider than the diameter of the baby's head, so . . .

Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Socks, Mittens, Fast-Growing Nephews, Christmas Presents, and the Unreasonable Expectations of the Utility Companies

It is 11 am on Thursday morning and according to my to-do list, what I was going to do today was finish up a reading lesson and then clean the living room top to bottom. My list is very specific. It says I am to dust (once a year, whether it needs it or not), clean the glass, and vacuum. Implied in that is a general pickup of the floor, since sucking up books into the vacuum makes it run less efficiently.

But what I *want* to do is sit in a green living room chair ignoring all the stuff on the floor, and wrapping a blanket around my shoulders, work on my Christmas knitting.

I don't ordinarily have a very long Christmas knitting list. The truth is that I don't think most people like knitted gifts--plus my knitting skills really didn't improve much until the knitting olympics of last year showed me that if I was willing to be a little more obsessive about it, I could indeed finish projects in a reasonable amount of time. My lack of skill didn't/doesn't keep me from making knitted gifts, especially if a relative makes the mistake of showing any interest whatsoever in what I'm knitting--but it does keep me (most years) from making very long lists.

Well before Christmas I have to finish Max's mittens. He wants Rudolph Mittens. I have the first almost half knit.

Then I wanted to finish a pair of socks for Chris, Max, and the twins.
Then I have the Finnish mittens which now have an intended victim recipient. One mitten down, one to go.
I still have to finish my nephew's outfit.
I still have to finish the sweater I started for a California Baby. I brought it with me on vacation--but duh, forgot the directions.
I have come to my senses (it was the look on Aunt Charlotte's face when she saw how much I had done so far that accomplished that) and understand that the Orenburg shawl will be NEXT Christmas' gift for the piano teacher.

So I thought the simplest thing to do would be to take the month of December off from work and just knit, right? I wrote up a nice letter explaining the situation to all of the utility companies and the nice people at the mortgage company . . . but Chris says they're notoriously unreasonable about not getting paid, so until I hear back from them, I'd better get my workwork done before I sit down with the needles. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Santa Mittens


Yay! All the Santa mittens are done. And I traded the pattern to my LYS for yarn to do Max's reindeer mittens. (She was willing to pay me cash, which I could really use this week, LOL, but I just wanted the yarn.) If you'd like the pattern, let me know, I'll email it.


Monday, November 27, 2006

NOT in Crisis Mode!

I have tended to determine the level of stress in our lives by whether or not we get out Christmas cards. The scale runs something like this.

Stuff Mailed

Nothing--Thank You ------------Christmas-----------with a Christmas
----------cards-late---on time---Cards--late---on time--letter----and photo

10 <-------9--------8------7------6------5------4------3------2------1----> 0

Wicked----------------------------Normal---------------------AND the kitchen
Stressed----------------------------------------------------floor is mopped!!


Okay, so my standards are probably lower than yours, but I can't tell you how excited I am that we're getting the Christmas cards--with a recent photo (although the twins' hair isn't combed) and a Christmas letter--mailed before December 1st. Considering that last year we were squarely at a "9" (I think the thank you notes went out in March or something), this is really something.

Now, honestly, we're not REALLY at a zero stress level, but it means something to me that I can fake it even a bit. (If we were really at a zero, I'd know where the stapler is and the newsletters would already be IN the cards and the cards would be in the mail.)

Today was State-wide holiday--the official start of Buck season. Milo and I went to Belleville and stocked up on dried goods. I tried to get Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, which I need for this year's homemade Christmas gift. No luck. The Mennonite grocery store can order it for me though, so I'm hoping to have it by Friday.

On the way there we saw a gazillion trucks parked by the side of the road along the mountain road where normally there are NO trucks (or cars) parked by the side of the road. On the way back we saw three bucks strapped in creative ways to said trucks. Milo wasn't sure what to make of any of it and I wasn't sure what to tell him. It's sad to see a dead deer. But we eat vennison if given the opportunity. I did my best to answer his questions.

Because I finally had the time, Ben and Milo went shopping today with their birthday money. Ben bought a gameboy game and Milo bought a gamecube game. Milo had a horrible case of buyer's remorse once out of the store, but Target's gameboy game selection was diminished by all the Christmas shoppers, and I didn't feel there was a better choice for him, so I looked at his game and quickly noted that it was a 4-player game (not that common and very popular at home because they really enjoy playing all together) and that redeemed his choice. Normally Monday through Thursday is a gamecube-free zone, but since there was no school today I let them keep the gamecube up today and from the sound of things the new games are a hit. (Mom, the boys spent their gift cards before we left on vacation and the new books were a great hit in the car all the way to Indiana and back.)

More tomorrow! I'm off to knit on a mitten.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

We're Back!!

Gosh, we had a magnificent time!! I think I'm fighting off a bug because I have a headache that comes and goes and an earache that comes and goes and HURTS, but am otherwise in good spirits. It was just so great to relax at the farm. I got lots of knitting done--mostly I just finished things. I did the third mitten of the orange mitten pair that lost the second mitten. I finished the Santa Claus mittens. I finished one Finnish Mitten (and since Karen was there and seemed to like them, I sized them to her) and got to see Baby Oliver one of the sweaters I made him (gosh, he's a cute kid and he makes great noises!). My brother and sister-in-law are terrific parents (we, on the other hand, let the kids gorge themselves on TV--the farm has DISH and we enjoyed time with the adults and pretty much let the kids feast on Cartoon Network). We had apple pie and pumpkin pie and cheese cake and green beans and lentils and stuffing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and turkey and YUM!!

Emily ran around happy and free (except when she was being neurotic and clingy) and I'm very glad we got to bring her with us.

I finished the UAB and I'm wearing it wrapped around me as I type (in my freezing cold house--"Finish Weatherproofing" is near the top of my to-do list for this week).

I'm very excited as it occurred to me on the way home that I only have six whole pages of text to write this coming week. So I shall be cleaning and baking and cleaning and weatherproofing. Tomorrow we'll set up the tree and decorate the front yard and just generally deck the halls.

All my work from this past month is turned in. How great is that? One month of heck, but when I get paid the bills will be paid through January. :::wiggles happily:::

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Chess

This book introduced Max and I to chess. It describes the movements of each piece in a historic format that really does a smashing job of making the move memorable to the child. It introduces the child to some basic strategies--and it promotes a sense of fair play (and that winning is great, but losing is useful, too).



Do you have a favorite chess for kids book? Post it in replies and I'll put up a link here to your favorite, too :)

Chess makes a great Christmas gift.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thank You

Thank You, Grandma Helen, for you know what. It's very much appreciated. Thank you also, for the gifts for Ben and Milo's birthday. They pretty much made today possible.

Thank You, Grandma Judy, for coming all the way from Ohio and never once saying how grossed out you were by my carpet, and for entertaining the twins as only you can with a display of your funny steamed hair curler machine. And for all of your help in picking up the Great Room downstairs. It's the end of a Big Birthday Day and my house is cleaner than it was at the start of the day.

Thank You, all the parents who knew they could drop off their kids at the bowling alley--but decided to stick around and make sure things went smoothly. We had 17 kids and they only gave us two lanes and we might have dissolved into chaos had there not been extra hands to entertain the 15 kids whose turn it wasn't. (Not that the parents who left were in the wrong. I really didn't expect anyone else to stay. It just worked out well--the actual adult:child ratio.)

Thank You, Ben and Milo--for being good hosts and sharing your turns with your friend who arrived late--so he couldn't get his name in and therefore didn't get an official turn.

Thank You, bowling alley, for those nifty kiddie ball-aiming things, and the guards that deflected the ball away from the gulleys.

Thank You, stranger, who gave us all the six-lb balls as soon as you were done with them.

Than You, God, for making it cold again. Every warm day in November gives me these apocolyptic heebies. Now that you've decided to make it snow tomorrow, do you think you could throw the weather-man a curve ball and make some of it stick? The radio-station here has broken (I'm sure) FCC regulations and started playing Christmas music today. That's, like, five days early! They're not supposed to start Christmas music until after the football game on Thanksgiving Day! Anyway, as wrong as it is, it has me in the mood for snow.

Thank You, Me, for not being a Party-Pooper (as I know you better than anyone else--you are--you are the Party Poopiest) and canceling the party when work got so hairball. Taking a break to clean the house last night and this morning has created an environment that we're all happier in. Taking a break and guiding 1,700 children in tossing marble balls down an alley (WHY is bowling SO MUCH FUN?) was exactly what my stressed-out, over-taxed brain needed to come back and write a whole bunch of bowling-themed math problems.

Thank You, Emily, for amusing the heck out of us with your fascination with the new radio-controlled John Deere combine. And thank you for not actually eating it. Or killing it.

And so, the basement is clean. The living room is kinda clean (it was clean--then we filled it with new birthday presents). I lectured the family on trying to keep it that way for two days so I don't have to do a full house cleaning at midnight before we go on our trip. I'm feeling grateful for a day well spent. And now--I must work and do laundry, pretty much nonstop, till it's time to leave for Indiana because I really, really, really, really don't want to be working in the car all the way to Indiana (although I will if I have to because by Golly I'm NOT working once we get out of the car in Indiana).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Remember that list?

The one of things to do?

It's kicking my keester.

Nevertheless, we have accomplished much. The ski parent meeting was successful. We officially have the ski program up and running. First day is second Tuesday in January. The cupcakes made it to the preschool.

We celebrated their birthdays a day early because Chris had made other plans for tonight. That worked out fine, too. The Schwans guy came around earlier in the day and enabled the twins to pick out some delicious if completely non-nutritive food (I did sneak in some veggies, but not enough to overwhelm the "chicken fries.")

We made it to all the piano lessons for the week. Next week we're "off" due to the holiday. Phew. The bowling alley has their deposit. The cakes have been paid for. I did a lot of work. I feel a day behind, but I am not really an entire day behind. I will need to work all weekend though to make my Monday evening deadline. I am trying not to feel crabby about that.

I can't believe my twins are five today. When did they get so big? Thankfully, they still seem so small.

I'm fried. Can't write another word. Off to an earlish bedtime for me.

Happy Birthday Sweet Twinkies

Happy Birthday, Ben--my "all boy, all the time" Ben. My "I got that for you, Mom," Ben. I love you for your desire to put the world in order and tell us all how things ought to go. I love you for the trust you put in me when I tell you that I'll consider your suggestions, but I'm still The Mom and we'll be doing it my way today. "Okay, Mom." I love you for the songs you compose on the piano and I love you for the fact that you can't go to sleep without a hug and a kiss and maybe two more. I love you for sleepy snuggles and the songs you sing and your passionate desire to help. I love you, middle son. I love you, Ben.

Happy Birthday, Milo--my mini-me. My snuggly porcupine. The only other true "cat" in this house. My "I'm not convinced that the rest of you are paying enough attention to be making these decisions" Milo. My "If you would just listen to me, you'd see it my way and do it my way" Milo. My "maybe, today, you could teach me all the rest of reading," Milo. Like me, somedays you're pretty sure that if we just got started early enough today we could paint our own Cistine Chapel. I love you, beautiful boy. I love you, Milo.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pictures

Another completed pair of everyday mittens. These made it onto the chain-stitch string and through the jacket sleeves before either mitten could be lost.Four pictures from Max's point of view. He went on a walk through the neighborhood and took photos.



These from the deck and in my backyard.







=:* <---whistling in dark

What my calendar says will happen this week.

Today: Workworkwork

Tomorrow: AM: turn in a bunch of work, take an hour to clear off desk and start some laundry, immediately start on reading work for the week. [What will actually happen--I really have no idea. I know I can finish one more math thingy tonight. Can I finish two more?]

Tuesday: Keep plowing ahead in reading. Then, host big parent meeting at the school for school ski intramural program. Come home, keep working.

Wednesday: Drop kids at preschool, go buy 20 cupcakes and a gallon of milk, drop off at preschool so they can celebrate the twins' 5th birthdays. Take Emily to dog park because there's no way I'm getting anything else done until tonight. Pick up twins, cram lunch down their throats, take them to piano lessons, go home, get Max from school, take HIM to piano lesson, go home. Finish reading work.

Thursday: Edit reading work. Turn in. Go back to math work. Thursday night, have whatever the twins want for dinner. Sing them Happy Birthday. Let them open family presents. Max has music class. I work some more.

Friday: Twins to preschool. Max to school school. I work on math and turn that in and then switch RIGHT back to reading. Pick up Max early, take him and twins to doctor. Get a round of flu shots (Note to self: go first.) Back to work. Mom arrives late evening.

Saturday: Maybe I should do some laundry. Be at bowling alley to host twins' "Big Birthday Party" from 1-3. There are 14 kids right now and I gave people one more day to RSVP. Go home. Let Mom entertain wound-up twins. Work.

Sunday: Mom goes home. I workworkwork again.

Monday: Take dog to groomers. Workpackworkpackworkpack. Pick up dog (admire how much like a poodle she looks when she's been properly bathed, trimmed, and brushed). Do NOT go to dog park. Mud BAD. Keep poodle clean for at least a few days. Sheesh. Submit work. Do dishes. go to bed.

Tuesday: Put everyone I really care about in big blue truck. Fill up with gas. Go over the river and through the woods to see Grandmother and Aunt and brother and sister-in-law and the O-Bear and an Amish Turkey and three pies and cheesecake and . . . yum! Knit often, if not constantly. Assess progress on Orenburg Shawl at end of visit. Depending on results--decide whether to make shawl for NEXT Christmas and get Barnes and Noble gift card for this one.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

GORP post

The first Santa Mitten is done. I couldn't use the other pattern exactly because I'm opposed to knitting flat when knitting in the round will work perfectly well and because I'm stubborn like that. But I used the picture, Lamb's Pride, Adriafil Stars, and a tiny bit of Lion Brand 100% wool in black to make Santa--and he actually looks pretty good.

Will post pictures and pattern when I'm done with the second mitten.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Today Max's football team got to play for the State Championship. If they'd won they were supposed to go to New York for Thanksgiving weekend. They've never lost a game. Well, tonight they lost. I didn't get to go to the game--it was up in the Poconos and was just too far with the twins and my work. So I stayed home and worked and chewed my fingers until Max called an hour ago to say he was well and they were heading home soon. I don't think I'm the only parent who is proud of how well they did and relieved as heck that the season is FINALLY over.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ben and Milo and I ran some errands this afternoon. Everywhere we went they accosted strangers and told them, "Thor is dead but he escaped from underground and he was on his way home and was going to be just fine."

So, the adjustment is a slow one.

Friday, November 10, 2006

For Staci

[double-click on pic to get more detail]

I started on my version of the Santa mittens and Max said . . . "Can you make me some reindeer mittens?" Maybe . . . I might try to adapt the sheep mittens from HomeSpun Handknit.

A little further along.

And this is the palm (this is the left-hand mitten, so thumb opening is on left in this view)
I'll tell you what though, these things go fast. If I didn't have to kick myself in the pants and go get some work done, I could finish the first Santa tonight.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

We Interrupt This Workaholism to Bring You . . .

Some artsy fartsy time.

I turned in my second lesson of four on this project and have one final push to go in the math project. Then I'll have two final reading lessons to do, but things are already looking up. I was sooo close to messing all this up (with my inability to say no) but then *just* in time I grew a backbone and I've been saying "no" and "I can't" left and right this week.

Which is good because it's still enough work to push me to the edge, Itellyouwhat.

After I turned in the work I let Chris know and then I told him what time to wake me and went and crashed for a half hour. Sometimes those short naps make all the difference in the world. He woke me at five and I took Max to his group piano lesson, then went in search of cheap wool for Ben's santa mittens. At Michael's I returned some fabric paints that were designed for people with way more experience than I have with a brush, paint, and fabric, and bought two replacements in something more user friendly. Then I went back to the music academy, picked up Max, and headed home.

We had grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches. (Well, the family did. I had a salad. I'm not really dieting now--I'd like to be, but that's asking for disaster with the work situation the way it is--it's just that sometimes after making dinner--I suddenly don't want it.)

Then I cleared the table and we started on an art project I've been wanting to do for a couple of years now. I had someone make me a Christmas Tree skirt out of canvas. Then I bought fabric paints. Having each child go one at a time, I had them each paint their names and then . . . whatever they wanted. Milo went with shapes. Ben did a star and a present. Max did an orange tree a green present, and then went to town with the bronze doing shapes and scattering the letters of their names randomly.

To avoid smearing paint, I used cloth tape to mark off a square for each of them. They painted in their square. That worked well.

The next step is for Himself to airbrush the year at the bottom of this section and add whatever personal touches he wants. Then I'm going to come in and kind of paint around everyone else with some design elements that will seek to pull it all together.

This year, it will be a tree skirt that is 3/4 blank. But in four years, it will be full. And in 20 years it will hold me over while I wait for them to all come home for Christmas.

And now for my next art project this evening . . . I shall tape plastic over the bedroom windows and use a blow dryer to shrink it tight. Ta da!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Anyone Know?

Ben is asking me to knit him "Christmas Mittens." Anyone have a good (easy and quick is pretty important right now) pattern?

The second of the orange mittens is still missing. It amuses me to blog about this because it causes the Amazon Candy Isle ad on the sidebar to pick children's books featuring the nursery rhyme about the three little kittens who lost their mittens. Buy some! I get a kick back.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

1 AM and all is well

Thank you for all the kind words regarding Thor. He was much missed today, but life marches on, and it was another Tuesday full with a music class, a football practice, volunteering at Max's school, workworkwork, a good dinner, and now, finally, bedtime.

More, later in the week, after I meet my next deadline (and three piano lessons, one group music class, another football practice, and etc., etc.).

Monday, November 06, 2006

Thor, Nov. 1999 - Nov. 2006


We took Thor to the vet today to have him examined for some health issues that were also affecting his behavior. The prognosis for recovery turned out to be very poor. In the meantime in his pain and irritability, he had begun biting the children very, very badly. Max on the face and arm. Milo on the hand. Ben on the chest. The vet could not offer hope for improvement. She recommended he be put down.

I don't much worry whether he'll get into Heaven. I've never seen a door he couldn't slip through. I held him as he slipped into sleep. Then I took off his chain and his collar. He is free. G'bye, Thor, Dog of Thunder.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Yay!!/Boo!!

This morning Chris found the adapter for the power cord that let's me plug my laptop into the electric/lighter thingy in the truck. This is a boost for work this week, since now it means I can take work with me while I hang out in the (warm!) truck during Max's football practice. It is a setback for knitting, though. It was times like these that I could take a break guilt-free and knit a bit. Oh well. The last of the math is due in ten days. I'll still have another week of reading after that, but it'll be much easier with math out of the way. I really, really, really don't want to be doing reading work all the way to Indiana in the car (but at least now I know that if I have to, I can).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Baby Spencer

My aunt sent me this photo a few days ago of my baby cousin Spencer wearing the sweater I made him. Spencer is a few weeks old now (okay, he was born in late March, so that makes him, um, 7 months now). Much like Ben and Milo--that means he is wearing size WayBiggerThan7Months. I'm pretty sure I knit that to about a size 12 months. It's clearly none too small.

I am so thrilled he gets to wear it this winter (and that the neck opening is not too small for his head!)

Anyway, I couldn't post it before because it was sent in a pdf file somehow and I . . . I couldn't figure that out. But I whined to Chris about it tonight and he has adobe something or other and he fixed it. He turned it back into a .jpg. (And then, he accidentally named the file Ryan in Sweater, which is Spencer's DAD's name, and I thought that was very funny. Unless he did that on purpose as commentary on Spencer's likeness to his father.)

Beautiful Day


It was sunny today.

We had a front and back yard full of leaves, so I had dutifully warned Chris and Max that their lives were MINE for the morning and that we would be raking.

In different parts of the nation, leaves are dealt with in different ways. I remember bagging leaves as a kid. Here we rake them all to the edge of the property against the road and then a BIG TRUCK comes around once a week with an ENORMOUS leaf sucker and they suck the leaves through a mulcher and into the truck and the truck goes and dumps the stuff at the compost center.

Our street is comprised mostly of retirees who have nothing better to do than mow their lawns in the summer and rake their leaves in the fall, so we constantly look like slackers since I just can't keep up with that. But we're doing better than last year. Last year we basically waited until every single leaf had fallen off the trees and then had one long, miserable leaf-raking session. I think it took like five hours or something. I decided this year to skip that kind of misery and go for shorter, more frequent sessions. But not every week. No. So this was our second session.

I didn't take a lot of pictures, even though it was rather photogenic since the tree with the yellow leaves had done the most dropping and the colors were great this year. But mostly I was, you know, raking. Here is the yellow tree. It's clearly not done dropping leaves.


When Chris got up on the roof though to blow off the leaves, I had to take a picture. He is not smiling because he has a true fear of heights and he HATES being on the roof.


But I was smiling, because the gutters are free of leaves!!! Yay!!!

And Ben was smiling, because it was COOL.


Anyway, we finished up the leaves around 1pm, so I skeddadled inside and made everyone a quick lunch (chicken patty sandwiches with cheese) and then Max and I headed to Target since he's grown again.

You know, he's been such an inexpensive kid to clothe for the last few years in comparison to the twins because his growth spurts were fairly reasonably spaced and because we had this friend in California who had a closet ful of clothes he was outgrowing and hadn't had a chance to hardly wear, much less wear out, and he was, for a little while, just a little bigger than Max. But he is also a year and a half older and so then he turned ten or eleven or something and then next thing we knew he could practically have handed his clothing down to Chris.

So Max has literally been living in Chase's clothing for the last three years or so. This summer was the first time I had to buy him anything other than shoes and swim trunks in a long time. Well, Max broke the news to me this morning that he couldn't get into any of his jeans anymore and he had like three long-sleeve shirts that still fit.

Suddenly, I understood the wisdom of the Clothing sinking fund. This isn't one we've normally had as usually I have enough warning that a kid is growing out of clothes and I can send subtlely worded hints to the grandparents (Like, "Dear Mom and Dad, the twins are cold and have no pajamas. Can you buy them pjs? Love, Alaska") Last year this worked so well that they don't even NEED any pjs this year because last year's still fit and there are plenty of them (although since I'm being Stingy McThemostatNazi this year, I should probably put out a request for more size 6/7 thermal underwear). But Max--Max is growing this year and everything else he does (like go to school or play football) is just a side business. I was in denial, so there was no money set aside for his clothes.

Well, we came up with a solution (that did not involve selling either of his brothers on eBay) and so we went to Target where you can still get decent blue jeans for $8.99. I got a lot of knitting done while my pre-teen tried on clothing. Holy Canoli. Anyway, we left with four new shirts, three new pairs of jeans, some new underwear, one new pair of snowpants (ski season starts in two months), one new winter hat (yah, I could knit him one, but when?), and a new pair of boots, mens size 7.

When we got home, I took a nap. Then it was juevos rancheros for dinner, who knows WHAT happened to the hours between 7 and 9, I spent the last 45 minutes helping Max reorganize his closet and then putting all the kids to bed, and now this post and . . . it's time for me to get some paying work done (which is why I took that nap).

Good day :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thursday Night

Phew! Made my work deadline. I wanted to jump right back into my math project, but I needed a nap first. I ended up sleeping 2.5 hours. It's 10 pm now and I'm ready to go back to bed. The twins have bad colds (I've been feeling grateful for nebulizers today) and are asleep thanks to the miracle of Children's Nyquil. Last night we did NOT have Children's Nyquil and we had LOTS of coughing and hacking and midnight nebulizer treatments and one round of puking. (Hence the need for a nap after turning in my work today.)

After the nap I made dinner for everyone and then settled in for an evening of bill paying, desk organizing, updating the calendar, etc.

I'm really worried about the Orenburg shawl. I just don't see me making any progress at all until work has slowed down at Thanksgiving.

We had a great Halloween. We hosted Sarah and Justin and their girls--on their way through as they move to Vermont. This was followed last night by a productive parent meeting at the school. Things are sounding a tiny bit more positive as far as the school getting to revise its charter to include middle school grades. We really, really, really want that to happen.

In the meantime I registered the twins for the same charter school for next year. Yes, already. I just wanted it crossed off my mental list.

And that about brings us up to date. I'm bound to be boring for another three weeks. My life is 1/3 reading, 1/3 math, and 1/3 wife and mom. No bells and whistles for a bit. Oh I am SO grateful that the championship football game is NEXT weekend, not this coming weekend.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Very Quick Blog Tonight

I have this program that goes online to something called an FTP site--which seems to be kind of like the Internet equivalent of a storage room full of files--and lets me download the files I need for different projects. Each company has its own FTP site and I get a user name and a password and plug that into my program and the program sends out its little Librarian codes or something and brings me back the file.

The point is to avoid inadvertantly emailing someone a confidential file or having a massive file bounce back because their mail box is full or whatever. You put these files on the FTP site and tell them they're there and then when they get a chance they go there and get the file you left for them.

There are a bunch of these types of programs and I gather that "Fetch" is a fairly popular one. I don't have that. I have Ipswitch WS_FTP Professional. I don't know why or how I got that one--I think I googled up some reviews or something and it got good reviews from someone--for all I know it was someone paid to give them a good review. But I paid for the thing and so far it's worked very well. I really have little clue as to how or what it does what it does, and yet it lets me do my job. I like that in a program. A high degree of "doesn't take much to figure it out"-ness.

I also like, and this is my only point in chatting about all this, the goofy noises it makes. I've had to download a gargantuan load of files in the last ten days as all the little (and big) projects I'm working on right now required me to get on an FTP site and download like 700 files each. Okay, maybe only 70--but a lot. When it first logs on to an FTP site it makes a noise like a Locamotive honking. "CHONG"--I can practically see its little train headlights. When something goes wrong (i.e., the FTP server is down and I can't log on) it makes a high-pitched little "uh-oh!" This is soooooo *not* professional that it makes me laugh every. single. time. and that's a better reaction than swearing--which is what I would normally do in a situation like that. Finally, every time it's done downloading a file it makes a noise that comes straight out of Space Invaders--if you're old enough to remember that sound. Sigh. I am their target market.

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In this moment, and I have no idea how long this feeling will last, I'm actually feeling a little less guilty about having taken on too much work. 7 days into things and I haven't lost my mind yet. There's hope. But it's definitely a moment-to-moment thing. Part of the reason I'm feeling good today is because today was MONDAY. There is little to conflict with work on Monday. There are no music classes, no piano lessons, no football practices, no vet appointments. I avoid scheduling anything at all on a Monday. The twins were too sick to go to school and they missed the Halloween parade--but it's a snot-gushing cold--not a stomach virus or anything else that requires that I drop everything and just play Mother-Nurse all day. They were cheerful and played well together all day. They just weren't hungry and they went through a box of Puffs together. (Ben in particular produced copious amounts of snot. It was pretty dramatic first thing in the morning. Less so as the day went on.) They should be well enough tomorrow to go to music class and trick or treat. Which was the point of keeping them home today.

Alright, the document I was printing has printed and it's time to get back to work. Happy Halloween everyone. Tomorrow is a big and busy day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Finished Objects

These are the twins' sweaters knit in Prairie Silk in Navy and Dough and Guilder Green and Dough. Max's sweater (in Brick and Dough) is about half done. The twins have been wearing these sweaters for three weeks now, but finally left them unattended long enough for me to get them washed and blocked and photographed.

What you have here is a photo of the boys with the little Ghosts they made. They then hung the ghosties in the cherry trees. Max is wearing his revised Halloween costume. We'd bought him a pirate costume but discovered to our dismay--when he went to dress in it for his piano recital on Saturday--that it was FAR too small. It would probably have fit one of the twins okay. We hit the Halloween stores again, but the college students had decimated the stores the week before and there was just nothing left but the nasty and the too-scary-for-this-crowd. We got to talking about what we had at home and when I mentioned the purple cape (knit for Chris by Alice), his face lit up.

So now he's going to be a super hero. He's wearing his blue swim goggles, a pair of Batman gloves, and the purple cape.

Feeling left out in the cool eye-wear department, Milo wore his goggles for the photo, too.

Ben? Ben is lucky he's not naked. Unable to find the fourth zarkin' shoe, Ben is wearing one sneaker and one slipper.

These are the pumpkins we finished last night. Click on the image to see it larger and with a tiny bit more detail. Mine is top left, Chris' is top right. Bottom row is Milo's, Max's, and Ben's. They're very large pumpkins and will look smashingfantastic Tuesday night.

These are Milo's finished "weekend" mittens, to replace the Target mittens that have been lost. They are "spiral rib" mittens and they look exactly like every pair of mittens that my Grandma Arganbright would make. Except these are hand-died 100% wool with some varigations, and Grandma Arganbright leaned towards simple, solid colors. I haven't a clue if the yarn was acrylic or wool or what. I was just glad that she knit so many of them that you could come in from playing in the snow and leave one pair on the radiator to dry, eat lunch, and grab a second pair from the mitten box in the hall closet on your way out the door.

I aspire to a mitten collection like that.

The finished mittens also mean that I'm all done with the math that had to get done and I have one last dragon to kill to have safely navigated the first quarter of the Month I Said Yes One Too Many Times.

In my defense, I had No Clue how big the last project was. I thought it was a few ancillary pages, not a whole 'nother Teacher's Edition, and by the time I figured that out, it was too late to say no. I *always* ask if it's "full time or part-time" but, not this time. I was painting the back bedroom when she called on my cell phone and she said, "Someone quit on me! Please write!" and I said, "Okay!" and I guess I should have asked a few more questions first. Oh, well. In this moment, things look doable as long as I don't do anything stupid. I'm a little worried about Ben and Milo's birthday party coming two or three days before it's all over--but not as worried as I'd be if I'd tried to hold the party here in our house.

For the record, absolutely noone without young children at home, noone who considers themselves a "neat freak", and noone with "time on my hands so I might as well clean" is allowed to come over for the next three and a half weeks. The carpet cleaner is coming in mid-December. You can come after then. In the meantime, everyone else should feel free to show up unannounced, and if you need anything to drink, I'll show you where the dish soap is so you can wash up a clean cup for yourself.

I am caught up on laundry, but Chris is behind in folding it. Neither of us is caught up with dishes. There was hope, but then there was the pumpkin project. I have dinner and overnight guests coming on Tuesday and the only reason I'm not in hysterics is because I know they'll all totally be fine with me ordering 6 pizzas that night if that's what's called for and because--well, I'm just pretty sure they like me okay in spite of my ugly carpet. They're looking for a warm, safe place to crash, not a page out of Better Homes and Gardens.

9:40 p.m. I love "fall back." It makes everything seem doable ;)

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Problem with July Is That It Is Too Hot for Wool

This is a problem because here we are at the end of October and in Central PA it is starting to get very cold. We have flurries forecast for Sunday and right now it's 41, only if you're outside in the drizzle and the rain it feels like 33. (I didn't make that up--that's what accuweather.com says. I believe accuweather.com instead of weather.com because accuweather's home office is here in State College and weather.com is not. Weather.com says it's 40 degress but feels like 35. I was outside and I agree with accuweather.)

So this time of year I inevitably pull out the boxes and buckets of winter gear and find that some of the mittens never made it. I don't know where they went--Florida, maybe--but they're not here.

And then I think, no problem, I'll just knit up a pair this weekend.

But it *is* a problem because with all this work, there's no TIME to "just knit up a pair." That doesn't keep me from trying. I had a few minutes to kill waiting in the car this evening for Max to finish his football practice, so I cast on and did, oh, 5 rounds on a mitten cuff before Max climbed in the car. I'd had this silly idea I could whip up half a mitten (the missing mitten is Milo's--so we're knitting for a hand the size of a 5-yr-old, not an adult mitten. There's only 32 stitches in a round. I'm not using sock yarn. This is left-over single ply wool from one of the fall baby sweaters--orange.) during Max's practice. AFTER I ran a check by the preschool, picked up a bag of dog food at Petco, bought the Halloween candy and some color ink cartridges for the printer at Target, and hit Wegman's quickly because we were completely and entirely out of toilet paper, milk, peanut butter, and trashbags--any one of which we might have worked around individually, but combined meant that we were feeling pretty unprepared in the event of an emergency.

So I did all those things and then surprise, surprise, there was only fifteen minute of practice left. So I got five rounds done and that was it.

If I could start knitting mittens in July, I'd have enough for the whole family plus spares by the end of October!

But I can't. I know because I worked away on those Finnish mittens until it got really warm and then--the last thing I wanted to touch was a pair of mittens. Now knitting away on the Finnish mittens in front of the fire place sounds like a great way to spend the day--I just don't have the time.

So I put the orange Milo mittens next to the computer and I'm going to reward myself. I'll set little writing goals for tonight and tomorrow morning (Yes, I flaked on the emergency preparedness presentation because I am in danger of becoming hopelessly behind only 1 week into this four-week work marathon. Right now I am *not* hopelessly behind, but if I lose most of tomorrow to church and Max and most of Sunday to church and Max--I will be.) and every time I meet those goals I'll get to stop and go two rounds on the needles.

Oh--something new I learned today. Don't go to Petco on the Friday night of Halloween weekend in a college town. It's right between "Party Town" and "Michael's" and there's no parking. I often take Emily with me if I'm going to Petco (but not Thor, because Thor thinks it's perfectly acceptible to "mark" his territory on the end caps of every isle) but she would have been completely freaked out by all the college kids with masks and I'd have driven home with a 45-lb poodle in my lap.

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Target already has their lawn-ornaments and lighting displays out for Christmas. It's temporarily hidden behind all the Halloween stuff, but I saw it. I saw the deer and the lighted trees and the sleds and the massive selection of exterior lights. Ooooh, it was a good thing finances are still tight right now. I stood awhile and surveyed the choices, rubbing my hands together gleefully (I didn't have any kids with me, so I could savor the moment.) I want new outside lights for the house this year. I want animated deer and even more little Christmas trees for the lawn. I am never, ever, ever, ever moving again and I have a maniacal obsession with conquering the neighborhood through light-up deer and epileptic-seizure inducing blinking, colored lightbulbs.

heh. heh. heh. <---maniacal laugh