Friday, March 31, 2006

Sunny and 75 degrees


beautiful day.

We met with Max's teachers--nice people. They pretended not to notice how neurotic this is making Chris and I. We kept our composure. Noone cried. I only repeated myself about five times. Chris only repeated himself about five times. (We didn't let Max come. As far as he knows we are ALL FOR THIS and think it's a WONDERFUL IDEA and blah, blah, blah.)


It was SUCH a beautiful day that I let the seedlings go outside and play. They're safely back inside now and back under the lights, but they seemed to enjoy their day outside.

There's a plant sale at the school in six weeks. Max and I are trying to decide whether to plant the rest of the tomato seeds in paper cups and try to sell them as tomato plants there. There's probably some kind of fee for that.

I really need another set of size 1 metal dpns. Anyone have a set they want to let go? I have two. Two lonely little size 1 metal dpns. I need two to three more. Or 5, if you have 5 to get rid of. I'm using a set of size 2 dpns for a pair of socks in minion size. According to the yarn label and my tendency to knit too tight--it ought to work. But it doesn't quite. It's pretty, but loosey goosey.

Emily is desperate for a walk and it's still warm out, so . . . . I'm off to humor her.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


I never got the hang of today. I spent most of the day thinking it was Friday, being corrected on that point, and then promptly forgetting it. I started off by getting the dogs to the groomer and then going to the library.

But for reasons noone can explain, our public library is always closed on Thursday mornings. I was so puzzled by the closed signs that I thought, you know, that funding had been pulled or there'd been a bomb scare (I went to public school in Washington DC in the seventies) or something.

No. It's just Thursday.

So I headed for home. The day was insanely beautiful. Sunny and warm and breezy. I called Chris and told him to dress the kids. I'd take them to the park and then try the library again in the afternoon. But I stopped at the post office on the way home where there was a letter from the Outrageous Local Taxes Tax Board asking for $138 MORE. I'd already given them more than the GNP of most countries, so I was . . . unhappy.

I drove straight over to the tax office and asked for an explanation. Well, see, they figured since the state of Pennsylvania had already given me credit for the money I paid the state of CA they didn't have to.

I asked why the heck I have to pay 2.5% income tax on money earned while a resident in a different state through employers not located in Pennsylvania.

You don't have to, she said, you're only supposed to claim the amount you earned while you were actually a resident here.

I pointed out that I had scoured the tax booklet they gave me (one page, front and back) for that information and it pretty clearly stated that they wanted my gross proceeds for the year. Not for the portion of the year I live here. This makes sense since it's how PA does things, too. Asks for it all and then lets you deduct whatever you paid the other state. It's still an outrageous sum of money, but I can understand the crackhead who came up with that idea.

She said, "Okay, well, um, yeah. You only have to claim what you earned while you were here."


I drove home, told the kids to get their shoes on, did some quick refiguring and faxed her the new numbers. It gives me back about $135 which I told them to apply as first quarter estimated taxes for 2006.

Taxes are shortening my life. I can feel my heart growing weaker every time something like this happens.


I took the kids to the park, but they acted like little caged animals who didn't know how to play on playground equipment anymore. After 20 minutes we left. We went to explore a coop I'd heard of, but it's . . . lame. A whole lot of pancake mixes, eggs for $2/dozen, and a lot of home-made marinades. I wanted big bins of flour priced cheaply by the pound and peanut butter and other staples. There were no staples here. I talked with the guy behind the counter. He can special order stuff. But his prices aren't that special.

I bought some chocolate milk for the kids that I'm sure comes from hormone free cows but all I could think was "whole milk? this stuff is loaded with fat!"

Oh well.

From there we went to Houts. It was on the way home and they had everything we needed for a real lunch. Then we went home and had the lunch.

Now it's 2:00 and I was just starting to get myself ready to go back to the libary when Milo came in.

Now, Milo's tummy bug had the upper hand in a horrible way today. Miraculously, we made it through all of the above without an accident--but he had to "go" every 20 to 30 minutes. So at this point he crawled onto my lap for a hug and then stayed for a bit. We rocked in the green chair and I knitted. After five minutes I realized he'd fallen asleep.

I cannot remember the last time Milo slept on me. It occurred to me that this could be the last time he does. He's tall, 45 lbs, 4 and some odd months old. It's been forever since the last time . . . so I knit and rocked and rocked and knit and let the hour slip quietly by without one thought to work. When Chris came by looking to run some errands I sent him off to find the children's immodium. Milo woke up and went off to play with Ben. Max and I watered the plants.

Then Max and I went to get the dogs, took Max to piano, I made dinner, picked up Max from piano, came back home, got my stuff together, and finally made it to the library. I got 90 minutes of work done, then played a game of chess with Max upstairs. He won. We were rushed in our finish as they were turning off the libary lights around us, but it was a fair win.

Came home, worked some more. Time for bed. Big day tomorrow.

I'm so grateful for being able to work in the way I do. I'm not grateful for the huge tax bills, but I'm grateful for the chance to go to the playground on the first day that screams SPRING (oh, you should have seen the college kids. They moved all their ugly couches to the lawns and BBQ'd.) I'm grateful for chess games and for being there for one last nap on Mom.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Can't Complain

This week I've had to do a lot of reading for a comparatively small amount of writing. A lot of the research could be done on the internet, so I had the (very rare) pleasure of being able to knit as I sat here reading along in my comfy green chair, occasionally pausing to hit "PgDn" with a knitting needle.

So I finished one unfinished sweater, made some progress on a sock, did a few rows on another sweater, and just generally enjoyed enjoying my job a bit.


Max had a busy day. He and Chris finished their project and then I took Max to get a hair cut. He begged me for blond highlights and I caved. I can't help it. He looks good with them.

From there he went to speech--I stayed to watch for once and it was soon clear to me that he has completely slain his speech therapist. She thinks he's The Coolest Kid in the World and he knows it. They brought in another speech therapist graduate student so young I was tempted to card her. Inside two minutes she belonged to him, too. They bonded over a conversation about Mario Kart.

I knitted, read a magazine article, and wondered what sort of physical labor I could get Max involved in that might keep him too busy and grimey and maybe stinky for the girls to notice him until he was, oh, 24 or so. I need to get him involved in barn building or mucking out horse stalls or . . . something.

On the upside, he's not stuttering.

Chris and I meet with Max's new fifth grade teachers on Friday morning. He starts school there on Monday. I think that's why he wanted the hair-do.

I discovered today that Ben can sound out -at words only if the a is a proper primary a. He has no clue what vowel that is--the thing that looks a soup spoon. This renders one of our early-reader sets useless. But then--it's published by Scholastic. You'd think they'd know better.

Tomorrow the dogs get hair cuts. I get to spend the day at the library. The kids get to mostly veg. Ben has named his stomach bug "Kermie". Milo's tummy bug made him cry tonight with nearly constant runs. He's hungry, so he eats a lot, then it turns against him. Tomorrow I'll look for kids kaopectate in some kind of palatable form. They're getting dark circles around their eyes. They need a break.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I'm dreadfully difficult to surprise. But it can be done. Exhibit A: The Unexpected Gift.

This is from the book:

I'm thrilled.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Warning: post contains potty talk

In a way I'm grateful that it hit today because it's Sunday and if I only get an hour or two of work done tonight after the kids are in bed, nothing awful will happen. Knowing that the two major illnesses making the rounds were the respiratory/sore throat/cough/cold thing and a stomach bug--I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop this week as everyone crept back towards health.

Last night it dropped. Much to Ben's horror, he could be standing there minding his own business when suddenly his intestines would turn against him.

"I guess I wasn't listening to my body," he said in a sorrowful tone as I was hosing him down with the pet shower for the second time (the water was warm).

"No honey, you have a stomach bug. Your body is busy fighting it and didn't have time to get you the message before the poop came."

:::30 minutes later:::

"The stomach bug came out my butt again, Moooooooom."

This went on for a few hours and then peace. Everyone went to bed. I wrote another piece and then turned off the computer and worked on a sock pattern for Chris who has size 12 feet and I can't find one pattern written for him.

This morning I slept in--things were looking great. Got up, took care of the dogs, tried the sock on Chris (fit, but barely. I tore it out and added 8 more stitches which is only a little over half an inch in the two-stitch cable rib but adds an inch and a half of stretch to it. This is Austermann Step yarn in colorway nachtblau on size 0 needles.) and then Chris ran off to Altoona to go play for the day. A little while later Jill called to see if I could go on a walk with her and while chatting with her, Ben walked over, said, "Mom--" and threw up all over himself.

Soooo . . . . I hung up and ran him upstairs to the toilet but some sleepwalking child had made the toilet look nasty enough for us both to throw up, so I grabbed a plastic bucket and Ben threw up some more in there.

Then, he said he felt fine and trotted off to go watch Max play a video game. I scrubbed every inch of the bathroom. If we're going to throw up today, let's minimize the trauma. I lit a candle and put it on the back of the toilet seat.

About this time it dawns on me that I can't take him to church and that I have nothing except milk and water to drink in the house. Look, we all have things that get us through periods like this. I have an unwavering belief in the power of ginger ale to settle a stomach. So I call Jill back and ask her to come over and watch the kids so I can run to the store. Then I call Kristen and ask her to collect the food storage funds for me today. Then I realize that between dropping off the food storage folder at Kristen's and getting to the grocery store--the trip is going to take too long. So when Jill shows up I appologize and show her my knitting instead (just because she was there--not related to the puking at all). She entertains the dogs while I get everyone else dressed. Jill goes home, I put the kids in the truck.

Here's what I think I'm doing at this point: taking one moderately sick kid and his two healthy brothers to the store to grab ginger ale and some bread (because I'm not baking today and we're out) and some peanut butter and some milk and a lot of apple juice. Sick kid rides in the cart. Healthy kids help me find things and get out as fast as possible before we infect the population of State College.

I drop the folder off at Kristen's house and as I'm getting back in the truck, Max tells me with disgust that Milo is spitting. I tell Milo not to spit but notice that the kid looks, well, pale. There's no color at all in his lips. We drive over to Wegman's and Milo is complaining softly the whole way. I'm not really listening because at my house I really only accept complaints clearly and briefly stated. I'm going over my grocery in list in my head. Milo's complaining gets louder, but I still wasn't paying attention. Max says with anger and disgust (at Milo), "He needs to change his shirt because he spit on it."

Now, I know Milo is My Child Who Sometimes Spits. But it's not very productive spitting. Just enough to get a firm correction from the rest of us. So I'm thinking, as I pull into the far end of the Wegman's parking lot and aiming for the front area close to the carts, "That's odd, why would Milo want to change his shirt?" and then it occurs to me why just at the same moment that Milo begins to throw up everywhere. Max yells, "He's spitting again!" and I yell back, "That's not spit! That's throw up! Be nice!" So I grab the next parking space and run around to Milo's side of the truck and the poor kid is covered in vomit. I pull him out all the while trying to figure out WHAT to do. In my own little OCD state, I can't go home without gingerale. (I'll pay for the kids' therapy, I promise.) I look in the back of the truck and find a clean jacket, so I pull off Milo's jacket and his dirty shirt and zip him up in the clean jacket. His pants are dirty, but I have no clean pants. If I go to Target and get clean pants first--we'll all die. I don't know why, it's just what I think at the time. So I dry off the pants as best as I can and get us inside. I send Max over to the plastic wrap area to get us some food storage containers to use as puke buckets. I put each child in a cart and then Ben throws up in my hands.

I deserve this.

Once we're clean again, we do the fastest ten-minute shopping trip possible with two sick kids and a nine-year-old who is now in a foul mood (I don't know why . . . . could it be because his crazy mom is being a nimrod?) We buy out their stock of Wegmans gingerale and apple juice concentrate and bread and reduced-fat peanut butter (on sale for 99 cents--got four of them) and milk and some bagels and a few other items. Oh, popsicles. That seemed only fair.

Then we went home.

Max, Milo, and I each had a bagel (Milo's was plain, nothing on it) and now Max is playing his nintendo and Ben and Milo are both asleep and me? I'm eating sushi as I type this. Oh, yeah. Hubris. God's gonna get me.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I had a nice long post last night and then like a dingbat I closed the window without saving. So it's gone.

Here's the Cliff Notes:

1. Lots and lots of work now. This is good though as it eventually means more money.
2. Got paid yesterday. Max and I went to Lowe's and spent our entire garden budget. We bought a second blueberry bush (apparently blue berry bushes need a friend from a different variety to bear fruit well), 10 strawberry plants (hopefully they won't die before they're transplanted), three pots to make into a strawberry planter (oh we feel so clever--the strawberry pots they had were among the ugliest we'd ever seen, were small, and were twice as much as the materials to make our own), lumber to make our 4' by 8' raised garden beds, and a new pair of gardening gloves for me. [Still need: a wheelbarrow (this will have to be an estate sale find. I want a good one and I'm not paying $75 for it.), gravel, peat moss and soil, more large pots for the fruit bushes and some of the tomatoes. There are at least 5 weeks till we pass our hard frost date though. The berry bushes seem to be snoozing happily in the cool food storage room.]

Knitting-related post later.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shearing Day

Ah, spring. 34 degrees and a light snow this morning. I got a Dolores Mug in the mail when Jill and I took our two youngest on a walk--her ADHD puppy and my ADHD dog who I think turned two years old last week. Both girl doggies. They were thrilled as peaches to be out and about and Jill and I had a good catch-up chat.

I was running about doing things for one of my clients this afternoon and decided to take Emily along for the ride. (The lady in the copy shop saw us pull up through the window and she looked worried--not that I intended to bring her in--but what can a standard poodle do in a copy shop? Chew on a ream of paper?) Enclosed with her slightly damp self in White-Bread Fred the toyota pickup, I realized that the girl was LONG past due for a bath. She stank.

The idea of bathing her myself terrifies me. First, she has a pelt, not fur, second, it's particularly long right now, and third, nothing in my house is really equipped to bathe her properly. But I knew Thor badly needed a bath, too--so I went to Petco and bought some detangling spray and a thing that attaches to the showerhead.

I went home, made everyone dinner, brushed out both dogs to the best of my ability, and then informed everyone that it was shearing day. It took six towels, an hour, half a gallon of dog shampoo and entire water heater tank of water to wash both dogs, but they were washed. I cranked up the thermostat downstairs so the pellet stove would stay on long enough to help the dogs dry and then called on my fellow-boy-rustler to start bringing me the wee lambs. We shaved enough hair off Ben and Milo to knit another sweater--Max gets a "get out of shearing free" card because he has SO much hair that it jams the clippers (that's not hyperbole. That's the sound of $115 clippers jamming.) and because he likes his hair longer in an actual style of some sort.

I have a degree in elementary education and a minor in theatre. I can't do a style. I can shave you with no guard thingy, I can shave you with a one or a two or a three--but I can't do a style. So Max will get a paid-for hair cut tomorrow.

When the twins were nearly bald and in clean pjs I tucked them in bed and sheared Chris who is always the baldest of them all--in part because things don't grow quite as densly as they used to and also because I like it that way and don't use the guard thingy on his head. One of these days he'll be sleepy and not really paying attention and when I'm done shearing I'll whip out the shaving cream and razor and THEN he'll know bald.

ha ha ha!!!

Whoa. Moment on the dark side. Where was I? Oh yeah. So anyway, now I feel like I rustled cattle or sheep or something all day and all I want to do is go to bed but I really, really, really should clean up upstairs. If nothing else I have like ten towels to put in the washer.

Anyway, the dogs get real haircuts next week and at least now I don't have to worry they'll report me to PETA or something when I bring them in.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What Milo Read Today


all by himself, albeit with me coaching the sounding out a bit on the last word since he wanted to make /p/ be /pah/ and /hop-pah/ wasn't a word he recognized.

Mat is the hardest word on that list, btw. In this house, it only shows up in controlled-phonics books. It's much harder to decode/read a word you don't commonly use or hear. Well, duh. Okay, I'll shut up. But jeez louise it's cool to see the little face light up as he breaks the code.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Boss

I had a Really Busy Day today which DID involve some work but mostly involved accidentally sleeping in, then doing a few hours of work, then doing make-up piano lessons and a needed grocery trip and then dinner and then pajamas all around and then a walk over to Jill's to borrow something and . . . .

Anyway, at one point I was feeling guilty about all the progress I wasn't making on one of my work projects when I turned around with this odd feeling that I was being watched.

Sorry, this has to be the least attractive corner of the whole house, but another picture because for a small angry black poodle desperately in need of a bath and hair cut, he's cute.

Things I Have Learned About Knitting from the Internet

1. You can have more than one project going at a time. No seriously, I had no clue that was legal, and a nice A student like myself--it just seemed somehow illicit to pick up another project when you already had one going.
2. There are better ways to weave in ends than the manic, drunken manner in which I had always woven in my ends. I was weaving in the ends on the first twin sweater when I thought about a comment in Stephanie's first book where she talks about compulsively examining the insides of sweaters to see how well they were assembled. It dawned on me that maybe there was something that someone would have taught me about weaving in ends if I had maybe been at a yarn store or anywhere other than in my own bed at midnight the first time I read the words, "weave in ends." So I googled that. And sure enough . . . I picked up the yarn needle and wove in the rest of the ends in the sweater in the manner of the photograph and ::poof:: the ends were gone.
3. You're supposed to photograph your finished knitting. It's like show and tell when you were in kindergarten, only with a hitcounter. I admit I'm always a little blue if I post a picture now and someone doesn't tell me how cute it is. Lie if you have to, I'll believe you. I love the attention.
4. You're supposed to photograph your finished knitting in a natural environment. I learned this first from Stephanie's site. Here's a good example. I kept photographing my stuff on a blanket under bad lighting until the past month. This is partly because I can't get grass to grow under the 100+ yr-old-oaks in my backyard and partly because it's really cold outside and the light sucked anyway.
5. You're supposed to finish your knitting before the kid outgrows it. Ha! I'm so stinkin' proud of myself for figuring this one out. I haven't finished the "good" stuff for Oliver yet, but I did finish a sweater for him and he's not even BORN yet!! And having Ben fall head-over-heels in love with the sweater I made for him has done magnificent things for my knitting. Every lonely little ball of yarn left in my stash is quivering happily thinking it might be next.
6. I'm not the only one who wonders how much crack the knitting magazines smoke before they assemble some of this stuff. I got mynew Vogue knitting today. I do like the skirt on the cover. And I think maybe two other designs. Problem is that none of the other designs pass my decency meter (which really is very liberal for a Mormon, 'k?)--but really. If I wanted to be nearly naked I wouldn't knit myself ANYTHING AT ALL!
7. Never underestimate the value of a good white table. I am so envious of the quality of this woman's digital camera and the table on which she photographs everything. That and her eye for composition. Scroll all the way down and look at it all. I hope she was in New York last week working out the details of a book publishing contract. I want the coffee table book.
8. Many, many knitters are pee-your-pants funny. Yarn Harlot, Panopticon . . . there are too many to list.
9. The rest are off-the-beaten-path in someway. Either that or there is something about a knitter that helps you remember that most people are basically wonderful. Maybe in knitting some key human character traits are developed. Generosity--from all that giving away. Perseverence--from all that stockinette. An appreciation for beauty--mostly in the form of lusting over something someone else made (She made this up by herself! And so did she!) Problem Solving--from figuring out that there HAS to be a typo in that pattern.
10. I have a long way to go in becoming who I want to be, but if I want to be a knitting fiend, AND a gardner, AND a great mom, AND a loving wife, AND a poodle lover, AND a food storage freak, AND a democrat-voting liberal Mormon--well, I guess I really AM already all those things, but my point is--I will never ever run out of people who could help me figure out how to do it that better. So keep taking pictures people. I love, love, love your show-and-tell--and if you include a .pdf with directions and more pictures, my everlasting gratitude is yours.


"That is not a good place for a zebra. Daddy might trip over him and say a bad word!"

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sick Science

Max is at that stage of illness where he's still running a fever and moaning and complaining about his sore throat when the advil wears off--but while the advil is working he feels fine, albeit sick of being sick and bored with being bored.

So I told him to take a shower, get dressed, and get the bag of dirt out of the back of the truck. I'd made the "containers" on Saturday and Sunday so all we had to do today was fill them with dirt, stick seeds in them, and label them. Since we're both sick, neither of us has any short-term memory to speak of, so we definitely made the labels as we went. Even so Max thinks I planted a leek on his onion (he's more likely to be right than wrong there).

Anyway, I think I want three more tomato plants and I have some herb seeds to start, but that's most of them. I'm borrowing some cookie sheets and a heating mat from Jill this afternoon and then we'll move them all in to sit under the light box. I need to move some furniture around a bit and I'm loathe to give up my favorite sunny spot for the plants but . . . whatcha gonna do?

Spencer's New Sweater

Perfect for next fall, photographed in its natural habitat.

As you can see--knit up, it looks like I was smoking crack when I described it as ugly brown. But in skein form, it does hide its light under a bushel and look mostly just brown.

It's not (reflecting light from late winter sun--photo above most true to color):

Better picture of the neck:

Thursday, March 16, 2006


No sooner do we start to recover--we don't even get to "one good day" anymore--than a new string of symptoms take over. Max is sporting a high fever, chills, and a big grouch. Milo put himself down for a nap and is looking very pink cheeked himself. I'm popping dayquils desperately because as soon as they wear off I'm skewered by pain in my cheek below my eye, in my right ear, and through my right jaw.

I just flippin' give up, okay?

The day wasn't without its upsides. I had finished Spencer's sweater last night but the neck opening looked a bit on the small side. It was 1:00 am (I couldn't sleep because of the eye/ear/jaw pain thing--I didn't have dayquil last night) so I put it down, took whatever I could find in my cabinet that promised pain relief, and then went to bed. So this morning I frogged it back to the point where I'd started to knit straight and did three more rows of decreases and changed the way I finished the rest of the neck. I picked up stitches along the sides of the V and gave the sweater a ribbed V-neck opening. It came out smashingly. It's drying right now. I had a little bit of yarn left over, so I tried to make a matching hat, but it wasn't enough yarn. Would a boy wear a yarmulka (sp?) knit in chunky handspun?

Pictures tomorrow after the sweater is dry, and only if there's real sun.

Update: Ben put himself to bed 15 minutes ago (6:45 pm).

Update: I just stared off into space for 40 minutes.

Oh my Heavens

Spencer the Adorable conquers us all.
One freakin' proud and grateful husband and smitten dad.
One brand new grandma. Another dream came true for her today.

Aren't babies AMAZING?!?!?

(I didn't post the Mom's picture because she's still in her gown in the picture. Love!)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Speech Preschool, and the baby Bears

So, today we all went back to speech preschool and watched some more. By now the director totally knows something is up, so she positions herself by the glass and lectures the grad students sitting along the back wall of the observation room about what's happening every now and then, using this to say things like "Austin** is having an especially difficult week. He seems to be having a hard time readjusting after Spring Break." Or, "we're really working with the clock, trying to keep Austin on task for at least six minutes before going on a walk. We were having some success with this before the break . . . ."

Chris had asked me if he thought that Milo's recent, and new, interest in hitting people was related to his exposure to Austin. I said that I would be really reluctant to pin it on Austin as it's a somewhat age-appropriate behavior--even if we happen to have zero tolerance for it. (Is it twisted though that I now look back on the occasionally vicious fights I had with my brother with some fondness?) Watching them though--it's true that some of the boy's behavior was picked up by others in the room.

Interestingly, I became more concerned, this second morning of watching the preschool all the way through, about the teachers' willingness to let the kids control the schedule. It's one thing to be responsive to the needs of the kids. You can even ask, "Hey, what do you want to do next?" but if you say, "okay now we're going to do crafts" and instead the two sets of twins lay on the ground and do a nap-in, don't respond, "okay, we'll take a one minute nap first, but then you have to get up."

So we watched and took mental notes and then Max went to his speech therapy and Chris went home to get some work done and all the observing students signed their observation forms leaving Director and I alone in the room. I said, "since it's just you and I . . .

and I talked. I talked about how hard it is to be a new teacher--especially when you KNOW you're constantly being observed. But how important it is that the girls learn to be firm, too. That it is possible to know that the kids need to run or jump after the quiet activities--so that should be planned ahead of time and the kids should be directed in it. Noticing that all five of them have started running in large circles as soon as the puzzles are away and then saying, "Okay, we'll run for one minute and then . . ." won't cut it. They can't hear you now--they're running. You're still going to have to stop them by catching them again. I talked about the importance of safety and the patterns I'd noticed in Austin's behavior. I sympathised that he was obviously a kid with some unusual needs, but the more I watched the more I felt that he could be managed if there were better systems in place for it.

Director nodded and talked and took notes. Then Director's Director who in 8 months of working with these people I've never met (or known existed) came in (Coincidence, you think? I don't.) and we kept talking.

Sometimes when you're dealing with educators and administrators and Institutions, you talk, they defend, noone is happy, nothing is solved. This was our experience over and over with Max in K and 1st grade. Sometimes when you're dealing with educators and administrators and Instutions you talk, they take notes, and they agree that these requests are reasonable. They meet tomorrow morning to go over my comments and review the progress of the kids for thus far this semester. I am hopeful that the second half of this semester will be more productive.

But something else came out of these discussions and my watching my sons for another morning--the realization that they've grown. Although technically they won't age out of the program until they can go to kindergarten--they are aging out. Austin is a young three. The other set of twins are nine months younger than my boys. My boys have a level of maturity that Austin can't hope to touch for another year and a half. Their favorite times of preschool are all of it. The freeplay with the teachers, the circle time, the finger songs, the book reading, the discussion of the letter of the day, the art activity, the snack time, the running in circles.

I went home and discussed everything we'd seen with Chris and we agreed that probably the twins would not go back to speech preschool in the fall. We don't know what will happen in the fall, but they are ready for the "next level" and so we're taking the steps to leave some options open for what that could look like. We also agreed that instead we'd scrape together the money to have the speech program go back to individual articulation therapy with the boys. They can still benefit from that (although who knows what progress Ben might make without blue painter's tape in his ear--I forgot to mention that to Director. The more I think about it, the funnier it gets).

Congratulations to my cousin Ryan and his dear wife, Wendy. Wendy is a Type 1 diabetic who successfully carried a healthy baby boy to term and maintained unbelievable control over her own health through the entire pregnancy. She must be a living pin cushion by now, but she delivered a 7 lb, 1 oz baby boy at 1:02 am this morning--Spencer. And all she gets from me is a sweater. Speaking of which, I'm off to finish its neck. Wendy is Jewish, and I gather there is some tradition there of waiting until the baby is born to knit things. (We tend towards following that rule in general anyway--it keeps you from knitting something the wrong color--although I'm not the only one who has jumped the gun in regards to baby Oliver.)

I think it's kismet then, that as I've been busily cleaning out my stash of yarn these last few weeks, that I took some ugly brown yarn I'd try to resell twice, and thought, "you know, it's not THAT ugly. Maybe it just needs to be knit up to show itself well." After all, I don't usually buy brown anything, but there was something about this yarn when I originally saw it at the site of the woman who spun and dyed it, that called to me. It must have called loudly because it wasn't on sale to say the least. With only about 200 yds of it, I wasn't sure what I could make with it, so I went with a very small raglan sweater, no pattern, but based loosely on the kinds of sweaters I've been knitting recently. I'm trying that V-neck with it. If that doesn't work, I'll frog the neck and do a placket with buttons like the others. The yarn is incredibly bulky so it has knit up very quickly this week--and sure enough--it's really something else now that it's knit up. I'll be sure to photograph it in good light so you can get a feeling for its non-ugliness.

Anyway, initially I thought it might go to Dy's Smidge, but it's knitting up at about a 9-month size, so I think it's now going to Michigan for baby Spencer to wear next fall/winter. Anyway--off to do that now. Knit.

**name changed to something really common for this age group. he's just a kid.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Very Quick Update

This needs to be quick as my battery life is nill and I'm not going back to my desk tonight. Today Max and I went to visit the charter school. It was nicer than I expected although by Max's very intention of attending the fifth grade teacher was suddenly 3.5 months pregnant and made the announcement today. It is his peculiar karma to cause turnover in any classroom he enters. Heaven forbid he should have a seasoned teacher who has last year's lesson plans to lean on if she's feeling a little under-the-weather. The only reason this didn't cause me to chuck the whole plan was because I sooooooo had nothing to lose so I flat-out asked the teacher if she knew if anyone else already had their eye on the position. Yes, as a matter-of-fact, the third grade teacher did.

I felt a lot better. Chances are the third grade teacher wanted it LAST year, took the third-grade position when it was offered to her, spent the whole year thinking, "these kids are cute, but what I wouldn't kill for at least the beginnings of some abstract thinking skills" and was the first to heartily congratulate the fifth-grade teacher on her good news. This is how these things work when you want to work at a charter school and there's only one lead teacher per grade. Or per two-grades in this case. (Fifth grade teacher this year has both 4th and 5th.)

I don't care what they might teach my kids in science and history, since the books have anything remotely controversial scrubbed out of the text (remember, I work for these people), I'm not worried he might accidentally learn anything I might care about. That said, maybe he will learn something--they claim to be literature based. We'll see. At any rate, it freed me up to pester them about math and writing and spelling and their Chinese and Spanish-language programs. We were entertained by the Chinese lessons. Max less so than I. He was really bummed to learn that he couldn't just request French if he wanted. I told him if he was still interested in French I'd be happy to get him the French curriculum for him to do at his own pace at home just like we'd planned to do. He perked up. I reminded him that his father knows little beyond, "Where is the celery?" (Chris HEARTILY corrects me here. Apparently he is still somewhat fluent in French and I never knew. He only speaks to me of celery when speaking French.) and I know nothing beyond "Frere Jacque". If he's been willing to teach himself before, there was no reason he couldn't do it on the sly anyway. Learning at home won't stop being learning at home. It just won't be learning at home all the time.

I'd like to discuss all the emotions around this, but I just can't. I'm following a hunch here, that's all. I can tell you this, just to save anyone who might be tempted to say the wrong thing here--he'd still get a better education from me. There is still noone on the planet who knows him better than I and is more determined that he get the education he craves and deserves. I will still gladly lose sleep to mix work and homeschooling. I'm writing it here because it's happening and it looks like the right decision right now. But I might change my mind without apology before September. I might pull him out again in November. (And for reasons that have everything to do with charter school enrollment, lotteries, and the popularity of this school and in spite of my desire to wait until next September, he may end up attending for the last two months of this year. I go back Thursday for more discussion.) Regardless of what I do it won't be without, likely, thinking it to death. I only get one shot at mothering this kid and this is really hard. The last time I let the schools have my kid they REALLY SCREWED IT UP and it caused a LOT of pain for my kid and my family. I think it might work this time, at this one school, for this one year, but I might be wrong and I won't do what I did last time--say he has to stick out the year so he doesn't learn that misbehaving will get him out of something he doesn't like--and then regret it ever since I finally got the whole story when the teacher was fired the following year.

Oops, let some emotions out there. Where was I? Oh yeah, Max had a great time, is only worried about whether he'll make any friends (I'm sooo not worried--they thought he was great--they were all calling his name when he left. Bye, Max!!!) I gave him the right of veto. He wants to go. I'm going to let him for as long as that seems a good idea.

Let's not comment too much about this one yet. I'm kinda raw about it. Thank goodness for Chris to discuss this all to death with. He has said, repeatedly, all the right things, and often wise words.

I finished Baby Oliver's first sweater. Adorable. Milo and I are breathing better--I did double dose him today, but I could have trippled dosed him had I not read the directions more carefully the second time. Apparently that dose is a ONCE a day dose for three days. Not three times a day for three days . . . riiiiight. Caught that. phew. He seems to have survived just fine.

Monday, March 13, 2006

In Which Ben Gives the Doctor an Easter Egg

First, the educational portion of our blog post today--from Wikipedia . . .

Easter Egg (virtual):
A virtual Easter egg is a hidden message or feature in an object such as a movie, book, CD, DVD, or computer program. The term draws a parallel with the custom of the Easter egg hunt observed in many western nations. The term may falsely be believed to originate in the movie Return of the Living Dead, where a military officer uses it as a code word for lost U.S. government containers of zombies created by a chemical spill, or from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which actual Easter eggs are visible in certain shots (under Frank N. Furter's throne, for example). Return of the Living Dead was not released until 1985, and Atari's Adventure, released in 1980, contained what is thought to be the first video game easter egg (the programmer, Warren Robinett's name).

In computer programming, the underlying motivation is probably to put an individual, almost artistic touch on an intellectual product which is by its nature standardised and functional, although Warren Robinett's motivation was more likely to gain recognition, since video game programmers were routinely uncredited then. It is analogous to signature motifs such as Diego Rivera including himself in his murals or Alfred Hitchcock including himself in the opening scenes of his movies (the latter known as a cameo). For example, Most DVD releases of George Lucas' films include blooper reels or hidden videos that can only be accessed by entering "1138" on the DVD remote when the "THX" logo has been highlighted. This is an in-joke referring to his first film, THX 1138.

We started the day by taking the kids to preschool. None of us could breathe, but otherwise we felt fine, so we went. It was my goal to watch the whole morning since rumor had it that one of the new kids to the preschool was creating, um, disorder, and the preschool wasn't handling it as well as might be hoped. After fifteen minutes I was staring in astonishment as this kid was really something else. I've met his Mom--I don't get the feeling that this is a discipline issue. This is a wired-a-little-different issue or a not-yet-ready-for-peer-groups issue. It was an hour before the kid calmed down enough to stop launching himself at the other kids or their projects.

For the next 90 minutes he was slightly better. Although he still couldn't participate with the rest of the class for more than five mintues at a time--at least he'd stopped assaulting the other kids.

Unable to breathe and feeling sleep deprived, I really didn't care what the school decided to do. It was clear to me that the school wasn't providing the environment I liked anymore and I sat there sort of slowly turning over the alternate options in my mind. Regular playdates with other kids, a different preschool, what? I wasn't upset, just not in the mood to "work this out." Y'all go work it out. We put in lots and lots of "work it out" hours with Max and I never got one minute of satisfaction from it. I got excuse after excuse after excuse. So sue me if I just don't care to hear the excuse this time around.

Chris can breathe and seems to think we ought to give them a chance to turn things around. Fine. Party pooper. However, he agrees that we really don't play the "let's help you be a better school" game anymore. There needs to be rapid response and improvement. It's not about the kid--let me be clear there. There are only three solutions here. 1) Remove the kids he's attacking. 2) Decide he's not ready for preschool and remove him. 3) Modify the way you're interacting with the child when there is physical contact involved. I'm not really complaining about the first time he launches himself at another kid. 4-yr-olds are unpredictable people and he did demonstrate that it's possible for him to go 90-minutes without launching himself at another kid. What upset me was that he was given the opportunity to do it again, and again, and again with the only consequence being a somewhat rewarding walk down the hall at random intervals.

Chris was saying, "Well, if we move them, there will just be another kid like this at the new place" and my thought was that once again, I'm reminded that things were BETTER for my son when I brought him back home when he was very young. I am simply not sold on the idea that it's important for preschool-aged kids to be in hours-long peer groups.

I'm going to be totally upfront here--we're seriously considering enrolling Max in a charter school next year. One of the reasons I'm okay with considering this is that we're going into it with the assumption that we're taking this one year at a time. Charter school for fifth could still be followed by a complete return to homeschooling in 6th. Another is that he's doing so well in everything except writing that he can afford to "lose" a year if the academic side ends up being pathetic. In writing he's at grade level but would probably benefit from the competition of classmates. Finally--I'm really happy with the PERSON Max has become. Homeschool research supports me with statistics showing that children who do not enter public school until third grade are, as a group, far more resistent to peer pressure. They are also, even in cases where an academic deficiency exists, very likely to ultimately succeed well in institutionalized school. They get what that book is for. Plus, so far, I like this charter school. Small classes, excited teachers, new desks. (Hey, I was a public school teacher--new desks is nothing to sneer at! Ooh! And pretty new whiteboards! And carpeting--which is too bad as carpeting in a classroom is just a glitter debacle waiting to happen.)

Ben and Milo are often complimented on their ability to get along with other kids. They are happy people who enjoy the company of other kids their age. They won't miss out on anything if I remove them from the company of a bully as long as I take steps to provide them with the supervised company of non-bullies. I really don't think I owe anyone at this school a chance to "get it right." I've seen this kid chuck large plastic objects at (and hit) the head of his classmates twice--AFTER having launched himself at the same kid just moments before. No, it's not my responsibility to tell the preschool they need to fix things or we'll leave.

We may still give them that chance, but I want to make it clear that we don't owe the school anything. They charge us a fee and we pay it. (It's a really reasonable fee, but hey . . .) I signed them up for speech therapy, not "how to live through a physical assualt" therapy.

:::hair flip:::

But they do get a second chance, so this is still To be continued . . .

Right, so we left there and drove home and I made appointments for Milo and I to go see the doctor about the whole lack of oxygen issue. I decided to bring Ben, too--as he's not as sick as us, but I wanted the visual evidence when I explained how it was that I was running through Milo's albuterol at twice the rate I should.

I did some work, then the twins and I headed over to the medical center. We didn't have to wait long. We all got weighed, except Ben because he wasn't on the schedule. We got into the waiting room and filled the nurse in on the situation. She went out and spoke to the doctor and got Ben added to the schedule. We'd already been squeezed in, so my apologies to the people who had to wait unusually long there this afternoon because of us.

At this point the doctor came in and began debriefing us on the situation. He looked in Milo's ears and made him say Ah, and listened to Milo's musical breathing. Milo won a refill of his albuterol prescription and a bottle of prednisone. I got my ears looked at and I said Ah and I wheezed for the doctor and I got more albuterol, prednisone, and some coditussin. The nurse came back in and said she needed to weigh Ben now that he was on the schedule. I said she could of course, or I could save her the trouble and tell her that Ben is 1/2 lb greater than Milo and a 1/4 inch taller. She looked like she wanted to write that down so I added that I really had no idea (and she needed the real number if they were going to go writing doses) since I'm not in the habit of weighing them, but that is their usual difference. She trotted Ben down the hall and I heard her announce a moment later that Ben was 43.5 lbs--1/2 lb heavier than Milo to the ounce. Milo high-fived me (at my request).

So now it was Ben's turn. Doctor looked in Ben's ears, paused, looked in his ears again, asked if Ben had anything . . . in . . . his ears. Like, maybe tubes or something? I said, that the kid tended to have a lot of ear wax but there shouldn't be anything manmade in there. Doctor looked again and looked puzzled. He shrugged and moved on. After confirming that Ben needed some drugs, too, he said his eyes were getting old and he would just be right back . . .

He returned with the young pretty doctor with the bright red hair and she looked in Ben's ear. "Toothpaste!" toothpaste? "Nothing else could be that shade of blue!" How . . . we didn't know. Ben started to offer a story about the toothpaste and the doctors were listening intently. Recognizing the look on Ben's face I shook my head. "That's his Lend me your ear and I'll tell you a tale face," I said. The doctors looked bummed. It was a good story. Personally, I think the aliens should have tipped them off, but maybe they thought he meant unnationalized citizens.

By now the waiting room was probably forcing people to sit on each other's laps, so the doctors went away and the nurse came back and she and I proceeded to spend 40 minutes trying to flush this thing out of Ben's ears. It wasn't toothpaste. It was blue paper. Maybe a sticker. I thought it looked suspiciously like blue painter's tape--it had that textured look. It came out in teeny tiny pieces, occasionally bringing with it a large gob of earwax that had become stuck to the paper. We have to go back in a week as his ear got to the point where it was very irritated, but we think the adhesive "backing" is still in there. Something is still in there--although a LOT came out of there and at least there's a clear path to the ear drum. "He can hear clearly now, the blue is gone . . ."

Anyway, we left there with a wad of scripts in hand and went to the grocery store where we picked up frozen convenience items layered in fat for dinner and basically killed time drinking chocolate milk and chatting up complete strangers. Eventually the prescriptions were ready and we went home. Food was cooked, medicine consumed--I feel a little less violent (boy I get testy when my saturation levels are low) although it would be stretching it to say that I'm 100% again.

Tomorrow Max and I have a full day together and then I have some catching up to do with work.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


So Friday the Aran sweater pattern I'd ordered arrived and I was dismayed to see that it wasn't far from Finnish in terms of readability. It required no fewer than three separate swatches. Okay, no problem--well, it was a problem. The three separate patterns it wanted me to swatch weren't labeled in the pattern except as an after thought, "that completes the trellis pattern." I read through the pattern and found the style verbose and way too complicated what with trying to shove in a dozen numbers in parenthesis after each initial number. The pattern was written for sizes 6 to grown male.

So I sat down at my computer and I read through the pattern and rewrote it in American-style knitting-ese with the only numbers I needed. I printed out the directions, cut them into little pieces, glued them to index cards, and hole punched the cards. 18 cards to a finished Aran.

THEN I tried to make gauge. So of course, having put all this time into it, I couldn't. At all. I hadn't a prayer. I did some more homework after the third swatch and discovered that the pattern had been written for a (now discontinued) worsted weight yarn that is meant to be knitted on size US 8 needles and my cotton wants to be knitted on US 5s.


At this point (last night) it was very, very late and I went to bed. Fruitless, as soon as I got to bed the minions started coughing their heads off. I gave them each a breathing treatment and fell into bed at 1:40 am. At 4:00 am Milo and Ben both started coughing their heads off again. I gave them each a breathing treatment and went back to bed. But it didn't take for Milo. He wasn't any better than before the treatment and nothing seemed to help. Propping him up on pillows didn't help, getting him some juice didn't help, letting him go into the living room and read (sitting entirely upright for awhile) didn't help. I felt like I should take him to the emergency room but Chris was in a coma (he doesn't wake up at night. If the house ever catches fire, your guess is as good as mine whether he makes it out or not.) so there was noone to discuss it with. I felt beyond exhausted myself and couldn't summon whatever it would have taken to get Milo and I dressed and out the door. I kept. just. praying. I wanted so desperately for him to drift happily off to sleep so I could do the same. I really wasn't entirely awake myself.

Finally I went into the bathroom, took the roll of toilet paper from the holder, and used it as a spacer for the inhaler that Milo can't otherwise use. It was crude, it took five puffs for me to be sure any at all was getting in his airway--but ten minutes later we were both asleep. Oh thank you, God. Even so, I was in a foul mood most of the day. I just feel like crud on a stick.

But today was the first day of the temple class and since I'd been invited to participate for the first time in however long I've been a member, I was going to go--plus I needed to pass the food storage folders around. We missed Sacrament meeting because I was slow this morning and Max's pants weren't dry, but we got there in time for Sunday school and primary. I'm glad we went.

When I got home I was working again on the laundry and I picked up this green sweater Max has. My grandmother knit this stockinette sweater vest for him a year ago. It's a nice green color and it fit Max well. Not too fussy--nice enough to appeal to Max. He liked it. But my grandmother was 93 when she knit it (she just had a birthday) and her eyesight was not what it used to be. Max had only worn it a short while (he wore it every Sunday to church for five or six Sundays) when one of the woven-in ends un-wove while I was washing it. Poof--it opened into a quarter sized hole. I couldn't figure out how to fix it. The end was so short that it may be that she got confused and trimmed the end before weaving it in at all--that she had knit it through a stitch or two and then meant to weave in the rest later. I really don't know. I just know I couldn't fix it.

I didn't want to throw the sweater away. It was still practically brand new. Because of her eyesight and other reasons, it's likely the last sweater she knits for him--for any of us. (Don't worry about her though, she infomed Charlotte on her birthday that she's pretty sure she's got another year left in her and will make it to 95. Charlotte offered to alert the media.) I kept the sweater on the washer in case the solution came to me. It's been sitting there for months.

So there I was this afternoon looking again at the sweater, noticing what was perfect about it (the tension) and imperfect (I have no idea how she meant to join the shoulder seams, but it sure is an interesting effect) and just sort of reflecting on how much I treasured this sweater that seemed like a "first sweater" instead of a "final sweater" when it came to me--what to do with the blue cotton yarn she'd bought for me half-a-dozen years ago at that yarn shop in rural Ohio.

I grabbed a pair of US size 4 straights and unravelled the last failed swatch and started over on a simple stockinette swatch. I got a gauge of 6 stitches to the inch. I measured Ben and decided to make it five inches bigger than he is around so that it can be grown into. I multiplied 30" by 6 stitches and cast on 180 stitches to a circular needle. I'm nearly done with the k2, p2 ribbing. I'll begin the stockinette before I go to bed tonight. I'm pretty sure I have enough yarn for three matching blue cotton sweater vests, perfect for wearing to church over plain white Sunday shirts. She can't knit them matching sweaters anymore, but I can. She can't fix that hole in the sweater (and frankly, neither can I) but I can use the yarn she bought me to knit the yarn for her.

I'm not sure how to do the v-neck. I don't usually choose that style neckline, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I can see how she did the armholes, picking up stitches around the arm holes and doing a few rounds of ribbing. I can do that.

Initially I had tossed out the idea of another stockinette sweater. I'd just finished THREE and wanted something more interesting--hence the Aran idea. But when I did the stockinette swatch, I didn't have to count stitches to see that the variations in the yarn show up in that simple stitch far better than they did in that fancy texture I was trying to make gauge with. It's a beautful, beautiful yarn. The simple stitch shows it off best.

Maybe there will even be enough left over to make Baby Oliver one, too.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

twit twit twitter

Today we got a sneak preview of spring. Not great timing since it meant that it was just simply physically IMPOSSIBLE for me to stay at my desk working all day. It was sunny, it was 59 going on 69 and the house felt stale to me. I didn't take ALL the plastic off the windows. Just one in each room. And in the basement I was staring at the weird little half windows we have and sulking because they don't open when I noticed these rusted little levers along the bottom. I gave a tug and another tug and POP -- the windows came out on little sliding thingies. It's not pretty, they look dorky when they're open, but there is a breeze running through my breezeless basement.

In a way I'm grateful to the ferocious ick which returned in my own chest yesterday and has me sucking unhappily on the stupid inhaler every two hours, and sometimes more. I pooped out on yard work after only 40 minutes. This is GOOD as otherwise I might have been tempted to try to dig out the lawn for the garden. This would be bad as I really should get hold of a wheel barrow before I attempt that feat.

I settled instead for raking the side yard, taking down a few storm windows, and working some more on my garden plans. I made a few pots to start some seeds in from newspaper and sketched out a time line for building my raised garden. That pretty much took care of the day. Now, I'm off to work on laundry. The pile of clean and dirty laundry looks menacing, but I have a brown belt and I'm not afraid to use it. (No, literally a brown belt.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Do Over!

Not an incredibly productive day, although I did get that Kinko's letter mailed. It's a quarter to seven and I've written a third of what I needed to get done by the end of the day. Okay, no biggie, we'll just have to push back the end of the day by another, oh, six hours.

Nothing really went wrong although I did keep getting distracted by my own yarn, and the seeds arrived for the garden, and the pattern arrived for the twins' Aran sweaters . . .

After lunch I lay down next to the twins in my big bed and worked on Baby Oliver's sweater while waiting for the twins to fall asleep. Ben did. Milo didn't. I waited and waited and waited . . . nope. Wide awake. But as I waited I noticed that no matter how hard he coughed--two or three times a minute it seemed--he never got the crackling to go away in his lungs. I thought about it some more and sort of vaguely remembered my brother saying that crackling was one of those things you were supposed to take them in for. I would have called him but he's in Paris or something with my sister-in-law enjoying one last exotic vacation before they settle down for a bit.

So I took him in. Milo *loves* going to the doctor. It's so exciting and it's all about him. He charms the pants off of every professional he talks to. So he happily wheezed on cue and earned himself an albuterol breathing treatment which Milo did like a pro. We left with a prescription and after a stop at home to pick up my HSA checkbook, we went to Wegman's to fill the prescription. No luck--they were out of the dosage called for. So I bought some vics thinking maybe that would help and we'll go back in the morning to get the real thing. We bought a bake-it-yourself pizza and went home.

And that is how I had a mildly productive morning and haven't gotten a thing done since 12:30pm. Right. Back to work.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Temper, Temper

March 8, 2006

101 N Atherton St
State College, PA 16801

To Whom It May Concern:

Today I went to your store with a disc of small files I needed to print. There was no one else in the store when I entered and during the half hour that I was there, only two other customers came in. One picked up a job. The other used your Fedex services.

There were two employees on duty. There was little air of urgency in their work. They asked me to wait when I first came in and after a minute of looking at a screen and discussing something together, one of them asked me what I needed. I gave him a disk that had about a dozen files on it and said that they needed to be printed. I clarified that most of the files were only two pages long.

He let me know that he didn't have time for that unless I wanted to come back later to pick them up. He indicated I could print them out myself. His tone was, frankly, condescending. It was clear he found my request irritating. This seemed odd to me, as up to this point my manner was at the very least professional. I accepted that it wasn't something he could do while I was there. It still met my needs to print them out myself while I was using a copy machine.

I took the disc to one of the computers and after I had put the disc in the drive the same employee then said that if I went to one of the other machines it would cost less. He said something about how he "didn't know the machine had been fixed." So I removed the disc from the computer and went to find the other machine he was talking about. From his position behind the counter, he pointed to an area between two copy machines and said it was there. What I saw was a flat-screen monitor that said KINKO's on it. It was attached to a ten-key pad and a credit-card scanner and was on a tiny table. I glanced past it as I was looking for a station like the others I'd just left. I indicated the copy machines and said, "These?" and the employee grew more agitated and said, "I don't know how I could make it more clear! It's right there!" and indicated again the single monitor. I looked more closely and saw the tower under the table--I was still puzzled since there was no keyboard, but it occurred to me that if all I was going to do was print and if I didn't have to sign-in in any way, that perhaps one could do the transaction with only a mouse.

The screen on the card reader had a string of characters that didn't look like the ones on the other card readers, but I put my card in anyway. It made a series of error beeps and ejected the card. I tried again, it did the same.

By this time a few things are clear to me. Your employee is very, very, very busy, doesn't have time to offer any actual customer service, and thinks I'm an idiot.

I was ready to leave the poor man in peace, but I needed copies of a few books which I had intended to do on the self-serve machine while the files were printing, so I began to address that task instead--on my own. After a minute or two the irritated employee's co-worker noticed that nothing was printing and asked if I'd been able to use the machine. I said, "No, it's not working." He insisted that it was and that "we can try again when you're done copying."

I work full time in educational publishing. I have my own fax machine, my own printer, and my own computer. What I don't have is a fast copy machine and the ability to print 11" x 17" files. I'm in the habit of using your services for that. In this case because I have a series of tight deadlines this week, it was my hope that I could have you print the files for me while I was doing the copying so that a) I could save on ink and b) the printing would be done faster. I was willing to pay more for help. In other words, I was willing to pay for the customer service.

Helping your employee verify that the card scanner on the other machine wasn't working was not why I was there. Printing the materials myself after I made the copies was not why I was there. Having made the copies, the files are now printing at home. So, I can do that all by myself.

When I was done making the copies, the co-worker came over again and asked if I wanted help using the other machine. I told him that it wasn't worth it. I left without further conversation.

I'm aware that there can be a long list of jobs to do there. I worked for Kinko's for a year when I was in graduate school and your employees were in preschool. When I worked for Kinko's most people couldn't do their own resumes on computers. I walked hundreds of people through the steps of using Word and WordPerfect. It was probably WordPerfect 3.0! I taught them how to turn on the computer, which end of the floppy disk to put in the computer first, and how to save their work. It didn't pay very well, but the job was fun and the hours were flexible.

Please share with your employees my conviction that they can do better in the future. Please remind them that copy machines, computers, and printers are plentiful here in 2006. When I walk into the store, as much as I may need your 11" x 17" paper, what I'm really paying for at your store is the customer service.

Today, you did not have that product in stock.



Yes, I know it's too long, but jeez my toast is fried over this. Does this officially make me an old lady? "I was using computers when you people were peein' your diapers! Why, when I was young, we couldn't undo more than one step! And if we deleted the text? Sorry, baby! It was gone! You had to retype it!"

Sigh . . . I did cut the final draft back a bit (and run spell check). I haven't mailed it yet.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Things Done

I just found the weird little adapter thing that will read the memory card in my (totally battery dead) digital camera, so lets upload a few photos. First, Ben and Milo modeling their Olympic sweaters in 2nd Time Cotton, "Nantucket."

Next the "LPT":



I know, the button placement is off. Short version is that the way the sweater is designed, one button would face IN and one would face OUT. I thought that was weird, but went ahead and followed the pattern. When I had washed the sweater though, a tiny gap had developed in the spot where you see the right button. I decided what the heck--and made it the second button hole. I like it better that way and the new owner won't care (and will find it easier to button).

We went to meet the angel who will be wearing that outfit today. FAR more beautiful than the sweater. My gosh, what a precious baby doll. And her big brother looked like he'd grown three inches overnight. He was so proud.

Sing it with me!

"She wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny
cabled woolen sweater thingy
that she got from the lady next door . . ."

Monday, March 06, 2006


Rodents 0
Poodles 6

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Happy Sunday to Me

I'm nearly done with the knee-high socks that go with the LPT and hope to wash them tonight before bed to see what they do. I have the same yarn in a different color for Baby Oliver and I think I'm going to use the skein I have to try a large swatch that would basically redesign the entire front of the sweater in a gauge half that mentioned in the original pattern.

Ben has been asking for aNOTHer sweater every few hours for the last two days. I've tried to explain that I ordered a pattern . . . but he has no clue what I'm talking about. It's tough to be four. Is anyone else going through this? Ben and Milo are in the calendar discovery stage of four. This is the period where a four-year old asks you all the friggin' time what time it is, what day it is, and "What does that mean?" and trust me, you suck as a Mom if you don't try to answer these questions earnestly. They're not trying to drive you to Xanax, they're just trying to figure out "Que es la SUNDAY?" and why does anyone care what time it is?

It's tough on your nerves when any four-year-old goes through this. It may drive me to drink going through this times two. Just as I've gotten one of them satisfied, the other comes in the room and the questions start all over. There's no recall yet because they don't get any of it yet. We only entered this phase a week ago. So it's like trying to teach calendar skills to Dori of Finding Nemo fame.

I just had to get that out there. And in case you were wondering, "It's Sunday, that's the first day of the week, it's the Sabbath, and the day we go to church, it's 5:35, that means it's at least another hour until dinner time and hey I think I just heard your brother come home! Why don't you ask him to take you to"

I get to go out tonight. Jill is having an Oscar party (I may have twisted her arm a bit) so we can go look at the pretty dresses. I really don't care who wins. I haven't seen any of the movies nominated. I just like the red carpet bit. I'll bring my knitting and go enjoy girl time.

Wish me luck! Tomorrow I have to go register the truck and convince them that I didn't know that I was supposed to register it last April when we first moved to the state. Heh.

Oh how cool is this? Remember a month ago I taught that lesson on food storage in Sunday school? Well, we'd been averaging very small but steady participation in the two previous food orders I did. Today I sent around March's order and we more than tripled those amounts. We even still have one more week to go before I start hitting people up for money! I'm so excited!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Needle in a Hay Stack

I slept in this morning and rose to find that noone had taken the poor dogs out and the twins refused to let anyone else feed them--so the first hour of up-ness passed in a flurry of dog pottying and twin feeding. I'd finished knitting Milo's sweater last night and I really wanted to weave in the ends, sew on the buttons, and give it to him. I also wanted to wash the LPT and block it before sewing on its buttons.

But I couldn't find my yarn needle. I'd only used it the night before weaving in the ends on the LPT, so it should have been on or near my desk. Or, it could have been on or near the coffee table where I'd left the LPT and Milo's sweater. But it wasn't.

My desk, which looks nothing like the last picture I posted of it since it invariably returns to its feral state within a day or two of constant use, wouldn't cough up the needle no matter how hard I pleaded. To make matters worse, it became clear to me that the wood pellet stove was being more than its typical stubborn self and was refusing to light. The icing on the cake came when I managed to convince it to try to light--which somehow resulted in the wood pellets catching fire for a bit then going out and filling the house with smoke.

We turned on fans and opened all the doors and I called the wood pellet stove people and talked to them for awhile, but they weren't much help. They made a service appointment for Monday. I got off the phone and found a screwdriver and began to tinker, taking the wet/dry vac with me to clean out every orafice I uncovered. By the time I was done I'd vacuumed out a couple pounds of ash from all its secret places and had spit-shined the rest of it (okay, not really, but it was really clean). I plugged it back in and it was so darn happy it made fire for the next 45-minutes straight.

Thank goodness. With all the doors open we were freezing.

Now back to looking for that needle. To make a long story short, by 1:45 I'd cleaned my entire office area, reorganized my stash, cleaned my knitting area in the living room and only managed to find my OTHER set of yarn needles. I settled down, wove in the ends on Milo's sweater, sewed on the buttons, and then went downstairs to tell Chris it was done. I put my hand in my jeans pocket then and found . . . the missing needle. I'd put it in my pocket when I was done last night (it's a cheap plastic yarn needle).

Sigh . . .

We decided we all wanted out of the house so we went to Wegman's to do some grocery shopping. The mother of the baby who gets the LPT came home from the hospital yesterday so we wanted to make the family some meals. We got a ton of everything we're planning on making and I'll make two of everything. One for them and one for us. We'll have some good meals in the freezer, too. I'm making:

  • bread
  • beef barley stew
  • cold macaroni salad (the one with veggies and vinagarette)
  • shephard's pie
  • potato leek soup
  • poptarts
It was my goal to make easy-to-reheat meals that were anything other than meatloaf or lasagna.

All I did tonight was brown the meat for the shephard's pie and chop the beef for the beef barley stew which will go in the crockpot in the morning.

Then I started to block the LPT. Hmmmm . . . I put it in the water, let it soak a minute or two, took it out and gently squeezed the water out of it, went to place it in the towel and discovered that it had grown. I tried sort of shaping it back into the size it was supposed to be, but it laughed at me. So I rolled it up in the towel to get the rest of the water out and then placed it on the couch cushion I was blocking it out on. I was initially horrified by the changes it was undergoing, but soon saw that as long as I coaxed it back into the proper dimensions, it was happy to settle back into being a little pink sweater.

It's just size 6/9 months now instead of newborn.

I started on the socks tonight. I'm not making any changes to the pattern. If it grows when washed it will hopefully grow at the same rate of the sweater. I'll be sure to mention to the baby's mother that it MUST be handwashed and then she'll want to reshape it when she lays it flat to dry.

I'm SO glad I washed it before sewing on the buttons.

I just heard the twins talking. It's 11:10. Off to give them the hairy eyeball and put myself to bed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

More On That

So I stopped by my local yarn store (LYS) on my way to Max's piano lesson to see if they have the ability to order this particular brand of lace-weight yarn that I was looking at. They do--but they also had some lace-weight in stock. She showed me what they have, then allowed that the selection was looking kind of thin, but that if I wasn't ordering too outlandish a color, they could get plenty more of it. The handkerchief shawl that Mrs. B had worn last week (this week is was an earth-toned cardigan) had green as the dominant color, so I mentioned that. The LYS owner looked relieved (I guess she's known me long enough to know that she can't rule out the possibility I might want a hot pink shawl. I wouldn't, but I know me better.)--but then I noticed the yarn UNDER the one she was pointing to and I said, "Can you make lace with THIS?!?" She said I could, it would just be a smidge heavier and warmer than the other. Well, ppff--heavier and warmer is good for my purposes.

We went off to piano and I finished the second sleeve of Little Pink Thing (LPT) and started on the neckline and realized I was going to need the buttons before the end of the weekend. So after the lesson we went home and I got my checkbook. Milo asked me where I was going. "I'm going to the yarn store."

"To get more yarn to make me a SHIRT?!?" and he smiled a gleeful smile and I said the only thing you can say to a charming four-year-old who wants you to knit him a shirt. "Of course!"

So I went to the yarn store and I bought one skein of the kid mohair fog (there's a strand in there somewhere, but it's basically kid mohair foof with a strand running down the middle) that I'll use to do the Orenburg aptitude test and one skein of cotton blend for another Oliver sweater and two buttons for the LPT. Then I came home before I endangered our grocery budget for the week.

On the way home I was mulling over the fact that I desperately want more yarn. Having knit everything in my stash except six skeins of purple Noro wool and a gazillion skeins of blue cotton, I have a stash vacuum. I thought I'd been so clever and frugal knitting primarily from stash for the last six months--but no--now I'm suffering the consequences. I have empty plastic stash containers and they all want to be FULL.

So I drove home from my LYS (all three-ish blocks--it's COLD out there!) thinking about that cotton wondering WHAT it could become because so far it has refused to name its project when I suddenly remembered Sarah's most recent project and wondered if they'd go for something like that . . . so I showed it to Milo and got approval. Now I just need to find a pattern for something like that online because I don't have any more money to buy the book she mentions.

So let's count:

On the needle:
1. One summery blue sweater for me that I promise I'll finish before summer is over.
2. One yellow sweater for Baby Oliver
3. One twin sweater that I'm going to attempt to finish tonight.
4. One LPT
5. One French Children's sock (which is a misnomer as it's really sized for a woman)

In the mail:
1. One book on Orenburg shawls

Upcoming projects:
1. Orenburg Aptitude Test
2. One wool sweater for Milo of undetermined pattern
3. Two cabeled cotton sweaters for the twins from Grandma's really magnificent blue cotton
4. One LBT (little blue thing) for Baby Oliver in yarn I don't own yet
5. Probably another little outfit for Baby Oliver in a slightly larger size with a yarn I don't own yet.

I'm only three rows from finishing the first portion of the LPT, so I'm off to do that. Although seeing as how it's 5:20, I supposed I should stop first and go look at my schedule and see what it was I thought I'd be feeding everyone tonight.


Thank goodness it's Friday. I can't breathe. Whatever it is I've had on and off since, oh, November--is back with a vengence. I seem to do okay as long as I stay on top of things with the inhaler, but I don't have any resistence built up to the albuterol anymore--so now I can breathe but I feel like one of those small hairless dogs that sits and shivers with its tail between its legs.

So today I've been reading more children's poetry. If your big kid hasn't laughed till he puked lately, this is pretty effective:

It's too old for the market I'm reading for, but it's perfect for grades 4 to 9. Well, really for ages 9 and up. I laughed hysterically at more than a few of them, too. Thing is--they're concrete poems. You can't read them aloud. Trust me, I tried, "Honey! Honey! Listen to this one . . ." but it's not the same if you're not looking at it.

We have Max's piano lesson (moved to a different time, of course) this afternoon which I'm dreading because the church where she has the lessons is so flippin' cold and I'm already having a heck of time staying warm. She's been sick over and over this winter, too (but NEVER misses a practice--she just brings her tea and tissues). Well, last week I noticed that she was wearing a thin cotton shawl--it was an oversized handkerchief really. And I thought, "you know, for this room, she really needs a wool shawl . . ."

So here I am a week later looking through my two books of shawl patterns. I found one I could do--except I've already done it. What I really wanted was to make her a Ukrainian folk shawl. So I went a-googling and discovered that the Ukraine, besides being home to a lot of potentially Jewish or Orthodox piano teachers, is the home of the Orenburg Shawl.

Well, that's just perfect for a beginning lace knitter, doncha think?!?

So I ebay'd up a used copy of Gossamer something-r-other and ordered that. Word is that besides a few actual Orenburg shawls in the book, there is a SAMPLE shawl that you can make to see if you have any Orenburg apptitude at all.

This could be the project that turns me from a knitter into a Knitter.

Oh my holy heck, the twins turn four and look at me--delusions of grandeur. Or maybe it's because it is March! The end of my Dark season. Just this past weekend I put away the light box. (Or maybe it's just that the Little Pink Thing is turning out so darn cute. Or maybe it's the albuterol.) It's probably the albuterol. Listen to me babble.