Saturday, September 30, 2006


It's colder today and I'm sitting in front of the big window in the living room. This particular window seems to radiate cold in the winter. It's doubled paned and I'm not sure why it always feels so cold in front of this window--but when I put plastic on the windows (I'm trying to hold out another week or two) you can see the plastic bow out into the room in the evening (and it's much warmer sitting next to the window.

But most of today I was not cold. Most of today I was cleaning. I picked up the downstairs--something I've started and failed to finish at least three times in the last six weeks. I sorted the kids' VHS and DVD collection and listed the ones that they've outgrown on the market board.

Next, I attacked the kitchen. The kitchen never quite gets clean during canning season and from time to time descends into a chaos that it seems impossible to recover from. Although I have a few more batches of beans to do, I managed to get most of the kitchen cleaned, and I got the dishes caught up. I swiffered. Phew.

Finally, I attacked the living room. For a moment there it looked back. I made the mistake of sitting on the floor as I put the books back on the bookshelf. This led to laying back for a moment which led to closing my eyes for a moment. That was almost it. But at the last possible moment before losing consciousness (in spite of back pain because I guess I'm getting kind of old for laying on the floor for a nap) Chris called my name as he tromped up the stairs. I don't remember what he wanted but I woke up and feeling guilty for no reason, struggled to look busy instead of sleepy and confused. So the rest of the living room got picked up and vacuumed and the whole house feels better for finally getting those three living areas under control.

Now I'm listening to an old CD that the Lake Elsinore Ward Relief Society put together and working on a variety of different sweaters. I do have an unusual quantity of sweaters all going at the same time. I could knit on nothing but sweaters in October and probably still not finish them all (although truthfully, I'd probably finish all but Chris's sweater--which is not my fault but the fault of his 47 inch circumference). I don't have any plans to make October the month of sweaters though. I'd like to make considerable progress on the Orenburg shawl or it will start to worry me that I won't get it done in time for Christmas.

I did finish the second baby girl sweater and it's washed and blocking right now. So hopefully in another day or two I'll have photos of the big sister and little sister sweaters. I strongly suspect that both sweaters blocked out at a larger-than-intended size and won't fit either intended recipient until NEXT winter, but they're still cute and they'll need to be warm next winter anyway.

Did I mention the yarn I ended up knitting for Chris's sweater? I switched from the single-ply wool to JaggerSpun Zephyr DK weight. It's such a pleasant yarn to work with and by buying it in cones from Sarah's Yarn I save a gazillion bucks on it. It will cost me less to make this sweater for Chris than the smaller Prairie Silk sweater for Max.

oops dying battery! more later

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


This past weekend my BIL visited us on his way back from New York where he'd been directing a play or something. He lives out in Columbia, MO where he and his wife teach theatre at the Columbia University or the University of Missouri or one of those places. His name is L.R.

L.R. takes his role as Chris' big brother very seriously.

He brought his harmonicas, his amp, and his microphone.

It was a hard drinking, partying kind of weekend.

Milo did some oral improvising, landing somewhere between scat and rap.

It was a lot of fun having him here and we hope he can come back, soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I have a cold

It isn't the kind that makes you talk funny or slightly deaf. It's the kind with the sore throat and the fuzzy head that makes you crabby and nigh impossible to get along with.

While in this condition, Himself left for Pittsburgh for a one-day reunion with an old friend from work. I don't begrudge him the trip. It's not like it could have been put off--and the friend isn't ordinarily there. He's ordinarily Very Far Away.

But I am not in a generous mood. I am in a foul, viral mood and there is not enough tea and honey in the world to make it better. I ate an entire package of saltines just for the salt and now I feel sick, can't swallow, and am bloated up like a puffer fish. For the record, it's All His Fault. (And I am *s0* not like that! Except today. Today I am like that. Whatever it is, it's Chris's fault.)

I worked all day, but it's a good thing I wasn't called upon to be brilliant because I don't have two functioning brain cells to rub together. There is one small section there that has to be a little creative. I put that off in hopes that tomorrow I'll have three or more brain cells to apply to the task.

Otherwise it was one of those days where I felt like everytime I sat down and was finally making some progress I had to get back up again and go drive somewhere to get a kid or deliver a kid. They got badly baked pizza for dinner (I followed the directions, but the directions were wrong I guess--the pizza was over baked). They got a grouchy piano lesson (but offset by the addition of candy corn to the lesson) and I nearly nodded off during the reading lesson, but at least we got to the reading lesson today.

I am ready to nod off again but want to finish this page. So I'm off to do that and then off to early bed.

UPDATE: It's not longer Chris's fault. He just called and instead of staying overnight there he's going to drive the three hours home again to get here at 1am so he can take Max to school in the morning so I don't have to drag my sick throat and three kids out the door to get Max to school. Good Husband. Now if I could just undo that package of saltines . . .

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Second Thoughts

I'm making this sweater for Milo (and probably again for Ben):

The sweater has these three cabled stripes running vertically up it.

I don't do a lot of multi-color work and I'm not very good at it yet. When I first started I tried taking the red strands across the back but twisting the yarns in that way resulted in a lot of bulk. So I switched to an intarsia method which made for a smoother back. You can see where I made the switch.

And this is the front.

And that's so cheery and vibrant . . . but here're the problems:

1) the cables just don't transition very well from the main body. When I stretch the fabric out a little, it's just . . . messy! The stitches seem to pull oddly. Maybe that's normal for intarsia? I think probably not though and that it's a function of using 100% cotton at a relatively (for me) loose tension. It's not a smooth transition.

2) The label of the yarn says pretty much "Just so you know, it's 100% cotton and it's going to bleed like a bad head injury the first few times you wash this." (Actually, it says something cryptic about "color migration," but if my sweater is red and my cable is "natural" then that means I'm going to end up with a pink cable, I'm pretty sure.)

I really want to make this shirt/sweater for Milo. I love that my kids like the things I knit for them and I know that the other sweaters I'm making for them (still working on Max's) are just going to be too hot for anything more than outdoors. But I'm leaning very heavily towards ripping the whole thing back to the ribbing and reknitting in plain red. I'll keep the three cables--but this cotton is very snazzy and I think they'll pop just fine even in the same color.

Then the thing can run to its heart's content and the worst that will happen is that it fades to a nice muted red. At the rate these guys eat, they'll only get one season out of the shirt anyway.

Yep. I think I'm frogging back to the ribbing and doing it in a Big Boy Solid Red.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Song of the Unfinished Object

(Apologies to Kim Wilde)

Keep On Casting On

Finish me, why don't you babe?
Pick up the needles, why won't you babe?
'Cause you don't really love me.
You just keep on casting on!
Finish me, why don't you babe?
Fondle my yarn, why don't you babe?
'Cause you don't really want me.
But you keep on casting on.

Why do you keep me in a bag?
Waiting in the dark.
Why don't you get out my needles
and let me make a brand new start?
Let me remind you
the reason you once started me, yeah.

Finish me, why don't you babe?
Pick up the needles, why won't you babe?
'Cause you don't really love me.
You just keep on casting on!
Yeah I see you with the pattern book--
You just keep on casting on.

You say although you haven't
touched me since 1984 that you
are going to pick me up again.
But I see you with that silk laceweight!
I'm 75% acryllic--
and there ain't nothing I can do about it...

Get me out, get me out of this bag
and give me away to someone new.
'Cause you don't really love me
you just keep on casting on.
You say you still care for me
but your heart and soul needs handspun.
Now that you've got your freedom
you wanna still hold on to me.
You don't want me for yourself
so let me find somebody else.
Why don't you be honest about it and set me free
now you just feel guilty about me.
You're not fooling me.

Get me out, get me out of this bag
and give me away to someone new.
'Cause you don't really love me
you just keep on casting on.
'Cause you don't really love me
you just keep on casting on.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Knit One, Rip Two

Milo requested that I knit him a new "indoor" sweater. An indoor sweater is one that can be worn straight against the skin, no shirt under it. An "outdoor" sweater is one that must be worn over other clothing.

I looked through my stash, but my stash is really not that big anymore and it yielded nothing that could be used for a new "indoor" sweater.

So I talked Chris into driving me to the yarn store in Centre Hall for a shopping trip. There, with the help of Ben and Milo--who were both in a deep red mood--I picked out some yarn for their new indoor sweaters. It frightens me that the washing directions for this yarn include about five steps and end in something like, "Or, you could just dry clean it."

I will knit them on the big side, for yeah and verily, they shalt be machine washed (and laid flat to dry). I got Cotton Fleece in Barn Red with the contrasting colors of Putty and Wolverine Blue. (In plain language, that's crayola red, with crayola blue, and enough for one stripe of a sort-of unbleached natural cotton. It's very patriotic looking, actually.)

I got home and cast on Chris's sweater all over again. After working on it for three hours I've about established that my best bet is to rip it out and start over AGAIN. Don't ask. But it's not the yarn and it's not the needle. It's just me and my willingness to start knitting without reading the directions first.

I think actually that the reason I struggled so much with Chris's sweater is that my friend had his second baby girl this morning, which means that the Universe would really like me to finish that baby's sweater and get it in the mail. I finished that baby's big sister's sweater yesterday and I'm a good halfway through the baby's sweater, but . . .


It's my third sweater in that same pattern. And I have one more baby boy sweater to go before I'm done.

I'll finish the first sleeve on the baby sweater and then see if maybe the Universe will let me finish one stinkin' row on Chris's sweater. Tomorrow. It's bedtime.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Tuesday night already. Jeez.

I'm feeling a little better tonight so let's do a wee bit of kiddie catch-up.


Max is loving school. His teacher was his teacher's aide last year and is back as the official fifth grade teacher. The class is 13 kids big and is heavy on the boys. The teacher is a young, enthusiastic man and the kids adore him. He very gently pushes Max and Max seems to be responding. Max is eager to go to school and doing just fine.

Then there is football. As disappointing as last year was (different football league)--that's how terrific this year is. I wrote the coach an honest-to-goodness FAN letter for crying out loud. The coach looks and sounds like a football coach and he has assistant coaches that look and sound like football coaches. I watch practices from a distance because all that free-floating testosterone makes my hair fall out.

Where last year Max seemed completely invisible to the entire coaching staff, this year I regularly see him get personalized attention from all of the coaches. Where last year Max was required to suit up and warm up for all of the games, but sometimes never played at all (or if he did play, played for only a few minutes of a game), this year he is guarenteed ten plays in a game. This past weekend he played in every quarter--and for most of the entire second half. Where last year if Max was allowed in the game, he was allowed in only one position--under this coach every kid rotates into new positions to learn the game better.

Max's team is winning and I'm convinced it's because he lucked out and has superior coaching. Max's team works together and I sense none of that cliquishness (sp?) that poisoned the experience for us last year. Max is getting the full State College boy experience--complete with head thwacking, shoulder smacking, atta boys, and a litany of football cheers.

Ben and Milo are greatly enjoying preschool. Ever since Chris read them the riot act about following rules in school, the first thing they report to us when we pick them up is whether or not they followed the rules. "I followed the rules today!" or "I didn't follow the rules. I hit the boy in the head." UM. Kay. At least he's honest (It wasn't a bragging tone. It was a very matter-of-fact report.) Milo in particular is enjoying learning piano. Ben does better than he thinks he does. Both are impatient to be as good as Max (guys, this takes time). We didn't practice enough this past week while I battled the blues. Today things were a little better and we had a long practice session followed by a reading lesson.

More Canning Chatter

Yesterday I worked in the morning and canned for most of the afternoon and evening. I'm nearly done. All that's left is a peck of tomatoes (I'm sorely tempted to just toss them in the garden. I'm so sick of tomatoes!) and canning beans. I'd like to do quart jars with black beans and some onions so I can just dump the beans in a food processor and go straight to refried beans on the nights that sounds good. I also need to do pints to go with the 18 pints of chili con carne I canned yesterday.

The chili turned out nicely--I think it's going to be kind of medium-hot.

I did one last batch of tomato soup, but ran out of "steam" at the end (my own, not the canner's). So I did 7 quarts in the pressure canner and had 2 quarts and 1 pint left over. I put those in clean jars with screw-top lids and stuck those in the fridge.

I have used every single pint jar I own. I own a lot of pint jars. Last year I had 40 quart jars left over--I put these across the top shelf of my "pantry" shelves for decoration. This year over half of those are full of tomato juice or tomato soup. I plan to fill the rest with beans at this point.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

AK's Weight Loss Plan

I had promised a few people I would answer their questions about what I'm doing for weight loss and keep putting it off, so I'm going to post it to my blog and then I can link back to it if it comes again it. (Which it might, since I'm not done yet.)

I got most of this from a general practitioner I was seeing in Temecula, CA. He had at some point developed an interest in helping the morbidly obese lose weight and that had developed into a sort of side gig. He was a consultant at one point for Jenny Craig, and later for LA Weight Loss. That's all I really know about him. I'll explain a little about what it was he told me to do, why, and what I actually did, and why. And I will try to keep it short--so forgive me if I skip some of the details.

Dr. Whatshisface (I can't remember but if you live in Temecula and want me to track it down, I could with a few phone calls.) would begin by telling you that the single greatest health problem in the U.S. today is not obesity or heart disease but depression and anxiety and he would screen you for that first. If he decided you were depressed and you chose not to pursue treatment for that he would respect your decision but refuse to treat you for your weight issues because something like 95% of his patients with untreated depression quit on their own within three weeks anyway. So if you have a weight problem and a depression problem he would probably want me to convey to you that the weight problem is causing damage to your heart but your depression problem is what is ruining your life and to please address the depression first. In my case he knew I'd been referred to him by my therapist who specialized in eating disorders so we could check that box and move on. He didn't insist that you were *cured*--just getting treatment.

If you have tried and tried forever to lose weight and can't--I can't recommend enough the combination of talk therapy and diet.

Now the "diet" part.

Basically, according to Dr. WHF weight loss is a function of a couple of different variables including, but not limited to, your personal metabolism and the amount of calories that you consume as you are trying to lose weight. It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound, no matter who you are, but there are very, very overweight people out there living each day on 1200 calories. (Things that affect your metabolism include but are not limited to your genetics and your activity level and the amount of food you eat.)

You can't change your genetics, but you can change your activity level and the amount of food you eat. HOWEVER, your metabolism will adjust to the new activity level relatively quickly (in a matter of weeks) which is why increasing your activity level will seem to have only a temporary effect on weight loss. (It can seem to have a greater effect than it does though since stopping will also have a negative effective on weight loss and it has a very good effect on mental health and stress reduction. People with less stress stay on their diets longer and lose more weight.) Dr. WHF recommends exercise but if you can only "deal" with *either* a diet *or* exercise, he's fine with picking the diet first.

Losing weight often motivates you to start exercising at some point anyway. Things get flabby.

SO. Dr. MHF would tell you to pick a diet, any diet--but you have to count calories for him. So do weight watchers or South Beach, or anything meant for long-term use (no cabbage soup or maple syrup diets), but use a program like FitDay (or there are others, often free, online) to track your calories. Keep your calories for any given day to 1500 or less. Don't go to 1200 a day without seeing your own doctor first and getting the okay.

If nothing out there appeals to you, he recommends: 1500 calories a day (I got the okay to do 1200), no more than 30% of the calories from fat. He recommends that you try to keep carbs to fewer than 80 grams a day--but you'd probably ignore that if you were doing weight watchers. I find that the best balance for me is a diet that is 40%/40%/20% protein/carb/fat, but this requires a lot of fish and most days are more like 30/40/30. (Fitday calculates all of this automatically for me. I just tell it I had a serving of rain bran and a half cup of skim milk and it calculates all the nutrients and percentages and sine waves I might need.)

So that's the diet. I eat whatever I want but watch the balance of nutrients and don't eat more than 1500 calories and a typical day for me is 1250-1350 calories when I am actively dieting. I eat chocolate and very small servings of Ben and Jerrys and anything else I want in moderation. I avoid trigger foods (bowls of pasta) and I buy very high-quality chocolates so that I can eat just one and feel "treated."

And this works pretty well. I tend to lose the first five pounds fairly quickly and the next five pounds pretty slowly.

And then I stop losing. This is called a plateau.

And Dr. WHF says the only way to deal with a plateau is to fix the underlying problem--the diet has killed your metabolism. The human body is best designed to fend off starvation. If you go on a reduced-calorie diet long enough, your body will learn to make the best of a bad situation. This is why it takes YEARS for an anorexic to kill herself. The anorexic body takes a while to eat its own heart. (Let's not make anorexia sound less dangerous than it is.)

The absolute only way to increase your metabolism over the long haul is to eat more.

So you quit the diet and very, very, very gradually increase the amount of food you eat. If it doesn't drive you crazy to count calories while you are no longer losing weight, the ideal rate is 200 additional calories per day, every 5 to 7 days. So if you were eating 1300 calories a day at the time you decided you hit a plateau, then you would go to 1500 calories and then 5 to 7 days later to 1700 calories and then 5 to 7 days later to 1900 calories and so on until you were at 2500-3000 calories a day. This will result (depending on your metabolism) in a weight gain of 3 to 10 lbs--but after a week or two at the top calorie level you go back on your diet. And 99% of people who do this lose all the weight gain in the first week back on the diet.

I can't count calories going up. It drives me crazy. So I just stop counting calories and use common sense and take a long break from the diet. It usually works out to two months on the diet and two to three months off.

I started this at 215 lbs in September of 2004 and I'm 167 lbs today. It's not a massive head trip because every time I start the diet it's "only" for 10 lbs. I really needed to lose 80 lbs in all and I took a one year break from November of 2004 to October of 2005 while we sold the house and move. So most of my weight loss was in one year. I hope to do again this year what I did last year which would put me at my goal weight by next summer (since I reached 167 back in June and just maintained all summer).

Using this approach has changed the way I deal with food. I get bored on the diet part but it's not so bad--I know it's only for 6 to 8 weeks. Then I can branch out again. Last time I was so bored with the diet that I decided to just do the Kellog's approach, LOL. I ate Raisin Bran twice a day and had fish and veggies for the third meal. This turned out to be a really healthy blend nutritionally--Raisin Bran has a nice balance of protein and healthy carbs and enough sugar on the raisins to make it taste good. (Have you ever had bargain bran Raisin Bran? Why does it taste so much worse? Target brand Raisin Bran in particular is awful. It's like pre-staled.)

So on the one hand--I have yet to see my pre-pregnancy weight (the first pregnancy. I passed Ben and Milo's pre-pregnancy weight a while ago) but I *am* at my lowest weight since having Max.

Also, I've gotten so I increase the amount of calories I eat at such a gradual pace during the maintaining phase that I don't even gain more than 3 lbs during the maintenance phase.

I feel so much healthier at this weight than I did at 215 that I could be happy here--so it's kind of ironic that I have every confidence now that 135 is mine for the wearing. It's feeling about time for me to tackle the next 10. I want to do that and be done with it before Thanksgiving :) Thanksgiving to Christmas is a very good time to be maintaining or gradually increasing the amount you eat--not losing!

But I think if Dr. WHF were here today he would say, "Let's get through this change in medications first, okay? Then we'll jump back into counting calories." So that's what I'm doing. The one and only negative side effect of weight loss for me has been that since I hit 175 the medication I was taking stopped working right. I couldn't sleep and I worried 24/7. I'm two weeks into changing meds and it's just going to be another month of white knuckling--assuming that the new med works fine. It's a med I've used in the past with great success, but it'll make you really sick, really fast if you increase the dose too quickly.

So I hope that all makes sense. The idea is to diet until you hit a plateau, then gradually consume more calories until you're eating a "high normal" amount of calories. Then go back on the diet and whoosh through the plateau and keep going till you get to the next one. It works well because it takes a large weight goal and breaks it up into smaller, more "do-able" pieces. You can time your "increase" periods to coincide with upcoming celebrations (say, a wedding) or holidays (say, Christmas) and after the second time you lose (having gone through one loss, one break, and a second loss period) you'll develop this wonderful feeling of "This works!" and it's all just so deliciously sane. At any given moment I'm not trying to lose more than 10 lbs. Oh yeah--another benefit? It's been really tough at times to make the mental adjustment to a new size. I saw myself as being 192 for LONG after I was no longer 192. It could seem like the fact that it takes "longer" is a real downer, but in fact, I think it is a huge part of why it works.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Saturday Night

My brain is hardwired to be unhappy this week. In this moment I am sick of coping with it, so since I have no intention of posting some laundry list of things I'm (probably temporarily) unhappy about, we'll keep this short.

I canned today. That's it. I'd really hoped to get in a reading lesson with the twins and oversee piano practicing and get a few pages of work done--but it turns out that a half-bushel of green beans is a very big project and a full bushel of apples to apple sauce is a very big project and if you sleep in until ten because you were up till three with the tomato soup--well that's the whole day pretty much right there. We did run a few errands including getting more laundry detergent--but mostly we were out of a few things I needed for canning and that's the only reason I was willing to leave the house. Last night with the kids and the dogs used up the last of this weekend's willingness for adventure--and I still have a football game to get through tomorrow.

While I still have way too many tomatoes and may lose some of them before I get them canned, I really need to NOT can tomorrow. So that is tomorrow's plan. Tomorrow I am NOT canning.

The boys are happy and healthy and affectionate and very excited about all the apple sauce. That's nice. They're humoring me about the beans. They have no more intention of taking up green bean eating than they do of taking up knitting, but I went ahead and canned them anyway. Afterall, they quickly learned that home-canned tomato soup is not like any tomato soup they'd had before (Wallace's voice in my head on that one as he takes a bite of the moon), so maybe they'll take a liking to home-canned green beans.

Things are tough right now. I have been bit by the black snake that is depression and at night especially the antidote seems so far away. Chris comes back tomorrow night and I feel like I am holding my breath until he does. For one, he will come home and happily count the jars of tomato soup and tell me it's good and I will think that maybe it was good that I did the canning after all. For another, I will feel safe again with him in the house and every stupid acorn that falls on the metal roofs that are over all of our windows will stop causing me to jump out of my skin. We have so many enormous old oak trees and they make so many enormous acorns and I swear the squirrels pick them and fling them down onto the roof on purpose.


"Ooh, good one Eunice! I think the lady jumped three feet with that one!"

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Most Expensive Batch of Tomato Soup Thus Far

I was going to title that "My Most Expensive Batch of Tomato Soup Ever" but I still have a bushel of tomatoes left with which to do something involving canning and I'd rather not tempt fate.

It all started off well Tuesday morning. I was finishing up some work for Main Client and after having worked long days for like 15 days in a row, I was looking forward to taking Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday off. I ran over to the mini-farmer's market (it's one farmer with a very large display under a big tent in a parking lot on South Atherton) and picked up two boxes (= 1 bushel) of tomatoes and a large batch of onions. Later I went grocery shopping and got some organic celery. I cut parsley from the front yard. I put these things on the kitchen table and left them there.

On Wednesday I led a Small Delegation of myself and two friends to Belleville to the grocery auction. It was a cold, rainy day and the farmer's market was half-deserted, but we all got more onions, potatoes, green beans--and I picked up another half-bushel of Very Very Ripe tomatoes. There weren't very many tomatoes at all--the cold has really been doing a number on the tomatoes left on the vine.

A nearby lady at the grocery auction overheard us going over our tomato options and gave me some directions to a local Amish produce stand. I had to get back to State College to get the twins to piano lessons, but I tucked away the directions (which seemed rather sketchy anyway) and thought about giving them a shot later.

In the meantime, I gave one of my boxes of tomatoes to the friend who needed tomatoes because she was making salsa and since I was making soup, it would be much easier for me to use the juicy, sweet, but small tomatoes in the bags I'd just won at the auction.

I went home and shepherded the twins through piano lessons, worked for another two hours, then shepherded Max through piano lessons--then started tomato soup.

It was all going so well. I was 1/3 of the way through pushing the soup through a sieve (which sounds much worse than it really is) when I realized the sink was acting strangely.

Lordy. I'd put the skins of 20 onions down the disposal. What was I thinking?

I cleaned out the trap and established that the block was much further along the line. BAD. I called for a plumber, but noone considers a blocked sink an emergency and I was lucky to find someone who would come work on it by noon the following day.

I considered my messy kitchen, my pots of simmering soup, my unusable sink. My delima.

I pulled out the biggest pot I own--the pressure cooker/canner. I poured the processed soup into that. I kept pressing the remaining soup through the strainer (being sure the THROW THE WASTE IN THE TRASH) and finished straining the rest of the soup. I had 19 quarts of soup. Chris cleared out space in the downstairs fridge and we put it in there. I tidied up the rest of the kitchen as best I could without running water, and went to bed.

On Wednesday I cleaned nervously, supervised the plumbers when they arrived, and working without a break--it took them over two hours to clear the line. When they finally did--it nearly exploded. There was tomato soup sludge over half my basement (the concrete portion). They offered to clean it up, but I was paying by the minute at that point and I said I'd clean it up. I wrote them a check for $195.00 and they left. (But not before giving me the "no more onions and tomatoes down that drain, Ma'am!" speech like FOUR times.) Then I got out the wet/dry vac and went to work on the sludge. I was just about done when it was time to take Max to his music theory class.

We went to music, we went to football. It was 8:30 when we got home and I needed to go to bed. I cleaned some more in the kitchen and then went to sleep.

This morning I worked some, then went to get the twins from preschool. We headed out to Belleville again and found that produce place. We had a nice leisurely trip coming home, stopping at other produce places and basically taking time to explore some nooks and crannies of Amish country that I hadn't before. Ben and Milo are fantastic ice breakers and we were treated to some sweet conversations. My favorite was the Amish farmer who asked the twins how old they were (4! But I'm turning five in November!) "Really?" says the farmer as he moves potatoes around, "My birthday is in November, too! What day?" Ben dances around the topic. He can't quite remember. I prompt him, and Ben repeats the information. The farmer tells Ben the day of his birthday and Ben responds that of course he already knew that already. The farmer was tickled.

Back at home I did a little work and then it was time to go get big brother. We picked up Max from school, came home, and I did the final step in making the soup. But there wasn't time to get anything canned before Max had football practice, so I turned off the stove and let everything sit. I took both dogs and all three boys and headed to the park where Max had practice. He ran off to practice and the twins and I walked over to the new dog park. Emily exhausted herself deliriously chasing balls (thank-you, Chuck-It) and Thor enjoyed himself peeing on every nook and cranny he could find. There were a lot of other dogs there, but they were very well behaved dogs and Emily had no competition in the ball-chasing department. If only I could find a way to make that talent of hers pay . . .

When both dogs were walking around with their tongues to their toes, we left the dog park and headed back to the people park. Ben and Milo played on the playground for awhile and then they were hungry. We hopped back in the truck and drove to the closest grocery store where we got something cheap for dinner. We drove back to the park and the twins watched part of a rugrat's episode while we waited for Max's football-crazy coach to realize that it was too dark to keep playing. Max found the truck and we headed home.

I've been working on canning ever since, but I decided to use the pressure cooker to be safe because of the long stretch of time between when I made the soup (Wednesday night) and when I was canning the soup (Friday night) and that makes the whole process take FOREVER because it seems to take nearly an hour for the canner to come back to zero. It's 11:12, I suspect I have another 15 minutes before we're at zero on the gauge, and then I hope to get one more batch done. I'll still be canning this soup tomorrow. Jeez.

Monday, September 11, 2006

More Funny Conversations at Home

Enter, stage right, Alaska with a Vis-a-Vis marker. She starts jotting things down on Chris's calendar.

Chris stops painting for a moment and squints at calendar.

Alaska: Tomorrow is Back-to-School Night.
Chris: But they already went back to school.
Alaska: It's not for the kids. It's for us. We're not even supposed to bring the kids.
Chris: We have to get a sitter for Back-to-School night?
Alaska: Or just one of us goes. Do you want to go?
Chris: Yes, but I want you to go with me.
Alaska: [squints at clock. It's 8:40 pm.] I'll call and see if I can find a sitter.
[points further down calendar] On this day I have a PAC meeting.
Chris: Political Action Committee?
Alaska: Parental Advisory Council. I gotta go because I think I may be--[stops as Chris's eyebrow crawls up to where his hairline used to be]--not the fund raiser! I'm not the fund raiser!
Chris: Ok, but . . .
Alaska: The secretary. And just so you know, I told them that sometimes I'm really busy with work and on those nights you could go and take notes for me.
Chris: [sighs] I might as well start introducing myself now as the secretary.

I am a matter of hours away from being totally caught up with work. Tomorrow I might even get to nap!! I'm so excited! I finished the first baby sweater. I hope to make good practice on the second one tomorrow.

An Attempt at an Intervention

We were seated at a local waffle house waiting for our breakfasts to arrive. I was looking through a yarn catalogue that had arrived that morning in my mailbox. Chris lifts an eyebrow and says, "No. No more yarn for you."

I look up, lifting my own eyebrow.

"If this were a bar," he continues, "I would have cut you off two sweaters ago."

I thought that was VERY funny.

Then we ate our breakfasts, hopped back in the truck and drove home. I picked up the UPS package waiting for me on the front porch and went inside to wind the new yarn into skeins. heh.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Random Thoughts on a Friday Evening

Well, let's see. We'll start with a quick reply to the new-mom-of-twins in the comments. Do I have some advice? Why, yes. Yes, I do. In no particular order:

1. Having twins is not like having a singleton. If these are your first kids, you won't know what I mean, so just skip this one and go to the next one. But if you already have other kids then let me just make a few things plain. They're going to cry more than your other kids did because there's only one of you and there are two of them. You can make yourself miserable feeling badly about this, or you can sing, bounce, jiggle--do the best you can to calm and comfort everyone--and then know that these two will still be fine in the long run. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. They spend the first few years having to wait longer to be comforted, and yet divorce rates among twins are among the lowest of any "group." Maybe having to wait a bit to be comforted plays some role in the fact that twins tend to get really good at "lov(ing) the one they're with." [Just so we're clear, I went with "make yourself miserable" which is why I can honestly tell you it does no good.]

2. Take pictures. Sleep deprived people have rotten memories.

3. You're a great mother. It'll all be fine. This too shall pass. Yes, this is harder than with just one. No, it won't be like this forever. Yes, it will be more than worth it. Yes, you will never doubt that twins are a blessing beyond that which anyone can "deserve."

4. Pace yourself. Twelve-year-olds make wonderful mother's helpers. Buy a few from the neighborhood and get some sleep when you need it. Do *not* hire a mother's helper and then clean. If you have enough money to spend on helping you get the house clean, then hire a HOUSE CLEANER and sit with the twins on the couch until she's done. But even when funds are very, very tight, there are still times when the best use of that money is to buy a few hours of sleep. [Buy a 16 yr-old next summer to help you take them to the pool a few times. It's good for the babies to get used to the water, but it should be a 1:1 adult child ratio.]

5. Life is long. This is not the year to take up knitting if you have never knit before. In fact, I put down my needles when the twins were 3.5 weeks old and they were past their second birthday before I picked them up again. I also went about that long between reading anything other than a parenting book or a professional publication. If you don't have a paying job, you might do better than that though. Don't feel guilty if you don't though. You have two BABIES. Very time consuming way to spend a day and night. In four years they'll be entertaining themselves watching Dora the Explorer and you can read and knit then.

Ask for help if you need help. Be compassionate. Be tough. Having twins brought me more humility and taught me that God's love is a fierce, unlimited thing. I have done nothing that earned me twins. I just can't be that good. We had six pregnancy losses and then we had the twins. The first two years were unrelenting lessons in God's grace, wisdom, and devotion.

Congratulations, Mama. You've been blessed--and don't worry if you have days or nights when you don't feel blessed. The tide will turn and it will come back to you.


Now, gushing done. What's next? Oh, yes. I should blog about this week. I'll try to be less verbose than I was above.

This week the twins started preschool. They *love* preschool--and it is kicking their collective tushes. Chris notes that they look completely worn out when he picks them up. This particular preschool is big into structure, so I suspect that my little Free Spirits may be having to make some adjustments. In a bad way? No. They leap out of bed and into clothes and harass me mercilessly to leave for preschool on time on preschool mornings. This is a good sign.

This week the twins started music lessons. Chris and I are reserving judgement for now. They have the same teacher for both their group music lesson and their individual piano lessons. I wasn't impressed with the first lesson, but then again--I think she was thrown by the "twin" thing. Two kids, same age--why not try to teach them together? Well, that was a disaster. I let it go for about 10 minutes until I was sure that she "got" that it wasn't working. Then I gently suggested that we do this like any other sibling pair--one kid at the piano at a time. This worked fairly well. I'm optimistic that once the boys adjust to preschool a bit (their first lesson was only 90 minutes after their first full morning of preschool) that things will go more smoothly with piano. Yesterday's practice session was much more productive than I expected, and that's a good sign.

This was Max's first full week of school (except, of course, Monday) with three nights of football practice, a Wednesday private piano lesson, and a Thursday group piano lesson. This is turning out to be as difficult as we anticipated and our rule of thumb on Wednesdays and Thursday is officially--do the best you can and no more. Football won't last forever, so we'll get through this.

That said, practicing piano first thing in the morning before school is resulting in some very good practice sessions. My son is making beautiful music.

Tomorrow he has his first actual football game of the season. It is my job to bring oranges and sit and knit and try not to look worried. Or maybe it's Chris' job. We'll decide tomorrow.

Today the State College dog park opened. Much chaos and mayhem. The dogs were thrilled. I could do a whole blog entry on this alone, but I want to go to bed, so I won't. Suffice to say, my dogs made me laugh. Emily is really amazingly fast when there is a ball involved--she beat every other dog to the ball until I made a really awful throw and threw it far from where she was. When the ball came back to me it was covered in the spit of a 34 strange dogs. ewww.

I worked this week. I worked and worked and worked and worked. I still didn't get everything done that I needed to, but dear me I tried. I now get to work all weekend, but the pressure isn't so bad. By Wednesday or so, things should be better.

And that about wraps it up. G'night.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Aw :(

I'm genuinely saddened to read of the death of Steve Irwin. He made me give a care about all sorts of ugly poisonous things. He was funny and passionate and I had a crush on his geeky tush at one point. He kept me company through a long and boring and at times anxious bedrest with the twins (the hospital only got like 17 channels--half of them soap operas that I don't watch, one decorating channel, Animal Planet, and the Discovery Channel. I watched a lot of Animal Cops and Crocodile Hunter.)

My heartfelt condolences to his ever patient widow and two young children. I hope the zoo continues to thrive under her care.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"I want to use the sponge now!"

The twins are at that stage where cleaning flips their cookie. I picked up a new swiffer the other day and they fight over the chance to use it. They call it "swooping." As in, "It's my turn to swoop the floors!"

Don't worry boys, there's enough dirt for everyone.

Some of my friends are bringing more people onto the planet. (I'm all for babies, I'm very pro-baby.) So I picked up some more yarn. One of my friends adopted a baby girl from China around the time that I was leaving California and moving here. I was in over my head with moving stuff so they didn't get anything from me. Now they're giving her a little sister the old fashioned way, so I'm making big sister/little sister matching sweaters. I can only do this because big sister isn't that big, LOL.

Another friend just had fourth child, second son--so I figure they're fine for blankets and he gets a sweater, too. They all get the placket-neck pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. This is my favorite kid-sweater pattern.

I knit the twins sweaters (one shown above) in a cotton yarn, but the babies/toddler are getting 100% wool from Steadfast Fibers in colors Sedona (orange/yellow) and Columbine (lavender/rose). I know--nobody knits babies anything in orange. I'm leery of it myself because there are certain shades of orange that I find an affront to my eyesight. But I've come to accept that all three of my sons think that orange is *the* color to wear. Orange shirts, orange shorts, orange socks--if it's orange, they'll put it on and wear it out. (They feel pretty strongly about red, too.) Since the intended recipient is a boy, and since this particular blend of orange brought to mind brilliant fall leaves AND sunlight at the same time--I went for it.)

I just finished another lesson so I think I'll go fuss with the laundry for a bit before tackling the next one.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Still At Home

We were supposed to leave for Indiana between 11:00 and noon this morning to go see my large and wonderful family at the farm there.

We did not.

Things got dicey last night on one of my work projects. This has been a Very Good Project for me and in order to ensure Balance in the Universe--I knew I had to produce a certain amount of work over the weekend. It wasn't going to work to do that work AND drive 22 hours this weekend. I was not in a great place to make decisions yesterday, but I called my sister AND my aunt and racked up some serious minutes on the cell phone gathering good advice.

So here I am, still at home.

It may have been the right decision for completely unrelated reasons. Hurricane Ernesto is pushing large volumes of rain this way and we discovered two nights ago that there is a leak in the roof that is dropping water through Max's ceiling and into his carpet.

Again, I say ewwww to the carpet.

So with my calendar semi-cleared for the weekend, I bit the anxiety-bullet and stopped avoiding going into my own attic.

It's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. There was just as much good news as bad. It was raining while I was up there and no serious leaks revealed themselves. The attic is small, but not hard to move around in. The insulation was relatively recently replaced or supplemented. A previous repair is holding up very well. It is clear to me that once I do have a new roof up there--it'll be a perfectly nice place to store a few things.

In the meantime Chris went and bought me some plastic sheeting to put down and a big battery the better to see what I'm doing with. We're supposed to get about five inches of rain over the next 24 hours. The neighbors have a beautiful roof but are worried their basement will flood.

It's always something.

At any rate. Max and I put down the sheeting and are checking it faithfully to watch for water so we know where to put buckets.

I had started a huge batch of spaghetti sauce, so since I was staying home I pulled that out and finished boiling it down. I used my "new" pressure canner today (bought at a flea market, I replaced all the gaskets and rubber parts). Taking no chances I told the boys solomnly that the thing wasn't perfectly safe and although it was unlikely that anything horrible would happen with it, there was a small possibility that it could blow up and kill them. So they should stay out of the kitchen.

They have stayed out of the kitchen.

Earlier today we went back to the eye doctor. There we learned that the twins are still mildly far-sighted, but nothing deserving glasses. We also learned that Max does indeed have some visual processing issues that are in fact related to learning to spell properly.

On the one hand, I was alarmed because she uncovered more issues than I expected her to. She wants the school to agree to not give him essay tests because it would not reveal what he really knows about something. I just wanted the school to agree to continue a phonics-based spelling program with him because he's not ready for a strictly vocabulary-based program like the one they have.

On the other hand, I've had no small amount of guilt that I could be so successful in teaching Max everything under the sun verbally and have "failed" him in writing. In truth--he isn't horribly behind in writing. But when you consider that he's ahead in everything else--the writing seems a big deficit. And his spelling is atrocious.

So it is comforting to me to have something I can take the school district . I was right. This wasn't about having the wrong spelling curriculum or not spending enough time on it. In fact, I think I had the right spelling curriculum and I'm hoping I can talk them into using it. (The charter school has a very close relationship with the education department at Penn State. They have many young, enthusiastic teaching students as volunteers.)

Now, for me? Back to work.