Thursday, November 30, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Santa Mittens

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

NOT in Crisis Mode!

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

Stuff Mailed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2006

We're Back!!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


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

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

Chess makes a great Christmas gift.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thank You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Remember that list?

The one of things to do?

It's kicking my keester.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Sweet Twinkies

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006


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

These from the deck and in my backyard.

=:* <---whistling in dark

What my calendar says will happen this week.

Today: Workworkwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday: Mom goes home. I workworkwork again.

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

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

GORP post

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

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

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


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

So, the adjustment is a slow one.

Friday, November 10, 2006

For Staci

[double-click on pic to get more detail]

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

A little further along.

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

Thursday, November 09, 2006

We Interrupt This Workaholism to Bring You . . .

Some artsy fartsy time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Anyone Know?

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

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

1 AM and all is well

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

Thor, Nov. 1999 - Nov. 2006

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

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

Sunday, November 05, 2006


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

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Baby Spencer

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

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

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

Beautiful Day

It was sunny today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Ben was smiling, because it was COOL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good day :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thursday Night

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

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

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

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

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

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