Monday, April 30, 2007

An Orenburg Triangular Warm Shawl to Knit

I first ordered the kit from Galina Khemeleva last year. I had decided I wanted to knit a shawl for Max's piano teacher. I did the sample shawl in Gossamer Webs (see link in sidebar) and then decided I wasn't wild about the colors that came in the kit. I knew that the yarn was an almost perfect match for JaggerSpun Zephyr, so I went to Centre Hall's LYS where they carry it, and got two other colors of green. My final choices were peacock for the border, sage for the narrow interior border, and Jade for the main body. I cast on. Summer arrived. The project languished. By November I knew I wouldn't get it done for Christmas. I set it aside and resolved to make it a priority in the new year.

In January I finished the first border, then had to frog the entire thing when I showed it to a more experienced knitter and she informed me that "that's not what knitted lace should look like." It's supposed to have visible holes, apparently. I tried again with size 3 needles instead of size 1 needles, and a refresher course on the correct technique of a YO. (I've only been knitting for over 15 years. I'd been wrapping in the wrong direction all these years.) I started over again about a week later.

But then everything started going beautifully. By now I'd had enough experience with the thing that with the proper YOs and needle size, the new border was really pretty. I was excited about it and knit along quickly. When worked slowed down, my work on the shawl sped up. I carried it with me everywhere and knit on it when ever possible.

It's a nice shawl for a first lace project because every even row is plain knitting. It's not purled, there are no places where there's a pattern there after all (I'm also knitting Sivia Harding's Shetland Garden Shawl, and I find it more challenging), and the only thing that got hard were the unfinished directions.

The directions weren't really unfinished. Well, they sort of were. Let me explain. When Galina mails you the pattern, she jots on a post-it note next to the first border "Can do 9 repeats if you want a bigger shawl." You're on your own for figuring out how this will affect the rest of the charts.

Just in case you're googling this to solve this very problem, let me help. Do an additional 10 repeats of the second part of each border. Pick up and knit 183 stitches along the right border and follow the pattern as indicated by the chart. You'll have two plain knitted stitches between the second-to-last and last box of the odd rows of the charts. The body will be roughly twice as big.

Here's the part that really had me stumped--for the final top border you will need 75 teeth. It could be 50 (same as with the smaller version) but that will result is teeth that are stretched too far. Mathematically, 90 made sense--and that's what I knit. But when I went to attach the teeth to the body, I realized I'd gone about my calculations wrong. 75 is the right number. Attach the teeth to the body in exactly the same manner as described in the pattern for the original shawl.

Here is the finished shawl unblocked. Unfortunately, the colors aren't perfectly true. They're coming across as shades of blue, and they are definitely not. The colors in this first, unblocked, version, are probably truest.

NOW. Let me say that unless you are exceptionally oversized in some way (e.g., very tall, very heavy) and normally require difficult to find sizes, the shawl is a perfect size exactly as written. The shawl grows exponentially when blocking. My finished shawl (and I am a tight gauge knitter) blocked out to 80" along the top of the triangle. The two smaller sides are 60". Our tiny piano teacher will have some folding to do when she wants to wear this. I even briefly considered sending this one to my grandmother instead, and making the piano teacher a new one, but smaller, but then I remembered that my grandmother is about the same size as the piano teacher. (I have another shawl in mind for Granny anyway.) I started out blocking it on one of the twins' mattresses, but had to abandon that for the floor of their room (they don't play in their room, so their room is actually the ideal place for blocking on the floor. Low traffic, no clutter.)

Here it is, blocked. The peacock in particular looks bluish green, and its not. It's a deep, dark green with a blue-ish tone. I'm a little bummed about the color not coming out right for you, because they're so smashing together. But, you still get the idea of the shawl.

I love it. There are a few small errors. They're genuine errors. I did no fudging. If I found a mistake, I ripped back and fixed it. I've never frogged anything as often as I frogged this. I'm so proud of the work that I've done on it that I didn't even feel badly when I found the mistakes. They're tiny. She'll never notice. And I'm all for that whole "only God can make a thing perfect" philosophy. This is imperfect. But on a scale that it still makes the perfect Christmas gift for the piano teacher. After we took the pictures today, I tucked it away till December.

This gives you an idea of the size. I'm 5'6" and I weigh :cough: enough that I don't classify as skinny.

I don't think the color is too shabby in this photo. That's about right for an in-the-sun photo. (Ooh, I look good, too! Maybe I'll order a copy of that for Grandma Judy for Mother's Day.) If you click on it can you see my crow's feet?

And now, off to blog this morning's gardening exploits. WHAT a DAY! (And thank you, thank you for getting excited with me about the shawl. I am just beside myself about it!)

Coming Attraction

I did it!!!

"An Orenburg Triangular Warm Shawl to Knit" is done! I said I wanted to finish it by the end of April, and I ended up doing that exactly. I finished it tonight around 11:00, washed it and threaded it onto fishing line by 12:10, and finished blocking it at 12:45 am.

I'll share pictures and info in the morning when, hopefully, we can grab a little sun before the thunderstorms roll in.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

So Now I Know

Milo: Mom, if you played with us in Super Mario Smash Brothers, you would be Peach.

I don't quite see the resemblance . . . .

Called to the Mat

Hubby: Honey . . .

Me: Hmm?

Hubby: What did you order from Canada?

Me: [Stalls for time. I don't remember ordering anything. Did I order something? Have I maybe been ordering from the Internet in my SLEEP? If I did, what account did I use?!?] What?

Hubby: You had a package at the post office. I had to sign for it, give a blood sample, finger prints, and show ID.

Me: Really? [NO! No, other than that KnitPicks order--which he knows about because he helped pick the color of the yarn, I have NOT ordered anything. Unless I DID order something in my sleep. Could I do that? Did I have Paypal, maybe?]

Hubby: The package says "books and yarn."

Me: The only thing I ordered recently was the KnitPicks ::inches towards door:: [Ooh! I don't remember ordering it, but books and yarn DOES sound like something I'd order. Where did I get the money?!? What kind of yarn is it? What COLOR is it? Is it a knitting book?]

Hubby: :::raises eyebrow suspiciously::: Hmmmm . . .

:::I flee:::

I tore upstairs to find the package. I read the label. I don't recognize anything. It does indeed claim "books and yarn." I try to open the package but it's industrial quality plastic and it won't give. I find scissors in the kitchen and open the package, unceremoniously dumping the contents out onto the table. There are three Latin books and a bag of sock yarn. I smile. Hornblower has sent back the Latin books I sent her to see if she might like the series. Ooooh yeeeeeaaah . . . Hornblower is Canada!! The sock yarn is just a bonus. I like the color way. I open the bag and squeeze it. It looks and feels a LOT like Claudia's Handpainted Merino sock yarn, but it's not her label, so I look more carefully at the label. Oooooooo! Koigu!!

I've never actually seen Koigu in person. It is VERY soft and a very pretty colorway that has just enough pink in it to make it entirely inappropriate as socks for anyone else in the family. Heh.

Yay, ME! I get to keep the sock yarn, I have NOT been ordering books and yarn in my sleep (Phew! Ya never know!), I am NOT in trouble with hubby, and I have my Latin books back. All's good!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sore Throats and PTPTC Disorder

Having kissed Ben and Milo on the lips often enough (it's bedtime, they insist, and I can't refuse) over the last ten days, I knew that chances were good I was going to end up with their viral ick sooner or later. That time arrived sometime yesterday and has developed into a nice sore throat, foggy head, and general feeling of malaise. It's not the kind of thing that drives you to the doctor, or even sends you to bed for more than an afternoon nap. It's just enough to have you sucking on throat lozenges and being, admittedly, a wee bit whiney.

When I was a kid, my Dad would catch this sort of cold once or twice a winter (we lived mostly in Washington DC and Boston, MA during my childhood) and when he did he would climb into his pjs, wrap his robe around himself, wrap a towel around his throat, and tuck the ends into the top of his robe like a giant, choking ascot. I used to get strep throat all the freaking time, and at least once I tried the towel thing. What the heck? How did he breathe with that thing wrapped around his neck? I didn't understand it at all.

But now--now I am a Mom and I understand. This kind of cold--it's enough to miss a day of work (because you're too tired and too fuzzy-headed to cope with undergraduates when you feel like this) but in truth, you can get dressed. If you have to, you can even manage a conversation. If the phone rings, you *can* still answer it--that sort of thing.

But the robe and pjs and towel--they said to all interested parties (and especially to your kids and spouse) "I'm out today." Today, if you're old enough, I'd like you to get your own sandwich. Today, if you can manage it, I'd like you to read quietly in the room with me--play "lava island" upstairs, please. Today I have the remote. (We only get two channels in this house, but we have LOTS of movies.) Today any child old enough to have phone manners and write a legible note should maybe answer the phone if it rings.

I was mulling over this on the way home when I worried (as I do, about everything) that I hadn't seemed enthusiastic enough about Max's behavior and education during the Parent-Teacher Conference with which I started the day. I wondered if I should have made more of a point of letting them know that I'm sick and not to take it too personally if I seemed a little glassy-eyed. And I flashed back to my father and his towel. I thought, "You know, if I'd been Arthur Dent I could have put the towel around my throat and not have had to explain a thing." (Which displays both my age and geekiness. If you don't know who Arthur Dent is or why he had a towel, we didn't sit anywhere near each other in the cafeteria at school.)

So yes, today was the final P/T conference of the year. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know I suffer from a bad case of Post-Traumatic Parent-Teacher Conference Disorder. They were soooo bad for Max's kindergarden and first-grade years, so consistently, that I hate them now with a purple passion. Having been in the teacher's chair though, I never skip them. And I don't send Chris instead, because I consider it one of those situations where A Good Mom puts on her big girl panties and goes and listens. And offers suggestions and insight where needed. No self-respecting former home-schooling mom would skip the parent/teacher conference. Please.

I now have three boys in two different schools, and Ben and Milo's school HAS parent/teacher conferences (which I think is overkill for preschool, but they held it--so I went) and that has been helpful to my continuing to try to believe that I might someday go to a parent/teacher conference in which the teacher had only nice things to say about my oldest. They have to reach to find things to "work on" with the twinks--when they say, "Well, we'd like to see some improvement with scissors," they don't mean the twins are stabbing their neighbors--they mean they're still a little iffy on cutting on the line. Let me be clear, Max has never done a MEAN thing in school (He once nearly took his best-friend's eye out with an arrow, but it wasn't intentional. Not that that would have been any consolation.) but he couldn't get a teacher with classroom management skills to save his life and since he didn't have much in the way of impulse control, he spent a lot of time talking when he wasn't supposed to talk and getting out of his seat when he was supposed to be in it. That pretty much sums of the nature of his misbehavior. It's just that his ability to talk when he wasn't supposed to and wander from his seat when he wasn't supposed to was sooo pervasive, he could make a first-year teacher crazy and a crazy-teacher cry.

I wasn't expecting to find ourselves back in the same position when he returned to school last spring. I knew that three years of homeschooling had resulted in some small amount of self-control and that academically, he'd be in a position to experience success. He had a teacher last spring with enough years of experience to help him be successful. But still, he was a handful, and the reviews at the parent-teacher conference were mixed. Yes, he was good in this regard, BUT he still had quite a bit to work on.

This fall it was pretty much the same, BUT we were back to a first-year teacher with no classroom management skills (unless they were previously in the military, NO first-year teacher has enough classroom management skills their first year, no matter how brilliant, talented, or committed). Then, mid-year, there was a change in Max's classroom. There are two teachers in every classroom at this charter school to bring every class to a 1:10 adult:child ratio. There is a lead teacher and an assistant. In Max's classroom the assistant left and a new assistant took her place. The new assistant is a former high-school biology teacher. She had expectations about what reasonable classroom behavior looked like and by golly, she was going to get it. To make a long winter/early spring short, she did. It was a rough transition for Max, but Chris and I stood by him AND by her and the result is that Max is finally feeling successful and empowered. When he tries to do what she wants him to do--he can do it. And he is rewarded with more peer respect and the respect of his teacher.

And so I went to the parent/teacher conference this morning, trying to keep my expectations low, and instead I heard for 45 minutes a long litany . . . of good news. How well he's doing in each content area. How far he's come with his behavior. How sweet he is. How funny he is. How passionate he is about his ideas, and the world, and learning. All the reasons I desperately miss homeschooling him were finally there on the table--visible to some OTHER adult's eyes. I ALMOST cried because, you know, I'm sick and that can make you cry easily (and because I am Alaska, and I cry easily when I'm well). But I didn't. Honestly, I think between surprise/shock that we were FINALLY having THAT parent-teacher conference--The Good One--and my sore throat/cold, I did less talking and more listening than I am normally capable of. (And no jokes about this one, Dr. J. O-Bear is going to find a way to put you through the ringer on this one, too. I was THERE for your elementary career.)

I'm so proud of him. He's never struggled particularly hard with academics, but he struggled to understand the rules and appropriate social behaviors of school. He has worked hard this winter/early spring and he's getting it.

Raising kids is hard. You think "Dear God, is he EVER going to (sleep through the night, dress himself, use the toilet, put on his seat belt without being reminded, practice piano without being asked, get through a whole day of school without being asked to be quiet)?" And then they DO and just like the first time they sleep through the night you RUN to them (or, if they're in the bed with you, wake with a gasp, grab them and give a little shake to be sure they're breathing)--the first time they do whatever it is that you have long waited for--at first you don't believe it. And then you do. And then . . . if you're me, you feel gratitude and pride and relief and a little bit of "I knew it. I knew he could do it all along." And you go and you find him and no matter his age, you pull him close and give him a big hug and tell him you're proud of him.

And then you go look for a towel.


I thought I'd mentioned it, but it's likely I haven't. In a couple of weeks I'm off to Canada for a few days to go to the IRA conference (very few Irish involved. It's a READING association conference. Any Irish there are just there to brush up on their reading research.) It's about the only time/place that large amounts of education publishing types get together in one place and about the only place I can go and meet some of my coworkers face to face. (Every few years I go to an actual project-specific meeting somewhere, but this is very rare.) Hence the need for my annual hair cut and cover-the-gray dye job.

I had to get a passport this year. The conference is usually somewhere in the U.S., but this year it's in Toronto (CA, not OH). This is actually GOOD as it turns out to be much cheaper and easier for me to DRIVE to Toronto than it would be for me to fly to most of the other places that they've held the conference in the U.S.

And now I have a passport so that when Chris and I are done getting totally out of debt we can finally take that trip to Venice and kiss under the Bridge of Sighs. Which you would understand if you ever watched A Little Romance. It was the first movie that Chris and I watched together when we were probably a year or two older than the movie's protagonists.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday Evening

Here are a few pictures from yesterday's sunny afternoon. The twins are still in jammies, actually, LOL. But they were feeling a little better yesterday, so they were out helping me spread wild flower seeds in the front garden beds.

Ben dancing

Milo dancing

Ben with the pear tree

Milo watering

And finally, here I am making my somewhat typical "deeply concerned about everything" face at Chris and his camera as he captures my new "going to Canada" haircut.

In other news, I have FINISHED the body of the Orenburg. I am five teeth into the final top border which I think will eventually require 90 teeth. I've also made great progress on baby girl sweater 1 of 4.

And now, it is time for dinner.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Because Heaven Forbid I Should Have That Nice Feeling of Accompishment

I cast on two nights ago for a third shawl. I couldn't help it. I'd recently learned how to add beads to lace. I can't add beads to the Orenburg shawl and I'm not excited by the KAL pattern that the Sivia Harding KAL group is doing next (and for which they are adding beads, and for which I didn't feel I really had any appropriate yarn in stash), but I do have 5 skeins of Shimmer in colorway Flower Garden that Chris gave me for my birthday last summer. I also have this book (also a birthday present last summer):

and it just seemed to me that the Feather and Fan Shawl (pp. 56-58) (which is not the same as the Feather and Fan Shawl shown on the knitpicks site) was perfect for the yarn and would work with the beads . . . and the next thing I knew, I was casting on.

In the meantime, I am NOT done with the body of the Orenburg shawl. I slipped into some kind of weird space/time continuum issue and even though I'm still decreasing one stitch every other row and I can see the rows disappearing on the chart as I cross out each completed one . . . I seem to stay about 7" away from done.

This is probably just as well since I still have no idea how to finish the shawl given that my shawl is bigger than the shawl as originally written and I can't seem to get hold of the designer to tell me what to do about the teeth.

But I really wanted to finish it by the end of April . . . and I'm running out of April.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Evening Light Conversation

Ben: Mom . . . I just want you to tell me what you know about God.

Alrighty then!


Milo is still sick. I don't think he ran a fever today, but his coughing is not good and he sounds like a percolator when he's breathing. He doesn't have any appetite. I'm ready for him to start feeling better :(

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sunshine . . . On My Shoulders . . .

Makes me happpeeee!!! (And a little sunburned, but we're good. I wore a hat.)

The kids and I headed out to a local green house for onion sets this morning. The kids picked out pansies. When we got back, I put the tomatoes and peppers out on the back porch for their first day of real sunshine. We stopped at Lowe's for a few things for today's construction project and then headed home.

Then I needed to take the garage-door pieces I'd picked up yesterday and assemble them into a raised bed/cold frame, but Chris had taken the truck with all the pieces to run errands, so I got to work digging the hole that I was going to put it in.

While I'm waiting for the photos to upload, let me tell you about Denny's Magic Pizza. When we were visiting my aunt and uncle in Michigan (on the pretense of going to see the Yarn Harlot), Denny made us his famous homemade pizza. It really was the best pizza I've ever had and I got the recipe for his dough before I left. I've now made the pizza twice and it is incredible.

Besides the fact that it tastes fabulous and succeeds in being both thin and crispy, it's also got some kind of magical expanding quality. Two slices are enough to leave me gasping for breath on the couch all night. Chris, who regularly eats half of the delivery pizzas we get, had to stop at four slices. Both times we made it, we made one large and one medium pizza. Both times we've had leftovers. Given that I have three sons who all eat more than the GNP of some small countries, this is really saying something. They make happy noises and gobble the pizza down--then say they're full and roll off to go find something else to do.

Okay, pictures. In both, my hat is sitting funny on my head because I was too lazy to take the pony tail out before I put the hat on. Since the ground is mostly clay, the best way to dig the hole was to use a hatchet to loosen the clay and then when I had an area somewhat loose, use the spade to dig it out. There were TONS of rocks, which were easier to get out with the hatchet anyway.

In the very last corner I did, there was an especially large rock. It turned out to be five separate rocks, all smooshed together, of which the one shown below was the largest. But because of the placement of the rock, I couldn't set the wood frame into the hole without digging out those rocks. It took 20 minutes.

I started putting the frame together, but the drill lost its battery charge, so I'll have to finish that tomorrow after church.

The sun is starting to set and I haven't brought the tomatoes back in yet, so I'd better get to that. I'm soooo glad the sun is back!

Friday, April 20, 2007

This and That

Strange day today, but a very nice one overall. Let's start with a photo. This is our new couch! We got it on freecycle from a very nice guy who seemed sad to part with it (but they'd already bought the replacement).

Milo is resting on it because Milo has a slight case of Spring Fever. He's coughing and wheezing and running a fever. When the motrin kicks in, he's pretty happy and active, so we haven't been to the doctor yet, but as you can see from the photo, the albuterol is in use.

As you can also see from the photo, the SUN came out today! Oh, what a beautiful day it was! Max and I ran some errands and then I'd like to say that I spent the whole afternoon out in the sun working on my garden, but there wouldn't be a word of truth to it. Instead I went upstairs to check on Milo--who was out cold in my bed--gave him some motrin and then lay down to keep him company for a few minutes . . . and woke up three hours later, disoriented, and incapable of doing much more than walking out to the living room to sit down again. I didn't really wake up till I returned a friend's phone call and was therefore forced to speak in complete sentences.

Did I mention how thrilled I am with our couch? It's comfy and green and the dog and kids think it's wonderful. Last night Chris and I watched our first (of many, I'm sure) movie together sitting on the couch and snoozling.

The kids didn't have school today. School officials found writing referencing both the horrible events of earlier this week and the anniversary of Columbine and they decided to just cancel school. It doesn't freak me out--I think because I feel they made the right call!

In knitting news, I am nearly done with the body of the Orenburg. I bought some tiny beads today to try to work into the Garden shawl. Between the two shawls I'm working on tiny sweaters for all the girls my cousins are having this spring.

Alright! Off to whip up some mashed potatoes and get dinner on the table.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oy Vey

So Milo is animatedly reading aloud a Captain Underpants book to Ben. Um. Yay?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We Did It!!!

We put all four of our bikes (I don't own my own anymore, it was sacrificed in the great "pot latch" packing day when we discovered the exact square footage of our belongings and whatever didn't fit on the truck . . . didn't come) in the back of the white truck and drove to Max's school. I unloaded Max and Chris's bikes and Max put his stuff in the white truck. Then Chris took the twins to the bike path to ride their little red bikes and Max and I rode our bikes home.

Chris's bike has a seat that is definitely a man's seat. It's designed for narrow pelvic bones and I don't believe I have ever had narrow pelvic bones. Ow. BUT! We made it. We wish there were bicycle lanes between here and there. We wish people drove more slowly on those two roads. But we know we can do it and it was even fun :) Max was relieved to find it wasn't nearly as bad as he feared.

Go, us!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Faster! Faster! You Fool! You Fool!"

1000 nothing points to the person who can tell me the source of that quote.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are still for swimming, but I think we're in the last week of that. The boys have made so much progress that they can no longer be Rays masquerading as Eels. So they're moving into the Ray class, which pretty much requires that I move them to the Saturday morning class. The boys had fun in class today, but were disappointed that Chris (who came along to spend quality time with the treadmill today) and I wanted to go right home afterwards. Tuesdays are also the day that one of the job boards posts new listings and so the next thing I knew it was 3:10 and time to head over to Max's school.

Max's school has free after school activities as part of its charter. It is widely used as free after school daycare, which creates some discipline issues and a never-ending need for volunteers, but the program continues to produce some winners.

As part of Max and my Spring Fitness Challenge . . . Omigosh, you know what would be fun?!? I should totally open this up. Are there any other other-sons/mother-daughters/father-sons/father-daughters who want to do this with me? We'll made a button and everything!

Here's the general guidelines: we have to have some kind of workout together every day but Sunday. Now, once we're through this last bit of winter-like weather, that's mostly going to look like biking to school in the mornings or doing a workout using free weights, plus a round of pushups and crunches. There is no weight-loss goal. It is simply a fun fitness for the sake of fitness thing. The goal is to be in good enough shape at the start of the real summer that we don't avoid shorts or swim suits or summer-fun activities because we feel too tired or too flabby or somehow inadequate in some way.

These fitness activities should follow the guidelines outlined in Trim Kids.

I'll summarize it for you. I loved the book. It's the sanest approach to healthy eating and activity levels I've ever seen for kids, so if you have a kid who has slid into the overweight category, I do recommend checking out the book from the library. But for our purposes, the point is simply this: kids don't benefit from the same kinds of exercises that adults do--but they do benefit from exercise. Kids have a metabolism and nervous system that likes big activity in short bursts. Think tag. Think hide and go seek (where there is a base you have to run to). Think Red-Rover and Red-Light/Green-Light. Think biking around the neighborhood--where you bike as fast as you can to Lackey's house and then everyone stops and argues over where to go next for ten minutes. Then you bike hard over to the playground where everyone assumes Koala and sloth-like positions on the monkey bars while discussing exactly what constitutes a "good dog" and who has the better dog in the neighborhood. Then you bike hard to the convenience store where everyone buys a twinkie (or whatever) and then you sit around on the stone wall (or whatever) outside the store and discuss what to do next. (You decide that everyone will go home and change into their suits to meet at the pool where you will play . . . Sharks and Minnows. Or Marco Polo.)

So when you "workout" with your kid, that means that you pick kid-friendly activities. Biking to school is fine. The workout I did last night with Max works fine because it's a) short--only 20 minutes and b) constantly changing. It doesn't stay on one muscle group for more than a dozen repetitions without changing the exercise in some way (and it returns to each muscle group more than once). Tuesdays are very long days for Max. This makes it really hard to fit in anything to the already packed day. BUT one of Max's activities is the after school walking club. So after school I showed up and offered to walk with the club. This club is led by the Assistant Principal, which I love because she keeps a firm reign on the kids. There is a "fast" group and a "slow" group. She gave me the "fast" group, briefly explained the procedure, and then we were off.

For the first few minutes I was genuinely worried that I couldn't keep up. Luckily the kids have to stop at every cross walk and wait for the rest of their group to catch up. Then the "kid metabolism" thing kicked in. Their starting pace wasn't one they could keep up either. Soon I was keeping up just fine, and for the last half, I was leading and egging them on.

It. was. so. much. fun!!

Max apparently usually walks with the slow group, but I told him if we were going to count this as our exercise for the day (and it totally counts because it's more than 20 minutes of fast-walking) that he had to do the fast group with me. He surprised himself by keeping up with me--which means that by the end he was also leading the group. He was proud of that. I was proud of that, too.

The frequent stops and mini-rests that take place at each curb are part of the club's success. It allows kids to be fit in the way that kids are designed to be. They surge ahead as they step off the curb to cross the street, and lose speed the further they get from that point. Stopping even for 30 seconds while waiting for the stragglers to catch up is all the break they need. It's also a blessing for the less-fit kids because it gives them a chance to catch up. Since these breaks are always there, if they stay with the club, they will gradually gain fitness and get to be one of the kids who waits for others to catch up.

Anyway, I definitely enjoyed myself, Max did, too, and we'll definitely take advantage of the Tuesday Walking Club for our Tuesday exercise.

So. Anyone else want to commit to playing/exercising with their kid for four to six days a week through the end of your school year? (It's six for us, but I can appreciate that others might have scheduling issues that require them to scale back.) Our goal is to do this till the start of swim season (June 13th) when swim practice will give him an hour of exercise five days a week.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tax Emancipation Day

I really love the sound of that, although it doesn't have the meaning it implies. What it really means is "you have another day to do your taxes day." So I did that today. I'd started it months ago, so today I input the last few bits of data and finished up the feds, state, and local taxes. That's really all I have to say about that.

After I finished up the taxes, Chris and I tossed the twinks in the car and headed over to Max's school to get him. We then spent the next two hours at Wegmans. First, we each got a treat (I got a muffin, Max and Ben got donuts, Chris and Milo got a cookie) and sat down at their tables in the eating area and made up our menu for the next two weeks. From this we made up the shopping list. Then Max and Chris took half the list and the twins and I took the other half of the list (but we still ended up with some duplicates) and we restocked the pantry.

Back at home, the whole house was filled with smoke. The wood pellet stove had experienced some sort of technical malfunction and was slowly emitting smoke. I had to tear weatherproofing plastic off two of the basement windows to let in air, Emily got locked onto the back porch so we could open all the doors. I emptied the still glowing/smoking pellets into the ash tray below the furnace and took it all outside to dump into a muddy spot. I gave Max the important job of using all the rainwater he could find to extinguish the last of the glowing pellets while I cleaned the furnace out more thoroughly. I'm not exactly sure what went wrong with the stove, but I think it might have been some of the crazy wind from today's weather blowing back into the smoke stack as the pellet stove was trying to ignite the pellets.

Anyway, then Max made everyone sandwiches for dinner while I put everything away. Chris headed off to his garage to get some work done. Then Max did his homework.

We (well, Max, Chris, and I) are trying to get more active so we can have a fun spring and summer and fall and not feel terribly out of shape. The weather is thwarting our efforts though. Max and I were going to ride bikes to his school in the mornings, but the temperature has to get at least into the 40's to pull that off. So we did a Kathy Smith DVD together tonight. My abdominal muscles were alarmed to be called back from their hybernating state. It's only been a couple of hours since we did the DVD, but I can tell that I'm going to be sore tomorrow.

The Orenburg Shawl is going well. Only thirty more rows (15 on the chart, 15 purl returns) before I'm finally back on the original chart for the pattern. Doubling the length of the left and right borders seems to have quadrupled the size of the body. I've been using the chart to get the hang of the pattern, but the chart assumes a starting number of stitches of 100, and I started with 183. I'm not sure it's realistic to think I could really finish the shawl by the end of April, but definitely by mid-May. Then it gets tucked away till Christmas.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday Afternoon on a Cold Spring Day

I've been railing against a cold all week. Not my cold--one the twins are sharing. They cough and hack at night and get up and sneeze and cough and hack--and then get on with the day. It's a kind of ordinary cold in that it doesn't have any fever and the kids feel otherwise fine, but with these two you have to watch these ordinary colds carefully or the next thing you know you're up half the night with nebulizer treatments, trying to decide at what point to call and beg for the steroids.

So we kept them home on Monday to try to improve our odds, and while that didn't make anything better, it didn't make anything worse. So we let them go to swim lessons (indoor therapy pool, heated to just shy of boiling, and then into the showers and use the hair dryer and clean underwear and everything so they're perfectly clean and dry when they hit the outdoors again) on Tuesday and to preschool on Wednesday, but Ben seemed to be taking a turn for the worst last night, so he missed swimming this morning and by the end of swimming Milo was uncharacteristically tired and leaking mucus badly, so I bundled him up and took him home and canceled afternoon piano lessons.

Which means here I am with a quieter Thursday than normal. At this moment, it's raining.

My own faith has been shaky lately. I have questioned everything. Am I supposed to see this lack of work as a sign that it's time to do something else? (Well, I applied for other jobs and got not a nibble.) Do I need to work harder at finding new clients? (I found many and sent them my resume and cover letter and I got back some interest in working with me--but no actual projects.) But as this week becomes the fifth week without work, I can see that maybe it's just part of the ebb and flo of this business and it doesn't have much deeper meaning beyond that. Nothing horrible has happened so far. Chris has steady work and between that and our emergency funds, it looks like we'll make it to my next pay check in better shape than I thought. I was mulling it all over this morning, especially my worries about taxes and tithing and everything, and then . . . I could practically hear His voice in my head saying simply, "Prove me herewith . . ." and I remembered that the words came from a line that included something about pouring out more blessings than you can handle. And I felt that peace that soothes ALL the worries.

I can't see the solution to all of our financial issues right now, but I guess I've lived long enough at this point to know that as long as you disengage your pride and try to deal with everyone honestly, these things do eventually get resolved.

Because I don't have really ANY scriptures memorized, I had to google it when I got home (I knew kind of where the quote was from, but I wanted to know the rest). It's from Malachi and the quote is "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." And he goes on to promise to "rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall the vine cast her fruit before the time in the field."

And what I heard in that was a promise that the tremendous progress we made last year in paying down debt will not be lost (a huge fear for me during this time of "inactivity" and especially at seeing how far I still have to go in catching up with taxes) and that progress and its fruits will occur at the time that it is supposed to occur.

When we put our trust in God to find us the Right Place to settle, He led us to this town where we have been safe, and welcomed, and able to improve our financial situation. So I feel I was reminded today to that He will be just as wise and merciful and generous in helping us as we continue to settle our past debts and work--hard--towards a debt-free future.

Anyway it was the outpouring of rain that inspired me to sit down at the computer to blog. I thought about rain and the spring and the very, very gradual warming of the earth this year (not the other kind of Global Warming, that's for another post) and so I put some google-fu to the gospel library again and found this Psalm:

1 Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.
2 The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. 3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names
5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
6 The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.
7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:
8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
9 He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.
11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.
13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.
14 He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.
16 He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?
18 He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.
19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.
20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.

I don't understand all of it, but it still makes me feel better. Now Ben wants to read me "Put Me In The Zoo," and I'm going to run with that.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Chris' Socks

I FINALLY got around to taking pictures of the socks today, after he's been wearing them now for weeks. The sock yarn is Austermann Step in colorway #04. I used a little twisted cable pattern on every other knitted rib and carried that down the top of the foot till I started decreases for the toes.

It has a typical Kitchener graft. The heel is . . . I don't know what it's called. It's the only kind of heel I know how to do. (I think, maybe, it's a french heel.)

Today has been fun. We stayed home to keep the family together on Easter. The eggs and candy and jelly beans were hunted for and found. I made egg salad out of the eggs and put that in the fridge for later. We had a late breakfast of monkey bread (part of a nutritious breakfast if you add eggs, juice, and milk) and an even later lunch of fresh bread and egg salad.

And now I believe I have no choice but to give in to the urge for an Easter nap.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I don't know either

(why there are no comments on the last post. It just didn't publish with that option.)

SO. I've been working obsessively on both shawls and occasionally on this sweater or that and in between continuing to look for more work. The shawls are being cooperative, the work--not so much--but sometimes it's like that. Today we'll dye eggs and do laundry and get the living room picked up since it's taking on that overly-lived-in look.

The weather has been unseasonably cold and we've had snow for the past few days. It doesn't accumulate much. Sometimes as much as a half inch--then melts off. But hopefully by Monday things will be climbing towards a more normal upper 40s. I need to get the plot over at the community garden weeded and I need to get it some compost and manure.

In spite of the lack of work, this spring is already proving fruitful. Max's piano playing is so much more mature and I can see that he has picked up more perseverence and discipline in the process. I swear piano lessons have done more for this boy's character than any other activity that we have to pay for. Ben and Milo are also showing growth in their piano playing, as Ben in particular occasionally practices a song without me having to sit down to do it with him. And both twinks are really, actually swimming on their own. Their reading has taken off and they consume little books voraciously. Their writing is far behind, but I could care less. They have the proper foundation (and are still ahead of where you'd expect them to be entering kindergarten in the fall) and will eventually catch up.

And now--to the eggs.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ann Arbor and All That

I've been back home since dinner time on Monday, but somehow couldn't bring myself to try to pin down the whole trip in words. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip in which everything that could go right, went right, and the only wrongs just make for better blogging.

Milo and/or Ben will help me tell the story since they got hold of the camera twice during this period and took some pictures from their point of view. They mostly look something like this:

The view across the dinner table and into the kitchen.
No wonder the house never looks as messy to them.

Me, looking around 102 years-old, knitting at Aunt Connie's to-die-for dining room table which Uncle Denny made all by himself.

There was yarn everywhere. We were all constantly knitting on something.

There were also LOTS of toddler toys because Aunt Connie and Uncle Denny's grand-baby #1 (#2 having arrived on Tuesday and is a SHE--only the fourth she in two generations of this side of the family--her name is wonderful, but I don't know if they want it all over the Internet) spends a day or two there every week.

The pretty hazel eyes of the culprit. Not really a clue because the culprit is an identical twin . . . .

We tried to leave as early as possible on Friday, but "possible" became 9:45 before I knew it. To get from here to there you go north 20 minutes, hang a left on 80, drive a couple hundred miles, hang a right on 23, and there you are. EVERYONE, including Mapquest, says this should take 6.5 hours. It took the twinks and I 8.5 hours. I don't know. We traveled with a big thirst and tiny bladders.

It has been MUCH longer than I thought since we last visited my aunt and uncle at their house and they've spent their retirement remodeling the house. It is SO beautiful and SO perfect. I love the light and the openness of the living room. But it's the kitchen that makes me drool. Check this out.
We very quickly made ourselves very much at home. The twins got goodies from all the grownups and had foam swords and playing cards and pastel shades of playdough to play with.
They set up the dominoes and knocked them down.

We ate extremely well because my aunt and uncle can both cook extremely well and they had bowls of veggies and fruits and dips and chips and yummy sandwiches and soups and salads at hand ALL the time. We didn't eat all day so much as we grazed and grazed and grazed. But then each day ended with a delicious sit-down dinner. (Home made mac n cheese and fat, yummy hot dogs the first night, Denny's Famous Homemade pizza for dinner--better than anything you've EVER had--yummy soups the third night.)

My Grandma Helen, who recently celebrated her 95th birthday, kept us all good company. And while knitting is just more than her eyes and shoulder can take, she was in good health and good spirits for the entire visit. I am grateful for that.

Saturday we sat and talked and knit and knit and talked and only left the house to go to the yarn store to meet Ann, my brother's good friend from college. I'll fess up right here that I took a TON of pictures of this weekend and can't use most of them. I don't know what setting I had the camera on, but most of the pictures look like this:
. . . including the one I took of Ann. Anyway, we went to her yarn store just to meet her, but Connie had decided she was going to start another project for one of her grandbabies and so she needed yarn, and I had decided on a project for one of my new cousins-once-removed, so I needed yarn, and Charlotte was the only one with much restraint. We decided right off that Ann was pretty cool, and invited her to brunch the next day, which she graciously accepted.

And that was pretty much entirely Saturday. Okay--here was one of the weird things about the weekend--I had nightmares galore. I don't usually have a lot of nightmares, although a side-effect of the medication I take is to have these REM catchup periods in the wee hours of the morning, so I dream WAY more than I used to. And they are LONG and rambly dreams. Well these were cycling nightmares that felt like I was caught in a loop. Normally I'm very good at waking myself out of nightmares, but in this case, I just couldn't. The nightmares weren't too hideous. I can't even remember the first two night's--I just remember finally getting up and going to the bathroom to try to shake myself out of it and get some sleep. By Monday morning I was pretty twisted tired from all the nocturnal activity. Sunday night's nightmares were influenced by the wind I could hear outside. I kept dreaming I woke to hear the wind, looked out the window and saw funnel clouds, and panicked because the twins are finally too big for me to carry any distance at the same time (52 and 54 lbs respectively) and I didn't know how we were going to get BOTH of them AND my 95 year-old-grandmother down to the basement in time. (Plus, in my dream, my uncle was impossible to wake.) I didn't get out of that loop until about the 7th version of the dream.

At any rate, Sunday was the big day. We all dressed and went to a very nice vegetarian restaurant called Seva. The place was incredible and I had the best Spinach Enchilada I've ever had in my entire life. We also had some sweet potato fries, which were really pretty decent.

From there we hurried over to the library, just in time to learn that The Yarn Harlot was having a Very Bad Day. What this meant for us at that point was that we knew she wouldn't be there in time for the 2pm talk and we didn't know when she would be there. We also knew that if we left our chairs, they'd likely be sat in by someone else. They were already filling up the upstairs overflow room (where they could watch the presentation when it happened on a large-screen TV). BUT we also knew that the yarn store two blocks away was having a big sale on Malabrigo yarn. So Ann and I stayed put and knit (and Ann went and got a BOOK because this was a LIBRARY, get it? So she read.) and was rewarded. Charlotte brought me back two skeins of laceweight malabrigo in this gorgeous ruby/garnet color. I LOVE this yarn. I'd never seen it before, but her choice couldn't have been more perfect.

Since they were back to guard the chairs, I went next door to the friends of the library book room and bought a bunch of easy reader books for the twins and The Egypt Game for Max. They were between a quarter and two quarters each.

Upstairs they were having an April Fool's Day event for local kids and making pretty paper hats. Since there were all these kids with no audience and an audience with no show--the librarians arranged the kids into a parade and marched through the Crazy Knitters room. We applauded and cheered. Here's a picture that doesn't actually reveal the identities of any of the kids.

Here's me, looking a little batty. I couldn't find my hair band that morning, so here I am, badly in need of a dye job and hair cut.

And then, suddenly, The Yarn Harlot was IN the building. Here is the only picture I took of her that even remotely came out. It's a horrible picture. She is prettier in person. For a tiny person, she has an alto voice, and I enjoyed every word. I was VERY glad we'd gone, and didn't mind the wait at all (after all, it's not like we hadn't all brought something to do while we waited).

But when the talk was over, I desperately wanted to be home with these guys, and so instead of waiting and getting our books signed (we'd bought her new book there--there were representatives from Borders books) we hurried home. The boys weren't as worried about us as we were worried about them.Actually, technically, we weren't worried about THEM either, we were more worried that the experience had convinced my cousins to never offer to babysit again or to not have any more kids or at least to REALLY wish we'd get home and give them a BREAK (we stopped on the way home and bought them a "treat" for later). So we hurried home. But the twins had been angels all weekend and carried that over through most of the day. So when we got home I found Milo experimenting with my aunt and uncle's bathtub sauna jets (makes HUGE bubblebath bubbles) and enjoying his bath while my cousin wrestled his baby S, into clean pjs. Ben and Wendy came home a little later and Ben stripped naked and practically did a cannon ball into the bubbles.

Luckily the bathtub sauna thing is on a timer, so I set it for ten more minutes and told them they had to get out when the jets shut off, or I think they would still be in there.

And that was pretty much the weekend. None of us really wanted to go home at the end of the weekend. We'd have all stayed another week if reality hadn't dictated other wise. Aunt Connie and Uncle Denny are the perfect hosts and we hope to get back there soon.

And now I'm off to work a little more on the Shetland shawl. I've finished charts A and B and am making progress on Chart C. I don't really have ANY idea what percentage of the shawl this represents, so ignore the progress bar, but I think it's going to be very pretty when it's done.

Now the Orenburg--I couldn't be more proud of it if it had been my own design. It's still a long way to go before being done, but I'm not having to rip back every other row anymore, and that really helps. I'm also a putting in a new life line every ten rows or so because I USE them on this shawl. Even with a dozen stitch markers to help.

I'll try to get pictures of the shawls in progress soon.
Apropos of nothing, a photo of the tomato and pepper seedlings before I transplanted them.