Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tuesday Evening Update

I'm up to my neck in workwork, so I'll just post that there are two families genuinely interested in the Blue Truck and both would give it a good home. So that's hopeful.

I jotted down this bit earlier today:

Paper Lantern
This tender shoot is bowed double,
both ends buried under the dirt
in which its seed is buried.
Tomorrow one end will have broken free
reaching for the light strung up just inches above it.

This isn’t real summer.
This is a false summer of heating mats
and grow lights and green house plastic
to hold in the humidity.

36 plugs of dirt and this is the first shoot,
the first glowing green rising
just 2 mm above the soil,
but under the lights I couldn’t miss it.

One glimpse and the whole summer stretches before me.
I can suddenly see heavily burdened tomato plants
and wild climbing beans, butterfly bushes,
squash plants run wild, watermelons creeping toward the house.

I feel bent double myself under the weight of a car payment
and work deadlines and a kitchen that never gets clean,
but I see that tender shoot and smile.
She will be free of the dirt and I will be free of the debt.
She’s a Paper Lantern--a 5 out of 5 on the hot pepper scale.
She may be bent double, vulnerable today,
but come September she’ll make one hot taco.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Because I Really Need It to Sell THIS WEEK

Dear Blue Truck,

I know you don't want to go, and I totally understand why. We made your life meaningful. You seat 8, and I could come up with 8 people to sit in you on a regular basis. You have a removable third-row of seating and I really appreciated how easy that was to remove. I never had any trouble finding things to fit in the back either. You drove all the kids and two dogs from CA to PA and the only ongoing quirk you developed was to insist you didn't have any oil pressure until after you'd warmed up in very cold weather. Your leather seats were easy to clean. Your VHS player--played vhs movies. You entertained my twins when noone else could. You were hard to park--but easy to drive because I could see around and over everything. You pulled trailers and hauled sleds and waited patiently between deep cleanings.

But hon, you're a Ford Expedition and my gas budget can't take it anymore. We bought you used, for a good price, but promptly moved to a part of the country with a much lower cost of living and we've been upside-down ever since. I've made payments on you for over three years and I just can't afford two more years of this, even though I'm pretty sure I've now paid all the interest on the loan. Your monthly payment stands between me and peace of mind. This month, your monthly payment and your brake repair bill stood between me and the mortgage payment.

I'm sorry. You have to go. I'm sure you'll find another family! You'll find someone with more kids--who can't fit in a Taurus no matter what they do. They'll need your leather seats and 23 cup holders just as much as we did. They'll love that their 8-yr-old Blues Clues tapes still play in your machine and entertain the triplets in the way back. They won't love the gas mileage, but just like we did for so long--they'll forgive you for meeting so many other needs.

So please. Keep it together. You've always been such a surprisingly dependable truck. Stand up straight. You're going to get a bath and vacuuming of your carpet. You'll be febreezed within an inch of your life. You'll look good, smell good--show them how great you really are, and try to get yourself sold before your registration is up in ten days. You'll love your new family and they'll love you; Buck up, Trucky Truck. Your future is still ahead of you, but it's not here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

In Like a Lion, Still Pretty Lion Like

I wanted to do a quick blog entry this evening, but I also want to get to bed pretty soon, so I'm keeping myself honest by blogging with the laptop on battery. It's not a new battery, so that should give me, oh, ten minutes maybe.

I don't have any new photos to add. I'd like to get Max's hair cut in the morning so that Chris can take a portrait of him in his orange sweater--so I can post that. We'll see.

This week was very slow for workwork. I finally picked up a project today that will keep me busy through next week, but in the meantime, I spent the week doing spring cleaning. The kind where you think you'll just put away the clean clothes and then the next thing you know you've reorganized your half of the closet and filled two trash bags for Goodwill. The twins' room is clean, the living room is clean, the kitchen--well, I've kept the kitchen in near constant use and half of it's remaining "free" space is now housing the green house and it's hotpepper seedlings--so it doesn't look much better than normal. But it has moments of looking better.

Last night the twins' kindergarten teacher called and asked if she could do a home visit. Since my house is rarely clean, I jumped at the chance to have her come when it wouldn't totally mortify me. I don't really get why the school pushes the teachers to do home visits. I know they do, and I know the teachers do them, but I don't get them. We didn't sit down and discuss anything. She came and the twins gave her a tour of their bedroom. (Which is pretty sparse. All their toys are downstairs. All their books are on the bookshelves in the living room.) Emily wanted desperately to lick her all over, but I wouldn't let her. The twins invited Kg Teacher out to the back yard to play on their swingset. So they went out there and talked and talked and talked. Emily and I got bored supervising, so I went and found a tennis ball for Emily and I hucked it for her and she brought it back until at last she collapsed happily in a heap of old leaves. Wonder how many fleas she picked up.

Then Kg Teacher said a happy goodbye and I brought the twins over to Gaye's house to color eggs. Too many cooks spoil the broth, even in a kitchen twice the size of mine, so I let Gaye oversee that and the three boys dyed eggs with G'ma while I attacked the WAY overgrown bushes along Gaye's back perimeter with a saw and pruning shears. Two bushes came down altogether. The other two were savagely pruned back. But I think they may look nice when they recover. I'll have to stick a fertilizer stick in the ground near them. And find out when brush collection is. The resulting twigs take up a lot more room than the original bushes ever did.

We get a snowstorm tonight bringing, oh, not a lot of snow. But enough to remind us that winter doesn't give up that easily here at 1,000 ft above sea level. I'm thinking about putting the winter boots in the attic this weekend anyway. Take that, snow.

I spent two hours at another Board of Trustees meeting for the school tonight and I wasn't disappointed. I enjoy them in a really geeky way and I will probably keep attending them occasionally next year when it's not even my job to do so anymore.

And that is the end of my battery.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For Now . . .

This is just a teaser until Chris can take a photo of Max IN the sweater.

Yarn: Cotton Fleece by Brown Sheep Company
Pattern: Orange Twist by Marie Grace with some modifications including cables from Viking Patterns to Knit
Size 40"

It's a good bit too big on the boy and he loves it that way. It looks pretty good on me, actually. Luckily, it's bright orange. So it's totally his.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Emily and Earl

Emily has a profound need to chase balls and squirrels. They are, apparently, her reason for living (other than loving us, of course). The very DOGNESS of standard poodles are, I swear, the best kept secret of the pure-bred dog world. Why do people breed poodles and labradors? It is soooo redundant--poodles already HAVE the warm, joyous, ohmigoshiloveyousoooooooooomuch personality of the lab and they're just a tiny bit smarter. I will never, ever have anything other than a standard poodle, ever again. (Unless poor Chris dies, in which case I will have a standard poodle AND some cats. Actually, if he dies, I'll probably get like three standard poodles and three cats and turn into one of those crazy old women who have cats and dogs and never go anywhere because they can't find their keys.)

Chris got Earl the Squirrel for Emily for Christmas. I don't know who makes it but it had dog club sticker on it (you know, the one that does all the papers for breed dogs. I'm blanking on the name right now). It is the most phenomenally resilient stuffed dog toy EVER. They should make houses out of this material. Emily has killed and attempted to gut Earl (because he rhymes with squirrel and because, you know the Dixie Chicks song . . . Earl had to die) a million times, and although he's gotten crusty, he's still in one piece. She likes to bring him to unsuspecting visitors so they can huck Earl for her. I was just uploading a photo of recently finished baby sweater and found this photo on the camera:

I laughed a mighty laugh and then hoarked it for the blog. [from the family glossary: HOARK: v. to swipe, often gleefully]

Here's that baby sweater: size 6-12 months if you're a big, jovial baby. Size 12-18 months if you're a petite little thing. This was knit for a big baby boy.

It is my favorite baby sweater pattern of all time. I have modified it a smidge because I have the pattern memorized, (not that that keeps me from making stupid mistakes. I did have to rip this back clear to the bottom of the neckline because I, apparently, can't count.)

I can't find my keys. I can't keep up with the housework (no, I mean, it's even worse than normal). I drove to New Jersey on my way to Washington D.C. I can't count my stitches for a baby sweater I've knit 5 or 7 or 9 times. I drive places and forget where I'm going on the way. At what point is it time to see a doctor? I've taken to counting the children every 10 minutes or so like I did when the twins were just starting to walk/run, just so I don't lose one in this pathetic excuse for brain activity!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gardening, Knitting, and Patience

I knit pretty much anywhere and everywhere. I've knit through school board meetings and classes and seminars and road construction and wedding receptions and conference calls and many, many dinners out and parties and social events. I knit because it calms me down. I knit because it gives me something to do while I wait. I knit because I enjoy it and the good feelings of the knitting fit the good feelings of the social event. I knit because the baby I'm knitting for is having a growth spurt AS I KNIT. I knit for lots of reasons. But I don't knit because I AM a patient person. I knit in spite of being an impatient person.

Today Gaye and I went to Lowe's and bought a few potting and seeding supplies for me so I can start my hot pepper plants. I have written on my gardening calendar for today "start pepper seedlings." Technically, this means both sweet peppers and hot peppers, but I don't get as excited about the sweet peppers. I should, given the grocery store prices, but I didn't have as successful a year with them last year, so I'm still kind of hesitant to get too excited about them.

Anyway, we also got the lumber and screws we needed to start putting together the raised beds we're starting in Gaye's back yard this spring. She gets two veggie gardens and a BIG bird and butterfly garden for her backyard. Her yard is huge and open and sunny and right now is nothing but grass. So we're adding some things to it. She doesn't much care as long as we can make the front yard look green and lush and have lots of pretty things growing there. So my job is to make the front yard look that way and then in exchange, I get to plant corn for Chris and melons for Max and strawberries for Max, and flowers for the butterflies, and tomatoes and hot peppers and probably everything else for me.

We got back to her place and I started assembling boxes. This went quickly and smoothly until the battery in the drill died. We tried charging it for awhile while we took a break, but it didn't charge fast enough and the last box will have to be done Monday afternoon.

So I took the twinks home (Chris and Max had gone to a movie) and they played outside, because they could, while I installed new locks in the front door and main bathroom (long story: short version--they needed them). Then I started gathering items for starting the seeds and realized I was missing one key ingredient: the seeds.

I'd ordered them about ten days ago, but they haven't arrived yet. I went through my old seeds and found a couple packages from last summer that might still be viable this year, but mostly I'm just going to have to wait.

So I'm back to knitting tonight.

I will say this. Every spring I am impatient for more spring. Every spring I start the seeds too soon. This year I have tried very hard not to. Last year I started them on March 2. This year it looks like I'll be running about three weeks later on the peppers and hopefully another week after that before I start tomatoes. And I think that'll end up timing things just about right.

I'm off to finish a baby sweater so I can give it to the Mom at church tomorrow. That'll hopefully make up for the things that were started today but not finished.

Friday, March 14, 2008


On Tuesday I packed up the Mom-in-law, the twinks, the big kid, some overnight clothes, and a bunch of maps and headed south for Washington D.C.

On four hours of sleep.

Which is probably a large part of why it was that it took us 6 hours to get there.

On account of that detour I took through New Jersey.

New Jersey is NOT on the way to Washington D.C. if you start in State College, PA, but I went there first anyway.

Here is a photo of the twins in their Christmas shirts to distract you from how incredibly stupid that detour was:

We got there and checked into a Best Western by the Beltway and even though it was past it's glory days--it was really a pretty nice hotel. It was CLEAN, it smelled good, the service was good, it had a free continental breakfast, and it was incredibly inexpensive for the area. Lanham, Maryland. There. Now you know where to stay the next time you want to bring your kids to Washington D.C. but can't afford $280 per night or more.

Anyway, we ate, we returned to the hotel, two hours and much giggling later, everyone but me finally fell asleep. I worked. Finished around 1am.

We got up at 7:30 am, took turns taking a shower, ate at the continental breakfast (the twins made fast friends with "Ms. Jo" which is short for Josephine. We learned a lot about Josephine and she learned a lot about us.), and the drove into D.C. We parked at an underground parking garage a block from the place where we were renting an electric scooter for Gaye. The all-day rate was $2 less than me buying metro tickets for us all. And the drive into D.C. wasn't bad at all, honestly. (Although I should have bought gas earlier in the trip. S'okay. Worked out fine.)

We found the scooter place, decided the scooter was pretty cool. Walked and scooted from there the block to the Museum of Natural History.

We saw natural things.

Stuffed, formerly natural things.

and lots of gift shops.

We were there for hours, then ate in the museum cafeteria downstairs, which was far more expensive than . . . well, anything else we did in the whole trip. Don't ask.

From there we walked and scooted over to the air & space museum, but we hit the sculpture garden on the way (not my photo)

and waved at the Merry-Go-Round at the Smithsonian from a distance with a promise to visit it soon. (Photo not mine. I borrowed it from Christopher George at http://christophertgeorge.blogspot.com/2007/03/grab-brass-ring.html. It is his photo and after a few days of linking here so that my loyal readers get a feel for what we saw, I'll unlink because . . . I'm not sure I should even be showing the photo here without permission.) Honestly, we didn't even get close enough to the Merry-go-round to see it this well.

Okay, so we hit the Air & Space Museum and discovered . . . that we were just plain exhausted. So we saw a funny old black and white short and we looked at the exhibit of the planets, and we visited the highlights of the Museum of American History--which are temporarily in the corner of the Air & Space Museum. I took many photos of Mr. Roger's sweater:

Because I hope to knit one like that for all the boys (big and small) some day.

And then we agreed that the Smithsonian is more than our merry band can do in one trip and we'll have to go back soon:

And we drove home, this time, skipping New Jersey and Delaware. It went much faster that way.

We still took longer than we should have.

20 minutes from home we sat for an hour while police cleared the hull of a burnt-out truck. (We don't think anyone was hurt.)

And then, happily, we were back home.

Can't wait to do it again . . . without the New Jersey part.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Closing Doors

Not very long ago I stumbled across this New York Times article about how painful it is for human beings to intentionally "close a door." The study detailed in the article uses virtual doors to stand in for metaphorical doors, but this topic is near and dear to me. Understanding the advantage of intentionally closing some doors was behind my encouraging Chris to leave Honda. It is there when I close paid-off lines of credit. It is upper-most in my mind as I try to decide how I want to earn income for the next decade.

In the article, they briefly touch on how difficult it is to close doors on behalf of our children, too--leaving them over-scheduled.

The timing couldn't be better, as the summer is coming and if we're going to do swim team with the kids, I need to figure out how to cram more swim lessons back into Ben and Milo's schedule so they can make it all the way across the pool this year.

But I am loathe to cram anything else into their schedules. I can't tell you how much I would like for the boys to have . . . summer. They will be 6 and a half this summer. We have a big backyard. Grandma has a big backyard. There is an even mile between us with exactly one bad intersection.

What if we didn't join the swim team? What if we just got a family pass to the pool for the summer and made it a goal to go four times a week for exercise?

What if we went down to the creek they are so enchanted with and looked for a safe place to access it, set up the rules, and let them play?

We'll still have piano practice. Max is doing two weeks of summer "camp." We're going cabin camping with one set of grandparents and possibly some of my siblings. I'll have work to do. I hope to work with the twins on their writing. I hope Max reads a lot. And they will, because I don't mind it in moderation, play lots on the Wii and Game Cube.

They can ride bikes at the school at the end of the block. I'll need their help weeding and watering gardens. They can do butterfly inventories (Gramma Gaye and I bought a mix of butterfly and hummingbird flower seed) and have their friends over for playdates.

How bad would it be if the only place we HAD to be for most of June, July, and August was church and the occasional piano lesson?

I write it out like this and the answer seems obvious. It wouldn't be bad at all. Let the door close. Let the swim lesson sign-ups pass.


I'm having an odd week, mostly because the schedule for pretty much everything I do was different this week and there were just weird blips. OTOH, I've had a lot of fun with Gaye this week, who has pretty much kept me sane. I just drive her places. We hit a garden nursery yesterday and walked away with some new plants for me and some big plans for her yard. Today at the Waffle Shop we planned out where her new raised-bed gardens will go, where the Chris Hults Corn Garden will go, and what to do with the slope in her backyard that could be pretty and not need mowing if we act son.

I posted some of our questions to the Organic Gardening forum and am awaiting answers.

It's about time for me to head over to the school for the usual Thursday afternoon volunteering. Then we're using the kids' book-reading pizza coupons for dinner and calling it a day.