Monday, April 28, 2008

Snap Out of It

I know I need to just get over this.

I know it's just hair.

But I spent all day yesterday and most of the day before in a complete depressive funk.

I can't let go. I can't believe what I did. When Little Missy was this age, I cut hers off after a vacation because it was just too hard to comb. She agreed to it at the time, but has never forgiven me for it. It's going to take just ages for the Little Man's hair to grow back. My heart aches every time I see him.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Too Close for Comfort

Indiana is coming up soon. Time for a new video.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Unrecoverable Error

I count this among the top five mistakes of my life. Right along side my first marriage, poisoning my oldest with garbanzo/fava bean flour, opening a home equity line of credit, and buying a new Saturn.

Look at this poor child. He's completely lost his identity with his short hair. When the hair dresser said we'd cut the front, but keep the back long, she clearly had a different definition of long than I did. He may as well have a buzz cut. She asked "Is this a good length to cut off?" as she was cutting it. Before I could even respond, 8 beautiful inches were lopped off, cascading to the floor.

I've tried to put a brave face on it. Tried to accept that his hair is gone. But all night long that tape of his locks falling to the floor played over and over in my head. Like a nightmare where you are running away from something or someone you can't identify, or a bad news loop on TV.

I wanted him to be able to see without brushing his hair out of his face. I didn't want him to lose his self. It can't grow back fast enough. I just hope it's the same when it does grow. The same tight, tangly curls that make him who he is.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Tale of Two Socks

Actually, it's more like a tale of six or eight socks, three or four pairs. And a sad commentary on life in general. But that would have been too long and complicated a title.

I knit a pair of socks from stash yarn for my sister-in-law's birthday. I hadn't knit socks in a while, so it took some relearning, but was fun. I hope she likes them. This was right at the same time as the complicated scarf for my mother's birthday. It has been a knitting extravaganza here.

I bought the yarn several years ago from Knit Picks, on sale likely, and put it in my stash. My recent organizing bend has led me to discover many lovely yarns in my stash, I'm pretty intent on knitting them up before buying more yarn. There are only so many cubic inches of yarn storage space in my life and I'm learning to live within my limits.

With the leftover yarn, I am making socks for Little Missy. I'm hoping my math is right and there is enough yarn. Basic sock pattern from Ann Budd's basic book, I like ribbing all the way up to make it stretchy and comfortable.

While working on one sock, I saw a neighbor stroll by with a new baby. A new baby! I had no idea a new baby had been born on our block. How on earth could that have happened and I didn't know about it? How can a baby be born with no fanfare like that? Oh, I'm sure there was lots of private and family fanfare, but our block has always been close-knit, a community within a community. When I broke my ankle five years ago, we had dinner delivered on a schedule every other night for 6 weeks. Babies are announced with balloons on the front porch or a sign on the door. We visit, we chat, we offer to take the older kids, we make meals. It's that sort of a Mayberry-like place.

But this baby arrived and I didn't know about it for 9 weeks. Ouch. Even if it was February and even if the family is on the end of the block and pretty private, it just doesn't seem right. My youngest was born on a very cold January day (so cold the helium in the balloons shrivelled) and everyone knew about it. I'm pretty loud like that, though.

So, I blew through the first of the socks for my girl and quickly cast on a baby pair. I love these needles, the Bryson white ones, great flexibility and fast knitting. My t00-close-for-comfort knitting shop doesn't carry them anymore but special orders them for me when I ask. More stash yarn in a fun color pattern. I have another girly kind of color for a second pair and then I'll deliver them. I really don't want the mom to have gone back to work before I'm done, so everything else is on hold.

Except for Webkins Day. Nothing can stop that. Sadly.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Recipe: Vegan Snacky Ball Things

Here is the family member with the most food allergies: wheat and all gluten, dairy, eggs, pineapple, cranberry, cabbage, mango, papaya, flax seeds, tree nuts, peanuts and probably a few others I'm forgetting right now. Our daughter just has tree nuts and peanuts to avoid. Our oldest son has tree nuts, peanuts, peas, all beans and legumes (chick peas, lentils, etc.) except soy beans (edamame) maybe. We could never be vegetarians or follow a raw food diet.

I've made these delicious snacky ball things for Girl Scouts a couple of times and have been asked for the recipe. I'll list how I make them, but substitutions abound as long as the proportions are the same.

Vegan Snacky Ball Things

1/2 cup each of rice flour, gluten-free oats, safe sunflower seeds and cocoa powder.

Mix these up pretty well. Then add:

1/2 cup soy bean butter and 1/2 cup of maple syrup

Mix, form into small balls and roll into crushed rice cereal so they don't stick together.

They have everything you want in a snack - sweet, salt, crunch, chocolate. Plus a nice amount of protein.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Strange mind work

This is my middle child, at Parent Observation Day in one of her dance classes. My mind doesn't work in the same way hers and she is a constant source of amazement - and amusement - to me.

The other day at lunch I mentioned that the next day was Leader Appreciation Day at Girl Scouts. The parents had not organized the kids for a group effort, so individual appreciation was in order. My girl really loves her leaders Lori and Tina, and got very excited about making something to honor and thank them. Girl Scouts is one of the highlights of her week, we drive a long way to get there, get out of the house - and out of bed - earlier than we'd like, but have never regretted our decision to join this homeschool troop.

A while later, as I was preparing fish for the dehydrator and trying to herd the kids into completing their minimum requirements for the day, she was camped at the kitchen craft table, intently working on her appreciation gifts. Trying not to be annoyed that the all important math was being overlooked, I asked to see what she was making.

For Lori she produced a not-to-scale model of the solar system out of Sculpey clay. The sun was yellow, the earth blue and green, the rest fabulous, teeny and highly breakable in the Sculpey clay tradition. For Tina she had produced an evolutionary time line - at least the primate portion. Ape, Neanderthal, modern day human. Beautiful

Again, she left me speechless. Chuckling, of course, was not appropriate. Instead, I complimented her work, turned on the oven to 275 for the clay and called Mark. He, at least, could laugh in wonder at the other end of the phone as I told him of her creations.

I also passed on an observation that dehydrating fish stinks up the whole house.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Leap of Faith

I did it! I finished the lace scarf for my mother's birthday and she loved it. It really was a leap of faith to think that the curled, shriveled thing in my hands, barely 50 inches long, would turn into what it was supposed to. After binding off, I took a deep breath, submerged the thing, squeezed it between towels and pinned it to my bed. I almost cried.

All those yarn overs, the knit three togethers, the dreaded slip slip knits. And the new to me slip two, knit one, pass the two slipped overs. Mark tried not to be alarmed when I told him I had 30 hours of knitting left in 4 days. Of course, I didn't get that many hours in, what with our regular life schedule and all. (The house keeping has suffered considerably during this project.) But it turned out that blocking lengthened the piece considerably, nearly as long as my mother is tall.

And my mother really did love it. She realized how complicated it was to do, I don't think she personally has ever done lace knitting. This was my first lace piece. She had four kids, so her attention span was even further reduced from mine. I often make gifts for my family that aren't so appreciated. I do it because I love to make things and because of my rebellion over mass consumerism. (Find the pattern here.)

My mother is sadly confused lately, this present was for her 81st birthday. A bit of luxury for a woman who now almost never goes out except to the grocery store or to take my father to his doctor's appointments. Part of her confused state has to be from lack of sleep, part of it from dementia. My 81 year old father has Parkinsons' and cannot sleep for more than two hours at a time. In 24 hours he'll sleep a couple, wake a couple, sleep a couple, never a consistent stretch of sleep. He often needs help getting up, so my mother gets up with him.

Opening this gift, however, Mom was not unclear at all. She knew instantly what it was, the hours spent on it in concentrated effort, the beauty of the fine merino wool. She understoond and appreciated the effort. It was the perfect end to a fantastically fun and interesting knitting project. I could not have asked for more.

It took a whole lot of self control not to tell my mother that the artifical scalloping on the edges was a mistake in blocking. I didn't read beyond the instructions to soak, wring and pin. Didn't read to the point where the lace book said if you have a garter stitch boarder you can create unwanted scalloping by pinning and that the procedure should be to roll it on dowels between cupboards. Still don't get that, but I'll know not to have a garter stitch boarder again and not to be in such a rush.

I'm already hunting around for my next lace project.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Culling the Hoard

This is how we spent our weekend. Our village had a spring clean out day to celebrate a new contract with the waste hauler. Prices, of course, are going up, so to make it more palatable, they offered residents a one time, all you can put out for 3 stickers deal. We put out everything our backs would allow and then some.

The picture does not show all of the junk we put out, as it was snatched up by people trolling in their cars all weekend. The old shower doors were taken right off the wagon I used to wheel them out. Three of four stacking bins were grabbed within minutes, as was the stroller, which we got third hand. I really enjoyed watching the trollers slow their cars to peer into each and every junk pile. Some came out and debated the worthiness of the junk on the curb, others drove slowly on. It was fascinating.

Included in our pile were four pieces of furniture the previous owners of our house left behind. That was almost 13 years ago! We've lived here too long, moving has a way of getting people to toss their garbage. Some things, like the shower doors and the water slide with a hole in it, should have been carted to the curb long ago. We were just too lazy.

The real victory in our garbage mountain is in coming to grips with my "fabric." I have a problem throwing away things I could use to make something else. Good intentions led to compulsive hording of old, stained clothes. I went through boxes and boxes of the clothes, limiting myself to four tubs in the end - knits, wovens, denim and fleece. There really isn't enough time left in my life to weave rugs or knit blankets from all the fabric I had saved! I'll never do it. Being on my organizing bend really helped me to come to grips with my stash. I was ruthless.

I did manage to fill the station wagon with unstained old clothes to give to Goodwill. My girl and I dropped the stuff off yesterday. 40 adult shirts. 29 pants and skirts. 20 baby outfits - my youngest is four years old! Books, unused appliances, blankets we don't use. An unbelievable amount of stuff, filling all but my seat and one seat in the back. At least someone else will get some use out of the things we donated.

Our backs and legs are killing us. All that time on cement floors, all that lugging up and down stairs. I hope my children never go through this, never have the need to save like their parents do. This weekend was a lesson for us and for them.

More amazing than the amount of garbage our house can hold, more interesting than watching the scavengers go through our junk, is the fact that some houses did not participate. Some of these people have lived here all their lives, or at least as long as we have. Maybe they are better and tossing as it comes, maybe they are waiting for another spring cleaning day, maybe they are hoarding more than we have.

Friday, April 11, 2008


It's Friday and again I am exhausted. Caught up on sleep last night and still don't feel like doing what we planned to do today. I had lost sleep because of staying up late too watch all 5 or 6 hours of Pride and Prejudice while knitting for my sister-in-law's birthday today. The movie sucked me in, not the knitting. And then I was out late with my investement group and needed to wind down before going to bed.

But last night I slept a good 8 hours. If not more. And I'm still feeling Friday-ness. I think it's just the day, not a function of how much sleep I've had. We run all week, although much less than last year. Our homeschooling activities tend to be either 16 or 9 traffic miles away during the day and we have local classes and activities here in the evenings. So, by Friday I'm just done. Which can be a problem when it's a Roots&Shoots friday, but we tend to recover by the afternoon. Note to self: never schedule an activity on a Friday.

Sometimes I do wonder if I am doing enough. I'm the contact person and web site administrator for our local homeschooling group, facilitate our Roots&Shoots group, help with the Boys Club while our girls are at Girl Scouts, take the kids to their Writer's Workshop, dance class three nights a week, gymnastics and occasional dodgeball. Yes, I'm probably doing enough, but there are so many homeschooling opportunities to turn down, so many more to organize, it can be overwhelming. Our kids could be in one or two homeschooling programs every day of the week if we were willing to sign them up, pay and drive. Oh my, I'm whining about abundance!

Maybe next year I'll try to organize things more locally. Just not on Fridays.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fresh Air

The great outdoors. These past few days it really has been great to be outdoors. At the risk of jinxing spring, I'm declaring it has arrived.

Our first venture into the wild was with our Roots&Shoots groups. We had a wonderful work day at Ted Stone Forest, a Cook County Forest Preserve. It turned out to be a surprisingly nice day, after a damp and dismal morning. We did hard raking work of charcoal from the burned brush piles. The kids (and moms) made smaller piles of the charcoal to be re-burned. The work was difficult because it has been so wet and some of these burn circles were mud pits.

Then we spread seed throughout the newly cleared areas, so woodland grasses will grow where once buck thorn thrived. The kids had a great day, worked hard, played hard and managed to find two skulls and an old rusty spring. And I hope they understand what a difference they are making to the health of this ecosystem.

Mark and I then took the boys on a frog monitoring session at part of the vast Palos Forest Preserves, also in Cook County. It's a long hike with the kids in the dark, but mostly an easy one as the wetlands are close to the driveways. Our daughter was off on a Girl Scouts overnight, so she missed this one, but had adventures of her own. We heard many chorus frogs like this one, a few leopard frogs and a whole lot of spring peepers (below).

We heard the frogs as soon as we got out of the car, and the sun had just set. They were loud all the way by the road. As we walked back the sound got louder and then faded as we passed several colonies in the various wet spots. The kids had fun with the flashlights and helped to identify the different calls, listening hard for early leopard frogs, which were being drowned out by the peepers and chorus frogs.

The next day we picked up Little Missy and headed for my parents house on the beach in Indiana. Driving into their community, we heard a whole lot of frogs calling in the middle of the day. It made us wonder how many times we've just driven past with our windows up without noticing. It has been a very wet winter and early spring, so there may just be more frogs out there. But I'd like to believe that our heightened awareness of the frogs is helping us to see what was always there.

The beach was great. The temperature was in the 60s, although only the little ones ventured into the water to their knees. We didn't think of sunscreen, so our skin is a little pinker, but our souls are much calmed after two hours of beach time.

Now I'm struggling to fight off the urge to declare it summer, spend our days poking around in the woods and forget all our obligations.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In Sickness

This is what I do to stop myself from going out of my mind with worry when one of the kids is sick. I wouldn't say it's a conscious thing, but it's a consistent response. I've never done lace knitting before and this is a wonderfully complicated 10 row pattern repeat complete with every kind of yarn over and decreasing method possible. I found the pattern here at Knitty and it's for my mother's birthday. Her birthday is in a mere 2 weeks and it is taking me a little less than half an hour for a pattern repeat, but I've don't want to think too hard about that.

The yarn is a beautifully soft merino fingerling weight wool. It came from my friend Loise's stash after she died. Her family wanted all her knitting friends to have some to remember her by. It was such a loving gesture and really brings Loise back to me when I use her yarn. It came with a lace shawl pattern, but I didn't like the colorway of the three yarns together and have been keeping it hidden from any moth. As I'm on a stash reduction bender - must not bring new yarn into the house - I pulled this out and searched for something to do with it. I hated look of a simple lace pattern and channelled Louise telling me to try something harder.

I started knitting this 2 days ago when the little man was wheezing worse than he's ever wheezed before. Contemplating taking him to the ER and knowing what that would do to the poor kids, I took several deep breaths (OK, it might have been hyperventilating) and gave him two breathing treatments in a row. That cleared him for an hour. I sat with him most of the day - or one of the older two did - watching Robin Hood over and over and giving him treatments as needed. He made it longer and longer between treatments, going a full night and half the next day yesterday. He's almost fine now. Without the oral steroid to further compromise his weak immune system.

Knitting gives me an outward appearance of calm in such moments. My mind can't race and I can't verbalize every panic that hits my head when I'm counting my sl2-k1-p2ss0's. It's perfect concentration to ease my worry. Last time the kids all got the flu, twice, I taught myself cables. I can't weave when they are sick, because it needs to be portable enough to go on the bed with us. Weaving has the same calming effect.