Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In case you were wondering . . .

I would rather sit here and eat bits of last night's birthday cake (Happy 50th, El Husbando!) than clean the house, but I know I can't tolerate the embarrassment of visiting with a friend--whom  I haven't seen in over a decade-- in the pig sty that currently poses as my house.  No disrespect intended to the swine of the world, of course.  All pig sty references aside, I hear they are much tidier than my children.

Off I go.  Only 65 minutes to get the whole job done.  eeep!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Catching Up

1. NaBloPoMo

This turned out to be a total fail for me, partly due to the massive equipment failure explained below and partly because I don't really have enough to say to warrant a daily blog.  I enjoyed the habit of blogging daily, but I was pretty bored with myself halfway through November. If I sign up again next year, smack me.

2. I Spill The $700 Cup of Coffee
Two weeks ago, in a spasm of Luddite madness, I let my lap desk slip from my hand while I was trying to get comfy enough to do some editing.

Innocent lap desk, or violently reactionary editing tool?  You be the judge.

It crashed, naturally, into a steaming cup of fresh coffee, which then splashed its contents onto my laptop computer. 

Simulated coffee spill.  No real coffee was spilled in the making of this blog post.  Please do not try this at home.

Weak minded fool that I am, my first reaction was irritation at the loss of a perfectly good cup of coffee.

And then the screen went blank and I did this:

Simulated laptop-destruction-by-coffee-induced hysteria.  No real bloggers were scared during the making of this post.
After jabbing the power button forty hundred times, I decided I needed professional help and took my poor laptop to the very fine Professional Laptop Help People.   The first thing the guy said after I explained my presence was "You didn't try to turn it on, did you?" 

Uhhhhh . . .


And then he very patiently explained to me-- using a soothing and educational voice that was remarkably similar to the voice I use when explaining to Matty exactly why he shouldn't jam tinker toys in the pencil sharpener-- that the brains of the laptop are located under the keyboard and Liquid + Computer Brains + Forty Hundred Bursts of Electricity = Bad Things Happening To Your Laptop. 

Oh.  Duhh.

I have a new laptop  now.  Its lid is a cheery tomato red, which makes almost no difference to me because I can't see that part of the laptop while I'm working.  It is newer and faster than my "old" laptop--which, at the ripe age of two felt more experienced to me than old--and it has Windows 7. For the record, I, unlike the multi-national Windows users in the TV commercials,  had no hand in creating Windows 7, but it is working fine for me anyway.  Even though I've had really good experiences with my Windows based laptops, I would have bought an Apple laptop in a heartbeat,  except that it would have cost at least three times what I paid for my laptop  and people who dump coffee on their old computers can't justify dropping that kind of cash on their new computers.

I think our 'getting used to each other' phase is almost done.  Despite its faster processor and spiffy new operating system, the new computer is totally unschooled in the way that I do my work. It turns out that I had a lot of little efficiencies stored on my old computer and I lost several days of work trying to recreate them.  On top of that, I finally "migrated" my stone-age behiney from Word 2003 to Word 2007 (I haven't bothered with Word 2010 yet because I'm much too  cheap to buy it), mostly because I had already installed the 2003 version on the maximum number of computers allowed and didn't have a choice.  I am gradually making peace with the new software, which is not quite as loaded with obstructionist features as I originally thought, but I have decided that the user manual was written by a committee of people who are well versed in corporate- and marketing-speak, but who are otherwise unfamiliar with the English language.

Now that my laptop and I are back in working order, I have no excuse --other than my world-class procrastination skills--for my failure to work.  Oh well.

3. I  Knit Some Stuff

I managed to finish a few lingering projects.  First up, the very colorful Icebreaker Hat from the fine people at Green Mountain Spinnery. This is the yarn that I bought on my trip to New Hampshire, when  I made my pilgrimage to GMS.  The braids on the edge and in the middle of the hat were fun, although more so when they were done than while I was making them.  The hat did turn out very TALL, but Isabel says she likes it and she has been taking it to school with her,  when she is not busy leaving it on the floor of the car.

Next is a pair of lined mittens.


I used the Super Mittens pattern from Weekend Knitting.   For these mittens, I knit the outside from Lopi at a pretty tight gauge.  The lining is Berroco Ultra Alpaca and these little buggers are WARM.  I think this is my new favorite method for plain-Jane mittens. I even took my old Lopi mittens, which were knit from the same pattern, and lined them and now they are much warmer.

I have done no spinning, mostly because I consider spinning a Level B activity (one requiring me to stand or sit up relatively straight, coordinate my hands and feet,  and pay some attention to what I am doing) and I have been busy enough that I am only qualified for Level C (primarily stationary and requiring minimal attention to detail or posture) activities that can be done while collapsed in a comfy chair. Weaving has suffered the same fate.  I am on to more knitting projects-- a lacy tee for Isabel and socks for Emma-- which are definitely Level C and can be done while sitting in bed with the TV on.

Well, for a girl who skipped grocery shopping (GASP!) in order to work, I have been remarkably dilatory. Time to get to work!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Absurdities

My confession of absurd behavior: today I filled my rain barrel from the garden hose.

This is not normally how I deal with the rain barrel.  I do understand, as a general principle, that the rain barrel is meant to stop me from over-using my garden hose by collecting and holding the rain water that would otherwise run off my roof. And there has been no shortage of rain water running off my roof this week.  But last week, there was a lot of wind.  So much wind that all the stuff that was outside started blowing away, including the little elbow shaped spout that directs the water from the down spout into the rain barrel.  So while it was raining, the water was just flowing uselessly out of the down spout and onto the patio.  Also, in the spirit of winterizing, El Husbando very wisely drained the water out of the barrels so that the water inside the barrels would not freeze and burst the barrels.  And then the winds came back today and started blowing things around, including a rain barrel that no longer had enough water weight in it to keep it from leaving.

The dog was the first to notice.  He stood at the window and barked like a fool at the spot where the rain barrel used to be.  Usually he barks at deer, and birds, and invisible currents of air, so I ignored him.  But then I thought he sounded kind of insistent, so I looked out of the window and saw this:


The dog did not care for this kind of unpredictable rain barrel behavior, but he didn't know what to do with the barrel so he left it for me to fix.


And so I moved it back where it goes and stood there, leaning into the wild wind at about a 30 degree angle--kind of like they do in the cartoons-- and filling my rain barrel with hose water.

The cat watched all of this from the mud room window.  She looked very superior when we came back in, as if she could have told us all along not to drain all of the water. Silly humans.


Monday, November 22, 2010


NaBloPoMo feels like a personal hobgoblin today.  I want to post daily, but it's been a long day and I'm a little under the weather.  I'm saving the birthday party post for tomorrow.  Or Wednesday.  You know how it is.  In the mean time, I'm off to supervise violin practice from the comfort of my bed.

Pleasant dreams!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It's been a wild and crazy weekend, topped off by a birthday party for Nate, who turned 8 not too long ago.  I have neither the time nor the energy to post about the party now, but it was terrific, largely due to the help of some special guests.  I'll put the details and the pictures up tomorrow.

In the mean time, I've been doing laundry and cleaning up the house and running around to stores to get ready for this party and I sorted through about a month's worth of junk mail, and now that it's done, I feel like I can finally relax.

Which is what I'm going to do right now.  See you tomorrow.

p.s. Can you see it?  It's Barak Obama, smiling at a llama.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In which we declare war on cold feet

Mysterious forces are afoot. First, all of my children sprouted holes in their handknit socks at exactly the same moment.  Second, I've noticed similar evidence of yarn fatigue in my own socks, four pair of which are currently awaiting surgery. And last, my remaining socks are disappearing off the drying rack with blinding speed.

Coincidence?  I don't think so.  It can only be sabotage!  Clearly, the minor deity of socks is unhappy.

There is only one thing to be done, and it is a desperate gamble:  I'm going to knit more socks for all of my children.

The likelihood of success is slim.  The threat of battle fatigue is overwhelming. But the job must be done.

I have unearthed the field manuals:


I have polished the arms:


And I requisitioned a new shipment of munitions, which arrived today.


All feet have been carefully examined to determine the best plan of attack and the number of troops and supplies that will be required to ensure victory.

The final problem, as is so common these days, is the exit strategy.  In earlier times, we might have reasonably expected to cover a pair of feet in one month. Judging by more recent campaigns, however, it might be wiser to anticipate a commitment of 5 months per pair of feet.  Using this framework, we can realistically expect total victory by the end of next winter.  Sounds like a plan.

But maybe we should by some slippers this weekend.

Friday, November 19, 2010

10 Things That Are Making Me Happy Right Now

Lubec, Maine, looking across to Campobello Island, New Brunswick

1. A warm cat sitting on my lap and purring like I'm the best thing that happened to him. Ever.

2. The sound of the heat running. It's 37 degrees out, and I'm feeling pretty lucky about being warm and safe and dry right now.

3. The near silence when the heat cycles off and the kids are not fighting and the TV is too far away to hear.

4. The fact that I am not watching (or hearing) Hannah Montana  or The Suite Life.  Pure bliss, as far as I'm concerned.

5. Fresh bread in the oven.

6. Not washing the pile of dishes in the sink or the piles of laundry in the laundry room.

7. Not having to leave the house to pick anyone up for at least an hour.

8. A temporary reprieve from having to harass anyone about homework or chores or music practice or bedtime.

9. Being able to knit a little longer tonight because I can sleep in past 5:30 tomorrow.

10. The cat just got up, so I can get up too.

Once upon a time, when they were small

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hmmmmm . . .

Look at this:

This is what the inside of my head looks like right now.  A big blank.  Nothing.    Just emptiness.

I have run out of thoughts. 

I don't really need any right now.  There's a ton of housework to do (and there still will be tomorrow, because I don't plan to get much of it done), but my kids don't seem to need my attention right now. One kid is at basketball practice.  I didn't have to drive her there and I don't  have to pick her up--I hope (there's no telling where I'd end up if I started driving in this frame of mind). One kid has locked herself in her room to get her homework done and would shun all offers of help.  One is curled up on the couch with a book that he is perfectly capable of reading to himself.  The last one is having carrots and dressing and making very loud crunching noises in my ear, but that's pretty close to silence given the usual noise level around here.  And I think that's what did me in.  It is so quiet here that I can't function.

No matter.  With Nate's birthday came a slew of Lego Star Wars stuff and if I did have any thoughts, I would be a little wigged out by what was in the boxes.

For example, can you tell what this little blurry blob is?

It's Princess Leia's hair. See:  here she is wearing it. 

I'm inclined to laugh at the whole idea of Princess Leia's Lego hair, but as you can see, she really needs it. 

Han Solo, who also has an excellent Lego 'do, probably thinks so too.  He won't even look at Princess Baldy. She can't get R2-D2  to stay with her either. So much for loyalty.

Here is the truly scary part.  Below are some of the storm troopers.  When you watched the movie, did you ever wonder who all those guys were under the giant white helmets?

This, apparently, is the answer:

They really are the faceless minions of Darth Vader. Are we smelling any propaganda here?

It's too much for me, so  I'm going back to my non-thoughts.

Pleasant dreams!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Can't Stay . . . Must Dash

Terribly busy day again.  I'm off to an evening concert (a.k.a. violin and clarinet practice) and then the spa (bath night for the boys; sometimes it helps to aggrandize things a bit). 

One dose of excitement:  the goodies from the Pampered Chef "show" that I went to a few weeks ago materialized today.  I nearly broke the apple peeler/corer/slicer that I bought by trying to put it together the wrong way.  Really the instructions were very vague.  (Note to P.C. instruction writers:  a picture really is most helpful.)  It avenged itself by cutting my knuckle. But, with my new skimmer and my apple p/c/s, I am ready to make soup and pie.  Not for the same meal, though.  Ew.  I also got a nylon knife so we can stop scratching up my glass quiche pans and a little bitty metal spatula specially for peeling difficult cookies off the cookie sheet.  My usual nylon spatulas tend to bulldoze the poor things.

I have also entered myself in at least 10 blog giveaways.  Haven't won anything yet, but I remain hopeful.  See?  I really am easy to entertain.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Token Post

Really, I have nothing to say.  I'm much too busy playing Nerf darts with the world's handsomest (and smiley-est) birthday boy.


Have a slice of cake in his honor; he's worth it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Which I Replace a Light Switch and Live to Tell the Tale

I've got a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on these days. There's the me that can read a shed-building book and then build a chicken coop from my own hand-drawn plans, and there's the me that would much rather sit on my boo-tocks and knit than make sure the house is vacuumed, or dinner is made at a decent hour, or that the bits and pieces of my house are in working order.  For the last four weeks, Boo-tocks Me has been using a piece of electrical tape to hold a wonky light switch in my laundry/powder room in the off position. Not really the same piece of tape; it needs to be replaced almost daily because the kids keep squeezing it so that it sticks to itself.  But the point is, Boo-tocks Me would rather keep cutting strips of electrical tape (and cursing when yet another one stops doing its job) than fix the light switch.

This morning, Chicken Shed Me clawed her way out from under the yarn pile and decided it was time to quit peeing in the dark and fix the stupid switch.  I collected some tools, turned the light and fan in question on (so I would know when I finally cut the power to said stupid switch), and went downstairs to visit the electrical panel. It would appear that whoever labeled the circuits when the house was built was feeling a little vague that day. Most of the label lines are written on, but the words seem more like suggestions than definitive statements.  For example, there are three bathrooms that get their electricity from this power supply, but it is not clear which bathroom goes with which circuit. Of the three switches that  would appear to pertain to the laundry room (Laundry, DRYER, and Bathroom Outlets), not one had the slightest effect on my busted light switch. Eventually I got tired of flipping the switches one at a time  and then marching upstairs to figure out where the power was out; I picked four switches that obviously related to the left half of the first floor and flipped them.  When I went upstairs, the correct half of the house was dark and quiet and I had learned that the laundry room light and fan are on the circuit labeled Office.  Go figure.

It turns out that not all light switches are designed in the same way, and I was briefly stymied by the differences between the old switch and the new.  The instructions didn't help too much since I didn't understand what the lines in the pictures meant.  I must have guessed right, though, because the light switch works properly now and I haven't noticed any unexplained sparks or zapping noises. I now take toddler-like joy in turning the bathroom lights on and off, and it's possible that I made a few extra trips to the laundry room just for the fun of using a working switch.  This has not yet translated to me washing any laundry, so I figure that Chicken Shed Me has been sent packing for a while. 

Oops, it's about time to make dinner. Anybody seen my knitting?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still Catching up With Myself

This weekend has gone by so fast that I'm still trying to work through yesterday, even though it's already Sunday night.

2.5 hours of sunshine and spinning.  Yumm!

Yesterday's sunny afternoon produced the last of these three skeins, which are finally washed.


All that beautiful weather and free time also produced this:


It is the first project that I have put on the table loom following the grown-up warping instructions in my weaving books (as opposed to the make it up as you go along method that I used for my first project).  The process went much better than I thought it would and I'm having fun weaving this little strap, which will be used with my practice weaving to make a bag.  It will be hideously ugly (the bag, I mean; I like the strap), but I don't care.  I'm making it myself.

One thing I did not do yesterday was fix this:


This is my vegetable garden and it is a raging mess.  I can now confirm that I am the world's worst gardener and it is amazing that my plants don't uproot themselves and run for their lives. The deer didn't even bother trying to raid the garden this year; they've learned that it's not worth the effort. I'm thinking of converting three of the beds to fruit gardens for next year -- maybe one for strawberries and two for blueberries. Then I can grow sunflowers in the fourth bed and have two beds left for cukes and peppers, which are about the only veggies I eat from my garden anyway, especially after the Great Broccoli Infestation of 2010. I might as well stop torturing myself with my delusions of living off the land.  It's a good thing I wasn't a pioneer; I probably would have starved. 

Given my lax housekeeping standards, my continued absence from the PTA, my failure to properly prepare my van for trunk or treat and my intent to abandon even the pretense of tomato  gardening, I'm sure the Suburban Living Enforcement Squad is on its way here to  have me deported from the community.  I'm not going down without a fight, though.  I plan to fend them off with my knitting needles.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Drat, Drat, and Double Drat

I spent the morning driving (although I was with both of my boys and I managed to squeeze in a trip to the  library and a really good cup of coffee, so don't waste any tears on me), but the afternoon was entirely devoted to sunshine and spinning.  I sat outside in the 65 degree sauna that we had going here and I plied the remainder of my Autumn batt.  I now have about 1100 yards of yarn, which should be more than enough for knitting Mothed.  Yay me!  I also took the time to touch up my wheel, which was looking painfully dry, with some Howard's Feed & Wax and I tightened some screws here and there, so I hopefully I have eliminated the rattling and wobbling that was accompanying all of my spinning.

I took pictures of my beautiful afternoon, but before I remembered to upload them, I sent my daughter off to a party with my phone, so I can't post them.

Then when the sun went down, I finished warping the table loom and started a new project.  I would normally run right over to the loom right now and take a picture to post, but my kid has my iPhone, so I'm out of luck. 


Really there is nothing I can do now except eat some dinner and do a bunch of knitting. Missing pictures will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oops, gotta go again . . .

Well, my day started at 5:30 a.m. with a little run.  Probably unnecessary, because I've been running non-stop all day and I probably won't stop until I drop into bed tonight.  Tomorrow promises to be a little easier; it's mostly driving.

The good news is that I went looking for something pretty to post and stumbled across the pictures from our week in New Hampshire.  Just looking at that lake is making me feel better. 

Can't stop for too long, though.  I've got a monster to-do list for this afternoon (including a trip to the mall with all four kids in tow---ew!); it's so long that if I stopped to commit it to paper, I'd collapse from exhaustion just looking at it. GAH!!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Very Important Moment

Mark this in your diaries, because it might never happen again: 

I think there might finally be enough cookies in the house. 

Usually, I can be found lamenting the appalling absence of cookies that regularly takes place around here.  But today, for this brief and glorious moment, we have enough.  Sunday's girl scout cookies are long gone, but El Husbando brought two more boxes home last night, one of trefoils and one of thin mints.  And, there are still Mint Milanos in my secret stash.  I have tried some of each this morning, and am happy to report that not only do they all continue to be exceptional representatives of their class, but their excellence is not diminished by the fact that I have eaten all three kinds of cookies without waiting a decent interval between them.   If you consider that I also have a fresh pot of coffee going, no activities to drive my kids to (at least until 7 tonight) and a surprising amount of sunshine pouring in through my office window, you will immediately understand that I am experiencing a moment of great contentment.

Let's enjoy it together, shall we?

. . .  [insert moment of equanimity here] . . .

Ahhhh. That was nice.

The Small Wonder took a field trip with his pre-school class to the local museum.  They are "studying" dinosaurs.  One of the activities involved a table with about 30 small plastic dinosaur skeletons on it.  Matty's group of boys descended on this table with glee and immediately started to have dino-wars.  Here you can see the man himself sneaking a peek at his neighbor to double check that he (Matty) was playing the game the right way. 


The trip was educational for parents, too.  For example, we learned how a dinosaur becomes a fossil, how few of the kids in the class actually like having raisins for their snack, and I was relieved to see that most of the other boys hadn't had a haircut since September either.

Here you can see the highlight of the day:


Goggles!  And brushes.  And there was a tape-measure floating around for a while too.  Matty is taking part in the excavation of fake dino bones. Apparently this was the most fun EVER, because he spent over half an hour in the sand pit with the bones and brushes and he almost cried when it was time to go. When he measured the bones he had uncovered, I was pleased -- but also a little sad-- to find that not only did he read the number accurately, but he now recognizes that a tape measure counts inches, not pounds, or years, or any of the other random units of measurement he used to announce.

In knitting news, I finally have some finished projects to post.  First up, Nate's gloves.

These took some vicious blocking.  Post-knitting, they were a bit too tight on Nate's fingers, which are about the same size around as mine are.  So while the gloves were still wet, we put them on and stretched them out over our hands, and they have dried to a comfortable size.

Next, we have the first sock of a pair that I started knitting in July.  I think I was motivated to work on these by the development of holes in yet another pair of socks, which makes a grand total of four pair that are waiting to be darned.  The holes are depressing and I hate to think of my poor socks suffering, but I am likely to knit four pair of socks before I ever get around to fixing the socks with holes.

Last is a scarf that I finished last spring.  I didn't get around to blocking it until this week, but when I did, it went from this scrumpled and shrivelly thing


to this:


Much better.

I think my cookie induced contentment is starting to wear off.  Time to grab another cup of coffee (and perhaps just one more thin mint?) and tackle today's work.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Would You Choose?

We are not a family to waste good car talk time.  We often review important matters and solve a variety of social and political problems while driving (sometimes we sing, too, but that's a private matter).  Yesterday we addressed the all important question of "What superpower would you choose?"

Emma, who started the whole discussion, was in favor of the power to read minds.  Not the kind where everyone's random thought are assaulting you all the time, but the kind of mind reading that she could control so that if she really wanted to, she could find out what was on someone's mind.  We all  agreed that this would be pretty cool, although I felt obligated to point out that you might not like everything that you were suddenly privy to. Emma wasn't too concerned about this, which makes me think that the inside of her head must be a much kinder, gentler place than the inside of mine.

Nate wanted the power to make things appear from his hands.  Things like swords, snacks, and toys.  He also thought he would like to be able to make school appear -- just for a minute--so that if he missed the bus he could hop inside the building and then make it go back where it belongs, a power that would have been very useful this morning.  This kind of advanced thinking should not surprise us:  Nate is also the designer of Clipper Shoes (TM), the eco-friendly solution to the modern dilemma of how to save gas, mow the lawn, and get your exercise all at the same time. Clipper Shoes are equipped with lawn cutting blades which permit the wearer to run around the lawn, shortening the grass and strengthening the legs in one efficient movement. In addition to traditional lawn maintenance, the shoes would be useful for carving designs or messages into the grass, which could then be viewed from an airplane.

Matty liked Nate's superpower idea, although he was mostly interested in being able to produce weapons so that he could defeat all the bad guys.

Isabel answered without hesitation that she would like to be a shape shifter.  She remained very mysterious about this power and would not elaborate on her plans, so we're not entirely sure whether she would use her powers for good or evil.

I thought it would be really cool to be able to speak and understand other languages (like all of them, you know?).  Can you imagine how amazing it would be to go anywhere and be able to talk to the people there?  My children could not.  I was ridiculed for squandering my superpower opportunity on languages.   "Really, Mom?" (this was Emma) "You could fly, or be super strong, or read people's minds, or have an unlimited supply of yarn, and you choose languages?"    Think about it, though:  if I really want to fly, I can take an airplane; if I get too strong, my kids will want me to carry even more of their stuff;  and considering what some people are willing to say out loud, I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what's going on inside their heads.  And I wouldn't need unlimited yarn, because with The Power of Languages, I could go anywhere in the world (or the universe, if we're going to make this a true superpower) and get directions to the nearest yarn shop. So I would be all set, right?  My kids remain unconvinced, but I think I'm on to something.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I've been reading Winnie the Pooh to my kids.  When my oldest was born, a friend of mine sent me* a beautiful hardcover copy of the Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, complete with color illustrations.  In the dozen years I've had the book, I've never read more than a bit here and there to the girls.  The stories are long and around the time they were old enough to really appreciate the humor, they were starting to read on their own and seemed to think that Pooh was a little beneath them. Over the summer, I listened to a book in which one of the characters was reading his son the entire set of stories because, to him, Pooh was a necessary part of childhood.  At the same time, we decided to get serious in our battle to get Matty to go to sleep in his own room and  I needed to set up the perfect bed time routine.   Short board books or stories that could be completed in a few nights weren't going to do the job.  I needed something that would make him want to get into his bed every night.  So I pulled out the heavy artillery: the big book of Pooh.

For two months, it has worked its magic.  They boys love hearing the stories, and Matty doesn't fight bed time at all now.  Even Isabel stops in now and again to listen.  Tonight, though, the dreaded moment will come.  We are half way through the last chapter, there is no way to put off finishing the book, and I am heartbroken.  It's not that I can't open up the book and read the stories again.  It's that  every time I do, I'll get a little whiff of memory, of tucking my last four-year old into his own bed under his favorite reindeer sheets, of kissing him goodnight, and of all those cozy evenings-- the ones that I can't have back-- with my kids crowded around me on a tiny bed while I read to them. 

Milne treats us gently in the last chapter, and I'm grateful for that.  Instead of beating us mercilessly over the head with the reality that our kids are going to grow up and go away (I'm thinking about you here, Toy Story 3), he lets us believe what we need to:  that we can preserve a bit of their childhood, and that "wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."

We'll finish the book tonight, because it's really the only way.  And I'm pretty sure that we'll read it again.  I know it will still be good, but it will never be quite the same.

* I suppose it's possible that he meant it for my children; too bad, it's mine now.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Things I Learned Yesterday

1. A 25 hour day is, in fact, too long.  This is true even where the return to standard time coincides with one of those rare days when you a free to do whatever you like.  No activities, no schedules to be kept, etc. etc.  It is particularly true when the 25 hour day coincides with a day in which no one else wants to leave the house and go do fun things.

2. Chocolate chip banana bread makes a good breakfast.  It also makes an excellent snack. However, the pleasure factor decreases radically if you try to use  it for all of your meals and snacks, and we strongly urge you not to attempt this at home.

3. The competition for the girl scout cookies this year is going to be much stiffer than I expected.  The first four (of an anticipated 16) boxes showed up at our door late yesterday afternoon, just about at the time when we had all OD'd on our leisure activities for the day and were craving a change of pace. A full box of trefoils and more than half of a box of thin mints were gone by this morning.  El Husbando, who was  a bit under the weather yesterday, did not have any of the cookies as far as I know.  And I was kind of stuffed with banana bread (see point 2, above) so I ate only a modest number of cookies.  This means that (a) my kids have achieved hitherto unprecedented levels of unauthorized cookie consumption and (b) I'm going to have to be a lot faster (or sneakier) if I want to get my share of the cookies.

4. I thought I was going to like the place mats I'm weaving, but now I'm not so sure.

5. As I suspected, there is  such a thing as too much Wii, even when the game is Super Mario Brothers.  I am still testing the theory that there is no such thing as too much Phineas and Ferb.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Profiles in Birdage

Here are Ed and Red, back in the days when they lived on their own.  Those days are now long gone.  As Emma might say, they are so two days ago.  Tonight, Ed and Red went to bed in the shed without any assistance from us.


They have not resolved all of their issues.  When I looked into the shed tonight, I found the two of them sleeping all squished together on top of their feeder, which is about 5 inches in diameter.  It seems that even with all the other biddies sleeping on the roost, they couldn't figure out what to do, which would also explain all the doots we've been finding in their food for the last two mornings. I moved both of my goofball chickens to the roost and I'm hoping they'll take the hint.  Either that, or they'll be totally freaked out when they wake up there in the morning.

"Ed" and "Red," as you may have guessed, are not their original names.  We named the three chicks that we bought from our local feed store after flowers.  The bright yellow one was Sunny Sunflower.


And the other two were Daisy and Lily. 


The girls claimed they could tell Daisy and Lily apart, but I mixed them up all the time (the birds, not the girls).  I really couldn't tell them apart unless I saw them next to each other, at which point I would say that the one with the darker head and lighter body was Daisy, because that made sense if you imagined her head being the center of the flower.  The other one was Lily only because she wasn't readily identifiable as Daisy.

Then, the day after we moved the birds to their new coop, Daisy (or Lily) vanished and I had no way of figuring out which bird I still had.  Whoever was left, though,  was a really pretty bird.  I love her black and tan plumage and her fan shaped tail feathers.


Her only real problem is this:


She has a scissor beak, which is permanently misaligned and makes her look a little crazy-scary. As much as we try to be accepting and supportive and All Creatures Great and Small-ish, that beak took a little getting used to. For rather obvious, if politically incorrect, reasons  Lily (or Daisy or whatever the heck her name is) began to be known as Beaky. And then, despite our public stand against cruelty to animals and our great desire to always model positive behavior for our children, we began to call her Edward Scissorbeak, which is (pardon the pun) a mouthful and was quickly shortened to Ed. This is probably not unexpected from people who also have a hen called Mike. Poor Sunny, who actually is a pretty reddish brown color, didn't get to hang on to her given name for too long after Beaky became Ed.  And that's all I have to say about that.


(Also, there's no real point to this picture. I just liked the colors.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Which Ed and Red Go to Bed in a Shed

Or not.  Because, as I may have mentioned before, my newest chickens--- those who have refrained from being eaten, that is---are a couple of dim bulbs.  When last I posted about them (here) we were trying to get them to sleep inside their shiny new mini-coop.*  They eventually caught on, but not until I moved their food and water inside too.

A few weeks ago, I cut a passage between the two runs, which have a common fence.  The idea was to let the girls mingle with the ladies so that peace and harmony  could be established before they had to share the big coop for the winter.  There was some pecking at first, but they seem to have come to some sort of arrangement and everyone mixes freely during the day.  Still, Ed and Red (formerly Sunny and Lily --or Daisy, I forget which one got eaten-- but we'll get to that tomorrow) opted to remain in their own apartment at night and so far that has not been a real problem.

Now, though, with snow and freezing temperatures a very real threat, it's time for them to move into the big coop with the rest of the sorority, mostly because I am afraid that those two little bodies won't generate enough heat to keep them warm once the temperature really drops, but also because once the mornings get cold, I'm not interested in supplying food and water (which will freeze daily) to two coops.

HA,  they say.  We're not leaving our new digs.  You made it very clear that you wanted us to sleep inside our lovely new coop, and inside is where we will remain. Take that.

So I resorted to trickery.  Last night as the sun was going down, I noticed that all of the big girls had retired to the coop, but that Ed and Red had not yet gone to bed (ha!  good rhyme, no?). I snuck outside and raised the gangplank, which looks like this:


before they could get in. My theory was that they would naturally want to seek shelter from the cold temperature, and without access to their mini-coop, they would naturally opt to camp out in the big red coop, which contains food and water and 7 other warm and downy bodies.

Or not.  Because when I checked on them after sundown, they were trying to get comfy in the mud under their coop.

HA,  they said.  We're not falling for that trick.  You made it very clear that you wanted us to sleep inside our lovely new coop, but then you locked us out, so under is where we will remain. Take that.

Having a marginally longer memory than a chicken, I was not entirely surprised by this.  I parked the van near the coop and put on the lights, then I ducked into the run, grabbed a chicken, and stuffed her into the big coop through the trap door, which you can see on the left:


  Then I turned to grab the other chicken, and realized that they were about to outsmart me.  I had forgotten the untie the rope that keeps the trap door from closing and I  could not keep the first chicken from escaping the big coop and still  reach the other chicken.

HA, they said.  Who's the dim bulb now?

Point well taken.  Nonetheless, I am a resourceful keeper of chickens. I told the first one to stay, which she did.  I grabbed the ramp to the chickens' playhouse (don't ask), which you can just see on the right in this picture,


and used it to block most of the trap door.  I ducked through the hole in between the runs, which is a lot closer to chicken size than people size, and tried to grab Ed, who fled in terror.  Fortunately, she decided that the best way to get away from me was to run into the original chicken run where Red was waiting helpfully outside the big coop.

HA!!! They said . . .

 . . . at which point I cursed loudly at them and they both fled in terror into the big coop.

So there.  Score 1 for the chicken keeper.  We left the gangplank closed today so Ed and Red  wouldn't get any bright ideas (as if!) and El Husbando agreed to put them to bed tonight, because they still haven't given up on sleeping near the mini-coop.  I'm hoping that by tomorrow they will have the new sleeping arrangements all sorted out in their little feathery heads, but that might be giving them a bit too much credit.

p.s. In the time it took me to write this post, I could easily have knit an inch on my non-existent NaKniSweMo sweater.  Also, the cat stole the same ball of yellow cotton yarn from my weaving basket four times.  She only stole the green ball once. I can't decide whether this means that she likes the yellow and thinks I should include it in my next weaving project, or thinks it is a mistake and is trying to save me from an embarrassing color choice.

*As opposed to under, next to, or--heaven help us-- on top of their coop, all of which they would have tried long before they decided that in was the place to be. In this way, they bear a striking resemblance to my children and their relationship to the dishwasher.  Dishes routinely end up on, near, or next to the dishwasher, but inside the dishwasher remains a place of mystery and danger to all concerned. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

I'm Ba-ack!

Friday afternoon.  Finally.
--Four days of work endured without falling behind writing/editing schedule: check.
--Five mornings of exercise done and still capable of standing (for brief periods of time, at least): check.
--Children shuffled to and from innumerable basketball practices: check.
--Library books returned, with only minimal late fees incurred: check.
--Usual volunteer shift at school completed: check.
--Mini-assembly attended to see number 1 son receive award as top reader (boy) in his class for the month: check.
--Grocery shopping completed: check.
--Insane number of decadent desserts acquired, through various means including petty theft: check.
--Worst parts of house vacuumed/swept to remove bits of food and an entire fleet of German Shepherd dust bunnies: check.
--Manageable dinner, including fresh baked challah, ready to go for tonight: check.

There might still be a few things that need tending to.  Laundry would top that list.  But, I bought a few extra shirts last week, so I still have plenty of clean clothes to wear, and the kids haven't started complaining too loudly about having to repeat their pants (some of them, in fact, seem to enjoy it and regularly violate our "twice is nice" rule) so we must not have reached crisis point (Wash-Con 3) yet. Otherwise, I think I'm ready to sink into weekend relaxation mode. I can almost feel the stress of the week wearing off, although that won't really happen until we are back from Isa's riding lesson and I have carted Emma off to basketball practice (Friday night practice?  Really?  Who thinks this stuff up?  Probably not wise to suggest to the coaches that it's time to get a life, though.) The weather is supposed to be partly to mostly unpleasant, so I might even be off the hook for cleaning up the garden, and this might turn into a weekend full of spinning, knitting, and maybe even a fresh weaving project.   Then again, I always think that and I'm usually pretty far off base.  Keep you knitting needles crossed for me.

Here are pictures from the Dizzy Sheep sort-of-halloween swap I took part in.  The first two are the stuff I sent out:

My swap-ette is a big fan of purple and she spins. So I sent her some purple Malabrigo worsted yarn;, some fiber from Hope Spinnery in Maine, which I bought at Rhinebeck; some beautful ceramic buttons (which are just barely visible through that waxy envelope; some Burt's Bees stuff, some point protectors shaped like little balls of yarn, and for good measure, some candy and some goofy spider stickers, which apparently were a huge hit. Oh, and I made a bag out of some of the spooky fabric left over from my Halloween quilt.

My swap-sender-- a totally different person-- sent me the color blue. 


Isn't it pretty?  The chocolate bar didn't last too long, which is saying something since I didn't think I liked almonds in my chocolate.  There is also a Lantern Moon bag, a collection of note paper, note cards, and a note book, all with a knit pattern as decoration (I've been using the notebook to keep track of my knitting on Nate's gloves; turns out it is the perect size and construction -- nice sturdy covers to keep it from bending in my knitting bag-- for this. Yay!)

And then there is the yarn:  Madeline Tosh Sock, which I think might become the companion to my Malabrigo sock for this pattern:


Off to take Isa to riding now.  Let the weekend begin!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In which I Come Up Short

I have  a recurring anxiety dream.  Actually, I have several, as well as an assortment of terror dreams, adventure dreams, and prize-winningly weird dreams like the one last night about the angry bankers in the UAE. But the dream I'm thinking of right now is a pretty typical exam anxiety dream. Lots of people have this dream, where they show up at the exam without some necessary clothing, or without the right pencils, or the right information.  I rarely even get to the exam. For me, the dream starts at the beginning of the semester.  I am back at school and looking forward to finding out what classes I'll be taking, doing the book shopping, and really buckling down and getting the whole studying thing right this time. I'm going to go to all the classes and complete all the assignments and finally be a really good student. And then the dream fast-forwards a few weeks (assuming it is not the version of the dream in which I can't even get my registration information or am inexplicably barred from the campus book store) and I suddenly look at my calendar and realize that I have not been to any of the classes in  weeks, or that I don't even know where or when they meet, or have fallen so far behind in the reading that I actually know less than when I started.  Forget the performance anxiety about the final exam; in the dream, I'm not even in the game.

Which is not so different from real life, as it turns out.  A few days before Halloween, Matty's school hosted a "Trunk or Treat."  The idea is that we decorate the trunks of our cars  in some kind of theme and, at the end of the last school day before Halloween, the kids march around the parking lot in their costumes collecting loot from the trunks. To be fair, we were warned about this in August, so there was plenty of time to prepare for those so inclined.  At that time, it was stated that the level of decoration was up to us.  Some people liked to go all out and some didn't decorate at all.  No biggie either way. Really, it all sounded so fun and carefree that I wasn't concerned at all.  Fine, I figured, I can handle this. I'll toss a Halloween quilt in the back of the van and hand out some fun stuff.

Or not.  My first hint should have been the sign up sheets.  They were posted weeks in advance of Halloween.  They also had a spot in which you could note -- or perhaps I should say stake your claim to and thereby forever prevent anyone from stealing --your intended decorating theme.  Clue two: the sheet was half filled by the end of September.  By mid-October, when I caved to the pressure and added my name, we were down to the bottom of the list.  And most of the people already knew what theme they were going to use.  Theme! As if they already knew what costume they would be whipping up for their little trick-or-treater and were ready to tailor everything around it. Pile of parenting overachievers.

The final hint came the day of the Trunk or Treat.  Matty and I spent the morning tying up our goodies (two funky mini-Twistable crayons and a glow stick) in Halloween ribbon and then, late in the morning, I had a spasm of trunk decorating anxiety. I developed a suspicion that a quilt and a couple of spools of ribbon would not really do, and I ran around the house gathering every teddy bear I could find.  We tracked down the wicker picnic basket and added a stuffed chicken and one small buffalo for good measure, then did our best to set up the trunk in the style of a teddy bear picnic.  I felt much more prepared, and I was particularly pleased that, on this cold and drizzly day, I had done all the set up in the relative comfort of my garage and would not have much fiddling to do when we got to school.

The kids were invited to come to school in costume. Matty, as I have noted before, loves to dress up in his Power Ranger costume.  It is actually an old Halloween costume of Nate's, dating back to the first year that I didn't sew anybody a damned thing for Halloween. Matty has been wearing the costume for over a year and he particularly admires his bulging muscles in this suit of power. But, despite his great love for this costume and forgetting-- as he clearly had-- the fact that he wore it to school for two weeks straight last year, he was a little unsure about wearing it to his new school on Trunk or Treat day.  He would put it on after school, but not during school.  We stuffed it in his school bag and off we went.  My plan was to drop him off, then go home and get a little more work done, then come back 15 minutes before the festivities were scheduled to start AS CLEARLY STATED IN THE TRUNK OR TREAT MEMO CIRCULATED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WEEK.

Evidently, however, there was a secret memo for overachieving parents to which I was not privy.  We got to school, and there they all were.  At the beginning of school. Jamming their vans and SUVs into the parking lot and jockeying for the best parking spots for Trunk or Treat. TWO HOURS EARLY.  And their kids, of course, were all decked out in creative and complete costumes.  All the masks, accessories, and decorative foot coverings securely attached.  No second hand super hero costumes with busted zippers and missing face masks for this lot. 

I must also have missed the memo that said this would be a competitive trunk decoration and treat distribution event, with a grand prize trip to Tahiti for the winner.  When I got back to school AT THE END LIKE I WAS SUPPOSED TO and squeezed my dusty, old, and amateurishly decorated van into the last parking spot, most of the trunks were open and the riches within revealed.  There were streamers and balloons and PAINTED BACKDROPS cleverly arranged to conceal the fact that you were looking into a van.  Princess themes, complete with castles and My Little Ponies (TM).  Batman caves, with more batman figures than I knew existed.  One kid was dressed as a mad scientist and had a lab set up in the back of his truck, with equipment and experiments. People had buckets of candy and kids could choose more than one thing if they wanted. Three or four of the parents had put together entire Halloween goody bags for the kids to take: candy, puzzles, mini notebooks, little plastic eyeballs with bubble stuff and wands inside.

Matty's little pumpkin bag wasn't even big enough to stow all the loot that he got.


And all we had to offer was a motley collection of beat up stuffed animals and some crayons.


What's a slacker like me supposed to do against all this enthusiasm?  All these people who actually planned, instead of throwing something together at the last minute and hoping it would work?  Needless to say, we haven't been back to school since.  They may think it's because Matty has a cold, but I'm just giving them time to forget that there are subversives in their midst who refuse to keep up.