Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy feast days, and our liturgical calendar

This time of year provides some of my favorite feasts on our liturgical calendar. The feast of the archangels (Sept. 29th), St. Therese (Oct. 1st) and the guardian angels (Oct. 2nd).

I've always loved the angels. Something very comforting in thinking about us having an angel, no? I used to read those books you see all over now about "encounters with angels" or some such notion. Now, I tend to simply say the guardian angel prayer whenever I'm worried about something that may transpire that day; it's very soothing.

"Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen."

And St. Therese has always been one of my favorites. Her autobiography is one of the few writings of the saints that I can manage to slog through. Not to knock saints' writings, of course. It's just that oftentimes, I find them...challenging. You know. HEAVY READING. I would classify myself as a *light reading* kind of gal. Her autobiography is just so sweet and touching. A profound read, and a fast one at that. The year Mike and I were engaged, I hosted a St. Therese party on October 1st. I loved that, super fun. It was really just an excuse to get together with my Catholic friends, and what better reason than St. Therese?

As well, this time of the year, (my favorite, as you all know :) I start to think ahead to the start of the upcoming new liturgical year. Usually in October, I start stalking my local Catholic bookstore for the new St. Joseph's Sunday Missal. LOVE that little thing. I bring it to Mass with me every week, and I love that it's specifically for the year in question. No flipping to figure out if we're on cycle A, B or C, and what week in Ordinary Time we happen to be at. Certainly, a permanent missal would be more cost efficient in the long run, but at $5 a year, I stick with good old St. Joseph.

And of course, with the new liturgical year, comes Advent. AAAhhhh, Advent. I so adore Advent and Lent. Two of my other favorite times of the year :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You know it's not going to be a good day when...

you start out at the dentist. Yes, yesterday was just one of those days. I was still tornadoy from my in-laws visit, which wasn't due to end until later that afternoon (exacerbated by my well-meaning mother-in-laws innate ability to uncover hidden disorder in our house, this time, I kid you not, within our *vacuum cleaner bag* as she tried to help out by vacuuming our floors, "oh, your vacuum was FILLED with dirt. I had to empty it before I could even use it." *cries*). I had a dentist appointment at 8:30 in the morning, and Henry woke up wheezing. *sighs*

I made the decision to keep Hank home from school so that I could get him into the pediatrician. This necessitated 3 phone calls to daycare, school, and my job. Then I left Hank in the care of the in-laws so that I could run to the dentist. Always fun to start off the day with bleeding gums, you know? As soon as I got out of the dentist, I called the now open pediatrician, and got Hank an appointment for later in the morning.

His appointment went fine. His congestion was all in his nose and sinuses, rather than lungs, so that was a relief. By time we got home, it was pointless to try to go into work, so I wound up at home, anxiously playing hostess until it was time for my in-laws to depart for the airport.

I know it sounds terrible, but whenever we have guests, the instant they leave, I breathe easier. Like, I can relax again. Why am I so defective like this?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple picking with the Catholic Librarian

I had a busy weekend, and your Catholic Librarian is still reaping the exhaustion benefits from it. But it was a nice weekend, and it involved apple picking, one of my favorite autumn excursions.

My in-laws were in town for the weekend, and you know what this means: lots of tornadoing around the house, making it clean by the sheer force of my fretting. My mother-in-law is a very tidy housekeeper, and thus I am extra paranoid when they come to say. You know, because there is nothing worse than your mother-in-law wondering, "does she ever clean this bathroom?!" Nothing worse, I tell you.

They arrived Friday, and all went well. Saturday we geared up for apple picking. We made the drive out to a farm that is about an hour from where we live, and that is one beautiful drive this time of year. In October it's even better; that's the time of peak foliage in this region.

We arrive, and get ourselves organized. Hank wants to play in the playground and hay maze they have set up, and we buy tokens to ride the tractor back into the orchard. While we wait for the first ride of the morning to depart, Mike and I wander over to the petting zoo. I'm not always a fan of petting zoos. I love animals, I just don't always want them to touch me. And it can be weird if they're all loose in the same space with you, because I personally find it jarring to feel someone at my elbow and turn to find that it's a goat.

We head over, and I can discern quickly that you need to observe the animals only from across a fence and pet them through it. This is good. Except for the fact that a rooster appears to have escaped, and he's pecking his way toward us with an alarming amount of enthusiasm. I back up a bit, but this just spurs him to peck his way forward even more rapidly. I can see the headlines now:

WOMAN ATTACKED BY ROGUE ROOSTER AND PECKED INTO UNCONSCIOUSNESS; expected to make full recovery, but swears off fowl for the rest of her days.

As I gave him a weak smile and asked him to "please not peck me" I realized that he wasn't approaching us with malice, but with an agenda. He was making little "bawking" noises and pecking his head in the direction of the cracked corn feeder. He actually came right over and tried to herd our steps in the chosen direction. Mike walked toward the feeder, and the rooster nearly stumbled over his own feet in excitement. He waited below, pecking away, for some corn to fall down as Mike inserted a quarter.

Pretty soon, the goats and pigs got a load of the fact that some action was going down, and they all crowded at the edge of the fence for their share. This kept them happily entertained, as opposed to last year, when all the female goats appeared to be pregnant, or in the process of becoming pregnant. The males were chasing them around the yard and having their way all too often, even with some who were already visibly pregnant! The female goats weren't taking too kindly to this aggressive display of affection. This year, everyone was in a happy mood.

Soon, we headed to the orchard. In season this time of year are Gala, Macintosh, Cortland, and Empire apples. We all picked a bunch to make applesauce. I ate 2 Empires (what this region is well known for) right off the tree. SO good. Unfortunately, the applesauce yield wasn't very high. We collected over 2 pecks worth of apples, diced them until our fingers hurt, and boiled down 2 enormous pots of apples, only to end up with this pathetic-looking Tupperware bowl of applesauce. Clearly, we did something wrong. I guess doing research on the types of apples best for making applesauce would have been a helpful preamble. But really, it's more about the experience. We had a great time. And my little pumpkin was very happy playing and picking apples. Life is good.

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Ode to Knitting

I've had a lot on my mind this week, and aside from my night of sheer exhaustion, each evening finds me knitting. I still love my crochet, but I have to admit, I knit a lot more now. With knitting, both hands are in motion, and there is something about that that I find incredibly soothing. For a Nervous Nelly like myself, knitting is a Godsend.

I knit when I'm worried. I knit when I'm stressed. I knit when I'm anxious. I knit when my mind is racing and I just need to think things out. I knit between chores to give myself a break. I knit when I need to distract myself. It's my all-purpose, go-to craft of choice.

I love producing items that I, or someone I love, can use. Producing something tangible from the work of my hands is incredibly satisfying. Just when you're getting sick of one project, it's time to start a new one and begin the creative process all over again. Right now I'm finishing up a blanket for Henry and a sweater for myself. I'm about to move on to a multitude of other Christmas socks and hats and mittens.

I even have a purple pair of socks for my mom that I'm working on right now that fit right into my purse, so I tote them along with me. Never know when I may be sitting around and needing to work a few rounds to take my mind off other things.

And then there's my knitting group. These girls have totally revolutionized my life. Most afternoons we meet at 1 for lunch, knitting, and conversation. Any one who is involved in a group like this knows that while helping each other with the project at hand is certainly one of the perks, the most important part is unspoken - the friendship, the camaraderie, the emotional support through life's trials and tribulations. This group has come to mean so much to me over the past year, I can't even fully articulate it. I just love you girls! I thank God for the gift of knitting, and I thank God for YOU.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Emotional? Me? Never


Yesterday was Hank's open house at his new elementary school. Well, let me correct myself. It was called "Curriculum Night" but I assumed it was like the open houses I remember from my childhood in public school. You know. The school is open in the evening, you wander in, look around, and meet your child's teachers. You get to see their room, their cubbie, and what they're working on. Good stuff. Nowadays, given that it's like breaking into Scotland Yard to even enter the school, an opportunity to meet his teachers in person and see his little classroom seemed like a particular treat.

The first sign that this was not going to turn out the way I hoped was the "agenda" that Hank came home with last week. I don't want my time overly scheduled. I just want to meet my kid's teacher, ok? Mike and I both took a look at it, and immediately agreed that we were skipping the principal's address, and all the other special activities, save for the kindergarten classroom presentation, scheduled for 7:30-8 pm. I thought that was a bit late for kindergarteners to be out cavorting, but whatever, it's only one night. I figured "presentation" meant that the kids had something prepared for the night, like a song, or other cute festivities.

Yesterday was the big day, and to be honest, I really wasn't feeling up to it. I worked, of course, during the day, and stopped off for groceries on the way home. By time I got home, it was well after 5 pm, and I was exhausted. We ate and cleaned up, bathed Hank, all the while wishing we didn't have to go. But around 7:15, we set off.

As we walked into the school, I was glad we came. It was nice to see where Hank spends his days. We get into the classroom and find Hank's seat with a bunch of paperwork in front of it. I quickly deduced that we were supposed to sit down for a formal presentation. Ok. But then I noticed something else. With a pit forming in my stomach, I remembered that the "agenda" had stated that Curriculum Night was for "parents/guardians ONLY." Now, I figured that this meant not to bring any grandparents or other extraneous friends. I thought even that was a bit odd, but the truth was much, much worse. This actually meant NO CHILDREN.

I was so stunned I was actually speechless. How were parents supposed to attend this event then? I guess they assume you'll get a babysitter (completely ridiculous, I'm sorry) or send only 1 parent while the other stays at home. I'm not a person that gets worked up easily, but frankly, this pissed me off. Like many parents, I work full-time outside the home. In the evening, especially when touring my child's school, I WANT HIM WITH ME. I don't think this is an outrageous notion at all.

So, unfortunately, once again, I got off on the wrong foot at our public elementary school. Nobody said anything to us, but I felt extremely awkward being the only parents there with our child. The teacher stood up and gave a 20 minute or so speal about a bunch of things. Most of what she had to say was good. She had some good suggestions for how to deal with the District's "wellness policy" while still allowing the children to have nice parties, like bagels with cream cheese and fresh fruit for Halloween, and fruit slushies or cheese pizza for birthday celebrations. The curriculum certainly sounds excellent, as it's reputed to be. Their lunch service is award winning, and sounds completely wonderful. The classroom was adorable, with lots of little nooks and tasks for the children to take care of.

The only thing that she mentioned that got my hackles up is that the District now has a "violence and anti-bullying policy" which, although positive sounding, actually includes little boys playing Star Wars and pretending to have light sabers in its list of punishable offense. Really? I mean, REALLY? This isn't the teacher's fault certainly, but anew, it made me pissy. What has become of public education? Have its administrators been taking lessons from the TSA? Sure, there are all these impressive sounding rules, but do any of us really feel safer? It just *really* rubs me the wrong way.

So, after that, I had Mike take an exhausted Henry home, and I lingered to meet the teachers. There is one official teacher in Hank's room, and a full-time aide. The aide was wonderful. Very warm, very sweet. I got a very good feeling from chatting with her. Then I met the teacher. *sighs* She's fine, don't get me wrong. She seems very organized, very competent, and very in control of the classroom. All positive attributes. She just wasn't *warm*. I wanted a warm and fuzzy feeling, and I simply didn't get one. She wasn't unkind. She was just very business-like, and I sensed that she was anxious for me move along.

So, once again, I left the school feeling extremely unsatisfied and wondering if we can budget for Catholic school next year. Maybe all schools have funky rules like this, who knows. Perhaps the only way around the stifling rules is homeschooling. Homeschooling isn't my calling, so I'm stuck with either public or Catholic schools. I'll figure it out I suppose, and I certainly have to give it more than 3 weeks. I just keep waiting for that "comfort" moment, and the school keeps letting me down.

I think what draws me to private school, aside from the obvious faith factor, is that I want to feel like *I* picked *them.* I feel a bit "trapped" in our public school. With our daycare, I always, always had a warm, positive feeling from them, and I loved that we did our research and chose them. Using daycare, in conservative religious circles, can make me feel like a bit of an outcast, I admit. But I think it's important for me to say that although I'd prefer not to use it , we had to use it, we made the best of it, and I'm not ashamed of it. And we selected a facility that both of felt great about and knew that our son was receiving excellent, loving care. I always felt good dropping him off and picking him up. Just being in the building gave me a comforted feeling.

Not so, our local public elementary school. Maybe I need to give it more of a chance. But I go in each time wanting to love it, and well, I just don't love it.

I walked home afterward, and collapsed on the couch. I was so tired that I was actually too tired to knit. TOO TIRED TO KNIT. This is a fairly unheard of physical anomaly in the home of the Catholic Librarian.

Please God, let next week be better...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Healthy fall eating with (finally!) pleasing results

Before I launch into my topic of the day, I wanted to mention that my gigantic class went pretty well today. It seemed to go even better than last spring. The students were very attentive, especially at the outset, and many of them emailed me afterward to ask if I could send them the little cheat sheet to finding materials that I had displayed during the class. I finished up early (which was my goal) and it was only in the last 10 minutes that I could sense the natives getting restless. Some stirring and shifting of positions, trips to the bathroom, etc. Everybody seemed to be following along and smiling at my jokes. Only 1 person fell asleep; for 230 students, I say that's a score!

Anyway, I thought I'd write about healthy eating and weight loss today, since I've been focusing on that for the past couple of months. Since the start of the year, I've managed to lose 11 pounds, including the final 5 from my pre-pregnancy weight (yes, 5 YEARS LATER, but still, it counts!). I haven't really done anything too revolutionary, but I figured I'd share what I did do, since this is the happiest I've been with my weight since I got married.

Like all women, I often fixate on my weight, even though I'm not overweight. Even 11 lbs. heavier, I was still within the normal range for my height. But I just felt a tad out of shape, and I knew that with a little motivation and hard work, I could do better. I think it's important to note that I had a realistic goal. No size 0 fantasies for this Catholic girl. I'm 5'6" tall, and my goal was 135 lbs. Nothing short of total starvation is ever going to bring me below 130. And that's fine with me. I have no illusions of seeing 110 lbs. or some such notion. I think my bones alone weight more than that.

So, with that in mind, this is what I did:

(1) Walked every day. I'm a gym denier. I just don't like gyms. There's nothing wrong with them of course, if you like them, but I know that I would never get my moneys worth out of a membership. I'm a homebody, and after work I want to slip into comfy pants and knit. There's no way I'm heading back out for a 5 mile treadmill run. So, no matter what was going on in my day, I use half of my lunch break for a brisk walk around campus. I've done this in the past too, but I had fallen out of the habit.

(2) Stopped snacking between meals. This one is so tough, but it's a must for weight loss.

(3) Watched my portions. This one was the key for me. I often eat just because something is there. I'm a hearty eater - no delicate picking at of a side salad for me. I enjoy food, and I like to eat. So, I eat what I want, I just make sure to be aware of how much I'm eating of it. And I don't need to go up for seconds, really I don't. I got better at realizing "oh, I'm full" and then putting my plate in the dishwasher.

(4) Made healthier choices. Stock more fresh fruit and vegetables in the house, and whole grains. I've actually really enjoyed this process. And the autumn is great for this - healthy slow cooker recipes and casseroles. I can pre-prepare meals the night before, which guarantees we don't throw together something quick and regrettable in our tiredness after a workday. We don't really ever eat fast food, so that's good, but too many times I'd ad hoc something out of the cupboards/refrigerator that just wasn't the more caloric-happy choice for me.

(5) Do strength training with 5-8 lb hand weights 1-2 times per week. We're talking very family-friendly here. 15 minutes, tops, with Hank interrupting me regularly as he "helps me" and works with his little 3 pounders.

So...that's it :) Whenever I manage to lose weight, it's always because I found a solution that still allows me to eat the things I love. I don't ever want to live on salad greens and gross-looking shakes. No sir. Life is too short for that.

I was just very motivated lately. With the heart disease that runs in my family, and of course, increased age, I knew it was a good idea for me to be at my fighting weight for these reasons too. It's just healthier, and it sets a good example for Hank.

So, here's hoping I don't fall off the wagon :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some recent Henry Hall of Famers...

Henry and I play with his Tinkertoys:

"Ok Mommy, let's build a house out of these wood pieces. I'm going to be the Big Bad Wolf, and you can be the little pig. I'm going to come and blow the house down!"

Mommy is not such a great creative player, I prefer to strictly build things, but I do my best.

*Hank hides behind reclining chair*

"Are you ready Mommy?"

"Um, the house is built, Honey. Am I supposed to be doing anything else?"

"I'm talking to the other wolves. I'll be out in a minute."


Hank comes out of his play room, eating a small box of Nerds candy, which was his treat for the day.

"Mommy? Can I have a bowl to put these in? Because every time I try to eat one, it goes into my pants."

I was laughing so hard at that point I had a difficult time asking the logical followup questions, but apparently Hank's pants were a bit too big on him, and due to the small size of the candy pieces and the box, they were easily falling into his waistband and cuffs. Nobody wants to eat Nerds that have made the journey to the Iron Man underpants.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Belly dance fun, but teaching woes

Ok, so fun stuff first. I have belly dance tonight, and we're hard at work on some new numbers. We have a holiday hafla slated for December. One of them is a drum, which as you know, is my favorite. One thing I love about belly dancing is how feminine it makes me feel. There's a 'celebration of fertility' vibe that I really love.

We ordered our new costumes, which are set to be shipped from Egypt shortly, and we couldn't be more excited. Mine is below:
I'm super thrilled.

In not so great news, I have a my first library instruction class of the semester coming up. And it's one of *those* classes. Remember, the one that nearly gave me congestive heart failure
last January. *shudders* I'm not nearly as spastic about it as I was last time, but still, I'm anxious. Part of the reason is that I actually don't believe that this format of instruction even works in this large setting; I'm doing it only at the specific request of the faculty member. He's been teaching this course for a long time, and his preference is to have a librarian come to his class in front of his entire 220 student lecture hall(as opposed to when they're broken out into 24 student groups). My feeling is that the students zone out about 1.2 seconds into my presentation, and that the lack of ability to actively engage them in the material (simply due to the format and location) means that they won't absorb it.

I don't like to bore people. I work hard not to bore people. But in a giant lecture hall, I have limited options. Usually, I have them work on examples on their own, but again, this would be in a computer equipped classroom where each student has their own PC. Not the case in this lecture-style situation. I can ask them questions and try to wrench answers out of them, but when they're all seated about 15 feet away from me, this feels awkward to me. "Forced," really. I don't want to come off as condescending.

"Ok, I need some key terms from this topic. Who can tell me?"

*crickets chirp*

"No one? Somebody be brave." *winning smile* "Anybody? How about you in the blue sweatshirt in the back?"

*quick discernment that he was texting his girlfriend and has absolutely no idea what I'm talking about*

See? Awkward.

*sighs* I'll do what I can with it, as always. The faculty member is always very happy with it, and his students often email me afterwards, so I suppose that's good. I just want them to like me. *sniffle*

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Lady of Sorrows

Yesterday was the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. This is one that is near and dear to my heart, especially since becoming a mother.

I've always had a devotion to our Blessed Mother. I feel that her intercession was pivotal in my adult re-version to the faith. Since I became a mother 5 years ago, my attachment to her has only grown. I relate to her in an even more profound way.

One of the interesting things about Our Lady is that we don't know all that much about her. We know the basics, and of course, she appears in the Scriptures at crucial moments. But we don't know a lot about what she *felt* or *thought* about the things that happened to her in her difficult life.

I enjoy very much meditating on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary a lot more these days, because each one evokes strong emotion in me. The Annunciation. This is one of my favorites. I like when the angel Gabriel breaks the news to her, and my impression is that she arched a brow at him and gave him a quizzical look. "Say what?" His follow-up explanation didn't exactly make things crystal clear, yet she accepted God's plan for her anyway. "I may not understand it, but if it's God's will, then I'll do it."

I also love the Visitation. Having gone through a pregnancy, and knowing how vulnerable a woman is during that time, I always take solace in Mary's visit to her cousin during this period in her life. It's like the modern equivalent of a girlfriend coffee gab fest. And of course, the Nativity. We don't really know if Mary suffered during childbirth in the traditional way, but I always think of the Book of Revelation, and the woman crying out in birthing her son. No cozy birthing center for her. A stable is where she had to make do.

At the Presentation in the Temple, I always think of Hank's baptism. A proud moment for any new mother :) And the Finding in the Temple. I hope this isn't blasphemous, but I can't help but feel that Jesus wasn't really grasping the gravity of his mother's fear in this one :) As a mother, my own stomach drops every time I read about the moment Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus isn't with them.

I often think of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a worthwhile meditation, particularly during Lent.

(1) The Prophecy of Simeon that Jesus would be instrumental in the resurrection of Isreal, and that Mary's heart would be pierced by a sword. Just reading those words can make me tear up these days. All of us parents expose ourselves to a lifetime of fear and anxiety when we have a child.

(2) The Flight into Egypt when Herod ordered the slaughter of all baby boys. As the mother of a little boy, this one gives me chills every December when the feast of the Holy Innocents rolls around.

(3) The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple - See, I told you. TRAUMA.

(4) Meeting Jesus as He Carries His Cross. I broke down and cried right in the movie theater during this scene in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

(5) The Crucifixion.

(6) Taking Jesus' Body Down From the Cross.

(7) Jesus' Burial.

I imagine that she felt extremely bereft, that her heart would never heal. I often think about these things when I see parents who lose a child. How do you ever recover from something that that? The answer is simple: You don't.

My Living Faith meditation for yesterday puts it well:

"'Woman, behold, your son.' John 19:26

At the foot of the cross stood the sorrowful Virgin Mary, her heart pierced by the sword of grief. St. Simeon's dark prophecy at the Presentation was thus fulfilled. The seed of spiritual agony planted long before in the mind of the young mother has come to full flower. Mary stands bereaved, aghast at what has been done to her son...

As Mary presented Jesus to his Father, she presents us to God to her motherly intercession. As she received Jesus in her arms when he was taken down from the cross - God as it were returning the sacrificial Lamb to the woman who gave him up - so may we repose in the arms of the Blessed Virgin - 'now and at the hour of our death.'"

Thank God that we have our mothers - our earthly mother, and our mother in heaven, given to us by Jesus. She will always intercede for us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Public school update...

Since Henry has been in his new public elementary school for a week now, I thought I'd provide an update on how that's going. Well, it's been mixed, to be honest. Last week, I was very unsure. We were getting a sheaf of paperwork sent home with him every day, yet answers to some very basic questions (like how he can buy lunch) were left ambiguous. I tried sending notes to his teacher, but she wasn't understanding what I was asking, and a carrier pigeon note system is not exactly the easiest way to communicate. Henry kept telling me that he liked school, but "didn't like his room as much as daycare" by which I understood him to be saying that he enjoyed all the toys he's had for all these years, and school is more "work" and less play. I firmly feel that kindergarteners should be playing. There's no need for us to impose strict learning outcomes on them; they're 5. When I was in kindergarten, it was a half day, and we still squeezed nap time in there! There was very little school work in kindergarten back then.

By the end of last week, I was feeling a bit emotional about the whole thing. Everyone kept asking me "how was Henry's first week at school?!" and I actually teared up whenever it happened. I wasn't feeling good and secure about it, and I'm a horrible liar. I didn't really want to talk about it, because honestly, I didn't feel that it was going all that great. Hank was still being very clingy when I dropped him off, so I knew he wasn't all that thrilled with it either.

Yesterday, mercifully, we had a better day. Hank's dropoff went the best yet, and he came home beaming. He had a library book that he chose from the school library, some things that he'd drawn (he's gotten much better with coloring inside the lines), and a counting/matching worksheet in which we could see that he's gotten worlds better with writing his first name even just in this short week. He also bought his lunch for the first time, and *loved* it. The children get to choose their main entree, but all receive the fruit and vegetable of the day, and for unexplainable reasons, Henry thinks that their fruits and veggies are delicious yet at home those same specimens make him gag. Whatever. As long as he eats them somewhere. He was able to choose chocolate milk for his drink, and was a very happy camper. This naturally made me feel a lot better.

So, it's still a bit up in the air. But yesterday, for the first time, I felt hope that we'll all grow happily into this school and feel a part of its community. Open House is in 2 weeks, and I'm very much looking forward to that; I think it will be key in increasing my comfort with the school. I'll keep you posted :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

My first sweater...

As promised, here is my New England Knits sweater, the Middlefield Pullover, still on the needles. I need to finish the waist, which won't be long, then do the hem. After that comes the cowl neckline, and of course, sleeves. But considering that this is the very first sweater I've ever attempted to knit, I'm pretty pleased with it. The yarn is Debbie Stoller Bamboo Ewe in Mermaid. Very pretty. The patterns in this book are great. All knit in the round, so no seams. And so far, there has not been a single instance of me tossing the item into my knitting bag angrily and swearing at it. Which happens, you know, regularly. This reminds me, I need to get to Confession... Anyway, so far, this sweater has been a real peach.

And, happily, the weather is perfect for sweater knittin'. Nice and cool, crisp breeze in the air, which some leaves starting to make their departure from the trees. I've busted out my crock pot, always a turning point every September, and I made chili in there on Friday. Tomorrow, it's chicken with wild rice. I love this time of year. *bliss*

Friday, September 10, 2010


My very first amigurumi bear :) Isn't he precious? I had a hard time getting a good shot of him. It was like the paparazzi in my living room last night, I snapped so many of him. I just adore him. He is bound for the baby of one of my knitting group friends.

In other craft news, I FINALLY started to bind off my freaking shrug. I'm nearly done, and then I'll have to seam it up, and weave in all the ends. I'm certain that these final details will prove as endlessly boring and frustrating as the rest of this project has been, but no matter. I'm just SO relieved that I'm nearly done. The New England Knits sweater is going beautifully. I'll post its picture on Monday :) That one has been a nice challenge for me. It has involved a few techniques I've never used before, *but* for knitting and crochet (anybody who wants to learn!) YouTube is *awesome*. When I come to something that I don't know how to do, I just pause until I can get on the computer, and YouTube it. Within 2-3 demonstrations, I can do it myself. Love it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School update, and other online musings

I was just reading on my friend Bridget's blog about her nightmare when her Google account was hacked. This has now made me extremely paranoid :) My blogger sign-in is tied to Google, which is the segment of my Google account that I'm most attached to. I don't even use Gmail that often, or Google Docs, it's my blog that I cherish. This got me to worrying (as most things do...): what if I couldn't get access to my blog for, like, months? This is what happened to Bridget. I think I would curl up into a ball of anxiety and be despondent for the entire time period. This also got me to thinking: If you're like me, you've become attached to some of the blogs and bloggers that you follow, and you feel that you "know" them. What happens if something happens to one of us? Will we ever find out what became of our online friend? *frets*

If anything odd and totally unlike me appears on this blog, you'll know that I've been hacked. Disregard it, and await my safe return. If I ever disappear, and don't post for a week or more without prior notice, pray for me :) Because I promise, I'm not leaving you abandoned without a good reason. By this, you can probably surmise I'm either comatose or dead, unfortunately. Assuming I'm not dead, I'll be back. So maintain vigil!

Ok, so that was on my mind, wanted to get that out there first :) In other news, Henry had a good day at school yesterday. He seemed chipper, if a bit tired, and came home with a boatload of paperwork. The teacher included a cute red "take home " folder in Hank's backpack with all of the documents in it. Whenever we need to send something to her, we place them in the folder, for morning pickup when Hank arrives at school. She will send things home the same way. I like this system, and it soothed me a bit. Especially since, you know, we parents are not allowed actually *in* the school very often. *sighs* They're having an evening open house at the end of the month, so I'm looking forward to meeting his teacher and seeing his room then.

We got the pre-paid lunch situation all figured out, and I'm happy to know that he can now buy a hot lunch whenever we'd like. His bussing also went very smoothly, I was glad to hear. It helps me to know that it's the workers at our trusted daycare that are dropping him off and picking him up each day. They meticulously make certain that they have each child that is scheduled to come with them. The district buses (for all the local districts around here) had a lot of issues on the first day, and I'm glad I don't have to worry about Hank aimlessly wandering a street somewhere by himself after getting dropped off in the wrong spot :(

Last night, I still felt out of sorts. It was a milestone kind of day. Things just don't feel "routine" quite yet, and as I'm sure you know about me now, I love and worship routine. This morning, though, I did feel somewhat better. And when I dropped Hank, nary a tear was shed. In a few weeks, I know that we'll feel all adjusted. And I just keep repeating in my head, "if we hate it, there's always St. John's next year..." Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My big, big boy...

*sniffle* Hank looks exactly how I feel: sort of shell shocked.

Emotions were running high in our house this morning. We were all up early. Mike went to grab a shower, and I went into Hank's room to get him started on the getting dressed process ("I'll do it *myself*" is a phrase we are hearing a lot these days). Hank was very particular about what he wanted to wear today, and was near to tears when it was suggested that maybe he'd be too warm in a long sleeved shirt. I could tell that he was a bit fragile this morning, so I let him wear his new Scooby Doo shirt. I made the beds while Mike took Hank downstairs to get breakfast going.

Hank was quietly eating Coco Puffs when I got downstairs, and he looked moody. Everything went fine as I finished getting ready and ate my cereal. When it was time to pack everything up to go, emotions clicked into high gear. I showed Hank his lunch box inside his new Toy Story backpack, and the note about his bus to our daycare that he needed to give to his teacher.

"I *know*, Mommy." *scowl*

I wanted a picture of him, seen above, for which he refused to smile. This made *me* emotional, which is not a good way to start off the day. By time we set off for daycare and Hank's before/after school program (since I need to be at work prior to when school starts here, and finish slightly later) we were running a few minutes behind, and I was feeling anxious. It was already after 8 am, and the bus leaves the daycare by 8:30 on an average day; with it being the first day of school, I knew they would leave even earlier.

I arrive at the daycare, and went through what I go through every first day of school every.single.year. Parking lot chaos. Our daycare shares a building with an educational program for children with special needs, and I *always* forget that they run a major staff meeting and training session on the first day of school. I really wish they could plan this differently. The parking lot was stuffed, without a single spot to be had. I wrangle a spot on the street, and hustle Hank inside.

Chaos reigned there as well. Teachers were spilling out into the hallway everywhere, and the cafeteria, the usual site of the before/after school program, had an official looking meeting taking place inside it. Feeling anxious, I hurried Hank to the office, where I paid, and inquired into the school-aged program location. Due to the teacher training thing, the kids had to go upstairs to wait in the pre-k room. We hurried upstairs to find children and parents nestled into every corner. We made our way into the pre-k room, and that's when the clinging began. I'm trying to walk deeper into the room so that we're not in the way of the cubbies while Hank clings to my leg like a baby koala. He does this on most days, mind you, and I know that he's always fine after I leave, he's just a bit shy, but due to my own degree of emotional vulnerability this morning, I could feel myself slipping.

I get Hank in, kiss him lots, and whisper encouraging things about his first day of school. There are some familiar faces in the school-aged crowd, some kids he's gone to daycare with since he started in this center back when he was 2. I get him settled into a chair, and that's when it starts. The tears. I can feel my eyes welling up as I say goodbye to Hank. I kept giving him one last kiss, and then I made myself miserable by looking back at him several times before I left the room. I made it out to my crappy parking spot on the street, got in, and burst into tears. The only other time I have *ever* been this emotional dropping Hank off was the very first day I went back to work after my maternity leave and brought him to daycare. I cried then too. Hard.

I think the Kindergarten drop-off is a common tear jerker for all non-homeschooling moms, whether they work outside the home or not. I took it pretty hard.

I can't wait to see him after school and hear how his day went. I hope that he likes it. I just always want my baby to feel happy and secure. That's what we always want for our kids.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A book review of The Yarn Harlot...

On the Friday before Labor Day weekend, I thought I'd post a light book review :) For those that enjoy knitting, or even just someone who enjoys a witty and humorous read, you simply must pick up The Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter. This is the funniest book I've read in a long time, and I highly enjoyed reading it.

Our fine author is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a now very well-known Toronto knitter who also maintains a popular blog. She's written several books, and this one is her first, and so far my favorite. It's a collection of anecdotes about her life as a knitter, a writer, and wife and mother to 3 children. She writes of well-intentioned projects gone horribly awry (the GREEN AFGHAN, and the matching wedding sweaters), of nearly paying a sizable late return fee on a rental car simply because a favorite needle had gone AWOL inside, of the battle against moths and against her yarn stash completely taking over her house. Her chapter on a nefarious squirrel that kept stealing her hand-spun and dyed yarn from her clothesline had me nearly in tears:

"What the hell was he doing with all this wool? 'Nests,' Fred assured me. I wasn't so sure. I reminded Fred that our little freakin' friend had two full fleeces (stolen a little at at time) and about twenty skeins of yarn in every color of the rainbow. Squirrels build nests in trees (Fred concurs) and that seems like a lot of fiber to take up a tree. Fred had told me that the home range or stomping ground of an urban gray squirrel is about an acre. I thought about that. If we used my home as the epicenter for the squirrel's turf, then there were thirteen trees close enough that they could house his nest. None of them was hollow, so if our wool-stealing buddy his stash up a tree, I would have seen it. Hell, my neighbors would have seen it. People would be talking about it. I would hear things on the street like, 'Hey, did you see that colossal multicolored squirrel nest down the street? I swear it's got pink mohair in it." It seemed unlikely. We needed another theory."

I'd be in bed, reading side-by-side with Mike, and just start snorting with laughter. I *loved* this book, and highly, highly recommend it. It's a fantastic light read. Check it out!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fall knitting...

There's my boy, reading in his new hat :) I just have a few more ends to weave in, and he's all set. He's super precious.

Other than the hat, I'm working on a lot of things, but not finishing much. *groans* Isn't this always the way? My amigurumi bear is finished, except for a face, which I need help embroidering, so I count that one as mostly done. He has all of his body parts, and is all stitched together save for his head. Poor guy. But he'll be done soon. I have in progress:

(1) A shrug, and this is one of those projects that I've actually developed a loathing for. You know those? You're sick of, and/or bored by, the pattern, perhaps you don't like the yarn the way you thought you would, and so you desperately want to finish it and put it out of its misery. Plus, you're guilted into finishing it before moving onto to more desirable projects. I have this going on *big time*. I'm so sick of this thing I can hardly look at it.

When I started it, I was all excited. "Shrug! Cute! I have some taupe acrylic yarn to use up, and it'll be perfect for fall." Cast on. "Rib for 2 inches! Cute! Looks very sweater-like." Fine. Then... "Wait...Work in stockinette stitch on straight needles for *42 INCHES*!" All knitters know that working straight stockinette stitch on straight needles is a terrible fate. This means 'back and forth, back and forth, knit one row, purl next, back and forth' until you feel that you may stab your own eyes out with your knitting needles. I'm SO SICK of it I can hardly speak its name. There's no way I'm making it to 42 inches. I used up all the yarn I had, and it was barely 30 inches. Against my better judgment, I bought an additional skein of yarn, and now, so help me God, this is the last skein I will put into it. When this yarn is done, stick a fork in it baby, 'cause it's done, I'm binding off. On that uplifting note...

(2) Crew Neck Sweater from New England Knits. This one I'm happy with. I was waiting for some stitch holders that I ordered to come in, and now I can continue. Just as soon as the Shrug of Doom is done.

(3) A pair of socks for my mom. They're very pretty, and the first pair I've ever knit. The yarn is multi-hued shades of purple.

(4) An afghan to keep over the back of our wooden rocking chair, just as soon as the weather turns cooler. I love afghans. I won't mention how many afghan kits I have in my stash just waiting to be crocheted. It's better that way, trust me.

Actually...that's not bad at all! Maybe I can start something else! But wait...oh God, the SHRUG! I *have* to finish it before starting something else, otherwise I won't ever be able to force myself to pick it up again, and there it will rot in my spare knitting bag, its needles sacrificed, its yarn scorned. This is bad.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Conversation with Henry this morning in the car...

"Mommy, see that bird? We can never step on birds, right Mommy?"

"Oh no Honey, you should never step on birds."


"Because it would hurt them."

"But what would it do to them?"

"It would hurt them real bad. And we should never hurt people or animals."

"But what would it do to them?"

"It might kill them."

*all too brief silence*

"That wouldn't be very nice."

"No Honey. God wants us to respect all life."

"God would not want me to kill birds?"

"No Honey."

"What about an ant?"

"You shouldn't step on ants when you're outside. That's not nice."

"But what does it do to them?"

"It kills them."

"God would not want me to kill them. But what about if they're in the house?"