Monday, September 26, 2005


Guess what my computer just said?

Rrrrrrrrrroaw-ranong-chink!chink!eerrrr-roaw-roaw-eee-roaw, roaw!!

Now that, friends, is a noise I haven’t heard live and in person for a long, long time. That is the sound of a modum getting a handshake from another modem far, far away.

That’s right. I’m on dialup.

I am not happy. I have VERY unhappy face on today.

So there won’t be much of anything going on here for a few days, until my ponytail guy (a.k.a., the DH) can figure out what the HECK is going on here.

But I did finish Eldest’s sweater. It was grueling, but I finished it. And she has worn it, and it looks good on her, and she likes it.

So. I’ve got that going me.

How do people live like this?! It’s positively BARBARIC!!!!!!!

Web pages load with all the speed and agility of a herd of turtles mired in peanut butter. Not to mention that my DSL and my phone can work at the same time. My dialup…can’t.

So, I mean, who knows how many Incredibly Important Phone Calls I’m missing right this minute? It could be the $64,000 question, or my mother, or…well, the Pope might finally be admitting he’s wrong and asking for my personal advice. Which I am happy to give. Endlessly.

Moments that make you just wanna cry…or cuss…

So the sweater I was making for Eldest.


I apparently have some kind of hex on me when it comes to the necks of her sweaters. This was someone else’s pattern, which I followed precisely. Even when I said to myself, “I do not understand how in the hell this is supposed to work…fold over to the wrong…and then overlap the…but how do you…and why in the world would you ever put a seam in the very front of a sweater, it’ll show and I can’t imagine it will look any good…” (I don’t have a picture of this one – I don’t know what happened to the book it was in, and all I have left of it is the photocopy of the instructions I carried around in my knitting bag SEVEN YEARS AGO when I knit this for a nephew!) (But it was a very cute sweater, I distinctly remember it being adorable…)

I was tempted as I started this neckband to say, “Never mind” and just do it one of the seventeen thousand ways I know and have done successfully in the past. Like, say, a nice high turtleneck with a soft flaring to make it an easy fit over her head and a non-strangle-hold embrace around her neck.

But no. And I blame Stephanie Pearl-McPhee for this, because she pointed out in her book At Knit’s End that nobody has ever been lethally harmed by their knitting and that ergo, being afraid of trying something new in knitting (like, say, steeks or lace) is a little silly.

So when confronted with collar directions I didn’t understand and which seemed in my opinion to be destined to come to no good end, I said to myself, said I, “Self! You just stop that! You keep being fearful about trying things you don’t understand in knitting! You will do this neckband per instructions and I’m sure it will become plain to you in the end…”

Well, it did become plain to me in the end.

This designer is a closet knitter-hater, that’s what. The directions for the last few rows went something like this: cast off 3 stitches at the beginning of each row four times, then cast ON 3 stitches at the beginning of each row four times, do three more rows ‘plain’, then fold over and cross the right side over the left side and stitch down.


It didn’t work. First of all, it fitted together something like a puzzle, with overlapping pieces that were obviously meant to be stitched back together to make a whole (why, I cannot begin to guess), which resulted in a rather large lump in the front under the hideous seam that couldn’t be hidden due to the fact that all the casting on and off prevented me from simply cleverly seaming together in a manner that made it appear to be simple ribbing.

What I then had was a nasty lumpy ugly can’t-hide-it funky seam – right in front. RIGHT IN FRONT! See, now, if I’m doing a collar that is going to have an unsightly seam, I put it in the back where at least you have some chance it will be hidden by hair. Or, I might do something funky and/or decorative with the seam, add a little picot edging or something that makes people go, “Huh, what a funky decorative seam…she must have needed to hide something there!”

It did not look decorative, or funky, or cool, or any other superlative in the realms of Good.

It looked stupid. Not just handmade, but handmade by someone who sucks at knitting.

But wait! It gets better!!

I said to myself, said I, “Self! That looks really stupid! We’re going to just take that out and do the neck again, and I don’t want to hear any whining from you about how you don’t feel like it! Suck it up and walk it off, girl, and start frogging!!” (Frog stitch: when you tear out your knitting to start over, so named because as you pull the yarn it makes a noise like this: Rip-it! Rip-it!)

So I start frogging.

Honest to Dog, I do not know how, but somehow I managed to break or mangle or otherwise mess up the yarn along the way such that I now have about three hundred loose ends, and the front of the damned sweater is ruined. I have not been able to figure out a way to fix it that doesn’t involve basically reknitting the last six inches (or so) of the front. The back also suffered some minor damages, but I was able to easily pick up and reknit those little sections. See, I’m pretty good at fixing even cables when a stitch drops and rushes down fifteen rows before you notice.

SO NOW, if I want it to look right (and I do), I’m going to have to unseam the shoulders (a pain in and of itself – if I mess up the shoulder on the back, I will be well and truly pissed and buying my liquor at Costco to overcome my emotional issues!), then rip out the sweater all the way down to about an inch below the neck shaping (ack!) and reknit it.


…when all is reknitted and ready to go…

…I am going to say to myself, “Self! Ignore learning something new – go with a classic high turtleneck for this bad boy!”…

You know what else?

I’m still scared of steeks. Thank God there is more than enough un-steeked knitting to do in this wild world to allow me to avoid steeks for the rest of my natural life.

Because they scare me.

They really, really do…

{grumble} fold over to the wrong side {grouse} I’ve got your wrong side RIGHT HERE and furthermore {rip-it, rip-it, rip-it} putting a seam in the front of a collar and another thing…!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Little recognized use for food

Captain Adventure has discovered a new favorite food.

Rice Krispy Treats.

Oh yeah.

First of all, they are tasty. Which is ordinarily ‘nuff said.

But. A little known fact about said treats: you can use them for hair gel, creating fascinating structures out of mere hair.

I am currently regarding…something that resembles…a gnome which has stuck its finger into a light socket. His hair is sticking straight out from his little head in all directions, held there by the unbreakable force that is marshmallow residue and spit.

He is also laughing every time I glance at him. {glance} “AH HAHAHA!” {pause} “Eeeeeeeeeah?” {glance} “AH HAHAHAHAHAHA! HA! HA! Ba ba da da va va va da ba va DA! Bleh bleh bleh aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah bababababaDADADADABABABADA! DA!”


“Ha ha ha.”

Quite the charmer, he.

So right, and yet so wrong…

Your Summer Ride is a Toyota Prius

Sure you're a little sensible and quite green

But no one enjoys outdoors more than you do!

Well, yes. I must confess the Prius appeals to me on many, many, many levels. The ‘green thing’ not the least among them. I mean, in real life, if I didn’t have the whole “needing to haul a family of six around” thing holding me back, sure! I would be there! Saving the earth, one gallon of gas at a time while enjoying a cool(ish) ride fits very nicely into my secret eco-nazi agenda.

But my summer ride, my summer ride, my fantasy ‘if I could have any ride I wanted’ summer ride, would be a Jaguar XKR convertible. This baby boasts a price tag of $88,000 out the door, 390 horsepower giving a rippin’ 155 MPH top speed (ahem – says the woman who you are ALWAYS stuck behind who insists on going precisely five (5) miles over the speed limit and not a crawl faster) at 23 MPG.

Oh yeah. Vroom, vroom. $300 sunglasses. Hundred dollar cashmere t-shirt. Tweed pants. Hand-knit socks, for that all-important dork factor.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Gonna wake up any second now…

Yesterday I had a Bad Housework day. I worked for two hours straight and didn’t get through the entirety of my downstairs. This would be on account of because I haven’t been doing my housework in what might be considered a ‘timely manner’ (OK, OK, I haven’t done it AT ALL for about two weeks, and wasn’t being all that conscientious about things before that for quite a while), which has led to an excessive level of nastiness which means that a task that should take, say, twenty minutes tops is taking almost an hour and still ain’t right.

I didn’t have much hope for today’s task, which was yardwork. Which I have also not been getting around to for a few weeks. The back lawn looked more like the long grass plains of the vast Serengeti than a backyard lawn suitable for kid-frolicking. The two stupid hedges were sprouting forth in wild, un-ball-like profusion. Weeds were popping up between all cracks. Spider webs, lost concrete edges and wind debris, oh my!

But I figure hey, if I can just keep on chipping away at it during my two hours of Boo Bug being in preschool AND Captain Adventure taking a nap – eventually, I’ll make the headway and have a house I’m not embarrassed to have my mother see.

So I went outside, and I fired up the lawn mower, and hey, guess what? It looks like a lawn back there now! And then I found the extension cord (miracle #1) and figured out what was wrong with the weed whacker (miracle #2) and actually edged it – this would be the first time it has been edged in approximately, uh, well, let’s see. We moved in here back in about 1998…

I weeded my rose beds and sprayed the stuff I couldn’t pull. I fertilized the citrus trees, fixed the stupid hedges, mowed and edged the front yard, weeded and swept. Got scared right out of my skin by a black widow the size of Houston that had taken up residence in my ‘greens’ tote. OK, it wasn’t the size of Houston. More like…Austin. And the damned thing got away from me into a crevasse in the tote and I couldn’t smash it into the Black Widow Afterlife, which of course means that I will be obsessing about its existence for the rest of all time. Its web completely enveloped the whole inside of the tote!


Then I actually sprayed weed-n-feed over the whole shebang and called it a day.

And it was only 2:00. I had forty-five more minutes before I had to go get Boo Bug, and Captain Adventure rather accommodatingly continued sleeping right up until it was time to leave. I had to wake him up to go – fortunately, he decided to forgive me when he saw the sippy cup of juice and got downright cheerful when he was handed a cookie.

My yard looks darned nice. Sure, I’ve still got a list of stuff like fertilizing the roses and planting new things up front and so forth and so on (and on and on and on), but it looks pretty darned nice.

I am pleased.

And, expecting that any second now, I’m going to wake up and it will 4:15 in the morning and time to start the tedious process of getting my husband out of bed…

Ah, the diet

So I had my crummy Lean Pocket for breakfast a little bit ago. And I’m eyeballing the marshmallow toasties right now.

I don’t like marshmallow toasties. I think they’re nasty – in real life. In Diet Land, however…they look pretty good.

Mmmmmmm…sugary carbs…mmmmmmmm…


Mostly, I’m on the diet because my husband, my rotten, crummy, no good husband, needs to lose weight. And he claims that he can’t possibly do it unless I’m on the diet too.

The reason I didn’t tell him to jump off a log is that honestly – it won’t hurt me a bit to be on the diet. I’m not exactly overweight, but I am heading back that way. Eating the “leftover” macaroni and cheese out of the pot and slamming down the uneaten chocolate chip waffles and standing over the sink after having already eaten a fairly large-sized dinner eating the last few spoonfuls (wooden spoon, not eating spoon) of mashed potatoes out of the pan is not the best way to keep a slender figure.

It ain’t like the old days, when I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain an ounce. Oh yeah. The Goode Olde Days, before babies, before responsibilities and mortgages and housework, oh my! In Those Days, I never had to think twice about my weight. I spent my weekends swimming, hiking, kayaking, walking, blah blah blah.

These days the most active thing I do on weekends is thrift store shopping.

Also, this first phase of the diet involves eating only Lean Cuisine-style meals. Which means that I don’t have to cook much, which means that I have that much less stress in my life. Which is never a bad thing. I’ve been a little more stressed out of late, so having just one less thing to fret about makes me pretty happy.

I’m also extremely proud of my 130 status because when Boo Bug was a year old, I weighed 179. So we went on this same diet and over the course of about half a year (and a lot of cursing and wailing and complaining and feeling like I was going to die of hunger) I went from the 179 to 115.

Which is to me proof that my body does not want to be fat. Given half a chance, it will slim down. If I can just keep my mitts out of the doughnut box…which I had great difficulty doing last weekend while my van was getting smogged. The Evil SpeeDee Lube People had brought not one, not two, but three boxes of doughnuts for their valued customers. I had to sit there for almost two hours smelling the damned doughnuts, drinking my aspartame-laden coffee and knitting frantically in a barely-successful bid to keep my hands too busy to grab the doughnuts and stuff them into my mouth.

Which, BTW, watered incessantly the entire time.

Diet wrecking bastards. They could have put out low fat apricot-oat cakes, but nooooooo. Just doughnuts. Glazed. Sugary. Doughnuts. With sprinkles and nuts and smelling heavily of maple sugar.

Which brings up something that has always puzzled me: why is it that one (1) maple-glazed doughnut in a box will cause Every Single Other Doughnut to smell / taste vaguely of maple? There could be three hundred other doughnuts in that box, but you put in just one (1) maple-glazed anything, and the whole lot will smell / taste vaguely of genuine imitation maple flavoring.

It is a great mystery of life, the strange potency that is genuine imitation maple flavoring.

But I digress.

The 115 crept up to 130 about six minutes after I got off the diet, and got up to 165 while I was pregnant with Captain Adventure.

So then after Captain Adventure was born and weaned, I went on the diet and lost the 25 pounds fairly easily…and there I have stuck, right at 130. Ish.

But honestly, it isn’t the weight that bugs me. I’m more than happy to be 130. Right smack in the middle of ‘healthy’ for my height, blah blah blah.

No. It’s the physique that bugs me. I’m about four seconds from removing the mirrors in my bathroom, because when I catch a glimpse of my nekkid self I honestly can’t for the life of me figure out why my husband is willing to share a room with me, let alone wanna get cuddly with “that”.

My butt is hanging down somewhere around my knees. There is a ring of fatty skin that dangles all the way around me – with a big bulge in front and a kind of “crinkle” in the back where my spin sucks it in.

It. Is. Ucky.

I can’t wait to shove it into my jeans in the morning. It tucks in pretty well in denim, especially if I kind of let my t-shirt hang a little bit instead of tucking it all the way down. That way I can pretend that the bulge is actually just a little pucker in my shirt instead of fatty skin.

Don’t pop my bubble. I know everybody knows it’s my flab. But I like to pretend that they look at it and say, “Hmm, her shirt is a little bubbly there…and there’s a weird pucker to her jeans, she probably shouldn’t keep buying them at the outlet center…”

I don’t really think the diet is going to help that. What I need is a good, sweat-raising exercise program. Preferably with a trainer, because I have no idea how to go about putting together an exercise program.

Ha. HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah *snort*, you know what? {chortle} I’m gonna start going to the {wheeze, gasp} GYM!! For, like, an hour, two hours a day!

{snort gasp gak}

Oh man. That was a good one. Heh. I’m going to be chuckling about that, like, all day.

The same way I do whenever I contemplate getting a Bowflex, so that in only twenty minutes per day three days a week for six weeks I can have RIPPED abs, DEFINED legs, and a TONED, SEXY core.

Whatever the hell all that means…a toned, sexy…what, exactly? Which part is that, again?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My story and I’m sticking to it!

OK. The husband and I are on a diet, and it is extremely frustrating because I have already dieted myself to the point where losing even one (1) more pound usually involves a lot of vomiting and the swearing that I am never eating at {insert restaurant name here}. I’m serious. When I got pregnant with Eldest, I weighed 125.

I now weigh 130.

I figure that’s probably about as good as it’s going to get without surgery. In my adult life, I never once weighed less than 125. And I looked damned good at 125, if I do say so myself. And, the more astute amongst you will note, I do.

But I digress.

What I wanted to post about is my theory in regards to servings of fruit. I am currently having two of my five daily servings, in beverage form. Want the recipe? Here you go:

Juice of one (1) orange
Juice of one (1) nipperkin filled with Peachtree schnapps
Splash of vodka (Ketel One, which is made of finest wheat, which I propose counts as a serving of ‘grains’)

Put into a shaker full of ice, shake well, and pour the whole caboodle into your glass, ice and all. This ain’t no martini, friends, it’s a…fruit-laden, fiber-bearing, good for you dammit!, Adult Style Smoothie. Only on the rocks instead of blended. With fruit. Which is healthy! And good for you!!



Don’t mess with me on this. I’ve been cleaning all day and only got ¾ of my downstairs finished. Which sucks mightily. Add to this insult to my dignity that The Husband is late – AGAIN!! – due to things that are beyond his control except for that little tiny point that he’s too damned conscientious to say, “Duck ‘em! They brought this on themselves and I’m going to just let them wallow in their misery until tomorrow!” which actually makes it entirely his fault that he’s late, and I am a woman who needs her fantasies.


It’s a fruit smoothie.

With…a little kick.

That is all.

First Silly of the Day

Boo Bug and Danger Mouse were playing on the floor. And Boo Bug had, apparently, taken off her underwear at some point during the day. So they’re playing and wrestling and roughhousing and carrying on and suddenly Danger Mouse bursts into maniacal laughter.

“I can see your butt!” she shrieks.

“Where?” cries Boo Bug, also laughing.

“Right there - behind you!” Danger Mouse screams, pointing.

At this point, mommy had to lean on the counter until she could breathe again. It didn’t help that Boo Bug began going around and around in a circle, craning her neck and trying to see the butt that was behind her.

Yet another reason why I love having kids. They’re probably prolonging my life, one belly laugh at a time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Frustrating out of all proportion to actual importance

The phone starts to ring while I’m setting the pooped-upon clothing to soak in the washing machine. Getting my hands out of the icky water, I start dashing to try and catch it before it goes to voice mail.

Boo Bug, who is in reality a tiny little three year old person, now becomes an obstacle to navigation larger than a barge.

As I come charging out of the laundry room, she’s standing at the bottom of the stairs – right in front of me. So I say, “Out of the way sweetie, I’ve got to get the phone!”

Naturally, she then gets directly in front of me. I try to go left around her, she goes left. I dodge to the right, she dodges to the right. I yelp, “Get outta the way!”, she immediately gets right in front of me and tries to outrun me.

Which is just exactly like someone running for their lives in front of a train in a cartoon or something. Yo! It’s on a track, just jump off the track!! Mommy’s heading past the dining room table into the kitchen, just get to the left or right, either way, doesn’t matter, just quit running in FRONT of her!!

But no. She ran in front of me until we got to the dining room door, the narrowest part of our journey from laundry room to kitchen-where-the-phone-is.

Then, she stopped dead.

Right in the middle of the doorway.

Stopped, turned around, looked up at me, and announced, “Mommy! The phone is ringing!!”


“Oh!” quoth she, brightly. “It’s OK. It stopped.”


Was this trip really necessary…?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Ahhhhhh, my first Freecycle!

I just got accepted by the moderator of the local group this morning. And I went onto the site and started scanning messages to get a feel for the format and so forth and what do I see but an ad stating

Wanted: Kitchen Chairs. Don’t have to match.

Oh, really? Because as it Just So Happens…I’ve got two kitchen chairs that have been out in my garage for, like, two years gathering dust…

An hour later, two kitchen chairs were being delivered to a very nice lady in town and my garage was that much less full. As a Special Added Bonus: the things actually matched her current table!!

I think I’m going to like Freecycle. What Goodwill didn’t want and my cheapskate soul wouldn’t let me toss in the trash is now in the hands of someone who really wanted it and will use it.

Oh yes. I think Freecycle and I are going to become very good friends in the coming months...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I have never heard of a bank doing such a thing. EmigrantDirect is giving $1,000.00 to their customers who live in the areas most blasted by Katrina.

The money is already there. Good morning, Sunshine, and oh by the way – here’s an extra $1,000 for you because you’re probably having some trouble right about now.

Wow. From the article, Chairman and CEO Howard P. Milstein says, “We believe that no one is in a better position to identify and tend to the needs of Hurricane Katrina's victims than those who have survived the storm themselves and who call the communities of the Delta region home. We recognize that to some of our customers $1,000 will offer a meaningful amount of support. To others more fortunate, in the wake of the disaster, we would encourage those customers to donate these funds to others in their communities less able to rebuild on their own.”

This in addition to having one of the absolute hands-down best interest rates on a regular savings account out there – 3.50% the last time I checked, with no minimum deposit and no fees.

Damn. I think I’m in love.

I think this might be a good time to beat one of my favorite dead horses.

Have trouble saving money? Have even more trouble staying inside your budget? Do you find that every dime you earn flows right through your checking account like sand through a sieve? Try this.

Open a savings account with a bank like, oh, say, Emigrant Direct (I personally bank with ING right now for this purpose, but that’s subject to change) (especially given that Emigrant is currently paying 3.50% and ING 3.30% - sure, it isn’t much but every little bit helps!). During this process, you will be linking your current checking account to the new bank.

Important things to look for are a good rate of return, no fees, and the ability to easily transfer money to and from your regular old checking account.

Now, have your paychecks direct deposited into the savings account, instead of your checking account. Don’t panic. Relax. You can transfer the money to your checking account in two to four business days, depending on your bank. Bigger banks like Bank of America and Union Bank of California tend to be faster, smaller banks like Bank of the West tend to spend an extra day getting the job done. Credit unions are very hit and miss, though – Chevron Federal has been fabulous for me, but Uncle is like dealing with a petulant two year old. “You want a transfer? From where? Uuuuuuuuuh…well, I’m gonna have to have Myrtle call you about that, she works on Tuesdays from 11:00 to 11:15…”

OK. So now your money is going into an interest-bearing (bonus free money!) account before it hits your spending account. Now, I’m sorry, I’m going to make an assumption based on my own experience: if the money is in either my pocket or my checking account, it will go *poof!* and I’ll be standing there scratching my head going, “Hmm, where did that money go?”

Pay raises into checking account = *poof!*
Overtime pay into checking account = *poof!*
Check from my mom into checking account = *poof!*
Bonus check into checking account = *POOF!* (followed by the dreaded, “How did we manage to spend $5,000 without knowing where it went?!” conversation)

But when that money goes into a saving account, from which you have to intentionally and with forethought draw the cash before you can *poof!* it – it tends to stick around longer. Earning interest all the way, tra-la.

So let’s say your net check is usually $1,100. And you look at your budget and say “I’m going to spend $1,000 per pay period.”

Great – you transfer $1,000, and let the other $100 ride in the savings account. Work some overtime, get a check for $1,400, and you’re letting the $300 ride.

With savings accounts like ING and Emigrant, with no minimum balances or fees to contend with, you can build things up as slowly as you need to. If you open the account with $50, get your first paycheck and take all but $100 out of the account, fine. The $100 still gets 3.50%, you don’t get any $15 account maintenance fees or anything (as you might with some of the Big Banks).

Everybody should build up a savings cushions equal to three to six months of normal living expenses. But very few of us do, because, well, it’s hard. There are a thousand and one things to spend our money on, we’re hit with commercials every moment of every day, and merchants are making it ever-easier for us to spend every dime we earn as fast as we earn them on everything from lattes to Gucci bags.

This is the easiest way I’ve found to build up an emergency fund. As disasters natural and manmade keep showing us, again and again, luck favors the prepared.

Be as prepared as you can, for whatever comes your way.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Dear Eldest:

Please do not ever again, under any circumstances, hand your mother a large package of gum and say, “Mommy, would you please hold this for me because I’m afraid I’m going to chew it all and it’s making my jaw sore!”

Because now my jaw is getting sore from chewing all your gum.

Thank you.


Why we’re the Den of Chaos

Are you ready for the morning? Here we go:

While looking into some things around a stock I own that is currently facing fairly serious allegations of insider trading and outright fraud, I got interrupted by Eldest, who announces the toilet upstairs is overflowing and that there’s poop in it.

So I go upstairs and find that not only is the toilet overflowing, but it apparently has been overflowing for some time. The floor is literally and with a ruler 3” underwater. This is a large bathroom. If California suffers another drought, you’ll know who to blame.

Once I got done shrieking incoherently, I begin dealing with a very smelly water problem in the bathroom. Did I mention that I hate having to deal with toilets in general? I dislike cleaning them, and when they need plunging I’d just really…rather not.

So I collected every single bath towel I own and started trying to mop up the mess. Lord. There was more water than a hundred bath towels could handle in there. Ugh!!

Meanwhile, one of my dearest friends in the world arrived to collect her precious son, whom I have been stuffing with junk food, permitting to stay up too late and allowing to watch cartoons and/or play video games all weekend. She came up and knocked on the door, and I stood there dripping smelly water yelling down the stairs: “Eldest! Hey! Eldest! Go and let her in! At the door! Go and open the door and let her in! Godson’s Mommy! She’s at the DOOR! No, the FRONT DOOR! GO TO THE FRONT DOOR AND LET HER IN!!!!!!!”

Suddenly, the child who can’t be kept from opening the door for every screwball and ax murderer who happens by can’t remember how to turn the damned knob. I only hope she can hear me bellowing and knows we’re actually home, and haven’t kidnapped her son to Alaska or something.

“Hi!” I shout from upstairs when (eventually) she’s let into the house, trying to sound cheerful and not gag. “I’ve got…a toilet problem… up here. Be down in a minute!!”

Fifteen towels later…the water is mostly sorta contained. Mostly. And, there are about twenty bath towels in the tub slowly dripping nasty water into the drain. Uck. The floor feels weird and the smell is…pervasive.

There is not enough bleach in the northern hemisphere to make me feel comfortable about that bathroom again, I’m serious.

And, the water had soaked into the hall carpet in a large radius. A large brownish radius.

It. Is. Disgusting.

But I did my best to pretend it wasn’t happening while my friend was here. We chatted about this and that while my mind persistently whispered to me that the water was doing God Knew What to the flooring up there, and wondering if e coli could continue to breed once the carpet had dried, and pondering the relative merits of potential e coli infestation versus large bleached-out circles from pouring Clorox over the afflicted areas…

I think I also washed my hands about sixteen times while she was standing there. I’d think about those towels up there, and suddenly my hands would “need” to be washed. Again.

She probably thinks I have really gone around the bend.

But I am glad I managed to refrain from muttering, “Out, out damned spot!” as I did it.

Then I realized, after they had driven away, that I did not think to offer her so much as a glass of water, or perchance a quick lunch or anything. I was so consumed by the thought of That Bathroom that I let a friend come into my house right over the lunch hour and go out again to face drive-thru fare without so much as a ‘want a sandwich?’.


Oh well. There’s probably still e coli on my hands, which would mean that if I fed her, I’d probably give her a case of hemorrhagic colitis. It is, after all, pernicious stuff , e coli.

Yup. Probably got it all over me at this point. Just a walking e coli Petri dish, that’s me…

Excuse me. I’m going to go wash up again…maybe with a little Clorox, this time…and some steel wool…

Fun with cardboard

Every parent has noted, at some point, that the child would much rather play with the box than the toy that was formerly in it.

This morning, I was about to take out the recycling when I noticed that I had the following:

One paper towel roll
One empty box of mac-n-chez
One empty Ziploc baggie box
One empty arrowroot cookie box

And Captain Adventure was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor with an expression that clearly said, “Hmm, what shall I do next?”

So I dropped all the cardboard down on the floor next to him and waited.

Hmmmmmmmm. What is all this? he asked himself. Interesting…!!

He has now been playing with all of that for the last forty five minutes straight. The paper towel roll makes a great drum stick. The boxes are good drums. They are also great for pushing around the Pergo. They slide well and make interesting noises when they hit the walls. Plus, they have bright colors.

He has talked to them, sung to them, thrown them, kicked them, clutched them in his little hands and rushed up and down in his new hunched-shoulder run, laughing maniacally. BWA-HAHAHAHA! I’m making off with the boxes! HAHAHAHA!

He has lined them up on the floor like little soldiers, and knocked them over. He’s stacked them, and unstacked them. They have been put on the shelf, and taken off the shelf. They have been put onto the kitchen chairs, and taken off the kitchen chairs.

They are the Best Toys Ever™.

Explain to me again why we spend $25 and up on fancy electronic toys guaranteed to increase brain capacity by 372% at the Discovery Toy Centre…?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Shopping, shopping, shopping

There is a downside to doing 90% of your clothes shopping at thrift stores: sticker shock when the time comes (and come it will) when you must buy something at the {gasp, shudder} mall.

My childrens nightclothes being little more than flimsy rags shrugging from their shoulders these days, and colder nights having arrived, I decided they needed new pajamas. Pajamas are one of the items I seem to have a lot of trouble finding at the thrift store. They’ll have the tops but not the bottoms, or sixteen pairs of size 10 but nothing in the 3-5-7 age range, that kind of thing.

Also, they needed new shoes. Everybody’s tennis shoes had actual holes in the toes, and Captain Adventure has already outgrown the one pair he already had. Two things I don’t buy at the thrift store even if they are available are shoes, and underwear.

So I went to the mall.

Five pairs of pajamas: $60.
Four pairs of shoes: $80.
Expression on my face at the shoe store: Priceless

I did, however, stop into Bath & Body works clutching $50 in gift cards I had gotten from MyPoints and a coupon for a free tote with a $40 purchase. It’s rather a nice bag, too. So I got a bunch of stinky bathy stuff that I ordinarily wouldn’t get for myself and lugged it out to my car where I languished for a moment recuperating from the trauma. On a related note, however, I must say that the pumpkin hand soap I got is too smelly. It’s a lovely scent, but it lingers forever. I washed my hands with it last night, and the scent is still clinging to the back of my hand. If I wanted a hard-wearing perfume, I would have bought some.

But I digress.

For comparison purposes, here is what I bought at the thrift store that same day:

Two pairs of jeans for Captain Adventure
Three long-sleeved shirts for Captain Adventure (two in “logger-style” flannel, SO CUTE!)
One sleeper for Captain Adventure
Five shirts for Danger Mouse and/or Boo Bug (who wear the exact same size and thus interchange their clothes incessently)
Two pairs of overalls for Danger Mouse and/or Boo Bug
Two brand new t-shirts for the husband.

Set me back $17.50, which for the observant among you means that with the change from my $20 bill, I had just enough for a tall mocha at Baristas up the street.

My thrift stores spoil me, really they do.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Sweater Wizard in review

I bought the Sweater Wizard some years ago, when they were on Version 1. This new version 3 is miles better! Still not 100% ‘in my dreams’ perfect, but I use it pretty frequently.

I think the thing I love best about the software is that I can print it out in clear, easy to read formats (unlike my chicken-scratchings on miscellaneous paper bits) and I can reprint it whenever I’ve lost the original. Or found it chewed up under the sofa. Again. So when I’m halfway through the project and can’t remember something – it’s there.

It allows you to fully customize things like sleeve length and so forth, which can be neat. It also permits you to use any yarn for any pattern – so that weird homespun thing that knits to its own gauge and doesn’t match any other yarn in the universe, you can whip up a pattern for and have it come out right. I’ve also found that its guesstimate of yardage is pretty darned accurate…as accurate as my gauge, usually. Which can be a problem on more distracted occasions, but overall is great – it predicted I’d need 645 yards to do that sweater for Eldest, I had 660 yards, and sure enough, I think it was square on.

It permits you to place a pattern, even those ones that are of the ‘9 repeating stitches, plus 1’ type. It does not let you import them directly yet – but you can export the pattern to Word and input / import it that way.

It doesn’t help you with “funky” shaping much. Like if you’re trying to do things like use a cable to neaten a decrease edge, or anything other than your basic raglan (which I must say, it does admirably – I like to use the raglan for babies / children for freedom of movement), drop, T, or set-in sleeves.

One of the things that drives me CRAZY about it is that I often find the default sizes to be ‘not quite right’. Like, when knitting for my husband (who is a freak of nature – who else would put up with me?!) – last time I lost my mind and did so, he had a 44” chest. So you plug in a 44” chest – and it defaults to 28” back (he needs 32”) and a 32” sleeve (36” is what he prefers) (argh – Freak. Of. Nature. Mr. Organgutan Arms. Grumble grumble grumble…)

So you have to be paying attention. You have to get all the measurements and then put them all in.

Right down to the damned head opening. Yes, I’m stilling kicking myself over that one. Don’t feel sorry for me, I need the exercise.

Now that I’ve gushed about how cool Sweater Wizard is, I just downloaded the demo for Sweater Design and I think that, if something dire were to happen to my Sweater Wizard program, I’d go with this one instead. It’s cheaper, and it allows me to input the repeating pattern directions right into the pattern itself! I think I like the interface better, too…it feels less, uh, hmm…cheesy?…and it’s “only” $50, instead of the $90 for Sweater Wizard.

I’d say that the upshot is, once you get to a point where you have all those ideas in your head and no pattern to match them, the designing software is a real boon.

Of course, once you start going maverick with your own patterns, you also start collecting book after book of ‘interesting’ patterns to insert into your creations…knitting is a never-ending cycle of buying yarn, books, needles and notions, more patterns, more yarn, more needles and notions…

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Thank you, you've been a great crowd...

This afternoon during Quiet Time, while Captain Adventure was up in his crib dreaming of warm milk and jumping on the sofa, I looked around at my middle two Denizens and thought, Hmm…I think they may be…bored.

It was uncanny mother’s intuition that told me this. Nobody else, merely looking at the two of them, one lying upside down on the sofa staring at the upside down TV – which was not even turned on – and the other lying on her back idly kicking the wall and sucking her fingers, watching the ceiling fan, could have guessed that these two preschoolers were bored.

But I, their mother, with my inexplicable mother’s intuition, I knew they were bored. The signs may have been subtle, but I picked up on them. Because I’m their mother, and that’s what we mothers do.

I was thinking of the various things they could do. Coloring, with or without stickers and scissors and glue sticks. Maybe we could bake something together (shudder) or I could wrestle them outside (they don’t wanna go) (yet – when darned inconvenient, they will want, nay, demand!, to be allowed into the Out). We’re out of Play-Doh (oh, the humanity!) and I’m not emotionally prepared for finger painting.

Then I thought of some puzzles I’ve got up in the cupboard.

Wait, you know what else is up there?

Hi-Ho, Cherry-O.

We don’t do many board games around the Den. We just don’t. Until recently, Boo Bug was too young and tended to merely eat and/or throw the pieces around the room. Even Eldest tends to spend more time flinging cards around the room than playing the board games they go to, so I’ve been taking any games we receive and squirreling them away in the built-in until, well, later.

So I blew the dust off Hi-Ho, Cherry-O, and we set up the game and played a few rounds. The girls were fascinated by it. Boo Bug enthusiastically counted the cherries on and off the trees, laughing and squealing. She also won, repeatedly, and is therefore the Reigning Champion of the Day. And Danger Mouse, it must be stated, was very gracious in defeat, informing Boo Bug that she was “Wow, very good at this game!” upon being defeated for a third straight game.

We played until Captain Adventure began rattling the slats of his crib and hollering for Servant #1 to get her butt up there and get him down onto the floor. As we began putting the cherries back into their little tubs I encouraged the girls to remind me about the games and puzzles tomorrow during Quiet Time – we can’t play them while Captain Adventure is bumbling around, but there’s no reason why not while he’s napping.

Then Danger Mouse suddenly swept in and kissed me daintily on the cheek.

“That,” she declared solemnly. “Is for remembering this game. Because it is awesome and I really love playing it. I love you, mommy. You’re so good to us.”

Dang, they can be an easy crowd to play to. A bucket of plastic cherries, half an hour of undivided attention and a bowl of cheese crackers, and they’re calling you a hero.

Sometimes, I really love this gig…

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In other, other news...

I finished the sweater. Yes, I did finish the sweater. I had about, oh, three yards of yarn left. Wow! That was a close one, there! Whew! Heh-heh, I’m going to have to pull out the swatch to do the seaming, because I’m going to need all that to do the neck finishing!

So I pulled out the swatch and used it to seam up the sweater. I was so distracted while doing so that I went in this order: back, sleeve, sleeve, fron-…wait, uh, hm. That ain’t right, why aren’t these lining up ri-…um, why am I trying to seam the front and the back together, without a sleeve between them?! Ripped out my seams, calling myself stupid the whole time, then redid the work.

In my defense, there was a particularly fascinating show on Discovery at the time…

At this point, I called Eldest over and slipped the semi-finished sweater over her head – not that there were many adjustments I could make due to not having much yarn left over, but if she only needed another half inch or so on the sleeves or something…

Well, I slipped it over her head. But her head did not emerge from within, because…the damned neck opening was too small.

Words best left unrecorded were muttered when I realized this. It was a raglan sweater, similar to this – which means that the neck size is…uh…a touch hard to change once you’re all done with the sweater.

Especially if you’ve only got three yards of the yarn left.

More words were muttered.

Sleeve length: perfect. Length from shoulder to hip: perfect. Width: perfect.

Neck opening: suitable only for a mutant. Well, actually, it was almost wide enough. But “almost wide enough” and “head opening” really don’t go well together.

I rushed back to my pattern to double check things. I used Sweater Wizard to generate the pattern, and guess what? Based on the chest size (skinny child!), it had defaulted to a neck opening of 4”. I had manually adjusted the length of the sleeves and the overall length, but it hadn’t occurred to me to worry about the neck opening.

Eldest’s head is just under 5” around. I know this now, because I checked. This is, BTW, the first time in my LIFE that I have ever measured my own kid’s head. The pediatrician does it regularly, but me? Nope. I’ve measured waist, length from shoulder to hip, and arms from shoulder to wrist. See, those are the things you generally have to worry about.

Not how big around their heads are.

Sure enough, I can alter the neck opening size and the pattern will adjust in Sweater Wizard. I can put in, say, 5” into that little slot, and it changes the decreases accordingly for me.

Or, would have done, if I had thought about that little wrinkle before I was done with the knitting and finishing.

So, I finished it anyway. Then I tried it on both Danger Mouse (who, like Eldest, is a little tiny skinny thing) and Boo Bug (who is a bigger kid – she’s a hair taller than Danger Mouse in spite of being almost two years younger, and bigger around to boot) and we decided that Boo Bug better take it due to it fitting her better around the middle and lengthwise, and only requiring a little bit of pushing-up on the sleeves.

Eldest was understandably upset. So was I. Memo to me: when using Sweater Wizard (which program I am still not at peace with, due to it always seeming to do little things like this to me) to make your pattern instructions, check the damned neck opening and adjust if necessary.

There was only one thing to do under the circumstances: I threw open my stash closet and turned her loose in there to pick another yarn for another sweater. She and I went through bag after bag, box after box, pulling out yarns I had forgotten I even bought.

Now, I have several bags of brightly colored “kid” yarn in there. Pinks, purples, blues, oranges, all in kid-friendly cotton blends. I expected her to emerge with one of those.

Nope. Oh, no. No, no, no.

She came out with…mist gray Superfine alpaca. About the last thing I ever would have expected her to pick out. She’s a girl who tends to like “girl” colors – pinks, light blues, purples, the very soft and feminine.

This is a cold gray. A very “San Francisco Foggy” gray, gray like wet granite in a Sierra river. I love it, but I never expected it to draw her. But then I watched her rubbing it between her fingers and lifting the skein to her face and I realized it wasn’t the color at all. It was the softness, the sweet, milky, warm smoothness that appealed to her. The color was secondary.

I understand completely.

So we discussed the balance between color, texture, and pattern. After a great deal of conversation, we settled on some Lane Monterosa Morbidone yarn (half wool, half acrylic – it breathes, drapes and wears nicely) in a beautiful green (which suits her blue-green-brown eyes perfectly), and a “fancy” cable pattern surrounded by moss stitch (sigh – one of the most irritating stitches to work, with a constant back and forth between knit and purl. Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one…).

But Eldest likes it. She came over a few days into the knitting of her new, improved sweater and hung on the arm of my rocking chair to observe the progress. “Oooh!” she cried, grabbing it and peering at the moss stitch, the cable pattern, the simple ropes on the sides and the more intricate center pattern. “Danger Mouse, c’mere, you have to see this – mommy’s doing magic knitting for me!”

Cables and texture are, apparently, ‘magic’ knitting. Knitting in two or five or forty different colors at the same time (which I find impossibly hard unless using a variegated yarn) is ‘eh’. Single color textures and cables (which I find laughably easy and relaxing), are ‘magic.’

Well, I'm not proud. I'll take any kudos I can get. Now, if only they could consider my cooking magic, I'd be set...TA DA! It's MAGIC meatloaf! See, how it's got the mashed potatoes like, uh, frosting? Yum! Magic, get it? Magic meatl-...oh, never mind...

Pondering the meaning...

You know, I’m the first one to cut someone else slack for having a foot-n-mouth moment. Shoot, I do it all the time! If I had a nickel for every time something has shot out of my mouth without taking a quick spin through my “is this a socially acceptable and/or correct thing to say” filter and I’ve been left standing there thinking, “What I wouldn’t give for ‘recall’ button on that little gem…”, well, I’d be a living nightmare to be behind at the Coinstar machine.

In point of fact, it is largely why I’ve refrained from pouring my own grief, anger, shame, more anger, more grief, and other assorted explosions during the last two weeks while I watched fellow Americans degrade while waiting for help. It was fraught – fraught, I tell you! – with potential for Tama putting her Number 11s in her mouth yet again.

But Barbara…Barbara, Barbara, Barbara.

I almost know what you were trying to say. Sorta. When I squint. Let’s see, I’ve found two reports. Almost gentle, and KER-BLAM! RAT-A-TAT! AND HERE’S A ROUND FOR YER SON WHILE WE’RE AT IT! BAM BAM BAM!!.

Hmm. I think you were trying to say…uh…maybe what you meant was…er…

Oh dear. I just can’t come up with anything. Me, the master of putting a positive spin on things…and I just can’t make this anything but a really, really insensitive thing to say. “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them”?

Being an optimist of the incurable variety, I have had the thought that maybe – just maybe! – with lots of support from Americans private and public, some of these folks might be able to use this as a springboard to a better life out of the New Orleans ghetto, eventually. Eventually. Today is horrible, tomorrow may be worse, but hope springs eternal over here, and if somebody has to go through something as horrific as Katrina – I want to believe that at least some of those people are going to rise like phoenixes from the ashes, seize hold of a new life in a more encouraging environment and flourish. It keeps me from just flat-out giving up on people, keeping all my charity in my own house and making long bacon at the endless stream of lost wanderers who seem to turn up on my doorstep with alarming frequency.

But hey, to me? Unless you are coming from, say, a dungeon somewhere in the snowy outer reaches of Slombackwardbovia, the whole evacuee situation is not, in my humblest of opinions, a step up in life for anybody. Oh, goodie, I get to leave my underprivileged urban dwelling in a New Orleans ghetto for a HUGE dorm with 23,600 “roomies” – we all smell bad due to still not being able to get a decent shower, are frightened, cashless, missing some of our family members and not sure what we’re going to do next but at least we get to eat luke-warm whatever’s-on-offer two or three times a day and hope our stuff is still where we left it whenever we have to go to the bathroom! Woo hoo! The toilet flushes!!! WHOOPEE!! Let the good times roll…in a ‘foreign’ city where y’all talk funny and are starting to rumble ominously about “those people” who are still arriving in the tens, twenties and hundreds and thousands…

And by the way – these people are keenly aware that they’re depending on others for everything. That just can’t feel good, especially when the ones you were depending on have just failed you so magnificently. How would you feel if, right now, your next meal depended on the National Guard getting around to it?

Yeah, me too.

Working out well for them? Well, better than the Superdome, anyway, I’ll give you that one.

But better than their very own homes? Better than four walls, a roof, and your own stuff arranged your own way – even if it wasn’t much? Better than being able to hop into your shower and wash when you felt dirty, or being able to lie down to sleep without listening to other people’s babies screaming all around you, or the guy next to you hacking up a lung into your ear?

Better than having control over your daily life?

Somehow…methinks, not.

Here’s your nickel, Barbara. And please – a little advance warning before you head to the Coinstar machine would be appreciated…

Score one for my old favorite!

So maybe this is old news now – there was much more important news out there these last couple weeks, as we are all VERY painfully aware.

But still, I am very, very happy about this little bit of news.

“Coffee not only helps clear the mind and perk up the energy, it also provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet, according to a study released Sunday.”

Oh yeah, baby.

And this: “In February, a team of Japanese researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that people who drank coffee daily, or nearly every day, had half the liver cancer risk of those who never drank it. The protective effect occurred in people who drank one to two cups a day and increased at three to four cups.”

AND: “Last year, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that drinking coffee cut the risk of developing the most common form of diabetes.”

For years, my tea-sipping friends have mocked my two-to-four cup a day coffee habit.

“You’re going to drop dead of a heart attack!” they’ve warned me.
“You should switch to {green, black, orange, purple-green checked} tea, it’s ever-so-much better for you – it’s positively loaded with antioxidants!” they’ve declared.
“Why don’t you just take up smoking again? I think it’s better for you than THAT stuff!” {nose in air, sniff-sniff}

So I hope you’ll forgive me a whoop of “in yer FACE!” and a small, caffeine-driven victory dance around my kitchen.

Tea: 294 milligrams of antioxidant.
Coffee: 1,299 milligrams.

HA! My coffee kicks butt over your {green, black, orange, purple-green checked} tea, nyah-nyah!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to brew up another batch of cancer-kicking, diabetes-beating antioxidants.

Oh, but I do just love science…

Monday, September 05, 2005

Playmate of the Year - NOT!!!

I get lots of emails from assorted sources who are eager to share with me all the things going on inside the brain of my {13 MONTH – WEEK TWO} toddler.

This week's email begins with this little sentence: “At this point you're still your child's favorite playmate.”

Excuse me? Playmate?


I am his favorite plaything.

I am his jungle gym, his snack dispenser, his entertainment center. One stop shopping, that’s me. Want a snack? Want a cuddle? Want to enjoy a thrill ride (I make a great roller coaster, complete with ‘whoosh!’ noises)? Want to snuggle down and be sung to sleep?

Gotcha covered.

They also informed me that {gasp, shock!} he is a touch on the self-absorbed side at this stage in his development.

No, really?!

I never would have guessed.

He does not share toys well. He does not permit interlopers to take over his mommy, either – if a sister attempts to sit on my lap he will yell, scream, shove, attempt to bite, and otherwise make it extremely clear that this mommy has one (1) owner. So bug off, squatter!

It’s all about me, myself, and I. And I own this woman.

We, the Denizens, are gentle but firm on this point. Sisters have equal rights to mommy-time. Sisters are permitted to sit on mommy’s lap, have their owies kissed by mommy’s lips, and definitely may tell mommy their stories, woeful and otherwise. They may show off their incredible talents as artists, they may hug, kiss, and rest against me whenever they feel the need.

They too are my babies, and incredibly, I love them all equally. I never really believed my own mother when she said this (I always suspected her of loving my brother, you know, more…mostly because he was a) cuter and b) easier to be around than yours truly), but I’m finding it true with my own. I love each and every one of them just the same, and like to take advantage of the fact that they are still young enough to enjoy a cuddle on the sofa with dear old Mom.

Captain Adventure does not agree with this. As Supreme Commander of the Entire Universe, he is perplexed and angered by our disobedience.

But he is learning. Every day, in little tiny baby steps, he is learning. He’s learning that sisters can be allies as well as rivals; that mommy doesn’t stop loving him just because she loves sisters, too; that the world has a lot of other people in it, the Not Mommies and Not Daddies and Not Sisters that flit and float through his world.

He’s still trying to control it all, trying to be the Center. But someday all too soon he’ll decide that it’s all too much, pass off the reins of Supreme Commander to Mommy and Daddy (who darned straight had better be in charge because otherwise this thing is just WAY too big to be safe!) and settle into the more comfortable preschooler role of Vital Member of the Posse.

I just hope he’ll forgive me if I scream and cry for my mommy sometimes, when it all becomes too much for me…