Monday, June 30, 2008

How I got the music file up (yay!)

OK, the way I put the tune up was pretty straightforward.

First, I opened a free account at to hold the file. I’m not currently planning to upload a whole lot of files, but if I suddenly found I wanted to host a regular podcast or something (yeah right, because I’m just so bored around here right now, I could totally add writing, recording, publishing and promoting a regular podcast to the list…) their monthly charges for upgraded services seemed pretty reasonable to me.

Then I uploaded the music file. Super easy. Once I figured out how to get it into the computer. Ahem. Yes. Let us draw the veil of decency over that spasm of technology-impairedness, shall we?

Moving on.

Then, I turned on the ‘embed links’ function in Blogger; you could also simply provide the URL in a blog post using the a href= command we know and love so well. I wanted to use the title link, though, because it comes through in the RSS feed as an ‘enclosure’ – so if you only read through the reader, you can still get to it by clicking on the little ‘enclosure’ thing there.

And that was that! Super easy!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sound Check!

If this works, you should be able to play a music file by clicking on the title of the post. This is a tune I wrote about fifteen years ago called Bittersweet Remembrance. And that’s me playing it.

I’m glad I have the recording, because I lost the binder with the written music in it long ago…a lot of other stuff from that same period is simply lost.

…I’m sure the world of music is crushed by this news…

The morning after the night before

Yesterday was not the best day for that play date. I mean, it was a perfect day when we set it up last week. Eldest and Godson would be off playing D&D in the mountains at The Boy’s house. This is a good thing, because they are older. More worldly. They say things to the younger children which begin with, Well, I suppose when I was YOUR age…

The games of the, you know, babies are a tad beneath them. Also, Godson is an only child. He really doesn’t know what to make of our home. It’s something of a madhouse. (No, really? We never would have guessed that, Tama.) It tends to be loud and meals can be odd at times and also we have a way of constantly having extra guests around.

I’ve been told it is a common thing in larger households, this tendency to have a revolving door through which an endless parade of guests come and go. My mother-in-law is of the opinion that it is because We Of Many Children are simply gregarious by nature.

Personally, I think it is because we have trouble counting. One, two, three, wait, did I already count that one? Wait, OK, one, two…no, I’m counting him twice again…one…

You could drop five extra kids off here, and I might not cotton on to it until they were all crowded around the dinner table. And even then I might not notice until I unexpectedly ran out of clean plates.

Anyway. It was a great day for it when we made the arrangements. Then I had two nights with less than five hours sleep. And there was dust everywhere due to the drywall work that had been done. Plus the paint fumes Friday morning were bad enough to gas an elephant (it was the primer – once the paint went over it, the smell improved considerably).

So the kids got here and all five of them began disobeying the house rules immediately. We have a fairly short list:

1. No hurting yourself: If you are about to do something that might hurt, stop.
2. No hurting other people. This includes their bodies and their feelings.
3. Try not to break things
4. The master bedroom is off-limits, period
5. The living room is not a playroom – you can go in there, you can even gently play the instruments if you like, but it is not a place for toys, games of tag, jumping on the furniture, eating, drinking, smoking, chewing, spitting, blowing bubbles or pretty much anything else kids like to do.

That’s it. The whole list. You can slide down the stairs on a cactus if you want, as long as you don’t break Rule #1 doing it.

But I kept having to run them out of my bedroom, and stop them from jumping and climbing on the living room furniture, and yelling at them to BE GENTLE! with the piano. I quickly learned that with this pair of kids, the key is physical intervention. Words go into their ears and are translated by their brains as meaning, “Wah wah wah, wah wah wah.”

I think it was because they were saving the batteries on their ‘listening ears’. Maybe saving them for important lectures in the coming first grade school year or something.

You had to go up to them, grab their wildly pounding hands and firmly hold them still until they were annoyed enough to turn on their ‘listening ears’ and then say, “If you keep abusing my piano, my 1933 Kimball upright which has a mature sound and grand-piano-like touch which pleases me mightily well and which I hath not found elsewhere in an upright, I shall END your short little lives Be gentle, sweetie, she’s very old and her keys break rather easily.”

While this really isn’t a bit unusual for kids their ages who are in the throes of Great!Excitement! that a yearned-for play date combined with not being allowed to run wildly outside for a few days at a stretch will bring, well, I was tired. And I had a headache. And a lot to do. Which wasn’t their fault, certainly, but gee whiz – couldn’t they have decided that the fun thing to do yesterday was, Pretend to be boring old grownups who just want to sit quietly reading the newspaper all day?!

By the end of the day I felt as though I’d spent the entire day listening to people play It’s A Small World on a chalkboard with their fingernails. Long before I presented them with their this is the last thing we’re doing before you go home dinner, I was more than ready to just go to bed.

When they finally went out the door (there was some wailing and protesting and outright refusal to leave; while I was gratified that they had such a good time, I was about ready to help them out the door with my boot!), I turned and looked at my house. One clean area (the one I’d been working on all day long with the furniture-moving and the dusting and vacuuming), and utter devastation everywhere else.

Not just Kid Devastation (although that was considerable), but House Under Construction Devastation. Stuff everywhere. Nowhere to put the stuff.


My own kids immediately settled down when the others left. The unbroken circle through which all that energy had been running was broken, and the energy just went pffffffffffft out into the Universe.

In the blessed quiet, I put on Dumbo. The girls wandered off to their own room, but Captain Adventure stayed with me, sitting on my lap, pulling my arms around him and holding them tight there – my snuggle-bunny.

His grip began to relax. He started shifting around looking for greater and greater comfort, even if it meant he couldn’t see the movie as well.

Right before this scene, he fell asleep with his little head on my shoulder.

That song has never been more touching to me. Especially since the day will likely come when I really will be saying those sorts of things to him…Little one when you play, don’t you mind what they say; let those eyes sparkle and shine, never a tear, baby of mine...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Would it be so wrong if...

...I were to set up one of those invisible shocking fences across the doorway to my bedroom, and then solder collars on each of the Denizens? I mean, if I promised I wouldn't set it above char sizzle stun the lowest setting?

Also, if it IS wrong...well, could you PROMISE that CPS would take them away from me for their protection? For a day or two? Possibly a week? Or until school starts again? That'd be awesome a terrible, terrible burden on me, ALAS, how I would miss them and all, sob.sob.sob.sob...

We're having A Day around here, obviously. We are having a playdate today for Boo Bug and Danger Mouse with a pair of their friends, and all of the kids are spinning around in a frenzy that suggests that perhaps there might have been crack cocaine in their Spaghetti-O's at lunchtime. About ten minutes ago, I caught Danger Mouse in my room, which is today as it has been since, oh, I dunno...TWO YEARS BEFORE SHE WAS BORN!...Off Limits.


OFF! LIMITS! There isn't even a passing attempt at child-proofing in here, this is where I keep things that are sharp, delicate, expensive, important, poisonous or hey, here's a unique thought, personal. As in, mine. As in, not yours. AS IN, HANDS OFF, YA LITTLE MISCREANT!

She was trying to haul poor Dharma out from under the bed (where she was quite sensibly hiding from all these little wild, running, screaming, Popsicle-demanding, possibly crack-headed youngsters) by one of her hind legs (which prompted me to say a word I really shouldn't ought to be saying to young children) (although it did sum up my feelings about it pretty well) because she wanted to show her to her noisily shrieking little friend.

Nothing a cat likes better than, you know, being grabbed by a sweaty-handed eight year old and hauled out of the nice, safe darkness to be displayed to another sweaty-handed eight year old with a shriek that could pierce steel.

Sigh. OK. I'm fine, really. Just going to go pound back a fifth of something have a nice glass of heavily spiked cold, healthy fruit juice.

(I didn't get enough sleep last night. This makes me grouchy. So does noise. Noise, and sleep-deprivation. They aren't bad kids...they're just noisy kids who are being forced to stay indoors by the heavy smoke in the air outside from All Dem Fires we're having right now in California. The nearest one isn't anywhere near us, but when you walk outside there is a heavy haze settled over everything. We've been advised to stay indoors as much as we can with the windows shut etc. etc. etc., soooooo...I've got a whack of kids who would really prefer to be outside with all their noise and jumping and running and energy... but they can't. Sigh.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Ballad of the Nails

I was reading the comments on my previous post (because I do that) and when I got to amber in albuquerque’s I had one of Those Moments…when suddenly, I have a Great and Tremendous Insight!

And it was this: Hey! Y’all do not actually know me in person and have my full life’s history and such!

Funny how somehow…over time…I start to feel like, well, DUH. You’re all friends of mine, you know how the furniture is arranged in my living room and why, for me, getting a nail fill isn’t just “nice to have” but “essential.”

She says, “Prescription medication is a need. Professional manicure...not so much, at least not at my house. Doesn't matter, it looks good, you may have client meetings, and even if it's just something you want, it's not a big deal.”

She’s absolutely right. For a normal person, a professional manicure is so not a “need”.

But of course…this is me we’re talking about here. It isn’t about looks, and certainly isn’t for pleasure because frankly, a nail fill is not one of life’s little pleasures.

But I do it anyway, because I need my Nails O’Steel to play my harp.

(At this point, all the harpists in the crowd are going, “Whaaaaaat?! No you don’t! You keep your nails super-short and neatly trimmed! You certainly don’t keep them medium-length by use of Space Age Materials! You know, I always knew there was something off about her…”)

Originally, I was taught to play on one of these babies:

Lyon and Healy 23

On this lovely creature, my Most Excellent Teacher taught me to play with my elbows mostly tucked in, my wrist semi-fluid, my hands kept slightly curled unless I had to stretch them for an octave or something, and the strings plucked firmly using the pad of the finger.

No. Nail. EVER.

Nails on harp strings (especially gut strings) often make a distinctive (and unpleasant) buzzing sound. Hence, a classical harpist keeps his or her nails very short and well-filed. And I have definitely found that with gut strings – brother, you’d better avoid those nails at all costs.

When it came time to buy my very own Big Girl harp, I went with one of these:


This is a full-sized lever harp, commonly called a folk harp. It has some limitations in what kind of music I can play; it has fewer strings than the concert harp, it’s difficult to change keys or hit accidentals (you know, sharps and flats?) in the middle of a piece and is limited to only two notes per string: lever down (natural) or up (sharped).

The pedal harp’s pedals, operated by your feet so your hands don’t have to find time in their busy schedule to flip levers, give you three notes per string, the flat, natural and sharped for up, center, and down respectively.

When I first got her I naturally played the way I’d been taught by my Most Excellent Teacher: Classical style, French flavor. Pad of the finger, no nail EVER.

I was goofing around one day during the doldrums of winter with different sounds I could make and found that with a confident nail-pluck (as opposed to the embarrassed sound of an accidental nail brush on the string), I got a neat, crisp, ringing note. No buzz. Just ringing. It was a sweet, pure sound…not “unlike anything I’d ever heard” exactly, but it got me thinking.

Lots of volume. Not a lot of effort. Hits a sweet spot, sound-wise. Uses the nail of the finger (which doesn’t tend to feel pain if you rub it against nylon for six solid hours two days in a row) instead of the pad (which, uh, does).


If I could use the nail instead of the pad, it would solve a recurring problem for me. See, even with well-developed calluses, finger pads just aren’t designed to be scraping firmly and repeatedly along a taut fishing line (nylon harp strings look an awful lot like fishing line, just sayin’) for six or seven or eight hours at a crack. Inevitably, I’d get a really bad crack or split and either have to “play through the pain” (oh goody) or admit defeat and sideline myself for a few days waiting for it to settle down enough to play through it some more (wait…sit out one of the few lucrative weekends of the season? NEVER!!!!). (Musicians. Are. Insane.)

So I started growing my fingernails out to experiment. I loved the sound, but it was always a fleeting experiment. My natural nails are now as they have ever been: About as strong as wet toilet paper. No sooner did they clear the ends of my fingers than rrrrrrip! Off they tore. @*^&@!!!

I tried finger picks designed for guitars…didn’t work. At all. (And were also wildly not ‘period’, an important point for reenactment work.)

I tried liberal applications of Sally Hansen products with names like “Nails That Won’t Ever Break We Swear Honest”. They lied.

I ate gelatin and took vitamins. Stirred powders into water that claimed you would have hair fifty seven feet long and nails of a goddess in three weeks. Uh, yeah. They worked about as well as you think they would.

Finally, with a bit of trepidation because I had a really bad experience with acrylics in the early 80s (so…much…burning…!), I went into a nail salon and got a set of acrylic nails. After a lot of false starts with length and shape, I finally hit on the Perfect Deal: Half a centimeter past the end of my finger, well-rounded but not pointy.


By the end of that winter break, I’d developed a whole different style of playing. My hand has gone from “properly positioned” to really open and loose – I can play for hours without hand fatigue, even if I’ve been, uh, well…a little less than diligent about daily practicing for a while. The nails give me a big sound, as if the harp is being electronically amplified, without half the effort the pad of the finger takes for equal volume.

It’s also a bright sound. The pedal harp tends to sound like…warm, melted milk chocolate. Rich, a little heavy, kind of round.

The sound I get from my Dusty with my nails is more like soda pop. Bright, sparkling, fast in a way that has nothing to do with tempo. It dances in the air.

Uh, yeah. I kinda like it.

I can also play wicked fast. Way faster than I ever could with the pads of my fingers. And I can do other nifty sound effects, like a glissando using a nail tip or back, or a good sharp ‘drumming’ on the soundboard (rat-a-tat-tat!)…all kind of neat stuff.

I’ve been playing this way for fifteen years now. I can’t even remember how I’m “supposed” to play, you know, Classically-speaking. I remember bits and pieces, but they feel alien to me when I try to emulate them.

It’s really weird to have a nail fill on your “must have” list, just as it’s profoundly odd to have “breaking a nail” be something on the list of “events which require that I drop everything and rush to handle this” – especially for a woman like me who is, uh, well, let’s just say “somewhat careless with her overall daily appearance.” Let’s see, checkin’ the look today…oh yeah, we’ve got hair that could really use some shampoo, no makeup again, peeling flesh from the recent sunburn (nice), jeans with a lovely bleach spot. But! My (new) hair tie? Matches my t-shirt.

That’s right. I’m all put together, today.

Anyway…that’s the long-winded explanation of my putting nail fills on my “must do” list even when I’m on a money-hoarding kick that I didn’t think to mention before because, well, you know…I just sorta thought you all knew about that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Well, it finally happened. I cheated. I went shopping. It was somewhat excusable and somewhat not a bit excusable and on the one hand I think it’s funny that I feel soooooo guilty about it, but on the other…well.

I cheated.

I got a call from my doctor’s office last night saying, “We have your new prescription for you.” I have been trying to fill this prescription (well, a similar one) for two weeks now. No pharmacy in town carries this medication in the strength my doctor prescribed. The distributor doesn’t even distribute it in that strength, which is likely a large part of the problem. The manufacturer makes it, but nobody distributes it. Weird, huh?

Anyway, prescriptions are one of the errands I’m not going to try to batch up into my every-other-week shopping thing. Over time I will do my best to arrange things such that I and those Denizens taking regular things for allergies and what-have-you are starting new things on my “errand” weeks, but for right now I have enough to deal with, thank you.

So after dropping munchkins at preschool / camp, I swung a wide circle to the doctor’s office and then to the pharmacy. When I presented my New Improved Prescription, they affirmed that yes, they did have it in stock…and that it would take about an hour to fill. I expressed some surprise and disbelief, but the bench full of irritable folks waiting for earlier prescriptions convinced me that yes, they really did mean a whole entire hour.

Wow. Well, OK. Um. Change of plans.

This pharmacy is kitty-corner across the street from my preferred nail salon, and a dollar store. While I’d begun to fret about my nails, which were well past the two week recommended fill period (uh, actually, I think I was heading into Week 4 on these babies…), I had firmly told myself No, you will wait until next week like you said! several times. But I’d given myself my blessing to use the usual twenty minute fill period to dart into the dollar store for some hair ties and peppercorns. I reasoned that it wouldn’t be running an errand so much as making good use of otherwise idle time. And how could I be against that?

But with a full hour? And nails that are starting to lift and bubble and such?

Yeah. I walked over to the salon and got my nails done. Still not so much ‘running an illicit errand’ as ‘making good use of my time’, right?

I was overdue. I was scolded. I’d cracked one and gotten water under two more. For about the 16,572th time in our career together, Mary informed me that I need to come in sooner. That this waiting three or four weeks between fills was no good. “You come in every other week!” she said firmly, brandishing her emery board at me. I nodded meekly and made vaguely affirmative noises.

…but I won’t be coming in for three weeks. Because next week is my Errand Week (Week 1), and then the week after that is No Errand Week (Week 2)…so my next Errand Week? Week 3.

I totally lied to my manicurist. Just like I always do, even when I think that this time I really will come in every other week like she says. I almost never do. Even though it does save me time and discomfort in the end.

Ineducable: adj. incapable of being educated, esp. because of some condition, such as mental retardation or emotional disturbance. See also: Tama

Anyway, the nail thing took the full hour, and then a bit. In other words…my prescription was totally ready by the time I left there with my glistening examples of perfect pink and white gel application. (Mary, she rocks the gel nail thing.)

Which means that, when I then swerved into the dollar store on my way back toward the pharmacy, I did so illicitly. I seized a basket and rushed through the Accessories aisle (eighteen assorted ‘fashion’ hair ties, three bucks, SCORE!). Then I whirled like a maniac into the ‘gourmet’ section to seize up a jar of whole peppercorns. Four jumbo-sized cans of Spaghetti-O’s were grabbed practically without stopping as I romped past to round out my shopping seizure trip.

Fifteen minutes and a little over eight dollars later, I felt like a complete loser. Unclean, even. It was a crime of opportunity. Yeah, sure, I’m down to only two hair ties now (ugly ones that clash with everything, to boot) (except the !LOUD! tie-dye shirt I’m wearing today, the circus-clown-mouth-red one looks awesome with this baby!) and we were completely out of peppercorns, but nobody ever dropped dead for lack of peppercorns and I’m pretty sure if I put on my archeologist hat and went digging in the toy boxes and under the seats in the van and possibly out in the backyard plus it wouldn’t hurt to dig through the kids’ bathroom drawers oh! and also their assorted backpacks and purses and Barbie Dress Up Bags with Real Magnet Closures, I’d find some of my missing hair ties. I just don’t wanna, because every time I embark on one of those kinds of voyages, it ends up taking all day and I discover things I really wish I hadn’t – like months old pizza or rotting sippy cups of juice. Ew.

For a fleeting moment, I toyed with the idea that after all – it isn’t like you guys have a tracking sensor on me. My wallet doesn’t automatically upload to the blog or anything.

I could just pretend it NEVER HAPPENED.

But then I’d feel guilty. Like I was hiding an affair or something. “What? Those peppercorns? Oh, now, don’t be like that, baby, they don’t mean a thing…”

And then I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t cheating. Cheating, I told myself, would have been more like…being on my way back from camp and just stopping at the store because it was more-or-less on the way and I wanted to grab some hair ties. I was already stopped in the complex, ergo, it wasn’t a Special Trip; and therefore, like sock yarn, it shouldn’t count.

But…well…sock yarn does actually count. C’mon. It does, too. It costs money and occupies space in the stash…

It. Counts.

This whole ‘only biweekly trips’ thing isn’t just about the driving and gas consumption – it’s about time as well. I spent time I didn’t need to spend picking up a fraction of my total list for that store – which means that I’m probably going back to the store next week on my Shopping Day. And the Spaghetti-O’s weren’t even on my list (yet – I hadn’t gotten to grocery items).

So, yeah. It counts. I totally cheated. Exploited the fact that I had to be in the complex for an authorized prescription pickup to run not one but two errands.

I am ashamed.

And laughing at myself, too. I can take the darndest things seriously sometimes. Ooooooh, fifteen extra minutes! Eight dollars! Somebody call the police! Or a priest! Bless me Father, for I have sinned, it is…uh…well…erm…divide by two, carry the one…let’s just call it a REALLY long time…since my last confession…I accuse myself of the wild-eyed spending of Eight! Whole! Dollars! in a dollar store during a No Errands Week!!!! {sob, sob, sob} I’M SO ASHAMED!!!!! {sob, sob, sob}

{Priest rolls eyes heavenward, silently asks the Big Guy why, WHY, does he always get the mental cases…?!}

Of course, now I’m wondering (being as I am, the Queen of Digressions) how the heck long it would take me to actually do a Confession. Sorry. Sacrament of Penance. And would it be only fair to warn the priest before we got started? “Settle in and get comfortable there, Padre, this might take a while...”? And do you suppose he’d be adding another repetition of the rosary or a few chapters more Bible reading every time I said, “So, anyway…how’d we get off on that, I wonder…ANYWAY…on X occasions, I…”?

Could I get some Hail Mary’s off for, you know, being really, really truly honestly sorry for taking sixteen hours and twelve minutes to finish my confession of only, like, three mortal (and six gazillion venial, the confession of each one preceded by a long, rambling story that has nothing to do with anything) sins?

I am totally going to hell…aren’t I.

Oh well. I shall now go forth and try really hard to sin no more and avoid the temptations of sin. Wait. Occasions of sin. Or something like that.

Like I said, it’s been, uh, a while…

Creatures about to emerge

The Creatures of the Reef shawl is moving right along, considering how little time I’ve had for knitting lately – between attempting to get back to work (still waiting for logon credentials for my main client, though – frustrating!) and the usual Denizen wrangling AND ALSO the construction going on in the house PLUS the fact that Dharma has decided to forgive me for taking her to the vet and therefore my lap is again Prime Den Real Estate…it’s a wonder I get any knitting at all done.

ANYWAY. The shawl is moving along.

Creatures shawl 6/25

I’m at the bottom of the crab and seahorse pattern now, having done the scallops (seashells) at the bottom and the first of the ‘bubbles’ patterns. The seashells at the bottom were an interesting thing to accomplish. I tried to get a close up of the result, but I’m not sure you can really see what’s going on here:

closeup of P13Tog

The technique involves putting a whack of yarnovers on the previous row, and then on the next row you slip a stitch, drop the yarnover (repeat a whack of times), and then you purl all the slipped stitches together. Due to having dropped all the yarnovers, they’re much looser than they otherwise would be, making it possible to purl !thirteen! of them together.

Now, call me a rookie here, but I was all like, Whoa. Purl THIRTEEN together?!

There was a bit of cussing and muttering under my breath, but by golly I did it. And without any major mishaps, to boot. The thing that did keep happening to me was that I would get the purl stitch almost all the way through all thirteen stitches. And then the stitch would drop off the needle without actually passing through all the stitches, and now all thirteen of them would be on the wrong needle and I’d have to start all over again with getting them lined up to knit.

I live a very hard life, honestly I do.

So far, though, I’m enjoying the pattern. My only minor gripe is with the charting for the crabs and seahorses, and I suspect that I’m going to be pretty much completely alone on this: I would have preferred the font size to have been shrunk, and the chart fit on one page. What they did instead was print it in two halves and instruct you to tape the two halves together – but in order to do that, you’d have to take some scissors and cut the page in half, on the diagonal, and then tape it together. This would ensure that the piece of taped paper would never, ever fit in a page protector again without strange folding techniques being engaged.

Instead, I’m just leaving it alone and using my native intelligence (Danger, Will Robinson!) to scan the first half on the top right, then swinging my eyeballs down to the bottom left for the second half. And in reverse on the second half of the shawl. (This has Disaster written all over it, huh?) (Which reminds me…I need to set a safety line on this baby, pronto.)

Also, I would have appreciated a text-version of the charts. Oddly, I have trouble following charts…I don’t know if it’s my glasses or what, but I swear I have to stop each and every time, put a finger on the chart, and count aloud to figure out whether that is three, four or five empty spaces between symbols.

They blur, in other words. I look at them, and I don’t see four crisp, empty boxes. I see…uh…hang on…{one, two, three, four} four! Four boxes! Right? Wait. {puts finger on first box…OK…that’s one…two three four!} FOUR!

I’m really enjoying the yarn. This is KnitPicks Shadow, a 100% Merino laceweight, in the ‘Snorkel Heather’ colorway. It is nice and soft, completely unpretentious, isn’t giving me any splitting issues and is showing the lace nicely. The color makes me think of Hawaiian postcards, too.

At $2.99 a skein, and using only two (possibly three, we’ll see) skeins it is perfect for a prayer shawl. It will look like a hundred bucks, without actually costing a hundred bucks. Which is helpful, because otherwise, I’d be making one crummy shawl for the prayer shawl group and that would be my whole entire contribution for the year.

I can’t wait to get those Creatures out of the skein and onto the shawl!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clean living prevails (so far)

I have not run even one errand, in person or online, since Friday. Even though we have, in the time between, gotten down to our last half dozen eggs and are on our last two sandwiches worth of margarine. Even though my new Treo needs an extended battery, a car charger, a wireless headset and a solar charging thingee.

We have needed new swimming suits and socks. We’re out of pencils (of all things).

But clean living is, so far, prevailing. I have resisted popping into a supermarket real quick for a dozen (or so) eggs, or to pick up a tide-over tub of margarine. I’ve resisted going into the Dollar Store on my way to or from camp to grab more hair ties (my stash has dwindled down to three: a bright yellow one, a bright red one, and a black one). I’ve kept myself off the websites that tempt me, and instead merely made notes as the thoughts of Stuff We Absolutely Need have stuck me.

Funny how something as insane as running errands fifteen times a week is an easy habit to make…and a hard one to break. I just don’t think about what I’m doing as I veer into one parking lot or another. I just do it, and it’s only afterward when I’m running out of time for something else that I grouse about how much time was eaten by “those stupid errands.”

You’d think you’d have to force yourself to run errands all day long. You’d think you’d have to intentionally baste yourself with that crazy, marinate in it, pound it into your flesh before it would “take.”

But it just sort of happened. And now I’m finding it oh-so-hard a habit to break.

I’m going to break it. I refuse to be a slave to constant need-fulfillment demands. Besides, more than half of what goes down on the list is SO not a ‘need’. I've already saved over a hundred dollars purely because once I wrote it down, I realized that something either wasn't needed at all, or could be substituted with something we already had on hand.

Pausing long enough to have second thoughts: It's a good thing.

Onward and upward. I have a floor to find (everything that came out of the office or built-in ended up on the floor of my bedroom – it looks like a Public Storage shed barfed in here!).

Amazingly…I seem to have more time for these sorts of tasks, lately…

Monday, June 23, 2008

Burned again

In case I haven’t mentioned it in the last forty-eight seconds, I’m of largely Celtic descent. Sure, there’s a little American Indian tossed into the mix, but by and large I am a product of Ireland and Wales. (Me father he was orange and me mather, she was greeeeen…)

ANYWAY. I am a touch on the pale side, is what I’m getting at, here. And with the days of lying around in a bikini worshiping the Sun God long behind me (that is still considered ‘bad’, right? I have trouble keeping up with the latest medical news…), my always-considerable tendency to go from ‘fine’ to ‘extra crispy’ in about ten seconds flat has gone from tendency to count on it.

Plus, I started a new medication last week for my complete inability to get more than thirty minutes of sleep at a time, which lists among its numerous side effects (cripes, sometimes I wonder if the risks outweigh the benefits) increased sensitivity to sunlight and cautions me to ‘wear SPF 30 or greater’ (OK) and a hat (Not. Going. To. Happen. Sorry.) when out in same.

So naturally, when I went to California’s Great America theme park with Danger Mouse on Sunday, I took along sunscreen. I lathered it onto myself before I left the house, dropped it into my bag for the road, reapplied before we went into the park and again right after we had a shockingly bad AND expensive lunch in the park, when the sun was really beating on me. Or perhaps it was paying seven dollars and fifty cents for a greasy hot dog and a small bag of potato chips that got the heat rising under my collar.

Because, really. I expected the food would be on the expensive side, but they took it waaaaaaay too far on the high price / low quality scale.

(The food at Great America sucks. It is really, really awful. Even their funnel cake was ‘eh’ and again, pricy! Next time, I’m packing a cooler and we’ll just make the hike back out to the parking lot to eat our Forbidden Cheap And Good Fruit at the car. SO THERE!)

A couple hours later as we stood in line (in the sun) for the White Water Rapids, I felt strangely hot. Hot in a way that has nothing to do with the temperature of the air around you, but rather a kind of hot that says, “Hey, did you put your arm in the oven and forget about it?”

I took off my sunglasses and took a hard squint at my arm.

Oh. My. Gawd.

No. No. Nononononononono. No. That is not a sunburn…!

Because I am cool under pressure and also classy, I immediately yanked down the collar of my t-shirt, took one look at the color contrast between my breasts (white as the Cliffs of Dover) and my routinely exposed skin (henna) and yelled, “HOLY @*^&@, I’M REDDER THAN A MAINE LOBSTER RIGHT OUT OF THE POT!!!!”

Klass. Capital ‘K’. That’s me. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn to the people around us in line and demand that they compare my boobs with my neck to get a consensus opinion on the degree of sunburn I had achieved.

Infuriated, I immediately pulled my sunscreen out of my bag so I could find the 800 number and give the people over at Neutrogena a Piece! Of! My! Outraged! And! Also! Slightly! Blistered! Mind!!!!

It was then that I noticed a very important detail about the product I had been so liberally slathering on myself, and it was this: It wasn’t what I thought it was.

I thought I was using this:


Instead, I had grabbed this:

Not Sunscreen!


I see.

So…that hand lotion would have an SPF of…approximately…using round numbers…zero.


The really sad thing is, these bottles look nothing alike. I mean, same manufacturer and all, but the designs on the bottles are so utterly different that really…I can’t imagine how I didn’t notice I was smearing mere lotion on my body.



Id. Dee. Uht.

But…at least my charred skin is well moisturized.


I’m just…going back to my knitting, now…

Saturday, June 21, 2008

@*^&@ing Ravelry!!

So I went onto Ravelry to add the Creatures of the Reef and my current Sock in Progress (which I haven’t done yet, actually – I got distracted) to my project list. And I had a very nice message from a new friend on the site, and I read that, and then I stalked her all over the site took a look at the groups and projects she enjoys, and then I found a group with a bunch of old friends and acquaintances (Fools Rule!) and one stalking thing led to another and the next thing I know I’m on Elann printing out approximately sixteen thousand gorgeous (and also FREE!) shawl patterns and my husband is all, “Excuse me, but we have to go soon, are you planning to get those kids packed or what?” and I’m all, “Just a second! Just one second! I’m almost done!”, which is a dirty lie because EXCUSE ME, now that I have the patterns I’m thinking about the yarn requirements

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go remove the part in that last post where I say “no Internet purchases either” take care of…some things.

Ravelry. Blessing, or curse?

Discuss among yourselves.

Less is more

Lately, I feel as though I’m constantly running errands. Things keep cropping up, from swimming goggles to running low on milk.

It is extraordinarily annoying. And time consuming. And expensive. Between the cost of the stuff itself and the cost of a gallon of gas to go out and buy it – I’m starting to feel the sting.

The list of stuff we’re short of or missing just never ends. You cross off the last thing on the list, and immediately somebody rushes in and slaps another five things onto it!

I spent the entire day yesterday running errands. The mall, the bank, the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, the supermarket…ugh. Today as I was going about my business, I found myself adding yet more to the list.

Almost out of milk, and eggs, and…

I started thinking about when and how I’d take care of that. What time is Denizen drop-off, what time does Costco open, do I need anything else while I’m over there…

I’ll admit it, I was grousing. Why me? And why every cotton pickin’ week? Almost every day, for carp’s sake!

Every time I run to the supermarket, I’m burning time and gas. Then as I go through the store, inevitably, I “remember” that I needed something that isn’t on my list. Or I see something on sale and I say, “Oh! I could make {recipe}! All I need is this…and some ham…and some diced scallions…and…”

The girls need t-shirts. (Runs an errand.)
The boy is out of pants that fit. (Runs another errand.)
I have a couple checks to deposit (Yay! And, another errand!)
I need to pick up my new Treo (YAY! AND! Another errand!) (Ridiculously long one, too.)
Swim coach sez they need goggles!
Camp sez they should wear wigs next Friday for Crazy Hair Day!
…and so on, and so on, and so on…

So I was grouchily deciding that I was going to pick one (1) day each week and make that one (1) day Errand Day (hmm…maybe Wednesday…) when suddenly I thought – boldly! – what if I made it every OTHER Wednesday?!

Seriously. What if I put the kibosh not only on daily running around buying stuff we “need”, but on weekly runs? What if I took one day every other week for all the errand-running?

I’ve been mulling it over all day, as I refused to dart out for Just! One! More! Thing!

I thought of a million and one reasons why it would never work. I thought of all the things that just sort of come up in the average week. Things we need or want or ought to have or do.

But as I thought about each one, I was struck by how non-urgent they really are. With the exception of medications, there really wasn’t a single thing on that list that we could not live without.

The more I tried to tell myself it couldn’t possibly work, the more I found myself thinking, Why not? How do you KNOW it wouldn’t work?

Fewer trips out will burn less gas. Even if I am “almost clear over there anyway” due to driving the Denizens to camp in the morning, not taking those extra two or three miles to run into {Retailer of Choice} real quick for just a couple two-three things will be a gasoline savings. And given a bit of time to stew about what I intend to buy gives us time to take it back…maybe we don’t need that whatnot, after all.

It’s been a good tool for us for a lot of years, putting our Wannits on a list and just…staring at them…for a while. In the heat of the moment, all kinds of things look like wonderful investments. Artwork! iPhones! Towels with our initials on them!

But as time passes and the rational part of our brains are given a chance to mull it over, it is astonishing how often the passionate need becomes would be awfully nice and then eh, whatever.

So. Next week, I’m not running any errands. No groceries, no clothes, no ink cartridges, nothing. No Internet purchasing, either. Anything that comes up as being needed can go on the list on the fridge until Errand Day, which I’ve tentatively scheduled for July 2. The only exceptions are prescription refills, which happen when they happen…and there is that remote chance that doing without them could actually result in somebody around here curling up and dying. Or at least being extremely uncomfortable.

There are limits to my little experiments.

We may run out of soda. It is even possible that we will run out of milk. Undoubtedly there will be a thousand and one things that the Denizens need for camp. It can go on the list. If you still need it in two weeks, I’ll schedule a stop at the appropriate store.

Until then, we’re essentially on a spending fast. No more errands. No more running hither and yon with my hair on fire for just one or two little essentials.

We’ll see how it works out. Hopefully, it will exchange daily crazy for biweekly, reduce our fuel consumption and lower my gripes-per-hour considerably.

Also, running a whack of errands all on one day…when I know well in advance that I’m going to do so…there should be a greater-than-average chance that I’ll remember my wonderful, ecologically sound, heavy duty, extra-large canvas bags, right? And come home with few or even (dare I hope for it) no plastic bags in tow?



Friday, June 20, 2008

And with that, I return to knitting

Creatures of the Reef

Whew. I just finished casting on 437 stitches and doing the set-up row for the Creatures of the Reef shawl. Obviously, this is one of those shawls that is up-front about itself. It doesn’t say, “Oh, just cast on, eh, whatever, three-four-six stitches!” and then sneakily increase itself up to 500 stitches.

It looks you in the eye and says, “Yeah, that’s right, I’m a shawl, a portable blanket for covering an entire human body! You want a shawl, you gotta pay your dues! Drop and give me 437 knitted-on stitches!”

Being highly distractible and also apparently somewhat dyslexic, I energetically cast on 473 stitches. And then when I went to pull out the extras, somehow I messed up the yarn such that instead of neatly pulling out, it tangled up into a chain and refused to come out. Then while I was putzing around with it, I broke the strand.

When you’re making your first join in the cast-on? Well. Let’s just say there are red flags already out on the course on this one.

I love the pattern on this shawl. The crabs and seahorses amuse me no end. I know that the pattern at the top is supposed to be "foamy waves", but it makes me think of fishing nets.

Of course, I love the pattern now. We'll see how I feel about it in a few weeks when I've actually been working the patterns for a while...

The designer says to place a stitch marker every 19 stitches…you know, so that you can know where you are in all those pattern repeats. At first, I scoffed. For the love of Dawg, I’ve done a few of these in my time – I think I can handle counting to nineteen a few times.

And then I reconsidered. Counting to nineteen, twenty-three times…might be a little advanced for a woman who has become so distractible that she will get in the car to go to the bank and end up at WalMart. (Stop laughing.)

Problem being, I didn’t have twenty-two stitch markers. I had, uh, well, about eight.

So, naturally, I went to the yarn store for a $5 package of stitch markers. Well. Two packages. Because after all – I had only eight to my name. I need not merely more, but more-more.

And new sewing needles.

With a Chibi .

And also some Claudia sock yarn, hand-painted in Purple Earth. The same color as the silk I used on the first Pacific Northwest shawl. Because nothing says your granddaughter is a lunatic love like a matching set of shawl and socks.

The needlepoint is barely even begun…but I’ve remembered why I stopped doing them. Due to the frame they don’t fold or crush or otherwise put up with being crammed down into a bag or basket. The needle is tiny and sharp – not so great with Denizens running around. Also, you have to have a pair of scissors handy at all times, since about every ten minutes it’s time to snip off the strand you were working with and start another. Denizens + Scissors = Problem. The older ones make “art” (pronounced: impressive dusting of tiny paper fragments all over the floor), and the younger ones like to run with them clutched in their grimy little paws.

So I’ll leave it out in my bedroom and when the spirit moves me, I’ll do a stitch or two.

But mostly, I’ll be knitting. Because it smooshes down into bags nicely, and uses needles that would be hard-pressed to break the skin, and only requires scissors every once in a while as opposed to every ten minutes.

Good old knitting.

Dear Levitra Ad Managers,

I would like to thank you for the opportunity I had last night, when your ad ran right in the middle of my 5:00 news, to explain to my middle two girls (aged 8 and 6) the following topics:

High Cholesterol

Doesn’t mammo [my grandmother] have that? Does grandma? Grampa has that, doesn’t he? What IS that?


What IS E.D., anyway? What does it mean? Why are you turning red like that? How come? Oooooooh, his PENIS is…broken?…wait…how does a penis get broken?


What’s an erection? What’s it for? Well, how long is it SUPPOSED to last? Because four hours isn’t very long, or it isn’t when you’re playing but I suppose if you have an erection and you’re in school….Mommy? Why are you laughing so hard? Oh! Are you going to make one of those drinks now with the red juice and the orange juice and the clear stuff that smells like a doctor’s office? Can I have one without the clear stuff? And can I have a cherry in it? And what IS an erection, anyway?

Sexual Activity

Mommy, are YOU healthy enough for sexual activity? Because your back sure does hurt a lot…wow! You can spit REALLY FAR! There’s red juice all the way over here…I'll get the towel! Do I get points for cleaning this up?!

Oh yeah. It was loads of fun and a great opportunity for me to prove how Progressive! and also Hip! I am, as a mother. Pushing the boundaries of my comfort-zone, while simultaneously giving my kids excellent topics for their next Sunday School session. “Hey, guess what? Sometimes if you have too much fat, you might get a medicine and have erections!”

You know it will happen, and thank goodness for it. Nothing says “progressive society” like a six year old discussing priapism in her Sunday School.

I’d like to thank you in person for giving me this growth opportunity. If you would kindly leave your names, phone numbers, physical addresses and times when you would be alone someplace with no witnesses distractions, I surely would appreciate it.

The Night-Stalking Slasher Mother Chaos

Monday, June 16, 2008

529 update

Hmm, my blog comments have been going into my spam folder. How irksome.

I did use the UPromise 529 plans for the kids – I’ve been using their program for a while and had some reward cash just sitting there. Looking into the assorted plans, I decided I liked the Vanguard portfolios they had available and jumped on in. Hopefully, I won’t get a bunch of water up my nose on the deal…(I’m not a huge lover of mutual funds. I prefer to hand-pick my money-leeches companies.)

I’ve also gotten the cash-back card offered through Citibank (giving up my other one, which makes me sad…I just bought a 27 cubic foot refrigerator for $300 of cash-as-such and $1800 in gift cards I got from my old card…) (you should have seen the expression on the cashier’s face, though, when I produced a stack of Sears gift cards the size of three or four decks of cards to pay for the fridge…PRICELESS!).

But the more I got to thinking about it, the actual cash-value of my points on the other card was about 1%, sometimes less. The UPromise card gives 1% back on all purchases, with bonus amounts for certain products and services. It may not be as emotionally satisfying (or laughter inducing) as having a wallet thick with gift cards for wants-not-needs buying fun, but I’m getting more and more concerned that we just aren’t doing enough for those college futures. I keep hearing about folks coming out of basic college with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off, and it just gives me the heebie-jeebies.

“OK! So! You’re starting your new career now, and even as a newbie you’ll be making $5,000 more a year than this other guy without a degree! However, your student loans will be costing you $10,000 a year in payments…” Ouch.

I’m checking into the Freshman Fund college savings registry Jeff mentioned in his comment. I’m a little concerned about the part where “any logged in user” can access the kids’ pages…they’re not seeing account information or physical address, but still. Call me neurotic. (“You’re neurotic!!” “WHO SAID THAT?!?!” {tears office apart looking for hidden cameras…})

But it does seem like a cool idea, especially for those of us with far-flung friends and relatives who tend to mail checks for birthdays and such. Instead of mailing a check (which I then have to deposit into my account and remember to write an equal check into their accounts) (remembering, is the key word here…), they could log into the site and make their donation on the web. I’ll give it a trial run for a Denizen or two and see how it works out, and let y’all know what happens.

Specifically, I’ll be checking out how easy it is to use, whether or not my email gets spammed like crazy after I sign up, what fees (if any) are involved and how long it takes for a contribution to go from Point A to Point B. And of course, I’ll be making sure the money goes where it’s supposed to go – and no extra money vanishes. Call me neurotic, but…oh wait, we already went over that…

Interestingly, one of their other founders was also the founder of CDNow – does anybody else remember CDNow, before it was swallowed whole by Amazon?!

Ah, yes. The good old days, when the Internet was a Wild, Wild West and if you said, “Internet Startup!” venture capitalists said, “Here’s my pocketbook!” I’m not dissing CDNow, by the way…I really am just having a warm-fuzzy flashback to the Internet boom days…and trying to forget that part where it went “BOOM!!!” and people who came late to the party got their fingers blown off and stuff.

That part kinda sucked. Like the folks next door, who bought their house at $485K at the end of the housing boom in order to flip it, couldn’t sell it at $435K and have now walked away leaving it sad and alone and vacant…LET’S TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE…

I also looked at Jeff’s blog, and I have to say I heartily agree with one of his recurring themes: The plastic crap we ladle over our children at every birthday and holiday is so pointless. We spend thousands on toys they don’t really play with, on goods that pack up our landfills and clutter our homes. I’m not saying that kids should have no toys, ever, or that we should limit their playthings to only three hand-carved wooden toys of native birch or anything like that.

But I do think that if we cut the volume of them way, way down and put the money aside for their futures instead…they would thank us for it, in the sweet by-and-by.

Right now, they may be pissed. This is why we are called “parents” instead of “best buddies” – parenting sometimes means that you will do things of which the children do not approve. Like putting spears of broccoli on their plates or limiting their TV time, saying “no, you may not watch Shaun of the Dead with us”. It’s part of the gig. I don’t like it either, but oh well. Someday, they will thank me for all the fiber and character-building and call me to complain that their six year old wants to watch Shaun of the Dead and oh my gawd, it’s horrible the way he cries and pouted and stomps when we say ‘no’!

And I shall laugh. Oh yes. I shall laugh…

Anyway, back to birthdays today: Getting them just one small thing for instant gratification and putting $25 into their college fund would definitely be a better deal, for them and the planet. Less trash from wrapping and packaging, and the inevitable throwing away of the toys they didn’t really like so they decided to drown them in the toilet or throw them off the balcony or leave them in the backyard to bake.

Along with sixteen pairs of shoes and my good colander.

Right-O. Putting the soapbox away now.

Also, a 529 for myself! I hadn’t thought of that…I already have a BS [shut up!], but honestly I’d love to get a master’s someday…tax-advantaged growth on my savings toward that Lofty Goal would not suck, not even a little bit…! And think: if my kids decline to go to college or by some miracle have cash left over when they’re through (stop laughing!), I could roll it into a 529 for myself and go back to college for a degree in something incredibly valuable, like Celtic Studies.

Cead Mille Failte, y’all…

Possibly taking “Organizing” a tad too far

My DailyOM horoscope this morning added to my paranoia about hidden cameras in my house or telepaths eavesdropping on my brain (ha! I can only imagine the damage listening in to my brainwaves would do to a sane person!) by waxing philosophical about me having a need to get my stuff together today.

You may feel driven to spend a portion of your time putting your affairs in order today. This newly developed need to be organized may be a result of recent frustrations surrounding your inability to find the tools or resources you needed to effectively address your obligations. Or you may simply be in a logical mood that enables you to take pleasure in the structured beauty of an uncluttered space, orderly account, or a rationally arranged plan.

There are three muscular, talented carpenter-types in my house today tearing out walls and junk.

Yeah. That’s right. More home improvements.

So. In case you were wondering how well the LBYMs thing has been going? Well enough to have, in the last six months…

…paid off the bathroom remodeling loan
…paid off the car and Homer the Odyssey
…packed away a safety buffer in cash
…lost our minds completely and taken on Yet! Another! remodeling project

The first two things (car and bathroom remodeling loan) were wiped away by our tax refund. Not rebate – refund. Poor accounting on my part led to a pretty massive refund this year. Um, yay?

I am actually more than a little bit annoyed with myself about that. I tend to overwithhold from my W2 jobs to balance out my 1099 miscellaneous and stock market income (such as it is) (no danger THIS year, I fear). Last year, I had adjusted my husband’s withholdings up because we were in AMT territory and also I was making some cash on the side.

Then, I suddenly stopped working in April. Aaaaaaad I never got around to adjusting the withholdings on his paycheck. Sooooo we were paying way too much toward taxes. When I stopped working, we had actually already paid more than we should have paid for the year on our new, not-improved income.

Idiot. I could have really used that money last year, instead of giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan so we can continue not funding issues here at home while we pour billions into “saving” nations that on the whole would really rather we didn’t. But I’m not bitter…I just digress. Frequently, and rantingly.


We were already making really good headway just by paying attention to what we spent on what things and cutting where appropriate (wine? not cutting that budget…Gameboy games the kids play one (1) time and then lose under the bed? Ask Grandma, sweetheart…).

Then we got the rebate and got busy on the e-fund. Then we got another large windfall that I used to pay off Homer the Odyssey and create an Insta-Emergency Fund.

Then right after I got back to work, we got a call from this contractor saying, “Hey, I still have this estimate on my desk – you guys wanna do that, or what?”

We wanna do it. So, here we go. I’m not taking out any new loans for this one (as long as they don’t find that our walls are coated in ectoplasm or that a family of rabid chipmunks has been chewing on the roof support beams for the last eighteen years or something), but I am stealing shamelessly from my emergency fund – not the brightest move in the current economy, but since my current pay will have the money back in there in about six weeks, eh. I’ll take the risk.

(And then a swarm of locusts descended on the Central Valley and ate everything in sight until a bout of insect dysentery caused by their shameless destruction of the remaining tomato crops caused a freak tsunami to swarm up the sloughs and wash away all the levees, resulting in the Entire! Central! Valley! being flooded to a depth of eighteen feet! Who, the public demands, is responsible…?! IT WAS TAMA! Who said, What could possibly go wrong? and drained her emergency fund to within only a few weeks worth of cash!, hence ensuring not only that BOTH of the vehicles they own immediately developed major mechanical issues not covered by warranty BUT ALSO that her water heater would immediately implode AND major physical disaster be wrought upon the entire middle slice of the state of California! LET’S GET HER!!!)

I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. Yet More Remodeling. We are doing two things. In the office, we are tearing out a walk-in closet and replacing it with a custom-built work station. It should almost double the usable space in that room, which is getting more and more important as we are shifting more and more of our working-for-a-living from client sites to our own home office. We’re also customizing the wiring to better suit our needs – we are not your average “oh I have a cute little laptop, it’s GREEN!” users. We need big data channels and room for multiple machines running at once, decent fans to keep it cool and better handling of wires. Not a big job, and I doubt the contractor would have even given us the time of day without the upstairs project.

Up there, we’re replacing a “decorator feature” with something, I dunno, useful.

We have a big old ledge right by the front door. You’re supposed to put fake plants and statues and stuff on it. You know. “Decorator Feature.” I believe they add $20,000 to the cost of your home, on account of because they are Trendy and Some Junk.

What we’ve actually done with it is…{chirp, chirp, chirp}.

Yeah. Nothing. We had my spinning wheel on it for a while to keep it out of the kids’ reach, and we also put this…thing…my husband produced in art class about fifty million years ago on it…and also there was…dust, lots of powdery dust, welcome to the California Delta…and the kids would occasionally hurl toys onto it, and I’ve have to climb over the conflabbed railing to fetch them back and the kids would shriek, “OH MOMMY, BE CAREFUL!” at me and I would get all vertigo-y while simultaneously resisting the urge to jump off the ledge because oddly, I get that urge when I’m up high.

I worry about me sometimes, I really do. I have to assume that normal people do not peer over the railings of bridges and find themselves saying, “Ooooooh! I bet it would feel so awesome to jump off this thing!” and they’re envisioning the wind-in-hair part and the free-falling feeling and it just sounds so awesome, let’s DO IT!!!

Yeah, that first part might be great. It would be the !!!SPLAT!!! at the end that sucks. I’m not into bungee jumping, but parachuting might be in my future someday. Or hang gliding. Oh yeah, I could get into that, I just know I could. If I just had money I was willing to light on fire. If I had money I was willing to just light on fire, well shoot. I could hand it to the hang-glide dude and he could totally like teach me and some junk instead! Burning money would be bad for the environment anyway, right? Toxic fumes released into the air and all…

ANYWAY. (Adderall. Perhaps I needs it.)

In the hallway upstairs, on the other side of the wall behind the ledge, we had built-in cupboards. These cupboards were Where Stuff Went To Die. Pictures, ancient cleaning supplies, a bunch of lightbulbs for fixtures we no longer own. I did use about half of the bottom cupboard frequently – I kept the kids bedding in there. The other half was taken up with other bedding, old sheets I couldn’t bear to throw away and table linens I never use and stuff like that. Feather pillows we can’t use because of allergies, stuff like that.

The burly men are tearing out the cupboards and the walls. They are going to push the wall out to the edge of the ledge, adding about, oh, thirty-forty square feet or so of usable space.

California Closets is going to come back to my house (oh joy!) and custom build a student center there. It’s somewhat of an odd shape, so we’ll need someone who can custom-cut their stuff to fit. There will be cubbies and drawers for art and school supplies, a computer work station, a fairly good-sized indestructible drafting table thing for them to do their gluing and whatnot, and a small entertainment island with a small television for the gaming system I haven’t bought yet because I am cheap an old fuddy-duddy don’t really know if I believe in gaming systems am such a good parent that I would never, ever encourage my child to sit in front of an electronic babysitter for ten @*^&@ing minutes so I can finish just one @*^&@ing email.

Oh, that is so not true. I bribe them with video games all the time, but I pretend it is their idea and that I am just ever so reluctant to let them have it…well, OK…I guess if your room is absolutely spotless and you’ve eaten your carrots…wellllllllll…but just for thirty minutes, and I’m setting the timer right now… {Mommy rushes into the other room and sinks into a chair with a long sigh of r-e-l-i-e-f as the children huddle around the computer managing a pet spa or something equally foo-foo for thirty glorious minutes. Each. BWAHAHAHAHAHA.}

There will also be a largish (well, kid-size-large, anyway) drafting-style table for them to do artwork on, and a computer workstation for homework purposes. Eldest is getting her very own (ancient but functioning) laptop in her room soon, along with a new loft bed – she’ll have her own private quarters for writing and drawing. Because she is a very private person, and also is going to be a Famous Author someday. Famous Authors need peace and quiet and also privacy.

I know how it is, because when I was ten I was also going to be a Famous Author. Or a doctor. Or a veterinarian. Or a white water rafting guide. Or perhaps a fireperson. Not the President of the United States, his job is b-o-r-i-n-g. But maybe I might be in Congress, just for a little while.

Where was I going with this

Oh yeah. So, I have been on a major organizing bender lately. (Scroll way back up there. It was my horoscope about a need to get my affairs in order that set me off.) Even this latest home improvement spasm is really about organizing. The kids do their artwork on the kitchen table (or floor), and their homework sprawled in chairs all over the house. We’re always wrestling over the computer, with Eldest having reached the point in her school career where papers must be “typed” and researched. Their supplies are all over the house, and we’re constantly tripping over them wherever they’ve decided to set up.

I have been pulling everything out of every nook and cranny of the Den. I have been assessing each thing carefully – sometimes leaving it out for days on end while I ponder whether it Stays or Goes, and where it belongs if it is staying – before putting it away.

My bedroom looks like a storage shed barfed on it. Clothes, linens, crusty bottles of silver polish…it’s whacked.

I have been doing this in a strange kind of mindset, too. I’ve been living like I was dying a lot lately – which I’m not, before anybody gets all concerned. But I just have this feeling like I need to have everything optimized, so that if I weren’t around the Denizens could figure out the systems around here.

Maybe it’s just that whole Getting Back To Work thing. Because let’s face it: Even working from home part-time (yeah, let’s see how long THAT lasts!), I still will have considerably less time to collect scattered things together for their entertainment and edification. I’ll need to be able to put my hands on it immediately – or better yet, be able to tell them how to put their hands on it. No intervention from Mommy required.

Maybe it’s the phase of the moon or some kind of Aquarian biorhythm thing.

I don’t really know. I do know that I need to wrap it up quick – my house really does reflect my brain. With the house in a state of Extreme Muddle, I have even more trouble than usual (Adderall, I’m not kidding, I think I need it) staying focused on anything, and it is killing damn near everything I do.

But of course today…I’m banished from the upstairs while they are creating plumes of toxic dust. Insulation, possibly with rabid chipmunk spit on it, is being pulled out of interior walls – along with eighteen years worth of Valley dust and grime. Ew. OK, I just totally grossed myself out.

So I guess for today I’m going to focus on getting ready for a Big Cooking Day – I want to put about fourteen quick meals into the freezer to cover me on the increasingly-frequent days that I’m just way beyond the whole concept of making dinner by the time the Denizens are demanding same.

Onward and upward, dear friends…

Friday, June 13, 2008

We have a cunning plan

I finally set up official 529 plans for the kids and transferred their college savings into them. Well. Most of their college savings, anyway. They have a couple accounts that are returning kick-butt interest right now (credit union is giving them 8% for a year, for example), but still.

It was time, and past time, to get this stuff into an official tax-advantaged savings account with their names literally on them.

And as I was going through the process I thought, “Hey. This is something you ought to take a minute to talk about on your blog!”

I know there is a lot of debate out there about whether or not it is “necessary” to provide college money for your kids. I considered it part of the deal when I had the Denizens, because personally I feel that a college education has tremendous value – not merely in the form of that infamous (and not always transpiring) leg-up into the World of the Salaried, but also in terms of personal growth. Your basic college education includes a lot of “useless” classes in things like philosophy, logic, creative writing, literature and so on.

I know that I would be a much less interesting person if I hadn’t been exposed to all those groovy, annoying, pointless, tell-me-again-what-this-has-to-do-with-getting-a-degree courses.

And yeah. I do kind of hope that it will give my Denizens the same thing it has given me: That slight edge in the workforce. I know for a fact that there have been times when my resume was in a pile of twenty or more, and it only drifted to the top because I was one of the very few with an actual, verifiable degree behind it.

The 529 plan allows your college money to grow free of federal and, in most states, state income taxes. You do not, in most states, get any kind of tax advantage for the money you put into the account (unlike, say, an IRA or 401k). You can put in up to $310,000 per student (oh, I wish!!). You can start with as little as $25 down.

It does not matter how much or little you earn. This is not just for the rich, or just for the middle class, or just for the poor. It is for anybody who wants to use it. Every little bit helps, so don’t let the fact that you aren’t sure you can manage more then $25 a month stop you. Even if it doesn’t pay for the Whole Experience, you’ve done more than you otherwise would and it just might make the difference between Not Going, and Going.

And never forget the magic of compounding. The money you put in today will grow, and the interest it earns will in turn earn more interest, and so on, and so on, and so on.

If the money is withdrawn for ‘qualified expenses’ (books, tuition, fees, supplies and equipment – even housing expenses if the student is going to school more than half time), the income earned on the money is never taxed.

If one of the Denizens doesn’t end up going to college, I can either give their money to another Denizen, or roll it over for one of my nieces or nephews, or even just let it ride for my grandkids. I retain complete control over the funds – I can even decide that eh! What have these rotten kids done for me lately?!, withdraw the funds, pay the tax penalties on the income I’ve earned and go to Maui on the cash.

I haven’t actually set up these accounts before for a variety of reasons, ranging from ‘lazy’ to ‘I can do better on my own’…which I can, up to a point. Frankly, my returns in the stock market kick butt over the average returns of these mutual funds, and with fewer fees and loads.

But I pay taxes on the income I earn by doing the investing myself. So, take the total earnings for the year, lop 33% off the top of that for state and federal taxes and there you go – that’s what the kids earned on their college money.

So now that they’re set up and a hefty portion of my monthly budget is being siphoned into them, I have one last tip to share: There is a website called UPromise. It’s like a MyPoints or other loyalty-reward program, but these funds go to college savings for your kid(s). Use your reward card at Safeway, earn money back for college. Buy your gas at Exxon, get money back for college. Buy your Oriental Trading goodies via the UPromise site…7% back for college.

You get the idea.

You don’t have to be the parent to use UPromise, by the way. Grandparents, friends, neighbors, uncles and aunties – you can link your grocery cards and such and be earning cash back for your favorite Little Ones as well.

And with that…my tax deductions are demanding dinner. And snacks. And ice cream. And…

Life takes Mastercard

My Treo…is old. And by “old” I mean FIVE WHOLE YEARS OLD.

Which, in tech-years, is like…well. It’s wicked old and all.

The problem, of course, is that because I am cheap thrifty, I bought this Treo when it was already not merely last year’s model, but year-before-last’s model. Hey – they were practically giving them away. I think I paid $79 for it, when the list price was something like $349.

But still…it was already less than brilliantly supported, and now?

Nobody supports it. Even Palm kind of laughs when I call about issues. They say things like, “Well, we did have an upgrade for version up to the six hundred series {snicker!} but for that wicked-old thing of yours, well, I can send it to you but your hardware wouldn’t be able to run it!”

And then they laugh, not unkindly but in that way people do when they really would like to laugh unkindly but are too aware that their supervisor could be listening this very instant to actually do so.

Sometimes, you will be calling me and my SmartPhone (HA!) won’t frickin’ ring.

If you are my mother calling with no really important news, just a social call…and I am in church or a meeting…the phone will ring every damned time.

If you are a client with an emergency project worth, say, $2,400…fughettaboutit. My phone will ring, twice, the next time I am in church. It will show your number. I will try to answer it (discretely, while running for the door) because, hey – God understands about the need to make money. Collection plates are depending on this call too and all.

But you will not be there because hel-lo, the call I am now not-actually-receiving happened two days ago! So it will then go :beep!:, hey, you missed a call! TWO DAYS AGO!

And then it will tell me that also? I HAVE NEW VOICEMAIL!!!!

The external keyboard doesn’t work, and the new ones are all Bluetooth. How old is my Treo? It is pre-Bluetooth, people.

“Oh, you need a new keyboard for your Treo? Well, pick from any of these fourteen options! This one has flowers on it! This one folds into something the size of a credit card! This one is 100% wireless! All of them use Bluetooth!”

“Uhhhhh…I don’t exactly have Bluetooth on this phone…”

{Best Buy dude falls onto the floor clutching his sides and shrieking with laughter. “It…{pant-pant} It doesn’t have…{gasp! wheeze!} Bluetooth! DUDE! How old is that thing?!?!”

Today I went to make a call and it said, and I quote: {Blackness}


I poked at it. I plugged it into its charger. The red light came on. I turned it on. It said, “Oh. Hai. I’m like, a Brand! New! Treo! My battery is actually already full, but thanks for asking! What a beautiful sun-shiny day! OK! So!...who am I, again? And who are you?”

It won’t sync (“Please replace device”), so I can’t get all my contacts and calendar back onto the damned thing.

{bangs head on desk a few times sobbing angrily}

I'm a self-employed consultant. I can't have a phone, smart or otherwise, that doesn't pull its own weight.

I'm going to have to face up to the need for a new phone.

I have been with T-Mobile for approximately sixteen million years. I am no longer under contract, which is kind of nice as I go shopping for {shudder} a new SmartPhone.

I am already getting a painful twinge in my wallet.

I’m about 99% certain I’m going with another Palm product because I already have about $42,768,219.74 worth of Palm software. I’ve got spreadsheet programs, database programs, word processing programs, stock screeners, games, all kinds of stuff. Even some custom-built things (ooh! aah!) that I coded with my own delicate lily-white hands to fill specific needs.

I’ve been a Palm user since the very first Palm Pilot back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and in order to Bold something in your spreadsheet program, you had to use the <> command. (And then people wonder why HTML came so easily to me…)

So, I'm looking at the new Treo 755. Nice. Got a lot of features my old Treo doesn't. Two hundred bucks out the gate, not bad...I guess...especially considering all the software I won't have to replace...

Funny how you can complain vigorously about something for weeks and months (“This phone has something wrong with its ringer! It can’t surf the Web! It doesn’t display emails correctly! Argh!”) but when push comes to shove and it’s really time to replace it…

It’s been my constant companion for five years. I’m used to the way it feels. I’ve got all its one-touch buttons programmed just the way I like them. It knows all my email accounts.

I’m going to miss it.

Also I’m not too happy about paying $200 for a new 755.

Even if it does have Bluetooth and GPS and probably a hot-button to God.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Do not close your eyes this night, human…


OK, this is not actually Dharma.

But in case you were wondering what Dharma is thinking right now…yes.

Kill u till u dy frum it.

I took her to meet her new TED (The Evil Doctor) today.

There she was, in her usual place, innocently sleeping on our bed.

dharma keeps mum

It was time. I sent an instant message to my husband downstairs.

Me: Her appointment is in twenty minutes.
Him: Yup.
Me: Is her carrier ready?
Him: No. I’ll get it.
Me: OK. She’s here on the bed.

The husband got the carrier and assembled it downstairs in his office. Then he :snicked!: the door open, testing the latch.

The cat’s head shot up. She looked at me warily.

“Meow?” she asked. Hey, uh, Aunt Tama? What was that…?

Me: LOL. She totally heard that.
Him: ??
Me: She heard the carrier. She’s worried.
Him: LOL

He started up the stairs with the carrier. She heard him coming and stood up – ready to move. Casually, I stood up. I cooed at her.

“Hey, baby…c’mere, sweetheart, there’s my kitten…”

Dharma is about twelve years old. She is neither stupid nor inexperienced, and she definitely knows the difference between the innocent cooing of ‘there’s my kitten’ which leads to petting and possibly a good thorough brushing, and the one that means ‘I am about to take you to TED’.

She whipped off the bed and under it before I could clear the three feet separating us to stop her.

With some effort and thanks to my husband’s freakishly long perfectly normal for a 6’4” guy’s arms, the poor cat was extricated from under the bed and unceremoniously thrust into her carrier.

“Meow! Mew! Meow! Mew!” she pleaded. C’mon, guys, c’mon. This isn’t funny! OK, ha ha, you’ve had your joke – let me out now. Guys? C’mon, guys…

Heartlessly, I took her to her new vet’s office.

“Meeeeeerooooooow!” she hollered. I’m not putting up with this, do you hear? Open this cage NOW, human, or I will END YOU…

For a moment, it seems that all might be well. The nurse is sweet and socially-aware enough to praise the kitty for her obvious charm and good looks.

And then the doctor arrived to torture examine her.

He looked into her eyes and stroked her fur – the nerve! He took a good hard look at a small lesion on her lip, and then pried her mouth open to examine her teeth. Excuse me, PERSONAL SPACE, DUDE!

As his hands left her head and moved to examine her tummy, she looked over her shoulder at me.

Do not close your eyes this night, human, the look said.

He manipulated her tummy. She shot me another look. I will come for you in the blackness.

He checked her anal sacs. Kill u. Kill u till u dy frum it.

He then recommended a modest number of vaccines due to her new “indoor only” status (she is not a bit interested in going outside, which actually makes us quite happy), and a urine and blood test. Due to her age, he said {HISSSSSSS!} and prior history of troubles, they like to have a baseline against which to compare things should she suddenly become ill.

Having lost one of my fur-babies to sudden acute renal failure, I was more than happy to sign off on the lab work.

Dharma was not more than happy. She was more than pissed off at me.

She got a shot.
She got blood drawn.
She had to give a urine sample.

And then? AND THEN?!?!?!?!

The @*^&@ing @*^&@-ity @*^&@in’ @*^&@ers gave her a manicure!!!!!!!!

I KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The look she gave me when they brought her back was priceless. Cradled in the techs arms, she glared at me as the tech said blah blah what a good girl yadda yadda nails a little long blah blah sweetest kitty ever...

KILL. U. (the glare said)

KILL U HARD. (it continued)

KILL U FOREVERANDEVERANDEVER. (the glare, it means it!)

Her dirty looks faded as they put her into my arms.

…hold me…it was awful, Aunt Tama, it was awful. Lookit my poor nails, look what they did to them…

She lifted her paw to her mouth and began chewing at her newly trimmed nails. I believe this was the first time she has ever had her nails trimmed – but now that she isn’t outside wearing them down, spends about 85% of her time lying on our bed sleeping preparing to defend the Den against alien invaders, and doesn’t seem to like and/or “get” the scratching posts / mats / boards we’ve scattered around the Den for her…well, she’d better get used to having her nails clipped every so often. They were already long when she arrived, and were approaching that point where she was catching on the carpet as she walked. Ouch!!

After a quick, frantic go at her paws, she tried to climb into my shirt like a kitten might do. She purred madly and snuggled. She refused to look at any of the other humans, no matter how nicely they cooed at her.

When I picked her up, she went into her box with only a half-hearted show of resistance.

When we got home, she ran upstairs and rushed under our bed.

A few minutes ago, I went to check on her. I got down on my hands and knees, lifted the bedskirt and peered into the darkness at her. She looked at me impassively. Coolly. Butter would absolutely not melt in this cat’s mouth right now.

“Hello, kitten,” I cooed at her. “You gonna stay under der all day? Awwwww, ‘sokay, sweetheart, it’s all over now, no more going anywhere…the top of the bed is more comfy, huh? You wanna come out?”

She regarded me with keen dislike for a moment.

And then…deliberately…disdain quivering in every whisker…

She half rose…turned 180 degrees…and showed me her backside.

Not speaking to you, dead-human-walking. You? Talk to the BUTT. You must sleep sometime, human…meantime…talk to the BUTT.

I let the bedskirt drop.

She’ll forgive me, eventually.

Probably around dinnertime.

Until then…I’ll just keep a mirror here on the desk.

So I can watch my back.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh, and you think my knitting is bad?!?!

I admit it. I knit in public a lot. I knit in private a lot, too. I knit while people are talking to me. I knit through the news, and movies, and at parties. There is a whole (small) group of us who knit in church (hey, they’re prayer shawls!).

The thing is, I can knit and still be paying attention. I can follow the train of conversation. I can keep up. I can recite back what you just said to me. As long as I’m not doing, you know, complicated lace or cables or something, I can even read a magazine and knit.

You can’t do that with Sudoku.

So if you are, say, serving on a jury, and you’re bored because, you know, giving another human being due process is just ever-so-ho-hum an activity…

Skip Sudoku. The vertical-writing thing will give you away every time.

Compose blog entries instead. That’s what I did for four years worth of boring college lectures. I’ve heard that you can get away with that.

They like it, they really really like it

I will admit to having some trepidations around the whole ‘day camp’ thing for the girls. They were nervous, too. We’ve never done it before, since we never had a need for it – they were either in daycare-as-such when I was working, or home with me when I wasn’t.

Yesterday, I received the initial report from the troops: They like it.

The games were fun. Boo Bug was a little peeved because, as one of the smallest (and, uh, less coordinated) kids in the group she really didn’t do all that well at them. And apparently some of the other kids on her team were peeved about that. The counselors did a good job of nipping it in the bud, but Boo Bug is frankly on the super-sensitive side and thus wept large tears of frustration and irritation.

Hence the kids ragged on her a little more, and the counselors were forced to take more action, and when I came to pick them up yesterday afternoon one of the other Small Ones in the group ran up to me and blurted out, “She cried a ton! Like, a real lot! All the time!!”

“Did NOT!” Boo Bug yelled disdainfully. “Just a little and I am completely over it!!” And then she hugged the informant and shrieked, “OK SEE YOU TOMORROW!” and began the mommy-you-know-what-and-you-know-what-else-and-also-you-know-what-mommy-mommy-mommy-are-you-listening assault, which she kept up all the way home. And through snack. And dinner. And the news. And…

But overall, they like it so well that…wait for it…they have requested that I sign them up for the three (four) weeks I had skipped for them on the basis that a) I wasn’t sure they’d like it and didn’t want to torture them if they didn’t and b) wasn’t 100% sure the field trips would be considered “groovy” by my offspring and c) also wasn’t 100% certain I wanted to pay for, thank you very much.

Danger Mouse will be an Only Child for one of the weeks (all praise be unto Grandma), but says she wants to go to the Week of Sports – which has a field trip to an Oakland A’s game which, to my stunned surprise, she declares she absolutely wishes to attend. Whaaaaaaa? Wait. You want to go to a baseball game?

Who are you and what have you done with my anti-athletic daughter?!?! (I used to love to play baseball, so I am secretly hopeful that this means at least one of my children will become interested in whacking at speeding projectiles with a big stick. It would give me an excuse to hang out at batting cages again. ‘Oh, well, as long as I’m waiting for my kid I might as well get a little exercise myself…’)

They all want to go to the Nature Walk at the lake.
They all want to go to the water park (duh).
They all want to go to the jungle trip at the end of the summer.

I suspect they were surprised by how fast the days go – they are actually shorter than a day at school, and a lot more fun. The arts and crafts offered are things they just can’t do here at home – I’m sorry, sand bottles? As in, bottles of colored sand? Which Captain Adventure will get all over the Den, and probably into his Pull-Ups, and definitely down the sink?

No. No, no, no, a THOUSAND TIMES NO. No sand.

(Already there has been Disaster, when Eldest left her really awesomely cool sand-fish on her dresser [artistry: she haz it], and Captain Adventure got into her room, and he uncorked it and poured the sand all over her room. Little @*^&@. She reported this disaster to me with tears sparkling in her rain-colored eyes and a quivering lip, but no murder in her soul toward her @*^&@ of a little brother. My own brother’s body would have been already growing cold if I were she. My girls really are saints. I’m serious. Can somebody get me the pope’s email? Because I’ve got three little girls who need to be canonized, ASAP…)

They love their counselors, and they’ve made new friends, and behold…they are happy. Which makes me happy.

And so does the fact that when I picked them up yesterday, a counselor came over and said, “Your girls are a real pleasure to have.” And then she made profound eye contact and repeated, firmly, “No, seriously. They. Are. A. Real. Pleasure.”

Made my entire decade.

Yo, Benedict, my man? Have your people call my people. Let’s do lunch. We’ve got business, you and me…

Monday, June 09, 2008

“Is that a sweater?”

My three girls just started back to swimming lessons today. These are half hour lessons twice a week, so naturally…I bring one of the socks in progress. This one is the Uptown Boot Socks from Interweave Press Favorite Socks, in Tofutsies, 50% superwash wool, 25% soysilk, 22.5% cotton and 2.5% chitin – yeah, like crab-shells. Weird!

Anyway. I’m charging along toward the 8” mark on this gently cabled sock, which is where the destructions tell me to start the heel. So I’m at That Point in the project, where it doesn’t look at all like a sock yet, unless you are a knitter in which case you look at it and say, “Oh, what a nice sock!”

And if you’re a Knitter you might even look at it from across a busy mall and say, “Oh look! That woman is knitting an Uptown Boot Sock from Favorite Socks and she’s using Tofutsies which has chitin in it!”

I have learned not to underestimate the powers of Knitters. I have encountered very few in the wild, but they are out there and lo…their powers of memory, observation and attention span are mighty.

So I’m sitting there with one eye on my offspring and the other on my sock when I become aware that someone is trying to catch my eye. I look up, and she immediately asks, “Are you knitting a sweater?!”

She asks this with keen interest. I smile and say, “No, it’s a sock!”

Her face falls.

“Oh. I thought it might be a sweater.”

“No, it’s a sock.” I held it up to demonstrate the cuff at the top thing. “It’s easier to stuff into my purse,” I added, by way of explanation. While I have been known to stuff a sweater-in-progress into my purse, it does tend to take up more room than is comfortable for daily running about.


She is clearly disappointed and returns to her busy life. I return to my sock. A few minutes later a child perhaps five years old pads past on damp little feet, heading for the heated pool. She does a double-take and backs up to stare at the sock with her face perilously close to the moving needles.

I stop knitting. Because, you know, five year old eyeballs, double-pointed needles…yeah. She lifts her eyes up to me and waits expectantly for an explanation of this Strange and Mysterious Artifact.

“I’m knitting a sock,” I tell her.

“Oh. It’s not a sweth-ther?” she asks me.

“No,” I assure her. “See? This part is the cuff, and then I’m going to put a heel right about here…”

“Oh. How does it go around? Why is it purple? Is that string? Do you need all those needles? How come you put that one in your hair? How do you do the lumps?”

Quickly satisfied, she padded onward to her warm wading pool to share the information with her cohorts. They stared at me from across the room, their little eyes peering at me from just barely above the edge of the pool. I waved the sock at them. They giggled and began splashing each other.

“Oh my goodness! Are you making a sweater?!” someone squealed next to me. I jumped.

“Uh. No. It’s a…it’s a sock,” I said. I held it up and squinted at it suspiciously. Was it possible that I had begun working on a sweater without realizing it? I wouldn’t put it past me. I’ve been more distracted than usual lately…

“Oh. Wow. Really? It looks like the sleeve of a sweater!”

“You’re right, it does,” I agreed. “I’ll do the heel soon and then it’ll look like a proper sock. Only without a foot.”

{blank stare}

“Ooooooh. Wait. You…how do you do…how do you…?”

I described the Mystic Practice known as {wild Gypsy music} heel turning {/wild Gypsy music}.

To which she replied…and I quote… “Whoa.”

Yeah. Whoa.

I wrangled the Denizens home and made dinner and am getting back to work.

But I’m worried.

Because frankly, the sock?

It does look an awful lot like a sweater sleeve.