Saturday, May 31, 2008

The cool thing about using Sweater Wizard

So, in spite of the fact that I’m not, you know, knitting-knitting right now on account of because I am doing some needlepoint instead because of that whole ‘eh, I just can’t decide what to knit’ thing (anybody still with me? I think I lost me somewhere in all that…nevermind…), in spite of all that, I have been making a cute little vest for Captain Adventure out of some Bernat Camouflage (Blue Frost colorway) I had lying around.

I used Sweater Wizard to make the pattern. This is an ultra-basic v-neck vest with absolutely zero interest challenge to it. I reasoned that I don’t have to do Challenging Things every single time just because I can, and that it might be kind of nice to just whump something out for a change – other than a sock.

I have four (4) socks on needles right now. Four. For heaven’s sake, Tama. “I’m not going to do any knitting for a while, I’m just going to rest the old ‘knitting brain’ and do some needlepoint instead! Except for the vest and these four sock patterns…”

I don’t pretend to understand me and suggest that you do the same. It is safer that way.


The cool thing about using Sweater Wizard to produce your patterns is this: When the pattern mysteriously vanishes, even though you are certain you left in This Certain Place last night?

You just reprint it.

Just like that. REPRINT!! And you’re ready to go again.

It’s even faster than re-copying out of the book. Which I’ve done for most projects I’ve worked ever since that dreadful time when Captain Adventure methodically tore half the pages out of my Folk Shawls book. {shudder}

And the one time I didn’t? With the Lillehammer project?

Oh yes, he did. In a fit of malice because I wasn’t being obedient to his every whim, the little @*&^@ grabbed my pattern book and tore it right down the middle.

Adorable child.

…do they take three year olds at military school…?

Friday, May 30, 2008

I buy this skein in the name of the Greater Good!

I went into my local yarn store today looking for a pattern. I’d already bought good enough yarn to make the pattern at KnitPicks, so I didn’t need yarn.

Just the pattern.

Then one of her other customers mentioned that Someone I Don’t Know had finally gotten a job and we all went “HOORAY!” and then we got to talking about the whole economy thing, and how many stores were going under right now and then she said that, in four years of being open, May 2008 had been her worst month on record.

Thus it was, in the name of Local Loyalty, that in addition to the Spirit of the Southwest shawl pattern, I picked up a skein of Schaefer Yarn “Andrea”, 100% cultured silk, 1093 yards to 3.5 ounce skein (thin much?) in the Willa Cather colorway. (My skein is heavier on the rust-brown-yellow and lighter on the purple than the sample shown here.)

Between these two purchases, I have officially used up the portion of the tax rebate check I had set aside to be spent on something other than food, gasoline, and such.


Sure goes fast, doesn’t it?

But I have to say: This skein of yarn has cured my dastardly case of “eh, I dunno, maybe I just don’t feel like knitting anymore”.

Oh. I feel like knitting, people.

Right after I get done rubbing this skein against my check cheek [OCD! I HAZ IT!] for a few hours minutes…sooooooo soft! soooooo sexy!...

Oh for crap’s sake!!!!

That’s it. Seriously. I resign. There will be a job posting for Mother Chaos up on Hot Jobs soon.

@*^&@in’ @*^&@ity @*^&@ @*^&@.

About fifteen minutes ago, I got a phone call from Boo Bug’s teacher. It’s the last day of school, and they hired a pair of clowns to come and entertain the children.

Why they had to pay extra for clowns when they have an entire school board already on the payroll is another topic for another day.


Turns out Boo Bug has decided that she is deathly afraid of clowns.

She is not actually afraid of them, by the way. She is just ever so much with the drama lately, and she wanted to just come home and start her summer vacation, so we drum up some dramatic exclamations and bingo. Teacher calls mom to come save her from the terrifying clowns.

So I get into the van FORTY MINUTES EARLY, on this, the ONLY DAY in OVER A MONTH when I have had even one (1) minute with no Denizens at all in the house.

You can imagine how I felt about giving up my forty minutes, people.

So I drive over to the school and HOT HOLY CRAP, it is a zoo. Classes are having parties, and my fellow parents are fat lazy beggars for whom a little walking would be a DAMNED GOOD THING, JUST SAYIN’ unwilling to park out on the street and walk a whole entire block to their parties, SO NATURALLY, they have just parked their cars in the dropoff lane and gone wherever they’ve gone.

It either tells you just how stressed out I am OR that my soul has become a shriveled blacken husk that I am hoping where they have gone is to H-E-L-L.

So here I am, stuck behind approximately forty-million other cars. Some are illegally parked. Some are idling because HELLO, the morning special needs preschool is getting out RIGHT NOW. This is tough, because the morning class seems to have the higher percentage of students with severe physical impairments – some of these kids can’t walk a block and need to be picked up RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THE GATE – where the illegal parkers have chosen to leave their vehicles.

H-E-L-L, I mean it.

So I’m in line. I’m thinking calm, peaceful thoughts. I am reminding myself that it is an honor and a privilege to be a mother. I am telling myself that all the things I wanted to be doing right now, while important in their own way, are not mission-critical. I won’t be officially a working stiff until next week, so what I’m doing today in my precious time alone, sob sob is not as important as my sweet, wonderful, precious, couldn’t-be-replaced Boo Bug.

I am living in the Now!

I am accepting the Way Things Are!

I am opening the sliding door for Boo Bug, who is running to me with her backpack flopping behind her saying, “Sorry, mommy, from [sic] making you stop doing your stuff to come get me! But turns out that I don’t like clowns anymore!”

I tell her it’s OK. We talk about clowns, and why she really wanted to come home early because we both know that she knows they’re just people and IN FACT she knows one of the clowns from previous (fun) experiences SO! What’s actually going on here? (She was tired, she was unhappy, and she wanted to come home.)

We get home.

I walk back upstairs and start getting back to what I was doing.

The phone rings.

It’s the school secretary, who says, “OK, so, you do have Boo Bug, right?”

There was an awkward pause. And then I said, through gritted teeth and pronouncing each word very carefully…

“Are. You. Telling. Me. That. She. Just…LEFT?!”

Oh yes, she did. She saw the line of cars, made the logical assumption that our van would be one of them, slipped right out the door and ran for it.

Now, her teacher had said to me on the phone, “I will meet you out in front in about five minutes” when she called. I assumed that her teacher had been standing with her in the front, had seen my car waaaaaaaaaay back there, and had sent Boo Bug to me while she went back inside to tend to her over-sugared, clown-stimulated class of goblins kindergarteners.

No. She had taken Boo Bug to the office, and Boo Bug had taken it upon herself to just…leave.

Mercury in the water?
Stupid serum in the vaccinations?
Poor parenting?


OK. That’s it. My time is up. I must now leave to pick up Captain Adventure, followed by Eldest and Danger Mouse within twenty minutes of that.

Summer vacation begins now.


Oh yeah, I needed the retail therapy

WARNING: This post contains way too much information about Private Parts, information which may cause people considering having children to decide that, on the whole, a nice kitten or puppy makes an excellent substitute.

I bought yarn at KnitPicks yesterday, and really I ought to be ashamed of myself. I didn’t need the yarn (although I kind of did, because I promised my prayer shawl group that I’d make more of the lacy-shawls for the ministry but I didn’t have any more lace-weight yarn NEVER MIND, I DIGRESS AND ALSO AM RATIONALIZING BIG TIME).

But I am not ashamed. In fact, I feel that given other appropriate actions given What Happened Yesterday, buying yarn was probably extremely noble of me.

I could have been drinking heavily. Or I might have been taking drugs, legal or otherwise. I might have been outside in my backyard picking a fight with the Neighbor of the Many Dogs, or kicking the cat, or actually running away from home (without the Denizens!) as I have so often threatened to do.

Instead, I bought $50 in yarn (you know, so I got free shipping?), enough for five shawls for the prayer shawl ministry (nobility!) and six pairs of socks (well, sock yarn doesn’t count, right?).

This orgy of self-indulgence was brought on by a foreskin.

Yes, you read that right – a foreskin.

My son’s foreskin. Which chose yesterday, while Daddy was gone from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., to retract for the first time.

I’m not going to go into the Whole Uncircumcised Boy Care Thing; a pretty good article regarding the uncircumcised routine is here. Suffice to say that what happened was both completely natural and utterly freaky.

I’m not entirely sure what happened. I was reaching for a diaper and he was taking advantage of the ‘air time’ to scratch and otherwise mess with hisself, and then suddenly It Happened and he was hollering and crying and panicking because hello, Sensitive Bodily Part Never Before Seen suddenly exposed to air!

I do rather wish I had a tape of it, though. I’m pretty sure the expressions on my face would have been priceless. I went from exasperated (because he’s been high maintenance all week) to completely freaked out in less than five seconds. And then I’m trying to not look freaked out, because nothing will send a kid into a Spiral of Panic like knowing that Mommy is freaked out.

It can be an awful burden to bear, sometimes.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but the Situation declined to resolve itself the way it should have done, and getting it fixed (heh…‘fixed’…{sob}) took two phone calls to the pediatrician’s office AND a cold bath.

He was crying and fighting and carrying on and I’m trying to calm him down and show him what to do (oh, THERE’S a fun experience, let-me-tell-you) (seriously? I quit. I am not woman enough to have a son.) and suddenly things went back where they ought to be.

Just like that.

It was like a switch was thrown. The hyper-sensitivity and/or pain and/or freaky purple thing that was not what he’s used to seeing vanished. He went from screaming to calm in an instant.

“OH!” he said, doing a double-take at his wee-wee (Yes. I called it a ‘wee-wee’. Shut up.), now looking the way we are accustomed to it looking. “Oh. Dank you, mommy!”

“Is that better?” I squeaked. My heart was doing the mamba and my insides felt like a flock of hummingbirds were seeking an escape route from my stomach.

“Dat better. Dat all better!” He took a moment to examine himself, then looked up at me with a big smile. He reached up, put both arms around my neck, dragged my face down to his and said again, “Dank you, mommy!!”

And then he gave me a big kiss.

My heart snapped in two and my last nerve jitterbugged out the door and things got a little fuzzy and then yarn was purchased.

On the whole, I’m not a bit sorry that we chose to leave Captain Adventure as nature delivered him unto us. I like leaving nature alone as much as I can, it’s kind of a thing with me.

But dudes. Why couldn’t this happen when Daddy was around to deal with it?

Also, he is now completely enamored with his Boy Bits. For the rest of his bath, he kept poking at it and petting it (boys, OY!) and singing to it and every so often he would look up at me, point to it and say, “Mommy! Dat Captain Adventure’s eeeeeeee-NUS! [note that he does NOT say wee-wee.] It all better! Dank you, mommy!”

Yeah. Uh, you’re welcome. And also, yes. Yes, I would like to add two more skeins of the dark blue Merino lace weight for an additional $6, thank you…

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Once last thing and then I swear I’ll quit kvetching

Another thing I needed the printer for today was to print an emergency! picture of Boo Bug for her teacher’s end of year gift: A canvas bag featuring her student’s artwork (already done by the Boo Bug), and, a scrapbook containing pages of pictures of her students, done by their parents.

That this project was laid on us without acknowledging that some of us are “paper art making” impaired to the point of being literally thrown out of first grade art (oh yes, I really was) is some kind of horrible cruelty. I just know the rest of those kids are going to have at least passable scrapbook pages, and what does Boo Bug get?

Uh…well, I printed out a thing, and I put, uh, hearts around it? Like a border-thing? Except that it looks like I was drunk, or possibly high, when I did it because they are kind of crooked and otherwise not straight.

This was due on May 20, which leads me to believe it was probably sent home with my adorable child somewhere around, oh, probably, May 2 or so?

Oh, why don’t I know when it was sent home? Because! Someone decided that the thing to do with this big scrapbook page would be to stuff it under the back bench seat in the van.

There are times when I truly do ask myself uncomfortable questions. Things like, Is there mercury in the drinking water? or Was one of those shots they were given as infants Stupid Serum? or Why are my children so @*^&@ing ABNORMAL?

Other children – normal children – are excited about things like bringing home the Share Bag, or getting to do an art page for their teacher, or what-have-you.

Mine stuff them under the back seat of the van and pretend they’ve never heard of them when they eventually come to light during one of my sporadic Cleaning Out The Van episodes.

So this came to light right already late and right before the Memorial Day weekend. Then I was gone all weekend, and then I started looking for a @*&^@ing picture of Boo Bug.

You know, a picture-picture. That you can hold in your hand. Paper-edition, not iPod-based Boast Bag.

Not having one, I said, “That’s OK, I’ll print one.”

And then the printer wouldn’t work.


Right. So. Having printed the picture and made a cutesy title for it in cursive font and all, I guess I should go…figure out…uh.

OK. How the @*^&@ do you attach pictures to scrapbook pages?


There ought to be a law against making me do these things. Can’t I just…knit a picture of her? Into a sweater? I’m willing to bet you a burrito right here and now that I would have less trouble knitting – or even embroidering! – a picture of my child into/onto a t-shirt than I am having getting this paper to look like it wasn’t done one-handed by a drunken camel driver while he was actually on his camel, galloping across the desert. With his flask of whatever it is camel drivers get drunk on clutched in his free hand and the reins in his teeth.

And a rabid squirrel biting his left foot while a black mamba chewed on his right.

All right. I’m going to go find some tape, or glue, or something that will get paper to stick to paper. I’ve officially passed the point of caring about ‘doing it right’. I have twenty minutes before I need to turn this in to an irate professional scrapbooker who was absolutely astonished that I wasn’t all “oh, the reason I’m late is that I’m having the pages professionally gilded!”

I hate scrapbooks and all that goes with them. HATE THEM.


(They sent home weird little squares of cheerfully patterned paper. "Please feel free to use the scrapepaper {sic} to further decorate your child's page", the destructions say. Whaaaaat? How? Just, randomly glue it on the page? Or am I supposed to cut it up into bits and paste random bits on the page? EH! I don't get it!!) (NEVER MIND! I've given up! I'm done! Hand me the Elmer's, I'm finishing this bad boy the old fashioned way!!!)

Conflict in ink

Yesterday, my printer stopped working. Just…stopped. Everything I tried to print came back with “Your document failed to print.”

I tried the old tech standby of turning everything off and back in again, AND the equally old trick of reseating the cables. (Pull out the plug, put it back in.) Didn’t work. Humph.

I then fell back on tech trick #3, which is to go get a cup of coffee while I ponder the possibilities. While attending to trick #3, I made a critical mistake: I mentioned the issue to my husband, with a bit of whining because I had a contract I needed to print, sign and mail ASAP. (That last part was the biggest mistake. If I'd just been printing pictures of puppies or something, he probably would have found more important things to do last night.)

IMMEDIATELY, Mr. Please Stand Aside Ma’am I Have Years Of Experience In This Sort Of Thing leapt into action.

Things were uninstalled. Reinstalled. Moved about. Turned on and off. Caches were cleared. Disks were loaded.

The printer still wouldn’t work.

A few minutes into these proceedings, I humbly submitted that perhaps it was a port conflict issue. See, I recently added a new peripheral to my family of doohickeys, and it had caused a COM error on the…

Thank you for your input ma’am, and I will now ignore you and continue with the installing / uninstalling / cussing / wrangling and otherwise messing about with this device in the most technical manner possible.

Two computers were running all night, in my bedroom, working on this problem. (Ask me why I’m a bit cranky this morning – go ahead, ask – oh, why am I cranky this morning? Funny you should ask! I’m cranky BECAUSE! Two computers were going “HUM!” in my bedroom all night, THAT’S why!)

This morning they still hadn’t finished when Mr. Please Stand Aside Ma’am I Have Years Of Experience In This Sort Of Thing had to leave for an offsite meeting at Crack-o-Dawn-o’clock.

“I dunno,” he said as he headed for the door. “There’s nothing wrong on the computer-side, so it must be something wrong with the printer. You’ll probably have to call HP to troubleshoot it.”

This I need. Hours on the phone waiting for somebody at HP to not be able to help me troubleshoot my printer. “Well ma’am, we have an exact copy of your printer here in our office, and it’s working just fine…”

I got the kids off to school.

Came home.

Rebooted / reseated everything one more time.

Tried to print.

It didn’t work.

Engaged in Trick #3 again and contemplated options. Noted that printer was still plugged into the same port, ergo my humble suggestion in re: port conflict had not been noted.

Unplugged the printer from Port 1 and plugged it into Port 3.

Tried to print again.

It printed just fine.

Port conflict error confirmed.

I win.

The end.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


We had the Big Assessment this morning. I was worried for a variety of reasons, most of them revolving around Captain Adventure’s mood.

It was a long drive to the doctor’s office - two hours! strike one!

We had to get up half an hour before his usual time (already half an hour before his ‘natural’ waking time) to make the drive. strike two!

The doctor’s office, although pleasant and very much like a friend or grandmother’s house in appearance, was not the kind of adventure he talked about all the way up. strike three!

Fortunately, he decided that he would go ahead and play with the toys and discuss things with us and otherwise play along with our crazy ideas.

Those “in the know” are already making wise noises and nodding; those in the know who know Captain Adventure are probably saying, “I TOLD YOU SO!”

For the rest of us, PDD-NOS stands for ‘pervasive development disorder, not otherwise specified’.

This is PhD-speak for, “While he doesn’t have clear-cut autism or clear-cut autism spectrum disorder (Asperger’s syndrome etc.), something is up so let’s keep an eye on it.”

He did things today that he was not doing eight months ago. Little things, like holding up toys to show us, saying things like, “It a guy! Wif backpack!” – if your kid is typically developing you don’t think of that as being in any way Significant, but it is a somewhat Big Deal for autistic kids. They don’t interact in the first place, and they certainly don’t share that they’re doing / feeling with others, not even their parents.

He also played with a doll – and not by swinging it wildly against walls or anything. Again, something you don’t really think about if your child is moving along the conveyer belt of childhood like everybody else – a year ago, Captain Adventure would not play with a doll in a “make believe” kind of way. He might bash its head against a wall, or jump up and down on it, or use it as a pillow, but he wouldn’t prop it upright and play with it as though it were a person.

Today, he made a birthday cake for ‘the baby’ out of Play-Doh, and giggled while the doctor sang the Birthday Song (and watched her face avidly, another plus), and fed the doll with a fork, and used a knife to cut the cake…he didn’t want to give the baby any juice but, see, the thing is, he loves Play-Doh, and he’d been asking me for Play-Doh just forever, and we were O-U-T, out, of Play-Doh at home (it got left out last time), and HELLO, the Dr. Lady? SHE HAD PLAY-DOH.

Juice, shmoose. Hand over the Play-Doh and let’s get busy!

He made very good eye contact, and even combined eye contact (to get her attention) with pointing (to show what he wanted) and verbalized his desire (“Play-Doh? Greeeeeeeen Play-Doh?”). When she smiled at him, he smiled back. (YAY!!!)

Strange, that all these things you just don’t ever give two seconds thought to under normal circumstances can become Big! Important! Things! when your child isn’t, you know, doing them.

A year ago, he wouldn’t smile just because someone else was smiling. He wouldn’t look you in the eye, imitate what you were doing, or look where you were pointing. Even if you were excitedly showing him something: “Look! Captain Adventure! LOOK! See the unicorn? Captain Adventure? See it? The unicorn? In our living room! Look where I’m pointing! Helllloooooo, look at me, look where I’m pointing, look at this really cool thing, HELLO, is there anybody IN there?!?!”

He also showed some of his squirrelly behaviors, like fixating on a pop-up toy and refusing to acknowledge his name being called (hollered), even when I was touching him while doing so and pointing at the new, vastly cooler by the way toy.

Don’t bother me, Woman, I am engrossed in the popping-up of Disney characters!

He made some of his strange, non-language noises. He did his babbling thing. But he was also doing his babbling thing as a way of keeping an oar in the conversational river going between the doctor and myself, which is ‘social interaction’, which is a plus.

He ran on his tiptoes, like he usually does (another possible autism marker). He took a couple laps for no apparent reason, a kind of non-verbal “ummmmmmmmmm…” while he thought about what to do next.

He didn’t want to make the froggie hop, he just wanted to squeeze it. He didn’t want to play with bubbles, he wanted to get back to the motorized bunny (can’t blame him, actually – that was a cool toy).

In the end, he scored right on the cusp between “no” and “possibly”, one foot square in “no” and the pinkie toe of the other in “possibly”. Her overall feeling was that while something was definitely a little off for our little guy, she was not really worried about him.

And yes, I came (((this))) close to bawling all over her. I managed to hold it together until we were safely (hmm…‘safely’ may be the wrong word here…) on the freeway before I dissolved.

It isn’t like we can just go off singing into the fields and ignore him, assuming that he’ll just, you know, catch up all on his own.

But she was telling me that she sees him as having all the tools he needs to do what he needs to do. He has the Empathy tool (this is a big relief to me…I’d been seeing signs of it, like when he shares Good Stuff like potato chips and cookies with me or his sisters, but he still doesn’t seem to care about other people having owies or how we feel). He has the Talking tool. He has the Social Interaction tool.

He doesn’t need to be taught how to pretend he has these things – they are there. He just needs to be taught how to use them. Thank you, Brigid, lady of healing, poetry, guardian of children.

All the same, she felt it was more prudent to go ahead and officially diagnose it as PDD-NOS to ensure he continued receiving his assorted therapies and services rather than call it “not likely” and let them lapse. There was the usual discussion around how important it is to catch these things early and treat them aggressively, and she repeated her feeling that our little guy is likely going to get right back on track and be ready for kindergarten when he turns five.

In one year. (And two months.) (Gulp.)

Why do they grow so fast? Seems like every time I blink, one of them has outgrown all her clothes, or had another birthday, or taken up calligraphy, or is studying medieval French poetry or something. Sigh.

The planet is speeding up. Seriously. There can be no other explanation for the way time is passing so danged fast, these days.

Explains a lot, don’t it

Well, at the end of all things, Danger Mouse had a very satisfying 15 kids at her birthday party. Whew.

In Other News, when I started attacking asking other moms, you know, IF THEY WERE COMING OR NOT, I heard a curious thing again and again:

I tried to call, but your number was disconnected.

Now if one person had said this, I’d say, “Yeah, right.

Possibly even if two people said it. You know, it’s the Excuse Du Jour, right?

Then the pest control guy said the same thing, AND I got a note from someone who needed a bill paid with the same notation on it.

Turns out, our low-tech answering machine has been turned off for goodness knows how long. So if you call and we’re not home?

Ring…ring…ring…ring…{until you get tired and hang up}

If you call and we’re on the phone, you get a busy signal. This is apparently strange and wonderful and leads some people to believe the phone has been disconnected, because everybody else has call waiting and/or voice mail.

We used to, before we got tired of paying for it. Our phone bill went from $45-50 monthly to $17, after we removed all the voice mail and call waiting and long distance plans.

First they charged us $2.99 a month to have long distance in the first place. THEN they charged us ten cents a minute. Our new service charges us $0.02 a minute, period. No monthly fee, nothing. Our average long distance bill is something like $0.40. (Yeah. I’m a big phone-user. Ahem. NOT!)

ANYWAY. The party was great, and our answering machine is now turned on again.

And yes. I feel like a particularly gifted dufus.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mysterious, very mysterious…

I’m not sure what all this means, exactly.

When I came into my secret laboratory bedroom this afternoon, I found these objects right in the middle of the floor!

Stand and yarn

Puzzled, I began to retreat to my rocking chair to ponder the meaning of the sudden intrusion of these items into what has been, for lo these many years, a knitting-only kind of craft place.

But I couldn’t sit down. These were in the way:

blank canvas

What the heck?! I asked Dharma what it all meant. She had no comment.

dharma keeps mum

But nearby, I found this:

finished canvas

Whoa. Where did that come from?!?!

Oh, wait. Wait. Now I remember.

Set the Way Back Machine for 2000. Late in my pregnancy with Danger Mouse, I finished this fine example of mediocre needlepoint. I had purchased three kits on eBay when I was sentenced to put on bed rest (for SEVEN MONTHS!!!), finished this one and moved on to (equally mediocre, actually) knitting. Without finishing the finished needlepoint. Hmm. Frame, or pillow…well, I’ll get around to that eventually.

Before I had knitting, I had needlepoint. I am not particularly good at it, but I do enjoy it. Like knitting, it puts me into a calm, reflective kind of mood – which is helpful, because I spend a great deal of time being about as calm, peaceful and patient as a whirling dervish. I did quite a bit of it before the knitting bug bit me, and bit me hard.

After I finished the Pacific Northwest shawl, I found myself in a kind of “eh” mood, knitting-wise. Oh, I’m not going to pretend I don’t have things on the needles that I’m working on. There is always at least a dozen socks in progress, and right now I’ve got a cute little vest being whumped out for Captain Adventure (I’m using Bernat Camouflage in Blue Frost – very cute, very soft!) – the vest being a project I cast on while I thought about what I wanted to do next for real.

Sweater? Eh.
Afghan? Nah.
Baby stuff! Wellllllll…
More lace? Hmmmm…

For once, it isn’t one of those ‘too many exciting things in mind not enough time!’ issues. I’m just kind of…well. Everything is a big old ‘eh’, right now. Even digging through my stash couldn’t put something EXCITING! into my mind to make – which is really, really, REALLY odd.

Seriously. If I come down with strep throat or a brain tumor next week, I will not be surprised.

Then I went to my brother’s house yesterday, and because he is one of those gracious people who feels the need to do these things, there is a framed needlepoint piece on the wall – a gift I gave them back in our We Can’t Afford Salad days.

I looked at it, and chuckled, and thought, I really used to love doing those needlepoint things!

I looked at it a little more closely and thought, This is actually pretty darned cute. Look at all those perfect little stitches! Shoot, I actually PAID ATTENTION when I did this one, didn’t I?

The stitches were so neat and even – not too tight, not too loose, nicely ‘plump’ but not ‘flabby’.

And then I thought, Hmm, don’t I still have a couple kits at home…somewhere?

So last night I found the kits, and I removed the finished work from the frames, and sorted the yarn onto my old butterfly thread sorters, and had my husband fetch the frame holder from the storage shed and here I am.

Ready to fill the void with something different. Therefore, while waiting for the new shipment of yarn I obviously need in order to stir up my creative juices, so please excuse me and my Mastercard while we head over to KnitPicks / Webs / anywhere else I can think of on such short notice this strange “all the patterns I know of are kind of boring” phase to pass…I’m gonna work me a needlepoint.

If I can remember how…lessee…lighter colors first…basket-weave stitch on the larger areas…

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Finished: Pacific Northwest

Here it is, the Pacific Northwest shawl, this time done in KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud:

Finished Pacific Northwest

I really like the way it came out in the solid color. While I loved the Claudia silk I used last time, the intense color variegation did hide the patterns. With the solid gray of the Alpaca Cloud, the pattern really pops.

Pacific Northwest Detail

I have to confess, I am enjoying this pattern in a way that may be a touch unhealthy. I want to make yet another one. It is just an extremely pleasant knit with a beautiful result.

The fact that this is the first lace-as-such pattern that I have actually managed to do without mangling it beyond hope may have something to do with my passionate love, here.

Now, of course, I have to decide What Next. Other than another shawl, because really now. Moderation in all things, right?

Friday, May 23, 2008

It is time

Well, it’s finally happened. We all knew this day was coming. It was only a Matter of Time.

Behold, Internet! I have made my decision!

Starting next week, I am officially back in the workforce!!

…as a self-employed independent contractor, database analyst flavor.

Which is a lot like not-really-employed, especially on credit applications. Which is fine by me, because frankly I don’t have a lot of use for the things anyway.

After a great deal of internal debate and quite a bit of resume sending and offer receiving, I finally settled on doing 1099 work for a few select clients. I’m starting out with very part-time work and will keep it low-key through the summer, then start building the business up as we move into the early fall and the kids go back to school.

I don’t expect to be making a ton of cash doing it, especially not at first – but over time, I expect I’ll be making some really good money. If I can build up enough business, I might be able to upgrade myself to truly excellent money.

But for now, I want to keep it strictly part-time. The girls have some day camps and we found a neat summer program for Captain Adventure, one with both typically developing and special needs kids. I’ll have about four hours a day with no Denizens at all in the Den.

How weird will that feel?!

I just hope I can use that time wisely, you know, like, working or some junk…and not on, say, hanging out on Ravelry pretending I’m going to knit one of those gorgeous things people keep posting pictures of over there (seriously, I was on there for two hours last night looking for my next project), or laughing at silly cat pictures.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Alpaca Love…

How about some knitting in progress?

Pacific Northwest Alpaca Cloud

This is the Pacific Northwest shawl I started on the way up (out?) (over?) to Salt Lake City. Thanks to the huge head start I got on the train and the fact that this is a garter-stitch pattern (I am a slow purler), I’m making extremely quick progress! I’m on the final few scallops of border, and then it’s just a zip of i-cord across the top and I’m done!!

…I figure it should be complete well before my 68th birthday…

I’m using KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud for the project. Let’s see…things that bug me. Well, it does split a lot more than the Claudia Silk did. And I suspect I will have to be verrrrrry careful about felting on this one - it practically felts on the needle, so I have a feeling any rough handling on this baby is going to turn it into a Salvation Army blanket. It also has a touch more "fuzz" than I'm used to in a lace-weight yarn. It ain't mohair, mind, but it does have a little extra hair leaping about.

But it is soft as a dream and super-warm. This is going to be one of those ultra-light, ultra-warm wraps. I’m on the second hank now and I won’t be needing a third, so the total cash-cost for the shawl is only eleven bucks, compared to $45 for the Claudia silk.

Which makes a little splitting and some fuzz entirely overlook-able.

Pacific Northwest Border

Here’s a close-up of the border. What you do is, you knit the main body of the shawl and leave it on the needles. Technically, you then use a DPN to knit the scallops, attaching every odd row to the shawl by knitting two together. Because I am a Rebel Without A Pause, I just kept the stitches on the circular.

The first time I tried this shawl, I used the designer’s method. At first. But then the 4,276th time I lost control of the DPN and it went skittering under the couch, I asked myself grumpily why I couldn’t just use the @*^&@ing circular.

And then I thought, Wait…why CAN’T I just use the circular…?

Having no good answer spring to mind, I tried it. And I liked it. And for bonus points, I remembered that this time around without having to go crawling around on my hands and knees searching for the lost DPN a few times first. Yay, me!!

Boo Bug Wants the Camera

This is Boo Bug. She likes to take pictures. She really, really, REALLY likes to take pictures. In this picture right here, she is asking me if she can use the camera. Please, can she use the camera? Now? Could she use the camera right now? {pause} How about now?

She can spend a whole entire day taking pictures. Digital cameras with rechargeable batteries are awesome, because they let me say ‘yes’ sometimes to that question. When I was six and asked my mom if I could borrow her camera to take some pictures, she said, “NO!!!” and then asked me a bunch of technical questions about the economic situations in several countries before demanding to know if I knew how much film costs these days.

Oh. Wait. No.

That part came after I swiped her camera anyway and took a bunch of pictures of the dog sleeping and stuff.

ANYWAY. Dharma is extremely excited about the shawl-in-progress. She is so excited, in fact, that she had to collapse on my bed for a nap.

Dharma is Excited!

Everybody else is at school right now, so these are the only two Denizens available to give their opinions of their mother’s knitterly skill. Tune in next week when I post a picture of Danger Mouse giving me a huge yawn, Eldest turning her patented, I so don’t ‘get’ this expression on the shawl, and of course Captain Adventure’s backside as he runs giggling down the hall with a skein of something expensive and hand-dyed clutched in his grimy little paws…

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I am not worrying…I am not worrying…

It’s just that we’ve only had one (1) RSVP for Danger Mouse’s birthday party this Saturday.

Last year? We had two (2) children show up. One of them was a friend of Eldest’s, and those two vanished upstairs and were not seen again. The other was a BFF but she could only stay for about half an hour due to Another Engagement.

So we’ve got one (1) kid officially coming. Plus family.

And 23 other kids who haven’t called one way or the other.


Dear $DEITY, please not a repeat of last year, thank you…


Lydee over at Thoughts of a Sometimes Stay at Home Mom tagged me for a meme! I haven’t done one in ages, soooooooooo…

"The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer."

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

Oh, that’s easy! I was either sitting in a rocking chair rocking a baby that never slept, NOT EVER, not even for a MINUTE or I was wandering endlessly around the apartment bouncing a baby that never slept, NOT EVER, not even for a MINUTE until the crazy lady downstairs called the office to complain (SCREAMING into the phone to be absolutely sure I overheard the conversation) that I was WALKING AROUND UPSTAIRS. The nerve of me, walking around in my apartment like I owned the place or something! Harrumph!!

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

1. Call landscapers about the backyard.

2. Have a heart attack at the price they quote me to replace the lawn my husband so cheerfully destroyed with RoundUptwo years ago saying, “This one is toast, I’m going to kill it and put in a new one next weekend.”

3. Find someplace that will take our horrible children for a week or two PLEASE! I will throw MONEY AT YOU if you will just take them, TAKE THEM!! a fun, enriching, groovy Experience for our charming daughters this summer.

4. Have heart attack over the cost of day camps for children these days.

5. Refill prescriptions.

6. Have heart attack over the price of the prescriptions. (Yeah, that’s six. But seriously, six comes so fast after five that they kinda HAVE to go together.)

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Baby carrots (yes, really – c’mon, they’re like, the candy of the vegetable world!)
M&Ms (after they have been appropriately sorted)
Corn tortillas with melted Jack cheese and fresh ground pepper

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Not have so many heart attacks, for one thing. Hmm. For me personally, I’d hire a nanny and provide FULL benefits, including tuition reimbursement and a flexible work schedule if she wants to go to college and do something OTHER than watching children for the rest of her life. And a full-time housekeeper, ditto.

I’m big into education, so I’d probably set up a trust to provide scholarships for folks trying to get higher education on a shoestring.

Other than that…I don’t know that much would change, really. Odd, huh? But I just don’t have that many things I desperately want but can’t have anymore. Somebody should have asked me this twenty years ago. Boy, would I have had a sixteen page answer back then…

OH WAIT! I thought of something!! I’d buy myself a groovy old Westfalia, trick it out and toodle around camping in it with whichever Denizens are willing to put up with their insane mother.

5) Places I have lived:

California, born and raised. San Francisco, San Rafael, San Ramon, three whole months in London, and Central Valley, California.

6) 6 peeps I wanna know more about:

Rather than get any of my peeps irritated with me, I’m going to take the cop-out method and say TAG, YOU’RE IT!!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A poverty line?!

The Simple Dollar had an article today about clotheslines, and the ‘poverty perception’ thereunto.

First, I was outraged at the very suggestion that a clothesline has a ‘poverty’ connotation! Mostly because I was using clotheslines today! Harrumph! The very idea!

Then, I had to admit that there was a time when I, too, thought clotheslines were somewhat…less than classy. And that when one of my back-fence neighbors put up a series of enormous and also permanent clotheslines and promptly began leaving sheets and towels on them morning, noon and night – even in the rain! – I made grumbling noises about it.

I got over it. His estimate of $0.35 per load is about what I came up with; I generally run between seven and ten super-sized loads a week, let’s call it 8.5 on average, which comes out to $2.975 a week or $154.70 a year if I were to line-dry all my clothes. Which I don’t. In the winter, I only dry the first one or two loads on the line, and the rest in the dryer.

Sometimes all of it in the dryer, if it happens to be raining on Laundry Day. Or, frankly, if it is wicked cold outside – on those days, any heat I can generate inside the house doing chores is a good thing. Let’s make pies! And soup! And extra bread! Anything that heats up my kitchen works for me!!

But in the summertime…it’s a different story. It’s getting to that time of year where clothes dry faster out on the line than they do in the dryer…and I don’t want anything generating heat inside the Den, thank-you-all-the-same.

We took two boating clamps, similar to these, and bolted them firmly to the house. Sometimes, I suspect the clamps are what holds that side of the house together.

On washing day(s), I take my clothesline and fasten one end to our big wooden play structure – there’s a handy beam perfect for the purpose. Then I run it across the yard, slip it onto the clamp, pull like the dickens on it to tighten, and then simply twist the rope under itself a time or two (or three, if I’m feeling nervous) to hold it. Repeat with the second clothesline, and I’ve got room for two average-sized loads of wash.

When everything is dry, down it comes. No permanent footprint in the backyard, and in the unlikely event that any of my neighbors were having a Fancy Pants Party or some other Event that would make my clothesline an eyesore…well, what clothesline? I don’t see no stinkin’ clothesline…

The biggest complaint we had about the clothesline was that the clothes were stiff as boards. My husband actually asked that I not use the line on his underwear or jeans due to the stiffness.

Found a way around it.

When the clothes you wish to soften up come off the line, put them into the dryer with a damp towel and/or half a softener sheet for five to ten minutes on low to medium heat. I’ll stuff my dryer with two or three loads worth of dry, but too stiff, clothes at a time to soften them up. Works like a charm, and no more complaints about sandpaper briefs.

It’s cheap, it’s environmentally friendly, gets you out in the fresh air and gives your clothing that ‘fresh air’ smell.

I’d do it even if my neighbors were the sorts who would recoil in horror.

Friday, May 16, 2008

This post was rushed

I have either just had an epiphany, or an aneurism.

And by “just had”, I of course mean that after weeks and weeks of feeling vaguely (or extremely) perturbed by something I just couldn’t put my finger on…I think I just planted my thumb right on the old button.

I recently read Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender. She describes the way the Amish women moved through the days, going unhurriedly from task to task.

She writes: The women moved through the day unhurried. There was no rushing to finish so they could get on to the “important things.” For them, it was all important.

I kept returning to that.

Because me, I rush.

I rush a lot.

I rush through the dishes so I can get on with something else. I fly through cleaning the bathroom in an attempt to get back to my knitting.

Frankly, I even rush through some of the time with my children – read the story faster, brush their hair perfunctorily, throw warmed-over meals at them. To get on with something “more important”, something more pressing, something that is absolutely without a doubt urgent.

Moreover, if I am not rushing, if I am not overwhelmed…I will immediately take on more, until I am once again rushing and overwhelmed and gasping for breath.

Now. Let’s talk for a second about my dirty laundry.

I keep a mostly (or at least somewhat) tidy house…on the surface. However, the motto, “If it don’t show, don’t bother” is plainly evident if you delve, even a little. Things are scattered and disorganized. Drawers and cupboards are bulging with things we never use, while the things we use daily end up shuttled from one horizontal surface to the next.

Nothing has an actual place, ergo, nothing ever seem to be in it’s place.

My house may look reasonably clean, but underneath that well-dusted surface lies a shocking amount of clutter and object-noise.

I might spend half an hour searching for my checkbook, or lose a permission slip beneath a stack of magazines. I can’t find the yarn I’m looking for, and there are DPNs scattered all over my desk. Assorted sizes, no less.

When I can’t find what I’m looking for, I get mad. Really, really mad. Then I get anxious. Then I get sulky. I’ll spend an entire day tearing apart the house looking for my glasses, and then retire to my room to brood and ask, Why do I even bother?!

As I’ve been feeling all stirred up lately, my house has frankly been falling ever further down the rabbit hole. Drawers are so full I can’t close them. My desk looks as though an office supply truck crashed on it. Papers, paint brushes, play money, coupons, sticky notes and random bits of plastic. All of it needs to be dealt with, all of it is important.

But I’m too busy rushing around to deal with it. So I end up just kind of shoving it from one end to another, putting it off for a day when I’m less busy.

This morning I stood with my coffee and regarded my front room. I was piqued. The place looked like a bomb went off in there. Bits of laundry on the dining room table, cushions off the sofa, toys everywhere, music books spilling out onto the floor. The desk was completely swathed in paperwork. A pencil was on the floor.

I went back into the kitchen and looked at my counters. They are swamped with homeless dishes and vagrant appliances. So many things are plugged into the wall by the toaster oven that I’m surprised the outlet doesn’t explode.

I felt that familiar despair. For crap’s sake, I feel as though I spend the whole day cleaning. Even though I don’t, actually – I spent most of the day dealing with paperwork and putzing around looking for things.

“I don’t have time for this,” I groused to myself. “I’ve got all kind of crap I’ve got to do today.”

And all day today, I’ve been rushing. Rushing to do this, rushing to do that. Gotta get this over here, put this piece over there, hit this button, pull this rope.

This afternoon, I regarded my house like the condemned eye the gallows. Bloody. Hell.

Astonishingly, none of the mess had vanished in the meantime. I needed a pen, and there were none in the pen holder in the kitchen. None on the husband’s desk. None the desk drawers. Sigh.

I began digging around for the pen, hurrying because…well. I have Things to Do.

And suddenly…I was struck by how stupid I was actually being.

Life is happening right now. The important stuff? Is right here, right now.

Washing the dishes is an important act. (Stay with me, here.) So is putting away the laundry, or taming the clutter in the junk drawer.

The only difference is in our perceptions.

We perceive household chores to be dull and lifeless, so that’s what they are. We think of them as being a waste of time that might have been better spent elsewhere.

What if we tried to stop that?

What if I stopped trying to decide what is ‘more important’, and instead focused on ‘what needs doing’?

And made it sacred, because it is a part of my life?

What if, rather than resenting and rushing through those things, I slowed down and lived them? What if I took time to appreciate the colors of my clean clothing, or the smooth whiteness of my dishes? What if I didn’t worry about “what’s next”, but focused on “what’s now”?

What if I moved mindfully through my day, being grateful for what is, right now. What if I didn’t hurriedly shove things from one side to another because I have more important stuff to be doing!, but rather actually dealt with each thing.

I’m willing to bet I’d fill up a lot of donation bins and trash bags with all the things we’re holding onto for no damned reason other than sheer ‘too busy / more important things / call back later’ nonsense.

And moreover, the next time I’m looking for a pen?

It’ll likely be right where it belongs, instead of being under the sofa, where it was apparently kicked after it fell, unnoticed and lost in the bustle, to the floor.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Boldly, the noble hunter stalks her prey...

The hunter enters the room where the prey has gathered at the water hole shoe cubbies. Her weapon is out and ready. Using her mad skilz, she herds the prey into a, well, herd.

“Hold still!” she whispers.

The prey starts giggling and jostling. They nudge each other. The littlest one begins pulling all the shoelaces out of the shoes, his face hidden behind the desk.

“C’mon, guys, quit it. Just hold still for a second. One second,” the hunter pleads.

They scatter.

“Captain Adventure! Get down off of there! Danger Mouse, go get your brother. Boo Bug, where are you going? Come on, everybody, right here. OK. Great. Hold sti-…Eldest? Where are you going now?”

Boldly, the hunter plots Plan B.

“Look. All right. Come back…ARGH. Listen, I’m trying to…real quick…COME ON, I just need…hmmmmm…how to get these rotten kids to assemble in one place so I can get a picture of all four of them at the same time…I know!...ahem…FRONT DOOR, EVERYBODY! TIME FOR SCHOOL! FRONT DOOR!”

The hunter lurks, weapon at the ready, as they run wildly into the front room yelling, grabbing backpacks, explaining that in spite of having been told fifteen times in the last thirty minutes to put on shoes, they haven’t yet done so…

“Quick! Everybody look at me! LOOKIT ME! SMILE!!!! Say ‘HI GRANDMA!!!!!’”

The hunter pulls the trigger!!!!!!

There is a loud click! A flash of light! Aaaaaaaand…



You will note that they are still not holding still. At all. Two of them are still talking at once, Captain Adventure is trying to get to me so he can figure out how that flashy-thing works, and Boo Bug firmly believes that if a picture of her is taken where she is not hugging someone, the world as we know it will end.

But really. It does capture them rather well. Left to right: Eldest (10), Boo Bug (6), Danger Mouse (almost-8), and of course Captain Adventure (3.75) in the front.

Just call them my little Chaos Generators…keepin’ me busy, and laughing, and crazy, since 1998…

Cinnamon Toast And Video Games

Yesterday dawned too early. At roughly 4:30 in the morning, I woke up thinking, Scratchy. Why is my throat so scratchy?! Ugh! Why does my mouth feel like I’ve been licking an airport floor all night?! EW! EW! EW!!

I have not gotten out of bed so fast in a long time, especially not at that hour. I dove on my toothbrush and stared at myself in the mirror as I scrubbed the thought of airport floors out of my mouth. (EW!!!!!)

Bloodshot eyes. ‘Gonna kill something’ expression. Red throat. Pounding head.

Ayup. The kids gave me the scrounge. @*^&@.

Oddly, going back to bed didn’t occur to me as a possible option. Like a zombie, I groaned my way downstairs to the coffee pot. Uuuuuuuuugngh…coooofffffffeeeeeee…

After my first cup, I forgave them for intentionally and with malice aforethought stirring their germs into my food to give me this cold.

By the second, I had realized that possibly they had not meant to give me their colds. These things happen, especially when somebody (raises hand) can never manage to say, “No, I’m not going to cuddle you and let you breathe on my face! You’re sick!!”

Between the third and fourth, as I was moaning, “@*^&@, my entire FACE hurts! My sinuses! My throat! My head!!” it dawned on me that perhaps I could try taking something for it.

I am, on occasion, something of a slow starter.

Half an hour post Tylenol Sinus Cold, I was feeling pretty darned good…as long as I stayed still. I didn’t feel like knitting…well, to be more precise, I was too muzzy to knit. I’m working on a lace shawl right now, and I’m on the ‘fish’ pattern part? Where the instructions go like: k4, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k2, yo, ssk, k3, k2tog, yo…you lost yet? I surely was.

AND THEN, when you get to the middle of the shawl? It reverses. The fish are supposed to point the other way.

Supposed to point the other way.

In. Theory.

After I tore out the same THREE HUNDRED stitches the third time, I lay down on the floor kicking my knitting chair as hard as I could with both feet screaming, “WAAAAAAAAH!!!! NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR! I HATE IT, I HATE IT, I HATE IT!!!” admitted that perhaps this was not going to be a good knitting day.

See ‘slow starter’ comment, above.

The Denizens began filtering downstairs. They were feeling much better, so they were happy, (reasonably) healthy children.

Which as you all know by now, is a euphemism for ‘annoying’.

They were cheerful! They were talkative! They were ready to play and frolic and demand food and so forth!

I thought my head was going to explode. So I put on the electronic babysitter and fled upstairs, where they promptly followed to ask me questions and complain that Kid #2 had changed the channel when Kids #3 and #1 were watching that! and then #4 had a diaper issue and needed changing NOW and could they have iced tea? With sugar? LOTS of sugar?! They could get it themselves {innocent grins}…

I had just realized that the invitations for Danger Mouse’s birthday still hadn’t been filled out and taken to school with her (argh! please, not a repeat of last time when we only got two kids, one of them Eldest’s friend and the other having to leave early!!) when Eldest came upstairs with a strange expression on her face.

“Mommy, is it…Mother’s Day, today?” she asked. Apparently, the electronic babysitter had said something about it.

“Uhhhhhhhhhhh…” psssst…see ‘slow starter’ comment, above… “…I, uh. Oh. Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah.”

“Oh. OK. Well, uh, happy Mother’s Day! Can I make some toast?”

“Yeah, sure.”

For a brief moment, I indulged in some self-pity. Other mothers were waking up to breakfast in bed. Other mothers got candy, or jewelry, or cards. Brunched at Chez de la Expensive, or had dinner at La Credit Chek Required.

But we don’t really “do” Mother or Father’s Day around here. We have enough ways to waste money on our plates as it is, so putting yet another day that requires the buying and ceremonial presenting of Stuff just seems kind of…wasteful. About the only thing we do for each other is, ironically, make it a ‘responsibility free’ kind of day. A couple years ago, I spent the entirety of Mother’s Day eating pizza and playing a video game. Heh. Yeah. Good times, gooooood times…

But, the husband is out of town this weekend and I’m on my own so! Just another day in paradise and onward we go.

There were noises from the kitchen. I heard the toaster oven binging. It sounded like every dish in the house was being used to make toast.

I kept writing on invitations. Date, time, Danger Mouse, I’m turning EIGHT… Date, time, Danger Mouse, I’m turning EIGHT… Date, time, Danger Mouse, I’m turning EIGHT…

Suddenly, Eldest reappeared at the door. In one hand she had a plate with a piece of toast, lavishly enrobed in cinnamon sugar, surrounded by strawberries. In the other, she had a soda.

“I made this for you,” she announced. “It’s breakfast in…video game!”

And then she laughed at her own cleverness like only a ten year old can, and made sure I understood: “Because you’re not in bed? You’re at the computer? Video game? Get it?”

These are the jokes, folks…

To save her any embarrassment, because I am that good a mother, I immediately slipped my video game disk into the machine and started playing.

Yes, I am that selfless.

The toast was delicious. The strawberries were perfect. The soda was most welcome.

The video game rocked it. You are speaking to the new Master of the Thieves Guild in Cyrodiil, people. Oh yes. I am that good.

The Denizens spent the rest of the day being Independent. They minded their brother (mostly). They summoned me only when he was doing something Really Bad (or smelled Really Bad). They got their own (bizarre) lunch and snacks. They made an enormous (huge!) mess of the kitchen.

In the early evening we assembled together for pizza and Ratatouille (the movie, not the meal) (because that would have been redundant) (ironically, the pizza was awful - the kids love Dominos, but they are the worst pizza in town).

All five of us crowded onto a couch built for two to watch the movie.

Then the cat joined us. She sprawled out shamelessly across my lap so eight eager hands could pet and scratch her. If anyone stopped petting, she would immediately shove her head up under the idle hand – because, gracious, only seven hands petting at once? SLACKERS! (Yeah, Dharma is a serious snuggle-hog.) (Except she believes The Boy ought to be kept in a cage.) (In the zoo.) (Far, far away from the Den.)

It was too warm and fur was flying everywhere and it was extremely crowded and the phrase, “put your feet down, you’re kicking your sister!” had to be said about six hundred times, and also the cat got so happy about all the petting that she began to dig her claws into me as she frantically kneaded to express her delight.

It was a great day.

And I don’t think that’s just the cold medicine talking.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Resolving on its own?!

As the doctor arrived to do the new assessment on Captain Adventure, I realized with something of a jolt that it was almost exactly one year ago that I ripped up my paycheck and came home so that I could focus on the family’s needs without the constant whining from the peanut gallery – I (and a few others in the organization with two working parents) had been reprimanded several times for ‘excessive’ and ‘abrupt’ sick days.

With four kids going to school and/or daycare, combined with the worst flu season we’d seen in a long, long time (one of our daycares actually closed down for a day to have their toddler room professionally sanitized!), well.

There were a lot of sick days. And with both of us working from home, that meant both of us had to deal with trying to talk on the phone while children screamed and cried and begged for medicine, popsicles, ponies and trips to Europe in the background.

But I’m not going to pick at that old scab. Or the one where we’d committed to Certain Things (the remodeling, mostly) based on two incomes and then had to figure out what to do about them on just one.

I’ve got a new scab to pick.

After I had done the final rapid-fire ‘yes, no, sometimes’ response section of the assessment, the doctor sat back and said, “OK. Right. So. Why, exactly, did you feel he might need treatment?”

As I was explaining all the things that had so alarmed me, he kept nodding and occasionally scribbling something down. I told him how things were last year, how they were as recently as Thanksgiving. I explained about the tantrums, the stiff body language, the head-banging and the fixated behaviors, endlessly running around and around a table until someone intervened, distracted him into something else. The utter lack of communication, the lack of empathy he had shown toward his siblings.

How far he’s come in a short year.

“If he had been like this a year ago,” I concluded. “I probably wouldn’t have worried enough to jump into all this.”

“That’s how these kinds of isolated speech delays often are,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Just when you get good and worried, they resolve on their own.”

Have you ever found yourself suddenly and completely enraged by what is actually a fairly innocuous comment?

Oh…I got well and truly pissed.

This isn’t resolving ‘on its own’. It is resolving because his teachers and I are working our brains out on it. It is resolving because there is a team of specialists coming to him every single weekday, speech therapists and occupational therapists and of course his patient and wonderful teacher. It is resolving because his sisters, day in and day out, put up with him, work with him on communicating clearly, wait patiently for their mother to have a second for their wants and needs, and otherwise behave like really, really good sports.

I am humbled by my daughters, sometimes. They have ten times the patience I do, and dear God, they are only children.

I am spending hours each week with flash cards, playing the Color Game, taking him out in the car and asking him to identify things. I go through the supermarket with him asking him to find the oranges, the apples, the bananas, the bagels. And I’m going to admit something horrible to you right here: Sometimes, I really hate it.

I hate the way he’ll yell his mangled attempts at ‘banana’ at the top of his lungs. I hate the way people sometimes look at us when he garbles out something completely incomprehensible – he’s almost four, and he looks every minute of his age, and he often sounds (oh, brutal reality) retarded. I hate it when he gets frustrated and kicks up into a tantrum in public.

I hate sometimes overhearing things. “Mommy, what’s wrong with that little boy?” “Don’t stare, honey, he’s got…he’s…well, he’s special…”

Sometimes, I’d really just rather leave him at home with daddy and go shopping alone. Sometimes I do. And then I feel guilty because I’ve just let another ‘learning opportunity’ slip away. So the next time, I load him up and take him along and we play the Shopping Game, and people sometimes stare and sometimes they offer Helpful Hints and sometimes they want to tell me about their {nephew, cousin, grandson, neighbor’s kid} who has {Downs syndrome, autism, Pokeman Toe, Presbyterianism} and the miracle cure was {gluten-free, sugar-free, organic t-shirts, reading to them in French}.

My personal favorite was the old lady who chastised me for carrying him in the parking lot. He’s a great big boy he ought to walk you’re spoiling him he’s going to grow up a monster!

A few moments later as he cheerfully screamed, “GAH-BAH-BOO! EEEEEEEN GAH-BAH-BOO!!” (uh…would you believe, ‘shampoo, green shampoo’?), she tapped me on the shoulder and said, humbly, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize he was retarded. You poor dear, it must be so hard for you.”

Lord forgive me, I wanted to punch her right in her wizened old kisser. Mostly because I felt like I was going to Cry In Public (gah!), and the only thing I loathe more than crying in the first place is Crying In Public (gah!!).

There is a whole team of concerned people working with him, every single day, to get him where he is right now. A lot of sacrifices being made, a lot of work being done, a lot of care and concern and love focused on helping this little guy learn how to swim with the rest of us fish.

‘Resolve on their own’ my arse.

“Actually, it isn’t resolving on its own,” I said briskly, trying to keep my tone chipper while inside I was baring my fangs and snarling. “He’s going to the special needs preschool, and of course we’re working on it here at home too – in fact, I quit my job so that I could make all this happen for him.”

The man had sense enough to agree with me that no, it wasn’t “just going away” and that yes, all our hard work was definitely, absolutely, positively the reason he was enjoying such a tremendous improvement.

And then he ran for his car.

Sigh. Sometimes, it really is the little crap that sets you off, you know? The bigger things, well, you understand why they set your hair on fire. But I’m always surprised when some tiny little thing gets my fur all standing up and sets steam coming out of my ears.

We’ll have his formal report in a few weeks. We also have a major psychological evaluation at the end of May, for which I have to trek all the way to Sacramento.

The bad news is, I have to go all the way to Sacramento.

The good news is, due to the (ahem) FOUR HOUR roundtrip drive plus the two hours of assessment, Daddy will be in charge of the other three Denizens and their school pickups / dropoffs.

I’ll only have Captain Adventure with me.

He is, you may recall, a Yarn Monster.

He will not mind checking out the Sacramento yarn stores while we are there. Purely for research purposes, you understand. Because Rams asked about the Sacramento yarn stores and frankly the only one I knew of has closed (not, uh, that I had any time for yarn stores because obviously I rushed right home when my train arrived in Sacramento a little early and did NOT spend any time at all driving by the yarn store I remembered downtown…).

So, as an act of purest nobility and only for the sake of the common good, I shall drag myself into every a few one or two at the most yarn stores in Sacramento after his early-morning assessment.

...there goes MY allowance for the last three months...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Lest my home be peaceful…

Any time there is any threat to the peace and quiet, the Denizens are happy to go the extra mile to ensure that there shall be no peace, no quiet, no full nights of sleep and absolutely under no circumstances a clean home.

This week, they have saved me from the horrors listed above by getting sick.

It started with Eldest, who woke up in the wee hours of Tuesday morning crying due to a sore throat and mild fever. Motrin was administered, and she spent the next half hour constantly asking me when, exactly it was going to start working.

Then yesterday afternoon, Boo Bug began to complain her throat hurt. She too had a mild fever, and also some stuffed up nose issues. Drat.

This morning, after having gotten up at the usual hour to make breakfast and everything else, I decided to grill Danger Mouse on her overall condition. Of all my children, she is the toughest little cookie, and the one least likely to actually complain if she doesn’t feel well.

“How are you feeling today, honey?” I asked as she brushed her hair. “You OK?”

“Oh, yeah,” she replied. “Except that my throat really hurts when I swallow.” And then she sniffed loudly. Stuffy nose, mild fever, sore throat – yup. She’s staying home from school today, too.

Meanwhile, all week Captain Adventure has been in a marginal state where you look at him hard and wonder…Hmm…is he being a pill because he needs one, or is he just being a pill in general? His speech delay makes this really hard. Most almost-four-year-old children will tell you their woes. “Mommy, my {head, throat, mouth, nose, left big toe} hurts!”

But not Captain Adventure. He just transforms into the Destroyer of Worlds, a state ordinarily only seen when a trip to bed or a ten minute Time Out is appropriate (if I want to punish the boy, all I need to do is put him into his room by himself).

But while in Destroyer of Worlds mode, he does not ‘use his words’ – he just runs, and I do mean runs, from Sin to Sin. Tipping over the piano bench, yanking the runner (and anything on the runner) from the sofa table, pulling all the napkins out of the napkin drawer and doing his impression of a Morris dancer on Beltaine, hitting sisters with toys, refusing to eat anything except plain noodles with butter…oh yes.

He’s a real joy right now.

I take my eyes off him at my gravest peril. (Right now, he is sitting right beside me attempting to disassemble a rather complicated toy. He alternates actually trying to do it intelligently with BANGING IT LOUDLY ON THE FLOOR while singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. How’s the work coming? The portfolio rebalancing, the writing, the job proposal and scope of work sitting on my desk waiting to be turned in? JUST FINE THANKS!)

Naturally, because anything else would not be peaceful and/or calming and/or otherwise OK with me, the nice autism specialist is coming to the house TONIGHT to observe him.

TONIGHT. He called last night, to say he was coming…TONIGHT.

“Well, actually, he has a nasty cold right now,” I hedged. Hot carp livers on buttered toast, that’s just not a good time. Did I mention that I too am developing a slight fever and sore throat? Have I? Or that I have not slept more than two hours at a stretch since I got back from Salt Lake due to assorted Noises and Crises in the night?

“That’s OK,” he replied cheerfully. “That won’t impact my testing.”

I hesitated. On the one hand, it really isn’t a good time for Captain Adventure. Or me, for that matter – the house is a shambles and I’ve got a ton of stuff to deal with today, none of it ‘making the house presentable for visitors’. On the other, well. We’ve been waiting FIVE MONTHS to get on this guy’s dance card.

I don’t want to risk having to wait another month.

I don’t want him to see our boy at his worst, and yet, I kind of do. In a perfect world, they would see him at both his best and worst…but this isn’t a perfect world so we have to make do with having professionals witness one or two hour slices of his life and extrapolate whether or not the rest of his life is within however many +/- factors of ‘normal’.

Whatever ‘normal’ may be.

“Wellllll,” I said finally put forth. “See, here’s the thing. On the one hand, you will see his absolute most autistic-like behavior if you come evaluate him right now. When he’s sick or very tired, he does display a lot of the symptoms that made me worry in the first place. But on the other hand, I’m afraid you might not get any of what he can do. I mean, we were playing the Color Game this morning? And he said a blue ball was purple? And I said noooo, it’s BLUE, and then? He threw it at my head. And fell on the ground. And screamed and cried and kicked at me when I tried to comfort him.” {pause} “Which is not really what he’s like, you know? I mean, sometimes, but…uh, well, he’s actually a very sweet, very smart boy, very affectionate and…it’s just, well, he’s sick right now? So he isn’t using his words, and he’s kind of aggressive, and…”

My wise inner voice got back from its potty break and said, That will do, dear. You’d better stop talking now.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

“I see,” he said. He has that ‘doctor’ voice down pat. ‘…that you are almost undoubtedly completely crazy’ was definitely hanging in the air after his ‘I see’.

In the background as we talked, three girls were screaming at once because one of them had changed the channel without going through proper diplomatic channels. The occasional outburst is perfectly normal. Right now, with all of them a bit under the weather, the outbursts are incessant and particularly loud and shrill.

“Excuse me a second,” I said sweetly. Then I put my thumb over the speak on the phone (the low-tech mute button) and yelled, “KNOCK THAT OFF, I AM ON THE !!!!!!PHONE!!!!!! Eldest! Put it BACK on Spongebob this INSTANT!”

Captain Adventure was running back and forth in the kitchen shaking his head wildly as he went, slamming into the cupboards on one end of the journey, giggling wildly, pausing to wave and shout, “HI MOMMY! CAPTAIN ADVENTURE IS RUNNING!!” before galloping back into the playroom, where he would jump onto the coffee table and wait for someone (all three sisters are Mini Mes on this front) to say, “Be careful, Captain Adventure! Don’t fall!” before jumping off for the return trip.

Ah yes. The joys of Tylenol Flu and Cold medicine. He is completely soused and lovin’ the ride at this point. T-Minus sixty minutes to bedtime, and definitely counting.

“So,” the man probably wondering why he went into this business in the first place said gently. “Tell you what. I’ll be over at five o’clock, OK? If we feel that his cold is interfering with my tests, well, we can reschedule for another time. And I’ll give you my phone number, so if you think he’s just way too sick you can call and cancel. OK? How’s that?”

“Yeah, OK. Great. Thanks. I’m sure it will be fine.”

Something heavy hit the floor. A little voice piped out, “I’m OK!” Captain Adventure began shrieking with laughter. Boo Bug cried out, “It isn’t funny, Captain Adventure!” and he replied, “Oh, DAT FUNNY!” “NO!” “DAT FUNNY!” “NO!” “DAT FUNNY!”


T-minus 56 minutes and counting. I hung up the phone (I think I said a polite closure first, but I’m not really sure) and put a bag of popcorn into the microwave. Four little noses began sniffing the air. Dinner being all of ten minutes ago, they were naturally starved. For popcorn.

The still-warm asparagus and pasta? Not so much.

They ate popcorn. I polished off the asparagus. Did you know asparagus is a natural diuretic? Yes, it surely is.

Which is why I had to get up, twice, last night…in spite of all Denizens being tucked snug in their little beds, fast asleep, all night long…

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Always the goal, seldom the result

Perfection is always my goal, but seldom the result. However, Sugar Mommy nominated one of my posts for a Perfect Post award. She’s having a tough go right now, and I am doubly honored that she’d take time in the middle of All That to do so.

The post in question was Why Did It Take So Long?, about taking Captain Adventure to the river. It was a wonderful, bitter-sweet day, and I’m gratified to know it touched others, too.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Five hundred miles, five hundred miles…

OK, actually, it was 748.10 miles according to Mapquest. At Wicked O’Clock Saturday morning, I drove my car up to the Sacramento Amtrak station.

Sacto Amtrak

I was greeted by my porter, who insisted on carrying my backpack for me because I am so rich and also beautiful and likewise famous that naturally they fell all over themselves to carry my backpack for me had paid extra for a Roomette, which made me a First Class Passenger. {Sticks pinkie in air and attempts not to bust out laughing}

The Roomette is about the size of an average closet, with two seats facing each other in the daytime that fold down into a bed at night, with another bunk that swings down from the ceiling in a rather alarming manner to become a second bed.


This cozy little nook became my home (with a couple hours out for dining car fun) for the next seventeen hours. I read a book.

Things I Learned From Knitting

(The people in the roomette next to me probably wished I’d quit randomly guffawing.)

I knit on a shawl.


(The people in the roomette next to me probably wished I’d quit randomly yelling, “ARGH! SSK, not K2TOG! DOLT!!”)

I thought. I met people in the dining car. I watched the Sierras go by. They had snow.


In due course (by which I mean, at 3:30 in the @*^&@ing morning) I was unceremoniously ejected disembarked in…Salt Lake City!!

Now…there is going to be a loooooooong post about my adventures in Salt Lake City in the wee hours of the morning. Oh my. People…well. I’ll tell you about it later, when I’m not exhausted and still feeling the gentle roll of the train. Thirty-four hours on a train over two and a half days? You will feel the rocking for a while.

So, there was a lot of trying to find someplace safe to hang out while I waited for the sun to rise, and the city to yawn itself awake. Salt Lake is a very slow-starting city on a Sunday. Travel hint: The Starbucks in the Sheraton hotel opens at 5:00, bless them. Once the sun was up and a reasonable number of non-scary people were out on the streets, I went and saw some things.

I saw some architecture. Lots of it. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of it. Salt Lake is a city I’ve driven around and even through, but I’ve never gotten out of the car and walked around. There is a lot to see. Rather than break your Internet, I’ll share just the one thing that for some reason amused me outside of all reason. The cat wants out, please!


Much architecture (oooh, aaah!) and shopping (you make this toffee by hand, you say?) and meeting some of the more interesting citizens of Salt Lake (hooboy) and knitting in public later (shameful!), I wandered over to…hmm…where to go, where to go…hmmmmm…oh, is that a library? A big beautiful public library? That sounds like a rockin’ good time…

Waitasecond…wait just a second here…is that…? I dunno…the picture…it’s kind of dark, kind of fuzzy, kind of shot by a complete idiot…

A Harlot!

Wait! Here’s a picture taken by someone else, who apparently is much better at using my camera than I am!

No, Stephanie, I’m Totally Dorkier Than You

Yeah. That’s right. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was my insanely fun yet somewhat silly excuse for the trip.

It must be stated first that my overall mental grasp of geography is…somewhat poor. I remembered driving around and through Salt Lake on several occasions, and thus put it quite a bit closer to Reno than it actually is. Reno is roughly five hours from my house, and I thought, “And, Salt Lake is, what, an hour further?”


So it was “my” weekend (I still get one out of every six to eight), and hey! One of my favorite authors is going to be in Salt Lake, which is what, six hours from me? Five if “speed limit” is pronounced “speed suggestions”?

And I thought it would be great to actually see Salt Lake.

Then I looked at a map.




That’s a lot further than I thought.

I thought about flying (too expensive). I thought about just going for it and driving (my hip has a nasty habit of giving out on me when least convenient, like, say, in the middle of the desert on I-80). And I was on the verge of shrugging and saying, “Oh well, eventually she’ll come to San Francisco…” (oh, irony: she was in San Francisco, the day I left for Salt Lake!) when I thought of the train. I love trains with the pure love of an infatuated child, but I’d never done anything longer than my commute on one. I’ve been flirting with the idea of making one of “my” weekends a train weekend.

Once my husband gave me his blessing for not being home until dinnertime on Monday, the deal was made.

I’ve wanted to do an overnight Amtrak trip for the longest time. And now I have. It was a ton of fun and a great way to travel. I’d do it again in a heartbeat…although not without an actual layover of some sort. Getting off the train at 3:30 in the morning and having to find places to perch for eighteen hours on only a couple hours sleep was…kinda rough.

But totally worth it. Salt Lake is a cool city, and of course listening to Stephanie was an absolute blast. The whole ‘Harlot Experience’ is just a big old hoot, from the expression on the faces of the Muggles (“Uh…whoa…that’ssssssss…a-lot-a-knitters!”) to chatting with people who had come from as near as a few blocks to as far as Montana, admiring other people’s socks and shawls and baby blankets and spinning wheels (yes, there were spinning wheels in use during her talk).

Sitting there, listening to her being smart and funny and putting into words things I’ve thought or felt, knitting a sock without worrying that she’s going to look out and frown at me with that “Pay attention! I am speaking here!” expression, surrounded by other people busily knitting without fear of reprimand…all of us laughing hopelessly every eight seconds…it was brilliant.

I had found a chocolate shop (oh, there’s a surprise, Tama found chocolate in a major city, quick!, somebody call the 6:00 news…) and I liked them so well I bought some for her.

There are things you just can’t say to someone in words, either because you don’t really know them well enough or because you can’t say them without sounding either stalker-scary or supremely dorky. Or all of the above.

So I gave her chocolate, my way of saying, “Thank you so much for doing what you do. Thanks for being brave enough to put yourself out there. You’ve given me inspiration in my knitting, bravery in the face of steeks and the chutzpah to say, ‘I can totally handle this lace pattern’. Followed closely by the ability to not only laugh but to know I am not alone when I have to rip out fifteen rows of messed up lace because I cannot reliably and/or repeatedly count to seven. Thanks for making me laugh – you’ve made me laugh so many times, about so many things. Thanks for being smart, and funny, and generous, and a brilliant writer and knitter. And by the way, you are not in fact the dorkiest person alive…I am SO dorkier than you could ever hope to be. Seriously.”

And then I made my way back to the Sheraton, which had the dubious good fortune of being my ‘safe place’ while waiting for the insanely late departure of the California Zephyr. (They were very nice to me. They even gave me a ride to the station when it was finally time.) (Although, on reflection, maybe this was merely a way to get rid of me, because I had now spent almost nine hours altogether loitering around their lobby, restaurant, Starbucks and bar…knitting…)

And then I caught the train to Sacramento, and drove home, and was swarmed by Denizens.

Even the newest one.

New Denizen

(This is Dharma. She is approximately twelve years old [which means she ranks the other Denizens], and the sweetest cat ever. She had to find a new home when some bad allergy issues came up, and by golly, we’d been pondering the idea of getting a cat – so here she is, and unless her mommy says she wants her back she’s here to stay. She’s already figured out how to insinuate herself onto my lap while I’m knitting, and then she’ll occasionally put up a paw to remind me: It’s Knit One, Purl Two, Pet the kitty, dear…)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Deep breath!

I’m taking a deep breath this weekend. A very, very deep breath. I am doing something that is insanely reckless and yet rather sedentary and boring. It involves Amtrak, a wicked fun yet really kind of silly excuse for the trip, and a long period of time during which I can do nothing but stare out the window at moving scenery, think, listen to my iPod, and knit.

No laptop. No “must read, important!” stuff. No portable keyboard for the Treo (which is how I usually cheat on ‘no laptop’ outings). No email. No blog reading or writing. Apart from catching the trains on time (which do have a rather no-nonsense start time) (well, THEY can be late - the riders, not so much), no to-do list.

Hopefully, I can get a system reboot. I’ve been feeling very old lately, which is ridiculous because hello, I’m only forty. Not forty-eleven, which is how I feel. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, and flustered, and frantic, and freaking out because this or that or the other thing isn’t going on schedule OH MY GAWD, somebody dial 911, we are NOT on SCHEDULE…!

I think the Universe is trying to say something to me. I really do. That storm-feeling is still there; a feeling of unresolved Something is just laid on me thicker than ants on a piece of Kettlecorn. Did you know ants love that stuff? Neither did I, until one of the Denizens stashed some under the sofa and the next morning I had an Indiana Jones moment: “…why does the floor move…?”

ANYWAY. Hopefully the forced idleness of the train will settle me down enough to listen.

It’s hard to listen when you’re screaming.

I’ll see y’all Monday-ish. If I can find the camera, I’ll bring pictures of the silly excuse!