Saturday, December 27, 2008

No cold feet!

This Christmas, I declared war on cold feet and made socks for those (thankfully few) adults on my gift list.

Christmas Socks

My favorite of the bunch has got to be these, which are made with Lorna’s Laces Shepherd sock in Country Christmas:

Lorna's Laces Christmas Socks

That’s the Waving Lace pattern from Interweave’s Favorite Socks. The lace broke up what would have been a plain stripe color and made it kind of funky fresh.

Typically, I was frantically finishing the toe of the last sock on Christmas Eve. Not only did Christmas pull its usual thing where somehow, in spite of being there in plain black and white ink on the calendar, December 25 snuck up on me and came at least three weeks sooner than I expected, but also…well.

It turns out that I apparently do not believe in the space-time continuum. Or at least, do not respect it as pertains to my knitting.

For perfect (and extremely recent) example: It takes me between eight and twelve hours (depending on complexity and size) of hands-on knitting to finish a (one, singular) sock. A pair of socks, therefore, takes me between sixteen and twenty-four hours of work to complete.

So when I cast on the last pair, which were for a man (larger size), and also decided to use the Retro Rib pattern both because it makes for a handsome finished sock and is interesting to knit, I said gaily to myself that Ha, ha!, these were probably going to take the whole twenty four hours to knit up, HA HA!

So I cast on Monday, and expected to be wrapping them Wednesday morning. Because in my world, one can find enough time to put in sixteen hours of work-work, keep the family fed and in clean clothes, do the last-second Christmas shopping, pay the end of month bills and deal with approximately sixty thousand insurance and contract related questions WHILE ALSO getting in twenty four hours of knitting and perhaps a few hours of sleep…in a forty-eight hour period.

Imagine my surprise when Wednesday morning rolled around and, in spite of neglecting the housework in a truly shameless way and perhaps attending a little less…attentively…to our business for two days, PLUS staying up until nearly midnight twice, I was only just turning the heel and starting the longer-than-I-expect-somehow jog to the toe.

Stupid space-time continuum. It’s so…inflexible.

However, by ignoring the housework even more (the Den looks like a dump truck drove through it with a troop of rabid monkeys having a party in the open back hatch) (also, nobody has any clean clothes) I did manage to skid my way to the toe as Christmas Eve was inexorably ticking into Christmas Day:

Gray Mens Socks

There were a few tense moments in our relationship – the purls felt too slow and I was regretting choosing an “interesting” pattern before I hit the heel of the second sock because I was on! a! schedule! dammit!, but I forgave them when they turned out so handsome and since they are inanimate objects, it turned out that for their part there was nothing to forgive.

And then I promptly tossed them into a box, wrapped them and handed them to my brother. Possibly still warm from the dryer, since I blocked them Christmas morning.

As I was grafting the toes, I told myself happily that now I could take some time off from knitting. Because really, that was an awful lot of knitting and whew. Yeah. A little break would be good.

Which is why, an hour later, I was squinting at five different skeins trying to decide which one was exactly right for a nice, lacy scarf, not too fancy but maybe just moderately, you know, interesting.

This knitting thing. It’s a disease. (But at least it is a warm and fuzzy one.) (REALLY fuzzy, as it turns out – I selected a 100% alpaca that is almost as furry as mohair, which would ordinarily annoy me no end but since it is not sock yarn, I am perfectly content to keep a lint brush handy and enjoy the novelty of the thing.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

“They'll blow their who-hubas! They'll bang their gardinkas!...

…Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise! If there's one thing I hate...oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!" - The Grinch

Guess what it’s like around here this morning? Go ahead! Guess! Need a hint?

Box wrapper

Do note that it is not even fully unwrapped. Ahem. Meet my son, the world rattling famous drummer:

Noise noise noise

This also came with a set of cymbals OH YES IT DID!

The worst thing of all is that this was not inflicted on us by, say, my rotten little brother their loving uncle or perhaps my revenge-seeking mother their doting grandmother, NO!

I bought this drum set for my boy. Me! Myself! Bought it, intentionally. I saw it at Toys R Us and I thought, “Oh! Captain Adventure would love this so much!” and then I bought it for him. And I wrapped it. And I put it under the tree. And then actually gave it to him!

…no, I don’t know what I was thinking, either…

Right now, the house is full of noise-noise-noise-noise.

Boo Bug and Danger Mouse are playing Twister for the very first time in their lives, with their father calling the moves. I’m not sure which is louder, the squeals from the girls or the shouts of laughter from their daddy.

Captain Adventure can’t decide what he wants to do most – bang the drum set? Play with the racetrack? Throw the new wooden trains through a window? SO MANY CHOICES! He’s buzzing around the Den like an over-caffeinated bee, literally careening off the walls and showing everybody his new stuff. (It doesn’t help that Santa stuffed their stockings with chocolate coins, gingerbread cookies, and a Rice Krispy treat in a size that defies description.)

There were whistles and plastic harmonicas in the Christmas crackers. The drum and cymbals. The Twister game, the racetrack set. New dresses…and if you think clothing is a quiet kind of present, you have not been around three fashion divas who do not receive many “party dresses” in the average year.

The squealing was epic.

The only relatively quiet kid in the house is Eldest. See, she received a new wireless card for her laptop (which is so old I think it is somewhat miraculous that a) any modern wireless card would work with it and b) it can actually, you know, surf the Internet with anything that could be called reasonable speed), and the whole entire world (or at least, that part of it our perhaps overly zealous parental controls will permit) is now at her fingertips.

We may not hear from her again for a week. Except when she emerges to yell, “GUYS! Come see the cool game I found!!”, which will be swiftly followed by pounding footsteps up the stairs and a pair of voices shrieking, “COOL!!!!!” from her inner sanctum bedroom.

Nossir. The Grinch would not be happy around here this morning.

But for us, it’s a glorious tintinnabulation, a raucous celebration of unbridled childhood happiness. The one time of the year when our children are indulged, immersed to their armpits in gifts, doted upon, permitted to eat solid blocks of sugar for breakfast, petted and pampered and spoiled absolutely rotten.

It’s a good day to be a kid around here.

And a good day to be a parent, too.

Hope your holidays are full of the noises you love best, gang.

…now. Where did I put the ibuprofen…?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I am not very accepting

My Daily OM horoscope today is all about Accepting Uncertainty.

The important life decisions you are facing today could make you feel like being more cautious…Since we can’t control the ways in which our future unfolds, it is important for us to learn to find the balance between discretion and acceptance of uncertainty.


OK, OK, I’m having one of my “frozen due to excesses of Important Decisions” moments right now. And by “moments” I mean “months.”

Or perhaps I mean quarters, since really I’ve been in this kind of state since my husband’s “real” job went *poof!* at the beginning of October.

I am not accepting uncertainty particularly well right now – even though I have no choice. It’s not like me saying, “I don’t accept that I can’t know what is the right/wrong choice here” is going to change the fact that we are awash in factors outside of our control and that really, there is no “right” or “wrong” choice to make.

It’s all a matter of degrees. Whether I go with Insurance Choice A or B, there will be some percentage of wrong, and some percentage of right. Neither will be perfect. Neither will be unfathomably horrible.

What is horrible is the “none of the above” option. The option where I just sit here and do nothing, hoping that maybe it will all either resolve itself, or somehow become, you know…clear.

But I’m really struggling anyway. I know that the only bad choice here would be no choice at all, and that it will be OK because, well, what’s the worst that can happen, really? So, just…go ahead. Do the best you can with the knowledge you have now, and then just relax and enjoy the ride, right?

After all, my horoscope insists that:

By realizing that you can’t control the outcome of your decisions today, you will develop a greater peace of mind about what the future holds for you.


So. There you go.

I should be developing greater peace of mind aaaaaaaaany second now…here it comes…peace of mind…arriving shortly…

(hmm…maybe it’s stuck at the post office? After all, it is the busy season for them, right…?)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Yesterday, I had an epifi-…effifin…epifan… made a realization, and it went like this: Holy @*&^@, Christmas is NEXT WEEK?!?!

That’s right folks, you heard it here first! Christmas is in fact next week.

As Dog is my witness, I had somehow convinced myself that it was still three weeks away.

I was convinced of this even though I know that Friday is the last day of school for the Denizens. And that they have two (2) weeks off, one for Christmas and one for New Year’s. Not to be confused with, say, three (3) weeks off before Christmas. Or five weeks off, two before, week of, and two after. Week of, and week after. Period. Starting next week.

I remained unshaken in this belief even though I have been making plans for all the assorted darting around we’re doing because of Christmas next week.

I maintained oblivion even though I not only own a calendar, but use the damned thing DAILY…I just…sort of…I don’t know. Convinced myself that this is not the Christmas you are looking for, and then I moved along.

And then yesterday while I was nervously fidgeting at the chiropractor’s office, I found myself fixated on the calendar hanging on the wall across from me.

Let’s see (she said to herself, trying not to think about the fact that the dude was about to come in there and manhandle a back that feels broken as it is, are we sure this is a good idea?)…there’s today, that’s the fifteenth, gracious me how time flies…soooooo, Friday is the nineteenth, uh-huh, surely is, now, I’m going to need to fit in a {shudder} shopping trip to Modesto between now and Christmas…not today obviously, not tomorrow, hmm, not this week I guess, so I suppose I could do that next week Wedn-HOLY CRAP, THAT’S CHRISTMAS EVE?!?!?!


Which, unlike the word that first popped to mind upon having it, does not have an ‘f’ in it.

I am making time for the stupid shopping trip tomorrow. I do not actually have the time, so I am hoping that I actually do have magic powers over the space-time continuum and can shove about three extra days into this week.

So. Just FYI: Christmas is next week.

You might want to pass it on, in case somebody you know is also an idiot date-challenged.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Selfishly holding on through gift making

I was sitting in the gallery at Eldest’s gymnastics center, galloping toward the toes of the then-current sock in progress, gleefully checking off another gift from the list of Christmas knitting and busily pondering the riveting and all-consuming question of which yarn and pattern would be best for the next person on the list, when I was approached in that sideways direction Muggles often take when they’re about to make a comparison between what you’re doing and something they saw recently at WalMart.

“I’ve never seen anybody doing that,” she exclaimed. “So, is that…weaving?”

“Ah, no, it’s knitting.” Weaving, huh? That’s a new one.

“I thought knitting was two needles?”

Blah blah blah socks on four DPNs, yadda yadda in the round yes it is pretty cool.

“So, where do you get the, uh, the stuff, to make those?”

“Oh, well, we have a really nice yarn store right downtown – she carries everything you’d need to get started. Sock Hop on Friday nights, come on down, she’ll teach you how and everything!” Just call me the walking Yarn Store Billboard…

“Sooooooooo…how much does it…you know, how much is that…” Ahem. Yes. Here comes the WalMart comparison…

“Well, that depends. The needles you only need to buy once…” (unless you lose them all the time like I do, in which case you buy them four or five times and then you start finding them all again and then you have Storage Issues because for heaven’s sake how are you going to keep thirty-seven 2.25mm double pointed needles “neatly contained” somewhere, but let’s not talk about that right now) “…so, you know, that’s about five bucks once and you use them forever. The yarn…”

Oh, the pause that happened there. It hung heavily in the air between us. I knew I was inviting the squeak of, “But you can buy six pairs for three dollars at WalMart!” explosion.

Still, there are no two ways around it. Making socks instead of buying them at WalMart is not economical. I’m not making socks for Christmas gifts because I’m trying to be cheap, and if you factor in the number of hours it takes me to finish each one, Good Grief.

These are, like, a $900 pair of socks.

(I’m not a fast knitter – determined, yes; fast, no) (willing to overlook the housework as much as I must to get the job done? oh hell yes!, because as all’y’all know, I am all about the noble sacrifices…my gracious, I would much rather be scrubbing a toilet right now, but it is my sacred duty to handknit something with love in the stitches for my rotten little beloved and only brother)

The silence hung there and grew for a second.

“Wellllllllllll,” I offered at last, right before the Bubble of Silence popped and spurted Awkward all over us. “See, OK. You can get enough sock yarn for a pair of socks for anywhere from, uh, well, let’s see. This here is from an online store called KnitPicks, and it costs about $4 a ball…and you need two of them for a pair, so that’s $8 for the pair.”

“Wow,” she said. I was waiting for the WalMart comment, and sure enough…I got one. Different store name, and a different sentiment, though.

“Wow. And that’s so unique. It’s nothing like what Old Navy is selling for five bucks right now. That’s only three dollars more, but they look really expensive.”

I almost yelled, “HA! YOU’RE NO MUGGLE!!!!! REVEAL YOURSELF, CRAFTER!!”, but figured blowing her cover in public like that might not be my most tactful move ever.

“Well, yeah…so, this is about the least expensive you can go, and then, well. OK. So, I made this other pair a little bit ago? I used a hand painted [brief digression while the concept of ‘hand painted’ yarns is discussed] yarn, see, and those…well, those cost $25 just for the yarn. But, OK, so, the thing is? I made them for my grandma because I had made her a shawl for her birthday out of a silk yarn that was painted in the same exact colors.” There was a pause while we both contemplated the crazy that this is. “So it’s like…you know…a theme gift. Sort of.”

There was another long pause. She watched me twiddling the yarnovers, moving around and around and around the four double pointed needles for a while.

“That is really smart. I mean, you go out and buy something for twenty five bucks and, what are you going to get? I could get my sister one of those $10 scarves at Old Navy but, you know, she’s going to know it’s a cheap $10 scarf. She shops there too, you know? I spend $25, it’s still going to be on cheap crap.”

You are SO TOTALLY a crafter, I thought. What is it, beading? Scrapbooking? Quilting? C’mon, give…you’re SO not a Muggle…

“Do you do any crafts?” I asked casually. (Because I am not a bit nosy, just making idle conversation and all.) (Shut up.)

“No. I don’t have the time,” she tucked her hands under her armpits, snickered and corrected herself. “I don’t make the time. Look at you. You’re making the time, huh?”

“When I’m sittin’, I’m knittin’,” I admitted. Soon I was whizzing around the toe decreases. The socks would be blocking before bedtime, and I’d be rooting through my sock yarn drawer searching out the next pair.

As I began grafting the toes together, she leaned over to watch. I showed her the crazy-talk that is the Kitchener stitch, and explained that it made a good strong seam that wouldn’t let any cold in (unlike drawing up the stitches, where there’s often a little hole right at the tip), or leave an uncomfortable lump under my Undisclosed Future Recipient’s big toe.

“You know, I really need to learn how to do that,” she said, with surprising force. Usually those words are spoken dreamily, in tones that make it clear this is merely a social nicety, and should not be construed as an invitation to inform the speaker of all the various ways and means by which they could learn before sundown this very day.

“Well, Kathy would be delighted to show you how,” I said. “Her yarn store is right downtown, by the big Bank of America building.”

“I think it’s the kind of thing everybody should be doing,” she insisted. Before I could admit that there were people who would rather hang by their thumbs than take up knitting, she reached out and poked at the sock. “This takes a lot of thought. I mean, you have to think about size and color, and…and…what stuff to use, and things like lumps in the toes…”


“You have to think a lot about each person on your list, when you make things for them.”


“It’s personal. It’s really, really personal. It’s…well, it’s like…I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”

Well…I’m afraid I do know where you’re trying to go, there. I’m terribly sorry, my dear, but you’ve been bitten by a rather dangerous little bug. The symptoms might be purely seasonal, and may go away on their own…but then again, they might not.

So, uh, you might want to think about clearing out some storage space for whatever craft you’re about to take up. Just in case.

Because, girlfriend…you’re feeling the need to give yourself to the people you cherish. You’ve got that vague itchy feeling that you want to give things that aren’t merely things, but things you’ve created specifically for this one person.

Something with some of your own sweat, and blood, and tears, and maybe a choice cuss word or two, woven right on into the fabric. With love, dammit!

It isn’t about trying to spend less money. Shoot, if it was, I wouldn’t have moved on to the Lorna’s Laces for the next sock, trust me. This particular infection is an utterly selfish, utterly absorbing need to hold onto the experience of giving to this person longer. To think about them as you dig through the yarn store (or your stash, if you’re lucky enough to have a big enough one to be able to “shop” it) to find a color and fiber that suits them, to hold them in your mind as you flip through pattern after pattern, matching the style to them and the yarn…and then each time you pause to look at what you’re doing, to think about the next steps, as you’re creating the Something for them, you’re bringing them back into your mind again and again and again.

Some people just get the seasonal version. After the holidays, it fades for a while. Lies dormant through the summer, and only returns when the festive seizure season is upon us and we’re trying to find gifts to express our love and affection for those closest to us…and finding everything comes up short, somehow, no matter how high the price tag goes.

Some of us get the incurable form of the disease. In the ‘knitting’ version of it, we’re shopping for Christmas-gift yarn by January, and putting sticky notes on patterns all year around. We’ve got drawers dedicated to stashing the gifts we finish in February, and are constantly on the lookout for sales on empty gift boxes.

We also manage to tell ourselves that spending caps don’t count if you use stash yarn. Sure, granted, the cap is technically $25 for this particular gift exchange and technically the Schaefer Andrea is $52 a skein but!, see, I bought it, what, two years ago? So it’s a sunk cost, and I’m sure if you add in a little depreciation, it’s sure to be under $25 by now, right…?

Besides, what the Muggles don’t know won’t get me busted. And if there’s one thing Muggles really don’t grasp well, it’s how much a skein of hand dyed, 100% cultivated silk runs out there in the retail yarn world.

It’s a sad, sad condition. And worst of all, we think we’re happy, enfolded in warm fuzzies, aglow with the happy task of making by hand that which could be purchased for five bucks at a discount retailer near us.


And Lord, I hope they never do find a cure…because those socks are the perfect color for my Undisclosed Future Recipient, and I think they turned out rather well. For the inquiring minds, they were the Girly Girl socks designed by Robin Fouquette, from Interweave Press’Socks. The yarn is KnitPicks Essentials, in Burgundy.

The sock blockers are relatively new, and I am amazed that I went without them for so long because having owned them for, what, four months, I can’t imagine life without them:

Girly Girl socks

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exciting news, or what passes for it around here

Captain Adventure has finally started using the potty again. I know, I know. HOW NICE, THANK YOU FOR SHARING GEEZ WHAT IS IT WITH PARENTS AND WANTING TO TELL US ALL ABOUT THEIR KIDS’ TOILET HABITS?!?!?!?!

But what makes this exciting is that, well, first of all, he’s four, for Pete’s sake. FOUR. 1-2-3-4. Almost halfway through four, actually, and he has steadfastly refused to even admit a potty exists since a brief flirtation/fascination with it a year ago.

I was beginning to wonder if I would be packing the Pull-Ups in his briefcase when he headed off to work.

But what makes this extremely exciting to me is that he has started not only using the potty, but insisting on using it, RIGHT NOW because he has finally, finally, finally begun to understand the if-then statement.

One of his developmental delays has been around this ability to grasp things like, FIRST we do this, THEN we do that.

IF you do this, THEN you get that.

IF you do that again, THEN I will scream until my voice gives out, you little @*^&@.

He had trouble even with very immediate, very direct things. FIRST sit at the table, THEN I will give you juice.

Honey, sit down. Sit down, and I will get you juice. No, don’t start crying, I’m getting you juice – but I want you to sit down first. Sit down. See? I’ve got the cup. I’ve got the juice. You sit down, right there, at the table, and I will hand you the…sit down. Sit down first. If you sit down, I will hand this to you.

And he stands there reaching out imploringly, screaming like someone is driving bamboo under his toenails. Why won’t the woman just give me the juice?!


So the other night, he was skipping around and around and around the coffee table…and then he suddenly stopped and assumed an expression most parents of toddlers recognize immediately. A look of extreme concentration.

Definitely there is some action going on.

“Hey, Captain Adventure, do you need to go potty?” I asked. He shook his head no and grunted. Uh-huh.

“Hey, buddy, I think you need to go potty,” I suggested. This is a delicate thing. Push too hard and he’ll go into meltdown…but at the same time…COME ON, KID!!! I’ve been changing diapers non-stop for more than ten years, cut me a break, will ya?!?!

“No,” he gasped. Not gonna do it. No way, no how, I like me m’Pull-Ups…

“Hey. Captain Adventure? If you use the potty, then you can pick a treat from the bas-” ZOOM! He was in the bathroom with his pants down working mightily toward getting a treat. “-ket.”

Whoa. Behold the power of the Reward Basket, people! He did it twice yesterday, and this morning flat out refused to come out of the bathroom until he had done some business…and collected a reward. He was within moment of having to get on the bus without any breakfast, but by God, he went in the potty and got a bag of fruit snacks.

I almost sprained my wrist giving Daddy a high five.

These are the things that you just never think you will get all swoon-y about, when you envision raising children. I mean, sure. There’s a definite thrill involved as a child graduates from diapers to potty for the parents. Each time, I was relieved that there was one more little bottom I didn’t have to wipe five-six-ten times a day, ya know?

But Captain Adventure adds a unique kind of joy to these mundane domestic moments. Things that our typically-developing daughters achieved to little more than a sigh of relief, or an absent-minded, “Wow, smart kid, huh?”, from him bring tears to our eyes.

Each time we can talk him away from a meltdown, each time we can use reason when he’s heading for a hissy fit, each time he thinks something is cool and wants us to see it, too…little things I frankly took for granted with my other children.

Each time he hurts himself and comes to me for cuddles and kisses…each time he asks for a favorite show by name…each time he uses specific words to tell me what he wants…each time I understand him…each time he understands me…it’s a thrill of victory.

He understands that if he uses the potty, then he can select a reward from the basket. And he understood it without me having to get the basket and lead him to the potty, and hold the basket in front of him saying, “IF you use the potty, THEN you can have something from this…” and physically leading him through what I was trying to say…with him just not getting it and going hysterical because he doesn’t want that potty-thing, he wants the reward, he wants the reward, he wants the reward, why are you not giving me the reward, it’s right there, RIGHT THERE IN YOUR HANDS…!!!!! NO, NOT THE POTTY-THING, THE REWARD! ARGH!!!!

He could see the basket in his mind’s eye, and understood what I was saying without having to be physically taken there. He got it, and he acted on it.

My God, it’s exciting, heady stuff.

Or what passes for it, around these parts.

Tune in next time, when I’ll get all dewy-eyed because Danger Mouse remembered something she was only told 7,176 times to do.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A cut above

Right before the cold weather descended in earnest, I got a haircut. Not my usual haircut. Not the ‘why don’t we just neaten up the ends’ request my Supercuts team is accustomed to, oh no.

I went and did it.

My hair is now officially short. Really short. Short-like-a-boy short.

Right before winter. Because I am always thinkin’.

It has been what you might call an adjustment. While the cut has gotten good reviews from people (once they pick their jaws off the ground, anyway), it still…well, it kind of freaks me out. In unguarded moments, I forget I’ve gotten a haircut, and then I’m all, “OH MY GAWD, TERMITES HAVE EATEN MY HAIR OR SOMETHING!!!!!”

OK, I don’t actually forget-forget. I remember the instant after I’ve done a startled double-take upon passing a mirror. Whoa, there’s some short-haired chick in my bathroom! Oh wait, that’s me…

I’ve been pondering getting this haircut for months. Months. I’ve been carrying around a picture of a model in my iPod for months-months-months, telling myself that c’mon, now, really – if you’re not going to “do” your hair, for Pete’s sake, do something about it.

I had the kind of long hair that looked fantastic, if I spent, you know, half an hour or so messing with it.

No, I don’t really know what that means. “Spending time on your appearance” doesn’t really appear in my dictionary, either.

I also regularly neglected to shampoo it, even though in recent years my scalp has gone from “normal” to “oily” and there is simply no way that I can go a day without a shower and honestly believe that nobody will notice.

They may be too nice to say anything, but I’m pretty sure they do notice.

Then finally, things began to really go downhill with my hair. It was heavy, dull, had split ends all the way up to my scalp, made me look tired when it was down and lazy when it was up, I hated it with the mad passion of a thousand burning suns…so I burst into Supercuts and got the super-short cut.

My stylist almost fainted.

But even though I did this over a month ago, it still feels weird.

I still find myself occasionally startled because something! touched! my! neck! (It’s called a breeze, and we get them occasionally around here).

I try to stick DPNs into my ponytail. Whoops. No, heh heh, no ponytail back there anymore, heh heh, yeah, I knew that…

My head also still feels lighter, and I find myself reaching up and toying with the shorn ends at the back of my head compulsively. Ohmygawsh, there used to be, like, HAIR…back there…

At this point, I’ve run into about everybody I know in town…but I tell you what, you don’t realize how many people you know until you do something shocking to your appearance and have to explain it to six thousand people, everywhere you go.

“Hey, how’s it going,” I’d say casually.

{Incoherent shriek} {sputter!} {gasp!} “Oh I mean wow! YOU CUT YOUR HAIR!!!!!!!!!”

Why yes, yes I did. Thank you for noticing. And then we’d go through the whole discussion of our hair and how much we hate it and yes, it was a pretty big move and so forth and so on and seems like everybody I know wants to do the exact.same.thing but doesn’t think she has the guts (you don’t need guts to slash your hair short…just momentary insanity will do…) and then four minutes further on into the store, “Hey, how’s it going?” {SHRIEK!!!!!}

Ahem. Yes. I know a lot of people in town.

And now I know this.

Today at drop off, I learned something else: There is a pool going among all this people I know here in town.

One has already been won, which was the how long until she gives up on that whole ‘what a great opportunity to just let it go gray’ natural-kick and dumps a box of dye on her head pool. Yeah. Hair dye happened already. Vanity, thou art my nemesis.

Although actually, it isn’t so much about appearance as feeling. That stupid gray makes me feel old and also tired. I feel tired and old enough just from General Conditions, y’all, I don’t need to look in the mirror and think, Wow, look at all those gray hairs…I must be tired, if I’ve got that many gray hairs… (I don’t know. A psychologist would probably have a field day with me, doancha think?!)

The other pool is whether or not I’m going to keep the short cut. I cut it somewhat shorter last summer, and then let it grow out again right away.

Apparently, a fair number of people are betting good coupons (we don’t bet money around here, we bet coupons, and the occasional $5 Starbucks card if you’re loaded) that I will be sporting a ponytail again by the end of summer.

Oh ye of little faith…besides, I’ve got a $5.00 off $50.00 purchase at Savemart on myself to make it at least to Spring Break 2010…

Coming up this week

One of the things we’re doing to try to keep the overall costs down without making the kids feel like they didn’t get to go or do anything is keeping a sharp eye out for low or no cost fun things to do with kids.

Last week we had the dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker, which could be a little hard for the general public to duplicate – we got our tickets through Captain Adventure’s autism program, and most of the other people in the audience were friends, family or students at the college where the performance was held.

This week’s “big” thing is a bell choir performance being put on in a local library – out in Ripon, California. It’s free, and family-friendly. As a former bell ringer, I’m loving this opportunity to expose my kids to what the heck I’m talking about when I reminisce about being in a hand bell choir.

To find these sorts of things, I look first at the library’s own website. From preschool story time to professional clown performances, bell ringers to arts and crafts, the library offers a nice array of family-friendly stuff to do for little or no cost. In our area, these things are often poorly attended, as well – I suspect because many of us commute long distances, and frankly getting home and organized enough to go back out again in time to arrive by 6:00 at the library is a task beyond most of us.

Another good place to look is in the local newspaper…if you have one. Our little corner of paradise is so small we no longer have a daily newspaper (it comes out a couple times a week these days). You don’t need to subscribe to get the events, just go to Google and put in your nearest big dot on the map. You can easily find stuff like Holiday cheer, a listing from the Stockton Record of parades, festivals, cool places to see bright lights and so forth.

Speaking of which, we’ll probably be giving them just one more week to put on their finishing touches, but it is almost time for our annual “putter around town looking at lights” night. We have some very enthusiastic Christmas decorators around here, with one entire neighborhood taking the thing to extremes each and every year. So, I load up the Denizens and we go for a good old fashioned “little drive,” puttering through the neighborhoods to shriek and giggle about all the lights and statues and whatever-all-else our neighbors have scattered all over their homes.

Sure, a lot of these things are hardly Cirque. The parades aren’t Disney, the craft projects aren’t Martha Stewart, etc. etc. etc.

But they are inexpensive, and local – the thing that made the holiday parade fun wasn’t that it was just ever so brilliant a performance. It was the kids saying, “Oh! That’s officer Steve, he talked at our school!” or “Isn’t that our mayor? He talked at our school, too!”, not to mention the wild screaming and waving when friends from school were in the parade oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh, performing with their cheer squad or gymnastics or church groups.

Yeah. My ears are still ringing from those encounters.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

At the end of the week…

…I have $16 still in my wallet. Not too bad, all things considered. And I suppose this is a lot like casino gambling: If you don’t lose more than you intended to lose when you left the house, you’ve won.

This week was light on groceries ($12) and gasoline ($0 – no fill-ups this week!), but heavy on clothing needs. Two days after I’d done the laundry and put it away, my girls were all running around barefoot claiming they had no clean socks or tights. A drawer inspection concluded that my gut feeling that I had thrown away “an awful lot” of toeless tights and unraveling socks was correct – they were down to about two pairs of socks apiece, and no decent tights.

So I spent $12 on food, and $83 on clothes – but get this. The first almost $60 was on nothing but socks and tights (twelve pairs of the former, nine pairs of the latter). The second $23 got twelve long-sleeved shirt or sweaters for the girls, plus two for me – one of them a dark brown cashmere, hello!, courtesy of the local thrift stores.

One of the shirts I got for the girls is currently sold at Target, right this very minute, for $6.99. New with tags, for $2.50 $1.25, because it had a green tag and on Wednesday, everything with a green tag is 50% off! Which is also why the $5.00 cashmere! sweater cost me $2.50 at the register.

I simply adore green tag Wednesday, don’t you?! (Soft warm milk-chocolate-colored cashmere-ness…I haz it…)

We got our Christmas tree ($65) and went to see a dress rehearsal performance of The Nutcracker ($0). We also half froze to death enjoyed watching our hometown Christmas parade last night (but $0, again) and I just got back a little bit ago from the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea Party, the tickets to which I bought a couple months ago (sunk cost).

Apart from the tree and the foot-coverings at Target, the biggest ticket items this week were actually from the charity auctions and like that. The tickets to The Nutcracker were free, but we did end up putting $20 into the donation box, and another $10 went to stuff from the fundraising table. Pretty good value in exchange for six tickets to the production…even if it was technically a dress rehearsal. It was the perfect venue for our Denizens, who are fidgety and otherwise not exactly cultured.

Captain Adventure was entranced…for the first twenty minutes. Then he wanted to sit on my lap. Then he wanted to chat about Things. Then he wanted to get down, and also he was DONE…which I know, because he turned to me and bellowed, “MOMMY? I DUUUUUUUN!!!” at the top of his little lungs.

Ah, these are the moments in parenthood that you just treasure always. But the girls really enjoyed the performance (in spite of their brother being DUN! DUN! DUN!) and were blissfully unaware of the little things that marked it as a dress rehearsal environment – like the performers’ siblings running up and down the aisles, the ‘interesting’ sound handling and the occasional long…awkward…pause on stage, smiles glued desperately to their faces, arms held stiffly upward…waiting…for the music…to…start…again…aaaaaaaaaaaaany time now…

At the parade, the Red Cross had a silent auction running. I put in a ridiculously low bid on a lot with three handmade bracelets, a bottle of wine and a pair of wine glasses, fully expecting that I’d be outbid within moments.

Instead, well, apparently nobody knew they were there or something. I felt a bit like a thief, but since I was down to my last two twenties and still hadn’t gotten the kids any of the promised hot cocoa or snacks, sheepishly handed over my crummy $20 and took my ill-gotten goods prizes.

$14 in cocoa and hot snacks later, I loaded up the Denizens (and the extra young friend who had come along), came home and counted up my remaining cash. Sixteen bucks and a little change. Not too shabby…granted, I was hoping I’d have a bit more leftover, but hey.

Lots going on. I’m just glad it wasn’t worse – I had the opportunity for a fair bit of madness that I took a long, deep breath and said, “No thanks!” to over the course of the week, from buying new video games to a severely tempting sale at Webs.

The best cheap thing of the week has got to be the cashmere sweater I got for $2.50. WOOT!

The thing that makes me say, “Oh, man!” the most would be the Christmas tree…but frankly, it isn’t that big a groaner. I prefer to support community efforts where I can, and the supermarket conglomerate is not what I would normally consider a Worthy Cause. Their trees stank, the boy scouts had gorgeous ones, and while I really wish my husband had noticed the Douglas firs were less than half the cost and gotten me one (because they are, in fact, my favorite Christmas tree)…oh well.

It is a beautiful tree. It fills our home with that wonderful pine scent, and its trunk will make a nice Yule log for the rest of the year.

It was a good week.

Here’s hoping next week will be better, though, because we have travelin’ to do around Christmas!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Really, I'm working hard...

The cool thing is, this is totally one of my favorite games! Snagged the link from wilderness witch knits...

You Are Boggle

You are an incredibly creative and resourceful person.

You're able to dig deep and think outside the box to get things done.

You are a non linear thinker. You don't like following directions

You draw your inspiration from the strangest places sometimes. You're constantly inspired.

(The training videos? Take boring to whole new levels. Seriously. I was actually nodding off. On the bright side, however, I have finished about 3" of a sock! Yay, instructors who can't see you knitting while they drone on and on and on about management studio and query windows and something about blah blah blah k2b, yo, k3, yo, k2tog, p2...)


The above title captures my entire brain activity right now.


I can’t explain it. I really can’t. It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to do. I have a ridiculous amount to do. I have Christmas decorating and knitting to do, I have housework that has been neglected a tad too long, I have business-related tasks coming out my ears…but somehow, each day goes by and I find myself looking back over it and saying, “Tsk!”

I didn’t get this or that done. The laundry is still all over the coffee table in the playroom. The counter hasn’t been clear of dishes for a fortnight. My bedroom floor hasn’t been swept in weeks.

I mean, really. Pick a task, any task. Pick one! Do it! Finish it! Go-go-go!

But instead…{blank}…

Thus far this week, the only really constructive thing I managed to do was pick up fourteen cold-weather shirts for the kids at $2 apiece from local thrift stores. And three loads of laundry. None of which have been put away, which kind of makes them useless. I mean, if the kids can’t wear their clean clothes, what good is it to wash them?

It’s like having a bad cast of start-itis. I start to do things, but then veer off into something else (or nothing else) and it isn’t until I’m trying to get to sleep that the fact that I didn’t actually accomplish anything occurs to me.

Each night I go to bed vowing to do better tomorrow.

Tomorrow (I say confidently) will be better. Tomorrow, my children will not be allowed to forget to brush their teeth or hair. Tomorrow, I will put away all those clothes, and scrub that whatever it is off the front hall tiles. Tomorrow, I will not give up on everything by 12:30 and spend the rest of the day sulking.

Tomorrow, I will watch the training videos so that I can take the practice tests so I can take the real tests and be named a Microsoft Certified Professional. (Ooooh, aaaaah.) (Gag me, OK? Just gag me. My disdain for such things is rather long-standing, and yet lo, they are becoming the new if you have it, so what…if you don’t, WHY not question. Argh!)

Tomorrow, I will fix our ugly company website. Tomorrow, I will get around to researching liability insurance in case our code brings down the global banking system. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

And here it is, yesterday’s tomorrow, and I’m just all…{blank}

I’m not sad or hopeless or actively avoiding work because I am lazy…I’m just a walking (or parked in front of the computer-ing) null space.

I’m dithering and thinking about maybe getting on with one thing or another, but the rubber just isn’t meeting the road, somehow.

And I suppose that blogging right now probably falls in the “dithering instead of getting on with things” category, huh?


OK. Fine. Training videos it is. But I reserve the right to make gagging noises, roll my eyes pointedly and snort frequently as they enthusiastically tell me how SQL Server 2005 is a powerful data management solution and that Microsoft engineering provides state of the art power to business intelligence.

And then there will be diagrams showing the Magic Circle of data input, storage, retrieval, mining, ‘meaningful reporting’ and so forth and so on. And probably some pictures showing hip young smiling people looking intelligent in carefully pressed shirts with more charts in the background showing profits are up-up-up and a caption about how Analysis Services makes it possible for hip young people in carefully pressed shirts to sit in meeting rooms smiling intelligently at each other with joy and enthusiasm because with the help of Reporting Services they have made a chart! GO TEAM!!!!!!!

(I’m sorry, was that sarcastic…?)

(It’s just that I hate training videos. And taking tests in things I know that I know, but now I have to know what they want me to know, and then there are ten ways to get the same answer and somehow my way is never the way they want me to do it and then they tell me my way is WRONG even though it isn’t wrong because hel-LO! Do we get the same result? YES WE DO. And my way is usually faster. So there. Nyah.)

(I swear, I’m not procrastinating. I’m just sayin’, is all.)

(Fine. Be that way. I’m going. Seriously. This is me, reaching for the training disk…extending my hand…toward the disk set…oh yes! It’s a set! A hideously long, twelve CD set of pictures and charts and sales pitches for Microsoft products training material.)

(I just suddenly remembered that I have something else I need to do right now. Something, uh, downstairs. Something else, which is downstairs, which needs doing right away…)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Attention Coin Collectors

Coinstar has a promotion running right now: Cash in $40 in coins in one go onto one of their participating gift cards or e-certificates, and they will give you an extra $10 when you mail in the bottom of your receipt. Through December 7, 2008 only, so grab those jars and get moving!

Read all about it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Rolling up my sleeves

Oh look. Another holiday in the rearview mirror, Christmas on the horizon, four sparkly-eyed Denizens who by their very unselfish and forgiving natures make the idea of disappointing them unthinkable, and I’m on a “just opened a new business” kind of budget.

So! Game plan time! The question is simple: How to get through this festive season without going into the red.

The first thing I’m doing is opening up my wallet and taking out every last credit card. Believe it or not, it is possible to stagger through a day without one.

The second thing is, I’ll be taking a cash draw at the beginning of the week. That cash is for everything that doesn’t involve an online payment or automatic charge. Groceries, gasoline, gift buying, taking the kids places, everything.

Cash – you know, actual tens and twenties, that stuff? – has an amazing power. It can really force you to reorganize your priorities, when you know that what you hold in your hand is it. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

If you blow through your stash by Thursday, say goodbye to those weekend plans, friend.

Thus far, I have bought precisely one (1) present for the kids. I love the rhyme eclair shared a couple weeks ago…

Something they want
something they need
something to wear
and something to read

…and I’m sticking to it. Unfortunately, I’m still short three wants, four needs, four wearables and four books. Ahem. Well. Nice time to be starting a cash-only accounting method, huh?

But, I do love me a challenge.

So! Each week I will be giving myself a very generous and seasonally adjusted $240 for the buying of Christmas wants, needs, wears and reads, as well as the mundane, routine groceries, gasoline, and all the other etceteras of daily life in these United States.

What I hope to accomplish isn’t so much a trimming down of Christmas as keeping myself in check during a very frustrating and emotionally simmering time. The job market remains tighter than my purse strings, I’m still without my own work to do, we’re all just waiting-waiting-waiting. There is every danger that a bored, frustrated Tama who was just told for the umpteenth time that, while she is exactly what the employer was hoping and dreaming of finding, she is not going to get the job, is going to wander into Big Lots one day while her squirrel-mind is bent on hoarding against a hard winter to come and come home with yes, really, some 8’ or bigger lawn-frackin-ornament with its own generator and lights and holy Moses, what was I thinking?!

Well. What I would have been thinking would be something like this. We’ve worked long and hard, and it is not fair that “everybody else” (oooh boy, here it comes) has Christmas Spirit stuff bedecking their halls while our house looks like (oh yeah, it is on now, baby!) some kind of semi-abandoned Scrooge Lives Here place. We’re both college educated, we both work in high tech arenas where big salaries are normal, surely we deserve and/or can afford a few little things, right?

Next thing I know, I’m backing up a truckload of jingling whatnots we now “deserve” to store for 330 days a year in anticipation of The Season. Nice.

And then I’ll start in with just a few “little” things for the Denizens and before I know it, I’m up until midnight on Christmas eve wrapping crap they don’t want or need because I am not a loser!

Yeah. The Care Bears DVD proves that, for sure. Ahem.

There are times when you have to just know yourself. And I know that even in the best of years, I get somewhat, um, pensive in the wintertime. I have a long, convoluted theory involving sunlight, lack of same, and wearing of long sleeves all the time around it, but the upshot is, I go through “winter blues.”

And no, knowing that it is common doesn’t make it a bit better. I get testier than a bear that should be hibernating, and as irrational as a squirrel when it comes to hoarding. Oh yes, I hoard things through the winter. You slap a sale sign on it, I’ll probably toddle along and pick up a box or three within minutes. Doesn’t have to be something I need, want or even like…if I’ve got an empty inch of space at home, I’ll buy something to cram into it.

The worst part is the food. I buy food like this is the last opportunity, ever to buy it. That’s right, after this sale, I will be forced to survive by wild-crafting along the Delta. Sigh.

Yarn, clothes, food-food-food, books…there’s no real rhyme or reason. I just feel the need to pack my Den with stuff. It doesn’t “make me happy,” in fact it just makes me more anxious…but I do it anyway.

Unless I stop myself, look myself in the eye and say, FIRMLY, “Tama. Honey. You’re doing That Thing again. Knock it off.”

In good years, I can do that. Even in “eh” years, I can keep myself mostly in check.

This, though, has been and continues to be a very bad year. Between the financial stuff and the emotional stuff, and now it is getting cold and the sunlight is getting weaker by the minute (I’m telling you, California Girl over here needs her five-ten minutes of direct, more than 5% of skin exposed sun-cuddling at least a couple times a week)…I’m really worried that I’m going to actually break the hinges on the freezer stuffing it with on-sale stuff, or overload the upper story of the house with all the new toys I felt I just had to get, seeing as how they were 50 to 70% off and all…

It’s just better for all concerned if I ensure any damage done is limited to cash actually on hand, right this minute.

In slow doses, so I don’t blow the entire wad in a single mad romp through Goodwill.

And I do believe I will want to start with a nice weekly menu and a carefully controlled trip to the supermarket, if needed.