Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All hopped up

Thank goodness for over the counter cold medicine. Even though the cold still has me tightly in its grip, I'm able to sleep. And, as any parent who has been through an infancy or two knows, with enough sleep, one can do anything!

Besides the regular cleaning, grading, homeschooling, parenting, and sweeping that is my daily lot, I also learned that double-digging, a la John Jeavons and his crew, isn't bad, especially if you have beautiful, crumbly, moist-cake-crumb soil. One of the compost bins is nice and ready, so I felt very accomplished while spreading it over the bed. Plus, I'm sick enough that running sounds like a very bad idea, so even though this digging made me shake for most of the afternoon, it was at least somewhat active.

The Fuji apples in the front yard have been blooming like it's spring. I don't know if they're on time or just fooled by all of the leftover bath water they've been sucking up. I know some ladies who are pleased by this, though, and it's good timing as not much is in bloom.

The seedlings in the flats are doing well. Besides my own anality, planting carefully in flats would also avoid the carpet of lettuce I'm wrestling with. Planting out teensy leeks

and kales

and spinaches and broccolis and cabbages and lettuces is hard enough when they're not tangled up

all over each other.

I wish the little ones could write clearly enough to do the intensive record keeping I'd prefer. I'll have to think of some other way for them to help.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Photographic evidence

Back from camping, and evidence that Cobblestone is done, blocked and used:

Posing on a huge eucalyptus log (site of many campground games)

And in action, with my sister being Running Woman:

The camping trip was great, although my most apparent souvenir is a walloping head cold. Cold or no cold, laundry goes on -- camping trips seem to about quadruple the amount produced. Fortunately it's a lovely day here to hang out lots of wet clothing.

It's good to be home.

Specs: Cobblestone, by Jared Flood
12 balls of Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed in color 06
size 7 needles
Mods: went down a needle size on cuffs; added waist decreases

I'd go down an additional 10-15% in the sleeves and perhaps the body as well -- it's definitely a guy's sweater, and she's thin enough that it's a big sweater to wear over other shirts. Good for camping!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You're going to have to take my word for it

Because I can't find the jump cord to post the pictures of me dancing in a still-damp post-blocking Cobblestone sweater. I'll just have to take it and the camera on the camping trip and get action shots of its intended recipient modeling it.

If it's cold enough, that is. During my lovely solo run this morning I realized that at the back of each lick of cool morning air, there was the hint, the promise, of another hot day today. It felt like the aftertaste of dark chocolate with chili, just a lazy touch of slight menace.

Only a few thousand student-written words to grade, some packing and loading, animal chores, finding batteries and driving between us and our annual fall homeschool camping trip. I have loved these since I slept on the ground, eight months pregnant with Thing 2. Back to the beach we go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two armpits away

Cobblestone is that close.

Am I kitchenering the armpits closed right now? No I am not. I am, in fact, taking a quick break from grading the first batch of the two assignments from last week. I have to finish grading everything tomorrow because I'm not going to do much for the rest of this week.

And night time is the only time I have that's quiet enough for me to get a batch of grading done. Partly it's me -- I can't concentrate on this rather odious task when I might be interrupted at any moment. I even get to the point where I enjoy it -- how many different ways can you say, "Thanks for your effort. I hope your partners benefited from your feedback" and not go crazy? How many times can you use the same cut and paste comment?

Unfortunately I've been experiencing some very weird energy peaks and valleys lately. I'm useless from about noon to four, experience a grouchy burst of energy until about seven, then can manage a level set of tasks until 9:30 or so. Then I want to sleep. Today was the first run in a few days -- I think this might explain it.

Great. Now I have to run for one more external reason. Just one more thing that I enjoy more in the doing than the anticipating. Or, in the case of grading, in the avoiding.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Two sweaters done!

Well, okay, not really. Not at all, in fact.

But look -- enough yarn in total to completely finish my sister's sweater and a beautiful cone of laceweight alpaca silk from Webs. They're posed on a tiny portion of our new bed o'mint, in keeping with the "If I can't eat it, I don't want to grow it" front yard theme.

I hope that green becomes a lovely and springlike Deep Breath Sweater, and not a screaming chartreuse one. Thing 1 muttered that yarn "wasn't interesting" when I opened the boxes. Well, she can just see if she gets to wear any results!

Goodness knows I can use all the deep breathing I can get. Here's the Things jumping their new "bike ramp"

. . . and I'm sure our neighbor is thrilled.

And I made the Stitch and Pitch gallery -- no one can resist snails! Must finish mitten #2, and I promise not to touch that alpaca silk until then. Really, truly.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thanks, Mr. Jerk!

I was just uploading my pictures from Friday, so thank you. Thank you for jumping into my family's picture as some nice random stranger was taking it for us. Thank you for jumping out again fast enough that when the nice random stranger lady said, "Some guy got into your picture," I thought she meant that someone had inadvertently wandered through. Thank you for choosing a moment when my camera battery was so low I worried I wasn't going to get out of the Academy of Sciences building with it still working, so I didn't ask her to retake the picture.

And if anyone out there knows this man? Tell him he's too old to be acting like a moron.

Everyday Miracles

As I said, the seeds want what the gardener wants. Kale, lettuce, carrots, all up in three days. Thickly, thickly sown, most of them. I'll be potting up and giving away seedlings for weeks.

And another wonder? Someone from Ravelry sold me yarn cheaply that wasn't for sale, so I can finish the Cobblestone. I'm a fortunate woman.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mrs MacGregor it isn’t

Thinking about patience and ways to exercise it always invites the universe to offer you ways to do so.

My sister and I have an experiment brewing – just how much of our food supply can we grow ourselves? We talk about it, we walk around our yards, waving our hands and envisioning different arrangements, different systems. We read books by John Jeavons, we price irrigation contractors, and rooftop growing beds. Where to put even more beehives? How much broccoli does your family want? Do we really have to move that shed? Why isn’t there more sun in this corner? Can I double the garden if I change a path into a walkway only?

And then I look at my garden area, and I sigh. Two years now, it’s lain fallow except for the hardy perennials and free-seeding annuals. I remember gardens when I had enough tomatoes to can all we needed, gardens with what felt like an endless parade of bounty, and I wonder where they went. When I look at the kale gone to seed, it's hard to believe that this will once again work as a garden.

So, with Eric’s concrete belief in the form of seed flats, I started planting today for the fall. My seed box used to be well-organized.

There has to be a good system for seed saving. Little bottles with corks? A notebook? We’ll start this experiment with messy seeds and see how it goes.

The patience part came when I realized how many years I’ve been pouring seeds into little hands and trying to get them to direct the seeds into some limited area.

Planting flats is like working meditation for me, calming, centering, but not with so many eager helpers.

Then it’s a different kind of meditation, one in which I repeat, “Give me patience, give me quiet. Appreciate they’re interested. Don’t mind that she’s just eaten a handful of carrot seeds – oh, ye gods, give me patience, breathe, breathe.”

Every parent probably knows the kind of “pleasant” talk which is really designed to push the kids into doing something else: “Want help with that, sweetie?” It’s not helpful, it’s controlling, and it’s probably better to say, “I cannot stand watching you do this for another nanosecond – aaagh, give me that right this instant” instead.

And yet, somehow, they're sown -- not as neatly as I would have done, but done nonetheless. Given the wonderful collusion between seeds and gardener -- we both want the same thing, after all -- there will be food in my yard again. I may even try growing some compost crops, just for yucks.

I'll try to remember the crop I'm really growing, though.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Little bit at a time

About some things I'm pretty patient, willing to wait a really long time; others, not so much. Weird, swinging from "Now, now, now!" to "All in good time. . . breathing, breathing." Hee.

Thing 2 is learning that a hat doesn't grow without patient additions of stitch after stitch -- that just doing it is the key. She keeps showing me the stripes and how they're growing. Now the magic loop isn't as necessary, because it's grown enough to stretch -- both around the needle and around her head.

My commitment to daily spinning (and the consequent patient attendance for each Things' piano practice) leaves me only six or so inches of roving left. . . on the first half. Almost a full bobbin of laceweight singles.

I figure by November I'll be plying something that's going to add up to light fingering weight yarn. I'm looking forward to putting something different on the wheel. Alpaca, maybe? Or bamboo/wool mixed. So many beauties to choose from.

It appears that the Ravelry magic has come through. By importuning everyone who had that orange tweed in their stash (some of whom hadn't intended to sell), I've gotten enough to get the sweater done. Once it shows up, of course.

Patience, patience.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Not enough yarn, too much. . . I don't know

Today had some energy in it that really left me shaken and upset. My heart rate late this morning probably matched me when I was out running sprints at the beach earlier, and I'm feeling a little shaky right now just typing this.

Funny thing is that I don't like conflict. It's bad enough when it's with someone I love or care for -- at least there the conflict has something else underneath it, the awareness of connection and caring to return to, usually. But conflict with people "out there" leaves me feeling rocked to the core, no matter what self-talk I do.

I heard yelling out front, "You'll hurt yourself! Get down!" And I wandered out to check. Things 2 and 3 were slithering out of a streetside tree, and I looked around. . . nobody. But they were looking up at the neighboring apartment house, and there was a face looking back at them.

A woman, upset, saying, "You could fall and get hurt and not be able to walk again!"

So I approached her and said, "It's okay with me if they climb the tree."

"It's not okay with me! They could get hurt!" She repeated some variations on this theme.

I agreed: "You're right. They could get hurt. It's still okay with me."

"It's not okay with me! I'm calling the police."

"You may certainly do that. How about I call the city and see if there's any ordinances about tree climbing."

"I'm calling the police! They could get hurt!"

So I wandered back inside, after corralling Thing 3 and telling him he couldn't stand and argue with her (he's clearly going to be a lawyer or legislator or something argumentative -- an agitated street person, perhaps?). I called the non-emergency police line and asked my questions about laws pertaining to climbing city trees (and I don't know if this is a city tree -- I think we're responsible for it, actually). I noticed my hands were shaking and my heart rate up. I took a slow, conscious breath every time the "on hold" beep sounded.

There aren't any laws or regulations or anything. They don't want the trees hurt, and they certainly don't want to be sued if the kids fall and crack their skulls. That makes sense. When they asked if I wanted an officer out, I thought of my friend who's a police officer here and thought I'd just talk to her if I wanted to. "No, thank you," I said, "not today."

Since we had friends over, our day went on. I set up toys, my friend and I chatted, the kids played the piano and herded the poultry around. Then there was a knock at the door.

Three guesses?

Two uniformed of our city's finest stood there. Feeling incredibly lucky that we'd picked up and vacuumed, I asked them in, said, "You must have been contacted by our neighbor!" and we started. Before we really got going, his radio went off and he took off -- sirens, even, which means something in this sleepy urban village.

The other officer took a seat and we began. She hadn't spoken to the neighbor, so I recounted my side of the story and mentioned that I was doing well to keep the children off of the roof. She said that nothing I was telling her was outside of normal kid behavior, and mentioned that breaking an arm falling out of a tree might be a good lesson. I concurred. She said that the neighbor hadn't been happy after talking to the other officer, so that seemed positive. She made a face when the neighbor was identified as a renter, and us as homeowners. That made me feel funny. She agreed there was no law against them doing this, and then told me she was the school resource officer. When I'd identified the kids as homeschooled, she said that she gets called out whenever there are kids involved. She took my information and wanted to look at the children. They apparently passed the "not beaten, hale and hearty" test, because she just said hi to them and then laughed when they insisted she tell the neighbor that they could climb the trees.

I think the neighbor ended her call with, "And they're never in school!" Just what we need -- perhaps there's a CPS call in our future. Whoopie.

It took an hour, but the kids persuaded me to let them go out and climb again. No shouts from the neighbor this time. I did have them sweep up any leaves they knocked down, and reminded them that behaving nicely out front might go some way toward shaping this woman's view of them as homeschooled children.

Who am I trying to kid? They're going to keep on doing what they do, and I'm going to deal with it as well as I can and hopefully they won't walk the ridgepole any time soon.

As I think of the morning now, with slightly fewer sympathetic nervous system inputs, I am just. . . tired about it. Maybe the poor neighbor knows someone who was greatly harmed in a fall from a tree -- it's pretty high, and it's over cement. Maybe she doesn't. Maybe she thinks I'm a terrible parent, or they're wild, out-of-control children. I'm sorry we don't live on a wooded farm, with big animals for my children to work off some of their enormous energy on. I'm sorry that her caring about my children's welfare feels intrusive and annoying. I'm sort of weird still about the renter/owner split -- the landlord of that apartment building lives down the street. I look inside of me for graciousness, and there's some there, but it's in a pretty empty bucket today. There's been a lot of intense discussions in our homeschooling support group lately, and it feels like this is rasping away at the same sore spots. I can hold good intentions toward the woman who called the police, but I don't want to talk to her or take her peanut butter cookies, or thank her for her concern. I want to be left alone, mostly. I want to struggle with my children, to help urge them toward adulthood with support from others but less criticism. I want thicker skin and a steadier heart.

I guess I should probably run more.

In other news, even though I tried to spend $137 on more orange tweed plus enough white/gray tweed to make myself my own sweater, it was to no avail. Apparently there's a worldwide shortage of Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed (curses on a yarn company which ends lines of yarns only to bring out imposters in replacement. So there, Donegal Aran Tweed!). I'm wandering around Ravelry, cap in hand, Paypal at the ready, but so far have only scored one ball. Sigh. Now I have to figure out how to make certain that my money is refunded to Paypal.

Oh, and it apparently does pay to be young and cute, instead of old and greying. Not that I'd know but Thing 2 was the only one to get an unofficial yarn giveaway yesterday at the A's Stitch'n'Pitch. Photos apparently will be up later -- look for more of our little group.

The nice lady from Article Pract let her choose a skein from a basket and she got a sweet pink tencel/cotton blend and two nice Crystal Palace straight needles. I think I'm going to work her up a little neck warmer or something. It's that soft.

Maybe tomorrow will be a lighter day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

. . . And then we're going to Japan

. . . Yup yup yup. Humor from my childhood. At any rate, Thing 2 and I are getting ready to go to the Oakland A's game for the Stitch and Pitch. Bag packed, and I'm looking forward to it. The nice people at KnitPicks replaced the broken cable with no problem, so her hat in progress is ready and I have two possible projects to work on. Not the Cobblestone, of course, though I did finally get a picture up. (Go see how close I am.)

So while I'm not knitting on that, I'm going to broach a subject that isn't usually discussed in polite company. Not what Suzee hinted at in her comments, although that was clearly the joke I was making -- running out of yarn is intensely frustrating -- but money and money management.

So here's a deep dark secret about me. I have some teflon-coated spaces in my brain, apparently. These spaces are where patterns for knitting lace would reside, along with the "knowing-where-your-wallet-is" and fiscal understanding. Pretend that you don't know these things about me, okay? Eric and I bonded over plumbing (a pastime which has continued), but one of the other first things he did for me was help me find the missing $5.00 or so in my checkbook. And this pattern has continued in our marriage.

Eric loves money management. He reads books about investing, dreams about investing, walks around knowing our balance sheet in his head all the time, and can rattle off a financial plan for our lives for the next ten years.

I nod and try to look marginally competent.

But really, I'm one of those women whose husband could be squirreling away money for some secret project or funding some bizarre political plot, and I'd never know.

Not that he's doing anything like that, but I have a hard time retaining information in that slippery brain part. And yet, I'm enough a product of the real world that I feel badly about this lack in my understanding and participation.

Okay, I'll do the obligatory here. I participate -- I am naturally pretty frugal, and I discuss big financial decisions in what I like to believe is a fully-participatory way -- but I don't have a grasp on any big picture, and not because Eric isn't trying to involve me. But if I were on my own, I wouldn't be able to sustain this spacey relationship to things like money and bills. [Realistically? I'd make my sister help me, but let's pretend that wouldn't be an option.]

I'm fortunate in that I have a trustworthy and super-competent spouse, but that doesn't relieve me of the responsibility to use my God-given brain, fuzzy spots and all. And back to my concerns about how I measure up against other moms? I'm envious of my money-savvy friends. So I'm reading a new book I got from the library: The Financially Confident Woman, by Mary Hunt. There are things about this book that get under my skin. It's breezily Christian in outlook, and probably the kind of Christian that I'm not, and it's aimed at women. I can think of at least one man, though, who might do well to run right out and read this.

So I'm reading that, and we are writing down every penny that goes out of our hands, trying to catch up on anything we missed during our week on Sunday evenings using the accounts we can access on the computer. Getting a handle on our spending seems to be the first and best way for me to get my mind, which works from the concrete to the general about money, around our big picture.

You may be totally on top of your money, and probably are able to knit complicated lace patterns by heart. I'm glad that there are basic helps out there for those of us for whom "Yup, yup yup" equals money understanding.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sweaterus Interruptis

The Cobblestone for my sister (doesn't that sound as though it should be the entire name of the sweater now?) is racing toward completion. I've even managed to drag up the technique for picking up the wraps on short rows out of my overstuffed brain and am now just about into the last series of decreases and short rows. After what felt like a painfully slow start, this project is breaking land speed records now. I'm reviewing kitchenering because I want pretty underarms, I'm thinking of making a Day of Sweater Washing when I block this baby, pulling in all the hand knits for a lovely group bath, I'm imagining my sister being able to wear a hug from me. . .


Except that I only have about a meter of yarn left.

Unwilling to believe that it was true, I wandered through my yarn pit, looking for more orange tweed. I found orange yarn, and I found tweed. But I found no more of this particular orange tweed yarn. Drat.

Excitingly enough, I found a fingerless mitt that I knit for one of the little ones last year, so I suppose I'll knock out a matching one while I'm waiting for the couple more skeins of orange tweed I just ordered tonight to come. I hope I don't lose my downhill momentum while I'm waiting. I was getting pretty excited about seeing this done.

And I will update this post with pictures tomorrow. Really.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Homestead Roundup

Two of the turkeys are toms. They stamp their turkey feet, spread their impressive tails, and show off. The hen just sort of peeps forlornly and wanders off. But really, the toms have faces that only a hen could love, I assume. They're not going to get more beautiful, either. I still kind of like them.

Hen face:

The middle Things are greatly enjoying their kung fu classes. I'd heard good things about this studio, in terms of the interaction between the instructors and students, and I'm a believer now. Enthusiastic, truly loving in the way they expect only the best from their students, and inspiring.

I watched one of the young instructors jump and throw a roundhouse kick above his head yesterday. And I thought, the way I do when I see dancers, "I wish my body could do that."

The kids want to get their hands on the weapons on the wall. I can only assume that they will, and you know? I'm pretty okay with it.

I declared a holiday from schoolwork on Tuesday and my sister and I went out to the berry patch for a soulful goodbye. It might not be our actual last picking, but the berries are showing signs of wear. The last hot spell turned many into dried out bits of former goodness, and the production cycle is slowing down -- not very many blossoms anymore.

But we got enough to finish off our season, and tried out some new recipes back at home. As I carried full boxes of jam downstairs, I felt a sense of bittersweet closure. As sure as the yoke for the Cobblestone sweater is growing, cold weather is coming and this years' fruit crop will end. But I can breathe in the sweetness that was this summer every time I open a jar.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Aw, rats

Actual conversation in the car, while driving The Child Who Could Have Ridden Her Bike:

Me: "I want to be Chrissy Hynde when I grow up."

Her: "You are grown up."

Monday, September 8, 2008

On Fire

That's what Eric says whenever I say I'm hot -- "You're on fire, baby."
Nyuk nyuk.

I took only Thing 2 to The Crucible on Saturday, because she was the only available and interested child. And I only got pictures after my camera-toting sister showed up with her Things too, because I could only remember to go, not to record.

As we got there, a dance troupe was performing. Young women moving to throbbing drums, their bodies as sinuous as molten glass. No pictures, but really, without the vibration of the drums pounding through your body, it wouldn't be the same.

We watched a glassworker change a block of layered glass into a cone of layered glass in the kiln -- it reminded me of how I carefully turn my marshmallows around in the glow of campfires so they'll brown evenly and also stay on the stick. We tried to watch some welding, but it was difficult and we couldn't hear what the artist was saying (those drums). So we wandered upstairs.

The space is a huge industrial warehouse, with sort of alcoves for different arts, such as woodworking, neon, blacksmithing. I really thought of all my children, this is the one who will want to take classes here. Fortunately, she's old enough to now.

Maybe she's on fire, too.

After watching the fire eaters, and hearing that they offered a one-day fire eating workshop, her eyes simply glowed. I had to tell her that she had to wait on that one.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Look who's watching over me at night

Wonder what kind she is?

And I'm glad I don't have to spin to eat -- I'd lose even more weight!

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Meg quite reasonably offered to change the subject -- and I think that's a good thing.

So, something that's been knocking around upstairs for a while now. One of the truly unpleasant characteristics I practice is that of judging other people. Like losing my temper, it seems to happen in a flash, without conscious thought.

I'm most aware of it when I'm brought up short -- when my judgments are proved wrong, or shortsighted, or the role they play in my life (probably shoring up my battered ego) is made crystal clear.

What brought this to mind powerfully the other day was me listening to some conversations between some of the moms in the homeschooling group. The group is overwhelmingly stay-at-home female, although many fathers participate actively at home, and many of the moms, like me, work at paid jobs in addition to wrangling their children toward educated, engaged adulthood. I tuned in to overhear one mom saying, "Oh, I used to make performance raku pieces. Some steamed, some whistled, some exploded. We had people wear goggles for the last kind."

And the conversation meandered on from there.

I sat in my folding chair, just stunned. I know these people had lives before they wandered into my park days, really I do. But I think it's my fear that my "before" life and my "now" life are relatively uninteresting and in many ways fall greatly short of my "potential" that makes me assume that these moms are just their surfaces -- moms. And, I am greatly ashamed to say, moms who aren't always scintillating to me, either.

So I could feel my worldview rocking. It's happened before, but I wanted to hold onto that dislocation this time. Anything that makes me less likely to discount someone else's fascinating layers, or at least the possibility that they have them, is a good thing. I don't know where I got the idea that I'm all that and a bag of chips, and the fear that I'm not, unless no one else is. But I'm ashamed to carry it around.

In addition to dropping the down-view of others, I've got to get a more realistic view of myself, I think. Neither comparing up or down, just sitting with who I am and what I do and somehow allowing it to be enough.

It's going to be hard.

So, when it gets really difficult, I can meditate on my One True Superpower. I can do something easily, routinely, and gracefully, which few (almost none) members of my household can do.

Yes. I change the toilet paper roll.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I. Have. Had. Enough.

Ten minutes into the Not Back to School Picnic, I packed the younger three up and amid much wailing, drove them back home.

I can't deal with their behavior, and no "system" I've tried works.

I can only conclude that I can't parent effectively. I see nothing good in my childrens' futures, given their present behavior patterns.

No advice, no commiseration please. I just quit.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Yesterday afternoon, I figured out either cause or effect of Thing 4's horrible morning:

Also, our floors are perpetually grimy.

She's had a bath this morning and there may be a little bit of knitting in my future.