Friday, January 29, 2010
Anyway, the point of the picture (below...oh yeah and it's a link, too, click on it and see what happens) is that I'm not here today because I'm there, visiting my neighbor, Amy, who lives a good 3000 miles away, but was kind enough to invite me to guest post on her blog.
So please do go and read my little post, about some really terrific parenting advice I tried to implement a while back. And then go back some more and read what Amy has to say, because she's really smart and really funny and she has three boys too. And isn't that reason enough to give someone a few minutes of your day?
Update: OK, maybe not so amazing after all, cause I somehow managed to direct you to a post from December, which, while I'm sure is delightful, is not mine. I've tried to fix it so give it another try!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Layer 1--Me. This week I: drove 15 miles in the pouring rain with 10 inches of my scarf hanging out the door and dragging through salt and sand; lost one of my favorite turquoise earrings that I bought on our train trip to Colorado two years ago; and lost one of the fabulous mittens my mom made me for Christmas (Mom, if you're reading this, please don't kill me!!). Sucky. And, of course, all signs that I am not being mindful. Also, as usual, I'm finding myself over booked, over committed and over done. It's a pattern I have; I see a blank spot in the future and I fill it up with more than I can handle. And I'm tired. Bone tired. No matter how much sleep, exercise or protein I give my body, it just wants to stay in bed. All the time.
Layer 2--Family. Out of whack. When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Ain't that true? The boys are also overtired from their own overly busy schedule (and we don't even do any extracurriculars!). Dinner doesn't land on the table until 6:00 at the earliest, pushing the limits of getting kids into bed by 8:00. And still no one (especially M, who could sleep 12 hours a night) wants to get up at 6:30 the next morning. C and I can't seem to fall into a groove, getting on each other's nerves on the rare occasions we're in each others' company. I've completely lost the calm, centered parenting style I thought I'd adopted over the past few weeks when I totally flipped out on M Tuesday night because of his bedtime shenanigans. Grrr.
Layer 3--Work. I guess it had to happen sooner or later, but the honeymoon phase is over and growing pains are starting to set in. I've gone from busily working in my little cube to depending on others' input...and I never handle that well.
Layer 4--Community. The g*d d*mn f*cking p*ece of sh*t school budget did not pass again!!! For the fourth time. And you know how that makes me just want to swear. It was even originally reported as passing, and I briefly thought, "wow, people aren't total *ssholes! They really do care about kids!" Only to be disillusioned a couple hours later (remind you of any recent elections??) Swear to god I'm moving to Denmark (or Costa Rica).
Layer 5--Nation. Appalling. What more can I say. Health care. Massachusetts. And now the Supreme Court handed our country over to the corporations. OK, they already had their paws on us, but did SCOTUS have to make it official? Didn't even watch the State of the Union. Waaay too disappointed. Kinda wishing I'd voted Nader, so at least I could have the bumper sticker. Denmark, here I come.
Layer 6--The World. My god. Could any more really horrible, terrible tragedies strike those with the least? I know that sh*tty things have gone on since the dawn of time, and will continue until long after we blow ourselves up, but come on! Imagine if we took the resources we were dumping into insanely senseless wars and put it toward bolstering nations like Haiti (or even into our own country's schools). Imagine.
Yes, it would appear I'm having an existential crisis. All that fluffy knitting, embroidering nonsense was just a very thin shield that could not hold it at bay for long. And to make matters worse, I don't even feel I deserve to have a crisis. I know, and know of, so many people currently going through personal tragedies of various magnitudes that make my own niggly little problems (my mitten, my beautiful mitten) seem grotesquely self-indulgent. Here's the thing...knowing one doesn't deserve to be depressed rarely serves to make one feel better.
P.S. Friday I'm doing a guest post at The Never True Tales (yes and it's my first guest post so please go and see it). I promise it will be less of a downer than this one!
Update: Mitten Found!!! The rest of the world is still a mess, but my right hand is warm again.
Update: Did you know Howard Zinn died yesterday? What a loss (but 87 and swimming laps? Wow.) This is definitely the year I need to read (and finish) A People's History (may need to get a new copy...mine ends in the Clinton years...ancient history).
Monday, January 25, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
I didn't learn a new stitch, or accomplish any great feat like knitting a sweater or an afghan.
I'm still the same-old beginner/intermediate knitter that I've been for a dozen years or more, but know I am a Knitter.
I taught myself how to knit 14 years ago, out of a book when I was in the AmeriCorps NCCC on Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. (My mom, an expert knitter, tried teaching me on a few different occasions before that, but it never clicked). I first knitted up a swatch out of some old red RedHeart acrylic yarn, practicing all of the different combinations of knits and purls that I could come up with, and from there started a scarf for C (who was back in Maine), out of some lovely soft maroon marino wool, in a lovely seed stitch (no boring old garter stitch for me!). I knit half of it sitting in my crazy creek by the fire on spike in the forest below the peak of La Plata Mountain, but didn't finish it until the following winter, giving it to C on the occasion of our first Valentine's Day in the same state.
The next winter I knit him a hat (moving directly to five needles) in a nice deep blue wool I had picked up at the Common Ground Fair. My mom sent me a photocopy of a pattern for a double-knit cap and some graph paper with a few designs drawn in pencil. I knitted a row of partridge feet in maroon leftover from the scarf, but I didn't know how to carry the color I was using properly, and the hat lost its stretch, and I lost my knitting momentum.
A year or so later, I took an "Instant Gratification" knitting class and started a pair of felted mittens in luscious lime green mohair and purple wool. Each mitten only took a week to knit, but it took me a year to pick up the second mitten after finishing the first.
The winter I was pregnant with M, I fell in love with the color orange and bought two soft skeins in a pumpkin color and started a scarf for myself (still on the needles nine years later). C went to Florida for a week that winter and I knit myself a purple cloche hat while he was gone (still wear it to this day).
When M was a baby I knitted him an eggplant hat and a few years later knitted him a gnome doll and very slowly and painfully knitted my way through a pair of mittens for him that caused me nothing but trouble (and which he lost almost immediately). I bought a skein of orange cotton when I was pregnant with the twins, planning on knitting a pumpkin to go with the eggplant, but it never happened.
A couple of years ago I was browsing through a knitting book I have and noticed in the introduction that the author had only been knitting for two years when she wrote the book! At that point I had been knitting for a dozen years and had produced fewer than a dozen knitted items. I set about correcting that. I knit myself a pair of wrist warmers (there are two kinds of people in this world--those who love fingerless gloves and those who just don't get it. I am one of the former) and hats for E and Z last Christmas. I made my spiral hat this fall (and discovered stitch markers!) and for Christams I made gnome hats for E, Z and C and a Hill Country Hat for M (which knits from the top down, stretching my skills further).
After Christmas I picked up the shawl I had started last fall. I knitted a few rows at knitting group last Thursday, and a few more while C and I watched a movie Friday night. Saturday I itched to knit all day, and took it with me and knitted while we drove to dinner with C's father and his wife. I knitted along as we drove to Wiscasset and suddenly it came over me, this realization, "I am a Knitter." I took my knitting into the restaurant and knitted while we waited for our food, and after dinner while we waited for our check. I knitted again after we got home, in front of the TV. Sunday I somehow ate my lunch while I cooked everyone else's, so I knit while they ate. I knit another row while I monitored the boys in the bathtub.
Becoming a Knitter had nothing to do with skill level or expertise. It had to do with feeling driven to knit. Wanting to do it anytime my hands were idle (and even wishing I could do it when they aren't). I think this may be why I haven't been able to call myself a Writer. Not because I don't write well or often or for money (though I don't), but because it hasn't yet become that itch I must scratch. Sometimes I will become overcome with an urge to write about something, that nearly drives me to distraction. More often than not I ignore that urge in favor of dealing with more urgent or more visible issues (laundry, work, sleep). Granted, it's easier to pick up a piece of knitting and put in a few rows, or even just a few stitches and put it down again than to pick up a notebook and write a few words or sentences in the interstices of my day. It would be difficult to write in the car while driving to dinner, and downright rude to try and write while at dinner with other people. And trying to write while the kids are in the tub? The paper would get wet, certainly, but I might come up with some amusing descriptions of our twice-weekly ritual...maybe I'll try it next time.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Some ways to help Haiti:
Doctors Without Borders
Partners In Health (I've been meaning to donate to this one since I read Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains several years ago...I'm ashamed to admit I just now got around to it).
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Here we are on day 10, awaiting the evening candle-lighting (Z turned the snowmen upside down so they would fit more snugly in the holder).
Here are our Crocs all lined up and waiting one night too early (not quite as picturesque as wooden shoes, are they? And no, I did not even bother to sweep in honor of the Kings.)
In the final assessment--a success! Both of the younger boys really enjoyed all three traditions and I felt a little more festive for a little longer. Though next year I think I'll try and take the week between Christmas and New Years off to extend that lazy nothing-to-do feeling a bit. M on the other hand didn't get into either the calendar or the candles and singing (or the reading of Christmas books either). He'd rather be in his room reading or listening to his new punk rock or B-52's CDs...did you know that eight is the new 15?
I considered dragging it all out another week to St. Knut's Day (that would be today) when apparently in some Scandinavian countries they have a bonfire with the Christmas tree. When I first mentioned this, E said, "You're apposed to put it back in the woods. That what real people do." But he has changed his mind and all the boys want to see out tree go up in flames...I on the other hand feel sad at the prospect and want to put it back in the woods. For now it's sitting in the snowbank outside our front door. Who knows, maybe we'll torch it this weekend.
One Last Christmas Project
I tried to push to finish this project before the official end of Christmas last week, but a few setbacks like a mishap with the rotary cutter (damn those things are sharp!) and running out of red thread (and not allowed to buy more), left it undone. I had started in early December, but had to set it aside in favor of projects destined to be gifts. So it's still sitting right where you see it--on my ironing board.
The Kid's Art Table Runner didn't really appeal to me very much when I saw it in Handmade Home, but when I saw what Mary Beth at Salt & Chocolate did with it for Thanksgiving, I just had to make one.
I used all stuff I already had (the red is leftover from backing my new Christmas tree skirt; the back--which is reversible--is the fabric I used to put around the base of our tree, which I love; the muslin squares were all leftover from something; the snowflake ribbon was wrapped around a gift we received and the polka-dot ribbon and red bias tape were in the stash). Most of the drawings are by Z, because he is the most prolific artist right now (M draws a lot too, but mostly WWII fighter planes...not so Christmassey; and E is much more tentative in his drawing efforts). I have to say, embroidering your kids' drawings is addictive; I highly recommend it, even if you have no needlework skills or experience (and picking up basic supplies--muslin, and embroidery hoop, floss and needles--is pretty inexpensive). I have done a few of M's drawings in the past as well, and I never cease to be amazed at the details and creative ways kids represent things.
This is the reverse side--isn't it cute?
I guess I'll put this (and the placemats that are supposed to go with it) away until next holiday season (or at least until I have some red thread)...hopefully I'll think the drawings are just as cute next year as I do now!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Epiphany #1--Take care of myself
Friday evening, while playing with the kids in the pool at the YMCA, I was moving my right shoulder --which is always sore--around in its full range of motion, trying to work the kinks out. I had been planning on getting up early Saturday morning to work on the computer, but it occurred to me that most of the things I enjoy doing--writing, knitting, needle-felting, sewing, drawing--as well as what I do for a living and basic housework and childcare, require fine motor movements in my right shoulder. Without a healthy and pain-free shoulder, I could lose the ability to do, or at least the enjoyment of, most of my favorite activities.
I know the problem is not intractable--after a fantastic yoga session on Mt. Desert Island over Thanksgiving weekend, it felt great--and even though it may at some point require some kind of therapy, I'm a DIY kinda gal, so I decided to commit myself to healing it. So Saturday morning, I got up early and did a good hour of yoga--rather than my usual ten minutes--trying to follow as much as I could remember from that great yoga session (I was smart enough to write it all down after we got home. Unfortunately, I was not smart enough to put it where I could find it later). Sunday I ended up sleeping in, but put on my Om Yoga CD later in the morning and again did an hour-long session (this time with kids crawling around and under me).
I don't have time to do an hour of yoga during the week, but I'm trying to bring by awareness into my body, pay attention to how I'm using my right arm, and shift some of that work over to the left. So far? I feel much better than usual. Now we'll see if I can keep it up!
Epiphany #2--Let the hubby know what's on my mind
I learned Saturday that when I'm feeling grumpy and resentful at my husband for some perceived imbalance in work load, if, instead of taking it out on my children, I vent at him, even though he gets defensive and makes me sound irrational and I lose the argument, I feel better immediately. And, he will disappear for a while on an errand and return all contrite and extra-helpful around the house (got a clean toilet out of that one!).
Epiphany #3--Be mindful
Now that we're through the holidays and various illnesses, I've decided I need to develop schedules and strategies for making this full-time work gig run as smoothly as possible. To that effect, Thursday evening I made a list of everything I need to do on the weekends to recover from the previous week and prepare for the following week, in addition to things I want to do with the kids for fun and by myself for mental health. I then listed all the things I needed to do specific to that particular weekend. It was a long list and there was grave danger that I would become overwhelmed by the whole thing, and just spin my wheels, accomplishing nothing at all (which is how I spent New Year's weekend).
Then it occurred to me, out of nowhere, to just be mindful of whatever task I am doing, not thinking about the list or the next thing that needs to be done, not trying to do six things at once. Guess what? It worked! I got way more done than I could have hoped--I managed to crawl out from under Christmas (does it take everyone a full half-day to take the ornaments off their trees?), cleaned the first floor of our house, planned meals for the following week, made a lasagna and burritos, patched a pair of M's jeans, did yoga, got our Christmas thank-you's about 75% done, and even got outside to play both days. I didn't get much creative time in, other than knitting a bit during our Saturday evening British comedies, and the kids' room still looks like the Blitzkrieg, but, when I couldn't find a needle for patching M's jeans Sunday night, I ended up cleaning up my own room, where the magic happens (that would be the sewing), getting the remains of Christmas crafting mostly sorted out and almost put away. I did try multitasking at one point--I was clearing off the table while making a grilled cheese, and, predictably, burned the sandwich.
So maybe rather than epiphanies, I should label these "well duh" moments, because it's probably obvious to everyone but me that one should take care of oneself, vent to one's spouse when necessary, and keep one's mind, attention and intention on one task at a time instead of trying to do everything at once.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Hip Mountain Mama got the idea of changing one thing (for the better, environmentally-speaking) in her life per month leading up to Earth Day and inviting others to play along. First, before I tell you about my change, I need to tell you about HMM's. She and her family have given up toilet paper. Yep, that's right. They have replaced it with a washable/reusable system called "the family cloth." I know, amazing, right? Now my initial reaction was a Charleton-Heston-esque, "they can pry my TP out of my cold, dead hands," so apparently I'm not there yet. Maybe some day, but for now, I think I have a lot bigger ecological footprint issues than my personal hygiene, such as those 27+ miles I drive every day (hope to do something about that next month!)
So anyhoo, my change for January is...drumroll, please...Buy Nothing Month! Yes, I know that's pretty anti-climatic considering I had a Buy Nothing Year in 2008. Old hat, and kind of wimpy. But here's my reasoning...see if you think it's just an excuse or not. As we approached Christmas, and I was reviewing my buying habits of the previous few months (and my checkbook), I could see I was a little out-of-control in the spending department. Now, not out-of-control in the all-American-rack-up-thousands-of-dollars-in-consumer-debt sense, but out-of-control for me, as in every time I saw something I liked or wanted, I bought it. I needed to slow down the hemorrhaging of money, and return to the person I used to be, who took time to contemplate purchases, delayed gratification and most often did without.
So why not a whole year? I want to see if I can find a balance between all and nothing. Can I make reasonable expenditures and purchases, in the most environmentally friendly manner possible without going crazy and buying two books a week from Better World (really, it was getting that bad for a while)? This is the test. Whenever it pops into my head that I want (or need) something, I write it down. At the end of the month, I'll review the list, see what I really do need, what I still want, what is reasonable to have/spend, how I could get by with making, borrowing or buying used, etc.
Also, this month is a bit different than Buy Nothing Year, in which I allowed myself a few exceptions (like materials needed for making stuff), and I could buy used items. No exceptions allowed this month. If I run out of red thread, I'll just have to do without. And, I'm trying to avoid other kinds of spending, like meals out or snack food. This last has been my only stumbling block so far--last week when faced with taking something to knitting group, and having no time to cook or bake, I bought some chocolate at the healthfood store (but I did not buy myself a snack as I usually would, but instead ate a banana from the bunch I had purchased...no packaging and much more healthful than a cookie or something!), and we re-joined the Y last week, and my suggestion that C pick up the kids and feed them sandwiches on the way was overruled by his suggestion that I pick up the little ones and meet him and M at the pizza place (pizza boxes, paper plates, a chocolate milk container and an orange juice container...as Z would say, wot-wot-waaaah!).
Buying Nothing should cut down on vehicle miles travelled (to the places that sell stuff), packaging and postage as well as energy to run the servers of websites that sell stuff, and the energy and natural resources that went into making the stuff in the first place. One Small Change, indeed, considering I'm just one person in this big consumerist country, but it feels good to be part of a community of changers (to see what others are doing, go here).
What would you do if you could make one small change this month? Head over to Hip Mountain Mama and join in!