Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making Peace with November

I've always had it in my mind that November is a gray and dismal month.

A month to be endured.

But the last couple of years have shown a different side to November.




A month to sink into and breathe a bit, before things get really crazy.

And a month with three paid days off? That's nothing to sneeze at, either.

This November, we've had just a dusting of snow already, too, which I just had enough time to snap a picture of before dashing off to work (or should I say sliding off to work...time to get the snow tires put on).

So it's time I make peace with November. Forgive it for past grayness. And be grateful for its golden light. E wrote this essay, "I'm thankful for cranberry sauce. Why? Because it's tasty. If you had the cranberry sauce I had you would agree." I love the monster he drew on the back that you can just see through the paper.

Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and four-day weekend!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Weekend Things, Inhale

The only word for this past weekend is "blustery." The wind blew and it blew and it blew, bringing with it lots of cold, Arctic air. The wind, combined with me feeling a bit under the weather myself, made for a good weekend to stay inside and take care of indoorsy things.

I did make myself get out for just a bit each day, taking a short walk and finally planting the garlic (not a moment too soon). Last winter, the leaf mulch I put down blew away before we got snow cover. This time, I weighted it down with a few pieces of wood.

I also finally put the ol' punkin-heads to rest in the compost pile. It's sort of sad that Jack-o-lanterns only live for a night, so I like to let them extend their stay on my front step (though this year they might have over-extended by just skoch). 

It was nice to take a weekend to take care of very un-wordy things, after sending off a draft of my thesis to my mentor last Wednesday. While there was plenty I could have been doing (working on my presentation, writing a speech, designing a website, starting on a couple of essays I've been toying with), I rather reveled in not doing anything related to writing. I like the idea of artistic endeavors as a kind of breathing--with productivity as the exhale, and rest, inspiration, and refueling as the inhale. 

I think we need both, exhale and inhale. And after talking to my mentor on Sunday (seven out of nine endings need rewriting!), I have plenty of exhaling coming my way this week.

In the meantime, I did some catching up on housework that I'd neglected the previous weekend (how come it is never done?).

And sent the boys out in the wind to try to prevent the seven p.m. pillow fights that seem to break out when not enough fresh air and exercise has been had. M built a newspaper water bomb that exploded a bit on takeoff.

I also knit up the body of the first of E's mittens (during two more episodes of Ripper Street). I hope to do the second this weekend, and finish the thumbs. I love how the olive yarn looks with the Noro.

And I finally, finally finished one crocheted rock. I gave up on using the wool--it kept splitting, and in places was too thick--and switched to pearl cotton. I also bought the correct-sized crochet hook--I had been using a 10 when the pattern calls for a 9, and crochet hooks, unlike knitting needles, get smaller as the number goes up, so 10 was really tiny. But craft store doesn't carry single hooks in size 9, and I had to buy a package of six hooks in order to even get one (which explains why I hadn't bought it in the first place). I also realized that I should be using number 12 pearl cotton (not 8, which is what I used on the rock below). It's much, much finer, but only comes in very plain colors. I bought one skein of ecru, as well as some brightly colored embroidery floss. I'm going to see if a single strand of floss will work. I don't know why I'm so weirdly obsessed with figuring out how to do this right (I think I'm just indignant that it should be so damn hard!). 

Meanwhile, M, about whom I just said two weeks ago, "He has no interest in cooking," decided to make an apple pie. I helped out with the crust and peeling, and the general moral support (have you ever noticed kids just like you to be right there next to them while they do things?).

Sunday night, before he cut into it, he said, "You can come take a picture of it now if you want, Mom." (And C said, "You're almost as bad as your mother.").

When he looked at the pictures, he said, "Are you going to put that on your blog?" But of course!

Monday, November 25, 2013

About Place

I'm excited to share with you my essay "Catch 22" in The Future of Water issue of The Black Earth's Institute's About Place Journal

This is an essay that I've been working on, in different guises, over the last couple of years, and I'm pleased it's finally found a home. Though now that I've been away from it for a couple of months, I see more things I'd like to change. Isn't that always the way?

Anyway, if you'd like to read it, you can go here. And then check out some of the other wonderful pieces in the current issue.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekend Things

This weekend I finally shucked off the mantle of procrastination, shut myself in my room and got serious about revising the last few stories for my thesis. I ignored all regular housework, kept my mind off the archive boxes in the back of my car that I bought for organizing 12 years worth of kids' artwork and memorabilia, paid no attention to the lovely blue sky (Saturday), and even resisted the siren song of National Clean Out Your Fridge Weekend (actually, that's a lie––I did clean out my fridge, but not until Sunday evening, while I cooked dinner).

As a result of my diligence, I totally rewrote two stories, tweaked another six that were mostly done already, and did some initial note-taking and thinking about one last one before I ran out of steam altogether. That one's on tonight's to-do list. I'm super excited to be on the home stretch (draft thesis due this Wednesday, the final, after one or two more rounds of revision, is due December 20), and I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out. I'm not entirely satisfied with the endings on a couple of stories. But that's the hardest part, isn't it? The ending? That is, after the beginning and the middle.

Amidst it all, I did manage to cut one boy's hair. He was extremely unhappy with me (thus, no "after" picture), but I am going to be so happy to have to contend with those snarls anymore.

And I (almost) finished one Christmas present (weaving in of ends and felting still remain to be dome):

I have been meaning to make E and Z felted mittens for years now, but have somehow not managed to make it happen. Then, last weekend, I discovered I had already knit the right mitten of one pair. They're made with Noro Kureyon (to match this green hat, which has gotten lost since I bought the yarn for the mittens) and some locally-spun sagey/minty green I've had hanging around in the stash forever). Last Sunday, while riding to and from our hike, I cast on the left mitten and knit up through the thumb gusset. That night, while watching Masterpiece, I discovered I'd knit a right thumb gusset, not a left, so I ripped it out and did it again, correctly.

Then, this past Friday night, after we got home from open mic, where M did a duet of "Hotel California" with a friend of ours, I watched an episode of "Ripper Street" (I discovered this show on the airplane home from Ireland, and I love it!) and knit up half of the hand part. I finished up the hand and the thumb on the drive to and from a Portland Pirates Hockey game Saturday night (I used to go to hockey games all the time in high school, but I hadn't been to one in years. I forgot how much fun they are!). As always, one mitten came out looking smaller than the other (perhaps the huge gap in time that usually occurs between knitting each half of the pair is to blame), but hopefully they will even out in the wash when I felt them.

Last night, I wound my yarn into balls and started the cuff of a second pair. Just a couple more nights of television watching or a long car ride and I should have two Christmas gifts in the offing. Unheard of!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Major Organization Versus General Chaos

This American Life had a program this weekend about the seven topics of conversation that are far too boring to bring up at a dinner party. Fortunately, cleaning and organization did not make the list, so I can continue to post about my efforts to reign in entropy at our house.

This weekend, I decided to tackle the boys' room, yet again(and again). It is the time of year when I go through the bins of hand-me-downs in the basement, and change out the summer clothes for winter, add the next size up, get rid of the too small, and assess what's needed for the season ahead. But before I took on this project, however, I wanted to get E and Z a new dresser, one big enough to hold all their clothes, with smooth-sliding drawers that would make it easier to get out and (ha-ha) put away their own clothes. Also, we need to add a loft bed to accommodate Z, who has been sleeping in the sun room since spring, so we needed a dresser low enough to fit underneath said bed (which does not yet exist.

So, after a trip to the unfinished furniture store, and an entire day of moving, shifting, and rearranging, that led inadvertently to a throughout basement cleaning, finally we got things in order. I'd like to add some artwork a little nicer than ratty old maps (how many world maps does one room need, anyway?).

M is in his closet office in the above picture, cleaning up, and he wanted me to share the "after" photo he took, so you can see the improvement over last week's picture.

Every time I get this room sorted out, I think to myself, "There. Now it's so clean it will stay that way forever." No such luck so far, but maybe this time...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Weekend Things

This weekend involved a great deal of housecleaning and not nearly as much writing as it should have (I'm procrastinating so hard it hurts).

But we did get a bit of a break from both the housework and the stern stare of the computer.

M and I went hiking Sunday with friends. 

E and Z opted to stay home with C, and I'm getting better at not trying to cajole them into coming and doing every fun thing I want to do (or maybe I'm getting tired of trying to coax them to do anything at all).

In any case, it was a beautiful day––gray and Novemberish, with a bit of a chill in the air, but beautiful no less, and so nice to get near the coast (this is actually tidal river, so not officially coast, but beachy just the same).

And since it was a glorious three-day weekend, we got to stay home and enjoy Monday's return to sun and warmth.

E and Z's friends came over, and while their dad practiced guitar with M (they're doing a duet of "Hotel California" at open mic Friday night), we took some airplanes to the neighbor's field to fly.

I seriously doubted we'd even make it to the field with planes intact. E threw his into no fewer than four trees, and their friend stepped on one on the way down the driveway.

(I resorted to speaking to them in a teacher voice, "Hold your plane in your hands, please, until we get to the field." It didn't do much good).

We always get balsa wood airplanes for Christmas, and after the initial flight (if it's not too wet and snowy to fly them at all), the ones that survive get put up on top of a cabinet and forgotten about. I decided it was time to wear these ones out before another round comes this Christmas.

M joined us after his jam session, 

and we added to the mix a basket full of paper airplanes.

They had been hanging around the perimeter of the boys' room ever since M built them from a paper-airplane-a-day calendar he got years ago.

We finally decided to put them to good use. Unfortunately, none of them got destroyed, so we've still got a basket full (perhaps taking them out on a rainy day, or to the top of a high cliff, next time...).

I didn't get in as many things as I would have liked to this weekend, but E, Z, and I put in a mega reading session Monday afternoon (still chipping away at Harry Potter). 

How was your long weekend?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wanted: Library

Next time I build a house, I'm going to make sure it includes a library. Our house, which does not have a library, has books in every room.

The living room.

The stairway.

The landing.

My bedroom.

And my bedside table.

The kids' room, on E and Z's side.

On M's side.

And in the closet (this portion of the closet M refers to as his "office" and is probably the closest thing we have to a dedicated book room).

Books on random pieces of furniture.

The only rooms that don't have books in them are the bathrooms––I've never understood the concept of books in the bathroom (although I do read in the tub––I just don't store by books in there).

Wouldn't it be nice, though, to have a whole room big enough to hold all the books, where you could organize them all by subject, or author, or color (it drives C crazy when I organize books by color)? With a nice cozy reading chair or two?
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