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April 2006 Archives

April 2, 2006

Showered with Hugs

April 2, 2006 ~
I snuck out of bed earlier than the boys yesterday morning, something which very rarely happens (they have a tendency to wake as soon as I even think about sneaking out). I had a few minutes to sip on coffee, catch up on a few blogs, and check email. I’d just gone to the living room to grab the camera so I could transfer some photos, when Spencer ran out of the bedroom. He stopped in the hall, bent his little body in half, and peered into the office, obviously expecting to see me there. I called to him from the living room. It took him a second to see me (though I was right in front of him at the other end of the hall), but once he did, he gave me a big, happy smile and ran down the hall, arms swinging. As he got to me, the little arms went up in the air for me to pick him up.

His brother came out minutes later, but he didn’t come out running. He came out crawling down the hall… a crocodile. But as he reached us, he declared that he was a “hugging crocodile,” and I was smothered in hugs. They ran down the hall together to do that again. Thus started the “hugging animals” game. They would run back down the hall. Mathew would proclaim what animal they were, and they would come down the hall making appropriate sounds and gestures until they were close enough to jump on top of me and cover me in wonderful little boy hugs. They were monkeys. And then cheetahs. And then eagles (very slow eagles). And then elephants. And then frogs (but they were frogs that hopped in circles and got dizzy and fell down). And then flamingos (which, curiously, say, “floop, floop, floop” as they walk on one leg). And butterflies. It was a charming, beautiful, innocent, happy, and very huggy game!

April 3, 2006

Organizational Frenzy

When I was in college, I would have spurts where I’d want to organize and straighten and pseudo-clean everything up. After the fact, I always realized these spurts were somehow tied to my monthly cycle. I don’t know what’s going on with me now, but I’m in a major, major, major organizational mode. In and of itself, that sounds like a good thing. I think the problem may be that I’m not approaching it in a very organized manner. Or that I’ve got so many different things that need to be organized that I’m feeling overloaded and trying to tackle too much at once in some frenzied desire to get everything organized. Probably I should have approached each area "in need of organization" one by one. Instead, I feel like I've done bits and pieces of all of the following all crowded together into a short amount of time.

  • Matthew will be graduating from preschool next month, and one of the traditions there is the creation of a “graduation” book (a scrapbook) that gets handed to the child during the graduation ceremony. I just finished writing a “how-to” article on graduation bookmaking, in fact, for the school newsletter. Of course, I wrote the article before I pulled out the oversized plastic bin I’d had in his closet as a catch-all for all the art and projects we brought home last year. When I opened that box last week, I found myself stunned by the staggering amount of material I have. I've got tons of ideas for the book (and yes, an entire closet of scrapbooking material that probably won't even be needed for this project which is very "preschool art" heavy)--and am in the process of ordering lots of photos. It's just sitting down and "doing it" that has me stymied.

  • In preparation for working on the “book,” I’ve been crazily uploading photos to Snapfish. I am camera-crazy, and I take lots of photos. I’m not, however, great about printing them out. So, I need to order photos reflective of his days at school (as well as order tons of photos from the last few years with the boys). Instead of randomly ordering, I’ve been systematically uploading files folder by folder. I think, finally, today I got the last of 2004 uploaded. I'm now trying to make sure everything from 2005 is in place. Then, I'm going to order just the ones for his book, right now. I debated about what to do, but I'm afraid if I start filling my cart with all the photos I want from 2004 to now, I'll end up totally overwhelmed and unfocused about his book, which has to be the priority. (Yes, I'm typing that in now just to remind myself that this is the right approach!)

  • A few weeks back, I pulled out baskets and stacks of knitting patterns (printed and store-bought) to begin the process of organizing them. Ironically, while I do have many printed, the fact is that last year, I started saving electronic files to a knitting folder but not printing the patterns themselves out as often. So, someday I’ll need to catalog that folder and print out ones I really want or might make. (It’s a huge folder.) For now, I have to be content with having put everything in sleeves, sorted them by "kind" of project, and stuffed as many as possible into a couple of binders.

  • In the "stacks of things" around the house, office, and in the "creative space closet" are also stacks and stacks of pages I’ve pulled from magazines. These pages are ones I want to save either because they show something beautiful in terms of design or color, or because they show something great in terms of organization, or because they contain a wonderful essay, or because they contain book reviews that I’d like to look over or pursue, or because they contain recipes that caught my attention (even though I don’t really ‘cook’ a whole lot), or because they contain cool art projects for kids (in case I have to teach or sub). In theory, I will glue these pages into notebooks or binders so that all these “bits and pieces” are in one place (and not falling off the shelves where they’ve been stashed) so I can flip through them later.

  • I also got the idea to move the kids’ toybox from the office into their bedroom, and move the coffee table from their bedroom (where it was holding toy baskets) back into the living room. Spur of the minute, I decided to do this yesterday. As Matthew and I were driving home from the beach, I told him about my plan, and he immediately suggested that we "sort the toys," which was part of the unspoken plan, so a good idea. He then added, “And I can draw pictures on little pieces of paper, like a ‘ball,’ so we’ll know where the balls go.” I told him I thought labels would be a good idea. (They have labels on bins at school.) He added, “That way, when my friends come to my house, they will know where everything goes.” So, we got started. As these projects typically go, an hour or so into the process, the house looked like a tornado had hit. Toys were everywhere, baskets were everywhere, it was impossible to walk. What a mess. The toybox and table did get moved, and we tossed two giant trash bags to the basement for donation, as well as at least one bag of regular trash. Still, by dinner time, the feeling that a disaster had swept through the house remained. I worked for a few more hours. Gradually, it’s getting better. This morning, I moved the LEGO table into the office, a move which was greeted with many ooh’s and ahh’s since it hadn’t really been accessible where it was (we play LEGOs, instead, in the living room). Matthew continued working on his “labels,” which are very cute. When I left (for the beach), he was happily building in the office. It’s important not to underestimate the novelty of moving familiar objects to new places in the house, sorting and resorting toys into logical bins and baskets, and rearranging what’s where. Some things get moved to the forefront of their consciousness and imagination that they might have forgotten about or overlooked. I know some parents “rotate” toys, putting some away and brining them back out a few weeks later, cycling through belongings so that things are always “fresh” in their kids’ minds. We’ve thought about it but never actually done it. Still, it’s been interesting to watch how the boys have responded to my fit of organization. Of course, it never fails that the toys I lay out thinking we can get rid of them are the ones they immediately latch onto and show an interest in!

  • I even cleaned out the overflowing drawer of sippy cups. We've experimented with a number of types over the years, and we have a drawer of cups and a drawer of lids. Basically, we ended up with three main types of cups that worked well for us. But we have remnants from a variety of other types. So, the drawer spilleth over. Matthew only uses one type of cup now, and Spencer, honestly, does better out of a real cup (or a coffee cup, which he love to drink milk out of since Mama uses a coffee cup all the time). So, the other day I realized we really should just toss most of the cups we have and only keep the one kind that has ended up being what both of them use most often for milk and watered juice. Wow, what a difference it made dumping out all those extra cups! And valves. We cleared out an entire drawer of valves!

  • Even the giant Mary Engelbreit needlepoint canvas I’ve again picked up and been working on (partly because Matthew has started needlepointing and likes me to do it “with” him [meaning at the same time]) has fallen prey to my organizational frenzy. Having dragged it out again, I’ve found myself working on it frequently at night even though my knitting bags (shawl and sweater) are both within arm’s reach and feeling guilty each time I thread a needle that if I needlepoint I’m not knitting. Realizing that the canvas is so large that it could easily take a year or more to finish (especially since it’s not the only project I’m working on), and realizing that the size of it and the fear that it will never “get finished” partly stymies my work on it, I decided to break it down into parts and make a list of all the sections of it so that I could tackle it section by section and “cross off” sections as I finish them, thus enabling me to see progress even when it might feel like the task itself is endless. It will be amazing and beautiful when it’s finished.

Done in By Dr. Seuss

dr seuss

I love, love, love Gray's Anatomy. I look forward to it every week, and I love having a DVR (like Tivo) so that on a night like last night, I can click a single button and record it so that in 15 or 20 minutes once both boys have settled, I can start watching it and skip commercials. Nice. Last night's episode caught me off guard. I cried unabashedly when the mother with cancer was trying to give her daughter years' worth of advice crammed into a few minutes (and on the night before the girl's birthday). I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it did. One boy was sleeping on the couch next to me. The other was nursing to sleep in my lap. And I sat and cried.

Then, this morning, they picked out books to read after getting out of bed. In their matching jammies (I love that!), they sat next to me and on my lap, and I read Dr. Seuss's Oh the Places You'll Go. I got totally choked up reading them that book. And, again, I cried, though trying hard to hide it and keep the overwhelming love and sadness and realization that I can't always protect them from scary, confusing, and frustrating paths out of my voice. (I can, I know, try hard to give them all the tools they need to deal with those paths, avoiding them where possible and finding a way out if they end up somewhere they shouldn't be. It's an amazing responsibility and challenge parents undertake, and somehow, this morning, my heart was bursting, which is both a good and a bad feeling, as I read to them.) It really is a beautiful and profound book, and parents understand it in such a totally different way than the kids.

For Kids Who Love Puzzles

puzzle blast

I mentioned this a while back, and I heard from a few of you that you also have children that love pencil puzzles and games. After a lot of hard work getting the back end in place to facilitate things, the kid-focused newsletter, Puzzle Blast, has finally launched. There is a free, downloadable 4-page sample issue on the web site. I encourage you to take a look and see what Puzzle Blast is all about. Regular issues (which will begin being mailed out in May), are 8-pages (with July being a super-sized issue), are printed (in booklet format), and are mailed--not downloadable (because even high-tech kids really do like to have the physical thing sometimes). So, take a look. Print out the sample and try some of the puzzles with your kids. Each newsletter is filled with trivia on the issue's theme, fun and original puzzles, and just "lots to do." Matthew, my own puzzle fanatic, is happy to be my "tester," and he's hot on what's happening in each issue. He's tested the "full-sized" issues for May (solar system) and June (dinosaurs) and is pretty enthused that mom makes puzzles!

April 22, 2006

Blog-Reading from the Road

I’m still here. We’ve been away for Spring Break – a quick trip to LEGOLand, with a pit stop at the San Diego Zoo (which we didn’t realize is really designed for the ultra physically fit and not really easily walkable for little ones). We stayed in a hotel right across the street from an outlet mall that, to our daily delight, has a Starbucks, a bagel shop, and an ice cream place where you pick your toppings and they "smush" them into the ice cream for you, giving you an on-the-spot custom blend. Right behind that mall are the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, which are in bloom right now. The fields are an amazingly beautiful, expanse of brightly colored flowers that look like stripes of color from afar.

I kept up with some of my “daily” blogs via my Palm T|X from the hotel room. Gotta love that! Press the “on” button, hit connect, and “boom,” you’re online. (The whole process is about 1000 times faster than via laptop, partly because there’s no boot time.) But, it’s hard (and on some blogs, impossible) to “comment” via the Palm browser. (I tried recently at Mommio’s, and could only get the comment in as “anonymous.”) The Palm browser also doesn’t do a super job with a lot of the kinds of layouts we find on blogs. Some of them don’t work at all, but most of the ones I return to time and again are readable via Palm. (I have to admit, my own blog has layout issues on the Palm.)

So, Palm in hand over the last week, I’ve been lurking even when I would normally have left a comment. But that’s okay. Honestly, on some of my favorite blogs, I just lurk anyway. There are a few places I stop in every time I sit down to read blogs because I know there will be good, interesting, inspiring knitting content – and pictures. And there are blogs where I have a 50/50 chance of finding the aforementioned knitting content or else engaging parenting anecdotes. I often drop comments on these blogs. Then there are the celebrity blogs. I read a few of them and one of them often. It’s a blog I love. But when a blog is already getting hundreds of comments a day, does another comment matter? How many “here! here!” comments does a blogger need? Then there are two blogs I really look forward to reading. I like each woman’s writing voice. I like their content. They are partners, and one blog is part knitting, part life; one is mostly life, but it’s a life I’m familiar with, it’s a life I sort of know because I live with someone whose life it is. There is something compelling and familiar about reading her blog even though it's often painful and scary. I wish I “knew” these people. These are people like me. The two blogs, together, are like a puzzle. You get bits and pieces of stories filtered through different perspectives and frameworks. It’s fascinating to read them in tandem. These are people I would really click with, I always think to myself. But, I don’t leave comments. I occasionally leave comments on the part-knitting blog, but the comments don't capture what I “feel” when I read the blog. The comments are usually surface-level comments on yarns or colors, leaving the "personal" aside. The comments don't forge a “connection” in the way it seems they might. I left comments on the "mostly life" blog a few times when I first started reading, but now I just read. I always get the sense the blog isn’t about making connections. It’s more about putting it out there. Period. More often than not, I don’t leave a comment either place even though their posts often really catch me off guard with their pain, honesty, and tenderness.

Some Pirate Knitting

I think I’m going to have to shift my host (for this site) next week, so I’m not going to update further until I’m sure. But, quickly…

I’m working on the "We Call Them Pirates" hat in colors Matthew picked out from stash in the basement before we left on our trek to LEGOLand: dark purple and bright blue. Originally, when I saw it around, I thought it was too old for the boys. I kept seeing it, and my opinion started to waffle. I started thinking I'd make myself one, and I might. I found colors in stash for me, too. But first, his. Matthew loved the pattern when I showed it to him. His eyes got all big and round. "That is an amazing hat," he told me.

In the colors he's picked, it’s going to be really, really cute, though I’m a bit (okay, more than a bit) concerned about the roll the edge is showing. (No, I’m not doing the lining, so I probably should have done a different bottom to avoid the roll.) It’s a good knit and good practice for my fair isle skills. I use the Philosopher’s Wool technique of two-handed knitting which works great as long as you constantly keep 1/2 or “even/odd” in your head, which sometimes gets tricky when you are “also” counting the fair isle pattern itself.

Uh-oh. In pulling the URL to link to in this post, I see the designer's note about it being best to use loose carries to allow more stretch. The technique I use doesn't end up with any floats at all. I never though about that being a negative. I like it because everything is really nice and woven looking on the back, so it seems less likely a little boy will manage to snag or pull a float. I guess we'll see if it fits and has enough give when all is said and done. I got a good bit of knitting done on it last night while watching two DVR-ed episodes of Sopranos. But, I think it's looking short. I'm almost to the decrease section, and it doesn't look tall enough. I'm going to grab Matthew's Ropes hat today and compare, but I think I'll have to do another repeat of the skull pattern before decreasing.

It’s a fun knit, and I love watching the skull and crossbones takes shape, but I have to admit the project as a whole has taken longer than I thought it would (and now I need another repeat!). I tend to underestimate, I guess, when looking at hats, which seem small. (I don't underestimate any more on socks. I know they take me a while!) Pictures and a more detailed update next week!


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