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Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's almost here, and I'm not ready

Elder Fowler wearing a hat I knit (for someone else)
Nothing is wrapped.  There will be no knitted gifts this year.  The gingerbread house is not made.  There's no peppermint bark, or peanut butter fudge, or festive chex mix.  There are only endless supplies and not enough time to get it all together.

The last two weeks have been very hard for us all.  There have been a lot of changes, Alex struggled through the last two weeks of school, and Dante's seminary schedule is killing me.  I can't keep up with the few things I'm doing this year and that's a definite source of stress for me.  Teenage rites-of-passage have thrown our household into disarray.  My family has been ill for weeks and weeks, and now I've finally caught it. 

Yesterday my plan was to come home after teaching class and relax by baking gingerbread so that the boys could help decorate it when they got home.  Instead I came home to a mess in the kitchen that I had to clean first, and then laundry to fold before I could find a seat on the couch.  But after all that was done I found the time to bake a batch of butterball cookies for Aaron, make homemade butter for my Father-in-law, make several batches of hot cocoa mix, and bake a semi-successful loaf of bread for the first time.  I didn't have any bread flour so I had to use all purpose flour and the bread didn't get as light and fluffy as I'd hoped, but it wasn't a brick like loaves in the past.  I'm going to try again with the right supplies and see what happens.

And as I sit here writing this post, I'm thinking about how I'm supposed to be chaperoning a Youth temple trip but I had to back out at the last minute.  I was up half the night coughing and I just don't have the energy to do it.  I kept Dante home as well to help me with Alex today.  We'll go another time, but I still have that feeling like I should be somewhere else.  I even got dressed up to go but between how I'm feeling and how Alex is feeling, it just wasn't happening for us today.  Maybe we'll be able to get that gingerbread house baked today.  That would definitely make Alex feel better :) 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Still no sleep, but at least the tree is up

Since my last post, we've managed to get our tree out of the bag and properly decorated thanks to a small army of missionaries.  I don't know why I haven't had them over to put up my tree before!  It was up in about 15 minutes (complete with lights) and all the ornaments were up in just half an hour.  They even helped Alex to set up the tracks for a toy train that plays Christmas music as it chugs it's way around the base of the tree.  It's really cute and we've never used it before even though we've had it for years.  Alex was too young and wouldn't leave it alone but now he's old enough to use it without destroying it.

Pictured here from top left to bottom right are Elder Motes (he's in the glare), Elder Fowler, Elder Butters, and Elder Jensen.  Alex is down there in the green dinosaur pajamas, working on the train tracks with Elder Jensen.  These guys are amazing and I have to say that sharing the holidays with the missionaries has been very special.  It's really helped me to get in the spirit and I was happy to give them a chance to put up a tree with our family since they couldn't do it with their own this year.  I also gave each of them a tiny mitten to take home and hang on the little tree in their apartment.  And if any of you haven't set up your tree yet, Elder Butters is quite handy when it's time to put the star on top and I've been told that Motes is a genius with stringing lights :)

So far I've been able to stick to my holiday boycott as I've been shopping and preparing for Christmas.  If I didn't tell you about it before, I'm boycotting every store that was open for business on Thanksgiving and I will not shop there through the duration of the holiday season.  I did this last year but the list is much longer this year and I've needed to be very creative this year.  I've purchased from small businesses and etsy shops as much as possible and I've picked up most of my stocking stuffers from Trader Joe's.  I think the boys will appreciate the variety of treats they get this year.

I'm also making several hand made or 'from scratch' gifts for family and friends, and encouraging the boys to do that as well.  I've got a new board on Pinterest with some fun holiday ideas that you can do with your kids if you're searching for something.  If you receive something you see on that board, pretend you're seeing it for the first time, okay?

This is also the time of year when the elementary does a mini shopping mall at school for the children so they can buy inexpensive gifts for their family.  It's a really cute idea and it raises a little money for the PTA.  It only takes about $5 for Alex to get presents for the entire family but this year he forgot and spent all of his money (which is to say, my money) on three gifts for me and one for himself, lol.  Just completely forgot about Dad and Dante. 

Per usual, when he got all of his gifts home he couldn't wait to give them to me.  I told him to wait for Christmas or I wouldn't have any presents to open with the family, but he started to sob about how he just "wanted to give me a present".  How was I supposed to respond to that?!  I had no choice but to back down and let him give me the gift, on the grounds that he wait to give me the other two.  He got me a ring.  He said it was shiny and silver, and sparkly with 'jewels' in the eyes.  I don't think he realized that it's a skull, lol.  I'm wearing it proudly.

Oh, and last but not least: if you want a copy of The Missionary Hat, it is now available for free on Ravelry.  Elder Motes wears his all the time and says it's quite warm :)  Please feel free to download a copy for yourself and knit for a missionary (or non-missionary) near you who's in need of a quick, simple, warm winter hat.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

And so it begins (Christmas prep that is).

Days 1 and 2
The day I've been waiting for for weeks now has finally arrived.  I put out the Lego City advent calendar and Alex is loving it!  Every day there is a little mini-figure to build and eventually it will create an entire cityscape.  The box shows the city flap being left on the rest of the box (with the toys) and played with, but I know Alex well enough to know that he won't be able to resist opening other boxes if I let him play with it like that so I cut the play mat off and placed it on the table.  The advent box is stuck to the wall using 3M supplies, lol.

Day 1 gave us this little police officer with a coffee cup.  Day 2 gave him a nice toasty fireplace.  Day 3 he got a best buddy to play with, and today they must have gone outside to play in the snow because we got a snowman.  Coincidentally, I just watched the Doctor Who Christmas special from 2011 with the evil snowmen in it, so I'm a little unsettled by that lego snowman (and glad that I didn't let Alex watch that one). 

Day 3
Meanwhile, we don't have out tree up yet but that should happen soon.  I should probably at least pull out the Christmas decorations; they're in a bin sitting in my dining room.  I hate to admit it, but I don't like to put them up because you get used to looking at them and it really brings out the joy of the season...and then January comes and you have to take it all down.  The house looks cold and depressing afterwards, just like January.  January has the nerve to put it's holiday right on the first day of the month, and then it's all snow and cold and wind and nothing fun for the rest of the month.  All the other months have the decency to put their holidays somewhere in the middle or toward the end, so you have something to look forward to.  It's all about the timing folks.

But never fear.  I'll get the apartment decorated soon enough.  And we'll continue to watch Christmas cartoons every day.  And I'll make fun holiday treats each week.  And I'll continue to fool myself about what I can knit in time for the holidays, only to find out I was wrong because I have to get homework done too, lol.  My husband is getting last Christmas' unfinished socks this year.  Alex is getting that sweater I knit him a few months ago (if I ever get the zipper put in it), and I'm hoping to finish Dante's long-neglected Tardis socks.  I've almost finished the first one and should be able to get the second done in time.  I'll be sure to report back if that actually happens.

Day 4

Thursday, November 28, 2013

As follows Thanksgiving tradition

 This Thanksgiving has started like so many others before it, with Alex waking me up much too early asking rediculous questions ("Mom, can I play the DS with the volume off?"... "Mom, do you know where the DS is?"...  "I can't find it, can I play with the Kindle?"... "What else can I do then?"). 

I finally got out of bed once it became clear to me that he wasn't going to stop talking to me.  I decided to go downstairs and start breakfast; french toast made with Panettone bread courtesy of the Food Network holiday shows.  It took quite some time to get it all cut up and cooked in butter, dusted with powdered sugar, and stacked neatly on a plate.  It took only 30 seconds for Alex to decide that he didn't think he was going to like it, and even less time to take a itty-bitty bite and confirm it.  I had to pull week-old oatmeal out of the fridge and microwave that so he would eat.  He hugged me and thanked me like that cold lumpy oatmeal was the best dish I'd ever made.  Dante had much the same reaction.  This is why I can't cook nice things.

A few hours later after I managed to get the first shower of the day (a holiday miracle), I had Dante go up and run a bath for Alex.  He usually takes a bath at night but I was busy making pies and no one else could be bothered so I promised him he could take one in the morning.  It started out okay until he complained about the water temp.  Dante turned it all the way to cold.  Then Alex claimed that he could find his baby soap which was in clear view and easily accessible.  I told him to quit pretending he didn't know where it was and start washing up or he could get out right now.  Dante chose that moment to come down stairs.  Aaron and I reminded him that his brother still can't be left in the tub alone and made him get back up there.  I don't know where he actually was after that but his eyes and brain weren't in the bathroom with him because Alex managed to get hold of our facial scrub (and got it right in his eyes), and rub two different types of adult soap all over his head and body.  His screams of pain and panic brought me up the stairs to find him covered with everything we had in the tub. 

As I started to rinse him off, I put my hand in the tub and was shocked to find that I've had soda warmer than his bath water.  He freaked out and struggled while I tried to wash caked-on soap and facial scrub out of all the cracks and creases.  Then he shivered like crazy while I dried him off and lectured them both on where they went wrong. 

Lunch time was fun too.  Everyone seemed to think it was a good time to be sarcastic until I warned them that I was this close to yelling and everyone, and "why can't we just have one holiday where I don't have to yell at someone" and "when Natalia's family asks us about our holiday traditions again, I'm going to tell her that my tradition is yelling at my children". 

Also in keeping with tradition, my husband is sick.  But I did manage to knit another hat for another missionary and the wonderful proprietor of A Hundred Ravens yarn donated a skein of yarn to my newest mission: Knitting Hats for Missionaries.  See, when these new young men and women arrive in New England (or anywhere else that's known for being cold), they bring with them insufficient cold-weather gear.  I laughed for 5-minutes about the Elder who had leather gloves.  He now has a nice warm pair of wool gloves that won't freeze to his hands or get colder when they get wet. 

I finished another one yesterday and because I've been knitting all these hats I've finally come up with the perfect hat formula.  I call it The Missionary Hat and I'll be publishing a pattern very soon...for FREE...so other knitters can outfit their local missionaries properly for the cold.  It's quick and easy, and uses up scraps of yarn so you don't have to spend extra cash and can use up what you've got.  But if you live in the colder areas of the country, I'd strongly advise using Lang Yarns Yak because it's one of the warmest yarns out there, the colors are perfect for missionaries (conservative), it's washable, and if you use the color-block pattern you can get one medium and one large hat out of three balls.  We road-tested this hat in 6-degree windy weather and it kept our ears nice and toasty.  So keep your eyes out on the blog and on Ravelry and Facebook for the pattern.  

And remember, although the day has not gone anywhere near as I would have liked, I'm thankful for it.  Tomorrow we'll all laugh about how today was exactly like all the other Thanksgivings I've had.  We're keeping up the tradition.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Alex's newest mittens

I know I don't need to tell any of you this, but kids grow crazy-fast.  They also lose stuff.  A lot.  So this latest finished project is courtesy of Alex's recent growth and the fact that he lost one of his other mittens.  That last bit is also my fault because I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to take those other mittens off of their cord and let him wear them to school (it wasn't quite cold enough for a heavy coat yet).  That proved to be folly on my part because one of those mittens didn't ever make it home.  And then it got really really cold.

So what is a knitting mom to do when there is a sudden snap of unseasonably cold weather?  Knit a new pair.  I know the fastest thing would have been to knit a replacement, but I used up the majority of the left-overs from the last pair knitting these and this, so I would have needed to buy a brand new skein.  It was easier and more thrifty to simply pull out partial skeins from my stash and knit something brand new.  Alex had also said once or twice that his hands were still cold on the bitterly cold mornings walking to school, so I decided that a little colorwork should do the trick.

If any of you out there are unfamiliar with stranding or colorwork, the basic principle is like this; for every red stitch you can see, there is a strand of gray yarn behind it that you don't see.  Same for the gray stitches.  Those little strands (hence the term 'stranded') help block out extra wind and keep body heat inside, and produce an overall thicker and warmer mitten.  The days have been a heck of a lot colder than they were at this same time last year and he's been much more comfortable.  He's even asked for a matching neckwarmer because his current one isn't warm enough.  It's made out of Berroco Comfort because it touches his skin directly and he's very sensitive.  If I knit him a matching neck warmer, I'll definitely need to line it so that he can actually stand to use it.

And as you can see here, I took the time to attach buttons to the back of the cuff.  This is a feature on all of Alex's mittens.  That way I can attach them to a cord inside his coat so when he quickly takes his mittens off (and drops them on the floor) they'll just swing from the cord coming out of his sleeves.  Having them attached by buttons and loops allows me to wash them while leaving the cord inside the coat.  If you've put a cord inside a coat, you know that the cord slips down their back and hangs too far out of the sleeves.  The answer to this is to put the cord through the loop inside the coat (the loop you hang the coat from).  But if you've ever tried to slip a mitten through the little loop on the inside of the coat, you'll know that it's impossible. 

So you have a few options.  You could knit the cord and slip it through the loop to keep it in the proper place and then sew the mittens on it later (thus permanently attaching the mittens to that coat unless you want to cut them off of the cord...).  You could also knit the cord and attach the mittens, and then tie the middle of the cord to the loop in the coat, but then you have a bulky knot at the child's back and they don't usually like that.  Or you could do what I do.  Knit a cord and create loops on each end.  Then attach buttons to the mittens.  Easily slip the cord through the loop inside the coat and then attach the mittens by putting the buttons in the loops.  Whala!  He's out the door and his mittens are securely in place.

Normally I'd knit a matching red cord bit I was in a pinch this morning so I used the cord from his last set of mittens.  No point wasting it.  And these buttons were reclaimed buttons that I purchased (3 to a card) from Katrina at one of the various local fiber festivals I've attended.  She's got an Etsy shop and makes stunning bamboo buttons that have even been featured in Interweave Magazine (or was it Vogue...you get the idea...it was a big deal).  You may recognize her name from when I used her anchor buttons on Alex's red sweater.

Now, I'm off to knit a secret baby gift for a friend of the family.  Can't wait to show it off.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In which things start to look more rosy

First of all, Dante's old iPod was both the best and worst thing to recently happen to me, lol.  It's just do darn fast to take a photo and upload it to any site I choose, but the photo quality is lousy.  I just can't be bothered to find the charger for the camera and my photo quality on the blog has definitely suffered, but I believe that once I get everything put back where it goes, I'll happen upon it and then I promise that photo quality will go up.  Until then, gaze upon the adorable face of my youngest, wearing a new color-block hat I whipped up out of partial skeins of Malabrigo Rios.  The purple was from a hat that my friend Denise knit, and the rest is left over from two hats that I knit for Jim. 

I love the Rios because it's beautiful, soft, warm, and this yarn actually stay put on my head!  I've got a lot (LOT!!) of hair and it's very curly so it's everywhere, but it's also very soft so hats slip right off if I have my hair down or if it's pulled into a messy ponytail (which it often is), and so I have a very hard time keeping a hat on my head.  I have to pull it all the way down to my eyebrows, where other girls can let their bangs show.  This yarn lets me show a little of my hair so I can rock a look that says "I'm a girl" without worrying that the hat will drop off behind me as I go about my business.  I almost bought a skein to knit myself a hat but then I decided to see if I could use up what I had.  None of the skeins really went together so I decided to take someone's suggestion and try color blocking. 

If I were to do it all over again, I'd put the purple in the middle but I really wanted a bright color next to my face.  There isn't much contrast between the two blues (it shows better in person), but I've still gotten several compliments on it.  Kim even told me I should write up the pattern (I'll get right on that...). 

Meanwhile, I've been working on a new pair of mittens for Alex.  I have to replace the one he lost and I don't have enough of that yarn left over (I did, but I used it on other stuff...you know how that goes) so instead of buying another skein and being stuck with a bunch left over again, I decided to go another way.  I'm making him some stranded mittens in the hope that they will be extra toasty.  It was only 20 degrees F the other morning and it's not even winter yet!  This has been the coldest November I can remember in all the years I've lived here, and these mittens need to be really warm.  I'm even thinking of knitting an inner liner mitten so he doesn't catch his little fingers in the floats, but we'll see how far I get on that.  And there could be a matching hat as well but you know...

Finally, I decided to take a look at an upcoming pattern that was fresh from my tech editor (or at least it was fresh three weeks ago when she emailed it back to me).  All of the numbers look good and most of the issues were with the formatting.  Word did something crazy with my format and I can fix that.  I've even gone so far as to schedule a photo shoot, so look for a new pattern from Cambria Washington in time for last minute Christmas knitting!  Really.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Where does the time go?, aka the black hole of time that is grad school.

I don't know if anyone else is feeling this way, but I'm staring down the barrel of the holiday season and realizing that the year is almost over and I haven't been nearly as productive as I'd like.  Did you know that I've only designed two patterns this entire year?!  And only one of them has been released as of this post.  I'm supposed to be revising the other but the renovations and my finals really got in the way.  I'm tired all the time.  I'm waking up at the crack of dawn to drive Dante to seminary.  I'm managing Alex's behavior modification plan at school, from home.  I'm still chasing down the moving parts that I need to transfer out of Kaplan and into Salve Regina.  I'm still putting my apartment back together and now that I'm almost done I've run right out of steam.  I've hardly baked anything. 

The only thing I'm proud of this year (knitting wise) is that I finally put a deadline on my holiday commissioned work and I've stuck to it.  Halloween was the deadline, and I've turned down two offers of work this week.  I really want to be able to bake cookies for Santa and I want to knit things for my own family this year.  Alex's sweater is wanting a zipper and Dante's TARDIS socks need a mate.  Aaron's Christmas socks from two years ago are finished and need to be washed, but he'll be getting them after a very long wait. 

Things just got crazy after I started grad school and was called into the Young Woman's program.  I'm busier than I ever thought I'd be and I'm having a really hard time keeping up with it all.  I missed out on participating in the Gift-a-long on Ravelry because I was busy with the renovations, and honestly, I'm not sure if I could have pulled it together enough to participate.  I've been getting emails about adding a Craftsy widget to my website and I know it would be a good tool to use but it takes brain power that I just don't have right now to set that up, lol.  Patterns are coming out like gang busters and I'm watching it all, feeling like I've lost my mojo.  It's not that the ideas aren't there; I just don't have the extra energy to devote to the work.  When I was working on my bachelor's degree, I always felt more creative when my work load increased but grad school is a whole different animal. 

So in summary, things are crazy (as usual), I'm tired (as usual), and I haven't had the time to design much this year (this is new).  I hope to have my feet back under me by the new year and maybe I'll even have a design going by then.  We can dream right?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Late Halloween wrap-up

This Halloween just didn't feel like Halloween.  I don't know why.  Maybe because my apartment was (and still is) a shambles.  Maybe because we didn't have the time to carve our pumpkin.  Maybe because between finals and the renovations, I never got a chance to bake any spooky treats.  But what ever it was, it just didn't feel the same.  I hardly even got to watch any scary movies because getting up at 5am requires me to go to bed a lot earlier than before.  It just wasn't the same.

We did manage to still have a good time.  I went out and picked up a few of the girls and we all went Trick-or-Treating.  Unfortunately, everyone must have gone out at 6 pm because by the time we got out at about 7:30, there were hardly any T-o-T'ers and there weren't very many porch lights on.  It worked out alright for us anyway because that allowed Alex and Paula to basically run the streets without any fear of being run over or getting lost in a crown, lol.  I walked along behind them dressed as the evil Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty), directing their activities with a waive of my staff.  This costume is fantastic!  Everywhere we went, people just stared (and you can't blame them when you consider that I'm about 6' 6" with my hat on).  The kids and I all had a great time and then we went back to my cluttered apartment to get the car and drive the girls home.

When I finally got the ladies home (at about 10 pm), I found one of the neighborhood cats stalking what looked like a huge mouse.  When we got closer, I could see that it was a little baby bunny and that cat was just about to pounce on it when I swooped in.  I picked this little thing up (he was about the size of a squirrel minus the tail), and stood there in the rain while we tried to figure out who he belonged to.  Unfortunately, he didn't seem to belong to anyone and I couldn't just put him down in the bushes (more cats came and they were circling like sharks) so I had to put him in the car and take him home.  I handed him to one of the girls and he calmed right down.  After I dropped her off, I put him on my lap and called my mom.  She told me to get a medicine dropper to feed him, which required me to hit up the 24-hour Walgreens...which meant that I had to put this little guy in my purse because I couldn't leave him in the car.  So there I was, standing in a Walgreens dressed like Maleficent with a bunny in my handbag.  The guy at the counter who cashed me out didn't even blink an eye (bless him).

I got home and mixed the bunny up a batch of kitten milk with stuff I had in the house (and it was a miracle that I not only had all the stuff I needed, but that I could find it).  He ate several times and snuggled with me for a while until I could get Eddie's cat carrier set up for him.  He was the sweetest, cutest little thing.  Naturally I had to get rid of him as fast as humanly possible because I couldn't keep him and I knew I'd want to.  And Eddie didn't like him at all.  And he didn't like Eddie either (which is understandable considering a cat just tried to kill him earlier). 

The next morning I called an animal hospital, who told me to call the East Providence animal control.  They came out to look at him and declared him a wild bunny who had been tamed (a crime) and said that I'd need to call the SPCA to see if their rehabilitator could work with him to release him back into the wild.  He didn't like it when the officer held him (not at all), even though he'd been extremely gentle.  I took him back and he climbed up under my chin to snuggle.  The officer said that he thought animals could sense a mother.  I think that he knew I'd keep him safe. 

I called the SPCA and spoke to the woman.  When I got him down there, she took one look at his feet and said that he was a domestic bunny with the markings of a wild bunny.  He was definitely a little guy.  She was surprised at how relaxed he was when I took him out of the cat carrier and how sweet he was.  She decided to foster him, and I went to fill out the paperwork (I knew none of the answers).  Wouldn't you know, even though I only had that bunny for 15 hours I still managed to get attached to it.  Probably because of how sweet he was, and the fact that I randomly stumbled on him and saved him, and how I just happened to have exactly what I needed to feed him through the night, and how attached he was to me when he didn't much like anyone else, and how I somehow knew he was male.  I know I was meant to see him to a good home.  I even got to name him; we called him Frank.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh smurf!

I am in the middle of the apartment renovation from hell, and I can't take much more.  Everything is everywhere and we've been displaced during the process.  Our allergies are going crazy because we've been spending a lot of time at my MIL's (she's got several cats; we're allergic to cats).  Thank goodness I'm on my school break right now.  I think it's almost finished as the tile is in, the floors are in, and the kitchen appliances are in.  I'm looking forward to taking the new oven for a spin.  But first I have to clean sawdust and plaster dust off of everything I own before I can put it all away.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall is in full swing

all done except the zipper
I am so sorry!  I didn't realize that a full month had passed since my last post.  Things have been so busy around here and there just didn't seem to be very much of it that was blog-worthy.  I've been struggling to get Alex's school to implement the correct behavior plan for him and had to resort to writing it myself.  I'm happy to say that we are seeing improvement already.  Things have also been very busy with the Young Women and I've recently taken on a much more active roll.  I read this talk from the October 2013 general conference, and it really got me thinking.  I've been feeling very inspired and like I have the power to change the world, which is very welcome given the way I'd been feeling after the mess of the last election where I was starting to feel like being a woman was no longer the blessing I'd always thought it to be.  Now I'm back on track and working with the entire branch-worth of youth to make some behavioral changes where necessary (just on my own here...no one asked but I felt like it was the right thing to do) and I'm pleased with the small changes I've seen so far.

what I'm working on (that I can show you)
Fall sneaked up on us this year and I've been so busy that I haven't been able to put the full effort into it like last year.  I haven't made one spooky treat yet!  We did however get out and go pick apples with my friend Denise.  It was a little expensive at the farm, but I have to say that these apples are definitely worth the price!  I bought the half-bussel bag and we picked three varieties of desert apples.  So far I've made mini apple tarts, an apple pie, apple cider with mulling spices that I also made from scratch (very good, should have used less ginger), and I'm going to make apple sauce and apple butter.  The apple cider was amazing!!  So much better than anything I've bought anywhere else and I can see that my juicer will be getting more use in the future.

I am also in the process of trying to transfer out of Kaplan and into Salve Regina, which means that I'm chasing moving parts right now.  It's a lot harder that I thought to get my letters of recommendation done, and I don't think my transcripts have been received yet.  I really need to make this switch as it will make a huge difference in my ability to find work after I graduate.

And finally, it's finals again and I'm struggling to get my project finished.  This one is really tough because the professor is asking us to write a case study and describe how the person's life development lead to the development of a handful of phobias.  We can't explain how normal development goes and then talk about how this client went awry.  We have to only address a developmental stage if it directly relates to their issue.  That is much more difficult than it looks because there just aren't enough research articles that address the question he's asking and I've had to approach this from several different angles just trying to get it done.  Every time I run into a wall, I try to work on a different section.  It's a mess and I sincerely hope it works out.  Meanwhile my apartment will be re
novated next week and this project has kept me from being able to start packing (and naturally the men in my household don't see the need to start packing) so I'm dealing with that stress.  By the time I write another post, I hope to be able to say that I passed my assignment and that I'm writing from the comfort of a newly renovated apartment.

Monday, September 16, 2013

early mornings

It's been a crappy week here folks.  Fall allergy season is in full swing and Alex and I are suffering.  Thankfully, it's pretty rainy today and that helps clear some of the stuff out of the air.  So what's a girl to do when she's too sick and too high on allergy medicine to do anything else?  Well I know I should type "knit" into this space but that's not really what happened.

My oldest son started early morning seminary last week so I've been waking up at 5am and driving him to Providence for a 6am class.  Then I drive him to school, turn around and go back home to wake Alex up, then get him dressed, fed, and on the school bus.  By that time I'm already four hours into my day and there's no shot at going back to sleep.  So I haven't really been doing anything with my sick time except make a serious effort to keep up with my homework and try to go to bed early every night.  Last night it was 9:30 pm.

As you can see from the photo though, I did have a pretty productive month last month.  I knit nine hats in August!  Nine.  The top three in the photo represent some of my work fro last month.  And as you can see, I've got a thing for gray or gray-ish yarns right now.  I might have to ride that out like I did the hat thing.  I'm finally off hats and I've started my first sweater of the year.  I'm knitting Reverb by Tanis Lavallee.  Tanis is another wildly talented designer who's work I admire, and she's an indi-yarn dyer as well.  I'm just in love with this pattern and although it's a little bit complex (which I'm good with), it's well thought out and well written.  I love the attention to detail.  Hopefully I'll have a photo worth posting soon.  Meanwhile, I'm off to try to get a nap and to nurse this cough. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

And we're back

We are back my friends, and we're happy to be so.  It was surreal out there. 

People have been asking me if I had a good trip, and you know...it's hard to answer that question.  It was complicated.  There was good and there was bad; more good than bad so I guess it was a good trip.  I met my father in person and that was difficult.  It wasn't the meeting I was hoping for, for many reasons that I won't go into here.  What I will say is that I have answers to a few questions I've always had, and I have closure.  I won't be traveling out for any holiday visits.

I also spent time with my mom who hasn't seen Alex in many years and wasn't prepared for the handful he can be.  He spent way too much time sitting in a car seat or plane seat and he hasn't had therapy for weeks so he was really off and his behavior showed that.  I did my best to keep the kids out of my mom's apartment so that they could get some activity in, and we could let her pets relax for a few kid-free hours.  My mom also had some stress she was unaware she was dealing with, and it made it pretty hard for her to put up with Alex's perpetual motion.  I totally get it, so I did my best to manage things for everyone (like I tend to do at home).  It was tense but it all worked out in the end.

After my visit with my father and his brand new wife (whom he married on the very day, in the very same hour that I was scheduled to meet him), I decided that I needed to salvage the rest of my trip by showing the kids where I grew up, went to school, where my oldest was born, and some other cool sights in California.  We had an old fashioned donut (a real one, not one of those lame cake donuts with no frosting they have out here on the East coast).  We went to the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield.  We went to Carl's Jr. and Jack in the Box.  We had a blizzard at Dairy Queen (it wasn't anywhere near as good as I remember).  We went to Chico where I got to meet Yarn Yenta in person and have a picnic with her family in Bidwell Park.  We had Mexican food with a good friend.  And most importantly, we went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and road the rides.  It was AMAZING!  The park is featured in the movie The Lost Boys (which you need to watch right now if you haven't yet...go ahead, it's on Netflix).  We love that movie so it was a lot of fun to show the boys all the things that were used in the filming.  That was a really really long day, but I'm glad we did it.  I got my moneys worth out of that rental car.

Anyway, life was waiting impatiently for me when I got back and I'm trying very hard to get back to my routine.  The clean laundry was still sitting in the baskets unfolded.  The dishes piled up while we were gone.  The food I'd cooked for my husband was mostly uneaten and I had to put it away in the freezer first thing when I got back.  I'm still not unpacked.  I have a major project due tonight and a YW activity.  I'm teaching a lesson this week, and work has asked for some extra hours if I can spare them.  I'm swamped, but I need the extra hours.  Seminary started this week so we're getting up at 5am to drive Dante to Providence every morning, and then I have to come home to get Alex off to school.  The schedule is brutal.  I knit almost nothing while I was in California and I'm not getting much done now that I'm home.  No sweaters were made (or even started), but I did buy a little local sock yarn while I was out.  It's better than collecting shot glasses, right?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Last minute family emergency

I got a call the other night (more like morning; it was 1 am) from my bio-dad.  You may recall that I only found him about a month ago; maybe it was a little longer than that.  He was back in the hospital.  He's been in and out for a while now with kidney failure, and a fall down the stairs.  His heart stopped while he was in the hospital and they had to do emergency surgery.

That being said, I know that school is starting next week but the boys and I are boarding a plane for California tomorrow morning before dawn and flying out to see him while he's still around to see.  We've never met him and although I certainly shouldn't be spending this type of money right now, I know that I'll regret it if we never get to meet him now that I finally know where he is.

I'm not sure what I'm walking into.  He seems desperate to have a real father-daughter relationship with me, but I literally don't know him so I just can't make myself feel what I can sense he hopes I feel.  That really needs to come with time and although I know that we probably don't have that sort of time, I still can't push it.  I know myself.

Another reason is that on our last conversation, he told me that family members were less than thrilled about me entering his life.  That dredged up lots of old, painful memories about the family I did know; the ones who rejected me because of my race and made it very clear to a small child that she wasn't loved or accepted.  I still carry those scars with me to this day and it's part of who I am.  I have built a family for myself and moved all the way across the country so that my children would be loved and supported by the very people who are expected to love and support them.  My mother is the only thing left for me in California, so I don't usually go back there.  It's too expensive, too painful, too depressing.  But this is something that I have to do.

I have spoken to his fiance and she sounded less than welcoming.  She also wasn't very helpful when I asked if they could let the family know I was coming to town because I'd like to meet them.  She basically said that it was up to my aunts and uncles and that "they're grown".  Not sure what I'm supposed to take from that except that she's not planning to lift a finger to help me find these people.  How can I be expected to ask them to meet me when I don't know who they are and how to reach them?..

So.  I'm taking Dante with me to the hospital to meet my father and I'm going to feel it out.  If they are anything other than happy to see me after all the trouble and expense I've gone through to go out there, I'll walk away and not look back.  I know this sounds harsh, but I have to protect my emotional health so I can be whole for my family and meet my personal obligations.  I won't let family drama pull me down any more.  I shook it off years ago when I boarded a plane to the farthest place I could get from little Marysville, CA without leaving the continental US.  I can already feel the wall.  It's already up and I'm having to go through the motions because I don't want to look back on my life with regret one day for not taking the chance to look this man in the face, or to let my children see where they come from.  I'm going to do this, but I'm going to take advantage of the time I have and spend it with my mom, who hasn't seen my boys in six years.  And I'm going to try to meet up with some of my adult cousins.  And I'm going to knit.  Boy am I going to knit.  I'm looking for a pattern right now.  It's time to start my next sweater; I'm thinking about this one.

Time to go pack the yarn!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hats, hats, hats

Please forgive these lousy photos but I've gotten really lazy about taking pictures and the iPod is just so easy to use.  It's a step up from completely forgetting to take a photo until after I've already given the gift away.

This is a hat for Elder Orton, (if you are not Elder Orton and you are reading this, keep your trap shut till after he gets it, lol).  He just got transferred to a new area and I was sad to see him go.  He's one of our favorites.  I was just telling him that this is really a good time of year to know me because I tend to start baking treats and I have so much around that I have to give a lot of it away.  That's when he hit us with the bad news that he was being transferred today. 

Anyway, I got a beautiful skein of Madeline Tosh DK in Hickory to knit Oak Trail for one of my girls.  Unfortunately once I got into it I realized that it's just way too adult/masculine for her and I had to find something else to do with it.  I tried to knit a pair of mittens with it too, but it just really wanted to be a hat.  So, I decided to knit a simple hat for Elder Orton to help keep him warm this winter.  It'll be his first New England winter and I just don't think he's prepared for it, lol.  I'm also going to mail him some goodies once he gets settled into his new area.  It's only fair.

Meanwhile school started for me again and the kids are about ready to go back.  Dante will have early morning seminary every single day and I'll have to be up at the crack to get him there.  Alex has soccer and therapy and I've got Young Women's activities so I'm going to be very very busy.  I've decided to cope by continuing my "knit other designers' patterns" campaign, and by reading youth literature.  I just discovered that I can borrow books from the local library on my Kindle, so now I can read fun 10-12 year old fiction without anyone knowing what I'm reading ;)  It's going to be fun. 

Oh! I almost forgot.  I stopped into Craftland today and picked up a flier.  I'm going to consider applying to be a featured artist this holiday season.  They take finished products and patterns so I'm thinking of knitting some baby items for the store and bring in some of my adult mitten and hat patterns as well.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Growing up

This fuzzy looking picture commemorates Dante's first step toward being a man, and my first step toward a total breakdown.  He left on Saturday for a week-long mini-mission.  He is (right now) living as a full time missionary with a missionary companion, in the missionary apartment, doing missionary stuff.  I have no earthly idea where he is right now, except to know that he's been assigned to the Rhode Island mission so he's somewhere between the state of RI and Connecticut.  This little piece of info is (I think) why I had a total emotional meltdown at church on Sunday, which stretched into the rest of my day.  It's the first time I haven't know exactly where my son is, and I don't like that feeling at all.  However, one of his Young Men's leaders emailed me with the phone number for the Boston Mission home (where he went the first night to receive his assignment) and just having that information was enough for me to get it together.  I haven't called, but I know I can if I want to and that seems to be all I really needed.

In the mean time, Alex and I have been trying to keep ourselves busy.  He misses Dante a lot too.  So we've been watching a lot of Spongebob and Scooby-Doo, because Alex knows that's my favorite and he's actively trying to make me feel better.  Alex is the kindest little boy ever and he tries to take good care of me :)  We've been going to the track this past week as well.  I don't know if I've ever said this before but I used to be a track star in my little town back in California.  I was pretty good too.  And I really miss it.  I was told by the chiropractor and the physical therapist that I shouldn't be running, so I stopped trying for a while but a few of my friends from high school are still running and I just missed it like crazy.  I decided to try again; I suck at it.  I'm struggling with my asthma right now but I know I can push through it because I have before, many times.  And I can say that since I've started running again, I've found a part of myself that I lost a long time ago.  The track smells different; it smells really good.  I feel confident out there.  I walk taller out there.  I know who I am and what I'm ultimately capable of out there.  And my speed is coming back, although my endurance is a long way off.  I'm fast again after only a few sessions on the track.  I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do after a few more weeks, and I'm going to look into whether there is a track club for adults.  This might be a thing folks.

And finally, I finished Maycie's hat and got a few photos of Sarai in hers.  It looks AMAZING on her, naturally :)  And Knit Picks published the Gradual Scarf this month.  It was on the cover!!  It's not my pattern, but I knit the sample so I'm probably the second most excited person in the world about that (second only to the actual designer, lol).  Here's a few lousy photos below:

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's all hats, all the time

When last we met, I'd started a new pair of mittens and I was struggling to get them just the way I liked them.  Little did I suspect that I would run out of yarn and find myself unable to match that color.  I fell into the trap that many of us do when working with hand dyed yarns; the dyelot was too different to match my original skein.  The other skeins are so drastically different that there's just no way I can make it work with what I have.  My choices are a) rip all the way back and start again alternating skeins as I go, b) start over with my original color and knit plain stockinette mittens, hoping I'll have enough to finish the set, or c) start over with a completely different yarn and use this skein to knit a hat.  I'm leaning toward c, but that's probably because I'm now obsessed with knitting hats.

As I may have mentioned, I'm one of the Young Woman's leaders at my branch and I decided one day that I wanted to knit something for the girls.  I was thinking of knitting mittens, but I saw one of the girls struggling with her hat one afternoon and that's when I knew what I had to do, lol.  I've been knitting hats like it's my job ever since.  In the last week, I've knit four but per usual I gave two of them away without taking the time to get a decent photo first. 

I knit Wurm for one of the girls and I gave it to her immediately! Here's a lousy iPod shot of here in that hat.  I knit the Zig-Zag Chevron hat for one member of a set of twins.  Then I knit a hat inspired by a hat by Alex Tensley (she's amazing!).  I didn't have enough yarn to knit the exact hat so I used hers as a starting point and made a few adjustments.  If you purchase this hat through Ravelry, there's an e-book that includes another version and I'm looking forward to knitting that little gem too.  I actually knit, ripped, re-knit, re-ripped, and finally re-re-knit this hat until I got it right.  The scalloped hat here is the result and it's for the other twin.  See what I did there?..  They match but they aren't the same, just like the twins :)  

I also finished a hat that was inspired by Jane, by Jane Richmond.  She's another one of my hat-designing-crushes.  I love all of her hats and I could seriously knit every one of them.  I just might.  It's a simple stitch to knit, and it looks much harder than it is, so when you give it to someone they think you've killed yourself trying to create it, lol.  Sort of reminds me of that old rice krispy treat commercial where the mom is in the kitchen with a glass of iced tea and a book, then tosses some flour on her face and comes out with her pan of krispy treats looking worn out and disheveled.  The family never knew it only took a few minutes, lol. 

Anyway, I'm going to try to get a photo of Natalia wearing her Jane-ish hat.  And in the mean time I've started working on Pressed Leaves for another girl.  I'm pretty excited about this one, but it's harder on my hands to knit.  I think the results will be well worth the effort and the Candlewick Madeline Tosh Vintage is the perfect color for this.  Here's a little peek:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Starting something new

You know what I do when life gets a little too busy?.. I start something new, lol.  I'm a habitual-project-starter but not really a project-finisher.  Things got a little heavy this week and I found myself dealing with some long buried pain from my childhood.  It's amazing what a simple comment from a well-meaning person can dig up.  So after struggling to get centered again, I decided to start a new project.  That one's not pictured here, lol.

I started knitting a pair of thrummed slippers for the shop.  We're getting a new yarn in this fall that's grown and milled in America and it's AMAZING.  I love it to death and I'm buying several skeins once we get it in stock to knit my husband's Slade cardigan.  So you're probably wondering why I'm not currently knitting those slippers if I love the yarn so much, and the reason is that the slippers are knit double-stranded and it's killing my fingers.  I needed something to work on while I recuperate, and that got me thinking about the mittens I promised my cousin a few years ago.

My baby cousin (who's a full grown woman now) is the detective who located my bio-dad and she asked me if that act was enough to earn her that pair of mittens now, lol.  Of course it is.  I totally forgot that I own two skeins of Madeline Tosh chunky in stunning colors so I went into the store and bought this amazing skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino Chunky in color #508, which in the skein just looks like a yellow skein that fell into a vat of black by accident and then they just decided to go with it.  But when you knit with it?!!  It's the warmest, deepest, richest, most complex brown you've ever seen.  You need this color in your life. 

I've knit and ripped this here mitten at least five times, but I just don't care because it's still pretty and soft and smooth, and I never get tired of watching the color play out.  This stitch pattern looks just like bark and it's really really easy to do.  I think I might write it up when I finish.  Hopefully she'll love these but if not, I have no problem keeping them for myself :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

So much going on

It's been a while since I took time to post and there's just been a whole heck of a lot going on.  I wasn't too sure how much I should share because this was all very personal.  Unfortunately I have almost nothing to share on the knitting/design front, other than knitting more hexipuffs.  Turns out I have quite a few in pink, green, and blue.  I need to make a few more in yellow, orange, and neutral shades. 

But anyway, I have been riding an emotional roller coaster this week because with the help of my cousin, I found my biological father and I spoke to him for the first time on Monday night.  It went very well and we've been exchanging messages via Facebook, sort of getting to know each other.  It's a delicate process given that I'm 36 years old now, lol.  I can say that I've discovered that I really am an only child, that I'm Cherokee Indian (probably enough to register), and that my grandmother was 6' 1" so that answers a few questions, lol.  He comes from a large family so there are plenty of aunts, uncles, and cousins to get to know over time. 

This exciting (and confusing) development was tempered by a clerical mistake in the manager's office of my apartment complex, which resulted in a constible showing up at my door to erroneously serve us with eviction papers.  I have never been so stressed in my life (well, not in a long long time) and I'm still emotionally exhausted over it.  Everything has been sorted out and we're going to be okay but it was really scary and I hope to never experience that again.  Needless to say, with all this excitement, the chest searing acid reflux attack brought on by the stress, and the oppressive heat wave we're experiencing here on the East Coast, I'm just not sleeping very well.  Critical thinking is all but non-existant and I've got a major project due this week.  It'll all come together (like it always does) but it won't be a fun process. 

Now I'm going to turn my air conditioner again, eat some more of the banana based ice cream I made last week, give up on trying to do more  homework tonight, and watch old episodes of "My Name Is Earl" before going to bed.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Wedding Shawl

Yesterday was both Dante's 16th birthday (Happy birthday to him) and my friends' wedding.  I met the groom while working at my last job and we became very close friends, even though we were complete opposites, lol.  Not only is he hilarious, but he was a hard worker, good at his job, very mature for his age, and he was much taller than me (always a plus!).  And we disliked the same people for the same reason, lol.  Oh, and he had great taste in women, which eventually led us to yesterday's events. 

I met his bride at a Halloween party.  I was sure that she would hate me for some reason but she loved me, and I loved her.  We ganged up on him about taking care of himself and treating each other with respect, lol.  She dubbed me his "work wife", and being LDS, I had a great time joking about her being my "sister wife".  She's a spit fire, can curse like a sailor, and still somehow comes across as a Lady (a skill which I'm a little envious of, lol).  For a time there, we would exchange holiday gifts; she made me jewelry and I would knit for her.  When I worked at the bank, I wore her jewelry every day. 

When I learned of their coming wedding five weeks ago, I put it into high gear looking for something to knit her.  I wanted to make something practical and easy, but I also wanted to show off a bit and give her something really amazing looking.  After going back and fourth with some trusted friends, I settled on Winter Thaw.  I loved this pattern and it wad really easy to knit.  Unfortunately either I didn't read the written pattern directions right, or there was a mistake because I finished the last row completely correct but I couldn't start the final chart because the stitches were off.  Other people managed to figure it out but I was on the clock so I left the last chart off (which is too bad because it really makes the shawl...but no one else knows that...wait...now you do). 

My husband really wanted to see her open it, and since it was the only gift (everyone else brought cards with cash inside) and since we were leaving to go home, she happily opened it.  My friend (the groom) was a little bummed out when I told him it was just for her, lol.  She loved it.  She even tried it on several different ways, even though it was over 90 degrees yesterday and humid as a swamp.  Just another reason why I love that girl.  I assured her that it wasn't as fragile as it looked, and that short of setting it on fire, there's nothing she can do to it that I can't fix, so she should feel free to use it.  He said it looked like it would fall apart if you touched it, but I assured him it was sturdy.  I love that it looks so delicate but it's strong enough for regular use.  And I love that she loved it.  And I love that they finally got married because I love them together :)

 P.S.  please excuse the lousy photos.  I almost didn't remember to take any at all, lol.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I have been having a very itchy day folks.  I started taking a medication for my nails about 3 days ago and it turns out that I'm allergic to it.  I've never reacted to a medication before but I sure did this time.  Anxiety, adrenaline, and a nice bright red rash to go with it.  I couldn't get a good photo of it (it's probably for the best anyway).  So needless to say I'll not be continuing with that pill anymore.  I was hoping to take the easier way out to fix an issue I'm having with an ingrown toenail but looks like I get to go to the pediatrist and have him take the cutters to me.  I've done it before and it was painful (and not too successful) so I had hoped to avoid doing it again but no dice.

Thankfully, Stella Marie Soap Shop was still open when we closed for the day and I went over to see Kim, who took great care of me.  She has the best creams and lotions and they're all natural so they don't irritate my already irritated skin.  She gave me a shea butter lotion that I put on and the redness has reduced quite a bit.  I'm looking forward to getting into the tub with the almond milk bath bomb to see if that will help some too.  Probably won't hurt ;)

Meanwhile, school is rolling along for me but the boys will finally be out.  Tomorrow is their last day.  I know friends back in California who've been out for a solid month by now but we're still going.  Sigh.  I'm happy that I won't have to get Alex up and out of the house, and walk him to school every morning, but I will also lose those quiet hours where I could focus on homework and watch a scary movie once in a while before everyone else came home or got up.  At least this summer I'm mobile again.  We can take some trips to the library or the park, or maybe even the beach this year if we plan things right.

And speaking of planning things right, I'm very close to finishing the wedding shawl and I only have a few days left to work on it so I'm going to go back to it.  Photos soon!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

So easily distracted

This summer is off to a good start, if the last week is any indication.  I sure hope we get more weekends like this one.  The fact that I can drive again, and that Alex is older, and that my books are real physical books again means that I'm more mobile than I was last summer. 

Last weekend we finally went out to Edaville to ride the Thomas train and it turned out that they also had unlimited amusement park rides
included in the cost of admission.  We went ahead and took advantage of that little perk, lol. 

As you can see from the photos, Dante was less than thrilled initially but after the first ride he perked right up.  I love that even though he wasn't interested in the rides (before getting on them), he was willing to go on with Alex because Alex was too small to ride alone.  What a good big brother to take one for the team like that.  Needless to say, they all had a great time.

Then Thursday night the school PTA hosted the Oldham Night at the carousel.  It was open to the students and families, with snacks and free carousel rides.  Alex rode a few times and played with some friends before we had to get home for bed.  We're still having some social/emotional difficulty in these types of situations but he's improved so much since last year and I have hope that he'll be even better next year.

In knitting news, I'm still making progress on the Winter Thaw pattern and I hope to finish before the July 5th wedding.  I don't know if it'll happen, but I have hope. 

In other news, I've finally tracked down the original theory related to Sensory Modulation Disorder: it's Sensory Integration Dysfunction.  Now that I know what it is and where to find it, I'm finding a wealth of information.  And I've contacted my professor and gotten some support so I will be doing my thesis on SMD.  I also have a friend from church who as agreed to act as a sort of adviser for me since I'm an online student and I won't have access to one.  This is also great because this friend is affiliated with an Ivy League School, and that carries a lot more weight with scientific journals than my school does, lol. 

I have this great idea for an experiment and I'm excited to see if my idea proves true.  If so, it could mean big things for my family specifically but maybe it would help others in the treatment of ADHD and SMD.  I suspect a connection between the two, and there could be a connection between treatment methods.  Maybe the field of psychology will start to recognize the Sensory Integration disorders more than they do now.