Friday, August 27

I'll Be Back

I'm headed out to the Vineyard at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning, so it will probably be labor day before I'm blogging again.

We'll be staying at DP's family's house in Chilmark. It's a great place--pretty rustic, but not uncomfortably so. There's no electricity, but there's propane so there's hot water, stove, even a propane-powered refrigerator. Two years ago they replaced the flush toilet with a composting toilet, which was really a bummer, but other than that it's great. It's right on the pond--much closer than you could ever build today--and you can hear the ocean across the pond. I'm hoping this year is a lot more manageable--last year the kids just careened around the place, which is encircled by poison ivy-infested brush, with no ability to process verbal warnings of danger, etc. So I never sat down, basically. This year, I'm hoping to sit down at least occasionally.

I'm bringing my wheel, but not my dyeing stuff. I think it will be nice to spin by candlelight like my ancestors did (of course, they probably went blind that way, huh?). I'm bringing Zeus--trying to get back to it. That's what I want to concentrate on, so I stay somewhat consistent! For knitting, I'll be bringing my diagonal progression sweater that was on hold for 3 years (it was knitted primarily in IVF waiting rooms, now it just needs to be finished). I hope to be able to wear it when I return. Also Eleanor's Haiku, which is looking great, and I expect to have that finished too, since it's taking no time to knit and I think I have enough spun to finish both sleeves. Finally, I have a t-top I'm making out of that Berroco seconds yarn (sorry no links but I am in a rush) for Rhys. Just in case I finish all the rest of those and have nothing else to do. :) Oh, and a pair of socks that have been my "throw in the purse" project for about 2 years now. They're inches away from completion too.

I want to start some solstice knitting, but with all these half-finished projects, I have forbidden myself from starting anything new. However, I think I will be warming feet with felted booties this winter. Hopefully I'll get back with a few FOs to report and be ready to start some solstice knitting.

Have a great week!
Warning: Sad (death mentioned)

A long-time buddy from the boards is facing the hardest thing in the world. Saying goodbye to her baby. Katie lost Emma at 21+ weeks, then kept her other two triplets, Becca and Louie, in for another two weeks to make it to 23 weeks, at which point they will do NICU care (as opposed to hospice care, which is what they do earlier). Becca went through a lot, but she made it. She is home, still on 02, but expected to be fine. Louie was not so lucky. He has been through everything--surgeries for ROP and NEC, countless intubations and transfusions, and a week ago they told Katie that his heart was enlarged and he would not survive the cardiac arrests that were imminent. They put a DNR on him and they are planning to remove life support so he can say goodbye without tubes and monitors, next week. Katie is such a wonderful person, and she and her family have been through hell with all this. More than most of us can even imagine.

I'm not blogging about this just to talk though. I want to ask anyone who reads this who wants to, to join in a "prayer meeting" our playgroup is doing. You can light an online candle for Louie. I think seeing all the candles dedicated to her and her little boy will really mean a lot to Katie.

Here are the instructions from the playgroup:

If you would like to light a virtual candle for Louie, go to this link and follow the instructions –except - where it says to enter your initials, put in the name LOUIE – you can sign your name in the dedication –there are over a 1000 candles on this site so this way we can find which candles are our Louie candles. You also will get a mini-candle to keep on your desktop. The candles burn for two days and you can go back and light as many as you wish.


Monday, August 23

Serious: Disturbing Neighbors and Shoe Shopping

First, the seriously disturbing neigbors. I should begin by describing my neighborhood. I live on a quiet street in Florence, Mass., part of Northampton, which has become chi-chi in the last 20-30 years. Northampton has always been a little bit cool, right back to Jonathan Edwards (no, not that one) and Sojourner Truth , and of course Smith College has always been here. But my street has largely escaped the influx of "those out-of-town vegetarians" as those of us lobbying for a domestic partnership ordinance about 10 years back were called. Our neighbors, aside from, inexplicably, being almost exclusively named Joe, have been very nice and friendly. We bought the house from the daughter of our across the street neighbors (nice Joe and Gloria), and despite the fact that we stuck it to them big-time on the purchase price, they've been wonderful to us and the kids love them. They even let us swim in their above-ground pool whenever we want.

Across the street is the republican neighbor, who tends toward crankiness and is actually not named Joe, but instead, John, but who has recently taken to giving us tomatoes instead of berating us about voting against property tax increases (sorry John).

Then there is Joe and Lucille from down the street. This is the, excuse me for being horribly politically incorrect, but this is the WT house on the block. You know, a nice collection of rusted automotive equipment, semi-annual lawn-mowing schedule, dogs barking, dentally challenged...most neighborhoods have one.

This presence of WT-ness *really* bothers the other Joes on the block, and particularly bothers John. Joe and Lucille, as it turns out, are actually brother and sister (Gloria explained this to us) and have lived in that house since childhood. Lucille has a son via adoption (I believe as a single parent), who is a young teen and has autism. John constantly accuses this kid of pulling his fence down. John is somewhat obsessed with this fence business--I'm not sure if the kid is responsible or not, since John seems somewhat irrational about the whole thing.

The other day, we were taking the kids and dogs for a walk (quite an undertaking), when Joe (WT Joe) corners Rhys in the driveway. I continued on with the kids, but it turns out that Joe wanted to tell Rhys that the neighbors (John et al) had called the health department on him and Lucille, saying that they had rats in their yard and the house was unfit for habitation. I feel pretty neutral on this issue. Based on what I hear and see, this family is hanging on by a thread, and if there's any chance they can get some social work support or even just a wake-up call through the health department coming in and writing them up, then great. But really, I don't care if their lawn is waist-high--it gives the neighbors something else to focus on when they get grumpy about lawnmowing frequency.

So last night, we're having company for dinner when WT Joe knocks on the door. He tells me it was the kid's birthday and they made a cake, and not as many people came as they expected, so he wanted to know if we wanted some. I thanked him, invited him in (he declined) and shut the door. Frankly, with the whole health department/rats thing, I wasn't so sure I wanted something from their kitchen, so we debated it around the table for a few minutes and entertained our guests with the crazy neighborhood saga.

Then it got really weird. Lucille knocked on the door a few minutes later. She said that she was cutting up the cake and she found A RAZOR BLADE in it, and she wanted to let us know because she was worried that there might be more razor blades in the cake and she wanted to warn us.

What do you say to that? Well, I said, "Wow, I'm so sorry that happened. Why don't I just give the cake back to you." She agreed immediately.

So of course we discussed this to death: was there REALLY a razor blade inside this homemade chocolate birthday cake and if so WHO THE HECK put it there and isn't that a little TOO urban legend to be true? And if there wasn't really a razor blade in the cake and she just wanted the cake back because perhaps WT Joe had given it away without her approval, wow, how crazy is that to think that it would be easier to say "hey, there's a razor blade in there, better give it back" than to say "you know, Joe didn't check with me before giving the cake away, and I had promised the kid some, yada yada, you haven't eaten it yet have you, would you mind?"

I'm not sure which one I think is more disturbing. But it doesn't make me overly excited about the WT house, and while republican John seems pretty wacky, if I had to take sides right now....

Anyway, my instinct was not to eat the cake to begin with--good evidence to listen to your instincts, huh?

As for serious shoes, I just got THREE pairs of shoes from Sierra Trading Post, including Ariat mules for $30, and Wolky sandals for $50. The other was a pair of closed-back clogs for $50. That was a big pile of money to drop in about 5 mintues, but they're going to be great, and I seriously need to go throw away a bunch of really comfy shoes that I have worn down to the soles.

Saturday, August 21

Too Many Tomatoes

Did I mention I was getting tomatoes yesterday? Yes. I did. The farm share was 12 tomatoes. Our republican neighbor gave us 4 earlier in the week. We had a couple left over from last week. Then I got home to 18 tomatoes, and the republican gave us another half-dozen. (Tomatoes, sure; civil rights, not so much.) Yes, 24 tomatoes. And some of them were HUGE, like 3/4 of a pound each.

So I had to make something besides salad with tomatoes for dinner. Here's what I did--I'm pretty pleased with it.

2 lg cloves fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
2 (or so) tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.5 lbs tomatoes, cored, not seeded or peeled (too lazy), and very coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
cooked "fat" pasta

Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat until slightly softened, but not browned. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Let tomatoes soften and simmer until some of the liquid evaporates, but the tomatoes still look "fresh," about 10 minutes. Add basil and heavy cream, simmer about 3 minutes more to let cream thicken sauce a little. Stir in salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta. Serve. Tres yummy, and just what the doctor ordered in August. We used leftover pasta with no problem

Thanks for the comments on the last post, despite the lack of consensus, LOL. I think everyone is right--it's a little one, a little two. Now that I'm in major problem-solving mode, I'm really feeling like the violence is attention-seeking. It stinks because they really get quite a lot of attention as it is. I do need to be able to unload the dishwasher or go to the bathroom and at 2.5, that's not an unreasonable expectation (as it is at 6 months with twins I'm sorry to say). So I need to work on this. Even though it's a tough thing, I'm glad to have a concrete issue to work with. But I had to get the theory out of the way first, LOL.

Ever hear that joke about the Frenchman who was talking to an engineer who was describing some great breakthrough he had achieved, which had recently been successful in the field? The Frenchman said, "it sounds great in practice, but it will never work in theory." I'm a little like that, I need to know my theoretical framework before I can attack a problem, even if the theory really doesn't mean squat. Sara will understand this one, I just know it. But I'd love to hear more thoughts on the bodhisattva vs. wildebeest concept.

I have a fibery post in the offing, I swear. I am amazed that anyone but me is interested in talking about infertility, parenting, AND fiber. Kinda cool.

Friday, August 20

When I said things were heating up at work, I wasn't kidding. I've been pretty much swamped. I'm taking a break from creating a survey using Survey Monkey. It's a great service, though a goofy name. I will probably use them as my main online survey provider, but ugh, can you see it: "well, big snooty hospital/university/corporation, I'm so glad you're willing to pay me large sums of money to do your online survey. Please direct your browsers to, so we can review the instrument." Sigh. Ah well. This is the 21st century, and goofy online business names are part of the drill, I suppose.

In addition to things heating up at work, they've been pretty hot at home too. I've been really struggling. I think toddler parenting is not my forte. I'm trying to accept this. I feel like I've been rather an overachiever at parenting so far, in my own way, never letting my kids CIO to sleep, extended nursing, and generally doing a pretty good job of being the kind of parent I imagined myself being. But I'm yelling a lot more than I'm comfortable with. I had a kind of come-to-Jesus meeting with myself about it the other night. I need to get a grip, remember that the people who are driving me up a wall are TWO, and do my best not to yell. Not expecting perfection, mind you, just trying to make life a little more livable for myself and the kids. In order to have any hope of accomplishing this, I need a major attitude adjustment.

OK, so the easy part is reminding myself of their developmental level. All of a sudden lately, they are speaking so clearly and articulately, that it's hard to remember that they are really still babies. When someone says to you, "mama, can I have corn holders please for my corn" at the dinner table, it's hard to turn around, when you've searched the kitchen and are unable to find them, to discover that that very same person has thrown himself on the ground and is kicking and screaming and throwing his dinner all over the room because HE REALLY WANTED CORN HOLDERS AND YOU HAVE RUINED HIS LIFE BY NOT DELIVERING THEM. I always think of toddlerhood and teendom as similar stages, and this is a perfect example. Just like teens who can act and sound and look like full-fledged adults one minute, but then want to play video games and sleep with a teddy bear the next minute, these kids are only playing preschoolers on TV--they're actually at least 60% still babies. I need to lower my expectations for their behavior a LOT. I think I can do this.

Then comes the harder part. I need to figure out how I am going to deal with defiance, violence, and general difficult behavior. I'm not talking "no, I don't want to put my shoes on right now" (though that happens ALL the time), I'm talking hitting, biting, throwing heavy objects at people's heads. I've gone back to my parenting books (which I kind of gave up on for a while, feeling like trying their techniques was NOT helping me, see a mom of twins' a funny article about parenting books here) to get an attitude adjustment. My break helped me see the issue: there are two basic schools of thought about toddlers.

  1. Toddlers have a basic desire to please you and to participate positively in family life, but they are frequently overwhelmed by emotion and normal developmental challenges, which spills over into tantrums and defiance. Parents need to coach their toddlers to deal with behavior problems and act a trusted allies in "emotion coaching" (term from Kurcinka), to raise responsible and empathic adults.
  2. Toddlers are untamed humans who need to be firmly guided into an understanding of social norms, as well as made to expand their awareness of needs to include the rest of the world, instead of just them. Tantrums are a normal course of the painful and difficult process of letting go of a completely self-centered world-view, and parents need to kindly but firmly enforce family and social expectations, such as manners, to raise responsible and empathic adults.

Do ya see my problem? Frankly, both of these world-views make a heck of a lot of sense to me, and if I had my druthers, I would really like to believe number 1. I would really like to believe that my kids, in fact, everyone's kids, were born with a strong core desire to do good and to happily work with their families for the greater good. However, experience is starting to make me feel more like number 2 is a better description of reality.

Deciding whether I believe 1 or 2 is a huge issue for me. It means the difference between verbal and physical redirection and time-outs. It determines how I approach the day, how much I work to mold the world and our family to their moods and desires and how much I use "tough love" to teach that "if you're feeling screamy, you stay alone in the living room while the rest of us eat dinner," instead of one of us going with Screamy to play in the playroom. And I so want to believe 1. And I think 1 might help me be less yelly, though it won't help with burnout, which I concede is a big part of my yellyness.

My mom says that not only do I not yell too much, but I don't yell enough. She has told me, and this has been echoed by quite a few other people, mostly of her generation, something along the lines of "they will keep pushing your buttons until they find one that works. When you respond relatively calmly to everything, you aren't showing them where the limits are." I do think we have plenty of limits (perhaps, if I listen to 1., too many, and we're not setting them up for success). And my mom is not someone anyone, including her by her own admission, would hold up as a parenting genius. How many thousands of dollars have I spent on therapy to work through her parenting? But it's not just her, I have heard this from quite a few people when I gently but firmly say "no, we do not hit," and gently redirect the hand. The alternative--grabbing the hitting hand and dragging the offender to the corner and yelling "NO HITTING!" doesn't seem like such a great alternative, but I admit that in moments of frustration, that's what I've done. And at 2.5, the number of moments of frustration is increasing.

So I don't know. I have to keep thinking, and keep watching my kids to decide whether I have baby bodhisattvas or young wildebeests. Either way, I need to get a grip on the yelling, and I'm working on that. I need to sleep more, and I need to take breaks even though I feel like we are already separated too much with me working 3 days a week.

I dunno. The main thing I need to do now it to get to my CSA and pick up my share for the week. Can you say TOMATOES!

Thursday, August 12

Well, I've been a blogging slacker. I *sniff* returned my wheel! And I have gone for two WHOLE days without spinning. We went to Maine last weekend, and I didn't bring my wheel on that trip either. So it has been a strangely spin-less week around here. I did take the kids to Webs on the way home from work Tuesday (BTW, the renovation looks fabulous) to return the wheel, and I told them I was going to try to buy another wheel when we were there. They said they wanted spinning wheels too. Eleanor, surprisingly enough, would like a PINK spinning wheel (or "pinning wheel" as she says), and Henry, not to be outdone in the gender conformity department, has requested a blue spinning wheel. So, I've got the order in now. I'm going to Webs tonight for the knitting drop-in, and Barbara, the owner, says she'll have a Lendrum set up for me to try. If I like it, I'll buy it. If not, I have another scheme up my sleeve to get a Louet, but it will take a while, probably so long that I won't be able to spin anything for the Big E.

There has been a bit of a discussion about entering spinning in fairs on the Spin List, and I mentioned the Big E, thereby garnering lots of competition for myself, LOL. I may end up delivering and/or picking up skeins for some of that competition, grin. The nice thing is that they have a beginner's class for spinning, so that makes me more inclined to try it out. I have mixed feelings about entering my spinning for competition. It sounds like fun, and it would be a treat if I won a ribbon, and the feedback might be useful from an instructional perspective, but I'm not sure that's how I want to see my spinning. I'm not sure the technical side, particularly in the finished product (as opposed to learning techniques that might make it easier to work creatively), is what I'm after. I'm not sure that anyone else's opinions about my yarn matter--it's whether *I* like the yarn and whether *I* am inspired by it. Of course, if I ever get to a point where I want to sell my handspun yarn, but honestly I don't see that being any kind of big business for me.

I'm also thinking of doing the Spinning Bee, which seems like a lot of fun, but I'm worried that it will be only experienced folks who are "speed spinners" and it will be embarrassing to be a newbie doing it. OTOH, I think the kids would get a big kick out of watching me participate, and it would be fun as long as it's a mellow, fun kind of thing. Well, in the meantime, I need to actually get my hands on a wheel, or I won't have anything to show!

As for knitting, I'm finishing up a sweater from an old issue of Interweave Knits. I lost the magazine, and I wasn't even sure how the neck should look. Luckily, I was saved by my buddies on GLB-Knit and Spin-List and I now have copies of the pattern (which, I think, should be legal since I did pay for the pattern in the first place). Turns out it's a 2x2-rib mock turtleneck. I am glad I used the yarn I did--a 50-50 alpaca/wool (I'm pretty sure--also no labels to be found!), which is very soft. The original pattern is for a mohair blend, but I think that might not be so nice next to your neck all day. Anyway, I'm really excited about it. Too bad it's hot as blazes outside! :)

Work is really heating up these days. I've got a bunch of tight deadlines, so perhaps less time for blogging in the next few weeks. But I'll try to take pictures of anything I knit in the wee hours!

Friday, August 6

Blogging. Right. Hello again!

Wow, August is insanely busy. It's always like this, but I retain this idea of lazy summer days. Sure, between cramming in vacations, visits, celebrations, and oh yeah, all the "gotta do before the school year starts" stuff at work. Sigh.

Coming back from our vacation has been hard. Sheba, my 12-year-old dog, is not doing terribly well, and having been away for a week made me realize, frankly, how much I resent it. I feel terrible about it, but there's already a lot of cleaning up of bodily fluids in my life, and it's hard to have more, that's all. We're sticking with her and giving her the old age she deserves, but it's just hard.

The kids have had a hard adjustment. They love daycare, but they'd rather be home with the moms, and the feeling is mutual. So there have been a lot of tantrums about going to school in the morning. In the midst of all this, I got a freelance project I bid on (it's actually for my current employer), so that means even more to do in August and September, and I'll need to figure out extra child care. We're hoping Rhys can take some time. They would all love that, and so would I.

So, after being away last week, then staying over at Nana's on Wednesday, we're off to Maine for the weekend. We're staying in a tiny house with like 7 other people. It should be very, very interesting. I am bringing my credit card in case we need to find a Super 8 motel at the last minute.

Hopefully more, with pics, next week.

Sunday, August 1


I actually mixed the dyes and painted this by moonlight, if you can believe it! This, hopefully, will be my birthday present for MIL. It's plain "domestic wool" roving in the center, and the two silk caps are in back. I haven't spun this up yet (it's actually not totally dry yet).

My stuff (some of the stuff in the previous pics was Sara's) all spun up! L to R: dark blue/red/purple silk hankie navajo plied; rainbow hankie navajo plied; blue-dominated rainbow wool thick-thin singles; "use up the mixed dyes" singles, silk singles painted in the yarn.

Dyed rovings/silk drying after being rinsed out (not a drop of dye came out when I rinsed them--amazing!)

Close-ups of the dyed (wet) rovings and silk caps and hankies. The green/blue/yellow roving in the middle was painted by Sara's 7-year-old DD, Hannah.

Our dyeing setup. We did all this on the front step of the rental house so we wouldn't make a mess on someone else's property. The whole thing went off without a single spot of dye on a single inch of formica or ceramic, thank goodness!