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Archive for March, 2007

Sock failure

I stayed up late last night finishing off the first of my second pair of socks. I finished right at bedtime, but just had to sew up the toe, then weave the loose bits in.

When it was finally finished, I put it on for a test walk upstairs. I was delighted – it fit absolutely perfectly, didn’t slip down my ankle and was so soft. Only, as I walked around listing its marvels for J, I noticed that my calf was a little itchy. Then a little more itchy. Then a lot itchy.

By the time I got upstairs and got ready for bed, I had resigned myself to the sad, itchy truth – my legs do not consider the lovely soft angora wool to be lovely and soft.

So I’m going to pull it out and either knit socks for J out of it (he tried it on and found it not itchy at all, despite it being too small), or maybe mitts for me and socks for Boo. I wore the sock around on one hand for a while and don’t seem to have a problem there, although now that I think about it, the chances are pretty good that if I got a bit sweaty in the nice warm mitts that they would make, the itching might start. Socks for Boo are a good start, at least.

Ribbit, ribbit …

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I don’t think I mentioned that I finished my first pair of socks! I got all distracted by … oops, not mentioning him.

Well I did, and I love them. Here they are:

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I immediately started on a second pair.

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And I’ve just bought yarn for two more pairs (I meant to only get yarn for one, to take with me to Vancouver, but couldn’t decide, and it isn’t like I’m not going to need more socks ever). I love the portableness of them. One set of needles, one or two balls of yarn, and a pattern already committed to memory.

I used the pattern Yarn Harlot gave in her book Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks. Only for the new pair I’m knitting, I increased the number of stitches at the start because I want to make a longer sock and so it needs to go farther up my fat calves. Then ribbed for longer so they’ll stay up. Then I decreased to taper into the ankle. Then I switched to purling for the sole of the foot so my sensitive feet won’t complain about walking on purled stitches. But other than that, it’s Yarn Harlot’s pattern.

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A couple of days ago, I made a lovely lentil rice soup for dinner, using smoked turkey. Everyone ate it and appeared to enjoy it. Yesterday, J wasn’t home for dinner and I had tons of the soup left over, so I decided we’d just have it again.

Man, you’d have thought I had told the kids we were having week-old bread heels and puddle water for dinner from the amount of whining. Spoiled brats. The only one who didn’t complain was Boo, but she then ate about 5 fruit leathers while I was folding laundry and politely said no thank you to dinner, as she was full.

I heated the soup, told the kids it was ready, and sat down and had a couple of bowls. The kids refused to eat it. Boo had stuffed herself on the fruit leathers, but she wasn’t whining, so I didn’t care. Asher ended up eating stale matzah with butter, an apple and a plain pita wrap. Maya had a bagel with melted cheese.

I can’t decide if this makes me a good mother, or a bad one. I stuck to my guns and made the one dinner I said I would – nice, healthy, something they liked. So that is good. But when they didn’t eat it, I let them forage for themselves. I didn’t let them eat total crap and I didn’t make them anything else, so that fits in the good mom category, I think. But I wonder if I should have been tougher and told them it was soup or nothing.

I hate making dinner.

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I had my first mammogram last week. After all my fun with barium, having my boobs squished wasn’t as big a deal as some have made it out to be. It wasn’t exactly fun, but it was brief and transitory – and better than what men have to go through to have their prostates checked.

But, of course, they called me back. I wasn’t particularly surprised. I have lumpy boobs. When I was 21 years old, my OB found a lump on my left breast. I couldn’t feel it at all, among all the other lumpy bits that seemed to be there. He pronounced it to be a cyst and sent me to my GP to have it aspirated (where they suck the fluid out with a needle). The aspiration didn’t work, which earned me an ultrasound. Young and foolish, I kept asking the reticent techie questions until I managed to figure out that what she was looking at was solid, not liquid. It was foolish because a little knowledge really can be a dangerous thing, and I spent a week convinced I had cancer.

It wasn’t. It was just a plain old fiboid tumour, much more common than cancer. That taught me not to ask techies unanswerable questions and not to assume that just because you don’t know the other options possible, it must be cancer.

The tumour kept growing, and I had it removed a few months later. My boobs settled down until Boo was a few months old, at least as far as lumps are concerned. I found a very round, hard one that I thought was a plugged duct until it didn’t go away. When an ultrasound didn’t clear things up, I had a biopsy. That was kind of gross, especially as I was still nursing a lot. I won’t go into details. Except to say that the biopsy was clear.
My mother has lumpy boobs too, and warned me that the mammograms don’t like lumpy boobs. So it really, really wasn’t a surprise to be called back. Still annoying, though.

I returned this morning for an ultrasound. The technician found something, measured it and took the photos off to the radiologist. He said that was a cyst and sent her back to find something else. She found something else, photographed that and took it to him. Then she returned and said it was time for another mammogram instead. Just the small suspicious part, she said. Yay, I said. It hurts more, she said.

More boob squishing, and back for another ultrasound, this time by the radiologist himself. “You have difficult breasts,” he said. Then he decided there’s nothing alarming in there and sent me home.

I don’t much like my breasts. I liked them before kids – little, perky and not requiring a bra. And while they got first huge and scary, then small and flabby while I breastfed, I liked them them for their incredible usefulness. But now, now they are just too small to fill out a sweater usefully and too floppy to go braless. And they are lumpy and dense, so they will be causing me no end of trouble for the next 40 years. If I didn’t dislike pain so much, I’d just have them pre-emptively cut off and save myself the parking costs for the 80 mammograms and 120 ultrasounds I face in my future (based on this year’s total).

You know, I’ve been trying to be good about putting more pictures up on my little blog, but I really can’t think of an appropriate one for this topic. Lots of inappropriate ones, but nothing polite. So, in the interests of making the world a more beautiful place, I offer a picture of Daniel Craig, the latest and best James Bond. Yum.

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Obedience

Obedience class is brilliant. That’s what I’ve realized. My dog is smart; obedience class is brilliant. I wish they had something similar for children, because we could sure use some obedience out of them.

Asher has decided the class is boring and he hates it and threw a tantrum. Maya has decided the same, but being older and more mature, she merely whined heavily. We forced them to go anyway. I’m not sure that counts as obedience.

There were only three other dogs this time, and Jasper and the Great Dane, Tumnus, really wanted to play. When the instructor tried to demonstrate appropriate doggie interaction, she chose to have Jasper go with a very short-legged lab mix (looked kind of like a corgi) and Jasper ignored its existence entirely, choosing to watch me for possible treats instead, which got a laugh out of the class.

The instructor taught us two of the most important commands so far: ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it.’ Jasper likes to counter surf, snagging any food not watched closely. He’s also fond of chewing rocks and trying to eat garbage left on the ground, and spring has brought us lots of both.

The instructor chose the youngest dog, dropped several treats on the floor in front of him, then stood on them. We got to watch the cute, rolly-polly little puppy do everything in his power to try to dig those treats out from under her shoe. It was adorable, but what did it have to do with teaching him to leave it? The moment he lost interest, however briefly, she said, “Yes!” And gave him a treat. After that, it took him remarkably little time to figure out that when he wasn’t going for the obvious treats, the nice lady just handed him one!

‘Drop it’ involves playing tug-of-war with a toy for a moment, then just holding still until the dog lets go. The moment he does, he gets rewarded. I could not figure out how to get a dog to leave something interesting, but this is so easy, and it works like a charm. I love obedience class.

It has been two days since the class, and these commands have already significantly improved our lives. Even though he’s actually quite gentle with the toys he snags, the kids freak out when he gets his mouth on one of their gazillion precious stuffed animals. Then we have to listen to screaming, “He won’t give it back! He thinks it’s a game! Help me!”

Now I just command, “Leave it!” and he runs over to me for a treat instead. I have to carry carrots everywhere, but that’s a small price to pay.

I taught him by leaving piles of carrots or banana on chairs and covering them with my hand. It took him about 3 treats to start ignoring the stuff I left on surfaces, to the point where it actually became difficult to try to use the phrase ‘leave it,’ since he wouldn’t go for them in the first place, but just sit and look expectantly at me as soon as he sees something lying there. It has put a complete halt to the annoying counter-surfing.

Here’s the one thing I don’t get. I taught him ‘leave it’ with one of Maya’s less beloved (less beloved by Maya, much beloved by Jasper) tiny bears. After two or three tries, he stopped going for the bear. I left it enticingly at the end of the bed while reading the kids stories, and he sat and stared at it. A couple of times, he reached his nose forward to it, then just backed off, clearly thinking the better of it. I don’t know why he did that. I would think that in his mind, the connection should be – try to grab something forbidden, don’t actually get it, get a treat. Not even trying doesn’t earn him anything. And yet he obviously realized the bear was off-limits and gave up on it.

I don’t know if that makes him smart or dumb. Maybe too smart for his own good, in a way. Another way he’s too smart for his own good is that he actually figured out how to get around that ridiculous cone I shelled out ten bucks for. He manages to hook the cone under his thigh and use the leg to shove the cone back on his neck just far enough to give him access to his incision. For his smarts, he earned himself underpants. He is now walking around in a cone and a pair of snazzy boxer-briefs. One or the other alone doesn’t do the trick, but both make the effort too much, and he gives up.

And, because I know Yogamum will demand it of me, here’s a picture:

jasper-undies.jpg

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In non-doggy news, because I apparently also have children, Boo had her model seder at school today. It is a little performance the kids put on. While we watch, they sing some cute songs about how mean pharoh was and about plagues (the frog plague is a popular one; don’t hear much about rivers of blood), yell out some rehearsed answers about why we eat matzah, and refuse to try the bitter herbs. Boo liked the ‘wine’ best. My family should be proud.

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Ask and ye shall recieve

Yogamum requested photos of her god-dog in his misery. Just don’t laugh. He gets offended easily.

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Does it get more pathetic than this?

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He follows me around the house, gazing at me like this. Poor puppy. Finally, he gave up and went lie down on the forbidden couch (all couches are forbidden). I pretended I didn’t notice because I feel so badly for him, and snuck a photo.

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Two days ago, before being subjected to the indignity of having his balls cut off, he suffered the indignity of being dressed up by the girls. He took that better, even though we did laugh at him.

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The warm weather and rain yesterday pretty much got rid of all the remaining snow. It was quite remarkable to watch my garden emerge as the day progressed. My front yard is a perennial garden in progress and since it is north-facing, it is encased in ice most of the winter.  It is amazing to see my creeping thyme and moss emerging bright green from the solid ice. My baby coral bell leaves have already been nibbled by hungry rabbits. Damn rabbits.

Since we didn’t get much snow this year, it is disappearing early, and with early daylight savings, it really does feel like spring already and it isn’t even April. Woo hoo.

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Jasper is back home after his little operation. He isn’t taking it too well. The cats sure were tougher. J picked him up and he sat at the door and cried until I returned home (from Maya’s piano lesson), then spent a couple more hours crying if I didn’t sit with him. After a while, he was content to have one of the kids sit with him. He watched me, but at least he didn’t cry.

There’s another difference between cats and dogs. A couple of years ago, R  some how got wounded and ripped a huge hole in her thigh, requiring some pretty major surgery to fix it all up. Her response was to hide in her cat carrier for a few days, wanting nothing to do with anyone. Jasper, poor thing, needs human comfort.

We realized last night around 9 pm that he was licking at his stitches, but we didn’t have a cone for him and couldn’t get one until this morning. I phoned the emergency vet place, not knowing what to do about that. The guy on the other end of the phone recommended a pair of old boxer shorts, so Jasper spent the rest of the night wearing an old bathing suit of J’s. He was not impressed. I went this morning and got a cone, and he’s pretty miserable about that too. Poor suffering puppy.

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Jasper is off to the vet for the day, where they are going to – as the nurse put it bluntly – castrate him. They will also x-ray his hips, microchip him and give him flea and heartworm medication. I’ll have to take out a second mortgage just to get him back.

It’s already weird around here without him, but it is cold and freezing rain outside, so I’m not going to miss taking him for his walks today.

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Passover (pesach is the Hebrew) is coming up in an awful rush. With it comes our trip to Vancouver. My niece is having her bat mitzvah and since the kids are off school over pesach, we decided to go down right after the seders and have a little vacation there. While obviously preparing for a family of five to spend their vacation on the other side of the country takes a lot of extra work, it is mitigated by the fact that I now don’t have to prepare my house for passover here.

If you keep at all kosher, preparing for pesach requires removing all bread products from the house, replacing them with matzah products. Depending on your level of dedication, this can be an enormous (and expensive) task, even removing items that are kosher and apparently have nothing to do with bread and replacing them with kosher for passover versions. It also requires a thorough cleaning of the entire house in order to ensure that there not be a single crumb of bread anywhere.

I’m not that dedicated. I remember when Maya arrived home from kindergarten one day and told me in a tone of voice only a know-it-all five-year-old can use that I needed to get started on the spring cleaning, because we had to wash everything before pesach. I looked up from the computer and said, “Go to it!” Then we had a discussion about how different people practice their Judaism in different ways, like some people walk to shul and some people drive, and some people spend weeks cleaning their houses top to bottom in preparation for passover and some … don’t.

We do get rid of all our bread products, though, and stick to matzah.

For 8 days, say good-bye to this:

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And this:

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And this:

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And say hello to this:

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Mm-mm, cardboard! Several years ago, I went to my doctor during pesach about something non-stomach related and we were chatting about passover, and she said, in a tone of utter horror, “You aren’t eating matzah, are you?!!!” I confessed that maybe a little. She forbid me from touching it ever again. I eat it at the seder’s though. Since J is celiac, he can’t touch the stuff even at a seder. But the kids eat it.

Passover is a complicated holiday, with different traditions dictating different practices. Ashkenazi Jews, who are primarily of European descent, don’t eat rice or beans during the 8 days of the holiday either. Sephardic Jews, who are mostly from Spanish-speaking countries, but also Arab ones like Iraq, do eat rice and beans. Orthodox and Conservative Jews in the diaspora (outside Israel) have two seders (the ritual dinners), but Reform and Reconstructionists only have one. In Israel, there is only one. (Jewish holidays are all based on the lunar calendar and determined in Israel. Originally, since Jews outside Isreal didn’t know exactly when to have their seder, they had two, just to make sure. But with instantaneous communication in the modern world, we do know exactly the right time, so the Reform and Reconstructionist movements have abandoned two, while the others stick with tradition.)

J and I stick with one seder, unless his parents bully us into attending a second one. We also declare ourselves Sephardic for those 8 days, or we (particularly J) would stave to death.

I have to confess, I don’t love Passover. One seder is nice, and having the kids off school in spring can be lovely for a couple of days. But after three or four days, the whining over matzah starts, and the boredom kicks in and it is a downhill spiral from there. Which is why I am so delighted to be spending most of it Vancouver, which has always been kind and sunny for me. And preparing for a vacation is so much more interesting than cleaning.

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