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Archive for the ‘knitting’ Category

Someone said that to me the other day. She claimed that having children made it impossible to read. I told her she’d just not looking at it the right way. Then I told her I read my New Yorker magazine in the shower. I wasn’t kidding.

So, in her honour, when and where I read:

1. In the shower. We have one of those multi-shelved racks in the far corner of the tub, so I prop the magazine in there, with some shampoo bottle holding it up. Yes, it gets a bit damp, but it’s a magazine, so who cares. I keep my towel in reach to dry my hands before turning the page.

2. While singing lullabies to Boo. I have several songs – Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird, Little Boy Blue, You Are My Sunshine – that I have so utterly memorized that I can sing them while reading something else. I can’t do the more serious stuff, though. I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol a couple years ago, and found that the unfamiliar language required even that small portion of my brain dedicated to the song.

3. In the car waiting for kids, or even at long stop lights.

4. While walking the dog, as long as I don’t need gloves.

5. While playing games with Boo. The older two don’t let me get away with it anymore.

6. While frying anything.

7. During meals, if I am alone. I’ve been trained that reading while eating with others is rude, but sometimes I sneak it in when I am just with the kids, just leaving a newspaper lying there on the table so it doesn’t look so obvious.

8. In waiting rooms. In fact, waiting for anything, like the sub sandwich to be made or to return something.

9. While brushing and flossing.

Many of these places are good for knitting too. Doesn’t work so well in the shower. Knitting is also good for watching TV or when chatting with people. I got most of a hat done during parent-teacher interviews, as I waited for the teachers to be freed up. At one point, another parent commented on the hat and how nice it was, and lamented that she hadn’t knit in so long. Didn’t have the time, she explained. I didn’t point out that both of us were sitting there waiting, but I was getting a hat done.

Of course, she’s making the same mistake many people do – that knitting is something else to do, rather than the thing I do to fill in the boring bits. And same with reading. You don’t need extra time to do these things. You do these things to make the other daily stuff less boring. Well, I do, anyway.

Maya’s iPod has opened up a whole new venue of boredom-busting, since I discovered downloading podcasts. Now, as I walk the dog, shovel the driveway and shop for groceries, I listen to radio documentaries and interviews. Now I never have to be left alone with my own thoughts, ever!

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More snow! Yesterday, I fell asleep instead of taking Jasper for his walk, which resulted in him barking at gremlins he insisted were out in our backyard at midnight. In a few minutes, I will tackle all the fresh snow and take him out. He’s adorable leaping about in the snow (I’ll see if I can find my camera to demonstrate), but trying to dry him off is a nightmare. And yet, I cannot bear to cut his fur down more and reduce his teddy-bearness.

The first snow of the season is always a logistical nightmare, no matter how organized I think I am. I brought up dozens – no exaggeration here – of mittens, and yet yesterday morning none of them could find any. I have no idea where they all are, and I am pissed off. Asher insisted his snowpants fit, but they don’t, but he won’t upgrade. Asher and Maya need new boots, as do I.

I didn’t think it was urgent until I picked them up from school and Asher presented me with soaking-wet boots. Really, they could not have been wetter if he’d thrown them in a swimming pool. I guess waterproofness wears off?

So we were off to the big show store near here, along with maybe half the city. Three children and a huge shoe store after school is my idea of hell, and every year I manage to get trapped in it. Thankfully, we found boots for the boy very quickly, because he was the urgent one. None for the girl, though. Poor Maya – the problem with being tall is that the clothes appropriate to your age don’t fit your body. She wanted cool, colourful kids’ boots, but she wears women’s size 7 (or 8, depending on the fit). In the women’s section, we were faced with rows and rows of stylish black boots. We finally found some she liked and they had a rough seam running right over her ankle bone. How stupid is that? So she still needs them. I didn’t even try to look for me. I’m not a total masochist.

The snow makes me want to knit. I just want to sit in front of a nice fire and knit. Instead, I get a row or two done while singing lullabies or waiting in the car for the school bell to ring.

Currently, I am knitting:

hats and scarves for the AG dolls (2 hats done so far)

a sweater for Asher that I started last winter, really big, but if I don’t get my butt in gear on it, he’ll still manage to outgrow it before I’m done.

socks for Maya – one finished.

socks for Boo – one finished.

a baby sweater for the friends whose baby arrived 4 months ago.

a scarf, probably for Asher.

I just got lovely wool and a pattern for a winter hat for me, but have resisted starting it. Don’t know how long I’ll last, though.

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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:

socks1.jpg

I immediately started on a second pair.

socks2.jpg

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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All alonely

The children seem pretty much on the mend. Asher went back to school Thursday, but developed a fever Thursday night and had a bad cough this morning, so we made him stay home. He begged to go to school, completely bored with staying at home. I insisted and he tortured me all day. Keeping him home was the right move, but he was well enough to be a pest, especially as I am the next one in line for this dreaded lurgy. This past week, I’ve been coughed on, slept on and wiped countless snotty noses, so when I woke up this morning with a head full of cotton balls and a sore throat, it wasn’t really a surprise.

Boo, who was not really sick Tuesday but just riding the coat-tails of her siblings, got sick Wednesday and was still feverish today, but clearly feeling much better. She was in total denial over that because her raging fever and misery the past two nights earned her a spot on our bed. She loves sleeping with us. Loves it. She was the hardest to kick out of our bed. In fact we were huge failures in that area and she only truly moved to her own bed last April when we went to Israel for 10 days. The babysitter and Maya did the job for us by refusing to sleep with her. So any suggestion that she is improving is met with a dramatic sigh and, “I’m starting to feel a little better, but I still have a fever.” Then she gives a dramatic little cough for good measure.

So, the whole week was a total write-off, with sick children draped all over me the entire time, and now it is my turn. This means that J. packed up the kids and went up to the cottage without me, and I’m all alonely. Normally, I would be thrilled to have some peace and quiet, but J.’s brother and family are up there and it would probably be a lot of fun, if I didn’t feel so bad. I’m sick of feeling bad, very frustrated, and that translates into not being so happy to be left behind. But this way I will get lots of rest, I can take the dog to his obedience class (unless I feel too awful) and we don’t have to find someone to look after him. We couldn’t bring him because my sister-in-law is allergic to dogs and doesn’t believe that there is any such thing as non-shedding, hypo-allergenic dogs. How can anyone not love this doggy?

This guy was clearly meant to be my dog. He sleeps in and simply refuses to get up in the morning until I do, and even then it is slowly and reluctantly; and he eats lying down.

jasper-dinner1.jpg

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Oooo – I forgot to mention I finished my second sock! Yay me! They are so comfortable I immediately started knitting the next pair. The children are now clamouring for them too. I think I’ll knit a pair for Boo next (but after the baby sweater for my friends’ baby and the sweater for Asher) because knitting them for tiny feet should be a snap. That’s why she got the first pair of thrummed mitts too. Lucky thing. There are advantages to being little.

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I had my second medical test. Oh, bad, bad, bad. I thought it would be less bad because 1) at least the barium is going in the normal route 2) air is not involved and 3) I am delusional and had deliberately blocked the last time I did this (10 years ago) out of my head.

They made me swallow some effervescing stuff, washed down – if one can put it that way – with some thick barium to create an air bubble in my esophagus. I’ve been fasting since Wednesday night and the first solid thing that goes into my stomach is bubbly ‘strawberry flavoured’ chalk. I got immediately nauseous. I managed to not puke up the barium, but it was a struggle.

Then they put me in a waiting room with two full HUGE cans of the shit and told me to drink them. “Do your best,” the nice techie said. Turned out my best was to open the lid, get a whiff of the ‘strawberry’ and gag. And close the lid. I drank none of it. I could not make myself put that stuff up to my lips.

I beat myself up over that – big wimp – until they took me back in to get another x-ray and see where the barium I’d already swallowed was, to decide what to do. What they found was that my colon was showing up on the x-ray. It wasn’t supposed to, but it was, making a clear shot of the upper GI difficult to get. Some of the barium they squirted up my butt last week is still floating around in there, despite a thorough ‘cleansing’. My guts are really slow and inefficient. (That can’t be a good thing.) This meant they had to cancel and reschedule in a few weeks. (more ‘cleansing,’ yay!) So I’ve I’d choked down that second dose, it would have been for nothing.

Next time, it will just be the second dose, but I am still not at all convinced I can force myself to drink it. You know on Survivor where they eat the disgusting bugs and cow brains and stuff? I would never even consider doing that. I’d be voted off first. I wish I could be voted out of the radiology department.

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So, failure on the medical side of things and failure on the doggy side. The little crap is still peeing, once a day, in the evening, in the upper or lower halls. Today, we had our first doggy obedience class. We showed up early and pounced on the trainer, begging for her help. She gave us lots of helpful advice, so we no longer fear all is lost with the big dope. We have hope. It does require that he be ‘tethered’ to me with his leash all evening, but whatever it takes, I’ll do it.

We met a mini-golden doodle there, about 3 months old. His name, unfortunately, was Marty McFly. Cutest little bundle of fur, though. When his owner, who I had just met, told me they’d had him a week and he was totally house trained, I smiled and said, “I hate you.” Thank goodness he had a sense of humour.

We also met a lovely Great Dane. He was so soft I didn’t want to stop touching him. His family had seriously considered a golden doodle, so we had a big mutual admiration thing going on. His name was Tumnus, because he was fawn-coloured, which I thought was pretty original.

The other two dogs – a lab and a lab mix, never stopped barking or jumping or biting at their owners. The two doodles and the great dane calmed down fairly quickly and lay down, but those labs never stopped, particularly the purebred one. Can someone please tell me why they are such popular dogs? They just seem to be overly-energetic, barky balls of neuroses to me. Their poor owners looked totally frazzled.

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The sock-knitting slowed down, because every time I picked up my knitting, some child picked up theirs and demanded help, but despite the distractions I am now almost finished my second sock! I am so excited, and all psyched to start on the next pair. I’m hooked.

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Schepping nachus

Yiddish is a great language. Even though I wasn’t born Jewish, I now find my speech peppered with Yiddish words and phrases picked up from J’s family, because there are many occasions when the Yiddish word just works better than any English one. Kvetch, schlep, meshugeh, schtick – none truly have counterparts in English. (This has a good glossary, if you want to look these up.)

Schep nachus is one non-Jews rarely hear, but it just so perfectly fits how I feel today, I had to use it. To schep nachus is to feel pride, usually used (among J’s family anyway; I can’t vouch for the rest of the world) to denote maternal pride. You schep nachus when your son becomes a lawyer or your daughter a doctor.

In my case, I’m schepping nachus over this:

scarf.jpg

My boy knit this. Not the stuffed animal – the scarf the stuffed animal is wearing.

Asher has been asking me to teach him to knit for years, ever since I taught Maya to knit. Since he was too young when he first asked, I tried to get him on to spool knitting instead. He sucked at it. I tried spool after spool in an attempt to find one he could work properly, but never managed to find one. I even bought these big round things meant for loom knitting, but even I couldn’t figure that out. He didn’t really care. All he really wanted to do was real knitting anyway, so he kept asking.

I was pretty convinced he wouldn’t be able to do it, not until he was a lot older, anyway. That is why I kept trying to distract him. He has some problems with fine motor control – his handwriting is all over the place even after a year of occupational therapy for it, and his drawing is that of a 4-year-old. Of course, after the fact, I realize that even though he can’t print, he can build stuff, work the computer with ease and play video games (when he can get his hands on them) like a pro, so clearly it is only pen and paper that is the issue. But before I tried to teach him to knit, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just convinced that he wouldn’t be able to make his hands do what he wanted them to do and would be upset and frustrated, and I didn’t want to him to feel that way. So I avoided, but finally could avoid no longer.

Last night I dug out some yarn and needles, cast on and showed him a couple of stitches, explaining carefully what I was doing. He took the needles and copied me. Easily. Then he did it again and again. He knit! Just like that! Picking up a little speed, he said, “This is fun. This isn’t difficult at all.”

After a couple of rows of virtually no mistakes, I ripped that up and cast on a whole pile of stitches for the scarf he wanted to knit for Boo’s Web(I can’t write the whole name out at once or the hoards will descend upon me in search of ridiculous cheat codes)kinz. Then he knit and knit and knit. He knit in bed listening to bedtime stories last night and was sitting on my bed knitting when I woke up this morning. He dropped the occasional stitch, but never made the newbie knitter mistake of starting to knit so tightly you can no longer move the needles.

And he loves it. Maya loved it too, at first, but quickly grew bored with it (more proof that just because you have a girl, doesn’t mean she’ll turn out anything like you) and doesn’t knit much any more. Although, of course, seeing her brother getting all that attention while I taught him to knit immediately brought back the urge, and now she’s knitting a doll sweater. Asher is more like me in his interests, though, so I am going to believe he will stick with it until I see any different.

And I’m schepping much nachus.

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Sock joy, friend joy

I am loving the sock knitting. Small, portable, fast. I kept sticking the half-made part on my foot to admire it. I finished the first one last night. This is what it looks like:

sock11.jpg

Of course, I promptly put it on and took it for a test drive (test walk?). It wasn’t comfortable. Despite using soft merino wool, it wasn’t good. I felt every purled stitch poking into the bottom of my foot. What to do? I turned it inside out. Now it looks like this:

sock2.jpg

It is really comfortable now – soft and warm. It still looks nice, just not quite as nice.

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Turns out Jasper adores carrots as much as bananas, so on his walks, we carry a baggie of cut-up baby carrots as training incentives. It is amazing what the right incentive can do. I decided yesterday to start working on getting him to come on command. By the end of the day, he would reliably charge right over to me when I ordered, “Jasper, come!” even if he had his nose buried in some lovely rabbit poop.

I was very proud of myself until a friend of mine popped my bubble, asking me if he’d come if anyone else called. I sincerely doubt it. But listening to me is a start, right?

I was telling her these stories of my marvelous dog at ‘girl’s night out.’ Every month or so, I get together with several friends of mine for a pot-luck dinner – no husbands or kids allowed. It’s like a book-club, without the facade of a book. The best part is that we never do any food planning ahead of time, just trusting in the fates, and always managed to have a delicious, well-balanced meal. Last night, we had hors d’oeuvres of crackers, cheese, pate, cheese sticks and little cranberry pastries. Dinner was risotto, broccoli and tofu in a delicious sauce, mashed potatoes with carrots, and bean salad. Desert was a baked pear pastry and s’mores pie. Two deserts – it doesn’t get better than that.

Besides the eating, we talk. And talk and talk. While kid talk does slip in there (three of us have three kids each), we try to keep it to a minimum. That isn’t just for the sake of the non-kid people present, but because the kids take up so much of our lives anyway, we like to get away and talk about other stuff. It is nice to count on at least one evening a month of chocolate and laughing until I fear I’m going to pee my pants.

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but at least it’ll have a nice sock in it!*

Jasper is showing his true doggy colours. He’s turned into a barky dog. He also loves to chew wood and paper. He has gone through a few toilet paper rolls already. I’ve had to spray bitter apple on the legs of our tables and the corner of the coffee table to stop him from gnawing on them.

He demonstrated that he loves apple almost as much as banana by putting his front paws up on the counter to reach some I’d cut up for Boo. I figure by the time he’s his full size, he’ll be able to reach up on top of the fridge.

He likes to dig and he’s a dirt-eater. Good thing my back lawn is already dead so when he starts digging holes in it when the snow melts, it won’t bother me so much.

He cannot accept that he isn’t supposed to be on the bed with us. I was lying on our bed with the kids, reading bedtime stories, when he popped up and then lay flat down, smushing his head into the duvet and looking up at me with the most innocent eyes, so I didn’t have the heart to throw him off. He just can’t see why he has to be way down there on the floor when everyone he loves is up on the bed together.

Of course, we all love him madly now, so he’s timed his personality revelations well. Didn’t I say he was brilliant?

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*I tried, I really did, but I couldn’t help myself:

sock1.jpg

It actually knits up quite quickly, given that I’m using 2.5 mm needles. Knitting at red lights helps.

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Jasper really is brilliant. He learned his name in about a day, and it took three runs of holding a treat over his head until he sat while saying “Sit” to teach him to sit on command. Last weekend, we went for a nice long snowshoe through the woods and he came along off-leash. We’d had him one week at that point, and he stuck with us faithfully, clearly having a lovely time. When we returned and got to the end of the road our cottage is on, he then started trotting ahead. He stayed politely on the side of the road, turned into our driveway and was waiting at the door when we got there. See – brilliant!

But only yesterday did I realize just how brilliant he is, when J came home and told me that a co-worker of his was telling him about her Bernese Mountain dog. These are gorgeous dogs and had been on my list of dogs I like, but I’m sure glad we didn’t get one, because this co-worker told J that they have to give this dog at least an hour’s walk, preferably two, every single day and if they don’t, the dog doesn’t sleep at night. It keeps them up.

Jasper not only sleeps from about 9 pm on, moving only to make sure he stays on my feet until we put him in his crate, but after his morning walk with J, he goes back to sleep with me if I am sleeping in. Yesterday, I had an unpleasant bought of insomnia in the middle of the night, so I took a snooze for an hour or so after everyone had left the house, with the dog faithfully sleeping by my bed. When I woke, I was concerned about his need to pee and popped right downstairs to take him outside. He followed me down, then lay down on the rug in front of the door and refused to move. He just stared at me, bleary-eyed, as I stood on the front step and tried to coax him out, clearly saying, “Look lady, I just woke up. What’s the rush?”

How brilliant is that?

Also, he hates walking in the cold. He goes out, pees at the end of the driveway, then bolts for the house. In milder winter weather he’s fine, but refuses to walk in the really cold stuff, and still sleeps all night and more. Brilliant.

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I’ve been reading the Yarn Harlot‘s books. My mother lent me them and I’ve been loving them. She writes knitting humour. Those who don’t knit probably can’t imagine knitting being funny, but it is, or at least, she is. She also fits in a fair amount of practical information. She also loves socks.

I don’t really knit socks. I have knit 2 pairs – one for my brother and a matching pair for my niece several Christmases ago. I liked it, but there were just so many other things to knit that I’ve never done more. That, and I used to think wool was itchy so I saw no point in knitting myself any socks.

Last winter, I had a wool sock epiphany, thanks to a friend who lent me a pair of her’s in a moment of desperation. The socks were warm and soft. I always have cold feet. Actually, I always had cold feet. Now I have wool socks. No more crappy, damp cotton socks for me. Wool socks aren’t cheap, but they are worth it.

Anyway, I finally realized, thanks to the Yarn Harlot, that I can combine my love of warm socks with my love of knitting. I actually didn’t know that there exists yarn intended especially for socks. How convenient! I don’t have to buy wool socks, I can make them! Inspired, I popped out to the knitting store yesterday and was shown an entire aisle of sock yarn. Lovely, soft, colourful. And in some cases, pretty darn cheap. Cheaper than buying pre-made socks.

I was restrained and only bought enough for two pairs – one a remarkably inexpensive alpaca in purply-blue, and one an expensive merino that, while expensive, wasn’t much more expensive than the actual socks would be. I took a picture, but it doesn’t completely do the wool justice. The colour looks a bit washed out here, but you get the idea.

sock-yarn.jpg

Now comes the really difficult part: I haven’t quite finished the sweater I’m making for my friends’ impending new arrival, nor the one I’m making for Asher (good thing I’m knitting that one big), so I must be strong and not start knitting the socks. I must at least finish the baby sweater first. (It isn’t a teeny tiny baby sweater either. It is sized about 3 years.) I want the socks. I’m bad with delayed gratification – not a good trait for a knitter to have. Maybe I’ll just go look for the sock needles, just to make sure I have the right sizes …

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