2

Summer Mom Fail

I had a plan.

My child was NOT going to sit around inside all day this summer, rotting his brain on TV and Minecraft. We were going to do a project every day, something that was fun, but also educational. He was going to read to me consistently and do his summer bridge workbook pages. We were going to have a great time together, spend lots of time outdoors, and he was going to love summertime with Mom.

Ha ha ha ho ho ho hee hee hee. Feel free to snort your beverage of choice through your nostrils at my cheerful optimism. Personally, I suggest something not carbonated.

I thought I was so prepared. I made a huge book with all sorts of activities I found on Pinterest. Beginning in May I spent hours looking for the best projects and purchased (little by little) a huge tub of supplies. I grew to love Pinterest (remember when I asked this? What was I thinking?!) with an all-consuming passion that still exists to this day. Ah, adorably naive pre-summer me! How sad that you disappeared so quickly after that last day of Kindergarten.

We are halfway through summer and I have nearly given up. The workbook pages get completed, but intermittently. Uptown has read only 9 books to me, and nearly every one involved crying, cajoling, frustration, and bad feelings all around. We have done maybe 5 of the projects I thought we’d do this summer and most of them were fairly spectacular fails. Whenever I bring up the “busy book” it is met with promising interest, only to fade into lackluster participation.

And I am failing at this Mom thing. I am exhausted, unsure how to engage my child because I am so wiped out, angry that he seems incapable of doing anything that doesn’t involve a screen and disconsolate I can’t make this summer thing work. Someone please tell me that it’s o.k.; that I will not have created a mouth-breather who still lives at home when he’s 32 (there’s one of those just a few doors down!) just because I couldn’t keep us on track this summer.

Sigh.

Meanwhile, very little knitting is getting done. But I did manage to finish one project and add a (insert sarcasm here —›) whopping 198 yds to my Stash Dash 2016 total.

Death Star 2

This is my second of these crazy pillows and it was made for a high school friend who had to have one after seeing the other one I made. If you want specific project details, you can check out my post for the previous pillow, which went to the son of a college friend (incidentally my ex-boyfriend who then married my college roommate, ha ha!).

So here’s the updated Stash Dash 2016 list (all Ravelry links):

The Joker & The Thief and the Embroidered Apron are still in rotation, but I broke The Rule of Two and added in a third project, the Summer 2016 KAL from JLFleckenstein. So far it’s a lot of fairly mindless garter stitch using yarn from my stash (counts for Stash Dash – yesssssss!!) which I really really need right now.

Alright troops. Break’s over.  Back to mom duty!

6

The Things We Do For Love

Perler Beads!

 

My son has recently discovered Minecraft.  I’m ashamed to say that I do let him play it on my ipad from time to time.  His will be a tech savvy generation, no? But I seriously do not understand the draw. The graphics suck and it seems jerky and, yes I’m being judgy – pointless. Early on I tried to figure out how to play because he was so frustrated trying to figure out how to do things on his own and wanted help. I thought maybe I could assist.  Ha ha!  Silly Moo Moo (Uptown’s special name for me)! Did you really think you could understand?  Come on. But leave it to my kid to teach himself everything he wanted to know by watching Kids’ Youtube videos (good thing people like publishing tutorials).  How can you fault a kid who knows what he wants and then goes and finds the answers for himself? I almost feel like letting him play is teaching him something. Seriously, the kid is nearly 6 and he can do this?  Oy.

Unfortunately it’s become a HUGE obsession.  Rarely does a statement issue from his mouth that does not include something about Creepers, Steve, Redstone, Endermen, or what happens when lava meets water in Minecraft world. I feel he’s barely scratched the surface of what you can do with the game (which is fine with me) and already I feel my eyes glaze over when he starts Minecraft speaking.  But I have found a way to make the Minecraft obsession a little more productive and a little less boring for me. Enter Perler Beads.

During the holidays, one of Uptown’s advent gifts was a small Perler kit of a penguin. Immediately, he wanted to make more.  I don’t know what it is about junky plastic stuff, but kids just love it. But the awesome thing about this activity is the fact that he is working on fine motor control, distinguishing shades of color, and counting.  I’ve heard these can even improve hand-eye coordination. And guess what?  Pinterest and the interwebz are positively swarming with free Minecraft patterns.  Yesterday I set him up with a few (here) and he just kept wanting to make more and more.  Fantastic!  We can satisfy the love for Minecraft without even touching the iPad.

Of course today I find myself huddled over a giant vat of Perler Beads (22,000 to be exact) sorting, sorting, sorting.  Because apparently that’s how I roll.  Do not give me something that needs to be categorized or sorted out, or I will obsessively work like a little monkey until that sh*t is done. Ah, the things we do for love.

As for my socks, they are coming along nicely as well.  I treated myself to a new pair of needles with my Loopy Ewe end of the year credit and I’m so glad I did.  These are 40″ Chiaogoo Lace circulars, size 1.5 and they rock out with their socks out!  WAY better than the Knit Picks fixed Harmony circulars I was using prior.  The joins are super smooth and the cord has very little memory (unlike the Knit Picks Harmonys) which makes knitting magic loop so much more enjoyable. My knitting motto this year is: Socks for ’16 and I have a feeling these will get me there.

 

Los Monos Locos

4

What’s Up 2016?

Monkeys & Legos

Ah, hello Day 2 of the New Year! Or are you no longer new now that you are 2 days old? No matter.  I am still feeling the brand new optimism that comes from the arrival of a new year.

Lists and plans are still a thing of the future today.  I’ve got time and I will get down to business when I’m good and ready.  Today I am working on my first project of the new year and cooking my Mom a batch of my Dad’s spaghetti sauce.  It feels auspicious that I am doing both these things on the second day of the year.

The holidays always remind me of my Dad.  We would wait for all our favorite Christmas specials to come on TV after dinner. Hurry! Charlie Brown Christmas is starting! Now it’s all on demand, but back then we had to make sure we were planted in front of the TV on the proper channel or we’d miss out.  There was something special about not being able to pause or rewind our favorite specials.  You had to be present both physically and emotionally.  I kind of miss those days.  But mostly, I miss my Dad.  He passed away in 2009 and sometimes I almost forget he won’t answer the phone when I call or give me a whiskery kiss and tell me not to take any “wooden nickels.” But I keep him alive making his spaghetti sauce.  He taught me his “recipe” many years ago and I almost never cook it, choosing the speedy cheater method I’ve developed over years of college and young professional life rather than the low and slow day long approach his recipe requires.  A couple years ago I didn’t know what to give my Mom for Mother’s Day, so I decided to dig out my handwritten recipe from the cooking lesson Dad gave me so many years ago, and I made her a batch.  My Mom, notoriously hard to please with gifts, practically shed a tear.  You’d think I’d delivered the moon and stars. Today, I’m giving that gift again.  But really, it’s a gift for both of us. We both get to start the year with my Dad.

As for the socks, they’re auspicious too. I knit a pair of Cookie A’s Monkey socks a couple years ago and really enjoyed both the process and the result.  My plan (as yet fully unrevealed) for 2016 is to knit a lot of socks.  That’s all I’m really committing to you see: a lot. No specific number, no limiting myself to only socks this year….. why stress? But more on that later.  Anyway, back to the Monkey thing.  The pattern I cast on for is a version of the Monkey socks, but toe-up and purl-less.  It’s called Los Monos Locos and has been in my queue since April 2011 (!). Though I loved the Monkey pattern and really want a pair for myself, I thought it would be more fun to work on my queue at the same time I work on my sock problem er, goals.  So I cast on and guess what I discovered while surreptitiously slurping photos for my Ravelry project page?  The Chinese Astrology Year of the Monkey begins in February.

How’s that for auspicious?

1

Advent-eriffic

Meet Jack.

He is our very new “watch elf” (no, not a “scout” elf, according to Knittymunchkin – because he’s “watching me!”).

His hobbies include:

Pilfering leftover Halloween candy at night when the humans are sleeping, napping under the Christmas tree and riding the T. rex. When he’s not riding the T. rex, he’s usually on the motorcycle, and once we caught him trying to cheat on his nightly trip to the North Pole by attempting to phone Santa instead (on a defunct cell phone). He’s keeping us VERY busy!

Advent is keeping me busy too.  Several years ago now I knit Smitten for Knittymunchkin (unblogged of course, because that’s how I roll apparently). We didn’t have a lot of Christmas traditions when I was a kid, but a few times I was gifted an advent calendar by a neighbor or relative.  I clearly remember the anticipation of opening each new window (never mind that chocolate was never involved, just a colored image on card stock) and the building excitement as I counted the days until Christmas. I wanted so much for my son to experience the magic that I had, and for us to build some of our own traditions.  The first year I was not quite prepared and the last few mittens were actually unfinished at the start of December.  My brilliant super knitty pal Troy, suggested I just hide them each day since I couldn’t have them all hanging on a string ready to go. Guess what?  A new tradition was born.  Now I hide them every day for Knittymunchkin in the month of December and I can say we have truly made an advent activity that is uniquely ours. I love it.

Though I am Pinterest late-comer, I have the site to thank for some of our cool new advent activities this year. When I started this tradition for my son, I told myself I didn’t want it to be all about receiving gifts or rotting our teeth out with candy.  Lucky for me, others share the same feelings (and their ideas for navigating it) on Pinterest.  For the first time this year I feel I’ve been fairly well prepared.

A few of the fun things we did this year:

  • Wrote a letter to Santa. There’s lots of great templates to be found.  I liked this one for this year. Uptown (formerly known as Knittymunchkin) was able to fill out some of his own answers and I filled in the more complicated phrases.  He thinks I need a pink teddy bear because “you’re the best mommy in the world.” Awww…..
  • Received a letter from Santa. O.k., not really an advent activity, but still a super exciting thing for a kid to receive.  All the details are here and it totally works!
  • We made Snowball Playdough. Simple, and a total hit! Find it here.
  • Melted Crayon Ornaments. We turned those crayons (above) into ornaments (below) and gifted them to friends. Find it here.  Just a couple notes….. Do NOT attempt this project if you only own a prehistoric hairdryer that is over 25 years old (like mine). You will be frustrated and probably burn your fingers attempting to melt those damn nubs of crayon.  At least I was.  All crayons are not melted alike. I noticed that off-brand crayons melted at a different rate from Crayola crayons and it was frustrating to not have all of them melting at once.  But this could also be my crappy ass hairdryer coming into play. Also, I had A TON of trouble getting the unmelted nubs of crayon out of the bulbs after we had the inside decorated to our satisfaction.  After many swear words and angry shaking of the ornaments (resulting in at least one casualty), I resorted to using the smallest possible bits of crayon & just melting them to extinction.  You really don’t need much to coat the inside of each ornament.  Much less than you would think. And it’s strangely satisfying to watch them melt into oblivion. Unless your fingers are on fire. I let Uptown pick the colors and I did the heating, so this might not be super appropriate for smaller kiddos, but he still seemed to enjoy it.  I’m sensing a bit of a color theme here….. He didn’t branch out too much with his choices. Maybe next time.

Hope you have enjoyed the weeks leading up to Christmas (or your festivity of choice) with your own fantastic, unique traditions!  I’d love to hear what you do with your families to prepare for the holidays :)

1

Thankful 

Tomorrow will be a busy day for me.  For the first time in nearly 12 years or more, my husband will be working on Thanksgiving and I will be entertaining our family nearly alone. But don’t feel sad for me (not that you would, but just in case you were going there). I have so much to be thankful for!

Today I am preparing some foods in advance for the very first time so that I can spend a little more time visiting with family tomorrow instead of cursing at the gravy and potatoes to “boil faster dammit!”, while begging the turkey not to cool off so fast. And while I am chopping, baking, boiling, mashing and mixing today, I will have lots of time to reflect on the good things in my life.

I have a “Counting My Blessings” book that someone gifted me many years ago, and I got it out early this summer to work on with my 5 year old son. We were going through a big “I want…”, “I need….”, “Get me…..” sort of stage and I wanted him to spend some time thinking about all the good things he already has and how material things aren’t necessarily needs, but more like wants. It was nice to sit down as a family at dinner and each think of three things we were thankful for.  Unfortunately, it’s fizzled a bit because things got busy and no one wanted to do the activity but me.  I got tired of saying, “come on guys, please think of something to write down!”, and becoming that kind of person, forcing everyone to do something they should just want to do on their own. But I still think it’s worthwhile to write it down and it’s fun to reflect on past entries in the years that follow.

So here’s my list for this day before Thanksgiving 2015…..

Things I am grateful for:

  1. I am grateful for Maketober last month. Though I was a bad blogger and did not post often enough to make it legitimate, it did push me to finally open my Etsy shop and I couldn’t be happier that I made this leap. It’s been a slow start, but my wonderful friend Knitting Up North honored me with a purchase the day I opened, and I’ve had nearly a sale a week since then (the little project pictured up top is for the shop). This could be the start of something wonderful (for me)!
  2. My son. Obviously! I never thought I’d want a child. But when I miscarried before becoming pregnant with my son, I realized I really did want one. And since the moment he was born, I’ve been grateful that I didn’t miss out on the true gift only a child can give you. Yes it’s tiring, frustrating, monumental, and all consuming, but to have him wrap his little arms around me and tell me I’m the best most beautiful mom in the world? Truly irreplaceable.
  3. My husband. Another no-brainer. But without this man, I’d be adrift. He is my best friend, my biggest fan, and everything I could possibly wish for in a partner.  I’m damn lucky and I know it.
  4. My home. I may ruminate at times that I don’t belong here, but I am certainly lucky that other people think I do.  With the bitterly cold winds blowing outside today, I am supremely grateful for my warm cup of coffee in my cozy dining room.
  5. My hands. Meaning, the fact that I can, and enjoy making things.  There are so many good things that stem from this small gift. I can cook for my family, I can knit for others, I can read, I can carry on traditions, I can fix things, I can open my own shop. The possibilities are endless.
  6. You. The person reading this, yes, you! Even if you stop for a moment and never visit again, it means so much to me that you did take that one second to look at a picture, or read a few words. A momentary connection, but a connection just the same. It’s so nice to feel a little less alone!

I could think of so many more, but six is a nice even number. My son always lists the same three: “My parents, My house, My dog.” I always tell him to get creative, try to think of something else, but maybe I shouldn’t. He’s kind of on to something there…..

Wishing all of you celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, a most joyous holiday filled with multitudes of things to be grateful for!

1

In The Land of Autumn-Fall

Outside it is the Land of Autumn-Fall. Inside, it is just the beginning of Maketober.

I spent all Saturday canning. Let me tell you, canning is not for everyone. You stand on your feet for hours, lift heavy things, do a bunch of mindless repetitive stuff, sweat a lot and – if you’re like me – burn yourself a few times. There should be a way to count this as some kind of workout, right?

It was a beautiful autumn day on Saturday. October is truly one of the more spectacular months here in the Pacific Northwest and it almost angers me to have to spend a day inside canning. But when you have apples sitting in your garage for two weeks waiting to be processed, you do what you have to do. Don’t get me wrong. I like canning. I like feeling that connection to women in my past. My Mom and second Mom Vicki (whom I miss dearly) canned during my childhood and I have warm memories of the smells in the kitchen, their chatter, and the wonderful things we consumed all winter long from those colorful jars they so reverently stored away for the time of need. I remember helping them from time to time, but then drifting off out the screen door to some more enticing childhood adventure. I vaguely understood, but did not appreciate, all the time and love they put into the food we ate.

For many years I did not think about canning. I went to college, then grad school, but didn’t feel the desire to make a home anywhere. Shortly after my husband and I were married, Vicki passed away from cancer. I’m ashamed to say I was an awful “daughter” and lived in denial for a good portion of her sickness; until it was too late to sit with her and get to know her, provide her some comfort. I was so selfish. It is one of the biggest regrets of my life. But I found a way to make peace with this broken bit of my heart. I honor Vicki’s memory every time I can something in my kitchen.

It started with Pickled Beets. These were my favorite things from Vicki’s kitchen (my Dad’s was her blackberry jam). She would give us crates of canned goods at Christmas time. Foods she had cultivated from seed to jar. Always a labor of love: grown with love, made with love, given with love, and received with love. I craved those beets, those gifts of love, when she was no longer with us. To feed my hunger and honor her memory, I decided to make pickled beets using her recipe. I’d like to say that I had a transcendental moment the first time I made these, but I’d be lying. It was messy, hot, frustrating, and yet ultimately rewarding. And every autumn when I make pickled beets, I get one step closer to forgiving myself, because I know that I honor Vicki every time I do. Somewhere she is watching over me and loving me despite the way I failed her so abysmally when she needed me most.

The beets will be coming in tomorrow and I expect to spend the upcoming days pickling. Saturday was Caramel Apple Butter, a first time recipe for me. Like Vicki, I make these with love. And every Christmas, with that same love, I gift them in baskets to everyone in our family. Thank you Vicki, for leaving me with this lasting legacy. It is truly priceless.

3

In the Blink of an Eye


“It’s not a race!” I frequently tell my son.

Almost as frequently as I shout, “Hurry up pokey!”.

Be still. Enjoy this moment, the voice in my head reminds me. Yet I cannot stop the perpetual forward motion of my mind. How do I prepare for what’s coming? What is coming? What do I need to do this afternoon? What do I make for dinner? Simple worries, or complicated ones, it’s exhausting. I hear that this inability to live in the present comes from our society’s continuous bombardment of information. We have less time, more stress, and less ability to live in the moment because we are expected to be constantly connected. Each interaction requires an appropriate response and the accumulation of obligatory responses leaves no spare moment unaffected. I am as guilty as anyone of allowing this tide to overtake me. I wish I wasn’t.

These thoughts are foremost in my mind as summer begins its extended farewell. Instead of imagining my glass half full with the lazy days remaining, I am imagining it half empty as summer slips through my grasp yet again. Perhaps this melancholy comes from the realization that in a few short weeks my darling Knittymunchkin will be a kindergartner. How did this happen? In the blink of an eye, is how.

Today, I told myself, I would try just a little harder. At our morning swim lessons I purposely did not knit, knowing that I would not be able to feel the morning in the same way if I was counting rows on my sock. Instead I welcomed the drizzle on my face, watched the steam drift off the surface of the pool, and listened to the happy splashing of children.

And, if only for the time it takes to blink, I was still.