Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is upon us, and the kids could not be more excited. I think they look forward to this holiday more than almost any other (I think that Christmas still has the edge, what with the present factor and all) and have been planning their costumes for many weeks. They really enjoy making their own costumes, and Miss Serious especially has been putting in a lot of energy to the finishing touches of her costume. She is rarely something mainstream (last year she was Fern the Green Fairy from the Fairy series of books. She loves these books, and they encompass pretty much any kind of fairy you can think of - jewel fairies, color fairies, weather fairies. I can't tell you how grateful I was when she became able to read them on her own, because they could not be more excruciating...) and this year is going to be a rock star. She made a microphone, and carefully chose an outfit, which consists of jeans, a sparkly shirt, and boots. I put a big ponytail on the top of her head, and we crimped her hair. She got some colored hair braids from my cousin, and is wearing dangly earrings, sparkly nail polish and makeup. I had some concerns (I kept them to myself, as Miss Serious does not enjoy hearing these kinds of concerns) that no one would actually know what she was supposed to be, but my fears were alleviated when I saw her making a drawing yesterday; turns out it was a fancy sign that said "Rock Star" that she is going to tape to her shirt. Always thinking, that one.

Big Trouble decided to be a vet, and as he really loves animals, this was a perfect choice. The Professor dug up a white lab coat (I safety pinned it from giant to kid-size) and went to the vet's office and got some tongue depressors and gloves. From around the house we gathered a stethoscope, a syringe, and a prescription bottle. We put a bandaid on one of his stuffed animals, and made him a little clip-on name tag. Good to go.

Obviously, other than the costume fun, the big draw of Halloween is the Trick or Treating. Last year we started a new tradition - it's called reverse trick or treating, and is to help expand awareness of fair trade chocolate and the issues involved in the growing of cocoa beans. The children are sent (for free - love that!) a packet of informational cards and fair trade chocolates. When they trick or treat, they give one of these to the person answering the door. It caused a little confusion last year (who expects to be handed something at their door?) but I found that people were really receptive to the whole concept. The labor issues in the chocolate industry are one of those things that most people (including, recently, myself) are unaware of, and this is a fun way to get the information (and a little chocolate) out. Obviously it's too late for this year, but the info on how to do it is here.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

If the Hat Fits...

Well, I guess the 2nd time is the charm - Big Trouble's hat is finished. He picked out the yarn this summer when we were on vacation in Cape Cod; it's ArtYarns Merino (how did my children get such champagne tastes? They both gravitated to the most expensive yarns in the store) and the colors are great for Fall. I knit it once, but due to a size miscalculation on my part (I decided that since he is older, I should add 8 stitches to my normal hat pattern. Not wise, as it was then too big for me - at this age, kids and adults have almost the same head size) it got frogged and re-knit. All of this is worth it, however, because Big Trouble is extremely gratifying to knit for. He's so happy when I make things for him, and not only does he wear them as soon as possible, but he tells everyone that his mommy made it for him and he loves it. Who can resist?

(For some reason, the angle of this picture makes it look like his head is freakishly tall, but I assure you it is well within the normal range.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Well, the organization of Chez Necessity slowly continues. About 6 months ago (I have mentioned the procrastinating thing, right?) I cleaned through all my files, not out of any crazy desire to organize, but because I could no longer fit any new papers into said files without enduring massive paper cuts. When we lived in a house, I had a large filing cabinet and all the space I could ever desire. Since moving to a smaller space, I've downsized to a 2-drawer filing cabinet, which theoretically is enough to hold all my financial and household papers. This concept only works if I occasionally remove some old items rather than just adding new ones, which is what I finally did. I like to keep things, but even I was somewhat floored to find that I still had my financial aid applications from my senior year of high school (we're talking 1987 here....) along with just about everything else since. So, I pulled out all the old things, but didn't just throw them in the recycling, as there is so much talk about identity theft these days, and older documents seem to have your social security number on everything.

So, I tucked the papers into a basket under my dresser, to be dealt with later. Well, later ended up being today. I don't have a shredder, and don't have any interest in getting one; not only do I want to avoid spending money on something I don't really need, but space is always an issue here. Enter, the cheapie version of the shredder:

After about 45 minutes on the couch ripping everything into little strips, I now have a bag of recycling that will hopefully keep my personal information personal. Hopefully the pain in my hands will be a reminder that maybe I should do this sort of thing on a more regular (rather than every 10 or 20 years) basis. Sadly, I'm not counting on it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Well, There's More Room Now

I've been trying to get some motivation going, but it's been a hard road. Miss Serious has been having some insomnia issues in the middle of the night (we're talking being awake for 2-3 hours), thus causing me to have a serious case of exhaustion and sleep-deprived stupidness. She's gotten back on track, but my body hasn't fixed itself yet.

I decided that it would help motivate me to clean/declutter all the little hidey holes in our apartment by taking photos of the mess so I could do a before/after thing. I was hoping that this would keep me in the cleaning spirit, as opposed to what usually happens, which is that I clean out one area, and am so pleased with myself that I decide that's enough for a while (which invariably ends up turning into next year...). Well, I took my pictures, and decided yesterday that I should tackle my bedroom closet. It has become the repository of much more than clothes - anything that doesn't seem to have a home ends up getting shoved in there. Here's a lovely before picture:

And a charming during shot (where did all these clothes come from? I only ever wear 4 things):

And finally, after:

Now there's lots of space. Unfortunately, this is partly because a lot of the items are now in a garbage bag (I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of those). This is because they are apparently delicious. Especially cashmere. Now, I don't come by cashmere easily. Anything I own is the result of a wonderful gift, usually from my mother who hunts up these unbelievable sales. Thus, one can understand my extreme sadness when I opened up my plastic, underbed container and found not one, not two, but about 97 holes in some of my beautiful sweaters. I had dutifully dry-cleaned said sweaters (took off the plastic - ahhh, lesson learned) and placed them in an airtight storage box. Unfortunately, there were either little creatures already in the box, or in something else that was packed up with them, and they spent the summer feasting on cashmere and merino wool. They also enjoyed items in my closet, including some hand-knit elbow length fingerless gloves, which I have since washed, frogged, and salvaged the yarn for something else.

So now, all my yarn is in plastic bags, every item in the closet has either been washed or vacuumed, and every nook and cranny in there has also been vacuumed. I'm trying hard to look at the silver lining, and I do enjoy being able to find and replace clothes in my closet without physical injury to my fingers. I also found a lot of wonderful things tucked away (some old pictures, my HS diploma, and the like) that made me smile, so the day wasn't a total loss. Now, on to the kids' closet...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

62 Days and Counting..

Christmas is coming. There are lots of kids in my extended family, and for the last couple of years I've been pretty good about knitting things early for them, but this year I think I will run out of time. As I posted before, I've been working on a cross-stitched Christmas stocking for Big Trouble. Sadly, it was begun soon after his birth (mind you, he's 6 now) and put aside when I discovered how much I like to knit. He finally realized last Christmas that he didn't have a lovely hand-made stocking to match Miss Serious' and The Professor's. I've been working A LOT on this stocking, and it really makes me appreciate how much more I like knitting. After about 19 bajillion hours, it has gone from this:

to this:

It's looking more stocking-like, and even though to the untrained eye it looks almost done, it's not even close. What makes these particular designs so charming are all the details; what makes these particular designs a pain in the patootie are also all the details. I am now in the outline/detail phase, and I've reached the point where I am about ready to stick a tapestry needle in my eye. I would put it aside again, except for this little person that keeps coming in to see how it's going, and who exclaims excitedly over every new section. This child has even gone so far as to say, "It's ok if you don't finish it Mommy; I know it's a lot of work and I'll understand." Pure evil.

Friday, October 24, 2008

And So Ye Shall Rip

Haven't posted much lately - I've been knitting, but don't have much to show for my efforts, as I seem to be ripping out more than I'm actually producing. Exhibit A:

Yesterday this was a hat for Big Trouble. Unfortunately it was a hat that was a roomy fit for ME, and as Big Trouble does not have a freakishly big head, it is now back to being just a pile of yarn.

Exhibit B: Last week the weather decided to change directly from summer to winter, and my ears were freezing after walking the kids to school. I had seen the pattern for Calorimetry and thought it looked like it would work. I had some lovely Brooks Farms Four Play yarn left over from my mom's Christmas scarf; it's really soft and not at all itchy, so I thought it would allow me to wear it on my head without making me want to rip out all my hair.

Well, after knitting this thing several times, I was sorely tempted to do just that; the picture in the pattern is just the size I was looking for. Unfortunately, the first time I knit it I ran out of yarn as I was casting off right here:

If you can't see it in the picture, I had about 20 stitches left to cast off. So, I ripped back and reduced the decreases, cast off, tried it on, and Miss Serious said "Wow, Mommy, you made a bonnet!" While this may be a good look in the world of a 7 year old, it wasn't quite what I was going for. So, I frogged the whole thing, and cast on 100 instead of 120 stitches, and only did 10 increase rows instead of 16. This helped, and the final version looks like this:

Miss Serious liked it so much that I made her a skinny one with the leftover yarn (it looks more like a straight headband) to keep her ears cozy. It is warm and comfortable, but I'm not really into the whole mother-daughter matching thing; around here just the wearing of a hand-knit scarf on your head makes one stand out quite a bit. Adding in the cutsie factor of matching one's daughter may tend to cause people to raise more than an eyebrow. I may have to go all out and get us matching dresses...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ohhh, I Get It...

We went to the local nature preserve yesterday, and I figured out why turkey is served (well, not by us, but by others) at Thanksgiving. While we we weren't able to spot any other wildlife besides a lone sparrow and hundreds of squirrels, the woods were overrun with turkeys. It kept surprising us to see them in the woods, as they are so big and yet so quiet. We kept coming across them, and they are quite brave - we probably could have talked one into getting into our car if we were so inclined. Luckily, we were not, and we left all the turkeys to the quiet of the woods. They're definitely not pretty birds, but carry themselves with grace and dignity; generally what I'm aspiring to most days myself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Well, we are coming to the end of our 3-day weekend. I was able to catch up on my missed sleep from all of the subbing. Well, not actual subbing, but thinking about subbing, which causes me to not sleep and also to wake up and stare at my alarm clock starting at about 4:22 AM. The fact that I haven't gone in yet doesn't seem to matter to my sleep-deprived brain. I'm hoping that next week I will actually get a call, actually go in, and actually get over my silly self. Hope springs eternal....

We all enjoyed our time off, and even hit what is lovingly referred to round these parts as "The Big Mall." This is probably because it is a really big mall, complete with 4 floors, a carousel, and a ferris wheel. Being on the frugal end of things, we don't tend to go to malls very often, unless we have gift cards to use or a specific item in mind, which therefore makes going to the mall a real treat. This time we went to return a shirt, and so that Big Trouble could use his gift cards to buy a Wall-E robot. We had seen this robot in Target several weeks before his birthday, and he decided that he would like it. Little did I know that this would turn out to be an uber-popular toy, and when we got to Target, gift cards in hand, we were informed that they were sold out everywhere. Big Trouble handled the disappointment well, and we enjoyed the rest of the day.

I think that the fact that he handled his disappointment so well spurred me to try find this toy. I punched up the Target website, and though it was sold out everywhere, they did have 1 at a Target about 1/2 hour away. So, the next day we hopped in the car, made the journey, made a beeline for the toy section and, of course, it wasn't on the shelf. Two salespeople and several discussions later, they found 1 left in the back room, and Big Trouble was thrilled. I hope I haven't become one of those crazy parents who stampede all over each other to get their child a certain toy; as I didn't have to step on a single soul for this robot, I think I'm in the clear.

Friday, October 10, 2008

One Angry Fish

This is Twyla the fish. Twyla is a betta fish (and a male, and even though the children know this, they decided that he should be named Twyla because of the pinkness). This is our 3rd betta. The kids got the first for Christmas a few years back, and when it died about 1 1/2 years later, it was replaced with betta fish #2.

And then Miss Serious went to a birthday party. Let me preface this by saying that around here, children's birthday parties are completely over the top. They are rarely at the child's home (if they are, they involve the rental of blowup jumpy castles, clowns, and snow cone machines) and are usually at a themed restaurant or activity place, which costs the birthday parents a startling amount of money. After having gone to many of these extravaganzas, Miss Serious asked me where she would be having her birthday party last year (we had it here, no clown, no blowup jumpy castles, but it was a tea party, and pretty spiffy if I do say so myself).

The nice thing is that as they get older, these have become drop-off parties, so the adults don't have to be subjected to the incredible fun-ness of the whole thing. At the party in question, I walked up the front walk to pick her up and passed a father holding a fish in a clear bag full of water. He looked at me, smiled a bit, and said, "Yeah, you'll be getting one, too."

Enter Twyla. We bought a bigger bowl for him because the bowl that was given in the goodie bag was about 3 inches around and seemed more appropriate for a mosquito than a fish. This fish is crazy. Having had other bettas, I know their propensities to puff up when you get close to the bowl, but this one takes it to a whole other level. Cleaning his bowl takes twice as long as it should, because it is prefaced by chasing him with the net for an inordinate amount of time. Once he's caught, it's still a little exciting, as the first time I pulled him out in the net he leaped out onto the counter. Where he thought he was going, I have no idea.

I've finally decided that he's being extra fish-macho to compensate both for the name and the pinkness. I'm not sure who he's trying to impress, but so far, it's not me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Or keyboard. Or whatever. I've been kind of MIA lately - haven't even been keeping up with email. There have been some changes round these parts, and I'm working on getting my head back in the right place. We had the big family party for Big Trouble's birthday this weekend, which invariably takes up buckets more of my time than I anticipate. It's not that it is too hard or time-consuming, it's just that I have discovered I am really bad at estimating how long things will take. Denial, or something, I don't know.

This week Big Trouble began full-day kindergarten; his school does half days for the first month to help the kids transition. It seemed like a good idea initially, but after a week, both my kids were more than ready for full day. We walk to school, and I was getting to know all the crossing guards really well, as Miss Serious has been full day since the beginning, requiring multiple trips to the school.

I've been very ambivalent about him going off to school full day. I don't yearn for the days when the kids were young, or wish that I could turn back time or anything. I've enjoyed my kids at each age they've been, and never feel the need to change that. This is different, though, because I've been a stay at home mom for almost 8 years now, but once the kids are out of the house all day, my role is vastly different. I told The Professor it was like I've been working at a job I really enjoyed, and now it's been outsourced, a feeling which surprised me and threw me a bit off balance.

I plan to go back to teaching next year (I am SO looking forward to job hunting after all this time....), so in aid of this I interviewed to be on the substitute teacher list in the kids' district. I filled out my application, sent in my resume, and was placed on the list. I thus don't quite know why I was so profoundly shocked when my phone rang yesterday morning just before 6:00 AM asking me to sub; it was at a different building, so I had to say no, but now I know it's official, and sooner or later I WILL get called, and WILL need to dress myself up in grown-up clothes and teach a strange class full of strange children. Don't get me wrong - I loved teaching school, and I'm sure after the inevitable growing pains I will be fine. While my kids have been home I've taught graduate school and supervised student teachers teaching their classrooms, but it's not the same as teaching elementary school myself. It's just that subbing is much less suited to my temperament. I am someone who likes to know plans far in advance, and I have a distinct need for a feeling of control. These things are all impossible in a situation where you don't know if (or where - could be kindergarten, could be 5th grade) you will be working until the jangle of a phone early in the morning.

I gathered my wits about me yesterday, hit the teacher's store, the internet, and my old files, and have compiled a pile of things which may or may not be useful. Having only subbed twice in my life (and that was back in the dark ages, before I had taught school, had gray hairs, or children of my own) but having survived those, I'm sure I will survive this next chapter in my life. Unfortunately, my obsessive nature woke me up at 4:30 this morning to look at the clock and wait worriedly for the phone to ring. It did not, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Until tomorrow when 4:30 rolls around....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Big Trouble!

Six years ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He was a sweet, exceptionally cuddly child (still will snuggle any chance he gets), and it's amazing to me how fast the time flies. He's now a kindergartner, and was really looking forward to his birthday this year. He started asking me weeks ago how many days until the big day, and now it's here. He brought his birthday bag to school (they share special things about themselves) as well as low-fat muffins (they no longer want frosted cupcakes for birthdays; I understand the reasoning, but it still makes me sad) for special snack. Even though I use the name Big Trouble for him (he started this when he was about 3, using the phrase "Here comes Big Trouble!") he is a lovely, sweet-tempered, joyful child with a wonderful sense of humor and fun. I am so proud of the boy he has become, and am always proud to be his mom.

Happy Birthday Big Trouble! We all love you.