Friday, October 10, 2014

A sweater that is long overdue

I am ashamed to admit that I fell behind on my baby knitting a few years back.  Several little ones for whom I would normally have had a sweater knit within a month or two of their arrival were born in a period during which my family was going through a tough patch, and despite my best intentions, I never got their sweaters started, let alone done.

When things eased up in the spring of 2013 and my knitting mojo returned, I was thrilled.  Finally I could start getting caught up!  For two of the babies in question, I was able to pick patterns and yarn with no problem, and their sweaters were finished by last fall.

The third baby was another story.

Every baby gift I knit carries my love and happiness for the family in every stitch.  This particular sweater, however, was to hold a bit more, because this little girl's big sister ... the child for whom I knit what I affectionately refer to as the "clown barf" sweater to celebrate her arrival in 2006 .. died in an accident when she was just four years old.

When it came time to start this baby's sweater, I was acutely aware of how much is held in these stitches: my sadness over her sister's death, sympathy and admiration for her parents, who are channeling their grief into advocacy in hopes of saving just one life, and my happiness that her whole family is finding their way forward after unimaginable loss.

The end result of all of these feelings being assigned to one little sweater?

Knitter's gridlock.

I decided which pattern to use, bought the yarn ... and decided after one inch of knitting that it wasn't gelling.  I found yarn in my stash that would make a lovely sweater ... but couldn't find a pattern to suit. I vacillated, dithered, and waffled for so long that the baby in question is now a toddler.  My knitter's gridlock was in danger of becoming a permanent state of affairs, when I stumbled across Hot Chocolate on Ravelry and realized this was the one.

It's a relatively simple pattern, but the combination of mistake rib and stockinette combine to lovely effect.  It's a soft, cozy hug of a sweater, and the chunky yarn is more than capable of carrying all those emotions.


It's the perfect sweater for a little girl whose middle name is Hope.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Leo evens the score

We had a little drama this weekend.

Saturday evening we were expecting overnight guests.  Shortly before they arrived, I decided to pass the time by going outside to toss a few tennis balls for the dogs.  (It's for Leo, really, since although Jasper loves to chase balls, and will happily do so for hours if he's alone, he refuses to compete with Leo for them. If they're both in the yard, Jasper hangs out by my side watching mournfully as his brother dashes frenetically back and forth.)

We'd been out there for about 15 minutes when I managed to time the release just right, and sent the ball sailing over the rose hedge.  Leo set off in hot pursuit.  Seconds after he disappeared from view I saw two very small rabbits burst out of the shrubbery at top speed.  One headed straight for the long hedge that borders our yard.  The other started toward safety, but made a last minute right hand turn and ended up cowering in a flower bed.

I thought I saw one of its back legs dragging as it disappeared, so I moved closer to see if it needed help.  I was gently pulling plants back when I sensed that I was no longer alone.  I looked back and saw that Leo had reappeared and was standing behind me with a suspiciously nonchalant expression on his face.

"Leo, off!" I said.  He took a step backward. I peered at him more closely.  

There were four little feet poking out of the side of his mouth.

- I can't believe you're telling them about this.

Horrified, I ordered him to DROP IT, LEO.  

He stared back.  "What?" his expression read.  "What? What are you looking at? There's nothing going on, I'm just standing here!"

"Leo! DROP.IT.NOW!!"

He sighed, and gently spat his (intact, but clearly dead) prize into the grass.

Just then, WB came flying over to see what the ruckus was all about.  I told her that Leo had accidentally killed a baby bunny, and she started to wail.  She turned to Leo.  "BAD DOG!" she shouted.

"Now, WB, he was just doing what dogs do," I said.  She cried louder, which brought Jasper over, and Her Ladyship and Young'un out of the house.  I stood there as chaos reigned, paralyzed by what had just happened (those poor, teensy little feet!).  Our house guests pulled up just as I snapped out of it.  

"Hi!" I said.  "Welcome! So good to see you!  I'll be right back ... Leo just killed a bunny, and we have to have a quick funeral before dinner."

Am I the hostess with the mostest, or WHAT?!?

It says a lot for my friends that the scene didn't faze them in the least.  Suzyn comforted WB and helped Her Ladyship get the dogs inside, while her daughter and I shrouded the bunny in paper towels (it was a two person job.  Every time I tried to wrap the towel around the bunny's feet its head pushed forward, so that it looked unnervingly like I'd just tucked it in for the night).  I dug a little grave in the garden alongside the hamsters and guinea pigs, and we all bowed our heads as WB tearfully asked God to watch over the bunny's spirit.  Once the ceremony was over, we tracked down the bunny's terrified sibling and carried it over to the long hedge.  With no sign of a limp, it dashed for cover as soon as its paws hit the grass ("The poor bunny is going to need therapy," Her Ladyship said as she watched it disappear.)

Although I know these things happen, I have had a hard time getting the image of those bitsy little feet poking out of Leo's mouth out of my mind. Her Ladyship has started calling Leo "Bunny Breath".  WB was inclined to be very angry, but as of this morning was telling me sadly that sometimes dogs kill bunnies because "that's what dogs do."

And Leo?


Leo regrets nothing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


At 8:00 this morning WB twirled into the room to show off her birthday ensemble.


“What do you think?” she asked, striking a pose in the middle of the rug.

“I think it’s lovely," I said.  "You look very nice.”

WB smiled with satisfaction. “I am a perfect birthday surprise.”

“You WERE a birthday surprise!" I said.  "We weren’t expecting to have a baby that day. You weren’t supposed to be born for two more weeks."

“Yes," said WB as she flitted off to play.  "I wanted to come early so I could start becoming.”


Happy birthday, sweetheart!  The person you are becoming is pretty fantastic.


(WB's sweater vest is Tait, which I worked on -- under her close supervision -- over the summer.)

Friday, August 29, 2014


This is what the last few weeks of summer look like around here.

Eldest's internship ended, and he is home for a few weeks before heading off on his next adventure: a semester in the Czech Republic.  We are very happy to have him back in the fold for these few weeks. To add to the excitement, his girlfriend ... whom we had been hearing about for some time, but had not yet met ... stopped off for a few days on her way back to college.  She had been to Chicago for a visit last month, and Mom had reported that "pretty is as pretty does, and she is both," so anticipation was high.

I am happy to report that Eldest's friend is indeed lovely inside and out, AND she enjoys musical theatre AND her mother is a knitter, AND she brought us a box of absolutely delicious cookies which she had baked herself.  We all liked her very much.

We're ramping up for school, which resumes next week.  7th grade is when a child gets a cell phone in this family, so we've been shopping for one for Young'un.  (I'll pause for a second while we ponder the fact that my boy -- who was 3 years old when I started this blog -- is heading off to MIDDLE SCHOOL.  So much unauthorized growing up going on in this house.)  Back to phone shopping:  it's all very confusing.  I saved a ton of money by signing us up for the AT&T Mobile share plan several months ago, and at the moment we only have three phones on a plan designed for four, but adding that fourth phone -- or upgrading one of our existing phones -- isn't as simple as you (I) think it should be.  We're figuring it out, but in the meantime it would help if the boy had any idea what kind of phone he wants.

A repair call to fix a broken ice maker set off a chain of events that will end with our getting a new refrigerator, and a routine plumbing job to fix a clog and some dripping taps ended with sticker shock (HOW MUCH for new faucets?!?), the discovery that B and I have very different ideas about what approach to take to rehabbing our dated back bathroom, and these words from our plumber:  "You need to call in a specialist".

The specialist (Roto-Rooter) was able to get rid of the clog without the pipe blowing apart or having to cut into any walls, so while it was an expensive day, it was not as expensive as it could have been, and that is sometimes (often) enough.

Last spring I decided to fill in some gaps in my garden beds with wildflower seed from Vermont Wildflower Farm, and the results were everything I hoped they would be.

wildflower border

About a year ago my go-to sock yarn company, Opal, released a line of yarns based on one of my favorite children's books, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry.  This marriage of two of my favorite things prompted me to preorder the entire collection when Simply Socks Yarn Company had a promotion going prior to its release.

I've spent the last few months knitting my way through the collection, and have to say that the colorways are (almost) all in pleasing to my eye, and (almost) all reflect their inspiration.  The socks I have completed, from upper left:

Little Prince socks completed

1.  #7761, The Rose of the Little Prince
2.  #7765, The Little Prince and the Snake
3.  #7764, The Little Prince on his Planet
4.  #7763, The Little Prince on the Run
5.  #7766, The Little Prince and the Fountain

I was with them until the last one.

Just a few days are left in the summer at this point.  It's been a lovely combination of busy and relaxed, and we're ready for the adventures of fall to begin.  The little and biggest kids are off to school, and Her Ladyship will be charting the course for her gap year.  B will be working as hard as he ever does, and I ....

I will have the house to myself during the day for the first time.

It is going to take some getting used to, but I think I'm up to the challenge.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Words to live by

Summer is winding down.

Eldest is coming home tomorrow, after spending the summer working at an internship in Chicago. He has been living with my mother -- whose apartment is at 10 minute walk from his office -- so when we took our annual family pilgrimage last month, we stayed at the guest apartment in Mom's building for the first time.  This was the view:

The view from here.

We'll probably do that again.

Towards the end of our vacation, we spent the day with my sister-in-law and the cousins at Six Flags Great America.  Everyone had a wonderful time, but a day at Six Flags is by definition exhausting, and as things worked out we headed home in the middle of the evening rush.  We were hot, tired, and facing another 90 minutes in the car.

My kids get along pretty well overall, but they are siblings, and human, and have mastered the art of getting one another's goats.  When this happens, I usually tell the offender to stop by saying "don't poke the crazy."

So there we were, stuck in traffic, when Young'un decided to alleviate his boredom by pushing some of WB's buttons.  I had my eyes on the road, so have no idea what he was doing (putting his finger on her side of the back seat? refusing to let her watch him play his DS? talking about how much fun he had on the rides she was too short to go on?), but before I could intervene on WB's behalf, she turned on her brother, let out a frustrated growl,  and cried, "Young'un!! DON'T POKE THE CRAZY!" ( "Dohn poke da cwazee!")

Words to live by.

#summer #sixflags

WB was too small to ride on the swings.
Instead she talked her aunt into taking her on a flume ride.  
My sister in law is a good person.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Redecorating by inches

It began when I decided that since Her Ladyship's illness meant that she spent a large part of every day in bed, we should upgrade her to a new, bigger, mattress, and give her twin bed to WB.  This would require a bit of work, because the girls' room was quite cluttered ("Cozy," countered Her Ladyship), but once done, they'd both be better off.

Her Ladyship liked the idea of a bigger bed, but was so overwhelmed by the effort it took to get through the day that she could not bring herself to do the work required to make the change.  There was no real rush -- I'd put money down to hold her new mattress, but the store would wait up to six months to schedule delivery.  I suggested that she take a few weeks, do the clean out in small bursts as her strength permitted.  I offered to do all of the heavy lifting ... she could direct the clean-out from her bed.  "Sure," she said.  "I'll let you know when I'm ready."

Long story short:  she was never ready.  Once a week or so I would mention the bed, she would stall politely, and, aware of how on the edge she felt (and feeling a bit overwhelmed myself), I didn't press.

We were at stalemate.

Three weeks after graduation she was able to discontinue the medication that was affecting her so badly, and started to regain some signs of life.  Encouraged, I brought up the bed again.  Again she stalled.  School was over, she was clearly feeling much better ... I decided that the time was right to force her hand.

I went to the store, and scheduled delivery for five days hence.

The big day arrived.  The bed was scheduled to arrive in late afternoon.  The girls and I played Tetris with their furniture and made space in the room.  Now that it was finally happening, Her Ladyship was excited about her new bed.  The delivery truck arrived, the guys got the mattress upstairs lickety-split ...

and the box spring was unable to make it past the first landing.

"No problem," the lead delivery man assured me.  "You just need a low profile box spring.  The bed will be four inches shorter, but it'll make it up the stairs no problem."

So I ordered a low profile box spring, and was told it could be delivered in three days.  In the meantime, Her Ladyship's new mattress could just rest on the floor.

Side drama: I found a metal bed that I thought would suit the room, but the catalog didn't seem to offer a headboard-only option, even though they showed the bed without a footboard in several pictures throughout their pages.  I called the company, on the off chance that I could order the bed that way, even though it wasn't listed in the catalog or online.  No dice.  I went back to the website to double-check the measurements (maybe the footboard wouldn't make the room look too small, or maybe I could buy the complete bed and just not use the footboard) and found a link to the assembly instructions, on which the bed was referred to by the name that the manufacturer uses for it.  WELL.  A quick search online enabled me to buy the headboard plus a standard frame for less than half the price of the bed I'd originally been considering.  With free shipping.

The frame arrived the day before the new box spring was to arrive.  The headboard wouldn't get to us for a week or so, but no problem.  The day of the delivery, we got the mattress moved and the frame set up.  The delivery guys arrived on time, brought the low profile box spring into the house ...

and it was unable to make it past the first landing.

The only option left was to get a platform bed instead of the metal one I had my heart set on, or a split box frame, that would cost another $100 and void the warranty on the mattress.  Since I have never had need to redeem a warranty on a mattress, nor heard of anyone else who has had to do so, I decided to go for the split box spring.

No problem, I was told.  It will be there in three days.

We leaned the frame against the girls' closet, put the mattress back on the floor, and  waited.  The big day came, the men arrived with the split box spring (a low-profile version, though I had been under the impression that they were delivering one that was a normal height, but NO MATTER.  We were getting this DONE), carried it up the stairs with ease (HALLELUJAH!!), put the first down the first section, then the second ...

and it didn't fit.  Seems they'd delivered a queen sized box spring instead of the full we needed.

Side drama: the headboard arrived the day before the box spring.  I tried to assemble it before the delivery, but it appeared to be missing the feet described in the instructions, because the holes in the legs weren't lining up with the frame.  While we were waiting for the box spring, I called and arranged for a replacement, which would arrive in 7-10 days.  We would need the box from the new headboard to return the old one, so pick up was scheduled for end of the next week.

Fourth time was a charm.  The delivery guy came (six hours early!) and toted those full-sized regular profile split box springs up the stairs in less than 10 minutes.  Five days later the new headboard arrived and the old one went back (there were snafus, of course, because that was the way this project was going, but this post is already long enough).  There was a bit more kerfuffling as the scope of the project grew (new bed became new curtains, linens and pillows, an additional book case, several bags donated to Goodwill, and new wall stickers over WB's bed), but today it finally all came together.

girls_room6 - Copy
worth the wait

girls_room4 - Copy
WB's big-girl bed


(You will note that I am only showing you two corners of the room.  This is because the clutter in the room has not yet been thoroughly busted, it had to go somewhere, and no one needs to see that.)

It has been a long time since I've had a carefully-planned project turn into such a comedy of errors, but now that it's (almost) said and done, I couldn't be happier with the result.  The proof, though, was in the brief exchange I had with Her Ladyship last week.  We were in the kitchen, working on our own things, not looking at each other, when out of the blue she said, "My new bed is really comfortable.  Good call, mom."

That's as close as I'm going to get to "you were right".

I'll take it.

Monday, June 09, 2014


It is fair to say that Her Ladyship has not enjoyed her senior year one little bit.  Two trips to the emergency room, multiple illnesses requiring antibiotics, and a severe adverse reaction to medication have made it a very hard slog, indeed.  More than once she had to take a step back to rest and regroup.  Unfortunately, every time she tentatively regained her balance, along would come another wave to knock her down.  Getting through the year has taken a tremendous physical and emotional toll.

B and I have spent the year pushing, protecting, and advocating.  There were times we feared that despite everyone's best efforts (and that includes her counselors and teachers, the school has been fantastic to work with through all of this), Her Ladyship would not be able to graduate with her class.

It came right down to the wire ... but she did it.


Begging your indulgence--I have to say that again, with feeling.


love her bright smile

Congratulations, sweetheart! You're tougher than you realize, and we are so very proud of you.