29 June 2016

Joy

Last week, friends of ours had a miscarriage and lost their first ever baby. Today, other friends of ours gave birth to a big, healthy baby girl. It is a deeply-felt reminder that life is very fragile and very precious.

And so today, with three sick, grouchy kids, a bored dog, and a restless mom, The five of us went for a long walk around town and ended at the ice cream parlor. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous day to be outside. A passing car stopped and yelled out an open window, "You have your hands full!" Yes, maybe, but there is no burden - we all feel joyfully weightless.







24 June 2016

TGIF

It has been a very long and draining week for someone very close to me. Everyone is out of the woods, but if you could offer up a few prayers for a special intention for that person, I would greatly appreciate it.

It's been a bit of a long week for me too. Eleanor fell off the changing table while climbing down and now has a giant goose egg on her head and Theodore woke up from his morning nap with a fever. All three kids are sick. I did some very short notice babysitting and while I was happy to be of service, after caring for eight children ten and under, I was a bit drained. And while it's never fun when you're having one of those weeks where you can't remember when you last showered and are washing vomit off throw pillows, I think I really needed a good "kick in the pants" week. I've been struggling with summer sloth lately, and having extra people to care for and having my kids be extra needy meant I got stuff done. Suddenly I found the energy to sweep and Swiffer the floors so the crawlers wouldn't pick up dog hair. I did the dishes everyday so that I would have enough cups for everyone. I even trimmed my super shaggy bangs because I needed to do something to spiff up my appearance and it was quicker than a shower.

I'm glad I'm the type of person people can call when they are in a pinch.

Poor, sick baby.

"Abigail horsey!" "No, Abigail, no horsey. She's a dog."

Matt and I have a bet going as to whether she breaks a bone before she's three. We call her Mountain Goat Chubs because she's always climbing things.

This is how I know they're mine.

20 June 2016

Hobbies

I remember when I was a teenager realizing that I didn't have any toys anymore. No dolls or legos or Barbies or playsets. I had books and crafts and asked for things like lotion and CDs for Christmas. I didn't have toys anymore, I had hobbies.

Recently, I had all three kids at a doctor's appointment when another lady in the waiting room jokingly asked me, "So, what do you do with your freetime?" I just smiled a tight-lipped smile, but I wished I'd told her the truth. "Oh, I like to read and crochet; thanks for asking!" Even with three kids, one of them a six-month-old, I still get at least a little time almost every day to indulge.


Right now, in fact, the girls are downstairs playing and Theodore is napping, so I've got blog time.

I crocheted Eleanor a pair of slippers that she practically lived in for the first day, but then she lost interest and they are now lost somewhere in her dress up bin. I then embarked on a little hanging basket for the shower. It was getting a bit crowded with five people's stuff and I couldn't find anything I liked at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I used this free pattern with two strands of Lily's Sugar 'n Cream in Indigo and a size N hook. (I bought the yarn on sale at Joann Fabrics and did not use the entire skein/s.) I made it in one afternoon and it came out great! I'm now searching for more places in my house that would benefit from basket-style organization.


Because it's in the bathroom, I wanted to make the basket out of quick-drying cotton, but a basket in the kitchen or a kid's room could certainly be made out of a cheaper yarn.

I'm also in the midst of three other crochet projects that live on the edge of the hearth. I still need to figure out a good place to put my work space (the one we got from Ikea when we lived in Chicago). It took some convincing, but the girls now leave the yarn pile alone.


So I'm working on a mid-weight shall for myself. I started in the spring, but when summer hit, the project kind of fell to the back burner. It's a very, very simple (and free) pattern, though, so I still break it out when I'm looking for something quick and easy to work on. This is also a great one to do when the kids are awake as it's easy to put down and not devastating if the girls pull out some of the rows. I finished the hot pink and navy blue is the next color. The color scheme is based off my favorite skirt.


I'm also working on a tunic tank top to layer over a tank top, especially low-cut tanks that are great for nursing but not for modesty. The pattern was not free, but looked very simple and I've been able to copy it just based off the pictures. I'm currently mad at the shirt because I'm pretty sure I'm going to look fat in it and will therefore never wear it. That is the problem with making one's own clothes. If you try it on and don't like it, you can't just return it.


The third project is the one I'm most actively pursuing. They are seat cushion/covers for our new hand-me-down patio chairs. I'm making them with scrap yarn using a crochet technique called "Bavarian." The stitch is easy and works up quickly, even with worsted weight yarn and a size I hook. I'm almost done and hoping to finish today, actually.


During the aforementioned trip to Joann, I stumbled across some foxy fabric and then, of course, had to buy it. I got some super-soft turquoise-y fabric to go with it. I'm planning to just sew the two fabrics together and - voila - have a super quick and cute blanket.




I'm not big on sewing, but when I saw the fabric, I was compelled to buy it. Since we're totally blanket people around here...


...making a blanket was the first thing that popped into my head. The fun foxies remind me a lot of a quilt that one of Matt's friends made for Theodore.


She has made all of my babies quilts and I'm super grateful and flattered.


The front of Theodore's quilt is like a vintage fabric version of an adventure tale come to life. The Egyptian-y fabric reminds me of one of my favorite books, The English Patient, and the "planes, trains, and automobiles" fabric looks like it belongs on the cover of a Jules Verne novel.


I like paring masculine novels with each of the fabrics. The nauticalesque white triangles on a navy background? Hemingway! (The Old Man and the Sea, my favorite Hemingway.) The blue spider webs? Edgar Allen Poe!

Thus far, each kid has his or her very own custom-made quilt, crochet blanket from Mommy, and (several) plush fabric blankets. I'm trying to get my kids as addicted to books and blankets as I am, apparently.


When I'm not crocheting with my free time, I'm usually reading. It's my goal to read 24 books this year. I'm on track having read 11 thus far and I have my next few picked out.


Chicago and A Strangeness are recommendations and The Princess Bride is just for fun. I also have The Brothers Karamozov and a nonfiction work, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in The Age of Reason, on my to-read list.

I also started writing again! I have an idea for a full novel, but I'm a bit nervous to venture into book writing again until the kids are older. It's difficult to write in one-hour spurts, and getting anything longer than one- to two-hour spurts with babies and toddlers and preschools is rare. I decided to focus on writing prompts and short stories in order to stay limber and improve my skills while I waited, so a little while ago, I bought an item called Rory's Story Cubes. They were pretty cool, but I only used them once and was rarely writing. Then last week, I found a beautiful journal for a very decent price and it re-inspired me.


Out flowed the story of Edgar, the dumpy bloke who gets drafted into the Circus. It was awesome to sit down and write on paper with a pen. I felt all creative and inspired. I'm hungry to do some more writing.


Quick side note on the story cubes - I have found that prices on them vary widely and the best deal is at the major book stores, Schuler, Barnes and Nobel, etc. I paid $8 for the large box and $4 for the "mix-ins."

16 June 2016

Abigail

We have officially reached the point when Eleanor has surpassed Abigail in almost all development.

Eleanor can put on her shoes by herself, she can climb up and down the diaper changing table by herself, she can jump higher and farther and for longer periods of time, she can balance on one foot, she can help get herself dressed and undressed, she can carry heavier objects, she can climb in and out of the car and her carseat and put her arms in and buckle the chest straps on her carseat by herself. She can set small figurines and doll house people down without them falling over, she holds a pencil better, she has memorized more books, she knows when she is poopy, she can follow more complicated directions, she understands vague terms like "soon" and "later," her pronunciation is clearer, she knows more words, her sentences are longer and more varied, she can make connections between two things without prompting.

There are a few areas where Abigail is still ahead, but basically my (slightly advanced) 2-year-old and my special-needs 5-year-old are pretty much at the same level. I know this. I'm not stupid. But it doesn't really bother me, we've been doing this one day at a time for five years. We meet Abigail where she is and Eleanor where she is. It's not complicated and it doesn't bother me. Until the report card comes.

Abigail's report card came in the mail yesterday. It lists various categories and her proficiency on a scale of 1 to 3. It also has a "goal" report that tells me where she is and where they want her to be by the next report card. Lastly, I got a letter from her speech therapist with summer ideas to help her hit those goals.

This shit is depressing. I was sitting next to Abigail on the couch. She was playing an ABC game on the tablet, Eleanor and Theodore were napping, and I'm shaking, tight-lipped with anger. I yanked a pink highlighter out of the pencil cup and set about marking everything that was factually inaccurate and grammatically incorrect. "Abigail makes 2-3 word utterances correctly 95% of the time." What the hell does that mean? 5% of the time, she gets a 2 word sentence wrong? Pink slash. "Able to distinguish between author and illustrator. Grade: 3." Abigail doesn't know what an illustrator is, how did she get a perfect score? What five year old is making this distinction? What preschooler even talks like that? Pink slash. "Speech Therapy Summer Idea's!" Great, the college-educated therapist my daughter is seeing is a complete moron who does't even know how to use apostrophes! Violent pink slash.

I grew angrier and angrier. Take your stupid ass percentages, file them with whatever agency requires it, then keep them the hell at school. No one in this house is benefited by knowing that Abigail is only using 4-6 word sentences correctly 25% of the time. And the Goddamned "Summer Idea's." (I'm not using His name in vein. I really want Him to damn the stupid form to the depths of paperwork hell.) These tips are almost 100% worthless. (See what I did there?) If you're only a halfway decent parent, you're going to be hitting a lot of these. "Play turn-taking games!" "Talk about the world around them! 'There goes a red car!'" And a good chunk of tips are completely idiotic. One time a physical development tip was to have her "carry wet laundry." Yes, really. I scornfully laughed for days. What am I going do, pull the clean laundry out of the washer, hand it to Abigail and make her do laps around the basement? "Abigail can do six laps with wet t-shirts! Next we are going to work on wet jeans!"

The worst part? The part that cuts the deepest? When you think they're wrong and then you realize they are right. That shit fucking hurts.

"How do you get a 2 word sentence wrong? Like, 'house blue' instead of 'blue house?'" And then I pause. Because Abigail does say that. Probably more than 5% of the time, actually. House blue, car red, bike yellow. I don't know if she's just mixing up her noun, adjective order or saying "The house is blue" in an abbreviated way, but either way, it's two words and they're wrong.

So not only is the "evaluation grade" on the "progress report" demeaningly low, but it's right. Now I don't even know where to aim my fire-breathing anger. Mentally cussing out the therapist for repetitive exclamation points and missing periods is not enough. So I light the report card on fire.


I threw it in the sink and watched it burn, taking pictures and breathing in the acrid smoke. Forget the poor grammar and the uncorrected typos in her permanent record. Fuck them for sending this shit home. Fuck them for calculating to what percentage Abigail is failing and sending it to my safe and happy home. I don't know what it will look like when Abigail reaches her potential, but she will, damn it. Whether she holds down a job and lives independently or volunteers a few hours a week to sweep the floors at church, we will discern it and she will achieve it. Worthless report card.



08 June 2016

Boxer the Horse's Lesson

The solution to my problems is that I need to work harder. Like Boxer from Animal Farm, "I will work harder."

I don't say that in a humorous, self-deprecating, victim card, play-the-martyr kind of way. I've gotten lazy and I've struggled to find a good routine in our new house. I have "good" excuses of course, a baby who wakes a few times a night, a dog who needs a two mile walk at 6:30 in the morning, but I fritter away the windows of productive time and then try to get stuff done when the kids are at their neediest. Shockingly, this is not a great life skill and then the family and house suffer and I feel like a failure.

I know what the problem is, how it's affecting my family, how to fix it, and that working all those steps is the easy part. But even though knowledge is power and all that jazz, I'm still having a hard time getting over the inertia each and every day.

I could go on and on and on, but that is really the thesis of my thoughts lately. I am lazy. I need to work harder. I will work harder.

And for wading through all that shit with me, I offer this blue eyed foxy pic as a token of my appreciation.