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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blessed Christmas

For all of my Scrooging last week, we really did have an excellent Christmas. Most excellent.
First, we had four days with Tim's family - mom, stepdad, teenage brothers, older brother, and dog. I had a lovely time and learned that my new favorite game is Bananagrams. It really is fantastic and I look forward to a time when I can play with them all again. It takes all the fun parts of Scrabble without the messy scorekeeping or board strategy. It rocks.
After 4 days with Tim's people, Nebraska started doing its blizzard thing so we went to Mom's house. We needed to be with Mom - she's had some rough Christmases and the idea of being snowed in away from her over Christmas was unbearable. The storm screwed up my head so much we hadn't figured out what to do until Christmas eve day, but we celebrated a quick Christmas with Tim's family and then went to my mom's house. Snow ensued. So did happiness.
On Christmas day, it really seemed impassable, but Erika & Darin packed up the kids and made it work. Kirsti's stepdad got her too and her mom brought her over, so we actually had the Christmas we planned, just a few hours delayed. I'm so grateful that the storm didn't steal our Christmas day!!
We hunkered down until Monday before we left for Dad's house. The roads weren't terrible, but they weren't great either. Still a lot of blowing snow and several cars off the road. We got tired of counting at about 13 and I think we quit counting shortly before York. Got to Dad's and had a quick but lovely Christmas with them Monday night before coming home Tuesday.
Now we are home. And I'm thankful. 10 days is a long time to be away from home!! It was a long and lovely trip, certainly, but it's always good to get home.
And now on to New Years. . . I'm certain a resolution post is pending. . .

Wow. Nearly a month with no updates!!

I need to get off my butt and upload some pictures. This month I made a super soft scrunchable scarf for my MIL, another gorgeous neckwarmer for my stepMIL, and have been working on my grandma's lap blanket.

So I'm working, just not updating. Sorry. :(

Friday, December 25, 2009

I'm (not) dreaming of a white (out) Christmas.

I remember when I was 8 or so - it was the first time anybody had brought to my attention the song "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." It was Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's farm and everyone would look out onto the lawn and witness the scant covering of dusty white snow and say "At least we have a white Christmas."

And here is where I diverge from most Nebraskans. I probably should be a Floridian. Or a New Mexican. I do not dream of a white Christmas and despite living in Colorado with its bounteous snow, I'm not a big fan of it.

That said, that's what we've got kids. Not just a white Christmas, a white-out Christmas -- a full on blizzard. We're hunkered down at Mom's wondering what we forgot at the store and why anyone thought "Geez, with its tropical summers and sub-zero blizzarding winters, Nebraska is a great place to settle."

Still, my friend Kim was right in that I was being melodramatic in saying the storm was stealing Christmas. It's not. It's changing Christmas certainly. . . but we're still here and still celebrating.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And now this:

Forgive me. This post will show up eventually, as will many others, whenever we decide to share with the world that we are, for the fourth time this year, pregnant.



I am, today, 5 weeks 2 days pregnant.

A few things I must admit:

  • It is Tuesday and I'm not looking forward to Friday, Christmas, now that I know a winter storm is on its way. I've come to conclude on this trip back to Nebraska that I am not in any way, shape, or form, still holding out to move back. I love this state and all its flatness and delightfulness and sweet summer thunderstorms and crisp late summer sweet corn. But I do not love the Alexander Paine dreariness that's blanketed the city three days prior to the winter storm.
  • I do not like dogs. For the dog owners in my life, I am sorry. It's not that I dislike your dogs individually or that I don't enjoy the occasional head pat or their sweet chins on my knee when I visit. Please do not be offended, I do not dislike your dogs specifically. But I do not like dogs with their smell and blind obedience and, most of all, their dogness. I am and always will be a cat's friend.
  • I am crabby. (If you read the other two notes, that should probably be clear).
  • I am a bad blog updater. :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Now the waiting:

It's Advent. I'm excited. I love Advent. It's the waiting - well, there's the springtime waiting during Lent as well, but that's more mournful, sorrowful, pensive, tentative waiting. Right now we're in the anticipatory waiting. The fun waiting. And to be frank, after the year we've had, I need fun waiting. So here I am. And here's what I'm up to:
  • Finish up Semester. Grades due next Thursday.
  • Work on Spring courses, learn entirely new online teaching GUI, create entirely new courses using said GUI, and figure out wtf GUI means or if I'm using it appropriately.
  • Finish up knitting projects for Christmas Knits.
  • Finish up "To Do" list for Christmas Gifts.
  • Give water (http://www.adventconspiracy.org/water/) on behalf of everyone on our list. This year we cut our Christmas budget in half - and spent half on friends, family, and loved ones, and will spend the other half on clean water. For many of our people, I managed to half (or greater than halve) the spending and give better gifts, made of good yarn and a lot of my time. I'd say that's a fair trade.

I'm excited about Christmas, as it lopes toward me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Last but not least: Christmas Wraps

My goal this year is to make all of our Christmas gift wrappings out of scrap fabric. Some of them will be rather plain (like Nana's right here), but others will be more ornate. So far I just have a few done. Nana's holds her Star lap blanket.
This one is for Camden and Spencer and holds their Starfish Washcloths. It's actually a washing mitt made of terrycloth! I'm so proud of it.

The last two are Marge's. Small gifts -- the small brown bag holds a bracelet and the larger black bag with red roses on it holds a washcloth and some shower gel/shampoo in a beautiful tin container. I'm very proud of these gift bags - my hope is that they can be used again by the recipients - either to wrap gifts THEY give to people or for some other task around the house.


Fetching in two tries:

I wanted to learn cables, so I used the Fetching pattern from Ravelry to make some fingerless mitts for my brother's new girlfriend - and then a quick pair for myself.

Angel's are knit up with Cascade Superwash 220 in Chartreuse. I followed the pattern exactly. Overall I like them a lot, though they feel a little short and a little wide.

For me, I used one skein of yarn I bought that looked so nice but got horrible reviews on Ravelry. Much like the reviewers said, the soft fibers of the yarn split and the ugly black core poked through rather often. I'll be happy to be rid of this yarn eventually, whenever that might happen. I suspect if I have time, I'll make a quick scarf for Mom with it. She really liked the colors. Or maybe one for myself. Who knows.
I narrowed the pattern to cast on 40 rather than 45 and I added one extra cable at the wrist. Overall I really like these, although they have a tendancy to get caught on my coat sleeves (which explains the rather short pattern for Fetching).


Nana's Lap Blanket


IMG_3327, originally uploaded by lilhipmama2002.

Finished. Finally. I worked on this every night for 2 weeks. And now that I'm done with it, I'm doing it again in a solid color for MY grandma.

I love the star pattern in this - the pattern you can barely see in the verigated yarn. The yarn I used for this is perfect for Nana - it has her favorite colors, but really does a disservice to the pattern.

Overall I'm pleased, but I must say I'm quite disappointed in the fact that the edges REALLY roll on this. I'll be changing the pattern to adjust this out by putting 2-4 rows of garter between the last row of the pattern and the YoK2tog row then 2 rows of Garter afterward. I hope this will solve the rolling issue. If anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it.



Friday, November 27, 2009

It is Thanksgiving weekend

and it is hard.

I started celebrating Wednesday night at a church service at Saint Michael. I walked into the building, took a right, and saw a man in David's office who was not David. I saw empty bookshelves. I was ready for it - they named the new pastor last June, I just hadn't met him yet and wasn't ready to confront the old office - in which I spent so much of my youth - with a new inhabitant.

Then I sat through a Thanksgiving service and sang about gratitude and gifts and miracles and watched this new pastor give a sermon on finding God in the tough stuff - and finding the ability to be thankful even when times are hard.

And I lost it.

I do not need lessons like this. Or, rather, I do not need more of them. I found miracles around David's bedside in his last few days, I found awesomeness in Grandpa's final days last year, I found glory in my children this year. But in all honesty, the last thing I need right now is a sermon on it.

I know. Maybe some other parishioner did. Maybe someone needed to go to church Wednesday night and hear about finding light inside the darkness. I'm sure they did - some people have had great years and a burned turkey or an NU loss today will be devastating to them. And you know what? Good for them. I look forward to having a year in the future wherein I need the reminder to be grateful because even in the dark times there are things to be grateful for. Right now, I am thankful for the fact that one day I'll be able to reflect on the dark times and know that we made it through them.

We will make it through them. But we might be tempted to throw a punch when someone tells us to find things to be thankful for in them.

Today is the day after Thanksgiving and I am thankful for my health, my family, my buddy Julia's clear PET scan, and for the knowledge that there have been times and may be times where this list is much, much longer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FINALLY.

New stuff, but no photos yet.

Finished Nana's blanket. Wow, that took forever - I'd say about 30 hours of knitting total. Maybe more. It was an exhausting endeavor. And it's a very small lap blanket. Overall, I'm pleased with the pattern excepting one thing - the outside edge. Because it's in stockinette, the outside edge rolls. I'll do several rows of garter stitch on the next one I make just to ensure a quality edging.

But I can't manage to cast on for Grandma A's blanket yet because, well, wow, that was a big project. So I needed an escape in the meantime. I did Angel's (Chris's gf) fingerless mittens this week. Those knit up so quickly, I decided to make a pair for myself too. Hers took about one night a piece. Mine are taking longer because I'm making them a bit longer, but they still move pretty quickly. I got 75% of one mitt done last night - I'll finish it during the day today and cast on the 2nd tonight. We'll see how far I get. I hope to have them finished to use in Nebraska.

I'll upload pics as soon as I can. Maybe this afternoon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So here we are.

And I'm guessing we're the perfect American family: Mom, Dad, 2.5 children (do three miscarriages in a year add up to half a child?), and a cat. No dog, so there we fall short. But all in all, we're the perfect middle-class family. A dream come true.

And I think now is an excellent time to talk about dreams. As I was growing up, one of the many important things my family did for me was allow me to dream, to dabble in my dreams, and to find new dreams. Throughout my life they've encouraged me to dream, to aim high, to set lofty goals and to achieve them. As I was looking at colleges, they never once said "That's too high." When I finished my BA and applied to Master's and PhD programs from Harvard to Berkeley, they never once said "Perhaps you should be more reasonable." They always encouraged me to dream and to chase those dreams as far as I possibly could. And the prevailing attitude from everyone we encountered was the same -- dream, child, and your dreams will come true.

In many ways they did come true - I got the graduate degree I desired and worked with some extraordinary scholars. I got accepted into every PhD program I applied for save one (with which I am still bitter, but, to quote Ally McBeal, "Bygones." Stupid, lousy, DU). Over time my dreams changed - my Master's gathered dust while I rubbed my belly and dreamed of my daughter. Soon after she was born I dreamed of another child - and a few years later he came along. Throughout those days many around me were confused at the change in my dreams, but continued to encourage me to go for it - whatever it was.

And now we are here. I have dreamed of having a third child much longer than my husband has - when my son was six months old I knew I wasn't done having kids. When he was a year I began to discuss the issue with my husband. Last February we still hadn't come to a conclusion, but two pink lines told us it probably was no longer an issue. Unfortunately that pregnancy didn't stick. Nor did the one in June. Nor did the one this month.

So now we dream of our third child in some future tense - while the people around us tell us to look at the blessings we have, to enjoy the kids we've got, and that maybe we should potentially consider not pursuing the idea of another child. This, I am coming to understand, is the primary curse of secondary infertility and it makes me wildly, irrationally angry.

Imagine for a moment someone coming to me fresh off the stage from accepting my Bachelor's degree and saying "You should be grateful for this. It's a big, wonderful thing. Enjoy it while you can and don't worry about that pesky Master's. You probably don't need it anyway. " Or looking at a report card and saying "Wow, a C. That's great work. You could probably do more or do better, but be thankful for what you've got." Or when I got my first job, who would have turned to me and said "Gee, $10 an hour is an excellent living wage. I don't see why you would pursue an advanced education or a different career path: be grateful for what you have."

Gratitude for what I have is not mutually exclusive with wanting more. Feeling blessed for the multitudinous gifts in my life does not necessarily mean I should suddenly stop dreaming - had my dreams turned from a 3rd child to, say, a full time tenured position at a local community college and had I gone through 3 interviews and not gotten the job, no doubt the response of family and friends would be far from "Well, you tried but be grateful that you're an adjunct" and would lie firmly in the "Keep it up. Look, there's an opening here. Call so and so from there and try them!" territory. But with children, suddenly, the game changes. It's not acceptable to want more when you already have some. It's not acceptable to aspire to fill your dinner table if your family and friends' schemas all include differently-sized tables. In a world where we all cheer for people to do the impossible, surmounting this seemingly impossible task means I am inherently ungrateful for the two living breathing children that I have.

I cannot begin to tell you how far that is from the truth. I had no idea the extensive, miraculous cellular beginnings of a person -- even after growing two -- until we realized the myriad of things that can and do go wrong. If anything, my understanding of the two miracles I have has only grown deeper through these experiences. And yes, I am asking for the universe to grant me another. I fully understand what it means to dream, to aim high, to ask for the world and I am doing it. But as we work for something more, to fulfill the dream of our family -- the platitudes from people who have not been through it and do not understand bloom in our own minds. Meanwhile, it's all I can do to ignore it and spend today thankful for my children - and my dreams.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me (yesterday)

I woke up on my birthday to a foot of snow and spent the day penned in with the family. The kids played, drank hot chocolate, ate too much candy, watched too much tv, and destroyed the house as even the best children are apt to do when trapped inside with their parents for too long. And I was fine, for most of it, occasionally reverting to sullen when people asked me how I was. It seems right now the best thing to do is to not ask me how I am - too much reflection seems to access a sadness I'm rarely willing to deal with right now. I think I am again firmly in Fake it 'till you make it land. And that's ok, for the record. It might not be acceptable to some people, but it's fine for me. The beautiful thing about life is that it goes on. It keeps moving forward no matter how much you want everything to stop. This was horrifically painful during our first miscarriage, but now carries a comfort with it. We will be okay. We will recover. We will move forward.

So, Happy Birthday to me. As we like to say on bad days around here, it's time to push the reset button.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An attitude

Unable to donate my Facebook status to a daily iteration of the things for which I am grateful, I thought I'd take a moment or two to write about them in my blog. Among my friends, children, coffee, and beer seem to top the list, but the people around me are grateful for a great many things while I, the Thanksgiving Grinch, seem to be feeling the pinch of a horrid year and am struggling with gratitude. Certainly, I'm delighted and blessed in a bevy of ways - and I am well aware of it. I could create an extensive list of the things I know I should be thankful for and I could recite rote the things I know I'm grateful for despite the fact that I am having a hard time feeling it.

That's easy. Listing the miracles in our lives is a pretty simple process. I'm challenging myself right now to look at the hard stuff -- and find the small miracles hidden within for which I should be extraordinarily thankful. Here's what I have so far:

Some days I experience phantom pains so stunning it is as if David was standing beside me and suddenly sucked away in some sort of science fiction portal. His death continues to be an intensely painful experience from these past few years and I miss him in ways I cannot even begin to describe. Yet his death, the days building to it and the wake it left behind some of the most amazing blessings I can describe. We lost David that day, yes, and at the same time our family grew by leaps and bounds. Our church family gathered around us and reminded us that we were not alone -- and we grew closer to the Duminy family and my new brother with bad taste in Basketball teams, Dan W. We're certainly a motley crew, but I love them deeply.

And then there's the music, the red, the church season in which David died - which, though painful, remains celebratory for me. I cannot sing "For All the Saints" without thinking of David, of my buddy who drove 3 hours to say "Hi" and sit in for the funeral, of the red, the banners, and my personal mantra of that time: "You can sing or you can cry. Pick one." Still, now, some days I sing and other days I cry. I realize now that both are fine. And for that I am grateful.

The experience drove me into the church - and into another group of people for which I am grateful. I've learned to have a new relationship with my pastors -- one which will probably never reflect the depth and late-night theological discussions I had with David, but will bloom into its own at some point now that it has been given the chance.

And then, last year. Grandpa. While it's difficult to find things to be grateful for during a seven-day period of watching Grandpa, sapped by a stroke, fade away, there were small miracles there too: a room packed with his wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren lifting their voices to Christmas hymns, my grandmother with a strength and faith I had only before seen in my mother, the beauty of a couple so in love after sixty years of marriage. As I watched my grandmother lean over Grandpa's face and whisper to him, I remember wishing only that I had the strength, commitment, and luck to live that long with my own husband.

And this year. It's hard to find things to be thankful for this year - between our miscarriages and Tim's business changes, but we are deeply blessed. I have more gratitude and patience with my own kids now than I ever have before. Having them seemed once so easy but now seems such an impossible miracle. A howling, back-talking, screeching, impossible miracle. And while they may frustrate me at times, at the end of the day, I know I'm blessed to have them.

I'm blessed to have a lot right now. The little things, the big things, and even the things that aren't that good. We've experienced so much beauty alongside tragedy over these past three years, I simply wanted to insure that everyone around us knew that we know it. We know how blessed we are. And while we, or I, in particular, may seem rather bitter right now, please remember that my gratitude runs deeper than it ever has before.

... and stiiiiiilllll working on that afghan.

Boring boring boring. I took a few days off to whip up a quick top down hat for a friend's 1 year old, but I think it might be too big (sadness). Oh well. She can grow into it.

The exciting news is that my husband snuck off yesterday and bought me a TON of bamboo needles. Just because. :) Swoon. What a sweetheart. The bad news is that I have to exchange a few - hard to send a non-knitter to do a knitter's job. But the best part is that I'll actually get to do it without remorse - buy awesome needles without feeling badly because I probably could use my aluminum needle set and I don't *need* them.

I'm going to get a small size round with a long cord so I can start doing magic loop. Once I figure it out, that is. I think after Christmas, it's time to do socks. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dude. A lap blanket

takes FOREVER to knit. I thought you all should know.

The second Big Secret

I was pregnant. Again. That's the third time this year. Interestingly, it was also the third time this year that my due date landed on the 19th of some month. First it was 10/19. Then 2/19. Then 7/19. Seems like a girl could get a hangup on that whole 19th thing. Or, frankly, at this point, on the pregnancy thing.

I got my positive test when I was back in Omaha snuggling little babies and it felt like an omen -- surely we were in for good things *this* time. We've had our round of bad luck and it's time for some good to come our way. The line was faint. The next day, it was a little darker, but still faint. And in my mind it wasn't good enough - I was concerned. But I came back to Denver and made the requisite phone calls to the Eager study and my OB to let them know of my seven (yes. Seven.) positive tests. Both wanted to see me yesterday.

And yesterday my tests were negative. All of them except, I'm guessing, the blood test - the results of which I'll discuss with my OB in a postmortem this morning. And this morning my tests are negative.

For anyone who is counting, that makes three losses in 9 months. I am in an emotional space that I do not wish to be in and I'm not sure how to get out. The people around me are, I'm sure, thinking You have two healthy kids. Quit while you're ahead. I'm certain that they wonder what would compel a person with two fantastic kiddos and a 1,000 sq foot home to actively try for another -- against mounting odds.

Meanwhile, Tim and I are left to pick up the pieces once again. No matter how much you say you won't get excited, those two little pink lines are thrilling -- the promise of a little one is unbelievable. And now, for the third time this year, we've lost it.

Nobody knows what to say. Honestly, I'm with them. What do you say?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The big secret. . .

For the past few weeks, I barely talked to my family. I dodged their calls, didn't pick up the phone to call them, and did everything I could to keep big-mouth-can't-tell-a-lie Monica away from them. Why? Because I was planning a stealthy ninja-like trip back to the Big O under the cover of darkness and I couldn't wait to show up on their doorsteps to say "Hi" in a casual manner.

And I did it. It was awesome. When Mom answered the door, she jumped a foot and said "Oh my God!". When I surprised KB at work with flowers, she just kept saying "What are you DOING here?" When I surprised Erika at home with some Starbucks, she said the same thing: "What are you DOING here?" Honestly: I was there to hold babies, and hold babies I did for three glorious days. It was awesome.

And the awesomeness didn't stop at my time with my family. Oh no, it basically started when I kissed my husband and kids goodbye and loaded up on the Amtrak to leave Denver. If, of course, by "Awesome" you mean "bizarre journal-worthy stories."

When I got on the train, I picked a seat at the top of the stairs. Considering the number of stops between Denver and Omaha (5) and the number of times people use those stairs (a billion, since the bathrooms are at the bottom), it was a mistake. And then I did something horrible. When the conductor said we had a full train and we should put our belongings to the side and allow people to sit with us, I did it.

Within moments, a young man in a nondescript black leather jacket and a classically-styled hat sat down next to me. He seemed nice enough. No warning bells went off in my head for a full thirty seconds. Then I heard the sound of a beer can cracking open. And then he started talking to me. First, I got his sob story. Headed back to Iowa, tail between his legs, he'd been unemployed in Denver for awhile and got kicked out of the band. I stared at my knitting and wondered how long I had until he passed out. I was seated next to THAT GUY you hear on the plane or train and always thank the lord that you aren't the poor schmuck sitting next to him.

And then he handed me his cell phone. Someone here wants to talk to you he said into the phone, before thrusting it in my direction. Apparently, it was his father, whose hobby it was to read star charts. He asked my birthdate, which, like some sort of idiot, I provided. He went on to tell me I was certainly in some sort of nurturing career like nursing, my parents were divorced, and I had a deeply conflicted relationship with my overbearing and cruel stepfather. His magic 8 ball failed him and I impatiently told him as much before tossing the phone back to my increasingly bizarre seat partner.

And then it started to get weird. As I suspected, all of his drinking caught up with him and my seatmate soon began to pass out. Where would he land? In my lap, of course. At which point any normal human being would blubber out apologies and maybe even get up and move, but no, not THAT GUY. That guy said "I'm just going to lay here, ok?" Um. No, not OK.

I put away my knitting and shut out the light, putting on my iPod, pulling my hoodie up, and covering up with a blanket to clearly indicate that I was trying to sleep. And for the next 6 hours, THAT GUY would randomly make loud phone calls (despite being told several times by the conductor not to), speak to me without looking at me, and then randomly elbow me when I wasn't answering. I felt like I was in some sort of cruel science experiment.

My favorite of THAT GUY's late night phone calls came at 3 a.m. when he decided to call Verizon to complain that he couldn't get ahold of Angela in Germany. Despite my non-affiliation with THAT GUY, I was deeply embarrassed to share a row with him in case anyone on the train would mistake me for THAT GUY'S GIRL or THAT GUY'S FRIEND or even THAT GUY'S TRAVELLING COMPATRIOT. I felt like wearing a sign that said "SAVE ME FROM THAT GUY."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Washcloths! And more washcloths!

The color is majorly screwed up on these cute starfish cloths I knit for the twins, but I think you can live with it. They're a sort of bright acqua. I plan on wrapping them up around some scrumptious baby soap.
And this is dear GRRR. I ADORE this cloth. I'm not sure I'll ever knit one again, the loops were a real pain, but it *IS* the cutest thing ever. :)
The starfish cloths and grrr were patterns I found for free on Ravelry (well, actually, the Zinnia was there for free as well, so, cool).
Starfish and Grrr were done with Sugar and Cream solids -- rough on the hands, but they knit up well and made cute final products. Wightman's cloth was so large, I switched down to size 6 needles and it made a big difference in the details on the starfish cloths. I really love them - they're the perfect size now.

The final cloth is for Marge as a face or body washcloth -- I'll knit a small bag to hold it and some soap and whammo, beautiful gift. I can't wait to give it to her. I used some leftover cotton I got when I didn't know much about yarn. It's fantastic stuff. Honestly, this picture does not do it justice. And it is *so* soft.

It's November!!


IMG_3234, originally uploaded by lilhipmama2002.

And here's what I'm up to. I know it's not a knit, but I made the cutest baby blocks for Erika's twins -- they have 4 different kinds of Husker fabric. :) Lucky boys.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This is Halloween

And for Halloween, I cast on a lion washcloth pattern called "Grrr." My buddy Amy recommended it and it's very cute. You can see it here: http://knitty.com/ISSUEsummer07/PATTgrrr.html.

I'm using a bright orange (neon, almost) Sugar and Cream that I got at Michael's for $1.25. So far so good, though I've had a few setbacks. The pattern-maker mentioned that it was small, so I cast on 6 extra stitches and then realized it was too big for a preschooler, so I pulled it off and went back to the original size. Then I got about 4 rows in and made a few mistakes, so I ripped it back to nothing and started over. Now, so far so good, though the make-loop stitch feels rather awkward. It looks beautiful. This will be a cute lion on one side and a nubby scrubber on the other side. I definitely think I'll use the pattern again.

Update on Erika's scarf: It's done. I added the button today. I'll post a picture as soon as I've showered.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today



I finished Erika's scarf. It gave me all sorts of problems. I used the Easy Presents Knits neckwarmer (http://presentsknits.blogspot.com/2008/01/super-easy-super-pretty-neckwarmer.html) with teal Berroco DK Merino.

I got about 4" into the neckwarmer when I realized that it was simply too thin for good Nebraska winters, so I pulled it back, switched to a bit larger needles, and doubled the yarn. It was much wider than the one pictured at the link above, so I opted to change the pattern a bit. Rather than have the button loop from the middle, I planned to do it off of one of the corners for a bit of an asymmetrical look. When I got about 12 to 13" into it, I realized it's got a problem rolling. I didn't want to frog the project, so I added 6 rows of garter to each side to help hold it open. It's blocking right now, so we'll see how it turns out. I'll update with a photo as soon as I can.

Tonight I didn't knit a thing - I'm not sure what to make next, so I figured I'd take a night off, watch Top Chef and Always Sunny, and relax. I did frog an old diaper cover I made but Carter *never* wore. It took quite awhile, but it's resting now. Hopefully it'll net some decent yarn for future projects.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bad news.

The good news is I have plenty to do and everything was HALF OFF. The bad news? I have SO.MUCH.MORE.YARN. This is going to be an expensive hobby, I'm thinking.

So it goes like this: I went to the yarn store today to look for scarf pins for Mom's scarf. I didn't find anything I liked, really, so I wandered over to their 50% off bins.
Bad idea. First I found the GORGEOUS yarn on the right. I opted to set aside the deep dark teal I'd chosen for Erika and use this for her scarf for Christmas. Then I found the button. Though it doesn't look right in the picture, it actually matches perfectly.



Then there was this poor sad skein. It looked as though a wee 'Zilla had gotten ahold of it and pulled its guts out. But it was $3. Who can say no to $3 wool?
Then there's this one: It's super soft. I can't wait to knit it into something.
Most of these will become Christmas presents. But someday I'm going to knit for myself, by gar.

One last post for today, I promise: Mom's present



Never before have I had such trouble picking out patterns for people. My goodness I am stuck. Kirsti's was easy and will look awesome, but picking out a pattern for Mom and Erika has been a headache.




For Mom's knit this year, I opted for the quick and easy kerchief scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I got a skein of really beautiful Queensland Kathmandu Aran (Red/157). It's 85% Merino 10% silk and 5% cashmere and I can tell. I wanted to smoosh my face into the stuff, it was so soft and squeezeable.

The Kerchief scarf is very easy - a garter stitch triangle with a slip/selvage edge. You simply make one at the end of each row. That's it. Easy as pie. And fast too. My problem wasn't the knitting. It knit up quickly on size 8s and I cast off using size 10s for a stretchier edge.

Then I wrapped it around my neck. It fit like a kerchief (living up to its promise, I guess), but I felt that it was likely too short for Mom. After much angst and worry about picking up another skein, adding a decorative edge, etc., I simply decided to block the sucker.
Now? It's perfect. Of course this will require that I give mom a nice note on blocking her hand-wash smooshy perfect scarf so that she doesn't have it shrink up to nothing! It's not dry yet, so what you see here is the blocked product. I'll update the picture as soon as I can.

Aunt Mary's Snuggle


Sometimes with Christmas gifts, you just don't know what to get people. I happened upon a book in the hallway giveaway book box last month that was perfect for Aunt Mary: The Secret Emotional Lives of Cats. Aunt Mary loves her cats. Since I was on a knitting kick and had two unsatisfying, squeaky, annoying skeins of Jiffy to use up, I figured I'd make her the Snuggle I saw on Ravelry.


I doubled the yarn and knitted this up on size 15 needles. It went VERY swiftly. I have a couple of noticeable mistakes, but as I told my daughter one night - only God makes things perfect. Every Navajo rug that is woven by tribal members has a mistake intentionally added to the rug to show that humans made it. I'll pretend that my few mistakes on the Snuggle were for that reason and not because I was watching the Office while I was knitting.


Interestingly, the Jiffy feels AWESOME in this project and was much less squeaky on my bamboo needles. I'll remember that if I'm ever forced to use acrylic for a project again.

Wightman's things

Lilly calls her teacher by last-name-only. For whatever reason, it's kind of endearing to hear Lilly say "Wightman" so definitively. . . so in our house, Mrs. Wightman is simply Wightman. And these are her Christmas presents:
The first is the Starfish Dish Cloth I found on Ravelry. It's *so* cute and very easy to do once you have the first wedge done. When I started it, I didn't follow the instructions exactly, assuming that the pattern maker had left something out of the pattern because I couldn't visualize how it was going to come together, so I had to rip back a few rows after I realized that *I* was being stupid. But I moved forward. It took about 2 nights of uncommitted knitting to turn this puppy out and it was a VERY satisfying project, I have to say, because it knit up so quickly and because it is so darned cute.

The produce bag is also on Ravelry. It's the "Clean up the World" bag, I think. Well, it is in theory. I made a few changes to the top (rather than 5 knit stitch rows, the third row is K2, YO, K2tog repeat) so that I could thread a tie through. I'm fairly certain it was unnecessary. Then I made a mistake about 3" in that completely screwed up the rest of the bag, so I intentionally remade that mistake every 3" in order to make it resemble a pattern. If Wightman's a knitter, though, I'm totally busted. It's also a lot smaller than I'd have liked, though it might be thanks to my mistake. I think I'll try this one again on bigger needles.


Still, Wightman's done now. That's two Christmas knits down, a billion to go.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dear Blog,

I know I'm neglecting you. I'm sorry. On Thursday, October 15th, I was overwhelmed with what I perceived to be the absolute unfairness of this year, these past few years, and I had what one might call a massive hissy fit. I was mad at life, the universe, and everything. Even God. Fortunately for me, God can take it.

On Monday, 10/19, we passed my first and much feared due date. And much like waking up hung over on 1/1/2000, on the morning of 10/19 we realized that we were still here. And we were OK. And our world that has been so greatly rocked seemed to be calm. That's right -- something in me broke the week before and the 19th brought some sort of healing. I cannot explain it and honestly, I hope none of the people who read this experience and understand it.

I spent September/October knitting up tons of baby hats for people I loved (you've seen several of them). . . and I've continued and deepened my addiction to knitting. Now I have a bank box full of yarn staring at me every evening and instead of getting online, moping, or googling "WTF am I not knocked up again yet", Tim sits and listens to the steady click click of my aluminum knitting needles working, working, working. And while they work, work, work my brain is focused: needle in, yarn around, slip back, needle in, yarn around, slip back. . . row one. . row two. . . row three. . . soft. . . soft. . . soft. I'm not bitter. I'm not focused on being pregnant again. Heck, after a good night of knitting, I can barely focus on anything.

I'm just here. I am zen and the art of wool, apparently, and I'm loving every minute of it. Now if only some little one will bless us with his or her presence, I promise to cover him or her in the most beautiful hand knit things Mommy can make.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

So much to knit. So much. So much.

Too many patterns and choices. Too much GORGEOUS wool in this house. So very many things to do.

I've scrapped my original intention for Mom and begun something else, which will probably be done tonight, I'm thinking. I have photos to update (Mary's Snuggle and Wightman's dishcloth/produce bag) but haven't done it yet. . . more posting to follow, I promise.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Knitting myself out of a slump or "What I did last September"

In February of this year I had my first miscarriage. In July I had my second. Three days before my first due date, my sister had twins. I don't say this for pity, just to tell you what sort of slump I've been in of late. It's a deep dark hole and it felt impossible to climb out of. While lamenting my *not* having a child, I never thought that knitting for newborns would snap me out of my self-pity. Of course I wasn't really blogging my knits in September, so I don't have record of my nephews' beautiful hats (though I will. I'll update when I see those boys in a few weeks) and mittens. I used these patterns: http://www.greatwhitewong.com/sassystitchess/patterns/babymittens/ and http://survivingsantafe.blogspot.com/2009/01/twin-hat-pattern.html. I used Dark Horse Fantasy Yarn in light blue and brown. The hats were solid with a 1" strip of the other color (per the pattern). For the mittens, I used the sassystitches pattern, but doubled the length of the ribbing because mittens do SO LOVE to fall off. :) At the end of the rubbing I put an 8 row stripe of the alternate color. They were REALLY beautiful, if I do say so myself.

My next baby project for September was the top down bonnet from Hello Yarn http://www.helloyarn.com/topdownbonnethtml.htm).




The cast on was pretty difficult and my first hat definitely shows itself as first-hat-status, but it was still quite beautiful. I went back inside and pulled the stitches back to cover the poor cast-on. From the outside it was perfect. Rather than adding the anime face, I used this pattern http://littlecottonrabbits.typepad.co.uk/free_knitting_patterns/2007/06/knitted_flower_.html to make a four petal flower for each ear on the hat. I used a verigated version of the Dark Horse Fantasy again -- it's a super soft polyester so it's washable but babysoft. I *adore* this hat pattern with the flowers. I made it for a beautiful girl with a classic name - Amelie - and it looks almost as beautiful and classic as she does!
Once I was done with Amelie's hat, I had one more to do. This is the same top-down pattern, but I put on eyes and a wee pink fuzzy nose.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this hat. Honestly, every time I got sad and sappy while I was knitting, I told myself that there will be a time soon that I can knit this bonnet for my own wee one. I can't wait.
The second version of this top-down hat was from some soft and fuzzy stash yarn (it's angora, wool, and poly I think). I got it at Joann's long ago and made a few hats from it. It knits up into this REALLY thick fabric and I adore it. When I was done, I did the goofy eyes (my first crochet job. Not great, but it didn't matter, I don't think. They didn't have to match. . . then I sewed in a cute fuzzy pink nose. I really enjoyed this one - it's goofy. I tried to give it teeth, but the teeth were giving me trouble, so I gave up on them.
Every time I started to get down while knitting, I just told myself this is all practice. Soon I'll be able to knit the most beautiful hats and other baby things in the universe. Hopefully that's when the universe will bless me with someone to wear them.

What's done so far: Herringbone Neckwarmer

Not too keen on this wool - it's Encore Bulky wool/poly blend (25%/75%). What I love about this one is the buttons. Just LOOK at those things. They're GORGEOUS.

One major mistake, which I can see easily in this photo, but people assure me nobody else will be able to see. . . we'll see.

The pattern's on Ravelry - I've been doing a lot of knits from their free patterns, which is awesome. Pattern's easy and worked well. Here's the pattern link:

http://www.loopknits.com/2007/12/11/herringbone-neck-warmer/

Yo! Knitting.

So I'm knitting. And I keep a blog. The problem? My family reads my blog because they have the address to read the blog. Which is fine, but most of my knitting right now is holiday/present related, so I've got to do something.

So here I am. New blog. And I'm undertaking a holiday wherein I hope to provide most family members with some sort of knitted object. So here we go:

  • Mom: knitted scarflett, beautiful aran weight wool/silk/cashmere blend
  • Erika: knitted ribbed neckwarmer, deep teal worsted merino
  • Kirsti: herringbone neckwarmer, wool/poly blend (25/75) for easy washability
  • Aunt M: cat mat, 100% poly
  • Lilly's teacher: produce bags and starfish dish cloth
Of course I reserve the right to modify this list at any time. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

And tonight I will light a candle. Not just for myself and for our own private pain, but for the 20% of confirmed pregnancies that end in miscarriage -- and for the nearly 27,000 infants lost in childbirth or their first year of life each year.

My candle will shine for myself and the others I know with early losses, late losses, and losses at or after birth. For my friend Margaret who lost her first born after a few weeks of life, my friend Heather who has three angels and two of them second trimester losses, and for the multitude of ladies I have met in the past year who have been through unimagineable experiences and carry with them unbelieveable grief. And for their husbands and partners who are all too often forgotten in the wake of a miscarriage or birth loss, as if they, in not suffering the physical loss, are excused from the emotional pain.

But it will also shine for the lives those people have built after their losses and for the inspiration they bring me every day and with the knowledge that the vast majority of people who endure a loss go on to have beautiful, fat, squishy, snuzzly children. And the knowledge that in all likelihood, one day, I will go on to have another child as well.

In the end our experience has brought depth and breadth to the process of parenting that has been good for me. I have come to realize the true miracles that walk among us, screeching and making messes, and keeping us up at night, and getting us up too early in the morning. I finally am able to understand the horror of losing a pregnancy and the fear that plagues each moment of a new pregnancy. I feel a deep and abiding empathy which wasn't there before. I do not believe that pregnancy or infant loss is a good experience for anyone, but I know in my heart that I've benefitted from a silver lining to this deep, dark cloud.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday

Monday marks my EDD for the baby I was supposed to have this year. On February 12th we got an unexpected surprise - a little pink + sign. On March 6th we got another unexpected surprise: the baby we thought we were going to have wasn't going to happen.

But that's not what this blog entry is about, so if you pulled out your tissues, put them away. I'm not going to cry on Monday (and not in an "I'm Not Crying" Conchords sort of way. Well maybe in an "I'm Not Crying" Conchords sort of way, who knows) because Monday is an anniversary of sorts for me.

Monday marks the 8th anniversary of sitting in a little Thai restaurant and waiting for my ex-boyfriend-I-never-stopped-loving-who-was-visiting-from-Denver to arrive. He was meeting up with a mutual friend and I to have a little Thai food and to go see Mullholland Drive. I had no idea what was going to happen. I did my hair, put on a little makeup, and then spent 45 minutes picking out something nice-but-not-sexy. When he walked through the door, I stared at my plate. I had those little flutters of the girl-who's-not-quite-over-the-cute-guy-who-just-walked-in-the-room. And I must admit, it was awesome. We finished up our food, ran off to the movie, stopped for donuts afterward, and ended up sitting in my kitchen at 1 a.m., feet up on the table, relaxing, while I read him some of my newest chapbook of poetry.

12 days later, I put in my notice to my employer and my landlord: I was moving to Denver. Honestly, in retrospect, I have no idea what I was thinking. I called my father to try to get him to talk me out of it, I think, and he simply said "If a year from now you end up moving back to Omaha, what have you lost? And if you don't, what have you gained?" So I did it. On December 13th, 2001, I packed up everything that would fit into my 1996 Nissan Sentra and took off for Denver.

When I rolled into town, I came into an empty house with Billie Holliday playing on the CD player, a dozen roses, and the most beautiful necklace I've ever seen. And a card. I can't find it at the moment, but I know it said something like "thanks for taking a chance."

And today I'm ever so grateful I did it. I closed my eyes and jumped and it's worked out so wonderfully, I cannot even begin to explain it.

In the past eight years, I've moved to a strange town, made new friends, gotten new jobs, gotten married, bought a house, had two babies, lost two babies, lost my stepfather and grandfather, and been through so much more -- with Tim at my side. Tim, that crazy ex I stumbled upon again 8 years after we dated the first time in a moment of sheer luck.

Sometimes at night I find myself thinking "Wow. I'm married to Tim. From Westin. Tim!" and I cannot believe it. Despite all of the hard stuff we've been through in the past 8 years, I'm the luckiest girl in the world because I have my bestest friend, my deepest love, and a really fucking hilarious and wonderful man at my side. :)

There you go darling. There's my post about you. :) And now, for those who haven't had the opportunity to see it, look at one of the beautiful things Tim and I made:


Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

Setting aside our potential philosophical issues with the whole animals-in-captivity-forced-to-be-trained-tigers-and-elephants, we took the children to the circus this week. (Aside: It's amazing the issues you have that you set aside when you have children. Like, say, seeing trained elephants or getting pooped on.) This family needs some joy, and by gar, for the low price of $24 a head, we purchased it.

So fine. The circus. We entered the hallways of the Denver Coliseum after going through security (which consisted of a woman glancing briefly into my handbag while I could've been carrying an ax under my coat, but I digress) and were immediately faced with what I can only describe as perhaps the fourth circle of Dante's hell were Dante a modern man. Food stands full of shaved ice, popcorn, and some special hand-made super smores, all with a 500% markup, at the very least. The children were in heaven, the kind of heaven where things don't cost money and are just shiny and fast and slick and beautiful. Honestly, it's the kind of heaven kids live in most of the time, isn't it?

We found our seats. We paid $16 for two waters and a box of popcorn. We sat back and waited for the floor to clear and the show to begin. And began it did, with a huge showstopping number.

The last time I went to the circus was 20 years ago, so my memory is probably foggy and I'm OK with that. . . I remember a circus being, well, a circus, with three rings and stuff going on in each. Maybe. Last night's show was so unbelieveably busy that I'm fairly certain I missed over 80% of it. At one point, as my eyes were darting from spinning lady on the left to twirling butterfly lady on the right to cannon to ringleader to evil Mr. Gravity to elephants having a seat and crossing their legs, I was moved to tears by my inability to focus on any one thing. I was prepared for the circus to be active and busy - it's a show - nay, the "Greatest Show on earth", but it's also an exercise in exhausting overstimulation by the audience. Midway through the show, I glanced at both children and the wonder and awe in their faces was worth the whole experience, though I balk at the whole buying wonder and awe for $24 a head thing.

Not, of course, for the individual ticket price, but for the lesson it inadvertently teaches my children. Every moment, every breath, every step into that coliseum was an exercise in consumerism. Buy the Greatest Show on Earth and then buy your food and then buy the spinning light up things and then buy a coloring book. My kids both cried for the spinny flashing light things and were denied. They got the show, popcorn, water, and smores. That was all we were willing to buy into for the day. And I have to say, perhaps the best moment of the Greatest Show on Earth was Lilly's response at being told she couldn't have a coloring book: "That's ok," she said. "I'll just go home and draw pictures of all of the things we saw.

That, my friends, made it all worthwhile. Until we got home with two oversugared, overstimulated, overtired children.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And now what. . .

On July 2nd, 2006, my stepfather gave a sermon about baptizing his grandsons a week apart, and in between, learning that he had a newer, deadlier cancer.

We hoped the next year would be better.

On October 1st, 2007, I stood at my stepfather's bedside and watched him draw his last breath.

I hoped the next year would be better.

On December 30th, 2008, I buried my grandfather. He suffered a stroke before Christmas and the indignity of not dying from it right away. Our family gathered, sat vigil, and watched him die.

I hoped this year would be better.

On March 6th, I lost a pregnancy. On July 29th, I lost a second pregnancy. In the meantime, my husband's father's company closed its doors. My in-laws are preparing to move away, leaving us with no immediate family here.

Some days it hurts to breath. And I get it. Good things have happened too. My husband is running his own company now - and feels in control of his fate. We aren't homeless, jobless, or on the street. I raised $2,000 for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Some of our friends moved into the neighborhood. All of these things are good. My children package up small miracles in their laughter every day, they say goofy things, and they give me the most amazing gifts. I don't mean to sound ungrateful for these amazing moments. In fact, the truth of the matter is that small things have pulled me through these dark days.

But being grateful for them does not mean that our days have not been dark. And it doesn't mean that we haven't thought more than once that 2010 *had* to be better than 2009.

But the truth is, I'm tired of hoping for better years. It doesn't mean I'm hopeless. More pragmatic, maybe. I don't know. I'm thinking more of this William James quote:

"Give up the feeling of responsibility, let go your hold, resign the care of your destiny to higher powers, be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of it all and you will find not only that you gain a perfect inward relief, but often also, in addition, the particular goods you sincerely thought you were renouncing."

So fine. I give. You win, 2007, 2008, 2009. You win. Let 2010 be as it may. I'm tired of holding out for better years. And to be quite honest, every time I think "Next year HAS GOT TO BE BETTER", I reflect on this line from a Bright Eyes song:

I spent the best years of my life waiting for the best years of my life.

ETA: Someone just told me my pain was palpable and they were worried about me. Here's the deal: my pain *IS* palpable. And should be, because it's, you know, pain. And the past few years have brought a lot of it. It's neither good nor bad, it just is. I'm fine. People around me know I'm fine. People who've grieved understand that grief isn't something that's surmounted, it's something you learn to walk with. So it's all good. Please don't worry about me. I'm OK. I'm sometimes bitter. You know what? That's OK too, so long as I'm not always bitter. Sometimes I cry. Also OK as long as it's not all the time. And while I'm doing those things, I also have days where I laugh so hard at and with my children that I can barely breathe. There's nothing inconsistent with grieving a palpable pain and living a good life. I know that. I live it. Strong women around me live it as well -- my mother, my friend Heather, every woman around me has some private or public grief that they shoulder along with very good lives. Just because I talk about my grief doesn't mean it's pulled me under. Remember that.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let it be known:

If you are my student you should show up to class, print off your homework, be prepared, and be ready to have a discussion.

If you are my student and you've done none of those things, be prepared to suffer through group work and in class writing. Yes, I did actually just ask you to come up with 20 details in the picture you're analyzing. Yes, I did ask you to answer questions you already answered for homework. Yes, you WILL hand it in. Yes, I DO plan on grading it.

Yes, I am an asshole. I do not *give* you an education. You earn it. You earn your education through reading, studying, coming to class prepared, and engaging with your classmates and your instructor. If you are unwilling to do those things, you shall suffer my busy work until your hand cramps. If you didn't realize that my discussion this morning on modern parenting leading to coddled children who sucked in school was aimed at you, then you need to consume more caffeine first thing in the morning.

I've been up since 1 a.m. listening to my daughter hork and my husband try to take care of her. And yet I am here, ready to discuss these essays. What's your excuse?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Knitterrific.

This is my nickname for a buddy of mine, but it's also my solution to baby blues (or, rather, non-baby blues, I guess, since they're baby-related but not baby-caused). I've been feeling sorry for myself quite a bit lately. I have half a dozen friends/family members who have had or will have babies around my October due date. While I am delighted for them, it hurts in a way that I cannot explain. Others who've had losses understand and for those who don't, I hope you never do.
So with the wallowing in self-pity came the inevitable chocolate binges and facial breakouts and I had to make it stop. I decided to make a knitting project for my sister (she had better not be reading this, because, well, if she did, she's going to have an idea of what it is before she opens it on Tuesday and that would be sad.) I'm psyched about her boys - she's expecting twins and will probably have them in the coming week or so (my hats had BETTER get there before the boys). I wanted to make something beautiful and durable so I found soft and beautiful poly blend from Dark Horse Yarns (http://www.darkhorseyarn.com/catalog.aspx?category=Fantasy&type=basic). Using baby blue and dark brown, I made these hats: http://survivingsantafe.blogspot.com/2009/01/twin-hat-pattern.html and some simple baby mittens. They turned out so beautiful and kept me busy with happy thoughts of love and support for my sister and her boys.
Then, right after I finished them, the anniversary of the week of David's death hit me like a brick wall. In the first year, I mourned him daily. This year, it was as if everything had been stored up until the anniversary week. I barely dragged myself out of bed last Monday I was so sad. Then I logged onto Facebook to discover that my cousin had delivered a beautiful tiny baby girl. I had a choice: I could mope or I could knit.
I chose to knit. And I made this:

It's impossible to wallow in self-pity when you're knitting up the most gorgeous little 20s style baby bonnet with hand-knit pansies for decoration. You can't *help* but smile.

And in the meantime, I tell myself it's all practice. It's all practice. Practice for the beautiful things I'll make for my babies who are here (and growing like weeds, so I'd better get to it) and for the one I want so badly. It's an excellent way to spend time. Beats eating, that's for sure.

Friday, September 25, 2009

If the President called me and asked me

"Monica, tell me something, now that we've made it clear that waterboarding is not an acceptable method for interrogation, what in the world will we use?"

I would tell him to take my children for 5 days of too-sick-to-go-to-school-but-not-sick-enough-to-shut-up-and-sleep, lock them in a room with an interogatee, and within minutes, they'd get all of the information they needed. And the President would say: "But we're trying to avoid torture."

This week, I've had a song stuck in my head all week. Most parents I know should know it, it's this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_BG_8Wjo88. I keep singing the refrain: "I love my kids. I love my kids. Gosh I love my kids." Because I do. No lie. I love my kids with a ferocity that should be terrifying to anyone who isn't a parent and all to familiar to those with children. I adore them more deeply than anything or anyone I have ever encountered (sorry Mom & Dad, Sisters & Bro, and most of all husband. You're all close seconds, I promise). Sometimes when I'm sitting in the silence of my home while both of them are at school or off with their dad or simply playing in the backyard, I weep because they are not right here breathing on me. This happens rarely, of course, because they usually are right here. Especially when they are sick.

And I share all of that so that we are very clear from the beginning that I adore my children but we are sick this week and here they are staring at me, coughing at me, breathing on me, sneezing on my dinner, and wiping their noses on my sleeves. I think this week I would love them much more if they came equipped with mute buttons or some sort of filter for idiotic information. My daughter loves me nearly as desperately as I love her, and as such she seeks connection with me in every possible way. This means that this week, in her H1N1 haze, she's found every opportunity to talk with me that could exist. A few examples:
  • I was getting off the couch and my arm went here between this cushion and that cushion.
  • Look (putting hand under armpit). Look at what I can do!
  • I was walking through the door and my arm brushed against the door.
  • I was reading this book and the book touched me on my wrist.
  • I was walking around in the basement and I stepped on a lego that was on the floor and it hurt.

And it goes on like this folks. Imagine, if you will, the most inane things in the world, encapsulate them in a 7 year old child's sentence structure, add a few years in the vocabulary, and you've got nearly every waking moment of my last five days.

I have to believe this is sickness induced, that her brain, addled with fever, lacks the ability to discriminate between "this is important" and "utter and asinine bullshit that will drive my mother insane." If it's not fever or sickness induced, Lilly's teacher has got to be a saint.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm going to bitch about getting and staying pregnant

and if you don't want to think about the unmentionables related to doing so, let me assure you this is probably a post you should skip.

For my whole life, I was told that getting pregnant was easy and nearly always except in very unusual cases, resulted in a baby, so be forewarned and BE CAREFUL. And I appreciate those lectures, I really do, because in my late teens and early twenties it was good to be fearful of that looming, terrifying potential PREGNANCY thing that would most likely result in a more terrifying BABY thing that would potentially ruin (or at least change drastically) my life. That fear managed to get me through to my mid-twenties when that terrifying potential PREGNANCY thing landed unannounced on my front doorstep, leaving me fully convinced that pregnancy was easy, terrifying, and always ended up in that will-drastically-change-your-life baby.

And then this year happened. While avoiding pregnancy, I got pregnant. It didn't work. While seeking pregnancy, I got pregnant. It didn't work. These two events have left me more convinced than ever of three truths: 1). I want another child. A lot. 2). I'm furious with my body. and 3). (somewhat related to 2) THIS SHIT IS NOT EASY.

Relax, it'll happen, well-meaning people say. You'll have a baby when God wants you to! they say. It'll work - you've had babies, you'll have them again. They say. And sometimes they say You have such a beautiful family. Maybe you don't need more babies. I know they are well meaning, so what I don't say to them but keep in my head is, well, a lot of things that I'll keep in my head so that the FCC doesn't fine me. I get it people, I do. But no amount of relaxing is going to change the fact that I'm more convinced now than ever that my dinner table isn't full, I'm not done having babies, my clock is ticking, and relaxing has so little effect on my cycle and conceptions that, well, I should laugh at you.

All of this brings me to now: Now I am pissed. This TTC thing has become a war that I plan on winning, by gar, and right now it feels bleak. But 15 days ago I added something new to my arsenal (I've charted both to conceive and to avoid pregnancy for going on 6 years now, so I'm an old pro at reading my body signs), convinced that this little baby would be my secret weapon:

And now I want to tell you something: This sleek looking machination of all fertility information is of the devil.
As I'm involved in the EAGeR study, a nationwide study of the effects of aspirin on gestation and reproduction, I've gotten a free monitor and I get to use it every single day of my cycle (an average person uses it only 10 or 20 days a cycle). The monitor watches two of your girlie hormones and tells you when you will most likely be fertile. Which is awesome, don't you think?
Unless you've spent sixteen days in a row peeing on those expensive little sticks to discover that every day is a confirmation that you are, in fact, not fertile. Then it's an overpriced rock you might throw through the back window.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Two years ago today,

at about 9 pm, I got a call from my mother saying my stepfather was going into surgery and might not come out. He'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer 4 1/2 years prior, with neuroendocrine carcinoma 14 months prior, and that moment was the first time I ever considered that the cancer might one day win and we might bury him. Eleven days later he died. And seven days after that, we did bury him.

I know that sounds insane, but those who know him understand how insane the thought that he might succumb to cancer felt.

These past two years have been tough in my immediate family - and made tougher still that I'm flailing around without one of my confidants. I miss him terribly. In some ways, I have grown accustomed to his absence, talking about him in past tense and living our lives without him in it. In some ways it hurts less today than it did 713 days ago. In other ways, his absence has deepened and extended itself into all of the things he's missed, all of the things we haven't had him here for. Burying my grandfather. Losing two pregnancies. The impending birth of my nephews.

Today my heart hurts for all that has happened that I have not been able to share with him as well - his grandchildren, babies when he died, are stretching out into the most beautiful children I have ever met. Carter and Logan have started preschools and Sunday school, Lilly has the goofy pumpkin grin of a 7 year old.

Last week I sang a new hymn in church and was struck dumb with the knowledge that I could not hear you sing it in my head. I miss you DB.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Like moon sand through the hour glass. . .

So I understand that patience is a virtue. I get it. I am given opportunities to practice patience on a daily basis when my son licks the cat and my daughter finds every item of clothing ever made, tries it on, and places it in various and sundry places like the bunk bed, the hallway, and strong across the toilet lid.

And I understand that I do not want my days to fly by - they go fast enough as it is. I'll be sipping my last swig of long-gone-cold coffee and look at my watch thinking I should probably shower and it's suddenly 2:47 and Spongebob will only be on for another 13 minutes.

And nearly everyone who reads this blog knows that we're trying to have another baby. I try not to talk about it too much, but I'm sick of being somber and sad, so I'll probably talk about it more. Look, the only way for me to stop looking back is to stare at my feet or look forward, and since I haven't had a pedicure in over a month, well, trust me, you want me to look forward.

So here I am. And here. I. wait. Normal women have a 28 day cycle, a feat which I've only ever accomplished when I was on artificial hormones. I, apparently, have a cycle that ranges from 31 to 40 days in length. So at my best, I'm what, 3 days behind your average woman. At my worst, an average woman gets 3 tries for my every two and let me tell you something: I DO NOT LIKE TO BE BEHIND.

In all of my life, the only part of me that's been slow (except the jogging part or the sports part or the nuclear physicist part, but I didn't *care* about that) is my ovaries. Little bastards. They're sleeping in right now, groggily thinking about maybe, perhaps, potentially waking up soon. Maybe.

Meanwhile, I have this monitor that wants me to pee on stuff every day. And every day it says "Oh, you thought I was going to say something different? Screw that. Here's another LOW. How's that feel? How's it feel to be the slow girl, eh?"

Sigh.

And for those who don't know, I chose moon sand instead of regular sand because moon sand is of the devil. Seriously. Once, before I'd heard reviews and used it myself, I thought "Ooooh, Moon Sand. Let's give this to someone as a birthday present." So we did. They don't talk to us anymore and honestly, having now experienced the glorious mess that is Moon Sand, I think I know why.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So here's

a list of things I never thought I'd hear myself say, but have said now, courtesy of my children:


  • The only things we put in a toilet are our poop and our pee and our toilet paper. We do not put anything else in the toilet. Ever. (Said while answering the telephone)
  • Honey, we do not rub our penises on furniture.
  • What's with the new Fred with black hair? I knew Fred. Fred was a friend of mine. That man is no Fred.
  • We do not eat (insert inedible object here. A few examples: marbles, sand, cat poop, gum wrappers, wooden benches, ponytails attached to our sister).
  • The CAT BOX is not a SAND BOX. THAT IS NOT A SCULPTURE.
  • Please don't drink out of the toilet. Also, the toilet is not a water sculpture.
  • No I will not lick your face.
  • I do *not* want to find any more purple beads in your poop.

And here are some things my children have said that just slay me:

  • I farted on the cat.
  • Time? Time? There is no TIME. There is only TRUTH, LOVE, and NINCOMPOOPS.
  • (To the librarian today) I'm a big boy. I slept all night and I didn't pee in my pants and I wore big boy pants and this morning I pulled them down and I peed a lot and then I wagged my penis in a dance.

You see, before I was a parent, a funny night was a few martinis, South Park the movie, and (close your eyes, kiddies who know me as a respectable member of society) a few tokes (Dictionary.com's first definition is something about a tip to a dealer in a gambling situation. Let's just go with that, okay?). These days, nearly every moment of every day is a comedic extravaganza of laughter. For example: 2 children in the back of a mid-sized sedan? HILARIOUS. A boy who insists he's a dog? Really funny until he yaps, bites, and pees in the middle of the floor.

My kids are purveyors of fine entertainment and have been since birth. Heck, maybe even before. Lilly once kicked the cat's ass from in utero. I've never seen a more shocked and disturbed animal. I think he jumped 4 feet in the air - it was a moment of catlike reflexes we've never seen from him again. The crazy guy won't even snuggle up with me anymore.

I've been somber lately and I'm tired of it. We've had a couple of years of big things that hurt. But I'm tired of big things that hurt and I'm tired of hoping that next year will be better. So now, I'm going to do none of that. I'm just going to pop a big bowl of popcorn, set a cake down on the floor, and let the kiddos loose to see what happens.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rough Draft, work in progress, a moment captured

It has been nearly two years: and grief,

not weaker but shiftier now,
sneaks a seat next to me in the pew
where I ignore her for awhile,
sing There is a balm in Gilead
without a tear,

she is tall, sun-kissed shoulders,
I've seen her often lately
and learned to ignore her, mostly.

When we start a new hymn, one I've never seen
she whispers You will never hear him sing this
and I weep for all the ways I miss him.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My rose bush

Most of my roses have gone dormant here at the end of the summer, but one -- the beautiful rose bush by the house where we planted our last lost little one -- has suddenly bloomed. It's hard to explain, but suddenly last week, two stalks of the rose bush shot up tall - they're over 4 feet - and grew 10 buds - one for each week I was pregnant.

They are blooming now, and I cannot help but feel hopeful, peaceful, and excited for what is to come.

I remember, distinctly, in 2002

the fear in my heart when George W Bush appeared announcing preemptive strikes against Iraq. That feeling combined with the CWA's recent call for "bound conscience" in the vote to allow openly-gay ministers brings me to a place I wasn't sure I'd be in: I think I need to stop fighting about politics.

This is not to say that reasonable arguments will no longer occur -- reasonable arguments and discussions are precisely what the CWA called for in "bound conscience" -- we can respect each other's differing points of view and yet still have rational, emotionally charged discussions on matters of importance.

But my friend Matt took great pains to remind everybody during the CWA vote to consider the other side - those whose values had been voted down -- the feelings in *their* hearts as they underwent this stunning and painful change in the ELCA, and it served to remind me that this is the case especially right now in the United States. Last November in polls across the nation, there was a decided vote for change. Those who did not win are terrified of the direction of this change and that is understandable. I may not agree with their fear, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Part of extending empathy and acknowledging their humanity is to avoid fights with them.

I've learned something from the church this week that shall extend, I think, into all parts of my life. We can come together and discuss issues reasonably and rationally (and sometimes painfully) and get somewhere - or we can fight and get nowhere while hurting each other greatly. I think I need to make some changes in my day-to-day language and engagements and make this coming together and moving forward a priority.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So, about yesterday's quotation. . .

I'm terrible at empathy. I suppose the good news is that I know I'm terrible at it and so I try very hard to do the right thing in situations that require it. Compassion is difficult at times, easier at other times. Mercy is so hard. Were I God, I'd be more Old Testament than New, I think.
And yet I try my hardest to seek justice and mercy in the world - in the way I handle my husband and children, in my efforts in my every day life, in my politics, in my giving.
And this week, the Scottish Justice Minister bowled me over with his admonishment: "Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated." The convicted perpetrator of the Locharbie Disaster (bombing of Pan Am 103) has been released to his home in Libya to die from terminal prostate cancer surrounded by his family. Reactions are mixed - but what I hear often is "Cancer? GOOD. He deserves it." and that no man who perpetrated such an event should be allowed to suffer his end in comfort and with family. Other reactions are more compassionate - some of the families of victims have even signed letters of support for the action. Upon hearing of his release, my immediate reaction was anger and revolt -- however, hearing the Justice Minister speak, I was forced to reflect.
Having watched a good man die of terminal prostate cancer, I cannot say in my heart that anyone deserves to suffer such a fate. And if one does suffer such a fate, I cannot help but believe that those people deserve our compassion (especially of law requires it - as it is my understanding Scottish Law DID).
And finally, the funny thing about compassion is that it is about us more than it is about them, right? Humans don't earnour compassion through good works or high values, they warrant compassion because they are human and they are suffering. Which brings me back, I guess, to the Justice Minister's words -- our compassion isn't reliant on their actions, it's reliant on their suffering. I feel compassion for any man who suffers terminal cancer regardless of his history or actions.
Many disagree. I see their point of view, certainly, but if, as I said before, compassion is about what's best for us (bringing the love), then we should all realize what we're tapping into when we react with rage to this compassionate release. "Good, he deserves cancer" and the thought that he should die alone in a cold jail cell are thoughts that perpetuate our anger, rage, and vigilantism. In the end, is it best for us to perpetuate our own rage or to perpetuate love? The hard answer is to love people, to treat them with compassion and empathy, despite their actions and flaws.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I have been reflecting all week on this:

KENNY MACASKILL, SCOTTISH JUSTICE MINISTER: Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beckett

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Hell yeah.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Working again

Forgive the hodge-podge henceforth - there will be school-related complaints, poetry writing/prompts, essay work, baby talk, family talk, and anything you could imagine. If it's in my brain it's fair game these days, I suppose.

Today's prompt: 10 things found at an auction

Today is not a poem.
Today is what we found
at the auction:

a broken cane worn soft at its curve
a white cowboy hat, edges turned up by careful hands
turned gray by years of wear,
sized 7 7/8
cast iron griddle for morning pancakes
a box of fabric scraps
once promised as dresses or ties or aprons but forgotten
the wooden vanity, one drawer smashed
by the youngest when nobody was looking
varnish thinned along the curves where daughters
once rested their hands while fixing their hair
two boxes of stationary
a can of buttons of various sizes
a knitting bag, mesh of needles and yarn and projects half finished,
abandoned by arthritic hands
two aluminum fish molds chasing each others' tails
a quiet man fiddling an old flat cap, thumb rubbing a tag gone bare

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good enough for Live on Monday, but today:

Return

How was your summer they say
by way of greeting,
standard fare as we learn
to walk these halls again.

Fine I return like breath
and after a pause
Hard, I say.

And I wonder: Do I tell them
hard like barren ground,
like a year started with a funeral
that bloomed to two babies lost
before birth, and us now wilting
in the corner unsure of ourselves?

Or do I just smile, lean into
the doorway to steady myself,
make light talk about how
short summers from childhood
have turned abysmally long in parenthood,
how tomatoes haven’t reddened on the vine,
and how the nights, so hot, leave me awake for hours.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cursed madness. . .

. . . in my pickup that finally
chirped then started with a roar
like relief, I did not run over
the black pants as I left home.
Don’t run over the black pants.
- Steve Langan, "The Black Pants"
This house is suffering from a Black Pants-tastrophe. A single, solitary, soft, comfy pair of black pants haunts us. A few years back, I remember Steve telling us about the black pants in the street that inspired his black pants series, and how he didn't understand how a pair of pants would end up in the street in the first place, and that confusion led to the creation of 7 separate poems cataloguing a week in the life of the man who watches the black pants. I shared his curiosity - and often do - when I see pants, a shirt, a stray flip-flop or tennis shoe lying in the street or gutter. Today it was a pair of black leather winter gloves on a busy street in Littleton in August, but no matter - every different day unearths some item of clothing where it's not supposed to be and as it sits in its strange surroundings, you can't help but wonder what brought it there and how.
But now, back to my pants. They are maternity pants I bought 5 weeks into my February pregnancy not because I needed them yet, but because they were soft and nice. I wore them when we went to the hospital to discover there was no baby and I wore them as I bled in March and again last week. So the pants must go. Must die. Must be shredded with scissors and tossed from the car, burned like a bad omen in a ScyFy Channel movie, exorcised from this household to take their bad juju to some other place. The pants must be tossed in the street and the pants must be run over.
And if you see them, please don't listen to Steve. Please run over the black pants.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Life isn't bliss, life is just this: it's living.

"The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, she's going to keep digging, she's going to keep trying to do right and make up for what's gone before, just because that's who she is." — Joss Whedon

I'm coming out of the fog. In the past six months, our own private hellmouth (not Cleveland) has opened its gaping maw and tried to swallow us, but it hasn't succeeded. And won't. Because we'll keep going.

I've long wondered if Joss was some sort of nihilist - because the world, his world, is a mean one -- cruel and without meaning. But I had a deep misunderstanding of what nihilism was, to be honest. I thought it was the idea that the world was cruel and without meaning. What it is, in fact, is the idea that values are socially constructed -- nothing is inherent. We create God, we create truth, we create reasons to go forward. We don't do it because it's right, we do it because we decided it was right.

But I think I've come to understand that he's sort of the opposite of a nihilist. Buffy, Angel, Caroline - they do what's right because they know two truths: the world is cruel but there is right in it and right is why - the deep meaning we all strive for - why we're here.

So me, I'm still here. Putting one foot in front of the other with the Season 7 Buffy theme in my head.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Few Stray Atoms Brought Back to the Elements

I've been thinking all day on Dana Gioia's "Planting a Sequoia" ( http://www.danagioia.net/poems/sequoia.htm). It is a poem about the loss of his son. I've long loved it - thought it to be the best of all of his poems, convinced that he handles with grace the fragility of the moment, contrasting the powerlessness of humanity with the image of his son feeding the roots of a great sequoia.

Tomorrow I will be planting the small remains of our second pregnancy loss. A bit of a morose topic for some, I guess, and something that I admittedly never understood before our own losses. These pieces, these fragments, they aren't a person - I understand that. I won't bury my child but the idea of my child, the remnants of what could have made and supported my child, the future set out in my mind for that child.

When we had our first loss in March, I hung on to my idea that it was strange and foreign and weird and unnecessarily somber to bury the remnants of a not-child. The gestational sac and small pre-placenta that I passed just before 7 weeks was packed up in the trash and I didn't really think about it until 3 days later when the Eagle Waste truck pulled up, its automated arm reaching down mechanically to lift our 90 gallon trash bin and dump it, unceremoniously, into the back of the truck filled with other people's leftovers, dirty diapers, old newspapers, and yard waste. In that moment I understood it was about ritual not remnants.

And so now, tomorrow, we will have our ritual. I will plant our angel child at the base of my favorite rose bush and I will read Gioia's poem - not with a full understanding, but a glimpse, a shard, a shred, my own few stray atoms brought back to the elements.
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