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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:


video

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.
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