The Present

on 24 August 2016

Excuse me while I take a momentary break from the past to, well, complain about something in the present.

So for the past, oh seven years (since I learned how to knit), Chris has been asking me for a sweater.  And not just a plain, basic, run-o-the-mill sweater.  An every day, who cares if it gets dirty sweater, but an intricately cabled sweater.  A fancy sweater, an HEIRLOOM sweater. 

When he started med school, I thought to myself, "Maybe I'll make him that intricate sweater and give myself 4 years to finish it.  It can my my Med School project."  And I gave him fair warning, that I would make him said sweater, but I would take as long as I wanted to finish it.  Because, and this is the material point.  I'm not very good at cabling.  I seem to have a natural affinity for color work, it comes quick and fast for me.  But cabling?  Cabling is HARD.  I have to really focus on what I'm doing and I can't ever zone out, I have to keep reminding myself which row I'm on and look at the stitches that I'm knitting because some of them change and some of them remain the same.  So at the time, I thought this was a reasonable plan.

And then I started it.

Back in early May, I found this beautiful pattern.  It's an Alice Starmore (she's an AMAZING designer from the Hebrides in Scotland) and I have most of her pattern books, but I've put off knitting anything from them because I just didn't feel like I was a good enough knitter to try them.  But I thought, I have four years to figure it out!  It'll be fine!  So I knitted up a gauge swatch (and got gauge for the first time EVER), so I cast on.  I worked the cuff and got the cables started and was feeling pretty good about it, so I thought I'll pack it to Utah with me, we'll be in the car a lot, it'll be nice to have something to work on.  So I did that.

And the yarn...the yarn is this pine, muddy green, but looking at it in the sunshine out in Utah, it just came alive with flecks of emerald and gold and orange and teal in it and it was so pretty that I really was completely surprised by it.  So I kept working on it.  (If you follow me in Instagram, you'll have seen pictures about it.)

I got about 5 inches done on the front, and then started the back because I knew if I finished the front and had to start all over on the back then I would just dissolve into a puddle of defeated tears.  So I finished about 5 inches of the back and then set it aside while I finished the winter sweaters for the kids for this year (don't worry, they got plain, boring, run-o-the-mill sweaters).  And I lost the momentum.  And worse than that, my anxiety about working so many cables came BACK.  So then it just sat there, in my knitting bag, intimidating me.

I finished the sweaters for the kids and was worrying about Na Craga, so I just left it alone and I asked Chris what kind of socks he wanted for Christmas.  And you can probably guess what his reply was, "I'd rather have the sweater, it'll be more useful to me on campus...please?"  So I confessed that I was feeling a little intimidated by the sweater at the moment, and then I did what any slightly overwhelmed mother-home schooler-knitter would do and I cast on another sweater for Lilu.  It was a simple little pullover, it took me 2 weeks.

But at that point, I could avoid it no longer, so I went back to Na Craga.  I pulled it out, I looked at how much I had knitted and how much I still had to go.  I thought about the skills that I was going to have to LEARN before Christmas, because there are all of these things that I'm required to do that I've never done before, and back in May when I gave myself four years to knit it, it all seemed do-able, but now, in August, when I'm trying to finish by Christmas, it seems really scary!  But I've been working on it...and here's proof.

The bigger piece is the front, it's about 2/3 of the way finished, and the smaller piece is the back, it's exactly where I left it in June.  I still have all of the neck shaping, 2 sleeves and a collar to knit, and then I have to figure out how to assemble the whole monstrosity.  Before Christmas.

Pray for us sinners.

(I told Christopher on Sunday that I may never knit him anything else EVER again.  And he promptly said, "I'll ask for something simple next time!"  Hah.  As if there's going to be a NEXT time.)

I am well protected from the monsters...

on 22 August 2016

So, my very sweet, shy and cautious boy has never wanted to dress up for Halloween.  He doesn't want to go Trick or Treating, he's very skeptical of Halloween generally.  But two years ago (this would be 2014 now) he wanted to go to the Trunk or Treat festivities at church, but he didn't want to dress up.  So Chris and I packed up Cameron and Lilu and they had fun going from trunk to trunk, but they skipped the scary ones.

Then last year (2015) he asked me (about 2 weeks before Halloween), "Mommy, I think I want to dress up this year."  And I fought the urge to lay my head down and CRY.  Seriously?  I've had 7 years of EASY Halloweens, and this year, THIS year that Daddy is in med school and Mommy is drowning, THIS year is the year you want to dress up?!  But I was very grown up about it, I said, "Really?  What do you want to dress up as?"  And he thought for a moment and said, "Percy Jackson." 

We had read the Percy Jackson books for bed time reading the year that we studied Ancient History because he was completely obsessed with Greek Mythology, and he especially enjoyed the stories about Poseidon.  So I thought, "Well, it could have been worse."  So I started to think about what we could do for a costume that would require minimal creativity and monetary expense.  And because Lilu MUST do everything that Cameron does, it immediately escalated into "I want to be ANNABETH!"

After a few hours of searching on the internet, I came up with a plan that I liked well enough.  I ordered Camp Half-Blood t-shirts from Etsy, and I bought the stuff to make them bead necklaces.  Chris watched a tutorial on how to make a wooden sword and we got to work.  I painted the beads to match the descriptions in the books, and once Chris had shaped and sanded the swords down, I painted them in the garage (in the aptly named Antique Bronze).  When the day of the Halloween Carnival arrived, I thought they looked pretty awesome (for a totally apathetic mother)!

They look pretty happy, right?  Let me tell you, tooling around with two kids armed with wooden swords makes you feel pretty safe...

Look at how ferocious they are!  I can't imagine where they could have learned THAT. 

But this picture is probably my favorite.  It totally sums up this child's role in our family:

She makes us all laugh.  When we're stressed out and overwhelmed, when everyone is tired and fractious and impatient, Lilu pulls a mug like this or says something odd and goofy and gets us all laughing again.  She does her fair share of crazy-making, but she does MORE than her fair share of happy-making too.

Chris gets a New Coat

on 19 August 2016

So at the start of every school year, the new crop of med students participates in what's known as a White Coat Ceremony.  They go up on a stage, group by group, and they are presented with their White Coat, the outward symbol that they're a med student.  It's a really cool ceremony, actually, because it celebrates their potential.  And it's a time for family and friends to gather and cheer on their med student.

So last year (that would be August 2014, if you're having trouble keeping up), Chris had read about it and thought it was the coolest thing ever.  So when he found out that he'd been accepted, he called his parents to invite them up and told them that this was a big deal and he would really appreciate it if they could be there.  As it turned out, his Mom was traveling that weekend and couldn't be there, and his Dad was non-committal.  So I braced him up as best I could and promised that the kids and I would be there with bells on to cheer him on.

So a week before the ceremony, his sister and I were texting back and forth and she asked when the ceremony was and for more information generally, so I gave it to her, but thought nothing else.  I just figured that she would call or text the day of, because she's very thoughtful that way.    A few days after this exchange (Wednesday before the ceremony to be precise) she called me and said that she and Dad (and maybe Chris's brothers) wanted to try to come up on Sunday, but wanted it kept as a surprise just in case they couldn't make it, so would I help them?  And I said, "Heck yeah, and nothing easier since Chris is never around!"  So we started plotting.

I planned a BIG family dinner for Sunday, to celebrate Christopher (of course), we made  a traditional NC barbecue and all the sides.  Chris said, "Isn't this kind of a lot of food?"  To which I replied, "It's a lot of people, and also shut up, it's delicious."  He had no argument for that.  I sent his sister details on when to show up and where to park and made sure that we would park in the same parking deck so that Chris could see his family BEFORE the ceremony.

So the day arrives and he and I are both a jumble of nerves, though for very different reasons.  We left Church a bit early so that we could make it to the ceremony on time.  At the last minute, Chris decided that we would drive together and then, THEN he tried to change where we were going to park.  And to that I refused in Diva like fashion.  He looked at me funny, but then headed for the parking deck.

As we drove up the road towards the deck, I looked up and saw his family (all but his Mom) standing on the second level watching for us and I pointed them out and said, "Who are those crazy people?"  He glanced up and said, "I don't know...WAIT!  WHAT?!"  And I started to laugh because the look on his face was PRICELESS and then he started to tear up and laugh all at the same time and he said, "Did you do this?!"  And I said, "Your sister and I make a MAD team!"  He was so touched that they drove all the way up here just to be with him to celebrate.

There were hugs all around and exclamations and lots of pounding on the backs and the kids were squealing with delight and jumping up and down because they got to see Paw-Paw AND Jenji AND Mike and Rusty AND Daddy all in the same wonderful day!  My father in law was thoroughly impressed with my secret keeping skills and Chris really was knocked off his feet.  I don't think I stopped grinning until we got our seats and got settled.

At which point Maggie decided that she had had ENOUGH.  Enough of dresses, enough being quiet, enough sitting still, enough not napping, enough enough ENOUGH.  So I took her out and tried to nurse her to quiet her down and tried to rock her and cuddle her, and she would calm down for a few minutes.  Long enough for us to go inside and see where they were in the program, and then it was more screaming and more out in the hallway.  I went back and forth with her until it was time for Chris's group to go up.

Then I handed her off to Mike and I took the big kids down to edge of the mezzanine to see their Daddy.  (Lilu had been crying for him basically since we sat down.  I think she thought he'd be sitting with us.)  So they saw him walk onto the stage and Lilu chirps up, "Hi Daddy!"  And I started to giggle because (of course) it echoed through the whole theater!  So then they call student by student and one of the faculty puts the coat on the student, and Chris was the second one, so they call his name and both kids shout "YAY DADDY!!"  And the whole theater erupts in cheers and applause, and that right there is where I lost it and started to cry and cry.

Because here's the thing.  Chris has wanted to be a doctor his whole life.  It's the only thing he's ever really wanted to do.  And not because he likes the lifestyle or wants to show off and drive a fancy car or anything, but because he likes to help people.  And when he didn't get in (years ago, when we were fresh out of undergrad), we talked about different career paths where he could still help people, but it just wasn't what he really wanted to do.  He tried different paths and different jobs, but he was never happy, and I think it was because he only ever wanted to be a doctor.  And here he was, getting his white coat at long last.  He had worked so hard and here was his dream of what he wanted to do and to be and he had made that happen.  I could not have been prouder of him than I was in that moment.

(Oh, and when I turned around to take the big kids back to their seats, Maggie was sound asleep on Uncle Mike's shoulder.  I should have handed her off an hour ago!)

So we sat through the rest of the ceremony, and then joined the masses to try to find Christopher.  We met up and went to shake hands with a few faculty members, and everywhere we went, Chris was greeted with cries of "YAY DADDY!"  by his classmates.  It was sweet and endearing and so many people told us what a great moment it was.  And it was a great moment, but for more reasons than just the kids.

We took some pictures (Jenn's turned out MUCH better than mine), and then headed back to the house where we were met by my parents and Sherry and Jeff and my nephew Joshua.  We ate and talked and laughed and had a wonderful time together.  And Chris looked at me and said, "This is why you made so much food!"  And I said, "Yes!"  He was still completely surprised and it was thoroughly fun to tell the story over and over and over again.

(BIG thanks to Jenn for taking such great pictures!)