The Year in Making

on 30 December 2013

I feel like I worked consistently this year on various projects.  So in a way, I feel like I should have more to show for it than I feel like I do.  Here's the tally of what I did this year,

  • 4 pairs of sock for the Boy.  He's outgrown all four pairs now, so they're packed away and he's wearing the 1 new pair I knit for him in December.  I have 1 more pair on the needles for him, but I think I've learned my lesson, I'm not knitting him that many pairs of socks until his feet stop growing.
  • 1 Red Sweater for my Boy.
  • 1 Cream Sweater for my Girl.
  • 2 hats for my Girl (one pink and one white)
  • 1 pair of mittens for myself (I'm working on a hat to match and the hat is about half way done, which is why there is no picture)
  • 1 pair of socks for Chris (also no picture as they haven't been washed yet.  But they were DONE by Christmas!  And that is the material point).
  • 1 Baby Surprise Jacket that I gifted to some friends at church.
  • 2 other baby sweaters for two other friends who both had boys.
  • 1 hat to match one of those sweaters.
  • 1 Bronte-esque shawl for me.  This was a stinging defeat, since I didn't get gauge, I did the math and figured out how many stitches I would need to make the shawl the size I wanted it to be, and when I finally bound off (with 800+ stitches!) the dumb thing was STILL too small!  But it was a good lesson to learn, because in trying it on, I realized, I'm just not a shawl girl.  It seemed like a practical idea at the time (because I could also just wrap the thing around a cold child and presto! warmth), but there was no way that I was going to put it back on the needles and continue to increase it out.  So I ripped the WHOLE thing out, balled up the yarn and set it aside.
  • 1 pair of knee-high socks for me.
  • 1 sweater started for me and about half way done, but then abandoned so that the children could have sweaters for winter.
And that's it.  But the really frustrating thing is that it's winter and I am cold.  Chris has a fleece jacket that he wears all the time.  The kids each have their sweaters.  My sweater that I made last year...well, it's pretty trashed actually.  Partly because I made so many mistakes that annoy me and so I don't treat it as carefully as I would if I hadn't made those mistakes.  And partly because I have small children.  I basically live my life in a washing machine set on AGITATE.

And since I am the cold one this year, I have declared that 2014 is the Year I Knit for Myself.

I have a couple of projects on the needles for other people (fingerless mittens for my sister in law in Savannah, and a pair of socks for the Boy), I'm going to finish those first.  I have one substantial project planned for my Sister Out West (it's going to be a Magnum Opus of a sweater), it's planned, I just need to swatch and then start knitting, but my goal is to get it done and out to her by Next Fall, so I have plenty of time to just sort of meander through it.  I will, of course, be knitting Christmas socks for Chris again.  And if I get a couple of sweaters and a couple of pairs of socks done for me, then I shall be making Chris a sweater too.  I'll have to make at least a simple sweater for my Girl as she's already out-growing her Cream sweater.  But as long as I keep it simple, it should go quickly.  (That's the other lesson I learned this year, for fast growing children, best to keep their sweaters plain and simple.)

The first sweater for me is already started.  It's plain and simple and boring but it will be WARM and that is the important point.  The plan is to break up the plain, simple knitting with more adventurous projects.  An extensively cabled sweater for me (and maybe one for Chris if I get mine done), and perhaps...I haven't quite committed, but perhaps a Fair Isle sweater for myself.

As for the sewing, the only things I finished were the pajama pants for my Boy.  I made 16 pairs in total and he LOVES them.  As in, would never take them off if only I would let him leave the house in his pajamas.  Alas, I do not.   I started a dress for my Girl, but it's not done yet. 

So, I have a pile of sewing projects to work on as well.  I still have my Girl's birthday dress to finish, and then a baby gift for the Boy's Sunday school teachers, and then I have a pile of flannel to turn into cozy nightgowns for my Girl.  Depending on how the dress turns out, I'll post some pictures here.  The bodice is done, I just need to gather the enormous skirt and get that thing attached to the bodice and the zip inserted.  It doesn't sound like that much, but I have gathered and ripped out that skirt FOUR times already.  So, you know, pray for us sinners...

Christmas Reprisal

on 27 December 2013

The longer I blog, the more I've come to realize that this space is my mental filing cabinet.  I store memories in here, things that made me laugh, things that made me think and things that we've done and want to do over again, or not as the case may be.

And since there were no pictures from the Christmas eve party, I'll just have to see what I can do in the way of words.

My Girl has been sick.  Again.  The Monday before Christmas eve, she spiked a 103 degree fever and there it stayed for the better part of the day.  I spent the whole day holding her and battling that fever.  I did my best with Tylenol and ibuprofen alternating through the day, but it stayed resolutely high.  I took her in to the doctor at the end of the day and they thought she probably had a secondary infection of bronchitis again.  She didn't sleep much that night and then ended the night in bed with us, a hot, sweaty, listless child in my arms.  Oddly, the fatigue of that night didn't get to me so much as the fear.  Nothing I could do helped, not the medicines, not the fluids, not even holding her.  I really was scared, which is partly why she ended up in our bed.

Tuesday morning dawned and I left her in bed sweet bed with Chris while I went to go feed and walk Hogan.  I came back and her fever was down, not back to normal, but certainly down from what it had been.  And that's when I breathed a great big sigh of relief and set about getting ready for the party that night.

I had long since ceased to care about the party, what we ate, what the apartment looked like, so long as there was Christmas music and everyone gathered and talked and had fun.  So Chris took the menu in hand and oh my holy heck, he went right over the VERGE with the food.  And I just let him.  I vacuumed and made sure that the decorations were looking decent.  I put away coats and shoes and toys and all the detritus of living so that there would be room enough for all the people!  Chris had done some food prep the night before, but here's what the table ended up looking like, are you ready?

  • a large tray of chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A (I made some non-breaded chicken nuggets for my niece who is gluten-free)
  • steak bites with homemade boursin cheese
  • roasted potatoes
  • sausage balls
  • raw veggies with ranch
  • grilled veggie skewers
  • my sister's homemade cheeseball with crackers
  • dill dip to go with the veggies
  • spinach dip (this one is for Chris since no one else eats it)
  • 2 kinds of corn chips
  • salsa
  • bruschetta with fresh mozzarella
  • mini cherry cheesecakes
  • cherry blossoms
  • gingerbread boys
  • oh my heavens, my mother's homemade caramels!  These may have not ended up on the table, but may have been horded by me.
I think that was everything, it seemed like A LOT of food, and it was all delicious, the steak bites were particularly good, tender and juicy and perfectly cooked.

We ate and talked and my Girl hovered between her Nana and her cousins and me and after holding her for almost 48 hours straight, it was a positive joy to see other people holding her and her perfectly contented with the arrangement.

After eating our fill, we handed 'round the Christmas gifts.  It was always tradition in our home growing up that we got to open our presents from our Grandma on Christmas eve.  This was the first year I didn't have a grandma present to open.  It had occurred to me several weeks ago, so I had my nostalgia and sad then rather than Christmas eve night.   Sherry compensated for the lack with a lovely gift certificate to my favorite yarn shop, so there's nothing to be sad about.  And I got to open my present from my Mom.  She gives me wonderful socks every year (it's tradition!) and this year I was more particularly in need of them, so they were most welcome.  The kids opened presents and played and then we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and Matthew 2, and my nephew played various Christmas carols on the violin.  It was wonderful.  Live music in my apartment!  It was almost miraculous.  We play recorded music every single day, but live music sounds so different from recorded music.  And it was utterly charming to watch my Boy figure out which carol it was that Joshua was playing and then start singing along.  But then, I am his mother, I'm charmed by all of his eccentricities.

After that we had a Christmas quiz, because we are a family that prides itself on random facts and unpractical knowledge.  And then it was time to tuck children into bed and clean up.  Chris helped me put food away (he had done a MUCH better job than usual about cleaning as he went along, so the clean up wasn't that terrifying) and then he went to go put Hogan to bed for the night, while I set about making cinnamon rolls to bake in the morning.  It was a long night, but seeing how Christmas day played out, it was well worth it!


I was up before dawn on Christmas day.  I headed out to feed and walk Hogan and watch the sunrise.  We've been doing this for so long that watching the sunrise on Christmas morning has come to feel like my own personal tradition.  I was so tired, but it was so beautiful that I didn't mind at all.  Chris managed to wake up before the kids could ambush the living room without me, so he kept the kids in their room until I got home, then we gathered around the tree to open stockings and presents. 

We're not the kind of parents that believe children should be spoiled at Christmas.  I try to hit my 4 main categories (something to wear, something to read, something to play with and something they need) and I try not to spend a lot of money.  Partly out of necessity and partly out of stubborn determination.

And here's where I digress for a moment.  Santa visits our house.  Our kids are really good, so I'm pretty sure they're on the Nice list.  But we don't play Santa up in a grand way (we don't take the kids for pictures with Santa, and we don't leave out cookies and milk.  The Boy wrote a letter to Santa this year, but it was more to practice his handwriting than an exercise in belief).  He brings the kids 1 gift each, and it's something FUN.  He also brings things for their stockings that their Mother doesn't supply them with.  So this year Santa put the small travel boxes of sugared cereal (we call it dessert cereal in our house) because my parents used to do that for Me when I was a kid and I LOVED it.  That said, Santa isn't the focus in our house.  Being good Mormon folk, we keep Jesus Christ as the center of our celebrations. 

So Christmas morning is a pretty tame affair in our house.  We opened stockings and the Boy was in charge of handing out the Christmas gifts, but because he's 5 and not the least bit methodical, it was a leisurely, meandering sort of unwrapping.  It was really nice, actually.  The kids would open a present and then get distracted playing and Chris would open something and marvel at the gift and I would open something and chuckle at the thoughtfulness of the giver, and then it would begin all over again.  About 2/3 of the way through, my Girl started to freak out and melt down, and tow Chris and I over to the piles of paper and wrappings so, we got out a trash bag and cleaned it up and then she was good to go again.  I had a good laugh about that one, and added "can't tolerate disorder" to the list of quirks she inherited from her mother.

I baked the cinnamon roll while we unwrapped and after the wrapping was all cleaned up we sat down to warm cinnamon rolls and leftover sausage balls for breakfast.  I restored myself to my cozy nightgown and we listened to Christmas carols and watched the kids play with their toys all morning long.

The miracle of the day was the 3 hour long nap I gifted myself.  It was heaven!

And that was our day, really.  It was quiet, small and uniquely Burnstopia.  And after all the work, all the stress, all of the hoopla and busy-ness that had been the whole month since Thanksgiving, it was a welcome relief. 

Merry Christmas

on 25 December 2013

Last night at 11pm I was making cinnamon rolls.  It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that I was already tired.  11pm was after the Christmas Eve party, after cooking and cleaning most of the day, after getting up early to feed and walk a dog that is not my own, and after taking care of a very sick little Girl.  (My Girl is on her 3rd round of antibiotics since July, it seems she has inherited her mother's immune system.) 

And as I worked that lovely dough into an appropriate consistency, I thought about why Christmas is so hard now.  I've always LOVED Christmas, but why, oh why, is it so much harder now?  And that's when it hit me. 

I love Christmas because my parents made Christmas for me when I was a kid.  Even when we didn't have much, even when they were physically and emotionally exhausted, they still made Christmas.  They still decked the halls, shopped and wrapped and caroled and encouraged us to think of others and to be grateful for what we had. 

And now it's my turn.  I teach my kids to love Christmas by making it for them.  Some years are going to be golden, and some years not so much.  I know that I can't control how it will all shake out, but I can try to make Christmas a season of joy and light, of gratitude and kindness, of peace and good will towards men.

Status Report

on 19 December 2013

I don't think I've ever hated Christmas in my life.  I love Christmas.  But this year, man, I'm really having to work for that love.  For I am tired.

But in the spirit of Sisyphus, I trudge on.  And here is my report:

  • Pajama pants for my Boy are DONE.  And currently on his body.  Well, that was fairly predictable wasn't it?  We live in less than 1000 square feet.  There is NO WHERE for me to sew that is private.  So once he sniffed them out, there was no keeping them from him.  I'm so tired, I care not at all.  He's happy.
  • Socks for Christopher:  One is still done.  And last night I finished the cuff on the second one.  See?  Trudging away.
  • Fingerless gloves for Christopher.  These were a stinging defeat.  I had it in mind to knit one of our favorite sayings (and an inside thing, so forgive me for not sharing) into the knuckles of each glove finger.  And try as I would, I could not get it to work.  I tried FIVE different variations and just couldn't make it work out.  And since the defeat has stung me to the quick, I have scratched them off of my list and banished them to the bottom of my project bag.  I might try again for Chris' birthday, but I may not.  I'm capricious that way.
  • Socks for my Girl:  Not even started!  And may not happen.  She's so fickle when it comes to hand knits.  She either loves them or hates them, and dude, I'm SO not knitting my fingers to the bone and going without sleep if she's just going to rip them off her feet and throw them from her.
  • Socks for the Boy:  1 pair is done, aaaaaaaand, currently on his feet.  Again, that was pretty predictable, right?  He's FIVE.  I defy anyone to keep any kind of on-going project from him in less than 1000 square feet!  As soon as I had one sock done, he put it on his foot and started looking around and said, "Where's the other one, Mama?!"
  • Hat for my Girl:  Button ON and it is SO cute.  She wore it today.  Want to see?  Of course you do.

I think it's darling, more especially because it keeps her hair out of her face.  

In the full spirit of disclosure, you should know that I abandoned any and all structured schooling with the Boy at the middle of last week.  We still do odds and ends (memorization and recitation and reading, of course), but for the most part, he's playing and reading and enjoying the festive season.  Me?  I am baking.  I made 8 loaves of bread last week, but I gave 2 of them away.  And I've made cherry blossoms and an experimental cookie this year that I'm thinking about calling Melt Aways because you put one in your mouth and all of your anxiety about how much you HAVEN'T gotten done just sort of melts away.

I think I'm going to go have another one...or seven.

Festive Decapitation

on 06 December 2013

Over the years I have experimented with various Christmas cookies.  It's a fun tradition, but slightly dangerous as now we have accumulated so many favorite Christmas cookies** that I can only make each kind once. 

We started off the cookie season with my Grandma's Gingerbread.  I was using her cookie cutter with her recipe this year, and given that she's never going to make gingerbread again, it was a decidedly bittersweet selection.  But they're my Boy's favorites, so I sucked it up like the adult I am.

The Boy has taken cackling delight in decapitating each and every one.  In one bite.  And he's so pleased with himself that I can't help but laugh myself.

**We make gingerbread, lemon sugar cookies, cherry blossoms, and chocolate crinkles.  We also make English butter toffee, but we give most of it away.

the House that Sick Built

on 04 December 2013

We all survived Thanksgiving.

My brother and his wife and family came down from Maryland (they have 6 kids), so combined with my sister and the three of hers that are home right now, and us 4 and my parents we ended up with 20+ for the weekend.  It was a lot of people.  But the Boy had tons of fun playing with his cousins and the Girl was thoroughly overwhelmed and constantly looking for a place to hide out.  It was pretty funny.

My brother and his family took off for a family vacation on Sunday and the Girl promptly got sick.  Then Chris followed in her wake.  So I've spent the week taking care of them and trying (mostly in vain) to get everyone back on a normal schedule.

Sadly, taking care of sick babies means that I don't get much done.  Mostly, I do a lot of this:

Please ignore the no make up, bed hair and slacker clothes.  Let's just celebrate the fact that we're all mostly upright.

I had all of these brilliant ambitions back in the summer to work on the homemade Christmas gifts EARLY this year so that I could just relax and enjoy December, and yet again, humble pie tastes so delicious.  Yeah, that didn't happen.  So I find myself again, faced with not quite 3 weeks and this is my list of gifts still to finish:
  • Pajama pants for the Boy (they're cut out, they just need to be sewn together)
  • socks for Christopher (1 is done, I just have to make the mate)
  • fingerless gloves for Christopher (these are hard since I'm working without a pattern and I've never done the fingers on gloves before.  Last night I worked up as far as I knew what to do, and had to set it aside until I can think through and figure out the next part.)
  • socks for the Girl (not even started!  wool isn't even picked out!)
  • socks for the Boy (I had the rudest awakening over Thanksgiving, he was wearing his red Gox Box Socks but he was walking on the CUFF!  So I asked him, "What are you doing there, dude?"  And then looked at them, and OH MY HEART!  His foot is 1.5 INCHES longer than when I made those.  Now, if you'll remember that was only LAST SPRING.  His foot has grown an inch and a half since the SPRING.  Pass some smelling salts and also my knitting needles.)
Looking at that list makes me think "Yeah, that's totally do-able, if I don't school with the Boy, cook food, clean my house, bake Christmas cookies, or go visit my parents or Grandma."  But the reality is that I'm not willing to cut those things so that I can work on those presents.  So the reality of what will end up under the Christmas tree on time looks more like this:
  • socks for Christopher
  • fingerless gloves for Christopher
  • hat for the Girl (it's done, it just needs a button)
I'm trying to be all balanced and reasonable about that, after all, we have only so many hours in the day and we have to sleep sometime, and my family is happier with a somewhat sane and lucid M than they would be with psycho-sleep-deprived M.  And when I actually get to where I can be balanced and reasonable about that, I'll let you know.  In the meantime, I'm just dumb enough to keep trying for that first list while still doing everything else.

My Shadow

on 15 November 2013

I like that my children like me.

Seems strange, I know, most mothers seem really excited when their kids go their own way and do their own thing.  And I think it's fine when my kids do that.  I remind myself that I gave them life because I want them to live it, but I still miss them when they're off doing their own thing.

I worked really hard when they were babies to get them to like me.  I nursed them and carried them all the time.  I don't play toys with my kids, but if they bring me a book (and I can), I stop whatever I'm doing and read to them.  I never refuse to cuddle them or hug them or kiss them.  I sing to them whatever they ask for, whenever they ask for it.  I periodically sit and eat cookies with them at 10 o'clock in the morning, just for fun and because I can.  We go out behind our apartment and run and chase and play every afternoon, just for fun and because we can.  I pull the futon mattress down onto the living room floor and we have pillow fights and wrestle and play.

So I like that they like me.

To say nothing of the fact, that sights like these crack me up:


on 13 November 2013

I was doing my normal weekly clean-laundry-put-crap-away routine, when I noticed that the kids were both in their room. 

So I stood outside the shut door and listened.

I could hear them both playing (together!) and laughing (at the same time!) and having a great time in general.

I wanted so badly to go in and watch them, or even better, to be part of it.  But then I had this realization.

Inside that room is their own world.  It belongs to them.  And as the Mom, I don't have any part of it.  Outside of that room there are rules and routine and discipline and order and structure, and that's the world that I am a part of.  I knew that if I were to go in there, even just to watch them play, that the dynamic would change. 

I can't tell you how sad it made me.  I cried telling Chris about it later on.  I just wanted to see them having fun together.  But I made myself go back to work, back to making lunches and putting the apartment in order.  Because even though it made me sad, it's exactly what I wanted.  I wanted to be able to give my Boy a sibling to grow up with, to play with and love and be friends with.  And I can't help but feel that in order for that to really happen, I just have to get out of the way.

At least some of the time...


on 11 November 2013

Saturday I made cookies.  We had spent the week in Savannah because Chris' great-grandmother passed away, so we had gone down for the funeral.  It was a quick trip and we were all happy to be home.  So when the Boy requested "chocolate chip cookies, Mama?  Please?  PLAIN?"  I said, "SURE!"  And started mixing them up.

As I was whipping that butter into submission, I started to think about the best compliments I've ever received.  My Mom said a couple of weeks ago, that she thinks I've turned out to be a better cookie baker than she is.  And given that my Mom is the Queen of All Baking, I was really touched by that.  It started me thinking about the best compliments I've ever received.

I'm not comfortable with compliments in general.  I'm not sure why.  They make me feel self-conscious and awkward.  I never really know what to say.  I know that I should just say Thank You (like a grown-up) and move on.  But I find myself feeling embarrassed and shy about everything I do.  I think much of the discomfort comes from comparison.  After all, I poke around on Ravelry and see what REAL Knitting Genius looks like (there are techniques that I am still too intimidated to even TRY).  So my simple efforts are in no way brilliant, but they make me happy.  I have studied works of literary genius for half of my life, so I know that the things that I write are in no way, shape, or form, profound or brilliant.  And it's ok.  I've written about genius before and I'm perfectly content being ordinary.  Consequently, my favorite compliments have stemmed, not from something that I've done, but from how I live my life.

The chair of my department in grad school looked me square in the face and said I was the most sensible person he'd ever met.  This, after I had made a suggestion about how to correct the course offerings to cover student interest and graduate student availability to teach.  I came home and told Christopher that it might have been the best compliment I've ever received.  (Of course, looking back on it, I realize that he probably just hasn't met many people who have common sense.  After all, he works in a Liberal Arts department.)

And then my Mom--Queen Baker herself--declared that I might be a better cookie baker than her.  HER.  I was floored, and touched and it just makes me so happy.  I know, it's a small thing, Mom taught me to make cookies.  It was one of those intrinsic parts of my childhood, and still, a really good cookie tastes like a happy childhood to me.

I've been thinking about the compliments that I pay to others.  And I'm sure that other people are, perhaps, more comfortable with general compliments than I am.  But I think I should do better about paying compliments that are unique to the person for whom they are intended.

Which leads me to wonder, what are the best compliments YOU'VE ever received?

Warm and Happy

on 11 October 2013

May I just say, I love antibiotics.  I especially love it when they give me my healthy children back.  I don't think they're a cure all for everything, but when you have a pesky infection, they're sheer brilliance.  And thanks to that magical pink goo, my Girl is back to playing and reading and wreaking havoc, so I've been able to catch up on some of the stuff that was neglected while my attention was turned where it was most needed.

Meanwhile, the weather has cooled off, necessitating the emergence of my Girl's sweater.  And since I didn't take pictures of it back in June when I finished it, I thought I would show you just how darling it is.

 Nice of Molly to photo-bomb my Girl, wasn't it.

It's really hard to get a decent picture of this girl.  
Even when she's sitting still, she's still moving, so everything is blurry!

It's simple and plain, which suits my Girl just perfectly.  Furthermore, it was easy and decidedly relaxing, which is how it came to be the sweater that launched the Red Sweater.  I can't tell you how satisfying it is to be able to pull out seasonal, hand made pieces of clothing for my kids.  

I watched this wonderful documentary on the golden age of British knitting, and one of the things they said was that you always know where you are with knitting.  They said it's safe, secure, protective, methodical, but at the same time creative.  I whole-heartedly agree.  

It also keeps everyone warm.  And that makes me happy.

Better and Better

on 09 October 2013

You know what's even MORE awesome than 2 straight weeks of sick?

A Girl with double ear infections.

The really sad part?  I had no clue.  None.  She woke up Tuesday morning at 6am absolutely inconsolable.  I tried everything to calm her down, but to no avail.  I assumed she was just being a pill and went about my day.  She was feverish and listless all afternoon, so I was worried that she was getting sick again, but I didn't think she was sick STILL.

Tuesday afternoon was bad enough that I called and made a doctor's appointment for her.

Tuesday night was HORRIBLE.  She would sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up drenched in sweat and screaming hysterically.  I would dose her with Tylenol, then it was just lather rinse repeat.  All night long.

At 3am, I was at my wits end.  So she and I laid out on the couch for a couple of hours until I realized that neither of us were comfortable and moved us to Bed Sweet Bed.  By 7am, it became apparent that she had no intention of going back to sleep.  And by that point, I was just DONE.  

Done with being screamed at.
Done with not knowing what was wrong.
Done with not being able to fix the problem.
Done with having a hot brick of a child hanging around my neck.
Done with everyone in my house being sleep deprived and grouchy.  Done.  Done.  Done.

But short of running away from home, what can you do?  Nothing.  So I got up and made breakfast.  (Chris very wisely called out of work for the day, I think he sensed that my sanity was on the VERGE.)

Everyone got dressed and we watched some Mormon Messages on youtube because that was right about our energy level.  Then headed to the doctor's office.

Our pediatrician?  Yeah, he's so awesome he basically diagnosed her without touching her.  (Which is convenient since she hates him with the fire of a thousand suns.)  He eventually checked her lungs, nose, throat and ears (it took all three of us to hold her down so that he could take a peek--I'm not exaggerating about the intensity of her loathing of a very nice doctor), confirmed what he already knew and emailed the prescription in to the pharmacy.

We left and headed to the pharmacy and I was relieved but also feeling vaguely monstrous.

I just had no idea that she had an ear infection, much less TWO.  I just thought she was being a diva because she didn't sleep well for whatever reason.  I thought she just woke up grouchy (she's done that before).  She wasn't pulling at her ears or indicating that she was in pain in any way.  Granted she was crying, but she's a toddler, she cries over nothing with alarming regularity.  Consequently, I hadn't been anywhere near compassionate in my treatment of her.  I had not been sympathetic, I hadn't even been very patient.  But once I understood what was wrong, suddenly, I understood why she had been behaving the way she was behaving.

And then I started to just feel stupid.  STUPID.  What is wrong with me?  I am a rational adult.  Why didn't it even occur to me that she had an ear infection or that something was seriously wrong?   I told my sister later on, that I have never felt so woefully unqualified for my daily work on such a regular basis, as I do now that I mother.  I never know what the right thing to do is.  I don't instinctively know what's wrong with my kids.  I can't read minds or hearts.  I need WORDS.

And words with my Girl are thin on the ground.

And so we arrive at the middle of the week and I have not schooled with my Boy the way that I should have, or normally would.  I have not done my church work (that I still really need to do).  I have not been down to visit my Grandma. 

So if you'll all excuse me for the next few days, I have a sick girl who wants to wallow me.  

Catching up

on 07 October 2013

I was sick all of last week.  Actually, the Boy, the Girl and I were all sick for the bulk of the week.  It was horrific...but add to that the injuries that accumulated and it was a banner week.  The Boy had woken up in the middle of the night one night asking to go to the bathroom and for water--why I am necessary for either of those events, I know not, but he comes in, wakes me up, asks to go to the bathroom and for water and then goes back to HIS bathroom to take care of business.  So there I was, awake, and now concerned that the Boy had woken me up because he himself was not quite awake.  So I went in to his bathroom to check on him.  He turned the light out before opening his bedroom door, and then said, "Mama.  I can't see."  I bit my tongue to keep from saying, "No kidding, dude, it's 4 in the morning!"  But I was good, I said, "I know, buddy, just open the door up."  And he opened the door and hopped back in to bed.  But since he closed the door behind him, I could no longer see, so I promptly walked right into the door jam and hit my head hard enough to see stars.  Man, it hurt. 

4 days later we were listening to our semi-annual conference and the Girl and Boy were playing with dinosaurs around their sick Mama, when the Girl and her T-rex got a little over-excited and clocked me in the mouth with a very large, very HARD dinosaur.  I just made it into the bathroom before I started to cry.  It really hurt.  I ended up with a bruise over my eye from the door jam and a fat lip.

Add to that the constant coughing that cost me my voice and it was an AWESOME week.

But conference was wonderful, and I got 12 pairs of pajama pants cut out for my Boy and a pair of socks finished for me.  And finally, I seem to be on the upswing from the Sick that wouldn't Quit, so Life is decidedly better.

The socks are my first pair that I've made for myself.  My sweet Sister out west sent me the yarn for my birthday and as soon as I saw it I said, "Oh my heck!  SOCKS!"

You all know of my love of a flamboyant sock, I just can't help myself.  I live in really sturdy, neutral clothes, but I have a sassy heart.  So to keep myself from feeling frumpy,  I wear really bright, fun socks.

Now, I generally buy socks in big batches every 4 or 5 years, consequently, they ALL wear out at the same time.  And whimsical, flamboyant socks for adults are rather expensive.  So last winter, when I noticed that all of my socks are starting to wear out again, I got the brilliant idea to just KNIT my own.

I bought up enough yarn to make 4 or 5 pairs of stockings (I prefer the traditional knee-high socks because I can wear them with my long skirts as well as my jeans), a book of patterns for knee-high socks, and then promptly put everything away while I worked on other stuff.

But this last July when I was in the planning stages of the Red Sweater, I needed something to work on while on a road trip to Savannah, so I got out this yarn and didn't do ANY planning, just cast on and worked away.  I made pencil notes to myself as I went along so that I could make a second sock to match the first and called it a pair!

You would think that a pair of stockings would be exhausting, but I must admit that they're more fun than plain socks.  Because just when you think you might die of boredom, the shaping changes and you get to do something fun!  So all told, they were really fun.  I'm trying to finish up several projects in the works (hence the socks), so I'm determined to resist the urge to immediately cast on my next pair.

Wish me luck...

What happens...

on 02 October 2013

We spent 4 out of 5 Saturdays in September running around, down to see my parents and Grandmother, or running errands etc.  So when I told the kids last week that we were spending a Saturday at home, in our pajamas and just relaxing, this is what happened...

We love our family, and I think it's good for the kids to see that Love means Sacrifice.  But it was really fun to just have a day to be home. 


on 30 September 2013

We have been enjoying the most luxurious Fall weather.  Cool, crisp mornings followed by warm and sunny afternoons and cool evenings.  Not yet cold enough for sweaters and socks, but still, after a long, muggy summer, it's been a welcome change.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and chilly, but I still opened up all the windows and doors to air everything out after a Summer of recycled and conditioned air.  The Boy declared, "I need my sweater, Mama!"  So I cheerfully went to the bin in my closet and pulled out his finished sweater and tossed it to him.  (Which was the whole point in working my fingers down to nubbins this past summer.)

And here is the proof that the Red Sweater is, indeed, finished.

As you can see it's too big.  But that was on purpose.  I'm hoping that it will last him for the next 2 years.  It looks slightly off kilter, but that's the angle of the photo.  I assure you, I worked really hard to make sure those patterns would line up across his chest.  The collar is messed up on one edge, but turned out just perfectly on the other, and by the time I knitted the collar I was so exhausted that I couldn't bring myself to rip it back and make it perfect. 

All told, we're both really happy with it.


on 25 September 2013

Just when it has seemed I couldn't bear 
one more friend 
waking with a tumor, one more maniac 

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness 
has come 
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumble through it, 
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving...

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness 
that doesn't leave a stain,
no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet...

...Often a sweetness comes 
as if on loan, stays just long enough 

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark 
source.  As for me,  I don't care

where it's been, or what bitter road
it's traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

  • Stephen Dunn

Lost and Found

on 23 September 2013

So my Grandma is fading.  She's nearly 97 and so it's not entirely unexpected, but it's still sad.  She's always been this undeniable force of life, so to see her so faded is hard.  I've been trying to go down as often as I can to help her and my parents and to spend time with her.  Since, in the end, time is all we really have.

I was down last Saturday, and she sleeps quite a lot now, so I sat with her and held her hand and chatted with a friend of hers from church.  We talked about family, about life and death and about my Grandma.  She woke up just as her friend was leaving and I helped her eat some lunch and tried to make her laugh.  Grandma is a tough audience, so making her laugh is ALWAYS my main objective.  I know if I can make her laugh, then I'm doing pretty well.

When Chris and I finally left, I was feeling tired and sad.  I think we're all feeling tired and sad.  But the babies were at home and I had been away from them all day.  So we made a quick stop to pick up a carbonated beverage, and while I was in the little convenience store, I picked up an ice cream bar.  Not an ice cream sandwich, not a drumstick, but my favorite old fashioned ice cream bar.  Well, not my favorite.  My favorite are Brown Cows which are not sold this far east, but it was another brand equivalent of vanilla ice cream on a stick and dipped in chocolate.  I got back in the car and Chris said, "Oh, babe.  Is it that bad?"  And I said, "Yes and No."

See, I had watched this Documentary last week.  It's all about the British love affair with boiled sweets, or what we Americans would call hard candy.  And the presenter, whom I didn't recognize, but who is apparently a famous food writer, was talking about the power of sweets to take us back in time, to enable us to relive our childhoods.  In the course of the documentary, he sat down with Nigella Lawson and she made the most appropriate comparison.  She said that boiled sweets are for the British, what the madeleine was for Proust.  And after getting back in the car, I realized that for me, more than candy, more than cookies or cakes, it's ice cream on a stick.

That lovely crackle of the hard chocolate as you bite into the vanilla ice cream, it takes you back to a time when you were small, and the world was big, but you were surrounded with strong, confident people who would always protect you.  Back to a time when fathers were super-heroes, mothers knew just how to fix what ailed you, big sisters lived at home, and no one frowned on running around dirt roads absolutely bare footed.  A time when Grandmothers were strong and sharp, like crunchy lemon drops, and Grandfathers were indulgent (my papaw's treats of choice were old fashioned peppermints and those horrible circus peanuts, but it was from my papaw that I obtained that miraculous quarter that would buy me a Brown Cow down at the Piggly-Wiggly).

I ate my ice cream and had my moment with the past.  And then Chris held my hand as we jumped off the cliff and back into reality.  After all, it's a big world and my babies need their father who is a super-hero and their mother who always knows how to fix what ails them.  And so no matter how tired and sad we are, we keep going.  It's how we teach the Boy to be a super-hero when he grows up, and the Girl to know how to fix what's wrong. 

Yes and No.  It's sad and hard.  But life goes on, and the babies still need dinner and baths and blankets and books and kisses and a touchstone that is safe and happy, so that some day when they are grown and life is sad and hard, they can bite into something and come right back here.

Summer in Review

on 09 September 2013

First, let's have a shout-out to my Mom.  It's her birthday today, so Happy Birthday, Mom!

We're still alive.  Here's a quick review of what we did on our Summer vacation:

  • I finished the Red Sweater!  Pictures to follow.
  • My sisters have been educating/scaring-the-living-daylights-out-of-me about Common Core.  Want to know what Public Education is teaching (or more accurately, NOT teaching) kids at a school near you?  Check this out!
  • I got to see my friend Brett!  She was out here visiting her sister and the three of us had a really interesting conversation about books and why some people prefer Jane Austen, while others like the Brontes.  It go me thinking...
  • And when I get thinking, I go back and RE read.  I didn't much care for the Brontes as an undergrad or a grad student.  And I haven't reread them since.  So I had Chris pick me up a cheap copy of Jane Eyre and I started rereading it, and holy cow, it's SO good.  I have to say, when you strip all the annoying and inaccurate criticism and pseudo-intellectual babble away from a text, it actually becomes quite enjoyable.
  • I started sewing a dress for my Girl, but I still haven't finished it.  I was sucked into a vortex with the Red Sweater.
  • I read and enjoyed Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson.  Go check it out!
  • My Boy is awesome.  The swim lessons were BRILLIANT and easily the highlight of the summer.  In addition to getting to see my sweet niece once a week, my boy now just jumps into the pool without an hesitation or anxiety at all.  We took him to my sister's pool (and where we'll sign him up for more advanced lessons next year) and he jumped off the diving board!  MY BOY.  My nervous nelson of a boy jumped off the diving board!  More than ONCE!  It was 94 kinds of awesome.
  • Chris took a whole week off of work and we were supposed to go to the mountains, but we ended up with some scheduling conflicts, and so we stayed home.  It was fun having him home all day every day, except that he really wasn't.  He's a newly minted member of the DRPC (it's a gun club) and he went shooting 3 out of 6 days with various people.  My bedroom is now filled with firearms that require cleaning and maintenance, but he had so much fun that I almost don't care.
  • He did take me out on a sweet lunch date one day, and let me tell you, it was a beautiful thing.  I didn't have to cook or clean up.  My lunch companion used proper utensils and good table manners.  We had a quiet conversation about friends from Athens, the children, the firearms, and plans for Christmas.  It was a lovely, lovely treat.
  • We had a family party to celebrate my 10 year Anniversary of being Back in the South.  Chris made pulled pork and macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and jalapeno poppers.  It was basically an excuse to get together and eat a lot of southern food.  My sister made me Pecan Tassies which are a highly addictive treat, that we usually only eat at Christmas time.
  • My brother in law Jeff was laid off from his company in a conspiracy of corporate idiocy.  But then he got a new job at his old company working with much nicer people and for roughly the same amount of money.  We were sweating bullets there for a bit that they might have to move back to New Jersey, so now that they're firmly settled here in NC, we're all doing the happy dance.
  • My nephew who's in school out west, is back for his "summer" break.  He goes to school January through July, and now he gets to be home through Christmas, and he's so funny and charming and my children absolutely adore him, which is also entertaining.
  • There was also copious amounts of knitting, movie watching, cuddling, book reading, singing and attempting to balance two children in the same rocking chair, we did some finger painting which was fun until my Girl ate her finger paint and then there was the unfortunate technicolor vomit afterwards, we did swinging at the park and some dancing in the rain.  Don't believe me?

It was post-church and sometimes I can be a fun mom.

 This is just a gratuitous picture of my Girl, who has proven that she's not only tall enough to reach the counter, but smart enough to get what she wants when she wants it.

But she's also sweet enough to share.

Sucked into a Vacuum

on 17 August 2013

This could be a cry for help.

Or a ransom letter.

But the one holding me hostage is an unfinished red sweater.

I have learned my lesson, never again will I allow a FIVE year old boy to dictate what kind of sweater his mother knits for him.  That was foolish, my friends, FOOLISH.

Back in June I whipped out a charming little cream princess sweater for my girl.  It worked up so quick and satisfactorily that I immediately wanted to cast on a masculine counterpart for my boy.  So, and here is where I made my mistake, I asked him, "What color sweater would you like Mama to make for you?"  And he said, "RED, MAMA, RED.  It makes me feel BRAVE."  And who doesn't want their charming and effervescent son to feel brave?

So I cheerfully ordered four skeins of cherry red wool.

Now, my original intent was to knit a PLAIN sweater for him.  Plain and red.  But then he asked me one day, one day as he was cuddled up to me, if I would knit snowflakes into his sweater.  And I looked down at his sweet face and big, imploring brown eyes and I said, "Sure, baby, I can knit you snowflakes."  And I cast on.

As I worked the sweater I became concerned.  It was looking a little bit small.  But I was a third of the way through it and didn't want to push the panic button, so I did what any reasonable woman in denial would do, and I took it to my sister.  I asked her what she thought and her jaw dropped.  Then she very gently said, "Sweetie, this is too SMALL."  And then she rationally took my child and held up the sweater against his back and I had the double realization that A) my child, my sweet, cherubic toddler is now a fully grown FIVE year old boy, all arms and legs and things that are TALL and lanky; and B) I was going to have rip out this third of a sweater and start over from scratch.

Not only start over, but work without a pattern.  Which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't really that hard, it just means I have to think while knitting and it's a lot more relaxing to just follow a pattern.

So my sister wound up the yarn while I ripped out the knitting.  And then I took it home, and punished it by shoving it into a bag in the closet.  In all honesty, we were going to Savannah the next week anyway and I needed to do a lot more thinking before I could get back to working on it.  So I knitted myself a pair of socks while I did the thinking.

After Savannah, I finally went back to it.  And I have been sucked into a red, snowflakey vortex of never-ending knitting ever since.

And I am TIRED.

It has been an ordeal from the get-go.  I knitted the bottom cuff plain and  for about 4 inches before starting the various patterns, and then I had the terrible realization (this was when I was almost done with the body) that because of the stranded color work, the plain section was flaring at the bottom and looked ridiculous.  So I painstakingly picked out the cast on edge and ripped the bottom 4 inches back and then re-knitted the bottom cuff into ribbing to pull the body back into line with the stranded color work.

Last night, I reinforced and CUT open the steeks for the armholes.  It was a little traumatic, necessitating a few brief moments lying down on the floor and breathing deeply.  Then I picked up and started knitting the sleeves.  I have only ever knit sleeves down from the shoulders, never up from the cuffs, but this evening as I was reading various books on the topic, I came to the realization that to achieve the look I want, I'm going to have to do just that.

I'll save that ripping out for the morning though.  I think if I rip that 3 inch of sleeve back tonight, I might just throw the whole thing out of the window.  And it's raining and muddy out there.

So if you've been wondering what happened to me this summer, THAT, my friends is what has happened to me.  And the other realization that I've come to, is that knitting a double thick, intricate sweater is a great project for MID-WINTER, not the middle of a hot summer.

In happier news, the Boy and I are starting back with school on Monday, and he'll start art classes in 2 weeks.  I am about to embark on that great initiation of motherhood, the Chauffeuring around of a child. 

Pray for us sinners. 

Toddler Indignation

on 07 August 2013

It's hard for me to judge which stories are worthy of being blogged.  I'm with the babies all day every day and I see them when they're funny and sad and odd, and so it's hard to tell which moments need to be memorialized.

A couple of weeks ago, or weekends ago I should say.  It was a Saturday and Chris and I were in the kitchen making lunch for the babies.  I don't even remember what we were making now, but it was something hot, which I plated up and set before the Boy and the Girl, and I warned them that it was warm and they needed to BLOW.

The Boy has learned by now, that if it's hot, then he needs to just leave it for a bit.  The Girl, is not so patient as the boy...

So she picked up a handful (so it must have been something like pasta of some sort) and shoved it into her mouth.  Where she promptly realized that it was in fact HOT (Mama is no liar, and the sooner she learns that the happier we'll all be).  She spit the mouthful out, looked at it in her hand and then threw it forcefully (and with no small degree of indignation) back on to her plate.  She then looked at Chris and I (who were appropriately laughing at her) and began to gesticulate wildly while shrieking at us.

She still doesn't speak English yet, and I still understood that PERFECTLY.

Looking for my Mojo

on 29 July 2013

Excuse me, has anyone out there seen my mojo?  Because I really need it back.

It's been a long summer, and it's barely the end of July.  And I'm not sure if it's the heat, or the busy-ness, or just general malaise, but I seem to have lost my Mojo.  That ineffable quality that makes me a comparatively decent wife-mother-sister-daughter-friend-woman.  I find myself hot and tired and grouchy.  To say nothing of dull witted and unimaginative.

The people I live with are reasonably patient, but I need to work up a plan for Burnstopia Academy next year, and I've got Christmas presents I need to make, and Heaven knows my kids and I have all been watching too much television. 

It's why updating here has been sparse.  I have stories to tell, I always have stories to tell, but stories are only as good as the beautiful clothes you dress them in, and it's my mojo that comes up with the clothes for the stories.  With no mojo, there's no writing...something has to be done.

So what's a girl to do?  Where am I to find my missing mojo?  Any suggestions out there?

Happiest of Girls

on 26 July 2013

Perfect happiness is a pink crayon and a cookie.

Please note that they're THOMAS coloring books that she's currently obsessed with.  
She's a puzzle sometimes. A pink crayon and THOMAS.

Celebrating my Boy

on 12 July 2013

There is no slideshow this year.

I thought long and hard about it.  I thought about music from this year.   I looked at the pictures.  And in the end I decided not to do it.  For many reasons,  partly because it just can't come close to conveying the exuberance of this past year with my Boy, and partly because he changes more gradually, but more suddenly.   So it's hard to see in pictures.  For example, my Boy is becoming brave.  He's never been brave before, but this past year has seen his courage blossom.  He's also reading everything in sight, and he reads it out loud and with FEELING.  It's the funniest thing you could possibly imagine.  But how do you capture that in a photograph?  Or even a video?  What I could show you would be merely an echo of what the experience of it is, and that makes me a little sad.

What I wish, is that I could wrap up and give away moments of time with this Boy, so that each of you could have your own personal experience of the joy that it is to live with him.

As usual, I have been thinking about the passage of time and feeling sort of melancholy about...oh, the fleeting nature of childhood, I suppose.  Just when I find myself really enjoying a stage, he's BANG! and on to the next.

We celebrated down at my parent's house and then the very next day we drove down to Savannah for a quick trip (which is why these are late going up).  The Boy, effectively, had TWO birthday celebrations, and they were both utterly delightful, if only because it makes me so happy to see how much everyone loves him.

 Double-fisting his desserts, ice cream cone AND cake.

He really is magical.  And I know, I know that ALL mothers think their children are special, and maybe that's all this is, but there really is something about my Boy. 

18 Months

on 04 July 2013

My Girl is 18 months old.

And I find that with the approach of my Boy's 5th (FIFTH?!  How the heck did that happen?!) birthday, I feel a little nostalgic. 

Don't get me wrong, I love that she walks and dances and laughs and is hilarious in general.  It melts me like butter on a hot muffin that she cuddles me and pats my shoulder while saying, "Mama" over and over and over and over again.  Her temper is beyond exasperating, but given that I have that same temper myself, it helps me to be patient with her. 

And I'm not even sure that what I'm nostalgic for is HER as a little baby, so much as my Boy at 18 months old.

I was trying to explain this to Chris on Wednesday.  When we lived in GA and the Boy was 1-2 years old, he was my buddy, my constant companion, the center of my very small and lonely world.  We would pick up in an afternoon and go to Michaels or Target and just wander around and look at stuff and crack each other up.  We would cuddle and watch movies or read.  We were just always together, just the two of us, he and I.

And watching my Girl in her bath on Wednesday evening, I was reminded so forcefully of her brother at that same age, doing those same things that I felt this strange combination of longing for him at that time, and gratitude that I got to have all of those days with him.

This is a strange gig, Motherhood.  I'm wondering if I'll ever understand it, or if I'll just eventually give up trying and enjoy the ride.

(I took 47 pictures of her trying to capture the way she actually looks and of those 47 I got TWO where she was actually looking at me.  All of the rest she was wedging herself into that corner or blurry as she tried to run away.  Her loathing of the camera is STRONG.)

But her cuteness is stronger.

Expecto Patronum

on 21 June 2013

The Boy and I have been slowly wending our way through the Harry Potter series.  Chris and I have both loved the books (and the movies), and the Cousins (my nieces and nephews) all love the series as well, so my kids are surrounded with phrases like muggle, wizard, quidditch, hallows, hogwarts, patronus, Dumbledor, and animagus.  (The sad thing is, Chris and I are also great fans of Tolkien so the list of strange words our kids are exposed to, is rather more extensive than this list.)  We're currently in the first quarter of book 5 (Order of the Phoenix) and it's slow going (book 5 is my least favorite).  But we had read another chapter, and since we were all sick for so long, I let my Boy watch Order of the Phoenix one long, rainy afternoon.

It's spawned an on-going conversation in our household that runs something like this:

Boy:  Hey, Mama!  What's my patronus look like?
Mama:  Hmmm, that's a good question.  I bet your patronus is a rabbit, because you're a lot like a rabbit sometimes.
Boy:  Yes, and I LOVE rabbits!  (hops away like a rabbit)
Mama:  (wishes he would eat vegetables like a rabbit, but that's another story).

Yesterday in the car, the conversation went a little like this:

Boy:  Hey, Daddy!  What's Mama's patronus look like?
Daddy:  Hmmm, that's a hard one.  Because your Mama always wishes she could wrap people up and put them in her pocket, so I bet your Mama's patronus is a kangaroo!
Boy:  (laughs hysterically) Mama!  Your patronus is a KANGAROO!
Mama: (also laughing) Actually, that sounds about right.
Boy:  Hey, Mama!  What's Daddy's patronus look like?
Daddy:  Hmmm, what animal is grouchy and tries to scare people off by being grumpy...
Mama:  A SKUNK!
Boy (laughing hysterically)
Girl (also laughing hysterically)
Daddy:  Actually, that's plausible.
Mama:  I know.

Father's Day

on 16 June 2013

People in this world talk a lot about women and how hard it is to be a woman.  And sure, it is.  But it's also hard to be a man.   Their choices aren't any easier than ours.  For my part, I'm grateful for good, honorable men.  Both the one that raised me, and the one I married.

Happy Father's day.

What we've been doing...

on 14 June 2013

So I really haven't just been cleaning and sewing.  We've done some other stuff that I haven't blogged about.

At least, NOT YET!

Right around mid-May, there's a reenactment of the Battle of the Regulation.  We've wanted to go for several years, and this year we made it happen!  It poured rain, but we still had fun.  We got there just in time for an artillery demonstration, and really, who doesn't love a cannon?

While Chris was down at the Beach House, I took my babies to my parent's house and made a whole bunch of JAM.  It was a lot more fun than making jam all alone in my apartment.

We go to the park a lot.  But my Girl is Unimpressed.  She thinks it's too hot and too sunny, and there's nothing to destroy.  Boo.

 One Wednesday afternoon, we took the kids to the Durham Museum of Life and Sciences, and then stood back and cracked up laughing at them.  They're hilarious.  The Girl LOVES her brother and follows him everywhere.  And most of the time, the Boy loves her back.

This look of total AMAZEMENT is free, courtesy of the Girl and the realization that in this particular area she can be as LOUD as she wants and no one is going to say NO.

A Splendid Prison

on 12 June 2013

My Girl has been sick for the past week.  It's just a cold, but since she's so spicy and independent, it's been worrisome to see her so droopy and clingy.  I suppose that's the spoiled mother of embarrassingly healthy children speaking.

She wasn't impossible to please, she was quite content to sit on my lap or be held in my arms, but if I had the audacity to put her down to, oh, I don't know, cook or clean or BATHE, then weeping and wailing would commence.

And because my kids are not often sick, it makes for a hard week when they are.  I sit a lot, and hold them a lot, and spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy and thought into calming them and trying to pacify them.  It was made harder by the fact, that the babies only ever want ME when they're sick.  Chris wants to be helpful, but my Girl would literally burst into tears if he dared to hold her instead of me, so it's oftentimes just easier for me to do all the nursing.

One day, while sitting in the rocking chair and rocking my pitiful girl, I was feeling a little sorry for myself, and feeling like this was a little like prison.  I couldn't move, I couldn't do anything, I couldn't even eat without having her on top of me.  And I looked down at her little face, laying against my shoulder, thumb in mouth (just like I had done as a small child), and I thought, "ok, it's a little like prison, but what a splendid prison."

I suppose this is the aspect of mothering that most women resent and rebel against.  That they are so very needed and that in spite of willing husbands, children are so very tied to their mothers.  And perhaps it's this resentfulness that leads a lot of women to seek for an escape.  I can understand that, I really can.  On the really loud days, I still fantasize about having an office with a door I can close.  But time has been making a fool of me again.  My once small boy, is growing long and gangly and Bold (which is strange for him), and my Girl...she too is growing long and lean, and I look at the Boy as a vision of things to come.  I know that this is a season.  And it's a season that is passing quickly.

I just don't want to see my children leave home and look back at their childhood with regret, that I didn't spend enough time with them, that I didn't let them love me, or worse, that I didn't love them the way they needed me to do.  And so I willingly surrender to this splendid prison, because I know that someday the doors will be thrown open and I'll look around and wonder why everything is so quiet.

As you might imagine...

on 10 June 2013

Every time we're going to move, or, as is probably more applicable, we think we're going to move, Burnstopia goes into survival mode.  It means we don't do much cooking, we eat out of our freezer and pantry, and it means that we clean out and chuck out.  But it also means that we SHELVE a lot of projects  that require more time and energy than we have.

So the process of the past few weeks has been to tackle those projects (finally), and then to do things that I have so cheerfully put off.

  • After 3 years, I finally went to the dentist.  Just like the last time, I waited until there was PAIN before making an appointment (we don't have dental insurance, so going to the dentist is a luxury in these parts), and I steeled myself for bad news (aka cavities).  No, no.  No cavities, I'm just grinding my teeth down to nubbins.  Fortunately, since the stress of moving has been removed, the pain has also abated, and now I know that my teeth are good for another three years.
  • We have finally committed to swim lessons for the Boy.  I considered them last year, but he was still very shy and cautious, and I didn't want to shell out money if he was going to be a big chicken and not learn anything.  So my niece is coming in once a week and working with him in the pool here in our complex, and then Chris goes with him in between lessons to practice.  My contribution?  I made him a pool robe!
  • Actually, I made one for each kid, since it seems likely that we're going to be spending a lot of time at the pool this summer and keeping towels wrapped around little children is HARD.  I'll try to get a picture of my Girl in hers, it's orange with bright pink trim. It's pretty awesome.  Edited to add:
 (Ok, she was not best pleased to be at the pool.  Admittedly, she has bronchitis, but she had been acting fine and it was hot and the Boy wanted to swim, and we all make sacrifices to be part of a family.  Anyway, she was a lot happier once we all got in the water.  And look at how cute her little robe turned out!)
  • I have been defeated by a pattern.  It stings.  I have assumed that my determination would allow me to knit pretty much anything I wanted.  It was my determination that carried me through Fair Isle and Cables, but Lace?  Alas.  I was trying to knit this darling, lacy baby bonnet for a friend of mine who is having a little girl.  After SEVEN attempts, Chris talked me out of any further attempts.  I think he feared for my sanity.  So my friend will have to content herself with a baby blanket (already sewn up, I just need to write out a card), and I will have to sit down and work through the elements of the bonnet separately.  WHEN I finally master it's royal fiddliness, I shall post pictures.  

Chris had a great time at the Beach for Memorial day weekend.  And boy, was I relieved when he came home.  For some reason, when he leaves the state it acts as an invitation for all chaos to break loose.  The Girl climbed out of her crib (for the first time) and promptly fell on her noggin.  She had a lovely goose egg on her forehead for the week after.  But I think she may have learned NOT to climb out of her crib.

My Boy is reading anything and everything in sight.  It's both entertaining and alarming.  For school this year, we just did quick lessons from the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching your Child to Read.  And on the days that he was foul, we did other reading-readiness types of things (hidden pictures, alphabet games etc).  He was struggling with a couple of consonant combinations, and we were gearing up for a move, so I shelved the whole thing.  We have a learning household, so it's not like he sat around watching cartoons all day long, but we didn't do any formal work for the whole month of May.  And about 2 weeks ago he started reading signs wherever we went ("Look, Mama!  That sign says...!") and about 1 week ago, I caught him pulling books down off of his shelf and reading to himself.  Books I didn't know that HE knew how to read (Dr. Seuss, Henry and Mudge, Frog and Toad).  It's amazing, it really is.  But it's also a little scary.  I have this feeling of foreboding that he is soon going to be much smarter than his Mama.

Deja vu

on 20 May 2013

The past two weeks have been awful.  Terrible.  Miserable.  Dreadful. 

As you know, when we last left our optimistic M, she was hunting for new digs for Burnstopia.  The challenge?  Find a BIGGER space for the same or LESS rent.

Why, yes, I do feel like an idiot for thinking that was even possible.  Thank you for asking.

We looked at places everywhere for about 2 weeks.  Every single day, we packed up the kids in the car and drove around to look at places.  The places we felt like we could afford were in the scariest of neighborhoods.  The ones you see on the News at night with the "This just in, deadly SHOOTING in..."  The places we felt would be safe to live in, we called to make appointments to see, only to find out that they were rented already.  It was all profoundly discouraging.

Meanwhile, I was cleaning out and packing boxes.

Then Friday morning dawned and Chris was so discouraged that he could not, would not, Chris he IS, face another day of looking for places to live.  And then Boy had a total and complete meltdown, and through his hysterical tears he attempted to pull things OUT of the boxes and PUT IT ALL AWAY. 

And that's when I realized that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

So I gave up.  I surrendered.  I threw in the towel.  I raised the white flag.  I admitted defeat.

(It's hard for me.  I'm REALLY stubborn.  I hate feeling like I've given up.  But when something isn't working, only a crazy person keeps trying to make it work.)

So I went over and talked to the office about the apartment and the lease, and we worked out an agreement to stay where we are for another year.  Is this ideal?  No.  Do we fit comfortably into our current space?  No.  Is this the right thing to do for familial happiness and sanity?  Yes.

And now that the weekend is over, everything is unpacked and put away and I'm dedicating myself today to deep cleaning and writing up a grocery list and planning out when to do the things I've been putting off until we move (like making jam and swim lessons for the Boy).

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, which means Beach House Weekend for Chris and his friends.  The kids and I shall be staying local, does anyone have any fun ideas of things to do with Littles?

Bathtime Brouhaha

on 15 May 2013

I acknowledge that at some point in the future, my darling children will be able to read and may find their way to this blog.  And in that spirit, I try NOT to tell too many stories that may be of an embarrassing or compromising nature.

But this story from last week, is too good to pass up.

Bathing the babies, since my Girl is now a full fledged toddler, has become more complicated.  When it's just me, and I'm bathing them on my own, we just do scrub downs.  They have their nice, long baths on the weekends when Chris is here to help me.  We had a friend in from out of town (my friend Brett's sweet hubby, Ben), so Chris played hookie from work to hang out with Ben.  Since Chris was home, I ran a nice, deep bath for the kids and got them started.  They love bubbles, so I was blowing bubbles for the Boy and Girl, when I started to notice that there were some bubbles of her own making coming from her behind.  So I called Chris to come in and mind them (for fear that she would make a deposit in the bathtub, she has done so before.  A LOT.), so that I could go pull cookies out of the oven.

Then sure enough, the Girl's deposit started to float to the surface of the water.  So I ordered both kids out of the tub, they are now both naked and cold in a very small bathroom, while Chris pulls the cookies out of the oven and fetched the cleaning supplies for me and I started to fish out the...deposit.  The Boy, meanwhile, is happily blowing bubbles from a nearly full container of wonder bubbles.  The Girl is loudly protesting her naked and shivering state.

The water was drained and I was scrubbing the tub, and the Boy was happily dancing around with his bubbles, when he hit a soapy spot on the floor and slipped.  CRASH!  Down to the floor, bubbles spill EVERYWHERE, the Boy is howling, and the Girl, at the sight of her brother's distress, immediately started howling as well.  I straighten up to observe the abject chaos, Chris looks at me as if to say, "What on earth should we do?!"  So I reach out and hug the soapy Boy and the Girl is hanging on my legs, both children are naked and howling and all I could do was laugh.  It was just one of those moments that are impossible to accurately describe.

So the tub was cleaned, the toys bleached, and the children soaped and scrubbed clean.  And I was incredibly relieved to see them in to bed with the lights out.

Oddly, it's moments like these that make me laugh to see how far I have come in the last 5 years.  5 years ago, I would have absolutely lost it.  I would have been yelling and throwing stuff as I cleaned up the mess.  There would have been no sympathy for the mess makers, or anyone else.   I'm starting to think that perhaps the greatest thing that comes with parenthood isn't patience, it's a sense of humor.

Relocating Deadline

on 13 May 2013

Send Chocolate.  Also, some sort of device that will warp the time-space continuum.

Way back in March, Chris applied for a job out in Montana, well, we haven't heard hide nor hair from them, so we're putting our collective brains to the task and assuming that means, "Thanks but no thanks."  And then he applied for a job in Asheville, which I was fairly torn about.  It's no secret that I LOVE the mountains, and I love Asheville.  But I love my sister more, and she lives in Durham, not Asheville.  So while I would have been excited if Chris had gotten that job, I would have been very sad to leave her.

Well, he didn't get it.  Yet again.  It's been four years of job applications, four years of various interviews and four years worth of, "It's not you, it's me.  We think you're great, but not for us.  Thanks but no thanks."  Frankly, I have had enough.  Of course, I've also been sick for the past week, so that may have something to do with my total lack of patience right now.

So Burnstopia is staying local.  And I have 2 weeks to find us a new place to live, pack our apartment and move.  Now that I think about it, there's not enough chocolate in the known WORLD to get me through this month of May.

I'll see y'all on the flip side.

9 Years, Still Here

on 01 May 2013

Nine years ago today, Chris and I got married.

And if I had to pick just one thing, one, single, solitary thing that is the most significant event of my life, it would be THAT.  Everything else that means anything at all, hinges on that moment.  But perhaps that's too simplistic a view, because a marriage isn't made in a day.  It's made every day.  It's made over and over and over again.

I suppose the occurrence of our anniversary has me feeling more sentimental than normal, because I took down Jane Austen's Persuasion to reread.  All of her novels center on characters who make mistakes, human mistakes, they rectify those errors and then move on.  But in Persuasion, you have perhaps the greatest acknowledgement and apology for those errors ever written in the English language. 

Now, if you'll recall, Captain Wentworth has overheard his long-time love Anne tell a friend of his that Men will always forget the women they love before Women forget them, and since he cannot speak openly to her, he writes her this letter (I'm truncating it, you really should read the whole book, if you haven't yet, it is perfection from beginning to end, a true masterpiece):

...Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.  I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years a half ago.  Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved none but you.  Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant...

 I love that.  I suppose because I feel like that's how our marriage works.  We're two flawed, imperfect human beings.  We make mistakes.  We occasionally act selfishly, arrogantly, or blindly.  We are sometimes weak and resentful and unjust.  But we apologize, we forgive, we try again.  Never inconstant.  After 9 years, I am more certain of this one thing:  He is Mine, and I am His. 


on 26 April 2013

I wish I had news for you.  I wish I could tell you that things have changed/progressed/advanced/altered in any way.  But I can't.  And in spite of my efforts to obtain guidance or direction, the only guidance that comes is to Keep Calm and Carry On.

Those poor Brits, they get quite a lot of mocking.  And I have doled out more than my fair share, they are just such easy targets, with their Stiff Upper Lip, and a cup of tea can fix anything, and rainy day stocisim.  But as I grow up, I've come to realize something:  Those are the people that make the world go 'round.

They don't make waves, they aren't glamorous or fashionable, and only rarely are they remembered.  But the ones who keep the hatches battened down, the lights on, the dinner on the table, the clothes clean, and everyone healthy and happy?  Those are the ones that make the world go 'round.  If we were all revolutionaries, if we were all those Badly Behaved Women who Make History...we would all stink and be hungry and live a knot of fear and anxiety in our guts because we would have no idea what's going to happen next.

I was telling a friend of mine this week that Chris and I seem to be the Eye in the Storm lately.  We seem to be surrounded by friends who are going through these really terrible things, and it's gotten me thinking.  Thinking about the eyes through which I see my life.  It's really easy to look at our life and see the imperfections, for lo, they are everywhere.  But to be able to look at our life and see only the good, the blessings, the beauty, now that takes quite a lot of skill and concentration. 

So after all, maybe it really is best to keep calm and carry on...