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.