Loose Ends

Loose Ends

the creative impulse gone awry

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My grumpy girl

While most of the time I post pictures of my dear Clara smiling and looking happy, this is not the face I see most of the time.  During vacation I started a series called "Clara looking cross"  Mostly as a way to stay calm and gain perspective while she was pitching a fit.

- at Jordan Pond in Acadia after she decided that throwing rocks in the lake was more fun than going on our planned on hike.  She sulked until we turned around.

Do you remember this cute little one from a few posts back?

Next frame:
- upset that her sister is removing 1 of the 13 golf balls she had placed on the ground... the rest are blurry because she was trying to wrestle said golf ball out of Zoë's hands.

For whatever reason, Clara is quick to anger.  She always has been, um, particular?  ...strong-willed? ...stubborn?  We joke that this is just default for the women in my family -- it rides along with my X chromosome.  I love that she will be a take-no-prisoners adult but as an almost 5 year old she often has me feeling, well, imprisoned.  I've had a lot of very long, and sometimes painful, conversations with folks who know these things (some even have relevant degrees!) and we're pretty sure she's just on the edgy side of normal.  Kind of introverted, kind of inflexible, but with a load of amazing qualities that make her a lot of fun to be around... usually. And with a vocabulary that makes it hard to remember she's only 4!

I'm pretty frank about my own issues with anxiety.  I have a bunch of hilarious and debilitating phobias, spiders (so common it's boring), moths (funny and appropriate for a yarn shop owner), flying (truly annoying).  I did a bunch of therapy in my 20s to get a handle on my crippling fears, among other things.  My therapist marveled that I could get so much done with the level of stress that I carried around all the time.  I had great success learning to manage my anxiety -- really changing the way I think.  I've never needed medication, thankfully, but it was always a happy back-up if things got really bad.  In short, I function pretty well, that is, under normal circumstances.

Parenting, while ostensibly a "normal" thing is (for me) like putting myself through some sort of anxiety obstacle course every day.  I start most days tired and I'm lucky if I find clean clothes and maintain some basic level of personal hygiene.  On top of that, we've got this new house, and my business, and so my to do list is crippling.  Pair that with my delightfully inflexible Clara and her insane monkey little sister and I'm a nervous wreck most of the time.

Lately, things with Clara have been especially challenging.  There have been many many tantrums.  Most of the time I can take this stuff in stride, but the frequency of these events, their severity, along with the only barely being civil parts in the middle have really been taking a toll.  I'm usually pretty happy with my parenting but recently I've been mostly Cartman Parenting (bad parenting level 1) and then, let's be honest, sometimes end up Toddler parenting -- where I act more like a toddler than the toddlers (bad parenting level 2)  I don't know what bad parenting level 3 looks like, thankfully, I'm happy to not know.

I've been brainstorming ideas on how to help get us past this bumpy section (all the while just cringing and shaking my head about how much fun she's going to be as a teenager) and the consensus seems that we need to be a bit more organized.  The organization will help me stay calm (honestly, dinner sneaks up on me every. day. and if I had a plan instead of a panic the rest of the world seems so much more manageable) and will give her (and let's face it me too) a sense of order that will help when we have to be flexible.

So I've been working on organizing our entire life. hah! Really, removing decisions from our day.  Making the boring things more systematic so the rest is easier.  My mom tells me this is all good preparation for next year when Clara goes to school.  It prepares her for the concept of a routine (previously unknown in our house) and gets us used to the hard work of having a school-aged kid.  I started off with a basic spreadsheet of our daily schedule.  I've found that our weekly schedule is getting pretty regular, while each day is a little different, the days of the week have a rhythm that we can follow.  I also decided to try to have a morning routine (breakfast, a bit of TV, getting dressed, snack, a bit of housework) and an evening routine (make & eat dinner, bathtime, stories, bed) I hoped that if we could get these things to happen at the same time each day, perhaps, by some miracle, this would help Clara and it would give me the strength to get through each day with grace and patience.

Does it make me a geek that I then made daily schedules for the girls that I can print out for them?  Complete with "bathtime" clip-art?  yes, it does.  I know, it's okay.  I also have my "parents version" with all of the times laid out so I can remember when things need to happen.  I'm so abhorrent to routine that I literally print out my schedule every day and take notes.  Of course I decided to start this whole process 2 days before vacation, but we resumed the plan when we came home.  I've been assured that it often gets worse before it gets better, so I'm just going to keep plugging and improving where I can and hoping that it eventually it feels like routine instead of work.

As we continue this project I'll try to share with you some of the things that have been working.  The daily schedules so far, for Clara, have been helpful.  She asks for them and wants to read through them each morning during breakfast.  She also has been taking "notes" when I mention things may not go as planned.  Some transitions have been easier, but that's not getting rid of all of the tantrums -- we still have a meddling little sister to push her buttons.

Planning out our meals has already made me less stressed out, which is helping with the bad parenting.  As with so many other things, our kids are mirrors of our own behaviors.  Clara definitely picks up on my anxiety and amplifies it.  Knowing what we're having for dinner TONIGHT and that it's thawed and ready to get together when the time comes (checks schedule, that's 5:00pm) makes it so much easier for me to stay calm when Clara's feeling stormy. 

I'm hoping to tear apart my wardrobe soon, plan a dozen or so outfits and store the rest.  I've never done this before but really, sometimes just finding something to wear (that isn't pajamas) is such a challenge for me.  If it were more formulaic, it would make my morning that much easier and that may also improve my sanity.

Also part of my plan is to include some housework for the girls and I to do each day.  Firstly, it will help me keep our house clean and organized and secondly, it will teach them how much work it takes to care for a house and hopefully get them invested in keeping the house clean and organized.  Clara didn't like the idea of house cleaning when I brought it up first, but when she learned she got to play with soap and push buttons (laundry) she perked right up.  Now we've done a shocking amount of laundry and it's folded and put away (even more shocking!)

Lastly, I've suddenly found it quite funny that I was totally prepared to turn my life upside down for my children.  I knew my life would change and I would learn many many new things.  How little was I prepared for how much I, myself, would have to change to rise to the challenge of parenting.  How so little of this upheaval has to do with diapers and sleep (though, to be sure, those are huge adjustments, temporarily) and how so much of it has been developing entirely new (to me) infrastructure -- physical, emotional, and now organizational, to continue supporting them as they grow.  Parenting, as usual, just when you think you have it figured out you realize you have to change everything all over again.  Who knows maybe one day finding clean pants will be a breeze.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vacation Knitting!

I wasn't kidding when I said I knit an obscene amount on vacation.  I left with several balls of yarn that turned into objects while I was gone.  It's great when Josh doesn't mind driving the whole way and the girls cooperate by playing nicely and napping.  Also, many late nights talking with my brother and sister-in-law are conducive to massive output.  Without further ado, the wingspan in Alpaca Degradé:

check that out!  it's lighter than air!  

It's also perfect for taking off the chill of a crisp fall day.  Love it -- and I'm really not looking forward to its stay at the store.  If there weren't so many other pressing things to knit I would immediately cast on another.  It took 3 skeins and I knit the fingering weight version (90 stitches) on a larger needle so it would be a bit bigger.  It's perfect.

Next up, some quickie cowls.  Crazy Easy Cowl (from our eBook) in Boboli (one skein).  I've only done/seen solid color versions of this and I'm loving it in a multi...

And a Linen-stitch Cowl (also from our eBook) in Malou Degradé (the super-chunky sister to Alpaca Degradé)  It is so stinkin' soft.  Oh, I love it.

When those were finished I was able to spend some time on some personal knitting (sweet!) I made some serious progress on my Tiny Tea Leaves for Clara out of some Malabrigo twist.  We were putting it on sale this spring and I saw this green and then magically it was in my bag on the way home.  I know I have way more than I need so maybe the rest will end up in our sale in the spring... or I may just be forced to horde it.  I love this yarn more than words...

It's so soft and squishy.  I know it pills like crazy, but I simply don't care.  Now I get to knit some sleeves on it so she can wear it for real.  The only modification that I've made to the pattern was to add another buttonhole.  Zoë's version is flawed because I didn't follow the instructions and just used the same size needle for everything (the garter stitch sections are supposed to be knit on a needle 2 sizes smaller) and it is floppy and weird and huge in spots and it definitely needs a 3rd button.  So I decided not to be lazy and use the proper needle size for Clara's version but still add the extra button just in case.  It's just beautiful and I lurve it.

I also banged out a few more stripes in my stripey sweater, but really it's hard to tell.  It's definitely going to be a slow knit.  I think it will end up on hold for a while as having warmer cardigans is becoming important.  I think I have enough cream-colored cashmere in my stash to work up a february lady sweater -- a brainstorm I had this morning and I am having a hard time not tearing apart my stash to find it and then cast on.  Honestly, I think I need to get some sleeves on Clara's sweater and work on that enormous orange afghan.  Priorities!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back from the North

Ahhh, the post vacation haze is lifting.  We've mostly unpacked from our week in Maine.  I got to see my bro, Rob, and his delightful wife for the first time in 2 years.  whoa.  I had a newborn the last time I saw those guys.  It was awesome to reconnect and have them spend some quality time with the girls.  Of course, no trip to maine is complete without also seeing all of the grandparents.  I drank a lot of beer and wine, took a lot of naps and knit a huge amount.  It was, in short, the nearly perfect vacation.  It would have been perfect, but both girls got up in the middle of the night several times on our last night there -- also, it would have been nicer if Josh and I hadn't both broken wine glasses within minutes of each other.  Is clutzy-ness contagious?  Anyway, it was delightful and we miss maine (and the folks we visited) already.

I was charmed that the house felt like home when we returned.  While it wasn't our first night away from the house, it was the first extended vacation and I was curious how we would feel when we got back.  Would the to do list loom and hover over our heads and render all vacation relaxation pointless or would we breathe a sigh of relief that we were home and happy to sleep in our own beds?  Luckily, since the girls didn't fall asleep on the drive home we were quickly thrust into another episode of "will they ever sleep?" -- our nightly sit-com.  So we had very little time to think about anything on the to do list and I was definitely happy to sleep in my own bed again (eventually).   The next day (having wisely come home a day before Josh needed to go back to work) we got a bit done on the house and generally re-acclimated to the real world. 

I think that the vacation from the house and the to do list was kind of the kick in the pants that we needed.  Removing yourself from something for a while always helps you approach with fresh eyes and we were reinvigorated to work on the house when we got back.  Josh's mom and I also spent some time brainstorming ideas for the (wretched) kitchen and I think we came up with a pretty good plan.  I still have to talk to a lot of people but I'm pretty sure we're going to take a wall down.  whoa.  While in maine I also spent a bit of time de-cluttering my mom's "spare" house that she plans to rent as a vacation home.  There are so many relics of our childhood there that need cleaning out before we could safely let strangers stay there.  I found it fun that it was so easy to de-clutter someone else's house that I tried to approach our house the same way when we got back.  So far I'm finding it works.  I am reminded of how oddly nice it was when we were showing the old house when everything was tidy and in it's place.  It's been so insane here since we've moved that I had forgotten the benefits of removing all of the clutter.  Assuming the world doesn't get turned upside down I'm going to work towards getting the good parts of that back.

I'm going to leave you with a few glam shots of the girls, and encourage you to check back frequently.  I've been working on several projects (both personal, and professional) and I'll be posting a bit more than usual.  For now:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the needles

As usual, I have lots of things on the needles.  The air is definitely getting that fall feeling and my knitting starts to have that urgency of the changing seasons.  There are woolens for the girls to make, samples for the shop -- I'm spending a lot of quality time with yarn these days.  It's lovely!

First the not so successful.  My little Taiyo sock jacket is on hold for a little while.  I'm having gauge issues, and I think this may not be long enough for my liking... which means some pattern adjustments that will take a little more brain power than I have available to me at the moment.  I love the Taiyo sock -- knitting it is pleasant and I'm happy with the color I picked... I've been needing to change the contrast ball constantly as the colors kept on blending too well, but it doesn't bother me too much.  I like the fabric, so instead of changing needle sizes I think I'll do the larger size and hope it works better. This is supposed to be the entire left front and it's so wee! 

 I'll frog it eventually and try again, but I decided to change projects while I mulled that one over.

Of course, it was still in the 80s during the day when I started this, and then I had to re-start it twice... (the first time it was late and I screwed up my ribbing, and the second I thought the gold stripes were too wide and the whole sweater was looking too big)  I'm loving it now, it's knit with a yarn that we don't carry anymore - Sirdar Flirt.  Any bamboo rayon blend will give you similar results.  For some reason, our customers seem to like our pure rayons better so we put a whole bunch of these on sale and I had to skim a few off the top of the basket before our customers got a chance.  I actually took all of the white and gold of this yarn last summer, and it has languished in my stash waiting for that perfect stripey sweater.  I'm liking this so far - it's a style I'm coming to appreciate and the knitting is easy and mindless.  Of course, that is second priority to the other nicely mindless project I'm working on for the shop.

We've gotten an insane amount of yarn in the past couple of days (1 ton yesterday alone) and some samples require whipping up.  I spent most of my energy during the fall buying sessions (which we do in late spring) concentrating on spicing up our Hand Wash section.  Naomi is a great lover of the machine washable yarns and because she spends more time physically in the shop our selection of machine washables has definitely improved and expanded.  Our hand wash section had a lot of work horse yarns but it was looking so homogenous to me that I wanted to inject some variety - different textures, fibers, some multis - really give the wall a boost.  You may have noticed during our sale this spring that we closed out a lot of the solid light-worsteds to make space for yarns that really stand out on their own.   I've been spending a lot of time rearranging the hand wash wall and just loving our decisions.  It was difficult to decide which sample to knit first!  In the end I went with the yarn I fell for first... Lang Alpaca Degradé.

It is so soft and fluffy and nearly weightless.  Just look at it:

 I knew I wanted something right next to the skin, something squishy, and easy to knit.  So I went for a wingspan

 I have to say that I now understand why everyone loves this pattern.  Who doesn't love mindless patterns where the rows keep getting shorter and each triangle gives you a nice sense of accomplishment just encouraging you to move on to the next.  It's delightful and the yarn with it's gentle ombré shading is beautiful.  I love it.  I also think this yarn would be stunning in the weft of a woven project because it's so light and soft.  I'm considering pairing it with some tosh sock on Naomi's 18" rigid heddle loom for a lighter than air, warmer than you would think, shawl.  There is a pink/red/orange/black color combo that is just calling to me...

Of course, we have gotten a few more yarns than just the Alpaca Degradé, so that may have to wait until a few other samples have been finished.  And I do have a couple of little girls who need sweaters and tights and socks and mittens and hats for the upcoming winter.  I've wound a ball of insane green malabrigo twist to start a tiny tea leaves for Clara - luckily, Zoë's still fits, but that girl needs some tights!  Really, it never ends -- which is a good thing!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Operation Hate Bedroom Less

The other thing on the agenda last weekend was the next phase in Operation Hate Master Bedroom Less.  I may have mentioned in the past how much I loved our old house (even though it had it's own issues that we have happily solved moving here) and how sad we all were to leave.  It has been particularly hard moving into this bedroom.  It was actually hard looking through photos of the old house to find pictures of our old bedroom.  I can't say that there is one thing about this room that bugs me, there are many (hence the whole operation to hate it less), but it has not felt even remotely right since moving in.  So much that I have said I would rather sleep anywhere but this room and we've thought about moving to the bonus room upstairs.  But we need to make this room work for now, mostly because we're not sure what we'd do with this room otherwise and if we do decide to have more kids, then being on the same floor as, say the nursery would lead to fewer middle of the night broken legs going down stairs. ;)

We've worked hard on hating our bedroom less.  We have removed the INSANE ceiling fan that made us nervous every time we went into the room.  That was a messy and heavy job.  Now we have a beautiful, sleek and more modern looking ceiling fan.  It's also not hanging 2 feet down from the ceiling so we are no longer in danger of injuring ourselves with it.  We have removed the smelly and sticky wall to wall carpet. (shudder, that was so terrible.  But that is a whole other post as there has been lots of carpet removal in the past few weeks.)  We removed the horrible metal blinds and replaced them with cell shades.  Our next job was to paint the walls so it was no longer green.  It's not like I have a thing with green, it's a perfectly fine color.  But this was a sad, limp, little blue-green.  It really made waking up in that room just depressing.  So we decided to get a few color testers and try to nail down what color we wanted.  I was thinking something blue-y but also grey-ish.  We picked two we liked the best, slapped it up in a couple of different spots.  I thought there was a clear winner - Josh worried that I would think it too dark (my chief complaint about the room is how. dark. it. is.) but we both liked it and thought screw it, we'll take the chance.  It was only after painting an entire wall that I realized we had painted it almost the same color as our last bedroom.  For the record: old bedroom

and new bedroom (check out my unmade bed, fuzzy bear (evidence of children sleeping in bed again), and stack of magazines and books and paint chips on my nightstand -- just keeping it real here folks)

snark.  We didn't really pick the color last time, which is a funny story.  I was pregnant with Zoë and I had spent the last, oh, 8 years hating the color I had painted our bedroom when we moved in.  It was white, with a greenish tint, and I couldn't stand it.  When we decided to have a homebirth I knew I would never be able to give birth in the room with that terrible color.  Oh, the weird things we get obsessed about when pregnant.  I can guarantee that as I squeezed Zoë out of my body I wasn't thinking about how happy I was I had painted the room.  But, of course, at the time, I HAD to paint  the room, while pregnant.  So I couldn't just go and get stinky paint, I had to get the only No VOC paint on the market at the time -- Freshaire (yes it even had a pretentious extra e at the end like we were making the air so fresh it needed another letter for emphasis).  We picked the only color we liked, this blue, that was called something inspiring like, "endless rain" and I painted.  We liked it much better than the white that we painted over but still thought it was a little BLUE, if you know what I mean.  I'm really happy with the more gray version that we picked for current bedroom.  Which was also a very light green, that I hated.  I'm usually not so consistent.

I keep looking at it lovingly, this new color.  I love the contrast of our headboard next to it.  I look over and it's so much more familiar to have Josh's nightstand objects with the blue background that I can relax more.  When I wake up in the middle of the night, the walls look right again.  It is shocking to me what a difference it has made but I feel much more at home in my bedroom now.  Phew.  I have to say I have been hoping with each change to get that exhalation where it feels right and I didn't get any of it until this change.  The others made a difference, but I would say, yes, it's better but there is still something distinctly *not* right. 

Thankfully, Operation Hate Master Bedroom Less is proving successful - next we just have to put the doors back on the wardrobes and re-finish the floors, and change out the doors, and oh well, let's just leave it there, shall we?  Sometimes it's best not to dwell on how much there is yet to do!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Things we did this weekend:

I love a long weekend, mostly because I love an extra day with my sweetie.  Also, I take myself off the hook for doing too many things around the house because we have an extra day to play and still get things done.  Did we do the things we set out to do?  No.  As usual we got sidetracked, but we are so happy with what we did that we're not really complaining.  And we even got to spend a little time not working on the house, which was fantastic.

First thing on the agenda was fixing our dryer vent.  Sexy, I know.  It's another one of those things that just needed to be done.  I had popped some wet laundry in the dryer earlier in the week and turned it on and noticed a lot of lint flying through the air.  heh.  That's not really supposed to happen.  When I checked it out I saw that the poor, sad, crinkly and duct-taped dryer vent was hanging on at the dryer end and completely detached from the vent outlet in the wall.  Let's all repeat - Duct tape is actually not for ducts.  Poorly named.  Very Confusing.  I know.  So home depot here we go, for some stuff and some things.  And then there was a tantrum and we couldn't get half of the stuff and a few of the things (this is a theme in my life...) But we were able to secure what I needed to repair the dryer vent and it is so lovely now.  straight, not dented, securely attached (not with duct tape) -- should last for YEARS thus leaving me free to think about other things.  I would show you a picture but my basement is FULL of spiders and I can't really bear to look at pictures of my basement.  Sorry.  I'm just now getting over my fear of the place -- the dehumidifier has helped tremendously, now it doesn't smell so terrible.  Bad smells + spiders = my own personal hell x 2  (I can't help it, I was a math major)  anywho.

So the other thing on our to do list for the weekend was to regrade part of the yard that basically drained all of the water on the side of the yard down toward the house and through a window into the basement (shooting, no less, out of the window frame like a sprinkler into the basement showering our electrical panel and our furnace with rainwater, awesome.)  We wondered why parts of the electrical panel were rusted like crazy (hello fire hazard) and had them repaired pre-purchase and boy did we find out during some pretty epic rain here a couple of weeks ago (flash floods everywhere, it was CRAZY)  During the first storm I was running around (trying to go to a party) and going "oh no!  the road is flooded!"  and "oh my that is a lot of water in the basement!" but during the second storm I was able to go around inside and out to look for problems.  When I heard the noise of water spraying in the basement and saw the puddle by the window (5 inches deep up against the window, hence the sprinkler effect out the window frame) I went outside and saw the pond that was our side yard and noted that it all flowed very effectively into that window well and then onto our electronics (eek!)  So, regrading definitely in order, and before any more significant rainfall.

We have removed these crazy hydrangeas that were growing next to the walkway from the breezeway into the backyard -- essentially they attacked us as we tried to go outside and were the same height as Clara, which is to say, huge.  We knew we wanted to make a little stone patio on either side of the walkway so we could have some potted plants and the grill out there and still have easy access to the backyard from the breezeway.  So I thought, let us dig up some earth from that spot and use it to regrade that section of yard that needed it.  I'm brilliant, I tell you. 

(terrible screen capture from our video walk through before we owned the house)
huge bushes, tiny walkway!  One day I'll remember to take before pictures.  honest.

So my plan worked stunningly.  We ripped up the grass (carefully wanting to re-use it) and put down lots and lots of soil from the place previously occupied by the hydrangeas (which are now hopefully surviving in the front to the left of the garage) and then put the grass back on top of the new soil.  It's raining right now, heavily and so far, the regrading is doing it's job. 

Of course, once we had all the soil out we thought we should put the stones down and it was such a lovely cool weekend (perfect for yard work) that we went back to the home depot (fewer tantrums this time) and got some tester stones that we thought would work.  We were lucky to find something that we liked that fit the spot without having to trim stones (of course that would have meant buying a new tool, but it's alright, I'll get a wet saw eventually when I start some of my re-tiling projects)  Our test stones were laid in place the next morning and we liked it, made some choices about how to level out the spot and went back to the store with two cars to get everything we needed.  Now we have this:

Yes, it's not perfectly level, and, yes, there are some wiggly spots.  But we're pretty darn thrilled with the results.  As soon as we're allowed to walk on it again (4pm, not counting, nope) we'll put the grill there so it's closer to the kitchen which will make my life easier.  Possibly with a chair and a little glass top table.  The other side will have to wait, probably for at least a month -- things are about to get slightly busier around here, lots of weekend plans in the near future.  The pattern will have to be a little different because we only have 32 inches on that side and we don't want to cut stones.  Did I mention we're thrilled?  Oh how nice it is to not be eaten by hydrangeas on our way to the back yard and to have a place to set things that is relatively flat and accommodating.  I can't wait to do the other side!