Monday, November 28, 2011

First Commission

I've never had someone pay me to make a gift for someone else before, so it was pretty exciting when my friend C. commissioned a cowl-neck scarf and fingerless gloves for her sister-in-law for Christmas.  Here's how they turned out:

As usual, my photog skills leave something to be desired.  And, truth be told, I might not have gone for such vivid colors myself.  But that was the order, and I love this yarn and how the texture turned out (I prefer the chunky, purled side out).  It kind of ended up Missoni-esque, I think.

Here's the matching fingerless:

Hairy arms not included.

I hope she likes 'em.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ransom-Treaty-Forgiveness Note

The sleeping bag plan is working like a freaking charm, thank God, but Nolie's streak of death-defying tantrums continues.  She is always very contrite afterwards.  I found this on my desk yesterday:

I am sorry mom i hope we can work it out!

And then we had a big impromptu party the night after Thanksgiving and someone gave a child a camera.

Man, I love our neighborhood.

Thanksgobbling, Thanksgiving, Thanksgoodtimes

I'm pretty sure I still owe you a Halloween post.  Those pictures are on E's camera.  That's the hold up.  It's all his fault for owning a camera and hoarding the pictures.  Harumph.

But on to Thanksgiving, which long-time readers will know is my VERY favorite holiday because it involves puttering around the house all day, sipping cocktails and eating olives and pickles while E. conjures an insane feast, whether for 20 friends we are lucky enough to host or for just us four.  This time we had our dear friends M. and S. (back from the brink of disaster with a really, really broken arm, but here and smiling, always) and our new friend W.  We were too busy pigging out to take many pictures, but rest assured it was a delightful, peaceful time together.

Rather than create a gratitude tree this year, we decided to just use Rupert, because we are glad to have a tree growing in our house.  The girls did all their own cards, which mostly centered around family, friends, school and teachers.  Here are some others:

Peace, Love, and Music

I'm grateful for skiing
Jen and Eric
I'm thankful for my sister

I'm grateful for all of you.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grace Again

Ooh, I sounded pretty bad yesterday, huh?  I was in a rough spot.  Tired out.  Also, forgot to take the pill first thing in the morning (yes, I'm back on, didn't like being thrust into peri-menopause at 36, no thank you) and boy did that make me weepy.  Glad I didn't have to teach or I might have cried in class or something.  I almost lost it at a talk on fracking, I just felt so despairing that scientists would ever really talk with the public in a respectful way, they would always just condescend and ignore and so why they hell am I even trying?  Also I just felt profoundly lost about what to do and how to help my kid and was having trouble accessing any good love for her.  How terrible.  So everything got all wound up with everything else and things seemed dark.

I had a date with my friend N. to hear James Van Praagh at unchurch and even though I was worn out I knew I needed to go.  Yes, he's a medium.  Yes, he looks something like a gay Magnum P.I. (he is gay, and an amazing performer, and a shining soul).

He was funny as hell, and humble.  Direct but kind.  That said, I've never been to a medium and was really skeptical and, of course, tired, and not expecting much other than to be entertained.

But then watching him turned everything inside out and I had a memory of choosing not to be quite so busy.  I had a memory of my child laying on top of me, peaceful and quiet.  I had a memory of my grandparents and their love for me--inexplicable given how many grandchildren there are and how could I be beloved?  But still, there it was--and next thing I knew, that little leprechaun of a psychic had put me right back in myself, all just by talking to some other people's dead folks right in front of me.  I don't know what it was, but I sure felt like I had received some grace afterwards, and I can breathe this morning.

And then there's N., whose a former nurse and mother of three (now grown) and just a total light in my life.  She listened to me prattle on about these struggles with Nolie and told me, in her unassuming and lovely way, about how when her youngest was four, he couldn't sleep in his room at night either.  So they just put a sleeping bag at the base of their bed.  The deal was, he had to go to sleep on his own in his own bed, and the ideal would be for him to stay there.  But if he absolutely couldn't hack it in the middle of the night because he was afraid, he could very quietly come into their room and crawl in that sleeping bag and be in there with them.  But he couldn't make a peep, and couldn't wake anyone up.

I got home at 11 with that wild-eyed feeling you get when you're exhausted, and my head was totally spinning from the realization of, the proof I had witnessed of, life beyond this particular consciousness (and please don't send me any critiques of mediumship right now, because if this is a myth or a trick, it's a lovely one, and I'd like to hold on to it for a bit).  So I wasn't able to sleep very well right away, but then did fall asleep until 1am, our usual time for Nolie to wake, and she did.

I said to hell with it, and broke my rule that you never try something new in the middle of the night, and I explained the sleeping bag deal to her, and the relief that ran through her little body was just totally palpable, and I felt incredibly relieved, too, and she slept in her sleeping bag beside our bed all night, quiet as a mouse.  E. woke up rested and so did Nolie.  I didn't sleep that great because I was just too wound up, and sensitive to her being there and worried it wouldn't work.  But everyone had a smile on their faces this morning anyway, and I cuddled her and loved on her and we chatted for a while before cartoon time, and we're going to give it a try, our new Right To Sleep Without A Peep plan.  Just because it worked last night doesn't mean it will always work but I feel hopeful which is a step up from yesterday.

Today I mostly feel grateful.  I was going to try to get some work done.  I was going to catch up on chores and tasks.  But all that's out the window now, and instead we'll just go with whatever the day brings.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Croup...There It Is.

Addie's been pretty darn healthy the last two years, so maybe you won't blame me too much when I was totally surprised at her wicked bout with croup on Wednesday night.  It was one in the morning, and she came stumbling into our room gasping for air.  E. got her first, then I realized what was happening and got up too.  She was understandably panicked at not being able to breathe, so while he got the nebulizer set up, I held her face in my hands and tried to calmly explain what was happening to her, and how crying only made it worse.  It took a few minutes, but she finally got calmed down, but didn't fall asleep for a few hours.  She doesn't have any infections to go along with the croup--at least, she didn't when we were at the doctor's yesterday--so that's a good thing.  It appears to just have been triggered by the cold that Nolie was nursing for a few weeks.  But she does feel pretty puny and sounds like an old-man smoker, and had to stay home from school yesterday.

That makes five days of missed work for me in the last two weeks.

Also, E. has developed a wicked snoring habit.

Also, and this is the worst thing of all, Nolie is staging another sleep-strike.  A maddening, horrible, exhausting sleep-strike.  She is throwing a tantrum that lasts pretty much all night long.  We can get her to sleep fine, and she'll sleep for a few hours, and then she gets out of her bed every five minutes after, screaming and yelling about nightmares and growing pains and us being the woost pawents evah (still with that one).  She will not listen to us and is ferociously stubborn and there's nothing we can do.  She really wants us to let her sleep in our bed, but I just won't do it.  I won't go back to that.  So we fight all night long about her staying in her room and consequences and respectfulness and responsibility.

By 5 am this morning, I just hid under the blankets and willed myself back to sleep.

I've been weepy and shaky all day.  I'm short-tempered.  I'm mad.

I don't know what to do to help her at this point.  If I had any ideas, my brain is too tired to process them.  I'm returning to the age-level of a five-year-old myself at this point.  I want to say that it's not fair.  I want everyone to leave me alone.  I want to abandon them all and go stay at a hotel.  I feel chubby and low-energy and unproductive.

I hope things turn around as we head into this holiday week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Darkness Descends

Spooky title, eh?  But it's just referring to the fact that it is somehow, inexplicably, unexplainably winter all of a sudden.  And I'm so glad!  I love early winter nesting.  I rearranged things in the house again to make for some cozy nooks and open work spaces now that we're all indoors a lot more.  And the ladies around here have been wanting to do some crafting!

And yes, every time I use the word "crafting," I think of this hilarious Amy Sedaris book, which M&S bought me for my last birthday.  It is a good time.

We have a pretty nice collection of workbooks and other things to give us ideas.  Tonight, we worked from Fairy Things to Make and Do.  

It is also a good time.  Especially if you are five or seven.  When we first bought it a few years ago, though, we just ripped all the stickers out of it, stuck them all over our bodies, and ran around naked.  Then we never did anything with the book again, until tonight.

There is that terrible time between when we've finished dinner and when E. gets home and finishes his dinner.  It can become the tantrum hour if you let it.  The girls are prone to whininess and neediness in that half hour to hour, I'm antsy and distracted, and I don't want them to watch tv, it's too dark to play outside, and they're too grumpy to play nicely together.

So I typically try to make this weird hour "Family ________ Time."  The blank gets filled in with lots of things:  reading, knitting, art, writing, crafts.  Last week when I was trying to finish those damned Twilight books there were a couple of Family Reading Times.  It still amazes me that we can do this now that Nolie is reading chapter books.  Then there was Family Art Time, where I brought down the pastels Grambie gifted them a while back, the "special" markers (i.e., the ones that I don't want lost or chewed up), sequins, and glue.  And we went for it.  But other nights it's just white paper and markers, and that's fine, too.  And we're all knitting now, so that also works.

The key is to keep it short, maybe play some nice music in the background, have good, clear workspaces and defined boundaries, and offer lots of encouragement.  Oh, and be ready to ditch if people aren't into it.  Sometimes one feels like knitting and then one starts knitting and realizes one would rather be dancing instead.  In which case "Family Dance Party Time" should ensue.

Anyway, tonight's masterpieces were fairy castles.  Here's Addie's:

And Nolie's:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Things Seem Like It, Then They Aren't

It turns out Nolie wasn't just sad, but sick.  She had 10 days of antibiotics for that impetigo, and then a gnarly virus came and took her down, too.  As always, it's hard to tell when she's sick because it just seems like she's getting grumpier and grumpier and then finally her head spins around and she spits blood at you and you figure out, "Oh!  She's not just being cranky!  She's sick!"  In this case, she was just exhausted and had no appetite and she kept moaning around the house that we were the "woost pawents evah" because we wouldn't let her jump off the tree, or eat flames, or whatever ridiculous thing she was requesting at the moment in her delirium. So it was a virus that turned our normally sweet, loving five-year-old into a shrieking, hateful Maury Povitch guest.  This made it a little hard to access my empathic response.

Then, Friday night, she pretty much refused to go to bed altogether, even though she was burning up (despite the fact that I couldn't get the thermometer to catch a fever) and clearly dead-tired and completely wench-like.  By 3am neither E. nor myself were exactly our best selves, and some yelling may have happened.  Some unhappy memories were formed, primarily for me and E., since Nolie seems to have mostly forgotten the whole thing.  I am still tired from the whole ordeal and wondering who absconded with my sweet baby child.  I am also a little afraid of her.  She is incredibly strong and stubborn.  I'm grateful she's not sick very often.  I'm also grateful she's not my size because she could whip my ass, no question.  I'm especially grateful that she started to get better today, because otherwise I was going to send her back to Russia.

We stupidly thought on Sunday afternoon that it would be fun to get out of the house and make our virgin pilgrimage to Denver's newish Ikea.  This was E's idea, actually.  Which I'm still scratching my head over, because if there is one thing that man hates, it is shopping.  If there is one thing I hate, it is shopping with him. Throw in the kids, one of who is grumpy-ass sick, and it's my least favorite way to spend any time, ever.  I have largely kicked my shopping addiction, but I still view it as enjoyable me-time when I do it, and these people do nothing but defile the practice.

I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say that by the time we got back I was in a deep funk, dissatisfied with my life and my husband and my children, and pissed that we had to leave the store in such a huff that I couldn't buy three of these:

The ones I wanted were white with gold light and on stands and would have looked lovely in my house for Christmas.  I'd show you a picture of the ones I actually wanted except I don't have them because of the awful people I live with.

It's best, after all, that we didn't bring more crap in the house.  I realize that now.  But at the time, I was pissed.  Also, I was pissed about being in the car with E., which is where he does his quiet-time thinking/brooding, and I sit there bored out of my wits looking out the window.  It was a long drive to that Ikea, and even longer home.  So enjoyable.

All in all, I'd say the trip to Ikea was not that fun.

But I'll be going back by myself one of these days, friends, so you'll all be getting Ikea-themed Christmas gifts this year.  And you better freaking appreciate them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nolie, Sad

Nolie had a bad day yesterday.  Or a bad afternoon, at least.  My guess is that school went okay--after lots of probing, I couldn't get her to identify anything bad that happened in class.  But after school, I think her blood sugar probably took a dump (thank you, stupid daylight savings time) and then she went to dance class, and because she missed the last two weeks (thank you snowstorm, thank you impetigo), she didn't know the moves.  She heard someone laugh at her messing something up, and it set her off.  She wouldn't talk on the way home.  She grunted and fussed.  She wouldn't eat dinner.  And the bad mood lasted until bedtime, when I crawled into bed with her to rub her back and tummy while she listened to music.  "The sadness won't last," I whispered to her.  "You'll feel better tomorrow."  She just rolled over and said, "I'd like to go to sleep now."

She's growing so fast.  Her face is getting longer, thinner.  I can feel her collarbones protrude now.  She's so much more independent.

Nolie's got big emotions, and lucky for us, they are usually happy ones.  She is incredibly expressive.  She laughs loud, rolling laughs.  She's empathetic and highly emotionally sensitive.  She loves to chat and tell stories and dance and move and be next to you.  She's perceptive, and genuinely interested in how you're feeling and what you're doing.  She needs a lot of positive feedback, and crumples at any negative feedback.  She's fastidious about what she wears, often changing her clothes several times before leaving the house, and she spends a lot of time on her hair (though it doesn't always look like it).  Girly! She's so loving, and needs so much love, affection, and approval.

Friends ask me if I see myself in my kids, and this is always a question I struggle with.  Yes.  No.  Sometimes.  Always.  Never.  These things that Nolie is blessed with and struggles with--big moods, attraction to drama, experiencing life so fully it's sometimes painful, hyper-attention to the reactions of others, total physicality, big caring, big self-focus--are so familiar to me.  Though I have a hard time recalling much of my childhood, I remember experiencing all of these things from a very young age.  And at the same time, I'm not Nolie.  She's having her very own experience here on the planet.  I can't know what she's thinking or how things are in her head.

I also have the same experience, identifying with Addie--the need for quiet, intense focus, introversion.  The desire to make others laugh.  The self-consciousness.  The inability to control my limbs.  Physical sensitivity.  Artistic expression.  Highly verbal.  Sweet.  Resilient.  Stubborn.  Struggling to find kindness.  Not caring what others think about her appearance.  Being a tomboy.  Totally immersed in the natural world.  An intense hold on people and objects.  Some opposites, in many ways, of the things Nolie is blessed with and struggles with.

So maybe it's not so much that our kids become us, or even take after us (though they may).  That's a whole lot to take on ourselves, and it denies them agency, free will, independence, self-expression.  We impact our kids, certainly, but they aren't necessarily doomed (or delighted) to replicate who we are.  Instead, maybe there is a suite of human experiences, and our kids go through those at different times and in different ways, according to their ages and personalities.  And we have intense body, emotional, and mental memories of going through those things ourselves, so we see it and think, "There.  She is like me," or "Aha.  She is definitely more like her father."  But maybe we're just remembering going through the world ourselves, and figuring it out, and we are noticing our children doing the same thing.  How they handle those experiences may be informed by personality, which perhaps they get from us.  But it's something else, too.  Their own individual experience with life.  So we just rub their backs and do our best to help them through the sadness, knowing they will fly through the good times on their own without our help.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And, finally, a quiet Sunday.

I think Sunday mornings are just about my favorite things in the world right now.  Sleeping in, having a cup of tea or--a real treat--a cup of coffee, eating a big breakfast.  I woke up earlier than I would have liked this morning because I was a little sore from my second half-marathon yesterday and then I started thinking about the race and couldn't fall back asleep.  Even though I didn't train for this one, it went really well.  The running felt easy, it was a cold day, and I have the hydration thing down now.  I really like running with my friends, which was something I never would have predicted.  I'm nowhere near as sore today as I was after the first one.  I still got sick about an hour after the race, and my crew (the Honey Badgers) thinks it's because I'm not eating enough right before I run.  So I'll try that next time.  But it was a good confidence-builder.

The girls have been missing me so I promised them each a date.  Nolie got hers earlier this week when she stayed home from school because she had impetigo--a rash on her face, and feeling pretty sluggish.  But not so sluggish that she didn't want to curl up with mama and do some crafts, watch a movie, and go have lunch at Noodles.  Which is her favorite, and only, place in the world to eat out.

Addie got to have her date today.  E. took Nolie to have her last soccer game of the season, and Addie chose to stay home, look through her bead collection, with me by her side observing and chatting, have lunch at Noodles (we're predictable, at least) and learn how to crochet.  She chose a soft, pinkish-brown yarn, and is making her own scarf.  Both girls stick to us like glue these days, probably due to the busy-ness of the past few weeks and the turning of the seasons.  But I thought it was interesting that, given carte-blanche for their dates, they both only wanted to be close to me, quietly working at home.  I'm sure in a few years that won't be the case anymore.

I won't have my feelings hurt that they didn't choose my home cooking for lunch.

After Nolie got home, she wanted to do what the big girls were doing, so I got her going on some finger knitting.

And pretty soon, while E. watched the football games, all the girls were busy working on their yarn crafts.  A perfect Sunday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Around Here

For the first time in a while, tonight, I have a sense of well-being.

Don't get me wrong.  Things have been good!  I've had peaceful moments, happy moments, wild-ass moments, hilarious moments.

But walking out of Addie's room tonight, having kissed her good night, I had the feeling of everything being alright, Bob Marley-style.

I re-arranged my office, which I like to do after recovering from a stretch of over-work.  This bout of over-work was stressful but fulfilling, and I'm getting better at telling myself that there's only so much I can do.  I'm also, finally in this fifth year on the tenure-track, maybe getting a little better at what I do.  The little bit of confidence helps.  But it was a rough few weeks, nonetheless, and two of my best friends are having a heck of a time of it, and I wanted to be there for them and couldn't.  My kids needed me, and I wasn't really there for them, either.  The balance just tilted toward work for a while, as it does every now and then, and am so now I'm digging out.

I also sent out the email telling interested folks I have given up on reJuJu for a while, which I needed to do, because it hadn't really worked out the way I wanted to (I didn't have the time to commit, and it didn't gel enough to work out).  And when you're stuck with something that's not working, I think it blocks up your creativity flows like a plug.  Your big creativity butt has a plug in it.  And everything you make feels like a big, stuck poo.

Something like that.  Clearly I need to work on my metaphors some more.

The point is, when you fail, it's best just to look at the failure, acknowledge it, say your sorry's, and move the hell on.

Anyway, the studio is opened up, cleaned out, moved around, and I finally want to be in here without having a sense of guilt or of things undone or of piles of messes around.  I'm actually knitting again.  We're headed into the final third of the semester.  Addie lost her second tooth in two days today, and Nolie has impetigo (go google image that one, if you'd like some nightmares).  Or at least that's what the doctor said.  We're somewhat unconvinced.  It snowed five inches this morning.  I'm reading Twilight, because I'm finicky about seeing movies before I've read books, sometimes, and the disc is up first in our queue.

That's the update.  All is well.  I have Halloween pictures to post soon, and the calendar has magically cleared for a few weeks.  So there may be some hunkering down and cocooning and preparing for winter around these parts.