Thursday, February 20, 2014


It has come to our attention that we are countercultural as parents.

We didn't intend to be.  Some of the things we've done since the boys were born have since been considered trendy or en vogue.  We didn't just do natural childbirth, we did the Bradley method.  I nursed on demand.  Sometimes, but not all the time, the boys ended up in our bed.  We didn't linger too long with the jarred baby foods.  I "wore" them when they were small enough and my back would allow it.  I learned to look to homeopathic treatments for some ailments and illnesses.  They've both been seeing a chiropractor regularly for several years.  But we did all our vaccines on time.  I bathed them everyday.  I never have been able to stomach the cost of organic stuff.  We've never been opposed to going to an urgent care for antibiotics when the illness warranted it. 

Some of our decisions have flipped us from one side of the coin to the other, probably confusingly so to an outsider's perspective.  We removed them from their Catholic school.  We put them in public school.  They did a year of traditional CCD/Sunday School/Religious Ed at our parish.  We didn't return and chose the homeschool option for Religious Ed.  We limit their screen time, but they both have a DS and we regularly add to their Wii and DS game collections for Christmas and birthdays.  Matt even rebuilt one of his old desktop computers so they have a just for them computer.  We don't have Dish or Direct TV or even cable and only have one tv in the house.  But we put our Netflix subscription to good use. 

We suspect that even those few details might not appear too countercultural.  We're closet countercultural.  It creeps out sometimes with their chore charts but no allowance, the home enthronement and family altar and when we flat out say no to one more extracurricular activity.  It has been out their loud and clear though this week.  In one week's time, both boys were invited to birthday parties with what is apparently the latest and greatest party thing - a game trailer.  I guess it is the equivalent of the kid who was lucky enough to have a pony at their party.  And all the kids want to go.  And all the kids want to have it.  Our boys would have loved to go. And we would have loved to let them.  The game choices are diverse.  They have a wide selection of popular games and all the information about ratings are available.  The party throwing parents make the decisions and have to give permission for those games rated M.

Those games rated M.  We don't play them.  Matt and I don't play them.  Well, he has and might consider some but not with or in front of the boys.  He likes his Crysis game, but hasn't played it since the boys were old enough to accidentally see anything over his shoulder.  Our boys have never even seen a rated M game being played.

Matthew's party was a Halo party.  After much fretting, asking around and researching, we said no.  We made up some lame excuse with the rsvp about having a family obligation.  I was disappointed that a parent would throw a party for a group of 9 and 10 year old boys and just assume it'd be ok with everyone that they play Halo.  I was even more disappointed when Matthew said everyone else went.  One kid had a doctor's appointment.  Matthew had his "family obligation." 

I was just recovering from this soul searching dilemma and crushing Matthew's eager hopes when a party invite arrives for Josh.  I had to leave the mom a voicemail accepting the invitation - a generic game trailer postcard with no indication of what theme or games the 6 and 7 olds will be playing.  I asked her to call me because I did have a couple questions....She didn't call but we did run into each other in the parking lot. 

Halo and Call of Duty.

There are 5 systems and screens in the trailer.  The kids can choose other games but Halo and Call of Duty would be on at least one of the systems because the birthday boy and his uncles play it.  They would definitely be playing Halo and Call of Duty.


I muttered and mumbled and oh, well, we don't allow them to play mature games.  We don't do rated M games at our home.  Then spent the rest of the day in turmoil.

I ended up calling that afternoon and leaving a voicemail, taking back our previous rsvp of yes.  No.  Joshua wouldn't be able to attend because we don't want him exposed to those sort of games at this age.

I wonder how many other parents even thought to ask what games would be at the 7 year old's party?  I wonder how many would even care?

We did.  We do.  And with that, we're going to be outed.  We are THOSE parents.  The ones who won't even let their kids attend a party with that game or movie or what have you.  We'll be the ones calling and asking.  We'll be the ones checking on the chaperone situation of this and that party.  We'll be the ones with the kids who won't get their OWN phones for a very long time.  Who won't have a Facebook or Twitter account.  Who will have a curfew.  Who won't have their own car.  Who won't be dating until their 16.  Who won't ever be up on all the latest and greatest music and movies because they aren't allowed to listen or watch crap.

And they'll probably be in marching band too.

Maybe the hardest part is not being countercultural, but knowing that for the boys it's not going to be easy.  It'll be awkward at best.  A good friend encouraged us to find like-minded parents to surround ourselves with, Matt agreed but said the swimming pool will be small. 

The swimming pool will be small.  But at least it will be clean and our kids will know how to swim.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yarn Along: Shredder, Take 4 and Something or Two Simple

Shredder is finally really and truly in progress.  It has taken 4 times to get it moving along properly.  That's a lot of frustration, ripping, redoing, ripping and redoing.  The most I've had to restart a project has been 3 times.  4 was almost 1 too many more times than I can stand.  I've written out the pattern a couple times, drawn it and worked swatches.  It appears to be on the right track this time.

For Christmas, I made Joshua this hat.  For some reason, it came out way too big in every which way.  I tried felting it.  It helped, but not enough.  I could probably felt it more, but Josh likes it the way it is - he just needs a few years to grow into it.  I pulled some yarn from the stash - Lamb's Pride Worsted in Tormented Teal - and am making him a Hurricane Hat, per his request.  He's anxious for me to finish.  I'm enjoying having something so mindless to knit alongside the infamous Shredder.

While in the stash, I pulled out some bulky yarn called Kabir.  It is apparently discontinued and the link is the best I can do.  It was on a clearance rack in a LYS that was closing last summer.  It was $1 a ball.  One fell off the shelf on me as I was trying to decide if I should get it or not.  I bought all 6 that they had.  I told my husband I had to buy it.  I decided on a simple shawl after much hemming and hawing through Ravelry and my stacks of magazines.  The yarn is busy.  I think something with a simple shape will allow the yarn to just do its thing - anything fussier would get lost in the busy and bulk of the yarn. 

I'm nearing the end of Anne of Green Gables.  I'll likely go straight into the next in the series.  I am loving reading this again.  My perspective as an adult reading it is different than when I was just barely 12 or 13.  I appreciated Marilla Cuthbert before, but I see her in such a different light now.  I like her, whereas before I had trouble liking her.  I loved and still love Anne.

Back to Small Things!

Monday, February 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Is February Really Half Over?!

1-  Matthew is 10.  I screwed up his birthday on the registration forms for Little League.  I'm in denial.

2- Both boys are all signed up for Little League.  The season starts April 21st.  They'll be done about the same time school lets out.  Apparently our area starts and ends early because it interferes with people's vacations...or vice versa.  Sitting on the sidelines and in the dugouts in April is not fun.  At least this year I have a good chunk of what we're calling the Baseball Blanket already knit.  It will keep me warm as I work on it during practices and games that I'm able to attend.  It's a log cabin style knit.  It started with all the remaining balls of Lion Brand's Homespun I had from completed projects.  I've picked up new skeins here and there on sale as my stash is depleted and I add more log cabin strips.  It's not perfect, as it gives me plenty of time to practice picking up stitches, but it's warm.

3- Josh's first guitar lesson is tonight.  He's excited but apprehensive.  I am too.  His teacher comes highly recommended...and to the house!  She was in the first class of seniors I ever taught nearly 13 years ago.  It was my first year teaching.  It wasn't a good year.  Being barely 4 years older than my students didn't help.  Neither did not having anything that resembled a respectable curriculum.

4- Valentine's Day was low key for us.  It always is.  We've never had a Valentine's date since the kids came along.  We seldom get dates, period.  So the four of us shared the box of chocolate covered strawberries Daddy brought home and savored the pie with the heart shaped crust Mommy made and watched the Olympics.

5- The boys are home from school today.  They spent over 2 hours outside building tunnels in the piles of snow along the driveway.  They had all manner of digging tools out there.  They were soaked through their snow gear.  They came in for a hot lunch and cocoa and were sent upstairs to shower and put on clean jammies.  It's a jammy/sweat pants day.

6- Banshee went for a walk yesterday.  It prompted the bath that I've been putting off.  She was clean and fluffy afterwards.  The bathroom and I were soaked.  After her blowdrying, she took off downstairs and tried to climb into Daddy's lap.  She's finally speaking to me again.

7- The boys went to Chautauqua with their grandparents yesterday afternoon.  They went for a sleigh ride and played on an ice castle, saw ice fishermen and brought home marshmallow guns.  Banshee likes marshmallows.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Not a Yarn Along: I'm Beginning to Hate This

I'm not even bothering to share this post.

I figured out the sleeve set up and increase last week.  It took drawing and writing everything out but I understood what the pattern was telling me to do.  I cast on and knit on.

Then came the raglan increases.  They started out fine enough.  However, I was completely confused by the keep new stitches in pattern part as it related to the ribbing.  I plugged along and made what looked to be a royal mess of things.  I spent a considerable amount of time trying to tink (knit spelled backwards - which means I was carefully unworking stitch by stitch going backwards).  After about half an hour and not even a full round tinked, I ripped it out.  Otherwise known as frogging because it sounds like a frog....RIPPPPIT.  Then I stared at it and several more Ravelry postings of other people's Shredders until 1 o'clock in the morning.

After a miserable and depressing morning, and almost two hours with scrap yarn and scrap paper and the pattern, I've swatched the raglan portion according the directions with no success....without directions with no success....more staring at the computer and trying again according to the directions.  Then,

Dumb shit, to myself I said.

The increases are increasing the sleeve on one side and the body on the other.  I can't make the ribbing work across that marker because it's not supposed to - it's separate.

I hope that now I finally can knit this sweater in peace.  And Matt better wear it all of the stinkin' time....if I can stand to look at it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

7 Quick Takes: February Means Sickness

1- February always seems to bring illness.  Last year, every week one of the boys was home for almost the whole week, sick with something or another.  Last week, we barely avoided the stomach flu and over half my students cancelled for sickness or weather.  The day after Matthew's big family birthday party, he woke sniffly and congested.  He's home from school sick today.  He's not the most cooperative sick person.  He's the one that identified the few things he could do to stay on top of school work.  It took him all morning to complete some assignments that should have taken half an hour.  This is not because he's that desperately ill or tired.  He just found dozens of other things he could do without actually doing anything.

2 - It's snowing.  Again.  It doesn't bother me half as much as it bothers other people.  I'd prefer snow to rain.  I dread that end of winter/early spring season when the dog is covered in mud, the kids are covered in mud, and everyone tracks mud into the house from 3 different directions. This situation might be somewhat improved if some of my students walked up the drive and used the walk instead of insisting on cutting through the year.  I had a hard time saying anything.  Cleaning up my floor is nothing to how they are destroying their shoes - and if their parents don't care...

3 - We'd rather be cold than hot in our family.  We won't complain about the cold.

4 - I'm going to be an Aunt again, very soon.  This is a source of endless joy, obviously.  I'm also darned excited to have Faith stay over.  We're going to paint our toenails and she can take a bath in my bubble tub.  We'll go to the library - maybe a story time if there's one scheduled.  I'll take her out to lunch.  Maybe we'll meet Uncle Matt for coffee at Starbucks if he goes into work.  She'll get to go pick up her cousins at school.  We're going to go shopping for a bear for her brother.  .... I am worried about the whole sleeping thing though.

5 - I get her little dog too.  This is tolerable.  He's cute.  He's lucky he's cute.

6 - I think I figured out the Shredder pattern.  It's coming along.  I'm on the raglan increase part and the biggest challenge is figuring out the ribbing as I add the increases.  I seem to get it well figured the second time around after each increase, which means any awkwardness looks to be hidden in the actual increase.  Anyone who picks up awkwardness in those single stitches in those increases is standing far too close to and looking way to hard at my husband. 

7 - Lots of pictures....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yarn Along: Shredder Always Was a Bad Guy

Want to see picture of my WIP, the Shredder Pullover?

This is it post-frogging.  Post staying up until 1:30 am Tuesday morning trying to rationalize figuring out all the commentary on its Ravelry page versus just picking a different pattern.

I loved this pattern the moment I saw it in this issue of Interweave nearly 5 years ago now.  I always intended to make it for my husband.  I started.  Stopped.  Frogged.  Recalculated yarn.  Bought different yarn.  And tried to break my self in on other sweaters, top down raglans.  So much so, I made my son a top down raglan cardigan with nothing but the cable pattern for the sleeves he picked from a stitch dictionary.  I thought I was ready.  I thought surely now I will understand this sleeve increase and raglan increase the writer has going on.  No.  I surely do not understand.  And judging from other people's work, I'm not alone.  Many have chalked it up to a poorly written pattern.  I am inclined to agree.  Not that I think it was deliberate, but that it is a result of perhaps someone thinking what they see in their head is intuitive and other will surely see it.  Then, lucky them, getting a technical writer and tester who has the same screw loose in their noggin.  Thus allowing this pattern to slip through the cracks to the anxious hands of the general masses, who perhaps just don't see those steps having the same logical progression that these bat-crazy people obviously did.

It's still a beautiful sweater.

I'm giving myself one more chance at it.  My way.  All other WIP done and swept aside.  Anne of Green Gables left alone on my nightstand.  Pride and Prejudice, episode 3, turned off until I get something started and some rhythm going.  I plan to tear the pattern itself apart and rewrite it.  Not just notes, but rewrite it.  I can't make heads or tails of other kind knitters' notes on what they did or didn't do on Ravelry.  Generous of them to offer and perhaps a smarter head can mesh those notes and the original pattern.  But I still keep coming up with markers that don't make sense and repeats that don't fit. 

If that doesn't work, I have two other contenders.  Pretty and on the to-do list.  But I've been waiting a long time to see my husband wear a Shredder Pullover.

 and later that day...

I think I got it.  I had to draw it, then color code and highlight both my drawings and my rewrite.  The pattern doesn't appear to have an error but it seems in an effort to be concise it sure as heck is unclear.  

Back to Small Things....

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Rapid Fire

1. Another reason to appreciate being a stay-at-home by day, Josh knows he can call me because he forgot his shoes.  He understands if I'm running errands in town or babysitting his cousin, he may be out of luck.  But when he knows I'm home, he knows I'll put down my just reheated cup of coffee and bring him his sneakers.

2.  Banshee is about ready for a bath.  I waste just enough time researching groomers that it to be too late to give her one.  Try again tomorrow...or tomorrow...or tomorrow...or this weekend when there's another pair of hands to help.

3.  To explain a recent frustration over a poorly written pattern to Matt, I said this, "It's like code that's f'ed up.  The person who wrote it somehow made it work in their environment.  But then you get it and when you test it in your environment, it won't work.  It just won't work because it's f'ed up."  I either understand his language enough to make sense or enough to be cute in my nonsense.

4.  My first born baby bear is turning 10 on Thursday.  I will have had to bake 3 times this week before it's all done.  I just finished a fresh batch of breakfast cookies for the boys' snacks.  I have to make him cake batter brownies for Thursday.  For Saturday, I will make giant cupcakes for his aunts who also celebrate this weekend.  I do not like baking a whole lot, so this is a big deal.  It also further illustrates the ironic humor that is the fancy gourmet baking cookbook I received for Christmas.  Beautiful.  Delicious sounding.  Probably a pretty coffee table book unless I get brave or crazy.

5.  That f'ed up pattern?  I was up until 1:30 am ripping out what I'd done so far.  Then looking for a different pattern I like just as well.  I found two contenders, but still don't like them half as much as the look of what the other one would be...or could be.  I will give myself one chance to try it again.  Actually, I'm going to try to rewrite the pattern, based on what I know about knitting raglan top down sweaters.  I just have to figure out the left leaning stitch thing to make the cable do what it's supposed to...this is my biggest challenge.  It will require mathematics, spatial relations, scrap paper, markers and chocolate.  So much for knitting quietly and watching another episode of Pride and Prejudice this afternoon. *insert sad face*

6.  I smell cookies baking...burning....nope, just baking.  Phew.

7.  I should probably insert more pictures into these things.  I need to figure out a more efficient way to do that.  In the meantime, here is a picture of Joshua.  A trip to Meadville to meet a friend for lunch was our big adventure that day.  He read the entire Flat Stanley book on the 30 minute trip down, then after a full belly of shrimp, mac n cheese and lemonade decided a nap was in order.