Sunday, December 30, 2007

Beaten by a hat

There was a lot of knitting done for Christmas this year: felted slippers for mom, socks for my mother in law, several scarfs, a couple of hats, a shawl, two sweaters for little girls and a sweater vest for my grandma.

And then there was the project that made me want to curl up and cry -- The hat for my grandfather.

A wonderful beret that was perfect for him. Pop loves his tams and berets, and when I saw that pattern I knew I had a winner.

Or I would have if only I could get the right gauge for the brim. I'm about to rip it out and try it again for the third time.

Christmas Eve, Pop got his package to open -- a partially knit beret because I just had a feeling that it was still going to be too small, after going up a needle size once already. Had I finished it -- the not fitting part probably would have reduced me to a sobbing mess. Sure enough as I tried it on him the brim didn't stretch quite far enough.

Currently the hat is back in my work basket serving a time out while I do a couple of quick baby projects that I need for my sister-in-laws shower at the end of January. Somehow the charm of dusty rose merino wool sprinkled with crystal beads makes everything right in the world.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The perfect Christmas present

On Sunday we did Christmas with my inlaws. At one point as the afternoon became the evening -- the presents had been opened and we were enjoying some of Nana's pies -- my husband was sitting with Nikki at the table and was entertaining the family with "party tricks."

He asked Nikki if she wanted to do her ABCs - with the intention of having her repeat them letter by letter after he said them. She had other plans.

After nodding yes and Nikki immediately started saying and signing the ABCs.

Nothing remarkable for the majority of 4-year-olds but for Nikki it was a moment that almost had me crying into my banana cream pie.

Mothers are always proud of their children's accomplishments, but I was about bursting as I sat at that table. One of the best lessons Nikki has taught me is that the ordinary very often can become extraordinary when it requires lots of patience and hard work.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A stitch in good time

It’s Friday evening, prime time for knitting. The children are settled, all snug on the sofa, while visions of VeggieTales bounce from the DVD player. Ma’s got the old sock project out, weary eyes squinting at the tiny stitches. Gauge: 7½ stitches to an inch on size 2 needles for a size 12 man’s foot.
My television flips between "Inside Edition" and "Extra" — fluff, to be sure, but salve for a trying day.
Now I remember why I haven’t vacuumed for a couple months, I thought that morning, instead relying upon the comparatively silent broom to sweep up gray puffs of dust, food crumbs and dirt.
You can’t surreptitiously vacuum without alerting the 4-year-old. It’s cumbersome and loud. You might be able to sneak it from the utility closet without him noticing if he’s otherwise occupied, but as soon as you press the "on" switch, he’ll appear like a shot, whining, "I wanna do it! I never get to do it for a long, long time!" — crying, screaming, then finally throwing things as I desperately suck up a few extra grains of sand before admitting defeat.
Why don’t they build houses with sound-proof play rooms that lock on the outside and a glass wall, like police interrogation rooms or radio station sound booths, for moments such as these? I could then vacuum merrily, might even dress the part in housecoat and apron, while aforementioned 4-year-old motions wildly — and silently — for "his turn?" Or, Mr. Down Under-accented Dyson inventor, how about a stealth vacuum for this very instance? It could hover above the floor, eliminating the telltale sound of rolling wheels on hardwood, and in a whirlwind of noiseless military precision, suck the grime from every nook of your home in minutes? Or, even better, a self-cleaning house: said hover vacuum could run continuously, powered on renewable energy of course, so the dirt never has a chance to settle. Preschooler fascination would quickly wane as its ever presence would subvert it to an everyday appliance. Problem solved.
Now if I only could solve the problem of the never-finished second sock: mate to the patient singleton pictured at left; before it joins in exasperation.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A benefit for all

My daughter was born with Down Syndrome, and so while she is only 4-years-old my husband and I have some serious concerns about providing for her future.

For us that means more than making sure we put some money away for college.

But it's a minefield.

Do we put away money and hope that we don't negatively impact her ability to get health insurance through Medicaid, if she ever needs it, or even to qualify for Social Security. Or do we not put anything in her name and hope the current social safety nets don't disappear.

Just today I found a notice from the National Down Syndrome Society in my e-mail inbox.
There's an alternative being offered up, but Congress needs to act. And so far none of Connecticut's delegation to the House of Representatives have stepped up to help co-sponsor the bill.

In very simplistic terms the bill (HR 2370) would establish a savings vehicle similiar to that of 529 college savings plans. What is allowed for withdrawals from the account is much broader but in theory that's how it would work.

A big bonus is that these accounts are designed not to impact Social Security and Medicaid benefits.

According to the NDSS: "Important aspects of the bill include: Anyone can contribute to the financial security of a loved one; Accounts are to be used for qualified expenses not compensated for by insurance or other sources: Educational expenses, Medical and dental care Employment training and support, After the age of 18, housing and transportation expenses, Moving, Assistive technology, and Community-based support services; Contributions are capped at $500,000."

Now these accounts would benefit more than just those with Down Syndrome. Any family who has to plan for a child who has a disability would benefit from a long-term planning tool.

Please take a minute and think if anyone you love is facing the troubling problem of planning for the future of a child with special needs and then contact your state's representatives and ask them to sponsor (and vote) for this bill.

Take Action!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

An ode to natural fibers

It all began with a mitten. Or two, really: in chunky sage-green and white wool. Each stitch was knit fair isle style in a perfect V, interlocking, row after row. Linked by a simple ribbon, handmade and pricey — $32. Oh, how I longed to knit like this, I thought. Sell my creations — art, really, at Wesleyan Potters, here with the felted vessels, purses, woven scarves and shawls. Muted and vibrant, earth- and jewel-toned — I could get lost here.
At home, I picked up my size 9 bamboo needles. I’d found them in a bin of clearance items in a yarn store tucked at the back of a West Hartford center mall years ago. Which was precisely why it was closing shop: foot traffic from the bank and jewelers on the populated Farmington Avenue side rarely led to this crafter’s haven. Palm-sized skeins of crimson worsted merino, soft as silk, were nesting in a basket. I’ll take these, I said, grabbing three.
But, as a young adult, I didn’t know how to cast on correctly, didn’t have a knitter to ask, and lacked the drive to consult a book at the library. Soon confounded, I passed the wool along to the Salvation Army.
Fingering the mittens, I realized I hadn’t knit regularly for years. Two boys, 4 and 10, leave me little discretionary time. In fact, the older one has taken to saying, "What’s more important, knitting or me?"
My younger child is more understanding, when he wants me to come to his toys to marvel at his arrangement or wants company as he’s playing, he’ll say, "You can do your knitting here," patting the couch, even if I’m doing something else. Then proceed to chatter incessantly, nixing any hope of following a pattern more difficult than knit 1, purl 1.
Still, I persist knitting. Sneaking in a few rows here and there, I finish a rich red scarf in a mohair-lamb’s wool blend: two skeins take three months. The time it takes to complete the scarf can’t entirely be attributed to motherly responsibilities. Perfectionism must share the blame. But, with such good reason.
You see, about a year ago, I alighted upon Farmhouse Yarns and become a convert. To wool, that is. In the Tylerville section of Haddam is a new store, Connecticut Yarn and Wool Co., LLC, which carries the full line of Carol Martin’s yarns. A Mecca, really, for fiber enthusiasts, who Martin says, make pilgrimages from as far away as California.
Naturally hand-dyed Avocado, Golden Pear, Salmon, Brick Red, Grasshopper, Juniper, Maple Sugar, Paprika, Pink Sand and dozens more artfully named are flecked with bits of hay or plant matter.
She even makes I’m Allergic To Wool in cotton for those (like me) who sniffle and sneeze their way around wool items.
Something primal overcomes me as I search out color combinations at the store. I must have this, I think, oooh … and this, here. I lug home overflowing shopping bags bursting with color. Then out the skeins tumble upon the couch, as I caress each one, mulling over its possibilities.
Now I can’t simply knit. I’ve a greater allegiance beyond the craft’s repetitious stitches. Each knit, purl or slip, slip, knit must be perfect: there’s integrity in my work now. It’s a loyalty of sorts to the sheep whose shorn coat I loop into hats with curling brims, scarves with ruffled ends, and mittens with ribbed cuffs.
The boys call — shriek, really — interrupting my fiber-induced reverie. Some one or another has hurled a wooden train track, striking an eye full-on. The injured one yelps, then writhes on the ground in pain, yelling for help. The thrower tumbles to the ground himself, feigning injury, to avoid blame.
It’s chaos out there.
But here, as I manipulate four wooden size 6 needles for just a few seconds more, eking out another stitch or two, it’s calm. I finish turning my heel and the cacophony subsides.
I push the stitches to the center of each needle, fold the sock carefully, then zip my plastic bag. Time to check the damage.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Wish

It seems the baby has to ask Santa for one thing. He's cutting his first teeth (which explains the rather cranky 5-month-old at some points last week), now the question is will they be up in time for Christmas.

The first has broken through and we can see the bump for the second one - so now it's just a race against time. 9-days and counting

I keep singing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" to him. Thankfully he giggles when I sing, unlike his sister who tries to tell me to stop.

Baby giggles are the best.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


This blog will be a place for both Cassandra and I to share our adventures in parenting, our attempts to balance home, work and time for ourselves. And as you'll learn we both knit (a lot).

We hope you'll check in frequently and comment regularly in response to our posts.