Thursday, December 24, 2009

Linda Ronstadt

These last couple of weeks have been for deep thoughts and reckless reflection. You don't want to wallow too far or too long, especially around the holidays...don't know what it is, but despite being a time for joy and peace and brotherhood, it also often seems to be a time for melancholy, and being overwhelmed and underprepared can add to the feeling of drifting.

But, circumstances being what they are...I can't help but feel myself being pulled, emotionally, every-which-way. For the first time in my entire life, there was no Christmas celebration on my dad's side of the family. I'm trying, gently, to get everybody together for pizza and potluck for this weekend, but it's slow going, my friends. I, suddenly, find myself completely available this weekend, as our White Christmas was unceremoniously put on hold ~ indefinitely ~ by my mom, who continues to be worried sick. We were set to be in a cabin, stringing popcorn, as of yesterday and through Monday, but it wasn't meant to be.

BUT, Mimi is MUCH better than I thought she would be...though by no means "out of the woods" she was awake, social, and in quite a bit of pain. Also, totally exhausted by our visit. :-| And, as she regaled us with tales of the emergency room and cracked hilarious jokes about her nursing staff in ICU, I was crocheting away (I still have hope that these last few little projects will be pulled off! haha!) it struck me...she's a storyteller. Not just that she's a ham (she is) or a card (she is), but that it's the way she moves through the's the way she processes things. Everything is real when she's finally told the story.

And. Hello. Hello, there! I am like that, too. It's something I realized about myself only in the last year or so. I do a lot of professional development for teachers, where I'm presenting on how to teach math/how kids learn math, and I always tell stories about the classrooms or the content, and it just struck me not too long ago that it's the way I move through the world. It was so curious to see it in action, in somebody else! In somebody that I love.

And here we come, full circle...I keep feeling these stories, bubbling to the surface, and I'm hesitant to land on them, because they are often little reminders of times gone by, of people no longer with me, of plans and dreams that fall by the wayside, and if I land on them long enough to capture them, I will feel that dark, sad, underbelly of the season of light. I just want to be totally present for my boys and for this day. So I am skimming through these days and, still, trying to sink into the goodness and memories that are being formed even as we live them.

(I very rarely edit what I'm writing's all very stream of consciousness...but I will tell you that I just reread the previous paragraph and changed it from one sentence to three and a half sentences. You're welcome.)

The other day, Tommy looked at me and said, "Is there anything you want for Christmas that costs less than $17.00?" (That's the entire contents of his wallet, I happen to know, so I hid a giggle and asked him to make me something.) "Sure!" he said, and went to work crocheting. Yes, you heard me right. He's crocheting. Be still my heart.

But, the point is (yes, I have one), that I had this rush of memory from being right around his age. My mom gave me and my brother some money, around ten bucks each, and dropped us off at Longs Drug Store in Dublin. We budgeted and shopped for our whole family, wandering the aisles and trying to find exactly the perfect gift that also didn't cost more than $1.40. I ended up buying my mom, I shit you not, a poster of Linda Rondstadt wearing short-shorts and roller skates. It looked something like this.

Now, please understand, my parents were 19 when they got married, and had three kids by the time they were 26 years old. My mom was probably not even 30 years old when I bought this for her. And do you know, she hung it on her closet door, and it stayed there for a few years? Right up until my dad started to remodel our house, in fact! ha! haha! That is still so funny to me! I have no idea what she though when she saw this poster; her house full of antiques, and watermelon wallpaper in the kitchen, and let's face it, macrame (it was the seventies!). But, she woke up every day to Legs MacGee up there, satin jacket and all, because she is somebody who knows how to live for that moment. I learned about sinking into the love from her.

And it pains me to see her, her own stories spread over the last fifty years of her friendship with Mimi bubbling up and wanting to be told...

Hmmm....I'm getting ready to end this in mid-sentence. Sorry! I just can't hold onto it long enough to make it 'right'. I guess I'll just chalk this up to needing to stay on the surface of things. I am happy and bright, I really am, but there's a lot of sadness around me these days, and I'm just going to have to leave it at that.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No Title

I was looking forward to going through some pictures (several hundred!) and recording a few CRAZY CUTE stories (in my humble opinion, of course! ;) from my kiddos...but instead, I'm getting ready to escort my mom up to the ICU, fingers crossed but preparing for the worst. Heavy sigh. Wish us luck, if Mimi doesn't bounce back from this, I can only tell you...well. I have no words for that. Better news and happier mood, I'm hoping, from the other side.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Love Him

Sometimes, when Tommy and I are driving around living our lives, I run down the many things I love about him. I start with 20 or 30 of my favorite things about him, then I wind down another 20 or so of particularly quirky Tommy-isms. I always end with the same one, though. I eventually tell him (and if I don't, he reminds me to say it) that I love him most and best of all, because he made me a mommy. Before I met Tommy, I wasn't anybody's mama, and he made me the happiest girl in the world when he was born.

He quietly nods; he knows the routine and words by heart. Still he needs to hear these things. I need to tell him these things.

There are so many things I want for him. I want him to find a love that will be a quiet peace in his heart. I know his heart will broken before that happens.

I want him to be bold. And I want him to be cautious. I want him to be both. I want him to find a way to be part of something big... bigger than himself. To figure out how to be a service.

I want to believe that somehow, we're giving him a past worth holding on to.

I want him to be creative. Tonight, when he told me "I can't..." twice. Once about the drums, once about a crocheted bracelet... not a breath disturbed my hurt, hurting for him....still hoping for him, and promising to spend more time with him, to support his creativity.

And earlier tonight, watching him belt out "Drummer Boy" at the top of his lungs...clear, beautiful, sweet. I want that for him, to find song and dance at every opportunity... to soak it up, before somebody tells him he's tone deaf. Before somebody tells him it's 'not cool'. I want him to believe there is joy in doing it just because it makes you happy, and to not worry about what anybody else thinks.

I want him to choose home, and family, and to know what it feels like to love his own children the same way I love him. I want a good life, for him.

And I can feel all these things, swelling over me, more and more each day, as I see how big he's getting. How he's growing up, and away from me, and I look at him and I know how this will end... but for every sadness I feel that he is, ultimately, leaving me, it is replaced with such deep pride and love, for who is now, and for who he is becoming.

Just this week, he ignored me when I was having a bad day (and took it out on him *sigh*) and instead of rightfully feeling sorry for himself, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me he was sorry I was having a hard day. Love. He saw me working hard and offered to wash the dishes with me, then asked me to show him how to run the laundry, so he could help. He folded the towels, got lost in a book, showed Scotty how to play a game, cleaned his desk without being asked, and I love him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Makes Me Want to Wag My Tail!

Oh dear. Can I tell you what came in the mail? This absolutely heavenly scarf and hat set made from handspun cashmere.

Oh, stop it.

Forgive me, but I have to suggest that you check out my friend Pamela's etsy shop. (Michelle, I think this one screams for you, and Maia, this is the one I think of for you!)

I've been wearing the scarf every day to work, and I can't tell you how many people have complimented me...especially on the color. I had originally thought I wanted a 'true baby pink', but Pamela wrote to let me know it was more 'coral', and not only was she right, but virtually every person I pass pauses just long enough to tell me how flattering the color is on me. They also insist on rubbing the scarf, which, whether they're trying to feel my boob or admire the cashmere, really, who could blame them either way? Go on, then.

It's funny, because you would think, being a 'maker' and all, that I would never purchase a hat and scarf set! I mean, look at this: three scarves I am making as we speak! The turquoise and purple were crocheted in lion brand chenille (poorman's cashmere, I suppose, since it's also soft! haha) for my nieces (matching hats to come!). Simple pattern below ** The red is knitted in a 2x2 ribbed pattern, for my cousin. Size 9 needles with a basic Bernat afghan yarn.

But, as a maker, I appreciate this scarf and cap even more than the average consumer, would be my guess. Handspun cashmere from Scotland? I do not doubt that I would not be able to purchase the fiber for what I paid for the set. Let alone that Pamela's husband is able to create these with machine knitting...seriously, 8 inches wide, 6 feet long, with cables, on what appears to be size 2 needles (picture knitting with toothpicks, my friend, and you'll be getting close)? It would be impossible for me to estimate how long it would take me to make this set, but what I can tell you is that I am sure I'm getting close when I say that there would be no few than 6 dropped stitches and at least a half dozen other mistakes visible to the naked eye.

I LOVE this scarf and hat!

I bought it to 'treat myself' to a little birthday present last week, and, perfectly so, my dear friend Monica made this quilted carry-all bag for me too. It's now a complete matching set, and while I admit that these aren't the most wintery colors I've ever seen, they are just the bright bit of sunshine that gets me through the dreary days of December.

Happy sigh!

** To make a simple scarf with this nice 'pebbly' effect, similar to seed stitch in knitting, it was easy to alternate single and double crochet stitches all the way across. These are started with 11 chains and a P hook. SC in second chain from hook, DC in next chain, SC in next chain, all the way across (ends with DC). Chain one, turn. (Chain one counts as first SC for the row, so skip the DC that ended the previous row and begin working in the next stitch, which is a SC). DC into each SC, SC into each DC, all the way across. Repeat! Can of corn. The general rule of thumb, by the way, when making a scarf, is to make the length the same as the height of the wearer. For my nieces (2nd grade and kindergarten) the scarves are each around 4 feet long. Each took one skein of Chenille "thick and quick" yarn.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Food is so Political

Is there some sort of legal standing on how many times you can say, "Please leave him alone" and "Please stop screaming" and "Give that back to him" and "I said don't do that" before, legally, you are considered insane? I'm just asking because I'm pretty sure I'm this close to going right over the edge.

And, having virtually nothing positive to say about parenting today, let's move on, shall we?

I read this article this weekend, from Prevention Magazine. They asked a bunch of 'experts' what people should eat, for the healthiest outcomes. There was no consensus, which doesn't surprise me at all. They just couldn't agree. But then they asked which foods people should not eat, and with this list of less than two handfuls of foods, they did come to agreement. (In case you can't read the article, in order: 1. canned tomatoes 2. corn-fed beef 3.microwave popcorn 4. non-organic potatoes 5. farmed salmon 6. milk with artificial hormones 7. conventional apples)

I'm sure there are other things, but I get so confused about all this. I mean, the experts (and I say 'experts' because I have no idea who they are, or what their credentials are) may have their own agendas. They seem heavy into organic farming, for example. Is that why they are so against the non-organics? Or is it the other way around...did they get heavily involved in the organics because they were already fed-up with what the pesticides, chemicals, and additives were doing to our food?

Tonight, I made a big salad with lots of veggies, a homemade dressing with oil and vinegar, some feta cheese and chopped raw walnuts, and then I added a few ounces of cooked salmon. It was delicious, and it should be so healthy ~ nuts and fish, with lots of omega-3s , lots of veggies and dark leafy greens. But as I was eating it (and enjoying the hell out of it), I couldn't help but wonder...were the peppers organic? The lettuce was. I'm pretty sure the onion wasn't. The salmon must be farmed, I am presuming, since it did not cost me eleventy-billion dollars for a one-pound fillet.

It's so easy to get crazy about food. At least, for me, it is. I try to eat healthy, to make good choices for my family...but it's so hard to sort out what the real threats are. Who does it serve to feed farmed salmon chicken crap? Seriously? Who does it serve, for that matter, to add corn syrup to everything? Here's where I get a little nutty...having the food industry making these decisions is a bit like handing over the keys to the hen house to the fox, am I wrong? Isn't that like asking the insurance companies how to do health reform? Or asking oil companies about the pros and cons of alternative energies? Isn't it just human nature to pick and choose any 'evidence' that might support what you already want to believe? And to subjugate or discredit any 'evidence' that is contrary to what you already want to believe?

Years ago, when the rBGh and rBST hormones came onto my radar (because I was buying milk for my kids) I switched to organic milk. Our family friends, who own a dairy farm, pretty much called bullshit on the organic milk. Is that true, though? I know they really, sincerely did believe it was true. But people really-sincerely believe lots of things that I'm pretty sure are totally crackerjack crazy. Which one is it? Do I have to get a PhD in sustainable agriculture and nutrition before I can negotiate the average grocery store?

For that matter, does the average grocery store even offer the alternatives that I'm told I need to seek out? Do they even carry grass-fed beef?

Sorry I'm all question-marky and if we were actually having this conversation, face-to-face, I'd probably have to admit that I'd be spitting on you, just a little bit, because yes, I'm that wound up. Some things are easy to give up ~ I prefer air-popped to microwave popcorn anyway, and I am very nearly set with my own tomatoes for most of my cooking needs ~ but other things are so cumbersome. When I was in college, I was pretty poor, and I can remember going to the corner market to look for a snack suitable to call 'lunch' (for under $2.50) and I would spend some time looking at nutrition information and ingredient lists, and eventually, I would leave with nothing to eat. Because I was incapable of making a healthy decision, given the options, and it was so overwhelming that I basically 'gave up' and left empty-handed.

That's a pretty extreme reaction! And, so you can sleep tonight, you should know I haven't missed a meal OR snack since 1997, believe that. Also, let me just add here, I'm not insensitive to the fact that it is only because I live in the US, a land of nearly embarrassing riches when it comes to the food and beverage choices we get to make, daily, that this is even an issue...I'm sure there are lots of people, with real problems, who would roll their eyes at the amount of energy I've already devoted to trying to figure all this out, I get that...but still, it shouldn't be this hard.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Hannukah!

Tommy's "best friend in the whole world" is a wonderful little boy who has an amazing family that we all love very much. Lucky, lucky us that these two boys are best buds. As Erik says, "Those two are always on the same page."

It's always a party at Mike and Amy's! And Friday was no exception. We headed over on a rainy afternoon (and it hasn't stopped raining since!) for a Hannukah celebration.

What do I know about being Jewish? Well, very little. One thing I like about just nearly every Jewish person I've ever met, is they are very willing (and very patient) to explain their beliefs, on a very intellectual level. Maybe it's because you're "born" Jewish, maybe because it's as much about culture and ethnicity as it is about religion, but whatever the case may be, they typically talk about their religion in the most nonchalant ways... I have never had the impression that they are interested in converting folks to their religion. The Jewish people I know don't really care what you think. It makes them very pleasant to speak to, in my experience.

Every holiday for me is about the food, to be honest. Would you look at these potato latkes? They were delish! With sour cream and applesauce, too!

Amy routinely busts out amazing meals for twenty of your closest friends like it's absolutely nothing at all. She whipped up a hundred latkes in between wrangling the kids, tripping over dogs, and keeping everybody's wine glass full. She's alright, I guess. :)

Brisket tastes good.

Amy helps the kids light the menorah candles. Love wee-little A_____ peering over the shoulder there!

After the candles were lit, the kids read round-robin style from a Hannukah primer brought over by Mike's sister. It was pretty cute! Then they sat around talking about what it meant, to believe that even one person can make a big difference. The kids brought up the example of taking care of the environment. Which led to a semi-political, certainly progressive, rant on the issues of the day, from health care reform to climate change, to the war in Afghanistan to who-knows-what.

Which totally reminded me of something that my dear Maia's friend Julie told me at a dinner before Maia's wedding. Julie lives in New York, and I thought she was fab. [Edited three sentences because, according to Erik, "I don't know how the internet works." :)]

Anyway, I was grilling Julie on 'all things Jewish' and she was right there, good to go. One of the things she said was that when they go to the synagogue, they get a passage to study for the week. Families are encouraged to spend the week reading about the passage, arguing about what it means, and debating its application to their lives. She said you are actually encouraged to not accept it at face value, but rather to wrestle into your lives as a real and highly tested idea. So unexpected! Anyway, what she said after that cracked me up: "That's why you see so many Jewish lawyers; we've been debating, arguing, and calling out over each other our whole lives." Heh. I can't remember if she's a lawyer or not, but that's so cute, regardless.

So I can't say I was surprised by the (nearly complete) lack of religious talk, but rather a spirited political debate, to bring in the evening meal. Amy had little canvas bags for the kids to decorate for their "gelt" (chocolate gold coins and dreidels!) and a little craft present for each of the kids, too.

It was so fun! I totally cleaned all the pots, pans, and dishes, which I will totally do when you feed me, too. It's my way of saying, "Thank you." And also, "Feed me some more." haha Totally not kidding.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You Lose!

Yesterday was my birthday...and how rad is Facebook for such an occasion?!? I usually experience a sort of "16 Candles" kind of birthday, where the passing of another year is a secret, easily forgotten by even me. Instead, I logged into Facebook tonight and dozens of "Happy Day" messages were there...each exactly suited to the person making the wish! Some were funny, some sweet, others wistful...What a treat.

Tommy is at a sleepover tonight (his first one, not including sleeping at my parents' house!) and so we're missing him so much, but we're also enjoying soaking up our boy, Scotty. Without an older brother to override him, he's really shining this evening. He's making jokes, telling stories, and generally being even more Scotty than ever!

Tommy taught him a game that my Grandma Mary plays with him...she says "I love you" and he answers "I love you too!" She says, "I love you three" and he answers "I love you four". Then she "wins" by saying "I love you MORE!" and he loves that game.

Tonight, Scotty and I played the game and it sounded like this:
Mommy: I love you!
Scotty: I love you too!
Mommy: I love you three!
Scotty: I love you four!
Mommy: I love you MORE!
Scotty: I love YOU more! Ha! YOU LOSE!!!

Hmmmm...that's the kind of losing that I need a lot more of. It certainly made day three of a ridonkulous migraine bearable... Barely.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


(Pond with a sheet of ice!)

This morning, I broke off a sheet of ice that had formed on the koi pond.

It was thick enough to bring a piece into the house, where I made Erik poke his head out of the shower to look at it before I photographed it on the counter. It's a sickness.

After de-icing my car, I drove to work...wearing tights, two pairs of socks, jeans, a thermal undershirt, a long sleeved shirt, a fleece jacket, a hat, scarf, and both fingerless mitts and mittens. I walked in to find my partner, similarly bundled, typing on her laptop. And yet. And yet my kids are in short sleeves and barefeet. These kids just have a totally different internal thermostat!

Despite their inability to feel cold (or pain...or ai ai...being mama to boys is exhausting!) it is cold here! And you know what that means..a basketful of yarn has been my constant companion, with three projects on the needles and two with the hook, too!

Did I mention the cold?

Monday, December 7, 2009

:: Making Me Smile ::

:: Tommy yelling, "You got pwned by a baby!!!" when Scotty was sassing Erik.

:: Tommy and Scotty sitting in front of a fire tonight...Tommy was explaining that Santa would be coming down the fireplace, and this is how it happens, and then he eats some cookies, and he leaves us presents....and Scotty listening intently, nodding, picturing it all, I'm sure.

:: Burgermeister Meisterburger

:: Snow! Snow! All over Mission Peak and the Santa Cruz mountains! Snow from Berkeley to Walnut Creek to Danville to Pleasanton and Fremont too! It's SO COLD here! Every time I walk outside, it feels like I'm camping. :) (And I don't just mean this in the "I'm-a-pansy-California-girl" kind of way, either. :P )

:: Putting up our tree and enjoying the dozens of ornaments adorning the edge, just exactly where little arms can stretch to.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jeez Louise

I crocheted a blanket for Erik back I think so. It was back when I all I knew how to crochet was a simple shell pattern (5 double crochets per shell) and I cranked out 6 or 7 baby blankets, plus his blue striped blanket.

He's been bugging me for about a year now to mend a place where there was a hole, and to please make it more cozy by adding a denim backing and a layer of quilting cotton. On the last post I wrote (right before my laptop stopped working ~ thankfully an easy fix of a new cord, and a cheap fix of my mom had an extra cord that worked!) he wrote a comment ~ and let's point out now that it was his one and only comment on this blog! ~ that he would boycott the blog until the blanket was done.

I can't blame him...something always seems to come up!

Anyway, I finished it in a few hours over a few days, and I thought it might be worth noting that you can sew a crocheted blanket! Is this news? It kind of was to me, the first time I did it. I've been hand sewing linings into bags for years, but the idea the you could essentially "quilt" a crocheted blanket using the tied quilt method was something I figured out on a lark when I made Maia's blanket last year. I just decided to sew through the crochet, using a sewing machine, and it works like a charm.

For this blanket, I laid down a denim backing (right side up), and taped that to the ground. Then I laid down the blanket, and taped that down, matching all the edges. The batting came last, and taped that down, matching all the edges. I didn't bother doing any measuring, I just laid it all down, matched corners/edges, and then trimmed it all. I didn't cut the crocheted blanket at all, I just cut the other two pieces to match it.

I then safety pinned the entire blanket around, about an inch and a half from the edge. I made a simple seam, through all three layers, and left about a two foot opening down one side... huge opening! Huge. Unnecessarily large, really, but I didn't want to wrestle with it, so I don't regret it. I easily turned the blanket (between the denim and the crocheted blanket) and pushed out the corners. Then I closed the opening by folding in the seam and using a whipstitch. Then just use embroidery thread through all three layers, tying off every 6 inches (more like 12 inches for me...I like the push the envelope!). Here's a handy tip for tying quilts that I use and like; it's about not cutting the pieces you're using for tying until the very end. You know, I didn't even bind the edges, because sewing the seams and the turning it inside out left such a nice finish all on it's own.

The blanket hasn't left his side. He carries it from room to room with him.

I do feel a little bit know, for waiting so long to do it...but I'm ready to move on. :)

[Edited: Pictures of Erik removed for marriage maintenance purposes....though I personally think he's adorable, a handsome duck, always and forever. However, I did get a picture of the blanket, which Kitty obviously loves, very much. And cats know cozy! Plus, I can tell by her regal expression that she thinks she looks fabulous.]

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

T'is the Season!

I am making some presents this holiday season. I'm trying to keep to a few small, homemade gifts. I have two big projects I'm working on, and I've committed to hat/scarf/mitten sets for my kids and my nieces (we're heading to the snow over Christmas!), but everything else...well, I'm trying to live in "a flexible frame". (Can you name the movie that comes from?!?)

Kenny and Kelly were at the tamale party (as they are, every year) and every time Kelly and I spend some time together, we both go away wondering why we don't spend more time together. She appreciates homemade-ness more than just about anybody I know. Her kids? Her husband? Even she herself? All ridiculously attractive. Obnoxiously so. But I like them so much, I can't even hold it against them. haha! Seriously.

I had taken these pictures of their kids while making tamales, so I used them (printed onto my last sheet of fabric paper!) to make ornaments for their Christmas tree.

Then I whipped up my favorite Starling Handbag (free pattern here!) for their daughter, Kate. I love her style so much! She wears double buns and skirts (exclusively) with red patent-leather clogs and cardigans. Oh, stop it.

I lined the bag with a festive yellow daisy print. I think it's just perfect for a little girl. Or a big girl. :)