Saturday, January 31, 2009

Someone had to wear a hat into and out of preschool to cover up his latest bruise:
"I threw a Thomas the Tank Engine into the air
It fell to earth-on my forehead."
because his mother thinks one of the directors has her CPS eye on her.

He also needs some friends who are not his six-year old sister, because when I pointed out the hewge nails in the bins at the "Bob store" (Lowe's) to him, he told me "Oh, Mimi, those are jus' adorable."

We managed to wrestle the new twin beds into place next to each other and plan to make them up with a combo of king and twin bedding- I'm a covers stealer. The cats are enthralled. There is actually enough room for them to sleep with us now. I was a little bored with buying coverlets that turned out to not be the thing, so I made him buy the quilt, so he got just what he wanted.

The new couch arrived, but we're still a little shy of it.

There has been an exciting number of new birds at the feeders this year. I've put five on the list in the Petersen's Birds of Texas I keep on the cookbook rack. Besides the kinglet, we've seen two types of juncos and two types of woodpeckers. Even a mocker has shown up and they rarely eat at feeders. I need to put some fruit out for him. I think it's the combination of foodstuffs we're using: songbird feed in the lantern feeder, sunflower seeds in the flat feeder (where the squirrel parks his fat bottom for minutes at a time), suet mix in the holder and a birdcake of sunflower, peanuts and other stuff stuck together with corn syrup in another holder, and shelled corn on the ground for the doves.
While Ro is at work, we're going to sneak the bat house onto the side of the house, under the eaves...The idea of them gives her the heebie-jeebies, but I need them. For the garden.

There was a elderly gentleman in the Dallas Antiques Roadshow end-cap segment who announced that the little bowl his sister had made him bring was not worth "jack-doodley hoo-hoo."
Ro: "Oh, we are so adopting that."
In which we break a solemn vow (again)
Thirty-odd years ago when we were first married, Bob and I made a solemn vow that when we were more mature (like forty), we would never have "old people arguments".
Anyone with elderly relatives knows what I mean: those torturous debates about what restaurant you ate in in some unidentified town that had such good chicken- or was it the steak?
The route you took to get from Point A to Point B twenty years ago, on a trip you don't plan to repeat. The year some family event took place. Those kinds of arguments.

Alas, we started to fall about ten years ago. I don't know why. Maybe it's the grind of living together for decades that makes you want to be right about something once in a while. Maybe it irks you because your nearest and dearest is living in a fog of mistakeness- even over the stupidest stuff imaginable.

The other morning at breakfast, we got into one of those. It was about
oh, this is so embarassing I can barely say it
No, seriously- I'm so mortified
where Corpus Christi is on the Texas coastline.

Now, to anyone not embroiled in an old people's argument, the solution to that is glaringly simple: you go get one of the thirty Texas maps, both ancient and new, lying around the house and look it up.

But not us.

We actually wrangled about this for five minutes: I describing exactly where it was, he insisting that I was wrong and it was someplace completely different. There was a lot of 'north, south, east and west" thrown around, in fact, I remember "south by southwest" being mentioned.

At one point, I leapt to my feet and held out my forearm at a 45 degree downward angle. "Look! Here's the Rio Grande border. My elbow is El Paso, my hand is Brownsville."
"I don't think the border is that straight. It curves more."
"It's my arm! It does not bend upwards!"

I think it was here that he went for the map and found that Corpus is, indeed, where I said it was. He thought it was near Louisiana-why, he could not say. I had to concede that San Antonio is west of Fort Worth, if you draw a straight line down from Cowtown. So, it was a draw.
And we sheepishly agreed never to do that again.
Until next time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Fan Target"
Sissy:"I want to write a post to cheer Marge up- but I don't want to hurt Ro's feelings."
Me: "Oh, please. She'll think it's fantastic. Besides, she has a job."

A few of my own:
If you had a Margaret, she would actually listen with interest when you said 'See, I worked the raglan flat, then I cast on some stitches for under the arms and worked the body in the round" without her eyes glazing over. And you would be happy hanging around for half an hour giving her your opinion while she arranged four original skeins on the yarn shop floor in different combos, then switched a couple out, then deleted one, then went back to the originals and then decided to buy none of the above. Because knitting is a passion the two of you share.

If you had a Margaret and said 'I'm trying to broaden my horizons and am going to read a graphic novel', she wouldn't roll her eyes and say "Sheyah, right, Mom." She would explain why Gaiman might not be your cup of tea and then e-mail you some starter suggestions with the Amazon links.
'Cause she likes to help people grow and expand.

If you had a Margaret, your garage and storage unit would be full of straight chairs, because she buys those like other people buy shoes.

Go read and see why I'm one of the luckiest moms in the whole world.

Friday, January 23, 2009

(Technical knitting post follows- feel free to skip)
Remember the farm playmat and the forest floor that were knit of 100% wool because they were felted? I had a lot of leftovers from that project, so I decided to knit a Russian orphan's sweater. They are required to be all-wool (or a high, like 75% content) themselves. There was a pattern in Knitting for Peace, but I didn't like it- it had the cobbled together look of bad charity knitting. "Here, I whipped this up in the fastest way possible- sorry it looks like I knit it in five minutes and it doesn't fit very well."
I like to do work-prayer, knitting for other's intentions, so it's important to do a good job.
So, I was using the pullover sweater pattern from Basic Knitting Patterns, which looks much better and lends itself to lots of variation, but still needs its seams sewed. And sewed. And sewed.
Then, I remembered a child's raglan pullover I made for Brother when he was two, that was knit from the top down and decided to see if I could find a similar pattern on the net.
I did- and am almost finished with the first one. Getting the neck started was a little tricky. The directions have you knit flat, adding stitches at the front neck edges until you've reached the number for the right and left front neck sides, then you cast on the remaining front stitches and join them all in the round. But then, you just knit around, increasing every other row until the raglan is done. Then you can just keep working in the round until the body is done. And the sleeves can be worked in the round as well.
So- no seams! Except for joining the top of the body to the bottom of the sleeves, a distance of about an inch.
(This time I did knit the raglan section flat, below the neck join, because it's a nuisance to keep track of the increase and rest rows in the round. So I'll have to sew one raglan seam- not a big deal. And I bought a stitch minder, so I can work in the round all the way on the next one.)
I think my gauge may have been off a trifle- the body seems rather wide, but not freakishly so. I think there may be a way to calculate the raglan increases to fix that.
I could get done even faster if I used larger needles, but I want a nice firm fabric, so 7's or 8's are it, tops.
So I now have a good-looking, super-fast, servicable sweater pattern.
Of course, the leftover browns and greens looked a little drab, so I had to buy a skein of rust and a skein of corn to jazz things up for those sweaters. And an 18" #8 circular needle. And some other stuff...
I can see I'm in big trouble with this sweater business...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tearing up the Race Card

A story: Once upon a time, I volunteered to go in and read aloud to one of the sixth grade classes at our elementary school. The idea behind this was that they rarely heard good writing, only TV and movie dialogue. I read an eclectic selection of stuff: Carrie Young's memoir of growing up on the North Dakota prairies, Karen, articles from my grandfather's 30th Anniversary Reader's Digest Reader, The Monkey's Paw, and poetry, including the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. That didn't go over very well, though they were enthralled with the story of Becket's martyrdom:
"They killed him in the church? Kewl!"
One year, I decided to read William Barrett's short novel, The Lilies of the Field, as a serial. As the weeks passed, I realized that the kids weren't enjoying this as much as I thought they might. Finally, during the Q&A we did after each session, one of the boys raised his hand and said "Mrs. B., I don't understand this book. Why would the people in the town think Homer Smith couldn't build the chapel for the nuns?"
And I realized that this was a book that had outlived its time. These twelve-years olds- who had grown up watching the Huxtables practice medicine and law on TV, and Morgan Freeman being President, thought an African-American general or a black jurist becoming a justice of the Supreme Court or black athletes making more money than God were an everyday affair. They couldn't fathom why anyone would think that Homer Smith couldn't do something, just because he was a Negro, as we said back then.
I was their age during the early 1960's, when civil rights- and I mean real civil rights, the dying for the right to vote, and work and live and go to school wherever you wanted to kind- were in the news everyday. When my parents were working hard to override their own upbringing by deep-dyed East Texans, who were a product of their times and not pass it on to us.
Thirty years later, a bunch of average suburban kids simply couldn't grasp that mentality.
Now, fourteen years later, we have an African-American president. I guess my students were ahead of the curve.
A Little Post-Inaugural Pick-Us-Up

This put the world's biggest smile on my face- but I think every little thing she does is magic.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Bought a new latex mattress from IKEA this week. Woke up the last two mornings, leapt off the floor, where it's waiting for the new frames and platforms, feeling as though someone had NOT snuck in in the night and beaten me about the shoulders and back. Now I'm kicking myself because we didn't do this sooner.

Picked up Nini for a play day on Friday and as we were leaving, Bubs dissolves into tears: "Don't leave me, Mimi! Don't leeeeeaaavvve me!" Oh, the pathos! Kind of nice having your own Rodolfo, even if he's only two.

We had family dinner at Sissy's because Target's boyfriend, the multi-talented Davy, was in town. He had just come back from a tour of Europe the last time we saw him and had just finished shooting his own movie in nine days ("Like "Little Shop of Horrors?" I asked) this time. After dinner, we had a bowling tourney with the Wii. Ni had made Mii's (your little interactive persona) for everyone and they were all amazingly accurate. Bubs was a little critical of Marge's, though, and after he had asked for the twentieth time if "Target has scary eyes?", she got a virtual makeover. Wii is still the devil, though.

Went in to the agency to work on the Christmas volunteer numbers Saturday and saw a group out on the plaza in front of our building. Turns out they were "The Obama Group", some sort of supporters of the Pres-elect, and had brought us an MLK food drive and some $$$. All of which was greatly appreciated. Nice to think that they're walking the walk, not just basking in the rhetoric.

Am putting in raised garden beds in the back yard, to be a little greener and because the kids get such a kick out of picking things. Debating the merits of
a) raised beds made of cedar, a renewable resource, which can be taken apart, are cheaper and cost way less in S&H or
b) raised beds made of recycled milk cartons, which are more expensive, weigh a ton and cost oodles of S&H or
c) buying my own cedar boards at Lowe's and fastening them together myself for about 1/3 the price of cedar beds and no S&H.
This makes me understand why serious ecologists, faced with the realization that every single one of their acts has an impact on the planet, sometimes go nuts and decide that everyone, or at least 90% of us, MUST DIE! But not them, because someone has to run the sustainable, lo-tech villages for the remaining 10%.

Bubs came for the day on Monday, so his mom and Miss Diane could get some work done on their new business. She begged me to make him take a nap, so we went in the bedroom and read on our bed, then Mimi pretended to fall asleep. I heard him say, in different tones, like an actor trying out a line: 'It's not fair."
Low mutter. "It's not fair." Slight whine. "It's not faaiir." Loud declamation, with thigh slap: "It's not FAIR!"
Fine, Atticus Finch. It's not fair. Now go night-night, please.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Making the List
Around here, we each have a list of things that we refer to, in family parlance, as "the Devil".
Some of the things on my list are:
People Who Use Food Drives to Clean Out Their Pantries- see above.
Movie Colorization
Early Voting
All Things Bratz (Ro announced that there are now Bratz insects. 'I don't understand it. I can see how you can make Bratz out of anything you can put eyeliner on, like babies and ponies- but insects?")

and now-
Because Sissy had me play it for Bubs while I was babysitting and I see how it could be completely addicting. And I hate video games.
So on the list it goes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure
My friend Mushroom over at Fungle Jungle has a good series on "How to Be Adventurous".

After the epiphany of the car wreck, I revved up the interior adventure I had already been on most of my life. A big part of that was a new commitment to being true to oneself.
Now, that can be carried to extremes of selfishness- we've all seen the examples- but in this case, it was mostly a matter of weighing societal expectations and seeing if they applied or not.

For example: retirees are supposed to travel. But I've realized that I don't much like to travel. At this point, I've alread seen mountains, the ocean, the desert, a glacier, geological formations, and Aztec pyramids.
I don't fly, except in cases of emergency. (It's a physics thing.)
I have no desire to go spend money in countries whose citizens despise/resent me.
So, no cruises or tours for me.
That sort of thing.
I think some of this comes from having been one of the lucky ones who found and were able to live their vocation- with all its depths and heights. I didn't spend years at a job I disliked waiting to be freed from it to do what I wanted. I don't have a lot of things on a 'bucket list'. My later part of life request is frankly "More of the same, please. But with some leisure added in, thank you. We're not as young as we used to be."
The inner adventure casts even the most mundane in an enhanced light. I myself don't need to go look at birds of paradise in the Amazon. There's a ruby-crowned kinglet, as delicate and charming as a Tasha Tudor drawing, right outside my window.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I never understood those moms whose constant refrain was “I just can’t wait until my kids move out!” Of course, I wanted my children to leave home to pursue their vocations in life, but I knew I would miss them terribly because they are simply such good company.
On New Year’s Day, Target came over to do her laundry and Sissy brought the children for an all day visit, since Jake had to work. (And because Bubs had squeezed a whole tube of toothpaste out on the bathroom floor and she just couldn’t deal at the moment.)
And Ro was already home, though still under the weather from her wisdom teeth extraction. Which she had done under a local, which made her the star of the practice.
The funny gene in my family of origin missed me personally, but I passed it on to my offspring. When we get together, mostly we laugh.
About massages:
“Well, mine was at Stonebriar, so it was very chi-chi: “Would you like some cucumber water?”
“Um, no thanks. Plain water is fine.”
“You can get it out of the tap- it does not have to come from a glacier.”
“And all the reading material was from Conde Nast. I was, like “Where is People? I need my People, people. Or Us.”
“Mine talked and I thought “You know, I don’t want to be mean, but I’m trying to relax here and I really don’t care about your sick cat.” and then after, she was kind of invading my personal space.”
“Hula hoop of personal space! Maintain your distance!”
“I think that’s because they mainly deal with naked people.”
About the babies:
“Tell her what Bubs did.”
“Oh- we were sitting on the couch reading last Sunday, when Ro walks in and gets a drink. And he looks at her, then he looks at me, then he looooks at her and he has this ‘wait a minute’ look on his face and then he asks me “Not Target?” And I said ‘No, darling- that’s Auntie Ro.” And his expression was like ‘Well, good- ‘cause I thought I was losing it there.”
“He just likes to get things right.”
About Single Ladies:
“Watch- Morgan can do that- ‘all you single ladies put your hands up-!”
“Sis, she’s not a puppet.”
“She has a black onesie- she could totally be in the video.”
She dances Morgie around in a circle. MJ is eating this up- unlike her gentle sister, she has a big streak of razz-ma-tazz in her nature and loves attention.
“I see the double dimples! Morgie, why are you so cute?”
We eat pizza, and Ro has an Italian ice, and we watch “Frances” and “Kipper” on Sprouts Kids. Ni and I take down the Enchanted Forest and they play Pla-doh at the kitchen table and Bubs does all the puzzles in the house four times each.
Good times.

Friday, January 02, 2009

More about Mary
This lovely poem and drawing via The Anchoress.
Eva to 'Ave', indeed.
A Few Christmas Photos

Birds feeding in front of a woodland cottage

The larger cottage.

A view of the trees
The butterfly tree (sorry, don't know how to edit!)

The two new members of the doll family, au naturel.

The Engleberger animals in the forest.

Woodland Santa and his helper

John, as Ni decided to name him, with his crazy mohair hair.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"Jesus, please come into my heart.
(but I'll need you to leave your mom outside...)"

As well as being New Year’s Day, today is the octave of Christmas and the feast of Mary, Mother of God.
Non-Catholic visitors at Catholic apologetics sites frequently have a very tough time with Mary. So worried are they about putting one toe over the line from ‘honor’ to ‘worship’, that they often conclude it’s better to just ignore her completely. Except at Christmas, when she’s allowed to be in the Nativity scene. And on Good Friday, at the crucifixion. The rest of the time, though, she’s kept thoroughly in the background.
(And let's not even start on the whole Mary= Ishtar thing. I don't have time to discuss religious types right now.)
In fact, some of the explanations for the downplay of Mary cite Jesus: He called her ‘Woman’ at the miracle of Cana, He announced that his followers (and she wasn’t?) were more his family than his own flesh and blood and so on. I’m sure if they thought this through properly, the idea that Jesus really didn’t like his mother much would seem as grotesque to them as it does to us.
At the same time, we recognize that our NCC brethren want the Lord to get all the praise and worship due to him. We do, too. In fact, every honor we give to Mary is because of Jesus and her relationship with Him.
“But you go way overboard! There shouldn’t be so much emphasis on Mary!” Well, sure. People are always capable of getting off track. Which is why the Church tries very hard to be specific about what does and doesn’t constitute acceptable Maryology, and to curb abuses when they occur.
My daughter wrote me a birthday post on her blog recently. She said I was the ‘best Mom and the best Mimi in the whole world’. That is, of course, not strictly true. There are many mothers and grandmas in the world who do a much better job than I do. It would have been more accurate to write “within my limited experience of mothers, I think you do a more than adequate job”. But it wouldn’t have warmed my heart quite so much…
But Mary is “the best Mom in the whole world” Those qualities that made her worthy to be His mother are the same qualities for which we love her. The traditions about her were started by people who had actually known her on earth. And every family- and Christians are a family- needs a mother to be complete. Not in an ‘Earth Goddess” way, but in the way that all human hearts hunger for. Jesus knew what we needed when he looked down from the cross and gave His mother to us all, symbolized in John, the beloved disciple.
God’s Mother is our mother, too. What’s not to celebrate about that?

Happy New Year, all!