Friday, May 29, 2009

Elizabeth meets the Yarn Harlot

On Wednesday I stopped my the yarn shop nearest my house to pick up some sock yarn, and while the woman who worked there was ringing up my purchase, we started chatting about how cool it was that the Yarn Harlot was going to be speaking at BookPeople on Thursday. After we'd chatted for a few minutes, the woman asked if I'd like a ticket to a pre-event reception with the Yarn Harlot. Of course I said yes.

So last night I put Elizabeth in her cutest little outfit and popped on a hat that my mom, aka Knittergran, made for her and headed out the door despite feeling like death warmed over thanks to allergies that seem to be mutating into a cold.

At the reception, I was sitting on the floor with a mom and her baby, who was a few months younger than Elizabeth, when a woman came over and joined us. She said, "This may sound odd, but does either of you have a mom who goes by Knittergran?" The woman's name is Suna, and my mom reads and comments on her blog regularly. Mom had left a comment yesterday telling Suna that I'd be at the reception and to look for a woman with a cute baby. Suna's friend took a picture of us to prove we'd actually met.

I also ran into a friend I haven't seen in years and years - I think I was pregnant with Ella the last time I saw her. She and I used to row on the same crew and run in the same marathon training group. I also taught her son to row when he was a kid. He's now 23 and finished with college. I felt really old when D told me that.

Towards the end of the reception, I ended up standing next to Stephanie while she was telling a story. My friend grabbed my camera from me and started taking pictures. At one point, Elizabeth reached out and grabbed Stephanie's shirt, so of course Stephanie turned to see who was grabbing her. She started flirting with Elizabeth, who flirted right back, cooing and blowing raspberries.

After Elizabeth and Stephanie had a good chat, Stephanie asked if she could hold her. Of course I said yes. Stephanie continued talking to people while playing with Elizabeth. I was so glad I my camera.

Stephanie held Elizabeth for about five minutes before handing her back over so that she could get ready for her reading.

The reading itself was lots of fun; she's a very good storyteller. She talked about the reasons people give for not knitting - don't have enough time, not patient enough - and about how people assume that if you knit you must be stupid, because how smart can you be if you are amused by playing with sticks and bits of string. She also talked about studies that are being done that show knitting - a repetitive, three-dimensional, visual task - really does help your brain function. One study showed that knitting can help reduce the effects of traumatic situations. But the researchers said knitting wasn't the best answer because, "it isn't practical to carry around emergency knitting." That got a big laugh.

Stephanie did her reading at a podium at the top of the stairs to the second floor of the bookstore. The audience sat facing the stairs. One of the best parts of the evening was watching the expressions of the customers coming up the stairs and suddenly being confronted with 100 people who were all knitting.

Elizabeth and I left when Stephanie started taking questions. Elizabeth was cranky, and I was feeling worse by the minute. Even though I felt awful, I was very glad I went.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And the house is a little emptier now

Thirteen years ago, back when B and I were still dating, he spent about a year living in a small down in Mexico, about two hours south west of El Paso. While he was there, he rescued a teeny, tiny puppy from the streets. She was too young, really, to be away from her mother, and she probably would not have survived if B hadn't taken her in.

Ever since that day, B has been Mollie-dog's person, completely and totally. She was not very happy when B moved back to Austin and in with me because it meant Mollie-dog had to sleep on the floor, not in bed next to B.

On one of their very long drives between Mexico and Austin, during a rest stop, Mollie-dog got hit by a car and ended up having to have surgery on her back right hip. It was a long recovery, but you couldn't really tell that she had an injury unless you knew what to look for.

In the past year, Mollie-dog has become increasingly cranky. She's on daily medication for the arthritis in her back right hip, and her hearing and sight have diminished. She's never been a fan of hot weather, and last summer was really hard on her. She spent most of her days asleep on the cool tile floor in our shower. She had already started slowing down again this spring as the weather got hotter.

On Sunday, her crankiness hit a new low, though. She bit Campbell on the face. He's not badly hurt - two cuts and a black eye. He's already forgotten about the injury.

But the incident made it clear to us that it's not fair to Mollie-dog to keep her here. She gets nervous around kids, and we have a whole house full of them. We just couldn't risk that she'd bite someone again.
So today she left to live with B's father, who has a big house and lots of land. And she really is going to live with grandaddy - it's not just a euphemism. Even though we'd talked to the girls about what was going to happen and promised the girls that they could visit, there was much wailing and sobbing, particularly on Ella's part, when Mollie-dog and grandaddy left today. B and I did our best to comfort her, but she eventually climbed up her favorite tree to have a good cry. B and I figured that it was best to let her have that time and told her that when she was ready to come down, we'd give her lots of love.

Ella is down from the tree, now, and the house is relatively calm. But I know we'll have more bouts of tears, which is to be expected. In the meantime, we're just grateful that Campbell wasn't seriously hurt and that B's dad was willing to take Mollie-dog. I can't bear to think of the alternatives in either case.

We'll miss Mollie-dog. The house feels a little emptier without her.

Starting out too fast

It's Madhouse day over at One More Thing, and the theme is birthday.

Now that I have four kids, I realize that I started out too fast on the whole kid birthday celebration thing. I'm having a hard time keeping up the excitement level for planning birthday parties, especially for the younger kids. I've scaled back a lot from what I did with Ella and Lily, and while it has made Campbell's birthday celebrations much easier, I still feel guilty that he's getting short changed and that Elizabeth will too, once she starts having birthdays.

But when the guilt gets overwhelming, I remind myself that Ella and Lily have no memories of their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd birthday parties, and only hazy memories of their 4th.

I'll say up front that I don't throw mega-parties with clowns and petting zoos and ponies. We tend towards the more simple celebrations, and honestly, the parties that end up with the kids running around in the back yard have been the most fun. The kids play, and the adults chat. It's a win-win.

But having learned my lesson, I'm going to stick with quiet, family-only parties for Campbell and Elizabeth until they're old enough to understand and appreciate - and remember - the celebrations. Then I'll be more than happy to plan field day parties, or bike parties, or princess tea parties like I've done for the big girls the past few years. Those have been lots of fun, and the girls had a hand in planning them.

Once Elizabeth and Campbell are old enough for parties, I'll have a busy stretch. Campbell, Elizabeth and Ella all have their birthdays within four weeks of each other - Ella's and Elizabeth's are only a week apart. Eeek.

Maybe I'll stick to the quiet family parties for everyone, regardless of age.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dancing Lily

For three years Lily has taken "creative movement" classes at Ballet Austin. They are absolutely her favorite part of the week. When she first started taking the classes, she'd wake up every morning and ask me, "Is I going to ballelet today?" She can now pronounce ballet correctly, but she still loves class just as much.
Instead of never-ending recitals where family members have to sit for hours on end watching class after class of dancers, Ballet Austin has Parent Watching Day when parents and siblings and grandparents, etc. can sit in on class and see what the kids have been up to. I love going to the classes just so I can watch the joy on Lily's face as she twirls around the room.
In the fall, Lily will start in pre-ballet, which is much more structured than the creative movement classes, and I'm a bit worried about how Lily will adjust to the new format and having to practice at the bar. I'm hopeful that she will love going to class just as much as she does now.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Who would stoop so low?

This morning our across the street neighbor called with bad news. He saw a truck pull up in front of our house and the driver hop out and snatch up Campbell's beloved tricycle, which was half on the sidewalk, half on the grass behind a bush by the curb, and toss it in the back of the truck before pulling away.

Our neighbor said it happened so fast that by the time he realized what had happened, the truck was gone.

We have lots of people who cruise our neighborhood looking for items that have been left out by the curb for people to take. And lots of neighbors send out messages on the listserv alerting people to items that are free for the taking, so I really shouldn't be too surprised that someone grabbed the lonely tricycle.

But still - it was halfway in the bushes and obviously NOT on the curb for the taking. Who would stoop so low as to steal a tricycle? Our neighbor said the driver looked around guiltily when he took the trike, like he knew he was stealing it.

I sent out a message on the listserv asking the driver of a green truck to bring back the trike, but no response so far. Nor do I expect one.

I'm ticked at myself for leaving the bike out yesterday after Campbell had finished riding it. And I'm a little sad. Santa gave that tricycle to Ella when she was 2, and all the kids have ridden it. I was looking forward to Elizabeth's riding it, too.

But now we'll get Campbell a little two-wheeler, and he'll forget he ever had a little red tricycle, but I won't.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Just for you, Runnerdude

Happy birthday, dad. Your actual present is in the mail.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition

This week the Baby Blues comic strip - full disclosure, I read the funnies before I read the rest of the paper - has been running a series about things that change once you become a parent. One was about how your expectation of privacy disappears and showed the parents getting ready for the day with three kids hanging out in the bathroom. B and I chuckled at the strip and how accurate it was, but then last night my lack of privacy hit a new high, or low, depending on how you look at it.

I have had a particularly rough few days; I'm just a bit overwhelmed by everything and by my not being able to get caught up and stay caught up with anything. So last night I decided to take a long bath and read this week's New Yorker. I drew the bath and popped in a Bombe de Bain that I won from Ann of Ann's Rants and hopped in.

A few minutes later I heard the pitter patter of little feet, and Ella, who was supposed to be in bed doing her nightly reading, arrived. This is our conversation, verbatim.

Ella: Have I read for long enough?
Me: Yes. Get back in bed.
E: Why are you taking a bath?
M: Because I wanted to. Get back in bed.
E: Why is it orange?
M: Because there are bath oils in it. Get back in bed.
E: Why is there dirt in it?
M: Those are dried mint leaves. Get back in bed.
E: Why are there dried mint leaves?
M: So that is smells good. GET BACK IN BED NOW!

Ella wisely scampered off at that point.

But my bath was ruined. Not only had I been interrupted, I had gotten the Spanish Inquisition. I really have got to remember to lock the door.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Climb on, Ella

This Saturday our local climbing gym hosted the Regional championships. The competition had two events, and Ella competed in both.

In the sport climbing event, all climbers tackle four routes, and they receive points based on how many holds there are and how high they go. Ella climbed the first three routes without problem but only made it about a third of the way up the last. It was a tough route, and no one from her division completed it.

In the speed climbing event, the climbers scramble up two routes as fast as they can and ring a bell at the top. They climb head-to-head to add to the excitement, but they are scored based on their cumulative climbing time. Ella beat her challenger on both of her climbs. During her first, some of the "big boys" on the team were sitting behind us and commenting on Ella's speed. One said she "crushed it," which I'm assuming was a compliment.

In both events the top six climbers from each division advance to Districts in June. There were 9 girls entered in Ella's division, and, as usual, she was the youngest. We told her that it would be great if she made it to Districts, but that even if she didn't, we were still very proud of her. And honestly, we didn't think she was going to make it.

I was out at the car getting Elizabeth's diaper bag when the results from the sport climbing event were posted. When I walked back into the gym, I was hit by a flying tackle from Ella, who was shouting, "I made it! I made it! I placed 6th!" There was much joy and jumping around from all of us.

We left before the results from the speed climbing event were posted, but Ella's coach called to deliver the good news: she placed 6th. She'll be competing at Districts in both events.

We're very proud of Ella, but mostly we're glad that she had fun.

And I'd post pictures, but to quote B, "We have two cameras and two video cameras, and you managed to grab the one that has dead batteries. Brilliant!" I took some pictures with his iPhone, and as soon as B sends them to me, I'll post them.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I know I shouldn't do two posts in a day, but this is too cute not to post.

Mrs. G's Questions, Part 4

Oy, when will this end? I feel like I have to keep going since I started.

1. Where would you most like to live? Bermuda - I went there in college, and it is just the lovliest place. Or somewhere in the Adironacks - but only in the summer.

2. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Going to the dentist. I pretty much have to take a xanax just to make an appointment. Getting me there requires even more anti-anxiety medication.

3. Who are your favorite writers? Edith Wharton and Hemingway - each in his or her own way has a command of the English language that amazes me.

4. Which historical figure do you most identify with? I have no idea - maybe the Old Woman in the Shoe?

5. What is your most treasured possession? Two things - my wedding band and a little brass stool that came from my great-grandmother's house.

6. What are your favorite names? My kids' names - Ella, Lily, Campbell and Elizabeth - and the name I wasn't allowed to use - Tallulah.

7. What is one selfish thing you would like to do before you die? Travel around the world only going to the places *I* want to go.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mrs. G's Questions, Part III

Another batch of questions from Mrs. G's blog.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? "Please be quiet!" Said to my children more than I would like.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? Easy - my husband.

16. When and where were you happiest? There was this one weekend at the beach with B long before we had kids. It was our best trip ever.

17. Which talent would you most like to have? I'd love to be able to sing. I'm completely tone deaf, which doesn't stop me from singing along in the car, much to the distress of my family.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? How much I worry about things. I think I sense a theme here.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? My kids

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Someone who lives at the beach. I'm sensing another theme here.

Mrs G. Promises that there's only one more batch of questions. Then we'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming, whatever that is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Following Mrs. G's lead - again

I know, I know - two posts in one day, but I can't help myself. Here are my answers to the questions on Mrs. G's blog

7. What is your current state of mind? Worried, but what else is new.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Conspicuous thriftiness - the people who brag about things like only using one square of toilet paper or getting day-old bread out of dumpsters.

9. On what occasion do you lie? When people as "How are you?" and I say "Just fine." I'm usually fairly frantic or frazzled. But people don't like to hear that while waiting in line at school pick-up time.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? My teeth. I'd love to have braces again.
11. Which living person do you most despise? I'd like to think I don't despise anyone, because it's really wasted energy. But GW and Dick Cheney? I despise them.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man? A sense of fun. Because when a man has a sense of fun, he isn't usually inclined to take himself too seriously.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? A sense of humor. Life is ridiculous, and I need someone I can laugh about it with.

Anyone want to share their answers? Anyone?


It's madhouse time over at One More Thing. It's been a few weeks since I've played along, but today I thought of something to write about the topic - Psychic - right away.

I've always been a people-watcher. I think it's because of my shyness. When I go to parties or other social events I more than happy to sit in the corner and just watch what goes on. As a result, I'm pretty good at reading people and what they're up to.

This ability served me well during my coaching years. I was able to pick up on the team parents' motivations and "real" personalities pretty quickly. As a result, I could see them coming a mile away when they tried to be manipulative or underhanded.

A number of times I warned the head coach about certain families and told him exactly what was going to happen. He never heeded my warning and then got burned, repeatedly. After the head college coach saw my predictions come true, he started to pay attention to what I was saying. I'd like to think I saved him from a bad situation or two.

At any rate, I earned a reputation of being a bit psychic, but I think it was undeserved. I wasn't psychic, just good at reading people.

I still pay attention, and I still warn my husband about things, but he's not so good about paying attention to me, but he should. I could save him lots of aggravation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Following Mrs. G's lead

Mrs. G, founder of the late Derfwad Manor and the new Women's Colony, asked the following questions of her readers this morning. I answered in her comments, but I thought I'd post my answers here, too. Apparently this will be a multi-part posting on Mrs. G's part.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? A day at the beach with my family.

2. What is your greatest fear? The death of one of my children. My husband's younger brother died when my husband was young, and I've seen the after effects the death has had on the entire family. The pain that still exists, more than 20 years later, is still so immense.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Worrying - I miss out on a lot of joy because I'm spending too much time worrying about things.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Willful ignorance - the kind that causes people to claim the Holocaust never happened or that President Obama wasn't really born in the U.S., despite evidence to the contrary.

5. Which living person do you most admire? Nelson Mandela - he went through hardships we can't even imagine and emmerged with his grace and dignity intact.

6. What is your greatest extravagance? Books, books and more books - I've started using the library more and more, but I still love owning books. There's just something about being able to walk to the bookshelf and grab my favorites at will.

So, readers and lurkers, what are your answers?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My mother's day

I wasn't going to write about mother's day, but it seems everyone else is, so I'll give in to peer pressure.

My day started off very early, with the girls arriving before 7:00, desperate to serve me breakfast in bed. The brought a bowl full of cheerios, which I hate, and a piece of toast covered in enough jam to send me into a sugar coma. I could barely open my eyes to say, "Thank you babies, but I'm not ready to get up yet. Can you let me sleep a little longer?" They were great and left the room without a word of protest.

Except that they came back two more times in the next half hour with their breakfast offering. By the time I actually dragged myself out of bed, the cheerios were a soggy, disgusting mess, and the toast was rock hard, jelly notwithstanding. They were so disappointed that they didn't get serve me in bed that I asked them to make me a piece of peanut butter toast. They skipped merrily off to the kitchen and popped bread in the toaster. And then forgot about it completely when they went to play in the back yard.

Oh well.

They did clean up their room, which was my one request from them. Unfortunately, B had to pretty much sit on them and threaten dire consequences to get them to focus.

Ella made me a gift at school. It's a free form poem that says:

Loving, caring, fun, nice.
Mother of Elizabeth, Ella,
Campbell and Lily.
Lover of knitting. Who feels
confused. Who wants the best
for all of us. Who gives us
love. Who fears cockroaches.
Whose hope for the world
is to be a safe place.
Resident of austin.

I laughed out loud at the cockroach part.

The kids' aunt and uncle - who are visiting from out of town - took the big three out to B's grandmother's house for a mother's day lunch that we opted out of. There was no way I was going to spend my mother's day cramming kids into nice clothes and hanging out making small talk with the in-laws. And since I'm the only one in the group who is actively mothering, I figured I was allowed to decide what I wanted to do for the day.

While the big kids were gone, Elizabeth and I watched a marathon of Dominick Dunne true crime shows, and then we all took a long nap. It was a good way to end the day.

Happy mother's day to all mothers reading this.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Seven months

Elizabeth is seven months old, and her newest accomplishment is sitting up all by herself. This makes keeping her entertained a little easier. I can set her up on a blanket on the floor with an array of toys around her, and she can play all by herself.

She's still a little wobbly, though, so I have to stay close.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

One happy little boy

Campbell has had two very big treats in the past few days.

First, on Saturday, at our neighborhood's annual festival, Campbell was able to sit in a fire truck. The local fire station sent the engine and two firemen to meet and greet the kids and let them climb all over the truck. Campbell hopped right in and refused to come out. He ended up sitting on the far side, looking out the window and grinning like a fool. When I walked around to his side and said hi to him, he said, "I wike da firetwuk momom." It's the longest sentence he's ever said.

B had climb in after about 20 minutes and drag Campbell out, kicking and screaming. Shortly after, the firemen had to leave on a call, which was a good thing, otherwise Campbell would have spent the rest of the day trying to drag us back over to the truck.

On Monday, as Campbell and I were driving home from the store, we passed by the Department of Public Safety Headquarters (DPS is the equivalent of the state troopers), which is near our house. I saw that a DPS helicopter was on the landing pad out front, so I pulled into the parking lot to let Campbell have a better look. When I saw that the pilots were out loading gear into the chopper, I got Campbell out of the car, and we walked over.

In this post 9/11 era, I half expected the pilots to tell me that we weren't allowed to get anywhere near the helicopter, but instead they were very welcoming. They asked Campbell his name - he told them it was "Big Boy" - and then held his hand and walked him over to the helicopter. One pilot talked to Campbell about the helicopter and then asked if he would like to sit in it. I was afraid that Campbell would turn into his shy self and cling to my leg, but instead he held his arms up to the pilot, who lifted him in.

When I bemoaned my lack of a camera, the other pilot pulled out his cellphone and took a picture, which he then e-mailed to me. Campbell got to sit in the pilot's seat and hold the control stick and push buttons to his heart's content for about five minutes.

I think the grin on his face says it all - that is one happy little boy.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Lemonade Day

Yesterday was Lemonade Day here in Austin, and we set up a stand. The girls had been looking forward to it for weeks - ever since I told them that I had signed us up to participate.

The girls were ready to set up the stand at the crack of dawn, so we ended up starting earlier than our advertised 12:00 opening time. The kids' interest in actually selling lemonade waned after a while, and they became more interested in standing on the corner to flag down cars and grab passersby.

They definitely drummed up some extra business - it's hard to resist five kids jumping up and down shouting, "Come buy lemonade!" repeatedly. Although some people did. One family - mom, dad, little kid in a stroller, and grandparents - walked right by on the other side of the street without even looking at us or acknowledging the kids' presence. It was very strange. Everyone else at least waved, even if they didn't stop to buy.

Once we took out expenses and divvied up the money among the seven kids who worked, the girls didn't make a whole lot, but that wasn't really the point. They had fun making the signs and the lemonade and hanging out with their friends. Plus, Ella learned some aspects about running a business. It was a great way to spend a few hours. Kudos to my friend Marion for getting the event started in Austin. The girls are already planning how to make an even better stand next year.

The girls made great signs, which we hung out the day of the stand.

Open for business and sampling the product. I had to stop the kids from drinking all the lemonade before we'd had a customer. I also had to stop Lily from buying 27 cups with money out of her piggy bank.

Campbell manned the table for a few minutes while the girls ran around. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he liked the lemonade.

For most of the day we had more staff than customers, but the kids worked out a great little production line and made sure everyone had a job.