Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I don't think I'll do that again

I've been needing to get my eyebrows de-thatched for a while, and last night I had the chance. I was able to leave Elizabeth at home with B while I took Ella to climbing practice, so I had two free hours to myself.

I headed to the mall where the salon where I normally get my eyebrows done is located. But instead of going to the normal place, I decided to head upstairs to a place that does threading. I've been wanting to try it for a while, and I figured this was my chance.

Holy hell did it hurt. Way more than waxing. And it took longer. Instead of a couple of quick rips with wax and muslin, it was 10 minutes of her pulling my eyebrow hairs out five or ten at a time. It hurt enough that I considered walking out before the lady could start in on my second brow.

When I complained to my sister about how much it hurt, she said that it gets easier if you do regular upkeep because there's not as much hair to rip out.

I think I'll pass. I have a high tolerance for pain, but I'm not willing to put myself through that much of it for the sake of vanity.

Bring on the wax.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Socks - Big, Little and Too Small

As a result of all my Christmas knitting, I'd been a bit burned out. I'd had a pair of socks on the needle for months that just sat in my knitting bag, languishing. I knew I needed to get them finished soon, because they were for a friend, and she knew I was knitting them for her - she'd bought the wool for them, after all.

But instead of working on my friend's socks, I cast on a pair for my Olympic Knitting challenge. Turns out, that was exactly what I needed to do. Working on those socks got me my knitting mojo back, and I've been burning up the needles ever since.

I finished my friend's socks, and they turned out wonderfully. I refer to them as the "Harmony Wood" socks because the colors in the wool match the colors in my Harmony wood needles almost exactly. The wool is Merisock Handpainted from Punta Yarns of Uruguay. It was a little tough to work with at times. It tended to get all twisty and splitty, but the end results were worth it. Plus, one skein is 463, which is enough to knit one pair of adult socks and a pair of child socks. Not that I'm volunteering to knit another pair out of it right now.
These are my new favorite baby socks. The pattern is a free one from Spud & Chloe, except I'm not using Spud & Chloe yarn, which is lovely but outrageously expensive. Instead I'm using Cascade Superwash in worsted weight. Each little sock takes about two hours. I'm on my third pair and have the pattern down cold now. You'll notice that the blue socks are slightly different than the pink. I experimented with not doing the 2x2 ribbing on the top of the foot. It's easier to knit without the ribbing, but the socks are a little lumpier. I think from now on I'll keep the ribbing.

And now for the too-small socks. I ordered a kit from KnitPicks that came with patterns and yarn for seven pairs of ankle socks. I wanted something different and to practice knitting patterns from charts without committing to huge projects. However, from the kit's description, it wasn't clear, at least not to me, that all the socks are toe-up and two at a time on circular needles. I've never done toe-up let alone two at once on circs. After some trial and error and scribbling, I managed to convert the pattern to one sock at a time on DPNs, and I figured out how to cast on toe-up.

Unfortunately, despite checking my progress as I knit, I cannot get the sock on my foot. It's not because I bound off too tight, it's that the whole dang sock is too narrow. It's plenty long enough, but I can't get it over my heel. Obviously my gauge was off and the needles were too small. Le sigh.

Instead of making another too-small sock to match, I've decided to declare it a practice sock. My cast-on was wonky, and I know that there are some errors in the heel, which involved turn-and-wrap instead of short rows.

So I've cast on a new sock on larger needles, and so far things are going much better.

Friday, March 26, 2010

28 hours away

This afternoon, Ella and I are heading out for a road trip to Houston, where she has a climbing competition tomorrow. Usually B takes her to comps and leaves me at home with the littles, but this time, it's my turn. And I'm thrilled.

I desperately need some time away, and even though I'll have Ella with me, this counts as a break. We're spending the night at a good hotel, and we don't need to be at the gym until 11:30 in morning. That means I'll get to sleep until I wake up instead of being woken up at the crack of dawn by Elizabeth. And tonight I'll be able to lie in bed and watch TV without worrying about dishes or laundry or messes. It should be divine.

We've been having some pre-tween issues with Ella lately - she has mastered the art of rolling her eyes so hard that we can hear it - but she is so thrilled about this trip that I think she'll be on her best behavior. It will be some good bonding time. Lily is a bit jealous, but B has promised her a movie night where she gets to pick whatever movie she wants and eat popcorn until she is stuffed.

Someone asked whether B's mom would be helping him while I was gone, and I said that I had no idea. Not only do I not know what plans he's made, I don't want to know. Worrying about what's going on at home will only ruin the fun of being gone, so I've vowed not to do it at all.

So I'm packing my knitting and a book for the hours I'll spend at the climbing gym waiting for Ella to compete, and I'm packing Ella's flashy pants and lucky socks. As soon as she gets home from school, we're hitting the road!

Look out, Houston. Here we come.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Clothing woes

I am in desperate need of a clothing makeover. I haven't bought any new clothes, other than a few solid-colored shirts, since before I was pregnant with Elizabeth. I have one pair of jeans that fits, and I'm in imminent danger of wearing them to shreds. I also have one pair of khakis that kind-of fit, maybe, and several pairs of shorts that also kind-of fit.

I'm tired of living in shorts and jeans and solid-colored shirts, even though they are very comfortable. I'm feeling frumpy and old and drab.

It's not like I haven't tried to buy new clothes, because I have. I've gone shopping three times in the past three weeks with every intention of buying something new and fabulous. And each time, I've come home empty handed.

Part of the problem is that I just don't see anything I like. Too much of what is in stores today is either a. a flashback to the '80s, and to paraphrase a friend, if I wore it the first time it was in style, I'm not wearing it the second time, or b. something that one of the Real Housewives of Wherever would wear, and I'm just not into bejewelled silk tank tops or clothing that looks like lingerie.

Capri pants appear to be a hot trend right now, but I just can't bring myself to wear them. Each time I try some on, I think about the little old ladies who wore pastel capris while walking the beach in Florida, and I take them back off. But one of my friends has a pair of cute cargo capri pants, so I tried on a similar pair the other day, only to discover they had a pleated front, and the pleats combined with the pockets on the side made me look like a clown.

The next time I went shopping, I decided to just look for jeans, on the advice of the same friend, who told me never to shop for tops and bottoms at the same time. But then I got in front of the wall of jeans and freaked out. There were too many choices - boyfriend cut, diva cut, low rise, high rise, boot cut, slim fit. I left in defeat.

I do have two friends who are good at picking out clothes for me. I need to bribe one of them with dinner and drinks in exchange for acting as my personal shopper. Otherwise, I fear I may spend the rest of my life wearing my one pair of shabby jeans.

Plus, I'm going to see OK Go in May, and I want to fit in with all the cute twenty-somethings who will be at the show, not look like their mother.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Odds and Ends

I'm a bit scattered today, so I'm posting some odds and ends.

First up - I've been reading again. I must admit that I have been a bit ADD in my reading. I currently have four books under way, which is a lot for me. I'm in the middle of: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Help, and The Hemingses of Monticello. Plus I have three New Yorkers that I'm working on. But I have managed to finish three books and post them over on my book blog - Plenty More Books Inside.

Second - My friend Kate had a baby two weeks ago and then ended up spending more than a week in a drug-induced coma thanks to a terrible post-partum infection that had a lot to do with mistakes made on many levels by doctors. It's a terrible story that isn't over yet. Baby Isaac is thriving, and Kate is on the mend, but she has a long road ahead of her in terms of recovery. If you have a moment, stop by her blog and wish her well.

Third - I had another post, this one about my inability to sit still, picked up by Deep South Moms. You can read it here.

I think that's all for now. I'm going to go back to watching a mama owl hatch her babies.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears - Literally

On Monday we braved the Spring Break crowds and ventured to the Austin Zoo. The parking was a mess, and the line for tickets stretched out into the parking lot. But once we were inside, the crowds weren't a problem. If you live in Austin and haven't been to the zoo, I highly recommend it. It's a manageable size with a good assortment of animals - most of whom were rescued from zoos, private owners or circuses.

The Bengal tigers are always my favorite. The are bigger than you imagine a cat could ever be. Their paws are immense. This guy was the kids' favorite because he was rolling around and playing and roaring at them.

The kids also liked the bear enclosure, but mostly because it was filled with peacocks, ducks and geese, along with a bear who was ignoring the birds completely.
Funny side story - there were two ducks swimming in the bear's pond, and Ella looked at them and yelled, "Look mom! One ducks is giving the other a piggy-back ride." B and I had to turn away before we completely lost it laughing.

Campbell loved his map, even though he had no idea how to read it. He's still playing with it at home, leading expeditions around the yard.

And finally, the real reason for our trip to the Zoo - lion cubs. They are female, eight-week-old cubs that may be Barbary lions. The Zoo received a request to take in a pair of lions, and when they arrived it was discovered that the female was pregnant. Since the Austin Zoo is a non-breeding facility, everyone was thrilled to have babies on site. The cubs may be part Barbary lion, which is extinct in the wild. Some lions still carry Barbary DNA, so there is a world-wide organization that is testing lions and finding those with the strongest genetic link. Those lions will be bred with the eventual goal of releasing them into the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
That's all very interesting, but mostly, the cubs are just squee-ably CUTE! Lily, my animal lover, wanted to bring them home with us. We had to explain that while they're cute and cuddly now, they'll quickly get big enough to rip her arm off and eat it in one bite.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring has sprung

Even though it heralds the downhill run to the misery that is summer, I love spring in Austin. The days start out cool enough to warrant a jacket but warm up nicely by the afternoons. We have clear blue skies and blooming trees and wildflowers.

This week is Spring Break for the kids, and I feel obligated to spend every minute I can outside with them, because I know that in a few short months I'm going to be hibernating in the AC. So we've gone to the park for a picnic with friends, visited the Austin Zoo, flown kites and spent hours just playing the yard. Today we're going to the park again, and we'll probably do the same tomorrow.

That's all for now. I'm going outside to play.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brunch with Hipsters

During March, Austin plays host to the SXSW (South by Southwest), which is really a bunch of difference conferences back to back - Interactive, Film and Music. I've never really paid much attention to SXSW, other than grumbling at the increased traffic in town each spring. We're also overrun by hordes of hipsters wearing skinny black jeans, faded t-shirts with concert logos, big sunglasses, and the all-important SXSW badges.

But last week I got an invitation to attend a brunch hosted by PBSKids Interactive. I forwarded the invite to Wendi and asked what she thought. She agreed that it sounded interesting and said, "At the very least, you'll get a free brunch and maybe some swag." Then she asked if she could go with me. I e-mailed my contact asking if I could bring a guest, and she said I could.

Sunday morning, Wendi and I met up in the lobby of the Driskill and headed upstairs to the brunch. I am so glad that Wendi was with me. I had expected, based on the information in the invite, a panel of folks from PBSKids Interactive talking about plans they had for the site and how they were coming up with ideas of good programs and games for kids.

Instead, it was a brunch mixer attended by the PBSKids Interactive team and about a dozen bloggers. I am horrible at making small talk with complete strangers, and if I had been alone, I might have bolted for the door instead of staying to chat.

According to Wendi, there were some big-name bloggers there, but I had never heard of them. And given that I'm far from being a big-name blogger, I have no idea how I ended up on the guest list.

Wendi and I stayed for about an hour and chatted with a few people. Then we bolted for the door and headed out to wander 6th Street and enjoy the scenery. There were lots of hung-over conference attendees heading to the Convention Center, the site of most of the SXSW Interactive events. Given that it was only noon on a Sunday, the day of the time change, no less, I was surprised at how many folks were up and out.

The highlight, or lowlight, of the walk was the six pack of skanks dressed in short-shorts and string bikini tops with all their tramp stamps and piercings on display, hoola-hooping in front of one bar hoping to lure customers inside. When I told B about the hoola-hoopers and wondered whether the bar owners really thought it would work, he pointed out that I wasn't the bar's target demographic. Instead of going inside and drinking, I wanted to tell the girls to put some clothes on and stop bleaching their hair in stripes for heaven's sake.

Finally, since I'm all about blogging with integrity and stuff (cough), PBSKids did not ask me to write about the event as a condition of attending. And after reading this and seeing their name mentioned in the same post with hoola-hooping skanks, they'll probably wish that they hadn't invited me.

Also, none of the people at the brunch was actually a hipster. No one was wearing skinny jeans or black sunglasses. They were all very nice and normal.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy

One of my favorite sites is Mamarazzi, which cracks me up on a regular basis. Last week, they had a caption contest, and I entered. Believe it or not, I won.

Check it out here.

And I felt relatively safe and non-snarky with my caption because, after having four kids, my boobs have all but disappeared. I feel Maggie's pain.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lily at ballet

One of things I love about Ballet Austin, where Lily has taken dance class for the past three years, is that they don't have recitals. Instead, parents, siblings, grandparents and other friends are invited to attend class several times a year.

This past Saturday was watching day, so Elizabeth and I sat in on the class. Unfortunately, we didn't last very long because Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to run out on the dance floor Lily. I ended up taking her out into the hall and watching through the glass door.

We weren't allowed to take pictures during the class, so we had to be satisfied with getting some photos of curtsies afterwards. Lily loves to curtsy - she takes it very seriously as you can see by her expression.

Elizabeth was so happy to be allowed back in the room that she ran to Lily. Such sweet sisters.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Emotional Blackmail

Last night, when I tucked Campbell into bed, he asked for a cup of chocolate milk. When I told him (for the umpteenth time) that he doesn't get chocolate milk in bed at bedtime, he said:

But I thought you loveded me.

I maintained my composure long enough to say that I loved him very much but he still wasn't getting chocolate milk. Then I went to the living room and collapsed laughing.

I have no idea where he would have heard this. My girls have never said it to me; although, they have been known to tell me that I obviously don't love them.

It's amazing how quickly little kids pick up on tricks like this. Not that it worked for Campbell.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Science Fair Win

Last year, I wrote about how I don't like science fair projects much, and I still don't. So when Ella came home in January talking about a project, I groaned.

This year's project, however, went much better. And it was a real communal effort. Ella and two partners decided to test which solution cleaned a penny the best. One family hosted the girls while they did the actual experiment and created the display board. For the experiment, they used vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and soap to clean pennies with a tooth brush and a cloth.

The girls did a great job recording their results, taking lots of pictures and creating a beautiful display. And they won second place out of the third graders at their school. Much to my surprise, they advanced to the regional science fair, which was two weeks ago.

Since the one family had hosted the girls while they created the project, I volunteered to take the display to the Events Center the day before the fair to set up the board and then to take the girls to the judging the next morning. During the set-up, my hopes for an easy morning vanished.
The Palmer Events Center exhibit hall was an immense zoo, with hundreds of kids and parents and projects every where. When Ella and I got home from setting up, I received an e-mail from a friend warning me about what would happen on Saturday, namely that parents are locked out of the exhibit hall while the judging is going on and that judging can last anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on how long it takes the judges to talk to each team.
So Saturday morning, I packed for the worst-case scenario, cramming my knitting, a good book, and my iPod in my bag. When we got to the Events Center, however, I was amazed at the efficiency and organization of the whole thing.
The kids were ushered to their displays by volunteers, and the parents were gently nudged out of the exhibit hall, even those who were having fits at leaving their baybees behind. There was a huge waiting area with tons of chairs for the parents, and the kids were brought out to the waiting area by volunteers as soon as they had talked to the judges. Everything went like clockwork. While I was waiting for my little crew, I hung out with a friend and chit-chatted. The time flew.
Once I rounded up Ella and her partners, we headed for home, stopping for a special treat of McDonald's for lunch. One of the other moms took the kids back down to the Events Center for the awards ceremony later that afternoon.
Amazingly, the girls won first place in their division, whatever that may have been. The mom who took them said that it looked like every project got first, second or third, so who knows how the organizers divided things up.
Divisions didn't matter to the girls, though. They came home with big blue ribbons and even bigger smiles. The mom who drove them took the girls out for ice cream, and then the third family hosted a celebratory slumber party. As far as Ella was concerned, it was just about the best weekend ever.
The whole process was a good learning experience for me. Ella obviously loves science and doing experiments; she comes up with them on her own during school holidays. There are going to be lots more science fairs and science projects in our future. I need to get over myself and turn Ella loose. The world needs more girl scientists, and Ella may just become one.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Where did we go wrong?

Growing up, my sister and I never played in our parents' bedroom. It was off limits to us, not so much because we were forbidden to go in, but more because we were never invited to play in there.

Somewhere along the line with my kids, I've gone wrong. I don't remember giving my kids permission to play in my room, but they seem to have taken it over completely. My bedside table is stacked with their books, and the floor is littered with toys of various kinds. If I don't do a quick clean-up before bed, I'm in danger of injuring my feet on legos and Little People if I get up in the middle of the night.

Sunday morning, I stripped all the sheets off my bed, put them in the wash, and grabbed clean sheets from the closet. In that amount of time, this collection appeared on my bed.

I don't know how Lily and Campbell managed to set these critters up so quickly, but there they were. And when I asked the kids to move the menagerie so that I could put sheets on the bed, they told me I had to wait because they were going to the moon to have a party. Lily was already dressed in a party ensemble, complete with lacy socks and dressy shoes. Campbell was in underpants and a t-shirt. They have very different ideas of what constitutes formal attire.

So I let them have their "Moon Party" and waited until later to put sheets on the bed.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Guilty, guilty, guilty

The other day I noticed that my camera was not in its usual place. Once I stopped hyperventilating at the thought of my preshus being missing, I searched the house and found it in one of the kids' bedrooms.

I scrolled through the pictures to see if I could figure out who had played with it and found this series of pictures.

(notice the graffiti on the dresser, thanks to Campbell)

Aha. I think I know who the culprit is.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Olympic Knitting Gold

Eighteen days ago, I signed on for the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics. The goal of the Knitting Olympics is to cast on a project during the Olympic opening ceremonies and then finish by the closing celebration.

I cast on a pair of socks out of Franklin's gorgeous Panopticon wool. As I knit, I noticed that the colors in the wool closely matched the greens and blues in all the Olympic signs and banners, which was really cool.

Now some knitting snobs purists might argue that working on a pair of socks for the Knitting Olympics isn't enough of a challenge, but I beg to differ. Given my time constraints, finishing a pair of socks in 17 days was going to require world record knitting speed from me. I once knit a pair in 14 days, but that was back when I only had three kids.

Et voila! Completed socks. I finished them up on Sunday and wore them to bring the US hockey team luck. Whoops. Maybe I shouldn't have worn them after all.

Then I wore them to watch the closing ceremonies, which was really one of the oddest things I've ever seen. We laughed hysterically during the entire last half hour, and I'm not sure that's what the organizers were going for. I mean really, giant inflated beavers and flying moose? A terrified kid dressed as a hockey puck? Shattner performing poetry? It was a spectacle, for sure.

I will miss the Olympics, though. I'm the biggest geek about watching them. I love watching young, earnest athletes putting it all on the line to fulfill life-long dreams. So few win medals, but for each and every person there, just participating in the Olympics is the culmination of a life spent training and sacrificing in the name of their sport. It's a beautiful thing to see.

It's chilly here today. So I think I'll wear my new socks in honor of the athletes who are now headed home.