One of the most lovely and surprising gifts I got this Christmas was a skein of yarn from a sheep farm in Ithaca, local to my brother-in-law Tom who picked it up there (along with some sheep's milk cheese which Dan enjoyed.) The yarn was big and bulky and a lovely deep blue color, the kind of thing I love to knit with but don't usually buy for myself because it's so expensive. So I decided to be luxurious this week and knit myself a new winter hat. I stole a cabled pattern idea from some nice photographer on Ravely and used my tried-and-true bulky hat pattern as a base shape. First I made this red and white version out of scrap yarn to make sure the pattern would work:
Then I made the real one for myself in deliciously thick wool:
So that was my knitting fun for this week, before I seriously start in on the next round of birthdays and baby blankets. I have to keep reminding myself that knitting is a hobby, not my job. And, you know, my real job takes up a lot of my time. Being a housekeeper dash Laundromat. I mean mother. MOTHER.
If I have any semblance of new year's resolutions this year, it's to make more stuff with less stuff. For me this means finding small but useful projects to use up scrap yarn, doing some dreaded quilting with scrap fabric, and making more clothes for Harvey using our cast offs.
After making this christmas hat I had a very small ball of dark blue left. Serendipitously I also had a very small ball of blulky light blue wool left over from a hat I made for Lisa last year. I decided to put these two together into some sort of headband.
(Apparently my other new years resolution is to make quicker blog posts by not taking real photos.)
I was bummed yesterday evening when I ran out of dark blue yarn to get it all the way around my head. I thought of finishing it with fabric and then despaired that my simple project was turning into something that needed, ugh, elastic. Then a few hours later I thought of a rather simple solution... make the back band thinner and use up the rest of the slightly longer light blue yarn.
In the end it juuuuust fit around my head. Even Harvey likes it.
In fact, he stole it for himself, which is what happens to most headbands in this house.
During our play time at the library today Harvey started to get sleepy. I asked him if he wanted to go home and take an early nap and he said, "Nursing?" "Yes," I said, sheepishly casting my eyes around me to see if the other mothers were in earshot, "We'll do nursing and then take a nap."
I don't know what the other mothers in my town, the non-hippy suburban mothers who's civility I desperately crave, I don't know what they'd think of breast-feeding an 18-month-old, let alone breast-feeding an 18-month-old while pregnant. I assume their opinion would be bad, so I try to never bring it up.
And even though some of my neighbors are going through similar sleep issues with their similarly aged child, I try to avoid the subject. In the past I learned that non-hippies don't respond kindly to the idea of co-sleeping. "Aren't you afraid of suffocation?" they'd say about an infant. "Won't he be too dependent?" I imagine the opinion of co-sleeping with a toddler is even worse. "Better nip THAT in the bud," they'd say. "What is he going to do when the baby arrives?"
Our culture doesn't love the idea of either nursing or co-sleeping. Maybe because we love sex so much, both nursing and co-sleeping make us feel icky. Not that I'm the one to diagnose or solve America's Freudian problems. Whatever it is, I just think it's a bummer. Breast-feeding is useful and healthy. But I'm more sad about the co-sleeping thing, because experimenting with crib sleeping at the beginning of Harvey's life caused so much anguish for me. When I was pregnant I had no idea that co-sleeping was even a thing that existed. I just assumed that all babies slept in cribs, period. When I learned about the co-sleeper-brand-product it seemed like a revelation to me - a crib but closer! Unfortunately, after Harvey's birth I couldn't put the thing on my side of the bed because it prevented me from rolling out to get to the bathroom. I couldn't scootch down past it because that would risk tearing. So Dan had to keep moving Harvey back and forth for nursing, and it was just one more thing that made me feel like all these outside forces were separating me from my baby. If I had known that co-sleeping was a thing with arguments for and against, if I had looked it up on the internet, instead of just deciding on my own after a trying time that the baby would sleep next to me come hell or high water, well, that would have been helpful.
But like I said, it's not the sort of thing that anyone would have brought up to me. Because I might judge them for getting all Oedipal with their newborn.
I don't know where I'm going with this. Maybe I just wish the world were more like me so that my life could be easier (a thought that I'm sure no one has previously expressed in blog form). Maybe I just wish I was better at making friends. Maybe I ate a complaining pill for dinner.
Actually, I ate beer and saltines, but I hesitate to bring it up...
I have somehow entered into the third trimester of this pregnancy three weeks ahead of schedule. I am exhausted. Everything hurts. Walking the dog twice a day isn't just a nice tiring bit of exercise anymore - it feels like it does me violence. And I'm suddenly orca fat and quickly losing the hope that this pregnancy would be a 40-pound one and not a 50-pounder.
I have lovely things I'd like to write on the blog, but every time I sit down to type out spews a litany of complaints. You should see the folder of blog posts written but not posted.
I am granting myself a bit of grace today by deciding that my choices are choices and not mistakes. It's okay to want another child yet hate the process. It's okay to love kids and hate newborns. It's okay to act on your desire to have a big family and also admit that being pregnant and the first few months of living with a new baby is complete agony.
Also, this made me happy to no end:
Stating that a technology known to prevent a condition is widely available is not an adequate or moral public-health response. ... the technology needed to not have sex at all is widely available on everybody's body; it's called keeping your pants zipped.
Our Christmas tree is coming down today, so I took an hour yesterday to finally make Harvey an ornament for this year. Here it is.
He is, or course, a recreation of Harvey's favorite storybook character, and a nod to Harvey's current obsession with all things snowman. I swear... you could have a snowman the size of a pencil head drawn on wrapping paper and Harvey would plow through a room of excited children and dogs to point to it.
Indeed, when I gave him the ornament this morning Harvey exclaimed "noman!" and shook it excitedly.
Come to think of it, this guy needs a scarf if he wants to match the drawings in the book. Okay, so there's one more thing to do before all the ornaments go into the box.
Before we close the book on Christmas crafting 2010, I wanted to share with you this picture book I made for Harvey. It started off as a fun thing to do while we're coloring together and turned into a billion-hour project with far too many steps going into binding and prepping for binding and gluing and binding.
The book uses the text of The Great Thanksgiving (according to the Book of Common Prayer - I used Eucharistic Prayer C if you want to get technical) to tell the overall story of God and his people.
God created us, we turned against him, yaddah yaddah yaddah, then came Jesus.
I tried to use pictures that Harvey could recognize. This one he can call "huggie."
One day Harvey slept for a whole two-and-a-half hours, letting me complete the last of the pictures and do all the lettering in one amazing afternoon. The hymn singer picture below was one of the two drawings I made during that session, and I'll always remember it as a testament of praise to a toddler in slumber as much as to God.
I consider it one of my better qualities that I often plow into projects without thinking through their completion. This book was a good example. I can now tell you much more about binding your own board book, perhaps enough to put you off the project. I thought I would glue each page to cardboard and then laminate with contac paper. The gluing took about ten billion times as long as I thought it would, since each page needed to be lined up on the cardboard just right. I thought I would use rubber cement but that ended up being slippery, so I went back to using glue-sticks, which as it turned out were out of stock in our office four days before Christmas. One of the low (or high) points of this project was me promising Dan sexual favors if he would run out to Staples at 8:30pm on a Monday evening to buy me more glue. Then Dan used his school's laminator to seal the pages, and I taped down the laminated edges using $15 of invisible tape. Well, I only used about 50 cents in the end, but I had to buy $15 because the packages were sealed in the store and I couldn't tell which kind I needed.
And so, on the verge of switching to all cloth bags for all future Christmases, we nowown about ten years worth of scotch tape.
No matter. That's what Christmas is all about.
I try to pack a lot into Harvey's nap time. Reading, blogging, eating my lunch, making him lunch, changing the laundry cycles and folding diapers if I can get to it. He only naps for 45 minutes, so all the tasks I want to complete can sometimes seem a tall order. And sometimes, on days like today when I'm sick, I just want to nap with him.
Being a stay-at-home mom is the best job in the world, I always thought. You have so much time to play and create and you'll never stress over all the little household chores because they'll just get done over the course of your day.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
I don't know if it's the pregnancy or my current sore throat or the fact that Harvey has difficulty playing unsupervised or maybe I just suck at this stay at home thing. But I would really like to take a day off. Not an hour off that involves another hour of driving back and forth to Grandma's. A day off, where it's quiet and no one bothers you and someone else is keeping the house from being destroyed by Tasmanian devils and your son is doing something wholesome and magical that doesn't involve seventeen straight episodes of Shaun the Sheep.
Speaking of Shaun the Sheep, Dan and I watching this video last night about how they do the stop motion animation for that show, and the whole creative process is enough to make you feel woefully inadequate about the entirety of your life's work, especially if your life's work is mostly laundry and mac and cheese and reading picture books about dogs. The show is in German but that doesn't manage to hold back the awesomeness.
I just downloaded a zillion movies of Harvey off my camera, so something cute and productive should be coming shortly. Or as Harvey says, "guming?"
It never snows but it pours around here: except for a few stray flakes the only snow we've seen this winter has been in blizzard form. This one was even bigger than the last one; over twice as big, in fact, if you go by depth of snow on the front walk.
It's hard to tell from the photo, but the snow is pretty high on either side of the walk. I have hopes of constructing a multi-room snow house under the pile to the right and a toboggan run down the one to the left. (Harvey and I actually started the latter project this evening; he was understandably very reluctant to leave it to come inside to bed.) High enough that the neighborhood kids could perch happily up on it for a photo, and not one of them could get up there by themselves. The three-year-old (pictured center) was happy to give the little ones a push to help them get down, though!
Sometimes I think it's sad that magnificent snow like we got yesterday succumbs so quickly to plowing and salt and automotive traffic. Can't we just enjoy the enforced stillness for a little while longer? What, we have to go to work? Oh, alright then. At least I can bike on the beautiful, quiet snowy bike path, which my morning walk with Rascal revealed had been plowed. I was already composing a rapturous blog post about the commute when I came to an obstacle.
Note to bike path plow guys: if you plow through the open gate and then close the gate, it's kind of tough to get around it. Not that I'm complaining too much about this particular job, though, because as it happens the first segment of the path was the only one that had been touched by any sort of snow removal. In other words, there was no succumbing to be seen, and wasn't I unhappy when I realized it! Not only does getting to work on the roads involve me ingesting a significantly larger amount of liquefied road salt, the route is nearly a mile longer than the bike path. Still, I made it, and I enjoyed the ride, and I got to listen to a number of people tell me how awesome/crazy I am.
Besides the biking, I also managed some snowshoeing this morning and some sledding with Harvey (and James) this afternoon, so I'll sleep well tonight. It was a fine day for outdoor activities, to be sure.
With over 200 words at 18 months, Harvey is a full conversational speaker at this point.... or at least I think so. I understand him perfectly well, so it boggles me when friends or family or Whole Foods workers stare at him barooingly when he's saying something as simple as "More turkey." Anyway, I cut together this movie to serve as a quick poll. See if you can understand Harvey:
Apparently today is the tenth birthday of Wikipedia. I'm a huge fan of the encyclopedia from user perspective, although as a potential editor I do tend to take exception with how the most vocal and active participants choose to run the place. I was going to expand on these themes in this evening's post until I read The Economist's take on the anniversary; the author says the same things I would except with the authority of a 170 year old publication behind him. So go read that.
As an aside, I'll note that I spent some time this past week looking back over the articles that I wrote way back in the day, and I was surprised to see how little they've been updated since then. That means that not only am I responsible for the majority of the text in, for example, the encyclopedia's piece on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (a fairly notable group), but that my words have been copied in countless places all over the internet. Not bad for an article that "needs additional citations for verification." I have half a mind to just let them know that the whole thing was original research on my part and should be removed. But I won't, because it's just too well written.
Happy Birthday, Wikipedia
I don't know if it's a New Years resolution thing, but many of the blogs I read have launched into anti-stuff campaigns this month. Take this recent post from SortaCrunchy:
Cookbooks? Gone. I find my recipes online now. Waffle iron? Gone. I never made waffles anyway. Three sets of measuring cups? Gone. How about just one set? ... Our vision is to be able to open the door to anyone, anytime, and not give a second thought to what the house looks like.... when you don't have much stuff, you don't have much to pick up or clean or stash away when the doorbell rings.
Having a lot of stuff, having nice stuff, and having so much nice stuff that you worry about it... I don't know, I can't really relate. At the risk of being judgmental, I'd say this sounds like a rich person problem.
Dan and I have a small house and a growing family, so every few months we look around and say, "Can't we get rid of anything?" We poke through the closets, stick our head in the basement, and always come up with the same answer. No. Everything we have is tools for something else. If we get rid of something that means we can't do something.
You never hear a farmer saying, "You know what? I only use that rototiller once a year - I should really get rid of it." No, he'll say, "Thank God for that old rototiller in the back of the shed! There when I need it!" I'm sure he doesn't fret over the energy flow in his organizational space.
Similarly, I've heard knitters or seamstresses feel guilty over a raw materials stash too big, but never about keeping too many scissors, needles, or seam-rippers on hand. The fact is you need stuff to make stuff. If you really want to cook three meals a day you need more than one set of measuring cups. If you want to make or mend clothes you need a desk full of supplies. And if you really want to grow your own food from seed, well, then you need a basement filled with pots and rusty tools and lots of junk that looks like junk.
We recently spent an evening with some German friends who are in the US for only one year. I mentioned to Dan how neat it was in their apartment and how much open space they have.
"Yeah, because they don't have ENOUGH stuff." Dan said. "They can't DO anything! They can't go sledding. They don't have shovels for the beach..."
And Dan's right. It may feel lovely and zen to have a basement without off-season merchandise, but is life really simpler if you have to start every expedition with buying something?
Of course all this is personal preference. Many bloggers who desire the same scope of personal belongings as college students often do so because they're moving just as frequently. Obviously if you're up and packing every year it's a pain to keep around anything that's non-essential. Dan and I view ourselves more as the parents of said college students. We're the ones who store all the useful stuff for the moment our kids (friends or acquaintances) come home and say, "Hey guys - can I borrow your step stool / car seat / portable microwave?" (all things I can remember loaning out in recent memory - all things that we had acquired for free too!).
So this is what peeves me, then. My Christian hippy bloggers, with the "hospitality" buzz word thrown in for good measure seem to be equating having less stuff with having more spiritual value. I call shenanigans. When we clean our house before company comes, it's not disposable luxuries we're moving from room to room. It's our coats and hats and snow boots that get neatly stacked to one side. And when we look around and worry that it's dirty, it's because our floor is LITERALLY COVERED WITH DIRT. That has nothing to do with our level of stuff, but everything to do with our level of activity and the fact that our family includes one toddler and one dog. Life makes dirt. The solution isn't buying more asian looking pottery.
And here's a final update which makes me feel doubly justified in my crap-keeping lifestyle. SortaCrunchy posts today an exhaustively long explanation of their recent decluttering efforts. Basically, they redid their kitchen, filled 21 trashbarrels with their old stuff, and replaced it all with new stuff. You know, for Jesus. Because (the horror) their measuring cups were different colors. Whatever, rich people. Unsubscribe.
After ripping another blogger a new one yesterday, I thought I'd take a moment to pick on my own hypocrisies today. The topic is television.
We canceled our TV service a little over a year ago because Dan and I both agreed that we didn't want to be a household focused on television. Not to say that every household that owns a TV also orbits its family life around it, but some do. Mine did growing up. So it's a danger we wanted to avoid, and we went cold turkey and canceled our subscription.
Theoretically, all would be lovely and unplugged in our house, except for a little thing called THE INTERNET.
I don't know if you know this? But on the internet you can WATCH TELEVISION. So in our less innovative more exhausted moments of parenting Harvey was introduced to Phineus & Ferb and also Shaun the Sheep. And that's all it took - one tiny taste of the drug in his system - to make him whine for television CONSTANTLY. When he wakes up in the morning, when he wakes up form his nap, whenever he sees a laptop. Constantly.
So now he watches an average of one hour of TV a day. I hate this. Every time I turn on YouTube for him it makes me feel sick inside. I am failing as a parent. If only I could think of something else to play/cook/destroy with him, I wouldn't have to rot his brain away. If only I could make the laundry/dishwasher/rest-time more interesting, he'd gladly stick by me for that ten minutes instead of throwing his body on the floor in front of a live screen.
There are particular challenges to raising an Archibald child that we did not foresee in our idealistic planning. Harvey does very poorly with playing on his own. Some days he'll entertain himself for a whole ten minutes, some days zero. The rest of the time I have to be playing with him, one-on-one, constantly. Which, don't get me wrong, is lovely, but it makes even the bare minimum of household upkeep awfully difficult. Not to mention cooking. Or moving something from one room to another. And if I don't want him to watch a show, I'd better also give up on email forever (which, since I can't talk on the phone at all when Harvey's awake, also means I'd have to give up on all adult contact for about the next ten years.)
Also, I'm pregnant, so sometimes after I walk the dog for a mile while simultaneously carrying a 30 pound toddler on my back and a 30 pound belly on my front IN THE MIDDLE OF A SNOWSTORM I need to fucking sit down. (Yeah, I know that sounds dramatic - I get very worked up about the needs of the dog these snowstormy days.) Anyway, that means computer time for Harvey post-walk while mama lies down and tries to regain the will to move. That usually takes about a half hour, which when added to the few minutes in the morning when I have to take out the trash or clean up from breakfast plus the few minutes in the evening when I simply can't answer one more friggin request that starts with "mama get - " adds up to about an hour of TV.
So there's a heaping pile of justification for you. That's how a hippy non-TV family ends up with a one-and-a-half year old getting a full hour of TV a day. Hypocrisy and piles of justification.
One hour. God. I really do feel like a monster.
Of course, I could be guilty of the same misplaced grief for which I admonished Meghan and her husband yesterday. Like stuff, TV is not evil incarnate. It's got its good points and its bad. It makes you feel okay about doing nothing, and then later when it's not on it makes you feel worse about doing nothing. Kind of like pot, which even thought I don't partake, I can't raise a solid argument against. So it's not like I'm going to hell for turning on the Disney channel (or stealing it over You Tube for that matter)... I'm only suffering cognitive dissonance for not being able to live out the distraction-free life of which I dream. The life where every moment is exciting or educational or productive. The life where no one needs to take a break and no one needs to be shut up.
Meanwhile, Harvey's nap is dangerously close to over and I still need to cook him noodles. You know what would open up a lot of time in my schedule? Not blogging!
Update to my latest entry on TV:
Came back from taking out the trash this morning to find Harvey literally POURING apple juice all over my laptop. I immediately shut down, dried the keyboard, and left it sitting upside down. It seems to be fine now, but we're taking a little break from watching the computer for today. We'll just have to live through more tantrums and see how that goes...
Speaking of trash, I wish I had a video of this morning's spectacle: huge fat pregnant lady hauling a heavy trash can down concrete steps completely encased in ice. After slipping sliding and bumping the thing all the way down, I looked up the street and realized that, due to the holiday, trash collection happens tomorrow. Woops! So I lugged it back up the stairs, even more tricky than getting it down, all the while holding on to the railing for dear life. What must the neighbors think?
For our subsequent trip to the grocery store I wore my snow shoes over my boots to convey Harvey up and down the stairs. A neighbor drove by and looked rather quizzical. Nevermind, I already know what the neighbors think of me.
I had a very sheepish email exchange today with Megan from SortaCruchy who apparently checks her inbound links and didn't appreciate me snarking all over her kitchen makeover. Which, cough cough, is totally fair. My comments were pretty bitchy. Usually on this blog Dan and I try to avoid hurting people's feelings by insulting rich people (or parents, or Americans) in general, thus heaping approbation equally on societal problems as well as on our stage-three selves. When I do point out a blog in particular, like I did with SortaCrunchy, I figure my tiny opinion wouldn't make a blip on the radar of any professional blogger. Like I've said before, we have a very small audience, about 100 readers, mostly folks who know us personally and have stopped listening to anything we have to say long long ago.
I told Megan upon receiving her thoughtful email that I, like her, am trying to work out God's calling for me and my family amidst a world that's profoundly broken. While we may appreciate different aesthetics in home decoration, we both are trying to do the same thing: live faithfully with hearts that are broken for the wider world, taking tiny actions that we hope and pray will make some kind of a difference.
When I found myself so frustrated earlier in the week, I was thinking of Jackie Pullinger who writes in her book Chasing the Dragon about some of the distractions that kept her side-tracked at the start of her missionary work in Hong Kong. Her first year there she fell in with a group of other missionaries from Britain and spent one frustrating summer agonizing over how much swim costume was too little to preserve her modesty at the beach. It's not that God didn't care about her modesty, it's just that he had bigger issues for her to attend to, like the raging drug problems in Hong Kong's walled city. And this is what I, admittedly poorly, was trying to convey in my blog post about the war on stuff: that me and everyone, all of us American Christians (but especially me) are so distracted by what books I should read and how much tv I shouldn't watch that I'm doing a shitty job of loving the people that God put right in front of my face and asked me to love, the people just around the corner who I could love without stretching myself very much, and the people elsewhere in the world who I could probably love too if I gave Jesus one friggin un-scheduled un-bounded second of my time.
I have always appreciated SortaCrunchy for a being an earnest and thoughtful commentary on mothering with faith in America. Which is why, despite getting all worked up over the stuff issue earlier in the week, I didn't remove Megan's blog from my RSS. After all, it got Dan and me started on a useful conversation about what we have and what we value in our lives, and also it's nice to have other mothers to read about, and all the same I like making fun of things when the mood strikes because I am a rather insecure petty and broken person.
On a personal note, I have been so sick today with nausea, and I'm terribly fearful that I may be so sick every day forever, which is to say for the rest of this pregnancy, which is to say forever. Please send lovely warm wishes in my direction, I need them.
Earlier this week we made good on various oaths and promises and finally got a twin mattress set up in Harvey's room, taking the first step towards THE BIGGEST DEAL IN HISTORY, which is to say getting him to sleep on his own. As we moved the mattress around on the floor I said, "You know Harvey, your mama and dada first kissed while sitting on this mattress."
"Really?" Dan said.
"Of course! This is my childhood mattress from my parent's house!"
"Okay, yeah, whatever," Dan said.
We pulled out various pieces from our linen drawer to try to find a twin sheet. "How about this cloud sheet?" Dan said.
"Sure! Those were the sheets I took to college." I said. "You know Harvey, your mama and dada decided to get married while sitting on that sheet."
"Oh yeah?" Dan said.
"YES Dan! Where have you been our entire relationship?"
"I'm sorry; I just don't pay that much attention to your bedding."
We made a big deal about this being Harvey's OWN bed, putting his animals on it and tucking him in for fun. Harvey enjoyed throwing himself on it throughout the week, each time announcing, "OFF MAMA! OFF DADA!" and sometimes "OWN BED!" Yes, he got the concept of personal property pretty quickly.
We were waiting to slowly get the room organized and the bedrails on before launching onto the solo sleep project, but last night at bedtime Harvey threw himself onto his bed crying "NURSING OTHER BED!" and he would not be moved. So I laid him down in his bed and he started laughing maniacally shouting "QUILT! QUILT!" He was so excited about the new bed and all it's tucking in accoutrements that I was afraid he would be unable to sleep. But no, he fell asleep within minutes. Easy as that. And then that was it, he was sleeping in his own bed.
And then I sat next to him sobbing uncontrollably.
Over the past year and a half we've had some casual experiments of letting Harvey sleep in a different room, but each experiment ended with a night of anxiety (mama's) and crying (Harvey's and mama's) and finally re-justification of co-sleeping. Rationally, having him farther away was a pain when he was still nursing in the night, but that ended a few months ago. Now with a new baby's on the way, I'm really out of reasonable excuses to keep him my cuddle bunny forever.
So after an intense period of freaking out (because without Harvey asking for hugs in the night WHO WOULD EVER LOVE ME?) something amazing happened. Dan and I went to bed together and actually had a CONVERSATION. With each other. In voices that were not whispers. It was like we traveled back in time to a different era.
Harvey called out for me at midnight but only needed a few pets to fall right back asleep. He woke up again at 3am and was more awake that time so I lay down in his bed and cuddled with him until we both fell asleep. Two hours later I staggered back to the grown-up bed and got a little more rest until Harvey woke up at 6. All in all this was a pretty good night for him: two wake-ups, neither of them crying, and he seemed to be genuinely happy in his new bed (unlike the crib which he likened to a Romanian prison). In the morning I asked if he liked sleeping in his new bed and he shook his head vigorously in the affirmative. I asked if he wanted to come cuddle in mama and dada's bed and he screamed "NO DADA! NO DADA BED!" So there you have it.
The one who was the most unsettled last night was Rascal. Sometime between midnight and three am he got up and laid down in the entry way of Harvey's room, just looking in at him. Dan got up and moved the dog bed in there in case Rascal wanted to sleep with Harvey, but Rascal just followed Dan back into our bedroom and jumped into the bed with us. He too must have thought we had traveled in time back to a different era because he came up to the head of the bed and laid down in-between us, his neck stretched out under my arm for petting. I have to admit, it was heart-warmingly cute. Just the answer to who will love me when Harvey grows up.
Looking at the calendar, it seems Harvey turned 19 months just yesterday. I guess that's the turning point for all grown up.
We spent a very enjoyable day today with the Stevenses, sledding and drinking hot chocolate and eating lobster spaghetti and pecan pie and playing with legos. Oh the legos. Harvey is already a big fan, and payed no attention at all to his duplo collection once I brought out the big kid legos for Bruce to play with. Which brings me to the real point of this blog post, which is this: when Harvey is actually big enough to want to be playing with legos for real, we are going to need a new room for our house.
People called me crazy for biking to work today. It wasn't the first time, but it was certainly the coldest: our weather source told me it was -6° F with a windchill of -20. Sounds cold, doesn't it! So I suppose it's no wonder that my fortitude was remarked on. But really, it wasn't that bad. Frightened by the forecast (and the "Wind Chill Advisory" from the National Weather Service) I started out all kinds of extra layers, but ended up taking them all off and doing most of the ride with my regular winter (or late-fall-through-early-spring) gear. And I enjoyed myself tremendously in the clear sunny air, both riding and walking with the dog morning and evening. I think it's safe to say that I love being out in the cold.
Admittedly, I handle cold weather better than some other folks do, for whatever reason. Fast metabolism or somesuch. But just because I can stand being out when the temperature dips into the single digits doesn't explain why I enjoy it so much; for that, we have to enter the realm of psychoanalysis, which I do in this old post. Something else occurred to me this afternoon, though, which is why I drag this tired old topic up again. That is, it seems to me that many people's experience of the cold is powerfully mediated by the way the weather is presented in the media, and then by their friends and acquaintances.
After all, it was a sunny day. When the wind stilled it was positively balmy: I had some trepidation about taking off my gloves to make a repair but found that I didn't mind at all being barehanded for two or three minutes at a stretch. The very fact that some parents hurried their kids into school this morning without gloves, a hat, or even a coat for themselves suggests that I wasn't the only one to find the day survivable even without the right clothes on. So why did the principal feel the need to make an announcement at the end of the day letting us know that, while dismissal procedures were going to be normal, students should be aware that it is very cold out and should not linger before moving to their parents' cars. Can't they, I don't know, tell if they're getting cold and act accordingly? On their own? Maybe not, in Coldmageddon 2011.
Happily, it's possible for us to think and act for ourselves. One reason I enjoy being out in the cold is that the inherent pleasure I take in the weather is multiplied by the feeling of doing something counter-cultural. Sure, it can be a little annoying to listen to all the comments about my questionable sanity, but that's what you get when you don't do what everyone else is doing. Of course, I don't want to suggest that I'm somehow more virtuous than anyone else for wanting to stand around in the sub-zero temperatures. Not only, as I say, does it not really bother me, it also offers no benefit at all to anyone besides myself. But it does make me happy, and I don't need to listen to tv weathermen or coddled suburbanites tell me any different.
Today our household made bagels, chocolate-chip cookies, two kinds of scones (cranberry-oatmeal and lemon-ginger) and, um, one batch of rustic scones that were the result when I forgot to cut in the butter before adding the wet ingredients. Not really scones, but not entirely inedible either. Certainly healthier than they would have been otherwise! In the midst of this orgy of baking Leah spoke with her dad and told him she was baking bagels; he asked her why she didn't just get a dozen from the bagel store. Why indeed?
- We like baking
- Harvey likes baking
- It's cheaper
- Home-made tastes better
- We're crazy people
I'm really not sure. But I know I'm looking forward to having one of those bagels for breakfast tomorrow!
In the past two weeks Harvey has knocked over the right-hand reading lamp in our living room, shattering lightbulb glass all over the floor, three times. We had just replaced the light bulb last night, with Dan telling Harvey in a very stern tone "These things cost five dollars each!" This morning I caught Harvey fingering the left-hand light and took it off the table as a punishment. I left in place, however, the right-hand lamp which, coincidentally, is the one he always seems to break. Which he did an hour later. Making me feel both dumb and strangely justified. And keen on getting a jump-start on my daily vacuuming. Man, those energy-saving bulbs really shatter.
And here's a quiz. If you take the bulb out of the package, use it for four hours, and then clean it off the floor with a giant vacuum that needs to run for five minutes to get up all the bits of glass, did you really save any energy?
Anyway, here's the lesson of today: Fool me once, shame on you. Destroy $15 of energy saving lightbulbs? Bye bye table lamps.
Which is sad, because we use this little corner of our living room to do many things, including reading, knitting, and studying bible with friends every Wednesday night. I can accept the loss of my own eyesight from knitting in the dim glow of a lamp ten feet away, but I feel bad inviting other folks into my home only to make them squint over The Word in semi-permeable darkness. I'm thinking of keeping our table lamps somewhere high and bringing them out only for bible study nights. Which is to say, bringing them out tonight and then forgetting the plan and leaving them there until Harvey breaks another light bulb and then remembering the plan again and putting them up high for another one-to-seven days and then repeating the cycle. Because I'm being rational about my own lamp rotating abilities.
I did a google search for child proof table lamp and came up with this cute one for only $150. Hmmmm, with the rate of bulb breakage in this house, that would pay for itself in only 30 weeks! Alternative plan: anyone know a local artist who can teach me how to cast in breakage-resistant polypropylene?
It snowed again, and we got another day off. We knew all that by 5:30, but it was only once it got light out that we started to realize the full magnitude of the snowfall. Not that it was really that big of a storm—only another foot or so—but on top of all that we already have the situation is starting to become ridiculous. For example, look what we were greeted with when we opened our bedroom shades this morning:
And we're on the second floor! (yes, the porch roof). We had to laugh, at the absurdity of that much snow and at the precise resemblance the snowdrift bears to the ones keeping the farmer in his house in that Shaun the Sheep episode (sorry for no youtube link: the BBC is brutal with their takedown notices).
I kept laughing when I went outside, perhaps because having to throw snow onto a pile higher than your head while shoveling the front walk is naturally amusing. The cars looked especially silly after I cleared the snow off of them; before I did they almost in proportion to the mountains on either side of the driveway, but shorn of their covering they huddled dwarfed beneath the piles. It was hard, though, to get anyone to come outside to share my mirth, because Harvey is kind of over winter. It's understandable: with all his gear on he can barely walk anyways, and three plus feet of snow on the ground doesn't help any. He's kind of given up.
Rascal, on the other hand, continues to try his best. He loves the snow on general principles, but even he is having a little trouble with the magnitude of what we're now dealing with. The upside is that, while he still exhibits his traditional snow-day rambunctiousness in the woods, it's pretty much physically impossible for him to run away. At the beginning of the walk he took a few stabs at romping away in one direction or another, but with the snow up to his shoulders in front it was pretty hard for him to make much forward progress. Even the path, with eight or ten inches of new snow in it, was tough going. I felt so bad for him by the end that I tried to get him to go behind me so I could break trail for him with my snowshoes, but he was having none of it. Exhausted though he may have been, he knew that his job was to scout. (As a side note, it's a good thing we know he's getting a lot of exercise: a vet visit today revealed he's now almost 80 pounds! While most of that is probably due to Harvey's unwanted food, some of it has got to be added muscle mass.)
My last chore of the evening was taking out the compost, which involved a great deal of shoveling and also snowshoeing. So much work, and it was all in vain when I discovered that everything in the bucket was frozen solid and could not be induced to come out by any efforts I could muster. And it was a really warm day too, as evidenced by Harvey's wardrobe in that picture up above. Still, making paths around the yard in order to accomplish household tasks made me feel like I real hardy northern farmer. I could get used to all this snow, I think.
I'd like to express my continued appreciation for the awesome job of plowing being done on the Bedford portion of the Minuteman bike path. I commute by bike from Bedford to East Lexington, and not only is the bike path the most direct route for me to get to work, it's also a far more pleasant and relaxing ride than taking the street. I've been surprised and delighted at how quickly the path's been cleared after each storm, and my riding in the winter has been just as fun as it is the rest of the year... if not more so! Thanks!
Seriously, having the path plowed is absolutely wonderful. And today it was cleared in Bedford but not in Lexington, which, while annoying, is also satisfying in that it points up how awesome our town is. Good job guys!
Yesterday Harvey attended his first toddler birthday party (well, other than his own of course). Our friends' house was packed with toddlers and their German-speaking parents. These friends are German, you see, along with (apparently) many other young families in Cambridge. Everyone had a great time, especially Dan and I who indulged in far too much German-styled cake while we tried to act sufficiently cultured as the only Americans there and field questions on why Americans don't let their children run around naked at the beach (answer: we don't know.)
For the occasion, Harvey helped me make a special present for 2-year-old Noah:
It's a blue fleece cow according to this pattern. I had made two of these cows for Harvey's birthday ark, but those were half sized and in felt, so this fleece full-sized rendition was an absolute pleasure to sew something, all on the machine, without any hand stitching.
In keeping with my new years resolution, all the fleece was from my scrap pile, meaning that the present cost me no new outlays of cash, except for the $3.50 that Dan invested in a new bag of stuffing.
Dan even made an awesome card to go with the present:
For his part, Noah was very pleased with the toy. He carried it around immediately, calling it "horse cow."
Of course, most of the credit for this project goes to Dan. It was his idea to make a big cow in blue fleece, and as much as I love my earthy crunchy felt, I do have to admit that toddlers love fuzzy fleece. I've been cutting up a lot of my fleece scraps for a quilty baby blanket, which means it's almost time to go back to the store for more. You know, just in case there need to be more big fuzzy cows in the future.
My little brother Jake turned 26 last week and we celebrated with a festive dinner at my parents' house. My present to him, knitted this month in down moments and sometimes while playing legos, was a fair isles hat using the remnant yarn from his sweater vest.
This is my first 'completed' project involving fair isles technique... I've done my share of color stripping in other projects but not until recently did I feel confident enough to attempt carrying two colors at the same time. I'll admit, it's both easier and harder than you think. The knitting part is fairly easy switching between colors (especially when you throw the yarn like I do in the fashion of gaudy Americans), but just like everyone says you gotta get serious religion about passing the second yarn LOOSELY in the back. You can see the hat is a bit tighter in the snowflake part, evidence of my failure on the latter point. Oh well. A learning experience, certainly, and a fun break from the HEAVY DUTY two-color project I'm working on for Dan.
I was afraid the night-time flash photos might not come out, so I made Dan model the hat for me earlier in the day. Look at what a cutie he is! He just might need his own earflap hat some day, even though he swears he doesn't want one.
(Pay no attention to the state of our living room unfortunately also picutred.)
It was also my father's birthday last week, but thankfully for him he didn't need to submit to my knitting whimsies. Instead he got some wine (not homemade... we're not quite up to that yet...) and a set of homemade candles, which is to say some old candles re-melted into baby food jars and fitted with new wicks. This project seemed a bit of a cop-out to me, a little more recycled than upcycled, but whatever. There's new candles and a few less baby food jars in our basement. Hopefully with the next baby I won't be working full time come solid food stage, and I'll have more opportunity to make my own baby food. Then I won't be sitting around saying to myself, what can I do with all these jars?
All in all it was a big weekend for birthdays, which is rather satisfying for me seeing as birthdays and holidays are the only thing that gets me finishing any projects around here.
We're told there's yet another storm headed our way. Usually by this point in the season New Englanders would have become blasé about snowfall, but this hasn't been anything like a normal winter, and the constant succession of blizzards seems to have keyed us all up to the point where news of the latest prospective snow has sent everyone into a frenzy of frantic preparation. Me, it sent up onto the roof of the porch.
Actually, as it happens the frenzy is far from being entirely due to psychological reasons. There's an awful lot of snow around here already, and no one is really sure where we're going to put the next load; or, as it happens, if our roofs will be able to handle it. Breathlessness, then, comes both from excitement (or fear, depending on temperament) and from all the work we had to do to clear some room for the next few days of snow removal.
Actually, the caption to that picture doesn't even go far enough: in fact I had to move some of that snow three times. First I chucked it off the roof, then I cleared it from the steps; then this evening I spent some time rearranging the piles and pushed it off the top of one of them. I was so proud of the elegant way I prepared my heaps of snow to be added to that I wanted to take a picture of that too, but it was after dark. Oh well, it'll only get more impressive tomorrow.