December 30, 2005

Snow Emergency

Today I saw a lot of accidents on the roads, and on coming around a corner on a busy road that has several lanes in both directions and a large divider I had the not-so-wonderful experience of beholding a large truck bearing down on my compact sedan IN MY LANE. And the thing is, I didn't care. Well, not once I swerved out of the way. Because of course, these things happen.

Yes, folks, it's a Snow Day!

I LOVE snow days. I even love *driving* on snow days, even though it's effectively putting my life in the hands of strangers who might be wearing straight-jackets under those poufy down parkas. I don't even mind the cold wet feet and digging my car out from under 200 lbs of wet packed white stuff and trudging the several blocks of unshoveled and potentially deadly icy sidewalk from the place I parked the car in order to avoid being towed during the Snow Emergency (will I remember where I parked it, tomorrow, or will I have to play an exciting Real Life version of Battleship?)

I don't care about all that. It's just so darned pretty, it makes my little heart go pitty-pat. I love the coating of ice that sparkles on the twigs. I adore the way the icicles and frosting of snow on the roofs make our houses all look like the witch's cottage from Hansel and Gretel. I'm a serious danger to my fellow drivers when I go past a patch of bare blackened trees limned against a polished steel sky and mother-of-pearl ground, transformed to a sort of giant magical bobbin lace by mounds and traceries of pristine white.

It's not the cold that makes me catch my breath. It's Wonder.

This is why I live in Minnesota.

December 29, 2005

Blog Tales: Hey, Chris...

I note that you put my blog on your links list... Thanks! As a reward (not really) I changed the name of this site.

I promise I did NOT do this just to make more work for you.

It isn't that I didn't like my blog's original name, or that I particularly like the new one. It's that I looked the old one up on Google, and there are several other blogs with the same name (not to mention a lot of quotes of it from Serenity, of course). So I decided to change my title to something that would be easier to find if someone someday wanted to find it without knowing the addy. So the new title is one that didn't turn up anything on Google.

I apologize for the inconvenience. Especially since it's unlikely to matter much in any case. But who knows? Maybe I'll be sitting at Sardi's one day, and a talent scout will catch sight of me, and will approach me and purr those sweet words in my ear... "I've got an editor who is designing an online magazine, and it has your typeface all over it!"

December 28, 2005

Knitting Tales: Sock Monster Rocks!

I am SO glad that I've been an obsessive sock knitter this year, in spite of the rather extreme amount of mocking comments thrown at my poor yarn-obsessed head on occasion.

The Fabulous Susan was a bit cagey in her reaction to the beautiful mittens I made for her Christmas Present. I think she's afraid that they might be impractical for New York, where they are likely to get grungy and need the occasional cleaning. She may be right. But they're so pretty and soft and warm...

Anyway, she came to visit on Wednesday night. The two of us were about to embark on our traditional dessert-and-chai/espresso coze at Cafe Latte, followed by the yearly tour of the Holiday lights on Summit Avenue and surrounding area. It's a tradition that we both look forward to, and which never fails to charm.

On this particular occasion, however, she looked rather pained when she entered our house and took off her boots for a pre-tour visit with the Vampire and the Pirate. When asked for the reason for her grimace, she admitted that her new boots were a bit too snug for the thick padded Vikings socks she was sporting.

Now, you have to understand that the Fabulous Susan is a Theater Person, and that her fashion sense runs to the colorful and sparkly end of the spectrum. Her Christmas Outfits are a wonder to behold (although you shouldn't look at them too directly for too long - retinas are a valuable commodity that shouldn't be wasted). She would rather amputate her feet than wear plain white or dark-colored socks. So the suggestion that I give her a new, thinner set of replacement socks was initially met with a frown and a polite demur.

But wait! The Sock Monster would not be denied... and in this case, she was Oh So Clever. Because right there (next to The Basket) she had a whole bag FULL of socks. Colorful, patterned, warm woolen socks, not yet worn by human feet and most of them much thinner than the padded Vikings socks. Would the Fabulous Susan like a pair?

The Fabulous Susan looked dubious. She knew that the Sock Monster's taste in clothing is tamer than her own (not compared to the clothes of the Sock Monster's family and friends, but everything is relative). We knew what she was thinking - wouldn't those socks be too dull for the Fabulous Susan's tastes?

The Sock Monster laughed triumphantly, and pulled out a pair of socks knitted primarily of the leftover yarn from her grand-sortofnephew's baby set, but finished at the toe with some very bright purple and blue and pink yarn (the Sock Monster didn't have enough of either yarn to make a pair of socks, so what the heck, she was in a frivolous mood).

There was nothing cagey about the Fabulous Susan's reactions to those socks. Clearly the Fates had known that this very moment would arrive, and had inspired me with divine madness on the Fabulous Susan's behalf. She LOVED those socks. They were warm. They were byoo-tee-full. They were thin enough to fit into those boots.

The Sock Monster is very smug. She's not taking any guff from the Vampire and the Pirate. After all, she's too busy.

She's knitting another sock.

Family Tales: Playing With Love

My son has never been what you’d call introspective. He’s a fun companion, and I truly enjoy his company whenever I can get it. But his conversation strongly tends either towards the light and humorous or towards obsessive dwelling on the Enthusiasm Du Jour.

So when he was silent for an extended period during our early-morning errand run this morning, and then thoughtfully, slowly announced, “Mom, I will remember yesterday for the rest of my life,” my ears definitely pricked up.

I took a deep breath. Such a serious voice could mean only one of two things: either he was going to reveal some very deep and traumatic hurt - which was going to have to be dealt with very sensitively – or he was about to initiate one of those rare, sweet Heart to Heart moments that we parents tuck away in a special lockbox in our memories, little treasures that we like to take out and dust off whenever we have a little quiet time to ourselves.

“What will you remember, Buggie?”

(See what a great companion he is? He doesn’t even cringe when I call him by pet names, as long as I don’t do it in front of his friends)

He looked down at his lap, and his voice went soft and tender. “Grandpa playing Bat the Balloon with me yesterday…”

Bingo! It was a Heart to Heart! Streamers and confetti were thrown about and Champaign corks were being popped in the little filing room in my head.

My son, the sweetest teenager on the face of the earth, continued:

“It’s really special to me when he’s playful like that. That’s a part of him that he usually keeps locked away. I really appreciated it when he showed me that side of him.”


Yeah. I have memories of my dad being funny, being charming, being a fascinating raconteur. I have memories of my dad making an ice cave for my sister and I in the back yard one winter, taking the entire afternoon to pile up a huge amount of snow, hollowing out the middle, lighting the big old Coleman lantern and with its heat creating a smooth, rippling hollow of ice through which the sun showed only as a shimmering aqua-colored glow – it was like being in the center of a big magical bubble in the ocean, and it was the coolest thing ever. I remember my dad being playful with my mom, for which I will be eternally grateful; because of their example, I am able to be similarly playful with my husband, which is a blessing in our lives.

But I only have one vague memory of my dad being playful with us kids, on a day when he took us tobogganing when we were very small. And that memory may only exist because my mother filmed a part of it, so I’ve seen some silent footage of him mugging and being silly for the camera (and consequently for my mother).

My folks were very young when they had us kids; my mom was still in college during her pregnancy with me. I think my dad felt that parenting was a Grown Up job, and perhaps that made him fearful that in being too silly with us he might lose our respect.

The advantage of being an older parent is that I’m not under any illusion that behaving immaturely will fool anyone into thinking that I’m younger than I am. I’d do it much more often if it did. So being thought silly, even ridiculous, by my child holds no fear for me. As he will happily tell you, whether you ask or not.


“Yes, that was pretty special. I’m so glad that you’re able to share that kind of thing with your Grandpa. I think you mean a lot to him. The two of you have a very special relationship.”

And they do. Sometimes I’m a little jealous of their closeness, actually, of my son’s certainty of his grandfather’s love and approval. But mostly I’m just really grateful. I remember how essential the safe harbor my grandmother’s unconditional love was to me during those horrible, awkward middle childhood years.

It was a gift to my son that my dad trusted him enough to play with him, to risk a perceived loss of dignity by sharing a moment of silliness. To give and receive unconditional love is a rare and beautiful thing. Everyone should be so lucky.

I’m glad my son and father are.

December 26, 2005

'Tis the Season to Gently Bloat...

After spending yesterday in a food-induced fog**, The Pirate and Vampire and I today happily settled into our chairs for a nice, quiet, peaceful dvd-a-thon. This decision was reached primarily due to its main virtue of not requiring us to lever our Festively Bloated Rears out of our seats for more than a minute or two at a time.

We further decided that only one of our choices had to be of any sort of redeeming social or educational value (‘educational’ being a loose term… HOMESCHOOL ROCKS!); as a result we arrived at our viewing schedule of:

Disk 3 of Season Four of Alias – Hooray! Arvin has slipped his leash again, and now, as an extra bonus, we have an additional and even Arvinier Arvin to deal with. How fun is that?! And isn’t it something to see Sonia Braga and Isabella Rossellini again? In my dreams I age that well…

Passion of the Christ – We’ve been intending to watch this with the Vampire as a cultural education thing, but had been putting it off while the Pirate was blind as a bat. Now that he can read the subtitles, we figured it was time, and given the holiday it seemed vaguely appropriate. We can now give our unqualified review of this box office smash:


But I did learn that I can read (subtitles) and knit at the same time, sort of (do you note that hint of smugness, Chris?) - and in doing so I learned two other important things:

1. Latin is MUCH prettier than Aramaic.

2. Passion of the Christ is one turned heel, a set of gussets and 2/3rds of a foot-length long.

Last Disk of Season One of the Bob Newhart Show – A nice antidote to Passion. We didn’t manage to finish the disk, but who cares? I finished my sock…

** Bless my mom for being the chief provider/chef of our unique and fussy-to-make Bouja, potato dumplings, and figgy pudding with hard sauce; bless the Fabulous Susan for gamely eating several foreign and slightly suspicious dishes, for not complaining when I twice lost track of time while ‘toasting’/charring the nuts, and for putting up with my sister's uninterrupted 7-hour-long monologue about birds. You are both lovable and formidable women, and I'm lucky to have you in my life.

December 24, 2005

Family Tales: the Twelve Hours of Christmas

My cousin Mark and his extremely gracious wife, Polly, really do Christmas Eve the way it Should Be. We all add our little traditional dish to the spread, but they are the true Founders of the Feast. Santa visits and piles gifts on the little'uns while the adults drink eggnog and grasshoppers and nibble on various hors d'oeuvres, after which we set up the buffet and get down to seriously stuffing ourselves silly. We don't do anything in moderation, so this is really Serious Eating.

We need it to fortify us for what comes next. We need the food and drink to anaesthetize us sufficiently that we are willing to do anything, no matter how ridiculous or demeaning, in order to sit still for a few moments. This is the time that we all dread, and yet secretly look forward to - because of course it is the highlight of our evening when we can comfortably watch our loved ones making asses of themselves.

Every year we do a sort of Christmas Vaudeville during our Christmas Eve Extended Family Bash.

Don't get me wrong. We're a talented bunch. We number among us a guitar player, a concertinist, a saxaphone player, a poet, an actor/singer, a church choir member, and several ink-stained wretches (writers of various stamps). We've got the requisite number of darling and extremely well-behaved Charming Tots Dressed In Yuletide Finery and we've corralled a reasonable number of Surly Underdressed Adolescents. We've got plenty of Enthusiastic Support Singers and Bit Players. And Those Who Cannot Do, Direct.

We Rock the Yuletide, Baby.

But you will understand that the group is *really* talented when I tell you that they were able to make the entire following song (desperately scribbled at the last possible moment before the Pirate, the Vampire and I scrambled out to the car) scan when sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". And you will know that my family is *really* a generous and lovely group of people when I tell you that almost all of them knew which one of them was being poked at in each line... and that the person being poked always laughed loudest and most sincerely when their line came up.

The Twelve Hours of Christmas (last verse only here, for brevity's sake):

On the twelfth hour of Christmas, my family always says:

This is the last goodbye,
Thank them for your present,
Don’t hit your cousin.
Someone take a picture,
Who made the eggnog?
Did I make enough?
Where is that Santa?

Would anyone like more chicken salad?

Thank goodness that it snowed,
Did you wear that last year?
We got lost again, and
I think this is the best Christmas we’ve had.

And yes, by the end of the night, someone had said every one of these things. Except one; for once I found the house without even one mishap. But the first thing everyone said when we walked in was: "Did you get lost? Did you pass the house?"

And I did miss an exit on the way home.

True to the twelfth hour line, it took forever for people to say their goodbyes fifteen times, and for the men to herd the women (still hugging and chatting and giving each other directions) out the door, and for everyone to follow each other down the drive, shouting all the things they just at the last minute remembered needed to be said. We have refined the Minnesota Goodbye to an art form.

You won't find a more chaotic, silly, managing, kindly, warm, odd, generous gaggle of characters anywhere.

I love them, each and every one. They deserve the Merriest of Christmases.

May yours be as bright.

Knitting Tales: Oven Mitts

Okay, a bit disappointed on several counts.

First of all, the Cascade red I used bled into the white, so the white is now sort of an anemic pink. The red also bleached out a bit, so it all ended up looking a bit used and shabby. The pic doesn’t do this justice, it looks much darker and brighter than the mitts actually are. Worst of all, for some reason the thumbs did not shrink down as much as they should have, and are much, much too long.

Well, let’s face it, to a lesser degree the mitts themselves didn’t shrink as much as they should have, and they are a bit too long in the body, too. And the snowflake one narrowed a bit too much at the design level, so it’s a bit warped.

On the positive side, the felting is exactly the right thickness, so that the mitt is fairly flexible and yet there’s no way that any heat is going to get through. You could hold a roasting pan straight from the oven in your hands for an hour, and you wouldn’t feel anything through those puppies.

Too bad I don’t have time to make shorter mitts. They is what they is, baby.

Two for Auntie and Unca (the red & green matched set), one for my eldest cousin and his lovely wife (the pink snowflake). The other cousins get game stuff
for Christmas.

I wonder which cousins will feel they got the best end of the stick.

Ah, well. Nothing’s perfect. But some things are done with lots of love.

Shut up about the Road to Hell…

December 23, 2005

Dear Santa: All I Want for Christmas is a Restraining Order

Ho, Ho, Ho.

There are moments that stay with you forever in your list of Moments That Make a Parent Proud. Now, the Vampire was anything but shy as a wee beastie, and was more prone to terrifying Santa by latching limpetlike to his leg and refusing to be detached (cough up the goods *now*, Santa, if you ever want to see Mrs. Claus again...). But I have memories of my sister's early years, and having watched my son's early performances in public when a smoke detector or fire alarm went off, I have some sympathy for my mom's experiences of Christmas Past.

The Scared of Santa website provides amusement for those of us who don't have to worry about Santa Incidents any more. And for those of us who still do - well, perhaps you can find some reassurance that you aren't the ONLY parent who has pulled their jacket up over their head and scuttled out of that department store as fast as your kid's stubby little legs could go...


... and most of the people who read my blog (I know you're out there, my statcounter tells me so) don't comment, so I don't know them enough to tag them specifically. If you're not Chris, consider yourself tagged and let me know where to read the result. Yes, Renee and John, this means you. :)

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot.

Kim's BlogPlanet

Where am I going...and why am I in this handbasket?
Stumbling Over Chaos
Aiming to Misbehave


What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was searching for the appropriate kindergarden for my teeny Vampire, who due to health and neurological issues *and* being particularly bright and creative at the time was proving very difficult to place anywhere that wasn't going to drive him insane (and/or the teacher, but that's the teacher's problem).

What were you doing a year ago?
Desperately searching for a doctor who could stem the tide on the Pirate's rapidly approaching total blindness. We'd been searching for nearly ten years, unsuccessfully. Tenth year's a charm - we found a fabulous cornea specialist who not only cleared up his nearly-destroyed cornea, but also found his cataracts. The Pirate can read and drive again, and we are ALL unbelievably grateful.

5 snacks you enjoy?
  1. Premium Ice Cream from Izzy's, Grand Ole Creamery, Haagen Dazs, etc. Favorite 'standard flavor' combo: Chocolate Zin and Italian Strawberry from Izzy's
  2. Macadamia Nuts
  3. Pomegranates
  4. Seriously Dark Chocolate - 75% or higher
  5. Garlic Bagel Chips
5 songs you know all the lyrics to
  1. I can still sing all the lyrics from the *entire* "Thick As a Brick" album by Jethro Tull. Nothin' wrong with my long term memory, I guess!
  2. The Pirate and I can sing the entire score of "Wicked" by Stephen Schwartz. I'm the soprano, nowadays.
  3. "Something More Than This" by October Project
  4. "Wanting Memories" by Y.M. Barnwall
  5. "Moondance" by Van Morrison
I do feel that only 5 can't possibly cover even a scratching at the top of this category!

5 things you would do if you were a millionare
  1. Correct the spelling of "millionare" (is "anal retentive" hyphenated?)
  2. Buy two houses, one here and one in Ireland
  3. Set up trust funds for all my loved ones
  4. Travel, lots
  5. Set up a literacy campaign... I've taught hundreds of kids how to read, and have pretty strong feelings about how things should work.
5 bad habits
  1. Blowing off exercise (I'm with you there, Chris, and raise you very little, because I'd have to put down my knitting and get out of this chair)
  2. Tuning people out when I'm reading/at the computer
  3. Staying up way too late at night and only getting 3 hours of sleep
  4. Being impatient
  5. Procrastination
5 things I like doing
  1. Reading
  2. Knitting
  3. Emailing with my Internet Friends
  4. Cooking with my mother
  5. Hanging out with the Vampire (he's the coolest kid EVER) and the Pirate (when he's available)
5 things you would never wear, get new, or buy new again
  1. Any non-natural clothing item
  2. Any other soy sauce than San-J
  3. Any spices other than Penzey's
  4. Saturn cars
  5. High heels
Tag 5 people

See above - if you're reading this, you're tagged...

December 22, 2005


I'm pretty sure I'm getting Alzheimer's. I went to pick up the Fabulous Susan at the airport, walked through the entrance and the little hub area with all the escalators and elevators to the various levels, parking and otherwise, checked out a bank of screens with various flight info on them, thought 'well this will be easy to remember, I didn't have to use any escalators to get here, I parked right on the main level!', and took the escalator up to baggage claim and waited for Susan to show up.

I sat down next to a woman who had a pug dog in a little black sweater with silver metallic specks in it and fake fur around the collar. It immediately decided that I was a crazed maniac dog killer, backed as far as it could on its leash and began to yap loudly at me. I didn't sit there voluntarily, mind you, I sat there because it was the only seat left and I had a rather complex piece of knitting to finish in time to felt for Christmas Eve. The owner of the dog informed me that her dog was Shy, and that she was waiting for her husband, who was coming with their *other* pug dog.


Luckily Susan showed before the second bug-eyed monster, so we gathered up her things and went back to the hub. Where I spent quite a bit of time wandering down all the side hallways, looking for one that ended in doors to the parking ramp, rather than in either an escalator or banks of elevators. Couldn't find one. Searched some more. Still couldn't find one. Went to the information desk to ask... and was informed that there was no such thing. ALL parking ramp exits were above the hub level. I looked at that bank of stupid screens that I had previously viewed. The kind (and slightly nervous-looking) information gal told me which escalator to take to the level I'd parked on. I took it, and sure enough, there was my car.

Yet I still would SWEAR that I never took an elevator or escalator on the way in to that hub.

So I either inadvertently tesseracted to that hub from the automatic doors of the parking ramp... or I have Alzheimer's. Or something else, and probably just as awful.

My great-aunt died of Alzheimer's, although she waited until she was in her late seventies before really showing any signs of problems. Early onset Alzheimer's would suck even more, I would think.

When I was in my early twenties I had a car accident and resulting neck injury that limited the oxygen getting to my brain for a while, and I lost the ability to read. Well, to be absolutely accurate, I could still read per se, but a second after reading something it wouldn't be there in my head anymore. I might have as well been reading Urdu phonetically. This went on to one degree or another for nearly two years, and although I did slowly regain my reading skill (although not the previous speed) - my short term memory never quite recovered. I've had to write things down ever since, just in case.

Losing your mental faculties is really scary and awful, especially when you are aware of it. Especially when the things you've always been good at are predicated on being able to think quickly and easily. The permanent back injury and the Familial/Benign tremors inherited from my maternal grandfather are much easier for me to deal with than the mental processing issues.

So this development is rather nasty - because I've noticed other problems this past year or so, with remembering words or remembering where I left things or what I was intending to do when I headed towards a particular room. I chalked those things up to approaching early menopause or some such, and figured it was normal even though I didn't like it much. Not only can't you rely on your own memory, but other people start doubting the things you *do* remember, which really gets on your nerves. Sort of like how once you've had PMS, every time you object to something or get ticked about something, your partner wonders aloud whether it's your hormones talking (my husband is smart enough not to do this - he knows that if it *is* my hormones talking, asking about it is just going to make them talk much, much more forcefully).

But that sort of absent-minded, lack-of-focus stuff is different from missing chunks of time so thoroughly that you're convinced they never existed in the first place. It helps me understand my sister (who has schizoaffective disorder) better. But I'd rather not.

I'll try to think of something positive to pull out of this tomorrow. But right now I'm just scared...

December 21, 2005

Parent Tricks #2: The Yes Trick

A quick self-quote from the comments board on Parent Tricks #1:

“My son is what the teachers like to call 'spirited' and what I like to call 'opinionated and stubborn as an Irish Mule'. Luckily he's always had an innate sense of Fairness, so as long as our explanations/rules made sense and he could see that it was applied evenhandedly, he would usually settle down and abide by it.

That mealtime rule and the 'Yes Trick' both made our lives so easy and peaceful that I became largely unaware of how difficult my child could be, until we had Parent/Teacher conferences.”

Having noted early on my then-toddler son’s strong aversion to the word ‘no’, which nearly uniformly precipitated a tantrum or whine-fest, I decided to avoid the word altogether as a form of self-protection.

This worked so well that my son never caught on to ‘The Yes Trick’ until he was an adolescent (“HEY!!! You guys are SNEAKY!!!) and still hasn’t worked out an effective countermeasure; as he’s gotten older, we’ve gotten more cunning. We’ve been able to stay a step ahead of him. I wonder how long that will last?

In any case, it occurs to me that other people might benefit as we did from a nearly total abstinence from the word ‘no’ when dealing with their kids. Here’s how the Yes Trick works:

When your child asks/begs for/demands something, ALWAYS begin your response with a pleasant, “Yes.”

Wait, I know what you’re thinking. The trick is in the next bit, which always starts with “if”. What sort of “if” you use depends on the child’s request/demand, and how that balances out with your end goal.

If you don’t object too much to the request, and you do have something you’d like to get the child to do, use an “if” that isn’t too punitive or extreme. Yes, you may have the muffin, if you finish your dinner/chores. Yes, you may have that toy, if you fill this box with your old toys and give them to a homeless shelter. Yes, you may go to Jenny’s for a sleepover, if you can go three nights without sleeping with the Binky.

The best way to present this is to try to find an If that connects in some way to the demand. But if you can’t and the child asks why you are making a particular demand, just say it’s a fair trade, s/he gives and you give. If your “if” helps you in getting them to a desirable goal (more responsibility, better habits, etc), all the better.

If you do object to giving in to the child’s request, use a really extreme, somewhat punitive or seemingly impossible “if”. Yes, you may go to Jenny’s for a sleepover, if you don’t suck your thumb for two weeks first. Yes, you may have that toy, if you give up your entire Lego collection. Yes, you may have the muffin, if you rake the front and back yard AND pile the new load of wood neatly out back.

Either way, be prepared for your kid to occasionally take you up on even the extreme offers, and always follow through as promised, even if you don’t like it. If you don’t abide by your deal, the Trick will never work again; it depends entirely on your child’s trust in your honesty in the bargain. S/he will test even the more extreme “if” once or twice, just to see if you really mean it. It’s okay; once s/he sees you do mean it, s/he’s unlikely to test it too frequently.

In the meantime you usually end up looking like a really cool parent – after all, you hardly ever say no!

The best benefit of the Yes Trick is that when I DO say 'no' and give a reason, it's a rare enough occurance that the Vampire takes it more into consideration than he might otherwise - he knows I'm not going to say 'no' reflexively or 'meanly', so he doesn't start out from a position of resentment or resistance. Trust me: this is particularly useful as your child enters Teenhood.

December 20, 2005

The Better to Eat You With, My Dear...

You will notice that Wolves and Vampires both have sharp teeth, and sharper wits. And big ears...

Parent Tricks #1: Toddler Meals

By the time my son was three he was refusing to eat anything other than chicken nuggets, hot dogs and ice cream. This is not unusual, and I’ve seen and heard a number of parents struggle with this particular issue – including the parents of many of my son’s friends.

After a second-trimester miscarriage, a threat from my son’s pediatrician regarding his stubbornly low weight, and a particularly difficult food-related battle with him (he was throwing spaghetti across the kitchen and onto my parent's brand new pale blue carpet) I reached a state of depression and frustration in which I was seriously afraid that I was going to haul off and smack him.

His absolute power was corrupting absolutely.

That's when I knew that I had to take drastic action. I wasn’t going to let the toddler be in charge of our mealtimes and my sanity any more. As long as my kid was (hyper)active and happy, why should I care what other people thought of his little stick legs?

So I made a Family Rule: Everyone had to have at least a bite-sized portion of every dish in a given meal on our plate, and we had to finish everything on that plate if we were going to eat or drink anything except water before the next meal. And that included the long gap between dinner and breakfast.

We made no comment or faces if someone asked to be excused before he finished his plate, or if he refused to eat one of the items on that plate - that decision was entirely up to him. That meant there would be no juice, no fruit, nothing but water available until the next meal... but if we weren’t hungry enough to finish our dinner, then that was a reasonable option to take.

I did make one adjunct rule: we could each choose three food items that would be exempted from the first rule – we either would never cook those items or we would offer an alternate item for substitution. Our son chose liver, tuna, and (clever boy) ‘spicy’.

Was it easy? Well, not for a week or so. We spent a day in graduated tantrums; we endured another week or so of watching our child stagger dramatically through the kitchen with his cheeks sucked in, whimpering that he was staaaaaaarving. We cheerfully replied that the next meal was in X number of hours, and if he finished what was on his plate at that point he could have seconds of whatever he liked and snacks between meals. Would he like some water now?

And for that week he tested our resolve – I think he maybe ate two ounces of food altogether. But we stayed firm. If he was able to climb to the ceiling on a mountain he’d single-handedly constructed of my aunt’s basement furniture in less than 5 minutes, he obviously wasn’t starving to death.

(I do recommend starting this program during a week when you don’t plan to have visitors, particularly doting grandmothers and aunties. They tend to be convinced by these amateur theatrics that your child is going to either die or be permanently scarred, and shoot powerful guilt-inducing rays at you through their eyes.)

The upshot, though, is that after the rules were accepted as unchangeable, our kid became the world’s most adventurous eater. He’s had squid, raw oysters, skate (why is it that so many suspect foods come from the ocean?), all sorts of wild game, food from all over the world… any food that’s been offered, he’s been willing to try. And he likes most things. He’ll even eat tuna and ‘spicy’ now.

Still not real big on the liver, if it’s not in pâté form. I’m with him on that.

In the meantime, his friends are mostly resistant to eating new things, and many of them still have very limited diets. Sad. And a pain in the patoot to host at parties.

My point is that my kid has gained a lot (though not much weight) by being able to enjoy such a wide range of foodstuffs. We weren’t doing him any favors by allowing him to limit his own experience that way. Three year olds don’t have the experience to understand the ramifications of their decisions – that’s why they are raised by adults instead of by other three year olds.

Well, that and they need someone tall enough to reach the top shelves at Toys R Way 2 Expensive…

December 19, 2005

Dear Santa: We Could Use An Extra Set of Hands

Well, the furnace sounds normal again, although somehow it seems colder in here (less insulation from the pocketbook, probably). I am starting to resign myself to the house not being in a state I’ll be happy with by the time the Fabulous Susan arrives.

I’ve not entirely given up on the idea that we can get the tree up by noon on Wednesday, even if we won’t have time to decorate it. Let’s get Susan to help – who better to deal with lights and decorations than a stage manager?

We might even manage to clear the piles of stuff off the piano. The other day I seriously considered spending money in order to get rid of our perfectly good piano in order to buy a storage unit for my yarn. After all, we’re using the piano as a set of shelves, and it isn’t doing that good a job.

I should be able to get my knitted gifts done if I don’t sleep from now until Christmas.

What was that? You say I need a 12-step group for yarnaholics? Hey – the Pirate has golf, I’ve got yarn. At least my obsession ends in the production of practical and/or beautiful items used for the benefit of others…

Yes, it sounds like rationalization to me, too. But I don’t have time to do better at this point; ask me to defend myself again after the Holidays. In the meantime, you can convict me IF you can catch me! I’ll be at the bookstore. Or the game store. Or the music store. Or the department store. Or the hardware store. Or the Post Awful. Or the grocery store. Or at the airport. Or delivering, picking up, or generally driving kids around and around and around…

Yuletide Song of Woe

(Sing in disgruntled muttering monotone):

Gah! Stupid wonky furnace. Stupid having visitors at Yuletide. Stupid not keeping up with housekeeping as much as I should. Stupid having to Spring Clean the basement and porch when it’s freezing. Stupid overbooking ourselves. Stupid not having done the Christmas Shopping earlier. Stupid not being able to afford to do the Christmas Shopping earlier. Stupid having four surgeries this year between us, and having stupid medical bills on top of our overburdened bill schedule. Stupid Cat suddenly deciding that she should start raiding the table for scraps. Stupid employer’s bank that keeps changing how it pays me (or doesn’t), so that my money ends up floating around in the ether for weeks/months at a stretch, instead of being available for the Expensive Yuletide. Stupid knitted Christmas Presents that aren’t getting done quickly enough. Stupid tree being way too big to fit comfortably into our tiny little cottage of a house. Stupid waiting to get it in until just before visitors come, and having to fit decorating it into our too-cramped schedule. Stupid having to find the boxes of decorations in the freezing attic. Stupid new lights from last year not working again this year. Stupid Yuletide Panic Time. Gah!

(Repeat until someone knocks you out with a festively decorated mallet)

December 17, 2005

Family Tales: Coming of Age. Gradually.

This morning the Vampire awoke with a scratchy throat and a hoarse voice with which he announced in deep yet Cassandra-like tones, "This does not Bode Well."

The prediction of doom might have had its intended dramatic effect, had it not been dropped into a room full of parents who had suffered from stress-related insomnia for much of the night and were at that point stubbornly determined to remain as inert as possible. The Vampire, professional that he is, was not deterred by eyes tightly squinched shut or by protesting moans and covers pulled over greying heads.

"I don't think I can do justice to my part today. Today. The last day of performance. The day that we have our biggest audience. In just a couple hours."

There's a reason he's an Actor. This kid has never once missed an opportunity for a dramatic entrance. Arriving nearly two weeks after his due date,
and having survived my third trimester cancer surgery and an excruciatingly long and painful labor, he stopped breathing and wound down like a little neglected clock ten minutes after his birth. Of course, he did it in such an aesthetically beautiful manner that we almost missed our chance of stopping the impending Exit.

I was less patient with the theatrics this morning, but I made the mistake of blearily peering at my son's wilting form. He took it as encouragement. Ten minutes later his father was hotfooting it out the door to purchase fresh ginger, lemons and cough lozenges, and I was boiling water and getting out the honey.

The kid's voice and throat were well enough during his final performance of this particular run (see the group reprise their performances in the Twin Cities Fringe Festival next summer).

He couldn't let his dire prediction go unfulfilled, however.

He forgot whole stretches of lines/action. Enough to cut out around 15 minutes of a one-hour show, much to the dismay of several of his fellow performers, who missed their own lines and scenes as a result. This wasn't deliberate - the bits he forgot were among the most funny and original bits he'd developed for his part, and the funniest.

He’d psyched himself into the dreaded Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

You wouldn’t have known anything was wrong from his performance – he handled the whole thing very professionally. When he exited the stage, however, his hand was thrown over his eyes and he announced in sepulchral tones, “I Suck.” He hid somewhere until his next entrance, at which point he again performed with aplomb.

Even when he again forgot some lines.

Flashback: The last time he forgot his lines was two years ago, when he had a solo that led into a chorus by nearly the entire cast.

He got through the first verse, but in the middle of the second (similar to the first, but just dissimilar enough that...) he forgot which version of the words came next, and...

Froze. Completely, on the spot, mouth open, facing the dismayed and frozen faces of his castmates. There was a LONG moment of horrified silence, eventually filled with the Vampire’s soft (but audible to all the little kiddies sitting up front), "Oh, Shit..."

The Vampire doesn’t publicly swear. Other parents often comment on his rather formal and mannerly demeanor. But this was a moment of extreme duress.

Senior thespian Andy (bless his generous and quick-thinking heart) sang out the Vampire's next line, and the song went on. We in the audience who knew the play and song were very aware of what had happened, but I doubt that anyone else had noticed that there was anything out of the ordinary going on.

Except for the delighted kiddies up front...

The Vampire, however, was devastated. He had never before forgotten a line. This might seem a small thing for an adolescent actor under normal circumstances, but the Vampire has been performing publicly since he was in preschool, and he'd never missed a line or a mark during an actual performance. It had never occurred to him that such a thing was possible.

The first thing he heard backstage was harsh criticism from one of the oldest (and most talented) boys in the group. He immediately burst into tears and fled to the green room.

(Note: to be fair, the older boy in question apologized the next day)

Luckily it was time for the intermission. The rest of the cast very kindly gathered to comfort their comrade, recounting stories of the times that they, too, had experienced similar disasters. By the beginning of the next scene, the Vampire had recovered his composure and soldiered through the rest of the play.

But it took a long time before he was able to go back onstage with a fair degree of confidence, and he’s never quite lost the resulting pre-performance jitters. Before that night he’d never had a moment of stage fright. He’ll likely never have a performance without, again.

Flash Forward: After the play was over, the Vampire stopped by our seats to say hello and never once mentioned either the forgotten lines or his sore throat. There were no excuses and no theatrics. We wouldn’t have known about his feelings on the matter if his director hadn’t approached us during strike and asked us to convey her reassurances and empathy to him. When asked, his castmate and Lady Fair told us that he’d been “a little upset, but now he’s fine.”

Even accounting for his desire to appear manly for his Lady Love’s sake (and the sake of his own dignity), this is a significant advancement in maturity for our Vampire. An inkling of the man that he will be.

We’re proud. And a little dismayed. We don’t feel prepared for his next Big Exit…

December 16, 2005


I just looked up and realized that it's after midnight and... the Professor's birthday is tomorrow! I haven't gotten his present yet, and I have to go to the Vampire's last performance and the Lady Fair's family plus (us) After-the-Last-Performance party tomorrow afternoon, and I have to get those gift cards for the nephews and niece and I have to mail out the cards and I have to finish knitting the cousin's gifts and I have to get the house ready for the Fabulous Susan and... and...

Oh. Boy. The Cat is right. I DO suck.

It's hit already. The PreYule Panic. How am I supposed to sleep NOW?

Geeks In Progress

Inspired by comments (one of them mine) on a recent You Knit What? entry, I just finished reading Wil Wheaton’s WWdN in Exile blog.

Now, I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for Wheaton in his childhood acting days. I empathized with his sensitive geeky aura, having been a sensitive geek myself as a child. Once the Vampire arrived on the scene I felt more fond of Wil than ever - it was all too easy to see that my boy was a Wheaton clone. He practically had ‘geek’ written on his forehead at birth.

Definitely my kid.

Having read the now-adult Mr. Wheaton’s blog, I find nothing to dispel that impression of similarity: like Wil, the Vampire is a sensitive, geeky, RPG-playing, card-playing, media-obsessed, SF-reading, high-energy thespian/writer/gaming fan. He knows what “5d20” means. If Mr. Wheaton took up competitive fencing, they’d be nearly indistinguishable.

Except in shaving habits, and the Vampire is fast catching up on that.

I’m glad that Wil Wheaton grew up so well, in spite of having chosen a career that is notoriously rocky in terms of both satisfaction and remuneration. He has a loving family, he follows his many interests with a good deal of enthusiasm, and he appears to find a lot of joy in life. That seems pretty darned good to me. It gives me a lot of hope for the Vampire’s future.

I’ll bet that Wil’s mom thinks that every mom should be so lucky as to have a son like him, too.

December 15, 2005

A Split Personality Moment

I'm looking out my window at the picturesque view of my neighbors' rooftops, covered with a pristine frosting of snow, icicles delicately etched along the eaves and railings, snow making lacy patterns out of the tree limbs, snowflakes falling gently from the sky. All very Currier and Ives.

And I'm thinking "Dammit, I have to do carpool today, and rush hour is going to be hellish."

Oh, yeah, I've caught the Holiday Spirit...

December 14, 2005

Lack of Randomness in the Universe

Why is it that every time our furnace goes on the fritz, it's just before Christmas (or on one memorable occasion, on Christmas Day itself, in a year where the temps were well below freezing)? In the last two weeks we've had to replace all four tires on our car, cobble together in a temporary manner severely broken plumbing (the entire plumbing badly needs to be replaced, but we can't possibly afford that for a good long while), and now our furnace is showing signs of sticking its spoon in the wall at any moment.

And by 'any moment', I mean complete breakdown, and that we'll be very, very lucky if it creaks along until the appointment we have with the Furnace Guy for next Monday. We're hoping we don't have to call him in earlier, on a more expensive Emergency visit.

All this when we are housing an out-of-town guest for two weeks; the Fabulous Susan arrives on Tuesday.

Don't tell ME that the Universe is random. If it's so random, why is it designed so as to ravage my bank account on such an uncannily regular basis?

The Vampire agrees with me, except that his position is that it is designed so as to shrink his Christmas stocking on an uncannily regular basis...

December 12, 2005

Food Porn: The Great Cookie Marathon

Every year we make the same cookies. Occasionally we try a new one, and if it's successful we sometimes keep using that new recipe for a couple years, just to see if it becomes part of the tradition.

But so far it never has; a couple years is the better-than-average lifespan in our kitchen, as far as Christmas Cookies are concerned. We've lost a few traditional ones along the way, as well - I'm not entirely certain why the mint brownies fell by the wayside, as I was the only one in our family who didn't love them unstintingly. But they've been missing for a few years now, and nobody has commented on the loss.

Having tasted numerous Christmas Cookies made by other people, I know exactly the difference between our traditional family cookies and Everything Else. For some reason we've managed to find cookie recipes that are less sweet than normal.

We put a premium on the flavor of the cookie - the nuts, the mincemeat, the anice, the vanilla - and somehow too much sweetness seems to interfere with flavor, covers it up somehow. Overwhelms the flavor, perhaps? In any case, most of our lost Probationary Cookies never made the cut primarily on the basis of being too sweet for our peculiar tastes.

In the last decade my mother worked a lot of overtime, which probably prompted the death of the brownies and also inspired me to inflict new cookie recipes on the family. None of them quite took, although one came close (the anice cut-outs, which everyone liked very much but which turned out to be A Lot of Work).

So this year we stuck to the traditionals, and through my stubborn insistance we included the mincemeat cookies/tartlets that had been missing for the last few years. They are very fussy and time consuming to make, but they are my favorites. Mom had no choice but to submit, since she's currently too infirm to fight me one-on-one.

Actually, she admitted that it was a lot more fun to do them together than it had been for her to do them alone. Aha! One positive side effect to shattering one's ankle!

So in the last two days we've made: two batches of Russian Teacakes (nut-filled and only lightly dusted with powdered sugar); one-and-a-half batches of
artistically decorated Spritz cookies (light almond flavor); one too-small batch of mincemeat cookies/tartlets (cut outs of cream-cheese pastry carefully and decoratively sealed around a carefully measured bit of mincemeat and watched carefully during the baking process to avoid easy scorching).

A batch or so of chocolate chip cookies, if we're lucky, and we should be done for this year - unless I decide to do the anise cut-outs after all.

Nah, I've got two more felted oven mitts to knit, a houseguest coming, a furnace to nurse, and Yuletide shopping to do. And I have to figure out what to bring (other than our famous Cranberry Etc. compote) to the Christmas Eve Extended Family Blowout.

The anise cut-outs will have to wait in the wings, hoping for their Big Break...

Knitting Tales: MidEvil

I wouldn't admit this, normally, but I am crazed by insomnia.

In part, I insist on taking verbal note whenever a great (or even passably interesting) sweater passes before me on silver screen or boob tube because I am a yarn hoarding, stitch envying, color obsessed, texture fixated knitting addict. Hey, Love is Love, people, and where I love I love big.

But in secret and perhaps somewhat larger part, I do it because it drives the Pirate and the Vampire insane. I am taking gleeful revenge for all the golf games I hear recounted stroke for stroke, and all the (weeks? months? years?) of accumulated time I have spent listening to arcane descriptions of trading card acquisitions and trading card-related anime battles.

And now that I've discovered the knitting blog community, I'm inflicting humorous knitting stories and jokes on my son. I excuse this abusive behavior on the basis that it is my job as a parent to teach him the virtue of patience.

And like any self-respecting Control Freak, I am happy in the knowledge that for once I am producing that glazed-over-eyes effect deliberately...

December 11, 2005

Family Tales: A Merry Birthsmas, etc.

Up early this morning to meet mes parents and some dear family friends for a lovely breakfast at the Longfellow Grill. The Pirate and I split a crabcake benedict, and several of us split the Banana Waffle - yum! The Vampire was gifted with a huge bag of assorted cereals - our family friends are connected through their son to a famous cereal manufacturer. When one has a teenaged son, a connection that gifts with Fast Consumables is a valuable commodity.

After stuffing ourselves shamelessly, we followed my folks up to Stacy Tree Farm, the place where we have hunted down and slain our Christmas trees every year since our Vampire was born. They not only provide lovely trees at a reasonable price and free hot apple cider, but also on certain days they provide a free horse-drawn hay ride, driven by Santa (who gives out candy canes), and a petting zoo that includes animals both domestic and exotic (various chickens, bunnies, goats, sheep, llamas, a reindeer and, on at least one occasion, a camel).

After a protracted struggle with twine and the largest white pine we've met at the farm - there is still serious debate going on here about whether even our 10-and-some foot ceilings are going to be adequate to the task - and a long ride home enlivened by a tape of Dave Barry reading his own works, we arrived chez us in time for the Pirate to happily settle in for a love-fest with his Vikes. The Birthday Boy could not have had a better prezzie than to see his team win.

After the game we were off to my folks' house for the traditional tree-trimming. We had a lovely dinner (antelope roast is good!) followed by birthday carrot cake and tea. and then got the tree trimmed handily. My mom was able to stand up on occasion in order to hang her particularly treasured ornaments in the traditional spots that only she knows, and to direct the rest of the trimming from her wheelchair, so she was reasonably happy with the result. The only bit of the tradition we missed was our annual viewing of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - the cartoon version narrated by Boris Karloff, not the frenetic live action version perpetrated a few years back - accompanied by the traditional mulled apple cider and popcorn.

We are promised that we will at least see the show tomorrow, when we are scheduled to spend our first day of Christmas Cookie making with my mom. Tomorrow we make Russian Teacakes and make the dough for the mincemeat cookies; if we have time we may make the Spritz cookies.

Tomorrow is also the Vampire's first day of the run of the musical he's in at Upstage! Musical Theater Workshop: "The Real Story of Little Red Riding Hood" . He is, of course, the Wolf. We're sure he and the rest of the cast will do brilliantly, of course. More importantly, they're having loads of fun. Upstage! is a wonderful program - I'm sure you'll hear more from me on the subject at a later date.

I don't have any pics of the production at the moment, so we'll have to make do with pics of the Vampire as Scrooge in last winter's Theatrix production of "The Christmas Carol" - just click on the link, there. If you are fascinated with all things Vampire and/or Theatrix, you can also see a younger version of Himself on the Theatrix website's 'Past Productions' pages, cheerfully lurking under the large red hat in the pic of the Fringe Festival cast for Alice. Mad Hatter, of course! He can also be found in the pics of their production of "The Curious Savage".

He was The Fox in their production of "The Little Prince", but somehow managed to avoid having pics taken - he was actually *shy* that year!

He's certainly cured of that particular trait now...

December 10, 2005

Family Tales: the Not Ready For International Spy-dom Players

I have gotten cards for the Pirate. Not only a card from me, but also a card from the Vampire *and* a card from the Cat threatening to hack up a furball. Isn't that sweet?

This would have felt very efficient and clever, but as so often happens in such cases, things did not work out quite as well as one might have hoped.

We took the Pirate to Target Boutique for the supposed purpose of purchasing a new pair of slippers for him. Happy Birthday, and Congratulations on those Stylin' Homer-Simpson-Is- Swallowing-My-Feet slippers, darling man. Please never wear them in public.

While the boys were frolicking in the shoe department I was on my own, choosing what will soon be Belated Happy Holidays Cards from Yours Truly & Co. This was all plotted out carefully, the goal being that I would get a chance to surruptitiously pick out Birthday cards for tomorrow's Big Event (two Big Events, actually - see tomorrow's blog, assuming I am awake enough to report when we return home from our social rounds).

I unwisely placed my son in charge of the Pirate, handing him the aforementioned cards and directing him to tell his father that I had retreated to the Ladies Room. The plan was that he would convey the instructions that they were to pay for the slippers and the cards, and then wait in the car for my arrival. I was going to use the opportunity to find birthday cards and purchase them on the sly; he was in charge of keeping his father out of the way during this process.

I made it to the cash register.

At the point at which I had finished paying for the Birthday cards and was hunched over an empty register counter, madly scribbling brilliantly humorous comments from the cat on the appropriate card, the Pirate wandered up behind me and asked what the heck I was doing.

Apparently the cool temperature outside woke our Birthday Boy up enough for it to occur to him that I was taking more time in the bathroom than usual. I'm not a primper, so I'm generally in and out of public restrooms at a sprinter's pace; knowing this, and having reached something approaching alertness - or an advanced state of boredom - he had become uncharacteristically solicitous of my health. When he announced his intention of re-entering the store, the Vampire panicked and couldn't think of a way to keep dear old dad from coming to the rescue. He attended to his responsibilities in the matter by trailing behind his dear old dad with a vaguely distressed and yet carefully blank expression on his phiz.

I'm not entirely certain what the Pirate thought he was going to do if I was getting ill in the Ladies Room. This is a man who feels it an act of Heroic proportions to buy feminine hygiene products when I express a dire need for such items, and who nearly dies of embarrassment when I send a burned entree back to the kitchen at a restaurant. He is, in spite of the impression his sartorial tastes might give the outsider, a sensitive and retiring soul. His head would probably explode if he were to open the door to the Ladies Room and encounter an actual female there. But I digress...

I was, of course, characteristically cool under fire. Faced with a situation in which my husband was sure to see exactly what I was up to, I did what any rational woman would do.

I made shooing motions with my hands, and accompanied this performance with shrill repetitions of "Go away! Go away!!" Which he eventually did, wearing an expression perfectly balanced between bafflement and offense.

Yeah. I wonder why the Vampire never learned the gentle arts of Subterfuge and Misdirection?

Knitting Tales: One Success, At Least

I finished those Koigu and Kidsilk Haze mittens for the fabulous Susan, and they are *gorgeous*, dahlinks! Will have to find access to digital camera and/or other appropriate materials and get a pic, so that you can admire my brilliance. I need to get the Vampire's lovely companion to model them.

Maybe I can sell the design to Knitty for next winter's edition. That's a year away, though, and I just looked at their submission page... maybe I *can't* put the pic up for you here, if I want to do that? Oh, well, I'll decide later. In either case, I'll get our lovely model to pose for a few shots anyway, before the fabulous Susan spirits them away to New Yawk.

At least ONE thing has come out right this week!


Family Tales: One More Day (More Or Less)...

... Until the Pirate's birthday. I won't say how old he'll be, or similar expectations might be held for moiself next September.

I haven't gotten a card yet, and am unsure as
to exactly how I am to get away from him tomorrow in order to obtain one. Not to mention some small yet meaningful token (I wish it could be more than a token, but if he's going to insist on having a birthday that butts up against the Yuletide Panic, what can he expect?)

Any suggestions?

DON'T suggest anything knit, whatever you do. I am starting to seriously panic about the likelihood of finishing those cousinly prezzie
s, I really am. Heck, I don't even know if the one (to-be-felted) oven mitt I've finished will felt down to something usable. The semi-finished version will probably go to my Auntie, because there's no way in heck I can do three more with that overly complicated snowflake pattern... it would take until after New Years to finish all four. So I had to go for a simpler pattern for the second... and I can't give something simpler to one cousin than another, for fear of seeming to play favorites, so now I have to add another cousin prezzie to the list of Christmas Projects.

I may be spending a great deal of time and money on something that will end up a humiliating and distinctly un-Yulelike mess. What was I thinking??!!!!

Let us contemplate on something more pleasant. Ah, yes, here's something to cheer us up - a pic of the Vampire and his Lady Fair. Aren't they darling? And they're *likeable*, too!

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