Saturday, January 31, 2009

flowers for January blues

Chase brought me some flowers and chocolate, to sort of kick me out of the doldrums, I guess. Seven years is a good number of years to have been married.

I ate the chocolate before I remembered to take a picture.

Right now Wren is in her ultra-super-bossy mode. She's getting progressively angrier and shriller and more frustrated with the pillow fort she's building, to the point where she's now just emitting anger grunts interspersed with screams. I should probably intervene soon. As long as Jane continues to be oblivious to the shouted commands, I'll just let Wren go until she figures out that games that leave you a gibbering, screaming wreck might not actually be that fun.

Wren has been learning about fairy tales and rhymes in school for the last week or so, and it's been pretty funny. Wren's "phone friend" used to be Johnson Kelly, a "mean girl" who was always calling to ask Wren if she had to go to the bathroom. These days all her imaginary friends are rhymes- for instance Kolly Bolly is now the "phone friend." Wren says "He's the guy I met before... at the Holly Molly store, where he lives."


Jane and I went shoe shopping at Sandy's yesterday, next to Terra Toys in our neighborhood. I'd never been there before and it was really great- like the shoe shopping I remember as a kid- the black measuring thing, and the old man who is really intense about getting the right size, and who knows how every shoe in the shop fits on different sized feet. He was all "Well with her arch and the narrow width I would go with these, but of course you're also dealing with a bit of height from the baby fat..."

Usually I just scrounge around Target for the least princessed option. We went home with these on sale, since they're from the fall line. They are really adorable in person, and although Jane is walking like they're clown shoes right now, that's just because they are A SIZE AND A HALF BIGGER than the shoes we wore into the store. Way to go mom. My kid has to learn to walk again in shoes that do not cram her toes into tiny nubs of pain. Rad.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Thank you Seth and Christie! Wren LOVES her new Totoro shirt. She wore it yesterday, and last night, and was -very- sad this morning when she spilled her cereal on it at breakfast.

Here she is modeling it, on her chair. What a cutie right?

Sadly, this is the face I see more often. Frequently accompanied by bossy instructions about what exactly we should all be doing to please her. Oh three is fun, and I know someday I will miss it, but when I am all maudlin over my high school dance squad and twirling captain (her father and I are very proud) I can look back at this picture and remember that although I love her and always will, sometimes she was a bit of a B.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

no hot water

Trying to take a bath:

Also, is that not the stupidest design for a teapot ever? It has metal on the grip! WTF? And another also, am I the only person who immediately thinks of "American's Kitchen" when I hear the word 'kettle'? The website does not actually look as depressing as I thought it would. Any actual Kettle location, in person, is guaranteed to be one of the top ten saddest things you've ever seen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

all the news that's fit to be said

From NPR just now-

"One person's pork is another person's stimulus..."

Chase and I simultaneously- "um...UGH!?"

I'm all for economic recovery, but that's not the kind of news that brings in the pledges. Or maybe it is? I don't know. Moving on-

I made this bread today- WHO Bread (wheat, honey oatmeal). It was tasty on such a cold day, and the usual self-starving Wren actually ate 4 whole slices with butter and (more) honey.

Also we're making some Ethiopian lentil stew for dinner. It smells awesome, even though I did not have all the necessary spices on hand. Chase has been having hellish days at work- a combination of the start of the semester, the incompetence of fellow employees, inconsistent bus schedules and deathly pollen levels. As a result he's been arriving home kind of sad and frustrated and not really up to dealing with the level of insanity and noise our kids put out at 5:30 in the evening. I was trying to be wifely, and have delicious spicy stew waiting when he got home, but of course I forgot to precook the lentils, so the kids are not just regular day noisy, but also STARVING and cranky noisy, and I am feeling dumb. Also touched out, and not in the mood to jump into my homework. Oh well- perhaps this stew is miraculous, and we will all feel better after we have some. I will let you know.

hurricanes suck

When we visited my dad last weekend, he had just completed the monumental task of getting his damaged sailboat out of the water, and into his backyard.

He cleaned his enormous shop out, and added more enclosed space, to get ready for the huge project of getting the boat fixed up. He's been pretty busy over the last year, with the sailboat at the very bottom of the list. But now he's finally ready to get to work. While we were there, he was hauling concrete blocks in to support the trailer, explaining that even though he has it centered so that "all the tires will rot evenly" he still would like to avoid tire rot, since it's not his trailer.

I would say it was sort of a pessimistic way to approach the project- assuming that it will take so long to fix the boat. Except that I grew up at that house, and there has almost never NOT been a boat or two rotting into the ground at the back of the yard. When I was a baby it was a shrimp boat, that I think my parents were keeping for sentimental reasons. Then it was my dad's catamaran with the enticing suspended mesh that was the perfect trampoline until you got yelled at. Followed by a series of flat bottomed fishing boats, and then a big offshore fisher that I think was waiting for engine repair. I got a tetanus shot, thanks to stepping on a fishhook while playing in the cabin of that boat.

Keep in mind, the boats at the swampy end of the yard were not the only boats, just the broken boats. There were still a few canoes in regular use, either on top of the truck, or leaning against the shop. And of course the sailboats have always lived at the marina.

But my dad loves his sailboat, and I know he's going to have it (her?) seaworthy by summer. He's got motivation because if it's just up to me, Wren will never go sailing. Not because I don't want her to, just because I hate it. If I'm on deck I constantly feel like the boat is going to tip over, no matter how slow we're going, and when I go below, I get sick. The only part I like is the part where the boat stops somewhere and we get to swim. Then of course you have to get back in the boat somehow, and my dad has been known to forget the ladders. Ugh.

Anyway, this boat will be back in the water before too long, I'm sure. And this summer I will (hopefully) be subjected to sailing again. We'll see how Wren likes it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

These Days

My mom insists on giving the girls age inappropriate gifts- like the tricycle for Jane, whose legs are 5 inches from the pedals. Maybe she knows best though, because Jane is obviously having a blast, even if it's mostly a stationary blast.

The gorgeous weather the last few days means we've spent slightly less time with Little Bear and more time outside. Poor Chase can't join us, since the Cedar pollen count in greater Austin is at historic highs. People report sightings of enormous clouds of pollen, accosting drivers and pulling from their cars. Not the last part of that sentence, but the first part for sure. Anyway, Chase is miserable. My theory is that he didn't eat enough inoculating dirt in his childhood, and I'm trying to avoid a similar terrible fate for our children through my traditional parenting strategy of benign neglect. Knock it if you want, but nothing gets a quilt binding sewn on faster.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Survival Strategy

I'm going to take this opportunity to pass on a piece of hard won parenting wisdom that will be of use to anyone who is now a parent or plans to have children at some point in the future.

I am speaking, of course, about strategies for surviving Candyland, the potentially never ending, mind-numbing slog to King Candy's Castle, punctuated by tears, pleading, that one sticky piece of licorice, and the reverberation of your psychic energy willing the phone to ring, or the house to catch on fire.

Basically, the game can take a really long time...IF you don't know the secret.

Palm the picture cards.
Place them in the top third of the deck, and this way they will always move the child FORWARD. Towards sweet sweet freedom.

It is also handy to set aside a few double color cards to slip on top, for those times when your child really cannot handle losing gracefully.

I know. If you've ever played Candyland without doing this, you are wondering how you could have survived. Honestly, I've never made it. Not even as a babysitter. I just can't take it. When TWO PEOPLE from my family gave Wren Candyland this year, both with knowing evil grins, it occurred to me that I might have been a Candyland fan as a child, and if so I'M SORRY. I'm sorry, Aunt Pam, to you especially, because I feel like you might have been the main victim. I'm sorry to deny you your vengeance, but I am not afraid to admit that I'm weak. Wren will never know how long Candyland can really be.

Because now with this simple trick, I too can endure board game fun with my children. Hurrah!

I hope I come across similar strategies for Boggle.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January WIPs

So much for finishing up Christmas presents. I have three hats and a YET ANOTHER pair of Maine Morning Mitts to go. I hate it when you're done with a project before you're actually -done- with it.

Anyway, my BFF Kelly is going to have a baby in March, and her shower is this weekend. I usually quilt baby blankets, but I wanted something really special for her, and I wasn't feeling inspired by quilts lately. I got Knitting for Peace for Christmas, and it has the pattern for the Project Linus blanket that I've looked at making before. I found some lovely soft merino (which is sadly not machine washable because apparently I'm an idiot, or just really susceptible to wool fumes). The pattern was simple and would have been fast, if I hadn't been dropping stitches every three seconds because I was watching Battlestar Gallactica. As it is I was lucky to finish at all because of all the hyperventilating and explaining to Chase what the frack was going on.

There's Wrennel displaying the blanket in all it's green-ness. They're not finding out.

Next up is Wren's quilt, which was shelved a long time ago for Christmas projects, and is now a desperate necessity since the heirloom quilt currently on her bed cannot take another washing. If that tells you anything about what out nights have been like lately, you can sympathize.

I went with tying, since speed is important, and I'm hand sewing the binding now. I pulled out some batting from the stash, and I'm not sure if it's 100% cotton or a poly blend. I remember that polyester batting doesn't have to be quite as quilted as cotton, but does anyone know how much space I can leave between ties, without risking bunching problems? Judging by the number of times I've washed and dried Wren's bedding in the last few weeks, this quilt needs to be -very- sturdy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pomp and Circumstance

I can't believe I'm almost done with school- I have this semester and then I have a practicum in the fall. That might not sound like -almost- done, but I've been in school for approximately ever. Since Wren was a tiny little baby at least, and now she's, what, like 11?

When I graduated from UT, Chase took a picture of me, wearing his hand me down robe and cap, standing by our front door. I had forgotten to sign up to walk, and had neglected to let any of my family know what day the ceremony would be on, and in fact, from the evidence of my hair in the photo, I had actually slept through the ceremony, and stumbled out of bed around noon, to ask what day it was.

I had also sat through a few UT graduations at that point (MISERABLE) and the idea of sending out graduation announcements seemed like kind of a cash grab, since we'd just solicited a bunch of free stuff when we got married. Everyone I knew was graduating or had recently graduated and it didn't seem like that big a deal.

Now though, graduating from TWU seems like a really big deal. For me it represents so much hard work, encouragement from Chase, hours spent -not- crafting, and not reading the books -I- want to read. It is months of frustration with MARC records, the OCLC, dreaded group projects, classification headings, yes, the Dewey Decimal System, and a professor teaching a purely online course who DOES NOT SPEAK ENGLISH (I'm looking at you Representation and Retrieval). Anyway, it has been challenging, to pursue this vocational program when I had so many other responsibilities. I am proud, and I am going to do something I really thought I would never do again.

I am going to Dallas.

I know I'm not done yet, and it's possible that Online Information Retrieval and Academic Libraries will kick my ass this semester and I won't, in fact, graduate until 2012. But I am planning on graduating this December, and I am totally loading up the whole family, and anyone else who is willing, and I'm going to buy the robe, and process down the aisle, and pose for -real- pictures. And then I'm going to get the gaudiest frame at Hobby Lobby and hang my diploma right next to Chase's in our closet.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Strange Inheritance

My little sister showed up the other night with a garbage bag full of quilt tops she acquired in some mysterious process of family wrangling the last time she was in Beaumont. She was asking me if I wanted these, since I was probably the only one who wouldn't "just throw them away." Ack. YES PLEASE DON'T THROW THOSE AWAY!

That's probably not exactly true since no one in my family every really throws anything away. The generational packratting, as well as the family tradition of bypassing housecleaning by simply swapping houses every 10 to 20 years, ensures that nothing will every be thrown away, and we will all drive to heaven in our fleet of pristine Cutlass Sierras (pristine other than the overflowing ash trays and the empty Pearl cans in the back).

Anyway, moving on from my family mythology, these meticulously pieced quilt tops are from my great aunt Bonita Hightower, who got her BA from Columbia in 1920 something, probably took her librarian classes from MELVILLE DEWEY (since they were there at the same time) and then for some bizarre reason moved back to Beaumont Texas and started sewing her own lingerie. I remember a few things about Aunt Nita- her house was always dark, she kept a big crystal vase full of hard candy for her great nieces (we just lived three houses down- like I said- family house swap) and she didn't mind us picking up all her little bird knick knacks. She also let me borrow her husbands truly monumental rare shell collection for a school project in 4th grade. I -may- have tried to pass some of those shells off as ones -I- had found at the beach on High Island. Gosh I wonder if anyone saw through that...

I cannot hope to match her standard of quilting, even with all the delicate piecing done for me, but I hope to be able to put some time into finishing these quilts this year anyway. The star quilt is terrifying to think of working on, but relatively undamaged. The KKK quilt on the bottom (I don't -think- Aunt Nita was affiliated with the KKK?) has some tearing and some staining, but I should be able to repair it -very carefully-. And the little star blocks are so lovely. I can see what she meant them to be- I hope I can find some blue fabric to match the rows she has on there already.

Who knows when or why she stopped working on these. Arthritis, boredom, sudden death... The star top has lots of men's shirting material, and her husband had been dead for a while before I was born, so maybe that one is -really- old. They all need a good gentle wash.

I feel really happy to have had these passed on to me. Who knows what else we'll find as the century long game of musical houses winds down in the next few decades. Or perhaps Anne and I will be overcome with a sudden genetic urge to move to 2710, and 2720 N 10th St. We'll save 2730 (Aunt Nita's house) for any close friends or household help. 2675, or "the dower house," as it's known, is traditionally held for ex spouses, which I hope Anne and I will never have. However, I also hope I never live in Beaumont again, so this whole thing is moot.

Anyway. Awesome quilts! 2009 is off to a promising start!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bappy BirfBay Beer Baby

Wren thinks singing this over and over is the most hilarious thing ever. She might be kind of right, actually, although at this point I could stand to hear something else.

Wren on the climbing dome her cousins got for Christmas. That is the look that usually says "I'm thinking about doing what you just asked me to do. But..."

Wren's favorite Christmas present this year, or at least the one that's gotten the most play so far, is Rody. Or as she says, "Rode-y Pony." I feel like that picture doesn't really do Rody's eerie stare or bizarre plasticine texture justice. He's sort of like a dumbly menacing version of a dala horse. I don't usually think of inanimate objects as being imbued with any level of intelligence, but Rody just seems really really stupid. In spite of frequent bucking-into-walls incidents, Wren is devoted to Rody, and this morning, with a bunch of dishtowels and some socks, she has transformed him into "Snow Princess Rody." So that's that. Merry Christmas. Thanks Aunt Sarah.

The World's Biggest Floor Piano (yes my mom is that crazy) is currently living under the couch, and only comes out when I know the neighbors aren't home. Jane loves Olive, and christened her with a bunch of chocolate-faced kisses on Christmas morning, which for me was sort of like watching that person in the grocery store parking lot dent your car for the first time. But it's over with and now I don't have to wait in dread. Dolls are made to be played with and clothes are made to be worn and dirt is made to be smeared all over the walls and floor by retarded labrador retrievers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


So 2008... not the best year ever.

There were some highlights. Moving to Austin, buying our own house, making some friends, going on some really nice dates, a new sewing machine, these people:

And it also included most of Jane's first year. Every day in her company makes it more clear what a character she is. It's hard to describe her intensity- although I'm sure our upstairs neighbors could give it a shot. She is the LOUDEST person I've ever been around, and she frequently, even in the winter, gets so agitated and excited running around that her little body is hot to the touch. I am always saying, "Hon, feel her head. Do you think she has a fever?" But no, she's just Jane, being a few degrees warmer than everyone else is just how she rolls. She eats and eats and eats. First breakfast around 6:30 or 7, followed by second breakfast around 8, and then at 10 it's snacktime. She eats more than Wren at every meal, but she is a solid average on the height/weight graphs for her age. A tapeworm maybe? Perhaps her body converts calories into decibels.

She grabs armfuls of books off the shelves and backs slowly into the nearest lap. If you don't pick the book up and start reading, she'll yell and bang you with the (board) book until you comply. She is still a fierce and aggressive snuggler, and tends to leave a few bruises on her chosen loved one. Wren will sometimes call us for help from the other room "NO! Little sisters are not supposed to smush big sisters!"

In 2008 we've also gotten to see Wren navigate some of the challenges of being a big sister- the double standard, the tattling paradox, LYING... and so on. This is the year we moved her across the country from all her favorite people and started her in real school. She has become more articulate this year, more of a storyteller, and we've also seen her grow more fully into all the character traits we already love about her- her deep imagination, her deliberate gentleness, her kindness and her easy going nature. She and Jane both loved their Grandma very much, and she was definitely the main bright spot about moving to Texas for them. She was only a few minutes away from our house, and Jane would kick her legs and squeal when we turned onto Grandma's street.

So 2008 has also sucked. We've spent good portions of this year being terrified, sick, uninsured, depressed and angry. There's nothing like a rash of cancer diagnoses in immediate family members to make you prioritize, and we certainly are grateful for everything we have, and for all the time we got to spend with loved ones. But it wasn't enough time of course. And I am not sad to see this last year go. Here's to 2009 being a lot better.

What does it say about a person that they haven't finished making Christmas presents by January 6th? Nothing good probably.

Hopefully 2009 will include at least one (non-camping) vacation.