When I was little I loved to swing. I think I could have done it for hours, and perhaps a time or two I did. I loved the feel of the breeze as it would whip my hair, first back away from my face and then suddenly covering my eyes as the swing fell back. I remember it was always a challenge to see how high I could go. Pumping and pumping the swing until it seemed to drop out from under me and the chains would snap. Often, on while I was swinging I would sing. I'll admit I have never been a great or even good singer, but it never stopped me. (pity the neighbor who had to listen.) I am not sure what it was that attracted me to the swing. Perhaps the freedom I felt while I was out, often alone on the swing-set. Perhaps it was as simple as the rhythmic motion that calmed my soul. Whatever, I found comfort and solace in that simple action. My daughter, it seems has also found something in it that calls to her. Today after a particularly hard day there were many tears. I'll admit that often we have tears after school. I think for her it is a final release of all that she has dealt with through out her day. While I know it is necessary, it is often frustrating to be on the receiving end and not be able to help. Anything can set the crying jag off, but today it was spelling. After what seemed like minutes of endless crying I was struck with inspiration. I suggested she go out and swing. So off we went into the back yard to swing together. I remember the feeling, the enjoyment and the freedom. I was shocked that I could not bring it all back. The only thing I felt was nauseous. After minutes of quiet swinging Emma began to calm down and then she began to talk. Our swings groan and creak, as I suppose all good swings do. Yet, through the eyes of my seven year old the swing was talking to her. At first it said, "GO HIGHER!" With each pump of her legs I could begin to hear what she heard. As she stopped pumping the creaking changed and Emma said the swings were sad. When I asked why she said, "They don't want to leave Texas." The swings were groaning, "Don't go" and indeed they seemed to be. After minutes of silence as her swing slowed down, Emma began to open up to me about the day she had had and how sad it was making her that we were moving. We talked and she cried some more, but not tears of anguish just cleansing tears. Almost as suddenly as she started, she stopped. Then she danced off to finish her homework, soothed by the simple act of swinging.
Today is Ash Wednesday. For those of you non-Catholics, it is the start of lent when Catholics walk around with an ash cross on our foreheads and people say, "You got a little dirt on your forehead." Then we get to explain Ash Wednesday, yet another time. For Lent Catholics give up something, Candy, TV, Soda etc. It is a time to reflect on how much Jesus gave up for us and a time to strive to make ourselves better people. Being in Catholic school the kids have been drilled on "giving things up" for at least a week now. There have been many discussions on what to give up and why we have to do it at all. Technically the younger children are not required but it is always good to try to become a better person. This morning on the way to school, which is where many of our good conversations take place, we were having just such a discussion. Emma, of course, was the most concerned. She was asking everyone what they were giving up and trying to decide "If" she should do it at all. I guess when you are perfect you don't need as much work as others. Jack said he was giving up Pop-tarts. There was quite a commotion about this since mom doesn't often buy pop-tarts. Since he does enjoy them when they come into the house we decided it was OK. Mom said she was giving up cooking. When they all called my bluff I told them I was giving up dessert. Since SUGAR is one of my biggest vises it should be an grouchy and annoying lenten season. Mark decided he was going to stop biting his finger nails. Which I'll admit is admirable. Emma was asking each of us what we thought she should give up. We threw out suggestions, "30 minutes of TV? Dessert? Playing with her DS? Cookies? " All of which received a "NO" Finally I said, "Hey Emma? Why don't you give up whining?" To which she promptly replied, "I tried that once. And believe me it never works." Hey it was worth a shot.
Many of you may remember the pact I made with myself (the one where I would make 5 projects from my stash before I bought any new yarn.) Well, with the completion of Emma's socks I reached my goal. I noticed while digging through my stash, that I have a lot of wool. A lot of really nice wool. Leftovers from one fair isle project or another. I decided to make a vest pattern I had found in Interweave Knits with my find. It is a project I had kept my eye on for quite sometime, however I had to buy a skein of yarn before I could start it. So, onward I went with the socks. Finally, the socks were done and it was time to start the vest. I have never been a fan of gauge swatches. Therefore I didn't do one. Well, after 2 hours of knitting a k1, p1 rib I realized that my gauge was way off. I was supposed to be 28 stitches/4 inches and I was at 20 stitches/ 4 inches. Makes for a very large waist line. The amazing part was I was already knitting on a size 3 needle! I knew immediately the yarn I had chosen was absolutely not going to work for this vest. Enter exhibit A: I had picked up Knitting Classic Style at Sam's last week. I was immediately struck by the number of fair isle projects in the book. I love color work and haven't done any in at least 18 months. Now, I do believe my pact was not to buy yarn, it said nothing of buying knitting books. I forged on. I browsed through the patterns in the book and settled on the Ski Jacket. It is a wool cardigan made mostly in one color with a fair isle yolk. I cast on and immediately and did a gauge swatch. HA. Guess what? Correct gauge the very first time! WOW. Onward I knit. Here is a very early picture of the sweater with the pattern.
Knitting on, I realized that now I did not have enough yarn from my stash and that I would be required to make yet another yarn purchase. Not just 1 skein but 3. My dear husband is fond of saying, that my ideas always cost him money. I am beginning to see the truth in that. Here I had a grand plan of using my stash and getting an awesome new vest in the process, and now I have the potential for having more leftovers. Contemplating this I am beginning to see a pattern. This is exactly how many of my brilliant ideas start. They transform over time to become something completely different from my initial concept. Whether the idea is a quilt, a vest or the plan for the day. Most of the time I am happy with the end result. Although I'll admit quite often I am not, and on I move to my next brilliant idea. I'll have to let you know if this is one of those times.
The kids were off of school today. Teacher in-service, or something. The only thing I knew was we were NOT going to spend it watching TV, playing our DS or complaining "we're bored" I packed the weekend with activities to keep us busy. Friday was family movie night, Saturday was the children's museum and a walk through the shopping area that is Downtown El Paso. Sunday was supposed to be the Art Museum, however, I was vetoed, so we spent almost 2 hours in Barnes and Noble. Book Stores are so much fun! Today was the day for the zoo. It was perfect, since everyone else was in school the zoo was almost completely ours. Now the zoo in El Paso only has 200 animals, so no it is not a big zoo. It takes only about 2 hours to complete the entire circuit. They are expanding, unfortunately we will not be here to see the finished results. Regardless the kids had a great time exploring the zoo and discovering new facts about the animals. We saw the Mexican wolf, the sun bear, the Bengal tiger (looking ever so regal), various birds, elephants and finally the sea lions. The sea lions are a favorite among my children. It is one of only 2 shows put on at the zoo. We were unable to see the show today, so we wondered down to the underwater viewing area. The zoo has 4 sea lions, 1 male and 3 females. They were very active today, perhaps the warm weather had them hoping for spring as much as the rest of us. Whatever the reason, the sea lions were busy, swimming happily around their tank.
The underwater viewing area consists of one large window about 6 ft tall X 15 feet across, some seating and a couple small salt water tanks. The kids ran to the window. They were so excited they couldn't get there fast enough. Several of the sea lions would rub up against the glass as they swam by, igniting a laugh out of Emma every time. Soon, one curious female came up to them to visit. I was stunned by her outgoing personality.
It was as if she were saying, "And who might you be?" She had many different, "faces" you could say that she would flash at the kids. There she would be one minute looking inquisitive, the next she would look sad and bashful, then before you could blink she would be back to playful and mischievous. She was incredible. Very entertaining. We could have spent longer, than the 40 minutes we did, playing with her.
She would play peak-a-boo with the kids. She caught the pretend fish they threw her way. She even played chase as they kids ran back and forth in front of the window.
And she absolutely loved to hang upside down. The other visitors were just as mesmerized as I was at the playful banter between the sea lion and the human children. She certainly touched my kids in a way no other zoo exhibit has before. Certainly, she was just a curious about the kids in the holding tank as they were of her. They communicated through play, laughter and love. It was a joy to behold. The appreciation of nature and of life. Truly life is full of little surprises.
Yesterday, we dyed. No, we are surely still all healthy and well. We dyed yarn! It was so fun. I was truly prepared for a mess. As anyone who has tie-died before knows, it can be a messy job. Getting everything out, and preparing dye all-the-while trying to sell my house was truly frightening. But fear not, it was not as messy as I predicted. It was actually simple and uncomplicated process, one I am sure I will repeat in the future. I exchanged yarn dying kits in one of the ravelry exchanges I took part in last fall. (Unfortunately, due to the move I was unable to participate again this spring. I highly recommend the ravelry groups, as they are a lot of fun. ) I have had the kit since November and I finally just decided it was time. I used Kool-aid for my dye.
And I was amazed at how bright and vibrant colors were. The process called for washing and soaking the yarn first. Then you mix the colors, insert the yarn, Microwave a few minutes, resting and stirring in between. And PRESTO! Dyed yarn.
Here is a really poor quality photo of my yarn soaking.
Pre-Microwave. Notice a little of the red Kool-aid wicking into the yellow bowl!
Post Microwave (Notice the dye has been absorbed by the yarn!)
Allah-peanut-butter-sandwiches! Fabulously dyed yarn. The only problem I foresee is that the yarn is SOCK WEIGHT!! I don't believe I'll be able to knit with it anytime in the near future.
Well, they are done. It only took one month and Emma's socks are finished. These are the 6th pair of socks I have made in a row. Perhaps, that is the reason they seamed to take FOREVER. I really don't recommend knitting anything in a row. I have done several repeats in the past, gifts for nieces and nephews, friends, family, it is never quick and efficient. The more repeats I do the longer each one seems to take. But, they are done. YEAH. Now Emma and Mom have a wonderfully warm pair of matching purple socks.
Now on to a knitting project with heavier weight yarn, that isn't socks.
In the process of cleaning out Great-Grandma's house, I have been fortunate enough to receive many "craft" items. It is always a surprise to open the latest box and discover the newest secrets. During this past week just such and event occurred. I received a box from John's parents who, it seems have been cleaning out Great-Grandma's house for months. For them I am sure it seems as though I has been years. It is amazing the things one can collect after being alive 102 years (and counting). My latest box of treasures it seams is worthy of it's name. Because we did indeed find treasures. Great-Grandma has often told me stories about her mother, who was a hand quilter (as if there was any other type in the late 1800's). It seams more than once her mother tried to teach her to quilt but was always disappointed in her daughters craftsmanship. It seams Great-Great-Grandma was never quite happy with Great-Grandma's stitch size. The stitches were either to large, to small, to close together or to far apart. Needless to say Great-Grandma made up her mind to give up quilting at an early age. Just how early I never new. In this last package was a quilt. I knew it was warn and I knew it needed a good home so I agreed to take on the quilt. It is sad to say in poor condition.
I do have some work to do just to keep it in the shape it is currently in. Along with the quilt, I received a bag labeled simply "quilt patterns." In this bag was indeed quilt patterns as well as path that lead us to the discovery of the story behind the quilt. There were many other things in this bag catalogs, knitting and crocheting patterns, news paper articles, even homework and even the sixth grade report card of Great-Grandma's sister, Stella.
Now while Stella was no straight A student, she was an artist. You could see the beginnings of a love for art and craft even at the age of 12. The belongings in the bag spanned three years 1929-1931.
Their were drawings, notes and applique patterns for the quilt. The quilting pattern and even the carbon paper they used back then to transfer the quilting pattern to the quilt. We even had the original mailing envelope for the quilting pattern, complete with the 1 cent stamp! From the contents of the bag we learned that Stella must have succeeded where Great-Grandma could not. She quilted this quilt when she was in the 6th or 7th grade. It is amazing to look at this wonderful piece of history and be able to share it with my daughter. While I wish we could learn more, it is unfortunate that Great-Grandma's memory is not what it used to be, but I am grateful for the chance to save something that could easily have been thrown out.
The last 2 weeks have been dedicated to getting the house ready to list. We have packed, cleaned, packed, stored, hauled and thrown or given away at ton. The last being a huge benefit of moving, keeps you lean. We hired a Stager and just as you have seen on HGTV we have been given lots of homework. Some of our homework has included, packing up all of the books on both bookcases, taking down and packing all pictures, moving and removing furniture and painting the upstairs bath. We have been busy. It seems like everyone and their realtor have been through our house critiquing all of our accessories and placement of every piece of furniture. It is enough to give you a complex, but in the end, for the greater good. And I must say the results are staggering. I have decided to share a few pictures with you of before and after. I have to say the pictures do not do it justice and I am supremely impressed with the end results and it has been well worth the experience.
family room before
family room after.
The school is having its annual standardized testing this week. All schools use different tests and different standards, so I have begun to doubt there worth. The powers that be seem to find them necessary therefor we keep taking them. El Paso is the first location where they have given the test to all grades. Lucky me all the kids get to endure 8 hours of testing this week. Emma, my child who does the best on these types of test, is of course, completely beside herself with performance anxiety. Someone, somewhere told her that if she failed this test she would not be going to second grade. She has been worried sick since she heard that. Despite my reassurance, that the test is not going to keep her in first grade forever, she refuses to believe anything I say. Getting ready for school on the first day of testing we went round and round about the meaning and use of the test.
She said, "mom I am worried."
I replied, "About what?" even though I was sure I knew what. "Mom, I don't want to take the test."
"I know honey, but just remember to do your best."
"Mom, if I get a zero on the test will you still be proud of me?"
"Emma, if you do your best and get a zero I will still be proud of you. But, Emma you are very bright and you will do fine." I tried to comfort her.
Wringing her hands she looks down and says in a guilt ridden voice. "Mom, I have a confession to make."
"okay, what is it?" I ask trying to keep it light.
"Mom, sometimes in school, I don't listen to Ms. De La Cruz. I mean I am sitting in class and I am quiet. But, school is so boring and I was born knowing all this stuff that she is trying to teach us and I just can't listen to her one more minute." At this point she starts crying, but she continues. "Sometimes, I pretend I am doing my work and I draw on my desk or I play with my hands. I mean, I don't interrupt but I just keep thinking,'when is she going to stop.' So, I know I am going to do just terrible on this test!" Then she throws herself into my sniffing and sobbing and says "Can you forgive me?"
OH MY. Boys are so much easier.
This week has been a flurry of activity. Moving is exhausting. We spent much of the week interviewing Realtors and stagers. Keeping the house in "show" mode is dependent on keeping the kids busy. After school activities keep us busy on normal weeks, but this week we needed extra activities. We did extra, movies at the theater, ice cream, parks but eventually everyone wanted to stay home. So, when the stager was coming on Friday I went to Blockbuster to pick up the newly released "Madagascar 2" for the kids to have movie night at home. While I was there I decided to pickup a video for John and I. We haven't had much down time since the moving process started. I decided on "Burn after reading" (not one I would recommend) I spent a good 20 minutes in the checkout line, which irritated me to no end. (Why they insist on having one cashier on a Friday, I will never know). After being tormented by the rows and rows of Chocolate, candy and popcorn, It was my turn. Yea. I went up to the counter handed the man, boy really, my movies. He scanned the movies and asked for my ID. I looked and looked and looked and couldn't find it. Ugh. "I don't have it." I answered. "Well," he replied in his strictest teenage voice,"you'll have to put your movie back." Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking he would say but that wasn't it. I haven't been carded for a rated R movie since I was newly married at 23. (funny story, I'll tell you about it sometime) "I am sure it is here." I stammered. Busted by the teenage employee at Blockbuster. I wanted to say, "Please, mister, my dad will be really mad if I don't bring him his movie." but I refrained. Rest assured I found my ID and almost had to preform CPR on the cashier when I did. I don't think he really believed I wasn't 18 but, I don't think he thought I was old enough to be his mother. Perhaps I should have just put the movie back and gone home basking in my own youthful glow.
Jack stayed home from school today. Stuffy nose, aches and a fever of 103. I was worried because of the fever and he slept a lot, very uncharacteristic of any of my children. Needless to say I felt better when I walked into his bedroom and he had this re-enactment of King-Kong happening. I knew if he was playing he was feeling better.
Nonna even joined in the fun helping Kong swat the multiple aircraft out of the sky. This proved to be a much more complicated version of Kong since the aircraft carrier was anchored only feet away armed not only with fighters but long range missiles.
Not to worry, Jack will be going back to school tomorrow. The fever is down and while the cough still lingers he has spoken the magic words. "I'm bored."
I have always been fond of change. I like the creativity that is generated before change can happen. As you can imagine, I haven't often held one hair style for very long. If I don't like a hair cut I figure it will grow out, and as it does it challenges me to be creative. The one down side to this is that because of our frequent moves I have a difficult time finding a hair stylist I like. I think I had 6 when we lived in Columbus. When we decided to move to El Paso, I declared long tresses the way to go. This way I only had to get a hair cut twice a year and therefore not get my hopes dashed by being unable to find a stylist I agreed with. After 3 years of long hair, I got bored, so I had it cut off. I think my stylist was more afraid of the change than I was. He kept saying, "we'll just cut off a little at a time." and I kept saying, "it is still to long! Cut more off." After all was said and done I had a nice bob, bangs and my hair was 6 inches shorter than when I went in. (And it isn't as short as i was going for!) I think I will probably go shorter next time but for now it is fun to play with. Remarkably Mark and Jack didn't even notice when I picked them up at school. But, not to worry, Emma had much to say including, but not limited to,"MOM, what did you do to your hair?" and "Why would you get your beautiful hair cut off!" She was not at all happy and kept saying, "You look so different. I don't like that you look different." She, obviously, is not one for change. John's opinion was, "Hey, you got your hair whacked." Always the flatterer.
Emma agreed to stand with me in this picture. She is the before picture, since our hair was just about the same length. Whatcha think?
During these slim economic times I have been trying to use up my stash. I have made a deal with myself that I could not buy new yarn until I had at least 5 projects done with stash yarn. Somehow I have acquired quite a bit of sock yarn this year. While socks are not my favorite thing, I have yarn to use up. Plus it is winter so I will be able to use them right away. Here he a rainbow of my beautifully knit socks. (all knit toe up!)