what I am normally doing

9 o’clock on a Sunday night… normally, I would be knitting with friends. A great group of friends, I tell you. One week might be five of us together, drinking wine and talking about our husbands. Another week might be hot tea and admiring one another’s new project or progress while chatting about our little ones. Now with a few preggies in the bunch, the nights tend to be shorter and the wine is on hold. But that is okay because there is always some laughing, some complaining, some quiet pauses, some sharing, some advice.

While the group has changed since I came to Muncie and met these great knitting friends, this has been a wonderful relief, a constant, that is just regular enough. Some weeks plans change and many of us cannot make it. But we will try again the next week and, most weeks, we will meet.

Tonight was a night that had many of us in other places, or recovering from being other places. So I am home, supposedly working on my other projects. But I am thinking of knitting and the comfort of the group. It is something that I will greatly miss when we move. By being part of this group I have come to find a few things I might not have found otherwise.

First, I rediscovered knitting. For well over a year before coming to Muncie, I had put knitting on hold. And I never challenged myself with my knitting, sticking to simple projects. Seeing others work complicated patterns inspired me to push myself with new challenges. If I got stuck, I knew I could bring my problem to the group and someone would be there to help me along. While frustrating, I love what I have accomplished and will carry those skills with me into each new project.

I also discovered a love of tea. I used to sip some chamomile if I needed a little something other than coffee. But I never enjoyed tea much. Seeing my friends love tea, try new kinds, and just delighting in tea, well, that got me started. Slowly, I tried tea at their homes. Then I started buying new kinds. And now I am hooked in a good way. Drinking tea and a wide variety has helped me nix my addiction to coffee.

The biggest thing I discovered is that I can make and maintain friendships with woman. For years, my husband was my only close companion and I had difficulty starting and keeping friendships with other woman. Often, moving effected that as we were not in any place long enough to work on establishing a close relationship. But now, four years in, I have found it really did take time for those relationships to grow. Moving will not stop me from being friends with these woman, but I wonder what it must be like to stay and know the same group of woman for years and years, through every trial and every celebration.

A little cup of tea tonight really got me thinking.

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oh, sanity

Oh, Sanity! Where have you been?

A weekend of peace and self-determined plans gave me an ounce if it back.

The weeks leading up to this trip had me thinking a great deal about a person’s need for breaks, regardless of gender or their job. I was rather bothered and, the more I thought about it, angry to realize some people (um, other husband’s) would be bothered by the idea of their spouse vacationing without them, even to the point of fighting or not allowing it. After a simple bit of logic with my spouse, he agreed that I should take a break. I pointed out that he had been a numerous trips lately for days at a time and I would appreciate the time to myself – to sleep without interruption, to eat a meal without getting up and down to serve anyone, to do a few activities of my choosing for as long as I like, to use the bathroom without having to worry about what a little toddler was exploring. And like that a promise was made for a whole week!

Sure there are lots of concerns. Can the family financially manage it? Can the other spouse take time to care for the children? And if those are issues, such as they were and are for us, the trip can be (and was) shorter. Or childcare can be found so it may not necessarily be the spouse watching over the children. But beyond these issues, I have tried to figure out why it would ‘not fly’ in other people’s homes, as one person said to this idea. Why? Because it money spent on one person and the other misses out? Because a spouse might cheat? Because a spouse thinks that the other one is not working that hard at their job? Would the feelings be the same if it was the husband wanting a mini-vacation or day away alone? Everyone working either a ‘real’ job or who is home with kids (or both!) works hard. And if someone wanted to cheat, they would find the time one way or another. Really, what real reasons can someone give for a flat-out refusal to a request for a break? Serious. Maybe I am overlooking something… Any reasons out there I am overlooking?

Sanity savers are important for everyone. Yes, everyone! Mike and I have found ways to exchange time with each other so we each feel we get time to ourselves or with friends. I have Sunday knit nights with the ladies after the kids are in bed. He goes golfing occasionally on Saturday mornings with a friend. If I want to run an errand alone, he will play with the boys. And this time, since he had business yet relaxing trips alone, I got a weekend to myself.

I finally settled on a weekend at a country B&B, Tryon Farm Guest House. I shopped at every antique shop I could find, visited Lake Michigan, and changed my plans on a whim if I wanted.

 

driving north through Indiana

Most of my highlights are my feelings of concern being let go. While shopping at my first antique shop, I kept feeling the ‘pull’ of children. Typically I cannot linger to take in all a shelf has to offer or I have to pass all the breakable nooks. I had to shake that feeling off and realize I could take as little or as much time as I wanted, looking wherever I was interested. Later on the trip, when I decided to pull off to a trail head, I just did it. I did not have to be concerned that it was 5:00 and the children would be hungry. Typically, on a family trip, we would have had to either plan the trip out better to have food with us or miss stopping right then. Because I could go on a whim, I felt such a rush making my way up the dune and saw a great sunset.

 

antique shop in Chesterton, Indiana

The trip was also time for me to reflect on my family, myself, and everyone else in the world. Oh, I know that sounds big, but when one can follow their ideas uninterrupted, you can get beyond the day-to-day picture and mull over bigger issues. Time to reflect is good. And again I will say it – it is good for everyone.

 

near the Tryon Farm Guest House, Michigan City, Indiana

My highlights of the trip:

  • lounging in a feather bed in the morning
  • having an utterly beautiful gourmet breakfast prepared for me and not having to worry over the prep or dishes
  • finding some sweet treasures – bead stringing beads for Elliott, a wool blanket to keep Oliver warm, an apron and bracelet for me, a lovely ornament to add to our unique holiday collection, and more interesting cloth napkins for everyday use
  • finding utterly smooth rocks at the lake to admire or make into rock houses, people and animals for the boys (uh, yes, rocks for Christmas!)
  • running up Mount Baldy at dusk at Indiana Dunes to catch the sunset shimmering on Chicago’s buildings
  • grabbing a late night chicken marsala dinner at a little Italian joint and watching it made from my table (I saw the mushrooms chopped, I saw them coat my chicken!) and savoring each bite
  • seeing alpacas up close and taking home a small bit of them (in the form of handspun yarn!)
  • trying and loving a small town café’s invented Honey Nut Latte

 

 beads for Elliott

rocks at Lake Michigan

Mount Baldy with Chicago in the distance

Here is hoping everyone gets the break they need and deserve.

(Oh, and on a totally separate note… my smart phone saved me so many times when I got lost, when I needed a place to eat, when I wanted to find coffee or antiques. Normally I curse my dependence, but my phone proved its worth this trip.)

the good and bad of being hooked

For days now, I have been struggling with how to cope with my habit. A coffee-drinking, money-guzzling, gut-breaking habit. And then I realized my problem was far bigger than just wanting a coffee. I wanted the interaction with another (smiling) human being. I wanted the ease and instant satisfaction of the coffee, handed to me, ready to drink. I wanted the instant feel good feeling I get, the pleasure of 10 minutes where I feel like I can safely ignore the kids and relax. But with all this good stuff comes the bad. It is an expensive habit. It is a calorie-loaded habit (see, I tend to get a treat with my coffee too – a double whammy). And then the bad feelings creep in, the guilt totally negating all the good.  It is a lot of emotion wrapped up in one coffee.  And everyday I am riding this rollercoaster.

When I initially tried to cut back by getting smaller sizes, not ordering a cookie, or skipping a day, I started realizing I was compensating in other ways to get the same tiny relaxing high. I got take-out lunch (which was waaaay more money than coffee costs), I ate more candy and sweets at home (a lot more!), or I indulged in a marathon nail-biting sessions (a habit I did have broken). If I did not find a way to unwind and feel better, I was extremely snarly to the little men in my lives, and more often than not, the big man in my life too.

I know I have to break my habit(s). I also now realize I need a sane way of doing it – leaving me not feeling so guilty, so down. It took me 26+ years to quit biting my nails – with a list of arguments why I needed to stop, rewards, mental arguments, money blown on new ‘tricks’ to stop and a lot of frustration. Finally, it just clicked and I just stopped. But I do not have 26 years to break my newest habit. My piggy bank cannot take it, my waist cannot take it, my well-being is too tied to it.

I do not have a solution. Just spending another day thinking the problem over and wondering if I feel so good and then bad the days I splurge, will the reverse be true? Will I feel bad at first and then, once I see the benefits, feel good? Hard to believe it would be true the first cranky day without it.

making it better

When so much has been overwhelming and difficult, I am happy to find there is a lot lately that just has made each day a little better.

  • watching my little baby become a little boy, so suddenly

 

  • seeing that same little boy enjoy being 1 so much and partying until he dropped

    

  • the sweet clothing we scored at Goodwill, including two Hawaiian shirts, one for each boy

  • venting at knit night and finding I am not alone in my troubles, plus getting at least three rows knit (a first in over a month)

 

  • my new birthday sewing machines and table ~~ These make me giddy! I realize one will have to be sold, but to get the table, I had to buy both machines at the antique shop. I had to, I’m telling you. 🙂 Plus, the boys were so patient while I inspected each machine, loaded them, and paid for them. I was so proud. It made the whole day just go wonderfully after that.

moving at a different pace

 

This past week has been a slow moving week, which seems to be the case when on vacation or visiting relatives. We have been living at my parent’s home for the past week, and will be for the week to come while working on a little project. The days get kind of muddled, worries of work at home are forgotten temporarily, and there is an ease to it all, even in our case with work involved. (Obviously it is different for each person – grandma and grandpa may not see it quite the same way!)

We are putting an architectural research project of my husband’s to real use as a pond-side cabin, a short tractor or truck ride from the real house (and real plumbing, real air conditioner, and real electricity). Many, many pictures have been snapped of each step of the way, but the results after a week of leveling, measuring, cutting, pushing, pulling, sweating, a little poison ivy, and a lot more swearing gives us the main body of the building and the structure of the deck.

 

         

While I got to take a break at home to face the reality of tomatoes in the garden and little tasks at home, I will head back out tomorrow to resume helping, though a lot is being done in my absence. Luckily, I missed out on the tar paper! What is left is metal siding and roofing to go on three sides, translucent plastic for the other two (the lattice sections), trim pieces to seal it all, windows, a door, a deck and a porch roof. And that is just the exterior.

Regardless of that amount of work, we are already dreaming of actual use and planning the interior space. We have the grand idea of finished inside walls, a loft, and a ladder. We have purchased tiles for the floor and the cabinet and countertop from the habitat store to make some storage and work space. We have Ikea chairs to relax in, solar powered lights to see by, and lanterns to make it cozy.

And while it is a lot of work (and I am not even doing the hardest and dirtiest of it), it is so pleasant to move at a different pace and enjoy the peace of the work. Being out there, working with my husband has been very satisfying (even when we disagree about stylistic points). And the variety of the butterflies checking on our progress is just a delight.

My nephew mentioned something to this effect upon seeing it: the cabin will be great because you just wake up and go fishing. I am looking forward to just such a lovely morning someday soon out there.

A big thanks to my parents for the letting us dump our shack on their property and use materials free of charge; to my Dad for all his help with getting the walls up and his generosity with his farm vehicles, tools, and time; to my Mom for helping so much with children (impossible to work side by side without childcare in this location and timetable) and for canning all along and still being willing to share it with me; to my brother for more free materials, coming to help, dispensing some advice, and drinking a few beers with Mike.

a short summer trip

The past few days felt very full, but, unlike normal, it was a very happy fullness. We turned last-minute plans into two days of fun where everyone – everyone – stayed cheerful and got a lot from the trip. We left during little O’s first nap, and made it to Hamilton County’s Pirate Cove, a wonderful outdoor splash park. (Thanks Kara!) If this park was any indicator, they have a lot of fabulous parks in and near Cincinnati. From there we headed to Ikea, where we managed to spend a couple hundred dollars, although we went in with very few needs. Ikea showed us what we needed! It turns out, I found my best new peach cutting knife and a pitcher that actually pours. Yes, pours without excess dribble and drips. Plus, many, many toys and furnishings for the little crew. I just love what Ikea has to offer. Even shopping with two boys turned out to be very pleasant. As long we were on top of sleep or hunger needs, the day moved smoothly on.

 

While a hotel stay with children is not always fun and sharing the same room means little sleep is had by all, we still had a good time. My highlight of the trip was spending over an hour watching little O in the middle of the night, after feeding him. He was in his pack-n-play, standing, exploring every surface and nook around him. He stroked the textured wall paper, pulled on the ironing board cover repeatedly (propped to block a view of me in bed!), and poked his fingers through the metal diamonds, and he tested each corner of his bed, cruising between sides. It was great to see him explore without a need to call out for me and just drop to sleep when he was satisfied. (And then I could drop to sleep too)

 The next morning was the Newport Aquarium and then lunch nearby. The visit was great with everyone finding some delightful things to explore or watch. Big E loved the shark exhibit they had and the divers cleaning the tanks. Little O loved the giant frogs with their buttons to make them croak.

Because we were so close to my husband and my college, Miami University, we just had to make a trip to our favorite places. We hit Jungle Jim’s and bought lots of little delights: teriyaki seaweed, mini coconuts, really long beans, sugar cane, Australian cheese with Merlot confit, cigars, and so much more, more than might easily cram in the car. Not exactly local purchases, but great teaching tools for big E about foods from other places in the world. Our next stop was fossil hunting at Pfeiffer Park in Oxford, Ohio. We stomped down the river and found new treasures. To satisfy our dinner hungers, we headed to Bagel and Deli for a Sportsfest. Okay, truthfully, between the many stops at Dunkin Donuts and the snacks from Jungle Jim’s we were not hungry. But one cannot leave Oxford without a steamed bagel sandwich. A feast in the park was had by all and off we went for a country drive home. To wind down the day, we barged in on friends for a last-minute play session. We ended day 2 home in our own cozy beds.

 When reflecting on why I was so happy this trip it was a combination of a few things. My husband and I kept our cool, even when we were stressed. And because I quickly figured out at the start of the trip when we had to stop for eating or had to drive for napping (which both boys do great in the car), we had perfectly spaced intervals which resulted in happy children most every stop. I was amazed at how absolutely perfect that seemed to work out. Big E did his part. If I suggested it was a good time to try a nap, he obliged, closing his eyes and falling to sleep within a minute, setting a great example for little O. Because everything fell into place so well, we got to do so much each day and feel good at the end of the day.

 We realized something else at the end of the trip – the lack of pictures. I think some trips are so good we are quick to remember to take pictures to remember it all by. And some trips are so good, we are busy enjoying ourselves we are lost in the moment and forget about documenting it. I am glad this was one of those trips. I hope my mental pictures can do it justice.

 

busy mama

It has been a busy few weeks around these parts. And when it does slow down, I am reluctant to sacrifice any free time I have to be alone with the computer. With all this warm weather has come family water play, picnics, and evening walks and bike rides.

But a few things struck me today as I rushed from one thing to the next and was mentally patting myself on the back for some calm and grace I showed while handling the boy’s particular ‘crisis’ of the moment.

When big E was born and my husband would arrive home, I would feel like the day amounted to very little. I could barely put into words what had even happened. HAD anything happened? Yes – rocking, crying, diapering, feeding, changing clothing, starting laundry, dishes, more diapering, more feeding, more crying. But those tasks just seemed like daily tasks and did not seem BIG enough to be worthy of making a day. They just seemed like the survival basics of raising a child. My husband was not concerned with what did or did not get done, even it meant folding laundry each night just to catch up with our little spitter. This helped as I sorted out my feelings about staying home and how to handle these feelings of the daily grind of being a stay-at-home parent.

Now with number two though, I have accepted that the basics is all that can be expected most days (and some days, maybe not even the basics!).  I am also learning how important those basics are too. How I serve lunch, how I handle a blow out diaper, how I get one child to sleep and calm the screaming child in the other room at (nearly) the same time, how I handle dropping my cell phone into the toilet in front of two pairs of eyes, how I express love, how I express anger – it is all important. I am raising children and they will be the adult soon enough, modeling back this behavior to me and their own children. Since I am far from perfect in how I execute my daily work, I felt I could pat myself on the back, while also making a mental note to try for that same calm and collected reaction the next day. (Where did I just hear this… Pretend like someone is videotaping you for some reality show all day long and see how your behavior changes towards your tasks. Worth a try!)

The other amazing realization today for anyone making the step from one child to two is that I feel like I get twice as much done in the same amount of time. Fancy that! I love what my friend Noelle had to say on the matter of adding more kids to the bunch: It just becomes your new normal. And it is true. It can be a rough few weeks, or months, adjusting, but it seems like it just happens because it has to happen. And children get fed, children get dressed, and mom can still get a shower and read a book in there too. It can be done!

So happy summer and happy family time! Now, time to get back to my little boys’ shenanigans…

hot off the needles

Just finished… my first fair isle/stranded colourwork knitting piece made from my own simple design. It is a fish hat for little O, with a matching one for brother to follow soon. These were intended for the 2010 winter, but today’s weather warranted a fast finish for him to wear it. 

 

Clearly he is happy with mama’s finished work! And I am happy with how nicely and quickly it knit up. A nice small challenge for this knitter.

just too hectic

I had intended to start posting, taking the time to do so each day. But with two littles one and my husband’s last week of work before the summer, the days have been hectic. What few moments I get to myself, I want just for me. Often, they are not even that. If I am watching a show on hulu, there is a load of laundry at my feet. If I am on the phone, I am unloading the dishwasher.  No knitting, no blogging, nothing too exciting. I am just too worn out by the end of the day. So until the load lightens, I will hold off on posting and getting really involved in blogging. The idea of typing and adding pics and well, using brain cells for anything, is so challenging.

Update: Of course the very next day AND the day after, I got posts up!