Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How are things going? We wish we knew!

Evelyn has been in school for 3 days now.

All we really know about it is that she's not pulling out her ponytail holders, she's eating quite a bit for lunch, and she hasn't bothered to learn anyone's name.  I picked her up yesterday and a teacher mentioned that she's good at cleaning up after herself, which was an odd thing to say since I opened her lunchbox at home and found half a peanut butter sandwich smeared everywhere instead of in her sandwich container.

We're all adjusting.  This week marks the first time I've been away from Evelyn and haven't been able to text someone to see how she's doing.  We know she's safe and happy and learning, but all the details are hazy.  We keep asking, and grandparents keep checking in just in case.  She's not sure what all the fuss is and is ready for the weekend so she can do whatever she wants and spend as much time with her baby doll as she likes.


If you see her and ask her what she's been up to lately, she'll probably tell you about how she's a mommy and she's married to me (we told her she had to marry someone nice, so I'm taking this as a compliment!) and (as of this evening) she's a superhero named Captain Crunch.  

She just might not say much about school at the moment.

But for real, ask her about Captain Crunch.

Monday, August 24, 2015

First day of school, 2015

Well, ta da!

Evelyn went to school for the first time today.  She's been wanting to do this for years, so I'm just grateful we got breakfast in her and detained her long enough to take a view pictures.  She was more than happy to skip away from us, and we acted like moderately held-together people when we dropped her off.


We've all been getting ready for this for a long time.  You wouldn't know it to check out the worksheet she brought home--all she had to do was trace her name and write her name beside it.  It looked like she'd never seen letters before.  Chalk it up to first-day distraction?--but we have.  All the reading, all the explaining, all the pointing out things to notice and learn, all the puzzles and books and outdoor adventures.  All of it done by just about every person she's ever encountered in her life.  Just to give her a good foundation so she'd love learning. 


She wasn't sure if she'd had a good day today because she thought the kids were too loud, she didn't get to play at the station she wanted to play with, and there was some other minor irritant that she mentioned.  There's plenty of time to adjust.  We're sending her off with milk money tomorrow.  Her dad made a sandwich in the shape of the state of Arkansas with a cookie cutter.  She has a lunchbox and a tiny backpack and some new shoes.  She has bows.  She's ready to write.  She likes the songs and stories (we did manage to get that detail out of her.  We also know that her teacher says "crisscross apple sauce" and sitting that way hurts her legs because she likes to sit with her legs in a W, which will apparently ruin your life according to articles I see sometimes), and she's pumped about the playground even if she can't throw rocks or play with sticks.  We'll have to save those outdoor activities for some other time.

She's going to do just fine.  She's probably the luckiest little girl I know.  So many people have cheered her (and her parents) on to learn and do and try.

It's a good start.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An afternoon at Petit Jean

Cody and I have been wanting to try paddle boating, so we went to Petit Jean this past Sunday and tried it out.  Yes, I know there are closer state parks but Petit Jean State Park has Petit Jean Mountain.  You can't beat that....unless you're going to go to Mount Magazine and that's a bit far for a day trip with a four-year-old.  So Petit Jean it was.

We didn't think about our weight differences until it was too late.  When one person weighs twice as much as another, it's not a good idea to sit those people side by side on watercraft and expect them to pedal along.  Next time we'll try a canoe.  It was still pretty fun, thought!  It was a beautiful afternoon on the water with our little girl.

Life jackets were included with the cost of renting the paddle boat ($7 for an hour) and we were told we could actually pick the water lilies since they were starting to become a nuisance.  Picking the flowers at a state park?!  Evelyn was super thrilled!

I'm not sure we were out there an entire hour, but my knees hurt and Evelyn was bored.  And like I mentioned, it was pretty tricky for Cody and I to try to pedal that little boat around.  But it wasn't disastrous and my goodness, the water was beautiful and the park was beautiful and the little breeze that would pick up and make it even harder to pedal was beautiful.

I haven't gotten to spend as much time outside as I'd like these days, and I'd already decided that I'd go somewhere Sunday even if Cody and Evelyn didn't come with me.  But I'm very glad they did.  We were a little hot and tired for hiking, so we just watched Evelyn play on the playground for a while before we stopped at the overlook and took some pictures and enjoyed the view.  Evelyn shouted "I'm king of the world!" a couple of times and I know just how she felt.  It seemed like we could see forever and everything was big and beautiful.

She wanted me to see if I could step out onto that big rock in the picture up there, so I took off my flip flops and hopped over (and posed very awkwardly, it looks like).  I liked taking big steps from rock to rock with her.  She's so much more comfortable doing it since the last time we visited--she's a lot taller and loads more confident about outdoor things.  Cody's still not a fan of doing anything resembling hopping around lots of rocks on top of a mountain with a scary drop-off, but he seemed pretty happy that our little lake excursion didn't devolve into all of us having shouting and/or falling into the water.  We took a scenic route home and it was the first day in a while that Cody and I were both off work.  When we got home, I did some laundry and we ate pizza for dinner.  Lovely, lovely day.  I feel like I should be honest and say that Evelyn was argumentative and I was grouchy and Cody was forgetful and a pretty terrible driver since he was tired, but still.  It was still a lovely day.  It's so much better to be short-tempered outdoors rather than cooped up any time. It was an excellent adventure.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dishcloth of the Week: A Dino Dishcloth

In the last couple of weeks the desire to go through every item in my home has faded and I've felt a little more like knitting. So last week I knitted this cute little dishcloth.

I've had the pattern in my Ravelry queue for a while now, and I'm glad I finally got around to making it!  I have a large skein of bright green yarn, and this was a good use for it.  My favorite part about this--aside from the fact that someone knew people would want to knit a dishcloth with a dinosaur on it and so they sat down to figure out how to make that happen--was that the ridges are actually garter stitch.  In all the other textured dishcloths I've made, I've had to purl both sides of the bumpy part of the pattern and that can feel like you're wrestling your knitting.  I love not-purling, and the patterning was good and visible anyway.

 I enjoyed making it and I'm happy to have this in my gift stash, although I don't think it will stay there long!

Important additional point: there is a T-rex pattern.

Pattern: Brachiosaurus Dinosaur (free on Ravelry if you have an account)
Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream in Hot Green
Needle: #7

Sunday, August 16, 2015

An anniversary post for Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad had their 38th wedding anniversary last week.  Thirty-eight years! 

They celebrated by going out to a fancy dinner the night before their actual anniversary, and spent the day of their anniversary looking after Dallas and Evelyn.  That's just what they do, and it seems pretty fitting.  They've been growing their family for nearly four decades now and they keep including kids and colleagues and church family and college students and neighbors and and and.

I'm so happy to be in this great partnership's family.  Sometimes I stop and think about the insane wealth of love that Evelyn and Ellis have been born into and I can barely believe it.  So many people are here to love them and it's because Mom and Dad have made this loving family and shown us how to find and keep good people in our lives.  It's a precious gift.

In this past year, they went on a big trip together and Dad sent us kids texts about not losing Mom in the airport. They kept Evelyn several million times.  They visited Ellis.  They visited older relatives.  They started going to a wonderful little church.  Mom puts a box out in the church foyer for people to donate groceries and then she delivers it to the local food bank.  They helped us all out a bunch of times.  They got chickens, even though Dad would probably say that just Mom got chickens.  They bought way too many educational toys and preppy-looking clothes for their grandkids.

In Year 39 they'll meet their second grandson.  They'll try to go to the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show with the whole family.  They're going to enjoy some overnight visits with Ellis because he's big enough now for some sleepovers!  We're going to find out how sincere Evelyn's school really was when they said they love grandparent involvement.  I'm going to stop here before I just burst into song and start warbling "When We're Gone, Long Gone" alone in my living room. 

But I do want to wish my lovely parents a happy belated anniversary and mark the occasion by celebrating how their loving union includes so many people.  We can all celebrate with them.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Really, all my dreams are coming true

I've tried to spin on a drop spindle a few times, with a sort-of okay outcome. 

But Evelyn has discovered it and now we've worked together to make yarn a couple of times now.

She's pretty patient for her, and she feels really big doing this.  Just controlling the tension has helped me practice a bit more because she turns the spindle--and at a pretty consistent rate.  We make a good team.

She's starting to realize that this is going to take a while to get enough yarn to make something (Lord help us), but I think that's probably a good thing.  I want her to learn the value and time that go into things almost as much as I want to play pioneer in an air-conditioned apartment.  She knows that after this we'll wind the yarn on a knitty noddy and give a bath, and then we'll wind it into a ball.  Then I'll have to keep attempting to explain crochet. 

The spinning might be the funnest part for us!  We've got a few more ounces left of this wool, and I'm going to enjoy playing around with this now that I've got so much great help.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A birthday post for Sara

It's Sara's birthday!  She's 25 again! Or 21?  I'm not sure.

Evelyn didn't put on her princess dress just to sing "Happy Birthday" to her fancy aunt over the phone, but it seemed fitting that she did.  Sara mentioned that she was eating pasta when we called and afterward, Evelyn shouted "Wait, I love noodles!"  She's always so excited to match Sara in any way.  They both love Lisa Frank, singing loudly, owning lots of jewelry, and....noodles. 

And dancing the night away!

I'm hoping she grows up to be as hospitable as her Sara Bodie.  Sara's house is the go-to party place for Easter and a bunch of other holidays--it's also where Ellis spends the night spends the night when he comes to Arkansas (why don't I take more pictures of Ellis and Sara?! I'm fixing that problem this weekend. Good grief).  Evelyn's already super excited about celebrating her birthday this weekend and wants to ice a cake for Sara.  She's also maybe planning to wear her princess dress and/or her firefighter outfit for such an important occasion. 

What I'm trying to say is that Sara is incredibly important and very much worth celebrating.  She's one of the very best aunts I know.  She got a new job where everyone likes her and she does important work.  She can plan a party in no time.  We love her very much and wish her a very happy birthday!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book list for July 2015

Ready Player One. Ernest Cline

Throw Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. Gail Blanke*

I borrowed Ready Player One from Casey when we were at the beach and read it over the course of a few days.  It was a good beach read with a bunch of cliffhanger chapters and a generic dude protagonist.  I was really into it, wooden dialogue and all, as I was reading for most of it but started questioning things about three-quarters of the way through.  Sorry if this gets spoilery.

Are we not supposed to care that the great and powerful Woz character (I'm really proud of that pun) doesn't even notice or seem to care that that one character dies?  Does this author know any person from any kind of Asian culture ever and that's why he thinks it's okay to slap 'san' on the back of any ol' word?  Does he know any lesbians or did he just figure 'hey, I bet they're just like guys in lady bodies'?  Most importantly, has he ever seen a mobile home?  I get that this is a fantasy novel set in the near future where everyone's super poor and there's not enough fuel (even though some people can use solar panels and apparently the sun is still shining soooooooo.....????) and everyone's addicted to virtual reality (ha) and education is still funded by video game programming philanthropists (okay) but there's no way in any iteration of any poverty-stricken universe in which mobile homes can be stacked on top of each other twenty units high and the folks living in the bottom, uh, eighteen won't get smashed flatter than pancakes.  There's just no way.

I read that this will get turned into a movie, which I think was the Cline's real goal all along. 

As for Throw Out 50 Things, I liked parts of it and wasn't crazy about some parts.  But it's fine if I don't completely love the advice I get from a library book.  What I really appreciated was Blanke's acknowledgement that most of us don't have the means to throw out every article of clothing in our wardrobe and start over, and that most of us aren't the type of people who want to throw out every knick knack because some things just make us happy and it's nice to keep certain things around.  Like I mentioned in my last post, this was a good jumpstart to the big home overhaul I've been working on for the past week or so.  The thing with the '50 things' challenge is that your big pile of t-shirts counts as one thing.  Clothes = one thing.  Books = one thing.  I think I'm halfway to 50 large containers at this point, so I'm not keeping track of everything.  She has a workbook for that if you're interested, but I'm not.  Once something's gone, I'm usually glad it's gone.  It's been nice to let go of some things that had bad feelings attached to them and I only need a pretty general record of what I donated for tax purposes.  The rest of it is super gone and I don't even want it sticking around as a line on a list. Still, I would recommend this if I were telling you to check it out from the library. 

As for clearing out things, I have so far regretted donating exactly one skein of sock yarn because I think it would have been nice to make my very favorite nephew some tube socks while his feet are still small enough that I'll want to knit him socks.  I have more sock yarn, and if I want to go out and buy that particular skein of sock yarn, it will cost around $5.  Considering that I don't even know if his mom wants to keep up with handknit socks for a sweaty little guy who gets a bit obsessive about his footwear, this is a pretty small regret.  Ta da.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Clean and clear and under control

I don't know if Neutrogena still has "clean, clear, and under control!" as their creepily chirpy tagline for teenage skin care, but those commercials will probably stay stuck in my brain until I'm dead.  Their products weren't enough to get my adolescent acne under control--or even my adult acne, for that matter.  But when I'm cleaning something I think of the phrase and feel very, very much in control.

I've been going through some of our junk in fits and starts for the past couple of years.  But the last couple of months have felt way too crowded in our apartment.  We had a good start with the practice of getting rid of things during Lent, but my work's been busy and there are other things to do with our time.  Plus, I just wasn't ready to let go of some things.  And then I was.  So ta da!

I read a book about clearing out your physical and emotional junk a couple of weeks ago.  And one of the things I liked was the author's attitude to giving away some of your things.  Some things don't need to be thrown in the trash.  They just need to be enjoyed by someone else.  For whatever reason, a lot of times I feel like I've wasted my stuff if I didn't get a lot of use out of it.  Yarn has to be knitted up.  Clothes have to be worn until they're worn out.  Books have to be read.

Except, um, they don't.

If someone brings yarn to my knitting group, people are delighted to take it.  If I bring yarn to the knitting group, I'm always happy when someone else has a plan for it.  It makes me incredibly happy to give some of Evelyn's outgrown toys and t-shirts to Ellis.  I love finding things on sale at thrift stores.  None of this stuff is going to waste just because the original purchaser couldn't find a satisfying use for it.

So far, I've gone through our bathroom (again), our bedroom (finally, Cody's winter clothes are packed away!), most of the living room, and my office.  So many books are gone.

And it feels really good.

I expected to feel some regret about the books and movies we were donating, but so far it's been fine.  There were gifts that I felt obligated  to hold onto until I realized almost no one comes over.  And if they did, they wouldn't be making sure we held onto a movie they gave us 5 years ago.  There were things we gave back to people we borrowed them from, clothes we were excited to find and wear again, and approximately 5 pounds of dust and an hour of choking and sneezing for every bookcase and dresser we went through.

The dust problem was actually really gross and kind of surprising.  My work is still in a bit of a busy season and I've been a little lax on wiping down surfaces as much as I probably should.  But still.  I eventually faced facts that the vacuum that was old and tired when we inherited almost 9 years ago was just about done for.  So this morning we went out and got a new vacuum.


We're going to be making payments on the Sears card for this for quite a while and I'm going to smile like a crazy person every time we do.  I haven't cleaned our bare floors yet, or filled out the warranty, but it's only been a few hours.  I've vacuumed all the carpet and gone over the door frames and baseboards in the bedrooms, and Cody already had to dump out the cylinder.  Having a clean floor feels just as good, if not better, than clearing out clothes that didn't fit and old syllabi that I've had for over 10 years (whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Jennifer?!  You made your family move those papers 5 or 6 times!!!!).

So.  I still need to go through part of the china cabinet.  I cleaned up a lot of it last fall, so it shouldn't be too terrible.  I need to go through the kitchen, and it's been nearly a year since I've done that.  Evelyn doesn't need nearly as many cups with lids as she used to. I'll wait for Cody, though.  And I need to go through Evelyn's room and closet.  I've had a hard time letting go of her clothes and some of her toys.  It's been strange to take things that I thought I'd be using for more of my babies and send them out into the world.  But.  I have to remind myself that I don't actually want any more babies, and I don't want to clutter up that one girl I do have with so much stuff that I can't squeeze new clothes into her closet.  And she's getting new school clothes!  That old stuff needs to get out of her way!

Trooper that she is, Evelyn's been helping us go through our stuff as well.  No really!  She knows that more space on her bookshelves means she can get some more books, or can at least find her puzzles and coloring books more easily. She's also been pretty thrilled with the jewelry I haven't worn since I was a teenager, and she's claiming a lot of picture frames I intended to donate.  One frame I've never really cared for looks pretty great with her new drawing in it. 

So.  2 more areas to clean up, and that's it.  I've already promised Cody that I wouldn't re-do our bedroom until the fall.  And I've already promised myself I won't have to go through the coat closet until later in the year.  By this time next week, I'll have gone through almost every single thing in our home.  We'll have a little more space to play and a lot fewer things to clean and it won't feel like the walls are closing in on me.  Maybe I'll even find the last of the pacifiers and toss them once and for all! 

Fine, probably not.  But it's nice to have goals.

Things I found helpful:
-How Long to Keep Records
-Just about everything ever published in Small Notebook, but especially the posts on simplifying.
-My friend Kelly posting links about minimalism on her Facebook.  She shared something yesterday about a thirty-day challenge by The Minimalists.
-Throwing Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke.  I checked this out from the library and it gets a little woo in places, but I liked that she emphasized pulling out things and enjoying them.  People like having things.  Not every clean-up session has to be a slash-and-burn affair.  I found a bunch of letters my mom wrote me when I was in college.  I didn't remember getting so many! I was happy to have them in a file with my Mamaw letters and some other things I wanted to keep from my college days.