Thursday, January 27, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Technical Difficulties...

Update 1/25/11: It works! I don't know why, or what happened, but it's just so nice to see our un-blurry girls. Yay!

So, you'll notice that the header is all foggy, and it's even hard to make out the words up there, right?

The weird thing is, when I'm looking at the banner in my photo-editing software, it looks great - it's only when uploaded that you can't recognize any of our darling hens, or read the title of this blog even.

And when I try to upload other, formerly-fine banners, they all look like this. So, I think I'm going to have to leave it for a day or two, and try another fix.

Sorry! The girls really were ready for their close-up, even if the close-up wasn't ready for them...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Strike While The Iron Is Hot

As I write, Luke is dictating an idea for a game he's had to his Dad. He is so excited, he is pacing and breathless, speaking faster than his dad can write. It's been a long time since I've seen him like this.

Owen is excited too; now, it's his turn to tell Dad all about the dragons that are going to be in his game.

It's really this excitement that I wanted to blog about tonight. We have had kind of a blah day, cooped up in the house with freezing rain and grayness outside, Luke and I both with headaches and all three of us with an unsatisfy-able sweet tooth. It looked like we were going to have an evening with much of the same, and then – a eureka moment!

We got to talking about making our own games, even making a company that would sell our games, and it sparked something new in both children. I mean, they've been excited about things, but this was different. You could see the possibilities dawning on their faces, especially Luke.

At one point he was so emotional he could hardly speak; when he found his voice, he asked, "what if we fail?" I told him that I don't think of it as failing, and instead if we end up not reaching our goal, we would still have learned lots, and that what we learn would take us through future ventures. I told him, I try to think in terms of learning versus succeeding or failing. He had been so upset, I was frankly a little surprised when he perked right up and asked for a notebook, a pencil, and some time on the computer.

Now, he is asking for a different notebook that he can take up to bed with him to write more ideas; Owen just came in to kiss me good night and as he was leaving he asked, "Mom, how do you start a company?"

I told him I was just about to look into it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great Weather

It's no secret, I love snow. The more the better! This storm we just had really made me think of my childhood, and it is so much fun watching the kids play in the snow like I used to.

Here's a photo essay of how we spent today:

For reference, I am standing in our driveway. Owen is parked on top of the bushes. Cool, huh?

Next, out into Dragon Woods. I actually wore snowshoes today, for the first time in several years. It was awesome.

Hope you're enjoying whatever whether you're getting as much as we're enjoying ours!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Competition and Brotherly Love

Whoa, what a night we had tonight.

Owen had this great idea about racing some plastic dragons around the house; that's how it all started. He had a sign-up sheet, and so we all signed up to race the dragons. It was really cute to see him so excited, and his excitement really was infectious.

All was going well. He won the first two heats, and then we reached the semifinals, which is where Owen's little world fell apart. We've seen it before, when winning is so important to him that he would rather quit, or fall, or even feign injury than lose.

And, pretty much all of those things happened tonight in the semifinal races – finally Ben and I called off the competition. Owen went into the bathroom to get ready for bed (as we directed; he would never have done this on his own), crying of course, and Luke came and sat down on the couch with me. He looked really sad. When I asked what was on his mind, here is what he said:

"Well, a few nights ago Owen told me that he wished I wasn't alive anymore."

This hit me like a bomb. It was totally unexpected; I nearly started crying on the spot. To cover my shock I asked Luke why Owen might've said that? He replied that, though he couldn't remember Owen's exact words, the gist was that Owen felt like he was always in Luke's shadow.

Luke continued, sharing that he tried to influence tonight's dragon races so that Owen felt like he was part of Luke's team, in other words, not in direct competition with Luke.

He said that he did this so that maybe Owen wouldn't feel that way anymore. So that Owen wouldn't wish him dead. I am crying now, as I write this.

Sometimes, I forget how mindful Luke is. I can't imagine him even thinking that he wished someone wasn't alive anymore because he seems inherently to know how horrible, how much of an anathema, the thought is. Maybe that's why it was such a shock to hear this coming from Owen. I just thought they both understood.

Plus, it was such a raw statement: wishing someone was dead.

I tried to reassure Luke by explaining that many people, children and adults alike, say things that they regret when they are angry. I pointed out that Owen's feelings stem more from his belief that he can't keep up with his big brother. I tried to explain that this really had to do with Owen's feelings about himself. I hope it helped.

And then, a conversation with Owen needed to take place. I wanted him to know that it is okay to have feelings like this; I asked him to come talk to me or Daddy if he feels that way again, because I think one of the worst things that might happen is that he feels bad about his own thoughts, like they only make everybody else angry and sad. Better, I think, that he doesn't squash down negative feelings but instead tries to figure out where they come from – I know he'll have to be much older before he can truly do this. But tonight did seem like the place to start.

I went on to try and help him understand about regretting things that you've said, feeling sorry that you've hurt somebody – and I think he truly understood how much he had hurt his brother.

Finally, I wanted to help Owen grasp that his frustration comes of being not as practiced at things as Luke is, for the sole reason that Luke is four years older. I wanted to try and separate the two negative feelings, jealousy and hatred, so that he understands that they are in fact two separate feelings. And, I'm not really sure if that worked; I guess time will tell.

Of course, there were lots and lots of tears as this conversation played itself out tonight. We ended on two good points, though:

1) As a family, we are resolved to play more noncompetitive games.
2) I remembered the picture that Owen drew for Luke just the other night. He made us each a picture, in fact, with characters from The Magic Pickle on one side, and a picture of each of us on the other.

He made us those pictures because he loves us.
And love endures.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Knitted Hat Pattern, From Me To You

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I made nine wonderful hats and two excellent golf club head covers (if I do say so myself). Many hats were from a great book called Hip Knit Hats, and I learned some really neat techniques from this book. Here's the hat I made for my sister in law, a felted cloche modeled by Owen:

Noticeably absent, however, was any version of that classic winter cap with earflaps. I decided what the heck, I'll have some fun and make up my own pattern! Of course, I had to make three or four before I figured out how to do it in a size that might fit most humans. Interestingly, Owen adopted the first of these for himself, and even though it's huge on him, it looks very cute. (That's him, wearing the giant red–and–orange cap up in the banner.)

This version is the one I knitted for Firefly Mom, because it looks just like Jayne's hat from this amazing, incredible western-set-in-space, Firefly.

So I decided I would share the pattern here. Naturally, I neglected to get gauge in any one of these hats I did from this pattern; if you know that the person you're knitting for has a small-ish head, you may want to stop increasing at 74 stitches, or even 66. Or, try dropping down a needle size – one thing I learned while knitting all these hats is that eventually, you get a feel for whether it's gonna be too big or too small. I hope that my advice here in this post will help you make a hat that won't be sized for Bigfoot.

Karen's Knitted Winter Cap Pattern
Knitted on size 8 double pointed needles and a size 8 16 inch circular needle; ribbing knitted on a size 7 16 inch circular needle

Yarn: Paton's Classic Wool, worsted weight, one skein each forest green and light gray (This is the pattern for my brother-in-law's Lucky Fishing Hat, knitted just like Owen's but in a different colorway. Here's why it's called a Lucky Fishing Hat:)

Cast on 12 stitches, and divide among three size 8 double pointed needles; join into a round and place marker to show beginning of round on first needle (when you're finished with the hat, make sure to weave the ends in really tightly up here at the top)

Round one: knit one, make one (by knitting into both the back and front of stitch) twice on each needle; six stitches on the needle, 18 total

Round two, and every even-numbered round: knit

Round three: knit two, make one on each of the three needles – eight stitches per needle, 24 total

Round five: knit three, make one on each of the three needles – 10 stitches per needle, 30 total

Round seven: knit four, make one on each of the three needles – 12 stitches per needle, 36 total

Continue increasing on the odd rows, and knitting on the even rows until there are 12 stitches before each make one – 80 stitches total

Somewhere in these increasing/knitting rounds, which took me about 3-1/2 inches from the crown, you may want to change colors. I started with the green, and went to gray about 3 inches in.

Once you are finished with the increasing/knitting rounds, continue to knit in stockinette stitch until you're at about 7 inches from the beginning (the crown). I changed back to green at about 6 inches from the crown.

To start the ribbing: when your hat is about 7 inches from the crown, switch to the size 7 circular 16 inch needle. Knit two rounds, decreasing two stitches in each round for a total of 76 stitches, before switching to knit two, purl two.
Knit two, purl 2 for 3 inches.

Now, we'll set up for the earflaps.
From the marker: bind off 13 stitches, work 18 stitches in pattern in place on a stitch holder (first ear flap), bind off 22 stitches, work 18 stitches in pattern and place on a stitch holder (second ear flap), bind off 13.

Place 18 stitches from one ear flap onto the size 7 circular needle, work back and forth in pattern for 2 inches, finishing with the inside part (wrong side) of the ear flap facing you.

Turn the hat so that the outside (right side) part of the year flap is facing you.
Knit one, knit two together; work in pattern to the last three stitches, slip slip knit, knit one.

Turn the hat so that the inside (wrong side) part of the ear flap is facing you.
Purl 1, purl two together; work in pattern to the last three stitches, slip slip purl, purl 1.

Continue in this fashion, knitting the decreases on the right side and purling the decreases on the wrong side, until there are four stitches left.

At this point you have two choices: knit these four stitches in I--cord for at least 12 inches, or make a braid that's at least 12 inches long by weaving a few more skeins of yarn into those four stitches and making the braid.

Make the other ear flap the same way.

Weave in the ends, make a pom-pom for the top, and you're done!

If you find that the hat is ridiculously big, you can do what I did with the Lucky Fishing Hat: I gathered the top by taking some of the green yarn, turning the hat inside out, and using a darning needle to pick up a stitch every inch or so around from about 2 inches down from the top of the crown. When I got back to where I started, I pulled the yarn kind of tight and tied a knot (all done inside the hat, so it can't be seen from the outside). I also braided three tassels and attached them to the top, which made the whole thing look totally planned and adorable.

If you try this hat, I'd love it if you give me some feedback on it - how many mistakes did I make, was it too big/too small? In fact, anyone who's diligent about gauge, if you make the hat would you let me know the important details about your hat's sizing? Like, what the gauge is, how big the hat is around, how many stitches you ended up with after you finished the increases, what size needles you used... you'll get credit in a future post, complete with a pic of your hat.

Happy knitting!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First: Simplify

Well, goodbye 2010. In many ways you were a hard year, and I won't be sad to see you go.

When you were toughest, often it had to do with disorganization and clutter, not just with our material possessions but also in our minds. This feeling came on gradually, but by October or November it was getting hard to stay afloat above all the clutter.
I include here Luke's need to grow out of childhood gracefully, and Owen's excitement about transforming his ideas into reality with the use of copious amounts of cardboard, tape, and glue, and my desire to slow things down and enjoy every moment.

I mean to fix this in 2011.

Here is my list of goals for the coming year:

1) Make rather than purchase, when at all possible.

2) Stay organized –
Go through toys, books, clothes.
Give away much, keep what's most important.
Involve the boys in this organizing process.

3) Write –
As I'm happiest when blogging, and as blogging helps me to collect my thoughts, I have a great writing tool right here. I'm gonna use it, even when it's just for a picture or a quick note.

4) Facilitate the boys' projects –
Because rather than continue with Perpetual Saturday Morning, our homeschooling style is changing. As part of Luke's work towards his rite of passage, I've learned that he does better with a project. Having something to get up and do helps him feel accomplished, excited, and engaged.
Owen, too, needs to be involved in something bigger than himself, which is especially fun because he's now writing and drawing like a boy obsessed.
I guess I should include my own projects in here, as well. Funny to think about facilitating your own projects, but knitting, growing food and playing with it in the kitchen, and who knows what else I'll come up with this year – I need some space and time for these as well.

5) Keep in mind that, while the days may be long, the years are short -
I aim to take something positive from every day, even if it is just a fleeting smile or quirky comment from someone I love. Especially Luke and Owen; they're growing so quickly, and soon their childhood will be a memory. Thank you Jena, for helping me remember this!

So, this should make for an interesting year. What about you? Any resolutions, or changes you plan to make in 2011?