Friday, September 26, 2008

What State Should You Live In?

You Should Live in Kentucky

If you don't want to live in Kentucky, you might also consider:




New Mexico


I don't know, I've so strongly identified with being a Westerner for so many years that the only one on this list that actually appeals to me is New Mexico. Guess I should have said I love snow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Looky What I Made!

I've been dabbling in knitting for a couple of years now. I had a friend who knitted in high school, and she taught me a little - I made a washcloth or two. And I'd made a few small projects, with more and less success, including a scarf that took FOREVER, even with a bulky yarn and fat needles.

But I'd never done anything beyond garter stitch or stockinette stitch (the most basic of basics, for non-knitters out there). So I found this pattern in a beginning knitting book that included twisted ribbing, but it was just a hat, so well, that's manageable, right?

This completely would not have happened without the kind guidance of Barb at She blogs about kids and knitting, and is really funny. And she's practically a neighbor, living in Long Island. She pointed me a couple of knitting links with videos (yay videos!).

So I started this at soccer practice Monday night. Knitted for an hour and finished the ribbing - but it didn't look right. Tuesday I ripped it out and started over, after watching the videos again - like three times each - and realizing I was purling backwards (don't ask). I finished this THE SAME DAY. It got addictive as I realized how close to done I was. I think it was about 3 hours start to finish. AND IT LOOKS LIKE THE PICTURE IN THE BOOK!!!!!!

I am SO liking this yarn. Of course, now I have to make at least one more for William (in dark grey), and I'm still debating the pom pom on top. Yes? No? What do you think?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Toxic Waste

I just used an (almost) banned substance. I feel contaminated. I washed my hands carefully after using.

I made my daughter a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

Now, don't get me wrong. I get the whole peanut allergy thing. I understand that for some people even contact with the oily residue from someone else's fingerprints can cause a severe reaction. That reading labels has to become a way of life, and that small children are especially at risk because it's so hard to explain it to them (and they often can't read yet).

And yet, I have a child who doesn't want anything else in her lunchbox, and who doesn't like 98% of the hot lunches at school. What do I do? Yes, I know, if there was a total ban on peanut butter we would find something else. She would adapt. She wouldn't starve.

But I feel guilty sending in this dangerous substance, and I take precautions based on working in chemical laboratories - I don't wear gloves, but I'm very conscious of cross-contamination and I wash my hands thoroughly before I handle the lunch bag (keep the outside clean). And I do resent (just a little) this feeling of guilt for putting someone else's child at risk. I sent William in with a granola bar for snack yesterday. There are peanut-sensitive children (child?) in his class, and the label read "May contain traces of peanuts". I really agonized over sending in that snack, and it was just for him, not the whole class!

I keep going back to when JC was in kindergarten. There was a child with a peanut allergy in his class, and in those days, you could still send in treats for birthdays. I called the mom, to find out what was safe. She was great, and made the comment that her children had to learn to be responsible for their own safety. "They have to live in the real world." What a fabulous attitude! And far safer for the kids in the long run - relying on the school to keep them safe is not much of a safety net.

I sent in peanut-safe Rice Krispie treats. Her daughter politely declined, even though her mom had told her they would be ok. She felt safer with her own snack.

Good for her.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Playin' Hooky

I didn't go to the gym on Friday. I didn't work on any of my various projects-in-process. I even abandoned my sick child (ok, it was the 13-yr old and he just had a cold).

I went SHOPPING. And shopping for scrapbook/crafting materials, even, which I need more of like a hole in the head.

Ranger Industries, a leading manufacturer of scrapbooking inks and accessories, was having a warehouse sale. 3 of my friends and I carpooled, and met 2 more friends there. We had no IDEA what to expect, whether there would be anything worth buying, or whether the prices would be worthwhile. But, hello, it's a warehouse sale. You assume a certain level of ... cheapness.
You would be right. This entire display of stuff, including those white sheets in the background (Cut n' Dry foam, usually $5+/sheet) and the grey stamp scrubbers in the front (there are two), cost me $28. Yes, really. All those lovely glitter glues in front, fabric paint, embossing powder, ink pads and more cost a total of $28.
Because, get this... it was by weight. At $4/lb., you can buy a WHOLE lot of crafting materials. So cool.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Just Shoot Me Now

I have been having the head-exploding too-many-activities why-did-I-say-I'd-do-that week. It's not that I can't get all this stuff done, it's more that I've gotten used to being, shall we say, a little lazier over the summer. But somehow I've managed to get involved with several activities that have coincided over the past week.

Consignment sale - this is why we haven't done a fall sale in 5+ years. All of the start up/prep work happens RIGHT at the start of school. What was I thinking?

Library Volunteer Co-chair - I knew this was going to be most intense at the beginning of the year, so this one I was mostly ready for. But it still has to get done.

Scholastic Book Mom - someone pegged me for this at the meet-the-teacher the day before school, so I can claim this one is just out of the goodness of my heart. But of course the first order had to go out last week and is going in this week, right on top of everything else.

Rubber stamping group - I invited everyone over for a BYOP (bring your own project), knowing that my house was a complete disaster and really needing a kick in the pants to get it cleaned up. It worked, but I am EXHAUSTED.

Chauffeur - soccer has started, dance has started, I should write down the mileage on my car and see how many miles I log this fall. And we're still waiting for Roller Hockey.

Back to school nights - two down, one to go. And they've all been in conflict with some other activity, of course.

And the icing on the cake was my poor husband has been traveling, almost non-stop, since last Wednesday. He did a trade show in Europe, which is always too much work and not enough sleep, came home, and turned right back around and left the next day for Canada. Oy.

Some time ago, somebody asked me what superpower I would choose, if I was able to choose one. I used to say super stretch, like Helen in The Incredibles. Now I've decided I need the ability to be in two places in the same time. And they both need driver's licenses.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

They come in many colors...

As part of the ongoing effort to dig out from all the piles of stuff we've accumulated, we cleaned out Rachel's closet. The big dig occured in the last week of summer, as part of prep for school. We found a pile as tall as William of craft kits and similar stuff that had never been opened. I guess there was a phase of "Rachel is into crafts" that became easy presents for friends and family. But since it got stashed in her closet, little of it actually got used. Saturday, the kids and I went through the big pile, which had ended up on the dining room table (and stayed for a while). One of the items was a Crayola Crayon Maker. "Take your broken crayons and make new ones!" It always seemed cool to me, but Rachel was never very interested. William, however, saw this and thought it sounded WAY COOL.
So we opened the box, did the minimal assembly, and cranked it up. Mr. Perpetual Motion sat for 10 minutes watching the crayons melt. Then waited 10 more minutes for them to cool enough to come out of the mold. He is in LOVE with this thing. We had to make crayons for the owner of our local gaming shop (she was all excited). We had to invite the girl next door to come over and see the process. Every moment we're not involved doing something else, "Mom, can we make more crayons?"
After dinner tonight, I was busy cleaning up and he wanted to make more. Since I couldn't get there right away, he did it himself (with permission). I was vaguely worried that there would be toxic fumes or that he could burn himself, since the box DOES say "8 and up" and he's six. But it's pretty well designed and smells like, well, hot crayons. And he's been careful (we'll see if that lasts).

They even come with customizable labels that have the official Crayola logo on them. It's pretty cool.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Soccer Saturday

It was Opening Day of soccer today. Our town recreation department, which has run an in-town league for years, just combined with one of the local traveling leagues. Now there are three levels, higher fees, and we had an Opening Day ceremony for the first time ever.
This is William's team (he's the one in white). We get two jerseys, one red, one white. The schedule tells you which team is which color, but not everyone knows to look at the schedule. I guess.
Rachel's team only had 5 girls show up. The rest of them were smart enough to sleep in - this event started at 8:30am and our game wasn't until 10:30. Rachel's flashing the peace sign. I'd love to say it was "v" for victory, but we haven't won a game in two years. But they've all been close!
The girls got really bored after the teams paraded around the track. There were several speakers, including the mayor, but they didn't use the stadium PA. They had a dinky little speaker hooked up to the microphone, and even the people who were standing close by had trouble hearing. We couldn't even tell someone was speaking.

We've had several days of lovely fall weather and cool temperatures, but of course, just in time for soccer, we had heat and humidity today. It was pretty awful in the sun, but fortunately there were clouds on occasion.

I don't have any pictures to post of Rachel's game. I didn't even GO to Rachel's game. Naturally, given that John's out of town on a weekend (which is rare), their games were at exactly the same time, in two different locations.

Doesn't it look like William is the super awesome soccer player in this shot? Alas, his actual play was more like the picture below.Don't ask me what he's looking at. It does not appear to be the ball, or his teammates, or even the goal. He mostly follows the ball around, although he always appears to be thinking about something else entirely. However, after the game, he complained that even his own teammates never let him kick the ball - which prompted a whole discussion about going after the ball and the realities of competition.

Yeah, I'm not seeing any career potential here. But his team managed to win, 3-2. And Rachel? Who plays hard and pays attention (and is admittedly almost 4 years older)? Rachel's team lost again. 2-3. But it was close!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

We are enjoying a beautiful late Summer day here. The sky is impossibly blue, with a few very white clouds. The sun is shining, but the air is cool and comfortable. It is virtually the same weather as it was September 11, 2001.

It makes me slightly sad that gorgeous fall days in September will be forever linked in my mind with that horrific day. At the same time, I feel compelled to remember, and if that's the reminder for me? So be it.

I don't know how it is in the rest of the country, but September 11th in the area around New York City is a very personal tragedy. We are prime commuter territory for NYC, and there were thousands of people who worked in or near the World Trade Center. Everyone I know has at least some personal connection with the tragedy - either they lost a loved one or almost lost a loved one, or they know someone who did. Everywhere you went in the months following, it was almost the only topic of conversation (including a memorable trip to McDonald's, overhearing a really heartbreaking conversation). And the number of stories that were basically, "there but for the grace of God..."; well, it's staggering. Someone had a fight with his wife and missed the train. Someone else was taking their kids to the first day of school (that and the fact that NYC was having a mayoral election that day may have saved many people). My brother-in-law had made the decision months before not to attend a trade show that was on one of the upper floors. What if...?

I believe we have a responsibility to the victims, and the survivors, to remember what happened. How you feel about the War on Terror, politics and politicians and policy - none of that really matters. Thousands of innocent people were killed; many, many of them made a choice to sacrifice themselves for others. Those facts are indisputable. So as you go about your business today, and as the official memorials are buried in the TV schedule, say a little prayer for the families and friends, for the survivors, and for our country. Just take a moment and remember.
(I'm sorry, I don't know the attribution for this picture. I hope they don't mind)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday (almost)

George the cat, picture of dignity and elegance. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tennis, Anyone?

John and I went to the Women's Final of the US Open (Tennis, not golf) on Sunday night. Considering I've only been to a handful of professional sporting events in my life, it was pretty cool. We'd been talking about getting tickets for the Open for years - John had an officemate long ago who was a tennis buff, and she infected him. And we live so close to NYC, it seems a shame not to take advantage of that on occasion. So when a friend said she had tickets she couldn't use...

Of course, Tropical Storm Hanna kind of made things complicated. The women's final was rescheduled from Saturday, 7pm, to Sunday, 9pm. Yes, it started at 9 at night. Ouch.
We, of course, were too "cool" to use the driving directions the US Open provided. No, we were smart enough to realize that the shortest way there was through the Holland Tunnel, across the tip of Manhattan, and thence over to Flushing Meadows. It's Sunday evening, how much traffic can there be?

Notice I said "shortest", not "fastest."

It took us 2.5+ hours to get there. We arrived in the parking lot at 9pm, when the match was supposed to start. Thank goodness for all the hoopla that happened before the match. By the time we waited in line for the shuttle bus, took the bus to the stadium, ran into the stadium and found the proper entrance and went up the four levels to get to our seats, we'd only missed two or three points.

Did I mention that these were nosebleed seats? Row X? We were three rows from the top of the stadium, which, by the way, actually wasn't a bad view. It's raked sharply in the upper tier so every seat actually has a view of the court. The only downside of this is the 46 steps up to our seats were STEEP, and of course, we were trying to scramble up there quickly between points. I think it took me two sets to get my breath back.

It is cool to watch tennis live. You get a much better sense of how much power and control these players have. Since you're not switching back and forth between camera angles, you get a better view of the game as a whole. And of course, there's the added bonus of celebrity spotting. The only one I actually spotted live (as opposed to on the Jumbotron) was Venus Williams. Far away and much lower, of course. But it was fun to see them show all the celebrities on the screen and know that they were in there somewhere.

Did I remember our binoculars? No. How about a camera? No, unless you count my cellphone (which explains the fuzzy pictures).

But we were there!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Back in the Routine

What does it say when your husband tells you to update your blog more often? Maybe we should talk more...

We are on Day 3 of school - Day 2 if you only count full days. William thinks 1st grade is "fun". Yes, his words. Hope it lasts. Rachel is less enthusiastic. Her classroom is in a wing of the school that gets full sun, almost all day, so she came home just wiped out yesterday. And this is Rachel, who is always cold. JC, on the other hand, is psyched that almost all of his classes are in the one wing of his school that is air-conditioned. Woo Hoo!

I've had more homework than any of them. I thought I had a lot of forms before school started? Yow! Even more. The ones that make me grumpy are the free lunch and insurance forms. They require them to be returned to school, even if you don't want to apply for the program, to ensure that everyone got a chance. Ok, that's fine, but state that clearly and give me a box to check to make my intentions clear. Last year they did, but not this year. Somehow, I don't need the teacher and the office staff knowing our income, thank you very much. And of course, everything is multiplied by 3.

We've averted one crisis - Rachel got assigned to a different soccer team than she's been on for the past 5 years. A couple of emails to coaches, and a call to the Recreation department, and we're good to go on OUR team. But a moment of panic - we play soccer for fun, and it's much more fun when you know the girls on your team.

Have I made any progress on the piles of junk around the house? No, not so much. I did manage to file or deal with most of the pile on my desk this afternoon. But all this free time while they're at school? Poof! They're home again!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

School Eve

It seems like the day before school starts should have a special name, so we can celebrate it (or mourn, depending on your point of view).

We have Christmas Eve, Halloween and New Year's Eve (which have become the party), why not School Eve? And even though it falls on a different date, depending on your school district, there could be appropriate recognition and parties.

And then the next day, the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, all the stay-at-home moms go out for coffee together. I would say a drink, but 9am is a little early for that. Even though it's 5 o'clock somewhere.

I'm debating the pros and cons of taking the kids out to dinner (last night of summer!) vs. eating at home (quiet evening!) I'm realizing I have probably 3 forms per child that still haven't been filled out and need to go in backpacks tomorrow. I'm realizing we need to load up backpacks tonight, and find healthy snacks since the first day is a half day. And we need to lay out clothes for everyone and set alarms and....

THIS is why the moms (and dads!) go for coffee. I don't know what working moms do, hopefully they can have a cuppa and a moment. But as rocky as the first day or two may be, I'm looking forward to a more stable routine.

Yeah, I know. Ask me in a couple of months how I feel about school. But at the moment, THIS is the real New Year's Eve. Any kid could tell you that.