Monday, November 24, 2008

time to make some changes

In which I ramble, stream-of-consciousness style. Sorry about that.

In the nearly two years since I've been writing this blog, I've had three different jobs. Four, maybe; I'm not sure if I've done any in-home tutoring in that time. I suspect I have. Regardless, that's a lot of instability. A lot of indecision, and thinking about what exactly do I want to be doing, anyway?? I know the answer to that question. I want to be home, with the kids. Keeping things in order, feeding the family healthfully, sneaking in some knitting when the boys are at school and Baby Sister's napping peacefully.

Because that's how it be.

Anyway, neither this fantasy stay-at-home situation nor the more realistic and chaotic version is possible. We're not going to be a one-income family anytime soon and I'm going to have to get over it. Do I sound bitter? Well. Yes.

I've mentioned I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. It's become clear that the job I'm in is not going to work out for too much longer, for a variety of reasons. The lack of benefits in this day and age is completely unrealistic. And more importantly, this family cannot deal with this schedule anymore. There are days when the only time I see the boys is during the hour or so that we're all getting ready in the morning. This is not nearly enough time, obviously. And that hour is not exactly quality time, as anybody who has hustled children through their breakfasts and out the door in the morning knows. Everything was kind of illuminated for me (if that's not too strong a phrase) last week, when I discovered that Big Brother is in danger of failing reading for the first trimester.

Everybody reading this who knows Big Brother just had to read that sentence twice. I know, people. This kid is an enthusiastic and adventurous reader. He started the Harry Potter books - read, I think the first three of them - the summer before second grade. And this was after he had already skipped a grade! He was freaking six! But this year, he's not keeping up with his work. He's a procrastinator, just like his mom, and he needs support. Not somebody to do his work for him, or nag him, but just some help staying on top of things. And while I love my husband dearly, he may not be the best person for this job. He is the most motivated and disciplined person I have ever met (sometimes I wonder how he lives with me), and he doesn't always understand that not everybody is like him. And I can't sit at work, helping other kids stay on top of their stuff, while my own child struggles at home, and not think, This is pretty fucked up.

So. The obvious solution would be go back to a regular teaching job. Full benefits, out of work by three or so, problem solved. Except at this point I'd have to go back and get some more college credits first, as my certification's expired. Also, I've done the classroom teaching thing, and I don't think it's right for me. At least, not right now. It frankly requires more energy than I am willing to put into anything other than my family at the moment. I look at some of the really good teachers I know, especially those with kids (like my sister-in-law - that motivation/discipline thing must run in the family), and I think they may actually be superhuman. It's just a theory I have.

Where was I? Right. Jobs. I did end up taking the GRE's. All the indecision and inaction was making me antsy, I think, and that was at least something I could do. Whether or not it was a useless exercise remains to be seen. I did pretty well, but I certainly don't have time to go to grad school anytime soon. When I was first feeling sort of panicky about the whole economic situation, a degree in a field such as engineering (which would reasonably fit in with the degree I already have) seemed like a pretty good idea. Now that I've got a whole new situation to feel panicky about, that idea is pretty well gone. No regrets though - I don't think I would have been happy doing it at all.

So the immediate plan is this: I'm going to talk to my boss (a very kind and understanding person, so WHY AM I SO TERRIFIED) about cutting back my hours so I can be there to pick up the boys from school. The downside is that it would make my job entirely administrative, no more teaching, and I'd miss the kids. But I miss my kids more. If that's not an option, I'll have to start looking again. Probably more in the science field and less in the education field, and definitely with hours that will fit my family. If I have to, I'll look for a part-time retail something or other. If those kinds of jobs are around right now.

So. Thanks for listening, and wish me luck.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the c-word

No, not that c-word. My goodness.

I’m speaking, of course, of Christmas. And Christmas knitting, which has been underway for some time. I have enthusiastically taken the handmade pledge, and I think it’s going pretty well so far. I originally intended that all the handmade gifts would be handknitted gifts, but that’s not going to happen. Besides friends and family, there are people like the kids’ teachers, all six of them (hello - only three kids), and it’s just going to be too much. I’ll probably do some baking or making things like lip balms or bath balls. The handmade holidays group in Ravelry has tons of good suggestions. And then, not all the gifts can be handmade – though that’s all I’ll say about that here.

So what have I knit so far? Well, there’s the mittens.

The last couple of pairs have been stripey wool exercises in stashbusting. On the first pair, I made the stripes completely random, and then I put a bit more structure in the second pair. I’m also perfecting my jogless join, and using up as much as I can of those annoying little balls of leftovers. Do those drive you crazy, too? Or is it just me?

I’ve also been doing a bunch of stuffed animals, mostly using the Bubby pattern from knitty. I planned to do a cat (for the baby in the family that has cats), a dog (for the baby in the family that has dogs), a bear (the pattern ends there), and a salamander. Obviously I’m not going to do a Bubby salamander, but all the others will use that pattern. The cat and dog, actually, are already done.

They just need faces, but I’d like to get some embroidery floss for that. Also, I’m not sure I like the bow ties/neckties on either of them. I think I might get some ribbon for ties and be sure to stitch it down securely. Or maybe I’ll go all-out and knit them some little clothes. That might be fun.

The toughest Christmas knitting to get through is going to be the kids’ sweaters. I get the sinking feeling I’m going to do all the fun stuff - like, say, stuffed animals and mittens - first, and wind up spending the last couple of weeks before Christmas going crazy with the big projects. Because that is how I roll. At this point Big Brother’s sweater is knit up to the armpits, plus one sleeve and a little bit of a second sleeve. I started the second sleeve last Thursday, then spent the weekend (my prime knitting time) on other, smaller projects. Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m forcing myself to save Baby Sister’s sweater for last, because it will be by far the most entertaining.
And last but not least, I knit something up for my sister's boyfriend. Which, fellow Secret Santa participants, does not necessarily mean I drew his name! So there! Last year I made him fingerless gloves, so this year I was going to go for a hat. Unfortunately for me, it turned out Nancy had knit him two hats last year (one in black and one in brown, so being a guy, he'd never need another one). So a hat was out.

Hmm, what to knit, what to knit . . . a-ha, a COWL!

Love it when I get to knit a gift and indulge an obsession. I'm going to post the pattern for this (ridiculously simple as it is), but I'll make that a separate post.

So that's it for Christmas so far. I feel like I should put a countdown in the sidebar or something, but I'm not really that organized in my thinking this year. Gone are the color-coded Excel spreadsheets of years past, there's just not enough time. Sigh . . . I've been so busy and doing so much thinking and exploring - soon I'll sit down and share my thoughts. As soon as I can get them to stay in one place long enough.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

this weekend !!

Where to start?? This weekend was just so full of awesome it's hard to figure out what to write about first. You gotta love that kind of weekend.

There were two major things that brought the awesome. First, knitting weekend at the Slater Mill! I gushed talked about this before; this was the weekend where Norah Gaughan and Annie Modesitt were coming to teach some classes at the new Community Guild Studios in the mill. Second, J and I took a belated anniversary trip to lovely and historic Salem. This used to be an annual event, but it's hard to leave very small kids, so this was the first year we'd gotten away since Baby Sister came along. Cue the choir of heavenly angels!

So, the whole thing started with Friday night, the "wine and cheese reception" at Slater Mill. That title makes it sound so much more formal than it really was; it was just a gathering of knitters in the beautifully remodeled space on the second floor of the mill. There was wine, and cheese (the scoop on the Ravelry board is that the cheese ball was particularly good, but I'll have to take everyone's word for it), and a great Q&A session with Annie and Norah. Warren Wheelock, who runs Berroco yarns, was there, which made for some very funny show-and-tell knitting moments. Annie kept holding up things she had made and saying,"This would have been really nice in a Berroco yarn . . ." She was, actually, unexpectedly hilarious. Unexpected to me, I mean, because I wasn't really all that familiar with her work and her books. It was a really fun night, eating and knitting and chatting.

Saturday morning I went back to Slater Mill for the class on geometric knitting with Norah Gaughan. I had never taken a knitting class before, so starting out with an honest-to-goodness knitting rockstar was pretty sweet. She started by giving us a little history on how she started with the pentagons, hexagons, and other shapes she uses, and showing us some of the garments she's designed for her book and for Berroco. Dude, I got to touch some of the sweaters from Knitting Nature and it may have been the coolest thing ever. The technique itself was something I had already done, with the yet-to-be-finished Bubble Pullover, but it was so fun to play with it some more. Looky what I made!

An eye pillow? A bikini for Baby Sister? I don't know. Probably just a little piece of inspiration to hang on the bulletin board I keep meaning to make. I'll show it to people all the time, saying, "Norah Gaughan said this was pretty. Norah Gaughan. Come back - why are you backing away?"

Anyway. When I got home from the class I kissed the children and hustled them off to my sister-in-law, yelling, "See you later, suckers! I'm not done having fun yet!" Or maybe it didn't happen quite like that, but we did head off on our trip pretty quickly. It seems most of the historical-type attractions that we geeks like close fairly early, you see. It turned out that we needn't have worried. We went to the Salem Witch Museum first:

Oooh, Gothic and creepy looking. The museum was not quite what we expected, though it was a good time in a delightfully campy sort of way. You go in and you wait in the lobby area until the next showing of their presentation. When it's time, you are shown into a large darkened room with benches all around. There are these scenes all around the walls, essentially very large dioramas, and they are lit up one at a time to correspond with the soundtrack. Again, very campy, complete with the devil and his glowing red eyes, screaming girls, and Giles Corey's piteous groans as he is being pressed to death. After the presentation, the tour guide leads you to a room with an exhibit on how witches have been portrayed through history. At least, I think that's what it was about. Our tour guide went through his spiel so fast it was like being guided by the Micro Machines guy. As soon as that's over you're ushered into the gift shop and left to stand there, blinking and asking, "What just happened?" We mocked it thoroughly over the rest of the weekend. But it was fun, honest - tell your friends!

The town of Salem itself proved to be a great place for walking around. There's a little area, just a couple of streets, that are cut off to traffic, with shops and stuff - lots of costume shops, and yes, a yarn shop. There are lots of great restaurants, too.

We didn't eat at The Old Spot, although the sustenance and libations were quite tempting. I also stayed out of this bookstore in spite of temptation:

Stacked up to the windows! I may never have gotten out of there.
And lastly - holy crap this is a long post - on Sunday we visited the Peabody Essex museum. This was just what I expected it to be: full of beautiful and fascinating things. I didn't get all that many pictures; they didn't allow photography in any of their special exhibits. Which was too bad, because they were really wonderful. J especially liked Yin Yu Tang, which was an old house from a rural Chinese village that had been taken apart brick by brick, shipped here, and reassembled. Amazing. My favorites were the collection of paintings of Arctic landscapes, and the photographs of Maori moko tattooing.
And this. :)

Whew! Is it any wonder it took me until Thursday to write about it all?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November 4th, 2008

Well, that felt good.

For a little context: I turned 18 the month after the 1996 election. (Did you do the math? Yes, 30 is rapidly approaching.) So the only elections I've been able to vote in were 2000 and 2004, in which I was, um, less than pleased with the results. And I'm not trying to be counting chickens before they're hatched or anything - either way this year turns out, I'm just glad I was able to cast a vote for a candidate I believed strongly in, not just one who was better than the other guy. (No offense, Al Gore. You should have done a better job showing us your values and your character during, you know, your campaign.)

I'm at work now; I'll be working for another hour and a half. By the time I'm leaving, many of the polls on the east coast will have closed. Results will have started to trickle in. I know I'll turn on the npr as soon as I hit the car, and will probably not turn it off until I know what happened. I can't go to sleep without knowing. Have you been on edge all day? I know I have. It feels like it is completely not hyperbole to say that tomorrow, everything could be different.

Oh, and if the straw polls in the local schools are any indication, it'll be a landslide for Obama.

I'll leave you with a poem today. I've never posted a poem on the blog before - I'm not really a big reader of poetry - but today seems like a good day for some beautiful words.

Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara - nor you, ye limitless prairies - nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite - nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyserloops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones - nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes - nor Mississippi's stream:
This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name - the still small voice vibrating -America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen - the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd - sea-board and inland - Texas to Maine - the Prairie States - Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West - the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling - (a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's): the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity - welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
- Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify - while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

on halloween night . . .

. . . my children procured an obscene amount of candy! I mean, unbelievable. This was the first year they were deemed old enough to go out on their own (you should have seen them the past couple of weeks, drawing maps of the neighborhood and planning their route), and they came home with way more sugar than they would have while accompanied by an adult. I would not be surprised if there is still some hanging around to give out to next year's trick-or-treaters.

I'm sure the awesomeness of their costumes helped. As predicted, one of them did end up being a zombie - Little Brother - and J went all-out creating a "I've been in the ground for the past few years" look. Power tools were involved, people.

Big Brother was a rock star. Gene Simmons, to be precise. Here he is, totally owning the look:

And yes, they were a rock star and a zombie last year, too. But the other way around, so it's totally new and fresh, honest! At least that Benetar is getting a lot of use.

Baby Sister was a very cute pink puppy. She and I went trick-or-treating together, and she chatted and made puppy noises the whole time - except when she got to the actual houses of actual neighbors. Then her eyes got all big and her mouth got all tiny, though her reaching-for-candy skills remained intact. She also becomes quite dainty when the camera comes out:

Little ham.

Lastly, what would a post-Halloween post be without a jack-o-lantern shot? Ooh, scary!