December 11, 2014

Marvin, the unlikely lovey

When A was a newborn, my mom bought what she hoped would become A's lovey: a little blanket, fuzzy on one side, satiny on the other side with tags all around. She was so sure it would be the one that she bought two of them, because you need two of your child's beloved lovey in case one should get lost. And while my mom was right that it is very wise to have a backup lovey, she was wrong about what A would fall for.

Instead of the blanket we already had two of, A set her sights on a small cream colored bunny that once upon a time we thought she had named Buddy. She grew a little older and her speech got a bit clearer and it turned out A wasn't saying Buddy but Bunny. She's almost halfway though kindergarten and Bunny is still in her arms as she falls asleep (and occasionally in her backpack as a very small stowaway).

For a long time, it seemed like D had no lovey other than his pacifier. Then he decided he needed his monkey blanket always, a rather bulky and heavy lovey. And then one day, D met Marvin.

Marvin, as you may notice, is technically our 34th president. General Eisenhower came to us from the National Archives' gift shop, and now he and D go everywhere together. They sleep together, they play together, they check the mail together, they walk big sister to the bus together. They've even been to the ER together.

How did D wind up calling him Marvin? We're not sure, but A claims he got it from an episode of Doc McStuffins. However he settled upon the name, it's stuck, and Marvin has recently begun speaking, in a very small version of a very deep voice.

Welcome to the family, Marvin - we're glad you're here.

December 6, 2014

You can't sit with us

This afternoon, A and I saw The Nutcracker together for the third time, continuing one of my favorite childhood traditions. This year, though, our tradition took on a new twist. This was the first year she didn't watch at least part of it perched in my lap - in fact, she didn't sit with me at all.

Instead, A sat one row ahead of me with four of her Girl Scout buddies. They were giddy at the idea of sitting on their own, and we moms settled into our own row behind them.

The house lights went down, and the big purple curtain opened, and I alternated between watching the show and watching my girl and her friends. Five little heads leaned forward in the darkness, sometimes bent close together and whispering, sometimes with little arms raised to conduct along with the music. More than once, a little voice wondered aloud if the show might be over soon. As the second act came to a close, those little heads sunk low in their seats, tired after nearly two hours. As the dancers bowed, those little hands clapped and clapped.

We stayed after the show ended for a special Girl Scout question and answer session, and the girls earned their first special patch...a lavender circle embroidered with Clara and her nutcracker. It's a good new addition to our Christmas tradition.

November 24, 2014

Counting to 100

With Thanksgiving just days away, I'm finding it hard to believe that the school year is almost half over. It feels like just a few weeks ago we were packing up backpacks and waving goodbye at the bus stop for the first time.

Kindergarten has brought a lot of new things into A's life: the bus, PE, full day school and...homework. I know, I know...homework is nobody's favorite, and there are plenty of people who argue that kids this little shouldn't have any homework at all. But over the last three months, I've come to view that little packet as a window into what's going on in A's classroom. More importantly, it's quickly becoming a fascinating glimpse into A's rapidly changing mind.

My own memories of kindergarten and early elementary school are fairly hazy: a stack of giant cardboard blocks printed with brick patterns in primary colors. A lift-top desk with crayons tucked inside. Buying milk at a little table just inside the cafeteria doors. And a litte booklet with a red construction paper cover. Inside were pages filled with blank boxes, boxes meant to be filled with numbers from 1 to 100. I couldn't tell you what grade that assignment came home with me, but to this day I remember holding it in my hand and angrily thinking why do we have to do this? Numbers have never come easily for me, and that assignment was hard and made me feel like I wasn't smart.

Fast forward about 31 years to last Monday, when A and I sat at the table with her homework packet. We flipped it over and she decided to start with the math page first...a page filled with blank boxes save for the very last one, which was marked 100. How many numbers can you fill in? asked the instructions at the top. A got to work, filling in the first row quickly before starting in on the second. She got halfway through that second row and paused.

Look mommy - it's a pattern! she announced, tracing her finger down the columns to show me how 2 and 3 and 4 were following from one row to the next. And then she kept going until her hand got tired.

I thought the day A learned to talk was the day we learned what was going on in her head. And indeed since she started talking we've learned that she has a fantastic memory, that she can make up a song or a story about just about anything, that she never runs out of questions. But it's been a surprise to watch her mind grow and change so much in just a few months of school.

We've got a lot left to learn, all of us.

November 13, 2014

Mad hatter

Finishing my last blanket set a fire to my knitting desire...I wanted something fast and easy the next time around, and there's not much that's faster to knit than a hat.

First I made one for A, who picked out this color for herself months ago.

Then I made one for D, out of a gorgeous hand-dyed yarn I won last year.

With two hats finished, I was ready to stop...and then I came across a beautiful bulky weight yarn I'd bought for myself without a project in mind. That's probably a bit of a lie - the truth is that I'm pretty sure I bought it assuming I'd turn it into another seed stitch cowl, something I've made for myself three times now.

What if I could turn it into a hat instead? I found an easy pattern after a few minutes of searching, and four hours after I cast on, I had a hat. A glorious, thick, cozy hat that I think might finally turn me into a hat wearer.

There's a rush in taking a tangle of raw materials and turning it into something useful. Both kids have worn their hats both in and out of the house. A's highest compliment for a garment is to put it on immediately upon receipt, and her hat? Went straight on her head. She wore it all day at school the next day. I've been struggling with my own feelings of usefulness lately, and making something useful and doing it quickly has been good for my soul.

A fourth hat is on my needles now*, another bulky weight beauty (this one for my husband) - putting me on track to have a hat for every head in my house before the polar vortex descends later this week. Yarn awaits for a second hat for me, and I have second hats planned for everyone else in the house. I may not know what it is I want to do with my life, but at least we'll all be cozy and warm as fall turns frost.

*I'm on number five now and haven't taken a picture of number day I'll round them all up for a giant hat group photo.

November 10, 2014


It's hard to write and knit at the same time, and I've spent much of my time knitting in recent weeks. Last week I finally finished a long overdue birthday present for my husband: a blanket, specifically Purl Soho's Super Easy Lap Blanket.

You can see why I'm calling this gradient-ish - the gray throws off the blue theme, and the navy is a bit dark for a true color progression. But it makes for a relaxing color palette nonetheless, and the birthday boy is pleased with the results.

I love stripes, but I don't love weaving in ends, and a blanket full of stripes means lots of ends. This is my third striped blanket, and two out of the three have felt so slow to knit...I set this project down more times than I meant to, much like I've set writing here to the side more often than I've meant to. Finishing this blanket gave me a creative energy surge that's resulted in three hats in four days (with a fourth on my needles now), and I'm hoping that I can find similar creative motivation for writing too.

For now, I've got a hat to finish.

November 3, 2014

This is just a drill

We're more than two months into the school year now, and A has hit her stride in kindergarten. In the early weeks, it was a struggle to get even a sentence about her day before she curled into a ball in the living room to rest until dinnertime. Now she bounds off the bus full of details about her day, and she saves the best bits for the dinner table.

Tonight, A was pleased to announce she's started studying some new symbols: the question mark, the exclamation point and the period. As an editor, it warmed my heart to discuss the merits and uses of punctuation with our oldest child. And then, between bites of lasagna and telling us about her new classroom job, A remembered one more detail about her day.

Today we had our first lockdown drill, she said.

And what is a lockdown drill? I asked, knowing full well what it was. How can you not know, when school shootings are so commonplace they barely make the news these days?

We lock the door and pull down all the shades and pretend we aren't there. I was very quiet like this (and here she demonstrated, mouth zipped tight, eyes open wide).

Did your teacher say why you had to do that? I didn't want to add any extra details, but I wanted to hear what she knew about it.

If someone was yelling in the hall, we would do that and be quiet and pretend we aren't here.

 And then we got to the detail she really wanted to share about her day: the best part of getting the door opener job at school is that you get to walk in front of the line leader.

For all the times I've worried about my kids at school, it's always been for minor reasons: are they happy or sad? Are they keeping up with the work? Adjusting socially? Managing emotions properly?

But it's never occurred to worry about whether or not they're safe at school. I'd like to think that neither of them will ever be in a situation where there will be a real lockdown at school...that the stories we see on the news won't ever happen in our backyard. But it could, and now my five year old is doing drills so that she and her classmates are ready if it ever does.

That's a lot to take in on a Monday night.

October 30, 2014

A decade

Today is our tenth anniversary.

Ten years ago, we said "I do" in our college chapel, surrounded by family and friends. When we started dating nearly 16 years ago, I don't know that I could have pictured a day when we'd have two kids running around the house - but how lucky we are to have our wild and crazy two and each other.

 Picture courtesy of the talented Mindi of Stavish Stills.

Happy anniversary to my partner in crime...I can't imagine life with anybody else.