Friday, November 02, 2007

The Orange Sweater of Doom

Nearly six years ago I stopped knitting. I don't know why. The knitting muse just left me. I had the hem and collar left to do on a Norwegian ski sweater; it has sat, unfinished, in the closet all this time.

In late 2005 a knitter friend was with me in a yarn shop, and she encouraged me to buy yarn and knit something new. Dave was along too, and he chose some Peace Fleece in Glasnost Gold (a nice heathered orange) for Chad's Pullover (it's there, scroll down). A nice simple knit in worsted weight yarn. Nothing taxing, just something to get me back into the knitting groove.

I used the recommended yarn on the recommended needles, and was done with the back and more than three quarters of the way up the front before I finally had to admit that it was so small that there was no way it would ever going to fit him. So I ripped the whole thing out and started again, on far, far bigger needles, this time making the biggest size. I got the back and most of the front done again, and then, sick of moss stitch, put the thing aside for more than a year.

We live in a condo with limited storage space for my yarn stash. The knitting muse came back in earnest when I was pregnant with Clara last year, and as we were making room for her I decided I needed to finish some long-dormant projects if I was going to have anywhere to put the yarn that had started coming into the house again. So: the front of the orange sweater got finished, and soon there were shoulder seams, and a collar, and about a third of one sleeve, knitted downward from the edge of the body. Then the whole thing went back into the closet again, because holy fez the moss stitch was going far too slowly and small, instant-gratification baby things needed to be made! Twitch!

When the weather started turning a bit cooler this fall, I decided to dig the thing out again and work on it in the car as we went on our autumn roadtrip. You know what? Working on a sweater means that progress gets made. I finished the first sleeve; Dave tried it on and deemed it too short; I pulled out the cuff and made the thing longer. Yay. First sleeve done.

Picked up stitches along the other side for the second sleeve; knat along for a while; realized I'd screwed up a decrease somewhere. Hunted and hunted. Found it about 4" back. Ripped. Put the 4" back. Spent the better part of a day hunting for a missing ball of yarn, having horrible visions of having left it at an Econo Lodge somewhere outside Rochester, NY. Found it under the bed. Continued to knit. Finished the cuff. Looked at it and realized I'd forgotten the decrease row before the cuff. Ripped out and reknit the cuff. Sewed the side seams. THANK CROYST IT'S DONE I CAN KNIT SOMETHING ELSE. Presented it to Dave, who tried it on, and sheepishly (heh) complained that it was too short.

Balls.

Adding length from the top would involve ripping out both sleeves. No. And I'd put in too damn much work on this thing for him not to be able to wear it. I decided that, for the first time ever, I would cut a garment to fix it. I thought: I'll just snip a stitch, pick out a row, add length on top of the ribbing, and then graft the f*cker back together again.

[Apologies are due to the non-knitters reading. It gets even more technical from here. Reader's Digest version is that I AM THE SERENEST.]

Have you ever tried to graft 2x2 moss stitch? I didn't think so; there seems to exist almost nothing online about how to do it. And all the stuff I could find in knitting books was about 2x2 rib, which didn't help much. Laura says she has tried it and found it so fierce that she recommends just grafting it in stocking stitch and then duplicate-stitching on the purl bumps later. But by this point I am far too obsessive about this fershluginer sweater to use a kludge.

It took me the better part of three days to figure out how to do it. I made a small swatch out of different yarn, and knitted (and purled) a white row in the middle as a guide for the grafted row. I tried six or seven times on the actual sweater. And suddenly, yesterday, the clouds parted, and light shone down, and a choir of angels sang, and I was using a darning needle to connect two pieces of knitting with something that looked very much like moss stitch.

The back is now done, and I'm picking out a row on the front. I'll work in the dreaded moss stitch for 3" or so, praying that I don't run out of yarn, and then graft some more. And then I will resew the bottoms of the side seams, and I will present the sweater to Dave, and he will put it on, and he will exclaim happily about the fit, and then he will wear it every day for a month if he knows what's good for him.

And then I'll sew the hem on that goddamn ski sweater.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The unbearable cuteness of Clara


High cuteness
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
Clara was a pumpkin for Hallowe'en. We went to Lettuce Knit and she flung candy around. So. Much. Cuteness.

Lots more pictures on my Flickr stream.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hoops of wood

I took this while sitting in the armchair next to my thesis carrel in Clapp Library at Wellesley while I was nursing Clara. The sun was setting and everything felt exactly right.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there

There's been a lot going on in the past month and a half. At the end of September we spent a week out west with my mother's extended family, attending my cousin's wedding. (I was the flowergirl at her parents' wedding many years ago.) I gained some new perspectives and was glad to have some time to spend with my sister and her girlfriend, who is good people. My parents are working on selling their house so that they can move to a town just outside Buffalo in order to be closer to Clara, so things are awfully chaotic for them.

The wedding was beautiful, and it was nice and a little sobering to see people I hadn't seen in a couple of decades. Oddly enough, we're all older.

We were back for two weeks (including Clara's birthday, celebrated at Lettuce Knit) before we left again, this time on our first long roadtrip since Miz Thang was born. We went to my twenty-year high school reunion, visited the old neighbours for the first time in fifteen years, had an all-too-brief visit with friends in western MA, spent five days with one of my best friends and her husband and three kids, had dinner on the Wellesley campus, and then went to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. If it all sounds like a bit much, that's because it was. I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, more satisfying homecoming, but the ten days were starting to make me think that some guy was about to step out from behind a tree, film crew behind him shining lights in my face, and bellow, "Emily Krapsnart, THIS IS YOUR LIFE!" It was 1974 to 1992 packed into just over a week, except that this time my husband and baby daughter were along for the ride. And wow, what a ride.

The reunion was fun, I guess; I got a very welcome chance to see two of my closest high school friends, but wished that more were there (Italophile, I'm talking to you). My old neighbourhood has changed a lot; my childhood home is unrecognizable. The wonderful people next door had us over for dinner, a marvellous spread that fed my soul. (Margaret takes care of her daughter's kids, so there's kid paraphernalia all over. I had not been at all prepared to see my tricycle in front of their house; the sight of it made me burst into tears.) Two of my high school teachers who were major figures in my adolescence are now divorced; I talked to him and saw her. Life goes on.

Five days in a house with four kids six and under: exhausting. But it's always great to see AM. I sent Dave out geocaching a lot so he could get some Dave Time in before the yarnulence of the weekend. We also managed to see some more old neighbours who have moved to eastern Massachusetts, and they suggested that Pina drop in for dinner while we were visiting them, so we got a bit of time with her. Somewhere in the five days there was dinner with Steve and Peter and David B.; it was really good to see them, too.

Wellesley is more beautiful than ever; every time I'm on campus I shake my head in disbelief that I spent four years there. We walked around the misty, luminous campus and took pictures, and then ate in the new student centre, surrounded by students who, when I was in school, were not much older than Clara is now. The intellect and potential and youth of all those women in that magical place made me hopeful and happy.

And then, Rhinebeck. My God, Rhinebeck. I'd spent fifteen years convinced that I wasn't homesick for Dutchess County, but oh, I am. I am. It is unspeakably beautiful in the fall, and the nostalgia that the fairgrounds evoked after everything that had come in the few days before -- well, it was more than a little overwhelming to be back there.

I bought yarn, a lot of yarn. As I knit it, it will continue to remind me of home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

One year

Dear Clara,

Today is your first birthday. You're pretty cranky today because you haven't had enough sleep: you're still a little jetlagged from our trip west to your cousin Amanda's wedding, and your Grandma and Grandpa wanted to see you first thing this morning before they left to go camping. Grandma baked you an angel-food cake, and was so happy to watch you dig into it with your little hands while the "1" candle dripped wax all over the frosting.

I've been writing this letter in my head for at least a month now. Every time I think about your being a whole year old, I want to touch your cheek and nibble your toes and hug you close to me as I feel my heart expanding yet more in my chest. You are already such a remarkable little person, with an irresistibly cheerful disposition and an infectious giggle that we hear so very often.

You meet new situations with curiosity and aplomb. Yesterday was your first Kindersports class, and your first swimming lesson, and in between them a very persistent five-year-old named Grace made sure that we went to the drop-in centre nearby. The Kindersports class was far, far above your age level -- you were the only one there not walking yet, and you didn't seem that interested in passing balls around or rolling down an incline -- but you still giggled and waved all your arms in happiness. At the drop-in centre you worked for a very long time on the new toys, turning them over in your hands and inspecting them and trying them in your little mouth. Su, who runs the place, introduced herself to you, and you laughed, and charmed her. You charm just about everyone.

You love water. You like to crawl into the hall bathroom and dip your hands into the cats' water bowls, and you sit on the bathmat and gesture at the tub and urgently move your fists up and down in front of your chest to make the sign for "bath". At your swimming lesson I dunked you a few times and you barely flinched. You splashed and giggled and thoroughly enjoyed yourself, and when I brought you home you passed out within the hour. Sweet baby.

You and I walk around the city a lot, you tied close to me in your beautiful mei tai. You point at things and flirt with strangers and sometimes tweak my nipples, hard, and laugh. People smile broadly at us and ask how old you are and gush about your cuteness. When you've been carried for too long you get restless, and you want to get down and crawl. You love being outside; one of your favourite places is on the grass, grabbing sticks and leaves and waving them around while you sing happily.

Your dad is completely smitten with you. He sits on the floor with you and plays little games like "where's the block?" and sings little songs that he makes up on the spot. He takes you out geocaching at least once a week, taking you places where you can get plenty of Grass Baby Time. Every night he straps you onto his belly in the blue carrier, and walks you up and down the hallway outside our door until you fall asleep. I watch him with you and love him more than ever.

Your favourite food is probably ice cream; smoked salmon and garlicky garlicky hummus are pretty high on the list too. Your favourite song is Ladytron's "Destroy Everything You Touch" (seriously) and you get a huge kick out of stroking the soft soft bunting that Kerry and Mary and Toby sent last year when you were born.

Tonight we're taking you out to see the knitters, who are fans of yours. Megan at the yarn shop said we could celebrate your birthday there, so we're about to head out.

I love you very, very much, and I feel so honoured and privileged to be one of the people responsible for helping you find your way in this world. I'm proud of the job we've done so far and I know there will be many challenges in the years ahead. I hope we can continue to do right by you.

Happy birthday, my beloved little daughter.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bup!

Clara is talking a lot now, but we don't know what she means. Favourite syllables include "bup," "epf," "upf," and "huh-bapf." The other morning she and I awoke at the same time; she yaaaaawned and streeeeetched and rubbed her eyes and then very solemnly intoned, "Bup." I nearly fell off the bed.

We're just getting through to the other side of a particularly difficult phase, the dreaded Nine Month Freakout. This is when object permanence develops -- she's working hard on the concept that things still exist even when she can't see them. She'll hold a cloth in front of her face and then lower it to see us, and then laugh and laugh as she does it again. (I knew babies liked peek-a-boo, but hadn't realized it was so important developmentally.) She's also working on the idea that a picture of a cat represents an actual cat, like the ones she lives with, and that a black or orange cat is the same kind of animal as her beloved Martha. Plus, she's getting more mobile (but not crawling yet; she can scoot along backwards and get stuck under things), and the separation anxiety has kicked in. (Separation anxiety is evolution's way of keeping us from getting killed as we become more able to move away from those looking after us.) Clara's has been mercifully mild, I think because the babywearing and co-sleeping and unified approach from both parents have made her feel very secure with either of us, and so the other one can get a break now and then without Clara wigging.

And then there's the teething. Oh man, the teething. Poor baby has six of the little choppers now. She got the middle lower ones first, and then the lateral incisors on top, more than a month before the central ones, which have just come in in the past week. She's been looking a bit like a little baby vampire.

So there's been a lot happening in babyland, and baby has not been very happy about most of it. Sweet little thing.

Here she is, as of yesterday:
Bright

Love. Her.

In knitting news: the Diamond Fantasy shawl is done and waiting patiently to be blocked. I did seven pattern repeats instead of six. The applied I-cord castoff looks fabulous. The Sea Silk looks like spun gold. Pictures forthcoming.

Shawls on the needles: Kate's modified Lace Wings, in purple Sea Silk, and a Shetland Triangle in Mini Maiden, which I like even better than the Sea Silk. As Homer Simpson would say, glaaaaagh.

Knit night this week was all kinds of fun; Glenna and Maryann have posts up about it (and Glenna's even has video, and more pictures of Clara!). Fun conversation, good beer, people losing their minds over the SEVENTY-FIVE POUNDS of newly arrived Socks That Rock yarn (nine ounces of it came home with me), a delicious yam burrito (mmmm, Big Fat Burrito), happy Clara being held by at least a dozen people, and knitting, at least after Clara's dad took her away to go geocaching. And singing! We were serenaded! Perfect.

Even better: tonight's Drunken Knitting is at Betty's, my favourite pub ever (and my local).

Life is good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Denny's seven-shawl challenge

Drat you, Denny.

I am too chicken to commit to seven shawls at once, but I think the knitting muse is saying "DO SHAWLS NOW." Last time I tried to ignore her I ended up not knitting at all for several years, so She Must Be Obeyed. Here are possibilities:

1. Lace Wings. Done in a gorgeous cream-coloured Sea Silk with subtle hints of a rosy bronze through it, and blocking on the spare bed next to me. Okay, I'll commit to that one. Soon it will be off to a friend who has no idea it's coming.

2. Clapotis. Already got the five hanks of Koigu Kersti for it. I am one of the three knitters in the world who haven't made one yet.

3. Shetland Triangle. Got a hank of Hand Maiden's Mini Maiden for it. Looking forward to this one.

4. Diamond Fantasy. There's a hank of gold Sea Silk (seriously, it looks like spun gold -- Rumplestiltskin yarn) in the closet with this shawl's name on it. This one or the Shetland Triangle will go over my long strappy black velvet dress when I go to my HS reunion in the fall.

5. Another Lace Wings, in a purple Sea Silk, but with a slightly different lace pattern. This one is for a friend.

6. Maybe a Flower Basket (PDF) in a yarn I haven't picked yet.

7. Perhaps something rectangular, in the pearl grey Euroflax linen I've had in my stash for more than a decade. Suggestions welcome. I've got two hanks.

I finished the first Monkey sock last night in the Farmhouse colourway of Socks That Rock yarn. It looks great. I'm working on Square #12 (13, if I use the very muted one) of the Lizard Ridge afghan, and I have yarn picked out for a Rogue cardigan. I have a Chad's Pullover in orange Peace Fleece about 65% done for Mr. K, and I think I'm starting to make headway in the boxes of UFOs in the linen closet. The Morning Glory vest has been sitting there for years, just needing some seams and a decision about what to do with the cut steeks (answer, sanctioned by the Yarn Harlot at the S&B the other night: cut them down two stitches and leave them), and I've made so much headway on it in the past few days that I might actually finish it today. ! These days I don't go anywhere without at least three projects along. Motherhood inspires multitasking, I guess.

Then there's the Dalegarn ski sweater, which just needs a hem and a collar, and a yoked cotton pullover that needs a collar and a lot of ends darned in, and a burgundy Cotton Fleece cardigan whose edging is much too tight and that I don't actually like very much. I might rip that whole thing out and use the yarn for something for Clara. All these projects are finally turning from albatrosses to things I can actually imagine having finished. Hooray.

Clara is marvellous as always. She is in the middle of another very fussy period -- this is the dreaded runup to nine months that tends to kick babies' and parents' asses -- but her underlying nature is so sunny and cheerful, and the developmental leaps she's making are so exciting to her and to us, that we can put up with a lot. She waves hello and bye-bye now, and last night she was giggling at pictures of herself. Her hands have a great deal of fine motor control, and she's happy to use them to grab unfamiliar foods and pop them in her mouth. Yesterday she discovered she really likes roasted garlic hummus on whole wheat pita. She makes friends everywhere she goes. Her smile lights up the room and brings tears to my eyes. Our sweet, sweet baby.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Forest baby


Forest baby
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
And just because the last entry didn't mention Clara at all, here she is.

We never did hear anything about the lost bouncy chair or mei tai or toys, but we've replaced just about all of them. The bouncy chair has been discontinued, so we got the floor model at a nice discount, and Grace at MangoBaby was very nice about the mei tai, too. So the Stupid Person Tax wasn't as high as it could've been.

She understands certain words now, and she has one more tooth. We are still completely, completely smitten.

Knitterati

Can't talk. Knitting.

I don't usually knit to deadlines but the Yarn Harlot is doing her (shhh) book launch in Toronto tonight, and is collecting hats for the homeless. I am blasting away at this hat in Noro Kureyon #55 (picture forthcoming, when it's done) and need it (and possibly a second one) done by 7pm. I have also been digging through my stash looking for an Elizabeth Zimmermann hat made of Lopi that has been very close to done for... what, five years now? Whenever it was that the knitting muse left me. Must find it and finish it, too.

Very happy to report that I seem to have found My People among the knitters of Toronto. Most of them have been hanging out together for a while now, and have that easy rapport that comes of longer friendship and shared experience; it's a little hard being on the outside of that, but that's life. And anyway, 80% of life is showing up. If I keep showing up on Wednesday nights, and keep going out with the Drunken Knitters once a month, and take part in the TTC Knit-a-long on June 9, I think I might start feeling a little less awkward. They're a very welcoming bunch.

It was nice to meet Swatchy and Noricum on Wednesday, too.

Anyway, back to the hat. And I have a student showing up in 45 minutes, eep.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mindless knitting and a very high Stupid Person Tax

Last night I got so discouraged about a project I'm working on (it's a complicated little thing that may well be entirely the wrong size for its intended recipient) that I went ahead and started the Jane pullover, which is lots and lots and lots of stockinette stitch. Yay. Boring knitting.

Good thing I did, too, because at the S&B last night Jen was working on it too (in exactly the same colourway!), and was a few rows in when I asked her whether she'd used a provisional cast-on.

What? she said.

So I pointed out the bit a few paragraphs on in the directions that say to pick out the cast-on row. Oh. All righty then.

So she pulled out what she'd knitted, and Joyce showed us both how to do the cast-on, and now we're off. Hooray. Mindless knitting in gorgeous yarn. I tried on Laura's shop sample: this sweater sure is going to emphasize my rent-a-tits. Whee!

Last night was fun and I'm glad I went, even with the headache that has moved in and hung up pictures and put down area rugs. (It's still here today, five days after it started. Sigh.) There were three (count 'em) birthday cakes because there were three people who had recently had birthdays. One woman, not knowing about the weekly gathering, came in to buy yarn because she knew the shop was open late, and was quite apologetic about interrupting a party. No no no, everyone said, come on in and join us. When she mentioned that her father had died very recently she was sat down and comforted and handed a glass of wine. The knitters: they are good people.

In other news, the beautiful new mei tai is gone because of a moment's stupidity on Sunday. Dave was picking me and Clara up at Jacquie's house after an afternoon of knitting in the sunshine, and somehow the bouncy chair (with mei tai, peacock toy, stuffed giraffe, and Whoozit toy inside) made it out to the sidewalk but not into the car. I'm sure someone walking by after we'd left was thrilled to find Free! Great! Baby Stuff!

We'd had the mei tai for two days. I'm still feeling sick about losing it. Dave went back to put up signs, and I posted on Craigslist, but I'm not hopeful. The total value of what we lost works out to be just about the same as what I made doing some private tutoring last month: not very much in the grand scheme of things, but also, a lot.

At least it wasn't my knitting bag.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Knitterly thoughts

Took Clara to the Knitters' Frolic on Saturday, where she was a big hit in her new MangoBaby mei tai. (Note: "MAY tie." Not "my tie." Do not correct me when I say "MAY tie"; I am right. A Chinese person told me so. And I don't wrap my baby up in a fruity umbrella drink.) She will be seven months old on Thursday and is heading into several new phases at once: the "AAAAA! I wasn't finished playing with that plastic bag when you took it away from me!" one, the "AAAAA! My new mobility scares the hell out of me!" one, and the "AAAAA! WHO THE HELL IS HOLDING ME? I DON'T RECOGNIZE THIS PERSON!" one.

Phases one and three came together to make her freak out when she was handed to the very sweet and grandmotherly Ann Bourgeois of the Philosopher's Wool Company. I was mortified. I want to go visit their farm in Inverhuron and say "See? She's really a nice baby," and maybe buy yarn for another sweater or two. But right now I need more yarn like I need a third shoulder.

Right now I'm finishing one project and about 40% through another one for the kids of a friend. Will post more about those once the kids are wearing them. I made a hat out of Blue Sky Cotton for Clara, but it's much too big, so I'm going to make another one in the next size down. It's the bucket hat from Little Turtle Knits (scroll down to near the bottom). I did the first one with a cream-coloured brim and crown, and a dusty rose band. I think I'll do the smaller one with a rose brim and crown and a cream band. It's a very fast project, takes less than a day, and entitles me to do another Lizard Ridge square. I'm just finishing #7. My sister-in-law's loud socks are done too, hooray.

I have yarn for the Jane Origami Sweater. I had originally wanted the Blackberry colourway but it wasn't as intense in person as I'd thought it would be, so I went with Midnight, a mix of rich purples and browns. I've decided I'm not going to start it until the kids' projects are in the mail. Twitch twitch. At the Frolic I picked up five hanks of Koigu Kersti in a rich yellow with a lot of dark flecks -- it's going to be my clapotis (only two years after everyone else's).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Clara


Clara
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
We have a daughter.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Lying fallow

The blog has been lying fallow while I've been trying to get past the giant writer's block I've had for the past month. I'm knitting a lot, Clara was baptised last Sunday (and yeah, I had a very hard time with the idea, but it was important to her dad), she has been packing on weight like crazy since starting the solid food, my mother was here for ten days (and my dad the staunch agnostic made a Special Guest Appearance for the baptism last weekend), I'm teaching one student once a week, and good things are happening for me in the gym. Oh, and Charlotte Kitty has been unwell but should be fine now after some surgery to remove a bladder stone (or "urolith," as I learned yesterday). Only $1,000 to get her out of the shop. Sigh.

I am very tired. I'm still joining the Drunken Knitters tonight, though.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I am the boss of my knitting

The Lizard Ridge afghan is underway, and I've decided that I am not going to make it in squares. I am going to make it in rectangles. This way, I finish each ball of Kureyon, and my afghan is that much different from everyone else's. I'm going to put it together so that the rectangles are staggered, like bricks; this will mean that there'll be some planning involved, but that's fine. I'm also going to do a garter stitch edging instead of the wavy crocheted one. So there.

Now I'm itching to go back to Lettuce Knit. I'd go right now, but Clara's napping and Mr. K is out geocaching. He loves his geocaching, he does. Maybe I can get there tomorrow. Twitch twitch.

Friday, March 09, 2007

First meal


First meal
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
First "solid" meal, anyway. We started her on rice cereal yesterday at the recommendation of her doctor, who is still a bit concerned about Clara's slow weight gain. At about 25" long and 10lbs, 13oz, Clara is in the 75th percentile for height and well below the third for weight.

She is developing beautifully, becoming stronger and increasingly grabby. One of her favourite games is "Attack of the Forty-Foot Baby," in which she stands on top of her dad's chest while he lies on the floor and makes monster noises. RAAARRR! RAARRRRR!

She did pretty well with the cereal -- as instructed, I mixed it with a lot of breastmilk, so it was soupy. Lots of it ended up on her hand and her chin and her bib, but a fair bit went down. She figured it out remarkably quickly. She figures out a lot of stuff remarkably quickly. We've got a smart one on our hands.

She's been vocalizing a lot: she's discovered she can make long, high-pitched noises that her father points out sound eerily like a howler monkey's calls. She has two teeth already -- first one on February 19, second on February 22 -- and is experimenting with biting my nipples. This is not a fun game.

She caught me off guard yesterday when we were at the Movies for Mommies seeing Pan's Labyrinth (which I hated for its bloody brutality; the retreats into fantasy were not nearly enough to redeem it for me) and bit Leftie hard, hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. Instinctively I swatted her, and immediately felt like the biggest shitheel ever. I guess this is a bit of excitement that nearly all breastfeeding mothers have to deal with. I've been experimenting with different anti-biting and anti-pinching strategies: ending the feeding, pressing her nose into the breast (as Dr. Sears recommends), admonishing her sharply. I hope one of them gets through soon.

Every now and then I look at her and start to cry with joy just because she exists. Beloved, beloved baby.

On the knitting front: the baby kimono is done (I'll try to photograph it today; the light is nice), as is the first Lizard Ridge square. The last bit of the kimono was very tedious. I used Japanese short rows for the neck and shoulder shaping, and managed to get one of them wrong as I was picking stitches for the neck edging. Conspicuously wrong, in fact. It took a long time to fix with a crochet hook (I did not want to take out and reknit more than 1100 stitches). My reward for doing that right was knitting the sashes: two 18" pieces of six-stitch rows on 2.75mm needles. Knit 6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. K6, turn. Etc. EIGHTEEN INCHES. TWICE. Bleah. But the good news is: DONE. And the matching trousers are underway.

It took several experiments to get the short rows right for the afghan square. I finally settled on yarn-over short rows. The wrapped-stitch ones didn't look right to me, and the Japanese ones, while the most attractive, are far too fussy for a short-row project of this scale. Once I figured out what I was doing, the first square went quickly. It's beautiful. It is taking all my self-restraint not to throw my little "one square per finished object" resolution out the window and just get down to business on the whole afghan.

I was sorry to miss the Knit Night on Wednesday this week. When I went last week it felt like I was coming home. Knitters are my peeps. This week, Clara's nap schedule was so b0rked that I couldn't get there, plus my sister-in-law came by to say hello. I'm hoping to get there next Wednesday, though, and maybe even pick up the yarn for this, which is supposed to be a great sweater for breastfeeding.

In other news, the cats are still dorks. But I love them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Today was awesome.

Woke up at about 9; Clara was still sleeping. Got her up at 10:15 so we could get to the 11:00 exercise class. She beamed at me when I woke her, and giggled while I was changing her. Is she really my daughter? I'm usually grumpy as hell when someone wakes me.

Had a rush of endorphins about two-thirds of the way through the class and felt like I could go for at least another hour. Discovered after the class that in a roomful of babies, people gravitate toward Clara. Maybe it's the beaming.

Went to the Turkish deli owned by one of my former students, a wonderful, wonderful woman who radiates kindness and generosity. I hadn't seen Esme since before I was pregnant. Clara slept in her carrier on my chest for most our visit, but then woke up to beam at Esme as well. Esme nearly turned inside out.

Had lunch with K. at Il Fornello -- buffets are perfect when one is in FOOD NOW mode, as I am after exercising, and Il Fornello's food is yummy. Clara charmed the server and the entire next table, who already had a baby with them. (That baby was pretty darned cute, too.)

Got on the subway and went to Lettuce Knit, which I had not been to before. I love Kensington Market. I don't go there nearly enough. Lettuce Knit was full of people; Clara charmed several of them even while passed out cold. (When she woke up, of course she beamed.)

A few weeks ago I made her a raglan pullover (again from Debbie Bliss's The Baby Knits Book); I used Tahki Donegal Tweed in a discontinued colour, a lovely teal-turquoise that I got at the Wool Room in Kingston. (Hi Mabel!) I think the pattern was designed for a yarn with a very different hand, though, because the neckline is HUGE and looks unfinished. Yes I know babies have big heads, but this neck is about twice as big as Clara's little head. So today I was looking for a finer, softer yarn to use for a collar.

Had a very nice, long chat with another customer who was infinitely knowledgeable about the store's stock; we talked about babies (she wants one) and birth. Turns out she's a doctor who delivers babies sometimes, and yet she wants to give birth at home. I joked (as I often do) that Clara's being born at home means that she couldn't have gotten swapped at the hospital. This woman told me that she was switched at the hospital -- the nurses gave her mother the wrong baby. Fortunately her mother was with it enough to realize that this scrawny little thing she'd been given was not at all the nine-pound bruiser she'd squeezed out. Oops.

She helped me find a hank of Alchemy Yarn's Haiku, a gorgeous silk-mohair blend with a lovely halo, in a beautiful orange that picks up on the flecks of orange in the tweedy raglan. I held it out for Clara to touch. She stroked it a bit and her whole body vibrated with excitement. All righty then: I guess that's the one she wants. Kid's got good taste. There's enough yardage that there should be enough left over for a scarf after the collar is done. (Good, because it wasn't cheap.)

I also bought my first ball of Noro's Kureyon for a Lizard Ridge afghan. Dammit, I'm getting sucked in. (Has everyone made one of these already?) I have this cute little plan that I'm going to buy one ball and make one square each time I finish a project. Other knitters titter at this idea. Yes yes dear, that's nice. We all had plans like that once. Now we have afghans.

Then we came home on the streetcar and the bus, Clara cooing happily as we rode. The weather was gorgeous and the city's mood buoyant. When we got in, Clara had a satisfying diaper and a good meal, and then she went down for a very late nap. I picked up the needles again and plan to finish the right front of the baby kimono by the time I go to bed.

What a terrific day.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Knitting again


New sweater
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
After her longest absence ever, the knitting muse seems to have returned to me with a vengeance. My sister says she knew I'd start knitting again when a baby arrived.

This little sweater is from Debbie Bliss's Nursery Knits; I made it out of Garnstudio's Silke Tweed. The sweater knitted up smaller than it would have in the yarn that the pattern called for, but hey, she has a sweater that fits her now.

I am now working on another Debbie Bliss pattern, this one from The Baby Knits Book; it's her kimono and trousers, in her official wool/cotton yarn, which I am sad to find has been discontinued. Romni Wools had a fair bit of it in their sale room, marked down to $6 a ball; with their 20% off sale, it was down to $4.80. So not only will Clara be getting the kimono and trousers and a matching pair of booties in fuchsia with a pale grey trim, she'll also be getting a Bliss-designed tank top (which actually looks more like a vest to me) in a dusty rose.

I am really liking this yarn. It tended to split a lot on the cast-on row, but once past that it's been knitting up beautifully. The 50% merino-50% cotton blend means that the fabric has a bit of stretch and a nice sheen.

Bliss's pattern calls for stair-step shoulders, but I am being rebellious and using a short-row shaping method that I found on the Intartubes. It'll make for a much more even shoulder seam. I'm even pushing myself to try a new (to me) way of doing the short rows, the Japanese style. What sold me on this style was Nona's mention that Lucy Neatby invented the pin trick -- I've been a Lucy Neatby fan since Mr. K and I met her long ago when we were in Nova Scotia. On hearing that a fellow knitter was having car trouble in her neck of the woods, she invited us to her house and fed us lunch while Rolf the Golf was being fixed.

Nona suggests that one advantage of short-row shoulders is that the stitches remain "live" and the shoulder can therefore be finished by way of the three-needle bind-off. This is true, but once again I am going to be rebellious and cast them off anyway once the short-rowing is done, because I like sewing shoulder seams. (There, I said it.)

I used to think I was hot stuff in the Internet knitting world because I had a great big site about knitting. The Internet did not wait for me while the knitting muse was away, though. I cannot believe how many knitting blogs there are now. I've spent the past few weeks trying to breathe life back into my own site (what I've done so far is still behind the scenes; I'm hoping to unveil it all early next month) and I'm just astonished by how the online knitting world has exploded since I put up my pages in 1994 (1994!).

Evidently knitting is hot. Who knew?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Weigh-in

Yesterday's weigh-in: nine pounds, fifteen and a half ounces.

Clara is still the smallest mammal in the house. (Most other babies are at least twelve pounds by now.)

At the recommendation of her (mercifully non-interventionist) paediatrician, we'll be starting her on rice cereal at five months, not six. One more month until the really nasty baby shit starts.

She's been having a rough few weeks because her brain is wiring itself up for the nineteen-week developmental leap, and she's perceiving lots of stuff differently and is very confused. She spends a lot of time stroking textured surfaces and putting things (especially our fingers) into her mouth. I'm finding that life is a lot more manageable when I think about the baby not as an impediment to what I want to be doing (futzing with my website, knitting, going out to the gym, writing blog entries, etc.) but instead as What I Do, with the other stuff on the side. She's much happier that way, and therefore so am I.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My brain hurts

I've decided it's far past time for a major overhaul of one of the websites I've owned since 1994. I bounced a new design idea off Fedward, who shrieked "TABLES?!?"

Evidently web design standards have changed since 2000. Who knew?

So I'm trying to teach myself CSS, and my brain (which still has not recovered from the pregnancy) is leaking out my ears. As my friend Jenya wrote when we were in high school, "It's all going by in pretty colours and shapes."

Thank heaven we have finally figured out the finer points of Midday Naptime. Oy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The awesomeness increases by the day

Yesterday: first swim, in a wading pool at a community recreation centre in the west end. No crying, but no smiling either, just much seriousness. "Well, Mama's here, so I guess this is all right." I even dunked her twice, with no complaints. Wow.

Also yesterday: she rolled over by herself again, from front to back, and promptly had a fit. "What was that?!? I didn't authorize that!" Poor baby. I think a lot of being a parent is figuring out how to stifle one's giggles while making the appropriate soothing noises.

Today: she laughed. She laughed. I was changing her diaper and singing the "Baby balm on the baby bum!" song, and I tickled her belly, and she laughed. So I called her dad, and she laughed for him, too. Good thing, because I could barely speak.

Also today: I decided it was her naptime, so I took her in to the bedroom, fed her for a while lying down, tucked a soother into her mouth, and then left the room while she was still awake. I expected to have to go back in a few minutes later to calm the fussing. But: ten minutes later there was silence, so I took a look: she fell asleep on her own.

So much excellence I can hardly stand it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Head

Mine is full and sore.

We went to a birthday party for a friends' one-year-old yesterday. There were a lot of older kids there who were nice enough but made me feel like the Grinch anyway, at least when they started with the maracas and the tambourine and the triangle and the noise noise NOISE NOISE NOISE!!! The last twenty minutes or so that we were there were incredibly stressful for me, as I stood there, shoes on, holding Clara's bunting bag and waiting for the kids to stop climbing all over Mr. K so we could leave. Extra-strength Tylenol hasn't touched the headache.

For now I am content to be the parent of a single child. I am writing this to remind myself later, in case someday I get the crazy idea that I want another one.

I finally went back to the gym. Oddly enough, I have lost a tremendous amount of ground from where I was just before getting pregnant. I can't do 410 pounds on the leg press anymore, and I can't finish a second set of ten reps of 50-pound bench presses. If I tried the 200-pound deadlift again I'd probably rip my arms out of their sockets. I think the best attitude to take here is that I suck, n'est-ce pas?

(Not really. It felt wonderful to be back. I'm going to shoot for lifting twice weekly and FitMomming once a week until I run out of FitMom classes, and then go back to three times a week at the gym. Should be able to get back to where I was pretty quickly. God, I've missed it.)

I owe a lot of people e-mail. I usually remember who they are at about midnight when Clara is finally drifting off to sleep. If you're one of them, I'm sorry. My inbox is a mess right now; I still read everything in Pine on a Unix shell, in plain text, and once something has scrolled off the top of the screen I tend to forget it was ever there. Bleah.

Speaking of sleep, we haven't figured out the best way to approach it yet. Clara's been sleeping in my arms every night, but when she writhes and twitches she wakes me up and I'm grumpy all day afterwards. So Thursday night we tried putting her in a sleep sack back in the co-sleeper. She didn't sleep well, and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed all day Friday. (Perhaps that is what poured the foundation for this headache; the noisy party framed it, and the hideous nightmare this morning finished off the roof.)

However: I am very close to finishing a sweater. I sewed the last seam today, and am going to try to get all the ends darned in and the buttons sewn on tonight. Clara will probably have outgrown it by next Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

But what will the neighbours think?

My mother has complained bitterly all my life about her own mother's obsession with what the neighbours would think of any given situation. (The answer is usually "They don't. They have their own lives to worry about.") Instead of enabling me to become a devil-may-care type, however, her complaints seem to have installed this same attitude in me. I am my own worst critic. (But we've known this for a long time.)

Clara is still tiny for her age. As of last Friday (at 13 and a half weeks) she was nine pounds, 1.5 ounces. This is off the bottom of the growth curve that the paediatrician uses (and I'm pretty sure she's using the new one that's calibrated for breastfed babies, who tend to be much leaner than formula-fed ones). Even so, Dr. D is very happy with Clara's development, which is right on schedule: she's grabbing at things, she smiles and coos at people, she controls her head better every day, she rolls from her back to her side at will, and so on.

Yesterday I went back to FitMom after the holiday break (which I had confused with the Movies for Mommies holiday break, and assumed was one week longer than it actually was). Two things depressed me a lot.

(a) I've lost a huge amount of ground with my fitness again -- it's like being back in high school gym class and being the biggest sluggard there. I know from so much past experience that it's just a matter of buckling down and exercising three times a week and eating more protein before I'm getting stronger and feeling better again, but sleep deprivation plus shorter days plus having nine pounds of raw need right. there. all. the time. are making it harder for me to convince myself that this really is something I have to do. And all the pep talks in the world from other people don't help.

(b) I'm to the point where I'm embarrassed to tell people how old Clara is, because she's so small and mothering seems to be such a competitive sport. I talked to one woman yesterday whose ten-week-old's slow weight gain had prompted her paediatrician to recommend supplementing with formula. The mother did, and the baby gained more than a pound in a week. Clara gained 13.5oz in the past month.

There are lots of reasons I really don't want to supplement: reduction of my milk supply, changes to Clara's intestines (PDF), messing with the incredibly fine-tuned system that is a nursing mother and child. Plus, she's obviously healthy and developing appropriately; Dr. D. even said that if she stays on the curve she's on now, even if it's below the "official" one, there's no need to worry. (I like Dr. D.)

But good ol' Lizard Brain is shouting at me that People are going to think that I'm a bad mother because my baby is so tiny. I know this is stupid, but I feel this way anyway. Telling myself not to doesn't shut it up.

I've read that parenthood is a whole lot of being faced with things you can't fix and learning how to deal with them anyway. I've spent most of my life fighting my weight and feeling rotten about the bigness of my body; who'd have thought that my first big challenge would be trying to accept my daughter's smallness?

Friday, January 05, 2007