And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Resurrection and Renaissance

Hey! Look! Two posts from me in two days! I'd like to keep up the momentum. It helps that one of my best friends was inspired to call me after my last post. It's nice to know that someone still wants to read what I write.

I've been spending a lot of time pondering the intent of this blog. My blog reading has shifted quite a bit recently, lining up with my favorite obsession -- knitting. The deeper I get into that, the more I want to contribute to the world of knitting blogs out there. What a great way to keep track of my progress and growth as a knitter, and to share with others the artistic work I am most proud of these days. Not to mention, it's a good way to hold myself accountable about the number of projects I'm working on at one time.

Yet I still like to write about my kids and funny anecdotes from my life. I can keep in touch with my friends and family this way, as well as document things from Ian and Katie's childhood. I don't think I'm prolific enough to support two blogs, so I'm afraid I'm going to integrate both types of content and hope that whoever finds/reads this blog enjoys whatever I have to say. We'll just have to see how it goes.

So keeping in mind the goal of adding a bit more knitting content to the blog, I'll add a few pictures of recent FOs (finished objects -- unfinished objects are UFOs, you know):

Sarah's socks -- yarn: Cherry Tree Hill (can't remember the colorway), needles: size 1 (eeks, size 1 needles take a long time), pattern: from Sensational Knitted Socks, my sock bible. My sister-in-law's favorite color is maroon, and my mom and I hunted all over the New York Sheep and Wool Festival to find maroon yarn. This is as close as we got. I like how they turned out, but was surprised that the two socks came out with different stripe widths and slightly different color balances (all the yarn came from one skein).

Dad's socks -- yarn: wool, can't remember the name right now, but came from Jo-Ann, pattern: boring, normal sock pattern -- Dad's request -- but I added a little bit of self-designed monogram (D squared) to them. He likes them, even though it took forever for me to get them to him.

Jason's sweater -- I have a new(ish) baby nephew (3 weeks old now), and I was so excited to knit this sweater for him from Oh My! yarn. It's incredibly soft and gorgeous, as well as machine washable. And I was really pleased with how it turned out. Baby sweaters are the most fun to knit -- lots of different things to keep your interest, and they're finished quickly!

Katie's sweater -- yarn: Plymouth Fantasy (100% mercerized cotton), pink -- her choice, pattern: Very Berry T-shirt from A nice spring/summer knit, and she loves it. I think it will be easy to adapt the pattern to a size for an American Girl doll, and I may try to do that with the leftover yarn. I wish I could have found a little bit lighter weight yarn at my LYS, but they really didn't have anything else that would have worked.

There. Hope that wasn't too boring. Stay tuned for more current work, and I'll try to throw in interesting thoughts here and there too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Must . . . Fight . . . Instincts . . .

(Yeah, yeah, I know I haven't posted in forever. More meta blog talk another time. The following was too good not to blog it.)

So. My family of origin has a little . . . quirk, if you will. We all like to be right. All the time. And if we think we're right, and someone else is not, we find correcting that someone completely irresistible. They don't even actually have to be in the room -- we have been known to correct people on TV, writers in the newspaper, etc. Of course, we mostly correct each other. And to a non-Dockstader, that can get a little, well, irritating when the nitpicking really gets going.

Ever since I married the unflappable, nonconfrontational Dave, I have been pulling away a little bit from the need to prove that I am 100% right all the time. (Dave would say, a very little bit.) I try to let things slide a little bit more. And with distance, I am able to see the irritating side of this trait. Really, I am. It doesn't always stop me from engaging, but I do try.

So I've been frustrated lately that Katie and Ian are beginning to correct each other (and us) to an extreme, about things that just. Don't. Matter. It flows mostly from Katie to Ian, or Katie to us, but they are both taking part, and it leads to pointless bickering that grates on me to no end. The other morning, I had a serious talk with them about the need to learn to let things go, to not correct every single, little, niggling thing that anyone else says or does. I suggested that we should make a chart and hang it on the refrigerator, and mark it down every time someone in the family corrects someone else needlessly -- the point being that I want them to recognize how often the behavior happens, so that they'll understand what I'm trying to say.

This afternoon, I found that Katie has already taken it upon herself to draw up the chart. Here is a picture of it:

10 points for anyone who can fully grasp the existential dilemma I am currently facing.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I'm a Believer!

Last night I sewed together the front, back, and sleeves for Ian' sweater (Katie's sweater is on the agenda for tonight; the picture -- for which the sweaters are being knitted -- is scheduled for noon tomorrow). After putting both sleeves on, I realized that I had sewn them in slightly differently on the front, and it was obvious. OK, just cut the yarn sewing the sleeve to the front on one side, pull it out, and resew. Simple, right?

Well, it would be, if you didn't miss the sewing yarn and cut the yarn at the edge of the front, thereby mysteriously unraveling four rows and leaving a hole in the piece about 1.5 x 2 inches. EEKS! I managed to kludge together a reknitted section, and it doesn't look too terribly bad, but I alternated between panic attacks and tantrums for a good 45 minutes there.

Anyway, I got it done, and the cute pewter celtic knot buttons sewn on, and tried it on Ian. It fits, just. I swear the boy has the arms of a monkey! But then, this afternoon, I discovered the magic ingredient: BLOCKING!

Oh, sure, I've heard of blocking sweaters. And the instructions did say to block the pieces before making up the sweater. But I thought blocking 100% cotton wouldn't accomplish much, so I skipped it. And it turned out okay. But then I started to sew Katie's sweater together, and the lengths of the front and back didn't quite match, so I looked up how to block a sweater, and decided to give it a try.

I started with Ian's sweater, to see if I could get the armholes to relax a little bit -- they seemed kind of lumpy and crowded. I plugged in my new iron and steamed and steamed and steamed -- and behold, the sweater looked amazing! All the crumply, jammed-up stitches relaxed and straightened out. I tugged on the sleeves and the torso, to make it smooth out and fit a little better. I just can't get over what an improvement it is.

Of course, I blocked Katie's pieces first, and I'm trying to sew the seams a little looser -- I tend to be a very tight stitcher. Hopefully it will come out even better (which is why I did hers second -- since it's light blue, it can be passed down to Ian in a few years, whereas he'll outgrow his by next year at the latest).

I'm feeling more successful at knitting than at baking. I started Christmas cookies today, and ended up with very flat Christmas trees, extra crunchy fudge (note to self: when allowing preschooler to help decorate with sprinkles, make sure to give him the thing with the sprinkler top, so he won't pour out the sprinkles), and flattish snowflakes. I don't know if it's my margarine or what, but it's frustrating. At the moment, I wouldn't give any of these -- except maybe the fudge -- out as teacher/friend gifts. I'm going to have to come up with some more foolproof recipes. Tomorrow we'll be dipping Christmas-shaped pretzels in Ghirardelli white chocolate and sprinkling them with holiday sprinkles. I have high hopes for that project -- if I give Ian the right shaker!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Fooled you, didn't I? Did I say every day in November? And then go right off on a weekend away to Baltimore to visit relatives and yarn? I did. So no blogging in November (no, I can't remember what happened after that weekend -- I suspect it had something to do with multiple deadlines at the same time). And none in December, apparently, until now. And little cohesive stuff, either, but there are a few bloggish things that have been floating around in my brain.

Thing #1: The kids have been "playing" Dragonquest on Playstation with Dave for the last few weeks. He maintains that any violence is cartoonish, and thus not the kind of thing we need to restrict. I'm skeptical, but I've been letting it go. Hey, at least there's a strong female character! Anyway, they all go up into the bedroom together, Dave mans the controls, and the kids wrestle each other around the room and apparently absorb all sorts of geek language. Conversations around my house go something like this now:

Ian: "I'm a frozen ghost, and frozen ghosts can inflict more damage than liquid ghosts."
Katie: "I'm going to use twin dragon slash on you."

There's also a lot of casting "boom" and "zing" while shopping. I try to pretend they're not mine.

Thing #2: This morning I watched my neighbor's 9-year-old daughter before school because she had an emergency. This girl is pretty much Katie's best friend, and they play often. Friend is hard to describe, but generally okay. However, her family are evangelical Christians, so I found myself being proselytized (to?) before I had my coffee. This is an excerpt from the conversation around the breakfast table:

Katie: Did you know that one thousand billion years from now, the Earth is going to explode. It's true. I read it in a book.
Friend: Well, it doesn't matter because God is going to end the world soon. (turns to me) Do you believe in God?
Me: Yes.
F: Does she?
Me: I don't know, you'd have to ask her.
F: Well, have you been saved?
Me: We believe in a different kind of religion.
F: Well *Christians* --
K: But it's *science* --
F: We're Christian, just a different flavor of Christian than you. There are lots of different religions, you know.
F: I know, but when Christians die, they all go to heaven, and ... I don't know what happens next, but I guess I'll see you guys in heaven.
K: Well, the Earth is going to end one thousand billion years from now, but it doesn't matter, because we won't still be alive.
F: Did you know that back in the time of the Bible, people lived for 300 years?
Me: Some people think that that was just a way of showing respect to people.
F: It's true! It's in the Bible.
K: Sometime the Bible lies.
Me, intervening: People believe different things about the Bible. Some people believe it literally, and some people think it's more of a story. Right?
F nods.
Me: Can we please move on to a different topic??

(Dave is very proud that Katie took up for the side of science, by the way.)

So this afternoon, I went over and gave some of our extra pine roping (note to self: 75 feet is far too much pine roping to buy, even if it does support the PTO) to my neighbor, and I thought I'd mention this in passing. I said, "You should have heard the theological discussion at our house this morning. I hope it's okay that I was telling them that it's okay that there are all different kinds of beliefs." Her response -- and keep in mind that this is someone I'm friendly with: "Not in my world it's not." Ho-kay. I said, "Well, at least that it's okay that we can believe what we want to believe," and headed back across the street. I didn't even tell her about the evenhanded approach to peace in the Middle East that I promoted to her child. (She should know better -- she saw my Hillary sign in the window!)

Thing #3: I'm done with Christmas shopping! Woohoo! Of course, we're not exactly done with decorating -- boxes and bins still strewn throughout the house. In fact, one-quarter of the ornaments still have yet to make it to the Christmas tree. Fortunately, I've got a whole weekend to deal with it -- we were going to have Ian's 4th birthday party on Sunday, but only one child could make it. (Very, very sad.) So we reissued invites today for Jan. 7, and we're hoping at least a few will come. We had to promise Chuck E. Cheese for the celebration of the actual day (ack!), but he took it better than I thought he would. And we'll have a family party when my parents get her next Thursday. Dave's pushing to move his parties to the summer and have half-birthday celebrations, but I don't know that that would be any better.

Thing #4: I've been busy, busy, busy knitting. Sadly, I've succumbed to SSPD (Second Sock Procrastination Disorder), and I have no fewer than four single socks that need their mates. I have reasons -- not necessarily good ones -- for each sock to be mateless, but it's no excuse. Still, they have to wait until I finish the kids' sweaters, which are all done but need making up. I'm working on that tonight and tomorrow, and have to be finished before they get their pictures done tomorrow afternoon. I'm hoping to post some pictures of the things I'm doing, but since many of them are gifts, I may have to wait until after Christmas -- I can't trust the recipients not to peek!

And that's it. I'll try to be more profound (and prolific) in the future. I'd really like to build this up to a much more frequent blog. It helps that a phone conversation with a friend the other day revealed that this friend has greater admiration for and faith in my writing ability than I remembered. Nothing like a compliment to spur you on to more effort!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

En garde!

En garde!
Originally uploaded by JennDM.
One more -- notice the wicked grin on Ian's face. Maybe he wasn't quite such a good knight after all!

Glinda, the Good Witch

Good Sir Ian

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The First Day . . .

. . . of NaBloPoMo. Fussy is issuing a challenge to those of us who can't partake in NaNoWriMo. She's daring us to blog every day during the month of November. Sounds like a plan. I haven't officially signed up, but I think I'm going to try to meet the challenge. After all, my mom always says that if you do something every day for 30 days, it becomes a habit, and I have to admit I've been slacking quite a bit around here. At the very least, maybe NaBloPoMo will inspire some of my favorite, infrequently posting bloggers to produce more reading material for me!

So last night was Halloween. Costume sewing was taking place right up until the last minute, but I did manage to complete both costumes in the space of four days. (We missed the Halloween parade and costume contest on Saturday, but it was a nasty, rainy day anyway.) This year we had Glinda, the Good Witch, and a knight in chain mail:

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from JennDM tagged with halloween. Make your own badge here.

[Grr. Pictures to come. Has anybody ever gotten Blogger to get their pictures up there? Looking for a workaround.]

Remind me never to volunteer to sew a satin-and-tulle costume again! Maybe I can talk them into fleece every year from now on -- so much more fun to sew. But I was pretty happy with how they turned out. I have to credit Dave with the freehand-drawn dragon on Ian's tunic, necessitated by Ian's rejection of the rampant lion design that came with the pattern.

Katie got to go trick-or-treating even though she was home with a fever both yesterday and today. I have to admit, at least kids home sick with a fever are easy to care for -- stick them in front of the TV wrapped in blankets, and they're pretty much good for the day. I'm just hoping no one else gets it, since we're supposed to head for Baltimore this weekend. I'm already feeling guilty about Katie missing three days of school this week, and next week she's off for Election Day and Veterans' Day -- a total of five days of school in two weeks! I've got to dig out some craft projects or something.

So that's it for the first day. Tomorrow I'll take pictures of some of my knitting projects in preparation for Stitches East (secondary reason for the Baltimore trip; the primary reason is that Dave is presenting at a National Science Teachers Association conference -- my chance to geek out about yarn is just a bonus).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Parenting Challenges Abound in the Thursday Folder

Katie brought home her weekly collection of papers, graded assignments, notices, etc. today, and I'm troubled by multiple parts of it. Is it PMS? Am I asking too much? I have no idea.

Troubling Item 1: homework/test packet -- Katie's reading test is marked with her first-ever B+. Now, I know I'm a perfectionist and all, and I live in great fear of passing that on to my child(ren), but I'm curious about why. They're multiple choice questions -- are they misleading? Is she having trouble deciphering clues from the context? I found out they're even open-book, and she has the page number by each question telling where she got the answer. I know a B+ is no big deal, but I'd like to go over it with her. Of course, I asked her to bring her reading book home, and she threw a fit. Do I pursue it? Or let it go?

Troubling Item 2: school pictures -- Her smile is lovely; her hair is...well...not the best. Sure, it's not sticking up or anything, but it really looks kind of lank and ratty. Do I attempt to get retakes, even though they're supposed to be only for those who were absent? How do you tell your child, "Sorry, honey, you don't look pretty enough in this picture. Let's try again."?

Troubling Item 3: art gift fundraiser -- The school picture company has this program called Young Masters where the kids draw a picture on a special piece of cardboard in art class, and then the artwork can be put on mugs, shirt, coasters, trivets, calendars, etc. The PTO was talked into this, and I did think it was a great idea. And we made an effort to squeeze it in in time for holiday gift-giving season. I hear the art teacher was even excited about doing it with the kids.

Well. Katie's artwork came home today. The art teacher had her class think up and draw hybrid animals -- Katie drew a horse with the legs of a cheetah, a dolphin tail, and butterfly wings. Very interesting creative exercise, but I'm not sending all of my family $25 pieces of ceramic with a drawing of a "what the hell is that?" on it for Christmas. I'm really pretty pissed off with this, both as a regular parent and as an active PTO member. I feel like the art teacher sabotaged the fundraiser, and I'm pretty upset about it.

Here's the biggest dilemma -- as far as I know, there are no "redos" of this. Even if there are extra pieces of cardboard around I could pull strings to get, I can't see Katie sitting down and drawing a picture to my order without a fight. And I'm trying to rein in my reaction so as not to hurt her feelings -- it's not that it's a bad picture, it's that the subject matter is out there. I'm just so frustrated with all of this.

Any and all advice welcome.