Sunday, June 29, 2008

This Relaxation Thing, Part One

Yesterday, my husband took the girls and my cousin into New York City, ostensibly to go see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. (Our working theory is that we need to do all the touristy sight-seeing thing NOW because if we don't, we never will. I have yet to find a native New Yorker who has been to the Statue of Liberty.) Unfortunately, the lines were too long so they ended up doing a lot of shopping and eating. But they had fun and they had an adventure.

I, as we all know, am gimpy (but honestly, I think my foot might be LESS painful than it's been. Honestly.) so I stayed home. But I could NOT just enjoy my day. I knew my husband was working hard to keep the kids entertained and happy and to make it an enjoyable outing for everyone and therefore, in some confused logic all my own, I felt like I was PLAYING HOOKY. So, I cleaned the whole house (Look! Courtesy stripes--uh, NOT.) including actually making a foray into Ana's (10 and very much a Collector of All Things) room, did all the laundry, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, gardened, showered and shaved my legs, planned dinner, and even, in a fit of over-achievement, finished the jigsaw puzzle my cousin had started.

What the heck is THAT all about? Have I really gotten so far from my Zen little groove that I can't just BE STILL in my own house?

And THEN, once they got home, I couldn't just let them be, either. I kept putting stuff in the trash and recycling and snapping at people to pick up after themselves and in general behaving like a LUNATIC. Ana wanted to make her noodle bowl surprise dish and the thought of her messing up the kitchen just about sent me over the edge.

Uh, hello? Is THAT a self-defeating theory of action or what? Do I WANT to cook every meal for her until she's 30?

(I'm sorry, Ana.If you would like to cook it today, you are welcome to do so. Have at it.)

I don't know. Somehow, moving to an area where the pace is so artificially inflated has seeped into my daily life. My anxiety level is running really high and my new motto seems to be "Stress the Small Stuff." And it seems like this attitude of stress and control and worry is robbing my life of any FUN. And in this fleeting time when my kids still like me (mostly) and want to do things with me, I should be having more fun. We should ALL be having more fun. Heck, we're on a big adventure!

I'm going to think about this while we take the family to the beach this morning, both to try to figure out exactly why I'm so worried about my house getting messy or the kids getting too loud or why I'm stressing over money and the Austin house when stressing will do exactly NOTHING to help. And I'm going to make a list of things to let go.

Because the last time I looked, there weren't any Life Police walking around giving demerits for failures to achieve perfection. Last time I looked, the imperfection of daily life was called LIVING, and there was a beauty in its chaotic rhythm. My "Zen Groove" was FOUND there.

I'm not sure exactly when I lost sight of that.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Finally, School is OVER

Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids.

In Texas, the last day of school--early May--always came too soon for me. I rushed around saying, "May is the New December" and did everything EXCEPT send out holiday cards. (Well, except for that one year when I actually DID send them in July. OR, um, August.)

This year? I'm still rushing around and I still don't have our summer plans completely dialed-in but I'm SO ready for my kids to be out of school. Just having a break from the morning tortu--er--ROUTINE will be a welcome change of pace. Plus, we have an entire island to explore. I've been really looking forward to summer--and not just because the weather is so amazing here in New York in the summer. Maybe just because I've been back on my heels for months now, what with the move and house guests and being a "furriner" and all, and I'm hoping that the more relaxed pace of summer might give me a chance to catch up and settle in.

Of course, my young cousin from Germany is still visiting and he will fly with us to Dallas when we go next week. I have to get the house ready for a group of house guests who are going to be staying while we're away, as well as just in case Lin's family needs shower facilities, etc. during their move. I need to lay in supplies for the pet sitter and write her instructions, do laundry for everyone, pack for the four of us, plan what we're going to do next week BEFORE vacation, figure out the bill situation and leave checks for everyone in the entire world, get another shot in my foot, pick out my knitting to take... there's a lot to do.

So, guess what I did right in the middle of all this madness on the next-to-the-last day of the school year with the two free hours I had?

No, really. Guess.

I painted my dining room.

Because, um, yes, I am completely crazy. Why do you ask?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Freudian Knitting

So, I finished Lin's Goodbye Socks tonight at Knit Night.

I'm pretty sure I made the second one too small.

That's never happened to me before. I had a perfect first sock and then the second one just... well, didn't want to be knitted to match.

Oddly enough, it fits me perfectly, though.

So, now I have this idea of just knitting an entirely new sock for Lin's second foot and keeping the too small sock for myself and then knitting a match for IT.

Because you know how in eighth grade when your best friend moved away, you bought matching shirts and vowed to wear them on the same days in different states?

I know, I know. It's pretty pathetic.

I'm just going to miss her so much.

I'm pretty sure she's moving whether I get these socks finished for her or not, though.

Gosh, this whole growing up thing? VASTLY overrated.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Okay, then.

I was going to write a poignant post about how this is the three-month anniversary of the date I brought my children to New York to live. I was all set to tell you that it seems like both a YEAR has gone by and also just two weeks or so. I was going to remind myself that ninety days is really too short of a time to expect to have everything unpacked and our routine down pat and to know the schools and stores... It's just not a very long time and maybe I should stop putting so much pressure on us to be settled and maybe I should find a way to enjoy the settling process. I think my kids are brave for taking on this new world. Maybe I should tell them so.

Only, um, I just checked and the anniversary was Friday, June 20th. It was March 20th that I picked them up from their grandparents' house in Dallas and brought them home to New York to live.

Sorry 'bout that.

In other news, I had my first steroid shot into my foot last night and I am cautiously optimistic that it is helping. (This despite the fact that the scar tissue in my sinus tarsi cavity is so thick that the doctor had to use three different size needles to get the medication into the cavity. He finally did so with a size 18 gauge needle, which is roughly the same size around as a drinking straw. Not that I'm bitter.) The doctor felt that I should be getting about 30-40% relief from the first shot if we're lucky and the steroids do indeed help. They might not, which would mean further surgery.

Which would just be... The. Worst. Thing. Ever.

My husband went with me to my appointment because we are so desperate for a date night that even going to a doctor in Queens seemed like a good time. (Queens does have the funniest traffic sign I've ever seen, though. Look at this:

In case you can't read it (cellphone picture), it says, "Wait For Green Light." Because, you know, they had to tell people that. And then they had to turn around three times and sprinkle themselves with magic fairy dust and just hope, hope, hope that people would do it.


And THEN, woohoo! We went return some stuff to Ikea! Do we know how to live or what?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Am Farmer, Hear Me Roar!

I am So. Happy.

So. Happy.


It could be that I am coming out of a nasty three day migraine cycle. Or it could be that the sun is shining. Or it could be that my husband fixed our computer problems because he so totally rocks like that. (As an aside, our wireless network was named after Scout. I told Coop that he should really change its name or we'd be cursed forever, Scout not being the SHARPEST knife in the drawer, if you know what I mean. Sure enough, in order to make our new router work properly with XP, all he had to do was to change the name of the network. Is that hilarious or what?)

Or my happiness could be that I managed to locate enough yarn to finish Lin's socks and it should be arriving tomorrow.

I ran out of yarn right about the toe decreases and I tried to fudge and use a fingering weight yarn, which is way thinner than the sport weight I've been using. I tried it on Lin and she said, "Oh, no, no, no." Because she GETS the whole hand-knitted sock thing, you know? She's as invested as I am in the perfection of these socks. If she wanted half-arse socks, she could buy those at Wal-Mart, you know what I'm saying? No, my socks have to be made to fit her feet perfectly because every time she wears them, I want her to feel like she's getting a hug from me. (Okay, so hugging her feet sounds a bit strange but just...well, work with me, people.)

She totally gets the intent without me having to explain the whole thing to her and THIS, my friends, explains our friendship better than anything else. We are on the same page. Yes, she is moving, but the great thing is that we'll still be on the same page when she's in a different state. Distance does not change the page. The Page Remains the Same.

And she's not even a knitter. (Yet.) (HAH!)

But back to my happi-happi-happi ness-ness-ness -- because I know you're just on the edges of your seats there, aren't you?

DUDES, LOOK AT THIS!!! (Sorry, I didn't mean to shout but I am Just. So. Excited.)

Okay, okay, wait. Deep breath. Remember THIS?





And remember THIS?

And this!

And this!

I took Jane outside to see and she said, "I'm so happy I feel like BREAK DANCING."

Yeah, what she said!

(As always, you can click on the pictures if you'd like to see the results of my most awesome gardening in larger detail.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

So, this is what it's like

So this is what it's like living with a teenager.

Our Internet connection has been really spotty. My husband, who is a computer geek by profession and therefore has more computer problems than anyone else on the planet, diagnosed a faulty router. He bought a new one and installed it and now we have a REALLY faulty Internet connection.

Because he has hours and hours of time to devote to figuring this out.

My cousin, who is an avid computer user (like most 19-year-olds), is visiting from Germany and it's just the perfect time for him not to have an Internet connection --um, NOT. He's so desperate for entertainment, we just went to the BOOK STORE at his request. Wow, I guess travel really IS broadening.

But back to my original point, and I did have one, for some reason, the only way I know that the connection on my laptop is working is when it says, "Not Connected." If it's REALLY not connected, it says, "Automatic." Naturally, it only stays not-connected-connected for about five minutes at a time and then it's right back to that automatic connection. Dang it.

I don't know why but this made me think about how happy I am to see the teen years looming.


Sunday, June 22, 2008


I haven't written a lot about my foot lately because there's been no real news and how many times can you all read about how gimpy I am before you start throwing things at me? I had major reconstructive surgery in March of 2007 and while that went very well (long recovery but that's to be expected given that I have three screws in my foot now, and some artificial material that is supposed to make my foot feel like it has more bone than it does, etc., etc.) it created a whole host of other issues that we've been resolving one by one.

Until we got kind of stuck. Um, painfully stuck. We were trying a series of injections to just obliterate the nerve when I up and moved from Texas to New York.

My Austin podiatrist (Craig Thomajan--love, love him) referred me to a doctor up here. The new Doctor, Bernard Martin (no website that I could find, no e-mail), actually was the director of the program where Dr. Thomajan did his residency. (So, naturally, I had to accuse Dr. Thomajan of wanting to show off his work to his former director. Because I'm nothing if not tactful like that.)

Anyway, my appointment to see Dr. Martin was yesterday morning.

In Queens. Which is a fur piece from where we live on the Island.

I wasn't completely reassured to see that Dr. Martin's office was next to a tombstone store. Look, I took a picture with my phone to prove it:

The office itself was small and kind of dirty--just the opposite of Dr. Thomajan's office in Austin which is light and bright and modern and has every technological advancement known to feet. (Dude rocks.)

Dr. Martin came into the room. I can't tell you how old he is but I think maybe ten years older than I am, maybe in his fifties? He made me want to sit up straighter and address him as "sir," you know the type? He's sort of a low talker so I had to listen very intently to catch what all he was saying.

Not that I could make any sense out of it because the thing about podiatrists is that they LOVE their scientific names for things. Dr. Thomajan does this, too. I'm all for that, of course, but in recreating our conversation for you all, I may not be completely accurate in my terminology.

So, I started to tell Dr. Martin my story. "I was born with my foot pressed up against my shin..."

He nodded. "Yes, pumpernickel-hasenpfefferitis, yes."

(I resisted the urge to say, "Gesundheit." I was pretty sure Dr. Martin wasn't going to get my sense of humor.)

I told him everything I can remember about the oddity that is my foot. He questioned me. ("And does the whiffleballdermititus still bother you?" "Have you had any additional problems with the papermachemacchiato?")

And then he took my foot in his hands.

And I knew, see. Here were hands who had seen thousands of feet. MY FEET WERE IN GOOD HANDS.

All of the plasma ran out of my body and pooled on the ground. Big exhale, the first of several in this doctor's appointment. Such a relief.

I explained to him about my weirdly high tolerance for pain (not to be confused with any lack of desire for whining, mind you) and how that made it very difficult for me to describe or locate pain. I only know that every step hurts and I am still limping along after a year and that it's having a really big and awful impact on my life. (As I write this, my husband has taken my kids and my cousin into New York City to go to the Museum of Natural History. I had to stay home because I can't do that kind of walking. Sucks eggs.)

His hands were still moving over my foot. I remember understanding one thing he said which was, "I'm impressed by your lack of motion."

Well, impressed is good, right?


Right. Maybe not.

Anyway, we talked about how I would need to find a way to describe the pain and not only describe it, but to rate it on a scale of one to ten. He took an hour or so talking though some of the possibilities of what it could be ("Acute inflammation of the alpaca-tilapia tendon") given that he still doesn't have the records from my Austin doctor. We talked about the various things Dr. Thomajan had done to try to diagnose the problem. He made me walk around in the office area (and eww, ick, that carpet did SO not look clean.)

And then he stuck his thumb into the little cavity by my ankle bone and I almost wet my pants.

"TEN!" I gasped.

He nodded. "Yes, I really think that what we have here is scar tissue filling up the giraffesplendora-ripplicious cavity which is causing a condition called tarsalchowmeinmaxinificous."

Finally, something I understood! "Oh, I know that! I know that! I am very familiar with scar tissue because I have had TWO c-sections!" I beamed at the man.

So then he took a syringe full of lidocaine and he shot that into the cavity right there by my ankle bone. It took about five minutes (he wasn't kidding about that cavity being full of scar tissue) during which I just could not help myself. "Duuuuudddddeeee," I whined, all respectful and professional.

"Sorry," said he.

So, then? I felt no pain. No. Pain. There was nothing painful in my foot.

It was like in the Wizard of Oz when it goes from black-and-white to color --I can't even describe the sensation. I hadn't realized how much pain I am in on a daily basis until it suddenly wasn't there anymore.

I was kind of speechless. (Actually, I thought for a minute I was going to cry.)

He had me walk across the office again and dudes, it may have been dirty but I would have TAP DANCED if he'd asked. (Well, maybe. He did ask me to get up on my toes and run a bit but my foot doesn't actually bend like that anymore so it was a no go.)

So, he told me the lidocaine would work for about two hours but he thought that if I came back on Tuesday and had a steroid shot, I might get several weeks of relief. After that, we might just have to see whether or not to go back in and clear all the scar tissue out or what.

Then he looked at me closely and said in his dry, matter-of-fact way, "All of the pain is gone from your face."

I could have kissed him.

As I left his office, I noticed that one of the bordering streets was named "Cooper Avenue."

It seemed like more than just a street sign.

Unfortunately, on the way home the Long Island Expressway (the L.I.E. the locals call it. I call it a big fat LIE. Expressway, my arse.) was closed down and all traffic was diverted off and around so I spent my entire two hours of lidocaine relief in traffic.

But I tapped my foot the entire way home anyway. In my mind, I looked like this:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Healing Power of Fiber

So, I'm kind of purring over here.


When Ana was a tiny baby, she had this little rhythmic song she sang when she was content. "Hum-hum. Hum-hum." I'd take her for a walk in the stroller and I could hear her singing to herself. Or I'd put her down for a nap and she'd hum to herself for a bit.

That's me right now.

Knit Night was... amazing.

I complained all the way over to my nice friend Sherrie. Life is hard. Kids are hard. Working out is hard. Being gimpy is hard. Marriage is hard. New York is hard. Driving (SHE was driving) is HARD.

I felt ill and out of sorts and worst of all, my cup was flat out EMPTY. Dry, I'm telling you. It was BAD. I can't remember the last time I felt so awful in my skin. Honestly, it was BAD.

And then we got there and were enveloped by the nicest, nicest knitters.

I endeavored to be entertaining even though, as I've said and y'all have not believed, I AM SHY. I told Jane stories --always a good fall-back to make people laugh --especially because the joke is always on me. I sweated a bit from nerves. I finished Lin's sock. (In fact, I might have gotten carried away and made it a bit too long. I'll try it on her tomorrow.)

And by gosh, I can't explain it, but suddenly, everything was okay. There was just something about being with this group of women --of whom I might have been the youngest at age 43 --that made everything sort of all right again. All these women, married a zillion years and having raised a zillion children and knitted a zillion freaking socks (or not, some people think socks are hard so they knit--hello--sweaters instead. Me? I QUAKE at the thought of sweaters but apparently, I can knit a sock in my spare time in two days.) All of them, so glad to be with other knitters.... so...just...well...


It was magical. It was healing. There was so much laughter that management sent someone over to ask us to pipe down.

God, I love that. May the last day of my life include so much laughter that it disturbs other people. May my tombstone say, "Hey, Barb, could you keep the laughter to a dull roar?"


Love (the Hurricane) Thursday

My Janie (7) is home sick today. She's got some bug that either IS strep or mimics strep. We went and had a throat culture yesterday and now, although the rapid strep test came back negative, I'm waiting to see if the slow growing culture (I made that name up but you know what I mean) comes back saying she has it after all. I fully expect that it will.

The thing about the Hurricane is that she is NOT a complainer. Just now, she was curled up in a little nest on the floor in the living room, drinking some warm rice milk and watching a movie when she rolled over and cracked her head on the coffee table. Tears were leaking out of the sides of her eyes but she would NOT let on that she was hurt. Somehow she has gotten the idea that to complain is a sign of weakness. She gets all embarrassed and very snappy if you offer any comfort.

You can, however, offer a lot of cuddling.

I am all about THAT. (Plus I offered to drag the coffee table outside and chop it into firewood. Apparently, my Mama-Bear instincts aren't limited to eviscerating HUMANS who hurt my children.)

At any rate, as always when the kids are sick, life comes to a full stop. I'm not so sure I wasn't due for a day of watching movies, cuddling with Janie, and knitting because I've enjoyed today a lot. I've almost finished the first of Lin's Goodbye Socks and I just started them on Tuesday! (Claudia hand-paint in "Spring Break" using that Thuja pattern from Knitty. I am nothing if not faithful when I find a good thing.)

The only thing is that tonight is Knit Night and my friend from Austin, Sherrie, and I are planning on going. Only, I have this little tickle in my throat and my stomach hurts and I have this little cough...

Not to be too dramatic (I don't know WHERE Ana gets it) but I may just wither away and die of loneliness if I don't get to go. I mean it.

Wither. Away.

It could happen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How You Liking Me So Far?

So, today, in a further attempt to prove that I am the most spastic and strange person on this block, I accidentally stole my neighbor's trash can.

After I got back from running a few errands today (Pam and Diann, I mailed your books. And I mailed Ei her first sock so she could try it on.), I noticed that our trash can was lying on its side in front of our mailbox, which makes the mailman leave me veiled threats about stopping our mail if he doesn't have clear access to the mailbox. (I LOVE those kinds of notes.) So, I walked down the hill, picked up the trash can and rolled it back up the hill. On the way up, I noticed that our trash can was looking decidedly used and considering that it's only three months old, this seemed odd to me. In fact, wasn't our trash can actually a different color?

I figured that one of the neighbors had mistakenly taken ours and left theirs.

But first I e-mailed my husband asking if our trash can had a black lid as I remembered. He replied that it did and then noted that maybe this is why OTHER people on the street had their house numbers written on their trash cans.

Immediately, my mind began to race. I mean, this is NEW YORK, where crime runs RAMPANT, right? Haven't we all heard that? Maybe someone had PILFERED my trash can! It wasn't really all that cheap --I think we spent at least $70 on it. And how stupid of me not to put our address on it here in NEW YORK, where crime is horrible and nothing is sacred! I bet there is some kind of BLACK MARKET for trash cans!

Maybe this was even the work of ORGANIZED CRIME!

While picking up Ana from school, I saw one of my neighbors and told her of the missing trash can. We speculated on what could have happened. But then, after I got home, she called. It turns out that no one had stolen my trash can.

In fact, MY trash can had been left in front of her house.

I had stolen someone else's trash can.

Because I'm good that way.

I had to do a trash can swap, which meant a lot of walking up and down hills with various trash cans and now my neighbors, who only suspected it before, positively KNOW that I am certifiable AND, apparently, a trash can thief. Because all of those Texans, you know, they think they own everything. Think they're larger than life, helping themselves to trash cans and bringing dumb cow dogs everywhere they go...

(Well, they either think that or that I just felt the need to show our trash can the neighborhood. Some people walk dogs...)

At least no one could ever accuse me of ORGANIZED crime.

I'm having some Internet troubles so my online presence has been spotty and may continue to be that way for a few days. Also, my SBC e-mail address was shut down without so much as a teeny warning so if you're trying to e-mail me, use the address barb [at] sothethingis [dot] com.

Barb Cooper
Mother. Writer. Collector of Trash Cans.


When Good Lemonade Stands Go Bad

It used to be so simple having a Lemonade Stand. I'd set up everything, the girls would make the sign, I'd make the lemonade and then the girls would sit and look so adorable that every single passer-by would pay a quarter for a cup of lemonade and sometimes a hand-drawn picture. The girls would split the profits and go to bed, sticky and knowing they had assuaged the neighborhood's thirst.

(Just to explain: the picture above was taken in 2004, which was the year that Jane refused to wear anything but pajamas. Yes, for an entire year. Seriously. What?)

So, yesterday, Ana and her good friend set up a Lemonade Stand. From the beginning there was dissension over who, of the kids on our street, could be involved and who got to do what important task. There were tears. There were apologies. There was a lot of talking about feelings.

There was a LOT OF DRAMA.

By the time I went to pick up Jane from school, things seemed to have settled down. At least, people had stopped crying and lemonade was being sold. I was pretty proud of Ana up to this point because she managed to not get involved in the "who gets to be involved, who's horning in, who gets left out" histrionics. Ana has been my child for almost all of her 10.25 years and she knows if she starts that kind of stuff, whatever event she is involved in will come to an abrupt end. I have so little patience for the politics of exclusion.

The introduction of her little sister to the mix soon changed THAT, though. Things disintegrated in a hurry. There was fighting. Jane said "Damn" in front of everyone, because, you know, I wasn't mortified enough. (It's not the worst word she could have picked up, but still.) She ran home crying. I was now pretty (damn) cranky. As time came to split up the profits, I actually found myself saying, "But who provided your seed capital? If you are not going to pay your labor force fairly, then you will have to pay me for the supplies you used."

(Call me Mrs. Big. Next, I'll be requiring an annual report and an audit that conforms to the SEC standards.)

And oh, look, everyone is crying again.

WHOO-KAY then, let's all just pack up. The other mother involved said, "This is my FIRST lemonade stand and this is my LAST."

Sometimes I wonder if what I really miss most about my life in Austin is the uncomplicated childhoods of my children that we seem to have left behind there. I mean, I remember when a staging a lemonade stand didn't resemble the Mid-East peace process.
I'm just SO not ready for the teenage years.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Scout

Our ridiculously happy cow dog has a birthday today. Four years ago, he was born in this off-the-grid trailer encampment near Elgin, Texas. Twelve weeks later my husband completely lost his freaking mind took pity on him and brought him home.

I believe that congratulations are in order. Not for Scout, oh NO, not for him. I think we Coopers should be congratulated for not having killed him by now.

Although, even I have to admit, he's pretty cute.

Friday, June 13, 2008

So, Okay, Alrighty Then

I have really, really, really Big News.

Really. Big. News.

Are you ready?

Today I found my LYS --my Local Yarn Shop!
It's a great store in a neighboring town. The people are so incredibly friendly and helpful and Stef and Ana and I talked yarn and knitting to them for over an hour. We fondled yarn. We bought yarn. We talked patterns and society among knitters and we discussed our plans for WWKIP day. (World Wide Knit In Public Day. Tomorrow, Saturday, June 14th.)

I know, I know, you non-knitters cannot understand the import of such an event. But trust me, it pretty much rocked my world.

And I needed some world rocking because, um, well, it's been a week.

My parents were visiting this week and I somehow got way out of my groove. So on Thursday? I forgot to go to Jane's Flag Day presentation.


And she was... She had the teacher call to remind... I felt so... Imagine that little face...


My heart slid right out of my body and shattered on the floor. I kept thinking of her searching the crowd for me and being disappointed. (She told me later she frowned through the whole thing.)

Here, look at this bunny in my yard to distract you. Think calming thoughts.
Because when I got to Jane's school after beating myself pretty darn well for several hours? I found out that there was a SECOND Flag Day performance the next day. Look at the pretty, beaming Jane.
I don't know, though, the fact that I could FORGET to go to one of children's performances made me realize just how crazy I've let things get. So, later that night, on my parent's last evening with us, I had a sort of meltdown when I found out that my 19-year-old male cousin from Germany (who is very nice, don't get me wrong) was coming to visit FOR TWO WEEKS starting on June 20th.


So, it turns out that having a meltdown over IMPENDING houseguests in front of your CURRENT houseguests (hello, my parents and Stef) isn't really such a gracious thing to do. It doesn't really make your houseguests feel very welcome.


Here, look at Stef teaching Jane to knit. (Dudes, she totally picked it up in record time. I could not have been prouder.)
But I didn't mean THEM, see. There are no more welcome houseguests than my parents and of course, Stef is just like having my sister visit. All of them are so amazingly helpful. My mother, despite my best efforts to have the house cleaned and to keep on top of that, still found time to still do at least 20 loads of laundry. Stef took the girls to their school carnival tonight, which I don't think I could have managed, given that my foot is really bothering me. (I've been on it too much lately.) Look at this picture of Ana coming through a tunnel with cotton candy. (Stef even took PICTURES for me!)

In fact, my guest were SO helpful that I finished the first of Ei's socks.
(The yarn is Claudia hand-paint in Plumlicious. The pattern is the Thuja sock from Knitty.)

So, honestly, I didn't mean them. I just panicked at the idea of entertaining this young man (who is honestly delightful and very beloved by my girls) for TWO WEEKS when I'm already so behind. (Which reminds me, if I promised to send you a book recently, it hasn't happened. I'm sorry and Monday will be catch-up day.) I'm not even unpacked yet from the move, I have tile to lay and plants to plant and we have this trip at the beginning of July that I need to plan and, and, and...

Plus, you know, I need a little alone time to stay mentally healthy. (Not just so I have time to blog, honest!) (Well, not JUST for that.) I'm not disciplined enough to be like my husband, who gets up early so that he has time for 30 minutes of exercise every weekday morning. (I mean, I get up at the same time but go directly to work making lunches and breakfasts, packing backpacks and unloading the dishwasher, etc. I need to get up 30 minutes earlier than THAT so that I have some time to invest in myself.)

I don't know. I had a little meltdown. (Coop was actually laughing at how horrified I was over the thought of my cousin coming.) See, I KNEW he was coming, but I didn't know he was planning on a TWO WEEK visit. Anyway, I wish I hadn't reacted --I feel like I was rude and ungracious and that's the exact opposite of what I was going for. I'm over it now and can actually look forward to my cousin's visit. I'm sure we'll all have a good time. I just don't know what I'm going to DO with him for two weeks.

This morning, my parents left on this kind of funky note, you know? Sort of questioning whether or not they were welcome? Which makes me feel so bad because we had such a good time while they were here.

Ack, where is the "Undo" button for life?

Here, look at some yarn. It'll make you feel better.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Rumors of My Demise... (Love Thursday)

Hey! I'm here! I'm here! The rumors of my demise have been greatly--okay --slightly exaggerated. Contrary to what one might expect, my brain did not TOTALLY melt in this heat.

I know, I know...y'all are laughing. Aren't I from TEXAS? Where it's been over 100 degrees already eleven days this year? But see, my parents got here to New York on Thursday and it was cool. In fact, it was so cool on Friday that I loaned my mom some sweat pants to wear. And then BOOM, 96 degrees and counting on the following two days.

The schools here aren't air-conditioned. That's how rare this kind of weather is in June on Long Island.

We've been SO busy while my parents have been here. I think I've seen more of Long Island since they got here than in the previous three months. We've been to North and South Shore beaches, my mom and I discovered an incredible drive-through nursery, we trolled through some shore towns and played all sorts of games with the children, whom we also pulled from school during record breaking (did I mention that?) heat to take for ice cream.

The days have been just PACKED.

Last night we had the block over for dessert, because even the moms of 43-year-olds need to know that their kids aren't hanging out with the wrong crowd. I think we reassured her.

Then yesterday, our beloved baby-sitter from Austin, who just graduated from high-school, ALSO came to see us. Bringing hand-knit socks and hand-dyed yarn. (More about that and World Wide Knit-in-Public Day in tomorrow's post.)

As always, though, the best part has been seeing the world through the kids' eyes. My kids on the beach--it's one of the biggest joy rushes ever. For example, I caught Jane unaware that I was watching her, just totally unselfconsciously dancing with the waves. Seriously, is this the most adorable thing you've ever seen or what? I wish I could animate these for you.

And then, oh my goodness, look at this face. Have I said before that I think those freckles would form a constellation if connected? I know I always say this about my kids but isn't she just so beautiful?

I've missed you guys! I promise to be back to my normal OCD level of blogging directly.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

This is a post in which I once again prove that I am the luckiest woman on the planet.

No. Seriously.

Yesterday, I had a Migraine of Epic Proportions when I woke up. So I took my medication, which makes me loopy. (Oh, gosh, you people are a TOUGH crowd. OKAY. Loopy-ER. Loopier. There now, satisfied?) Only, I couldn't shake the damn thing, not totally.

But it's my parents' first visit to Long Island and I wanted to show them around a little. So, when my head finally stopped threatening to make me throw up, we set out to drive through a shore town and then we stopped to have lunch at a lovely little restaurant on the beach. Then my parents took a short walk while I, ever gimpy, sat on a bench. I took some pictures of the beach and then took out my knitting and sat and knitted for a while.

Gosh, I felt terrible. Later that afternoon, after I'd napped a little and gotten the girls from school, I noticed that I also looked just terrible. I've said before that I have Mood Hair and in this case, the mood was grim. So, on a whim I stuck in a few hot rollers and put some make-up on. When I took the rollers out, I looked JUST like Mary Tyler Moore in her Dick Van Dyke Show, Laura Petrie phase. It was so funny that I came downstairs to show Ana and I asked her if she'd take a picture of me for the blog--because I am always willing to make a total fool of myself for your amusement. (I'm very giving that way.)

Only, we couldn't find my camera.

I panicked. There are few things I love as much as my camera, you know. It's the only real THING on my Joy Rush list. (Well, okay, besides the Claudia Handpainted sock yarn. Just work with me, People.) I tore apart my car and house and concluded that I must have left it on that bench at the beach.

And if I did, it was gone, gone, gone.

I called the restaurant but no one had turned it in (the guy told me a great and comforting (not) story about how his son had a camera stolen off of his shoulder in an airport once. He asked if it was a good camera. I said, "Yes."

In despair.

So I took a little trip back out to the beach just to look for myself.

The whole way out there I was thinking about how I could possibly replace the camera if it was gone. And I was thinking about how if I found it, it would be a sign that everything was going to be okay--that our house in Austin would sell (after the repairs have finally been completed which has to happen SOME day, right?) and the kids would find new best friends here in New York and my husband would be fabulously successful in his new job and how my book would find its way into the hands of a publisher who would love it and want to publish it and... oh yeah, my camera.

I approached the bench where I had sat and there was a woman sitting there who smiled when I got near. "Are you looking for your camera?"

Hope began to dawn in me. And sure enough, there was my camera. Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!! THERE WAS MY CAMERA, sitting on a public bench at the beach where I had left it some five hours before.

"Is this a great neighborhood or what?" said the woman.

On the way home, this song came on.

(Sorry for the annoying handclaps which were, hello, RUSHING--not that I'm a bothered by a little thing like that.)

Dudes. I live such a charmed life.

Friday, June 06, 2008

For My Sister

I have all kinds of things to write about since my parents are here and Ana had HER field day yesterday but my sister asked me how I make this salmon because she is heading to the coast for her (Big Milestone) birthday and she wants to make it when she gets there. So, once again, I will endeavor to showcase my rockstar cooking prowess. (By which I mean I probably should have hired a cook.)

Smoked Salmon on the Grill

First, you light some coals.

THEN, you make a pan out of tinfoil.

And you put the salmon into it.

Wait! Wait! BEFORE you start drinking wine, make sure you take some wood chips
and soak them in a bowl. (They can stain so use a bowl you don't care too much about.)

Okay, now it's safe to pour yourself a glass. If you start drinking before you soak the wood chips, there's a danger you'll forget and then there you'll be with smokeless smoked salmon. (Don't ask me how I know this. Let's just move along, shall we?)

When the coals have grayed over, dump them to one side of the grill, like so:

And now go back and adjust your grill plate, in case you didn't do it right the first time, so that the opening is above the coals. You'll need it later.

Now, place the tinfoil pan with the salmon on the grill on the side that's away from the coals.

Splash it with some Allegro marinade. I only had the spicy one for some reason but the non-spicy one is actually better if you like to keep the skin on the roof of your mouth.

Then open the gate-thingy and put a handful or two of the wood chips on the coals. (Here's where it becomes really clear that you need to have the chips soaked. Because if you don't soak them first, they still smoke but they catch FIRE, which leaves you no recourse but to douse them with water. Which puts the coals out and then, my friend, you are, in technical cooking terms, totally screwed up a creek without a paddle. Just, um, sayin'.)

So, now your grill should look something like this:

Now you put the lid on top with the holes over the salmon so the draft draws the smoke over the fish itself.

Set your timer for 30 minutes (don't forget (wine) or it's likely you'll let it smoke too long and it will dry out and be inedible unless mixed with a lot of cream cheese, lemon juice and scallions. Whereupon you can call it salmon mousse, but it's a waste of wild salmon which isn't exactly cheap these days.) You can watch my animals playing in the yard during this time if you want. (Ana took these pictures.)
(Sydney was inside waiting for her dinner.)

Anyway, if the smoke stops billowing (this is not the most earth-friendly recipe) just throw another handful of chips on. After about 30 minutes, you should have salmon that looks like this.

Voila! (Which I saw spelled recently as "Well-ah." Honest.) I don't know why I always feel like the Swedish Chef when I attempt to blog a recipe but there ya have it.

Happy Birthday, my Sisu. I love you! (And honest, you don't look a day over 25.)