Thursday, October 30, 2008

Big Sister, Hard Lessons

The Cooper household has some interesting family dynamics. I am the youngest of four children and my husband is the eldest of two. And, as you know, we have two children which makes one the elder and one the younger. As parents, I probably tend to empathize with Jane's struggles as the youngest, more than I do with Ana's struggles as the eldest and my husband probably does exactly the opposite.

(I say this knowing that you will assume (correctly) that we both love both of our children to distraction and there is no overt favoritism going on here. Just some sneaking sympathies...)

Having confessed that I have a little soft spot for Jane (8), I will also tell you that my older daughter Ana (10.5) is possibly the best big sister ever. She is an extremely patient and kind person in general and she loves and enjoys her little sister. (Well, you know, most of the time.)

I will also tell you that Jane can be a little stinker. She wants to be "big" so much that she just glosses right over the fact that she is younger, until it behooves her to play the baby and scream and cry to get her way. For the most part, Ana handles this with grace and resignation.

Every once in a while, though, even ANA has had enough.

Take yesterday, for example.

The girls had been playing a protracted game of School for days, which involved a whole classroom of stuffed animals, plus Ana doing all the stuffed animals' schoolwork. Jane was the teacher --and by teacher, I mean complete and utter dictator. Oh my goodness, when Jane gets bossy, it is just...


Finally, Ana had enough. She submitted a paper (ostensibly written by a three-year-old) and promptly received an "F-" on it. And that, as they say, was THAT.

"I'm not playing with you anymore, Jane," she said calmly.

Jane screamed and cried and grieved over the injustice of the world for about ten minutes. And then she launched her attack.

"Air Mail for Ana Cooper!" she shouted. And down came a letter, launched from the top of the stairs.

Ana sat, unmoved, reading her book.

"Air Mail for Ana Cooper!" Jane shouted again. And down came another letter, launched from the top of the stairs.

(Note the still dictatorial tone.)

Nope. Nothing doing. No notice taken by the Big Sister, who sat reading her book.

Little sister came down the stairs five separate times. "Ana, can we play school? I promise to act nicer."

"No, I'm reading."

More mail. (This one says (mostly), "I will let you be the teacher! I will also let you be in charge of the game.")

Ana yawned and turned the page in her book. Then she stood up and took her book into the bathroom.

Jane slipped another letter under the door. (Dear Ana, I also REALLY wish we could play right this very minute. LOVE, your Buddy, Jane.)

No notice from Ana. Jane finally realized that Big Sister really meant business this time.

The next letter --a heartfelt plea:

On the back: (PSS: The pencil is for you for keeps! Love Jane.)

"Jane," said Ana. "I don't want to play with you. I am reading."

"But Ana, PLEASE!!"

"Maybe tomorrow."

Jane's little face crumpled. Tomorrow? Tomorrow was SO not today! Tomorrow was too FAR.

She ran back upstairs. In a little bit, the last two letters.(To make up, this is for you. The only stickers I have. Sorry. (Sorry.)

By this point, *I* offered to play school with Jane, who looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. "No, I want to play with ANA."


Ana, however, has none of the push-over of her mother in her. She remained calmly detached and never did play school with Jane.

*I*, however, was feeling so bad for the little one that I was on the verge of offering to HAVE ANOTHER CHILD so that Jane would have someone to play with. (Despite the fact that this would require some sort of medical miracle. Details, people, details.)

Ana is wise, though, and she totally understood that if she gave in, she might never have the upper hand again. SHE knows how to teach appropriate consequences. SHE'S the oldest.

Her mother? Not so wise. Not the oldest. Definitely pouring herself a glass of wine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Random Wednesday Wordiness

So, I have a lot to talk about. I like to save these long kinds of posts for Wednesdays because Wednesdays are supposed to be "Wordless Wednesdays" around the blogosphere and I'm all rebellious like that.

(Seriously, hello-- the nature of blogging is inherently wordy, is it not? Although, okay, I am tempted to post just this picture: and then walk right away without saying another word, leaving y'all to wonder, "But, but what HAPPENED? Did the Coopers survive the coup attempt by Barb's hair? Was anyone hurt?") (As always, you can click to enlarge.) (As if you can't see that hair just fine as is.)

Over the weekend, Coop and I took our daughters to Montauk, which is on the far east end of Long Island. As in, the last bit of land to the east, next stop: England. We were very fortunate that the weather was just...spectacular. We were UNfortunate in that I had my camera set wrong so most of our pictures were sort of over-exposed. Here are few that turned out okay:

The most picturesque landmark in Montauk is the Montauk Lighthouse, which dates back to 1796.(Note that this is the first of many pictures where the kids are grimacing horribly because the sun is in their eyes and we are making them stand still for a picture. "Tough noogies," I say, says I. Because I WILL document your fun childhoods no matter how miserable you really were.

View from the lighthouse grounds. Jane swears she can see England from here.

The Montauk Lighthouse staircase. Ana counted 128 steps. I didn't count because I was snoozing in the sun while the rest of the family climbed up.

At the top of the Lighthouse.

These are surfers--really, really dedicated surfers who are braving the frigid water in order to catch some serious waves. They look like seals to me, because seals have exactly the same degree of serious about their fun. I wish y'all could have seen the look on my husband's face, though. His desire to be in that water with those surfers trumped even his dislike of the cold. I bet there's a new wet suit purchase in our future.

Oh, look, more pictures of squinting children.

Ana in foreground while Jane rolls down the hill behind the Lighthouse. (Despite the possible inference that Ana might have THROWN Jane down there, it really was voluntary and the next picture shows both girls rolling wildly down the hill. Only it's not in focus so I'm not posting it.)

Squinting Cooper women on a cliff above surfers.

Close up so we see that Barb's hair is still not completely tamed and is threatening her children.

Monday, October 27, 2008


This morning I noticed that my weird eye spot is definitely worse after I drink coffee in the morning.

And I actually thought to myself, "Well, do I really NEED to see in the morning?"

No, I don't have an addiction to caffeine, why do you ask? Oh, because I'm not willing to let a little BLINDNESS come between me and my morning coffee?

I'm thinking the next few days aren't going to be so pretty...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pull up! Pull UP!



You know how I finally seemed to be pulling out of this tailspin I've been in lately? And you know how I've been saying that it's my new knitting group that has saved me since we moved across the country from Austin to Long Island? And you know how I got to help my friend Linda turn the heel on her first sock and how joyous it was to share that moment with her?

I thought I'd repay her by side-swiping her car in front of the yarn store on Knit Night.

Because I so totally ROCK that way.

See, I'd had this really bad Pain Day. As y'all know (because I have whined on and on and ON about it), I live with chronic foot pain due to a genetic abnormality that remained undiscovered until I turned 42 and could no longer walk on my foot. I had an extensive reconstructive surgery that installed three screws in my foot and removed some extra bones (SUCH an overachiever) and now I can walk on my foot, but it hurts. It's gotten better or I've gotten used to it or my new medicine is acting as a pain blocker. Most days, anyway.

But yesterday was bad. I lost my balance and stepped funny and the whole day had a funky pain shimmer to it. My husband got in from the airport just in time for me to leave for Knit Night ("Hi, Hon! Welcome home--the kids need baths and the dogs haven't been fed. Gotta go!") and he looked at me closely before I left. "Drive carefully," he said. "You don't seem like yourself."

(When I told him I'd had a car accident, he said, "Yeah, I had a bad feeling about you driving." He knows me a little too well. Or, he's psychic. Or both.)

(Must he always, ALWAYS be right?)

So, I was driving to Knit Night and I started thinking about this segment I saw on David Letterman some twenty years ago. It was the "Small Town News" thing he does and he read this missing dog advertisement about this one-eyed, one-legged, deaf dog who was missing. "Answers to the name of "Lucky."

And I did that thing where I rolled my one good eye and tempted the fates. You know what I mean? I thought, "Man, if things had gotten much worse, I bet that's what people would be calling ME. THANK GOODNESS I'M PAST ALL THAT."

Can't you just hear the Fates all scambling eagerly to get in line in order to whup me upside the head (Texas phrase) for even thinking such a thing? Cue the ominous music.

Because then I drove to the yarn store, which is on a busy street, and in an effort to get a parking place in front, and avoid the guy tailgating me, I pulled over too quickly and clipped Linda's car.

That sickening sound... the way my heart just exploded in my chest... Ack. I threw my car into park and rushed to look at the car I'd hit. The damage seemed mostly superficial but it was already dark and hard to tell. I hobbled into the Knit Shop and asked, "Who drives the cranberry colored Maxima?" And Linda said, "That's mine." and I said, "OH MY GOD, I JUST HIT YOUR CAR!"

Or something equally panicked to that effect.

You have to know Linda but she was already trying to make me feel better as we went outside to look at the damage. I could not have felt worse and probably looked like I was ready to throw myself under the wheels of a passing truck. I was totally, utterly BESIDE MYSELF that not only had I had a car accident, but I had hit the car of possibly the NICEST KNITTER IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK. I said breathlessly and apropos of nothing, "I answer to the name of Lucky." and Linda assured me the damage was hardly noticeable and then she told me the funniest story about a dog named Lucky that I've ever heard. We went back inside and everyone went back to knitting and telling car stories and trying to make me feel better --because, dudes, that's what knitters DO. Linda promised to have her husband look at the car and to tell me honestly if he felt it needed to be fixed and she gave me about six hugs--because she is so KIND and NICE and LOVELY that way --and I sat there, trying to regain my equilibrium.

A task in which I was not aided when Laurie showed me how I'd been doing the increases on the sleeves to Ana's sweater WRONG. (Sigh.)

I was still so frazzled that I had to pull over and start up my GPS on the way home.

This morning, Linda called at 8:30. She said she hoped it wasn't too early but she knew I would be worrying over her car and she wanted to tell me as soon as possible that her husband had looked at the car and proclaimed the scratch to be "nothing."

I went back out to look at the car and noticed another longer scratch higher up on my car so I called her back. "Linda, go look and make sure there's not some OTHER scratch up higher on YOUR car."

She reassured me that there was nothing at all there and told me firmly to not sweat the small stuff and that this was small stuff.

And then her HUSBAND called me to tell me it really was nothing at all and to please not think about it any more.

Because that's how nice these people are--I HIT THEIR FREAKING CAR and they are worried that I'm so upset.

When I went back out to look at my car, I also noticed that a long strand of yarn was hanging out of my passenger-side door. Apparently, in all the drama, a ball of yarn had escaped and I hadn't noticed. Naturally, it was a ball of Claudia Hand-painted yarn in Plumlicious, which I FINALLY found in sport weight in order to finish Ei's socks. The ball is gone, left along the road along a route only the GPS knows, and there's not enough yarn to finish the toe of the sock.
Of course I drove home trailing hand-painted sock yarn behind me. Doesn't everyone do that after smashing a friend's car?



Just call me, "Lucky."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Wednesday Morning Brought

This is not exactly what I was hoping for when our spastic cow-dog Scout fetched the paper this morning. Scout is suffering from Lack of Running because my husband has been traveling and I haven't figured out how to make him get on the freaking treadmill and run off all that excess energy so that he'll deliver my newspaper in one piece.

This is not what I was expecting when I packed Ana's snack this morning. It was the last little bag of pretzels in the box and when I took the box out to recycle, I found this in the bottom of it:
Oh, look! A recipe for FAKE SNOT! File that under Things That Make Parents Scratch Their Heads. Because, dudes, have these people ever been NEAR a school? If they had, they would know that manufacturing FAKE snot is really not necessary.

But also? Cross-file that under Stupid Marketing Ideas. Because who wants to think about snot when eating pretzels? I'm totally horrified. (Y'all know how I have issues with that word anyway.)

My equilibrium was restored when the morning included THIS, though: After I had braided her hair, I said, "Oh, Jane, you just look ADORABLE."

And she said, very calmly, "I think so, too."
What's not to adore?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crazy on Legs

The problem with me is that I am crazy. And not only AM I crazy but I MAKE myself crazy by being crazy.

To wit:

I am one of those people who is never late.

(Well, let me rephrase that, having just thought about the fact that I once sent my Christmas cards out in February.)

I am one of those people who will never keep you waiting. I always arrive either right on time or, more often than not, EARLY. (Except for that time when I stood Beth up but dudes, it took the threat of losing my SIGHT to keep me from my date with her.)

And the thing is, it causes me great stress to even contemplate being late. Seriously, I start to sweat and growl at people and I do things like only shaving one leg. Because I am really afraid of being late and I might be late if I take the time to shave both legs.

I'm not sure what's up with that. I mean, what's going to happen if I'm a few minutes late? Will the Late Police lock me up and throw away the key? I had a friend once who observed my complete and utter breakdown over the possibility that I might be late and he said, "You know, YOU waste as much time being early as most people waste being LATE."

And I said, "Oh,shutthehellupwhenIwantyourstupidopinionI'llaskforit."

Because I am mature like that. Also, witty.

In addition to the Fear of Lateness (which I'm sure has a scientific name because I am not the only person who has this fear. Just look at how many senior citizens get to the airport six hours early. Just in case. Because airplanes, as we all know, are notorious for leaving EARLY.), I do this other thing that I think is related to said fear.

Whenever I have an appointment, my entire day is structured around it. Take yesterday. (Please.) I had a doctor's appointment at 11:30 for which I needed to leave my house at 11:10. I dropped my daughter Jane off at school at 9:20 and came home, ready to tackle this little home improvement project I have in mind.

Only, I couldn't get started on it. I had, basically, an hour and a half before I needed to leave the house and I just ... stood around with my keys in my hand. Well, okay, not literally, but sort of.

Because I am CRAZY.

I could have left early and done some OTHER errands. I needed to drop some books off to a friend and I needed to go to the post office. But instead? I did nothing. Because I didn't want anything to interfere with my doctor's appointment, which was in TWO FREAKING HOURS. Exercise? Nope. Blogging? Nope. Taking a shower and shaving both legs? Nope.

What the HECK is WRONG with me???

I don't know. Sometimes the worst thing about being crazy is KNOWING I'm crazy and not being able to do anything about it.

(Although, I'm picturing an Intervention where all of my friends grab me and force me to be LATE for something! Someone hides my day-timer so that I miss whole appointments and flights and stuff! I'd be forced to sit and enjoy a second cup of coffee and the world wouldn't end!)

(Seriously. It might have to happen.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Okay, okay, okay, okay...I really have been working on the "Typical Day in the Life of Barb" post (ala Mrs. G.) but, well, I keep falling asleep while writing it. Because MY typical day? Not really so exciting, unless you like the part where I get to shampoo my carpets because my ancient dog Sydney has given up even the pretense of being housebroken. (Not that I'm bitter.) (And I'm especially not bitter that every time I complain about Syd, my daughter Jane (8) says, "Yes, mom, but you would clean a million carpets just to have her around for a little longer. Right, mom? Right?") (She's right. But STILL.)

But YA'LL, yesterday, while not typical, is so much more fun to talk about. I mean, I got up at 6:30 on a SUNDAY because I couldn't wait to tell you all about it. (And also because I was cold so don't be getting the big head.) (Okay, mostly to tell you about it.) (Just a little cold was involved.)

So, okay, I got up at 5:15 on Saturday morning. Which, it turns out, is very, very, very early. I showered and chose my clothes as I always do--which ones go best with the most comfortable shoes I can find? I made an executive decision to put make-up on over my horrid, disfiguring rash (which is almost certainly poison ivy, because, hey! Look! It's spreading! Oh, yea!) because I did not want to be scaring small children all day. This, as it turns out, was a good choice because Rhinebeck was FULL of small children. All wearing the most gorgeous knitted things... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, the day before, Miraculous Laurie had taken me on a dry run of where the bus to Rhinebeck was picking us up and if she hadn't, I would still be driving around Long Island trying to find it. (Dudes, Laurie was not even GOING to Rhinebeck and she made a special effort to show me the way to the bus. She's personal fairy Godmother or something.) The bus was picking us up at a Park and Ride near the highway but to get to this Park and Ride, you had to know the secrets of Brigadoon and 6:30 in the morning is NOT the time to be learning those secrets. I'm just sayin'.

But anyway, there we went. Wait, have I even told you where we were going? Sorry. We were going to the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I had first read about it on the Yarn Harlot's site last year and I, honestly, just could not believe I was going to actually GO THERE. I am such a big dork and was so excited that I couldn't even sleep the night before.

(I know, I know. Hush. Just...hush.)

Anyway, we left before the sun came up but when it did, we happened to be crossing the Hudson. (That's not the sun in that picture, that's the reflection of my flash in the bus window.) (And actually, I have no idea if that's the Hudson River, either, since I had no idea where we were at the time. I'm guessing. But isn't it beautiful?)

We got to the festival around 9:30, I'd say. And it was really, really, really cold.

And really, really, really, REALLY FUN.

It's all about SHEEP! And WOOL! And the people who love them! Which, it turns out, is a LOT OF FREAKING PEOPLE!

Felted bags!
Gratuitous shot of a really big man in a kilt. (And also, would you look at the expression of the woman watching me take this photo? I'm thinking she'd been standing in line at the Socks That Rock yarn booth--which had a line going out the door from the time I got there until the time I left.)
My favorite sign ever. Because, ya'll, I've been telling you: New York drivers are CRAZY.
Here's a contest to name this sweater pattern. MadMad would NOT let me put down the name, "Barb."

Oh, did I forget to tell you? I met MadMad at the Festival! Look! Isn't she adorable? And here, she is FREEZING. Because she has zero body fat and it was so, so cold. The wind sort of rushed through you and jangled your bones. I, who have plenty of body fat, was wearing a big red coat (having no knitted goods to show off except socks) and MY teeth were chattering.

MadMad introduced me to her friends Kim and Tracy and they let me pal around with them. They could look at a person wearing a sweater and know immediately what sweater pattern it was. We all went to the Ravelry get-together, where lots of people were standing around wearing things they'd knitted and freezing their rumps off. (Dudes, lest you think knitting is a dying art, Ravelry now has about 200,000 members.)

There was a lot of freezing. There was a lot of laughing. I kind of felt like I was getting to hang out with the popular kids. People would introduce themselves or be introduced and I had to make sure everyone knew that yes, I am a blogger but my blog is not a KNITTING blog because I'm, um, not that STRONG of a knitter. (Oh my gosh, though, how much fun are bloggers? It just never gets old.)

And a lot of shopping. Early in the day, I noticed that my good husband had left me a wad of cash far and beyond what was reasonable. (I actually got a little teary because you know, I'm pretty sure he thought that the whole festival was going to be one eighty-year-old woman and ME walking around some sheep. But he so loves me and I've had such a hard time lately, he's been spoiling me rotten. AND he took the kids into New York City and kept them entertained all day. And cleaned up after Sydney AND emptied the dishwasher. Best husband/father on this planet.) I can't show you what I bought because it had to do with Christmas... but it was really good shopping.

At about 2:30, my cranky ankle made itself known by unceremoniously almost dumping me on the pavement, so I took leave of the the Fun Kids and made my way to a little spot where I could sit in the sun and knit and people watch.
I was sitting on some bleachers in front of this bluegrass band and a lot of families came to sit and enjoy the music and eat a little something. At one point, this young family came--a mother, a father and their little one, who was maybe fifteen months or so. You know that stage when they are barely walking, but very determinedly so? The parents took turns chasing her down until the music started back up and the cutest thing happened. The little one started to dance! And it must have been the first time the mom had seen that because she started laughing so hard that it made ME laugh. She looked over at me, in complete joy and wonder at how amazing it was that her little one had just spontaneously erupted into dancing and our eyes met. Her look said, 'didn't I think it was just amazing, too?' Yes, yes I did.

See, that's the thing that about parenthood: people tell you all about the sleep deprivation and poop and projectile vomiting but no one, NO ONE remembers to tell you that at some point, your baby is going to have to get her groove on and she's going to look like a drunk person with gum on the bottom of her shoe and that you will laugh so hard that you are incapacitated by it.

(It felt pretty great to me to laugh, too. I think maybe I'm back.)

So, before I left to catch the bus, I made a trip over to the Border Collie Frisbee Exhibition to take some pictures so I could show our spastic Border Collie Mix what SMART Border Collies look like.

And then I knitted all the way home. Look at this! I now have two fronts or two backs or maybe, just maybe, one front and one back of Ana's sweater finished.

That, my friends? Is what I call a good dang day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Little Lipstick and Maybe No One Will Notice

So, um, despite taking 1.5 Benadryl on the advice of my doctor and going to bed at 8:30 (!) last night, this morning my face is even worse than yesterday. (Hm. I don't think I've ever used the phrase "my face is worse than yesterday" before. Doesn't really roll right off of the tongue, if you know what I mean.) That picture doesn't even do justice to how hideous I look. I would take one in better light but honestly? I don't want to. There are already way too many scary things on the Internet.

But it's a shame because today is Thursday and that's the day I schedule Fun Things. Knit Night happens on Thursdays. Also, today I'm supposed to have lunch with my friend Beth, remember her? When she called this morning, I said, "well, it turns out that I have yet another disfiguring eye issue." She told me to come to lunch anyway because no one would care if I looked like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man (Quick! Name that movie!) and then she said, "You must really be under stress or something."

But that's the thing, I don't FEEL like I'm under huge stress right now. I mean, there are some stressful things in my life--just like anyone's--but nothing really huge. Unless you count the fact that I have to take Jane to a birthday party today and meet a lot of other mothers, most of whom will be frightened if I show up in an eye patch because everyone knows that Talk Like a Pirate Day is in September. (Probably not a good idea to wear an eye patch anyway since with my other eye, I mostly see a huge black spot.)

The thing I don't understand is WHY this year has been the Year of Humiliation for me. I mean, is there some lesson I'm supposed to take from all this? (Pause while we all think of the lessons Barb should have learned this year. Lessons like, "Don't take your feet for granted." Check. "Don't take your EYES for granted." Check, check. Don't take your METABOLISM for granted. Triple check. (And speaking of that, would it really have been all that much trouble for me to have developed something a little more glamorous? Like maybe "Unexplained Weight Loss," I'm thinking. I mean, honestly, if I have to complain about sore feet and swollen eyes, couldn't I do it as a still THIN person? Is it too much to ask that just once, I be able to say, "I don't know, I CAN'T SEEM TO KEEP THE WEIGHT ON." Because really, with the foot and the eye, my non-glamour reading is high enough without this extra weight. I'm just sayin'.) Where was I? Oh, yes, lessons learned.) (As if.)

So, really, later today, I will detail my Tuesday. Which was before I came down with the Hideousness of Death so it will not be nearly as entertaining as THIS post.

Oh, hush. Just hush.

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, so I decided I WOULD go meet Beth for lunch and just, you know, offer to leave if I was putting anyone off her food. So I went upstairs to shower and I stepped on the scale and I had mysteriously LOST TWO POUNDS! Thank you, dear readers! I feel certain this was due to your prayers that I develop something more interesting to talk about than my freaking face. Kisses!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh, COME ON --Reprise

I was all set to do a Day In The Life of Barb today, because Mrs. G asked people to chronicle a typical day. I spent yesterday taking funny pictures of my day as it unfolded--even though Mrs. G asked people to do this on Monday and I was a tad late in getting around to it.

Which, you know, is typical and therefore could have been included in my day.

HOWEVER, this morning I awoke with Hives. Capital "H" Hives.

Because the Hives are on my FACE.

Specifically (and worst) around my one good eye.

Wait, perhaps you cannot tell exactly what part of my puffy face is affected. Allow me to use my stellar Photoshop skills to clear things up. (I realize that it sort of looks like I have horns in that picture and let me be the first to say, it would SO not surprise me. Especially if they suddenly grew ON MY FACE. (Not that I'm bitter.))

So, off to the doctor I go and y'all are going to have to wait for the scintillating chronicle of my day until tomorrow. Try not to get all anxious and give YOURSELF a case of hives, okay?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wow...Just WOW

I guess y'all noticed that I got pretty depressed. I don't mean in that "Dang I Have a Hangnail Blues" kind of way, either. I mean, in that chemically unbalanced, "Why hello, endless-bottomless-downward-DEATH-SPIRAL, how're things?" I wasn't so bad that I couldn't get out of bed or anything, but I pretty much couldn't get off of the couch so you can see where things were heading.

I've written before about battling depression so you would think I would have gotten a clue a little sooner. But that's the insidious thing about depression: It sneaks up on you on little cat feet. I always think, "Well, I'm a little down but really, I'm sure I'll be pulling out of it soon." And my little voice in my head says, "Of course you will, even if you are a big hulking fat LOSER. You're not depressed, you're just FAT and UNHAPPY and oh, did I mention a loser? Because only a LOSER like you would be depressed while living with those amazing children of yours in your good marriage. Boy, you must really be a LOSER to be depressed with all of those blessings surrounding you." And then I think, "Oh, right. I think I'll just count my blessings from over here. On the couch. From which I can't seem to move." "Loser." "But, see, I've kind of had this health--." "Loser." "My dog is--" "Loser." "SHUT--oh, okay. Right."

Anyway, thanks to my friend Laurie, I saw a doctor and got some help and it turns out that I started to feel better at exactly the right time. Because Coop took our little Court Jester to go fishing and turn eight years old and that left our older daughter Ana (10) and me to fend for ourselves.







There was a lot of shopping. Which I don't usually care for (in the same manner I usually don't care for mass murderers) but we even had fun at the MALL (or, as I heard another blogger call it, "the MAUL.") We went to a bookstore. We went to the grocery store. We went to Home Depot. We went to Target. I took her with me to Knit Night on Thursday. We watched movies and HGTV. We worked in the garden and walked in the woods and she showed me her town drawn of sidewalk chalk.
We redecorated her bathroom.
We ate a lot of sushi. There's a rumor that we might have had ice cream for dinner one night, with pizza for dessert. We talked and laughed and cuddled and just honestly had the best time.

I can't remember the last time I had some one-on-one time with Ana like that. And I am sorry for gushing but she is just the greatest kid! Her vocabulary just kills me--we were watching Speed Racer and she commented on the Racer's living room furniture. "Wow, those are some garish colors." (Be still, my writerly heart!) She's so smart and so funny and such a pleasure to have around. She's helpful and loving and truly, a sweet, sweet kid.

I don't know, I guess I'm not describing her very well. But dudes, this long weekend is a memory that I will cherish forever. It gets its own piece of fabric in my Cloak of Blessings.

I'm so glad that I was far enough along on the road out of unhappiness to appreciate it as it was happening, you know? I really am so incredibly blessed.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oh, the Cleverness of HER

(This is mostly a knitting post and I'm sorry for those of you who aren't knitters. Just employ your delete button and go merrily about your day.)

Y'all might have already picked up on this but I love knitting socks. I love that they are so portable that I can always have one in progress in my purse. I love that it's a relatively inexpensive project (knitting is a really expensive hobby) and I love all the beautiful sock yarn. But by far the best part of sock-knitting is the point in every sock where I turn the heel. (For those of you non-knitters who are reading along, in every sock (except for tube socks) there is a point where the sock changes direction and takes a 90 degree turn. It follows the way your leg is just going along in one direction and then takes a 90 degree turn and becomes a foot. For a sock to fit properly, the knitter has to hold her mouth just right and say a bunch of curse magic words and do some fussing with her needles and then VOILA, a heel is born.) Every time I turn the heel, I think it is MAGIC. I can't believe it has worked AGAIN. And every single time, I think, "OH, THE CLEVERNESS of ME!"

In fact, um, well, I usually say this out loud.

It's gotten to where I don't even HAVE to say it out loud, though, because as soon as I mention that I have turned the heel, my girls will say, "Oh, THE CLEVERNESS OF YOU!"

(Are they terrific or what? They're very enthusiastic about those kinds of rituals.)

Yesterday, I got to help a friend with her first sock. She actually asked ME for help, even though she has knitted whole sweaters and other things and I have...not so much. But I know my way around socks and I was as excited as a MIDWIFE to be a part of the birth of her first sock!

I sat with her while she knitted the heel flap and then we turned her heel together and I stood up and said, "OH THE CLEVERNESS OF YOU!" and she beamed and I left her knitting away at the foot.

And my whole day was just... happy. It was a happy day. Even though my ancient dog Sydney had another two accidents in the house and even though I had to go to the doctor and have blood drawn and even though Coop worked late and even though Jane (7) kind of bottomed out blood-sugar-wise before I was able to feed her dinner... it was still such a happy day.

When I told Ana (10 and a knitter) that my friend had turned her first heel, Ana said, "OH THE CLEVERNESS OF HER!" with great admiration.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pumpkin Fun

My love affair with the New York seasons continues. (Yeah, yeah, I know the winter is going to be awful. Don't rain on my fall parade.)

This weekend, we took the girls to pick their own Halloween pumpkins.

(Next year, I am SO growing my own!)

Then the girls brought them home and drew scary faces on them and, in the case of Ana, cuddled with them.
(Okay, so that is not a picture of Ana cuddling with her pumpkin. But it IS a picture of how amazingly long and tall she's gotten. Dudes, I just brought her home from the hospital. She weighed six-and-a-half pounds YESTERDAY!) Thank goodness she's still a cuddler.

Good times.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Love Thursday-ish

I know it's Saturday.

But here's the thing. Someone did something insensitive to me yesterday and it really hurt me. I'm not going to write about it because I would never use my craft to hurt someone or seek revenge, and also because, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that big of a deal. Mostly just thoughtless, with a small side of petty. But it was a bad day and my heart is still very sore and given all the other sad/stressful stuff going on in my life right now, it felt a lot like kicking me when I am already down.

So, my response is to do the thing I do when I am nervous or in despair or doubting myself. I know this will sound strange but I do this thing where I visualize the blessings of my life--all the things I cherish most-- as pieces of rich, heavy fabric. I list them out and each blessing gets its own piece of fabric. And then in my mind, I weave them into a fabulous, heavy cloak and I wrap it around myself. Nothing can touch me under that cloak.

It's kind of a cousin to the Joy Rush list, only more of a defensive measure, I guess. Because these are the things that nothing--small or large acts of ugliness, ridiculously spastic moments of embarrassment, blatant rudeness or cruelty--NOTHING can take away from me.

So anyway, here's a partial look at my list:

1. My husband. I would gush here's embarrassing. Suffice to say that he is the best man on this PLANET for me and I am so eternally grateful that, through some completely undeserved good luck, he actually seems to love me, too. The years we have been together have been the happiest of my life.

2. My kids. Every day, I get the biggest kick out of how smart and creative and beautiful they are. Again, total gifts from God. I'm such a lucky mom.

3. My family. My parents, obviously, but also my siblings. I'm one of four kids and we're not always that tightly knit. But I could make one phone call and they would all be here as soon as possible and they would have something clever to say (and in the case of my brother Tom, who is some sort of genius in criminal mischief, do) to anyone who is mean to me. I always rail against people who say that the youngest child in a family is spoiled beyond all measure but my siblings spoiled me in a whole different way. They gave me unconditional acceptance and support. I like them.

4. My friends. It's funny, it took me until I was in my thirties before I felt like I had really good female friends. One thing I've noticed through this move (and Lin moving to Colorado) is that distance makes a BIT of a difference in the frequency of communication but the friendship remains the same. I love you guys. Also, included in this category is my new knitting group, who are really the real reasons I haven't packed my bags and headed back to Texas. (Laurie, I love you with all of my heart.)

5. The Blog. I know it's sort of silly to count a BLOG in my big coat of blessings, but dudes, it's such a wonderful thing! I get to ply my beloved trade and there are people who actually love to read what I write! I have an audience! Every day, I am amazed and humbled and happy. Also, I think I pay more attention to my life because I never know when something will be blogworthy.

6. My past achievements career-wise. I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on things I did in the past but part of my cloak of blessings is the fact that I helped a LOT of people throughout my career(s). Plus, it's nice to sometimes remember that I was really good at something, especially when I fall down on a daily basis in my job as a stay-at-home mom.

7. Our pets. It's a tough time with my old dog Sydney being so near to the end of her life. And it was awful when I thought we'd lost our cat Edward after we moved up here. Cowdog Scout is something of a trial on a daily basis and Fat Cat Thomas WILL insist on coming inside to use the litter box. But, oh. I wouldn't trade a single moment with them. Not one.

8. This will be my last thing I list since I'm aware that reading about someone else's blessings may drive the average person to drink hard liquor. You long-term readers know that there are few things about me that I actually really like. But here's one: I am grateful that my fundamental response to any event is one of kindness and compassion. That's sort of a gift, you know? Because in the end, I don't end up detesting myself for having responded in anger when someone wounds me to the core. The other day, I was driving Ana home from school and she mentioned that she'd been a part of a not-very-nice thing that a group of girls had done to another girl in her class. I tried to explain to her that no matter how richly deserved, it wasn't worth it because of how it made Ana feel about ANA. Don't get me wrong, I have lashed out in anger and I have done things to hurt other people and sometimes I have to REMIND myself that this is my most fundamental response. But after 43 years, I've learned that it's a rare thing to greet stark cruelty and ugliness with understanding and kindness. And even if the person who was so ugly to me yesterday never realizes it, I have nothing but quiet compassion for him/her. (See? I'm not even giving this person's GENDER away! Dudes, I am so good at this discretion thing!) (Yeah, right.)

(And don't ask because I am not telling.) (Beyond the hours I spent hashing it out with my friends Tiffany and Lin, I mean.) (Thanks, you guys.)

So, honestly, I wouldn't even mention the whole thing now except that I thought maybe someone out there might be feeling a little down and need a way up. I'm pretty down, frankly. But I've got my cloak and I'm under it, warm and building strength to keep on going.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

When In Doubt, Make Cookies

So, I was pretty sad yesterday. I told my girls that our friend J.B. had died and they got pretty sad, too.

And then, Jane (7) had one of those ideas that will one day make her famous. (Apparently, the kid was born knowing the exact right response to sadness.) She said, "Mama, you know what we should do?"

"No, what?"

"We should make Christmas cookies."

So we did.

Naturally, the whole cookie-making process brought me face-to-face with yet another of my OCD manifestations. Because, see, it turns out that over the years? I have amassed quite the cookie cutter collection.

Ahem. (Ana's shirt says, "No Pictures, Please.")

(With me as her mother--as if. Silly girl.)

Now, 26 of those cookie cutters are the alphabet so you can't really count THOSE.

Although, what I was thinking I'd spell out in COOKIES, I have no idea. I mean, by the time you've spelled out "Too Many Sweets Will Make You Sick" you've pretty much made everyone sick, right? A simple A or J would surely have been enough.

But, (shocker) I digress. Anyway, I have a ton of cookie cutters but my girls are only just now able to really have the fun of making cookies. Up until now, I've mostly used them to cut their peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches into shapes.

Dudes, the things I do to get my kids to eat.

Here is a very popular combo: the squirrel and the acorn bigger than his ENTIRE BODY:
House and key (Key is LIFE SIZE because apparently, I have a little problem with scale):
The entire ocean food chain: (As always, you can click to enlarge the photo and then you will see that the whale is smaller than the trout.) (Why yes, that IS a trout. What?)

I think this is supposed to be a cloud but I used it as an amoeba:

Here's the state of Indiana. Which, um, I've never called home. (One of my very best friends is from Indiana and she gave that to me.)

It is interesting to note that I do NOT have a state of Texas cookie cutter, although I DO have THIS:
And of course, I have some livestock. (Note issue with SCALE again.) (Because everything is bigger in Texas! Except COWS!)

I also went through this very perplexing FRUIT phase.
And for some reason, I thought I needed every single fruit ever eaten in both large AND small.
Grapes. Although, if you look at it from another direction, it looks just like a tree being blown in the wind. I mean, doesn't it? Isn't that what you thought, too?

That last one made me laugh out loud because, dudes, how are you supposed to tell what that thing IS?
For the record, I think it is a Mango. But it might be a Rock.

There was also a bit of redundancy. Like I have the moon in profile several times. See? But then, I also have THIS:

Let's face it, all we really needed was the one that made these:

J.B, we will miss you.