Monday, January 30, 2012

Susy Homemaker

I have to admit that I went into my first knitting class with a bad attitude. Not a bad attitude like I can't do this or don't want to do this, more along the lines of I don't give a hoot. I had no intention of learning to knit- I was transportation for my child, nothing more. I would pay attention the first class and help my daughter get started if necessary, and then I would be done knitting forever. It didn't work that way.

Instructor woman droned on and on about her amazing life of knitting. She's trained with such and such person who could very well be the Michael Jordan of knitting, but I've never heard of her and don't really care. She then passed around about 20 examples of different knitting how-to books we can buy at Michaels or Hobby Lobby or JoAnn Fabrics. That was slightly entertaining because one was a leftover from the 70s and had some hilarious pictures including one of a boy slightly younger than Logan wearing an entirely knit outfit. I can't imagine a boy older than two consenting to wear knit pants! Anyway, blah,blah,blah,blah,blah.

It was finally time to start learning to knit! First, we learned to make a slip-knot. I've known how to make a slip-knot for more than 30 years, but trying to do it her way was so confusing I had to try several times. Then we learned to cast on, which is putting several knots? stitches? on one knitting needle. I happened to be sitting closest to the instructor, so she helped me first. "No, you bring the yarn around the back. No. Around the BACK!" What? Her words made no sense whatsoever and she quickly became impatient and moved on. I noticed that the woman across from me had it and I asked if I could watch her from behind so I could copy her. She taught me pretty well, but I'm a hands-on learner and have to do things like this until perfection to get them down. By the time I was practicing casting on, the instructor was ready to move on. Meanwhile, Kaylin was frustrated half to death and starting to whine. I tried to convince her I'd figure this out and then help her. I HAD to learn it myself first before I could teach her. We managed to keep calm and I tuned out the second part of the lesson so I could figure out the first. By the time I was ready to go back to the woman across from me for help with the second step, the class was over. Crap!

At this point I was angry. I mean, here's this instructor who trained with the great Carol Johnson (name made up) and she completely stinks at teaching others to knit! I learned WAY more from the woman sitting across from me! Thank goodness I didn't just send Kaylin by herself to this class! My mama bear instincts kicked in and I became furious that this instructor wasn't going to teach my baby to knit. "I" was going to have to do it myself! But how? I didn't care how, I was going to do it! And that is how I went from completely uninterested chaperon to determined to learn how to knit. Yes, I'm laughing at myself, but I'm also determined!

My boss is also taking the class and I was extremely relieved to find that she left just as confused and annoyed as Kaylin and me. She's a natural at this stuff, so I figured if anyone would get it, it would be her. Nope.

I went home and tried watching some youtube videos, but everyone cast on a different way and I got even more confused. (I'm sure there are some great ones, I just haven't been patient enough to skim through them yet.) I then decided that a book aimed at children might be the key. I dug through the recycling and found last Sunday's 40% off Hobby Lobby coupon because there was NO WAY I was going to pay full price to learn how to knit! Hobby Lobby had a Mickey Mouse "I Taught Myself to Knit" kit that came with a book, knitting needles and a bunch of fun Mickey end caps and stuff. It was labeled for ages 8 and up. Perfect.

I had a busy Saturday night and didn't look through the book, but took it to work Sunday and read it at lunch. I think I can learn to knit with this book! It has really simple instructions and color coding. It tells you exactly how to hold your needles and has diagrams to back up the words. I was so excited I took the book over to show my boss. It was probably pretty pathetic, two grown women so excited about learning how to knit from Mickey. She took the book home last night which gave me the perfect excuse to not learn to knit quite yet. I imagine tonight will be all about learning to knit and tomorrow I'll teach Kaylin. We're both supposed to knit a 9x9 inch square by next Saturday. I hope that's easier than I think it will be! :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekend Update

I'm starting a knitting class today. I have no desire to learn to knit, but Kaylin wants to and doesn't want to go to class by herself. Who knows, maybe I'll actually like it and can make Duncan a new wardrobe of doggy sweaters for next winter. Or maybe I'll hate it and ask the teacher if she'll be offended if I read a book during class time :)

Logan started a winter baseball clinic this week. There were only a few other boys, but he loves it because it's baseball. I tried to talk him into trying soccer, lacrosse or wrestling, but he doesn't want to waste any of his precious free time on sports that aren't baseball or football. That's probably a really good thing at age 9. I've heard that lacrosse equipment is incredibly expensive so I'm glad he isn't taking it up at a time he'd need new stuff every year, but I think he'd love the game. Maybe when he's older.

Otherwise, things have been busy, but not terribly interesting. The kids are going into the dreaded 3rd quarter of school that's all about preparing to take the state tests required by No Child Left Behind. Thanks for nothin', George W. Bush! Last year all of Kaylin's "extras" such as art were dropped for the quarter to make more time for test preparation. Her grades dropped noticeably because she was so bored to be learning nothing new, just constantly drilled on test-taking. What a bunch of crap! This program is a MAJOR FAIL.

I've been birding every chance I get. I've actually been listing species to keep a count of the different birds I see. I'm going to attempt to keep a monthly and a yearly list so I can look back on what birds are around at different times, but I'm a terrible lister and it's a major chore for me to remember to record this stuff! I'm currently at 43 species. I was hoping for 50 in January, but I've got all the common birds and I'm just clueless where to find those last 7. I'm not good enough at picking out an odd type of sparrow or gull from a flock. I've been reading the Illinois birding boards and people keep posting finding 67 (or some crazy high number) different species in one day. They're the ones who spend hours with their spotting scopes picking the odd black-backed gull out of the group of thousands of ring-billed gulls. I'm not that crazy. Yet.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sweater Dog

My dog loves wearing sweaters. There, I said it- the terrible truth I'm struggling to accept- I dress my dog in clothes. It can't be helped, really. Duncan is a small dog with a very short coat and he has a hard time keeping warm when it's really cold.

I've been a dog lover pretty much since the day I was born. I've loved all sizes of dogs over the years, but I've mostly gravitated toward big, friendly dogs. Big Lab and shepherd mixes who love the water and don't feel the cold. My old dog Brady loved the snow and would charge into huge drifts and roll and play. Brady would swim in water so cold I didn't even want to touch it and then get out and shake off and tear around to keep warm. If there was a patch of open water in January or February, Brady was in it. Duncan isn't a water dog at the height of summer so I'm pretty sure if he somehow fell into open water in January he'd be dead before he surfaced.

We got Duncan at the end of February last year. By the time he was settled into our house, it was early spring, so this is our first real winter together. I'm not used to wussy dogs who shiver and shake from the cold. I knew I had to get... A sweater. I found a cute reindeer sweater on Christmas clearance for less than two bucks at Walmart. I figured that it was the perfect trial sweater. If he hated it and immediately destroyed it, oh well. I assumed it would take two of us to get the sweater on Duncan. I thought he'd fight it and then work until he had it off. I couldn't have been more wrong. He did fight it a little the first time, but only because it was something new. Five minutes in the sweater and he never wanted it off. Ever.

If I take the sweater off, he brings it to me. When I put it back on he stands perfectly still as it goes over his head and then helps me get his legs in the holes. This is the same dog that gets so excited and bounces around so much it is extremely difficult for the kids to get him into his harness for a walk. Sometimes it's even hard to clip on a leash! But the sweater? I could probably dress him if I had both arms in plaster casts. That's how good he is!

I hadn't taken Duncan with me in the car for a while, so yesterday I took him with me on some quick errands. He was super-excited to get out, but it was really cold outside. He likes to prop his entire body on the passenger side dash board, but my car hadn't warmed up yet so he was literally shaking from the cold. Even with the sweater :) It was pretty funny. I'm sure I'll somehow get used to dog sweaters and at some point will no longer find them offensive, but right now? It's hard.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back to Work

I might say this every time, but I think this was my best vacation ever. It was so relaxing and fun! I had tons of time with my family both at home and away. I went birding with Meghan, had lunch with Colleen and went to a movie with Lynne. I read a couple of great books and went out looking for otters and owls by myself. I accomplished everything on my chore list, including getting a hair cut, cleaning out my car and getting an oil change.

After very limited success, I re-evaluated my vegan diet and quit. I don't think it helped with my foot pain at all and I could never have kept it up because I didn't like it. I did a bunch of research and learned that I am a protein metabolism type. That pretty much means my body requires more protein and fat, as well as more meals and snacks, than a carb metabolism type. Basically, the vegan diet I was attempting was the opposite of what my body needs. I've got a new eating plan. I really need to lose weight, but my goal of my eating plan is more to eat better and eliminate fast food and most processed food. I've now gone more than 2 months without diet soda, so that's going well. I also rejoined the gym and plan to start using stationary bikes and ellipticals soon.
Unfortunately, I was just diagnosed with bronchitis and am on an inhaler 8 times a day. It's probably not the best time to start a new exercise program. Soon.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was at Walmart today! We went and took photos and looked at the inside. Unfortunately, they were out of wiener whistles. Oh well, we have many. We each got a Wienermobile sticker, though. It's always fun to see the giant hot dog car.

I can't believe it's not just a new year, but the year I turn 40. I have some big plans and big goals for this year. It's time to make some grown-up decisions. I'm looking forward to seeing what this year brings. And dreading it a little, too...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ahhhhh, relaxation.

I went birding with Meghan on Monday morning. It was really cold and windy so we did most of our birding from the car. Most of the small ponds were already frozen over so we were a bit worried we'd have no waterfowl, but the bigger lakes at Banner Marsh and Emiquon were still open and we saw many types of ducks, geese and swans, as well as a large flock of white pelicans. We also saw plenty of bald eagles, lots of woodpeckers and a harrier. It turned out to be a pretty good birding day!

I dropped off Meghan and picked up Duncan from boarding at the vet's office. I was expecting him to be bouncing off the walls, excited to see me and go home. He wagged his tail a little, hopped in the car and slept through the 15 minute drive home. At home he curled up in my chair and slept until Gene and the kids came home and woke him up. He was happy to see them, but almost immediately found a quiet place to sleep and then slept the rest of the afternoon and evening with 5 kids tearing around the house. It was soooo weird. Duncan usually loves the car and plays with the kids nonstop! I'm guessing that he spent the entire 5 days of boarding on high alert, barking his fool head off. He was also really bony and really hungry. He normally just picks at his dog food and spends the entire day eating one bowl. He ate three bowls on Monday. I couldn't turn him down because he NEVER begs for dog food.

The kids have been having a blast with their time off. They've played and played with the neighbor kids, played video games, played with the pets and even played outside. Tomorrow we're planning a work day to clean rooms and go through some old clothes and toys. Bummer. What I really want to do is go to Chicago and look for snowy owls. I guess we can't have all play and no work. I wish all of my vacations could be this long and have this perfect mix of away time and home time!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Home Again

We're ba-ack! Following a final round of hotel waffles, my family surprised me by unanimously voting to go to the Tennessee Aquarium rather than Rock City. Our plan was to check out one last big tourist attraction before stopping somewhere in the stretch of mountains and heading home to the cats. The aquarium is very nice and has an amazing section of seahorses, but it doesn't compare to Georgia Aquarium's whale sharks, manta rays, belugas, dolphins and major amazement around every turn. Still, we had a good time. We walked around the river front a while before eating lunch at Cheeburger Cheeburger and heading out of town.

I hadn't really considered it beforehand, but traveling on a Saturday that was also New Year's Eve was excellent. There was no traffic anywhere along our route. We drove ~9 hours without seeing one cop or one accident. We drove through Nashville around 2:30 or 3pm and cruised through without slowing down. We stopped a few times for restrooms, food and gas, but mostly we just drove. And drove and drove... It was an odd drive because there were few cars and even fewer trucks. We passed rest areas and truck stops that normally would have been full to capacity and they had maybe 5 or 6 trucks. The kids were great about the boring drive and the first (and probably last) complaint I heard was when we were near Champaign.

We arrived home around 9:30pm. Logan was determined to stay up until midnight to celebrate the new year. Kaylin's a night owl and it was no challenge for her. By the time we got things unloaded and somewhat put away it was almost 11. I checked my email and immediately fell asleep in my chair. The kids woke me just before midnight. They were watching the Dick Clark ball drop thing. Wow. Dick seems to have improved since last year, but man, it's hard to watch him! We did the Happy New Year celebration and I headed to bed. The country club had their usual fireworks and Gene and the kids went outside to watch. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

It was nice to get out of town for a few days. We had a great time and now I'm looking forward to several days off at home. I hope to go birding a couple of times and just spend some quality time with my husband and kids. Of course, all three neighbor kids were over by 9am and haven't left and probably never will. We're all missing Duncan, but can't pick him up until tomorrow. It is sort of nice to be able to love on the cats as much as we want without Jealous Dog chasing them away.

Happy 2012!