Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy Halloween, early

We've already had Trick-or-Treat twice, and it isn't even officially Halloween yet. Last week was the Halloween Festival at Liam's school. We've all been sick since last week, so I didn't get a chance until the day of the Festival to put Liam's costume together. Liam went through a gamut of costume possibilities before finally settling on a Viking. Not sure where that came from, but he was certain that was what he wanted to be.

So I wracked my brain to come up with ideas on how to pull it off, as I couldn't find any boy-sized costumes in the stores. I did manage to find a hat, though it was adult sized. Down to the local craft shop I went in search of fur and leather cord, and this is the result:

Jonah reprised "Wilbert" the Lion as worn by Liam for two (I think?) Halloweens. I had planned to make him a matching Viking outfit, but time ran out before I could manage.

A majorly nasty weather system is on its way through our area, so the forecast for today was to be in the 30s with rain/snow mix. I really figured that TOT would be out for tonight, and the two bags of candy I bought would completely go to waste (well...I would eat it, which would be bad). We had the gamut today. It rained heavily yesterday through this morning. The wind picked up and was in the 20-30+ mph range. The rain let up and then we had periodic showers. Then it thundered...and hailed. Then it snowed. Finally...just in time for the 6 pm kickoff, the weather broke, and the rain/snow/hail mix stopped. There was even a break in the clouds for a bit. The wind, however, did not stop, but that certainly did not deter the kids. I think we had a record-breaking turnout here. We went through all but 3 snack-size candy bars. The boys and I made the rounds of the big block, and both boys came away with full bags of candy. There was still time after we arrived home to hand out to more TOT'ers, and I think Liam enjoyed that just as much as going door to door.

Here's the boys in their costumes with the wind blowing back poor "Wilbert's" mane:

Yep...them horns sure do fit that expression. Look for him in a Capital One commercial coming soon!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Today is October 23. I'm usually pretty cognizant of the date toward the end of this month, not because of the ghoulish happenings of Halloween approaching (with costume deadlines and the such), but for other reasons. It was 11 years ago today that my dad was killed in a work-related accident. It still doesn't seem possible to be that long ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. I still think of him every day.

As each year passes, I get more and more saddened by the things he's missed. The things that as a little girl, I imagined him being there for. My graduating from college, my wedding, the births of my children. Those who know me know I'm not a particularly religious person (I do like to think that I am at least a spiritual person, though), and at 30, I still haven't decided what I truly believe, other than I should try to be the best person I can be and that surely there is something out there beyond us. It would be comforting to think that my dad could still see me and know that I'm happy, healthy, and mostly whole in his absence.

On the other hand, while he's not here, I am proud that I've done some of the things he had hoped for me. I finished college, for one. Apparently, I'm not done with school yet, either. I found a kind, handsome, decent, intelligent, hardworking man who treats me as an equal (heck, he really puts me on a pedestal, to be true) and married him and was welcomed into his family. I became a mother. My father has grandchildren who know about who he was, even though they never got to meet him. I have sons, and as I watch them grow, I know that someday they may be fathers too. And maybe they'll have daughters. And maybe they'll go hiking together and have late night work-outs and play silly computer games like Civilization where they beat up on the Zulus.

My father lives on in me and in the things I do with my children and in the stories I tell about him. He lives on in my and my children's physical being, a little bit of his genetic character passed on. While much of me physically is reminiscent of my mother and her side of the family (love those strong Davis genes!), I still see bits of him in me. And that is comforting, too. So while I miss him and selfishly feel sad for the things he's not here for, I will keep on being positive about the time we did have together and make sure to spend that quality of time with the ones I still have here because that would honor his memory better than anything else.

And so to honor him today, I'll share something about him that I've always admired. The man could fix just about anything. At least I thought so. As I was passing through the reference section at the library the other day, I thought of him. He always had the Chilton's auto manuals floating around the house for whatever vehicles we happened to own. Well, and my grandma's for that matter, as he used to work on her car quite a bit. If there was a problem with the cars, my father never took it to a mechanic. He fixed it himself. He would jack up the car, get on his already greasy work duds and climb under for a look. He would completely disassemble things and put them back together. And they worked. He built picnic tables and saw horses, and one summer we erected a privacy fence. My dad was a real do-it-yourself kind of guy, and I really admired that about him.

I like to think that it's a trait that he's instilled in me. I'm the one who seems to initiate the home improvement around here. The neighbors find it amusing. One of the lady neighbors told me one day, "Really. You've got to stop it. You're making the rest of us look bad." Not long ago another neighbor quipped, "So I'm betting you'll be out here working, squat and have a baby, and get on with whatever it is you're doing, eh?" I'm the only girl on the block who gets out in the front yard with the shovel, wheelbarrow, level, and tools and says, "gee...think I'll do a retaining wall." I'd do more if I were allowed to use power tools (and if there were freaking time), but I kinda got banned from those after a little hedgetrimmer accident. Did you know those will cut through extension cords? Oh, and your finger if you're busy chatting with your spouse while using them? Want in on a secret? I still have a few power tools...and I plan to use them. Though I'll likely leave the auto repair to the experts at the dealer.

Love you daddy...miss you bunches.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Making the rounds and more dolls

The funk seems to be making the rounds yet again. Liam came down with a fever this morning and has been complaining of the usual cold symptoms. He spent most of the day laying around looking pretty sad and pathetic. Poor little guy. The rest of us are going to get on the ball this time and try to avoid catching the latest plague. Lysol here I come!

After spending the day in Pennsylvania yesterday doing some outlet shopping for hubby, we came home to an empty house again. The kiddos stayed one more night with the grandparents, since we weren't due to get home until way after their bedtime, and they came home for breakfast this morning. That meant plenty of time for me to work on crafty things yesterday and today.

I'm plugging along in Kinder Dolls, making each one and trying to decide what I like making the best. The author recommends starting with the smallest/simplest dolls and working your way up to the more difficult dolls. Makes sense, I'd say.

So here's the first little doll:

It has flannel for the body and a wool head covered in knit fabric. The hair is mohair that I sewed on in a swirl pattern. Not too bad, but awful fiddly to make because of the small size.

And here's the second one I made today:

This one is made using fabric from an old hooded baby towel. I always thought they were too thin to actually use to dry the baby off and keep him/her warm, but I think that it makes great fabric for dolls! The inner head is a wrapped wool ball covered with gauze stockinette, and I sewed the hat onto the head after stuffing the head inside the doll body. I tied little knots in the ends of the arms and on the hat. This will make a great teething doll for a baby. Not sure whether I want to hang onto this one or not. I can tell you that I will be making more! I think thrifted baby towels will work great for this once I run out....and I can see making smaller ones, too, and maybe from other stretchy fabrics. The nice thing is you could throw these in the gentle cycle and wash them, since the wool head is fairly well felted.

I found a trick to making the heads for these dolls. The heads need to be pretty firm, and I've always had a hard time pulling the wool batting tight enough as I wrap it to get it hard enough without it breaking it. Yesterday, I picked up a Clover needle felting tool and mat at the knitting store (along with a couple other things :P). I used that as I added layers of wool to help ensure that it stayed firm enough. I think it works pretty well. I'm thinking if I can get decent light sometime soon (we are going toward winter, after all, so it's mostly gray and dark now), I'll put together a photo tutorial.

Oh, boy...on to the next!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My little angel now I'm getting completely out of control. I got out some unspun wool today and did this:

I'm thinking I'm gonna make a whole boatload of them for our tree this year...and some for the Children's Festival. They're so easy to make, and man, are they soft. for the Children's festival, I'm thinking I'll make those, some small dolls, and who knows what else I'll try to throw in before the end of November. Somebody stop me!!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Full of inspiration

I had the day pretty well to myself today. The little guy stayed the night at the grandparents' place last night, and once I dropped the big guy off at school this morning, I was without child...well, on the outside anyway. I had to do some prep work for a teachback this afternoon, so that took up the bulk of my day, but once that was finished, I didn't have anything else pressing to do.

I slowly perused the school bookstore this morning, as I didn't have an extra set of hands dismantling the wooden toy display, and somehow I managed to come out of the store with felt in every color under the rainbow, more doll skin fabric, cotton velour in two shades, and some felting wool.

I'm so inspired right now by the absolute explosion of color going on that I just must create. For some reason this year, whatever combination of sun, rain, and temperature has yielded one of the most stunning fall displays I can remember. The trees around here all seem to have turned nearly simultaneously, rather than the trees changing color so slowly that they're half naked before they're done metamorphosing. So many of the leaves aren't just one color, either. They run in gradation from the stem to the tips, green to gold, crimson, or red. The gray skies around here as of late just seem to make the colors pop so much more crisply.

So first, here's a small taste of the color around here. The weather was wet for most of the day today, so snapping these pictures was tricky. It may have involved some rapid fire shooting while pausing at stop signs/stop lights, etc., so there may be a bit of windshield haze.

So tonight after getting home, being sans little ones, I immediately hopped into creative mode. I pulled out all the goodies I picked up today and started working on the Mother Earth from Crafts through the Year. I've never made a doll from nothing but unspun wool before, so this was a new skill, and the instructions were a bit ambiguous. I had a hard time getting it all sorted out, but I don't think she turned out too bad for a first go at it.

This is what she's supposed to look like (sorry for the lousy pics, but it's the middle of the night here, and it's a little dark):

And this is what I came up with (phone included for scale):

And a side view:

She turned out very, um, roomy. I had a hard time getting her head as round as it needed to be. I think her bottom is supposed to be round too (but maybe not so fat or tall?). I think it's all in my technique. Unfortunately, I can't think of anyone off the top of my head to ask to see what I could do differently next time. I'll have to scout around at school to see if someone has made these kind of dolls before (and I'm sure someone has...). Because there is nothing securing the wool down (wool is "sticky" and unspun wool will "stick" to itself), she's very soft, squooshy, and fragile -- wispy even. Definitely not a doll for the kiddos to play with. I made her in typical fall colors - dark green and burgundy. She has brown cuffs on her sleeves and golden hair (the colors aren't exactly true in the pic b/c of the flash). She's now perched in our nature scene, making sure the gnomes don't get out of hand.

The school's Children's Festival is coming soon, and some of the parents are going to get together and sell some of their handmade crafts. I may just have to make a few things to put out. Hmm.....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Belly and the baby of the moment

I'm overdue in posting pics of my growing waistline. Hard to believe I'm already in my 29th week. Gads, it has just flown! Baby girl is very active and loves playing tag with momma already. Hubby keeps telling me to leave her alone, that I'll make her mean, but I reiterate that I used to do the same thing with the other two we have, and well, they're not mean. Besides, I read somewhere that their little brains are doing lots of growth in-utero and the stimulation of touch is an important way to help grow smart brains.

I'm definitely the "Queen of Roundness" around here at the moment. It was definitely hard to capture these self-portraits. Had to turn the flash off, so they aren't the most crisp, but at least it beats the "sun is exploding out of my head" shots that you get with the flash on.

Belly, what belly? I'm not pregnant at all...

Oh, you mean that belly. Yup. Definitely a watermelon or something growing in there. Knew I shouldn't have eaten those seeds this summer.

I had an audience while composing these photos. Ms. Nosybritches was in the bathroom hoping that I would brush my teeth so she could hop on my shoulder and catapult herself into the sink. Luckily, she realized she could use the kids' basket of bath toys as a jumping block instead of me.

Turn the water on already, lady. Can't you see I'm dying of thirst?


Girlfriend's favorite post-fight with the spigot activity is to come snuggle her wet self up in my arms. Usually her head, neck, and paws are wet from losing the fight with the water (and I don't think any actually ends up in her belly, either), and she shoves them up under my neck and kneads her paws. Luckily, I don't mind purring, soggy cat much.

Oh, I love you mommy...

Gettin' felt

Today's been a crafty kind of day. Thursday mornings are usually handwork group at Liam's school, and I wasn't really planning on going today on account of the frog in my throat, but at Jonah's insistence ("Can we go play in Ms. 'uhberta's room?"), and the fact that I had my knitting bag with me, I begrudgingly went. I really didn't get that much done, as I'd stopped by the school store and picked up a couple of books (Crafts through the Year, The Nature Corner, and The Children's Year), and I ended up thumbing through those most of the time. Mmmm....ideas, ideas....

I originally borrowed The Nature Corner from Liam's teacher so I could get some ideas for doing a nature table, which is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I picked up dark taupe-colored silk on sale at the craft store last weekend along with some chocolate colored silk (man, if I were good at sewing, I would so wear more silk), dried flowers, and a few gourds. I put them out on the top of the little bookshelf in our front room next to my little fountain, and Jonah helped add a few leaves. I also added Liam's felted shooting star for Michaelmas and a random hazelnut gnome (the green one I made today) I found that he'd helped make last year. There are two wheat grass wreaths. One Liam made in class, and one that I made in Parent/Child class with Jonah. The plan is to make more dolls and scenes for the nature table as the season progresses and have less store bought type things. I really need to hurry up and get a jump on the upcoming Advent season. But here's what we have so far:

I'd bought the materials a while ago to make dolls (some time early last spring), but nothing ever came to fruition. Today, I finished these:

The pink pocket pal is about 2 1/2" tall (not including the hat) and has a wool-wrapped wire body with wood beads for hands and feet, and His Highness is about 4" to the top of his crown and is a wooden doll pin covered in felt. Both patterns came from the book Feltcraft, which I bought at the same time as the felt.

And just to prove I'm still in Sock Wars, though my imminent demise has been forewarned by way of socks from the UK, here is a picture of what I've got so far of my Socks of Doom!

I really need to get these done, as my current target has already had to knit 3 pairs of socks, bless her heart!

I'm really feeling into making dolls right now and not so much on the knitting...not sure why. I need to sit down and priortize what I'd like to get done before the season really starts to change...the Children's Festival is coming at school, and I'm sure I'll have more inspiration and more things to make for that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sick Bunnie

A plague has descended upon us. Not locusts or anything else of biblical proportions. Just your run of the mill cold virus that we all seem to be passing back and forth to each other. After sucking Sootherbs like a madwoman for the past week, I finally succumbed a few days ago to the funk, though not as badly as I might have if I hadn't been hitting the echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C like a junkie. While hubby may find my come hither voice attractive, I rather think I sound like a honking frog. I do seem to be on the mend, though, so hopefully I'll be better by this weekend.

There hasn't been much knitting or anything else around here lately either. It's been all declutter, all the time. The only silver lining to the clouds that I'm seeing is that I finally feel like I'm making a bit of progress. Finally. When MIL showed up this afternoon, the living room was trashed. Toys ran amuck along with the children, fur tumbleweeds blew past in the wake, and I'm not exactly sure what that was stuck to floor, but I think it may have been a fruit snack. Maybe. A mere 20 minutes or so of actual work, and the front room was neat, vacuumed, and totally presentable by the time hubby arrived home. This used to be an all afternoon process. I can walk in the laundry room and only a couple of baskets actually have clothes that could be washed in them. I could probably wait till this weekend to catch up on that and do maybe 3 or so loads total. The bathrooms only need a swish and swipe, and I can finally see my desk upstairs. I keep meaning to take before and after pictures, just so I can amaze myself with the amount of work that is getting done, but I'm afraid that if the pictures got out, the Clean House hostess would show up at my door, and I'd have to strangle her with her extensions. Have you seen this show? She's really perfectly nice, I'm sure, but I bet they'd want me to get rid of some yarn, and well....them's fighting words.

Our new cat is a complete nut. She's totally addicted to newspaper wads. Just the sound of the paper tearing will bring her out of a dead sleep on another floor. She doesn't have a very loud meow, and really it's more a squeak than anything else. So she'll squeak at me until I tear off and throw the wad of paper, and then she takes off after it at high speed. Once she gets it she'll carry it around, but I haven't figured out how to teach her to fetch yet. At this point, I keep having to tear off new wads to keep her satisfied. I so need to catch her on video and post it to YouTube. If I'm not careful, she will ambush me in the bathroom when I'm brushing my teeth just so she can get to the sink while the water is still running. I turned toward the door the other night with brush in mouth and caught her midflight out of the corner of my eye. She was up the side of my nightgown and up on my shoulder before I knew it. She's also a big snuggler. Loves to tuck her head into the crook of my neck and knead it to death while I love on her, all the while making smacking sounds. Probably from being abandoned as a baby. Poor thing.

Anyway, I really do promise pictures this week. Of knitting...of kids...of the belly...Just have to find the camera. One thing about decluttering. Gotta remember where I put stuff!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Indian summer

The weather today was absolutely beautiful. Patchy clouds and sun, warm temps (mid 70s), and just a bit of a breeze. Lovely. I wanted to take advantage, as tomorrow it's scheduled to rain, and then it will cool off a fair bit. So the boys and I elected to go for a hike at one of the Metro Parks, and we all had a great time.

Fall is so bittersweet for me. I love the changing colors of the trees, and how they seem to be on fire when the sun shines through them. I love fall hiking, as the weather is just warm enough to be out without a jacket when you're doing physical activity. I do enjoy the crispness of the autum air, though I'm never happy about the extra clothing that it usually requires, particularly this year, as maternity pants and I do not get along (why, oh why, don't more designers make talls more readily available?). What I dislike is knowing that this season precedes the season when everything goes to sleep; short, gray and cold days stuck indoors and having to bundle everyone up for even short trips outdoors along with thoughts of dreading the upcoming holiday shopping (ick!!). Fall also marks the season that my dad died, so though it was one of his favorite seasons, I always miss him so much more this time of year.

One of his favorite things to do with us when we were kids was to go hiking. We lived a short distance for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with its miles of long, winding hiking trails. You seriously could get lost in these trails. Some of them led across the tops of the sand dunes with tall prarie type grasses, the hills sloping quickly down to the beach. Some days we'd come out across those and go along the beach for a while, making shoe prints in the sand and skipping a few rocks before returning back to the woods. My sister and I used to think we hated going hiking, and we'd balk every time he'd bring it up as an option for something to do together. Bribery with ice cream was often involved, but now, I so cherish those moments with him and truly know that I did not hate fact, I loved it. The chance out in the quiet of the trees to share my innermost thoughts and dreams with my dad and then getting his loving advice to my problems. He had such an appreciation for nature, and I so want to instill this in my children. To have them love it, revere it, not take it for granted, and to have it be such a part of their lives that they couldn't imagine not enjoying it.

So today, I decided we should go for a hike. Part of what I love about where we live is the multitude of parks that we have to choose from. The Cuyahoga River cuts through this area and provides an opportunity for various types of recreation. The Towpath trail is fantastic for hiking and biking, though I think I prefer to bike that one, yet there are enough other dedicated hiking trails of various lengths and grades that anyone could find one to their liking. One of our favorites in the Metro Parks cuts through the old Portage Trail that the Indians used to carry their canoes from one river to another. This trail is over 2 miles long, and after doing the 1/2 mile scenic overlook trail, we decided not to do the whole trail.

My favorite part of the trail runs right along the river, and there's a picnic area with benches. One of the benches sits right at the water's edge, so we stopped there for a while. The boys tried skipping stones, looking for treasures, and picking out leaves that were showing their best fall colors. Liam found a flat shale-type rock shaped like the state of Ohio. Jonah's favorite rocks were the ones so big that he couldn't possibly fit them in his pockets, though he tried repeatedly.

All too soon, the sun was setting, and it was time for us to go. It really made me smile when Jonah kept repeating, "I love hiking." He was definitely reluctant to leave. "But I want to hike more," he would protest. Liam, on the other hand, while he seems to really enjoy the hiking, has the capacity to realize when he's becoming fatigued and knows that it's time to turn around.

As we were getting to the trail today, there were two young cats, really not far removed from their kittenhood, who were sitting on the curb of the parking lot watching the wildlife. When they saw us get out of the van, they came over to greet us, one of them quite loudly. One was a male with white and brown patches that had swirls of dark tabby colors in them. The other was a female marmalade tabby, much like our Neely, only more orange in hue. At first they were shy, hanging back and just calling to us while we took a bathroom break. Once we came out, they got a little braver and started following us to the trail, calling out as if to ask us to come back and pay them some attention....or likely bring them some food. This park was fairly far removed from any housing, so the likelihood that they were someone's pets out for a traipse was pretty unlikely. They seemed like they had been fairly well fed and were pretty clean, so I'm assuming they probably had not been out there for too long. Someone had probably abandoned them there, which really broke my heart. I hoped that by the time we returned that they would be gone, so I wouldn't have to feel guilty about not feeling like there was anything I could do for them.

When we finished our hike and arrived back at the parking lot, the two cats greeted us like old friends and followed us wherever we were going. Now I was really feeling bad...Crazy cat lady, yes I am. I would have brought them home if it weren't for the fact that I'd likely be disowned. Not good to be out on the streets when you're in your 7th month of pregnancy. So I ushered the boys to the car and got them buckled in, told them to say goodbye to the kitties, and made them the promise that I would try to find a shelter to take them to when we got home, particularly since they were so friendly (and thus probably adoptable). Around the corner at the scenic overlook trail, I spotted a park ranger and then made a quick turn into the parking lot. Sprinting from my car (yup, I can still move pretty fast if I have to!), I got his attention and told him about the poor deserted animals. Hopefully there is something he can do for them. I will likely go back tomorrow just to make sure they've been rescued...and if not, I've got a few numbers now that I can call to see if I can find these poor little guys a home. Other than with me.