Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring Break Laziness

This is the first Spring Break in years that we haven't made a cross-country road trip, usually to Arizona to visit family.  Steve and Peter are on an in-state road trip to visit colleges, and I'll be doing my flight out to Grove City in a few weeks with Peter as well, to check out the college and sing in the farewell concert for Dr. Browne.  I'm normally a productive and motivated person, but that hasn't really been happening this week.

(A pile of wool noodles, from a chunky-weight sweater I'm unraveling.  It's a metaphor).

The walking pneumnonia a few weeks ago really has been difficult to shake.  The cough is much better but the fatigue is real.  I've been feeling like going to bed around 8:30 most evenings, and so I've mostly been listening to my body on that.  I'm still drinking plenty of fluids, and I still haven't graded all of last Friday's quizzes.  That's probably going to come back to bite me sometime.

Monday there was a fair amount of housework done - vacuuming primarily.  I took the girls to Barnes and Noble and they picked out books (and Quarta picked out a "science" kit to make sour candy).  Then we went to Ikea and toured the floor, which the girls found, as I do, fascinating but exhausting, and a little too overwhelming to buy anything big.  Tuesday we went swimming at the Marshall center, which was exhausting, then a late lunch at the Pita Pit.  The amount of housework has been tapering off since Monday but a little has been done.  More than happens when I'm teaching, that's for sure.  Yesterday I accomplished very little other than beating Heroes of Kalevala and going for a massage and chiropractic adjustment.  Oh yes, and a quick grocery run.  And I dusted the TV.  The girls and I watched Jumanji in the evening, Steve called, and I yawned all my way through the phone conversation.  Yep, really exciting life right now.  If I could just get my girls hooked on a modest amount of organization progress with lots of quiet time, I could live like this indefinitely.

But there wouldn't be much to blog about.  Wait! Book reviews!  I need to do book reviews.   But I'm too tired now, and I've got a plane to meet soon.  Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Mixed emotions.  Conflicted.  That's how most moms would probably describe seeing their 17-year-old son enlist in the Army National Guard.  Good: he will finish high school and earn money for college.  Bad: he's growing up way too fast.  Well, that was going to happen anyway.
Good: he will be a weekend warrior, so it's not like he's going off to fight in the trenches.  Bad: he'll do basic training in Oklahoma this summer and miss the family reunion we've been planning for awhile now.  And I have no idea how he'll manage to do weekend warrior stuff and be a senior in high school.

Good: he scored in the 89th percentile on his ASVAB test, which means he could make a career out of it and have a lot of flexibility in choosing a job he's suited for.  Bad: of all the jobs, he chose doing things with field artillery, which means he wants to be in action on the front lines.

Good: the officer at his swearing in gave a talk about the honor and pride of serving one's country, mentioning that only a third of all applicants complete the process, and stressed the importance of a college education.  Bad:  I cried all through the swearing in ceremony.  Good: I smiled a bit to myself when I thought how my late mother would have cried through the whole thing, too.  Bad: I cried even more because she's not here to cry with me and laugh about it later.

Good: I guess since he's all grown up now (even though he's not 18 yet) I need to stop using the "Secundus" blogname.  Congratulations, Peter!  We're proud of you and you know we'll worry about you.  A lot.  So be safe.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Fools, April Goals, WIPs and Yarn-Alongs

I finished all my March goals... April Fools!
No, really.  The only goal I actually worked on at all was #3, knit the Mint Chocolate sweater to the halfway point.  It might be halfway, but I'm not that confident.  I also worked a tiny bit - microscopic - on the string star quilt.  I didn't expect everything that happened in March... the walking pneumonia, the son enlisting in the National Guard, which looks like it's really going to happen.  The coyote in the back yard -- turns out it was actually a dingo.  The neighbor kids' pet dingo.  Who is supposedly good with cats.  Yeah.  It was that kind of month.  I pretty much gave up on the crafting.

I read a lot of books - most recently The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, and Keep it Pithy by Bill O'Reilly.  Never say I am not eclectic.  I'm overdue for a book review day sometime soon.

I may not be sewing much, but Quarta whipped this little table-topper scrap quilt up Sunday afternoon while I was napping.  It was from some scraps from that epic estate sale I went to last year, and she just improvised it up.  Pretty cool for an 11-year-old.
She's made three quilts so far.

So, should I even bother to set goals for April?  Let's just modify the March goals:

  1. Knit the body of the sweater.  Sleeves can be another month.
  2. Make small progress on the string star.
  3. Make small progress on the machine quilting of Farmer's Wife.
  4. Do a spring cleaning of the sewing area.
I'm really looking forward to Spring Break next week.  I hope to get rid of the last of the pneumonia cough and have lots of time to read and craft.  I've been too tired to stay up later than 9:30 most nights lately.  Steve will be taking Secundus on college visits and I will try to keep the girls from going stir crazy here while not actually doing much.  It sounds wonderful to me, but I'm afraid the natives will be restless.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Randomday - Walking and Whooping with a little Barking

I'm calling Randomday in the middle of the week.

Last week around this time I came down with the worst cough of my life.  I get hoarse, sore throat frequently during the winter months, aggravated by teaching and allergies, and I'm prone to getting a cold that lingers and turns into an annoying dry cough.  This was different... it came with chest congestion and severe fits of coughing that were only kept barely manageable through parent-teacher conferences by frequent cups of hot tea and nearly constant consumption of cough drops.

Did you know that the newer Halls cough drops have "pep talks" on the wrappers?  "Flex your can-do muscle."  "Impress yourself today."  Mildly amusing.

Anyway, Monday I had next to no sleep and had to excuse myself twice from the classroom to go outside to cough because I was afraid I'd throw up in front of the 8th graders.  And there is no worse nightmare, unless it is ... something else that could happen from coughing too hard in front of the 8th graders.  But anyway, I dragged myself to the doctor afterwards and he prescribed antibiotics.  It should be treated like walking pneumonia or whooping cough, he said.  Personally I'm going with walking pneumonia because it sounds cooler, and I've had my shots for whooping cough.  But I've been doing plenty of whooping too.  Yesterday I stayed home and rested, which I desperately needed, and today I'm feeling almost human again but very tired.  Quarta's got the punies though, so she stayed home today.

I have been drinking so much hot tea with lemon that I'm a little sick of it.  This is a strange thing for me, because I love hot tea.

I'm also supposed to put Vicks on my chest and the soles of my feet.  It brings back mildly unpleasant childhood memories, but putting it on the feet is new and intriguing.  It actually seems to help.  I have no idea why.

Tomorrow is the final exam in all three of my Latin classes.  And then grading.  I did a bit of knitting while lying in bed resting, but things will probably be quiet on the blog front for several days as I cope with catching up and grading.

We had an unidentified dog in our backyard today.  Steve thought it was a German Shepherd but when I saw it it was too small and looked more like... a coyote.  Do coyotes come into backyards during the daytime in the close-in suburbs in the rainy parts of the Northwest?  And this one was barking at me, not howling.  But I googled "Do coyotes bark?" and apparently, their Latin name is "canis latrans", which means, of course, barking dog.  I don't know.  But I just fetched Bilbo back inside for the night, just in case.  Smudge will have to fend for himself, but he's probably safe in his hidey-hole.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook, "If a man speaks in a forest and there is no woman there to hear, is he still wrong?"  So I quipped back... "That depends... if he's in the forest because he was too proud to ask for directions, then yes."

And that is all the brilliance I have to share for the foreseeable future.

Friday, March 21, 2014

3-21 World Down Syndrome Day

It's one of those under-appreciated holidays today: World Down Syndrome day, and I'm posting in honor of my daughter, "Tertia," who is 14 now and never fails to make my day brighter, just by being who she is.  At birth, the nurses said, they could tell she had an extra copy of chromosome #21 just by her "floppiness" and low muscle tone, and a certain slant to her eyes.  It took me a little longer and a lot of research before I could understand and accept that diagnosis, but I can say in all honesty now that the Down Syndrome diagnosis is only a small piece of our daily lives.  However, it's a piece that we can't ignore.  It's always there, and how we respond to the unique challenges the diagnosis brings will have a measurable impact on her life.

Tertia goes to a special education class for 8th grade with a more intensive academic focus than some. She has some classes (choir, dance, art) with the general population of her school and has genuine friends in that group as well as her own special class.  As you can see, she still is in her Disney princess phase, but fills the calendar with notes about concert, plays, and friends' birthdays.  Speaking of birthdays, she has an uncanny ability to remember them.

Things to be grateful for:

  • She was born in the information age.  Answers to questions about medical care, education, social services and support groups are only a few internet searches away.  
  • The Down syndrome community itself is generous and supportive.  While I was still in the hospital, unsure how to process the information I was getting, I received calls from two different moms whose children had the same diagnosis, with lots of realistic encouragement for me.  It was so much better than the printed booklets the hospital handed out that there is simply no comparison.  I've been able to pay that forward a few times for other new moms and there is no better feeling.
  • No routine institutionalization anymore, at least not in America.  I just spoke with a man my age who never met his own sister until he was an adult himself.  I can't even imagine.
  • Modern health care, advances in education, and overall, a more tolerant and accepting attitude toward people who are "different".  
Things to be concerned about:
  • Prenatal testing.  It is possible now to diagnose Down syndrome very early in pregnancy, and frequently those mothers experience subtle or not-so-subtle encouragement to abort such a pregnancy.  I heard that an expert in Denmark proclaims his country will be Down syndrome free in another decade or so.  As if that's a good thing.
  • Newborns with Down syndrome in most modern countries have a very good expectation of a happy, healthy and productive life.  But in some countries, in Eastern Europe particularly, institutionalization at birth is still the norm.  Unless these children are adopted (usually not by someone from their birth country) they face transfer from orphanage to mental asylum sometime before they turn 18, and almost certain decline and death shortly after that.  This is a tragedy that few in America are aware of.  Check out Reece's Rainbow for more information on how anyone can help fund grants to adoptive parents.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yarn-Along, and a teeny bit of Work in Progress

It's Wednesday again and I have a bit of progress to report.
I have officially separated the stitches for the sleeves from the ones for the rest of the sweater.  I think I finally got the math right and it's just more or less basic knitting from here.  This is Mint Chocolate, a free Drops pattern that I am heavily modifying.  The yoke alone was my Ravelympics project.  All the yarn has been sitting unloved in my stash for too long, but I like the combination of colors.  Now for the slow process of knitting the rest of the sweater.

Over last weekend Steve helped me figure out what has been going wrong with my Amazon links.  See, I signed up for the Amazon associates program, which means that if anyone wanted to click through to Amazon and order through the link on the right sidebar, or from any individual product link I put in the text of a blog post, a portion of the order would benefit our family.  But something about Blogger didn't get along with Amazon, and none of my links were actually good.  So after Steve's tutorial, I'm going to try to put in the links for the books I've been reading.  Hopefully the links from here on will be good... I enjoy writing about books, but I just don't have terribly good computer skills!

I've been listening to the audiobook version of Brandon Sanderson's fantasy novel Elantris.  Daniel and I attended Sanderson's book signing a few weeks ago for his latest novel, and I've read The Rithmatist, a much shorter book for the YA market.  Elantris is an interesting world of political and religious intrigue, where the main character, a prince, wakes up one morning to find himself dead - or something very like it.  It's long, though.  66 chapters, but who's counting?

Another book I'm still slogging through is Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles.  Ancient history is always fun for me.

In quilting, a teeny tiny bit of progress: Celtic Solstice is just a few long border seams away from being a finished top.  Twelve border seams, actually.  Still, not too much more to go.  And I've begun the slow and painstaking process of seaming together the diamonds for the Rainbow String Star I'm working on, inspired by the Santa Fe String Star in Bonnie Hunter's book String Fling.  Very excited about how this one looks in my mind's eye, anyway!

Check out the other linkups at Ginny's Yarn-Along and Lee's WIP Wednesday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Design Wall Monday

 My mother-in-law brought this quilt over yesterday for me to pin.  She says she enjoyed piecing it so much, she plans to do another, larger one.  I guess that's the measure of a successful quilt pattern!
This last week I finally got a chance to sew together the pieced borders for Celtic Solstice.  I'm thinking of a yellow fabric for the spacer borders.  I was hoping to have this together by now but not quite.  (Wouldn't it be nice to finish Celtic Solstice on St. Patrick's Day?  Oh well.)  Also, I started piecing the diamonds into strips for my rainbow String Star.  I still have plenty of string units to piece for that one too.  So, still no finished stash to report.

I went to knit night at Starbucks tonight (just got back) and finally divided for the sleeves on my yoked sweater.  I had some math challenges with working out the number of stitches for the pattern for awhile but I think I have reached the point where I know how to knit it from here.