Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shopping With A Princess

First, let me say that I've always wanted a daughter. I mean, from the time I was very little, I always wanted to be a mom, and I always wanted a daughter. Karma apparently felt that I needed to prove myself first, and gave me four boys before I had a beautiful baby girl.

Here's where the problem started. Boys and girls are different! Yeah, I know, but they're REALLY different! The latest example came today when I took the princess to buy new sandals.

When you buy boys sandals, you find something that fits and that they can get on themselves - then you go get ice cream.

When you buy sandals for a girl, it's a full day activity. First we had to make sure that her outfit matched (down to the underwear), then we had to decide which shoes we would wear to go buy shoes. Then, we changed clothes again (including the underwear, which must match the outfit). Then we had to complain and whine that mom hadn't painted our toe nails as had apparently been promised some time last night when mom was half asleep. Then we had to fix our hair, including a barrette that matched the clothes we had chosen.

Next, we're off to the shoe store, which is in the mall, and which was also just past the Big Dog store, which was having a sale. So, after 35 minutes in the Big Dog store, and selecting shirts for all of our brothers and our dad, and whining that we didn't get the dog a squeaky toy, we were off for the shoe store.

Oh no, there's the Gymboree store! Luckily the shoe store was across from Gymboree so that shopping trip was averted.

Once in the shoe store, we must remind ourselves that we are there to buy ONE pair of SANDALS. Nothing else. Yes, I know that those shiny pink shoes are pretty. Yes, that pair of sparkly tennis shoes would go great with the new ice cream cone shirt. No, those cowboy boots don't come in the correct size.

Wow, there are a lot of sandals in the store. This is the first time I've ever been glad that my kids have wide feet. That seriously limits the number of shoes we can try on. Unfortunately, that still leaves 14 (not kidding) pairs of sandals to try on. There was quite a bit of cajoling required, but we finally settled on a nice, simple pair of white sandals. We wanted these sandals, but since they wouldn't go with some of our clothes, and since mom wasn't willing to buy two pairs of sandals, we agreed to the white ones.

Only a few more months and it will be time to go buy new tennis shoes. Sounds like a great daddy/daughter activity.....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Planning For Next Year

We started using Sonlight this year. To make things easier, I put the reading for the year on an excel spreadsheet and just labeled the days. We eliminate some books, add other books, and don't do school everyday - so it seemed easiest to just label the days by number rather than the more detailed way Sonlight does their schedule.

Everything is going well. The boys like their reading, and since it's on the schedule, they know exactly what they have to do every day. Next year for ds3, there were quite a few books that I was planning to eliminate, so I really needed to fill in the gap. Since he likes Genevieve Foster's other books, I decided to smoosh in the Beautiful Feet schedule that corresponds with his Sonlight for next year.

The actual added cost was minimal, since we had most of the books anyway. It also added minimal effort on my part - just configuring the new books to fit into the old schedule. I think I've got it right. I was able to split the new books up and insert them where the yucky books were previously taking up valuable space.

Hope it works out. I keep the schedules on the computer, and make any adjustments as we go along. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that for the next child in line, I will just have to pull out the grade box of books, print a schedule and purchase the consumable workbooks. Here's to hoping that my planning actually works for once, and doesn't just contribute to the downfall of humankind :o)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ikea's Mistake is My Gain

We've been wanting a new couch for ages. We've been eyeing the couches at Ikea for about a year. They're not too expensive, and they have slip covers! The idea of being able to wash our couch is so blissful that even when I started hinting that I'd really, kinda like the pink and green stripes, dh went along with it.
So, on Thursday, while flipping through the junk mail I found an Ikea coupon for this weekend. The coupon said "20% off purchases over $100" which seemed much too good to be true, but I pulled it out anyway. I called dh and told him about the coupon, and suggested that this weekend might be just the right time to get a new couch. He suggested I call ds1 and see if he'd also gotten the same junk mail, so that we could use two coupons, just in case it was 20% off of a single purchase.
Also, Ikea has a deal going on that if you put a purchase over $400 or so on an Ikea card, you can pay it off interest free for a year. We don't have an Ikea card, but that didn't deter our shopping. When you get to the store, there's a little kiosk to sign up for an Ikea card, so I signed up (and got one!).

Long story short, we have a new couch, loveseat, chair and two ottomans! It makes me feel like a newlywed - buying new furniture. The only new furniture we've ever purchased was a rocking chair, a mattress and furniture for the kids. Pretty much everything else came into the marriage with one of us.

We've been married a long time, and I've always wanted a new couch. DH had the couch when we got married, and I've never loved it. For the past several years, I haven't even been willing to sit on it - it's just not comfortable to me. It's also been through two teenage boys, three younger siblings and a slew of dogs. It's been sewn up more times than I can count, and one of the cushions finally fell off and fell apart, and is currently housed in a king sized pillow case - and leaving a little trail of foam crumbs in it's wake.

So, now, like a real grownup, I have a new sofa. We're getting the room ready - we have a lot of rearranging to do to fit it in, but it will be worth it. And all at 20% off!!!

And, since I still have the coupon that ds1 saved for me, we're going back to get a second set of slip covers for the sofa (I'm thinking beige for the sofa and pink for the chair - definitely "moms" chair), and probably a chair for dh. He really wants this wacky chair - it'll make him feel like Captain Tight Pants and I'm sure he'll love it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Hectic Life

Sometimes we all just need a little Serenity.

We have tennis today. The kids all love it, therefore I am willing to drive the 30 miles each way to take them there. It is so rare that all of my children actually like the same activity. So far, the only things that fit into this framework are tennis and their art/music classes.

While tennis is quite far from our house, we continue to go because the teacher is fabulous and the price is great. It even balances out when I figure the gas cost into the equation. Next year (September), the tennis teacher said that she would be happy to teach a class on our side of town, but I'll need to find a core group of kids willing to go every week. When I mentioned this to dh, he said that was great, I wouldn't have to make the trek every week. What dh doesn't understand is that we would then be taking tennis lessons twice a week.

The boys already take their tennis rackets with them to their art/music classes so that we can go to a local park and play on the tennis courts. They also beg us every weekend to go play tennis with them. It's fun (although dh and I end up huffing and puffing), but since we are heading into the summer heat zone, I'm not sure how often the old folks will be willing to play tennis.

That leads me to my question of the day: Why aren't tennis courts ever shaded? Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could play on a court that was shaded by a majestic oak tree? If I ever get millions of dollars, the second thing that I'll do (after paying for Firefly to be put back into production) is to build tennis courts shaded by trees.

Well, off to get ready for our weekly excursion. Water (not in plastic bottles, in refillable bottles), check. Tennis rackets, check. Scooter for the princess, check. Bathing suit for the princess (to splash in the little water park), check. Huckleberry Finn on cd, check. Grocery list to stop by the organic food store on the way home, check. Something for mom to do with the 3.5 hours that will be spent waiting & watching, check.

This is why I have so many hand knit socks! I'm a waiter - with no tips!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Empty Nest?

There's a name to label your life when all of your children leave home
- Empty Nest Syndrome.

There should be a name that labels how you feel when you no longer have a preschooler at home.

The princess is half way through her 100 Lessons book, and we always celebrate this occasion with a trip to get ice cream cones. She's thrilled to finally be almost reading, but I'm sad.

Last weekend, she pointed out to dh "That word says need" and he wasn't nearly as impressed as I thought he should be. Maybe he's got the syndrome (whatever it's called), just like I have.

She's almost always got a book in her hands, and loves to look for words she can read. If we do a lesson a day, she'll be reading like a pro in a few more weeks. I must admit that I don't like to do a lesson a day with her - I want to postpone the inevitable as long as I can. Once she's reading like the big guys, will she still want me to read to her? What will I do with all of the picture books? Will she still want them, or will she move on to only reading novels? I am still clinging to some baby board books which haven't been opened for years.

This new stage of my life shall be called "Open Nest Syndrome" to symbolize that while the nest is still full, the doors have opened to new and exciting discoveries for my little chicks. The world is always full of wonder.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A New Home For Some Old Yarn

The age old question is what to do with yarn you really don't want anymore. Since almost all yarn comes in dye lots, I generally buy a bit more than I think I'll need - that way I won't run out in the middle of a project. This unfortunate event occurred a few years ago when I started a beautiful pink and cream afghan for the princess and ran out of the raspberry yarn well before the blanket was big enough. I could always frog it and make it into something else, but the darn thing is pretty big (although not big enough), and there aren't enough tissues in the house for the tears this would elicit.

Anyway, when I was doing my major closet reorganization, a problem came to light. I have WAY too much yarn. But, you can't just throw away perfectly good yarn. And I can't bring myself to sell it. So, it's been sitting in the garage waiting for me to make a decision. Today I found the perfect solution -- I'm giving it to someone who makes caps for cancer patients.

Her home is amazingly near my LYS :0) - so I'm going to go through the pile quickly and put it in the car. The kids have their arts classes nearby, so we'll be dropping off our bag'o'yarn after class. I get a clean garage and she gets free yarn to make her caps. Everyone benefits.

The goal is to get the yarn stash down to a point where every bit of yarn has a purpose. The only real issue is the acrylic yarn. I've got some skeins that I bought in college! I'll keep some for a shawl for my MIL, and some for the afghans I have planned for the kids (geography afghans, of all things), and then the rest will be off to donation land.

Then there will be enough room in the garage for the really important things -- garage sale stuff!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Knitting Pictures

Today I finally got around to taking pictures of my Sockamania socks for May and my KAL for mid May. Here they are.

The socks will be gifted to a friend, who I know will treat them with love. The cloth has already been used by the princess and is currently in the laundry (with all the other cloths I've made).

Since it was 100 F today, it will be quite a long while before I can wear any of my wool socks, so I'm really planning to focus on making "croc socks" out of Fixation. It knits up nicely, and since we like to wear them as shortie socks, they don't take too long. I make them in a plain stockinette, so I can work on them anywhere (and since they're small, they don't add any heat). The perfect summer knit.

The Princess and the Piano

The kids are taking lessons at a local arts school. DS2 & 3 are taking guitar and cartooning, ds4 is taking guitar and theater, and the princess is taking art and piano.

We initially looked into the lessons because ds2 & 3 had been wanting to take cartooning. We got there and found out that there was the potential to take guitar. Since ds3 had been playing Iron Man and Smoke on the Water (only the beginning of each song) by ear for some time, I was quite happy to find actual lessons with the hope that he would at least be able to finish each song.

DS3 & 4 both jumped at the chance to take guitar lessons, but since the class needed three students to "make" I talked ds2 into taking lessons too. We live in a very musicy city, so finding two additional guitars on craig's list was very easy.

Now I had three boys in guitar, two boys in cartooning, and decided that I would just jump in and let all of the kids take two classes each. DS4 got to take theater (which he LOVES), and the princess took art and piano.

Things went swimmingly. The boys now play guitar (all together, one song, all the way through!), ds 2 & 3 are cartooning like pros, ds 4 is the narrator for his class play, the princess created an artistic masterpiece (I'm not kidding - it's very cool), and is actually quite good with the piano.

Here's the rub: The princess CANNOT SING! I mean, not at all! You'd think that with all the singing she does, she'd at least hit one note - but no, never on key. All of her little music books have words to go along with the songs and she sings along (belting out the tunes like Ethel Merman), but she's NEVER on key. Even her piano teacher has to stifle giggles. My little princess is enthusiastic, so that counts for something, but she'll have to find another profession.

She's found a way to guarantee that we'll keep up with the piano lessons. Harder music doesn't include cute little words for the cute little songs. She's definitely going to get to that level, and none too soon for us.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Parking a House

Let me just say, I'm glad that dh and I are happily married. If there was any doubt, we would have definitely had some issues while learning to park the trailer.

First of all, they say that you turn the steering wheel of the car the direction you want the trailer to turn when you're backing up. THEY are wrong! We wanted the trailer to turn to the left - so we turned the wheel to the left -- the trailer went right. So, we turned the wheel to the right, the trailer kept going right.

Figuring the trailer just needed to straighten out, we drove the car straight forward to "even" things out a bit. As an experiment, I backed the trailer straight back -- no wheel turning what so ever. The trailer still went right.

And -- the trailer groans when you're pulling it, when you're raising the tow thing, when you're lowering the tow thing ... pretty much anytime anything at all happens (this includes butterflies landing on it). We have decided that it must be haunted. That would also explain the backing up/parking problem. It's not us, it's the ghost.

Now we just have to decide what type of haunting it is. The ghost show people say that you have to take back control of your home; so next time we see the trailer I'm going to walk around it and tell the ghost to leave (or at least give me a little parking help).

Until then, it's parked. It's even straight.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Now We RV

We picked up the trailer today. Actually, we took possession yesterday, but didn't bring it home until today. Soon we'll be waving good bye to our house bound life and hitting the open road.

What a difference there is driving with a trailer behind the car. DH and I both tried to practice in the lot next door to the RV place, but it was so wonky that we just drove home. It was strange cruising down the highway with that thing behind us. We were suddenly quite glad that we decided to buy the shorter trailer (actually there was a bit of discussion about rethinking the whole camping thing).

But - we made it. It's parked in the street in front of the house, and the neighbors have even been over for a "visit" in the new trailer. The sweet lady across the street even suggested that the neighborhood would have fun on a giant camping trip. Not sure we're up for that - too much pressure until we can comfortably deal with all of the details.

We've told the kids that we won't be using the bathroom in the trailer, but I'm sure that rule will go out the window the first time someone needs to go in the middle of the night.

DS4 wants to sleep in the trailer tonight, so he'll be spending the night out there with dad. The princess wants to sleep out there too, but mom isn't so sure about sleeping in the trailer without any electricity (it's hot and stuffy in there).
We've compromised -- ds4 and dad will sleep in the trailer and the princess will join them for breakfast in the trailer.

Remember, all of this is happening on the street in front of the house. I'm really surprised that the kids didn't drag out all of the camp chairs and roll the barbecue out from the back yard and make a night of it.

Tomorrow we're going to the high school parking lot to practice backing into spaces. We've been told that sometimes people will help you at the campground; but sometimes they just pull their chairs around and watch.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Eddie Looks So Pretty

If there was an award for the most patient dog in the world, Eddie would have to be the winner. He puts up with so much, and here is a picture to prove it.

The princess (for some unknown reason) decided to put her old ballet recital costume headband on the dog, and he LET her! He just sat there looking for all the world like the proud maltipoo that we think he might be. He didn't even try to take it off - just sat there.

Of course, I yelled for someone to bring me the camera.

Ed actually seems happy to be the focus of attention. He doesn't even appear to be a bit embarrassed by the "Mike Rowe" haircut we've inflicted upon him.

Note to self: Try to at least make dog grooming a smidge higher on the list of things to learn.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is It Ever Okay To Lie?

Yesterday ds4 and I made a pilgrimage to the big W. Sometimes you just have to shed your pride and go there, ya' know? I mean, they have the cheapest light bulbs around. And we were out of light bulbs. I tried to be ecologically friendly and buy those fancy bulbs, but since almost all of our lights are on dimmer switches (this "smart" house is sure a pain), we can't use the fancy light bulbs and must buy the earth killing kind.

Anyway, we were at the big W, and decided to look through their cheapo DVD's. We found Dances With Wolves, and the homeschooling mommy in me decided that the movie would fit in nicely with our history studies, so it went in the cart. Then ds4 found SouthPark and wanted to get it for ds2. This was the root of the problem.

We went to the self check out (did I mention that ds4 was with me?) and proceeded to begin the scan. When we got to the SouthPark dvd, the screen flashed, telling us that we would need approval.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that the look on the face of the employee could have melted a weaker heart! It also took her a good three minutes to move the 15 feet from her station to the checkout scanner. When she finally got over to us, she said that ds4 was too young to purchase the dvd. I said that I was certainly over 17. She used her little card reader thing and ran it over the scanner and then asked for my birth date.

Now, this is where the lie came in. Without really thinking, I gave my correct month and day, but subtracted 10 years from my birth year. What was I thinking? It came out so naturally. She didn't blink (although I'm not entirely sure that she could have done the required math that quickly). I got away with it!

Where will the web of lies end? Next time should I try subtracting 20 years? 30 years? DH asked if I had calculated how many years to subtract and still be legal to drink. I may just have to sit down with a calculator and do the math. I've been telling the kids for years that I'm 29.

The princess used to even have a schtick - we would ask her the ages of her brothers and she would give their ages. Then we would say "How old is mommy?" and she would say "29" and the answer to "How old is daddy?" was "Older than dirt." It never failed to amuse me.

Loosing 10 years seems to make me happy for now, so I'm gonna stick with that one until I have to provide actual proof. It's not a lie if I actually believe it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Today I'm Just a Mom

Mother's Day 2008
A day to celebrate all the joy my children bring to me. DH and ds3 are at a fencing tournament, so the other children are busy telling me that we can do whatever I want. Unfortunately for them, what I wanted was to clean up the playroom. You've never seen children volunteer so fast to spend their own money to take me out!

We compromised - we cleaned for a while, then went to Wendy's for lunch, then the grocery store so we could get hot dogs for a barbecue dinner. The children decided that we should have a family dinner out next week when everyone could be here.

DH bought me some t shirts from my favorite tv show - Firefly. What more could I ask for? He also got me a sticker for the back of our trailer. We decided to name it Serenity, so he got a sticker for it with it's name.

I also got a gift card for my LYS so that I can buy some yarn guilt free. I don't really have any guilt when I buy yarn, but it's the thought....

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dogs Love Taco Bell

Today was the second bike repair class for mom and ds4. We learned to take apart and repair brakes. This all belongs in the category of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" as far as I'm concerned. The first thing he wanted to do when we got home was to take apart the brakes on his bike!

Our tradition (if you can call twice a tradition) is to stop by Taco Bell on the way home. Being the sweetie that he is, ds4 wanted to take three tacos home for the princess. He was so proud - carrying in the bag of tacos for his little sister.

Well - he left them on the table and went off to do whatever it is that boys do. About an hour later the princess came running in and told us that Ed had eaten the tacos!

Upon investigation, we discovered that Ed had, indeed eaten all three of the tacos. And I do mean ALL of the tacos. The only reminder of our trip to Taco Bell was a few pieces of errant lettuce and three neatly opened taco wrappers.

For future reference, dogs like tacos.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We're the Griswolds

The problem:

Mom wants to camp
Dad hates to sleep on the ground

The solution:

We bought a camper

Six years ago we decided that we could have a great time as a family camping in a pop up camper. We had the boys, we loved geocaching and hiking -- we could combine it all with a pop up.

Then, we had a princess.

Not that the princess is too frilly - she's a tomboy in a tutu. But, she loves being outside, so now we're once again back where we were 6 years ago, except that now we have an additional body when we calculate sleeping accommodations.

We'd pretty much decided that we could still use a pop up camper, but would just need a slightly bigger one. At the camper store (yes, the camper store), we discovered that not only could we get a regular camper for less money than the biggest pop up we'd been eyeing, but since the camper has a regular (read: flushing) toilet, we can get a tax break on it.

So, now, we're the proud owners of a camper. Next weekend we're going to pick it up and have our first camping experience. Luckily we have a margarita machine that will make it all a lot of fun! And, the good news is that we can now take Ed with us for vacations and not have to worry about where he'll stay while we're gone.

Egads - planning vacations around a dog!!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May Cloth

The first cloth of May is finished. It was a pattern by gimpykat and for a while I thought it might be an alien. But it turned out to be about marriage and love - and just in time for my anniversary! Well, it's photographed and has been added to the pile.

After I plow my way through the remainder of my Amazon yarn luck (yarn was supposed to by 48% off and instead, for an hour or so it was $0.48, so I bought a BUNCH), I'm going to make these dishcloths in acrylic and join them into a wacky afghan.

Almost finished with the first of my May Sockamania socks. This is the first time I've done an afterthought heel with sock weight yarn (the Cascade yarn is quite a bit thicker, not to mention stretchy), so I've got my fingers crossed that the sock will fit. Since the heel isn't put in, I can't really try it on like I usually do.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Birthdays and Bikes

Saturday was ds4's 9th birthday. He was so excited and had the day fully planned.

First, we (mom and son) went to the first in a series of bike repair classes. We learned to repair a tire. Even though replacing a tube costs less than $3, we learned how to repair one. Probably won't use the skill, but I learned to remove a tire and replace it. We've always had the problem that when we have a bike problem we have to wait for dad to come home. Now we can fix any tire problem that arises. In the coming weeks we'll learn more and poor dad won't be needed for bike repairs.

The next thing on the birthday boy list was to go to a baseball game with dad. They went and purchased a baseball (for player signatures) and a new mitt (for catching those foul balls), and some tickets. DH also discovered that if you tell the ball park ahead of time, they will display a birthday message on the giant score board. He didn't tell ds4 that this was a possibility, and ds4 was thrilled.

They got home after 10 and ds4 has talked of little else since. Aaah, nothing cuter than a little boy discovering baseball!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lotsa Socks

I finished ds3's socks. He happened to be with me when I went to the LYS to buy yarn (on sale!) and found this Day-Glo green yarn and wanted socks. Luckily it was Cascade Fixation (super easy to knit with) and it was on sale.

Afterthought heels have been on my to-do list, and this seemed like the perfect time to try. His feet are smaller than dh's and so I got to the heel part pretty quickly. I followed the directions from this site, and after a leap of faith, I went ahead and put in the stitch to take out.

Knitting socks without having to worry about a heel is NICE. You just get to the point where you will, at some future date to be determined, put in a heel and then just keep going. The only trouble with this is that it would be very easy to miscalculate how high to make a cuff (or how long to make the foot if you knit cuff down).

I finished the sock and bound off the stitches. Then it was time to deal with the heel. I picked up the stitches above and below the "holding" stitches and then started pulling out that pesky yarn. It was a lot easier than I expected, and viola, there was a lovely circular opening in the back of the sock right where a heel was waiting to be born.

Then it was just a matter of doing some very easy decreases, and that pesky Kitchener stitch, and I was done! There are a few more yarn ends to weave in when doing a heel this way, but it's a lot of fun.
I'm even doing my Sockamania sock with an afterthought heel. When I learn a new technique I like to use it a few times. That way I can feel confident with something new before I make any final decisions. So far, I think this one's a keeper.