Thursday, January 15, 2015

Of Elsa-s and Olivia-s

This year, Halloween was FULL of parenting triumphs. (Late, I know, but worth the telling.)

First, a little backstory:

A couple of months before Halloween, Genevieve, Mom, and I took a trip to the fabric store, and bought a pattern and fabric for an Elsa Dress. Maybe for Halloween, maybe for regular play, maybe both. No biggie.

Genevieve and I talked about Halloween, and I made a few costume suggestions.

"You could be Elsa," I suggested, "Or Olivia the pig-"
"I want to be Olivia," she answered.
"Are you sure?" I asked, "Because Mommy needs time to make your costume."
"I want to be Olivia."

Ah, to be so young and so sure. In any case, as it happened, we got a copy of Gramma Nancy's Animal Hats to review on the podcast. How timely! (CAVEAT, we gave it a very mixed review. Listen here.)

One of the great things about Olivia is that she has a fantastic wardrobe- so we had a lot of material to choose from. So, Genevieve and I looked through the books, and we came up with this for her Olivia the Pig costume:


What you are seeing are: striped pajamas (which I got on SALE! Also, double bonus of just taking off the outer clothes before putting her in bed that night), a red corduroy jumper from Nantucket Brand, and of course, the pig hat that I knitted for her. [Also, rain boots because it rained right up until it was time to go trick-or-treating.]

A month before Halloween, I checked in... Genevieve still wanted to be Olivia.
Two weeks before Halloween, I checked in... Genevieve still wanted to be Olivia.
A week before Halloween, I checked in... Genevieve still wanted to be Olivia.

And then, I made a tactical parenting mistake.

I went on Facebook (on my phone) while Genevieve was snuggling and slowly waking up from her nap. (This can take up to an hour sometimes.) There, Genevieve saw my friend Julie's daughter in the MOST AMAZING Elsa dress. Why so amazing? Because Julie sewed it herself, and it was bomb-diggety. Julie has skills and skillz.

The following exchange will likely not surprise you.

Genevieve: I don't want to be Olivia. I want to be Elsa.
Me: We are going trick-or-treating with the neighbors in ONE HOUR.
Genevieve: I don't want to go.
Me: Hmmm. Well, we don't have an Elsa costume, and we *do* have an Olivia costume.
Genevieve: I don't want to be Olivia. I want to be Elsa.

Now, I could have freaked out, and cried. I could have yelled. I could have canceled Halloween.

Instead, I summoned Andrew to the bedroom, and had him change Genevieve while I took some deep breaths and collected myself in the living room.

I had an epiphany. A straight-up, lightbulb-over-the-head moment. I went back in the bedroom.

"You know," I said to Genevieve, "Olivia is pretty great. *I* bet that Elsa would want to go as Olivia for Halloween. So, how about you go as Elsa, dressed as Olivia?"


SuperAndrew looked at me with wide eyes, and we shared a moment of non-verbal communication done only with eyes and eyebrows that translates to something like this:

I can't believe that worked. (Andrew)
Be cool, or she'll catch on. (Me)

I couldn't believe it worked. THIS was my magic water moment. Less than twenty minutes later one previously-distraught child was now ecstatic. WIN.

*Literally* jumping with joy


The other huge win is that I pre-gamed her trick-or-treat bucket. I bought a big bag of lunchbox pretzels and put a few in her Elmo bucket. She trick-or-treated, I let her eat the pretzels, and MAGICALLY when she went to bed, all the forbidden candy turned into pretzels. You would have thought Genevieve won the lottery she was *so* happy. PRETZELS FOR ALL!

And now, the obligatory aging sequence. Brace yourselves.

Halloween 2012

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2014
Fun fact: Our pumpkin looked like grumpy cat a week later, and Mom got a picture. (I'm just so proud that Mom knows about grumpy cat.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

A little knitting

Mom has been knitting tube socks for Genevieve since she was just a SharkBean.  It's a very simple tube sock.


You don’t actually have to buy the pattern, we give it away (verbally) in Episode 258, towards the beginning of the episode.


We've gotten loads of requests to write it up, and write it up I have. Every cent we make on this pattern (priced at $1) will go directly into Genevieve’s adventure account. She would thank you for that, but she’s busy (still) freezing Arendelle at the moment.



** A fun variation- the hat-top toe from Lara Neel's (FREE) Fork in the Road socks. (Pictured above)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Under the Mistletoe

This year, Genevieve was crazy excited about Christmas. I don't know how it started, but a week before thanksgiving, she started asking about Christmas- specifically, the tree.

"Our" tiny tree- borrowed from Mom's house

"First we go to Thanksgiving at Auntie Laura's house, THEN we set up the tree," I explained (over and over again, like one does with kids her age), "Christmas doesn't start until AFTER Thanksgiving."

SuperAndrew manfully set up the half-tree (phenomenal if you have dogs, small children, or both in our case) the weekend following Thanksgiving, and per German tradition, it was decorated on Christmas Eve. (Certainly not because we waited until the last minute. German tradition is the story and we are sticking to it.)

[In case you're looking to buy one, Mom says that she bought it at Michael's ONE MILLION years ago. This one is the closest one I've seen online.]

Genevieve directed the application of the decorations, which consisted of sheep, Star Trek ships, and of course, Frozen Ornaments (courtesy of Auntie Laura, who loves Genevieve all the way to the moon and back).

Anna, Genevieve's favorite

Elsa, normally played by Andrew
Olaf, who loves warm hugs

Of course, we have a few fake Mistletoe Balls (because real mistletoe is VERY TOXIC), which are normally placed strategically around the house for maximum surprise kiss-age, which SuperAndrew keeps with the ornaments.

Genevieve, being a toddler, insisted on hanging ALL THREE of them on the Christmas tree. In hopes of moving the mistletoe to a more... high traffic area (rather than under the tree), I explained that when someone is standing under the mistletoe, you have to give them a kiss.

[OBLIGATORY PARENTING BIT: Yes, we are teaching her about consent. Yes, we are teaching her that she doesn't have to hug or kiss anyone she doesn't want to.]

Every ten or fifteen minutes following that conversation, a little voice would call out, "I'm under the mistletoooooooe!", and it was a RACE to get to be the one who kissed Genevieve first.

(The best part of this is that- since the tree is still up, we will still periodically hear the call of "I'm under the mistletoooooooe!" It is So. Great.)

It was one of those evenings where having a toddler in the house made the holiday MUCH more fun.
And definitely more kissy.

... And then, it was Christmas morning. Genevieve got eight million small gifts (we don't do Santa here**, just presents from people who love her).

"Cover me in the snow!"

Gopher grin!

The cold never bothered her anyway
When all the holiday dust had settled, and we were all snuggly in our fuzzy pajamas, I asked Genevieve what her favorite part of Christmas was.

Instead of listing off a favorite new toy, or that we let her eat a sugar-loaded breakfast (normally, COMPLETELY verboten in our house), she floored me in that way that only a toddler can.

"Spending time with people I love," she said.

My heart grew three sizes. File this one under "things we are doing right".

** Speaking of consent and parenting things, we approached the Santa Situation by reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas! first, and getting across the message of Christmas that way. I'm not comfortable telling Genevieve that it's okay for a stranger to come into our house. KidBrotherSam and I weren't raised with Santa; we celebrated family and presents. Also, chocolate advent calendars. Your holiday mileage may vary.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Problems and solutions

** To skip the story, and get to the dye fixing solution, click here

We've all been there: you finish a pair of socks, wait three months, weave in the ends, wait for the weather to cool off, and FINALLY wear your beautiful socks. Then, if you're like me and have made a proclamation about *not* handwashing socks (and shopped for yarn accordingly) the next step is to throw them into the "wash with like colors" laundry basket.

Once the laundry is done, you go to fold the laundry and find that your vibrant, rich socks are now, well... not.

Disappointment doesn't even *begin* to describe how I've felt about it, especially given my recent (and drastic) reduction of crafting time.  Add to that the guilt over having enabled a few other folks into buying the same yarn.

So, I Instagrammed and Facebooked about it.


I did this for several reasons. Let's start with the main one- I Instagram-med, Facebook-ed, Tweeted, and talked about these socks on the podcast for about two months during the 30-odd hours it took me to knit them.

Instagram and Facebook are strong enabling tools, and I have bought a lot a completely reasonable amount of yarn based on photos I've seen on both. I have been known to enable others as well, which is really only basic courtesy.

I don't contact dyers privately before posting photos of my socks-in-progress, or when I finish socks. If I remember, I'll tag them in the photo, or tweet at them, because dyers are artists and like to see the fruits of their labor.

Podcast listeners frequently buy yarn they see on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter based on what they see. It is for this reason I think it is even *more* important to show how the yarn washes and wears.

I would like to start by pointing out that the label tells you that machine washing is fine. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bought it.  I have been known to be extremely vocal about *not* hand washing my socks.

"Hand wash only"
I have a responsibility to my listeners. A company's response to quality issues should be public, visible, and accessible to its customers. Louise from Biscotte & Cie was *extremely* prompt in her response- responding mere *minutes* after I had made my post. [HUGE kudos, Louise & Biscotte & Cie.]


I wrote this post when I thought that the issue was done and handled. In the interest of being honest and transparent about the entire process, I am disappointed to have to include the following.

Within a day of the original solution (and blog post) Louise (the dyer) has gone from apologetic (on the podcast Facebook page- public) to aggressive in the comments field of my blog (public, but less visible). This includes changing what she says should be the care instructions, to a full out attack, alleging that I don’t know how to handle my woolens (including changing the story on how I launder to fit the individual she’s contacting). Screen caps, all from public places she’s posted, in order:

 photo Response1_zps621d489e.jpg
 photo Response2_zps47df471e.jpg
 photo Response3and4_zpsaf322746.jpg
 photo Response5_zps31b63fae.jpg
A superwash yarn should be machine washable and dryable, especially if the label says so. The re-statements above are clearly for the purpose of covering up her own short-cut, which is unprofessional and extremely poor business.

There are multiple comments about others having the same issue- regardless of laundering on our facebook page as well as on the original post on Instagram (you can see all the comments on the mobile app: I was also contacted by other knitters via PM on Ravelry who had the same issue.

So, it’s a known issue. When I contacted the shop I bought the yarn from, to let them know about the issue with the yarn, the owner responded,  "As I mentioned before, I haven’t had a need to do any dye-setting with the socks I’ve made out of Biscotte, so hopefully there are plenty of skeins out there that are just fine.”

The operative word there being “hopefully”. Given the response I saw on social media, “hopefully” really just isn’t. I don’t think the shop should be responsible for a dyer’s mix up, but there was no mention of letting other customers know that this is a known issue.

To sum up: the dyer is trying to brush this under the rug, and has no plans to change, and the shop selling the yarn is keeping quiet as well. I am not keeping quiet. As someone who promoted this yarn for two months while I knitted this yarn, I have a responsibility to every knitter I enabled to let them know there is both an issue and a solution.

As for the “solution” of sending me replacement yarn? I don’t want it. I want the socks I knit to be as promised in the skein, finished the way they should have been before the yarn reached the shop. Nobody offered to compensate me for the time lost, because they can’t. END OF UPDATE/RETRACTION

Finally, as a customer I have no obligations to the company. I don't want to recommend a product that has problems. Our money and time are valuable commodities, and I can't in good conscience have my socks come out of the wash looking like they did, and leave it to the company to deal with. This is a much more transparent way of dealing with the problem, and showing the solution from the company's side.

[As an aside, when I've reported dye/felting/knot issues to companies before, I haven't seen *any* kind of public response. I have had *one* dyer do a pre-emptive public blast to her customers letting them know about a potential issue with bleeding, including a generous solution.] 

 There is value in posting to social media; mostly, social solutions. I am lucky to have many brilliant friends, including the incomparable Kate of Gourmet Stash. With nothing to gain personally, she devised a solution so that people who buy beautiful handpainted yarn can solve this issue on their own, preemptively. 

So, there's chemistry.

Chemistry and I have a complicated history.

Fortunately for all of us, Kate broke it down to the simplest parts (after a lot of technical dye information). The following are her instructions (which I road tested and documented with photographs), which I have digested into four simple steps, with a few caveats.


Fixing/Re-fixing dye:

The following is good for 4-6 oz of wool (so, a pair of socks, and then some):

Step 1: Take 1 tsp of Citric Acid. You can buy it at Whole Foods, but the link I posted is a much better value. (For MCN, use 3/4 tsp).  Dissolve it in steaming/hot water. Then, dilute it in about 3-4 cups of tepid water.

Step 2: Let the yarn soak for 10 mins or so and then wring out and "jelly roll" (wrap in plastic wrap), and microwave it for 2 mins on high. If the yarn is discharging dye into the water (turning it a color), follow the following additional steps:

  • Step 2a: Squeeze out excess water. Soak in SOAK wool wash in cool water for 15 mins. Squeeze out excess water. (Water will be very pink. Breathe. It will work out.)
  • Step 2b: Repeat the dyefix instructions in Step 1, *except* do 1/2 tsp Citric Acid instead of a full tsp.
  • Step 2c: "Jelly Roll" (wrap in plastic wrap), and microwave it for 2 mins on high.
  • NOTE: For non-superwash yarns you would want to space out the heat via the microwave. (By that I mean, 1 minutes on heat, 1 minute off, etc. ). You can easily felt your yarn/fiber in a jelly roll format if you have the heat & steam get too high.
  • CAUTION: If you microwave for too long on high, you can fuse the plastic saran wrap to the nylon content in yarn. (You want to be aware of the microwave you're using as well as how high the heat is and the length of time it is in the microwave.)

Step 3: Allow to dry.

Step 3, citric acid mixture treated swatch (unwashed) against the untreated and machine washed sock

Step 4: Launder as per usual.

Step 5: Rejoice.


You may notice that we did the citric acid soak on the swatch instead of on the yarn. That's to show that if you've already knit your socks, you can still treat them without worry.

This is also if you are overwhelmed with the need to start knitting your sock without a) fixing/re-fixing  ("pre-treating") the dye on your yarn (just in case), or b) don't want to knit a swatch and launder normally to see if pre-treating is necessary.

And? The brilliant and lovely Kate said "I can't think of any reason why doing a basic citric acid soak and wring it out, jelly roll it up and nuke it for 2 mins for ANY [protein] fiber or yarn would be bad." [Said, with the above caveats, of course.]

Monday, July 28, 2014


[This is the post I had intended for Mother's Day. Enjoy!]

If you have spent any time with toddlers, you will know that they have a charming fixation with all things "nakee", and it's really high up on the list of things toddlers find hilarious.


Genevieve, being of the toddler persuasion, has embraced the humor of her people. She's also very aware of her clothes when she wears them- so buttons need to ALL be buttoned up. If they're not, she says things like, "Button my dress, peeease! My nakee all fall out!"

... And then I unwittingly told the Nude Flash story to Andrew in Genevieve's earshot. That kid hears *everything*.

The Nude Flash 

When KidBrother Sam was little, and I was in sixth grade, there was a flasher around the local high school. As a kid, I thought the whole thing was HILARIOUSLY funny; as a jaded adult who has watched too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU, it's horrifying.

I told Mom about the warning, and how funny I thought it was, and KidBrother Sam asked what "flashing" was. The word "nude" came in, and he mostly got it.

At one point, shortly after, he had forgotten his towel, and thus, needed to streak across the hall from the shower to get one from the linen closet.

"NUDE FLASH!" he hollered as he ran. (Later, it was explained that the "nude flash!" was to let us know to LOOK AWAY. Not to look at the source of the hollering. Also, no amount of explanation could convince him that "nude flash" is redundant.)

From then on, any time there was a streaker in need of a towel, we would holler "nude flash!" 


Since overhearing the story, whenever Genevieve manages to escape the shower, getting dressed, or getting from the toilet to the changing table, she hollers "NUDE FAAAAAASH!" and streaks around the house until we can catch her. Let the record reflect that she is fast and wily.


She hasn't quite figured out the "shuck your clothes and run" maneuver, but I have no doubt we'll get there. It's the strangest kind of triathalon I'm training for: running, catching, wrangling a nude flash.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Always, always, ALWAYS

I wanted to write something for Mom for Mother's Day. Something funny. But I want to write about this first.

One of my friends sent us a surprise package- wooly treats for Mom and Me from Maryland Sheep & Wool, and a stuffed "tangaroo" for Genevieve- complete with a joey in her pouch. (Sadly, along with other amazing developmental and verbal leaps, Genevieve no longer says "tangaroo".)

"AND a box!"
Genevieve was *thrilled*- she's fascinated by the ideas of kangaroos. She knows they're mammals, thinks hopping like a kangaroo is the bee's knees, and thinks it is AMAZING that they have their babies in a pouch.


It's a fantastic toy, deliciously soft, good weight, with a friendly face. The joey comes out of the pouch, so (against my better judgement) at Genevieve's request, I cut the tags and all the plastic connectors.

"Soft ears!"

Thus began JoeyWatch 2014- where every adult in the house was informed of their part in making sure that (a) the joey didn't get lost and (b) the dogs didn't get a hold of this particularly delicious morsel.

"The same!"
... Which lasted exactly four days before disaster struck. We were putting toys away before bed last night (as usual), and Genevieve noticed that the joey wasn't with Mama Kangaroo.
"Where baby kangaroo?" she asked me.
"Well," I said, regurgitating one of my mother's aphorisms, "I'm sure he'll turn up while we're picking up the toys."
We cleaned and cleaned. No joey. We cleaned the living room. No joey. We cleaned her bedroom. No joey. We cleaned the Big Bedroom. No joey. 

This caused some major bedtime issues, and led to a conversation I wish I had never had to have.
"Baby kangaroo is missing," Genevieve said.
"I'm sure he'll turn up," I said, "I'll look for him some more, later."
"Mama kangaroo doesn't love her baby anymore?" Genevieve asked, very upset.
And then I had a moment, where - simultaneously - my heart broke, and I was OUTRAGED that she had overheard from someone that mamas may stop loving their babies someday.
"Never, never, never," I said, snuggling her a little tighter, "Mamas always, ALWAYS love their babies. I'm sure she's worried about where her baby is and misses him very much. If you were missing, I would never stop looking for you until I found you."

"You help find him?" she asked.
"I will find him," I promised.   
After she went to sleep, I checked the usual places, and sure enough, the joey had fallen between the slats and under the (decorative and unused but for play) toddler bed, and the joey was less than 18 inches from his mother the whole time. I breathed a deep sigh of relief as I tucked him back in his mother's pouch and, mission accomplished, got myself ready for bed.

This morning, when Genevieve woke up (and informed SuperAndrew and me that it was time to "Get movin'! I go get my clothes.") I told her to check Mama Kangaroo.

Happy feet padded down and back our hallway.

"She SO HAPPY to have her baby!" she told me, overjoyed at the reunion, her world back in order.

This is - obviously - not a tale of heroics, but rather, one of love. I don't care if she doesn't remember the specifics, as long she she remembers that I always, always, ALWAYS love her. Because that's what mamas do.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Really happy

On a good weekend, we make a list of things we want to get done, and then schedule the time for it. A big part of the scheduling is (a) if Genevieve can help or (b) if she needs to be otherwise occupied.

I have a complicated relationship with nature and the outdoors, so the yard is SuperAndrew's purview. I think he likes it; I imagine it is very meditative work, the way I feel about folding laundry.

SuperAndrew asked me *something* about pruning the roses, and I suggested that he cut a few for his beautiful wife, because it might make her happy. (Sometimes, when you live in a house with ten enormous rose bushes, you forget that cutting them and bringing them indoors can make a person happy.)

Genevieve was curious to see what SuperAndrew was doing, so we went outside to investigate. Given that our rosebushes have nasty, nasty sharp thorns, and SuperAndrew was using extremely sharp tools, we had the following conversation:

Me: The rosebushes have sharp thorns. Should you touch them?
G: No.
Me: Who touches the rosebushes?
G: Only Daddy. And Mommy.
Me: Right. Who touches the sharp tools?
G: Only Daddy.
Me: Right again.
Once we were outside, watching SuperAndrew, he brought me a rose, and Genevieve said, "Me too, peeeease!"

And then, as SuperAndrew would bring roses over, Genevieve would claim them. (She ended up with six. I ended with two.)**

It turns out, like many of us, Genevieve LOVES getting roses.

Very appreciative
One of the things I do all day long is to remind and reinforce the use of our beautiful manners. To my delight and surprise, Genevieve proceeded to repeat the following phrases (over and over and over) at SuperAndrew. In volumes.

"Smell veyyy good"= "Smells very good"

Aaaank you! Veyyyyy happy!= "Thank you! Very happy!"

Make me happy!= "These make me happy"

And then we enjoyed the roses. We counted the roses. We twirled with the roses. We smelled the roses. When we were done, Gramzie facilitated the placement of the roses in a vase.





Genevieve, while watching me finish this post, "Daddy cut fowwers. Made me reeeeeey happy."

It really doesn't take much, does it?

**For concerned parties, all but one of our rosebushes have roses without thorns. Genevieve *very graciously* let me keep the rose with thorns.