Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taking initiative

It's Banned Books Week in the United States, and I've been reading blog post after blog post about how pointless, stupid, and oh yeah- how ANTI-AMERICAN it is. You know, if you count the first amendment.

But that's not what this post is about.

When KidBrotherSam and I were growing up, Mom kept tight control over what we watched on television. If it was violent, it was out. If it showed that being disrespectful to parents is okay, it was out. Those are the two main things I remember her censoring for- and I *totally* agree on those choices, but I'm sure there were more. (She also seriously limited how much TV we watched. Something like 3 hours total per week, and only on the weekend.)

Sam and I have always been voracious readers. I don't think it's because we didn't watch TV; I think it's because our parents were readers. What my mother never censored was our reading material. In hindsight, I remember Mom reading some of the stuff we read, and as an adult I can recognize that if Mom thought a book might have objectionable content, she would read it, too. (She never let on that was *why* she was reading our books. And we never questioned it.) Afterward, we would talk about it.

It wasn't a "This isn't appropriate for a child your age" conversation; she was always taking the temperature of how I had interpreted the objectionable content in books, somehow without obviously leading the discussions. I'm sure I missed a lot of the objectionable material, but the stuff that I picked up on, we talked about.

I have to say, I'm seriously impressed with how Mom parented us. When I was 14 years old, I was reading the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series (before they got all super-smutty), and one of the books centered around snuff films. My Mom, in her SuperMom cape, instead of ripping the book out of my hands and handing me something (perhaps) more age-appropriate, had a calm discussion with me about snuff films.

Stop a moment and think about that last sentence. How many parents could have a calm discussion with their teenage daughter about snuff films? Mom was pretty unflappable as a parent. I don't even remember her making crazy eyes, quickly changing the subject, or having an uncomfortable nervous laugh, ever.

Enough bragging on my mom. The point is, instead of censoring what we read, she made sure that she was informed about what we were reading. She read it herself. She talked to us. (Novel idea, that last one.)

It wasn't until I was in college where Mom actually expressed any negative opinions about *what* I was reading. My senior seminar class was on Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison. In case you're curious, filicide is where Mom draws the line. Not only did Mom not read any of the Morrison books, she also *did not* want to discuss any of it.

She never said, "Don't read it" or "Don't take the class", she basically said, "I just *can't* talk about this with you." I don't blame her; it was a seriously dark semester. By then, I was a GrownUp (sort of), and my choices in reading material were my own.

Books aren't dangerous. Sure, they put ideas in people's heads. But if you stay ahead of the curve, you can probably keep your kids from inciting a revolution with a few calm conversations.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Smug cometh before the fall

Two weeks ago, I was telling Andrew how much I loved my iPod. It was a 2006, 5th generation video iPod (with a color screen!), it had 80G of memory, and I loved it. I also smugly declared that I had no need or desire to get a new, fancy iPod touch- unless they come out with one that has the same amount of memory as this one. (I have a lot of music. A LOT of music.)

Given that flash memory isn't quite there yet, I had been more than content with my precious iPod. Also, I told Andrew, since I take *exceedingly* good care of my stuff, I wasn't planning on replacing this iPod until the hard drive fails. Verne and I were in agreement on that one. We were smug as could be, and Verne may have thrown in a "Kids these days!" just for good measure.

The very next day, in a feat of spectacular klutziness, I managed to do a *spectacular* job dropping my iPod. I don't think I could have *thrown* it harder than it managed to drop.

No big; I've dropped it before. A few times. When I fired it up the next day, I noticed this:

Doesn't that make you sad just looking at it?

Hm. I could still *mostly* see what I was selecting, but over the next few days the screen got worse. And worse.

Still, Verne and I were intent not to replace this iPod. ("Kids these days", see above.)

With drama worthy of Sarah Bernhardt, I put my hand to my forehead and told Andrew that I would soldier on with a cracked screen.

Andrew, earning his nomination for Husband of the Year, kidnapped my ailing iPod and now, check it out:

Yes, I do have 694 podcasts episodes to listen to.

All better. Apparently, Andrew took my old iPod to go live on a farm**. Probably with LukeWarm, our old oven. Apparently, at the farm, Andrew found this little iPod who happened to need a home. You see, he's an older model, and nobody seemed to want him.

Andrew took him by his sync cable, and let the new iPod know that he'd have a long, happy life with me.

Provided that I don't drop him, that is.

** The "farm" is the Apple Repair/Replacement program, in case you're curious. Or you happened to destroy your screen, too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beauty is pain

One of my mother's favorite sayings is "Kill me, but make me beautiful". It's a cultural saying, but in an age of waxing, threading, and other painful beauty trends, it has never been more relevant.

My Sothia, fini.

That's how I feel about knitting ruffles. I love how they look. I love wearing them. I love adding a little extra bounce to my step to make them swing when I walk. I also find them utterly painful to knit.

Not literally, of course. It's not like faggoting, which is the natural enemy of my carpal tunnels. It's just... a lot of knitting. Which is a silly, because I'm usually itching to knit something else. Which is technically, THE SAME KNITTING.

But then you look at the ruffle-in-progress, how far you have to go, and if you're me, you feel like Brent Spiner in Independence Day. You might also have done a dramatic re-enactment for your family, shaking the shawl in front of you and rasping out, "Kiiiiiiiiiiiiill meeeeeeeeeee" in the creepiest voice you can muster. So creepy that both dogs decide it's time to leave the room.

So you knit and knit and knit. Then you knit some more. You decide that you will NEVER knit another ruffle EVER again so long as you LIVE.

You knit a baby hat and a baby sweater in the meantime, because sometimes you just need a relationship break from a project, you know? It's me, not you, Sothia. But since it was LOVE with Sothia, once you finished your dalliance with a baby hat and sweater, you come back, refreshed and ready to commit.

And you will commit, wholeheartedly. After what seems like an eternity, you begin the bind-off. You stay up really, really late because all you want in the world is the satisfaction of finishing this project. And also, Kit Kats.

I can feel your ruffle envy.

You double your yarn for the bind-off, because you LOVE how substantial it feels, and then spend the remaining 60% of the bind-off wondering if you have enough yarn to finish. You then decide if you run out of yarn, you're abandoning this project forever. Thankfully, you have enough (and a little leftover, even!) and that particular set of events doesn't transpire.

You go to bed, and the next day, you realize that you have a GORGEOUS shawl. You consider turning up the air conditioning so you can wear it around the house, but instead decide to weave in ends and take pictures of your beauteous shawl.

In my mind, this wrap will make me six feet tall. It's the "V".

You look at the colors, the beautiful ruffle, you feel that rush of accomplishment and pride at a job well done, and you say to yourself, "This wasn't so bad. It was really fun to knit."

"...Maybe I'll knit another one."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Stay-At -Home Survival Guide: A review

I've had some questions about what I've been reading, as far as parenting books are concerned. The first book I read (and liked, nay, LOVED) was the The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-Tested Strategies for Staying Smart, Sane, and Connected While Caring for Your Kids by Melissa Stanton.

I'm not being paid to review this, Seal Press didn't send me a galley copy, and best of all? I borrowed it from my local library.

Cover, for you to enjoy

While it's true that I'm not a stay-at-home mom *yet*, that's the end goal. I was reading this book, and it was like Melissa Stanton had been following me around when it came to how other people reacted to our choice to have me stay home. True, she was a few years ahead of me (the book came out in 2008), but her powers of pre-cognition are to be commended.

But seriously.

Stanton talks about dealing with the "yes, but what do you DO" question, household finances, and how demanding being a full-time Mom can be. So it's not a parenting-parenting book, per se, but it helps parents. So it totally counts.

It took me a LONG time to figure out that most people don't respect useful life skills that they lack- like raising children, cooking, or knitting. People who don't (or can't) cook from scratch don't appreciate that skill from someone in a home environment. If you measure success and happiness in dollars and cents, any activity that doesn't make money is worthless and a waste of your time.

We know that's not true. Knitters put thousands of hours into projects every year- many of which never get finished. We knit because it brings us pleasure, because it can be challenging, because it is creatively fulfilling. Not because it is profitable- or even has the *potential* to be profitable.

[Did you just fall out of your chair laughing at the idea that hand knitting is - or could be - profitable? I did.]

Back to the book.

It also includes loads of useful advice and strategies on changing relationships (romantic and otherwise), keeping up your self-esteem, and division of labor.

Division of labor isn't really an issue in our house. Given all of the Mommy Memoirs I've been reading, Andrew is really and truly a prince among men. He doesn't expect to be waited on when he gets home from work, and doesn't assume that because I'm staying at home that I've become the maid, the cook, and the household personal assistant. I thought this was normal in a marriage, but I stand corrected. Also, horrified that it's *not* the status quo.

Not only does he contribute to household chores, but he usually also picks some sort of home improvement project every weekend (sometimes something small, sometimes something... bigger). For the record, I also try to defend his leisure time, by making sure he has plans to do something fun.

(Did I just sign my own death warrant by bragging on my husband? Let me balance all his great qualities with the fact that he snores like a buzzsaw and sometimes leaves his shoes in the living room. He also has a taste for handknit socks and wears a size 12 men's shoe. Move on, he's not so great.)

In short,  I really felt like Stanton addressed a lot of the issues that *all* parents have- not JUST stay-at-homes. I handed the book over to Andrew to read and he's finding it useful, too, for managing expectations (mostly). I've been screening the books, and handing over the ones that I particularly like to Andrew to read. (I have more time right now to sift through the chaff. Also, I read faster.)

I think this is a great book for *all* parents. Everyone has a schedule to accommodate, whether or not you work outside the home. I think the real key is that *both* parents need to read this book. (All the books, really, but this is a good place to start.)

The writing is compelling, Stanton has a personable style as a writer. I powered through this book in two days- that's how "readable" it is. Pick up a copy, you'll thank me for it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dueling haiku

In mid-May, I posted a haiku to Facebook, which prompted what can only be described as a haiku duel between KidBrother Sam and me. I've posted about how clever he is, and for some reason, I keep thinking about this exchange, which all took place over the course of a twenty minute window. 
Mostly, I'm impressed that Sam and I can argue, regardless of the format. Fun fact: as children, Mom told us we couldn't argue unless we did it in song. I attribute much of our creativity to that.
I have a long list
No desire to do it
KidBrother Sam:
Equal protection-
Circumcision paper due;
Browse reddit instead.
[Explanation: KidBrother Sam was a poli sci major. That should explain the haiku above.]
Graduation day
Approaching imminently
Get it done sooner.
KidBrother Sam:
Senioritis has
Absconded all give-a-damn
Will-power absent.
Not graduating
Means spending more time down south
I love you lil bro.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Inverse proportionality

I hit the 20-week mark with the SharkBean this week. (That's halfway, for everyone who has never been pregnant.) I am *thrilled*. She looks less carcharias, and more homo sapien. I can feel her practicing krav maga. This is really happening. It's pretty exciting.

I'm definitely, exclusively in maternity clothes. Mom informed me that I have "popped", though I don't look pregnant enough to have the young men at the grocery store offer extra help yet.

It's is a pity, since I can't wear any of my normal "good service" attire, curse you uncomfortable-yet-effective spike heels! Most of my regular clothes are in storage, since there is ZERO chance I'll be wearing them for a while. Mom also may have suggested SHROUDING my beautiful pumps so that they don't get dusty. It breaks my heart, but she might be right. (She usually is.)

That's totally okay, maternity clothes fit either like (a) pajamas or (b) being naked. Elastic-waisted pants and maxi-dresses, where have you BEEN all of my life?!

My dad asked how I was feeling, and I told him that I felt big, meaning, it feels crowded from my ribs down to my hips. I'm putting on my shoes by sitting and putting my foot up next to me (thanks, yoga!), as opposed to just bending over, or squatting and bending over like I normally used to do.

My dad thought I was concerned about weight gain, and hurriedly told me - ME, the kid who hasn't ever had body image issues - that it's okay to be big when you're pregnant, it's a good thing, etc. Love his heart- how many fathers try to tackle body image issues head-on, instead of glossing over them and hoping everything turns out okay?

My dad. He took a very "shut it down" approach- quick, and clear. It wasn't necessary, but as a Future Parent and Aspiring Grown-Up, I appreciated it.

I told him I didn't care about the weight gain, but that it's getting hard to do simple things like put on my shoes. Or sit comfortably on the couch without the assistance of a mountain of strategically placed pillows. I actually heard his sigh of relief at my *very normal* complaints.

[NOTE TO ANDREW: Apparently, we will NEVER, EVER, EVER be able to stop worrying about SharkBean. Why didn't anyone WARN us?!]

As a woman, I'm totally okay with getting bigger. Circle of life, phases of the moon and all that. Also, the spectacular boobage. I'm totally sold.

As a knitter, things are more complicated.

I have two sweaters worth of handspun waiting to be cast on. For two fitted sweaters. I have a few UFO bins full of half-finished projects. Also fitted. My tastes run to tailored clothing, and I'm caught in the I-don't-know-how-my-weight-will-settle-out place. Weigh that against my mother's sage advice, "Knit for the body you have, not the body that you *want* to have."

The body I have is changing, week by week. What is a knitter to do?

I came to the solution, finally.

Knit something small. Knit something that doesn't depend on *your* size. I can go on a binge finishing old lace projects. A lace wrap will always fit! That gold Icarus I started five years ago? Will look AMAZING on me, regardless of my size.

I think it's funny how inversely proportional this whole thing is; as I get bigger, my knitting gets smaller.

But, first things first. My oldest friend in the world, Joey, is going to be a dad ANY MINUTE. So last night, some yarn was wound, a tiny sweater was selected, and I am quickly reminded of how incredibly fun (and fast!) it is to knit for small people.

Especially if they happen to be Sharks fans. Now, to find the perfect buttons...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Playing (o)Possum

Sunday mornings are usually pretty quiet around here. If Andrew and I both sleep in, we usually have an extended cuddle session with the dogs, then Andrew makes breakfast while I check Facebook and Ravelry and inform him of What Happened while we were sleeping.

*This* Sunday, I got up a little earlier because we had a somewhat busy day planned. I got myself a glass of juice, and sat down at my computer. A little while later, Andrew got up and started making breakfast. Business as usual.

As Andrew was dishing breakfast, Niki was acting... twitchy. Suspicious. He was grousing at something under the stainless steel rack in the kitchen. I took a glance, and all I saw were dust puppies. (A "dust puppy" is like a tumbleweed, but made of dog fur.) I told Niki that none of his toys were under there, and thanked him for his diligence.

[SIDE NOTE: Lest you think I *never* clean my house, I sweep almost every day, and dust puppies are just a reality of having two double-coated dogs.]

Andrew and I sat down in front of the TV to enjoy our eggs and (decaf) coffee, and 10 minutes into the episode of Dexter we were watching, Niki was still grousing and growling.

"I looked and I didn't see anything. Could you please go take a look?" I asked Andrew.

Andrew agreed, I paused the DVD, and kept working on the beautiful cup of decaf he had made for me. (I miss coffee so, so, SO much.)

I hear Andrew blow the dust puppy out of the way, pause, send the dogs behind the dog gate, and then the following conversation transpired:

Andrew: Um, Jasmin?
Jasmin: What?
Andrew: There's a... [long and thoughtful pause]... possum in our kitchen.
Jasmin: Are you joking?
Andrew: No. There is a possum in our kitchen.
Jasmin: Are you serious?
Andrew: Yes. There is a possum in our kitchen.
Jasmin: Are you messing with me?
Andrew: No. Come look.

You have to understand, sometimes, he messes with me. And seriously, who would BELIEVE that there was a possum in their kitchen? So, I moseyed over to the kitchen, did as much of a chaturanga as one can manage at 19 weeks pregnant, and this is what I saw:

Dog toy? Home invader? Who can tell.

I looked again, because it wasn't very clear. 

That is NOT just dog fur.

As I looked into the face of evil and terror, I might have yelled something like "OHMYGOD. THERE IS A POSSUM IN OUR KITCHEN!" I also may have jumped up on a chair, mouse-in-the-house style. (Are you as impressed with my bravery as I am?)

Andrew and I briefly brainstormed on how to deal with our home invader, while I intermittently praised Niki for being such a GOOD DOG and finding the nasty little thing. Andrew dreamed up a plan about how to get it out of the house and I summarily dismissed it, since all I could imagine was him getting mauled and killed by this monster, and in a few years, having to explain to SharkBean that she lost her father to a vicious opossum.

(At some point, I also clarified to Andrew that we have opossums in our area, not possums.)

I decided to call Animal Control, since they seem to cover this type of thing, and I got an answering machine. I left a slightly panicked message, which ended with, "I look forward to speaking with you very, very soon. VERY, very soon."

I assumed, since it was a holiday weekend, that they might not be in the office. I called 311 (non-emergency), and that call went a lot like this:

Me: Hello, there's an opossum in my kitchen. Is this the right place to call?
311 operator: In your kitchen?
Me: Yes, under my stainless steel rack.
311 operator: Hang up and call 911.
Me: 911? This is an appropriate 911 call?
311 operator: YES. Hang up NOW and call 911.

So, I called 911. Apparently, this was her first opossum in the house call. She connected me to a real, live person at Animal Control who told us we were the VERY NEXT pickup on their list. Animal Control also told us to keep an eye on the opossum, because should it get loose in the house, they wouldn't be going on a search-and-rescue mission hunting it down.

I assured her that there was nothing more compelling to watch in our house than the opossum. Mom took the dogs over to her house, so that they wouldn't continue to antagonize the Wild and Vicious animal in the house, and we held Opossum Watch 2011 in our very own kitchen.

So, for the next hour, we watched the opossum. Andrew named him (presumably "him", I didn't do an anatomical scan) "Bandit", and then insisted I look up information about opossums while we waited. He also declared them "cute" and informed me that we should buy SharkBean a stuffed opossum.

Then, the paranoia kicked in. We're working through season 5 of Dexter, and one of the antagonists is an animal control person.

"What if we're inviting a Boyd Fowler into the house?!" I might have freaked out.

Andrew and I decided it was worth the risk, since I had also declared that we needed to abandon the house. (I made the same declaration when I found out that we have black widow spiders in our garage. Which apparently, we had at the last house, too, Andrew just never told me.)

I was pleasantly surprised when Officer Rick (my new, personal hero) showed up, smiling, and was as friendly as could be. He told us that the opossum was likely much more afraid of us than we were of him, to which I responded, from my perch on the chair, "I seriously doubt that."

Officer Rick assessed that we had an adolescent opossum, and then talked Andrew through how to safely extract one from the house, should we have another uninvited visitor. I may have told Officer Rick that I loved him forever.

Bandit was a little skittish, and got tangled in the phone cord that lives under the stainless steel racks. Gentle as a lamb, Officer Rick untangled Bandit in a flash, and then lowered Bandit- who was the size of a HOUSECAT - into a cage.

Officer Rick also assisted in the photo-op.
After a short discussion of what Bandit's fate was, it turns out, that unless there is a suspicion of rabies (there was not), they just release opossums back into the wild. Since our neighborhood lacks wilderness, and I didn't think any of our neighbors would appreciate the gift of an opossum in any of *their* yards, Officer Rick offered to release Bandit at the perk ponds nearby.

[SIDE NOTE: Apparently, this is NOT Animal Control policy. They trap the critter, and it's up to you, the homeowner, to find a place to release it. I think it was the terror in my voice that may have changed his mind. Maybe it was telling him that I loved him forever. Who can tell?]

Officer Rick shared a fair amount of opossum facts with us, including:

- Mama opossums have 13 nipples, and incidently, have litters of 13.
- A litter of 13 means that there are 13 MORE opossums running around our neighborhood.
- Opossums love fruit that falls off of trees. Especially apples and tangerines, which we have in plentiful supply.

As he was on his way out, Officer Rick took a look at Bandit, and said, "You said you have dogs, right?"

"Yes..." I answered, not freaking out because our dogs are current on their vaccinations, and Bandit showed no signs of rabies. (We also thoroughly checked the dogs for bites, scratches, etc.)

"Do they play with stuffed toys?" Officer Rick asked.


"Hm. It looks like this little guy has been mouthed at. See how he looks a little wet?" Officer Rick pointed out.

That is one moist opossum.

After assuring us that Niki would be fine, just have horrifically stinky breath, Niki went from being the hero of the day, to being QUITE POSSIBLY Bandit's escort into the house, QUITE POSSIBLY bringing a playing-(o)possum-Bandit through the dog door like any other dog toy. Any other stinky, interactive, mouth-full-of-terrifying teeth dog toy.

It's like finding out that a heroic firefighter caused the fire. Doubly so if that heroic firefighter may have given you nose kisses after CHEWING ON AN OPOSSUM.

Oh, and once the dogs came back? Niki was incredibly unhappy that we had his new toy removed. I might have told him he has the meanest mom in the world, and then asked Andrew to brush the opossum funk off of Niki's teeth.

Funny enough, the last two mornings have felt so much better, since there HASN'T been an opossum in the house. It makes a dead rat seem trivial by comparison.

You have got to love relativism.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Heart, spine, and lenses

This week, we had the Money Shot ultrasound. You know, the one where you get to see The Junk.

I'm not going to lie. I had some high expectations for this appointment. First, Andrew and I had placed a friendly wager on which sex the baby would end up being (I won, for the record). Second, this time we were promised something that looked less like a legume and more like ... something you'd put in a onesie.

(Let's be real for a moment, not even the VeggieTales had a legume. Legumes are hard to love.)

The ultrasound tech was really nice; she made sure that I was able to maintain some of my modesty, and in a moment that was *truly* worthy of an adult film, with no warning, she squirted me with warm ultrasound jelly.

"It's warm!" she exclaimed, very pleased that she didn't shock me with cold, unexpected ultrasound jelly.

I laughed my crazy nervous laugh, gave Andrew a sideways look and said, "Yes, yes it is."

So. Back to the magic.

She starts the ultrasound, and it was a lot like watching a post-modern French film. And you don't speak French because your mother told you that living in California, you'd use Spanish more. Ahem.

The tech was friendly, and was walking us through the ultrasound, pointing out things as if we could clearly discern them. Andrew, his usual helpful self, was making noises like he could actually interpret was was really just a Rorschach to me. I *might* have called him out on this. Perhaps in front of the tech.

At one point, there was clearly a foot and a leg, and I felt like a Rhodes scholar being able to point at it and I say, "I know what that is!" Truly, it's the small victories.

Towards the middle, she asks if we want to know the sex, to which we said, "Yes, please!"

She does a quick screen capture, types "girl", and there it is. Our SharkBean is a girl. Check her out:

it's a girl!
Not a shark. Probably.

"How can you tell?" I asked, because really and truly, I couldn't. So she shows us a shot which is the equivalent of SharkBean sitting on a photocopier, commando, at an office holiday party. Which I most certainly hope she does not do. EVER.

(For those of you who were hoping to see some cute baby butt cheeks, Andrew and I had a LONG discussion about invading SharkBean's privacy and posting pictures of her junk- or lack thereof- on the internet. I was rooting for y'all.)

What surprised me the most is how truly awesome ultrasounds are- SharkBean's little bones glowed on the GIANT monitor, showing us that they're all growing the way they should, and also, that she has a big head already (whimper) and the long Lockwood legs (woo!). We saw a healthy little heart, a developing brain, and eyes complete with lenses.

The pièce de résistance was towards the end of the ultrasound, where SharkBean was kicking away, and moving like crazy. Andrew looked at her hands and their movements, and I KID YOU NOT, said, "It looks like she's knitting."