Monday, March 23, 2009

California Girls

Mike joined the Navy right out of high school and saw the world. After his college graduation, he made an even huger geographical shift and moved to Vermont. There's family history there (VT) that I won't get into, but suffice to say all his siblings remain happily in Connecticut to this day. It must be, though, that his kids got that lone wonder gene. Travel is great and it's wonderful that they both have had opportunities to see the world--without even having to join the navy. But then they both settled and started their own families far away from Vermont. On the one hand, it gives us an excuse to travel. On the other, we miss large chunks of their lives. The youngest grand daughter was two and a half before we saw her in person. To rectify that situation, we took a trip to California last fall. Mike's son lives there with his three California girls.



The two little girls are delightful--bright and happy, well-behaved and polite. After an initial warm up period, they seemed comfortable interacting with the old folks, but they were also perfectly content to (and able to, as well) occupy themselves with their own kid games--digging a construction site in the sand, playing store, care taking with their dolls, drawing, looking at books and the occasional Disney video, learning to ride a bike, or just running around for the sheer joy of the moment.



Meal time was a revelation. They live in the heart of fruit and vegetable growing country and Mo is a vegetarian of the "nothing with four legs" variety so meals were a healthy representation of the food pyramid. Even the six year old seemed blissfully unaware of the existence of fast food! While it certainly wasn't the "children should be seen but not heard" of my grand mother's table, there was a happy mix of adult and child conversations going on.



After supper, it was time for the girls to get ready for bed--no fuss, no arguing. Faces washed, teeth brushed, jamies on. Then the sacred family ritual. Mom, Dad, and girls piled into the big bed and read stories. I loved this--reading to kids, one of my favorite things. Then kisses good-night and each girl into her own bedroom, lights out, sleeping.



I'm not thinking their family life is idyllic even though I've painted a rosy picture here. Parenting is hard under the best of circumstances and I don't even know what the best of circumstances actually might be. We got a two week-end glimpse into their lives. Still, I was so very impressed by how intentional Ken and Maureen are in their parenting. They are not just going about raising happy, well-behaved children. They seem to have a keen eye to the future and are trying to raise responsible, well-adjusted people.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Finished


I finished the sweater vest I had started in February--working around the osteo-arthritis during the chilly evenings of February and the too-perfect-weather-to-be-inside of the past couple of weeks.

I had seen a similar project in an ad in a knitting magazine. The ad indicated pattern and yarn came in a kit, but when I went online to order, the kits were no longer available. The pattern was available for $5.00. I certainly don't mind paying for a pattern--that's some one's work after all. The thing was the shipping cost for the pattern was $5.75 and I balked at paying that. Honestly, had the pattern been $10.00 and the shipping $1.00 I'm quite sure I wouldn't have found it so outrageous.

This is completely a sign of old age, I guess, remembering the 3 cent stamp! I used to put together little trinkets and candy packages to send to the grand kids for Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween. Last year, the postage costs were way more than anything that was in the packages I sent off. I mean, the first option the postal clerk offered for a package of two coloring books and some stickers from the dollar store--$20.00 for next day delivery. Got me thinking cards are nice.

Anyway, the sweater vest is finished. It's made with Reynolds Saucy, a cotton yarn that I purchased at the local yarn shop. I used an old pattern for a sleeveless sweater, but added the lace effect up the middle of the front. It took less than four 100 yd. skeins so now I have extra to make some wash cloths.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mourning Doves

In the winter of 2007, a pair of mourning doves nested in the overhang on the breezeway of the Fiesole Street house. We saw the parents in and out for several weeks. Stray bits of pine needle and bark stuck out in the free-form approximation of a nest. Mister Dove seemed to be doing most of the work and it really was quite haphazard, but Missus Dove was nevertheless suitably impressed and the couple moved in. Apparently, mourning doves are not the most house proud among birds.
There followed a period of time when Mister was seen leaving each morning and returning in late afternoon. Missus then had an opportunity to stretch her wings and take care of any female bird business that needed doing but she was usually back within the hour. We don’t know how they sectioned up the night time, but some how I’m inclined to think Mister felt his work was substantially over after building the nest. This coming and going went on for a few weeks. Obviously eggs were being tended. Then there was a period of parental turn taking with the flying in and out with tender morsels of regurgitated bugs and such. The eggs had hatched. Finally, two babies appeared at the edge of the eave. They watched the world for a couple of days and waited patiently for the parental hand-outs.
Then a shift in the blissful scene of bird family life. Daddy Dove was getting impatient. You could hear the lecture in his voice--“do you think that you will be fed and housed for nothing for the rest of your life? Get out there and start your own life.” He would sit on the edge of the eave and squawk away, then fly off in a huff. The two youngsters sat by the edge but didn’t venture further. Mama was a little more patient.
The first baby left one Sunday afternoon--flying down to the garbage pail on the breezeway, then off to the pine tree. He stayed around the yard but never actually made it back to the overhang.
The second little guy was much less adventurous. He sat for another two days just peeking over the edge. Mama was still so patient, gently cooing by his side. Dad was having tantrums but also spending more and more time away. Then it happened, as it must. The little shy one finally took wing. The whole family of four perched on the pine tree before they all flew away.
Was I reliving my own emptying nest experience? Is this a peculiar penchant for investing human like thoughts, motivations, and actual speech to birds and animals? I’d really like to think, though, that there is a universal sharing of experience that is beyond just the human, encompassing the universal in a literal sense.
In the winter of 2008, a pair of mourning doves returned to the Fiesole Street house and headed straight to the same nook in the breezeway overhang. Within a matter of weeks, two babies appeared at the edge. In no time, with absolutely no fanfare, two young ones took off on their own never to be seen in the yard again. The adults were seen again the next day. Back to the nest, working on the next two eggs. Life goes on...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

40th Birthday

March 11 is my son's birthday. He's a fine grown man. Still, sometimes when I look at him I see the toddler that he was, or that preadolescent compelled to jump up to touch the ceiling in the den at every available opportunity. Hell, I see a 36 year old when I look in the mirror.

I cried when he left for UVM--the same kind of tears I had at my daughter's wedding--just wetness flowing down my face without sobbing or stuffing up. It's the way of life. Children move on and make their own way. But parents get to keep the infant, the toddler, the child, the teenager, the adult in their hearts forever.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Night Out

We went to hear The Nighthawks play at Aces lounge on Saturday night. It was a great show--or at least a great first set, which put us seriously up past our bedtime. They give new meaning to 60's rock (since three of the four members are now 60). Great energy. Our generation continues to use up all the fun. Check them out: http://www.thenighthawks.com/.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Winter choices

I pass this beach access near Sharkey's pier on my morning walk to Caspersen Beach Park. This is why March is my favorite month.

While I certainly should not complain, this was a chilly and windy January and February (2009) by Florida standards. Now March is here and predictably gorgeous. The windows are all open, the sun is hot, but a gentle breeze keeps things pleasant.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Learning to Knit

I took up knitting in December, 2005. I had been retired from my hectic teaching job (as a special educator in in middle school and team leader for our department) for six months, had finally relaxed into it, and then realized I needed to be doing something constructive (literally, I wanted to make something) as the holidays approached. I happened to see an ad in the paper from the Burlington Ben Franklin store. They were hosting a Sunday night series of knitting groups with the purpose of making and donating chemo caps. I thought, "I'll do that!"

I had learned to knit--when I was about ten and belonged to 4H. I wasn't very coordinated and I really wasn't very good at it and I never even completed a simple garter stitch scarf. Then in my 20's, I made a baby sweater while I was pregnant for my son. God love him, he wore it for months and it was quite cute. Then I started a cable knit vest for my husband. I finished about 3/4 of the back before completely losing interest, not to mention any available leisure time. That project stayed in a bag, eventually in a box of stuff stored in the attic, for twenty years before just being tossed. The fact that my second knitting project, third if you count the aborted scarf, was a cable knit pattern is revealing, right?

Thirty years later, I arrived early at the Ben Franklin and got a list of materials--a ball of soft yarn and size 7 DPNs. DPNs?? Uhoh. Fortunately there was the store lady and only one other knitter who hadn't done any knitting for a number of years. The store lady let us know she wasn't meant to be teaching us how to knit, but she did. I couldn't even remember really how to cast on, let alone increase stiches. I'd never knitted in the round, never made a hat, but there I sat twisting yarn for two hours. I added stitches inadvertently, dropped stitches, had holes where I switched from one needle to the next. Not one of the three us us actually finished a hat although there were two hat-like starts going.

I took my mess home and immediately ripped the whole thing back to start. I cast on the three starting stitches and increased, tore it out, tried again, and again, and again. By midnight I had a hat-like creation made out of some pretty frazzled yarn. I use it for a dust cloth. I kept at it though.

I read books on how to knit and watched the knitting shows that were on DIY network at the time. I practiced. I started looking at the knitting tables at craft fairs and started talking to friends and relatives about knitting. I knitted hats, socks, mittens, baby sweaters, scarves, bags, and washcloths out of left over yarn. If I'd been smart enough to ask my sister to teach me or to take a beginner class, I might have actually started with the washcloth. But that's the thing about me--I do things the hard way.