Friday, October 31, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014


This summer the library set out a cart with a hand-written sign taped to it that read, "Take a puzzle, leave a puzzle."  Except that someone made a correction, adding a caret and inserting "or" after the comma.  In other words, a very informal puzzle "exchange."  As if we didn't love the library enough already!  

"Can we take one?!  Can we take one?!"  
Sure - we'll bring one back in tomorrow as our exchange.  Not that we needed to, of course.

After (very) thoughtful consideration, we picked the international birdhouses.  That was a very sweet way to spend the afternoon.  "Can we get another?!"  What, are they kidding me?!  I LOVE puzzles.  I've had just lukewarm success in convincing my family to make a sustained effort with me.  Now Linus wants to do all the puzzles in the playroom.  Which is great, because there are many, and I can scarcely justify their occupation of precious real estate when nobody does them!

(I guess I might as well be honest and admit that I used our new interest as an excuse to finally buy one of these puzzle tins from a favorite little store downtown.)

On one of our return puzzle cart trips, probably against my better judgement, I agreed to a much bigger, much more difficult puzzle.  It's okay, I reasoned with myself, I have a good idea for a puzzle-saver.

Made from supplies we had on hand, the puzzle-saver has worked well!  I cut a piece of felt the size of my table.  (The remaining piece will be transformed into Robin Hood's hat and shoes on Sunday!  And this is why I always say every house should never be without felt and pipe cleaners.)  I cut a pool noodle the length of the table (the short side).  And when we need to put the puzzle away for meals, we just roll it up and tie it with ribbons!

P.S. And if you take a mama to a museum that fall and her children say this is their favorite painting from the day, and it comes as a puzzle in a tin...

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Summer I Knit 12 Washcloths

Yep, it's another "I've always wanted to..."

Well, I have always want to learn to knit.  I know how to crochet -- I taught myself in college, using a book that had a very good left-handed set of instructions.  I don't know why I didn't ask my grandmother to teach me before I moved away -- she crocheted beautiful tablecloths and doilies.  Oh yeah, that's why.  Because I was a teenager who never -- not once -- thought a crocheted tablecloth or doily was "beautiful."  I recall being mildly amused by the crocheted snowflake Christmas tree decorations that my parents problem-solved their way through a stiffening process so that they'd hang on the tree properly.  (Remember how there used to be no internet?  So weird, right?)

I did try to learn to knit once before as an adult.  It was during lunch, when I was pregnant for the first time.  Someone at work kindly organized a lunchtime meet-up (remember how there used to be no Meetup?) to teach anyone interested.  Well that did not land AT ALL.  Knowing that if I didn't pick it up within two months, I was done for (I had no illusions about having much free-time after a much awaited baby arrived -- I anticipated much baby-staring-at time, along with, you know, other baby-related things) was not the right kind of learning environment for the task.  Oh well.

But I was patient.  (It's a new thing I'm trying to cultivate.  Working better in my forties than it ever has.)  And the Universe presented me with a fortuitous overlap of activities: a potluck in the park (with a knitting friend) and Knit in Public Day.  I took it a step further and made it Learn to Knit in Public Day.  (You can learn to knit with her, too, by checking out her blog!  She is a fantastic teacher!)

I've been known to keep a pretty full schedule.  And to get by on not so much me-time (another work in progress).  So, I'm taking it slow.  My lovely friend taught me just one thing at a time.  And I took just that one thing and practiced it over and over and over until the next time I saw her.  My brain is crowded.  Bite-sized chunks taught by a real-live-person has been such a treat.  My family got a kick out of watching me cast on.  And pull it off the needle.  Cast on.  Pull it off the needle.  For days.  And then, knit knit knit knit.  Pull it off the needle.  "Don't you want to try something new?  Don't you want to make something?" they asked.

It was so liberating to just PRACTICE.  I wasn't concerned with a final product.  I didn't care about making mistakes, experimenting, testing out ideas about how it was working.  Lori Pickert (Project-Based Homeschooling) calls this "lowering the stakes."  I was able to get to know the process because I wasn't focused on the product.  (Such a concrete reminder for when I have my parenting hat on, too!)

Another friend (are you seeing a theme here?) tweeted about a washcloth she was knitting.  I was admiring it and looking forward to the day I, a knitter-in-the-making, could produce such a beautiful pattern.  She tweeted the instructions, and to my great surprise, I COULD UNDERSTAND THEM!  I was, you can imagine, pleased.

But why did I need to make so many?  Wasn't that dull?  Wouldn't I like to learn other things to knit?  Sure -- I will learn other things.  It wasn't dull!  I experimented with different yarns and sizes, and I'm still learning, so they're all experiments of more subtle elements.  I made a few with seed stitch -- we call them "massage cloths."  And really, is twelve really "so many"?  We own more store-bought washcloths than that.  And they need replacing.  I'm just being economical.

I really need a creative outlet.  And it has to fit into the lifestyle I have at the moment.  I mostly knit at the table.  Some of us sit, eat and chat, and leave the table.  Others in my family have... a different way.  So, I sit, eat and chat, and when I'm finished but they are... not, I knit.  Maybe two rows, maybe ten.  Doing something predictable and easy to put down when the milk gets spilled is just right for now.

(And, of course, I found a couple good picture books about knitting, too!)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Game Spotlight: Iguana Factor

I was green.
I did not win.
Iguana Factor has been on our shelf for years.  Correction, it's been between the shelf and the wall for years.  I thought it was a game useful only for practicing  multiplication facts.  Which is fine.  Multiplication facts are important.  Knowing them makes a lot of things easier to do.  But...

I realized yesterday that maybe I should check in on multiplication. Honestly, I can't keep up.  What does my sixth-grader know these days?  I thought this might be an interesting way to get some insight.

Guess what?  It's a FUN game.  It's really as much a game of strategy as it is a game about multiplication.  It works for players at all levels.  Linus was on my team -- great even for number recognition and practice.  Don't let the "educational" look fool you  -- it's like a two-for-one!

I've got to go -- I promised more rounds!