Monday, November 16, 2009

Accidental day out

So Thomas the Tank Engine was visiting Essex Steam Train this past weekend. Brian and I thought that James especially would love to see Thomas, so we decided to drive down on Sunday.

Now when we left we didn't realize you wouldn't be allowed into the train yard without a ticket, our plan had been to let the kids see Thomas and do some of the activities but skip the actual train ride.

Part of this was financial -- Day out with Thomas tickets are $18 a piece -- and part of it was practical. The last time I stopped at Essex Steam Train, just the sight of the steam engine freaked Nikki out. Once you added the noise of it to the equation, she was crying and I was carrying her (and on that stop I just wanted to see if the gift shop had something for James' first birthday). In the past she's also had issues with being in large crowds and costumed characters. So we try to avoid paying for something we might have to bail out of in 20 minutes or less and stick to free events and increase her exposure that way.

Well we got to the gate and learned to enter you needed a ticket. By that time the kids had already seen Thomas and there was no going back. I have to say it was worth every penny that we spent (James was free so yay a price break there).  The kids went on the little midway rides, they got their faces painted, their picture taken with Thomas and we even rode the train without incident.

Nikki even got within 3 feet of Sir Topham Hatt -- she wouldn't get closer but it's probably the closest she's ever been to a costumed character and there was no crying or freaking out over it. I think she got closer than JD did (in his defense it was well past nap time).

The kids had a fantastic day, JD keeps asking when he can go visit Thomas again and if Thomas can come live at our house.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Putting my unemployed time to good use

So other than looking for a job I've spent a fair amount of time working on two other things. I think I can say I've been mostly successful with both.

James is well on the path to being potty trained. I just bit the bullet and put him in underwear and he's done great. He doesn't always tell me when he has to go, but if I tell him it's time to sit on the potty he'll sit, do his thing and goes on his merry way.

The other project was teaching myself to crochet. My great-grandmother tried to teach me several times when I was a pre-teen. But I'm left-handed and it just didn't work. I learned to knit instead. But lately I keep having to bypass knitting patterns that I love -- because they call for crocheted edging.

So I took a book out from the library and sat down to teach myself. First thing I did was give up trying to crochet left handed. Over the years I've become slightly ambidextrous out of necessity, so I figured I'd give right-handed a try.

I'm still struggling a bit, crocheting the first row on the foundation chain is a bit of bitch, but once I get past that row I've been doing pretty well. I'm slow, but if I ever gain speed they'll be certain things that crochet would be great for -- dishtowels and washclothes among them. They make great gifts and I have a feeling I'd be able to crochet them in a fraction of the time it would take me to knit them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

need to make a plan

I really need a plan to make Christmas happen. Really.

I'm lacking motivation lately and it's horrible. I know I have projects I have to get done, but I just can't make myself get going.

My biggest problem, I keep hoping that I'll get a job and then we can have a "normal" Christmas and I won't need to make so many gifts.

What I need to tackle:
Sew James' cape
Sew James' blanket
Sew the quilt for my niece
Sew the quilt for my nephew
Knit Nikki's sweater
Knit scarf for Brian
Knit hat for Brian
Have kids do paintings for grandparents and great-grandparents
Build Nikki's dollhouse.

None of these projects by themselves is all that overwhelming (maybe I should except the dollhouse from that statement lol). It's just a matter of making sure I make time to tackle them all.

hmm -- if I make and finish the projects than maybe I'll have some pretty art to post.

Anyone want to make me a schedule?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The old lightbulb joke

Or why living in an old house keeps things interesting.

My house was built in 1820. We've come to expect that any renovation project will likely be interesting, require more than one trip to Home Depot or Lowes and will likely cost us more than the average home owner. In fact, when we start a project my husband and I generally place a bet as to how many Home Depot runs we'll have to do.

Today's project takes the cake.

Our porch has two lights, each with 3 lightbulbs -- the little 40W kind with the tiny bases.  In each of the lights two of the lightbulbs were out so Brian decided to change the lightbulbs before it started to get bitter cold. He went to Home Depot yesterday and came home with the wrong sized lightbulbs - the ones he bought had regular sized bases.

He went back today to exchange them. When he went to put them in he couldn't get the old bulbs out. They just kept spinning in the sockets. So it was out to Lowes we went. We picked out two new porch lights. Sadly the one Lowes had on clearance for $4.99 was sold out.

The first light took Brian about an hour to change out -- the screws didn't quite line-up. The second took 15 minutes.

So at our house it take 3 hours and $75 to change a lightbulb.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

31 for 21

I just wanted to explain that little button over to the right. 31 for 21 is an effort (that I've already failed at) for bloggers who love someone with Down syndrome to write a blog post every day during the month of October. The post doesn't have to be about Down syndrome, just about life.

And life these days with Nikki is good. I had to take her into the pediatrician last night (I thought she might have strep or pneumonia again) and we saw one of the doctors in the practice whom we haven't seen in years. I joked that I thought the last time she saw him she was still a newborn with a feeding tube.

It brought back some memories of those days. It doesn't seem possible that it was really six years ago. She was so tiny and it was so scary to be her mother. At 6 weeks Nikki has a NG feeding tube inserted because she was declared failure to thrive. Four weeks later she had open-heart surgery to repair her complete AV canal defect.

She was one very sick little baby -- but the changes after her surgery were almost immediate. She became rosy-cheeked rather than grey, active and feisty instead of lethergic - it was amazing.

Today, she gets sick a little bit quicker than other children and it lingers a bit longer but she has more in common with her peers than she has that differentiates her from them. Nikki can read on a first grade level, she actually enjoys doing her homework and schoolwork, she's trying to teacher James his colors, shapes and ABCs.

So who is the person you love with Down syndrome?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Day 2 of being alone

My husband is keeping the kids at his parents until after dinner -- which means he's leaving at around bedtime and won't be home until 9:30 or 10 p.m.

I've gotten to the point where I miss the kids -- even the fighting and whining, the two reasons that my husband took them a state away.

Now I know many families would never dream of waiting until bedtime to drive home, but our kids (almost always) sleep in the car, so if he left immediately after dinner they'd both sleep for roughly an hour and then they'd be up until midnight.

So with everyone gone again today I did even more laundry -- all of the bedding, folded the mountain that was on the couch, pulled out the last of the shorts from the kids' dressers and worked on more Christmas projects.

I cut all the pieces for quilts for my niece and my nephew and did a huge amount of pinning for both. I should set up the sewing machine and tackle a couple of these gifts. James' blanket and cape shouldn't take long to knock out. What I really want to do is pop a big bowl of popcorn and watch TV.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

da plane, da plane

So I spent my day to myself working on several projects for Christmas and finished one.

James has taken to pointing to the walls in his room and identifies them by the pictures hanging on them. So we have firetruck wall and train wall, and the wall with nothing he has named plane wall. He tells me he wants an airplane to hang on it.

So an airplane he will have.  And before anyone is too impressed I cheated -- I have trouble drawing a straight line with a ruler so I found on image online on a coloring page Web site and printed it off.

I had to make some changes to it as the original image had an elf flying the plane. I used carbon paper to transfer the image to the canvas. Some acrylic paints and now all I need is a frame.

Fine art it's not, but perfect for a two year old.

Two other presents for James were started -- a fleece blanket for his bed and his cape. The cape is to replace the one that came with a pair of Superman  PJs he received for his birthday. He loves running around the house yelling Superbaby while wearing them, but they are summer PJs and well it's far to cold for summer PJs now.

I just need to set up the sewing machine to finish them off. The binding is pinned to the blanket and the two sides of the cape are pinned to each other. A few quick seams and two more presents will be done.

Off to pour myself a glass of wine, watch some tv and knit a bit.

Friday, October 02, 2009

What to do, what to do

So it looks as if I'm going to have some free time this weekend (free time being defined as child-free time). My husband has decided to take both kids and go visit his parents for the weekend.

I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.

The quiet time will be nice -- and I appreciate the fact that my husband understands that the kids' bickering is beginning to get to me.

So now do I clean (and enjoy the fact that it will stay clean), read, knit, sew or just relax and do nothing.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Change of plans

So I started the cashmere scarf for dh and ran into a couple of problems. Cashmere on metal needles, for me, was a bad match. I was having trouble keeping the yarn on the needles - it just kept slipping. The pattern and the yarn was a bad match -- you couldn't see the stitches well enough to notice the pattern and it was looking to light and lacy for a scarf that's actually intended to keep the cold out.

It was frogged when I was about an inch in. I went and bought wooden needles in the right size and cast on again holding two strands. I'm just doing a simple garter stitch over 46 stitches. Much better for my husband.

The second change of plans comes with the dollhouse -- I might renovate the one I had as a child rather than build a new one. The decision will come down to how easily I think I can do a few things. First, place some stairs in the house -- it's always bothered me that it never had stairs -- and second take off the very 1970s wallpaper that's in there. I think it even has avocado green appliances. So all the furniture needs to be replaced as well.

My dollhouse was built and given to me by my aunt and uncle, who are also my godparents. It would be nice to pass down, if I can pull it off.

Monday, September 28, 2009

great presents or my trip to crazyville

So I'm already thinking about Christmas. I tend to plan ahead anyway -- usually making notes about ideas and the like. This year is a bit more hardcore.

Thankfully I'm crafty, because being newly unemployed it pretty much will be the Christmas of making presents (with a few exceptions, mostly for the 5 children in the family). James has asked for a plane wall in his bedroom so I've already started on the picture for his wall. I'm two-thirds of the way done with a sweater for Nikki and I hope to do another for her and today I just started a scarf for my husband. (yeah there's more than that but I'll save it for another post).

This scarf, and hopefully the hat and fingerless mitts to go with it, are going to be a labor of love. I poked around Goodwill yesterday and found a sweater that was made from 100 percent cashmere. The yarn is lace-weight and given that the sweater was a women's XXL that's a lot of yarn for the whopping $3.95 I paid for it.

Laceweight is not my favorite to knit with. It tends to make me a bit batty and it just feels like it takes forever to get anywhere with it.

But even before I could cast on I had a bunch of work to do. I had to carefully take the seams apart  and then I had to unravel the sweater. On a heavier weight yarn the unraveling is probably the quickest part but laceweight, well it can break if treated too roughly. I have a ton so spit splices because it broke several times.

Because the yarn is kinked when you unravel it, I then had to wash it and reskein it onto my swift so that it could dry. That pretty much took care of the kinking. Once the skein was dry I used my ball winder to make it into a nice neat cake.

Only then could I cast on. I'm doing the Vicuna Scarf pattern by Mary McGurn from Judith Durant's 101 Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders. It's a simple two-row pattern over 51 stitches. It really shouldn't take that long to get through every row -- except for the fact that I'm using aluminum needles. The yarn keeps slipping on me. I think I'm going to have to go buy wooden needles to help out with that problem.

So beside the crazy-making laceweight yarn I'm contemplating a really crazy-making project. On Saturday we took Nikki to Toys R Us to spend some of her Christmas money -- she kept migrating to the dollhouses - the least expensive of which is more than our entire budget for her Christmas presents.

I came home and Googled and found this Web site:

I'm pretty sure that I'm building her a dollhouse. The dude in the red suit and white beard will get all the credit but I'll get to appreciate her joy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A new committment

So I stopped posting here for nearly two years, but I thought I would start this up again.

James turned 2 in July and Nikki turned 6 last week.

Nikki's now in first grade and doing fantastically. She reading nearly on grade level and her verbalization just exploded over the summer.

James is just a very active little boy and he doesn't stop talking even in his sleep -- which in our house is a huge change.

These days I'm unemployed. That's a load of fun and a long story but the newspaper was not the place for me to be any more. My days are now being spent with James and job hunting.  Still knitting and sewing to keep busy (and this year for Christmas presents).

Life is good.