back to school!


Yesterday was the first day of school of the 2015-2016 school year for both M and me!

It's the first day for BOTH of us!

As much of a privilege as it was to get to spend so much of every day with M this summer, I’m not going to lie – I found it to be very, very challenging. My hat goes off to the folks who stay home with their kids, because that’s definitely not a life I’m cut out for. I feel so much more like myself when I’m teaching, and honestly, teaching freshmen about writing and thinking comes WAY more naturally to me than parenting a 3 year old does! It’s very good to feel competent at my daily work again. But I’m sure I will miss being able to do so many fun activities, like our trips up to the beach at Lake Ontario,

Out-of-focus toe-dipping at the beach.
dipping our toes…

We rode the carousel together :)
…riding the carousel (aka “horsey train”)…

Making a sandcastle.
…and building sandcastles!

and our afternoon baking sessions,

We're making oatmeal date cookies!
oatmeal date cookies!

and many, many visits to the playground,

So proud of this kid! She decided to learn how to climb a new thing, and kept at it until she could do it without any help from me!
learning to climb a new thing!

and to Highland Park,

In her favorite tree (at Highland Park)
hanging out with her “special tree friend”

and all those walks with the wagon up to our bed in the community garden:

On our way to do some maintenance at our community garden bed.
she LOVES this wagon!

It’ll be much harder to do most of these things, now that we’re back to full days at school for both of us. Not only that, but we’re already losing noticeable amounts of light at the end of the day, and I’ve lived here long enough to know what’s coming: darkness before we’re even home for the evening. But before that happens, there will be time for apple picking, and Rhinebeck, and hopefully at least some weekend visits to Highland Park and our other beloved gardens and playspaces. And there’s a very exciting new activity that will fill our time together on Friday afternoons, when I pick M up at 3pm instead of 5pm – she’s starting violin lessons at Hochstein! She’s been asking to play violin for a full year now, and I think she’s finally ready to pay attention at a lesson, so here we go! It’ll be interesting to be on the “Suzuki parent” side of things, instead of the (older) “Suzuki student” side of things!

So here’s “goodbye!” to summer, and “hello!” to the new school year. I’ll close with a photo I actually took by accident, but ended up loving…all of M’s summer things, strewn about the porch:

Summer Stuff
her rock and stick “treasures”, her sand bucket, her bubble stuff

Happy new school year, everyone!

hey, remember when we used to knit socks all the time?

Kitchenering sock number one, at the playground.

Well, here’s one! I cast on last week for an M-size sock (which, though noticeably smaller than a me-size sock, isn’t as MUCH smaller as you might think!) and was able to kitchener the toe shut while watching M play in the sandbox at the playground yesterday. She was delighted to model it:

All done!

Awhile back, I came across the Cat Bordhi’s “Sweet Tomato Heel” videos on YouTube, and was really interested in the “Padded” version she demonstrated – it has the same slip-stitch pattern as a traditional heel flap, but carried around the short-row heel (which is not a standard one – it’s a series of smaller wedges over 2/3rds of the total stitches). So, I decided that I’d try it out on M’s sock, and it worked great! She says it is very very comfortable.

The rest of the sock is pretty basic – I cast on 56 stitches with backwards loop, and did a picot cuff by knitting 5 rounds, then a *YO, k2tog* round, then 5 more, then knitting the next round together with the cast-on loops. Then 2×2 rib down to where the heel started, and once the heel was finished, I only kept the ribbing going on the top of the foot – all of the stitches that had been part of the slip-stitch heel were just knit in stockinette. (I’m actually curious, if I knit another pair, what it would feel like if I carried the slip-stitches all the way up the bottom of the foot. Would that be like the kind of “padded” soles on some storebought socks?). I really like the 2×2 rib, because the stretchiness makes it easy for M to put the socks on for herself, and the Sweet Tomato Heel also seems to be easier for her than either the heel flap or the short-row garter stitch heels on the other socks I’ve knit for her (which she has since outgrown).

M was having such a blast at the playground that I was able to cast on for sock #2:

Starting sock number two.

And by the end of the evening, I was almost done with the leg ribbing and ready to start the heel. Yesterday made me remember part of the old appeal of sock projects – they’re so portable! Though I’m a sweater knitter at heart, sweaters-in-progress (at least, the way I like to knit them, which is as seamless as possible) are not exactly easy to bring along to the playground. Socks, though? Socks are great. (Shawls are pretty good, too, though!)

I’m not promising a sock-knitting revival here, but it seems that knitting socks for my kid is WAY more exciting than knitting socks for me! It helps that she is such an appreciative recipient of them, but really, I just don’t get much out of knitting socks for myself anymore. For awhile I was really into my Smartwool knee highs, but they eventually wore through. I quite like the inexpensive (certainly cheaper than a skein of sock yarn!) Smartwool-knockoff socks from Costco that I’ve been wearing for the last few years. In the winter, I mostly wear boots, and thus need knee-high socks, and if I’m going to put in the time to knit a pair of knee-high socks, well, I’d rather spend it knitting sweaters. But I do have a bit of a problem, which is that the Costco socks that I love aren’t actually knee-high, and with my boots, I need the knee-high socks to act as a barrier between my boots and my tights, otherwise my tights get shredded. I’m actually tempted to get a bootliner kit from Craftsy and make myself some bootliners to wear with the Costco socks. Perhaps that will be my new portable project of choice (when I’m not knitting socks for M).

things i knit for maddy(‘s baby doll): a wool soaker!


I finished a draft of a manuscript, so had some *actually* free time this morning while M is at camp. Apparently, when left to my own devices, I will follow through on whatever idea pops into my head at that moment, craft-wise, and thus, I created these:

Sometimes I knit doll undies on a whim.

Yep, doll undies. M’s baby doll had a nice little felt diaper, once upon a time, but it got lost somewhere, and she’s been bringing naked baby everywhere with her recently. I thought maybe baby could use a wool soaker, so I got out some Lion Brand Fishermans Wool, some size 6 dpns, and made her one.

Baby's diaper got lost, and I thought she could maybe use a "soaker". Just made it up to fit baby perfectly. I hope M likes it!

No pattern – I just cast on what appeared to be the right number of stitches using backwards-loop (I actually just held it up against baby and guesstimated from that), then knit a few rows of garter stitch for the front before decreasing to make the curve of the leg holes, and then reversed that to make the back side of the leg holes, did some short rows, etc etc…I basically used the same “recipe” as for the diaper cover I designed for M a couple years ago (which I should maybe actually write up someday?). The ribbing at the waist was done using smaller dpns – I think they were size 3s. And the fit is perfect!

I guess now that baby has a soaker, she probably should get a sweater, too, eh? Maybe that’ll be my project for another day :)

i knit a rainbow!


(But first, thank you so much for all of the kind and thoughtful replies to my last post. While I wish that nobody had to struggle with those feelings, I’m glad it connected with those of you who do. We’re not alone, and we can keep working to get better.)

From the back.

The rainbow shawl is finished, and it is so gorgeous I can hardly stand it! I threw it on to take pictures despite it being 91 degrees and sunny (so, not exactly wool shawl weather). Here are the details:

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Whippoorwill, by Carina Spencer
Yarn: Kauni Effektgarn, in the EQ colorway
Needles: Size 6 Knitpicks circulars
Time to knit: About 3 weeks

It's blocking!

The nice thing about summer is that if I finish a shawl, I can pin it out outside, and within a few hours, it’s dry! This is so much simpler than in winter, where blocking a knit item requires finding a cat-free space (borderline impossible in our house!) and leaving the item there for at least a full day.

All pinned out.

I set the shawl out in the morning, and it was dry before M got home from her summer camp. She helped me un-pin it…

Helping me remove the pins.

…and then posed for a photo with me (with the promise that we’d walk to the playground as soon as we finished!) We were both wearing rainbows, though hers were more appropriate for the weather!

We're both wearing rainbows! (Though hers are a bit more appropriate for today's weather!)

This is the first true crescent-style shawl I’ve knit:

So happy with how this turned out!

It drapes over my shoulders so nicely!

From the side.

I’m not sure I quite figured out how to wrap it in front (I still find that easiest with triangle shawls), but I gave it a go:

wearing it wrapped in front.

As a side note, it was lovely to be working on this rainbow shawl when the Supreme Court decision came out legalizing same sex marriage across the country. Knowing that my daughter will grow up in a country where she can marry whoever she loves, and that she was young enough when this decision was made that she’ll never know it was any different…that’s incredible. I still think there are problems with privileging marriage over other kinds of family structures, and we certainly aren’t done in terms of ensuring rights, respect, acceptance, and love for LGBTQ folks, and I hope that we don’t forget that. Actually, while I’m thinking about it, I do plan to write up a pattern for the top-down rainbow striped cardigan I’m working on, and while my usual charity of choice is Heifer International, I’d like with that pattern to donate some of the proceeds to an organization that supports LGBTQ folks. Does anyone have a favorite group they could recommend?

parenting and perfection


This isn’t really about knitting at all, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I need a place to “think out loud”, so to speak. Perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I think it sometimes gets framed in a positive way, like being a perfectionist means that you’re more attentive or careful and produce better things because of that – and maybe that’s so, but really, it’s toxic. It’s debilitating. I’m speaking from experience, here – it has literally been a debilitating force in my life. Perfectionism means living your life in constant fear of messing up, of being “found out” as imperfect, and that’s just not ever going to be a healthy way to live. Since nobody is perfect, you will *always* be a failure if perfection is your goal, and this will either lead you to stop trying (because why try, if you will only fail?) or to be miserable and self-loathing (because you’re trying, but aren’t perfect), the latter being where I’ve been most of my life. So…don’t make perfection the goal. This, I’d say, has been the big project of adulthood for me: letting go of the perfectionist mindset, and trying to adopt a new inner voice to talk to myself with, one that is not the cruel, judgmental perfectionist demon, but instead, is kind and patient with me (this is something I’ve worked on via DBT, as part of the therapy I’ve engaged in these past several years). And as a parent, one of my biggest goals is to raise M to be a lifelong learner, to have a “growth” mindset, which means she will need to be open to and unafraid of failure and mistakes – and this means I hope like crazy that I can help her not to develop the perfectionist demon, not to have that nasty inner voice, even though it’s something I struggle with myself.

Lately, I’ve been finding myself falling into the perfectionist traps my mind sets more frequently. M is 3.5 now. This means she is in a developmental stage where it is completely normal for her to be extremely fussy and particular about rules and routines, and to incessantly “correct” me for perceived violations of them. I can’t go a day without her telling me I “forgot” something (whether I actually did or not – she’ll often say I “forgot to get” her something that she only just then decided she wanted!), or that I said the wrong word, or did something the wrong way…it’s constant. And while I know it’s developmentally appropriate (it’s GOOD that she’s noticing rules and patterns!), and I shouldn’t take it personally, I’ve been struggling a lot with having what is essentially a personification of the nasty perfectionist voice inside my own head actually talking out loud to me. Because there’s a part of me that already IS kind of beating myself up when I say the wrong word, or mess up in any way, really – I haven’t vanquished the perfectionist demon, after all, I’ve just gotten better at ignoring it, pushing it way way down into the back of my mind. But when those “you’re wrong! you messed up! you failed!” thoughts are being voiced by an actual person…gosh, it’s a lot harder to ignore that. And then the perfectionist demon gets a toehold again. It’s wearing me down a bit. Especially since often, when I get something wrong, it isn’t just that M tells me about it – she often utterly loses it and unleashes an intense (and sometimes violent) tantrum. It makes me want to give up, sometimes – I end up being just constantly afraid that I will “screw up”, walking on eggshells constantly, just…afraid, and feeling like I am never good enough, those all too familiar feelings that the toxic perfectionist inner voice has pushed me towards my whole life. And that’s no way to enjoy life with your kid.

So that’s hard. But the other side of it is that as a parent, if you struggle, and you are open about struggling, you get a LOT of…well, we’ll call it feedback from other adults. Often it feels like (and let’s be honest, IS) judgement – the struggles you’re having are all your fault for not being a better parent, etc. But even the well-intentioned stuff can feel a bit triggering, if perfectionism is a problem area for you. Here’s what I mean. When I talk about M’s tantrums and how she struggles with things like transitions and change (these are perfectly normal characteristics for a child with M’s “high need” temperament, by the way), the advice I get is to “be consistent”. I want to be clear: this is NOT bad advice, at all. It’s very good advice. Consistency is very helpful for all kids, but especially for kids like M who have much higher needs in terms of structure and routine. But here’s where my inner perfectionist demon goes with that advice: if I ever fail to be perfectly consistent (e.g. those times when I mess up in the moment, because, well, nobody’s perfect, especially when as sleep deprived as I am due to M’s nighttime difficulties), then whatever problems ensue are entirely my fault, due to that failure to be consistent. And I mean, there’s a sense of truth to that, because nobody is perfectly consistent, and if consistency is what’s important, then the problems that arise will arise when inconsistency creeps in. But I’m guessing that even with perfect consistency in their parents’ actions/responses/etc, kids will still lose it sometimes – they’ve got a lot of big feelings to figure out! And the perfectionist twist on it, to view the struggles as purely a matter of personal failing, to make it about self-blame instead of treating it as a thing that happens because hey, nobody is perfect, is a toxic soup that I’m currently trying very hard to spit out. The nasty thing my mind does to me in that situation is it says that the badness that is happening right now is because *I* am bad. I’ve always had this feeling that if I screw up, then I deserve to be punished in some way, I deserve bad things to happen to me – and this ends up making it feel as though M’s tantrums are my punishment for not being a perfect parent. That if I could just anticipate her needs better, that if I just didn’t say the wrong thing, that if I didn’t screw up, that if I were more perfectly consistent, then I wouldn’t be “punished” with a tantrum. I “deserve” those tantrums for my failure to be perfect. And that’s just a really, really unhealthy (and wrong, and bad for my relationship with M) way to think about it. I know this, intellectually, but it doesn’t keep my mind from going there sometimes.

One thing worth noting is that I’ve seen plenty of toddler/preschooler tantrums in my time, and M’s are…on the extreme end, which I’m sure has something to do with why I find them so punishing. We’re looking into whether she should be getting some help for sensory processing and other issues – she does a lot of self-injurious things (finger-biting, hair-pulling) when she’s upset, and it seems to me more like she’s doing them because she’s struggling to manage her big emotions, and less like she’s doing them to manipulate me (though it does pretty effectively shred my heart). You hear a lot about ignoring tantrums, about not “giving in” to tantrums (it’s that consistency thing, again), but when your kid is hurting herself, you also can’t (or at least, shouldn’t!) just ignore it. (I also tend to think “just ignoring” is a bad thing to do to anyone who you love and want to build/maintain a relationship with, but that’s another topic). I try to comfort her, and I’m getting good at a sort of “straightjacket” hold that keeps her from biting her fingers, but it’s not an easy thing to do, physically (she’s 40 pounds!) or emotionally (again, especially when sleep-deprived). She needs better coping skills, and we’re trying to help her develop them – but of course, as is probably obvious from the way I talk, I’m not exactly a master of coping skills, myself (it’s work-in-progress, here…but I *am* working on it). It’s hard to be the parent of a “high need”/”spirited” kid, and harder still when you’ve got your own struggles in terms of sensitivity and sensory issues (M pushes me into sensory overload quite frequently – my world “goes purple” when she’s screaming full-volume, and I often want to crawl under heavy blankets or even a mattress, because being squished calms me – but of course, I’m the grown-up, so I can’t just go do that, usually). Add in a tendency towards perfectionism, and you’ve got a recipe for misery. Perfectionists crave positive feedback – it means you’re not screwing up! But you’re not going to get much positive feedback as the parent of a “difficult” child – people won’t see how hard you work, how much effort and energy you put into coaching your kid, anticipating their needs, helping them manage themselves in new situations, how much “better” your kid is being than if you *weren’t* doing those things – they’ll just see a kid who’s too intense, whose worn-down looking parent “can’t control” them (though I’d argue that any parent who truly could control their child must be an abusive one who has broken that child, because that is the only way you “control” other human beings). You just won’t get the gold stars, the “her parents do such a great job with her” comments that you’ll hear people make about other people’s kids. So you’ve got to let go and just accept things as they are, and believe that you are doing your best, and that it is enough, even if you never hear that from anyone else. That you are enough, and your kid is enough, whether you’re recognized by anyone else as “good” or not. But that’s hard. I don’t have good answers, here – I’m still working on finding my way – but I do think DBT has been helpful. And I thought it might also be helpful to think about this “out loud”, because I know that for me, one of the most helpful things when I am in self-loathing mode, thinking that I must be a horrible parent because I feel X or struggle with Y, is to see that no, I am not alone, this is a thing that others feel and I am not uniquely awful at parenting. So I hope this helps someone else who has similar struggles, and maybe also that it helps those who don’t struggle with perfectionism understand the ugly, painful side of it a little better.


Rainbow shawl in the sun.

As soon as I finished Thalia, I cast on for another shawl – this time Whipporwill, in a skein of Kauni Effektgarn that I’ve had in my stash for awhile. It’s the EQ colorway, that wonderful rainbow gradient! So far, I’ve knit through magenta, purple, blue, and green…

Kauni Whipporwill progress.

…and it’s so fun to watch the colors gradually shift. The Kauni yarn isn’t the softest stuff out there, but I don’t mind the way it feels! (I have sensitive skin, but oddly am not bothered by even fairly rough wool.)

Loving working with Kauni Effektgarn!

I’m not sure where I’ll have cause to wear a rainbow colored shawl (at the Pride parade? But that’s in July, so maybe not shawl weather!), but rainbows make me happy, so I’m sure I’ll figure something out. This shawl is going to be my project during our upcoming trip. We’re leaving tomorrow for Illinois to go to my cousin’s wedding (where I’ll wear Thalia), and then from there, driving with my parents up to MN to visit with them and with my grandparents, who are coming up to MN also. I’m really looking forward to seeing them, and excited for them to get to spend time with M!

But since we’ll be gone for quite awhile, I was mildly paranoid that I’d run out of knitting projects, so I cast on for another project yesterday:

I started a new sweater (of my own design, for M) yesterday.

It’s my own design, and it’s for M. We were reading a library book, and I noticed the sweater that one of the bears in the book was wearing – a white sweater with thin blue stripes, kind of nautical looking, and I thought…hey, I have Beaverslide Sport/Sock in my stash in those colors! So then I sketched out my idea, which isn’t exactly like the bear’s sweater (hers is a boat neck, I think), but instead, a split yoked pullover, with a slight A-line shape and pockets. I find that split yokes are very easy for M to put on herself (plus, I just love yokes, and splitting it makes it easy to have stripes without any jog), and I know she loves having pockets. M says she wants a zipper for the split section. We’ll see how it all works out – perhaps this will become yet another pattern on my list of patterns to write up for sale. (I swear, I’m going to work on at least the Garter Rib cardigan(s) and the Stripes! cardigan(s) this summer! I’d love to also knit up and write up a kids’ Vahtralehed pattern, too. And…so many other things. My brain is full and my to-do list is crazy.)

things i make for me: thalia!


Leaving Thalia to dry outside after I pinned it out yesterday was a great idea – it was already dry by later in the afternoon! So now I need not worry about not having a shawl to wear with my dress at my cousin’s wedding – I’ve got it done with plenty of time to spare!

Very very happy with my new shawl!

Project Details:
Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Thalia, by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: sKnitches Kettle Drum in “Peapod” (which had been in my stash for AGES), plus some Dream in Color Baby in “Spring Tickle” (also old stash yarn!)
Needles: size 7 Clover circulars
Time to knit: about 2.5 weeks

I absolutely adore this pattern – it’s actually the first of Kirsten Kapur’s shawls that I’ve knit, despite lusting after them for quite some time! I bought her “Shawl Book One” after seeing the lovely photos that Gale Zucker posted from the photoshoot, knowing that there were at least a few patterns in it that I had definite intentions to knit. Thalia wasn’t the one I was planning to knit first, though – that came about after the mishaps with the Annis pattern, and I have to say, I’m SO much happier to have knit Thalia! The pattern was a lot of fun to knit. I was a little skeptical at first about the line-by-line instructions, thinking that it would be a pain to follow the pattern, but there’s a very simple logic to them once you get going, and as a result, I didn’t *actually* need to pay close attention to every single line. And the final lace chart was nice and easy to follow. The only mishap I had was running out of yarn just before the bind-off, but that actually worked in my favor…

Pretty pretty greens.

Look how well those greens work together! The contrast bind-off looks absolutely intentional, rather than a desperate attempt to not have to rip back and cut rows. I am just so happy with how it looks!

I can't believe how perfectly the contrast yarn ended up working out!

It’s hard to take photos of yourself wearing a shawl, and the bright sun outside didn’t really help matters, but here’s what it looks like pinned in the front, which is probably what I’ll do for the wedding:

Thalia, pinned in front.

I think it will look lovely with the dress I got to wear for the wedding (in Blue Multi Garden Floral print, which has more yellowy greens to it than it appears in the photo).


I’m hoping to get some nice pictures of my little family all dressed up next weekend, and if I do, I’ll share them here!