Archive for October, 2008

Meet Classroom Assistant Mittens

October 27, 2008

The economic downturn has meant some tough choices. The parents’ minds are obviously too bogged down crunching budget numbers so the kids needed a math tutor. This is what we could afford:

He’s a thoroughgoing professional.


“Let’s have a look here at your sums..”


“You’re doing it wrong. I don’t see why you think it’s so funny.”


“Your numbers look appalling. Borrow my straightedge.”


“What. Did you or did you not hire me to be the ass-istant??”

On copping out..

October 26, 2008

..at election time.

If you read what I write, listen to my drivel, etc., it’s probably no surprise that I haven’t found a home in either of our two major political parties. It’s also been hard to place myself amongst some of the alternatives. Some parties would have us eschew centralized government completely, which I think is unrealistic and would merely have us governed by the corporations that provide the services we crave. Others would have us so dominated by Washington D.C. that we would be completely at the mercy of TPTB (if indeed we aren’t already..). I’ve also aged into a sort of distaste for the mindless lefties that have appeared, noisily and with dred locks whipping in the wind, as liberalism has become ‘on trend.’ They’re almost as obnoxious as the equally asinine folks on the right who persist in laboring under the delusion that the general election is the meaningful time to vote the moral(istic) line, and then wonder why the neocon Republicans have a carte blanche to do whatever the hell they like with the vast American ‘moral majority’ bolstering them up. The Democrats don’t represent folk like me, and the Republicans no longer represent their supporters either. What an interesting situation. This is our two-party State, my friends.

I should point out that I have nothing against non-progressives. You don’t have to share my superb political insights for me to like you ;). I also have nothing against dred locks. Indeed, I endeavor to have an enviable set in 40 years time or so.

A couple months ago, I managed to corner John Taylor Gatto at a home education conference in Arbroath. I was keen to quiz the guy on the relative merits of voting for a less horrid candidate who has a chance of getting in or voting for who I believe would actually do the sort of work I believe needs doing. He thought there was great value in voting for the alternatives. He cited the example of Perot making people nervous when he managed to get a chunk of the popular vote in ’92. Of course there’s also the still-debated effect of Nader on the Florida race in ’00. Then he brought up Ron Paul as an interesting possibility. I think the man is fairly charming, with his Dr. No moniker and his actually attempting to adhere to the constitution, but..oh dear. I’m way too much of a cynic to believe that the sort of deregulation and governmental non-interference his sort of libertarians propose would see the average poor person treated very well. You can build more community autonomy without corporate laissez-faire. In that sense, I lean much more toward the Green Party.

There is also the issue of my home state. I come from Idaho, a state that hasn’t voted in a Democrat since ’64, and then only by a thin margin. In this case, given that McCain is projected to win 2 to 1, do I vote ‘not republican’ or ‘not any of this status quo nonsense’? Do I dare hope the enthusiasm that Obama has stirred up will reach the hearts of my beloved compatriots? Or do I make a statement vote for a party I actually believe in?

In the end, for better or worse, I admit that I fell for the glamour. I did ‘cast’ my absentee ballot for Obama, and for every other Idaho non-republican nominee I could color in an oval next to. I did feel quite awkward voting for positions other than president. I haven’t lived in Idaho for more than 4 years–do I really have a right to help determine the direction of a place that isn’t my home? After giving it some thought, I decided that, if anything, I’m a more informed voter now than I was when I did actually have a Moscow zip code. It is also a right afforded to me, when it comes down to it, and perhaps it’s a bit self-indulgent to worry myself over it.

As I get older I am more determined that it is the day to day living out of one’s political and social views that makes the difference. As I live and speak and write, hopefully I will have a positive influence and people will associate those influences with the ideals I try to embody. This is the hard graft of being a good citizen, but it’s the meaningful bit and I’m suppose I’m happy to give it a go. In the meantime, y’all remember to go cast your ballots!

‘Let’s be clear’…

October 23, 2008

…to quote an Obamaism.

I am going to do my part for election-season clarity. Not many people read this blog, and not all of the people who do agree with my positions on things. I’m really sick, however, of reading homeschooler propaganda about Obama opposing their education choice. In case there is any doubt amongst my friends here, I invite you to google ‘Obama position homeschooling.’ The gist is, you will quickly find, he considers it a choice to be honored.

There. People who have visited my site will no longer be able to use homeschooling as an issue over which to hate Obama. Of course people can get all hinky about the issue of degree of approval, but they can’t say he’s looking for a blanket ban and to march 2-year-olds into the schoolyard at gunpoint. I’m feeling very patriotic now.

*horror movie scream*

October 23, 2008

Something I’ve never quite gotten over is the whole household cleanliness honesty thing, particularly where in-laws are concerned. I always envisioned myself becoming, certainly by my late 20s, someone who would have the household rhythm down and everyone more or less clean all the time. It eludes me still, but rather than just accept it, I have quasi-panic attacks just before visitors come. OK, admittedly not all visitors, and this all depends on how well I’m feeling (which affects my ‘give-a-sh*t’ levels to a high degree), but generally I try to nurture the fantasy that I’m not a complete slob. So in the interest of evolving honesty, I post the following–the photo of my laundry closet after I gutted the house of all the dirty laundry I’d managed to pretend didn’t exist..


Nooooooooooo…..

It seems though that I might have a good out for being a bit immature about the housework. A neighbor came from across the street the other day to introduce herself. She greeted me, sort of looked me up and down, and asked, very nicely I should add, if my mom was home. Good god. I sort of feebly replied that I was indeed the lady of the house, tada. Granted, it probably didn’t help that I was wearing camo pants, pig tails, and bright lipstick, but come on. I’m 30 years old.

Certainly old enough to vote–which I did!

I find it fairly charming that they must assume that everyone, from the sorority girl to the old farmer, is going to be keen on getting a sticker. I put that in the mail the other day, so I see no reason why it shouldn’t get home in time. I’m a good citizen, w00t.

Speaking of good citizens, here’s a very good little world citizen, learning about her planet. She loooooves her geography. She cuddles her geography. I suppose that’s one benefit of homeschooling–you can engage with your material in any number of strange ways and there are only a few people who will give you wierd looks for it.

Another demonstration of good citizenship–here are the kids walking back from doing the recycling. I like the ‘No Golf’ sign just on the other side of our wall.

Being a good citizen also involves reusing. What the hell am I doing to this guitar with knitting needles, you ask? This is yet another example of my awesome McGyvering skills. I was reading about lap steel guitars, and decided I need to play around with one. The only reasonable course of action at that point was to take this crappy £5 guitar we got at a knick-knack shop, put a wooden needle under the strings to raise them, tune it, then use an aluminum addi knitting needle as the bar. Do you know what, it worked just fine. The guitar being incapable of holding its tune for more than 2 minutes is what did it in, not my elite instrument building skills. Hehe.

To be a good citizen, one must also support small business. To that end, I just bought some more knitting needles. These are beastly *15mm* addi circulars. Yeah, woah. You know, they’d make mighty fine steel guitar bars…

As a responsible citizen, I also support the arts. Would you take a look at this?

This is a typical example of James’ doodling. That’s right–his doooodling. I finally convinced him to stop doing them on envelopes and I ordered him some proper paper. I don’t think I’m merely husband-proud in saying that he is quite talented. He has an extraordinary sense for forms and lines, and he’s doing all of these with a set of Sharpies. He refuses to let me buy him proper artist markers, and I think that’s a pity. Could be that I use the holidays as an excuse to get around the ban.. In any case, I’ve told him that what I want for Christmas is a huge one in a frame.

Package Requests

October 23, 2008

Nyssa showed me a little craft project today in her American Girl Magazine (sounds a bit nationalistic, doesn’t it..nothing of the sortreally), and requested some of those spearmint gummy leaf candies that you can get in the States. That reminded me that this is round about the time of year that family back home starts pondering what to put in packages. We are altogether too spoilt, but I have to admit that we don’t mind it at all. 🙂 So, here are some food items that we find ourselves longing for:

-the aforementioned spearmint leaves
-cinnamon gummy bears
-red Nibs
-Nestle Crunch/the hershey equivalent (Krackle?)
-peanut butter baking chips
-brickle baking bits (forget what they’re called..tiny bits of toffee–can you believe you can’t get those in *britain*??)
-gummy bears
-fruit snacks
-wintergreen candy canes
-rootbeer anything
-red ropes
-Dots
-Whatchamacallits
-tootsie rolls, particularly the fruit flavored ones. Footies are nice too.
-york peppermint patties
-come to think of it, mini candy bars of any description. I miss raiding the Wal-Mart clearance aisle after Halloween!
-Luna Bars (especially the s’mores ones!), Clif Bars (especially peanut butter or carrot cake!), things of that sort that don’t involve dates or raisins are really very much appreciated. I had Luna bars sent this way once and customs about killed me.
-flavoured beef jerky, particularly that jamaican kind
-that crappy international coffee powdered stuff, any flavor so long as it’s decaff

I hate that I can’t get Cool Whip. I know it’s rubbish, but I can hardly bear to make pumpkin pie as it’s just not the same without it.

Now, if people would send me a list of the foods they would like from the UK, I could try to get packages out in a timely fashion this year. I would assume that everyone likes Cadbury and McVities cakes, but I don’t recall anyone actually saying they like the things I send, so.. Did anyone like those flavoured fudges? Hehe, I also need to ponder what gross thing to send Dad this year. I need to keep a record, as I’ve forgotten what I’ve send already. I think there was bloater paste, spotted dick pudding, lunch tongue, steak and kidney pie in a can..they’ll can anything in this country.

Oh yeah, does anyone want Christmas crackers (those British party favors you pull from both ends)? I can get them premade or send you kits to make them (lots of fun :).

So anyway, please leave a comment or send me an email. There should be a link on the info page, if you’ve not got it.

Quite possibly..

October 17, 2008

..the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever made. And that’s really saying something. From recent memory, you may recall my Ghetto Yarn Swift. And a lot of you saw the neo-romantic nightmare of a bathroom in my trailer, complete with victorian crimson walls, tiles, and an angel motif. *shudder* This is pretty goofy though–

I look sorta like an X-Men character and my super power is turning into Cookie Monster. The idea was to have cozy mittens to wear in my chilly house that didn’t impede my typing. For this they actually work fairly well. Being palmless, my hand is also not completely useless with the mouse. Now I am the envy of the cats–grippy skin on the underside like them, but with opposable thumbs! Beat that kitties! …

…Or just plant your ass on the hama beads. Touché, Mitu, touché.

Aw bless..

October 16, 2008

Our online pet store has a whole page of products dedicated to calming stressed out pets on Bonfire Night.

Speaking of Bonfire Night, we shall be leaving our pets in the relative calm of our rural location and going to see the Edinburgh fireworks at the zoo. The place is built on a hill, and as such is a good alternative to braving arena hell. Apparently Bonfire Night will be sans bonfire, but fair enough for us, having an asthmatic in our midst.

I’ve been cleaning my office/dining/craft room which has resulted in my consolidating a big pile of books I’ve been meaning to read. So far I’ve found:

-Omnivore’s Dilemma
-Two Caravans
-Chomsky’s Failed States
-Nella Last’s War
-The Age of Consent
-The Consolations of Philosophy (de Botton)
-Consolation of Philosophy (Boethius)
-The Darkness that Comes Before
-Zinn’s People’s History
-1000 Splendid Suns
-Pedagogy of the Oppressed
-Diary of Frida Kahlo
-Proust’s Memory of Things Past
-Nickel and Dimed
-The Old Man and the Sea

So that’s not a huge list, but it’s enough to give me, er, autodidactical guilt. In the back of my mind there’s an itchy voice reminding me that I can’t grow my intellect on Wikipedia and BBC News alone (much as I might wish it) but even with my kids being older and mellow, I don’t do a lot of sitting in environments conducive to reading. The only time I do crack a book is when I’ve gone up to bed, and then it’s a mild and familiar fantasy series to redirect my thoughts from anxious ones as I try to nod off. I don’t think that would be the time for Zinn or Freire, to say the least! Ah well. Someday I’ll get to it, and Nyss and Jos will boggle when their kids extol their granny’s profound erudition. Hehe.

Having gotten some sleep..

October 15, 2008

..morning deliveries notwithstanding..Ugh. Here are pictures from Nyssa’s birthday!


Nyssa grinning in anticipation of trying her bike.


James is good at this. 🙂


I swear, they did manage to be upright at times.


Victory strut.


Woohoo!


Birthday lunch–PBJ on white and mac and cheese!


Looks cute enough, but it was a Tesco cake. British supermarket cakes are dry as sawdust. I’ve done this a few times. Even M&S is sub-par. It’s not even like I expect the fantastic shortening-laden creations from back home. After a few years of break from making those insane theme cakes it seems I’ll have to get back in the kitchen, so to speak.


Birthday battle. Battle is a recurring theme in my house 😛

It appears I didn’t really take many photos of her birthday. In a way that’s a good thing–it means things were low key. We’ve all been after that lately.

A few other things..


Harvesting potatoes at the farm yesterday. Kids did good, even with the midgies biting. I’m so itchy today! On the recommendation of Kosmick, Skin So Soft is in the mail!


Tubby cat tummy..in a tub.


James wasn’t home last night, so I made a classic–tuna casserole. Nyssa was less than impressed. Joseph it ate it all up. I ate the cheesy topping :P.


Mittens posing with my new yarn. I ordered some Christmas crafty presents for Nyssa and Mirasol’s (fair trade!) baby alpaca yarn was deeply discounted. I couldn’t resist, as Grandma R had indicated that it was that sort of fibre that made James’ scarf she made so lovely. I have just a skein of each, so they will probably end up as fingerless mittens or something.**Edit..as it turns out, Miski is baby llama. How funny that I didn’t notice *boggle*

Poor Nyssa. I think she’s getting sick. The other day she finally decided what to get with her Amazon money (thank you Grandma MK!) and it came today, but she can’t dredge up the energy to be excited and complains of feeling depressed. A combination of missing James and not feeling well, I think. I’ve got a killer headache myself. Why am I sitting at the computer then? The sunshine is warming this spot, and I’ve got a sunsoaked kitty next to me.

It’s a perverse sort of life

October 15, 2008

I had a random itch to call up some christian music I listened to obsessively as a teenager. Thanks to amazon, I can get the likes of Mark Heard and that Brow Beat album from amazon sellers. It’s oddly comforting knowing that. Not sure why.

Further to this, I wandered around youtube. I came across Flood by Jars of Clay, and apart from a flash memory of my sister and dried flowers glued to a fake wooden door, I found it fairly depressing. I lost my faith a few months before I lost the kids’ dad, thinking to start the whole belief in a deity thing from scratch. I haven’t come up with anything in the intervening years between then and now as I sit here feeling fairly sorry for myself for not having any supernatural being to guilt trip me into being productive and to carry me when the mind-angst is at it’s worst. Listening to this music I try to recapture what it was that burned me so. Sardonic fellow that I am, I recognize it all as the natural mental path of a deeply internal person, given the influences at the time. I was honest, for all I knew how to be honest. And now I’m honest in my lack of belief. It’s not for lack of desire, perverse as that sounds. I hope if there is a god, when it comes to the end of it he quirks a smile and falls for my pathos.

I wonder if it’s the normal thing to have an emotional personality that acts as a leveller more than a filter. Apart from a couple of instances in life at the extremes, particularly when I was grief-smacked, it doesn’t seem that I desire to laugh or cry any less, regardless of my circumstances. I think what has changed as I age has been my lessening capacity to internalize things. It’s a bit unnerving, the penchant I now have for getting lumps in my throat and jaw tremors. On the other hand, I suppose I’m also a lot more likely to enjoy something outrageously. Is this my mature self? There are times I would really like that pressure cap back. Tools are good.

So it’s no wonder that my kids are completely neurotic, nor should it surprise me that I’m fairly bemused by it all. The other day Joseph was called to come join an activity of some sort, but, with a worried expression, he requested that he be allowed to finish watching the BBC News report on the financial crisis. Nyssa got out of bed last night because she was having frightful thoughts–apparently in Crieff she saw a kid get turfed out of a corner shop for trying to buy porn. My response? To the former, I let him watch the news and later tried to convince him that the world was not in fact going to run out of money because the concept of money had long since been removed from any concrete thing. To the latter, I attempted to regale Nyn with a story of my once busting a tough teenager trying to shoplift girlie mags and reducing him to tears. Today we were harvesting potatoes and Joseph was getting eaten up by midgies. I consoled him with a stern ‘deal with it and dig’ and tried to distract the kids with an enthusiastic retelling of Stone Soup.

Basically, I don’t know how to do this parenting thing. The above are examples of life just poking at the edges of our composite mental health issues. I try to be serious, but wry, to be deeply involved in my kids’ emotional lives, but give them a fair amount of independence. I just often feel that we’ve got that one deadweight of agonizing, ongoing grief and I have a hard time knowing which of these life choices I’m making are positive on balance or if they’re dragging us down further. Should I have stayed in the States? Should the kids be in school? Is it really the course of wisdom to put all of their eggs in one big flawed mother of a basket? I do my best, but really, I don’t know how well I’m wired for this. As far as being happy and healthy, my continued mantra for them, I certainly don’t lead by example. And don’t all the parenting books hold that as the deadly sin? Regardless of my bouts of pathetic handwringing, I know that there is no perfect homeland, no infallible curriculum, and certainly no parenting benchmark, no matter how much I wish for all these, perhaps even insist that I deserve them.

I suppose the goal for the kids is this–to see them into an adulthood in which they feel equipped to make their own decisions. My goal for myself is to be able to look them in the eye and say, entrusted with their care as I was, that I taught them what I thought was true and gave them the best circumstances I could, given my resources and personal resilience. Well, I have to allow myself caveats, don’t I?

If nothing else, it is interesting to see how motherhood was perhaps the unmaking of the stoic young lady I used to be. Nyssa and Joseph are everything for me. Any fears I have for myself are rooted in concerns I have for how I effect their lives and are perhaps compounded because of this. The tempering effect they have on how I live my life does have a sweeter edge to it though–I adore them and I revel in that. It’s not the 21st century thing for a mom to say, but I’m much more interested in them than I am in myself. Perhaps I’m recalling more primal urges, but I can’t help it and I don’t care to help it. If I live an average lifespan, my time with them under my wing will have been so short. There’s plenty of time to sort myself out later. And maybe I’ll actually have some energy to do it. In the meantime, when I have nights alone I can sit and youtube myself a little soundtrack and have a good think about it.

Sale at Purlescence..

October 12, 2008

I’ve had some very pretty Rowan yarn sitting around that I got at a huge discount (as it’s discontinued, meh) and the weather getting cool has reminded me that perhaps something made out of it would be very nice.

I found the pattern Alpine in the Rowan 42 magazine, and was contemplating having to buy the thing (they always cost £11 or so) when I came across a link to the pattern for free on Ravelry! If you make it up, note that the last stitch on row 37 should be K1, not K2.

I’ve made up one of the triangles. I think the yarn works rather well, though to get what I’ve worked out the measurements to be, I knitted 4 fewer rows. Shall see how it ends up fitting.

After doing one section on straight needles, my wrists were dying. A combination of too much typing, gardening, and such is just too much for the puny things, and the only 10mm circular needles I have are 1. much too short and 2. MIA. The UK lux knitting webshop Purlescence happened to have a sale on needles, so I picked up a few sets..


Some indian rosewood Colonials, 10mm


Coconut palm Lantern Moons, 12mm.

I got some 10mm dpns as well, as I’m always wishing I had some, some bag handles, a couple buttons..

A few other things..

Mitu shares my feelings about the news recently..

Gratuitous paw shot

We’ve tried to make Mittens any number of bespoke beds. This is what he goes for *sigh*

Or this, aw

The couch is also a part-time venue for war-making. *sighsighsigh*

That would be before they rounded up the pillows and all chaos ensued. This would be the real reason I try to keep non-essential items in the living room to a minimum.