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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Raveling On...

I skimmed the book about Mindful Knitting, and I found it both helpful and kind of disheartening. There were some lovely images... but apparently to knit mindfully, one shouldn't do it with an audiobook running in the background. It had some excellent patterns--so many, in fact, that I'm highly tempted to buy the book after I return it to the library.

Today's sleep-deprivation is brought to you by Harry Potter garb for Halloween. I've been working like crazy getting D's Halloween costume finished on time. He now has his tiny owl Pigwigeon:

And his Weasley sweater, broomstick, Gryffindor scarf and tie, magic wand, and orange hair:

Tonight I hauled out the fabric and pattern for his robes, and got both the main parts cut out and sewn together. Now I just have to sew the lining to the outside, and put the hood in--I think I have to figure out how to line the hood as well, drat it, as I don't have enough red lining for the hood. There's plenty of black, though. And then I'll stitch on the Gryffindor patch and, bam, the kid is ready for Hogwarts.

I'm not exactly relaxed--my whole body hurts and my neck is in a complete crunch--but at least it should actually be finished tomorrow night! This is a Good Thing, as I'm really much busier this week than I expected.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Learning the Power of BARK

I've been pondering this topic for some time, and although I have other things to write about, I want to get this out of my head and onto the screen. So here I offer thoughts on my dog learning to use his indoor voice.

We moved into the new house in June, and we've all had things to adjust to. Almost all the way around, it has been a positive experience for every member of our family. For T and me, finally having the space to keep our belongings has been liberating in the extreme! and my commute has reduced to a point where even if I leave after I'm supposed to be at work, I'm only 10 minutes late. We haven't been late to church or choir once so far--all we have to do is get out two minutes before the start time and we're there!

D has not only his own room--which he uses more than he did his old room because it's across from ours instead of way up in the lonely attic--but also room to bounce and make noise in the basement family room without getting totally underfoot. He can also play outside without me having to worry about him getting squashed by a car, and there are so many more kids in the neighborhood his own age than in our old neighborhood!

Chester Kitty became an outdoor cat when he discovered he could yank the corner of the screen door out and walk outside. It took him a month to learn this skill, but now he's down to 1 second to complete the task anew after I shove the thing back together. But the neighborhood is safe enough that at least I'm not really worried about cars. Raccoons, skunks, and wolves, yes... but not cars. He comes in when it gets dark, though. And we don't let him out again despite his pleading.

But in no family member is the change so apparent than in our dog, Ian the EagerBeagle. In our old house, Ian was a tightly-wound, house-wetting, barking, howling monster. He'd sleep calmly on the window seat until another dog walked by--which happened at least 15 times a day in our old, busy neighborhood--whereupon he would jump up, bark, howl, growl, race around, pick up couch cushions in his mouth and shake them thoroughly (that'll teach them cushions!) and remain on guard for minutes at a time until the other dog was gone... and then back on the window seat until the next Evil Puppy dared to walk by... sometimes as little as 5 or 10 minutes later.

Here we still have the barking howling cushion-punishing routine, but it might happen 3 or 4 times a day. In addition, because the deck is separated from the kitchen (where I hang out most of the time) only by a screen door in summer, Ian spent a lot of the summer on his tie-out on the deck, relaxing in the sun. And we have a state park that allows off-leash doggies where Ian can get plenty of exercise.

But the biggest change, a huge blessing for us, is that Ian no longer has accidents in the house. It used to be he'd go weeks or even months at a time without peeing or pooping inside, but then he'd go through a spate of these indiscretions several days in a row. Also, we'd have to shut him into our room at night, because if he left the room and went to the back door without us hearing him, he'd pee or poop if no one came.

What changed, you might ask? I have absolutely no idea why, but in August, when T was going off to work and I was not, so I was sleeping a bit later, Ian would follow T downstairs and often go out for his morning constitutional, but then when T left, Ian would be lonely or need to go out, and rather than come all the way back up those stairs, poor doggie, he would stand at the bottom of the stairs and give one demanding, loud bark that caught the acoustics of our house and wake me out of the soundest sleep imaginable. It was the first time he'd ever barked to be let out--he barked to be let in at the old place, but not to be let out--and so I hopped out of bed and let him out, and praised him tons and tons.

Now, being woken up that way isn't fun. He did it a few times, and it was okay because at least he was peeing outside (and not on the deck, by the way--that's another totally disgusting habit that changed when we moved here), but that bark was loud. So eventually Ian figured out that I wasn't coming down when T did, so he came back to bed, and then if he needed to go, he'd get down from the bed, which usually wakes me up.

A few times he barked at me from right next to the bed, which was kinda shocking, but then he started experimenting with using his indoor voice. Again, I have absolutely no idea why this concept kicked in for him... It wasn't anything I taught him. I guess even he didn't feel comfortable barking at full volume at 2:00am one morning when he wanted to go out (it happens sometimes if he gets leftovers at dinner--can't make it to morning). So he learned the trick of standing right by the side of my bed and giving this little whispery "gruff, gruff" sound, which for some reason wakes me out of a dead sleep but without the shock value of "BARK!"

The other thing he uses it for is getting on the bed. If it's brightly lit in our room, and there's no one in the bed, he can jump up there even though it's a stretch--he slips a bit on the uncarpeted hardwood floor--but in the middle of the night after he's spent the first bit of the night on his dog bed and then wants up with mom and dad, he can't judge the distance properly, especially if I'm sleeping there and the cat is on my feet as is his wont. So Ian gives his "gruff, gruff" sound and silly me, I hop out of bed and pick him up and put him on the bed, and we all go to sleep. I need to get him some stairs, seriously. I can tell the difference between "get in the bed" and "gotta go" because "get in the bed" entails standing at attention waiting to be picked up, whereas "gotta go" includes tail wagging, a pleading expression, and lots of little circles, the doggie equivalent of the peepee dance.

Anyone who says "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is just dead wrong. Ian's not old--he's only 5--but he's mature and he had his ways. Now he's a different dog and I'm a happier owner.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I suppose it should come as no surprise that blogging is easier in August when I'm not working. Since returning to work in mid-September I've found that I have to carefully allocate my "me" time between knitting and sleeping, as allowing anything else time on the clock means I reduce one of those--and this, I cannot do.

The HPKCHC (That's Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup to the uninitiated) is about halfway through for the Term. I completed four projects plus 3/15 of my O.W.L. (I'm making 15 towels) last month. This month all my non-O.W.L. work is on D's Halloween costume. He's reading (we're reading together) the Harry Potter books. Actually at the moment he's upstairs listening to Prisoner of Azkaban, I may never see my iPod again. :-P

So of course when he decided he wanted to be Ron Weasley for Halloween, I jumped up and down and started planning knitting projects! I'm also making his robes "from scratch," as it were... I found a cape pattern with a lining and hood--I have to combine some different pieces to make it long enough but it should work nicely, and I even found a Gryffindor patch on e-bay. We'll have to find a tie and a wand, but if worse comes to worse there's a website that I can order costume-y ones from.

I'm also involved in the HPKCHC "Quidditch" match... it's all about knitting for charity this term, and while the Quidditch coach usually changes it up term to term, I'm loving this term's Quidditch play. My team is making baby hats for Knits for Infants, and not only are they adorable but they're needed. I've only made two hats, and one stripe for a team-effort baby blanket, but after D's costume is settled I'll have time for more.

That's the "what's new" part of this post; now I'm moving on to the "pondering" part. Oh, and yeah, I know I haven't mentioned a single thing about my life other than knitting. I could, but it would just be whining about work. I have thoughts about my dog learning to talk, but that's another post altogether. :)


I knit on a deadline for the House Cup. Really it's a series of deadlines, because each month's assignments are due on the last day of the month at midnight. And so, toward the end of each month, several things happen.

First, my stress level increases. Seriously. I was sorted into Ravenclaw for House Cup purposes, and there's a reason: my overachieving geekiness dictates that R'claw is where I belong. So when I'm not done with my projects I get a little bit on edge. Each project completed is worth 15 points for your house; each partial project is worth 5; O.W.L. earns 50 points at the 30% mark (if achieved before the last day of the second month) and another 100 points at completion. Last month I earned the 30% points but never finished my project, but I'm going to modify it to be a table runner instead of a tablecloth so I'm kind of glad I never finished it. So all this work is worth points... and right now the Slytherins are 600ish points ahead of us and I'd really like to see the cup back in Ravenclaw Tower! We came in 2nd to the Slytherins last term and there was just no way to catch up. Their lead this time is much smaller.

I might be a trifle competitive.

Second, my production level increases. I just barely finished those mittens for my nephew by midnight September 30, but I did it. And while that means I had to work like a lunatic to get it done, I also have his Christmas present all set and I don't have to think about it any more. I love having Christmas ready with time to spare. This month won't go toward Christmas at all, but next month will, and last month did.

Third, my sleep deprivation increases, which really isn't so good, but it's temporary. Once the month clicks over and new assignments come out I get back to somewhat normal sleep habits. Though I find knitting addicting--maybe I can just finish one more inch if I stay up just a little longer. So even mid-month during low-stress times, I stay up too late because I'm doing something I enjoy.

All this plus job stress led my Darling Husband (of almost 14 years!! time do fly when you're having fun!) to ask me whether it was wise for me to be getting all stressed out by the thing I do to "relax" myself... and so I had to stop and think and ponder. (Yes, finally made it to the pondering part!)

Do I knit because it's relaxing? I'd have to honestly say no. I knit because I love the finished results of my work, and I knit to challenge myself to do harder stuff. I knit because I love giving handmade stuff to people I love. I knit because, honestly, I enjoy people's reaction to the things I make. I enjoy being admired. Especially when I worked really hard at whatever it is they're admiring.

Should I knit because it's relaxing? Probably. I recently found information about a book called Mindful Knitting which I plan to look into. Perhaps then I would enjoy both the knitting part and the end results, who knows?

Should I stop participating in contests with deadlines? No. Because contests with deadlines make me finish stuff, and that's always been a problem for me. If I don't have a reason to finish something, I get halfway through and lose interest. And I really like having finished products (which is why I rarely attempt big projects like sweaters: much more likely to finish mittens or hats!).

Okay, I have to go face the world. And cast on the front part of D's Weasley sweater, which is going to be completely beautiful. And working kids' sweaters barely counts as a sweater, they're quick and easy! Wait until you see the one I want to do during Spring term for my O.W.L.!

I'll post pics later... most of what I've made is Christmas presents, so I can't post 'em for fear someone will see them who's supposed to wait until they open it... but when D's costume is ready, pictures galore!