Thrum Thrum Thrummm

Read the title to the beginning tune of The Little Drummer Boy, just so your afthead is in the same mental space as mine.

Welcome readers.  It’s been hot here.  How about where you are?  Hot too?  (Maybe not if you are one of my southern hemisphere friends.)  Well, nothing makes me feel more comfy in the summer heat than some thrummed slippers.

Total lie.  Thrummed slippers are miserably hot summer footwear, unless you are the nine-year-old member of the Afthead family, in which case you have joyfully spent June and July wearing fuzzy crocs and your mom’s thrummed slippers in 90 degree heat.  Not wanting my slippers to get all gross with kid sweat I cast on so she could have her own pair.

My slippers are boring adult brown and yellow, using up yarn I had no plans for and the cheapest non-itchy piece of wool roving I could find at the knitting store, but I had big plans for my daughter’s slippers.  Rainbow plans….

When my favorite local yarn shop, The Recycled Lamb, went out of business, I bought this amazing tube of roving: Three Feet of Sheep in “Rainbow Twilight” by frabjous fibers, because I had a feeling that more thrummed objects were in my future.  The assortment of colors combined with a red Debbie Bliss Paloma from the stash – chosen because it’s “not itchy” – made an exceptionally colorful slipper.

img_4043

For you knitters who haven’t thrummed, be warned that it is putzy and not a travel friendly knitting project.  That said, it’s novel and creates a colorful fuzzy finished product that I love.

Luckily I had a 9 hour conference call and laryngitis, so needed an activity to stave off sleepiness while listening but not talking on my work call.  Thrum making was the perfect activity!  Patiently I separated the balls of roving, tore hunks off, unraveled the hunks into lengths which I folded and twisted into thrums.  The cats had to be locked out of the room during this task, because kitties love thrums.

The thrums did not take the whole 9 hours to make, so I started knitting on the call too.  (Really, if you knit and frequently have boring conference calls, may I suggest that you combine the two activities.  I’m much more engaged on my calls when I’m knitting.  Odd, but true.)  I knit both slipper soles first, because I wasn’t sure I had enough yarn to complete the slippers and liked the idea of contrasting pink tops more than I liked the idea of mismatched pink and red slippers.

In the end, I had enough yarn for both slippers because I shortened the top to only four rows of thrums, which seemed better for the smaller scale of my daughter’s feet and legs.  Also, like with my slippers, I modified the pattern to use an i-cord bind off, because I like how the extra weight of the fabric keeps the thrums from escaping over the top.

As soon as the last slipper was cast off, my daughter’s ran outside in them. Screaming after her, “Not outside with the hand knits,” I noticed the lovely contrast between the new slippers and the concrete.  Therefore, I demanded the ungrateful child take them off so I could photograph them before the slippers came back inside to live.

img_4742

So we are all set for sweaty summer rainbow feet at the Afthead household.  For you knitting knerds, I’ve got all the details below.  Thrum, thrum, thrummmm……


Thrummed slipper knitting details:

Pattern: Cadeautje by by Ysolda Teague

Yarn: Debbie Bliss Paloma in Red 42015

Roving: Three Feet of Sheep in “Rainbow Twilight” by frabjous fibers

Ravelry Link for mamma slippers:  http://www.ravelry.com/projects/afthead/cadeautje

Ravelry Link for kiddo slippers:  http://www.ravelry.com/projects/afthead/cadeautje-2

If you are a knitter and never thrummed before, I recommend the Yarn Harlot’s blog post about the topic.  As always, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a knitting genius.

Airport Musings

I’m heading out on a work trip, so was able to enjoy one of my favorite airport pastimes: random observation.  Today the focus was airport shopping.

I have always wondered about the airport magazine displays featuring Playboy, Penthouse and, in this instance, 3 other unknown skin magazines.  Who buys these magazines?  What person thinks, “Ah, nothing will improve my four hour flight sitting uncomfortably close to strangers like some tits and ass.”

This is a neverbefore seen miracle of airport shopping.  Three glass display cases filled with sparkle encrusted balls bearing logos from ramdom sports teams!  “One gift will satisfy your sporty son and his high maintenance wife,” you mistakenly conclude.

When I was a kid I would spend a few weeks every summer with my grandparents.  My parents would drive up from Denver and my grandparents would drive down from the mountains and they would meet roughly halfway.  We’d have lunch at this little park and then we children would be transferred.  Grandma would bring treats and one of those treats would be baseball gum balls.  Here in the airport candy shop, is my childhood summer just waiting to be scooped up, weighed, and purchased.  I’ll be the one blowing bubbles on the plane.

Unexpected Parenting Nostalgia

Being a parent is weird.  Everything is going along great.  You love your kid and she is growing up, doing amazing things.  Then unexpected parenting nostalgia hits.  It snuck up on me after a doctor’s appointment  that confirmed the ear infection I knew my daughter had two days before at the same doctor’s office, but whatever.  The fateful question came as the physicians assistant was writing up the prescription for the magical antibiotic that would allow her and me to sleep through the night.  “Do you want liquid or pills?”

I was surprised.  My 8 year old could take pills?  I mean, we had practiced swallowing M&Ms whole, preparing for this day, but it was really time for pills?

My daughter was ecstatic.  She hates the “disgusting pink medicine” and chose pills.  I, of course, played the part of the supportive mom.  “Oh, wow, you are so big now.  I’m so proud of you.” Inside my heart was breaking.  The medication of her childhood passed through my mind.  I remembered the tiny syringes of dye free cherry flavored Tylenol for late night teething.  I recalled how the syringes grew along with her and provided antibiotics, or bubble gum flavored Motrin.  The doses increased and we needed the big measuring spoons or cups.  Moving to chewable Tylenol, well that wasn’t a big deal but pills?  This was it.  The final step.  Once she took a pill she was effectively a grown up in the medicine taking realm.  She’d reached the pinnacle.  Sure, she might some day swallow down a handful of vitamins, but plenty of grownups take one pill at a time – like her dad.  With no fear or hesitation my daughter swallowed the giant amoxicillin pill and I checked one item off my list of parenting to dos.  For the rest of her life she’ll be able to take medicine without my help.

I’ve gotta admit, I cried a bit that night and then did a scavenging hunt through all the nooks and corners of medicine cabinets and closets and bins of random crap.  I found all the medication tools from infant until now.  I marveled at how far we’d come in 8 years.  I remembered the horror of infant wails and never knowing what was wrong and the guilt when I gave her Tylenol.  I remembered the endless ear infections.  I marveled at how long ago all that was and how quickly time had passed.  Finally, with pride, I put all the tools back in the bin of random crap, wiped my eyes, blew my nose, and thought, “Nice work mom.  When your kid has a wicked hangover in college she’s not going to need you.”  And that’s good.

Lula the Zombie Hamster

Meet Lula, our hamster.  Lover of grapes; loved by the cats who want to play-with-her-to death; and zombie.  Lula came into our family three years ago and became a zombie last year.  Thus, like Stephanie Plum’s hamster Rex, I expect her to live forever.

Lula is a Russian dwarf hamster and the worst pet ever.  Hamsters are nocturnal, so she only plays when I want my child to sleep.  Given that my kid is the worst go-to-sleeper ever they make a bad combination.  Also, hamsters are smaller on the outside than they appear on the outside.  (Similar to the Tardis, but the opposite.)  Let me explain.  The day we got Lula my daughter was playing with her in the locked bathroom while we parents got the hamster habitat ready.  Lula squeezed under a smaller than a hamster sized space below the bathroom door and darted between the startled cat’s legs and under the smaller than hamster sized space beneath the refrigerator.  Two hours later a feast of sunflower seeds lured her out.  From that point on she was banished to her cage and only released into the clear ball of torture, which allows her to roam around my daughter’s room bumping into things and making us laugh.  The cats watch the balled hamster snack through the crack under the door, which really is too small for cats.

Lula became a zombie on a fateful day last summer when she died.  My daughter and I were watching her play when she toppled over on her hamster ramp, twitched disturbingly, hauled herself up to the hamster ledge using her functioning front legs while dragging her back legs limply behind her.  She then collapsed had another twitching fit, and died.  She lay motionless while I consoled my daughter, got her ready for bed and read her stories.  When lights out came Afthead Junior cried that she did not want to sleep with the dead hamster.  I agreed and put the dead creature’s cage on top of the butler’s pantry to be dealt with later.

After our normal 90 minute dance of go to sleep, go to sleep, GO TO SLEEP my daughter finally fell asleep.  Ignoring the dead hamster problem, I went to the basement to watch some TV with my husband.  Before bed I decided the dead hamster burial/freezing/whatever could wait until the morning and be a learning experience for the child.

The next morning Lula’s wheel squeaked with the running of an exuberant undead hamster.  Lula, making a rare daytime appearance was animated.

Ever since her status changed from hamster to undead hamster Lula has been much more friendly.  She’s almost always out before my daughter goes to sleep and runs to the bars of the cage to sniff my fingers if I put them up.  She even races to the cats if they are in the vicinity: like on top of the cage trying to eat play with her.  No doubt she is luring us humans and felines in so we will open her cage and she can leap out and feast on our enormous brains.  In the meantime, I give her strawberries, cherries and blueberries to try and keep her at bay.

Toothpaste Magic

The Afthead family has a secret, and as a family of scientists and engineers you need know know we are a trustworthy source of this information.  Toothpaste is magically regenerating.  If you squeeze the tube hard enough each toothpaste molecules will split and create two toothpaste molecules.  Do this enough and you will never run out of toothpaste.  You can only really get enough force out of the squeeze when the toothpaste is almost empty, and, of course, even if you did squeeze the tube hard enough when it’s full you are just going to end up with toothpaste all over.  But when you get to the end just keep squeezing.  If you don’t you will be shamed and labeled a heretic for not believing in the magical toothpaste properties.

(I did not throw this tube away, but Mr. Afthead did.  I’m so disappointed in him.)

My parenting mantra?  Sit on your hands.

As the years progress I still think sitting on my hands is my best parenting path. I share this post with you again today in honor of all the moms out there who find their own method for raising their own children in the very best way they know how. Thanks for all the time you’ve sacrificed, prioritized and invested in your kiddos. Happy Mother’s Day!
***

Afthead

If you could hear inside my head you would hear the mantra repeated over and over.

Sit on your hands.  She’s doing fine.

Sit on your hands.  You already know how to sew.

Sit on your hands.  She is feeding herself and who cares if there is applesauce in her eyebrows?

It takes literal physical restraint for me to let my daughter do it herself sometimes. I see her struggling and I just want to reach out and help her, to get her past the hard part, to do it for her, but I don’t.  My hands start to move from my side toward her and I stop them.  It is the hardest, most important parenting lesson I teach myself over and over: she will only learn to do it for herself if I stay out of her way.


Friday night she decided she wanted to learn how to knit…

View original post 358 more words

A Fishy Passover Tolerance Lesson

As a child I could get a little rambunctious at the grocery store.  I clearly remember that when my brother and I got exceptionally crazy mom would threaten us.  She’d point to jars filled with gelatinous covered white orbs and say, “If you guys don’t cut it out I will buy this and make you eat it.”  We’d squeal and make faces and wonder what poor kids had to eat those creepy floating things.  Into adulthood I’d walk through the Ethnic Food aisle and shudder a bit on my way to the pasta and salsa looking into those clear jars.  Still I wondered who ate that stuff.

My senior year of college it happened. I met a boy, and one day he took me home to celebrate Passover with his family.  The Seder began and we ate parsley dipped in salt water, raw horseradish root in an apple dish called haroset.  All ceremonial foods, all different, but all edible.  I enjoyed the readings and the novelty of the celebration and learning about a new culture.

Feeling moderately comfortable at the table the first course of the actual meal was served: gefilte fish.  Someone set in front of me an albino patty with gelatinous quivering globules glistening on its surface cradled on a bed of lettuce.  All around me strangers I wanted to impress covered their helpings with fluorescent pink horseradish and dug in with apparent glee. Here in front of me was the nightmare of my childhood and I had two choices: be “that disrespectful new girl” and shun this foreign food or face my fear and try a bite.  There was not an option to run screaming from the room.  This was before the days of smartphones so I couldn’t snap a picture and send it to my mom with an eww, like I did for this blog post.  I had to put on my big girl shoes and face my fears if I wanted to be respectful.  I don’t think I made it through half of the fish and I know I drank an entire tumbler of water but I ate enough to not make a scene.  The rest of the meal followed without incident.

Twenty two Passovers now, give or take.  I’ve watched guests come and go and seen the judgement passed down upon those who do not try.  I’ve learned that no one thinks it wrong that I enjoy my fish with a piece of Matzo, which at least hides the horrible texture with a bit of a crunch.  I bought the New York Times Passover Cookbook and with fear read the gefilte fish recipes only to learn that it really isn’t that scary.  Just whitefish cooked in broth until the broth congeals.  I could make it myself, but I don’t.  I don’t buy it either.  Instead I make the haroset, hard boil the eggs, make the dessert and bring the wine.  I feel at home with the ceremony.

I also learned that my husband will always eat the second half of my patty.  I push it onto his plate and yum yum he finishes it off and asks for another.  No judgement, we are so cute sharing food.  I always help clear away the fish plates and bring out the matzo ball soup, which I love.  Before I sit down I refill the water glasses.  It still takes me an entire glass of water to finish off my fish half.

This life we live, it’s filled with scary slimy fish isn’t it?  Things we reject without a thought or a consideration for being different and gross, and really they might be different and gross to us even once fully understood and experienced.  Things we threaten our children with because you’ve got to make them behave in the supermarket somehow.  Every year at Passover I think my lesson is one of overcoming the fear of the unknown, different, and strange and while not embracing it – and certainly not enjoying it – at least learning to tolerate.  For my husband’s Jewish family and their ancestors more tolerance would have changed history.  And really, isn’t that an acceptable lesson?  Maybe we can’t embrace each other and all join hands in unity, but a little tolerance – even if it requires a big glass of water – goes a long way in this world.

Happy Passover, happy Easter and happy spring to you readers.  May you find tolerance for yourself, your beliefs, others, and other’s beliefs in your own little corner of the world.

Octothorp NewFavoriteWord

Prepare yourself readers, for your new favorite word.  It will change your modern day existence.  The word is octothorp.  Now, before you go rushing to Google or your dictionary, be honest.  Do you know this word?  I did not.  In fact, it’s even missing from my Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: nothing between octosyllable and ocul-.  Now that I know this word, I love it.


What is an octothorp?  It’s a pound sign.  A #.  A symbol that has taken on such an important role.  Imagine with me, if you will, calling into any automated phone system.  Maybe you are refilling a prescription, joining a conference call, or calling your bank.  Inevitably you are requested to:

enter in your something followed by the pound sign

I bet reading that you can hear the computer’s voice in your head, and feel the anxiousness.  Was that the right number?  Should I have pressed the 2 menu instead of the 4 menu?  Now just replace that computerized request for a pound sign with the word octothorp.  It’s still accurate, but what would people do if such a request was made?  Imagine the chaos.

Octothorp confused.  Octothorp hatemybank.

Right?  People would race to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and write about their bad customer experience using the newest, most succinct way to convey emotion, sarcasm and cynicism.  The hashtag, which are denoted by the preceding octothorp.

Do it now, go to your favorite social media site and just enjoy reading all those octothorps.  My Twitter feed has Octothorp persist.  Octothorp champs.  Octothorp amwriting.

Oh yeah.   I’m writing.  About Octothorps.

Octothorp awesome.

#NewFavoriteWord #Octothorp

 

The Whiteboard Litmus Test


If you are a Washington news junkie, like I am, you’ve noticed the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch are in process.  The nominee has been peppered with questions trying to ascertain how he will interpret the Constitution, what his views are, and how he might rule on a variety of hypothetical cases.  Always there is a discussion of litmus test issues: the big ones being gun control for one side and abortion for the other.  Never do judges actually say how they would rule on such cases – Oh well, golly gee, I sure do hate guns and their propensity to kill innocent people or well shucks, I think if a girl gets herself knocked up she’s gotta face the consequences – but always the wily congressmen try to get a nominee to admit that he/she will take their guns away or eliminate a woman’s right to choice.

Recently I realized I have my own litmus test.  During my writing class the teacher uncapped a whiteboard marker and began taking notes for the class.  The marker squeaked, but no words appeared on the board.  That’s when the defining moment happened.  My instructor put the cap back on the pen and…. THREW IT AWAY.

I couldn’t help myself.  I leaned forward and said, “I love that you did that.  Thank you for throwing the marker away.”

“Right!?!?” He replied.

“It’s not like it’s magically going to regenerate ink if you keep it.” I said.

So that’s it.  My new test.  If you get up to a whiteboard, find a marker that doesn’t work, then just leave it in the marker tray for the next real grown up to deal with, well, you are dead to me.  That’s it.  I’ve drawn my own personal line in the sand.

Don’t be a dried up marker keeper.  Don’t be that guy.


Created in response to the WordPress Daily Prompt – Denial

A Story for MJ

Some people we meet invoke an instant connection.  We experience a sense of having known them forever and being jealous of their current or future relationships because of their potential as amazing life-long companions.  Of course, we don’t tell these people about the connection we feel, because that would make us creepy.

For me, moments in the presence of such a person hold greater detail and richness than other memories.  One person in particular is foremost in my mind today.  I remember watching him dance at his sister’s wedding with a carefree exuberance that single female eyes – and some married eyes – followed.  He interacted with everyone and embraced friends and new acquaintances with a complete lack of self-consciousness.  Love seemed to exude from him.

MJ and I had a relationship hard to diagram – my husband’s brother’s wife’s brother – but easy to execute.  He was someone who occasionally showed up at family gatherings, and when he was there I made a point to engage.  He was fun to talk to and had fascinating things to share: his work with the UN and Mennonite Church in the Congo meant his life stories went far beyond my limited range of experiences.

With almost perfect clarity I recall one private moment between us.  A conversation between MJ, my daughter, and me.  My then first grader was explaining to MJ, in great detail, the amazing wonders of her class guinea pig Bert.  The pig sat in a cage on the floor right next to her desk. It was her first year at a new school and she struggled with reading and friends, so Bert was a bright spot in her days.  MJ patiently asked her questions, listened to her answers, and then shared that he had a whole pen of guinea pigs behind his house in Africa.  Oh the wonder of a whole pen of pigs.  They compared and contrasted her pet pig and his pen of pigs.  He told her about the babies and she listened in rapture at the thought of little piggies.  When she wandered away, having exhausted her six year old capacity for conversation, he leaned over to me and explained in quiet tones that his guinea pigs were for eating.  They were a sure source of protein in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and were better than rabbits, because they both didn’t over populate and tasted pretty good.

What made this conversation memorable?  First that he, as an adult, was willing to spend time talking with a kid.  Not talking at a kid, but he got down on her level and had an engaging conversation with her.  He brought my horribly shy child out of her shell and fascinated her with this African world he lived in by sharing a common bond.  He didn’t break their bond by telling her why he had his pigs, but waited until she’d left before telling me.  Until that moment I’d been secondary in the conversation, but in his own way MJ had been drawing me in by building trust with my daughter, who I adore.  Then he explained the realities of his world to me in an engaging and thought-provoking manner.  Throughout our conversation I wasn’t shocked or offended, but impressed with his ability to tailor a story to his audience and maximize understanding by finding common ground.

From this encounter I understood how he did his job in Africa.  I could envision him building ties between warring factions, and encouraging diplomacy.  I could see him gaining trust by sharing stories.

I share my own story today because MJ is no longer with us.  Two weeks ago his family heard he had been kidnapped with a UN colleague and their interpreter.  Monday they learned that Caucasian bodies had been found, and we now know that MJ died.  Personally I mourn the family events where he won’t be present and the conversations we won’t have.  But my loss is so small when compared to his family and friends.  MJ wasn’t my brother, but I love his sister.  MJ wasn’t my son, but I adore his parents.  MJ was someone I really liked and was looking forward to seeing at inevitable family events over the years.

So often I gloss over news stories with a reaction of, “can you imagine?”  Now I can imagine. This time I know a glimmer of what was lost.  I compose this today because his family deserves prayers, and I don’t pray, but I do write.

I honor MJ by remembering the light he brought into my life.

I mourn for the nieces and nephews who won’t know or remember the hugs of their uncle.

I hope that he did not suffer at the end.

I grieve for his parents, his sisters, his family and his friends for their unimaginable loss.

If you are interested in knowing more about MJ (his full name is Michael Sharp) I’ve included some links below.  I hope his too-short life shines a light on the issues he was dedicated to.  Personally I wish I would have told him what a great guy he was, how much I liked him, and how inspirational his calling was.  My heart goes out to those who were close to him.


Further reading:

A prayer for MJ from his parents:  http://www.kake.com/story/35028097/kansas-parents-of-slain-un-worker-talk-to-kake

NPR has been covering MJ’s work since 2016 as part of their Goats and Soda feature: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/03/29/521962848/remembering-michael-sharp-he-risked-his-life-to-make-peace

The Washington Post explains the longstanding challenges in the Congo:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/03/29/courageous-but-not-reckless-the-tragedy-of-an-american-u-n-worker-slain-in-congo/

NY Times article on MJ’s role in the Congo and his last trip:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/world/africa/missing-un-experts-congo.html?_r=0