Get fuzzy
Saturday May 13th 2017, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

The answer to DebbieR’s question starts with, I had no idea that that cute little cabin that’s pictured in everything I ever saw having to do with the Oomingmak cooperative was actually smack dab in downtown Anchorage! We happened to drive past it after hours and I exclaimed and grabbed the phone and snapped its picture through the windshield (see yesterday’s post) from the passenger side.

Sam asked the next morning if I wanted to visit the place?

Heck yeah!

And so she and I went while Richard stayed home with the baby. It was just a quick little jaunt.

There was the back room in view, completely familiar to me from Donna Druchunas’s book and every article I’ve ever read about the place. There were hand knits on display and hat kits for sale and if I’d been really rich that baby-size handspun qiviut blanket that was just under $700 would have been Mathias’s. If only. Inexplicably I saw none of the traditional smoke rings they’re so famous for–cowls, as someone in the Lower 48 would call them, infinity scarves, in the finest, softest, warmest handspun lace.

I made great friends with my first surgeon eight years ago when she was trying to describe this beautiful little hand knit she’d bought from an Eskimo group while visiting Alaska and I’d asked, Was it qiviut? A smoke ring? She was astonished: “How did you know?!”

I’m a knitter! And I spin.

And I live in California. I knew, looking at their wares, that I in no way need the extreme warmth of the undercoat of the gentle musk ox. But my daughter, now! I told her I had long wanted to support the women who do that work, but online from afar and in the wrong climate I’d just never made that order.

But here we were. (And the prices were about what it would cost me to knit them myself, I said afterwards as we were going back to the car.)

She picked out a thick, wide intarsia headband knitted in two natural shades–two designs, actually, taking a minute to decide: “This one looks like poinsettias to me,” and almost got it but the other won out in the end. (The one I’d picked out as my favorite, and if I should have kept my mouth shut it’s too late now.)

I’m rather sorry I didn’t get its picture. Even better yet, on her.

They said if it ever needed repair to just bring the sales slip with it and they would do it.

I told her it was an early Happy Mother’s Day from me. I didn’t quite say out loud, you swaddle your baby in warmth and I’ll swaddle mine.

But I did want at least some little memento for me and they had these tiny bags of combed raw qiviut: $4 each and I got two.

Sam told me afterwards that one of her co-workers had a hat from Oomingmak but he cannot wear it indoors. It’s too hot.

I figure, in Alaska, that’s a good problem to have.



Cat’s eyes
Friday May 12th 2017, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Life


The two cats.

While we were holding Mathias….

By day, a baby gate blocks the dog and them from each other but at night the puppy goes into her kennel and they are allowed to roam the house.

And so it was one evening that Sam’s cat ventured forth to claim her humans. She had met us when she was a kitten, seemed to recognize us a few years later by coming to me instead of her usual fear of strangers, and now at ten she had summoned us in her hour of need and we had come.

The, the, the, DOG. That big galumphing puppy. In HER house. The tiny new human interloper, although he left her alone and seemed acceptable. But the anticipated luxurious salon appointment that had turned out to be at the vet’s–that shall not be spoken of.

And so there we were, waiting to pet her, most deliciously on the couch where the dog could see her but was not allowed to go.

But first.

There was the dog’s favorite bone, right there in the middle of the floor she was claiming as rightfully her own in the night. She stood immediately behind it. She looked at the dog. She dared to touch a paw almost to it but deigned not to quite sully herself so.

As she stood eye to eye with that St. Bernard.

I can do anything I want with this and you know you can’t do a thing about it.

She stood like that for a full minute at least while I tried not to laugh for fear of waking up the exhausted new parents.

And then, having made her point, she came to us and dared us to think qiviut could be any softer. (Hey! The embiggen feature works on that Oomingmak pic!)



Young and grizzled
Thursday May 11th 2017, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Missing this little guy.

Last summer I wished I’d gotten a picture of the taxidermied grizzly at Anchorage airport that warns incoming tourists that Alaska is dead serious about the size of its bears. So here it is, with an arctic fox at its feet on the right.



Baby hat
Wednesday May 10th 2017, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

While in Alaska I started a sweater for Mathias. Baby cables, I explained to my son-in-law, are the simplest and smallest form of cabling.

Cabling?

As in fisherman sweaters?

He drew a blank.

Aran sweaters?

This wasn’t helping.

Alright then so I needed to demonstrate.

I decided about six inches into it though that I didn’t have enough yarn to finish. (Actually, after I got home I found out I did, I had more than I thought–I just hadn’t brought it all.) Well… What Mathias actually needed was a newborn size hat anyway. Let’s see, the front of a sweater is generally equal to the width of a hat, so, there you go, and I decreased at the top, sewed up the seam and called it good.

And if Comcast, which has been flickering all night, will hold still long enough I’ll post this and the photo.



Different each day
Tuesday May 09th 2017, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Family

And a few more pictures…



Alaska
Monday May 08th 2017, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Life


Our daughter called and said the baby was going to be coming home from the hospital Saturday; we booked our flights and arrived Monday and then came home this morning a week later and fell into bed well after 2:00 am. Delayed flight delayed luggage and my body has no idea what time zone I’m in and I wouldn’t trade a second of it for anything.

Arriving, parking lots had mounds of dirt with white peeking out–oh, right, those are snowbanks still melting down, aren’t they. The trees were in dead-of-winter mode. The first one popped out in small bright sparkles of green the day before we left and by the morning there were tiny tiny leaves everywhere against the gray, as if the director had hummed the pitch and the a cappella choir was leaping right into the song.

Mathias was a placid, happy baby–as long as someone was holding him. Always. Day or night. The neonatologist said that sometimes the early ones need that extra cuddling.

We quickly got into the routine and privilege of having him in our arms while his parents got some uninterrupted sleep for the first shift of the night, with or without a bottle of pumped milk to extend that as his mother chose. Then we went off to our hotel to let them become a new family together without the in-laws there every moment. (And to lessen any fear of my falling over the big puppy, a St Bernard with a bit of Mastiff, and risking hitting my head. She did lean against the backs of my knees and cave me in just once but we did fine.)

Friday the baby let himself be put down in a crib for the first time, and that was a huge milestone.

We are in awe of our daughter. We are in awe of our son-in-law. You could not ask for better parents. And we are head over heels in love with Mathias.

I have to add, on a side note, that we got the great Alaska experience: one night (such as they are in May) we had just pulled onto the road when Richard slowed the car almost instantly right back down to a gentle stop before I saw why.

There was an immense moose before us. It took the next few steps that brought it right up to the hood of our car, where we could see it more clearly in the dusk. We weren’t going anywhere.

We knew rationally to be afraid but neither of us could find it in us to be so. Wow. What a magnificent animal. I’d always thought moose were frankly pretty darn ugly, but looking straight up at this seven foot tall creation of nature as it took a few steps around us and now stood outside the driver’s side–the entire driver’s side of the car–we were silent, taking in the moment as it took in us. Hail fellow. Well met.

Richard, pulling carefully away now, hoped out loud, Did you get its picture? as it stood there in the road, turning its enormous head to look at the kids’ house and then the other way while I hoped the dog wasn’t barking its head off.

Uh that would be a no. (On both.)

He said he wasn’t going back for it (!), and that made sense.

The other thing? The former governor of Alaska was in the grocery store at the other end of the produce department over by the deli while we were picking a few things up for the kids. No it couldn’t possibly be. Yes she absolutely was. I was slightly agog and trying not to look like it while my husband could not have cared less–we’re DC natives, we grew up with politicians, enough of them people who needed to let you know that they were important and he simply was not impressed. I love that man.

This is what matters.

Mathias went from squinting away from the brightness of light to opening his eyes to it and to us more and more. He went from a low of 6 lbs 13 oz to racing to make up for lost birthweight and beyond.

We got a text between airports Sunday: the dog had picked up a favorite toy and gone searching through the house for me. She wanted our playing together to never end.

Soon enough a little boy will be taking over from there.



Only a dream in Rios
Saturday April 29th 2017, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

(With apologies to James Taylor, or ohmygoodness here, with Milton Nascimento.)

Sewed the shoulders, half the first sleeve…

With the back of the sweater inside out. *Yesterday, repeat from *.

In my defense, I was distracted by incoming baby photos.



Giving it the side-eye
Friday April 28th 2017, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift

The Rios sweater is a riff on a baby pattern I bought from Imagiknit at Stitches.

I do not love piecing sweater bits together. And Purlescence no longer exists for me to hang out with other knitters while I do it. So I dragged it to the audiologist‘s.

The fairly new woman at the desk confessed when I checked in, “I know you’re totally a knitter but I can’t remember your name.” She became knit-worthy on the spot.

She and the audiologist were thrilled when I showed them who I wanted to be able to hear and it clearly made a scut-work task (ooh, scraping ear wax out of tiny spaces: thrills chills and excitement) a lot more fun to do. I’m trying to live up to their example.

Finally got to the top of the first side, wool in hand, and only then did it hit me: you’re supposed to sew the sleeve on first you doofus.

Yes I really did do that.

Well, it would keep him from scratching his face, right? They do make belegged straitjackets for newborns (whatever the official warm-and-fuzzy word for them is.)

Yeah, no. It took me awhile to un-run that end back out. Random suppressed giggles and an awareness that if I could feel that yarn pulling (my ears were on their own just then) then normal people could hear it going zip, zip as the pieces fell slowly back apart, and so much for showing off.

They were very kind and pretended not to notice, but I wasn’t the only one trying not to laugh.

I want a baby sweater pattern that’s done all in one piece. The yellow wool one Aunt Mary Lynn gave us when John was born that I passed down to Parker when he was born: how did she do that… Coming down to points that crossed over in the front… I could certainly figure it out but it’s so much easier when someone else already has. Take my money, save my time.



Day two
Thursday April 27th 2017, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Family

And another picture. Already looking older.



Thou hast made Thy children mighty
Wednesday April 26th 2017, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Let me explain what I meant by this yesterday.

Our daughter Sam was hospitalized Saturday with the doctors deciding to wait till the morrow to induce her–let the baby be 37 weeks and officially past prematurity, but then he was going to have to come out. The risk of losing him had become too great.

Sunday morning, then, they started the inducing and she was in mild labor all day. She was where she needed to be: they could monitor him and do something fast if things went south.

We went to bed that night after offering the message that they were not to worry about waking us up: whatever the hour, we wanted to know.

She was in labor all Sunday night.

She was in labor all day Monday.

She was in labor all Monday night. We slept badly but not as badly as our daughter and son-in-law did.

She was in labor all day Tuesday. That baby wanted every extra hour he could get. Just as we were about to hit the lights last night the message came in: her water had broken. We looked at each other and pronounced, “Show time.” Wishing it were and figuring probably not any time soon, still, at the rate things had been going.

She was in labor all Tuesday night. I’ve borne four children and done twenty hours’ worth for a miscarriage and I cannot begin to fathom how she could do it.

I woke up this morning seven-ish, checked for messages, saw none, and thought, my poor kid. My strong, heartbreakingly brave kid who was willing to risk so much to bring her son into this world to share a life with the best man she could possibly have chosen. I cannot begin to say how in awe I am of her.

Her husband stayed by her side.

I had just stepped out of the shower when Richard startled me (didn’t know he was awake yet) with a “Hello, Grandma!”

Mathias Ronald, 7 lbs 11 oz with his daddy’s nose and the most perfect face. Shattering our hearts into a million brilliant momentums of joy.

Welcome to the world, little one. We cannot wait to see you, too.

(Photos by Sam.)



No training wheels
Tuesday April 25th 2017, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Somehow it was a day where that hot chocolate just tasted really good. That blue mill-ends-of-the-mill-ends cashmere (don’t know if there’s any of that $20 postpaid/180 grams of dk weight left, but that’s the link) that I hanked up and scoured the mill oils off of became in that washing the softest yarn one could ever have in hand–someone besides me would soon swoon over it in a more finished form, and just the thought of that made my day. The neighbor was teaching his preschooler to ride a two-wheeler and she was doing really well at it, with her two-year-old brother following right behind on a two-wheel bicycle with no pedals, just little feet on the ground pushing it along at a good clip, wanting to do everything she could do and doing what he could in the meantime. He waved hi at me and I waved back. I told his big sister she was doing great.

And I had a song in my head, a hymn from church, For the Strength of the Hills We Thank Thee. Thou hast made thy children mighty…



Superwash fine merino is a parent’s friend
Monday April 24th 2017, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Malabrigo Rios. Just plain stockinette, so the sides are curling in until I can get them sewn to the other side.

Newborn sizes do knit up fast. My hands needed lots of breaks today and yet I still got the back done and the front begun. Five inches past the cuffs when it’s time for the sleeves? I can do that.

I was by no means sure I had enough yarn for cable work. Plain is warmth enough this time around.



Almost…
Sunday April 23rd 2017, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family

Waiting, waiting….



One kid home, one incoming
Friday April 21st 2017, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family

A (local) cousin’s wedding. Stories already and no time to type. Later.



Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing…
Wednesday April 19th 2017, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Food,Friends,Life

My daughter-in-law had a moment of great inspiration that blessed a lot of us. That will be a story to tell, probably next week.

Meantime, today I had an appointment with the ENT who, years ago, diagnosed my hearing loss as being caused by an allergy to aspirin and thereby stopped its progression. I owe him much. He’s also the one whose love of his garden sparked my own fruit tree and veggie planting and I adore him.

He was running a moment late. And because he was running late, I ended up pulling back into my driveway exactly at the moment a neighbor from across the fence was standing right there, having stopped to talk to the guy next door after having walked all the way around the block in hopes of seeing me and finding me not there. But then I was.

If you remember the saga of the big ragged broken sad ugly Snoopy weathervane skewered on the fence that bugged me so much for so long and an elderly neighbor’s anger at my asking her to take it down or to let me help her do so, this was her.

I wanted peace between us after that. Praying was something I could do while trying to figure out how to create some positive interactions, and we have had some since then.

I stumbled across an article on war brides from her native land that left me feeling for the first time like I could understand why she came across the way she did–it was a survival tactic that had helped those women survive.

Whether it actually applied to her or not I don’t know for sure, but I do know that for me it helped a lot.

Last week I left a stalk of bright red amaryllis flowers in a vase by her door after no one answered. (At her age, I just hoped she was still there but nothing had changed in her front yard, so…)

Here she was, responding in kind. She had a surprise for me. I looked in and laughed, “You didn’t need to return the vase!” There were dark-chocolate-covered butter cookies in there, too. Wow. Yum. “Thank you!”

But here is the thing: she was radiant. She glowed with love, and we gave each other a big hug and I didn’t even know she does hugs. My next door neighbor shared in by saying I’d given them an amaryllis, too, and his being there made it all the sweeter. Had he not stepped outside to put his trash bin away just in time to see and delay her by visiting a moment she probably would have missed us both.

She said, “But when the flowers got old they dripped red. It looked like blood!” She turned and said it a moment later to him, too, in case he hadn’t heard it the first time. I grinned at the scandalousness of its dastardly deed. Yeah, they do that. And thought, actually, it would probably make a great dye for my wool, but who would ever sacrifice the number of flowers it would take to find out?

Only later did the thought occur to me that, oh, I hope that didn’t cause her any flashbacks. But judging by her face and her voice, I think, I think, we did just fine there. Replace the old memories with the new. Better. Happier. And hey–amaryllises!