Monday, January 02, 2012

Skirting the issue

During the summer, I picked up a knitted skirt pattern for Ava while taking a friend visiting from out of town to check out some local yarn stores.

I haven't knitted much since before Ava was born, other than a scarf she asked me to make in her signature pink. It had been so long in fact, that when Jason's Great Aunt told me recently that her favorite, warm, "going to church" scarf was one I knitted for her, I literally had no recollection of doing it. In fact, looking at the well-done cable pattern down the middle, I only vaguely recalled knowing how to knit a cable! But I checked my pattern stash and sure enough, it was there, along with the remaining scrap of yarn that I'd used.

With that kind of lag since I'd picked up needles in earnest, the basic skirt pattern I found last summer seemed simple enough to work on quickly: a few decrease rows after the cast on with two yarns held together, several inches of Stockinette stitch and some easy ribbing.
But with my schedule over the past year, I struggled to find extended amounts of time to spend on it. And when I did, I was often distracted, trying to keep an eye on the kids or grabbing a few moments before nodding off in bed.

Note: while it's possible to knit a simple stitch like this while watching my kids at a mall play area, the activity drew several other staring children who clustered around to watch me work before flitting off to play again and later return to check to my progress.

The lack of unencumbered time though explains why I started, failed and re-knit this skirt twice before getting it right. The first time, I managed to get my cast-on twisted, resulting in a mobius strip-like tube: an unrecoverable knitting error when knitting in the round.

Next, I followed the directions that a lady at a local yarn shop had customized for me and Ava using her exact measurments. We both thought it was knit top down, when actually, it was bottom up and I didn't notice until several inches along. Grrr.

I guess in hindsight I could have finished it either way, but I wasn't sure about the increases/decreases for the ruffled bottom, so I ripped my stitches out AGAIN and started over, after a frustrating night untangling the ripped out lengths of yarn and re-rolling them in to managable balls in the wee hours while everyone slept. Because 11pm to 2am is the only "me" time I'm ever able to carve out this busy holiday season. Okay, any season.

I know, I know: non-knitters may read that and think, "Isn't a hobby or craft supposed to be fun and easy, not frustrating?" Right you are, which only increased my frustration as I thought of all the wasted time. Not to mention that for what the yarns cost, I could have bought Ava a whole outfit plus shoes at my retail favorite Target. But I've learned that skimping on yarn quality is just like skimping on food quality: you may finish what's on your plate (or in your knitting bag), but you will not be satisfied or happy with the end result.

Also, I am persistent (okay, occasionally stubborn) and there was no way I was going to let a prechooler-sized, simple two-yarn skirt get the better of me. Also, this was one of those opportunities to demonstrate committment, patience, and triumph over frustration to the kids, right?

So I knit, unknit, and re-knit again (and again), finally getting this bad boy done in time to go under the tree at Christmas. Granted, I finished the knitted I-cord belt a couple days later, but still, DONE. Take that, skirt of frustration!
Best part? When Ava opened it, she squealed, hugged it to her chest and proclaimed, "This is the best Christmas EVER!"

Oh kid. You have no idea. And while I love me some Target, I can guarantee that no outfit from there is getting that reaction or giving me the same level of satisfaction for providing it for her.

Christmas 2011

We had a lovely Christmas with 35 or so of Jason's relatives for Christmas brunch, followed by a small gathering with my folks at our house. But I was focused on being present rather than on documenting everything, so we didn't even get a family picture this year. But I did capture a few shots.  
 Dylan checking out the Santa figurine at Jason's cousin's house that was the same size he is...
Me and Ava, who asked to have her hair blow dried for the special occasion...

 Which worked out well when she opened the gift that got the biggest squeal: an American Girl doll with straight hair too. The matching dresses came from Ross a couple months ago. It's a line called Dollie and Me, which is toddler and preschooler-sized outfits with matching doll size dresses. My agony over the decision of whether to spring for the doll and if so, what hair type is worth a separate post.
And I didn't get a shot of Dylan with his two favorite gifts: a Thomas the Train talking caboose that can run on his little wooden train set with the other magnetized cars, and a Thomas backpack that can also be pulled on two wheels. It's what he uses for toting around his birthday gift matchbox cars, trains, and these two dinosaurs, which he likes to hold facing each other while roaring, as if they're have a steel cage pose-off in the WWE. Which gives me an idea: man bags for boys. It could happen.

Unbeknownst to him, he picked all of his gifts a couple nights before during a Target run. Unlike Ava, who has fully fallen prey to the marketing juggernaut of commercials during kids shows and basically asks for everything that is shown on TV, Dylan still doesn't get what all the fuss is about and can't verbalize his wants exactly either.

With Ava's requests, we simply say, "You'll have to put that on your list and see if Santa brings it." Since she doesn't read or write yet (beyond her name and individual letters), we might as well say "write an app that will download those to daddy's iPad." But it's bought us some time, since she usually forgets about it within minutes, or until the next commercial or visit to a store featuring one of the coveted items.

With Dylan, I simply took them to the toy aisles in Target and watched what he was drawn to. I already knew anything Thomas the Train would be a win, but watching him beeline for certain items helped. And when he refused to put certain ones down (like the backpack and dinosaurs) until I could distract him or enlist Ava to distract him, I knew we had winners, which I then furtively stuffed under grocery items in the cart while his back was turned. I was like the David Blaine of toy shopping. And he was none the wiser Christmas morning.

Soon after Dylan's birthday earlier in the month, I asked Jason what he wanted to do for him for Christmas.
"I don't know yet but he's getting the full deal," he said rather forcefully. Seeing my blank look he explained, "My birthday was right before Christmas too and I always got that BS 'This gift is for your birthday and Christmas' line. I'm not doing that to him."

"Mm-hmm: basically you got hosed because your birthday wasn't some other month besides December," I replied.

"Exactly," he said. "And it's total bull." Clearly, this is still a sore subject and I'd never realized how much because I've always done dual gifts for him. Your birthday is special and separate from other celebrations, whether it's in April or the day after Christmas. So we did get Dylan several nice little gifts.

Yet all in all, this Christmas seemed to reflect the still-challenging economy and our interest in getting away from gift overload and spending more time with each other rather than money on things we don't need and will just be looking to purge later. It felt right-sized.

And we will be purging the kids' things anyway in the next month or so because they're outgrowing many of their infant and toddler toys. They will hopefully be loved by some other kids soon, freeing up valuable toy box real estate for the Christmas and birthday items.

I hope your family's holiday celebrations were just right for your needs too.

Ice, ice, baby girl

Ava had a playdate with a friend from school whose mom suggested ice skating at the Seattle Center. It was a lovely outing for the girls, who did well once we commandeered the ice guides for kids.

I left Dylan with my folks so that I could focus exclusively on Ava for a few hours, which allowed me to fulfill Ava's frequent request for "a little Mommy-Ava time."
I know that soon enough she'll be more interested in hanging with her little school peeps than with me and her dad, so I'm trying to maximize these opportunities and build special memories while I can.

And I actually love ice skating. I tried it with a bunch of co-workers in one of my first jobs after college and took to the ice much more quickly than I would have expected as a city chick. That outing lead me to rollerblading, which I still love, so it was great to get out there with my girl and zip around even a rinky dink rink while avoiding careening pre-teen boys.

Like every sporty activity we've tried so far, Ava was a natural, taking a couple wobbly but upright laps around the rink before we secured the ice guide. Then she set off at a pretty good clip once she had one. Her steering leaves a little to be desired though as she cut back and forth across traffic a few times, nearly causing skater pileups in her wake. Note to self: work on that before she gets her learner's permit for the car.

Still, we both had a great time and I may even try getting Dylan out at a local rink this winter.