Monthly Archives: April 2010

Wiktory!

I have my loom! I’ll do a photo post when I get home from my trip.

I’m going out to the fabric store today to get a bit more polar fleece to extend the homemade duffel bag I found that almost-but-not-quite fit it, and some cord with which to reattach the apron rods to the loom, because it’s currently got a series of loops attached via lark’s head knots and they’re not all even with one another, so the rods don’t sit snugly when under tension. I’m going to do the zig-zag lacing thing with one long piece of cord instead of separate loops. The loom is very light indeed and folds quite cunningly, and we’re now trying to figure out a way to kitbash a box for it so I can check it as baggage on the train home. I can’t carry it on, as the length exceeds the max carry-ons can be. Yesterday we got some yarn with which to sample a pattern for a Seekrit Progikt, and I’m going to do a test warp for the sample this afternoon.

The girl who sold it to me is my age or a bit younger, and got herself a small used Dryad floor loom so she didn’t need this one any more. She also had a Lendrum wheel and baskets of yarn everywhere. Heh. I wish we lived in the same city; we probably would have gotten along just fine.

Mum is doing very well indeed. She’s using the cane while in the house now, and the walker only when we go out, which we’ve been doing once a day to shops and things. The food has, as usual, been brilliant. Last night, for example, we had scallops au gratin, with steamed asparagus and brown rice. Mmm.

The nightly video chat with HRH and the boy back home is a great idea, and it’s been fun, but they’ve been having problems with the microphone on the webcam back home (translation: it wasn’t picking up sound at all, so we used the telephone as a speaker) but last night it worked for some reason, and it made the chat much easier. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that tonight and the rest of the nights go as smoothly. Living in the future is pretty darn cool. I miss them a lot, and seeing and talking with them every night helps. ( “Having a Dada and no Mama makes me very sad,” the boy told me solemnly last night before leaning into HRH for a hug. Only three more sleeps!)

I’ve burned through three books since I got here, and I can’t recommend Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag highly enough. The other book was Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, which was good, but the Bradleys were really spectacular. I also hand-wrote four pages of novel material in bed this morning.

Okay, off we go for today’s outing. Have a wonderful day, gentle readers.

Fifty-Eight Months Old!

One of the boy’s favourite things to do this past month was check on Molly the barn owl who had laid her first clutch of eggs in California. Her nesting box has a webcam in it, and it’s been really interesting to watch the process. Every morning before he went to school and every day as soon as he got home, and sometimes before bed, too, he’d ask to watch her. He saw the first couple of owlets once they’d hatched, and watched a recorded video of the third hatching. He really enjoyed flipping through the other recordings available, particularly of the male owl dropping, and of Molly eating various rodents and rabbits with great gusto. “Let’s watch the one where she eats the rat!” he’d say, and enjoy the somewhat grisly performance with great relish. “What’s that crunch sound?” he said the first time he saw it. “That’s the rat tearing apart,” I said. “Oh, good,” he said, and enjoyed it all the more. He learned how to write ‘owlet’, too:

(I am just as tickled that one of the words he knows how to write on his own is ‘owlet’ as I was when the word ‘book’ was among the first five words he learned to say.)

His writing is really firming up, and so is his reading. He can get two or three pages into a picture book before he decides it’s too much effort and tells me to finish it on my own. I find it interesting that when he writes his name, the first and third letters are capitalsed, but the second and fourth are lowercase. I’m amused by his vocabulary, too. In his stories, for example, ships don’t come back to be fixed, they “return for repairs.” The stories he tells and his imaginative play are becoming ever richer; they start in the morning, especially when he’s got his shoes and coat on and is saying goodbye to me, and carry on in the car with HRH all the way to school. Sometimes he gets distracted by the stories and loses sight of what he’s supposed to be concentrating on. He’s getting really scary-good at Lego. I am told that preschool has to invest in more to keep up with him. Heck, at the rate we’re going, we’ll have to invest in more to keep up with him. (And with HRH building all sorts of spaceships at the boy’s command.)

When the winter boots were put away we discovered that last fall’s shoes barely fit him, so he has new ones now. They’re size 11 shoes, which means that he grew two shoes sizes over the winter. He’s in size 4 clothes, edging into size 5 tops. The naps are pretty much a thing of the past, but that doesn’t stop us from gently insisting on a lie-down after lunch on weekends. On the days when he doesn’t have even a brief a nap at preschool, he sometimes falls asleep in the car on the way home.

It’s great to see his abilities improve by comparing last year’s seasonal arts and crafts projects with this year’s. He brings home spring or Easter crafts and I think about last year’s, and it’s so easy to see how much more sophisticated the current ones are. His current favourite movie is The Princess and the Frog, which is growing on me after a somewhat neutral response to it when I saw it in the theatre at Christmas. The current favourite books are his collection of Henry and Mudge stories, possibly because he’s learning to read them and so is rediscovering them in a way. He mouths the words while I read them.

Just before Easter we were in a pharmacy and he saw the racks of stuffed animals alongside the chocolate. “Blackie needs a little friend,” he confided in me. “He has lots,” I pointed out. And it is true, there is a minor collection of rabbits in various sizes that he has amassed from various places. “No, he needs a new friend for Easter,” I was told. I almost picked one up when buying the chocolate eggs for our hunt, but decided against it. A good thing, too, because he ended up coaxing his grandma into buying another black and white one while they were out shopping on Easter weekend instead. So he has a new bunny about whom we had a serious discussion concerning names. He wanted to name it Blackie-Whitey, which would have been confusing since we already have one. I got him to agree to Whitey-Blackie. And then we had a couple of talks over the next couple of days about how we don’t stop playing with our old friends when we have new ones; Blackie isn’t allowed to be left behind just because there’s a fluffy, soft, new bunny with a shiny ribbon in the house. He’s handed it very well, actually: they take turns cuddling with him, or he has me take both out of his room at night ( “Mama,” he said, “please take my bunnies, because they are being disturbing and keeping me awake.”) And he left both at home on his first day back at school after Easter. We were concerned that he was going to glom onto it, and we’ve already done some work on getting him to stop bringing Blackie everywhere, but he’s been very good about it all.

And of course, the biggest news this past month: NEW BIKE! FIRST TWO-WHEELER!

He’s really growing fast. I say that every other month, I know, but that’s because I marvel continually at how steep the learning curve is for children, and how rapidly they assimilate new information.

Two months till he’s five years old. Just under five months till kindergarten. I’m going to stop the monthly posts on his fifth birthday, and just stay with random boy-themed posts when they come up.

Safe

My train trip was excellent in every sense of the word. Huge seats on the new Renaissance trains! Baggage under the seat, not out of sight at the front or back where anyone could abscond with it! Free WiFi and an electricity outlet for one’s computer-object! Fair trade and organic tea, served in a compostable cup! (The tea bag was even given to me on the side without having to be requested. So civilised.) Things went so well that I was safely ensconced in my parents’ dining room eating roast beef sandwiches around 12:30 PM. I made my connection in Union between VIA and the GO with time to spare, even though the VIA train was about five minutes late. It helped immensely that not only was my VIA train the first out of Montreal and thus not as popular as later trains so there were fewer passengers, but it wasn’t anywhere near rush hour in Union so I didn’t have to navigate seas of commuters. There were only two people ahead of me in the ticket line, and my westbound GO hadn’t even arrived when I bought my ticket. The departure screens showed it ready to board just as I got to the waiting area.

It was four degrees and there was suspicious white stuff floating around in the air in Toronto when I arrived. Just saying.

Today, however, it is sunny, and I hear it’s supposed to be something between ten and fourteen degrees. Mum, who really is doing O most excellent well and is quite mobile, has expressed a wish to visit the library today.

Notable things so far: All three of my parents’ standoffish cats have come to see me, even Cordelia. She even let me pat her, and kiss her on the head, and Seamus and Rufus hang around me quite happily. I have changed two beds today, something that I enjoyed doing because hospital corners please me, and I can’t change our bed at home because the mattress is too heavy to shift. (Granted, that may be my lot; the rest of the day may be very light work out of necessity… but it was fun.)

Despite testing my webcam at home on the Mac, when I set the one up here and we tried to Skype with HRH at home last night the sound on his end wasn’t happening. I couldn’t troubleshoot it because the Mac and PC interfaces are different, of course, and I couldn’t remember the Mac setup properly. We ran through what I remembered, but nothing worked. Still, with a phone at one ear we could hear what they were saying, and so it wasn’t so bad. The boy, as I expected, cheerfully showed off a parade of stuffed animals and cats, and was quite recovered from his distraught tears of the morning when my train left (everything was A Big Adventure till I actually got on the train and Mama Being Gone for a Week became very real). Tonight we’ll set the laptop up next to the speakerphone; that should help. The call will be shorter, too, as we won’t be trying to fix things.

My online presence is going to be limited this week. I may poke around once in a while, but I’m looking at this as a vacation of sorts, so I’m not ignoring you personally if you e-mail or leave notes for me, I’m sort of ignoring everyone in general.

Eve Of Departure

I’m mostly packed for my trip. Just waiting for my cell phone to finish charging so I can pack that charger, and tomorrow morning I’ll throw the last of the hair stuff and cleanser and so forth into the suitcase. I’ve mended the skirt I’ll wear, found socks that match it, and will cheerfully wear my non-matching burgundy shoes. (They’ll match my satchel, though.) I have a sweater for the train in case it’s cold. (Who am I kidding, I’m always cold.)

I am missing snacks (my original plan was to pop out to the grocery store when the boys get home, but I am tired enough that I may ask HRH to get them on the way to his game tonight, after he takes our tax stuff to our tax guy), but I have games, reading material, a very full iPod, and I even have my DS (had to blow the dust off it). It’s only a four and a half hour trip, after all, even though my brain keeps telling me that it’s five and a half; I think it’s taking the five-hour trip home and mashing it up with the four and a half hour trip there, just to scare me. I am not, as some have asked, taking my cello with me, because the last time I put a cello on the train I got it back at the other end with a big dent punched in the bottom of the case. No, thank you.

We are getting up very early tomorrow morning, as my train leaves just before seven AM. The train has WiFi (free, apparently, because their service isn’t guaranteed at the moment, so I get what I get), so I may natter via Twitter or show up online in various places. The goal is to catch the 11:43 GO train, but with only twenty minutes between the VIA arrival and the GO departure, assuming everything is on time… well, let’s just say I am expecting to miss it and catch the next one. That’s fine; I will get an expensive latte or steamed milk and sit down to watch the funny people walk past in the train station.

It has been years since I travelled anywhere on my own. Almost exactly five years, actually. Five years minus six weeks.

Today with Emily’s help I tested the new webcam and it works! There was a moment where there was no sound, but that is because my webcam and its built-in mic show up as two different things, and both need to be formally recognised. I’ve fixed it in my Preferences, and all shall be well. If it works in iChat it shall work in Skype. I’ll install the second one at the other end tomorrow afternoon and we shall see what happens.

One more sleep.

Mission Accomplished

The bike scored on Kijiji has been received by the intended recipient. I learned this from hearing the boy yelling, “Mama, thank you for my bicycle!” through the back door.

He helped HRH put the training wheels on (they won’t be there long; both HRH and I are agreed that they can cause more problems than they solve), practised getting on and off, and then HRH took it round the front while the boy and I went into the garage to find his helmet. (Erm. We’ll need to replace that this summer.)

And off we went:

Only two wipeouts, mostly because he stopped watching where he was going on a slope. But there will be plenty more. There are so many driveways on our street that the sidewalk is sloped half the time, which made for wobbly steering and a hard time staying off the lower training wheel. HRH plans to take him to the old school round the corner to let him go on the flat playground surface; that will make balancing (and steering!) easier for him.

Zoom:

I love the blur on that picture. He wasn’t going fast, but I love the focus and the joy on his face.

There will really be no keeping up with him now.

Weekend Roundup, Easter Edition

Four-day weekends are extremely unusual. All the more so because HRH’s employers usually give them Easter Monday or Good Friday off, not both. In Quebec the government has decreed that an employer of a certain size must give its employees one of those two days off. Naturally, in the spirit of compliance, every place we intended to shop at on Sunday (assuming that everywhere that was open Good Friday would be closed Easter Monday) was closed that day instead, even though they were usually open on Sundays.

Anyway. It was a lovely Easter weekend.

I sent the freelance assignment out Friday morning, and got it back Friday afternoon confirming that yes, I’d have to do revisions on it because I wasn’t quite supportive and encouraging enough. Honestly, I’d expected this, and I told the editor so. I also pointed out that I’d already redone it twice on my end before my initial submission, so you can imagine what my original looked like. I turned it around and started checking my e-mail every half-hour to see if they’d approved it yet so I could invoice by the Monday deadline.

While I finished it HRH cleaned the BBQ and checked the gas levels, then took the boy out to do some grocery shopping. MLG came over for a late lunch of grilled three-cheese burgers and warm potato salad, with chocolate-peanut butter pudding for dessert. We had a most enjoyable afternoon indeed where we sat and/or worked or played outside in the backyard. I don’t know what was more draining: watching the boy play with great enthusiasm, watching HRH clean up the yard, watching MLG keep up with the boy, or just being in the unseasonably warm sun.

Saturday we dropped the boy off with the local grandparents, picked up the rest of our coven, and headed out to Maxville to spend the day with t! and Jan, who hosted the best Ostara ritual EVER. We had a real egg hunt: we each had a list of six clues, and corresponding eggs hidden in specific places on the property that we had to find! The eggs all had a letter on them, and when everyone assembled their eggs there was a message spelled out. The theme of the rit was being happy with imperfection and/or your best even if it wasn’t perfect, which was a very good message for most if not all of us, too. And the crowning touch was that the eggs were from their small flock of chickens (who are now gloriously full-grown and sporting glossy chestnut feathers). The digital thermometer indicated that the peak temperature was 31 point something degrees while we were there, and it was simply spectacular weather to be running around a couple of acres of land. Then we got to have quiche and two kinds of salads (one green and one a fruit/nut/rice salad) and I’d made a deep-dish butterscotch lemon pie for dessert. The only thing that marred the day was my back doing something odd while I was finishing up the pie that morning, and two hours in the car didn’t make it any better. As usual, we didn’t want to leave.

Sunday we were thwarted in our scheduled errand-running, so we kicked about at home. HRH and I had hidden M&M eggs around the living room before we went to bed Saturday night, and I slept pretty badly, partially due to the wrenched back, but not helped in the least by Gryff ‘finding’ some of the eggs, knocking them down from wherever he’d found them, and chasing them around the floor. I got up four times to ruin his fun, finally shutting him in the bedroom with us until HRH woke up and thought that the cat had somehow shut himself in and let him out to wreak havoc upon the eggs again. The boy woke us up at six, saying that there were eggs everywhere in the living room; HRH and I had some fun being sleepy and not understanding what he was saying before we got up and watched him run around the with a tiny basket, collecting what he could find. He patted himself on the back quite a bit, saying, “I’m a very good hunter,” interspersed with wiping perspiration from his young brow at various points in the endeavour. We refrained from pointing out the ones he didn’t find, but after getting up the second time (because we went back to bed, of course) we discovered that he’d dragged his chair out of his room and had used it to pluck the higher level of eggs he’d missed on his initial go-round.

He had a nap, a good thing because it was beginning to look like he had a spring cold, although we were crossing our fingers and hoping it was allergies. When he got up we went over to HRH’s parents’ house, where there was another egg hunt (this one included chocolate for HRH and I, too, which was a lot of fun because my mother-in-law is great at hiding things in almost-in-plain sight). For dinner we had an absolutely fabulous prime rib roast, with a nice pinot noir from Oregon, of all places.

Monday morning we were scheduled to go visit Miranda and baby Tristan, but we cancelled it because the boy’s cold was very definitely a cold and not allergies. The last thing a week-old baby needs is a cold. Instead, we ran the errands that we couldn’t run on Sunday, which included buying the webcams. At home I tested mine out by plugging it in, and oh, how I love Apple’s recognition-awareness; I opened iChat and clicked the green video button, and voila, the computer knew what it was and where it was and there was video. HRH started trying to install the other on his computer so we could test them, but as he’s got a PC it would have entailed loading all the software and so forth, so I’ve packed it up again and will just take it with me to my parents’ house and install it on Mum’s laptop there.

I made a delicious quiche (I think the pie dough was even better after being frozen, as I’d made a double batch to have enough for the lemon pie and Monday’s quiche) and Ceri and Scott came over for a late lunch and a visit. The boy was going down for his nap just as they arrived and didn’t wake up till about half an hour before they left, and was in an odd mood when he did wake up so he hid in his room doing his own thing. My rewrites on the freelance project were accepted so I got to fire off a quick invoice by deadline, which made me very happy indeed.

After dinner HRH headed off on a Secret Mission, so I got to play with the boy through his bath and put him to bed on my own. HRH showed off his score when I emerged: a practically new bicycle for the boy, one of the ones I’d been stalking on Kijiji last week. (Ours has the colours flipped, red where the blue is and vice versa.) It’s a real pity we couldn’t pick it up before the weekend so the boy could have enjoyed it during the brilliant weather, but the seller was gone for Easter. We have it now, and are feeling very smug about paying half-price for a virtually new bike; the seller said his daughter had been on it maybe five times before she outgrew it.

It’s three days till I leave on the train to stay with my parents. I’m already stressing about what to bring with me and what I might forget.

Whoosh!

And the week is past already. Good grief. Here’s a precis of what I didn’t blog about when it happened:

Mum went in for hip replacement surgery on Monday, and was wiggling her toes approximately two hours after surgery, so we are all very pleased about that. (Mum, your crew of extended-family-kids up here have said that if there’s anything they can do for you in the next month or so, you’re to call on them, and they’re serious.)

The boy got an Easter parcel from his non-local grandparents and his favourite thing (other than the chocolate, of course) was a pair of plaid shorts.

Lots of lovely feedback about the concert regarding the programming and the execution and the church. Very nice indeed. I don’t think it was recorded, which is a pity, because of all the concerts I’d like a copy of this is certainly up there on my list.

We’re going out this weekend to buy two webcams, one for my Mac, one for a PC laptop. I’ll bring the PC one with me to my parents’ house and set up a Skype account for them down there so we can see and talk to HRH and the boy. I’ll be leaving the PC webcam with them, too, so the boy can ‘see’ them more often. The webcam and Skype account will also come in handy for virtual cellofamily meet-ups. And yes, I am having lots of fun imagining things like cello quartets played together while the cellists are in three different countries. The sound won’t be brilliant but it will be a lot of fun.

Also regarding cello, I realised this week that I think an important part of studying music is knowing when to put a piece aside for a bit and work on something else. We need time to internalise what we’re learning without the mechanics in the way. Sometimes barrelling through it harms instead of helps. Lots happens in the mind without the cello under the fingers. And at my weekly lesson (Sunday was actually last week’s lesson) we started working on Mooney’s Position Pieces for Cello vol 2, to help out with some of my ensemble pieces for the upcoming spring recital. I’m also working on exercises in Suzuki vol 4 to support the recital and orchestra work, which amuses me because I’m working through the pieces book 3.

I had to go to the doctor for something minor but very irritating on Tuesday afternoon, which necessitated pulling HRH out of work because I can’t get to the doctor via public transport, which in turn required pulling the boy out of preschool because there wouldn’t be time to go back to get him through traffic. And then we waited in the doctor’s office for an hour and a quarter. Sigh. I didn’t have time to hit the lab on the way home but I did get the antibiotics I needed, and they’ve been working.

I pulled the third draft of Orchestrated out again this week, cutting things out of the first chapter ruthlessly, and poking at the brief book summary for a query letter and the three-page detailed synopsis. I’ve been at a very awkward stage with this book for a while now. I need outside eyes to look at it, but I’ve been feeling that I can’t ask anyone to do so because (a) my writer friends are either swamped or (b) triggery about writing issues at the moment, and (c) I’ve agreed to beta for other people in the past and bailed consistently because I’ve been swamped or exhausted myself. Reasoning that it’s much easier for people to handle looking at only the first five pages (the number commonly requested by agents) plus the brief and full synopses rather than two hundred pages of novel, I pulled those eight pages total and asked three wonderful people for help, and they’ve agreed to give me feedback on them. The goal is to tweak till the end of April, then start going down the list of agents.

And work sent me a freelance project Wednesday afternoon, after I waited for four work days. The timing was frustrating because in order to have it approved by Monday to add it to my invoice, I’d need to hand it in early on Friday. And of course, today is Good Friday, and for the first time at this job HRH has both Good Friday and Easter Monday off (this is known as Irony, because we’re not spending the weekend with my parents as we have in the past, when HRH has had to book the Monday as a vacation day), so the boys are both home, which skebards the idea of me working all morning. Plus we’re having a guest over this afternoon. So I had to crush two days of work into one day, and on top of that it was a really rough assignment, one of the ones where you have to crush a author’s dreams by pointing out all the very deep flaws in the manuscript. I worked a bit last night (forgetting that I had to be at the bank to deposit a US cheque with the teller before eight because thy’d be closed Friday, dashed out and was the second to last person they allowed in before they closed the doors, whew), did a final polish and last proofreading this morning, and sent it off. I did the best I could. Now I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it’s either approved before five PM on Monday, or that my rewrites are minimal.

I’ve been watching Craigslist and Kijiji listings like a hawk, looking for a secondhand bike for the boy (because eighty dollars for a new one? gack). So far we’ve had one strike, and one no-reply. On a whim I also looked for looms in Toronto and I found a listing for a 32″ folding rigid heddle loom, for less than half the retail price even before exchange and what shipping would cost me. I shot off a quick query, and wonder of wonders it was still available, so I have put the money aside for that and I’ll pick it up when I’m visiting my parents. (Note to self: Bring the big suitcase so you can get it home.) It’s a Kromski Harp, one of the models I’d wished I could get my hands on and had put out of my mind as nigh-impossible. I went so far as to inquire about the Kromski Fiddle, the Harp’s 16″ poor cousin, and one of the few Canadian retailers told me that it would be $165 plus about $60 shipping, so I nixed the whole idea and pulled out the vintage four-shaft loom I had and started bashing away at it, trying to make things work instead of easing into the weaving world via rigid heddle loom. Rigid heddle loom are less complicated than my four-harness table loom and much more portable, and it’s the portability and weaving width I’m really excited about. Apart from being over the moon about the find and the incredible price, I’m thrilled about having a weaving width of about 31″, about twice the weaving width of my current table loom. It’s less flexible regarding pattern potential, but I’m at a point where I’m more interested in basic weave fabrics right now anyway. And the folding loom comes with the place for a second block for a additional not-included heddle, which creates a two-harness situation and extends the pattern possibilities to the equivalent of a four-shaft loom (each rigid heddle has an up, a neutral, and a down position, which creates two sheds). And did I mention that it’s portable? And that it has a weaving width of something like eighty centimetres? I’ll enjoy sharing it with my mum on my visit. Also, this means I won’t have to rent a spinning wheel from the shop that disappointed me at Christmas, and that I won’t be stuck knitting all week, something that would certainly drive me mad.

Now, I need to make potato salad. Have a wonderful Easter weekend, everyone!