Tuesday, January 27, 2009

hanging on by a thread (knitting part 2)

For at least the past two months, I've been sick.

Two months.

Eight weeks.

Fifty six days.

It started out with a scratchy throat. Turned in to a runny nose. Within days, I had a hacking bronchitis cough. A few weeks later, just when it seemed like I was starting to feel better, I would feel the scratchy throat coming on again. Then the runny nose. The hacking cough. A few weeks later. Repeat. And a few weeks later, repeat again.

My mother is forever telling me that I need to get more sleep. She even sent me the link to an article that scientifically shows people who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to contract a cold.

I can't even remember the last time I've had more than seven hours of sleep at one shot. And it isn't just because I go to bed late, some nights I am in bed by 9 PM. It's because I have a baby that wakes up at all hours and screams until he is picked up and brought in to bed with us. And if I don't pick him up, he will wake up the entire house and I'll have four children (and a husband) hysterically crying in the middle of the night.

Last night, I was in bed by 10:30.

Henry started crying at midnight.

He started again at 4 AM.

I didn't go to him at midnight or at 4 AM because I was frustrated and needed to sleep, dammit. At midnight he cried for thirty minutes before silence. At 4 AM, he cried for an hour and a half. For ninety minutes, I listened to the screams bouncing off the walls and rattling around in my head. At one point, I considered locking him in the car. But no, no, that would be wrong.

At 5:30 AM, I pulled him in to bed with me.

He nursed for five minutes and fell to sleep.

But then the floor boards creaked and it sounded like there was an intruder in the house and since Charlie had left on a business trip at 5:00 AM, I was the only adult capable of protecting our small children. With my heart racing, I tried to think what I could use to defend my family.

When I woke up two and a half hours later from a sound sleep to the sound of children running through the house, I was still trying to think what I could use as a weapon within arms reach. And then I realized that an intruder wasn't in the house and wow, it's a darn good thing, because my fight or flight reflex is clearly trumped by exhaustion.

That's how my day started.

Although I strive to have breakfast served by 8 AM, today we were eating "brunch" at 10. Then, when I tried to have a five-minute conversation with my mother and the children combusted before my very eyes, I had to abruptly end my conversation and put MYSELF in time out because I truly thought I was going to lose my head.

Standing in the laundry room, I was thinking that if I put the kids in time out for one minute per year of life, then I should have a nice 37-minute reprieve. But after a mere three minutes of seclusion, the kids came looking for me. "Mommy? Mommy? You OK? You angwy? You acting cwazy, Mommy! Do you need to tawk?"

At noon, just when I *should* be feeding the kids lunch and getting Henry ready for a nap, we rolled out the door to Costco. Because we had no bread. Or milk. Or cereal. And with four more items left on our list and a shopping cart full of food, Carolyn informs me that she needs to go potty. But we can't just abandon our cart - or push it past the checkout to the restroom - so I command my four-year-old that she needs to wait for a few minutes.

Because they are relatively new to the potty training scene, it's a cardinal rule in my book that I never make them wait for more than a few minutes. But I still had to pick up milk. And cereal. And chocolate covered macadamia nuts for without them I might not survive.

So all I could think was, "She is going to soak herself in the middle of the store and I have no change of clothes and this day is totally out of control and mirror mirror on the wall, who is the crappiest mother of all?!"

Faster kids!!


We come home from Costco. I put Henry down for a nap and serve up lunch at 2 PM. The kids eat, Henry wakes up and we are out the door to gymnastics at 3 PM. While I'm watching the girls in their class, I notice that while every other child in the class appears to be following directions, mine are not.

Why? WHY? Why won't they pay attention? Why does it seem that our kids have the most energy? The shortest attention span? Why don't they settle down and listen, EVER? Why can't just once, they be the kids that hold my hand and walk in to a room, quietly, as opposed to pulling away from me, rolling across the floor and defying every word?

I look around at all the other parents and they seem relaxed. Even the toddlers waiting with their mothers while their siblings are in class, are relaxed. They are calmly sitting on laps and eating Cheerios. While my Henry is running around with his arms over his head and bouncing off the walls.


He stands up and laughs and does it again.


Then he staggers over to me and tries to shove his hand down the front of my shirt while crying, "Appwle. APPWLE!"

I hate to complain, but I'm tired. Infact, I'd insert a choice adjective to express just how tired I am if I wasn't opposed to using profanity on my blog.

Tomorrow, I'm heading off to a business meeting at a five-star resort in San Diego. I was planning to have the whole family come with me. While I worked, they could play at the beach and swim in the luxurious pool. But instead, Charlie and I are discussing that perhaps I should go by myself. Just me and my manual breast pump. Because there is no way I could survive for three days without nursing.

It's a tough situation.

Although I'm not entirely ready to give up nursing just yet, I am ready to get some sleep. I am ready to feel well again. I am ready to have my baby look at solid food as a viable and somewhat tolerable fuel alternative. As opposed to looking at me as something that exists for his nutritional and pacification needs, only.

So what was the purpose of this post?

Oh yes!

Casting on.

But wait.

Before I dive in to this, I want to add that knitting didn't come very easily to me. It took me a while to really understand and get a feel for how it works. It took me even longer to understand that if you pull your yarn too tightly or leave it too loose, it can adversely effect your creation. You need to try and stay consistent with the tension that you have on your yarn, and the more you practice, the more you will figure out what tension is right for you and the piece that you are creating.

I also want to add that although I have every confidence in you, if this is the first time you have ever attempted knitting, don't be fooled in to believing that the first item you knit will be perfect. Start small, cut yourself some slack, have patience, and don't give up. If you are anything like me, it might seem like you will never get it, but then something will click, you'll find your groove and before you know it, you'll be knitting at every spare opportunity you can find.

(Unless you are left handed. According to my left-handed friend Michelle, she cannot grasp knitting to save her life because the only people that she knows who knit are all right-handed and the technique is different. So if you are a southpaw, my apologies in advance.)

For now, just practice casting on. Cast on as many stitches as you can without worrying if it's the correct number for a scarf or blanket or pot holder (or coaster). I'll provide more details on how many stitches you will need (if you are using the same materials as me) for a blanket (or scarf) when I write about knitting. By that point, casting on should be easier for you and go rather quickly.

Lastly. I started out knitting using bamboo needles. They are small and very light-weight. If you find that you are having a difficult time with the large aluminum needles, you might want to try picking up some bamboo and having a shot with those, until you get the hang of it.

Lastly. (Lastly.) Sarah L left a comment on my post last week that if people are just learning to knit and want to do a blanket, they might find it easier to use circular needles instead of straight needles. Instead of two completely separate needles, there is a nylon cord running between the two ends that holds them together. When you are doing a big project, like a blanket, it gives a lot more room for your stitches. This makes it less likely that your stitches are going to slide off of your needles while you are still figuring out knitting.

(Good point, Sarah. Thanks for mentioning it.)

So I started out with Charlie taking photographs as I tried to illustrate how a person would cast stitches "on" to a knitting needle. And I quickly realized that people would soon be discouraged if they were to only rely upon our photographic instruction. So, I made a short video that is included at the bottom of this post.

Here you have your yarn, from your ball o' yarn.

You will tie a small loop with a knot.

Now, there are at least two ways to cast stitches on to a knitting needle. I am going to show you the way that I was taught, with two needles. But at the bottom of this post is a video that I found on YouTube where the one-needle technique is shown.

First, my two needled approach.

Place your two needles inside the loop.

Form a cross with your needles. Or X. Whatever you call it. (You'll quickly see that I make up nomenclature as I go.)

Take the yarn from your ball o' yarn (shown in my right hand) and bring it under and up over your bottom (right) needle.

Now, pull your bottom (right) needle so that it forms a "T" with your top (left) needle. The yarn will be on the bottom (right) needle, and slightly inclining your bottom (right) needle up (so the yarn doesn't slip off), pull your bottom (right) needle up and slightly over the left (top) needle, so that the yarn comes with it and forms a loop and the right needle is now on top.

Rotate the loop and place the bottom (or left side of the loop) on the bottom (left) needle.

Pull the loop so that it is taut, but not too taut, on your bottom (left) needle and pull the right (top) needle out. Now, you will have a stitch on the left needle and no yarn on the right.

Insert your needle in to the middle of the stitch and making an "X", begin again.

Here's a video depicting my two-needle technique. It looks like I have a camera mounted on my head, but it's Charlie, standing directly over me.

And here's a video depicting the one-needle technique.

The beer is optional, but with either cast-on technique, you might find it helps.


  1. Another great resource for knitting videos is www.knittinghelp.com - I use it whenever figuring out a new technique!

    I have no suggestions for the current madness in your life, other than hoping it comes to an end soon and things get easier and more relaxed.

  2. Go to the meeting without the family. You've included them in all your others, you are allowed to be separated for more than a few hours. Even from adorable Henry. Especially from adorable Henry. That's what manual press pumps are for. That's what five-star hotels are for. That's what husbands are for.

    Give yourself permission.


  3. Your situation with nursing Henry sounds just like mine with my almost 19 month old son. My son finally weaned (w/ a good deal of help) this past Christmas. I was overtired, cranky & began to "forget" important things (like taking the keys out of the front door upon returning home) almost daily. I just couldn't refuse my baby! My husband had to step in & I was so thankful that he recognized my need for help.


    Go on the trip without your family. Have Charlie set up a pack n' play in an area away from everyone else's sleep space (preferably with a door). Let Henry sleep in this space your entire trip. He needs to establish some kind of routine with naps & bedtime. The key is to let Henry work it out on his own. Tell Charlie to be strong! Put him to bed with a bottle/sippy of water (we had to start w/ a bottle of water & transition after about two weeks to the sippy) & don't get him until normal waking hours (our rule is no earlier than 0600). Our hardest time was morning (which sound the same for you), so it may be a good time to offer Henry a bottle/sippy with plain ol' milk AFTER normal waking hours. The key when you get home is to not crawl back into your bed with Henry in the mornings! Once you're up, you're up.

    I know it's hard & he's your baby. But it sounds like it's time to move forward. You can do it. I didn't think I could let go & I did. And we are all much happier for it! We'll be praying for you!

  4. ou need sleep and more importantly brain rest which you'll get from sleep. Go by yourself and refresh. You will be so much better for it. Sleep sleep sleep. I love it.

  5. Have you tried co-sleeping? Although it might seem like a reversal of what you intended (with him in his own bed), if you plan to continue nursing until he weans himself, it might be something to try. If you brought him to bed with you, then for the very briefest of times when he woke up, it would be to nurse for a few minutes and get back to sleep. No one (including you) would be woken up in the process and everyone would sleep much, much sounder. Once he weans, he will have weaned himself from waking up in the night, and will no longer need to sleep in bed with y'all. Just a thought, hope whatever you try works out! And by the way, I too agree that chocolate is a great cure for a day when you're down. Today my weapon of choice is chocolate eclairs.

  6. You need sleep and more importantly you need to re-energize which you'll get from sleep. Go by yourself and refresh. You will be so much better for it. Sleep sleep sleep. I love it.

  7. I"m a lefty, I had a lefty trying to teach me to knit, and I STILL couldn't get it! It wasn't lack of skill on my friend's part either.

  8. What a great post. "Are your Crawzy mommy"? HAHAHA love it. You amaze me with ability to stay sane!!! As for the three day conference, go for it how far away from home is it. Can hubby come pick up the milk, or maybe give you a day and night all alone with the pump, then bring Henry out to nurse. Just throwing out some ideas. Apples, hahahaha!