Good dog

So my dog, Emerson, is a handful. He really is a sweetie, but some days his exuberance and energy are a bit much. I knew this before we got him, and I’m not really suprised, but some days on the ground are on the exhausting side.

But yesterday he really earned his kibble (plus treats). The kids, Emerson, and I were in the front yard messing about when Emerson suddenly took off barking his “threat” bark — straight toward (I thought) one of the Ranger School students. I can often call him off if he’s worried about a person, but he didn’t call off when I yelled. A moment later I saw it was actually a strange dog. Emerson had headed him off at the edge of the yard, and they were going through the usual dog get-acquainted rituals, when the strange dog made a beeline toward my kids. I had no hope of stopping of blocking him, so I just watched apprehensively. He was streaking toward them in that purposeful way a dog will take off after a deer or a rabbit or something, so I really didn’t know what would happen.

Know what happened? Emerson decided he didn’t like what was going down. So he ran alongside the strange dog and herded him away from the kids. Stood between the kids and the strange dog. Herded him away again. Again. Again. Until the dog’s owner successfully called him away.

I don’t think that strange dog was a true threat (saw him again today). But Emerson correctly assessed the situation to know that the dog’s intent was unclear, and he took the initiative to take care of business, using the least force needed. He was effective, serious, and in control of himself.

Dudes, I am ready. I have been ready since winter, at least. Look at me.

In short, he was fabulous.

Thank you Emerson!
And look what Mom did to our hair yesterday. She’s a menace with clippers.

Three years, a day late

Three years ago

Two years ago

One year ago

Four days ago

Bwahahahaha

Your heart's desire was a tricycle, and sometimes we get our hearts' desire.

Happy third birthday, baby little C.

Costumes in a box

My mom is moving sometime soon. To that end, she is doing a lot of housecleaning, and in an effort to ease that process I’m saying yes to pretty much everything she mentions maybe wanting to send me.

So I got two boxes of costumes along with handmade apparel from my childhood and teenage years. Some of the dresses I made, and some my mom made. There are a few shirts my mom made for herself, although I can’t honestly recall seeing her wear those particular shirts. There are many child-sized costumes.

I normally am careful not to hoard stuff. I believe myself to be a person who throws things away heartlessly, and puts them into a scrapbook or something right away if not. But that is not true, really. I can’t get rid of any of the handmade items in those boxes. I have too many back issues of Piecework on my shelves (hoarding them?) to be able to toss aside handwork.

Poor Brad, having to live with increasing amounts of handwork. At least I have been able to discipline myself  at thrift stores and not buy sadly tossed-aside, beautiful handmade textiles. Mostly.

Further change of heart

In addition to thinking that parents who dreaded the coming of school were crazy, I have in the past believed that people who spin from the fold are wusses, big-time. Especially people who are spinning cotton or silk from the fold. The staple is too short! The fiber is too slippery. Wah, wah, wah.

Well, it’s best to spin “Milk Silk” from Greenwood Fiberworks from the fold. Honestly. Because it’s slippery and short (both at the same time! I still maintain that spinning silk, with it’s mile-long staple, and cotton, with its adequate grip, from the fold is wussy.)

Late summer, zip zip zip, birthday

In the past I’ve not understood those parents who bemoan the start of the school year. I mean, I love my kids as much as anybody, but after a whole summer of having them around, frankly, I was always looking forward to a little more silence.(Not total silence, you understand, since only one of my boys is in school and the other is with me every second of every day, mostly.) Anyway, that’s how I used to feel. This year I was filled with sadness at the start of school, because it was the end of things like:

Makin' rainbows with the hose sprayer

H had swimming lessons. They were great, but pictures of kids doing swimming lessons are awful. This one of C, waiting, is much more interesting and entertaining.

But swimming lessons lead to increased confidence, and that lead to wonderful scenes like this one out in the river. It's like they're forging across the ocean, H inspired by his future, and C just doggedly keeping up. They're really only 10 feet from shore.

Puppy, worn out from all the swimming.

So help me, someday we will drive real tractors.

Down-time during summer

Going to amusement parks.

Riding the helicopters. Apparently I was the only one having fun.

H as Mini-Lancelot in the Missoula Children's Theatre production of "King Arthur's Quest"

So then school started. I considered home-schooling H this year, but I think he has a good (I’ve heard great) teacher. Maybe next year. I think at least some homeschooling is beneficial to a kiddo, but I also think going to the school is valuable. Why not mix it up? We’ll see. I wish there were a way to do a half-home/half-school thing at public schools. I can understand why there isn’t, though. I hesitate to join the homeschoolers in part because as a whole they present a really insufferable holier-than-thou self-image. Not all of them — one family in Wanakena homeschools and both children and parents are quite lovely. However, there is a big heap of speshul snowflakiness about the movement overall that makes me feel like I’m biting aluminum. Also, middle-class entitlement is just rampant. Blech. Yet, I like being around H and think I’d like to nurture his enthusiasm for learning and make sure he’s not just bored all the time (a couple of years ago, I really needed a break from him more often and felt I lacked the patience for home education, leaving that to the pros. Not so much now.) I don’t flatter myself that I can educate him better than professional teachers, but I do think some time doing the passion-based learning thing is beneficial. Other than summertime, I mean… so anyway, no news there, just rumination. School started again.

First day back from second grade

C is so jealous that H gets to ride the bus. He posed for a first-day-of-second-grade picture too, just to be part of things school-ish.

So now this kind of stuff is mostly relegated to weekends (except for I’m taking him out of school one day per month for field trips. We’re going to a modern-dance-for-kids show on Wednesday in Potsdam.)

At the lean-to, trying to kick a stump over. Didn't work.

If you are using that thing to steal my soul, you better at least have a bit of hot dog for me.

Emerson continues to get bigger, duh. He’s about half-grown (weight-wise) now and Brad and I took him on a long-ish hike yesterday (sans children — my birthday present). It was a popular trail, and crowded, so he was on leash the whole time, pulling us uuuuuup the mountain and doooooown the mountain. We’re working on things…

What We Did on our Summer Vacation

 

C felt silly.

These ARE my pajamas.

H finished first grade.

No more first grade!

Then C felt serious.

Seriously.

We went on a long car trip to states nether.

We camped and hung out with Brad’s family at his uncles’ cabin in the Loyalsock State Forest, Pennsylvania. My kids saw their first fire flies (yay! so yay! I like fireflies more than they do, it turns out, but still yay!)

High Knob Overlook

We drove to Oxford, PA, to Brad’s parents’ house.

In the cherry tree Brad planted in high school

We went to a minor league baseball game in Maryland and saw the fireworks, very close and loud.

We rode on an old steam train through farm country.

Mom-mom and Pop-pop and Kid-kids

We drove to Delaware and met up with Chris and Olivia. We ate crab. We camped at Cape Henlopen State Park. We saw dolphins.

I swear, those dots are dolphins.

We dug in the sand.


We played in the surf.


We relaxed in the shade. It was pretty much the perfect day on the beach.
We drove back to Oxford. We hung around. I melted a green crayon in my mother-in-law’s new dryer. No pictures.

We drove home. We picked up our new puppy on the way.

Hello, I'm Emerson and this is the only picture I stayed stil for.

Dogs

Looking for a dog, it turns, out can take over your entire mind. Well, my entire mind anyway. I do tend to let that happen. A lot. For instance, I have already picked out several sheep breeds to raise (some of which do not exist in North America, conveniently), although I do not own any property.

Anyway, back to dogs. I was set on getting a collie. I dragged the family to town last week to meet a real, live, beautiful eight-year-old collie male — not to consider acquiring, but just to meet an actual specimen of the breed. He did not disappoint. He is a really stunning and friendly and well-behaved dog.

But then I found something out. I found out that there are folks out there who are carefully breeding puppies but are not breeding for dog shows. Specifically, there are people breeding old-time collie-type dogs. They don’t care about the AKC registration, some are openly hostile to showing dogs and breeding dogs for shows, and they are breeding really smart, really healthy, really non-neurotic dogs. Some of them certify their dogs as young adults based on their working strengths.

A lot of them breed English Shepherds — not an AKC-recognized breed, but recognized by some other kennel clubs. They’re sort of like a natural-looking collie. Their muzzles are shorter and broader, and their eyes are bigger, and their coats are not so huge, and they are a little smaller overall. They will probably be a little more challenging to train because they like to think independently.

They work.

I’ve wanted a working dog, but not an obsessive working dog. Someday I may get a flock of something wooly or something feathery or both and may need a helping paw. But I also may never get any such flock, so I need a dog that doesn’t need to work constantly or have a big-time effort made to replace all the missing work (border collies, I’m giving your eye right back to you.)

So. I’ve added a visit to a farm with English Shepherds to the travel agenda for this weekend when we’re on the way down to PA. And we shall see what we shall see. Hopefully we shall see the dog who will come home with us, eventually.

Some June-ish things to say

1. I’m getting a dog — and it will be a rough collie — as soon as I decide whether to get a puppy or an adult. And as soon as I can schedule the long long drive to any of the breeders, who are all conveniently at the other ends of the state. Or in New Hampshire.

2. H is riding his bike enthusiastically now, starting this past week. He had a lapse in bike-riding confidence for a while there. Oddly, the argument I finally found to get him over the fear again was that biking is an essential life skill, and what would he do if gas were to cost $100 per gallon when he’s an adult and he can’t afford to drive a car and doesn’t know how to ride a bike? About one minute after that conversation, he was riding again.

3. He is also starting real swimming lessons this summer. This past year (even these past few months) he has become suddenly much more receptive and attentive to learning new things. This summer he and I have several skills to work on — swimming, biking, baseball, piano, and guitar (once he saves enough money to buy one, and he’s very nearly there). He seems to enjoy all of them (except swimming so far), and I think with his newfound ability to focus on a goal that is more than one day out, he will succeed very nicely at whichever ones he wants to. Also, overcoming his fear with bike riding will, I hope, help him to overcome other fears.

4. His brother, on the other, is in a phase of being significantly less receptive and attentive. So potty training is really fun right now. It mostly consists of having him naked as much as possible. C does not have much trouble overcoming fears, since he doesn’t have many of them. He does fear my wrath if he poops on the floor, which is handy, but sad.

5. There is an upcoming trip to PA and DC planned. It will be exciting to see Chris and Olivia in their new digs in DC, especially since I assumed I would not probably be seeing them for some time.

6. Writing Club is done! At the kids’ request, we extended it through the end of the year, but only one or two were showing up by the end. I kept on for their sake, because I liked those one or two, but I’m happy to call it quits. The coffeehouse event was a smashing success, with all the writers sharing their work, as well as lots of other high schoolers and middle schoolers singing, playing, and telling jokes. And an African drummer guy. He was the glue that held everyone together. It was like having a drumming Dalai Lama there — you know, the kind of person who just makes everybody feel loved and confident. I am not so much that kind of person, so it was really fortunate to have him there.

7. After losing the fire for a bit there, I think I will go ahead and finish this damn degree after all. So I’m courting major professors here and there (mostly there) and talking to a guy next county over who helped me out with a project last year. I think I have an idea for further work that he will like. In fact, I think he’ll like it so much I will have to really focus on reigning in the scope of the thing. It can hopefully focus on monitoring some restored riparian wetlands. I can count birds, oh yes I can. And maybe I can get a really nice scope on loan from the university! I miss having good optics lying around like I did when I worked for GSLEP. In fact, I miss counting birds a little bit. Never thought I would. I do NOT miss counting brine shrimp.

8. I do miss counting brine fly larvae. Really really never thought I’d say that, but they are so fascinatingly revolting. It’s not the counting them I miss, it’s the watching them twitch. It’s hypnotic. Okay, okay, the way brine shrimp ruffle their setae is rather soothing, but really, it’s nothing compared to the interesting way the brine flies spaz around.

9. I don’t miss doing destructive species monitoring. I didn’t have a great moral problem with the killing of the brine shrimp. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t the kind of inside objection right down into my gut that I felt with all the trout killing I was doing a few years ago. Counting birds — what’s the harm? Especially if I stay away from their nests?

10. Maybe I could count birds from a kayak; that could be fun. In fact, I may volunteer for the loon count here shortly. Just for an excuse to leave the kids with Brad and go kayaking out on the Setback, where I suspect there is a loon pair.

11. I’m taking a full-stop break from knitting, crocheting, weaving (did I mention I constructed a backstrap loom? Fun stuff), embroidering, tatting, and typing/mouse-using for more than 20 minutes at a time for the benefit of my sad, sad wrists and all the tendons in there, which are in need of some love. That means I am reading instead: All Creatures Great and Small, Dreams from my Father, To the Lighthouse, and various books about dogs.

12. I suggested To the Lighthouse for my book club. I am happy to be reading it again because I believe it to be the best book in the English language (I am partial to stream of consciousness though). I fear no one in the book club will like it. I’m nearly sure that will be the case. Now I wish I had maybe not suggested it.

13. Elementary school is almost out for the year, and I am looking forward to it. That is how lazy I am — I don’t like getting up for the bus.

Bike

Since last post the family went to Texas for a visit, I attended shearing school in Vermont, and Easter happened, all worthy of mention, maybe even pictures.

But much, much more exciting: today, April 27, 2011, my older son learned to ride a bike. Fear is a greater hurdle to him than many people, so I had quietly despaired that he would ever learn. However, on the way home from school on this fine spring day without any bugs out yet, he said, “I don’t know how to ride a bike, but if I did know how to ride a bike, today would be a great day to ride a bike.” So we stopped by the garage, picked up his bike, and through a little judicious use of force (after he got on the bike and started panicking), he rode by himself. After dinner he learned to get started by himself. Now he just needs to perfect using his brakes rather than trying to stop with his feet, and we’re well on our way to giving him money in the summer and sending him down to the general store to pick stuff up (also fun biking around with friends). I suppose I should acquire some sort of bike basket. I’ve never seen a basket on a boy’s bike. Are they not supposed to get sent to the store for things or something?

Score one for the little guy and me!

Nick of time

The snow is leaving; the spring, she comes. And yet until last week my little son had only one new mitten (he has other mittens, no DCFS please). He loved his new mitten, wore it all around the house, and yet it took the ending of winter to inspire me to make another little mitten to keep his hands warm.

I started these one day when it took me forever to find a pair of gloves in the mitten/glove basket because they were almost all black. No good!

Here’s the pattern, for my reference as much as anything (mittens I knit tend to just not fit the way I wish they would. These ones are perfect for 2.5-year-old hands, so I think they are worth documenting):

Various scraps of worsted weight wools, size 3 dpn’s

CO 30 stitches in 2-colors using long-tail CO — CC1 (light blue) below and MC (red-orange) above. Drop the initial slip stitch off needle. Join using the slip-stitch-over method, leaving 28 stitches.

Cuff: 15 rounds of corrugated rib with the knit stitches in the MC and held in left hand, purl stitches in CC1 and held in right hand.

Base of hand: Drop CC1. Switch to stockinette. Using only MC, increase evenly around to 32 stitches. Knit four rounds plain.

Thumb gusset:

-On next round, K2, pm, M1, K1, M1, pm, K to end.

– K one round plain.

-K2, sl m, M1, K3, M1, sl m, K to end.

-Next round is knit plain, but add CC2 (dk green) to the mix – Alternate CC2 and MC each stitch.

-Using CC2 only, knit around, increasing thumb gusset as established above – 7 stitches in thumb.

– Alternate these two rows until you have 11 thumb stitches. Then knit three more rounds in pattern (one round CC2, one round alternating CC2 and MC).

-Slip thumb stitches to waste yarn. Drop CC2.

Hand: Using MC only in this round, CO one additional stitch over thumb hole.

-Join CC3 (lt green) – Alternate MC/CC3 for three rounds.

-Alternate CC3/MC for three rounds.

-Alternate MC/CC3 for three rounds. Drop CC3.

Mitten tip: Using MC only, K3, K2tog all around.

-K plain.

-K2, K2tog all around.

-K plain.

-K2tog all around.

-Tie off.

Thumb: Pick up 11 held stitches using MC. Pick up 4 additional stitches over the inner edge of thumb Р15  stitches total.

-Knit one round MC only (knitting through back loop as it seems necessary).

-Join CC3 (lt green) and alternate MC/CC3 in a gingham-type pattern for 5 rounds. Drop CC3.

-K plain one round, MC only.

-K1, then K2tog all around (8 stitches remain). Tie off. Both mittens the same.

-Secretly pray for just a little more snow, a little more winter. Wish later you could turn that request off when it snows every day the first week of April.

It is lovely to knit something that is loved. Even though he won’t need them much more for outside, he and his brother have developed a very surprising love of boxing, and winter mittens are required. I think they just like to take off their shirts and strut around with mittens on. I’m not sure where they picked that up, unless Brad behaves very differently when I’m not around.

—————————————

Otherwise:

  • I’m headed to Texas tomorrow, where there is no need for mittens.
  • DirecTV came today and installed an HD receiver so we can get “local” channels. It turns out the new receiver can’t talk to my ancient TV. So now we have no TV function. During March Madness, when there were frequently groups of neighborhood men in the living room squinting at the small, low-res TV, Brad started getting self-conscious about the state of things, screen-wise (Brad! self-conscious about electronics! Weird!). So he was happy to find out that now we HAVE to go buy a new TV. Neither one of us has ever bought a TV, having had old crappy ones given to us instead. Uncharted territory. I suspect that for the guys at Best Buy, our entry into the TV-buying population will be like the opening of a can of tuna is for a cat.
  • I changed to the cheapest (lamest) TVprogramming package a couple of days ago. So I guess we’ll just watch, um, the Kung-Fu Panda DVD on our new big(gish) screen. I think it’s time to try NetFlix like all you regular ‘Mericans.
  • Writing Club for Teens is still fun. They are still coming and they are writing both at the meeting and bringing in their writing to share. It isn’t all about death. The main topics seem to be love (or lack of it), despair, and zombies. Also how you can go live in the Adirondacks in case you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world. I was unsurprised to find that the kids did not recognize Mad Max references, but even the name Nightmare on Elm Street flew past them. Really? I mean, I’ve never seen any of those movies, either, but at least I know who Freddy Kruger is. Didn’t he found Kruger Grocery or something?