Friday, October 31, 2008

The Pea Princess by Colleen Mills

The Pea Princess

She arches like a bowed branch of willow,
Quivering from stem to leaf.
With each flex of the wrists,
Roll of a shoulder,
Gentle realignment of the ribs,
The lump burrows deeper.

Now beneath the breast plate,
Now between hipbone and pelvis,
Now knotted at the base of the neck,
Clicking between the knobs of the spinal column
Where the vertebrae, like the panels of a washboard, find the lump,
As it rickets over the thinly sheathed bones with each shift in motion.

Whether between knucklebones or toe bones,
Nestled in the many small joints and junctures of the body,
It journeys like a pebble smoothed over in a sea of feathers,
Pressing against the inside of the knee cap,
Working its way up the thigh,
Wandering the flesh land of the belly.

Each night the same rotation
As she arches, curves, twines her body about the bedposts,
Weaved like a tight shoe lace between the pillars of the bed,
Spiraling between the sheets
Trying to find the one place
Such a lump will fit beneath her frame.

With each stretch,
Each extension or contortion of a limb,
The minutest of lumps,
Buried beneath bedding twenty upon twenty layers high,
Burrows still deeper, pressing into the skin of thinly padded skeletal extensions
As it grates to a final rest against the gentle hollow above the collarbone.

Like the smoothed sand in the mouth of an oyster,
The tenderest of peas seeks shelter
In only the softest concaves of flesh,
Where the pea, like the pearl,
Proves perfection
By defining the flaw.
--Colleen Mills

For your trick-or-treating pleasure: BLOG CANDY!!!

I have a piece of scrapbook paper that I bought before Elizabeth was born that has babies in pea pods on it. I've wanted to make her a pea pod bunting for months. Now that she's outgrowing even the biggest of the fleece sleepers Mom made her, I thought I ought to finally get it done before she's walking and refuses to wear it.

Well, I made one, and took her picture in it, and she is indeed telling me she's not gonna let me put it on her again. I was short on fabric, so it's a little small, and her legs get cramped. So Now I'm offering it to any of my blog readers with a baby smaller than mine. Halloween's over, but it's cute enough to wear anytime, even just for one photo. Leave me a comment if you'd like it, and if more than one person wants it, I'll hold a drawing or something.

Isn't Elizabeth cute in it? And her little doll too. I had enough scraps of slightly different colors to make a copy for the doll (I'm keeping that one, sorry. It's a good way to have the memory of Elizabeth's without taking up closet space with an outfit she won't wear -- and besides, how likely is it that you'd have a doll the same size? Also, I bought the doll at a thrift store, and she doesn't have any other clothes.)

I was trying to take cute pictures, but Elizabeth wasn't happy to be in the outfit -- it was about 80 degrees, and 80% humidity. I got some OK shots like the ones above, but nothing really great. Then our grumpy chain smoking neighbor started talking to her -- saying, "Hi Elizabeth! What a cute girl you are!" That kind of attention has earned almost everyone she's ever met -- from friends and relatives to strangers at the grocery store -- a heart melting smile, and it worked again. I got the two shots you see below, which I think are some of the best of the bunch.

Here are the jack-o'-lanterns we carved Monday night for Family Home Evening. I really like the glowing effect in these photos (though some of it might be motion blur). The one on the left, Peter's pumpkin, was the one that grew in our garden this year. The vine died about a month ago, and we brought the pumpkin inside. I've been tapping on the rind pretty regularly, looking for soft spots, but it survived remarkably well. I carved the other two for myself and Elizabeth. The middle one is sort of sorry looking, but you have to understand that while most pumpkins have a paper thin rind on top of and inch or so of flesh, this pumpkin had a tough tough rind about a centimeter thick. It was like the gourds they use to make maracas out of -- almost like wood. I seriously got out of breath sawing just a few crooked triangles into it.

Here's Elizabeth looking at the pumpkins. Notice that she's eating the smile from the middle pumpkin. She actually ate the whole thing (not including the rind).

Here's some shots of little pumpkin head with the pumpkins in the daylight. Five days later in our warm moist California weather, the pumpkins are already looking saggy and gross inside, but Elizabeth doesn't mind. They're just three more interesting things in a world of interesting things.

We had a ward Trunk-or-treat party this evening. I thought I'd make our trunk go along with our costume theme (more on that below), so I made a kind of pixie hollow with flowers, autumn leaves, and lots of dolls dressed as elves and fairies.

I'm especially pleased with the little boy doll I made to match Peter's outfit with a leaf vest and acorn cap.

After last Halloween, I went to the after sales (a great way to pick up inexpensive costume pieces) and found a baby fairy costume. I have been trying to get a fairy costume together for myself for years, so I thought this would be a great excuse to finally do it. I made a few modifications to the baby costume to make it match mine -- I added the pink flower tutu over their white glittery one, and replaced the weird silver stuff that was approximating lacing with actual laced up ribbons. Here are a few shots of Elizabeth looking like a cute baby flower fairy. I think she looks almost worthy of Cecily Mary Barker, don't you?

Here, she's about to eat a stick.

And now Mama took the stick away, poor baby.

Here's my costume. I made the tutu this year, but the rest was stuff I already had that just needed a little tweaking. The corset is one I had made a few years ago for a flower fairy costume I never finished for an event I didn't end up going to. It could use about twice as many grommets, and about an inch more over the shoulders, but, eh, what can you do? The shirt is the silk one Mom made for my wedding dress. The headband is reworked from the one Mom made for Lesli's wedding (though the only photos I have of the event has Lesli wearing different flowers in her hair). The pants are the ones I got for my Princess Amidala in white costume. The two pairs of wings and the wand came from the dollar store.

Here is our whole family. Aren't we cute?

Peter was very kind to agree to wear the costume I made for him. A lot of my friend's husbands won't consider wearing any costume at all. I reused the vest from the Legolas costume I made for the Lord of the Rings themed Halloween at Driver Alliant (by the way, does anybody have a copy of the photo I sent out from that? I seem to have lost several digital photos from that year somewhere along the way). I needed to put in gussets under the arms and down the middle of the back to make it big enough for Peter since it had been made for a petite girl. I also added a lot of fun beads to the corners, including some large leaf-shaped glass ones I got from Wal-mart. They make a fun clinking sound as they knock against each other, and Elizabeth really wants to eat them. I had considered making leaves out of some scraps of green fabric left over from the quilt I made for Peter this year, but when I saw some leaf garlands at the Dollar Store, I figured my time was worth a lot more than $2, so I bought them and used them on his shirt and the trunk. I crocheted an acorn cap for Peter using pretty much the same pattern as the ones Miriam and I made for my nephews last October. A pair of my brown stretch maternity pants just fit Peter and finished off the outfit nicely.

While Peter was holding Elizabeth on his shoulders, they put on some music, and she was so excited by Shake Shake Shake Senora that she just had to shake and bounce herself.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Metrical Feet -- A Lesson for a Boy by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Metrical Feet -- A Lesson for a Boy

Trochee trips from long to short;
From long to long in solemn sort
Slow Spondee stalks, strong foot!, yet ill able
Ever to come up with Dactyl's trisyllable.
Iambics march from short to long.
With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.
One syllable long, with one short at each side,
Amphibrachys hastes with a stately stride --
First and last being long, middle short, Amphimacer
Strikes his thundering hoofs like a proud high-bred Racer.

If Derwent be innocent, steady, and wise,
And delight in the things of earth, water, and skies;
Tender warmth at his heart, with these meters to show it,
With sound sense in his brains, may make Derwent a poet --
May crown him with fame, and must win him the love
Of his father on earth and his father above.
My dear, dear child!
Could you stand upon Skiddaw, you would not from its whole ridge
See a man who so loves you as your fond S.T. Colerige.
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I found this poem at my favorite poetry site while doing earlier posts when I was still trying to make this a blog about poetry rathern than a blog about my life with a poetic soundtrack.

For those of you who are confused about this poem and why it's so difficult to read smoothly, I'll offer a quick explanation, with a chart I'm stealing outright from the above-linked site.

Most poems pick a meter and stick with it the whole way through, and your mouth knows what to expect as you read aloud -- think how easy it is to read Dr. Seuss aloud even with all the nonsense words. In this poem, he takes each of the well known meters, and as soon as you get used to reading one, he changes to another. It's like running a race where you hop for ten steps, then grapevine, then skip then run, then walk backwards. It's doable, and interesting, but not elegant. This one was written as a study aide for his son.
The metres (where /, -, s and l are stressed, unstressed, short and long
syllables respectively)

Trochee / -
Spondee / /
Dactyl / - -
Iamb - /
Anapest - - /
Amphibrach s l s
Amphimacer l s l

The latter two feet are based on short and long rather than stressed and
unstressed syllables, and apply to Greek and Latin poetry.

When Mom sent me a link to a "poetic table of the elements" and said, "You MUST do a blog post on this!" I thought that it was going to be something similar where somebody had somehow organized poetic terms or "the elements" of poetry in a clever way.

It turned out to be a site that had a poem for each (well for most) of the elements in the regular old periodic table. It's a fun idea, and for a chemestry nerd like my brother David (and I say that with all the love in the world) it might be worth exploring. I don't know or care enough about chemestry to see which poems have clever ways of describing elements through words (I imagine something like having the number of words in each line indicate the electron levels while describing the physical properties, or assigning a style of poetry to each subgroup on the table). The site also has lots of annoying popup ads, so I didn't spend much time ther. I'll leave that to the chemestry nerds.

Mom also tagged me in a blog game where you pick the fourth folder in your My Pictures folder and post the fourth picture in that folder. My pictures are a bit more organized than most people's (big surprise there), and you have to go several folders deep before you get to actual pictures, but I just kept going fourth, fourth, fourth till I found the one posted above.

It's Kari Seaver and a guy named Chris, who may now be her fiance? Husband? I don't know. I'm sure somebody told me at the time (I think it was taken sometime in 2007), but I've forgotten. Kari is Steve's age. They were born at almost the same time, but Steve was always about twice as big as Kari. The Seavers are very good friends of our family from when we lived in Mighigan (lo many years ago), and one of the few families we've kept in touch with over the years. Kari also lived with us for a school year when she was having some trouble with friends at her own school in Detroit. Her Dad took the black and white photos of the six of us kids that hang on the wall in the dining room at Mom's house.

Well there you go mom! This post is for you. I'll tag Mike, Helena, Kathey, and Marci.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It Ain't Necessarily So by George and Ira Gershwin

It Ain't Necessarily So

It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
De things dat yo' liable to read in de Bible
It ain't necessarily so

Li'l David was small but oh my
Li'l David was small but oh my
He fought big Goliath who lay down and dieth
Li'l David was small but oh my

Oh Jonah he lived in de whale
Oh Jonah he lived in de whale
For he made his home in dat fish's abdomen
Oh Jonah he lived in de whale

Li'l Moses was found in a stream
Li'l Moses was found in a stream
He floated on water 'til ole Pharaoh's daughter
She fished him she says from that stream

It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
Dey tell all you chillun de debble's a villain
But 'taint necessarily so

To get into Hebben don' snap for a sebben
Live clean, don' have no fault
Oh I takes dat gospel whenever it's pos'ble
But wid a grain of salt

Methus'lah lived nine hundred years
Methus'lah lived nine hundred years
But who calls dat livin' when no gal'll give in
To no man what's nine hundred years

I'm preachin' dis sermon to show
It ain't nessa, ain't nessa
Ain't nessa, ain't nessa
It ain't necessarily so
--George and Ira Gershwin

While looking at the responses to Google's announcement that they oppose Prop 8, I came across a blog where the author was obviously a Christian. When someone started trying to debate with him in the comment threads about whether the Bible says homosexual relations are a sin (by the way, the terms used in 1 cor 6:9-10 are as "ambiguous" in their meaning as gay and queer are today. You can claim that they mean happy and odd respectively, but everybody knows what you mean when you use them), he said:
I believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. I believe it is completely historically accurate, inerrant, and as relevant today as when it was written.

While I respect this person for the strength of his faith, I'm glad that my church doesn't ask me to espouse and believe a statement that is so obviously and demonstrably wrong. For starters, which translation of the Bible is complete and inerrant? KJV? New International? or the version that puts it all in street slang? I am not trying to disparage this man's faith, just to show that it is easy for others to do so.

I should start by mentioning that I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. That means that we acknowledge that some error has crept in, but it's still mostly true. The real gem of our religion on this topic though, is that we don't have to rely on what's left of the Bible text to find out what God wants us to know today. If there is a question about what a passage of scripture means, or meant, or even said, we don't have to wait for some archaeologist to dig up the holy grail of Bible scholarship -- a first edition original -- we have modern prophets to tell us what God's word on the topic is TODAY.

Honestly, not every word of the Bible is meant to be taken literally. There's a LOT of symbolism in there. I don't think that even most people espousing the opinion quoted above believe that every parable that Christ taught was a true story about a real person. I wouldn't be upset to learn that some of the Old Testament stories (especially the ones in the "poetic books" like Job and Jonah) were made up to teach an important gospel lesson. And really, it doesn't matter whether it's literally accurate or not -- the Bible is still true.

Take, for example, the problems caused by making the creation story in Genesis a literal exact history. You get silliness like the Creation Museum. Official Church Doctrine on the subject says something like: "God Created the Earth. God Created Man in His Own Image. The Church Does Not Have an Official Position On How He Did It." That means that there is no need to be in conflict with scientific theories on the subject. While they might not have all the answers yet, the ideas of evolution, geology, astronomy, and physics are very practical ways of looking at the world, and have provided many life saving (and labor saving too) technological advances.

So when we want to know whether the Biblical condemnations of homosexual behavior are a mistranslation, or an outmoded social norm (like having to have your head covered to pray), or a commandment for another time that has now been fulfilled (like Christians believe the Law of Moses to be), we don't have to guess. We look to the prophet. And the prophet, Thomas S Monson has said that homosexual behavior is a sin, and that we, as church members should do all we can to pass Proposition 8.

I had been thinking about making a post that listed what I thought were the most potent arguments against allowing Same Sex Marriages, but then I found a sarcastic list floating around, and decided that I couldn't, in good conscience, post something that would feed that flame (The list is actually pretty funny, though I wouldn't go clicking around elsewhere on that site).

Instead, I'll just give a stream of consciousness outline of what I think when I think about it.
  • The Prophets and the scriptures tell us that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is a sin.
  • That includes Homosexual relations of any kind in the same way it includes adultery, fornication, sodomy, pederasty, incest, bestiality, and any other sexual relations outside of marriage.
    • In online discussions I've read, proponents of Same Sex Marriage (SSM from now on) try to distance themselves from the last few things on the list, but they don't even bother trying to deny that homosexuality is like the first two, because they are so accepted (and even glorified) in our culture today that most kids aren't being raised in a home with two married parents anymore.
    • Nobody tries to deny that committing adultery is a choice that someone makes. They may try to justify it by saying that they were sexually attracted to the other person, and they couldn't help their feelings, but no injured wife has ever felt less betrayed because she knew that her roving husband was so attracted to the marriage wrecker that he "just couldn't help himself." Indeed, using that argument just makes it worse, because as millions of faithfully married (and chaste single) people know, you can help yourself.
    • As premarital and extramarital sex have become more acceptable in our culture, more and more people engage in them. I think it's my duty to help as many of God's children live moral lives as I can. That includes preaching at church that sex outside of marriage is wrong. The more acceptable SSM is, the more people will engage in this sin.

  • Fine, say the homosexuals, if it's just sex outside of marriage that bothers you, let us get married. Here's where it gets tricky.
    • If you believe that there's such a thing as absolute Right and Wrong, and that God has given us commandments that ought to be followed, then the answer to that is, "Sorry, God, through His prophets and the scriptures, says that homosexual relations are a sin, and that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman before God, and that's all there is to it."
    • Those people who don't believe in God or any absolute right and wrong may be swayed by arguments about the social reasons for government-recognized marriage, but they're the ones that the sarcastic list I linked to above are aimed at. And the argument is compelling: if it makes me happy with no cost to you, then what do you care?

  • So if they're not allowed to get married, then they have to live their whole lives without a fulfilling sexual relationship? Sadly, yes.
  • So how can your Loving God justify that one? I had a hard time with this question for a while. I though of the single women out there who will never find a husband in this life, who are held to the same standard. But at least they still have hope... Again, it's a tough question without an easy answer. I encourage you to read this interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of our church's General Authorities. He talks very lovingly about these issues. Some points that I want to mention here are that same gender attraction is a temporary condition of mortality like paralysis or mental impairment that make it impractical or impossible to marry, but in the Resurrection and Eternity, it won't be a problem, and all God's faithful children will have the opportunity, whether in this life or the next, to enjoy all the blessings of an Eternal marriage. That quick summary may not make sense to those not of our faith, so I REALLY encourage you to read the whole interview.

  • But say the proponents of SSM, the Constitution forbids establishment of religion -- the laws can't be based on what your religion thinks is a sin.
    • This is the biggest reason I'm fighting to pass Proposition 8. If it fails, then my freedom to practice my religion will be curtailed. That's a right that is explicitly in the Constitution, and not something that's sort of kind of implied to only a slim majority of the judges involved in the case that stirred this whole mess up.
    • What do you mean? Gays getting married won't affect you at all. The thing is, it will. History has shown that there will be some militant couples that want to force everybody to not only tolerate their relationship, but condone and approve of it. They'll ask to get married in one of our chapels or something like that, and when we refuse, they'll sue to take away our tax-exempt status. My church donations and my tax dollars will be spent to fight those court battles.
    • Others have threatened to sue churches that preach against homosexuality for hate speech, and if anybody doubts that they'll actually do it, they're deluded. As I said earlier, the more accepted SSM is in our culture, the more people will engage in that sin. I want my church to continue to have the right to preach against it (as we preach against all forms of immorality), and if this proposition fails, we're one step closer to losing that right. This link has a very informative article about some of the other civil liberties that are at stake.

  • Then there are the children. Oh No! say the opponents of Prop 8 You're not going to hide behind the children are you? Well, first of all, I'm not hiding behind them. There are plenty of other reasons. But then again, what's wrong with wanting a better world for my children? Environmentalists use that argument all the time, and I don't see everyone chastising them for that. But back to my point, there are two groups of children that we need to be worried about in this issue:
    • First, there are the children of the Gay or Lesbian couples -- whether adopted or born with one or both of the parents' DNA through natural or medically assisted means. These children will grow up without the influence of either a mother or a father. That would be sad and confusing for them. But there's millions of kids in single parent homes without mothers or fathers, are you going to outlaw them too? If it was practical, or even possible, we might try. As it is, it's sad and confusing for them too, and we wish that every child could grow up in a complete family.
    • Then there's my children. I have a baby daughter, and I'm already worried about sending her out into the world to be bombarded with temptations. As SSM becomes more acceptable, it will be more tempting to my daughter and her peers. Some people have such strong homosexual feelings that they would never consider a heterosexual relationship, but others, especially in the confusing hormone rush of adolescence, are not so decided. They'll be encouraged, by equal exposure in health classes in the public schools, to experiment with homosexuality, and some children who would not otherwise have made that lifestyle choice, now will. I think that's something worth fighting against.

    Well, I ended up making a list just like I said I wouldn't. I hope, though, that my arguments are at least a little less ludicrous than those in the humor piece. I know that there are many people out there that I have no chance of convincing. To those people, I ask for a little tolerance. Please don't fill my comments with posts calling me ugly names. I've had enough of them already. For those that are on the fence on this issue, I hope my points have answered some of your questions, and if you have others, feel free to ask them and I'll be happy to answer. Honestly, I don't know whether anybody outside my own family will read this post (though I know I occasionally get a few other readers), but it's so important to me that even if this is just a journal entry to remember this tumultuous time, it'll still be worth writing.
  • Monday, October 13, 2008

    Spider Webs by Amy Goldman Koss

    Spider Webs

    The spider weaves a sticky web
    To capture bugs to eat.
    What keeps the spider's sticky web
    From sticking to her feet?

    Spider webs are very tricky
    Because not all the strands are sticky.
    Unlike the passing hapless fly,
    The spider knows which strands are dry.

    But if she accidentally stands
    Upon one of the sticky strands,
    She still would not get stuck, you see--
    Her oily body slides off free.
    --Amy Goldman Koss

    I had heard of this habit of spiders, of course, but had never seen it demonstrated as clearly as today on our walk. Some kind of dust has blown onto this spioder web and only stuck to some of the strands. It's very pretty.

    I've been thinking, "I'd better write that down!" fairly often this week when Elizabeth does something new, so that means you all get to hear me bragging about the baby again. That's probably a good thing, because every time I write about myself and my own feelings, everybody writes back with deep concern asking if I'm all right.

    While I appreciate the sentiment, and knowing that you care, I think I ought to put a disclaimer on here that says that one of the major purposes of this blog is therapeutic. Yes, I write in the blog when I'm feeling down, and yes I spell out in gruesome detail all the horrible things I've been thinking and feeling, but the act of writing them down lets me let go of them and not have to keep worrying about them anymore. In the case of the conference post last week, all the lousy stuff at the start was there to be a contrast to the wonderful hope filled talks, and to show how much good they did in changing my attitude from lousy to thankful and at peace. By the time you read how bad I was feeling, I was already over it.

    The time when you should really worry is when there have been several dark posts, and then nothing at all -- especially no braggy about Elizabeth posts -- for a while. That means I'm too depressed to even bother writing, and that's bad news.

    But we're not anywhere close to that right now. Let's get to the good stuff:

    Bathtime for Elizabeth has moved from the kitchen sink into the big tub. The first time I tried it, and when we tried it in Ohio, she was very frightened and cried, and just generally wanted out. I think that the noise of the water running and echoing off the tiles was scary, and that on top of other new experiences, the sensory overload was just too much.

    When I take her in for a bath now, she still startles at the noise. It's very cute -- she grabs me tight, buries her head in my arm, and kicks her legs. But then once she feels secure, she looks towards the noise, curious to see what it is (she has exactly the same reaction to the blender and the vacuum). I talk reassuringly to her about what a loud noise the water makes, then put her in the tub.

    When she sees the bath toys floating in the water, she starts to make her bathtime happy chirping noise. She started making this noise when she was still bathing in the sink -- especially when she would play with the pink rubber duckie that tels if the water is to hot. I'm not sure if the noise refers to the ducky, or the special happiness of being in warm water with fun things to play with, or has expanded to include the happiness of making a louder echoing noise than the scary water is still making, but her bouncing smiling body language leaves no doubt that she's happy to be there.

    While in the tub, she likes the challenge of catching a floating toy, chewing on mermaid hair, getting water poured on her back, watching water get poured out of a big cup, trying to drink from the big cup, watching the water droplets condense and run down the side of the tub, and feeling the currents when Mama swishes the water around. Sometimes she'll notice that she can make a splash too, and will play with that for a while, but it's not very often, and she seems surprised each time.

    We've been taking a lot of baths recently because along with the normal messiness of everyday living, there's the special messiness of going to the park and crawling around eating the rocky dirt that passes for sand there, learning to feed herself food other than the nice sanitary puffs that Mama has been giving her, and getting sweaty in the heat waves we've been having (alternating with chilly weather more appropriate for October). Bathtime is also uniquely calming, and can get her to stop crying even when she's woken too early from a nap by sore gums (she's teething again).

    Speaking of eating, I had a kind of revelation when I got back from my trip to Ohio. I realized that Elizabeth wasn't just chewing on things because she's a baby, or because she's teething. When she systematically gnawed the entire cover off a book by taking bites out of the cardboard, thoughtfully chewing, then going back for another bite, I finally got that she might want to be eating real food, and not just the almost liquid diet of milk and babyfood I had been giving her. I realized that my efforts to keep her from getting staining food on her pretty clothes were stifling her urges to learn and grow. I've been trying to let her explore more types of foods, and I've been doing things like taking her clothes off entirely, or putting enormous bibs on so that I can let go. She still managed to get banana stain (who knew that bananas of all things would be my worst stain enemy?) on her pretty red and white dress, but she sure had fun doing it.

    Some of the things she likes to eat are: pita bread, tortillas, puffs, bananas, fruit cocktail, stewed tomatoes from chili, frozen baby food shaved ice (more texture than room temperature, and the cold is soothing on the gums), and yesterday, she had fun gnawing on my apple. She wants to learn how to drink from a cup, use a spoon, and grab anything on Mama's plate, and I need to find ways to let her be messy as she does it. By the way, she still loves eating paper and cardboard.

    When sitting at the table, she often gets distracted by noises from outside the window. There are some wind chimes that are particularly fascinating, but even more so are sounds of the neighbor girl going outside to watch her grandma water the plants. Skylee (sp?) is about 7 or 8 months older than Elizabeth, and can walk and talk (in a kind of half Spanish/ half English baby talk that's almost entirely unintelligible to me). Grandma knows about as much English as I know Spanish, and I expect we both understand a lot more than we can come up with to say, so there's not a lot of deep communication that goes on between us. Elizabeth ad Skylee don't really care though, and just like to look at/grab each other and generally enjoy just watching the other be a happy little girl. When Elizabeth hears Skylee, nothing will satisfy her except going outside to see (she'll even start to cry if I don't take her out quickly enough). I'm still not certain that she doesn't think that other kids are just a special kind of kitty, a fascinating thing that moves in order to entertain her, but it's nice to see that she's becoming more social.

    Speaking of kitties, our evening walks have become kitty hunts for Elizabeth. Our mobile home park has a large population of feral cats, and the management does nothing about it. It frustrates me, because they all seem to think my garden should be their litter box, and they don't even bother to bury it, so we get lots of enormous flies breeding in our yard. At the same time, it makes me happy that Elizabeth can get her kitty fix each day. When she spots one from the stroller, she sits up on the edge of her seat, kicks her legs, reaches out her hands, and starts panting (which is her way of saying, "I see it! I want it! I'm gonna work hard to get it!" about anything). We walk very slowly up to the kitty in question, trying not to spook it so that Elizabeth can get a good look. Most of the kitties are pretty patient, and a few will even give us a good meow or leg rub before slinking off under a car or house. A couple of times we've even seen a skunk out on his nightly prowls (we think he lives under our next-door-neighbor's house), but I wouldn't let Peter push Elizabeth's stroller nearer to him.

    Elizabeth's current hobby is looking out my office window. At first, I let her just stand on the floor, but after she gnawed through the paint on the windowsill down to the plaster, I found I needed to make sure that part wasn't at mouth level anymore. Now she stands on a grey box full of random cords bits of electronics which was originally a barrier, but now is a stepstool to give her a better vantage point. She will stand there looking out the window for a good solid hour while I read email, write in my blog, or sew Halloween costumes. She seems to like the changing scenery -- she gets really excited when a car goes by -- and the breeze coming in and blowing in her face.

    I gave her one of the sparkleys I had hanging there to catch the sun, and she twists and turns and chews on and bangs it, providing all the entertainment she needs. Occasionally, she will drop the sparkley, and be sad when she can't bend down and pick it up (if it falls between the box and the wall or into the fabric and netting next to the box), but a quick noise of displeasure alerts Mama that something is amiss, and the problem is soon remedied.

    When I say she stands for an hour, I really mean that she does a kind of dance that involves squatting down, pulling up, side-stepping back and forth, bouncing, and sometimes (with increasing frequency) letting go altogether in order to manipulate the sparkley with both hands without relinquishing her view of the outside world. She can stand unsupported for a good 30 seconds to a minute, and likes to practice balancing. When we clap for her, she'll even start to show off by leaning and correcting or bending down and coming back up.

    While I'm on the subject of the office, there's a funny/sad story I want to tell. You may remember that a few months ago, I posted a youtube video of Elizabeth trying to get the rattle on her exersaucer. She's been yanking on the rattle for months now, and one day I detached it from the saucer. The poor baby was OVERCOME with glee. This video is about ten minutes later, and she's still frequently doubled up with happiness at finally being able to hold the whole thing. It makes me kind of sad to know that she's been so frustrated for months over this thing.

    I've posted several pictures of Elizabeth in her pumpkin hat, which I made after seeing a similar one in a flickr group of handcrafted baby stuff. One of the other hats I saw was a bunny hat. I might have been able to find and read a pattern to knit a similar one, but I'm really better at crochet, and Grandma Becky is always asking me what I want her to knit for Elizabeth, so I sent her the link and set her loose. Here's the result. In her email thank you note to Grandma, Elizabeth said, "Thank you Grandma, for my bunny hat! I wasn't cute enough before! ;)"

    Well, that's all for now. Elizabeth has been asleep for an hour and may wake up at any minute. I also need to eat some breakfast before it's lunchtime. Remember, there's more photos on Picasa and videos on youtube than I post in the blog. Links are in the sidebar.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    Mr. Jack-o-lantern by Alene Dalton, Myriel Cluff Ashton and Erla Young

    Mr. Jack-o-lantern

    Mr. Jack-o-lantern
    Is very round and fat.
    He has a yellow candle
    Tucked underneath his hat.
    It makes his face look scary (cheery)
    And very, very bright
    When he winks and smiles at me
    On spooky Halloween night!
    --Alene Dalton, Myriel Cluff Ashton and Erla Young

    This was one of the Halloween songs we would sing at Family Home Evening in October when I was little. The other was Halloween Cat which I may post later. They both came from a book called My Picture Book of Songs with pictures by artist Erla Young published in 1947. for those interested, there are several copies available for sale online, and it seems that Deseret Book published a 50th anniversary edition. Provo Library also has a copy. I really liked the songs, but thought that there was something not quite right about the pictures. The kids were sooooo cheerful and bright eyed and rosy cheeked that it was kind of creepy (in a horror movie about baby dolls sort of way).

    Lots of people have told me how cute the pumpkin hat is, so I thought I'd post directions so that anyone else who wants to can make one.

    I used a size J-10 (6.0 mm) hook and Vanna's Choice Lion Brand yarn in Rust. The website says it's a Weight Category: 4 - Medium: Worsted-weight, Afghan, Aran Yarn Solids: 3.5 oz/100g; 170 yd/156 m balls. All stitches in this pattern are chaining or single crochet. It takes me a couple of hours (around 2 1/2 to 3) to make each hat.

    To make each sections, chain 10, add one to turn,

    then single crochet back and forth 8 more times (for a total of 9 rows including the chain). It should be roughly square.

    When turning the next corner, don't chain one to turn, just go into the second stitch thereby decreasing one. Continue in this manner so there are 9 stitches on this row, 8 on the next, and so on down to one stitch that you cut the yarn and pull it through to make a knot.

    Make 7 or 8 sections. More sections make a bunchier hat. I made 7 to fit my 9 month old daughter. You could also adjust size by making more stitches per section -- though this will also make the sections taller.

    Attach two sections together by doing a single crochet through both along one edge. This will make a prominent ridge when you lay them flat,

    and a valley on the other side.

    You want this. Also, when you get to the angled part, feel free to make it tight, and use fewer stitches so that it curls a little. Both of these things contribute to the pumpkin shape. If you can manage to stitch over the loose ends, they'll stay hidden better than if you weave them in later with your hook.

    Continue stitching around the point of one section and down the other edge with a third segment. Make sure all the ridges will be on the inside of the hat (it's easy to do it the wrong way if you're not paying attention). When you get to the bottom, cut the yarn and pull it through.

    Attach all the sections in this manner till you've completed the circle. If you've planned well, you'll be at the bottom of the hat, and can start stitching around the bottom without cutting the yarn.

    Make one row around the bottom, evening out the seams and covering up loose ends. Mark where you begin with a scrap of yarn or safety pin so you'll know that you've completed a row even though we'll just continue around in a spiral.

    The next row you'll be decreasing. Skip one, then stitch two, then skip one, then stitch two. You get the idea. Essentially you're only paying attention to two out of every three stitches.

    Try the hat on your baby after the decrease row. If it's loose, decrease again. You can skip fewer stitches if it's almost small enough, but I wouldn't skip more than one in three. Just add another decrease row if it's still too big.

    Do about four rows of regular single crochet. When you're finished, weave the end into the next four stitches or so to make a nice even edge, then weave the rest into the stitches on just the inside of the hat so it doesn't show.

    There's a roundish hole in the center top of the hat where all the points meet. For the stem, use green or brown yarn to stitch around the inner edge of the hole. I like to stitch this part inside out so that the spiral ridges are on the outside when I'm done. Go around once or twice to make the stem, then start decreasing -- skipping one stitch in three for the next two rows, then every other stitch to make a point. clip the yarn and weave it in on the inside, then turn it right side out so it pokes out the top of the hat.

    I find I can make two hats from a ball of yarn, though sometimes it runs a little short. If you use the same green or brown as the stem to do the last two or three row on the bottom of the hat (after the decreases), then it makes a nice border, and saves on the orange yarn.

    Here are some pictures of Elizabeth wearing her hat. Notice how different it looks depending on how far back it's pushed, and how much of the bottom band shows.