Saturday, 29 December 2007

LBS

This was the doctor's diagnosis for Wil this morning.

He's finished a week of antibiotics and just isn't getting better. His ears are still infected, his chest rattles, he whines all the freaking time, can't sleep or sit still, won't eat anything except pureed fruit and crackers and he is iron deficient as well it turns out. So it is another course of antibiotics. And lots of breast feeding and lots more iron for me (steak for dinner!).

LBS often kicks in around the 9 or 10 month mark, our very nice and capable doctor said, don't worry. It is very common.

LBS? Little bugger syndrome.

And, I actually sent Christmas wishes by SMS this year. Please, just shoot me now.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

hey ho

Well yesterday's celebratory birthday lunch was lovely, and well populated with the regular family cast plus a special visit from my cousin (who we later saw opening the telecast of carols by candlelight - wow! Check those frocks!) and her husband and my uncle and his partner visiting from way out West.

Nice food and conversation, nothing flash, just good honest get together. Even Wil was good. And people brought something to share, and nice things to drink and the cousins old enough to talk played nice and only made a moderately enormous mess. Highly satisfactory.

But here I am failing to heed my own advice, and the complicated desert has flopped, and the easy back up looks like a total mess and although I got very little sleep last night and Wil has cried all morning and I felt like doing the same (inevitably I have caught his disease and feel wretched), I am not having a quick nap now but waiting for the bread to bake and blogging to make use of those extra few units.

Not that you are merely a unit filler dear friends. It is just that I didn't plan a morning blog session. What with it being Christmas and all. And there's so much to do, but none of it compatible with this little slot of time.

And last night as I was lying in bed unable to sleep because I was coughing and worrying about the mess I left on the bench in the kitchen and how I was going to present it at a gathering and call it dessert, I was wondering to myself why, despite all the planning and foresight I still ended up baking at 11pm.

And the answer was clearly that undertaking the making of a complicated dessert simply takes more high density contiguous units that I have available to me at any time other than when everyone else is asleep.

Why didn't I realise this before?

Why did I not read the recipe thinking that juggling melting not one but three separate sets of ingredients over steaming water (one requiring constant whisking for 10 mines whilst melting then a further 10 minutes of whisking as it cooled) to be combined in a specific temperature controlled fashion would require 100% of my attention over an extended period?

And combined with the thrice sifted dry ingredients needing to be folded gently in with maximum lift and the perfectly whipped egg white meringue and the three stage topping to be applied at just the right moment as the cake cools, might be a little hard to orchestrate between doses of panadol (his not mine) and small child wrangling?

Not to mention the sheer number of dishes I had to dirty in the process - though to be fair how was I to know our dishwasher would die a wet death two days before Christmas?

Instead I looked at the picture and thought - that looks nice! Nothing there I couldn't do, I think I'll make that.

Because, clearly, I am an idiot.

Next year I think I may opt for KFC and a packet of tim tams.

Merry Christmas to you all, and to those of you who have things considerably more under control than me, well done.

And to those of you who are in the hole with me, don't worry, tomorrow it will all be over.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

game over

10 month old boy with severe ear infection and 2 hours sleep. Three days before Christmas.

Game over.

Friday, 21 December 2007

raining down on me

And everyone in my immediate geographic vicinity. All day we have been saying we feel like we are back in Thailand during the monsoon, it is so hot and humid and then suddenly so very very wet.

All this talk of tetris jammin' has really infiltrated my brain (so many great comments! Thank you all!!) and I can't help but see the rain running down the walls (inside and out - I'm so lucky) as further confirmation that there isn't a moment's peace to be had in this game of life. So much for the peace on earth we're supposed to get in touch with about now.

And I'm not feeling nearly as grinchy as I usually do - I seem to recall that it was after posting something about this time last year was when I started getting comments about my very slim chances of making it into heaven with an attitude like that and other dire warnings about my failure to heed the message of Christ.

I mean, I don't classify myself as a Christian so despite my deep respect for many of the great things done by Christians and the various institutions based on Christian beliefs, it should surprise no one (especially me) that Christmas is not a really important date in my spiritual calendar.

But I am really aware this year that Christmas is for me, like so very many others, a time when the heavens open and the jobs and responsibilities and conflicts and emotional turmoils just bucket down. So busy trying to make it nice that there is no time left for living it nice.

And this year has been relatively light on for me in the Christmas sense. Aside from the handmade pledge (not 100% kept, but mostly!) and a little performance anxiety over dessert for the big day and hosting a birthday celebration for my sister on the 24th (who feels really cheated by her birth date and I understand why), I've been spared the stress of doing two whole separate family celebrations in one day (three if you count me, D and the kids as a separate family), I've accepted without guilt that I haven't and won't get around to cards again this year, I've not done anyone else's present shopping, not offered to host a Christmas meal, I'm not trying to get away on holiday five minutes after the last dish is washed on boxing day and on one in my family, thus far, has had a total emotional breakdown.

But I am feeling the reverberations of those around me who are pained and there is a part of me just waiting for everything to start falling apart. For someone close to me to get offended or feel slighted. For me to suddenly remember something really big and important that I forgot. Deadlines to blow, souffles to flop (metaphorically - I'm not that stupid), past sadnesses to revisit, to realise I forgot to get dressed when leaving the house. Hang on, that last one was just a dream I think.

And it doesn't make it any less busy that it isn't Christmas per se. I am battling a number of work deadlines over the next three weeks just as everyone else is winding down or, more accurately coming to a dead halt. I know I should be across this by now, but I suddenly realise that I have two kids and no kinder or childcare for the next, um, five weeks. And also (man, I should pay more attention) a half finished house extension that requires a significant amount of D's attention.

There's been a return of evil shouting not coping mummy. Not entirely unprovoked I might add. Amy is handling Christmas and the major upheaval of finishing her baby life in preparation for entering school next year and two graduations and two Christmas concerts and last everythings by channeling some very bad dudes. Especially at just the moment I am getting Wil to sleep. She is manic, hungry for attention, cranky, lonely, over-excited, high on sugar and really fucking loud and messy.

So you know, it would help if I yelled at her.

So here is what I have been thinking about all this stuff. I'm still going with this tetris analogy. Sometimes, when the pace of the game speeds up and the adrenaline kicks in and we start slotting more and more into place, we get a big pay off for just being in motion. The pay off isn't just the stuff we do - the beautiful food we make, the gifts we give, the wishes we wish, the parties we attend, the cards we write, the people we help - it is winning the game.

Every ball we do not drop, every extra handmade thing we don't buy, every thing we remember that we might have forgotten, every person's even keel we manage to maintain, every cobweb we sweep, every load of washing we fold and put away, every extra unit we jam into the day. This may well be the high we are pursuing. We may well be the domestic equivalents of the corporate adrenaline junkies, the extreme sport crazies.

Why have one job, when you can have three? Why knit one project when you can queue 20 on Ravellry? Why just write Christmas cards if you can make them? Why cook food when you can prepare a degustation menu?

And each one of those things is a worth while thing. I don't intend to give up making gifts, or knitting, or sewing or interesting opportunities for work. I want to try new and interesting recipes and eat great food. But is so easy to forget, to lose perspective, to enjoy the stress and drama a little too much. And then collapse, spent, and leave a terrible mess in our wake.

I didn't take this photo. I didn't take this photo because I was inside, desperately writing a crochet pattern whilst trying to bake cookies and hang out washing and finish knitting a scarf. I was chasing the elusive full row of high density units in my little game of tetris while Amy was outside photoing (as she calls it). Looking at her feet in the grass.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

jammin'

It's going on all over, this making jam business. It seems every second blog I read has jam musings on it. And while I was jamming our apricots I was thinking about jamming.

Because jamming is all abut using the things you've got now to get you through later when you don't have any. When the apricots are passed and it is cold outside I'll still be able to pop open a jar lid and smell and taste this summer. It is a far superior option to the all year round mentality that sees fruit shipped around the globe, ripened in aircraft holds and tasting like it. Not to mention all those food miles.

But since I was trying to do too much, I was up stirring jam when I should have been sleeping and that got me thinking about a couple of other things about jamming. Jamming in all the things I want to do. And jammin', as in getting going and making stuff happen.

There's lots of reasons why I'm a jammer. There's a certain energy level I have that I see in Amy too, a lust to do. An excitement about new projects and possibilities. An inability to switch off or focus on just one or two things. A desire to try things, learn things, to experience new things. A capacity to get lost in the task to such an extent that I continue long past when those who have more sense have stopped. Because I feel the need to produce to have worth.

I'm noticing as I get older that I am also accomplishing more in that frenzy and I've been trying to understand what has changed. Multitasking is what's usually touted as the time management revolution - and often seen as a highly gendered skill, heightened by childbearing and rearing.

But I don't think that's really what it is all about and I'll go against the flow in saying it is a rare thing for me to do two things at once. Not at exactly the same time anyway and that's what most people think multitasking is.

As I juggle the balls in my professional and personal portfolio (love that term), I see it less like multitasking and more like one bitchin' big game of tetrus. All these tasks and projects and obligations and inspirations rain down on you, and the faster you can see them, manipulate them, prioritise them and slot them in to the schedule, the more gaps you can fill and the more you get done. Recognising possibilities for overlap helps (knitting and watching TV for example), but only where you can afford the consequent diminished engagement (forget knitting complex stitch counting patterns whilst watching TV you actually care about for example).

So I like this metaphor, it is really working for me. But I realise that the key to this, and what has changed over time in my life, is shrinking my basic unit of time.

I used to think in terms of days. Today I will go to school. Period. All other activities are incidental. Or today I will cook a dinner party, or sew a dress. Some activities required more than one basic unit (sew a suit, go away on holidays) and perhaps, on occasion, I squeezed a couple of things in together. You know, lived dangerously.

Then life got busier and the units began shrinking. I went to work all day and went out at night, I started doing lunch in between. I had to juggle to get sessions at the gym or in the pool, find ways to keep up friendships, relationships, family and work when there were no longer any logical connections between them. Units became hours and the jamming, and scheduling, started for real.

Now, well now things have been reduced to units of a mere few minutes.

Number of units I have while Wil plays happily on the floor by himself - 2-3
Number of units I have while the tea brews - 1
Number of units I have while Amy is at Kinder and Wil is asleep - 8-14
Number of units I have when the kids have gone to bed before I should be in bed too - 18
Number of units I have for thinking before I fall asleep - 1-12

The little cubes in the tetrus game are much smaller and there's a lot more of them raining down. They come in odd shapes and I need to work hard to get them all in place without leaving gaps or hitting clashes of time over run. And of course the time allowances have uncontrolled variations built in because some days kids don't sleep, or do but not when you expect, or get sick or stay up late or give me insomnia or other people run late or work comes in peaks and troughs.

And I realise that one of the consequences of all this is that some tasks get done more often simply because I can fit them in easier.

Time to load and turn on the washing machine - 1 unit
Time to unload and hang out the washing - 5 units

The washing machine is often full of clean wet clothes.

Time to write a blog post - 6 units
Time to write a research paper - zillions of units

Not just because the tasks are smaller, but because they are easier to do in little bits and can be stretched to fill in unexpected gaps or curtailed when time drops off (knitting), are portable and accessible (crochet), or can be done whilst doing something else (watching crap TV without subtitles).

And I have to keep a to do list that's equally complex in structure and variety. Urgent tasks, quick projects, long term undertakings, things I can do on trams, by phone, when I am being quiet, when I have diminished concentration. Things I can do one handed while I hold a baby, things I'd like to do, things that must be done. Things that can be bought or outsourced if push comes to shove.

I remember reading a blog post by someone (was it you?) about getting stuck in a hospital for hours waiting for tests or something and reading about this awful day, I utterly understood her punchline - the biggest tragedy of it all was that she had been caught without her knitting.

Oh, all those wasted units!

There are a few things that rarely get a look in, like enough sleep or a quiet walk or rigorous exercise, unhurried observation of the world, mediation or reading for pleasure and I feel their absences keenly. There are things I don't even bother to contemplate anymore like sewing a new suit or clothes that require maintenance.

The system is far from perfect.

But I take some comfort that quite unnoticed this system I have has been slowly evolving. Somewhere in my unconscious mind I have been developing the neural muscle to keep it jammin'.

Oh, and in totally unrelated news I got an email from the boy knitting god in response to a comment I left on his blog. I feel like the heavens opened up and out of the clouds a little finger poked right at me. So his hat just shimmied up the priority list, even though I don't have any of the lusted after Malabrigo worsted. Zarina double strand will have to do.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

milestones



A little Christmas cheer at the start of Amy's graduation ceremony.
Complete with cardboard mortar board and very proud smile.

A few tentative steps

The start of a much longer journey.

Another great book I am so very lucky to be associated with
and a couple of mags containing some new projects for the post Christmas lazy days.

And last handmade Christmas gifts sewn and ready to roll. Yet another seasonally inappropriate gift - wheat pack bed warmers for little girls.

There's still baking but let's celebrate when we can.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

seven (sort of by the rules)

Jen down at August Street tagged me for that old chestnut, the seven things meme. I've done it several times before. One day I'll link up all my responses and you'll see how often I repeat myself and how boring I really am.

But just for today I'm hoping your memory is as bad as mine and if I'm crapping on about stuff I've already told you it will at least appear to be interesting and fresh.

Snort.

Rules:
- Link to your tagger (see above), and also post these rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random or weird facts about yourself on your blog.
- Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
- Let them know they are TAGGED by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I have a deeply uptight and over organised streak. Lucky for me my lifestyle prevents it from getting much of a look in because I don't much like people who are really uptight and over organised (even when I admire what they achieve). If you know me and find me uptight and over organised please keep it to yourself and allow me to go on thinking of myself as relaxed and easy going.

2. A lot of people tell me they think I get a lot done and though I am sure they mean it as a compliment, at least some of the time, it makes me feel like a freak and as though everyone thinks I am (you guessed it) uptight and over organised. I've posted before about the fact that I do a lot of stuff badly or not at all to make time for the good stuff, but I guess it is true that I also have good time management skills. I think in very small units of time, and they are getting smaller as I am getting older and busier. Ok maybe I am well organised, but not at all uptight. Surely?

3. I love getting comments on my blog, but I find the inability to respond to the commenter directly very frustrating. Especially when they leave a comment which is also a question. How am I supposed to answer? I lose sleep over it. Enable your email address in your profiles people! If you want to talk, let's talk! For example, Kate, I think walking is much easier to manage than crawling and climbing. If you leave me some way of contacting you with your next comment I might even tell you why. And any appearance of tidiness or cleanliness is the result of the careful use of smoke and mirrors. The media. It lies.

4. Today I have eaten approximately half my body weight in ripe apricots. But on the upside that enormous box of fundraising freddo frogs I so feared has basically gone and I only ate 2.

5. I learned the violin for years but I haven't so much as touched one in thirty years.

6. I love lists. Except ones about me. All others I love.

7. I have no gall bladder. Shocking.

8. I can't count.

I am tagging every single person who reads this who has never done this meme. Are there any of you left?

Oh and I located a copy of interweave knits (thank you kind respondents) and I can't wait for it to get here so I can start on a new project from the knitters' pin up boy. But it is a secret so don't tell anyone.

rolling

Wil can crawl at last. Yay Wil. Time to hang those doors on the bathroom...

He has also decided self feeding is really for him.

Though he still prefers his food pureed.

The workshop was wonderful. Exhausting but wonderful. It never ceases to impress me what people can come up with.


I even had one student who had never done anything crafty, never sewn. At the beginning she felt very out of her depth and had that look all teachers and dedicated students recognise, that what was I thinking enrolling in this course look, but by class end had completed a softie with her own design embellishments - how fantastic is that? The class is running again in February at CAE if anyone in Melbourne is interested.

I am also keen to get my hands on the Interweave Holiday Knits 2007 which appears to be sold out everywhere - anyone got a copy for sale or trade or loan, or know where I can get one?

Friday, 7 December 2007

undercover

There has been craft going on , but it's mostly been stuff I'm doing for other people, stuff I'm not at liberty to show you here. Which is a shame, because it's been a bit bare lately on the visuals.

But what I am really missing is the chance to think through the creative dilemmas in my posts, not to mention keep a record. I've had to make so many decisions lately about yarns and fabrics and patterns and colours and somehow they have seemed so much harder and less fun when they haven't been out there on here.

You know, just so you know.

There's been plenty of art work from Amy however, who is doing her level best to transform the new bathroom into a gallery. Notice a few themes present in her work? And a look at the new vanity on a temporary bench while we wait for, er, something or other.

The garden has been doing a bit of making too, prompting me to do a spot of baking. Apricots straight from the tree at 6am this morning for muffins by 8.30, delivered to kinder for a market stall by 11 and a second lot to my mum's group by 12. I ate a few of these delights to keep me going on the way.

And D and his cousin have been doing making too. Making the view from the shower a little piece of peace for first thing in the morning (sorry for the appalling photo) and the trip to the compost bin a little hoppity skippity trippity fun.

Oh and cripes, that's me!
And I owe a meme and I will get to it, but not tonight. I'm shagged.

Monday, 3 December 2007

working in a general kind of way

In my younger days my spectacular failure to specialise was a liability. For years I wanted to be an actress (I was young young young) and then I wanted to be a film maker. For a moment in between I wanted to be a hairdresser. Then it was teaching, cooking, research, writing, people management, change management, running an enterprise, running a country. And that's just the vocational stuff. There were a lot of jobs as well. And all the while in the background I passionately pursued travel, sewing, knitting, gardening, woodwork and all manner of stuff.

I would go to work or study someplace and feel like I was surrounded by people who had started out on some road and just kept going. They stayed doggedly on course while I was changing lanes, taking turn offs, ending up in some other landscape. They had names for their abilities and jobs like doctor or singer or accountant or vet or nurse or artist or acrobat. I on the other hand would read the employment ads starting at A and ending at Z because I never had any idea what I was looking for.

And I was full of angst and self-reproach and a suspicion I might never find a way that was mine.

So in the last couple of days I have been thinking a lot about how differently I feel about all that than I did even a few years ago. That last post set me on this train of thought I think, wondering for the zillionth time if life wouldn't be easier if I just worked out the one thing that really mattered. If I could work out which balls to let fall knowing I wouldn't feel badly about it later.

But you know, the juggling thing is really where it is at for me. I want all those balls. Every last one.

I sometimes say I just want to craft all day, with the odd spot of baking and gardening, that crafting is what I love and gives me energy. But now that I am starting to get more than my fair share of wonderful crafting work like pattern designing and book contributions and workshops to teach, I know I wouldn't be able to.

Partly it is because I know I could never be a really exceptional crafter. I'm an 80/20 rule girl all the way and my toys would never be as good as hers, my knitting never a patch on hers, my sewing never of the standard of hers, my patterns never as innovative as hers (ad infinitum).

But I also like that my other work life takes place in the world where things are made sense of using numbers and laws and studies and priorities and systems and policies. The great human machine of government is also an opportunity to contribute to something so very much larger and more important than me. Something not at all whimsical or frivolous or fun that appeals to my stripped bare functionalist self.

Now I know this other world is easy to criticise, that everyone can find fault with pretty much any aspect of it they care to examine, and I myself have been known to find a good deal of the work I do both pointless and dull, but understanding this world, participating in this world and helping others to be able to negotiate this world are actually very fulfilling things to do.

And D and I have been talking about future plans, about the future of his work, of my work, about more chances to go elsewhere and do other things and how we can fit in careers and still have adventures out there in the world.

One of the things we'd like to do is volunteer work with indigenous communities - there's a program where you can register your skills and be matched up with requests from communities for specific skill transfers - and the number and variety of things we can do makes this seem so much more possible, and potentially enjoyable!

D bought home some info about past placements and one was teaching knitting! Oh joy be mine! But I am equally excited about helping communities become self-sufficient in applying for and managing money, in analysing their needs and planning for their future, in setting up computer systems to automate the routines of an office. I know these things aren't exciting, but they are things I can do, and things it is very helpful to be able to do.

So anyway, my point here is that I am beginning to see that the whole generalist thing is getting me somewhere. Somewhere I actually quite like being. It is true I am not rich, and I don't have time when I don't feel under pressure to get something done. Sometimes, rather often in fact, I find life hard and frustrating and annoying. And we all know I complain a bit. And don't clean.

But sometimes I get an email asking me to contribute to a new book, or a phone call to say my workshop has filled up in record time and they'd like to offer a few more, or I'm being given carriage of a long term project in the straight world even though I am hardly ever around, or someone would like me to design a pattern for their yarn and I just think, well, bugger me, isn't life taking a new and exciting turn?

And this long and rambling post reflects all too well the state of my brain and my incapacity to be brief or precise and I did consider more than once deleting the lot to try and tame it all but you know, life is too short to get things really right sometimes. Oh yeah, I said that already...