Recently in Z Category

Big Hand, Little Hand

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If there is one thing I truly love it is little hands, and one little hand in particular.






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Location:Ann Arbor,United States

Sophie and Sophie*

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After a somewhat unhappy trip to the dentist, I promised my small person a treat for dealing with it so well.  It is funny what sticks in the memory of my child.  She has been asking me for a Sophie since I made this one for a close friend's new arrival over two years ago, not too long after she had turned two.  The dentist is conveniently close to a nice yarn store, and after fortifying myself with a latte from my favorite coffee shop (also conveniently close to the dentist) we headed over to Nina and I told her that she could pick out yarn for something she'd like.

I want a pink bunny, Mama.

The color of the year is pink.   I haven't really tried to influence her interest in color... but like most little girls, pink and purple have risen to the top of he list.   So we picked out a nice pink washable (and even affordable) yarn.  I thought she might let it go for a little while, but right after we walked in the door...

When are you going to start my bunny, Mama?

Followed by:

Mama, is that the head of the bunny?

When do you put the stuffing in the body, Mama?

Mama, you need to knit the bunny another leg.  Bunnies need two legs, Mama!

Mama, how come the bunny only has one arm?

When are you going to knit the other ear, Mama?  Are you working on it yet?

My bunny needs a face, Mama!  My bunny needs a face!

Ms. Z has been my constant coach and task master when it comes to her Sophie.  Even with all the wheedling and cajoling a very verbal 4 year old can muster I sill managed to take several months to bring Sophie to the finish line.  Since handing Sophie off (she refused to give the bunny a different name) she's insisted on bringing the bunny everywhere with her.  Sophie sleeps with her, she has to be belted in next to her in the car, she's been to pre-kindergarten for a day and she has had a busy life following Ms. Z around.  This is the first time a hand knit toy has been so well loved by my kiddo, even if for just a short period of time.  It's enough to make a Mama think that maybe she should get her act together and start working on that pair of striped knee socks she has the yarn for....

*My daughter's name is the Polish version of Sophie.

Queen Anne's Lace Scarf

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Project: Queen Anne's Lace Scarf
Yarn: Premier Yarns' Serenity Garden Yarn, Colorway 4
Fiber Content: 100% Microfiber
Hook: F (3.75mm)


Time to kick off the spring projects with something fun, lacy and easy to make. Ms. Z has been getting into all things girly lately: twirly skirts and dresses, delicate little shoes, almost anything pink, butterflies and jewelry, particularly necklaces.   After finding the Serenity Garden Yarn on sale at JoAnn's I set about looking for a scarf pattern that would appeal to a little girl and be entertaining for me as well.  I'd been itchy to break out my crochet hooks again, so Khebin Gibbons' Queen Anne's Lace Scarf seemed like a perfect match.


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I love the colors in this yarn.  They really say spring to me and remind me of the spring bulbs that my mom and I used to plan in the front yard when I was a kid.  Red and orange and yellow tulips, purple hyacinths and crocus.  I wish we got more sun in our yard so that I could continue the tradition with Ms. Z now that growing things are of much more interest to her.

20110411_QALScarfUnroll.jpgThe mottled quality of the yarn gives it almost a hand painted quality.  The fact that it is all microfiber means that it is soft and child-friendly and can go in the wash after it goes out to play.

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The crochet pattern is one of those that looks complicated, and does take a little attention when you are first starting, but is easily memorized and easily done.  It requires no more complicated stitch element than a double crochet.  One skein of this yarn made a scarf that was more than sufficient length for a small girl -- and would probably be suitable length for a big girl as well.  This is also one of those patterns that would probably look lovely in almost any yarn you had and with a wide combination of needle sizes.  For Z, I wanted this to be relatively compact and a bit more dense than lacy to minimize the chance it would get caught on things. 

20110411_QALScarfZ2.jpgIt wasn't hard to get her to smile for the camera and pose in her new scarf.  She let me know many times how much she liked the yarn and the colors and insisted on heading off to t he park wearing it.  Such a treat to make things for her right now.  I have a second skein of the yarn and have been thinking of making one for myself so we can have a shared Mama/Daughter accessory...

Color Gamp Blanket Makes a Friend

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20100510_ColorGamp.jpgProof of weaving!  This blanket is roughly 3' wide by 3.5' long.  The warp and weft are 3/2 perle cotton and the warp sett was 14 end per inch (epi).  The pattern is a huck lace pattern that came directly from the pattern suggestions that were sent along with the gamp kit.  I find it fascinating how color works in different media.  This blanket is meant to demonstrate color blending across a rainbow of colors.  Each color was used once in the warp and once in the weft.

20100510_ColorGampLaceBlock.jpg Not my favorite color combinations (I guess I'm outing myself as not being either a fan of the Green Bay Packers or John Deere Tractor), but the weave definition is clear.  Each lace block was separated by a nice region of solid plain weave. 

But the best part of this blanket was giving it to it's recipient.

20100510_ColorGampLaceZ1.jpgShe is now old enough to both appreciate a special blanket made for her (my second ny ny*, momma!) and to want to take pictures with it. 

20100510_ColorGampLaceZ2.jpgRight now it's pretty much perfect snuggle size for a not-quite-3 year old girl -- and it was a required bed fellow tonight (along with about 400 other things that absolutely positively must be in her crib for her to consider sleeping).

This project was so simple it pretty much makes me want to warp up that loom again and make bigger (longer) versions for some special adults I know -- but most likely I will select one warp and one weft color just to make my life easier.  Now, if only I could figure out which colors I really like together!

* ny ny is Polish for "blankie"


Pictures from Ann Arbor

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P.SThose of you who aren't interested in pictures of my kid might want to head away now.  I promise, pretty much all that is going to be in this post is Z.  For those of you who like knitting combined with children, I will say that all the pictures also feature a hand knit hat.  But mostly this is about Z enjoying a kite flying afternoon with her father.

20100411_ZWithKiteString.jpg20100411_ZinHat.jpg20100411_ZWithDaddy.jpgLast year she was almost afraid of the kite.  This year, she wasn't happy until she got to fly it herself.  She had so much fun with Daddy and Grandpa while doing this, and she was so excited when she got to hold onto the string reel all by herself.  She watched John intently when he adjusted the kite to try to get it to do different things.  She spent the weekend telling us that she wanted to fly the kite. She loved the process of figuring out how the reel worked and took it so seriously when she got to hold it her self.    Watch out world!  Here comes another engineer.


P.S. to no one in particular, the jean jacket is from BabyGap --and is a size 4-5 for a little girl.  More proof that the toddler will not be with us much longer. I'm such a sucker for little jean jackets. This child/jacket combination got more than a few positive comments.  I can't help but feel that every now and again I do okay with her wardrobe. 

And Then There Were Walnut Socks

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The gambling paid off.  There are now socks:

20100223_WalnutSocks.jpgThe Specs:
Garter Rib Socks,
Man's US Size 11
Knit on US size 1 Needles
Sophie's Toes Cashmere Blend in "Walnut"

I had vanishingly little yarn left over, which actually makes me pretty happy because I always feel like I've done a good job when I maximize yarn usage in a sock project.  John has found them to be quite satisfactory... since he's worn them three days in a row.  I'll take that as an endorsement.  And the wear on them doesn't look to bad, either, which makes me feel good about this yarn and definitely increases the likelihood that there will be more of this yarn (Sophie's Toes Cashmere Blend) in his future.

I like this pattern stitch so much, I'm almost tempted to turn the Sophie's Toes that I got for myself into the same thing. 

But the best thing about these socks?  The model:

20100223_WalnutSockModel.jpgThis is what I got when I said "hold Daddy's socks while I take your picture".  Not the best picture of the socks but a pretty good picture of the kid.  She's now beginning to understand what I want when I give her knitwear and ask her to hold it while I take a picture.  And she was very excited afterward when it was time to give Daddy the socks.

P.S.  Thank you to everyone who commented on my quilt top.  Y'all made my day and just added to the warm fuzzy happy feeling I have from getting that completed.  Fear not that this will be the last showing of the quilt on the blog.  When the quilting is done and the weather is better and better pictures are possible, all will be provided.  






Zebra Striper and Ms. Z

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20091115_ZebraSweaterUnworn.jpgProject: Zebra Striper Sweater from Dale of Norway "Favorite Baby Designs"
Yarn: Dale of Norway Baby Ull, Various Colors
Needles: 2.5 and 2.0 mm Circular and DPs


I now have an incredible appreciation for people who have to photograph clothing on small children.  It's so hard to get them to face the right direction and look at you at the same time.  I chased Z around for the better part of an hour on Saturday -- lucky for us the weather was stunning and the little sweater actually got some sunshine to go along with the baby action.
 

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As you can see, it's quite large on her.  The sleeves are much too long, and the shoulders are quite broad.  But loose is good when you're a toddler on the move.  And large means that it could possibly last beyond this season.  Which would make this momma knitter very happy indeed.

20091115_ZebraSweaterCuffs.jpgOf course, during our "photoshoot" the one place she wanted to be was the dirtiest place in the park -- the baseball diamond.  She's fascinated with dirt right now, and drawing in it.  I guess it's a good think that Baby Ull is superwash wool.

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One thing that makes me quite pleased, is that you would be hard pressed from a distance to tell that the sweater is handmade.  I think I did a bang up job with neat seaming and weaving in ends.  About the only thing that would make you notice (if you got up close) is that the motifs aren't quite centered on the front.  This was one of those "read the instructions" bits that I didn't do as well as I should have (because they were in the front of the pattern section, not with the pattern), but, in the end, marks the sweater as something made by a loving person and not a machine.

I don't have a lot more to say about this little sweater than I already have in the series of construction posts.  I'm very happy with the black buttons.  This was a fabulous introduction to both colorwork and steeking.  In fact, steeking was in no way as scary as I thought it was going to be and I can't wait to try it out on a larger sweater project.

As far as this pattern is concerned, I found it quite easy to follow.  I think the instructions are clear, but sometimes you need to read very carefully to make sure that you follow the whole train of thought.  I did have to refer to some internet tutorials to help with the steeking process -- mostly I wanted a few more visuals to make sure that I was handling the machine stitching the right way.  While it can get a bit tedious knitting a sweater on tiny needles with tiny yarn, if you want to try out colorwork and/or steeking, this is the perfect sort of project to get your feet wet on.  The amount of colorwork is actually quite small relative to the rest of the sweater and, since it is a small project, I think there's a little less fear when it comes to the "cutting your knitting" part.

Before I had children, I could never understand the point of knitting them anything complicated. What was the point when the recipient wouldn't really understand the work that went into it and would grow out of it so quickly.  When I see Ms. Z in this sweater, it makes me so happy inside, I forget all about how much time it took me and the fact that there will be a time that this little sweater will be relegated to the "outgrown" pile -- and then I start trying to figure out what I am going to make for her next.

Little Kroy Socks

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20091101_KroyStripesLittleS.jpgPattern: The Keyboard Biologist's Basic Toe Up Sock*
Yarn: Patons Kroy Socks Stripes in "Mulberry Stripes"
Needles: 2.5 mm Darn Pretty DPs


On my last trip into Joann Fabrics, I took Ms. Z back into the yarn section.  While Joann's is not my usual locale for yarn shopping, lately I've been surprised to find some pretty decent yarn tucked in and amongst the acrylic.  In something that I took to be a show of remarkable education on Ms. Z's part, she ignored most of the fuzzy acrylic stuff and got very excited when we came to a patch of self-patterning sock yarn.  Since she had been good the entire trip to the store, and since the yarn was on sale, I told her that she could pick two skeins (all of the last batch of socks I made for her are now too small) and I would make her socks. 

The Kroy was the first skein she grabbed at.   The yarn is 75% wool, 25% nylon and is a little thicker than most sock yarn that I knit with (but not by much), so I cast on to US 1.5's instead of my usual 1's.  It's not completely obvious from the picture, but these socks are almost exactly identical twins.  It was nice to knit with, and I got a very nice, warm, thick fabric, perfect for baby feet.  At this point, Zosia just barely wears a size 7 child's shoe, so socks for her are still a quick knit -- especially in this yarn.  Because the yarn is a bit thicker, there's a bit less in a 50 g ball.  I'd estimate that this little pair of socks used up about 2/3rds of the skein. 

She was very excited after the first one was finished -- and then a bit disappointed that she didn't have two to try on.  So I cranked the second one out as fast as I could.  She got them on Thursday, and they've been on her feet more than they've been off since then.

I think the patterning in these socks  is quite nice -- almost wouldn't mind having a pair myself.  But the real proof will be in the washing and wearing to see how the yarn and the colors hold up. 

I've started on the second pair... baby socks seem to be like potato chips for me!

* Magic cast on, 8 stitches.  Increase 4 stitches every other row until 40 stitches around.  Short row heel down to 8 stitches, straight stockinette leg, about an inch of K2P2 ribbing for cuff.  Stretchy bind off.  

 

Zebra Striper Dress in Action

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Finally, finally, finally I acquired the right turtleneck and leggings so that Z could wear the Zebra Striper dress.   Norwegian 24 month olds must be quite large, because it took her a while to grow into this dress.

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A front, side and back shot to demonstrate how long and voluminous this dress is on Ms. Z - and she's tall for her age group.

She was a real sweetie about getting into the dress and wearing it all about.  Lately she's been asking me to make her socks and to wear her hand knit sweaters and telling me that she wants to knit something.  It's nice to be in that phase where Momma's hand knits are appreciated and desired.  She was also quite careful with the dress.  We went out to Sunday brunch in it and she didn't get an iota of jelly, butter or bacon on it. 

What's nice about this garment, though, is that it's not the sort of garment that has to be treated like it's made out of glass.  It went to the park after breakfast and performed admirably.

20091025_ZebraStriperDOnFie.jpgNeed to stop and check out something close to the ground?  No problem!

20091025_ZebraStriperDOnSli.jpgWant to take a trip down the slide?  No problem!

John and I both figure that this dress is going to last her well past her third birthday, as a dress and then, probably, as a tunic.  I love the color on her (yellow almost never looks good on me!) and love that it provides an extra layer of warmth without restricting her mobility. 

And, apropos of nothing, I just have to tell you all how much I love her shoes.  I almost wish See Kai Run made them in adult sizes. 

YarnCon

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While a whole  lot of lucky knitters and spinners are heading off to Rhinebeck this weekend, I'll be staying here in Chicago and checking out a much smaller fiber show, YarnCon.  What YarnCon lacks in the presence of live sheep, it makes up for by being practically within walking distance of my house. But don't think that I won't be a little jealous of all those heading to NY -- though that jealousy will mostly be over getting to see fibery friends rather than getting to indulge in fibery consumerism.

In addition to YarnCon (which should be doubly fun, because I hope to be heading there with Julie), since the weather is likely to keep us indoors this weekend (what, I ask you, happened to the gentle entry of fall?) I suspect my needles will be in motion.  I cast on and got started with Elijah this afternoon, and last weekend, while heading out to our pumpkin patch experience I picked up my second Francie sock and made some headway on that project.  The other thing I did today was start to work out the design for my next pair of socks for John -- these socks are going to be my first foray into designing with twisted stitches, which I think will be just the perfect amount of patterning for the lovely cashmere blend Sophie's Toes.

In lieu of actual knitting photos, I have a few pictures from our trip to see the pumpkins.

20091015_Pumpkins.jpgI just loved the way those green squash looked with the pumpkins.  They were just the perfect sagey color contrast to the bright orange.  Definitely not a pair of colors I would have thought to put together, though!

20091015_MeAndZ.jpgAnd here is rare photo of me and Z -- riding a toddler sized train and both wearing our handknits. Z has on (and she actually requested to wear) her upsized "Baby Surprise" sweater and I spent the whole day cozy and warm in my cotton turtleneck and OWLS sweater (which I love).  The Owls are rapidly becoming one of my favorite go-to cold weather sweaters! 


If in Doubt...

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Lead with a cute baby, pet or nice new yarn.  Lucky for me, sometimes I can do best two out of three.

20091006_HocusPocus.jpgWe're back from our Texas hill country adventure.  Z was an angel all day today, even though she spent a lot of time "bonding" with her car seat.   This was a complete contrast to Sunday night when we had a tantrum that seemed to us like it must measure a 9 on the Toddler Tantrum Richter Scale. 

When we got home, a little package was waiting for me: my Knitterly Things "Hocus Pocus" Vesper, which is a loverly combination of a purply-blue, lime green and muted red (the picture doesn't capture the red very well).   I talked Ms. Z into "modeling" it for me tonight.  Unfortunately, you can't hear the audio that went with the photo: "I have Momma's yarn.  Now I can knit." 

I hope that she holds onto that thought for when she can comfortably hold needles!

Happy Two

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On July 17th, my little girl turned two!  It's hard to believe that two years ago we were celebrating her arrival into this world.  She has changed so much since then.  In the last year she's transformed from baby to little girl.  Nothing shows that transformation more eloquently than the pictures that we took of her over the last year.

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14 months

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20090728_16months.jpg16 months

20090728_17months.jpg17 months

20090728_18months.jpg18 months

20090728_19months.jpg19 months

20090728_20months.jpg20 months

20090728_21months.jpg21 months

20090728_22months.jpg22 months

20090728_23months.jpg23 months

20090728_24months.jpg24 months

I am truly lucky to have such a wonderful little girl.  In my eyes, she is clever, beautiful, smart, sassy, determined and inquisitive.  She reminds me everyday of the incredible joy that she can find in the smallest of things. After 2 years, I am no less in awe of the beauty, drama and miracle that is human development.  And no less excited as I watch her grow more and more into who she is going to be.

I love you baby girl.  You have brought so much to my life.  And everyday you teach me to appreciate the little things, the happy moments that we live in.  I can't wait to see what the next year will bring, and to find out what else you will teach me.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Z!


Eye Candy Friday

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The first peonies of the year are always cause for eye candy, I think.  This is the first peony in bloom in my garden this year -- from a plant that I put in the ground about 2 years ago in celebration of he coming of our baby daughter.  This plant has definitely adopted the "bloom where you're planted" motto, because it has tripled or quadrupled in size since it was transplanted into our front yard. There must be 20 or 30 big white and pink flecked blooms ready to burst out right now.  With so many flowers to come, I may be able to harvest a few to come inside to enjoy -- something I've never been able to do before.

This lovely flower is not the only lovely flower that is blooming in my midst. 

20080604_ZAtThePark.jpgThe baby who was celebrated by the flower is well on her way to being a little girl.  At just past 22 months, it is getting harder and harder to see any of the baby.  But I can hardly complain.  The little girl who is emerging is an incredible treasure and surprises me every day.  Who new that she could climb up the ladders at the park that led to the tallest slides and that she was brave enough to go down the slide  on her own?   She remembers words like nobody's business and can now clearly express herself in complicated sentences.  She has only one "speed" -- flat out run.  She loves butterflies, owls, riding on her father's shoulders and all of her grandparents.  Just recently I got my first "I love you, Momma" -- and given her facility with language, I know she means it.  She loves to explore everything and wants to know how everything works.  She's an excellent car traveller, so much that we're considering a big trip to an island in the Pacific Ocean this summer.  When I think about the fact that this time last year she wasn't even really walking yet, she just amazes me even more. The older she gets, the more she makes my heart sing.  Momma loves you, baby girl -- even if you aren't quite a baby any more.

Random Wednesday -- 21 Month Edition

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My dear, sweet baby girl is closing in fast on her 2nd birthday -- only three months left to go.  I think I would put everyone to sleep with another picture of an unfinished Lotus sleeve, so instead I'm going to be random, at least within the theme of what my 21 month old is up to.

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  1.  Ms. Z's favorite book (and YouTube video) is Green Eggs and Ham.  She now tells us, appropos of nothing at all "I do not like you Sam I Am".
  2. She has developed some strange irrational fears.  Like umbrellas.  Open one near her and she will devolve into an instant panic and refuse to go wherever the umbrella was until it is clear that it is no longer around.
  3. She loves YouTube and has pretty much mastered basic iPhone operations.  Whenever she doesn't like what we're watching or playing she dismissively says "Different one! Want different one! I want to do that one!"  and has been known to say "No more email, Momma!"
  4. If she likes clothes, she will happily try them on.  If she doesn't she will squirm and twist like an oiled piglet until she gets away.  She's still very fond of shoes -- a new pair of pink sandals had to be shown to everyone.  And Hallowe'en is going to be her favorite holiday.  Whenever the orange and black Hallowe'en shirts that her grandma gave her are clean, they must be worn.  "Pumpkin shirt, Mamma!  Pumpkin socks!"
  5. She likes coffee and chocolate -- clearly her parents have been an influence on her.  Recently I took her to the Intelligentsia (coffee shop) down town and ordered myself a latte and her a chocolate steamer.  She sat quite sweetly in her chair.  "Hot chocolate, Mamma!" and drank her drink -- you would have thought she was a regular.  of course, I didn't get out of letting her have a taste of mine. 
She is developing so much personality of her own -- combine that with the flood of words that comes out of her mouth (some strangely random, others incredibly clear and focused) and we are beginning to really see who she is.  She loves to be able to express herself and regularly gives us full sentences "Want to read Green Eggs and Ham!" or "Where is Marco?  Nice kitty.  Pet nice!"  and more recently she even asked us "Can Daddy open this?"  It's clear that she's beginning to understand some abstract concepts.  Every day she lets us know something more about who she is and what she likes -- and doesn't like.  As we approach two, it feels like the baby is rapidly fading away to be replaced by a small and very lovely, strongly opinionated little person.

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The pictures come from a recent "photo shoot" where I was just playing with my fast 50 mm lens.  I'm certainly biased, but I think these are some of the best pictures I've ever taken of her, and I think she has absolutely beautiful facial structure.  And it goes without saying that she can break my heart with those blue eyes in a heart beat.  

Fuzzy Pink Baby Socks

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Since today is Ms. Z's 21-month-iversary it seems only appropriate that she should make it into this post. She's in a wonderful developmental sweet spot right now where she is absolutely lovely to be with.  The kind of baby that makes you want to make things for her.  And so over the weekend, I discovered the kind of yarn that I can't imagine in my own wardrobe, but is just perfect for her: Regia Softy.  Happy soft fuzzy sock yarn that knits up a fabric almost as soft and fuzzy as her blankie. 

20090416_FuzzyPinkBabySocks.jpgAt first blush, this yarn looks a lot like standard Regia sock yarn, just with soft fuzzy bits.  However, it is much happier at on larger needles than you m ight expect.  These little socks were knit on 3 mm double points and were only 32 stitches around.  I  did two stripe repeats for each sock and I think I have at least one full repeat left on the skein.  I purchased a second skein in a different colorway, but this is the one she picked, so it's the one i started with.  And a perfect colorway for a slightly-belated Easter present, I think!

20090416_FuzzyPinkClose.jpgThe texture of these socks reminds me of Muppets.  Soft, fuzzy, almost fleecy.  Ms. Z likes to pet them.  Heck, I like to pet them -- and the yarn, too, even if I wouldn't wear it on my feet.  These socks are the first pair of socks I've knit for her where I used my "adult" template that doesn't include any extra gathering in just above the heel.  She doesn't try to take her socks off any more and her little body is transitioning past the baby shaping into little person shaping. 

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I had no problems convincing her to wear them, but, couldn't, for the life of me, get a decent picture (at least not in the time I had before work).  She loved them even if I couldn't capture that love well.  They aren't good for playing on slick surfaces, but they are great warm snuggies for quiet play.

Belated Easter Greetings

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I had a lovely holiday weekend with my family in Ann Arbor.  Very little crafting was done, but we all had a great time watching Ms. Z explore the world. The weather wasn't warm, but it was just good enough for a certain outdoor baby to get some serious sunshine time.  In particular, we had much fun with Sunday morning's not-quite-two-year-old Easter egg hunt.

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Hey Mom... what do I do with this?

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The Easter Egg Hunt in Full Swing

She was in a pre-Easter egg hunt a couple of weeks ago and had no idea what to do.  This time she swooped around and found all but two eggs on her own.  It never ceases to amaze me how much she processes and stores and how quickly she can pick something up.

From our house to yours, a belated happy holiday to all!    Welcome Spring!

Back on Wednesday

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This post officially post-poned due to a family wedding on a Sunday night that required interstate travel and a small person who would not go to bed until 2 AM after we got home.  She just doesn't understand the whole "you need to go to bed because Mommy and Daddy need to go to work in the morning."  But going to the aforesaid wedding meant that we got to grab my dad and bring him home with us (along with another treat that will no doubt show up on the blog in the future), so baby girl has a fun fun week ahead of her, and I always enjoy having my Dad around!

I'll be back on my regularly scheduled time on Wednesday. 

A Baby Surprise for My Baby

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Pattern: EZ's Adult Surprise Sweater, Modified for Small Person
Yarn: 2-ply "Cotton Candy" Corriedale (CMF) Handspun

Once I got it all cast on, this project really seemed to fly by.  At times I found myself doubting that this would fold the way it was supposed to, but clearly EZ can be trusted not to lead a knitter astray.  Even though things strictly in garter stitch tend to get boring for me, I never found myself tiring of this project.  Maybe it was the handspun, maybe it was the construction.  Maybe it was getting to see it on the intended recipient.

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Speaking of handspun, even though the runs of color in this yarn were not long enough to really create any pronounced striping effects, I do think this project was a really lovely use of this yarn.  It avoids the pooling and wierd color effects and the changing colors instead create depth in the garrment and help to emphasize the ridgy texture of garter stitch.


20090226_BabySurpriseStraig.jpgWhile I've knit socks and scarves from my handspun, this is the first full on (albeit small) sweater that I've ever knit from it.  Every time I knit with my own handspun, I find the whole knitting process to be richer.  I enjoy touching the yarn more, watching the color.  And, if I do say so myself, even though I am a novice as far as spinning goes, I still think my yarns are better constructed that most commercial yarns I buy.  And that gives me some extra pride as I turn it into something.

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This yarn was just a little stiffer than most I've plied, making it perfect (I think) for stretchy loosey goosey garterstitch when it comes to helping the sweater keep its structure.   I think the fit is reasonable on Ms. Baby -- I wanted something closer to a 2T in the hopes that she'll get a spring and a fall out of it.  She's definitely got a couple of inches of sleeve to work with, so hopefully it will be roomy enough and long enough as well.  (BTW, I love the soulful look on her face in this picture.  She is a sweetheart, but she has many serious moments.  It was nice to catch one of them.

20090226_BabySurpriseSleeve.jpgI trimmed up this sweater with the little hearts -- I like the contrast of the dark red heart with the greens and yellows and pinks. 

20090226_ZSleeve.jpgIt may sound funny, but often, in my head, I think of Z as "my heart baby" --  the whole process of bringing her into the world was such an emotional ride, and by the end, I feel like my heart has become a bigger place because of her.  So the hearts seemed perfect for the buttons.  My heart baby wearing the gift of my hands, a handknit, handspun sweater.  It makes me happy in a deep warm place, and has helped keep me a little warmer in the last cold days of February.

18 Months

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18 months has been a time of progression for Z.  I haven't noticed radical jumps so much as extensions of existing skills.  She has worked her way to 33.5" tall and 24 lbs (she's now 90th percentile for height and has finally hit 50th percentile for weight) and physically she's pretty much normal.

20090122_ZinSunlight.jpgShe does have a lot of words.  Even her doctor commented on how verbal she was.  I never really was counting them, but even if I had been, by now I would be hard pressed to keep up.  She repeats everything we say (or at least many of the last words in our sentences) and her diction is quite remarkable.  For instance, she can say "Tchaikovsky" and you know exactly what composer she is talking about. She has a collection of both Polish and English words and she strings them together interchangeably.  She puts three and four words together on her own.  (BTW, I cannot claim the above beautiful picture of her -- it was taken by my dad).

20090122_ZRedShoes.jpgHer sense of style is becoming more pronounced.  Those red shoes were part of a Christmas outfit, but she will ask for them at any opportunity.  They were required baby-wear for our trip to the Museum of Science and Industry on Thursday (my dad was in town and we all headed to the MSI which is free this month -- all the remaining pictures are from this trip).  She has distinct opinions about clothes and will make it very clear whether she wants to wear something -- or not.

20090122_ZSpiritAmerica.jpgShe's developed a strong love for her Grandpa.  It is a sweet and special thing, because for the longest time she was afraid of him.  Now she will ask for him and about him.  In fact, that is another thing she can do: she will ask about specific people in her life: Mama, Tata, Babcia, Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Stanley, Ufer (my parents dog), Marco (our cat).  Z and Grandpa have had a great week together.  They share a love of birds and rocking chairs and going fishing for kitties. 

20090122_ZButtons.jpg Her manual dexterity continues to improve as well.  She is now a grand champion button pusher (betraying the strong cadre of engineering genes that are hiding in her genetic code) and she can fit her Duplos together without much help.   Stacking things is becoming a favorite pass-time and she loves "going shopping" (which consists of finding one of my bags and either taking things out of them or putting things in). 

20090122_ZinMirror.jpg We have started to refer to her as "Danger Baby" because she gets bolder and bolder every day.  She will climb on adult-sized rocking chairs, stand on ledges, walk up and down stairs with both hands full, and pull almost anything down off a counter that she can reach -- and that reach is getting longer and longer.  She climbs up on beds, couches and chairs.

20090122_ZAfterEmail.jpgShe's a baby with a developing sense of humor.  She's started giving "high fives".  Which makes laughing happen all around. She has belly laughs when we make funny faces and she will do things that she thinks are very funny and then turn around and look at us with a silly grin.  In fact, she is a baby with a whole pantheon of developing emotions, including the tantrum.  Coats do not go on without significant protest, and she gets quite unhappy about being redirected from any of her goals.

20090122_ZBabyFace.jpgShe is also developing her interests.  She's an incredible afficianado of "ABCs" and can recognize most letters and some numbers.  She's developed a taste for classical music and will ask John specifically to hear Chopin or Tchaikovsky one one of the baby-friendly websites John has found. She will bang on her xylophone and toy piano.  She loves Dr. Seuss books and can have them read over and over to her (particular favorites at the moment are "Hop on Pop", "Hands, Hands, Fingers, Thumb", "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You", "ABCs" and "the Eye Book"). 

It is clear that we are watching the emergence of a real little person with likes, dislikes and a whole array of emotions.  I selected the pictures for this post because they show some of the many expressions that are now part of who she is.  She is outgoing and sweet, but in a heartbeat can become shy and coy (she charms the waitstaff in almost every restaurant we go to with her regularly).  She does things intentionally to be a stinker and get my attention.  She has even started to realize that she can get different things from different people if she behaves in certain ways. 

For her first time momma, it's both an amazing and challenging ride.  And as she learns about the world, I have begun to see again some of the many wonderful things that I just took for granted. 


Post-Christmas Review/17 Months

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20081225_BabyInADrum.jpg
I never thought having a child would make Christmas an even better time than it already is, but this year, it was really wonderful and special.  From the Christian holiday perspective, Christmas, is, in fact, about the birth of a child, and while I am not particularly religious, that thought really struck me this year.  In many ways, Christmas is a celebration of the arrival of a child, of new life.  Indirectly, it is a celebration of the joy and new hope that children bring into the world. 

This year Z started to realize that something interesting was going on.  Whether it was "Tree!  Pretty!" accompanied by a huge smile or the excitement she got from putting on pretty clothes (those red shoes were a very big deal -- perhaps I have a fashionista engineer baby on my hands) or the interest she took in the strange phenomenon of "gift wrapping", you could tell that she was taking it all in, trying to figure it all out.  We had so much fun watching her figure out how to open presents and tear into the gift wrapping.  She's a master at ripping up magazines, so you would have thought wrapping paper would have been a cinch, but she had to work at it to figure it out. 

20081225_XmasEveBaby.jpgPerhaps the most magical part of the holiday has been her interaction with my Dad.  Up until recently, she's been very stand-offish with men and we hadn't really convinced her to let her only grandfather carry her or interact with her while in close proximity.  But this holiday she has been his buddy.  He's been able to carry her and show her things, read books with her and play with her on the floor.  Probably the best gift I got this year.

This transition from 16 months into 17 months has been a time of blossoming for Z.  Her language skills are incredible (at least in my own, biased opinion).   She not only repeats words (and with very clear diction -- it is not at all hard to understand what she is saying) but she is also putting concepts together in two or three word phrases.  "Pretty" is her favorite adjective, and she regularly makes it clear to us what kind of things she likes -- she has very particular opinions about clothes; she can tell us what she did "broke it" or "go shopping"; she sings "Jingle Bells" (well, she sings that phrase three times...) she also now uses "Thank you" at the appropriate time, and this morning she surprised us all by pointing to a calendar sitting on the table and saying "football" (she had only heard the word once the night before while she was helping us open packages).  And then there is the fact that her Polish vocabulary is also becoming quite strong.    Her ability to communicate better just makes things fun for everyone, I think.

She's also becoming quite the social butterfly -- and is becoming adept at getting things she wants from adults.  She makes many friends when we go shopping -- she acts coy to get adults to interact with her, and then slowly but surely ramps up her biggest megawatt smile.    On the flip side, she's also learned that if she's being ignored, she can do something bad and adults will pay attention to her.  Or she will tell us she's "poopy" right before she gets put down to bed in hopes of forestalling bedtime with a diaper change. 

She's also become very attached to her father.  Last night her cousins were over.  Both of the older two love John and love to spend time with him.  But both times that he did, she couldn't deal with the fact that he was doing something with them and barged into the scene.  When she wasn't doing that, she was being unhappy and needy and doing things to get his attention.  As soon as they were gone, she was back to being her happy self again. 

Christmas brought Z everything a baby could wish for: wooden puzzles, Duplo blocks, alphabet magnets and computer games, new clothes (she is very into sweaters and will often comment when I am wearing one), books, a small Ikea train set and a Magnadoodle sort of thing.  Of course, her favorite toy is still the almost week old helium baloon that her father bought her and that she almost doesn't let go of when she is awake.  Sometimes the simplest things are the best, and there must be something magical abouta  toy that rises up instead of falling down. 

From my house to yours, we hope you had a lovely Christmas day full of whatever gives you the most joy.  And Z wants everyone to know that every girl should have a pair of red shoes that make her happy!

If This is Thursday --

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Oh! wait!  It's not supposed to be Thursday, it's supposed to be Wednesday.  I am definitely time line challenged this week.  Combine a holiday weekend with an extra day off on Monday and my whole temporal sense gets out of whack.  So, since my week is kind of random at this point, maybe it's a good time for a random Wednes - er - Thursday.

  1. I have a thing for the cashmere sweaters at J. Crew.  This is literally the only animal based fiber (besides silk) that I can wear against my skin without going into an itching frenzy.  A couple of years ago, I didn't really understand "all the fuss" about cashmere sweaters.  Then I got one of these (a chocolate colored cable V neck) and now almost all my cotton T-necks have been replaced.  Warm, light and indulgent -- but a perfect indulgence for someone who has to spend almost half of the year dealing with cold enough weather to merit a sweater.  Yesterday I got a 30% off promo from J.Crew for their online store.  You can bet what that baby went into....
  2. I got to hold a beautiful, sweet 6 month old baby today, and suddenly Ms. Z looks completely different to me.  How can so little time (10 months!) result in so much change?
  3. Speaking of Z, when we were in Ann Arbor, she saw an old granny square afghan on the back of my Dad's armchair and went up to it: "Flowers!  Pretty!"  I know it doesn't sound all that remarkable, but she did two very neat things.  First, she was able to apply an abstract idea "flower = granny square" to something she had never seen before.  Second, she made it clear how she felt about them.  Clearly there is so much more going on in baby brains than I ever thought possible.  And I'm sure that you can all see what this is likely to inspire...
  4. We are remodeling our downstairs guest room after some water leakage as a result of a foundation crack.  I am actually considering painting the walls a shade of red or cinnamony-red to complement the dark wood of the furniture that I have.  Given my white wall history (painting Z's nursery a pale purple was a wild move for John and I) this feels like a radical and dangerous move.  I am excited by the idea of taking the chance on something different.  John is skeptical.
  5. The makers of Cascade yarn now make lovely solid colored sock yarn, Heritage.  For those of you looking for sock weight, man-friendly, super-wash merino/nylon blend solids, you may want to check it out.  It's also priced incredibly well -- $14 for the same amount as in a ball of Opal.  Did I mention that John thought color 5606 was the perfect shade of burgundy for a pair of hand knit dress socks?  Time to find some pattern inspiration!

Simple Baby Socks

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To all of you who left your kind comments on John's new socks or congratulated John on his new job, both John and I would like to extend our thanks.  We are very excited and relieved that he was able to find something new so quickly.  To those of you out there with spouses and partners who are looking for something, you are in our thoughts.  We understand completely what it feels like and we are both really hoping that things will start to get back on track for many people soon.

I've been thinking about small projects lately.  In part because small projects have that rapid gratification aspect that the product knitter that I am really loves, but also in part because I have a small person running around and it's such a treat to see her eyes light up when she's presented with a new toy or a new pair of socks.  I know she doesn't really understand what it means to me to make her things by hand, but when I watch her get excited about a new hand made gift, I like to think that she can sense the love that went into the project, even if it was only a little project.

20081123_Trekking108BabySoc.jpgI like to think of  these socks as my "Reverse Claudia" pattern -- they are modeled on Claudia's default sock design.  The "reverse" part comes from the fact that they are knit toe up instead of top down.  But they are a fundamentally similar sock* with a short row heel and picot cuff.  They make a sweet baby sock. 

The socks themselves are knit on 2.25 mm dpns using Trekking XXL colorway 108.  As with the last pair of socks I made for Z, just above the ankle there is a decreased area to help give her better fit and help the socks stay on.  I started with 16 stitches and increased up to 40, which makes for a good fit for her right now.

20081123_Trekking108BabyMod.jpgIt was hard to get her to slow down for very long once I put the socks on, but John was able to get her it sit for a few seconds so that I could get a model shot.  They fit like a glove -- or a sock -- but there's still plenty of stretch in them so I suspect that we will make it through the winter.

* Those of you who are familiar with Claudia's pattern will know that both her heels and toes are knit with shortrows.  I will admit that i've never switched to a short row toe because the standard 4 point increase toe works just fine for me and because the discovery of the magic cast on for toe up socks pretty much eliminated my desire to experiment with short row toes and grafting.

Baby Socks that Hop

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20081026_SockHopBabySocks.jpgIf there is any project that works up faster than baby socks, I have yet to find it.  Even with the little smattering of two-color knitting and the picot cuff and a little extra finishing it's not too hard to knock out one of these little socks in a distracted evening of television watching.  These socks are made of Sock Hop (handspun sock yarn from Crown Mountain Farm) and Shelridge Farm Ultra Touch -- leftovers from other sock projects.  The socks were knit toe-up starting with a magic cast-on.  They have a short row heel and a picot edging at the top. Aside from the fact that they are rather smaller than the socks I normally knit, they are otherwise pretty much the same general pattern as I use for my "standard sock". 

What's more fun, though, than knitting them, is watching the baby be excited about them.  Z had been watching me work on the first one, and both John and I told her that the socks were for her.  When I finished binding off the first one, I handed it to her and she walked all over the room, playing with her toys, refusing to put the sock down.  Normally it's a fight to get her into socks, but this afternoon, when I showed her the socks we were going to put on, she smiled and made it easy for me. 

20081026_BabySocksFromSide.jpgThis is my first mobile baby sock photo shoot.  It was too cold this afternoon to go outdoors with bare legs, so I let her run around her room and did my best with my new camera. 

20081026_BabySocksFromBack.jpgI think I was mostly just lucky that I got good pictures of the socks from both the back and the side (from the back you can see that I avoided the whole "jogging" issue in the colorwork.  I figured just placing the start at the back of the sock would be sufficient for a pair of little socks.

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Z is getting better at listening to me when I ask her to look at me when I am taking pictures.  Actually, she's just exploding with words lately, and it's clear that her comprehension of both Polish and English is just blooming.  Every day brings more new things.  Not to mention the inevitable toddler use of "No!" and "Mine!"*.  It is very clear that she thinks of these socks as "mine".

20081026_HappyAboutSocks.jpgClearly I have another recipient of hand knit socks who really appreciates my efforts. 

*She's applying that "mine" word to a lot of things.  Tonight, I went up to John to give him a hug.  She walked up to us, grabbed his leg, looked at me and said "mine" and then tried to push me away.  Clearly we're going to be having words about who found Daddy first...

15 Months

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Today is 15 months exactly for Ms. Z.  As I was looking back over some of her photos, as I see other children at the park, it's ever more clear that my baby is so not a baby any more. 

20081016_ZAtCommercialPark.jpg Here she is wearing her current favorite dress.  Sometimes I forget what clothes are in her closet, and when I remember and pull them out for her, she gets so excited.  Lately she's been very interested in dresses, flowers and butterflies.  This little dress got a chance at glory for the last warm weekend I think we are going to have and Z was so happy to get the chance to wear it (she had been grabbing it's hanger from the closet door handle every morning for a week to convince us we needed to put it on her).  Her opinions are getting so strong and so well defined and it's really delightful to see her figure out what she likes and doesn't like.

20081016_ZAtHome.jpgThis has got to be one of my favorite pictures of her, ever and I am more than a little jealous that it was taken by John.  He just found a new lens for the Canon XSI (it's a "prime" lens with a large aperture) and was playing around with it Thursday after we got back from the park.  The full size image is gorgeous, just too large to upload to my website.  This picture captures her thoughtful focusedness of late.  When she gets interested in something, she will spend a lot of time trying to figure out how it works.  And she is now really beginning to get some hair.  She looks like she has her father's hairline. 

20081016_ZOnAStroll.jpgHere's the smile that shows up now.  It's a little more guarded than it used to be, but still very toothy (we are now up to 7 teeth with an 8th on the way) and sweet.  She won't wear hats, but she doesn't mind having the hood on her sweatshirts pulled up.  Note the butterflies!  She will say something very close to butterfly (sounds like buh-fly) and she will select clothes with butterflies on them over almost anything else.  I wish I could remember all the words that she knows.  There are so many!  Some Polish, most English.  And she repeats sounds all the time -- reminding us that we have to be a bit more careful with what we say around her. 

She loves animals and at this point knows no fear of them.  Dogs, cats and pigeons are all interesting and she is getting better and better at petting our cats in a gentle way -- her fine motor skills are definitely getting better.  She spots birds and airplanes that it takes John and I a while to find (I swear, she has the "DC10"* gene that all the men in my family seem to be homozygous for) and a perfect afternoon for Z is racing around the park climbing up anything that doesn't knock her down first.  We refer to her as "Danger Baby" since she just doesn't let anything (even things that should) put her off going where she wants to go.

Happy 15 Month Birthday, Baby Girl. You just keep getting more wonderful as you get bigger!

* Some time ago, back when I was in graduate school, Science magazine created a humorous mock up of the Y chromosome.  One of the genes they identified was the DC10 gene, which conferred the ability, nay forced the recipient, to look into the air any time an airplane passed overhead and identify the make and model. Almost all the men in my family seem to suffer from carry this gene


14 Months

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Babies sure do seem to get big fast!  We've made it past the 14 month mark and we're having a blast.  The honest truth for me is that I think this is my favorite age so far.  Yes, she's completely mobile, but she's also just bursting with words and beginning to really tell us who she is.  While she makes me crazy (and how could she not, reflecting back some of my own personality issues...) I just love the fact that she is beginning to tell us what she wants, what she likes, what she doesn't like.  And mobility brings more options for fun outings. 

20081002_ZontheBeach.jpgWe've done so many things this month!  If there is one thing Ms. Baby likes to do, it's explore new places.  So these pictures are a testimony to her explorations and her new-found toddler-ness.

20081002_ZbytheWater.jpgWhat could be better than a day by the beach?  This is probably the last time we'll get use of of this swimsuit and it's the first time we have gotten her to play in water that is not a pool.  Lake Michigan wasn't really warm enough for her to splash around in, but she had a great time moving water around with the sand toys my mom bought for her.  And these pictures made me realize what a leggy baby she is.  She's a decent height for her age, but I think it is all in her legs!
20081002_ZattheZoo.jpgThere's not much better than going to the zoo and getting a birds' eye view of the surroundings from your daddy's shoulders.    Z was particularly interested in the monkeys and the birds (she loves birds) but running around in a big open space and getting treated to ice cream ranked pretty high with her too. 

20081002_ZintheDiamond.jpgOne of our local parks is Smith Park.  It's just south of a very nice coffee house (Star Cafe) and so Z and I start our Thursday mornings with a latte and a trip to the park.  In spite of my best efforts to keep her clean, her favorite place in the park, bar none, is the baseball diamond.  What is it about babies and dirt?  But she has such a good time, it's hard to take her away from it, even if she does end up practically needing a bath before naptime.

20081002_ZwithaBag.jpgAnother view from Smith Park, this time with one of her favorite toys: a shopping bag.  There is almost nothing she likes to do more right now than take things out of other things and then put them back in.  She also just loves bags (and handbags) of almost any kind and will walk all over the place carrying them (if anything will make you cringe and smile at the same time it's your baby walking around with the Coach purse that your husband bought you for Christmas).  This bag got a grand tour of the park before she decided to take a rest.

I think it's an understatement to say that she goes at things with gusto and is not the sort of kid who wants to sit quietly and watch the world go by.  She doesn't mind reading the occasional book, and her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds, but it's clear that what really motivates her is finding new things (and people and dogs -- especially dogs) to interact with.  She's also proving to be quite the strong willed little creature who does *not* like to hear the word "no".  Grandma says that she's not so unlike her mother.  Apparently those genes will get you every time.

 More knitting in a bit... all my projects are in progress, but few have made enough progress to be interesting (and I still haven't found a shirt for Z to wear under the jumper so that we      can have a little photo shoot for that... soon!)  I'm plotting some new projects as well, since it has become painfully apparent that Ms. Z is now almost completely without warm snuggly handknits for the fall!

Walking

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The average Chicago city lot is 25 feet by 150 feet, most houses are long and narrow and few that have been constructed recently lack a finished basement.  Space is at a premium so the basement as storage area (as it mostly was in the house I grew up in) doesn't really exist.  Our basement is part entertainment area (the "Den of Great Manliness"), part utility (home to our laundry area and a half bathroom) and part guest space.  Fortunately, it is also all contiguous, and as long as the door to the guest room is open, you can traverse the entire length of the house without much getting in your way.

When Ms. Z was tiny, she didn't much like the idea of staying put.  We used to think that she had some kind of altimeter combined with a motion sensor and if either of them dropped below some kind of pre-set threshold then it would cause some jolt to her nervous system that resulted in a very unhappy baby.  But John also discovered early on that we could use this to our advantage when trying to get her to sleep.  If you had the patience to walk with her long enough and you had her ny-ny (Polish for blankie) then she would eventually fall asleep.  The basement was the ideal location for this walking process.  The light levels were low, the temperatures cool, and the distractions few.  Even a very alert baby could be lulled into a calmer mindset when the time was right.

At first, impatient person that I am, it was all I could do to slowly pace the basement until she fell asleep. It made me crazy. I had to watch the clock to keep myself focused on the job.  Time seemed to slow down and just a few minutes would feel like ten, carrying a restless baby.  Eventually I worked out a deal with myself.  I learned to pace myself slowly enough so that one loop of the basement took me about a minute.  And I decided that I would walk for at least 10 minutes before changing my program.  If, after 10 minutes, she was still awake, then I could take her upstairs and wait a while until I tried again.  Amazingly enough, by 10 minutes, she was almost always asleep.  And I started to look forward to our little walks.

I think the slow pace helped the baby calm down since it created a gentle and predictable rhythm.  It also helped me slow down and enjoy the time with her.  I started to focus on the small things.  The way she positioned her body, how she relaxed as we made our way through our walk, her gentle breathing, the angelic baby face when she drifted off.  I felt as if I was creating a safe place for her, one where she could sleep in peace.  For me, it became a time to think and enjoy her.  Z is an active baby and not the sort of baby that wants to be held close and snuggled for very long.  This was a time when she wanted to be near. As she got bigger, it brought with it the realization that I would not be able to do this forever.  A time would come when she would be too big to carry.   And that made every one of these sleepy walks even more precious.

Even though she's past her first birthday now, we still take the walks.  In fact, she'll often tell me she's ready for a nap by bringing her ny-ny over to me and putting her head and the ny-ny into my lap.   But the walks are growing shorter.  Rarely does she need much more than 5 minutes to drift off.  As soon as we get our ritual started, she settles in.  It's still as sweet as it ever was, but a little bittersweet because it's clear that she needs our help less and less to do this.

I think one of the most amazing things about Z is how much the little things about her come to fill my heart with joy.  I think back to this time last year when I was struggling with all the newness of having a newborn, not sleeping enough, feeling constrained, and I realize that while I remember those things, most of the negative feelings have gone away, replaced by the many sweet moments that have been a part of growing into becoming her mother.  Listening to her figuring out words, watching her get more and more mobile, and sharing her sleepytime rituals.  When all else is going badly, I can take her on one of our basement walks, watch her slip into sleep, and know I've made her world a better place.  What could be better than that?
There are a couple of projects that have been lingering.  One of them isn't really lingering so much as malingering.  It's finished, but I don't really like it, and, honestly, don't know quite what to do with it.

20080731_PhildarBabySweater.jpgOn the surface, this Phil'Onde baby pullover looks just fine.  It's complete, the collar is attached, it is ombred.  It's even big enough for the intended baby.  But it's really a failure.  Why?

  • It's shaped just like it looks -- like a big sack.  Even babies don't look all that good in big sacks.  
  • The armhole positions are more appropriate for a dog sweater than they are for a sweater for a human.  The sweater is flattened so that you see the front half.  There is an equal amount of back -- which means about 3/4 of the circumference of the sweater ends up between the baby's shoulders.   Way too much fabric in the wrong place.  So the sweater doesn't hang right.
  • This project was knit on smaller needles than the sweater I knit for myself out of the same yarn.  This created a very dense fabric.  Since the yarn is mostly acrylic, which is good for a baby garment, the dense fabric turns it into a very warm garment for a garment that is short sleeved and meant for warm weather. 
  • It's knit to gauge (yes, I checked several times) and it's knit for an 18 month old, and it's something like 34" around at the widest point.  Given that my bustline is around 34" this is clearly too much fabric for a child's garment.
  • I hate the way the kangaroo pocket sucked up all the dark pink part of the ombre ball.  It looks stark connected to the white fabric at the top.  I would have preferred the shading to be more gradual.
This garment is one of the rare total failures that I have found from Phildar.  I was completely sucked in by the cute baby wearing the garment in the picture that comes with the pattern.  But now I understand why the child was positioned the way she was, squatting down.  It makes the sweater appear much better fit than it really is. 

There's no picture of Ms. Z in this sweater.  I put it on her once, hated it instantly and could only think about getting her out of it and forgot to take a picture.  She's not all that excited about multiple wardrobe changes in short succession, so I'm not going to put it back on her for a photo shoot. It wouldn't make either of us happy.  And an ugly sweater is really not worth causing her distress.

So, instead, I'll close with a picture from last weekend when we took her to the Lincoln Park Zoo for the first time.

20080731_ZAtTheZoo.jpgShe's still around 20 lbs and is 30 inches tall now and is getting to be quite the accomplished walker (that little dark spot above her left eye is from a tumble she took while walking at the zoo -- so clearly she hasn't gotten everything worked out yet).  She is still a big flirt, but has gotten more reserved around people she doesn't know.  She's a lot more conscious of where John and I are and she makes a whole array of funny faces  on purpose -- she has one where she wrinkles up her nose that always makes us laugh.  She's also got clear words.  She knows who "Dada" is and is getting pretty good with using "Mama" in relation to the right person (she uses it for other things, too, like her bottle).   She has a word for bird "Caa" (which we think comes from the "quack quack" sound that we made when we showed her ducks) and "Ny ny" (the Polish word for "blankie").  She is beginning to understand "No!" and stern tones of voice -- and she gets very upset when you use them with her -- not entirely different from her mother, I fear.  She is still very much a "go go go" baby and while loving, is not very snuggly.  She has absolutely no interest in food that she cannot manipulate herself -- and John and I are beginning to wonder what the negative effects of an all pretzel diet could be for a toddler.

She really just continues to get more and more fun to be with all the time.  We just love her to pieces and can't imagine missing out on her happy smiles and new learning adventures.


Today is a very special baby's birthday.  I can hardly believe that my tiny baby girl is well on her way to becoming a vibrant and active toddler.  I've spent the better portion of the day wondering what I was going to say about what it meant to me to have a one year old baby.  All I can say is that I still feel incredibly blessed to have been able to bring her into this world.  I feel so lucky to have been able to go through all the experiences, good and bad, that are part of the first year of motherhood.  I thought today, rather than rehash the year in words, I would share a collection of photos from my photo a day project that have not already made it onto my blog, and let you watch Ms. Z grow from month to month.

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July Baby on a Quilt


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August Baby on a Boppy


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September Baby in A Swing


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October Baby with Grandma




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November Baby with a Handknit Hat


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December Baby on a Play Mat


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January Baby Creeps Around on the Floor


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February Baby with Mommy


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March Baby Sits Up With a Toy


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April Baby Climbs Up to A Slide


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May Baby with Daddy in Ann Arbor


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June Baby at Grandma and Grandpa's House


Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!   I can't wait to see all the things that you discover and do in the next year!

Baby Steps

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Whoever thinks baby steps are small ones has never had the opportunity to watch their own baby take them.

Ms. Z took her first independent steps on Monday morning to try to get a glass of water that John was holding (she loves drinking water out of a regular glass).  She took three whole steps without help.  She was acting like she might do something like that for a little while and I was getting nervous that she was going to do it when John and I weren't there to see them.  But she saved it so that both of us could see.  Of course, she went right back to crawling, which she prefers to walking because speed is better than verticality in her book.  But real walking is not far away now.  And we all enjoyed her new triumph.

There would be pictures, but my camera and my SD card conspired against me and I seem to have lost most of my baby pictures from June.  Color me not very happy about that.  But at least I was able to get my blog problems straightened out.

Updated to add: I know that clicking on my comments link leads to an error message.  If you click on the "Permalink" link just to the left of the Comments link, it will take you to the entry page (which isn't really any different than the comment link operates) and let you leave a comment should you be inclined to do so.  Not sure why this is happening.  More of the magic of migrating from MT4.01 to MT4.12 -- or just something I don't quite remember from the last time I did this...

A Bowl of Yarn

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No Friday baby pictures, but I do have a bowl of baby pink yarn to share.  This yarn is Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton.  It's a beautiful cotton yarn, in DK weight, and it has a lovely sheen.  It's perfect for babies because not only is it organic, it's also been dyed with natural dyes.  Ms. Z is showing the same sensitive skin issues that her mother has, so it's wonderful to be able to find products where I don't have to worry quite as much about chemical compounds that might cause her some irritation. 

I absolutely love the color of the yarn and I picked it without really thinking about its pinkness.  But I do have to admit that lately I have been picking out girly colors for Ms. Z's clothes because so many people still come up and ask me if she's a boy -- including the parents of other baby girls!  I know at this age, this question doesn't bother the baby, but for some reason it bothers me that her identity as a girl is not clear. 

20080619_ZInAnnArbor.jpgOkay, maybe one baby picture, taken last weekend while we were in Michigan.

So now I am in search of a good basic template sweater pattern that I can use to create her a fall cardigan.  I'd like to find something simple and raglan that I can use as background so that I can play with the details myself -- for instance, she looks so sweet in bell sleeves and I'd like to add my own simple lace motif.  Any suggestions?  I've made a first pass through Ravelry, but nothing is jumping out at me.  And my Ann Budd book of basic sweater templates doesn't quite go small enough (although it would certainly be easy to shrink one down if I needed to -- I'm just feeling lazy right at the moment). 





First Trip Away from Ms. Z

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Well, the time has come.  Next week I'm going to be spending most of the week in Boston, like a lot of other people associated with the microbiology world, taking in the big ASM meeting.  (Well, I won't be taking much of it in, I will be hanging out in a booth on the trade show floor, but you get the idea).  And for the first time ever I'll be apart from the baby -- she came with me to Toronto for last years meeting.  On one hand, I'm excited.  On the other hand, I know I'm going to miss her terribly, especially at the end of the day when I don't get greeted by that big fabulous happy smile when I come home from work. 

Since I'll likely travel a fair number of times for my job during her childhood, I want to start a tradition of bringing a little something special back for her.  This will give me a Z-related mission that makes me feel like I am doing a little something sweet for her and I hope that it will give her a reason, especially as she gets older, to not feel bad about my going away. Not something large, just something small, easy to collect and transport, tough enough to withstand the love/appreciation of a child.  I'm also going to try to work on a pair of socks for her.  I have Cat Bordhi's most recent sock book and some lettered stitch markers from JLYarnworks all ready to go -- and I love her idea of making baby sized test socks in order to try out her general sock forms from the book.   Z hardly needs socks with warm weather approaching, but making things for her makes me happy and makes me feel close to her even if she is too young to understand of know. 

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Any of  you travelling moms have suggestions for how to make the time away from the baby easier? 

Random Wednesday, Featuring Ms. Z

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A few random things, related to my daughter:

  • Z will eat almost anything, except, perhaps, tomatoes.  The baby food I tried to give her today (spaghetti with sauce and cheese) was rejected whole-heartedly.  Would it surprise you to know that neither of her parents like tomatoes?  But we both do love spaghetti sauce!
  • Z likes almost anything soft and acrylic.  Mr. Ducky (above) came home with us from Whole Foods because he made her giggle like crazy and she couldn't put him down after we gave him to her.
  • Cruising, cruising, cruising! It's all about going places and exploring things.
  • Given a choice, Ms. Z will pull out shoes (mine in particular) from our shoe rack by the back door and pull my purse off of any place she can find it.  She seems to like shoes and purses more than her own toys sometimes! My keys come in a close second to shoes and purses.  At the same time, you can't keep her away from laptops and iPhones when they are around.  Are we creating a girly-girl geek? 
  • Her favorite book right now is Go, Dogs, Go.  She will pick this book out specifically and likes it read to her multiple times in a row.  She also likes the books that she has that have tactile components. 
A few random things, related to me:
  • Some women nest while they are pregnant, I feel like I am nesting now.  I have this intense desire to go throughout my house and purge and organize things.  You might just think "spring cleaning" but this is probably the first spring where I've really been bitten by this bug.
  • I can't get enough of Rachael's "Relax" Vanilla Chai yogurt.  All organic, completely yummy, good probiotics and some omega oils for good measure. 
  • If you watch House, apparently Amber and I have the same taste in handbags.  In the scene where House and Amber negotiate "Wilson Rights" with Cuddy, Amber is sporting the same purse John got me for Christmas.
  • iPhones can get you into all sorts of trouble.  Just this afternoon I purchased "Splish, Splash" and (earwig alert!) "Safety Dance" -- Ms. Z likes to bop to both of them.
  • I'm reading an excellent book, The Eighth Day of Creation, by Horace Freeland Judson.  In spite of what the title may seem to imply, the book has nothing to do with Intelligent Design or any other religious debate going on now.  It's a history of the rise of molecular biology and biochemistry, in particular DNA, RNA and proteins and the people who were formative in developing molecular biology as a major part of the biological sciences.  Because it talks about the personalities and not just the science, it's a great read, even though it's dense.  If you like history of science books, this one shouldn't be missed.

The Fabric Stash Grows, But Slowly

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With a baby in the house, I don't really have the space any more to be growing two stashes.  However, I am beginning to understand how addictive fabric stashing can be.  In some ways, it is easier than stashing yarn.  When I buy yarn, I really do have a good understanding of how long it takes to knit a project and I am much better than I was at knowing my limits even when a good deal or something beautiful is at hand.  With fabric, this is much harder.  When I sit down in front of the machine, all those stitches seem to happen so fast and it makes it easy to think that fabric will come in and fly out of the stash into wonderful projects. 

This project idea was "stolen" from Alison at the blue blog, who has also been bitten by the quilting bug.  Sometime back she talked about a project that involved making fabric books. And, in fact, there are all sorts of novelty fabrics out there that are geared to doing that.  Baby Z has been changing by leaps and bounds lately, and one of the things that she has taken an interest in is books.  Right now, I think the thing she likes most is flipping the pages, but it's easy to see that the books that have vivid images also grab her attention.  So I went on line and started looking for some fabrics that could be used to make into books.  I figured that not only might I end up with something sweet for Z, but I might be able to practice some machine quilting skills as well. 

These fabrics come from Hancock's of Paducah.  Z is going to get a collection of funky monkeys jumping on the bed (how could I resist counting with sock monkeys?) , an introduction to Paddington Bear and an introduction to fairy tales (I had forgotten about Rumplestiltskin and the spinning wheel!).  I love the idea that they can be washed, squished and loved in whatever way a baby wants too (right now a lot of baby love still gets demonstrated through chewing,,, which wouldn't be so bad except for three sharp little teeth). 

And this week has brought us another amazing gift from our baby -- a 9:30 bed time.  One thing I am learning about babies -- no matter what a parent says, you really can't take that much credit for your kid's sleep patterns.  Z has been a good sleeper since about 8 weeks, and while there have been 4-5 nights since that time when she's gotten us up at strange times in the night, by and large, John and I have had it pretty good, even with a baby that liked to go to bed at 11:30 at night.  Once she got mobile, though, it became almost impossible to do anything because danger baby always seemed to be headed for some disaster.  This earlier bed time comes at the perfect time and is an incredible blessing from whatever baby gods exist out there.   So now I have time to blog, and get back to doing some more crafting. 

20080407_ZHitsThePark.jpgSince it's been a little while since a Z picture appeared on the blog, here she is, all 8 and a half months of her, on her first time out in a swing.  She absolutely loved it!  The higher she got pushed, the bigger her smiles got.  She does all sorts of wonderful things now.  She waves bye bye (which is sweet and heartbreaking at the same time when I have to go to work), she babbles in all sorts of syllables, she can crawl like the wind and can manage crawling upstairs.  She pulls up on everything and is beginning to cruise.  She can handle big pieces of apple all on her own and likes to try new foods.  She is fascinated by my iPhone -- both the shiny images and the fact that she can hear Daddy's voice when Daddy is not around.  Clearly for Z, the world around her is a wonderful place -- at least when it isn't reaching up to smack her on the forehead!


Walking on Sunshine

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The weather is lovely here in southern Florida.  We're not missing Chicago one bit right now!  35 degrees -- Bah!

20080305_WalkingOnSunshine.jpgWhat could be better than being outside, in the ocean breeze walking barefoot with your daddy?

She started crawling on March 1st and now tries to pull up on things and loves to go for "walks".  Also, she's working on simple syllables.  She makes a very distinct "ba" sound and is trying to make a "P" sound with her lips.  It's like s a switch flipped when she started crawling and now simple language sounds can be made.  And this morning we noticed that she has a tooth getting ready to make an appearance!    So much all at once. 

And me?  I'm enjoying some time by the pool and trying to figure out what method I like best to do two-color knitting with one hand -- on a project just for me.

Is it Thursday, er, Friday Already?

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I am beginning to think that when you have a child, something happens with your personal space-time continuum and everything just speeds up.  Someone of you physics type scientists out there must have done some studies of the localized effects of childbearing on parental quantum physics.  If you have, please send me a link to that manuscript.  This must be the case, or otherwise how could Thursday (and my post) have gotten past me without much notice on my part?

The Phil'Onde top is almost finished, but probably not exciting to look at until it is modeled by a small person, so today I am going to show off some yummy yarn I got not too long ago (well, a month a go, but given my space-time warping problems, it doesn't seem like too long ago to me!).

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The fact of the matter is, I don't buy much commercially produced yarn without a specific purpose in mind -- I have too much of this yarn in my stash right now that I am not sure what I am going to do with, so I've been avoiding places like Elan and Webs unless I have a project in mind.  But I still indulge in special, one-of-kind, made by individual people kinds of yarns from time to time.  This yarn is Sophie's Toes, the Layers of Color collection.  The blue yarn (totally destined for me!) is the Cerulean colorway.  The dark yarn is burgundy over green and is going into my "man acceptable yarn stash" -- and it's decidedly more lovely than my camera was able to render it on the day that I took the picture (what looks vaguely grey in the picture is really much more green in person; the yarn reminds me of end of fall colors).

What made this yarn even more fun and more special, was the response of a certain someone to it. Emily (who actually lives not too far away in the greater Chicagoland area and is an amazing quilter as well as dyer of yarn) sent along some nice words about Z on the invoice, so I had to give Z the opportunity to enjoy Emily's handiwork.  You see,  Ms. Z's given name is the Polish version of "Sophia" and the nickname we use for her is the Polish version of "Sophie".

20080214_ZWithSophiesToes.jpgShe made a beeline for that yarn.  And then thoroughly inspected the label.

20080214_ZWithSophiesToesTa.jpgAh yes, nothing like getting them hooked on the good stuff, early.   And she already likes to watch me knit.  After I finish a few other projects on my list, I might have to get her some of her  own .  Emily has some beautiful stuff in her shop right now.  I think the "Love" colorway would make an absolutely adorable baby sweater!

Zosia Finally Wears Tulip

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How is it possible that my tiny baby has gotten to the point where she can wear all of her 6-12 month old sized clothes?  Didn't we just bring her home? Where does the time go?  How do I convince my baby to slow down?

20080208_ZosiaInTulip.jpgWell, I probably won't get answers to those questions, but I can still have fun capturing some of that time on film.  To my eye, that little Tulip baby sweater that I made before she arrived looks even more adorable when being worn by the baby it was intended for.  I've been putting her in it as often as I can, knowing that not only will she out grow it, but in only a couple of months it could be too warm to need a sweater.

I realize I haven't really posted about what is going on with Z these days.   Gosh, where to start.  She's eating all sorts of solid foods and is an incredibly good eater.  She figured things out around 5 months and loves to eat like the big people do.  Her favorite is probably her Daddy's hand smashed bananas with oatmeal, but we still haven't found a fruit she doesn't like.  She's a hair's breadth away from sitting up completely unassisted and can get herself up on all fours but hasn't quite figured out how to make the arms and legs move to crawl.  Her pediatrician thinks she might be reading ahead a little bit in the baby development book (bear in mind that while she is 6.5 months old, she was three weeks early).  She is an absolute hoot most of the time.  And it's so much fun for John and I to watch her really beginning to figure out her environment and what she wants to do in it. 

Oh, and she's back to not getting up in the middle of the night again.  Must have been a growth spurt or just some serious brain development going on.  Apparently both can mess with infant sleep patterns.

Today's lovely picture is courtesy of our good friends in Madison, WI.  Thanks Aunt Judy!

Circles Stroller Jacket Finished!

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I never would have guessed before I had a baby that I would have enjoyed knitting baby wear.  I am not sure whether I am enjoying it so much because I'm a product knitter and knitting small things gives me the pleasure of having a complete creation or because there's nothing quite as sweet as seeing something I have knit on a small, beautiful baby with a big smile.  Like all things, no doubt it is a little of both.


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Here's the finished jacket -- it's hard to get a good picture of a garment with a hood;  hoods add a garment part in a third direction and I wasn't able to find a good way to really show it off the way I wanted to.  But, hopefully, this picture shows how all the elements play together -- along with some of my wonky circles.

20080126_CirclesZipperDetai.jpgI was surprised how much I liked the last detail elements of the garment.  I didn't think the zipper pull would do much for me until I put it on the jacket.  Nothing like an up close photo to make it clear just how wonky some of those circles are.  However, I have a feeling that on a three dimensional very cute baby, that bit of wonkiness won't be so obvious.  (To make the D&D analogy... small sweater makes saving throw vs. baby with charisma of 18+.... oohh! sweater loses that die roll...)

20080126_CirclesHoodDetail.jpgThe other extremely sweet little detail was the top loops attached to the point of the hood.  All these loops are made a little differently from the circles on the jacket.  When I first read about the construction, I thought it would be fussy and a little bit annoying to make, but it actually turned out to be easier (for me) than those circles.  Essentially the rings are just yarn-wrapped I-cords.  Something I might have to remember for the future!

20080126_ZosiaWearingCircle.jpgBut what truly makes this jacket super cute is the little girl who is going to get to wear it this spring.  It is a tad big for her right now (which is what I was striving for  -- I didn't line it, so it will fit well over another layering piece), but it looks so soft and comfy, I almost want to knit an adult sized one for myself.  And I just love seeing her smiling little face surrounded by that hood.  It makes all that embellishing time completely worthwhile.

For anyone thinking about making this garment (the Circles Stroller Jacket from Itty Bitty Nursery), it is lovely and easy and a chance to let your creative side roam as much as you want it to.  It would make a lovely special baby gift  for a friend who appreciates hand knits, and it really doesn't take all that much time even with all the embellishing.  The Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton is a treat to knit with and soft as silk against baby skin without all the special handling needs (I still wouldn't put this garment through an aggressive machine wash cycle, but I'm thinking it would do just fine on the delicate cycle in both the washer and dryer). 

However, I did find a couple of minor errors in the pattern (probably just due to the fact that I have an early edition of the book and there's no errata that I could find posted yet), so you will want to read through carefully before starting to make sure that everything makes sense to you before you get started.    None of the errors are terribly serious, but they could be irritating if you're in a hurry.

I didn't make too many changes to the construction.  However, I handled the hood edging differently than the pattern stated.  I worked the edging as I knitted up the hood rather than knitting the edging and attaching it to the hood later.  I hate seaming and I thought that it would just add bulk in a place that didn't need any extra bulk. 

All White, Baby

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Today marks the end of my first full work week since I went on bed rest at the beginning of July. Part of me had been dreaming of the day where I could be back with adults and wouldn't have to hear a baby cry every time I needed to take a phone call or send out an important email. Another part of me was terribly sad at the thought of not being able to spend the day with her. Worried that maybe she'd get more attached to her grandmother (who is watching her three days a week -- we're still working out how to deal with that last day) that to me once I wasn't around quite as much, and hating the idea of having to use my pump so much. Breastfeeding is a mixed bag, emotionally, for me, nursing her directly always beats pumping, especially now that she's getting faster and her nursing style rarely causes me any pain.

After working three days, I had Thursday to think about everything. I decided to ignore my work email, turn off my cell phone and just have a nice day with my baby. I will say one thing about being back in the office. I like being a mom much better when I can separate the work part of my life from the mothering part. I do a better job of work when I don't have to worry about whether Z is unhappy and I do a better job of being with Z when I don't have to worry about work. I'm definitely not at home with her as much, but she gets to spend the day with someone who wants to and can devote all of their attention to her, and when I am home, I can focus on her.

This was also a big week since she started solid foods (just a bit of rice cereal) and has really begun to interact with her environment. She actively grabs toys when she's on her gym, she's begun to chew a bit on teether toys, and she's constantly in motion, rolling to one side or the other from her back to get a different perspective on the world or get her hands on something that interests her. And she has an incredible vocabulary of noises now, including this funny puttering sound she now makes with her lips. She's generally much less fussy and spends a lot of time with big smiles. Her favorite parent-assisted activities involve sitting up and trying to stand. She loves to be upright, even though she can't do all the muscle work herself.

She's also gotten to enjoy some new hand made, very special items recently. The Sunday after Thanksgiving was her christening. My mom made her a beautiful gown (note: my inability to get it to sit right on the hanger and the fact that this is long after the dress was worn should in no way reflect mom's sewing skills; the dress is beautiful and sweet and the collar sat perfectly for the ceremony):

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And my Aunt Mary crocheted her a sweet little white sweater to wear with the gown -- November in Michigan is chilly after all!

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What could be sweeter than the little heart details and the ribbons at the collar and cuffs? Well, maybe one thing:

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My own baby angel after her christening. She was so sweet for the whole day (except for when she had the water dumped on her head). My Aunt Mary took the picture and I just love how it looks like her eyes are sparkling. I thought the picture captured her so well and it was probably the best one taken the whole day.

Roll Over, Baby

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It's milestone time for Ms. Z again, who hits 4 months on Saturday.  On Monday afternoon, after her nap, John found her on her back.  Which wouldn't be unusual, except for the fact that he put her down for her nap on her tummy -- her favorite sleeping position (yes, we know about the SIDS/tummy sleeping connection... no one needs to remind me about the "back to sleep stuff" -- she's been sleeping this way since she was 8 weeks old and it's just what makes her happy).  For most of the rest of this week, of course, we've been putting her on her tummy every now and again to see if she will do it for us.  I've seen her do it once (it's a lot of work for her!), John has only seen evidence of the behavior after the fact.  Sneaky kid! 

She's also started reaching out and grabbing things that interest her and drooling up a storm.  And suddenly, those elusive afternoon naps are back again.  And she's started "talking" -- all sorts of noises at all volume levels.  It's a real hoot to watch her tell her dad about her day after he comes home from work.  You would think she was having a real conversation with him. 

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Preparing for a Roll


It's been a very good baby week.  We're all sleeping well and she's been a real peach to hang out with.  She's even getting better at dealing with car trips.  It's hard for me to complain about that.

With the return of the afternoon nap, I'm not only getting some work work done, but I've also been able to sneak some knitting in here and there when I'm not working on getting my blog back in shape (a major time sink if ever there was one!)  I'm getting close to the finish line on my Diamond Fantasy Scarf (but there's only so many times I can show you the same crumpled looking piece of lace) and all Z's nursing time is definitely helping me make some progress on John's Stained Glass Scarf (although I am still not even close to the halfway point yet).  Since my knitting time is still pretty limited, I'm trying to rein in my startitis and am forcing myself to finish things before I start new stuff -- although I do have a few new things that I am just dying to get started on.

Swatching and Rolling

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With a little help from my favorite 16 week old baby, I actually accomplished a little knitting project this week:

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A Pair of Squares

The swatch on the left is made out of the Tess Designer Yarns Sock Yarn in the Confetti colorway.  The swatch on the right is made out of Opal Sock Yarn from the Southwestern color series.  I found the pattern stitch for the Tess Yarn swatch in a Japanese stitch dictionary that I purchased a little while back and I like it quite a bit.  It is very easy to memorize and very easy to work even when nursing a squirmy small person.  It may have to find it's way into a pair of winter socks.  I think it would be the perfect in a toe up design! 

The swatches don't look quite square... they are pretty close.  The Tess Yarn swatch needs to be stretched a bit, the Opal swatch needs a little compression. I'm hoping that Michaela won't mind working with them.  Hopefully they will make it into the post on Monday or Tuesday. 

And because no Friday would be complete without an appearance by Z:

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Z Wearing A Very Special Hat

Here's Ms. Z getting ready to go for a walk last weekend.  It was a bit chilly so we got to dress her up in some knitwear.  This hat has got some more outdoor time since then.  It's the perfect size for her and it is absolutely adorable.  Which fits so well with her right now.  She's started making a lot of sweet little vocalizations -- sometimes it almost sounds like she's trying to copy what we say to her. 

We're rolling off to Ann Arbor to see Grandma and Grandpa this weekend.  It's a guarantee that that hat is going to come with us!

P.S.  The comments should actually really work now!  And, of course, I've learned a few more things about MT4.  Now maybe I'll be able to start bringing some of my own look and feel back.

It Was A Week, Baby

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You know, every time you turn around, your kid is getting into something. Hitting a new milestone. I'm not sure what milestone "sneaking onto Mommy's blog" qualifies for, but clearly I will have to keep a close eye on her to see if she does it again. And make sure I don't get any unexpected orders from Babies R' Us.

Both Z and I would like to say thank you for all your good wishes for my dad. His recovery was absolutely incredible. His surgery was early Thursday morning, on Monday afternoon, he wrote this email message:

Well it has been an an exciting week for me. I was riding my pedal bike on Monday of last week and I became dizzy so I got off my bike and promptly passed out. An half hour later I was in St Joe's cardiac ward. On Thursday morning I had a double by pass and had my aortic valve replaced and one of the good spin offs is I no longer have high blood pressure. And today I'm sitting in my chair at home with all my loved ones and pets. What a wonderful world it is.

My dad is always an inspiration to me for his outlook. He can go through unexpected cardiac surgery and still come home and be happy about the amazing technology that made it happen and the people and important things in his life.

Which is part of what helped get me through this week. In spite of a whole bunch of stress from work and baby-related issues that I won't go into (mostly because I've gone into them before and because they are pretty much the same issues all moms who try to juggle work and a newborn and their own needs run into), I have come to the end of the week realizing that I have a pretty good deal. A smiling baby who reminds me (even as she refuses once again to take daytime naps -- I suspect more developmental milestones are soon to be reached) that the job stuff is just job stuff and I can only do what I can do. A husband who listens when I talk about all the things that are making me crazy and takes on some extra baby time so that I can get enough things done to feel like I am not failing on all fronts. And my Dad, who, after an incredibly scary surgery, can come home from the hospital and see the good things all around him.

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This Smile's For You, Grandpa!

I love you Dad. Even when things are not exactly as we'd like them to be, it is, indeed, a wonderful world.

Smiles for Grandpa

| 57 Comments

Dear Friends of Mommy --

We are in Ann Arbor right now because Mommy and Daddy say that Grandpa had to have something called "surgery" to fix his heart. Mommy was very worried yesterday about Grandpa, but she is better now since she got to talk to Grandpa after it was all done. Grandpa is in a special room right now with his own special nurse. The nurse told us that Grandpa was very strong and was doing very well. Mommy told me that my job was to smile at Grandpa and make him feel better, but they won't let me see Grandpa until he's not in that special room anymore. Mommy has me all dressed up in a special outfit today just because she hopes that Grandpa will get to leave that special room today.

Since I can't go in and see him yet, and I am supposed to make him smile, I told Mommy that she needed to take some pictures of me smiling so that Grandpa could have me with him all the time. Here I am this morning in my PJ's looking extra cute.

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I Am Cute Even When I Am Not Entirely in the Frame

Mommy says I have a very special Grandpa and that he does some things with yarn (I know about yarn because Mommy has a lot of it in my closet still) and that this blog is sort of about yarn. If anyone out there wanted to smile along with me, I know Grandpa would like it.

Z

Baby in A Cashmere Hat

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Z is not a baby who forgets to say thank you for special gifts. And this week she received a very special gift from a very special friend.

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The very lovely hat that Z is wearing is made out of cashmere, hand dyed by Posh yarns.

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But even nicer, it was hand knit by Emma, my blog neighbor and fibery trading partner extraordinaire.

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It arrived this week, along with those two sweet softies, and came as a complete surprise. Z, of course, had to try it on. The hat is still a little big, Z and her mom think it will be perfect for when it really starts to get chilly.

Thank you so much, Emma! Z and I are both touched deeply by your beautiful, sweet and thoughtful gift! And we especially like the softie with the crinkly ears. Z just loves the sounds it makes -- and I like the fact that she has some nice handmade toys that don't have an iota of plastic anywhere!

Friday Baby Eye Candy

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Thanks to all the helpful comments from Wednesday, I finally figured out how to do a little knitting while I was nursing and May's collar is finished. Since a third picture of garter stitch collar pieces would more than even I could bear to see on my blog, I decided to opt for the cute baby picture route.

Before I get there though, I thought I'd comment a little bit about nursing.

While I was pregnant with Z, I was pretty sure I wanted to breastfeed her. I'm not a "lactivist" by any stretch of the imagination, but I am an immunologist and I know that breast milk has a lot of immunological value to newborn babies. I didn't figure it could be all that hard to breast feed a baby, after all, all of us that have 2 X chromosomes come with the same basic equipment.

Initially, I was surprised at how uncomfortable it was. It took me a while for me and Z to get a rhythm and for my anatomy to get used to doing something it had never done before. Early on, babies don't have much head control, so when you nurse, you pretty much have to support them the entire time. Even a nursing pillow can't do the whole job for you. So it can be challenging to get into a good position. And bad positioning means arm pain, back pain, etc.

But after a while, Z and I seemed to get things co-ordinated right and the discomfort mostly disappeared. I still have to deal with days that she clamps on like a pair of pliers and then proceeds to gnaw on my breast, but in general, she's gotten less aggressive. I suspect that I have also developed less sensitivity. A win win situation for me and for her.

After the physical issues subsided a bit, some of the mental issues started to become more prominent. On one hand, nursing is the ultimate act of nourishing and caring for your baby. On the other hand, you can end up feeling like you are just your baby's milk tank. I never really anticipated the stress that I would feel because I needed to feed a baby every three hours and feeding her took about 45 minutes. Or the stress of being worried that when she got hungry I might not be around to meet her needs. Its wonderful and awful to be the sole source of nutrition for my child. And on different days I swing towards one side or the other.

Which is where the knitting comes in.

When we first get up in the morning, Z gets almost my whole attention when we nurse. It's a special time in the morning. She's happy and I'm sleepy and I feel like I can just stare at her for hours. Endorphins, perhaps? Good Mommy hormones? But as the day progresses, and I'm on my 5th or 6th hour of nursing for the day, I start to feel like I'm not getting any time for me, and I feel like she's more of a burden than a joy. Yes, I know that motherhood is all about sacrifices, but it's also about balance. I want Z and I to have meaningful time together. I also want to feel like I am still a person in my own right and not just a food supply. So the compromise is that nursing time is for her to eat and for me to try to indulge in something that I might not get to do otherwise. I've gotten caught up on some of my pleasure reading, I make the occasional phone call and now I can make some stitches happen on a knitting project. And Z gets a much happier Mom -- someone who doesn't mind nursing quite as much and feels better about it because nursing means enjoying a baby and also getting a little time for myself.

The experience of nursing has made me realize why the statistics are so bad for breastfeeding in this country past the first month or so. Breastfeeding is hard work and almost no one prepares you for what it's really all about. I'm so glad I'm giving Z this kind of start, and I wouldn't want it any other way, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about giving it all up every now and again so that I could have some of my old freedom back.

But just about the time I start to think that way, Z treats me to something like this:

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Baby Smiles

And I realize that that happy healthy baby in front of me is happy and healthy because of what I'm doing. It doesn't take the hard stuff away, but it definitely makes it more worthwhile and rewarding.

Sleep, Baby, Sleep

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When you have a baby, there are a lot of moments to cherish. When you are a mom working at home and caring for a baby, during the day, there are some moments you cherish a little more than others:

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Snoozin' with Dad
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Thumbs Up for Sleep
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Mommy and Daddy's Bed is a Good Place for a Nap
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Only Rarely Will I Sleep In Mom's Arms

A sleeping baby is always a wonderful thing. She always looks so beautiful and tranquil when she sleeps. John and I will often just stop and enjoy looking at her when she is taking a nap. Her calm makes us a little calmer. It's in those moments when, even when it's been a harrowing day, I feel like I've done something right. If this tiny baby can sleep so peacefully in my house, all must be well with the most important part of the world.

Z will sleep in many positions (tummy is her favorite) and at all times of the day except the evening. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture of my personal favorite nap. It's too dark between 12:30 AM and 7 AM to take a good photo... and besides, I'm sleeping.

Yep, about a week and a half ago (literally on the night of her "8 week birthday"), John and I woke up in the morning after putting her down and it was light out. At first, of course, we both got up worried that something had happened to her. But she was alive and happy. The night before, John had put her down to sleep on her tummy for the night for the very first time, figuring she'd be waking us up for her usual 3-4 AM feeding. We figured it must just be a fluke (she's tricky like that... we've had a few times where she did it and then was back to the usual schedule the next night), but a week and a half later (knock on wood), she's still doing it. Not only that, but her daytime nap routine has become very stable. And, even better, when she is awake now, we've got much less fussiness to deal with (it's not gone, but it's more like 30 minutes of continuous unhappiness instead of 2 hours and it can be diminished if she's entertained properly) and much more happy smiley interactive baby to enjoy.

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We All Smile When Z Sleeps Through the Night

Clearly, space aliens have come to our house replaced our original baby with a new version. Or, at least, the transition was so abrupt, that that's what it seems like. We keep living under the assumption that they will come back and bring us the first baby, and that every day with this new baby is a blessing and not something we're entitled to*. Not getting up in the middle of the night has made me feel like a whole new person**. And the need to drain the feeding apparati after 6 hours of accumulation adds a special level of extra pleasure to nursing her in the morning (my favorite nursing session of the day). We'd love for her to actually sleep sometime between 4 and midnight, but if being awake for 6 to 8 hours guarantees us an almost equal amount of night sleeping and she's mostly pleasant, I, for one am completely willing to make the trade.

A pleasant, happy sleep-filled weekend to everyone!

* While we would love to take credit for this wonderful sleep transition, I don't think we actually did anything that made a difference, it was probably just good luck and the right timing for her. We have established a bed time ritual -- a bath, a change into her footie pajamas and nursing -- which I think helps her get ready for bed. But I don't think it has an impact on the length of time she sleeps.

**Strangely enough, I have developed the ability to wake up in the morning at hours that would have been incredibly early for me before (i.e. between 6 and 7:30 AM) and feel pretty good about it. I'm sort of baffled by this, and wonder if those mommy hormones have something to do with it.

Late Night Thoughts About A Baby

| 51 Comments

I'm definitely to that point where the consistent lack of regular sleep is beginning to take its toll on me. Last night Ms. Z decided that she didn't want to go back to sleep after her 3 AM feeding. I walked with her, I swaddled her, I rocked her, I put her down in her crib when she quieted down. She broke her swaddle (which is pretty much the kiss of death for her being asleep) and it was time to repeat the effort. Of course, at this point, she is wide awake and kind of fussy. I start walking up and down our upstairs hallway again hoping that she will calm down, wondering if I will get to go to sleep again when she lets out a couple of screeches that do exactly what I was hoping to avoid: wake up her father.

For the first time ever, John and I decide that maybe we will take her to our bed for a while and see if she calms down. We're pretty much opposed to the co-sleeping idea,* but we'd both like to get some more sleep, and sometimes, after her morning feeding, this strategy works well for settling her and getting her to nap.

No dice. It's now about 5 AM. And all she treats us to is wet sheets when her diaper leaks. John, exceptional daddy that he is, gets up to change her and then, unbeknownst to me because I doze off, tries to do some of the same things that I did to get her to go to sleep. When I wake up around 8, its because she's been through a second diaper change and is ready for breakfast. She's slept almost not at all since 5 AM.

At moments like this, I love my baby, but I don't like her so much. And I wonder why she's changing her schedule again. Why, just when we think we had gotten her to the point where we could get two 4 hour stretches at night, that she goes and decides that she doesn't like that arrangement. And then, of course, I get that great mommy guilt that wells up any time I start to feel annoyed with her. How can I get irritated at a small person who is just learning how to co-ordinate her muscles, who is taking in the world in a way that I can't even fathom? It pretty much sucks to get up in the morning and be tired and feel guilty.

So right now I'm struggling to put some things in perspective. Something made difficult due to the fact that while she was wonderful the day before, yesterday afternoon she decided to be fussy from early afternoon until about 7 -- I couldn't put her down, couldn't sit down, or the unhappiness began. Evolution has given babies a cry that is geared towards making sure that adult humans cannot ignore it. And the Z baby certainly takes advantage of that.

Right now I keep trying to remind myself that she's supposed to grow out of this sort of thing... I tell you... right now things are going by faster than I can imagine, but sometimes the days trickle by so slowly it seems like some kind of relativistic event is slowing down time in my locality.

It's a good thing she's hit another milestone...

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Z Smiles

It can't be a coincidence that babies start to smile right around the time that they are supposed to be at the height of fussy behavior. It is hard to look at that happy little face and be upset or frustrated with her for too long.

*John and I feel strongly that our bed is our place... she can be invited into it every now and again, but we don't want it to become a regular thing. I know that co-sleeping is one of those hot-button issues that people feel very strongly about. I have no problem with people co-sleeping with their kids... but it isn't something that works for us.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my wonderful Mom! Have a good time in Mackinac City this weekend for me, Mom! I wish we could be there with you.

Dance Dance Revolution, Baby

| 47 Comments

And you thought that you could only play those dancing games with a game console and a dance pad. Au contraire says my Z Baby. Come 5 to 7 pm every day now*, she has come up with an alternate way to play -- Dance, Dance Revolution Baby Style.

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Zosia Postulates

First of all, Mommy, get some comfy dancing clothes. Nothing too warm, since we're going to get sweaty. After that, it's time to strap on the Baby Bjorn** and put me in it. OK! Now I'm ready. Next, load up iTunes and queue up some music. You know how I love that Erasure greatest hits album***. Now it's time to dance, Mommy. Dance, Mommy, Dance! Here's how I'm going to let you know if you're getting the steps right.

If you're failing to hit those beats on the current tune, be prepared to see this:

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If you're getting most of it right, but not quite hitting those beats like you should, I'll let you know by giving you this look:

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If you're doing really well, hitting most of those beats, I'll give you this sign:

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And if you really nail those beats, the game ends and you get the big prize:

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Zosia says that Daddies are ideal for this part, but not absolutely necessary

Ready, Mommy? Let's go! 1...2...3... Dance!

* It's the subject of some debate as to whether Ms. Z is colicky or not. My mother in law thinks she is (based on two babysitting sessions that happen to occur during her regular fussy phase). I think she just has a more active phase of the day (some days she will go with almost no sleep between 5 and midnight -- although this behavior is not consistent... some days she sleeps on a very regular schedule) and that she gets bored and/or over-tired and then starts to fuss, as her crying can be ameliorated by walking around with her. I will admit that she definitely has her moments -- Z is not one of those completely peaceful babies who spends all her waking time cooing happily -- but she doesn't cry for three hours straight for no reason, either. Maybe I just don't want to give her a label that suggests "problem baby" so that I (and others) won't start to think about her that way. I like to think she's just a very interactive baby with a way too active brain that needs constant stimulation, but that can't quite handle all the stimulation that it wants.

** The Baby Bjorn is a gift from the gods right now. It is the Z baby's favorite mode of conveyance and one of the only ways to calm her when she hits her fussy period.

*** You can all laugh, but whenever John and I turn on the 80's dance music, this kid stops what she's doing and pays attention. They say babies' musical tastes are influenced by what they heard while they were in the womb... poor Zosia. All that blast from the past music her mother likes is going to be stuck with her forever. At least I got some Scissor Sisters in there to balance it out.

My Baby is A Death-Defying Rebel

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Since my baby is probably my biggist DIY project ever, and since taking care of her is such a big part of my life now, I've decided that once a week or so I'll probably have a post devoted to her and what is going on, what I'm thinking about or reading or observing. I'll try to make these posts obvious so that anyone who doesn't want to hear about babies doesn't have to stick around to find out there's no knitting or crafting involved.

I always figured I'd have a baby who challenged me. I just didn't think she'd be a pediatric rebel so soon.

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Z Likes to Sleep on Her Tummy

Yesirree Bob, Z's favorite nap time position is on her tummy -- something that the pediatric medical community, the March of Dimes and just about every other organization that has anything to do with babies is rather opposed to given studies of SIDS that indicate babies who aren't on their backs have a higher risk of SIDS. But when you let Z sleep on her tummy, she goes to sleep better on her own, she doesn't need to be all swaddled up and it seems like she sleeps better. Apparently my baby has not been reading all the reports -- or she's been reading them and has already decided she needs to rebel against the confines of societal dictates.

And you know what? I'm not entirely discouraging her.

Before I get labeled as a terrible Mom, let me put a few things out on the table. 1) When we put her down in her crib for her night time snoozes, we do put her on her back. 2) When she's tummy sleeping, there's almost always someone with her and she's on a firm surface. 3) We started letting her do this because we spent some time watching her while she was fussy and having a hard time getting to sleep when we knew she needed to get to sleep -- when we held her against our chests or let her roll onto her tummy (which, amazingly, she can almost do on her own and she is always trying to do) she calmed down and was easier to soothe.

If I'm learning anything about being a mom, it's that it's usually worth paying attention to advice (especially when it comes to the health of the child), but that sometimes I have to take a look at my child individually and see if there are extenuating circumstances. I think this is some of the hardest stuff I have had to do with her so far. Like most folks, when people I respect make recommendations, I want to follow them. In fact, I'm really hard wired into following rules (if we were playing D&D I would definitely be in the "lawful" part of the alignment spectrum) and it's often very difficult for me to think outside the rule-based box (y'all should have seen me agonizing over the "right" time to introduce a bottle so that I wouldn't disturb her breastfeeding instincts). But while babies follow developmental trends, they don't follow rules. They don't know that there are rules. They just know what they like. And my baby likes her tummy time -- whether she is cuddled up on someone's chest or enjoying her Gymini or hanging out with her parents on our futon in the computer room.

Along the way, I have also discovered another rule: Happy, well rested baby = Happy parents.
So I'm breaking one rule in favor of honoring another. I think I'm making the right decision for Z and for my mental health!

P.S. Yes, I also know about the recommendations against loose blankets for infants. Once again, it helps her sleep and I was in the room all the time she was sleeping under it.

Just a Little Stash Enhancement

| 15 Comments

We had a good adventure into Michigan for the Michigan Fiber Festival on Saturday. Zosia slept all the way there (and most of the way back), Mom got to do a little shopping, Dad got to catch a short nap, and Grandma and Grandpa got some high quality baby time. In fact, I didn't have the baby much at all except to nurse her. Zosia spent a lot of time in her Baby Bjorn with one of her grandparents while we strolled through the festival.

Which gave me the chance to take a look at the goods to be had. I was pretty reserved this festival. Really, I don't need any more yarn right now (at least not until I finish something I'm already working on) and I really don't need much fiber at the moment either. But I always get drawn into Tracy Bunkers booth. I guess last time I saw her, I must not have been spinning, because I didn't remember the spinning fiber. So I made up for that with a few spinning stash additions.

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The Michigan Fiber Festival Haul

Both of the bits of fiber I got are dyed in her Limeola colorway. The bundle on the left is a Silk/Merino/Alpaca blend and the roving on the right is superwash merino. I think both are destined to be two ply yarns. The Silk/Merino/Alpaca I'm going to attempt to get into the lace/sport weight range, the superwash merino is going to be, you guessed it, sock yarn. The whole green thing is out of my usual range of color selections -- perhaps my eye is being influenced by someone I know who has a passion for greens in this range?

Speaking of Alpaca, alpaca seems to be the new black these days. Almost every booth I went into seemed to have a good deal of alpaca or alpaca blend fibers and yarns. Alpaca is not generally my thing, as fiber goes, (not enough elasticity for me, and I find it to be a little hairy) so while I admired a lot of things, not very much ended up in my shopping basket.

Two other things that I was happy to find were Addi Turbo lace needles and Cat Bordi's new sock book. I always like to see creative new approaches to sock knitting and New Pathways for Sock Knitters looks like the kind of book that helps get the creative juices flowing. I've only been able to go through it at a cursory level, but her illustrations are lovely, and there are a number of sock projects I can see myself tackling. And I love how she demonstrates most of the sock designs and techniques on small sized socks -- given the new addition to my world, I think it would be kind of fun to try out a new technique and add to Ms. Z's wardrobe at the same time.

And speaking of Ms. Z... I didn't get too many pictures of her because she was busy entertaining her grandparents (and doing a lot of sleeping). But I did get one picture that I really loved.

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Z and Grandpa

Of course, you can't tell in this picture, but my Dad and Z are sitting on top of my parents' Gold Wing Trike (a Gold Wing where the rear axle has two wheels instead of just one) -- so Z has now officially been on her first motorcycle!

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