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His Game: His Rules

My son, Twin A, is the kind of kid who is fascinated with how things work.  Maybe he gets his methodical nature from his mother.  I remember in school being pleased to learn about analogies, proverbs, and logic puzzles.

Maybe it’s a phase for him, but it’s been going on for a long while, in kid time.  One manifestation is enjoyment of hearing books about how things work, like nutrition, health, physics for kids, etc.

Another manifestation is learning about, and inventing, rules for games.  He can make balloon volleyball into a very complex sport with rituals for before and after hitting the balloon, what you have to do if the balloon touches the ground, what you have to say and when, who has to stand on one foot, etc.

It is humorous for the fans but wearying for his teammates and opponents.

Last year our family was often victim to a game called “Super Suits.”  Usually Twin A would serve as both the Game Administrator and a Contestant, enacting rules as the game progressed.  The other Contestants would be Twin B and a long-suffering parent.

The premise of Super Suits is that the players are superheroes who will battle–if only the Set-up can ever be completed so the game can commence.  The game starts, methodically, with choosing a color of suit, then claiming superpowers and abilities, then selecting weapons and defensive features.  Certain superpowers will be disallowed by the Game Administrator.   (No, you cannot have both the power of water and the power of magnetism, etc.  No, you can’t make time pass faster to skip to the end of Super Suits).

By the time three people have selected suits, offensive powers, defensive powers, and other accessories such as time machines and jet packs, things begin to get confusing.  People think they have powers they never picked, or maybe they remember powers they had last time.  When the game starts, someone may erupt a volcano and someone else may claim they have the power to float on lava when they didn’t say anything about it during Set-up.  A son may flood the earth and mom may try to evaporate all the water with her power of blinding light and the Administrator will say that that would not actually work.

Just when you think the game is over, people come back from being killed and the Game Administrator refuses to disallow it.  Perhaps the Administrator will even come back from being killed.  Mom is a good sport to a certain point but she felt Game Ending Defeat when the Administrator said that people can come back from being killed 10 times per round and the game consists of 10 rounds.  AFTER spending 25 minutes choosing suits and powers.

Gradually Super Suits went away.  People refused to commit to a game that took so long to play.  My son outgrew it.  The boys got Minecraft.  We let down our guard…

 

Last week, my son invented a new game, it was called “His Game:  His Rules.”  He kept asking to play it.  I kept putting him off.

One afternoon I felt bad about it and said “Alright, Buddy, let’s play His Game: His Rules. How does it go?”

“First we pick a color.”

“Alright, I pick orange.”

“Then we pick our weapons.”

“Is this Super Suits???!  I refuse to play Super Suits!”

“Mom, the game is called ‘His Game: His Rules.’”

Loss on a technicality.

japanese stitch mitts

Looking back through knitting photos I see that last winter I was on a mitts knitting kick.  These fingerless mitts/wrist warmers may appear silly, vain, or insubstantial, but they work well for people who work in offices or like to use smart-screen devices, which is most of us. Besides, they don’t take much yarn and are a lot of fun to make.

The photos I am showing you today are from mitts were constructed using the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible:  260 Exquisite Patterns by Hitomi Shida.  Where the title reads “exquisite patterns,” boy does it ever mean it.  These patterns are all beautiful.  Many feature novel (to me) stitch construction that allows patterns to appear perfectly symmetrical.  If my local library, half a mile away from my house, did not take up valuable shelving space with 4 copies of this book I would be tempted to purchase it for myself.  As it is, there aren’t enough knitters in the county to keep it on the wait list, so I can knit all the mitts I want. The book shows how to knit the mitts using one of the charts (Hint, if you turn the page that the pattern is printed on you will see it charted out on the back.  I figured it out by myself before I saw that it was a two page pattern).  You can sub other stitch patterns into the mitt pattern scheme.

Ichi (1)

The first pair I knit for myself.  It was a stash-busting exercise.  I had fingering weight yarn (Knitpicks palette) that I wanted to use for something and I don’t like fingering weight that much so I held it doubled for sport weight.  It worked well enough.  I didn’t have enough of any color to knit both mitts the same but I had these very similar shades of blue left from a hat I made a few years ago.  IMG_20181116_110340278

My first impression was that they are a little thick and ungraceful and I didn’t know if anyone else would appreciate slightly unmatched mitts, so I kept them for myself.  I have been extremely pleased with them.  The yarn has pilled slightly with use but I just pick off the pills and discard them when I’m bored.  The pattern provides a lot of elasticity, functioning like glorified ribbing.  And if its not too proud to say, they are glorious.  One is a little smaller.  I knit most of it on a stressful car trip where I had to listen to a lot of screaming from Twin B in the backseat (He was stressed out by having to return home from grammies after a holiday.  I was stressed out by listening to the screaming) and for some reason stressed knitting = tight knitting.  I can’t tell when I wear them.

Ni (2)

Christmas gift for sister-in-law.  I picked this sporty-looking pattern for the athletic woman in our lives.  It came together pretty easily and was more repetitive than the first one.  I thought of an adjustment to improve the thumb but I didn’t keep any pictures of it from the palm side.  (The palm side is plain stockinette on all these mitts.) The yarn I used was Cascade Yarns Anchor Bay.  It’s a dk weight wool-cotton blend that is supposed to be machine washable.  I enjoy working with it because it is not splitty, has a rounded shape, many strands plied together, looks slightly tweedy but not too much for showing texture, and it is very soft.  Look how it shines in the sun!  But a gift recipient once told me it fuzzed badly.  Hopefully the mitts held up.  I didn’t know when I made them that fuzzing would be an issue.IMG_20181116_110400974

San (3)

I made these because I had barely enough of the Anchor Bay left to make another set of mittens.  I thought I should resign myself to a smaller set.  And there was a really short, thin, chilly-natured woman who taught first grade at my church.  She REALLY saved my bacon by accommodating my immature 6 year old twin boys.  The new class she started (largely for them) saved me from being embarrassed by them weekly in the combined first and second grade class they had been in.  Did I mention my kids loved her and she took an interest in them that facilitated one of them singing a solo in the spring choir concert?  Perfect recipient for the last set of Japanese stitch mitts.

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You can see these are being modeled by my son.  They would never fit me, but like I said, she is short and thin.  They turned out fabulous, and she said she liked them.  Zero Cascade Anchor Bay was wasted in the fabrication of the mitts and nothing was left to go in the stash!

I’m really behind on blog posts.  Maybe I will do better the rest of the year 🙂

 

Little Red Hen

Today I baked the bread…And chopped the wood.

Spring Roses, Pests and Beneficials

A post I started writing in the spring.  It was a busy summer, dear readers.  I don’t know where the time went!  But finally finishing it.

Oh no!  Not aphids again.  Seeing those sorry sap suckers clumping all over the stem of that lovely rose bud makes me sick!  I have my work cut out for me squashing all these, good thing it’s a beautiful spring day!

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There are so many… Dozens of aphids on every bloom.  Is this a lost cause?  Maybe I should give up.

 

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Well that’s better, an ally in my aphid battle.  Ladybugs love aphids, with a what’s-for- dinner kind of love.  but what can one do against so many?

A task to big for one little lady bug maybe.  But not for a family.  Do you see them there in the middle?  Looks like the odds are about to change.

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Lady bugs do enjoy a delectable aphid feast.  Check out this video a ladybug noshing on aphid appetizers and entrees.  The aphids truly are ewwy gooie, as I know from my attempts at extermination by squishing.  And oddly, they have no sense of self preservation and do not even attempt to escape.

The adult ladybugs eat quite a few aphids while the larvae, those little bugs in your garden that look like miniature alligators, may eat even more.

This was my favorite video I found while looking up ladybug facts.

National Geographic  and University of Kentucky state that one ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime.

My garden is your garden, Lady Bugs!

Compassion

The boys recently had a lesson at church where they learned compassion is feeling real concern for other people and helping them. See figure 1.

Figure 1.

It’s the illustration that makes me laugh. See figure 2.

Figure 2.

Grey Poupon

My sons are very different.  One of the boys, Twin A, has a healthy sense of germ avoidance, and a desire for a high level of courtesy toward both others and himself.  He remembers, on his own, to wash his hands.  I’m not saying he doesn’t play outside sometimes, he just generally strives for good hygiene and civility.

Little Boy B likes to dig holes, play in water with dirt, wear his outdoor coat to the dinner table and wipe his mouth on his sleeves.  He isn’t in the least bothered by croc foot* and would even go to bed like that.  He only takes a shower when we insist.  He is tough and outdoorsy.  He is also prone to impassioned outbursts when he is faced with trials and disappointments….  I’m thinking of yesterday evening at dinner when we told him he had put too much salt on his meal already and couldn’t have anymore.

Much later that night I had an interaction with Twin A that went something like “Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but I have a serious injury and I require a band-aid.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?”

“But I’m in too much pain to go to sleep.  Can I please have a band-aid?”

“OK, go get your band-aid…”  and so on.

After my son headed back to his own room, I remarked to my spouse that it was nice he was so polite even though he was getting out of bed after his bedtime.

My husband said “Yes, he’s like you.  He likes to be proper and use good manners.”  This is true about me.  Good boundaries make me feel good and polite communication is something I like.  I was glowing with my compliment.  Then my husband said [insert stuffy and British accent] “Pardon me, but could you please pass the Grey Poupon?”

I was surprised by his perspective on this subject and perplexed that my son’s and my good manners were not duly appreciated.  Then, I recalled our shared suffering at dinner during the Great Salt Conflict.  I said [insert best imitation of a shrieking 7-year-old] “I need more Grey Poupon!  I won’t eat my dinner without it!  Give it to me right now!”

We both had a needed laugh.  And manners are good.

*Croc foot:  unappealing condition characterized by a gummy build-up on one’s toes from wearing foam resin footwear summer and winter, through sand, dirt, and water.

 

My Inventor

My son is an aspiring inventor.  It’s been weeks now where half the things he says follow the phrase “I’m going to invent…” Many of his ideas are inspired by a need or event around the house.  When we had company visiting…

“I’m going to event a flying bed with stabilizers and a removable propellor.”  And also

“A cushion bed that unfolds with the push of a button.”

Some things he thinks of are already in existence.*

And some of his ideas may make his mommy obsolete.**

I started recording some of his ideas:

  • An inside garden*
  • Solar powered knitting machine**
  • Solar powered blender
  • New kinds of submarines
  • Butter warmer
  • Speed shoes with rotors on the backs
  • A turkey roaster that removes the ice and stuffs it**
  • Invisibility spray that makes you invisible, even your clothes
  • Baby translator, to interpret baby’s crying.  The baby has to strap on a baby-sized helmet.  A receiver pops out of a suitcase-disguise.
  • Explodable air that comes in a paper box.  If you cut open the box it bursts.  You have three choices:  Confetti, slime, or popcorn will burst into the air.

If he starts providing too many details we ask him to draw it out.  Most drawings include robot hands and a lot of little gears and wheels.

I wonder if I will need to help him file for some patents.

 

Burying my money in the yard…

I started typing this post in the spring of 2017 and just pulled it out of the drafts folder.  I’ve added a bit and decided to publish.

In the winter of 2017 I planted three* apple trees at the request of my family.  Apple trees weren’t part of my original plan because of the required upkeep for insects or disease in a southern climate.  Spraying chemicals was low on my list.  However, Twin A, my picky son, favors apples and had started saving seeds in hopes of planting a tree.  I wanted to nurture my young Johnny Appleseed but I didn’t want to devote a lot of my precious yard to seedling test plots so I found a nursery “specializing in old southern and disease-resistant apple and pear trees.”**  It’s not too far from my home.  In fact, it’s  along the route we use to travel north for the holidays, so around Thanksgiving of 2016 we stopped in at an apple festival at Century Farm Orchards.

The weather was clear and growing colder the longer we were there.  The old farm was pretty, with views of the surrounding hill country, and you could see the dark clouds of a weather front approaching.

This was a good stop for our family because I like plants and the boys are foodies.  The boys drank many samples of apple cider (the soft stuff) and ate some apple pie.  Then they took a walk with Oso while I viewed an exhaustive planting demonstration by a professor from NCSU.

I was able to ask David C. Vernon, of Century Farms, about his recommendations for apples that can succeed with less chemical intervention.  He recommended Red Free and St. Clair, newer apple varieties that ripen early in the year.  Mr. Vernon explained that the less time the the fruit spends on the tree the less it is exposed to insect and disease pressure.  I also selected Grimes Golden, a variety originating in WV, like me.  He said this would be a good variety as well, even though it doesn’t ripen as early as the others.***

I received the bare root trees by mail at the beginning of January.  I didn’t have a good cold-but-not-freezing spot for them to wait out the impending ice storm so I decided to plant them the next day.  I came home from work a couple hours ahead of the freezing rain and went right out with my shovel.

There is something magical about planting a bare root tree.  It is dormant and looks like a dead stick when you receive it.  There will be instructions about preventing the root end from drying out too much, maybe soaking for a couple hours in a bucket of water prior to planting, etc.  The bare root plant it looks more like lawn debris than the majestic fruit tree it could become and this does not inspire confidence at first.

In fact, planting a tree requires faith, hope, and love.  Specifically, it requires you to have faith that it is alive, that it is labeled correctly, and that it will be able to survive in the environment you can provide.  It requires you to be hopeful for a harvest, or flowers, or shade, or whatever you, well, hope for.  Finally, it requires you to love it and take care of it: plant it straight, water it during its first summer, prune it to your vision for it, and eventually, if everything goes right, thin the fruit.

I take my trees out into the freezing rainy mist that is falling from the sky and dig three holes in the yard at the appointed places, and set to work planting them.  You must not bury the graft unless you want the tree to make extra roots that will not have a dwarfing effect.  So that’s the vertical dimension of leveling.  Then there are the other dimensions to consider.  I take extreme care to make sure the trunk is straight–especially the lower few inches, since I will be trimming it to knee height after planting to make sure the branches start low and keep the tree as small and manageable as possible.

Once straight I back fill with soil from the yard, grass side down because I don’t want grass coming right up around them.  I will mulch with wood chips and cardboard later to suppress weeds.  I keep checking to make sure they are straight, often crouching or lying down to line up trunks with existing structures in each direction, like the corner of our house or the neighbor’s garage.  It took me over an hour to plant these three saplings.  It was cold and freezing rain started to fall.  My fingers felt icy, and my clothes looked grubby.  What a great afternoon!

Throughout the winter, I will keep looking at the trees.  From the window, and up close.  Wondering if they are still alive.  They still look like dead sticks.  But part of the magic is that one day in the spring I will see the leaf buds starting to enlarge a little.  Slowly but surely, the tree is waking up, and if no rodents gnaw off the rootball, and by the grace of God, in a few years, apples!

The next week after all that work to establish the trunks straight, I noticed that one of the trees was sideways a little.  I interrogated my husband in case he had tripped on the little sappling or knew what happened.  Twin B, who was 5 at that time, let me know that he had loosened up the roots in the soil to help it grow better.  Sigh…  I went out and tried to realign it.

*I planted three trees because apples require a pollenizer and if something happens to one of them there will still be pollen for the other two.

**I will still have to do a bit of spraying for insects or disease, but by selecting less vulnerable trees I expect to do a care routine with less or fewer pesticides…

***The Grimes Golden has been growing for two summers and has had much more trouble with Cedar Apple Rust than the other two trees.  It has also been trying to grow larger and was the only one to bloom in 2018.  In 2019 I will treat it with something for the rust and hope to get apples if one of the other trees will flower.

The St. Clair has had the most struggles.  During its first summer a deer snacked off some of the main limbs it had developed.  It recovered but never replaced the limbs and now has only two.

A big misunderstanding

This is my son, teaching the dog to read some sight words.  He used his own sight word flash cards.  He was sure that if he could teach Harley to read and write she would be able to earn $100.

Harley was an attentive but unsuccessful student.  When he transitioned to math flash cards and began to shout “Harley!  What is 5 minus 4!”  She seemed to feel she was being scolded and slinked out of the room.  I get the same response sometimes when I do a lesson with the boys so maybe I should ask myself where he learned his teaching strategies and methods.

This is a signature that appeared beside the door of our house last week.  Yes, this is the siding of our house.  Yes, this was written with a sharpie.  Of course I asked my son if he had written his name on the side of the house.

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No, he did not blame his star student.  “This is just a big misunderstanding,”  He said.  Then he blamed his brother, who’s name is not Aaron.

Just FYI, the Magic Eraser sorta cleans sharpie off of siding, but it doesn’t do a great job.

Summer Highlights

 

This summer we have done more traveling than usual, which for us is two road trips. Both times we traveled to West Virginia, and we made a little vacation out of it.

We did some exploring of the terrain I enjoyed when I was growing up. We walked out to the overlook I used to to visit on horseback many Sundays with my grandad after he came home from church and took a nap.

 

 

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We walked down the mountain from there and the boys climbed around on some boulders in a rock climbing area. This is a highlight for them, we have been there once before and they ask to go back.

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Later they swam in my parents’ pool and took in a film with their beloved cousin.

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We took a little walk with my sister down to the creek where she lets her dog swim. Our pet, a boxer who doesn’t like water much learned a little from her golden retriever cousin, the one with the flowing auburn locks, and got right in for a swim.

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To me, this is West Virginia.  Of course the boys enjoyed mountaineering a little.

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One reason we have spent so much time in WV this summer is that Oso’s mother has been ill and he has visited her in Pennsylvania, where she has been hospitalized, a couple times. We hope for her continued recovery and that she will be finished with medical interventions soon! The boys visited her in the hospital once. Here they are gowned up for a visit with Grandma.

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