Monday, June 30, 2008

Baseball is a Cruel Mistress

All-Star season has begun. The kids have practice for 2 1/2 hours each day, twice on Saturday. They've played two games already, against Vienna, Virginia and Great Falls, Virginia. They lost the first 15-0 and the second 10-0. Not a single kid made it on base in the first game. Ouch. Poor Sr. Jr. has gone from being the star of his team -- starting pitcher, infielder, power hitter -- to being the bottom half outfielder. He hasn't pitched yet (which is a shame, because he's better than some of the kids they've got pitching). His self-confidence went from as high as I've seen it at the end of the regular season to down in the dumps. Luckily, he's not threatening never to play baseball again. Here he is right before the first game:

There was, of course, a thunderstorm in the middle of the game. We waited out the storm for over half an hour to finish the game. The park had a misting station set up because it was so hot. Jr. Jr. availed himself of the misting station before AND after the storm, when he was already soaking wet:

The coaches tell me that these other Little Leagues sometimes wriggle around some of the rules in order to make their all-star teams better. Each area's Little League has two divisions, a National League and an American League. Players are supposed to be selected by a straight draft situation, so that no team has a concentration of the better players. At the end of the season, the coaches choose the all-star players from all the teams, who then come together and practice for the all-star tournament. This is the way it works in Arlington. Sometimes random things happen, and one league is better than the other. This year, the league that Sr. Jr. is in is clearly better than the other (the other all-star team lost their game 20-0). But the other locales supposedly choose their all-star team at the beginning of the season, and put all those kids together on one team. Then, at the end of the season, that whole team is "chosen" as the all-star team. Thus, those teams have had the benefit of playing together all season long, as opposed to the week and a half that Arlington's team has been together. Arlington also has the disadvantages of being 1) a small county compared to the others; and b) split into two different leagues (LL and Babe Ruth), so the talent pool is somewhat diluted.

The last game that Sr. Jr. will be playing in will be on July 4th. I'll be glad when this is over. I think he's learned an awful lot, but I'm not sure whether it was all good, or what the long-term results will be for him.

Unfortunately, my predictions that this will be a virtually knit-free summer seem to be coming true. In all of last week, I managed to knit two (2) rounds on the Fleece Artist sock and 1 1/2 (1.5) rows on the Star of Evening shawl. Mr. T was supposed to do stuff with the kids yesterday, in part to make up for being gone a lot this week, including all day and most of the evening Saturday at a bike race, but that didn't happen.

I hear the Summer Knitter's Magazine will be out soon, and I hear it's going to be just as bad as the last one. What a waste.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Sharon!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scenes from a Summer

School's out. The kids don't have any camp scheduled until the third week in July, so right now our time is spent either at baseball practice or the pool.

Monday evening's practice started under an ominous looking sky. I decided to stick around, reasoning that if I left, as soon as I got home, the storms would start and I'd have to turn right back around. Storms did start, but the team took refuge under an overhang near the tennis courts until it blew by. The boys reviewed their signs with the coach until the lightning had passed. It started to rain again after practice resumed. More lightning... Coach kept playing... more lightning... kept playing... finally, after everyone got a quick turn at bat, Coach ended practice early, just as a beautiful double rainbow appeared.

Unfortunately, the storms that led to that rainbow also led to this:

This house is around the corner from us, near the kids' bus stop. An older couple lives there. I haven't been able to find out if they're ok. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the tree inside the house through the upstairs window. Neighbors say that the tree fell (taking out two others on its way down) after all the storms had cleared out of the area. Jr. Jr. has developed a bit of a fear of thunderstorms after all we and our friends have been through in the past month, so I avoided this area at all costs until the tree had been cleaned up.

We've been hitting the pool for a few hours every afternoon. The pool club is about 1/2 mile from our house, so we can walk or ride our bikes if we want. So many families in the area belong to the club that we're virtually guaranteed to run into a couple of friends whenever we go.

Yesterday we ran into Sr. Jr.'s friend J., who doesn't go to school with him, but was on his last baseball team. We don't see them much during the year, but see them often during the summer. Every year, the two pick up exactly where they left off, as if they'd only seen each other last week. J. will be going to the same middle school as Sr. Jr., which will be fun.

Today, in an effort to allow the older boys some more freedom and independence, J.'s mom and I allowed them to meet up by themselves at the pool. (We met up at the pool not long after to catch up ourselves, of course.)

Yesterday while the boys were playing at the pool, the loudspeaker squawked and the announcer came on and said, "Attention! It is now 3:30. It is time for all members of the Dive Team to meet out in the front parking lot to throw water balloons at each other and eat candy!"

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in 1956. Just with less knitting.

Monday, June 23, 2008

And So it Begins

Summer, that is.

Sr. Jr. had *three* 2 1/2 hour baseball practices this weekend. It's a pretty grueling schedule, but luckily the weather's been nice. In between practices there was pool time. Today is grunt work day (laundry, shopping, etc.), so the boys have been fighting over Wii, fighting over the rules of the board games they've played, fighting over who sits where and whose feet are touching whose... you get the picture.

I did manage to finish the sixth chart repeat of my Star of Evening shawl, but I haven't taken any pictures because they'd all look the same. I also started the second of my Thelonious socks. I know; I'm a fickle sock knitter. I wasn't quite willing to rip out what little I've done of the STR socks, hoping to get back to them later. The design looks nice, but it's not something I like knitting all that much. Perhaps if the yarn were more inspiring to me I'd stick with it, but with so little knitting time, I'm going to stick with things that make me happy. Thus, the Thelonious socks.

Tomorrow, Sr. Jr.'s practice is at a field at the other end of the county. It has a decent playground, so instead of driving all the way down there any back twice, I may bring along the Fleece Artist sock I started and let Jr. Jr. play through the practice. It will depend partly on the weather, of course.

A final word in memory of George Carlin, who died last night, soon after being named as this year's Mark Twain prize recipient. In many ways, Carlin represented some of the big changes of the 20th century. He went from performing in a suit with short hair to his long-haired "Seven Dirty Words" phase to his later, relatively more sedate, observational style. Along the way he smashed through a lot of taboos and paved the way for some great comedians, as well as a host of mediocre imitators who confused foul-mouthed with funny.

I've been wondering lately about the comedy circuit and the state of stand-up today. There don't seem to be as many good, stand-out comedians as there used to be. Why is that? Am I just not watching enough late night television to see them? Is it that many comedians migrate to television and movies these days? Is most of the stand-up talent being used on the "Daily Show"/Colbert juggernaut?

Really good comedians used to make waves. Some made legal precedent, like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. Remember Steve Martin back in the day? Andy Kaufman singing "Mighty Mouse"? Roseanne Barr's Domestic Goddess?

I think we need a good breakout comic right about now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Scenes from the End of School

This was from today's pizza party -- a mad crush of fifth graders with sugar rushes:

Here's Jr. Jr., having fun in the sack race at the first grade picnic:

And in his usual position, surrounded by girls (the kid's a chick magnet):

Here's the goofy grad with the other T family menfolk. Sr. Jr. was not amused to have to dress up for graduation, but he looked very handsome!

This week has been a mad crush of activity, with fun and sadness. Most of the kids had a great time with all the activities, but a local 8th grader died suddenly over the weekend. A lot of our kids have older siblings who were friends with her. This has been a really tough year for our little community.

Jr. Jr. cried when he got off the bus today because he was sad that school was ending. ("This summer's going to be so boring!" he said on the way home from the bus stop. "I'm already bored!") I'm happy that he liked school so much. His teacher was new to the school and she was absolutely fantastic. I'm sorry that we won't be able to have her again.

Sr. Jr. is very ready to move on to middle school. Our elementary school splits off into two different middle schools. Luckily for Sr. Jr., most of his friends are going to his middle school.

Of course, they'll all see each other at camps and at the pool over the summer.

I, however, am not ready to be the mother of a middle school kid.

As for knitting, I've been averaging about two rows a day on the Star of Evening Shawl. Between the school activities and the baseball practice schedule, I haven't been home much. I'll have to make some progress soon or this blog will morph from Still Life with Yarn into Tales of a Suburban Madwoman.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Alas, not a very exciting birthday. It's the kids' last full day of school, and Sr. Jr.'s first day of practice for the all-star tournament. That's him in the middle of the picture above at the game on Saturday.

My birthday vow is to knit from stash this year. And none of this "sock yarn doesn't count as stash" crap, either. I hope I can do it. (I reserve the right to spend the $50 birthday check from my MIL on yarn, however.) (This also does not count the yarn that I've special-ordered, but hasn't arrived yet, because that was ordered back around Mother's Day.) (I reserve the right to reserve some more rights, too.)

Now to the sock yarn guessing game: My husband? The man who's lived with me for 17 years and knows me better than anyone? WRONG. Sorry, dude. I wanted to knit with a yarn I hadn't knit with for a while. Ikkinlala was close. She got the right brand, just the wrong colorway. So the prize (which consists solely of being right) goes to Kippi! I picked the Fleece Artist yarn that had a little pink in it.

The last Fleece Artist I knit with was a very light blend of yellows and ivories. It's been washed in warm water a few times, which may have caused the fading. The yarn is very soft, and the colors are pretty, so I'm going to give it another chance, only washing it in cold water this time. I'm not sure what, if any, pattern I'll add to this sock, only that it will be easy enough for me to do without any sort of chart. I want this to be my portable, mindless knitting, after all.

I know this is a short post, but since it IS my last bit of free time for a while, I'm going to go knit now :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Talkative -- Knitting, Baseball, Literature

Warning -- I'm feeling verbose today.

Baseball Report

Yesterday was the Little League National vs American League intraleague All Star game. Three kids from each team were voted onto the two All Star teams by their teammates, so it was a nice honor. The game was full of Little League pomp and circumstance. The kids were announced by name, and they got to run out onto the field, grab a cool All Star hat, and line up on the baselines. The game itself wasn't too exciting, except for the storm blowing through in the middle. Officials hustled everyone into the parking garage to wait out an anticipated storm. The wind was whipping around, but there was no rain. After about 20 minutes, they called us back out to the field, at which point it started to pour. The kids managed to play one more inning in the rain until lightning shut it down. At the end of five innings, the score was tied at 3. Sr. Jr. was bummed because he was set to be the shut 'em down closing pitcher in the sixth inning.

He will also be on the interleague All Star team. This team is picked by the coaches. I'm not sure how many kids from each team make it, or if they just choose who they want. Sr. Jr. will have practice every day this week, and games start the week after. This is Serious Little League Competition here. He's very proud of himself!


I continue working on the Star of Evening shawl. Even though the rows are getting longer, they go quickly because the pattern is easy to memorize and execute. I've finished almost 4 1/2 chart repeats so far.

Once again, I'm too lazy to straighten this picture out. Sorry.

Right now, I need to have an easy sock to knit. I like to have a plain stockinette or other easy sock going for those times when I'm too tired or don't have the time or energy to focus on something like a lace shawl. Easy socks are also good for bringing along to doctor's appointments and other out-of-the-house knitting occasions. The current STR club sock is too complicated to serve, so I went trolling through the sock yarn to see what I could find.

The question for you, dear readers, is which one will I choose, and why? Here are the contenders:

A slightly closer view:

On the left is Dream in Color Baby in Gothic Rose. Pluses: it's Dream in Color yarn, which I love, and the color is gorgeous. Minuses: It's Baby, and not Smooshy. Baby is their "laceweight," although it seems heavy for laceweight. Also, it's more of a Fall/Winter color. In the middle is Duet Skinny sock yarn in "Sailor Sky." It's pros include being a nice light weight and a more summery colorway. It's con is that I just knit some socks from this yarn very recently. On the right is Schaefer's Anne in an unnamed colorway of dark greys, browns, and black. Pros: I love Anne and haven't knit with it in a while. Cons: Mohair makes for warmer knitting in hot weather, plus colorway is definitely a cold-weather choice.

Here, next to the Anne on the left, we have Fleece Artist Merino in a yellow/green/blue colorway. Pros: Springy, plus I haven't knit with Fleece Artist in a while. Cons: In my limited experience with FA, it tends to fade. Second from the right is Sundara Sock Yarn in Midnight Over Blue. Again -- gorgeous color, beautiful yarn, but I've knit with Sundara recently and it's a darker color. Finally, on the right is another skein of Fleece Artist, with less yellow and more pink and blue. Same pros and cons as the other skein of Fleece Artist.

So, what will I choose, and why? (You must be 18 years or older to participate. Persons who live in my house and have direct knowledge of my actions are forbidden from participating unless they do so before I've made my choice. Other terms and conditions may apply. No purchase necessary. Few will enter, only one will win.)

An Ode to the Short Story

I love to read. My book stash is almost as voluminous as my yarn stash, only not nearly as soft. Readers of this here blog will guess that I prefer fiction to nonfiction, and they'd be correct. But what most people don't know is that one of my favorite forms of literature is the short story. Short stories don't get nearly the same attention or readership as their more long-winded cousins, and that's a real shame. Some of the things that have affected me most deeply over the years have been short stories.

(Warning: strange simile and analysis ahead). Short stories are like soap bubbles -- small, self-contained, and delicate, with a lot of color swirling around if you look closely. Because of their brevity, short stories have to communicate a lot in very few words. Points don't get bludgeoned to death, like in some novels. The very best short stories can cut you to the heart in a single paragraph.

I cried harder at the end of Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" short story than I did at the (also beautiful) movie. Somehow, that image of a man crying over his lost lover's shirt inside a closet was more eloquently captured in a few words than in a 2 hour film.

Ms. Proulx has done it again in the latest Summer Fiction edition of the New Yorker. Again, all it took was one sentence to take my breath away.

It's not always easy to find good short stories. The New Yorker always has one in each issue. There are also a host of smaller literary magazines that print short stories, but they can be hit or miss. Every year I search out the "Best American Short Stories" collection and the Pushcart Prize collections. The Pushcart Prize also has poetry and nonfiction as well. When I note an author whose stories I particulary like, I will keep an eye out for any of their collections as well. Favorites include Alice Munro, the abovementioned E. Annie Proulx, the incomparable but sadly not prolific Lorrie Moore, TC Boyle, Tobias Woolf, and many, many more who practice this overlooked art form.

Coming soon, a birthday!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Nature may hate us (see, e.g. blackouts, heatwaves, etc.), but she sure does provide some yummy stuff to eat:

Mmmm. Those are fresh sour cherries and strawberries picked by us at Homestead Farms out in Poolesville, MD. I love cherry pie, cherry cobbler, homemade cherry vanilla ice cream... You get the picture. I may even try to make jam this year. We have far more than you can see in that picture, too. I have a lot of pitting and freezing to do.

Homestead has all sorts of fruit available for pick-your-own. The kids love going out there, too. We're not big on peaches, but we'll go out again in the Fall for Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples.

I continue to work on the Star of Evening shawl. I've done 3.5 chart repeats, but I haven't had a whole lot of time to spend on it. It really is perfect summer mindless knitting -- enough interest to keep me from being bored, but not so much interest that I have to concentrate much. Combine that with a beautiful shawl and you can't go wrong, huh?

(Insert caveats about unblocked lace looking like crap here.)

This weekend is Sr. Jr.'s first All-Star game. It's the game between the all stars of the two divisions. The interleague play starts in July. In the meantime, Sr. Jr. has discovered girls. So cute! He told me that all the boys in his class except one had crushes on girls. The one who doesn't is "just, like, so immature." Alas, the girl he was crushing on is into someone else, but he doesn't seem to be taking it too hard.

Off to go pit some more cherries...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Something Easy and Fun to Tide Me Over

As the end of the school year approaches, my knitting time necessarily slows down. Beyond all the end-of-the-year parties and activities, there are only a few days this summer where both boys have activities at the same time. So I need something easy, yet satisfying, to pull me through the summer without tearing my hair out.

I had been trying to come up with a lace shawl design of my own, with a lot of futile swatching to show for it. I have hit upon one or two patterns that I like, but I really won't have the time or the energy to spare during the summer. So I cast on for Anne Hanson's Star of Evening Triangle. The pattern is quite simple, with an edging that is knit along with the body. Here are a couple of pictures of what I've done so far:

I'm using Melosa lace weight in midnight. It's a singles yarn, so I'm wary of blocking it too hard. It's soft and the color is gorgeous, however. It'll make a nice warm shawl, as opposed to a light and airy one, but that's ok.

It's still really freaking hot here. It's supposed to be near 100 degrees today, and that's without the heat index. Luckily, baseball is over for now, so it'll be a quiet afternoon.

Sr. Jr. made the Little League All-Star team! The only problem is that we're supposed to be away on vacation during part of the time the tournament takes place, so we're not sure he'll be able to play. I hope we can work it out, though, because it will be a lot of fun for him. Apparently, the Arlington All-Stars play other local All-Star teams and lose. Just being picked and being able to play will be great.

I had an interesting encounter this morning at the supermarket. The checkout man asked me if I thought all the storms and earthquakes around the world were due to global warming. I said that I wasn't sure if the storms were a result of global warming, but that I was sure the earthquakes weren't. I also said that I do believe that global warming is taking place. He then informed me that I was wrong. Global warming has nothing to do with any of this. It's all about Planet X, which was foretold in the Bible, not as Planet X, but as something called "Wormwood." He told me to Google this, and I'd learn a lot. I think not.

I think I'll whip up a big pot of chili to ward off the heat :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

This Interruption Brought to You by Mother Nature

... Just another way in which Nature says, "I hate you."

Big storms with tornados slammed through the DC metro area on Wednesday afternoon and evening. Before the storm even really got here, our lights went out. This happens. Usually, they come back on pretty quickly. Not Wednesday. They stayed off. And stayed off. Wednesday night we bailed the sump pump manually to keep the basement from flooding. (And I had just told Mr. T that we should get a battery back up for that pump, too.) We spent several hours filling buckets and dumping them. By 10:30, the storms abated, so we went to bed, expecting that power would be restored sometime in the night.

No such luck. Power stayed out all day Thursday. We scrupulously kept all refrigerators and freezers closed, trying to save the food. Luckily, it cooled off enough at night to make sleeping comfortable.

Not so on Friday, when the heat wave began. The electric company predicted that power would be back on by 10 pm Friday, so we sucked it up for one more night, eating out yet again. However, it was hot and sticky, and nightfall provided no relief. 10 pm came and went, and the power was still out. I struggled to sleep in the heat and humidity.

At about 3 am, the power finally came back on. We ran around the house, shutting the windows and firing up the air conditioner. Saturday morning we emptied the refrigerators and the deep freeze, because nothing was salvageable. We went to the supermarket to replace as much as we could.

Fun times.

In other news, Sr. Jr.'s team lost in its second playoff game. The team played well in the field, but couldn't get any offense going. I think they felt good about how they played the game, even though they lost, because their opponents were very good. One season, finished (except for the All-Star game, if Sr. Jr. makes the team).

Jr. Jr. had his final game yesterday in the searing heat. Temps got up near 100, with a heat index around 105. After the game we went to the pool to cool off, and then to the Nats game to get all sweaty again.

I'm sorry that there's no knitting content. It's hard to knit in the dark. The school year is ending, which means that there are many school activities packed into the day -- the first grade play (adorable!), class picnics, etc. Once school ends, knitting time is pretty scarce. Maybe I'll get some socks done this summer, but probably not much else. Either way, I'll post about it.

Now that our power's been restored and life is slowly moving back to normal, hopefully I'll have something more interesting to show and share as the week moves on.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Playoff Fever! Mojo with Nowhere to Go(jo)

This was a very busy, full weekend. Baseball started Saturday morning at 9 am, with Jr. Jr.'s game, and continued on with Sr. Jr.'s playoff game at 11.

Little League playoff games go for 6 innings, as opposed to regular season games, which can go for 5, but often end earlier. Playoff games must be complete -- all 6 innings must be played. We started off the game with hot, sunny weather. Sr. Jr. was the starting pitcher. He pitched for four complete innings -- his longest ever, and the maximum allowed at his level. During those 4 innings, he also hit a triple and a single and drove in 5 runs. By the end of his pitching tenure, the team was up 9-2 and feeling strong. In the fifth inning, another of our pitchers, J., came up. J. can pitch well, but is sometimes inconsistent. Unfortunately, this was one of his off days, so the other team scored the maximum 6 runs (aided by some errors in the field, including one by Sr. Jr.). The weak part of our batting order was up, so no runs scored. So there we were at the end of the fifth, with our team holding on to a tenuous 9-8 lead. It was hot and the boys were clearly getting tired.

And then the skies opened. I don't mean that it rained. It POURED. Lightning flashed perilously close by. The winds were strong, with tornado watches out for the whole area. Little League policy requires teams to wait 20 minutes to see if the rain will let up. We all stood, huddled under the little overhang by the snack bar, until some Little League official came to his senses and realized it was too dangerous for us to stay there. We were hoping that they would call the game official and complete, but no, we had to go and play that last inning.

So we all gathered yesterday afternoon for one more inning of baseball. When we left on Saturday, it was the top of the sixth. Our team was up at bat. One runner had been walked and was on first. The top of the order (our strong batters) was up, so that's how we resumed. The first up, B., hit a nice shot to move the man on first to second, but was himself thrown out at first. Now it was Sr. Jr.'s turn at bat. First ball he watched go by for a strike. Then there was a ball. Then a foul tip for another strike. Then he hit the patented Sr. Jr. zinger down the third base line that the third baseman can never get. He gets to second and bats in one run. The next hitter, J., hits it strong, so Sr. Jr. scores. Then A. gets thrown out at first and O. strikes out to end the inning. Now the score is 11-8.

A. comes up to pitch for our mighty Giants and finishes strong, allowing only 1 run. We won! I was very happy that we got to say that we won a playoff game. The coaches gave Sr. Jr. the game ball for his excellent play, which made him very proud. Next up is the second place team, to whom we lost pretty soundly a couple of weeks ago.

After the final inning was the "post-season" team party. Today there was a playgroup mom get together which lasted most of the day.


There was pretty much no knitting this weekend at all. Sorry. I started the toe of the new STR club sock, but realized pretty quickly that the size medium I picked was going to be too large, so I frogged it. I did get the toe restarted last night, but I haven't even started the patterning yet.

The first Mystic Meadows shawl KAL clue was released today, and I'm debating whether I should cast on, or wait until I see someone's version knit up. I have an idea for a design of my own that I'd like to swatch for, but...

There's more baseball tonight. Jr. Jr. has a game. And tomorrow I have to do all the stuff that I didn't do today, like laundry and shopping. I'd really like to get a bike ride in, too.

So, there's mojo. It's just got nowhere to go :(