Saturday, August 30, 2008

Knitting in the treetops

I'm taking a break between Treehouse Tra-La events at Dunwoody Nature Center. We just finished the ribbon-cutting ceremony and shortly the evening's festivities will begin with set-up of the gi-normous movie screen and sound system, buffet lines for the Carrabba's dinner, and myriad other preparations behind the scenes. 

What a lovely morning to officially open the treehouse learning pavilion! Dunwoody townies gathered to celebrate a project that has been a LOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG time coming. Austin Elementary was represented by the ever-classy Susan Mitchell, the PTA President when the fundraising first began with the Dunwoody Dash, and Jeffrey Heninger, one of the kids who ran and who is now a high school student at DHS, cut the ribbon.  I enjoyed chatting with Dunwoody blogger supreme and City Council candidate John Heneghen, Bev Wingate, Elaine Boyer, Robert and Susan Wittenstein, and so many other wonderfully involved people as well as catching up with fellow Dunwoody Dash fund-runners.  

What I'm taking away from the morning is that blooming sense of community. As Dunwoody's cityhood becomes a reality, there's a sense of belonging, of actually playing an active role in the life of our community. Rather than observers and receivers, we're the city. And it feels darned good.

Tonight, as Swiss Family Robinson plays on the big screen, I'll knit peacefully away and enjoy the spectacle of 200+ community members gathering together in OUR town, OUR park!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Whack-a-mole knitting

When I was a kid, I loved the whack-a-mole game at the fair. You'd beat the crap out of those perky plastic moles as they poked their heads through the holes. Truthfully, it's still fun.

Except when it's a metaphor for life.

I fix one knitting problem and another pops up.

I get one kid's high school scheduled resolved and the other comes home with a suspicious lump. That turns out to be a staph infection dangerously close to her elbow joint. Which means fear, anxious scrutiny, cancellation of appointments and work to-do's, and one very angry kid who DOES NOT WANT TO MISS SCHOOL OR DEIDRE OR FREE CHOICE IN PE OR PRESENTING MY SOCIAL STUDIES POWERPOINT PROJECT OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU'RE DOING TO ME!!!!

The upstairs gets nice and clean (because I've got to stay busy while we're watching the elbow because MRSA is a definite possibility) and the downstairs is suddenly a disaster.

I finally complete formatting of a student database (okay, thanks to T's acumen) so I can start putting together the directory and a freelance assignment comes up - due at about the same time.

We get one house repair taken care of and as soon as the very expensive but nonetheless effective expert leaves something else breaks.

Whack-a-mole. Fits, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Change is good.

I grew up in an Air Force family. Not only did we move a dozen times by the time I finished high school, my father was fond of moving the furniture around and from room to room at least every other week or so. Such constantly changing landscapes did two things: it made me not afraid of change and it created an everlasting itch to try something new.

All was well until I discovered that there are families who do NOT like change. The recliner stays in the same spot for 20 years and boxes of stuff no one opens stay in the garage and basement from one generation to the next. My discovery came shortly after the "I do" to T. Our childhoods, it turned out, were polar opposites. He grew up in a family so tied to the land that his childhood home was built on farm acreage later sold by his grandparents to pay for their nursing care. The living room layout I saw when I met his family was exactly as it had been forever.

For them, change is BAD. It's unnecessary and downright scary.

So I restrained myself. Hey, marriage is all about compromise. Then I gave birth to the king of "DON'T CHANGE A THING OR ELSE" and the queen of "So, Mom, how are we going to redecorate my room this year?" - right down gender lines. Ironic, isn't it?

Hoo, boy.

I still need to move things around. But I focus on our sunroom and rec room, where change isn't so scary for some reason. And I tweak a little here, add a little there without moving the major pieces. 

It hasn't scratched my itch. But at least it's made it a bit tolerable.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Out of touch and darned happy about it

One of my Preschool Phonics moms is diving wholeheartedly back to basics. She has embraced growing her own food, now has three chickens producing plenty of eggs for her brood, and is happily taking a class in cheese-making and square-foot gardening.  All this, in the midst of Dunwoody, with our upper income and higher education ethos and commute-to-work lifestyle.  

I love it!

Vicariously through Earth Mom's experiences, I've learned so much already:

  • I'm depressingly ignorant. I thought you had to have a rooster for the hens to lay eggs. Hello. Ovulation. 
  • Vegetable gardens start during the winter, with ground prep, composting, and varmint-prevention measures. We have coyotes, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, and other wildlife roaming our creeks and ravines, so I'm looking at chicken wire and other options in parts of Home Depot  I've never visited before.
  • Things grow in waves, not all at once. So you can be eating from your garden from last frost to first frost.
  • People love the idea of vegetable gardens, particularly urbanites.  They'll share stories about grandparents' gardens and "I'd love to have one, but . . ." These are the same comments I hear about knitting. So maybe knitting and vegetable gardening really do go together!
The older I get, the less interested I am in the latest technology and the more I'm drawn to simple living.  So I'm getting a bit out of touch with the world . . . yet more in touch with what really matters to me.

We're now considering offering classes and a demonstration Square-foot Garden program at Dunwoody Nature Center. Our area is heavily treed and hilly, so most families have limited space with sustained sunlight for growing food. Square-foot gardening makes perfect sense. It's manageable, understandable for novices, and maximizes available space.  Our first step is finding a site on our grounds, getting an "expert" to help us and to teach the classes, and put it on the calendar.

As the Nature Center's program gets underway, the Knitternall family will be prepping soil and composting this winter in preparation for our own garden next spring. 

I've been playing with this idea for a couple of years now. It's time to get started.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Since A was born in 1992, then AG in 1997,  my van has been a traveling advertisement for our family's activities and loyalties:
  • Carpool numbers for Dunwoody Methodist Preschool and the Heiskell School (a thankfully short-lived private school experience for A)
  • Austin Elementary School
  • Peachtree Charter Middle School
  • Dunwoody High School
  • St. Luke's Presbyterian Church
  • NC State Alumni (my Wake Forest grad husband just looks the other way on that one)
  • Murphy Candler Girls' Fastpitch Softball League
  • City of Dunwoody
  • Campaign stickers for friends running for City Council and Board of Commissioners when we were living in Greensboro, NC
  • and others I can't even remember right now.
Urbanites may wince at the suburban ethos of my van. But it's me . . . the Donna Reed of the new millenium. 

This week, I added something "all me" to the back of the van, joining the collage of PCMS, DHS, and St. Luke's identifiers.


A noticed it while we were shopping yesterday for cotillion shoes. "K two tog? What the heck is that?" My observant daughter, who often reads this blog, said scornfully, "Knit two together. It's knitting."  "Huh," said A. And promptly lost interest.

My new magnet says everything about my need to bring together the people and interests in my life. I love my family, so it's important to me to connect their outside and at-home lives. I love my church, so it's satisfying to join with other seekers of faith. I love to knit, so it's fulfilling to unite my pleasure in the craft with my need to serve others through outreach and a shared enjoyment in working with our hands.

Every day, in every way possible, I knit together the myriad strands of my life.

K2tog. That really does say it all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's always something.

I had such a peaceful weekend. A few have-to's and chores, an enjoyable concert in the park, a calm morning in church, and enough down time to make progress on blanket squares for our church's outreach ministry as well as the Central Park Hoodie. 

Even as I sat there Sunday evening, knitting happily away, I thought to myself . . . this won't last.

It never does.

Monday and Tuesday hit with a crescendo of school meetings, from son's AP World History 101 for parents and PTSO board meeting to a Dunwoody School Cluster Council meeting, as well as added work at the Nature Center. (With our exec on vacation and a newbie driving our programs, I've been lobbing quite a few balls from left field. I must say - the added duties have been stimulating.) 

Is it just Wednesday? 

The hottest issue on my agenda is the debacle arising from Every Child Left Behind. Dunwoody High School was designated a receiving school for students transfering from the  multitude of failing schools throughout DeKalb County.  The storm surge of arrivals started the week before school, flowed through the first week, and continued, unabated, despite a shortage of teachers, trailers, cafeteria space, textbooks, et al. It took news crews and a fire marshall to finally get the county-level school administration to listen, let alone come see what they had done to Dunwoody High School.

It's time to retreat back to knitting. I need the calming rhythm of knits and purls and the sense of accomplishment as the Central Park Hoodie comes closer to completion. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tween scene

AG and her pals will shortly take over the rec room, playing Dance Dance Revolution, getting my Wii  Fit up and running, eating popcorn and Laffy Taffy, running up and down stairs for more Gatorade and water, and talking talking talking. The first week of 6th grade is behind them and they're all feeling considerable relief that middle school is manageable after all.  AG and D started calling friends as soon as they wakened from last night's sleepover. 

I've encouraged AG to have these weekend gatherings to stay connected with old friends and bring in new ones they meet at PCMS. The original gang was split up, most going into the "M" team and several landing in "S". The dividing line was whether or not they continued taking German. After six years of immersion experience at Austin Elementary School, we chose to continue for at least one more year to see if the songs, dances, and impeccable accents would transition into an actual mastery of the language.  

Most of the Austin kids opted out.  Having been down this road with A a few years back, I fully appreciate the immense disconnect between the elementary school program and the rigorous class at the middle school. Very few kids make it through 6th grade German!

While the kids are tearing through the house, I'll finish chores and crochet another square for a lap blanket. I'd neglected my charity knitting for St. Luke's Presbyterian Church this summer, and I had to stop working on the Central Park Hoodie due to an untimely bout of knitter's tendinitis. It's almost all better, and crocheting has kept me busy in the interim.

There's the doorbell. Time to be the invisible host!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dunwoody Knitting Shop

Many knitters have a fantasy about owning a knitting shop. It's a cozy place brimming with baskets and bins filled with luscious yarns in every color and texture imaginable, plentiful patterns, comfy chairs, tea and coffee brewing on a sideboard, classical and jazz filling the air, and knitters chatting happily about works in progress, technical glitches, and the sundry bits of news from the community. There would always be sweater-lots of yarn on hand as well as lots of finished objects to show off the possibilities of each offering.

Yep. That's my fantasy.

Sadly, I am not a business person. I am energetic, creative, highly organized, proficient at multi-tasking, and proactive. But when it comes to personnel, taxes, contracts, insurance, and all the other issues that are the foundation of any business, I blink.  

Dunwoody once had a yarn shop. It had an awful location, limited inventory, and a sad transition from the owner to her daughter after the prior's death. Yet it stayed busy and had begun turning a profit before the daughter decided that the shop was her mother's dream, not hers. 

I'd love for Dunwoody to have one again. The only close-by source of yarn is Michael's, and that's ridiculous (for reasons any knitter would appreciate). Cast-On Cottage is a wonderful shop in a nearby town, but the drive is onerous in the crazy metro Atlanta traffic. 

There's a quaint house on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road that once served as the home of a railroad worker. It's small and parking is equally miniscule. The current commercial tenant has a for-sale sign in front. It has high visibility, just the right square footage, and it would be perfect for a yarn shop.

Maybe I need a partner - someone  to handle the business side. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Caution: Novice Ahead

My son is learning to drive. T is endlessly patient, so has taken on the mantle of Official Parent Driving Instructor, while I wince and try to stay out of any vehicle that has A behind the wheel.

Did my first knitting instructors feel the same way? They patiently showed me the cast on, garter stitch, and bind off, then waded in to help with dropped stitches, misplaced  yarn overs, and the most warped scarf ever knitted.     But there wasn't much they could do about my compulsive knitting at any time of the day, in any venue.

How about the new City of Dunwoody? Will we get the needed understanding and forbearance required for the inevitable pile-ups in any complex undertaking?  

Why are some people more patient with learners? 


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Go ahead. Do it your way.

If you want my opinion . . . 

In my experience . . . 

You should . . . 

When I was your age . . .

Why don't you . . . 

Hoo, boy. As an adult, I'm not crazy about advice unless I request it. To be honest, I ask for it quite often, but the unsolicited variety, with its implied criticism or judgement, isn't generally welcome. It's worse when the advice comes from a spouse or parent.

Why don't I remember that when I'm parenting my kids?

AG and A head back to school tomorrow, and I'm loading them up with so much advice I've become Charlie Brown's teacher. You know . . . wah wah wah wah.  Less a voice than white noise. 

Time to hush and let them figure things out. It's really better that way.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

You "slow-knittin' fool"

I just watched a video that just isn't right. It's so awful it's brilliant. 

Want to see what two suburban backyard dudes got up to with some stash yarn and giant plastic needles?  

Oh, my.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A few moments on the soapbox

The Knitternall Clan has returned to Dunwoody, with memories of NYC flashbacking like the neon signs in Times Square.  We had a really nice time and managed to get in and out of LaGuardia and Hartsfield despite multiple thunderstorms, airport shutdowns, baggage backlogs, and other mainstays of summer travel.

I worked  on the Central Park Hoodie and have made it through the back and left front; the right front is well underway. I think it'll be finished for fall (which, in the South, often comes after Halloween).  With weather delays and cancelled flights, I had lots of time in the plane for knitting. 

While the kids were exploring Nintendo World (nirvana for A), I chatted with a mom from New Jersey. We talked about the coming school year and she was astonished that ours was starting in just a week, during the peak heat of the season. 

And now, a brief moment for the soapbox . .

High standards in teaching, curriculum, resources, and achievement are absolutely essential to a quality education system. No Child Left Behind isn't that system.  

It is disingenuous to believe that every kid can master every subject.  Can a CPA write prose like Hemingway? Can an acclaimed dancer solve advanced calculus problems with aplomb? Can a child who cannot speak or understand English comprehend a word problem in an English-language-only math test sufficiently to provide a correct answer?  Can someone with profound dyslexia read and process a story and answer questions in a strictly limited, timed test?

Federal mandates cannot legislate ability . . . or behavior. The connection between home and school is critical, but it isn't enforceable. 

We're very fortunate here in Dunwoody to have superb schools for our children.  Parent involvement has been integral to achievement. My kids have had and continue to benefit from amazingly gifted and well prepared teachers.  In spite of changing education theories du jour, they're thriving and advancing through each progressively challenging year. There are, naturally, areas of weakness, primarily among financially and linguistically disadvantaged children.  We're working on that.  As a community, we want every child to succeed. Too bad our hands are tied by state and federal mandates. In a perfect school system, we'd have a variety of education options, including trades and comprehensive English language classes, that we could custom fit to our specific needs. 

Maybe someday.