Sunday, May 31, 2009

My son is driving and I'm a wreck.

My son is learning to drive. Next week, the horribly expensive, but oh so necessary driver's ed class will occupy his time. After, he'll have six hours of one-on-one in-the-car instruction. And then he'll have his driver's license.


T has diligently taken our son on the road over the past year, slowly coaxing him away from familiar Dunwoody roads onto the highway and then the interstate. Last evening was a first - A drove us all from Dunwoody to Smokey Bones in Kennesaw, a teen and tween favorite for celebrating very excellent grades.

I had a glass of wine. Before we left.

I studiously avoided looking at what he was doing, where we were going, and what was around us. Because we were on I-285, then I 75, then the craziness of Barrett Parkway. And back again.

"Okay, now you're going to merge. Speed up. Speed up." The car jerked sharply to the left, wavered, and settled into a lane.

"Watch your speed. That's a light ahead. Slow down. Slow down. STOP!!!!!"

"Watch the road signs. You'll see that this lane ends up ahead, so go ahead and move over to the left as soon as it's clear. Don't slow down! The other cars will block you."

"Turn left here." "Here?" "No, there." "Here?" "TURN LEFT NOW!"

My husband has a steel-clad gut because I was a trembling, anxious, terrified mess from start to finish.

In the Knitternall family, T has the job of teaching the kids to drive. He can handle it. I can't.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Miles to go before we read.

So, the Knitternall family made our first trek to the Chamblee Library on Clairmont Road. Since we're fervent users of the online reservation system, it was just a matter of time before we had to try out our temporary library home. (The Dunwoody library is still open for a few more days, but they're already redirecting reservations to the "library of your choice." Hmmm. Brookhaven or Chamblee?)

Such a pleasant surprise. An airy, newish building, better placement of the computers (lots more and you don't have to dodge around them like we do at Dunwoody), HUGE children's section, an intriguing section devoted to Vietnamese books, and really nice staffers. A faint musty scent of old books wafted through the high-ceilinged space. The parking lot was filled with a familiar mix of mom-vans rear-ended with their kids' school and sport magnets, genteel land yachts, and beat-up jalopies as well as a delivery van with Korean and English lettering.

We weren't there to linger since we needed to visit Borders to pick up the teen's AP US History texts (oh, the joys and expenses of required summer assignments), but we definitely want to go back and stay awhile.
Hint to my Dunwoody neighbors: go only between 10 am and 3 pm - outside those hours and the traffic will be brutal.

Hey, I like my comfort zone. Dunwoody fits us just right. But this one-month inconvenience might open new doors for the Knitternall family.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Seventy miles!

The teen and I just finished his last required hike for the BSA hiking merit badge. We trod seventy miles on the Big Tree Greenway, over Kennesaw Mountain, around Stone Mountain, and through Dunwoody. His ever-present Crohn's symptoms meant he couldn't get too far away from facilities and medical support, so he got creative with his urban hiking choices. For today's hike, A chose to repeat his favorite, a loop around our little town.

We're both glad it's finished. But we're also a bit sad, because it's been seventy miles of mom-and-son time, a precious commodity in the busy-ness of his teen years. We've talked and we've walked in companionable silence. We've shared leg pain and a loathing of steep grades. We've ticked off each hike with great satisfaction and discussed the pros and cons of repeating a route again.

Bits and pieces of today's hike:

  • While the pedestrian crossing on Mt. Vernon Road between Dunwoody United Methodist Church and the Michael's shopping center is CLEARLY MARKED, cars whizzed by us, even as we were IN THE CROSSWALK.
  • We passed one of Adam's DHS Mock Trial teammates who called a cheery hello as she continued her run. That lead to a discussion of next year's case, and Adam's expectation that the now-veteran team will do even better.
  • The sidewalk on Chamblee-Dunwoody between Dunwoody Knoll and the merge with Roberts Drive is really, really narrow. Particularly with overgrowth looming overhead. When we passed a very pleasant woman with a huge dog, she jumped into the lane of traffic so we could pass each other. Not a good thing.
  • The sound of aluminum bats connecting with hard-thrown baseballs resounded over Dunwoody Park as we traversed its trails. I confess I prefer the sound of a wood bat. I'm so old school.
  • While Abernathy Road undergoes the latest round of "improvements," the sides of the road are nearly impassible for pedestrians. We used parking lots and hopped over construction materials to get to the Perimeter Mall area. In New York, when they're doing something that breaks up a sidewalk, they build a temporary pedestrian pathway. Hello?
  • I love the iron bench and bike rack perched across from the Fresh Market. It isn't a bus stop and it isn't a decorative accent for a place of business. It's there for walkers and bikers. I hope there will be more as time goes by.
  • The jaywalkers from the office buildings at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Abernathy roads have cut a path through the evergreen shrubs in front of the Chic Fil A. Rather than think that's too bad, I think it would be nice if an actual sidewalk were added because, for "legal" walkers along the sidewalk, it's a lot safer to access the restaurants there than trying to walk through the parking lot.
  • Tinted windows make it really, really hard to see who's honking a greeting and who's just tooting a warning. We smiled and waved just in case.
  • One of the reasons A loves the Dunwoody Hike is that his chosen route passes both Barnes & Noble and Borders. His backpack was much heavier on the return than when we set out.
  • We were halfway through the intersection of Mt. Vernon Road and Dunwoody Parkway when someone leaned heavily on the horn, then burned rubber as soon as we cleared one lane. I guess we weren't walking fast enough.
The hiking merit badge was A's last Eagle-required badge. Now he's working on his Eagle project paperwork in hopes that he can do his project in the fall.

I'll be right there on the sidelines, cheering him on.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is it ready yet?

Before I built my square-foot garden, the only food I'd ever grown was tomatoes. They're easy - big container, good soil, a tomato cage, and voila - tomatoes!

I have discovered a major obstacle with home gardening. If you've never grown food before, how do you know when it's ready for harvesting?

Onions are below ground.

Brussel sprouts look like Jack's beanstalk for a long time.

Romaine lettuce looks all lettuce-y right after it pops out of the ground.

Carrots are below ground.

Beets are below ground.

Peas and beans are easy - their pods get really plump and look like they do in the grocery store.

My garden is thriving - lots of lovely leaves and stalks are surging upward. I've pulled out the peas-that-weren't and planted cantelope, cucumber, and watermelon weeds.

As for the rest of the spring plantings, I can't tell if it's time to harvest yet.

It's downright embarrassing.

I've googled "red onions" and "harvesting" and chosen "images" to figure out what I'm supposed to be looking for. Little help there so far - mostly pictures of them plucked out of the ground and lying on drying racks.

This first year is definitely a learning process, with a curve a mile long. I may not get as much out of the garden as I could if I knew what the heck I'm doing, but it sure is fun.

I never thought I'd love gardening as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pizza night.

The teen and tween have finals. Really, really HARD final exams.

I'm in the "between days" - from worker bee to working with an amazing cadre of parent volunteers.

Summer camp is beginning next week at Dunwoody Nature Center.

I discovered today that the Dunwoody Library will be closed for renovations FOR A MONTH. AT LEAST. DURING THE SUMMER.

I just finished cutting the grass and watering the vegetable garden.

The chemistry tutor comes at 8 to get the teen ready for that final tomorrow.

Sounds like a great night for pizza.

Hello, Papa John's!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Count on them.

I have the pleasure this week of paying homage to some amazing people. They're the ones who "just do it," taking on the volunteer mantle in their children's schools because they believe in them. They're intelligent, highly organized, reliable, compassionate, and skilled. I am always humbled by their willingness to share their precious time and thankful for the many, many ways our children's schools benefit.

Many graciously roll from one key position to another (thank goodness). Some are "graduating" with their children.

Three women stand out as they end particularly demanding tenures:

Paige - she thought she was stepping in as PTA President for PCMS, and instead helped transition the school's Charter Council into a streamlined, highly efficient volunteer machine. Thanks to her thoughtful, forward thinking leadership, Peachtree parents are well engaged in every facet of the school community.

Linda - she started her year at DHS during the "perfect storm" of DeKalb County's decision to thrust an additional 200+ students into the school with little notice, insufficient staffing, deficient schedules, and no textbooks. She has lead the parent volunteers with grace and quiet dignity . . . without a voice, for many weeks, after a viral infection put her vocal chords out of commission.

Cher - the queen of the buffet, parent-teacher coffee, teacher appreciation dinner, and end of year celebratrion. I never want to follow her as Hospitality Chair! She sets a mighty high bar for creativity, thoroughness, and energy. She has, at times, served the same role in three schools at the same time. School tour guide, front office volunteer, hospitality maven, and the one volunteer any principal wants on hand during a crisis. Now she has the "luxury" of focusing her energies at Dunwoody High School as her youngest moves to the freshman class in the fall.

Those are the ones that standout this week; there are dozens of other parent volunteers who are also worthy of praise. From staffing the school store and building sets for a drama presentation to orchestrating a senior lock-in and beautifying the grounds, both inside and outside, of each school, they're simply amazing.

Many parents invest themselves so wholeheartedly in their child's elementary school years that they're exhausted by the time they move on to middle school. Thank goodness for people who get a "second wind" and stay the course. I am deeply appreciative of the amazing men and women who stay the course all the way to the day their child strides across the stage, shakes the hand of an administrator, and receives a diploma.

Thank you so much.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Scooter the Wonder Dog: The Saga Continues

Scooter is a "Wonder Dog," as in I wonder how I got myself into this situation. I fell for the puppy thing and the earnest pleas of the kids and said "sure."

I was in complete denial.

I knew there would be smells and accidents and barking and poorly digested food eruptions and toys left on the stairs for the unwary. Nonetheless, Scooter came home.

Over time, he developed "syndromes." Fear aggression because the kennel clipped his toenails so short they bled and ached for quite a long time. Social anxiety because other dogs crossing our yard obviously want to invade our home. Food obsession because he'd been abandoned in a dumpster with 11 litter mates who fought over the same garbage.

Now Scooter has to be tranqed and gassed to get his nails trimmed (at a new vet, Dunwoody Animal Hospital, that completely understands his anxiety). His pedicure is way more expensive than mine. We have to be careful with garbage because he'll eat anything. And everything. And taking him to the Bark Park at Brook Run is a challenge because he shies away from the other dogs. (The really, really small yappy ones terrify him.)

So he's a barking, quivering, food inhaling, submissive peeing MESS.

Now Scooter is irritating the neighbors. When we accidentally leave the sunroom door open during the day, he stands tall on one of the chairs, casting a wary eye across his dominion. He barks nonstop: at squirrels and chipmunks who toss their heads at him in disdain; at neighbors' dogs free to roam at leisure; at the children next door who just want to play on their swingset.

It's embarrassing.

This is the same dog who KNOWS when it's time to eat, play tug of war with his chewy ball or bone, read before bedtime, and take a walk. At those times, he's pretty darned cute. Scooter is THRILLED beyond measure to go for a walk. His warbling song and happy dance practically shake the walls and endanger any low lying books or schoolwork. We have to use a "gentle lead" so he doesn't knock us down in his pursuit of every passing smell.

Scooter is with us for life. I just wish it didn't feel like a life sentence at times!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

All you have to do is . . .

I like a clean and well ordered house. I don't like tidying it.

I love the smell and feel of freshly washed sheets. I hate doing the laundry.

Freshly cut grass smells wonderful. I could happily never cut the grass again.

I love knitting intricate designs. I find some advanced knitting patterns so frustrating that it's tempting to give up.

I enjoy writing, for my copywriting clients, for this blog, for Dunwoody Nature Center, and in many other forums. Sometimes it's really, really hard to get started.

I believe in volunteering: saying "yes" means doing my share in sustaining the wonderful quality of life our family enjoys in Dunwoody. But I get frustrated when the sum of all the individually important volunteer parts conflict so there isn't enough time to focus sufficiently on each single need.

One of the scariest things someone can say is "All you have to do is . . ." Because whatever it is, it isn't nearly as straightforward and simple as you'd like.

When it's hard to begin, I think about that magic "easy" button. I take a deep breath, write the first word/start the mower/toss the first load into the washing machine/do the math/start building the calendar, and forge ahead until I hit the housecleaning/yardwork/knitting/organizing endorphins that turn work into pleasure.

Life doesn't come with an "easy" button. Which makes each minor accomplishment such sublime pleasure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I love the library.

When I was a kid, the library was my best friend. We moved from one Air Force base to another, changing schools, homes, and cultures at the whim of the military powers-that-be. There were constants, however: a commissary, base exchange (glorified general store), dental and hospital facility, cafeteria, and a library.

I loved the library. Children's books were always an afterthought on military bases, so I was drawn to adult literature, poring through classics by Jane Austen, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Walter Scott, Louisa May Alcott, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Charles Dickens. Consequently, my vocabulary was fairly precocious, though my pronunciation left much to be desired. (If you'd only read "preternatural" but never heard it spoken, you may, too, pronounce it "pre-TER-natur-OWL." Wince.

I walked or rode my bike to the library on Saturdays and spent a few happy hours choosing that week's reading. Then I stayed up late at night, loathe to put down a particularly good story (and they were ALL good), happy to pay the price the next day of sleep deprivation and dry eyes.

Since I could roar through a dozen Cherry Ames and Nancy Drews and two or three thick classics at a time, I always ran out of reading material before the next Saturday. Resigned to the fact that new books wouldn't appear, particularly when we lived on Okinawa, I just re-read the same favorites over and over again.

Today, someone said she hadn't stepped foot in a library in YEARS and wouldn't know where to begin looking for a collection of books by a famous children's author. Astonishing. Now, I do understand that there are many other ways to discover and enjoy great books. But the library is basically FREE. And if you're patient, most popular books will appear on the shelves for your reading pleasure. Plus, the DeKalb County library lets you reserve books online, so you don't even have to look for them. The system pings you when they're in and you pick them up, scan them in the self-checkout station, and move briskly on to your next stop.

There's just one problem with our library system, though. They really don't like knitting books. They add one or two with some disdain. The latest Nicky Epstein finally showed up in the catalog and I pounced. (Too late, though - dozens of other knitters noticed before I did and put in their reserve first.)

I love the library. I think I'll go right now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pimento cheese and tickles

Mother's Day. I don't care if it is a Hallmark-created holiday, I love all the attention. A tween-prepared meal of homemade pimento cheese sandwiches and a salad tossed full of plums, strawberries, carrots, peapods, and tomatoes, gifts of knitterly things and Scrabble for my computer, and a leisurely day of church and sunroom chats with the family. The day closed with a tickle fest before bedtime, as echoes of toddler chortles peeked through the more baritone laughter of my son. Yep, that's my kind of day.

May continues its mad dash toward summer, wrapping up school year must-dos and preparations for special stay-cation outings.

I just found a really cool one: houseboat stays at Hales Bar Marina! A cohort sent me a link: The kids want to go fishing and I want to get away from phones and email, so this looks like a winner.

Another family favorite is Lake Winnie. The unlimited ride pass is just $21 - and parents can pay $5 and not ride a thing. On Friday's, we can take advantage of the Coca-Cola 2-for-1 deal - that means both kids ride for just $21. What a bargain! Shady and old-fashioned, the amusement park is a must-do every summer for the Knitternalls.

Meanwhile, on the knitting front, I've cast on no less than three projects: a lacey scarf in soy silk, Elizabeth Zimmerman's moebius vest in one of Universal Yarn's varigated wools, and a looonnnng sweater coat in forest green wool, the Susie hoodie by Mandy Moore. Definitely indulging my inner overachiever. The latter will take all summer, while the others are much quicker knits. I usually knit just one thing at a time; I think a little variety will be a good change.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Storms that aren't so much.

Lately, it seems that I've climbed the slippery slope of anxiety over coming storms and epidemics only to find they're not so much after all.

Darkening skies, dire warnings of an incoming derecho (new word for the Knitternalls - sideways tornado-strength winds), frequent weather alerts, and . . . a few claps of thunder and one downburst and it's over.

Media hysteria over one, two, eight cases of Swine Flu, schools closing, and advisories to stock up on face masks, hand sanitizer, and 10 days' supply of food and water for the family, and . . . it's still spreading, but it's not nearly as dreadful as the 20th century Spanish Flu pandemic.

I KNOW the media is indulging in audience-grabbing news coverage. I KNOW it's rare that dire warnings turn into actual calamity. But I slide up and down that slippery slope anyway because I'm a mom. It's my job to get worried, plan ahead for any contingency, sanitize the house, and watch the skies for funnel clouds and downbursts. I like to believe that if I'm prepared enough, I can control the outcome of any situation.

So what if I overreacted.

I'm just going to do it again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

People who say "yes!"

I am always awed by the people who say "yes" to volunteering. They don't have to. They could easily say "no" and go on their merry way. For school, for a park, for church, for charity . . . it's simply amazing the way caring, capable people share the wealth of their talent and time. Many have a niche. An IT specialist who serves as a technology consultant for his sons' schools and for Dunwoody Nature Center. An organizing maven who has retired from a high-profile corporate role in time to organize major fundraising programs and wrangle nearly a hundred volunteers for an annual festival. At the same time. An ultra-busy entrepreneur who handles electronic communications for two different schools in her spare microseconds. A guy who shares his love of building stuff by crafting stage sets for the Drama Club. The CPA who serves as treasurer for every civic, Scout, church, and school nonprofit in her family's life. A PTO volunteer who decides to make several extra salads in case there aren't enough for a special teacher appreciation luncheon. A woman who picks up trash, weeds flower beds, and moves debris as she walks through the park.

In the past two days, I've called six people to ask them to help with very short notice, yet critical needs in two nonprofit arenas. Every single person said, "Sure!" I'm relieved, I'm delighted, and I'm proud of the way the people in this community get down to business and take care of the quality-of-life things that aren't glamorous, but are very necessary.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My peas aren't doing so well.

The peas in the garden box at Dunwoody Nature Center are thriving. They've emerged from seeds and are twining their way up the trellis with lush green vigor.

The peas in the garden box chez Knitternall are downright embarrassing. They're pathetic. They thrust out a few pea pods just to get my hopes up then laid back down, exhausted, on the ground.

Same box design. Same mix of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. Same watering cycle.

Blast it.

The romaine is bursting with leafy goodness. The beans are perky and the brussel sprouts are surging out of the soil. Twelve out of 16 square foot sections of the Knitternall square foot garden box are growing majestically according to plan. But all I can think about are the peas. I love peas. I planted four square feet with peas because I wanted as much bounty as my little garden could muster.

I tried to give peas a chance. For naught. Oh well, there's always the farmer's market (though I may have to drive to Druid Hills if Dunwoody can't figure out a way to embrace the mom and pop sensibility of farmer's markets.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

And she's back . . .

Well, that's the longest break in Knitternall blog history.

It's May and time for the school crazies. End of school celebrations, end of course tests, final exams, accolade banquets galore, teacher appreciation week, and, oh, yeah, WORK and CHURCH are mixing and mingling to the nth degree. I always promise myself I won't overcommit the month of May but there I go again.

Bits and pieces of life in Dunwoody add up to a very full plate indeed.

We had Comcast Cares Day at Dunwoody Nature Center. Lots of work by our executive director and board members, wonderful programs by Farmer D and Jarod Miller, much-needed work on the grounds, installation of raised beds for herbs and blueberry bushes, and a gi-normous donation of $25,000 that we really didn't expect (manna from heaven!).

PCMS enjoyed two wonderful nights of The Sound of Music, staged by the students under the direction of the peerless Miss M. I walked away marveling at the confidence and joy of the student performers, stage crew, techies, singers, and dancers.

AG just hosted a get-together for the Eccentrics, a group of ultrasmart, ultrakind, ultrawithit friends at PCMS. None knew each other before middle school. Each has discovered a kindred spirit in the others.

A is laboring on his science fair project for chemistry, prep for his AP exam in World History, final projects for Latin, Art, and World Literature, and, oh yeah, yet another Remicade infusion in the middle of everything. He's counting the days until the end of school. So am I.

I'm paddling towards a huge wave that will roar through the next year as PCMS' Chair of the Executive Council. My mother asked me if I WANTED all that work, and I said 'Yes!' There are a lot of have-to's in life. I'm determined to include as many want-to's as possible, and serving my kids' schools is high on my list.
It's Teacher Appreciation Week at DHS and we're determined to show our teachers a very special week indeed. Ssshhhh - some very cool things are in store for them this week.

A Dunwoody police officer monitored the stop sign intersection at the end of our street. I was delighted to see him. He ticketed half a dozen people WHO LIVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND KNOW BETTER before he moved on. Bet we see another letter to the editor about "speed traps."

Mom may come for a visit before the end of the month. Bliss! Just wish Dad could travel, but his health isn't the best.

I got to indulge in a day of knitter nirvana, attending the recent Stitches South convention at the Cobb Galleria. I managed to be somewhat frugal, though the luscious cashmeres and silks, one-of-a-kind handdyed skeins, and unique patterns were mighty tempting. I ran into several knittery friends, which made the day even more special.

I'm long past due posting pictures of many of the finished objects I've completed in the past month. Those will come very soon.