Who's writing...

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North Salt Lake, Utah, United States
I'm a woman with degrees in creative writing and cultural anthropology, experience in retail sales, merchant processing, teaching English as a foreign language, and archaeology, who teaches writing and computer classes at a local college, and works for a herpetology society. I also like to read, cook, knit, watch movies, make baskets, take photographs, craft, travel, and blog. I currently live in Utah with my husband, T, and our two dogs. Oh, and I'm a Cancer, which explains the crab thing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How to Get a Baby to Sleep

1. Start with a baby who has just eaten.  This will make her full and sleepy, which should make the process go easier.

2. Burp the sleepy baby.  If you are lucky, she will stay asleep while you are burping her.

3. Before putting her to bed, you will need to change the baby's diaper, and possibly put her into pajamas.  This will piss her off, making sure that she is wide awake and unhappy, negating the effects of a full belly.

4. Swaddle the crying baby tightly in a blanket to make her feel snug and secure.  This should help her calm down again

5.  Proceed to the Established Sleep Inducing Area, in our case, the reclining rocker loveseat that is upstairs.  It is best to have the blinds closed and the lights off, but make sure there is a nightlight that sheds just enough light to tell if her eyes are open or closed.

6.  Determine which Body Position the baby is most amenable to at this point in time.  While having her lie on her back with her head in the crook of your arm, with your elbow supported by the armrest, is the most comfortable position for you, she will most likely want to be upright, with her ear against your chest.  This position is very sweet, but without any support, your arm will tire out quickly.  Whichever position she chooses, ensure that you can see her face.

7.  Determine which Soothing Motion the baby currently prefers: rocking, patting, bouncing, or a combination of those.  Again, while rocking is the easiest on you, she will probably want to be bounced, which guarantees your unsupported arm will be cramping up very quickly.

8.  Insert the World's Best Pacifier, aka your left index finger, into the baby's mouth.  Be sure to have it inverted, with the pad tucked against the roof of her mouth, for maximum effect.

9.  With the baby in her preferred Body Position, and the World's Best Pacifier in place, maintain a steady rhythm of Soothing Motion while watching for her eyes to close.  You will see the lids begin to droop, and eventually they will close all the way. 

10.  As soon as they close the first time, they will pop wide open again.  This will be repeated at least a few dozen times.  At least half a dozen times, the eyes popping open will be accompanied by squirming, spitting out the World's Best Pacifier, and/or crying.  The squirming will completely undo the swaddling blanket, and the baby reserves the right to suddenly change her choice of preferred Body Position and Soothing Motion at any time, without prior notice, so repeat steps 4-8 as needed.  In serious cases of crying, you may leave the Established Sleep Inducing Area to pace with her until she has calmed back down enough to proceed with step 4.

11.  You may try to lead by example, allowing your own eyes to slowly droop and eventually close completely.  However, I guarantee that they will also suddenly pop open again when you realize you are accidentally falling asleep and might drop the baby, and hers will still be wide open when they do.

12.  Eventually, you will see her eyes close completely and stay closed.  Wait at least 30 seconds without changing anything to be sure she is actually asleep -- 60 to 90 seconds is even better.

13.  Once a long enough period of closed eyes has been established, begin to think about removing the World's Best Pacifier, without changing anything else.  Sucking may actually increase just after the eyes close, so wait until there is a minimum of 15 seconds between sucks, and remove the Pacifier between sucks for best results.  If the eyes pop open again once the Pacifier is removed, return to step 4.

14.  Once the World's Best Pacifier has been successfully removed, maintain Soothing Motion for at least 60 seconds.  If the eyes remain shut, attempt cessation of the Soothing Movement, without changing Body Position.  If the eyes pop open when the Soothing Movement stops, return to step 4.

15.  If the eyes remain shut for 60 seconds without the World's Best Pacifier and Soothing Movement, then you can think about putting her into the Approved Sleeping Place, namely her bassinet, which is in the next room.

16.  There are two tricky transitions that you now need to make: your transition from Sitting to Standing, and her transition from Vertical to Horizontal.  Begin by maintaining her Body Position as much as possible, as you gently stand up.  Make sure you have one hand under her head, and one under her butt before attempting the Sitting to Standing maneuver. 

17.  If you make it to Standing with the eyes still closed, proceed slowly and gently towards the Approved Sleeping Place.  You will need to pass through the Sleeping Dog Obstacle Course to get there.  This obstacle course will change nightly, so be alert.

18.  Once you have successfully navigated the Obstacle Course and you are standing next to the Approved Sleeping Place, you need to manage her Vertical to Horizontal transition.  Support the head and butt as you maneuver her into a horizontal position.  If you screw up this transition, you will need to return to step 4.

19.  Place her gently in the bassinet, placing the butt down first, then her head.  Slip your hands out from under her, then wait 60 seconds to ensure that the eyes don't pop open again.  If the eyes do pop open, you may be able to get her back to sleep in the bassinet by deploying an Emergency World's Best Pacifier, with optional Soothing Pats.  But you'll probably have to return to step 4.

20.  If the eyes stay closed, feel free to crawl into bed next to her bassinet.  She will be sure to let you know when her eyes pop open again.  Repeat procedure every 2-4 hours.

Total Time: 45-90 minutes
Yield: 1 sleeping baby

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quick Baby Gift

A wonderful baby present that I was given recently was a little Minnie Mouse blankie.  It is absolutely adorable!

When my friend M saw it, she immediately thought that her little girl, who is about 6 months old, might be really into a little blankie like that right now.  Since I knew we were getting together soon, I decided to knit her a bunny blanket buddy from a pattern I had used before.

I grabbed a skein of hot pink chunky yarn flecked with rainbow colors, and took a look at the pattern.  There was no gauge listed, but I wanted to be sure the blankie stayed manageably-sized for a little one, and that I wouldn't run out of yarn.  I basically eyeballed how big I wanted it to be, which required having to rip out and redo a few sections, but it was still a very quick project.  I like that the pattern starts from the bottom corner and moves up, with yarn-over eyelets along the edge for a little bit of detail.  The knotted hands are very easy to manage, and while the directions for knitting the ears feels very strange, I like the angle they make from the head, and the fact that mine always curl in opposite directions for a little personality.  And embroidering the cute face was a cinch.

Considering how much time it spent in M's little girl's mouth, I think it was a hit!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More Things That Surprised Me About Being Pregnant

I certainly didn't think I knew everything about being pregnant before it happened to me, but I thought I had a good handle on things.  And then some general assumptions of mine about what pregnancy is like were completely blown out of the water.

1) Pregnant bellies are much more sensitive than non-pregnant bellies.  This simply never occurred to me.  I figured a belly was a belly.  However, when you gain weight, and your belly gets bigger, the additional weight is mostly located on the outside of the abdominal wall.  When you are pregnant, all of the increase is happening inside the abdominal wall -- which means that, when you press on that belly, you are pressing the baby right up against your internal organs.  It's not like pressing against a regular belly, that has the usual amount of room between those organs.  So being able to sleep on my stomach, or wear too-tight jeans, has a completely different dimension of discomfort to it than I had previously expected.  And speaking of internal organs...

2) Developing babies kick in all directions.  Again, simply something that hadn't occurred to me before.  I tended to think of kicks being aimed exclusively outward, towards the abdominal wall.  Sure, I had heard of babies kicking their moms in the bladder in the later stages of pregnancy, but my little one actually spent day 2 of noticeable kicking using my bladder as a speed bag for about half an hour.  It wasn't disastrous, but it was certainly uncomfortable.  And since then, I have been kicked in the bowels, in various other organs, and, most uncomfortably, in the cervix.  Yes, the baby can kick downward and hit that very sensitive body part from the inside -- a distinct and exceptionally uncomfortable sensation.

3) Braxton-Hicks "practice" contractions commonly begin as early as the seventh month of your pregnancy.  I had heard of Braxton-Hicks, but only in association with the last week or two of pregnancy -- I had no idea that your uterus can start "practicing" for the big show three whole months before the baby is due.  The connection between these contractions and giving birth was so strong in my mind, when the doctor identified what I had experienced in these terms, I felt like suddenly we were completely out of time and the baby would be here next week, which sent me into a complete panic for a few days.  I've (mostly) gotten over than now, but that reality check definitely kicked our preparations into high gear.

4) Along with increased gas production comes a decreased ability to sneak one discretely.  I have mentioned the fact that, along with everything else horrible your hormones do to you when you're pregnant, one of them is increase the amout of gas your body produces.  As a girl, I was a pro at either holding gas in indefinitely, or silently passing it little at a time.  No longer.  I have no idea if it's a matter of higher internal pressures, changes in external anatomy, or a loosening of the sphincter that comes along with the loosening of joints and whatnot, but it is much more difficult to manage my gas quietly these days.  Which is unfortunate, since I have to spend a signifiant amount of my days presenting in front of a class for 50 minutes at a time, where I can't simply slip out to the restroom for some privacy.  Last week, I had two audible toots escape during the first hour of class, despite my best efforts;  thank goodness my students were willing to follow my lead and act as through absolutely nothing out of the ordinary had happened.  (And, finally, the training I received in Kyrgyzstan to show absolutely no reaction when little boys threw whipper-snapper fireworks at my feet came in handy again!)

5) You will never in your life be asked so frequently and by so many people, "How are you feeling?"  As a woman, I fear that I have been amiss in not constantly asking the pregnant woman I have been in contact with how they were feeling.  For that, I apologize.  I simply didn't understand that the symptoms of pregnancy become an overwhelming preoccupation.  Even now, I'm not sure that I completely empathize with the sentiment, as I have been extraordinarily lucky so far and have managed to escape many of the discomforts of pregnancy.  At first, I found it somewhat annoying to be asked how I felt all the time, since I clearly felt just fine.  Then, I began to feel guilty, since I still clearly felt just fine.  Now I am prepared for the question, and I feel grateful that I can still answer, "Good!"  I also hedge my bets by letting everyone know that, while I have been very, very lucky so far, I am sure that I will pay for it later on.  Whether that payment comes due during labor, the terrible twos, or the teenaged years, I am sure that I will somehow have to pay heftily for an almost complete lack of morning sickness, and the ability to stay in my pre-pregnancy jeans until almost the end of my sixth month.

6) Maternity clothes suck.  Despite the fact that I live in the state with the highest birth rate in the entire US, it is incredibly difficult to find maternity clothes.  You are lucky to find 2 or 3 racks of clothes in the maternity section, with 2 styles of pants and 5 or 6 styles of shirts, assuming the store that you are in even HAS a maternity section.  And they do cruel things like putting it next to the petites section, or, hilariously, right next to the prom dresses.  And to add insult to injury, even in discount stores, the clothes in the maternity section are never discounted, meaning you pay an arm and a leg for clothes that have a limited window to be worn.  (Although, it has been pointed out to me that I will need to keep wearing those maternity clothes for several months after giving birth, another point I had not really considered before, so the window won't be quite as short as I had imagined.)  As for comfort, if you opt for full-coverage like I did, the top of the pants come up to your armpits, while the belly panel is cut so low it starts at your crotch, so you are forced to wear maternity shirts with them, because other shirts simply aren't cut long enough to preserve the illusion that you are wearing mormal jeans.  In my case, I also need a belly band to keep my pants from slipping down, which means another layer of elastic over my belly, and then, in our chilly March weather, a long shirt under a sweater.  The pants are constantly slipping down and taking my underwear with them, but I need to pull them up from the armpits, while simultaneously tugging my shirts down to ensure full belly coverage.  I wish the weather and my job would allow me to walk around with a few inches of cute, pregnant belly hanging out, but that's simply out of the question.  The whole process is so annoying, I have started only wearing real pants when I need to leave the house, and living in pajama bottoms and yoga pants the rest of the time.
Shopping for maternity clothes!
I am sure that there are more revelations to come in the next few months, and I will be sure to share them with you.  For now, I can simply ask, what unexpected surprises did preganncy hold for you?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Belated Knitted Tortoise

I just downloaded some photos from my camera and discovered that I had never posted about this project that I did back in January.

My second job is for the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, and my boss, B, is an awesome guy.  So I decided that I needed to knit him something as a Christmas present, and I decided that something needed to be Piecrust the Tortoise.

I was drawn to the pattern because of the three-dimensional nature of the shell.  What I didn't realize was that the bumps were created by embroidering the whole damned thing.  Or that he would have so many pieces to put together!  Body, head, tail, front and back feet, top and bottom of upper shell, and a double-thick undershell all needed to be sewed together correctly.  But the cool thing is the body is one piece, which is then sandwiched between the upper, domed shell and a flat "pancake" lower shell, so that you could, theoretically pull his little body out of the shell.

I kinda screwed up the picot edge on the upper shell, since it was the first time I'd ever done one and I didn't understand the concept at first, but otherwise I think he came out pretty good.  The shell wasn't as bumpy as the original, but I was still pretty happy with how he turned out.

Then it occurred to me that my boss is not the kind of person who likes having random decorative thingies laying around.  But I also remembered that he has two 10-year-old kids.  He seemed to like the tortoise, but the next day I found out that my hunch about his kids had paid off.  His daughter absolutely LOVED it.  Yay!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Finger puppet fun

Sorry I haven't been posting on here much -- being pregnant has got my energy levels a little lower than usual, and my class schedule has me pretty busy this term.  But I do have a little knitting project I just finished that I thought I'd write about.

I made finger puppets for my little cousin for Christmas, and they were such a hit with the family, my mom requested I make some more for her to give as gifts to a friend's two boys.  The only patterns I have are for a mouse and an octopus, but she wanted 4 altogether.  So I thought about the variations I could make on those patterns, and came up with an elephant and a goldfish.  While the ideas came strictly from the original shapes, it was nice that they created thematic pairs, too.

Elephant and mouse
Octopus and goldfish
All of the finger puppets start on a cone-shaped base.  The mouse simply adds big ears and a tail, and then you embroider on the face.  I made his nose a little too big, and I set his ears a bit too low, but I still think he's cute.
For the elephant, I made a trunk by starting with a wider strip than the tail, put in a few rows of ribbing for the bend, slowly decreased, and then finished it off by casting off the final stitches to make a wide end instead of a pointed tip like the mouse tail.  The ears have just a few more rows than the mouse ears, making them a little wider, and I sewed more of the base to the head to make them more stable, and turned them wrong-side out for variety.  Then I added tusks by copying the decreases from the mouse tail to make them pointy.  And the eyes are just embroidered.

For the octopus, you start with the cone shape, and then instead of decreasing for the tip, you increase to make the round head and stuff it.  Then you knit 8 separate legs, sew them on, and finish with an embroidered face again.  In the original, you make the finger cone the same color as the octopus, but I decided to do his in blue this time.
The inspiration for the blue cone was the fact that there weren't going to be any legs to hide it on the goldfish.  I followed the same pattern, then knit a wide-based tail that increased, and three triangular fins.  I wanted the tail to be frilly, which I have done on a neck ruffle, doubling the stitches every row for a few rows.  However, the yellow yarn I was using was a finer gauge than the rest, and I couldn't seem to make it work right when I doubled the yarn, so after 4 or 5 tries I just did all the fins in garter stitch.  Then I embroidered on the lips and the eyes.

Personally, I think they all came out pretty good.  But I'll have to wrack my brain to come up with more animals next time!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas knitting

As usual, I was a busy knitter for Christmas this year.  I made presents for several people, and had a lot of fun doing it.

I started with an addition to the knitted nativity scene I started for my mom last year. I got the original patterns from Running Jack Knits, and adapted them this year. The wise men were just variations on the pattern for Joseph.
Full wise men set
I started with this guy. I obviously made his skin dark brown, and his beard black.  Then I did a robe in brown and white yarn, which came out a little too long because I was using two yarns at once and didn't think to asjuct the pattern.  I knitted a long, flat piece in white, which I then wrapped around his head as a turban and sewed on.  I skipped the sleeves on his clothing, and made a gold bottle by knitting a very small tube in the round, and then decreasing and finishing the top few rows as I-cord.  I then stitched the bottle to his hands.
Balthasar, the Arab Wise man

The next one I decided to make in shades of purple, with beige skin and a white beard, and I just switched to purple yarn to finish his head, instead of making the hat a separate piece.  I made his cloak pretty short.  He ended up looking like a wizard, so I did some gold embroidery on his hat, but I'm not sure it really helped that much.  For the box, I made it like some of the baby booties I have knit before: I did a small garter stitch rectangle, then picked up stitches around all 4 edges and worked them in stockinette stitch for a few rows to make the sides, and finally finished by knitting in garter stitch from one short end, picking up the side stitches by using K2TOG at the edge of each row, and I think I closed the end with a kitchener stitch.  It ended up a little big, but it works.
Melchior, the Persian wise man
 For the last wise man, I went with beige skin and a brown beard, orange clothes, and a green and white striped cloak with a braided white belt.  I knit a miniature hat with a white rolled edge and an extended pointed tip, but it ended up pretty big for his little head.  When I sewed it on, I added a lot of extra stitches to try and shape it the way I liked it.  I made him a silver bottle, which started the same as the gold bottle, but I wrapped the yarn a few times around the neck instead of doing I-cord, for variation.
Caspar, the Indian wise man
The hardest part was the camel -- I couldn't find a camel pattern that looked like it would come out to the right size for this set, so I started with the donkey pattern, and just winged it.  It starts from the butt, so I added a bunch of increases to one side of the tube, and then decreased back down, and was pretty successful with the hump.  I tried increases on one side and decreases on the other to make the long neck bend, but it didn't really go the way I wanted it to.  I then did the head, with more shaping to get the big nose, and I think that worked out pretty well.  I then picked up a few stitches on either side of the head to make the ears, did two long, fat I-cords for the front legs and just sewed them to the sides (this yarn was very forgiving for that kind of thing), and pretended he didn't need back legs.  A few pieces of yarn threaded through the butt and braided together made a cute tail that you can't see.  I did a lot of stitching to get the neck curved the way I wanted it (again, thank goodness for knobbly yarn), made a little seed stitch blanket that I just sewed onto his back, and used a single strand of the same yarn for the harness and reins.  Scale-wise he's a little big for the wisemen, especially his head, but I'm still happy with him.
the requisite wise man transportation device
My next gift was something small and easy for my cousin's little girl, who is just about two.  I have made the mouse and octopus from my Toys to Knit book before, but I think I like my yarn choices a little bit better this time around.  According to my mom, these finger puppets were a big hit with my family at Christmas.
Finger puppets
The last item was a quick project so that I would have an extra gift for my dad, and I am honestly quite disappointed with how it turned out, but it's all my fault.  I found a web site called ODDknit with patterns for fossils, and decided to make the trilobite for my dad.  He has one on his desk, and they are one of his favorite fossils.  However, my first mistake was choosing my yarn badly; the grey I picked for the body of the fossil was slightly speckled and very matte, so the trilobite body pattern doesn't stand out well.  I am okay with my use of thick-and-thin tan yarn for the rock, which adds texture.  But the biggest mistake was how I picked up the stitches.  It was very difficult to see the pattern as I was trying to pick the stitches up around the edges, so that was a pain to begin with.  Once it was done, I realised I had been holding my knitting the wrong way as I picked up the stitches, a common problem for me, so that if I now started knitting in the round, the square edges of the swatch that are supposed to end up inside the rock would be on the outside.  I basically started knitting by taking the yarn in the opposite direction I'd been working in, but that left me with an odd outline around my trilobite, instead of the smooth transition from fossil to rock that should be there.
crappy trilobite
I am honestly tempted to try it again with different yarn, and picking up the stitches correctly.  Maybe for my dad's birthday or something.

There is one more project I am still working on, but I'll show that to you guys when I'm done with it.  So, what did you knit this year for Christmas?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Unexpected

Maybe I haven't paid close attention, but before I got pregnant, I only knew about a few typical symptoms of early pregnancy.  There's morning sickness, of course -- which I knew didn't have to be limited to mornings, and didn't necessarily have to end after the first trimester.  And then I knew your boobs got bigger and very sensitive.  And I knew that during the first trimester, women tend to be very tired in the afternoons. 

Well, I got incredibly lucky with the morning sickness -- I had 3 or 4 incidents where, out of the blue, I would suddenly think I might throw up, but after a minute or two of some serious burping, I would be fine.  But my mom didn't have any morning sickness when she was pregnant with my sister, and I tend to take after her when it comes to women stuff, so I had been prepared for that.  My boobs didn't get a lot bigger, but they were definitely sore.  And I sure did want a nap in the afternoons!

But there are a bunch of other symptoms that no one warned me about.  In fact, in some cases, I wouldn't have even known they were connected to my pregnancy if it wasn't for my copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting.

I knew that you needed to stay hydrated during your first trimester, but I had no idea how thirsty I would be all the time!  It got to the point where I made sure to walk around with a water bottle in my hand at all times, so I wouldn't be constantly looking for a water fountain.  I looked like some kind of eco-conscious fitness fanatic.

Yeah, it seems like a logical conclusion that, if you are drinking all the time, you will be peeing all the time.  But I seemed to be peeing out twice as much as I was putting in!  I expected to have a tiny tank at the end of my pregnancy, but not at the beginning.

Yup, not only would I look like a water buffalo soon, I get to start smelling like one right away.

Stuffy Nose and Nosebleeds
Considering the time of year, I started thinking I had a cold, but a very mild one.  Then I noticed it seemed worse in bed, so I thought maybe it was allergies.  Then when I'd blow my nose in the shower in the morning, I'd often see a spot of blood, which is really strange for me -- I have never had a full-blown nosebleed in my life.  Turns out, all my mucous membranes are swelling and softening right now, as my cervix starts prepping for this kid to get here.  It's bad enough when my nose decides to get involved when I eat spicy food -- now it's got to try copying my cervix, too?

Popping Ears
Even though T has a CPAP machine now, I am still in the habit of wearing earplugs every night.  I noticed that one of my ears started making popping noises when I would yawn or swallow.  I worried that it was an ear infection, but there was no pain or pressure.  Shouldn't have worried -- apparently, my eustacian tubes are trying to copy my nose and cervix.  Not very original.

Being a Klutz
I had heard of pregnancy brain, but not pregnancy hands.  I find myself dropping things more often than usual, which should mean that my reflexes are bad, but somehow, I can often catch them as they are falling.  So I'm like some kind of klutzy Catwoman.

The Dreams
I had heard of pregnant women having strange sex dreams, but I wasn't prepared for the fact that ALL of my dreams have been weird.  I'm someone who has a lot of vivid dreams to begin with, and I tend to look to them to see what is stewing around in my subconscious.  But these days, I just assume that my subconscious is playing Mad Libs, because nothing makes sense to me.

Did you have any other unexpected symptoms when you were pregnant?