The ramblings of a working, knitting, writing wife and mother.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Things That I Saw At the Knitting Convention

Vogue Knitting Pasadena 2016

When last we checked in with our wool-obsessed heroine, she was staying up way too late trying to figure out what she should bring to the knitting convention.

Hmm? Knitting convention? Oh, you mean where you take your cup of tea to the bit of closet you have set aside for that Rubbermaid container full of yarn and sort through it, right? Taking stock of what you have and perhaps seeking out that one ball of pink sport weight to knit your toddler a hat? That’s a knitting convention?

No, sweet soul, that’s something else. I mean a full on, three-day, have to buy tickets in advance knitting convention. Now pick your jaw up off the floor. If there can be such a thing a toy train conventions and cat shows popping up consistently at my local mason lodge, there can definitely be such a thing as a knitting convention. I even go one step more and tell you that it was a Crowded Knitting Convention.

I went last year for the very first time. I took a class on how to cut steeks, how to sew in zippers, and a little workshop where we knit a little dragon and learned all sorts of interesting and helpful toy making tips. This year when I looked over the class schedule, there weren’t any that really jumped at me (plus my knitting budget is a little tighter this year). Mostly this year I wanted to spend an entire Saturday wandering around the Marketplace.

My original plan was to leave early in the morning, stop by the Pasadena Central Library for a book I wanted to read, then get to the convention site and knit until the marketplace opened at 10 am. Because it’s fun to get there early and watch the knitters trickle in from where ever knitters come from (there are so many, it’s kind of interesting that I never spot one in the wild), all wearing the most amazing things even though it is May in Pasadena and much too hot for them to be wearing them. Then I would wander happily around, taking breaks to just sit and knit and watch other shoppers, all the way until closing time at 6 pm.

Because, you see, my Saturdays are structured most of the time. T-ball, menu planning, grocery shopping, library, cat boxes and rat cages, vacuuming, sheet washing, and all of it done without spousal support because he’s usually at a training or something. So the idea of spending a Saturday just sitting in a random spot at the convention center, not doing anything at all but knitting and watching other knitters buy yarn, is just the sort of delicious treat that I had been coveting and dreaming about for a long time.

However, my plan didn’t go quite as it should. Because I know the deep struggle of keeping it all together on a Saturday by myself, I had a wrench of guilt leaving my husband that morning with a conflict of time. T-ball goes from 9 – 10:30 am. Ducky needs to be at his office at 10. Despite my ample warning time, he had not been able to find a solution to this issue, and I felt a twinge of marital responsibility to not abandon him. So I stayed home when I wanted to be leaving. Ducky took Meridy with him to the search and rescue station for his mandatory duty crew truck check. I took Ezri to the grocery store and bought peaches, pop, and peanut butter, then trucked her down to T-ball at 9. I watched her play – my favorite was the time she hit the foul ball and it landed perfectly in one of the batting helmets left upside down on the sidelines. Then we walked home and I quick as anything put together three lunches (one for Meridy, one for Ezri, and one for me), threw three knitting projects, my lunch, a soda, my wallet and phone, and my most important wrist band that would allow me into the convention into a pink rolling suitcase, and we were off.

I dropped Ezri off at Ducky’s office with their lunches, kissed my husband good-bye, and gleefully got back into the car, by myself, to drive to the convention center. I missed out on the first two hours and the library, but I did get to make Ducky’s life a little easier, and honestly, I knew I wouldn’t really need eight full hours of shopping. It was a healthy compromise.

The best part of a knitting convention is seeing that even though knitting is a rather solitary activity, I have a lot of spiritual friends who have very similar feelings toward sticks and string. We are an entire culture. It’s like being a member of a secret club – we know we’re out there, but it’s only in times like this, in places like this, where we can really pull all our dorkiness out into the open and have everyone else accept and cherish it.

That’s why it was cool when I chased down Wendy. I don’t know Wendy. I’ve never seen her before. But she was wearing an awesome jacket and I just had to have a picture of it. And not only did she not call the police on the strange, pregnant woman running her down to ask about her jacket, she seemed genuinely happy that someone had noticed her hard work and craftsmanship.

See what I mean? Great jacket. Too hot to wear it, but I’m glad Wendy decided to suffer a little so I could enjoy her awesome stitching. There was neat stuff like that all over.

At the marketplace, I got to see that there are knitters out there who have more time than I do for getting all creative.

There are crafters who have huge visions and make art.

And there is yarn for sale for knitters who take their knitting to the edge.

The Marketplace for this convention isn’t the biggest one around. I think that’s a good thing. Even in this small setting, I still needed a sort of grounding point. I walked into the show area with a couple ideas on what I wanted to come home with, a firm budget, and a few rules. The budget I’ll keep secret so you’ll all still think of me as a person of reason and restraint. As for the rest:
1.     I wanted a color gradient set with six colors, approximately 120 yards of yarn each
2.     I wanted to find the super soft organic cotton baby sets from last year that I regret not buying

1.     I would not purchase any yarn that I already own
2.     I would not purchase any yarn that I already have easy access to
3.     I would not purchase any yarn from any booth until I had already walked through the entire Marketplace
4.     I would not purchase yarn unless I had visited it more than once and had a sit down with my knitting to think about whether I really wanted it or not
5.     I would not go over my budget
6.     I would only buy yarn that had a definite use or pattern already in mind. I don’t want orphaned skeins all over my house that are heart-breakingly pretty, but useless as I search fruitlessly for a pattern that will capture their true potential. This is crippling, and I’m not doing it this year
7.     I will not touch horribly expensive fibers if I don’t have any intention of buying them. I will keep my hands to myself in the presence of cashmere, silk, and alpaca. If I see angora anything, I will avert my eyes and go in another direction

Rules and wants securely in place, I began winding my way up and down the booths. I saw knitting bags, gorgeous ceramic bowls to hold your balls of yarn as you knit. I walked past Twinkie-chan (she’s a person) giving a crocheting demonstration in one corner, surrounded by nodding enthusiasts and a very bemused looking cameraman. I saw oodles of trays of gorgeous buttons.

I noticed pretty quickly that super bulky yarn is really in this year. I can see the appeal of the biggest, coziest afghan in the world, and I know there’s a lady selling them on etsy for hundreds of dollars a piece, but I just can’t wrap my head around it. I’m not saying it’s not cool, but I have no use for it and no desire to try it. Knitting for me needs to be portable and there’s no way I’m carting around a ball of yarn like this:

and knitting needles like this

So I can knit up a square that will be heavier than one of my kids. I saw plenty of other knitters carting around big bales of yarn on their backs, though, so apparently I’m in the minority on this one.

I visited the Habu Textiles booth

Don’t you love it? Isn’t it pretty? I heard Habu once described as being the Matrix wardrobe of knitted stuff.  All their designs have this post-apocalyptic feel to them, mesh-like, drapey, monochromatic colors. Very Matrix. What you can’t see from this picture is that their yarn is a blend of wool and stainless steel, which gives their designs a unique look and texture. It’s cool and all, but again, not something I’m going to spend money on. I walked on.

And had to duck under another camera who was recording the fashion show. Yes, that’s right. There were fashion shows every hour with darling little models wandering up and down the catwalk with the latest in knitwear draped over their tiny shoulders.  Apparently I missed the baby one first thing in the morning. Babies! Wearing itty-bitty knitted baby things. Sigh. Maybe it’s better that I wasn’t there for that one.

I didn’t linger to watch them.  I had other stuff to do. Besides that, while so many crafters were distracted by the show, it meant that they weren’t taking up space in the booths or buying the last of some great kit out from under me. I turned another corner and there was Franklin Habit sitting at a book-signing booth, just sitting there all alone. I paused long enough to tell him that I loved his hat collection. This took him a second to process. He’s used to getting compliments all the time, you see, but mostly about his teaching or his books or his knitting designs. I’m not sure if anyone ever compliments him on his choice of head gear. But it’s true. I love his hats, and it seemed a good opportunity to tell him so. He was very sweet, had the presence of mind to thank me and look pleased, and then someone came with a book they wanted him to sign, so I moved out of the way and up the next aisle.

I visited some more yarn. Yarn that was hung on hooks in great loopy skeins of potential. There were tons of colors and textures, and I loved so much of it. If it had been a kit of some kind, I probably would have been powerless to resist. As it was, it didn’t list a price anywhere on it and there was not a single hint as to what one might do with it, so I took its picture and left it there.

I found a booth specializing in the exotic fiber department. I took this picture, but I did not touch the yarn.

I know what you’re thinking. Yak? Oh yes. It’s so much softer than wool. It does not itch. It does not felt. It’s crazy expensive. To make up for resisting the pull of the yak, I did take one of these guys down to pet for a little while.

These little guys are made from clean, carded alpaca wool, naturally colored. They were so sweet, and it’s just the thing to do with alpaca fiber if you are not a spinner (which I am not). They had more alpaca roving to spin with, but mostly I just fondled the little bears. I may have gone back to this booth and pet the bears many times, but no one will tell you the number of times because I bribed the booth owner into keeping it a secret. I barely made it out of there without one or two of these tucked into my suitcase.

By the time I’d made my way through the whole exhibition hall, I realized that I hadn’t yet spotted the booth for A Wall of Yarn. I’d been told by my knitting teacher just the day before that the dudes who own the Wall of Yarn shop in Freeport, Illinois, had driven themselves across the country for this event. The last time I was in Illinois I stopped by their shop and bought some Fairies and Elves Opal. I was wearing the socks I’d made from one of their skeins.

I turned around for a few minutes, disoriented, until I saw a little corner of the hall, behind the lady at a table doing knitting nail art, that I’d missed in trying to duck around the fashion show set up. A whole corner I hadn’t been to yet, and there they were.

I approached them quietly because I wanted to see what they had first and if I wanted some of it. Because I didn’t want to get into a conversation with them and then drift off into the crowd without giving them at least a little business. Because that’s a long drive, right? That’s also a dangerous way of thinking in a place like this because all these vendors have worked hard to be at this event, paid money to have some space in this room, and if you think the way I was thinking about the Wall of Yarn, my budget was in deep trouble. Still, I tucked myself into the booth while they were attending to another customer.

I shouldn’t have worried so much (but I’m like that). They were sweet guys and their booth was stuffed full of Nordic yarn. Colorwork everywhere. Neat bags put together with breath-taking pictures of the potential awesome inside on the fronts (but no price tags, sneaky yarn guys). And they were running through their inventory at a pretty good clip, to be honest. I followed their conversation to their center table and realized it was piled high with Kauni.

Oh, Kauni. I’ve always wanted to try knitting with it, but somehow it always seemed too hard to obtain or too expensive to mess with and what am I going to make with it anyway? Kauni, for those who don’t know, is a rather rustic wool made in Denmark that has a long color change throughout the skein. The change is so gradual that it’s impossible to tell all the colors included by looking at just the outside of a Kauni ball. But the yarn guys had a plan for that and had helpfully knit up a sample of each of their multitude of colors and had the whole wooly package sitting on the table to paw at and enjoy. I watched someone go through it and then my eyes wandered to the side of the booth where they had hung a shawl. A very Nordic looking shawl. Then I overheard one of them telling another shopper about the kits for that very shawl and how he could put one together for her in a minute from the ingredients on the table. One ball of Kauni. Three balls of a contrasting solid color. You pick.

And that’s when I broke the rule about visiting yarn more than once before buying it. (Does it count that I’ve pined over Kauni online for years?) I spoke with the booth owners, told them who I was and the friends (Hi Audrey! Hi Rachel!) we had in common. They laughed at how many people used to live in and around Freeport that they were meeting today. Then we all looked through the sample packet together until I found my chosen color. EMH (how could I resist a color like that?) All three of us started looking around at the balls of yarn on the table (because it’s not always obvious just by looking at them if it’s the right color or not what with the changing thing going on). We picked balls up that had gray in them, but they weren’t my gray. We looked under balls and on the other side of the table and we started to get a little worried. The yarn guys mentioned that there was a possibility, what with the popularity of the little shawl kit I wanted, that they might be out of that particular color. I wasn’t as worried. There were plenty of other colors I could fall back on, and I’d had a hard time choosing in the first place so having to choose something else wasn’t going to be the end of the world for me just a slight narrowing of my choices (I secretly wanted them ALL).

But then I picked up a ball that was exactly under my hand, without moving an inch, and that was it. The last ball of EMH. Then we all trucked over to the solid contrasts and they even got down on the floor with me to help me choose a good one, plucked three from the shelves, and packaged it all up with the pattern for me.  See?

I said my good-byes, they went to other shoppers, and I teetered out of their booth giddy and dazed, the Kauni mine at last in my suitcase, and the ice broken for the real purchasing of the day to begin. Right, time to hunt some gradients.

For knitting, there are two types of yarn referred to as gradients. The first is when you have one continuous yarn dyed different colors that shifts from one shade to the next. Sometimes the colors are all of one family, say blue, or sometimes it shifts from red to yellow to purple with long stretches of each color flowing one to the next. Kauni is a gradient.

The second kind is a gradient set where you have several smaller skeins, sometimes all shades of the same color, or sometimes complimentary colors, all bagged together because they look nice nestled next to each other. This is a gradient set, and that’s what I was looking for so I could make On the Spice Market – a shawl I’d seen not too long ago that I was getting desperate for. There are kits available online for this shawl, but I wanted to see if I could find one at the marketplace for a little less than what they were being offered for.

I found a very miniature set with the six colors I needed, but not near enough yardage. I should have known that when a package is called Gumballs, that’s not going to be enough yarn. I found some great sets at the Forbidden Woolery that were within my price range, had six colors, but fell just short of the yardage requirements for my shawl.

I didn’t take a picture of the Forbidden Woolery, but I should have. Their yarns were so dusky and dark and jeweled. And they all had great names like Pride, Gluttony, and Lust that makes your yarn habit seem just a tiny bit sinful, but in a surprisingly tasteful way if that makes any sense at all (hint: to most people none of the yarn makes sense. Just go with me). Good marketing, that booth. Pretty yarn. Just not quite what I wanted.

I hauled my rolling suitcase into the Knitting Tree booth that was taking up quite a bit of real estate. I stayed in that booth for a very long time and was very pleased to learn that their actual store is within driving distance to me. I can go back to them whenever I feel the need. The Knitting Tree had gradients and gradient sets, but again falling short of the yardage. I almost bought one anyway – it was so cute. They also had these fantastic tiny skeins called Unicorn Tails from Madelinetosh – beautiful 52-yard skeins of fabulous that probably would have come home with me if they hadn’t been housed right by the cash register and I thought I would be too much in the way of people making their purchases to paw through them the way I wanted to.

The Knitting Tree also had my cotton baby kits! Except, too many people had gotten to them before I did, so there were only a few and they weren’t what I wanted. I remember a pair of pants and a sweater with a tasseled hood being the objects of my desire last year, and there were none of those. I did figure out the name – Appalachian Organic Cotton Baby kits – so now I can track them online and maybe someday even purchase one.

There was a trunk next to the baby kits full of a gradient baby blanket kit. (Is anyone noticing a theme for this year? I might have a gradient fixation.) The sample was delightfully soft, the colors were cute, and I spent quite some time figuring out if I wanted the blue, the gray, or the green. I don’t know how I put them all away and left without them, but I did. They just weren’t quite right for me, and I reminded myself that I had the yarn for my son’s blanket already with me in the suitcase and it was going to be just fine.

I did buy stuff at the Knitting Tree booth, though. Two things. They had a sweater on display that was to die for. I did not buy the yarn to make one, but I did pick up the pattern. It’s knit with about five skeins of Malabrigo, which I do love, but I’ll have to save up for that one and I definitely wasn’t going to pick a color just from the selection they had in the booth. The pattern gives me the power to enhance my color and yarn choices, and it’s going to be great someday. I also picked up a skein of Ancient Fiber Arts yarn from their Meow Collection.

Remember when I knit that realistic looking cat? I knit it from the Tabby Cat color of this Meow Collection, and I had always thought that I might want to knit another one. Well, seeing the Calico in person was enough to remind me that I still was cat-less, and wouldn’t a little sleepy calico look great in my office. I’m rather sad I didn’t get the gray tabby too, but that’s ok. This is yarn I can get anytime, now that I now The Knitting Tree is closeby, and I don’t have to pay shipping, and maybe I can go though their Unicorn Tails the way I want to – slowly and out of the way.

I took my stuff and stood in line to buy them, right behind a woman who was also clutching a skein of Calico. I asked her what she meant to make with hers, and she didn’t have an answer. She just loves calico cats and knew she had to have the yarn. I showed her a picture of Jingga, which she complimented, but feels is beyond her skill level. She thinks she’s just going to make a shawl.

The fashionable man at the cash register looked at my rolling suitcase and told me that was a fantastic idea. He also noticed that it was far from empty and told me I was doing a great job in the shopping department. I thanked him, but refrained from telling him that over half the yarn in the suitcase was stuff I brought from home to work on while I was thinking about buying other stuff. Then I zipped it up and went on my way.

I picked through the items in the Delicious Yarns booth. I love the way they package their kits. Check out this little latte cowl thing:

Their colors are nice, and I like the yarn, but I would not want to make anything with it. I don’t know. It’s too pink and fuzzy? I have no need for cowls? (just huge Nordic shawls – I know, I’m nothing but inconsistent) Whatever the reason, I am pulled to their kits, and then I always leave with nothing from them. But aren’t they just precious?

The next place I spent money was so eye-catching that I almost ran over someone as I walked over to it. It was a moth and flame moment for me; I felt horrible about being so focused on a yarn beacon as to run over innocent passers-by. The only thing going for me was I wasn’t the only one. I’d noticed several collisions already because people are not looking at people, they are totally distracted by the Koigu linen stitch scarf kits or the fashion show or a bag. Not the best way for people to walk who are also carrying pointy sticks, but so far so good that there hadn’t been any injuries.

After making my apologies, I ducked safety into Gecko Yarns where I scooped up the most luscious sock yarn. It was dyed in such a way that when I knit it up, it will make me a pair of watermelon socks. Watermelon Socks! With enough leftover to make a watermelon baby hat. And since I’ve been craving watermelon the most this pregnancy, I have decided that it will be my labor knitting. I always start a pair of socks for myself in something tasty when I’m in labor, and these are just the ticket. This yarn was meant for me, and the dye job is so rich and lovely. And next to the watermelon sock yarn was a delightful little cake full of colors I adore and a pattern suggestion right next to it. Kaleidoscope to make a trendy little scarf – shawlette thing that will only take a minute and will transform me into a creature of fashion and style. I picked the richest color and paid the dyer. Then I carried my little skeins in my hands for a bit because they were just too pretty to zip up into a suitcase. So, so pretty.

Then I walked some more. I visited more gradient sets that were either short an entire color or didn’t have enough yardage or cost more than the original online kit. I had my hands massaged with an aloe sort of lotion that felt wonderful. I had a nasty jolt when I offered the lady my right hand and saw under the bright lights of the marketplace just how many scars I have on that hand. The masseuse didn’t flinch a bit, but I sure did . . . at my own hand, for heaven’s sake.

There were other kits, tons of pretty things, and I had all but given up on the gradient set when I found myself back at the Inner Yarn Zen booth. I’d been there a couple times before, but they had been very crowded and I couldn’t do much more but glance at their stuff before the wave of crafters had pushed me back out into the marketplace sea. This time there was an opening, and I took it. (There are advantages to a huge pregnant belly and a rolling suitcase, just saying.) What was the pull of the Inner Yarn Zen booth?

Mini-skein grab bags for one. Cheap ones too. Little bags full of tiny little skeins of yarn in beautiful colors. I thought about getting one so I could make hexipuffs for my beekeeper’s quilt out of them, or maybe a crazy stripey sock, or maybe just to hang them from a string and keep them forever looking beautiful. But when someone leaned down next to me on the floor so I had to turn my head a bit, I immediately put down the grab bag and snapped up what was next to them.

It’s no secret that I’m a geek of the highest order. It is also well known that I am a big fan of knitting kits. Can’t get enough of them, ever. This bag was labeled Outlander Binge Watcher’s Kit. Now, I don’t watch Outlander, but I have read the books and I did enjoy them. And the colors! They were so pretty and rich and deep. There were six of them. Six mini skeins in beautiful colors, and one huge skein of Parchment nestled in with them. It’s practically a Spice Market kit all by itself and on accident. The only issue, the tiniest issue, is that the mini-skeins are 90 yards, and one of the mini skeins for the Spice Market needs to be 120 yards. I asked the owners what they made with their binge watcher’s kit, as I noted that there is no pattern included. Stephen West’s garter stitch Jag was the answer, so I looked up the pattern on my phone and it’s awesome all by itself.

The Outlander kit was the last thing I bought. I totaled the damage and realized that I was within a dollar of my budget. How about that?! I’m awesome! I took one last tour of the Marketplace, visiting all those things that I had considered before, and turned them all down. Then, content with my purchases, I went outside and tucked myself into the steps to knit for a couple hours before going home.

It was hard temptation not to start the watermelon socks immediately – I even had the needles and the pattern already in my head. But I was a good girl and knit on my son’s baby blanket instead. At various points, knitters would stroll past from the Marketplace building to the classes building, trucking huge bags of yarn and sometimes even those enormous knitting needles. Some of them commented on my choice location. One woman paused to take a video of me knitting on account of I am rather speedy. I finished my soda and ate my sandwich and knit and knit until I remembered the library and the dinner I was supposed to attend that evening.

I made one last stop at the library which was very close to the convention center. I’d never been to this library before, but I’ll definitely return. It’s old fashioned and everything is wood. It’s dark, but not too dark. There are four floors of books and if I had known I would have taken my knitting there for the last several hours of my free Saturday. Perhaps someday I’ll get another. I walked right up to my chosen book, on the fourth floor, checked it out, and made it home right in time to go with my family to dinner.

All in all, I was very pleased with my day. I have great new yarn, all of it already had a pattern, and when I knit it all, I’ll have five (or six with a baby hat) things that will stay with me, and I stayed perfectly within the budget. Great day. Can’t wait for the next one!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Not So Super

It was a mistake from the start. I know a lot of people say that in hindsight, but this time, the whole story did start with a mistake. Somehow, no one knows exactly how, my veteran online shopper mother screwed up a Walmart order. Instead of having her Glucerna diabetic drink delivered to the house, or to the Walmart we normally visit, she somehow instructed the conglomerate that we would be willing to pick up the product from their superstore in Rosemead, and that we would do so within a five-day time frame.
Not such a big deal, right? So someone has to go out of their way sometime during those five days and pick up the Glucerna. No problem.

Enter the complications.
1.     Two of the five days were already passed by the time Mom forwarded me the email requesting that we pick up her stuff.
2.     One of the remaining three days was Sunday, which is out for errands such as this.
3.     The other two days were both days that Ducky was going to be on the ski hill all day long. I would be the lone caregiver of our girls.
4.     Walmart won’t give the Glucerna to just anyone. They will only give it to the person who ordered it, and only after checking their photo ID.

I picked Saturday as the best day to head to Rosemead. Saturday is an errand day anyway, and since we were headed to a Super Walmart, I figured I could double up on the errands by adding the regular weekly grocery shopping to the Glucerna pick up. Because I’m resourceful that way.

So we go through our Saturday. Ezri has basketball practice and her Christian club meeting. I make the menu for the week and create the grocery list. We wash the rat cages, tidy out the backpacks and the shoes that somehow get trashed during the week. We visit the library to get new books to read at night. We drop by the dollar store for some of our favorite lunchbox assortments.

We have lunch and then I try to get the children to take a nap. This usually works with the little one. Ezri, admittedly, at six years old, is getting too big for naps. I continue to try because that’s a chunk of my afternoon that I really don’t want to give up yet. She stayed down for half an hour before getting up and trying to talk me out of the coloring book I got for Christmas. Her arguments were surprisingly valid. “But Mom, you don’t have as much time to color as I do. I’ve never seen you color at all!”

All this means that we’ve had a pretty full day already, and it’s about five o’clock in the evening before we even start getting in the car for the Walmart trip. I’ve only visited the Rosemead Walmart once in my time in California, and it was when I was still pregnant with Ezri, coming from an entirely different direction. In other words, I have no idea where it is or how to get there. Which wouldn’t be a problem either now that I’ve got a smartphone, but coming home from Idaho after Christmas did some major damage to our data plan, so Internet use outside the home is not quite but sort of definitely forbidden until February. So I look up how to get there before we leave the house. Looks pretty straightforward. Head east on Las Tunas, turn left on Walnut Grove. Drive south for a thousand miles. Easy.

In a minor miracle, I only pinch my fingers twice while wrestling Mom’s wheelchair into the trunk of my borrowed car. Why am I driving a borrowed car? Because my real car has been with my mechanic, unable to start, since the end of July. Last July. But that’s another whole vent unrelated to this story. It carries another set of frustrations, not the least of which is how the trunk on the borrowed car is smaller than the one I’m used to, and I constantly bang or bruise my hands while getting Mom’s wheelchair / walker into and out of it. I’d like to say I’m getting better at it, but really the only improvement is that I manage to keep the swearing only in my head when it happens. I’d work harder, but I keep thinking that maybe this time will be the last time before my beloved Buick returns to me. How’s that for false hope?

Back to it, kids buckled, minor mishap when my mother somehow can’t get her seatbelt buckled, so I throw a small daddy fit involving some slamming car doors as I get out of my seatbelt, get out of my seat, wave to the neighbor walking his dog, buckle my mother in, slam her door (which is actually necessary for this vehicle if you want it to close properly) and then reverse everything to get settled to go once again. One more tiny fit as I realize halfway down the driveway that I’ve forgotten to lock the front door.

Since the children have been in the car for five whole minutes before we even pull away from the house, we get about two blocks before the questions start. “How much longer?” “When are we going to be there?” “Is this where we’re going?” I take deep breaths like my yoga teacher taught me and patiently answer the rotation of questions about five times through before I start to snarl at my lovely daughters. Mature things like, “You’ve driven all the way from Idaho in one day, surely, you can make it twenty minutes to the store! Quiet down, when I park the car and get out of it, you’ll know that we’re there, ok?”

All of this as I’m driving and looking at the street signs. San Gabriel. Santa Anita. Baldwin. Rosemead. Blah blah blah, no Walnut Grove. It’s getting dark. I worry that I won’t be able to tell I’m at my turn before I’m already on top of it. We continue to drive and I grow more and more convinced that I’ve passed it somehow. By the time we hit the turn off for the San Gabriel Medical Center, I’m absolutely certain I’ve passed my turn. I pull into a handicapped spot in the med center parking lot and pull out my phone.

The children see it and chirp for it. “Can I play a game on your phone?” Nope! I’m using it! I need it to tell us where to drive. I whisper an apology to Ducky for the possible fee I may be incurring by figuring out where I’m supposed to go. Then I spend the next five minutes trying to get my phone to route us from my current location. It kept asking me to input a starting point, which was messing me up. It wasn’t until I started typing San Gabriel Medical Center that I saw the tiny little option “route from current location.” I pushed it and saw that we still were 25 minutes away and I had indeed passed the road I wanted. We set out again.

After some more traffic ridiculousness where I hate turning left and the one part where I managed to turn at the wrong place and somehow ended up in another parking lot where I could see where I needed to be but couldn’t maneuver out of the labyrinth of speed bumps.

At last, at long last, we get onto Walnut Grove and head the right way. Just in time too because the chorus from the peanut gallery in the back has changed from “I’m hot. Are we there yet?” to “Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.”

It is 5:45 pm by the time we reach the Super Walmart, and I see immediately that we have planned badly. The cars! The pedestrians! We, as human beings, are the worst sort of herd animal ever. Plodding behind carts in leopard print pants, clutching McCafes and oversized bags, heavy-lidded eyes deliberately NOT looking at the cars coming, trusting stupidly that as a pedestrian, those of us in cars will just wait for them to mosey along. I try to get over it and not start this procedure by foaming at the mouth.

I do eventually find us a parking spot, far away on Judea’s plains. This isn’t something I mind, normally, but when the number of people who need mobility help exceed the number of hands I have, then it becomes tricky. We perform the ritual of releasing the children from their carseats and forcing the wheelchair from the trunk. Fortunately, since the kids have been in the car SO LONG, they are willing to walk all the way to the entrance. Not that they would have had a choice in that, but it’s better when they are walking without whining as though I’d asked them to cross the Serengeti with no water or sunglasses. So I push Mom with Meridy’s help, and Ezri trots along beside us. We DO look and wait for cars, memorize where I’d put the car so we can find it again, and duck into the entrance.

I remind Mom that since we’re getting groceries, I’m going to need a cart and she’s going to have to propel herself through the store. She knew this beforehand and has acknowledged that this whole trip wouldn’t be happening without her online mishap so she’s quite compliant with the plan. I try to find a spot to get out of the way while we figure out the place we need to go to pick up online orders. I pull up the barcode we’re going to need on my phone (what the heck, right? I mean, I’ve already used Google maps all the way here) and spot the right place, naturally located as far away from us as possible. We make our way, amoeba-like, through the store, past the writhing miserable entity that is the customer service line, past the opposite entrance, and into the little kiosk receptacle place with the sign indicating online service. There is miraculously no line. There is also no one at the desk.

Fortunately, someone pops out from a back room just as I’m wheeling Mom into position. This portion of the trip is the bit with the least amount of drama. The woman helps us pleasantly and quickly, checking Mom’s ID, bringing out our Glucerna, bagging it, and even allowing my kids to pat her skunk keychain for a bit.  I think if she’d been less cool, it might have put me in the right mindset to just get back in the car and get our groceries at the usual place a block away from our house. But no, she was great and gave me this false sense of security that the worst was behind me, that we were here now and everything was going to be fine. I relaxed, long enough to tell the children that yes, we could look at the toys, but then my guard was right back up after the kiosk lady warned me nicely that I should hide the wallet in my cart and that I should keep a very close eye on my baby if I wanted her to come home with me.

Now, if those aren’t the right words to say to get someone to head right back home, I don’t know what would do it. But the kids still had to go to the bathroom, conveniently placed by marketing behind the toys, and I had already told them that we could look. Not to mention I didn’t really want to get back in the car yet. I thanked our friend, stuffed my wallet down the sleeve of Ezri’s coat, and we started all the way to the back of the store.

My original plan had been to let Mom watch the girls in the toy aisle while I did the rest of the shopping as quickly as possible, but the caution about losing Meridy decided me against that. We were all going to look at toys. This isn’t something I mind, honestly, except the part where I have to say no to the requests to bring things home. The girls are generally good about accepting this answer, but they will ask about Every. Single. Item. Even weird stuff. Stuff I know they don’t like or want. It’s just a reflex thing to go down the aisle and ask for everything on the off chance that This One might be the one where Mom breaks down and says yes. (Ezri has actually confessed to me that this is their plan.)

So they ooh and ahh over things, and I also enjoy a few items that they’ve brought back from my own childhood. Hello Popples, nice makeover! Hey, look, the Puppy Surprise hasn’t changed at all! Ezri and I have a lengthy discussion about the one Baby Alive doll they have in the store.

See, Ezri has become enamored with these videos on Youtube. There’s a girl, Kelli, who has about seven Baby Alive dolls (she has way more dolls than that, but Ezri likes watching the videos revolving around these seven). Kelli makes videos of her family of dolls, and Ezri eats it up. In fact, I think this weekend we’re going to be making our own doll videos (which I admit is kind of up my alley too). Anyway! She’s never seen one in person and went right over the moon about it. I looked at the price and went over the moon too. And thus the discussion about how it is WAY too expensive (I refrained from telling her that in addition to being too expensive, the entire Baby Alive mold is the ugliest doll I have ever seen in my life – because that’s below the belt for arguing with a six-year-old). I explained that I was not going to buy it for her, but I would not prevent her from saving up her money that she gets for chores to buy it herself.

This brought to her memory the $10 that Grandma Vivian had given her for her birthday. Ten. Whole. Dollars. (Which is about 20% of what she’d need for her Baby Alive doll, but who needs math when you’re six?) She let the doll go, but started looking around for something that she could afford. I followed her and worried that it was going to be something I really didn’t want her to buy, but would have to agree to.

Let’s back up so you can get my theory on letting her spend her money as she likes even though I am the mom and I can say no. When I was young, not sure how young exactly, but my dad was involved so I was younger than 10. When I was young, there was something in a store once that I wanted to purchase. I wanted to use my own money for it. I remember exactly what it was. It was a Mapletown figurine. A baby mouse that came with some sort of basket bed, blanket, and a bottle. It was tiny and flocked, adorable, and a whopping $2.99. My father, for reasons of his own that were never explained to me and which my mother cannot figure out, denied my request for this item. Flat out refused to let me buy it with my own money. I believe this is the only time I was ever taken out of a store for my behavior, but the point of the matter is that I was not having a tantrum for something my father wouldn’t buy for me. I wasn’t actually having a tantrum at all, but I was crying. Perhaps I’m remembering incorrectly how loudly I was crying, but something made my father take us out. I was completely distraught at the injustice that my father would not allow me to spend my own money. This injustice has remained with me for several decades now and it makes it very difficult for me to say no to my kids when they want to use their funds, even if it’s for something I’d rather they not buy.

The girls keep looking (since Meridy also has $10 from Grandma Vivian) and they choose something. Ezri picks a collapsible doll playpen that stores nicely in a flowery pink zippered case. I like this choice. She has many, many dolls, but not a crib and the fact that it folds up and stores so nicely is a plus. I agree to her selection and let her know that it will take all of the money Grandma gave her. She acknowledges that this is ok with her as she really wants the crib. Fine.

Meridy picks out a wee Waterbaby mermaid, less than $10. I double check them both. I ask them if they are sure. They are sure. I then proclaim it’s time to get on with the grocery shopping. Content with their treasures (they really don’t get to buy stuff often, and as we’ve discussed before, I hardly EVER say yes to their requests for things), they are willing to go with me without comment. I text Rich to let him know that we will be bringing toys home because I let the girls spend their money. Instead of lamenting that more stuff is coming into our house, he congratulates me on my parenting. I’m encouraged.

We then begin the grueling process of grocery shopping in a store where we don’t know where anything is. I try to be slow about it, because I only want to go through each aisle once. Meridy sits contentedly in the cart with her baby, asking every now and again if I can remove her from the box. Ezri is the real star of the show for this part. With her crib tucked on her shoulder like a purse, she cheerfully went through every aisle and actually pushed Mom’s wheelchair for me. I didn’t even know she was strong enough for that, but it really helped a lot.

Just when the girls are starting to say they are starving, we reach the end of the grocery list. I send Ezri and Mom to the McDonalds for fries for everyone while Meridy and I very quickly race to the other end of the store for toothpaste and shampoo.  Then we get in line. A very long line, like all the other lines at every single open check out.

Did I mention how many people were shopping with us? Probably not, because they were legion. Masses everywhere, arms and carts and purses everywhere you turn. Hordes and droves and swarms of people. The kind of crowding that makes you want to sanitize your hands every two minutes and makes your skin prickle. (might be just me, though).

So it’s not surprising that there’s a huge bottleneck at the checkouts. Since it’s not surprising, Meridy and I just chill in line for our turn. She proudly puts her waterbaby on the belt first thing and watches it anxiously as it crawls slowly toward the cashier, asking every once in a while when she can have it back. I assure her that it won’t be long.

The cashier, Harry, who looks like he’s thirteen, picks up the mermaid and scans it first. It makes a bad sound as it goes across his scanner. A loud beep that is remarkably close to the buzzer they use in game shows when someone gives a wrong answer. Harry frowns at the doll and scans it again. Same sound. He looks at me and explains the beeping.

“It says the item isn’t found,” he said.

“What’s that mean?” I pressed.

“It means the system can’t find the item.” NO?! Really?

“I mean, what do we need to fix it?”

“I, um, don’t really know.”

Then Harry did this funny little dance where it was obvious that he wasn’t allowed to leave his register, but he couldn’t get anyone’s attention from behind it either. So he’d take a few steps away, stand on tiptoe, glance around for someone to notice that he needed some help, then tuck himself into the register again. Someone did notice us, said they’d send someone for a price check, and he continued checking the rest of our stuff out for us.

Harry, bless his heart, is not a speedy cashier. I’m thinking he may be sort of new to this (what with just turning the legal age of employment last week or something), so the mobile employees, you know, ones not babysitting a register, had plenty of time to walk back to the toy aisle and get the price for him to put into his system. Except they don’t come. All our items are scanned and bagged and in the cart and no one is there. Meridy asks about her mermaid. I tell her to wait a few more minutes while we try to buy it.

Harry flags down another employee, one wearing a white instead of a blue vest, a matronly type woman who looks like someone who has worked at Walmart a long time. Someone who knows the ropes. He shows her the mermaid and asks what to do if it can’t be found in the system.

“Then she can’t have it,” the lady says, very simply in a voice that indicates clearly that she does not appreciate lowly cashiers talking to her. “It’s not for sale.”

“It was on the shelf,” I protested. “That usually indicates that it is for sale.” I’ve had something like this happen before at a different Walmart, and the manager used a miscellaneous code, typed in the price, and scanned it not as the item it was, but just as some random item that they were going to sell to me. I suggested this course of action while the older woman looked at me like I was speaking Klingon.

Before I was finished, she threw up her hands and then made this sweeping gesture that meant she was done with us and our problems. Then she walked off. I looked at Harry. He looked at the floor.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Meridy started to cry. Not loudly. Just the sort of tired, hungry, disappointed cry that we probably all feel like engaging in when we’re standing in a long line at a Walmart. But she’s three and can get away with it better. I might have let it go. I’m not usually the sort to pick fights or anything, but that dismissive gesture really got to me and I am actually prone to rage.

“Call someone else,” I told Harry. He looked terrified, but he did flag down another person and we explained the situation again. Paige took the mermaid and said she would put it in the system. It would take about fifteen minutes. I said ok and started off with my cart of groceries.

Meridy was upset, but I told her that we just had to wait a little bit longer for the workers to sort out the issue. We met up with Mom and Ezri, and we all went to the car. I put the wheelchair in the trunk, put everyone in the car, and divided up the fries. Then I told Mom that I was going back into the store for the mermaid. She asked why I was bothering, and I honestly didn’t have a good answer. I locked them in the car and went back inside. I dodged my way through the slow-moving shoppers, actually getting whacked with a case of beer by a large, lumbering man who was taking up the entire aisle with just himself and his swinging case of beer. I ducked and darted my way back to the toys, found the mermaid, and took it back to the front to try again.

I stood in line, this time the speedy check out line. I waited and waited for my turn, which was fine because it meant that way more than fifteen minutes had elapsed since Paige had gone to fix the system. Yet despite the time, the familiar buzz sounded when the new cashier scanned the mermaid. “Item not found?” She said to herself, and I sighed.

We started over with the explanation of how I’d been in before, how it wasn’t in the system, how Paige had gone to put it in the system. We started another checkout dance with the whole taking a few steps away to get someone’s attention thing. I offered to make a scene.

“I could start yelling at you,” I told the cashier, and her eyes got huge. “Nothing personal, of course because it’s not your fault. But if you want someone’s attention over here in a hurry, I can make it happen for you.”

“Um,” she said (it was her favorite word with dealing with me).

“I’d be pretty easy,” I went on. “Like this” I raised my voice “What’s taking so long? I just have one item!” She put up her hands to shush me, but just that little bit was enough. Paige was back and looking at the mermaid.

“Were you here a little while ago?” She asked me. Yep, still want this mermaid, thanks. It’s been fifteen minutes. She told me that no one had been available to enter it, so if I wanted to wait, it would be fifteen to twenty minutes. I impatiently informed her that it had already been fifteen minutes when she’d told me that the last time. She took the mermaid and disappeared again.

“I should have just walked out with it,” I told the cashier, impressed that her eyes could get Even Bigger. “It’s not like you would have known. It’s Not In Your System.”

Then I stood by her bagging station, texting Rich, talking to Mom who had her cellphone and was giving me updates on how she and the kids were ranking on the Lord of the Flies scale in the car. I stared at the cashier. I stared at everyone behind me in line, quickly and efficiently making their purchases without incident. I got bored and mad. I pretended to call Ducky so I could say out loud all the stuff I wanted to say. Not mature stuff. Not nice stuff.

When the man came through buying a huge bottle of whiskey and a gift bag, I pretended to reach out for it as he was pocketing his wallet. Like I’m not Mormon and pregnant. He laughed at me and left. The next guy was an older man. I helped him put his bags in the cart in hopes that kindness might reverse the horrible bad karma my impatience was bringing to me. He told me I was very sweet. I tried to smile in a way that was actually a smile and not so much baring my teeth. I bowed at the monk buying yogurt and bananas. He wished me peace. And I waited and waited and waited, giving updates to the cashier all the while. 18 minutes. Twenty minutes. She’s not coming back is she?

Finally, in desperation to get rid of me, the cashier pointed out another manager who happened to be walking by. I raced after her and tried to remember that she knew nothing about any of my problems so I shouldn’t take her out at the throat or anything if I wanted some help.

I flagged her down. She looked surprised and defensive, so I tried to keep the crazy out of my voice. I explained the whole thing with the dumb mermaid and suggested that if they had no intention of selling something then it shouldn’t be on the shelf with a price tag on it. I told her about my three-year-old who wanted to buy it with her own money that her grandma had given her. I told her how long I’d been waiting for someone to help me and about how that older woman had just brushed me off and how Paige kept saying fifteen minutes and then walking away from me in the hopes that maybe I’d just go away or something and didn’t she think that this was just ridiculous?

She nodded as proper customer service representatives are supposed to do. Then she asked me to follow her as she tracked down Paige, practically ripped the doll out of her hands, had me come with her to a kiosk where she told me in a confident way that she was going to check me out right now. She pushed in some buttons for a MISCELLANEOUS ITEM, told me the new price for the mermaid was now $3, and at last handed it to me. I thanked her, told she was the most competent person in the store, and fled.

I handed Meridy her mermaid, buckled the kids in, and we finally left super Walmart at 9:40 pm, vowing never to return. My only comfort is that Meridy has had the mermaid with her constantly since I snipped it from its box. In the bath. In bed. With her all the time. I realize that’s only going to last a few more days, but when you’re doing something ridiculous like waiting around a Walmart to buy a toy, you take what you can get that you didn’t completely waste your time.

Even though it was totally a complete and utter waste of time.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fundraising Request (and raffle)

I know you’re all here because you want to learn more about winning a pair of handknit fingerless gloves, and I’m really jazzed to give you all the details. However, me being me, I want to start off with a story.
Once upon a time, I was a Girl Scout. Back in those days, the wee girlies did not stand in front of your local Trader Joe’s selling cookies with their parents. No, ma’am. They took their order sheets and pens and went out into the town, door to door, repeating the same phrase over and over, for hours after school. I did this as a solitary activity. It was often snowing. It was always cold.
One particularly frosty day, as it was getting dark, I was struggling with my motivation for selling cookies. I never sold many. I disliked talking to strangers. I realized it was counterproductive to hope someone wasn’t home when I knocked on the door. I knew that it didn’t help me much to be relieved when no one answered. But I always hoped. I was often relieved.
But on this cold, windy day in a tiny town in Illinois, I knocked on a door where someone was home. I took a deep breath, stared at the icy patch on his front steps, and recited my plea for a purchase. Help us out, sir? Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?
He told me he was sorry, but he had already bought some.
I tried not to cry on his freezing front porch, but as I nodded, thanked him, and turned to go, it must have been extremely obvious on my face how disheartened and disappointed I was about this unrewarding, social-anxiety-inducing activity because he called me back.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “You know what? I think I need some more.” He then proceeded to buy TEN boxes of Thin Mints, the most I’d ever sold to one person who wasn’t my mother.
I loved that man. I still cried on his steps, but it was because I was so, so grateful. On May Day, I secretly put flowers on his porch.
Why am I telling you this story? To let you know that this kind of stuff is something I dislike, but I do it when I have to, and since I am older, with access to better skills and more resources, I can do a little better than leaving flowers on your front steps.
Here’s the deal: My daughter, Ezri, is signed up with the Kare Youth League. It’s fantastic. It’s all girls and young women. They do sports together on Saturday mornings. The older girls mentor the younger ones. Ezri is having so much fun with it, and it’s right by our house. Great stuff. However, (you knew this was coming – I prepared you, but go ahead and a take a deep breath anyway) they require fundraising as part of the program. Our quota is to raise $75 in ticket sales.
Tickets for what? Glad you asked. On June 6, that’s a Saturday, from 4 – 8 pm, the Kare Youth League will be holding their annual SoccerFest at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. All the leagues from the area will gather and, get this – it’s awesome, play a soccer tournament On the Rose Bowl Grass. What an opportunity!
In addition to the games, there will be food and performances and a large family carnival. There will be pony rides, a petting zoo, and all those fun little games that you used to play when you were young (fishing behind a curtain, spinning a wheel, knocking down the milk bottles, you get the idea). We went to one of these carnivals before we really knew what Kare Youth League was, and I remember it was lovely and the prizes for the games were surprisingly good.
So here’s what I want from you: Please help us out. Buy a ticket. They are $5 each.
What’s in it for you: You get admittance to the SoccerFest, and you will be entered into a drawing to win a $1000 shopping spree to either Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club. There is also a coupon for a free Subway sandwich and 30 oz drink attached to the bottom of the ticket stub. You will also be put into my own personal drawing to win a pair of handknit fingerless gloves.
What if you don’t live here / are busy that day / don’t really care about soccer / don’t want to ride a pony: Good question. You can still be entered into the $1000 shopping spree (you don't have to be present to win) and the fingerless glove drawing by donating $5.
What if you really don’t want to buy a ticket, but you still want a chance for the gloves: For the glove raffle, I will put in your name one time for every dollar that you donate regardless of a ticket purchase. So if you want your name in once, you can donate $1, twice - $2, and so on and so forth. If you buy tickets for your family of four, I’ll put your name in 20 times. Make sense?
How do you enter? Either find me in real life to buy tickets from me, contact me by email or Facebook to set up a pick up / drop off, or if you are far away, you may send funds via Paypal to duckies_in_a_rowATyahoo.com. (I can mail your tickets to you easily.)

Please include the following information. I have to put it on your entry:
Phone Number

I will draw for the gloves on Memorial Day, May 25, and ship out the gloves on Monday, June 15. Should we talk about the gloves some more? YES! We Should! Please get on with it! I’m going to draw for THREE pairs of gloves this time, since I’m actually asking for money for them. Not only that, you can pick from the ones below. Gentlemen, I know that these are mostly women’s gloves. Keep in mind that commissioning a pair as a gift for your honey goes a long way for you. Let’s check them out (please note that some of these are photos of gloves I've made before - others have been taken from online sources, and yes, I am using them without permission).
For those who like them functional, I give you the plainest pair of gloves in the land (you can pick the color, though). For the record, these are the only pair that I own:

How about cables? Everyone likes the elegance of cables.

Evangelines (you choose color)

Staghorns (again with the color choice)

Skeleton Key (in your favorite color)
 Sapphire (and these ones are this color only)
 Oak Grove (I suppose you could pick another color, but Why Would You?)

Waterbending (in whatever color the winner likes best)
Where are my geeks? How about one of these charming designs?

For the Lord of the Rings fans - I give you Evenstar Mitts (not in purple, though, most likely a white or silver, or you know, whatever color really)

For the literary minded, I give you Ravens in the Snow (in cream and black only)

And for my dear, dear Doctor Who fans, there are these mitts that the sharp-eyed among you will recognize as replicas of the mitts Rose Tyler wears in the episode Doomsday. In this color only

This pattern is called Zombie Vixen, for when you want to take out corpses in style and warmth (you pick the color)

And these Helix mitts will be perfect for your steam punk costume. Or your Tshirt. Color scheme of your choice

How about something whimsical? These will do the trick.

 Catching Butterflies (they don't have to be blue)

Woodsy Association - your choice of deer, owl, wolf, badger, or raccoon. Those are the colors for them, though.

I hear you - you're not into that. You want something more appropriate for a grown up. Something you can feel sophisticated wrapping around your Starbucks cup. I've got you covered too:

Button cuffs are super stylish (this colorway only)
  Fair Isle - always in style! (again, only this color - I have a kit, you see)

What better to cup your Pumpkin Latte than a pair of pumpkin lace mitts? (this color only)

And for all my pretty, fancy princesses, here are a couple options:

Twin Leaf lace for your next tea party (you can pick the color this time)

Ruffle Cuffs to wear at the piano recital (only in these colors, though)

Don't worry, men, there are some options for you as well. In addition to the plain black pair (how could you go wrong?) there are these:

Straight Forward Mitts - probably a more masculine color (unless you like this color; it's all the same to me)

Loch Lomond - in whatever color you think would work for you.

Whew, that's a lot of options. But you've got some time to think about which ones you'd want, and in what color if applicable, before the drawing on Memorial Day. Thanks for your help with our fundraiser. It really means a lot to me. If anyone has any questions, please, please do let me know either via comment or message. I don’t want anyone confused!