Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Finished Tahoe, and stashing the stash...

So, I finished my Tahoe cardigan on Sunday...very excited about it. It feels so nice -- that Cathay knitted at a larger gauge really makes a nice drapey fabric, and it is so soft! I love how the picot edges look (I did the button band with a picot edge too, a change from the worked great and looks fab), and it is just the right weight garment to wear at this time of year over a tank top or t-shirt. These pictures don't really do it justice (and it doesn't help that I never know how to stand when trying to photograph my knitwear...I always look dorky).

This silly pose was to illustrate how flowy the sleeves are at the bottom. Totally love them. And even though they are wide sleeves, I managed to get the sleeve length just right so that they do not bug me. I wore the sweater to work on Tuesday and the sleeves didn't impede me at all, so good show!

I like this so much that I bought yarn to make a second one. I've never knit a second garment for myself from the same pattern before, but I'm going to with this. I'm going to make the next one a touch longer in the body, though. Even though I know this shorter length is in style, I never feel completely comfortable with it on my body (my co-workers told me to shut up because it looked fine to them, LOL). The next one is also going to be made from Cathay, this time in a deep, jewel-toned magenta. Yummy!

And have I mentioned the stash lately? Seriously. My craft room downstairs has been totally overrun with all of the bags of yarn that I've been bringing home from work in the past month. Finally, last night, I took the time to go through most of it, label each bag with the total yardage of each yarn as well as if I bought it for a specific project, and then proceeded to try and house it all in some reasonable order. I filled six -- six -- 56-quart Sterlite containers. I will need to buy two more, probably to fit the rest of it. Insane, I tell you. Insane, but it makes me so, so very happy because I am fully equipped to knit beautiful things for many years to come. LOL And that was my plan.

Now to figure out a reasonable way to store the buttons I've purchased so that when the time comes, I can remember what I bought them all to go with!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Five Minute Friday: More/Less

I made the decision this year to make more of an effort to listen to my body and follow its directions. Because honestly? It tells me things. It tells me when I need to sleep more. It tells me when I've eaten something I shouldn't have. It lets me know when I'm treating it well and when I'm not. When I listen to my body, I'm so much happier. When I don't, I suffer and so do others around me because I feel crappy.

I was doing pretty well the first couple months of 2008, then we went out of town in late February, and I never got quite back in gear with the listening. But I really need to. Boy, do I need to. (At the moment I'm suffering from a kick-ass headache that I believe was precipitated by the most sinful piece of chocolate cake I've ever eaten. It was to die for. Unfortunately, I'm paying the price for all of that sugar now. :P Not fun.)

In the spirit of this issue, this week's FMF is a dual list...things I know my body is telling me I need more of and less of...

I need more...

1. Sleep, and starting at an earlier hour than 2 a.m.
2. Fruits and veggies. The garden is growing. This should help!
3. Water.
4. Movement. I hate the word "exercise" many negative connotations. I just need to get up off my a** and find more reasons to move.
5. Whole grains.
6. Meal planning. I eat so much better when I think ahead a little bit.
7. Motivation to make positive lifestyle changes.
8. Healthy proteins.

I need less...

1. Refined sugar.
2. White flour.
3. Sedentary activities (how to knit while taking a walk?)
4. Coffee. One or two cups is plenty.
5. Last-minute meals, because they are usually full of processed foods that make me feel icky.
6. Grocery shopping without a list.
7. Fast food stops.
8. McDonald's sweet tea and Starbucks mocha frappuccinos. Argh. Both should be controlled substances, they are so addictive.

What's your body telling you these days? Are you listening?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Finished Tangerine Spencer...

Here she is! Emma wearing her new Tangerine Spencer shrug. Despite all of the modifications I made to the pattern on the fly, it turned out as perfectly as I could ask for. There are some oddities that I'd do different next time, but overall, I'm really happy with it, and so is she, and it looks too darned cute with the skirt we bought...

...I made the shrug to match the lone orange stripe in the skirt...see it?

This has been a pretty productive knit week what with the finished Scarlett, the finished Spencer and good progress on Tahoe (which I thought I'd have finished by now, but Spencer derailed me from that). Love good weeks like this!

All of my recent cotton knitting brought to my attention that I have hardly any cotton/hemp/linen/etc. in my stash, other than small amounts of cotton dish cloth yarn. So, I began to rectify that at work this week. The shop is now at 40% off everything in stock, so I'm doing my little part to help clear out the summer weight yarns. ;)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Finished Scarlett...

Here she finished Matsuri "Scarlett." I'm really mostly happy with her...this picture isn't doing much for the sweater really (the perplexed squint on my face? that's my reaction to my intelligent hubby having camera difficulties...all I wanted was a decent picture, really...:::sigh:::...) Anyway. I'm happy with it. Wore it to work today and got a lot of compliments. I think the only things I'd change if I were to do it again (because there's always something, isn't there?) would be to shorten the sleeves a bit and to do a turned hem instead of the rolled one. But really, those are minor things. It's very comfy, and it fits me well.

On to other projects now, like a little cotton shrug for my daughter to wear with a new skirt...

...using Debbie Bliss Cotton Glace for the first time. I've avoided it to this point because a) I didn't think I really liked knitting with cotton and b) I thought it was a finer-gauged yarn than it really is! (I was envisioning having to use 2s on it or something, and that didn't sound like fun for a sweater.) However, I'm enjoying knits up nicely, and fine though it may be, I'm working it on US 5s and that's not bad at all! This is the lower part of the back of a pattern I found on Ravelry called Anne Eliot Spencer. Its not the most well-written pattern in the world, but I'm enjoying the challenge of turning it into what I want, as it was the closest to what I was envisioning that I could find, and it saved me from having to try and create my own lacy shrug pattern (I hate graphing out lace, don't know why.) I'm farther along on this now...the back and one front is done. Should have the whole thing finished tomorrow, God willing! All in all, an enjoyable project.

Am also working on a Cathay cardigan I started last summer using the Tahoe pattern from Knitty. It was hibernating all winter, but I was pleasantly pleased when I pulled it out to find that I only had a sleeve and a half and some trim and hemming to go! Kewl! That should be done soon and I can enjoy wearing it while the season is right.

So, much goodly knitting is going on here at Chez Fibernymph this week. We likes that!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Five Minute Friday: Job reflections...part two...

Yesterday I shared the history of my soon-to-be-ending job and how much I love it and though I may not have mentioned it specifically, I will be so sad to see it come to an end next month. I've wondered, off and on, since getting the news that the shop is closing, why God would let me find a perfect job like this and then let it only last for a year. Not doubting the Big Guy's wisdom or anything, but it is one of those mysteries of life I'm wont to ponder.

Throughout my ponderances, I've realized that a lot of good things have come from this brief yarn shop stint, some I could have guessed and others I'd never have thought of. So, for today's FMF, I'm going to list -- in no particular order -- as many of these good things as I can think of (though I may have to add more later because I'm really tired right now and may leave something important out).

1. Generous employee discount used to enable personal yarn stash enhancement.

2. The almost weekly opportunity to do the 50% mark-downs, thus giving me first dibs on the discounted yarn and further enabling my personal yarn stash enhancement.

3. Becoming friends with six enjoyable, wonderful ladies.

4. Working as a clerk and operating a cash register for the first time in many years, which I found to be quite enjoyable (and using the change-counting skills I learned back in my Burger King days of high school LOL).

5. Deriving an unexpected boost to my sense of self-worth as I realized that I was still employable after spending nearly 14 years out of the work force at home raising kids (intermittent periods of self-employment not counting).

6. Regular opportunities to stare at/fondle/sniff all the yarn I could want.

7. Learning...oh, the learning...about the yarns, about gauge, about reading patterns, about finishing, about fixing mistakes in my knitting, about so, so, so many things. It was a year of immersion education. Absolutely priceless.

8. Learning about my body and proportions and sizing and the fact that I am not as big as I tend to think I am. Really an eye-opener.

9. Related to #7, learning that it is entirely possible to knit myself a sweater without seeking out the absolutely hugest-sized, sack-like pattern I can find, and that I can, indeed, wear something more fitted and look good in it.

10. Getting to know customers and their likes and dislikes and quirks and realizing that I'm not as completely anti-social as I sometimes think I am about people. :}

11. Tuna salad. (What I brought for lunch 90% of the time...I almost never eat tuna salad, but it became a comfortable Saturday lunch staple, and I'm going to miss that! LOL)

12. Having the chance to teach others how to knit. Loved giving back to the craft in that way.

13. Getting a little paycheck with my name on it twice a month. Kewl!

14. Being constantly inspired by colors and textures of yarn all around me.

I know there's more, but I'm beat, and I have to go to work in the morning. (Yeay!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pictures, just for fun...and to explain some of my knitting insanity...

Wanted to offer a more proper image of where I'm at with the Scarlett's the whole body finished, shoulders seamed and neckband added...

...and sleeves started. Toyed with the idea of knitting them circularly and then setting them into the body, but opted instead to knit both at once, which always seems to take longer but yields much pleasure when both are finished at once...

Happy sleeves! Look at them smile!

I think I mentioned that I've been exercising knitting monogamy with this cardigan...and that is true, except for a few moments' indiscretion early this week when I cast on this little afghan, which I'm calling the Citrus Throw (for obvious reasons)...

I'd gone into work on Saturday to find five hanks of Araucania Nature Cotton in the 50% off bin...three orange and two yellow. Not enough to make anything big, but I thought it might be good to play with and practice the technique I'm going to use to make a couple of much larger afghans later this year. Not overly enjoying knitting with the bulky cotton, though, so thankfully it has not sidetracked me from Scarlett at all!

Took a quick tour through my UFO box under my bed last night. I like to do that every few months, see what is still aging in there, what I might feel inspired to work on and/or finish up, or what -- like this item -- might be ready to be frogged and forgotten forever...

There's a story of sorts to why I decided to make this tank seems pathetic to me now, and I'll share it later because maybe it will help someone else get over the same issue I was having at the time. Meanwhile, if anyone's interested in a Plymouth tank top pattern and 8 balls of Ms. Jones yarn, let me know and we can negotiate!

Still holding out hope for these project, though...

This is a tube shawl (pattern from one of my favorite books, AlterKnits) knit from Ovation kid mohair and silk. It was the first mohair item I ever worked on, and it was daunting to me at the time and I felt like I'd never finish it. Having since learned how to knit continental rather proficiently, I know I could make good time with this should I choose to get back to it. And I will. I love the colors. Maybe it will be airplane knitting next month?

This is a ponchette made from O-Wool Balance, a cotton/merino blend...
Love the pattern, not crazy about the fiber. It was the first cotton yarn I ever knit with, and it is very rough, at least compared to several others I've used since. I go back to this every now and then. Will eventually finish it, if not for me, maybe at least for my daughter.

And then there is this curiosity...
This is my own creation -- started out being envisioned as a tank top and then possibly as a cap sleeve top. Right now it is only the bottom five inches of a diagonal lacy pattern, which you really can't discern because it is rather accordioned together...

This all started with the colors. Colors can wreck me because I fall in love with them and begin to obsess over them. This teal Debbie Bliss Cathay went perfectly -- per-fect-ly -- with this Elsbeth Lavold Cotton Frappe. A truer color match never existed. During the yarn shop's summer sale last year, I bought these yarns with the intent to make something lovely that was then a mere figment in my mind. Then I came home and realized, even with my employee discount, that I'd spent a small fortune on yarn that might end up not turning into anything wearable. Buyer's remorse set in after starting to knit the first two balls together, and I returned the rest. But then I had those two open balls at home, staring at me, reminding me how freakin' perfectly they went together. And so -- yes, I'm a moron -- I went back to work the next week and bought the same damn stuff again, this time paying more for it because the sale was over. Hello! Stupid much?!

And you see how far I've gotten. The thing about the summer sale, which happened at the end of summer, is that my mind soon turned to fall and winter knits, and all things cotton were relegated to the UFO box under the bed. Hopefully, this will see the light of day later this spring, when I can either try and pick up where I left off (the pink card has my vague pattern that I was creating, and the little green stitch marker in the foreground? idea where it came from, but this does not bode well as this pattern had a lot of yarn-overs in least one of which may be missing by this point because at some point I needed the original needles that I was using, so I threaded the whole thing onto other needles not once, but twice, since hibernating this piece -- hence the little note on the bed reminding me to go back to size 7s and don't start knitting with the size 2s or whatever it's on at the's all insane...I should probably just start over).

(Self-realization note...all three of these items I just mentioned are also related to the story I referred to up there when I was talking about the Ms. Jones top. Hm. Interesting. More on that another time.)

Oh, and in case all of this knitting stuff isn't crazy enough, there's always the other box under my bed, full of roving and my drop spindles. Someday, I really want to learn to spin...I toyed with the idea of buying a wheel this year, but I've decided against it. Right now, I want to focus on knitting, not spinning (though I'm considering investing in a table loom to do some weaving...but the kids can also enjoy that, right? ahem...). And I want to become somewhat proficient at drop-spindling before I invest in a wheel. That said, I had no qualms about purchasing this lovely little spindle from Amy Singer, who was doing her own housecleaning a while back and was selling this off...

...pretty and formerly owned by a yarn celeb! Bonus! ;) (It's a very nice spindle...I played with it the other evening after it arrived...very lightweight, compared to my other two.)

And just because he's cute, here are a couple of picture of our temporary dog, Toby...

Why do dog eyes almost always reflect green in pictures? He looks so freaky like that! (And just to clarify, Toby will remain a dog for the rest of his days, but he will only be here at our house temporarily! LOL)

Job reflections...part one...

Some of you already know that my job working at my local yarn shop is quickly coming to an end. I'll have had it for barely a year when I'll see my last day there in mid-May. This is not a huge thing from a supporting-my-family standpoint, because the job was not a security thing. It was an extras thing. So many extras, most of which had nothing to do with finances.

A little history...two Januaries ago, I followed a whim to knit. I'd learned as a child and had dabbled off and on over the years, but I knew pretty much nothing about knitting well or using good-quality fibers. So when I walked into the small yarn shop in Florida just down the road from my mom's house, it was totally without expectation that anything would come of it. I bought yarn and a set of needles to make a rolled-brim hat for my daughter, and with the vaguest of verbal instructions from the shop employee who wrung up my order, I set off. Once back at my mom's, I had to get on the Internet to look up instructions on how to cast on, because I couldn't remember how.

During that same Florida trip, maybe a day or two later, I was in a store and happened upon Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book, "Knitting Rules!" I had no idea who SP-M was, but it looked like a pretty good book and it had a chapter on hats. So I bought the book and read it cover-to cover -- not the usual vacation reading -- and in doing so, I laughed a lot and more importantly, I started to learn things. (Even now, I recommend that book to every new knitter I come upon, I think it is so good.)

From that book, I learned how to do hat decreases, which came in handy on my hat project. Once home, though, I needed to find some knitting help because I knew I needed to finish the hat using DPNs, but I had no idea how to do that.

The shop girl in Florida had kindly looked up yarn shops in my area, and lo and behold, there was one not five minutes from my house: Bonnie Knits. I sought it out soon after I got home and signed up for a one-on-one lesson with a knitter named Pat. The shop itself was overwhelming with more yarn than I ever imagined and the owner, Bonnie, seemed to me that she must be a genuine knitting goddess from the many store samples that she made. Pat, as it turned out, was a godsend...she was wonderfully encouraging of my efforts and so kind. I finished my hat and she raved and praised me. Talk about positive reinforcement.

I went on and made more hats. Everyone was getting hats from me. No special occasion necessary. I realized it was time to move on, so made a scarf and some mittens. Then Pat taught me how to cable, so I made a cabled scarf.

As spring approached and hat and scarf season was ending, I got ambitious and made a cardigan for my daughter with an Ella Rae pattern (cables and bobbles). I also made an ill-fated (and ill-fitting) sweater for myself...ill-fated only because I opted to stray wildly from the pattern before fully understanding all of the concepts necessary to doing so. Still, it was a learning experience.

For three months, I found myself going to Bonnie's several times a week. Sometimes it was busy, sometimes not, and on the not-so-busy days, I got to know the shop owner and the other ladies who worked there, and it became a comfortable place for me...a much-needed "third place" in my life that I hadn't realized I needed.

One Saturday when I was in there, it was only Bonnie me. As always, Bonnie patiently answered my myriad questions and helped me search out patterns. While checking out, I got up the nerve to ask her if she ever needed extra help at the shop. I surprised myself by asking, because I was in no way looking for a job. She surprised me by saying yes, then she surprised me again by calling the next week and asking if I could come in for a couple hours to train the next week.

On May 1, I worked for my first day at Bonnie's store. For most of this past year, that is what I've done every Saturday, with an occasional odd day during the week if they were short-handed. I loved working there. I loved working -- a feeling I'd never had about any other job in my life. I'd voluntarily offered up my Saturdays -- my "me" days, as the kids and Kevin were usually off doing their own thing every week on Saturdays -- to work. And I never regretted it. It never got old or boring and I never wished I could call off.

So, when Bonnie closes the shop next month to begin a well-earned retirement, I'll be out of the best job I've ever had. It's bittersweet, to be sure. I love the place and the people and of course, the yarn! But this year has been about more than a job. It's been about the extras, the things I did not expect from this experience.

More about those later...time to go knit for a while.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cookin' the cardi...and a book

Some knit projects just really get me going. I started a Noro cardigan a little over a week ago, and I'm obsessed with it. My penchant for start-itis mid-project? Not happening with this one. I want to see this sweater done so I can wear it! The pattern is "Scarlett," the cover piece from the new Noro Joy book. It is making me very happy.

This picture is from the beginning of the sweater, but at least you can see the beautiful colors present in this yarn. I'm about 16" up the body now. I just bound off for the armholes and am working the top part of the back now. (I'm totally not following the pattern, as I've been working it all in one piece so far.)

On another knitting note, my friend Cosy has written a book called, Knit One, Embellish Too, which will be out next month. It looks very cool. Cosy's work is very creative, so I can't wait to see what all is in the book. If you're looking for a new knitting book to enjoy, check it out at her blog. (If you're interested in getting it, ordering it directly through Cosy at her blog would be a great help to her...I always try to support crafters and artists directly whenever possible, so it's just a thought! :))

Friday, April 11, 2008

Five Minute Friday: Good Things that Happened Today

Today was a pretty good Friday, so let's go with that for today's FMF list!

Good things that happened in my life today...

1. Found the cutest pair of new shoes that will henceforth be this summer's everyday-ish casual, quick slip-ons...

2. Found very cute turquoise-colored, summery, wrap top that does not make me look fat(ter that I really am).

3. Though not looking for one, found very pretty summer dress -- black with white eyelet embroidery -- that actually looks quite nice on me, which is saying something because I usually look very frumpy in dresses, but this one actually makes me look like I have a nice shape! Possibly verging on svelte! Woohoo!

4. Went to the chiropractor who performed magic on my aching back and hip. Love me my chiropractor!

5. Went to the coffee house fund-raiser tonight and saw all my photos hanging all official and gallery-like (or at least as official and gallery-like as artwork can appear in our church's fellowship room)...

6. Spent time talking to friends I hadn't seen in a while, which was very cool.

7. Did my part in the fund raiser aspect of the night with a husband-approved purchase of a beautiful quilted wall-hanging in all of my favorite colors...will likely go in our bedroom when I repaint it this year.

8. Got some very yummy sock yarn in the mail from The Loopy Ewe...from left to right: Spindle City Yarns, color "Barking up the Wrong Tree"; Zen String, color "Vitamin C"; Bellamoden, color "Black Beauty Complex Painted"...

9. Also in this order, isn't this the cutest little key chain ever? Came with a pattern to knit a tiny little sock to go on it! Fun!

10. Got a call this evening from the oldest son who is still away at SOI training. He got an early promotion this week, so he's now officially a PFC! Oorah! :)

11. Drank lots of coffee today...lots of yummy, good coffee...may not bode well for sleep tonight, but it made me happy whilst I was enjoying it. :}

That was my day...hope your's was as good! And just for the record, it does not escape me that six of my eleven "good things" involved buying stuff (seven, if you include a Starbucks mocha frap, which counts as one of the good coffees I enjoyed today...well, eight if you include the chiropractor's visit, but our insurance technically pays for that, though we pay for the insurance, or part of it, I guess...hmm...anyway.). I'm really not that materialistic of a person...honest! Most days I happily stay home and don't spend money at all. Well, unless I go grocery shopping, or if I'm at work and make a yarn purchase. Just happened that today was a good buying day. Doing my part for the economy and all... :}

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On the walls...

Our church is hosting a coffee house tomorrow night to benefit some upcoming mission trips. A couple of months ago, I was asked if I would provide some of my photographs to be included with others' artwork for display and sale. How cool is that?

Tonight was the set up for the event. Eleven of my photos are hanging there. I have to say, this is pretty cool! Other than in my own house, I've not seen my art work on display anywhere else. Now I've got pictures hanging there looking all artsy and official and stuff. Fun!

What was really interesting for me as I was choosing which prints I'd use was that my best work (in my estimation) is stuff I've done while traveling. My collection for tomorrow includes photos taken in Ireland, Arizona, Virginia and Florida (like the ocean scene above)...mountains, beaches ancient structures. I love taking these types of photos. Too bad I didn't think earlier in my life to become a travel photographer! ;)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gotta have closure...

...since all of my movie quotes from the FMF post a few weeks back did not get guessed, I went ahead and gave the answers to the rest of them. So, if you've been losing sleep over those pesky quotes, go now and see who said them and in which movies.

As I mentioned in the original post, I had two other movies that I wanted to use quotes from, but neither one had quotes listed on IMDb, so I left them off. The movies were If You Believe and Shadows in the Sun. Not sure which quote I'd have used from the former, but the latter is chock full of great lines, especially lines that ring true for every writer. Lots of good writerly wisdom and sentiments to be gleaned in that one. Oh, and the scenery is fantastic as well. And the characters were really enjoyable, I thought. Loved Harvey Keitel's crazy writer character. The plot line so believable in many places (it was a Hallmark Channel movie, after all), but I've watched it a bazillionty times and still enjoy it...and still would like to wake up some day looking like Claire Forlani.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Slow, soft things...

Today was a peaceful day. I was tired from a crazy day at work yesterday, so I stayed home while the family went off to church and then on to the in-laws' for the rest of the day. I love quiet, home-alone days when I get them.

I spent mine today with The Weepies and a Celtic CD lilting in the background while I focused on creating slow, soft things, like freshly baked wheat bread...

...this was my first attempt in many years at making my own bread. I never had the patience to do it right before. But today? Patience abounded. Good thing, too, since the recipe and process I followed in the Tassajara book took me nearly 6 1/2 hours from dissolving the yeast to pulling the hot loaves from the oven! Baking bread is not something that can be rushed. I like that. Sometimes I need to do something purposeful that cannot be completed via short-cuts, like when I make my quinoa porridge for breakfast some days...if I wanted quick, I'd do instant oatmeal. Somehow, the quinoa porridge is not just more filling, but more fulfilling as well. I think it's because of the time it takes to make.

Also soft and slow: knitting...

...I started this cardigan last night after bringing home some beautiful new Noro cotton blend yarn called Matsuri. The colors are beautiful, as always with Noro, and the fiber itself is interesting...almost like a fine, woven cord rather than the usual plied fiber. It's very soft, except where there are bits of grass/field still sticking in the wool. I cannot wait to wear this cardi, but as I have maybe 2 1/2" finished at this point, it will be a while. How long will depend on how many other projects I try to work on at the same time. (I'm making the cover cardigan from the new Noro Joy book, but in a different colorway than the one shown.)

Speaking of...

...finished this sock the other day...the colors are much deeper than they appear in this poorly lit photo, but nonetheless, I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a finished sock! (The picture of it in-progress in my post from last week shows its truer colors.)

And there is also my lace scarf that I showed you the other day. I've got a little over 8" done now, so I'm about 1/10 of the way finished with, I'd say. I've been going back and forth between it and the Noro cardigan today. Working on more than one thing at a time helps me to not get bored with any one thing. But then I'll reach a point on one or the other of my WIPs where I can see the end, and I'll focus intently on finishing that one project. It's how I work.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Autism Awareness Month...

April is Autism Awareness Month.

Likely you've heard the term "autism" at some point, and you may have a mental picture of what you think that looks like. The truth is, it can look quite different from person to person, depending on where they are on the autism spectrum.

In its overview of "What is Autism?", the Autism Speaks web site begins to define it as follows:

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. (Click here for the rest of their "What is Autism?" text.)

Another disorder that you may have heard of is Asperger's Syndrome, which also falls on the autism spectrum and shares several characteristics with classic autism. Some children will meet some diagnostic criteria for Asperger's but not others, thus they may be given a diagnosis of PDD-NOS, which stands for pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified. Rett Syndrome is yet another autism spectrum disorder.

A hallmark of autism spectrum disorders is an impaired ability to interact socially and appropriately. As you can imagine, this can be detrimental when it comes to making and keeping friends. Certain characteristics of the disorder make learning difficult, which can lead to difficulties in school work.

Oftentimes, parents seek to keep their child's diagnosis a secret, lest their child be subject to bias or judgment. Yet, when other people in the child's life -- coaches, Sunday School teachers, even family members -- don't know why the child is acting in a peculiar way, they often simply write the child off as being weird or bad and the parents as having no control over their child or not disciplining him enough.
While it can be hard to tell people about an autism spectrum diagnosis in a way that will help them truly understand it, it can be more detrimental to the child not to. It's a tough choice each parent must make on a case-by-case basis.

The cause of these disorders is not known, nor is there any known cure. With early diagnosis and treatment, however, the outlook for children on the autism spectrum gets brighter all the time. Many who are on the spectrum can grow up to become fully functioning adults, successful in their chosen areas of education and career, marriage and family, despite the difficulties these life-long disorders present.

Our family has had first hand experience with Asperger's Syndrome/PDD-NOS. Personally, I can say how frustrating, confusing and heart-breaking it can be to deal with some days. Some days, you want to shout at your child and say, "Just act normal!" while you know that it is not really a choice for him. Yes, behavior can be modified and deficiencies can be mitigated, but it takes time and patience and a lot of love. You know there are just going to be some of those days. But then there are the days when you see how far things have come and it is such a blessing.

Sometimes you'll see puzzle piece logos representing autism organizations. That is so appropriate for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is because dealing with autism can seem like a huge puzzle.

Over the past couple of years, I've learned a lot about autism from Ali Edwards' blog. Ali, who happens to be a celebrity in the scrapbooking world, has a son with autism. She's shared from her heart a lot of what their family's journey in the world of autism has been like. She also has a great page of links about autism. I won't repeat them here...just check out her site and browse.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's Day... was always one of my oldest son's favorite days. He loved the pranks -- both getting them and pulling them. Funny, I used to be far more into it with him than I've ever been with the younger two kids. Even after he moved out, he'd usually call me on April 1 and start the conversation out by telling me something totally outrageous but in a completely serious tone, then if he was successful in sucking me in, he's finally say, "April Fool's!" and laugh hysterically.

This year, no phone call. He's at SOI training, doing God knows what -- probably not too many April Fool's jokes going on with him today, I wouldn't think. Kind of sad...I'm missing him and his love of this silliness. :}