Saturday, June 16, 2012


My goodness - blogger has a new look and for a minute there I wasn't sure how to create a new post. 

It could also be that I'm a little tired and not thinking clearly - db woke up at 5:30 this morning - feverish, as it turns out - and today was the retirement brunch I organized for my mother here in NYC.  As I said to Todd after it happened, it wasn't too bad given the fact that it was my family.  We're all just extraordinarily awkward with one another most of the time.  Which is strange and exhausting.  Db, however, was a sociable trooper even with a low grade fever and no nap - I was worried she'd melt down at brunch but I think the fever actually took the edge off and she mainly sat quietly playing with her farm animal toys.

Db's mommy phase has reached new and epic proportions.  A few days ago she started spontaneously saying "I love you, Mom"and "Mom, do you love me?" The latter question I attribute to mimicking the last page of the (late, great) Marice Sendek's Bumble-ardy, wherein Bumbary's aunt asks of Bumble-ardy "Oh my little buckaroo, do you love me like I love you?"  (answer: sure I do!) 

Why she calls me "Mom" is beyond me, since we have referred to ourselves as "Mama" and "Dada" from day one.  Perhaps her toddler superpowers allow her to sense (correctly) that I would much prefer to be "Mama."  Oh, well. 

She recently found me attempting to be alone in our bedroom reading (oh, the shame!) Game of Thrones; she promptly located the boxed set of the series, grabbed one, climbed up on the bed with me, sat next to me, stretched out her legs just like my legs were stretched out, opened the book, and declared that we were reading together. 

At the table (or, more accurately, the kitchen island that we use as a table), we have to drink at the same time.  Our conversations consist mainly of her asking me what I have/am doing and then expressing her desire to have/do exactly that. 

So, alternately exhausting and endearing and largely typical toddler behavior.  Stalker behavior too, now that I think about it.

Speaking of toddler behavior, she and I had the first really full blow out tantrum in public experience yesterday.  I was meeting a friend and her daughter downtown and as db and I got off the subway, she let me know that she wanted to go through the rotating exit doors by herself.  The exit doors, being exit doors, do not allow individuals to re-enter, but this point was pretty much lost on db, who immediately went bonkers over not being able to go through the doors "ON MY OWN" (though in the second that I reached for my phone to call my friend to tell her that, owing to extreme toddler behavior, we were going to be late, db made a run for it and very nearly slid through a crack in the between the exit door and the wall, peter-rabbit like).  After several attempts to get her up the stairs and out of the station failed and she was doing a great job keeping other commuters from exiting, I picked her up and carried her out, which filled her with rage and transformed her into a shrieking snot fountain for about fifteen minutes.  As she became calmer, we sat down on a stoop of some fashionable west village brownstone and endured scornful looks from many passers-by.  I hate people.

Meeting the friend and her daughter was nice enough - or I guess it was nice to see db play with a little girl about two years older than her.  She started really playing with other kids on the playground this month, and it's unbearably sweet to watch her testing the waters as a social being.  The ongoing downer thing about meeting this particular friend, however, is that she married someone who works in finance and particularly since we've each had a child and she lives downtown in a probably over a million dollar apartment and has a full time nanny to support her on days when her daughter isn't in her fancy downtown preschool, I have a hard time relating to her.  It's not as though money or related challenges are all that I talk about and I honestly don't think what I'm dealing with here is primarily jealousy, either.  I'm not sure what it is.  I just feel like she moved to a different planet where "problems" entail choosing between private school or two of the best public schools in the city (both of which she's zoned for at million dollar address).  I don't know.  What I do know is every time I see her (which is not too often), I always leave feeling really sad, like the actual friend I knew has been bodysnatched by a lovely but distant alien. 

Anyway.  I'm knitting db a sweater, but I will wait until I've got some photos before I talk about it here.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I need a new knitting project

I think that about sums it up. I killed an hour of time searching patterns on Ravelry and couldn't come up with anything inspiring.

I don't really like knitting socks, though since I don't really mind wearing handknit socks, maybe I should get over it and try starting a new pair. Knitting for db is always fun, but summer is coming and it seems that all the good children's patterns are in Danish, Icelandic, or French.

Hats are fun - and in fact, I just knit this one. Hineri, a free ravelry download. Love it, love the yarn, and maybe if the predicted blizzard actually happens, I will be able to wear it this year. If I knit it again I'll be more careful about not pulling the first cable too tightly - it fits, but let's just say it's good I have a small head.

I used to like knitting myself sweaters, but they all seem to be just not very exciting after they're done, and the fit is often not exactly right - they generally end up feeling not really worth the cost of yarn and labor. I do seem to be much more interested in knitting classic, fairisle-type things lately - there's just a stunning amount of bad design out there on Ravelry and elsewhere. Elizabeth Zimmermann, save us!

Work, db, and Words with Friends also conspire to keep me from knitting - though with work, it's not all bad. I've decided that since I'm not likely to leave my current university before I get tenure and I've done more than enough for tenure, the time has come to read again - the grind of production for teaching and publication has really rendered me a shell of whatever I was before this process started. I spent this afternoon reading the first third of a recent study of the rise of the cult of Hanuman in modern Hinduism and it was so absolutely wonderful to be learning something for a change.

Yeah, I didn't get an offer from either place I gave a talk. At school #1, I was sorry not to get an offer; at school #2, I was not. They were rude and terrible when I was there; rumor has it that it's been declared a failed search and if that's not a sign of a divided and screwed up department and/or university, I don't know what is. They certainly seem to have lived up to their bad reputation!

Though of course I desperately wanted an offer from them so I could leverage a better situation here in NYC, where we remain deeply strapped for cash and barely (not really) able to pay for preschool next year. Db ended up getting into a few places, but after the requisite amount of upper west side parent hand-wringing, we decided to go with the Montessori option.

I was pretty sceptical about Montessori at first, but then I really liked the way that the teachers worked with db when we went for our "audition" and having done a little reading, it also seemed to me that Montessori generally seems to project less parental baggage onto childhood, particularly the idea that kids need to feel "free" and to be "creative" and have "fun." Most people deeply desire some combination of these these things because they feel dehumanized, exhausted, and otherwise gutted by their jobs, and then I think they project their own set of needs onto their thoroughly modern notion of childhood. However, it does seem to me that what db wants more than anything else - including having "fun" - is to feel accomplished, and properly executed Montessori education seems to gives kids structured and valuable opportunities to feel accomplished. I also liked that Montessori classrooms seem to be much more equipped to accommodate kids who want to work alone. Db is not outgoing, and while I of course want her to learn to be friendly with other kids, what I saw happening at the "play-based" preschools was the shy kids getting left out and then having nowhere to go that is primarily designed for solitary play.

Of course, I think that more than anything else, what matters is a good teacher, and of course, that is the one thing that you can't see before you fork over your security deposit.

Oh, yeah. Security deposit. For preschool.

Anyway. How interesting it will be to see all my preschool theories crushed by actual experience!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In Which Knitcrit Contemplates Giving Up and Finds Herself Wondering What, Exactly, That Would Look Like

What is wrong with knitcrit? Surely she can't be unhappy about this spectacular sweater, which is all finished but for the blocking and weaving in:

It's the Elizabeth Zimmermann bottom-up sweater from _Knitting Without Tears_ with a yoke design borrowed (and modified a bit) from a ski sweater in _The Opinionated Knitter_. The whole thing was done in Princess, a merino-angora-synthetic blend with great stitch definition. I realized somewhere in the middle of the yoke that I had inadvertently chosen the colors of the Indian flag - so patriotic! - but I think/hope that what the colors will say to the average viewer will be more along the lines of "early spring" - because nothing says spring like a fairisle ski sweater, right? It's for db, and it's big enough so it should last her well into next winter.

And db might need it, because it's possible we'll be living in Montreal. Basically, I went on the job market this year because Todd's been underemployed for several years and we really can't continue being this poor in Manhattan. There are also some issues at my university - a top-down restructuring was pushed through by the a*shole chancellor; what it amounts to is a dumbing down of the general education curriculum in order to boost graduation rates. The restructuring's been savaged in the Chronicle and now some of the junior colleges are just plain old refusing to implement it, which bodes well for us at the senior colleges in the system, but still, overall things are not looking too good for public education in New York City. Ugh.

If only the photo would display properly. Hate blogger. Hate iphone.

So the past three weeks have been consumed with job talks - one at a fancy University in Montreal and the other at an an Ivy League school in Philadelphia. I had less than a week's notice for the Montreal talk and I don't think I did a great job; for the job in Philly I gave a slightly better talk but there are some issues with the school as a whole that make me worry. I don't know. I feel totally spent and somehow sure that neither one is going to translate into an actual offer. I'm trying to be happy and grateful for the opportunities, but really what I feel is tired and mad at myself for not doing a better job, and that combined with garden variety annoyances with Todd and our apartment have conspired to put me in a bad mood.

That and today I got db's first preschool rejection letter, and I know that there's nothing more going on here than a huge number of kids vying for a very limited number of spots, but I was haunted by the fear that this was somehow all My Fault and We Could Have Done Something More. And of course the evolving preschool situation also makes me feel like we can't stay in Manhattan - we can't even really afford any of these freaking preschools unless Todd suddenly manages to get a full-time job - but where would we go? The northern jersey suburbs where we can feel isolated and I can enjoy the hellish commute to Manhattan? Somewhere in Queens where we can feel similarly isolated and the commute would be even worse, not to mention the schools?

Is it ridiculous for someone like me to feel trapped and hopeless? Probably.

On the bright side, the British version of Being Human is pretty good and Todd's making a nice dinner even as I type this grumpy post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

end of semester, end of year

The semester is over and the grading is FINALLY done - I'll miss one class terribly and have kind of already forgotten about the other two. This is the first semester where I've really felt strange and sad about the distance I feel from most of my students. I guess I should say that exceptional or otherwise lovely students make an impression on me and I am quite invested in them and their learning progress, but for most students - and especially the "do I have to bring the reading to class?" type students in my 1001-level introduction course - I no longer feel the burning need to be the after-school-special heroic educator who Makes A Difference in their lives. Which is not to say that I am not doing my best - I am - but at the same time I am no longer spending the entire subway ride home obsessing over what I should have done differently to Better Reach Them. I have a child, a husband, and the desire to occasionally connect with friends and/or do some reading or writing in my "area of expertise." This leave limited resources available for going into teaching overtime.

Let's see - in other news, I'm on a search committee for a new hire in our department and I have to say that I have been pretty stunned and saddened by the extent to which identity politics seem to have shaped the attitudes of my committee members. Good lord. Probably I shouldn't say too much here, but it's depressing. We had almost 400 applicants for the position.

I had a book launch on December 9th. I was dreading it primarily because I was sure no one would come, but as it turns out the (small) room was full and several of my dear teachers as well as the colleagues I like the most showed up, so that was cheery. On the whole, I guess the talk I gave went well, which is to say I do not look back on it and feel full of regret.

Knitting content: the Maile sweater I made for a friend's dumpling-adorable little girl has finally been gifted, and therefore can be posted here:

Gah. SO cute.

I no longer have the capacity to note yarn type or needle size or much of anything other than I knit this in a worsted and it came out in the 3-6 month range, which was pretty much what I had hoped for. I had it on about 15 dpns to deal with the sleeve construction, but after about four rows the sweater had advanced far enough beyond the armpits to work on a circular again, so even with that pain in the neck, it was a pretty simple and satisfying knit with great results.

I've been thinking a lot about archiving - there's no shortage of digital mediums available to make me feel bad about not recording these early years of my life with db, and I have at least done a great job keeping an organized and well-edited photo series of her (and her parents) over on Flickr. What feels most attractive to me lately, though, is keeping a simple, handwritten diary. I think - because of my job - I associate the keyboard with a standard and type of writing that keeps me from using this blog as a record of db's early years, but a simple paper notebook might feel like a place I can write whatever comes to mind - and I could keep up with images over on flickr. Which is not to say that knitcrit is closing up shop - I love this blog even if I don't have much time for it of late. I just think there might be something to writing simply on paper. Let's see what happens.

And there you have it - the last post before the new year!

ETA: One of knitcrit's elite group of readers who also happens to live with her just read the above post and yelled "No knitcrit! Don't go!" Knitcrit would like to reiterate that she isn't going anywhere - and she even aspires to more than six posts and three knitting projects in 2012 since that is the year that she gets tenure. Oh yeah, baby.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Of posting and preschools

I have been thinking about what keeps me from updating this blog. There are the usual answers: too much work, exhaustion, perfectionism, laziness. But I also think it's because I named it knitcrit and despite meditations to the contrary, I have it in my head that posts should include some knitting content.

If I had time, I would knit a sweater for a New Zealand penguin.

So, there's some knitting content! Moving on.

Oh - wait - more knitting content: I went to Rhinebeck this year, and I am sorry to say that IMHO (as they say) it is a tad overrated. All those idyllic photos over on Ravelry are a little misleading. Yeah, there's a lot of yarn and it's kind of fun to move through the crowd knowing who the knitting stars are and the names for the many knit-especially-for-Rhinebeck sweaters, scarves and hats, but in the end, it's supposed to be about the fiber, and I guess since I live in NYC, it's not too hard to get my hands on a wide range of yarn, and that makes the stuff on offer at Rhinebeck underwhelming. As Todd observed, Rhinebeck is really all about the fleece. He's right, I think - there were some serious piles of seriously beautiful wool for sale. And actually, there was a pretty high entertainment value in seeing how interested Todd got in the fleece rating system. Maybe all the estrogen in the home is finally getting to him.

And of course it is is always fun to see sheep, alpacas, and llamas. Db loved the angora rabbits, and we all loved watching the sheep competition. Real suspense and drama there, let me tell you. And I clearly suck at sheep evaluation, as all of my favorites were eliminated almost right off the bat.

Possibly the main reason I found the whole thing a tad overrated was simply because we went there with db and it took two hours to get there and over three to get home thanks to a huge traffic jam in Sleepy Hollow caused by some annual Halloween festival that shut down the center of town. So it was five hours of driving, three of it with a toddler who had not napped at all. That's enough to dim the glow of even the cutest alpaca.

Let's see. Other reasons for failure to post have to do with awareness of audience and fear of writing something prosaic and lame. Since the trip to India but maybe even before that, writing has not seemed natural to me. This is a big deal. For years I prided myself on writing, wrote reams for fun, liked to think that my writing was humorous and smart, loved the process of putting my thoughts in words. Maybe it was the book. That's a pretty good narrative, eh? The book killed my passion for writing! Does that happen?

And yes, I am certainly busy, but no more busy than a lot of friends who still manage to maintain humorous, wise, inspiring, informative, and/or entertaining blogs.

There is also the fear that even though I don't use my name other easily google-able information, some terrible ex-boyfriend or current student will find this blog. The thought of that is enough to make me step away from the keyboard.

And something has happened with my laptop's fan so that most of the time when I sit down to write, I'm serenaded by a raspy whirring noise that gets louder and quieter at random intervals but never goes away. Plans are afoot to replace the laptop, but it's slow going and in the meantime every minute I don't have to spend feeling like I'm typing directly behind a jet engine, the better.

Plus, since having db, my capacity for ironic commentary has taken a serious nosedive. Knitcrit has nothing to critique. Db is I love her to distraction. Often all I feel capable of doing is posting a bunch of photos of her without comment, because what can one say, really? She's just so awesome. Except of course when she isn't - but when I've had it with her, I am much more interested in watching something from Netflix than exorcising demons through the production of cathartic prose. Plus I think sitting around assisting in the construction of block towers and reading Dr. DeSoto a billion times in a row has done a lot to take away any edge I might have once had.

We started the preschool application process. It's not quite as bad as Nursery University would have you believe, but that's probably because we're not applying to any of the really exclusive preschools - like the one run by Barnard, for example, which had a website so backwards and full of hoops that we gave up on it pretty early on, only to learn later this year that it's the chosen preschool for Sarah Jessica Parker's progeny, which explains a lot.

No, for us it's just the normal Upper West Side preschool process, which means we've applied to five - or is it six? - schools. FYI: you are "supposed to" apply to at least 10. Because what if you don't get in to your first six choices?

Application fees to date: $400. Oh, yes. We went to our first parent orientation and as I sat there listening to the (relatively speaking) likable director of the preschool discussing how they are not like other preschools because they really do believe in a play-based curriculum I couldn't help but feel panicked and annoyed at the same time. Panicked because in many ways this preschool is my first choice because it gives the most time for the tuition dollars and annoyed because all the parents there were doing their absolute best to exude a "we're not like all those crazy Manhattan parents" vibe when in fact I know that if it came right down to it, they would climb over the cold, lifeless body of my daughter if it lay between them and admission to, say, PS 9 or Trinity.

We could, of course, leave Manhattan. Though of course since we had to move this summer and spent about $4,000 to do so, that might not be the best choice right now. Plus I haven't really driven a car since 1995. And I don't know how to operate a gas pump. And being in the cavernous emptiness of the suburbs makes me feel like the rapture has happened and I didn't make the cut or I have somehow, perhaps owing to some genetic quirk, managed to survive the detonation of a neutron bomb. And db loves going to our local sushi restaurant so much.

Maybe everything will work out and db will get in to one of the preschools. Or maybe my mother is right and we shouldn't be sending her to preschool until she's four. As she said to me on the phone the other day, "You didn't go to preschool!" I think the implication there was I turned out fine, which is I think the closest my mother has ever come to voluntarily complimenting me.

So that's a positive note to end on. Post!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Archie goes to India

Classes started before Labor Day - one of the less charming things about my school - and after five or six or however may years it has been at this point, I sort of feel like things are under control. Which of course prompts simultaneous feelings of guilt and boredom, because I apparently somehow still don't know how do be a normal adult.

Some good friends recently had their second child - a boy - and I managed to finish an Archie Vest for him the day before he left (with mom, dad, and big brother) for nine months in India. It gets cold in northern India and stunningly loud vests are a special part of the Indian male's wardrobe - a yarn seemingly made entirely of sparkly plastic plastic "fiber" was especially popular last winter. I thought Archie evoked these subcontinental masterpieces while still managing to be wearable.

My swatch was knit to gauge but goodness gracious, blocking increased the size significantly - I knit it for 6 months and I'd say it's an 18 month size now.

I knit it in the round until the armpits and added the buttons at the shoulder because folks on Ravelry noted that the neck opening was quite small. I think I used Artyarns superwash sock yarn, but honestly I don't remember and in the rush to finish it labels were misplaced. Oh well. I loved knitting it but I'm not doing anything in such a small gauge again until after I get tenure.

A particularly - exceptionally, actually - gifted employee at M & J Trimmings helped me find the buttons. I think they are perfect.

Let's see. I've wanted to use this blog as a place to record charming moments with db. She's two now, and generally incredibly fun.

Todd and I agreed that today she woke up from her nap it seemed that her language abilities had taken another leap.

For the first time, db used "I love" without prompting - it was quite sweet to see, even though the recipient was her toy giraffe, who she hugged as she made her declaration.

When classes started and she saw that I was leaving for the day, db grabbed one of her Hindi-English books and requested that I read it, referring to it by the Hindi title rather than the English one. She normally requests these books using the English title, so the clever girl had strategized that if she requested the Hindi version, Mama would not leave since Dada can't read Hindi.

And so much more! But I am tired from a long day of teaching - obviously, given the not overly polished prose - and must sleep.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Moving on, in, up

Cousin Liz had a girl a few weeks ago, and after I finished turning in grades for the Worst Semester Ever and Todd and I signed a lease for a new place that we found through the Worst Real Estate Agent Ever, I got to work. It's a six month size and wow, a tiny sweater in Malabrigo worsted superwash flies off the needles. Malabrigo's superwash is amazing - I kind of don't believe it's a superwash.

The pattern is a Ravelry freebee called Striped Smock Top. Clearly the designer focuses her creativity on pattern writing rather than naming. Donna at the yarn store rightfully talked me into buying the yellow yarn.

It still needs a button. The orange and red were leftovers from two aviator caps that I knit for friends who just had twin girls. We visited them last weekend and I don't know what was more exhausting - the simple thought of twins or keeping db calm for the last hour of the car ride back to the city. To be fair, db is remarkably easy for an almost two-year-old: she flips through mountains of books, "reading" them out loud; imagination play with toys and stuffed animals can go on for a very long time. Even saint-like hopefully genius children have their limits, though, and db's carseat maximum is about two hours. Not bad for a city kid who is so unaccustomed to cars that she now thinks that they exist solely to go to the beach, since all five car trips we've taken since arriving back in the states have been to the ocean or homes with pools or by rivers.

And I say "hopefully genius" because without a scholarship or a high score on the so-called "gifted and talented" exam, her mom and dad really are going to have to move to New Jersey.

Speaking of maxing out carseat time, one of the beach trips was to visit a friend in Montauk. In theory this was a good idea; in practice the heavens opened the moment we arrived. We sort of managed to get to the beach in between storm fronts, but it was so cold db wore her rashguard over pants and a shirt and we had to keep her from getting hypothermia splashing around in the surf. And then on the drive home we hit rush hour traffic going into NYC and the fried clams I ate immediately prior to departure began to disagree with me violently and the only thing that seemed to keep db calm was a recording of sweet old songs that Woody Guthrie composed for his children. I think we listened to the album at least 15 times in a row. Every time I thought I couldn't take it anymore I would ask myself if another round of "I want my milk and I want it now" was better than the cries of an understandably sick of the car toddler and of course we all know the answer to that question.

On the brighter side, I am kind of excited about our new apartment. It has a dishwasher and a third bedroom that we'll be using as a home office. If I think about it, the fact that these two features make me happy suggests that I have finally developed a terminal case of adulthood.

But on the brightest of the bright sides, my editor wrote to me today saying my book is in. My. book. is. in. It's on Amazon! Look at it. Tenure incarnate. Eight years later, my book:

And for the record, that lady on the cover is not dead. She just looks dead. Read the book to find out more.