1971: Before I could read

A few decades ago, my father asked me if I thought it was possible that someone who knew how to read could view text in their native language and not be able to read it. I never asked him why he had asked the question, but I believe that my answer at the time was No – I didn’t think that a literate person could not be able to read something.

I still think that answer is basically true. A stroke or a bout of aphasia could impair your ability to read for a certain amount of time, and acute trauma could impair your perceptions to a degree that might include reading or speech, but I don’t know that personal literacy is something you can voluntarily disable. (Officer: “Didn’t you see that stop sign back there?” Driver: “The red sign? I saw it, but I decided not to read it. Did it say something important?”)


When I went off to kindergarten at age five, I could not yet read. I remember the thick workbook that we used that year, full of colorful pictures and words and phrases in simple black type. I remember the meaningless, the flatness of it before I was able to crack the code. I also remember the thrill that came over me when I realized that I could do it — I could read the words! I could read all the words, including the ones on the previous pages. Yesterday I was going through the motions, but today I could really read!


Because my birthday is in the middle of summer, I can guess that I learned to read when I was about five and a half. But I had been surrounded by words much longer — probably all my life — and my parents thought I already knew how to read. I was outed during a visit to West Virginia, when I sat with my great-grandfather and we read my favorite book, “Hop on Pop.” Everyone was impressed with my precocious abilities until Grandpap turned two pages at once and I proceeded to recite the text printed on the skipped page. (You would think that my family members would have been even more impressed by my ability to memorize an entire book, but that was apparently not the case.)

After I did learn to read I was rarely without a book, or any other collection of words. I strayed from the shelves of books at my reading level so that I could try something more advanced. At the public library this meant moving from the children’s books room to the shelf just outside that held the Encyclopedia Brown series, and later to a book on how to write Chinese characters. At the school library this meant leaving the Matt Christopher sports series (and exciting titles like Catcher with a Glass Arm and Slam Dunk!) for the thickest book on the nonfiction shelf (which turned out to be a stultifyingly dull book about wildflowers or botany or something; ugh). I read voraciously in the two newspapers that came to our house every day, the Columbus Citizen-Journal in the morning and the weightier and more conservative Columbus Dispatch in the evening. I typed up my own attempt at a neighborhood newspaper on my manual typewriter in the fourth grade (there was only one edition; it’s quite the rarity) and eventually I began writing my own short stories and longer pieces.

Kids these days are a bit quicker on the draw than I was, and all of mine learned to read before I did. My third child, probably out of sheer boredom, taught himself to read at age three by playing Pixar movies with the captions on. His younger brother thought this was normal, and duly copied him. But all four of them have discovered, enjoyed, written, and illustrated stories much more complicated than “Hop on Pop,” to which dozens of homemade chapbooks detailing the adventures of Toilet Man, Captain Chale, and the TIME HOLE attest; the elder two are writing fan fiction and moving on to create their own complex and realistic fictional worlds, for which I occasionally serve as a sounding board and consultant.


Can they look at something and not read it? I’ll ask them without telling them why I want to know.



Knitwise, I have finished the two pairs of slippers for my grandmother; I only have to seam them up. That’s close enough to actually being done to let me think about the next project I should finish: Oliver’s blanket. I will have some crocheting to do for that blanket to realize my original vision. (Actually, my original vision called for someone else to crochet the squares.) Alternatively, I could frog the squares I’ve knitted and just knit a regular freakin’ blanket, which might take less time but would have more joins. Where’s the fun in that? (To hasten my work I’ll try to think about how cold that poor newborn child must be during our round after round subzero temperatures, and I’ll ignore all the cuddly, snuggly Facebook pictures already posted by my friend, his doting grandmother.) When I’m done with the baby blanket it will finally be time to finish the Swedish Surprise.

Published in: on February 5, 2018 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

And this year I mean it.

Happy New Year everyone…. I might be back.

2011 was a rough year for me, as you know if you know me via Ravelry, Facebook, or Real-Life™, and I don’t want to rehash it here. But I would like to resume my blogging ways and share my knitting (now including crochet!) adventures, my quirky sense of humor, and my funny kid stories as I used to do.

I would like to publish new posts every Saturday, but to kick things off I’d like to amuse you all (especially you, “Stephanie”) with some New Year’s resolutions.

  1. I would like to publish new Chocolate Sheep posts every Saturday. (Stop laughing, Lauren.)
  2. I’m going to finish all the projects on my WIP list. (Stop laughing, Brandy.) But since I also have new projects for which I would like to cast on, I want to do my projects in pairs — finish one WIP for each new project. The only way this works is if I finish the new project too. I might also include a Needle Liberation Tally as I go along.
  3. I’m going to work to reduce the clutter in my home. (Stop laughing, “Stephanie.”) Actually, the best way to do this is to finish projects or to find people who could use the supplies I’ve been hoarding reserving for future use. That means I will also have to create scrapbook pages, digitize photos, and maybe even make quilts.
  4. I’m back to school for a B.S. in Physics with a minor in Math and, this semester, back to work at school as well, for 15-20 hours a week. I got an A in my first course (Intermediate Algebra) so I’m coming in with a 4.0 grade point average. I would like to keep an A average now, in this my remedial year, so when I start this fall to take on Calculus and Physics I will look and feel like I can handle it. This semester I’m taking Precalculus and Astronomy.
  5. Is five a nice round number? Well, this year I want to finish a goal I made progress on last year. I vowed to lose 50 pounds and actually lost at least 20 before life threw me a doctored slider in September and I stopped exercising. I need to find ways to get healthier on a busy schedule. I won’t be at home all day with access to a Nordic Track, an exercise bike, and a Wii fitness system — so I will have to reduce my calories and stay active in other ways. Goal weight is about 140 pounds, so I will try to keep you posted on that.

That should be plenty! See you on Saturday….

Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 10:24 am  Comments (5)  

Happy New Thanksmas Year!

I have a lot of updates for you!

Firstly and most importantly, the Connor Caps project was a huge success. In three weeks, knitters and crocheters from around the world contributed 145 hats to help support Connor in his fight with brain cancer. 

December 5 was Hat Day at the school, and I had to leave early to get all the hats there. Unfortunately, I was just inside the city limits when I realized I had left one box of fleece hats at home. They had been sent from Hawaii, and represented the largest number of hats sent in by a single person, so I couldn’t leave them out. After a few moments’ panicked thinking, I realized that what I had to do was keep going, let the helpers start stringing up the rest of the hats, hope someone would take care of my two younger boys, and dash back home (ten miles away) for the fleece hats.

It worked out perfectly — the preschool teacher took Big Tom as well as Jack, and by the time I got back to school, all the rest of the hats were clipped to a clothesline that ran the length of the school gym.

The hats weren’t the only thing going on. The school principal kept everything moving through an intensely emotional ceremony. She explained about the Connor Caps project and how it had come together, then let Connor go up and pick out his own hat. Then each class from kindergarten to the eighth grade came up for hats. I made a little movie of part of the “hat sorting” and I’ll try to post it here. The quality is not great, since I made it with my little digital camera, but the emotions are what really show.

After all that was done, it was only 9am, and Jack still had school. It took me a full thirty minutes to convince Big Tom that he needed to come with me, and to convince Jack that he needed to stay at school until I came back for him at the regular time. To help me recover from the emotions of the morning, I went to the nearest quilt-shop-with-a-yarn-room and bought the prettiest and softest yarn I could find. I could only afford three balls, so I hid the rest of the dyelot and told the clerk not to sell the rest to anyone else.


Soft and pretty "reward yarn"

Soft and pretty "reward yarn"



When I got home, there were more hats waiting for me. Even though they didn’t get here in time for the ceremony, they’re still part of the program, and if anyone wants to contribute hats they are still welcome. We came just ten hats short of making one for each kid at school, and I think the staff members would like to have hats too. If you’re interested and able, please contact me for the mailing address.

We have other projects planned for helping and comforting Connor and his family. The details are up at the Connor Caps group on Ravelry, but I can post them here, too.

Next there was a pilgrimage to Sinsinawa Mound. For some reason I had thought this was in the Eau Claire area, since it was described as being 2-3 hours away from Jefferson. Boy was I wrong. We went through some new Wisconsin territory for me, and I took a picture of the Verona exit from 151, just to prove there is something past it (that’s how I get to The Sow’s Ear). At one point our charter bus was stuck behind two Amish men driving their buggy home from Sunday Meeting. When we were at the spiritual center, I read on a flyer that it’s “just a ten minute drive from Dubuque!”

The day at the center was amazing, and there’s no way to adequately describe it all. I could refer you to read what Connor’s mom wrote in his CaringBridge journal — but she says the same thing.

It started snowing and squalling on the way home, and since James and I were in the first seat of the bus, we had an excellent view of how dicey the whole drive was. We were able to watch DVDs on the way out and back, and after the second movie ended, the kids decided to sing Christmas songs the rest of the way home. I can think of much worse road trips with schoolkids!

I found out later that when Connor’s family got home that night, other friends had put up their Christmas decorations for them, and they came home to a beautiful display of sparkling lights. They really are getting support from all quarters.

What comes next? Oh yes, Christmas knitting. I took a couple of projects with me (what? It was going to be as much as six hours on a bus!) but the only one I worked on was the Christmas stocking for my brother. I got a ton of it done, including almost finishing the colorwork section. After that it really picked up speed. It arrived at my parents’ house yesterday, and he doesn’t have it yet, but I can show you a picture. Even with the cuff folded, it came out to 27 inches long.


Ben's stocking

Ben's stocking



There really wasn’t any other requested knitwear to make for presents, but I did send out an Everlasting Bagstopper (i.e. cotton market bag) and make some dishcloths. In the meantime, I started working on a Season 16 Doctor Who Scarf as part of a mini knitalong. On Ravelry I became acquainted with a woman who finished her Season 12 Scarf as she sat with her dying mother. She was using the same yarn I had used and we both had lots of leftovers, so when she decided to make a Season 16, I started one too. I believe it’s the longest scarf, and I know I’ll run out of yarn at some point, but there’s no deadline. It’s all about community and support.

I also had a meetup at Thanksgiving time, with Christine (“akasha”) from one of my Ravelry groups. We met at a yarn shop (go figure) and I found the perfect tweedy yarn to start collecting for another variant on a Doctor Who Scarf. Talk about no deadline. And then, on Thanksgiving Day, I wore my Scarf all day long. My brother was impressed and eventually asked about it, and the upshot is that I’ll be making a machine washable version for him. Just yesterday I bought the bulk of the yarn I’ll need for it. I want to buy a special circular needle for the project, and I’ll get started after I find it.

I made another pair of the cotton footies in shades of blue, and gave them to James in his stocking. They’re a little big yet — I made the adult size — but at the rate he’s growing they will soon fit.

And after getting heavy snows and bitter cold and brisk wind, I decided to make everyone in the family a new pair of mittens, in wool this time. I started with Big Tom, and made a pair of baby blue mittens in Dalegarn Falk, using the Fittin’ Mittens pattern and adding a green Norwegian snowflake to each mitten. Jack’s are next. He wants an Autobot logo one one side and a Decepticon logo on the other, and on the other mitten he wants….

So, what’s on the needles now?

A Season 16 Doctor Who Scarf. The bamboo socks, newly restarted — transitioning to the toe color on one sock, with the other one watching curiously. Not Jack’s mittens yet, but soon. There are also seven (I think) other WIPs. One is a Secret Holiday Project that didn’t come close to getting done, but the others are familiar (cough Tyrone cough) if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.

Ugh, it’s driving rain right now and it’s melting our snowbanks down so everything will be ice when the temperature dips again. And the sky is thick with fog. Yuck yuck yuck! I’d rather it were cold straight through winter than to have this freeze/thaw/sleet junk, especially when we have most of the day booked for a huge Round Robin family eatfest today. With four little people to get in and out of the cars from house to house, it’s not easy, but we’ll do as much as we can.

We all had a blessed Christmas and I hope you did too! Stay warm and dry…. I’ll be back in a few days to make insanely optimistic New Year’s resolutions. We’ve all got to have a tradition, and that one’s mine.

Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 9:21 pm  Comments (2)  


The last several days have been a whirlwind as we prepare for a just-longer-than-a-week road trip covering several states and generations of relatives. The hard prep work is now almost done: I think I have finalized my trip knitting.

Now, I just have to discover whether or not I have a week’s worth of respectable clothes. That can wait till tomorrow, I think.

In case I don’t have Internet access next week (The horror! The horror!), those of you on Ravelry can check out my notebook and see Actual Project Pictures and Actual Stash Pictures. Flickr proved a lot easier to finagle than WordPress image uploading was a few months ago, so I haven’t made the time to try again. Yet. Someday…..

I do have a couple of projects to almost cross off my list.

The alpaca triangle shawl is done except for edging. I really want to add an edging. I don’t know if this will be in crochet (which I don’t know how to do) or attached I-cord (which I haven’t done yet), but I have about 100g of fingering weight, chocolate-brown (of course), Peruvian alpaca to do it with. I wore the shawl around the house this morning, pinned with a section of fractured vintage knitting needle, with my matching fingerless mitts. It was so cozy — can’t wait till winter!

I am THIS close to finishing my second Hufflepuff mitten. THIS CLOSE. And it occurred to me while I was driving today, that I have been referring to them everywhere as Ravenclaw mittens. Maybe I wish I were a Ravenclaw? I really do know my Hogwarts color coding, honestly. Anyway, I just have to knit the tip of the thumb and weave in the ends.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been swapping yarn literally all over the world to score what I need to start a Doctor Who Scarf for my Ravelympics event. Yes, I understand this makes me a dork among dorks, but I have found my people and they usually think I’m funny. Some days, that’s enough.

I may not be able to post before August 4, but I have two knitting meetups incorporated into the vacation already, plus a trip to Knitters Mercantile (“The Merc”) in Columbus, so I’ll probably be okay. My travel knitting? Socks mostly, plus DH bought me the Nancy Bush Traveling Sock Knitter book I’ve looked at for two years now and never bought for myself. I might take yarn to start one of those patterns, especially the Welsh one.

Stay cool and dry!

Published in: on July 24, 2008 at 8:54 pm  Comments (5)  

What happens at Knit Night….

…stays at Knit Night, of course.

But the short version of last night is that we had a perfect storm of Wisconsin knitbloggers (ElizabethSABLE, Jaaladay, Dale-Harriett, Cathy-Cate, and more), a knitting ‘zine distribution (knitcircus #3), knitting tattoos (thanks Cathy-Cate!), delicious drinks, awesome projects, and a newbie who lent who lent structure to our evening. I wish I’d been wearing a wire so I could provide a transcript, but there was a lot that was Not Safe For Work, Not Safe For Children, or generally Not Suitable For Public Sharing. But all hilarious. If I get the chance to recall some of the evening, I’ll try to. We were a wild and naughty bunch hiding in the back room.

I handed out Ravelry badges and left 20 copies of the Second Sock Worksheet at the Sow’s Ear for distribution to whoever would like to help test them out. I also worked on my alpaca shawl exclusively and didn’t even take the Adipose project out of the bag. (Ironically, DH was at home watching most of the Doctor Who episode that included the Adipose; I still haven’t seen it.)

I’m still catching up with my Doctor Who viewing, but I don’t know how I’ll manage to see any of Series 4 before the finale on August 1. Series three, I should wrap up tomorrow night. Then I have less than a week to clean, plan, and pack for a multistate trip that will include a family reunion, two family mini-get-togethers, as at least two Ravelry meetups. If I can do some online viewing of Series 4, it means I won’t be sleeping. Just like now! But I really want to be aligned with the rest of Who-ville.

No other projects are getting attention now that I’m more than 80 percent done with the alpaca shawl (I’m conveniently ignoring the time it will take to make a crocheted  or I-cord edging, since I don’t know how long it will take). I need to mail at least one FO, and make arrangements to send out items for a swap so I can get the rest of my Doctor Who Scarf yarn. And I could probably finish the rest of my Ravenclaw mitten if I wanted to.

I haven’t even thought about my travel-and-trip knitting. Does anyone have suggestions for what WIPs I should take along? A week after I get back, the Ravelympics begin, and I’ll have a lot of simple knitting on my plate, taking my full attention. Then it will be time to really, really, plan that festival Afterparty.

Yikes, I’d better get busy! I didn’t know I was so far behind…..

Rabbit hole #263

I don’t know quite how to say this, but….

I may have done crochet today.

There were these vintage wooden hooks I just happened to have…. and, of course, plenty of little leftover balls of yarn…. and I must have just seen so much crochet done on Knitty Gritty and Uncommon Threads and what-have-you… that eventually it started to make sense.

I think.

I’ll get a photo up here as soon as I can so you double-threat folks can figure out what I did. Because I think I was putting the needle through the wrong loop, but I definitely had something crochet-like going with where the yarn was going.

On the other hand, the original chain I did was complete arse. The last time I did that (for abortive attempts at toe-up socks shortly after the Summer 2007 IK came out, thank you very much Ann Budd) I didn’t even have to think about it, and it came out fine. Not now.


Knitwise, I’m trying to do at least one color band a day on the Ravenclaw scarf, and contemplating starting a scarf for my father for Christmas. He wants something that won’t curl up, so I think an acrylic Harlot one-row will do it. Two skeins of something or a combination of somethings.

And I’m so looking forward to the Knit Night at The Sow’s Ear this Friday night (Hi Molly Bee! Hi SABLE! Hi Dale-Harriet!) that I have already started packing the knitting bag. Wow, how sick is that. (Probably not that sick once I check around on Ravelry. But.) Our little “Hog and Blog” group is looking to formalize ever so slightly, to the point of trying to claim a corner of our own at the Knit Night. Wow, sitting together. Who knows what could happen next!

Published in: on November 14, 2007 at 10:57 pm  Comments (6)