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Timey-wimey…cars? April 3, 2014

Posted by philangelus in angels, geekery.

Some background:

When I got my first car, the much-beloved and still-missed Studentmobile, I put a statue of St. Michael on the dashboard. When I got the big blue minivan of doom twelve years ago, I wanted a St. Raphael statue, but I couldn’t find one, so I got another St. Michael. I figure the defender against evil is just fine for American highways, right, even though St. Raphael is the patron of travelers.

Last Saturday I went to the Post Offal to mail a hat to one of our blog-readers and afterward stopped at the secondhand store looking for knitting needles or yarn. None, but I did find a St. Raphael statue, about three inches tall and with a marble base. One buck.


When I paid for him, the cashier asked who it was, so I said, “My caseworker.” St. Raphael has been much better to me than I deserve.

For example, in 1991 I wanted a date for Valentine’s Day and he’s the saint of finding your marriage partner, so I talked to him for 30 minutes about potential dates and asked him to pick out someone for me. I’m sure he realized that if he didn’t get rid of me once and for all, I’d be back again eventually, so by the end of the week I was dating the guy who I’m still married to.

Walking outside, I felt a little surge: I could put him in my car.

I thought, “I’m not going to evict St. Michael. He’s been there twelve years.”

Come home. Put St. Raphael on my desk. Prepare for the rest of the day: violin lesson after noon and Kiddo4 for birthday dinner in the evening.

Next up: violin lesson gets cancelled.

Change in plans: birthday dinner out will be birthday lunch instead.

Pile everyone into Big Blue Minivan of Doom.


Patient Husband takes wrong route to restaurant and we get stuck in major traffic. 20 minute trip takes 60 minutes. We get there and there’s now a 45 minute wait, meaning kids wouldn’t start eating until 1:15.

Change in plans: McDonalds.

Patient Husband: “We should just stay in Ten Miles Away until 5pm.”

The Yarn Store took about fifteen minutes. Hmm. We decided to drop by the car dealership, since we’re planning to replace the twelve-year-old van sometime before our oldest enters college, on the grounds that whatever car I’m driving when he starts college will probably be the same one I’m driving when Kiddo4 graduates. I said, “We’ll just get on their list, and whenever they need an easy target to reach end-of-the-month incentives, they’ll call us. We might get lucky.”

At the car dealership: “We’re just looking at the pretties.”


We spent 90 minutes there, with the kids locking each other in display model trunks and clambering all over nice clean engines and putting footprints on beautiful leather seats. In desperation the sales guy took us for a test drive, and my Patient Husband and I made lots of one-liners and stupid remarks, and finally in a fit of panic the sales guy realized that if he didn’t get rid of us once and for all, we might eventually come back. And he couldn’t deal with that.

With tears and hand-wringing, he and his manager offered us $4000 over book value for our trade-in. I asked for more.

Um, yeah. Guess what?


I figured we’d get called toward the end of some month sometime, and I forgot it already was the end of the month.

But here’s the question: how did my guardian angel know in the morning that we were getting a new car in the evening? We weren’t even supposed to be at the dealership, let alone buying a car. Car-buying was supposed to happen in September. Or was that the Holy Spirit (who obviously would know)? Because in retrospect, that “You can put it in your car” feels a lot like “You can put it in the new car.”

I’ve written stories (unpublished) where angels have some non-linearity in time, and it would work with that. But…but… Really? Timey-wimey?

And yeah, St. Raphael fits just great.


A bunch of knitted fun March 22, 2014

Posted by philangelus in knitting.

Pictures or it didn’t happen? Well, these things happened, and I hadn’t taken pictures.

This is from the summer, only I never got around to photographing it. It’s called “Faberge” and it’s far more beautiful in person than you can imagine.


I went for the black/teal with copper beads to get a verdigris and steampunk feel. I really like how it turned out.


Using last year’s birthday yarn, I finally made a Silk Garden Scarf. This is breathtaking in person, and I love it, love it, love it. People stop me to admire it.


A pair of Evenstar fingerless gloves. Can you find the miscrossed cable? I figured no, and I didn’t drop back twenty rows to fix it. Mistakes give it character. No, really.


Two “Irish Hiking Hats” for the homeless ministry. More on that in a future post.

IMG_2658 IMG_2656

And then this, which is also a prayer request. We found out one of my husband’s relatives was diagnosed with leukemia. She’s in her early teens. Please pray for them. As for me, I’m not good for much in the world, but I can knit. Since she’s undergoing the kind of chemotherapy that takes your hair, I offered to knit her a chemo cap. Her grandmother suggested it be pink. Everyone else suggested it be soft, lightweight, draw attention to the face, and cover the hairline. I found this pattern on a chemo cap website:

IMG_2665Now the day before we found out about this young lady’s diagnosis, I’d received a gorgeous skein of Silk Garden Light as a gift. I wasn’t sure what to do with it since it’s a DK weight, but I knew a project would turn up. The next day, after we heard about her diagnosis and I went looking for hats, I knew why God had worked it out that I got given ths particular skein.

You’ll notice it’s not pink.

IMG_2646But it’s like a rainbow, and it’s so bright, so cheerful, so sweet. I hope she loves it.

Please pray for this young lady as she begins a two-year series of treatments, and also for her family.

Dignified conversation March 8, 2014

Posted by philangelus in kiddos.
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Kiddo4 has always listened to everything, but it’s more obvious lately. Driving with the radio on a couple of weeks ago, I heard him say, “Mom? What’s ‘dignified’?”

The word had just appeared in a song. How do you explain dignity to a kindergartener? So I said, “Someone who’s dignified uses restaurant manners all the time, and always wears church clothes.”

K4 is very, very proud — inordinately proud — of his restaurant manners. Like all the kiddos so far, he’s practiced them and works hard whenever we’re in a restaurant. Waiters love these kids, although I suspect it’s more by comparison to other kids than to adult diners. I have at times taken all the kids out solo at young ages to fine dining establishments like Dunkin Donuts and practiced our restaurant manners. For some reason, they really liked practicing them and wanted to do it a lot.

And as for church clothes, this is the boy who wanted to wear a suit and tie to church so he’d look like the Beatles.

He processes conversations a long time, though, so you get interactions like this:

Kiddo4, gravely: I use the sink.

Me: What?

Kiddo4, speaking very deliberately: I heard you saying to Dad, ‘I don’t know what he’s using to wash his hands.’ I use the sink.

Me: I said that to your father {note: weeks earlier} because there was no soap in this bathroom.

Kiddo4: Oh, I just ran the water on my hands.

Me: Yeah, that’s not really good enough. That’s just taking your hands for a swim.

A couple days later, I related this conversation to my Patient Husband, who said, “Oh! That explains why he pulled me aside and said, ‘Dad, those times I washed my hands when there was no soap in the bathroom, I didn’t just use water. I used shampoo.’”

So apparently not only does he think I’m too stupid to know we use a sink to wash our hands, but he also cares that we think he was walking around unwashed.

Rules are important to Kiddo4. We went out to dinner, and I ordered a margarita. Kiddo2 said, “Mom? Don’t you have to drive home.”

I said, “The rule is one drink per hour. We’ll be here longer than an hour.”

Kiddo4 looked up, his eyes bright. In an awestruck voice, he said, “Will you tell me when it’s an hour?”

I hadn’t parsed it out yet when my Patient Husband said, “You don’t get another chocolate milk.”

Ah, you see: one drink per hour. He knew we always told them to ration their chocolate milk in a restaurant because they’re not getting another one. But this time, this time for some reason, the rule was one drink per hour.

Anyhow, two days ago, we were sitting at lunch when he looked up  at me. “When I outgrow all my clothes, you can just buy me church clothes, and then I’ll always use restaurant manners, and then I’ll be….what was the word?”

“Dignified,” I said. But I think he’s getting there just fine in his regular wardrobe.

God knits a pair of socks March 6, 2014

Posted by philangelus in knitting, religion.

Chapter One: She hadn’t spoken to me in over six months when I contacted her about something. Two days later she replied, “I’m sorry for the delay, but we had to make some end-of-life-care decisions about my father.”

Flashback Prologue, two weeks earlier:

Me: Hey,  this is a really cool sock pattern for worsted-weight socks!

Me: Wow, worsted-weight socks knit up so fast!

Me: Well, I don’t like this pattern, but I bet I can make other worsted-weight socks. Here, I’ll order some yarn to do that.

Me: Hey, look at this awesome yarn! I love the green-and-purple. I’ll order two skeins of ‘vineyard,’ that way I’ll have one skein per sock.

{shopping cart screws up, demands I log in, logs me in to an empty shopping cart.}

Me: I’ll just re-add them to my shopping cart and buy them now.

{shopping cart screws up again.}

Me: This better work.

{re-add yarn to cart, make purchase, all fine.}

Three days later:

Me: Yay! My purple-and-green yarn is here!

{opens package, discovers brown, white, tan and rust colored yarn.}

Me: Wha…?

{checks online purchase and apparently the last time I re-added the yarn, I clicked on the wrong color. Instead of the vibrant Vineyard I got the much more sedate Riverbed.}

Me: Well, it’s still nice yarn. {{knits for five days, discovers each skein will make two socks, so one skein is leftover, untouched. Socks are beautiful, thick and warm.}}

Back to Chapter One:

Friend: I’ll see you in two days even though it’s all terrible.

Me: You sound like you could use a warm fuzzy. Hey, want a pair of socks? Actually, would your *dad* like a pair of socks?

Her: Yeah, wow, he would!

Author’s note: sock-weight yarn used for socks knits up at about eight stitches per inch and I think ten rows per inch of length. That means your average pair of socks has something like ten thousand stitches. But worsted weight yarn knitted up for socks is closer to four stitches per inch and only about five rows per inch. You’re talking about a pair of socks in a quarter the time. They don’t look nearly as nice and they’re bulkier, but they also don’t take twenty hours per pair to knit.

Chapter Two: 

Me: I wonder if I have yarn for slipper-socks…hey! Wait! I still have that other yarn! And look, it’s in manly colors! And I know it makes nice socks because I’m wearing the other pair right now!

{{proceeds to knit for about 5 hours straight, finishes one sock}}

Me: I wonder if I could make the stripes line up on these socks, because they don’t really line up on mine, but they’d look better if they’re not super-not-matchy.

{{finds place in pattern where yarn colors will repeat in proper sequence}}

{{knits for another 5 hours}}

Second sock finished. Yarn runs out approximately two yards after the toe of the second sock. Stripes are almost perfectly matchy.

Chapter Three:

Me: I hope they fit him.

Friend: Wow! If they don’t fit him, I’m wearing them!


I’m convinced God made these socks. Because I shouldn’t have had the yarn at all, let alone in that color. And I shouldn’t have had the experience knitting worsted-weight socks. And if I hadn’t made contact with this person on one of the infrequent occasions where I do see her, I wouldn’t have known to make them. And the fact that the yarn ran out with maybe six feet left…? That’s got God’s fingerprints all over it.

Please pray the recipient has a peaceful passing and for comfort and peace for his family.

My favorite Ash Wednesday blessing EVER. Really. March 5, 2014

Posted by philangelus in religion, sarcasm.

There’s a bumper sticker that always makes me laugh. It says, “Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you’re a jerk.”

(I’m toning down the last word because, well, family-type blog. But beware there will be….a rude word ahead.) {ominous fanfare}

Whenever I’ve seen that bumper sticker, I’ve laughed with relief: someone — finally! — understands me. I’m trying, and God loves me, but inside me I figure I’m a redacted-to-jerk and everyone knows it. But sugar-coats it. We go to church and the priest flinches, then says, “Jesus loves you” and leaves it at that.

Except once. My favorite Ash Wednesday Mass ever.


Because a priest told the truth.

Catholic high school. Mandatory Mass. Junior year. We’d all been split up by year to attend different Masses, and we got Father Prior (who was great, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. May he rest in peace, but I hope he remembered this afterward and got a giggle out of it too.)

We went through the readings and he gave a homily, and then it was time to do the ashes, and he began pronouncing the blessing over the ashes.

And he said, “Lord, bless these asses.”

Slip of the tongue, sure, but… High school juniors. Yeah, um. Cue everyone struggling to keep composure and even Father Prior battling laughter so much he turned beet red. And with tears in my eyes, I stood there, shoulders shaking, and you know what? He was right. Looking back on high school, we were teens — we were jerks because teens so often are. We had the draaaaaaama and the posturing and the attitudes and all that normal garbage that goes along with life in high school. Lord, bless these burnt ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday palms. But more than that, Lord, bless these asses, because all of us humans are capable of acting like an ass at some point or another, and we need your blessing anyhow. In fact, because of that, we especially need your blessing.

Jesus loves us all. And everyone else knows…well, you know.

How insightfully helpful March 4, 2014

Posted by philangelus in family.

“What’s that?” I said, squinting at some white fuzzy stuff hooked to my Patient Husband’s shoe.

I tugged it, then said, “Don’t move,” and I started unwinding a really long thread from both his shoes. Kiddo2 came over to help, and then we began giggling because there was like a mile of the stuff.

Finally I said, “Lift your foot,” and freed the last bit.

“Where’d it come from?” said my Patient Husband.

I followed the thing backward, backward along the tiles, until it reached the supply closet. I opened the door, and on the floor was a spool of white thread, dutifully unspooling its 150 yards of thready goodness in order to help hold the world together. I imagine the Brain-Damaged Cat snagged a bit of it under the door (he’s learned there are good things to be pulled out from under doors, even though he’s not entirely sure what they are) and from that point you can piece together the rest.

I said, “It would have been funny if you’d gotten into the car and driven off that way.”

My Patient Husband said, heartbroken, “But now how am I going to find my way home?”

I’m a total hardass. I kissed him goodbye. “You have a GPS.”

He brightened up. “I have two.”

Ten minutes later, Kiddo3 came to me, holding a Dead Sock. “I slid on the floor,” he mourned, “and it snagged on a nail, and now there’s this big hole in it.”

“Give it to me. I’ll see what I can do.” Because apparently the spool of thread knew it would be needed today, and it crept out of the closet because it was trying to be helpful. It just was ahead of its time.

I lost my mind. But you knew that. February 25, 2014

Posted by philangelus in geekery, knitting.
Tags: , ,

Every so often, I lose my mind.

I mean, enough that even I notice what I’ve done. Enter yesterday. I still can’t remember how I ended up looking at TARDIS hats on Ravelry, but looking at them, I thought, “These are free patterns. I think I have yarn in the right color in that bin upstairs. AwesomeKid would totally wear one of those.”

AwesomeKid is one of Kiddo2′s friends, and a devout Whovian.

I found the yarn (ugh, RHSS) and the needles and cast on while helping Kiddo4 figure out the command line of Minecraft. Cast on 100 stitches, k2p2. And I zoned out.

Doctor Who Experience (8105520673)

We’ve begun watching Doctor Who ourselves in Casa Philangelus, with the older set watching the new series and the younger set watching Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee episodes (er, and the older set watching those too). I never saw the appeal when I was younger, but for some reason watching the new shows makes the older ones a lot more fun. Plus, you get to laugh out loud at lots of rubber monsters. (Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologize, but the special effects budget just ran out. Please bear with us until the next check clears the bank.)

Davros and Daleks

At some point I realized two things:

1) I’d already knit the bottom two inches of the hat

2) I would  see AwesomeKid that day when picking up Kiddo2 from a meeting.

I thought, “I’ll never get this done by 5:15.”

And I was right.

Fortunately for me, they were having an extra-long meeting. I wasn’t picking her up until 5:45.

I really didn’t think I’d be able to do it. While knitting the final blue rows before starting the TARDIS windows, I was watching Youtube videos on how to knit Faire Aisle style, that way when I reached the windows, I’d be able to knit them rather than sobbing into my Red Heart SuperSaver True Blue yarn. I met a friend for lunch, showed her the hat up to the first row of windows, and she lied through her teeth and reassured me I wasn’t nuts.

I got home, let the kids in, gave everyone more computer time, and planted myself in the chair to do the charted letters that said POLICE BOX.

At 4:45 I started the crown decreases. At 5:29 I cut the final strand of yarn, pulled in the end, and said, “EVERYONE! We have to go pick up Kiddo2!”

I hope God was laughing as hard as I was.

At the library:

Me: AwesomeKid? If I knitted you a hat, would you wear it?

AwesomeKid, looking wary: Um, I guess.

Me: So you’d like this? {Pulls out TARDIS hat.}

AwesomeKid: Is that what I think it is?! {starts giggling and bouncing, takes hat, puts it on her head, proceeds not to take it off for the next hour} Thank you.

OtherFriend: …lucky…

It turns out the other friend is also a Whovian, and she told Kiddo2 she’d pay me money for a hat like that one. (Like I’d take money from her.) And then Kiddo3 said, “I want a TARDIS hat,” and this morning, Kiddo4 asked for one too.

I lost my mind.

It was worth it.

Kiddo1 Discovers Amtrak’s Miracle Train February 24, 2014

Posted by philangelus in Asperger's, geekery.

Since he’s been taking the train between here and New York so frequently, Kiddo1 has developed an abiding interest in all things train: from model trains to railway timetables.

“Do you know Amtrak has a Miracle Train?”

He’s not talking about the free Writers’ Residencies on Amtrak (which I would gladly take! Any route, any destination, thank you, but given how I’m on a line that regularly sells out, I doubt I’d get offered one) but rather a train that actually executes a miracle in order to be on time.

Here we go: the Northeast Regional and the Northeast Acela Express operate on the same set of tracks, except (of course) the Regional hits all the local stops and the Acela reaches a billion miles per hour and bypasses the less-used stations. Naturally the Acela takes less time than the Regional to make the trip.

Northeast Regional 176 leaves New Haven, CT at 5:11 PM and arrives in Providence, RI at 7:19PM.

Acela Express 2166 leaves New Haven, CT at 5:29PM and arrives in Providence, RI at 6:46PM. So it leaves about 20 minutes after and arrives about half an hour before the Regional.

Except there’s only one set of tracks between those two locations.

“It’s a miracle,” Kiddo1 says by way of explanation for how one train is able to jump right over the other.

You don’t mess with Kiddo1 when there are schedules and numbers involved. He found the same thing going on with Northeast Regional 94 and Acela Express 2170: the Regional leaves New Haven at 7:32PM and arrives at9:16PM, while the Acela leaves at 7:34PM (two minutes after) and arrives at 8:45PM (half an hour before.) Again, only one set of tracks. Kiddo1 grins. “See? Miracolo.”

He seems happy enough just leaving it as “And a miracle occurs,” but I’m curious, and I was wondering if anyone had an explanation. His guess is that since this only happens during Peak hours, they assume the southbound trains are going to be on-time and therefore send the Acela northbound on the southbound tracks. But I was wondering if anyone here (maybe an Amtrak employee?) knows what’s actually going on.

Things I’ve learned so far in 2014 February 20, 2014

Posted by philangelus in family.

1) Cartooning!

This is what I look like when someone doodles me!

2) Set theory.

Kiddo4: “I found this rusty bolt on the bus. One of the kids told me he’d give me all the money in the world for it. But I know he couldn’t do that, because I have some money.”

3) Irony.

When I say “I’m not being picky, I just want — ” I am actually in the middle of being very, very picky. (Realized as I stood in the yarn store muttering to myself, “I’m not being picky! I just want a washable worsted weight wool in multiple color skeins!”)

4) Yeah, that.

If I ever, ever again, attempt to knit hats for a baby with anencephaly or fetal acrania, I need someone to start whaling on me with a skein of yarn until I return to my senses. Because I tried, and even though I’ve been able to do it before, this time it knocked me to the ground. I don’t even know the family I was sending them to (friend-of-a-friend) but I found myself sitting there, yarn in my lap, repeating, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” (I ended up making four.)

5) Finances.

As it turns out, writing your violin teacher a huge check doesn’t actually teach you violin. You need to practice, too! Who knew?

6) Blogging.

Neither does the blog write itself. Sorry for the long absence.

Seven ways to get me to knit for you again December 6, 2013

Posted by philangelus in knitting.
Tags: , ,

7) Wear holes in the thing I knitted for you.

6) Wear the thing I knitted into a public place and announce to everyone who made it. (This is better if I’m nowhere near when it happens. Or I might die.)

5) Take a hundred selfies of yourself wearing the knitted thing.

4) Tell me the thing I knit was embued with my energy and now whenever you wear it, you want to write.

3) Squeal and jump in place the first time you try it on.

2) Buy a coat to match the hat I made  on a whim.

1) Ask me.


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