Monday, July 30, 2007

My new Affiliation

I have proudly joined a new club. Why? Because I am so taken with this last Harry Potter book. Loved it. Was talking to Michael about it and he told me I was such a he's not! So, in the spirit of the book, I proclaim myself a DDNGer.

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My middle diva Maggie is the founder of this little club that she calls "The DDNGers." She and a few friends found solace in this group beginning in 3rd or 4th grade. I first heard about it one morning at the bus stop when I asked about a sweet boy that she was talking to. She told me his name was Dustin and he was a DDNGer.

"Deedee-enjee-er?" I asked

"Yeah, my club."

Long pause..."Well, what is that, Miss Mags?"

She gave me that twisted smile, twinkly-eyed look and said, "Dorks, Dweebs, Nerds & Geeks!"

"You call YOURSELVES that?!"

"Yep..." and the bus drove up. She and her buddy happily waved at me and left.

I was stunned...and once again thoroughly amused. What is it they say? If you want to take power out of a word, own it. How did she learn that at age 9?

My Maggie is a very interesting little person. She was a good size when she was born, 8 lbs 5 oz., but that was the last time she was "big." She was always teeny-tiny. At her 1 year doctor's check-up, she was the size of a normal 9 month-old...maybe. The doc took many measurements, talked to her (more on that in a moment) and declared her amazing and tho' small, perfectly proportioned.

When she went to kindergarten, she was wearing 3T's. She did not graduate to wearing 5T's (which can be smaller than just 5's) until she was in 2nd grade! And even then, they were always too long by several inches!

She had blond curly hair, big blue eyes, big ears, and a gaze that put Medusa to shame. This child also made funny faces, constantly. She could not help it. And it irked her beyond reason when folks exclaimed over how tiny and cute she was.

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As a non-walking baby, we called her Buddha-baby because you could put her anywhere and she would just sit there, not moving, watching all of the activity around her very seriously. I can still see her...plopped on the floor amidst her toys, just quietly observing us all. When she was able to crawl, she would take herself off to be in private areas to play alone, especially at noisy family gatherings. I thought I had a silent recluse on my hands.

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And then, at 9 months, looking like she might be six months old, she stood up and RAN. No careful, slow walking, no contemplative strolls through her world. Instead, she revved up her little legs and ran into a wall for the first of the many scary forehead eggs, multi-hued bruises, split lips, and scars containing stitches to come!

On her 4th birthday when I was 4 months pregnant with Meave, she RAN to shut the front door, tripped over the landing stair, and split her forehead wide open! Off to the doctor we ran. When Mags saw that needle coming, that tiny thing went ballistic. We had to wrap her in a papoose, and Michael and I BOTH had to lay on her while a nurse held her head so the doc could sew her poor head back together. Her screams were SO awful.

But true to form, the second it was over and she was in Michael's arms, she literally said, "Well, that was fun!" with a big smile!!!! I am not making this up! At that moment, I tried to pass out from the stress of it and while I was laying on the table she had just been on with nurses fussing over my pregnant self, she asked Michael to show her the instruments and needles that the doc had just finished using...all the laughter was tinged with wondering how Morticia Addam's daughter ended up in our care.

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My beautiful daughter can point to every scar on her face and head...with pride. There have been many stitches, but thankfully no broken bones. Knock on wood.
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Now to the talking which she began early also. Her Buddha-like silence gave way to constant volubility and lots of laughter. Her speech was not always clear, but the sentence patterns and word use were way, way beyond her years. Many, many times a person walking by would stop dead in their tracks after hearing what they assumed was a tiny baby lecture me on the merits of giving her what she wanted. One very old woman once engaged Maggie in conversation (she thankfully diverted Maggie's attention from a toy), and when she was done she turned to me and told me I had a delightful child...who would turn my hair white while I was still very young!

When Mags was 18 months old, she got mad at me because I would not turn around on the freeway to go get her sippy cup, so she fired me.

"Fine, when Grandma gets here, you're fired!"

Can you imagined how I wanted to laugh? But very early on, we all learned in this family that laughing at Maggie was a dangerous activity. It always backfired on you because she was never amused by your amusement. It has only been in the last couple of years that Maggie has begun to understand that she is funny, that we are not laughing AT her. Her perceptions of this world are truly unique.

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Back to the DDNGers...the creation of this group is an example of Maggie's propensity for standing up for the under-dogs. And this is very interesting. Because of Maggie's particular take on the world, her bizarre sense of humor and her BIG mouth, she herself would be considered one of the weird kids, one of the under-dogs. She does not care and is actually compelled to act as champion for many of these kids who become her friends. She once became so incensed by what she perceived as a terrible injustice perpetrated upon her friend Dustin, that she yelled at her teacher, a playground aide, and went straight to the bully's mother and told her what a jerk and a liar her son was!!!! And she relayed the whole thing to me HERSELF!!! She was so mad that she was jumping and hopping and gesturing wildly as she told me the story. I had to bite my lips to remain serious. I fully expected to get a phone call from the school about her, but I did not. Seems all concerned were taken by her sense of honor if not her big mouth.

And the DDNGers are part of this compassion she has for those who know pain. She tries to make it funny and ironic without knowing that is what she is doing. And although as she gets older she is less likely to proclaim her allegiance to this group as loudly as she once did, my kid truly does embrace her inner nerd. And I so love her for it.

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Long live DDNGers!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Irish Dance Embroidery and Aran Sweaters

Through various (though extremely limited) sources, I have become very interested in the history of hand embroidery on Irish dance dresses. I have posed questions in a few places and have gotten a few questionnaires back. (It is not too late for more contributors!) The pics that have been sent are incredible. Like this gorgeous one from Anita:

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Takes me awhile to assimilate everything in my head so that I can write about it, but I am really looking forward to it.

A message posted on the IDDressmaking board, and a couple of corroborating responses, got me thinking about a similarity between the use of ID embroidery and Aran sweater stitch patterns. The writers of the posts talked about having heard that:

#1) the hand embroidered dresses were added to as the dancer rose in the ranks (Very interesting...anyone else have info in that vein?), and

#2) (here I quote the message): "My understanding was that the patterns and stitches were somewhat regional (Fascinating idea about the ID embroidery...again, anyone else have a perspective on this?)- like the old tradition of aran sweaters having a family/town/county connections strong enough to tell where the sweater was made. Of course, the rationale for that one was more macabre: It had to do with identification and fish's preference for eating faces and extremities on drowned fisherman. Presumably, the dress designs were used to identify dancers from a distance."

The idea that the stitches and patterns might be regional was all very fascinating, and set me to researching. I had also read/heard about the Aran sweater stitch pattern serving a purpose as a family/regional identification, so I wanted to explore this first to establish a frame of reference for myself. I went first to my books and found that they really did not in fact say much of anything about the use of Aran stitch patterns as family identification. I wonder where I got that idea, where did I hear that? So I went to my trusty research tool - the internet...only to learn that this is knitting myth! I was so disappointed!!! Everything I found crushed my obviously naive and misguided idea...OH, the intellectual pain!!! (And I am truly making fun of myself here, not the IDD poster, ok?!)

I found a great bit of sleuthing on a blog. The following was found here at The Knitting Curmudgeon and written in 2004. I am copying it here because she says it all so well!

Heinz Edgar Kiewe--Crackpot or Historian?
Well, something of a crackpot, to be honest. Kiewe (1906-1986) was a Prussian-born self-styled "textile journalist" who ran a needlework/yarn shop called Art Needlework Industries Ltd. in Oxford, England from about 1940 until the late '60s. He also published several books about needlework--Charted Peasant Designs from Saxon Transylvania is still available from Dover, I think.

However, Kiewe's dubious place in knitting history may be that of Promulgator of the Great Aran Sweater Myth. Kiewe actually purchased one of the first commercially available Aran sweaters in 1936, loaned it to Mary Thomas for her book, and then proceeded to cook up a fairytale theory about the Irish knitting these sweaters for centuries. Richard Rutt goes into great detail about Kiewe's theory in The History of Hand Knitting:

Heinz Kiewe perceived a connection between Aran knitted designs and ancient Irish art. He never claimed that this was a scholarly theory: he accepted it as an intuitive perception...So he began to describe Aran knitted patterns in terms of the 'white shirt of monotheistic cultures.' Before long, publicists for wool spinners were crediting Aran knitting with thousands of years of history...

Much of this nutsy nonsense comes from a book Kiewe wrote in 1967, The Sacred History of Knitting. In the early '80s, when I was knitting editor for MacKnit, a machine knitting magazine, I spent a good deal of time researching Aran knitting history, to the extent that anyone can research knitting history in this country. I met up with an English machine knitter and historian, Kathleen Kinder, who was the first to challenge the notion that Aran patterns were symbolic and that the Irish had been knitting these sweaters from time immemorial. Kathleen had done an enormous amount of research and I suspect that Richard Rutt used many of Kathleen's theories as a jumping-off point.

I own an autographed copy of this bizarre book, found in a used bookstore 20 years ago. And it is most bizarre. Some of the chapters: Discover of the knitted priestly Ephod on Cyprus; Jerusalem Knitting; Sculpture in Convex Stripes--did it signify knitting?

You get the picture. Here's Kiewe at his looniest, verbatim:

Are the Aran patterns a sign, a witness of the revelations of the Holy Book?
Yes, indeed we confirm them to be ornaments of religion--symbols of the divine "geometrical speculations" of the Near East. What was the importance of the symbol of interlacing? The bond of Man with God and Religion (from re-ligare--to bind "the religious"--person bound by monastic vows, etc.).
The plait? The Holy three stands of hair ribbon or straw, the plaited holy-bread of the Old Testament, they are symbols of a devout family bound up with God.
Do we need now to explain the deep religious meaning of the names of the Aran patterns?

Enough on Kiewe. The book does have some interesting info on Jersey and Guernsey knitting, due to Kiewe's friendship with Gladys Thompson, author of Patterns for Guernseys and Jerseys. And here's an interesting article I found, if you don't know too much about Aran knitting. However, I would highly recommend Rutt's book, recently back in print. It's a fascinating read.

If you click on that article link, you will find more interesting info. And, I found another nicely written article here ...this author almost seems as disappointed as I feel!

So much for that line of thinking in for the embroidery. Anybody?

Friday, July 20, 2007

All alone on a Friday night...

So pitiful. Here I myself. On the computer. With all my posting lately you would think I have no life except a computer really. Things are just moving at that slow summer pace. But, I am working on four school dresses...I have a solo fitting tomorrow...there are 5 solos in the queue...have to send info letters and design cd's...I am almost done with Molly's pinwheel sweater...there is always something that needs vacuuming/wiping/swabbing/staring at...there is a 16th birthday to plan/deal with...there is so much laundry to do that I need a pill or two...and Meave's hair was mysteriously cut...all by just happened...and now I have to decide if I can deal with a very uneven VERY long head of hair or if I am going to bob her hair....and I am here now, by myself at 12:41 AM.

Where's the family? Waiting for Harry Potter. Maggie keeps calling me from the bookstore to give me updates. It is all very exciting. They did not reserve books...but Michael took them this morning to get a bracelet that said they could stand in line TONIGHT to see if MAYBE they might be LUCKY ENOUGH to get one of the extra copies that the bookstore had the foresight to order.

Last phone call from Maggie was about how she was tired so she had gone to stand by the "stupid cheerleaders" who were "cheering on the freaking lucky ones" as they left the bookstore. "Way too cheery, Mom!" Like she would rather come home.

And why am I not there? Fitting in the morning..had to finish the bodice. And I did want some quiet time since tomorrow I have to drive into DC to a feis and then drive home to THEN drive the 2 older divas to ID dance class. Lots of driving tomorrow.

Ah, they are on their way home...with a book and lots of their own stories.

1:23 AM - They are home and All involved insisted on pictures.

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Here's the big kid...he was as excited as the girls!
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Yes, there are 2 books ( see pic above)...your majesty insisted. He said he was not going to wait for Molly to finish since she won't read with him anymore. It's ok...he is down there in the living room right now, 1:30 AM, reading to Maggie and Meave. I love listening to him read to them. And that's SOMETHING because I hate, HATE, will-start-arguments-HATE people reading to me, but I will listen to Michael read to the girls for hours. He may not even know that since when he wants to read me something I tell him I will read it myself...I guess I don't tell him so he won't use it against me and make me listen!!!! On goes the tradition...with the divas.
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Here, the youngest, but most accomplished diva exhibits her best exhausted stance/pout/aura ...think she's asleep? HAH!!!
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thinking about names...and my Divas

I have thinking about names lately as some beautiful and very unusual Irish names have been batted around on the boards.

I do not have an unusual name. It is short and plain and being a family name, it was common in our clan. Growing up, I always wanted a more exotic name. I decided I would change my name to "Elizabeth." It had lots of letters, several nickname variations, sounded so grown up, and it did not rhyme with "banana!" I clung to "Elizabeth" until the day my grandmother told me that she thought it was a horrible name because it sounded English and was not proper for a good Irish girl! Shot me down!

When I was pregnant for the first time, my husband and I spent much time researching names. At first, I wanted to continue my Irish family tradition and give my children family names, but Michael was adamant that they should have their own unique names. I came around, but that only made things harder. At least with family names there was a limit to the number of names to consider!

My father came to visit when I was about six months pregnant. He got quite an earful when he asked us what names we were considering. Michael and I could not agree on a single name! Dad listened, nodded that sage nod of his, and in a lull he said quietly, "It's Molly."

Shut us right up. He was right.

Now, the name Molly is not that unusual, but it meant something to Dad...and it clicked. In July, on Michael's birthday, Molly was born. She was perfect. Turns out her name means "the perfect one."

My second daughter was born 4 years, 4 months, and 25 days later. This time, though, I knew her name: Maggie. But I did not want her "real" name to be Margaret. We had several relatives named Margaret in our family, and even though I loved them all, I did not like the name. It sounded harsh to me. And by this time, I understood Michael's feelings about our children owning their own names and not being someone else's namesake. So I searched for an Irish name that could serve as the "real" name. Not long before she was born, I found it: Maighdlin . An Irish variant of Madeleine. Our Irish relatives told me it was pronounced as "My-uh- lin." No "g" sound, but I thought it was beautiful and it meant "the magnificent one."

On the way to the hospital to have baby #2, Michael and I realized that we had never even come close to choosing a boy's name. I just knew this new baby was "Maggie."

I remember more about this labor and delivery than I do about the first one. It was a revelation in so many ways. And as she was being born, my new daughter gave me one last parting kick deep inside my belly. Made me laugh. And there she was, my magnificent daughter, the one who still makes me laugh.

4 years, 4 months, and 28 days later, daughter #3 showed up. This time since I was an "elderly gravid" (translation: old mom at 39 years old), we had to go through all the genetic tests. We decided we wanted to know what sex this baby was: another girl! I was thrilled but thought Michael would be disappointed that there would be no boys since this was the LAST baby. Instead, he sighed in relief and said, "Oh thank goodness! I know what to do with girls!"

Choosing the name for this baby became a family affair. I was determined that this name would not start with an "M." Young Molly had pointed out that "we are all M's! Michael, Molly, Maggie and Mama!" Do you see my problem? My real name did not count! Maybe if the new baby were named Aine (ahn-ya) or Fiona or Ciaomhe (kee-va), then the world would hear my real name every once in a while! But, Michael came home one day, announced, "Maeve," and I was out-voted. Molly and Maggie were thrilled.

"See, Mama! All our names start the same!"

When I told my mother, she reminded me of a relative that I had met when I went with her to Ireland in 1985. She spelled her name "Meave" and it meant "joy." I insisted on that spelling. My relative was born the same month as our Meave would be, 100 years before...and she was still alive. She lived long enough to know there was another Meave Halligan in this world. Michael did not object to this family name.

Ten days after my Meave was born, I almost died of a massive infection. When I woke up in ICU a week later, all I wanted was to see my divas. It has taken several years to recover, to come back to a place of strength. And I could not have done it without my perfect one, my magnificent one, and my joy.

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(When I moved this post here from Taoknitter, I left behind some lovely comments. They can be read here: Thinking about names...and my Divas )

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