Saturday, March 02, 2013

A Love Letter to the William Randolph School...

People seem to like to put tags on my kids.  They want to cram them into 140 characters like a Twitter update.  #bad #scary #outofcontrol

I see it differently.

Most days.

Most days I look at my kids with equal parts awe and frustration, kind of like I do with Henry when he isn't doing what I think he should. Not living up to potential I know is there but can't access.  My kids are like gold bars of potential locked up tight in the kind of safe you see in Tom Cruise spy movies, and my teachers spend their days tiptoeing through the laser maze, trying to find the right combination of empathy and discipline to make that lock bust.

Most of my kids have stories that make me humbly question how they can stand upright and moving, never mind learn algebra.  These stories are always lurking in the background of the place, even though they aren't what first spring to mind when I think of my kids.

I think of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 125 people, kids in aprons stirring the stuffing and making pie crust and laughing laughing laughing.  I think of them standing on the corner waiting for the bus and rapping to the passing traffic, not caring who sees because they are the Young Fabulous.  I think of how they make fun of my green smoothie breakfast (baby throw up) and 'rabbit food' lunch and tell me about how their grandma makes spaghetti and it is so. Good.  I think about all the times I've had to lean over to a kid I trust, feeling like the oldest of all old people, and whisper " did she just give me a compliment or call me something awful" when I didn't get the memo that the word for 'cool' has changed 17 times since the last time I looked it up on Urban Dictionary.  And they laugh and call me crazy, but I know they think I'm alright.  

I think of watching one of my 8th graders shaking the hand of the Vice President of the United States and thinking "Hell YES, America, you got it right this time".  

My teachers have stories, too.  I love my kids, but some of the ways they've learned to survive make them...challenging in a school setting sometimes.  Some days I'm sure my teachers feel like those inflatable clown punching bags, but damned if they don't pop back up a grand majority of the time, gathering in the office and talking about how they can do things differently next time, better next time.  They cross team and tag team, collaborate and commiserate, and when all else fails there is a stash of chocolate in someone's bottom desk drawer.  

I had my last day there Friday.  I kind of can't believe I won't be going there Monday morning but, as I told a kid the other day, we are all moving forward all the time and I am on to something new.  I know that as time passes I'll start to see my new school as home and Randolph will seem more distant but we're family.  Ride or die.

My dear William Randolph School, I am better for having metcha.  Deuces, bitches.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Battle of the Book Lists...

For some folks, having the grandparents take the dear ones for a weekend means dinners out, drinking too much with friends and otherwise trying to make their no longer 20 and childless body perform 20 and childless activities that take longer to recover from than they used to.  For me, having Henry tucked away in South Carolina for the weekend led me to curl up on the couch under a blanket and read the last 800 pages of a ridiculously long book -Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.  It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it was compelling enough for me to stick with it and remember why I love books so damn much after a dry spell.  Books kick ass.  And, try as I might, I still vastly prefer the weight of all 980 pages to my Kindle.  You just can't beat the turn of the page.

Henry was asked to participate in this year's Battle of the Books by his school librarian and agreed (after he had summarily refused every time I suggested that it might be fun, of course) and has started on the required reading. 

Henry's List

Nine Pound Hammer - Claude Bemis
Powerless - Matthew Cody
Cosmic - Frank Boyle
The Lemonade War - Jaqueline Davis
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stewart Little - Peggy Gifford
Peace, Locomotion - Jaqueline Woodsoon
Ninth Ward - Jewell P. Rhodes
Storm Breaker - Anthony Horowitz
One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams
Out of My Mind - Sharon Draper
Seer of Shadows - Avi

Entertaining visions of he and I tucked into a blanket on the couch head to foot Grampa Joe and Grandma Josephine style with our respective books, sharing contraband snacks and bonding over the written word- I picked through all of NPR's "Best of 2012" book lists and came up with my own reading list.  My list is ever so slightly longer than his; I have never been known for my restraint, especially where lists are involved.  Who doesn't love a good list?  Anyway, in the interest of symmetry, I'll pare it down to ten.  Henry has already conquored one of his books, so we'll start out even steven.

Amy's List

Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
My Heart is an Idiot - Davy Rothbart
The Orchardist - Amanda Coplin
The Lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan
American Ghost - Janis Owens
Arcadia - Lauren Groff
Wild - Cheryl Strayed
Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo
Girlchild - Tupelo Hassman

Yes, yes I know I am setting myself up for grave disappointment.  I know that Henry will tear through two books to my every one, and I am well aware that my little Dahl-esque vision of family reading time is likely to happen only when Henry is feeling particularly generous (or needs a favor) and I bring copious amounts of popcorn.  Still, it's the beginning of a New Year, and we are supposed to have grandiose visions of what's to come.

Happy New Year's Y'all.  Be sweet to each other.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Yup, it's Christmas Eve.  I've no idea how it happened, really, it snuck up on me like one of those super creepy Elves on the Shelves that I can't believe people have time for.  It gets you thinking, when you wake up to fresh baked biscuits and a lit up tree on Christmas Eve morning.  When you slip on your lobster print Wellies and walk with your little man across the street to let your neighbor's tophat chicken out to roam the yard and hunt for a big fat after-the-rain- worm breakfast.  And maybe, if you're lucky and the mood is right, the fast growing son who has recently started talking about girls will let you hold his hand in his hoody pocket on the way back through the gate and down the driveway before running back to his DS, PS3 and best friend down the block.

 If I look one way down my street, I see the one turn I have to make to get to Henry's school two blocks away.  On the way there I would pass the homes of friends, goats, and a young guy who is currently building an outdoor living roofed classroom at my school.  If I look in the other direction, I see a local brewery I can walk to and have my favorite pint on the bar before I order, where there is a ping pong paddle I call 'mine' (it's the blue one with the nubs out and starting to peel a little at the tops).  On the way there I would pass more friends, a newborn boy, and the owners of the little brewery who live right next door.  They just released their first house made Porter.  I'm not usually a Porter fan, but it is good as hell.

On mornings like this it does me well to remember where I live, what a rare thing I have.  If I continue down the road I will come upon a little store on the left called the West Village Market.  If I go in there I can buy local eggs, meats, cheese, soap, beer, pasta, crackers, every condiment you can think of including a killer mustard and some kim chi I will try one day.  There are locally made pickles and baked goods, bags and cards and journals and everything else you could need.  They have local salmon jerky for crying out loud.  This market is sandwiched between a local DVD place (I think we may have the last one in the country) where they will talk to my film geek husband about movies until he is satisfied and a bakery owned by good friends.

The friends I get to have are insane: bakers and florists, chocolate makers, clothing makers, quilters and knitters and woodworkers. There are aerial artists, martial artists, mixed media artists, poets and musicians and all manners of people who can make something of nothing on any old day they please. And the teachers.  God, the teachers.  There are so many.  And they are amazing.  Even when one.more.thing. makes them have a nervous breakdown in the front office or copy room.  They bounce back like nothing I've ever seen, those little human Superballs.  I love you, teachers.

It makes you think about your family, Christmas Eve does, in a way you couldn't capture on parchment with one of this old timey quill pens, never mind with this silly machine on a blog.  I am blessed blessed blessed.  I am blessed with a 9 year old who still lets me hold his hand sometimes when the mood is right.  And even though I can feel him skipping away from me day by day, I am blessed with an amazing man who will show him the ropes of awkward adolescence and remind me that he'll be just fine.  My boys.  Today I will pull Henry into the kitchen with me to attempt some holiday baking and we'll eat steak for dinner (a loving gesture by my vegetarian husband who will be stuck with a lonely mushroom of some sort, no doubt) and track Santa on NORAD, even though he doesn't quite believe anymore.  We'll have our first Christmas with my parents close by and I hear we'll eat a Christmas ham (a loving gesture by my vegetarian parents who can't bring themselves to make their dear carnivorous daughter and grandchild eat something called a 'celebration roast').  And I will try to hang onto this gratitude far into the new year, when I don't have twinkling lights and 5 days to sleep in to remind me how damn lucky I am.

 Happy Days Y'all.  For reals.

Friday, November 23, 2012

On and On...

It has been hard for me to update the Crankypants blog lately, as there has been a distinct lack of Crankypants in my life these days.  I have been doing custom work here and there and just sent a big ole box of Beasties to SC for a holiday stocking, but having a full time job has changed my perspective and priorities in a pretty major way.  I am getting used to the 'new normal' and realizing just how chained to my knitting needles I have been for the past few years.  I love Crankypants, don't get me wrong.  But as I get some distance from it I am coming to understand how my focus on the business has blurred out a lot of other aspects of my personality and life.  Settling into a new routine, I am remembering that there are other things that I love out there, and new things I want to do. 

I am seeing a change in the little man, too, he is growing up.  When he was a tiny baby and wanted no one but me I remember saying that I would have reign over his early years and his father would be his guide through his transition through late boyhood and into adulthood.  I am starting to see that shift happening right in front of my eyes every day.  Computer programming club, Mythbusters and Top Gear, building projects, outdoor activities...he wants to be with his dad more these days, they seem to have a stronger connection than ever.  He isn't my baby anymore.  

Both of my main focuses, the business and the boy, have undergone serious changes these past months and I've changed with them, remembering parts of myself I had kind of forgotten, or at least neglected.  I have been playing a lot of music lately, and learning how to shoot.  The latter may seem like a total departure from my usual, but I am loving it.  There is something really great about the foreignness of it, there is so much to learn.  I had an awesome moment the other day when I cleaned out my coat pocket and dumped a few bobbins and a handful of bullet shells onto the table.  It just tickled me, the two opposing parts of my personality all mixed up in my coat pocket, getting along just fine.

So I'm hoping this here little blog can change with me.  I am hoping to start some holiday crafting soon, we have heat in the studio again and I am looking forward to some quiet Sunday mornings out there in the near future.  I also hope to write more about other things, more personal things, new projects and passions that come along, my darlin' boy getting older and more independent.  It all seems new and different, like a new chapter.  

Ready, steady...

Monday, July 30, 2012


Hey all!  I know it has been just a tiny smooch since I've updated.  So much has been going on and I have been trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the summer, staying away from the computer a fair bit.

Today was actually a pretty dern exciting day in the Crankypants household.  For the first time in a decade, I went to work at an out of the house, full time gig.  It is going to be a big change, the first time I have worked full time out of the home since Henry has existed, but it is good change.  I will be working at a school I believe in with people I like.  My bossman is amazing and I can already tell that I am going to learn a ton working with him and the other folks there.

So...what does this mean for Crankypants?  Well, I'm not sure quite yet.  I do know that my partnership with the knitting co-op in Peru has been getting progressively more difficult to maintain, and once my current in stock is gone there will be no more "Classic" in stock Crankypants.  We will go back to being an all custom business, and the amount of work I will be able to do is likely to ebb and flow. I am actually looking forward to knitting and crafting for family and friends again- a brave new world!  Think of all the inappropriate embroidery I can do without a giant looming customs list!

So this is a big year.  Henry starts 4th grade.  I go back to work.  Ready, steady, go...

Monday, March 12, 2012

59- 64/366 {Charleston Pt.1}

This past weekend we decided to take advantage of my folks moving so close by, dropped the kid off and headed on down to Charleston for a couple of days. We don't shop and we don't drink, so the name of the game was food (especially my favorite- sweets), and Charleston didn't disappoint.

We found this super cute candy store called The Robot Candy Company with an epic wall of gummies. It was about the twee-est place on Earth, in the best possible way.

We walked an awful lot to burn off some of the good eatin' calories and found an amazing graveyard outside an old church. It was one of probably 8000 in the city, but I loved the "cherub" on a cluster of family graves in this one.

I have a thing for cupcakes, so we made our way to the shop on the main drag, called (wait for it) Cupcake. We walked in and it looked like a little girl's best dream, all pink and white and cupcake-y. Kyle and I both opted for the "Black Tuxedo"- a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting, the tip dipped in a chocolate ganache. Yeah. The frosting to cupcake ratio was a little off for me making it a bit too sweet, but it was still damn good. It would have been better if I had thought to procure a cup of coffee to go with it.

We woke up early the next morning and headed over the river to West Ashley and The Early Bird Diner. We heard that they have the best chicken and waffles in the country and I had to try them. I've never had chicken and waffles before and was actually a little skeptical. I'm one of those people that doesn't like their food to touch and asks for the sauce on the side. This came with the waffles covered in syrup and the chicken drizzled with honey mustard sauce. Touching. I threw caution to the wind and just dove into it and was so happy I did! It was amazing. Amazing. Seriously.

And then we walked some more...

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I really love doing embroidery for people I love. It is a chance to slow down and meditate on your best wishes for those folks as you stitch. The finished product ends up being simply a physical representation of the love, well wishes and positive energy you are sending out to them and their family.

{note: this is my bestie Liz's pattern and I am completely in love with it. You can find it here. If you aren't the stitchy type, you can also order a screen printed version.}