Thursday, April 30, 2009

Birthday Season Begins

I just had the realization that my kids' birthdays are only about two weeks away! Zoiks! I don't plan on going crazy with the making everything like I did last year and I want to keep things simple and minimal. I already ordered them each a book from Better World Books--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (used) for M and two more mini Elsa Beskow books for E and Z--I love tiny books.

I also bought them some socks from Maggie's Organics. I was inspired by Beth of Fake Plastic Fish, who has convinced companies to change their packaging to eliminate or minimize plastic through writing to them, so when I placed the order, in the comments section, I told them how excited I was to buy organic socks for my kids and how I hoped their packaging was as environmentally friendly as their socks. And guess what? It worked--the socks arrived yesterday in a cardboard box, with a piece of brown kraft paper wrapped around them. I envision the warehouse employees taking the socks out of plastic bags they're stored in in the warehouse and wrapping them in paper, but I'd like to think that if enough people offer this kind of encouragement, companies will start to re-think their plastic usage altogether. I hope. I plan on trying the same when I order underwear for them from Under the Nile (yes I buy my kids socks and underwear for their birthdays--and Christmas--it's a little trick I learned from my mom. I figure, it's stuff I have to buy anyway, may as well wrap it up and make it fun. Plus it makes it easier to justify paying more for higher quality organic stuff. And I have to say, both the Maggie's socks and the Under the Nile undies are really nice).

I stopped by K-Mart last night to buy bike helmets for E and Z--we have a couple of hand-me-down bikes we need to grease up and pump up and put training wheels on. Even though M started riding a two-wheeler with training wheels at this age, I find it a little unbelievable that the twins are already there...where is time going? I was kind of bummed to have to buy plastic helmets, but I'd be much more bummed if one of my kids cracked his head open. I was however impressed by Bell's packaging--just a trapezoid of cardboard attached to the helmet with a zip tie, unlike some other helmets they had that were in plastic bubble packaging (to protect the helmet? which is designed to protect a head? I don't get it). I don't know if I'll hold onto the helmets until birthdays, or if we'll get the bikes on the road before then--I guess it depends on the weather and the motivation level of the mechanical people in my house hold (maybe I could get my own bike tuned up at the same time!)

After K-Mart, I went next door to Goodwill in search of pillowcases to make these fantastic butterfly nets from Blue Yonder Ranch. I had been thinking about making butterfly nets and was going to use silk or something for the net part, then I saw these pillowcase nets. I ordered their Book of Days for the instructions, hoping they had a clever technique for attaching the wire to the stick, but they didn't. However,the Book has some other good information about butterflies and how to catch them, so it will still be useful. Oddly, Goodwill had multitudes of cool vintage sheets, but no pillow cases to go with them. I was envisioning a run on the Augusta Goodwill by people making butterfly nets. I could just use some pillowcases I have in the yard sale pile--but they're not very attractive, and those flowery ones just make me smile. And I like to smile. Even though it makes my stony face crack and crumple like old plaster. So I may just Let It Go--not try to get them made for birthdays, but keep my eyes open for pretty pillowcases and make them sometime this summer.

But that leads me back to where I began--what to do about birthdays?? I'm thinking these little boats for the twins, and a big hunk of amethyst and a rock hammer for M, the gemologist. Also I have to come up with an idea for when C's father asks what to get for them (I keep meaning to set up college funds for all of them for these occasions, but haven't gotten around to it yet--it's on the list!) Oh yes, and plan a camping trip and potentially a birthday party for M (he's not quite convinced he doesn't need a party every single year!)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tiny Hat

I made this little hat for the baby shower I went to last weekend.

It's actually one of a pair of hats I started for E and Z when they were babies, but didn't get very far on either of them (who was I kidding? I was taking care of twin infants and a four-year-old. Just getting my teeth brushed on a daily basis was a major accomplishment). Also, this pattern was excessively complicated with way more pieces and steps than necessary (Simplicity? Not). But, without two babies demanding my constant attention, I was able to sew it up one night last week. I was totally amazed by how SMALL it is--like it was meant to fit over a grapefruit. I can't even believe that E and Z ever had heads that small (maybe they didn't?). So strange, these moments when you realize your kids are growing faster than you can even comprehend.

I also made another little wooden and ribbon teether. I like how they turn out, but next time I think I'll hand-sew the ribbons; my machine likes to eat thread when trying to sew tiny things.

I was going to make another pair of cloth baby shoes too, but I was really tired by Thursday night and I gave myself permission to not make don't know how liberating that was for me. It was a "no gifts please" shower anyway, so I was already breaking the rules (in my defense, I didn't actually BUY anything--the hat has been waiting completion for nearly four years--and now counts as a tick-off on my "works-in-progress list--and the teether ribbons were left over from the other one I made). I also included a super-cute stuffed giraffe that had been M's and I wrapped it all up in a well-used receiving blanket (you can never have too many receiving blankets--unless, of course, your kids are eight and four!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Really Here!

Despite the calendar having claimed it was spring more than a month ago, and despite all of the snow melting before Earth day for once, and despite a couple of crocus and daffodils having bloomed in the last week or two, it didn't really and truly feel like spring until this weekend.

I took the boys on a little EarthScouts excursion in the woods Friday since I was going to be gone over the weekend (see? I'm learning to be flexible!). As we walked toward our destination, I marveled over the different ways each of them approaches the outdoors. M, a.k.a. Knowledge Boy, likes to learn and test his knowledge of the names of trees and he wants to know where everything came from and how it got there, like the rusty piece of metal that sits on a stump at the bend in the trail (and no magical explanations for him thank-you-very-much)...he's also destination oriented and wants to hurry us along.

Z finds a good "walking stick," and uses it to thwack every tree, bush and stump he comes across.

E claims every hollow stump or fallen log is a fairy house or gnome house that he built.

We made our way to Owl Tree, a big grandmother pine that was left alone when the area was cut over some years ago. M and I saw a barred own resting on the tree's branches on New Year's Day when he was one, and Owl Tree it has been ever since, even though we've never seen another sign of an owl there. Our mission, from the I Love Dirt book, was to study a tree and ask ourselves questions about its role in the forest, but the boys were much more interested in building fairy houses than wondering what kind of animals use what parts of the tree.

I was perfectly happy to lie in the sun getting pine pitch all over my clothes, and neither shivering nor being eaten alive by any kind of blood-sucking insect (we don't say the word out loud, for fear we will call them to us like evil spirits)...there is about one week in the spring and one in the fall during which you can have this kind of experience in Maine, and if you miss it because you're at work or something, you regret it all winter and all bug season. At one point, E said, "I'm hot," and I replied, "I know! Doesn't it feel wonderful?" I could have stayed there all day, but the boys got restless and we headed down to the river.

I was amazed to watch M make his way along the streambank to a grassy oxbow area downstream from our usual spot--all by himself. He's generally not a kid to wander off on his own, so I was pretty excited by this show of independence. But after a short while, I decided I should call him and make sure he hadn't fallen in, which worked out well, because friends had just then stopped by and had come into the woods to look for us and heard my shouts. We all headed into the grassy area, which I love because the craggy old willows remind me of cottonwoods from home (when they don't have any give-away leaves on them), and it just feels so wildernessy and so very not Maine-ish. We mucked around for a while before heading home for ice cream, and found not a single tick on any of us!

The weather continued in this manner over the weekend, when I headed south with a friend, driving to Massachusetts in an un-air-conditioned car, pointing into the sun the whole was a long, sweaty drive (made all the longer because my car finds it amusing to not start after it has driven for more than an hour on a warm day...ha, ha very funny car!), but sooooo wonderful to reconnect with friends (we met up with two more in Northampton)...I was most reluctant to head north Sunday. The one consolation in the return trip was stopping at Friendly Toast in Portsmouth...if you are every driving through New Hampshire on I-95, you must stop there and eat...yum, yum. Just the plate of fries with provolone and bleu cheese with strawberry habanero dip (!!!), provided enough calories to get me through a couple of weeks of starvation...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pajama Bags

To celebrate the new bunk beds, and as part of my overall organization frenzy, I made these jammie bags for the boys a few weeks ago.

I followed the Kidlet Wall Pocket Tidy Tote tutorial from J C Handmade. Instead of the lovely linen and cool Japanese fabrics she used, I used some soft off-white corduroy I bought for another purpose but ended up not using for the outsides, and some leftover scraps from other projects for the linings and pockets. All I had to buy was the cotton webbing. I think for pajamas, I should have made them a little bit bigger, especially for bulky winter jammies (but we're done with those for a while--yay!) and for M, who is bigger and has bigger jammies. The idea was to make bedtime easier by not searching for pajamas, and also to cut back on laundry by not getting out a new pair every night because we can't find last night' far E and Z have been on board, sometimes even putting their own jammies in the bags, or helping me or C remember to do so. M, not so much--old dogs, new tricks and he's categorically opposed to any type of cleaning up or organizing (unless it's his PokeMon cards or his collection of Maine Tourmaline, but that's another story)...two out of three ain't bad.

I know a few people who are interested in sewing, but not sure where to start. I think this would be a good almost-first project, because the instructions are clear and easy to follow (unlike a pattern from the store--so confusing!), it is small and sews up fairly quickly (the tutorial says it should take about an hour; since I made three at once while I was working on other projects too, I can't vouch for it, but I'd say it's about right, maybe adding a little more for cutting, but I am a sloooow cutter) so it's a good instant gratification kind of thing, but at the same time, it's got enough challenging elements (turning corners, making a gusset, reinforcing the handle, etc.) to give you a good sense of accomplishment, and they're so cute and handy, who doesn't want a dozen? I could see them in fun, funky fabrics for grownups with no kids, to hold your keys by the door or whatnot. The only flaw I found in the directions was that I could not find the seam allowance anywhere in the instructions (maybe I missed it), so I just set out with a 1/2-inch seam, only noticing later in one of the photographs that it should have been 1/4 big deal, did not change the outcome at all, except making the bag slightly smaller. So get out your machine and give it a try!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Nation Poetry Month wraps up next week, and my email poetry class wrapped up yesterday--thank goodness, because it was getting a bit exhausting trying to keep up with the daily assignments. Which is kind of discouraging, because it means that any thoughts of trying to pursue any kind of higher education for real are totally koo-koo krazy. I do have friends who have kids and go to school full time and work and I have no flippin' idea how they do it. I'm imagining it involves a lot of coffee and very little sleep, and since I don't care for coffee, but I relish my shut-eye, that kind of life is most definitely not for me.

In any case, back to the poetry, I did manage to produce approximately 26 poems in six weeks, which is a lot, when you think about it. Most of them are not terribly good poems, but it's the process that's important, right? Below are the two poems I like best, both of which were written during the second week of class. After that I'm afraid I became a bit disengaged, partly due to going through a crazy stressful/depressed period back there in March (it really was just March in Maine--I'm much better now), partly because the assignments became increasingly abstract, which is super-hard for me, and partly I think, I just got kind of tired of writing poetry. In the end, though, I'm glad I took it; I learned a lot, and I think I'll continue to absorb the lessons over time. I definitely would say poetry is not my favorite medium, but I wanted to learn more about it and develop some skill in that area, and I'd like to pursue it more in the future, partly as a fun brain exercise, and partly because I think it could improve my prose writing.

So, anyhoo, here are my two poems (note the theme in both of them--is Motherhood the ONLY thing I can write about??)

First Practice

I glance up
from my book
slumped on the
hard corner of
the bleachers
to see bat smack
ball hit floor bounce
into the black
glove we brought
home less than
24 hours ago.
M---'s eyes,
meet mine,
my arm reaches
out, thumbs-up.
We leave the
gym into blue
sky day. Him,
ecstatic, me, terrified
my Saturdays will
be swallowed whole.


Rocking in the antique chair,
full-moon round belly,
she waits, and waits, and waits,
for what will come next,
pink-limbed crying baby.
She bundles him to her breast,
whispers, “Be still, be still.”
Limbs grow fat and long and strong,
search out sharp things, spill milk.
She breathes in deep and chants
a mantra in her head, “Be patient,
be patient.” Limbs keep growing,
and the tongue too. She endures
the screaming phase, the lying phase,
the backtalk phase, the never-stop-
talking phase, the gruff-and-grunt
phase. Endures also the broken
china, elbows everywhere, sweaty
socks and moldy sandwiches. And
then one day he's gone, and she paces
the floor, listlessly, picking up
broken matchbox car, putting down
old soccer trophy, the quiet
throbbing in her head. She settles
in the rocking chair, its old
wood creaking into the silence.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

I took the kids to the annual Earth Day and Alumni weekend at my Alma mater this past weekend. They had a lot of fun in the kid areas, meeting farm animals, drawing pictures, making felted earth balls, planting seeds. M liked riding this battery-charging Exercycle so much that I think we'll hook our TV up to one.

In one tent they were fascinated touching and examining the preserved skins and skulls of various wild animals and the National Park employee was impressed by how "nature-oriented" they were--I puffed up a bit, thinking I must be doing something right (also I was hoping the skins hadn't been preserved with anything too toxic).

The college students who ran the activities seemed so unbelievable young (i.e. I felt so unbelievably old), and I couldn't help feeling a little sad at being just a visitor at this place I was once a part of. I also was kicking myself for not appreciating all it had to offer more than I did. And I was wondering, "What in h*ll have I been doing for the last 14 years???"

Later we followed the nature trail down to the beach behind the college (yeah, I went to a college with a beach, and a National Park in the back yard. Jealous?), where they climbed the cliffs and dug for sea glass. They could have stayed there for days I'm sure, but I finally dragged them away to go meet our friends and walk into town, where they enjoyed pretending to shoot off these cannons.

For dinner we went to a movie theater/pizzeria and sat in old couches watching Monsters vs. Aliens. It was their first trip to a movie theater since the twins were two months old and I took M to go see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, hoping the babies would sleep through the movie. Instead I had to alternately nurse them through the entire thing, trying to keep them quiet enough to not disturb others (and it wasn't even that good of a movie for all that trouble!). Fortunately, this time was a lot easier--the theater was full of kids, so I didn't have to worry about any kind of ruckus my kids made, and once the movie started they were frozen/terrified and didn't make a peep (nor would they eat their pizza until intermission).

Sunday we hiked a short trail to another beach, but even though it was still mostly sunny, the wind was freezing, so we didn't stay long, and everyone was mad at me that I enforced the National Park rule of "take nothing but pictures" and made them leave the sea glass and sea shells there (yes it does seem arbitrary to a 3 year old, but principles are principles).

Monday morning I woke up with a sore throat, thinking it was just our friends' cat finally catching up with me, but as we drove home, a headache set in. We dropped M off at one of his grandma's house for a few days (it's vacation week here), and while we visited there I started feeling worse and worse. By the time we got home, I knew I was sick, went to bed at 7 p.m., called in sick yesterday and stayed in bed all day (with a book), which is actually something I've been wishing for for a long time (yes, it is sick to wish you could get sick just so you can rest), but I had a hard time relaxing because our house was so messy, and I'll be going away again next weekend, so finally in late afternoon I dragged myself out of bed to straighten up and fix dinner, and ended up staying up way too late to finish my last poetry assignment.

And now, on actual Earth Day, we're back to our usual routine of work and daycare, with nothing special planned to honor Earthy things like gigantic barnacles (can you believe the size of this thing? The hole in the middle was about the size of a penny!).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just Say NO...To Plastic

Yesterday I took the afternoon off of work (comp time for a long day in Chelmsford last week), and went to a nearby GIANT antiques barn with a friend. Skipping over the part about the two great table cloths, and the juice glasses and the yellow fire king bowl I found, and the gorgeous bowl set I saw on the way out at closing time and NEED to go back and get today, I want to tell you about the two boxes of paper straws we saw. Yes, you heard that right. Straws used to be made out of paper.

I have lately--over the last year or so--been trying to wean my family off of plastic. I did fairly well in this area in college and my early childless years, but somehow, having kids created in my some kind of environmental amnesia and I started buying them plastic toys! I woke from this daze when M was about two and realized, to my horror, that my life was filled with plastic crap--plates, cups, silverware, toys inside, toys outside. The madness had to stop! I started out by not buying him more stuff, period, unless it was his birthday or Christmas, and trying to find wooden or fabric non-made-in-China stuff. This helped for awhile, until he started getting his own money and begging for regular trips to Reny's to blow his wad on Hotwheels and Matchbox sets. And suddenly, once again, I found myself mired in plastic!

It's not that plastic is offensive to my aesthetic sensibilities (although it is), it's that plastic NEVER EVER goes away--instead of bio-degrading, in which bacteria and fungi break a product down into its chemical components, plastic photo-degrades; UV light breaks it down into smaller and smaller pieces, but those pieces are still essentially plastic (the polymer chains remain intact). As those pieces break down, they are taken up by animals--you've heard of turtles swallowing bags they think are jellyfish, and the great albatrosses whose carcasses are full of plastic bits--but even the tiniest sea creatures, the zooplankton, take in microscopic bits of plastic, and because the plankton is the foundation of the oceanic food chain, these plastics work their way into the bodies of everything that depends on the sea (which is pretty much everything). To make matters worse, persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic chemicals (e.g. PCBs) are attracted to plastics and bond to them, riding with them into the food chain. Bad news all around.

So, whether my own contribution really makes a difference one way or the other, I consider it unconscionable to NOT try to reduce my own use and disposal of plastics. Which means no more plastic toys. Only all-natural fabrics for clothing and home use, preferably used, or if new, then organic and sweat-shop free. Buying the majority of our foods locally and in bulk, and growing and making as much as we can to avoid cartons, bags, wrappers, packages, etc. Still...our little (plastic) under-sink trash can fills up with plastic food packaging every week...and that's discouraging. Which brings us back to the antique store and the straws. Straws used to be made out of paper, people! And remember crackers came in paper sleeves inside cardboard boxes? Milk cartons were waxed paper, with no plastic pouring spout. Toys came in cardboard boxes, not clamshells. The produce section had little paper bags with fold-up handles. This was just in my memory--go back 10, 20, 30, 50 years earlier and watch plastics fade from usage altogether.

I don't deny that plastic is useful (e.g. this dad-blasted typing machine I'm using right now), but if we could limit it to those uses that don't have an alternative--electronic media (although using paper or cardboard cases for DVDs and CDs), computers, medical equipment, safety items (carseats, life jackets, bike helmets); and eliminate it from all of the discretionary, one-use-and-then-throw-it-away uses (grocery bags, shrink wrap, those freakin' vinyl covers that my organic mattress pads came in and which I swear I will send back to the company with a letter any day now)...then I think the turtles and albatrosses and zooplankton will have a bit more of a fighting chance, don't you?

If you want to read more about plastic, and getting rid of it, boogy on over to Fake Plastic Fish (and bookmark her'll be happy you do!) and check out this week's Green Mom's Carnival of bloggers writing about--and trying to get away from--plastic. And suggestions for deplastifying are most welcome!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter and Earthscouts

Despite the fact that C has a kazillion relatives and pseudo-relatives in the area, and that we have to celebrate Christmas five times, we usually find ourselves somewhat adrift on Thanksgiving and Easter. The last couple of years, we've invited friends and/or C's mother and made a feast of what I for some reason think of as quintessential Easter (or springtime) fare--spanikopita and rosemary potatoes with lemon bars for dessert (because C doesn't care for lemon meringue pie--silly boy). But we had our spring feast around the equinox (although it was kale-and-Swiss-chard-akopita, with strawberry shortcake for dessert), and I was truly not in the mood to cook or entertain. C, I think, would be perfectly happy if holidays just slid by like every other day of the week/year, but I want some sense of tradition, celebration and the changing of the seasons instilled in my children's lives...although not necessarily any of the formalized, rigid and religious traditions that I grew up with (my grandmother always served holiday meals at exactly 2 p.m., with all of the china and silver in service to the platters of food that all of the women of the family had slaved--and stressed--over).

We started last weekend with decorating some wooden eggs--I think the idea came from Angry Chicken last year--with watercolor paint. It was super fascinating to watch the intense concentration that each boy put into his eggs, and the different styles of painting. E put a little bit of several colors near the top of his eggs; M painted one all green, put a face on one, tried to follow the wood grain of another and put stripes on a fourth; Z painted his mostly black (like old Irontail), very thoroughly (although one he did paint with very careful black stripes), and quickly. When he was done, he noticed E's had some blank spots on them and offered to "finish" his for him! We decorated our Nature Corner and the "mantle" (er, unfinished top row of bricks behind the wood stove) with them.

Then this past Saturday evening, after a cold but fun hike and lunch out with friends, I finally got around to preparing egg dyes by 7 p.m. (my friend had given me a back issue of Brain, Child that I hadn't already read and that kept me occupied all afternoon while E and Z napped--thanks to our long damp hike--and M played Lego's). We used natural dyes this year--beets, purple cabbage and turmeric. I had done this once a long time ago, but I boiled the eggs with the dyestuffs and they came out quite vivid, but this time just boiled the beets and cabbage for a while in water and put them in mugs with vinegar, so that the kids could actually be involved in the dying. The turmeric I just put straight in water with vinegar. The colors weren't quite as deep, but luckily our farm had pale green Araucana eggs, so they took the dyes a little better than the brown ones do. The turmeric worked best (later I remembered using paprika in the past, and may try that again next time). I used up the last of the moldering beets out of the bottom of my crisper drawer, and one small head of cabbage--I felt a little guilty throwing them in the compost afterward, but no one in my house likes beets, and the boiled cabbage made the whole house smell like an Iron Curtain tenement...not appetizing
Z wanted to just keep dying and re-dying his eggs over and over. I guess I should have made more than a dozen, but hard boiled eggs aren't a huge hit with my kids, so it would be a shame to have all those eggs and nothing to do with them (or eat egg salad until I became a licensed source for hydrogen sulfide emissions).

Easter morning the boys went down and gathered eggs filled with jelly beans and yogurt-covered raisins and Bunny Grahams that the Easter bunny hid around the house, while C and I tried to get a few extra minutes of sleep. We had hot cross buns for breakfast, along with Easter eggs and a pineapple that I just got at the co-op Monday, but which was already turning to alcohol (no one else seemed to mind).

The Candy Rabbit (that's what Z used to call him) also left these cute little bunnies that someone needle-felted, which would be her new obsession if it did not use the same fine-motor movements as keyboarding and mousing, causing her two weeks of shoulder pain ever since. Z showed me his and said "Peter a good knitter." Of course he was referring to Peter Cottontail that annoying claymation (or whatever) movie from our childhood...whom they prefer to visualize as their Easter Bunny, rather than the little cottontail rabbit from The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, which, if you have not read yet, get thee to a library! It is the most amazingly feminist, populist, mama-empowering book.

Also they got some books I've been lusting over (in my Waldorf-wanna-be mode) for some time. The (Elsa Beskow) stories are kind of silly, but I love the illustrations, and Z and E love anything with a troll (or a grumpy old gnome).

We headed to Dodge Point in Newcastle, my favorite hiking area around here, and hiked the big loop, for the first time since the twins were born, unhindered by double stroller and little legs. We played on all of the beaches (two gravel, one sand and one brick) until their mother complained of being cold from the wind. We took EarthScouts on the road with us. Our mission this week was to listen carefully to the sounds of nature (still working from the I Love Dirt book--lesson #4), but this was hard to do for many reasons--hard to sit still and listen while you're hiking, or throwing rocks in the river, or freezing because it's so windy. Also, I noticed, all four of them (C included) seem to need to have a constant stream of noise emanating from their mouths--either chatter, singing, humming, whistling or nonsense sounds. It's enough to drive a wooden mom crazy.

We did hear some stuff, though, which we recorded later at the Newcastle Publick House, where we had our Easter dinner--wind, waves, dripping water, wood frogs (duck-like chuckle), a bird that said "cheer, cheer," but was not a robin or a cardinal--C and I are on a mission to figure out what it is. E and Z fell asleep after we got in the car at 4:30, slept right through the afternoon, let me put on their jammies, went back to sleep and slept until 5:45 Monday morning. I think they need more 3-mile hikes!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First-Quarter Check-in

At the end of last year I made an extensive list of New Year's resolutions and to-do list. My intention is to check in quarterly (and publicly) to keep myself honest:

-Get finances in order (joint checking act? write budget. deferred comp plan?) Ha. Ha. Ha. We did get our taxes to the accountant earlier this week. Does that count?

-Write will (life insurance? who gets kids????) Can't even think about this one.

-Finish works in progress (8 year old orange scarf; 10 year old rayon skirt--send to sister) Well the scarf and skirt haven't seen the light of day, but I made some major progress on the quilt seen at right on the cover of the latest GEMINI.

-Write daily (Wild Mind; What If?; Writing the Natural Way) I've only done a couple more chapters of Wild Mind than I had done when I wrote this, but with this poetry class I have been writing almost daily.

-Finish/Submit more work Nope. Hasn't happened. But I did make a plan of what I want to write and submit where. I'm good at making plans. Follow through? Not so much.

-Practice Mindfulness I have been choosing one of the "seven pillars of mindfulness" to focus on each month. January was Beginner's Mind, February Non-Judging, March Patience (may need to try that one again!). This month is Non-Striving. Does that mean I should throw this list out the window?

-Go to yoga/pilates classes at lunchtime I went today and Tuesday and one day last week. Overall, I've probably only made an average of two or three classes a month, but I've gotten a co-worker to persuade me to go over with her, so that should help, right?

-Organize house (kids' room--bunk beds, book shelves; basement; arts & crafts) As you know, because I can't stop posting about it, I'm in a crazy organization frenzy. The kids' room is pretty much done (although neither C nor Ikea has furnished the room with bookshelves yet; instead I managed to make do with what we had through some creative rearranging). I did part of the basement in January, but that needs to be done again, along with the rest of it (also I am staging my stuff to get rid of down there, and it's not helping things much). I took care of the arts & crafts stuff. Now I'm getting antsy every time I walk past the book cases in our stairway--can't wait to go through and purge those!

-Do more spontaneous creativity with kids Hmm...I think I've done this a little, but definitely not to the extent I envisioned, and definitely not as spontaneous as I could be (although if I plan on being spontaneous, is that spontaneous???)

-Read Dickens Not yet, although I did watch Oliver Twist and am watching Little Dorrit on Masterpiece. Also I read some Thomas Hardy. I'll get to Dickens, I swear.

-Continue w/ Zine--3 issues Issue 10 done and out the door. Two to go (this year).

-Carve out creative time daily Maybe not daily, but with a little bit of writing, a little bit of craftiness (sorry I refuse to use the word "craft" as a verb), I'm getting it in at least weekly.

-Be patient Not so much. Will work on that when it comes around again in the mindfulness rotation.

-Return to Nature Journal (daily? weekly?) Once. I've made one entry this year. Maybe spring will be more inspiring in this area?

-Finish "Drawing on Right Side of Brain" workbook (started in 2005!) I've done three drawings!

-Practice Gratitude (Xmas Thank-You Notes first) M and I sent out Christmas thank-you notes (actually he did pretty much all the work, but I sat next to him!). Not doing so well with everyday gratitude. How's this: I'm thankful for all you faithful blog readers!

-Volunteer nope.

-Deal with anxiety/stress (yoga? pills? Rescue Remedy?) Whoa-boy. I have (similar to the Mindfulness Rotation) been looking up one stress reduction tip to focus on each week in my Ten Minute Stress Relief book, which has been nice sometimes, but not totally effective. I think the last month I've been as crazy-stressed out as ever (for no good reason). Rescue Remedy helps a little; Bloody Mary's help a litte; yoga helps for a while. Need a better long-term solution (have just realized I need to stop taking other people's stress into my own just have to figure out how). Wonder if setting myself up with this long list of things to change in my life has anything to do with my stress levels?

-Suspend disbelief more often Ha!

-Join YMCA (Xmas gift certificate) We did it and even re-upped when our complimentary three months ran out!

-Learn to shop at thrift stores Hmpfh.

-Swim weekly (need goggle strap--old one melted--and poss new suit?) Yes! Got new goggles (may still need new suit) and have been swimming if not weekly, then almost weekly, which is as good as I can expect.

The final analysis--less than 50% success, but it's only the first quarter! Don't give up on me! I can change! I can change!

Already thinking of a resolution for next year--try to be happy with yourself as you are and stop getting on these kooky self-improvement binges (after you organize your finance, household, get in shape, become a Supermom, and write a bestselling novel).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cardboard Furniture

I'd like to think that some day I will be grown up enough to have real furniture, you know, made out of wood and stuff, but I seem to be unable to relinquish the old college standbys of cardboard and egg crate. I've had a problem figuring out how to store the kids' art supplies since M was little and he had an "art table" in the corner, which was really just a kid-sized table piled about a foot high with papers, coloring books, crayons, glue, etc.

I've tried storing art supplies in the bathroom cabinet, but out of sight they didn't get used much...also now with two extra people we need the storage space. I've tried those plastic drawer thingies, which are not at all attractive, and one of which I still have in our sun room (and the other in M's room). Recently I tried to get everything in order in a place near our kitchen/dining area table, and resorted to stacking two sturdy cardboard boxes on each other after failing to find a nice book shelf at a few antique stores.

Then during my spring cleaning frenzy last week, I tried to make more space in the sun room, and brought this little table/desk (which I paid waaay too much money for at an antique store several years ago) to the area and eliminated one of the cardboard boxes, creating a little art storage zone, to make it easier to get started on a project (of course M still says every single night when it's time to do his homework, "I can't find a pencil!" and E and Z have a hard time seeing their crayons there, right front and center. Sigh!)

It doesn't compare to this fantastic set-up, but I'm fresh out of chicken coops (I'd probably freak out about it being covered in lead paint, or chicken poop anyway) and it is a big improvement over some of the teetering mounds of junk we've had in the past, so it will have to do.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Earth Scouts--Week 3

M was at a friend's house for a sleepover Saturday night, so just E, Z and I headed out for our Sunday a.m. EarthScouts adventure (notice how I can't decide whether to make that one word or two?). This week's mission: a hunt for the color GREEN (starting to sound repetitive?). We found the usual, green pine needles, hemlock needles, fir needles, lichens, moss (looking lusher than two weeks ago), a little more grass. Our quests may be sound somewhat redundant, but the point is to get out there and open our eyes and ears. While we were out, we saw this tree, very recently excavated by a pileated woodpecker.

And some slime mold.

And still quite a bit of snow (but much less than two weeks ago).

Z refuses to concede that it is in fact spring (or, as the twins would say, that it's spring out), until all the snow is gone.

I had thought maybe M had lost interest in the whole thing after last week's miserable outing, but he was genuinely disappointed when he got home that afternoon and found out he'd missed EarthScouts. Then yesterday E, Z and I were outside doing a (very) little yard work while we waited for M's bus (why is it that the grass in the "lawn" and fields is like a centimeter tall, but the grass in my herb garden has a good eight inches of growth??), and E started collecting sticks and rocks in the wagon and declared that he was "doing EarthScouts." I think that's a sign of success!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wonderful Kids

I woke up very early this morning worrying that what I wrote in yesterday's post might come off wrong. I read many blogs about many wonderful kids--mostly they are written by my friends and I can vouch for it--they do have awesome kids. And I may possibly have mentioned a time or two that my kids are wonderful too. If not, for the record: M, Z and E = wonderful. The point I was trying to make (clearly I have a problem making my points!) is that parenting is hard sh*t and it's nice to have the companionship of someone who has been through the same (or worse) when you're going through the rough patches. So yes, write away about your great kids (I probably don't do that enough!) but also tell me about those times you are going to gouge your own eyes out with a grapefruit spoon if you don't get just five minutes peace! (Which is exactly how I have felt for the last three weeks solid--except I did get a few hours peace last night at dinner with a friend and I feel muuuuuch better now.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blogging, Truth, and Beauty

So I’ve been mulling over this post from Soulemama the last couple of days, in which she admits to having bad days, just like the rest of us (I wanted to say, “us mortals” there, but I restrained myself), but that she chooses to document the things that are beautiful and joyful in her life so that that is what she focuses on, and in doing so bring more of it into her life. Now I admit, as I have many times in the past, to being a Soulemama addict, and I also admit to one of my reasons for returning again and again to her blog is to fuel my sense of inadequacy. I also admit that when a couple of months ago she took a blog break because her entire family was sick, my first thought was, “Wow, they really are human.”

Apparently someone has implied that that only focusing on one element of life (in this case the happy, happy, joy, joy element) is not truthful. Soulemama doesn’t think so, and neither do I. It’s impossible (and would be highly boring) to write about every single thing in our lives—we all pick and choose what to write about, and that is our truth. I do think it’s less real, and a lot less interesting. Honestly, I don’t want to read about how ever-lovin’ wonderful your kids are. But if your kid pooped in your hand yesterday, yeah that’s a story I wanna hear. The essence of story is conflict, and the point of literature is catharsis—pity and fear. I can pity you because yeah, it would totally suck to have poop in your hand; and I can feel fear, because it could happen to me someday. I can also have a moment of relief, because even if my day is totally sucking, well, at least no one has pooped in my hand (yet). Besides, chances are if you’re writing about your kid pooping in your hand, it’s going to be a pretty g*d d*amn funny story, and I tell ya sister, I could use a laugh.

When I saw The Passion of the Hausfrau this weekend (What? You haven’t gotten your tickets yet? What are you waiting for?), I laughed and cried so hard because I was right there with her when her kids were freaking out in the grocery store, when her son turned every stick or log or piece of toast into a gun or rocket launcher, when she realized she had just let her own life pass her by while she was focused on her kids. That’s the kind of story I want to read.

I have actually had the thought recently that my kids are at such a good place right now, they’re not very interesting to write about. Not that we don’t still have our moments (and our days), but 3/3/7 is SUCH and improvement over 2/2/6 and 1/1/5 and probably 0/0/4 (except I can hardly remember those days—did I actually live through that??)

But at least Soulemama has a clear reason and purpose for blogging, and apparently it’s working for her—she has 1000s of readers, has written two books, has a thriving Etsy store, advertisers and sponsors. I still don’t know why exactly I started this blog, or why I keep it up, other than as a platform for my Leo desire to be the center of attention to wrestle with my Introvert desire for no one to notice me. Ever. It clearly has not helped improve my writing skills, or forwarded my writing career. I have a long list of publications to which I plan on submitting work, but I can’t seem to collect the time, energy, motivation and focus to sit down and pen an essay for cryin’ out loud.

I read blogs with really good writing; ones that make me laugh; ones from which I can learn something—about current events, politics, a new way of viewing an old issue; ones that inspire me to make something, cook something, do something, go somewhere; ones that give me recipes or craft plans (although lately I’ve been rebelling against this romanticization of the domestic, like it’s an evil plot of the Patriarchy to keep us wimmins barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen or at the sewing machine). I also turn to blogs like Soulemama and others that make life appear so dreamy and peaceful and perfect to give me a little boost when my life appears anything but.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another Potholder Meltdown

Last summer, in the midst of the Buy Nothing Year, I had a minor melt-down over my potholders, which are gross and disgusting food-encrusted charred things that, if ever I had a celebrity chef (I'm talking to you, Rick Bayless!) over to make dinner, would horrify him right out of my house.

Exhibit A.

Of course my meltdown wasn't really about the potholders, they were just a metaphor for my shabby-ass life that in the moment of feeling completely overwhelmed by life in general, made me feel like I had zero control over anything, and that if only I could just get my hands on one of those lovely striped Guatemalan potholders, everything would be OK. I didn't rush out and buy a Guatemalan potholder, mostly because it was late on a Sunday evening, when nothing in the entire state of Maine is open, and by Monday morning I had gained a little more perspective (I did eventually buy one of those potholders, but to assuage any guilt, I put it in C's Christmas stocking!)

I still have the three really yucky potholders, however. It recently struck me that I could just make new ones, and I initially had every intention of just making new covers to go over the old pot holders, to avoid having to buy heat-resistant fabric. But the more I considered it, the more I was just way too grossed out by them, and concerned that maybe they are releasing fire retardant chemicals into our food every time we use them. Additionally, they don't even work all that well (the plaid one has a hole in the middle through which I burn myself every time I use it).
I found a piece of strawberry material my mom gave me, and some red that matched. I put it all off for some time because i didn't want to deal with making biased tape and that little loop in the corner, until I had the brilliant realization that I NEVER hang my pot holders, so i don't NEED a little loop.

Finally, Sunday morning, between the disastrous Earth Scouts adventure and going to The Passion of the Hausfrau (which you REALLY need to go see, unless you're too far away from Portland, in which case pre-order the book at your local indie book store), I set to work and made potholders, without loops, using just two layers of cotton batting and no heat-resistant fabric (I finished the first one just in time to take scones out of the oven and it seemed to work fine).

As I may have mentioned, I've been in a kind of dark place lately, and as I sewed I was feeling quite despondent that I've come to a place in my life where sewing pot holders has become a satisfying weekend activity, and that the realization that I don't need a loop on my pot holders qualifies as a "brilliant revelation." This is really not where I planned to be in life. As it turns out, new potholders were not the panacea I hoped them to be (and they already are getting burnt bagel soot and melted cheese on them).

And The Winner (of the fabulous zine give-away) is: Sara (of the great mom of three boys--including twins--and Bakfiets-love blog, Full Hands)! Sara--send me an email and let me know if you want me to send it directly to you or to a gift recipient!

And for those of you who did not win, but still want to get your hands on a copy of GEMINI, it's only $3 for a single issue--email me at andreaelani at yahoo dot com and get your very own copy!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...