Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another Kid Art Embroidery, and a Challenging Kid

A couple of months ago, we were on our way home from the dentist when we witnessed a wild turkey get hit by a pickup truck as it crossed the road. Z was especially upset by the sight. He was already in a not very good mood after having not-listened at the dentist and consequently not-gotten a treat at the health food store, but he is also a very sensitive guy, despite his gruff exterior, especially when it comes to animals.

Immediately after we got home, he sat down and drew a picture of turkeys very much alive. To me, the picture told the story of the turkey making it safely across the road. I don't know much about art therapy, but whatever he did, it was therapeutic. As a bonus, the picture was fantastic and I knew right away I wanted to make it into a kid-art embroidery.

I meant to have it done in time to be a Thanksgiving decoration, and started it in early October, but I got sidetracked on other things and didn't get it done for the holiday. I finally finished it up Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, which isn't too bad. 

I decided to use a beaver-chewed stick that Z had found on our hike the day before to hang it. I thought he would be pleased: his drawing, his stick. But I cut the stick to the proper length and when he saw, he pitched a super, ginormous fit.

Only after we went down to where the beaver dam is and found a whole armful of replacement sticks did he calm down. Getting out into nature seems to be one piece of the puzzle of how to sooth this boy.

I realized later (much later, as I was cooking dinner) that he had refused lunch, instead eating a leftover pancake and was probably in need of some protein-based nourishment. But even so, he is one tough kid. Very strong emotions. Super duper stubborn.

I know I'm supposed to use euphemisms like "persistent" and "determined" and "high spirited," to look on the bright side of this strong-willed little person and believe that those traits that drive me up the wall will one day serve him well as he faces life's challenges. But I find it hard to get to that place when he's thrashing around the living room over a #@$%& &**^$@# stick!

I know there's a sweet little boy inside of him––he wants a pet owl, gloves shaped like turkeys, a fuzzy sweater (and an i-pod touch, oh my) for Christmas. He cries when he sees a turkey get hit by a truck. Then again, he's also the boy who, when we were writing the things we were thankful for on watercolor leaves to put into our gratitude journal, wrote, "I'm thankful for poop." When I asked him to write something nice, he scribbled out his leaf and sobbed on the couch for half an hour (that one was after five servings of yogurt parfait, and can in no way be blamed on low blood sugar). Later he explained to me that he meant that without poop, we'd just blow up. I have to admit he has a point, although I don't actually believe that's what he meant at all.

I'm sure it's hard to be a twin. And a little brother. Heck, it's probably tough at times to be seven. I just wish I knew what to do with a kid who's so persistent and determined and high spirited.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

Historically, I have not been a big fan of Thanksgiving, for various reasons, but this year I found myself looking forward to the whole weekend. I still have this warm feeling inside of me from last year's Thanksgiving weekend, and I found myself again relishing the feeling of a pause, a moment's breath between the activity of summer that pours directly into the hectic days of the school year beginning and the start of the frenetic holiday season.

This year we went to C's father's house for the meal, so aside from a side dish and a dessert, we didn't have to cook, so we were able to spend the whole weekend pretty much in relaxation mode.

For breakfast, we had a make-your-own yogurt-fruit parfait buffet, as requested by Z who recently discovered such things (which he variously calls "fat-ay" or "fap-pay") at a local diner the boys like to go to.

We all donned orange and went on a Thanksgiving walk in the woods, because it was just too beautiful out to stay indoors.

My niece, who is spending a year in Boston, came up to stay with us, and the boys alternately tormented and adored their only cousin.

After we got home from the feast, C lit off the obligatory Thanksgiving fireworks (what? that's not a normal Thanksgiving tradition??).

The rest of the weekend we spent getting a start on Christmas projects (me) cuddling with their cuz and doing word finds (the boys), cleaned their bed room (the boys me). We went on more hikes and visited Mr. Porcupine who lives in the big field next door.

The boys had most of last week off of school, so they fell into that end-of-a-long-vacation bickering and arguing and contrary mode and by Sunday I was definitely ready for them to go back to school (how do homeschool moms do it??).

Hope you had a wonderful weekend, too!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Gratitude

Today is this blog's fifth anniversary (fifth! count them––five!)!

Which is sort of astonishing.

I had some thoughts on blogging and self-indulgence versus self-awareness. Narcissism versus living an examined life. Blogging as part of a practice (of art, of writing, of parenting). Blogging as a way to build connections and community with others on a similar path.

But instead, I think I'll just say a great big THANK YOU to those of you out there who read this blog regularly and those who just pop in for a visit now and then, to those of you who have been here from the beginning and those who just landed here after typing "blogging and narcissism" into a search engine. Because it is about building connections and community and growing together along this path of being human. Thanks for coming along with me.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, whatever it entails, and see you next week with scenes from the long, long weekend!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

City Weekend

We finally made it to Boston this past weekend, after our thwarted plans last weekend and, despite a few minor glitches (like the train being sold out and having to take the bus instead and the aquarium being under renovation so that the big central tank was closed off and the bigger penguins on vacation), we had a great time.

The boys rode their first subway (and insisted on standing, of course).

Our primary destination was the New England Aquarium.

Where M bonded with this Little Blue Penguin.

The seals were mostly lazy, but we enjoyed their skeletons.

My niece, M the First, who is living in Boston temporarily joined us for the day.

I took tons of pictures of these tropical fish.

They're so bright and pretty, and I thought I could pretend I'd been on a snorkeling vacation.

One of the best parts was petting the rays (the sharks never got close enough, but the rays seemed to like having their backs rubbed).

And the jellyfish. So amazing and otherworldly. I think they would be quite calming in a less noisy and echoey place. I'd like a big tank of them just to gaze at. 

We were treated to a free Imax 3D movie to make up for the renovation.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to watch some little girls tap dancing to Christmas songs, and some street performers. This guy played "drums" on several five-gallon buckets and some old metal bowls and pans. "That song is called 'Put the Money in the Bucket'" he said. He made a big impression on E who made a drum set with yogurt containers and other things yesterday when he got home from school.

And a troupe of break-dancer/acrobats. They were really quite impressive and funny, although I don't quite know how to impress upon Z (who has a photographic memory for anything off-color) that it's one thing for black guys to make jokes about black guys stealing ladies' purses and another thing altogether for a white seven-year-old to try to repeat those jokes.

I think seeing a city alive and thumping and full of people of all different colors and shapes and sizes and about as far removed from Whitefield, Maine as you can get is the most valuable aspect of these little city trips we try to take every now and then.

M waiting for the T after a night in a hotel with cable TV.

E and Z, old subway-riding experts by now.

And just like in Philadelphia, riding escalators was the highlight of the weekend.

We did a little more sight-seeing as we waited for our bus.

And then on the way to the station, we saw this tree being planted with a crane. 

I never knew that's how they plant trees in the city, did you?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Cabinet

I'm not sure what the official name for this piece of furniture is. Console, maybe? I've been jokingly referring to it as the "entertainment center." When I first said this, my kids were like, entertainment center??? I imagine they were picturing something with an ice skating rink, a bowling alley and a movie theater. Sorry kids, it's just a place to stick the tee-vee.

Back in June, I got C a flat-screen TV for Father's Day because he's a good guy who doesn't ask for much and he really, really wanted one, and after all, he did buy me my laptop for my birthday. So I bought him one (LED for energy-efficiency) and took our third hand-me-down television to Goodwill.

Part of my Living Room Overhaul Phase II plan was to get something for the TV to sit on, and after we got the new TV it became, well, not imperative, because it is after all, only a TV, but somewhat more urgent, since the piece of furniture our old TV sat on was too high, so the screen was at the wrong angle and everything looked dark (I know, I know, first world problems).

So, back in August, when I bought the cabinet for the basement at the unfinished furniture store, I also picked up this piece.

It's been sitting in the barn all this time, waiting for the perfect alignment of time, energy and good weather (since it's an outdoor kind of project). Finally all the stars aligned this past three-day weekend.

C helped me sand it (see? I told you he's a good guy) and I painted it with milk paint (my favorite way to finish furniture). The back and the drawer bottoms are made with some really ugly cheap wood, so those I covered with some dark brown Roman glass fabric (that I love!). I briefly considered making a cozy for the TV (you know, visually demote it from its central location in our living room) out of the same fabric, and had temporarily draped the fabric over the TV before I cut into it. Z kept asking why there was a curtain on the TV and I said to hide it and he wisely said, "it just makes it more obvious," which was exactly what I had been thinking.

The top drawer is devoted to our VCR (yes, we still have one of those) and the remote controls and the bottom drawer holds C and M's various music books and accessories. The left side of the cabinet holds all of our musical instruments (except the guitars, ukeleles, mandolins, piano, drum set, ai yai yai) and the right holds some games that had been collecting dust on the floor underneath another piece.

Now I need to move on to the corner there. I'd like to get a nice bookcase to help contain some of the toy and book clutter that accumulates there. I have my eye on one at the antique shop that might fit the bill.

And after that...a new couch!

Edited to add:

The paint is this Milk Paint, color marigold. Totally nontoxic, easy to use and clean up. Love it!

The unfinished furniture store is Mill Stores in Scarborough. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Three-Day Weekend

Have I ever told you how much I love three-day weekends? If not, let me say it now: I LOVE three-day weekends. And this past one (thanks, Veterans!) was especially nice, because we had intended to go to Boston for all of it, but when I finally got around to looking into hotels, I found the entire city had a big "No Vacancy" sign hanging on it. Some big conventions or something. So we had before us an entire three-day weekend free of plans and obligations, like three blank sheets of paper waiting to be filled with whatever took our fancy.

We played some Monopoly.

Built some blocks.

Made a volcano.

Planted some garlic.

Cooked a bunch of all those lovely greens (I made a stir-fry with broccoli leaves––since the broccoli plant isn't interested in flowering––roasted red peppers, carrots––also from the garden––garlic and tofu with a toasted sesame oil-ginger dressing; C made "priest-chokers" with a ton of Kale).

Hiked with new old friends, or old new friends, or friends we've known a long time and who have been practically our neighbors for more than two years and with whom we've just lately started to spend time. Funny how it is that maintaining friendships requires so much more intention as adults, not just popping into someone's dorm room. But it's always worth the effort, don't you think?

Started a Christmas project.

Did some "woodworking" (yes the latest in my ongoing infatuation with unfinished furniture; more on this piece soon!).

Wrote some stories. Okay, only E and Z and M wrote stories. They all are super into writing right now, and I'm very cautious about wanting to nurture this interest without stamping it out (because, you know, moms ruin everything).

I, on the other hand, wrote nothing. I kept convincing myself that all this other activity was
recharging the well, priming the pump and all that. But now here I sit with the blank screen starting back at me and still I got nothin'. And I've got this great big Complete Short Stories of Eudora Welty staring at me (six hundred pages!) and I've barely made a dent. So I should probably go do something about all that.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend too!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Silly Project

A couple of weeks ago, I was procrastinating feeling creative and made these little pincushion tops for the jars that store my notions over the course of two evenings (while waiting for children to just get ready for bed).

I had looked up the directions online, but had only perused them briefly and without printing them out or reading them carefully or anything, so the results are a little on the wonky side. For the three in the middle, I used wool-blend felt (with embroidered ribbon for the embroidered ribbon jar, buttons for the button jar and a tiny lace doily for the lace and rick-rack jar), which turned out to be a bit too thick and kind of tricky to make work so that the jar could still close. The other two I just used regular cotton, including my favorite red Kaffe Fasset print. I stuffed them with fabric scraps and found that there is a magic stuffing amount: the jar on the left has too much so it looks poofy and the second one has too little so it looks flat. I kind of like instant gratification projects, but I tend to rush them and get less-than-stellar results.

I also replaced my inspiration wire with a narrow pink and green ribbon (previously it was rick-rack) and some tiny clothespins (rather than paper clips, which were both tacky and not very effective). I don't have much inspiration right now, but I'm sure something will come along.

Do you tend toward quick and dirty or are you a perfectionist?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Settling In

Truth be told, November's not my favorite month, situated as it is between all the glorious color of October and the snow and festivity of December. It's kind of a gray month, both weather-wise and in the landscape, the leafless trees, the dead and dried grasses. Then there's that whole, be careful walking out your front door 'cause it's hunting season thing (C and I have a perennial discussion about whether the kids should have to wear orange hats on their walk up and around and over our 1200 foot long driveway, through the woods, on their way to the bus each morning).

So I put a little extra effort into welcoming the season inside our home to make it feel a little more bright.

Again we waxed some leaves this year (very quickly after dinner Saturday night). I missed most of the really good color, but I did find a sugar maple right near the house that we didn't even know we had, with big beautiful yellow leaves. I ran across this post from last year and loved the way they looked in the carnival glass, so I did that again (how did I ever remember anything before I had a blog to document my every move??).

Then I completely cleared away and refreshed our nature table, moving all the objects to the window sill (yes, I totally get the irony of having a nature table behind the TV. And no I'm not ashamed!).

Brought out the table runner (on the B side).

And put this fabulous collection of pottery handmade by my kiddos in the kitchen window (they have a wonderful art teacher who includes a clay lesson almost every year). The colors and the shapes just feel very Thanksgivingy to me for some reason.

How do you combat the November blues if you get them or do you love this time of year? 
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