Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Days 26 - 31

A Picture a Day for the Year continues!

Slide Shadows:

Spreading mulch in high heels because my name is Svea:

Little Helper:
Let. The. Season. End. Please. For. The. Love. We. Lost. 28 - 0.

We Must Sit Together:
Shoreh's Outfit:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Parenting: A Work in Gestures

Last semester in Drawing I, Joe taught us about Gesture Drawing.
I dug up my old drafts the other day because I couldn’t get some of the lessons out of my head.
The thing about Gesture Drawing is that it is quick, it is practice, and very often it is ugly.
It’s a practice in letting yourself practice. And getting over the ugly results.

That’s hard to do as a beginning art student: let yourself draw something quick and ugly on purpose. Is that what I’m paying for?
I quickly learned that the lessons are paramount.
As I revisit the lessons, I am struck with how parallel they are for parenting.
Let me explain.

Joe said:
Start the drawing from the inside of the form, not on the contour edge. Draw from the middle to the outside edge.
As I spend my days with children, it is so much easier to try and understand them from the inside to the outside. If you agree that the basic needs are inside, then I can ask: Have you eaten? Have you slept? Have you pooped? Yes? Then we shall get dressed and begin this day.
Is your heart happy? Are you frustrated inside because you can’t tell me what you want? Then let me hold you and reassure your heart, and then we will walk around the room until we find what you need.

Joe also said:
Don’t draw the contour of the form; instead, draw across the planes of the form to establish relationships.
The “contour” is the outer edge of anything. By drawing across the planes, you connect shape and form and sometimes value (that is, light and dark shading) from the inside to the outside.
What is parenting if it is not a daily blessing and struggle to establish relationships?
I draw across the planes, and some days it is quick and ugly. It is a gesture. Because I am practicing.

Look at the subject as much as possible and at the paper as little as possible.
This one got me in the gut. If the “subject” is a child and the “paper” is “how I think I’m doing at this parenting gig,” then I truly need to be aware of my focus.
Sometimes I do parent as if others were watching. However, parenting is hard enough without an audience.
But if I focus on my subject(s) and not on my own self-consciousness or productivity or how we look at the end of the day, then I'll be a better parent.

Joe again:
Don’t pick up your pencil.
Translation: Never give up. Even on the hardest days. Even on the easy days that still feel hard. Don’t pick up that pencil.

And finally, Joe said:
Don’t think too much.
Why am I thinking so much when I could read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? AGAIN? Why think when I could sing to High School Musical? Why think when I could shoot some hoops in the driveway? Or do Math Facts flash cards or cut up a hot dog to add to the scrambled eggs because it is Special Order Dinner night and that is always top pick?
When I think too much, I get bored while I parent and I question the value of my college degree.
When I think too much, I get in chronos time and disregard kairos time.
When I think too much, I miss when Corinne learns a new word, fake sneezes for fun and then drips slobber down my neck because she wants to hug while those molars are coming in.
When I think too much, I miss that Svea faked a stomach ache at school and that Henry wants me to play Truth or Dare and only pick Dare.
So for a little while for a tiny bit each day, I’m going to practice not thinking too much.
Ahhhh, a life in gestures….a life that is full of practice and ugly results for the sake of practice…ahhh, a life that allows such things…
I want to learn to like these gestures. Thank you, Joe, for the reminders.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Super Super Powers

Y'all can pick a super power in the poll on the left side of your screen. Let me know. You can even choose more than one. Because that's how we roll.

Day 25: Aum

Aunt Amber gave me this pendant at Christmas:

It's the Tibetan symbol for the primordial sound, the inner vibration, the ultimate connection point: Om. Most accurately pronounced, "Aum."

(How weirded out are you now?)

So I wore it and got so many compliments.
I did not recite the above sentences, and just said, "THANK YOU. My sister-in-law gave it to me." I'm not sure Alabaster is ready for vibration-energy talk yet?

I loved wearing it all day. It has a weight to it, which is different - and significant - to me. And when I would reach for things or move around as needed, the pendant would shift. It has a slight concave option on the back and it would plant itself like a stethoscope, listening to my heart.
It was a beautiful way to remind me to slooooooooooow down. Listen to my heart. Aum.

Thank you, Amber!

Day 24: Jewelry?

I found this thinga-ma-jing at the Thrift Store and thought Svea could paint it and hang her growing collection of necklaces and bracelets on it.

When I got home I couldn't find the acrylic paints.
That's worse than saying I couldn't find milk, bread, eggs, or oxygen.

So we went with stickers and Sharpie markers.


Day 23: She Looks Like A Teen Already

Day 22: Urine

Sunday, January 22, 2012

'Round Here...

Dinner conversation 'round here usually goes something like this:

Henry: If Wolverine and Superman were to get in a fight, who would win?
Me: You've already asked us that.
Henry: I KNOW but what do you think now?

Svea: And what if Scott? On the X-men? What if he DIDN'T HAVE HIS GLASSES ON? hahahahahahhhhahahaha.
Brian: Svea, you're going to fall out of your seat. Again.

Corinne: AAA. UOOOUUU. (throws fork off tray) UH-OH! Juice? Ren-ry (pointing at Henry). hahahahahahhahahahaha!
Me: Let's NOT feed the dog under the table, Corinne.

Henry: Seriously, who would WIN? You want to know what MY super powers would be? Do you?

Svea: Can I be all done? And still get a special treat? (after eating just half of her dinner, falls out of her chair for no apparent reason but is fine and not hurt.)

Henry: SSSSuuuuuuuuhhhhhh-vvvveeeeaaaaaaaaah. You are SO annoying.

Corinne: Out! (pointing to the dog. She calls Sugar "Out" because she hears us say that so often to her...)

Henry: Mom? I have nothing to do.

Brian: Do you mind if I go downstairs to my workshop for awhile?

Svea: I'm going to take a bath in your bath and turn on the JETS.

Corinne: (rubbing banana in her eyebrows)

'Night, y'all. I'm done.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Days 18-21 in 2012

Day 18:

Svea had a Daisy Girl Scout Meeting the other day (need cookies, anyone?) and she was supposed to wear her "uniform" which is khakis and a white shirt with her blue tunic over it that shouts I'M A DAISY.

So she went to her room and got dressed in her "uniform" and spent so much time getting each individual toe in its proper toe sock space, we didn't have time for me to ask her to change before the meeting started. And thank goodness she remembered to buckle her stuffed bunny into the cushioned car seat before bringing her to do crafts.

That girl...

Day 19:

Day 20:
A Zentangle Box:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 17: Svea's Secret Hideout

I took this picture in the total darkness of my room.
That's her sleeping blankets at the foot of our bed with her princess tent over her head.

When she's in there, she totally cannot hear Corinne cutting the two molars coming in down the hallway.

Something So Beautiful, Beautiful

A friend recommended this song to me months ago (thank you, Stephanie!!) and it quickly became my favorite...and Svea's favorite.

Seriously though, play this song in the background (or back browser window?) while you continue reading if you want the full experience of this moment I'm in. It's beautiful.
I've embedded it twice - shall I do it again? Yes, it's beautiful.

On the whole, this week has had so much good and so much bad that I am feeling very balanced.

The "bad" of the week includes watching loved ones suffer...more than usual. It seems that we learned of multiple friends divorcing, multiple cancer diagnoses, the pain of chemo treatments, child abuse, other abuses, and lots of poverty this week. It has my head spinning.
I tried to make a list of all that I was worried about, but instead I had to draw bubbles and write in them...and then connect the bubbles.

The "good" of the week rejoices in good health, children learning and growing, beautiful art, learning to sing new songs, a successful recipe, clean water and plenty of food, many smiling faces at the table, and good talks with dear friends.
Something so beautiful.

I don't know how to reconcile the good experiences with the bad to fit them all into my one life experience.

And tonight I'm stuck on the poor.
I'm stuck on how to define that word. Here are the three sections I'm worrying over:

In general, the majority of our current society, on a regular day - or even a bad day - can look at the poor and not care about their Story.

The majority don't realize that sometimes the difference between Us and Them is that They have never experienced Recovery. That is to say, when something terrible happens (a tree on your house, cancer, car accident you survive and are injured, car accident you don't survive - I'm referring to CRISIS) to the poor, there is no Recovering (that is, distant family with money and a place to stay, a savings account, a church family, proximity to shelter and compassion and non-judgement, a deep freeze in the basement, having a basement...).

One more thing about the majority, they never love an Addict. By addict I am including addiction to sugar, fast food, money, gambling, sex, drugs, shopping, Facebook, the Internet in general, alcohol, exercising, the illusion of control, etc.
But loving a poor addict? The mere suggestion that someone suffering has had a role in his or her current condition is a sure fire way to begin judgement, and cease compassion.

My conflict?
The poor have a Story. So does everyone.
We are all in some form of Recovery. All of us.
And it's possible, depending on your definition, we may all be Addicts. Of some sort.

Many times this week, the words of Evan Milligan have been ringing in my head, "We need to watch our Us-ing and Them-ing."
Evan used to also say, "Now that's BEAUT-iful" all the time. He would say it about people or the stars or someone's order choice at a restaurant - and he was always right.

While my brain is swimming with all of this, daily chores of the week continued, and Corinne and I went to the grocery store to score some BOGO deals. While there, we ran into some friends who just returned from adopting 2 children from China.
They adopted a girl who is not yet 2 years old, and a boy who is 11. The 11 year old was in 5th grade in China, but here...his English is at about a 2-3 year old's level and his math skills are far above our version of 5th grade math.

I tried to ask sensitive, open-ended questions, but the truth is, I didn't know what to say.
Then she said that the 11 year old got off the plane and asked, "When do I start school?"
The day I saw her was his first day of school so she still hadn't heard anything.

She said, "I sent him to school with the first three phrases he had picked up from my husband and me: Stay close to Mommy, Stay close to Daddy, and Amen."

In so many ways, in so many forms, THAT is something we all need to revisit and it is something so beautiful, beautiful.

Cliff Notes for First Grade Girls, 2012

Here's the best thing you can say or write (preferably a note written in many colors that she can keep FOREVER) to a girl in your class:

Here's the Worst Thing you can say:
"You are NOT my best friend and you are NOT invited to my birthday party."

Luckily there is no written evidence of this dagger filled, heart breaking comment since it's usually spoken very fast and involves one girl walking away quickly and one girl sobbing.

Lauren-Michael's Song

Lauren-Michael is Svea's new choir teacher and is basically amazing. Patti Griffin meets Sara Groves with a little bit of Lauren-Michael flare thrown in?

Here's her newest song.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Carpe A Couple Of Kairoses A Day"

Aunt Beth sent me this article from the Huffington Post. I hope I can carpe more kairos than chronos today, or maybe just one of each will be fine.

The scene described in Target hits a little close to home, so I got more stressed than relieved reading that. And women here most often shake their heads at me and say, "The days are long, but the years are short."

I'm in accord with this author that the sentiment is awesome and I want to BE an advice-giving Mommy someday at the top of the mountain. But her memories of parenting and my coffee-stained, sweaty armpit version of it are not in synch. And her comment is not helping me parent in the moment. There is no way to honor that disconnect without coming across as an angry, ungrateful Mommy. So I smile and wonder why this lady full of advice and encouragement won't just physically help me.

I love my job and I love my life. I have not always been able to say that so I type those words carefully and with gratitude.

And I thank this author for giving voice to the hard part in some of our days and for reminding us to view time and the experience of time differently.

My favorite part of the article was this:

There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It's regular time, it's one minute at a time, it's staring down the clock till bedtime time, it's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it's four screaming minutes in time out time, it's two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.

Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.

Like when I actually stop what I'm doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can't hear her because all I can think is -- This is the first time I've really seen Tish all day, and my God -- she is sobeautiful. Kairos.

Like when I'm stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I'm haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I'm transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I'll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world's mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.

Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.

These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don't remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.

If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.

Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.

Good enough for me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Cabbage on Day 16

I just cannot cut into a red cabbage and not take a picture of it.

(In a moment of self-awareness, I look at the sentence I typed above and wonder, "Who says that?" Twenty years ago if you had told me I would type that sentence I would have definitely asked, "What's a red cabbage?")

Grooming on Day 15

Friday, January 13, 2012

Picture for Day 14

Future journalist.
Or unemployed letter writer.
Or pianist in training.
Or spelling bee champion.

Picture a Day, 11-13

Day 11:
Crooked smiles in the driveway with a dirty tennis ball.

Day 12:
Morning reading with Daddy.

Day 13:
Random heart in the driveway. Love is all around, people.

Drawing, Detached

Drawing class began this week! Woo hoo!

We did our first drawing exercise yesterday. Pulled out the 18" x 24" drawing pad and sharpened all our pencils. Got the various charcoal sticks and nubs ready along with vinyl and kneadable erasers. We were poised and ready.

Then Joe (the prof) began to call out things to draw:
Start with a 1970's ranch style home! I want to see at least two sides of it! Add a garage!
Then he gave us a few minutes.

Add a roof! With shingles! And a chimney!
Another few minutes pass.

Wood siding on the house! And a front door! Add a doorbell!
Few more minutes pass.

Add an apple tree in the background! Give the tree huge oversized apples! Now give me birds or bees or something flying in the air!
More minutes pass...

Now I need a spaceship type of object flying into the picture. And smoke! Add smoke coming out of the chimney. Now make the smoke turn into a dinosaur!
Furious drawing and hatching and cross-hatching continue.
More minutes pass.

Then Joe says STOP. Stop drawing everyone.

We all stop. We all have charcoal somewhere it shouldn't be. We all have graphite smudges up the sides of our hands. One person might have been out of breath.

Joe says to take some charcoal and draw a big X over your drawing. Mark it out. Destroy it.

Since it was 8:30 in the morning, most people were like, Whatever.
But some groaned. Some resisted. Some refused.

Then Joe says the Important Thing:
Never become so attached to your work that you are afraid to try something new.

And I was free.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If You Came To My House...

...you might get frustrated.
Or irritated. Or annoyed.

Or it might bother you that Henry wore black dress socks with his basketball uniform tonight for his game.

Or it MIGHT bother you that when Svea makes her sandwich for her school lunch, she gets two knives: one for the peanut butter and one for the jelly. And there is still a glob of peanut butter on the outside of the jelly jar and jelly INSIDE the peanut butter jar.

Or it MIGHT bother you that you have to sit still for twenty FULL minutes and watch Corinne crawl in and out of the rocking chair over and over because THAT, my friends, is an accomplishment.

It also might bother you that when you try to feed Corinne in her high chair, she won't eat. But if you let her out of her chair and put her bowl on the floor, she'll eat all of it. Girl's just gotta be FREE.

If fact, you might be REALLY irritated that there are 4 pairs of shoes under the couch, a handful of dust bunnies, and some dog food within reach. From everywhere.

Or it might not.

If it does bother you, you need to know that when Henry wore those black socks, he also played the best game of his life tonight.

And Svea? She loves to make her own snack and school lunch. And then she reads her homework out loud. I listen from the living room and try to memorize her voice.

Corinne is so loud. How can she be so loud? And she is finally so happy. I will sit for however many minutes she needs me to as long as she is happy.

What I am also realizing is that you (one) can be irritated and happy at the same time. I'm happy irritated. Hope you are too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Picture a Day

Merpha and I decided we would pay witness to this year, 2012, by taking one picture every day. As it is January 10 now, I have 10 pictures to share.

These pictures tell the story of a trip to the library...the bare reflection of the dining room floor, free from pine needles and Christmas decorations at last...the back porch when Henry moved out of his room to live in his hammock on the screened-in porch - in January (thank you Uncle Johnnie and Aunt Amber)...Henry's former bedroom converted into a Ninja Training Room...Corinne's favorite time of day...pictures of a Ninjago lego (roughly the size of your pinkie fingernail) that Henry took...Svea and Corinne having a sister moment at Svea's desk...Corinne's headband trying to mask her growing mullet...Children of the World choir...Svea in rose-colored glasses.

I must say, the first 10 days of 2012 have been pretty awesome.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Books and Lunches

Corinne loves glasses.
And shoes.
And one page of every board book.

So we lay out all the open board books and go from one to the other...she pretends to brush teeth with the Silly Monkeys before they Jump on the Bed...then she shushes you with her finger as the Quiet Old Lady Whispering Hush...and then she growls as if eating hot sauce on the page that explains that Chocolate Sauce Is Yummy, Hot Sauce Is Yucky.
She's definitely Ivy League bound.

Svea has become a right-brained challenge for me. I have to come up with a new way to communicate with her. Like now. By the morning. By 5 minutes ago.
She is circular and loopy, clutzy and happy, distracted by loving so much, and will sing with joy spontaneously.
We've been working on her packing her own lunch. And I'm trying to give BIG categories so she can experiment and not crumple to the floor in tears at all the rules.

I found her stuffing pieces of an old biscuit into an empty spice container last night, for her to take as her snack to school. (In my defense here, I had JUST been to the store and there were SO MANY delicious and healthy options...yet she chose the stale biscuit. Crushed into a barbeque butt rub tub.)
Then tonight she made her sandwich for tomorrow's lunch and she wanted me to come see it because she made it look like George Washington.
So I went to see and she had spread grape jelly on bread and arranged yogurt covered pretzels over the bread to look like GW's face, hair and beard.
When she's all about carbs and creativity, what do I do? Seriously, I'm asking.

Henry's lunch making skills involve a lot of sneaking. He wants to see if he can get by with bread smeared with cream cheese and about 5 snack packs of cookies and chex mix. Did you tell him you ate junk everyday for lunch in high school, KB? Thanks a lot. I think he tried to sneak a can of Coke in there too.
He also thinks I can't tell when he doesn't brush his teeth.

No foolin' though, there are way more laughs than tears around here, some spotty nutrition with great intentions, lots of hugs and messes, and for that, I am grateful.