Monday, June 29, 2009

Goodbye, and Welcome...?

Hi everyone!

I'm so sad to have to do this, but I'm afraid toddlerspit is going to have to move to a new just won't return my emails, and I can't upload pictures, and...well, there you have it!

Won't you come join me at my new blog,  I have lots to post about this week, so check in over the next few days to see what's up.  I promise there will be many more parenting hijinks, self-obsessed ramblings, and craft projects.

But maybe no more lego men with penises.  That seemed to trigger this whole mess.

Cuz it's all about me.

See you over at blogger!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Off to Whidbey

Well, I'm in the airport, getting ready to head to Whidbey Island in the San Juan Islands (Washington) for an "Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace" conference.  The word "conference" should be loosely interpreted.  I think there won't be too many of us, and that there will be walks in the woods, journaling, bonfire talks, and maybe even the making of art.  We've been invited to read Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach in preparation (I'll be reading it here in a few minutes and on the plane).  The subject of the conference?  "Bringing Our Whole Selves Into our Work."

How I'm going to make it for four days without my trusty Janome, I do not know.

Not sure what to expect, but I'll let you know more when I get back.  See you Monday!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Problems with Pics or, I hate

yes, there's a problem with the pics in the last few posts.

Yes, I hate, which is constantly going down, changing my settings, and otherwise being annoying.  thanks for your patience.

Going, Going, Gone




This is pretty much what being five years old is all about, by the way.  When I came outside, Addie was singing, in a very adult, sultry voice, "Oh, baby, why don't you come near me, you're the sweetest thing I've ever had" (!?!).  Then, in the next minute, she was running around the yard making goofy faces and talking about being Queen of the Butt-Butts.  This back-and-forth is alternately terrifying and hilarious for the parent.  Oh my God, my kid is growing up!  Oh my God, my kid is never going to grow up!  So weird.

In case you were wondering:  yes I did make that dress out of pillowcases.  From the thrift store.  I did.

Nano nano

The best money I've spent in the last week was $10 at Michael's on a gajillion pipe cleaners.  They can be used for everything.  Addie is particularly happy making strange headgear:

Yes I did...

make this little dress for Nolie out of two pillow cases purchased at el thrift store:

and yes, it is particularly good for spinning:

Also, I think you'll appreciate this particular conversation we had on the way to Target yesterday:


"Yes, Nolie?"

"I have a baby in my tummy?"

"Oh, you do?  Fantastic!  Congratulations!"

"Its name is Crack!"

"Oh, really?  What an interesting name for a baby."

"It's going to come out of my BUTT!"

"Ah, yes.  The old Crack baby coming out of the butt trick.  I know it well!"

"Like a poop!"

"Yep.  I get it.  I geeet it."

Obligatory Father's Day Treacle

All of my favorite crafty-mama blogs are featuring sappy Father's day yadda-yaddas about the "amazing men" in their lives.  Barfo.

BECAUSE none could be more amazing than this hubba hubba right heyah:

I mean, HEllo.

Right?  Right?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Skeins from the Universe

There are many things that need blogging about, such as the fact that my amazing husband landed a sweet new job here; these are my absolutely all-time favorite new bath products and oh-my-god they're amazing I almost couldn't get out of the shower today for all the smellgasms and you'll all be getting these for xmas in handmade bags; and on my morning walk I saw two deer, one snake, and countless red-winged blackbirds, and the greenery was as high as my waist.  Fantastic.

But something much more urgent calls.  And that is the fact that, three minutes ago, my doorbell rang and there was my very friendly postal carrier with a package.  For me.  Unbidden.  And inside that package were seven skeins of the yummiest felting wool around, in the most gorgeous, seashore colors of blue and green.  In my head they are already the most beautiful slate-oceanwave-forestmoss gorgeousness.

The person who sent them, nameless here, could not have known that on my desk the last few days was this book, finally put away for a while because logic says one shouldn't knit wool in summer.  But I've been wanting to!  Wanting to knit that giant travel bag!  And then felt it!  Yum.  But I put it away, and promised to buy myself some yarn in the September.  But I didn't want to put it away, of course.  I wanted to do the knitting.

So, thanks, you lovely emissary of the universe, for this unexpected and thoughtful gift, and for remembering that I loved this book and the projects inside.  Sweet, sweet. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

I probably

...should not be allowed to raise children.

Firing up the Janome

I've been slowly, oh-so-slowly, learning my way around my new Janome 8077 (respect the Janome, y'all).  It's beautiful.  30 different stitches, purrs like a kitten, functions as it should.  Any errors that are made on that thing are user errors.

And I've been making them, let me tell you.  I can see the light, and all.  I can see that I will be a much better crafter/maker/do-er on this machine than I was on the other one, which just limited what I could do in lots of ways, and created so many problems with stitches and the like.  But I'm muddling through figuring it all out right now, still--how the tensioner works, which stitch lengths are happiest with which fabrics and which stitch types, how many reverse stitches I need to do.  All that jazz.

That big old learning curve has led to some pretty funny projects.  I don't think my Dad is on the blog these days (my mom just had her surgery, which seems to have gone okay.  But I think he's going to be busy with that for a while).  So I feel comfortable posting his Father's Day gift here.  He is, after all, the person who bought the Janome for me (facilitated by my brother, smooches, smooches to him).  I got the idea from Etsy and then executed it like a fingerless numbskull.  It really should have been hand-sewn to avoid slippage with the felt squares on the fleece backing, but I was too excited to use the machine, and so I used it, and then the squares on the board ended up all wonky. 

But three things I like:  first, the gray rectangle over the board is actually a pouch stitched to the side seam, and can be flipped over to play.  It holds all the checkers. 

Second, the whole thing folds up into this neat little bundle. 

Handy, eh?  Cute, eh?

And finally, the pieces, which are little pieces of double-layered stitched felt, are adorable.  Like little baseballs.  Or mod candy.  Yum. 

Anyway, I'm not sure how often my Dad plays checkers, but as my other Dad (my biological Dad) says, honey, there's nothing I need, and plenty I want, but nothing you can afford.  Just send a card.

So, consider this my wonky, stitched card.  There's big love behind it, and every time I sit down to my machine I think of my Dad.  I'm pretty sure he knows that, and he can kick my butt at Checkers next time I'm home.  Cool.

The Noles, The Noles

A few things you should know about Nolie:

1.  She goes by many names, including but not limited to Sarah, Sajinka, Cucumber Pinka, and Beastie.  Most of these she has given herself.  Can you guess which ones we chose for her?

2.  She has an imaginary friend named Tutu.  He is often cranky, sad, or sick.  And he is tiny and fits in the palm of her hand.

3.  She has an imaginary horse named Horseable Pear.  He is frequently naughty.

4.  Her best friend, I think, might be Owen.  At least, he really likes Nolie.

How cute is this?  I mean, please.

A post on Addie approacheth.  I promise.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A rare bout of insomnia tonight.  Usually I sleep like I'm in a coma.  But a migraine hit at around 3pm today, and I had to sleep it off, and now my mind is going and going, daydreaming and scheming.  I only get migraines once or twice a year, and I can always tell they're coming on because my vision gets all screwy--like lines of static going across my eyes.  Except now I think of them as zig-zag stitches.  So I just laid down and took a rest and a snooze and when I woke up was starving and head-achey but better.

Now it's midnight I'm thinking about these things:  the new art space Eric and I created for the girls today.

The best part of the day was sitting in the easy chair with my coffee, watching the two of them paint.

Also, lots of hows going through my mind tonight:

How to design a logo.

How to build a website.

How my mom is doing.  She's in the hospital, recovering from her third knee surgery.  On the same knee.

How to refashion the two vintage gowns in my closet.

And, how to get back to sleep.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Clam and Corn Fritters

Dear Jeff and Jodie,

I'm writing today for two reasons.  The first is to tell you how much I've enjoyed your book, The Working Parents' Cookbook.  Over the last five years or so, I've been excited to learn how to cook, and my husband and I like preparing fresh, yummy meals together.  We've liked a lot of the recipes from your book, and sometimes I just use it as inspiration to make up my own dishes, which is great.  We both work and have two little girls, so I also appreciate that many of your recipes are low-maintenance and tasy.

The second reason I'm writing has to do with that recipe in your book for "Clam and Corn Fritters."  We don't eat a lot of deep-fat-fried food in our family.  Almost none, really.  As a matter of fact, I once gave up fried food for a year, and didn't really miss it at all!  But you know, every once in a while, I do get a hankering for that crunchy itch that only deep-fat-frying can scratch.  And in the summer time, what's not to love about recipes calling for fresh corn?  Yum!  I like to use organic--it's so sweet and tasty, and good for the environment, too.  Plus, my husband got laid off, so we're trying some fun new recipes from home since we can't afford to eat out.  Clam and corn fritters, here we come!

Your recipe called for about two inches' worth of canola oil in a pan or skillet.  Heat up that oil on high heat until it's bubbling a little, and then turn it down to medium heat and throw that fritter dough in there.  It browns for a minute or two, flip it for another minute or two, and eat your heart out!  Prep time only 15 minutes, cooking time only 10.  Fantastic!

Of course, I might have made a few changes to the recipe, knowing what I know now.  For instance, I might have said something like, "If you put the skillet on high heat and the oil doesn't really bubble but just starts to smoke, and then all of your smoke alarms start going off in the house, and then your five-year-old who is TERRIFIED, just terrified, of smoke alarms and anything having to do with fire is around and starts screaming and holding her hands over her ears, and maybe pees her pants a little, then you should gently usher your children out to the backyard, calmly remove the batteries from the smoke alarms, and, donning a protective rubber suit, turn off the heat on the burner and let the oil cool."

"Furthermore, it is not recommended to disregard the signals the smoking oil and alarms and screaming children are sending you, and simply throw the fritter batter in the pan anyway.  If you do this--not that you would, you're much too smart for that--the fritter batter, which contains kernels of corn, will sputter and explode and eventually self-combust into flame.  Lord, it's like deep-fat-fried popcorn dynamite!"  I'd probably modify the recipe to say something like this, though I bet you could do it much more stylishly, in that mod way you have of writing.  My bet is you guys are really cool people, in person.  You definitely are in the cookbook.

Also, Jeff and Jodie, you might warn people to keep a fire extinguisher and some aloe vera lotion on hand.  Not that I needed either, really, until this morning.  The pain held off for a while, perhaps because I was in shock.  I don't remember much after the fritters exploded into flame, but I do have a faint recollection of cowering in the corner of the kitchen while my husband hopped about, avoiding exploding corn fritters and hot oil splatters, trying to reach the knob to turn the stove off.  He tells me now that he next mistakenly tried to move the skillet off of the stove and on to the counter, where it immediately bonded to the Corian, which is now blistered and scarred.  Then, after a few minutes, he moved the skillet back to the stove. Some of that Corian was still moist, apparently, from the burning, because the skillet then affixed itself to the element on the stove, via the Corian glue.  I'm crafty, so I'm thinking about how to turn the whole thing into an art project.  Please let me know if you have any ideas.

We've been wanting new counters and a new stove anyway, so no worries. 

BUT, if I were to rewrite that recipe, knowing what I know now, I might advise that folks trying out deep-fat-frying for the first time use a big old stewpot, not a skillet.  I would advise that some stoves run hotter than others, and that smoking oil means things are running real hot.  Turn that mother down, yo!  I would also advise that folks put in one test fritter, before throwing a bunch in, just to see how far that corn is going to pop, so they can protect themselves accordingly.  I take total responsibility for being a deep-fat-frying moron, so not to worry.  But maybe a little more information on "Clam and Corn Fritter" making might help others in the future, who find themselves in a similar predicament.

After all was said and done, the fritters that weren't destroyed in the melee turned out to taste pretty good.  At least, that's what my husband Eric said.  I was too traumatized to register eating them, though he swears I did.  And we still haven't found our children, after they ran out of the house.  But not to worry, I'm sure they'll be back soon.

Best of luck with your next cookbook, and I'll send pics of the kitchen remodel when it's done,

Monday, June 8, 2009

On and Onward

Things are coming to a head this week, it seems.  Our refinance finally closes tomorrow.  It was being held hostage in U.S. Bank's underwriting department for what seemed like forever! (When I picture underwriting departments at banks nowadays, I imagine something like a war zone, with accountants and bankers sweating profusely, thin and worn, fighting their way through mountains of paperwork created by the recession.  But perhaps this is incorrect.  Perhaps they're lolling about, pretending to be busy and delaying our paperwork, laughing maniacally).  We have a reasonable mortgage payment anyway, but the refinance will make it much easier for us to carry the house on my salary alone, should things end up that way.

Also, Eric expects to receive his two-week notice today.  I'm relieved for him--it's been so hard to go in to a place where you feel you're not wanted or valued, and to show up every day, only to have to leave because there is no work for you.  Pretty awful, and he's been remarkably calm and good-natured through all of it.  He's also supposed to hear on the job he interviewed for almost a month ago.  It seems there was a lot of competition for it, so we'll see.  I'm not convinced it's the perfect job, but there would be lots to speak for E getting the offer now. 

As for me, I'm back at work most days, working on the Engineering and Sustainable Community Development textbook.  We got a book contract with a small publisher, and just received a National Science Foundation grant to pursue the work on Engineering and Social Justice for the next three years.  So this summer, work-wise, is about finishing that book, trying to get a good chunk of an article done, and prepping for some new teaching assignments in the fall. 

But there's also lots of time for sitting in the backyard, perusing yard sales, talking walks, and making home-made ice cream (LOTS of home-made ice cream).  I hope we also get to take some "stay-cations"--some little over-nighters to various parts of Colorado we haven't seen yet.  And maybe a road trip to Idaho is in the works.

It is odd, to be in a sort of limbo-space with Eric's job, and at the same time to find such pleasure in our everyday rhythms and activities.  Occasionally I find myself hanging out, a little blob of fear, in the limbo.  But the sweetness of the day always calls me back.  For that, huge gratitude.

Lord Help Me Ice Cream At Home

HOW COME nobody every told me you could easily make your own ice cream at home?  Huh?  HUH?  We get our Blue Yonder Book of Days for June, and there's a recipe for "freezer ice cream":

Take a quart of strawberries (or other fruit), a can of sweetened condensed milk, and two can-fulls (using the condensed milk can) of regular milk.  Put in blender until smooth.  Stick in a cake pan in the freezer for 2 hours, scraping the solids to one side every half-hour.  After 2 hours, voila!  Delicious strawberry ice cream!  No need for fancy mixers or balls (balls again!) or churns. 

I'm freaking out.

You have to understand, I eat a bowl of ice cream every day.  EVERY DAY.  I know that's shocking for some.  I meet people (much thinner than I, usually) who say, oh, I allow myself one little bite of chocolate on Sundays, as a treat, and I am like, huh?  I usually have that before breakfast every day.  So the idea that I could make my own ice cream at home?  Amazing.  And also grating.  Think how much money I've spent on ice cream over the course of a lifetime!  Think how many times I've had to make an emergency run to Dairy Queen!  My God!  And all I needed was some fruit and milk.  Lord.  The revelation.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Just Playing

Whoa!  Heady few days.  I've been working on a few projects, and I'll try to get pictures taken and post them here.  The girls were back at school this week, and we've been taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather.  So things have been a whirlwind.  A self-imposed, domestic, wonderful whirlwind, but without much time for reflection.

Anyway, I have been giving some thought to this whole Upcycle thing (thank you for the amazingly supportive comments, by the way.  And of course, for the new machine!).  I think I'm not quite totally 100% ready to dive into the whole business thing.  I'm dipping my toes in.  I'm playing, pretending, dreaming, experimenting.  After all, I do have this whole other full-time job, and kids, and a busy social life, and a garden, and a body that needs to walk and run and stretch now and then.  Though, to be honest, the thing I want to do most, every day, is sit at my sewing machine.  It's become a bit of an obsession.

I'm trying to respect these impulses, then, by imagining where they might take me.  And though I'm not ready to start it yet, if I was going to start a business--which I'm tentatively calling JDS Upcycle--it might look something like this:

I envision a business in which you could bring in good, serviceable clothing, material, or linens, and JDS would turn that clothing into even better clothing or gifts.  The idea is not so much to make clothes from scratch, though JDS could do some of that, or to do alterations, though JDS would certainly alter clothes!  Rather, it would be to take clothes that sit in the back of your closet because they don't fit quite right, or have sentimental value but aren't stylish anymore, or they just need an update, and to turn that clothing into something you want to wear first, something you can't wait to take off the hanger.  So, the idea is not to recycle clothes, but to upcycle them:  to take something that was on its way to a thrift store or the trash can, and to make it something you really want to wear, something that could have come out of Anthropologie or a boutique. 

The idea behind upcycling comes from a book called Cradle to Cradle, which suggests we should no longer design things so that they can be recycled, but rather design things that can be upcycled, that become better as their design life unfolds.  JDS adapts this idea by suggesting that, rather than constantly cycling clothes in and out of our closets, we can look good by remaking the clothes we have in some simple ways.

Okay.  That was hard to write.  Lots of doubts and self-talk coming at me every moment there (like, who am I to say what's fashionable?  What if I mess someone's clothes up?  What if someone doesn't like Antrhopologie?  For Heaven's sake.  I'm just pretending.  I'm just playing.)

I'm just playing.  Give me a break already (not you, TS readers.  Me.  Ima gonna give myself a break.  Right now).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Best Evaluation Comment Ever

I finally got my student evaluations back from the "Introduction to Film Studies" class I taught this spring.  It's a really fun class to teach, and is finally developed enough that it runs pretty well on its own, so that I can try some risky things in it--like getting the students to do improv games at the beginning of every class, or having them make their own student films--without things getting too out of hand.  What I'm saying is there's a good underlying structure there, so I can flip some gravy all over the top without the whole thing turning to mush.

Of course, it's a film class, so most students sign up thinking they're going to just "watch movies" all semester.  They're graduating seniors, and so when they find out there's a bunch of reading and writing involved, they're inclined to complain a bit.  So, my evaluations usually look something like this: "This was a fun class, I learned a lot, but there was too much work, and please don't make us watch 8 1/2 ever again."  For me, this confirms I'm doing my job.  I'm challenging them but keeping them engaged.

There is the occasional angry or angsty eval, of course ("please don't show movies that offend people").  Much more interesting, however, is when I get evals that don't seem to be for my course ("the equations in this class were really difficult to solve") or are about me personally ("I really like that cute skirt you wore, with the flowers, but your voice is really annoying").

Best of all, I think, is this comment, just received on the most recent round of evals.  It's in the hall of fame, for sure:

This class was one big funky medicine ball from outer space. Word to your mutha!

Amen to that, my friend.  Amen to that.  If that doesn't get me tenure, I don't know what will.

Messages from the Universe (Really)

The universe emailed me this morning (did you get yours?), and this is what it said:

The baby steps in the beginning of a journey, Jen, always seem inadequate compared to the brilliance of the dream that inspired them. This is natural. If the dream wasn't so far "out there" and dazzling, it wouldn't be worth dreaming! Just don't be led to think that the physical ground you cover with your baby steps is all that they accomplish. Because for every mortal step you take, another cog in a giant wheel behind the curtains of time and space advances, and with it, 10,000 new possibilities.

Better than Star Trek,
    The Universe

Coincidence?  I think not!  I mean, if this guy can make a sweet living sending out emails from the universe, why can't I make some spare change refashioning people's clothing?  I mean, WHY NOT?

Mission and vision statement to come.  And my brother just put my brand new, electronic, hot-dang, bells-and-whistles sewing machine in the mail, courtesy of my Dad, on its way to me.  What could be better than that?

Grosgrain Giveaway

Well, aren't these the prettiest dresses.  Maybe I will be able to make one when my NEW SEWING MACHINE arrives!!!  WhEEEEEEEee!

Shabby Apple Dress Giveaway...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Maybe Kinda Sorta

I'm taking another class at unchurch, this one called "Breakthroughs."  There's some cheesy parts to it (like, at the beginning, we all stand up, our hands in the air, and yell things like "I AM the breakthrough."  Lord.  It's almost too much to take.  But I suspend my cynicism, I suspend it, because the whole fucking class WORKS). 

Anyway, I didn't really have a "breakthrough" I was trying to achieve or anything--I just really like taking classes there.  I feel better generally, and learn tons and tons.

Except, now I am having a breakthrough.  Maybe.  But I'm kind of scared to talk about it.  Can I let it tentatively leak here?  Will you promise not to laugh?  Because, the thing is, I've been given permission to have my breakthrough look sort of ugly and funny at first.  I've been given permission to make lots of mistakes, but to be bold anyway. breakthrough is that I might, kind of, sort of, want to do something with this whole sewing thing.

(Yikes!  Did that make it real?  Or did I hedge enough so that I don't really have to commit yet?).

I don't know if I want it to be a business, or what.  But last week's class was about putting down some "action items" for achieving our dream (which I'm only barely acknowledging, see?).  And one of my action items was that I really need a new sewing machine and the universe should deliver me one.  And also I need some sewing classes so I can master some harder things.  And maybe write a vision and mission for this, this thing that is a tiny little speck of a germ in my brain.

I mean, you've seen some of the stuff I've been doing.  It's ugly, like birthing baby animals or something, all covered in goop and hay.  But I see things there, like things that could be real at some point.  Things I think could be beautiful.  Like, I could see taking people's clothes they think they don't want anymore and remaking them into something they would want to wear again, that's personal and unique and that doesn't send stuff to the landfill or the thrift store, you know?  I can see things built from things that would otherwise be trash, but now are art, or of use.  You know? 

Upcycling.  That's what I'm talking about.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Mission and vision come later in the week.

For NOW the news is this:  a new sewing machine IS on its way to me (thank you, thank you, J.B.!).  There are sewing classes at the fabric store near me, for $1.00, starting in July.  Miracles!  And I'll post a vision and mission here for vetting in the coming days, okay?


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bravo Grande

Please forgive this post.  It contains more juvenile references to balls.  We can't seem to help ourselves.

Some great friends of ours gave Addie Sea Monkeys for her birthday a few months back.  In case you don't know (I didn't) sea monkeys are basically brine shrimp, which you can grow from dry eggs in a miniature aquarium.  They are very tiny at first--you need to use a magnifying glass to see them--but they quickly grow to be the size of, oh, I don't know, cut fingernails (ew).  Addie was very excited about the whole process:  the sterilization of the water, the growing of the eggs, the feeding of the shrimp.  She would frequently monitor the progress of the shrimp throughout the day.

Of course, Addie has spaghetti arms like her mama (and is about as graceful) and so accidentally knocked our new sea monkey friends all over the floor one morning.  Big, big tears.  Like good, dutiful, indulgent parents, we ordered her another packet of the monkeys.

Everything has gone swimmingly so far.  Except, unlike the first batch, the second batch contained one particularly ambitious little shrimp, who is now a big shrimp, because he ate all of his little brine shrimp buddies.  So, instead of sea monkeys, we have sea monkey.  Introducing, Grande:

It's not easy to photograph a floating clipped fingernail, by the way.  Kudos to Eric for capturing this shot of Grande, in all of his briny glory.

What you probably can't see is that Grande is distinguished not just by his size and appetite but by the fact that he appears to have a sizable, remarkable, slightly revolting set of cojones.  Balls.  Brine shrimp nuggets.  Meat sacks.

I mean, we know they're probably not balls.  What would a brine shrimp do with balls?  Maybe they're fins, or nubbins that will someday grow into legs (yay, evolution!).  Or decorative nodules.  But, to us, they look like balls.

In any case, let this be an introduction to our newest family member.  Eric is particularly excited you're here, little buddy, as now there is another male (we think) in the house.  Welcome, Grande.

Monday, June 1, 2009

RAGBALLS! and Rain

It's the last day the girls are home before summer camp begins.  Addie will be in the kindergarten room and Nolie in preschool, starting tomorrow.  And I'll be back at work.

It's raining today, and tomorrow is supposed to be downright cold, with a high maybe topping out at 60, but probably not.  The bunnies and gardens and trees are loving it:

Can you see the little guy in there, chomping on my flowers?

Lonely soccer ball.  Wanting to be kicked.  But I can't seem to get the girls out of their jammies this morning.  It smells like pancakes and syrup and coffee in the house, and the girls are hunkered down in their "fort"--the crawlspace under the stairs--having adventures.  I've decided not to disturb them. 

For my part, I'm experimenting with some woven/tied structures, inspired by a book I picked up at the library, Three-Dimensional Embroidery.  I know, the title is super-boring.  But I think the work in there is gorgeous.  Lots of fabric and wire and strange, nature-inspired shapes.  I'm practicing building some little fabric nests.  This is not a great picture, but it's little ragballs (Eric and I have had a field day joking about ragballs, believe me) tied together with wire:

I've hung this one on the wall, so you have to imagine it as sort of bowl shaped, rather than 2-dimensional, like it looks here.  It's about the size of a cereal bowl.

Here's the next one, done by winding jute with scraps and thread:

I think it will be bigger, like a big bowl.  Then I'm going to work on some irregular stuff.  Just playing.  But be careful if you come over here.  If you sit still long enough, you'll leave with applique or ragballs affixed to some part of your person.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Not Always Shangri-La

I just looked over the last couple of posts and realize I'm making things sound like Shangri-La around here, with my kids being little nature freaks and me quietly sewing in a corner, humming.  Don't get me wrong--there actually is plenty of that.  But also, there are tensions.  Eric is struggling, for sure, with the work stuff.  I have my moments of fear and uncertainty. 

And then there is Nolie, fiercest two-year-old in the West.  Statistics:

Height:  3 feet
Weight:  35 pounds, solid like a linebacker.  Likes to jump on groins
Hair:  brown, tangled
Eyes:  Brown, mischievous
Wanted for:  Screaming "no," whenever possible.  Forcing you to call her "princess" or "cucumber pinka" at will.  Wanting to be carried everywhere.  Refusing to eat at meal times, but crying that she is hungry all day long.  Limp noodle tantrums.  Screaming "you are NOT my best mommy" as loud as she can.

Summary:  Major pain in the butt.  It's been a while since I've described my kids as "annoying," but that is exactly what Nolie is right now.  Majorly, totally, capital-A annoying.  I mean, also totally adorable, charming, yummy.  But mostly ANNOYING.

Just to keep the record straight.

In Praise of the Mini-Vacay

The girls have been home from school all week, which in the past has filled me with a sense of dread.  Not because I don't like my kids, but because I used to really struggle with the transition from full-speed-ahead at work to full-speed-ahead at home.  I've worked a lot on this in the last year, and it's much easier for me to turn off the work stuff when I'm at home and fully be in mom mode.  The transition period is still there, but it doesn't last as long.  And the girls are older now, and so it just gets easier and easier all the time.  Props to all the moms with the wee babes and toddlers right now--it's precious time, and also the hardest.

Anyway, because we are in a bit of a financial transition, we've cut back quite a bit on our spending, and are now looking for things to do that are inexpensive and fun.  We've never been big on fancy vacations, anyway, but I think the fact that we can't travel this summer could have caused us to feel deprived.

Instead, we made the decision to make every day this week a "mini-vacation."  We have allowed ourselves to spend a little money every day (always under $20) but do something fun, too.  We've hit the Butterfly Pavilion, an indoor miniature rain forest with dozens of species of butterflies fluttering all around (and cages of oogy bugs, like South American cockroaches and tarantulas!).  Friends had a free pass to the Railroad Museum, where the kids climbed on antique train cars and picnicked in the grass.  Other firends got us into the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  We've gone for ice cream, and spent the day at a tiny lake beach ten minutes from our house:

The water was cold, but Nolie kept running in and doing this happy dance that Eric thinks is like Mick Jagger but which reminds me more of Steve Martin in The Jerk:

Eric's making a music video, which I'll post later, and we'll let you decide.

We're supposed to cat-sit for some friends on a real vacation, but Addie and I decided to crash their pad last night, eat their snacks, drink their tea, and watch their cable, which was fun.  Of course, we loved up their kitties in return.  Addie was very, very stoked.  And I got to have coffee at my favorite coffee shop in the old neighborhood this morning, so that was excellent.  Mini-vacation, right? 

And don't forget about what's in our own backyard.  The family of bunnies living under our deck come out every morning and evening to forage in the grass.

Today, I'm hoping we can head to the little mountain town of Evergreen, maybe for a picnic at the lake and some fresh mountain air.  Colorado is insanely green and beautiful right now, and we know everything will be brown and dry soon, so we want to enjoy the unreal green now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Marrying Adam

"Addie's going to marry Adam," Eric tells me over dinner last night.

"Who's Adam?" I ask.

"I'm going to marry Adam!" says Addie, giggling.

"Who's Adam?" I ask again.

"He chases me around the playground, trying to kiss me.  He says to me, 'You are just SO beautiful!'  I am going to marry him.  Even though Sadie and Zoe say, 'Don't marry him!  Don't marry him!' I am going to.  I am!"

More coy giggling.  Is that what it is?  Coy giggling?  From my five-year-old?  It is, though.  All self-aware and grown-up sounding.  And excited.  It's eerie.  It gives me chills, in fact. 

"Well," I swallow.  "You have plenty of time to make that decision.  You get to live with mom and dad for a long time first."

"No!  I'm going to marry Adam!  I really am!"

"Okay, okay, Addie!"


"Are you going to go live with him, or will he be joining us?"



I give up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Things and things

Some of you read this blog just to find out what's going on with things, so here's a quick summary of recent events:

1)  Eric had a really good interview with a small company in Boulder ten days ago, but we haven't heard anything yet.  We're expecting good news soon.

2)  Everything appears to be moving forward with the refinance on the house (we appraised above what we bought for, miracle of all miracles), except that underwriting at US Bank is so swamped we've been given a fifteen-day extension to close.  We're expecting good news soon.

3)  Nolie graduates from the "toddler house" this Friday at noon, and will officially start preschool in June.  Heavens.  Cucumber Pinka grows up.  Good news, too soon :).

Doing So-Sew

I took some half-days off last week (okay, I took, like five half-days off, so technically the whole week).  I'd check email in the morning, flesh out a to-do list, maybe work on a revision a little, read a little.  Then I'd go nuts in the sewing room, cutting apart t-shirts and applique-ing everything not moving.  I spent an afternoon on a friend's back porch, sunning myself.  It was great.

And at the same time, there was some nagging guilt, quiet but persistent, about not getting started on the several major projects I have to make time on this summer:  the article, the article revisions, the book revisions, the class preps.  Time's a wasting, that little nagging voice would whisper.

Fuck off, I would whisper back.  I'm sewing, you.

Then I was reading one of my many books last night, which some of you folks might classify as "self-help" but which I think of a spiritual ballast, and came across this idea.  Make time, plenty of time, to do what you really want to do.  Then do it wholeheartedly.  Then, when you have to do things that maybe you aren't so passionate about, you won't find yourself wishing you were somewhere else.  You can devote yourself totally to the task of the moment.

I was applying it this way:  I should just schedule in a few hours every day to work on projects I really want to do, and then I won't resent having to work because I will have given myself that time.  I might even enjoy work more!  Weird, isn't?  Work less, but work better!  Play more, and play better!

I like it.

So, this week, I'm working, supposedly full-time.  But on my list everyday is written "time for sewing" or "talk a fancy nature walk" or something like that.  And it's just as important as the other stuff, and I give myself over to it, guilt-free.  That's the plan, anyway.  So, I may not get 40 hours a week done--I'm deciding that doesn't matter.  What matters is to do whole, focused work everyday, and whole, focused play.  And have faith things will fall into place anyway.

See full size image

I'm also putting it out to the universe that I need a new sewing machine.  I have an old Singer (like 1972 old), bought used for thirty bucks from Craig's List.  It's moderately reliable, but when it decides not to work anymore, it just doesn't work anymore.  And, dare I say it, I'd like something with a few more bells and whistles.  Not a Rolls-Royce, necessarily, but a good Toyota.  Just inviting the universe to bring that into my life, one of these days.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What are poets for?

This popped in my inbox the other day, as part of the Poem-A-Day program from  "Write a poem" is one of the items in my joy jar.  I haven't pulled it yet, but am anticipating it with excitement.  I haven't written a poem since Addie was a baby and will be glad to have permission to do it again.  Anyway, this one struck me, and I keep re-reading it, over and over again:

Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames] by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

Nakey-Nakey Kung Fu Dance Class

Does it seem weird to you that my girls' favorite thing to do in the evenings, after bath, is to run around the house naked, having a "naked kung fu dance class"?  This involves their naked little bodies slithering and jumping around, booties out, arms and legs whacking at the air like broken windmills, while they scream "HI-YA!" and "nakey-nakey!" at each other.  Does that seem weird?

Does it also seem weird that their second favorite thing to do in the evenings, after bath, is to run around the house naked, with their underwear on their heads?  Like drunken sorority girls?  And, sometimes, they put the underwear on their head in such a way that they can't see, and then run into walls, with underwear on their head?

Does it seem strange that Nolie jumps out at me from nowhere, several times a day, and screams, "I AM CUCUMBER PINKA!  SAY 'PLEASE' TO CUCUMBER PINKA!" 

Does that seem weird?

Does it?

Monday, May 11, 2009

What's Up

I was going to write a post yesterday about how the girls brought me breakfast in bed, and I got to spend a portion of the day sewing and going to the church and to the bookstore for my mother's day treat.  I was also going to write about how grateful I was to have a conversation with my mom yesterday morning, how it is not even remotely lost on me what a privilege that is after we came so close to losing each other last year.

But, instead, I'm inspired by the blogs of the members of my tribe, all the crafty mamas out there sewing their asses off and creating sacred and nurturing spaces for their little ones, who can laugh and create and think big.  Here's what has been up around here lately:

We've been in this house for two years now and are finally starting to make some progress in the garden.  Here's our new bed (made with rocks from the many oogy rock gardens scattered all around the house), with our new seedlings nestled in.  Who knows what will make it in there?  But it's fun turning our own compost and growing things from seeds in our kitchen and seeing what might produce for us this summer.  We're lucky that our backyard already had some great things going on, like flowering fruit trees, lilacs, and tulip bulbs:

The last five weekends or so have been cloudy, rainy, or cold, but the weekdays have been beautiful.  Here's the fairy house Addie and Nolie and I worked on last Monday after school, while Eric was at racquetball:

Our insides have been getting a bit of a makeover, too.  Eric's home a lot right now, and has been doing some great projects around the house, like painting Addie's room, and hanging blinds we found at the thrift store, so that her room stays cool in the summer but we can still see the glorious trees in the backyard.  Translation:  me handing Eric the paintbrush (wha...?) and then hauling crap out of Addie's room.  "Guess what?  You're painting today!"  I'm SO glad to be rid of that freaking acoustic popcorn on the ceiling.

Here's a close-up of the stencil I did on the wall (free-handed onto poster board from a design in this great book of stencils):

Addie wants a mermaid on the other wall, which may be beyond my capabilities.  We'll see.

Lots of sewing and crafting going on, too.  I made this bunny out of some of gram's vintage sweaters from this free pattern:

My friend Ashley is having a baby boy--for her baby shower, she got five of these, all in different fabrics and colors, strung on one long ribbon, as a mobile, or wall hanging, or baby toy.  I made my first sale for another one to a mom at the shower, which was pretty exciting.  And a little uncomfortable.  More on that later, maybe.

Here's a silk scarf for my friend Ellen, who has been clean and sober for one year:

Toni brought me a pair of her mom's old shorts (I don't know--25 or 30 years old?) and asked me to make something from them.  I put together a little beach bag, and this picture ("Shark Love") and pillow, made from the shark print on the shorts:

When Addie was home sick one day last week, we worked on this project, suggested by Soule Mama:  A Princess and the Pea activity bag, drawn and sewn with Addie's big-girl help.

And, finally, we've been celebrating cinco de mayo for days now, making Mexican wedding cookies, agua frescas, and these beautiful little luminarias, out of aluminum baking tins from the grocery store:

Thanks to Dandelion Bones for cluing me in to the Book of Days, which is an awesome way to organize crafts and activities and adventures with your kids.  You're a huge inspiration :).

I've been making some great clothes from pillow cases, but won't scare you off with any more pictures.  I was at the thrift store this morning, finding big t-shirts to repurpose into a skirt for Nanny, so that and the bunny mobile order are up next.  It's been an awesome, lovely spring, and I am so excited for the coming days, where the weather is fine and the pace a little slower.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I take it back.  I'm a three.

But you knew that.

Triggering Six

Eric's been getting lots of good feedback lately.  He has a contact at a local lab who gave him positive encouragement about his skill set, for example, and told him to keep applying there for work, which is great. Eric's soon-to-be-former employer has been arranging resume workshops and opportunities for laid-off employees (euphemistically referred to as "at risk") to meet with hiring managers from the huge company's subsidiaries all over the country.  One of those subsidiaries, in Seattle, drooled all over him at the meeting yesterday.  E also has a former colleague and friend who lives in Florida.  He can have a job there anytime, the friend says.

I think I'm hanging in with all of these big changes pretty well at the moment, but the idea of moving, or worse, of Eric having to commute to another state, away from us, tears me to pieces.  I'm so proud of him, on the one hand:  he's skilled, accomplished, and well-respected.  He deserves to have a good job he enjoys and that pays him well.  On the other hand, I'd rather he scrub toilets at the Flying J (a job I once had, believe it or not) than tear our family up in a commuting arrangement.  I know other people do it, but I sure don't want to be one of them, if I can help it.

I'm only slightly more ambivalent about moving.  It has taken years for us to develop our friendships here, and they're the strongest I've ever had.  I love Colorado.  I love our house.  And, most of the time, I enjoy my work, and feel at home here.  The academic job market is worse than sour, and relocating will be difficult.  I know, if it comes down to it, I'll find the silver lining and eventually get excited about starting over with a new adventure.  But right now I've got my heels dug in and don't want to go anywhere.

So, I spent hours on big, uncontrollable sobs last night that probably had a lot to do with a bunch of things (including the impending monthly visit of my lady friend), and maybe had a lot to do with my position on the Enneagram, according to my friend Ellen:

Apparently, I'm a 6, a "loyalist," and our main motivation in life is to avoid, evade, or escape abandonment (at our best we are centered, loyal, productive friends).  Perhaps the thought of Eric leaving is triggering that?

Or maybe it would just suck donkeys, and I know it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Award Update

The guy who DID win has been teaching at the school since the year I was born (or so), and has a list of accomplishments a mile long.

I did NOT win, unfortunately, but am not too upset, now that it's all done with.  The anxiety was much worse than the result, and the competition, I see now, was stiff.  In fact, I'm not sure how I even got nominated.  I was so worried that not winning would be seen as some sort of statement about my choice of calling, or my abilities, or something.  Lesson:  I was only one of three people in the room who knew I got nominated, and so I'm the one who was making statements.  In my head.

Love when I get myself all fired up.

Weighty Waiting

I am insufferable right now.  InSUFFERable.  And I know it.  You poor things, all six of you readers, all of a sudden reading a flurry of posts right now because now, the last few days, I have entered a manic crafting-writing-creating phase.  I've made a new skirt, a shirt, crocheted a bowl (from pillow case scraps), made a dragonfly necklace, and some other crap I've probably forgotten about.  All from stuff in my overflowing craft closet.  And then I redesigned the blog and am posting and have actually been on Facebook recently and drawing with Addie and that stuff. 

I love all this, I do, and I get a lot of pleasure from it.  But I'm a little, no A LOT, obsessed with it right now, I can feel it (I felt this way in December, too, at the end of the last semester).

It's not that I'm entering a period of not knowing what to do with myself.  I have plenty to do this summer (and please don't ask me what I do with my "summers off" the way everyone else does.  Puh-lease).  My dance-card is fuh-uh-uh-ull.  Same with fall.

I don't think it's our current state of economic uncertainty ("our" meaning our family).  Maybe I'm deluding myself, but I feel okay about that.

It's that I feel like I'm waiting for something.  For an important email.  Magically appearing money.  High honors.  I'm clicking send/receive on my email button every five minutes.  Racing to the mailbox.  Checking my phone.  I'm up for that teaching award--which has a nice cash prize--today.  It's freaking me out (the mental machinations of THAT are for another post).  But I don't know.  It's a weird sort of anxiety, and not even laying down on my office floor and breathing big breaths is making it go away.  Maybe I need to just go into it or something.

My meditations lately have been centered around the themes "pride," "humility," and "shame." 

You make the connections.  I can't bear to.

This little piggy...

Addie and I have been reading a chapter of Charlotte's Web every night.  For those of you who haven't been in fourth grade for a while, that's the book about the little girl Fern who raises a baby pig, Wilbur.  Wilbur ends up befriending a spider, Charlotte, who saves Wilbur from the slaughter by weaving descriptions of Wilbur into her web ("some pig"; "terrific"; and "humble").  It's a nice book.  A book that's not too dark or scary but that deals with the fact of death.  The whole circle of life thing.  You know.

Anyway, a colleague at another university has been posting about the swine flu, and wondering about the impact of large-scale farming on the spread of animal-to-human diseases.  He posted this video on his blog today:

I try not to be one of those bloggers, posting every YouTube thing out there.  But this is pretty much horrible.  Next time I feel like being a bad vegetarian and having just a little bite of bacon, I'll try to remember this.  And think of Wilbur.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beekeeping and Such

Addie and I were on the way home from ballet today when I needed to pull over and get gas.  She wanted to get out with me and see how the pump and stuff worked, and I let her (relax, now, I gave all of the requisite stern warnings and such).  She asked about the changing numbers on the pump, and I told her one tells us how much money we have to pay and the other how many gallons of gas go in the car.

Back on the road, I thought I'd be all smarty-pants-Mom and ask her about what other things in our life cost money.  Not that that's been on my mind or anything.  Addie came up with toys, trees, and oh yeah food.  I said, that's right.  And we also pay for our house we live in, and for your school, and all of our clothes, and stuff like that.  But we're going to be having a little less money for a while since Daddy is leaving his job.

I said all this in a chipper way, like not trying to lay some anxiety trip on her.  Not sure that worked.  But for what it's worth.

She thought for a moment and then said, But what will Daddy do for his job now?

I don't know, I said.  He's thinking about...


Right.  Beekeeping.

Actually, it's not that much further out than some of our other ideas.  Selling our skunky homemade beer.  Inventing digital signs for cars, so that drivers can tell you how they're feeling from inside their automobiles, like on Facebook.  "Get out of my way, a-hole!" the digital sign would read.  Or, "Honk if you're not wearing pants!"  Being in a band, but not a band that travels or wants to gig very often or very late at night.  Opening the third biggest brewery in Golden.

That sort of thing.  I mean, beekeeping seems quite reasonable.  When you think about it.

Some Very, Very Important Updates

Hooray for NOLIE!  That little monkey slept through the night last night in her UNDERWEAR with no accidents.

Could it be that, at last, we are approaching the end of Diaper Road?  Could it be that this train is pulling out of Pull-Up City?  Lord, I dare not think it.  But I must!  Rejoice!  Rejoice!


Not that you were up late at night worrying about it, but my neck is indeed better.  I go in for the tune up Thursday with Dr. Magic Hands.  Thanks to all of you for the great descriptions of Osteopathy.  But I still think it's magic.

Also, I don't think I wrote about it, but I was having some really painful blood clots in my arm from having a stupid i.v. during the random uterine infection a few weeks back.  Those are also going away. 

I'm giddy with health.


And, we have been receiving some mysterious and unexpected sums of money lately.  Nothing huge, but little chunks of change here and there.  I was meditating last night and felt this huge opening in my heart, and into my head came thoughts of being in the flow.  There it was.  I felt totally connected.

Maybe it's the juggling.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Unless They're Idiots.

Addie and Eric were watching PBS this morning.  Some lady on some show says, "Well, kids, if you want to learn more about that, you can always ask your parents!"

"Unless they're idiots," mutters Addie.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dr. Magic Hands

Dr. Magic Hands was most excellent this morning.  I haven't seen her since before Nolie was born.  With both pregnancies, my back felt like it was being crushed by a two-ton weight (that weight being my giant belly and ass, no doubt).  I was in pretty much constant pain or discomfort by the third trimester with both pregnancies.  The doula we hired for the first pregnancy recommended Dr. Magic Hands, an osteopath, and I was an instant convert.

First off, I don't know what osteopathy is.  I know Dr. Magic is a "D.O." and not an "M.D.," but what do I care?  All I know is I go in to her office (a converted church) where tibetan chanting is on the stereo, she slips her hands under my body (the butt, the spine, the neck, wherever), holds them there for about 20 minutes, moves them around  little, and when I sit up I can all of a sudden move my shoulders back, or the pain in the lower back is gone, or that little throbbing in my left temple disappears. 

It's magic. Or her hands are the hands of god.  Or I just believe in her, and allow myself to release.  I don't know.

I realize now it doesn't matter how she does it, or if it's her or me "doing" it.  I used to ask her, "What are you doing to me?  How come I feel so much better?"  She just shrugs, her crazy, ratty ponytail bobbing at the side of her head, and hands me a nonsense brochure titled something like, "This Is Osteopathy."

So I don't ask anymore.  I just stand in awe and gratitude.

Today she did the hands under the back thing, and I felt my lungs open up and my right leg erupted in this most delightful tingling.  After about 20 minutes, she came up to the neck, put her hands right on my sore spot and said, "Hmm.  We're about 70% there.  I'm going to have to do a slight articulation."

And the she spun my head around on my neck, I saw some stars, and all of a sudden was able to hear out of my left ear (I hadn't realized it had been clogged up).  "That's going to be sore for a few days," she said.  "Come see me next week."

Reading over this, I realize I sound like a nutjob.  If the shoe fits, and all.  I only know what I know, and this chick is the cat's meow.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Looking the Other Way

So, I'm grumpy about a few things today.  This was the third morning in a row I've woken up with a nasty crick in my neck, which I think is in communication with a knot in my mid-back, both of which are causing me much angst.  It's off to the miracle-working shaman D.O. tomorrow morning for some help.

I made it to a new gynecologist today, and again got no answers about whatever it is that continues to plague my uterus.  Apparently, my body will just heal itself.  Ugh.

And, the President of the U. had a "town hall" today (which should tell you something).  We learned both that our school is in better shape than a lot of universities and that, the state legislature will probably get more bad news in June, which will mean loads of furloughs in the fall.  I didn't spin out or anything, but my little leprechuan Fear came and sat on my knee for a few minutes.  That little fucker.

So, I'm going home.  And here is what I'm going to give my energy to for the rest of the day:

Kids.  I think Peter Pan is on the docket for this evening.

Juggling.  It's coming along, it's coming along.  I am still not a coordinated person.  I was hoping to grow into coordination at some point, but perhaps at 34, I should stop waiting and just embrace my monkey arms and spaghetti legs.  It makes me laugh my ass off every time I try it, so that's worth something.

The good news.  There's been plenty of bad news this past year, but also the good news:  my new, beautiful nephew, Holden Jace, being born; my brother getting engaged; my dad's supposedly deadly cancer being in remission.  And lots more.  Lots to celebrate, and meditate on.

Stretching.  I've been doing yoga everyday as it's the only thing that relieves the neck pain.  So, again.

See you tomorrow, yo.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Free Wheeling

Okay, so Eric and I have been having some major emotional ups and downs over the whole lay-off thing, and it's certainly scary some days, and I get sad and depressed (doing my best to just fully feel those emotions, deeply and well, rather than suppress them).  But, well, I hate to admit it, but having to give up some things has made me realize how much great free stuff there is out there to take advantage of (provided one has some transportation, free time, and an internet connection).  It's like, now that I'm not overloaded with t.v. and newspaper and Crackberry, all of this quality time and opportunity has opened up.  What the hell?

Like, I now remember how great Pandora radio is.  I've been doing my yoga to some excellent chill tunes on there, provided commercial free and cost free (since we don't have On Demand yoga anymore).

The public library kicks major ass.  Major.  Books, books, books.  Videos.  Music.  All free.  How great is that? 

I don't know about yours, but our city has a plethora of free activities for kids and families.  I entered them all in the calendar, and we'll start going to some.  Summer is coming, summer is coming!

Sewing.  I can make a lot of my own clothes, pretty much any time I want.  Not everything, and I screw up a lot, but that's cool, right?   And no need to buy new stuf?

Friends.  With generosity coming out their pores.  Free babysitting, cookies, and tons and tons of good love and support.

Okay?  So screw the other stuff.  This is, maybe, the good life we've been looking for.  Maybe the giving up of stuff and luxuries is going to make some other really good things happen for us.  Change is hard, but maybe the rewards are sweet.  Dare I think it?

Talkin' Bout My Joy

Addie came wandering into our room at 6am, saying (in the most cheerful voice on the planet), "You know, I really can't open my eyes!  It's SO strange!"

Damn, damn, damn, I whispered to myself.  Then out loud, DAMN.

Addie wakes up every few weeks, her eyes swollen shut with pus.  Out come the pinkeye drops and the saline for squirting up her nose.  Kid has some clogged pipes, and they seem to often get clogged on Monday mornings when I have deadlines and conferences to attend and am already behind from being sick myself. 

But then, I got over it.  Cleaned out her eyes, called her school, got some chores done.  Mostly we hung out in the backyard building fairy houses from twigs and leaves and dandelions, until Eric came home at noon so I could come and do some work.  It was a stunningly beautiful day, so I'll take that.

(And yes, we've seen a doctor, and yes, we're cutting down on the milk products.  It has been suggested to us multiple times that she will outgrow all of this crud.  Throw hands up in the air).

Stuff like this doesn't bother me as much as it used to, doesn't panic me (usually).  I'm able to say DAMN and then just get on with it, say a quick thanks for the grace offered by a job whose schedule I can rearrange pretty easily.  Thanks for the extra, unexpected time with my kid.  Thanks for the health insurance and the stockpiled eyedrops.  Thanks for Nolie almost never being sick.  I get it now, much better than a year ago.  It's the whole deathbed thing:  I won't remember the emails I could have gone through this morning, years from now, on my deathbed.  But I might remember the fairy house.

Still, I wouldn't mind if there were NO more random infections in my house for a while.  That's not too much to ask, I think. 

By the way:  here's what I've pulled from my good-times jar so far:  I've learned a song by Randy Newman on the piano, and sing it when nobody's around (I sound like a tortured cat, but I commit, baby, I commit).  It's not memorized yet, but maybe by summer it will be?  I've written a prayer for joy.  And my last pull was to learn how to juggle from YouTube.  I'll let you know how it goes.

And, if you're looking for joy, check this out: 

What's not to love?  Look at that baby Nolie.  Lord, she's some lovin'.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's All Good. Really.

I spent the morning trying to get our landline number switched over to Eric's cell phone, canceling the cable and the newspaper, cutting our donations, and calling my gram to see if she would pay for Addie's ballet lessons for a while (praise Ruby, she will).

I don't think I'll miss the t.v. too much yet, plus we can still watch stuff on the computer, and we kept Netflix for now, so that we have movies to watch.  The girls will miss Noggin, but tv wasn't good for them anyway, right?  They'd rather spend the time with us.  When I canceled the paper, I was told I could retain online access for six months for free.  Golden.  Better for the environment anyway.

We haven't made any decisions about our biggest expense--the kids' school.  We'll do that when we know more about when, exactly, Eric's last day will be (which could be anywhere from two weeks to three months).  That will be the biggest change, and I'm only beginning to get used to it in my head.

An awesome book I'm reading suggests this:  fill a jar with lots of things that you would like to do, and that are in line with your goals for growth.  Like, my goals have to do with giving myself some love without spending on material possessions, and with feeling more connected to family and friends, and also feeling the love of spirit.  So my jar has little slips of paper with things like, "learn the words to a good song and practice singing it," or, "call a friend," or, "meditate for 15 minutes."  Whenever I'm feeling anxious about stuff, I get to pull a paper from the jar and take a mini-break, practicing something that keeps me in line with where I envision my life going.  I was feeling pretty down last night, and pulled the song one.  I haven't decided which one yet to learn, but I'm excited about learning a new song on the piano, and practicing singing it.  I have something to look forward that is free and makes me happy.  It's a gift to myself.  Cool, huh?

Eric put my hand to his chest last night--it was vibrating like a drum with anxiety.  "We have to remember we're on the same side," he said, after I said some not-so-nice things about feeling freaked out about his finding a job.  How could I forget that he's human?  That he feels this more deeply than I do, losing his livelihood?  Shit.  Shit.  That sweet heart, pounding in that chest.  The most important thing is to believe in him now, and to trust (see Nanny's post for a truly awesome example of how this works).

"What you need the most right now is each oter," says Toni.

"You can freak out if you want to," my friend Ellen reminds me.  "But really, it's all good."

Sue:  "You and Eric have created a very solid foundation. Plant yourself there. And thrive."
And you all called, and gave us virtual hugs, and laugh and cry with us.  Thank you for this love (and also, Rose, for the cookies, which make many things better).  It's all good.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lay-offs, Lulus, and Tutus

My sweet, smart husband got laid off from his job this morning.  I felt a heaviness descend on my heart, for sure, and I've had a few moments of sniffles, times where I let the fear and uncertainty get me down.  I particularly get woozy when I think about what a year I've had, with my family members being sick and now this.  But that is not useful thinking, that cumulative thinking, and it's not reality, anyway. 

The reality is here, in this moment, where I have my own health back, thank goodness, and I think I might actually ship this stupid paper I've been working on to an editor, and I'll be leaving shortly to pick up Addie from ballet, and the sight of her in a tutu is a joy to behold.  We have a fridge full of food, our refinance looks like it will go through, and we have money in the bank.  So we're okay.  This is just another change we will have to adjust to.

And, as most of you know, Eric didn't love that work so much, anyway.  Maybe he'd like to be doing something else, anyway.  This may end up being a good thing.

So, our new adventure begins today.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Crazy-Ass Weeks

I crawled into bed last Sunday night, after Addie's 5th birthday extravaganza at Chuck E. Cheese's, and am just now crawling out.  We're still not totally sure what happened to me.  As best as the doctors can explain, my uterus kind of exploded in some sort of never-before-seen infection.  Or an evil little gnome of a cyst on my right ovary set off its own little suicide bomb.  Or something else entirely.  Maybe unrelated to Chuck E. Cheese, maybe not.

All I know is this:  I was sick, mommy, was I sick.  And I feel better today, got a little work done, but I'm still not all better.  And the doctors still don't know what the hell is up.  Also, all of those classic women's studies/anthropology texts about dirt and disease and women menstruating?  Still all very true.  Western medicine may be kind to you and your ovaries, but not if they're dropping egg.  They want nothing to do with you in those cases. 

Some of you might say western medicine never is kind to you and your ovaries.  You may be right.

Anyway, we're headed into Easter weekend, so I crawl out of bed, away from wrapping birthday presents and toward dye-ing eggs.  We find out next week if Eric gets laid off.  I also turn thirty-four.  And I have to revise an article YET AGAIN for the same publication, and have two more publications due on May 1.  I feel like I'd rather saw off my own arm than work right now, but that's what we got.  Work and birthdays and Easter and being laid off work.  And a suicide-bombing cyst mission.  Plus a million other little blessings, I know, I know.  I'm counting them, too.  What else can you do?

What a crazy-ass week, yo.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Addie at 5

Here's a snapshot of Addie, as she turns five this next week:

She can read whole chapter books all by herself.  Her favorite ones are about fairies, of the Tinkerbell variety.  "Mama," she whispers as she crawls into bed with me in the morning, "when we go to Disneyland someday, we will have to be very quiet.  We will hear the tinkling of the bells and that will tell us how to get to Pixie Hollow.  Okay?"

Though the front of her shirts are no longer covered in drool, she still has a perenially runny, crusty nose and sounds always plugged up.  She can't close her mouth when she chews.  It's like having a baby ox at the dinner table.  And, she is fidgety like nobody's business.  I'd love to have a time-lapse video of her during a meal.  It would be like watching a waffle dervish.  Waffle dervish baby ox.

She is taken with all things nature.  We have seedlings growing in our bay window, and she follows their daily progress closely.  One of her favorite things is to go in the backyard and look for "signs of spring."  I'm constantly being dragged out of the house to observe the new buds on trees, or some black beetle crawling across the pavement.

Addie is quick to cry.  Her feelings are tender, and she is still very much a spirited child.  An itchy tag on her shirt and she's a puddle of sobs pounding at the floor.  She is also incredibly creative, and can make a sculpture or painting out of almost anything.  She loves music.  She loves her family, and talks incessantly about her grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends.

She is incredibly tall and thin, and when she's sitting in the bath at night, her cheeks pink from the steam and her lips huge and red, her eyes big in her thin face, she absolutely takes my breath away with her beauty.

She's taken to sleep-walking at night, which usually involves coming into our room and heading for the stalk of library books, all shaky and unconscious, wanting to read even in her sleep.  Every so often she wakes in the middle of the night with horrible croup and cannot breathe.  Or terrified from a nightmare in which a pig has been nibbling on her toes.  I remember her as a baby, then, those nights of nursing her and staring into each other's eyes, discovering each other.  She's very much on her own path now, but I hold on anyway.

You add fire and excitement to our lives, my sweet Addie, and my heart is filled to bursting with love for you.  We are so proud of you, so amazed by everything you are and are becoming.  Happy 5th Birthday, our sweet girl.

ORE Kick-Off

Operation Reduce Expenses begins today. 

I teach late on Thursday nights, usually, but it's "E-Days" here on campus, which is a three-day festival-type thing that happens every year at Mines, and is when our normally staid, quiet, nose-to-the-grindstone student body goes a little crazy.  As in, I smelled alcohol on more than one student last night in class.  And the amazing fireworks show was scheduled to begin right at the end of class.  So I ended the three-hour seminar early and went back to my office to watch the show from my office window and finish grading papers.

Just then a message from the President of the college pops in my inbox.  We've got an $11 million shortfall to reckon with, it says.  I'm sure you're all wanting more information, it says.  Not that they're giving us any.

I sighed and put my head in my hands and tried to remind myself that nothing has changed.  I'm sitting here, still breathing, still with my healthy family and my house and with enough money to buy food and everything else I need for a pretty good long time.  Nothing has changed.

Still, for the first time since this roller-coaster ride began, some fear got the best of me last night and I had to have a good cry over everything.  I came home, mixed up a good, strong rum and juice, and sat in the dark, thinking about which expenses we can cut now to begin saving money for what seems to be coming.  Nothing big.  A lot of redundancies--the organic vegetable delivery, the newspaper, the cable.  All these trappings of middle-class life that I've felt conflicted over anyway.  We're not having to pull the girls out of school yet (that one will hurt) and neither of us has officially pushed the emergency button.  But we're setting off down the path anyway, little steps at a time.

I know it's going to be okay.  I know it is okay.  I'm doing okay with the fear, generally.  Writing this makes me feel better, even if it is whiny and self-indulgent, and faith in the path helps, too. 

Are you all feeling scared?  How are you dealing with it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Ups

As if overnight, the grass bordering my running path has turned green, and the buds on certain bushes and trees have burst out, a brazen and vivid green.  I marveled at them this morning, my knees creaking and sweat pouring down my face as I chugged along.  I did have to stop and look at a lone daffodil at the side of the trail and wonder who popped a bulb in there, in that exact lonely spot, and why.  Then, in the ditch, giant piles of rocks had been assembled, drift sticks poking out from the scultpures at odd angles and sporting beer cans.  Those had to be admired, too.  It is bright and sunny this morning, but a major snowstorm is headed our way, what seems like the first all winter.  We'll see what happens to all these early buds and premature bulbs.  But the grass will emerge greener, for sure.

The news on the radio is mixed, too.  Housing sales were better than expected, but most houses sold for a lot less money.  Layoffs continue.  The news seems bad, but nobody is sure how bad. 

The same is true in our house.  We're trying to refinance to bring down our montly payment, but worry that our house has lost so much value we won't be able to.  We don't think this will be the case, but won't know until after the appraisal, which cost us almost $400.00.  Last week, both cars had to have a total of almost $3000 worth of work.  Addie's old school and new school are both wanting deposits for summer and fall classes.  Eric's work is announcing layoffs again, and he's been coming home from work, grumpy, early, with nothing to do.  At my work, furloughs are on the horizon.  We seem to be hemorrhaging money every week, and our financial future looks very uncertain most of the time.  I remind myself that my job, today, is to breathe in and out.  The absence of anxiety is faith.  I try to have faith, and to remember the dozens of moments of grace that greet me every day.  "These are creative times," the minister reminds me.  I tell myself that a dozen times a day.

Yesterday I was driving down the road, a fast and winding one, and about a block up a lady walking her dog began to chase a plastic bag into the street.  I slowed down, maybe to ten miles an hour, just being defensive.  Sure enough, she popped right back out into the road as I approached her, and like a scene out of a movie I slammed on the breaks in time to come within inches of hitting her.  She fell over on the road, disoriented from the sheer closeness of the call and who knows what else, then jumped up and began chasing the bag again, down the busy street.  Lady, let it go, I told her, grabbing her arm, hugging her living breathing body to me.  You don't have to pick up the dog poop today, I said.  You get a pass.  Okay, she said, okay.  Sorry, sorry, I didn't know how far in the street I was.

So these are the new beginnings, the new opportunities for grace.  I lift my glass to them, welcome the lads in.  Fits and starts, but forward movements anyway.  Here's to them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Disaster Averted

This time last week, I was pretty convinced that the girls' health was rapidly deteriorating, that there was some invisible toxin in our home making us all sick, or that my "natural" cleaning products weren't killing enough germs, or that they had some undiagnosed chronic illness.

Nolie was broken out in eczema all over her body, red blotchy spots on all her creases, torso, and bum.  I tried Aquaphor, Cetaphil, and cortisone cream.  None helped.  Then the other night she starts screaming that her "neck" (throat) hurts.  I'm thinking, my God, why don't we have an epi-pen in the house?

Addie has been having the non-stop runny nose-cough-eczema-reflux combo.  "I think it's a milk allergy," her teacher whispered to me.  Then, four nights ago, Addie's hands started swelling up and turning red, the skin all dry and crackily.  Epi-pen, epi-pen, epi-pen.  "Let's give her Benadryl," I tell Eric.  "Let's just wait and see," he says, calmly, patiently, like always.

I went about my daily business, but in the back of my mind, that old high static was kicking in.  "Your kids are really sick and you have to find out what's causing it," it whispers.  "Don't miss this like you missed the last time she was sick," it hisses.  "Addie was sick much too long before you figured it out."

Karate chop to the head of that high static.

Turns out that diaper cream has done the trick with Nolie.  I smear it pretty much all over her red spots after bath (no bubbles) at night, and voila.  Skin like butta.

Addie doesn't have a milk allergy (she's been tested) but is probably intolerant.  We've switched to soy yogurt in the morning, and Eric's on board with no cheese for dinner for a few weeks, just to see what happens.  Her skin looks much better, and the swelling has gone away.  Her nose still runs, but we think she just has a cold.  So, saline up the nose, humidifiers at night.

Small adjustments, thankfully.  Everything's okay.  The sky is not falling, not this week, anyway.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What Addie Fears Most

Addie is a bit of a night-owl.  There are nights where she stays up later than us.  Like, I'll get up in a hazy stupor to pee at 10 o'clock, and I'll notice her light is on, and I'll go in and she's reading fairy tales or playing with her dollhouse.  I usually over-react because I'm so shocked she's still AWAKE for Christ's sake, and end up sounding a lot like my step-father:  "What are you THINKING being up so late?  Get in bed and get that light off NOW!"

I actually don't mind this as much as I mind it when she comes out of her room a million times while I'm trying to have my grown-up time.  I'll be doing yoga or reading and out she comes for a drink of water.  Out for a hug.  Out because of "bad thoughts."  You name it. 

The first few times I use my gentle loving mama voice, "Back to bed, sweetheart.  Your body needs rest so that you have energy at school tomorrow."  Very Donna Reed.  About that fourth time, though, I get all pissy alley-cat and break out the "grumpy voice" and threaten to do horrible things to her if she doesn't get in that bed and stay there and I mean it.

Last night.  Fourth time out.  "Addie," I say with the grumpy voice, "if you come out of your room again there will be a consequence."

Right.  Reaching there.

"Like what," she says.

Casting eyes wildly about the room.  "Uh, like I'll have to take something away."

"Oh," she said, her eyes brightening.  "You mean like you'll take the teddy grahams out of my lunch and put in black beans?"

Pause.  "Yeah," I said.  "Like that.  Exactly like that."

Where that came from, I have no idea.  I have never once put black beans in the child's lunch, nor do we force her to eat them (or anything, for that matter).  But apparently, on the list of consequences, eating black beans is up at the top near things Addie fears most.  Good to know.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just the Two of Us

What's up, peeps?

Eric and Addie have been in San Diego this weekend, jumping on beds and Lego-landing.  Which means Nolie and I have had a chance to hang out at home and get to know one another.  Here are a few things I (re-)learned about my youngest, and myself:

1)  She is possibly one of the most affectionate people I've ever met.  Lord, that girl just wants to hold your hand and walk around with you and give you kisses and hugs. 

2)  She suffers from the unenviable curse of being second-born, meaning that she has had almost no alone time with me since she was born, and craves it like Liza craves sleeping pills.  See #1.

3)  I had no idea how easy it was to raise one kid.  No idea.  But this weekend was so peaceful, so easy, that, jeez, it was like being hit by a ton of bricks, how crazy things normally are.  Not that I would have my life any other way (obligatory back-pedalling).  I mean, I love both my kids so much it's unreasonable.  Husband, too.  But, geesh.  Having only one kid.  If there's an argument to be made for relative experiences, this was it.

4)  Nolie is smart as a whip, a whip, I tell you!  She is memorizing her books and reading them back to me, and asking really good questions about the world.  Well, also some weird ones.  Like, we had an extremely long and drawn out conversation yesterday about the differences in pronunciation between "potato" and "tomato."  Not differences in the foods, mind you, differences in the pronunciation.  It was as exciting as it sounds.

5)  She is, physically, one of the tougher kids I've ever met.  She bounced off things, smashed through things, knocked into things, and generally should be lying unconscious in a pool of blood right now, what with how BIG she lives in the physical world.  She is a miracle of divine engineering, that one.  Jesus.  But she is also so sensitive, feelings-wise.  A harsh word, and her eyes fill up with tears.  I cut her bangs and she had a breakdown over the little hairs on the bathroom floor, her little hairs gone forever.

6)  She is a gorgeous kid.  I found myself staring at her for long minutes and just admiring the roundness of her cheek, her little lips, her long eyelashes.  I gush.

Anyway, the oldest and The Pants get home late tonight from San Diego, so I have one more quiet evening with my toddler in my clean house before the whirlwinds strike again.  I'll be glad to see them.  But it was great, just me and Nolie, too.  I hope to do it again some time soon.