Thursday, December 3, 2009

What a difference a year makes

Last night Cora wanted to watch a Santa movie, and we settled on Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, a movie which does not technically feature Santa, but certainly has quite a bit to do with the jolly old elf. I remember watching this with her last year a couple times, too. But things were different this year.

We watched the movie (I'm sorry) during dinner and when we do that, I am usually actually sitting with my back to the TV, unless I twist around. But there was no twisting for me last night, because the real show was playing across her face. This time around, she laughed hysterically at Cookie Monster trying and trying to get a message to Santa, but eating each implement of communication he attempts. (Granted, she wasn't sure what kind of computer he was using, but luckily I was there to explain what a typewriter is. Or was.) And she worried when Ernie and Bert sold their favorite things to buy each other gifts. And watching the relief and smile that bloomed on her face when Mr Hooper shows up to return their favorite things...well, I admit that the full effect may have been lost on me because that part makes me cry EVERY FREAKING TIME. I still miss Mr Hooper!

And, thanks to dear Mr Hooper, I had an introduction to talking to her about other winter celebrations and Hannukah in particular. Then at the library today I found a nice picture book that talks about celebrating the nights of Hannukah and has really great artwork. We read that tonight and afterwards she said, "Mama, I'm not sure that I know how to say Hannukah!" Then realized she had said it, and grinned at her own accomplishment.

I really like the winter holiday season. I wish I could believe I will have time for all the things I love and want to do this year, but I know I won't. I don't think there will be much baking. Alas. Our decorating will be both rather piecemeal and late, given our split household. But, still. Evergreens! Candles! Music! Dickens! Burrowing in for a long weekend!

Forget sleep. I am counting on holiday spirit to be the balm my soul needs.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Still alive

Sometimes I have something to write about. And then I think, "I could just call my mom and talk to her about it." And then that is what I usually end up doing.

Or I think, "Maybe I should hold that thought until I can get the photos downloaded from the camera." Which inevitably leads to the realization that the camera needs new batteries and/or that I don't have time to go upstairs and wrestle with the camera.

Or I think, "Maybe I should keep that to myself."

At the same time, I'm not ready to close up shop here. Just suffering from a paucity of time, material, and motivation. Luckily, the semester is wrapping up in the next couple of weeks. It has been a hard one, as one class developed a really unpleasant collective personality (and the work habits to match), and so teaching has not been the energizing experience it usually is and has instead been a serious drag on my resources. I'm hoping for better this spring. I haven't had the time for making things as a way to recharge, and ditto for cooking. Ditto for most reading. If the semester weren't coming to a close, and we weren't so close to having Chris home for a good long stretch, I would really be worried. As it is, I am riding it out as best I can.

Which is all a very long way of saying...maybe there will be photos in a week or two!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Struggling with vocabulary

I don't know what to call what we are doing. What is it when you're still married, but one of you lives and works elsewhere, and not in the military?

What term do I Google when I am wondering if we are doing this right, with the least damage to our lives, our marriage, and our daughter?

How do I find the blogs by other solo-mommies in the same spot? (Or, good lord, are we the only ones doing this? Surely not.)

I consider myself a pretty skilled and creative searcher and I'm not coming up with anything. I'm used to being able to reach out through the keyboard and find some semblance of advice, community, and knowledge, whether it is about bring pregnant, dealing with knitting problems, figuring out what to do with a bunch of fresh hon tsai tai in the CSA box, potty-training a toddler, surveying what grade percentage other professors assign to participation in freshmen English classes, or researching cities we might have ended up living in.

So it is a new and frustrating thing to be stumped. Another new and frustrating thing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh, 2009, you funny funny year

Our first measurable snowfall came this year on October 12th - the earliest in my (gulp) 17 years in MN. Luckily, the snow had one fan. Cora was very anxious to get outside and play in it before it melted (a light dusting the previous Saturday had vanished by the time she got dressed). She dug out the snowball maker she found on the porch about three months ago and we headed out onto the deck. I think it was only about 45 seconds until she began throwing the snowballs at my legs.

An obscenely early snowfall is easier to take when you have a delighted and enthusiastic girl by your side.


video

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The sound of a pot boiling over; or, in pursuit of my soul

There's something I know about myself that I am really good at forgetting, which is that I need to spend a certain amount of time on things that are my own. Things like reading and sewing and cooking and baking and making. Things NOT like working and grading and cleaning and worrying and cleaning up the bodily fluids of various beings that live in my house.

But, like I said, I am really good at forgetting this and just working and grading and etc. And I get that pinched feeling. Then I get that pinched, bitter feeling. Then I get that pinched, bitter, panicked feeling. And then I let all the working, grading, cleaning, etc. stuff go to hell because I am starving and need to fill up on my things.

At least, I used to do that. It isn't really an option anymore, now that I have a small daughter and two jobs and am the only adult in the house to do the cooking, cleaning, organizing, shopping, and oh my lord did I mention the bodily fluids? I'm thinking of renaming the cats Piss and Vomit. I'm hoping that said daughter finds the emotional equilibrium to once more full embrace the using of the toilet. Soon.

So, I can only let go of so much for so long. I'm hoping to be able to make do with sewing a Halloween costume. I have finally admitted to myself that all the things I thought I would make for the holidays...not going to happen. Holiday baking? Not going to happen (feel free to send us cookies). Well, I have admitted it, but I don't think I have quite accepted it yet - as soon as I typed that last sentence I thought to myself, biscotti doesn't really take that long...

The little girl isn't the only incorrigible one in the house.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mean girls? Already?

This is the new game Cora has wanted to play lately: I have to be one of her classmates (let's call her Ann) and she is herself. Then she wants me to call her stupid, and then say her mommy is stupid.

Really?

Now Ann was also linked to Cora's introduction to the word stupid and the world of namecalling, so while a 3 year old's report on what happened a school is sometimes worth regarding with skepticism (you had pizza for lunch every day this week? really?), when something keeps coming up in the same way, there must be something to it.

And I can tell that Cora is mulling all this over. Sometimes she will ask me, "Momma, are you stupid...or not?" And her tone is genuinely quizzical. We've talked about what "stupid" means and when it is okay to say it and when it isn't and what we should say to people who call us stupid. And I'm not completely living in my rosy-colored world; I know kids call kids names and that I neither can nor should protect my girl from everything. Still. I had hoped we would make it a little longer before we had to talk about why some people are mean to other people.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Princess small talk

This evening Cora convinced me to play princesses with her. This involved scrubbing the porch floor with damp paper towels, while she was Cinderella and I was Sleeping Beauty.

Cora/Cinderella: Sleeping Beauty, I'm glad you came over to my house today.
Me/Sleeping Beauty: Well, it's always nice to scrub someone else's floor for a change.
Cora/Cinderella: I have a fairy godmother.
Me/Sleeping Beauty: Really?
Cora/Cinderella: Yes. How many fairy godmothers do you have?
Me/Sleeping Beauty: Oh, I have three.
Cora/Cinderella: Well, what are their names?

And so on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The new year

The start of the school year always feels to me like the real New Year's Day and this year more than ever because this also the start of a new phase in my family's lives. Chris is installed in his faculty housing apartment in ND, and Cora and I are figuring out our new routine as it unfolds. So far she is coping pretty well - considering how much time she spends with her dad, how involved he has always been with her, how much she must feel his absence. She gets sad once in a while, and cries, and tells me she is worried about him. Oddly enough, there are not a lot of books out there for kids about dads who have to go teach in another state, so that she might see her experience reflected. Or maybe there are, and I haven't found them yet.

We are about to the middle of our first two week stretch without him. We made a paper chain to count down the days until we see him again. I plan to make a big calendar, too, for September, but things have been busy and I haven't gotten to it yet.

Part of the busyness is the night time...our bedtime routine doesn't seem to be working anymore. She's been stretching it out into three hours or more and she is obsessed with the idea of going to bed at the same time as me, and wants to sleep in my bed. Which on the one hand, I wouldn't mind, except that I don't want to go to bed at 7:30, for one thing.

In watching her dealing with this, I see myself. In the way she doesn't want to be asked about it, wants to bring it up on her own, in the way she waits to know how she feels and tries to put it into words, but often feels it in her body first. And in the way she can be fine, just fine, all day long, and then struggle at night.

I think we will be fine, in the long run, but I think we still have a way to go to get there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Home Again: Countdown in session

We just, just, got hmoe from 10 days in California - first in Santa Barbara for a reunion with Chris's immediate family. Cora finally met her cousins on that side (and loved them) and we enjoyed revisiting the UCSB campus, the bookstore where we met, and other nostalgic places (Freebirds burritos - the original shop - still awesome). Then a few short days with my parents and grandma really relaxing, with no agenda other than to hit the pool, open a bottle of wine, and otherwise just hang out together.

Now, here we are home again, with a million things to do before Chris heads off to North Dakota. And it is hard. And I am trying to remain the cheerful and capable person everyone likes me to be, but I am also really sad. And nervous.

A brief snippet from our day yesterday. We were watching some episodes of Jamie Oliver's cooking show that my mom and DVRed and Cora wanted to know why we were laughing at the show.

Me: Because he's kind of a silly person.
Cora: Why is he silly?
Me: I think he was just born that way.
Cora: Well, *I* was born happy!

Indeed. She was, again, an excellent traveller. (Except for an episode of carsickness on the drive from SB to Irvine. Um, YUCK!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is this thing working?

We had the opportunity to make a little movie with Tricia's camera while she was here. Although I have not yet been able to make them play on my computer, I learned (from the wonderful Tricia) that Blogger will load it up and you can watch it on the blog.

Here is Cora singing a song she learned after hearing me sing it six or eight times: Aura Lee.


video

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Career path? What career path?

(Me, circa 1979, possibly designing my "girl detective" business cards.)


Today I gave my seventh of nine presentations to incoming firstyear college students about the academic expectations at the institution where I teach - about 10 of these sessions run concurrently and a large percentage of incoming students attend. The two main points of the presentation are the classes they need to take to graduate (aside from their major) and how college will be different from high school.

There are two sets of statistics I like to quote to them. One is that the average college student changes his or her major three times over the course of their undergraduate years. The other is that the average person will have seven discrete changes of career in his or her working life - and two of those probably don't exist at the time you are in college.

They seem to find this discouraging - along with the fact that in college you don't get time in class to do your homework. And, that homework? It isn't crossword puzzles of vocab terms. (Horrifying!)

Anyway, this has set me to thinking back and remembering all the careers I imagined for myself over the years. I'm leaving out "girl detective" - a Nancy Drew inspired choice - and mainly thinking of once I hit high school and through college.

So, my aspirations included: UN translator, marine biologist, oceanologist, bookstore owner, teacher, writer. (Writer: check. But that has hardly been a career. A vocation, yes. Definitely NOT a hobby. ) (Teacher: check - or maybe I get a check-minus for only being part-time? Without that precious published book, it's as far as I am likely to get.)

Career paths actually walked: bookstore clerk and then asst. manager, library services, technical writing, graphic layouts, marketing manager, adjunct professor, and virtual database manager (a new one! also part-time, like the teaching).

But tonight I was especially thinking about "bookstore owner" and I was remembering that I actually spent quite a bit of time, as an undergraduate and shortly after graduating, drawing up layouts of my store, thinking about programs I would have. So, this is back in 1992-1993, and Chris and I were figuring out where the cafe would go, where there would be a space for live performances, making sure there was room in the kids section for kids to actually flop down and look at books, where authors would stand to give their readings. And so on.

Don't get me wrong - I like what I am doing now. I'm pretty happy with my working life (though it could pay more, and hey part time people like health insurance too). But tonight I'm feeling a little sad about dreams gone by or dreams held in abeyance. I am pretty sure I've missed the boat on UN translator - the languages I used to be pretty fluent in are slipping away. But I'm not quite ready to completely close the door on the bookstore dream. Not yet.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Flurry of Activity

That's what we have around here these days! We had lovely guests in town for a week, and I hope soon to be able to post some pictures and even a video from the visit. Once I figure out, you know, how to make it play.

We're getting ready to send Daddy off to ND for the school year, collecting all sorts of kitchen stuff he will need and furniture and trying to think of everything NOW so that we can relax and enjoy our time with him come August. I hope we are all as prepared as we can be when it comes time for him to drive off - we'll see.

I'm getting ready for fall semester and all the wonderful readings and assignments I'll have for my students. I'm also doing some sessions on "Academic Expectations" (the subtitle should be: how college is not like high school and why you should be worried) for orientation days this month.

And I've taken on another part time job working with the mailings to sponsors and donors for a really amazing organization. I'm hoping this work will fit in as well as I believe it will with my schedule.

And I have an artist grant application to complete in the next six days.

So, really, you see, it is all very smooth sailing over here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A brief announcement

I will get the second half of the CA pictures up soon, but in the meantime I've been preoccupied. Chris now has a job for the next academic year, but it is a one-year appointment, less than full-time, and in North Dakota. Cora and I will be staying in the Twin Cities. It is a good move for him careerwise and it could lead to something more - or it could just lead to being able to pay the bills for nine months, which is nothing to sneeze at either.

We're going soon to find him a place to live, and at that point we'll begin to try to explain it to Cora. There will be a lot of changes in store of all of us in the next two months, and a lot to keep us busy. I have a lot of trepidation, despite knowing it is a good decision on many fronts. I feel lucky that so many friends have offered to help us out as they can.

Our new adventure starts in less than two months. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Surfacing

It has been quiet on the old blog lately because we were on vacation - a glorious vacation staying with my parents in Southern California. Cora finally got to meet her cousins on my side of the family (she'll get a shot at the other side later in the summer), and it was wonderful to see them all together: five adorable little boys and Cora. Plus my grandma, Nana-Nanny as Cora calls her, my Aunts, cousins, and an uncle, too!

One of our favorite moments was Cora sitting with a Mother Goose book and calling to her cousins, "Boys, boys! Come here so I can read you a story!" while they madly clashed their light sabers a few feet away.

(Cora in the spa with cousins and me)

I could write a long time about how much I love spending time with my family, and how we so rarely get to, about how much they all love Chris and how much they all dote on Cora, and the fabulous food we like to cook for each other...but maybe I will just list a few moments that were highlights for us.

(Cora and cousins all in one chair! Crazy times!)

Seeing my brothers and their families, and especially playing soccer with my brothers and their sons for a while at the park - and seeing that those little boys are all nice enough to let their Auntie think she can kick a ball halfway decently. Well, except for when she tries a drop kick. She really shouldn't do that.

For Cora one of the highlights was having breakfast with Snow White! My cousin Traci is an amazing singer and an all-around good soul and she also does princess parties. She came dressed as Snow White and brought muffins, sang songs, told stories, did a craft, and taught Cora a dance and generally gave her a fabulous morning.


Traci had told me ahead of time that she really preferred to stay in character, so Cora and I talked about that and we thought of questions we could ask Snow White - and she remembered the questions, and had no problem pretending along with Traci.

(Can you tell how much she enjoyed this? And that dress - she dances with joy every time she puts it on. Totally worth the extra investment in Oxi-Clean!)

Going to the beach, Chris and I and Cora and my mom. Cora, of course, fell asleep on the way, so I sat in the car with her for a while and watched the waves, the sunbathers and kids running back and forth. And nearly wept with nostalgia and love for it all. And this time around Cora LOVED the beach. She watched while two young women near us took turns burying each other in sand, and then turned to me and said very decisively, "I need a fishy tail, Momma, will you make me a fishy tail in the sand?" So I did. It's so easy to forget how much fun wet sand can be! I taught Cora how to make drip castles and we made an impressive drip castle fort.

Being in the spa ranks high in the list too - Cora learned how to push off and kick with a swim ring, and she had great fun doing that first with her Dad, and then showing me what she could do.

My youngest brother bought his family 3-day Disney passes, and only used 2 days, bequeathing us the third day. We had planned to skip Disneyland this time around, based on the expense and thinking Cora might be too young still. But. Wow. She loved it - loved the few rides we went on (all the boat-based ones). Watching her watch "It's a Small World" was like a primer on enchantment. We didn't see many princesses, but she met Mickey, and spotted Mary Poppins out in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

We made our pilgrimmage to In-n-Out Burger (mmmmm), played lots of Legos, watched some movies, my mom showed me all her current quilting projects (always an inspiration to me) and took me to her quilt shop (where Cora was charming until she left with a "goodbye green old lady!" to one of the women there), we ate great food, we went to their farmers' market with Mom and Dad - one of my favorite things is always grocery shopping with my parents, oddly, maybe because it was so much fun when I was little, though they might remember that differently.

Really, I just love hanging out with my parents. Isn't that crazy? Don't I hope Cora one day says the same thing!

(Oh, and, on the airplane? Cora was fabulously well-behaved. On the way out she got to visit the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit as we were boarding. Both flights she stayed in her seat, had some snacks, drank most of our shared orange juice, watched a ballet on her little player, and took a nap. She was quite the big girl.)

(More pictures in a few days.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dinner, Beautiful Dinner

I wish I had taken pictures of dinner tonight, but while the beautiful food was part of the beauty of the whole thing, it wasn't the whole of it. There was the weather, the complete lack of mosquitoes and other bugs that make me stay inside in the summer, the perfect temperature, the nice company of Chris and Cora (though she did wiggle away half way through and spend the next 30 minutes carrying sand from the sand mountain to the sandbox...skirtful by skirtful).

So, it is hard to explain all the dimensions, but let me try with the food:
- Lemon-garlic chicken kabobs (on sale! less than a pound for the three of us, so more of a meat side dish, just like I'm trying to do. grilled to perfection by Chris.)
- Pesto pasta (leftover pesto, ends of two boxes of pasta - linguine and fettucine - and Cora LOVES it.)
- Golden beets (roasted while Cora napped two days ago) and blue cheese (organic and local from our CSA - perfect for me, but a little sharp for Chris)
- Salad (end of a head of red leaf plus baby spinach from the CSA plus sliced radishes from Cora's garden - she chose them, pulled them, washed them, put the slices in the salad, and even ate a couple slices)
- Plus Leiney's Sunset Wheat beer for the adults.

So, food that was on sale, leftover, needing to be finished up, local, CSA-grown, homegrown, that everyone liked and everyone contributed to the making of the meal. It might sound a little corny, but I love that!

This goes along with my larger summer food project - all those things above, and also to make a bigger push to eat more veggies and to try some different ones. Not too many new or different things tonight, but all the rest was there. This is in connection with a plan I have for my fall classes. One of the books we will be reading is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I'm going to ask my students to create for themselves some kind of semester-long project or plan (it needn't be food-related, of course), track their project/endeavor, and then their final paper will be a reflection on their experience, much like Kingsolver's book is. And just like AVM has sidebars with more information (scientific info and recipes), I'm going to ask them to have sidebars also.

I haven't done an assignment like this before, so this summer I am being my own guinea pig and doing the assignment myself. Then I'll also have a "short-form" model to show them. They will probably think I am the biggest dork ever...but, let's face it, that's inevitable.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Overheard this afternoon

Chris was upstairs after putting Cora down for a nap and, in the midst of other chatter, heard this fabulous sentence:

"Oh no, Monster, I'm sorry, but it's not your turn."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thoughts on reading and picture books

Last night, after stories and songs and settling Cora into bed, I came downstairs and turned the monitor on. All was quiet, her bedtime music faint in the background, for about 15 minutes. Then, some stirring. Then, she said loudly, "I am tired of your tricks! I am coming down the chimney to eat you up!"

We've been reading various versions of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. We've read the original story, we've read The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark, and we've read the particularly delightful The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Now the original, you might remember, has the wolf actually gobbling up the first two pigs, coming down the third pig's chimney and falling into a pot of boiling soup, and being eaten up in turn by the third pig. The other two revision versions do not feature much gobbling of anyone - the little fishes escape, the little wolves all live together and the pig learns to be nice.

A friend asked me the other day how I handle scary things in stories with Cora - things like wolves swallowing little girls whole, wolves gobbling little pigs and then being cooked, stepmothers demanding the lungs and liver of beautiful girls, and the ever-popular red-hot-iron-dancing shoes. Scary stuff indeed, and stuff I absolutely gobbled up as a child myself. I mostly handle it through these multiple versions, showing that stories can change and be changed - this removes some of the power of authority from the originals, and gives some of that power to Cora. She can choose which version to hear, or to think about, or she can create a new one that is somewhere in between (she is a big fan of having the wolf vomit up Little Red and Grandma - not, I think, a version you will find in a picture book anytime soon). So, I told my friend about this.

Then, another friend who was there mentioned that in the Waldorf philosophy - the educational world her children were raised in - there is a bias against picture books, even for very young children. As my friend explained it, the idea is that you only read aloud to your child without showing the pictures, or from books that have no pictures. This approach, the philosophy says, allows your child to create his or her own pictures and learn to rely on and exercise her imagination.

"I don't think my daughter would stand for that," my friend replied.

I didn't really say anything at the time, because I was surprised at how horrified I felt! On the one hand, I see the Waldorf point. On the other hand, I don't see Cora's imagination being fenced in by the pictures she sees. She likes it when we get to the end of a book and there's a picture of the person who wrote the story and the person who drew and colored the pictures. She likes studying the pictures and talking about them - we both like the books where there are things happening in the pictures that aren't part of the text. A recurrent element for example, like the chipmunk in each picture of When Will It Be Spring?, always doing something different, always near the main character Alfie, a small bear cub. Or the details of a dress, a castle, the way the only color in the Olivia books is red, and so on.


And I think that when it comes to scary things, illustrations can help to make the scary manageable - it delineates it, the same way talking about fear puts it in a linguistic container, instead of letting it spill all over your mind. One of the pages Cora particularly likes to look at in the three pigs book is a close up of the wolf's slavering face - she sits and traces his teeth with her finger and stares into his eyes. Then she closes him up in the book. Safe. And then she pretends to be the Big Bad Wolf, and tells me how much she loves him.*

Right now I'm reading a new book by Maria Tatar called Enchanted Hunters: the Power of Stories in Childhood. In this book she explores "how literature touches us when we are young, moving and transforming us with its intoxicating, enthralling, and occasionally terrifying energy." She writes mainly about the books we read to ourselves as children, but also about picture books and the stories that are read to us.

At one point she quotes the poet Dana Gioia as saying, "The books we read are no different from the people we meet and the cities we visit. Some books, people, or places hardly matter, others change our lives, and still others plant some idea or sentiment that influences our future."

At the end of the introduction she says something I really love: "Words have not just the astonishing capacity to banish boredom and create wonders. They also enable contact with the lives of others and with story worlds, arousing endless curiosity about ourselves and the places we inhabit." I believe this is also true of art, of the stories visually told.

*I admit to being particularly pleased about her affection for the Big Bad Wolf, as he was my invisible friend for much of my childhood.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A retrospective

I really do intend to be a more faithful blogger this summer. I have an idea for an assignment for next fall that I want to try out on myself, for example (more about that later). But, for now, for today, just to get back in to the practice, it's going to be mostly pictures. A little trip back in time with Cora.



May 10, 2006 - a smiler in her sleep.


April 20, 2007 - a serious moment with Corduroy Bear.

April 22, 2008 - a goofball at the table.

April 18, 2009 - always in motion, usually laughing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hard to believe...

but most entries on this site are not from Minnesota!

http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/

(Enjoy.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Being happy

Oh come on, what more can I really say about Mother's Day that isn't being said, photographed, or blogged by hundreds of other people?!

I suppose not too many can also be saying Happy Birthday to their moms! There have been times in the past when it has seemed a kind of cheat for my mom to have to have her birthday on Mother's Day every couple of years. But more often, it just seems right that the two should coincide.

On the one hand I want to say that this is because she was so clearly born to be a mother - so gifted with love and patience and empathy and creativity. But on the other hand I have a feeling that, had the chips of life fallen elsewise, she was also born to have become any number of other things. My mother would also be (has also been - the vocation of motherhood encompassing so many other careers) a wonderful teacher. A compassionate doctor. A thoughtful mentor. A passionate artist. A dazzling cook and pastry chef (oh those castle cakes! That Easter bonnet cake! all the other crazy cakes she let her children choose out of her book!).

More than anything else I have to say that my own experience of motherhood has impressed upon me the wonder of PARADOX. Mainly in the sense that something could simultaneously circumscribe and enlarge your life. I don't think I am (any longer) breaking any codes of sisterhood to say that - I know for a long time it was all about just talking about the enlargements and not the limits. But they coexist, often in the very same moments, and in the best of circumstances one is more than warranted by the other. At least, I find it to be so, which bowls me over because I didn't expect it to be the case.

So, this was my day today. I woke to find Chris had gone to get us donuts for breakfast; we all had donuts and homemade lattes (yes, even Cora). A couple gifts: an ABBA CD from Cora (clearly she has ulterior dance party motives) and a Marie Curie biography from Chris (she is still my hero, 30+ years after I first learned about her life). We went to church and then out to breakfast where Cora refused to eat anything except grapes (frustrating) and shouted hello at everyone that walked past (mostly endearing). Then home to naps. I fell asleep almost immediately - woken up here and there by Cora's interactions with her dad (reading books...refusing a diaper change...alerting him to her "friend" in the room - a wasp...more talk about the wasp as he trapped it...screaming for a diaper change...and finally falling asleep). Later in the afternoon Cora and I watched ballet videos on YouTube (American Ballet Theater's Swan Lake, Paris Opera Ballet's Sleeping Beauty), I tried to explain the phrase "keel over" to her ("but why she wanna fall down? but why she so tired?"), then she and her dad played Legos and watched a video of the Little Women opera. Then we had dinner...homemade bread, mango and strawberries, crackers, and FIVE KINDS OF CHEESE! (Guess who was left in charge of the menu?). A nice fume blanc (this meal Cora opted for the more age-appropriate milk). A good day. A happy day, despite the frustrating parts, the tantrum (hers) before the nap, the usual spills and falls.

I'm happy to be a daughter; I am so lucky to have the mother I have.

I'm happy to be a mother; I am so lucky to have the daughter I have.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spelling

Cora has known how to spell her name for quite a while now, and she knows the letter that some other words begin with, and she can identify all the letters.

But today I started to think she might know more than she was letting on. I said to her dad, "I was thinking we could go to the P-A-R-K with some F-O-O-D." And then she started talking about the park. Does she know how to spell that word? Was it a psychic link? Pure coincidence?

We decided to test her. Chris said to her, "How do I spell my name?" And we waited with bated breath for her answer.

"M-O-P-G-I-FOREHEAD!" She shouted.

So. Coincidence, then.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

3


Cora turned three this past weekend. I remember when she turned two, it was like a switch had been flipped and all of a sudden so many things were a struggle. It's not that she's bad or anything, just very independent. Well, the switch remains in the "independent" position, but I've also had several opportunities lately to be reminded why that is a good thing. This is a trait that will serve her well in years to come as she runs into serious peer pressure. The ability to speak her mind and speak out for herself? I can deal with it.

She chose a "dress-up" party with her friends and she was very clear on wanting a "big big round round round cake" that eventually also had to be pink with blue frosting. I think the pink/blue fetish that just surfaced about three weeks ago owes everything to the scene in Disney's sleeping beauty where two of the fairy godmothers keep changing the color of Aurora's dress. The party was fun. We tried some games this time. And after a round of "Red Light, Green Light" I can see why we don't let toddlers drive.

She's most excited about her new books, art supplies, lunchbox, and clothes. She often tells us, "I need to do some art now!" We like that. We like that a lot.

Almost as much as we like Cora herself.
(p.s. The sweet birthday crown? Found it on Etsy, from Dream Child Studio. She LOVES it!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Dear Earth,

Happy Earth Day! I know, I know - it's hard to get excited about a party people throw because your health is so bad, and then what does it get you the rest of the year? Still, I think it is nice to feel like the belle of the ball, even if only once a year.

Here's what I'm doing for you today. Only driving a little bit, just to pick up my daughter and some library books. We're having a meatless meal - a cabbage and paneer curry (which, I know, sounds really, really awful, but I swear is really, really yummy). This meal may be offset by the fact that the cabbage cannot possibly be local, for example. Cora and I will plant her Easter seeds this afternoon: radishes and multicolor carrots. A good excuse to dig in the dirt and talk about where food comes from, and maybe even let her handle a worm or two (despite the fact that while doing stickers last night she tore the head off a caterpillar). I recycled cans and paper today. I composted the grapefruit rind.

It's a lot of little things, things that in the big scheme maybe don't amount to much. And maybe they aren't even so special as some of them happen all the time anyway. Maybe you think I should have made a bigger effort today, pulled out all the stops for a day, made one really grand gesture.

But, you know me. I'm more about the day to day, the everyday, the seemingly small, the journey of small steps, the long simmer, the love.

Kisses,
Your Tenant

Friday, April 10, 2009

Updates from the world over here

Some recent photos...

Actually, I'm not sure which end is which in this photo. Or even why she is doing this. Also, I think you should know that Chris took this picture.

Cora's Easter dress, hot off the sewing machine Good Friday afternoon. Chris brought the blue fabric back from Jamaica in January '08. I have been keeping Cora from playing with that ribbon for about as long. Because I had this picture in my head and finally I had a chance to put it all together. I am especially pleased because I made up the pattern, and it worked! She must like it - she's dancing in it up on her tippy-toes. A sure sign of approval.

This is the outfit from the Cinderella/kitchen wench story of a few posts ago. You can see why Chris was thinking princess, not scullery maid.





Monday, April 6, 2009

Um...thanks?

Tonight, after a long wrangle over getting ready for bed ended with both Cora and I lying on the floor after a tearful negotiation. I suggested that we pretend we were asleep until Chris came into the room. Cora said okay and snuggled up next to me. And then she was struck by inspiration.

"Hey mommy!"
"What?"
"I the baby doggy and you the mommy doggy!"
"Okay, baby doggy, go to sleep."
She closed her eyes for about a minute, then opened them and said very solemnly, "You can lick me."

(I settled for brushing my hand on her cheek and making a slurping noise as my baby doggy snuggled closer and closed her eyes contentedly. For about 30 more seconds, and then we were on to the next imaginary scenario.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Future Flamenco Dancers of America...Unite!

Currently this is my favorite picture. That dress! That expression! I caught her mid-twirl in a new hand-me-down dress up dress. It is really too big for her by about a foot's worth of growth. She does not care. She wants to wear this dress, which she calls her Snow White dress, all the time.

And, really, can you blame her?


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Food. It's all about food.

(I really didn't think I would write this much - I had planned just to capture a few recent thoughts about White House gardens, meal planning, etc. And then...)

Earlier this week I was really excited to read about the organic vegetable garden that is being dug into the White House's South lawn - just down from the swing set, I believe. I found this exciting for a couple of reasons. One is that, like the swing set, it makes the White House seem like much more of a home - a place where a real family lives. Maybe it's the presence of schoolage children in the WH (when is the last time that happened?), maybe it is the politics, maybe it the point we are at in national culture, I don't know; whatever the reason, I like it.

I also like that everything grown there will be actual food - it isn't just a show garden or a school project. It's a working, family-feeding garden. Reading about all the different things that will be grown there - especially the lettuces - really made me think about the state of our own gardenspace and about food. I also like that Mrs. Obama knows not everyone has a green thumb or the space to flex it. “You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.” (I got my quote from the NYT.)

Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last summer sparked a mini-resurgence in my efforts to make our eating a little more health and earth friendly. And this idea continues to grow. Of course, we are also in the midst of Cora's toddler diet - the one where her likes and dislikes are entirely unpredictable. She used to like dressing on her salad. Then she didn't. Then she didn't like salad. Then she did. Then tonight she asked if she could have some of my "syrup" on her salad, too. And ate it all. Except for the piece she put on the floor for our cat Arvo. Who ate it. And later threw up.

So we have the usual dilemmas: to what extent are we okay with fixing her a separate meal? I try to either make things we all will like, or overlap our meals. So, while I might put spicy jerk sauce on our baked chicken, I leave hers plain or just use lemon juice and oregano on hers. Or, if we have mutter paneer, she has plain paneer and rice, with maybe a side of pb&j. Some of the same, something to round it out. But, of course, sometimes there is no getting around the fact that she won't eat enchiladas, refried beans, and rice. But, she will eat a quesadilla, and we will all have some guacamole. If we really want to eat something totally out of her league, she can usually bet on getting her quesadilla and guacamole, with a side of banana or applesauce. (And, I do plan out all our meals week by week. The shopping is mostly easier, but mostly it is easier on me because I don't have to make as many decisions throughout the week.)

This summer I plan on a few tomato plants, and definitely herbs. We're going to try some radishes and carrots, but I think we will be fighting the squirrels and odd rabbit over them. I would love to grow some lettuces, because I love lettuces. But, I think for it really be a success I would need a cold frame, and that isn't in the cards this year. So, my grow-my-own plans are fairly limited. But, I continue to try to eat more locally - I made a valiant attempt at getting us a CSA share this year. Unfortunately, finances and jobs are too uncertain to commit to one.

But, we do cook our own meals almost every night. I try to make each dinner also serve for lunch the next day, either as leftovers or as starter ingredients for something else. Breakfasts are mostly cereal or oatmeal. My big plan for once the berries start rolling in is to make some granola and have it with berries and yogurt most mornings throughout the summer. (Will I make my own yogurt? Tune in next season to find out!) We do still eat meat, though I keep trying to reduce the frequency. I'm intrigued with Mark Bittman's idea of being vegan until dinner time. I think being lacto-ovo vegetarian until dinner might frequenly work for us, except for those lunchtime leftovers some days.

We try to avoid processed foods, or at least choose "better" processed foods, like Annie's mac and cheese or Amy's frozen dinners, things like that. We had an interesting experience earlier this winter with high fructose corn syrup and Cora's digestive system - no more fruit snacks! Back to the Whole Foods brand cereal bars! Still, sometimes we all have a craving for chicken nuggets. Sometimes that cheesiest mac and cheese that comes in the blue box fulfills a nostalgic yearning. Sometimes I don't have time to make my own cookies.

Because we do like cookies. And cake. And boy am I anxious to make some pies this summer. And I do believe that when these things are homemade, they are less evil. And I am all about less evil in my pantry.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Overheard

Cora is sitting on the first step of our staircase, in her Sleeping Beauty shirt and pink tutu over her dress of the day, with her new pink princess shoes on. Chris walks by and says, "Don't you look like a nice princess!"

Cora's response? "No, I'm a dirty kitchen wench."

In a diagram of Cora's daily thoughts, Cinderella would overshadow pretty much everything else.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Ballerina and Me

I'm not sure exactly when I started taking dance lessons, but I do remember my mom picking me up after school in our old yellow station wagon. This was my grade school, so I must have been seven or eight. I would sit in the way back (without a seat belt!) and change into my tights and leotard as she drove me to ballet class. I added tap classes later on. Dropped tap after a few years. Added jazz and then modern dance. Eventually dropped ballet (jr. high brought the harsh reality that I would never have a "ballet body") and added more modern dance classes. At the height of my dance "career" I was probably taking three or four classes at a time. Plus the occasional workshop in new and exciting dance techniques like, um, breakdancing.

Well, as much as I loved dance, I was never really best in class (most flexible, yes), and it would never have been a real career. A big family move, high school, and a spectacular knee injury eventually pushed me into different fields, too. But, I really loved dance. I would spend hours in my room choreographing dances to my favorite songs and I devised a kind of shorthand with which to notate my choreography. I know I spent weeks on one dance to a medley of Fine Young Cannibals songs, at least. (That coupled with the breakdancing should enable you to pinpoint the year of my birth with near lethal accuracy.)

Sure, I loved the costumes and the French vocabulary and the studio crowd and the various fashion and social aspects of dance. But now, looking back, what I most remember is that I had a much better opinion of and relationship with my body. I knew what it could do. I could make it do it. I had a kind of confidence in my legs, especially, and my sense of balance and muscle memory. I still have really good muscle memory. I don't have a great sense of balance if I'm moving (though I can still stand on one leg for a while). I have almost zero confidence in my legs. Partly I think this is traceable back to the knee injury, and part of it is due to that flexibilty. Can you take much pride in your flexibility when it turns out you just have spaghetti tendons? I liked having the belief that my body was a thing of power and capability in action.

I've been thinking about all this again because Cora is moving into the next stage of ballerina love. The Nutcracker - the Clara music - is still part of her nightly bedtime ritual, and she still watches one of the movies once a week or so. And there's the tutu fetish. And the developing slipper fetish - sometimes she has a hard time deciding if she wants to wear the "glass slippers" (her good white shoes) or the "ballet slippers" (a pair of red Robeez). And then she started tripping merrily in a circle, on the balls of her feet (demi-pointe) with her arms in a near perfect second position.

And that's when I hunted up a video that would show her the positions, of feet and arms, and some simple steps. I found one at the library, called "The Ballerina and Me". We put it on last night. It was an aged video, the sound quality was awful, the video quality shaky, the overall production values painful to an adult, but she was transfixed. She tried to do the positions, the arms, the steps. She had me demonstrate them. We tried to get Daddy to do a plie. She used the arm of the glider as her barre. She tried to say the French words. She was wearing a diaper, a tutu, a pink long-sleeved shirt, a Cinderella dress-up shirt, and a constantly changing variety of footwear.

It made me yearn to dance again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Hero Factory


Google it. Do it. It's fun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy birthday, Dad!


Today is my Dad's birthday - and I'm sorry we aren't there to celebrate it with him. To make up for that, we made the same kind of cake he's having. Really, it was Cora's idea! (And steaks...not these ones, but ones that look similar. That's how much we love him! In his honor we will force ourselves to eat steak, baked feta, arugula salad, chocolate-peanut-butter cake, and drink some red wine. We are SELFLESS when it comes to celebrating those we love!)

I think I've written here before about how great my Dad is, how much I love him, how supportive of me he has always been. But maybe I haven't mentioned that one of the reasons I love him so much and have so much appreciation and respect for him is that he is a good friend and partner to my Mom. He reads the books she reads for bookgroup. He has become quite knowledgeable about quilting. He likes to cook with her.

I think one of the iconic images from my childhood is the family grocery shopping trips. We usually all went together. They still do the grocery shopping together as much as possible. Because they like being together, even during one of the most repetitive (oh really, milkbreadeggscheese again?) and time-consuming chores on earth. (You know, for those of us not threshing our own grain.) I like that in a father and a husband - I think that counts for a lot.

So, happy birthday, Dad! Enjoy it - and I promise to send pictures of your granddaughter tonight.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

If I could go back in time...

I would make sure that 2009 came with a subscription to the Bourbon of the Week club.

Who's with me?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Square One: in which bad news and good news are received mere hours apart

So, we know one place we're definitely not moving to this year. (Bad news)
Chris has another phone interview this week. (Good news.)

I know, I know. Maybe it isn't bad news! Maybe the good news is that we're not moving to TX this year, because it would have been disastrous. Who knows but that the universe has spared us misery and sunshine in the interests of something much better still to turn up. It is supposed to be a comforting idea, and it is, really. Most of the time.

The rest of the time I can't help but think about those poor characters in novels who really suffer some drastic setbacks and misery, while the novelist toils away toward some happy ending, or some meaningful ending, or just an ending that could have been worse, so we decide it is happy. You know what I mean?

If my life is a novel, I hope it is more along the lines of Jane Eyre, say, than The Road.

I really, really hope my life is not a postmodern novel.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How not to expect

On the fridge we have a little poem by Galway Kinnell (ok, we have lots of stuff up on our fridge aside from this one little scrap of paper). Here it is:

Prayer

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

I can no longer remember where it came from - it looks like I cut it out of something like a newsletter or other piece of mail. Something that was folded, and there's a crease running across the paper just below Kinnell's name. But, I thought of this poem this morning as I tried to derail my brain's worrying at the usual topics (are we moving? when will we know? when will they call? what if they don't? what will we do? are we moving? when will we know?...).

I like the idea of this poem, I like it for many things. I like the idea of just wanting what happens next, whatever "what happens next" turns out to be. I often strive for that kind of expectant nonexpectancy. It is a harder struggle - of course it is - when I actually do have something specific that I want that whatever happens to be. And when I want it to be something good; when I expect something good. Or at least something more good than not.

I'm looking for a more nonexpectant attitude, even if just for today. I can be good at standing against the flow and I can be good at going with the flow, but I am not so good at hanging out in the eddies and waiting for the stream to start moving again. Is this about some kind of psychological inertia? Maybe.

One good side effect is that, in my desire to feel like something is moving forward, that there is movement for my psyche, I am reading a lot more. I hadn't been doing much since October - the busybusy fall, the illnesses, the stress and sadnesses of the holidays and January, all those things made it hard for me to focus on the page. But now...a different story. That part feels good. That part of right now I am enjoying, and I'm trying to keep that in mind.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The waiting.

We are waiting. Waiting to hear whether we will be moving or not, what our summer and fall will look like, where we are going with our lives. We are in that strange and uncomfortable limbo of "everything went really well...I think everything went really well...did everything go really well?" that is so familiar, I think, to anyone who has been on a job interview.

We were pretty sure it would be at least a week before we heard anything. That week is over and we are trying to stave off the second-guessing mode that has been inching closer and closer. Waiting, I may have said here before, is not a strength I possess. I can do it, but not easily. Not without some major distractions on hand.

I thought maybe I would distract myself with potty training! Yes! Fun! Pull-ups! M&Ms! Constant entreaties to please sit on the potty, please, please. Reminders of how if one finds diaper changes offensive to one's existence, one could always choose...THE POTTY!!

Yeah. That worked for about as long as (and about as well as) you might think. We'll continue buying diapers for a while longer yet. We'll continue waiting.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Forgot to mention...

That I'm also weirdly excited about the upcoming changes in our lives. I mean, there's the heartbreak and sadness of leaving people and places we have come to think of as home, but at the same time there is excitement and pride in Chris's accomplishments and the thrill of learning a new place.

Do you know the tarot card the two of pentacles? The image on the card has been popping into my head a lot in the past couple weeks - the holding of two things and finding the balancing point between them has been my task, not just careening from one emotion to another. I'm striving for flexibility and fluidity, rather than the squelching of either emotion.

But, perhaps the sadness end has been given freer rein in my speech and writing, because when I drove Chris to the airport for his interview on Wednesday and said something about being excited, he was surprised. It is hard to keep both in my mind, let alone my mouth, but they are both there. He came home late last night, full of positive feelings about the class he taught as a demonstration of his professorial style, his meetings with various important people, and his interactions with students and faculty.

So now, we wait with fingers crossed for a phone call, for an official offer. It seems likely to be coming, but of course nothing is certain, and we are a little afraid to put too much conviction into it quite yet.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Connect the Dots

1. I feel compelled to MAKE things, these days. Knitting is what I have space and time for, so that is what I am doing every spare moment I have.

2. I feel compelled to BURROW IN and stay home and do my own bizarre form of nesting.

3. I PLAN dinners that are really too much effort for the time and energy I have for them.

4. I look around the house and DESPAIR of ever getting this place into presentable shape.

5. We are probably MOVING this summer. But we don't know for sure yet.

January fashions
















Saturday, January 24, 2009

Over waffles this morning

Cora, who has been staring at my face says, "Mama, what's that?" and reaches out to poke the side of my face with a sticky finger.

"That's a mole."

"What's a mole?"

"It's a kind of spot you get sometimes when you get older."

"Hooray! I love spots!" She's bouncing up and down in her chair, clapping.

Well, isn't that easy to say when you're still under three and don't even freckle?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Catch-up

I made this capelet mostly during the post-blizzard drive home in December. I like it, but I wish I'd made it about three inches longer.

The beginning of a new dishcloth, the Ballband Dishcloth pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting - since finished, love it. Of course, before using it I had to figure out where Cora had put it.

The dishcloth thief herself in a new-to-her dress that she wore three days in a row after receiving.



The infamous fishing-in-the-couch episode. What is she wearing on her head? A cowl I made her, and then bound off too tightly for it to go over her head. So now it is a weird hat. I should recast on the top and close it up for a real hat. I know.


Cora in all her sartorial splendor (hat? check. bib? check. doggy backpack? check. scary tomato-smeared face? double check!), having a post-spaghetti chat with a gnome.




Monday, January 12, 2009

Sick again! No fair!

After finally beating the mammoth illness of post-Thanksgiving through days before Christmas, I thought I was free and clear. Surely teaching without a voice for a week brought me some good health karma? (Incidentally, several students mentioned that the two things they would remember most from my class was when I got sick and lost my voice, and when my daughter was sick and came to class with me. Uh huh. Totally what I was hoping for.) But, alas, no. Here I am sick again, completely exhausted by standing up for 45 minutes while Cora ran circles around me lost in a free-association miasma of Wonder Pets, fairy tales, and ballet. Or, I was lost, she knew exactly what she was talking about.

I'm not as good at being sick as I used to be. I can't really read much. I'm not up for knitting. Don't even think about writing. I watched the Golden Globes last night, mesmerized by sparkly dresses and edgy hair-dos, but I really can't tell you much about the winners.

But, just before I got sick, I'd started reading Sara Paretsky's book Writing in an Age of Silence. It's been a while since I read one of her mysteries, but on one of my nomadic searches for inspiration at the library, this book caught my eye. It is part memoir, part historic look at Chicago in the 60s and now, and part meditation on writing. Early on, in the introduction, she says:

"[This] book deals with the dominant question of my own life, the effort to find a voice, the effort to help others on the margins find a voice, the effort to understand and come to terms with questions of power and powerlessness."

This sentence just snapped her other books into an entirely new light for me and made me eager to go back and reread some of them. It also led me to ponder (something I have time for when I am sick, but not much ability to hold onto a chain of thought) what I would say is the dominant question of *my* own life, and how is it (if it is) reflected in my writing. I haven't a lot of insights on this right now, but I am finding it interesting to think about. Once I have a better idea, I'll come back to this topic.

***
I know - it has been awhile for pictures. I will download and post some soon!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Just for looking, baby

Cora is fishing in the couch with a plastic coat hanger, which involves wedging the coat hanger between the cushions and then pulling it out again.

Cora: Look what I caught, baby!
Me: What is it?
Cora: An octopus!
Me: Oh! Can we eat him?
Cora: No, baby! Sea creatures are not for eating!
Me: They're not?
Cora: No. Just for looking, baby.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More stuffing

The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
I've actually stopped teaching this poem, because I can't stand to read another paper about how this is *just like* grandpa's cabin up north. I mean, on the one hand I do appreciate that students love this poem and that they feel such a strong connection to it and it brings them pleasant associations. But, for me, one of the most poignant parts of this poem is that this place does not yet exist for the speaker. It is a place he plans and goes to in his imagination, in his "deep heart's core" while surrounded by grey pavement.

The description of his little cottage is so idyllic, so evocative, so detailed and divine (that "bee-loud glade" and those "veils of morning" - everything sounds shimmering and opalescent), that it seems it must exist. But, it is all what he will and shall do, one day, when he can escape the grey. Like many of us city-dwellers who do yearn for a simple life (or what we believe would be a simple life), growing something tasty, living among natural beauty, the low sounds of waves our new soundtrack.

You can hear Yeats read it - in a high and incantatory way - over at poets.org. It isn't the way I read it, or hear it in my head, but it's his way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stuffing my head with poems

Well, I suppose the universe isn't going to just dump beauty on me without me making room for it in this head that is so crowded right now with troubles and worries and sadness from a variety of sources from the personal to the global. So, I'm trying to make a little room, move things around, clear a little space. I thought I would start with a poem that not only will start this process for me, but reminds me why I need it.

Robert Hayden wrote this poem not so long ago (1966), but I imagine that as true as it is for me, it would be for people of any time and place.

Monet's Waterlilies

Today as the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
I come again to see
the serene, great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.

I have loved this poem for years - it was the poem that led me to discover the rest of Hayden's amazing poetry and its lines ran through my head repeatedly in the months following 9/11, and whenever I turn to the arts for solace and sustenance.

I love the way Hayden describes Monet's painting and how he tried to capture light, preserve a light that "was not, was, forever is" - though when I read this poem I usually think of the haystack series, Monet moving down a line of canvases as the light changed. How "the eye like the eye of faith" believes it is seeing waterlilies from a distance, that up close dissolve. And the description of that dissolution as being like seeing through tears, the way you do look at a world you have lost, even as you can still see "the shadow of its joy" - meaning perhaps that the world is not entirely lost, is within reach, if removed for a time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A quote for the new year

"The universe is vast, beautiful, and appalling." Aldous Huxley

I am sending out a request to the universe to please send more of that middle part my way. Preferably by the end of the week.

Friday, January 2, 2009

All Cheese New Year


For New Year's Day dinner, after Cora went to bed, totally exhausted after being awake all day after staying up all night, Chris and I enjoyed a fondue dinner. The closest I may ever get to an actual all cheese dinner.

I have mixed feelings about both 2008 and 2009. 2008 had a lot of good moments, but in many ways it kind of feels like the year that never quite got off the ground for me - so much that didn't get done, so much that didn't go right. I feel like the last three months especially were just sort of this grimy gray wash of time, interspersed with some great meals, fun outings, and lovely moments of friendship, beauty, and love. But I'd like the ratio to be reversed, for the grime to be less.


And 2009, well, what I can say about the prospects for this year? It is likely we will be moving away from the city and (more importantly) the friends we love. It's the official Year of Potty-Training. Ugh. That's about as much as I care to talk about the 2009 horizon right now, because I pretty quickly get a sinking feeling when I look at the horizon.


Thank goodness, then, that I have a nearly-three year old in the house, for whom that horizon simply does not exist. For whom the new year is simply an excuse to dance.


So, come on in, 2009. Who knows what really lurks within your days?

Christmas, random photos from

One day, when I begin a photo essay blog post, I will remember that Blogger puts the photos up in reverse order, and you can only upload so many at a time, and you will see a chronological array of photos and you will keel over from the shock of it and want me to foot the ambulance bill. Until that time...above, Cora decorates Christmas cupcakes.

I wanted to capture the look on Cora's face when she first saw the tree with presents under it, but as soon as I held up the camera she said "Cheese!" I have created a monster.


Yeah, she likes the sweater, but didn't want to wear it over pajamas.


The tutu dress, of course is an entirely different story.


Playing with the new dolls...


Someone really likes her pajamas.



And her first dollhouse. She immediately knelt down in front of it, clapped her hands and said, "My dollhouse! It's my dollhouse!"