Thursday, February 28, 2013

Creative Control


We make a lot of art in our house. Which is not to say that I spend my days coordinating creative projects for my kids. I am not that mother. In fact, if you want to ever see a cringeworthy example of my inner control freak, you should watch me try to make Christmas cookies with my kids. One of the marks of how well we love each other is how easily they take my irritation in stride when we try to make stuff together.

Acknowledging the “solo artist” aspect of my personality, I nevertheless desire to nurture my kids' creativity. When school supplies go on sale in the late summer, I always stock up on markers, crayons, watercolors, different kinds of paper, glue sticks and scissors. All this stuff gets thrown in a box and can be used whenever the mood to make stuff strikes them. I choose things carefully that can be used with minimal supervision, have low potential for disaster, and can be easily replaced so that supplies are always readily available and nothing is ever off limits. Not everything is a masterpiece, but we certainly win in volume department.

Charlie regularly tells people, “I am an artist.” And I think there's something to the style of free form constantly available creativity that is cultivated in our house that makes him see art as something that belongs to him. He will make art out of anything. There are few containers that are allowed to go directly into the recycling without Charlie first having his way with decorating them. “Mom, can I have that box?” is something I hear all the time, and since it is still recyclable after he's done, the answer is always, “Sure.” Our walls are also full of Charlie's paintings representing the makeshift art gallery he created when he was really into using the scotch tape. My inner control freak is not that interested in interior design and I have yet to discover my inner neat freak, so I wholeheartedly approve of his displays.

I had a colleague who spent some time as a daycare teacher and she talked about arguments she had with colleagues about the distinction between doing guided craft projects with the kids and art. Art, she insisted was about self-expression. Craft projects could be fun, and teach a bunch of skills, but because the focus was on a predetermined pattern, they were not art. As an artist, myself, and as a parent fostering young artists, I have come to agree with her. We may learn forms or use certain patterns as a launching point, but the heart and soul of art is the freedom of the artist to control the process and the product.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ten Months Old

Yesterday the baby known as Mr. Butters/Bud McGud/Mookie/Glurk turned ten months old. We are in the home stretch of the first year. All cliches about how fast it goes apply.

He's become an amazingly independent kid, playing for long stretches on the floor with his basket of toys, working hard to develop the muscles he needs to be mobile, or jumping enthusiastically in his jumper. He stops to fuss if his diaper needs changing, or he's hungry, or got himself stuck, or is tired, but goes right back to it once his basic needs are met. He loves music, coming to sharp attention when someone sings or loving his toy that plays Mozart when he presses the buttons.

Socially, he likes to stare at someone until they notice and return his gaze. Then he will look away with a wry smile, knowing he won because he "made you look." The wonderful babbling continues ranging from whispers to squeals. He likes to click with his tongue and will click back and forth with someone in his first attempts at conversation. His smiles are a gift, especially when the dimple below his right eye shows. His main position is thoughtful, so we all work extra hard to make him laugh, and when he does, it is an earthy belly laugh.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them weekly on this blog.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013


Resolutions are interesting because there's a lot to be learned whether you keep them or break them. This year I made five resolutions as a way to set the general tone for the year. Overall, my wish has been to nurture my creativity and to be satisfied with what I have. I think that for 2013, so far, I have found myself living in the spirit of these themes. It's been enjoyable to think about them, reflect on them, and make choices for action based on them. I have found it comforting to come back to these two themes as a way to remind myself of my priorities when things get a little turbulent and that they have helped me live more intentionally toward things that are important to me.

In terms of the five actual detailed resolutions, I have been quite successful with three of them and have completely struggled with two of them. As I've said, the ones that I struggle to keep are as interesting to me, if not more so, as the ones that I've been more successful in committing to. As I fail, I am reflective and try to seek out the answers as to why I could not honor my commitment to myself in that area. I attempt to define the nature of the struggle. Was it too far afield from who I really am? Is fear blocking my success? Even with my successful resolutions, there are times when I don't want to follow through on them, and yet I push through those times. Why do I do that with the successful ones and why do I choose not to push through the resistance with the others? Resolutions are as much an exercise in self-knowledge as they are in behavior change. All things we attempt of our own free will are instructive regardless of the results.

So getting to specifics, here are my three, so far, successful resolutions:
1) Take a photo everyday. Since the beginning of the year, there have been only two days that I have missed, and on both of those days, it slipped my mind during the hustle and bustle. There have certainly been days that I haven't wanted to take pictures, especially in the past few days, when I am just plain bored with winter and the things I see everyday. I have pushed through - seeking help and lowering my standards being the most successful strategies to do this. It also helps that I've created a self-imposed weekly accountability by posting photos to this blog.
2) Cut $8,000 from our annual spending. Despite the fact that a leak from an old toilet just cost us a water bill five times our usual bill, things are going well on the frugality front. The key has been to make cuts in areas that require self-control vs. the areas of budget designated for "crazy shit that happens when you own a hundred year old house." I have been tracking our expenses for years in a spreadsheet, and this year, for the areas we want to decrease, I created a formula that subtracts what we spend from the budgeted amount. When we hit zero, there's no more money to spend in that category. It really helps me mull over every purchase. I'm especially proud of how much we've cut our restaurant spending, especially since focusing on cooking at home both nurtures my creativity and makes me feel satisfied with what I have.
3) Make peace with the house we live in. For a while I was obsessed with real estate listings and/or remodeling plans depending upon which way I was leaning to feed my dissatisfaction with our house. This year, I've been quite successful in putting my grand schemes aside. I'm enjoying the calm that comes with just living in the house rather than obsessing on the many ways it falls short. I've also done some things to connect more with my neighborhood, including revisiting our neighborhood school, and determining it is the best place for Charlie to go to kindergarten next year. That has been my most exciting revelation of the year.

In terms of the ones I struggle with:
1) Go outside more. I even structured this one to be less specific because I know myself and how much I try to avoid being cold. It has been a struggle this winter, although I did take advantage of the snowfall we had when the temperatures were in the thirties to go out and play with the kids and even build a snow man. Spring is coming, I hope to improve my track record. And hopefully, having Charlie at a school we can walk to come fall will increase our outside time in an easy way. All hail down vests and long underwear!
2) Write two pages five days a week. Dudes, why can't I write five days a week? Why can't I write two pages when I do write? Why do I get so scared? Why do I dread it? Perhaps I can work myself back into this resolution in a meta way, by exploring the answers to these questions in writing. I'm not ready to give this one up yet, and am seeking strategies that will make me dig deeper to do this. Look, I'm so blocked on this that I can't even write very much about why I can't write. Plus the baby is crying so I'm out of time...

Like I said, it's instructive, and it definitely has kept me moving through my life with intent rather than falling back on habit.

Friday, February 15, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them weekly on this blog.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Perils of Love

"Dear Mom,
I love u, but a bee is coming to sting."

Be safe this Valentine's Day, everyone. Love is a risky endeavor.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them weekly on this blog.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


(Thanks, Josh, for taking this picture of my nine-months-postpartum, thirty-nine-year-old, super strong body)

The first time I got in really good shape was my sophomore year of college. I broke up with my high school boyfriend over spring break and I walked and biked all the time to clear my head and heal the sadness. When I came home for the summer, my grandmother said to me, "Your legs look really muscular. Have you been exercising?" Now, from any normal person, that would be a compliment. My grandmother said it with a tone of pure disgust at the unfeminine, unattractive, unacceptable amazon I had become in her mind. I knew she was crazy, but her words still deflated me.
I feel sad for her because she never got to feel the joy of being physically strong - of having your body function just how it's supposed to. Because of her strange notions about femininity and gender roles, she never got to experience the pure pleasure of endorphins flooding your system when you push your body just a little further, just a little harder.
Sometimes, when I'm working out, I hear her words in my head. I know that she would absolutely hate the body I have now. When I think of that it makes me crack a defiant smile and it motivates me to push myself harder. It makes me love my strong body even more.
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Friday, February 1, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them in groups weekly on this blog.

 (Yep, that's negative thirteen. The temp when I went out to warm up the car Friday morning.)
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