Thursday, May 27, 2010

Transition Books

When Ben and I traveled to Paris last year, I felt anxious about all of the logistics for Silas -- where he would sleep which night, which grandparent would take care of him when, which time zone he'd be in etc. A wise friend suggested I make a book to help him prepare and look forward to the details. He LOVED it. Since then I have made several others.

Yesterday while Eden napped, Silas and I sat at the kitchen table with blank board books and made "transition books." They aren't spectacular, but you'll get the idea. This tool has been so helpful for us!

He chose the paper for his cover.
And he wanted these cupcakes to be him and Eden in their bunk bed.
When Ben and I are both out of town, the fairies come during the night and leave little presents.

He wanted this ice cream paper, which sparkles, on every page...

The pink page he made himself. It is "a funny guy in jail." It was an accident that "the funny guy" ended up lookign out through the pink paper. I told him lots of great art was made that way.

These pictures are a little dark - Eden's book:

Eden already tore the piece of purple paper away from the book. I glued it. And taped a picture of Lindsay, the babysitter, on the green page.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Saturday Ben and I will celebrate our ten year anniversary. I vividly remember just telling him I couldn't believe we'd been married for four years -- as long as college. And suddenly it is six years later. Time has become a strange creature.

I met Ben two weeks before he turned 14. We grew up together. Especially since a lot of that growing up happened in our 20's. And, as we take stock, is still happening in our 30's.

The close of ten years is a tidy place to pause and evaluate. I like to pause and evaluate, which is why I love September and January -- they are the clean-slate months. It's so easy to slush into habit and lose appreciation, purpose, the day.

Tomorrow Ben and I will slip two beach towns south for a weekend away. Though we've left the kids many times, this is our first time leaving them with a babysitter overnight (and paying for a babysitter overnight) -- a rite of passage.

Hopefully while we're there, we'll have some time to remember -- who we were at 21, when we first chose each other; how we dreamed our lives would be; how our lives are; how we're dreaming they'll be in another ten...

I don't love goals because I so often break them, but I do love dreams. Sometimes they begin out of focus, a notion, and slowly sharpen. Sometimes they're a blossom right in your hand. Sometimes you run toward them, so hard you can't breathe. And sometimes you walk away from them. Sometimes you look up and find yourself standing in the middle of one you had forgotten.

Maybe this will be a year of clarifying -- who we are together, what we're making -- a year of dreaming.

Friday, May 14, 2010


This week we are on staycation at a friends' house that's one house from the bay beach and three blocks from the ocean. (THANK YOU!!)

It's always a funny thing to be on "vacation" in the midst of every-day-life responsibilities. To help me pretend I'm away, I brewed mango black tea and have been drinking it iced with a splash of lemonade and some fresh mint leaves all week. It helps.

Unlike most weeks, I've had no time to myself this week (even harder with the tease of a sunny balcony), so it's been even more of a treat to be in a beautiful house where I can see the sun shimmering on the bay through the windows.

It's always fun to try on someone else's house, their sensibility, the textures of the floors and carpets, the bedspreads, and weight of their drinking glasses, the colors splashed on pillows and shelves -- everything just a little bit different. I love that. Right now I am sitting at a green lacquered desk. Silas is hooting as he throws more clothes down the laundry shoot -- somehow he's only thrown clothes so far -- and Eden is busily playing in a room full of toys that are endlessly fun because they are not her own.

So far we haven't broken anything, or spilled or drawn on anything, except one puzzle piece. And I did get one giant pan, which it turns out was a pancake skillet and not a pan meant for baking, stuck in the oven. So stuck that it had to stay there for the better part of a day until Ben got home. But now it's out and there is no damage.

After living here, there are a few things I'd now like to own:
*Mrs. Myer's Clean day Products -- basil and geranium
*Lambskin rugs -- I first used one in a yoga class years ago and now re-love them
*An espresso machine -- I still haven't figured out how to make a cappuccino in this one, but it does make me a perfect little cup of coffee every morning and heat my milk
*J.R. Watkins aloe & green tea hand soap

As we've moved in to weekend, the sense of vacation has set in more: two nights ago we took the 3-car ferry boat over to Balboa Island and walked for frozen yogurt together. Last night we walked to the pier and sat among the dozens of fishers drinking root beer floats, watching huge green waves swell under us.

Tomorrow morning we move back up the hill to resettle in our little house -- to stay instead of staycation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crew Cut

For weeks Silas has been asking if he could "get bald." I cannot think of where he's ever seen a crew cut or an inspiring bald man (grandfathers, neither of you is bald), but he has a vision.

Yesterday he begged me not to give him a haircut but to let him go to the barber shop instead. I think it was the fact that he had such a sense of what he wanted, and that his desire was so much his own -- crew cuts aren't exactly in vogue right now -- that despite myself, I caved. (and yes, I had to give myself lots of pep talks).

Maybe it's from reading Blake (Songs of Innocence, "The Chimney Sweeper": "There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,/That curl'd like a lamb's back, was shav'd...") but I got teary between the car and the barber shop picturing my little boy, self-assured in the barber's chair, getting his little head shaved.

Once we were there, though, it wasn't so bad. Eden paraded around munching on a blow pop they gave her, yes -- chewing up and swallowing every bit of gum, while Silas sat tented in his big black smock giggling every time the clippers approached his ears or neck.

They cut the sides first, so I eased into the shortness, and saved the top for last.

What I wasn't prepared for was the quick shock of tears that sprang to my eyes the moment I saw his shaved hairline. I haven't seen Silas's hairline since he was about 6 months old and his hair grew long enough to cover it. He has a sweet widows peak and two little cowlicks on either side. For hours on end I used to look at that hairline, as he nursed, as he played, marveling at this new little person who had come to live in my arms. And there in the old man barber shop was my baby's little forehead again.

(I will post better pictures -- this is from photobooth and he took it himself. He couldn't be more proud of his fuzzy head. Apparently, it is exactly what he wanted).

I also found these pictures he'd taken while I was somewhere else in the house:

Friday, May 07, 2010

tech-savvy people?

A friend asked how she could subscribe to this blog to make reading easier.
I know there are several clever ways to do this out there -- does anyone know how?


I'm not a big TV watcher, but there are a few shows that I absolutely love. "Friday Night Lights" is one of them, and tonight it returned to NBC. Annemarie made a Texas sheet cake to celebrate, and though I didn't know quite what one was, because I loved the name, I made one too (or technically I made the cake and Jaclyn -- the hero/babysitter -- made the frosting). I later learned that Texas Sheet Cake = a thin layer of soft chocolate cake topped with fudge-y frosting -- perfect with a glass of milk. I probably would love this cake even more if I doubled the cake recipe to shift the cake-to-frosting ratio (but, lord help us, that would be 4 sticks of butter in the cake!!), but considering I ate three pieces today, it must be all right as is.
(note: my mom and sister -- lovers of rich chocolate -- you should run, not walk, to make this)

The FNL Texas Sheet Cake

for the cake:
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup water
4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda

for the frosting:
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 low fat or nonfat milk
1 pound confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla

For the cake: preheat to 375
lightly grease a jellyroll pan or 1 inch deep rimmed baking sheet
in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, water, cocoa, bring to a boil
remove from heat and add flour, baking soda, sugar, vanilla, stirring as you go
add eggs and sour cream, mix well
pour batter in pan and bake 22 minutes (cake will spring back when touched, DO NOT OVER BAKE)
transfer pan to wire rack

For frosting-
*WHEN CAKE IS ALMOST DONE BAKNG* combine butter, cocoa, milk in med saucepan over med heat
and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and add confectioners' sugar and vanilla, stirrng to combine-
frosting will be pourable at this point, it will thicken as it cools.

*Pour warm frosting over the hot cake!*

Let cool completely and cut into bars

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Silas got a bad report from his teachers at school today -- stomping on books, throwing cupfuls of beans in the air, not listening in general (and most likely thinking he was hilarious). This is new territory in our house -- what to do?

He and I had a stern talk in the car. Then he thought of better choices he could make next time. I tried to motivate him by telling him how proud I would be of him when I got a good report. But are those things enough?

We haven't entered into the realm of discipline much. We don't spank. Time-out's have never really been effective. For the most part, Silas has readily responded to a firm word. He doesn't like being in trouble.

To discipline? And if so, how?
He could lose a privilege (like watching a TV show, which would punish me too).
We had a conversation about how in life there are things we MUST do -- listen to teachers, be kind to books, not pound on your friends -- and there are things we ENJOY doing -- like watching our favorite TV show. But when we don't do the must's, we lose the privilege of the enjoy's.

The problem there is that the motivation to act kindly then is TV.
How do you motivate a child to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing? Not because of fear or guilt but because of goodness? How do you teach the value of goodness so that it matters? Is this possible?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Refrigerator Repair

Our refrigerator hasn't broken yet, but it's making a sound. The same buzzing sound it made once just before it turned off and left all the food thawed and under an inch of freezer burn.

So last night, Ben hopped on craigslist, and in a matter of seconds (literally) found the number of the wonderful Kenmore specialist repair man who'd come to our house a year or two ago, whose name I did not even vaguely remember and whose number I couldn't have begun to find. Impressive.

So today, the man came. He was a stranger, and not at all the repair man we had known and liked. He was "out of business cards" and was as tall as the door frame. Almost immediately asked to use the bathroom. I moved Eden's pink potty and Silas's razor scooter out of it (yes, the bathroom by the front door serves somewhat as a garage), and let him in. When I moved the potty back, I discovered that the behemoth man in the kitchen had pissed all over the floor AND left the seat up. I don't usually use the verb pissed, but that is definitely what he did. Disgusting.

The freezer made no buzzing sounds while the giant man stood in the kitchen lamely opening and closing the doors, which is all he did the entire time, by the way, that and sit in a chair echoing back whatever I said in declarative statements:

him: Does it make a sound like this: TUCK TUCK TUCK TUCK? It's the evaporator fan.
me: No, It makes a sound more like this zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
him: Yeah, that's definitely the fan.... And it's keeping you up at night?
me: No, it's really quiet. We just hear it when we're downstairs.
him: Yes, then, that's the fan. I'm sure of it.
me: But you haven't heard the sound yet.
him: No, but it's the fan. You said this fridge was how old?
me: 5 years.
him: YES, those fans give out at about 5 years. It's the fan.

So, I didn't have him replace the fan.
And the freezer has stopped buzzing.
For now.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


I've been thinking about grit recently.

Sometimes we are quicksand-stuck in grit and can see nothing else. Other times, most times, grit is underlying. It moves with us, plays in the background, rises up when we're quiet. The grit complicates our smooth shiny moments, makes us sedimentary rock -- nothing single-layered, but stacked with grit.

There's the grit of hoping for something, of waiting, of disappointment or excitement, the grit of fleeting time, of heart break or utter loss, the grit of intrigue and possibility, our own fear and uncertain footing.

I've heard this generation of parents referred to as "living in the age of anxiety," primarily because of all of the information at our fingertips, all of the choices. I feel that even in little tasks like grocery shopping. The other day I went to buy Silas and Eden a multi-vitamin and some Omega 3's, and I literally ended up sitting on the floor looking up 6 feet of shelves trying to decide which bottle to buy. Same thing in the cereal aisle, the breads -- how much fiber, how much protein, high fructose corn syrup? on and on. The simple choices have become exhausting.

Yesterday I taught on art journal workshop on grit, and we did free-writes (prompted stream-of-consciousness writing) to get started. Though mine is choppy and fragmented, it outs a lot of the grit I feel at my gut every day as I mother:

If I could tell you about my grit I'd say it's underground, a low growling current, a sigh as I push back my chair, as I close my eyes in the dark.

Failing -- the word that accuses all day long.
Helplessness -- unsure of how to respond to the tantrums, posturing, sass, what to say, how to say it, how to bite my anger, to teach, parent, instruct.
My grit is in accusations.
And in wanting. The want for the impossible: more time, more hours, more silence, more regrouping, more purpose, more creative responses.

I don't want to miss this -- time is rushing, pain and pressure of brevity. They are changing -- even their faces, their legs, their hands, their voices, the shapes of the words in their mouths. I don't want to miss this. These years I'm trying to wedge in ways to meet my own needs, am longing for my own time and space; but soon they will be their own spheres of existence orbiting their own bright suns (and I will be longing for them).

I'm not so sure of myself underneath this face -- the ground trembling, my shoes melting on the rocks.

What's beneath all this is the desire to do it well --
it = mother, love, apologize, laugh enough, absorb, stay present.

CC said I put a lot of pressure on myself -- maybe we all do -- but isn't that good, having expectations? Or am I pressing myself with a giant mechanical thumb, into the ground...

What I really don't want to say is that I'm fearful, teetering on the edge of doubting every fiber.

If there were a door it wouldn't be small like Alice's or locked without windows. If there were a door it would be cracked; there would be light; and I think I'd go in. That's what I'd like to think.