February 29, 2016

Leap Day

icing on the cake swiMging screen time our fair february abundant picnic blooms :) another snack stubborn pumpkin pajama day the perfect slice

I want to write this February a thank you card, or at least give it a big hug. James tells me we've had winters this mild, but I certainly don't recall so many deep winter days where we shed layer after layer and dug in the dirt with glove-less fingers. It has not been the year for skiing (poor James!), but it's been an effortless season so far, and the timing couldn't have been better, for these tired bones. 

The kids both seem more wild than ever, and... loud. Roo has become quite the performer, and belts out songs with a lot of dramatic flair. It's verging on 'toddlers and tiaras' and makes me cringe more than a little, but is also ridiculously cute. Her current favorites are the quintessential princess-call of 'Let It Go', and Downtown by Majical Cloudz. 

Smith has been creating and drawing more, with my urging, and is finally beginning to take an interest in 'letters'. A once quiet boy who now talks non-stop, he plays a continuous soundtrack of animal facts and elaborate plans, that I can only describe as 'strange', but are always entertaining. He gets so frustrated if his lengthy stories are ever interrupted, and most days it seems there isn't one minute when someone isn't telling me something, asking me to watch something, or to do something. I feel as though I'm graduating into a whole new chapter of parenting. It's bittersweet, and exciting, and... loud.

So as I sit here in the final hours of our bonus day in February, I'm grateful for the premature spring fever that's hit all of us; trees with tiny buds, grass turning green, kids that want to tackle each other and scream outside for hours on end. I have to keep reminding myself that March often brings some frigid surprises, but I am definitely starting to count those chickens.

*I promised myself that I would post here at least once every week, but this past one was a beast and I couldn't pull it off. And here, once again, is sweet February of 2016 to the rescue, offering me another day to catch it on up! (that is if I can proofread in the next 15 minutes).

February 19, 2016


The scariest moment is always right before you start.    ~Stephen King

Smith doesn't draw or paint much. It's surprising to me, because we are a household filled with art supplies and lots of opportunity and encouragement for creative expression. His interest seemed to dry up about a year ago, and these days when I challenge him try a little drawing, he will often complain that he "can't", or demand that I produce whatever complicated dinosaur he sees in his head, but can't bring to the page. 

This is probably common for many kids, and I suspect it's partly simple frustration at a developing skill set (he's also been known to smash an uncooperative puzzle or toss an ill fitting mitten), and partly fear of failure. 

For as long as I remember the pull to create, I have also felt tremendous anxiety over failing. I'm a committed procrastinator, never having written a single outline for a paper in advance or worked on a painting over multiple days. My preferred method is sitting for 48 hours straight, without eating or sleeping, to produce a thirty page term paper I'd known was due for months, or arranging an independent study for my high school art class, literally completing nothing for the whole trimester, then faking illness to buy some time and crank out all the work in the final week. For every one of the fourteen semesters I spent in architecture school, I was convinced that this would be the one where I would fail. That I'd be creatively impotent, and so I'd skip class or make an excuse and avoid producing until the pressure left me no alternative.

I wish I could say that this was the stuff of childhood, and I'd since found ways to better manage my time, but I still operate exactly the same. Assignments are written in the eleventh hour, drawings get tackled the night before they are due, and almost everything is completed in a single sitting. I have kept this journal for over four years. I don't have a one unpublished draft. If I can just start something, it gets done, no matter how long it takes. But oh that heavy weight of starting.

One of the most perfect film scenes I've ever watched is Ed Harris, channeling Jackson Pollack, confronting a giant blank canvas. I have zero of Pollack's talent, but I do share something of his temperament, at least as described by Harris. Everything is in that scene; the fear and pressure and anxiety in the responsibility of making something where nothing exists, the exhilaration of striking inspiration, the joy in doing the work, and the relief in getting it done. There is such bliss and satisfaction for me in finding small opportunities to be creative,... but fresh starts are definitely overrated.

As for Smith, I set him up last week to make Valentine's for all 18 of his classmates. He didn't want to do it, he had so many great ideas and something special to say for each kid, and he wanted me to draw them out while he dictated. Of course I wouldn't give in, and told him not worry so much about the end result, forget what he wanted to make and just see what happened. It's funny to enter that stage of parenting where I'm giving advice that I could stand to hear for myself, but nonetheless, here we are. 

He labored for over three hours on these paintings. Each one was unique, with titles like. "Kaitlynn in a pink and purple storm", "James climbing a monkey with a climbing machine", "David became a summer sun", "Luli taking a ride on an octopus and seeing an underwater rainbow", and "Elise sliding on the purple circle". Part of me wanted to keep the whole set and frame them, just as he made them, but so much of his effort was aimed at pleasing each friend, I had to let them go. I do think I'll try pushing him to start more often. So long as he doesn't push me back.

February 16, 2016

Sunday Love

A Sunday Valentine's headed into a week of school vacation has to be the best formula for making the most out of this holiday. Extra servings of chocolate and flowers and hearts with a side of James being home, no complaints from me. 

We battled the record-breaking cold by forgoing our plans for a heart-shaped cake, and heading up to the butterfly house to breathe in that glass-domed tropical air (with 85 of our favorite strangers). The kids were both hungry (poor planning) and mildly cranky, and for a minute I thought we were going to regret leaving the house... but they pulled out of it just in time to appreciate the butterflies and birds and convince us the trip was worthwhile.

I'm such a fan of Valentine's day, but we really don't celebrate in any big way; fondue by the fire after the kids are in bed, some champagne, sweets. This year we watched 'Straight Outta Compton', which if you know our music tastes was definitely a romantic gesture on James' part! 

We've been weighing some biggish decisions, mostly related to James' work and all good options, but it was still nice to take a break and not to think about any choices. Relaxing together is rare for us. Maybe it's sad that a movie night genuinely qualifies as romance around here... but it so does.

And now I'll be continuing to campaign for Valentine's to march right on through the month of February. It might be a mild winter, but I still need a little something extra to carry me through to spring.

February 12, 2016

The Groove

Look at this! One post after another. I think this is called 'blogging'... although I did start out 2015 with fire, only to have the most flagging year yet. Still, I'm not going to let that bit of history get me down. This is happening people, you wait and see! ;)

It was a good week overall, we hung shelves in the bathroom, which has me freshly motivated get back to all of the house projects that have been on perpetual hold. We did a bit of cooking and baking and painting Valentines for Smith's preschool class (I took pictures and can't wait to share. It's always one of my favorite projects). There are also a few big 'things' that are up in the air for our family right now, one of which is our faithful Kitty's health. I don't know enough yet to even summarize, but I'm hoping for the best (behind these puffy eyes that are always preparing for the worst). 

We got Kitty at the tippy beginning of James's and my love affair, and she really feels like the first piece in our becoming a family. She was super feisty in her younger years, and when Smith was a tiny baby she actually scratched his face pretty badly. I remember the pediatrician suggesting we get rid of her, and while that wasn't an option, I spent the better part of a year obsessively latching doors in our old house to ensure the baby and the cat were separated at all times. Then he learned to walk. And pull tales... and the tables turned, real quick!

These days Kitty has truly mellowed, and I'm amazed by how well she tolerates Roo wrapping her up in an overzealous hug to start every single day. These kids love that cat beyond measure. I'm hoping they will torture her with affection for many years to come.

I am looking forward to a quiet week-end, and to my favorite holiday! Chocolate and flowers get such a bad wrap for being cliche, when it should be obvious that they are perfection, squared. Wishing each of you a sweet celebration. It's fun to have any excuse to give an extra hug and kiss to loved ones, human and animal alike :)


February 9, 2016

Winter's Start

I'm growing familiar with these delayed winters, and while I'm not holding my breath for the monster snow of February 2015, it certainly feels 'right' to kick off this month with a blizzard or two. Smith was out of school last Friday and today, and my evening class was cancelled as well. The storm fell a little short of the predictions, but I'm so grateful for a four day week-end (of sorts- James still did have to work), and a slower pace. We made snowballs and cornbread and chili, James came home early and shoveled the driveway. Winter done right.

I've been reflecting a lot on school and work. When I started this journal, four years ago, there was very little of either in my life, outside of the hard work of parenting that is. Now I have double scoops of everything, and I feel fulfilled, and overwhelmed with gratitude... and also, just overwhelmed. Period. 

Smith starts Kindergarten next fall, and I'm already nervous and wistful. Roo will be in preschool a few mornings a week as well. I will have more time than ever to work on design projects and prepare for classes... and yet I find myself wanting to pull back, to do less. All the balls are already in motion for the coming months, but it's something I'll continue to sift through as summer nears.

For now, I'm steadied by the snow, and spread a little thin. It all seems about right for February. Welcome winter.