Thursday, December 6, 2012
In the interest of full disclosure, I did consider skipping this year because I couldn't decide what to write and because November was shaping up to be a pretty busy month. But Millie wanted to write with me this time - the Young Writer's Program allows kids to set their own word count goal and participate at whatever level they're capable of - and the opportunity to write alongside my daughter, to share this month-long goal, was too good to pass up. So we both enrolled, Millie with a goal of 3,000 words and myself with the usual 50,000. I decided to write for her, a fairy story, as she just won't fall out of love with fairies and has been asking for one for a while. She chose to write a story about children who live in the clouds.
And we both did it! Met our goals. The fairy story is near enough its conclusion that I feel pretty good about getting it to The End and presenting it to Millie for her enjoyment before she...stops believing, at least. Her own story is already there, although she'll do some editing before officially calling it done. Most of it is a series of long character descriptions, but she has totally owned that and is actually quite proud of how well she can write a character sketch. How much does it really matter, she seems to think, if the characters actually ever do anything? I'm proud of her accomplishment, regardless. She's seven. She sat down and wrote a hundred words every day for a month. That's my girl.
For myself, I was surprised again at just how doable writing 50,000 words in a month actually is. It's never as difficult as I expect it to be going in, and I guess that's a pretty good argument for making it a goal beyond the month of November too. Remind me of that in January, when I'm officially done trying to make hand-made Christmas gifts for too many people.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
I've been distracted slightly from my mission to determine the best place to hang my new art by an injury to Essie's little foot Friday night. An x-ray revealed no broken bones and she is at least hobbling around on it today - an improvement from being unable to bear any weight on it at all Friday night and the first half of Saturday. Poor thing. But as she is back to walking around, so am I...holding art up to walls, squinting at the empty places, making big decisions about where to hammer the nails.
Thank you, my friend, for sending beautiful things out into the world. My mail has not been this exciting for a very long time.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
p.s. Related in that I love it and it ends with a flight of swans, even better in that it didn't cost me a dime to discover, is this:
Flight of Swans, by Robinson Jeffers
One who sees giant Orion, the torches of winter midnight,
Enormously walking above the ocean in the west of heaven;
And watches the track of this age of time at its peak of flight
Waver like a spent rocket, wavering toward new discoveries,
Mortal examinations of darkness, soundings of depth;
And watches the long coast mountain vibrate from bronze to green,
Bronze to green, year after year, and all the streams
Dry and flooded, dry and flooded, in the racing seasons;
And knows that exactly this and not another is the world,
The ideal is phantoms for bait, the spirit is a flicker on a grave;
May serve, with a certain detachment, the fugitive human race,
Or his own people, or his own household; but hardly himself;
And will not wind himself into hopes nor sicken with despairs.
He has found the peace and adored the God; he handles in autumn
The germs of far-future spring.
Sad sons of the stormy fall,
No escape, you have to inflict and endure; surely it is time for you
To learn to touch the diamond within to the diamond outside,
Thinning your humanity a little between the invulnerable diamonds,
Knowing that your angry choices and hopes and terrors are in vain,
But life and death not in vain; and the world is like a flight of swans.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
eta: I started writing this post last week, so we're down from 100 degrees now. Phew. Still, it's hot. My camera got all foggy when I tried taking it out of the house to get pictures of the girls:
Steamy. We do have power, though (half the town doesn't), so we're cool enough inside the house.
Anyway, Exhibit B: I recently recalled a moment from my childhood that I have been turning over and around in my head. We were in the car on the way to the art museum with a woman my mother had met and her daughter - Christina? Angela? Becky? - who was about my own age, although it was clear she preferred the company of my older sister. We sat in a row in the back seat of our Suburban while our mothers chatted up front. Christina/Angela/Becky was in the middle seat. She was twisted in such a way as to present to me the back of her shoulder, sharing the occasional comment and conversation with my sister, who sat on the other side. I was a pretty quiet kid, but at some point it must have occurred to me to say something. To contribute something witty or goofy or at least sort of relevant to the conversation. I have no idea what it was I said. No memory whatsoever. But Christina/Angela/Becky turned to examine me over that shoulder. She looked me up and down without smiling and said the words I remember, right down to her tone of voice, flat and bored:
"You're not very cool."
Just like that. Matter of fact. She didn't make fun of me. She didn't offer up any insults by way of explanation as to why I wasn't cool. Just...discerned that I wasn't and said so. And then it was the back of her shoulder again and I wanted to disappear.
Did I say I was a pretty quiet kid? When I was very, very small I didn't say a thing to anyone outside my own family if I could help it. My sister was bubbly, charming, outgoing. Grown-ups might very nicely smile and try to engage me in conversation. My sister would lean over and drape her arm across my shoulders and answer every single question for me. It was not a situation I resented; in fact, it suited me just fine. I grew a few years older and was still very shy. In a group of more than...two...I usually didn't say much of anything. What I did say I almost always regretted immediately. Not because I was ever ridiculed for any of it, it was just...it either fell far short of what I'd been hoping to convey (and then why had I bothered?) or it revealed too much of myself (and then I was vulnerable to judgment, to rejection). Why, oh, why had I ever said such a thing? To that person? I could lay awake at night and regret some meaningless combination of words I might have uttered that day for hours before falling asleep. And the next night too. And those were things that had not even elicited any kind of response, let alone a negative response. That is, until Christina/Angela/Becky and those four horrible words. "You're not very cool."
So, there I was in the back seat of that Suburban, pressed up against the window as close as a kid can be pressed against a window without actually becoming the window, all to shrink a few more inches away from the back of Christina/Angela/Becky's shoulder. The glass was probably cool against my face, flushed beet red as it was wont to do, so there was that small comfort. I vowed to myself to just keep my mouth shut for the rest of forever. The worst had happened and I had learned my lesson. Irrevocably. You've had your doubts about speaking to people? This is why, kid, this is why. Don't do it again. You're not very cool. You go saying things to people, all willy-nilly, and they are going to see it. And what's worse, they'll call you on it. Is that what you want?! Is it? You're not very cool.
I think my sister might have said something in my defense. That registers vaguely, although I don't actually recall what she said. The memory is fuzzy around the edges on both sides. Just the girl's cold, dismissive expression and that voice and those words are crystal clear. The rest is like a photograph in which the foreground is out of focus, the background is out of focus, and only the subject is clear and sharp and staring you right in the eyes.
Some years later I'd remember the incident and be indignant and think, not very cool?! If she could only see me now! I am So. Super. Cool. I was, possibly, a little deluded. Further on, I decided the pronouncement, although not meant in the spirit of a compliment, actually suited me just fine. Yup, not very cool. You know, in the way that is secretly sort of cool because of how unique I am, how outside-the-box I am, how beyond-even-caring-what-anyone-else-thinks I am. That's me. Not very cool, and totally cool with that! So there! Lately, though...meh, I think she was right. Christina/Angela/Becky, I mean. I wasn't very cool. I'm still not. Honestly, I am very ordinary. In my own special way, of course, as everyone is. And I certainly don't mean I'm not good enough or that I'm not valuable as a person or anything like that. But...yeah, I'm not very cool.
I'm not even entirely sure what "cool" is and I never have been sure - maybe that was part of the problem. But I know I don't identify as such. And I feel no sense of loss for not identifying (or being identified) as such. I have nothing to prove. And, while I don't think not being very cool is a bad thing, I also don't have to twist it around to make not being cool better than being cool to make myself okay with it. I don't have to pretend that not being cool places me on some plane above those who are.
And I've been turning this over and around because I'm not sure if there's a lesson there. I mean, there might be. I've thought about whether I wish I could tell myself-as-a-kid to feel differently about it, to react differently, to respond in some meaningful way to Christina/Angela/Becky. I've had a few ideas. But, in the end, no. I just think, well, she was right. So? Maybe it was not very nice of her to say so in the way she did, but she was right. I shouldn't have let it bother me then, and at least it doesn't bother me now. It really doesn't. But the words remain, so instead of simply not identifying as "cool", I identify as "not very cool." Stated in negative, rather than in absence. Does that mean something? If I've grown past worrying about it, being offended by it, needing to justify it...why do I still cling to those very words? Something to ponder.
Friday, June 8, 2012
I had to say goodbye to my cat yesterday. Mr. Wolf's allergies have been under too great a strain these days and something had to give. She went to a beautiful new home and she will be fine. But as long as I can remember, except for the first six months of my marriage, I have had a cat. Turtle. Nibbles. Cookie. Bouhaki. Twohaki. Dolly. Cobweb. Gracie. Vera. Fa-Ying. And more around the edges belonging to my parents and siblings. Lots of cats. So, even though Millie is finally home from school for summer break and there are once again two little girls underfoot and ringing in my ears, the house seems curiously empty in the background. Nothing soft and furry about to slink around the corner. Nothing upstairs warming that spot on my bed. Nothing to put away the knitting for. Or the plastic bags (she liked to chew them.) We'll miss you, Fa-Ying. Sweet kitty.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Of course, the blogs I do read more regularly, those of family and friends, didn't really see much of a blip in my readership. Others I think about now and then every few weeks or suddenly remember after a few months and I wander over to see what's new. One of those is Loobylu (Claire Robertson's illustrations are so lovely!) and I popped in the other day for a visit. Happened to notice a beautiful character sketch she'd done for a book project called Wollstonecraft. Well, given that one of the characters in the sketch was called Ada (a long-time favorite name of mine) and that the project was classified as a steampunk adventure novel for girls (yes, please) I started down the rabbit trail in effort to find out more. Looked over the Wollstonecraft project page at Kickstarter (go look!). Then Googled it to see what anyone else was saying about it. That brought me to Geek Dad, who wrote a piece about it on his blog. He also mentioned some other posts he'd done about books for girls, so I checked out those as well. In one of them, he interviews Carolyn Danckaert, the creator of A Mighty Girl, which she describes thus:
"A Mighty Girl is a new website with the world’s largest collection of books and movies for parents, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls. It was founded on the belief that all children should have the opportunity to read books and watch movies where girls are not relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress, where they are the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure."
I'm really excited to have found this resource. I've already got a list of titles on the site that I want to look for at our local library, and that wasn't even after browsing for very long. You can search by genre, subject, social issues, age level. Summer reading, here we come! Millie's not going to know what hit her. (Actually, that's not true. I'll be doing well if I can even keep her stocked at the pace she reads. She's kind of voracious that way.)
I have daughters, so it's clear why this concept appeals to me. Can I just say, though, that I think stories that star strong female characters are good for boys to read as well? Someone asked me a while back if I had any good "boy" books to recommend to get their child interested in reading. It's a fair question. Kids want to read what they're interested in, what they can relate to, and gender is a pretty big factor in that. Still. Once they get past the hurdle of whether or not they want to read, I hope there are a fair number of books on their reading lists where the girl gets to be the hero. If books about boys can be loved and devoured by children of either gender, as they have always been, I think it's only fair that books about girls get that same chance.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The irises were all just blooming when Essie was born two years ago. My friend Cara knows how much I love them and has been bringing me fresh irises from her yard right around Essie's birthday for these couple of years. These beautiful blooms were her gift to me this morning. Thank you, friend!
Monday, May 7, 2012
Mr. Wolf and I have been having eggs for lunch (omelet with veggies for him, open-faced sandwich with herbs for me) going on several months now. It's become part of our routine, really. And that has meant lots and lots of egg cartons, perfect for crafting. I've been stashing them on a shelf in the closet, waiting for the right time to do something with them, and National Teacher Appreciation Week seemed like the perfect opportunity. Millie is always eager to make artsy little gifts for the people she loves, and her school teacher is no exception.
I'd browsed the web for egg carton craft ideas sometime prior and this floral wreath had been one of my favorites. I showed it to Millie and she was totally on board. We decided to get the little neighbor boy, who is in Millie's class at school (and one of her best buds to boot), in on the project so they could give it to their teacher together. I think he tired of it a little sooner than Millie did, but they did a great job nonetheless. I cut the egg carton cups off and shaped a few into flowers, after which Millie and the neighbor boy did some shaping on the remaining cups. They painted the leaves and then set to work painting the flowers, while I added some detailing to the leaves. After everything dried, we glued it all to a "wreath" cut from cardboard and painted green. Voila!
Millie can't wait to give it to her teacher tomorrow. (And if there is a special teacher in your life, remember to give them some love this week!)
Monday, April 30, 2012
At the first birthday babies don't really understand what the big deal is, they just kind of go with it, eyes wide. As they get older, they start to have Great Expectations and there's always the danger of something falling short (but, really, does it ever?). At the second birthday, though, you pretty much can't go wrong. Presents? Awesome. Candles? Awesome. Balloons? Awesome. Attention from a room FULL of people? Awesome.
Last year we started a tradition for Essie of having her party guests sign her tablecloth. After the party and before the tablecloth was washed, I embroidered over the signatures. We'll use the cloth each year and each year she'll get more signatures, embroidered in a different color, a record of her friends and loved ones who gathered to celebrate her birth. There are a few things I'd have done differently with this project had I thought about it further ahead of the first birthday. For instance, I used a table cloth I had on hand, a pale pink jacquard thing. It's really too textured and loosely woven to be either easily written on or embroidered. Something smooth and more firmly woven would have been better, but...oh, well. Also, the first year everyone included sweet messages and well wishes and that multiplied the time I had to spend embroidering exponentially. This year I asked for names only. I'm liking it so far and I can't wait to see what it looks like in five years. In ten years. Covered with the names of her people. Her tribe, her village...some of whom we probably haven't even met yet!
In the meantime, here's a snapshot or two (and I apologize for the quality of these photos, oy. The light is not great today and I also did not feel like ironing the cloth out of the dryer only to fold it up and put it away for another year. So, bad light and wrinkles, but you get the idea.)
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
(Except for ruffle, slip 1 knitwise 1st stitch of each row)
Cast on 120
K 1 row
K2tog across one row
K 1 row
K2tog, K1 for 1st 30 stitches/K1, K2tog for 2nd 30 stitches
Begin Baby’s Feather & Fan pattern, 6 repeats
K2, K2tog, K until 4 stitches remain, K2tog, K2
K 1 row
K2, K2tog, K until 4 stitches remain, K2tog, K2
K in garter stitch until scarf is desired length minus the length of the lacy bit at the beginning
Reverse by increasing to number of stitches necessary for Baby’s Feather & Fan pattern over the next few rows.
Begin Baby’s Feather & Fan pattern, 6 repeats (if I recall, I began the pattern on row 3, and ended the 6th repeat after row 2…it seemed to match the beginning end of the scarf better this way)
Reverse ruffle by increasing to same number of cast on stitches over the last 4 rows.
Very improvised...I just sort of figured out the decreases and increases as I went along, but I think it turned out fine and it matches the hat quite well. I'm excited to have finished a Christmas gift this early, as I usually realize sometime in late November that I haven't started anything and just won't have time. Now to decide who's next and what to knit!
Monday, February 27, 2012
I keep her home from school that day to recover from the tail end of a fever and stomach upset she’d had the day before. But she’s been getting back to normal all morning and, if we don’t go to the dress rehearsal tonight, she’ll be out of the show on Friday as well. The show she’s been practicing for since her tryout a month ago. So we dress in the late afternoon, discarding the pajamas she’s been wearing all day for leggings and a velveteen dress. She wants satin bows in her hair.
In the auditorium she lines up against the wall to stage right with the other children performing in the first act. I take a seat in the third row, center stage. Other parents around me chat together or gaze, hypnotized, into tiny digital screens. I watch my girl. Some of the other children greet her. Friends from school. She responds, but quietly. Meekly.
I am surprised, as I always am, when I glimpse this side of her. She comes by it honestly, my mother always says, and I know what she means. I was the shy one once. Reserved. Hesitant. But Millie has always been more socially attuned. She revels in the company of other children, thrives on the attention of her peers where I would once have wilted. Sometimes, though, that genetic disposition reasserts itself and I see myself in her after all. My heart aches. Yes, I am in there, aren’t I? We are not so different at heart. But, please, baby, don’t be afraid! Don’t be nervous! You’ve got this! You’re amazing! You’re you!
She’s not sure what’s expected of her. That tends to be when this side of her (my side of her? Oy.) shows itself. Of course she’s performed before. But her recitals have been intimate affairs. Her teacher and five or six of her teacher’s other students. Their families. In a sunlit chapel in the afternoon, light streaming in through large windows. Called from her seat by name to play when it’s her turn. This time she is one performer in over a hundred. One of the smallest too. The show coordinator doesn’t know how to pronounce her name, but she is looking for her in line.
“Is M- V…V…V-mumble, mumble here? The violin?” She peers down the line of chatty, bouncing students, scans the auditorium. “Anyone?”
Millie recognizes her name, mangled as it is, and raises her hand, eyes wide, posture tentative. Around her students laugh, call to one another, shift around in waves of restlessness and pent up energy.
“M-?” The coordinator looks down at her clipboard and back up.
I am not far. I speak up and point to Millie, still quietly raising her hand. “Yes, she’s there!”
The coordinator checks off her name, nodding, and moves on down the list, but Millie does not realize she’s been counted. I can see her chest begin to heave as she takes deep breaths. She reaches her hand higher, willing herself to be seen in the crowd. Her eyes are still wide, and now a little red, as she blinks back tears. But she does blink them back. Waves her hand. And remains very small and goes unnoticed. Of course the show must go on. There are other children who need to be checked in. The world does not revolve around her. Well, that’s not entirely true. In that moment mine does. I sneak out of my seat and go to her.
“They got you, Millie, you’re good!”
She’s still panicky. “But I don’t know what to do!”
“Just wait here, honey; they’ll tell you what to do when it’s your turn. Listen for your name when they call you and then speak up. Okay?”
She nods, still tense, but her breathing is not quite so heavy, and I head back to my seat.
Finally, the rehearsal begins. The second performance features two boys with a comedy routine. “Why did the boy put candles on the toilet seat?” one of the boys asks the other. “I don’t know. Why?” “Because he wanted to have a birthday potty!”
I glance over at Millie. This is just her style. Sure enough, she claps a hand over her mouth, laughing. I relax. She’ll be fine. She applauds happily, eyes bright and admiring, after a friend dances an Irish jig. She is lulled back to her bubbly self as she witnesses the performances of the other students. As each one is called up, she relaxes, getting a feel for how it’s done, what’s expected. Nonetheless, I can see her bubble beginning to contract a little and she shrinks in on herself as she gets closer and closer to being next up. Then she is next up but one and there is a hitch.
The stage is empty. The girl who will be singing is having a microphone attached but it is taking longer than expected. She is pulled backstage for adjustments. The parent volunteer standing with the students waiting to go on disappears backstage as well. Millie hovers near the edge of the stage. She looks around anxiously. She is wondering what she should do. Is it her turn? Is she supposed to just wait? Was she supposed to follow the parent volunteer? She half steps up to the stage and then steps down again. She leans forward, trying to peer around the curtain for some direction. Will she miss her cue? Then she relaxes. The parent volunteer returns to her place and, when the young vocalist takes her place on stage, Millie is ushered back into the wings to take up her place waiting to go on.
I sit in my seat and my heart pounds. I am taken back to my own childhood. I am waiting to perform myself. There is a buzz in my head and my heart is racing. My body has never felt so very full of blood. Blood pounding, blood rushing, hastening here and there, to this limb, then that one– has it always made this kind of racket as it pulses through my veins? How can I play over this kind of percussion? The tempo isn’t right besides; it’s going to throw me off!
But, no. It’s not me this time. It’s my girl. I wonder if she’s nervous back in the wings. Nervous like I would have been. Nervous about performing or simply about knowing when to go on, where to stand. If they were clear about that, maybe she won’t be anxious. Maybe her heart isn’t pounding as hard as mine.
And then she is walking onto the stage. She is tentative still, but not afraid. She looks around for a moment as the spotlight finds her, just shy of center stage. She tears her eyes away from her audience, scattered clusters of parents and students sitting below her in the huge auditorium, and she raises her violin and begins to play. And by some miracle I can hear her just fine over the drum of my heart. As easily, I suppose, as she is playing over the drum of her own. She’s got it. She’s amazing. She’s herself.
And I am so proud, and my heart pounds still. But this time it is different. In such a very good way.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I've long admired the manually striped Noro scarves such as the ones here, and here, and here...so striking and yet so simple! The last thing I needed was to buy any new yarn, though; it's been my goal for some time now to work through the yarn I have stashed, to use what I have rather than stock up on more.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Happy New Year! I took a nice long break from blogging over the holidays, but it's nice to contemplate a new start now and look forward to the new year. I don't make official resolutions, but I do like to think about where I've been and what I've done...what I'd like to do more of, what I could do with less of. And I really just want to enjoy the little things with my family. Have fun being creative with Millie - doodling together more, like we used to. (The doodle above came from one of our late summer sessions.) Hanging out on the floor with Essie - rediscovering all those simple early childhood games like building with blocks and having tea parties with teddy bears. (It's been a couple years now since towers and tea parties were a daily thing with Millie, but I have a chance to enjoy them a second time around with Essie, and I'm taking it!) With that in mind, I'm keeping this post short. My girls are waiting!