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Archive for September, 2010

Kelly: How the Birds and the Bees Made Me Grateful

I came across this picture cleaning up and packing my office before our repaint and recarpet this summer and found it tucked in my calendar last week. It was taken at the beach wedding of a friend. Sarah and I were watching the wedding while DH and Olivia were off shell hunting, and the wedding photographer caught this shot. Such innocence. Where the heck did it go!?!

I was driving the girls to school Friday when Sarah asked, “Mama, how can teenagers have a baby?” Stalling, I asked her what she meant, and she said she saw a teenager on TV that had a baby. Wow! Didn’t expect to have the birds and the bees conversation quite this early. I tried to respond with, “Well, teenagers really shouldn’t be having babies.” And she said, “’cause you aren’t supposed to have a baby until you are at least 30.” See, I’m trying to train them well! I tell them that you can’t get married until you are 30, so therefore, you can’t have a baby until you are at least 30 because you have to get married before you have a baby. (Now, I realize that in this day and age, many women are having children without getting married, and that’s fine, but that’s a discussion for another post…) Anywho, Sarah continued with, “So do we have to start taking no-baby pills now so that we don’t have a baby?”

You see, when the girls have asked me about the little pill I take before I go to bed every night (they are far too observant), I tell them that’s my no-baby pill so that I don’t have any more babies. (Okay, so maybe I need to rethink that conversation.) I tried to explain that while, yes, no-baby pills work to keep you from having a baby, there are things that mamas and daddies do to make babies that you won’t need to worry about for a long, long, long time (like when you are 25, she says, as she sticks her head in the sand). “What’s that, Mama?” And I stupidly responded, “Sex.” “What’s sex, Mama?” I somehow managed to change the subject by responding again that it’s something they wouldn’t have to worry about for a long, long, long time, and then said, “Hey look! They mowed the cow pasture! What are the cows going to eat now!?”

I’m guessing the topic of “What’s sex?” has now probably come up at school amongst their friends. I can hear it now: “Destiny, do you know what sex is? My Mama said it’s what mamas and daddies do to make babies.” I am expecting a call from the school any day now.

This Mama stuff….when you don’t have your own Mama around, it’s very much a make-it-up-as-you-go-along thing. I guess even if you do have your Mama around, you might still be making it up as you go along. There are mornings when it just smacks me out of nowhere. I’ll be standing at the kitchen sink, washing up the breakfast dishes while trying to keep the girls on task to brush their teeth, pack their backpacks and get ready to head out the door, and it smacks me right across the face: I’m a mother. I don’t know why it sometimes hits me that way. From early on, I knew I wanted children. Heck, I wanted four children! Boys! I think maybe that came from seeing my college boyfriend’s family. They are a family of four boys who all absolutely adore their Mama. But still there are days that I find myself amazed that I am a mother…that I am worthy of this task…that I have been given this blessing…that I have the qualifications for this most wonderful of jobs… Maybe it’s because we had to go through so much to get where we are, who knows?

Take a peek over at Brene Brown’s post Monday. She and I corresponded a bit after this post and I’m working on doing a few things on campus related to this project. What does this have to do with being a mother, you ask, other than what should be the obvious that “perfect mother” is an oxymoron? In our e-mails, she directed me to a TED talk she did about vulnerability, and what she speaks of everyday, having ordinary courage, taking the time to realize the small wonderfulness that happens in our lives every day. The little things we overlook. That’s what it has to do with being a mother. I will remember the conversation Sarah and I had Friday morning hopefully for the rest of my days. And standing at the kitchen sink tomorrow morning, I will remember what a blessing it is to stand there and wash the breakfast dishes of two little angels. And I will be amazed and overjoyed that I am their Mama. And I will be incredibly grateful for that gift. How about you? Have you taken the time to think about what you are grateful for today?

[cross-posted from Artful Happiness]

Robin: Wish.Play.Create. Week 3 – Knowing Your Limitations

Have you checked out Stephanie Lee’s Work? She was this week’s fabulous instructor in the WishStudio for the online art playgroup. Her contribution was heart of stone plaster pendants and called for an introduction of plaster of paris and doing some wire work. I gotta come clean on this. When something this NEW TO ME is introduced, I actually need the benefit of sitting in a class with an instructor coddling me through my fear! And really, that SHOULD NOT have been necessary because Stpehanie’s instructions were very clear and she gave us a PHENOMENAL amount of pictures with each step. I think this was just not the right time for me to learn it. So…

Plan B:

Josey and her best friend Noelle up 6:15 am on a Saturday morning after their sleepover, remnants of the carnvial we went to the night before still on their face! We are prepping to make polymer clay pendants!

This is something I learned to do about two years ago in an art class I took at a local community center.  The girls were amazed at the amount of work it took to get the clay soft — this is NOT Play-Doh!
Josey decided she wanted to make cookies for her kitchen (don’t worry, I’m way ahead of what is going to happen later…)

I am about to hit a MAJOR SNAG because I can’t seem to remember what TEMPERATURE and HOW LONG to bake them…

The good news is they were happy with them (if you look closely, you will see they were in the oven a bit TOO LONG!)
OK, ON TO WEEK 4!
[Cross-posted from Well of Creations]

Cathy: Finito!

[Editor's note: Cathy suggested we just add a link to her last post to point to the finished product, but I think this accomplishment merits a full display right here, don't you?]

The quilt is finished! Phew!

And Toots is very happy.

Final ironing and pinning stage to close the open, stuffing edge:

Here it is before I threw it in the wash, so I can put it on her bed tonight.

The stitching isn’t perfect, neither is the stuffing, but you know what? I did it. It’s my first quilt. I’m proud of it.
And Toots’s toes will not be hanging out the foot of it when she sleeps for a looong time to come.

Nope. They sure won’t!
And you know what else? Look at the look on her face in both shots. I’ll wait. Go ahead.
She knows I love her, big time.
[Crossposted from Musings in Mayhem]

Kelly: A New Twist for Teaching

Ever agree to do something and then wonder “what the heck have I gotten myself in to?” Well, I did just that. My friend Connie asked if I’d contribute to her newest online class and, after a few back and forth e-mails of me saying “Connie, you have far more talented art journaling friends than I!” she finally convinced me I’d be great. So! My class is complete and I’ve sent it off to Connie to be included in the full class, and, just like Connie, I’m so stinkin’ excited!

It wasn’t the teaching part that concerned me. Heck, I’ve been teaching for 20 years, and I know I truly am a gifted teacher. I feel confident in that. But having never had any formal art training myself, I really didn’t think I was a candidate to teach art techniques to adults. To kids, sure! But to grown women (and maybe even men), most of whom are probably artists themselves? This is a bridge I’ve never crossed. I’ve seen all those awesome videos artist/teachers create to demonstrate their techniques. And I have no clue how to make a video. I can “take” a video with my camera, but what to do with it after that? Clueless! So there are no videos in my little class. What there are, however, are tons of photographs and witty commentary demonstrating the techniques step-by-step. And the most awesome thing about it? It’s not just Kelly teaching the class; it’s Kelly, Sarah, and Olivia teaching the class together. My contribution to the 21 Secrets Art Journal Playground is wrapped around creating art journals with your kids, using the things they say as prompts. My class is called “The Things They Say,” and the girls and I had a ball creating the samples we demonstrate in the class.

Another awesome point about this class is Connie’s generosity towards the contributing artists. She’s set up an affiliate program to allow us to reap some financial rewards for our contributions. Each artist has a special link, so for me, click here and you’ll be taken to my personal registration page. The girls and I would love some of the Studio Mothers community to join us! Registration opened September 20, and the class itself starts October 1.

Cathy: Trading words for stitches

It all started here, which led me back to the fabric store, which led to obsession. From which I have only slightly recovered, as I continue to quilt approximately an hour or so per day. Some days I skip. Others net four or five hours of poking myself in the finger with a needle and going blind from close up examinations of threading the needle or trying to find where it came out the back so I can tie it off and thread the needle again.

I am enjoying it, meditatively, methodically producing something of use and pretty, too. Toots can’t wait to wrap it around herself, sleep with it over her in bed.  She woves her kiwt so vewy much.

Some photos of the process, which is nearly complete:

Stage one, in pieces:

Watch the dates, folks, most of these were taken during the 48 hour endurance obsession initial weekend. Pieced together by evening, sorry it’s blurry, so was I:

Next morning, the border is completed.  I wanted to try fancy cornering, but then I said it’s good I got this far:

Blood was shed from my cuticle! twice:

(Addendum: That is my grandmother’s thimble!)
Back panel sewn and turned right-side out:

Lost a day to finding a fabric loop and oh yea, paying attention to my family.
Quilting begun:

See? Not perfect, but getting the hang of it.

Weeks later, I am still quilting.
Mr. Cynic took this on Tuesday:

What may not be readily apparent is that most of the quilting is complete. I’m in the final blue panel now. I also now have a better understanding why at one point in my glasses clad young adulthood, a guy in a bar thought, What are you, some kinda librarian? was a good pickup line. It wasn’t, but I can see why he said it.

[Crossposted from Musings in Mayhem]

Robin: Wish.Play.Create – Week 2 (went a bit differently)

So I was totally psyched about week 2 of the e-course of Wish Play Create. The instructor is Tracey Clark of Shutter Sisters so I “knew” this was gonna be a fun week.
EXCEPT…
Josey has ZERO INTEREST in playing with a camera. For three days I would ask her in this excited voice, “are you ready to take some pictures of your favorite things?” and I would receive responses ranging from “um no thanks…” to a whining yet emphatic “I DON’T WANT TO!” The good news is we were giving some prompting questions to help with shaping the assignment. Things like:
“My favorite things” — pink and going somewhere
“I really like to” — do
“I am really good at” — going somewhere
“I feel happy when” — it’s good
So here’s the compromise:
She let me take a pic of her in one of her pink outfits (kind of…)
I caught her working in her journal….
Such is the life of motherhood and creativity:
CONTINUOUS IMPROVISATION

Brittany: How the Fates Conspire

Here is my situation:

I am a morning person. My energy begins to wane around lunch time, and by dinner time it has completely disappeared. In a perfect world, I would get up at the crack of dawn, write on my laptop until I could no longer ignore my hunger pangs, eat breakfast, and then head to the gym for an hour. But even as I write these words, I know it is a complete and utter impossibility.

I wish I was the sort of person who could sit down in front of a blinking cursor and write, but I need a warm up period first to get my brain in gear. My brain refuses to engage when I have toddlers climbing all over me, demanding waffles and oatmeal and YouTube train videos. And as inspiring as I find The Wiggles, they don’t exactly transport me to 1916 Appalachia when they’re blaring from the TV in the background. So even though I’d like to work on my novel first thing in the morning, motherhood has forced me to readjust my writing schedule. If I get any writing  in at all, most mornings I work on my blog because it  just doesn’t require the same degree of concentration as a book.

This summer, I’ve made a point of going to the gym three mornings a week, to the bright and early 8:15 am deep water aerobics class. The YMCA offers childcare during this time, and I love getting my workout in first thing and having the rest of the day to devote to other things. In a perfect world, I would like to continue taking this class three mornings a week ad infinitum. But again, the fates of motherhood are conspiring against me.

Sam’s preschool starts at 9:00 every morning. Obviously I can’t be in two places at once. But I thought I could easily take a class later on in the morning. Except, the morning exercise classes are scheduled for 9:15 and 10:10. There’s no way I can drop Sam off at his preschool at 9:00 and get to the gym in 15 minutes, even if he leapt from the moving mini-van in the preschool parking lot. I could easily make the 10:10 classes, but my morning would be shot. I’d drop Sam off, have not much more than a half an hour to write/clean/run errands, and then have another 15 minutes to kill after my class before I could pick him up. It’s hardly an ideal situation.

What would be ideal is if there were afternoon classes I could attend at the gym, except there aren’t. And it wouldn’t matter anyway, even if there were, because childcare isn’t available from noon until 5:00 pm. The earliest group classes start up again between 5:30 and 6:00 pm, so in addition to not being morning-person-friendly, it would completely ruin my dinner-cooking-and-eating schedule.

I was complaining about all of this to my husband, Tom, and he told me I was being inflexible. I could write after the boys were asleep (9:00 or 10:00 pm) and I certainly didn’t have to take a group class at the gym. I could hit the cardio machines, or better yet, the weight room.

It was at this point that my brain exploded a little bit.

I can barely construct a coherent sentence at 10:00 at night, much less write novel-worthy prose. And there is no way I’m going to use up 30 minutes of  my precious allotment of me-time to drive to a gym to use cardio equipment when I have an elliptical machine in the basement. I like group exercise classes. That is why I joined a gym. If I wanted to exercise alone, I could do it without the monthly membership fee. And spending my morning lifting weights? I do lift weights. A 30-pound 2-year-old and a 45-pound 4-year-old. All day long. Over and over and over again. I’m not going to volunteer to do it some more.

This is the kind of situation I face as a mother all the time. What I want to do should be simple enough, except that it isn’t once I factor in my children’s needs. My needs (quiet writing time and a group exercise class) get put on the back burner, and instead of sympathy, I’m expected to change my wants and needs on the fly so that my wants and needs become compatible with my children’s.

You can do this for a while, but after a while you realize you’ve hit an impasse. Your wants and needs are your wants and needs for a reason, and you get to a point where you can’t be flexible about them anymore. I should be able to write and go to the gym when it best suits my biorhythms, and hopefully if I just wait it out one more year I will. When John is 3 he’ll be eligible for preschool, and I’m strongly considering enrolling him at the preschool at the Y.  That way I could drop him off at his class, get a workout in, and then head home to a quiet house to write.

But in the meantime, it’s looking like I’ll be doing a lot of exercising at home.

Miranda: Best of Both Worlds

What a creative week! I finally finished overhauling our playroom just in time to finish the first project in WishStudio’s online art playgroup with my 5-year-old son. It took us a few sessions spread over the week to finish our projects. Here’s a peek at a few steps along the way:

I was thrilled with my son’s finished card!

Isn’t is beautiful? I was less pleased with my own piece, which — despite working for at least an hour after my son had finished and skipped off to do something else — I couldn’t get quite right. After cutting out my son’s image for his own card, I was too intimidated to try to cut out the pair of little ones in my own photo, so I opted to retain the background image. But then the balloon color wasn’t right — wasn’t enough of a contrast — so I tried several different layers (poster paint, colored pencil, crayon, oil pastels, you name it!) before ending up with a murky eggplant color.

Even though the outcome isn’t exactly to my liking, it was a wonderful process. Thank you, Shona! I’m grateful for this opportunity to blend creativity and motherhood, rather than complaining about not doing justice to one or the other.

It’s already Thursday and we haven’t yet started on this week’s project. Time to get those smocks on again :-)

Robin: Wish.Play.Create – The E-Course, Week 1

Josey and I were the lucky winners of the fantastic e-course offered by Mindy at The Wish Studio
We tweaked it a bit by used pieces of wood instead of paper for the base of the project.  We just moved into a new place and I saw this as an opportunity to make some art for the walls
This was not an obstacle for Miss Josey who LOVES playing with paint and the MORE SPACE she has to work with, the better!
Shona Cole-Author of “The Artistic Mother” was OUR INSTRUCTOR for Week 1!
Special thanks to Miranda at Studio Mothers for hosting the contest.  We are having SO MUCH FUN!

Alison: 5 New School-Year Resolutions for Writing Parents

Although it varies by a week or two across the Northern Hemisphere, for many parents, children round about now are returning to school and the more rigid routines of school days, homework, and earlier bedtimes come into play. As parents we need to be more organised and lovingly firm with our kids as we ease them through the change.

Whether you are a going-out-to-work writing parent or a stay-at-home one or a bit of both, it’s a good time to think about your own schedule, your priorities in terms of projects that you have to complete, client commitments, and projects that capture your heart and that you want to spend time on.

An important question to ask is ‘what is actually possible?’ We can take steps to create writing time by getting up early or staying up late, by being good at using small pockets of time between chores or on commute, but believe it or not, writing isn’t everything. Our resolutions need to take account of the current demands of our lives timewise, physically, emotionally, mentally. At different phases these demands will fluctuate. All-out commitment to the cause of writing without consideration of your current situation cannot be a good thing. As children settle into school they may require more of our empathy and listening time, will benefit and feel less anxious by us just being around, taking a walk with them, creating space for communication. Later on in the year these demands may change.

But if we get a chance to write, we want it to be as fruitful as possible. I often struggle to feel satisfied with my achievements because I have several tasks and projects on the go and have not identified which need to come higher on the list. At the end of the session, which is never very long, I have achieved not much of anything as I flit from document to document, to my email, to Google etc. A simple thing, but sometimes I’m not really clear what I’m working on. Just writing that down and having a schedule will make a lot of difference.

Sometimes I come to write and just can’t get into it, I have no spark. This is often after a period where I have not had any down time, general pleasant relaxation, a walk, or sit down with a book or even an evening in front of the TV. It is possible to make writing a stick that doesn’t bear fruit because you are beating yourself with it. (Ah the mixed metaphor, my favourite beast!)

So what resolutions might be good ones for the new school and writing year?

Five resolutions for the new school and writing year

1: Write less but more fruitfully and watch more telly.

2: Pick a project, set a deadline or a mini deadline, and work to it.

3: Think each day about your current demands/desires emotionally, mentally, physiologically, socially, for family etc. and decide what is most important, what is possible, and what is necessary.

4: Take pride and joy in what you achieve even if it is less than what you had hoped — write down what you have done; it’s easy to forget.

5: Think about, interact with, and support others, friends, extended family members, and other writers; create a strong and positive network.

Goodwill and good effort for the most part come back. Writing and life energy can be created by taking care of our time, ourselves, each other.

[Cross posted from my personal blog.]

Miranda: Out of the closet

If you’ve read this blog recently, you’re familiar with WishStudio’s 5-week online playgroup. (Studio Mothers had a giveaway for one spot, which went to Robin Norgren.) The playgroup started this past Monday, with Shona Cole as the instructor for the first week. My 5-year-old and I went shopping for a few supplies we needed and eagerly watched all of Shona’s instructional videos.

The first step was for me to gesso our project paper. But I decided that before I got to the gesso, I would transform our playroom into an art room. The playroom was disorganized and full of outgrown toys and loose game pieces — time for a total overhaul.

At the same time, my art closet was no longer the tidy, organized collection of art supplies that it was a year ago. I often found it too difficult to put things where they belonged and ultimately resorted to opening the door, tossing in whatever belonged in the closet, and quickly closing the door again before the object could fall out. Many of my key supplies were too difficult to get out (note the large plastic bin on the top shelf). In all, the closet turned out to be less than ideal for art supplies. Good for storing, perhaps, but not so good for using.

So, all of the toys came out of the playroom. Many of them went up into the attic for donation/yard sale; some of them went into the boys’ bedrooms. Then all of the art supplies in my art closet went into the playroom, now dubbed the art room. Board games went into the old art closet. I positioned an old table in front of a window in order to make use of natural light, as this room tends to be a little dark.

Here’s the old playroom, just as I started taking it apart (note that my camera tends to distort reality — it makes this room look larger than it actually is):

And here’s the new art room, after three days of hauling, sorting, and labeling. It’s all here, even though it looks like a mishmash:

My two little guys immediately helped themselves to art supplies and inaugurated the art table with fresh splotches of acrylic paint. And you can see that our dear Mimi made herself quite comfy on the table too.

This new room supports my new schedule, which is phasing in over the next few weeks. I’ll blog about that more as soon as I can swing it. I think I may have figured out how to work AND be a stay-at-home mom. As in, the best of both worlds. Stay tuned!

Now, I’d better get that paper gessoed so we can finish the first week’s art project before it’s time for the second one!

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