Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Relinquishing Control and Painting Fabric with a Preschooler

I own four tablecloths. One is for fancy occasions, one is too big, one is old and faded, and one I love. So that one gets used, then washed, then used again.

Fabric paint, homemade or spray, keeps popping up and getting my notice. Blog posts, Pinterest feed, etc. So I thought, let's dress up that old, faded tablecloth. And what a great project to do with my five-year-old.

Now, I've gone into projects like this with my daughter, and they can end badly. I have an inner vision, and she has her impulsive preschool methods, and the two don't mesh well. I take control of the project, she loses interest, and my anxiety over the mess we are making causes me to become sharp and impatient.

Well, I was committed to this being a good experience. I did insist on mixing the paint, and I chose the pattern (a star stencil I made from of a cereal box). But then, after I modeled the technique, I willingly took turns. We each got to choose the placement for our star and got to do the dipping and painting without help. It wasn't easy for this controlling mama, let me tell you. But I kept my comments and questions to myself:
"Why are you placing your stars so close together?"
"Oh no! You dripped paint on the tablecloth/porch!"
"If you use that much paint, it will ooze under the stencil."
And here's the funny thing, my stars were far messier, and I definitely dripped my share of paint. But we didn't mind. We said those were extra tiny stars. I assured her I could get the paint off the porch. And we had a great time. When she got bored, I got to add a few more stars to even out the pattern while she was inside washing her hands.

And when I discovered the paint that had leaked through onto the porch (in addition to the splatters we made and the paint tracked into the house), I kept (somewhat) cool, and only snapped replies or instructions once or twice while cleaning up.

In the end, I think what we made is a masterpiece. Admittedly, I was going more for a starry night look than a patriotic one, but half of those stars are her genuine work with no help from me. We'll be proud to eat on this tablecloth.

Turns out I couldn't get all the paint off the porch. Oh well, I think there's a lesson in the regular reminders those stains will offer me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

TToT36: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

We are home from TX, my friends. Home safe and sound. And here's another quickie of a TToT while I prepare for two more sets of houseguests (can you believe it?).

1. But, back to TX ever so briefly, I must brag on my girl and her increased core strength. We may be finally reaping some swim benefits from all those years of PT! Her motor skills are her biggest disability at present, but I have never seen her so confident in the swimming pool as this summer. She swam all over the pool in a puddle jumper, kicking fairly consistently and entertained herself (and often her brother) for long periods of time with the "fish game," in which she (or Leo) threw a fish out into the pool and then swam for it. I once caught her riding her noodle horse, Clark, sans puddle jumper! I quickly slipped into the water near her so I could catch her when Clark inevitably bucked her off.

2. About ten days after it started, my left eye quit twitching. I know you are all relieved. I sure was.

3. This. For two and a half hours from DFW to BWI.

4. We have tomatoes! Finally! Of course they actually ripened right before we left, but a bold and shameless bunny was getting most of the goods. Now I think they must be growing too high for said bunny. HaHA! Take that, you rodent!
The Green Zebras are very nearly ready.

5. I came home with a can-do attitude. I think that means I got some good rest. I've been tackling all kinds of home repair-like projects I could never gather the energy for before...for which I could not gather the energy before...before for which I could not gather the energy (Lisa, help me out here; I can't handle all these prepositions).

6. I finally scraped off the remaining caulk around the tub so I can recaulk. I've never tackled a caulking project before, but you can learn to do anything on the Interwebs. So far, I've removed the caulk carefully and thoroughly (as stated), I've scrubbed the area down with bleach to kill any mold, and I'm presently waiting for the area to dry, caulk and caulking gun at the ready.

7. Speaking of instructional videos, I've also FINALLY installed that bumGenius diaper sprayer we bought in 2009 when we first started using cloth diapers. Just as Leo is demonstrating signs of potty interest. Our timing is impressive.

8. I checked and rechecked the instructions and the Internet to make sure I had indeed turned off the water to the toilet fully. This step made me exceedingly nervous, as one might imagine, but I had, and I did not empty the toilet tank all over the bathroom.

9. I also bleached all the yellow mildew spots off another bathroom ceiling. Does anyone else get these? We have a working fan that I am told is sufficient for the size of the bathroom. Yet, these spots reappear. Next step is to paint with the mold-resistant ceiling paint, but painting a ceiling is extremely low on my list of tasks I'm ready to tackle, so I may be wielding the washcloth and bleach once again in a few months.

10. Last but so very far from least (best, in fact), dear online friends (I won't use the word love here). Thanks for your support!

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

TToT35: Arnold Böcklin

Those of you who are my friends on facebook know I had a bit of fun in the treasure trove of memories that is my parents' photo collection. There are approximately 10 billion thankfuls in the half bookcase that houses seven decades of photos of family and friends so I'm going to center in on one nearly perfect photo.

If you will lend me your eyes, I'd love to explain this photo to you. It was taken in 1996 in Vienna, Austria. It was our third and final European vacation as a family of five, and we'd been go-go-going all day as we were wont to do. My brother quit his temp job to take this trip with us; I was a rising college junior, about a spend a semester in jolly old England, and my sister was a rising high school junior and likely a contestant for most astonishing femur-to-height ratio.

I think we were all ready for a break at this point in the day, and the grass of that spot under Franz Joseph's watchful eye was just too inviting. We ignored the "stay off the grass" sign and immediately pulled out our deck of cards to play another round of Böcklin, a card game we'd invented (well, mostly my brother invented) a few days before in Switzlerland.  

I don't remember exactly how to play Böcklin, but I know each person was dealt seven cards, four facing in and three facing out, and we had named various plays after well-loved family characters. For instance, one could Gina Baldo (a name that caught our fancy when we once found it carved in a Texas Hill Country rest stop table), or one could Al Urbina (the mildly talented artist who painted the enormous works that decorated the walls of our favorite Mexican restaurant). But the highest honor was given to Arnold Böcklin, a Swiss man of limited but sufficient fame to have been memorialized with a bust in the hotel we stayed outside of Florence in 1990. See here:

Whatever he once held in his right hand was long gone in 1990, but it being the pre-easy-Internet-access days, we were allowed free use of our imaginations. A cigar? A stalk of asparagus? A fountain pen?

Skip forward to 1996 again (date of the card game photo), and we were driving our unairconditioned Opel Vectra into Basel, Switzlerland and reading about the attractions we might like to visit in the guidebook (remember what it was like to not have a smartphone?). Arnold Böcklin had been a family name for six years, though we still didn't know the source of his international fame.

Until, until...we read that the art museum in Basel was exhibiting the symbolist paintings of its native son, Arnold Böcklin (must've been a paintbrush)! Well, we pressed on the gas to make it into the city before the museum closed that day, and I think made it with about 15 minutes to spare. We sprinted through the museum and managed to snap this photo before we had to leave.

And the card game was named. If I had to pick one story that illustrates my family of origin, this would be an excellent one to do it. And it contains way more than ten things, doesn't it?

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Friday, July 11, 2014

TToT34: Quickie

This is my poor excuse for a TToT post this week. At this moment, I am cleaning house after our fourth set of houseguests in a little over a month, setting it up for the possibility of more houseguests soon, laundering and packing three people's clothes for a trip (tomorrow), tolerating a twitching eyelid and an upset stomach, fighting the urge to close my eyes for just a few minutes, and on an emotional level, feeling both extremely needy (thank you, clark and zoe) and extremely needed.

It's been a doozy of a week.

And, you might think, having houseguests can't have helped. But, let me tell you: they did. We've had wonderful adventures, and we've stayed up late catching up on everything from birth to death, and these guests walked in the door and started picking up up all the slack I kept dropping. Forget to chill the beer, defrost of the meat, set out the napkins, move the laundry? Without a word, these folks took care of it.

They've kept my children while I performed community service, they've hosted my house guests, they've sat with me in the hospital, and this week, they did the housework that kept slipping my mind. Aside from family, I wouldn't have had anyone else visiting us this week.

Tomorrow, my kids and I head to Texas. Not sure how long I'll be there, but even 24 hours will feed my need. We will swim and eat and watch movies and play at the library park. We will replenish ourselves for the next major event.

As far as feeling needed, hey, at least my husband and kids need me. Feeling sucked dry is better than feeling full of compassion and energy and having no receptacle for all of it. It's good to know your presence offers comfort.

So, stretch those three into ten this week. See ya next week if not sooner!

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

TToT33: Summer Days

Happy Birthday, USA! You may be out of the World Cup, but you're still my favorite country of which I am a citizen. Actually, you're even better than that, but I must admit I've been a trifle grumpy with you this week (see me on Facebook). At least, we still have the eloquence of the Notorious RBG.

Speaking of the World Cup, I'm not much of a sports fan. I can't say I've ever watched more than five minutes of a televised soccer game in my life. But, for some reason, I tuned in this year, and I am impressed. The moves on those men! I appreciate that it's a fast-moving game without annoying time outs, but most of all, I find the grace and athleticism of the players is absolutely riveting. And then there's Tim Howard. Did you know that the Secretary of Defense's Wikipedia page was briefly changed to identify the Secretary as Tim Howard? He earned it.

Do you think there is a higher percentage of heavily tattooed soccer players than in other sports? It seems like there might be.

Last weekend, we traveled to NC for my nephew's 4th birthday. It took us TEN HOURS to drive 250 miles (more or less). I'm more of a getinthecaranddrivetilwe'rethere kind of girl, and Brian's more of let'sstopforadrinkofwatereverytenminutes kind of guy. And then there was the car trouble. BUT, we found the most amazing little Sunoco that secured our bumper back on for twenty dollars. With a bonus of clean bathrooms and two lollipops for the kids while we sat there and waited through the three attempts to get the bumper secure.

And the party was thoroughly delightful with its fun Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme. Here's a picture of my sister and me enmasked.

And I made some time to make another throw pillow so the poor excluded pig could be displayed. It got more and more intricate as I went along, but I am excited to have tried out some of the decorative stitching options my machine offers.

And, finally, the next set of wonderful, dear friends are coming to stay next week. Just another set of folks who have gone above and beyond for my little family in times of misery and need. My daughter has a plush unicorn named Janet Horse (some confusion over the animal there) for good reason.

And then, no sooner do they take off towards the end of the week than the kids and I head to the Lone Star State for our annual summer vacation. Next TToT from Tejas!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014


In 2003, my boyfriend and I discussed places we might live together. Not together as in the same house, but together as in the same city. Because we'd never done that. Pacific Northwest? "Too rainy," I said. Northeast? "Too cold," I said. Asheville, North Carolina? "Hmmm...I prefer the South; I love mountains." And so we moved. He in 2004, me in 2005.

We left Asheville as a family of four in 2012, and I am still not over it. I'm a lucky girl; I found a true home in Asheville, NC. I fit in the culture of that city like nowhere else I will ever live, and I am still bound, two years later, by the grief of leaving.

I miss our house. I miss the crooked, patched floors and the creepy basement. I miss the tiny woodstove and the hearth I tiled the day I had the miscarriage, mentally burying my baby beneath the tiles. I miss the way the sunshine changed the kitchen throughout the day, and the peaceful feel of a summer morning in our bedroom, waking in sunlight to cool sheets and a cooing baby. I miss the neighbor's ethereal dogwood tree by which I marked the seasons while lying on the couch in the living room.

We lived five minutes away from a beautiful and active downtown and even closer to an arts district. We lived in the city that everyone wanted to visit (including President Obama), and I was proud of that. During warm weather months, there were more outdoor arts festivals than you could shake a stick at. Singer-songwriters, potters, and artists of all kinds abounded. I could walk from our home to the brewery that made the best IPA in the state or to see Gillian Welch perform at the music venue owned by our next door neighbor or to watch glass blowers craft ornaments. I knew where to park for free downtown, and if we wanted to hike, we could drive to a secluded trail within 20 minutes. Eating organic and local wasn't hip; it was how people lived their lives (and what the grocery stores supplied). We didn't attend local functions without running into people we knew. And everywhere we went, in car or on foot, we were surrounded by the beautiful Appalachians. No matter how seedy the stripmall, in the background, those beautiful, blue mountains.

Now I live in the suburbs of a teeming metropolis, and truthfully, I find happiness here. We actually live in a more social neighborhood than we did in Asheville, and DC, of course, offers so many cultural opportunities. The schools are better for our children, and I have the opportunity to stay home with them at present. For heaven's sake, I just voted in a primary where the incumbent, the first openly gay man in that particular position, was being challenged by a transgender woman. That's miles from NC (where there is an actual Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage) and where if you're teacher, your rights and pay are being steadily and systematically stripped away.

But I miss the warmth and informality of Asheville. I miss the coolness. I miss the mountains and the
wild, accessible forests. I miss the accents and the banjoes, and the mix of Old South to young hipster and everything in between (but the hippies most of all).  I miss the beer, and the homemade goat cheese, and that huge, prolific weeping cherry tree that I made sure to drive past every spring. I miss living somewhere that felt like home.

Last weekend, I was telling my sister and brother-in-law of my latest experiments in hippie-dom, or my all-natural lifestyle. And my brother-in-law said, "But you don't live in Asheville any longer," as if I only baked bread, gardened, or gave birth at home because of where I lived (though it was easier to do there than here). In actuality, Asheville helped my natural tendencies blossom. And now I'm once again an oddball in a culture with a driving pace, making granola, going bra-less, and letting my children run around naked.

Next June a good friend in that area will be turning 50, and we are invited to his party. I'll return to Asheville for the first time for that event. It will be painful, and not just because some of the people responsible for our departure will be at that party. I will have to endure the heartbreak of seeing that skyline and those beautiful mountains, of possibly driving past the home where our babies were born, and certainly driving the streets and highways that were once so familiar, passing the shops and restaurants we once frequented but whose employees would never recognize us now.

I will have to enter those city limits as an outsider, homesick for the city I am in but to which I no longer belong, homesick for that sense of belonging.

It's been nearly two years since we left, and it is probably time to tackle that grief head on. Today, when this video appeared in my News Feed, I watched it. And I made it through.