Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I've been teaching myself something new. Sketching has always been there for me, but watercolors? Brand spanking new to the medium. So far, I am enjoying the playing around part, but get frustrated when I try to be serious and the painting looks nothing like it does in my head. Really, how could I ever expect some pigment and water carry the weight of all of my expectations?

I went through the same process when I taught myself to knit a decade ago. A wake of half finished, shoddy, asymmetrical projects trailed behind me, until one day, I decided just to give up on knitting the perfect, difficulty-level-10 lace shawl, and make some simple socks to keep my feet warm. Since then, I've knit 98 socks. Now, I could knit in my sleep, and quite often, I do knit without looking so I can watch a movie or read a book at the same time. Don't be impressed, every mother out there understands this type of multitasking is ten percent talent and ninety percent survival skill.

I'm wearied of hearing myself grumble about all of my perceived short-comings, an annoying habit I have fallen into lately.  On the surface I feel as if I have lost all ability to do anything except grouse on the things I don't like about what I am doing. Even my sentences are all Mad Hatter jumbles! But, what is really happening isn't a loss of capability, no, the situation is much more dire. Boredom. Pure and simple, I've been acting like one of my kids, sitting in a room full of things to do and complaining there is nothing to do. Usually, when they announce their utter, mind melting boredom, I mumble something practical, like, "go play with something or whatever."

Time to stop grumbling and go play with paints or whatever.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cake as a Metaphor

I had baked a cake about a year ago, made from scratch, and I remember humming and smiling to myself over how grateful and awe struck my children would be with my superior baking skills and careful thought for their health. No high fructose, no bleached, bromated, hydrogenated, or otherwise plastic ingredients for my darlings! My Mary Poppins meets Ina Garten fantasy bubble burst when they declared my labor of love "tasteless." I quietly took off the imaginary apron, pearls, and heels I was wearing, cleaned the kitchen, and refrained from baking a cake since.

Then I saw this cake, pictured on a box of cake mix, and suddenly craved cake. I'm not a sweets person, so I wheeled my cart away from the display, but found myself staring at my grocery list, watching each penciled item morph into the word cake., e..g..g..scake, pot..a...t..o ...scake. See? The cake was inevitable, undeniable, and I could feel my imaginary apron cinching my waist all the way to the checkout.

When my son refused to believe I had made the cake rather than the bakery, requesting a second slice for forensic purposes, I knew the cake was good. Never mind it looks nothing like the photo on the box and the strawberries tasted most un-strawberry like, the general consensus was pleasant and the process enjoyable. Motherhood is similar; reality will never live up to the staged photos and advertised promises, but for every dozen failures to please or be pleased, there is a quiet, imperfect success. Happy Mother's Day. Have some cake.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Open Invitation

Feet, hands, my hair, basically anything she can grasp goes straight to her mouth. She's a delight. I am especially fond of our afternoons, when sister and brother come home, talking to her as if she is their age, not eight plus years younger. She waits until they've moved on to other entertainment (usually cleaning out the pantry of anything edible) and slips off into a small nap. During this nap time, I've taken to sketching again. Such a soothing practice, just paper, pencil, markers, and the newest addition of watercolor pencils. I'm having so much fun experimenting with those. The oldest and I enjoyed using a smashed strawberry to color wash a beet I illustrated.

Last week, I opened the garage door while painting some old bedside tables white for the nursery. Apparently, this is an open invitation for the younger children on the street to venture inside. Consequently, moms, dads, grandpas, toddlers, kindergartners, first, third, and fourth graders paraded in and out all week. One mom was forced into coming over by her father-in-law, who rang our bell at dinner time, introduced his grandson, and said, "Ok, I'll be back for him in about thirty minutes."

My husband and I just stared at each other in disbelief. Did this man really just leave a child with total strangers? I remarked the parents are lucky we aren't psychopaths, to which he responded that we aren't Republicans either, which they may believe to be even worse. Less than ten minutes later, the grandpa and the mom were at the front door, he looking pleased with himself and she like a woman on the verge of finding her child had been heinously murdered. I invited them in and heard her sigh of relief upon seeing her son intact and her sigh of consternation as her father-in-law exclaimed, "She is an introvert and needs to meet more folks!"

I found this all simultaneously hilarious and painful considering I am introverted too. I could completely empathize with her mortification over the whole scene. But, to her credit, she came over again the next day, and I think we will be friends, that is, if we continue force ourselves out to see each other again.

I grew up in households with open doors, both of my grandmother's homes were bustling with family and friends and I long for that sense of community as I get older. My husband recalls fondly his childhood memories of long meals at his Opa's house in Belgium, full of food, drink, and laughter. Strange, how isolating modern living can be, especially when you move to different cities and never see, much less know, neighbors. I can feel this changing in me though, a greater pull towards being involved in my small corner of the world. I feel as if I am being invited by life to do less growing up and more growing out.