Things to Do - Random Links

untitled (131 of 180).jpg

untitled (171 of 180).jpg

* Martin Parr's America In Color. Amazing tacky loudness, as if the photos were screaming.

* Embroidered newspapers. Lovely.

* Stoop books of Brooklyn. One man's garbage is another man's treasure.

* The Neighbors. I can't decide if these are poetic or creepy.

* Saying goodbye to the family home. I love these pictures and the whole idea of a farewell party for a house.

* Free downloads of botanical prints. Adorable!

* Bill Murray on Gilda Radner - this one made me cry. And I found the whole Old Love tumblr pretty addictive.

* 4 Great and Easy Backyard Ideas for Summer (though, beware, the background music is VERY annoying).

* How to entertain your kids for hours with thrift store finds (genius)! (and thank you Julia's Bookbag - a totally addictive blog - for the link).


Things to Read - Five VERY Different Short Story Collections

1. Dear Life - I've been a huge Alice Munro fan for years now (she's even in my profile description, see it? over on the right, with the color grey and balloons). Munro's writing is always nothing short of excellent, full of characters that come alive within moments of each story's beginning (hence all of the awards and honors). But, in my opinion, her recent collection diverges from her other work. Munro's early stories contain vague senses of hope, even as characters face destroyed plans and expectations, the sense of something else, around a corner, always lingers. Then came what I think of as the "middle years", with collections like Runaway (profiled, by me, here) and Too Much Happiness, which contain several stories so bitterly sad and gut wrenching that I found them hard to read, such as Dimensions, where a wife has to go on living after her disturbed husband murders their three children.

And now at 80+ years of age, Munro has published Dear Life, another astounding collection of stories. Unlike her earlier work, this newest collection has a coldness to it, even the saddest stories contain an element of "maybe you expected too much from life." For example in Corrie, Munro tells the story of a man and his mistress, who learns at the end of a multiple year relationship that the love she treasured never really existed. Or in Gravel where a woman looks back years later at her sister's death by drowning. In both works, the sense of new beginnings, undiscovered corners, so prevalent in Munro's early work, is missing. Life simply continues. I'm not sure what to make of this change, but it hasn't caused me to like Munro any less. Actually, more than ever I feel like I should dive in, read through her with extra attention to detail, figure out what she has to tell me, not just about lie, but about how aging itself effects the stories we choose to tell.

Further, and worth mentioning, Munro ends the collection with a set of four works, which she describes as "not quite stories." Rather, Munro characterizes them as "the first and last - and the closest - things I have to say about my own life." And, in this set, Munro's warmth returns as she describes her small town childhood and a way of life that no longer exists. The final story, Dear Life, ends on a note which continues to reverberate with me, and which, truly, sums up the entire collection - "I did not go home for my mother's last illness or for her funeral. I had two small children and nobody in Vancouver to leave them with. We could barely have afforded the trip, and my husband had a contempt for formal behavior, but why blame it on him? I felt the same. We say of some things that they can't be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do - we do it all the time."

2. Tenth of December - Critics and reviewers FAWNED over this collection (see, for example, The New York Times' "George Saunders Has Written The Best Book You'll Read This Year"), I've never seen a book (much less a short story collection) receive such universal praise. And after reading it, I get it. Though I'm still not sure I truly GET IT. Saunder writes well, merging science fiction and contemporary fiction in a way I've never read before. In several of Saunders' stories the timing seems to be modern day, yet certain details are different. Key details. An alternate reality. Making his fiction oddly disturbing and discombobulating, especially in The Semplica-Girl Diaries (which you can read in full here) where in a world almost identical to ours, middle class Americans rent girls from impoverished countries, dress them in ethereal white gowns, and HANG THEM AS LAWN ORNAMENTS (a care company arrives throughout the day to provide food and bathroom usage). Even Saunders' more "normal" stories find a way to disturb you in odd, disorientating ways. Almost to the point where I no longer wanted to read them (it took me about a month to finish this relatively short book). So be awed. Be amazed. But be prepared. Saunders hits hard and often in ways that you don't quite see coming.

3. Signs and Wonders - This book had been on my Amazon wish list for years and I almost passed it over, but lately I've felt like reading short stories so I reserved it at the library, figuring it was worth a try. And now it might be in my top 20 favorite books ever. Seriously, I INHALED Alix Ohlin's collection. Most of the stories deal with divorce or loss coupled with the change inherent in such events, the thrill of newness with the crushing defeats such newness can bring. The characters seemed so real that even though each story lasted an average of 15 pages (the collection contains 16 works), at the end of each tale I felt an odd sense of loss. I found Ohlin's The Stepmother's Story especially haunting and beautiful (perhaps because this is the only work that dips into surrealism/fantasy), about the chasms that occur when a 9 year old boy disappears while vacationing in Scotland with his father and new stepmother. I also enjoyed Robbing the Cradle, where, upon learning of her husband's infertility, a teacher plots and succeeds in using a student to become pregnant, hoping that her husband will love the resulting baby so much that he will eventually accept the child as his own.

4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove - Karen Russell's stories are quirky and odd - vampires who prefer lemons to blood, girls who become silkworms, a tattoos that changes with memory, dead presidents reincarnated as horses, etc. While Russell writes well sometimes I feel that reading her takes work, almost like school. I'm curious enough to want to know how each (incredibly imaginative) tale ends, but I can't imagine staying up late at night to finish one. Sometimes her characters seem a little hollow to me, almost as if they can't live up to the crazy scenarios she puts them in. Oh well, when one of Russell's stories manages to make an impact, it lasts. For example, I can't stop thinking about Rutherford B. Hayes in The Barn at the End of Our Term and his loving conviction that his dead wife has come back as a sheep. I also enjoyed The New Veterans, in which a war veteran's most horrid memories slowly leak from him to his massage therapist, causing the reader to reflect on what purpose memory really serves, especially when recollecting those who have already passed.

5. When It Happens To You - I'm a huge Molly Ringwald fan, the whole brat-pack/John Hughes' portrait of teenage years - I love it. Ducky dancing to Otis in Pretty in Pink might be cinema's best moment ever. Yet despite my adoration for her acting career, I wasn't expecting much from Ringwald's short story collection, so I was pleasently surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The first story (and probably my least favorite) focuses on a wife learning of her husband's infidelity. The remainder of the stories center on other people who have somehow been effected by the couple's marital problems. Some of the stories are stronger than others, but I found myself unable to put the book down - especially as the question lingers over whether or not the couple will, ultimately, stay together.


Things to Do - And Now You're a Soccer Mom


When the kids were little, more experienced parents often offered general sort of advice - "it gets easier", "don't you just love this stage?", "take care of yourself first", "don't forget to make time for your spouse", etc. Most of the time, I enjoyed hearing their advice, even the multiple cliches, but I never could quite understand why some parents insisted on telling me "wait, until the soccer years start, then you'll REALLY be busy." First of all, I already was busy - finding time to go to the bathroom proved difficult, I did not feel that the "soccer years" could top my already exhausting days. And, now that I'm on the other side, I can say that in my experience no period of life is more tiring than when you have a toddler. But still, I am a bit surprised by how full our days (and weekends) have become.

I was never much of an activity kid. Despite my parents' numerous attempts to enroll me in sports - soccer, softball, cross country, etc. I have never been an athlete. Or a joiner. I'm one of the only law school grads I know who didn't belong to a journal or participate in moot court. Never joined a sorority. I am not a member of any club. Something about organizational involvement makes me nervous, even today. I'd be an awful communist.

On the other hand, from the time F was born, Dan has always hoped that our children would participate in sports. And luckily, he's managed to manipulate his schedule so that he can coach P's soccer team (albeit while on crutches). On Tuesday nights, P and Dan go to soccer practice, while T and I take F to martial arts. Then Wednesday is soccer for T and piano for F. Thursday, P attends gymnastics. And I basically operate as a chauffeur for all of these different activities (actually we walk to some of them, but you get the idea). I can't help wondering exactly how we found ourselves here. Or if we can scale back somehow. But maybe this is just how it works now, no individual child is in more than two activities, it's the accumulation that makes life hectic.

But wow, the days do seem short lately.



Things to Make - Coconut Milk Tropical Smoothies

untitled (6 of 12).jpg

untitled (1 of 12).jpg

Smoothies are one of our go-to after school snacks. Usually we make them the typical way, with yogurt and juice, but F is lactose intolerant and sometimes we run out of lactaid. Plus the yogurt always gets everywhere, since the kids like to "help". So recently we tried using coconut milk instead, which tastes pretty good (though the smoothies always come out super thick). When we have leftovers, this recipe also makes fantastic popsicles.


* 2-3 cups coconut milk
* 6 oz frozen (or fresh) mango
* 6 oz frozen (or fresh) pineapple
* 1 banana
* 1-3 tablespoons of agave nectar (depending on how sweet you like your smoothies).

1. Throw everything in a blender. Blend.

2. Drink, preferably with a straw (and maybe a spoon).

untitled (11 of 12).jpg


Things to Do - Grateful List (April 2013)

untitled (111 of 111).jpg

untitled (100 of 111).jpg

* Reading You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together with P
* Reading Signs and Wonders (Vintage Contemporaries Original) (I LOVED this book)
* Listening to Vampire Weekend radio on spotify
* F practically inhaling the Harry Potter books

* Cuties
* Gweneth's turkey and black bean chili with sweet potatoes (via Washington Post)
* Marshmallow vodka and OJ (i.e. the death of me)
* Roasted tilapia with roasted fingering potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes (so so good)

* Cherry blossoms and the playground at Hains Pt
* A whole day at SpaWorld (thank you Beth!)
* Jessie's kickboxing class (summer is coming)
* The Hirshhorn with T
* Dan and T cheering at the DC United Game (while the girls just asked for more junk food)

* T and his bubble maker
* My new ice tea maker

* Dan coaching P's soccer team
* F making us breakfast in bed
* The kids always asking how many steps I took today
* Our "sometimes you just need to have a party" party (thanks to everyone who came!)
* P talking about her "classmate" Jack and T asking "wow, one kid just cleans your class all day?" (classmate NOT classmaid)
* P at her first gymnastics class (so dedicated)
* Birds and open windows in the morning
* Washington DC's new ramp onto the Baltimore Washington Parkway (driving north just became SO MUCH easier)
* Jenny and the Banana visiting
* F "shopping" in the Pottery Barn catalog, "mom, this stuff is really really expensive, I don't understand how anyone can afford it." (nicely stated, F)
* T singing and performing at the preschool recital
* A wonderful Cuban feast at our neighbors' house
* Diet tips and drinks with Allegra
* F's third stripe in martial arts (she worked really hard for this one)

The Kids' Lists:

F - my family, art, books, our family, Lemony Snicket, a pizza party with my teacher, that we have a nice house to live in and food to eat, Silver Diner, going to school, reading Harry Potter, a great sister, Auntie Jenny and H visiting, piano lesson, my new stripe [in martial arts], going to the soccer game [DC United], that we have everything we need, that we're healthy

P - going out to dinner, easter, my new Barbie clothes, Elephant and Piggie books, playdates with L, Lemony Snicket, soccer practice, walking Coco, cherry blossom trees, Silver Diner, Wreck it Ralph, going to the playground, our party, cartwheels, gymnastics, going to the library, our neighbors' party, a really awesome day, our zoo field trip, playdates with L & A

T - daddy being home, a nice house to live in and food to eat, our family, walking Coco, going to school, going to the cherry blossoms, going out to dinner, our party, Wreck it Ralph, going to the aquarium


Things to Read - 7 Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on The Middle Class, Guantanamo, Grocery Shopping, Garden State, Self-Defense, Sexist Toy Aisles, and Feminism)

1. On Salon, The Internet Destroyed the Middle Class - not sure what to make of this one, I'll need some time to think about it.

"“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face . . . [a]t the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?

2. Mohamedou Ould Slahi Writes His Memoirs After 10 Years in Guantanamo - I can't figure out where or how to excerpt this, it makes for some sad, scary reading, and the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts.

3. The New York Times went grocery shopping with Michael Pollan and Michael Moss -

“Real milk, no hormones, no antibiotics,” Mr. Pollan said, reading aloud from the label. “I love the term ‘real milk.’ I wonder if we can get fake milk anywhere here.”

So went the shopping trip: everything that went into the cart was subject to scrutiny.

“This seems like such a tranquil atmosphere,” Mr. Moss said. “It’s quiet, there’s peaceful music, it smells O.K. But behind these shelves is the most fiercely competitive industry there is.”

4. Jesse David Fox discusses What We Talk About When We Talk About Hating Garden State. When it first came out, Garden State became my favorite movie ever - Natalie Portman, the soundtrack, the shirt/wallpaper, I loved it all. But I have to wonder, would I still cherish it as much if it premiered today? Or do I now crave Ron Swanson?

"Garden State was good enough to define the things that we come to hate in certain movies (and certain characters and people). It's become a symbol for its blend of quirky, twee, morose, earnest, precious, hipsterness, and it's resented for it. We've confused its influence for cliché.

. . . .

. . . Garden State and its success taught studios and producers how to market and make money off these films. It's a lot easier to sell a pitch by saying "It's like Garden State but ... " than "it's a deadpan, offbeat, romantic dramedy about a disillusioned boy-man and the impulsive, vintage-clothes-wearing, non-sequitur-loving girl-woman of his dreams." The result was many, many kindred spirited films — some were good (500 Days of Summer), some were bad (Gigantic), and a lot starred Zooey Deschanel. Like Pearl Jam and its shitty post-grunge imitators, it grew hard to not resent patient zero.

Worse yet for Garden State's legacy is it's tied to the codifying of an archetypal character that is easily one of today's most reviled: whiny hipsters."

5. The Washington Post published a great article about firearms and a clear case of self-defense.

"By the time Herman called her husband at work to say an intruder was in the house, she had rushed both children into an upstairs bedroom and locked two doors behind her. She also had retrieved a .38 from the gun safe. The only place left to hide was a crawl space that led to the attic, and that’s where Herman crouched, with her son and daughter beside her and a revolver in her hand.

“Just remember everything that I showed you, everything that I told you, all right?” Donnie Herman told his wife, juggling phones. “Melinda, I’m on the phone with 911. They are dispatched right now.”

Walton County sheriff’s deputies barreled toward the subdivision off Sharon Church Road, but the intruder reached the crawl space first. When he opened the door, Herman fired six times.

The 37-year-old mother emptied her revolver as the national gun debate was reaching its most fevered pitch in the weeks after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Melinda Herman became an instant hero to gun owners facing new restrictions on firearms. While the intruder lay in a hospital, clinging to life, the National Rifle Association tweeted about GA MOM. The 911 tape of Donnie Herman yelling to his terrified wife, “Shoot him! Shoot him again!” played over and over on the news, fueling hours of programming on Fox News and radio call-in shows."


6. It breaks my heart that this issue exists (especially since I have a daughter who can't stop playing with her microscope kit), but so it goes - The Sexist Toy Aisle on Salon profiles a store where the “Girl Toy” section featured princess gear and mini-tea sets, while the “Boy” section was chock-full of Science Museum brand kits.

"But the excessive polarization of toys by gender – a trend that has been rampantly increasing in recent years – is bad for both sexes. It’s crappy when science toys are presumed to be boy things, and it’s also heartbreaking when parents are scared off from “girl” things. As Peggy Orenstein deftly explained in “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” “You don’t want to send the message that things that are feminine don’t have value.” That’s why we all win when boys get Easy-Bakes too.

Otherwise, we risk telling our kids that there is science and there is girl science, that there is dress-up play and there is boy dress-up play. And it limits all of them. At my daughter’s birthday party a few months ago, it wasn’t the gift itself – a small set of purple and green interlocking pieces, accompanied by a wide-eyed plastic girl and a kitten — that made my heart sink. It was what my daughter’s friend told her as she handed her the present. “It’s like boy Legos,” she said, “but for girls.”

7. And, finally, Some Women Want to Stay at Home With Their Children and Feminism Needs to Make Peace With That -

"By all means fight for women’s place in the workforce, it’s vital activism and I’m a working-outside-the-home mother myself, but don’t for a minute think you’re really challenging the patriarchy until you’re questioning the way in which capitalism relies upon a framework of unpaid care. It is equally a mistake to see the desire to be at home with children as either essential or universal in women, but as feminists, it matters less whether you think it good or bad for women to feel this way, it is instead crucial for the movement that you accept that some women do feel this way and that it is an authentic and strongly held feeling for them. Some women might be flinching from complexities in their life by relying upon conservative gender roles to express their preferences but for many this drive is real. Maternal desire is real.

Accepting that this is the case is not some call for women to be free to ‘choose their choice’ – it is, rather, a time for reflecting upon the internalised misogyny that allows you to assume, without questioning, that self-actualisation cannot simultaneously include mothering."



Things to Do - Preschool Career Ambitions


Lately, T's obsessed with jobs and growing up; approximately every five minutes he inquires about new career possibilities - "Mom, when I grow up can I be a builder/ fire truck driver/ ice cream scooper/ Batman/ police?" I'm not quite sure why he feels the need to ask my permission, but I enjoy hearing what he comes up with. My current favorite is "can I be a guy who carries a backpack and owns a walkie-talkie?" So many potential careers exist when one doesn't have salary concerns.

I don't remember the girls going through a similar phase, probably because they spent the first four years of life adjusting to the fact that they would never be "real" princesses. The royal wedding occurred during the end of F's princess obsession (some of those dresses literally became rags by the time she finished with them) and one of my friends suggested watching the footage with her. At first, F could barely contain herself, "mom she's so beautiful, look at that dress, and all the people. wow, a real princess. wow." Then she saw the prince, who somehow didn't match her Disney dreams. "You mean, she's only a princess if she marries that GUY?" "Um, yeah, that's sort of how it works." And so ended the princess phase.

Perhaps T's career obsessions are entirely his own making and sex/gender has nothing to do with it. But it still makes me a little sad. All my kids have loved costumes and dressing up, but whereas T's costumes include police, firefighter, musketeer, and super hero outfits; the girls usually preferred glittery purses, heels, and fancy dresses. Not that anything is inherently WRONG with any of this, but it just seems so unbalanced - isn't the goal for them all to enter the same workforce? Apply for the same jobs? Build a future centered on equality?

Oh well, the best thing about our new dress up corner is the combinations that occur - a police hat, a builder vest, and a sparkly dress. I dig it.


Things to Make - Paper Bag Quilt


Another recycling bin project, I love these . . .

I cut a few large paper grocery bags into squares. And then outlined the squares with a cross-stich pattern using a marker. Each kid received two squares (but T gave me one of his). And I put oil pastels, markers, and watercolor crayons/with paintbrushes (love these) on the table to create with.

When everyone finished arting, I stapled the squares together. Just one staple on each side, to give it a loose, free-flowing look. Easy peasy. I think this would be a fun project for a party or a large playgroup, as it allows the kids to work separately and still make something unified.



Things to Do - Random Links

untitled (106 of 111).jpg

* Inequality. I think polka band/rock band is my favorite.

* 9 Books To Get Your Kids Hooked on Reading For Life (okay, so I find the title somewhat of an overstatement, but still, it's a good list).

* The world's largest rubber duck.

* "“It was a wonderful time in the porn world because we felt we were part of the indie filmmaking world, and that our porn movies could one day be considered mainstream.” (Warning, link contains graphic content (but not actual porn) don't open in front of children)

* As odd as this sounds, this store really does have the cutest tape ever. just so so cute.

* 14 food you should never eat. Sprouts. Butter flavored microwave popcorn. Who knew? On a similar note, 7 dodgy food practices banned in Europe and allowed in the US. Get angry. Very angry.

* Beautiful.

* A long list of short stories, several of my favorite books are included.

* 26 cocktails. Perfect for summer.

* Hilarious photos of the "world's best father." LOVE!!!

* The Scientific 7 Minute Workout. Let's see if it works.

* Best family roadtrip photos ever.

* Keep Merida Brave! Um Disney, I think you've managed to piss off a great number of people.

* 21 Kids Who Sold Out Their Parents. Funny.


Things to Do - Land of Nod Makeover, Behind the Scenes

untitled (5 of 32).jpg

You know something unusual is taking place when the iron actually comes out of the closet (I wasn't even sure we still had one).

I didn't take many behind the scenes pictures (though I wish I would have). The Land of Nod team spent two days here (one day for styling and one day for photos). At first it felt a little overwhelming to have a group of people redecorating my house for me. Are they guests or workers? I kept offering everyone beverages.

Luckily, the whole LON team (2 photographers, 3 stylists, and 1 assistant) consisted of wonderful people. They quickly won over the children, who spent two days stalking their every move ("look mom, they brought a whiteboard! and chalk! i get to keep my own chalk, isn't this exciting?") Yes, a whole new room, but somehow the free chalk really made their day. Anyways, we liked everyone so much that now the kids keep asking if we can have them over again. I try to explain that they live in Chicago and NYC, but that doesn't really make a difference when you're 3/6/7 years old ("can't they just fly here? we'd make them dinner. PLEASE!").

For me, one of the largest highlights (of which there were many) was meeting Melanie Acevedo and talking with her about her work. Somehow she managed to revive my interest in photography just by assuring that one really should shoot every day and trust their instincts/find their own style. I was a little in awe.

Regarding the photoshoot itself, since it took place in our relatively dark basement, the photographers needed to change the lighting for each area they photographed. So our family had a lot of down time. The kids loved dressing up and acting out scenes. And I am incredibly happy that we now have family pictures. Though it did make me think about what celebrities must go through (NOT that I am in any way a celebrity) - having other people dress them and pose them, forfeiting control and trusting that the professionals know how to make them look best. What an odd way to go through life.

untitled (10 of 32).jpg

untitled (16 of 32).jpg

Lots of excitement, though not necessarily lots for us to do.

untitled (26 of 32).jpg

And, of course, Coco managed to sleep through it all. Even during Ipad time.

untitled (32 of 32).jpg

Just a teeny tiny bit of blush. I know I sound like a cheesy mom, but doesn't she look beautiful?


Things to Make - Yarn Wrapped Sticks (As Seen In the Land of Nod Catalog)


This is possibly the easiest craft project I've ever posted (and I've posted LOTS of easy projects). Basically, look around the neighborhood for "good sticks" (not too frail, not too large), which is a fun way to occupy the kids during the "witching hours." Then use a glue stick to attach the yarn to the stick. I bought different colors of yarn, so that each stick would contain multiple hues.

Originally, I placed the sticks in a vase. But when Land of Nod came to makeover the basement, they decided to attach them to the ceiling. Pretty, huh? For an extra special effect, add garland, like this one from Paper Source (Paper Source no longer appears to sell the garland pictured above).



Things to Do - Land of Nod Basement Makeover

(all "after" photos courtesy of Land of Nod and the wonderful Melanie Acevedo)

As many of you may (or may not) know, I also post at Land of Nod's blog, Honest to Nod (tons of amazing stuff over there, check it out if you have a chance). They have always been a wonderful company to work with (lots of giveaways around Christmas time) and I feel so lucky to be part of their internet team.

And then everything became even better.

A few months ago, LON contacted me asking if I had any interest in improving a room in our house. Um, well, YES!!! But where to start? (we haven't lived in our current home for two years yet and several of the rooms need some love.) I came up with a list of suggestions including our basement, which looked so blah that I had no idea where to even begin. To which, LON replied, "well, would you like our help designing it?".

And then everything became better than better.

They quickly put me in touch with a LON designer - Sarah - who asked to see my pinterest files, in order to work within my style. So we collaborated (with Sarah doing most of the work) and within a few weeks, she had taken my boring, dull basement and divided it into "zones" - a study space with desks, an art corner, and a dress up wall. All while working around our desire for our tv (and couch) for family movies and wii. And did I mention her idea for a corkboard wall? Brilliant.

Sarah's design plan was beyond helpful. And while she suggested several LON products, she also included accessories from other sources (click here to see the board). I thought this was a special service for me, but was surprised to learn - and want to make sure everyone knows - that LON offers this for most customers (depending on designer availability), so if you have a design dilemma or question, just ask.

And then better became amazing.

After Sarah finished her design plan, my husband and I talked about what we liked and what we didn't (our main changes related to color). And then things started moving pretty fast. Another wonderful LON designer helped us finalize everything (click here to see the final design plan). We assembled new furniture and unloaded poofs (LOVE their poofs), and within a few weeks, a team of designers and a professional photographer arrived to help us put everything together and to photograph the family for the catalog (our brief brush with fame).

The basement turned out even better than I could have hoped. The girls each have a leaning sloane desk, where they work on homework and keep their most treasured possessions. T basically lives in the dress up corner. And the art area has become a favorite playdate spot. But best of all, the basement still remains a space where we can gather as a family - watching movies, reading books, and "arting." I never thought such a relatively small space could meet so many needs, so thank you LON, thank you!! We couldn't have hoped for more.




Amazing transformation. It also serves as our "tv room", but I've learned that catalogs really really don't like to show photos of TVs.


The dress up corner is one of my favorite parts, the kids come up with the most interesting combinations.

At first, I insisted the room was way too small for a coffee table, but I was wrong. We ended up LOVING the adjustable table with paper roll (the kids color on it constantly). Plus, I like that we have the option of converting it to a desk for T in the future.


Art table = awesomeness. Especially with the paper roll right next to it.


Our basement also has a corner "nook" (I don't have before pictures), where we set up a puppet show, using LON's new "What's That Stand For Stand", which may be one of their best products ever. FINALLY, as a parent you don't have to choose between the market stand and the puppet show and the post office, now there's an all-in-one version. I love it (and so do the kids).


Things to Do - Think About Spacecraft


At the planetarium, a few weeks ago, we watched a show on our galaxy, which mentioned that the Voyager spacecraft shouts out greetings in several different languages as it drifts through the blackness. Just in case. And lately I can't remove this image from my mind, such an odd combination of hope and emptiness. Maybe we really are all alone.

Then on Friday I read this wonderful article written by a man who gave up the internet for a year. At first, he bettered his life, wasted less time, etc. - all the stuff we'd like to believe we'd do. But eventually he settled into a new pattern of laziness, one which was more solitary and disconnected than his life before. According to the article's author:

"It's hard to say exactly what changed. I guess those first months felt so good because I felt the absence of the pressures of the internet. My freedom felt tangible. But when I stopped seeing my life in the context of "I don't use the internet," the offline existence became mundane, and the worst sides of myself began to emerge. . . . I would stay at home for days at a time. My phone would die, and nobody could get ahold of me. At some point my parents would get fed up with wondering if I was alive, and send my sister over to my apartment to check on me. On the internet it was easy to assure people I was alive and sane, easy to collaborate with my coworkers, easy to be a relevant part of society. . . . So much ink has been spilled deriding the false concept of a "Facebook friend," but I can tell you that a "Facebook friend" is better than nothing."

At a party last weekend I found myself in a conversation about childhood memories and siblings. I mentioned that for me, as an only child with no extended family, the strangest part of raising three children is realizing how much time and effort goes into their relationships with each other - the constant battles and apologies. So much work. Even today, I still can't quite grasp that while I was at home as a child, probably reading a book on the couch, my friends (almost all of who had siblings) were engaged in constant socialization experiments, continually navigating human relationships. My husband finds it odd how much time alone I need in comparison with other people (even introverts), but perhaps my childhood explains it. Not that I didn't enjoy being any only child (though I did constantly ask for a sibling). My family was close. I was happy. But the idea that people can fight and then somehow just forget about it continues to allude me. Relationships are such fragile things, worse than fine china. oh so breakable. and the cracks, the endless map of lines and fissures.

I'm not sure any of this comes together in a coherent way, just that I've been thinking about Voyager a lot lately - programmed to float through darkness, constantly trying to say hello.

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE! Have a wonderful weekend.



Places to Go - Azaleas at the National Arboretum (Washington DC)


Sometimes I think I should use this blog to promote myself more, become a real photographer with a website and client specials, rather than rely on word of mouth. But the trouble is that sometimes really fun stuff happens around noon on a sunny day. Stuff you want to record and remember.

Last week, one of my best friends came to town with her absolute gorgeous 18 month old daughter. After a cloudy morning (photographers LOVE mid-day clouds), we decided to head to the National Arboretum to check out the azalea gardens (which are amazing this time of year). And then the sun came out. Everywhere. Causing bright, dappled, awful light to fill my camera. Plus, we had to bring the dog with, as she's destroyed half-my house lately and I'm scared to leave her alone (the problem with adopting a 5 year old boxer? crazy dog anxiety). So I tried to take pictures of a toddler and preschooler while having a 55 pound boxer drag me around.

Basically, bright noon light + crazy leashed dog + a green color cast everywhere = crappy pictures. These are the only salvageable shots (so sorry for the lack of actual flower pictures). But, for better or worse, this isn't a photography blog (I'm much more random than that). And this was a wonderful moment with three of my favorite people - we saw multiple frogs, and listened to them croak (a sound that fascinated all - ages 18 months to 37 years). Plus, I love to post on places to go and in spring, once the cherry blossoms are gone, there are few sights in the area that are this beautiful.

So hurry up and check out the azaleas. Meander through the flowers. Feel the beauty of nature. Hopefully take pictures better than mine. But go soon, due to the sequester, beginning next week, the National Arboretum will be CLOSING ITS GROUNDS TUESDAY THROUGH THURSDAY. So no more weekday picnics and awesomeness. In addition, the National Arb will reinstate recovery of user fees (janitorial, security, staffing) and space rental charges for use of space by outside organizations in the recently renovated Administration and Visitor Services Building and in selected gardens.


Frogs! Who doesn't love frogs?


Things to Make - Our Family Art Game

untitled (3 of 18).jpg

As frequent readers of this blog know - I LOVE the Artful Parent because of her simple and open ended projects. She rarely recommends tough to find materials, instead she often relies on kitchen staples or art cabinet basics, using everything in new and different ways. Often, after I read her blog, I say to myself, "well, why didn't I think of that?", but I never DO think of that, hence why I need her.

Anyways, she now has a book out - The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family's Life with Art and Creativity--Includes over 60 Art Projects for Children Ages 1 to 8 and even though I LOVE her blog I hesitated over whether or not to purchase a copy. Part of me wondered "what more can the Artful Parent possibly teach our family?" Luckily, I overcame my indecision and bought the book. And I must say, I'm loving it. I have no idea how many of the crafts she's already blogged, but there is something wonderful about reading a book over perusing the internet. And I really like how the Artful Parent has categorized the projects - art for playdates and parties, quiet activities, action art, first forays, quick and easy projects, etc. A great resource, whatever your mood.

We have only begun to dive into all of the book's suggested activities and crafts (i.e. summer vacation hasn't started yet), but we've already come up with a favorite new family activity (based on artful activity 49, musical chairs art). In order to "play" I fill the table with markers, crayons, oil pastels and a timer (borrowed from a board game). We all take a piece of white paper and draw until the timer runs out. And then we pass our drawings to the person on our right. And on and on. Until your original drawing returns to you. Easy, right? But so fun to play with your kids. I love that it forces me to think out of the box, to create or add to drawings that are so different than my own. The other day Dan drew a landscape and by the end of the game he had a plethora of underground "imaginary" animals burrowing under his hill. Or F's friend, L, made my giant circle (I tend to doodle shapes when I draw) into an earth, my other doodled shapes became random objects in an unknown galaxy.

The book recommends several variations on this theme - simon says drawing, musical chairs painting (create to music, than switch), composite people drawings, scribbling for a minute and then trying to find shapes in other people's random lines, etc. Eventually, I hope to try them all. But for now, we're having a ton of fun completing each other's artwork. (Well, except for T, who after making his first drawing always proclaims it "too good to share" and then spends the rest of the game creating on his own terms, which works as well).

So thank you, Artful Parent! Thank you! I cannot wait to try more of your book's wonderful ideas.

untitled (4 of 18).jpg

untitled (5 of 18).jpg

untitled (18 of 18).jpg

untitled (15 of 18).jpg

Unfortunately, the problem with participating in a time limited art game is taking pictures becomes tricky. We've played a few times, but I only photographed the last session, when the kids wanted to use Kaleidographs, which are wonderful, but produce somewhat abstract works of art.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...