Pooh and the Polar Vortex

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Just had to share these snaps from the other day. Iris is almost two now and such a hoot. She’s just getting the hang of make believe, and we have reenacted many scenes from her favorite cartoons over the last few weeks. Dressing Pooh up in her coat and hat, however, was all Iris’s idea.

She’s also started picking up a bunch of new words. She’ll point outside and say “cold!” Though… her two favorite words BY FAR are “no” and “mo” (more).

And I mean I may be prejudiced but it’s pretty darn cute to see her thoroughly enjoy her snack or cartoon or flight around the room in Carl’s arms and the second it’s done turn to us again, eyes bright, clamoring for mo! mo! mo!

She’s pretty fantastic.

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4/52: Collage

IMG_3280My planner for 2014 showed up last week—and not just any planner but one with prompts and pictures and places to doodle. My sister-in-law Carlie has been using these planner/workbooks for a couple of years, I think, but this is my first. Am a huge fan.

One of the exercises was to create a dreamboard of things that speak to you, thing you want to characterize your new year, aspects of yourself, things that inspire you.

I kind of went a little crazy. There are a lot of things I want to do and learn this year.

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For those of you bored or interested enough to care, the left side is writerly, the right side personal. One of the other exercises was to choose a word of the year, and I chose the terribly unsexy but terribly important word: discipline.

I used to hate that word.

It made me think of all the authoritarian unpleasantries of life, the unwanted corrections of people who think they know better, rigid black and white thinking. You know. Not my cup of darjeeling.

And I’m hugely happy with my psychic sojourning in the gray areas of life. I like being in charge of my own growth and frittering around until I figure stuff out on my own. Those are good things too. You have to actually FIND the puzzle pieces before you can put them together.

But I feel like I’m sort of there. Like my lap is brimming with all these great pieces of life. I have everything I could ever want.

There’s just some assembly required.

I have to work to make the pieces fit.

I have to stick with it.

Or, as I wrote in my workbook: it takes discipline to make a million bricks. It takes a million bricks to build something great. Do the hard stuff. Make a brick.

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(I also make cute babies)

Wow. So I apologize for getting all life-coachy on you there, but you need to know this is a big day for me. I’m the person who successfully put off making an appointment with my eye doctor for over six months. Because it required multiple phone calls to sort out insurance and prescription issues.

I hate making business calls.

Like I would literally rather go to the hospital right now and give birth than pick up the phone. Truly.

Babies are nice.

Also I swear I’m not phobic in general. I like people, and I do leave my house occasionally. It’s just the phone. Gosh. I hate it. Something about the disembodied voice thing. Makes me so uncomfortable (unless I know a person really well. Then it’s fine. Although texting is maybe my favorite invention after the Internet).

ANYWHO. I’ve been making one uncomfortable call per day, and today (TODAY) I finally made the last of them. My appointment is booked. So, yes. If you’re really awesome at life and just zip around all day, CHATTING ON THE PHONE WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE FOR FUN, then this is not the pep talk for you, but for me: Discipline was practiced, and it felt so good.

One more brick for the pile.

 

3/52: Zentangle Owl

 

 

IMG_3257 copyNow THIS is exactly what I hoped the project would turn into: the promise of big creative returns on the investment of a little time and curiosity. For instance, I didn’t even know Zentangle was a thing. I just kept seeing cool black and white geometric swirl-doodles in my Pinterest feed, and I thought: Sure. Why not. I like it. Done.

A week later I am part way through a Zentangle trio of northern animals (owl, fox, and bear), am experimenting with tangling in text, have bought a book on pattern and technique, and am concocting lots of cool ways to bring tangling into my future scrapbooking projects.

So fun!

Indian flavors month is going well too, for those keeping track. I made saag paneer one night that we both said we’d be happy to eat anytime. On the other hand, the butter chicken we made when Joel and Steve was in town was good but maybe not worth the prep time, and Iris started dry heaving after just tasting my curried carrot soup last week so REVIEWS ARE MIXED. I only have a lamb curry and a faux Tandoori chicken left on the books, and then we’re into February—which is looking like Dijon Mustard Month since we inherited a huge vat of it from relatives over the hols.

Every day I wish I had time for writing, and every day I’m thwarted. Though sometimes I’m thwarted by my also-compelling desire to sit on the couch watching murder mystery shows with Carl after the kids are asleep, so I can’t say I’m suffering really. I’m just not writing. Anywhere. All day long there are sentences whirring through my head that belong someplace (“I’ve been a lot of different people already… a WASPy suburban kid; a barefoot, haunted girl in the north woods; a fundamentalist teenager; a talented student, hampered by timidity and lack of focus; a stay-at-home drifter; a full-time writer; a mother of small children…”) and AGH! Why do I not have time to run these thoughts? They might go somewhere!

And that’s Carl through the door from a late shoot, asking if I’m booking our hotel for a trip next month and do I want to watch the next episode of our current murder obsession tonight, which DON’T MIND IF I DO, so that’s it for tonight, friends.

2/52: Life in Sketch

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Give me a decent night’s sleep, and I think I’m as happy these days as I’ve pretty much ever been–excepting moments of pure euphoria involving, I don’t know, blue skies and puppies anyway. Life is good.

The sweet, sleepy, crazy-making newborn stage is over for keeps. Ollie has graduated to Butterball status, and we’re a real deal family of four with routines and crap. Iris has started sleeping in until 7 most days. Oliver has a nap after breakfast that I can count on, and Iris and I do art time and get a little one-on-one play in. After lunch we watch a cartoon in bed, where Iris falls asleep for her still-luxuriously long afternoon nap. And then I paint or read a little, even snuggle in next to the kids if I’m short on sleep and Ollie deigns to nap in tandem. It doesn’t happen often, but I have become a shamelessly opportunistic napper. And there is something incredibly sweet about having a little dreamer pressed against each side, two pacifiers bobbing in rhythm.

Don’t get me wrong. We have our stuff. We sit on nursery floors in the dark for HOURS and take things for granted and lose patience and work too much and say testy things to each other now and then. We do.

But I’m happy.

I feel like this part of my life–the family, parenting part–is starting to come together, and when it goes even sort of well it gives me a huge amount of satisfaction. I like being a mom. It’s a good fit for me.

And it’s been easier this time to be kind to myself. I know where to spend my stray minutes to get the best emotional return, and I feel no guilt about doodling in my sketchbook or waxing my eyebrows instead of scrubbing the toilet these days.

Speaking of doodling, the 52 project is chuffling along. It’s been a week of sketches and tiny, tentative watercolors.

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I am encouraged by little things. The shading on the purple balloon looks good to me. The buttery highlights in the trees. My sketching of simple, cartoony shapes is getting better. I learn stuff every time I put pen or pencil or brush to paper… Even if it’s that I totally just messed up my picture.

It’s been fun.

1/52: Brave

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And just like that the new year is roaring along and my second ever watercolor is done. Whew!

One of the books I am forever thinking about writing and never quite getting to is a children’s fantasy book about a girl who lives, for no particular reason, in a sandy hole in the woods with a family of foxes. In my head it’s a delightful book along the lines of The Wind in the Willows, but since it’s been in my head for 10 years and no closer to manuscript form I decided to give Brave, my favorite of the family, an outing here. May he someday have a speaking role.

I’ve been MIA on the blog a lot lately… Mostly because I can’t find time but also because I haven’t quite decided how I want to use it this year. I’ve never really tried to create readership or monetize or anything serious like that. To me it’s a lot like an empty room in the house, and if I don’t set it up to some purpose — 365 project or writing practice or parenting scrapbook (office or tv den or bedroom, if we’re still on that metaphor) — then it tends to sit empty and awkward.

I am doing another 365 challenge this year, on my iPhone this time. But I know I don’t have the wherewithal to write about the pictures too. Mostly I’m trying to work on composition and editing, so a blog seems like a random place to store them.

I’m doing a (low maintenance) cooking challenge this year too. Themes for the month and that kind of thing. January is Indian exploration month, and I’m doing to try a few butter chicken and lamb curry recipes. Would love to have an Indian meal or two in steady rotation. I do love the flavors.

But writing about all this would eat up all my writing time, and I do so want to dive back into my fictional stuff this year.

We’ll see. I’ve kept one blog or another for upwards of 13 years, so I highly doubt the habit will dry up. Maybe a weekly post on the creativity project? Will find the right groove eventually, but in the mean time my babies are asleep, it’s January, and I have haystack of food/travel/garden books to look at.

Happy 2014, everyone!