Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

(Why) I love New York

Two years ago, I fell in love. We boarded a plane to New York, and I tell you, all the movies and all of the songs tell the truth; it is a magical place. I left some thread of myself there, and in trade brought some unidentifiable piece of that place back with me.

I was to have an art exhibit on display in a tiny gallery on the corner of Madison and 57th. The gallery stood in the foyer of a large high-end maternity clothing store. It had been a fluke that my pieces went there at all. I was almost literally riding on the coattails of my artist friend who was showing there, as she only created large pregnancy themed sculpture pieces and the gallery needed 5 small pieces to fill some small shelves that stood empty. She invited me to join her in the show with my small pregnancy sculptures, and several months later we found ourselves making plans to go to New York and see the exhibit. After all, when would I ever again have the opportunity to show work there? I am not, and doubt I will ever be, that kind of artist. We were so excited, and to top it all off we had recently learned I was pregnant. What a wonderful way to begin what promised to be an adventuresome year.

A few days before we were to leave for New York, on our 13th anniversary in fact, I began to bleed.

In the ER we sat by a drunk woman with a bloody gash on her head, Sponge Bob blaring from the TV in the waiting room. An agitated radiologist tried to separate us for the ultrasound, and when we refused to be parted, she pouted and scowled, slamming things around and speaking curtly. I begged her to understand that if I was going to find out that my baby was dead, I needed my husband by my side. She was silent until she finally said, flatly, “I don’t even see a baby in there.” We waited to cry until we were in the car.

On New Years Eve, I had the miscarriage. We were to leave the next night for New York, but somehow that didn’t matter at all now. Guy said I should decide, and at the last minute, I realized that not going would not change my empty belly. We would go.

We were met at the airport by my friend’s parents, Stan and Loretta (of course, in New York, what else could their names be?) who would become a B&B, concierge and foster parents for our five day visit. We stayed at their home in Queens and took the train in to the city each morning. Manhattan was all dressed up for Christmas, and the tickertape and confetti from New Years Eve still spun in the frigid air in Times Square. The city wrapped over the top of us with buildings that seemed to bend at their tops like trees arching over a path, making me feel sheltered and protected. The food was comfort upon comfort, and each night as we waddled home on sore, cold feet, we were welcomed with hot herb tea, homemade cookies and love notes from Stan and Loretta with maps and subway routes for the next day. Those good people comforted us.

Away from anything I knew, alone with my sweet husband, I grieved, and he held me as we walked dozens upon dozens of blocks through the strange but somehow kind city. It seemed as though I left some part of my pain there in those million footsteps, like the bits of paper blown there by the wind. We were quiet a lot, and we could be. We had no responsibilities but to our bellies and our daily phone call home. We laughed in a reverent way, like you do at the luncheon after a funeral, and we cried once in a while. We connected in a new way, like a honeymoon, but far more… real. Just us. Just the quiet reality of a new future.

When we got home, the depth of my loss hit me smack in the face, coupled with the chores of motherhood and housekeeping. It was a surprise after such a tender, gentle week. But even still, the thoughts of those days anchored me to the task of getting well and coming to terms with what had happened. I kept every train stub, every cannoli bag from that trip; religious relicts from a fragile and precious time.

When I see New York on TV now, my heart pounds like I am seeing an old flame that I never got over. A New York accent makes me homesick for a place that was never my home. From time to time, Guy brings me cannolis from the Italian bakery in Fair Oaks and I am filled with the sweetness of those few days of healing.

It’s no surprise that the coming New Year fills me with memories from that time. I still grieve the four babies we have lost, and sometimes the future seems as uncertain as it did two years ago.

But for tonight, I miss New York.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas Photo Album

Merry Christmas everyone!
It's been a busy Holiday Season. Every year when December comes I sort-of shut down. With every additional entry on the calender, I panic a little more. How will we get it all done? Field trips, homework, concerts, lessons to prepare, gifts to buy, cards to send (not. You'll get it in January, my friends), goodies to make. Here is a glimpse at our month...
Ethan and Adam had huge projects due on the same day...
Wayne Theibaud, artist project

Washoe Indian Tribe Diorama

At our church party, we sought the "True Spirit of Christmas" by creating almost 100 wooden toys, six baby quilts, and collected gently used toys for the church humanitarian aid project. I was nervous my first time in charge of this large event, not being sure how well the activity would be received (the folks were used to an annual sit-down dinner), but everyone had a great time.

Ethan performed in the Christmas Band

The girls helped Santa gather the toys we had made and collected

Then off in a rainstorm to find a tree.

Adam was made a Webelo in Cub Scouts. Mama got a pin to add to my collection.

Ethan, the youngest member (by about 50 years) of the Sacramento Veterans Band, played at a nursing home. These gents love having Ethan in their midst, and he loves playing with them.

Making goodie-bags for friends... mmm, fudge!
And of course, gingerbread houses...

Every Christmas Eve, Guy puts out a spread fit for a king...

Including eclairs and cannolis

Then he reads to us from our favorite Christmas books and the bible. We read about the birth of Jesus Christ, and why it was so important.

Then all tucked in bed, with sugarplums dancing, we wait for a visit from Saint Nick.
Are those footprints of soot by the hearth? Good thing we put down a towel so Santa didn't ruin mama's rug!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, goodnight!
It was a busy Season, and as the dust settles I inventory the month. Amid the stressful moments there were so many sweet ones. I am grateful for this time of year that calls us to remember our blessings and show kindness to friends and strangers. I love sitting up late at night when the house is quiet and looking at the lights, and kissing the heads of my little ones as they sleep in their beds. I adore watching my husband care for our family and show my children such a wonderful example of fatherhood. I love the Savior and am grateful for his life, and that we can celebrate it with those we love.

I pray that your holiday was a tender and special one. May the coming year bring the blessings that we all pray for. God Bless.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The ants go marching one by one...

We have an ant problem. The problem is the ants think our house is a graveyard. Much like an elephant graveyard, a place where for some unexplained reason, elephants go to die. No elephants, but we have within our home the equivalent in miniature proportions.

Only with ants, they don’t go somewhere to die. They die wherever they fall, and then some studious housekeeper-ant drags their tiny corpses out of the nest and dumps ‘em…

on our bathroom floor.

There is an ever changing pile of lifeless insects next to our shower at any point in the day. We vacuum them up, they reappear an hour or a day or a week later.

This is not our only problem with the critters.

Most ants dutifully crawl in a steady, thick, meandering line with the single-minded goal of finding a stray candy cane chunk or a lone honey-nut cheerio. They make steady work in dismantling it and returning it to their home. That is the way they are supposed to do it. I thought there were some sort of ant-rules that must outline the consistent if-ever annoying behavior. Not here. Not in my house.

Here the ants wander, one at a time, along the walls, floor, rugs, and children. In nearly every room of our house a few moments of looking will yield about four or five straggling ants, meandering like ciphers feet apart and in no particular direction. They seem purposeless, like slow flies in winter. We wake with single ants on our foreheads, find them in the napkins, and swipe them from our toothbrushes.

I have even found an ant in my cleavage. Not such a terrible way to die for an ant, if you ask me, but seriously, there?

Still, it is the pile of dead ants I don’t understand. With all the great outdoors at their disposal, literally, they choose my bathroom.

I guess it could be worse. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't even land on my list of trials.
Hey, at least it’s not squirrels.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sometimes Cliche's are overused .................. because they're true

Digital converter to pipe in 4 straight hours of Saturday morning cartoons: $40 with voucher
Plastic cups full of cereal they are forbidden to eat in the Studio due to our ant infestation: 4 for $1
Sofa big enough to fit all four of them: free off the side of the road if you have no shame and a good friend with a truck
Sleeping-in on a Saturday morning with my sweetie for the first time in 4 months without being awakened by fighting kids?
Oops, I mean, priceless.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Somewhere off the Coast of Africa

I am having technical difficulties, and cannot get any photos to upload, and a really lame virus has infected my keyboard.  It maks the words Itype hook together nd drops every few leters or spces. Thefaster I type, the wrse t seems to get. 

Anyway, I am sad not to be able to post right now, but I am going to keep trying!!! I the meantime, please enjoy some of my very early posts you may never have red...

Since Tessa lost a tooth this week, and the Toothfairy was, uh, "delayed" again, this one seems apropos!


It is a long time tradition in our family to leave a note to the Tooth Fairy to accompany lost teeth. The notes are a chronicle of the events leading up to the tooth having exited the mouth of a given child. Some have been yanked, some fell out by surprise, once a kid did the whole string-on-the-tooth trick and tied it to a door that was then slammed. It took two slams. The whole thing is a pretty big deal around here, and the note is the Odyssey that immortalizes the tragedy and bravery of it all.

She always writes back.

Only lately the Tooth Fairy letters have become more apology notes than anything else. This week when Ellie’s tooth got caught on her sleeve and popped out (to her gales of laughter), it dawned on me that her last tooth, lost just before Turkey day, had never been taken care of. And by taken care of, I mean she put it in a baggie and left it on the table, I threw it away by accident, she cried, I promised that the Tooth Fairy would visit anyway, yada yada yada, I forgot.

I mean, she did. The Tooth Fairy.

As it happens, we have had to make a lot of excuses on behalf of that dental pixy of late. Not long ago she was caught in a storm over Africa and didn’t make it to our house for FIVE DAYS! The storm itself lasted only two days, but as we explained to the gap-mouthed child, there was a lot of catching up to do, what with the world's children losing teeth left and right and only one tiny pair of wings to carry the load. We were so glad when she finally remembered, I mean, caught up, and visited our house. She left an extra somethin’-somethin’ for that child on account of the delay. Kind of like being bumped up to first class when you have been put on standby.

Tuesday, after Ellie had lost her tooth, I had made a cryptic note on my hand in pen… “TF” it said. “Toothbrush and Floss” I told Ellie when she asked, “so that I remember to brush and floss”. That night as he dozed on the couch I told Guy, the carrier of cash in the family to “go do it now”, but somehow he fell asleep. The next morning there was a sneaky scramble while Ellie ate her cereal, and the absent-minded sprite took care of business in broad daylight.

Aaaaaaaa! Look!!!!” squealed Ellie as she produced the envelope from under her pillow moments later. “Two dollars!”

We read the note together.

“Ellie, The trash man brought me a tooth a while back that he found. I guess it was yours. A little something for both.
Love- Tooth Fairy”

Post script: Ethan looked at me the other day with a raised eyebrow and a strange grin.
“I know.” He said.
“About what?” says I.
“Santa.” He smiled.
“Ya wanna’ know where ya’ messed up?”

Apparently, he pointed out, among other blunders I committed, Santa and the Tooth Fairy have the same writing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Delayed Gratitude

A long, long time ago, (OK, actually about 2+ weeks ago) we celebrated an amazing Thanksgiving. The time since has been so jammed with activities, reports, and painting that I did not give our marvelous day the praise it deserved. But I will now.

We actually had to wait till that Friday to get our feast-on because, joy of joys, our friends the Poynters came to spend it with us. Time-off relegated us to partake a day late, but oh, how we partook. I am ashamed to say that I took many, many pictures of the food, and not so many of the dear folks with whom we enjoyed it (oops!), but they know how much we adore them.

It all began, as wonderful meals do, in the prep. No sooner had Melissa and Kevin's family piled into our house from their long drive, than we were making pies. Lots of them.

Tessa takes Pie Making 101

Daylight dawned and we began anew. Fresh fruit salad with Kiwi's from a friend's tree, even fresher orange-pecan-apple-cranberry relish...

Melissa's amazing glazed sweet potatoes that I almost ruined (did she say 3 teaspoons of salt? I thought I heard three tablespoons!)

And of course, the rolls. (I'll just hurry and whip some out, said Melissa).

Danni and Ellie sat down an hour before the meal, waiting in anticipation (or was it starvation?).

We made green bean casserole but used fresh steamed broccoli instead, and will never go back to beans. The mashed potatoes with the skins still on were the perfect match to the main event (for me)... the gravy.

With so much food on the table, we had to give the turkey a place of it's own!

This was the before.

I did not take a picture of the after.

We were groggy and sleepy and so full we could barely move. That is nothing anyone wants to see.

But oh, my, it felt good.

Pie, anyone?

I have such gratitude in my heart for my blessings. Though we have had a pretty rough time the past two years, I look back and see the service, love and kindness we have been given by dear friends. I am not wanting for food or shelter. My children are well and safe and happy. My husband is my Sweetie, and my very best friend. I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back perfectly.

We have all that we need, and that is enough.

And in the immortal words of Mary Poppins,

"Enough is as good as a feast."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cakes are done, people are finished...

…and paintings are complete.
At least this one is. It was a mad dash at the end. As usual, I completely underestimated the time it would take to do the last very important details on the painting and three hours turned into about six.

At one point late last night I almost threw it away (not really, because I certainly didn’t have time to re-do it, nor the fortitude to try). I was frustrated and tired and wanted it to be over with; wanted it to be better.

I realized way into the painting that I had committed the classic mistake of jumping the gun. I can’t help it. Though I love to draw, I don’t love to draw buildings. I love to draw voluptuous people and curvaceous fruit and complicated, organic vistas. To me, pears are like sexy, fat bottomed ladies. Ancient trees are like tired, arthritic old women who have stopped in the path to take a rest. But buildings just don’t do it for me. Not even temples, sorry to say.

So I rushed through the drawing and began painting. Painting is thrilling (in the sit-really-still-for-hours-and-hours kind of way). It makes me think everything will work itself out once the color starts to happen. The problems with said-move developed several days later, when I realized I had no real clarity about the true structure of the edifice. The photos I used for reference became confusing, pixelated messes when blown up. The shadows were deceiving. The towers undefined. So, I guessed, assumed and faked a bit.

OK, a lot.

In the end, and after much misery, I pulled it off. But though I am not ready to send it to a landfill anymore, I am not entirely thrilled with the outcome. This painting has reminded me of a few important things.

1. It’s never a bad idea to start early. I don’t know why I have such an inflated idea of what I can get done in a day. I should have started on this one about ten seconds after I got the reference photos. The same lesson lends itself to bills, trip-slips, phone calls, visiting teaching and grocery shopping. I have had to abandon shopping carts full of food to run to get the kids from school. Instead of a shopping cart by the wayside, this week it was housework. Better planning would have meant a smoother household and less stress for all.

2. Julie Andrews said it best; “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” I need to slow down and make sure I know what I am doing before I end up starting in the middle. I love the chase, but often start running before I have my shoes all the way on. This explains the menagerie of home-repair projects begun and not completed around here. Somehow shopping for new paint is so much more fun that using it.

3. Everyone needs a cheering section. My cheerleader is sweet Stephanie, who showed up each of the past several days and was scarcely in the door of the studio before gushing with ooo's and ahh's over the progress I had made the night before. Today she called to check on me, and later arrived with brownies as my “reward” for hard work. In daily life, my hubby and friends are so supportive of my tiny efforts. Sometimes I feel like a baby who is praised just for getting the spoon into its mouth (though the food is in my lap!).

4. It is never good to try to do important things when you are tired. It makes you devalue your efforts, become more critical, feel like giving up, and makes you generally quite crabby. Within this category I would include dealing with finances, homework, or emotional talks with your hubby. I have a rule: no tears after 9PM. It gets you nowhere.

5. Test things on something that won’t matter if it gets ruined. I lucked out that the Misket left most of what I had painted intact when I pulled it off, but it sure was a setback. Similar setbacks have included ruined clothes, hair and recipes- when I have tried to jump in and do before really making sure it was safe first.

6. Step back from time to time. If you focus in on the tiny details, you will see every flaw. Taking a break and a fresh look from a distance with a clear mind can do wonders (I also recommend this while applying make-up. It is entirely unlikely that anyone will stand 4 inches from your face to speak with you, and if they do, you may wish to get a restraining order).

Dennis, the Patio man saw the painting tonight and was very pleased. It turns out he will not be having it framed yet after all, and so my rush to this deadline was unnecessary, but I am glad it is done. Finished. Complete. If I had known I had more time, I certainly would have used it. That is not necessarily a good thing.

Now to unbury the house from a week of no-mama.

Our budding artist, Tessa. Note the proper grip on the paintbrush!
(Post Script: The second painting commission is due by January 30th. Please remind me to read the above list several times before then.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Painting...

About 6 hours into painting yesterday, I got to take a break to go to a church activity. My painting waited patiently for my return.
My work space in full mess mode.

The orange color is a masking medium called Miskit, that allows me to block out the portion of the image I don't want to paint, in order to do a very fast moving wash. I usually just paint around things (I am generally a purist) but given time constraints, I chose to mask out the temple to drop in the sky.

Wet wash

Lifting out pigment to create clouds

Time to remove the Miskit. It is a liquid latex which dries to a rubbery layer that I learned last night can be very painful to remove from tiny hairs when you accidentally spill it down your arm.

Sadly, the Miskit removed a layer of paint, so what time I saved in masking out the temple to lay in the sky was lost while I repainted foliage. Lesson learned: only use masking medium on areas not yet painted.
Stayed up till 1 am. Started again today at 10:30 am and have painted all day accept for the carpool break. Dearest Stephanie came to babysit me (help me to stay focused while I painted). I often get frustrated with a section of a painting and in the process of taking a break, find myself swallowed up by ever-present housework. Thank you Stephanie!
A lot has happened on the painting since this installment, but I will post those images after it is done. I estimate there to be about 3 hours left.
I am pooped.