Sipping


Last night T2 and I went to a Paint and sip event at the Roundhouse Bakery and Café in Cambridge, New York. 

I’ve kind of shied away from these events which, to me, seem to be more an excuse to drink wine then to paint, but the picture advertising last nights endeavor was different from so many had seen before, So I signed the two of us up.

I don’t dislike gatherings, but on personality tests, I generally score in the extreme introverted category. It took me 20 minutes to get comfortable enough to say hello to the teacher who seemed very nice and knowledgeable. 

T2 who has a strong creative bent is, by contrast, a confirmed social butterfly. He took two minutes to get settled, get his paint and get talking to a couple that we had met through our favorite diner in Manchester, Vermont. 
In the beginning I was mainly focused on trying to copy the painting, listening to instructions, and getting to know the new medium. The husband in the couple sitting across the table from us, however, was just as extroverted as T2, and the two of them kept the wife and me giggling as we all painted (Don’t worry T2 was drinking orange soda).

T2 was focused on his painting. He loves to draw, and when he got home he started copying the painting here just meet a few minutes earlier to see how he could improve it. In the hours at the café, however, art for him and for the other people at our table was seemingly as much a social experience as it was an academic one.

They had come with one expectation—to have fun, and we all did, and all remarking that next time the Big Guy must go along. The funny thing was that as I watched T2 redraw his composition on the first piece of notebook paper he could find when we got home, I realized that the fun was every bit as valuable to his education as if the painting and sipping had happened at the finest art school. The fun, after all, was what got him doing art and kept him working at it right up until bedtime.

The Scattered States of Thing2

Thing2 at the ER

Thing1  was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder almost 2 years ago now. We knew the diagnosis would come with big changes to his life, and this winter we really got to understand what it means to live with and care for someone with a chronic illness.

We were still somewhat prepared for it.

What we weren’t prepared for was going through very similar routine with Thing2. After several months of ER visits and tests and flu‘s, we now find ourselves between a number of diagnoses, including a possible tickborne illness.

 Thing2 has found himself and completely unfamiliar territory. My superhero whose used to jumping over tall rock piles in a single bound it’s only found himself with barely enough energy to walk from chair to bedroom.

Except during the worst of the pain, however, he still my superhero. I still see his enigmatic little smile, and he still finds ways to experiment, even if it’s only with making movies with special on the iPad (full disclosure: I could not do it) or testing theories about how your atoms are not really touching your brother that he heard on Cosmos (science hurts sometimes).

I would donate an organ if I could make him better tomorrow, by doing so, but, as Thing1 has Learned over last year, what doesn’t kill you doesn’t just make you stronger, it also makes you smarter.

A Sensitive Subject

For some reason I can’t quite remember, I found an hour or two to myself on Christmas Eve of all days. Presents were wrapped, someone else was responsible for Christmas Eve dinner, the table was set, and the Sunday New York Times was sitting on the end table waiting to be read. it turned out, that that Sunday Times contained a little lump of coal in the form of an article about the advent of sensitivity readers at publishing houses. I shouldn’t be surprised that there are 1 million ways to offend potential readers or that publishers might want to keep one or two of those readers, but I was suddenly very grateful for all the classic works of literature that, having survived government censors, had the good sense to be written before sensitivity readers existed. 

Then I thought about my own kids’ book (and future book ideas) and all the ways it might possibly offend people. 

The pictures are black-and-white and red all over, so some people might get offended by the predominance of red or the fact that the starring role in the book is played by kid with really bad hair. Or some sensitivity reader might worry that I’m insinuating that mom is with bad hair can’t get their kids to clean their rooms. 

 But as I thought about the ending of my little book about a kid who has his own idea about the definition of a clean room, I realized the people with whom I’m really gonna be in dutch are the millions of moms who are also trying to get their kids to clean their rooms. OK, so maybe I’ll only be in dutch with the moms who still have kids under 12. And I can whittle down that number to the number of moms who read my blog who haven’t figured out the magic formula for getting their kids under the age of 12 to clean their room. So that’s like, five or ten moms at least.

I don’t want to scare you because the book does have a happy ending, if you’re the kid with the messy room, and I do want to go on record that I am not endorsing the non-cleaning of rooms. I do find myself in the controversial situation of being willing to support a flexible definition of the term “clean room“.

This last week, was winter break and, after ordering Thing2 to clean his room two days in a row before he was allowed to invite friends over for “get together’s“ (formerly known as “play-dates” which, out of sensitivity to our resident tween, has been dropped from the approved household lexicon), I realize I’ve been a bit insensitive to him on this sensitive and highly controversial subject. 

Thing2, now getting better at making the room look clean (at least to the casual observer), will stuff a few things end of the bed where they were less likely to show and spend the rest of his energy putting away all the shards of paper from his last homemade light saber, organizing his props for his next special effects project, and finding a place for all the disassembled electronics he rescues from the trash.

When he’s done, the room still looks like hazardous waste site, but in all fairness, the madness is the result of a creative but methodical and investigative spirit. What looks like a shambles to me is for him a laboratory of life.

I’m a huge believer in encouraging the creative spark in everyone, especially in my offspring. That laboratory is why he comes to me at the end of the day to show me the special effects space movie he’s just made or the book he’s just “published”. So even though even a domestic anti-goddesses such as myself sometimes has to draw a line between the dirty socks on the floor to establish benchmarks for distinguishing the a laboratory from a trashcan with a bunkbed in it, the laboratory is part of what makes Thing2 grow.  

It’s also why, at the end of a book about a little boy who has his own idea about how to clean room, I decided to let that idea win out.

A Tale of Country Kitties

One of the facts of country life is that other critters live in the woods with your pets. Snoop, our fat black feline god of pleasure found out in August that fishers weren’t as easy to escape as bears, and we saw him no more.

We all mourned him – especially Thing2 who spends more time on the floor with the animals than anyone else in the family.

The house mice tried to feign sympathy, but there was no mourning period in the nooks and crannies behind the walls. We knew we needed a new mouser.

Thing1’s girlfriend’s (yes you read that right) family owns a few barn cats who, in addition to being excellent mousers were prolific breeders this summer. So a few Saturday ago after I got off work, we decided to see if any of the kittens could be coaxed into the slothful life of a housecat.

We had two semi-willing takers (bribed with a bit of catnip) and named them Lady Jane (because she was so grey and seemingly dainty) and Gentleman Jim who seems more like Jim-Bob now.

We got them home and Jim-Bob promptly swatted Katy-the-Wondering-Dog’s nose, confirming her opinion that cats are freaking crazy and making us wonder if a barn cat could be happy as a housecat.

It took them less than an hour to convert.

Jim-Bob unlocked the age-old wisdom of cats that tells them that humans are bad hunters but excellent servants and sampled every lap and couch. Jane — not sure if she or Katy would be the bigger wimp — held back a bit, waiting until bedtime to snuggle up with the human of her choice (Thing2 in this case).

There’s something magical about an animal that can live in the wild but still prefers to occupy the laps of very unmagical humans. I don’t know if it was magic or just the vibration from the purring, but it didn’t take us more than an hour to realize how much we had missed having cats, even if only for a month or two.

Decisions, Decisions 


Like most families in the US with a high school senior in the house, we’ve acquired an impressive stack of college brochures over the last few months since Thing1 took his SAT’s.  

T1 is very methodical in his evaluations of potential schools, but when we opened a flyer from the University of Chicago, Thing2 introduced a foolproof criterium for putting a school in the ‘must apply’ pile.

As it happens, the library at U Chicago looks strikingly like the dining hall at Hogwarts when photographed in bad light.  Recognizing that life is full of difficult decisions, Thing1 is still reading the fine print and trying to figure out if it goes on the ‘more research’ pile.

Thing2 is trying to decide if he wants the school put him in Slitherin or Gryffindor.  

Process and Procedure


“Dweezil’s Big To-Do” is the working title of a kids book that started as a way to learn the procedure of storyboarding and laying out a children’s book.  As it happened, it was also a way to document the processes by which Thing2 manages to avoid ever truly cleaning his room.   

I’m planning on offering signed copies of the book using grey ink to match my hair.

Here and Now

 

Watercolor Sketch, 5×7, SOLD

 

We’re vacationing this week in southwestern Michigan along the great lake. I had big dreams of spending the week painting the water and the weather which never fail to inspire.
Thing2, however, was also inspired. The absence of glowing screens combined with an abundance of immediate and extended family helped Thing2 rediscover the joy of corralling parents and grandparents into card games and rounds of Monopoly highlighted by rules he makes up as he goes along.
When we finally got down to the beach, I was happy just to soak up the surroundings. I did a few quick studies and photos of things that may become paintings later. I’m starting to think, though, that the most important part of painting the landscape may be actually experiencing it — and the rest of life — while you’re in it.

Thing2 seems to agree.

Prints can be purchased on Etsy here.

In It Together

DSC 0039

My sons are the center of my life.  They are the center of my husband’s life. 

Today, Congress began changing the future drastically for my eldest son by endangering his ability to obtain insurance when he is an adult. 

Today Congress rolled back Obamacare, and with it, protection for millions of people with pre-existing conditions (replaced with high risk pools).  My son is one of those people. He was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder (a lifetime diagnosis) that requires medications that would be unattainable for us without insurance. 

He’ll be a man soon, and, again – through no fault of his own –  he may find it more difficult to get coverage or possibly even job, since he will have to evaluate the laws in each state and not every employer will want to cover hires in his situation. It will  Even so, he’s lucky compared to the millions of Americans who will lose insurance outright. He’s still on our insurance plan, and we’ll keep him there as long as the law allows.

Jimmy Kimmel hinted at some of this the other night in his emotional monologue. He briefly touched on the fact that, prior to the ACA, a child like his would have reached his lifetime insurance cap before he left the NICU. If that child had appendicitis, or a broken bone, or cancer, that cap would have left many parents bankrupt at best or burying their child at worst — even if they had insurance.  

I have thought a lot about those other parents in the months since our son was diagnosed. When we get our meds, I silently thank our company for making it possible and then shake my head that anyone in a country as rich as ours might have to watch their child suffer or even die.  I shake it when I wonder how many people die prematurely because they don’t have access to the same healthcare we do, and I wonder how we benefit as a society from treating children and poor people like disposable objects. 

I call my representatives. I donate. And I shake my head. But today I’m done shaking my head.  I’ve thought about moving our family back to a country with stronger healthcare, but I’d still be shaking my head at the drugstore, wondering how people back home were managing without access.  

So now I’m still calling my representatives and donating, but I’m also looking for new ways to show solidarity with my son and with all the other people who are being pushed out in the cold. Because, as Jimmy Kimmel so beautifully stated, “We need to take care of each other.”  

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Pea Picker


i’d like to tell you I have a veggie garden because I’m really into organic everything, but the truth is there’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching my kids fight over fresh greens.  In my defense, I have stopped telling them the peas were candy.

You can buy prints and cards of this painting here

Jitter Bug

Jitter bug medicine blog 4 8 2014

There’s a bug going around the school this spring.  I usually resist the urge to pump my kids full of unnecessary antibiotics, but last night Thing2’s nose was runneth-ing over, and I got out the purple stuff.

Literally taking his sniffles in stride, Thing2 came limping over to me (apparently this particular strain of flu is being sponsored by the American Branch of  the Department of Silly Walks) and opened his mouth.  I popped in a spoonful of grape-flavor.  He danced on one foot and then the other quickly and then looked at me and smiled.

“I’m just making sure it gets everywhere, Mom.”

“The flu?”

“No, the medicine through my body.”  His legs regained functionality as he slid around the floor, jitterbugging to his internal iPod.  “And, I think it’s working, Mom.”

One of us clearly doesn’t understand how the purple stuff is supposed to work, but it might not be the guy dancing around the kitchen in his jammies.

If Everyone Jumped

Windpower Apr 1 2014

“Mom, I have a new superpower!”  Thing2 barely had his seatbelt on.  “I can create wind!”  That neatly explained seven-year-old Thing2’s energetic,  skyward gestures as he hopped off the bus.

“What do you mean?” I asked.  Thirteen-year-old Thing1 smirked as he tried not to inject eighth grade into a heretofore innocent and imaginative conversation.

“I can,” Thing2 insisted, launching into an explanation of how to get the weather to bend to your will.

We quickly figured out that the weekend’s Frozen marathon – halted when Thing1 threatened to get a court order to get Thing2 to stop playing it – had inspired the afternoon’s flight of fancy.  It’s the result of a pattern that’s threatened to force us into using the worst parenting platitude ever devised.  It’s one I prayed I’d never use, but here we may be.

Thing2 had zero interest in Frozen until last week.  He, along with the rest of the boys in his class, were left off the guest list of a girl’s slumber party (a story unto itself).  Discovering the party’s theme and certain he was off the list because of his ignorance of the plot’s complexities, he promptly began begging to see it.

“I’m the only one in my class who hasn’t seen it,” he told me, digging out the other most over-used phrase in parent-child relations .

“Where have I heard this before?” I asked, resisting the temptation for a traditional answer. The question was rhetorical – I’d heard the complaint two weeks earlier.  It was before ‘Everything is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie became the newest tune Thing2 used to torture Thing1’s highly sophisticated musical ear and he’d been the only kid whose parents were keeping him in a cultural wasteland devoid of talking Lego characters.

I was a teeny bit curious about Frozen, however, so when the Big Guy and Thing1 were busy with homework  hit the download button.  The rest of the weekend was history.

I’ve avoided completing the other half of the ‘Everyone else is doing it’ equation for thirteen years not because I’m a parenting genius, but because Thing1 is a born skeptic.  If his friends were jumping off the proverbial bridge, he’d ask if they had insurance and a rope.

Thing2 is a different matter.  He doesn’t go along with the crowd just to go along with the crowd.  He goes where the fun is.

When we got back from the bus stop,  Thing2 offered to demonstrate his wind powers.   I fetched firewood as Thing2 climbed to the top of a snow drift, raising his hands in the air and gesturing to the clouds.  The top of the pine trees continued to sway.  “See?”

Weather control soon bored him and he began jumping from drift to drift.

“You’re going to get hurt,” I said.

“No I won’t. Look, Mom,” he said as I filled the canvas wood carrier again.  “I’m jumping over the Grand Canyon.”

I stopped and watched him leap between two solid snow drifts.  He really did look like he was getting ready to jump over a gorge, and I realized I’ll never get to ask the oldest, most-overused query in parent-child relations.  The answer was already there in his flushed cheeks and every new story he was imagining with each leap.  More jumpers would just make it more fun.