Monday, March 24, 2014

happy place

I always know we're long over due for a walk to the river when:

  • Our 3-bedroom apartment that felt palatial upon move-in feels like the toddlers are multiplying and launching themselves off of every surface in every direction (and mostly onto me)
  • Every corner of our home looks like it's been ransacked by thieves and trampled upon by herds of elephants who invited their friends, the fraggles,  to the food in our fridge 
  • The wife and I haven't made real eye contact in days
  • There's screeching, there's fighting, there's constant whining, and even the cat is twitchy from overexposure to her younger human siblings. 
And March break for my preschoolers has only just begun. 

It gets ugly, people. It really does - and only being out in a wide open space can help it most days.

Thankfully, blessedly, yesterday felt just like spring should and to the river we went. 

And we were all happy.

(Until bedtime. And then all over-tiredness broke loose and house war 246 erupted over teeth-brushing and taking too long on the potty. But we take what we can get. Especially because the wife took all of it. I was already in bed, knitting.)

The end.


This post is dedicated to single parents, parents with larger families than mine, all families who live in spaces under 1000 square feet. I salute you.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

right now

I've been enjoying using instragram to document and share the things I want to remember of these toddlering days.  Sometimes though, when there's lots happening at once, I have found that the start and stop process of sharing a photo here and there removes me from the present rather prematurely. So I thought I'd  use the blogger app for a change and walk around at a moment when I'm not as needed, and snap away at some of the hand-making that's happening in our home. 

If this works out, it may just be a regular thing for this space. 

Curtains the wife made for our bedroom as an anniversary present the other day. 
A fish the boy painted today. I love his colour choices and blending technique. 

The girl  was getting a bit tired of making.

The boy taking over helping the girl's wand decorating efforts (see above caption).

Succulents "Pinky" and "Screamy" named and potted by the girl and the boy, respectively.

Patchwork socks to combat the bad luck that has befallen my knitting of late. 

The boy's birthday sweater, due in 6 days (see above caption).
Our TV has been off and our hands have been busy. Not bad for a cold and rainy spring day. Not bad at all. I hope you're enjoying  your weekend! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

current obsessions: drawing, dragons, and stamps

I don't know if it's the warmer weather or the fact that I've reached a happy comfort level with my knitting, or if my knitting mojo just needs a break, but I've taken up a new hobby and rekindled an old one.

I used to love to draw. I once drew all the time - portraits mostly, doodles, nothing serious. I was never a real artist or illustrator. It was what I did in class to help me listen to lectures. It was what I did in my room when I was alone - contemplating people's faces or drawing and redrawing eyes or lips or simply sketching out an object in front of me. I wasn't ever very good at it but I enjoyed it and I was able to do decent depictions of my observations.

These days, I am finding myself pulled towards drawing again. But instead of portraits and facial features, I am inspired by the idea of stripping out the details of what can be found in nature to as few lines as possible - which, for someone with unpracticed eyes and a rusty hand, requires quiet meditation and earnest reflection. 

So late at night, the needles are set aside and I use a practice I observed from my longtime blogging friend and breathtaking artist mavinga - I warm up. My eyes, my mind, my hand, work hard together to coordinate the synapses they respond to. I'll be honest, for the first little while, what I produce is a mess. I tried to draw the boy but all I saw was my father's face. Not terrible, considering the boy does look like my dad but not at all what I set out to capture. I was better at sketching the girl but I wasn't happy with the strokes that made her face. Then, I landed on some images I can be proud of.

Palest pink tulips have long been my most favourite flower.  Since moving to Vancouver, though, poppies have stolen my heart. I love them to pieces and i'm tickled that these beauties and dozens like them are a literal 15 steps from my door now.

These line drawings were derived from the photo above in bed, by headlamp. 

Late night inspiration hit and I only had my instagram feed to rely on for an image to depict. These pages are a start, anyway: a gateway drug towards a clearer manifestation of how I see the world.

I'm always fantasizing about taking the kids out to the river or sitting at the train tracks with them, each of us with sketchbooks in hand, pencils quietly or furiously scratching, hands nodding up towards a flower or a tree or a squirrel or a random object and then nodding down towards an emerging image. I have no idea if such a communal art moment will ever happen or how long it would actually last if it did, but I can hope - or lead by example at some point. 

Anyway, all this to say that I've been inspired to draw and to tell you that I've been drawing dragons, also by headlamp.

The boy's birthday is coming up next week and we've all been pretty much obsessed with all things How to Train Your Dragon: the movie, the Dragons TV series, and even the book series. The boy and I have been reading the first book by chapter, before bed. (Chapter books with my not even 5-year old! Yes! Soon, he and Harry will meet properly. Soon.) For his birthday, we are hosting a dragon-themed art party and he gets to invite friends for the first time. Naturally, I had to make the invitations. 

Following the extraordinary and inspirational Geninne's tutorials, I set out to make a stamp depicting the boy's most favourite dragon: the Screaming Death dragon!

Step 1: Draw image.

Step 2: Transfer image onto rubber cut plate.

Step 3: Carve stamp with neat tool that makes me want to try whittling, too.

Step 4: Ink your stamp, hold your breath, and press onto chosen surface.

I'm not the kind of person that could ever sell the things I produce, not the knits (you'd get bits of my hair and cat hair in the garments, I'm afraid. If I gift such things to you, you likely already know that I am inherently clumsy), or anything else for that matter. I am just not a meticulous person, nor am I a perfectionist in any sense of the word. (Which is why I am happy to refer friends who want custom knits to friends like Alma who will work on your commissions with great care and true craft.) I just don't have the discipline. So, as you can see, this invitation turned out rather messy but I'm pretty happy with it for a first attempt at working with my very own handmade stamp.  

I have to say that stamps are actually are incredibly easy and addictive to make! I even made one from the boy's first attempt to write his name! I used it to personalize the back of the invitation - a proud-making keepsake for both of us. 

Spring has officially arrived and I am more than ready to get going on the spring cleaning: dusting off cobwebs, cleaning crevices that normally don't see the light of day, purging things that have become obsolete for our family, making room for the newly useful and beautiful. 

I'm planning on making room in my creative spirit to draw, inviting myself to start painting, taking steps towards preparing my children to take these steps with me: to really look at the world around us, to put our lens on paper, to enjoy the outcome of the exercise simply for the moment we took to take Time in our hands and hold her still.

My instagram feed is private because I am not interested in dealing with spam - and I'd prefer to get to know you, too. If you are so inclined, please send me follow request and I'd be happy to share. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

champagne anniversary

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not loveWhich alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove:O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken"
- William Shakespeare, excerpt from Sonnet 116

Tomorrow, March 19, 2014, the wife and I celebrate 19 years of togetherness.

It was on that day 19 years ago that the wife and I succumbed to the inevitable. We were in high school. We were on our March Break. I was 19. Teenagers still, our first date - though we did not know it at the time - was at Red Lobster.  I slept over. The next day, some bird poo landed on my arm. After which, we scored $20 balcony box seat tickets to see Tommy at what was the Pantages Theatre. We got free makeovers at Visage.  We took photo booth pictures (which I still have to find in the memory boxes we've yet to unpack). Our hands brushed regularly when we walked down the street. We lived in a bubble of pure bleary-eyed bliss. Even then we talked about a family together.

Just for fun, I thought I'd share a photo of us 2-3 years later.

I have a feeling I'll be sensing my university friends howling at this memory of us. My son giggled, anyway.

The wife, as you can see, is lovely as ever. I like her hair long like that. She does not. But she did love that thrifted shirt she's wearing. 

We look so much like our children.

We were both in our 2nd year at university, then. I was living in residence. The wife was still living with her dad. I had very recently given myself a truly bad haircut (which my dear sweet roommate and BFF tried her best to fix amid the emotional wreck-over-the-bad-hair that I was), which  I now realize is pretty much my son's current haircut.  At which point, I took the opportunity to explore the butch in me. Although my butch persona didn't quite take, and labels are lame anyway, I can now look at this photo and remember very clearly that no matter how angst-ridden, terrified, and tormented I was at that age (for all the coming out and coming of age reasons) - we had each other and we clung to that knowledge as if it were breath itself - with only landlines and pagers to assure each other of our existence when we were in entirely different cities. 

19 years later, our cell phones keep us connected on the days we find ourselves each managing our own episode of the days of our lives in the same room - and thank goodness for that!

Happy 19th anniversary, wife! I am ever so grateful for the way that time continues to shape the path we find our feet firmly planted upon. The moments haven't been dull. The twists, the turns, the splinters,  the knee scrapes, and the toddler drama in between, they've all been manageable because you are holding my hand. I love you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

hey spring, yoohoo!

Thanks for coming to town a bit early to the party over here.


It's been beautiful watching the teeniest buds emerge, stretching up at the light, as if breathing out from the ground and ever so slowly sipping in the warming air above. 

All around, there is a tension that's ready to erupt in flits of blooming satisfaction.

The bulbs in particular, have been turning up everywhere, impatient to take their showy turn. 

Dearest Spring, I know you're not officially going to get here until next week but...  I do think it's time you showed some love to our friends who are still in a deep freeze, no?

It's time for a warm shower party all around.

Sincerely - with much appreciation and excitement for the cherry blossom streamers, peony balloons, and poppy centrepieces still to come,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

knit parade: tunic and rocketship

Because I am ambitious to the point of seriously deluded, I didn't feel like I could live with myself if I didn't knit my gifts. On top of all things, the knitting has to happen. And if it must happen, why shouldn't the product of the knitting time be a couple of nice things for the girl? 

First, she requested something pink. I haven't knit her a little pink dress 2 years ago now so I thought it was appropriate to indulge us both.

The pattern is Versa and it makes a really nice tunic. I lost the band on the yarn but it knits up like Cascade and is hand-dyed this lovely raspberry pink. 

I think the button on the back really makes the dress.

I think she likes it. 

Next up, the girl's asked for a rocket ship since I knit her brother one last year

I had hoped to knit her one in time for Christmas. I couldn't let her down now. 

The pattern is called Blast Off knit with Spud and Chloe sweater. 

I do like that each of my babes can have their own ride to the moon and beyond.

The girl even picked the colours out herself, much to my... discomfort.I wouldn't have put those colours together at all. But I daresay, they work.

Her expectations seem to be met, don't you think? 

I was hoping that having the thing with her in bed would encourage her to stay in her own bed all night. I even told her it was like she was sleeping beside me every time she hugs her rocket ship.

It didn't work. 

Oh well. I really can't win them all. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

mothering sound byte: on the girl's birthday eve

When we began our birthday tradition, I never thought or even expected that the children would care to be involved in any of the birthday eve preparations. 

The week before the girl's birthday, this boy was relentless in talking me into letting him stay up so he can help bake the cake and decorate the house.

I didn't take him literally. 

I let him stay up on the girl's birthday eve - intending to put him straight to bed the moment he got grouchy signs of toddler fatigue struck (wishfully thinking this would be a maximum of an hour after the girl went down).

The next thing I know, I'm in the kitchen, gathering ingredients and reading from a recipe - when I realized - I wasn't doing any of the baking. The boy was doing nearly all of it. I remember blinking, then thinking, "my goodness - he's baking his sister's cake!" He's baking his sister's cake! This boy who is really only kind to his sister half the time, is baking his sister's cake and doing a really good job scraping down that bowl!

It was like I took an instant joy elixir! I turned to him and squealed, "You're baking your sister's cake! All by yourself! Oh my goodness I'm so proud of you!" I think I hugged him or kissed him or snarfed the top of his head or something. I may or may not have also startled him. He responded by half rolling his eyes, giving me a look, then saying, "don't get happy!" At which point he turned back to his work. 

I howled, tears in my eyes, a smile so wide my face disappeared. "Shhhh! You're going to wake up [the girl!]" he says. 

When I told the wife of this exchange, she responded with, "how is he already 17?"

The boy stayed up until midnight and we all worked together to get the house birthday ready.

He was mostly helping. 

We knew we would pay for it the next day. And we did. Toddlers aren't meant to stay up until midnight. He's not actually 17 (thank goodness!). So we were totally prepared to deal with the wrath of the boy who got too little sleep. We were all calm and light to his irritability (which probably made him a bit more irritable but we got hugs and some smiles back in return).

He baked his sister's cake. 

He helped us make magic. 

He added to the tradition.

Sorry kid, this is kind of stuff that gets me squeally happy.