Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Creative Family

It's Thursday!  You know what that means, don't you?  Time for Simply Feather's Paint With Me challenge.  After you look at my stuff, why don't you head over there to see what everyone else made?  Who knows?  You might leave inspired.

Here's what Dylan made this week...


Other than cutting the egg carton, I didn't help.  I just sat back and watched him create, loving the look of concentration he gets on his face.

This one, I finished a few weeks ago, for my Mom's birthday.  But, I was rushing to get it done in time, and used the wrong adhesive, so I made her return it, because stuff was already falling off.  Dylan made the picture of him and "Mi-Mi" holding hands, and wrote "I love Mi-Mi".  I just made them smaller, so they would fit.

Remember this from last week?

Well, I made it into this...
One problem.  I need one more T!  It is supposed to say "The Great Outdoors" at the top.  So, now I have to go back to Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michael's and get a whole new sheet, just for one letter.  Of course, you know whichever store I go to first will be the wrong one, right?  GAH!  Another unfinished project!

Now, I've been talking about my talented artistic husband, so I thought I would show you what he's been working on.  I'm fairly certain once you see this, you'll forget all about what I made.  Try to throw a little love my way, too, okay?  My ego is fragile, you know.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And Now I Know Everything

As a nanny, I am privy to certain pieces of personal information about the families I work for.  I know the schedule of their days.  I know how organized (or not) their houses are.  I know what they have in their closets.  I know what they feed their families.  I know who calls, and I often receive personal messages.  I know what is written on their calendars.

I have worked for a couple "influential" Pittsburgh couples.  I have always been careful not to divulge any of their personal information to anyone.  Sometimes, though, I get information that just HAS to be shared with someone.  Often, the most personal, and juicy, information I get about the family comes right out of the kids' mouths.

Today, the youngest of the two girls I'm a nanny for, and I were sitting having lunch.  Suddenly she looked at me quite seriously, and said,
"Jen?"
"Yes?", I asked.
"My mom's butt jiggles when she walks... You know, when she's naked?"
(Blink. Blink.)  "Well, gee, I'm so glad to know that!  I'm sure your mom would be thrilled that you shared that piece of information with me".  I sat there wondering what her mom would say if I told her she shared that lovely little fact with me.  Then, I had another thought.  I wonder what Dylan is telling Mi-Mi and Bubba (my parents) while I'm at work?  I wonder what juicy bits of info they are getting?

(Hey Mom and Dad!  If you're wondering if my butt jiggles when I walk, you know, when I'm naked, just ask Dylan and I'm sure he'll tell you.  Or, you could ask Jim!  As a matter of fact... I dare you).

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm Taking A Class

A few years before I had Dylan, Jim and I took a vacation.  Jim convinced me to wear a tiny bikini on that trip, saying I should show off my body because "Who knows how long it will look like this?"  Okay, maybe he didn't say that exactly, but it was implied).  How right he was, because after having Dylan, my bikini days came to a screeching halt.  Jim made me promise not to buy a skirt suit, but tankinis became my good friend.

I was always confused by capri pants.  If it's cold enough for pants, wear pants.  If it's warm enough for shorts, why wouldn't you wear shorts, I reasoned.  Then, last summer, when I noticed a certain cottage cheesiness going on in my legs, I had an A-HA moment.  I quickly went out to purchase some capris, and I didn't wear shorts all summer.

If you remember, back in January, I resolved to be healthier in 2010.  Since I lack focus, I basically forgot about that resolution.  Until last week, that is.  Last week I started taking a nutrition class, called "Eat Well For Life".  It's one night a week, for four weeks, and it's FREE through my insurance.  (If any of you have Highmark, did you know you can meet with a nutritionist seven times a year for FREE?)

So, after just one class, I've made some changes.  First, I'm writing down everything I eat.  I have to say, seeing what you consume written down, and being held accountable for it, are pretty big motivators.

The second change is that I'm only drinking water and one glass of juice for breakfast.  I am addicted to Canada Dry ginger ale, so that is a big change.

The third change is that I'm not snacking while I watch TV at night.  I've done that for as long as I can remember, so it's tough, but when I really want to snack, I grab some fruit, and so far it's working.  I still eat candy and chocolate during the day, but since I am so busy, it's not that much.

The class was on Wednesday, and I'm already noticing my clothes fitting a bit better.  Who knows, maybe this summer I'll dig out my bikini!  Just don't expect to see any pictures!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Was I Saying?

I'm not a slob. I'm not lazy. I'm not stupid. I'm not afraid to try new things. I just lack focus. This fact became startlingly clear to me a couple of weeks ago, when my parents watched Dylan for the day, so Jim and I could tackle the studio. If you're going "Studio?", let me explain. Jim is a graphic designer, and is an extremely talented and creative artist. He went to The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. So did I, among other schools (See? Lack of focus!). No, that's not where we met. He's 7 years older than me, so when he was there, I was... just noticing boys maybe don't have cooties? Between the two of us, we have just about every art material/tool imaginable. That is why it's not an office, or a study. It's a studio.

The studio was a raging mess. It needed organized. It needed shelving. It still needs organizing. It probably needs more shelving. It definitely needs decorating. It needs new furniture. But, back to my point. I lack focus. (See?)

Here are the photos to prove it...
(Click on the photos to enlarge)
I never sold a photo I took, (unless you count when I worked at Olan Mills).  I got to page 28 on the first journal and didn't fill out a single page in the second.  I never invested online.  I gave up on the silk screen, and t-shirt business idea.  I never put The Monet Project on the wall.  Those last two?  Well...just... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Something happened in the studio that day.  I was shamed.  Shamed into action.  I need to stop starting new projects.  I need to start finishing old projects.  So... I did!

(I've had this frame for two years!  TWO YEARS!)



(Feather posted this idea back in October, and I said I was gonna do it.  OCTOBER!)



(This one Dylan made.  I saw the idea in a magazine 
 last week, and we made it this week!  This is BIG people!)





(I thought the frog was cute, and
it is a TOY!  I even followed the rules this week!)



(I like the one on the magazine better.  The store I went to didn't have a black zipper, and I had a few other problems, but I did it!  A FINISHED project!

Although the studio shame gave me the biggest kick in the pants, I would like to give Feather credit also.  She got the creative juices flowing initially, with the Paint With Me challenge.  How about you?  Got some unfinished projects sitting around?  Why don't you join in?

Monday, April 19, 2010

If A Tree Falls Onto The Road...

Friday morning, before heading to the playground for a playdate, I took this picture of the tree in our backyard...

I love that tree.  I love the gorgeous pink flowers.  I love the shape of the tree.  I sit at my kitchen table at least 3 times a day and look at at that tree, admiring it.

We have another gorgeous tree in our front yard, with darker pink blooms.  I should have taken a picture of that tree Friday morning, because late afternoon Friday, the tree looked like this...
Just as I was about to wake Dylan from his nap, a storm blew in.  The rain was coming down hard and sideways, and the wind was intense.  I woke Dylan up and told him "Come look at how hard it is raining!"  No kidding - just as we got to the window, I watched that tree fall onto the road.

(Oh, I wish I had a picture of me in the middle of the storm, running through our neighbor's yard with the recycle bin, collecting the plastic which was dispersed all over the place.  Sopping wet and squealing like a drowned cat)

As soon as the storm ended, we put on Dylan's rainboots, which he had hardly worn up to that point, and went out to investigate.  Then, we walked down the road, in search of the renegade garbage can lid, which had been blown 2 houses over.  . 

Jim got home at that point.  When I called earlier and told him our tree had blown down and was blocking half the road, he had underestimated the size of said tree.  He reacted somewhat calmly at first, but as the evening progressed, went into full on OVERREACTIVE mode.  I believe at one point I asked "Is it possible for you to stop saying the word #!*K?"  (He was worried someone would wreck into the tree and we would be responsible).  We couldn't figure out who to call.  Were we responsible for removing the tree?  If not, who was?  We called many numbers and everyone was out of the office by then.
(The expressions sums it up. One - happy and excited. The other disgusted, and slightly depressed).


It wasn't until the next morning, that we stumbled onto the right number.  We were lucky.  If it had blown INTO our yard, it would have been our responsibility.  Since it blew into the road, three guys came out in no time and brought a really fun machine to take care of it.  As they would put each piece of the tree into the chipper, I would assume a really deep, crazy voice, saying "Oh, I love to eat trees!  Gimme that tree!  Ummm, Ummm, Ummm (munching noises)".  Dylan would dissolve in fits of laughter each time.  The whole thing was very exciting... for him.  He said it was his "best thing" of the day!  Really, he was the only one handling the whole thing with ease, saying "It's okay!  We have another tree in the back yard!"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Notes

One day, at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I came home and told my mom, "There were some kids smoking something in the back of the bus, and the smell made me feel weird".  My mom started driving me to school after that. (Ha!  Love you, Mom!)

I remember one time I left her a note in the car, saying something like, "Thanks for always driving me to school, Mom!  I appreciate it!"  Years and years later, I saw that she still had that note.  I mean, a teenager, thanking their parent for something?!  She probably should have framed it.

She used to put little notes in my school lunches.  Just silly little things.  They didn't say much, but I remember liking it.  I'm sure I never told her that - heaven forbid.  It was just a simple little way to show she cared.

For a few months now, I've been doing something similar.  When I pick Dylan up from preschool, I usually arrive five or ten minutes early, so I make a doodle, or write something on a piece of paper, and leave it sitting on his car seat.  I tell him "I left you a message!"

Truth be told, it all started because I was having a heck of a time getting him into the car.  "I wanna ring the bell!" (The school is at a church, and there is a bell outside).  "I wanna touch the flag!"  "Look at the flower!"  "There's a stick/rock/leaf!"  "DYLAN!  GET IN THE CAR!!!"  After a few hundred times, I finally realized that I should be using my head, instead of my big mouth.  You have to be crafty with these little people.

The next day, when I picked him up, I told him, "I left a message for you in the car!"  He couldn't get in fast enough!  Now, obviously, he can't read, except for his name, and maybe 10 other small words, but it doesn't matter.  I made something for him.  I wrote something for him.  He matters to me.  That's the message.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Outside The Lines

When I said that I have major issues with the art projects at Dylan's preschool, I wasn't kidding. Yes, they did dress the boys up like girls, but that's not even my biggest complaint. At least they only did that once.

I told you before that they only focus on one color a month. What I didn't tell you is that every morning they put a coloring book sheet on the easel, and let them paint it with that ONE COLOR.


Do you see how he is trying to paint inside the lines? Do you understand how CRAZY that makes me? Now, I am probably going to make myself very unpopular with my next statement. I HATE coloring books. HATE THEM.

Children are born creative little beings. Give them some sticks or a big cardboard box (or both), and you can witness their creativity. Telling them to "color inside the lines"? Praising them for being "a good colorer"? Telling them to color a picture that someone else drew? All that does is stifle their creativity in my opinion.

Coloring books impose an adult standard of draftmanship, setting kids up for frustration. It feeds the myth that you have to be a "good drawer" to be "artistic". You don't! There are many forms of art that aren't dependent upon realistic rendering.

If kids are born creative, how do they lose that? The answer, I feel, is that the adults in their life squash it. It doesn't have to be "adults", either. Just one can damage it. Those of you who say, "I'm not an artist", or "I can't even draw a stick figure"? I'm willing to bet there is a moment/a person that stands out in your mind that gave you that feeling about your creative self.

I will never forget being given an assignment in art school, to illustrate the cover of our hypothetical autobiography. I drew a self portrait that was made of of many different pieces. The pieces symbolized the way people seem to want to put you in a certain box, or role - mother, artist, teacher, etc - and look no further than that. I was saying that to truly understand me, you need to look at ALL the pieces and how they fit together to make me the person I am.

We were to each meet with the professor with a rough idea, before finishing the project. I explained the above to her, and also told her that the title was going to be "Outside The Lines". I told her I planned to splatter paint in random areas of the drawing to symbolize "outside the lines". She told me that would look "sloppy". She basically told me to "color inside the lines". I lost all desire to try in her class after that. She just didn't get it. She just didn't get me.

Do you understand how it must make our children feel when we tell them to color inside the lines? When they show us their art and we ask "What is that?" (Why does it have to be anything?) When we grab their picture to "help them" draw something, when they didn't ask for our help? When we show them a craft that an adult made, and ask them to recreate it?

Someone said to me, in rebuttal to my argument, "Well, don't they need to learn to follow the rules?" That's just it. In art, there are no rules. Art is subjective. It is open and free, and the process is more important than the end product.

Giving a three year old a small paper with a picture someone else drew, ONE color of paint, and a giant paintbrush, and telling them to paint inside the lines is absurd.

Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain
an artist once he grows up.
-Pablo Picasso

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Giant Leap

A child grows little by little, sometimes in teeny tiny steps that we don't even notice, other times in giant leaps forward that take our breath away. Sometimes we keep giant leaps at bay for as long as we can, hoping to freeze our children in a certain time. Alas, the leaps come anyway.

The Friday before Easter was one of those leaps forward. Friday morning I sold Dylan's stroller. So what? Writing it down... I sold Dylan's stroller... it looks so matter of fact, so insignificant. But to me, it was HUGE. I might have even been a bit panic stricken.

I had made plans to meet a friend and her son at the zoo that day. What was I thinking? Was Dylan ready for this? Was I ready for this? It's not like I took the stroller everywhere we went. We had gone to Target, restaurants, bookstores, and even the mall without it. I hardly used it anymore. But, it was there, just in case I needed it.

We hadn't been to the zoo since last summer, before Dylan turned three. Back then, when I let him out of the stroller, he would often take off running, or wander away when I wasn't looking. What if he did that again? I wouldn't be able to put him back in the stroller and I certainly wouldn't be able to carry his 39lb body out of the zoo!

Each time I started to panic, I heard Jim's voice in my head, saying "He can't ride in a stroller forever. He's not a baby anymore". Then, it hit me. Maybe this hesitation to sell the stroller is more than a fear of losing my child at the zoo. Maybe, in some small way, it is a fear of losing him... period. I'm losing him as a baby. I'm losing him as a toddler. That period in his life, and in mine, is already over. Maybe, just maybe, I was holding on to more than the stroller.

I didn't need to worry. He did an awesome job, walking around the entire zoo, holding my hand. When he wasn't holding my hand, he would periodically look around and make sure I was nearby. "Oh, Mommy! There you are!", he would say, smiling at me.

When we stopped at the zoo playground to let the boys run around, Dylan ran straight for the maze of tunnels that he got stuck in the last time. "That's my boy!", I thought. He made it through the maze successfully, and has been telling everyone about it since then.

As the four of us walked out of the zoo, I looked down at him, his little hand in mine, and my breath caught in my throat. Before I know it, I'll have to find the strength to let go of that hand. I'll have to find the strength to let go in countless other ways as he grows up. I just hope he'll occasionally check in, saying, "Oh Mom! There you are!" I'll smile and say, "That's my boy!"

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Paint With Me - What Week Are We On Anyway?

I sat down with Dylan, to try and paint some umbrellas.  Five minutes into our painting session, he spilled the entire cup of water all over the table, and the floor.  After that, he was disgusted with himself, and insisted that we do something else.  So much for finding myself in The Zone this week!

I did finish the second scrap box, but I don't have a picture of it.  It was a gift for my mom, for her birthday, and I rushed to finish it, forgetting to even snap a picture!  So, I will just show you a few things we've been creating the past few weeks...
Dylan painted a birdhouse.  He was very serious, very concentrated.  He couldn't wait to see some birds come to eat the seeds we put in it.  We have not seen a single bird!  Could someone explain that?  Did we accidentally paint it a color that scares birds? What the heck?

I love Sesame Street.  I grew up watching it, and now I'm watching it with Dylan.  He's learning all sorts of new words - "Hibernation", "Metamorphosis", "Habitat", etc. (I drew the picture with a permanent marker first, which explains the line that doesn't belong. Then colored it with Dylan's markers).

Do you know about "Rolie Polie Olie"?  It is one of our favorite children's books!  The pictures are adorable, and the rhymes are just fun to read. "The Rolie Polie Rumba Dance was always done in underpants".

(I drew this one with pencil first, then colored it in with markers).


If you would like to join in on this Paint With Me challenge, or just want to see some other creativity, check out Feather's site.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Bucket List Of A Three Year Old

I'm a list maker.  I have my daily to-do lists.  I have my grocery lists.  I have lists of things I want to do.  Going to Greece, seeing Andrea Bocelli in concert (preferably IN Italy), taking Dylan to Disneyland... Those are just a few of the things on my Bucket List.  I  rode a jet ski, went parasailing,  rode a horse along the beach,  rode the SkyCoaster at Kennywood(not us in the video), danced with Italian guys that I couldn't understand in Italy, rode the Metro' in Paris, was taught to juggle by a guy named Thor, and tried improv, among other things.  I love to try new things.

There are moments when I see myself in Dylan, and it makes my heart swell.  Almost every day, when he wakes up from his nap, he greets me with a very random, and often amusing statement.  One of my favorites was, "Mommy, I have four cheeks!  Two on my face, and two on my bum!"

One day this last week, he greeted me with, "Mommy!  These are the things I never rode... a rowboat, a train, a truck, and an airplane.  I never ice skated, either.  I want to do that!"  "You want to do all those things?", I replied.  "Yes.  Let's make a list so we can tell Daddy!"  So we did.

So, we need to get moving on Dylan's Bucket List.  Because as you know, our kids' dreams become our own.  Suddenly, my Bucket List has gotten a lot bigger, and a lot more fun.  I can't wait to get started Dylan!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Scrap Boxing

Ever since the Paint With Me challenge started over at Simply Feather, there's been more art in my life.  More looking at other bloggers' art, (which I am greatly enjoying), more thinking about art, more talking about art (my husband's an artist), and of course, more creating art.

Every time I go to Target, and wow, I go a lot, I find myself in the dollar section.  I find my hands full of scrap booking supplies.  I never knew why.  I don't scrapbook.  I don't have the time or desire to scrapbook.  It didn't make any sense, but I just kept buying those stickers.  I figured it involved a desire to go back to my childhood, to the days of collecting stickers for my super cool sticker book.

Recently, I finally figured it out.  Scrap Boxes!  I made my first one last week.  I'm just about done with my second, and I've started on my third.  It has nothing to do with nature.  Sorry!  I'm not the greatest at following the rules.  Perhaps you've noticed!  But, I'm participating, and that's what counts, right?

(I blurred out some details (like our last name) )

I didn't have a lot of time, when I posted this.  Here are the detailed shots...

(The first shots taken of Jim and I with Dylan - Jim's taken with my cell phone, because Dylan came so fast, we didn't even have a camera with us!)


(Look how little his feet were!)


(The little hat he wore at the hospital, and the picture the hospital took).

(His little bracelet, and the bib his doctor gave me).

Scrap boxing appeals to me because instead of shoving these precious things in a box, which would probably be lost, or end up in the attic collecting dust, they will be displayed and cherished.