Monday, August 31, 2009

NOT like the FISH!!

When my husband Matt and I were younger folks of the footloose and fancy-free variety, I lived just around the corner from this awesome bookstore in the West Village (OH that gives me a pang... imagine all that time when I could go there for as long as I wanted, whenever I wanted, and I had no idea what a luxury kid-free time in a bookstore was! It's like gold!) and we used to go there from time to time, and once I bought this book which was a huge gigantic anthology of Little Nemo's Adventure's in Slumberland, which is a comic strip from the 1910's by Winsor McCay, and we both totally fell in love with the unbelievable intricate and astonishing and psychedelic art of this comic strip. At some point I guess we were pretty serious about each other and decided that if we ever had a kid we would name him Nemo Truly (Truly is an old family name on my mother's side) or Clara Bow (also there was a Clara Bow retrospective across the street at Film Forum and she won my heart...) but, as fate would have it, well, you can probably guess. We're just lucky that we didn't name him Nemo and then the movie came out. Strangely enough, I was talking to a librarian about graphic novels fairly recently and this exact same thing happened to him, except with his cat... he named his cat Nemo and everyone thinks it's after the fish in the Disney movie. Nothing wrong with the movie, you know... just don't want to name your kid after it.... maybe your cat, if you roll like that, but not your kid...

Anyway, it's just melting my heart lately that our boy is old enough and I can share this really meaningful book with him. He's been poring over it... the writing is small and the language is totally antiquated and unusual (which I love) but he's digging it. Since he was even called Nemo in utero, he probably has a particular affinity for it. Each one ends with Nemo waking up from Slumberland and his parents scolding him for falling out of bed or making noise, "You'll have to give that boy another dose of turpentine and sugar. Listen to him, he can't sleep. He eats too much candy, Dear." or , "You've woken us up again, Nemo, after your Mother cautioning you about eating sardines before going to bed, eh?"

How foolish we were... it seems obvious now that we were to have a Jack and no one else.
Though sometimes I secretly think he's just a little Nemo-y around the edges.


Hee hee! Here's my funny little attempt at moccasins. But I am SO proud, because I've been wanting to make Henrietta a little pair of softie shoes for SO long. I was thinking of waiting to share these 'til I'd made a really sterling pair, but I just had (yet another) conversation with someone about the illustrious Soulemama, and about how reading her blog without the appropriate grain or two of salt can cause soul-crushing nausea (in the most Sartre-ian sense). I think if Mrs. Soule over there shared a few more of her gaffes and blunders we'd all feel a heck of a lot better. But that's not really our business... she can knit her kids everything from undies to bathing suits with the utmost love and care, and our challenge is merely to admire without giving ourselves over to the green-eyed goddess of Jealousy....
Anyway, I'm psyched that I finally tried this ( I love this book so much!!) and it was easy as pie. You could easily make a pair during the watching of one movie (I was watching Charlyne Yi things on Youtube... she's funny) and my little one has been needing soft-soled shoes so badly... she seems like she's a few months away from hard soled shoes of which we have a pair so I'm lazily trying to avoid buying her any proper footwear... I said I was going to buy her a pair of these adorable shoes but I'm too lazy and too cheap... and I'm not really the person who buys their children the proper things at the proper times... I just kind of sloppily make-do with whatever is lying around or comes my way... maybe someday I'll change.... actually I just had a huge pang in my heart when I realized that I probably just have one more year at the outside where I can buy or make anything for my littlest and she won't rebuke me.... when she'll submit and won't necessarily insist on whatever her style may be (which will almost surely be the complete OPPOSITE of mine...)... so maybe some visits to Etsy are in my future. Just a few cute things for the road.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eating out

I've wanted to do this for simply ever... have a little suppertime cookout at a local park, no particular reason, just because.

Who doesn't like a picnic?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No Impact Man

I just posted this over at my other blog, Mungo, but I thought folks over here might enjoy it as well... In all honesty, I get so scared of getting depressed that I have a hard time going to see those hard-hitting documentaries like Food, Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth (which I still haven't been able to make myself see!) so anything that can get across some great ideas with a dash of humor is great for me. This one looks good... I'm actually looking forward to seeing it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some great stuff from 'Young at Art'...

...which is this fab fab book by Susan Striker about doing art with children, which basically changed my life... I read it two and a half years ago, it totally changed my approach to working with kids, and I decided to teach my first art class shortly after. I was just sharing some resources from the book with the group of fine folks who are going to be sharing their sweet little toddlers with me for my upcoming art class in September, and I thought I'd slap 'em up over here as well. It's really good stuff... she's a little overly fervent and believe you me I've given my kid the dreaded coloring page and I'm pretty sure he's not ruined for life... but I really like the reminder to be respectful of children and their work.

By the by, Susan has a whole series of 'Anti-Coloring Books' which are actually really fun... if you've got a kid that likes to draw (which I do not, sadly...) you can print some of the pages out for free here.


1. Let go of your own expectations of how an art project should be completed, and let the child's imagination decide how the art materials will be used. (Instructions can prevent exploration, which is the essence of creative thinking.)

2. Never draw, paint, or write on a child's artwork. (The child's own art is more important than any contribution you may make and it may discourage age-appropriate work.)

3. Never point out accidental similarities to realistic objects. (this can distract from the value of the kinesthetic activity of the project.)

4. Never show a child "how" to draw, or entertain a child by making realistic pictures. (these lessons can quickly become substitutes for creative exploration.)

5. Don't ask "What is it?" or "What are you making?" ("What" it is is not as important as "how" it is being made."

6. Never give a child coloring books, dot-to-dot, magic paint with water, molds, drawing machines, drawing computers, or similar anti-art toys. (There is no value for a child in completing something another person created.)

7. Never encourage children to participate in art contests or other forms of competition that pit child against child. ( Children benefit most from setting their own goals and competing with themselves.)

8. Encourage a child to come up with many different solutions to problems, rather than only one correct answer. (In life there is rarely only one "correct" solution to problems, and sound art experiences can teach children how to solve problems.)

9. Don't scold for drawing on unacceptable surfaces. Offer paper and say, "Oh good. I see you feel like drawing." (Emphasize the positive--- your child wants to draw-- and provide an acceptable substitute surface.)

10. Do not rush a child to the next level of development. (Each stage is important and there is no advantage gained by rushing through one stage to reach another.)

  1. Be a role model. Instead of saying “I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler”, say “I love to create things”. The process of creativity is far more important that the product. If your child sees you taking risks and making things, he or she will follow your model.
  2. Don’t only hang your child’s art on the refrigerator with a magnet. Your child already knows that “real” art is framed and hung throughout the house. Take something your child makes to the framer and hang it in an important area of your home.
  3. Show a clear preference for your child’s original work. Let your child know that copying, tracing and coloring-in of adult art is not creative. Help your child understand that solving problems while creating a work of art leads to solving problems in all areas of life.
  4. Verbalize why you “like” a picture. “Pretty” is not particularly helpful. For example, “the colors are so bright and cheerful, there are straight lines and curvy lines and they look well together, the colors remind me of when you were so sad”, are the kind of phrases that can help your child expand his or her vocabulary. They also reinforce what is already being done on an intuitive level.
  5. Visit an art gallery or museum with your child. There are many to choose from right in your own town. Look at the art work and encourage your child to look at and talk about the art without worrying about being correct.
  6. Make holiday cards out of your child’s drawing or painting and mail them to everyone - even your boss!
  7. Have your children’s birthday party guests decorate their own cake, using squeeze tube frosting and candy.
  8. Set aside an area of your home that can always be “messy”. Put an easel, chalk board, crayons, paints, glue and a box of scraps there. Call it the “art studio”, and encourage daily use.
  9. Buy a big portfolio and save art work. There is nothing more discouraging than working on a picture only to have Mom throw it out on trash day.
  10. Occasionally buy plain, light colored things for your child to decorate, such as t-shirts, curtains, sheets, dishes, canvass bags, etc. use them!
  11. Buy a leather-bound blank book for your child to use every day, even when you travel. Use it regularly and it will soon be a delightful record of your child's growth and development.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Grubbery and the Pubbery

Some of you who know me may have heard me rave about The Grubbery before... it's this fabulous place that exists only in my mental landscape, as of yet. The Grubbery only serves one thing... the perfect breakfast. There are many reasons why I think this is a brilliant idea... one of which is, have you tried going out to get brunch on a weekend here in Austin? It's mayhem. Austin is a breakfast kind of town. If you've got even a halfway decent breakfast, people are going to know about it. Also, I figure we can master a perfect breakfast. We won't try to compete with all the other good food out there for lunches and dinners. And snacks. Just THE PERFECT pancakes, best eggs... best cup of coffee... REALLY good bacon. The other thing is I want it all to be sourced locally. So the bacon might be really expensive, but it's going to be amazing. And the great coffee plus breakfast thing I feel like will be another niche... it's like, you want to go to Magnolia for a great breakfast, but you stop at Starbucks on the way there because the coffee sucks. Not at the Grubbery. At the Grubbery the coffee is always fresh, hot, rich, dark, and delicious, just like the men. Also would love to have a fab playscape and all that, like fuh real, kid friendly.
So breakfast is over at 12 or 1, and should this great place just stand there empty? No way... that's when The Pubbery takes over. I LOVE nothing more than a big fat delicious pint of tap beer but I would also love someone else to take over at this point and run the Pubbery part, because I don't want to have a business where I have to stay up late or deal with bar stuff or anything. I want to hang out there, I just don't want to run it. And I happen to know two different friends who have a dream of brewing their own beer and having a great place... so, we can just split the rent and the responsibilities... truly the best of both worlds. And can you imagine how fun it would be to have a place where you could sip a beer while your kids frolic happily on a playscape? Truly a Central Market East, which we are always saying is sorely needed over here.
I'm including this crudely drawn picture just because I was thinking about it this weekend and I devised this idea of having a sign that was kind of a topsy turvy funny thing... in the morning it says the Grubbery and it's a cup of coffee, but then the sign will actually be able to be turned 180 degrees and the cup of coffee will be transformed into a pint of beer. I'll hire a pro to make the sign... 'cause an awesome business needs a truly cool crowd-pleasing sign.
I know this is a little wild and I am trying to start Mungo too and all that, but I'm imagining this to be our family business... so Matt and I can run this and he won't have to work his boring job that he doesn't like. La la! Won't it be wonderful? All hail the Grubbery/Pubbery!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bedtime story fave

The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo

From the Just So Stories

By Rudyard Kipling

Not always was the Kangaroo as now we do behold him, but a Different Animal with four short legs. He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.

He went to Nqa at six before breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals by five this afternoon.”

Nqa and the Kangaroo

Up jumped Nqa from his seat on the sandflat and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a rock-ledge in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Middle God Nquing.

He went to Nquing at eight after breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me, also, wonderfully popular by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nquing from his burrow in the spinifex and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Big God Nqong.

He went to Nqong at ten before dinner-time, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, “Yes, I will!”

Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, “Dingo! Wake up, Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him SO!”

Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said, “What, that cat-rabbit?”

Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a coal-scuttle, —ran after Kangaroo.

Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.

This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!

He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther, —ran after Kangaroo.

He had to!

Still ran Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo. He ran through the ti-trees; he ran through the mulga; he ran through the long grass; he ran through the short grass; he ran through the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer; he ran till his hind legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, grinning like a horse-collar, never getting nearer, never getting farther; and they came to the Wollgong River.

Now, there wasn’t any bridge, and there wasn’t any ferry-boat, and Kangaroo didn’t know how to get over; so he stood on his legs and hopped.

He had to!

He hopped through the Flinders; he hopped through the Cinders; he hopped through the deserts in the middle of Australia. He hopped like a Kangaroo.

First he hopped one yard; then he hopped three yards; then he hopped five yards; his legs growing stronger; his legs growing longer. He hadn’t any time for rest or refreshment, and he wanted them very much.

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—very much bewildered, very much hungry, and wondering what in the world or out of it made Old Man Kangaroo hop.

For he hopped like a cricket; like a pea in a saucepan; or a new rubber ball on a nursery floor.

He had to!

He tucked up his front legs; he hopped on his hind legs; he stuck out his tail for a balance-weight behind him; and he hopped through the Darling Downs.

He had to!

Dingo chases the Kangaroo until five o’clock

Still ran Dingo—Tired-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, very much bewildered, and wondering when in the world or out of it would Old Man Kangaroo stop.

Then came Nqong from his bath in the salt-pans, and said, “It’s five o’clock.”

Down sat Dingo—Poor Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusky in the sunshine; hung out his tongue and howled.

Down sat Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo—stuck out his tail like a milking-stool behind him, and said, “Thank goodness that’s finished!”

Then said Nqong, who is always a gentleman, “Why aren’t you grateful to Yellow-Dog Dingo? Why don’t you thank him for all he has done for you?”

Then said Kangaroo—Tired Old Kangaroo— “He’s chased me out of the homes of my childhood; he’s chased me out of my regular meal-times; he’s altered my shape so I’ll never get it back; and he’s played Old Scratch with my legs.”

Then said Nqong, “Perhaps I’m mistaken, but didn’t you ask me to make you different from all other animals, as well as to make you very truly sought after? And now it is five o’clock.”

“Yes,” said Kangaroo. “I wish that I hadn’t. I thought you would do it by charms and incantations, but this is a practical joke.”

“Joke!” said Nqong from his bath in the blue gums. “Say that again and I’ll whistle up Dingo and run your hind legs off.”

“No,” said the Kangaroo. “I must apologise. Legs are legs, and you needn’t alter ’em so far as I am concerned. I only meant to explain to Your Lordliness that I’ve had nothing to eat since morning, and I’m very empty indeed.”

“Yes,” said Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo, —“I am just in the same situation. I’ve made him different from all other animals; but what may I have for my tea?”

Then said Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan, “Come and ask me about it tomorrow, because I’m going to wash.”

So they were left in the middle of Australia, Old Man Kangaroo and Yellow-Dog Dingo, and each said, “That’s your fault.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Well I don't know what else to tell you about our Pennsylvania idyll... except that it's a little bit disturbing that this 'village' I'm always talking about wanting to create with other people here in Austin so that we can raise our children and live our lives with a little more peace and ease and community IS ALREADY THERE ALL SET UP in Matt's hometown and why we don't live there I'm not really sure. Totally loving, fun grandparents who totally accept children for who they are... living on a quiet street where my kids can easily run from house to house to play with friends, and into the woods even to play in the creek... half a block to the school, a playground, and even a thrift store...! And it seems like everyone is so kind and respectful to children there, and playful too, and when you pick up the cute little bi-monthly newsletter there's at least a half dozen little ads in the back for cute little fourteen year old mother's helpers and stuff like that. And did I mention how Grandma and Gramps have this big basement with all the seventies-era Fisher Price toys and other assorted toys and games and puzzles squirreled away after 5 kids grew up in that house... so our kids can just disappear down their for hours or at least until fun Uncle Mike drops by to play frisbee and tag and chase with them out on the lawn...?
I don't know why I find this disheartening... I mean, mainly I don't and mainly I'm just enchanted and thrilled that I married into this fantastic in-law situation... but it does seem disheartening because we probably won't move to Pennsylvania, because we're insane, and because that level of support and freedom just feels SO healthy for the kids, and of course for us parents, and it really shouldn't or wouldn't be that hard to achieve if society weren't kind of ill and confused about what's really important in life...
Well, glum outlook aside, I do have a great circle of friends and acquaintances who all have strong intentions to make some changes so raising children and living life can be more bearable, satisfying, easy, and just a lot more FUN with a lot less of the bitter, stressful, rageful, stretched-to-the-limit-and-beyond parts that make it such a hard row to hoe, sometimes. We'll all just keep chipping away at this, keep working to find and create our village, and if we can do it even halfway then maybe our kids will be able to do it the whole way and our grand kids will have it pretty good, I think.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I feel like I've been on a decades-long visionquest, but I guess it's only been twelve days total since I left this fair city of Austin to voyage to the City of Brotherly Love, among other places. It was a big ol' fat royal adventure, is what it was. This is NOT my native land and I have to admit I even faced this trip with more than a wee bit of trepidation... family reunion for Matt's mom's side of the family, a whole lot of socializing and uncertainty with three little kids in tow, but, what can I say? It met AND/OR exceeded my expectations by far.

One day was spent in South Philly where my sister-in-law Amy lives... we visited the Magic Gardens... well, just take a gander at these photos and see that it's the most amazing place ever and the story will make your heart melt... this artist Isiah Zagar who started transforming this empty lot in his neighborhood into this wonderland about fifteen years ago... and then in 2002 the city decided to sell the lot and tear it all down and the neighborhood rallied to preserve it and now of course it's alive and thriving. Isiah even teaches workshops on this mosaic work that he does at least once a month and all around the neighborhood now people have mosaic-ed their own buildings! Whole building-faces three or four stories high. I'm so bowled over by how beautiful and sweet and cute and inspiring it is that this one cool guy has created this ripple effect of art and fun and creativity that's spreading through a whole city. I'm dead set on returning sometime soon, soon, soon I hope to participate in own of his workshops. It's so perfect for Mungo. And I just would love to spend time around a guy who really seems to have the '24 hours a day of love and play' paradigm in effect, for sure.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pretzels, but not really.

I was going to write this little post about how me and the kids made pretzels, but I just keep feeling like not writing about that, because it just feels like I'm saying that we do nice little cute little things like that the whole day through, when in reality, it was probably the only wholesome thing we did all week. I don't even want to get started telling you about the bickering and the wickedness and the deceit and mischief that went on BEFORE and AFTER the nice little pretzel-making incident.

Anyway, I'm just going to tell you about four little points of interest that spring to mind. And then I'm going to go to bed, and then I'm going to go to Pennsylvania for two weeks:

Dawn Farm. I'm not in recovery, but if I was, I'd want to go here.

Eek! Burmese pythons are breeding in the Everglades!

I already really really love Kimya Dawson and now I love her even more: Alphabutt... it's a children's album ("F is for Fart, G is for Gorilla Fart, H is for Huge Gorilla Fart...") but it's also got great songs that make me cry and stuff ("First thing on our list of things to do/is to wake up right next to you/second thing that we have planned/is to kiss both of your hands/third on our list of things to do today/ is to look you in the eye and say/ I love you sweet baby I love you sweet baby I love you more than anything"). Thanks Andrea for giving this album to me, we all dig it so much!

Amy, who is my life coach/happiness consultant, and who is also this brilliant, practical, hilarious, down to earth lady and if you want to get a taste of what she's all about you can know listen to her podcast with Kara Tennis! This is a total gold mine and totally fascinating and just FYI, it's rated R a little bit at times so if your sweet old granny is sitting in the corner with her tatting, maybe you should listen to it another time. But maybe I've got your granny all wrong and she's totally laid back and accepting of all topics of conversation. Your call!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

N to the Y to the C!!!

You'd never think it, would you, that a busy mother of three who's not really rolling in dough or anything would get to spend a Day. By Herself. In New York City. But oh my gosh it is absolutely fabulously, romantically TRUE! I can't wait. I am so excited.
We are traveling to Pennsylvania for a family reunion for Matts' family which in all honesty I have not been super psyched about... lugging car seats and children and messed-up sleep schedules and la la and this and that, you know what I mean. Well, Matt's mom who is really super cool and ultra loving and understanding knew just how to make it worth my while. She actually called me up and offered this to me. She said I should stay out until, you know, after dark, like, night time, like, totally stay out and go see some music and have dinner with some friends, oh my! Paradise!
But most especially it's just the being alone part, to fritter away my hours, do some serious frittering, just walk around and look at stuff, go into shops and look at every single tiny last thing if I want to... kick back at a cafe for as long as I want to... just, do my own thing the whole live long day.
I lived in Manhattan for a 3 or 4 years back at the tail end of the nineties, so I know pretty much where to go and how to get around, but I'd love to have some recommendations from anyone about any new must-sees. I think being downtown will probably be enough for me... there's places uptown that I'd love to visit, but I think between East, West Village and Lower East side, Chinatown, and Soho, I'll probably have plenty to occupy me. I want to go to Housing Works book store, Pearl River mercantile in Chinatown, Purl in Soho.... there's probably some fabulous reuse center there and I should go in and interview them for Mungo....
Well it's all very well and good but probably the most important thing is did you hear what I said...? I am not going to be in charge of ANYBODY except my very own self until WELL past bedtime. Oh and yes I will be in one of the most exciting cities in the world, but I could be almost anywhere and be pretty fabulously tickled to have a day to myself. Yippee!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Boys, boys, boys

I just started reading The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian and this little bit just really got me, I think it's SO true:

Once a mother of two sons in a parent's cooperative put this question to me:
"You men like bottom lines," she quippred," so I'll ask you for a bottom line. In 25 words or less, what does a boy need?" Unprepared to give her an answer in so few words, I tried an old teacher's trick. "You have all the wisdom," I joked back, pointing to the group. "You tell me!"
After a long and fruitful dialogue, her's what we came up with:

1. nurturing parents and caregivers
2. a clan or tribe
3. spiritual life
4. important work
5. mentors and role models
6. to know the rules
7. to learn how to lead, how to follow
8. an adventure, and a best friend to have it with
9. lots of games
10. an important role in life

That just makes me want to start bawling... so beautiful, so true, so potent. I hope I can provide those things for my little guys. I think I better write this down and stick it on the refrigerator door, just to be sure. Help them to feel vital, engaged, and help them manage that boundless energy... Or maybe they don't need my help so much as just my understanding, so I don't get all bent out of shape and wish for them to be different than they are. Whatever it may be... tally ho, boys, you're awesome.