artaboutthoughtsjournalfun
Friday, March 05, 2010 2:06 PM

poster children

The kiddos with this year's poster for the Mother's Retreat.

This year, for the first time in a long while, I'm not going to the Mother's Retreat. It's just honestly way too much for me this year, I would wind up spending the entire thing crying or over-anxious and I wouldn't enjoy a minute of it. There was no way I was going to skip doing the poster though, I've done it each year for the retreat even before I had kids of my own! I'll do my praying here at home... and if you are reading this, won't you please send a good thought for the moms on this retreat this weekend and the other special mothers in your own life?

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010 10:47 AM

now we are six



Peter and Angela turn six today! We were not originally supposed to have all three children's birthdays in the same week, but the twins had other plans. Instead of being born in May, they came 10 weeks early and spent months in the NICU. It is certainly not an experience I would ever wish on anybody but you'd have to agree they're well worth it all.

Angela is fiery, dramatic, mercurial, angelic. She makes Sophie look calm. Angela is the one who goes through 5 outfits in a day, some of them bathing suits, some involving complicated scarves, or requiring face paint. She would probably be happiest if she could wear nothing at all and takes off her socks the instant she doesn't need to wear them anymore. She's the girl who sings into the microphone, who gets up and dances, and who I am pretty sure is going to end up on a stage one day. She is the girly-girl in our house. The other night my mom and dad brought her a shirt that had a pony on it, in sequins, and you have never heard such gushing. "OH! How I love it! It's so sparkly! I'll wear it on my birthday with this scarf! OH! How did you KNOW I would LOVE THIS SO MUCH!" She's turning into a great reader, and just yesterday learned to tie a bow. (We're going to demonstrate to the class tomorrow.) And she really enjoys drawing faces and tries so hard to get in lots of detail. I'm rather impressed with her artwork and I love that she does her own thing - her sister and brother don't draw like her at all! And she writes me notes - when she's sorry for something she's done, or just because. I cherish them.

Peter is adorable. He has just taught himself to whistle and spends every spare moment practicing it. He has a very good sense of rhythm for such a little boy and is always tapping out the beat, pretending to drum, or trying to beatbox. And that's when there's not even any music on! He loves a cappella music, especially the Bobs. My favorite Peter thing is how he dances when he thinks nobody is paying attention - he has soul, this kid. I'll put on Stevie Wonder, or maybe some 80's music with a loud electronic beat and then occupy myself with some task so the attention's not on Peter (but I watch him out of the corner of my eye). Then the shoulders start shaking and the hips are next and then he's into some cool spin or dance steps. I just love it. He's such a foodie - loves to eat, loves to try new things, and even had my dad's pasta con sarde and asked for seconds. He's also turning out to be quite good at art - the more meticulous, the better! He loves to copy pictures of machinery or draw complicated landscapes. I also call Peter "Eddie Haskell" - he is so incredibly complimentary that sometimes it's just funny. I predict that Peter is going to have the phone ringing off the hook when he hits puberty.

Peter and Angela, my favorite surprises. I love you with all of my heart and I'm so proud of you. You make our family complete.

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Friday, February 26, 2010 7:50 AM

Sophie is Seven


Miss Sophia Grace and Lambey

I just can't believe Sophie is seven today! I wrote once that Sophie for me embodies the quote about your heart living outside your body. There is something just so indefinably special about Sophie. She's kind, generous, loving, and has a quick and quirky sense of humor. She always has a twinkle in her eye and I think that, combined with her long hair and permanent semi-wink because of her eyelid surgeries, make her seem like she's part fairy. She's bright, inquisitive, and quick to have flashes of temper or to run up and kiss you. One of the things I love most about her is her absolute belief in herself. She likes what she likes, and she doesn't give two hoots what anyone else thinks. Right now, she is enamored with Norway, especially the city of Hammerfest, which lays claim to being the northernmost town in the world. She draws the flag, she studies the globe, she gets out Paul's iPod to check what time the sun will rise and set there today. She loves drawing and writing her own books, and has a back story for each character she draws (we call those pictures "the cast of thousands"). Lately she's been reading "So You Want to be President" every night before she goes to sleep. She's kind of brilliant, and as next year is the year kids get tested at her school for advanced classes we've been concentrating on cleaning up her messy printing and on how to take tests (i.e., reading directions before jumping right in, reading all the answers before you jump right in, etc). So far, she's wanted to be an astronaut, an author, a composer, a baker, a filmmaker, a doctor, and a "traveller" so she can see the world. I am so enjoying watching her grow up and her take on the world.

We love you, Sophie! God bless you on your birthday and always.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010 11:37 AM

music therapy

I haven't had much of a chance to write about the group I've been singing with for almost a year now. Yes, I hear you say - what? You've been in a group for a year and never thought to mention it? That's just how my life's been going lately. Not too many chances to write about lots of things, even if they are important.

Music's always played a very important part of my life. For a while, I was out of circulation (ahem - three kids in two years), and then was invited to come to sing harmony at whatever Mass I could make it to. And I did - with one baby on my hip and two hanging onto my pants legs - and then that sometimes got to be too much, too.

This past year, a friend of mine started up a small group at her house, of women from our church who were all (a) good singers/musicians (b) learned music quickly (c) happened to be moms with young kids, and as such (d) couldn't make any of the regular rehearsals for choir practices. There are five of us, with kids ranging from 18 months to preteen. Over the past year, we've gotten to be great friends and have gone from tentative arrangements from the hymnal to serious "wish list" music. One of the moms calls our weekly rehearsals "music therapy" and she's so right - it's such an amazing thing to sing again with fast learners who are always on pitch and up for a challenge! I've established my position as "the one who likes to sing the strange parts nobody else wants." :)

And that's why I'm so excited as we are approaching Lent again, to start lining up music we love. Godspell songs. This song from my folk group days - and it hasn't properly felt like Easter without it. And we've just started this one, which is so incredibly exciting to me because we can actually do it justice:



Here's hoping that if you are in a place of being on hold in your art right now - especially if it's because of family obligations - that grace is coming your way and you will be able to get back to it soon.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010 9:39 PM

bloom where you're planted

2009 has been a very frustrating year, and very sad in parts too. I'm actually pretty happy to see it go.

Someone commented recently that everything seems to go right for me and we live in some wonderful fantasy world, and I said, "Oh, no! We're very real, I promise." But it's true that I tend not to post when we are either so busy I can't sit down, or things are especially crazy, or I really don't want to document what's going on because this isn't private and my family may not appreciate it. For instance, for about two months straight a certain small member of my family was throwing massive tantrums on a regular basis that included kicking, hitting, and biting, mostly all directed at me. They lasted for HOURS sometimes, and left me a sobbing mess on the floor when they were over. (Do you all really want to hear about that kind of thing?) I was living through it and didn't feel the need to rehash it here. I try to keep this site as real, and as inspiring, and whine-free as possible. So some days (and weeks) I choose not to post.

In any case, the end of the year always brings introspection: the need for a plan, a resolution, a change for the coming year, renewal. Well, not much is going to change in my life right now just because it's the new year :) - I still have a family that needs me very intensely right now and a lot of people who depend on me. I was getting incredibly frustrated at plans falling through, by feeling like nobody in the world could care less about my artwork, about failing to get big jobs/noticed/book deal, not that I actually tried to do any of that, never mind the fact that I would be stretched so thin that I wouldn't be able to do my best work anyway... And on a snowy morning last week when I had a quiet hour to myself, I realized what needed to change: my attitude. I prayed, and I cried, and I prayed some more, and the words came directly into my mind:

BLOOM WHERE YOU'RE PLANTED

So right now, this is not the time for me to illustrate a book. Or to have a licensing deal. Or get an agent. And that's okay. It's time to step back, and breathe, and maybe even enjoy my life instead of fighting every step of the way and being frustrated and upset at coming up short. Because really, I have so very much.

I have a wonderful husband I love with all my heart.
I have amazing children that I would like even if they weren't mine. :)
I have an extended family that is so supportive and loving.
I have a day job making art, with people that are like family to me.
I have a house to live in, food to eat, warm clothes to wear.
We are healthy.


I'll still paint, make prints, do crafts, but I'm going to stop beating myself up for not doing or being MORE right this second. I know my day, my book, my artwork - is going to come.

And I can wait for the promise of that.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 8:58 PM

christmas present work in progress: angela's giraffes



I've been so crazy busy plugging along that I haven't even gotten to scan in or keep up with it all! So here is Angela's giraffes in progress. Angela was originally supposed to have a painting of Beethoven, but after looking at reference material with her, she started to get madder and madder that she couldn't find anything that looked exactly like what was in her mind. Hearing that I could take cues from different pictures and put them together only got her angrier so a diversion was needed.

Enter Panda Cam!

From there it was a short step to Panda Kopanda (or Panda! Go! Panda!), and for a while she wanted Papa Panda and Baby Panda with candy canes... and somehow we got to giraffes. I don't quite know how that happened, but I'm so glad that she chose something fun and relatively easy. She has a thing for giraffes (and zebras, and ponies, and unicorns, and unipegs, and in general cute four-footed beings).

I think this is close to being finished, just want to go over it all and give it the details. I think I'm going to look to Richard Scarry for inspiration on this one.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009 7:27 AM

what I wore

Yesterday's outfit. Some accessories not pictured: halo, superhero cape, jet pack.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 8:12 PM

something

Yesterday, in the car, I was playing Abbey Road when Angela started contributing her own lyrics.

Something in the way she moves... Is like a pony in the water...

We all laughed a bunch, but Angela doesn't know how lucky she was to sing that because she's been driving me up the proverbial wall for the past few days and I've needed something positive to think about. I've mentioned before how nothing that works with the other kids works with her, and we're up against another one of those difficult phases where her prime goal seems to be to make everyone's lives miserable and to do it all with an evil grin. I have to get to the bottom of this, but for right now, I'm just so glad to have an evening with my paints, Glee, and a bag of potato chips.

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Monday, November 09, 2009 7:05 AM

Illustration Friday: Blur



Most of 2004 was a blur to me. I had a one-year old who had recently undergone surgery, and then had preemie twins who were born 10 weeks early and came home with heart/lung monitors. I had a day job. And, unsurprisingly, a large case of post-partum depression. I had days where the only way I got through them was the fact that I knew that later on, when the dishes were in the dishwasher and everyone was in bed for a while, that my paints were waiting for me. I seriously have huge dark patches in my memory about that time. But I remember the freedom in those paints.

"I learned, again and again, the lesson of creativity: the painting I make today, the drawing I do today, the poem I do today, is meant to save my life today."
~ Judy Collins, Singing Lessons

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Sunday, November 08, 2009 3:28 PM

amigurumi, part two, or, birthday lessons



Looking back over the summer, it's amazing how little I painted and how much I crocheted! I posted earlier about amigurumi and the bunnies I made for the new babies in our circle of friends. This post is about the second wave - my birthday presents. Not presents I got on my birthday, but the presents I gave to my family, on my birthday.

Let me explain.

One of my favorite illustrators is Tomie dePaola, not only for his gorgeous linework, luminous palette, and sense of humor, but also because of how his life and his art are so intertwined. If you are a fan, you know all about his family and heritage because so much of his work contains bits of his life; from his grandparents in "Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs" (I cry every time I read that book), the 26 Fairmount Avenue books, his own love of art and how it was nurtured as a child in "The Art Lesson", and his love of God in countless books, "The Clown of God" being one of my favorites. (And don't even get me started on Strega Nona. She rocks!)

I've been really enjoying Tomie's website where he shows new work but also reminisces about pretty much anything that strikes his fancy. I was struck by this story in particular, where it's his mother's birthday but she begins the tradition of giving to others to celebrate her special day.

"With that simple but magnificent gesture of giving all of us presents on her birthday, Flossie taught us the depth of the old cliché, "It is more blessed to give, than to receive." As the years went by, the real fun of each of our birthdays was not what we would GET, but what WE would GIVE."

The following are the presents I made for my kids for my birthday this summer:



For Peter, a turtle with a rainbow shell.



For Sophie, a finger puppet mushroom.



For Angela, a family of baby birds in a nest....



who went with this mama bird (already made).

Sophie loved her mushroom, but when she saw those baby birds, she just couldn't keep her hands off the tiniest one, and kept trying to sneak it out of the nest and take off with it! So I had to make her another bird, one she called "the teeniest bird of all." And that's the wee bird next to Angela's foot in the top photo.

Patterns for pretty much everything:
* Tiny Turtle
* Baby Birds in a Nest/Teeniest bird of all
* Mama Bird
* Happy Little Mushroom finger puppet

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009 8:29 AM

prioritizing



On my calendar for today, courtesy of Angela. I love the motion to it, she's actively handing me a heart. And I'm especially proud of the way all the letters go the right way and none of them are upside down or backwards; something I've been worried about lately with her. Luckily, her teacher is not concerned because they haven't learned to write all the letters in class yet and apparently that's quite common among 5-year-olds. (If she's still making letters backwards at the end of the school year, then we can worry about it.)

Every time I look at my little datebook today I will be reminded of what to do today, first and foremost: spread some love.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:24 PM

word up!

The costumes are (mostly) finished, and the kids couldn't wait another moment and begged last night to put them on. So naturally, we had a photo shoot!



Peter, or as we call him, P3T3R, is a robot. He didn't want to put on the gray sweats that go with his costume, so use your imagination there. He chose where the "buttons" go - pretty much everything on his costume is recycled! His helmet is really a shade for lightbulbs, and the buttons are all lids from milk and orange juice containers. The big red one (which Peter says is the STOP! button) is from grated cheese. It was so fun to make and even better, he really participated in its creation.



Angela is WordGirl, which meant I also had to make an entire costume for her monkey sidekick, Captain Huggy Face. it's okay... WordGirl is the best educational show since the Electric Company (the 70's one please, not the new one)! We finally got some good action shots with her and Captain Huggy Face!



Sophia is Judy Moody and her amazing hair transformation is nothing more than me folding her hair in half and clipping the ends in her face so she has Judy's messy bangs. Her hair is normally down to her behind. She looks like a different kid! She was fascinated, posed her pants off, and then begged me to put her hair back to normal again. She's doing the pose from the cover of the first book which she has next to her. "I Ate A Shark" (the "A" wound up under her armpit) is a shirt Judy makes in the book.





P.S. If you are not familiar with WordGirl, check out this clip - the show is just awesome!

And see Captain Huggy Face dance here.

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Monday, October 26, 2009 7:08 PM

what I need for to do the job



Hello, peoples. Fall has kicked my behind to the curb and back again.

I have been too busy to sit down, too busy to post, too busy to paint (and that has me actually crying at times), too busy to return calls and emails. This school year has brought about a schedule unlike anything we've ever had before, and the weight of it all now falls on my shoulders because of our schedules. I keep thinking things will taper off, and they don't, so the answer is for me to have more help. I joke all the time about how I need a Temporary Secretary; now we're trying to figure out what I can outsource. (Paul's suggestion: like laundry!) I think to myself, You were able to paint when you had preemies and a one-year-old, you can do this! I just need to figure out how not to do *everything* and save my energies for what's vital.

I'm thinking of doing NaBloPoMo again so that I will write every day in November. It will force me to sit, breathe, have some tea, and visit that creative space for a while. There will be links, there will be answers, there will be art, and there will a showing of my artwork by the end of November I'll be gearing up for as well. So check in and hang in there with me as I figure this stuff out.

Note: the image above is about 15-16 years old. It's an illustration I did for my college's literary magazine, The Lion's Eye. I found it the other day while cleaning out an old portfolio. Scary that I still painted like me, even back then!

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Saturday, September 26, 2009 3:16 PM

in which I apparently control music with my behind



My kids think I can control the music in the car by car dancing. Seriously.

While we listen to lots of Beatles music at my house, it's usually on the radio and so I've been trying to play full albums for the kids. Because I love how on the good ones, the songs just fit together in a way that "shuffle" just doesn't satisfy. Anyway, we've done Sergeant Pepper and so now I've been playing my favorite album for them while we're in the car. As we pulled up in our driveway, the song "Wait" came on. (Totally underrated, I love that song.) So I parked the car and did a little car dancing in the driveway to the percussion.

On each verse, the first line just has a little tambourine, then maracas or some other kind of shakers on the second line, and then all out drumming. The kids weren't as familiar with that song and for some reason honestly thought I made the drumming happen, with my booty. Peter demanded to know how I did it and when I didn't understand what he was asking, he was furious with me for keeping the secret to myself. He got all red in the face and yelled, "I! Asked! You! How! You! Did! That!" And the other two just looked bewildered.

Once I explained it and played the song again while staying still, they cooled off a bit. Now they make me play it and actually say "clap clap" when they get to those parts in the song (while clapping). I don't think Ringo needs to quit his day job just yet, but I am pretty proud of their sense of rhythm. And they are learning to accept that I don't have any magical powers. At least not when it comes to the car radio.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009 7:26 AM

We go bento

Sophie's very excited about having LUNCH at school now that she's in the first grade. We are going bento to have as little waste as possible. No plastic baggies, no paper, and apart from this special lunch, she'll be eating leftovers from (planned ahead of time) dinner. The cuteness factor is a big plus too, of course.

I'm excited too - it's a chance to get creative in the kitchen and make sure they're eating healthy at school. Besides, it's fun!



Sophie's lunch, clockwise:
Watermelon balls
Purple cabbage salad
Little container of soy sauce
Veggie sushi rolls with carrots, cabbage, cucumber, and avocado
Annie's bunny grahams
Not pictured: Her water bottle and chopsticks (she wants to bring them!)

Angela is bringing her own container of sushi rolls for a snack (again, she wants chopsticks too, but she's actually pretty expert with them)

Peter wants pretzels and goldfish crackers today. Tomorrow they've all requested roasted chickpeas for snacks and Sophie's having an apple and cheese sandwich.

Anyone want to swap recipes? :)

Ultra-inspiring links to get you started:
Vegan Lunchbox: You don't have to be vegan or a have a fancy lunchbox, but this mom shows some excellent twists on old favorites. Sophie's first-day-of-school lunch was inspired from this site.

Lunch In A Box: Great site with lots of recipes and tips for making lunches fun and to get you up and out of the kitchen fast.

Bento accessories and supplies: This link's on Amazon, or go on eBay and drool over all the fun stuff they have. I think we might get a set of teeny sauce containers. You do not need any of these things, by the way. They're just, again, cute.

Cooking with Dog: We love love LOVE Cooking with Dog. It's a Japanese cooking show you can subscribe to on YouTube, that is hosted and narrated by Francis, the poodle. This link is for bento - look, an apple rabbit! Just awesome. We are fascinated by the dishes they make, though I have not attempted any of the recipes... although I did try to make veggie sausages into octopi and they just didn't work (maybe not enough fat?) Anyway, these are just so fun to watch.

Bento Boxes Win Lunch Fans: How timely that this was in the NYT this morning. :)

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Monday, August 03, 2009 8:22 PM

tomorrow

Have I said that life is full? It's overflowing.

This past week, for example, has included painting, balancing a sick child with a much-anticipated vacation (verrryyy carefully), much crocheting, a sad goodbye of a friend and a funeral celebration of a life well lived; museums, dinosaurs, stars, coupon-clipping, and repeated playings of "Ode to Joy" on the piano by a 6 year old. Heck, I didn't even have three seconds to post about how I got to do work for Google, for Pete's sake!

And now, here it is, August, and Sophie's surgery is very early tomorrow morning. Many of you will be reading this sipping your coffee while she's coming out of it. I ask all of you, whenever you may happen to read this, to send a kind thought and prayer our way.

My Mom made us a prayer shawl and gave it to us tonight. (Such love! I am in awe of it.) We wrapped Sophie in it and all stood around her, touching her and praying again for her healing. I'll spread it across our laps as Paul and I wait for her to come out of surgery. And I'll wrap it again around Sophie and her beloved Lambie when she wakes up and sees the faces of those who love her best close by her. Wrapped in love, a prayer for our family in every stitch and loop of the thread. Big blessings, indeed.

UPDATE: The Sophster came through with flying colors! We're home and Sophie did very well in surgery according to the doctor. I asked how the eyelid/muscle looked and the doctor said it was even better than last time, and that it should work well for Soph "for years and years and years to come." Last time she thought Sophie would need another operation in 2-3 years, so this is good news indeed.

Anesthesia and pain-wise, Sophie is still very uncomfortable and sensitive and trying to sleep as much as possible while still maintaining a death grip on our hands. Here's hoping tomorrow brings some relief.

Please keep those prayers coming!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009 3:32 PM

Sophie's eyes.



Dear Sophie fans,

We just found out that Sophie has to have further surgery on her right eyelid - basically doing the same surgery she had when she was 9 months old to correct her ptosis. (More linkage below.) At her recent visit with her pediatric eye doctor, he suggested that her eyesight in that eye was not doing as well, and that her eyelid has been drooping (he measures it at each visit.) We saw the surgeon for a consultation, and she thought we should do it right away. The surgeon is hopeful that this will lift the eyelid and hopefully she won't need to have it again. It is supposed to be relatively pain-free in terms of recovery and she should be able to play normally outside in about a week. The type of surgery is called "levator resection." Our date for the surgery is for the morning of August 4th. We prayed that if this was what was best for Sophie, that we'd find out right away. So... now we know.

Sophie's attitude is just fantastic! When we were going to the doctor's, she wanted to know if her surgery would be in the hospital then or right there in the office. I said, no, we were going to TALK to the doctor today and see if an operation was even necessary. "But MOOOOOOOOM! That's so BORING!" she said. And upon hearing she'd need the surgery, she wanted to go to the library right away so we could get out books about going to the hospital. She says she thinks doctors and hospitals are cool and she's really excited for this! So we're going to try to take our cue from her. As always, your prayers and thoughts are greatly appreciated. We'll keep you posted.

Flashbacks from 2003:

In which we find out that Sophie needs surgery and the patches aren't cutting it.

Sophie's operation is over, we're okay.

And yes, that is a new dress in the pic above - will show more later. :)

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:34 PM

jumping for joy



I've been in a whirlwind over here at Creativity Central. I've been trying to take photos and I'll be uploading and posting more stories. I swear that every day right now has moments where I stand back and think, wow, this is my life, and it's like a storybook. Every day, I'm constantly growing, creating, doing, making. And every morning I wake up so eager to do more and to see what the day will hold.



Today, I'll show the dresses I've been making for the girls out of tshirts. I am making them up as I go along and it's so fun! Three are done, I have about 5 more to go.



Angela is holding up a picture referencing My Milk Toof, a new family fave. The tooth is saying "I don't wanna."



While I sewed the dresses, I let the kids make their own stuffed animals, whatever they wanted to do. Sophie made - I cannot make this up - a stuffed JOHN DENVER doll. For most of today, Mr. Sunshine on My Shoulders was riding around in that front pocket. God, I love that child.

Life is good, people. Life is good.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009 9:47 PM

every day in may: thirty-one

What we did this weekend...

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Sunday, May 17, 2009 9:40 PM

every day in may: seventeen



I wasn't even going to bother posting today's effort, since i only had about 5 minutes to paint today. I'm very disappointed. And while I was painting, I had Peter asking me a million questions about why I was doing what I was doing with the paint, and Sophie trying to see and breathing on me and getting her head in front of me so I couldn't see. Not to mention the table-jostling. Not saying that the kids are the reason I didn't paint, but some days the process is smooth and other days it's soooo choppy. Tomorrow's another day.

Day one of recitals is done: lots of driving, cooking, cleaning, and organizing (which also doesn't leave much room for painting in the mix either). A hand slammed in the bathroom door (mine, right hand too) and after much ice applied and tears shed later, I figured today I just wasn't meant to paint. At least I tried.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009 9:12 PM

every day in may: sixteen



I'm really hoping I finish this one tomorrow, but as it's day one of Recital Week, we'll see what happens. Today I also:

  • Finished knitting my legwarmers! And tomorrow is cold enough to wear them! :)
  • Set up three tents in the cavernously empty living room and dining room for adventurers and their fluffies to play in - they will get taken down before recitals, no fear
  • Cleaned the porch and planted several containers of impatients
  • Read the kids a few chapters of Little House in the Big Woods (their favorite part is where Ma slaps the bear)
  • Made chocolate chip pancakes
  • Snuggled on the couch and watched some Old School Sesame Street
It doesn't get any better than that. Really.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009 9:13 PM

have mercy



This is a bracelet I was given on the Mother's Retreat. It was randomly placed in my folder, but those of you who know me know that I don't believe much in coincidence. There is a reason for everything. At the time, I wondered, "Why mercy? Why couldn't I get grace, or courage, or love, or one of the other bracelets instead?" And I put it on my wrist and have been wearing it almost constantly since then. Whenever I look down at my hands or roll up my sleeves to wash dishes, I see it and am reminded again... of mercy. And again, I wonder what the message is there for me.

I think I am beginning to figure it out for myself, but I wonder - what are your experiences with mercy? Why do you think I was given this bracelet?

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009 6:33 PM

What do you want to know?

I know I have been posting more on the sporadic side - I look at all the paintings I was doing this time last year and want to sigh - but here is a quick list of things going on in just about the past month or so, and maybe you'll forgive a slowness to post:
  • family member in and out of hospitals since before Christmas
  • dear friend and boss of 15 years passed away and I still miss him every day
  • my sister's getting married: I made her wedding invitations
  • and secondary invitations for the reception for people at work
  • and invitations for her bridal shower
  • which I also hosted at my house
  • wedding at end of this month and I am in the wedding party
  • Sophie's 6th birthday was this past Thursday
  • Sophie's incredibly awesome fairy-themed birthday party this past weekend
  • and I made hand-painted magic wands for each party-goer to take home after
  • Peter and Angela's 5th birthday is today
  • their safari party is next Saturday
  • did I mention I have a day job
  • and have been helping with my husband's paperwork to try to lighten his load
  • this weekend is the super-fantastic mother's retreat
  • and of course I am hand-lettering the poster for it
  • ...there's more, but don't you think that's enough for now?
While a few of the things on this list are stressful, the majority of them are joyous, and for that I am truly thankful. But they all take time! Whenever I think, "Ooh, I should post that!", by the time I get the pictures in the computer, or sit down to write, I think it's all old news, and then I don't bother. So I'll throw it out to you: what do you want to hear about? Do you want to see the magic wands? Do you want to hear about the Mother's Retreat? Or none of the above, go paint something already?

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Monday, December 01, 2008 12:27 PM

Ramona Q. vs. Junie B.

(Note: yes, I gave up on NaBloPoMo this year, with only 4 days to go... but I felt like all the posting was eating up precious painting time. So - the paints and the sewing won out, and you will see more of that soon.)

Sophie, as I've mentioned before, is a bit precocious. She taught herself to read at age two, and since then, we've had a time supplying her with enough books. She's gone through all of Dr. Seuss and Tomie dePaola, enjoys Shel Silverstein, Nate the Great, Amelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad, Curious George, and is now working on chapter books. BUT - while she may read like a 10-year-old, she is still only five. Her favorite books that she's carried around all summer are the Sideways Stories series, and they are now dog-eared from repeated readings. But the fact is, she's not in 4th grade like the students in the series. She's in kindergarten and some of it is just a bit beyond her understanding; I wanted to find something age-appropriate.

So I went to the library, determined to find some short chapter books that would be just right for Sophie: hopefully they would be funny or silly, because she loves that, and not be just about princesses and fairies and braiding hair (or makeup, pretty dresses, and braiding hair, or about whatever new thing marketers are painting pink and pushing on little girls. No Rainbow Magic or Jewel Princesses, thank you.)

I picked up two of the Junie B. Jones books because they looked about the right size, and were about a kindergarten girl, Babysitter's Club Little Sister books because I'd read the BC's waaaaay back in the day and knew they were clean, and Ramona the Pest, because guess what? Ramona is in kindergarten, and besides it's a classic. Naturally, I read them first before handing them off (or not) to Soph.

Junie B.... I was pretty horrified with. Yes, she's spunky, but she mouths off to her teacher all the time and is regularly rude to her classmates and family. There's been some controversy about her bad grammar; I could care less about that. The rudeness and name-calling - maybe it's funnier when the reader's older, but there's no way I was handing that off to Sophie. Those went back the library the next day.

Babysitter's Club, which I knew would be pretty innocuous, I also put aside for now. Karen, the main character, is 5 and goes to kindergarten, but she also lives in two houses, and has two families, because her parents are divorced. If Sophie even had one friend whose parents were divorced, or asked me about it, I would be happy to discuss it with her. But at this point in her life why should I even let the thought enter her head that some parents don't stay married forever? Not necessary.

And then there's Ramona. Ramona Quimby is all the things Junie B. wishes she were, and more. Ramona is creative, a little rambunctious, imaginative, and is not above "making a great big fuss" if she wants to get her way. But she's never rude, never intentionally mean, and her worst insult is to call someone a baby - which to her, is the antithesis of all that it means to be a kindergartner. We've been reading it out loud together and whenever we get to the part about the "dawnzer, that gives a lee light" she and Angela crack up. Ramona rocks and so does Beverly Cleary. (By the way, Ramona is the book that got carried around with her this weekend.)

My friend Krystyna, who reminded me of the Ramona books and also has a 5-year-old daughter, also suggested the Little House series and the American Girl series. So - here's where I need some input - what books would you suggest for Sophie? Something not too sophisticated or grown up, anything about adventurous characters is good but please no killing. I have tried reading all three of them Mary Poppins and Pippi Longstocking but they're still a little too young for it, it seems. (And by the way, my earliest memory is of sitting on my mom's lap, reading Nancy Drew.)

Please, suggest away!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008 7:44 PM

wallowing in the love

It's been emotionally draining around my house lately - a certain small someone is acting up to get more attention, and honey, I'm already giving 1000%. There's no more to give!

It's in times like this I try to keep in mind something I heard at church last week from a visiting priest. He said that the two most common prayers are "Gimme gimme" and "I'm not worthy." But that instead of beating ourselves up all the time, we should be wallowing in God's love, like a pig in the mud.

Isn't that the most fantastic visual? Imagine how a pig joyfully rolls around, getting just completely covered in layers of thick squishy mud. And that word, wallow. That's a marvelous word - it means you don't jump in and then jump out and have a shower, you linger in it for as long as you can. That's how completely covered I picture myself in God's love, and then I put myself in the mood to change every "please help" prayer to a "thank you" instead.

Please make them stop yelling at each other all the time turns into a reminder: Thank you that my children are healthy.

Why does everything have to happen right now turns into Thank you that we both have jobs we love.

Lord, help me get everything done for the holidays turns into Thank you for the talents you've given me and the energy to put them to work.

And in that vein, I'd better sign off and go work on the Christmas paintings... and wallow while I do.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008 7:45 PM

Beehive

I was going to write about patchy service and how we never got a new router, but you know what? I'm on a homemade- pumpkin-pie-and-cuppa-tea high, and I don't feel like getting negative right now and bringing down the mood. :)

(sip)

As idyllic as that sounds, our house has been a beehive of activity this weekend. Paul has upgraded all the computers in the house, from my Mac in the Tower studio to his Macs in his studio on the first floor, and everything in between. I've just switched to a Mac for my day job (finally!!!), and Paul was my tech all weekend as he's tried to move everything over from PC-land into its new home. I'm so grateful to him for taking it all over and setting me up, because if it were up to me I'd be working on both the PC and the Mac for months until I finally gave one of them up. (I'm the kind of girl who takes hours to get into the pool, because I'm getting in one toe at a time.) This way, I have a beautiful set up and while I might have a bit of a learning curve, after jumping in, I'll probably have no trouble with it at all after a week or two. (Note, Best Husband Ever is transferring files now, so I don't have to, and can be in my studio because it's Art Night. He rocks.)

And me, I've begun making Christmas presents - drunk with the success of the kid's Halloween costumes, I started the dolls that will look like each of the kids, using the Martha Stewart pattern. They're all cut out and stuffed, and now I have to attach the arms and legs and give them some faces and hair. (And clothes! And glasses!) If I don't run out of time, I want to give them little accessories that make them even more identifiable as each the kids, like some books and art supplies for Soph and art supplies and a matchbox car for Petey and a purple pony and art supplies for Angela. (Did I mention they like art supplies?) Mom and I made the IKEA pilgrimage today to get frames for the 10+ NEW paintings I'm doing for Christmas presents; painting begins tomorrow night. I find IKEA has incredibly affordable prices for frames, but is such a pain in the butt to get to so I only do it once or twice a year. The colors are so bright and luscious, I can't wait to get started! I also made homemade pizza with the kids and two pumpkin pies, took them on a nature walk, and did the usual assortment of cleaning and laundry. Seriously, this is a typical weekend for us, as I bet it is for most creative families with kids. Don't get me wrong; if I could spend the whole weekend in bed with a book, I probably would, but since I can't, I'd rather live it as fully as I can.

Time for the queen bee to get to bed.... :)

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Thursday, October 30, 2008 2:02 PM

Mahna Mahna (and the Snowths)




Remember when I promised some Mahna Mahna? After much sewing, hot-glueing, and dancing around and singing, the kids' Halloween costumes are finally finished. I am SO happy with the way these turned out (and so are they)! Paul already has the video loaded onto his iPod (which has speakers) and will provide a soundtrack - or an explanation as needed - when we go trick or treating. And instead of "Trick or treat" they can say "Mahna mahna."

I had the best time making these! I didn't have any kind of pattern, I just made it up as I went along. And now it makes me want to go back to making puppets even more.

For those who need a refresher course on Mahna Mahna and the Snowths, watch this. And crank it up!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008 8:47 AM

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Found this lovely film via CuteOverload. My mamacita's birthday is today, and we will be calling her soon to sing at the top of our lungs as we do for all birthdays. Watch this, then call your mom and tell her how much you love her.



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Monday, September 08, 2008 12:50 PM

it's oh so quiet



Today it's the twins' turn.... All three children are at school right now. Something I have waited, literally, YEARS for. Me, I'm going to run outside and have myself an adventure. As long as I'm back in time to pick them up....

ps ~ Isn't Petey a heartbreaker in his new glasses?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008 1:04 PM

kindergarten!

Holey cannoli, we just waved goodbye after putting Sophie on the KINDERGARTEN BUS. When it pulled away from the curb, we could see Sophie and two other girls sitting together in a three-seater, with the rest of the bus pretty much empty.

Empty bus.... but my heart is so full.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008 6:53 AM

Haikus composed upon being awoken (again) by my loud children

Why are you so loud?
Wish I had a volume knob.
My ears are bleeding.


Please please please please please
Please please please please please please please
Please please please shut up.


I never realized
Until you yelled together
How thin these walls are.


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Friday, April 11, 2008 7:40 AM

Please, try a pee

As I had been steadily losing my voice* for the past few weeks due to the constant repetition of key phrases and the high volume in which I have to yell to make myself heard, Paul has made me a couple of handy recordings. This is my favorite one. (The other so far is "Please clear the table." I'm also hoping for the combo "Go try a pee and put on your pajamas".) Please feel free to download it and use it in your house. The secret is to loop it so that they HAVE to go try a pee to so that you will make it stop.

Enjoy!

PleaseTryAPee.mp3

*voice is getting better, thanks

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Monday, March 03, 2008 7:43 AM

Brave

The month of February was sort of a blur - I was either extremely exhausted, incredibly stressed, or both at the same time. Add in birthdays and parties, a loss of voice that is still straining to come back, and you can see how badly I needed to go on the Mother's Retreat this weekend. I was struggling sometimes to have enough strength for the next hour, let alone the rest of the day.

It's hard to put into words how amazing this weekend was for me. I'm still a bit emotionally wiped out, but I'm so grateful for what I learned. I don't want to get into too many details now because everything's so new for me right now and I'd like to let it all simmer for a while.

I can share some of my notes though:

Jesus took time out for himself to pray, and so should you.

We lead our family by experience - our children will look at our actions, not our words, to see how we live our lives.

Women are vessels of faith.

We are daughters of the King - do you act like one?

Positive fear is an act of faith (as opposed to a negative/destructive one)

"One act of thanksgiving in trial is better than 1000 in good times." ~ St. John of the Cross

Acceptance is NOT a weak response.

Surround yourself with women who hear your heart and do not judge.

They are the 10 commandments, not the 10 suggestions.

You cannot love the God you can't see if you cannot love the brother or sister you can see.

"A good example is contagious." - St. Augustine

"I give all my children courageous hearts" (unfortunately, can't remember what verse this is from)

"Life cannot have meaning without prayer." - Pope John Paul II

Trust is like the toddler letting go of the table learning to walk, or the child riding a bike without training wheels - it doesn't happen all at once, it takes lots of practice.

Good prayer does not always result in good feelings.

Prayer doesn't have to have words to still be a prayer.

You can pray for the desire to pray.

What does "holy" look like? You and me.

"The glory of God is woman fully alive." - St. Ignatius (I think?)

Worry and anxiety are burdens that keep you from being fully alive.

Surround yourself with faithful friends.


I also heard this song on the weekend and loved it, and then when I was driving home right after the retreat, guess what song was on the radio? The line that pretty much sums up everything right now is "The way it always was is no longer good enough." It's time to get brave.

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Friday, February 29, 2008 3:17 PM

february newsletter



I am still alive! :)

The February Newsletter is up... and I am off to the annual Mother's Retreat. Lots more when I get back. ♥

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Thursday, August 02, 2007 8:03 AM

Summers at Blue Lake

I know two fantastic, artistic Mamas - Jill and Michelle - who along with me have formed our own little Divine-Mama-Art-Society. We've made a tight circle who unfortunately don't live close to each other, but we stay in close contact through emails and Skype and the occasional package. We met on SARK's Marvelous Message board many years ago and gravitated towards each other as women who were serious about their art, and serious about being fantastic moms.


Jill's first book, Summers At Blue Lake, is coming out tomorrow. I have had the pleasure of getting to read it and I think it's just great. If you like Sue Monk Kidd, you should most definitely check this one out. There is so much fluff-lit out there, with the same recycled plot and stupid characters, that it's a relief to read something engaging and entertaining like Jill's story. You can read a book description and more here.

Help a new author out... If you know of any bookclubs, reading groups, or small bookstores you think might be interested in reading, purchasing, or doing anything else with her book, please let her know. She's available to book clubs over the phone (she'll call in), and she's doing readings and interviews at different book stores in Pennsylvania, where she lives.

I am so incredibly proud of Jill and how she's managed to write, paint (she's a fantastic artist and photographer), design, decide her job wasn't doing it for her and quit, be a wonderful mom and wife, and have two more books waiting in the wings. She and Michelle inspire the heck out of me (Michelle will be getting a post dedicated to her soon) on pretty much a daily basis. Their kids are all older than mine, and when I would be in the depths of despair, they would encourage me that things would get easier and to keep creating. Jill's book is out; Michelle just got her proofs back from the printer for her book with her illustrations... I have some catching up to do! :)

♥ ♥ ♥
ps ~ I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but I have been doing a whirlwind of a (good!) dance around here. More to come....

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007 8:26 AM

Packaging Girlhood

I just finished the most amazing book: Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes. I highly recommend this for any mom or teacher (and isn't that what all moms are anyway?) Plain and simple, the authors break down how girls today are targeted by marketers every step of the way, through what they see on TV to what the covers of board games have on them (by the way, not ONE had a girl winning the game.)

In our house, we don't watch commercials, even the ones on PBS. :) Although some of my sitters have been aghast to hear that my kids don't watch Disney films, the only thing my kids have seen is Mary Poppins. (No offense to you if you like them, I think 4 is far too young to pretend your prince needs to rescue you. Not to mention every "princess" in the movies has no mother, who has been conveniently killed off because she interferes with the plot. But I digress.) And while I thought that I was being a little overprotective, after reading this book, I'm glad we've taken that approach.

The book points out how "Girl Power" has been taken over by marketers to mean that you have the power to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex. Or that you can buy things. Your choices are pink, sparkly pink, and purple (don't believe me, go read the chapter excerpt on Amazon and see the research these women did.) Your choice is to be either one of the guys, or to try to get one. Seems cut and dried, but once you start looking, you see examples of this everywhere.

Luckily, the authors also point out ways to have good discussions with your kids, as early as preschool, and to let them be aware of what's around them. They never say "don't be a cheerleader, play the flute, like ballet, be girly", but they do point out that girls have a billion other options (play soccer, play the drums, take up kickboxing, and you can still be girly). They help you show your girls that marketers are trying to manipulate them, and that they are smarter than that. I've taken it a little further and make sure we mention everything in front of Petey too; this way he grows up understanding that girls (especially his sisters) are more than just pretty faces.

One of the things we do is just comment on things. Like the kids play dress up, and Angela yells, "I'm a fireman!" So I tell her, "Well, you're a fire fighter, because both men and women are brave and put out fires, right?" Or we watch Curious George, and I say, "Wow, isn't that great that Professor Wiseman is such a smart woman! Do you think she's a good scientist? Do only men get to be scientists?" And we talk about it.

Do you see this in your own kids? What do you tell them? Do you think this is a bunch of hooey and I should just put in The Little Mermaid DVD already and shut up?

Some more great reading:
The Paper Bag Princess: We're loving this book. What makes a princess a princess? For certain, it's not her clothes.

What's Wrong With Cinderella? A must-read for every mom. Because as the author tells her daughter, "It's just, honey, Cinderella doesn't really do anything."

Commercial-Free Childhood: Great site that shows how many strange places marketers are trying to get your kids' attention and build brand loyalty at a very young age.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007 8:27 AM

How we do it

The following is from a note I wrote to my Walking In This World group, which has a few mamas in it who are trying to make more time for their art in a schedule that's already jam-packed. I figured I would share what we do in the hopes that it helps someone out. Feel free to add your own advice in the comments. :)

..................

LOTS OF UNSOLICITED ADVICE TO FOLLOW - FEEL FREE TO PICK/CHOOSE/IGNORE ;)

Have you considered hiring a sitter for Sunday afternoons? We have sitters (High school girls) come in for 2 hours every night just to help me feed the kids and get them off to bed, b/c my husband teaches music classes every night until 10ish.(I can do it by myself, but it's difficult with the three under 4 and trying to be supermom has gotten me sick many times from exhaustion.)

Anyway, so my kids are familiar with the girls (not to mention Grandma!), so sometimes we have one of them come on a weekend afternoon for a few hours to play with the kiddos while we get our own work done without them around. I have painted, written letters, and just napped while they've come over. And then I'm refreshed when it's time to make dinner and see everyone again. Or sometimes, we just order a pizza so I don't have to cook. Or we have pancakes for dinner. :) We pay $8 an hour for the girls to be there for 3 small kids, and we're right there in the house in case they need us for any reason. This seems to work out well for everyone.

I also think that you need to make sure that your husband understands how important your art, and time to yourself, is. You can ALWAYS say, "His work is important!" but so are you. My husband was incredibly supportive while I was doing The Artist's Way (still is), but I still have to point out to him that we almost always get a sitter so he can work, not the other way around. :)

Not sure if financially this is possible, but since you are working, you might want to look into hiring cleaning help. I know this sounds extreme - it did to me when my husband suggested it, I thought, good lord! I can clean my own house! We don't have funds for that! But we wound up spending at least one day every weekend doing nothing but cleaning the house. And that just sucked. (Keep in mind also that my husband's studio is part of the house, and we have 75 people coming and going and using our bathroom each week. :) So we have a super-nice lady come every other week to clean the house and it is SO WORTH IT TO ME to not have to spend all my time scrubbing the stove top or cleaning the toilets and whatnot. Anyway, you might want to look into it - figure what your time is worth, what your sanity is worth, and see if this could possibly be an option for you.

Regarding bedtimes - this is the thing that saves me - we are incredibly regimented with our bedtime procedure. I have had other moms tell me, "My guys will never do that." Ours do becuase we MAKE them do it. And don't take no for an answer. I am so fiercely protective of my evening time (for my sanity) that bedtimes are strictly enforced. :) They also know the routine so well that I don't dare skip a step or do it out of order, or they call me on it.

My three all go to bed by 7:30, 8 at the very latest. By 6:30, I mention that we all need to start cleaning up. They all have to help put away their toys themselves, because I can't possibly do it all myself (the sitter helps too, but we mainly want the kids to do it themselves.) Then they have to try the potty, and everyone gets into diapers/pullups and into their PJs. Everyone should be dressed and everything put away by 7ish. Then they each get to choose a picture book and we all snuggle on the couch and we read to them, or what happens when a sitter is there is that she reads and I run upstairs and make sure everything's ready - make the bed that Peter's flung blankets all around the room, or fill their humidifiers, etc. Weekend nights when Daddy is there we get the laptop and watch 1/2 hour of something - the Muppet Show, vintage Sesame Street clips from YouTube, Classical Baby, Schoolhouse Rock.

By the time the books are read, we all go upstairs. They know they all have to walk up - not get carried - or they go straight to bed. We brush teeth, go into Peter and Angela's room and say (or sing) our prayers, and then do our "thank you God"s where they tell us things they're happy about, and we ask God to watch over our family members/friends who are sick. Everyone smooches each other, it's 7:30 and time for the sitter to go home. The twins hop in bed with threats from me of what will happen if they get out, :) and I close the door.

Sophie tries a last pee, then she hops in bed and tells me Three Nice Things about her day, which is kind of a gratitude list. We read one more story - very very short, like a poem or something, switch off her flashlight, smooch, and she's done. If she's not sleepy, she reads in bed - she has a flashlight that's easy for her to turn on and off. By then, it's 7:40. They mostly stay down for the evening, and I have until 10:30 when Paul is finished to do my own work. They also know that after they go to bed, Mama is painting. And they're interested in that too, especially if they know that they get to see it the next day.

Anyway, don't beat yourself up, and don't give up either - you're doing great things for yourself just by trying to work through the book and by trying to learn more about yourself and your art.

Hang in there!

love, Elena

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