Sunday, February 9, 2014

Creatively Crafted Feelings

My five-year old came home from latch-key a few months ago with a simple drawing made with glue and glitter. I didn't feel proud, I felt jealous and sad.

With nostalgia I thought about my abundant craft supplies of yesteryear. The days when I made my holiday cards, wrapping paper and gifts.

Quickly banish the images of items on Etsy or by Martha Stewart. I received consistent complaints about my generous use of glitter and the mess it made for the recipients. I rarely saw the homemade gifts displayed. But, as I am sure they are, I am too, a big believer in re-gifting and a supporter of Goodwill.

In true holiday spirit, making those things wasn't just to annoy family and friends, it was about me. I loved making it all, even the mess. Right now I can still taste a bit of that deep pleasure and satisfaction. Sitting at my old dining room table with craft supplies spilling on to the wooden floors and my fingers peeling from decoupage and craft glue.

And with that, I revisit a familiar feeling of how my kids would have loved the younger me. My energy, creativity, ideas, enjoyment of cooking and baking things not out of a box, and the ability to function on less sleep.

Creating with my son when he was younger just frustrated me. He had the nerve to act his age and lose focus just at the moment I was getting excited about my project. Or, he would start “working” on mine and I became the child melting down because he “ruined” my project.

Now he sees potential craft supplies all over the house since I don’t remember to fill up his supply bin as nicely as mine once was. We have impromptu crafting sessions on the bedroom floor using the store bought wrapping paper supplies, old magazines, and anything in my hoarding collection.

For the holidays we bought him a giant bin filled with colorful paper, markers, crayons, stickers, glitter, glue sticks and paints. I knew he’d love the supplies and I’d love that in case of a cleaning emergency, everything had a place to go.

I knew that mostly I’d love the brief holiday-high leading to a release of long held guilt by finally buying him the things I think my younger self would have had on hand the day of his birth.

The crafts have been a huge success for both of us. Snowflakes, and valentines have been made and a lot in between.

As with the definition of true creativity, it can’t be hampered by the box of crafts. This morning he’d hung a new collage of craft projects, paintings, drawings, junk mail, and post cards from the recycling bin. Painted paper plates decorate the edges of his bookshelves. And it is all magnificent and his own.

Another benefit of not being contained by our craft container was when our holiday wreath was falling apart. I put a few quirky things together to make a new one. Proudly, I shared my work with him. He immediately took the wreath from me and went to work. He added his touches and it became a uniquely, finished product now hanging proudly on our front door.  

Here I am, many years older, less energetic, and finding a creative connection with my son and an outlet for myself. Current exhibits can be seen on the front door, windows, and all exposed surfaces in the house.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Simply Don't Give Me Any Recipes

A well-meaning colleague just sent me a recipe for breaded chicken breasts stuffed with asparagus and mozzarella. At the end of our meeting this morning she was telling me about this dish she made last night and I must have said, “sounds good.”  She cheerfully said, “I’ll email you the recipe. It’s so simple!”

To give you the necessary details, she is young (not sure what that means in numbers, but younger than I am), single, no children, no pets, not sure if she has any houseplants.

I open the Simple Chicken recipe to glance at it before deleting it. The recipe for Simple Chicken is nearly one-page long.

Simple Chicken involves multiple ingredients (more than three) many tools, and spices.
When spices are involved at my house, this means a crazed search to find what are sure to be stale spices. The search includes a kitchen stool where I usually end up in a losing battle with a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup (meant for an entirely different simple recipe that was never made) and we have the first head injury of the evening. No stale spices were located before the bleeding starts.
This Simple Chicken also involves thawed chicken breasts, flattening said thawed chicken breasts with a mallet, breading and seasoning the chicken, toothpicks to keep the stuffing in, taking the chicken out of the oven to stuff with cheese and asparagus, and then taking Simple Chicken out again to cover it with foil so it doesn’t dry out. The Simple Chicken gets a third check when it comes out of the oven to make sure it is cooked.
Continuing this vision of making the Simple Chicken many things come to mind. The expense of asparagus, where are the toothpicks, what additional injuries come from the toothpick search, and where do I find a mallet? Could I use a hammer instead?  I saw a hammer in our basement covered in paint and sawdust. Can you put a hammer in the dishwasher?

I know during my search for the toothpicks while I am distracted trying to stop the bleeding due to my second head injury of the day, that will be the precise moment the toothpicks, aluminum foil, and hopefully-cleaned-chicken-hammer will look like amazing new toys.

It just occurs to me that I would still have to make a side dish for Simple Chicken. How about saltines? Extras are usually inside the highchair cushion or between the baby’s pants and diaper.  

Some additional challenges are noise and my partially paralyzed legs. A crying baby in a highchair and a train depot getting built in record time locking my legs up against the stove.
Thomas the Train and the Island of Sodor take place in England.  England of course is in another time zone, so they don’t dine with us. Instead during our dinnertime, it is their time of the day where the engines, diesels, troublesome trucks, and drivers get into some reality show-like drama.

The baby won’t wait for the Simple Chicken to get done. Instead I feed him a literal smorgasbord of food (tossing it to him due to my imprisoned legs) where he will take one bite of yogurt, one bite of sweet potato, one bite of strawberry, and it goes on until he’s full.

The train conductor will not eat the Simple Chicken and does not like to be rushed into dinner. He likes a more gentlemanly dinner and will be ready to dine around 7:30.

I know, simple is relative. At one point in my life I was younger, single, had no kids, and a corner full of dead houseplants. And I had a serene- looking apartment. Although it was very cold in the winter, it was very lovely if you wore an electric blanket and turned your back on the dead plant exhibit.
This nice woman sends me this delicious looking Simple Chicken recipe. She had no idea it would cause head trauma to me and send the kids to the emergency room.

She, like me all those years ago, pictures we all go home to a nice quiet home to fix Simple Chicken. And we all have the energy to wash the dishes right away when dinner is over. And then spend leisure time perusing cookbooks for more simple recipes.
I consider myself very fortunate. I have had the opportunity to live on my own in my own place and be completely self-absorbed. I enjoyed many great years just living with my husband. And now we have crazy-love-chaos. Nothing simple about it. And probably sooner than we will want, our home will be ready for this Simple Chicken recipe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What Was Missing From Our Puzzle Was Jonah

Last Saturday we celebrated having you for your first year in the world. Most importantly, in our world, in our home, and deep in our hearts.
Throughout my pregnancy I wondered as many mamas do, about how their heart/lap/home/budget (but mostly their hearts) will stretch any further to love another little person the way they intensely love already. I worried if you would get enough attention, affection, smiles, rocking, reading, playing, silliness, and hugs.
Our life felt so full with the three of us (four counting the dog) and work and friends and marriage and every other opportunity/disaster that comes down life’s bumpy path. At that point I saw our life as an already completed puzzle put together in its entirety.
But, you proved me so wrong. You wiggled yourself into the crevices of our family puzzle and before I knew it you had made a new, wonderful, and much needed space for yourself. You treated us well with your good sleeping, giggles, and huge smiles. Your appetite is not only huge for every tidbit of food, but for everything new you find. You point and grin to show me things like a fish tank as if I hadn’t seen one before. And, it’s true. That fish tank at the pediatrician’s office yesterday came alive with more movement and color than I ever took the time to notice because of you and your short, pudgy finger and goofy smile.
During my pregnancy, I also wondered what it would be like between you and your brother. It started slow for him to understand that you were growing slowly and had to be treated gently. But, now one of the most heartwarming moments is to watch you play together. If your brother’s bedroom door closes, you wait and scratch at it like a puppy wanting him to come back and play.
You are the vital, finishing piece we never knew was missing. Like in a painting that seems done, but when a splash of red or orange is added in the corner it comes alive. Or the tiny dash of nutmeg that makes a pumpkin pie taste heavenly.

You have assured that our laps will have no vacancies for a quite a while.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tear Jerker

When do grown-ups have a chance for a good-well deserved cry? My kids get a couple in before we leave the house in the morning. Can I do three minutes of tearing up driving to meet my carpool partner? Grab a minute or two of wet-eye in the handicapped bathroom at work? Under my desk on at lunch? By the Detroit River, I could add a cup for donations and sit down for my cry, make a few bucks, making it a promising and prospering solution.
In the afternoon could I squeeze in four minutes driving to daycare? How safe is it to cry while driving? Better or worse than driving while snacking, desperately digging in your purse for a ringing phone, applying mascara, trying to rub a scratch out of a favorite CD, or reaching to the car seat behind you to find a much needed pacifier?
Not during dinner. Is it sanitary to cry on food? Not after play time because crying has started about having to clean up. Can’t read a bedtime story and cry because I can’t see. Crying would undo any cleaning/picking up around the house by soaking the floors and furniture. How about while packing lunches? But then we are back to the sanitary issue. Before bed? By then I am so tired I forgot I was planning to cry.
Society needs to embrace crying. Add crying rooms like nursing rooms at work. Coffee and crying cafes. Crying parks filled with overstuffed couches and end tables with Costco-size tissues. Cities could repurpose empty phone booths for on-street-private crying. How about a crying port-o-potty? Depending on the severity of your situation and if you’ve got some Kleenex in your pocket it could work in an emotional pinch.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Needed: GPS for the Big Journey

Life brings change…change we want…change we didn’t know we wanted…change that looking back continues to feel like a puzzle piece lost with the dust bunnies under a bed. The hard part for me is stepping forward into the path of change whether it was my idea or not. I want a preview synopsis (only with stories of unbridled happiness). I crave the comfort knowing the path ahead will be ok.

Questions have filled my mind…how will our family function without Miss Marian, who will take the optimistic lead in the family without my father-in-law, where will the money come from to pay for two boys in a world of our dwindling pay checks, how do I take care of myself and my family after surgery, the void of a friend moving away leaving a cavernous empty cubicle where there once was a kind face.

Can I bundle these quandaries into a ballooning Google request, hoping for a snap-of-the-finger solution? Thinking about inevitable changes all at once makes me long for a rainy Saturday afternoon where my family is still in their pajamas at 2:30 p.m. deciding to whip up some pancakes. In those moments, in our house, uniformed in the coziest of clothes, these changes seem almost doable or even bordering on natural.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Two You

My son turns two today. I realize if he is a year older, that I too must have aged a year. But, I am enjoying a younger version of myself through him.

Time spent coloring is cut short by his toddler attention span. I long to finish my picture (I do) and hang it on the fridge next to his 53 colorful crayon portraits. I have spent more time in a bathing suit playing and splashing in the pool instead of bone dry in a cover up sitting self consciously in a chair. I play more than weed in the backyard. Gallons of bubbles have been blown from the front porch and dozens of messy cupcakes shared. I’ve never felt so excited for weekends, evenings, mornings, and vacations. Our summer project is covering the porch with sidewalk chalk and daily dancing sessions in the living room to the earthy music of homemade shoe box drums.

I just don’t recall a summer being this wonderful and packed with joy. I can’t wait to see what he has planned for fall.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sticky Situation

I took an entire day to clean my house on Monday. Cleaning ourselves free of sinister Sippy cups that claim to be spill proof, leak proof, and splatter proof. My 1 and a half year has proven none of them toddler proof.

After the house was spotless I unleashed our professional sampling of three new cups all with their great claims. One literally was Sippy proof, no drink would come out of it. To my OCD side this appealed to me greatly, but thinking about the Wayne County Department of Children’s Services I took it away. Unfortunately, the two others cups leaked like creeks after heavy rain storms. Sweet sticky apple juice once again stuck on the ceramic tile of the kitchen and bathroom, the dark walnut living room floors, and politely dotting the once all-beige carpet in the bedrooms.

These lying cups have brought out a weakness in me. An inability to just be laid back about letting my shoes stick to the kitchen floor slowing us all down for a half a second. Those dirty dots of sugary juice sprayed all over our home makes me feel like a failure and like I don’t have it all together. When I’m sticking to my own couch, I can’t even pretend that I am successfully balancing work and family life with a graceful ease as I am using a shoe horn to get myself unseated from the now fermented juice. Cleaning or always keeping the house clean gives the very false illusion that we could be on a magazine cover for Garage Sale Weekly. Although my heart melts at the thought of this perfection, it just isn’t true. Just try to come over and use the toilet without a plunger.

I have always felt the need to keep the house tidy for other people, and was literally blown away at how difficult it became when we came home from the hospital after delivering my son. My husband had to leave right away for work and we had family coming in town to see the baby so I didn’t miss a beat. I had been in the hospital giving birth of course and was kept extra time for preeclampsia. So there I was going on no sleep and ready to scrub down the shower. I had the bathroom window open hoping the fumes wouldn’t get to my new baby. I realize now I should have been using the time to rest and that our family was coming to help not to critique our shower. And it should have been clean enough after I was cleaning a week earlier while on “bed rest.”

So no matter how many articles I read on balancing work and family life, I just think it is a challenge. It’s a challenge to remember to take it easy on the cleaning. No matter how stuck I may feel I can’t be as stuck nor as sticky as the terribly confused creators of no-spill Sippy cups.