Friday, October 31, 2014


We have been collecting ideas and accessories for Halloween costumes for weeks now.  And laying them out in piles for each child on the Deacon's Bench.  

But ready for Halloween, we were not.  And I have to admit, getting behind this candy centered holiday is a bit difficult for me.  

But this year, I became more of a believer.  The kids and I put a solid and only slightly frantic afternoon of costume creating in. Just one grown up and three children in need of a good deal of last minute help made for a busy afternoon.  But the kids, knowing this, all helped each other with ideas and getting ready.  Laughing, offering suggestions, attempting to convince someone that a wig feeling a bit yicky was well worth it for the visual effect (to no avail unfortunately, because it really was an awesome flower child wig).  And also, in the end, the fabulous bandana thrift store dress and peace sunglasses were abandoned as well.  And with some help from the internet (don't, by the way, allow your daughter to google hippie costumes without a bit of supervision) and a lot of time digging through the the dress up bin and pulling from the scrap fabric basket, we had ourselves some pretty fun costumes.

Yup.  That's Elliott in his footie pajamas on the left.  And Julia, on the right.  About to discover the genre of hippies that might lean toward risque.  

It was the kind of afternoon when I suddenly found myself drawing a six pack with orange chalk on to my 13 year old's felt tunic.  To make the whole Spartan thing seem more authentic.  

I included nipples.  Because it amused me.  And him.  Nicholas felt I had made him appear a bit saggy.  Ah well.  We draw what we know.  The cape took care of this problem for him.

Next up?  Rainbow striped overalls. Of course.

Spartans are a very helpful dressers.

Julia ended up wearing none of the things that we had collected prior to the day, and went with her typical understated costume style.  Nothing pokey, pulley, itchy, or in any way uncomfortable.  And sensible shoes, so she could run and keep up with friends when out in the hood.  Jonathan got home just in time to try braiding Julia's actual hair...which didn't really work out between them and I jumped in while he put out the candy bowl.  

We threw in some pumpkin carving.

And kept adding just a bit more, as the afternoon progressed.

In the end, one Spartan, one Flower Child who looked a good deal like her real life self, and one excitable clown had a very lovely time trick or treating with friends.  Meanwhile, their parents, Man in Weird Goblin Mask with disturbing hair and Lily with her Purple Plastic Purse enjoyed walking them from house to house with friends.

And what I learned is that actually hippies, clowns and even Spartans have more in common costume-wise than I would have guessed.  I guess we were just building cultural understanding.  One rainbow stripe at a time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

all eyes on the kite

This weekend with family, we flew a kite at the beach.

Over and over again.

I watched as each child, and most of the grownups there, took turns throwing the kite up and into the air and then having their own turns trying to fly it.

There was something about that time on the beach, the sun out and glinting off the ocean.

When all the sibling and cousin and family relationships played themselves out so quietly and beautifully on the sand, working together to get it to fly, with all eyes on the kite.

I breathed deeply, of what could be one of our last days on the beach before winter.

And the tide came in.

This week I am writing.  And for me, reading a great deal comes along with this.  I read good things, by wonderful writers, missives they have sent out into the world.  Things that make me think and feel and question.

Here are some of the ones I am enjoying today:

A mild suspension of effort, by Jamie Passaro
In its infancy, by Terry Barr
The ugly side of pretty, by Amanda Rose Adams
Is this a golden age for women essayists? by Cheryl Strayed
This is eleven, by Lindsey Mead, and all the ones to come in the This is Adolescence series

And also, googling about concussions in sports and social media use in children and thoughts on homework loads....of course.

A few of the books I am reading are:

How to Catch a Frog, by Heather Ross
Pigs Can't Swim, by Helen Peppe
Landline, by Rainbow Rowell

Yes, three.  I know, it's all mixed up and wacky up in there this week.
And he would read them in a mixed-together, sandwichy sort of way, which is really rather a sensible way of reading.
Kenneth Grahame, The Reluctant Dragon

So far, I have done more reading than writing, but I think the process is going on in there, in my mind.  My eyes are on other people's writing, other people's thoughts and hopes and toys, sent out into the air and riding up into the wind.  While my own thoughts swirl around and form within me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

open sky

Today, our first day of sun in over a week.  We followed the sun through the sky, from sunrise to sunset.

Friday, October 24, 2014

better without the words

A big thank you to the Twitter world, and to the Eric Carle Museum, for providing me this link this morning.  A Book Without Pictures, by B.J. Novak, engages the reader, makes the reader a performer, for the entertainment of the listeners, whether it be themselves, or someone else.  

The link came in as I was writing this post, about, well, the opposite.  About the books in which there are pictures but no words.  Or very few words.  Or words so small that you almost don't notice them.  Or at least choose not to notice them.  If that's how you roll.

Which, but the way, is exactly how Elliott rolls.

This morning, as we were rushing out the door for school, he did a quick evasive maneuver dodge under my arm as I was pulling the kitchen door shut behind me and ran back inside.  He didn't answer me when I called after him, oh so lovingly, where are you going?

I breathed. Rearranged the rain filled and scattered dog dishes.  And waited.  He returned, zipping something inside his raincoat.  

What is it?

He pulled out the item.  Held it up.  Owly.  And then stuffed it back down inside.

He skipped down the walkway, paused at a huge puddle, bent his knees, and jumped purposefully and perfectly into the middle of the puddle, and then dove into the car.

Halfway through our drive to school, while running the spelling of Spanish adjectives for today's quiz with Julia and while Nicholas Googled how to spell gist since he might be needing to make use of that word during his English test today, all the while offering thoughts about appropriate Halloween costumes, I heard the familiar sound of a book closing, from Elliott's seat right behind me.

All done?

It's too short, he moaned.

We dropped Nicholas and Julia in the bus circle then parked and sat for a few minutes talking together.

I like how the Owly books have all the funny expressions.  Like ugh.  And sigh.  

And how he shows what Owly is thinking about without having to say it.  Like here, where he shows a picture of his mother and father with a question mark.  I know he is wondering where they are.

Yup. We had ourselves a little impromptu book talk, he and I, right there in the car.  

Then we walked into school together.  Elliott's teacher has an amazing collection of children's books and we spend most mornings reading one together until the chime rings.  It is a very good way to start the day.

For the past few mornings, we have been reading Benjamin Chaud's The Bear's Sea Escape and The Bear's Song.  I can't tell you how much we both love these books.  But we do.  The pictures are of the variety that make me want to stroke the pages lovingly.  My apologies, to Elliott's teacher. 

There is sort of a Richard Scarry find Goldbug theme to each glorious page.  And that's just what Elliott and I do.  

I am particularly fond of the endpapers of The Bear's Song.  Chaud even got the one forgotten unhatched brood chamber in the honeycomb right.  I like that.

This morning, in our last few minutes together, Elliott and I looked at this page.

And followed with our fingers the tracks of Papa Bear and Little Bear in the snow on the rooftops.  We didn't need words to be giggling about the story told in those tracks.  We particularly liked the bear bottom plop mark.  

Sometimes you don't need all those words to be entertained, to read a good story that makes you jump right in with your eyes even when it is noisy all around you, to walk your way through a day, and to say goodbye.

After all, hibernation is better with honey.  And adventure is best enjoyed together. 
The Bear's Song, by Benjamin Chaud

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

mess in the atelier

Although we did not come close to achieving those impossible ideals, still the atelier has always repaid us. It has, as desired, proved to be subversive – generating complexity and new tools of thought. It has allowed rich combinations and creative possibilities among the different (symbolic) languages of children.
The Hundred Languages of Children, 
Loris Malaguzzi

Our children's school has a small art gallery.  And currently, in the gallery is an exhibit where students, teachers, and families can spend time creating, making their own art, adding to the work left behind by others, using the space and the materials beautifully displayed and prepared to explore art together.

We have spent a great deal of time in the exhibit, so perfectly does it allow us to spend brief moments waiting for a sibling here, passing a few in between minutes there, alone and with one of my children.  The kids can show us what they have done during visits with their classes and friends.  And we can continue something that was started by another, or return to something we began a few days before.

With the colder weather upon us, and the days upon days of rain this week, we have been feeling the need to nest, tidy, bring out the indoor activities and art supplies and games that have sat neglected for months, while we were outdoors playing in the dirt.

There was much that needed to be sorted and tamed.  I handed Jonathan this knotted ball of embroidery floss the other night while he was on a Google Hang Out and whispered, do you need this?  As a metaphor for something?

I am finding myself leaving collections of carefully chosen materials, sorted and ordered here and there.  Always near the woodstoves.  To see what they decide to create with them.  And what I will create with them.

We will never be as tidy as the art gallery.  But there is good stuff pouring out already.  And months and months ahead of us for more possibilities and expressions.

But what I find, as I walk around our inside space and look at the bits and pieces left behind, is that sometimes, the mess?

It's necessary.  And just as beautiful, with its complexities and struggles and workings apparent, as the intended result.