29 February 2008

what did you do with your extra day?

i was hoping to write something up about leap day. about how, for the last leap day, some friends and fellow activists and i attempted to organize a public-space reclamation project by making art, sharing music and food, engaging in guerrilla gardening, and gathering without a permit in a little sliver of a city park in the heart of houston's montrose district. about how it rained cats and dogs for the entire day, and still, a few dozen folks turned out and gave it their best, and how my life was forever transformed by the experience--and how i have reason to believe i wasn't the only one.

on this leap day, however, after spending a quite lovely and relaxing day with my little family, i find that i have definitely come down with the respiratory cold/flu bug that's been going around, and i'm pissed because i already had a cold this season, and now i have days of feeling run down and snotty ahead of me, and so, i just don't feel much like writing.

hope yours was good.

27 February 2008

crank it

i have blogged about making pasta before. we haven't done it in awhile, not sure why exactly, since it is pretty easy, and very tasty. i decided to make some sunday. after i got the dough ready, and was setting up the hand-crank machine, cosmo came in and wanted to "see."

i showed him how to crank the handle, and he really got it, so we let him try it with the dough. he did great! he stood up there on that stool and cranked for 30 passes of rolling, plus 6 passes with the cutters. it was a lot of work, and he did all of it. all we did was guide the dough, and hang it up.

we don't have the elegant hanging area that we did at our old place, so we had to resort to hanging the noodles in the bathroom, which worked fine, and cosmo thought it was pretty funny.

he seemed really proud of his work, though sadly, he didn't eat much of the cooked noodles.

(BTW he's wearing pajamas in these photos because he was a little under the weather, and hadn't been out all day)

22 February 2008

that's where

in an earlier post i mused about where a maple cutting board might hide. i stumbled upon it a couple of nights ago, in the closet where the furnace lives, which kind of doubles (triples?) as an overflow pantry and broom closet. i had put it up there, months ago, to hold a bowl of rising bread dough, because it seemed like the warmest place in the house. of course, upon removing the bowl of dough, i completely forgot that i had ever used the cutting board for this ingenious purpose, and when searching for it, i know i looked in that closet, but i guess i didn't look up.

i still have not recovered that jar of honey though...

17 February 2008

what i don't say

i've been thinking about the way i write on this blog, what i write about, and, more specifically, what i don't write about. i don't mention the fact that both of us will be unemployed come june, and that we don't have a solid plan. i don't write about how complicated it is to deal with cosmo's biological father, and how conflicted i feel every time cosmo and i leave carl to go visit him and his family. i rarely write about my political convictions, how disturbed i am (on a daily basis) by the war in iraq, and the many crimes of the bush administration. i haven't mentioned who i plan to vote for in our primary in may. the blog is focussed on cosmo, and on being a mom, but i don't share my thoughts on the really heavy parts of motherhood, either.

in general, i hesitate to get too personal. i guess i am still getting used to the public nature of blogging. i actually don't mind much what strangers reading this might think of me, but i do care about what my friends think, and i have a hard time being open and vulnerable, in the same way, with anyone who knows me, who might be reading this blog. i don't know if i want everyone to know how insecure i feel about the thought of pursuing a career (finally) in architecture, and what a struggle it is for me to begin to put together a portfolio of my work. it is hard to admit that i still haven't lost the extra "baby weight," and how jealous i am of my friends who have. i don't like to expose how judgmental i can be about others (especially other parents) or my issues with comparative self-esteem.

i've kept a journal since i was 13 years old. for 27 years, writing has kept me sane, and helped me work through many difficult emotions and circumstances. but journal writing is private. and i still haven't worked out what it means to share my journal with the world. in fact, i can't do that. i still keep a journal, but it rarely makes it to the blog.

what's funny is that i find that the blogs i enjoy reading the most are the ones that dare to get personal. i want to hear the rants and complaints and self-effacing humor. it can make for really interesting reading. of course, it can also be tedious and self-indulgent. maybe that is what i fear?

i'd love to hear from others on this topic (whether you blog or not).

from the mouths of babes'

all three of us went through the cold cycle in recent weeks, which means there was a lot of coughing and sneezing. since we habitually "bless" cosmo any time he sneezes, he learned to say "bless you" to us too. however, when cosmo says "bless you" it comes out "bock you" which is hilarious, but doesn't sound quite like a blessing.

bock you too, cosmo.

16 February 2008

my bragging post

let's start with me.
i discovered that i can patch wool sweaters with felt! it is so easy, and looks pretty good. i don't knit, so i've never been able to repair knitted clothing before. now, using the simple needle-felting technique, i've patched my favorite wool sweater, a friend's wool gloves and carl's "ol' greeny." it is not a perfect patch, but it looks better than a hole. it feels great to give these treasured items another life. here's a before and after:

next, there's carl.
carl gave a public talk at IU last week, as a visiting professor in the history and philosophy of science department. our neighbor babysat so i could go the the colloquium. carl was great. i was able to follow along through details of 6th century christian philosophy, and he made it interesting and compelling to listen to. he's really good at what he does. i can see why his students get so psyched about aristotle, or the history of skepticism. it was fun to see him up there being carl, talking like carl does, about things we don't normally talk about.

finally, cosmo.
besides being incredibly sweet-spirited almost all of the time, he has also learned his whole alphabet! he doesn't really sing the ABC song yet, but he has known all 26 letters since some time before xmas. the motivation came from him. he's been very interested in letters for a long time (maybe it was our fridge magnets, or sesame street?), and now he can identify and name each one consistently. his current favorite letter is W. he finds letters everywhere, and when we are reading, he'll point out all the letters in a word, and then say the word, but only if he already knows what it is, like YELLOW, or BLUE in a book about colors. still, i like to call it pre-reading. he's known his basic shapes and colors for a long time now. he really likes triangles, and will make the shape with his fingers. in my last post, i said that blue was cosmo's favorite color, but lately he seems really into gray (must be an architect's child). he can count to thirteen, though he often tries to skip over 5. he wants to count everything. i'm very impressed with all this, because it is not something i expected. when he showed an interest, of course we nurtured it, but it just seems to be something he is into. he also enjoys jigsaw puzzles, and anything involving searching and matching.

ok. i'll stop bragging now.

15 February 2008

some/thing blue

this is the last in the some/thing blog party series, and mine has focused on toys.

i got the idea to make a bean bag game for sylvan for his birthday, and i let cosmo try it out first. he enjoyed it so much, i made one for him. i painted the box all blue, because it is cosmo's favorite color. he likes it, but gets frustrated if he can't get the bean bag in the hole every single time.

carl and i have much more patience. we have had several tournaments of our own in the evenings after cosmo has gone to bed. first one to get 21 wins, but you have to win by 2. it is challenging, and surprisingly fun for us. something about the bean bag, it just feels good in the hand. cosmo always asks us to "opent it" because he loves to play with dried beans.

i have really enjoyed participating in this series. it has pushed me to post daily, and i've checked out a lot of the other participating blogs. hats off to robin at the other mother, for such a great idea.

14 February 2008

some/thing borrowed

day three in robin's party, which, by the way, is in celebration of "freedom to marry week."

a couple of weeks ago we babysat our next door neighbor sylvan for part of an afternoon. it was the day after his third birthday, and so he brought over one of the presents he got: two toy monster trucks. cosmo and sylvan played with them a bit, and even had a little squabble over one of them, but ultimately sylvan was more interested in exploring cosmo's toy collection, so they were put aside. when sylvan's dad picked him up, they accidentally left them behind.

later that night, after cosmo was in bed, carl and i found ourselves setting up ramps with books, revving up the trucks and letting them loose to collide into each other. they are not the kind of toys i'd think to get for cosmo, but boy, did we have fun with them! these things are light and springy, with rubber tires, they climb walls and flip and crash.

it must have fulfilled some lost childhood fantasy of mine. i wasn't a super girly-girl as a child, but i didn't really play with cars and trucks much. i remember one time, getting a hold of a metal pick-up truck of my brother's, and playing with it all over the living room floor for hours. it sticks in my mind as this wonderful memory of discovering that something i wasn't used to playing with, that belonged in the domain of boys, could be really enjoyable. i've always carried around a slight feeling of regret, that i didn't do it again. well, not until my late twenties, when i worked construction and got to drive around a real live bobcat skid loader in the mud once in while.

we reluctantly returned the monster trucks to sylvan the next day.

13 February 2008

some/thing new

the second installment for robin's some/thing blog party.

one of the gifts cosmo got for his belated xmas was a little people zoo. he got it from the same aunt who gave him a little people garage last year. the zoo is part of the next level in the fisher price collection, i guess, which means it has "educational value." there are 26 animals, each with a letter printed somewhere on its body. it comes with a mat, and various molded plastic zoo props. printed on the mat is a path with each of the letters of the alphabet, and a picture of the animal. when you press the A spot on the mat, it says "A" then, " Alligator begins with A" if you press it again, it makes an alligator sound. for animals that don't make recognizable sounds, like giraffes, there is a munching sound, or, for the x-ray fish, swishing water. there is also an image of water on the pad, which makes a splash sound when pressed.

my complaints about this toy are many. first of all, the design flaws: 1) most of the animals do not fit into the little alcoves carved out in the zoo structures (the jaguar, the one exception, is pictured above, peeking out of the "tree"). 2) if you line up all the animals in order, on the path on the pad, they barely fit, and it is almost impossible to use the animal itself (as intended) to press the button. this leads to mild frustration for two year olds. 3)the plastic waterfall is almost useless. animals don't slide down it in a satisfying way, and though it kind of opens, and animals can drop down into it, most of them get stuck. annoying. 4)there is a little perch on top of the main structure that opens up, but it's not clear why, and no animal can fit inside. the thing that bothers carl the most is that some animals have other little animals attached to them, but they can't be removed. for instance, there is a bird on top of the hippo, and the penguin has some baby penguins permanently melded to its body. this asinine feature is in keeping with the other little people, who have things like wrenches in their hands, or cell phones, depending on which set they came with.

as xta has already pointed out in her post from last year on the subject of little people, these figures are fat. the animals are chunky and, in my opinion, overly cute and cartoony. they don't teach the child much about animal identification. it's not that i think all representations in a child's world of objects should be realistic. i really appreciate a lot of the abstract and imaginative renderings in many of the children's books we have, and cosmo's favorite plush toy is a piece of toast with arms, legs and a big toothy grin. but i really believe there is more value in playing with animal figures that look like animals instead of marshmallows with smiley faces. case in point: ostrich. one of the most important features of an ostrich, for distinguishing them from many other birds, is their wacky proportions. they have these rather large bodies, stretched out necks, tiny heads, and long skinny legs. not according to fisher price. just take a look at their version of an ostrich. sorry to belabor the point, but an ostrich does not have short chubby legs--by definition!

cosmo has another collection of animal figures that justin gave him last year. they are much more realistic, and cosmo has enjoyed many hours of play with these, and, i'm sure will continue to incorporate them into his "work" for years to come. as a comparison, here is the ostrich from that collection. it looks kind of like an ostrich. weird.

for his part, cosmo likes the little people zoo just fine. in fact, he plays with it a lot. he has tried to put each and every animal into the little tree alcove, and seems sad that only one of them fits inside. he likes the letter aspect of it, because he's into letters right now, and he's enjoyed arranging, directing and pretending with small figures for some time. but i feel certain that he'd like it just as much if the animals looked like...well, animals.

12 February 2008

some/thing(s) old

robin at the other mother had an idea for a series of posts she's calling some/thing. anyone who joins in will write a post today about something old, tomorrow on something new, and the next day something borrowed, the final day, something blue. i like the idea of "community blogging," so i'll give it a go.

my series centers on toys.
we celebrated a late christmas, with cosmo's relatives in wichita falls. as usual, cosmo was inundated with new toys. i hate to be ungrateful, but i often don't agree with their choices, and it annoys that they don't consult with me, or if they do, they ignore my suggestions and get him something they think he should have. they all seem to be in competition to get him what will instantly become his "favorite toy." one of his aunts this year was fretting over what to get him, though she had already told me she had some of her old toys she wanted to pass on to cosmo because her daughter wasn't into them. i tried to tell her that those old toys would be perfect, and she should not bother to go out and get something new, but of course she did. i guess she doesn't think it's right to wrap used things in pretty paper. she gave cosmo 3 new toys, beautifully wrapped, and then off to the side, she handed me this cardboard box full of fisher price little people (and accessories) from the 1970's. how could she mistake the real treasure here!?!

cosmo likes all the stuff he got. at first i thought he liked the vintage little people best of all, but now i have to admit that isn't really true. it is true for me. when i hold those small, minimalist renderings of human beings, the guy with the green peg body, and the sort of balding head, i am taken back to my childhood in such a visceral way. it's as if these little bits of plastic are a part of me, due to the countless hours spent imitating and constructing worlds for the characters, in the yellow trim house we had for them. cosmo's aunt gave us items that i didn't have as a child, (a wind up music box ferris wheel, for instance) but they still feel familiar to me. the graphics are the same style as the yellow trim house, and i wouldn't be surprised if one of my friends had some of this stuff. the ferris wheel doesn't work reliably, but it is still a lot of fun, as are the buses, cars, and playground equipment. the buses have strips of thin masonite against the wheel axles, which produce a satisfying rattle, and make the people go "up and down," (just like the bus song). i believe i am even more appreciative of these relics from the past because i truly despise the updated versions of fisher price little people. but i'll save my tirade for tomorrow's post. in the mean time, you can check out what xta has to say on the topic.

10 February 2008

cabin fever

since indiana has a proper winter, it is often too cold to spend much time playing outside. cosmo really needs physical activity every day, as i think most kids do. so, we enrolled him in a swim class at the YMCA, which he and i really love. he is learning to relax on his back, blow bubbles, and he paddles his arms and kicks like a pro.

cosmo has also invented his own form of daily exercise: he runs laps around the loop of rooms that we call home. i learned about the power of "broadcasting" from our friend jane, in houston, so i act as the announcer at a race track with the sole contestant being cosmo. i narrate his journey down the hall, round the bend, through the kitchen, across the living room and back to the hall. we sometimes count the laps, he'll often pause to jump over a threshold, plunk a few keys of the piano, or touch the bird poster.

this is a nightly, pre-bath activity, so as he makes his laps, various articles of clothing are removed until he is finally a naked streaker on the track. he loves this part the most, and will just keep running lap after lap, grinning, laughing, wearing himself out. for the final few laps, carl picks him up and he runs in air, "ladies and gentleman, our contestant is now airborne, he can fly! the crowd goes wild!" the whole affair concludes with a splash into the tub.

04 February 2008

into the void

...Before I'd traveled half a block
i spied the needle Mother dropped
(mending my dress two nights before--
we'd searched for hours on the floor),
the card that always disappears
(we haven't played Old Maid for years),
pennies I'd carried in my shoes,
the silver dimes I always lose,
bread crusts I'd hidden, hard as wood,
the puzzle pieces gone for good,
things worn or wished on, old or lost,
roses astonished by the frost,
the snails and numbers, stars and sheep
my mother counts to fall asleep...
from The Tale I Told Sasha by Nancy Willard

we always seem to be losing things: a couple of cosmo's DVDs, countless marbles, mittens and socks, carl's favorite wool sweater "Ol' Greeny," which we eventually found. for a while, a Microphone's album was missing from it's jacket, but we discovered it later in another record sleeve. some of these things are obviously easy to lose, but a jar of honey? most puzzling is the medium-sized maple wood cutting board, which has been missing for a month. it's a small house, with not a lot of nooks and crannies, and we have searched every conceivable place it could be, on numerous occasions. where does a cutting board hide?