Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Membership has its rewards

Now that a single adult admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is $18, I finally caved and got a two-year family membership. Astrid likes to spend time there---though, really, her idea of "spending time" is racing past every painting in a gallery, taking a 30-second rest on a bench, and moving on to the next room. That is, of course, unless she has a sketchbook....then she's likely to stand in front of a single piece for up to ten minutes.

Yesterday I forgot to take her sketchbook out of my backpack before I checked it, so we were in racing mode---right up until our last minute in the museum, when she was completely wiped out. That's when I got this picture of her.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Astrid and the Bike are Now Friends

After struggling to admit that she really *does* know how to ride a bike without an adult holding the back of her t-shirt, Astrid gives in to her own expertise and rides independently. We are very proud of her, and thankful to Elliot for riding up and down the block with her for an hour yesterday (she's not allowed to go around the block without a grownup).

T-Ball pictures

I took these pictures of Astrid the Astro (and her biggest booster, Elliot) a couple of weeks ago. I especially like the shot of the team huddling with Coach Ernie--he's an excellent teacher, and he ends every game by inviting the girls to chase him around the bases. "Chasing Ernie" has quickly become a treasured ritual.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And I came tumbling after....

Last night I slipped on our (wet) back steps....my goodness, did it hurt. I am spending the day in bed, on my side, because neither sitting nor standing (for more than a minute or so) is an option.

I'll be missing a daylong "retreat" at work tomorrow--not something I was looking forward to, but certainly it would have been much better than the fix I now find myself in.

I have a view of fluttering maple leaves outside my window, and I can hear the cars zooming down the street, and the birds singing, and the psycho squirrels squabbling on the roof overhead. In a minute or two, I'll hear the kids walking home from school; Astrid will go to her caregiver's house as she usually does. Later she has a t-ball game, which I will sorely miss (no pun intended, believe me....)

Otherwise....I was able to get Netflix to work on my laptop, so I watched a good documentary on Petey Greene, the African-American talk show host and civil rights activist from the 60s-early 80s. I'd like to find a way to work the film into my spring 2010 seminar on cultural capital and advanced literacies. I also watched parts of a couple of films on Joe McCarthy and the Statue of Liberty--neither one was as gripping as Petey Greene.

I'd like to sleep, but I can't get comfortable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I found a writer to read

My children are frequently puzzled by the fact that I don't like to read fiction all that much, especially since I'm an English professor with a special interest in narratology. I love to teach fiction, but I don't like to read it. I'd rather read about history or politics or medicine (best of all: the political history of medicine!), or about how to make things.

As part of the research I'm doing on body image, motherhood, and DIY culture, though, I have been looking at some creative nonfiction by women writers. This morning, I came across the writing of Susan Ito, a blogger and the fiction co-editor at Literary Mama magazine. (I ask myself why I've been assiduously avoiding Literary Mama for so long---is it my busman's holiday thing [I don't want to read literary stuff when I'm not officially working]? Is it my sense of inadequacy at being an academic writer rather than a "real writer" [a distinction that my mom made back when I was in graduate school. I don't think she still sees my work that way, though I haven't asked her]?)

Susan Ito is a wonderful writer, and Literary Mama is an excellent publication. I'm very glad that today I found both of them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I miss CRAFT

I've been meaning to blog about this for a while, and now that I'm trying hard to avoid writing the article that I'm supposed to be completing, it's probably the perfect time to do so. I miss the printed version of CRAFT magazine. Even though some of the projects were dumb (I'm putting this nicely), I loved seeing what people were coming up with. I learned to embroider by reading CRAFT--an outcome that I think was worth the price of my subscription, given the halo of serenity I've learned to create for myself while embroidering (at baseball games, on airplanes, while playing seemingly unending board games with my fractious children....).

The columns (especially Susie Bright's) were often really good, and even when I disagreed with them, they helped me think through some of the theoretical issues that handwork constantly raises for me (like the blurry relationship between "art" and "craft" [something Jennifer New has been writing about], connections between handwork and environmental sustainability, the power of handwork to nurture social relationships and communities, etc.).

I wanted to be excited about getting issues of CRAFT's sister publication, MAKE, in place of CRAFT....but so far, MAKE doesn't grab me. I generally ignored articles about electronics in CRAFT, and there's a lot more of these (plus lots of computer stuff) in MAKE. On the up side, Elliot seems somewhat interested in these features, especially now that he's learning more advanced stuff about computer programming from his father.

I sure hope Threads never goes out of business. That would be a really, really sad day for me....

Monday, April 27, 2009

The swine flu is not at our house (I don't think)

I'm thinking we took our trip to Mexico at *just* the right moment...the weather was great, and no one was wearing masks. We're now five days back, so the incubation period is just closing out, and while I have a cold, I know it's not the flu! (We had the plain-old flu three weeks ago....not something you can mistake for something else.)

Still, I'm half expecting the State Department to call us and tell us that we are quarantined. Having experienced a quarantine many years ago (when I had measles in graduate school), I know that public officials do-not-fool-around when it's time to isolate the agents of infection in their communities.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back in Chicago

A tiny bit hungover from our trip---yes. I feel really, really tired....a bit grouchy....overwhelmed by how much work there is to do....but every time I look at one of our pictures or goodies from Guanajuato, I feel a tiny spring in my step again.

Here are the two collages I worked on in Guanajuato. The one of Elliot in the Jardin Union is 8 1/2 x 11, while the view of Guanajuato is 6 x 8 (I think). I have more work to do on the Jardin collage

Tonight I got to see Astrid's second t-ball game of the season--Elliot and I missed the first because we were in Mexico. Astrid bounces around on the field, trying to be in "ready position," and succeeding about 80% of the time. (The other 20% is spent twirling around or trying to catch the words of the other team's cheers so that she can repeat them for us.) She stopped the ball a couple of times and made a run, and the Astros won their second game. (I make it sound like there's a direct cause-and-effect relationship between Astrid's performance and the outcome....there's probably *some* relationship, but when the score is 25-23, it's hard to find a single heroine to praise....)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seis Dias en Guanajuato

Elliot and I are getting ready to return to Chicago from an absolutely wonderful trip to Guanajuato, a colonial-era city in central Mexico. We did a lot of touristy things (though we did *not* go to the Museo de Momias--the Mummy Museum). Most of the time, though, we just hung out--either in public gardens, or on the patio of the amazing bed and breakfast where we stayed (Casa Zuniga--check it out). Together we played many games of Scrabble (Elliot won all but one) and read; on our own we played computer games (Elliot) or embroidered and made art (me). We had only one day where our tummies were treasonous; the rest of the time, we felt fine (though our feet have been tired from the get-go, as Guanajuato is a city of hills and many, many stairs!)

I'll try later to post pictures of the collages I did this week....can't get anymore pics to load tonight.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A spring "break" for the record books

Today's the last day of the kids' spring break. We had great plans: a nature walk, a trip to the Loop, bowling, a nice lunch out. Astrid, though, came down with a fever on Saturday night; the nurse told us to bring her in, because she had scarlet fever symptoms. Happily, the strep culture came back negative, and the dr. said she had the flu (a.k.a. "La Grippe"). Unhappily, Elliot and I have it now, and the spring break is officially a bad memory. Wow, I'm sick.

Since I last posted, I've gotten a lot of writing done (none this week, of course): 26 pp. and counting. It looks like this article is turning into two. I'm eager to feel better, have a quiet house, and get a lot more writing done.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sometimes retail therapy is OK

I'm finally getting over the stupid cold that has had me down for about 10 days. I've been writing intermittently while I've been sick, but it hasn't been going well, and the thought of sitting in front of the computer all morning just made me want to fuss and whine....so I went shopping. I did the chore shopping first (Target), and then made my way to the fabric store around 9:45....a *great* time to be at Hancock's on a Thursday. I was even able to get my hands on the Simplicity catalog without having a line of people glaring at me from behind.

I brought my coupons so that I could pretend I was getting some great deals...and, as it turned out, I got some great deals. I picked up some intriguing 60" blue shirting (it's not that often that you read "intriguing" and "Hancock's" in the same posting, is it?) at 40% off $3.95. I got 6 yards of it, washed it as soon as I got home, and cut out my first (of many, I hope) pair of Folkwear churidar pants (#119--the Sarouelles package). They took about 2 yards, so I think I can get a kurta (tunic) and possibly a couple of long-sleeve blouses for Astrid out of the rest of it.

(If you're wondering about the picture, I went looking for an image of a kurta and this is the first thing that came up. I dig this guy's sunglasses and no-nonsense pose. I don't, however, plan to make a kurta like his, awesome as it is).

My plan tomorrow is to use sewing time as an incentive to get some more serious writing done. (If I could only get past the 12 page mark--I'm at about 8--I'd feel like I was getting somewhere!)

Oh, yeah, I guess I should also say that I refashioned five of my old, stretched out, stained, or otherwise wrong knit shirts into spring/summer shirts for Astrid. I did two last night and three this afternoon. I'm getting my mojo back, I think.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Alka Seltzer cocktail time

I've got a cold. If I were a truly strong person, I would try to do the writing that needs to get done, but I am a sleepy, achy person. I'm sitting on the couch listening to republicans on NPR debate whether Rush Limbaugh is or isn't the head of the party....geez, I must really be sick, because I can't even get up to turn it off. (Here's an example of what I'm hearing: though FDR's economic policies were a complete failure, he successfully "captured the imagination" of Americans, and that's why a lot of people still think [mistakenly] that he was a good president. If Obama's misbegotten policies aren't a complete flop, they say, it will be because he "captures the imagination" of people who aren't bright enough to understand that they've completely given away their liberty.)

I think I'd rather watch Aqua-Globe commercials....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

That's the best cookie I ever read....

I'm stuck at home with something like the flu, so I've spent too much time on Craftster, just a-lookin' around. I have to pass this cool, cool project on: "Greats of Russian Literature Rendered in Gingerbread." My favorite comment on this project is this: "I fully approve of history-related baking." ME TOO!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Using the Museum

Yesterday the kids and I went to the Field Museum, Chicago's gigantic natural history and conservation resource. We'd had a *long* long weekend, in part because Astrid had half-days at school on both Thursday and Friday, so I was frayed and a bit daunted by the prospect of schlepping out to the Field. But we did it--drove to the parking garage by the CTA, got on the train and waited in the cold wind for a bus--and we were all glad we did.

Elliot had been to the Field most recently and was eager to take us through the Aztec and Evolving Worlds exhibits. I love seeing just how much he retains about topics that excite him, and how clearly he explains difficult concepts to Astrid--who, in turn, is hungry to catch up with her brother in all things scientific.

About midway through our visit, Astrid decided that she was ready to do some drawing--which was Elliot's and my cue to step away from her (without taking our eyes off her). She made some lovely quick ink sketches of animals in the very old taxidermy exhibits. (It took her a while to really understand the status of the specimens she was studying--they looked very alive to her, though they weren't moving, and she was understandably disturbed when she put two and two together--these animals had been killed by or for scientists long before she was even born. When we discussed older ideas about how people might study the creatures around them, she seemed to forgive them...an interesting moment to share with her.)

I hope we can get back to the Field soon (I got a membership to increase the chances that we will). I learned from my mother, who earned her BFA at the Museum School in Boston, that museums are places for people to study and work--not places for people to stand in awe of discoveries made by other folks. I'm happy to pass this idea on to our next generation of scientists and artists.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The tablecloth campaign--first encounter

The nice Martha Stewart cotton tablecloths I bought several years ago are finally so oily and disreputable that they make me think of the greatcoat worn by Turkey, the choleric scrivener in Melville's story about Bartleby. The last straw--and I confess that I did little to prevent the cloth's demise--was that Astrid and I made our gloriously glitter-gluey Valentines on it last week, so now the tablecloth is oily, glittery, and stiff.

Today, having gotten frustrated with the writing I was supposed to do, I switched gears by making a new tablecloth. I used a big chunk of the extra-wide light-blue linen blend that I've been eager to get out of my stash, and rather than hemming it, I used narrow, double-fold bias tape in forest green. It's nothing special--but I like having several cotton tablecloths ready for use at any given time, so style ain't all that important. I'll probably make a couple others, perhaps one out of an ill-conceived quilt top (backed by an old bedsheet, to improve the drape of the cloth, and maybe one from some unbleached muslin. Given what slobs we are in my family, they won't be stainfree for long, so I don't want to put a lot of work in them. (For example, I'm tempted to stamp them with fabric paint, but I'd probably rather use the time I'd spend embellishing one tablecloth by making a couple more.)

I haven't seen a lot of tablecloths I want to buy lately, and the ones I like are usually at least $25, so I think homemade ones are probably a decent deal.

Lay down the drawbridge!

I never get picture order right when I upload photos, so the chronology is out of wack here....but the bottom picture shows Astrid's tooth in the hours before it fell out, and the top one shows her minutes after the tooth fell. Two interesting facts: her grown-up tooth had been sitting there, all ready to go, for at least a month, before the obstinate little baby tooth finally decided to go.

The other interesting fact, which says much more about Astrid's odd imagination than about anything else, is that she started referring to the baby tooth as "her drawbridge" in the last week or so. She liked pushing it down so that it touched her bottom lip, and then she'd imagine all the tiny horses and knights that could get into her "castle"--*if* she let them.

The last thing I should point out is that the mess on her face is chocolate, not blood. I just couldn't wait to get her post fall-out picture taken. It was just an excellent moment for the whole family.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Puddles and tears

We're having one of those unseasonably warm winter days--which we totally deserve--and the dirty, gray snow is finally melting. Astrid enjoyed splashing in the huge puddles on our sidewalk. This was certainly the high point of a day that has been full of Astrid's emotional ups and downs....actually, brief ups followed by deep, long downs. A trying day.

On days like this, I like to think of one of my favorite King Pleasure songs, "Tomorrow's Another Day." To be honest, it's been such a tough day that I can't even remember the words to the song, and the Internet's not helping! I'm sure I'll remember the words tomorrow....

Sigh. I can't even get our puddle pictures to load. Maybe tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A new start

OK--I've been away from this blog for a really, really long time--since almost the end of my fall semester. I was wrapping up my grades, then hurrying to prepare for Christmas, then enjoying time with my mother, and, finally, ramping up the research project I'm working on this term.

I've decided that, with the new start provided by the Obama inauguration, I can honorably grant myself a new start as a responsible and sociable blogger. Here goes!