Thursday, July 7, 2016

grandparents and the boys of summer, part 2

I suspect that we are not alone in trying to find ways to engage kids these days, besides letting them spend hours on electronic devices, playing Minecraft or other games. That is the first question they wake up with - can we go on iPads?

We go to the library to borrow books, asking the boys to take turns reading out loud for a while.  Landen chose a book about the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.  Marcus started reading Lassie Comes Home to us, but got so engrossed that he finished the whole thing on his own.  Ethan loves books on dinosaurs and sharks, but has been practicing his reading with Dr. Seuss stories. 

We've taken advantage of children's movies offered by the library and the local movie theatres. Trevor Zoo is  a fun visit. Yesterday the boys went to Minnewaska with Al to swim. I have made lists of all the different short and long outings we might take with them and the schedules of local things offered on any given day. And then there is fort building in the backyard and art and science projects to try.

One of my favorite craft materials is cardboard tubes - mostly toilet paper rolls, some from paper towels or gift wrap.  You can see how Ethan and I used them a couple of years ago for some indoor exploration

This week I decided to take advantage of their love of Minecraft and invited them to make their own versions of monsters, endermen, etc.  They spent a couple of hours creating them, using tubes, straws, popsicle sticks, yarn, and tape.  I also found some small carpet and flooring squares at Home Depot that they've added to some of their scenarios. And since them they have spent hours playing with them, along with their Lego armies. It is so much fun to watch how they take simple recycled materials and turn them into hours of entertainment!

Monday, July 4, 2016

grandparents and the boys of summer, part 1

I haven't written a post for a long time.  It seems one thing after another has occupied my time - many pleasant or wonderful or necessary things, but nothing that I've felt compelled to share.  My summer occupation is something that might be of interest, however. 
Owing to various circumstances, we end up having two of my younger grandsons here for a good portion of the summer.  These are the boys, Marcus and Ethan, who moved away in January.  I have missed them terribly. We thought they'd come to visit us for a few weeks, but that has been extended.  And that comes with challenges.

I feel my age.  When you're young, you have energy for the non stop activity that is common to a 5 year old. At 71, not so much. I've tried to establish some built in rest periods in the afternoons - an hour when everyone needs to be quiet.  They can read, play with legos, take a nap - but no electronics, no movies. Once I've had this time to myself, I'm better able to handle the uptick of evening energy expenditures that seems to go on from 5 to 9:30 pm.

I am lonely.  My friends do not have young children.  Our socialization does not take place around kid activities. I feel cut off from many of the friends and events that nourish me.  I try to involve the kids in some of the things that are important to me - going to art exhibits that they might also like, exploring the natural world, visiting with friends who do enjoy kids. I do my meditations in short intervals - 5 minutes here, a 20 minute walking time there. Sometimes Al takes the boys out to a park for a few hours and then I get cleaning and a quiet meditation in. I am experimenting. I am remembering how it was to try to exercise and meditate and satisfy some of my needs when I was a young mother.  And I try to use these memories to increase my compassion for parents everywhere.

I find myself being envious - I think of people who have money to send their grandchildren to wonderful camps, who take fabulous vacations around the world, who might have things "easier".  But, of course, the minute you go there, if you are at all aware of anything, you have to get yourself off the damn pity pot to remember that you are very privileged.

These boys, and all of our grandchildren, are the loves of our lives.  We are very lucky. Some live close by. These two who are living away are here for a couple of months. How can we enjoy this gift?

That is the question that needs an answer now. I want to live into these days in a way that doesn't wish any of them away, but wants to be absolutely grateful for this precious time.

If you have any similar experiences and thoughts and insights - I would welcome them!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Exploring What We See with Seven Year Old

Landen was over the other day when school was closed and came up to the studio to chat.  He was looking around at some of the art on the walls and wanted to see what I was working on.  I showed him how I was playing with portrait sketches and paintings, trying to get closer to what I actually saw. 

He saw the self portrait I'd made by looking at myself in the mirror.  I asked if he'd like to give it a try and he agreed.  We set him up with a stool so he could reach the bathroom mirror and then he set to work.  I could see him initially drawing what he thought a face should look like and then making the transition to what he saw in terms of proportion and relationships.

When he finished, he'd drawn a self portrait that reminded me of Modigliani's work.  We went to the ipad and looked up those images;  he could see the style resemblance, too.

Modigliani"s Boy with Blue Eyes
He was clearly enjoying his success and wanted to draw some other things.  He spied a small carved rhinoceros I have and asked to use that.  We set it up on a box and he labored over that, finally getting discouraged and deciding he'd had enough - but he'd spent about 45 minutes on all the drawings.  The one rhinoceros he'd done had been a  pretty good replica - he'd gotten some critical line in it, but decided it wasn't right and did his own version, without looking as intently.  We talked about how a lot of drawing and painting require you to train your eye to see what is in front of you. And then you can change things around to show some other quality, to bring out your own style.

Being around kids as they explore art is just the most fun!  It deepens your own understanding when you try to explain something; and you relearn how to see through eyes that are less critical.  You enter into a more playful state - which is a wonderful thing!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Birthday Book for Mom

In the second week of Sketchbook Skool we played around with making small books.  I posted the first one that was made from an 8 1/2 by 11" sheet of paper, neatly folded and cut to make 8 pages.  It was perfect for my little caterpillar story. I showed that in an earlier post.
The second kind of book Jill Weber suggested was to use an accordion style folding; it offers a different way of telling a story. I decided to make a little celebration for my mom's upcoming birthday in April.

Our birthdays were always special - never over the top in extravagant gifts or outings; when I was young, finances didn't allow that kind of expenditure. But the generosity was clear in the attention to details. From being sung awake in the morning, to a favorite meal, followed by a sumptuous cake, you knew it was YOUR day.

I won't be able to visit mom for her birthday this year so I thought I'd send the party to her!

The Drink, The Balloons, The Fanfare, The Dance

The Cake, The Jive

The Bow, and the Salutation!

Altogether Now

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Miracles Every Day

February 4 is a particular day for me to recognize miracles all around me.

It is the birthday of my dear Marcus, who turns 11 today.  And it is the birthday of my good friend, Maggie who is 61. Both of these cherished people have had close calls - they might not have been here to celebrate this day.  That they are, feels miraculous.

Marcus with Ethan and Landen
Seven years ago, Marcus was in a near drowning accident.  Medical personnel estimated that he'd been underwater for about 5 minutes.  It was the most terrifying thing I have ever  experienced, with vivid memories of that day - of the fear, and also of the great kindnesses of people I've never seen again. Marcus not only survived; he is a very special child - he has a deep sense of compassion, a sensitivity that sometimes startles me.  Where did he get that wisdom?  And then he flips back into being a normal, funny, silly, moody, energetic kid.

Maggie in Rome
On the 16th of November, a Monday morning, Maggie and I had been planning our Thanksgiving dinner.  She had a big project at school so I didn't expect to hear from her for the rest of the week.  On Friday I received a call from a friend that Maggie had been taken to the hospital late the night before.  She had suffered a stroke, probably on that Monday, with three aneurysms that were leaking into her left brain.  Since she hadn't been found for several days, there were complications and the doctors weren't sure she'd survive. She underwent several surgeries over the next week and friends and family kept vigil. Once the doctors were able to remove the sedation, she gradually began to demonstrate signs of recovery. At this point she is undergoing rehabilitation, but each week brings return of function, progress that we can only marvel at.

Over a long period of time I have come to appreciate that we are constantly surrounded by miracles if we only choose to see them.  Albert Einstein said "There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle."  I go for a walk, I look out the window, I spend time in silence - and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Peter Mayer's music.  This one feels just right for today.

How about you?  What quietly or outrageously wondrous things are you experiencing?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tiny Books

This week in Sketchbook Skool we are making tiny books.  The teacher, Jill Weber, is an illustrator with a well established career in book illustration and makes the most intriguing little books for fun.  She showed us two different small books to try: an accordion book, using a long strip of paper and just folding it into many sections; and this other little book that I tried first, where I used an 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of paper and by folding and cutting, ended up with 8 pages to tell my story.

I chose this second one to start with. The tricky part is finding the right papers for these. You want it sturdy enough to handle the medium you will use, to be durable - and still to be able to take the folding.  I will have to play with this more.

I used a high quality office paper - but it buckled with my water colors.
And while these are meant to be done fairly quickly, I admit it took me most of my day!  But it was fun.
 I am happy to know how to make these because they would make sweet little gifts for friends and family.

Here's my little story.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sketching is Contagious

Here's another thing I learned when I started carrying around a sketchbook with me.  People like to see what you're finding so interesting that you want to draw it.  I've been journaling for a long time - there would be curiousity about that, too, but then folks would be disappointed when they saw there were no pictures on my pages. Once I started adding little drawings, I'd find that others would be inspired - "Oh, I should do something like that, too."  The fact that my drawings are less than professional might actually give them more license to give it a go.

One of the sweetest instances of this happened when one of our grandsons was staying with us for a while.  He was six.  One evening he was eating before he left to go to a t-ball practice.  I sat at the table with him to keep him company and he also set up his  stuffed animal friends around him.  I decided to sketch him.  He loved the picture and the attention.

The next evening as I was preparing dinner, he said "Don't look!"  and I stayed in the kitchen until he told me I could come out.  When he did call me, he proudly showed me his drawing. I was blown away by it.  He had captured so many elements around him - the cabinet behind him with the stemmed glasses and little figurines, the vase of spring flowers, the lamp, the spiral bound sketchbook on the table. He'd spent over half an hour laboring with the details. I had the feeling that he was claiming the space as his own - a place where he felt at home.  He continues to love to draw, to illustrate the stories that come from his imagination.

What is your experience with sketching or journaling?  Have you done any illustrated journaling? - I know a number of people who love to keep this kind of record of their trips, in particular.