Thursday, December 24, 2009


My "studio"

(Which doubles as the dining room and the office and is also a place for Auden to drive a tractor) This photo is so sweet that it's going to make me recall this work-space fondly and romantically, so let the record show that I need twice as much space, twice as much light, and five times as much shelving as I have now. Until then all this restriction makes me a better artist, right? RIGHT?

Merry Christmas, everybody! Happy New Year! Here's to 2010, may it be full of creativity and space.

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Friday, December 11, 2009


No time to write... Here are some pics of a recent burst of activity:

Friday, November 27, 2009

And, Or

I know you've been waiting with bated breath for the exciting conclusion of my San Diego painting... and now, after more than two years, I do believe it is finished. Let me take you way back before I unveil the final product.

Here is the original inspiration -- a seedy-looking shop on El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego:

Here is where I started:

And here is where I left off a few months ago:

I couldn't stand the flowers, almost immediately after I'd painted them. I'm embarrassed to admit how much time I spent looking for images, drawing them, enlarging them, transferring them to the canvas, and then painting them... Maybe only my friend Amie, who once watched me spend an equally embarrassing amount of time painting life-like cowrie shells onto a different piece, can guess how long it took. At least those cowrie shells made the final cut. These flowers, on the other hand, really had to go:

I firmly believe that every step in the painting serves the painting somehow. For this piece, I'd really wanted to achieve that layered look I see on brick and concrete walls everywhere -- a result of shop owners trying to stay ahead of the graffiti. Really the only way to get that look is to paint over some shit you don't like, so there you go.

I started liking it again after some thin washes of cover-up, and blobs of light and dark paint here and there. Then I added a branch of eucalyptus leaves, which suited it much better than the silly cactus flower:

I kept looking at it and thinking that it still needed something in that space where the big "F" used to be. This is what stumped me for so long.

Finally I decided to stop thinking so much and to just do something. Hands! I like to draw hands! I'll draw some hands!

Hands? Not so successful.

Does it make any sense? I asked Jason.

"Sure," he said, "the hands are catching the eucalyptus branch."

Hands had to go.


More thumb twiddling for me, for breath bating for you.

Until I figured out that if the first branch looked nice, then maybe another one would be the best compliment:

And at last, the final piece:

San Diego Florist became San Di Flor, and now it's pared down even further to an enigmatic but fitting, "And, Or."

I'll leave the meaning up to you.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Montreal, c'est vrai

We just returned from a lovely week in Montreal, where Auden and I tagged along to see the sights while Jason attended an academic conference. Within hours I was sufficiently enchanted by the busy downtown, the narrow European streets and, I'm not even kidding, the authentic European smell (good coffee, good bread and, I don't know, good air) and imagining that I could live there. I know, I know... I just said that about upstate New York, but really. I wouldn't even mind learning French.

My cousin and his family live there, and they took us out on our first day to see an exhibit about Pirates at the Point a Calliere Museum of Archeology & History, which was very cool; then his sons entertained Auden with their trains and books while he and his wife fed us lovely beet soup and vegetable risotto.

Jason graciously ducked out of the conference for a day (or two) to help us explore the city, because it's so irresistible:

And then Auden and I ducked into the Palais de Congres, where the conference was being held, because the multi-colored wall of windows and the escalators inside were irresistible, too:

On the day Auden and I were on our own, we started out at the RedPath Museum at McGill University, where Auden chased dinosaurs and I gaped at a necklace made of human teeth and the cast of a Chinese 3-inch bound foot:

I mean, who's weirder, dinosaurs or humans?

We took the Metro to the Old Port where I searched out an art gallery that ended up being closed, then as Auden snoozed in the stroller I wound my way back up to our hotel by way of a Basilica and a Bookstore.

After a late lunch I foolishly decided we should take a little jaunt up to Mount Royal. Because, apparently, I hadn't had enough walking for the day. It's a park right? Kids can run around at parks, right? NO IT'S A MOUNTAIN. And for some reason there is no easy access to this Mountain from the southern side, at least not for me with a stroller and a toddler and some groceries and a pregnant belly and CLOGS for god's sake. So I finally found some stairs and thought Fine, I'll let Auden walk and I'll hoist the rest of the gear up to the path. Surely there's a path.

Well, yes there was a path, but there was also Diminishing Daylight, so while we had indeed made it into the Mountain, this is what we saw 10 minutes later:

Friends, let me tell you that I am still sore, if not in my legs then in my pride, for being so stubborn and hauling us both on this ill-fated "jaunt."

It was supposed to be an hour, and it was supposed to involve Auden running freely in the autumn leaves. It ended up being THREE HOURS and required him to stay strapped in most of the time as we were bumping down footpaths over rocks and roots in the DARK. We were miraculously aided by two women and their dogs who lifted the stroller over the alligator-infested moat and pointed us in the right direction down a bike path, but then I MISSED the turn back into the city so that we ended up on THE ENTIRELY OTHER SIDE OF THE DAMN MOUNTAIN. Okay. I'm done with caps lock now.

I don't know why I didn't just hail a taxi from there. See "pride," above. So I walked back. I limped. I stumbled back to the hotel room. I promptly drew a steaming bath for both of us, and all I can say is hallelujah for short-term baby memory and the miracle of hot water.

By the next day Auden was ready to go again, and, fortuitously this time, we hopped on the bus and rode with no clear plan until I spotted a jolly playground. The weather was fantastic the whole time we were there, and we played outside until it was time to join Jason & a friend of his from college for lunch. And then coffee and some UHH-mazing chocolate pastry things.

The bus was clearly the favorite for Auden, but the Metro was not chopped liver:

In that picture we were on our way to the Biodome, and were foiled by a poopy diaper and the fact that we had no reserves in the (so-called) diaper bag. Fortunately for us all, Jason made the utterly rational decision to go back to the hotel and do the Biodome the next day. (Why weren't you with me as I ascended THE MOUNTAIN OF DOOM, Utterly Rational One???)

I was fantasizing about a diaper vending machine for situations like that, and wouldn't you know it, we saw one the next day. At the Biodome.

But it was still a good idea to do this outing on our last day, refreshed and re-stocked. Auden loved running through the different habitats:

And we got to see monkeys, fish, crocodiles, and feeding time for the penguins. We had to tear Auden away from the giant aquarium, though I think he was more excited about jumping down the stairs in the little amphitheater than checking out the dogfish and sturgeons lazily swimming overhead.

After that, lunch in a restaurant where I actually had to use my pitiful High School French (and was flummoxed by a brain that wanted to use Japanese instead), another romp at another playground, and then onto an evening flight where Auden charmed everyone in his airplane pajamas and surprised Jason and I by actually falling asleep during the landing and staying asleep through the re-combobulating and jostling in-and-out of the car ride all the way home to his own bed.

A wildly successful trip! And you must never EVER talk to me about Mount Royal again.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

number two

I haven't had the time to get very philosophical about this pregnancy.

With Auden I knew to the day how pregnant I was and knew according to several books and several hundred websites which developments were taking place ON THAT VERY DAY. And then I'd ponder the appearance of eyelashes or a brain stem or lanugo on a being I hadn't met but knew so intimately that I wondered secretly if he could actually hear my thoughts. You know, through my blood or something. I talked to him all the time, made sure I sang a lot, too, and listened to good music. We nicknamed him Grover and tried to imagine what he'd be like and how our world would change with him in it.

This time around it's just different. For a little while my priority was finding the right maternity pants (which, you'll remember, was a laugh and a half last time) because I'm vain and had to have a fashionable way to show off the bump. I was briefly rapturous when I felt those first fluttery movements inside, but half the time I'd forget that I was pregnant at all because mama mama mama! truck juice giraffe rock ball!

Now, suddenly, I'm coming up on 28 weeks and that February due date isn't looking so far away and Holy Cats ANOTHER BABY -- she's going to need a name!

We kept Auden's name a secret and plan to do the same with this one, but I don't have the slightest inkling. Names I liked before just don't seem right, and even making a list of possibilities is more of a perfunctory task than a delightful brainstorm... Every time I try to visualize calling her by her name, introducing her to people, writing her name on school applications and to-do lists, hoping to jar my cosmic memory -- or at least get some initials to work with -- I end up with the internal equivalent of the scene in Being John Malkovich where Jon Cusak is trying to guess Katherine Keener's name and he's all "Mmmmmaaaa vvveerrrrrr dannnn Kaaaa sssaaaarrrr Chhhrrrrrr Aaannnn waaaaa Grreeee....?"

So, no leads. We can't even find a nickname that sticks. We tried jokingly referring to her as Grizelda, or The Griz; Jason's mom likes the name Isabella (after her own grandmother), & calls her Bella. My mom told me how my sister didn't have a name for a couple days after she was born and they just called her Maisha, which means 'girl' in Dutch. I thought for sure that would catch on, but Jason couldn't remember it the next day and said, "What are we calling her, Monisha?" Instead we most consistently refer to her as the new baby, or worse, Number Two.

But I want to take this moment to LOVE being pregnant, because I do. I totally do. And I'm not sure how to love it more than I do, but I'm bent on discovering a way, aside from clingy clothes and excessive belly-rubbing, to remind myself this is probably the last time I'm going to do this and it's definitely the last time I'm going to have just Auden... and even though my revelations about gestational magic are curtailed by a more potent combination of Swiss Cheese Brain + Busy Toddler, and even though I'm sure I'll be waddling and snoring and heartburning and cursing by the end of the 9th month -- I mean, we have yet to add snow to this equation! -- I want to have some record that I enjoyed every minute of having this baby inside me.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

my big little guy

Dear Auden,

You're 19 months old today and I am totally in love with you right now. We've got a good thing, you and I.

We've got inside jokes and special games; I know that you're going to look for the hammer in this book about trucks, and you're going to match the cement mixer on the cover with the cement mixer inside that book about trucks; I understand you when you say "wee wee" for fire trucks and "no no" for tofu and "ani" for elephants; I know just where to tickle you to get the best belly laughs.

I didn't know toddler-hood was going to be this much fun -- I was so worried I wouldn't know how to handle you that I overlooked the possibility of knowing you even better now than I did a year ago. I didn't know how delightful it would be to hear you pronounce your first words, or how rewarding it would be to observe the keenness of your memory. I didn't know how entertaining you would be, singing to your trucks and hamming it up in the tub.

You made up a sign for turtle of your own accord -- it's intuitive and perfect. You sit your stuffed giraffe on the potty as your proxy and make great farting noises for him; you also like to put your slippers (that you refuse to wear) on his feet. The other day you were eating a piece of bread and I watched as you broke off a tiny piece to feed to one of your cars... it was heartbreakingly sweet.

Papa taught you how to say "what?" and made a funny game where he answers "I don't know!"

You babble words and sounds in little strings of syllabic associations: mama, mommy, mani, bunny, bapi, potty, papa, bapa...

You call your grandpas "bama," and your grandmas "nana."

The sound of your voice alone makes me laugh:

I think I'm getting better at letting time pass, at allowing you to grow at the breakneck speed you employ for just about everything. But I suspect too that being a mother means always harboring an ache for these sweet uncomplicated days and all the ones that came before.

But let's charge ahead! I'm with you now and no matter what, loving you up the best I can.



Friday, October 16, 2009


A few months ago I posted some new bone collages on Etsy. I have been fascinated by bones for years and have done quite a few pieces about them, but still felt a tad worried that they would be, I don't know, too morbid for mass appeal.

Not long after I put them up, a doctor friend contacted me and commissioned me to do a sphenoid bone in the same style. Okay, I said, as soon as I find out what that is. Turns out to be a tiny piece of sculpture in the middle of your skull, with arching, scooped wings like a pelvis, and strange little feet like a spaceship. I couldn't get a good rendering from the anatomy books I have, so Jason suggested I find a model and draw it from life (or, uh... death? Well, it's plastic, anyway). It was easier than I thought to get my hands on one -- thanks CraigsList! -- and resulted in a way better drawing:

I started my ground by collaging on the canvas, using scraps of construction paper, old Japanese train schedules, and a funny German map whose lines echoed the graceful contours of the bone. Then I washed it lightly with gesso (click on any of these images for a big, detailed version):

Next I drew the sphenoid onto the ground and painted around it with another light wash of acrylic, to make the bone stand out:

Then I coated the entire piece with encaustic -- a wax you spread on like frosting and melt with a heat gun. I love doing this, I have wanted to use encaustic for years because of this tool. It makes me look really serious.

I mixed some pale gray paint into the wax just above the bone, and it spread out like watercolor when the wax melted -- perfect:

I had run out of the transparent brown tissue paper I used on the earlier bone collages, which is a shame because it was so useful, so I improvised (read: messed up) here with some other stuff. I had a piece of fiber-y paper that would have been just right if it wasn't so peach-colored... I glued it on and tried to like it, but just couldn't. I painted over it to soften the color a little, but that made it too opaque and cumbersome. I got frustrated and peeled it off, and discovered that the paint had dried enough to leave a really cool textured pattern behind. I repeated that a couple more times, then painted over it with a thin layer of yellowish-brown:

Finally, I coated everything with encaustic again, covering the brown patch and evening out the top layer. The wax gives everything a thick sheen, blurring the lines a bit and suspending them under a window the color of old book pages. It also reminds me of strange specimens trapped in apothecary jars, which is just right considering the subject:

It was hard to get the color just right through photoshop, not to mention the warmth of it and the cool lumpy texture, but here's the finished piece:

I loved it and almost didn't want to part with it... but I was thrilled to send it to my friend, and amazed at how effortlessly it came together. After my last couple of commissions, and, let's be honest, my painting style in general, I needed this kind of confidence!

My friend also mentioned an osteopathic convention he knows about, and would I be interested in maybe representing my work there? So despite the five hundred other ideas and projects I have going at the moment, I'm giving myself permission to work on nothing but bones for the foreseeable future.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ithaca really is gorges, but what do they say about Albany?

By now all the details are fading from memory, but we did go to upstate New York last month to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and good friend, and it surprised me by being just as beautiful as it's fabled to be.

First we stopped at Kathy's new house in Ithaca. This, plus 16 more acres (!), is her back yard:

She took us to the science center, where Auden had a blast and we got to see what a mutant hybrid of Jason and Kathy would look like ("A typical Williamsburg Hipster" according to Kathy):

We took the bus home, which was just as much fun as anything at the science center. In fact, I'm thinking it's going to be a cheap form of winter entertainment for us. Here's Auden riding the bus AND signing for "more bus":

Then we drove to Albany to see my brother and his wife. We spent more time outdoors:

And more time with awesome vehicles:

This face of pure joy was the result of naughty uncle Ben letting go of the parking brake and allowing the car to roll forward a few feet with Auden in the driver's seat:

After a weekend of farmer's markets, good meals, hikes in the woods, chasing the kitty around the house, and a spontaneous Sunday picnic, we headed back to Ithaca for another day with Kathy and more enchanted waterfalls:

Jason joked about looking for a position at Cornell, because this would not be such a bad place to live:

I think we'll have to go back.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

... aaaaand now I'm sick

With a head cold that Auden generously passed on to me, and which I think I am currently passing on to Jason. While we all blow our noses, here's a little video montage of more of our New York trip:

(Thanks Kathy for taking us to the Science Center!)


Monday, October 5, 2009

excuses excuses

I'm going to blame my lack of getting my head on straight in a timely fashion after our vacation on, oh... the toddler! You didn't see that coming!

This morning I realized that the draggy body feeling and mid-afternoon slow brain I've been experiencing the past two weeks reminds me uncannily of the days when Auden WASN'T SLEEPING. Because while we were away he was waking up every night and since we've been back he's waking up every night and over the weekend it was TWICE a night plus crying and too-short naps and then I realized whoo boy if this feels bad we're in for quite a ride come February. So just humor me while I spend my time lighting incense at sleep altars and praying to goblin kings instead of blogging, k?

Why, here's the little rascal, now, fooling you with cuteness:

I don't care what anyone says, there's Benadryl in your future, kid!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

all things train

We just returned from a busy and beautiful trip to upstate New York. While I get my head back on straight and compose a brilliant travelogue of our adventures, you can watch this:


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

take out and delivery

When I found out I was pregnant with Auden, I was so clueless about what to do that I called Planned Parenthood. They were like, uhhh, yeah, you're going to want to find an obstetrician... we take care of the whole before-you-get-pregnant thing. This time around, I was only slightly more savvy. I called my "regular" doctor (whom I had seen just once... we're new to Milwaukee, remember), and she recommended an OB in the same hospital. So I went.

I knew even before the first visit though that I wasn't at all interested in having a baby at a hospital, and although I ended up telling the triage nurse all about my plans to look into birth centers and midwives in the area, I didn't know how to broach that subject with the doc. So when we met and she asked whether I had any questions for her, I cheerfully shrugged and said, "nope!" to which she responded with a rather quizzical look. (Honestly, though, this has always been a weird dynamic for me: I feel like I should have questions for doctors -- questions that are complex and intriguing and show how very smart I am -- but I kind of shut down and clam up in those offices) So I left the hospital feeling oddly scandalous, like an undercover agent.

I kept up the deceit through subsequent visits, and I know it's utterly ridiculous, but now feel like I'm going to have to break up with her. And I'll most likely blurt out something like, "I was just using you for your ultrasound machine!" After we go over those results of course. Which, oooh, here, have a look:

Whee! Little hands and little spine and little hip bones and little heart with four chambers!

Where was I? Oh yes: after a little research and an info-seminar on "Birthing Options," we found a great midwife and decided that we are going to have this baby at home.

We loved our experience at the birth center in San Diego, and this time we feel even more confident. As in, there's no way I'm having another 27-hour labor, and hey, anything shorter than 14 will be a comparative breeze! Plus, I really love the idea of not having to drive anywhere in February.

Jason said, "It's like take-out!"


Thursday, August 27, 2009

dance dance evolution

Either Auden followed that link to breakdancing baby, or he's been studying butoh behind our backs:

(Also, check out the new action word! That's "jump" in case you didn't hear it)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

wonder of wonders

You may have guessed from the totalitarian government black-out on any and all reporting on the diaper-free front, but I have for the most part given up on that. For like, the last year.

It was so much of a pain in my ass that I didn't want to push for it anymore, but I was still reluctant to admit defeat. Oh, I had such high hopes! But I couldn't argue with a thrashing writhing screaming kid -- that message is clear enough. He Did Not Want to Sit on the Potty.

So the latest development has surprised and delighted me all the more: for the past couple of weeks, we've been letting Auden go naked-butt in the mornings and usually at some point he will stop and grab his gut or give that look of intense concentration that can't mean anything else, and we grab the potty and lo, We're In Business. Then he makes a big production of taking the poo-in-the-potty to the toilet where he dumps it in, flushes it, and we clap and cheer like happy dorks.

I'm not sure exactly how this happened, but I can tell you that it was Jason who became diligent about giving him potty chances again, because I may or may not have become entirely soured on this endeavor. Also, I got a book on construction trucks, which served as the perfect motivator and distractor.

But check it out, it gets EVEN BETTER: this morning while neither Jason nor I was paying attention, Auden sat down on his potty of his own volition and did it HIMSELF, then got up and pointed to it. Jason realized what he'd done and we repeated our enthusiastic flushing ceremony.

For some reason this only works with poo, though. And I'm sure Auden knows upwards of 30 different signs and STILL won't do the one for potty.

But nevertheless, my unwavering parenting philosophy (Take What You Can Get) applies here, and we celebrate this decisive victory in the war on dirty diapers.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

dancing, of a sort

Auden may not be in the same league as, say, Breakdancing Baby, but he does like to boogie when the mood is just right. Mainly the dancing involves clapping. In this clip it kind of seems like he's paying attention to the actual instruments in the music, though, which I'm attributing to his unbridled genius.

The dancing continues in this next clip with Auden's signature move, The Lean. Also, at the end is evidence for why it's so hard to film him doing anything -- he sees the camera and runs toward it going "baby! baby!" demanding to see videos of himself.

(He also does this whenever we sit down at the computer, crowing "baby! baby!" until we watch the latest one over and over, making me fear for the unchecked narcissism of his entire generation.)

But damn he's cute!


Thursday, August 6, 2009


There's a big construction project going on just up the street from our house, and it's become part of our morning routine to check it out.

Auden is totally ga-ga for trucks of all kinds, but especially the construction variety: bad-ass crawler back hoes with their big scoopers, hither and thither front-end loaders, and dump trucks full of gravel. He will sit transfixed, reverently watching the chain-smoking mustachioed workers, brrrrmmmmm-ing and beep-beep-ing along with the massive machines.

The other day we went with our neighbor's son, Jack (whom Auden ADORES, so it was doubly exciting). We all watched as they guided giant concrete pipes into the ground under the street.

When I was pregnant with Auden, and we found out he was a boy, this is the kind of stuff that I was terrified about. I know, right? Silly. But I felt so unprepared for the foreignness of boy-play -- stereotypical yet right on the money, as it turns out -- of trucks and trains and everything that GOES and DOES. I suppose guns and swords are next?

The funny thing is, now I'm really into it. It's not just that I love whatever brings him joy, which I do to a weak-kneed fault, but the more we hang out around the construction site, the more I appreciate all the engineering and apprenticing and skill and physical strength involved. This is a particularly big project -- they're ripping up the street to put in 8-ft sewage pipes -- and I marvel at the mountain of work before them, which they divide and accomplish in a hundred separate tasks, one after the other.

The trucks themselves are also marvelous: out-sized simulacra of our own limbs with hydraulic muscle; digging and filling, tamping and bracing, pumping, hauling, stacking, leveling... and I don't even see what's going on underground.

I mean, all this WORK so that we can have a functioning sewer system! Think about it next time you flush.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

how I unwind

Ahhhh, the baby is asleep for the night.

I can finally relax.

A delicious and fortified and edifying dinner is waiting for me. I'm going to eat it on the couch while one of my lovely assistants rubs my feet and another prepares fresh fruit compote over ice cream for dessert. There will be something interesting on TV, the dishes will do themselves, and I will find a pile of money under the couch cushions.

Oh no wait. This is actually what's going on:



Friday, July 31, 2009

the bump at 14 weeks

I know, I know, I'm being so silly about it. But I had this much of a belly when I was almost five months along last time. Course that one was all baby. This one is, well, let's just say I'm going have pancakes for dinner again tonight. Mmmm. Pancakes.