Sunday, October 18, 2015

om motherhood and loss

I was undergoing fertility treatment about a year after losing Alice.

I remembered that, in those early days, when the pregnancy was new and already announced to anyone in hearing distance, I'd said silly things about how I didn't understand how people could have such trouble conceiving; it had been as easy as falling off a log. I remembered being blind to the prevalence of miscarriage; I thought it was rare. And so of course, when the pregnancy failed to progress past week 6, I was ashamed of my pride, my hubris, and angry at myself for not being able to do this thing that Everyone Else did so easily.

I was talking to a friend who'd gone through fertility treatment (successfully), about my worries, my sadness, the days I couldn't focus on anything else for missing the child I thought I'd have, and wanting to hold one in my arms. Only mine; I couldn't look at other babies, couldn't walk by pregnant women without a visceral reaction. I'd made it all the way to the door of a friend's baby shower and then fled. I went to children's birthday parties and play performances and thought about what Alice was missing, how she'd never have a first anything. I cried a lot in those days, at my desk, and my sweet office mate was kind enough not to mention it.

I didn't, until my miscarriage, know how many people I was surrounded by had been through this. It is a secret sisterhood that suddenly welcomes you with empathetic arms. Ten. I know of ten women in my immediate circle who have suffered pregnancy loss. I had thought it was two, at the time. The actual estimates are that between 20 and 25% of pregnancies don't result in live birth. There are more of you out there; please know you are not alone.

"You think that this will make you a perfect mom, but you are still human, you will still make mistakes."

I was still haughty about things I didn't know, even sitting there, talking to someone who'd been through all that I had (and more, honestly; much more); I thought she was crazy. I'd promised myself I'd be the perfect mom, that I would deserve a child, should I get lucky enough to have one. I would do everything right. I believed I had somehow deserved to lose Alice, that I hadn't wanted her badly enough, or that I was being punished for the stupid things I'd said.

Somehow inside me, my whole life, a little egg that would be my son was laying in wait, tiny as a dot. In fact, in those first secret months, we called him Umlaut. I was four months pregnant before we told anyone he existed because I was so afraid if I said it out loud, he wouldn't anymore.

I'm not a perfect mom. I make mistakes like everyone else. Some days, I don't even know the right thing to do, and I worry that some mistake I make is going to ruin my son. Some truths you learn through experience; I am still human. Here are two more: I neither deserved to lose my first pregnancy, nor earned my second through guilt or repentance.

I know how to love, I have learnt it from the strangest moments, unexpectedly. I am imperfect at it, but I keep learning.

You who have lost your little ones, you are not alone. You who are trying to conceive, you have friends here. Feel what you feel, as long as you need. And then find a way to keep going.

And those who have finally welcomed a little one into your home, remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint; birth is a beginning, not the finish line. Be easy on yourself those moments you don't live up to your expectations, and be easy on your children those moments they are imperfect, too. You're learning how to love a whole new way. You can do this.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

springfield art and chalk fest, 2015

A new location this year, across from Sprout (a farmer's market in a renovated church) on smooth, old cement instead of last year's asphalt. So much smoother, so much easier to get fields of color and fine detail. It was a really fun event this year. Contact ESAP for details on entering the 2016 Springfield Art and Chalk Fest.

Chalk graffiti in front of Sprout.

More veggie-themed chalk art

This nice dog named Basil came to help his girls with their Star Trek-inspired art.

Artists and the I Scream for Waffles truck. So good.

Family fun chalk area with the kiddo.

A really nice rendition of a tiger.

My chalk tribute to Maurice Sendak.

I drew this nearby while waiting for the judges to come by.

Western Meadolark.

Space octopus?

Alphonse Mucha replica in chalk.

This piece had really lovely color blending.

Simpsons + Escher.

Monday, August 10, 2015

fast and easy paper making for kids!

If you have a preschool-aged kid (or older) with an interest in recycling, this is a fun afternoon project! Let's make some paper!

Take scrap paper and, with your kid, tear it up and put it in a blender with some hot water. We used a couple of mis-printed sheets from the printer, a bit of cardboard, two pieces of junk mail, and a sheet of purple construction paper. The trick is: the blender blades have to turn freely, so don't jam-pack the blender and use lots of water.

Blend till pulpy.

Kids can pour into the screen! We actually did the pouring over a catch-basin, then moved it to the table.

Kids can sponge gently to remove excess water. Here, my now-gigantic, soon-to-be-kindergartener kiddo sponges our screened paper.

Flip it over on felt, polyester, or polypropylene cloth (heck, linen would probably work, too), then press from the back with a sponge (kids can do this part, too!) (The kiddo is developing his photography skills; these are nicely framed, I think.)

Carefully lift screen, helping paper separate by pulling gently on the corner. Once the  entire screen is separated from the paper, leave it to dry.

And once it's dry, you can cut it into two equal pieces . . . or more.

The resulting paper will vary in thickness and texture, depending on your pour, and color, depending on your source materials. Ours feels a little like egg carton cardboard.

Nice textural quality; the screen leaves crosshatch marks on the surface, which look great when rubbed with a crayon.  

And that's all there is to it! The materials used don't have to be expensive. We used a small window screen from the recycled building materials store (99 cents), some kitchen sponges, and a polypropylene sack.  Serviceable and fun for a summer project! 

We're going to try this at the preschool's day camp this month, too, but using hand mixers; the low-tech kind with a hand crank (go go fine motor skills!). I'll try to remember to post the results for those who want to give it a try!

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, July 24, 2015

where the wild things are: giant costume heads and puppets

Every year, the parents of Eugene's Parent-Child Preschool put on a theater production to entertain and educate the kids, and help raise funds for the school. This year's production was Where the Wild Things Are. It was an ambitious production, but we made lots of cool stuff! For more info about the school and to look at a gallery of past production posters, you can visit the school's site at

Max's crown; felt + furry felt.

Goat-head wild thing puppet; felt, cardboard, masking tape, hot glue, thread. This is my second-ever performance ready puppet. This is the first:

Bull-head wild thing head mask, in progress.

Long-haired wild thing head mask, in progress (group project).

This wild thing mask is the one I made for the Mr. for Halloween a couple of years ago. Claire made the bird-head wild thing puppet masterfully (first time!)

Dress rehearsal! The sets were created by Anneka, Lisel, and crew, mostly of recycled cardboard boxes and latex paint.

Finished goat-head puppet, and bull-head wild thing head mask.

Long-haired wild thing head mask and Carole's gorgeous orange-nosed wild thing puppet.

I was lucky to recruit two amazing seamstresses (Claire and Carole) who are also very adept at learning to construct puppets and costume heads from cardboard, felt, and hot glue. Amazing work.

Max's costume, and more amazing backdrops.