August 31, 2009

These Tendencies Towards Order

From a very young age Bella has known precisely how she likes to do things. She has always loved putting away toys, and further wrapping them, bagging them, tucking them away, and stashing them into little piles and collections. I have memories of her as an infant using her pinchers to lift up the flaps of hide-n-seek pop up books. It seemed impossible she could have that control; she couldn't even hold up her head. She has also been an avid art-maker, and there are many days I find myself prying her away from the dining room table, and wrestling colors from her grip.

Her public persona is measured, cautious, polite, clean and ordered. And at four, I am becoming alarmed at how much praise this accrues. I worry enough already on my own that her obsessive tenacity, and her leanings toward order and perfection already set up unhealthy expectations upon herself and others. However, lately, I am finding my ears physically burning when they hear the onslaught of the good kid compliments that she has been garnering recently. It aches my heart on many levels.

Compliments spoken over her that define our societies expectations. Comments of control, and order. Comments that carve out her understanding of how success is measured. She is so clean. Wow, she colors so accurately. What a deliberate and neat drawing. Look how good she colors perfectly within the lines. Often these compliments are teachable mentionings spoken over their own children, or Bella's little brother Nate, which breaks my heart over and over; this destructive power of our words. The emphasis and value we place on growing up our children into adults as quickly as possible. By training a competitive edge. Trading out curiosity, exploration, creativity, learning, freedom. Surely much of this attention to detail is her wiring, and her preference, and will be for some measures of good in her adult life. Seriously, check out her coloring page direction or influence given to her whatsoever. Perfectly matching ballerina girls, symmetrical and ordered placement of the star stickers. My favorite part? The crazy nonlocal colorations of the faces, and all those lavender hands.

These are the wacky inclusions to all of the order that really interest and engage me. Because it's Bella's goofy-goofster side that she occasionally lets loose at home that reassures me. When she runs around in circles in the kitchen with her little brother, playing invented games. How she scribbles with both arms in huge gestural movements on our large chalk board. Listening to her make up insanely silly songs in the car, and when creating video performances with her digital camera. Watching as this silly Bella invents super nutty interpretations of our books, as she turns through the pages reading them to her baby dolls. Its these moments that make my heart smile. Moments when she lets go, and just acts like she is four. When her performance is entirely uninhibited and uncensored.

August 30, 2009

In Between Rains

I switched out the planter boxes from Summer to Fall. Welcome storms and cool winds. Autumn, dear friend, I am so happy that you are on your way.

I just love the seasonal perennials in these planter boxes. It has been a sweet treat to change them out every season, putting the old into the earth to enjoy year and year again, and switching the new into the garden boxes to enjoy as a seasonally specific and visually delightful marker of our perimeters.

A quick pause to take in the lovely of right now.

Weekend Moment, A Taste of Fall Temperatures

This weekend we feasted like Kings. The cool temps signaling the not-too-far-off realities of Autumn had me ruminating about our fall menu. I concocted a lovely nice roasted garden tomato bisque, which we enjoyed heartily over wild rice, accompanied by crisp broccoli. Warm loaves of French Boule accompanying our meals all weekend. We took down plates full of white cheddar perogies with dilled green beans. Rounding out the weekend's close, we nibbled on an orange zucchini quick bread, and put on our warm socks for a cool and wet evening with the windows open.

It has been a family-centric weekend of feasting, and fun here. No major agenda; a lot of rest, coffee and good times around the dining room table.

August 26, 2009

Getting it all in Order

With the flurry of the back-to-school season whirling around us, Nate has suddenly committed to memory all sorts of new tricks and rhymes. Perhaps its the 24-7 anticipation for school talk from his older sister, who still has a year of waiting before the big K. Or maybe its the demanding call and repeat games that she insists he play in the car, and the kitchen, and anywhere she can manipulate a little forced learning into a game, where naturally, she is leading.

I must admit, I have been a lot more lax in trying to get Nate to identify all of his animals with the tattered set of flash cards we burned through with Bella. It was the other day when he identified the black stallion horse card as a cat that I decided maybe I could muster up a little bit more emphasis on helping Nate take in all this stuff. But it's the incessant counting. The repetition of the ABC's that are always missing the T-U-V. What is with that??!! Both of our kids have insisted learning the ABC's omitting these three. The battles. The frustrations. The relentlessness of all the repetition.

Nate took to colors pronto. A good measure of our day is spent making art. Bella calls it her job. Which I think is both sweet, and scary. So, he quickly realized that he needed to learn them right away to keep up in the coloring department. And then, like overnight, I caught him counting to 10, to 20...getting a bit confused with some of the teenagers...but don't we all, and he hit most of them at some point, even five-teen. Randomly. Unprovoked, spewing out his counting prowess, sorting jewelry at Grandma's house. Yep. I'll just leave that one alone.

And suddenly it happened, he sort of knew his alphabet, or 23 of the 26 letters, as we are still debating T-U-V. Probably because he has been gathering + hoarding all the flash cards from Bella's too-heavy and already packed-full backpack [1 year in advance, is anyone else worried about this??!] and has been turning through them like daily chores. He is collecting them like sports trading cards. Like they are money, prized possessions.

So, I decided the only way I could keep sane in all of this, was to break out my favorite set of ABC flash cards that we got when Bella was still a wee little peanut. They are not so good with traditional early vocabulary building, but they certainly help mommy keep her wits, as we turn through them again and again and again. I'll leave you with an image of the Q card. Definitely my favorite in the pack.

They are a lovely set that I nabbed several packages of from a local paper outlet store, for no-joke: a $1.50 per Alphabet. They are gorgeously designed. Partnered Upper and Lowercase letters in a crisp black font on one side, and stunning photographs and illustrations on the opposite. Bundled into sets and tucked inside a muslin cloth bag hemmed in red with a little yellow drawstring. And nothing too expected or straight-forward in the pack; they're like parent-relief for teaching the ABC's.

Under Construction, Isn't Everything?

Look at this fabulousness!! After much dreaming and longing for something to magically happen all on its own, a designer friend is helping me out by creating my website. We met a handful of times to discuss the site, shared links, and preferences, etc. And magically, he whipped up some fantastic wireframes, which correct me if I am wrong, I believe these are the designed "page maps" of the site. The sort of stencil or prototype for each page, if you will. And I immediately fired back, I LOVE THEM!! Because, well...I DO. Every single proposed page. They are fabulous. Beyond what I was expecting and even dreaming. Like magic. Really. Like he somehow crawled into this messy forgetful confusing brain, and translated my vision of a perfect-fit professional website for my art.

So, be it a humble place marker for the amazing site that is yet to come, here is the doormat that I have laid out in front of my new home. Check me out! I have a website!! See??! This under-construction page says so:

I feel so fancy. I might just take up biting my nails to cope with all of this anticipation.

August 25, 2009

Crunchy Mama, Smooth Peanut Butter

Mmmm, I just made my second batch of Nate-safe Honey Roasted Peanut Butter. And if its aromatic properties hold accurate, it's going to be quite tasty when it cools down. I must disclose that I really only try such a crunchy mama sort of thing because of my fabulous Vitamix friend. My most dear and beloved kitchen appliance that I own. Oh, how I love thee.

I mean seriously. I layered 1 lb. of roasted Peanuts and 1 lb. of Honey Roasted Peanuts, mostly becuase it looks pretty, but more practically, it seems like they start getting themselves all intermingled for the real mix. I drizzle this with about 1 T. of Canola oil. And with a little of my brute strength with the tamper, and most of the work of the Vitamix, I get a whole batch of this yummy smoothness only moments later.

The machine works so hard making all these whole peanuts super unbelievably smooth, that the stuff ends up piping hot, so it pours lickety-split out of the pitcher and into a glass dish [that holds it all just right] to cool in the fridge. Several hours later, dear friends, this stuff is the consistency of a smooth melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter fudge. A honey Roasted Peanut Butter Fudge.

The Craunlets indulge in a heaping teaspoon of this goodness daily, whilst waiting for the parents to finish up their morning espresso. Life is so yummy. And what a treat it is to see your kids lining up at the fridge, considering this stuff candy.

August 24, 2009

Weekend Moment, Weeds and Flowers

I finally spent a few moments in our small garden in the front yard. Admittedly, the FIRST weeding this season. *sigh* Too many things kept me from the garden, and then once the bramble of weeds threatened to take over the adjacent sidewalk, fear and apathy kept me even further from the little patch of planting.

Though my weeding efforts only made it half way across the bed, it is a heap of an accomplishment. And I found myself enjoying the work in the sun. And the background chatter of the Craunlets on discovery.

Towards the back of the mess, where the garden lies next to an entirely unattended bed of mysterious plants, I found a delightful surprise. A Sunflower. Ashamedly, I'll admit that it is one that must have planted itself months ago. You see, we also neglected the bird feeder sometime in late spring, as the weeds were just tender shoots, and then failed to clean up any of the seeds dropped during the Spring, and all through summer.

So, though I have five packages of sunflower seed varieties that never got planted. Maybe next year?? I do have a sunflower--albeit small and enveloped in monstrous weeds and grasses--this season.

August 20, 2009

B is for Beautiful Writing

There is something profoundly engaging about watching a little person learn how to read and write. I will never forget the first time Bella spelled a word out loud. She recognized a combination of letters grouped together on a sign as we sat on the patio of a local coffee shop enjoying an afternoon treat. O-P-E-N, she said, mommy--what does that spell? I told her it spelled open, after we made the individual letter sounds, and then strung them all together.

That day, she understood that literacy was currency.

Now a literacy-hungry four year old, I love watching and her devour her Kumon activity books, the tracing, the mazes, the letter writing. Seeing her identify and match upper + lowercase letters, watching with amazement as she fills in missing letters of simple words, hearing her excitement with word families and rhymes.

Here she is at her desk, during yesterday's afternoon activity session, busily tracing the maze and honing some future letter writing movements. She finishes every page by writing her first name in the indicated box at the top of each of the work pages.

Next up, a writing center. I am seeing them everywhere, on all of my baby + kid blog reads. I can't wait to make a kid-centric letter writing station. For all of our thank you notes, and etiquette correspondence. First up, we are creating a Name Chest like the lovely one pictured at the top of the post, from Playful Learning. And maybe the bottom row will include a box for return address and thank you labels, and one for envelope seals, and another for stamps.

So, I am on the hunt for a little set of plastic drawers, and planning a trip to our local discount paper outlet store. I can't wait to gather all the supplies, and watch Bella start to pour over her letters. Also in my save for later tab is Emily Post's book The Gift of Good Manners, pictured beside the Name chest. I don't want letter writing to become a lost art; at least not for Team Craun. I think expressing gratitude, and sending out timely thank you note's, is something rewarding for both parties involved.

August 19, 2009

A Little Etsy Handiwork

I finally pressed the buy button, and now await these yummy custom-made treasures [here and here] via the present truck.

This summer has marked the most joy-filled, playful and relaxed season I have known. The Craunlets have grown exponentially and are funny, smart, curious, ornery and just a delight to hang out with. They are growing into their roles as big sister and little brother...and are taking the world by storm together.

My sister Anna set up an Etsy shop this summer--something I have just barely started, and is sadly still quite comfortably sitting on that mile long to-do list of mine...note the tone of jealousy, but I digress--and I immediately commissioned her handiwork for these handprints. To sort of mark this season. This place of incredible play and learning. This new day that has come with the sun, each of our summer days.

The Craunlets never seem to tire of tracing their hands. We have them in crayon, color pencil, marker, and even Scratch art. I figured fabric would be the next fitting step. I have been amazed how big their little hands and feet keep getting, and so quickly, like it some how marks their passage from babyhood to childhood, and further, i know...but I cannot even imagine what their hands have been made for.

The delicate way Bella holds her fingers on small objects like seashells, small coins or her precious new charm bracelet, and the way she traces the frame of my face at night when I say goodnight.

The dirt covered fingers of Nate digging in the garden and picking up all sorts of natural treasures, fistfuls of acorns, buckeyes and the like, and yet the gentle curiosity of his fingers in the back of my curly hair when I give him after bath snuggles.

And somehow, these simple handprints remind me of all of this. And I cannot wait to see my sister's brilliant craft, keen fabric choices for the applique and exquisite embroidery of their names and ages. Marking these moments. This glorious fun season of now.

August 18, 2009

The Thrill of the Sale

I sold four prints last week, and am still jumping for joy. What a sweet surprise. Somehow it always feels terrific and new every time.

The works are part of my ongoing [never-ending] series entitled Whole Story. They are little snatches and snapshots of prints and plates recombined, drawn and further collaged to keep telling the story of my journey with a shred of wit and humor. They are my solace pieces, so to speak, that I create like a sketch book. Always close at hand, and worked on in bits and pieces as time is available. Somehow it is the stack of these always waiting for me that keeps me sane.

August 17, 2009

Weekend Moment, Minutes and Hours

Despite all the craziness of a barely more than 24 hour respite to Kelley's Island, I was afforded the luxury of many consecutive minutes all to myself in the sun on the island. Actually just over an hour of completely alone think and wander time. A break that allowed me to catch my breath, take in the glorious scenery, and appreciate just getting to be alive with all of this wild creation. The land and water edge was so captivating to take in. Here are a few shots I captured in my singleness:

More shots of all the crazy modes of travel, back and forth to the local little island, with the very excited Craunlets here.

August 14, 2009

Island Bound

I just finished tossing a few clothes into our smallish travel bag, and in short order, we are headed for an island. Bella has engaged in nonstop chatter regarding the not entirely extravagant weekend plans--mostly resulting from her enthusiasm and anticipation of boarding a ferry, and chartering over grand waters to a weekend getaway on an island. I love how she can entertain a dream with wild imagination, and sweep us all up into its magic.

Here is a picture Dave captured of me the last time we were at Kelley's Island. Only that time, we didn't bring the Craunlets.

August 13, 2009

Oh How I miss miss miss the Midwest

Along with funnel cakes and the like at similar events of County Fairs and Ribfests, apparently there is such a thing as fried Oreos, fried Snicker's bars, and truly even more tempting to my palette: fried peaches. Served on a stick. Rumor holds they taste like peach cobbler. Wow, seriously?!

Do I live under a rock? Anyone ever experienced this awful-for-you-goodness in person?!

Do tell,
What have you had fried?

This New Day

We watched a cicada shed her skin this weekend, and outstretch her glorious intricate and transparent wings, as she hung them out to dry patiently before taking flight.

Welcome to adulthood, little friend.

And today I am in awe of the mysteries that each new day holds. This precious sweet life we have. Waking up healthy + happy this morning; I have so much to be thankful for, and I am holding them close today.

August 12, 2009

Where does crabby live?

A couple days ago, we decided we would all stop being crabby after our nap, the one I often refer to as the re-start of the the day, and I was casually reminding the Craunlets in some lunchtime conversation about being loving, and operating in kindness. Bella adeptly summarized the talk's main point, saying: "So after nap, you are going to stop being crabby too?"

Yesterday the Craunlets wanted to know if crabs actually lived inside of Crab apples.

Today. Another tired + crabby Craunlet day...and the situation has escalated to down right hilarious.

The Commencement of the much needed nap has coincided with our next door neighbor mowing his lawn, in which he has neglected for three weeks now. And then the City of Cleveland decided to fill in some pot holes. The ones precisely in front of our house.

A week of Sun[days] ahead

We welcomed the sun's return yesterday with a little play time at the lagoon in University Circle.

Check out our updated our picture pages, here.

August 11, 2009

Anniversary, Eight

Last night I came home to these:

I celebrate 8 years with my better half today, though our grand adventures started a dozen years ago. It's crazy how fast we move through seasons in this lifetime.

I consider myself the luckier of the two of us, and I have known no better example of love on this earth than Dave's.

We celebrated in Team Craun-style last night, ringing in the Eve with a bottle of Riesling and a pair of Apple Raspberry turnovers. What a sweet start to our next season together.

Happy Anniversary, Hubs.

August 10, 2009

Weekend Moment, Sleeping + Waking

I slept in on Saturday morning, and woke up to a quiet house, and this note:

Dave and the Craunlets snuck out and picked up my two favorite donuts. Then they delivered them with a cup of hot coffee, and left me to a quiet morning in a still house.

August 7, 2009

Making Wild Discoveries

It just doesn't cease to amaze me, on the very tiny patch of urban earth we occupy, that grand adventure and discovery awaits our every whim for exploration.

Here we are soaking in the breezy and sunny low summer temps of August. I cannot believe how much the Craunlets have grown up this summer. Like wild flowers.

And these are just a glimpse of our afternoon--if you would like to go on our full adventure, we have updated our picture pages, here.

Aside, Bella's outfit, hair-do selections, sun shades--entirely her own choosing; being four is exhilarating.

August 5, 2009

What Time is it?

So, that confession I alluded to the other day, the Craunlets now partake of a little t.v. There I said it. Bella and Nate have their daily shows. And honestly, I am still not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Most of you know how much we love love love Word World around here. We have all of the available DVDs, and would watch the 12 minute literacy-focused animation on the Mac's glorious big screen. An after nap little treat, to accompany snack. It's beautiful to look at, it's all about letters, and building words, and hits great character development also. Never was I guilty about letting them watch a little.

And it sort of morphed out of nowhere, when going to our Children's Librarian, to ask her again if they would please start ordering Word World. And she suggested Super Why! on PBS. Her son, Bella's same age loved it. And I kid you not, that very day, a friend of mine e-mailed me regarding some local event about the program. Though we don't get into character adoration at all in this family, the program had now peaked my interest.

So, I turned on the t.v, which up until this date had only been used to take in films, and clicked to PBS. We certainly don't pay for any channels, so its a good thing its on free public airwaves.

And one episode later. A totally lame show. The Craunlets are hooked. They are talking back to the t.v. They are putting forward their arms for the Team hand shake. They are identifying + pointing at hidden letters. They are singing along to the alphabet song. They are talking about the problem they solved all day long.

So, the premise of this show, beyond the obvious literacy development, is that they use -- ACTUALLY, CHANGE ENTIRELY -- classic children's stories to solve daily problems. Problems like tying shoes without help, Communication misunderstandings, Sharing with friends, telling the truth, etc. Only, they CHANGE THE BOOKS ENTIRELY. Doesn't anyone else on the planet see anything wrong with this??!! It drives me so crazy, I can't stand being in the room with the show.

So, even worse, I let them watch 24 minutes of t.v. like its a morning babysitter.

It's out.
You all know now.

The Craunlets are practically unattended from 9 to 9.24 am.
Watching the t.v.

What's your media diet? What are your kids watching?
Any of you watch Super Why!? What do you think...

August 4, 2009

Engendered Colors and Such

I bought these two little pails on a dollar spot whim the other day for a myriad of reasons and grievances, and let me just tell you that I am head over heels in love. Though they have not abated my frustrations over the fact that triangular crayons are certainly an option, but why the heck not for markers--MORE IMPORTANTLY--but alas, I am still in love.

Hello perfect match for a little toddler and preschooler indecision. Frustrations have been mounting these summer weeks, standing in front of the art supply tower to select from the myriad of coloring options. And the littlest Craunlet has some serious anger issues, and keeping track of rolling markers, their corresponding cylindrical lids, and the pesky pointed pencils proved to be far too undoing for a fun spot of coloring. And the whole sharing and taking turns thing. Yeah. I'll just leave that one without any further explanation.

Amazingly, the kids brilliantly came up with a system for sharing colors from the several broken packages by dividing them into the girl pail, and the boy pail. I was baffled at first, that they came up with this gender identification for their colors, and also that they could repeatedly keep it all straight. Both little pails are identical. And though most reds are female, as they are dark pink after all, there are a few exceptions. The boy reds as they have been identified. And further, there are some girl blues. Who knew??!

Obviously, it took the mom hopelessly forever to figure out any difference between the pails, so I was incredibly relieved when we received the little wooden rulers from our County library's summer reading program. I have been on operation organization around here, and hurriedly permanent markered their respective names on their little measure sticks and stored them in the appropriately gendered pail after consulting the Craunlets for proper identification.

So, these little pails are functional and beautifully simple problem solvers for some stress free independent play. And they started a whirlwind overhaul of getting this house back in order; the improved daily organization is looking and feeling so good. I was already inspired this week by all the fabulous ideas on the Playful Learning site, so now onto that preschool/playroom/studio space; I am ready for you.

August 3, 2009

Weekend Moment, Him

Let me just say that this weekend was one huge moment. I don't know if I could extract a smaller increment of it, and fully articulate what life was like these last two days in our household. A chaotic whirlwind of art making, finishing and framing. My working mess swallowed up our entire dining room, and threatened to take over the living room if allowed to stay an extra day.

And while I was in a frenzy of making, every waking hour of my weekend days -- minus a few hour break for church -- this husband of mine, he totally rocked. Dave held down the house. He already has "full responsibility" of the Craunlets on Saturday's; they call them Daddy Days. They are weekly holidays where they get to have undivided daddy time, work on household projects, go to the zoo, hit the playground, have a picnic, etc. And the key is really the no mommy part.

Generally, I am in the studio for the day, getting in some press time.

This week, my weekend moment is actually pretty devoid of me...I feel like I watched this weekend from the outside. And though I was up to my eyeballs in art making, it was kind of fun to see the family not only surviving, but enjoying the mayhem I brought into our normal.

Dave repaired the roof, the better part of Saturday, while watching the kids. And he even let them each on the ladder -- ALL THE WAY UP TO THE ROOF. He did five loads of laundry, handled most of the meals, and took care of baths. They played slides and balls in the back yard. Legos and games indoors. Then, he helped me frame up 10 prints on Sunday evening, [making a grand total of 17 this weekend] over a glass of red wine.

My weekend moment is my husband.
This perfect compliment other half.
This incredible loving + patient daddy.


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