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Dear Kids: For the record, you adore each other.

Our kids are like most siblings: they play together, and they fight together. Sometimes, the screaming is pretty horrifying. And then there are those moments – and those little games and traditions they invent – that warm you right down through to the sub-cockle area of your heart.

{For example, there’s this one funny procedure whenever I give them their vitamins. They have fish-shaped ones and Disney-character-shaped ones – please don’t judge us – and they MUST discuss them every time. They announce the colours they received, and what characters, and what order they eat them in. And then they put up their thumbs in different positions depending on whether their vitamins match or not. I don’t know why or how this came about, but they’re both VERY attached to the ritual.}

Last evening, there was a lot more good and happy play than screaming. (Which I really needed, after three weeks in a row of my Hubbibi on evening shifts.) At one point, they were sitting amicably together in the guest room, having constructed a barrier so each could not see what the other was drawing.

Turns out E was making a present for AB. The next morning there was a note in the advent calendar pocket, which completely turned around a morning that had promised to be very grumpy on her part:

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look in the guest room and you will find a present there

And it led her to this lovely festive drawing…

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Bells are ringing!

And THIS was on the other side.

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I can’t even.

I got a bit teary-eyed and all squeezy and kissy with that boy when he showed me. (Which he doesn’t mind as he is a squeezy, kissy type himself. They’re both very affectionate, even with each other, to the point that staff members at their school stop to watch their sweet little goodbyes in the mornings as a pick-me-up.)

And since we’re looking a wee masterpieces, here’s what AB was drawing at the same time.

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Sort of looks like an underwater scene… But it’s a holiday scene!

The spidery things are suns, and the phallic green-and-brown thing is a Christmas tree (obvs), and the little brown guy is a reindeer, and the swoopy line is a sleigh, and the black dots are buttons on a (non-visible) snowman, and there are also a few flowers and stars sprinkled in there.

So, kids, if you’re reading this and you’ve reached that phase of your lives (because we have to assume it will arrive eventually) where each of you annoys the other ALL THE TIME, please just know that you truly love one another deep down, and you’re a sublime little team when you need to be. We love you kajillions.

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Big Magic – Two-Minute Book Review

Title: Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear

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Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Other works: Eat, Pray, Love, The Signature of All Things, etc.

Recommended by: Glennon at Momastery (again). I’ll pretty much try anything she says. Also, I’d already read Eat, Pray, Love, and although it wasn’t dramatically life-changing for me, it was fascinating and memorable and contained a few moments that really moved me.

Genre: Self-Actualization/Art/Philosophy/Nonfiction/Psychology

Main Characters: Mostly you, the reader. And Liz. And a few other creative people with profound things to say.

Opinions: It was a pretty quick and relatively light read. It could incite soul-searching, but also it could just be read as a go-get-’em pick-me-up. I found it comforting on many levels, and funny too.

A quotation I liked: “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

What sticks with me: 1) All people possess creativity; 2) Ideas are active and animate and will go about knocking on people’s doors until they get someone to bring them to life; 3) The suffering artist thing does not have to be a thing – if it makes you suffer that much, it’s really not what you should be doing; 4) folks need to give themselves permission to feel entitled to the time it takes to make their art – yes, it is worth doing. (Even if you’re a blogger with a very small audience, or a composer who only composes something every 5 years. 😉 )

Recommended to: People who have ideas stewing but never feel validated enough to make them happen; people who think they’re not creative; people who know they ARE creative.

To sum up: I liked it a lot! And I’ve already lent it to someone, but you can borrow it if you want, when I get it back.

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5-Day Artist Challenge, Day 3: Visual Art

It’s Visual Art for Day 3 of the Artist Challenge!

I’m going to bend the art-as-bread metaphor a bit, and say that visual art… is a sandwich. Because it has to be. You take your deliciously blank bread/canvas/hunk of rock, add your ideas and effort, colour and texture, and make it something totally new that’s your own. It might be savoury or sweet, hot or cold, crunchy or sloppy, humble or huge, traditional or bizarre. It might be multimedia. The result might cause observers to say, “Ooh! Yum!” or perhaps “WTF is that??”

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Artistic Vegetarian Sandwich via amuse-your-bouche.com.

I love visual art. (You might be thinking: Um, Dilovely, you also said you loved the first two strands of art. Are you ever gonna spice things up and NOT love one? The answer is no. Nope, I love them all. I’m allowed to be wholeheartedly predictable if I want.) Especially since university, when I got a wee bit obsessed with Impressionists – as many French majors do – I have loved to contemplate art. I visited all the museums I could while in Europe – and Barcelona blew my mind. I love letting a painting or sculpture sink into my eyes and take over my brain.

I also love, when possible, watching people make art. Since we’re talking about art AND sandwiches, I’m going to confess that a person with knee-jerk shyness (such as me) might, instead of choosing to have lunch with any famous person in history, want to go back in time and just watch Monet or Seurat paint.

I am in awe of visual artists, including the many I know personally and/or am related to. I’m amazed by the ability to shed reality, see things in new ways, envision things that never were, grab your tools and just… make new beauty. This is how I know I am not a true visual artist: I’m not enough of a risk-taker. Or a reality-shedder.

Here’s my art sandwich:

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Conventional PB&J via livestrong.com.

It might be decently executed, it’s appealing enough, but it’s entirely unoriginal.

When I was a kid, I drew lots of pictures. Usually ladies in pretty dresses. Other kids often said I was a “good draw-er.” (I was also the queen of colouring contests.) I figured this was normal. My mom was such a good draw-er that she could just whip up a drawing for me to colour, upon request. (Mostly ballerinas.) My dad could create graphic-art fonts by hand as if he’d trained his whole life. I just assumed all grown-ups could do art.

I enjoyed art class in Grade 9, and was proud of some of what I came up with, especially my big still-life project. However, I was beginning to understand that I didn’t have the innovative soul of a true visual artist, and I took instrumental music instead, thereafter.

Around the time I graduated from university, I took up drawing again for a bit, having remembered what I’m good at, namely: copying. I can draw from a photograph pretty accurately.

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Here’s Marilyn, with only a slightly wonky nose.
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Here’s Anne Frank, with whom I was also obsessed for several years.
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Here’s a woman from a Midol ad. I related to her posture at the time I drew her.

This was my most in-depth drawing, rendered from a photo I found in the book The Family of Man (from the MOMA). I was happy I’d managed to retain that which moved me about the original – the tenderness, the light. But the real beauty, the real art, was in the photo itself.

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For a brief moment as I prepared to leave for France, I imagined reinventing myself on a foreign continent as An Artist. But it didn’t last, because I knew I didn’t have the true artist’s soul. I wasn’t risky or imaginative or experimental. I liked to be safe. Even as a kid, I didn’t take paint and just go “Sploosh!” to see what happened. I didn’t try new things much, or let art take shape on its own. I wanted things to be just so. That’s why I so loved my coloured pencils: the colour went only exactly where I put it. Even now, paint scares me in its uncontrollableness.

Most of the drawing I do nowadays is on the blackboard (or whiteboard) at school. The kids love it when I draw things to illustrate a point, especially when they turn out terrible. They still sometimes tell me I’m a good draw-er, which makes me smile. And I enjoy watching my own children do art, with their natural creativity.

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These are a few of E’s homemade Pokémon. He makes up their names and powers.
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And here is a mixed-media piece AB made with, paper, wood, glitter, stickers, re-directed mail, plastic packaging, and utmost confidence.

For those readers with the visual art gift: could I come watch you make art sometime?

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P.S. If you noticed that Day 3 didn’t occur on the third day, here’s an oh-so-artistic meme I created to represent my feelings just prior to midnight last night:

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Such Outrageous (Good) Fortune

I mentioned I’ve been absent from school twice within the last two months, for a week at a time. There are only good reasons for this, and this is what I wrote (and didn’t manage to post) when I came back from the first one – a rare and wonderful reunion of my dad’s side of the family in the U.S.

I’m feeling really grateful, for so many things.

  • Being given permission to attend a family reunion in North Carolina for a week, even though teachers are really never supposed to do vacation time outside scheduled breaks.
  • Our spacious new minivan that made the trip possible. (Toyota Sienna.)
  • My kids being, overall, very well-behaved and good sports about the 12-hour drive (plus stops and a teeny bit of getting lost).
  • My dear sisters, Auntie Em and Auntie Beth, who were part of the minivan crew and made the long driving time totally do-able. (In fact, when the kids look back on those long drives, they insist that they were fun… And they actually kind of were.)
  • The gift of hand-me-down Bakugan toys, from a thoughtful friend, that made both car rides way more cool.

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  • The advice of my friend at bearandlionmama.com, who has a lot of great tips about road trips that were helpful (especially the cookie trays!).
  • Sean being an excellent driver, such that we arrived safely and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, despite my unexpected and uncharacteristic bout of anxiety during my own driving stint in the West Virginia mountains. (Tunnels through mountains = not great for claustrophobes.)
  • The fact that my two aunts somehow managed to buy houses that aren’t just in the same town – they’re RIGHT NEXT DOOR to each other.
  • The beautiful Smoky Mountains.

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  • Tromping around in the mountain woods.
  • Gorgeous weather, like a sweet slice of summer. (While we were still having intermittent snow back home.)
  • The best screened-in balcony-porch you’ve ever seen.

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  • Being given a bed to sleep on that’s actually more comfortable than our own bed; on our second night there, I had the best sleep I’ve had in… probably more than seven years.
  • A whole crew of family I don’t just like, or even just love – rather, family I am totally inspired by and adore to pieces. Including every one of the relatively new additions.
  • Finally cuddling my birthday buddy!! And getting a lovely baby-fix – without craving another of my own. Well, hardly at all.

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  • Getting to hug and kiss my sweet grandma every day, hear her voice, and know that at 97-and-a-half she’s still a good listener and inclined to make sassy comments on a regular basis.

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  • Fascinating, wide-ranging intergenerational conversations, especially leisurely ones over breakfast while we ogled the baby and drank amazing coffee (one of the cousins does coffee for a living, and we all reaped the benefits).
  • The interactions between the four smaller people – ages almost-one, three-and-a-half, almost-seven, and almost-eleven. They were all so good to each other and had so much fun, age gaps notwithstanding.

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  • Delicious homemade meals every night, made by different folks so no-one had to do too much.
  • Having time to play two whole games of Cities and Knights of Catan, plus lots of Anomia, Dutch Blitz, Exploding Kittens, and one grand game of Taboo. Lots of laughing-till-we-couldn’t-breathe.
  • The opportunity to visit the Cherokee village and walk around the grounds (which seemed mysteriously open even though the village itself was closed even though its website said it was open) and then visit the nearby Museum, so as to have an idea of the real history of the area.

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  • Seeing horribly grainy video footage of our clan talent show from New Year’s Eve 1995, to remember how young and big- and long-haired – and talented, of course – we all were.
  • Watching my children playing with their grown-up relatives, who seemed happy to get down on the floor to play, or participate in endless rounds of bounce-catch. (Thank you!!)
  • Both of my dog-scared kids getting to know little Tucker, who helped them loosen up.

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  • Getting to see arty Asheville, including the coffee bus and Woolworth Walk and the used bookstore and Real Buskers!

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  • The fact that my kids have aunts and great-aunts who do real art, super-fun full-on art, of a type that I never accomplish with them at home.

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  • My Hubbibi being willing to put the kids to bed basically every night, so that I could spend more time with my relatives.
  • Being reminded of what it feels like to be at loose ends… having whole days with no set plans, to just loll around and chat and listen to birds and have drinks and hammock and strum and sing and look at old photos. What a crazy feeling.

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  • Getting to celebrate the baby’s first Passover on our last evening in NC, with real matzo ball soup and extra-hot horseradish, and the short version of the sermon with genuine Hebrew singing.
  • Spending a whole week immersed in beauty and clan-love. It really doesn’t get any better.
  • That lady at McDonald’s during breakfast on our trip home who kindly got AB a separate plate when she was starting to melt down because of a syrup incident, and then also got us a lot of napkins when she spilled her milk. And smiled at us and seemed not at all perturbed by the perturbations.
  • Being so fortunate in our home that, even though we missed everyone, coming back across the border was a joy, and coming into our house was comforting. Even E, who had cried about leaving, said, “It’s nice to be home.”

Dear clan – thank you so much, for your hospitality, your generosity, your wonderfulness in general. We miss you and love you lots and lots, and are already looking forward to the next visit. Even two weeks after we got home, E still said that whenever he mentioned North Carolina, he felt sad that we left – but I know both kids had the time of their lives. And me too.

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Possibly The Randomest Book You’ll Ever Read

On one of E’s earlier works, Daddy helped him with a short author bio in which it was conveyed that E’s goal is to make 100 books.

He is barrelling toward this goal, let me tell you. He’s kind of obsessed with my stapler.

Here’s a creation from this past week. I love how he’s unencumbered by the fetters of plot, theme, or common threads of any kind, swinging freely between the physical and the metaphysical.

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This is the title page. He’s really into stormy weather patterns right now. I’m pretty sure the circular one at the bottom is a typhoon.
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Only one of each – no need for overkill.
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These names come from his class list, hence the abundance of appropriate vowels.
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He makes jump tracks just like this. You’ll notice that spoilers are very important to him – as they are, verily, unto the world.
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This looks like he doesn’t understand food groups, but he’s actually been talking quite knowledgeably about them recently. Apparently the colour-code is the critical part.
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You have to have a Stuffies page.
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And of course you DOUBLE HAVE TO have a Dragons page.
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Spoiler alert… this Colours page might just lead to a spinoff book.
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I’ve always loved his plane drawings beyond all description.
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And the heart-pounding dénouement: CANDIES!

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100 Happy Days – Day 29: Love Art

E was inspired to pull up his li’l stool and draw this on our white board today.

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100 Happy Days – Day 28: THE SHOW

Invoketress Dance - Mosaic 10th Anniversary Bellydance Fusion Show

 

What a night.

It was the kind of dance performance experience you hope for:

  • Everything went smoothly – no obvious costume mishaps, lighting and music cues were all on, people did their jobs well.
  • We had an almost-full theatre.
  • Our guest performers were all amazing.
  • We got great feedback from our audience (even some of the tough customers who happen to be related to troupe members).
  • Any of those random choreographic mistakes made (usually ones you’ve never made ever before) during performances were not noticeable to said audience members.
  • Our troupe has never been more cohesive and full of sisterhood. It is an amazing team to be part of.

We’re all still taking it in. Grateful and glowing.

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