Friday, January 24, 2014

Art and the 2nd grader

I love words. My husband loves words. Our oldest son loves words. Words are magical for me; I would be perfectly content to hang out on a deserted island for all of eternity as long as there were books to keep me company. (And potatoes. I decided a while back that if I had to live with only one food it would be potatoes. They make me happy.) My husband first won me over with a poem he wrote that secretly hid my name within the lines. *swoon* When the boy came along, I knew it was love when he picked up a board book and backed into my lap on his first night home (in between bouts of hysterical crying of course). He sleeps with books, takes them everywhere he goes, and even reads the cereal box and milk carton at breakfast. Which makes me grin because I used to do THE EXACT SAME THING when I was a kid. So you get the picture. We love words.
Art is a different story. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate beautiful paintings and photographs, and we have several wonderful pieces in our house. Hubby and I enjoy art galleries and were hugely disappointed when we tried to see a van Gogh exhibit in DC several years ago and didn't join the entrance line in time (there were a limited number of tickets). But a general feeling of, "I like this one" or "I don't like that one" is the extent of my art knowledge. When my son's teacher asked me to chaperone their class trip to the art gallery, I knew I wouldn't be much help with the explaining parts, but I went anyway. We had a stern, soft-spoken woman as our docent. She was the kind of person who would not hesitate to rap the knuckles of any child caught too close to the artwork, were she allowed to do that sort of thing. Our group would look at a piece of art, I would try to figure out what the artist was trying to say, and then our docent would explain the meaning of the piece. I was wrong EVERY TIME. Now, I know art, like words, is subject to interpretation. But I was just so completely off it was laughable.
Then it got worse. The students began giggling at the nudity in paintings, and a little girl passed by a Jackson Pollack and said to  me, "That looks messy. How come that's art?"  The docent showed us a painting that was an orange rectangle and a yellow rectangle and my son started making this weird noise, like he was a cartoon character who swallowed sleeping pills. Embarrassed, I reprimanded him, which put him in a bad mood for the rest of the trip. He wouldn't talk to me or any of his friends on the bus ride home, and later he told me it was "the worst field trip ever" and that "some of those paintings were really inappropriate." I tried to explain how nudity in art is okay and that sometimes we like a painting and sometimes we don't. But that's all I had. I looked at him and thought, give me some poetry and I can explain what it means and why it is great, but art...
Is it wrong to have a kid that's just not into art? He likes to draw comic strips and read graphic novels, but his artwork is never chosen to hang in the hallways at school and the bottom line is: he's a word kid. Our youngest has always loved to draw and will spend hours molding play dough and creating elaborate collages at home and school. Hopefully when it is his turn to go to the art gallery he will be inspired and not bored. And he won't ask me to explain what it all means.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Sweet Memory

Yesterday was day 10 of the writing challenge. I got a little stuck last week on the querying, but yesterday's assignment was to write your sweetest memory, and I knew immediately that I wanted to write about Grandma. Many of my favorite childhood memories revolve around time spent with my grandparents, and my paternal grandma was the kindest, most loving person I have ever known. She had extraordinary patience and always appreciated my creative and foolish endeavors.

She sat in the squishy white chair, glasses perched on the edge of her nose, the click click of knitting needles pulsing out a steady cadence. I looked up from my coloring book and watched her hands move expertly in perfect rhythm. Her eyes met mine. She smiled, never missing a beat. Click click. I spotted the ball of green yarn resting on the arm of her chair. It was perfect and round, and I watched in awe as it gradually unraveled with each sweeping motion of the needles. I inched closer to the chair. Reaching up, I clasped my little fingers around the ball of yarn, feeling its fuzzy softness. Grandma just smiled. I pulled the ball of yarn into my lap and tried to resist each tug. Suddenly I had a wonderful idea. Holding the yarn in my hands, I began to slowly crawl across the floor of the living room. A green trail appeared behind me, inching along the floor like a tiny snake. When I reached the end of the living room, I turned down the hallway. The ball of yarn became smaller and smaller as the snake grew longer and longer. I grinned at my brilliance. Through the hallways and around each bedroom I crawled, careful not to overlap my path. Finally I made my way back into the living room. All that remained of the ball was a tiny clump. The clicking stopped. Grandma looked down at the floor with alarm, suddenly realizing what I had done. She took a deep breath and let it out gently. Her eyes softened and the sides of her mouth formed the slightest smile. Her head shook from side to side. “Thank you dear,” she said sweetly. Pride swelled in my chest. I placed the clump of yarn on her chair and turned to look at my masterpiece. I heard the familiar click click and watched as the green snake slithered slowly along the floor, creeping its way closer and closer.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Kitchen is Complete!

After many months of hard labor (mostly my husband's, although I did help a little), we are declaring the kitchen remodel officially DONE. When we first moved here back in 2008, the kitchen was a disaster. There were three different floors, all of which were outdated and filthy. The main foyer was paved with ugly, gray, chipped ceramic tile that we re-purposed in the garden as stepping stones. The main area of the kitchen had yellow-stained linoleum that curled up at the edges, and the hallway leading to the garage was a lovely brown shag carpet. It was all ripped out within the first few hours of owning the home and replaced with snap-together laminate that looks like ceramic tile but does not freeze our feet in the winter and does a wonderful job of hiding the messes of a family with two boys and no dogs. (Translation: They spill stuff. No one licks it off the floor.) Hubby also did a bit of reconstruction, moving our refrigerator out of the eating area, where it had been nestled in a flow-cramping alcove, and closer to the main kitchen area. We replaced all of the broken appliances and added a cookbook nook under the microwave. All of this was done within the first few months of moving in. Nearly six years ago. Fast forward to the spring of 2013. After saving our pennies, we were able to replace the pink counters with stone and then stare at the damaged walls for several months before finally deciding on and putting in a back splash. Hubby did most of the work, but I did get my hands dirty and help wash the grout. It was no fun, no fun at all, but we are very pleased with the result! To make my prep area more user friendly, hubby installed new track lighting and gave the fan a thorough scrubbing. The brightness makes it much easier to cook all of my wonderful veggie concoctions!! Here are a few before and after pics:

 As you can see, the tile was rather dull and dingy and it didn't really match the cool brick arch.
Working on the back splash
 Ta-da! Bright and beautiful!
Hard work and patience pays off!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happiest Memory

One of my resolutions this year is to write more, and to help accomplish that I am participating in a daily writing challenge. Today's challenge was to write your happiest memory. There were a good handful of memories to pick from, including my wedding day and the moment I became a mom (which I have written about many times), but I wanted to try something a little different. Please comment; I would love to know what you think!

The sun was just beginning to make its appearance over the harbor and already the day was hotter than any I had ever experienced. My thin cotton sundress was stuck to my skin, and I could feel the sweat pooling in every imaginable place on my body. Moments earlier I had stared in the mirror, fixing my hair just so and now it sat angrily on my shoulders in damp, frizzy strands. My feet were swollen and sore, and my hands were white from wringing in anticipation.

None of it really mattered. The heat, the pain, the unkempt appearance. All that mattered was the horizon. I kept my eyes peeled and waited, as patiently as was possible for a moment like this. Minutes felt like years as men and women piled off the small boat and onto the dock. Each boat carried a full load of passengers, but it was a mere fraction of the 5,000 people who were waiting to come ashore. Thankfully there were several boats travelling at once, making the journey back and forth, back and forth, but I knew it could take hours before he would arrive. I settled in for the long wait, my heart steadily pounding in my chest.

The aircraft carrier sat still in the distance, firmly grounded to the sea. The sailors were tiny dots, growing larger with each wave. My heart leapt and sunk with each small boat’s arrival. Finally he arrived. Dressed in his khaki uniform, with a bag slung over his right shoulder, my love emerged from the boat and stepped steadily onto the dock. I locked my knees to keep from swooning, and when he approached the waiting area I ran into his arms. Our embrace was sweaty and tight, his lips salty and sweet. I looked into his eyes for the first time since that cold, dark January morning when he had left for what was scheduled to be a three week underway. Then bombs were dropped in Iraq and everything changed. Now here we were, eight months later, embracing in the heat of summer in a foreign land where I never thought I would have the courage to journey. The long separation had forced me to exit my comfort zone and travel halfway around the world alone. It was worth the fear to see his smiling face, to feel his palm in mine.

The happiness of that moment was pure and deep. We only had a few short days together before I would journey home to wait out the final month of deployment. But we had made it this far, and I knew in that moment that we could survive anything.