Charlotte’s Budding Career in Photography

May 13, 2009 § 2 Comments

Let’s bring up the mood around here a little and talk about Charlotte.  As she continues to grow and develop her own personality, Brian and I are in a constant state of laugh out loud awe.  Even at two and a half she is rife with opinions and “catchphrases” and jokes, but also compassion and empathy and determination.  How many times have I heard her say “NO mommy, gimme do it” when I try to help her with something?  And yet, after a full day of independence and self determination, she’s still small enough to crawl into my lap with a blanket at the end of the day and say “Mommy, cuddle on the couch?”

She’s at the age where learning isn’t associated with “sitting at a desk all day, listening to some crank drone on and on about the Magna Carta”.  Learning for Charlotte is non stop fun, driving her forward from morning until night, coming home from daycare and singing to me: “AY YI YI YI, CANTA Y NO LLORES!”. 

She’s fascinated by the arts.  She loves to draw and paint, and sing and dance and her new love is photography.  Brian said it’s amazing that she’ll never live in a world where she’ll have to wait to see a picture.  Every time I tell her to smile, she poses, and then says “Gimme see it?” (Gimme means many wonderful things in our house, sort of like VEGETABLE means ‘tater tots’ or ‘buttered corn’).  She also knows that photos are unlimited.  There’s no “STOP MAKING FACES, YOU’RE WASTING THE FILM”.  Any crazy picture you want to take, do it.  So we delete it later. Who cares?  You never know what sort of unique moment you’re going to capture.

So last weekend while she was playing with my aunt’s pretty amazing collection of sixties Barbies and Barbie Like Fashion Dolls and Barbie Accessories I decided to take a page from Doe-C-Doe and stage some cute shoe photos (which you can see in my FLICKR photostream, click the button in the right column –>) as well as capture some of the dolls themselves. So the first photo was just a standard, STILL LIFE WITH DOLL ON TABLE.


OK, not so great.  Can’t really see her face and it’s boring to boot.  Plus, I think Charlotte just crushed a nilla wafer into the carpet. So I called her over to help.  Can you hold up the dolly?  So it looks like she’s walking?  Hold her very still and I’ll take a picture.

Notice the Lead-Singer-Of-Bow-Wow-Wow-In-The-I-Want-Candy-Video hairstyle and the REDONKULOUS blue eyeshadow.  Please disregard Charlotte’s fingernails in this picture.  We’d just finished eating lunch and her nails needed trimming….and…well, I’m a lazy parent…so they’re dirty.  Let’s all try and live with it.  She’s two.   Anyway, I realized that I didn’t like how to the light was, or how she looked on the table, or how Charlotte’s fingernails looked like she’d just hand dug a grave, so I decided to scrap the shoot until she was taking a nap or something.  But before I could get the doll from her, Charlotte said,

“Wait mommy, wait wait wait.”

She took a moment and posed the doll and said,

“OK Mommy, take picture of her BUTT!”

 So I did. She rushed around the coffee table giggling and said “GIMME SEE IT?” I showed her what she ahd wrought and she laughed hysterically, running from the room to show everyone else the dolly’s butt.

Truly…she is an artist of limitless imaginaton.


Life in Progress – Spring has Sprung

March 26, 2009 § 2 Comments

Although I have made dire predictions in the past, I do believe that Spring is here. I know this because I finally looked at my collection of silver trees and snowmen and thought “that’s ridiculous”. I finally got the urge to redo the decor, open the windows and get out the fresh, clean, floral-y candles.

But along with that, Spring brings the return of my “single motherhood” as Brian started rehearsals and performances for his show, Lend Me A Tenor up in Arlington Heights. He was gone every day from 6 pm to 11 pm, and after Charlotte went to bed, I was left to my own devices, finally able to delve into some crafting once again.

Charlotte began complaining that she missed Daddy. It occurred to me that I hadn’t done any straight up scrapbooking in ages, so I followed the lead of Art Junk Girl and decided to alter an old board book into a Daddy and Charlotte book. She has 5,000 books and FOUR copies of Goodnight Moon, three of which are board book versions (which aren’t even the full story). So I took the one that was in the worst shape, applied Gesso to each page and the covers (it sounds so easy, but trying to keep all those pages apart so they don’t become one giant Gesso block is a reeeeal logic puzzle.)








After the Gesso dried, I painted over the pages in a white/gray acrylic paint coat just to give it an artsy look, not so screaming white. More updates as this book grows.


Charlotte, no doubt taking after her mother, has grown quite fond of setting herself up in boxes. She puts the box where she’d like it to be (in my bedroom while I’m putting on makeup… heretofore referred to as MAYMUK, which is her pronunciation), then she gets inside and asks for someone to bring her a blanket, a binky and some juice. I mean, let’s lay our cards out on the table here…it looks cozy.

I haven’t sewn in a while, but when I saw the super cute, super easy Kid’s Kimono over at Habitual, I knew it would be my first foray. I wasted approximately a yard and a half of fabric making that first kimono, screwing up the binding, the neckline, I tried to put a lining in it for the chilly spring and ended up making a twenty five pound kimono that was so stiff that Charlotte couldn’t put her arms down when she tried it on. I publicly laughed, privately swore, and tried again. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE DO, RIGHT?T TRY AGAIN. You know my motto kids:

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. But then give up, there’s no point in looking ridiculous.

I trimmed the pattern and made a summer wrap shirt out of it with velcro closure instead of tie closure. I like it, although it’s a bit low cut for a two year old. It’s a bit low cut for a thirty year old, but maybe she’ll grow into it.  I must give credit and laudation to one Ms. Angry Chicken, whose tutorial on attaching bias tape without swearing is what got this shirt made. 


I have also started working on the world famous Twirly Skirt from House on Hill Road, but from the looks of it so far, I doubt I’ll be posting any pictures. They say practice makes perfect, but really, all I’d like is for practice to make half way decent. I’ve never asked for much.

The Crafty Crow is an awesome website, an aggregate of all the children’s crafts and art projects in the history of the world.  And pal, I’m not talking about macaroni necklaces and paperchains for Christmas.  This stuff is off the hizzy as far as learning, fun, creativity and originality.  Charlotte loves her some bathtub fun, particularly tub crayons and tub paint.  I bought her the Spongebob Squarepants soap paint set for christmas which she used up entirely in about two weeks.  It was 8.00.  So I took a cue from Wee Life, featured on the Crafty Crow and made up some homemade tub paint from cornstarch, clear dish detergent and food coloring. 


I chose the new Palmolive Pure & Clear not only for the color purity, but because it’s gentle and fragrance free and all that.  I was temporarily stumped on how to store the paint.  I had a set of six mini gladware containers in my grocery cart until I got to the beauty needs department (which I never skip.  EVER.  I always find a beauty need I need.  I could shop the cosmetics/bath/hair section of a drug store for three hours).  There I found a travel kit of four three ounce plastic shampoo containers IN A CLEAR PLASTIC ZIPPER POUCH for only 2.00.  Score.  The paint stays nice and neat in the containers and the containers stay nice and neat in the pouch.  Hooray!

Don’t be fooled.  I don’t all of the sudden love spring.  But for some reason, this spring arrived just in time with my creative energies and the bonus of having time to myself is allowng for some fun experimentation.  I think I’ve come up with my first product for Etsy (I’ve been stewing over what sort of shop I’d like to have over there), and i’m in the secret lab prototype stages of that, and the fresh air brought a new burst of writing energy that I’m trying to take advantage of.  I love crafting and cooking and sewing and drawing, but in truth, writing is my truest, deepest passion, and when I was without that drive to do it, I was lost.  So I hope this feeling sticks around.

Happy Spring!




Grandma’s Valentines

February 17, 2009 § 4 Comments

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day for some reason.  Not so much for the romantic, foo foo stuff, but because I loved it as a kid.  Until my sister was old enough to go to school for a full day, my mother was a stay at home mom.  She lived the dream as far as I’m concerned, keeping a beautiful, comfortable house, raising her children with an almost wolven voracity and zest for the task.  She was the classroom ART MOM, she produced home cooked meals six nights a week (thursdays were ‘find your own dinner night’), she taught Sunday School, carpooled, helped with my sixth grade Country Report on the underappreciated Luxemborg.  When we got up for school, she’d have our clothes laid out, our Buddig turkey lunches packed and our breakfast toastin’, or snap cracklin’, or whatever other breakfasts do. 

In fact, every year, on the first day of school, my father would put off getting ready for work (and who doesn’t?) in order to video tape his daughters in their back to school outfits, gripping their new totebags, sporting gigantic clear acrylic glasses frames, eating their breakfast.  And who are these kids and people who ‘don’t eat breakfast’ or “can’t eat in the morning’ or ‘just give me my coffee’?  I don’t know if I’m an intense dreamer or a hopless kicky when I sleep, but I wake up RAVENOUS.  In my view, there is never ENOUGH breakfast.

None of this is the point.

The point is that if there was a holiday, my mom did a li’l somethin’ to recognize it.  Be it green milk in our cereal on St. Patty’s, making Easter Egg sugar cookies, or a small pink and white gift at our place setting on Valetine’s day.   We got a little bit of candy, and a card, and then something fun like the new Garfield book (score!) or a Strawberry Shortcake doll.  It made the day a little more fun and special.

So now that Charlotte’s on the scene, I was excited to not only put together a little gift for her, but to make gifts for Grandmas and Grandpas to receive in the mail.  Who doesn’t like a package on Valentine’s day?  Way back in December, I saw a tutorial for Exploding Scrapbook Boxes as a last minute Christmas idea.  Having already been pushed over the edge of sanity preparing for Christmas, I squirreled the link away for another time.  Turns out Valentine’s Day was perfect!





After a night of nerve wracking measuring and cutting (the directions were in crazy METRIC! Imagine the horror), it was full frontal creativity with these little buggers. In addition to pictures of li’l Lala and her Mom and Dad, I threw in a few quotes including one of my favorite Erma Bombeck nuggets:

A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.
— Erma Bombeck

With the exploding boxes out of the house and on their way over the river and through the woods, my craft table is clear and ready to take on the next three projects: The Everyday Work Tote, The Family of Three Diorama and Charlotte’s Art Portfolio/Storage System, which I’ll be happy to show you once they’re in any kind of presentable shape.

So anyway, Valentine’s  Day was a success…oh, except on Friday, the 13th? I chopped off the tip of my finger while making a stirfry.  Never let it be said I don’t bring a bit of flair to the holidays!

a grim accident scene photo captures the grisly aftermat

a grim accident scene photo captures the grisly aftermath

When my mother called to check on the state of my finger, she asked me which finger I had cut.  I said “my right index finger”.  She was quiet for a moment and then asked, “Is that Pointer or Tall Man?”


Bad Brain Days

February 19, 2008 § 3 Comments

I left class early, wondering why I was taking it in the first place. Intermediate wheel throwing. I wasn’t an art student, mind you, I was a thirty five year old woman with a toddler and a husband. I worked in accounting. Pottery was my latest tangent, if you didn’t count embroidery, which you really shouldn’t, trust me. I had been taking wheel throwing classes for a year, amassing piles of useless bowls and vessels and giving them away as gifts as if I were some coveted artist, a fanciful JMC etched in the bottom to indicate a “GENUINE JESSICA MCCARTNEY”. But where was it going? I stood in the train station staring at a yawning hole in the street below. A water main had broken in the brutal January cold and within seconds the street collapsed, sucking in cars and parking meters and young trees like a growing mouth of hell. It amazed me how swift the flood water current ran, only twenty or so feet below the surface.

By the time I got home from class, my daughter, whom I prayed and wished and worked for for nearly eight years, was sound asleep.. She’ll never know that I kissed her goodnight, or stared at her tiny limbs all curled up beneath her like a frog on a lilypad. We were both growing older, and I missed a day of her life so I could play with clay. I recalled my mother telling me that the moment we’re born we begin dying. For some reason she felt like this was an appropriate and harmless little ‘factoid’ to lay on a twelve year old. My mind is a wall of graffiti, and that sentence is bold paint, a bit worn with time, not as sharp, not as harsh, but right in the middle, surrounded by other bits of wisdom. My cousin Tommy, for example, told me that if the nuclear power plant near my childhood home were ever to melt down, I would live long enough to “watch my skin melt like water”.

I left my baby’s room and changed into pajamas, anxious to read a meaningless style magazine, watch a sitcom repeat. These were surefire ways to clear my head of “serious business”. A sharp headache pulsed behind my right eye. Dehydration? Sinuses? Tumor?

“I’m not going to be awake too much longer,” I said to my husband, noting that it wasn’t even nine o’clock.

“Bad brain day?” he asked, whipping through channels while playing poker on the laptop.

Bad brain day indeed.

Only 242 Days Until Christmas!

February 16, 2008 § 2 Comments

When I found out I was pregnant, it was only natural that my due date be Christmas day. It was already a day I counted down to all year, my ears pricking up at the first ring of a jingle bell, the first “Big Holiday Sale!”. I am not at all bothered by the ever increasing hype of Christmas, the decorations appearing earlier each year, the all Christmas Radio Station starting on November 1st – these are bonus celebrations. They caannot deter me from the very intimate, family focused love I feel at Christmas, in my home, around the kitchen table, at church. I do not celebrate Christmas at Target, so I don’t care what they do with their decor – unless it’s on sale.

The day after Thanksgiving is a holiday unto itself in our house. Boxes and bags are dragged up from the storage closet, cookie recipies, some stained with a smear of butter or vanilla, or a touch of caked on flour are pinned up to the bulletin board in order of importance. I make lists at Christmas, just to mark the time. I make lists of gifts I’ll buy, gifts I want, who will get Christmas cards, which treats I’ll mail out to friends, and anything else I can think of.

But Christmas, as we know, is for the children. It always felt strange to decorate a two bedroom condo for two people and a chihuahua. There was no reason for me to wake in the dark morning of Christmas, always expecting some magic or miracle to appear in the next room. But I did it anyway, even at the age of 30, having slept in the guest room in my own childhood home. I stood at the top of the staircase and waited for my mother to say “Santa’s been here!”, because I wanted to cement it in my memory. I wanted to always have that phrase to bring me back to every Christmas of my life, the year I got a cabbage patch doll, the year I got my drafting table so I could become a world famous architect. I wanted to remember the first Christmas that I was married, the Christmas I came BACK to Rochester because I lived somewhere else. They all lived in that one phrase,and the sound of our feet stomping down the stairs, giggling and acting like six year olds. I don’t ever want to be without it. Even so, as we aged, it became less thrilling to empty our stockings filled with batteries, chocolate, stamps and a Crest Spinbrush. The gifts became more practical, the boxes thin, rectangular, and plainly wrapped.

Thank God for Charlotte. She was born four days early, arriving home from the hospital the day before Christmas Eve, her soft, plump skin golden with jaundice. We swaddled her in a therapeutic light blanket and she glowed like a fresh little space traveler observing human customs as we huddled in our tiny condo living room: grandparents, aunt Allison, laughing and munching on Chinese food and cookies. It was fifty degrees and raining outside, our tree wore only white lights and paper snowflakes, but we were all together, my heart overwhelmed with more emotions than I could recount here. I slept soundly, contentedly in my own bed for the first time in months, the bassinet emitting a soft green glow throughout the house. My home was filled with my family, with joy and never before seen thankfulness and celebration. We were all so excited to see the baby that we awoke in the dark on Christmas morning to see the magic, the miracle in the next room. I held her close to my chest and cried, so happy to be 34 and having the best Christmas morning ever.

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