Monthly Archives: July 2013

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

artwork

Oh!  I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself!  It’s almost time for Art in August, where we break out our old (or our kids’) art supplies, have a play, and post the results on our blog.  And here’s the really exciting part:  I’ve got some friends in Blog Land to play along with me!  It’s ridiculous the amount of excitement this gives me.

So far, my fellow art-alongers are:

Naturally Cathy of The Plucky Parent.  Cathy is a fellow mummy-blogger  (except she’s a ‘mommy’) who has already STARTED with an amazing coloured-pencil-on-printer-paper piece that took the length of one nap time to create (not her nap, obviously).  It’s called Indigo Violet and you can see it here.

セレネ of 可愛い国.  I will be calling this blog “Kawaii kuni”, which is the Roman alphabet equivalent of the blog’s name.  It translates to “cute country”, in reference to the Netherlands, where the blog is written, but I forgot to ask セレネ for her name (how rude of me!).  Kawaii Kuni is written in Japanese, Dutch and sometimes English too (perfect English, I might add).  The thing I love about this group art project is that it completely transcends language.   I can’t wait to see what セレネ creates!

Red Lipstick Mama is a “schizo-psychotic 30 (something) year old mum  with verbal diarrhea who is in search for cheap therapy” blogging from Harlem, New York.  Red Lipstick Mama has also started creating with an incredible denim and lace headpiece called Emily which you can see here.

M of the mmmmm family.  Actually, her name is Michaela, but I couldn’t resist.  I’m just getting to know this magical blog, but it’s a joy to read.  I suspect Michaela is as terrified as I am about this project, but that’s just why we need to do this!  Michaela signed on just last night and I did a lot of bouncing around in excitement.

and finally,

Allison Profeta of Allison Road.  Allison joined as I was writing this post.  Soooooo exciting!  Allison is so talented that she did a post for this before “Art in August” was even thought of!  In it she documents the struggle and inner turmoil of a militia of GI Joe soldier figurines trying to survive in a world they cannot control.  I hope she shares more of these!

Perhaps you might like to join us?  It’s not too late!  If you are a fellow blogger, leave me a comment at the bottom of this post and I will be sure to link to you.  If you don’t have a blog, perhaps you could share your art on the blog’s Facebook page or perhaps you could email it to me and I’ll post it for you. Matilda has already asked if she can join in and I’ll be posting some of her works as well.

I’ve already started on my first piece, I did the outlines while I was waiting to pick Matilda up from netball practice.  It’s so much fun but I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for Art in August!  Hurrah!

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Don’t Read This on a Japanese Train

Mama and Me

After reading a delightful post by Misadventures in Craft  about Crafty Minx’s nan, Lillian, I learnt about the “Granny-a-Long” hosted by Meet Me at Mikes and I couldn’t resist joining in.

My Mama lived at home in my big and noisy family when I was growing up and is a big part of who I am today.  I’ve been feeling a little emotional about my lovely Mama of late, so you might find this post a bit of a departure from my usual cheerful style.  I also wrote it in present-tense-second-person for no good reason.  Deal with it.

Mama and Me

Last night I visited you in hospital.  You have a brand-new hip now, but I don’t think you understand that.  Lost in a bewilderment of tubes and bleeping machines and white linen, you look so small.  You have always been little.  We used to tease you about it.  In the noise and laughter of our dinner table, you would stand up to get our attention and bang on the table to cancel out the five-conversations-at-once.  We would giggle and say, “Mama has an announcement! Stand up, Mama! Stand up!” And you would laugh and swat at us with your napkin and call us cheeky.  But now, in that bed so high off the ground, you look tinyLike a baby bird, too weak to fly.

Harry is excited because he can see a train out of your window.  The hospital is next to the train station.  I remember when I was a little girl, you would take me on the train with you on your excursions to Town.  How we would emerge from the exciting, subterranean station, pay a visit at St Francis’ church, and wander through the department store wonderlands so you could run your errands.  After this, if I had been good (and you always thought me good) we would have a special treat for lunch before catching the train back home.

The train pulls away, a snake of lit windows in the night, and Harry and Christopher Robin wave at it.  You don’t like this hospital.  You hate being sick.  When I was a little girl, I loved being sick.  You would bring me downstairs to your big Queen Anne bed and bring me cups of tea and fried eggs on a tray with flowers.  After lunch, you would perch on the bed with me and watch your “serials’, Days of Our Lives, The Young and The Restless.  You thought them very silly, but you never missed an episode.

Last year, when things got really bad, the doctor said you would have to live in a nursing home, where you could have full-time care.  We had all thought you would live at home forever.  We had never realised that one day that would become impossible.  In my grief, I swung into action mode and sought comfort in lists and research and pros and cons.  The home you live in now was number one on our list.  Tall trees, warm nurses, close community, fun activities.  But it’s not home.  And you know that and we know that.

The hospital confuses you.  “Is that George over there?  That can’t be George can it?”.  It isn’t George.  George is one of the other residents at Cottage Four who has a great-grandson just Harry’s age.  Actually, George isn’t even George. His name is really Walter, but you’re never one to let silly facts like these get in the way.  Walter just doesn’t realise his name is actually George.  Christopher Robin says that you’ve given Walter a nickname and I find it hard not to call him George myself sometimes.

You’re getting tired, it’s time for us to go.  Harry bounds over to give you a hug and a kiss and Annie bounces in her dad’s arms saying “Mama!”.  Christopher Robin gives a small, sad smile and a wave and Matilda lingers reluctantly at the foot of the bed.  But you don’t notice this.  “You have a beautiful family, you should be very proud” you murmur sleepily.  Pride in your grandchildren used to be a full-time sport for you.  If one of us came home with a glowing school report or a certificate from a science competition or pretty much anything with a gold star on it, you would whisk it away to some hiding place in your room, only to mysteriously produce it again whenever important visitors came around.  It was so embarrassing.  But you had the sort of personality that could get away with anything.

Matilda is subdued in the car ride home and as I tuck her into bed, she is crying.  “I wish Mama was living at home with Grandma again.” she whispers.  Matilda remembers what you were like before, when you were only a little bit forgetful.  We talk about the little impulsive gifts you bought her and the special lunches at the food court of the local shopping centre.  By now we’re both crying, but it’s dark, so it’s not so bad.  “I know it’s harder for you, Mum”, Matilda sniffles, “because you’ve known Mama for longer.  But it’s still hard for me.”

I want to say something really wise.  To talk, maybe, about how some goodbyes are swift and jarring, whilst others are slow and gentle.  To reflect on the ways in which love and relationship can transcend language and intellect and even memory.  But the words won’t come, so instead I hold Matilda tight and smell her beautiful hair.  And we stay like that for a very long time.

The title of this post is a warning to my older brother.  In Japan, public displays of emotion are kind of frowned upon.  Except that frowns are too expressive for Japanese public transport.  My brother complains when my posts make him laugh out loud when he’s on the train.  It makes everyone around him quietly tense.  If he were to get a little teary, his morning commute would get very uncomfortable.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Mama had known about my blog.  Mama was never tech-savvy at the best of times, but I can imagine her brandishing print-outs of my best work to distribute amongst all her Church Lady Friends.  I can hear her hassling the parish priest after Mass:  “Did you know Katie got a Liebster award last week?  Let me give you something to read…”

Resolution

Pastel Fail

I’m really not enjoying the morning rush before school at the moment.  Today, I returned from my search for Christopher Robin’s grey socks to find Harry sitting in the corner at my little Repressed Creativity table with Mummy’s Special Oil Pastels spread all around him.  He had torn the wrapper off the one in his hand and held it in his two small fists.

“I snap it?”, he enquired animatedly, a mischievous glint in his eye.

“No!  Naughty!”, I exclaimed in horror.

“I snap it.”, the wretched imp asserted decisively and broke the pastel clean in half before tossing it on the table to join its fallen brothers.

I managed to get to Harry before he unwrapped his next victim, made a mess of disciplining him (it was mostly me shouting “how would you like me to break YOUR special toys??!” whilst Harry shook his head solemnly and reasoned “they’re MY toys, Mummy.”) and tried to salvage what was left of my lovely pastels.

As I matched aquamarine with aquamarine and crimson with crimson, it seemed a twelve-year-old version of myself manifested itself before my eyes.  There she stood, an awkward figure in her ill-fitting school uniform, clutching her A3 Spirax cartridge paper sketchbook and tin of 72 Derwent pencils to her chest.

“When was the last time you even USED those pastels?” she glowered at me,  “You haven’t even opened the box for months and months!  I think it’s been a YEAR!”

“Look, now’s really not a good time, Twelve-Year-Old Version Of Myself”, I muttered crossly.  And it wasn’t.  It was 8:25am and Matilda was still searching for her shoes, Christopher Robin’s reader still needed to be signed, Annie’s nappy was emitting a suspicious smell and Harry was off hunting for fresh mayhem.  But the sulky tween manifestation of my subconscious was insistent.

“Mrs Flannery said we were good at art.  She said it was in our soul

It was true.  I had a wonderful art teacher in Year Seven who had been kind and encouraging.  She had looked past my crippling shyness and made me feel like I was special.   And it was also true: I hadn’t used the pastels in at least a year.  My house seems full of empty sketchbooks, untouched paints and blank canvases that my twelve-year-old self would have itched to play with.

I could have argued that I didn’t have the time, that was my usual excuse, but I knew twelve-year-old Kate wouldn’t buy it.  The truth is, I’ve become terrified of Inner Critic.  Inner Critic is another version of myself (it’s very crowded to be me) who usually tells the Twelve Year Old to sit still and be quiet.  She also says things like “what if it turns out you’re no good at art?  Wouldn’t it be better not to try than to find out you’re only average?” and she sighs and sneers and rolls her eyes a lot.  It’s hard work keeping her happy.

Twelve-year-old Kate didn’t have an inner critic.  She just liked to play with colour.

Later, in that beautiful calm after Matilda and Christopher Robin were delivered safely to school, I formed a resolution.  Throughout the month of August, I will create some sort of art once a week, photograph it and post it on my blog.  And if Inner Critic has any comments to make, I’ll just say “quiet, you!”.  I’m a great admirer of proper-artist Ruby Hoppen, she is creating a portrait of her son every week this year.  It’s amazing to behold.  That’s where I got this idea.  But I won’t be doing portraits, and I’m only going for a month, but other than that…

If any other of you lovely bloggers would like to “play along”, please let me know in the comments and I’ll link to you.  You don’t have to be arty, that’s the whole point!  I think I’m going to call it “Art in August”.  Or maybe “Amateur Art in August”

artworkAnd, in celebration of this decision, here is my first piece.  It commemorates the destruction of my oil pastels and the miniature art festival this event inspired.

I call it “Shattered”.

Can’t wait till August!

Summon Fail.

I was ready to go home now.  I’d had enough of the Birthday Party Factory.  Christopher Robin and nineteen other Grade Preps had been ushered from nine-pin kegel bowling, the name of which was a constant reminder to the mums to exercise their pelvic floor muscles; to arcade games, where the little boys got to shoot at things with guns; to the food table, where children were issued with regulation chips, nuggets and bright red frankfurters.  They had sung Happy Birthday cheerfully and eaten a spoonful each of their icecream cake before abandoning it to play in the enormous play room.  Meanwhile, the other parents and I had drunk our allocated lattes, nibbled at the bonus dip, and chattered politely about their home renovations and the various reasons why their husbands annoyed them.

I should probably take this opportunity to apologise for the opening sentence of this blog.  I know it’s not grammatically correct, but I can’t think of any other way to say it.   “I was ready to go home” doesn’t fully express what I’m trying to say and “I am ready to go home now” is all wrong because it happened last week and I’m just not in the mood for any present-tense, stylistic, place-the-reader-in-the-moment nonsense.

Anyway, I was ready to go home (now).  I had given Christopher Robin a ten-minute-warning twenty minutes earlier.  The playroom was filled with a large quantity of multi-coloured tubing twisted into a labyrinth of slides and tunnels and little helicopters.  Do you know the sort?  Just imagine your standard fast-food child-conditioning playground, but on steroids.  It was pretty bewildering.

I had gathered all my bags together and bid farewell to my fellow hostages.  All I had to do now was extract him from the baffling plastic jungle and we could go home.  I started out with a few rallying calls aimed up at various sections of the immense structure: “Time to go now!”, “C’mon Christopher Robin, the party’s finished!”, “Let’s go!  Hurry up!”, but these got me no response.

My next strategy was to stake out the slide exits, so that I might catch him before he was again swallowed up by the plastic monster, but, while many children came speeding down the slides, Christopher Robin was not among them.  He was too smart for that.  I noticed one of the helicopter rotors spinning defiantly high above my head.  Grrr.

I enlisted one of the other children to go in and find him for me.  The little boy nodded and disappeared.  Now I’d lost two boys!

It was time for some threats:  “It would be a shame if you missed out on a lolly bag because you took so long getting out”,  “Christopher Robin!  This has gone on too long!  You get out right now or you’ll get no screen time for a week!”,  “Christopher Robin, I’m going to give you a countdown.  If you’re not out of here by the time I get to one, you will have NO SCREEN TIME FOR A WEEK.  Five.  Four.  Three.  Do you really want no screen time for a week?  No computer!  No TV!  That’s what you’ll be getting.  No screen time for a week!  TWO.  I mean it!  TWO  Come on!  TWO  All right – ONE!  You’ve got NO SCREEN TIME FOR A WEEK.  I’m VERY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU!”

In the farthest section of the tangled monstrosity I could hear loud giggling.  My blood boiled.

Then the little boy I sent in to find Christopher Robin came sailing down one of the slides and approached me (he looked a little frightened).  “I couldn’t see Chris in there – I think he’s hiding”

How on earth was I going to extract my son from this many-coloured beast?  I really did not feel like wedging my thirty-two year old body through a series of tubes built for the under-tens.  I rolled up my sleeves and sighed (after yelling something more about “SO MUCH TROUBLE!”).  It was then that the pile of children’s shoes at my feet caught my attention.  There were lots of different shoes scattered across the floor, but there seemed to be a notable absence.  Where were Christopher Robin’s black sneakers?

Hmmm.

I backed slowly out of the door in my first murmur of self-doubt and cautiously glanced around the room I found myself in.  The other room.  There was the party table, all laden with melting cake; there was the air-hockey machine, with five children jostling for a turn; there were the kegel bowling lanes (snicker); and there, playing happily on a Daytona race car machine, well out of earshot of anything that might have been going on in the playroom, was Christopher Robin.

Oh.

“Time to go!” I said, in a strangely strangled tone that was meant to approximate upbeat cheerfulness.

“OK, Mum”  Christopher Robin jumped down off the machine and walked dutifully beside me to say goodbye to the birthday boy and “thank you for having me” to his mother.

And as we rolled out of the Party Factory assembly line, I saw a new group preparing to go in.  Children excitedly clutching presents and parents smiling nervously in misguided optimism.  As I looked at them, I realised things weren’t so bad after all.

I could have been those people.