Author Archives: amy

Settling In

magnolia at amyhoodarts.com

Magnolia tree in our yard. We’re not in Rhode Island anymore.

June was a very exhausting and yes, stressful month. Part of me wishes I’d had time to update here, but there’s no way. I was posting to Instagram throughout the month, but then my cell phone up and died mid delivery of all our household goods, if you can believe it. Let me try to catch you up a bit.

After all the doctor’s appointments and end-of-school stuff, the kids, cat, and I got into the car last Monday for the drive down to our new home. My husband stayed behind for the pack-out and to close on our house (I’d signed a power of attorney so that we didn’t both have to knock around with the kids and cat). The drive was fairly easy, even through New York City. The cat never made a peep; he mostly dozed. The kids did great with minimal rest stops (only two! and none in New Jersey, thank goodness; the turnpike bathrooms are disgusting) in order to keep the cat’s time in his carrier as short as possible. I’m actually still amazed at how well our very old cat handled the long car ride and a new house.

The hardest part of the drive for me was the Bay Bridge. It’s very long, high, and narrow, with no shoulders. Middle child informed me I was both panting and whimpering. Mind you, though I’m not a fan of bridges, I drove just fine over the many and various bridges between Rhode Island and Annapolis. That one, though. Ugh.

We had to wait a couple of days for our household goods to arrive on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, the kids slept on the floor in sleeping bags and I used the one mattress in the house. The first thing we did Tuesday was get ourselves library cards. After that we went to Target and Whole Foods. All of these places are within about ten minutes of our house, but it took me about three hours to do those three errands. It’s exhausting, not knowing where anything is. It’s just so darn hard to get anything done.

Closing wasn’t until Thursday, so I also got to handle delivery of all our household goods by myself on Wednesday. It was a little overwhelming. Even with all the decluttering I did, we have a lot of stuff. Nothing brings that home like watching a crew of guys bring your stuff in for five hours. The only time I came close to crying the whole week was when my phone quit working halfway through delivery. It had landed face down on pavement Monday evening when an exuberant middle child launched himself into me, cracking the screen, and I guess it took two days for it to fully give up the ghost. With my husband’s help I was actually able to find an old phone in a box and get switched over so I at least had GPS and texting and email capabilities (although, heaven help us, not all at the same time).

I’ve never moved like this before–that is, with someone other than myself packing the boxes. Unpacking is like a treasure hunt, because while boxes are labeled with rooms and generalities (some crew members being more specific than others), I don’t really know what’s in each box. In previous moves, I knew exactly what to unpack to get to what I wanted. I tackled the kitchen and bathrooms and kids’ rooms first. My art room still looks roughly like this:

art room in boxes at amyhoodarts.com

The light through the window is going to be awesome, by the way. But I’m waiting for a floor covering before I unpack and set up, because I don’t want to ruin the hardwoods, obviously. I’m getting a bit tetchy without this room set up–I’m hoping it’ll be sorted by the end of the long weekend.

I have managed to get the living room looking like a living room, for the most part.

living room window. amyhoodarts.com

And my husband showed up late last Thursday night, which was a relief. Despite some last-minute drama, the house was sold. (I won’t get into it here. Just, sometimes, both parties feel good coming out of a closing. And sometimes, one party feels a bit bludgeoned. We felt bludgeoned.)

We’re chipping away at unpacking and governmental details (both our cars have Maryland plates! which was no small task) and getting to know the area. The kids can just hop on their bikes and go; the neighborhood is wonderful, and full of kids. I’ve been finding some good running routes, including right over the Naval Academy Bridge. We’re meeting our new neighbors and getting settled. Soon, hopefully, this space will return to being about art adventures and creative endeavors. I can’t wait.

June Reading List

One of the first things the kids and I did in Maryland was get library cards.

One of the first things the kids and I did in Maryland was get library cards.

I’ll post about moving and settling in soon–June was such an exhausting month, it’s going to take me a while to recover. In the meantime, here’s June’s reading list. I actually managed to read, even when between libraries (that’s when I read the Hincapie book, which the kids and I gave to my husband last year–it definitely got me in the mood for le Tour!). As always, books with an asterisk are ones I especially enjoyed.

How to Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran *
The Memoir Project, by Marion Roach Smith
Van Gogh: A Power Seething, by Julian Bell
A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Loyal Lieutenant: My Story, by George Hincapie and Craig Hummer
Election, by Tom Perrotta *
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng *
The Wishbones, by Tom Perrotta

Adventuring

adventure talisman at amyhoodarts.com

When I thought about 2015 last December, in terms of choosing a word to encapsulate the year ahead, I immediately thought Adventure. So much of how we experience life depends upon how we frame it. I knew this year would involve selling a house, packing it up, and moving out of state. Was I going to treat that as a trial to be slogged through? No. It’s an adventure. I made myself a word charm necklace as a reminder, and I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.

So much is going on this month that I’m struggling to even write about it. To say the schedule is hectic right now doesn’t even begin to describe my days and nights, or my husband’s. In the past two days I’ve napped in a waiting room once and the car (while various kids were in activities) twice. (Moms do what we have to do, you know?) But my overall feeling, along with excitement, is gratitude. My husband and I are handling all the various things coming our way as a team, and it’s good. We’re also reminding each other to do the things that keep us balanced–bike rides for him, runs for me. I’m grateful for running and the way it takes me out of my head and into my body. More than once I’ve been stressed about something related to selling this house (by far the most stressful part of this entire enterprise), and I left it on the road, coming back with my perspective restored. I am moving through these hectic days, not always with quiet and calm, but fairly capably and with huge amounts of positive attitude. This is a great adventure, and I’m excited to get down there.

Yesterday my kids and I all had ophthalmology appointments. These were originally scheduled for later in the month, after our move date, and they were able to reschedule on short notice and still get us all on the same day, although with two appointments in the morning and two in the afternoon. Since the office is 45 minutes from home, we packed a lunch and had a picnic in between, as well as updating my son’s glasses and going to the library and post office. It was a long day. We left the house at 8:15 and had been in the car but ten minutes when my middle child told my youngest, “There’s a spider directly above your head.”

Oldest child: “Wow, it’s huge, too.”

Youngest child: *Hysterical screams and cries.*

Me: “Thanks a lot, boys.”

You just have to laugh. They tracked that spider until it disappeared somewhere under my seat, while I maneuvered through rush-hour highway traffic, determined not to be distracted when I was notified it was right above you, Mama! It’s on your seatbelt! It’s legs are so spindly! Middle child felt it was a poisonous spider in disguise, which led Eldest child and I to muse on a spider in a trench coat and hat (and four pairs of sunglasses, as he pointed out). Adventure. Seriously, it’s everywhere, if you care to frame it as such, and I do.

May Reading List

This is how I'm trying to keep this move organized.

This is how I’m trying to keep this move organized.

Things are intensifying around here. June means the last three weeks of school, with its attendant events; my husband going back and forth between Maryland and Rhode Island while I stay with the kids up here; 18 doctors/dentist appointments for me and the kids between now and June 18; and the Monday after school ends, our house is getting packed out. The next day, I drive down to Maryland with the kids and the cat and wait for our household to be delivered. Our closing is supposed to be that week too, but that’s still not, um, finalized. (I hate real estate transactions oh yes I do.) The adults here have begun saying July like a mantra.

Well, onto the reading list. I’m amazed I’m reading anything, except I can’t fall asleep without it. I’m including two nonfiction I only read partially, and as always, anything I really liked is marked with asterisks.

 

 

Rocket Girl, by George D. Morgan
First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen
A Small Indiscretion, by Jan Ellison
The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison–I read about 2/3 and then, frankly, tired of the author’s voice.
The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy **
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast **
We Were the Kennedys, by Monica Wood
Craftivism, ed. Betsy Greer–partial, flipped through and read what was interesting to me
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit **

By the time I post another reading list, I’ll be doing it from Maryland!

How-To: Block-Printed “Hope” Flags

community hope flag activity. amyhoodarts.com

My son wishes his school had a library. My daughter likes when everybody is friends. And I enjoy a community in which children and adults strive to be kind.

I’m helping organize the arts + crafts booth at the school fair this year*, and one of the projects is to contribute to a Community Hope Flag display. These are, of course, inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags, which are hung in the elements until they disintegrate, releasing the prayer or hope. Fair visitors can depict a hope for themselves, their family, their school, town, or world and add it to the school’s display. Because prayer flags were traditionally block printed, we decided to use a method accessible to all ages and skill levels: scratch-foam printmaking.

Our fair isn’t until next weekend, but I thought I’d share the method and samples here now. I prepared both the flag blanks and the printing plates. The “flags” were made from donated sheets, which I washed, dried, ironed, and cut into 7″ x 9″ rectangles using my rotary cutter with a pinking blade, cutting mat, and a ruler. This made the cutting go fairly quickly. I then pressed a fold at one end to create a 7″ x 7″ square (or thereabouts) and ran a quick line of stitching to make a casing.

The printing plates are Styrofoam trays with the raised edge sliced off, then cut into quarters. Again, using a craft knife, metal ruler, and cutting mat made this go quickly. Other materials are pencils, sponge brushes, and liquid acrylic craft paint. Onto the method!

1. Think about what hope, dream, or wish you’d like to share, and how you can represent it with a simple image.

2. Using a pencil, draw the image onto the smooth side of a Styrofoam rectangle. You want to indent the Styrofoam, but not make holes in it. Your image will print in reverse, so keep that in mind while drawing. Words are probably too tricky at this point unless you are very good at mirror writing.

scratched image onto Styrofoam. amyhoodarts.com

3. Paint a thin layer of acrylic paint onto your scratch-foam drawing. If it’s too gloppy, your image will get obscured when you print.

painted scratch-foam image. amyhoodarts.com

4. Take a look at a blank hope flag. The casing (the folded over and sewn bit) is at the top, and the fold is towards the back. Lay the front of the flag over your painted foam and firmly smooth it to transfer the paint. Don’t wiggle it around or your image will smudge. Just firmly press. Then peel it off.

hope flag placed over printing plate. amyhoodarts.com

pressing the image onto the flag. amyhoodarts.com

finished foam-printed hope flag. amyhoodarts.com

We plan to have permanent markers on hand so people can write any words if they wish (as my kids did in their samples in the top image). We will also have white t-shirts so that kids can make another print of their image on a shirt to take home; the plates can also be taken home and used again and again. It’s definitely hard for some kids to leave their artwork behind, even as part of a community display, so these other options are nice to have.

I think this is a great activity for a community big (like our school) or small (like a family). It’s nice to display hopes, wishes, and dreams, I think, and keep them in view.

*Yes, I’m doing this the same spring I’m moving a 5-person household six hours south. What can I say? Sometimes I’m illogical.

Field Trip: Hokusai

Hokusai. amyhoodarts.com

Hokusai is the featured artist in the printmaking issue of Art Together, and the kids and I really enjoyed learning about him, his life, and the times he lived in. So when I saw that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was opening a Hokusai exhibit in April, of course I wanted to go. My husband wanted to come, too, and between his travel and weekend activities and trips to Maryland, it looked like Memorial Day Weekend would be our best chance to get there before we moved and Boston became out of easy reach. And when I got an email announcing that admission was free on Memorial Day itself, it was decided. We’d go to the MFA, and we’d say goodbye-for-now to Boston, a city we all love and will miss.

Our local commuter train doesn’t run on weekends or holidays, so we drove to the end of the red line, left the car, and took the T into the city. G loves taking the train, but the boys weren’t so thrilled once we switched to the green line and it was standing room only–they may have inherited a little bit of their mama’s claustrophobia. As we approached the MFA stop, we could see the line of people extending from the museum entrance, down the stairs, along the street, and around the corner. Whoa! But free admission is a bargain–it saved us $100.

line into the MFA. amyhoodarts.com

Our view from the back of the line.

We ate some of our lunch while we waited, and the line moved quickly. The MFA has open houses regularly and I figured they’d be prepared and organized, and they were. It was a nice day, not raining, not too warm, and the lilacs smelled lovely. I don’t think we were in line more than a half hour.

Hokusai created more than 30,000 artworks in his lifetime, and it seemed, by the end of our time in the exhibit, that the MFA included most of them. I learned it was the first museum in the US to exhibit any of Hokusai’s works, in the late 1800s, and its collection is impressive. Ideally, we’d visit several times, focusing on one or two rooms at a time, because by the end, it was hard to absorb it all. Even the adults were tired. N explained it well when he said, towards the end, that he liked the art and was interested in it, but he was losing energy.

Hokusai quote. amyhoodarts.com

One of my favorite quotes by Hokusai.

Despite all our reading on Hokusai, the exhibit contained areas of his art that were new to us. (30,000 artworks, after all!) One such area were depictions of demons and ghosts–some of which were fairly disturbing, such as the demon lady with the bloody severed head of a child in her hand. (N: “Gee, how do you think he felt the day he drew that?“) Another was surimono. I had to snap a picture of this exhibit text. It sounds like a zine to me, 18th century style.

Hokusai exhibit text. amyhoodarts.com

The original zine? Sounds like it to me.

And there were many artworks I’d love to still be staring at. I do wish we lived close enough to visit this exhibit several times, but I’m glad we made it. We took our energy-depleted selves to the museum courtyard and ate the rest of our packed lunch to perk us up, then decided to walk in the city for a bit. I know we’ll enjoy exploring Washington, DC, but Boston holds a special place in my heart. We wandered from the museum, through a park, watched some geese and bunnies, visited the war memorial (sobering to my children, the sheer number of names of dead Boston boys on the World War II memorial). We walked some more, past the back of Fenway Park, down Boylston. We had some dinner, got back on the T, got into our car, and drove home.

Good-bye for now, Boston. We’ll be back some day (I promised my 6yo, after all).

The End of Limbo

Finally, I have specific, rather than vague, answers to the questions “Where are you moving to?” and “When?” We are moving to Annapolis the last week of June. Yay!!

This is a story of a whole lot of waiting followed by DO EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE AND FROM SEVERAL STATES AWAY. We went down to Maryland last week with the aim of coming home with an address. My husband needs to be down there, our house hasn’t sold, so we were looking for rentals. We identified 16 houses to see on Monday, and our realtor could only get us into four of them on Thursday. Some didn’t accept pets, but most were either closed to showings or already rented. That’s the state of the rental market there. By the end of the day, the grown-ups in the family were trying to figure out which qualities to prioritize, because we weren’t finding a house with good space in a good location for a good price. That night we identified four more houses and decided to drive by them on Friday (we also spent some time walking around downtown Annapolis, to add some fun to this work trip). We wanted to see two, but again, couldn’t get into them. A third house required 24-hour notice, and we were leaving the next day. We found a park with a playground and while the kids played, we parents assessed. My husband finagled his tech (phone, app, computer) to set up a little wifi spot for himself and tried to do some work and checked the rental sites, too. Something new had shown up. We decided to drive by.

Since it was vacant, we got out of the car to peek in. We drove through the neighborhood and saw three boys selling lemonade, so we pulled over and I bought five cups of lemonade and asked them if lots of kids lived there, and did they like the neighborhood? (Yes, and yes. Also, it’s good karma to buy lemonade from kids.) Our realtor met us there at 6:30.

Nothing like slipping in right under the wire! Our realtor called the listing realtor from the driveway. Meanwhile, our kids were playing with the next door neighbor, who’d invited them to bounce on his trampoline. We spent quite a while talking to his dad, and everything we learned about the neighborhood made us want to rent this house more. Husband and I filled out the rental application in the hotel room late that night so we could drop it all off in person Saturday morning before driving home again. It’s been a very long time since we had to go through a rental application process! Suffice to say the parents were a little overtired and strung out by the end of this trip.

But we have a house! We finally got word on Tuesday that our application had been approved and accepted–what a relief! (Nearly a year of uncertainty, I dealt with just fine. The final 72 hours of waiting? Were incredibly stressful.) The neighborhood is full of kids, so my kids will start school already knowing some classmates. Annapolis is full of things to do and see, and I won’t feel isolated at all. And the neighborhood sounds like a community. Everybody we met was so open and friendly. The next six weeks will be very very busy but by July we will all be together in the same house, enjoying our first Chesapeake Bay summer.

(And as for selling our house, things were happening on that end while we were down in Maryland–of course–but I’ve had enough real estate experience that I won’t say the house is sold until the papers are signed, the keys are handed over, and we have the check in hand. Just keep your fingers crossed.)

April Reading List

daffodils at amyhoodarts.com

The daffodils are finally blooming around here.

Here we are, another month, another list of books. The house still hasn’t sold, we are getting things rolling for moving within two months anyway, my jaw aches constantly, and my attention span is wavery. I began and abandoned three books this month–that might be a record. Here is the list of books I read all the way through in April, with the ones I really liked/would recommend starred.

Rainey Royal, by Dylan Landis*
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn*
Lost and Found, by Brooke Davis
Happy are the Happy, by Yasmina Reza, translated by John Cullen
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande*
Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran*

Did you read anything especially good in April?

Juggling

I can only keep so many balls going at once, and lately the one I’ve been letting sit is posting here. See, there are so many things I like to do. That’s why when I decided to participate in The 100 Day Project on Instagram, I didn’t choose to make 100 of one thing alone. I decided to make time for drawing, painting, or carving every day. Because if I’m making a drawing a day, when would I have time to carve any of them? If I’m painting every day, will I still have time to run? How about sewing and knitting? (And of course any of those things have to be fit around mama duties.) Any time I’ve tried to do one thing every single day for any length of time, other things I like get squeezed out. I could look at it as a lack of focus, but I prefer to view it as the product of an interesting and interested mind instead.

At any rate, if you’re interested, I’m posting photos like these on Instagram.

linocut test print at amyhoodarts.com

Testing a tree linocut to see what still needs to be cleaned up.

Besides drawing and carving and sewing and knitting, I’ve been making sure we get outside. Oh, we are so happy for spring. We recently visited the local pond after dinner to watch the sun go down and listen to the spring peepers.

sunset at the pond at amyhoodarts.com

Photo by my husband.

We were hoping we’d see the beavers come out for a crepuscular swim, and we finally did! And then–then we realized the creatures wheeling and dipping over the pond as the sun fully set were most likely bats. How exciting! They moved too fast to get a good look at with binoculars. Their wings fairly vibrated. I’ve never seen bats outside of a zoo before.

We also have horses in our neighborhood, which is convenient, since my 10yo mentioned he wished he were better at drawing horses. Excellent–let’s go right to the source.

Drawing horses at amyhoodarts.com

After that, we crossed the street to walk the path through the meadow (not very meadowish yet) and the woods, on some open land property owned by the town. My youngest is delighted that it’s spring.

happy spring at amyhoodarts.com

She’s wearing a mama-made dress, natch.

My favorite bird, the towhee, has been singing his heart out. I heard a barred owl again last night. I feel so grateful for where I live during the spring and summer, for this patch of land we share with so many critters–birds and insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals too. For close access to farms, ponds, seashores, meadows, and woods.

Which is why it’s so ironic we still haven’t sold this house. I’ve been cleaning again lately too. It’s been six months since I deep cleaned and decluttered, and several areas need another pass, and yes I’m a little resentful I’m still cleaning this house. Also stressed out. So many houses are for sale. My advice is never to try to sell a house in an economically depressed state that is losing population. We’re going down to Maryland in a couple of weeks to look for a rental, and most likely my husband will be down there while I’m up here with the kids as the school year finishes. This is exactly what I didn’t want, but what can I do? That’s where we are. So I will open the windows when temperatures allow and listen to the birds I love and enjoy my deck while it’s still mine–while crossing my fingers every day that the house sells soon.

Art Together in Action

I really love getting a glimpse into how families use Art Together. Anytime I’m tagged in a kids-making-art photo on Twitter or Instagram, that pretty much makes my day. Periodically I want to share some of these pictures here, too.

Making something and releasing it into the world is just part of the process. Once it’s out there, you get to see what people do with it. Kirsten and her kids have done some great things, using the information and activities in Art Together as starting points and really going deeper. I can’t quite describe how happy that makes me, that I can offer something that acts as a spark in that way. Kirsten kindly agreed to having some of her Instagram photos featured today.

color mixing from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Cloisonne painting from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Boogie Woogie music dancing from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

The photos here are related to the first two issues of Art Together, Color and Line.

Art gallery inspiration from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Kirsten told me exploring Art Together has resulted in her son’s love of art in general, and they now spend hours when they visit the art gallery. She went on to say, “R is not the kind of child who is happy to take suggestions or instructions about what to do or how to do things.  He prefers to come up with his own ideas and his own projects.  But I can read Art Together, get your ideas and suggestions and then use them in a subtle way – e.g. by just sitting down and doing some of your projects myself and seeing where that takes us.  It’s an amazing leaping off point!  Especially for someone like me who knows nothing about art. In fact, I’ve found that using Art Together has made *me* really want to learn much more about art too.  So it’s become a real family activity!”

Thank you so much for sharing, Kirsten!

If you would be willing to share a photo or story of how you’ve used Art Together, I’d love to hear from  you! amyhood @ amyhoodarts.com