Tag Archives: mamablog

Finding a New Rhythm

Walking to the bus stop with Daddy.

Walking to the bus stop with Daddy.

Ever since my first child was born almost 14 years ago, I’ve had at least one child (often two) at home during the school year. This year, all three are in school at the same time. Today is the last day of the first week of school, and we are all adjusting. I feel overall positive about the opportunities the kids have in this school district, and that’s all I’ll say about them. They have their own stories, and those stories are theirs to tell or not, not mine.

So what about me? School start and end times are staggered, with my elementary student leaving and returning first. This is great for sleepy middle schoolers in the morning, but harder in the afternoon, because it means I can’t rely on my oldest to meet my youngest’s bus, because he’s not home yet. The time in between is not long enough to, say, get a job, and I’m a bit pinched logistically with fitting in middle schoolers’ appointments after school (especially given I need to meet that elementary bus). This is scheduling stuff, and we’ll figure it out and get used to it eventually. But that time in between–what do I do all day? I’m figuring that out too. After this first week I mostly feel like I’d like to take some of those hours and shift them to after-school time, when I really need an extra two, at least. Ah well.

But seriously, this is time for me to figure out my big rocks–what goes into each day first–and figure out, for the first time ever, a rhythm that takes my own wants into account first, at least for a few hours. That’s kind of heady. And important. It deserves thought. I’m working on it.

Towhee Art Quiltlet

towhee art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

This is the second little art quilt I made in the past several weeks, although I was working on both at once for a while, going back and forth. Oh, how I miss towhees. They’re not flashy, like warblers, but I love their song so much, a cheerful “drink your tea!!” rolling out from the scrubby. I realized this past winter that they stayed all winter. I don’t know if that was new or if I hadn’t noticed before. I’d usually see them on the ground near the bird feeder, and hear them singing from the trees in the spring and summer. The first day each year that I heard the towhee singing was a celebration, a sign we’d come to the end of another New England winter. That bird’s song always made me stop and smile.

Our new neighborhood is more neighborhood-y. That’s what we were looking for, for many reasons, and the kids are definitely happier, but I miss the birds. We have your typical backyard birds here, and I mainly hear mockingbirds, incessantly repeating their phrases–which, to be fair, is what I get inside the house all day long. I miss the towhees and all the other nature that surrounded us in our woodsy corner of Rhode Island. So I decided to create a towhee out of cloth collage.

fabric applique towhee at amyhoodarts.com

First I sketched the bird until I had a drawing I felt I could work with, and then I isolated different sections by the bird’s coloring. I searched my fabric stash–although I did end up buying new fat quarters for the branch, the letters (just because I really liked that fabric), and the rufous portion of the bird, as I didn’t have the just-right orangey red color. Then I traced the individual sections onto fusible adhesive, positioned them on the fabric pieces, and cut them out. Then I more or less assembled the bird puzzle onto a piece of light blue linen. I did the same for the lettering and sewed it all down.

free motion quilting at amyhoodarts.com

I decided it was time to get comfortable with free motion quilting, so I made some sandwiches and got to it. Again, this is not perfect. You can see some pulling in places. But I DID IT! I used the same fabric for the binding as I used for the letters.

Here’s a picture of the back, because I’m quite proud I got the tension right on both sides for this.

back of quiltlet, amyhoodarts.com

This one is about 13 x 15.5″ and was a blast to put together. I plan to add two hanging loops to the top, thread it over a slim branch, and hang it that way.

Again, books I used for techniques and inspiration:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James

And now I just need to decide–what’s next?

Sand and Sea Art Quiltlet

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working on two little sewn things. I think you could call them art quilts. They are quilted, and not from a pattern, and use various techniques. I shared in-progress photos on Instagram and kept thinking I’d do that here, too, but instead here I am with a couple of finished things–the first in this post, and the second in an upcoming post of its own. Before I made these I’d never made a quilt, even a tiny coaster-sized one, so I tackled many New Things while making these. I can’t wait to make more.

sand and sea art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

I began making this sand- and sea-inspired image because I miss the ocean like it’s oxygen. There is nothing near here, absolutely nothing, that can compare to the Atlantic coast beaches of the town I left behind. I miss our local salt pond, chock full of critters we loved to respectfully observe. More than once, we have followed behind a horseshoe crab until it buried itself in the sand. I set out to sew an ocean.

sand detail (fabric) at amyhoodarts.com

This portion of “sand” was created using Jan Mullen’s “stack, slice, switch” method (my inspiration books are listed at the end of this post). I gathered fabric scraps in sand colors–and remember, sand is a combination of so many components–and mixed and matched until I had a cobble that abstractedly reminded me of sand.

horseshoe crab detail at amyhoodarts.com

This segment of “sand” is one block of linen printed in the center with my horseshoe crab linocut. Top and bottom is a bubble wrap print. For the bottom half of the quiltlet, I joined pieces of blue scraps cut on a slant. For this first attempt, I quilted more or less using straight lines and gentle curves, with the feed dogs up. Here’s a view of the back.

back view of small art quilt at amyhoodarts.com

It’s not perfect! And I added the embroidery around the horseshoe crab after quilting, as you can see. This was my first time binding a quiltish thing, too, and check out these mitered corners!

mitered binding corners at amyhoodarts.com

The finished piece is about 13.5 by 19 inches, and I need to decide how to hang it, and where. The second quiltlet is also of something I miss from Rhode Island, and you’ll see in the next post that I tried new things with that one, too.

Books I used for technique and/or inspiration for both quiltlets:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James

Field Trip: Baltimore Museum of Art

Living in Annapolis, we are close to both Washington, DC, and Baltimore, which is pretty cool. Turns out Baltimore has a really nice art museum–and admission is free, everyday, for everybody, always. This should be shouted out and celebrated from rooftops because it is amazing. Providence’s art museum, RISD, was free on Sundays, which is great. Boston’s MFA has open houses twice a year, but otherwise, it cost nearly $100 for us all to go. Yesterday we paid $7 to park in the BMA’s lot. (I also contributed to the donation box on our way out.) I feel about museum art collections the way I feel about beaches–they shouldn’t be private, gated off, accessible only to a privileged few. (I can’t remember if I’ve ranted about private beaches in this space; I don’t think so. I despise the practice of “owning” access to the shoreline.) Art is part of our shared humanity. All the praise to the BMA for managing their budget in a way that prioritizes free admittance to all.

The drive to Baltimore was quicker and easier than I anticipated, even factoring in some Orioles traffic. We drove right by both stadiums (football and baseball) on our way. I had a couple areas I wanted to make sure we visited–the Crazy Quilt Exhibition and the Matisse collection. The Cone Collection was fabulous. The 20th Century American gallery included three O’Keeffes, among other little jewels, such as this Joseph Cornell box.

Cornell box from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

Joseph Cornell box at BMA

We learned so much about Joseph Cornell while preparing Art Together Issue 4, but I’d never seen a box in person before, so that was really special. And over in the Modern Art collection, they have a small, perfect Mondrian, only the second time I’ve gotten to see any in person (the other was at the Yale art museum last fall). I just stood there and grinned at it like some crazy person.

I’ll leave you with some photos from the crazy quilt exhibition. The handwork was stunning; the time commitment and dedication truly impressive.

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail at BMA from amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

I hope we’ll get back there often. It’s good to have an art museum close by.

July Reading List

July looked a lot like this.

July looked a lot like this.

July was for reading–sixteen books on this month’s list. It contains some fluff, but it’s got balance to it overall. As always, books I particularly enjoyed are marked by an asterisk. In the order I read them, here they are:

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank
Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation, by Ann Marie Thomas *
Flora, by Gail Godwin
The Matchmaker, by Elin Hilderbrand
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee * (re-read)
Death Comes For the Archbishop, by Willa Cather *
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri *
Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner
Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger * (re-read)
Judge This, by Chip Kidd
The Wednesday Group, by Sylvia True
The Daughter, by Jane Shemilt *
The Shell Collector, by Anothony Doerr
The Listener, by Rachel Basch *
Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older *

I’ve also been inspired by some maker-type books, too. I’m going to try to get back to more regular posting in August, because I’ve been experimenting here and there, in between the reading and general stew-pot weather-induced lethargy. However, this computer is also lethargic (it’s the oldest laptop in the house) and I don’t always have the patience for it. So we’ll see how it goes!

More Changes

lilies at amyhoodarts.com

These are growing in our yard, which is one way you know we don’t actually own the property. (I’m a terrible gardener!)

I’ve been quiet here. Turns out big changes can be a little overwhelming and make you want to sit on the deck reading more than anything else–in between realizing it’s pretty easy to get to Washington, DC; learning your way around without using GPS; and registering all your kids for school. Right, so that’s the first of the “more changes” referenced above. For the first time ever, all three of my kids will be starting out in school this year. For various reasons, we’ve decided it’s time to give that a try. If you know me at all, you know we are proceeding with research and support and, as always, the willingness to try something else if the first thing isn’t working. Also, if you know me at all, you know that I am not unaffected by this sort of change. It’s a big one.

cone flowers at amyhoodarts.com

Many of my neighbors have gorgeous flower gardens. I enjoy them very much.

The second change is that I’ve decided to stop producing new issues of Art Together at this time, although the six existing issues will still remain available for download. I don’t like to rule things out forever, so maybe I’ll pick it back up at some point in the future. But I doubt that, because it’s simply not financially sustainable. While I do enjoy researching it and putting it together, it’s a huge time commitment. I suspect I’m not all that great at marketing–but I have tried, without much success. This makes me sad for those who enjoy it so much, and have let me known, because I enjoy spreading my art-love in this way. I’m not sure what I’ll do, especially with all those school hours coming my way. I’m not deciding yet. The first half of this year was, in cumulative, quite stressful, even as I attended to self-care to keep that stress under control. So much unknowing for so long, along with huge changes, and adjusting to someplace new–I would like to just process for a bit. Sit on my deck and read. Go for runs in a new city. Share things that are interesting, when I get around to turning on the computer, but hopefully, too, become part of the community right here where I live. And just see what comes next.

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!