Today has been housecleaning day, but before we started dusting, shaking out, folding, sweeping and washing, I snapped this picture from the doorway of Flynn's room. Sometimes, there's something sweetly comforting about the morning tangle of sheets and pillows, the dog sleeping in the baby's room, Flynn's latest clothes hanging over the crib rail, and my painting supplies and French decorating glossies still scattered about (as they will be for some time yet as I move on to painting Flynn's school desk). There is also, of course, something immensely satisfying about shaking out rugs and changing sheets, smoothing covers and dusting out corners, stowing everything neatly in place once again and making the place shine - not a new shine, but the low, buffed glow of a house well-used and well-loved.
I must be out of my mind. I have SO many jobs on deck, projects to finish and paperwork to slog through. And yet the other day (the morning before we got our PA, as it turned out) I went to the craft store and bought these spools to make a family of spool dolls for Flynn. Now, I ask you. What am I thinking? Those of you who know me in person will know that I am NOT a crafty person. I don't have a sewing machine, can't knit to save my life, and nothing of the crafty variety ever occurred in my studio before last summer. I'm still not sure how I managed to sew those stuffed animals - that was a total aberration, and I'm not sure I could repeat it. Normally, I have trouble sewing a loose button. So what is it that compels me to make over our family in spool dolls, I ask you?
In my defense, I think part of the problem is that I really value handmade toys. I like uniqueness. And often, when I see handmade toys, some little voice in my head says "I could make that better"! Well, OK, I've seen some very cool spool dolls. For instance, Adolie Day's wooden dolls are some of my favorites. So I don't always mean I could do it better...sometimes I just see something and want to make it more "my style".
And then, as Yoli said, there's the problem of Etsy addiction. If I let myself buy everything on Etsy that I saw and wanted for Flynn's room, I'd be in a deep financial hole.
The question is, where's the line between saving money by making it myself, and taking up time which I could be using working on jobs that actually bring in some income?
It's a fine line I'm walking right now. But the need to make things for my daughter with my own hands is a strong and unprecedented impulse. And I think M's feeling it too. I saw him out back refurbishing our koi pond yesterday. Oh, and he's also been bringing home flowers. Do you just love those miniature columbines on the right...each perfect flower no bigger than a dime?
Yup, I got home from some errands today to find an email from our agency...we received pre-approval from China today!! I'm so excited I don't know what to do with myself! I'm also kinda speachless (I'm sure I'll recover my power of chatter soon enough) so for now...Here she is!
She just turned eight months old (although I don't know when these pictures were taken), and her medical condition is an unrepaired unilateral cleft lip and palate. She is currently in Xuzhou city in the province of Jiangsu in eastern China. We are OVER THE MOON!!!! That's really the only way to describe it. I mean, just look at those eyes!!... And that grin!! It bowls me over.
I'll tell the whole story once I've regained my breath again.
(btw, the name given her by the orphanage is Chu QiuQiu, Chu being her surname. I've switched the surname and the given name so as to avoid confusion for those who aren't familiar with the Chinese order of names.)
Well, folks, because I've illustrated a book, to be launched in May (details to follow!), I've been working on a new illustration blog. I've got a start on it, and will add more over the next couple days...so if you're interested in seeing all of my illustration in one place, here's the link:
The other night, we drove the long and winding road to Evergreen, to see a production called "Zeussical Junior", put on by evergreen's children's chorale. Now, let me just tell you right up front, this is a community that cares about its junior stage productions. There were acrobats, jugglers, ballerinas, fancy candy-colored stage lighting, a band, and some of the wickedest costumes I've seen in a while (Thing 1 and Thing 2 were to die for!).
Someone...no, a LOT of someones have put an awful lot of work into this production.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the evening, however, was that our niece Victoria, who's 8 now, has made a transition. For the past several years, since she was four or five, Victoria has had a "camera face" - a standard pose, complete with big, stagey, pageant smile and artfully-cocked head, that she has put on every time she noticed a camera pointed at her. She's very used to having her picture taken - I've followed her around with my camera, snapping pretty much constantly every time we've had a few hours alone with her...at the zoo, at the icecream shop, at her piano recitals, etc. But this time, out of the blue, I noticed something different. Apparently, she's decided to be au naturel in front of the camera. Here she is with M, looking so natural you'd think she was bored. Which she wasn't.
With M behind the camera, however, she lost all of her soignée composure and started to giggle.
Totally dissolved in laughter. So much for the new photo-face.
But I like the change. Victoria's personality is a force unto itself. She is the most confident, social and utterly open kid I know, and she doesn't need to hide behind that pageant smile. I can't wait to see the young lady she's evolving to be....even if that means that, at some point, as she inevitably will, she realizes that we are not as unspeakably cool as she has always assumed we were. Even if she leaves us in the dust and rolls her eyes when we make a joke we've made one too many times.
But for now, her uncle M is still the coolest cat in her universe, and she's still totally infatuated. For now, we can do no wrong, and she eagerly anticipates her next sleepover at our house, which, if we're lucky, will be Thursday.
Remember that mobile I custom-ordered from the Etsy shop of Mobilosity a few weeks ago? Well, it was finished to our specifications in about 24 hours and arrived on our doorstep in record time. It did, however, take me some time to get around to hanging it! Let me tell you, though, it was worth the wait. It looks fabulous and airy and modern and clean in there, just as I imagined, refracting the wonderful light in that room.
It isn't easy to photograph, though. It's so ethereal and catches the light so subtly that I think my camera doesn't quite know what to focus on. In any case, you can get the idea.
We're expecting another social worker visit here soon (time to extend our I-171H) and I'm actually looking forward to showing off the nursery! Kind of glad I got started on it last month.
Now, if I could just manage to finish that chair...
Your dad and I celebrated Earth Day by riding our bikes downtown. Not that this is particularly unusual. Actually, we ride our bikes downtown more often than we drive. After all...
...the parking is so much easier!
We stopped at the bookstore and got you some books. You'll come to know this bookstore. Your dad and I, we're regulars.
Seldom have I seen such an utterly spectacular day on which to celebrate Earth Day. The earth was certainly showing off for us! Every sidewalk and street corner was decked out in the best of nature's spring finery.
This week's big bloom has been continuing apace, and white and pink boughs now mingle above dappled sidewalks. Every breath, every shift of the breeze, contains a different perfume.
Here's your dad, riding his bike under a particularly lavish old-growth tree in our neighborhood. I love the fact that our 'hood has been around so long that trees like this, once just slender whisps, have grown craggy and gnarled over the decades, dense with bloom, arms spreading generously across streets and sidewalks, casting great pools of variegated shadow.
This is what it would look like if you were to ride beneath these same boughs yourself, and look up through this tree's lacy branches...
...like a canopy of fragrant bloom.
There are so many different varieties of trees in Denver that, when we don't know the proper name of a particular tree, we make up a name for it. Your dad calls these "snowball trees".
We'd decided on the aquarium as our entertainment-du-jour. It's been a while since we've been to the aquarium, and although we wanted to wait for you, we thought it might be time to sneak in a quick "refresher course" in the meantime.
Having skipped breakfast, we stopped into the aquarium's resident seafood restaurant for a bit of lunch. Oh, you'd like this restaurant, Flynn. Look at the salt and pepper shakers in the shape of seahorses! Overhead, glowing fishes are suspended as lamps among the rafters. Gardens of translucent "kelp" grow between the booths and the walls are made of coral, embedded with shells and barnacles. And then there's the show that's going on behind me.....schools of jacks and snappers shimmering in the refracted light, lurking groupers and cruising tiger sharks! If you have the time, the waitress can tell you a little about each and every fish that swims by.
As difficult as it is to concentrate on food with all this to look at (can you tell I'm a little wide-eyed with excitement?), we managed to order a shrimp and crab dip, fish 'n'chips with vinegar and po'boy sandwiches. Phew, that was a lot of food! Then, on to the rest of the aquarium...
Now, Flynn, I can't say your dad doesn't occasionally have a penchant for the goofy...
...but in situations like this, he needs to be taken with a grain of salt...a BIG grain of salt! You'll learn quickly. Here he is, dripping with irony in front of another corny tourist display.
The first section of the aquarium is the river habitat, and here your mommy always rushes to the otter tank, her very favorite display in the entire museum. On this day, however (woe is mommy)...not a single otter in sight! Where were they? Who knows, maybe they were tucked up in bed with the same bad cold your dad has been fighting for the past week. Perhaps they were squinching their eyes and blowing their heavily-whiskered noses into big wads of tissue. Perhaps they were in their pajamas, watching cartoons and eating oatmeal with butter on top. In any case, not an otter was to be seen in the otter tank.
Now, under ordinary circumstances, your mommy would have been very, very unhappy... very unhappy indeed. Unhappy, that is, if it weren't for one single exceptional duck.
Maybe now is a good time to tell you that your mommy likes ducks. She really, really likes ducks. And there are plenty of ducks in the river habitat at the Denver aquarium. Plenty of perfectly good, perfectly serviceable ducks. Like this one here, for instance. As you can see: a perfectly good duck.
Or these two. Also excellent specimens of duck-dom. These two were flirting a bit...it is spring after all! Just look at the amorous expression on his face...those dreamy, Casanova eyes!! And look at how very hard she is trying to be coy, all the while arching her back and fluffing up her wing feathers! Oh yes, perfectly lovely ducks.
But this one...Oh, Flynn, this is a duck of a different color!
Sure, I know, it looks ordinary — just sitting there on top of the water. Slightly squat. Rather small. A little chubby. Plain brown in color. Nothing special about this duck, you might think.
Oh, but you'd be wrong!
This, my friend, is a very special duck indeed.
This duck can dive.
Well, OK. So most ducks can dive.
But this duck can dive better.
This duck can dive faster, longer, and with more thrilling acrobatic skill!
You might even say this duck has diving superpowers!
Just look at that form! Now, I ask you...have you ever seen a duck that could do all this, without ever coming to the surface for air?
Here, he is pretending to be a fish. If you didn't look closely, you might not even notice him! He's been under for quite a while at this point. The fish don't seem to mind. Looks like he's got them fooled!
And he's off again!! Diving for the bottom. Once there, he will swim around, ducking under fallen branches, rooting beneath river rocks. This is a duck that can hold his breath!
When he's done exploring, he'll relax and let the trapped air in his body buoy him back to the surface again, where he'll pop out of the water, cheerful as a rubber duck in a bath tub!
Now that's what I call a good duck.
When I was finally able to tear myself away, we went on through the "flash flood" room to the "prehistoric" room, where this fish from the dinosaur days is fossilized in a wall. Your dad went through too fast for me to snap his picture, but if he were standing next to it, you'd be able to see that this fishie is probably FOUR TIMES the size of your dad!
You may not know this yet, but your dad's a bit of a daredevil. Never one to shy away from danger, here he is trying to attract the attention of a school of red piranhas!
And here he is strolling, unscathed, into the rainforest habitat.
Yup, that's your handsome dad, like a gorilla in the mist.
And here's your mommy, rainforest bound.
I gotta tell you, Colorado has many a good quality, but when you live in a climate as dry as this, any form of artificial humidity is like catnip! It's like your pores open up and your skin breathes a sigh of relief.
One thing you should know about your mommy, though - she's a little bit pigeon-toed. When she was a baby, she used to sleep on her stomach with her feet turned in, and her mother was afraid that one of them would never straighten back out on its own. She was right to be concerned - that foot never did quite straighten out, and to this day your mommy walks with her toes turned in a little.
Oh, yeah. Look at that pigeon-walk! In fact, she still sleeps on her stomach with her feet turned in.
But, it hasn't done her any harm in life, so....
In case you thought there weren't any fish in the jungle, here's a fish that's ready to prove you wrong. Sheesh! Look at the size of that thing! I think it could take my dog in a fight.
Only slightly shuddery after looking at that huge fish, your mommy went looking for tigers. Sometimes, if you're lucky, the tigers are playing with a big red rubber ball in the waters of their habitat. But on this day, the tigers were napping. We could just see the huge, sleepy orange head of one of them resting on a ledge high above the jungle, looking not unlike our dog Max when he's taking a particularly long and lazy nap in the sun.
Back in the undersea world, your dad went strolling boldly through the shark tank. We even saw a giant sea turtle swimming languidly through the sun motes over our heads.
And here, Flynn, is your mom's nemesis. No, I don't mean that sleepy shark on the left. Mostly, your mommy is OK with sharks...well, except for that one time in Belize. But that's a story for another time. If you look closely (she's well disguised against the variegated coral) you can see the giant grouper on the right. Once, when your mom was just thirteen and snorkeling in the Virgin Islands, she read a book about fishes that told of a giant grouper so big that it had occasionally been known to swallow a SCUBA diver whole, swim around for a bit, and then spit the diver back out, causing the unfortunate diver to have to swim to the surface under what was described as "traumatic circumstances". I'd say that's a bit of an understatement. Our waitress at lunch told us that these groupers could grow as large as a Volkswagen bus. Afterward, we debated whether she's said a "bus" or a "bug". Either way, that's a pretty big fish. Your mommy is still just the teensiest bit nervous about these giant groupers. Just a bit.
This is a sight that your mommy remembers well from her days of SCUBA diving off the coast of Belize. Well, without the coral reef, because the waters were much deeper there. Barracudas and Kingfish like to hang just a few feet below the surface of the ocean, far above the teeming coral reefs and white sand below. When you dive from a boat, the first thing you typically pass on the way down is a barracuda, just hanging out. They may look a little intimidating, because their mouths tend to hang open, showing all their teeth. But they are generally undisturbed by divers, and just hang there serenely, watching you drift past on your way to the bottom.
These are lionfish, spectacular in their striped and bristling finery.
And I don't know what this was, because it didn't say on the sign, but it was a sight to behold! From the front, it looks a bit like a lump of rough stone, ugly and gnarled and grey. But it does a wonderful dance, girating like a fan dancer in every direction at once.
And from the back, it's spread wings look exactly like the wings of a monarch butterfly! Simply amazing! I never cease to be astonished by the wonders of nature.
And this one, Flynn....well, I'm going to need your input on this one. I just don't know what to say. This guy leaves my mind boggled.
Jellyfish! You don't want to touch these. That much I know. But from a distance (a good distance!) they are some of the most graceful, delicate and surreal wonders of our great oceans.
Here is your mommy trying to pet the stingrays. Rays are wonderfully silky to the touch, like wet velvet, and as long as you are very gentle with them (and, if possible, offer them a treat) they are quite friendly. This first one wanted nothing to do with me, and skittered away before I could touch it.
This one, however, knew on which side its bread was buttered, and came right up for a petting.
Sadly, your mommy had not thought to shell out the two bucks for some fish to feed it. Rudely, she wanted to pet it without offering any sort of material compensation. Understandably, the ray had been expecting compensation, and was not at all happy about being thwarted. Realizing its mistake, it slapped the side of the tank angrily and swam off in quite a huff. Your mommy still feels bad about that faux pas. She can just imagine the ray thinking, "Sheesh. I let that ugly creature put her filthy paws all over me, and she didn't even have any fish to give me in return. The colossal nerve of her!"
Next time, needless to say, your mommy will come bearing many, many fish.
And on an entirely different note, here is the wolf eel that your dad felt the need to take a picture of. I don't even know what to say about this one. I really, really don't.
I have a feeling, Flynn, that if you play your cards right, you might be able to wheedle your dad into getting you something from this extraordinarily tempting snack stand when we come to visit the aquarium again. Don't tell him I told you, but he's kind of a sucker where you're concerned. Wink, wink.
After the aquarium, we got back on our bikes and rolled off down Cherry Creek. Remember I mentioned the crabapples and their pink blossoms? Well, they were nearly in full bloom, and the whole canal smelled like a hothouse.
Here's your dad posing on the bike path.
After stopping in to a new rock'n'roll baby store down on Broadway to pick up some T-shirts for your cousins, we headed back up town.
Back in the 'hood, and headed home to make pike and spicy soba noodles for dinner. Your dad - I may have mentioned this before - is quite the cook. But you'll know all about that soon.