August 30: More origami ornaments or the empty house

August 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

This morning I drove my parents to the airport. Next time we see them, O. will be walking, and J. will be about to start first grade. Having dropped them off at the airport, obviously not in the happiest mood, I went directly to work, where I had the first meeting of the semester, a committee meeting at that. I came to the meeting carrying O. in the sling. People claimed not to  mind. Then another meeting, this time leaving the children with D. Came home feeling very ungrounded and tired, both physically and emotionally. While my crafting adventures could have been great, especially since D. and J. were roasting marshmallows in the back yard and are sleeping in the tent, leaving the whole house to me and a sleeping baby, I admit that I had no energy for trying something new. I almost cheated and went straight to bed. But it’s too early for that. I have 11 months to go. Or wait till I have to go back to work full time.

So instead I tried some modular origami.

A wreath. Maybe I will use it to decorate my monitor so I can spend less time on the computer and more time just enjoying life and the summer that has nearly come to an end.


August 29: Thank you cards etc.

August 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

My parents are leaving tomorrow, so there was not much time for a serious art project. Nor did I have much interest in one. Instead, J. and I pulled out his Thank You card kit and made cards for both my parents. I completely forgot to take pictures of the cards, but I do have pictures of the kit:

The kit is great because it beats buying a premade card, yet it’s faster than starting from scratch. He usually tells me what he wants me to write to the person, more specifically what he is grateful for. It’s a good exercise in gratitude.

An epilogue to yesterday’s post:

D. and I merged our mobiles, and put the result above O’s changing table. She loved it! It stopped her crying and made her laugh

and J’s Legos are all organized!

Happy building!

August 28: More origami & finishing what I started

August 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

Another mom book I recently checked out is called Good enough is the new perfect. I didn’t really relate to the moms profiled in the book (most made approximately 3x as much as I do and were much more ambitious than I will ever be), but I did enjoy the premise: You don’t have to (try to) be the best at everything. Or, you can have it all, but not all at the same time.

How does this apply to origami? Well, while I could spend hours trying to figure out instructions for complicated origami objects, I really don’t think that this would be making good use of my time, especially since the last few days have been quite busy and tiring. Maybe in a few years, when I have fewer things on my plate (no small babies, kindergarteners, or looming tenure for example), I will want to become an origami master. Just not right now.

I really wanted to make the bunny mobile I mentioned in the yesterday’s post, but I realized that I can a) just use a bunch of origami animals from my easy origami book I made ages ago and stuck into a basket under the couch because I hate to throw anything away and b) make a few more easy origami objects, each of which takes about 1 minute to make while I am hanging out with my baby who is just starting to enjoy lying on the couch and looking at the world. So I did. And then I used some glue to make the pieces look better on wire. And then I pulled out the wire, and D. and I each made a mobile. I asked him to help because he is a mobile expert. He once created an awesome algebra lesson using Calder’s mobiles that I have him teach in my classes once in a while.

We each created one. This is how he did it (there is a carp, a pigeon, a sailboat, and a pelican)

and this is how I did it (there is a star, a pinwheel, two birds with curved wings, a swan, and a butterfly)

Tomorrow they will both go above O’s changing table, where she likes to hang out. I hope she enjoys them, even if they look nothing like the mobile from the book:

Maybe it’s because they gave no directions for how to make it. This is my peeve with craft books: they make it look so easy, and then I can never make it look anywhere near as good. But you know what? Who cares. It’s good enough, and I am sure she won’t know the difference. In fact, she may enjoy the bright-colored creatures more than the pale blue bunnies.


August 27: Origami, or not all craft days are good

August 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sometimes you have to set your standards low. Like today, when what seemed like a million things claimed my time: a work meeting, taking J. to play in a friend’s backyard where they sprayed each other with a hose and hid in a muddy hole (so yes, changing clothes and washing up were included), spending time with my parents who are going home in three days and I won’t see them for a year, taking my mom shopping, helping J. rebuild a Lego set, embarking on a Lego organizing project for J, showing my mom how to use her new camera, and, yes, let’s not forget, feeding, changing, and putting O. to sleep. Hm. Finding five minutes for oneself to do something creative was not easy. And so only when everyone finally went to bed, I got to pull out my new origami kit.

Now, those who know me know that I don’t like shopping big chains. Except that this doesn’t apply to Tuesday Mornings, the place with the best random cheap art supplies. So when I took my mom there today, I couldn’t resist this home decor origami kit:

(Yes I know this is a terrible picture. I took it in the dark in my bedroom while D. was sleeping because I was too tired to go to another room to photograph the kit.)

It looked so good — it came with beads and wire and gorgeous paper. I should have known that at 10pm I would have little interest in precise folding, and that at this time it would be too late to switch projects and begin something else. I was stuck with origami, and a book with decent, but certainly not easy to follow instructions. This is what came out of it

As bad as the results were, they are not without promise. The one on the left is supposed to be a coaster. With a little imagination you may be able to see the resemblance. The book recommends the use of tape and glue on these projects, and I think that if I fold a little more patiently tomorrow and use a little more glue, I just may end up with some cute looking coasters. The blue piece is a bunny. With another 5-6 of those and some wire provided in the kit, I should have a neat mobile for O. I like the idea, but building even one took forever tonight. The one on the right is a leaf, and it actually turned out fine, but the paper was all wrong, obviously. With the right paper, a few more leaves, and an old branch, I should have a plant that will need no watering. So tomorrow night, provided a little more time and patience (and an earlier start) I may have actual origami results to share.

Perhaps the real creative project of the day was beginning to sort J’s Legos by shape and size so that his future building can be easier. Yes, I know, it is a ridiculous (ocd?) project. The worst of it is, I actually enjoyed it.

small part of his collection

August 26: loose ends

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Due to a promise I made last night, J. & I started the day with more exquisite corpse drawings, this time joined by dad. What a great way to pass time and keep everyone happy! I will have to try it next time we are stuck somewhere with a whining child.

The one above is my favorite. Folding the paper in quarters didn’t work so well (the bottom drawing in the top picture), but we are certain to try again.

There was another loose end to tie, the final in our series of family pouches. This one was for D, more precisely for our relationship. Apart from lemon balm (smells heavenly, is associated with romance) and lavender (perennial favorite, associated with devotion), it contained two ceramic hearts, two ceramic butterflies (transformation), and a few carefully chosen words.

It is now on the family altar in the living room, with all the other ones. More positive thoughts are needed in our sometimes grumpy home.

August 25: Exquisite corpse

August 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

I checked out a mocking parenting book from the library, in which the author makes fun of most other mothers, and in particular women who make crafts with kids, makes fun of glitter, accuses these women of lying that they actually enjoy the craft projects,  and claims it’s more rewarding to take kids to Target to browse the aisles. Or something like that.  Yes, I know she is not completely serious. Still, the book annoyed me to no end, and I felt sorry for her. Because, honestly, the best moments I have with my kid is when we are making art. Sometimes with glitter, sometimes without.

Tonight’s project started with the book Imagine That!: Activities and Adventures in Surrealism. First, J. made some strange dream drawings. Then we made some weird collages that turned armchairs into faces and faces into trees. While both these things were fun, they were not nearly as entertaining as creating exquisite corpses. What is an exquisite corpse? “Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. “The adjective noun adverb verb the adjective noun”) or by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed.” — Wikipedia. It was so dadaist and so funny. So much so that J. insisted on making more tomorrow.

The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.

August 24: No time for new art

August 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tonight I had to deal with a baby who just wouldn’t go to sleep. She just closed her eyes now, but it’s too late to create anything new, and I don’t dare turn the lights on. Instead, my creativity for tonight will consist of rereading and posting excerpts of some old poems, written while living in Tucson (the home of my heart).

Transformation poems


It started like this
D. looked at the grass shaped like something we had once seen and said,
I could make an art piece like this
I could build it in my back yard.

We walked on and
everything started looking like this and something else:
we saw a cliff looking like a castle,
split trees resembling vaginas.

Having heard us, nature took the effort, realigned itself,
huddled closer to form shapes we would know:
constructions and machinery,
something we could point to and feel right at home.

Things tried to look as if we had made them:
everything we know is this and something else also.

This they tried to emulate:
this need to squint through one eye to see things that aren’t there.

Dried leaves reconfigured to look
like teddy bears with ribbons ’round their necks
like something made of satin
a leaf dress for my wedding
a dead tree veil
a creek bottom pair of shoes

and worse

dead cactus wardrobes
wet leaf carpets
cracked tree front doors
waterfall bathtubs
frantic bird home zoos
stone couches and television stands

a carnival

an unnecessary ode to ourselves


A statue on the dashboard
(not a hula girl),
underneath the bed,
on the bathroom sink,
in the places children fear to look
(behind doors, for example
where shapes multiply
posing for statues
standing so still even tickles don’t move them)
He says
“Why would anyone want their gods to look like katsinas?”
but he knows
The statue has protruding lips between which who knows what can fit,
also cigarettes for rituals
(a row of tobacco, a row of petals)
Collecting things in plastic bags and cardboard boxes,
stacking them under the bed,
on the dashboard,
inside bra padding,
in corners and on ceilings
“We all do that,” someone muses, but this isn’t true


The first time he left the house walking,
having rehearsed long
urgent with a briefcase
three feet tall
rush hour traffic
of a living room floor
hidden by couch’s arms
other tall things,
they gave him a beak to wear:
Careful little child
of all kinds of dangers
you have no idea
corrugated cardboard
cut by hand
few words to speak
thin rubber band
across the back
keeping hair in order
step back in time to a wind-up bird
large key on navel makes it play
holds its bowels together
tin drum and military trousers stripes on sides
going straight down
like accordions and cabarets old tin toys make you uneasy,
they are somnambulists, ventrioloquists
they say
all kinds of dangers
Ta-Dam Ta-Dam
you have no idea
outside the boy pecked and pecked
shared jokes with birds
not once stuck his beak into a deep vessel out of which he couldn’t drink
held no one’s hand
no danger befell him
someone else dipped his beak into water and it rusted
scraping the bottom displacing the rocks
denting the key
obeying the drumming
Ta-Dam Ta-Dam


A Giacometti man very tall 10 feet tall
slim too slim nothing to hold him
perfectly oiled on the outside
slippery as a fish you can’t hold him
slips through all cracks
even in corners of ceilings
not wavy though transparent
in fact rather rigid
rusted on hinges
where oil doesn’t reach
can only take big huge steps
all he does must thus be important
seen by the village
his wife
A checkered dress woman very wide a lifetime wide
dress full of pockets hundreds of pockets
different materials different colors corduroys and reds
pockets hold everything you can think of
to light a fire
to put out a fire
to sing a song
foot long matches
wool socks
wears huge shoes
messy hair on Sundays
you can hide in her pockets if it’s cold
he hides in her pockets when it rains: it makes him sadder than he can take
she hides him when he bends in the waist and breaks
bends more beautifully
than a tree

August 23: Inspired by the museum

August 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

Today we went to the Seattle Art Museum. While I maintain that my older child is difficult at times, he is also a great art lover. He’s been asking for weeks to go to the museum (about an hour’s drive away), and so today we finally did. We spent four hours there! With two kids! How cool is that? Instead of the usual route from the living room to bedroom to change O’s diaper, I got to walk from a fabulous kids area, through awesome galleries, by the installation of Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays, for that diaper change. Twice. I love Jenny Holzer. O. blissfully slept through the whole outing, and J. was perfectly happy to follow us through the galleries and ask questions about the art. The Universe provides.

In addition, it’s always neat when you can make art with your kids based on something that you saw at a museum. Today we saw a spectacular Australian Aboriginal art exhibit (website here). Many of the paintings were complex maps, where certain shapes and symbols always represented the same things: U shapes represented people, lines represented people’s tracks, arrows represented emus’ tracks, concentric circles represented campsites, etc. Especially impressive, to me, were the paintings of women’s ceremonies.

In any case, tonight D, J, and I attempted to create something similar. Or rather, to create something inspired by the exhibit. In our effort, storytelling was at least as important as the visual results. Guess whose attempt was the most successful? J’s of course.

D’s is bottom left. I think he just had fun creating colorful shapes. Mine is bottom right, inspired probably as much by graph theory as by the art. The dots were supposed to be women, and the lines represented the complex bonds existing among them. With two hearts in the middle. I was feeling good about the world for a change. The other two are J’s. The top one, he said, was a ceremony with painted statues to present to the gods. The bottom one was a map: the bottom left yellow dots are Hawaii and Easter Islands. The top yellow/blue squares are Tacoma, the green squares above Tacoma are the Cascades, and there is a pond to the right. Under the pond is China, to the right of China (the heart) is Egypt, and on the bottom, from left to right, Japan, Greece, and Belgrade. Fascinating. I think this is all the geography he knows, and I love how it’s all there in one magical, impossible landscape. A lot like the art we saw today.

August 22: Blessing pouch

August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Of course, if one child gets a pouch, so should the other, though the blessings one wants to bestow on a baby are more generic, as her character is not yet known. So, in addition to the generic traits I think every girl should have (courage and strength, for example), I wished her the Sun, the Moon, and the stars.

For her pouch I used my handmade paper and multicolored fairy dust… I mean glitter.

Because my little sunshine got inspired by my pouch making, he made one for me, so now there are three:

When I make one for D. hopefully tomorrow, the whole family will be blessed!

August 21: Blessing pouch

August 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

My little sunshine, J, has never been an easy child. He is smart, funny, creative, and fascinating in many ways; but also moody, whiny, and sometimes nearly impossible. This has been especially true since his sister came along.

When he was born, D. and I made a pouch with wishes for his future. It’s still around somewhere, and I am need to find it to read what we wrote. In the meantime, because of his recent grumpiness, I thought it was time to make him another one.

I started with a pouch filled with camomile (to calm down, like Peter Rabbit), lavender, some paper, sharpie, and glitter (fairy dust):

I wrote the character traits I would like him to have

rolled them up, put them in, added some glitter, and there it was:

I asked him what he wants for himself, and while it’s hard to get a straight answer out of him, he did say two things that  I added to the pouch:

I hope it works. If nothing else, I hope it helps me accept him for who he is.

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