Monday, February 29, 2016

happy leap day!

I love Google's hopping graphic for today's bonus day: February 29, the trick-day used in Pirates of Penzance, the bonus day of sun-on-fading-snow, it seems, here in Minnesota. Google's #29 bunny jumps in and nestles between a slumbering 28 and 1, and this is winter in these parts--a lot of nestling between one another, some scuffling as we try to find the best patches of warmth.

Our family had a good weekend in Wisconsin, and I'll share some photographs from our twice-trip to the Wildlife Sanctuary later this week, but right now, here are five things we did, complete with glimpses of our time at Grandma's house:

1. Maya built her first terrarium, complete with tiny mushrooms and bunny. We'll see if the chia seeds sprout.

2. Finnegan became obsessed with the birthday (apple) pie we brought for Grandma, but because Grandma has such a sweet-tooth, she already had three desserts prepared.

3. We read and re-read and re-read the newest Caldecott winner. It's come home with us and we've re-read it again.

4. I needle felted a handful of hearts for a friend's upcoming baby photo shoot. I'm thinking about needle felting a few more to make a garland for our home.

5. Finn and his grandma found a little bird that must have flown into a window. I've done some research to see the smartest way of breaking down the bird to rearticulate the skeleton.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

foremother dress up closet

A few years ago, when Maya still fit in the crook of my arm, I began to think about what feminism meant to me. What being a mama meant, what being a stay-at-home mama meant, what it meant to discuss heroes with my daughter.

I began to write poems about women I admired, women whose stories struck me. There are so many that haunt me.

These two photography projects do similar things to me when I observe them. In one, Jamie Moore considered dress-up in alternative to Disney princesses, an alternative to fantasy-life and more in celebration of women who have lived and deeply mattered.

(I want to emphasize that I do love dress-up and storytelling and folk tales and fairy tales and all the things that are rolled into princess dress-up and all the other kinds of dress up and fantasy-making that exists. I have my own set of problems with Disney, but I also have problems with denigrating what others might love for very good reasons.)

Recently, Janine Harper and her husband made a response to said project in celebration of African-American history. (Toni Morrison. Enough said.)

I love both so much. The idea of embodying women who dared, women who challenged, women who chased after dreams--it makes my heart sing.

And several of my personal favorite women-heroes are included: Toni Morrison because she has been one of my first literature loves and remains one of the strongest and most sacred to me, Amelia Earhart for her own mythic narrative, and Jane Goodall, whom I consider my daughter's foremother:

Aren't they marvelous?

Friday, February 26, 2016

{this moment}

For about five years, one of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Blake Soule, had a Friday ritual: to share a single photo from the week that captures a fleeting moment. No words, just the photograph to tell a story that is a part of that small sliver of time in her life. She writes, "A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember." She also says no words, which is so very hard for a mama such as myself, whose life is built on words.

If you have a moment to share too, please feel free to link in the comments!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

the tree kangaroo book

I almost donated these blank books to the school. I've been cleaning out the house in preparation to move, and they've been the recipients of a lot of good things--yarn, ribbon, extra art supplies, office supplies, and these were there, in the box, until the suggestion was made: let's make a book. In this house, making a book really means making one.

I'll order more, but Maya's already asked to start in on a second, so it seems we'll need a good stock, and I have skittering ideas on how to use them with her classmates down the line.

My mother picks up discards from her school's library and brings them to Maya and Finn. She especially keeps an eye out for good narratives and books about animals. She gave them to Maya in the car and Maya devoured them.


"Mama, did you know that--" and the car filled with the noise of her discovery through image.

When we got home, she took her favorite pink pen (because it's mama's favorite sort of pen, which means she delights in using the "special pen," as she calls it) and began drawing. My mother listened as Maya narrated and she transcribed: A baby tree kangaroo is the same size as a bee. I want to write a poem with that line.

Her current fascinations are, of course, the animal world and its intricacies, and especially, as is evident here, bulbs and root systems and rain and thunderstorms and mothers carrying their babies and nipples with which to feed them.

I love her so much I feel my heart could burst. Absolutely swell until there's nowhere left in my chest to go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


What I love most about local independent bookstores is that you can wander in and find perfectly curated books by local authors on display. I recognized Molly Beth Griffin's name from Loon Baby, which I picked up at the Anderson Center's celebration of children's books, which happens every fall, and this was the first of Maya's modest autographed book collection (she started collecting at age ten months--I know I'm impressed!).

Rhoda's Rock Hunt follows the narrative of a little girl named Rhoda who cannot help herself when she goes on a camping and hiking trip with her aunt and uncle--she collects all the stone beauties she comes upon and must carry them herself, which proves to be a daunting task.

My own Maya is now five and we have a pail full of rocks she's collected over the years. I'm saving them for our move, when we'll use them to decorate the edges of our new garden, which is kind of like what Rhoda does to honor the collection she's made: she makes cairns by one of Minnesota's ubiquitous rivers.

I first found this book when I was knee-deep in a KonMari experience, and this book deliciously fit in with the message of those tidying books: honor the things that spark joy by displaying them proudly, but don't overwhelm yourself with massive collections.

This reminds me of my friend's Everyone Needs a Rock project, full of beautiful photographs, and sending me on the hunt for a book by the same name.

On Tuesdays, I'd like to start recommending books for the younger set. If you ever want to recommend a book back, please do so! We're always looking to expanding our own collection,

Monday, February 22, 2016

narrative telling

Days after taking these photographs and I'm already missing this space.

The new school is a converted series of cottages in which there had been approximately six bedrooms per cottage, along with a kitchen and a living space. Right now, the two youngest clusters are each in their own kitchen / living space, whereas the elementary is making do with a handful of re-painted bedrooms until the summer demos gives them their very own swath of space.

It works though. There's still that beautiful light streaming in, still the hush of the diffuser, the quiet lamp and peaceful music as each student concentrates on making his or her own narrative. So many stories get told and retold, and there's already such a history to this building, made in love, being remade in the same.

My mother said she thinks the ghosts of the past children who lived here would be happy to see this transformation. I think she'd be right.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

pancake ice!

Pancake ice! Lake Superior, winter 2016
Pancake ice - at Black Rocks, Presque Isle, Marquette Mi. Lake Superior - Winter 2016
Posted by Lake Superior Photo on Saturday, February 20, 2016

More field trip longings. (See below for ice stacking.)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

art as bodily practice

I love that the Montessori method really focuses on the physicality of learning. Instead of doing math worksheets, the kids have number rods and boards and bead cubes. (It's all about the hands.) One learns one's letters by first tracing sandpaper letters with one's fingers. Muscle memory. Embodiment.

These two articles reminded me a great deal of that imaginative physical acts that pay homage to classical works of art, another subject studied in the Montessori preschool:

- Misty Copeland Recreates Iconic Edgar Degas Artwork for Harpar's Bazaar
- Van Gogh's bedroom recreated in Chicago as Airbnb rental

Friday, February 19, 2016

zen'ing out in the toddler community

Another morning in the toddler community, another return to the peaceful hum of the smallest children at work. They don't have so very many words, so so much communication is done by gesture, expression, little sounds. And there are Julianne and Kate, their soothing voices redirecting, demonstrating, suggesting. It's very quiet in there, very gentle. I'm always struck at how swiftly flagging behavior is adjusted, mainly by redirect, but always insistent--somehow both compromising and unrelenting. It's hard to put language to it--it's firm but loving, but that seems a bit cliche, too easy. There's something so very natural about the flow in there. Expectations are always high and the kids want to meet them. It only makes sense.

The littles got to get outside for the first time since the school moved a few weeks ago. The cold has been so remarkable, and so much of the work is getting the kids bundled up and moved to the appropriate location that the weather really needs to be on this side of good to be worth the effort. But look: see how it is!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

finnegan's birthday

Today was Finnegan's first official Montessori birthday, and I write to tell you what you may already have anticipated: I got mama-bleary-eyed. In my mind, it's such a rite of passage, getting to carry that little globe around the circle, your name spelled out with the moveable alphabet, candle snuffer at the ready, wishbook pinned together with wishes of pickles and green flowers adorning hundreds of cakes to keep and look back on over the years. These are the things my friends wanted for me, things they wanted for themselves too.

Every year, I make the children a crown for their birthday, depending on what each one's interests and passions are. (Last year, Maya requested an ogre-fairy.) Can you guess what my son's favorite color is? Yup. I admit, I love green too, and this time of year, we're ready to start seeing it much more!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

elementary in the woods

Today was outdoor photos with the Lower Elementary.

Dear Self: third graders are wise. If they suggest you ought to put on your boots, you maybe should say, oh dear, I wasn't thinking, instead of brush it off like a macha Minnesotan and say, I'm totally fine; I do this all the time. Because all that open space there? It's a crispy top you just punch through to powdery white and that gets into your shoes because they're shoes and also, wearing yoga pants? Rethink your next woods adventure attire please.

But if you do it again, and you will, do it with these guys. Because they know how to find a good climbing fallen log. I'm tempted to bring my pruners next time though with all the thorns on the bushes--I wonder what's wild and thorny and clinging? perhaps a wild fruit or buckthorn, which is, by the by, a wonderful invasive for the dye pot, if you are a dyer of fibers as I am sometimes to be--and peel them away. It takes some tromping on these paths, and the sun was just warm enough to keep us lingering.

As always, I end with two photos of my own here at school. I could not resist.