I finally decided exactly what I wanted to put together for Ella Publishing's second sketch challenge as I was lying in bed not sleeping last night. That's how my mind works. It essentially doesn't work until Eliot is in bed and I have nearly succumbed to exhaustion myself. That's when the magic happens. (And then usually fizzles out like a spent 4th of July sparkler because I rarely get up to record my ideas.) I fall into sleep and when I wake in the morning the ideas have scattered like fast-moving clouds.

Somehow I remembered my plan for this layout after I woke, and, even more miraculously, after I spent the day at home nursing a feverish, grumpy, whiny, clingy two-year-old. I found and collaged the photos I wanted in Elements as Mog watched a particularly riveting episode of Wonderpets and then as soon as he was down for the night, I hit the scrap table.

Journaling reads: "I didn't think I had accomplished much in 2009 until I started looking back at my photos. Embroidery, layouts, mini-books, sewing, painting furniture, my 365 album. Turns out I was actually pretty crafty in 2009!

It's good to see that I made just as much (or more) to give away in 2009 as I did for myself to keep. :)"

And since I waited so long to put this together, I couldn't get a decent shot, as the sun was long gone. I tried to avoid glare from the overhead lights, but didn't succeed too well. Too bad, too, because these photos don't at all do justice to that white background paper with the textured white polka dots. I love that paper. LOVE.


Hold on tight, folks, she's about to say the c-word!

I mentioned last week in passing that I had auditioned for and been cast in a local production of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues." My involvement in this production represents a personal triumph for me for many reasons.

For one thing, as I've talked about on this blog on other occasions, I suffer from depression that has at times, specifically in the years since giving birth to my son, become completely debilitating. It is a huge step for me just to become interested in something outside the sphere of the bare minimum of activities I have to do to survive on a daily basis. To have an interest, something that sparks energy and has meaning for me...I would not have been physically able to do this two years ago, a year ago, even six months ago. It's a sign that I'm healing; I'm on the right track.

 Also, besides just being able to DO SOMETHING other than work, take care of Eliot, sleep, rinse, wash, and repeat, the audition and the upcoming performances represent a venturing outside my comfort zone. I've always been incredibly, painfully shy. When I was a kid, I was terrified of walking up to the counter at McDonald's to ask for ketchup. I wouldn't even order my own food with my mother standing beside me. I would whisper into her ear what I wanted, and she would relay my order to the restaurant worker. And I'm not talking here about when I was two, or three, or four. I'm talking about when I was in junior high. Not. Even. Kidding. So auditioning, SPEAKING, out loud, in front of people, voluntarily. It's a pretty big deal for me. Huge, actually.

But what's more important to me than overcoming either of these obstacles is the play itself. "The Vagina Monologues" is a series of stories told from the point of view of individual women from across a spectrum of ages, races, sexual orientations. Each monologue speaks of a different type of experience with the vagina (or really, to be more accurate, the vulva). There are monologues about positive and negative experiences: the topics range from menstruation, sex, masturbation, genital mutilation, and rape, to the power of naming one's body parts, to giving birth. At their best, the monologues and their performance creates a sphere of acceptance and understanding, an atmosphere where women can reflect on what it means to be a woman. Our bodies have been admired, used, co-opted, and exploited, but they are also capable of bringing us great pleasure, and of bringing life into the world. "The Vagina Monologues" is a celebration of the power and beauty of the female anatomy, just as it is a critique of the patriarchal society that has systematically devalued women and women's experiences.

The play is not without its flaws. There has been plenty of criticism leveled at the piece from all different corners, and at least some of this criticism is valid. But again, at their best, the monologues spark discussion and debate, and get people thinking and talking about feminism. Not everyone will love every monologue; some are problematic, some are difficult to listen to. But any woman who's ever used a tampon will relate if only in some small way to "My Angry Vagina," and anyone who's ever witnessed a vaginal birth will recognize the sense of wonder and awe conveyed by "I Was In the Room."

The monologue I will be delivering at this year's production is a more divisive one: it's titled "Reclaiming Cunt." As I learned the hard way (and should have known already), the word "cunt" sparks automatic, gut-level reactions in some people. In fact, it's a word I also take extreme exception to when used as a pejorative term for a woman. Somehow, it feels worse, more nasty and more personal than calling a man a "dick." Somehow there's a sense of shame attached to the word "cunt," and a sense of dirtiness. Negative connotations all around.

When I saw that this was the monologue I had been assigned, my first thought was, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?!" I didn't know whether I could do it. But my second thought, the thought that followed quickly on the heels of that first shocked and dismayed one, was, "Yes. I can totally do this. Absolutely." I can and will do it not in spite of the problematic nature of the term, but because of it. It's really the monologue that suits me the most. As a writer and a teacher of writing, I love the English language. I love words. I love rhyme and rhythm and sound, the way certain words feel in my mouth as they roll off my tongue. And "cunt," frankly, when you strip away all the negative connotations of the word, and just think about the word itself, the letters and the sound...well...it is a lovely word. The amazing thing about language is that it's very much alive. The meanings of words aren't rigid and fixed, rather they stretch and bend and are transformed with time and use. I refuse to accept "cunt" the way we've all heard it used. I refuse to accept it as a label, as a term snarled viciously to cut me down or silence me. I can revel in the beauty of its consonants and vowels; I can imbue it with my own meanings, celebrate it, reclaim it. And that's exactly what I'll be doing on February 4, 5, and 6th, as I perform in "The Vagina Monologues" along with a small group of brave women who believe, as I do, that our bodies are beautiful and deserve to be celebrated, that we deserve to be safe, that we deserve to have a voice.

The proceeds from this production will benefit two local agencies, a domestic violence shelter, and our local sexual assault and counseling service. That in itself is reason enough for me to get involved.

But the fourth reason, the fourth impetus for my involvement in this production, is to honor the memory of my dear friend Molly. If she were here today, I know that she would be crusading for the very same causes. She was a strong feminist and an amazing woman. She pushed me outside my comfort zone countless times (and not always with positive results). The theater was her playground, her turf. The person I was when I knew Molly...well...that person would never have been able to do what I am doing today. Today I am stronger, and that strength is at least partially the result of having known her.

While I realize that not everyone is going to be cheerleading my performance in a couple of weeks, I know for certain that the people who matter the most to me are going to be right there by my side. They won't all be able to be there in person. They won't all be physically filling a seat in the audience. But I know they are, and always will be, there with me in spirit.


Rylan's and tigers and lunch buffets, oh my!

Conversation with Eliot this morning:

Me: "You wanna meet MaMa and Aunt Libby for lunch today?"
Mog: "Were?" (When he says "where," it always comes out sounding like "were.")
Me: "A restaurant."
Mog: "What restaurant?" (because he apparently only wants to meet up with them if we're going somewhere nice?!)
Me: "A place called Ryan's."
Mog: "Rylan's. Ok. *pause* Like rylans and tigers?"
Me: "Um. No. Not l-i-o-n-s. Ryan's."
Mog: "Oh. yeah. Rylans. I see."

This kid cracks me up constantly. I'm always trying to stifle my laughter because I don't want him to think I'm making fun of him. He's just so darn sweet and adorable. And everytime I explain something to him, even if I KNOW there's no chance in the world he actually understands what I'm talking about, he'll respond with a very thoughtful, "Oh. I see." LOL.

I couldn't be more in love with my boy. :)


I am "Mooom!"

I wake in the early hours of the morning to an all-too familiar little voice pleading, "Mooom! Moooom!" I lift my head from the pillow to glance at the glowing digital numbers of the clock, reading 2:36. My head plummets back to the mattress and I burrow under the pillow. If I can't hear him, he isn't there. If I can't hear him, he isn't..."Mooooom! Mom! Mom! Moooom!" Ah, now he's alternating the plaintive, drawn out, "Mooom!" with short, staccato bursts, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" I have to award points for effectiveness. That combo is not easy to ignore. No, sir, it is not.

I look over at Eli, blissfully sleeping as though without a care in the world, and I remember when Eliot was a newborn and we used to take turns getting up with him in the night. You know, back when we were pretending that childcare was going to be a 50/50 effort. Ha! Foolish! But the important thing is that I'm not bitter, right?! Ahem. Moving on.

So I haul my tired ass up out of bed and navigate around to the other side of the room, tripping over Eliot's Hot Wheels motorcycle, which sits, inexplicably, in the middle of our bedroom. I make my way to Eliot's room in the dark, my path worn and familiar from so many of these midnight, 1:30, 2:00 entreaties.

Honestly, I can't complain much about Eliot not sleeping. He does a fabulous job of going to bed with minimal fussing. We have a routine pretty much down pat where Eli gives him a bath around 7:30, he gets into pj jammies, and then lies in our bed eating a snack, taking his breathing treatment and watching "Olivia" until 9:00, when I take him to his room, sit beside his bed and tell a few Farmer Eliot stories before tucking him in and kissing him goodnight. Then I leave and pull the door to, and most nights, he falls asleep on his own, snuggling one or more of the approximately 683 stuffed animals that share his bed. The current lineup must include (but is not limited to) Elmo, Mickey, Pluto, Monkey Bob, and Baby Nico. If one of the five is missing, he'll yowl, "I'm missin' a guy! Where's my guy? My guy? My guy?" He can't sleep without his guys. Wouldn't even think of it.

As long as everyone is in place, however, bedtime usually goes pretty smoothly and he's snoozing by 9:05.

Lately, though, he's gotten into the habit of waking in the middle of the night and hollering at me about random, pressing problems that need to be remedied immediately, right now, NOW. I'll appear at his bedside at 3:00 a.m., for example, only to find that he is yelling for me because Elmo fell out of bed and is now lying three inches away from him on the floor. And it is imperative that I pick up Elmo, kiss him, tuck him back in, and then tell them both "Sweet dreams" before leaving the room and collapsing back into my own bed.

One dark, cold morning at some ungodly hour, I was summoned by this child because he NEEDED me to "take [his] socks off! SOCKS! Take them off!" Then all was well and we slept once more. Countless nights he's cried wanting juice. And then woken me up crying again thirty minutes later because he needs to pee. This involves me getting up, telling him that yes, he can go to the bathroom and pee, standing outside while he does his business, and then tucking him back into bed, kissing him, and telling him "Sweet dreams," before I leave the room. I don't actually do anything when he has to pee. He is now actually quite capable of going to the bathroom on his own. Nevertheless, my reassuring presence is required for such a maneuver.

So flashback to this morning, 2:36 a.m., which is now something like 2:39 a.m., and when I reach his bedroom, Eliot tells me, "I've got a hair!" I don't know that that means. "You've got a hair?" I ask. He sticks his tongue out to better demonstrate. "EH GAA A HEH! A HEH! EH GAA A HEH!" With a sinking feeling, I realize the problem. And it's going to necessitate the turning on of lights, which, at 2:39 a.m., is just wrong. WRONG. The world is dark at 2:39 a.m. That's the way it should be. Dark.

I warn him that I'm going to flip the light on so I can identify this errant hair and get rid of it. Flip. Lights! Bright! And both he and I start screaming, "Aahhhhh," like a couple of vampires exposed to the sun. And now he won't stick out his tongue because he's too busy covering his eyes and yelling, "Is too BIGHT! TOO BIGHT!" And I'm yelling, "I KNOW it's too bright--lie down and stick out your tongue so I can find this hair and turn the light back off!" (Meanwhile, Eli still snores contentedly in the next room.)

So with his arm flung over his scwenched tight shut eyes, Eliot sticks out his tongue and sure enough, right there in the middle of it is this long brown hair (mine). I scrape it off with my fingernail and then RUN back to the switch to bathe us in darkness once more.

He's already curled back up in the fetal position with Elmo securely tucked under his arm, lying there waiting for his cheek kiss and "sweet dreams." I tromp back to my bedroom, circle carefully around the Hot Wheels, and slide beneath my covers. I lie there awake, listening, waiting to hear my name again.

My name is "Mooom!"


So very lovely.

Yesterday I got happy mail in the form of a package from fellow blogger Nancy. Hooray! I love happy mail. So much nicer than bills and grocery fliers, and even Netflix DVD's. :)

She'd hosted a giveaway awhile back to celebrate her blogoversary and I won! So naturally, I had to tear into the package and immediately get to work using the scrappy goodies she sent. I paired a couple of the decorative edge 6x6 papers with some of my leftover 365 album journaling cards. I think it's quite lovely, though Eli contends that it looks "kind of blank, doesn't it?" Bah! What does he know?

In other exciting news, I auditioned for a local production of The Vagina Monologues on Tuesday and found out that I got a part! Yay. Don't know which monologue I'll be reading yet, but I'm wayy excited about it. It's my brave act of the year.

Gotta go just now--taking Mog to see Alvin and the Chipmunks so that Eli can have a quiet empty house for his online class in just a bit.

Cheers! :)


I heart Chicago. and scrapbooking.

I've never really used a sketch before. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've sketched a layout before putting it together--my normal routine is just to move elements around on the page until I like the way they look. I very rarely have a plan in mind.

The first sketch challenge from Ella, though, was too tempting not to try. It was nice, clean and simple. That I can do. My page is an extremely literal translation of the sketch. I like it! I think I'll try to play along more often. Fun!


Everything in its right place.

I got a chance to play with the January Studio Calico kit for just a bit last night. Every time I think about how I need to spend less, save more, I think about my Studio Calico subscription. It isn't necessary for life...but I just can't bear to give it the axe. So much lovely goodness and just seeing the big brown UPS truck pull up to my house gives my mood a boost. If I could actually find time to sit down and make more from my supplies one of these days, maybe I could justify the expense. As it is, I have a ton of goodies sitting around, still nestled cozily in their brown paper sacks.

My energy levels have been the teensiest bit higher lately, though, I think (so there could be more crafting/scrapbooking on the horizon?). I cleaned out a cabinet in the kitchen today in order to rearrange and put the coffee making supplies above the coffee maker, a much more logical spot than in the back of the medicine cabinet where they were living. What? I know, see, it makes no sense, does it? Every time I wanted to make a pot of coffee, I knocked over about four million little orange tinted vials of pills and a giant box of Eliot's nebulizer treatments. No more!

Eli and I have lived in this house for just over a year now, and we still do not have our possessions organized into any kind of logical, usable scheme. We have a lot of space, and plenty of storage, yet there still seems to be clutter everywhere all the time. Nothing has a specific home. Upon cleaning out the cabinet, I quickly realized why this is so. That cabinet was full. Full of nothing that we have ever used or ever plan to use in the future. I pulled out a napkin holder and sugar bowl that I've never used (but never gotten rid of because they were a gift), the original knobs from the kitchen cabinets that we replaced (because why throw away perfectly good knobs?), a globe from a broken lamp (again, nothing wrong with the globe), a coffee carafe from a broken coffee maker (you see where this is going, don't you?)...

So now the cabinet above the coffee maker is no longer the Island of Misfit Toys Random Pieces; rather, it holds coffee, coffee filters, coffee stirrers, and hot chocolate. Thank god. My heart is just a tiny bit lighter this afternoon.

One of these days I'm going to tackle the cabinet that holds, inexplicably, sippy cups, mixing bowls, and beer steins. (Who in the hell unpacked my kitchen when we moved in?!)


The one where Eliot gets his adnoids removed and Mommy grows robot arms.

Wow. It's already the 6th and this is my first blog post of 2010. I feel a year of slackerdom coming on! On Monday, Eliot underwent surgery to place a second tube in his right ear and remove his adnoids. Nothing like a fun surgery to ring in the New Year, I always say. Thankfully, he bounced right back from it, literally bounced, as by Monday afternoon he was jumping up and down on our bed, running around the house like a maniac, and sassily mouthing off anytime I tried to convince him to settle down. I had expected to nurse a tired, sickly little boy who wanted to lie on the couch and watch cartoons for most of the rest of the day. Not so. Apparently the anesthesia did not cause him to vomit (like the poor kid to the right of us in the recovery room) or wail uncontrollably (like every other kid in pediatric surgery); instead, it merely made him go completely insane.

Luckily, the hyper/sassy energy petered out by 5:30 that evening, when he crashed in front of the computer while watching "Mighty Machines" and then didn't wake until 6:00 the next morning. Thank you, lord, because I probably would have strangled him otherwise, rendering the surgery completely unnecessary.

Tuesday morning he woke up magically his old self again, the Eliot who is (mostly) polite and kind, and laid back, and who doesn't pop his Momma straight in the nose and pull her hair and then yell, "No, YOU go to timeout, Mommy!" Welcome back, son. Did I mention that I do not like your evil twin?

On Tuesday Eli had to go back to work, and despite his appearing completely healed, I wanted to keep Eliot home with me at least another day. It seemed heartless, if not a little negligent, to ship him off to daycare only one day post-op. Also, it's not like I would have been doing anything productive anyway. (Update my syllabi? What? I'm not teaching until MONDAY--why work on syllabi until Sunday evening?! *sigh*) So the boy and I stayed home and we played and played and played and played until I was pretty well played out. We painted watercolor pictures; we played farm (which mostly involves setting up little plastic fences to separate the little plastic cows from the little plastic goats, from the little plastic sheep, and using the tractors to move hay bales around until each group of little plastic animals has been properly fed); we constructed a "cage" for the fire-breathing dragon (otherwise known as "Eliot") by stretching a blanket over the backs of the dining room chairs. We colored; we ate cheese and crackers; we watched "Dora the Explorer." It was pretty much a toddler's paradise around here all day long yesterday.

Well, a toddler's paradise, with the exception of the robot arms, that is.

Apparently when Mommy dons electric blue hospital barf bags that cover her arm from hand to elbow and then staggers around growling "Robot arms! Mommy has robot arms!," little boys tend to get hysterically frightened. Who knew? I mean, how is that not funny? But at the mere sight of the robot arms, Mog screamed, "No, Mommy, NO!," ran down the hall to his bedroom and slammed the door. I could hear him crying behind the closed door.

I went into the bathroom and held my arms up to the mirror. "Roooo-botttt arms," I whispered to my reflection. Hmm. I don't get it. That's definitely funny.

But Mog refused to come out of the safety of his bedroom until I assured him that I did not, in fact, have robot arms. And then a few hours later, I tried the barf bags on again, just to check and see if maybe it would be funnier the second time.

It was not.

When it was time for bed, as he has every night for the last couple of weeks without fail, Eliot requested that I tell him a story about Farmer Eliot. (Eli claims that he started this particular storytelling trend and that every time I tell a story featuring "Frank" the Cow, whom he claims as his imaginative creation, I have to pay royalties directly into Mog's piggy bank. Well. I don't happen to know any stories about "Frank the Cow," but I sure do know a lot involving a cow named HANK. *cough, cough*)

Most Farmer Eliot stories involve tractors. Tractors breaking down and requiring repair, tractors stopping in the middle of bean fields so that Farmer Eliot can rescue a bunny rabbit, tractors getting stuck in the mud and needing to be pulled out by even heavier farm machinery. Basically, if I'm not feeling up to creating a new story line, I can just say something like "Farmer Eliot blah blah blah tractor," and he's pretty well appeased. The story doesn't need to make any logical sense or have a plot, so long as it involves the words "farmer," "Eliot," and "tractor." The combination of these three words, in pretty much any scenario soothes my son so that he can sleep soundly and dream of farming.

Eliot's favorite story, though, the one he asks for most often, he calls "The one Where Farmer Eliot Goes to the Grocery Store."  This one gets longer and more detailed every time I tell it, but essentially it involves Farmer Eliot realizing he needs to make an unexpected trip to town; meanwhile, the cows get bored and invite all the other animals to the big red barn for an animal party. Farmer Eliot arrives home to discover the party in progress, but instead of getting angry, he joins them in singing and dancing. (I do a great impression of a horse doing the cha cha, just so you know.)

Oh yes, and then Farmer Eliot rides the tractor.

And the moral of this story? Farming = good. Robots = bad.

The End.