“Mom, good news!”
“I’ve just about learned how to arm fart.”
It’s not supposed to be fire season but we have one nonetheless, a little fire that exploded into a big and menacing one overnight on the brushy mountains behind our home. We are still here and safe, one block outside the evacuation line.
I already had the title of this post in my head two days ago and it applies even more now. I’ve written about Southern California wildfires before. They are an intermittent fact here in desert paradise. You might wonder how we can handle it. The answer is we just do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Today we wait and trust and offer a hand to those who live one block higher up the hill.
The fact is, no matter which state we reside in we all live in the pit of the flame, confronted time and again by conditions that seem too hot to handle. Sometimes the most we can do is offer an oven mitt, a sopping towel, a tall cool one, or a breather. Whatever we do is the best we can do. We all handle what we think we can’t.
And in that spirit I offer for your interest and consideration several quenchers.
Those of you who oohed over my daughter’s tortured art may be ignited by her one-of-kind potholders now up for bid at the Bloggers for Jeni auction. She made four to contribute to this amazing endeavor, all to raise funds for Jeni Ballantyne and her son Jack. The bidding on these is still quite low, and if you knew what I had to pay the wee miss in order to secure rights to her work, you would appreciate the bargain. Please bid high and often because these little squares are guaranteed to get you out of a hot spot. I don’t know how, but that Georgia can weave magic.
I’m offering my own kind of comfort on the auction, and it is already high priced enough. When the chance came to contribute to the sale, I couldn’t think of anything to give other than myself, and I routinely give that away for free, as you’ll see below. But that wouldn’t net any money for the cause, so we figured out how to give away nothing for something. The Comfy Day I’m offering is everything and more I can do for a mom (or dad) who thinks she’s in it alone, without a clue, a break, an extra pair of hands, a shoulder to cry on or a day off. I wish I could give it straight to Jeni but I think she’ll be just as soothed knowing that someone else is getting a lift. Think of it as a Mommy 9-1-1, suitable for a new mom, a multiple mom, or a group of moms, a shower gift, or a rescue for your own combustible self. If it doesn’t sell, I’ve already committed to contribute the value of my plane ticket to the auction fund so Jeni and Jack will get the most I can give no matter what.
That’s how we handle the heat, giving the most comfort we can give, knowing that there’s always someone farther inside the evacuation line.
Last week’s giveaway really caught fire and inspired a burst of wild-eyed generosity:
I’m sending the German version to all five people who asked, because what else am I going to do with a box of books in German? (Especially when I evacuate!)
Winners, please contact me via email on my profile page and leave me signing and shipping instructions. Soon the air will clear, the breeze will cool, and I’ll be winging your relief packages in a flash.
A little while ago my daughter directed me to one of her favorite on- and offline passions.
Mommy, come see.
A writing contest.
I think you could win because you’re a really good writer.
It seems to me that I don’t hear that very often from a real live person, or a least not often enough.
Still, I let it slide a bit, because although my daughter is certainly wonderful, she’s not that kind of wonderful, not that kind of competitor, not that kind of hero, prodigy or star. And neither am I.
When the time came to write the essay, I had to keep it real.
When the time came to mention the honors, they told us she was quite real enough.
I hope you’ll read all about it. Georgia was happy enough with the essay, and her prize, but happier still with the cardboard kingdom it inspired one Sunday in the garage.
That’s my real girl. And this is the real-life lesson she keeps giving me: believe in yourself and each other just the way you are.
We are starting a new unit in our reading series and as a part of this unit, your child will be writing a biography of a famous person. It can be any famous person, living or dead, from the United States or anywhere else. I ask only that they not choose Dr. Martin Luther King, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, since we have already studied and written about them. I ask that you help your child to do the research as part of their homework during these next two weeks. Many biographies for children are written in such a way that the information is hard for them to find. Your child will need your help! Thank you.
Mommy, I think I’ll write about C.S. Lewis.
Pause for awe and self-congratulation.
No, I decided on Shirley Temple.
With acknowledgment to Eden Steinberg, editor.
This is a story about a girl who lived in a museum. Once upon a time, there was a girl named Opal. She decided she was going to run away. But where? Then she knew where she was going. To the Natural History Museum. Then she packed her bags and left for the Metro train. So she got on and read. Then she got off and went into the Museum.
Last Thursday my daughter took a field trip with her second-grade class to the Natural History Museum. She asked if she could take a notebook with her to write down what she saw. Lately she has been stretching her character a bit, trying on the props of an older girl, an older girl who might write in notebooks while standing in a museum. I said of course. I always give way when I see her stepping into a new and slightly oversized part.
The night after the field trip I snuck a peek into her composition book and saw that she had written the story above. You might be more startled than I was. I recognized the story as that from a book she’d recently read, and the name of the character as that in another. Those two stories now live in her story. They also live in this story of Georgia writing a story about going to the Natural History Museum while going to the Natural History Museum.
Whether we realize it or not, we make every story we ever hear our own. In that way, stories never end.
Thus was made clear the second ingredient in my personal program to cultivate childhood creativity.
Ingredient Number 2: A Story
Some stories come in books, that’s true. Some come at bedtime. Some come to second-graders riding in school buses. But stories are not always stories. Sometimes they are paintings or photographs. Sometimes they are songs or poems. Sometimes they are beads on a string. Stories begin with just anything.
Stories beget stories as life begets life.
Our children are more sagely aware than we are that life is a story. Best not to take the story so seriously, because nothing we make up is as true as the original. Besides, we can always start over again.
I’m making up a story about creativity this week. Here’s what got me started.
The other weekend my daughter implored my husband to help “her” build a trundle dollbed for her “sisters”. She was about to take possession of yet another doll, a doll she didn’t need and had nowhere to put but that “she” had duly earned. More about that later.
My husband, being the creative type that he is, “helped” her draw up plans and set up shop in the garage. When I came in a few hours later, Georgia was “working” on the construction from behind the walls of a corrugated “house” loosely assembled with the 24 empty cookie cases we have laying around. Less about that later. Mounds of sawdust had been swept into a landscape. She’d laid a “carpet” of rag towels and discarded sheets, and she was curled up in her cozy make-believe, casually supervising the ongoing carpentry. And she wouldn’t come out. All day, she wouldn’t come out. She was in bliss. And I thought to myself,
Oh my, I have made this childhood thing far more complicated than it ever needed to be.
Thus I was inspired to offer the first ingredient in my personal program to cultivate childhood creativity:
Ingredient Number 1: Paper
One of the things I feel so self-satisfied about is the investment I’ve made in drawing pads for Georgia over the years. (Target should feel good about that too, but the last time I checked, they weren’t yet satisfied with the sum total of my purchases.) A surviving remnant of my daughter’s preschool days is the crate of writing and drawing supplies that resides by our dining room table. It ends up collecting a lot more than writing supplies, but I cull it at least once a year and feel self-satisfied about that too. Here are kept the rubber stamps, stickers and pens, the paper and glue sticks, the maze and puzzle books, the crayons and colored pencils we still use every day, and a veritable landfill of Happy Meal toys.
Georgia is a terrific reader and writer, as I’m annoyingly quick to boast, and I like to think that I contributed cleverly to her early literacy.
But now I see that a piece of paper – the fundamental building block of my personal program of creativity – doesn’t have to be a piece of paper. It can be a box. Or a rock. Or an old towel or sheet. It can be sawdust. It can be string. It can be just anything.
Just anything is the one thing that I consistently withheld from my daughter in her formative years. I never wanted her to use just anything, and I seldom allow it still.
Let’s say I’m a creative work in progress.
I’m making a mound of sawdust out of creativity this week. Here’s what got me started.
He told me I was short.
What did you say?
I told him, “That’s not a compliment! That’s a threat and an insult!”
Spoken with the force of nature that topples a wobbly head and rules a steadfast heart.
The girl will be OK.
I’ve been doing a little bit more running lately, because a little bit more than nothing is a quite a little bit more. The reason for all of it will roll around soon enough. My friends on the road thought I needed a touch of optimism to shade me from the harsh realities.
This morning I put on my new hat and my daughter saw it for the first time.
“Oh,” she said, accustomed to a world encapsulated in logos, “you must have gotten that at the Life is Good store.”
Yes, honey, I did. I got a lifetime supply at the Life is Good store. Let’s see how long it lasts me this time.
After days weaving strands on her classroom’s loom, losing hours of sparkling daylight to an indoor obsession, missing recess and skipping lunch to feed her creative fever, more impressed and impassioned as completion neared, she only reluctantly brought it out of her backpack when it was done:
The artist’s life.
My daughter came home from Spanish class one day last week and plastered signs all over the house. Seeing them everywhere has really shed some light on things.
Over at my friend Shawn’s new review blog, The Chunky Purse, she talks about a Spanish-immersion DVD set for teaching language to young children, and it sounds pretty neat. Eight years ago, we didn’t have that, we had something else.
One of Georgia’s first words was “awa” for water. Whether she was speaking Spanish or speaking English, who can tell. We congratulated ourselves for the clever good fortune of having a babysitter who could not only put Georgia down for a nap, but speak Spanish while she did it.
How we all wish we could lock-in these predispositions. We see the astonishing development of our babies and toddlers – their seemingly effortless learning – and what we might overlook is the amount of practice they put in. From where I sit now I view it all a bit differently than I did then.
Every day from birth to age one or so they practice mobility. Every day from age one to two and beyond they practice language. Without maintaining that level of constant practice, nothing gets very far off the rug.
But no one is excluded from these riches. Here by their own inclusion are this week’s initiates into the order of soul sisterhood, an order that naturally has no particular order:
Sandra Jena Strong The Whole Self Mama Zen Lorianne jessamyn denise Shelli Busymomma66 Jessica Girl con Queso Moanna bella Phyllis Sommer kathryn Shawn nyjlm Jennifer marta ladybug-zen Barbara Wendy Jenell Shurn Joan jen lemen Janet Thompson Megan RocketMom Missy k Shalet blissful* Susan shanspec Kyran melody is slurping life Jennifer/The Word Cellar Michelle Shannon Haley andrea scher nina bagley Robyn Mika Someone Being Me Anna and the earliest bird under the wire, Kirsten Michelle.
Looking back, I can say that this was one of the most delightful weeks of my life, and I’m so glad you were here to share it.
F-a-d-e to i-n-v-i-s-i-b-l-e. Step b-a-c-k and a-v-o-i-d becoming a p-e-s-t. After my s-n-e-a-k-y p-l-o-t to t-e-s-t her l-i-s-t for this Friday’s spelling bee she did not d-i-s-g-u-i-s-e her c-r-y. “Mom, you are taking over my life!”
Editorial Note: G-r-i-n. H-a-p-p-y. H-u-g. L-o-v-e. T-h-e-s-e are more than words to m-e-m-o-r-i-z-e.