Mommy Eyes

Today I opened up my art supply bin, dragged out the watercolor paper, the only four water colors that had not dried out, it's a five year old box of 12, and all my old brushes. I thought if August saw me painting, she would start painting. She hasn't been fond of finger painting.

August enjoyed dipping the brushes into the water and into the paints. She mixed the colors together, and was painting. I was thrilled when I saw what she was creating. So much in fact, I couldn't concentrate on my own project. Before she was even done I already decided I was framing this one. She seemed to love painting with brushes and it will make it easier for me to get back into it. First, we need more paint.

Two years ago...

A little tidbit left unpublished until now:

August. This is her month, the last days of summer, butterflies, cicadas and fiery sunsets that drown in the humid cornfields of Indiana. This year we are in Texas, where summer still has two more months left. I have yet to smell autumn in the morning breeze. It is still a long way off in these parts.

We are no match for the powerful cicada. Conversations trail off then die under their heavy clamor. They blanket parties and get togethers, hypnotizing everyone. You suddenly find yourself languid.  I used them the other day to put August to sleep. We sat under my grandparent's porch, under pecan trees and just listened. I don't remember drifting off but when I opened my eyes my grandfather and August had both fallen asleep. 

I am different. Four months later and there are no longer photos of architecture, animals, landscapes or the like.  My days are filled with August and they have been sublime. I can't take my eyes or the camera off of her for long. Every moment is something I never want to forget. If only I could save the scent of her head, her little feet and hands.

Labels:

groupings, placement, messes


























I truly enjoying turning a corner of the house and finding what little hands have done. These fresh configurations, arrangements, compositions, little installations, scenarios appear unexpectedly and make me so happy. I photograph them because they last but an instant and I want to keep them. Before we pick up the room I scan it over to see what all has gone on there. A mess is not simply a mess. I find all sorts of surprises that make me smile or laugh. I don't expect others to see what I see through my Mommy eyes, I just enjoy them tremendously.

























Soap

We went to the store because I needed soap. It now had a different name so I expected a different store altogether. I walked in and it was exactly as I had left it. August took to the produce section almost skipping and almost shouting,"It's nice, it's nice!" I turned and spotted the manager.
"Hi', I said, "Nothing has really changed, inside."

I needed soap. She wanted figs. We grabbed a basket and I promised myself, just a few things. Only what I need. Dandelion greens, strawberries, dates, figs, ten huge limes for $1. The soap.

Home again, home again and we had figs. The day went on, dandelion greens at dinner. It's now tomorrow and in my room are five dolls on the floor, all faces I  have known my whole life. My dolls.
August is in her dreamland picking at the day. I picked the rose scented Bee & Flower. I use to buy bars by the dozen. By the double dozen. Rose because it remind's me of my Abuelita. I unwrapped it slowly. Smelled it. I licked it, my dolls made me do it. I placed it in the tub.

I couldn't part with the wrapping. It needs to linger. The gold foil stamp, the paper.

...first created in Shanghai in the 1920's. Immediately that phase of mine with Nin and Duras and Dinesen. Then Simone de Beauvoir. I was nineteen. I looked in the mirror and my hair looked so black. I was about to brush my teeth but found that I was still hungry. There are dates in the kitchen. 

I left my rose scented bathroom. Not really, I left Abuelita's rose scented bathroom with the window that was always open so that while you showered you heard loud street sounds and people talking next door in the dark. The bathroom was the loneliest place. Tall, concrete walls, a high ceiling, to much room. The sound of water hitting tile was heavy. Abuelita was not there. 

The dates in the kitchen? No. Instead, I closed down the house. I noticed that she put the petrified wood exactly where I had it. What a charmer. I sniffed the soap paper as I brushed my teeth. 

August Minutiae





































With every new location August and I re-establish ourselves. Her room gets taken down and is re-assembled, our schedules are re-invented and we add new rituals to our lives.  I am not ashamed to admit that my child occupies all of my heart, most of my brain, my creativity, is my inspiration and tiny companion.  I don't fight this,  I go with it. This is what I waited so long to do. I have always wanted to be a stay at home Mom. I did everything else I ever wanted to do during that wait.





































A few weeks ago I took August to see Peter and the Wolf performed by the ACMC Woodwind Quintet. Once the music began to play, I became emotional. I have always been moved to tears watching any performance. Watching matachina dancers at a parade resulted in a slightly embarrassing moment for me once. I suddenly became overwhelmed and chocked on tears. I would love for August to see matachina dancers. While at Peter and the Wolf, I remained in an emotional through the entire performance because it was shared with August and her Auntie who is also her very own magical Fairy Godmother and mine as well. August instantly recognized the music, got off my lap and wanted to dance. She then hummed along happily with the music, saying, "It's Peter and the Wolf!"


































I have played La Boheme for August since she was a baby because it's my favorite opera and I have listened to it regularly since high school. I didn't expect her to like it or enjoy opera, I was only trying to introduce something new to her that day. When she heard opera on the radio while we were driving around, she exclaimed, quite joyfully, that it was beautiful music. Upon hearing this my heart could not stop dancing. The operas I could share with her just swirled about in my head, La Traviata, Carmen, Tosca,  Pagliacci...We'll see what she likes. Mexican folksongs and The Monkees send her to her room to grab her instruments so that that we can play along. 

































A new ritual for us is to have classical music playing anytime we eat. It's something I enjoyed when we dined at Casa de Luz, a restaurant and health community center in town. There is much I enjoy there and want to bring home. Now that we have a home of our own and the traveling has stopped, for now, we can concentrate on building. I have no plans exactly, I only know that there are things I want for us. There has been no other time in my life when I have wanted to share so much. August's growing awareness has me giddy. I have an endless list of interests and passions that continue to expand and grow because there is this person who is still quite brand new in the world and she wants to know things, I want to know things.

   


































The last time we were living in a city, I was pregnant with August. I took note of all the events, places and resources for children in Baltimore and hoped that when she was ready we'd find ourselves in a city again. I would love my chickens back along with a small flock of goats but for now this is where we ought to be because here we are.

I

I have been reunited with many things I had stored away for three years. As I unpacked I was getting to know the person who packed these things only three years ago. That person is no longer me. Things I thought for sure I had, I never found.  They were left behind, lost, because, at the time, they already were not who I was becoming. I came across some relics carefully wrapped and stored only to unwrap and toss into a box to give away or into the trash. What remains in my new home is all I really need, more than enough of my past. I have three boxes to drop off at a thrift store, I sold books, left quite a bit of  jewelry at a consignment store and still feel the urge to purge. I want to make room for all the new.


Pet Moon

























In the past, when I would spot a full moon high in the sky I'd cry.  I could hide all I was feeling from friends, family, from my art, from my writing and even from myself but not from the moon. On those nights when I had lost track of time and was surprised to find a full moon I could do nothing but stare at it and be completely honest. I'd then confess all my sins to the moon. I'd ask it for favors and was unashamed in admitting all that I really wanted. I would then find myself begging at the moon.

It didn't surprise me to find August calling the moon, asking for it to come out for her.  The moon is her pet moon, her friend. When I saw the full moon hanging from the sky in just the perfect way, we pulled over and I got August out of the truck to see her moon. She waved hello and said to it,"I have a pretty dress on and pretty shoes." She was showing the moon her outfit and catching it up on what it had missed since she saw it last.  It followed her home and along the way she was talking and singing to it. Once we got home August danced around with her moon. I am no longer moved to tears when I see a full moon. Moon finally heard me and I have nothing to ask of it anymore.  I just say thank you every night.


After the roman candles...

For as much as I love fireworks...and I do love fireworks, watching August watch them that night was joy. Having been away from everyone for so long, it was a treat to attend my friend's 4th of July party this year. Her home is a bit magical for me and when filled with people and great food, just a happy place to be.

Inspired to nest.
Inspired to put down roots.
Inspired to share.


Food...and dining




















Lately, food and dining have played a big part in our daily routine. It is very exciting watching a child try foods for the first time even when they don't like the taste. I still remember trying an artichoke for the first time, Mexican plums and bell pepper. Flavors and scents of foods from my early childhood have stayed with me my whole life and are among the loveliest memories I have. Just the other day, under the spell of the cicadas song, I could recall the smell of the peaches from my grandparents yard. The skin is a bit thicker than those found at the store but so is the pink flesh and they are the sweetest and juiciest peaches I have known. The canned figs my grandmother makes every summer is another memory that swims around my head this time of year. Finding a fig tree in a public space is like being bestowed some beatific grace. All good karma results in figs ripened in the sun there for you to pick.

At the bottom of a bag of groceries this afternoon, I found one of those pricey, organic, fancy cans of sardines. We have been staying with friends and my grocery tote doubles as a pantry these days, sitting on a catch-all side table in their kitchen. Something about digging through it and finding what I forgot I bought days ago makes it a tote full of treats. I love sardines, anchovies, kippers and even the canned clams and oysters. I love them with lemon juice and hot sauce. Finding this little can of fish made me happy.

I quickly opened them to eat for lunch, August already started on her afternoon grazing. Rather than serving meals that are too large or heavy, resulting in between meals snacking later, we have fallen into a pattern of a long brunch and then a long afternoon nibble. I will serve a plate with different foods or several small courses instead of one prepared meal. This way August gets her fruits and veggies, proteins and dairy in a way I can keep track of.  Dinner is our only "real" meal with a main course and sides and doesn't last nearly as long as our other meals.

When I sat down to eat my sardines, already swimming in lemon juice, ready for hot sauce, August asked to try some. My very first thought was, she's too little for sardines, but no, she isn't too little for sardines anymore. I gave her one and removed the edible bone afraid it could put her off. She took a few bites and excitedly told me that it was good. I added a tiny bit of hot sauce and she said,"That's spicy, it's good!" I then gave her the rest of my sardines along with some crackers and she instantly scooped up the fish with her cracker. She was thrilled to try something new. I was excited that she loved sardines.

This summer, being in Texas and not in the food desert of Oklahoma has provided us with delicious fruits and veggies that August is trying for the first time. Papaya, figs, cherries are all new to her.  Veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and green beans are wrapped in parchment and cook in butter in the oven.  Just before serving, I add a bit of lemon juice. This is how I get August to eat vegetables,add lemon or lime juice. Being in Austin has given us the opportunity to try all sorts of exquisite foods like blood sausage, pork belly confit and a bresaola that tastes like Christmas. Introducing August to food and dining has been a joy I never expected.


Dinner

Today I started to prepare dinner for August at 3pm so it would be ready by 5pm. I wanted to take my time, no rush. I decided to make her a meatloaf.  I cut the onions into tiny, perfect squares then sauteed them in butter in a cast iron skillet. Then, I grated garlic into the sizzling onions. After I assembled the meatloaf and had it in the oven, I started on the braised cabbage. She loves cabbage so I chopped it up into little pieces and threw it into the skillet.  Lately she needs heartier meals otherwise we end up back in the kitchen close to midnight for a snack. I don't mind. She tells me what she wants to eat and I fetch it from the fridge for her and we end up with a plate of toast, yogurt, some berries. We talk about the day or I tell her a story about myself when I was her age. What isn't a special moment when raising your child?

This evening I served her a slice of meatloaf and sprinkled lime juice on her cabbage and upon receiving her plate she said,"Ohhhhhh Mami". After her second little gobbly bite, she said with her mouth full,"I like this, I liiiiiiike, this!" Then she continued with, "Mmmmmm this is good, I like this!" We sat at the table and I kept saying thank you. I thought maybe I served her too much, it was an adult sized portion. She cleaned her plate and said,"That was good!"  It was the most rewarding experience I have ever had to date. I felt the deepest happiness and so very successful. My meatloaf was indeed good, I thought it was the best I have made. 


The magical power of books...

I have seen this little piece of writing everywhere lately. It reminded me of how my husband got my attention and won me over years ago. He was a handsome stranger who placed In the Inmost Hour of the Soul by Marina Tsvetaeva in my hands then walked away.  It was 1999. That book started something that only a book could start, it took over a decade to unfold. If you want to make a lasting impression, definitely give someone a good book.




















It is important to me that August know what a typewriter is and how it works. She plays with a rotary phone I have and counts as she dials. The smooth, swoosh noise it makes is a comforting one. I still remember the sound my grandmother's number made when dialed, my best friend's, my own home number. I have two Brownie cameras, a Polaroid Land Camera and a few Holgas, I'd love for August to learn to use them all.

The other day, I brought out one of my typewriters to work on a project. August came along, curious and enthusiastic. She gently shoved me aside and started hitting the keys before I had a chance to insert paper. I showed her how it worked and we ended up working on the project together. She was excited about the letters and called out each letter as she'd hit the key. I kept telling her to hit them harder and she finally got the hang of it, laughing when she'd miss them.

Today August picked up my phone, found the camera icon, clicked on it and aimed it at her Aunt Cecilia and said,"Ceeeecil! Then clicked and took a photo." I'd show you that photo but Aunt Cecilia didn't find it flattering. I am constantly amazed at what August learns from just watching me and people in the world around her. At her young age, she has no problem using any modern device. She learned how to use the DVD player by 18 months old, the remote control as well. She was at our laptops well before a year old. This is why I refuse to text. I don't want her to pick up texting from me, it can be a rude and dangerous habit.

I'm not raising a "Luddite", but  I want August to learn to use all those wonderful and noisy mechanical devices, the wind-ups and crank-ups. It's important. We no longer have the option to opt-out of technology.  Maybe my rebellion is in not completely letting go of the old, passing on the swooshes and the clickety-clacks.



Wipe Out (1000th blog post)

Parked at a tienda in a strip mall on a busy corner, from the radio I heard a voice that called himself Cousin Brucie. The show mimicked the old radio call-in shows from another era.  What crossed my mind was the fact it was 2014, Wolfman Jack and Paul Kallinger are no longer on this earth.  I looked around at the strip mall, located in a part of the city that was the outskirts of a town only twenty years ago. Only twenty years ago... Twenty years is a long time ago and it did mostly creep along.

A caller asked Cousin Brucie to play Wipe Out by the Surfaris. In my head flashed my Surfaris record that I bought several years ago. I increased the volume because it would be the first time August heard Wipe Out.  It's a tired song, I thought. It is still full of an optimism and energy from another time yet a very tired song. As it played I looked around. You couldn't be further from the beach, California, surfers or 1963.  From the window I watched young men walking in and out of the store, two cop cars parked over in the next lot and young girls [dressed to send their fathers to an early grave] sauntered by. I was too present to time travel. The song fit the scene. It had traveled forward to 2014 and I witnessed it's short visit.

Empathy

On a less than perfect day for me,  while my head gnawed and churned on the issues du jour,  a little girl came up to August and waved hello. We were sitting at the outdoor cafe when she came right up to us, and August waved hello back. Soon they were giggling and standing next to each other, enjoying putting their hands into the water fountain. The two girls hugged each other, they were all smiles, there were more giggles but no words. Their laughs, giggles, smiles and eye contact were the only means of communication they used.

What a joy to witness this pure encounter between two little humans. Both girls were present and happy, without the baggage that too many years on this planet can offer. I looked around and saw a child asleep on his father's lap but no other children. I looked at every adult in the cafe, my own reflection, and we all looked so burdened, heavy... even while smiling, our auras were languid compared to these light souls. These children actually bounced around in a pattern similar to two butterflies dancing over a patch of clover.  I teared up.

For as much as we adults want to shed our defenses, undress and become once again as little children, it is not possible. So many try to return, but it's a one time experience. A child is a child, we can no longer be children we can only learn from them and be reminded of the magic that is childhood. If you lose your burdensome load and I unload mine, perhaps we can clear our minds long enough to find common ground in how a stream of water feels running through our fingertips, delighting in how it makes the other smile.

We can pause, be present and enjoy the moment but it's not the same. I remember how it once was, when it was new and words were not needed. We all have those memories from childhood and how it felt. Just watching August and her new little friend together made me feel invulnerable. I had a break from all my pressing thoughts and an optimistic surge of energy.  New thoughts, better thoughts, replaced what I had been pondering. August began to cry because her shoes were bothering her, reminding me that happiness, even for children, is  moment to moment. What I want for August and every child is a long childhood, what I want for every adult is less cargo. What could save mankind is less words, perhaps no words, eye contact, being present and practicing empathy.

The Beats have poems for every occasion...

Gregory CorsoLast Night I Drove A Car 

 
Last night I drove a car 
     
     
        not knowing how to drive 
        not owning a car 
     
    I drove and knocked down 
     
        people I loved 
       ...went 120 through one town. 
          
     
    I stopped at Hedgeville 
     
        and slept in the back seat 
     
     
       ...excited about my new life. 
Supposedly one of Corso's mindless, throw away poems. So much right there.

playtime
























Knock, knock.....she opens the door to the dollhouse then shoves the doll back out the door along with the entire contents of the home. Knock, knock...the little wooden homeowners return and begin the difficult task of carrying all their furniture back into the house. Knock, knock...we play a tug-o-war with poor Mr. Doll. So goes the game.

Sometimes the cousins visit...



















Grateful for April

In March I bought a paper puncher that created 3 inch stars and a thick book of scrapbooking paper and got to work on my vision. Since August had been singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for some time already, I wanted to give her stars for her birthday.  Every morning, while she had breakfast we watched The Gilmore Girls and I punched stars. It was hard to stop. I wanted long, long garlands of stars. I found some old children's books, unfit for reading and awaiting repurposing, and made stars out of them. Old Christmas wrapping paper that I had saved because it was just too cute also became stars.



The day before August's birthday, I was still assembling the garland, glueing the stars to a fine gauge crocheting thread. What was curious is upon starting the project, I had planned on stringing the garland among the crepe myrtles, sorghum tree and pines. Jacob and I, along with August tidied up a clearing  under the trees and planned on celebrating there with a teepee or fort made of tall bamboo sticks and old table cloths. I thought of planting wisteria on her day and turning the area into a magical cove for next year. We had also thought of celebrating at the park if only we could find an area to string the stars. As we walked through the neighborhoods, I'd find myself looking at yards and empty lots and pictured garlands of stars hanging.  The more stars I'd punch out and glue together, the more excited I'd become about decorating. I did start to feel uneasy about celebrating outside despite having fallen in love with our clearing near the rabbit den surrounded by pinecones. In me was the notion that it would not happen where we were planning and thought perhaps due to rain but another plan was in the making.






































Here I was  in Austin, the morning before August's birthday, decorating my friend's dining room, far from the forests and lakes of Woodville. We arrived the week before through a series of unexpected events, the kind that just fall on your lap sometimes. We were just in time to celebrate Easter and several April birthdays with dear friends after three years of sharing through photos, videos and emails only.  Out of curiosity I checked the weather in Woodville the morning of her birthday and rain was expected after all.







































August loved her decorations, her "August stars", as she called them. She waited all day. She practiced extraordinary patience on her birthday. It was a long wait but the whole day was filled with little treats.  She had waffles with extra syrup for breakfast, she watched television for as long as she wanted, we danced, decorated a cake, took a long nap and just had a great time. Once everyone arrived we skipped dinner and went straight to candles, song and cake...then presents!






































April was a month of wonderful surprises and loving generosity. I am only now coming down from it all but still feeling a tender coziness and moved to record it here. Her second birthday is forever a memory in my mind, my heart. None of the camera's I used were able to capture the colors of the stars, how they gently danced around or the way the room looked or felt, the way the light hit the cake and the how the stars, cake and August's dress all played off each other. No photos captured the excited or sweet expressions August had moment to moment. Rather than become frustrated I just settled for what the camera chose to show. It was lovely though, a very special day.

1304 Rio Grande, Austin, TX 78701




















We found ourselves near that old familiar house so I asked Jacob to stop at 1304 Rio Grande. I wanted to get out of the truck, I wanted to visit even though I knew no one would answer the door. Mr Gage had this loving relationship with his home. He was always doting on it, tackling maintenance issues and making improvements. Mr Gage would say, "People ask me why don't I just sell this house and buy something brand new that doesn't need any work and I tell them, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I enjoy working on my house. I wouldn't know what to do if I had something shiny and new that needed no attention at all. I love my house." Every day he would get up and begin work on his abode as early as 5am. On Saturdays, I'd drop in close to noon and he'd take a lunch break that would sometimes stretch on to 3pm.

Our visits. We'd sit and I'd disappear for hours. No one knew how often I'd visit Mr Gage. I'd escape in the middle of a work day and then pop back into the office before going home. I'd visit after work or sometimes skip work altogether driving to his house instead. He would tell me that he was hoping I'd show up or how he had just been thinking about me because he found some Mexican pottery or a book on silent film stars. Once he paid me the biggest compliment ever, he said he had just seen an Audrey Hepburn movie and thought of me.  I fell in love with Mr Gage and his very ordinary life lived with an extraordinary spirit but I also fell in love with his home. It rambled on and on and he'd let me wander in it because he knew how good it felt. I'd tell him how it felt like a place in a story book to me.

How very sad it was to arrive at his back door  for the first time since he passed away. The house has been emptied, possessions sold or tossed, some structural odds and ends left behind. At his door step, the house felt thin, it sits like a mourning spouse who has lost too much weight from grief. The clothespins that hung his Saturday wash were still sitting on the wire under the overhang he built. It's been many months since they held his plaid, cotton shirt with the snaps or his scarf. The colorful piece of old wooden fencing that stood along the street had disappeared. Looking through the windows was shocking and I teared up.  I realized it was the day before Easter, I always visited the day before Easter.  There in his back yard I noticed the flowers and his walkway of tiles and suddenly it was as if his grief stricken widow was hugging me. Goodbye house, so sorry your loving occupant is gone and I do worry about what is to become of you. Goodbye, Mr Gage, oh the things I wish I could tell you, I have so much to share. I took the clothespins off the wire, put them in my purse then left.




Woodville
































Beatsville is in Woodville for now. The pines, Dogwoods in bloom, the floral scented breezes and lakes all inspire. Lately my thoughts have been with the beauty that is around me, my little Walden with my little family. August picks flowers, sticks and pinecones. She throw herself down on the ground and closes her eyes. This is her Papi's home and she's feeling the roots. She's learning to recognize and walk around the ant beds, she hears the trees buzzing and tells you it's bees, she knows not to head for the water.

Here we are on the eve of April, April again. A birth month, April started it all. Our family in April, in Woodville. What was left behind is now behind me, I can imagine no other role or life. What does one really need? It's all right here.

Capirotada

Lent, Spring, time to make capirotada. It's been four years since I have made this simple dessert. It's a favorite, homey, comfort food. In looking up images of this dish, I found that they were all made in casserole dishes and my grandmother would do that. Perhaps inspired by all the cooking shows we watch, after some thought, I decided to try and make capirotada in a spring form cake pan. I also strayed from my grandmother's traditional recipe by topping it with almonds. She never uses nuts in her recipe. I was very happy with the results. It was the first time Jacob or August had ever tried capirotada making my efforts in presentation more than worthwhile.