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.

Disclaimer- This is about me getting mushy about my kid

























These past three months or so with August have been truly delightful. This is a word I have rarely used to describe anything until now. Delightful definitely describes all feelings and emotions accurately. She is this little person who is learning to get along in her world and it's a process I find tremendously fascinating.  I have always loved watching how children learn. On Saturday mornings, when I was eleven or twelve years old, instead of cartoons, I would watch the child development programs/documentaries on PBS.  What I learned from them has stuck with me all these years. I watch August as a mother but I also watch her as one interested in how humans learn and grow. One thing I remember so well from those old programs was how a mother's love changes a child's developing brain. Mothers are important, love is powerful.

Over the last several weeks, August has become more friendly and says hello to everyone and to many things around her like ant hills and trees. She wakes up quite happy every morning but not so chipper after napping. Her kisses, smiles and hugs are the best I have ever had and they are these tiny gifts that now fill our days. Her personality continues to evolve and become more and more complex. I thought, if only we could go back and watch ourselves taking shape, I think we'd appreciate ourselves and who we are more. 

The sandbox at the park was so scary for August. I thought it was probably the idea of a sinking ground. How uncomfortable it must be to feel like the ground beneath you may not hold you. Today she threw her beach ball into the sandbox, reached for her Papi's hand and walked into it, slowly, carefully, looking at the sand and watching her feet sink into it. She did this over and over, taking my hand or Jacob's hand. Within minutes, the fears of the sandbox had been purged. Maybe that isn't what she felt but it reminded me of a fear I had of falling through the earth. I was told if I dug deep enough I would reach China. Soon after hearing that, I had a fear of holes and cracks in the soil. I could fall all the way to China, a foreign land, away from my family and everyone I loved. Would they ever find me and rescue me again? I'd be lost forever. Eventually, fun adventures would fill my head as my imagination became less fearful of such things. 


























Today we also managed to get August to try swinging on her tummy.  I was proud of her for giving it a chance. She still reaches for us when she wants to go down the slide. Going down the slide alone is a big step that she hasn't taken yet and that's just fine.  I am not quite ready for it either. Her favorite amusement is by far the merry-go-round followed by the rocking, bouncy horses, both of which scared me and made me nervous to see August ride at first but I am also becoming a bit more brave.  She went from sitting to standing on the merry-go-round.

What I have found to be most gratifying are the sudden bursts of discovery August has. Sitting at play she suddenly jumped up and came running holding the letter F from her foam floor mat and said,"This is a F". She then started pointing out other letters: J, X, B O, Y, M, N... Each time shaping her mouth in a curious way, teeth showing, jaws working in ways we had not seen until that moment and with the biggest, most proud smile ever. Then, she dragged out her alphabet book and wanted to go through it with us and pointed out B, C, P... It was a moment I will never forget, huge, and on a quiet Thursday night when I thought that our day was ending and not expecting anything.

When she loves what I make for her to eat she rewards me with a kiss. Mexican rice is her absolute favorite and then there is cactus and recently she surprised us with her love for onions. Each piece of onion brought on watery eyes, a slight grimace, and a sniffle but she kept reaching for another and another then smiled.  We have started adding a bit of pepper to her food and she didn't seem to mind the slightly spicy, guajillo chili sauce on her chicken. She loved the taquito I made her. It was the first taquito she's ever had and ate it while sitting on my lap. 

Yesterday she took the sunglasses off my head then proceeded to wipe them clean using her petticoat. She did this so smoothly, no fumbling. She then handed them back to me as if she'd done this all before, for years. When I taught her how to play the memory game I didn't know how much of it she'd grasp. I was tickled to death when she picked it up after just one lesson. Learning the game and the whole matching thing was more than enough. I have learned to expect anything and try everything. Well, I have learned to really expect anything and really, really try everything. Looking forward to board games. 

Watching August's ever increasing awareness of her world, her personality taking shape and unfolding is daily, it's constant and exciting. I also love being in touch with other mothers and their toddlers through emails, photos and blogs and learning of their experiences. When August reaches for my hand at the park, I am helping her along but she's leading me to yet another epiphany, inspiration, piece of my own childhood or simply the sweetest moment in my life to date

Where were you at 7am?

Those long seconds of thought that happen once I open my eyes in the morning, before I'm fully awake and aware took me through several years of 7am in an instant. I checked the time, tried to remember my dreams but instead was flooded with memories.

I remember 7am in Seminole, OK, returning home after dropping Jacob off at the yard, carrying a sleepy ten month old into our chilly duplex. There was 7am that first summer with August in Del Rio and doing some early morning grocery shopping with her in the sling. She was still too tiny to hold her head up on her own, sleeping so deeply. There was greeting 7am after not being able to sleep because I had pregnancy insomnia. Hearing birds chirp and feeling the sting of a sleepless night in my eyes still makes me feel a bit anxious. The 7am in Indiana was cleaning the juicer to I Love Lucy in room 19.  Once, 7am was a truck stop somewhere in the South. I can't remember the state but I do remember the guard's kiosk, the clean bathrooms and feeling surprisingly rested. The 7am in Baltimore was a walk from room 25 to the hotel breakfast area for some juice and use of the toaster. Sometimes I mingled with the hotel staff, watched the morning news with them.  We became friends after being there six weeks or so. There was 7am at the bus stop a block away from my house in Austin. I always felt the wait for the bus was too long but I appreciated the morning air and looked forward to reading on the bus for thirty minutes or so.

If I dropped in on any of these places at 7am, I don't think much would have changed. After traveling and living in different cities and small towns, adapting to my surroundings, always a bit of culture shock, I have learned that places don't miss me. They continue on and on and never pine or wonder where I am. 

The experience of these past three years has fulfilled that thought I would have while on the way to school in my small hometown. I would pass the same houses on the same streets everyday, setting out at 7am.  Who are these people in these houses? What do they do?  What were other people doing in other places I didn't even know existed? I did want to know what it would be like to live somewhere else, be someplace completely different at that very moment. How would I feel to be so far from home,  everyone a stranger? 

I eventually found out that strange places, strange faces don't remain unfamiliar if you stick around long enough. I made Austin unfamiliar pretty quickly, it was easy to do, it was nothing more than a large town, not the city it is today.  But all those places I have seen since Austin, all the 7am's I have had...it was now 7:09.

V-Day




We were able to use the Valentine's Day banner I made last year.  A week after Valentine's and it is still hanging, our Valentines are hanging as well, and I am still feeling warm and fuzzy about the holiday. It has become a big celebration for our small family. August and I made Valentine cards the night before to give away to friends and family.

On Valentine's Day, August dressed in the pieces of clothing she loves and passed out Valentine's.  We then gathered for our sweet. I made us a heart shaped cocoa Pavlova with a generous amount of vanilla whipped cream and  topped it with raspberries. We devoured the entire thing at our little party because you can't store a Pavlova, it must be savored at the moment.


We opened the Valentines we made for each other and it was at that moment I felt all was so dreamy. Valentine's Day has definitely become a celebration of love, day of the heart, family. When August opened our card, she became excited. She loved the felt heart and just seemed to treasure it, pointing out the colors and holding it close after Jacob and I read what we wrote her.

Later, Jacob went to work on dinner for us, a mole from scratch. Creating a mole is difficult and first timers usually have to try and try again. The mole needs to be cohesive and flavorful without being overpowering, it cannot have a watery consistency, it needs to coat the chicken without being too thick.  Jacob used several types of chiles, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cinnamon and Mexican chocolate in his Valentine's Day mole. The result was truly Divine and thoughts of it still makes my mouth water. The whole house smelled festive, the unmistakeable and complex aroma of mole. It was a gastronomic success, no culinary miracle either, Jacob is talented and rarely errs in the kitchen. August and I loved our late dinner. 

Before Jacob and I were finished eating, August had already put her skirt back on, this time inside out so the shiny satin part showed, put her shirt back on and put on her black patent leather shoes. I told Jacob that dancing usually follows mole and maybe she knows that and wants to dance.  We followed August into the living room where we ended the evening with a dance party. 



Abuelita

There are nights, rather, mornings when I am roused from sleep, unable to return. There is much I finally do when I am up in the wee hours like catching up on reading or a knitting project. Lately though, all I do is lay in bed, hold August and pine for my Abuelita in Mexico.  If I get out of bed I look at her photos and recall her voice and laugh, they are clear as a bell.

Ours is a tragic love story, never enough time together.  I fell madly in love with her very early on. I can remember the scent of her soaps and perfume around her neck when she'd hug me,. My earliest memories have to be as young as 18 months old. I remember the way my hand felt in hers when we'd walk, I was no more than two or so. Things look so different when you are tiny and remember looking up at her with the pecan trees towering over us, the vineyard, the light on the street. She would spend several weeks with us. Those time are forever with me. She'd sing me songs,  show me how to play games, tell me stories, teach me things, read to me, buy me anything I wanted, spoiling me rotten. 

Eventually, she'd begin to make lists, there were phone calls, she'd gather her belongings, put away her knitting and crocheting needles, books and pack away all her clothes when she'd take them off the clothesline, instead of putting them in the drawers we had emptied for her.  My mornings would become anxiety ridden. My heart would break. I'd say goodbye and cry for hours, once, for days.  The weeks had not gone fast for us, in fact they had slowed down, I just wanted more.  

I'd write letters, there were long distance phone calls but I wanted to be in her presence, sitting silent, under an invisible shade of her scent that was floral with a hint of sandalwood.  I couldn't wait to see her again and looked forward to visiting. When we did visit her in Mexico, a cot would await me in her room. She would do just as she did when I last saw her. There was always a knitting or crochet project, a book or two she was reading and walks. In Mexico though, we really walked, for miles, for hours, from one side of town to the other and back. It was just the two of us. On those walks there was much silence. I loved that. We watched people, took in sounds, scents and now and then one of us would comment to the other. She pointed out things to me,  told me jokes, I asked questions, then silence for blocks.  Abuelita never had a problem with silence.  I helped in the kitchen, watched her watch novellas and learned more and more how to knit and crochet. There was much joy, calmness and love just being with her. I was annoyed when her attention was demanded by anyone else.  In fact, I'd grow anxious again as the cousins and aunts and uncles filled her house. Everyone would gather to see us. I'd lose her for a week or two, our lovely silence and schedules destroyed. 

Tonight I miss her. She is still alive but I have not seen her in years. While Mexico seems so benign for travel, it is only to the tourist areas that a cheap trip can be found. My Abuelita lives off the beaten path a bit, enough to where a visit is pricey, and now, not even really safe. She can no longer see very well, she cannot hear me clearly over the phone.  I send her telepathic conversations that I feel are so powerful she receives them because... Once, after she left me so heartbroken, I cried myself dry and then fell asleep. I dreamt we were on a train and she bought me an ice cream cone. It was so real. I told my mother of my dream. When my Abuelita arrived at her home in Mexico, she phoned my mother and told her she fell asleep and dreamt that I was with her and we shared a cone. It was then that I began to believe that we could speak to each other through dreams, thoughts, feelings. Our long walks had created an invisible, crocheted chain that tied us together.

This morning August woke up smiling and I greeted her with our usual, "Buenos dias". She sat up at the edge of the bed and looked at me and said a few things in babybabblese that left me happily frozen and astounded. Her eyes, the gesture in her hands as she spoke, her facial expressions, it took me back to being six or seven when Abuelita sat at the edge of my bed at night and read me Archie comics then gave me some consejos.  Abuelita is in August, I see it in her hands, her stare, her sense of humor.  I see it daily but moments like the one this morning allow no room for second guessing.  I am teaching her the songs right now that my Abuelita taught me.

I wish I had been able to be around her  daily just as I had my Grandmo living in the same town with me.  To have both grandmothers at my side growing up would have been dreamy. As a child it was no small trauma to be apart from my Abuelita for months at a time. It's still painful but I have this adorable, baby version of her to help. The night before we'd visit her or await her arrival was just like Christmas eve. I couldn't sleep, I had excited butterflies in my stomach. The last time I saw her she seemed only slightly older, her hugs smelled just as they always had, there was Nivea lotion (from the tin), Palmolive bath soap, her powder...flowery sandalwood. Forever Abuelita, te quiero mucho, Abuelita.

The IN in minutiae

*Toast
*Warm milk spiced with cardamon, ginger, cinnamon and pepper
*Hot lemon water {sometimes with orange blossom honey}: First thing in the morning
*Spanish immersion with August
*The Wizard of OZ: Because, because, because, because because...
*Making up my own cookie recipes: Not writing them down ensures a delicious and magical, one time gastronomic happening, but oh well...live and learn. The gluten-free, light as a feather, almond cookies with cherry preserve centers were awesome and only encourage more such creations.
*Procuring the books on my wishlist one way or another
*Playing with dolls: Making dresses, planning trips to a specific stall at a San Antonio flea market just to purchase some doll clothes, socks and shoes...
*Meditation Malas: Inspiration
*Greta Gerwig: Girl crush
*The Dobie Gillis Show
*Bringing back those things I loved but have forgotten about...Like The Dobie Gillis Show, letter writing, wax stamps on letters, a box of worry dolls by my bed and aromatherapy
*Less is more: Especially in terms of a wardrobe
*Introducing musicals to August
*Singing every song I know...and I know a lot of songs: I found two people who LOVE my voice so much, I can finally stop singing in my "head voice" and start belting them out freely!
*Mindy Kaling: Girl crush
*Just stretching
*Mexican earrings {through the ages}
*Trusting the universe
*Finally purging all those blueprints and ideas that, up until now, have not worked.
*Broths, stocks and soups
*Vintage nursery planters
*Art, creating, crafting: Now that August will be two in a few months, we can dive into it all and never look back
*Wood
*Tending to those cravings for greens and fruits more

Happy New Year from Beatsville!


Day 5

Merry Christmas, we are only on the fifth day.  Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. In the past it's always been fun but for many years it played out the same over and over. I knew where I would be, who I'd be spending it with, what I'd do, eat, even what I was getting. These were all traditions that fit where I was at the time. Those days are long gone. This Christmas was full of the unexpected and I honestly didn't know how it would all turn out.  Some plans didn't work out, but there were beautiful accidents that brought to me the realization that I was in the middle of a most significant Christmas, perhaps the first real one I have ever had in decades or in my whole life.

The morning before Christmas eve we set out to find a tree. Woodville is full of Charlie Brown looking pine trees I like to call wild, Woodville pines but are in fact loblolly pines. They also remind me of vintage, aluminum trees and probably look best decorated minimally with one Shiny Brite glass ball  at the end of each limb and maybe some tinsel.  I can't do minimalist Christmas decorating. Our tree looked more like those trees that drown in tinsel, paper chains and kitsch on any Christmas episode on any old television show. 

This year, I managed to collect little holiday relics and created a sort of Christmas altar that rivaled the tree for August's attention. August continued to make adjustments to her new tree, even more fun with tinsel. She picked out a few of the pieces for the altar and squeals with delight of how cute they are.  She has really made decorating fun this year. I am looking forward to collecting cute, Christmas decorations through the year, as we happen across them in thrift stores, and creating Christmas altars with August.

Instead of the usual breads, fruitcake and cookies, we had gingerbread cookies shaped like woodland animals. Thank you to a sweet friend at Moonshine Junkyard for her giftie. I won't ever forget the sweet little package that arrived and the new tradition it began or the inspiring, adorable, thoughtful family behind it all. We dined on delicious crab cakes at midnight with a wonderful salad of grapes, apples, spinach, pine nuts and walnut raspberry dressing with a side dish of roasted butternut squash, radishes, carrots and beets. Our plates were colorful, flavorful, tasted like our Christmas. It was at that moment I realized, Our Christmas is happening, the scents, the flavors, memories and traditions. 

Christmas eve quickly became Christmas morning.  We were one of Santa's last stops. He swung by at 5am and left a toy kitchen that looked like it took forever for the elves to complete and must have delayed Santa. White packages sporting the official stamp were under the tree. Jacob and I watched It's a Wonderful Life and watched the slow fade of the glowing tree lights as the Christmas sun made it's way into the room.

Christmas Muse

















































I never expected August to love Christmas or Christmas trees so early on. She squeals when she sees one all lit up when we are out and about. I thought she would take ornaments off the tree to play with, hide, run off with.  Instead, she loves to straighten out the decorations or hang new ones up. I have caught her under the tree, taking in the view and lights from that perspective.  Her love of Christmas brings me joy and makes me want to give her all the wonderful Christmases I have ever known. Throwing all that energy into Christmases to come and birthdays and Valentine's Days..

Goodness, I even caught her kissing Santa Claus.






















Discarded Card Catalog Christmas Cards




Christmas 2013: Angels
Creating Christmas cards from the hundreds of thousands of discarded card catalog cards I acquired from the Perry-Castaneda Library at the University of Texas, been an ongoing project since 2008.  
Christmas 2012: Snowflakes
I really enjoy making them and look forward to it. I never begin making them until December. It's now a tradition shared by the entire family. Jacob knows what it is to drown in craft supplies for a week every Christmas.  Every time we were near a craft shop this year, he asked if there was anything I needed for Christmas cards. This year, August got her hands on the supplies and within minutes already knew how to use the glue and paper punchers.  Next year, I hope it will be a craft project the whole family can enjoy.

Thanksgiving and lessons from a junk pile

We visit a lot of thrift stores, flea  markets and junk shops in search of records.  These places are filled with various items people once felt they needed to have. These things never disappear they only travel from one place to another, have long lives, share the planet with us. These past two and a half years, my need to consume has decreased. When visiting any sort of second hand mart, I am constantly reminded of the over supply of "stuff" that is being manufactured and sold. Now, I am only too aware of it and make purchases more consciously. 

 I am more mindful of things I buy.  Before purchasing clothing and toys for August, I find myself thinking of where they will end up when she outgrows them. Much of her clothing is second hand because I love vintage clothing but there is also so much of it. I still have many of my own baby clothes and toys around, these are things that now belong to August. I feel better when I can buy from a resale shop or don't have to shop at all, I feel slightly guilty when participating in retail sales. There are some items that I don't like purchasing second hand like board books and stuffed animals so I practice restraint. 

This Thanksgiving, I have to include, among all that I am thankful for, the lessons of the thrift stores, flea markets and junk shops. I hope to pass them on to August as soon as she can understand them.  One she is already learning is to take care of her things so they don't become broken and useless. I am constantly re-learning that don't need as much as we think we do. 

The following are photos from a junk shop. It made me sick to see these piles that won't be going anywhere fast enough. Many will be rushing off to make more purchases tomorrow, perhaps even after or instead of Thanksgiving dinner and adding to the piles. No matter how shiny and pretty everything is when new, it all becomes and contributes to an ugly pile somewhere and just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there. Love can fill all voids, nothing else can.






















This year the three of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving together. *```````myui-pokhjijmijump kv  jkm c,ihi u0bp]
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*Post hijacked by August

A Sweater for August


























I knitted a sweater for August. It began three years ago when I purchased the yarn to knit a sweater for myself. I completed the back of the sweater but never returned to the project. In December 2011, I found the yarn and threw away the knitted portion.  I decided that one day I'd make something for August.

























While in a motel in Atoka, OK, waiting out the last four weeks before leaving the state, I picked up the yarn and felt inspired. It was my wish to complete a sweater for August but I often get antsy while knitting or crocheting, stopping projects and ending them much to early. Plans for afghans, throws and tablecloths become doilies, seriously. Solid intentions for sweaters get unraveled and are reborn as hats or scarves. I managed to complete a tiny, cotton sweater for August before she was born but I had much time to spend on it, something I no longer have, except in the wee hours. 

One night, after August fell asleep, I started knitting. I unraveled what I did twice before getting to bed. The next morning, I continued to knit. I held it up against August and was able to see that I didn't have much knitting to do and could cast-off after a few more rows. This gave me the momentum I needed to see the project through. Before leaving Oklahoma, I managed to knit the front and back panels and one sleeve. I looked forward to staying up late, lasting as long as I could, working on the sweater.
























I don't read patterns, I have no patience for them. I do look at the shapes of the completed pieces and try to create them in my own way. I wanted the sweater to look very 1930's, the type of sweater one of the Our Gang children would wear, bulky, oversized, simple and rustic, looking well worn... It was in Woodville, one afternoon in September, that I finished the second sleeve. I then washed and blocked all the pieces it and started to put it together. It wasn't until October that I sewed the buttons on. A final wash and dry made it soft and ready for August, just in time for the first truly cold day in November. 

A very different day...

Last Halloween, we all dressed up as a Beatnik family but did no trick-o-treating. This year we got August a plastic pumpkin to introduce her to trick-o-treating. She is only 18 months old and doesn't eat candy but I thought why not try and see what she thinks of it all. So I dressed her in a cowgirl costume that was once mine and we were off.

















































Because my costume is vintage and not made of the most durable material and didn't seem comfortable in the car seat, I didn't actually dress her until we got to the library for the Halloween party. I wondered what August was thinking when she was placed in my cowgirl skirt and vest in the library lobby. We walked into the library and said, "Trick-o-treat, say trick-o-treat, August." The librarians were extremely generous and gave August a heavy, Ziploc bag full of candies. It was placed in her pumpkin and I couldn't help but notice just how big her eyes were getting taking everything in.
















































We were then told the party was cancelled due to all the rain and schoolchildren wouldn't be showing up.  Children did show up here and there. We took photos by the Halloween display and August sat on the rug and studied her plastic package of brightly colored, wrapped candies.  I kept wondering how this was all getting sorted in her mind. Only out in the world 18 months, so many things, so new. Showing her things and giving her new experiences really makes me stop and try to view the world through the eyes of a person who hasn't been on earth very long. While I know I couldn't possibly be taking in all that she is computing, I still treasure these experiences I have in my humble position.