First Art Collaboration: Baby and Me

 

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It was rainy today, again. I decided to sketch the babies. Of course they were having none of it. M kept trying to grab the book and pencils and put her drooly rubber frog on my drawing. E was less interested, but she was moving around so much I could barely get an outline with the two-seconds between her moving and M grabbing the paper. I couldn’t produce anything worth sharing.

On a whim I decided to trace M’s hand, which she kept putting on the page anyway. Of course as soon as I seemed interested in her keeping her hand there she grabbed it away. She acted pretty much how she does when I try to clean her hands after eating–extremely resistant, to put it lightly.

So I tried the hand-tracing with E instead. I got some colored pencils and put the sketchbook on the ground. Each time she put her hand on the page I did my best to trace its outline. A few times I got the whole hand, most times just a finger or a line before she grabbed it away. But she kept coming back. And the paper kept getting more and more colorful. I added a couple outlines of my hand in there, too, and afterward I filled it in with some solid color.

So it was our first art collaboration. Hopefully there will be more in the future.  I was reminded of this artist I saw online awhile ago, who created pretty amazing paintings with her four-year-old daughter. You should definitely check those out, here, for something inspiring. But I’m happy with our first collaboration.

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Going on an Outing, Because We Can (and a Broken Bottle)

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This Saturday we took an outing to the Strip District, a lively food-related shopping neighborhood in Pittsburgh. We explored the public market, full of local artisanal vendors, and a lot of the fun shops along Penn Avenue. Everyone smiled as we passed–the woman selling glitter tattoos, the two women in the woodworking shop, a pair of grandparents who watched, amused, as we took turns alternately holding both babies and visiting the restroom (a challenge).

In New York, taking the babies on the subway required carrying them up and down dozens of flights of stairs, getting tired before we reached the destination. Or carrying the strollers up and down stairs. Same problem. Or alternately taking a car service–other challenges. Our car has changed the equation. We put the babies, the Ergos, and the diaper bag in the car and drove to the Strip District. We strapped them on and were already there, ready to go. While out we decided to buy a gallon of olive oil, a bottle of red wine vinegar, a bottle of wine, and six doughnuts. And a bottle of water. And some ham and cheese deli slices. And some anisette biscotti (yum). Don’t ask how we managed to lug all that plus two twenty-pound babies back to the car. We almost made it except for dropping the bottle of vinegar right outside the store as we were leaving (it ripped through the bag), which cracked in shards and smelled like a stink bomb. Oops. But the store owner was nice enough to replace the bottle free of charge. I think the babies make us more sympathetic.

We realized it was really the first time since the babies were born that we’d gone out on a Saturday just for the heck of it. I can sort of remember, back before the babies, when we used to visit galleries, or a museum, or the farmer’s market on a lazy Saturday. Life is beginning to feel slightly more normal. A new normal, that is.

Overheard: Two Four-Year-Old Girls at the Playground

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I pull the double stroller up to the swings. Two young girls, maybe around four years old, are playing by the swing set. One of them has long brown hair and bangs. She is standing behind one of the baby swings pushing it roughly. The other has short blond hair and is wearing a white dress.  Following is their conversation. I’ve omitted my contributions, which were only extremely minimal.  

Brown-haired girl: Oh, man! That baby is going to take the baby swing. (Then, to me) My name is Madeline. 

My name is Nina. 

I wish my name was MadeLYN. I’m in Kindergarten. …wait, am I in Kindergarten? Or am I in nursery school?

This is my Easter dress.

I like that dress. … Is it your Easter dress, or is it your BUTT dress? 

(High pitched laughter from girl in dress) It’s my EASTER dress!

I HATE high school! High school is SO BORING! High school musical (singing). 

(High pitched laughter again)

I want to take my pants off up to my butt. (Both girls now sitting on the ground, swinging themselves around the base of swing set). 

I’m not wearing pants (girl in dress).

Let’s take our clothes off. 

I have Ariel on my underpants (announcing, generally. Then, to brown-haired girl) What kind of underpants are you wearing?

I’ll show you my underpants if you show me your underpants. 

How old are those babies? My brother’s name is Max. I’m not cute, Max is the cute one. 

Which one is older? … That means they were both in your belly at the same time? My mommy only had one baby in her belly. 

I don’t have a twin. 

I don’t have a twin. People say I’m like a twin with my brother, but he’s a BOY and I’m a GIRL. He has hazel eyes and I have hazel eyes. He has brown hair and I have brown hair. My daddy puts spikes in his hair. 

(Woman comes over and tells the girls it is almost time to leave)

This is my new best friend. (Looking at Dress Girl.) 

(Woman walks away again)

When my mommy tells me to do something I say, “Talkie Mama Rama Lama.” 

My Mommy’s name is Lisa. 

(Woman comes back again and the two girls leave with her)

 

…Names have been changed. I wonder what M and E will say when they can talk. 

First Baby Steps

First Baby Steps

M is taking little steps. Not by herself, but now when you hold her up by both hands and coax her she takes jerky little steps forward. She is working on walking. Above is a sketch of her and D.

How Becoming a Mother Has Changed Me

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There have been many turning points in my life, of course: September 11th, my parents’ divorce, meeting my husband…those are a few that come to mind. Each of these has changed me; there is a very clear before and after. Becoming a mother has been another of those milestones. I could make jokes about my new digestion/poop expertise, or the difficulty of looking stylish anymore, but I think I’ll try to be serious. Here are a few of the ways becoming a mother has changed me:

1. My heart has gotten bigger. Before having kids I think I had some vague idea that love, like water, was a limited resource. But now I understand that our capacity for love is infinite. The more there is to love, the bigger our hearts get. If I gave birth again I have no doubt my heart would grow even more. The love feels almost physical, like a shiver. This heart-expanding is an amazing feeling, almost drug-like.

2. I understand what it’s like to be a parent. This may be an obvious one but that doesn’t make it insignificant. I have a better understanding not just of my own parents but of parents everywhere and what drives them. I’m not saying I understand what it’s like to be other people, but I know how being a parent has affected me and that allows me to feel more empathetic.

3. The world seems more mysterious. I am not a religious person and never have been, but I reserve some wonder at the mystery of the universe and forces at work greater than ourselves. A year and a half ago my husband and I were sitting in a doctor’s office while a nurse rubbed a sonogram wand over my not-yet-large belly. “You’re having twins,” she said. Sure enough, there were two little blips floating around on the black screen, one on top of the other like bunk beds. Now here they are, Munchkin and Bean. I can’t pretend any of it makes sense.

4. I feel like I have to be a role model. Whether the babies really care what I do or not is sort of beside the point. They allow me to see myself from the outside and that helps me think about who I want to be. What’s important in life? What do I want my career to be? What sort of home do I want to create? What sort of mother do I admire?

5. I’m more thankful. I’m thankful for my babies’ health. I’m thankful for my health, my husband’s, my family’s. I’m thankful for my husband, for our home, for good food. I feel lucky all the time. To be perfectly honest, to go along with “more thankful” should also be “more fearful.” At the same time I’m thankful for all these things, I feel like I have more to worry about and more to lose.

6. I live more in the present. The babies will never be this age again. They will never be sitting here, babbling to the rocking horse and giving it kisses on the nose again. That, and I’m too busy to think much about anything that isn’t attending to everyone’s basic needs at this particular moment.

7. Time moves more quickly. As we get older it’s true time moves more quickly, but since I had the babies it’s been on overdrive. Every hour of the day is taken up with making my way through their daily routines. The days fly by. The weeks, the months. They are almost a year old now and this whole year has passed in a second. My time has become incredibly limited and incredibly valuable.

8. I can appreciate life’s pleasures. I recently saw this quote from Lorrie Moore from her new book, Bark“Here’s what you do for your depression. I’m not going to say lose yourself in charity work.[…] I’m going to say this: Stop drinking, stop smoking. Eliminate coffee, sugar, dairy products. Do this for three days, then start everything back up again. Bam. I guarantee you, you will be so happy.” It’s basically the same with babies. Lying in bed in the morning without having to get up immediately, taking a walk without a stroller or bags, sitting in a cafe alone with a coffee, reading a good book uninterrupted, taking the time to watch a robin hunt for worms. The fact that I now almost never get to do these things makes me appreciate how absolutely heavenly they are. And when I do get to do them, it’s bliss. 

That’s about everything that’s coming to mind. I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

 

 

First Scrape (A Dubious Milestone)

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Suddenly these babies are much more active. There’s no more rolling, it’s all crawling and pulling up on things. This weekend we expanded the gated-in play area so it now encompasses most of our living room, and the babies are taking full advantage.

I can’t get over the new activity level. If there’s a pile of books, they’re pulling them all apart. If there’s a tower of blocks, they’re crawling over to it to knock it over. When you pick them up they grip you like little monkeys. And when you try to put M down on the changing table, forget it. She hates lying down, arches her back and cries and twists and turns and tries to climb off the sides and onto the laundry hamper so that you’re pulling her back by the waist.

She got her first scrape yesterday climbing up on the toy box, which is not wood but a sort of flexible cloth-covered plastic. It flipped over and hit her in the face. Now she has a scrape right between her eyes. She was outraged and crying when it happened but very quickly recovered and went right back to climbing on the toy box. Great.

Also , now that we’ve expanded the play area our living room is like an obstacle course of thigh-high barriers to step over. I’m sure this is some new muscle I’m exercising with all this high stepping. In fact, M isn’t the only one who got her first scrape. Today Bean fell off the rocking horse, and in my rush to get to her I jammed my shin on the baby gate, nearly falling myself.

On an unrelated note, the Bean is now leaning in to receive kisses on the head and waving at new friends, who happily wave back. And she is definitely saying “duck.”