Thursday, March 22, 2012

Both Sides Now

Last week I came across a truly unique approach to art which I have coined "cumulus(t)". A recent exhibit has Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde create and suspend real clouds indoors. His installations are fleeting yet oh, so powerful! (Why I love that photography can capture such momentary perfection!) I've always had a hankering for clouds. Even the names of 'em: cumulonimbus, cirrus, altostratus. How musical. What whimsy!

Photo credit: Cassander Eeeftinck Schattenkerk of
Berndnaut Smilde's breathtaking exhibit

This week has seen sunshine and clouds in more ways than one. Par example: potty training (blue skies) and The Tempest (overcast with 99% chance of rain). Let's look more closely at these recent weather patterns...

First off, a shout-out to Elmo. Bless your furry, red head. Thanks for getting my Sonshine all excited about his potty. Indeed, he has become a 'potty animal'. We sing, we dance (well, I disco and he moves his arms and legs in a circular fashion while seated). I never knew how exciting pee and poop could be! (Yes, this is my life right now.) Ma wee laddie (no pun intended) has finally learned to "listen to his body". This past Sunday, he asked me no less than FIVE TIMES to go potty!!! *Trumpets blare somewhere offstage*

He is enjoying some diaper-free time now on the weekends and evenings, though he hasn't yet mastered that undies are different and will not absorb his pee. Thinking we may need to backtrack slightly: maybe so he learns to ask to go potty while still donning diapers. He certainly has mastered asking while not wearing them.  Can I say again, "me so proud!"?

Achtung! Potty Training can be dangerous. Helmet recommended.

As with every silver lining, though, a little rain must fall. (Curse you, Ink Spots!) In two months, he turns 3 and does not disappoint with respect to the temper tantrums that are rumoured to pepper this age and stage. Lately, at mommy's utterance of "no", the bottom lip juts out, the arms start flailing, the legs start kicking, the uvula starts um, uvulating. It's like looking at a tiny mirror of myself whenever someone says "Stephen Harper" to me. A mini-volcano-meets-tornado and man, can he erupt!

So this weekend, alongside the urination-defecation jubilation, I've slowly introduced this little gem of a technique known as a "timeout". Understatement of the year: it's not going over all that well. But after being punched in the head by tiny fists, kicked a number of times by flapping feet and slapped in the face by frustrated fingers, I felt it was time to maybe try something, say, a tad more proactive; what, in my book, is officially known as "nipping this in the bud".

Reactions vary: auto-toffee-flavoured smile with side of neckwrap while singing, "I love you, mommy" as I still attempt to encourage a quiet, little "let's just sit for a second and ponder just how mommy feels when you beat her up." Alternatively: beet-red complexion followed by repeated slaps and kicks to my person. For now, the standard timeout approach (one minute per age of the child) is not even feasible. It's a pendulum swing: just by uttering "timeout" and calmly moving him to the stair for a sit can result in a) an immediate apology in order to get back (just as immediately) to playtime or b) The End of the World as we know it. So the "sit and dwell" part has yet to kick in, really (again, no pun intended).

I am trying to encourage communication BEFORE the temper tantrum erupts. So if I sense he is becoming upset about something, I am often able to coax vocalization (with words and in English versus LindaBlairese). And, by jove, sometimes (just sometimes), it works! The pinnacle moment I will not soon forget is his grumpy face last weekend grumbling, "Hey you. Get offa my cloud."

I'm not sure I heard that right. I stutter, "Did you just say, um. 'Get offa my cloud'?"

"Yes, mommy. Get offa it!"

I hide my face in a pillow to pretend I am crying a bit so he won't be offended by my incontrollable outburst of giggles. On Monday morning, I learn that my daycare has a mixed CD on which The Rolling Stones feature. Cool daycare (and apparently worth the lineup)!

bows and flows of angel hair

So yeah, thank you, Elmo for the potty party atmosphere. And thanks, Mick, for making these dark days of tantrum clouds sparkle that silver edge so sweetly. And I am eternally grateful, Joni, for you.

Win or Lose, looking at clouds from both sides is an excellent practice, a comfort to parents (and toddlers) everywhere and highly recommended.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dickens of a Day

It was the best of days. It was the worst of days.

No disrespect to ol' Charlie for whom the planet recently celebrated a bicentennial birthday. February 19th actually started off on a high note. It commenced as Dickens but became Brown. As in Charlie Brown. ('Good grief'  is not the expletive I used, exactly.)

Honestly, the day began innocently enough, albeit a bit too early, when I awoke at the hour of my old friend and colleague, 4 o'clock. Down the stairs I tiptoe once again in the wee hours to clean my house, do laundry, and check emails.

Upon opening my flickr account, I discover that a photograph of mine I'd uploaded the previous day has been 'Explored'. This may mean squat to non-flickrites, but every day, from the thousands - I'd even venture to say - hundreds of thousands of photographs uploaded onto the flickr site by its innumerable members, only 500 are chosen for 'interestingness' and are placed into the sacred echelons of flickr's main, public group called 'Explore'. And yesterday morning, my wintry photograph of a favourite, rural, tree-lined drive was chosen to be included. For one day, I witness the views of and comments on this photograph rocket as the Explore group is globally monitored. More than a tad exciting.

welcome to my nightmare

You see, no one can tell how one becomes an Explored Elite. There appears to be no one set of criteria. Flickrites can try their damndest and it may never happen and others may not give a damn or try at all, and suddenly, there it is: a photograph of theirs has been featured as one of the most interesting of that day (as determined by flickr staff. Somehow.)

I am still dizzy from the heights of euphoric flickr states as I happily go about preparing The Sunday Roast. A few days before I'd invited two couples with their daughters and another friend to my home for the meal. As a single parent of a 2 year old, rarely do I get the chance to cook the way I long to, the way I love to and today is the day! As my toddler sleeps soundly upstairs for his midday nap, I dice pears, sautee leek, slice figs and arrange a beautiful piece of pork roast for my guests. A little white wine over the garlic, leek, shallots and pears; some melted creamed cinnamon honey over the pork and figs. A smidge of sea salt here, a pep of pepper there. Yum!

a dream denied

And here's where the grace and formality of Master Dickens is wrestled to the ground by the foibles and good-grieving of Master Brown. My guests arrive and help prepare the salad. I cook basmati rice and sautee a sauce of mushrooms, sugar snaps and mango in coconut milk and apple butter with curry, cardamom and cumin. Everything is going swimmingly. I pull out the pork at 6pm to check its progress. It is very nearly done and I place it back in the oven for another fifteen minutes. Palettable Paradise is mere moments away.

When the oven malfunctions. Or rather, I make it malfunction. The self-cleaning mechanism turns on. I should have been able to cancel at the push of a button, yet no buttons push. I mouth the word, "no". At first, it emits from my mouth as a soft whisper, then a moan, increasing thereafter in volume and repetition as I envision the oven raising its temperature to 575 degrees and my roast becoming, as Thomas the Tank Engine would put it, 'cinders and ashes'. Desperate now, I unplug the oven.

my arch nemesis

Every attempt to replug and hit cancel is taunted by the oven clock flashing at me like a pervert in a public park. I feel just like Charlie when Lucy whips away the football at the last moment. Whatever the mechanisms are that should allow my self-cleaning oven door to unlock and open take a holiday. My oven has kidnapped my pork roast and is unwilling to negotiate its release. Where is Denzel Washington when I need him?

My guests are more than gracious as we sit down to basmati rice with no main course. Jesus wept. And so did I. For the love of all that is holy, I ask myself, why does this oven fail me when it is a Sunday followed by a holiday Monday? There will be no rescuing the pork now until Tuesday. One small consolation: the light in the oven turned off when it malfunctioned so none of us need stare at the dinner we almost had.

And here I sit, at 5 am, still shaking my head in disbelief. For a brief moment, I wonder about the two lovely wives of the couples invited, both of them pregnant (and likely starving for something more substantial than a side dish). Could it be I was envying their round bellies and wanting something of my own in the oven?

Fig me.

No. It' just Murphy's Law disguised as Nancy's Law. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am Lucille Ball reincarnated. A Mary Tyler Moore for the 21st century. When I recall 90% of the special events that have taken place in my life, there is always some unbelievable mishap thwarting my genuine efforts to be Charles Dickens and not end up Charlie Brown. I really should have my own sitcom.

'Tis a far, far better thing I do to just not give a fig and go back to bed. That'll be five cents, please.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

52 Weeks

The very last night of last year, I fell asleep on my son's bed reading stories to him while he nodded off himself. It was 10:00 p.m. perhaps. 10:30 at the latest. And when I awoke, the clock read 12:05. I kissed his brow and wished him a happy 2012 and then crawled into my own bed and began to dream.

New Year's Eve has felt, for many years now, more than a tad anti-climactic after what is my favourite, festive Yuletide "hollyday" season. And it's been a couple of years at least since I even thought about anything concrete for a resolution never mind more than one. Life has felt too fast and too full and certainly, some days, too exhausting to worry about any such list.

This year began the same way for me. But one thing I have resolved for myself is to commit to a self-portrait photography project. I have started and failed at completing two 365-day self-portrait projects on flickr (projects other flickr friends of mine were able to successfully complete). Inevitably single-parenting left me taking last-minute-of-the-day-in-front-of-the-bathroom-mirror shots just to get my submission in for the day. Plus, I was fairly bored with the subject matter: my tired, food-on-the-shirt, unwashed hair, bags-under-the-eyes single mommy face. My days were just too full for me to have the enthusiasm to commit, never mind the energy.

Curious as George...

This year, I'm taking it easy on myself. Along with two other photography projects I plan, I will now attempt a 52-week self-portrait project. As a single mom, I think I can manage at least one photo once a week and have the energy to be a tad more creative than a daily late-night-shot-in-the-mirror before flopping into bed.

Already, I failed to take my first shot on New Year's weekend. Not a great start, so I've cheated and used a selfie I shot of Sonshine and I Christmas morning as my first submission for the project. It's a magical moment for us both and captures us reading one of my Christmas gifts to him: Curious George in the Snow.

To make up for the bad start, I felt the need to be more creative, make more of a statement with my second submission. I was thinking about this coming year and how I'd like to get back in touch with the other parts of myself that perhaps have been sorely neglected since becoming a single parent. My first thought was my femininity. For  almost 3 years, I have been wearing jeans and cords and tshirts and fleece and stretchy yoga wear and keens or mukluks. Generally, I am almost always without makeup. Time is just a luxury for this kind of attention. Inevitably, the moments I take to glimpse myself in a mirror are brief (and for a reason). I shy away from them. Who wants to constantly witness food-splattered clothing or scratches on skin etched by tiny fingernails or tousled, bed-head hair? Not me!

Yesterday, while he napped. I put on a dress and heels for my second shoot for the project. And let me tell you, it felt great to be creative and feel pretty and to have a goal, an actual statement to make with the project: that aside from being a mommy 24/7, I'd like to get in touch with my feminine side, the woman I am, not just the mother. And to allow myself moments to rediscover those many other sides to myself that have been relinquished for some time now. Sides I am missing.

Best foot forward for 2012...

The wheels are already turning for next week's shot, when my birthday happens. Wonder if I can pull it off!

My 52-week project goal is not only to share with the visitors to my stream Who I Am, but to present opportunties for me to discover more about myself and see just where this self-digging and exploration takes me. The main goal is to have fun with it. It's proven a chore in the past and I hope the once-a-week timeline will free up my energy and creativity. Perhaps this is a resolution in some small way: for me to tap more into my own artistic nature and set that free using my lens and my imagination. Not a bad first commitment as 2012 begins...

Happy New Year to all of you and hope it's a magical one!