Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Love letter

Dear Circus,

I think you're pretty great. Well, not the ones with abused animals and stuff, but you know. The people kind of circuses. Once, over 10 years ago, when I took up trapeze (and silks, for a brief moment), I thought I might like to run away and join you. That was mostly just fantasizing, though. When it came down to it, I was a little too old (near-mid-20s) and a little too rooted (happily so). And probably not quite skilled enough. I got some vicarious thrills from the professional circus artists with whom I occasionally trained, and when my own dear friends from Canopy went off on real, live circus jaunts from time to time. And I did help form a semi-short-lived, inexplicably popular circus that mostly played in downtown bars. I was a Trapeze Tart. Not at all something that will cause my son great embarrassment one day, I am sure.

Here's another thing that might stand in the way of joining a circus: I have never liked clowns. Why should I? They are weird, Circus. Often scary. No offense.

I think I will have to change my policy on casting aspersions on clowns after last night, which was a very star-strucky one for me.

I got to spend dinner hanging out with some beloved Canopy friends and the deservedly celebrated clown - yes, a clown - Rob Mermin, who was in town to present his traveling lecture/film, "Circle of Sawdust" (check out those dates - if it's coming near you, I highly recommend you go).

And listening to him talk at dinner (and later during his lecture), I learned a lot about clowning, especially clowning in Europe, which was Mermin's specialty for a long time. Circus, you probably already know this, but European clowns are where it's at. In Europe, the concept of running away to join the circus is not a negative one, because being in the circus means you are an artist. Being a clown earns you respect. It's a craft. Those clowns, they don't bombastically wiggle around like hyperactive marionettes - they move purposefully, quietly, thoughtfully. Someone asked Mermin if he had different clown personas, different characters for different acts. He told us no: being a clown of his training means you create one character, just one, with whom you live and grow.

Later that night, during his lecture - while he was sharing his memories of training (and befriending) Marcel Marceau, performing for years in a gorgeous circus building in Copenhagen, all sorts of fascinating backstage tales - I looked around the room. It was a sweet group clustered around him: Canopy teachers, Canopy students (both adult and kid), parents of Canopy students, fire dancers, jugglers, random folks from the community. There was also a dude with a stripey shirt and a handlebar mustache who, when it was over, literally left on a unicycle.

Circus, I thought I had to come to you. But then you came to me. Thanks.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S.: A certain highlight of the evening was when, during a part in the film that showed Francis Brunn, the director of the trapeze studio called out, as if she couldn't help herself, "MJ!" It might be because I let it be known that I am of the opinion that Frances Brunn was handsome. In an old-timey juggler sort of way. I stand by that.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tommy just dictated to Robert a list of activities he wishes to pursue tomorrow. He requested that a picture of a sword be added at the appropriate place. Then Tommy read it out loud to us, granted his approval, and signed off on it.

tommylist

I guess our Saturday is set, then.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This is what cheers up a sick mama:

Treats for the sick, left on our front porch by super sweet Allison
(Thank you, Allison, who oh-so-sweetly left these treats on our front porch!)

And this is what cheers up a sick kid:
100_6282.JPG
100_6276.JPG
100_6281.JPG
100_6277.JPG

Tommy had been wanting a Buzz Lightyear shirt for ever so long. Thankfully, we already had the white shirt. And we already had all the felt. We don't have a sewing machine, but we have plenty of thread and embroidery floss and sewing needles. It cost nothing to make except time, which I suddenly had a lot of once I got past the can't-move stage of the flu and entered the too-tired-and-feel-lousy-to-do-anything stage of the flu. Hand-sewing doesn't take much energy, especially if you work verrrry sloooowly, as I did. I looked at a Buzz toy Tommy had received for Christmas for reference, but otherwise had no pattern. I totally winged it. The stitches are wonky and there are several glaring errors or omissions in my interpretation of the Buzz design. But Tommy is elated. He wears it every single day for at least some of the time. This makes me very happy. You can see the whole set of photos (including those that show more detail on the various patches) here.

Anyway, we are all feeling better around here, which is glorious. Some stuff that helped get us through:

1. Lots of tea, both consumed and drawn:
teacup5.jpg

2. The 1973 Disney "Robin Hood" movie, both watched on DVD and played, in storybook form, on the record player:
100_6248.JPG

3. Prescription drugs to treat secondary flu-induced infections. Lots of drugs.

4. A neti pot!

5. This guy, who miraculously did not get ill at all, and to whom I earnestly promise that I will take down the Christmas decorations. Sometime.
100_6235.JPG

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My son is ill, everyone in this house is on Tamiflu, a record amount of snow dumped on us, Robert's work is closed for the second day in a row, and we're all sitting listlessly by the fire watching Scooby-Doo. I figure now is a good a time as any to update the ole blog.

I finally finished the sweater I started over a year ago!
100_5941.JPG
100_5939.JPG
100_5944.JPG

I made the hat, too, actually. Anyway, the sweater is a super duper simple top-down raglan - no pattern other than what I came up with as I made it. Minimal shaping on the sleeves (which are a little extra long, which I like), possibly some on the torso, too (I forget). It's a little shorter than I anticipated, but I think it works, and I'm certainly not going to go back and work on it anymore. It's done. I think the waist issue will go away when I start going through my trapeze paces for the Spring show and lose the effects of inhaling several thousands of pounds of Christmas cookies, ahem.

Christmas itself was lovely (and filled with cookies). My entire family crammed ourselves into my parents' house and it was pretty awesome. I (sort of) helped Tommy climb a tree in my parents' backyard.
100_5964.JPG
100_5970.JPG
(Getting help from my fave saint, Francis)
100_5966.JPG

It snowed late on Christmas Day (and continued snowing the next day, too), a very rare thing, and I'm grateful that we were all in good health to enjoy it completely.
100_6004.JPG
100_6068.JPG
100_6038.JPG
100_6040.JPG
(You can kind of spot my fierce-lookin' black eye here, accidentally given to me when Tommy accidentally slammed his rock-hard head into my face while we were playing)
Dour snowman
(Rather dour)

Tommy made a New Year's Day banner.
Tommy's New Year's Day banner

And became a knight, with the help of a cereal box, construction paper, and aluminum foil.
100_6154.JPG
100_6155.JPG
100_6158.JPG

And then Tommy got sick, which means making the futon into a bed and convalescing and enjoying the snow mostly like this:
100_6237.JPG

Hope you are well and warm.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First things first: Tommy and I went to see the holiday children's trapeze performance at Canopy, and he was smitten with a very particular costume: a kind of toy soldier/Sgt. Pepper shirt, most professionally made in some kind of stretchy swimsuit-type material by a local seamstress, worn entirely by a bunch of little girls. Oh, Tommy MUST have this shirt. It MUST be yellow, with red bars, and shiny silver buttons, and black fringe on the sleeves, it must. I'm glad I got the colors right, because he didn't seem to notice that the shirt does not otherwise really resemble his inspiration.

100_5903.JPG

Naturally, we had to test out the shirt at the trapeze studio.

He's very good at hanging on.
I love this one.

Ah, but you came for holiday goodness, right? No? Whatever. To be honest, it's the eve of Christmas Eve, and there are an awful lot of paper links in the Advent Chain still hanging up. No, we didn't get to everything, but I don't mind. Will I terribly regret not making borax snowflakes (which we did last year anyway, and we saved them and unpacked them and put them on our tree this year, and hey, did you know year-old borax snowflakes look kind of weird and creepy?) or pinecone bird feeders (which Tommy already did at school) or cutting boxwood and rosemary to make rustic decorations (I think our door wreath covers it)? Nah. Or making Christmas cookies again? Actually, I probably will make more Christmas cookies tomorrow. Why not. It'll be Christmas Eve! Exciting times! As Tommy said as soon as he woke up this morning, "Two more sleeps!"

Speaking of Christmas, I just found this short little conversation I had with Tommy two Christmases ago, when he had been two years old for a few months and often spoke in second person in an effort to get you to repeat what he just said, thus manipulating everything to his liking. It still cracks me up.

So, what Advent Chain activity did we do today?

"Make a cranberry garland for the outside tree." The outside tree refers to last year's Christmas tree, which we planted in our front yard, and which is just slightly taller than Tommy.

100_5919.JPG

I wielded the needle; Tommy stood next to me and told an elaborate story involving both his trains and Mouse (his invisible friend who is a Mouse), the latter of whom was making his (her?) own cranberry garland.

100_5924.JPG

What's pleasant about this activity is you can read a book, something like "Stranger in the Woods," and chat about how nice it is to give special little Christmas gifts to the animals. On that note, we had also planned to make gifts for our cats, Hera and Mister Lewis Burrows, but didn't get much farther than sewing little bags into which we will eventually pour some catnip. It's for the best - if those catnip bags were inside the house, the cats would destroy everything to get to it, and they're bad enough as it is.

100_5930.JPG
I like that he's wearing his Halloween skeleton pants here.

Today, Robert had off from work, so all of us took a hike on one of our favorite trails at one of our favorite places. Then, tonight, when I was looking at photos of last year's borax snowflakes, I realized that Tommy and I went on the exact same trail this day last year.

2009:
100_3252.JPG
100_3251.JPG

2010:
Botanical Gardens: Dec. 23, 2010 #24
Botanical Gardens: Dec. 23, 2010 #42

Isn't that nice? I thought so. Maybe we'll make it a tradition.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Well, hello! Tommy and I took a lovely trip to visit my sister and her beautiful family in the mountains, where, among other things, we were accosted by some totally aggro ducks.
Crummiest ducks EVER
Seriously, the crummiest ducks ever - just look at that one honking in the back like he owns the place - and one of 'em bit my sister on the leg. It was simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. If ducks terrify you.

Anyway, we've pulled some links down from the Advent Chain that (despite the initial enthusiasm when we came up with the idea) no longer float Tommy's boat. That's OK. Here are the activities that have been deemed acceptable:

"Make a stable for the nativity." Years ago, I painted a ceramic Holy Family at one of those paint-your-own-pottery joints, but I've never had a proper stable for them. I knew this activity was coming up and figure we'd just build one from Tommy's vintage set of Lincoln Logs (thanks Devlin!), but then my most lovely friend Jenny gave me a wooden crate that recently held a bunch of clementines. Thanks, Jenny!

100_5829.JPG
The star of Bethlehem is a thingy (that's a technical term) I knitted and felted once-upon-a-time.

100_5866.JPG
Wooden trees, animals, and the "Three Wise Men" (in red, yellow and blue) from a hand-me-down train set given long ago (thanks, Penny!). Polymer Christmas tree made by my mom ages ago. Do you see Fluffy the Snowman lurking?

100_5843.JPG
"Delivery for baby Jesus," Tommy whispered to himself. "Chuff, chuff."

"Make small stockings." I wanted this to be as simple as possible, so I just cut out some felt shapes, had Tommy glue and decorate them, et voila:
100_5869.JPG
Decorations include one single dot of green glitter glue each. Tommy is a minimalist in this regard.

"Make Christmas cookies." Robert and Tommy did most of this while I taught a trapeze class, though I came home in time to catch some cookie-making action. I believe Robert used this vegan sugar cookie recipe. Please note Tommy's stellar (and completely weather-inappropriate) outfit which he picked out himself.
100_5848.JPG

100_5856.JPG

"Make a door wreath." This was another father-son project while I taught yet another class. They tromped around in the back yard, found some branches that would bend, and made this. I asked Robert what he used to hold everything together, and the answer is apparently "nothing." He's got some pretty good wreath-making skills, eh?

100_5863.JPG

Until next time, beware of ducks who try to attack your car.
These ducks were awful

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Advent Chain continues apace, except when it dawdles.

"Make pom-pom snowmen." The inspiration was this, but I did not have store-bought pom-poms in the house, nor did I feel like leaving the house to buy some. No problem, I thought! I'll just MAKE some pom-poms out of yarn! I know this can happen. I think I may have done it before. Did you know that making pom-poms out of yarn is actually kind of hard? Several attempts later...

100_5648.JPG
Let's call him Fluffy the Snowman. Or not.

"Have a drink of hot chocolate." Now this is something I can do. Almond milk, cocoa powder, sugar, a little vanilla, and there you go.

100_5616.JPG
100_5618.JPG

"Make a garland." Easy-peasy. This could have involved all sorts of fun things - beads, bells, more pom-poms, pipe cleaners, and so on. We used paper and glue. Tommy did the cutting. Can you tell?

100_5622.JPG

"Make paper snowflakes." Righteo!

100_5634.JPG
100_5627.JPG
100_5623.JPG
100_5647.JPG
Why, it's snowing on Fluffy. It's a Christmas miracle!