Monday, January 30

print in progress. Nothing is blacker and whiter than a linocut inked with black ink on bright white paper. So contrasting it hurts the eye. That is the challenge. Not sure this one is going to work out, but it was fun trying.

Sunday, January 29

so little time. And so little room! Soon my bedside table will be as big as the bed. I am on a non-fiction jag lately and here are some of the good ones, in order of sheer size:

Musee de l'Hermitage from the Aurora Press
Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo
A Bad Woman Feeling Good by Buzzy Jackson
Making Peace with Autism by Susan Senator
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung
Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey
Ghosts in the Garden by Beth Kephart
Jane Austen: a Life by Carol Shields

Some of these are re-reads. I have read Traveling Mercies about three times so far in this life. A line from The Tipping Point perfectly sums up my own feelings: "A book, I was taught long ago in English class, is a living and breathing document that grows richer with each new reading." (page 262)

Friday, January 27

of vanities, all is vanity. I was in an extremely chic and expensive store because I had to take one of the boys to the bathroom and we were passing by it at the time of The Announcement. I braved the slight sneer on the face of the clerk (how did she know I wasn't going to buy something afterwards? Maybe it was my overalls and ratty sneakers that gave me away.) and we were curtly directed to the back of the store. While I waited for my boy I became aware of this ghostly crew, stripped and awaiting re-fitting for the next round of seasonal ephemera. Kind of restored my perspective in some wierd way. I called out a serene "Thank You!" to the clerk as we left.

You know the cage is comfortable when the birds won't leave it even when the door is open.

Thursday, January 26

Something about this scene I walked by the other day put me in mind of that painting by Caravaggio, where the Madonna is subduing the serpent of evil. This Madonna is just a chipped garden ornament, but still evokes that same feeling of simultaneous blessing and banishing. A sort of wary benevolence. Extremely balanced. Of course it could all have come to mind just because she was momentarily sunlit in this very dramatic caravaggiesque way.

Tuesday, January 24

We have become accustomed to strange items in our sinks. Henry has a fascination with water and seems to be part raccoon, too. If something is interesting, dunking it into water will make it even more so! So last night I came upstairs and found he had poured our entire loose change basket into the bathroom sink. I carefully picked out every coin that I could and tried not to run the water too long. I don't even want to think about how much money it is going to cost to get the rest of the money out of there.

Monday, January 23

that has just been played with by two nine-year-old boys for three solid hours! I picked up H at his friend's house, just in time. This poor puppy looked about ready to collapse, although he also had a blissed out look in his silver eyes. He was just ready to die from love.

When I heard the puppy's name, Sterling, it sparked off a small rush of memories. I had a friend named Sterling in first grade, back at P.S. 173. Even though it was a public school, his Mom dressed him like it was a Catholic school: crisp white shirts, shined up loafers and little plaid ties. Despite the starchy outfits, Sterling had an irrepressibly merry spirit. We were always yukking it up in the cloakroom, but because we both looked like such "solid citizens" (I was probably his female counterpart in my little plaid dresses and maryjanes) we rarely got into trouble. Appearances can be very deceiving (and useful!)

Saturday, January 21

I was invited to come in to Henry's class yesterday for his birthday. I volunteered to bring in a birthday snack, and made one of his favorites: the fabled gourmet delicacy known as "Rice Krispy Treats". To spiff up this pretty pedestrian offering I sprinkled them with colored sugar. Kind of like adding insult to injury, really (but it was gratifying to see the kids scarf them down like manna.)

Friday, January 20

For the first time ever, I am feeling emotional about the twins' birthday which is today. I am sure P thought I had gone a little crazy last night, every time he turned around there I was gazing sappily at him or Henry. Not sure why it finally is hitting home that they are growing up. I remember other mothers sobbing on the first day of kindergarten, when I had to fight hard to keep my big cheshire cat grin from breaking my jaw. I finally get it (guess I'm just slow!)

I mentioned this in an e-mail this morning to my friend Katie, whose oldest son is just four days younger than P and Henry. She replied immediately, saying, 'Yeah, it seems significant. For instance, this is maybe the last birthday before their voices start changing." Hadn't even thought of that! Wow. I was thinking about all this as I stopped into the WaWa for a cup of coffee this morning. As I pushed open the door the Byrds burst into their classic "To Every Thing There is a Season.." at a practically deafening volume: someone had turned the muzak system way, way up. So, OK, I got that little message. I'll cool it. Happy Birthday guys!

Wednesday, January 18

This was Henry's way of saying "No, thanks" to an offer of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Smush-n-run. The problem (I believe) was that he doesn't like white bread, only whole wheat (we were out). Strangely out of character from a kid who would drink a pint of maple syrup and finish up with some Pringles sour cream and onion chips if you'd let him. But there it is. A foolish consistancy is the hobgoblin of a little mind and I guess Henry's mind has a shape and size as yet uncharted.

Tuesday, January 17

towards nowhere. I am deeply suspicious of these computer/video games. This car racing game had them all transfixed. Meanwhile, the hot wheels cars are gathering dust. And although the kids are together, they are not looking into each other's eyes or needing to communicate much with each other save through the machine. No wonder those gadgets are called "controllers."

Yesterday was a school holiday, and coming on the heels of so many other recent holidays, it did little to inspire me with noble feelings. My friend Katie saved my day from disaster by inviting me and my boys over, along with another friend and her son. Katie's house is one of the few where I feel Henry is genuinely welcomed, and (coincidentally) he always seems very happy to be there. This means I still need to keep an eye on him, but I can hang out and chat a bit too, only having to leap up and perform a "Henry check" every few minutes. (This may sound onerous, but in some environments I must "tail" him ceaselessly.)

Anyway, we Moms were chatting in the kitchen when one of Katie's sons drifted in, looking for a snack. "What are you guys doing upstairs?" we queried him, and he replied, "Oh, just playing backgammon." Kate, her friend Patti and I all shared pleased glances: a board game! How wonderful! Then Katie seemed to sniff the air, scenting some subtle deceit, gave her son a sharp look, and asked "Is this the REAL game or are you on the computer?" Her son knew he was caught: they were on the computer. Our pleasant Fantasy Bubble of the kids warmly and genuinely interacting in "real time" burst. Argh!

Friday, January 13

Saw a humongous, glittering Cheerleading Trophy at my friend Roz's house. Now despite being thin and blonde, nobody less like a cheerleader than Roz can be imagined. So my head buzzed with questions ("Could she have changed so completely drastically over the years?") which Roz sensed all the way from the other room where she was fixing our coffee. She called out "How do you like my new Cheerleading Trophy? My son just picked it out of the trash for me!" Whew, I'm not going crazy after all.

But isn't it an ironic commentary on the whole notion of success? I am sure that this trophy was earned with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and was the cause of massive heartburning and jealousy on the part of those who failed to win the coveted prize. Yet years later, it ends up in a bin on the sidewalk waiting for the trash truck.

There is a Zen saying: "The glass is already broken." Here is another take: "The cheerleading trophy is already in the trash." (OK, it is on Roz's mantelpiece, but you know what I mean!)

Yeah, it is a strange new world here at the Autism Cafe. Henry has begun a new behavior that we call "raging" for lack of a better word. There is no trigger: just sudden ballistic rage. From what little information we are able to glean, it is possible that this is caused by pubescent hormonal surges. So, where a regular boy this age might suddenly jump on his bike or start kicking a soccer ball around, Henry has no outlet but baffled, frustrated, rage. He is still not aggressive, in that he will not come at you, but...he hurts himself to the point of drawing blood. And when you move in to intervene (the blood thing is pretty scary bad) then you are the next target. So we are walking on eggshells around here for the moment.

This morning I had a lot of trouble waking him up. In keeping with this foretaste of teenhood, Hen wants to stay up into the wee hours and sleep all morning. Doesn't work with his school schedule. So there I was trying to animate this big lump of boy who wanted none of it. Suddenly, through sleepy lids, he spotted a band aid I had just stuck on my finger. He reached out and pulled it off. It was one of those thick foam band aids, so held its tube shape well as he squeezed and sniffed at it. Somehow, this seemed to charm him and he got up, all smiles instead of roars. I wonder what chemical is in that foam that did the trick? Anyway, I'm going to stock up!

Thursday, January 12

Yes, it's true. This is that long-awaited month. You can drink hot tea all day long and feel virtuous and patriotic (in addition to water-logged!) Of course it is also National Candy, Meat, Soup, Oatmeal and other things month according to this site. Wonder where they get their data? Well, who cares? Off for a nice hot smug cup of tea!

P.S. In response to a few questions on the subject: no, I do not live in Cleveland. My late boss Ray, of blessed memory, was from Cleveland and gave me this mug once after some trip back home. So, I just like it.

Tuesday, January 10

Friends of ours got this bike built for them, and came all the way over from England to get it! Fortunately, it disassembles and packs up into carrying bags. It was quite a sight to see. That's Emma, of Rejectamenta, giving the royal wave!

Sunday, January 8

I dropped in on my friend Roz today, and while she fixed coffee I roamed around her house with my trusty camera at the ready. And sure enough, there was plenty to delight a photographer's eye, especially this delightful tableaux on the mantelpiece. There is something so engaging about the roguish yet friendly twinkle in the crocodile's eye as she chomps down on the relentlessly cheerful pedant. Made me want to create a comic strip character: Crazy Croc! If somebody is annoying, well then a quick chomp takes care of that and no hard feelings on either side. Very satisfying. Might be hard to keep drawing all those scales and teeth in every frame though. Seems like something R. Crumb might enjoy, but I don't think I am obsessive enough. Super Slug! would be more my speed.

Friday, January 6

on end? We had a really cool sky for a little while about an hour ago. Stormy grey skies with sun slanting through a break in the clouds, and gilding a few stray snow flurries that danced in the strangely illuminated air. It was all gone in a matter of minutes. P and I ran out and soaked it up while we could.

By the way, Happy New Year everybody!