Christina Rosalie

Posts from the “Sprout” Category

What summer looks like around here

Posted on July 20, 2014

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Lots of shirtless boys. Reading fiction. Sipping tea in the morning, still in bed and writing notes for my new book, still a shamble in my head. The arrival of the nanny who’s made our summer mornings so much easier. Paper-mache on remnants on the back porch. Picnics on the front steps in the breeze. Time bookended between the beginning and the ending of each work day. Compression + expansion. Deep focus and then a slow unwind as the golden evening light finds us.

How has your summer been, friends? What are some highlights? Some things you’re doing to revel in these golden days?

The entire point is this

Posted on June 6, 2014

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“CAN SOMEONE RUN MY BATH?” He yells from the open bathroom window.
I’m outside, under the walnut tree, reluctant.
When I come in, he’s already naked, surrounded by a small army of his favorite Lego trucks and matchbox cars. A rescue boat, a semi truck, an “old-fashioned car.”

“HELP!” he yells, even though I’m sitting right next to him, watching now as he squats down on the bathmat. Something seems to be wrong with the semi truck. Clearly, he isn’t calling to me.

“HELP, BEAN” He yells again, then mutters, “I really, really need it.”
Behind him, the old Standard tub fills. It’s one of properly deep tubs that you can stretch out in and submerge.

His voice rises above the water, “I wish I could play with that. But it’s broken.”
In another second, the semi truck has been cast off to the side. His brother hasn’t come to the rescue, off somewhere instead playing the ukelele (a new obsession) or trying to kiss his elbow as he did at dinner when he announced, “I read in a book that 99% of people cannot kiss their elbow, but that 99% will try.”

Sprout climbs into the tub, easing into the hot water slowly, then begins to splash and make the strange car motor noises all boys seem to know how to make. I can’t recall a single instance as a kid when I made such sounds, though I was every bit a tom boy and could climb a tree or ride my bike faster and more recklessly than any of the boys. What is it about vrrrrooom, vrrooom?

I sit for longer than five minutes, watching, though I only remember to scribble notes into my moleskin every so often, so my collective time still adds up to 5. Sort of. I so rarely sit with him while he takes a bath now, so rarely just sit and watch his antics. This is, of course, the entire point of this exercise.

I tell him that soon it will be time to get out.

“I’M GONNA DO SEVEN, TEN, NO FIRTEEN MINUTES MORE” he says defiantly, his voice at full volume. “NO! I’M GONNA DO SEVENTEEN MINUTES,” he adds, as if that is an enormously long time. Then immediately he sing-song whines, “I hate this car. It’s broken. I want a different car.”

There’s been a lot of this thin-skinned, fragile whining lately, and when I’m at my wisest, I know that that is exactly what it is. Last night, after royally falling apart and whining all through dinner, after cajoling and firmness and tears, when he finally was tucked into bed and I lay next to him in the soft nearly dark of his room he told me about the things he was afraid of: how people die, poison, prison, bad guys, robbers. His eyes growing wide.

So small still, this little one of mine, and yet so big. Wiggly toothed. Loud voiced. Bright eyed.


I’m glad I spent a handful of moments noticing so that I’ll remember the ordinary sweetness of these moments long after they’re gone.
 
 
The 5/5 Challenge: Day 2

Leaving + Lucky

Posted on April 18, 2014

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I feel so unbelievably lucky. Thank you to everyone who snatched up artwork. It was the fastest pay-what-you-can studio sale I’ve ever had. So fast in fact, that I had no chance to open it up to everyone. The good news: I’ll be offering another sale this summer with lots more bird paintings (so much love for those, and so many requests!) and, just as soon as I get settled I’ll be making a sweet postcard pack with gorgeous glossy prints of all the birds. That should be available at the end of May. I put some work up here, just for you to take a peak if you’d like.

It’s been a week.

Wrapping projects, saying goodbye, and planning for things to come. I’ve been listening to this playlist on repeat, and periodically bursting into tears. The moments collide. Everything possible. Everything lost. Everything new.

Saying goodbye sucks. There are people here who are a part of my heart. People who make me smile every single time I think of them. I want them all to come West with us. (Maybe they will. A girl can hope.)

Because of the way spring break happens for the kids, yesterday was their last day of school. We’ve been the luckiest with their teachers. So good. So intuitive and skilled and heartfelt. The boys came home with goodbye cards and treasures from the year. They’ll land in a new school, find new friends, chart new paths of course. They’ll find their stride in summer camp. All of it. Still.

Their last day at this school felt precious and abrupt. Like it wasn’t real. Like it didn’t happen. Except there it is: a book from Sprout’s class and teacher, “To the boy with the sunlight in his eyes.” They know him well. Whenever he talks about moving he refers to our new geography in it’s entirety. “To Portland, Oregon.” It isn’t a real place yet. The only place that’s real is here, amidst boxes. He’s found the packing paper and has turned it into a wide drawing surface: tall castles and taller trees.

Bean is off with his friends, saying goodbye in his own boyish ways. Playdates one after the next: biking and tree forts and inventions. Exchanging addresses. Mailing pre-emptive letters. It’s only pretend-real to both of them.

“Mommy,” Bean says with a playful gleam in his eyes. “I know that you and Daddy are the Easter Bunny.”

I look at him: tousled hair, black and white checkered Vans, his skinny shoulders in a soft grey sweatshirt, his hands full of electric circuit board equipment. How is any of this possible at all?

The inevitable flow of time.

The way we move on: grow, and outgrow ourselves over and over again.

Here we go.

To be 5 years old (with gusto)

Posted on March 1, 2014

 
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You turned 5 (last Thursday!) with gusto. For the week before your birthday you kept asking when you birthday would be and then counting down the days. At night you’d wrap your arms around my neck and hug me close, and whisper: “My birthday is in____days.” And I’d say, “It is” and rub your nose with my nose and stare down at him completely disbelieving.

Remember how the time between birthdays felt like an eternity? Remember that sweet feeling of anticipation that last nearly until you’d burst? Would that we could still feel that luxurious stretch of time, easy and slow with the salty sweet of anticipation like taffy being pulled. Now the days have a staccato feel: dominos tumbling one after the other in a rapid-action blur. They come they go in an instant. I keep thinking, wait, didn’t I just turn 34? How am I 36? How did two years possibly pass? Let alone 5. Let alone, my last, my baby is 5 and not a baby at all.

When the day finally arrived, you woke terribly early, and in turn woke Bean and you both came tumbling into our room. It was a school day, so there was less snuggling in our bed than might have been had it been the weekend, and when we all made our way out to the kitchen your cheeks were flushed and rosy.

On the table, crystals and shells around his plate, a fat rose in full bloom, a birthday card from Granny sent in the mail, and beneath the table, leaning against a table leg a present (the first of several) in rainbow striped paper.

“Oh my gosh!” you gasped grinning, your body practically vibrating with glee. Yet you sat down and slowly opened the letter, savoring every bit of the delight, the envelope, the card itself, the small packet of zinnia seeds she also sent like colored suns.

Even with all your gusto and volume, you have this remarkable capacity for delayed gratification, as though you really understand what the moment offers. How it’s here to delight you only for now, and then it’s gone for good.

When you unwrapped the stripes you found a a scooter, like Bean’s but smaller. You’d waited four whole days since Bean’s birthday, hoping. Next you were a whirl of speed; a streak of delight. Then waffles, then backpacks, then school, where your kindergarten teacher put on a puppet show in celebration of your arrival on this earth, and we sat there with you watching; watching you among your classmates, sort of reeling internally with wonder. Five feels old. It’s the last year of smallness.

Oh time, hold still, hold still.

In the evening you were beyond ecstatic to get the “pirate stuff” you’d asked for, and went around the house decked out in mardi gras beads and a Captain Hook arm, yelling at the top of your lungs. Fearsome with your eyepatch, and so darling I just wanted to keep hugging you even when you squirmed free, and when Nonna and Poppy gave you their gift, you literally pumped your fists in the air with delight: a long coveted lego set. Something about a museum break out. Good guys and gad guys of course. Escape vehicles. Fire hoses. You and Bean became so absorbed he had to be coaxed back to the table for the ice cream cake you’d begged for.

So many candles blown out to mark the start of a new year around the sun for you, sweet little one.

You are my teacher of gusto and joy.

Inward Glimpses

Posted on November 25, 2013

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The day we raked leaves, the air smelled like snow. We lit a small fire in the circular pit and gathered round it, warming our hands. Sprout couldn’t stay away from the leaf pile, but Bean, suddenly older and just recovering from being sick, moped about the yard, wanting the reckless play of burrowing into leaf tunnels, yet scorning it too. Above us, the sky was that bluest blue of high altitude and cold weather. Later the snow came at dinner time. T had picked up fresh Bluepoints, and we shucked them by the sink together listening to tunes we’d picked up while in Louisiana this time last year.

It was a weekend of ups and downs. Enough time to read through the VOGUE that’s been sitting on my coffee table for a month. Good coffee. A look at Dominique Levy’s new gallery online. A trip to the new, big library we belong to now that we live close to town. A trip to the book store for another Molskine, and often, the collision of wanting time together voraciously and wanting time alone with equal hunger.

How was your weekend?

The day as it was {More than Just One Paragraph 23/30}

Posted on August 16, 2013

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I didn’t write last night because I came home and completely crashed: chills, swollen glands, headache. T wondered, “What about Lyme?” and so today I went and got blood drawn. I have nearly all the symptoms. But who knows? It could be anything, everything, my body on a collision course with the reality of moving, which we are in just four short days.

Bean came into bed this morning, his hair a shock of alarming curls, his grin sleepy and sweet. “How are you feeling, Mama?” he asked, spooning perfectly into my arms. And then he lay with me and we dozed and talked about things and imagined what the future will hold. He seemed to get it, my little aquarian kindred. That this is big, what we’re about to do. “It’s our last weekend here,” he said softly, nestling in.

Then came Sprout who has the heartiest of laughs. His dimples cause an uproar of delight in my heart. He bounces instead of snuggles. His sturdy little body burrowing for a second before he springs back up, and kisses my cheeks and nose and forehead and then dives off the bed to go play with matchbox cars.

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T leaves for work. It’s my day with the boys. Bean and I linger in bed, imagining where we’ll explore downtown, what colors we’ll paint their room, how we’ll have friends nearby. Then, slowly we get up and while I’m untangling my hair and finding jeans he goes downstairs in underpants and a sweatshirt and starts making french toast. He’s got the first round frying by the time I head downstairs, and is perched on the stool by the espresso machine, teaching Sprout the steps. He pulls a perfect shot. “Iced or hot, Mama?” he asks.

We eat mounds of french toast and it’s perfect: eggy, with just a hint of vanilla and cream. Then, after unloading and loading the dishwasher and packing all the cookbooks that seem to have mounded themselves on the kitchen table, we head to the car with a lab slip for blood work.

Sprout watches the practitioner closely as she cinches my arm and draws blood. Unlike Bean who wants to know how everything works, Sprout wants to know if I’m okay. If it hurts. If I flinch. (I don’t, just for him.)

They took such good care of me all day.

On learning, right timing & finding directions when we need them: {More than Just One Paragraph 21/30}

Posted on August 13, 2013

On our way to his friend’s house this morning Bean asked if I knew the way.

“Not really,” I said. (I have this thing called an iPhone. It makes me navigationally lazy.)

“Don’t worry, mama. You don’t need to know the way. You can count on me. I’ll show you,” he said confidently.

It’s true of course. For more than driving directions. This boy is my teacher. This in-two-weeks-third-grader. This coltish legged boy with a missing-tooth grin. I’ve fallen in love with him all over again this summer. He’s just so tender and thoughtful lately. So full of a new awareness that everyone around him has emotions and thoughts and secret goals and dreams.

I often notice him watching me subtly: for a furrowed brow, or a lightness in my voice. He wants to know, “Are you happy mama?” It matters now, differently than it ever did before.

I can feel the importance of how I am in each moment with him now. The way it’s making something indelible. A blueprint of the emotional topography of woman.

It’s no small thing, this. Raising boys.


Sprout gets to be the only child at dinner tonight. We sit around the butcher block counter together eating soup with grilled bread and talk about numbers. We consider “How many, and then one more?” Then we make a game of writing the numbers out, each one with their own special characteristic–5 with it’s baseball cap, 3 with it’s two bouncy balls.

It might seem odd that I haven’t taught him numbers before: he’s 4.5, headed for preschool, and I’m a certified elementary teacher.

But the thing is: the meaning of the word “readiness” is debatable in my book. In the school system, readiness is knowing your numbers and letters so that you can be ready to learn mathematical operations, write sentences, and read about Spot and Jane. Then of course, those skills are learned, because they are readiness indicators for later academic skills, and so on, each skill set building to the next level until … what? We reach the end of school, and have a bunch of skills that prepared us for more school. Hmmm. Is that really the goal?

If, instead you think about readiness from the standpoint of developmental capabilities, then things like learning numbers and letters and reading and writing are naturally, and almost inevitably a part of the process of learning to function meaningfully in the world. Academic skills are acquired when they’re needed and appropriate to problem solve and recognize patterns; to make connections and navigate complex social situations; to make order from chaos, and chaos from order. Learning is about understanding the process of innovation and excavation; leading and following, taking note and being of note.

And at the end of the day, if children are submerged in a culture of learning, with real, tangible opportunities to make meaning of their world, then things like numbers–both knowing them, and writing them–are easily acquired when they’re most appropriate.

Like now. Sprout’s just ready. He’s known how to count to 10 and farther for a year or so (although he gets creative in the teens.) And he knows how to do simple calculations: 7 and one more is 8; if there are two cookies and four of us, we’ll have to break each in half to make fair shares. He even knows how to write the number 4–which is the most important number to him, of course, since that’s his age. But tonight when I teach him how to write the other digits, I wish you could his chortles of delight!

With each new number, he lets out the most triumphant laugh when he masters it. Pure gusto! Complete ease. And in ten minutes he knows and is using all the digits easily. Right timing. They’re useful to him now.

Of course, it’s way more just this, and has everything to do with a household where learning happens all the time. A house that is literary rich, and scientifically minded. A house where T and I both engage our kids in problem solving while doing real-world tasks rewiring an outlet, making quiche, filling the gas tank, calculating change for the parking meter, programming a website, or mapping directions. (And we’re blessed with kids who are typically functioning and healthy, which makes everything simpler without a doubt.)

But I’ve been thinking lately about the rush that we have as a culture–to get ahead. To prepare. To be productive above all else; at the front of the pack, and ahead of schedule–and how that affects me as a creative (often leaving me exhausted). And then I’ve been wondering if it’s not something we’re tacitly teaching our children, instead of showing hem that real learning means exploration and going at your own pace, prototyping and practicing and narratively mapping meaning. For that’s how children are hardwired–to learn: iteratively, intuitively, and instinctively from real-world experience.

But if we dialed it back just a we bit and rested into the truth of this:

“Don’t worry, mama. You don’t need to know the way. You can count on me. I’ll show you.”

I think they’d turn out just fine.


More than fine, actually.

At the fair: where we all show up for something {More than one paragraph 18/30}

Posted on August 10, 2013

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The fair always captures my imagination. I could sit for hours watching, making up stories for every person: gap-toothed, lonesome, tattooed, bulging, burly, burlesque, vapid, vagrant, lustful, lascivious, wholesome, homely, heartfelt, heartbroken, dejected, addicted, desperate, depressed, wondering, giggly, giddy, grave, ghostly, strung out, sunken in, over zealous, sensuous, sexy, confident, criminal, carefree, innocent. All kinds show up to the fair. Everyone hungry for something. Welcome to Dreamland.

There are so many girls with incredibly short shorts, pockets sticking out the bottom, wearing cowboy boots and too much eye shadow, following after boys still pimply and lanky armed. The boys have nothing to offer. But you know how it goes. Small town. Bright lights. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone arrives, hopeful for something that will elude most of them. To be whirled off their feet. To be wonder-filled. To gorge on funnel cake and corn dogs. To win a blue ribbons for milker cows and tractor pulls. To fall in love. To make out. To make a buck. To get a quick fix. To get a rush. To free fall. To fight. To escape the every day.

The carny at the Landslide dances to the pulsing beat of the ride across the midway. He’s got some not-so-terrible freestyle moves, his arms jerking about in synchronized symmetry, his eyes closed, his head his own world for now. The kids swoop down the slide towards him on their magic carpet squares screaming. One small girl slips at the bottom as she tries to stand. Hits her butt hard. Bursts into tears.

At another ride, two carnies wrangle over cigarettes, one not more than twenty, the other old enough to be my dad. So many of them are smoking, pack after pack, the only escape during the forever long days before they can turn to whisky or meth or whatever other vice it is that claims them with the night. So many of them have blackened patches on their hands and faces, cheekbones gaunt, missing teeth. Some smile and get into the whole thing, hi-fiving the kids, make a ruckus over their sound systems, “throw your hands in the air!” “Step right up, step right up, I can guarantee you a bouncy ball!” Others move like sleep walkers, numb to the repetition, to the pulsing sound, screaming kids, cotton candy, mud, lights, gluttony. One man at at the swaying entrance to the fun house stands unmoving as kids run past him. He wears shades, stares straight ahead. We circle past three times, he hasn’t moved a muscle.


For the boys, it is pure delight. They’re at just the right age for all of us to walk about unencumbered, grinning, our fingers sticky with maple syrup cotton candy and ribs. Sprout was just past the 42″ mark and Bean, long-legged and tousle-headed well past the 48″ mark. They wanted to ride everything, and Bean would have if he could. For him, no amount of spinning or speed put him off. But the sheer volume of music on some rides utterly overwhelmed him. For Sprout, who is all volume all the time, noise wasn’t the issue, or speed, but heights.

On the dragon roller coaster, they rode together. Bean was all grins, and Sprout too, until it made it’s first rushing descent. Then his face crumbled. We thought he would cry, but Bean put his arm around his brother. “It’s okay buddy” we watched him say. My heart felt like it’d just been inflated with helium. (How I love these kids of mine–and how happy I am they have each other.)The entire time they were at each other’s sides, running ahead and stand in line, pushing each other, then holding hands, sharing an ice cream cone, chasing each other through the maze of mirrors in the fun house, or standing side by side to watch the tractor pull.


We do the rides, and then we do this: walk about, looking at all the things that make county fairs great. Kids on stilts and arm wrestling contests; a barn with home made quilts and jams; roosters with fancy combs, rabbits with floppy ears, new calves, a mama pig and her piglets, horses with long eyelashes and silky manes. The ponies nuzzle our palms. Sprout watches cows get milked with a commercial milk machine for the first time. Both boys stand forever in front of the incubator, watching eggs about to hatch, asking a million questions. Sprout almost cries when the white tractor he loves doesn’t win the tractor pull. Bean drives bumper cars until his hair stands up with static.

And when leave late, two hour past their bedtime, the moon is a sickle in the inky sky, and the Ferris wheel is whirling, it’s lights bright. Bright enough to blur the edges. To leave marks on closed lids. To make the whole thing seem real enough to be a dream.