Monday, December 15, 2008

Thoughts on motherhood redux

First some birthday photos of Small Fry: This was the "official" party, all the little boys from his preschool played games and jumped on a big bouncy castle at the Y.
Playing with the bubble machine

Happy Birthday boy

Blowing out candles

The bouncy castle!

Playing the parachute game (this was ingenious, who knew 3 year olds could have this much fun with a sheet)

Doing the limbo! This was so funny to watch, i wish we had video of it.

And finally, as we prepare for our big day on Thursday and in what is possibly my last post of 2008, these are the thoughts that I've had stored up:

"This is the easy part."

These words were uttered to me by my sister in law as she quickly pulled my 2 year old twin niece and nephew back from hanging on the edge of my brand new pack-n-play. I stared down anxiously at my 2 week old son inside and thought, "how in the world can THIS be the easy part?"

Experienced mothers the world over are now throwing their heads back in laughter. Because, of course, my sister in law was right: a 2 week old is candy compared to a 2 year old - and from what I hear a 16 year old is no walk in the park.

This Thursday we start the journey over as we will welcome our brand new baby girl. So after 3 years do I feel like I can handle the "easy part" again? Mostly, though to be honest I don't remember a lot of Small Fry's first year. One of the little weirdnesses of motherhood I've discovered is that you really don't clearly remember back more than maybe 8 months. Small Fry just turned 3 and for me to remember what he was doing at Christmas last year, when he had just turned 2, is a stretch. Its like he's always been just about this age. I do remember feeling, when he was a baby, that I wanted to slow time down, that every day he changed just a bit but enough for me to realize that certain little stages had just gone forever. It was bittersweet, I loved seeing the new little boy he was becoming but sad that toothless baby was gone, and then the happy crawler was gone, and then the cautious walker gave way to the confident climber. I have to be honest and say that since he has become the full on walking and backtalking toddler I am somewhat less enamored of this stage. But while his childish demands can be trying i'm fully aware that some day - not too far away - he won't want mommy to be with him all the time, he won't want me to get away from the computer and play blocks and read book after book. I should enjoy it now, instead of feeling how I usually do: like heaving a gigantic frustrated sigh and trying to marshal my thoughts into how i'm going to keep him occupied and how i'm going to meet my deadlines, and cook dinner, and clean house, and pay bills, and.. and... and..... The other night, after i'd been reading in bed a while, Small fry woke up crying. Jim Dear was out so I hefted my enormous belly out of bed and went to see what was the matter. It was a nightmare of some kind. Small Fry was already almost back to sleep but I pulled him up in my arms anyway. As he lay on my shoulder, breathing small boy snores, I tried to memorize exactly how he felt in my arms, exactly how his fresh bathed hair smelled and exactly how his sturdy little spine felt pressing through his fabric of his pajamas. Then I put him back in bed.

I used to think that as an artist, all of my paintings and drawings were like my babies because I had spent time and energy creating them and I couldn't bear to see them mistreated, or watch as an art director splashed type across my carefully laid out compositions. I love being an artist and it gives me great fulfillment as a woman to be able to do what I love. But now as a mother I don't feel as much that each image is my baby. For one thing, I see the art creation process as more similar to pregnancy instead of motherhood. In pregnancy, there is definitly creating going on, but it's all a one way street: if I do just right this painting will come out healthy and normal. But it won't surprise me with silly sounds and made up words. It won't make me laugh as it tells me to go FASTER MOMMY FASTER as we race the Kroger shopping cart down the frozen aisle, or make me smile as it treats its stuffed animals with unexpected grown-up tenderness.

And that - in the midst of living through the easy parts and the hard parts - is definitely the fun part.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Enough Black Wednesdays - GO BUY BOOKS

A few days ago, I received my Publisher's Weekly newsletter and read about the firings of two higher ups at Simon and Schuster. "mmmm" I thought, "thats probably not good." Yesterday, as Small Fry and I went in search of some after school french fries, I listened to this article on All Things Considered about the state of book publishing. Again I thought "this is seriously not good." Then I happened to be scanning through my local SCBWI digest and found this very detailed link about the number and kind of positions eliminated from publishing in the last week. I sat here and thought "yikes, the sky may not be falling but it is seriously teetering." Now most of this news focuses on the adult side of publishing, and as someone striving to be involved on the children's side I could tell myself that I'm safe. A quick scan of all these sources does not reveal any names on my rather large mailing list of clients and contacts. But how safe am I? Conventional wisdom says that children's books prop up publishing in bad times because while adults will forego books for themselves they still see children's books as "necessities." But how long can this last? When adults stop buying books, stop reading themselves, how long can they really be expected to read to children? How far away is the day when the notion that children need to read just simply doesn't occur to parents/caregivers?

Personally books are such a huge part of my life I can't imagine not buying them, or not reading, or thinking that its only important for Small Fry to read and not me. True there's been times when our house has been short on cash and we dust off our library cards but I've bought way more books in my life than I have movies or CDs combined. The idea of not reading something on a regular (and by that I mean daily) basis is so foreign to me it would be like someone telling me that I had to not breathe for several hours. But thats just me, apparently the vast lot of us doesn't feel this way. Why?? Why?? When I was a kid I made up a book mark that said "A book is an adventure you can do again and again." I still feel that way. So for all ya'll who feel similar the time is at hand for us to return publishing to the black in a good way - go buy books. For the rest of you who don't feel like reading every day, what are you doing right now? I can guarantee you that the bloggers you love to read, those who are great writers are also great readers, go be like them. Get off this blog and go crack open a book.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Getting and giving and thoughts on motherhood...

I've been rolling this entry over in my mind for a while. This may be the last post I get in before Sprout puts in an appearance in a couple of weeks and there's been more than a few thoughts i wanted to put down on the blog just to get 'em out there. First I'm facing something that I have never had to do before in all my professional life and I just can't believe it: i'm.... i'm .... i'm having to send store-bought Christmas cards this year.

The shame is hard to comprehend I know.

Its just that every year since becoming an adult and counting my/our popularity by the number of cards I/we get in the mail I have ALWAYS been creative and made my own. First I would actually print cards to send to friends and as promos, then as my promo mailing schedule became more streamlined, I just handmade cards to send to friends and clients. But this year with everything being done for the baby I just don't have time to hand-make cards. My usual schedule of promo mailings is going out and I do have something special in the works for clients ... but friends and family.... well if I have time to do cards (and thats a big if), they are just going to have to tape up whatever Walgreens has on special. Which brings me to the same dilemma I face every time I buy a birthday card (which is often because i gave up handmaking birthday cards like a decade ago): do I choose based on the illustration or the message? C'mon you illustrators out there know that no store-bought card is as good as you could draw/write yourself, when standing in the aisles you think "why didn't think artists make the moon just a little bit more contrasty, thats what I would have done" or "what a great image, too bad the writer completely missed the mark with that sappy turn of phrase." So wish me luck as I jot Christmas cards on my Kroger shopping list, that I'll find something that will at least honor my tradition of always being the cool creative friend that sends hip hand-made cards.

So as I mentioned I am doing something special for clients this year. I always do client Christmas gifts, it's fun, I think it's nice to say thank you for working with me, and I always try to do something different. Over the years I've sent everything from cakes to iTunes cards but this year I am giving something I've never done in the past: I'm buying a sheep. Yes, literally. No I am not taking a herd of sheep around to, what I am sure would be very surprised, art directors, I have made a donation to Heifer International in honor of my clients. We got the Heifer catalog in the mail and after looking at it and thinking about how much I've spent in the past on iTunes cards I realized I could buy a whole sheep for some deserving family out there. And with economic times being what they are, i think it's easy to forget that there are people in the world a WHOLE lot worse off than those of us who are just tightening our belts this year by shopping at TJ Maxx instead of Dillards. The Heifer folks give the sheep, and training in its care, to a family in South America or Eastern Europe and the sheep provides a living (selling wool) and the family can also use the wool for their own clothing, as the sheep has lambs the business grows. It's essentially teaching a man to fish so he can eat forever. Anyway I'm making a cute sappy little card to send clients explaining why they don't have an Amazon gift card but they will be getting a warm fuzzy feeling. Here's one of the illos for the card:

thoughts on motherhood.....
ok well this is just going to have to wait as it is now 2:45 and time for me to go get Small Fry, but suffice to say 2008 has been a year to reflect on creation in my life both from what I do as an artist, to the little one kicking on my liver, to the ongoing task of changing Small Fry from a baby boy into a good person. This one promises to be good ya'll so check back in a couple of days. In meantime here's a pic from Small Fry's 3rd birthday, he's the one stuffing cake in his mouth: