Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Dog’s Life

Admittedly, something like a dog’s birthday might be an easy thing to forget. Unless, of course, its tattooed on your canine’s forehead.

Or inside her ear. 

I’ve done very little in this space celebrating my greyhound. The beast. The animal. Which is a shame because we have a lot in common. (Regrettably, its not of the long-legged-super-small-waist-big-chested-variety). But we’re both Worcester transplants, we both sneeze in threes and we both fight for the coveted spot-next-to-Tony. 

Which is just a start. Looking back, Tony and I vividly remember the ‘adopt-me’ advertisement we saw for her a year after we were married. It said her name, age, likes – and that she had a sense of humor.

“Do you think that’s a typo?” Tony asked.

We learned (quickly) that it wasn’t. We brought home this brindled - 68 pound 6-year-old former racer (and…ahem…winner of ¼ of those races) who couldn’t climb stairs (which was quite hilarious as we lived on a second floor apartment) who – yes – always loved (and still loves) a good laugh.

[plug here – Cappy was a rescue from the Second Chance Animal Shelter and Becker College pre-Vet program – absolutely the best experience]

Last August tragedy struck. Cappy had a massive stroke. She couldn’t stand up. She couldn’t walk, eat, drink, or focus (she literally kept banging her head into the floor desperately trying to find her center). We rushed her over to Tufts Cummings School. She stayed there for a week as they tried to figure out what was wrong, what caused it, what could prevent it. It was sad, heartbreaking, frustrating (especially seeing that she is my first dog). She was in the ICU and they let us bring in a picture of Tom Selleck (side note – that brief period we actually had a television in the house, Cappy and I were totally into Blue Bloods – she’s so silly, isn’t she?)

In the end we insisted she come home – and she did. Within days of being back she started to recover. H & S literally nursed her back to health. And now she’s back to getting all huffy, playing in the sandbox, watching H & S rip apart pillows (not stopping it mind you) and entertaining it when they put the cone of shame on her head upside down.

So it was quite the blessing that she was able to spend her 11th birthday with us.

People sometimes give us weird looks when we say her name (mostly because they think we named her after a liquor store – not true – its really a derivative of her racing name Kelsos Caprietti – yeah – I know – try calling that off the back porch in the middle of the night and see if you don’t shorten it).

Speaking of her racing name – can I tell you that her genealogy can be traced/raced back 36 generations?!

A Very Cappy Birthday Cake

1 large egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
¼ vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
1-2 bananas (2 small or 1 large)
1 cup carrots (shredded)
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a springform pan.

Combine the wet ingredients (egg, pb, oil, honey, banana(s) and carrots [which aren’t really wet but are kinda wet as they’re a veg]).

In a separate bowl sift together the flour and baking soda. Fold in the wet mixture and spoon into the springform pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick is clean when removed.

Let cool.

Cut into wedges and give it to all the doggie friends. Heck, let your kids have some too.  Its all edible.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Broad Meadow Brook

I used to have this enviable ability to hold it all together – you know – excessive self-restraint. Control. Fortitude.

Until a few weeks ago. When I turned 30 and went all-soft.

Now things like the writings of Sarah Cowper, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, $50 co-pays and children’s artwork (who aren’t mine) make me dissolve in tears.

Perhaps a bit of backstory. In January, I was invited by Worcester Family Partnership – a coalition/part of the MA department of education which provides services, screenings, exposing families to Worcester resources, offers playgroups, family literacy, workshops and support (among MANY other things) – to participate in a program based around Goodnight Worcester.

I thought – Sure! I’m game.

Great! They said …so, we’re thinking of a children’s art show.

Really?! Extensive gaping. How can I sign-up for that?! 

Good. They said. We were hoping you’d say that... 

Well – there were emails. Phone calls. A monster-sized-order-from-American-printing of copies of GW. And perhaps a few acrobatics. What resulted was one of the most amazing days ever – an afternoon planned at Broad Meadow Brook (a center and wildlife sanctuary which is part of the Massachusetts Audubon) for up to 50 Worcester families (with children aged birth to about 8) – for free. A day with guided nature walks with Audubon Natural History Guides. A day reading books – teaching watercolor, walking, painting, learning – and displaying.

Oh here we go again (getting all welled up with tears).

I coordinated the activity with two of the most amazing women I have ever met – Kristin from Mass Audubon and Beth from Worcester Family Partnership. 

One thing I learned really quickly is that I have zero teaching experience. So the first-first lesson plan I sent them involved…well…an intense amount of things to do (toddlers don’t have a long attention span? Really? This shouldn’t have been news to me).

Fortunately, Kristin and Beth are extremely seasoned and helped me pare down what I wanted to show into something a bit more lean.

So, to debrief, we divided the families into two groups – one group that was with me first and learned a thing or two (or hopefully more) about watercolor and one group that was outside with the nature guides. Then for the second hour, the groups switched.

I went over:

  1. How to hold a brush
  2. How to lay a flat wash
  3. How crayons are not water-loving (i.e. crayon resists and how they work)
  4. How to make a ‘viewfinder’
  5. How to look and record while outside
  6. How totally cool real watercolor paper is

And because I am extremely stubborn and insisted on showing how to create a sketchbook, I was allowed to leave it as a take-home activity. For this, one of my co-workers gave me some perforated paper she was going to throw away – they made excellent mini-sketchbooks! (And I got to make a neurotic hand-out):

Tony cut all the paper to size – made the frames for all the artwork to be displayed in – and my mom helped figure out the portable easels (chipboard and clothespins? Hello? Genius). Family came. Friends came. I splurged and bought some lovely paper for the finished artwork.

N.B. I did take pictures after the work was completed and pre-clean up – first, because my hands were a little too busy to take photographs and second, I didn’t want to photograph someone else’s child. But I’ve peppered this post with a requisite amount of Henry and Sophia pictures so you don’t forget what they look like. 

The art demo was done inside, as was the ‘lesson’ – we read Goodnight Worcester, practiced with ‘nature’ I brought ‘in’ (birch paper, acorns, pine needles, pine cones, feathers (cleaned) and a nest (my big plan was to show how cool it is to use white crayon on white paper and how your design comes through. I showed a nest with eggs. I know, I know – I got a whole afternoon to try and turn 50 unsuspecting families into total dorks).  

And then – they were released to the wild. To paint. They used ‘stations’ we set up with watercolor in mason jars, 1-inch foam brushes and watercolor paper around the sanctuary.  

The children came back with these – THESE – beautiful, amazing pictures. Have you ever seen anything so stunning?! Look at their technique! Their washes! Their use of color! I was so in love with every piece that returned for matting and mounting that my eyes watered. All these little artists returned with their renditions of Broad Meadow Brook. And the best part? The pieces are on display there through June – in the room where they (sniff, sniff) display artist’s work. 

A children’s art show. 

I’m a pretty light packer, so I thought my full trunk for the afternoon was somewhat noteworthy. One thing I definitely forgot though - the tissues.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

cupcake conference

This past weekend, I presented a paper at the NEA conference in Connecticut. I had been telling Henry and Sophia about it (mostly that their grandmother was going to be watching them…their mother was crossing state lines, etc.) and what I was doing, what it involved (they enjoy a thorough blow-by-blow of my daily life).

And then, as all two-year-olds do – they parroted it back. Conference. Conference? Henry conference? Sophia conference? And the morning of - I thought – really? Sure.

And so we played conference. Well, we retrofitted playing ‘conference’ really.

Now, if you are one of those people who think there are some things out of the realm of possible-imaginative-children-play – I can tell you. You are wrong. Just ask two toddlers.

Question: What should we have (and gather up) for our conference?

Answers (in no particular order): a toolbox, pillows, ‘colors’ (colored pencils), paper towels, tennis balls, band-aids, and a vacuum.

(Anyone else kind of terrified at the responses?)

For good measure, I threw in chairs, name-tag labels, envelopes, a few guests and programs.

I asked them – what do you think we should call the conference?

And Henry answered – ‘the cupcake conference' - obviously. 

Of course, there weren’t actually any cupcakes at the cupcake conference. It was more of a signifier really.

(Oh, don’t worry – there was a great Saussure panel that really tied things together). 

We did have a coffee break. And Sophia wedged the pillow in-between the chairs (why, I’m still not sure). And when I told them that before you actually present at a conference, one of your responsibilities is to look nervous and pace around – Henry was more than willing to comply.

But the best part? When I told them they had to read-up-on-all-of-the-surrounding-literature-ahead-of-time-so-they-could-field-questions-appropriately, they knew what to do. Instinctively, they brought their books to the table and, over breakfast, attentively prepared (note: Sophia was so frazzled by the event that her book isn’t even right-side-up anymore). 

Of course, when the time came to actually present papers, Sophia wanted to play the piano and Henry wanted to socialize (surprised?). So we never actually got to the ‘presentation’ part. Or the board meeting. 

But when we packed it all up and post-conference colored in our 'cupcake conference' programs, they said ‘Again? Play conference again?’

Which means its likely going to be a semiannual event. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012


February saw not a single post. And I have no excuse – as March is shaping up to be the type of month I just want to hide under the bed.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing this post today – to let you know we’re going to tackle this lioness of months head-on. I know - all of you are either friends or family and you will find what two-years-olds say and do interesting (my favorite - 'follow them around! The posts will write themselves!'). But oh – the plagues of those who want to write and see that irksome blank screen!

So to jump-start this post, I decided to use a random word generator (which I learned about during a creative writing class ages ago). The word?


Not a word I felt warmly fated for – okay yes, I am counting down the last few weeks until I officially become vintage or three decades or Brimfield-worthy – whatever. But three just doesn’t seem a particularly flexible word for someone who deals in twosomes. Duos. Sets.

Three is so blah. I was so disappointed - I wanted to abandon the whole exercise. Until I remembered that yes, it was an exercise. It was supposed to be challenging – if not, everyone would do it, right? But three – three. How important is that?

Oh yes, yes, I know all you blog-reading-wet-blankets – its symbolic and all. 

But still. 

So I contemplated. Two-year-olds are like little puzzles. They’re colorful. They exercise your brain. They come in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. They don’t fit quite right when they get wet. They like bath-time as much as cats. Or laptops.

Sometimes, they get lost under the carpet. 

Aside from playing trucks (Mamma – play bucket truck. Mamma - play fire truck. Mamma - play telescopic handler. [?!]) Henry and Sophia like to play puzzles. No, not putting them together really. They literally become the puzzle.  One within the puzzle-ness if you will. Henry actually flips over the box, climbs in the cover and says “Henry. Puzzle” (which translates to Henry is a puzzle).

Right kid – you have no idea. 

But I have to say, I am daily entranced by what they say. I have noticed that when you’re two, you try to be one step ahead – so you, of course, are interested in everything three. Yes, I see now how important three-s are to everything – they actually mean something – but when you step back and look at three from two, its pretty powerful stuff (I know, calm down Jackie will you? They’re really not that brilliant). 

But that’s not really what I mean – I mean, on the whole, it just represents this other way to conceptualize – something past where you currently are. And I don’t know, I guess I find it pretty hopeful. Like baking. Then the way things fall seem to have more meaning – crayons. An open dishwasher. Oranges. Eggs. Shovels. 

You get the idea.

Before taking to this no-sugar-six-weak-week-sabbatical, I found the world’s best vintage peanut butter cookie recipe – one Henry and Sophia insist that I share (I must say too they do remarkably well with the fork-flattening bit).


½ cup peanut butter
1 stick butter
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 ¼ cups flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

1.     chill.
2.     form into tiny balls and flatten with a fork.
3.     bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes

NB don’t you just love vintage recipes? There aren’t tomes of directions. Crisp. Clear. Scan-worthy. And three; there it is again.

Can I tell you a cute story? I found, much to my surprise, an answer to the great mystery of lights going on/off in the house - some of you know this has been one of those I-think-my-house-is-haunted-moments. But thankfully, its not.

Henry is an inch shorter than his sister. But what he lacks in height he makes up for in resourcefulness. Tony bought them this fabulous toy called ‘tubation’ which allows you to interlock different tubes to make shapes (or vacuums…or augers…or shower heads...or whatever they are into that day). 

Well, Henry, quite ingenuously, constructed a light-turner-on.

PS – don’t you love his pajamas? He loves to layer. I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the three.

I mean tree.