Thursday, October 20, 2016

I lay awake the other night, writing a brilliant essay in my head about open-ended art for young children (at least it seemed brilliant at 4:00am).

My goat had been gotten earlier in the week, when my boss sent me links to a gift project.

Some lovely Pinterest thing, that would require a lot of prep and supervision, and would spark very limited interest in my two and three year olds.

Oh they would be thrilled to paint, and glue, and cut, and glitter,

but to keep the project gift level beautiful, I would have to censor and monitor their work.

In the end the project would become my work, not theirs.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am craft queen.

I've never met a project I didn't love.

Glitter flows in my veins, but as an early childhood educator, I know that it is the process, not the product that is meaningful to young children, if you are doing it right.

There is a delicate dance of indifference and detachment the adult must do, to empower children to create, without preforming.   

That means you hand them the materials and step back.

You do not stand behind and ask

What IS it? 

or exclaim

G O O D   J O B !

You do not take their adorable little hands, press them in paint, and craft reindeer and seasonal fowl.

You resist the urge to stop them from mixing all the paint together into a giant shit colored blob, and your bite your tongue when the drawing veers suddenly from charming to rubbish.

I attended a very good training in winter (which is unusual) and the best take away was

The younger the child, the bigger the paper! 

The child that has not been molded by curated art projects, will paint for the joy of it.

She will paint with focus, and abandon.

She will be carefree, and careful and she will paint for herself.

At two, a child will not know what it is, because it is the act of doing which holds meaning, rather than the act of producing.

At three a typical child will tell a story about their painting, but the image on the page will not be representational, in the way we adults like.  The image will twist and turn and change with layers and scribbles and lines overlapping.

At four a child will draw and paint more concrete images, and will often make things for a recipient.

Two year olds are gleefully narcissistic, three year olds paint for themselves, unself-consciously, with delight.

When adults impose their values on the art of young children, the outcomes shift.

They often stop painting and drawing all together, or they become the children that ask me 100 times, "do you like it Miss Heidi?"

Do YOU like it ?

I ask them.

My boss is a nice lady, with a great understanding of all of these things, but parents really like all those paper-plate projects, the googly eyes, the hand-print turkey, the cotton-ball Santa.

On Wednesday we made autumnal wreaths from paper-plates, because I sometimes try to be a team player, even when it's against my nature.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scan feast

In early October, I did a Scandinavian themed dinner in honor of my friend Jackie and we ate a lot of meatballs and had a gay old time.

She wanted to make a yogurt cake that she had enjoyed in Iceland, and that alone seemed like a good enough reason to have a little party.

Her cake was fantastic, and was eaten ravenously before I thought to take a picture.

I made a gingerbread tart tatin with apples and gooey caramel that was fantastic.

Swedish Meatballs
sweet and sour red cabbage
buttered egg noodles
cream gravy
assorted pickles
cucumber dill salad
Gingerbread tart

I never use red, but it worked for this Swedish theme

ginger tart tatin 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

All the Fuck you signs (thinking of Catcher in the Rye)

Caring for people is both my job and my work.

I love the way that sounds

I didn't say it, or think it up.

My old lover and boss Jonathan did.

He said a lot of deep shit, which is what made me love him.

He had one of those magnetic personalities and a wit so sharp and devastating you could not help but be riveted to everything he said.

I was won over to the notion of service, way before I met Jonthan Feldman, in 1987.

I had been a bleeding heart liberal for many years before that, but when I spent time with a grown up that was both an intellectual and a do-gooder, who was not religious, my mind was blown.

I am dangerously susceptible to having my mind blown.

I love intelligent people.

If you are a good talker, witty, and funny, your chances with me are good.



I used to be much more hardcore.

I worked in the most dangerous sort of Domestic Violence program, with mandated women, who had lovers that were rapists and violent offenders.

I got a big rush from the success I had as a group facilitator.

I loved to be popular with the clients.

I loved to spout a bunch of trauma informed support and advocacy and make people love me the way I loved Jonathan.

When I got pregnant with Freyja, I could not longer listen to the stories of these mandated women.

I could not listen to them rattle off the details of their neglect and abuse of their minor children.

I could not, not judge.

So I bailed, and went back to caring for children.

Most of the people I care for now are healthy.

Their trauma is tiny.

Their hearts and minds are bubble wrapped and safe from harm.

Today I had a child that is going through a big family change.

The child is very angry.

Today it came out as




"Your are a dirty diaper, you are mean, you're a just a SKIP, I am SKIPPING YOU!"

I did everything right.

I redirected, I gave space, I offered choices, and when none of that was working, I moved the other children away, to a safe space and offered the child space to vent and scream and be angry.

The child followed me, because despite being POOP, I am also the safe person, and the person that can take the heaping pile of anger, as it builds up, and up, and up.

Then I catch when the pile topples.

Here is the thing with managing anger and big feelings, it is a delicate balance, because it can spiral and turn into abuse.

I had other children to consider, and so I called the parent to come pick up, when there was no clear stopping point coming.

By the time the parent arrived, the child was eating, asking me for seconds, delighted with the food.

It was hard.

Earlier in the morning there was a knock on the door.

It was a little old man, so I stepped outside to talk, locking the door behind me, which surely looked unfriendly to my visitor.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm Ron, I live in that white house, and I need to apologize, I put a note on that blonde lady's car and I feel bad, I asked her not to park there, because I used to have people leaving needles..."

"It's ok Ron, I am sure she understood your frustration, no big deal!"

"It's a big deal to me! I am working a 12 step program and I need to make amends!"

Ron proceeded to pull out a little cotton purse, and explain to me that he is bipolar, "I am manic depressive", and that sewing calms his nerves.

He gave me the purse for Ms. Teresa.

He told me that the lord is looking out for me, and that he is praying for me.

I thanked him for the bag.

It was nicely sewn, beautiful straight stitches.

I felt a bit gutted by Ron, with his sun hat, the huge jagged scar across his neck, his manic depression, and his prayer, and remorse.

Yesterday when I work up and checked my messages there was one from a stranger, that simply said "Fuck U"

Upon digging around on Facebook, I learned that the sender is a Jugalo and into monster trucks.

I blocked her, but then later in the day unblocked her and sent a reply that said

"Who are you, and why fuck me?"

I got no response.

All of the demands of the day, and the screaming and the weird external stuff made me decide to send the child home today.

I have to evaluate what is best.

All the time.

All the time, I have to make sure I am doing my best and giving the most, and sometimes that means giving up temporarily.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

a little off kilter

"50 words for every haiku"

was what my friend B said.

I have no idea who is keeping score, but I am mostly a straight shooter, mostly.

The cart was slow as fuck, and luckily the punk rock kid was working.

He and I share the same musical taste and can rock out during the doldrums.

We washed up, and dished through Sticky Fingers and bullshitted through a bit of Small Faces, and when it was time to leave, he hugged me goodbye and that was that.

I met up with a friend for grocery shopping and coffee.

I wanted to go to the hippie Co-op.

I wanted the fir scented soap.

I wanted the hippies and the cob building and the kombuche and the bins of bulk food.

What a shitty weird week.

I have no idea why it even felt that way.

My friend's dog had eaten garbage and peed around.

My dog had done no such thing.

I had no reason to complain.

My mother is sick.

She is scaring me by being sick.

Most people who are 48 are scared when their mothers get sick, because their mothers are old people, but my mother is not old. 

My mother is youngish, ish.

My mother scares me, because if something happened to her it would be too strange and complicated and hard.

That is one of the very odd things that the children of teen parents have to deal with, young parents that are oddly and complicatedly connected to you.

So my husband went shopping for cough medicine and dropped it off, while I drank coffee and tried to explain the complexities of my inner life, without seeming like too big of a self involved asshole. 

My trans friend R said that everything felt like s/he should not be bothered by the things that were bothering him/her, and I wanted to drive over and make a blanket fort in his studio and hug him for hours, except that would be weird because we are not really huggers. 

I mean I am not.

I am more of a laundress.

A washer of dishes.

An ironer of linens.

So it was that kind of terrible day, with complicated feels and zero blanket forts and sick mothers, and shitting dogs and tipless food carts, and husbands that purchase cold meds.

Friday, September 16, 2016


I have been getting out a little more often lately, with my kids getting older and me feeling a bit more spry.

I was going to meet a couple of gals for happy hour, then my friend Dan posted pictures of BBQ from The People's Pig and I turn a U-turn and opted for DINNER!

Platter, smoked leg of lamb, St Louis dry rubbed ribs, cheese grits, potato salad, mild BBQ Sauce, in the background smoked fried chicken, smoked corn, cornbread, collard greens
Margaritas at the Wayside, I had grapefruit, my companion had a traditional

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I have to watch my classism.

Like all isms, it can just slip right out.

My preschool is in a sleepy little neighborhood, right on the edge of unincorporated Portland, right where the rural meets the low rent urban.

Where the sidewalk ends, literally.

Twenty years ago this part of town, just five miles from my urban home, was another world,  Aunt Ruth lived out this way, and it felt rural, rough and a little unsafe.

Gentrification has brought the city fast and furiously, and the neighbors are not any happier about it than I am about New Yorkers moving in and tearing down old houses in inner SE.

The preschool is beautiful.

It has been lovingly and thoughtfully remodeled.

The yard is clean and fenced with charming cedar fencing.

It looks classy and tasteful.

Our neighbor has three monster trucks and an RV with a tarp.

He frequently places free things in front of his ramshackle ranch house.

He stands outside with his companions saying "FUCK" and "GOD DAMN IT!"

His children skateboard in the street.

He is terrible, deeply and personally disturbed by people parking on the shoulder of the road.

He is terribly, deeply and personally disturbed by me parking in front of the school, rather than in the driveway.

Several times a week he accosts one of my preschool parents and rants and raves at them about the street parking.

He tells them he OWNS the grass across from his house.

He does not.

His understanding of ownership comes from when the city added sewer service to the part of town, and charged all the residents to hook it up.

In his mind, that gives him ownership.

He is a scary man, a bully, with unwashed hair, and a scowl.

He made two of my mothers cry.

Yesterday, in an ill conceived moment of friendliness I greeted him, on my way inside.

He was standing on the street in his bathrobe.

"Why don't you park in your driveway?"

"Because I don't want to be trapped in the driveway at the end of the day, while parents are chatting and strapping their children in to carseats."


Our circular conversation went on and on until,

"I will park where I want on this PUBLIC STREET!"

came out of my mouth.

I turned on my heels and left him stewing.

I never park in front of his house, and no one else does either.

He once told the owner of this house that it's "more mine than yours, because I mowed the lawn while it was bank owned!"

So clearly he is delusional.

Even so, I don't want to judge him, I just want him to leave me alone.

My clients use the driveway, and occasionally park very considerately in front of the school.

I want my rage over his shitty behavior to focus on the behavior, and not on his RV, or his trucks with the gunracks, or his lack of social skills.

It's hard.

All of that stuff turns him into a punchline for some folks.

I hope to keep it about the facts.

I got a very lovely message in my inbox this morning from an acquaintance apologizing that her daughter would not be accepting a job I had connected her with.

I was surprised, because beyond pointing her in the right direction, I had done relatively little to help, and I certainly am not one to hold a grudge, at least not over something like that, after doing HR for years and year in the child care field, I know that people come and go, and go and come back again and that is the way of our work.

She thanked me for helping.

I like helping.

My husband calls me The Concierge 

I live to connect services and people and gifts and food and jobs and need.

I like to think of myself more as a FIXER.

I see myself as Tom from the Godfather, or Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction.

Sometimes though, I realize I am a terrible know it all.

I try hard to be a good listener, but I also like results. 

One friend kvetches endlessly about first world problems, relentless tail chasing, and I long to say
in my best Three stooges voice, but instead I offer an endless supply of good ideas.

I come by my know it all, smarty pantness honestly.

Both of my parents are Fixers.


Brainiac types

All my grandparents were self sufficient and strong.

They could all do stuff, make stuff, get through things.

I was brought up to be both helpful and aloof.

To set myself apart from the ones that are falling apart.

Fall apart in private.

Keep that shit in cheque.

Waiting in the wings with a big net to catch, repair and release all the broken and lost life has to offer.

When I expressed my fatigue at being the boss, right before taking my current humble job, my friend Don said "But isn't bossing people around what you are really good at?"

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

School has always started the day after Labor Day in Oregon, just as you put your straw boaters, and white buck shoes away for winter, right up until last year, when it didn't. 

It started uncouthly the last week of August. 

Willy nilly

Out of turn.

I must have been in some kind of fit of denial, because I scheduled Freyja's orthodontist appointment for August 30th, at 10:00am as if that were a reasonable thing to do for a child that was starting MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Thank goodness I am married to Father Of The Year

He went to the orientation for middle school.

He knew damn well she would not be free at 10:00am on the 30th.

I often feel that because I nearly DIED giving birth to both of my children, and have sewn all the Halloween costumes, that it is Mark's unstated duty to deal with the first day of school.

Needless to say, we rescheduled the ortho for later in the month.

I always, always, always work early in the mornings, and September is my busy time.

So Mark does the first day of school snipe hunt.

Mark is uniquely suited to this duty because he secretly longs to be a stay at home parent.

He lives for meetings and paperwork. 

I live for coffee, and routine.

The first day of school is chaotic and messy.

I don't like to see my children upset.

This is how we handled things.

I went to work before my family woke.

Maxwell (who goes to a civilized Oregonian charter school that starts like normal people, the day after Labor Day) walked Freyja to her bus stop, waited for the LATE bus, put her on the bus and went home.

Freyja arrived late, because the bus was LATE.

   -Being a Capricorn, she had an anxiety attack over the threat of a tardy slip.

   -She then went to school all day.

   -Got on the wrong bus (the close, but no cigar bus, that dropped her about a half mile from home).

Mark called home to see how things were going, only to discover that our very babe in the woods girl had not gotten off the bus to meet her punk rock brother and his band.

Maxwell, worried sick about his missing sister, sent Zach P.  and Zak L. off toward the middle school looking for the lost girl.

Rolf, upon arriving home with Pearl Bakery bread for a celebratory snack, joined the search.

As four greasy gentlemen scoured the mean streets of East Tabor, Freyja made her way home by cutting through the park, just in time to meet her frantic father, at 5:00pm

I walked in at 6:00 to find my baby eating baguette and jam to the muffled sounds of death metal coming from the basement.

Mark was seated talking Freyja down.

Rolf was serving food.

As I got up to date, I could hear that Freyja's biggest concern was over the late slip.

"Do you want me to call them? Because I will totally call them, you don't need to worry, there will be no late slip.I will burn that shit down"

"Mommy is not burning anything down"

a smile cracks

"you know I would if you needed me to though,  right?"

The mood lightens

Long haired boys emerge from the basement for bread.

Many hugs and commiserations are given. People admit to peeing of pants, getting lost, crying. 

Mark texts me, even though we are in the same room.

"middle school is OVERWHELMING!"