Monday, October 27, 2014

Lingering Autumn

We are having a really long, lingering autumn. At least by Colorado standards. It seems that many years, snow falls before the leaves. This year there is still no snow. And the leaves are falling. Noah is still wearing shorts. Daily.

This dahlia: I planted it two years ago, and never dug up the bulb. Dahlias are NOT suppose to last overwinter in Colorado.  (You are suppose to dig them up.) But sometimes, somehow, you get lucky. This year it bloomed! I credit the weather.

I am especially looking forward to Halloween and Trick or Treating. Fritz spent the last several years chairing a department retreat that always occurred within a week of Halloween. It was difficult to do Halloween as an almost single parent, with Fritz worrying about his own stuff. I'm really enjoying – and looking forward to – his presence this year!

We are putting out a Teal Pumpkin. (Well, it's sort of teal. I tried to mix the color myself. Uhhh... no future for me as paint mixer, I think.) None of our kids have food allergies, but I think this is a really important topic. Idena wrote a really great post about her son and food allergies a few years ago, and it opened my eyes to how food allergies must make a child feel quite excluded. No child should be excluded on Halloween! Beyond that, we have an awful overkill of candy every year. We've been giving out play doh for several years. I'm always shocked how many kids actually seem to PREFER the play doh when given a choice to choose their treat. So: putting out a teal pumpkin was no biggie. (As long as we don't talk about the part where I tried to paint the damn thing teal. Grr.)

Friday, October 24, 2014


The kids have been really miserable eaters lately.

Actually one kid has been miserable, one has been picky, and the other is okay.

[Removed photo.]

But let me tell you, the miserable one is taking all the fun out of food by complaining about everything that is available to eat in our house. He's subsisting on yogurt, graham crackers, and the mandatory "try-one-bite." Every time I think I've found something that he will eat, the next time it's offered he doesn't like it. About a year ago we drastically cut back on sugar in his diet and discovered that our very whiny child became even-keel. It's been great.

Except now it feels like he's fighting back.

It's no fun to expend the energy making food only to get it thrown back in your face with a big YUCK.

I think it's a 4 year-old phase. Right? Please tell me that your 4 year-old is or was picky, too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wallpaper Cards and a True-as-Told Story

Fritz's grandparents owned a construction business in Germany in the 1950s through the mid 1990s. As part of their company, they had a small store that sold paint, wallpaper, and basic craft supplies. After Fritz's grandfather passed away in the mid 1960s, the business was run by Fritz's grandmother and Fritz's mother. The story, as it's been told to me, is that being a women-owned construction business in the 60s and 70s was difficult. But Fritz's grandmother was smart as a whip. She talked her daughter into getting a degree in the trade, as a contractor, rather than attending the college-bound high school. The two of them proceeded to run the business for several more decades while raising Fritz and his brother.

By the time I met Fritz, he and his mother were long burnt out by the construction industry. After working construction in high school during the summer, Fritz couldn't wait to get as far away from physical labor as possible. He went into science. When we met, he told me "I went into science so I could pay someone else to do physical labor." And he did stay comfortably distant from construction until he met me. {Wink.} Fritz's mother eventually went to art school and today supports herself as a professional artist. The family business was eventually sold, but the company store sat untouched for decades. Only Fritz's mother used the aisles of the store to hold her larger sculptures and paintings. Otherwise, the store looked the same as the day it closed, plus some dust and cobwebs.

After Fritz's grandmother passed away, we began the slow and sometimes surprisingly painful process of clearing out the company store. Some things, like old cans of paint, were obvious to go. But some things, like the wallpaper, were so intriguing! Fritz and I were drawn to the crazy patterns and dated designs. (I've started selling them here. You don't need to buy; just looking can be fun.) What to do with all of it has been a bit of a puzzle. There were many times we thought we should just be minimalists and let it go. But then there have also been lots of times when digging into the wallpaper pile felt like an exclusive shopping experience, minus the money and time. Over the years, we've used the wallpaper to make artwork for our first apartment (some photos of those here), wrap gifts, design cards, do large kid-paintings and create garland.

This is one of my favorite cards, a Christmas card from when we were still living in Germany. I ran across it the other day while I was looking for an old Christmas photo. The wallpaper is NOT pre pasted, making it easy to run through an inkjet printer. I even made envelopes out of wallpaper. Obviously, this was before children, when I had a lot time on my hands.

Tree printed on the backside of the wallpaper.
Wallpaper design is inside the trifold card.
That would be the wallpaper on the left and the story of the Christmas tree on the right.
The story of the Christmas tree was designed and printed on back of the wallpaper by me.

Inside of the card and wallpaper. No idea who these girls are in the photo.
I didn't have any of the photos we originally used, so I substituted with a photo from an ad. 
"Back" of the wallpaper. Printed with inkjet printer.

For several years now, I've been purchasing photo holiday cards. But this year, I'm thinking about making cards again. Some times I really miss how personal and intimate handmade items can be. There's also something special about this long, circuitous story by which wallpaper comes to be a handmade card. There's something comforting about an actual physical item attached to a story, especially in a world filled with electronic data that may or may not be genuine. And between the story and the time and the item itself? Well, it has a complexity that surpasses a empty dollar amount. That's kind of cool, right?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cliff Dwellings in Manitou Springs

The boys had a long weekend, so we headed down to Manitou Springs to check out the cliff dwellings.  

We've attempted this trip several times in the last few years; this is the first time that our plans have coincided with the cliff dwellings being open. Relative to Mesa Verde, the cliff dwellings in Manitou Springs are small and very commercial. There's 800 sf of museum attached to 3200 sf of gift shop, for example. And the teepee, below? The sign admitted it pretty much had nothing to do with the ancient cliff-dwelling Pueblos. Also, all the text refers to the Native Americans who lived here as "Anasazi," a name which we learned in Mesa Verde is not favored by the modern day (Pueblo) descendants.

[photo removed]

But, WOW! You could really climb around in the Manitou Springs cliff dwellings in a way you just can't the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. One child was pretty much born to live in this location. She had to be dragged away.

[photos removed]

I really, really like all the Pueblo black and white pottery. These photo aren't great because I was taking them through glass, but you get the idea.

Love the way this one plays with the negative-white space.
This was also our first longish trip in the new car. It feels quite spacious and high, for a car that is more or less a station wagon. Surprisingly, I think we have room to grow into it: especially when Trixie can be forward facing again.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


On-going news out of Africa and Dallas has me really down. Usually, I'm pretty good at ignoring the media, but there's something about this news that bothers me more than normal. It may be that I spend my entire day dealing with the children's bodily fluids; and all the stuff they put in their mouths; and one of the kids can't even communicate what's wrong; and last year my uncle had such a disheartening experience with the supposedly competent big name hospital here in our area ... and WHY am I even typing this? It's probably bad karma. I don't know. Also, I think it might be a taboo to fret about stuff like this on a mommyblog.

The good news is that all the major online newspapers have now locked me out of reading their articles for the rest of the month (unless I get a subscription) so I'm being forced to think about something else. Kind of. (Damnyouyahoonews.)


Do you know much about literary salons? Wikipedia says that literary salons have been around since the 17th century, but the ones I'm thinking of were mostly in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Paris.  Names like Gertrude Stein and James Joyce immediately come to mind for me. If you believe the various accounts, influential writers and their admirers would gather at the host's home for drinks and a dinner while exchanging witty remarks about the latest publications, politics, and gossip. Some people credit salons with historically giving women a voice.

I've always wondered if the salon might be an analogy to the blog. As far as I know, there aren't a lot of salons anymore. Book clubs, yes, but I'm not sure book clubs have the sort of public profile that a salon had. Hmm. I think about this, because I think a lot lately about the end of blogs. Is it coming? So many blogs I've read over the years have ended, and I simply haven't found anything to take their place. I wonder if blogs will just kind of fade off into history like salons did. Are blogs important? If so how and why? Will they ever be recognized as an independent discipline, or will they always be an extension Writing and the Writer?

I am truly sad if blogs are ending, because I love reading blogs, and I love catching glimpses into the way that other people think and see the world. I love the way blogs balance between narrative and explanation and information. I used to love reading through comments, when there was more commenting going on. And I've always loved the way that a conversation sort of starts in blog world and very slowly, many people pick up the topic, write their own post and very slowly add to the conversation. That's the best. I feel like reading other people's blogs is such great way to challenge, expand, and reconsider your own beliefs.

How did I get to this? Oh yeah, salons. Well, I'm not really sure salons were anything like blogs, after all.

But, if you have any thoughts about blogs and salons, I'd love to hear!

Thursday, October 9, 2014


This is Trixie these days. GROWING UP, I tell you.

[photo removed]

Everything she does seems to be earlier, faster, farther and more than her brothers. Climbing is by far her favorite thing. I spend, oh, about 50% of my day coaxing or pulling her down. Let's have some visuals, shall we?

[many photos of a climbing toddler removed]

Did you catch the photo where she's in the sink with the toothbrushes? Don't mind the toothpaste-dirty counters. That's just the way it is around here, since she learned to open toothpaste tubes. Flip top or screw ons. WTF? She's 17 months! Once she figured out how to open the toothpaste, door knobs became no problem. No problem at all. For her. For me, I'm having nightmares about where she'll be next.

She's working on zippers. Not fair. Not fair at all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Today I'm completely unproductive. It might be finishing the clown costumes yesterday. Or it could be the quiet before the storm. There are some big projects and events coming to the Wyse home.

About a month ago, I found a babysitter and began scheduling her for two hours once a week during the day. So that I could have 120 minutes of time to myself each week. I'm ashamed to admit that until this point in time, the number of times that I have hired a babysitter is... 3. In 7 years, three times. I'm not quite sure how you will take this: perhaps you will think I'm crazy? A control freak? I've been blogging for about 4 years now, and I've never quite felt confident enough to reveal this fact. I cringe when people talk about their "date night." Really? Is that so common? Our nonexistent babysitter is made all the more extreme by the fact that our grandparents live thousands of miles away.

On my part, there's a mixture of both pride and embarrassment. I take it very seriously that I stay at home with the kids; in my eyes, it's been a huge sacrifice, taking care of the kids is my job and dammit, I'm going to do it The Best that I can. I watch a lot of nannies and babysitters at the parks, and I'm not often impressed.... I think when I let go of one thing (my career) that I really loved for another (my kids), I felt determined to actually DO the thing. And do it WELL. Fully, completely, no excuses. I don't really believe you can have it all at once. Instead, I believe you can have different things at different times. Who says that? Oprah? I don't know. I don't watch television, but I might have read that on a blog somewhere...or maybe somebody's mom told me.

But we all have tipping points, I reached mine, and now we have a babysitter. Courtesy of this babysitter, I've been completely unproductive today. It's nice. I can see how the babysitter could become addictive.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Clowns in Simultaneous Contrast

Today I finished Trixie's clown costume. That makes three clown costumes. They've been a big study in fabric arts for me. I'm completely captivated by this ability to take something flat (fabric) and make it three dimensional and functional on a body. Trixie's was the most difficult, because I couldn't find a pattern in her size. I ended up adjusting a larger pattern. But then I still failed to get the torso long enough. It's a little tight. The good news is, I know just how to fix it. I mean, I know how to fix it the next time I make a size 2T clown costume.

I can never really just make something. I need to have some theory and reasoning behind whatever design decisions I'm making. On a rare occasion, I might fall back upon "it just looks right," But that's the exception. (I can thank architecture school for the incessant design-reasoning.) On these clown costumes, the colors are studies in simultaneous contrast: each clown costume is a short spectrum of colors around a single primary color, with a flower of the contrasting secondary color. I love primary colors: so strong, so bold, so forthright. I think of bold and primary colors as being wealthy, without the corresponding price tag. The costumes are also filled with circles and circular patches and polkadots of all sorts, because circles and dots are fundamentally happy. Happy clowns are better than scary clowns when it comes to kids!

I spent about 10-12 hours sewing each costume. With sewing, I find I can do some parts while taking care of the kids. You know how some activities are easy to do while taking care of children and some are not? Also, those activities change with the age of the children... Well, right now, sewing seems to fit well with kid-care.

The boys have reconsidered wearing the clown costumes for Halloween. They think perhaps they will be clowns. After I added the patches and pockets with tricks, they decided the costumes were cool. This is interesting to think about: how much are they influenced by the functionality of their costumes? I'm thrilled that they will wear them because the costumes were so much work; they're so beautifully made – heirlooms, really – that I hope they will keep for a long, long time. Mattias's blue clown costume above is still listed on the Etsy store for a small fortune. You can check out all the built-in tricks there.

If you want one, let me know, okay? I could squeeze out a couple before Halloween. As it stands, however, they are too awesome for spec on Etsy.