Monday, September 30, 2013

this much i know

my friend's dad passed away on sunday very unexpectedly, and I can't stop thinking about her and her family. her daughter is here this afternoon, playing with my girls. she's grieving the loss of her amazing grandpa and has needed some lap time when he eyes "are watering" as she says.

i feel like all i have learned about grief is this- 
to shut my
to listen,
to cry,
to sit in the sad place with whoever is sad. 
when in life I have been in the darkest moments, the friends who have just sat with me, listened, cried, and mourned my loss as their own have been the ones who have offered the most comfort. 
to know that what you are grieving is real and that others grieve with you,
without the right words or pat answers?
it is a gift.

so sad with my friend as she processes the passing of her dad, 
and as she grieves as a daughter, mom, wife, sister and friend.

Friday, September 27, 2013

hooray for friday!

it's friday, but my weekend is going to include a lot of work, so i will be besties with these:

plus a neighborhood walk against violence in oakland, bike mania morning at m's school, not one birthday party but two, a baby shower, church, and m's rogue soccer practice/game. busy, busy!

hope your weekend holds goodness, laughter and at least one adventure!

(also, thanks for your cleaning tips/expectations that have been rolling in via comment and even text, some of them i already do or aspire to. i should add that my girls do have to do certain tasks around the house, but it's helpful to hear from others what they expect so that i have a gauge on what's too lax or too strict/unrealistic.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere

(please try not to be distracted by this shot of toy and book tornado action in my girls' room)

how much do you make your kids do to clean up after themselves?
what chores do you make them do?
my girls are 3 and 5, and it's hard for me to know what to expect and see as the norm.
matt is not a fan when i ask a question in my blog posts,
but i am so curious as to what others do and how other parents teach their kids to clean up after themselves or in general.

i'd love to hear what you expect/require/do on their behalf/ignore/allow...
and how do you do it? verbally? with a chore chart? 
(i can't help it- chore charts make me think of college and the chore wheel that my roommates and i had. oh the joys of communal living)
any tips for me?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


for a while there, instagram killed my blog.
so easy and fast to post pictures of life
(and to make them pretty.)

but usually they stay right here.
on my phone screen.
or maybe if i'm lucky,
on my computer screen.
so i decided to print some of them,
so i could have actual real prints of these little moments that make up my life.
each print is 4 inches by 4 inches,
and it kind of takes me back to the size of prints 
from when i had a little point and shoot camera in middle school.
i got them printed through my phone's kicksend app at walgreens, so it was almost 40 cents a picture.
i'm sure there are cheaper ways to print them, but this was pretty convenient.
the only downside is that i couldn't print older pictures that i had deleted from my phone
(but that were stored on my computer).
not sure exactly why i could print them through my phone
but not from my computer to walgreens, but if i print more i'd try to figure that out.

i made markings with painters tape to level the pictures.
then i got some double sided tape, and ran two long strips of the double sided tape from the left to right where the top and bottom of each row of pictures would go.

it was so easy to line them up and stick them on the wall!

here's the wall so far:

i love how these are starting to look like wallpaper!
they make me so happy, and my girls love looking at the pictures.
i have more pictures printed out,
and my vision was to go floor to ceiling, but not sure...

also, i now want to wallpaper every room of my house with these.
(so i might need an intervention at some point)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

work, the night shift

tuesdays i paint in my studio while the girls are at school,
(a little detail of what i worked on today)

but i don't touch my freelance work. 
(at least i try not to!) 
once my darlings are tucked into bed i come back down and work on any deadlines. 
right now i have a ton to do, so i am sitting here 
in the hopes of knocking out some work and also getting a smidge of sleep in a few hours.

oh, and i'm working on holiday cards so i'm listening to christmas music. 
not my fave, my friends. 
but taking it for the team in the hopes of getting some inspiration via the holiday tunes. 
so far the music is bearable, 
but i probably won't be racing to crank up the carols the day after thanksgiving. 
(yes, i know I'm in the minority on this one.)

Ok, enough procrastinating! back to work!

happy monday!

*oops, i thought this published yesterday, but turns out i accidentally just saved it as a draft*
so happy tuesday to you,
hope yesterday treated you well...

this morning I am hanging with these two:
nephew ezra & my sweet ruby
(yes, she is devouring ribs in this picture)

full week already, after a busy weekend! 
today celebrating the birthday of matt's dad, 
aka papa to my girls & a great dad, dad-in-law, and grandpa. 
 have a wonderful monday, my friends! 
(have you noticed i'm back in the blogging swing? scroll on down to catch up)

Friday, September 20, 2013

wise words

spotted this on lisa congdon's Instagram feed and I just love it:
a very happy weekend to you! tonight i am off to a benefit gala for a very good cause- a home for women and children, and i can't wait to go hear all about what they are up to! 

that old golden rule

do you remember learning the golden rule when you were a kid?
i was brought up in a family that followed jesus' teachings, so we heard it often, but even if you weren't, i'm guessing you heard it at least once as a child.

do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
love your neighbor as yourself.

i don't know about you, but it seems pretty basic, right?
i think it always seemed to me growing up
as if that was kind of a freebie in the land of rules to live by.
do unto others as you'd have them do unto you...easy! right?
i mean, why would you do anything else?

except that i had no idea. it's so hard.
so, very hard to care as much about the people around you as you care for yourself.
in fact, i think it might just be one of the very hardest- if not the hardest- things to live out.

we have a monthly neighborhood meeting where we live, in part because we live in a high crime neighborhood so neighborhood meetings are a way to support the police efforts in our city and to build community between neighbors, which leads to less crime. but also? i think it's just a good idea to sit in a room with all the people who live around you but who you might not always see. neighbors who know each other are a good thing. you care about what you see every day, which is one reason matt and i live on this street in the first place.
it's often infuriating and frustrating and annoying and slow. but i love it anyway.

last night it was a bit deflating to discuss a move towards private security in an attempt to reduce property crime and theft. in theory a proactive way to deal with neighbors valid grief over break-ins and theft. but i wonder how it shows a love for one's neighbor as oneself. it feels more like covering one's personal bases more than gathering together as a neighborhood to push against negative elements like criminal activity.

how do i care as much about my neighbor's house as my own? how do i make what matters to them matter to me? the discussion was often heated and passionate, and there were definitely people there who it would be hard for me to love as myself. hard for me to want to advocate for or with. i don't know, the golden rule is hard. but there's also beauty in the messiness of loving people not like you. it sort of shapes you into something more kind and compassionate and real to let go of some of what you care about as your ultimate goal and to care about someone else too? so hoping that i know how to love my neighbors in these conversations about how to address crime, in living next to each other, in working towards a better neighborhood and city.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

fall spiffing up

it's cleaning time around here.

and by around here
i obviously don't mean in my laundry room,
since it looks like this x 100 right now.

i won't show you the uncropped picture because it's depressing.

i've cleaned up the look of my blog,
since as you can see i've been back in the swing again in posting!

it's kind of back to school for the blog too, i guess.

have you caught up on what's going on around here these days?
if not, scroll down, my friends.
and don't forget to say hello.

any new blogs you've discovered lately?
or has instagram killed your blog reading?
it kind of killed my blog posting so i wouldn't be surprised.

i worked this morning, and soon headed off to volunteer in m's classroom. first time in there, so we'll see how it goes!
since i'm sure you want the play by play of my day.
happy thursday to you,
and may all of our laundry by washed, folded and put away by small elves or fairies.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

adventure wednesday

wednesdays m's school has a minimum day, so matt and i decided it would be fun to supplement her more structured days at school 
with some extra-curricular fun in the form of adventures every wednesday!
one day we went to visit uncle aaron at his work.

last week we worked on an art project the girls had been dying to do 
and then turned our dining room into a museum!

today we are off for a short trip to the zoo 
(it's only 5 minutes away so we can just hop over and back)

local or not, any ideas for how i can integrate some imagination and creativity and learning into our after school adventures?

i'd love some ideas for activities to do or places to go...
(anyone want to join us? you're always welcome!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

a word for today

(by me.)

things you don't want to attempt today?
me too.
we can do it, my friends.
let's storm the castle & scale the mountain today!


(also? i missed blogging.)

Monday, September 16, 2013


happy monday!
(a little sketch i did this weekend)

most of you know that, like all moms, i juggle parenting + then everything else 
(sounds so simple, doesn't it?) 

i like to believe my schedule is flexible, and in some ways it is, but in other ways it's more set in place than i'd like to believe. 

i am home with my girls, and then on the mornings (ruby is three mornings a week and monrovia is at school monday-friday until 3 pm this year!) when they are in school i work in my studio on non-illustration related paintings. i have a rule that my studio time is only for my paintings and not for my freelance work.

at night when they go to sleep i work on freelance illustration jobs, mostly for papyrus 
(here are some of my cards-here and brand spanking new ones here and here)

all the time people say to me, "you're so lucky you work from home."
yes, yes i am.
i'm incredibly grateful for the fact that i get to spend my days with my girls.
matt and i have made a lot of choices so that we could be the primary ones with our kidlets in these beginning years, 
but i also recognize that doing freelance work enables that choice to happen more easily. 
i honestly don't know how i would have held down a typical job when m was first diagnosed as being deaf and done all of the appointments, therapy, school an hour away, so it has been a lifesaver for me to have a job in which i make steady (even if it isn't massive) income while doing something enjoyable. i love, love, love getting to be with my girls, so that ultimately trumps the downsides, but in the day to day i do feel the pressure of being stretched in multiple directions.

other perks? 
i get to have mindless tv on in the background while i work 
(of course it is usually to keep me awake since i work at night), 
i get to work when the entire house is asleep & i get to work in my pajamas if i want! 
i make money doing something creative- not many artists can say that.
oh, and i get to buy my own greeting cards. 
also a win.

that said, there are downsides that i am always trying to work through:
i feel like i could always (yes, always) be working. 
in fact, if i am just sitting reading a magazine even if it is at 10 pm, i feel like i should be working on freelance ideas even if i don't have a deadline.
i take vacation (haven't you seen my fun posts or instagram pics of jaunts to tahoe, ventura and so cal?) of course, but 90% of the time i have deadlines when i am on vacation. which means the part you don't see is that i am scanning art or running to ups or emailing art directors when i'm supposedly on vacation. my sweet matt is very patient with me, but he often gets the short end of the stick when i am stuck working when we are on vacation or it's his weekend.

just because i am home doesn't mean i am doing either job- being a mom or working on artwork- very well. sometimes i'm just sucky, behind, or sloppy at both of them. or giving way more attention to one over the other and failing miserably in one arena. it feels sort of defeating to be constantly trying to hold the two in balance.  

sometimes i am up very late. sometimes? very, very, very late. last night i put the girls down around 7:30 pm and then was working from 7:45 at night until 4:18 in the morning. and then my alarm rang at 7 to get up and start my day with my kids. burning the candle at both ends, anyone? yes, that would be me. 

this past week i've been working like crazy on some deadlines and the only way i could get work done was to let my kids be in the studio with me. 
ruby wanted to be held so this was my compromise:
i kid you not, i worked on a greeting card with her on my shoulders

friday night?
i was planning on working all night long and ruby got a sudden, terrible flu
which meant instead i sat on the couch holding her.
a sacred moment to comfort my sick child
but my mind kept racing back to what i was supposed to be working on...
some little paintings like this one...
so i improvised this morning
knee deep in deadlines?
ruby came and painted on my studio floor
while i scanned & emailed artwork
and i brought my laptop up to the girls' room and 
worked on the floor while ruby and my nephew ezra played.
i can't decide if that is cheating as a parent/nephew-sitter
or if it is doing what i have to do to make it all work.
i think a lot about how many ways women have so much on their plates these days,
how we are trying to carry so very much and make it all healthy and pretty and doable.
and i hope i am in some way succeeding and balancing it (sort of kind of!)

i know i'm not alone;
every mom i know, even if they are "stay-at-home,"
is juggling so much and with such love.
how do you prioritize?
how do you know when you need to walk away from your work? 

(and can someone give me a hand clap for making it until this afternoon on two hours of sleep without coffee? because i kid you not- we ran out of coffee beans and so i had no caffeine, two kids, a deadline, and somehow i held it together.)

happy monday!
(and let's hope we all get more sleep tonight?)

Friday, September 13, 2013

(good things)

iced coffee
hot coffee
clean sheets
hot shower
clean laundry, folded and put away
my children snuggling with me
my mom's molasses cookies
essie nailpolish
new baby smell
being an aunt
staying up til all hours to read
the mindy project
crossing off my list
slowing down to walk at ruby's speed
monrovia singing freeverse
dance parties
surprise visitors  
surprise packages
gift cards
new haircuts
a clean house
one of my husband's cocktails
my girls sound asleep
new magazines
when my children say, "oh my goodness!"

what's good in your world today?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

make new friends, but keep the old

it's a funny season starting kindergarten and a new year of preschool. so many new families and little ones; it isn't just back to school for the kiddos, it's back to school for us too! i don't know about you, but it kind of feels like junior high all over again: there are the cool parents who seem to always know what's going on & look effortless at whatever they do, the active ones who are in charge of everything, the wallflowers who chill at the side of the playground and don't make eye contact, the awkward ones who can't figure out what to say or do. 

obviously i fall under the effortlessly cool category. (if you saw the multiple food stains on what i thought was a clean shirt when i put it on this morning or the back seat of my car right now which looks like small children carrying small toys and mismatched clothing got caught in the middle of a tornado, you would know that i am joking.)

when i was growing up most - if not all - of my parents' friends were through church, so they never really had lots of school-related parent friends. but here we are, knee deep in one school (our co-op preschool) about to wade into another (m's elementary school). so that means lots of, "hi, my name is susannah. i'm monrovia's mom..." conversations.

there is something amazing about making a new friend- it's as if a new little world opens up full of new topics and connections and possibilities. but there is something about friends with history. the kind of friends who have been there through so many seasons that you've lost count, the kind of friends who can read what you're saying between the lines or the truth under your sunny facade, the friends who will rally on your behalf because that's what you've done for each other for so long that there really isn't even a question. friends who will still be around no matter what school you're at, or what city you live in.

last night i was (yes, sick) and up late trying to knock out some work that i intended to have done a couple weeks ago. (oops!) as the hours ticked by i looked up and realized it was september 12th, which means birthday time for my friend-for-many-years, courtney!
courtney is one of those rare people who really listens, who sends you real cards in the actual mail, who checks in to make sure you're doing ok because you haven't called back yet. she is loyal, kind, thoughtful, and one of my life-long friends.

(happiest of birthdays to her)

so as we begin this new elementary school situation, i guess i'm wondering what you do? stick to your tried and true friends? make new ones with the parents you connect with at school? or hang with the parents of the kid your own children gravitate towards? integrate old friends and new? not hang out with anyone but your own kids?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


a letter to my darlings, and to small children of sick mommies and daddies everywhere,

would it be so much to ask to just be a little quieter and a little more gentle with each other seeing as i've only told you both 437 times that mommy is feeling really sick? i know you might not understand what congestion is, or a headache, or a throat that feels like a thousand needles every time you swallow, or how painful swollen glands are, or just how achy one's neck can be, or what it feels like when every part of you is fact, even your eyelashes hurt. 

i appreciate that your volume goes down for about 13 seconds after i say, "girls, please- mommy feels so sick right now." but perhaps those inside voices could stay quiet for, oh, say 5 minutes or even 10? or even three. i will take three minutes.

when i say that i'm sick and need to rest for a minute? that means i feel really, really horridly awful as if i've been struck with a plague or am slogging through quicksand. i promise i'm not kidding or exaggerating my sickness. i've tried as valiantly as possible to carry on and now i'm afraid the sickness has won and i'm waving my white flag at the germs. and you, my tiny little munchkins climbing all over me and shouting at the tops of your lungs and wreaking a little extra havoc because you sense i'm not quite on top of my game? i'm waving my white flag at you too.

please, for the love of all things good in this world, can you be kind to your sick mommy?

with love,
the woman passed out on the couch with no energy to stop you from destroying the house
aka your mom.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

since it's fashion week...

fashion tips from my children.

you're welcome in advance.

back to (pre)school!

m isn't the only one leaving the summery nest of home for school.
ruby started back at preschool, and seriously? she could not be more excited.
(tromping around the labrinyth in front of the school the first day)
it is such a magical place with such strong community; 
we are lucky to be a part of such a special place.
on ruby's list of goals: total domination of the monkey bars! 
and to come home covered in sand, paint, dirt or glitter every day.
it's a week in and so far? mission accomplished!

the day that finally came

the first day of kindergarten is a huge milestone.
it is the beginning of so many things...
full of potential...
the anticipation of new friends 
the wonder of learning 
and discovering
and oh yes, growing up!

m just started kindergarten, 
and as i was thinking back to this brand-spanking 
new bundle in our arms
i thought about how kindergarten is, as it is for all kids, 
a beginning.
but it also simultaneously marks for our family and for our daughter something else - a finish line.

when we found out m was deaf a few weeks after she was born, we didn't know what that would mean for her. would she learn to sign and join the Deaf world? would she get cochlear implants? would she learn how to speak and hear with them? would she go to a deaf school? would she ever be able to go to one of our local public schools? 
we didn't know if she would ever hear us say that we loved her much less hear a teacher's voice in a classroom.

when you have a deaf baby in california, you are in the system and receiving services immediately. sometimes you first work with early start until your baby is three years old and then you get passed over to the school district who handles your child's case. because we live in oakland, which is such a big district, we've been working with many of the same people since m was just a newborn. 

at our very first meeting with the district in which we advocated for her to go to an oral deaf school and receive therapy at that school, we said that 
our goal for our little baby was to mainstream 
in an oakland public school in kindergarten. 

we argued that if she received what she needed as a baby and toddler and preschooler, that she would need far fewer services once she was in public school.

and guess what?
oakland unified agreed. every time. at every meeting over the last five years, even when it took a little push, oakland provided the funds for her to work towards the goal of mainstreaming. 

so m has been in school since she was an itty-bitty 7 months old not just so she could learn how to listen and talk, but so she could get to kindergarten!
(m doing therapy at her deaf school at 7 months)

m worked hard at her deaf school and graduated last year, to finish up preschool at a mainstream co-op preschool in our neighborhood! it was pretty amazing to come to the end of that season and realize that she was on target to start kindergarten with typically hearing 5 year olds in just a year.
(at graduation from deaf school)
and then this summer she graduated from her mainstream preschool...
("key day" at our preschool co-op, where she was the first and only kid with hearing loss who's ever attended!)

so all of a sudden the destination we had argued for, worked towards, and used as incentive,
was here.
m started kindergarten at an oakland public school
right on time.

obviously you wear a firehat on your sister's first day of kindergarten!

with preschool friends & tag-along ruby

i won't lie-this mama heart was full.
full of 
a little bit of grief
and so much 

we had all worked and sacrificed for five years for this day to come,
and suddenly
my little baby had reached the finish line and 
started a new race as soon as she ended the first one.

so we waved goodbye

(here's the moment that my heart about cracked open-)
 and we went to get coffee. 
because that's what you do when you need to sit and be a little happy-sad-emotional-teary with the rest of your little family.
what i didn't count on?
that little sister would need a whole lot of loving from mama on the first day of kindergarten, when her big sister and partner in crime was gone all day long.

ruby needed snuggles,
and i was happy to comply.
when my sweet little clingy munchkin and i got home?

the very first thing i did was sit down and email the woman who has been in every one of our district meetings since m was a couple months old. she's always been the supervisor who has had the power to deny or approve our requests over the years, and now our season working with her is done, and she passes us off to our elementary school. i thanked her, through drippy tears, for believing in our daughter enough to provide her with the services that allowed her to start kindergarten. i thanked her for seeing the long view and not just the short view. i thanked her for being fair and firm and gracious. i thanked her because we would not be here without her. of course, because she's amazing, she emailed me right back and wrote, "it's going to be a great year." 

and then i sent a picture of m at her desk to her old therapists and teachers at her deaf school and thanked them for making the first day of kindergarten happen for our daughter, because to be blunt- we would have not gotten there without their work with our girl. 

here's to finish lines, to new beginnings, and to a great year!