Sunday, February 26, 2017

LINKS I LOVE




1. This barn renovation has me SWOONING.

2. Currently listening to and loving this album by The Brilliance.

3. Planning on making these Red Wine Soaked Gummy Bears soon.

4. Speaking of wine, try shopping wine by importer.

5. I want to make my room smell like Sea Salt and Bay Rum! or maybe Elderberry Rose. And I'm always partial to grapefruit scented candles.

6. A whole website dedicated to people's different morning routines.

7.  Breakfast/brunch is my favorite meal of the day so this cookbook is right up my alley.

8. Teas you can make from stuff in your pantry 

9. JAMES BALDWIN. I really want to see this movie.

10. Two new to me podcasts, both highly binge-able: Homecoming and In the Dark


Friday, February 24, 2017

PICNIC IN THE PARK


We've been having mild spring-like days over here, and with one worried eye on global warming, I am loving it. Last Saturday was beautiful and begging for a picnic, so we happily obliged by meeting up with friends for lunch at a nearby park. It was exactly the kind of soul-scrubbing my weekday weary self needed.  I might make it one of my goals this spring/summer to master the art of picnicking with young children. It feels like it might be a really worthwhile and rewarding skill to work on.

Here are some photos from that leisurely lunch and afternoon. This weekend is supposed to be lovely as well; I hope you get to be outdoors and happy weekend!



























Wednesday, February 22, 2017

CREATVITY AS CONNECTION



Recently, I've been thinking about how another critical component of creativity is when it does the work of making connections. For me, I exercise my creativity these days by making connections between things - between people by creating spaces for conversation, between parenting and my identity, and even between the mundane and ethereal.

I recently read this article in NYMag called "Is Domestic Life the Enemy of Creative Work?" (recommended by Lisa) and I thought it touched upon these thoughts I've been having in a really poignant way.

The author of this article posits that creativity comes in direct conflict with parenting and especially with the responsibilities of motherhood, and asks, "Why is it that writing (or really any creative pursuit) seems to be in such conflict with parenting?" The response she got from her writer friend was: "Because the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn't be anyone's goal as a parent." 

She goes on to quote more opinions along this line: "Art itself is inherently subversive. It's dsetabilizing, it undermines, rather than reinforces what you already know and what you already think" (Deborah Eisenberg). "Art is revolt" (Hippocrates). And Oscar Wilde said it is the most intense mode of individualism the world has ever known.

One one hand, I absolutely agree. There is a place that your mind goes when creating things that seems to have no room for distractions - whether it is children, household chores, or even your spouse. And art can be an incredibly powerful force for change and revolt. But this is only one of the many attributes and capabilities of art. Art is a wonderful way to express the revolt and subversive, and to question and unsettle... and some art undermines and challenges our way of thinking in such a powerful way. But these days, as I've been thinking about the creative life as a parent, I keep coming to the conclusion that art's most noble abilities is to connect. It connects people, it connects dots of thoughts and ideologies and beliefs and feelings. It expands your person story as you make it and as you experience it. It connects you from your earthly being to the spiritual.

And even though it is mind-bendingly hard to find some spare time to create as a parent of young kids, I think the creative life can definitely exist (and maybe be enhanced) by parenthood. I don't parent with the main priority being to keep them safe. I parent in order to connect with them as people and equip them with the tools to connect with themselves, other people and all the beautiful and mysterious things around us.

(It's so funny and ironic that as I type this, Lola is climbing on to the table where my laptop is, trying to push the lemon she has in her hand on the keys, asking "this? this?" while pointing to everything, and then trying to close the laptop).

The author goes on to say, "[The home life] makes perfect sense but for a writer intent on using language to break down boundaries, explore taboos, trespass over the line of what is polite and pleasant and suitable...." And I would argue that a writer attempting to do all of those things, is actually doing it with the intention and desire to connect!

The author concludes with a conversation with another writer, Gallanudet Howard, who is a mother of two kids. About being a writer with kids Howard says: "The kids grew me up in a way nothing else could have. And basically, I needed ten years of mothering before I was like, "Whoa, hey, this is what I'm meant to write. And now I'm working on a novel I love and it feels like the kids gave me that by remaking me."  Howard says that yes, the kids taught her about intimate relationships, but that they also taught her "not to fear pain so much, to understand, experimentally, that pain and joy are inextricably linked (connections!) and that we are not in control. That's one of the major things parenting is teaching me, the balance between letting to in writing and being ferocious with my imagination and rigorous in my practice. Shape and chaos. Learning to shape chaos."

YES!


This was my view from when I was writing this post. 




This is the fourth installment of my ramblings about creativity. (The first four were: Thinking About CreativityCreating InvigoratesCreativity in Community)

Monday, February 20, 2017

WHAT I'M READING V.19



Here I Am by Jonathan Safron Foer

I vaguely remember having read his first novel, "Everything is Illuminated" but it didn't stick to me at all. I remember thinking that the style of the book seemed very satisfied with itself in a way that was off-putting. This book here was more down to earth and enjoyable to read. The most striking thing about this book is the mastery that Foer has with words. It is fun to encounter his descriptions of mundane things. In some ways, it was like reading a very well written, intelligent, witty diary of a self-involved middle-aged Jewish man living in D.C. There were points in the book where I found myself impatient and exasperated at all the miscommunication and narcissism of each of the characters, but at the end of it, I appreciated it. I could see how he was weaving things together in a way to tell a story of an individual and of a family.

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah

My brother-in-law (who is Romanian) recommended this book to me while I was going through his bookshelf. I don't think I have ever read a contemporary Korean novel before, which I guess is pretty embarrassing and something I was happy to remedy. It was startling experience, to read the inner monologue of the sad life of this narrator who lives in Korea; something about it was very familiar, not to my personal experience, but to the experiences that I encountered while I was living in Korea, and to read it in English added another layer of complexity. I'm intrigued now to seek out other books written by Korean authors; next on my list is 'The Vegetarian'.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

This was another book from my sister and brother-in-law's bookshelf, recommended highly by both of them. It is a fairytale for adults, and it was a really fun read.

A History of God by Karen Armstrong

I came across this Book at the library, while I was looking for another, and it caught my interest because I am going through the Bible right now with an eye out for context and historical implications, especially from the Old Testament.  So far I am finding this book to be well written, informative and helpful.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

SLOANE AND LOGAN THESE DAYS



Sometimes being a mother feels awesome! Sometimes being a mother makes me feel like a crumpled up piece of paper!

But geez. These kids are cute.

The other day, Sloane said something funny to make me laugh and I said "Oh Sloane, you surprise me sometimes." And she came right back with, "Mom, YOU surprise me sometimes, too." 



Some things Sloane has said or done recently (4.5 years old): 

"When Jesus was born in the manger, did the cow say, 'hey what are you doing in our food bowl?'"

"How do you "throw a party"? Like throw up in the air ?"

"Mom, do you have a teacher at work?"
"No, no teachers."
"...then who gives you your work?"

"What if the owners who have dogs all looked like their dogs? Like they had their dog's faces but were standing up?!"

One morning we were eating breakfast and very casually, she says, "Mom, at night when we are sleeping, everything that has a face comes alive. They move around. They stay in the same spot so that they don't lose their place but they dance and dance in the night." She said this so calmly and nonchalantly, it gave me goosebumps. Maybe this really DOES happen in the night! 

"I wish I could get stronger than a dinosaur."

"Sloane, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Oh mom, all the things. Dancer, writer, singer, horse rider, firefighter...Oh! And a reader. I can't even pick one! If I can't pick one you have to pick for me, okay mom?"


She has been doing a lot of self-narrating, which tickles me to no end.  As she runs down the stairs, I will hear her whisper to herself, "She ran down the stairs and got her shoes. Then, she put them on (as she puts on her shoes)...and then she ran back up the stairs and saw something scary! And she said, 'Oh no, I need my cape!...and ran into her room..." And so on, all in a loud whisper to herself.


"I have super powers! Pow!" (Punching the air with her fist.) "Oh noooo, it's out of battery."

I told Sloane at one point that I was tired because Logan kept waking up and she said "oh poor mommy."Then she hugged me, rubbed my back and then said "I know what will make you feel better!" and then ran out of the room. She came running back with my slippers and put them on my feet. Then she said, "mom I wish you could just not hear Logan crying... like I do. It's a special trick." (It's true, Sloane and Logan share a room and Sloane sleeps through even Logan's loudest and longest cries)

While in the car: " I see purple dots everywhere!" "Where??" I asked.  "Mom, you have to use your imagination. I see them in the trees! I see them in the sky!"

She has been enlisting Logan into her imaginary play, to the great amusement of me and great delight of Logan. The other day, I observed as Sloane ushered Logan into the doctor's office (Sloane was the doctor) and proceeded to very carefully do a checkup on Logan. She had Logan sit on a chair, as she used various items around the kitchen - coasters, spoon, cards, spatula, confetti - as medical tools to examine Logan's feet, legs, knees, elbows, eyes, head, arm, fingers...a head to toe check up. I overheard her calling her tools the following things: "super duper camera" (x-ray), "eyeballer" (ophthalmoscope?) and "knee knocker" (plexor).

We had a issue last week where Sloane was whining a lot, and so I told her she couldn't do that anymore and that we needed to come up with a way for her to stop. After a few minutes of thinking, she said, "Mom, I have an idea. Maybe every morning when I wake up you can remind me to not whine." "Oh?" I said, surprised. "Should I say something like: 'Good morning Sloane! I just want to remind you to please try not to whine today'....like that?" "Yes!" she said enthusiastically, "and mom if you need to remember to do this, write it down so you won't forget to tell me every morning." (We have tried this for a week now, and surprisingly, it has been very successful. When I remind her in the morning, she responds with a cheerful, "okay mom.") 

Another problem we had last week was with her wanting to wear particular things in the morning, some of which she couldn't find, or it wasn't weather appropriate, or it was being washed, etc., and then getting really upset about it. It was driving me crazy because it always happened in the mornings when we were in a rush and she would get emotional and then change her mind and the whole morning would get stressful. So we collectively decided we would get into the habit of picking out clothes together in the evening and putting it beside her bed at night.  Now, she wakes up in the morning, and dresses herself from head to toe, unprompted. It's amazing. 

"Mom! Come here! And use your super powers to wipe all my poop away !"





Logan these days is ferocious (19th months)! She is trying to copy everything we do, and this coming from a tiny rotund human who has the determination of a hungry lion, makes her the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Speaking of hunger, she has a big appetite and loves to eat (she asks to eat by saying "Eat? Eat?" as soon as she wakes up and sometimes even when she wakes up crying in the middle of the night) and is extremely interested in the possibility of food, but as I've explained to my parents, I think it's more of a voracious appetite for life in general that drives her. She loves wanting things and it's not just for food, it's for exploring, trying something new, mastering a task- she has this energy that feels very familiar to me (as a 7!)

That energy also means she is very expressive, will cry dramatically for a while for no apparent reason (which we have gotten used to), will run towards Rusty at full speed and pounce on him (which Rusty has gotten used to), will hang on to me with arms and legs wrapped around me tight (which I love). 

She is adventurous and excited to use her body - she will climb on top of chairs and couches and will jump off with all her might, so you better be right there to catch her. This probably started happening because she saw Sloane doing it a few times, and she wants to try everything Sloane does. If we are trying to get Lola to do something she doesn't want to do, we ask Sloane to do it in front of her and then immediately Lola is on board.

I guess it's because she sees Sloane being so independent (and also because it is part of being a one and a half year old), but she wants to do things herself. When I try to help her put her shoes on, she pushes my hand away with a "no, no, no" and wants to put it on herself (which she can do now), or when I hold a spoon up to her mouth, she asks me to put the spoon down so she can pick it up herself.

One of my favorite things these days is how she will croon along to a song that we are singing - it is so passionate and earnest and she will scrunch up her face in concentration and emotion as she does so. Sloane is also very into dancing these days, so of course Logan tries to keep up. 

In the car, Logan will start with "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?" And then when I respond with "yes?" She will say, "hi.." and then I say hi back. Then again, "Mommy? Mommy?" "Yes?" "Hi..." over and over again. Then she will move on to "Daddy? Daddy?" And when my parents were here, their names. Often when Sloane is telling me something, Lola will break in with "Mommy!" And then pretend to tell me something too.

Some of her words these days include: "Mommy, daddy, unni (what she calls Sloane; it means 'older sister' in Korean), Rusty, apple, rice ('wice'), amen, more, please ('peas'), up, down, help, water (wah-dee), nooooooooo, yes (but she prefers 'no'), eat, hi, bye, sit, shoes, boots, hat, dog, book, eye, ear, ball, sun, wow, hug, uh-oh, owie (said in a squeaky shout, usually when I'm pulling her pigtails out), nainai, popo, (grandma and great grandma in Chinese), halmuhnee, halabuhjee (grandma and grandpa in Korean), etc. (Her pronounciation of Korean words is surprisingly very clear for a one and a half year old!)

She asks, "This?.... This?" pointing to different things around her to learn their names.

She has this side eye look that she gives me when she's being silly. I don't know where she gets it; it's this half mischievous, half comedian look that she pulls out once in a while and surprises me. She also has this way of kind of cry protesting about something she doesn't want, but she is holding back a smile while she's doing it. Her spirit is vivid! 





I feel supremely fortunate these days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

EUNICE'S BIRTHDAY AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY


I love that my sister Eunice lives two hours away. I would much prefer she lives two minutes away, but since my parents live across the world and my other sister lives 6 hours away...I'll take two hours.

Last weekend, I got to go up to D.C. to celebrate my sister's birthday with her...and Sloane came along! These photos are mostly of Saturday afternoon at The National Portrait Gallery, which is one of my sisters favorite museums. The museum has the most beautiful courtyard, and apparently also a café from where you can order things like cake, champagne, charcuterie plate, and table and chairs for a birthday gathering with friends. I fell in love with the space as soon as I saw it, So much so that I think if I had known about it beforehand, I would have wanted to have my wedding here. Although it's in the middle of the city, it feels hidden and tucked away, while also being airy, historical and regal, all the same time. After cake and champagne, we had a tour of the museum. I had never visited this museum before, even though I had been in this neighborhood dozens of times, and I regret that I hadn't visited earlier. This museum is excellent and I can't wait to go back.












It has already been a long full day by the time we started this tour, and I wasn't sure if Sloane would last but she LOVED it. She was so into all the paintings and features of the building, we oohed and ahed over ones we loved, and we hands for most of the time. It was blissful. I loved that we could enjoy this together and I was so happy to have this uninterrupted time with Sloane. She is at an age where she can really see me, and I can really get to know her, so it feels significant for our relationship that we have bonding time where we talk and spend time together. At home she takes on the big sister role so naturally she is always helping (which she loves), but it was nice to see just her for a couple of days.



She said this room felt like a ballroom, so naturally, she danced.


"Wow! Mom, you have GOT to take a picture of that ceiling and show dad."




This is a painting!! 






"Mom, can I please take a photo of you next to that very cool thing with the big camera, please?"


(This is the photo she took of me next to the "very cool thing")




This was a really funny moment that I happened to catch on camera: Sloane saw this exhibit and started running towards it. The guard noticed her and gave a loud shout and ran towards her to stop her. I didn't realize for a few seconds what was happening because it didn't even cross my mind that Sloane would try to touch a painting in a museum because she knows better, and then I realized that's what the guard thought she was about to do. Both Sloane and I looked at the guard in utter surprise and assured him that she wouldn't dream of such a thing. He apologized and told her she has good taste.










After the museum, we walked around the neighborhood, then drove back into Silver Spring for dinner, and then back to my sisters for wine and leftover chocolate cake. My sister and I ended up staying up late making an enormous amount of mashed potatoes and talking, and somehow that was the perfect ending to that day.

Happy birthday Eunice!!