Friday, June 29, 2012

out of the woods

for the first time in my adult life, i am a single girl with no desire for an end in sight.  at work recently, another receptionist i work with came over to my building and was like, "woah-ho-ho, who's that smokin' hot german dude?!"  i had no idea i had even been interacting with a smokin' hot german dude all day, that is about where i'm at right now.  my motto: "smokin' hot german dudes: who needs 'em?: the sarah van eck story." 

for the past ten years of my life, i have dated and lived with three different boys (with relatively short breaks in between) who all had the following qualities in common: messy, chaotic, charming, disorganized, unreliable, smokin' hot.  oh, past-sarah.  you sure do like to make the same mistakes over and over again, don't you honey?  present-sarah has done wised up.  i am now a nun (minus the jesus), and holy god why didn't i do this years ago?  it's great!

i'm working on getting rid of everything i own that's not beautiful or functional, and organizing the living bejeezus out of what's left.  i have a budget, on a budgeting website, with goals i'm saving toward.  now that i'm experiencing a slightly maniacal sense of satisfaction in some fairly basic adult tasks, i can see it: homegirl was a hot mess.  it's just too much to take care of yourself, a baby, and a grown man.  i haven't received child support from sho's dad for more than three months, and have done 99.999% of the parenting in that time (with big help from my parents), and: my life is so much easier now. so much better, less stressful, more empowered, more fun.   it's official: the life of a nun is where the party's at.   all those hot german dudes are just going to have to smoke on without me.

part of my grown-ass woman budget includes buying one small art print per month.  the first purchase of my new life as an art collector is nikki mcclure's surrender, above, which i've lusted after since shoshanna was a babe.  does anyone else out there have any art or artists they love?  ashley g is another favorite, and brittany kusa, who is a super-talented friend o' mine.

shoshanna mary is totally my #1 fave artist, though.  always + forever.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012


last night sho and i went over to our friends' house to run amok with some other kiddos and eat some clafoutis, respectively.  my friend emily writes a really top-notch baking blog wherein she's baking an entire cookbook's worth of deliciousness over the course of one year, and her friends get to eat it all.  it's pretty buttery, no matter how you slice it!  (HAR) 
none of my photos of their pretty house or the people inside it turned out, because let's face it, i am currently (thankful to be) taking pictures with my parents' battered old point-and-shoot circa the year 2000, but trust me, it was good. 

when shoshi and i left, we walked past an alley full of slow-dancing teenagers.  does that sound like a dream or what?  a boombox hooked up to an extension cord was blasting latin pop music, and sho stopped dead in her tracks, pointed, and said, "mama, shoshi dance."  i can safely guarantee that without my little partner-in-crime, i would pretty much never have approached an alley of dancing strangers, no matter how beautiful the sight.  but with her by my side, we walked up and a sweet-smiling mexican woman explained that the dozen or so teenagers were practicing for a quinceanera (kinda like a sweet sixteen party for mexican girls but way more elaborate, with lots o' fancydancing).  one of the older boys immediately swept sho up in his arms and started dancing with her, then teaching me to do these elaborate waltz moves (oh geez).  my favorite part was that even the boys were dancing very seriously (and closely) with each other, trading off dancing the girl's part with no fuss or teasing.  it was lovely.  and i never would've even noticed that sweet pocket of humanity on a hot summer night in michigan, if it weren't for my girl shoshanna. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

of cupboards and hypercolor kings

do you guys remember hypercolor t-shirts circa 1992?  oh man they were the jam.  it seemed like everyone and their mother had one, and they were boxy, ugly and totally awesome.  in second grade, my friend and i would have hairdryer fights wearing our hypercolor shirts, while congratulating ourselves on our brilliance all the while.  since approximately 1999, i've been keeping an eye out in thrift stores 'round the country for one of these hallowed items, but have never seen a one.  o hypercolor t-shirts, whither art thou?

here, it turns out.  i splurged on one in 2T for shoshanna, so i could fulfill my own dreams through her.  isn't that what children are for?

it arrived in the mail yesterday and was probably rather more thrilling for me than it was for little miss.  i think she's at an age where everything in the world is remarkable -- penguins, swing sets, bubble wrap -- so a shirt that changes color is sort of par for the amazing-course.  she styled it herself, opting for the belted-with-bare-bottom look, a classic staple of any girl's wardobe.  it was actually pretty cool to be the one not wearing it, because i could see it change color as she worked (her words) in the yard, digging and relocating fistfuls of dirt with great intensity. 

VERDICT: pretty cool, but probably best for slightly older kids who are so accustomed to the world and the ways of its t-shirts that they can appreciate an extraordinary leap in t-shirt technology when they see it.

i was so sure that shirt was going to be the highlight of the night, but you know what it ended up being?  the cupboard under the sink in our bathroom.


i can so clearly remember being three or four, hanging out in my mom's under-sink cupboard in her bathroom while she got ready for work every morning during the winter.  there was a heating vent that piped warm air directly into my cozy hideout nestled among clean folded towels.  the scent of hairspray and static-guard mingled with the sounds of 107.7 "the rocker" morning show and my mom getting ready.  i do so wonder what memories sho will take away from this life of hers.  i sure hope they're good ones, of magic t-shirts and cupboards and never, ever wearing pants.

Monday, June 25, 2012

speech and memory

ah, the linguistic adventures of a two-year old.  ice cream is "icing cweam," said always with a hopeful lilt and bright eyes. a bathing suit is a "baby suit."  lately, and i have no idea where she gets this (1952?) she's been saying "goody gosh!" about everything.  yesterday after she sneezed, she said, "bless you, me."  when she eats ribs with my dad (polishing off every possible edible portion, then gnawing on the bone) she says every time without fail, "ooh la la!"

last night neesy and i took sho to an outdoor concert at kindleberger park in the next town over.  (sho quickly removed her dress and shoes and got down to the business of shaking her booty.)  it's this magical, sprawling, super-hilly park that i used to live right across the street from when i was sho's age, so it holds a special place in my heart.  my first memories take place in that park, and the crazy slides that were built in to the massive hills.  it was the height of bravery to hurtle down those suckers, which have since been removed (which shows you just how cool they really were).

neesy and i keep wondering whether sho's first memory has happened yet, or will soon.  i'm conscious that it might be happening soon, so i'm extra on top of my mama game.  when she smashed a bug with a rock the other day, i scolded, "sho, you just killed that bug.  it's dead now."  she looked so stricken, i quickly said, "it's okay though kiddo, it's okay."  god forbid her first memory be her mother accusing her of murder!

this is my favorite chapter of her life so far.  a few months ago, she actually read a couple words for the first time, and is now identifying letters from time to time.  (not that she's a genius or anything.  all colors but PINK stymie her, and she continues to stand in the dog's water bowl far more often than necessary.)

what a remarkable honor it is, to be present at the dawning of a person's speech and memory.  i wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

party down

last night, sho fell asleep early which meant...time for some friday night sewing!  woop woop!  i drank some homemade iced coffee and watched season 3 of californication from the library, so it was pretty much the craziest party night all week.


i made a little matching pants & monster set (shouldn't every kid have one?) for the baby shower of a friend from high school and his wife.  then i was like, man lately i've been sewing for every kid in the world but my little shoshi mama!  so i threw together a little baby sling for her, complete with a pocket on the front.  that kid loves her some pockets.  


when her great-grandma got her the doll last christmas, sho was pretty "whatever" about it, despite the dope little outfit i sewed for it.  (side note: it's a special kind of creepy feeling, being an adult who just slaved over making tiny doll clothes, particularly when your kid could care less. oy vey.)  anyway, with the sling plus the added maturity of her two years, sho is now a pretty good little doll-mama, even insisting on taking her baby along while climbing the biggest tree she's climbed to date (though she also doesn't hesitate to throw her across the room when the mood strikes...probably no babysitting jobs for shosh quite yet).  we stopped by my work to pick up something i'd left there, and ended up spending an hour roaming around the grounds, which i've pretty much never even noticed.

through her eyes, though, there were endless treasures.  windows to peek through, new dirt to examine, sticks to pick up, bang against things, and first i kept saying, "sho, don't you want to go to the library?"  before finally realizing that the whole point of going to the library this morning was for sho, so why not just let her be perfectly happy right here?  i tell you, that kid.  she was almost just like, "chill, mama. chill."   i will do my best, little dude.


Friday, June 22, 2012


no one knows this (until now), but once or twice every week, i stop off at the house where david and i used to live and where shoshanna was born two years ago.  it's usually while i'm on my way to work or on that side of town anyway.  it's always a jarring time warp to see the faded pennants i sewed just last spring (and intended to replace every summer); the familiar old porch where so many photos were taken and visits with friends were spent, but missing our mismatched pots of growing vegetables and zinnias planted from seed; and the same peeling-paint windows as always, but without my homemade curtains and window boxes overflowing with flowers. 

i sneak into the side yard with a small bag of cat food, pour it into two big piles mostly hidden by overgrown weeds, then tiptoe away and drive off like a cat food-dispensing criminal.  when i moved in, the street was overrun with hungry wild cats, and i quickly took it upon myself to feed every last one, and keep them warm during the winter with an elaborate "straw palace" i built underneath the porch.  somehow i just haven't been able to totally cut them off from my life yet, even though it's somewhat crazy to drive all the way across town to feed some mangy alley cats on the reg, eight months after i moved away.

anyway, there was also a house on the corner with two skinny dogs tied up in the yard, and oh man, the first freezing winter that we had sho, those dogs tugged at my heart endlessly.  back in the early days of this here blog, i wrote about the time david and i hauled a huge doghouse down the street using nothing but our skateboards, so they could have a little shelter from the wind and snow.  something about that moment, sneaking into those jerks' yard and working together under the cover of night to help out their dogs, always stayed with me as being somehow representative of our relationship.

when i turned the corner on our old street today, i saw this where that house used to be:

dude, the symbolism.  what the hell happened?

i just hope those dogs are as happy now in their new life away from myrtle street, wherever they may be, as i am in mine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

on raising a powerful girl

so last night sho was blowing some bubbles in the yard, and she kept yelling, "POWER!" every time she waved the bubble wand around.  neesy and i started laughing: power bubbles?  really?  but that word totally sums up a lot of her approach to the world, running so fast her body can't keep up and flinging herself from tall surfaces and yelling at the top of her lungs.  POWER!

there are a couple things i keep in mind during our day to day adventures, to encourage that sense of power in my super tiny girl.

1) animals are girls too.  whether narrating the pictures of a story we're "reading" about a whale or a worm, or pointing out a squirrel doing something crazy, i am often taken aback by my initial impulse to call everything a "him."  dude, this impulse sucks.  really, the only creatures of interest are boy-creatures?  i am embarrassed to admit that i really have to fight against it sometimes.  i hope that shoshi will always discover that her imaginary friends of the tiger variety are, naturally, female badass tigers.  RAWR.

2) let her trust her instincts.  when i was pregnant, a few peeps recommended "the continuum concept" which is a book written in the 1970's by an anthropologist who lived with the yequana tribe in south america, and was fascinated by how blissfully happy everyone in the culture was, from the tiny babes to the elders.  a lot of what she wrote about is pretty well-known attachment parenting stuff, but the lesser-known parts of the book discuss the almost total lack of injuries among the children -- even though they were allowed to play with sharp knives, near open pits and rushing rivers, in an amazonian jungle to boot.  kiddos were given the space and respect to discover their world on their own, therefore their instincts about that world were honed from a super-young age.  groovy!  and: nearly impossible in our baby-proofing, fast-cars, overprotective culture!  still, i let her take a lot of risks (and play in a lot of dirt).  i try to give her the space to climb and reach and (ocassionally) fall, whenever i can. 

3) listen to her (within reason) if she says "no" or "stop."  obviously i can't always do this because the kid would never sleep (ever) or wear shoes in public places.  but if she says NO to me putting pigtails in her hair, i listen.  a girl should always feel like she has the power to say no and be listened to.

does anybody else have any "rules" they keep in mind while navigating this crazy earth, either with kiddos or without?   

Monday, June 18, 2012

weekend adventures

do you ever have one of those moments where your thoughts are floating lazily, and you have this happy leftover feeling that you know is because of something pleasant you've just thought of, but you can't remember what it is and so you sort of drift through your thoughts, knowing there's something nice waiting for you in there somewhere?   i was thinking this weekend that that's kind of how shoshi mary is for me.

i'm trying to set up some daily and weekly traditions for the little family that is shoshi and me.  i have a feeling that we'll be moving around quite a bit over the next few years before we're able to settle into a home of our own, so i would like some customs for sho to feel anchored to throughout those changes.  so far i have scrambling eggs together on saturday morning, and ice cream cones on sunday night.  any other ideas? 

all shoshanna needs is a pot of water and some bowls and ladles, and she will be happy for hours.  we went to a birthday party for one of sho's peers over the weekend, and they had this elaborate enormous plastic water table shaped like a pirate ship.  it was fascinating watching all these wild two-year olds working industriously for like an hour straight, not talking, just intensely moving water around from cup to cup.  it was a good time...but i'm also thankful that sho can be just as happy with some pots and bowls in the yard.

neesy had some tickets to "breakfast with a farmer" this weekend at a dairy farm out in the country, so off we went to show our girl some cows!  it was honestly pretty sad to see the baby cows, lying alone in their glorified dog houses with a tiny fenced-in area outside for them to stand in, while their mamas stood with swollen udders twenty yards away, unable to nurse or cuddle their newborns.  it just felt wrong to me, and it was a much-needed reminder to buy foods that are made with love for the animals who feed us.

still, it was pretty cool for shosh to see some cows for the first time in her life!  her favorite part of the day was a trough filled with feed corn and buried plastic farm animals.  she kept pulling off her shoes and trying to immerse her entire body in the sheer hedonistic pleasure that is a large trough filled with feed corn.

did you know that if you put heavy whipping cream in a jar and shake it for awhile, it makes butter?  it was an activity for kids, but neesy and were like "hell yes, we were born to shake up some butter," and shook our jars with great enthusiasm, several heads taller than all the other cream-shaking butter-makers.     


it was a good weekend, and it ended with my tuckered-out little dumpling of a bed hog looking something like this:  

i was quick to join her.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

fathers' day

since it's been three weeks since sho's papa has seen her or even called to check in, my mom got up with shoshi this morning as a fathers' day present to me, allowing me to sleep in til a luxurious 8:45.  heaven!  then they brought me a doughnut.  i tell you, this father gig is pretty great.

but the real subject of this post is my dad, or "chuck" as he's known to shoshanna, which still makes me laugh on the daily.  what can i say, they're on a first-name basis.

although coming to stay with my parents has been an occasional hot mess, for the most part i've been super thankful that shoshi has been given this brief stopover in the land of grandparents.  my dad jumped right on board with the whole two-year-old-in-his-house, all-the-damn-time thing.  he greets her in the morning like he hasn't seen her in days, and willingly invites her to sit on his lap at dinnertime, even though we all know that ends up with peas in your water and full bottle of ranch dressing emptied inexplicably in your lap.  sometimes it's nice just to have someone else's eye to catch and smile with when sho is being cute or weird, like how she always screams over to our very proper and sweet, elderly next door neighbor mr. sweeney, "HEY WEENIE!  HEY, WEEEENIE!"

"chuck" is my daughter's number one male influence.  (though her grampa doug is also an incredible dude, a gruff wise-cracking plumber with a secret heart of melted butter who dotes on shoshi like no other.  he installed a special toilet seat in their house when sho was a baby, so she could sit comfortably on their toilet forevermore.  that's love, man.)  because of my dad, sho sees men as steady, even-tempered, and most importantly, her friends.  they are true buddies, and it is the craziest thing watching her ride around on his back while sho pretends she's riding a horse ("hee-ha!"), because i remember doing the same thing.  he always makes her feel like a special, cool little dude who is worthy of his careful attention, even if he can't always understand what the hell she's saying or why she does the things she does (see: sitting in the dog's water bowl for the third time that morning).  he is a true friend and ally, and when you're a two year old, that counts for a lot.  (when you're a twenty-eight year old, too.)

thank you to my dad, for being sho's "chuck" every day of her life.  she and i are real lucky girls.