Daughter OBSESSED with Babe, Pig In The City

My daughter Nora is obsessed with the movie Babe, Pig in the City I must have watched this movie over one hundred times by now due to this obsession. It was on cable a few months back and since then Nora, my one-year-old, has been hooked. First we rented it and kept it for 3 weeks!  Thank goodness we are no longer in the days when Blockbuster would charge a small fortune on late fees.  Then it became clear that we would have to buy it. I ordered a used copy on amazon (my favorite online store). I actually don't mind watching this one movie at all. It's funny and extremely clever, and miraculously each time I find something new I have not seen before. It brings Nora a sense of comfort to see the same predictable silly scenes and talking animal characters each time.  She always runs over for all her favorite parts and expects me to be newly enthusiastic each time. As a 19 month old, she has been taking some time to start talking, which is normal for bilingual kids, yet to no one's surprise her 4th word was "pig".  Well, more like, "Pic, pic, pic!!". 

Priceless!! Awesome movie...

Do you have a movie like that with your kids?  


Update on Recycled Paper Mosaic Collage

I am halfway done with my 3'x4' recycled paper mosaic style collage. My step-dad who is a mason has been giving me hints here and there on how to deal with some spatial-related technical issues. All paper used is 100% recycled paper from all over the house. Very exciting process. 

I have begun filling in the center red spiral on one side. The bottom will be a band of orange and a band of yellow. I will then add green leaves to the tree. 
 Detail of the woman's body and the tree roots. 
 This is my paper sorting system. My daughter (1-year-old) and I spend hours punching out squares and placing them in these drawers. Well, I punch and she collects. She's very good at it. 


Awesome Bill Moyer's Interview About Obama and the Bailout

Bill Moyers

I just finished listening to this fantastic podcast of a Bill Moyers interview around the issue of Obama and the Bailout with two very smart fellows and have decided to post excepts of some of my favorite parts. One of the speakers is historian Thomas Frank who wrote the best-seller "What's the Matter with Kansas?" and "The Wrecking Crew." He is a columnist with the "Wall Street Journal".  The other fellow is David Sirota spent years in electoral politics and now is in political journalism. His column appears in newspapers across the country and he's written two best selling books, "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising".

David Sirota

DAVID SIROTA: We've gotten all of the bad stuff and none of the good stuff of nationalization. Nationalization in other countries means that the government has control over the banks with that money that they put into the bank.....What we have done is simply handed the money over with no mandate to actually change the behavior, change the structure of the banks, change the management of the banks. 

BILL MOYERS: Do either of you see any toughness in Obama as he approaches this issue?

DAVID SIROTA: Unfortunately, I think the actions that he has taken have been ones that are much more towards the status quo.....He has put in place into his administration people who have been either involved in the current bailout — Tim Geithner — or people who have really advocated for lots of the same free market fundamentalism that this bailout really epitomizes.  


Thomas Frank

BILL MOYERS: Tom, you even wrote a column the other day with the headline that said, in the "Wall Street Journal", "Obama should act like he won." Is he doing that?

THOMAS FRANK: You know, it's a funny thing because he — I love Obama. I voted for him many times. He was my state senator back in Chicago. I've, you know, followed this guy's career for ages. I think he's the greatest thing in the world. I don't understand why a man that just won a sweeping victory over the other party — you know, won a landslide in the electoral college and the other party, you know, is crawling off with its tail between its legs, you know, horribly discredited, everything they believe in ruins.

And he goes to that party and says, you know — he wanted a majority of the Republican votes in the Senate for his stimulus package as well as, of course, the Democrats. And I read that, I was, like, well, why? You just gave them a whooping that they're not going to forget in a long time, you know? You are in charge.

Let them, you know, why go to them? Let them come to you. And I think — you know what I think is going to happen is that he's going to discover very quickly what Bill Clinton discovered but then Bill Clinton never — you know, that these guys are implacable, you know? That they are not going to come around, that they don't have his best interests at heart. And they don't even have the nation's best interests at heart. I'm sorry. I'm very partisan.


BILL MOYERS: Well we'll find out what this means as President Obama confronts one of his first big challenges — the bankers and the bailout.

Usually it's the bandits robbing the banks. But now it's getting hard to tell the bankers from the bandits. Where have they stashed the loot — that 350 billion dollars of our money that the Bush Administration lavished on them to jump-start our failing economy?

For a story in last Sunday's "New York Times", largely overlooked in all the pre-inaugural hoopla, reporter Mike Mcintire reviewed investor presentations and conference calls to see how bankers talk when they think the rest of us aren't listening.

This from Boston Private Wealth Management, a healthy bank that was handed $154 million:

"With that capital in hand [...] we'll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out."

Once this recession is sorted out? Those funds are supposed to generate loans for people and small businesses in trouble — not to help banks ride out the recession on a cushion of cash.

Then there's this bit of Simon Legree mustache-twirling from the chairman of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans. They've received 300 million dollars in bailout boodle:

"Make more loans?" he asked. "We're not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans."

I'm not making this up — Flushing Financial crowed that it was newly flush enough to use the bailout bucks to raise the ante and buy new companies:

"We can get $70 million in capital," their CEO said. "So, I would say the price of poker, so to speak, has gone up." And, so to speak, he's playing with our chips!

REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR.:The joint resolution is passed.

You can download the entire interview on Itunes, or Bill Moyer's site. 

Would love to hear your comments on this interview. 


Began Printmaking Unit for Grade 4 Classes

I teach studio art to students at a NYC public school 2 days a week through 
an amazing arts organization called Studio In a School. This week, I started my 4th graders on a printmaking unit. Children used everyday objects to create designs lined in concentric circles. You too can do this. We used corks, spools, cookie cutters, marker tops, wooden blocks and plastic animals to make our prints. 
          Pay attention how the prints fade as the paint runs out. The unit will get more and more intricate and advanced in the following weeks, this is just a fun intro. I'll keep you posted!

Jelicious JELLY

           We made Jelly tonight. My sister Mirtha had brought by some very bitter apples last week and we finally had some time to kill. Both kids got a non-serrated butter knife, a cutting board and some quarter apples to cut away. This kept them busy for at least 30 minutes which is great for either of them. Both kids are very used to using a knife, they "help" in cutting vegetables often. Nora is a bit awkward still, yet, at 1.5 she's very advanced in her small motor skills. 

Nora trying to figure out how to use the knife

Luke's grip is that of an expert cutter. At Nora's age he was already cutting zucchini into equal sized cubes and putting them in a bowl for me....

So I ended up doing most of them at the end. But it was a great practice session for both of them. 

Luke was enjoying eating them more than cutting them. 
After about 20 minutes her grip got better!! She looks like a chef now. 

Her concentration level just makes me want to squeeze her. Nora is an old lady at heart.
Our jelly came out perfect. 
I helped Luke create the label and I taped it on. Now we will have jelly for breakfast tomorrow. 
I don't really have a recipe. Today I used 4 bitter apples, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar and simmered all of it in a pot. I then added ground and sifted cloves (1/2 tsp.).  You break all the big chunks with a wooden spoon, let cool and pour into a wide-mouthed jar with a fitting lid; I used a pickle jar. 


Before and After Work

           On the days I go to work (Tuesday and Wednesdays) I try my best to settle Nora before I leave. Luke is older and more independent, and beside, he is more attached to "dad" (my husband) than I. There is nothing worse for a mom or parent than to leave the kids crying on the way to work; I would rather she not are that I left than to see her crying for me.  Reminds me of how I use to do daycare before I had kids and I would shush the parents out the door and totally not fully understand why they had such a hard time leaving.  Now I know.  And it's not like I am leaving them in daycare even....they stay at home with dad.  My husband is wonderful at watching them, I never have to worry at all.....so it's just me having an illogically hard time departing. 
          After nursing her I laid her on her couch and she was very quiet.  Here is her picture.  I had to take it for she did not move for a long time. 
          Also, on days I go to work I try my best to do something creative with the kids when I get home.  Luke had come up with this idea of making a birthday cake for our parrot, Nugget. I agreed and we decided we would make an ice cream cake. We make a box of brownies, cut them up, defrosted 1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream and mixed the two into a cake-shapped bowl.  When I got back from work, we all had a slice.  This is a picture of Nora taking control and drinking the last few drops of melted ice cream.  Both of them had a blast! 

I Love Teaching Collage!

          I have been teaching for 13 years and nothing is as exciting as teaching art.  If you teach it right you are creating a classroom full of people who begin to trust their own choices and stop looking at you for validation.  They look within and ask themselves what THEY like. THAT is a great beginning. 
         Today I began teaching collage unit to the 5th Graders and it was a blast. They decorated the front of their self-made sketchbooks with a collage composition. When they were done they have learned positive and negative shapes, the meaning for the word composition, as well as various new ways to combine paper to create a collage. Here are some pictures of the class. 

This artist created small shapes
This artist overlapped many of her shapes. 
This artist used a lot of negative shapes as well as positive space to create her composition
This artist created multiples of the same shape by folding her paper and cutting the same shape at the same time. 



Virginia is for Lovers (and Friends)

          We were in Virginia this weekend to see my oldest friend, Jenna.  Here are some pics that tell the story of our visit.  

Luke crossing his legs watching Finding Nemo
Any movie that can make my 4-yeal old watch in total attention is a great movie. 
Jenna and Nora playing "tickle". 
Chris, my husband who never drinks....drank a few glasses. 
Ricky and Chris chatting. 
I visited with the mother of a friend who took his life 2 years ago. She had found and then framed some of his charcoal drawings. 

This is a picture of my friend. One I find very sweet and funny. 

Here's another self-portrait charcoal drawing. Kyle, my friend, left hundreds of pieces of art behind. They are all very colorful, textured and very unique. 

Luke and Jenna cuddling all evening. Jenna was at the hospital in Maryland when Luke was born. 
Nora, the professional baby photographer.  She wants to be just like mom.
Nora and Jenna portrait



Eastern Beliefs in My LIfe

          Eastern belief systems speak to me in so many more ways than all other religions combined.  I grew up in a Catholic home and went to a Catholic girl's high school in NYC, yet I never felt those beliefs fit me. Life experiences only further strengthened my realization that these Catholic-based beliefs did not emerge from me naturally. In fact, these experiences delivered me to Eastern-based beliefs and have come to further reinforce their usefulness and immense need in today's troubled world. 
         One of these many pivotal moments, happened in Catholic school. A teacher, whose name escapes me,  was telling some story about God.  She described how people trembled when they saw God.  This fact puzzled me for I had no knowledge of this "scary" god and raised my hand and asked, "why would people tremble at the sight of God? Is he not a loving God?".  Needless to say, she was frustrated at my questioning of this FACT. Too much of this type of reasoning escaped me, suffice it to say that these strict and disparaging definitions of God were fundamentally at odds with my soul and what I knew God to be for me. Oddly enough, it was in this school's World Religions Class where I first learned of Buddhism and what a breath of fresh air that was. 
         In addition to this class in high school, I was introduced to general Eastern beliefs through watching Kung Fu as a child.  This is not a joke. In watching this TV show as a very young child, I readily absorbed those simple, yet powerful messages such as "suffering is caused by attachments" or how the true nature of things may not be what I believe them to be.  Too bad TV has lost it's fascination with all things Eastern, now it's all bottom-of-the-barrel reality shows that have Americans glued to the tube. 
        When I came upon Buddhism through reading late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's Cutting Through Spiritualism Materialism (among other books of his) I was convinced this was for me.  It felt as if all along I had been thinking and living the ideas he so beautifully captured.  You can find excepts from this timeless book at WWW.sacred-texts.com. I read other great books about Eastern beliefs from authors like Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron,  Stephen Mitchell, The Dalai Lama.  
          I do not meditate unless while walking.  I do not chant or know any chants, I do not know of or observe Buddhist Holidays. I DO live in the moment when I go about my daily chores and simply live out each task without rushing to the next. I try my best to not define my role and the nature of my relationships in any conventional standards that may limit them from their true nature.  Looking at life through Buddhist beliefs reveals the richness of life. Everyday tasks, which most people rush to finish in order to get to the "real living", become magical clear colorful awake moments.  I do not cling to labels of me. Although, I am a mother, an artist, a wife, a daughter, a teacher...I do not follow blindly the conventional sets of "tasks" these roles require. Last, my stuff (or lack thereof ) does not define me. 
          To end, I have one great little piece of a story I remember from a letter-to-the-editor written to one of those popular Buddhist magazines; might have been Shambhala or Tricycle. A mom had written a funny note about how her toddler had eaten this paper Buddha image she had very much valued. In the end,  I aim to do as the toddler did; absorb the Buddha's message, enough to allow me to connect with all of humanity and to see me in everyone.  Sadly and too often, people use their beliefs as a shallow, externally-based tool used to raise themselves above or separate themselves from others. If the "me-versus-the-world" approach rises in any believer it's not a feeling borne out of strength, kindness or compassion, it rises out of one's feeling of lacking. Shouldn't one of spirituality's goal be to make you more available, more open to all of God's creatures? 
          We are on vacation in Virginia. Have to go catch the continental breakfast.  Have a great day!!

Obama Reverses Bush abortion-funds Policy---What A Wonderful Surprise

          As a strong pro-choice advocate, I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised at this move; and on his second day!!!  I was under the belief that our new president was to the right of center and as happy as I was about his presidency, I had a lot of reservations about real change really happening. Maybe things are looking up after all.  I cannot wait to see what comes next. 
          I read a very interesting and informative blog piece about this issue on Beliefnet.com called Is Repealing the Anti-Abortion "Gag Rule" Actually a Pro-Life Position? by Steven Waldman, author of Founding Faith and Editor-In-Chief of Beliefnet.com. 

Here are some facts I found in this article:
1. The repeal will not fund abortions
2. The repeal will reduce number of abortions around the world
3. The repeal would prevent countless pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses worldwide.
4. The repeal would save the lives of countless children worldwide.
5. The repeal would fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STIs.
6. The repeal would restore a wide range of health services.


Today's Adventures in Pictures

I finally got to mache my recycled paper plate.  My mom likes it like this, but I am painting it when we get back from our weekend vacation in DC/VA. Going to see my very good friend, Jenna who is also an artist. 

This is how it looked before.....
          We walked to the nature preserve down the street. we call it "El Bosque".  Spanish for "The forest".  (We speak Spanish at home as well as English)

        Nora was eating snow......It was scaring me how she kept sneaking it in!! That's the thing about 1-year olds, you can't explain anything to them....they just scream when they don't get their way.  
             Then Luke started with the snow eating...we had to have a talk about which snow was clean and which was not.  He on the other hand was very careful to choose snow that has not been disturbed. I know some people might have an issue with this....but, I've done it all my childhood and I'm not about to get OCD about this....          My son is obsessed about polar bears, we looked for one online and I sketched it to help us in making a paper mache polar bear.
          My husband, Chris took a picture of us working on taping the boxes together for the framework of our polar bear. Wasting masking tape to a ridiculous degree was Luke's favorite thing to do.
          Here's what it looked like before we mache-d it....my husband said it looked a little like a pig....I think it's polar-bearish enough. 
         We mixed flour and water to make paste.  My daughter ate the paste as we paper mached the body. My son, who did not want to get his hands dirty, handed me the paper as I glued it on. 

          All dry and ready to paint.....it's been a LOOONG day. 
          A picture of my husband, Chris and Nora (1) searching for images of cats, dogs, horses, etc on google image search. Lots of little fingerprints on that screen after they were done....but well worth the moment.


My Trial at Making Handmade Paper Bowls

          My son Luke (4),  daughter Nora (1) and I made recycled paper last week. We placed torn newspaper bits and water in a regular blender and made paper pulp. We poured and formed it around a large bowl that had been lined with wax paper and set it over the heater to dry.  We had forgotten about it until now.  I was excited to see it had become quite strong.  
          I got this idea the other day while navigating and browsing through Etsy, the best
 ever handmade storefront of the world,  and found this very exciting store, Paper Bowl Factory. What an inspiration!! I had to try it at least once.  I ordered a book from the library called The Art and Craft of Papier Mache, and it gives you all sorts of descriptive ideas and beautiful inspiring images.....enough to keep me busy for months!
         I will be lining it with Mod Podge glue today and will post more pictures as I discover and play with this new media. 

          Here is a video I found on YouTube about how to make paper.