Monthly Archives

July 2012

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Buy Me These Things

There are some super sweet things on Etsy right now. I know this because I spent the past hour watching the U.S. men botch the Olympics gymnastics final and, to ease the pain, “hearting” every other item I stumble across.

Not related to men’s gymnastics and only marginally related to this post: I went through a period in high school when I was intrigued with Jim Morrison. I read his poetry, an autobiography on The Doors and dissected his lyrics. I also watched the movie “The Doors” about 20 times. OK, so that was more about Val Kilmer than Jim Morrison, but still. You get the point. I was obsessed with the Lizard King. I have a feeling he might like some of the necklaces I found today, but I’m not sure what he would think of the brightly outfitted deer.

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Vintage coral and brass necklace. Sparklefarm.
Trio of deer. Trash Things.
Jim Morrison quote. Sacred & Profane.
Opalite and turquoise necklace. Grimm and Grete.
Love makes the world go round. Tiny Cub.
Linocut map. The Big Harumph.

The Sun Worshipers

Scene setter: A Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, after a hot day out and about on the town. Alexa and I return home. I’m shuffling along with too many bags in my hands and too much sweat on my brows, eager to take refuge in our cool apartment. Yet, there’s a slight breeze winding its way through the nooks and crannies of our Ewok Village, so nicknamed because of the complex’s meandering staircases and vegetation-planked buildings.

And, all of a sudden, it’s too beautiful to go inside just yet.

There is a small pail of sidewalk chalk in one of my shopping bags. Thank you, Target dollar bin.

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It’s been two weeks, and the chalk greeting is still there. Thank you, Southern California, for the consistently dry and warm-but-not-too-warm weather.

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Alexa’s legs are getting longer and leaner and meaner every day. Seriously, she is responsible for more than a few bruises on my legs and arms. Kicking, climbing. She thinks these things are a game. My body is not so sure it’s an obstacle course.

So I grab her and kiss those chubby little thighs. It won’t be long till the last of that baby fat melts away and she becomes Not a Baby. Thank you for the temporary consolation, baby legs.

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We draw on the sidewalk and I chase her up and down the Ewok Village stairs. We venture a little further from our door when we find it: Magic Hour.

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That short part of the day when everything is beautiful. The sun shines through the leaves, creating a pool of light so ethereal it makes me gasp with awe at the images in my viewfinder. This light could literally shine a turd.

Like a fairytale come true.

Not that there are any turds in our fairytales, but you catch my drift.

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Isn’t it strange how we can curse the sun so easily one second (when it’s burning our eyes out and making the tops of our heads sweat and frying our skin in the passenger seat) and yet. And yet there’s this. The magic hour, when it’s clear that we owe everything to the sun. Without it, the planets wouldn’t exist. The Ewok Village wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t exist.

Thank you, sun, for being you.*

*But could you turn it down a notch between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.? Kthanksbye. Love, everyone who lives on Earth

Speedos, Leotards and Running Shorts, OH MY

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The Olympics are here, folks. I have it under good authority that NBC.com will be streaming more than 3,000 hours of sweat, tears and slo-mo replays of the glory. And perhaps the disgrace. Sometimes you won’t be able to tell the difference because there will be crying either way.

And how hilarious would it be to eat these rings while you watch athletes perform amazing feats? I mean. The hypocrisy!

What’s your favorite summer Games event? For me it’s a toss up between gymnastics and diving. But I’ll watch anything. I think I watched mall walking one year. Trust me, it’s an event.

A Tale of Three Childhoods

I asked Dad a lot of questions about his childhood while he was visiting last week. He grew up on a farm in Kansas in the 1950s, the first of 13 children. By the time his youngest brother was born he was graduating high school and moving out.

Why did he leave the farm? “I was ready to live an easier life,” he said. “Farming is hard work.”

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The 1950s

He said he and his siblings woke up and went straight to their chores. Milking cows. You know, farm stuff. They would then grab some breakfast and head off to school with no time to spare. After school there were more chores.

“Was there ever any playtime?” I asked innocently enough.

There might’ve been. But he doesn’t remember much of it. He has stories of mischief, of being involved in an accidental hay-bale fire. The ultimate in freedom was when he was old enough to drive to school instead of having to wait for the bus.

I’ve asked Grandma what it was like to raise 13 children, and in her typical stoic fashion she denied any hardship. She is a strong lady, this one.

“It must’ve been hard,” I prodded.

But she shook her head, saying cooking and cleaning and tending to the farm were things that needed to be done, so she did them. Without complaint. Dad can vouch for the fact that his mom was always doing laundry or cooking a meal in the kitchen, often either pregnant or holding a baby. Food was grown or farmed, either way very local. He remembers how happy his mom was to upgrade to a washing machine. The clothes still needed to be wrung and hung on the line to dry, but the washing machine? Now that was a marvel of the times.

“But how did you do it with so many kids?” I asked.

“I put them in front of the TV a lot,” she said. And, when they were old enough, they were put to work as well. That’s the farm way.

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The 1980s

My childhood couldn’t have been further from the farm. It was the suburbs.

There was always time for play — and for a vivid imagination. I remember getting my first bike (it was red) and riding it with training wheels in our kid-filled neighborhood. My three best friends lived down the street and we regularly spent time playing outside, walking to the playground together and changing our Barbies’ clothes at one another’s houses. The summers were a blur of swimming in our above-ground pool and eating 50-cent ice cream from the ice cream truck that meandered down our street. We shopped at a local IGA for most of my childhood.

When I was older I became a latch-key kid, entrusted with getting myself home from school and letting myself in to watch MTV before my parents got home from work. There were chores, but they were relatively easy: clean my room, vacuum the living room, wash the dishes.

We spent a lot of time together as a family, watching TV sitcoms together on weeknights. Always lounging around on Sunday mornings while Mom and Dad read the newspaper.

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The 2010s

And now there’s Alexa. What will she remember from her childhood? So far she has been raised in an urban setting. With two parents working, she has been socialized at a young age and with someone who is not a family member or close friend — an actual babysitter. She is used to sidewalks. The only expanses of grass she sees are at the park.

She is never more than a short drive from the beach. She eats organic foods from an abundance of supermarkets that are open well past 6 p.m. She already knows how to behave at a restaurant. Seeing her parents work on their laptops is the norm. She knows her way around a smartphone.

It’s difficult to imagine Alexa ever walking home alone from school and letting herself in at a young age, especially here in Los Angeles. But I’m not sure whether this is a purely geographical thing. It might be a sign-of-the-times thing.

I wonder how all of this will play out in her mind’s eye. Will she ever understand how unplugged life was before cellphones and widespread Internet like in my childhood? Will she ever understand how hard it was to grow up on a farm like her Ba-Ba did?

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These photos from the second day of Dad’s visit, the day we were talking about his childhood, are a far cry from the farm, don’t ya think?

What are your favorite childhood memories? Do you long for the good old days or do you think today’s kids will have it better than we did?

Silence Is So Not Golden

Sometimes I can hear the crickets chirping on this blog.

Every time I hit publish, there’s that nagging feeling. Will anyone comment on this post besides my dad (love you, Dad!)? Will anyone even read it? I feel like I’m back in junior high again, putting up posters for student government and hoping to win. At the very least hoping one person votes for me.

And, gulp*, if there are two posts in a row with big goose eggs for comments, the self-doubt starts rearing its head. Am I annoying? Am I a bad writer? Am I bland? Bland! Perhaps the worst thing to be, like dry toast that makes you choke. Me, bland. Could it be true?

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I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say I’m supposed to be writing for me. This blog is just a record of my life. Just a repository for memories and photos and random thoughts about design and pop culture. Why would I need anyone to comment on it?

And there’s the rub. Because I do crave it. I crave starting a conversation through my writing, even something as personal as this blog. Maybe I hold back. Maybe I don’t share enough, or nothing interesting enough. Maybe I am not responding correctly to the few people who do read my blog regularly (thank you). I reply to each comment, but are you seeing my replies? Should I email instead?

Or maybe you are reading and not saying anything. My blog is like window shopping in a crowded mall to you; you’re just not seeing anything worth trying on.

I read a post about blogger jealousy that Elizabeth wrote on E Tells Tales and my confession is this: I am jealous of everyone who makes it look easy, with comment sections that rival a short novel.  So yes, I’m jealous of Elizabeth!

I hate that I’m jealous. It’s not my style.

It’s just that there aren’t enough hours in the day to be worrying about the comments, about the community, about what I’m going to blog about. This isn’t my day job. This isn’t even a side job. This is mine, all mine, and I should be able to own it and not feel slighted when no one validates my efforts.

I should be able to. Maybe one day I will be able to.

I know this: The last thing I want to do is change my content drastically just to eek out a few insincere comments. Let me be clear about that. I just want to open the doors. I want to know who you are. Knock, knock. Who’s there? What are you thinking? Are you there, readers? It’s me, Vanessa.

Let’s talk about it. How should our conversation continue: In the comments? Email? Or should I embrace the void and close the comments altogether?

If you blog, do you have similar thoughts? If you don’t, what makes you comment vs. click away?

*I’m going to resist the urge to edit this post or delete it. Letting my freak flag fly here, folks.

Photoshoot: At the Park with Ba-Ba

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Having a week off with Alexa meant I was able to see exactly how she is changing. Grandpa aka Ba-Ba got to witness it, too.

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For instance, she is a bread thief. I totally didn’t know that.

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We found a new park on Dad’s first day here. It was situated behind some baseball diamonds that I drive past all the time. The park is a gem of its own, a hidden diamond so to speak. Different playground rides (for bigger kids, but as far as Alexa’s concerned she is a bigger kid).

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Lots of small, rolling, inviting hills. Run up and down? She doesn’t mind if she does.

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And finally, we found a slide with five stairs. Usually the stairs are a deterrent for her because they are “see-through” and zomg no, Alexa doesn’t want to see through to the ground! But these stairs were the Goldilocks of stairs: just right. She climbed up and slid down at least half a dozen times.

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And Ba-Ba was there at the bottom to catch her.

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When Does It Slow Down?

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My dad arrived a few days ago, a whirlwind of energy and smiles after escaping the hot winds of Kansas by car. He brought a laundry basket full of stuff I set aside from the old house. A vase I received for Christmas several years ago. High school yearbooks. Old photo albums. Some recipe cards. Several packets of gum (inexplicably).

Another laundry basket full of vitamins and creature comforts from home. A few photos of my niece, Lola.

I asked how my brother and sister-in-law are doing with a 7-month-old. Dad mentioned that my brother was plagued with the question of time. “When does it slow down?” he had asked Dad.

Indeed. When does it slow down?

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Does it ever slow down?

I think the slow days are gone. Becoming a parent means trading free time (what little there already is) for rocking time, for block-building time, for helping-with-homework time, for play time, for worry time, for “Mommy, look-it” time.

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Those precious few hours after bedtime are spent reflecting on the sheer swiftness of it all. Watching videos from those newborn days and thinking, “Wow, time goes fast.”

Days at work, days in a hurry, nights asleep, nights in a worry.

Always looking ahead to the next thing. Is it too early to be thinking about preschool? How will we deal with Alexa as a teenager? OMG, she’s already acting like a teenager.

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I imagine even after Alexa is grown and living on her own the days will be fast. They will blur together. There will be phone calls (or mind melds or whatever the communication is in the future) to “check in” and “has it been a week already?”

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So let’s pause.

Stop.

Take in the sweet scent of your baby’s head. Ingrain the memory of your toddler’s arms embracing you in a hug. Save your child’s artwork. Memorize your own beautiful face. Yes, you. You’re beautiful! Laugh and connect with your parents, even if you’re just checking in after a long short week at work.

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Ferris Bueller says it best.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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Steppin’ Back Out

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What I’m wearing:
Teal ruffle shirt: TJ Maxx (last seen here)
Yellow jeans: Part of my capsule wardrobe
Sandals: Payless (last seen here)
Headband: Forever21, like forever ago

What Alexa’s wearing:
Striped tank: Thrifted
Seersucker skort: Gift from Sara
Teal sneakers: Target

Guys. Do you see how much fun we were having in the photos above? It’s like we never stopped doing Steppin’ Out for, oh, two and a half months. It was so fun I don’t even care how crazy I look in that last photo. Insane x 1,000,000. Maybe even 1,000,001. I swear I had no plans to bite this innocent child’s head, despite my bared fangs.

Note to self: Retract said fangs and book a haircut immediately, your forehead is showing!

This is what we wore on an early morning scramble quest for coffee. H and I were walking around, bumping into walls, when it occurred to us that we were in desperate need of caffeine. While we mainlined some coffee and let Alexa run around outside the Coffee Bean, a lightbulb moment: We should have a coffee pot at home!

I’m happy to report that this is now the case.

Onto the clothes.

I love mustard. But I was worried the color would render my legs pasty white. Now I just don’t care. I like it so much I will risk it. These are full-length lightweight jeans that are a little baggy, by the way, and I rolled them up four times, channeling my inner Huck Finn. I reckon I can ford a river this way.

Today I started the sad task of putting away clothes Alexa has outgrown when I came across this skort from Sara. Is it not the cutest thing you ever saw? Especially with all the daredevil bruises on her legs! My little Sporty Spice.

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Quarter Rides that Cost a Buck

Every time we shopped at Kmart my little kid heart went a-flutter at two possibilities: an Icee and a quarter ride, in particular the yellow horse in front of the store that rocked back and forth.

I’m not sure who decided quarter rides are now a dollar. Probably the same people who say a Snickers bar is $1.25.

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A few weeks ago we took Alexa for a bonafide Del Amo mall walk. This mall, of Jackie Brown fame, might be the mall that started all mall walks. It’s crazy long. One could get lost in Macy’s because it has an inexplicable number of entrances and exits.

We found the jackpot of quarter dollar rides, and Alexa went wild for them.

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But, being the modern plastic-carrying parents we are, we only had a dollar between us. We splurged on the virtual reality ride. We thought it was pretty rad. I mean, it’s a far cry from the yellow horse, if you know what I mean.

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Our daughter was not impressed. Give her a motionless helicopter or nonmoving train engine any day!

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Who knew the mall could be so entertaining? Even if there were no Icees.*

*But there are smoothies and lemonades and coffees and boba tea and oh my, I am a glutton for delicious beverages.
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The Night Circus

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I was researching art for another project when I came across Nina Leen‘s photography for LIFE magazine. And this image stopped me dead in my tracks. Can you say Night Circus? I absolutely loved the book and recommend it highly.

If I could blow up this photo and hang it on my walls, I would do so immediately.

It ran along with a story on Ringling Bros. Circus in 1949. The caption: “Nothing but circus all day every day is the happy fate of these two performers’ tots, who sit around the big tent watching as the pretty Miss Lola practices on a tightwire and an acrobat balances an odd contraption on his feet.”

For those of you who have read the book, doesn’t it remind you of the twins Poppet and Widget, who were born on opening night?