Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 Edition of the 14 Days of Valentines Smackdown Challenge

Yes, it's that time of year, the time you have waited for. I am happy to announce the 14 days of love challenge is back. That means 14 days of loving behaviors. You can do it for your kids, for your spouse, for your friends-- cause they "can't get enough of your love". (cue Barry White) While there are "50 ways to leave your lover" there are over 250 ways to love your lover- so here is the list 250 ways to say I love you  in case you are "all out of love"-ing ideas.
Because the "what the world needs now is love sweet love". So bring your A-game cause smart mama can out love you anyday of the week. (You also know I can talk a little smack to get some healthy competition going).
Last year we had quite he impressive shows of loving behaviors. And this year I want to see more!

And there is a prize...if you succcessfully complete the challenge and return and report via blog or email you will be in the running for a set of my domestic cards.

And well if you live near me you can get int he spirit in person as I will be teaching a loving behaviors class at my church on feb 9th-All are welcome-- if you want more details you can contact me.

Also I am posting at segullah today about why valentines catch me there

"I wanna know what love is, I want you to show me"

XO, smartmama

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

because boys can have cool rooms too...

All I can say is decorating boys rooms is tricky. I don't like juvenile stuff and I like it to look different than every copy pottery barn (because it always feels like slight variations of the same thing for me)  and even finding fabrics is tough. I finally got in gear though and got my 3rd son's room changed from the cowboy nursery to this (he's 2).
I love these ODDA beds from IKEA (I always buy twin beds in sets so there is an extra bed in the room), as as I am one who loves storage space and hates to look at extra stuff, came up with this idea to  fit two 36", over fridge cabinets below each bed.  They are super deep and provide tons of storage. Also my coolest innovation is that the beds glow. Yes I had this vision for them from the very beginning. So each bed has LED lights below them. Connected to footpedal extension cords (which are hidden at the far wall end of the beds). So turning it on illluminates the underside of the bed. They love to lay under them and bask in the E.T.-like other worldy glow to read books and play, and it'a an awesome built in night light he calls it "the glows". I made the curtains (lined with blackout- as you know I have a deep love for hotel blackout curtains) The sheets are delicious 400 thread count from target and match the bluish gray walls perfectly. The comforters are reversible black/gray, the mirrors are 2" thick squares bound in rolled newspapers, the art is mine, and the license plate that run the two long walls of the room are courtesy of my best friend Shelah. The room feels sleek, clean, airy and modern and hass quickly become everyones favorite reading destination!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


for the Mormon Women Project. This fabulous project is the work of Neylan McBaine (who is so delightful, we bonded on the phone as my 2 year old sprayed the kitchen with water and dumped out hundreds of train pieces everywhere.) Don't spend so much time reading my interview because well, you already know about me and really I'm not that exciting. But spent your time reading the interesting profiles of the other featured women. I love biographies, the rich stories of people's lives. Add it to your reader so you can read all the upcoming interviews....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

corresponding style

my new set of domestic cards are in...

it is the first 5 pieces in the domestic series

stirring things up
a piece of cake
soft & clean
who's there?
cleaning up the mess

The cards are white 5x7, with matching evelopes. Attached are 4x6 matte photographic prints. Each is hand signed and hand titled and in it's own clear sleeve. ($12/$14 shipped).

they are good for many things, not just letters, in fact if you buy enough you can wallpaper your bathroom with them...

if you want a set hit me via my website contact page

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Well nap time thursday was slated to be an art & artist photo shoot, (somehow I forgot to post aspen expanse piece to my gallery site -ironic- given it's the hugest painting in my house) but in all my furniture moving I knocked my camera to the floor and prompted shattered my lens. The morning turned from shoot into "Shoot!" Then again the silver lining in this cloud is that as long as I was forking it out for a new lens I might as well get a better one...(on it's way)
 A friend saved me in the mean time sparing me a loaner lens. Unfortunately the delay meant I left the room in disarray until the next days nap time when I could try again. I wanted a lineup of all the finished domestic pieces in a row (so I could see my work thus far, pat myself on the back and feel motivated to keep going) but this means needing wall space <20 linear feet and serious wide angle! When the series is done I'll have to line them up at warehouse or half a football field for a full panoramic shot.

Also the next time I scheme so gradiose a series. Please remind me to...
1. Not to paint so big
2. Not to paint so tight (I am not naturally tight- I am naturally really loose so tight takes alot of restraint, and intense focus for me to paint in a more regimented way)
3. Choose to set my sights lower than 12-15 pieces for the series
4. Give myself more than a 6-8 mo personal deadline for such an undertaking (especially amid devotedly mothering 3 young children, teaching early am seminary, being the blog editor of Segullah, and the 50 other things on my plate)
5. Choose simpler paintings that take less than 20+ hours to complete
6. Don't be passionate about it's message because, that way when it gets hard you can abandon the series and not care.

I CAN DO IT! (positive self talk)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Himalayan sense of accomplishment

I am generally not a procrastinator...
Actually though putting things off can sometimes be a good thing. Like recently, I did this with laundry until the mounds of clothes were in a word...epic? mammoth? nay Himalayan.  (This is after all one of the things I like to chronically put off-- because it has no deadline and I thrive on open-endedness. (This is why I made sure to have 3 weeks worth of underwear and plenty of clothes in college.)

See as I realized today, had I done this in a "load- per-day" timely fashion, it would not be a monumental task. And were it not a monumental task, it would not yield a monumental sense of accomplishment upon completion. The process of reverse-entropy on this scale is truly impressive, a sight to behold. Cubic yards of twisted robot bedsheets and footie pajamas artfully transformed into neatly folded piles spanning my entire family room (please note full usage of the 400+ sq ft) turning it into a mini scale version of the man-made world archipelago in Dubai (PBS documentary watchers anyone?) Then hefting the baskets upstairs (thats how my arms stay cut- with loads like this if I keep it up they'll probably better than when I played lacrosse).

Revealing this to the public may paint me in a less than glamourous light, but I promise no one was injured in this stunt, no real neglect. No one was forced to go naked or wear dirty clothes. While my husbands drawer now has 16 more pairs of socks in it, he was no worse for wear. The sock count runs around 5 dozen pairs, so as you can see I could have drawn out this laundry strike shenanigan even longer. (This might also give insight into why I insist upon very spacious, deep drawered dressers?
It also meant letting my kids shuttle the baskets from the laundry room to the family room and dump them out- something they love. Nothing like achieving Mach II maximum velocity with a slick plastic basket on polished hardwoods given a good 50 foot straightaway.

We tried to see how tall of a mound we could build, had a rousing round of king of the laundry mountain. My 2 year re-enacted what seemd to be scenes from Lawrence of Arabia with a blue tea towel on his head.  Something this big called for a party, so mom put on a movie (arise joyous shouts from my TV- limited children) They are cursed with a mother with a child development background seeks to create some cultural growth restriction and therefore my kids don't watch TV much. (Don't get me started on the correlations between violent media and behavior or marketing influence on children- thats when former college professor smart mama pops out, wearing her studious looking glasses and instantly descend into journal and statistic-speak-it's not pretty- just be glad you never had to listen to me lecture for 6 hrs hours straight. )

So don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, unless it's laundry because you might miss out on a party and a Himalyan sense of accomplishment!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I am Spartacus or rather "Art"acus

Domestic series is finally continuing after a forced holiday hiatus. The new lamp piece, while almost done, is forcing me to channel my inner Spartacus. Must conquer! Seriously the light glare on the midcentury pecan wood, like being a a ring with a fierce lion. (You didn't know I could get gladitorial about that did you-- these paintings should know not to mess with me, I always win especially at scattergories)
I have painted it 3 times and still don't like obviously the oafish slave guy from Thrace is currently pounding "Artacus" with a spiked metal club (not well verse in the lingo of ancient roman weapons).

After this I have 5-6 more to go before I switch to some mothering pieces. I have already done the studies for them and I am dying to get to them, but again I must call upon my inner Spartacus' steelly resolve and determination to not jump ship but see out my first project before going to the new series. (see I knew all those Latin class hours in HS I spent watching Kirk Douglas would turn out to be life changing and inspirational) Also on the radar are 2 commission pieces to get done in the next 2 weeks (those involve money now so they should take more priority bu they just aren't as fun)

Currently I rate my busy-ness on the "time- to- reply-to-emails" scale (like the how many minutes to hold for customer service) which is currently about 3 days (and thats for messages under 2 paragraphs only). This week I start doing my artist-in-residence program with a local early childhood program. (dining room table= supply drop zone) I love exposing preschool children to great art as well as eally helping them understand and engage in the process of art making/art thinking. One thing I found so interesting in my readings for my masters thesis was the path of children's creative development and how it really bottoms out by middle childhood if not given supportive/appropriate art experiences. I am always surprised by the resistance I face from adults and even other educators with their "traditional and "product" expectations. Tomorrow I will delve 3 year olds into the exotic world of Henri Rousseau. Which the thought of those orange tigers makes me think some chicken tikka masala might be in order to round out the day.

Speaking of preschool art, I loved it when I picked up my son from his preschool the other day (shaving cream/glue mix) snowmen on the wall. His wonderful teachers who share my philosphies, laughingly assured me I'd be able to easily spot my son's on the wall. While most of the others were fairly straightforward- face only- my son had covered his with dozens of colored beads! Ahhh, I was so very proud to be the mother of the beaded pavĂ© snowman, becasue plain white snowmen seriously that's so last season!

So listen out tonight... if you hear shouts of "I am SPARTACUS!" echoing through the snowy New England hills you know it's just smart mama wielding burnt sienna and paintbrush victoriously, okay maybe just determinedly over the brutish pecan dresser.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

entertaining to a different degree...

Scene: Christmas Vacation dinner party at my aunt and uncle's.

Guests: aunt and uncle, uncle's daughter and husband, one of their sons, Dean (who directs and edits films) and his girlfriend Jenny, one of the cast members of Saturday Night Live, my uncle's ex-wife, my parents, and our family. Reggie and Hoby (dogs).

As the luck of the place cards had it, poor Dean and Jenny, got stuck not at the grown up table but at the kids table with me, Allen, and our 3 boys. (As we are the closer generational equivalents) Although in thier minds, this was probably taking the "just treat celebrities like normal people" thing a bit too far.

Really they are very delightful and excessively affable but, as NYC dwellers, I am sure they are used to a more thoroughly fascinating crowd (as comic as my children's dinner table antics maybe).

A simple a run down of the following words illustrates the dichotomy of our lives
after-parties (them)=hip weekly dinners with SNL cast after the show
after-parties (me)= me with a headache after 2 hrs of smelling vinyl and stale air at one of those warehouses filled with giant, bouncy house inflatables for preschooler's birthday parties

driver-(them) someone to drive you to swanky parties at secret locations
driver-(me) me in the minivan which desperately needs vacuuming and has boys names graffiti ed in the accumulated dirt on the side-panels, passing pretzels to the backseat.

Funny- (them)- a great SNL skit that 6 million people watch or editing a good episode of Food Party for IFC
Funny-(me)-my child procuring cake with a lacrosse stick, me envisioning MacGuyver like ways to escape when locked in my bathroom, using my emergency supply of pleather in my attic, pan-handling on the side of the mass pike, my parents thinking I was not mature enough for really sharp knives (part 1 & part 2)

Our dinner of Yorkshire pudding and prime rib was interspersed with enjoyable discussions of NPR fund drives (hold out for the good donor appreciation gifts I say- don't be a sucker for the tote bags!), reminiscence of memorable school projects, the recounting of our recent lego Guggenheim creation, and missives on food, cooking, & New England life (jenny is native of my fair state).

At one point, amid peas with pearl onions and roasted potatoes, as my boys played with Reggie the dog, we talked about the proclivity of young boys to use everything in a way which is dangerous or destructive (or at least potentially so). I recounted my recent blog inventory of the top of my fridge, resting place for all such confiscated items.

Dean said, (In polite dinner party conversation form) "You have a blog? I want to read it!"

At this point I choked on my water.

"No--really it's just a mommy-blog" I back peddled-- quickly. I really hadn't meant it as a "oh I have a blog" but it rather it slipped out in the course of the story. The recent years up-shift in activity and responsiblities have left my writing languishing as well as often un-spellchecked (I am a publish in rough draft form kind of girl-- too busy to revise- you know I am always doing 500 things at once). It has become this random compilation of recent paintings, my harrowing motherhood escapades, shameless shows-offs of my progeny and their projects (ewok gingerbread village anyone), and something occasionally mildly thoughtful or funny.

(note in the course of the conversation I also learn Jenny's sister is a food writer/blogger and her dad is a poet, who publishes in the New Yorker)

I know my place though. Not a top ten blog read, (it may hold a certain voyeuristic suburbian mom appeal like the people of Walmart site). I should have said it's entertaining to a different degree- and I use the word "blog" loosely.... It's amusing to my friends... Surely the 19 followers in my sidebar stands as a testament to my mass popularity (hey maybe I should do a giveaway just to followers to pad my numbers a bit!). In defense of my "high celebrity" blog status I will provide the following supporting evidence)

exhibit A. Actually most of my 19 "followers" are not IRL friends but are indeed strangers.

exhibit B. Most of my most beloved fans/commenter's (aka real life friends) are not "followers" just catch up via their google reader (maybe because I made some disparaging remarks in the past about term followers sounding Jim Jones-esque)

exhibit C. My stat counter log and meager blogher ad revenues (wait those stats probably come only from other suburbian moms reading my how to make an R2D2 cake tutorial for their kid's party)

exhibit D. I have actually had people in public recognize me from my blog and once even had someone ask to come over to a mutual friend's because they heard smartmama was going to be there and wanted to meet me(my 5 minutes of blog fame).

I brought cards with prints of my new domestic paintings on them as holiday favors (I mean at least being a artist who paints headless women engaged in domestic tasks probably buys me a little space in quirky artist department which makes room for some "allowances". Maybe next year if they are lucky they'll get a seat at the grown up table and a self-published compilation of the best of smart mama...

(really Dean and Jenny always a good time- such a nice evening, and maybe I should sculpt some golden award for your endurance of dinner at "the kids table"!)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

in the works

Well as many of you know I am a child life specialist by profession, which means doing psychological preparation & therapeutic play with children in hospital settings. My absolute favorite thing that comes with that is being able to do medical missions for Operation Smile. (You can read more and see pictures here from some of my travels to Kenya, Philippines, Siberia, Morocco.) I have done many missions in post, mostly before having kids, but this year with no "little" babies I decided it was time to dust off the suitcase and expedite the passport for another adventure.
Going on medical missions profoundly changed me. It has changed my sense of place in the world and the way I use my resource and for this I am always grateful. As it looks now, I be spending 10 days in Amman, Jordan this year on another medical mission. So I am madly mentally preparing and will soon be literally packing a playroom in a suitcase. I am actually really excited to do this as a mom because this time my kids can be involved in the preparation and the service (even though they won't be able to go with me) I am excited to go and bring back pictures to my boys and show them how the things they sent helped others.
My job is to oversee the psychological, emotional and devolpmental needs of all the patients. Screening usually take a few days. Many children wait in line all day with hundreds or thousands of people just to be screened for surgery. (As I can attest merely standing in line for 10 minutes with my boys at the post office can be rather harrowing- let alone a good 5 hours!) Then the day of surgery, they spend the day in the playroom, NPO, waiting for their turn. I have all ages from babies 6 mo or so all the way up to teenagers. Many of these children are very anxious especially in an environment surrounded by strangers. The play and teaching about the surgery goes along way to alleviate anxiety and make the experience a positive one for them. We use play to provide a developmentally support environment, to provide distraction/alternative focus during stressful times and procedures, to help children understand in a developmentally approrpaite way what will be happening to them, and it breaks the language barriers as the teams are very international and we require interpreters for communication. For many of these children having facial deformities and visible differences has made them the object of teasing or shame.
You can support Operation Smile in many ways.[And if anyone would like to donate any supplies I do have a "wishlist" of things (as do CCLS for the many missions OpSmile does all year- we bring all our own stuff- I can you link you up with others you ever want to help) that are always welcome and really appreciated on missions (mini Slinky's, puppets, finger puppets, bubble wand necklaces, water tubes, doctor kits, stickers, mini suction cup ball hoops, jenga, to name a few). Being limited by space and weight makes it challenging. (I also have a few small projects kids/families can make if you are looking for a service project (beading kits, cutting strips for paper chains, etc) Please feel free to contact me email is on my profile page]