Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blueberries dreaming of cookies

One of my PiBoIdMo ideas from November…still in process!

Where does a blueberry want to end up?
Sitting and waiting at the bottom of your cup?
Under a leaf, peering through blades of grass?
Or wistfully looking up at a wee little lass?

If I were a blueberry, I'd want to swim
in a bowl full of cereal and milk, partly skim. 
I'd want to be warmed in a sweet, gooey pie.
I'd want to be thrown in the air, up high!

I wonder if each blueberry has its own dream.
I bet it would want to be the blueberry queen.
Or a banker on wall street, crunching the stats.
Maybe a weightlifter, building those lats?

Whatever those blueberry wishes might be,
I am always reminded when I see one flee.
Falling out of the box and onto the floor,
I imagine it trying to get to the door.

I reach over and give the blueberry a roll;
It wouldn't be happy doing laps in my bowl.

I wonder if I give it some time to think,
if the blueberry will give me a tiny blue wink
and bounce out the window to follow a dream:
playing ice hockey on frozen whipped cream.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Headline Cookies

I have been crafting a blog post in my head for about two months. It's a doozy. Problem is, it's not coming easily, which means I'm not ready to share and also means I haven't shared ANYTHING. Which is ridiculous, because there's been big stuff to share recently, but I've been so concerned that I don't have a big ravishing post to post that I haven't been posting anything.

I subscribed to the Boston Globe for the first time. Today was the first Sunday the paper arrived at our doorstep, and when I pulled it out I had one of those "ohmygod I'm old now" moments (like after you have a brownie before bed and you can't sleep. Because of a BROWNIE). And then, when that brief holy moment passed, I actually started reading the headlines, and that's when it hit me:

I can just write the headlines.

Headlines are valid. They're sometimes all you need (when they're well-written). And at least they're something. So while this bigger post is cooking, here are some headlines.

I made a huge decision about 6 weeks ago, and left my FableVision home for a new job down the street from my house. It was a really hard decision. Probably one of the hardest I've ever made. I love FableVision. I love the mission, I love the projects, I love the clients. But most of all, I love the team. My FableFamily. I've been through so much while at FableVision. I can't measure all I've learned. I got married. I went though 6 years of Trigeminal Neuralgia and consequential neurosurgery. Grace was born (finally). I've been through so much life with FableVision! But I was taught, though, that family is family and is always there, no matter what. I plan on proving that to be true, guys.

I am really excited about my new job. It's in Salem. It's a fast growing company, the people are fun, quirky, and genuinely nice, and did I mention it is down the street from my house? I have more time with Grace during each day, and I'm 15 minutes away from her. I love working in my home town. I get to go to cafes for lunch that we never have time to check out on the weekends. I bump into my neighbors while on a coffee run. I go to the farmer's market on Thursdays, which is around the corner from my office. There's something so nice about truly being local.

I could go on, but this is only headlines.

I'm participating in PiBoIdMo, or Picture Book Idea Month, to those of you not in the know (pretty much most people). I'm supposed to have an idea of a picture book every day this month. I have a few pretty good ideas. There will be more on this, later.

Grace has started putting words in the right places. It really happened all of a sudden, but her sentences are so complete now. And she's using pronouns, and those are in the right places, too. She comes up with phrases like: "I don't want it," or "Grace Lennon Cotter wants to play," or "what's her name?" She's mimicking the adults in her life, too. This afternoon (while wearing a chef's outfit) she put me down for a nap on the floor by covering me with a dishtowel and telling me to close my eyes and go to sleep. She sat next to me and rubbed my back and sang me songs. It's just magic watching this kid grow.

Another headline: It's really fucking cold out.

And finally, last weekend we went to Darien for Q's 3rd birthday. It was such a great weekend. Grace's few hours in the Knott playroom were probably the best of her life, primarily because of:
1. her cousins
2. the two crates of Thomas trains
3. the trampoline
4. and last but not least, the ball pit.
And I cried again when we left, because I hate leaving my sister and her babies. I just hate it. But this time I have a reason to go back very, very soon--I have to reclaim my brownie honor. Abby and I had a brownie bake off on Saturday night. And, I know this is going to be hard for some to believe, but…
I lost. The Cotter House brownies LOST to some undercooked, flat-ass-looking Abby brownies. (Oooooooh, I said it.) I love you booger, but my brownies are all I got so I will be coming to reclaim my brownie honor very, very soon.

That's all the headlines for now. I need to go read the paper.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Brownie Cupcakes

Our little girl turned two a few weeks ago. I don't know how two years have happened. I mean, I KNOW how two years happened but how can time move like a snail and those weird zippy water bugs at the same time?

I made brownie cupcakes for her little BBQ party. And I also made them for her class at daycare--the only difference being the frosting--I had run out so the daycare cupcakes didn't have frosting. And little-miss-two-year-old refused to eat it without frosting, I heard. Apparently our two year old is a tad stubborn and a pinch picky.

Last week was the first big adventure of Grace's third year. I took some precious time off (to have a proper summer vacation) at the last minute, and made several mini-vacations out of it. We started with a trip to Connecticut to see the Knotts--Vivian, Q, Lydia, Abby, and Kurt. 

(In photo: Abby, Me, Q and Lydia (under hats), Vivian and Grace. The sun was in our eyes, and this was the best one we got!)
We had FUN. There was a lot of being silly, wearing bathing suits all day, tumbling in the grass, melting down, playing with trains, group baths (toddlers only), and wine for the mommies and daddies. We also got caught in a rainstorm, watched a giant excavator next door, scootered down a secret path, and swam in the 89 degree pool. This video is a great example of our crazy weekend:

Oh, and Grace learned that a giant orange mesh gate at the end of the driveway means stop. Well, after running into it like three times. I'm trying not to take that as some sort of cognitive development sign and chalking it up to her stubbornness, instead.

And then we had to leave, which is getting harder every single time we go. The kids are really loving each other now and seeing them play together feels like watching a sweet sappy movie. I love it. I love watching what a remarkable woman my sister is. I love being proud of her and learning from her at the same time. I love that we put our babies to bed and then do each other's hair like when we were little. I really love it. And then when we have to leave, we both cry and then laugh because we're crying but we really do cry and our husbands roll their eyes and our kids get all concerned and ask why we're crying. But how do you explain? You just can't. So we cry and we laugh and then we wave and drive away and can't wait to do it all again.

Q and Grace having fun

Then Grace and I headed to the Berkshires together--just the two of us! It was our first mommy daughter overnight, and I was so, so proud of her. She spent a loooong time in the car, she had late naps, early naps, and shorter naps, she slept perfectly in her travel crib hotel room, she behaved in a restaurant with no crayons, toys, or food from home, and she picked two pounds of blueberries (well, I picked 95% but she probably ate as many as she put in the bucket)!

We visited Grandpa Don's house in North Chester and stayed on Smith Road as long as we could before the mosquitos ran us down to the river. We sat at the river for a long time, ate our yogurts, and threw lots of rocks into the water. Grace didn't want to get in, but I let my feet soak for a long time, thinking of Grandpa Don, and John and Betty Tucker, and my Uncle John jumping off the rocks. I put a few rocks on the dam, marveling that there was a time when I could actually walk across the rocks that now are the size of two of my hands. 

We waved goodbye to the river and waved to the minnows and then went to the 200 year old farm where we've always picked blueberries.

 Grace has never been there so I was really excited to bring her. She loved picking her "bluebooberries". She kept walking up and down the rows, saying "lots, lots bluebooberries, mommy!"   It took a while to learn about the green berries, though. Not sure how many of those she ate.

The next day we went to the Eric Carle museum, on the campus of Hampshire college. I was ridiculously excited to see it, since I've never been and it's a museum about and for children's books and children's book art, and um, that entire concept makes me giddy. AND there's a Mo Willems exhibit (Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie, etc), which is like frosting on my brownie cupcake. Truth be told it was hard to keep Grace from destroying things and also enjoy the exhibits--BUT there was a giant Very Hungry Caterpillar, and a beautiful art studio, where we drew with colored pencils for at least 10 minutes until Grace saw something shiny in the corner and ran off.

And then it was back home, to have more relax time, and lots and lots of ice cream. I had a real vacation with a real kid--a kid with a ton of personality, a lot of laughs, a lot to say, a kid who is growing up faster than I have time to think about, but has a lot left to learn. Watching her learn it is an adventure in itself. We'll start this fall learning how any brownie is worth eating--even without frosting.

Grace vs. Strawbaberry ice cream. Grace won.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Honest Cookies

So you know when you get to work on a Monday and everyone's like:
Hey! How was your weekend?

And you're like: 
Great--how was yours?

Yeah. I'm just going to just be honest right now. It was not a good weekend. The weekend had some really wonderful moments and I'm glad the weekend happened. It definitely...moved my life forward...? But overall, it was not a good weekend. And here is why.

Being a grownup is really fucking hard. Why does no one TELL you this? 
The only thing close to it is when you're in college and all the adults shake their heads at you and cluck-cluck like head-shaking hens and say: Enjoy this time. It's the best time in your life. 

And you just stare at them, because really, college isn't all that great. It's better than high school, but not only are you trying to figure out who you are, you're also trying to figure out what you want to DO. Oh, and who you might want to do it with--but the guys all look like this:

 And you're also trying to party a respectable amount (but not too much) so you have a friend or two but you really kinda despise every second of the Thursday-Saturday sweaty body beery thumping party thing. 

So when the head-shaking hens just smile at you and tell you to enjoy THAT, you're just thinking they're old and wistful and don't have a clue. So what they SHOULD have said was (and what I'm saying to all my college-aged buddies is): 

Listen to me! All you have to worry about right now is getting up for class. That is a gift. It gets a lot--a lot--harder. Remember that when you're running to get into brunch at 12:59 pm. That beats figuring out how to pay for new gutters and get to daycare on time on .5 gallons of gas when your bathroom walls are moldy and your best friend is mad at you but you can't deal with it because you have to call a client as you make lunches for the next day and fold laundry with your feet. 

No one really ever says this. Everyone just says:
Great--how was yours?

What are we so afraid of? I'm beginning to wonder if all of this would be easier if we all told the ugly truth. Would it be ugly if everyone was just honest? So here it is. 


And all I can do is get through each day, one by one. 

And be so, so very grateful for the people holding my hands. Especially the little sticky hand holding my hand, and the great guy holding her other little sticky hand. Those two hands. 

Recently, a mom-friend and I were lamenting our lack of time and she said:
"I should write thank you notes to all my friends who are still my friends. But I don't have time to write the notes."

It was a perfect way to express what I think we all feel. But no thank you notes will ever be needed, if we all start telling the truth. 

Some days are hard. And some days are not. And some days all you can do is hang on to those hands.
And that's the truth.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cookie Raising (like barn raising, only yummier)

This might sound stupid.
But today it hit me that we're actually raising a child, here.

I know, classic small-sighted-get-through-each-day thinking vs. big-picture-meta-woah thinking; what's the big deal? It's a big deal to me because I've always been a big-picture thinker--to a fault. I sometimes can turn tiny comments into larger life-changing metaphors. If you don't know what I mean, ask my husband.

So to suddenly realize that all these little things we do with Grace every day add up to a person--make up her outlook, her worldview, her dreams, her ability to love and communicate and understand others--that felt big not only because of what that means, but because I hadn't thought about that huge big picture for quite some time. I've been a little stuck in the daily grind.

Last Saturday, we had just gone upstairs for her nap. I reached into her crib for her binky, which she only gets when she's sleeping, and I held it just outside of her very happy, open mouth. Then I slowly started to pull it back, as she slowly started to move forward, and we both collapsed into giggles for a good couple of minutes. I laughed because she laughed; she laughed because I laughed. She got the hiccups.

And that was it. Such a little moment, but those are the ones I want to give her. Those are the ones that I want her to remember and want to pass on to her own kids.

And I think most moms feel that way. That's why, when we're more exhausted than we ever thought possible, we can muster up any amount of energy for our kids. That's why we don't have time to get our hair cut and send our kids to daycare with a sweater and a raincoat and rain boots and forget our own umbrella.

And I hope those moments count more than the ones I know I won't get right. I hope making two or five or ten of the good, full, happy minutes for every one of the not-so-fun minutes will mean that we're raising the kid okay, that we won't end up feeling like we're in a Lifetime Movie when she's 18, that she won't hate us and might even want to talk to us honestly (when she can talk in sentences).

Oh, and I hope that she doesn't see through to the fact that even though we're supposed to be raising her, she's really raising us.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Smeared with Cookie

I've been working on this for about 10 years. It just keeps growing. But I wrote it today because I don't want it to grow anymore. Maybe now my fear can end, because it's all down on the page and it will all stop. Obviously still a work in progress, but I wanted to get it down. I don't have a title yet. Any ideas?

It was September 12, 2001.
I was with a small friend:
Netanya, age 6.

We were coloring.
Netanya looked at me.
Something bad happened, she told me.
Yes, I said, meeting her eyes.
Mommy said someone died.
Yes, I said, nodding.
She chose another crayon.

One person died, she said.
She stopped coloring and looked at me again.
Did more than one person die?
I looked at her eyes, so big, so big.
And I said, Yes. I said, more than one person.
She didn't look away.
Two people died?
Yes, I said.
Then her eyes get even bigger.
Did more than two people die?

More than two? She said again; it was
just a number so big. So big.

It was April 15, 2013.
I was with my husband and daughter, Grace,
whose age we still counted in months, not yet two.

She was blissfully eating a cookie with
peanut butter and chocolate.
Someone died, my husband said.
I looked at him.
One person? How many?
I don't know, he said.
More than one? I said, as we tried
to contact everyone we knew who ran,
who stood at the finish line.

More than two? I thought.
Not again.
Grace grinned, as one smeared with cookie, would.
As kids everywhere, would.
As the kids at Sandy Hook did, earlier that day.
A number so big, that day. So big.

I wiped Grace's hands, held
her to me and forced myself to walk
outside to the swings
where we could swing into the sky, so big.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Baby small cookies

I am pulling out the plug from my overfilled bathtub of a brain. I have been keeping myself from this blank white page with so much possibility because I'm just too full and I'm afraid of what might come out. I'd love to think it will be gems of every color, shining and polished, but it will probably be smelly old bottles of milk and long gross toenails. But I'm going to take baby steps. Start small.

Here's the thing. It's been a little bit of a crazy few months. My grandfathers both passed away, first of all, which is the major hole that I had to put a cork in. I got through the week of two memorial services, stayed as strong as I could, and I'm just now starting to get those moments of complete sadness and silence where they both used to be. Mostly when I'm reading to Grace at night and she's nestled under my chin, and I remember sitting on their laps. Mostly then.

My baby girl is growing every single day. She is not a baby girl anymore. She is a little girl now. She sings songs in the car, which pretty much blows my mind. She counts as we go up and down the stairs. She has grown enough hair for pigtails. It makes my heart ache with adorable.

We also did some traveling over the last month or so, to beach and sun after the string of snowstorms that, at first came with a sense of relief from routine and then slowly turned into a mean, windy, "nah-nah-you-have-to-shovel" bully, whipping outside my window. So over that. We were so tired when we got there that relaxing was the only option. Except it was more like falling-in-a-heap. And it was lovely.

And now, finally, spring is here, the yard is slowly being cleaned up and turning a deeper shade of green every day. Grace doesn't have to wear a hat every time we walk the 3 steps from the house to the car. We threw a football around last weekend. I got a hair cut. We are unfurling like little baby ferns. Starting small.

Here is my takeaway from this long, drawn out, end-of-winter time: these days, life moves like lightening. It is up to me to pay attention, to chronicle, to just. stop. moving. It's not hard. It's small. But I have to stop. And savor. And remember.

At my Grandpa Don's memorial service, I was struck by how many people had stories that started with: "Don changed my life." It was amazing. There were so many stories I never knew--none of us knew. It was wonderful of those people to share, and I smiled at the thought that even though he wasn't there in person anymore, Grandpa was still there, teaching us by example. Do good. Reach out. Start small.

It was 70 degrees on Monday. It was 45 degrees today. We're starting small, slowly. But we'll get there; baby steps.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tough Cookie.

When I was in high school, I took a pottery class. I discovered two things: I stick my tongue out when I'm concentrating very hard and I was not cut out to be a potter.

But I made one thing that had lasted until this day. It was a gift for my grandfather. It is a small tile, adorned with a pillow and a blanket. The tile reads: When the going gets tough, the tough take naps!

My Grandfather, for as long as I have known him, took naps. During our summers together we always had to play outside while Grandpa and Grandma were napping, to make sure the house was quiet. Grandpa Don thought naps were the cure to everything.

Recently, my cousin Kaela and I went to visit Grandpa Don and Grandma Ruth. We wanted to say hello in person, to be there for both of them, even for just a few hours. It wasn't an easy trip. We both knew it may be the last time we would see Grandpa Don. But we chatted and even laughed together in Grandpa's room for a while, and then Grandma took us to see their apartment. And there, sitting on the dresser, was the tile. It was smaller than I remembered, and I could tell it had been broken into several pieces and painstakingly glued back together.

Last night my Mom told me Grandpa Don was sleeping a lot; his congestive heart failure made it hard to do much else. It's tough, I thought, and he's taking his naps. And somehow that thought made it slightly better.

Early this morning my Mom called to tell me that Grandpa Don passed away during the night.

First I thought of his proud smile and how I would never see it again. Then I thought of the clip-on holly bow tie he wore every Christmas. And then I thought of the tile on his dresser. And I remembered  the last time I saw him. He was eating lunch in the dining room: chicken nuggets with BBQ sauce, and chicken noodle soup. I took Grandpa's hand, kissed him, and told him I loved him. He did the same, and I squeezed his hand for a time before I let go.

Sleep well, Grandpa Don.
I love you.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dreamy Conference Cookies

I contemplated joining SCBWI about 5 years ago. I had a beautiful little pamphlet that lived on my desk next to my laptop for about a year. Occasionally I would pick it up and pet it softly, turning it over and thinking about whether or not I belonged in SCBWI. Was I even a writer? Was I a children's book writer? And for some reason, 5 years ago, the answer I came to just wasn't yes. It wasn't no...but it wasn't yes.

I love writing. I've always loved writing. I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I have secret pride in my ability to tell a story. I studied writing in college. But 5 years ago I did not have enough confidence to say that I was a writer. Just having a dream wasn't enough for me to say: Yes, yes, I am a writer.

Then, a few key things happened. I had a child of my own who immediately became the one audience member I wanted to impress. And a very close friend went to her first SCBWI conference and came back with literal fairy dust poofing out behind her as she flipped her hair. Her eyes shone and her teeth glowed whiter. I could tell she was, in fact, a different girl. The day she got back she turned to me and said: "Next year, you have to go. It will change your life."

And then, even THEN, after seeing her fairy dust and white teeth, I waited. I waited until the last day of early registration for the annual NY conference. Before I registered I did a lot of thinking and soul searching (as an over-achieving, under-producing, full time mom, and full-time employee often does), asking myself: what do I really want? What is my dream? What is next?

Well, it's hard thinking about these meta-mega-questions every day, as life is happening very quickly around you. My answer came quite simply one of those evenings, with messy pots and pans and dishes and toys and cups piled everywhere on the counters. Grace and I had just finished dinner, and she ran back into the kitchen with a book, speaking her own little toddler language without punctuation, and handed it to me, saying "dankooo" (thank you). I sat down in the middle of the floor; she sat down in my lap, and we read the book together. She closed it when we were done, and handed it back to me, like it was a brand new book she'd never opened before and looked at me with her eyebrows raised. "Yeah!" (read it again) she said. And so I did. Despite the chores, despite the mess, despite the time ticking closer to bedtime, we sat and read together, because it's important, because she wanted to, because this meant more to both of us than clean dishes.

That night I stopped asking myself what I could do and started asking myself what I wanted to do. And that night I said. Yes, I am a writer. And I registered the next day--I was an SCBWI member!

So. I am a writer, and I just gained a whole society of other people who are writers and illustrators of children's books. Yes. Yes! All of a sudden, I began to ache--just ache--to achieve my dream. It was like by just acknowledging the little girl in the corner of my soul, she whipped out a megaphone and started shouting "Book! Book! Book!" with each of my heartbeats.

Now, I have alluded to this, but I should stop and say that my daily life is...really really really busy, much like every mother's life, like every father's life, like every good employee's life. But I have been personally struggling with it all--the privilege of being a new mom and having a full time job as a producer, plus being a wife, sister, friend, daughter, and homeowner. I was having a really hard time (and still am) holding all those hats, knowing when AND how to switch them, and having enough hands to hold all the others while they waited.

So...writing children's books? That hat seemed superflous, was just something I wanted, not something on the to-do list which was already way too long and beginning to smell and get moldy. Doubts began to settle in again. A writer? When?

And was conference time! I arrived to New York last Friday feeling late to the game but excited to see if this weekend would in fact change my life. I was excited to see and maybe even meet my heroes since childhood, hear them speak about something we actually have in common. And I did! Tomie diPaola, Jane Yolan, Meg Rosoff, Shaun Tam, Julie Andrews (Fraulein Maria!)--they all spoke so beautifully that even the little girl in my soul stopped chanting to take notes.

This weekend I said at least 35 times in 2 days that I AM A WRITER. I heard from a few editors what they like in a book and what is selling. I heard a few of the greats talk about the industry.  I saw just how many people (an obscene number) want to publish a children's book (or 10). I felt the collective love for childhood, for reading, for the magic of books, for two days. And how do I feel?

I feel really happy. I feel like my dream is valid. I feel like I CAN DO THIS. I feel like, someday, I will come to a SCBWI conference, see old friends, and give someone really good advice, maybe even from a podium.

I feel like, someday,  a child will run into the kitchen and sit on the kitchen floor with her mommy to read MY book. And she will close it and hand it back to her Mom and say "yeah!"