Tag Archives: Parenting

Sunlight and Forsythia

by Kate

In this grey stone city, the forsythia has burst forth into belated flame.

forsythia

It’s difficult to trust the thaw after such a slow and frozen spring, but if the peach blossoms can open to the new warmth so can I.

branch and blossom, garden, pittsburgh

Goodbye, socks. Hello, swing.

baby swing arsenal park

Hello, sun. So good to see you again.

sunglasses 2013

Thank goodness we can leave the huge heaps of coats and sweaters at home when we head out into the city.

exploring the city pittsburgh

The sunlight opens wide the great world outside our tiny home. I can’t wait to explore it.

red doors heinz chapel pittsburgh

 

 

Waiting for Spring

by Kate

She’s standing in the window on the radiator dancing, singing, and telling stories.

ballerina baby in the window

Snow is falling softly.

There is a park across the street and this morning she asked me to take her there. It is cold though, a raw wet dismal damp last day of February cold with snow falling like frozen drops of spittle from a bedraggled old white haired witch in the sky.

I didn’t take her to the park. It was all I could do to push the stroller up the hill this morning with a heavy baby in the sling and a huge bag of sheet music slung over my shoulder, headed to play harp for the old folks who have lost track of time. I haven’t.  I am ready for spring.

So I will let her dance on the radiator on this long grey afternoon, while we dream of spring.

Finding Balance

by Kate

I cannot do everything at once. Lets start with laundry. I have not been caught up on laundry since Francisco was born. It has prevented me from using cloth diapers which triggered a whole heap of guilt in my country girl in the city soul. I am happy to report that I started using cloth diapers again yesterday and (so far) it is going splendidly. My theory is that now I will be forced to do laundry more often.  Also it is almost spring and in the spring I hang all the laundry on the line. I am much, much better at getting the laundry done when half the job involves stretching my limbs under an open sky.

But more to the point, there is this rise and fall, depths of desperation and peak of elation pattern to my life of late. Let me paint a couple brief pictures for you.

I am pushing a jogging stroller (with Olympia in it wearing a velvet party dress and a blanket tucked over her coat and hat and boots and with my bags containing sheet music and library books etc. precariously stacked above her) up a steep city street one handed, using the other hand to boost up and nurse the baby in the sling under my winter coat. I am sweating because it is quite the climb and because I overstayed a tiny bit at Teresa’s house to do one last thing for her after making her breakfast this morning and as a result I am running late (again) to punch into the Memory Care Unit at Canterbury Place and spend half an hour playing the harp. I am trying to get F to nurse as much as he can so he will be relaxed and happy and I won’t have to awkwardly play the harp for the dementia patients WHILE wearing him in the sling and nursing him and using a pashmina to (hopefully) cover my breast while doing so. There is another block uphill to go and I feel like it is too much.

Then.

I am in the sunny room overlooking an enclosed garden, in the Memory Care Unit. I am wearing jeans and boots and long dangling earrings and playing the harp, to the delight of some of the lined familiar faces in the room. There are others I suspect enjoy the harp as well, though their heads are bowed. Francisco is being held in the arms of the beautiful stylish black aide who has 3 year old twins herself, and he is cooing at all the old people and just won a smile from a man who hasn’t smiled all week. Olympia is in the middle of the room, twirling like Shirley Temple. She has been sitting still with apple juice and graham crackers that she knows to expect, looking at my books of music, and now she is dancing. I am proud of her.  There is so much peace and joy in the room, and in this moment, for me.

Or…

Maybe it is the hills. The hills and the stuff, the big bursting bags of badly packed stuff that I carry around with me, the stuff that is not goldfish or wipes or diapers, those I either don’t carry or don’t have enough of. The thought of the drive up the hill to the Dance Studio after loading a toddler and a baby and my overflowing bag of fringed dresses and huge carimbo skirts and hair flowers and a sequined hat and ballroom shoes and the spiked silver five inch heels, and carrying them all up the steep steps after crossing the icy parking lot with a shrill winter wind whipping across the street feels like too, too much. I feel fat and tired and am castigating myself for trying too hard and not staying home and doing my laundry.

Then.

There are flamenco dancers pounding patterns on the other side of the long studio, samba drums on the stereo on our side. Francisco is asleep in the midst of heaps of costuming after a long conversation consisting of much cooing with a beautiful Brazilian woman. I am sweeping a skirt through the air and spinning through a swirl of rose and gold. Olympia is underfoot at my right side in the midst of the dancers, grinning and leaping joyfully but so far I haven’t knocked her over. I strap on the five inch heels I will wear for a Fat Tuesday samba performance at a nursing home, the one at the top of the hill, the one where my harp is, shaking my head at the ridiculous nature of my life.

I am trying to find balance. True to my nature, for me this means samba dancing in platform heels for elderly people, accompanied by a toddler and a fat five month baby. It’s not wonder this involves so much lurching wildly from despair to elation.

And now, I really must do a load of laundry.

An Unconventional Alphabet

by Kate

No one has ever described my family as conventional. While my parents didn’t believe in television, regular hair brushing, or (to be honest) a great deal of rigorous discipline, my father did teach me that it is totally appropriate to bring a toddler along as an assistant when, say, taking photos of a dancer at a fancy art opening. So last Friday evening I pulled out my trusty pleather leggings, put my toddler on my hip and my camera around my neck….

and headed downtown.

Granted, there was a bit of a tense moment with the security guard when Olympia headed with wide eyes toward some fascinating and fragile paper dancers.

In fact, that moment convinced me that next time I headed to a fancy art gallery, I would do so alone. There are limits to the toddler as photographic assistant. But overall, Olympia was extremely well behaved. She was very interested in the exhibits…

and this view from this corner of the gallery.

It is a great view of the Pittsburgh Downtown.

She hung out with us in the pre-performance backstage glamour familiar to every bellydancer, ie the ladies room….

And watched Janim’s gorgeous performance with wide eyes and complete stillness, crouched on the floor by my feet.

I am totally unfamiliar with shooting dancers, let alone taking photos in dim spaces awash with multimedia art presentations flickering on multiple screens, and I was unable to capture the startling beauty of the veil performance, but I did get this great shot which I think captures some of the great joy my good friend Jen radiates when she dances.

After the performance, we gathered up silk veils and toddler and slipped through the crowds of sophisticates and out the door.  Outside the SPACE gallery, we took time for an impromptu alphabet lesson.

I don’t let Olympia watch television at home, and so far she has missed out on the glories of Sesame Street…

…but we are definitely working on the whole alphabet thing, in our own way.

Bright, light.

by Kate

This week marks the midpoint of my pregnancy. I celebrated this milestone with a trip to the thrift store. After a full month of wearing beat up low cut jeans with a rubber band strung through the frayed buttonhole on my more sophisticated days and regularly fighting the temptation to wear pajama pants in public, it was time to admit that I needed maternity jeans. In the dressing room, I pulled on a pair and then threw my arms to the sky in exultation. Why, I wondered, did I hesitate so long? In fact, why does anyone wear anything other than maternity pants with a soft elastic waist, ever?! I will know the answer to this a few months hence, but for now I am reveling in dowdy luxury.

Except on formal occasions, like the Legends of Raq Bellydance show I attended last night with my toddler as my date.  On formal occasions, my current policy is to keep dowdiness at bay with brightly printed dresses and high heels- four inch high orange wedges, in this case. Because every six foot tall pregnant woman lugging a squirming 40 pound toddler to a late night live dance show needs high heels.

I do love those shoes. I saw them at Target last week and reached out for them, powerless to resist. I figured they would elevate my maternity style, both figuratively and literally, and I really think the knowledge that I possessed them gave me the courage to reach for the maternity jeans again. Everything else we are wearing came straight from a long and productive morning at the South Side Salvation Army. My maxi dress was inspired by my gorgeous sister-in-law Nicole, who is also six foot tall and due to have her baby any time in the next two weeks, and the general explosion of color was inspired by my husband, who recently informed me that wearing all black at all public events is not always sophisticated and is often boring, and also by my bright curly haired toddler who is VERY proud of her fingernail polish and was a delightful date at the dance show.

And finally, my recent sartorial brightness is definitely a result of the spring and the flowers and the light pouring into the world. The world is bright, these days.

Mirror, Mirror

by Kate

Once upon a time, I lived in a cabin high up a rugged and rutted gravel road on a green Appalachian mountainside. The cabin was one room with a wall of windows where I could watch the clouds roll in and away again. I was in my mid twenties, had a job I loved, and had just begun taking my first serious dance classes. Late one night, hopelessly lost in the back streets of downtown Asheville, I pulled into a parking lot to figure out how to find my way home, and saw the glint of several huge mirrors that had been ripped out of a hotel renovation project and left out for the trash collectors. Any new dancer knows that a good mirror is crucial to private study, so I enlisted a friend to load them up and haul them to my home. The first one shattered, and the top of the second developed a jagged edge, but we managed to wrestle two of them into the vehicle, over the mountains, and into my life.

After a year in my solitary mountain studio I became a city girl, living in the heart of downtown Asheville. My mirrors came with me.

When my sister Mary visited the big city, the mirrors witnessed our sister spats and ridiculous bouts of Goodwill inspired dress up.

My mirrors reflected the transformation in my life after I met the tall half Mexican guitarist who would quickly become my fiance, and served as the backdrop for the pictures and stories that got us through a year of long distance engagement.

And when I married and moved across the country to the smoky grey industrial city of Pittsburgh, the mirrors came with me, adding light and beauty to the dark apartment where we spent our first year of married life.

There is a mysterious and magical quality to those silvery mirrors, doubling and deepening the light in any room and transforming any space into something more. But oh, those jagged edges and the sheets of heavy glass balanced precariously against my wall. My toddler loves to dance in front of those mirrors, for hours… and that is why it is time for those mirrors to exit my life. I’m listing them on craigslist, today, in the free section, in hopes that some young artist with a big truck to transport them and a studio with no children wants to spirit them away. Meanwhile, I’m headed out to the thrift stores, in search of a safer sheet of glass to reflect my current life, which is still full of dancing and dress up- and now includes small dancing dressed up children as well.

Exuberant Daughter

by Kate

The peach blossoms have fallen, the tulips are blooming, and today my daughter turns two years old.

Long limbed, curly haired, and exuberant, this child runs so fast that her feet barely skim the ground.

I have to run to keep up with this child- because she is so fast, because the world delights her so much and she is chasing it with open arms.

We catch her and hold her safe between her wild leaps of faith…

And give her a place to rest.

This year has been full of good things. Lots of books…

And music,

And dancing.

Lots of mischief…

And lots of beauty.

You are blooming, Olympia Julianna. Happy second birthday to you!

And now I’m off to make the chocolate cake I wrote one year ago. You can find the recipe and the story of Olympia’s very first birthday here:

Kate’s Chocolate Cake