Wednesday, March 30, 2011


We've been watching Haiti, wanting to do something. 

And I've been looking for a way to help that involves my kids.

At the same time, the twins have been begging to learn how to sew.
We got a sewing book for Christmas. 
Every night for weeks the girls and I pored over Hilary Lang's Wee Wonderfuls, Dolls to Sew and Love
We discussed our favorites, which dolls we would make first, 
what kind of dresses we would make for them. 

Then I stumbled upon the Dolly Donations blog. 
They're taking dolls to orphans in Haiti.
What better start to our adventure with the Wee Wonderfuls book? 

The Dolly Donations drive asks that the dolls have a love note or prayer tucked inside the body. 
Pip and Winnie got to help hand sew the faces.

The skin, hair and dresses are made from repurposed fabrics.

Can you tell they love these dolls?

Okay, we may have gone overboard a little bit. Surely each doll need not have three dresses.
But we love those orphans so much, and want them to have a teeny piece
of the joy and variety our girls have every day.

I made a little bag to hold the extra dresses, 
which doubles as a cape. 

The best and hardest part will be saying goodbye.

Love to Haiti!

Book Business:

I just found out that my brother 
Jesse Joshua Watson, author of Hope for Haiti
will be in Haiti again next month. 
He will visit kids in schools and orphanages, 
and help distribute books, supplies and soccer equipment. 
He talks about ways to be involved here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do You Hear Voices?

Writers collect voices.

We store them away in the brain-attic
till they roll around like freed billiard balls.
Sometimes they collide just as we're drifting off to sleep,
and then the voice echoes come floating down, snatches of conversation or loud comments:

"Your socks, Heinrich!"
"Commander, nobody likes jellied eel sandwiches." 
"What would you do with a gumshoe if a gumshoe lost his socks?"
"If I were a frog, I wouldn't have to take naps."

They're banging around up there.
"We see you, writer lady. 
Get to work and let us out."
One by one they escape.

Discovering each voice is
putting yourself into these strange shoes,
these small, flat shoes, worn down in the heel.
There's a flap of rubber that lifts up with a smack
every time you step.

It's walking around in this character's
tread-down shoes
until you develop callouses
where your character has callouses,
until you know instinctively
what your person would do,
would speak, would think.

Collecting voices helps you as a writer so that when one of those billiard balls
clamors around enough it can escape into your story.

Hear voices?
Don't panic.
Maybe you're a writer.

Still not sure?
Ask them.
I'm willing to bet at least one of the voices
will have something to say.

"Hearing voices no one else can hear isn't a good sign, even in the wizarding world."
        J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 

Some books with excellent echoes: 

Journeycake Ho, Ruth Sawyer, ill. Robert McCloskey
Junie B. Jones, Barbara Park
A Visitor for Bear, Bonnie Becker, ill. Kady MacDonald Denton

Most Loved in All the World, Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson
Alchemy and Meggy Swann, Karen Cushman
The Midwife's Apprentice, Karen Cushman
The Arthur Trilogy, Kevin Crossley Holland
Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

Which books still echo in your head long after you've read them?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Mystery of Six

Pip woke up with a tennis ball-sized lump on her neck.

I shook my hubby awake.
"I'm taking Pip to the Clinic. 
Can you take care of the kids?
Are you aware enough to be in charge?"

Oh... TV..., yeah."

       (For the record, he isn't normally inept at childcare. He really was laid out with a fever and chills.)

Eyeing my sadly oblivious husband, 
I had the same talk with 5 year-old Winnie.

"Honey, you're in charge while I take your sister to the doctor.
Can you make sure Sugar Snack, the baby and Daddy are safe?"

(Yeah, I know, I know!  I abandoned my kids. I left them alone. with their dad.)

Three hours and an ER visit later, we returned home to
Winnie's gleeful:
"Daddy's throwing up!"

These are the sacred moments. Right?

They are sacred.
Even just for a laugh.

Especially when the lump looks to be nothing worse than strep throat,
which our entire family of six has, too. 

And that's what brings me to the mystery of six.
Six people. 
Six weeks of being sick.

Six toothbrushes we should have thrown out after we beat the first sickness.

How did I not know this before? 

That's all I've got.
No phenomenal words on writing.
Just a fever and strep throat times six.

And pictures of what to do when every one's sick:

Make your own bouncy house. 

Clear out the living room, cover with pillows and mattresses. 
Add a baby gym to make a tunnel.
Cover with quilts. 

Instant bounce.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why It's Good to Look

"Sometimes I go months without looking" 
Phil Connors, Groundhog Day

Introspection takes courage 
and detachment.

I'm not brave or detached.  

But kids are.
Their take on flaws is joyful. 
They delight in uniqueness. 

Pip, Winnie and Sugar Snack entered their first art exhibition last week. 

They were thrilled to see their self-portraits
along with other darlings in the 

The exhibition sparked a theme with us.
We've been doing self-portraits in art and word.

How do you see yourself?

If you draw, try thirty second sketches.

my thirty second effort:
Try it with your eyes closed. 

my closed eyes effort:

Oops. Not nice. Ouch. 
It's good to look.
I don't examine my flaws with a microscope, but it's definitely good to look. 
At least at the paper. 
Whatever I look like, it's an improvement on the 
nose-attached-to-mouth study. 

I'm a pen and ink girl at heart.                          

Here's one with ink

and a little watercolor on top.

If you write, try quick self-portrait studies.

I tried a word self-portrait as haiku:

My Other Self, Not Called "Mama"

Eyebrows outline me
Club nose, smudge eyes, curvy lips
soft hair, song voice, hips

I hunger, I crave
warm sunlight, cool rain, word, breath
music, paint and bread

Pain teaches, sands down
crisp edges, all my best is
peace, salt, light, love, rest 

Word Self-Portrait 
by Winnie

I have brann hair
I have a noze 

I have a maos

Look at yourself.

Try to think like a kid,  a traveler, or an artist.

Enjoy your knobby knees, your fleshy bits, the wiggly part at the back of your arms, the smooth nubbiness of a mole, eyelashes that go on forever, spriggy white hairs.  

I list
by Pip

I have curly hayr
Red lips
funny noss
and iybras
one and a haf teeth

What do you see when you look?

More good dirt:

This week Molly Blaisell reflects on self-portraits.

A great children's book about discovering the inner artist:

The Dot by Peter Reynolds.


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