Thursday, July 31, 2008


Re: First Art.

The Jell-O fingerpaint recipe: a little gritty and sticky, but worth a second try.

The cornstarch paint recipe: pretty easy, once you amend the recipe by reversing the amounts given for the cornstarch and the water. But requires a LOT of food coloring to make real color on the paper.

Freezer paper for fingerpainting: excellent.

Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv: interesting. The thesis is too simplistic to suit me, but even so I don't disagree with everything Louv is arguing. The main point seems to be (I hedge because I'm only half-done) that all this technology stuff defining our lives and environments nowadays has led to our children suffering from "nature-deficit disorder." No free play, no natural environments. A lot of reminiscing about his own past prowess at building tree houses. A lot of lamenting today's children's lack of tree house expertise. I find the appeal to "nature" problematic, but I can agree that divorcing self from physical locatedness, one's own body, and the connectedness of our physical world is detrimental. But this is an issue of embodiment, not an issue of "Nature."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Two current status updates among my facebook friends:

  1. is 10 reasons to not like Barack. #3 Nobel Peace Prixe winners: Algore, Jimmy Carter, who's next, Obama? I can see it now: most un-american american president.
  2. is under Satan's spell apparently for supporting Obama. Seriously!
Of course, I should disclose that I changed my middle name to Hussein, so I'm not non-partisan despite the neutrality of my current facebook status, which hopes


Sunday, July 27, 2008

the tattoo

The passage of time gets written on our physical bodies. Not just in extra pounds and wrinkles and sad deflated-balloon post-breastfeeding boobs, but in scars and aches and pains. Most of these signs are marks of past accidents and sometimes even traumas.

We don't often have a choice about how our bodies become marked in this way. It is the result of our human vulnerability and the arbitrary circumstances that add up to those childhood accidents and falls, the adult wrong-place-wrong-times. But taken all together, they can narrate, in some sense, our personal history in a way that we often overlook.

Michel Foucault knew this.

Brent has resigned himself to my tattoo, but he still doesn't get the why. It goes beyond the actual symbol itself, although I love my tattoo and am ever grateful that Casey would be willing to share it with me. (She is a generous person in so many ways, tangible and intangible.) I wasn't really able to explain it, not having analytically considered it thoroughly myself, until the Thweatt fam reunion a couple weeks ago.

Where I saw my cousin Kevin again for the first time in probably ten years. Still proud of my fresh tattoo, only a few weeks old, I was hyper-alert to everyone else's...and a surprising number of my relatives do have them. Kevin has a large, beautifully rendered tattoo on his arm, a portrait of his older brother, my cousin James. James Bruce, named after my own dad. James was a little older than me, Kevin a little younger; our ages stairstepped down to my sister Ally, just a year and a half younger than me. They were fun. All Thweatt cousins are fun, it's part of the genetics, but we seemed to see James and Kevin a little more often than others and they were always favorites.

James died young, when I was still in college. It was a shock; I can remember the day and the circumstances when I found out. News like that knocks the wind out of you, you can't process it immediately, just wait until that sick, awful feeling of not being able to breathe passes, and then try to keep breathing in and out. Eventually breathing becomes normal again.

Kevin's tattoo is beautiful; it took three sittings, Kevin told me, by the best artist in town. And it is a physical sign of how certain things mark us profoundly, even when the scars don't show. I like the idea of tattoos, of choosing to mark our bodies deliberately with symbols that speak these profound things; there's a transparency, an honesty, a physicality to this kind of narration that seems to suit the vulnerability of such naked truth-telling.

Friday, July 25, 2008

death count: 7

Two more this morning. We're thinking about borrowing the humane mouse traps again, just to have more traps out there. The spring traps have caught 3 so far, bigger than the others we'd seen. The tunnel traps seems to do well with smaller mice but not bigger ones. It doesn't seem like the stuff the exterminator put down is really slowing them down any. But maybe that takes awhile to have an appreciable effect...?

I reorganized the office a bit this morning while Clare was dancing around the living room downstairs to "Lazytown." (I really despise that particular show. All the puppet characters look like they were born with FAS and the main girl actor is all cutesy in pink and madeup with more mascara than I use for a night out. But Clare dances around to it so joyfully I can't bring myself to cut her off.) Anyhow, once I got all the boxes out, it was clear that the file cabinet really needed to be in the corner, and that meant moving not only it but also a bookcase full of books. That's what I get for poor visualization skills. (See, Em? I am helpless without you, kid.) Anyhow, I got it all switched around and like the result. There's a lot of usable space in here for crafty artsy stuff with Clare and also for yoga, whenever I manage to find some time to do some yoga. Generally there's so much else to do during naptime that it never happens, and the one morning I tried it while Clare was awake she kept running in here and grabbing at my legs while I was trying to do balancing poses. It's not easy to stay in "exalted warrior" with a 35-pound toddler hanging on you. So the only permanent result of that experiment is that every so often Clare will lie down on the floor and kind of wave her legs in the air and announce that she's doing yoga.

So now I am really ready to start working. And yesterday I added another item to my fall agenda (much to Brent's dismay). Leaven has an upcoming Theology & Science issue and I am just not passing that up--it's too cool. Luckily it sounds like I can work up a short article based on stuff I'm already doing anyway. Gotta love that. And I'm hopeful that this enforced break from research will provide me with a little bit of perspective on the transhumanist stuff I was sort of drowning in before; I really do want to provide as accurate and fair portrayal of the movement as possible, but I need to avoid getting too bogged down in the details.

Well. For some reason no one turned on the dishwasher all day long yesterday and so I have a dishwasher full of clean dishes to unload and a kitchen sink overflowing with the detritus of last night's dinner makings: homemade pita bread, hummus and babaganoush means quite a bit of kitchen wreckage, and with the mice and all, it's really a terrible idea to let things just sit around dirty. And that means Today's Naptime is dedicated to my very least favorite activity in the Whole World: Cleaning My Kitchen.

Don't know where the Emily Dickinson caps came from, just felt like a little emphasis was needed, I guess. So you all know How Much I Really Hate It.

Later today, perhaps a venture down to the park with Clare on the bicycle. We'll see. I still feel nervous about it; the bike slews around quite dramatically as soon as you stop moving, and I always feel like I've barely avoided a terrible fall. I suppose it wouldn't kill us but OH, the Guilt...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

mice, playdough, thunderstorms and dissertation guilt: a stream of consciousness post

Well, we caught another mouse last night. This was a big one, and the old-fashioned spring trap killed it dead. It was in one of the bottom cabinets that we haven't been using for awhile. So--that's five total we've caught, and we don't know how the poison stuff has been working (the exterminator has some way of checking that but I think he said he'd give it a month before coming back to check them). Hopefully there's some kind of redemptive reality for mice in God's eschatological intent. Endless landscapes of peanut butter, dotted with cheese? Stickier than pavement of gold, but far more edible.

It's been raining for a couple days now, nice thunderstorms at night. I love it, especially here in this house where everything is quiet at night and the only things you hear are the rain and the thunder. Clare's gotten a little scared of thunder, though; yesterday evening when it started storming she just sat in my lap and didn't speak a word for at least 5 whole minutes. That sort of freaked me out; right as I was really starting to worry, though, Brent came home and daddy's arrival snapped her out of it and she started talking again.

Right now she's singing her favorite improvisational song, "la la la la la." She's really enjoyed the blue and pink playdough we made this morning. Yay for finding my toddler art/activity book finally!!! And for inheriting cookie cutters from Laurie (or another former resident???) and food coloring from Sarah's cleaning out of her fun kitchen items preparatory to moving to Strasbourg. These rainy days could have been a lot worse!

I also love that there's this window into Clare's room from my office, so I can sit here and amuse myself and peek in on her without moving from my desk chair. That is awesome. She's so cute when she's all absorbed in her play and doesn't know she's being watched. She's cute when she knows she's in the spotlight, too, but then she starts to perform for you and that's a different kind of cute.

The pink and blue playdoughs are now hopelessly mixed up together.

Just for fun, for any moms who read this blog and would like an awesome playdough recipe, here it is:

1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 t. cream of tartar
food coloring
2 T oil
1 cup flour

Mix the first four ingredients together in saucepan over low heat. When the mixture is warm, add the oil and then the flour and stir until it gets thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. To test for doneness, pinch a bit of the dough between your fingers. If it doesn't stick to your skin then it's done.

The First Art for Toddlers & Twos book is great; if you're looking for something like that, I highly recommend it.

I finally got all my office books unpacked and on the shelf--in LC order, even. This amazing accomplishment must be credited to Terri (sp? must ask her) who is going to hang out with Clare Tues and Thurs afternoons this summer so I can get a bit of writing done and hopefully finally finish this interminable posthuman chapter! I got more done than anticipated Tuesday, especially since I anticipated spending some time with orientation and getting Clare introduced and comfortable. They hit it off just fine, and I actually heard Clare shrieking with laughter downstairs at one point. I am so happy about this! Clare's been aching for some social interaction with someone other than me. And I'm only fun when I'm well-rested and unstressed, which happens just about never. But with some time to devote to my own work after quite a few weeks of hiatus, hopefully the neverending dissertation guilt will be somewhat assuaged and I can devote myself to enjoying time with Clare with an unburdened conscience. Those of you lucky enough not to have ever dissertated won't understand, but mainly writing a dissertation involves a lot of guilt. When you're working singlemindedly on it, you feel guilty about all the other more significant aspects of life you're not doing: relationships, exercise, basic personal hygiene...and when you're not working on it, you feel guilty because it's supposed to be THE priority and you're not making any progress. Plus, of course, no matter how much progress you actually make, you never feel like you're making any at all; so basically, trying to write a dissertation just means signing yourself up for a huge catch-22 load of guilt no matter where you turn. I think all PhD programs should make therapy mandatory during dissertation phase, or at least institute student self-help groups, or something.

Enough. I just tore Clare most reluctantly away from her beloved playdough because it's past naptime, and that means, make the most of this hour: shower, eat, talk to Brent, and if there's any time left, a 10 minute power nap because the thunderstorms have made Clare, and therefore me, sleep poorly the last couple nights in a row.

Thanks to all of you with the mice advice and help. I'll keep you posted. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

of mice and men

Brent made my 32nd birthday awesome. My fam is real low-key about birthdays, to the point that when I get a belated e-card from a sister or parent I feel all warm and fuzzy inside because they didn't forget. That's just how we are. And since we're all like that, no one gets fussed. (Actually, my dad is an exception to this. Knowing that he would be out of the country on my bday he called the night before he left to join Mom and Jarrod & Al in Honduras to say happy birthday, 9 days early.) But Brent is a real ritual-type person (go figure, right?) and birthdays and holidays are a big deal, not to passed over lightly or in silence. So not only was I showered with gifts, things that he either knew that I would like to have although I hadn't thought of wanting them yet (like gardening tools now that I have dirt to scratch around in), or things that I've wanted for a long time, like a bike seat for Clare and a frame for the hammock I bought years ago in Honduras when I visited Al and the kids there...but he also found a babysitter and a great local Italian place that was just right--great food and a nice but not stuffy atmosphere. I think it's been at least a year since we went out for dinner like that. It was so nice to just sit and relax and talk over some wine and good food. I totally splurged and got one of the specials--and lo and behold, it came to the table with half a lobster on top, had no idea what I was getting myself into. I even had one of those cute little seafood forks to eat it with. Special implements! Wow!

But Sunday night apparently the commander-in-chief of our mouse population ordered a surge. We found more droppings in cabinets formerly cleaned and sanitized, a real psychological blow. We're thinking of negotiating terms of surrender; but they'll have to be something we can live with long-term. I'll gladly give them the basement if they'll just stay out of the kitchen.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

catching up

So, I know I dropped off the face of the earth for a bit and while I was in limbo I composed several blog posts in my head, most of which center on my disgust with the ubiquitous patriarchal elements in the narratives of pretty much all children's entertainment. This is undoubtedly indicative of the fact that, deprived of both TV and internet access while sick with pink-eye and a cold and home with Clare all day, we've watched Disney movies and "Diego's Great Dinosaur Rescue" over and over. Why must the maiasaura be female and the T. rex male? Because. Thanks, guys. It's so scientific to read our gender expectations onto extinct creatures from the Cretaceous period.

Unpacking having been interrupted by our trip down to Emerald Isle for the big Thweatt fam reunion, we've been a little slow to get back into it. Clare's room is finally done, though; all it lacks is a nice bright kid's rug from Ikea or someplace. That will have to wait awhile, so for all practical purposes, it's done, done, done. And it looks great. It's light and airy and little-girl perfect, not frilly but very cheerful, with the pale sunny walls and all the windows, and Priscilla's blue and yellow flags from her baby shower up. It's one of the best rooms in the house, with a view of the backyard, the front and the church next door.

Other rooms are less complete; exceptions being the spare bedroom, and our bedroom, which is a little sparsely furnished but has everything it needs. Downstairs, the living room desperately needs a sofa. The futon gives us something to sit on in the meantime, but it really needs a new cover and to go in the sun room (which is itself hopefully a somewhat temporary measure, as it just shouldn't be downstairs at all. It was very secondhand when we got it five or so years ago, and it's seen some wear. I'd really like to put it somewhere in my office.) The entry hall is the least finished--it's basically full of boxes. I've also no real idea what I should even do with that space anyhow; Em's suggestion is a little round table for a vase of flowers. Other than that, we have a hatstand... We also haven't put anything up on the walls. Upstairs there's a nice bit of hallway space for my family pics, so at least that's not a hard thing to figure out. The living room wall colors were picked to correspond with our square "tapestry" piece and the Waterhouse Lady of Shalott print, so those items will go in there somewhere but they're not up yet. I can kindof see how things will shape up eventually, but the question is how long even-tu-al-ly really will be...

And there are other things that need to happen, like, I need a watering can so I can properly take care of the beautiful backyard and flowerboxes we inherited, and Clare needs a sandbox (there's a great spot for it, where Laurie had the hot tub. Too bad we didn't inherit that! ;) I'd also like to plant some stuff--kitchen herbs at least. It's criminal to pay $1.99 for a bunch of fresh basil when most will go bad before you can use it, and it's so easy to grow. And we need a vacuum cleaner, because even though most of the downstairs is hardwood, there's carpet upstairs and we inherited a couple of really great large rugs too, and I can't see cleaning those with my ancient dustbuster on my hands and knees.

Clare's started really picking up some Spanish from all her Dora watching, and yesterday we caught "Kai-Lan" for the first time and she learned "xie-xie." Must, must get on the ball with the foreign language stuff if it's going to happen. I could at least teach her the Chinese "frere Jacques." It did after all serve me well back in Wuhan--always good for a laugh when the classroom got dull though it did make me feel like a performing lao wai monkey. She's learned a lot in the past few weeks, like, she can now attempt to color actual objects with her crayons (not that she stays between the lines or anything, but it's more than just aimless scribbling) after watching her very accomplished five-year-old cousin Sol color. And she's definitely losing her little Buddha belly; it's still there but she's that leaner older toddler look is slowly replacing her baby rotundity.

Mostly though we're at the point where I need to start putting together a reliable routine, especially for the morning. I think Clare still doesn't realize that this is home now. She keeps telling me that she's going home to see Albert. Rarely does a day pass, in fact, without a mention of Albert. It's still amazing to me how strong that friendship is--before witnessing it, I would have thought that toddlers were an out-of-sight-out-of-mind bunch, but not these two. And she misses school. Every so often she'll inform me that today she is going to school, or she'll mention her teachers or Miss Polly. I'm sure that hanging out with me all day is a real letdown after being used to the Children's Garden, where they did awesome stuff all the time, and then going on the Trip to the Big Water, which she just couldn't get enough of, and besides, had Nana and Pop and cousins to make her day nonstop fun. These days, especially since this past week I've been feeling less than 100% due to pink-eye and an obnoxious cold, are a little TV-intensive. Which reminds me: I have got to track down my toddler art book, or we'll all go crazy, and that means utilizing naptime for searching through book boxes instead of blogging. But I figure if anyone's still reading at this point you are adequately caught up: my internet absence having been filled with the mundane activities of unpacking and parenting accompanied by sniffles, coughing fits and eye goo and much groaning.