Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Yoga Mama

My illustration on an article about prenatal yoga in the latest Kiwi Magazine.

This is way more serene than the yoga I do now, which I call "Combat Yoga" - where each of my children fight over how many of them can fit underneath me in any given pose. Sophie's favorite trick is to do the Downward Dog pose directly under me while I do it, and then Angela rushes and slides in on her tummy under Sophie (unless Peter beats her to it). No matter how precarious the pose or how many times I tell them that if I fall on them, I will squash them, they consider it a personal challenge to be as close to me as humanly possible. And don't even get me started on the fights they have over the bricks.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

art vs. design

I was incredibly honored to be nominated for Best Designed Weblog in the Bloggies this year. When I went to look at all the nominees (for everything, actually), I noticed that there seemed to be a definite division. There were sites that were incredibly crafted, coded out the wazoo, devoted to design with every last pixel of their being. Sites that had perfect CSS; sites that discuss web design on a regular basis.

And then there's mine.

My code is far from perfect. I talk about art, but not about design (web, graphic, or otherwise, although I am an Art Director at my day job and have to talk about it all day). I talk a lot about being a mom and the struggles to meld art and family without going insane.

Oh, and did I mention that mine looks nothing like the other entries?

I've noticed since the noms came out blogs which mention all the other nominees but me, as if I'm in some different group that doesn't belong there, darling. Not one of us. And then there's people who voted for me BECAUSE it looks completely unlike the others. There are people that think that anyone else who has watercolor on the top of their site is ripping me off (ha!) and those who say, "well, it's arty, but... "

So what do you think? Is there a line between what's arty, and what's design? Do you have to have amazing code to have good design? Who did you vote for? (It's okay if it wasn't me!) Be honest. (If I wasn't in it, I would have voted for Subtraction. Hands down. Have been a fan for a while.)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Guest artist: Sophia Grace

Sophie is four years old today.

When Sophie was two, she taught herself to read.

When Sophie was three, she started writing.

I can't wait to see what this year will bring. I love her more every day. Especially when she draws me stuff like this:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Packaging Girlhood

I just finished the most amazing book: Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes. I highly recommend this for any mom or teacher (and isn't that what all moms are anyway?) Plain and simple, the authors break down how girls today are targeted by marketers every step of the way, through what they see on TV to what the covers of board games have on them (by the way, not ONE had a girl winning the game.)

In our house, we don't watch commercials, even the ones on PBS. :) Although some of my sitters have been aghast to hear that my kids don't watch Disney films, the only thing my kids have seen is Mary Poppins. (No offense to you if you like them, I think 4 is far too young to pretend your prince needs to rescue you. Not to mention every "princess" in the movies has no mother, who has been conveniently killed off because she interferes with the plot. But I digress.) And while I thought that I was being a little overprotective, after reading this book, I'm glad we've taken that approach.

The book points out how "Girl Power" has been taken over by marketers to mean that you have the power to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex. Or that you can buy things. Your choices are pink, sparkly pink, and purple (don't believe me, go read the chapter excerpt on Amazon and see the research these women did.) Your choice is to be either one of the guys, or to try to get one. Seems cut and dried, but once you start looking, you see examples of this everywhere.

Luckily, the authors also point out ways to have good discussions with your kids, as early as preschool, and to let them be aware of what's around them. They never say "don't be a cheerleader, play the flute, like ballet, be girly", but they do point out that girls have a billion other options (play soccer, play the drums, take up kickboxing, and you can still be girly). They help you show your girls that marketers are trying to manipulate them, and that they are smarter than that. I've taken it a little further and make sure we mention everything in front of Petey too; this way he grows up understanding that girls (especially his sisters) are more than just pretty faces.

One of the things we do is just comment on things. Like the kids play dress up, and Angela yells, "I'm a fireman!" So I tell her, "Well, you're a fire fighter, because both men and women are brave and put out fires, right?" Or we watch Curious George, and I say, "Wow, isn't that great that Professor Wiseman is such a smart woman! Do you think she's a good scientist? Do only men get to be scientists?" And we talk about it.

Do you see this in your own kids? What do you tell them? Do you think this is a bunch of hooey and I should just put in The Little Mermaid DVD already and shut up?

Some more great reading:
The Paper Bag Princess: We're loving this book. What makes a princess a princess? For certain, it's not her clothes.

What's Wrong With Cinderella? A must-read for every mom. Because as the author tells her daughter, "It's just, honey, Cinderella doesn't really do anything."

Commercial-Free Childhood: Great site that shows how many strange places marketers are trying to get your kids' attention and build brand loyalty at a very young age.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

All you need is love, love...

We take the same pic every year. See the kids grow up:



Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How we do it

The following is from a note I wrote to my Walking In This World group, which has a few mamas in it who are trying to make more time for their art in a schedule that's already jam-packed. I figured I would share what we do in the hopes that it helps someone out. Feel free to add your own advice in the comments. :)



Have you considered hiring a sitter for Sunday afternoons? We have sitters (High school girls) come in for 2 hours every night just to help me feed the kids and get them off to bed, b/c my husband teaches music classes every night until 10ish.(I can do it by myself, but it's difficult with the three under 4 and trying to be supermom has gotten me sick many times from exhaustion.)

Anyway, so my kids are familiar with the girls (not to mention Grandma!), so sometimes we have one of them come on a weekend afternoon for a few hours to play with the kiddos while we get our own work done without them around. I have painted, written letters, and just napped while they've come over. And then I'm refreshed when it's time to make dinner and see everyone again. Or sometimes, we just order a pizza so I don't have to cook. Or we have pancakes for dinner. :) We pay $8 an hour for the girls to be there for 3 small kids, and we're right there in the house in case they need us for any reason. This seems to work out well for everyone.

I also think that you need to make sure that your husband understands how important your art, and time to yourself, is. You can ALWAYS say, "His work is important!" but so are you. My husband was incredibly supportive while I was doing The Artist's Way (still is), but I still have to point out to him that we almost always get a sitter so he can work, not the other way around. :)

Not sure if financially this is possible, but since you are working, you might want to look into hiring cleaning help. I know this sounds extreme - it did to me when my husband suggested it, I thought, good lord! I can clean my own house! We don't have funds for that! But we wound up spending at least one day every weekend doing nothing but cleaning the house. And that just sucked. (Keep in mind also that my husband's studio is part of the house, and we have 75 people coming and going and using our bathroom each week. :) So we have a super-nice lady come every other week to clean the house and it is SO WORTH IT TO ME to not have to spend all my time scrubbing the stove top or cleaning the toilets and whatnot. Anyway, you might want to look into it - figure what your time is worth, what your sanity is worth, and see if this could possibly be an option for you.

Regarding bedtimes - this is the thing that saves me - we are incredibly regimented with our bedtime procedure. I have had other moms tell me, "My guys will never do that." Ours do becuase we MAKE them do it. And don't take no for an answer. I am so fiercely protective of my evening time (for my sanity) that bedtimes are strictly enforced. :) They also know the routine so well that I don't dare skip a step or do it out of order, or they call me on it.

My three all go to bed by 7:30, 8 at the very latest. By 6:30, I mention that we all need to start cleaning up. They all have to help put away their toys themselves, because I can't possibly do it all myself (the sitter helps too, but we mainly want the kids to do it themselves.) Then they have to try the potty, and everyone gets into diapers/pullups and into their PJs. Everyone should be dressed and everything put away by 7ish. Then they each get to choose a picture book and we all snuggle on the couch and we read to them, or what happens when a sitter is there is that she reads and I run upstairs and make sure everything's ready - make the bed that Peter's flung blankets all around the room, or fill their humidifiers, etc. Weekend nights when Daddy is there we get the laptop and watch 1/2 hour of something - the Muppet Show, vintage Sesame Street clips from YouTube, Classical Baby, Schoolhouse Rock.

By the time the books are read, we all go upstairs. They know they all have to walk up - not get carried - or they go straight to bed. We brush teeth, go into Peter and Angela's room and say (or sing) our prayers, and then do our "thank you God"s where they tell us things they're happy about, and we ask God to watch over our family members/friends who are sick. Everyone smooches each other, it's 7:30 and time for the sitter to go home. The twins hop in bed with threats from me of what will happen if they get out, :) and I close the door.

Sophie tries a last pee, then she hops in bed and tells me Three Nice Things about her day, which is kind of a gratitude list. We read one more story - very very short, like a poem or something, switch off her flashlight, smooch, and she's done. If she's not sleepy, she reads in bed - she has a flashlight that's easy for her to turn on and off. By then, it's 7:40. They mostly stay down for the evening, and I have until 10:30 when Paul is finished to do my own work. They also know that after they go to bed, Mama is painting. And they're interested in that too, especially if they know that they get to see it the next day.

Anyway, don't beat yourself up, and don't give up either - you're doing great things for yourself just by trying to work through the book and by trying to learn more about yourself and your art.

Hang in there!

love, Elena

Friday, February 09, 2007

Illustration Friday: Crash

Mama said there'd be days like this...

from my Every Day In May extravaganza. I swore last year in June I would never do it again, but now I'm thinking that I'd really like to. So mark your calendars if you want to participate, come May...

Keep believing, keep pretending

Faithful readers of this blog know what a hero and inspiration Jim Henson continues to be to me (I lobbied unsuccessfully for each of my kids to have "Henson" as a middle name. Hmpf.) Anyway, I want to share some marvelous wild Henson geniusness I've come across recently:

Jim Henson video collection at the University of Maryland . I am especially excited about watching the "Experimental Films", some of which I have read about many times but never thought I'd get to actually see.

The Cube. Henson's wild film about a man trapped in a cube that others can enter and leave, but he has to figure out how to get out himself. Thanks to my super-wonderful brother, I now have my own copy of this. You can actually download it, it's in the public domain now. Or just watch it. (About an hour long.)

Timepiece. The Oscar-nominated short. Watch Jim Henson paint an elephant lavender, among other things. (About 9 minutes.)

Wilkins Coffee commercials. We've said "A house just isn't a home without Wilkins Coffee!" since we were in high school. Here's why.

Outtakes from Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. Not for the kiddies, but really, really funny. Jerry Nelson and Frank Oz are joking in the longest clip.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Everyone's birthday's coming up very soon - Sophie at the end of the month (4) and Petey and Angela at the very beginning of March (3). I asked them if they would like me to make them special rag dolls they could dress up and play with, and they got quite excited. Especially when I told them I'd make each doll look like one of them!

So - here's the big question to those of you out there who make toys on a regular basis - what kinds of materials do you recommend? Did you ever make a doll you could throw in the washer? Do you know of any good (free would be lovely) patterns that are not too complicated?

Petey, Sophie, and Angela have colored about 50 photocopies of those dolls now....

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Illustration Friday: Sprout

An illustration I did a while ago for Bank Securities Journal. (Paul was the model, and no, he doesn't really have that tie.) Here's the spread: