Friday, May 25, 2007

The Grumpies

This is Canyon being very sick at Sadie's wedding dinner. What a trooper, not only did he have to put up with a wedding and eight little girls...he had a fever on top of everything else.

We have, at our house this very week, a phenomenon called “The Grumpies.” We got home from Sadie and Christians wedding and Canyon was finishing off a virus that he had the entire time in Logan and Alice was just beginning. By Monday I had it and we spend a few days hunkered down in a messy house just whining through fevers and croupy coughs. I’m feeling better now, and Alice is feeling well enough to be really awful…oh yeah and Jane started the croupy cough last night. So anyway…we are trying to hang in there…we are, however, glad to be home and looking forward to no more traveling until our camping trips this summer. I have to say…one bright spot in this week, Lily has really stepped up and has been an angel (much out of character). She practiced piano, did homework, went swimming, got ready for bed—all without being asked and even cleaned up Canyon’s legos (a formidable task for anyone). So I say, props to Lily—thank you for being a great helper this week…keep it up.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Art of Homekeeping

Trieste and I have been having this ongoing conversation about being a woman, being a housewife, being a mother. It’s one of those dialogues that never began and will never end. Aaah, the gender roles. Staying at home and being a full-time mother/housewife is difficult because it’s not commonly fulfilling. Now, let me explain myself here. I, personally, am very fulfilled (most of the time) staying at home…however, in general, the art of Homekeeping is not valued in our present day society and therefore it’s difficult to feel accepted as a contributor to a larger populace. I think that historically and possibly in other cultures…the role of homekeeper has been and is looked upon with highest respect. For example, we’ve all read Little House on the Prairie and I think it’s safe to say that our great-great grandmothers and all the work to keep the homestead going was greatly esteemed. Probably, you might argue, because the skills required to sew all their clothes, garden and store all the food, skin and cook an animal for dinner, be somewhat knowledgeable about medical emergencies, deliver babies, and bury their elders, put these ancestors of ours on a higher homekeeping level. I don’t disagree with that, however, in even more recent history women were more appreciated and there was truly value placed upon the art (and it is an art) of keeping the home. Just look at the Betty Crocker cook books and old “Home and Garden” magazines.

While I don’t love or worship Martha Stewart, I appreciate what she has done for homekeeping today. She has truly made it an art and is bringing back some appreciation for keeping the home. Her level of homemaking is extreme…but people are becoming more interested in this lost art because of her. Besides…while she was in prison—she taught the other inmates how to make crab-apple jelly. What’s to hate about that?

Alice Walker has this great essay, “In Search of our Mother’s Gardens,” where she discusses the only artistic outlets that women (especially African-American women of her mother’s generation) had was in their day-to-day chores: gardening, quilting, cooking, etc. It’s true that when separated from under the guise of homekeeping these talents are greatly admired: quilts on display, beautiful gardens to view, talented chefs, etc. Taken as a package and labeled under housekeeping…these talents are undervalued.

So, where am I going with this…I’m not sure really. I think that women have branched out of the home sphere in order to find a creative outlet that is appreciated. Having said all this, however, I must disclose that I am 100% supportive of women who work: whether as a creative outlet or out of necessity. It’s not that I need a little pat on the back for every diaper I change, five star dinner I cook, or first grade homework report I sign…but it does make us feel good. Here’s an example of how starved for recognition I am. Some years ago, I was at the grocery store and, as often happens, ended up bagging my own groceries. The clerk commented on my bagging skills even going so far as to ask if I had had experience bagging in the “real world.” I was so thrilled that someone had complemented me on something that I got downright cocky about my bagging capabilities. I’ve even considered a career bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s. And for those of you unfamiliar with the bagging art, it’s not all about the speed; organization and placement is just as, if not more, important.

So, what do I do? I try to find creative fulfillment in my homekeeping. I started quilting soon after I had Lily and find satisfaction in that. I also take pride in feeding my family good home-cooked meals (that’s not to say that I don’t hit the drive-thru once and awhile). And I, in general, try to make our home a pleasant place to be and that includes cleaning, laundry, organization, music (don’t be misguided, I plug my ipod into the stereo and very occasionally play Mozart on the piano). I sometimes garden (depending on the year and what stage of baby or pregnancy I have), and I make jam and applesauce. And, in case you weren’t aware, making Halloween costumes is also an art. I’d like that to be one of the challenges on “Project Runway.” I mean, try to get a 5-year-old kid to stick to one Halloween idea for longer than 30 minutes and you’re lucky.

We can’t and shouldn’t forget mothering and what an art that is. True, it’s one that requires much patience and practice…but, then again, isn’t all art like that? The product is extremely variable and so much harder to appreciate. But still, there is some satisfaction in the making of great people—especially when they’re little and cute.

So go out and notice the art that these women produce, right under our very eyes and recognize it, and appreciate it. And I’ll be damned if I’m not really good at drawing pirate ships, princesses, and sea creatures on the chalkboard. And if that isn’t art, what is?