Things have really come to a head here at MamaStories. DH and I (and occasionally Amie too) looked for a house with land in one particular community close to Boston, and after exactly a month and about 16 properties later, we found what we were looking for. We made an offer, got a counteroffer, accepted the counteroffer, and we were off!

0.7 acres is suddenly quite intimidating. I am sort of disappointed but also kind of relieved that we’re not going to do any landscaping or big-time gardening this growing season. We’re too late (we;ll move in at the end of June), and will stick to exploring the land, improving the soil, and making lots of plans. But I did download and order heaps of seed and plants catalogs. I will need the advice of many of you readers!

And we want to concentrate on the house first, which needs insulating as well as a new heating and water system. So many exciting alternatives out there! Ever heard of geothermal? Imagine my excitement when I got Lehman’s Non-Electric catalog in the mail today, with much homesteadin’ goodness.

Also, after going through all that trouble finding a preschool for Amie here in Brookline, I’m going through all that trouble again, but on a much shorter notice, in a place I don’t know much about.

Meantime I was and am working on the last couple of chapters of the novel. The prospect of shopping for an agent and sending the manuscript into the big bad world is on my mind every day now. My faith in the book oscillates across the board in fell swoops left and right, up and down.

We’re not there yet, but close, very close!

Photograph of small farm on river bend

We are getting the house. It’s so exciting, I can’t blog a word. It has .7 acres! Okay, I really can’t say more. We still have the inspections to do! Gotta go.

Amie loves this quality drawing paper. It is stiff so it won’t buckle under the pressure of her pen, and it’s smooth, sucking up the Tombow’s ink just right. Expensive materials for a two-and-a-half-year-old, true, but it’s worth it. The only thing that bothers me is that the paper is a bit larger than letter-size. Amie utilizes the page from edge to edge, so when I scan it some part of the image is cut off.

She now automatically draws bodies and attaches the arms and legs to them. I’m afraid this time it really (almost certainly) is the end of the tadpoles. Sometimes there’s even a chin or a neck, and usually also a mess of big floppy ears and crazy hair, with here and there a beard thrown in.

Amie’s drawing: man with body, signed, 12 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten Amie’s drawing: man with complex body, signed, 14 March 2008 - see video (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I videotaped her drawing the second drawing above. It got really messy as she forgot which was the head and which the body so it ended up looking like an alien! I’ll try to get it on YouTube soon so you can get an idea of her drawing: very spontaneous, with big gestures and with running commentary. It’s so funny and clever.

She is also keen on signing her name now that she can write the letters without our physical help (some verbal cues are still appreciated). In the first drawing below she ran out of space for the letter I and E so she added them in front of the A and M. And sometimes she rotates the page to get at the empty space to sign her name. So, no, she didn’t draw the human figure on the last drawing upside down (I love, though, the way the ears attach to the hairdo!)

Amie writes her name, 13 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten Amie’s drawing: man with body, signed, 13 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

To witness the development of Amie’s drawing, check this out or click here.

Some more pages from my 2004 zine The Puffin!

Puffin 1, page 9 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten Puffin 1, page 10 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten Puffin 1, page 11 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten Puffin 1, page 12 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Pages 9 and 10 make me laugh. I like the second last drawing (page 11) best of all. I still remember that meal in detail: how the food tasted, what we talked about, the atmosphere in the kitchen, even at the end of what kind of day it came. I’m sure that if I hadn’t drawn that scene on the spot, that whole event would have been lost to my memory.

Carcassonne game played with Amie, March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

A lifetime time ago, when we were still kidless, we used to get together with friends and spend the evening eating a home-cooked meal, drinking homemade wine, chatting and, eventually, playing Carcassonne. I know, you thought I was going to write “passing out” or some such, but nope, we just played this nerdy board game.

What with a toddler around… forget it! The tiles would go all over the place, get lost, and what’s worse, Mama would lose because she would constantly get distracted.

Or so we thought. Then David, the owner of Eureka, a puzzle and games shop here in Brookline, suggested we play the game with Amie. Just treat it like a puzzle: let her match the tiles up! It’s very simple: match grass to grass, road to road, castle to castle.

Amie took to it right away. We take turns, and to make it more interesting draw tiles from one another, then put them down on the “board”. We play for about half an hour, and she has become quite good at filling up tricky gaps in the landscape.

Amie playing Carcassonne, March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I’m sure there are many more games around that can be adapted like that for much younger kids. Yes! You can relive the fun and games of your old life, or at least  somewhat modified versions of them….

What with all the house and land hunting, premature planning of gardens and scrambling to find a new preschool – after all the hassle we went through finding one here in Brookline! – I may be blogging less, but that doesn’t mean we’re playing less around here!

And even though I haven’t posted her drawings lately, Amie is still producing on average more over three “pictures” a day.

Here are some she made yesterday:

Amie’s tree, 9 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I drew the large tree outline, which she colored with green and brown. Then she added her own tree: the blue one, on top. A trunk, a crown! She did this spontaneously, after observing the tree I drew – and the one her Baba drew for her to color yesterday.

First, “little guy”. The ears are now the prominent features, but for the rest, these tadpoles have become quite formulaic and she is getting rather bored with them.

Amie’s “little guy”, 10 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I suggested that she might want to draw the head higher up, next time, so there is more room for the body. She immediately took that advice to heart and drew Maisy and Cyril (“Cyril starts with ssssss” and so it does!):

Amie’s Maisy and Cyril, 10 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I don’t think it matters to her (yet) whether she has enough room for the legs. What seems to matter more is that she makes use of the entire space underneath (though all that space on top in the previous draiwng didn’t bother her a bit). She does like to draw those “long legs, Mama! Those are looong!”

And again, note the big ears. I don’t quite remember anymore how Cyril (to the left) works: I think the blue oval-ish shape is his head/body and the black oval and circle are his ears…

Then, the drawing that amazed me most! This is Bambi:

Amie’sBambi, 10 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

When she wanted to draw the spots on Bambi’s back, she had to ask, though: “Where is Bambi’s back?” How strangely they sort out their shapes and body parts and directions. wish I could see through her eyes (and brain)!

(About her signature: she wrote the A and the i by herself. I guided her hand for the M and described the E verbally as she drew it. )

(If you want to follow the development of Amie’s drawing, check this out or click here.)

Photograph of small farm on river bend

We are looking, in earnest.

We’re looking for a house, with at least 0.5 acre, in a beautiful town near Boston that used to be out of our league but that has now become possible, what with our somewhat increased income and lower real estate prices.

I’m dreaming away, but I’m also keeping the dreams on a tight leash (is that possible?). For instance: No, honey, it’s not a log cabin in Wyoming or a strawbale cottage in the Great North Woods. There won’t be wolves and moose and snowcapped mountains. But there will be land to grow carrots and potatoes and lettuce. Perhaps you can have a chicken coop + run (check with the town). And you might still spy a fox’s tracks in the snow.

And you’ll see, at least, the sky when I look out of the kitchen window!

Ah, we’re looking!

- Amie, what’s the opposite of short?

- I don’t know! [she even pfsh-es, with an attitude already!]

- If you’re not short, what are you?

- Naked.

Amie, 2 March 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

“I don’t know” (with the attitude) is now a favorite, as well as “why?”, “why?”, “why?”.

She is also afraid of wolves, now, suddenly. She doesn’t want to read Peter and the Wolf all by herself. But this morning she woke up giggling and when we asked what was up, she replied, shaking with glee:

“The wolf jumped out of the sea!”

Anjalika of Middlemonth tagged me. When I read it was an A to Z tag, I felt somewhat anxious: A to Z !! But then I found out it is a rather short questionnaire. Phew. You could so spot the ex-academic in my reaction: I saw myself despairing over pages of hypotheses, arguments and conclusions.

A-Available?: Nope.

B-Best friend: Lots. DH and DD, and many women – primarily women. Funny, that: in Belgium, in college, I had almost only male friends… [try to keep it short, Mama!]

C-Cake or Pie?: Cake, chocolate, homemade.

D-Drink of choice: Milk, wine.

E-Essential thing used everyday: Glasses, journal.

F-Favorite color: At the moment, a cloudless spring sky blue.

G-Gummi bears or worms: Neither. I grew up with neither.

H-Hometown: Antwerp, Belgium.

I-Indulgence: Books.

J-January or February: February. It’s the shorter of the winter months, closer to Spring.

K-Kids and names: One, Amie.

L-Life: Wha… Am I supposed to keep this one short? I mean… life! Life’s a box of chocolates: it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

M-Marriage date: August 18, 2001.

N-Number of siblings: 1 sister.

O-Oranges or apples: Apples, for sure. I’m a local eater and I live in New England, so it couldn’t be otherwise.

P-Phobias: None that I can think of… Wait! Being kept waiting. Oh, that’s not a phobia, sorry.

Q-Quote: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity” – Thoreau.

R-Reason to smile: My daughter. The kindness of others. Things small, simple and beautiful.

S-Season: Fall.

T-Tag three people: Rebecca, Madeline, blueyondergirl.

U-Unknown fact about me: Unknown to whom? To you? To myself? Must be an existential question…

V-Vegetable you do not like: Belgian endive. Too bitter.

W-Worst habit: Too often I get inordinately mad at inanimate things. E.g., the stupid computer. It stems from having no patience – except with children, but they’re excused.

X-X-rays you have had: Leg, chest,teeth.

Y-Your favorite food: Frietjes (frenched fries fried Belgian style, i.e., twice).

Z-Zodiac: Leo.

Phew, that was rather painless. I pass it on.