The second project I started right after Amie was born fared better than her now defunct Baby Journal, in that it is still up and running. It is a Map Book, or Place Book.

I love maps: topographical ones, city, architectural, personal, subjective, objective, three-dimensional, temporal… you name it.

From the beginning of Amie’s life I collected and drew maps of where we live and where ever we travelled. Depending on how busy I was, I would simply paste in a tourist map I had picked up, draw one myself, and/or add commentary. There are also spreads about the wildlife and the people, and anecdotes about how she reacted to the place.

This is the page about our visit to Billings Farm in Woodstock, Vermont, over a year ago:

Amie’s Map Book: Billings Farm, VT (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

This page chronicles our trip to Europe (Belgium and Italy) in June of last year, and locates everyone in our families on the globe:

Amie’s Map Book: Billings Farm, VT (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Here’s the spread about a magical visit to the Hall’s Pond Sanctuary in Brookline:

Amie’s MapBook: Halls Pond (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

It’s not as much work as the Journal: I put in as much time as I want or can afford. I skip visits that we make regularly, like to the Pond or the Farm, except when something special happened that needs visual representation in the form of a map.

One day soon Amie will understand the concept of a map, and she’ll make her own maps. It’s one of those many moments that I look forward to.


Cover of The Trouble with Henry (c) S.D. Schindler, Candlewick Press, 2005.

Cover of Henry David’s House (c) Robert Fiore, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007. Cover of Into the Deep Forest with Henry David Thoreau (c) Kate Kiesler, Clarion Books, 1995.Cover of A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau (c) Gerald & Loretta Hausman, Trumpeter, 2006.

Not content with an article on D.B. Johnson’s wonderful Henry series, I published another article today, on, about five more children’s books about Henry David Thoreau:

  1. The Trouble with Henry, written by Deborah O’Neal and Angela Westengard and illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Candlewick Press, 2005).
  2. Henry David’s House, words by Thoreau (gleaned from his books by editor Steven Schnur) and illustrated by Robert Fiore (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007).
  3. Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau’s Flute, written by Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki and illustrated by Mary Azarian (Dial, 2002, no longer in print).
  4. Into the Deep Forest: With Henry David Thoreau, written by Jim Murphy and illustrated by Kate Kiesler (Clarion Books, 1995, out of print).
  5.  A Mind with Wings: The Story of Henry David Thoreau waswritten and illustrated by Gerald & Loretta Hausman (Trumpeter, 2006).

Read it here!

From this:

Amie in the sandbox (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

To this:

Amie in park in wintergear (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

In just a week! 

I’ve already said it a couple of times: it’s Fall. Then I had to swallow my words when the next day it was steaming hot. Here, in Boston, near the end of October!

But now I think I can with (weatherish) certainty say that it is, this time, now, finally Fall. Hooray!

But oh shucks, we’ll miss most of the season. Next week we’re off for three weeks, to warmer climes (Singapore and Calcutta, India). By the time we return, it will already be winter around here. Though I might have to swallow those words as well…

This is a closer shot of the felt flower on Amie’s hat. Isn’t it gorgeous! My sister bought the hat for her for last winter, when it was too big. Now it is just right.

Felt flower on Amie’s hat (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Amie in the sandbox (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

 (Amie in the sandbox)

Orion magazine made one of my favorite article by Rebecca Solnit, called “Finding Time,” available online. Read it here.

In the meantime I’m still ill. But last weekend with our friends was wonderful, and this weekend we have a visit from Amie’s godmother. And next weekend, our old roommate is coming to stay with us. Then we’re off to see Amie’s grandparents in Singapore and India. Amie will be so spoiled for all the extra people in her life! We all love it.

Ah well, I’m still not feeling better. Now the voice has gone too, which is such a pity because I can’t read books to Amie, or sing a song, or tell a story. Or even ask her whether she wants cheese or peanut butter… She takes it all in stride, though, and often whispers back at me, very seriously and sympathetically.

This weekend we’re having friends over from NY City. We have visited them and crashed at their place too often, but they rarely reciprocrated. They lead such busy lives! But this weekend they’re coming!

At first I was bummed that I am so sick, and that they’re actually visiting during those worst three days – the having to run out of the room kind of cough, no voice, falling asleep in my chair/sofa because of the penicillin… But now I’m thinking: what a great time to spend with friends! I will just be a better listener. They’ll forgive me if I fall asleep. And they’re the our-home-your-home kind of friends, not the high-maintenance kind. So I can relax.

Amie is thrilled too: their daughter is a year older and Amie looks up to her immensely. It makes for very interesting conversations/interactions. Let’s see if she’ll readily share her toys!

Never in my life have I washed my hands so often! Twenty times a day?

I desperately don’t want Amie to get this throat-infection. It is so painful, it would just hurt me all over if now she got it too. I’m on penicillin, so it should be taken care of soon (if it’s bacterial, which we don’t know yet).  It’s been over three years since I’ve taken antibiotics… This one, however, seemed to just get worse and worse, not better, so I didn’t complain.

I remember a time when being sick was something of a luxury. I’d cut classes for a good reason, lie in bed all day with steaming tea, cookies, and books books books, and my journal of course. On certain sick days I would scribble up thirty pages in my moleskine (and I use the kind without lines because I have a small handwriting). I would read a novel cover to cover…

And sleep, oh sleep! I would sleep. You know? Sleep?

Yeah, that ain’t happenin’ anymore.

Today, on a low fever, I visited the doctor, did grocery shopping, put all that stuff away, did dishes, did (am doing) laundry, then picked up Amie from daycare, ran home with her in the pouring rain, and spent two hours getting her to nap. Something was dreadfully wrong with the blanket because she really did not want it on her Mama. And of course there is me trying not to cough, sniff, breathe in her face, making sure my hands didn’t touch her hands, etc…

Then I extracted myself from her sleeping body (sprawling, top-heavy, all breath and warmth). Then I had lunch. Now I am here, at the laptop, trying not to cough too much. This afternoon and evening it’s all me, because DH has a dinner – the kind where toddlers aren’t invited, and so neither are babysitter-reluctant Mamas…

My tea is ready. “Throat Coat,” it’s called, but despite its horrid name it’s rather yummy, with licorice.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Amie painting pumpkins (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Another painting project: painting pumpkins. They offer a nice surface to a brush loaded with acrylic paint.

Amie painting pumpkins (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

As you can see, Baba didn’t excape from the crafting project unscathed. But the pumpkin looks fantastic! One of these days we’ll sit down and Amie can add some features to it with yellow or white… probably she’ll paint the whole thing back to its original orange, which is her favorite color!

I caught a bad throat-infection and am lying low. The main thing is to “stay away” from Amie. I would hate for her to catch it as it’s so painful. I’m sleeping on the couch and I can tell she misses me in the bed  (*): she’s a little more sensitive during the day. I keep watching for signs that she is ill too – a sneeze, a little cough, a funny throaty sound… So far so good!

(*) Her own little bed is still there, but because it’s only Baba in the bedroom now she is back to co-sleeping in the big bed.

Ok, very very depressing post here… I repeat: very…

Who hasn’t seen that old tv-movie, The Day After? I watched it, on Belgian television, when I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I don’t think my parents knew what it was about, and they probably weren’t paying much attention as it unfolded, because otherwise they would have yanked me away immediately. I still remember the many weeks of depression, anxiety and nightmares that followed it.

Clicking through the channels last week I stumbled upon a rerun. DH warned me: should you watch this? But of course I am not a kid anymore – whatever that means. He became annoyed at it because it is such a bad movie, but I was (again) glued to the television.

What captured me 20 year ago captured me now: the slow decline of individuals (physical, emotional, spiritual), of society and civilization in the aftermath of nuclear war. It’s a long movie, so there’s lots of time for declining. The grind of it, the slow seeping away of hope is just excruciating. And you know that that’s how it would be. Worse, even.

This time, what stood out was the scene in which farmers congregate wtih an official to be briefed on how to replant the crops. The idea is that they scrape away the top layer of the topsoil that is contaminated with fall-out. The farmers nearly rebel. There is no more gas for vehicles  – there’s a neat shot of a number plate being trod underfoot – and only some horses and carts. And what to do with the dead soil? And what is safe? And what to grow?

Someone has posted the entire movie in segments on YouTube (thanks a lot: now I can revisit my obsession endlessly!), and you can view the scene here, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Then I read Sharon’s post, about a study that shows that the only way to avoid the critical 2 degree temperature rise is to reduce all industrial emissions worldwide by 100%. This post also contains a link to an earlier post of Sharon’s about what her children’s future will look like. She writes that writing this piece made her cry. So did reading it, for me.

And to top it all off, I read in the news that there was an accidental firing of a Patriot missiles in Iraq. Nice going!

Do you ever have that feeling that you’re just pretending? Pretending that it will all be ok? That it won’t be so bad? You look at your child and you just can’t believe that she won’t have what we have – I’m not talking about Lego and bananas, but about water and food, health and safety.

You feel like you want to shield her from this knowledge – even if you can’t shield her from the future – and you want to let her be happy and carefree for as long as possible. But you also feel like you want to prepare her. And some days, well, the future looks so bleak that no kind of preparation seems adequate…

How do you deal with this kind of hopelessness? I know, I know: you stop watching The Day After! And you tell yourself to stop it, because this kind of thinking won’t do anyone any good. But beyond all those negatives?

Amie and Baba at the Larz Anderson Park, oct 07 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Amie and Baba at the Park 

Yesterday morning was blustery and a little cloudy, but sunny and quite balmy. The three of us went to the Larz Anderson Park, where Amie ran and ran, up and down the hill, in a field of leaves and dandelions, hemmed in by trees changed to all kinds of colors.

Was she tired afterwards! 

Blue flower at Larz Anderson park, oct 07 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

On our way home we drove past a huge yard sale for a neighborhood school’s extended day program. It was very child-oriented, with heaps of children’s clothes, piles of books, and boxes and boxes of toys. Amie was very happy to delay her nap for an hour.

We bought mainly books, and small plastic bags stuffed with Schleich animals, and two Groovy Girls dolls. Don’t ask me which ones: they’re hard to identify without their clothes on! When we pointed them out to her, Amie piped: “O!” Sold. We also bought a $100 bike trailer for $30! Now I have to get a bike too, and we’re off on adventure at no cost to the earth!

Children’s Yard Sale find (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

One of the books I found was Donald Hall’s Ox-Cart Man. I came home and read it cover to cover. The book’s subject matter fits exactly the other books we’ve been reading, about nature and the turning of the seasons, the joy and worth of manual labor, and family life. I’ve always been a fan of Hall’s brand of “American poetry”. And the illustrations by Barbara Cooney are gorgeous in the “American folk” approach…

To offset the “American” aspect, I also got Laurent de Brunhoff’s Babar Learns to Cook. I love how Babar, the King of the Elephants, does all these domestic things. And how the elephant kids are up to all kinds of mischief all the time. {UPDATE: We now actually read the Babar book and I have to put this straight: Babar doesn’t cook at all! His wife, Celeste does… Sigh.}

Last but not least, while I had eyes only for the books, DH scored this set of handpainted porcelains cups (4), saucers (8), coffeepot (1) and milk pitcher (1). We’re not thrifters – don’t have the time, the money, the room – but when it comes to delicate porcelain cups and saucers… and then it was a pity to break up the set, which only cost us $8!

porcelain Yard Sale find (c) Katrien Vander Straeten