Ronin is cat obsessed. She dressed as a cat for halloween (Jiji from ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service‘)—in fact, she dresses near-daily in the cat outfit. She is also Christmas tree-obsessed, so every year we get the tree as soon as humanly possible. She then spends about all her time underneath and behind it, organizing the bottom tiers of ornaments into unusual collections and shoving her dolls and stuffed guys deep into the foliage.
Every year I make a handful of new ornaments and this year’s collection is based on her favorite cat books, Jenny and the Cat Club, by Esther Averill.
So far, I’ve managed to finish only four of the main characters. Ronin abandoned the project after about five minutes; winding the limp paper mache around the tiny figurines was absurdly tedious. She stood next to me instead and plotted out which character I was to make next.
Jenny Linsky! She’s around 3″ tall.
Checkers & his retrieving ball!
Pickles the fire cat! I need to make his little firecap.
Ronin was given this crown from Whole Foods. It has tomatoes on it and for four days she wore it constantly and was the tomato queen.
Then, it was sadly left in the trunk of the car for the duration of the four hottest days of the year nestled up with a pair of soiled undies and pants (accidents happen..). Basically, when I opened the car after a week, I seriously thought an animal had crawled up our tailpipe and somehow wedged itself up in our trunk to die, decompose, and rot foully. I’m telling you the stench was unbearable. When I finally figured out the source of the godawful smell, I was incredulous (after all, isn’t urine supposed to be sterile or something?). I soaked all articles of clothing + the tote bag they were in for HOURS in enzyme stain remover solution and then took them to the laundrymat for a serious washing. They still aren’t quite right after all that but they are mostly back to normal.
I tossed the Tomato Crown.
And I made her a new one.
Ronin is a big fan of the skirt-over-pants look.
Ronin models this year’s Tour de Fat t-shirt.
I thought I’d include one more shot that cracks me up.
Ronin likes to make salad in the salad spinner. Here she’s tossed together a bright end-of-summer mix of puzzle pieces, stuffed skunk, and underwear. She will eventually add a lime squeezer, the cover to a Curious George sticker album, plastic zoo animals, four pirate figurines, wheels from a toy car, two dirty socks, and Nigel.
Last year around halloween, Grandpa Jeff included this little stuffed thing in one of his packages. It was a tiny teddy bear dressed in a “spooky” bat costume, purple with orange wings. Ronin immediately loved it and has been unusually attached to Batbear, as he is called. Batbear has always been Ronin’s choice when we go on outings (partly because we refuse to let her take Nigel out of the house; we are too afraid of what might happen if he were to be lost) and accompanies us on walks, to the park, to the grocery store, etc.
We decided it would be cute to make her a Batbear costume of her own. I figured she would understand what she was dressing as and be really into it.
Here’s Batbear. He’s looking a little scruffy (probably needs a bath; Batbear takes baths with Ronin as well). I used a pair of pajamas to quickly draw a pattern with orange crayon. Ronin was VERY interested in this step. Joshua had to drag her screaming away from me so I could finish my outline; let’s just say it was hastily drawn. Then I cut out the body from purple fleece—also very interested for babies.
Here’s the body sewn together. I ended up having to re-do the arms. After attaching the first one, it was clear that half-assed crayon sketches were not the way to go when it came to armhole and sleeve tailoring. I cut it off and re-designed them raglan style. This was much easier to attach and happened to match the real Batbear better anyway.
The pattern against the costume body. Ronin is helping.
Ronin was pretty excited about the Batbear costume although I’m not sure that she really understood that it was for her initially. She wanted to put it on Batbear (too big) and Nigel (still too big).
I was a little worried about how to deal with the hat part. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t sure how to go about making a pattern for a full head thing. Luckily, the random sketch I made worked well enough and I had Ronin’s batbear hat together in no time. There was still some purple felt left over and since Joshua and I had not come up with any ideas for ourselves, I used the rest of it to make us matching Batbear hats.
[Ronin was not impressed with the hat at first but she got used to it and consented to wearing it about 50% of the time.]
We ended up going to McMenamins’ Kennedy School for their annual halloween gig. As expected, it was total freaking chaos and Ronin was mostly bewildered by it but we had fun. Nothing beats being able to chase your kid around trick-or-treating with a pint of Hammerhead in hand. Joshua observed a couple arrive with their amped-up offspring and the moment they crossed the threshold, the wife turned to her husband and told him, “you’re on kids, I’m on beer,” and split.
The big moment came when Ronin had her first chance to trick-or-treat. She was given a package of sour patch kids and immediately asked us to “open open open.” We both thought, foolishly, that maybe she wouldn’t even like them; they are after all super sour at first. Unfortunately for us, she thought they were the best thing ever and after that, she was on a singular mission to eat candy. When given a choice, she will always choose the Snickers.
[By the time we left, she was pretty crazed; she kept wanting to roll around in the mud and wet leaves. I was not keen on this.]
When we got home, our friends Brett and Ernesta and their toddler, Saule (only a couple of months older than Ronin) stopped by as well as our neighbors Cami, Norm, and Clive (who just turned 4). It gave us a taste of just how small our house really is to have three kids and six adults milling around. (We have been considering inviting FOUR kids and their EIGHT parents to Ronin’s second birthday party. We may need something stronger than beer on hand…) All kids were basically going apeshit, with the exception of Saule (who still hasn’t figured out what was in the shiny wrappers), parental units were self-medicating with fermented beverages, and the time was nigh for REAL trick-or-treating.
We tore up the block basically between Ronin Batbear and Clive Turtle (Saule Princess and entourage bowed out early in favor of more healthy nourishment. Hippies). Mostly Ronin was interested in the glowing pumpkins on the porches and Clive was pretty into pushing the doorbells. They gave us candy just to make us leave. We covered one or two blocks and still came back with a decent haul. One house was giving out full-sized Snickers (that’s the real Fun Size); another house was giving out boxes or raisins (totally rejected by Ronin). Another house was lit up like Christmas but they didn’t have anything for trick-or-treaters; they scrounged up some cookies for us. “You guys aren’t weirdos, are you?” shouted Cami from the street. They were weirdos (but the good kind) and we continued on down the block with both kids munching oreos.
I actually have memories of fingerpainting myself. Unfortunately, those memories are not made up of feelings of excitement as my artistic self was awakened, of the infinite possibilities before me as I contemplated my paper and palette. Sadly, the memory brings back a fingers-on-the-chalkboard sort of cringe as I remember how it felt when you ran out of slimy paint and the thin skin on the inside of my knuckle dragged against the scratchy dry paper. I have goosebumps right now as I’m writing this; I’m not kidding.
Nonetheless, I decided quite suddenly the other day that Ronin’s brain was going to shrivel up and fall out her ear if I didn’t get her some Craft Projects immediately. Enter the fingerpaint. Maybe she’ll like it. Maybe it’ll be a mess. I’ll certainly use better paper than they gave babies back in the 70s. Plus, I’ll make pretty colors (I also remember the paints being dark drab colors: forest green, navy blue, burgundy, brown—bringing home papers with a slurry of blended green/brown/black smeared in the middle).
I found this recipe on the internet and cooked up a batch earlier this afternoon. Cooking it was fun—sort of like making cream of wheat where you stir and stir and stir for a million years and still it is just watery milk and then, suddenly, in the span of 15 seconds, all hell breaks loose and you suddenly have a pan full of porridge. Corn starch and water is a very curious porridge indeed.
After it cooled, I portioned it out into baby food jars and added food coloring. That was fun. It’s pretty thick with the recipe above so I added more water to make it a more paint-like consistency and stirred it all up with a chopstick. Even more fun, Ronin discovered the food coloring tubes and how to twist off the caps and while I was off neglecting her, she opened up the red, blue, and purple and squirted the stuff all over her hands. I was sort of flipped out and she repeated after me as I ferried the food coloring tubes out of reach “ssit ssit” (bad mama!).
The setup. All neat and tidy with cool and warm colors separated by dinner plate. I stripped her down and planted her in front of the paper.
Ronin tests the waters. Hmm. Colors pleasing… Paper smooth…
She was a little weirded out by the Stuff! on her hands!! It can be nice having a neat-freak toddler (she is a relatively tidy eater—partly because she doesn’t like to eat) but it is also alarming to take said toddler to the beach all, “BEHOLD: THE BEACH,” and have her totally freak out when a grain of sand gets stuck to her hand. She mellowed out a bit but I got her some tools anyway.
Palette knife and paintbrush.
Paintbrushes are for lamers.
Of course, nothing is better than simply cutting to the chase and eating the paint straight off your palette knife.
I’d say it was a success mostly. I’ll do it again at least despite the fact that food coloring does not just wash off of hands (or anything else) and her fingers are now stained purple-green-pink. Hopefully this fades quickly. I have to get better at ‘letting go’ as far as smearing paint in hair and eating it is concerned but I’m working on it. Ronin seems to enjoy the painting just fine but the real standout is getting to stack and rearrange the plates (between sneaking nibbles of turquoise or fuchsia), dumping the paper out on the grass and then arranging it back on the blue bin. And I sit back and dream wistfully that her future memory of fingerpainting will be happy, cathartic, and with zero spinechills.
Ronin has her own room now that we are living in an actual house. Right now she doesn’t play too much in it and so it retains a fresh uncluttered feel. This will surely change soon and forever.
We bought a cheap crib off Craigslist and spent about a thousand hours sanding and painting it a bunch of colors. It was a royal pain in the ass and I do not recommend it to anyone. But I think it turned out cute. The raindrop mobile I also made.
I’ve since replaced the window curtain with a heavy Guatamalan textile, red with embroidered animals all over it. It helps keep her room dark in the mornings when it gets light at 5-freaking-AM. The butterfly ball is just one of those IKEA paper lanterns with 3-D see-through butterfly stickers all over it. The photos on the wall are of Joshua as a baby and my dad in his 20s. (We also have a photo of Grandpa Jeff over by the door.) The “table” is made from a large box containing a desktop computer we likely will never use again ever (not bitter), which I couldn’t find a space for; I covered it with a Mexican textile and put a basket of toys on top of it. The large thing to the left of the table is a giant book of baby animals. Ronin is more than a little obsessed with it.
Opposite the crib are her dressers (IKEA; painted using the same paint as the crib) with wooden toys from Mexico that she miraculously has managed to not break (and she does play with them) and a Subcomandante Marcos doll from Chiapas. The wooden machine to the right of the dressers is a rolling ball toy made for Ronin by our friend Kerstin. On the wall are real and painted butterflies, and a child’s huipil from Guatamala hand embroidered with lions.